It's a widely known fact in the dream-sharing world that when Eames is in trouble, he goes to Arthur for help. It's help that comes with strings attached, insults about Eames' intelligence, his business practices, and his character in general, but help nonetheless.
By all accounts, after a few years of knowing one another, Eames now owes Arthur somewhere in the neighbourhood of thirty-seven favours, six thousand pounds, and one mint condition Action Comics #1, the loss of which neither Arthur nor Eames will discuss.
Arthur, in contrast and direct defiance of the odds, doesn't get into trouble. His jobs run like Swiss clocks and German autos. His teams are in and out before the mark has even the faintest idea someone's been skittering about inside his head. Arthur is the gold standard of the profession. He's also an atrocious stick-in-the-mud with all the imagination of a cardboard box, which Eames suspects is probably why Arthur's jobs run according to plan while Eames' jobs more often involve running and a distinct lack of plans altogether.
None of which explains what Arthur's doing banging on Eames' door in London at three in the morning looking like he was dragged through a hedge backwards.
“You have a black eye,” Eames says as he opens the door.
He's never actually seen Arthur with a physical injury outside the dream-scape. He's not even sure he's seen the man sweat, and his “Arthur's not quite human” theory has been getting a lot of positive feedback in the community, particularly after the job in Jersey where no one saw Arthur consume anything except coffee for a full eight days. Now, seeing him swaying on his feet and looking like an ordinary, if still unfairly gorgeous, bloke it's enough to make Eames want to swoon. It's downright unnerving, especially when Arthur also appears to be dead drunk.
“And you smell like a fucking brewery, Arthur. What's gone on?”
If Eames had ever had occasion to see Arthur looking less than professional, he might've thought to catch him rather than letting his chin bounce off the hardwood floor as he passed out at Eames' feet.
When Arthur wakes up—comes to, Eames corrects—he looks sheepish, tousled and impossibly young. Eames feels his breath catch in his throat and his heart ... well, it's entirely possible his traitorous heart has waited until precisely this kind of moment to blindside him. Arthur—beautiful, competent, untouchable Arthur—seems human and vulnerable stretched out on Eames' sofa beneath his grandmother's afghan, and Eames experiences a rush of feeling for Arthur so strong it stops him in his trainers. He fully expects to find skid marks when he looks down.
“I'm sorry about this,” Arthur starts, looking embarrassed. “I don't usually—”
“It's not like I haven't done the same thing to you a dozen times or more.”
“More,” Arthur agrees. “Not that I'm counting.”
“Of course not.”
But Eames can't find it in himself to be annoyed. He hands Arthur a plastic bag full of ice, which he promptly presses to his blackened eye with a groan. Eames tells himself groans caused by being punched in the face are not sexy. Not sexy at all.
“Thanks,” Arthur says. “I didn't know if it was okay to come here or not.”
“It's fine.” Eames is feeling particularly magnanimous and possibly light-headed given that the more he stares at Arthur's fine features, even bruised, the more of his blood rushes away from his head. He reaches out boldly and shifts the bag off Arthur's cheek, lightly brushing the swollen area with the flat of his thumb. “In fact, I think I like you like this. You seem more ... human.”
Arthur frowns, but doesn't move away. If anything he leans into Eames' touch. “I'm just a guy, Eames. I wish you could see that.”
“Maybe I'm starting to,” he murmurs. Before he can think it through, he leans forward and lets his lips glide over Arthur's damaged cheek in a soft kiss. There's something intoxicating about the fact Arthur came to him for help, although Eames supposes it's the first and last time he'll ever see Arthur this vulnerable. “But it's not like this sort of thing happens all the time, right?”
It happens all the time.
Oh, not right away, but somehow opening the door to Arthur once seems to have triggered some kind of monumental shift in the balance of the universe. It's the only explanation Eames can come up with for why, after years of never seeing Arthur with so much as a scuff on his black patent shoes, he's now seeing him regularly with all manner of injuries.
“It's not funny,” Arthur fumes when they reach the pub's loo.
“It really kind of is,” Eames disagrees. He can't keep the smirk off his face as he dabs at the puncture wound with an antiseptic swab. He's started keeping them in his wallet along with a spare condom; so far the antiseptic packets are getting more regular use, although Eames is hopeful things with Arthur are moving in the right direction, albeit slowly.
“World dart champion, my ass! He has the worst aim—”
Eames bends his lips to the bright circle of colour on Arthur's shoulder and lays a kiss there, derailing whatever else Arthur was about to say.
“May I suggest we repair to somewhere with fewer pointy projectiles?” Eames tugs Arthur's sleeve back into place, skimming his fingers gently over the sore spot as he smooths the fabric down.
“I suppose, but he's still a prick, Eames.”
“Pun intended, I assume?” Eames guides Arthur toward the pub's back door with a firm hand at the small of his back. “I'd hate for him to get you in some other shapely muscle.”
Arthur tosses him a glare, but doesn't actually object when Eames' hand strays slightly lower than its original position and pats the shapely muscle in question. Things are looking up.
“A carriage?” Eames helps Arthur keep the weight off his foot as he hobbles to the sofa. “Seriously? A horse and carriage ran over your foot?”
“A fucking baby carriage,” Arthur corrects, wincing as Eames eases Arthur's shoe off and makes him wiggle each of his perfect pink toes in turn. “One of those gigantic ones with the all-terrain tires. It's London! Who needs that?”
Nothing seems to be broken, which is some kind of miracle under the circumstances, and Eames solemnly says as much as he leans forward and plants a light kiss on the flawless skin of Arthur's shapely ankle.
“Oh, fuck off,” Arthur says, but he's blushing faintly, and he doesn't protest when Eames brings him a cup of tea and a packet of biscuits, nor when Eames grabs the afghan and wraps it around the two of them on the sofa.
As much as he likes Arthur showing up at his door, Eames can do without the blood and the bruises.
“I sincerely hope the other guy looks as bad as you do.” Eames barely manages to catch Arthur under the arms as he takes a step towards the door. Unfortunately, the wall seems to have been the only thing holding him up, and the two of them go down in a sprawl of limbs and wrinkled Armani.
“He looks much worse,” Arthur assures him, sounding out of breath. “He's dead.”
“That's not nearly as reassuring as you think it is, darling,” Eames mutters, pressing a kiss against Arthur's bruised temple.
“Has Arthur always been particularly clumsy?” Eames asks Cobb over the phone the next time Arthur ends up at Eames' flat. He's put him to bed with a sprained ankle and a handful of ibuprofen, but he can't shake the feeling he's missing something vital. Beneath the covers of Eames' bed, Arthur's chest rises and falls in a gentle rhythm.
“Arthur? Clumsy? Are you kidding?”
Cobb's laughing so hard, Eames figures there's no point finishing the conversation. He brushes a few stray hairs away from Arthur's forehead, and watches him sleep, shadows playing across his face where the light filters through the window.
It's a long time before Eames lies down on the covers beside him and goes to sleep.
The Krueger job is a monumental fuck-up, and for once Eames knows exactly where every one of Arthur's bruises comes from. He has a pretty good set of his own, and by the time the two of them drag themselves back to Eames' flat, the ache in his muscles has turned to a numb sort of throbbing. He turns on the shower hot as he can get it, strips and stands under the spray. A few minutes later, Arthur joins him.
They have to stand close for both of them to benefit from the heat and they haven't really done this before. A smattering of kisses, a considerable amount of TLC and attending to injuries, but Eames can admit they've been growing considerably closer over the last few months. He adjusts the shower head and leans back against the tiles, drawing Arthur with him.
“Ow, ow, ow,” Arthur says as Eames pulls him in. “I fucking hurt everywhere.”
“Everywhere?” Eames presses a kiss to Arthur's shoulder, hating himself when he sees Arthur flinch. He lets go, only to have Arthur tighten his hands on Eames' hips.
“It's not okay, Arthur!” Eames can't keep the frown from his face. “I can't even—is there anywhere that doesn't hurt?
Arthur leans back, brushing the spray from his eyes. He points to a spot high on his left cheek. He doesn't move away as Eames bends slowly forward and brushes his lips over the spot.
“Here?” Arthur says, and points to the tip of his chin. He looks entirely too serious, and Eames wishes he knew what this was between them, where it's going. He kisses the jut of Arthur's chin.
“Anywhere else?” Eames asks. He never thought he'd be playing Marion Ravenwood to Arthur's Indiana Jones, but there's something soothing about the tentative touches, the familiarity of kissing away pain. They've done this dance a hundred times, and Eames feels like he's on steady ground taking care of Arthur's hurts. He watches Arthur's fingers brush lightly across his own lips, and his brown eyes are steady on Eames'.
Eames closes the distance between them, kissing Arthur as gently as he can, water running down their faces and over the places their bodies touch.
“Let me kiss everything better, Arthur,” he whispers, trying to sound less desperate than he feels. “Let me take care of you,” he says, and is only a little surprised when Arthur lets him do exactly that.
“Arthur, love,” Eames says when Arthur turns up three weekends in a row with a black eye, “is there anything you want to tell me?”
“Like what?” Arthur's voice is partially muffled by the ice-bag he's holding.
“You keep arriving at my door with fist-shaped bruises.” Eames rushes ahead before he loses his nerve. “Are you dating someone whose arse I need to kick?
“What the hell are you talking about?” Arthur doesn't come right out and say I'm sort of dating you, moron, but it's heavily implied, which would make Eames happy under ordinary circumstances if he wasn't so goddamn worried.
Eames tries again. “Are you seeing someone—someone who hits you?”
“What?” Arthur sounds genuinely startled, the icepack dropping away from his face. “No, of course not.”
“No gorilla ex-boyfriend who wants you back and won't take no for an answer?”
“A masochistic streak? Bare-knuckle boxing? Membership at an amateur BDSM club?”
The purplish bruises look dark against the flush filling in Arthur's cheeks. “Eames—”
“I know the first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club, but if you're going all Tyler Durdin on me, I think I need to know, Arthur.”
“I had a few drinks with a few friends. Things got out of hand.”
“You need better friends, mate.” Eames pulls the icepack away and cups his hands around Arthur's face. “Or you need to try a different pub. I'll take you out. I'll have your back, Arthur. Just—I'm worried about you. You can't keep blocking punches with your face. I'm this close to booking you in for an MRI or measuring you for a helmet.”
“Oh, right, 'cause the kid in the helmet never gets picked on at the playground.”
Arthur tries for a laugh, but Eames can't find the humour in the situation any more. He's starting to think of trapping Arthur in the flat or bundling him in bubble wrap as genuine options, and Eames knows he's not the one being unreasonable here. He doesn't understand why Arthur won't just tell him what's going on. He'll help. He'll do anything. He's tired of unbuttoning Arthur's shirt and finding bruises that didn't come from the two of them fooling around and which he needs to kiss better.
“Eames, it's no big deal,” Arthur says, but he's looking away, and Eames wonders if he should have forced the issue earlier. At first he'd thought it was weird coincidence, then a hitherto unknown clumsy streak, but now he can't simply sweep Arthur up and shower him with affection. He's genuinely worried and although it's always been his rule to stay out of other people's business—even the people he's shagging—he's not sure he can pretend this isn't bothering him. Worst of all, he doesn't understand what's going on in Arthur's life or in his head, and he thinks he should.
“It bloody well is a big deal!”
“Don't be ridiculous. It's a few bruises, Eames. It's part of the job.”
“Except it isn't the job most of the time, Arthur. I know when it's the job, but this is starting to be ... all the damn time, and I can't—”
Arthur twists his head out of Eames' grip and pushes away. “I never asked you to.”
“You don't even know what I was going to say!” Eames replies angrily. He's been trying to be an adult about this—give Arthur his space, his secrets, whatever he needs. He's held off tailing the frustrating bastard, and he's definitely restrained himself from tracking down anyone who's ever laid a hand on Arthur and knocking their blocks off. “Look, Arthur, I haven't the foggiest what's going on. Every time you're in London—”
Arthur stands up, forcing Eames to get to his feet too. “Well, then, maybe I need to stop being in London so much.”
“Maybe you do if you can't do it without turning up on my doorstep fucking black-and-blue!” Eames' tone is sharper than he intends, and Arthur's heading for the door before Eames has even finished. He grabs Arthur's elbow only to have it flung back into his chest. “Arthur, wait.”
But Arthur's like a contortionist when he wants to be, and he's darted around the sofa and out the door before Eames can get hold of him again. He doesn't feel like tackling Arthur in the hall, so he lets him go, watching his dark-hair, his slim shoulders disappear around the corner.
“Fuck,” Eames says, not sure what just happened. He punches the wall, but even the pain in his hand can't dull the sinking feeling in his chest. Arthur's gone. Eames' heart is pounding so hard he thinks he might have bruises himself. At this point, he wouldn't be surprised.
Eames leaves voice messages, text messages, email messages for Arthur. He does everything short of apologizing because he's really not sure he's done anything wrong, but he's starting to think he'll even fucking apologize if Arthur will only talk to him again.
Ariadne, Arthur and Eames are set to do a job in London, but Eames honestly doesn't know if Arthur's going to show up or not.
Ariadne's bundled up in the afghan on Eames' couch, her head on his shoulder. Her flight from Paris was delayed twice and then late arriving and she's turned down coffee so she won't be awake all night.
“What happened with you and Arthur?” she asks, stifling a yawn.
“I don't have a fucking clue.” Eames downs his second tumbler of scotch. “I have no idea what's going on with him.”
“That's too bad.” Ariadne sounds thoughtful. “I always thought the two of you would be good together.”
“Yeah, me too,” Eames admits. “Maybe you can find out where his head is at when he gets here. If he gets here.”
“He'll be here. Arthur's a total pro. Besides, he's still talking to me as far as I know. If he wasn't coming, I think he would've let me know even if he didn't want to talk to you. Go get some sleep.”
“You're sure you're alright on the sofa?”
Eames gets up so she can stretch out, amazed that Ariadne doesn't even have to bend her knees. Arthur was practically in the foetal position when he slept there. Eames feels a stab of longing, and tries to console himself with the thought of seeing Arthur again the next day. Maybe there's still a chance to sort things out.
Ariadne and Eames spend the day working out of her hotel room with no sign of Arthur.
“I really thought he'd be here by now,” she says, checking her watch for the hundredth time. Eames has been doing the same thing all day with a growing sense of dread. Arthur isn't going to show. “I'm so sorry, Eames.”
Her face is genuinely sad, and Eames thinks if Ariadne's given up hope, it's foolish for him to believe there's something he can do to make things right with Arthur—even if he doesn't know what went wrong in the first place. He feels Ariadne go up on her toes, her arms circling his neck and drawing him into a hug. He wraps his arms around her and breathes in, something bright and citrusy, and he thinks of how good Arthur always smells. He misses the impossible bastard.
“Well, this is cozy,” Arthur says from the doorway.
Eames and Ariadne pull apart, and Ariadne starts to go to Arthur, her face bright with a smile. “Arthur! We weren't sure you were going to—”
“I'm not.” He's talking to Ariadne, but his glare is all for Eames, and Eames can't even feel bad because at least it's something. It's more than he's had from Arthur in a couple of weeks, and right now, anything is better than nothing. “You two seem to have things handled. Obviously you don't need me.”
“Don't be an asshole,” Ariadne says, walking straight up to him and punching him in the shoulder. “What the hell's wrong with you? Of course we need you.”
“You look like your old self. You don't have any bruises,” Eames interjects suddenly. He's been trying to figure out what's off about Arthur since he walked in, and he realizes it's been so long since he's seen his face without some sort of cut or bruise, the unblemished skin looks strange. If that isn't messed up, Eames doesn't know what is.
“What bruises?” Ariadne looks between the two of them. “What do you mean?”
Arthur ignores her and shakes his head at Eames. “Yeah, and the old me never held much appeal, did it? I've got to go.”
He's out the door as fast as he appeared, leaving Eames and Ariadne both at a loss for words. Ariadne regains her composure first, turns and jabs a finger into Eames' chest.
“You're going to tell me exactly what he's talking about, and you're going to tell me now.”
“I don't know!”
“Yeah, Eames, you do. Maybe you don't understand it, but for some reason he thinks you don't want him.”
“Well, he's wrong!”
“Then convince him of that,” Ariadne says. “Now tell me everything.”
Eames prides himself on knowing people and reading them well, but he thinks Ariadne could give him a run for his money if he could teach her how to forge. She starts putting things together faster than Eames is able to answer her questions.
“Okay,” she says, shakily. “That's fucked up, but it's Arthur, so I don't know why that surprises me.”
“Will you please fill me in then?”
“The first time he came to you for help, he was kind of messed up, right?”
“And you liked that.”
“No.” Eames frowned. “I—I liked that he came to me, that he finally seemed fucking human like the rest of us instead of so goddamn perfect all the time. It had nothing to do with him being beat up.”
“Maybe he didn't know that. Maybe he thought you liked him better when he seemed fucked up, and being hurt made him vulnerable. You said he's been bashed up in one way or another every time he's come to see you.”
“Yeah, but I didn't—I honestly wasn't keen to see him hurt.” Eames sits down heavily on the edge of one of the beds in the room. “How the fuck could he think I only fancied him when he was a walking bruise?”
“Maybe it's not just that, Eames.” Ariadne puts her hand on Eames' arm, her palm barely covering the muscle there. “I've seen you with people when they're hurt. For a big guy, you're really gentle.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Maybe Arthur needs that. Someone to be gentle with him, and he didn't know any other way to tell you.”
Eames growls. “He could open his fucking mouth and form words!”
Ariadne raises her eyebrows. “He's Arthur. He makes plans and carries them out. He doesn't do a whole lot of talking, Eames. What if he was as taken by surprise as you were about this whole thing? What if he found he liked being taken care of by someone and didn't know how to reconcile that with the person he normally is? I mean, it makes a twisted kind of sense, doesn't it?”
Eames doesn't want to admit it, but there's a certain kind of self-effacing Arthurian logic to the whole thing, and Eames is beginning to think they've misunderstood one another from the outset. He never wanted Arthur to be hurt, even if it did expose another side of him. And he certainly hadn't meant he wasn't interested in an Arthur who wasn't vulnerable any more. He'd just been worried what it all meant ... apparently with good reason.
“Where do you think he's pissed off to?” Eames asks, almost afraid of the answer.
“Probably the nearest shit-kicker bar. If he thinks you prefer him when he's hurting—”
“Christ!” Eames considers what's nearby and where Arthur might go to pick a fight. He should've known Arthur was too good a fighter to be taken down without deliberately letting his opponent get the best of him. Just the thought of all those bruises, purposely won through some misguided attempt to please him makes Eames angry enough to take on a whole room full of nasty blokes.
“Good luck,” Ariadne calls after him, and Eames skips the elevator and runs the five flights downstairs. There's a hole in the wall called The Cock and Bull two streets over, and it's exactly the kind of place Eames liked to hang out in his early days of picking pockets. Not only had he liked the element of danger, but there was inevitably a fight to keep people's attention while Eames floated through the crowd relieving people of their belongings. Arthur would have no trouble at all brassing off a half-dozen people within minutes, probably without even uttering a word.
Eames can hear the din before he gets more than a few feet inside, and the place is immersed in a full-on, knock-down fight. He sees Arthur deliberately miss a kick to the solar plexus, so the man he's fighting can land a hard body blow. Eames pushes through the crowd, grabs Arthur by the scruff of the neck, and hauls him out of harm's way.
“What the fuck?” Arthur says, whirling on his new attacker without a thought, his fist flying forward to connect with Eames' jaw before Arthur even realizes he's done it.
“I probably deserved that.” Eames stumbles backwards from the hit, but grabs hold of Arthur's shirt and doesn't let go.
“Eames, fuck, I—”
“You stupid prat,” Eames says, but he tries his best to sound fond and exasperated rather than angry. Arthur's apparently an idiot, but Eames is still mad about him, and likely always will be. He drags Arthur out the door and into the nearby alley. Arthur's breathing hard as he licks the blood from his bottom lip. “Did you really think I wouldn't want you if you weren't hurt?”
Arthur blinks rapidly. He looks guilty, and Eames takes a breath, trying to calm down. He untangles his fists from Arthur's shirt, and lets him go. “Did you honestly think I was getting off on you being bloodied and bruised? Jesus Christ, I was worried about you. I bandaged you up, I kissed every goddamn bruise I could see. Didn't that give you a fucking clue how I feel?”
“I know,” Arthur says quietly. “You said you liked me like that.”
“God, Arthur, I didn't mean with your face bashed in. I meant I'd never seen you act like you needed somebody before. That's all.” Eames puts his hands on Arthur's face, lifts his eyes so Eames can look at him. He kisses first one cheek, then the other. “Darling, you don't need an excuse to come to my flat. You don't have to be hurt. I—I want you to be there just as you are, no bruises required.”
“I thought you wanted—”
“I want you, you daft sod. Just you. You and your anal retentive schedules, and your inability to say what you want, and your bloody brilliant brain and gorgeous arse, and your wicked right cross.” He rubs a hand across the spot where Arthur socked him. It's going to be sore tomorrow. Probably even bruise.
“Shhh.” Eames leans in and soothes Arthur's split lip with his tongue, following it with a kiss he won't let Arthur run away from. Eames puts everything he wants, everything he feels into that kiss, makes it slow and tender, makes it say the things he isn't ready to put into words. When he finally pulls back, Arthur's looking at him with something between suspicion and wonder.
“You really ...”
“I really do, Arthur. Please trust me.” Eames traces the lines of Arthur's cheekbones with his fingers, lays a brace of kisses down the edge of his jaw.
“Is a better friend than either of us deserves.” Eames risks a glance at his watch. “And if I'm not back with you in about fifteen minutes, I suspect she's going to be down here kicking arse and taking names. Starting with ours.”
Arthur manages a half-grin, and Eames nudges him gently against the building wall and kisses him again.
“You're sure?” Arthur looks more vulnerable than he ever has with a dozen bruises.
Eames nods gravely. “I'm sure. And if you ever deliberately put your lovely face in the way of someone's fist again, I'll—”
“Spank me?” Arthur asks, stealing a kiss of his own.
“You'd probably like that too much,” Eames says. “Just trust me when I say I'll have no trouble showering kisses on every unblemished inch of you, and I'd prefer to do it when there's nothing but pleasure involved.”
Arthur takes a deep breath and nods. It's clear he's not entirely certain how this will work, but Eames is grateful he seems willing to listen. Eames doesn't know what messed up Arthur's head so badly in the first place that he could think someone would only want him if he wasn't his normal, competent self, but Eames plans on eradicating that particular falsehood from Arthur's mind once and for all. Arthur deserves nothing but the best, and Eames wants to give it to him.
“Come back to mine,” Eames whispers.
There's a light brush of lips where Arthur had struck him in the bar, and Eames draws back to look at Arthur's face. He's working up to a smile.
“Why don't you come back to mine?” Arthur counters. “Let me kiss it better this time. Let me make it up to you.”
“Why don't we make it up to each other?” Eames says.
“Okay,” Arthur agrees, and Eames feels the heady rush of anticipation when Arthur gives him a quick nod and laces their fingers together. “But we should let Ariadne know what's going on, and we've still got a job to do and not a lot of time to do it. We'd better get an early start tomorrow.”
“Yes, love,” Eames says, hiding his smirk by planting a quick kiss on Arthur's hand.
“Don't try to distract me, Eames. We've got a lot of work to do, and today's been a total write-off.”
“Of course, pet.”
Arthur looks over at him suspiciously as they cross the street to the hotel. “You're always over-the-top with the pet names and agreeableness when you're planning to be a particular pain in my ass.”
“My sweet, I have not yet begun to be a pain, or a pleasure for that matter, in your lovely—”
He's grateful for the small window into Arthur's vulnerabilities, being allowed to see something of the man very few get to know, but he's also realized Arthur's competence on and off the job is just as much of a turn-on, if not more so, than whatever frailties he'll admit to. Hell, the total package that is Arthur promises to keep Eames on his toes for the rest of his life, and he finds he's strangely looking forward to the possibilities.
The fist that's been wrapped around his heart the last two weeks unclenches a little. He knows all their bruises, visible or hidden, will heal in time.
They're alone in the elevator on the way up when Eames crowds Arthur neatly into the corner and kisses him. Arthur's mouth is warm and pliant, opening easily under Eames' probing tongue, and Eames takes advantage of the privacy to make up for the last few weeks of not being able to do this.
“Mr. Eames,” Arthur says, low and rough, his voice sounding like he should be in the bedroom, and God, Eames wants to get him there as quickly as possible. Given how hard they both are, pressed into the heat of one another, it won't take long at all to get them all the way. It's about damn time, Eames thinks.
But first, “I believe we've got work to do, darling,” Eames says taking a step back, pleased when Arthur growls and pushes Eames roughly into the opposite wall, hitting the button for a floor that isn't Ariadne's, and which Eames sincerely hopes leads to a luxury room with a king-sized bed.
“Arthur, shouldn't we—”
Arthur's got a hand on the front of Eames' jeans, and he's palming him greedily, tugging at the button with his other hand. It's fucking hot, having Arthur on him like this, nothing fragile about him, and Eames' head slams back against the wall with a thud that rocks the elevator. It gives Eames the perfect excuse to grab two handfuls of Arthur's arse, and Arthur gets one knee between Eames' brickhouse thighs, rocking viciously up against Eames' hard-on, and that's it, all bets are off.
“Fuck, Arthur,” he breathes.
Eames kicks off the wall, hoisting Arthur clear off the ground, and his long legs wrap around Eames' waist like an octopus. It's so hot, Arthur's back arching, hands scrambling for a hold on Eames' shoulders, and Eames can almost fucking come from just this, grinding his hips in a hard rut against Arthur, not caring they're never going to make it to Arthur's goddamn floor, let alone his bed.
Arthur hits the emergency stop with a tight fist, then shoves his fingers through Eames' short hair, pulling his mouth to Arthur's in the messiest excuse for a kiss Eames has ever been involved in. He doesn't need an invitation to close the gap and suck hard on Arthur's bare throat, making him moan as the blood wells to the surface, and this is the only kind of bruise Eames wants to see on Arthur's skin. Ever.
Arthur doesn't seem to care any more than Eames about maintaining a sense of dignity. He grabs the metal rail around the edge of the elevator and uses it to lever himself back to meet Eames, his voice spilling out between Eames' own panted obscenities, getting louder along with the harsh bell of the emergency alarm.
“Fuck, fuck, come on, Eames,” Arthur gasps, digging into Eames' back with the heel of his shoe, and Eames doesn't need a clearer message than that, but the angle's awkward and he can't quite manage the leverage, so he drops to his knees, taking Arthur down with him and laying him out on the floor as if it's satin sheets. He follows him down and they find a rhythm, knees and hands and cocks all trying to get in on the friction until Arthur's head is bouncing off the floor and Eames is almost sure there's blood on his throat from where Arthur bites him as he comes, marking him like he fucking owns him, and Eames is fine with that.
“God-fucking-damn, you—you're fucking—Jesus Christ, Arthur, you're—fuck, fuck, fuck!” Eames rambles, not caring if he's making sense or not, only caring Arthur's underneath him, licking his throat like a damn cat, hot and wet, his hands on Eames' arse and his back and tugging at his hair, even though Eames is positive that's too many hands, and maybe Arthur is some kind of fucking octopus, but it's all good, so hot and so perfect Eames' whole body's shaking with the need to come.
Eames is a breath, no, a heartbeat away from coming his brains out there on the floor of the elevator at the Sheraton Park Lane with Arthur already spent beneath him, and when it happens, he swears he can taste blood in his mouth from a bitten lip, and Arthur's petting him feebly like Eames has sucked all the life out of him, and maybe he has. Eames isn't sure he's going to be able to walk and Arthur's got a hand to his forehead like he's got a concussion or a goddamn vision.
It occurs to Eames then that there's a calm, recorded voice speaking over the alarm bell's constant noise, assuring them technicians are on the way, and suddenly the desire to lie there and lick Arthur's mouth open is tempered by the need to not be “rescued” by firemen or any other type of elevator technician.
They unstick themselves from each other and the patterned carpet that Arthur's eyeing suspiciously as if it's hiding a multitude of sins just like theirs. Arthur hits the red emergency button again and the elevator takes off with a drunken lurch, tossing them against one another and Eames can't help but dive in and kiss Arthur's bare throat while Arthur whispers filthy promises into Eames' ear. Promises he's absolutely going to hold Arthur to when he recovers from this round.
When the doors slide open on Arthur's floor, he and Eames still look like they've been humping in the elevator, but the hallway's empty of anyone who might be expecting to rescue them from the trauma of a trapped elevator.
Everyone, that is, except for Ariadne who apparently decided to camp out in front of Arthur's room and wait for the two of them to get back, and when she sees them she snorts as if she's inhaled one of her own lungs, and there's no talking to her for the next ten minutes while she wheezes, bent over against the wall, one hand pointing at them just in case anyone should fail to notice the absolute mess the two of them are. They hustle her into Arthur's room while she's still laughing like a sea lion, but it's impossible to be upset with her under the circumstances, and when Eames catches a glimpse of them in the mirror, he starts laughing too. Once he starts, Arthur succumbs within seconds until the three of them have tears running down their flushed faces.
“I assume you two made up?” Ariadne says once she gets herself under control, and Arthur gives her the finger instead of an answer because really, anyone who was within two floors of the stopped elevator probably knows somebody was making up for lost time.
Eames hears the shower start, and he's not one to pass up an opportunity to get Arthur naked now that they understand each other. He peels off his sweaty shirt, ignoring Ariadne's “okay, that's my cue to leave and find my ear plugs,” but he can hear her giggling all the way down the hallway, and it's a good feeling to know she's happy for them too.
Eames strips down to skin and ink, but stops short of pulling the shower curtain back.
“You waiting for an invitation?” Arthur asks, a smile in his voice,.
Eames steps in behind him, curling his arms around Arthur's bare chest, feeling the press of Arthur's wet skin against his muscled contours. Eames knows he holds on a little too tightly and a little too long, but Arthur lets him.
It's not nearly enough, but it's a fucking great start.