He hasn't given up, won't ever give up, but it is his job to understand probability. He might not be able to work his way through the calculations, but he's always been good at intuiting the odds. And the odds are that Eames is going to die.
He's exhausted, mentally and physically, but he's made it to Vancouver ahead of the storm. The front came in even faster than predicted, arctic winds sailing across the Pacific like a ghost ship, its sheets crackling with ice. At least that's how he's picturing it, because why not add a little flair to your visions of your short, doomed future.
The ship is coming. It's coming for him.
A lot of people in Eames's line of work don't believe in luck, but Eames knows better. He slides a hand into his pocket, flips the casino chip over. And over again. One side smooth, one side rough. That's luck. That's how it goes. The people that don't believe are the ones who never feel both sides of the chip at the same time.
He's the last member of the Singapore team left alive. He saw Mactague snuff it with his own eyes, the first of them to go, knifed in the ribs underneath the giant white ribs of the glass-walled Flower Dome in the Gardens by the Bay. Gita hit the pavement at the bottom of a 78-story hotel in Hong Kong. Zagaeski, a fatal motorcycle accident in Mumbai. Their extractor had made it all the way to Florida before she was beaten to death in the car park of a shopping mall. She'd just bought a new pair of running shoes.
He's feinted and scrambled across the globe by his nails and teeth, in darkness and disguise, in and out of identities, and what the fuck, they just keep coming. Eames is good at disappearing. Everyone in dreamsharing is good at it, but Eames is bloody good at it. No one plays a better shell game. But Manago's men—they just blow away the shells. And they keep coming.
If Eames had known the mark was Nikolais Manago's mistress, he'd have told the Singapore team to go fuck themselves right in the Red Dot and walked, boated, or flown away from the job as fast and far as someone else's money would carry him. Arthur would have known. Arthur would have done his research properly. Arthur would have taken care of them. Arthur would never have let this happen.
Arthur doesn't deserve what Eames is here to do, but life isn't fair, now is it? Eames has never been a noble man and he doesn't really have time anymore to start cultivating the trait.
It's all down to timing now.
The snow is gusting underneath the hotel portico, thick white swirls twisting past the windows like spectral sharks in the sea of winter. Even inside the false-bright hotel lobby the air feels so wet and heavy it's hard for Eames to breathe.
Eames checks his watch. Checks the time on the pay-as-you-go phone where he's tracking the storm. Watches the lobby door over the top of the newspaper he's not reading. Checks that his totem is still in his pocket. Checks his watch again. His heel taps an erratic rhythm against the polished floor, half impatience, half tremor. Weather-worried travelers hum and mumble all around him, and the sound makes his head feel thick.
He doesn't realize how much of his breath he's been holding in until he sees him walk in, at last.
The headline of the Sun blurs at the bottom of his vision for a moment. It's okay now. He's not alone. The city is shut down, Vancouver International, all of it, unprepared for a storm like this, but Eames has made it in, Han Solo leaping through the closing blast doors, and Arthur has made it in, Indiana Jones sliding under the wall of stone.
When he's sure his legs will hold him up properly, Eames stands, arranges a casual smile on his face, and lifts the folded-over newspaper in a wave.
Arthur catches the motion and scowls when he sees Eames behind it. His cheeks are pink with cold and snowflakes are clinging to his slicked-back hair. He's the most beautiful thing Eames has ever seen, his winsome, deadly Arthur, and he's here.
"What the fuck, Eames," Arthur stomps snow off his shoes, "I've been texting."
Okay, not his Arthur. Not yet.
"Sorry, darling, new mobile, last minute, you know," Eames shrugs. "Nice trip, then?"
Arthur glares at him. "That taxi ride," he points an accusing finger back at the door, "was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. And you know me well enough to recognize the severity of that statement. I thought it was supposed to be temperate here."
"Poor pet." Eames exaggerates his pout. "Had I the power to command the elements, I would bathe you in the warmest and brightest of sunlight. Though you do look quite fetching in that scarf."
Arthur sighs the Eames-is-flirting-again sigh and his eyes go critical, looking Eames up and down in turn.
Eames has cleaned himself up as best he could in the room, had a shower and made what he feels is a noble effort at a shave, but he knows he looks worn. His hair's grown out shaggy. There are dark smudges under his eyes. He's lost weight. Even so, he's still the shape he is and the clothes he's picked up along the way don't fit properly. He feels like a dream forgery of himself he didn't get quite right.
Arthur's hardly unobservant, he must see, but all he says after his narrow-eyed inspection is, "Is Jocelyn here?"
"Ah," Eames pulls a regretful face and holds up his phone as though he's actually had a message on it. "Diverted in Calgary, I'm afraid. Darius, too."
"Oh, but it is, darling. You need only look at it in the proper light. Because now, since I arranged this meeting and therefore have some responsibility for your comfort and well-being, you have the most excellent fortune of being my guest until the storm passes."
"Your guest." One of Arthur's eyebrows twitches up. "I'm truly afraid to ask what that means. Eames, I came here to work."
"Arthur," Eames is used to this part of the conversation. Arthur always has to be convinced to have any sort of fun. "Take another look outside. There is no work. No work shall be arriving here this day."
"There's phone. There's Internet. We could get started on the preliminaries."
"No good. Jocelyn will only discuss this one face-to-face. You know how it is. She's playing this one close to the vest. No risky details floating about. Full briefing when and only when the whole team's assembled."
Arthur hums reluctant acknowledgment. "Fine. Okay…here we go. I'm a brave man. What exactly does the Eames Guest Service entail?"
"I'm so happy you asked!" Eames flashes a bright smile, mostly his own, because that wasn't too difficult after all and he's starting to feel a little giddy. Good start, good start. Arthur even steps aside to allow Eames into his space to take the handle of his luggage, one big black suitcase topped with the smaller silver PASIV case. "First, allow your humble bellhop to show you to your room. And then you need but name your pleasure. Champagne in the bath? Perhaps a lovely warm oil massage?"
Eames grins. "Drinks at the bar?"
The corner of Arthur's mouth quirks up. "A drink, I wouldn't mind."
It's been better between them since the Fischer job. There were moments. There have been moments since. Slow steps in the right direction.
Too slow, because now Eames can't wait. He's wanted Arthur for so long and he can't wait any longer. This is his last chance. If he has to go short con, that's how it will be, even though it's not the way he wants it to be between them. Eames knows he doesn't deserve to have Arthur like this, knows Arthur deserves so much better, but Eames is a thief and this is what thieves do: they put their hands on things they aren't supposed to touch, they take things they aren't supposed to have.
He means to have Arthur.
Eames gestures grandly towards the lifts and tips Arthur's suitcase on its wheels. "Then please follow along, dear sir. We're on our way."
Eames has given a good deal of consideration to ways he might seduce Arthur. A great deal, actually. Usually with a well-slicked hand. And though he does tend to lose his train of thought a bit somewhere around the orgasm, he's managed to compile what he considers to be a diverse and inventive portfolio of options. What would Arthur like—what little touches, what words? There's fighting to fucking, where Eames slams Arthur against the wall. There's the sneaky dream seduction, Eames in full forgery, but Arthur's delighted when he reveals his true identity. Eames slips into Arthur's hotel room, slips into his bed. There's the club, music pounding, grinding and sweating and then into the back room. There's the desert island. Sometimes he rescues Arthur from dire peril, and Arthur is so grateful. Sometimes they fight side-by-side, and then the adrenaline kicks in, which naturally leads to fucking. Sometimes he's just running his fingers through Arthur's hair…it's loose and a little long and it curls at the ends…on a moonlit terrace. Hell, in one fantasy, he'd even presented Arthur with a puppy.
Perhaps they're not all terribly practical ideas.
At this point, though, it's not as though Eames has a lot of control over the environment or timeline. He's going to have to make do.
He's slipped the waiter with the broad shoulders and pretty eyes a crisp fifty dollar bill, courtesy of the back pocket of a lovely gentleman in the hotel business center.
Arthur is leaning back, elbows on the arms of his club chair, legs crossed casually, and still not managing to look particularly relaxed.
"A penthouse suite, Eames? Really?"
"Jocelyn booked it. No expense spared." Of course he's spared no expense. What use is money to a dead man? Eames tilts his whiskey glass towards Arthur in a mock toast and winks. "I told you there was good money in this one."
"Not if she keeps spending it all on penthouse suites," Arthur mutters. He takes a sip of his gimlet—really, Arthur, a gimlet?—and gives Eames one of his bland looks.
Arthur goes just a little blander. "I'm surprised she contacted you."
"Instead of you, you mean."
"I am a point man."
"Mm, the best," Eames grins.
Arthur frowns. "What job was it you last worked with her? Trocadero?"
"You know perfectly well it was Luciano, Arthur. And you also know perfectly well the Fischer job did wonders for our reputations, all of us. What are you on about?"
Arthur just taps one of his long, lovely fingers on the arm of the chair, staring down into his drink.
"You were amazing on the Fischer job," he says at last.
Eames stares. Arthur looks quite serious. "Arthur, did you just compliment me?" He peers down into his drink. "What's in this? Is Yusuf here?"
Arthur snorts a wry laugh before he steadies his gaze on Eames again. "I mean it, Eames. I heard. You got us through. You were," he shrugs, "amazing. And I've been wanting to say that. People should be calling you."
"I," Eames clears his throat, shaking his head, "Arthur, it was you."
Arthur's eyebrows pull back down into an irritable frown. "And I compliment you all the time, you asshole."
"Er, when does that happen, exactly?"
"You just think I'm…being condescending or…whatever."
"Well…darling, there is, just upon occasion, a certain tone—"
"You're too sensitive," Arthur says firmly.
"Yes. Yes, I have so often been accused of that particular trait. Now that you point it out, I can't begin to imagine how I could have misinterpreted your tender sentiments."
Arthur rolls his eyes. "Blow me, Eames."
"I have offered."
"Yes, and it's always hilarious." Arthur ducks his head and mutters into his drink, "…trying to be…"
Eames cups a hand to his hear. "I didn't quite catch that."
"Nice, okay?" Arthur scowls. "God, fuck you. I was trying to say something nice. I'm just…never very good at it. And also you're an asshole."
A wide smile blooms over Eames's face. "Arthur! You wanted to be nice to me?"
"Purely in the interest of a cordial working relationship," Arthur scowls.
"You say the sweetest things."
"And you take them all the wrong way. Because you're an asshole."
The thing Eames will never admit to Arthur is that, in spite of how well Eames reads people in general, he actually finds Arthur almost impossible to read. It fucking pisses him off, really. He fakes it as best he can. Forger, after all. If he just looks like he knows exactly what Arthur's thinking, smirks a bit harder, sometimes he'll get a lucky confirmation in the backlash. And then other times, when he guesses completely wrong, Arthur will probably assume Eames is taking the piss by deliberately misunderstanding him and then his contradiction clears things up. In the end, either way, Eames will have infuriated Arthur, or made him pout, or frown, had an effect on him, so it's really a win-win, isn't it?
Except when it isn't.
Because there are so many more times Eames really does want to know what Arthur is thinking. And not make him angry. And not get angry in return. And actually have a civil bloody conversation.
"No one gets my back up like you do, Arthur. No one ever." Eames swirls his whiskey around in his glass. "Why do you suppose that is?"
Arthur frowns at him. "I don't know."
"Don't you?" Eames asks softly. He doesn't want that frown this time. This time it's different. This time it has to be different. "I would love for you to be nice to me, Arthur. Truly, I would."
"Eames…" Arthur's frown deepens.
The pretty-eyed waiter appears at Arthur's side and, as requested, bestows a dazzling smile upon him. "Another, sir?"
Eames sits back and draws in a breath through his nose, steadying himself against the sense of urgency rising in him. It's a simple enough plan. He needs to get through to Arthur, to make him see that it isn't all about the banter. A tiny little display of jealousy on his part might just get through. After all, it's not as though Eames hasn't felt jealousy. He's just never let himself show it.
"Um." Arthur glances up at the waiter, then at Eames, then back again. "Sure. I guess. One more."
"And another whiskey," Eames says.
The waiter gives him an absent nod, then widens his smile at Arthur. "Coming right up. And if there's anything else I can get you, you just let me know." He touches Arthur's shoulder. Lingering. With a little thumb stroke.
Eames's jaw clenches.
Arthur quirks an eyebrow and gives the waiter a quick once-over. "Okay."
"Apparently I'm not the only one who'd like you to be nice," Eames mutters as pretty-eyes sashays away.
Arthur—does he flush just a little?—shrugs. "It does happen occasionally," he says drily.
It does indeed. Like the time in Lisbon when that blond was all over Arthur—but Eames doesn't like to think about that. It's not the time to think about that. He has jealousy to feign. "Well, it's some bloody cheek. I'm sitting right here."
"And how does he know you're not with me?"
Arthur snorts. "The most basic observational skills?"
Eames lays a hand on Arthur's sleeve, because pretty-eyes isn't the only one who can touch. He can feel the warmth of Arthur's skin through the fabric. "What can we do to remedy that?"
"Why would I want to remedy that?" Arthur looks down at Eames's hand. The bland look is back.
"You aren't…actually interested in him, are you?"
"Why not? He's attractive. And I'm free tonight, apparently." Arthur says it like it's a challenge and glances over his shoulder to the bar, where the waiter is speaking with the bartender. "No work until the storm passes."
There's a flaw in his plan, Eames realizes as a hot wash of jealousy…actual jealousy…threatens to redden his vision. He can feel it rushing up his neck. There's really a very big flaw in his plan.
"No," he says sharply.
Arthur goes still. "What are you playing at now, Eames?"
"I'm not playing."
"You're always playing."
"Here we are, sir," the waiter purrs, inserting himself between Eames and Arthur as he bends over to set Arthur's fresh drink down. Just the one drink.
Arthur drags his eyes away from Eames. "Uh, thanks."
"My pleasure. And, sir, I just thought I'd mention…we're open all night. And we do offer room service. Just give us a call."
Eames feels a growl building, low in his throat. He'd told the man to flirt a bit. He hadn't said and then let him fuck you over the bar.
Arthur looks at him. "I'll bear it in mind."
"Here," the waiter winks one of his pretty, pretty eyes and slides a cocktail napkin across the table towards Arthur. There's writing on it. "Extra coaster."
Eames slams his hand down so fast and so loud that even Arthur jumps. "You shouldn't be expecting that sort of tip, hm?" He smiles at the waiter, and makes sure his eyes say deal's off, fuck off, and I know ways to hurt you. He does have expressive eyes, he's been told on occasion. The cocktail napkin disappears into his fist and comes back out crumpled. Like you will be if you don't fuck off.
The waiter blanches. "I-I'm sorry, sir."
"And I'll have that whiskey now," Eames says sweetly. "If it's not too much trouble."
"Of course. Sir. Right away."
Eames smiles grimly as the waiter scurries off.
"What the fuck are you doing?" Arthur is staring at him like he's gone completely mad.
"Sod it." Eames sighs. "I'm actually trying to chat you up here, Arthur, but you and your new friend are making it bloody difficult."
"Chat me up."
Arthur looks at him. "And by that you mean…just to be clear…"
"To be clear, darling, I am trying to take you to bed."
Arthur shakes his head. "You're not serious."
"Never more so."
"Well, I find it's one of the more comfortable places to have sex. Although I could be persuaded to an alternate location if you'd prefer. Walls, for example, have their benefits, but 'I'd like to take you to wall' doesn't have quite the same ring—"
"Eames," Arthur's eyes are wary, "you don't even like me."
"I think you may be misreading my current signals, darling."
"Not that you have to like someone to fuck them. Or fuck with them. You in particular."
And why the fuck wouldn't Arthur be suspicious of him? Arthur's right—of course he's right, because he's Arthur—Eames is always playing. He still is. He's playing right now, quips and games, and this time has to be different.
Eames takes a deep breath.
"Arthur, as much as it might surprise you to hear it, I do actually prefer to fuck people I like. And I like you. I want you. Quite desperately. I have for…a long time. And I try, but every time we're together it all seems to just go pear-shaped, and, pet, I just can't help myself sometimes, wanting to rile you up. I have been trying. But I've given you my best flirting and that clearly hasn't worked out as well as I'd hoped, so as of this moment I'm trying a more direct approach, yes? I'm out of practice with that, so forgive me if it's a bit awkward. But you, Arthur, are brilliant and sharp and beautiful and I'm delighted, I'm utterly beguiled every time I see you. Every time. I like you very much. In fact, you say the word, darling, and I will bloody worship you."
There's a long, terrible silence, during which Eames listens to his heart pound.
Finally, Arthur cocks his head. "When exactly did you give me your best flirting?"
"Every time I have any interaction with you whatsoever. The texts from Ghent? The sketch I left you in Rotterdam?"
"That was your best flirting?"
Eames snorts a laugh and runs a hand through his hair. His drink is still empty, alas, so he reaches for Arthur's and knocks back a long swallow, because Arthur is about to tell him what a ludicrous creature he is and how he can piss right off. "Quantity over quality," he smirks. "It's one approach, yeah? It's a very good thing I'm tireless."
"I think I could tire you," Arthur says in a low, low voice.
Eames raises his eyes slowly. "Excuse me?"
"Flirting. I thought I'd give it a shot." Arthur purses his lips. There's a spark at the back of his dark eyes. "It doesn't really seem all that difficult."
"Fuck," Eames breathes. "You're a natural."
Arthur stands, smooths down his jacket, and looks at Eames. "Come on, then."
And Eames practically stumbles to his feet, stuffs his hand in his pocket to check his totem, and thinks…fuck, fuck, holy fucking fuck. "Darling, just to be clear…when you say come on…"
"Just to be clear…the wall does have merits," Arthur nods, "but we'll start with the bed."
Eames slips a second fifty in the cowering waiter's vest pocket as he passes by, because why the hell not, and grins helplessly as he follows Arthur out of the bar.
Eames scampers after Arthur like an overexcited puppy, like…well, like Arthur has the best treat ever in his pocket for him.
"Wait," Arthur warns in the hallway when Eames moves in for a kiss. Eames bites his lip. He wants to roll over right here on the aesthetically-pleasing but easily-cleaned carpet, right beside the gold-framed mirror and tasteful floral display, and let Arthur rub his belly.
"Wait," Arthur warns in the lift when Eames tries to crowd him into one oak-paneled corner.
"Arthur, you're killing me," he moans. He'll do tricks, if he's asked. He knows a few tricks he'd love to show Arthur.
"Wait," Arthur warns outside their suite door when Eames presses his chest to Arthur's back as he swipes the key card through the reader. Arthur tosses a smug little smirk over his shoulder.
The door closes behind them.
"Now?" Eames is practically panting.
Arthur steps into Eames, pushes him back with his body until Eames's spine is pressed against the door frame. His eyelashes fan down as his gaze drifts down to Eames's mouth, his throat, and he braces a hand against the door over Eames's head. "Yeah," he says quietly, in the deep voice, "now is good."
And as much as Eames's head is spinning with whiskey and want, as much as he's aching to let go into Arthur, he takes a moment to just look. Just look at him, so beautiful, dark eyes and his pouty mouth slightly open, waiting. Eames cups Arthur's head in his hand, runs his thumb over Arthur's cheekbone, and bites his lower lip before he whispers Arthur's name. His first kiss is feather-light, pressed to the corner of Arthur's mouth like a prayer of thanks.
He feels Arthur's breath stutter, hears the beginnings of a moan low in his throat. Arthur's hand drops into Eames's hair and he kisses back, a single soft kiss. His eyes open and he looks as dazed, as wondering as Eames feels.
Eames's laughter bubbles up, unexpected and joyful. "This isn't how I thought it would be."
"Me neither." Arthur looks down, god, almost like he's shy all of a sudden, and twists his fingers gently in Eames's hair.
Eames nods and says, earnestly, like they're sharing the same secret, "You thought it would be you against the wall."
Arthur draws back. "No." He frowns severely at Eames.
Eames's grin is irrepressible. He's just so…happy. He throws his arms around frowning Arthur and hauls him back close to his chest, because now. Fuck all his silly fantasies and the way it he thought it would be, because this is exactly the way it should be. He has Arthur in his arms. He didn't even have to trick him. Arthur just said yes and Eames is going to kiss the fuck out of him. "But you've thought about me!"
"I didn't say that," Arthur scowls. His hands are on Eames's hips.
"But you have," Eames kisses the corner of his mouth again, bright and sweet. "You've thought of me."
Arthur's leg has found its way between Eames's thighs. "I have not."
"You've thought of me in sexy ways. Tell me."
Eames swallows Arthur's next denial in a kiss. Arthur kisses him back, hard, needy, and he tastes like juniper berries and Eames thinks for a minute…he doesn't need any more than this. This is all he's ever needed. Kissing Arthur, kisses that crackle like wood fire. But then Arthur's hips slide against his and he groans.
More would be good.
"Show me," he breathes into Arthur's mouth.
Arthur's hands slide to Eames's hips and pull him in. He drags his teeth over Eames's lip and grinds against him.
"Fuck, yes, darling," Eames gasps. "Show me."
Eames can practically feel the air ripple around him whenever they're on a job and Arthur accepts a mission.
Arthur-on-a-mission is a glorious thing to behold. Eames doesn't even blame the whiskey this time for the swooping feeling in his stomach. Like a dropping lift. Give Arthur a mission, a vision, and he makes it happen.
"Turn around," Arthur instructs, with the look in his eyes that expects compliance.
It's the kind of look that always makes Eames want to fuck with him. And fuck him, of course. Be contrary just for the fun of it until the little frown lines form and that lower lip juts out obstinately. And then fold him over his plans and notebooks and suck that lip and push that waistcoat up and dig his fingers in and never let him up again.
He takes a shaky breath and turns, compliant as a lamb.
Arthur pulls Eames's jacket off, tosses it aside, and then steps in close. Eames feels the heat of him through the thin fabric of his shirt, feels Arthur's breath against nape of his neck. Arthur presses closer, arms sliding around Eames's chest, and then just stands for a moment, like Arthur's getting used to the feel of him. Slowly his hands start to move, stroking down Eames's stomach, fingers tracing across every dip and swell of his muscles.
"You want this," Arthur says, low and gruff. It's not a question but it is, a pause in carrying out the plan, a little break in character that's so unlike Arthur that Eames almost laughs.
"Move your hand a bit lower and I think you'll have all the confirmation you need."
Arthur, ever-obstinate, moves his hands up instead, to the buttons of Eames's shirt, and opens them one by one until he has to tug Eames's shirt tails from his trousers to finish. When his hand brushes Eames's skin, Eames grunts and braces one hand against the door. Arthur's hands slide back up his bare stomach and chest, hook over his shoulders, and turn him around into a kiss.
A kiss that's too short and then gone, because then Arthur's walking backwards towards his bedroom, pulling Eames along step-for-step. Arthur kisses him once more inside the door of his room. "When I come back, you should be in my bed."
Arthur nods towards the en suite bathroom and cocks an eyebrow. "Supplies."
"Mm," Eames nods. "Point man stuff."
"Yeah," one of Arthur's cheeks dimples, "point man stuff."
"You've definitely thought about me," Eames purrs.
The dimple gets a little deeper. "On the bed, Mr. Eames."
Eames strips out of the rest of his clothes and leaves them crumpled in a pile on the floor, eyes focused on his target: the bed he's about to share with Arthur. Arthur is taking him to bed. Arthur.
He groans when he slides between the sheets, silky soft against his bare skin. He reaches under the duvet and gives his cock an anticipatory squeeze, then wriggles into a few variations on what he hopes are enticing positions. He finally settles on his back, one arm over his head on the propped-up pillows so his torso and tattoos are on display, duvet pushed down just far enough for a glimpse of hip bone.
And he sighs, sinking in, eyes drifting shut. Arthur's bed. Everything is okay. Blissfully okay. Whatever is waiting on the other side of that storm, what does that matter now?
He's going to kiss that beautiful dimple. Arthur's making the plan, and Eames will fill in the creative details. He's going to be so creative. Filthy things, he knows filthy things. And sweet, he can be sweet. He's going to kiss Arthur filthy and sweet. Every part of him. Kiss him blissful. Eames snuggles into Arthur's pillow and tugs the duvet up a little higher. Blissful. He's so warm. This is the eye of the storm, soft and white, safe and hushed, Arthur's arms around him. The trickle of water from the bathroom, the low hum of the heater. And the sheets are so very soft…
Eames wakes warm and languid in the soft grey light of morning, groans his way through a long stretch, and nuzzles into the warm body beside him. His nose lands near an arc that feels a bit hip-boney. He grunts approval at it, kisses it, and names it, "Arthur." There's a leg attached, a long-muscled flannel-covered thigh, and Eames grunts approval at that, too. "Don't move," he orders it and rolls out of bed. Rubbing his eyes, he plods loose-limbed and naked into the bathroom.
He emerges with minty gel from an impromptu teeth-cleaning effort still smeared on his index finger. Arthur is sitting up in bed with his laptop balanced on one bent knee. A hand towel, two bottles of water, and a small container of lubricant lie abandoned on the bedside table beside him. He looks at Eames, completely impassive.
Eames stares back in absolute horror. "We didn't fuck."
"So you noticed that, too." He sounds like Eames has just pointed out a painting that's hanging slightly crooked.
"Well. That's." Eames shifts his weight, frowns down at his cock, like it's the one who betrayed him instead of the other way round. It does look rather remorseful, at that.
"Well," Arthur repeats, bland as can be. His eyes shift to the teal-tipped finger Eames is still holding up in the air.
Eames looks at it, too. It feels like he should be making a very important point, but all he comes up with is, "My teeth."
Arthur's left eyebrow twitches up.
"So I could kiss you good morning," he says. He sounds forlorn. He doesn't know what to do with his blue-green finger.
Arthur sighs and shuts his laptop. "Really tired…or just bored? Which was it?" He asks with a self-deprecating little smirk, like he doesn't really care. But Arthur cares about everything. Eames is fairly certain Arthur cares about this. "Or maybe your idea of another joke?" he asks softly.
"Fuck." Eames rakes a hand through his hair. "Fuck, Arthur, fuck. Bored. How could you even—?"
"The snoring. That was a clue."
"A joke? I've never been more fucking serious about anything in my life." He drags both hands through his hair. "Fuck. I wanted to impress you."
"You've chosen an interesting strategy."
"Oh, but my strategy was brilliant, darling," Eames protests, mouth pressing into a grim line. "Sweep you off your feet in proper style. Kiss you against a wall until you forgot how to breathe. Christ, Arthur, I wanted to do you so right your toes curled and your eyes rolled back and your heartbeat shook the sodding walls. I wanted you to look at me and think, yes, him."
Arthur sets his laptop aside with a sigh. "Well, I am thinking that. With a slightly different inflection."
"Darling, I'm so sorry." Eames sinks down onto the foot of the bed, folding up the edge of the duvet into his lap. Nudity isn't feeling quite as sexy as it usually does just at the moment.
"You have toothpaste in your hair."
Eames looks at his hand. There's a thin line of blue paste still under his fingernail. He frowns at it and feels lost. "I was going to kiss you good morning."
Arthur regards him steadily for a long moment, then leans slowly back against the headboard and puts his hands behind his head, stretching himself out to stare coolly down his nose at Eames. "All right."
"Darling?" Eames blinks, heart leaping with hope.
"Make it good."
Eames shoves the duvet away and launches himself at Arthur with a sound so deeply undignified in its eagerness that he might be embarrassed had he not such a very good reason for eagerness and indignity. They both grunt from the impact when Eames lands on top of him.
"Good morning!" He plants a kiss on Arthur's cheek as he squirms into a better position, straddling Arthur's hips. "Good morning." He kisses a strand of hair that's fallen over Arthur's forehead. Arthur's morning hair. Eames kisses one of the loose curls just behind his ear. "And a good morning to you. And, oh, look at you," Eames draws in a delighted breath as he looks down at Arthur's mouth. "Good morning."
Eames puts his whole body into the kiss. He presses his chest against Arthur's and he squeezes his thighs tight around Arthur's hips. He can't resist tugging on a handful of that gorgeous, messy hair, tipping Arthur's head back as he slides up to kiss down hard. When he's done, Arthur's fingertips are digging into Eames's shoulders.
"Mm, it is good morning," Eames grins against Arthur's neck, darts his tongue out for a quick taste, lets his teeth gently scrape Arthur's skin. "How is your morning? Good?"
"It's improving," Arthur rumbles.
"Good morning," Eames kisses under Arthur's jaw, and then again on his collarbone. He slides his hands under Arthur's warm, sleep-rumpled t-shirt and hums pleasure at Arthur's slow exhale. "I would even go so far as to say this is rapidly becoming," he wriggles back down the bed, far enough so he can press his nose, his mouth, into the soft skin of Arthur's flat stomach, "the best morning that ever was, my lovely young Arthur. What do you say to that?"
"I say," Arthur has a hand around the back of Eames's neck, "that's an appropriate sentiment. For you, at least."
Eames grins and nips at Arthur's belly.
"And I'm only three years younger than you."
"I knew you wouldn't be able to let that go. Tell me, kitten, as an expert on propriety…" Eames shifts down further. He hooks his fingertips into the top of Arthur's pyjamas waistband and then just leans over and nuzzles into the flannel, where Arthur is musky and hard and Arthur groans. "Is it appropriate to say thank you when you're about to suck a man off?"
Arthur's nostrils flare. "Just fucking do it."
"Thank you, Arthur," Eames beams and tugs Arthur's waistband down. "And good morning," he breathes, and sucks Arthur in. Arthur swears violently and his hands clench in Eames's hair, his toothpaste-streaked hair, and Eames goes to work. He closes his eyes so he can concentrate, so he can savor. Arthur's cock tastes like…well, like cock, but this is Arthur's cock and Arthur is attached to it, and this going to be the best fucking blow job Eames has ever given. He works him with the flat of his tongue, the tip of his tongue, his lips, and his hand, slide and twist and suction, until Arthur's hips are jerking up rhythmically to meet his mouth and Arthur is making most gorgeous, sexy-as-fuck noises. Only then does Eames dare look up. Lips still wrapped around Arthur, he tilts his head up and meets Arthur's eyes. Arthur's face has gone pink, his mouth is open, and the morning light on his face only emphasizes the blown darkness of his heavy-lidded eyes.
He's just so beautiful.
"Fuck," Arthur breathes, gasping at whatever he sees in Eames's face. "Get up here. Right now."
Eames pulls off with a wet pop and scrambles gracelessly up into Arthur's opening arms.
"Fuck, Eames," Arthur growls, groping towards the bedside table. "Fuck you."
"Yes, Arthur," Eames sighs, and he's not even sure what it means other than yes, Arthur, anything you want, "Please, Arthur." He's achingly, yearningly hard.
When Arthur wraps a slick hand around them both, squeezing their cocks together, Eames thinks for a moment he might black out from pleasure.
When Arthur squeezes Eames's arse and twists his hand like that and whispers in Eames's ear, dark and sweet, "I do think about you," Eames moans and comes all over Arthur's stomach and part of his rucked-up t-shirt.
While his cock is still tingling from Arthur's hand he goes back down on Arthur, to finish what he's started. Properly.
Arthur, it turns out, looks furious when he comes. It's hilarious and a little scary and adorable and hot as fuck all at once, and Eames is going to need to see it again as soon and as often as possible.
Eames emerges from his room clean and soap-scented and still beaming.
Arthur is sprawled across the sitting room sofa, intent on his laptop until he looks up at Eames. His eyebrow hooks up. "You know, Eames, I suspect that somewhere in that room behind you, you actually have clothing you could put on."
"Why would I do such a thing?" Arthur, Eames is delighted to note, has slipped back into his pyjama bottoms and another t-shirt rather than dressing properly himself, and can only congratulate himself even further on inspiring such relaxation.
"People wear clothes. And stop looking so proud of yourself," Arthur admonishes immediately.
"Darling, I would do all for you but the impossible."
Arthur sets his laptop aside with a sad little head shake. "You just like being naked, don't you?"
"I'm only thinking of you," Eames points out kindly as he draws the curtains open. The storm winds seem to have died down, but the snow is still falling thick and heavy. "As there's not much of a view outside right now…" He strikes his most provocative pose, three-quarter turn, looking over his shoulder at Arthur, letting the light from the window highlight his arms and obliques, and…he does rather like being naked, yes.
Arthur looks him up and down. And yawns.
Eames is just opening his mouth for an offended huff when Arthur raises his arms over his head and stretches, long and languid, so that his t-shirt rides up revealingly. His pyjama bottoms are slung low on his hips, which Arthur very helpfully wriggles sensuously into the sofa cushion.
Eames plants his hands on his hips, eyes raking down the trail of hair in between t-shirt and pyjamas. "Oh, so it's like that, is it?"
Arthur's slow answering smile is quite possibly the smuggest thing Eames has ever seen outside of the time he had to go undercover at the pedigree cat show, and Eames is already marching forward to kiss it right off him when there's a knock at the door.
"Brekkie!" Eames exclaims and diverts course. "I'll get it!"
Arthur scrambles after him. "Don't you dare, Eames!"
There's a brief but tremendously undignified tussle that results in Eames, nipple smarting, shoved forcibly behind the door as Arthur opens it to the trolley-bearing hotel staffer.
"We're going to need a lot of butter, darling!" Eames calls out gaily. "Warm, slick, slippery butter."
There's a pause before a male voice responds, rather uncertainly, "I can…certainly bring up some more—"
"That won't be necessary, thank you," Arthur says with impeccable dignity.
Eames insists they arrange the breakfast plates on the padded ottoman in front of the sofa instead of the in-room dining table, much cozier, and Arthur insists Eames put on pants.
"I didn't order my breakfast with a side of hairy ass, thanks."
"My arse is smooth and lovely, Arthur, as you now well know," Eames sniffs, but he relents and pulls a white chenille throw off a nearby chair and wraps it around himself, settling himself cross-legged on the carpet as Arthur situates himself on the edge of the sofa. "God, that smells heavenly." He plucks the cover off his plate and blinks at it. "Is that…?"
"Yeah. Praline pecan waffles. Ugh, it makes my stomach hurt just to look at them," Arthur shudders, "but I thought…" He trails off when he looks up and sees Eames staring. "Don't you like them anymore?"
"That was two years ago." In Memphis. On a rainy Sunday morning in March when he and Arthur had somehow ended up in the same kitschy red-bullet classic diner the morning after a relaxed and easy job that the two of them had nevertheless spat their way through at each other like alley cats. It wasn't Arthur's fault that time. Eames had just…well, there was the thing with JJ and then there was the thing in Mendoza and it just…hadn't been his best month, okay? So he'd grudgingly gestured Arthur to a seat across from him in the lime green padded booth with the chipped formica table. And Arthur had sat down just as grudgingly, and they'd eaten together in silence by the fogged window, exchanging sections of the local newspaper.
Arthur looks down at his fruit plate and shrugs. It's nonchalant. It's a little too nonchalant. "I remember things."
Eames looks down, too, because for a moment his throat feels thick, and he's going to need to be able to swallow if he's going to eat every single fucking bite of these stupid horrible waffles.
Eames shakes the multi-colored yarn bobble under Arthur's nose.
"At least wear your hat."
Arthur's shoulders are hunched over in his stylish-yet-practical winter coat and he's wearing his fetching scarf again, but his ears are turning red in the cold.
"I'm not wearing that." He eyes the hat Eames is waggling in front of him with disdain and then the hat on Eames's head with disdain and embarrassment.
Eames would be more than delighted to stoke that embarrassment if there were actually anyone out here to be embarrassed in front of. But they are the only two figures shuffling along in the stinging snow. Besides, it's a perfectly serviceable hat. Eames pats down one of the fuzzy ear flaps with satisfaction. His ears are quite warm. "Darling, I went to great pains to acquire these lovely hats for us."
"You stole them from the gift shop."
"They were all the way at the back." Eames has also acquired a nice, warm sweatshirt. It has a fleecy lining and a picture of a grizzly bear on the front. Not his usual style perhaps, but he feels, despite Arthur's initial reaction upon seeing it, he pulls it off quite well. It goes with the hat. "I can see your face going numb."
"That's a price I'm willing to pay." Arthur's looking all around the street.
"Arthur, no one will see. I can barely see you," Eames complains, squinting through the curtain of snow, "this isn't exactly the time to take the scenery."
Arthur stops and turns in a slow circle, looking around the harbor, the car park, the hotel's tall reach of ice-frosted glass windows, like he's admiring the view. "It's…very pretty. And invigorating."
"It's grey and cold and wet. I could invigorate you much more pleasantly in the room."
"The point was to get out of the room, stretch our legs."
"I'll stretch your legs in the room."
Arthur looks at him.
"Okay, that one wasn't one of my best." Eames pouts. "My lips are cold. It interferes with my flirting."
"I told you your flirting needs work."
"I shall practice most assiduously to please you, darling. All night if I have to. But you'll have to warm my lips first."
Eames thinks he spies a dimple through the snow between them.
"Come on," Arthur gives his elbow a tug, "just over to the edge of that park and then we'll go back."
"And you'll warm my lips?"
"And I'll warm your lips."
Eames tugs down his hat and trudges along after Arthur, who seems simply determined to look around at the snow as though it's fascinating. It really is depressingly grey out here. Eames doesn't like it. In spite of the terrible visibility and the solitude, Eames feels exposed out here in the whispering wet. He crowds into Arthur. "We should share our body heat to keep warm."
Arthur frowned, "Actually that's not an effective—"
"Arthur," Eames says plaintively.
Arthur's mouth twitches. "You're right. We should share our body heat to keep warm," he nods, very seriously, and lets Eames tuck himself into his side.
"Mm, see, much better."
Arthur seems to be headed for a line of snow-bowed trees and a white-mounded park bench.
"Now tell us what you'd like to do tomorrow," Eames says, and shivers.
"We should be able to work." Arthur gives him an odd look. "The storm will have passed. Jocelyn and Darius should be able to get in fairly early."
"No, darling, something fun. What would you like to do?"
Eames kicks at the snow a little harder as he walks just to watch it fly up off his boots in wet clumps. "I'm making our walk more romantic. See the lovely tall buildings with fine restaurants and bars and such? See the lovely mountain vistas two handsome gentlemen such as ourselves might appreciate from the warmth of a terrace hot tub? What shall we get up to tomorrow?"
Even through the snow, Arthur's arched eyebrow is obvious. "Romantic."
"Yes, darling. Now play nice."
"Fine. Uh. Snowboarding."
Eames snorts. "Snowboarding."
"What? I like snowboarding."
"Seriously?" Eames peers at him, trying to reconcile Arthur with snowboarding Arthur. Good lord, it was practically surfing. Arthur, on a surfboard, hair shaggy and wet, skin gleaming in the sun, beads nestling into the hollow at the bottom of his throat. All right, that could work. God, to have Arthur on a beach. Salty skin. Warm sun lotion.
"You asked what I'd like to do," Arthur says defensively. He turns and walks backwards, looking back towards their hotel. "And don't pretend you're not at least a little into it. I heard all about your James Bond MI6 biathlon action hero shit."
"That was a dream."
Arthur looks at him. "So?"
"So do you have the same skill levels up above you do in dreams?"
Arthur frowns. "Yes. How else would I emulate them in dreams?"
"Oh, my god. Of course you do."
Eames turns Arthur around, facing the little cluster of trees again, and tucks him back into his side. "Well, my darling, I do not have the same skill levels in all things above as below. I rely on my imagination, you see. Were you to witness me attempt my James Bond M16 biathlon action hero shit up above, the result would not be nearly so pretty."
"In that case, I would definitely like to see it."
"Your point being you'd enjoy watching me fall repeatedly on my arse?"
"That is my point exactly, yes. I would very much enjoy that."
They've reached the cluster of trees next to the park bench, which is really most convenient since it is so little effort for Eames to reach up and give one of the heavy, snow-laden branches a shake right over Arthur's head.
Arthur yelps. "Asshole!"
"Should've worn a hat," Eames says mildly.
His triumph is short-lived as a blur of profanity takes him out by the hips. He lands in a drift with snow down his collar and in between his sleeves and the edge of his gloves and Arthur on top of him grinning like a maniac. He's cold and now his trousers are wet and it's grey and miserable but now it is a romantic walk in the snow and…oh no, here it comes. Eames giggles. Not a sexy man-of-the-world giggle, but the enormous, giddy, goofy, awkward, over-eager adolescent giggle, all teeth and ridiculous gulping sounds, he'd worked so hard to get rid of years ago. He claps a hand over his mouth.
Arthur's eyes go wide as saucers.
"Eames! Did you hear that?"
Horrified, but unable to stop laughing even with his glove practically stuffed into his mouth, Eames shakes his head vigorously in the negative.
"What was that sound?"
"It sounded…this is Canada, are there geese nearby?"
"I will put snow in your pants, you twat."
"Eames, are you trying to flirt again?"
Eames growls under his big, stupid grin and grabs a handful of snow. Arthur is too quick for him, though, and he finds his arms pinned over his head and his laughter being kissed away, cold lips pressed together under cold noses, and the snow whispering down all around them.
They pull each other up.
Halfway back to the hotel, Arthur turns to Eames and holds out his hand. "Fine. Give me the fucking thing."
Beaming, Eames hands him the ridiculous hat with the multicolor bobble, and Arthur jams it on his head.
Arthur seems to grow increasingly distracted as they get closer to the suite, drawing inward despite Eames's kisses to his cold-pinked cheeks and compliments on his hat. By the time they're back in the room, it's obvious that Arthur's smile is a little too tense.
"It's nothing," Arthur shakes his head as he pulls off his gloves, "I just remembered some business I need to take care of."
"But it's our day off."
"I won't be long."
Eames's eyebrows draw down. "Arthur. Do I need to explain about days off?"
Arthur shrugs out of his coat and turns towards his room, holding up a placating hand. "Just a few calls."
"I'll keep you company," Eames moves to follow, setting his jaw stubbornly.
"Look. I don't need company, okay? I just need to make some calls," Arthur snaps. It must take Eames just a moment too long to hide his stung expression, because Arthur sighs. "Why don't you…make us a fire?"
Eames walks over to the fireplace and flips the switch. The gas flame jumps up with a little fwoof. He raises his eyebrows at Arthur. "So. Job in the works?"
"Something like that."
"Not sharing this one, then?" Eames leans back against the mantel, folds his arms, and smiles too pleasantly. "Still don't trust me?"
"You think I should trust you?" Arthur looks down at the floor, and huffs a little laugh. When he looks back up, his face is set and carefully blank. His business face. "I won't be long," he repeats steadily. He closes the door of his room on Eames.
Eames swears, pulls off his stupid fuzzy ear flap hat and throws it across the room, and then tries to convince himself he's not panicking. He's not being unreasonable, is he? He simply doesn't want to let Arthur out of his sight. That's not so very mad, is it, under the circumstances? Eames swallows and glances at the clock. How can it be afternoon already? It's fine. He's not panicking.
He's totally panicking. And furious. Because Arthur went into the next room.
Arthur's going to go on without him. Of course he is. He's going to have a next job and a next job and a whole future of jobs. He's going to have a next lover. He'll kiss other people and fuck other people and he'll fight with other forgers and he'll forget all about Eames and it's just so unfair that Eames could fucking choke.
He snorts a laugh at himself. Ah, but he is a selfish bastard, isn't he? Selfish and possessive and needy. Not a noble man at all. He doesn't have to be quite so obvious about it, though. The bright side, he supposes, of only having one day left means there's only one day he needs to get through without cocking it up entirely. He can do that.
He goes to his room and strips out of his moose shirt, wet jeans, and boots, and wraps himself up again in the white chenille throw. He turns on the stereo in the sitting room so he doesn't have to listen to Arthur talking, low and indistinct, to someone who is not him, flings some of the sofa cushions on the floor in front of the fireplace, and then raids his room's mini-bar. He comes out with a lovely little afternoon picnic—a Snickers bar, a pack of cashew nuts, a tiny bottle of Patrón Silver, a tiny bottle of Grey Goose, a red wine, and a Pepsi—and makes himself cozy nest in front of the fire to wait.
He's made it through the vodka, the cashews, and most of the tequila, and accidentally tipped over the soda, before Arthur re-appears at last.
Arthur's mouth twitches as he looks over Eames, hunkered down under his blanket next to a Pepsi stain and a squashed candy bar. "You're a mess," he says.
"Yeah, well," Eames sniffs, "that's the problem, innit?"
Arthur kneels down in front of him and smiles. He's wearing a bathrobe. He sets a towel-wrapped bundle down on the floor next to Eames. "That took longer than I expected. Sorry about that."
"You were gone a long time," Eames scowls, burrowing farther down into his nest. He grunts at the towel. "Whzzat?"
Arthur's eyes gleam wickedly. "Point man stuff."
"What? Oh." Eames sits up. "Really?"
"Mm, really. I was gone a long time, you see, so I'm making it up to you." Arthur reaches for Eames's chenille wrap, pulling the edges apart to expose his chest. "Oh, look, you're naked. What a surprise."
"I can't help but notice that you seem to be naked, too. Have you made a point man plan for making it up to me, Arthur?"
"I have indeed, Mr. Eames." Arthur folds open the towel and picks up the plastic bottle nestled inside.
"What sort of plan is this, exactly?"
Arthur tugs the chenille blanket the rest of the way off Eames. "An efficient one."
"Darling, only you could make that sound so delightfully sexy."
Arthur pushes Eames's thighs apart. Wide apart.
"Oh," Eames says.
"Oh," Arthur confirms, and slicks up his fingers.
Eames fucking loves efficiency.
Eames has efficiency sliding inside him and efficiency twisting around his cock, and—well, this brand of efficiency seems to be going on for a gloriously long time, but Eames is not in any position to complain about that right now.
Efficiency is in fact Eames's new most favorite thing in the world, and through his trembling, through the cushion he's biting, he tells Arthur so. Or he tries. His praise comes out sounding a lot like a gasp and a "Ngh!" noise.
"Like that, do we?" Arthur grins…and crooks his fingers.
Eames arches off the floor.
"Fuck, Arthur," Eames breathes, tracing lazy lines over Arthur's fire-and-sex warmed skin with his fingertips.
He's seen Arthur's angry orgasm face again and he has Arthur's come all over his belly, mixed in with his own, and he's not sure he could stand up even if he wanted to.
"What are you drawing?" Arthur's voice is drowsy and muffled by Eames's bicep.
Eames smiles. "Pictures. Words." His name.
"Eames, are you giving me tattoos?"
"You're a pristine and beautiful canvas, darling."
"My mother would kill me."
Eames curls forward to nip at the back of Arthur's neck. "You have a mother?"
Arthur rolls in his arms, reaching for the towel.
"Amazingly enough, yes." He brings Eames's hand back to his hip after he's cleaned them up, encouraging him to resume his tracing. His voice goes a little distant, reminiscent. "On days like today, snowy days, she always made us hot cocoa when we came in from the snow."
Eames's fingers slow, only briefly. He keeps his voice light.
"Me and my sister."
It's not as though Arthur's revealed something terribly personal, but it still feels odd. Precious. They just don't talk about things like that, the two of them. Eames has made some inferences about Arthur. Figured he was an elder sibling—so responsible, so protective—and grew up somewhere in middle America. Somewhere with snow and a sister, Eames files the data away. An extraordinary young man in an ordinary place, loved but never fitting in.
He fits perfectly tucked under Eames's arm.
"You already know…where I grew up, don't you, Arthur?"
Arthur doesn't say anything. Strokes a hand over Eames's chest. It's fine. That's not the part Eames is going to talk about.
"Well, in St. Catharine's there, there's a winter garden. Great high ceilings and a dome at the center done all in stained glass with scenes of mountain vistas and fruit trees, flowers, birds and blue skies and vines like they're woven through the iron work. It's in winter, with the trees outside all bare, that the light hits it just right. It comes alive. It's like being inside the birth of spring, seeing it from the inside. I've always wanted to paint it. But now—" Eames stops, smiles self-consciously. He kisses the top of Arthur's head. "It's one of my favorite places in the world."
"I'll have to visit it sometime," Arthur says quietly.
"Yeah," Eames smiles. "I'd like it if you did that."
A candle flickers in its glass bowl on the table between them. The music, the hum of conversation, and the clinking of silverware on china are all soft and muted. Eames reaches across the white tablecloth for Arthur's wrist, turning his arm so he can make a minute and completely unnecessary adjustment to Arthur's silver cuff link. He tilts his head to admire his work.
"You'd think you'd never seen me wear a nice suit before, Eames." Arthur rolls his eyes, but he also looks a bit smug, and Eames is proud of that work, too.
"But I put you in this nice suit."
"True, you did. At least now I know you can actually dress someone properly."
"That's quite unfair, petal. You've seen me in many a nice suit," Eames protests, even as he shrugs his shoulders uncomfortably in his painfully staid sport coat, the same ill-fitting poly-blend grey thing he'd been wearing when he met Arthur yesterday. He spends so much time not being himself, and he finds he's keenly missing his ability to personalize when it's time to be himself. See, this is why it's better to just be naked. Well, that and the way Arthur looks at him like he's something terribly decadent.
Arthur takes a sip of his wine, giving Eames a pointed look over the rim of the glass. "I've seen your characters wear nice suits. Never you."
"Are you certain you'd know the difference?" Eames smirks.
Arthur's expression changes subtly but immediately, but after an awkward beat, he just says, "Yes. I think I would."
Eames frowns. It feels like something important happened, just there, something he missed, something he likely should be feeling wrong-footed over, but he doesn't want to look too closely at it. Not right now. Not when it's getting so late. "Are you slighting my forging skills? Arthur, you wound me. Deeply."
"Eames…are you okay?"
Arthur looks very serious all of a sudden, concerned, and Eames pushes his own rising feeling of wrongness and fear down hard, because it's been such a lovely dinner. They've had tamari glazed duck and wild mushroom soup, striploin and artichoke ravioli, and a lush, peppery red wine. A lovely dinner, a lovely evening, and it's not getting late. "Well, I'll consider forgiving you if you apologize." He gives Arthur a cheeky smile. "Sincerely, mind you. Preferably with tongue."
Arthur studies him for a moment, then looks down at the table, adjusting the position of his wine glass on the table by a few millimeters, and Eames can actually see him making the decision to let it go. When he looks up again, he's smiling wryly. "Mostly I'm just surprised you wanted to have dinner down here where you have to wear clothes at all."
"You did read my mind."
"I'm very glad I can't read your mind, Eames. Very, very glad."
"I simply thought you'd enjoy a proper date, my proper young Arthur." Eames connects his fingertips with Arthur's wrist again and lowers his voice, redoubling his flirting to make up for that little wisp of awkwardness between them. There's been a lot of making up for things over the course of the day, hasn't there? Is that how it would have been between them? Sharp and soft in cycles? "But if you'd prefer, I'd happily strip down in front of this whole room and do improper things to you all over this table."
"A date, huh?"
"A proper date. I shall even walk you to your door. I confess I am hoping for a goodnight kiss."
"So what's next on this date? Two forks, one dessert? A little dancing?"
"After the exhibitionism, you mean?"
"After the exhibitionism."
"Hm, well, I'm not much of a dancer," Eames admits.
"Oh, right," Arthur nods. "That makes sense."
Eames raises a puzzled eyebrow. "Does it, now?"
"Well, I've seen the way you walk…" Arthur sighs sadly.
"Oh!" Eames widens his eyes in dramatic offense. "You're quite proud of yourself for that one, aren't you?"
Arthur dimples. "I have no idea what you mean."
"What I shall choose to take away from that statement is the fact that you like to watch me walk."
Arthur's eyes are sparkling. "My point is—"
"Mmm," Eames rumbles appreciatively, "more point man stuff."
"My point is, you're still romancing me."
"Of course I'm romancing you, darling. I'm a romantic."
Arthur's eyebrow hooks up.
"I'm a romantic tonight."
"In case you hadn't noticed, it's not exactly necessary." Arthur adjusts his wineglass again, adjusts his position in his chair, frowns. "Eames, if there's something you want…"
"You seem to be under the impression I'm doing this for your benefit. How dreadfully self-absorbed of you. Vanity, thy name is Arthur! This is all for me. Of course there's something I want."
"And what's that?"
"Perhaps I just wanted everyone to see you with me, hm?"
Light, light, his tone is light, but it's the truth. Arthur's got his serious look again, and Eames is telling the truth. He wanted people—someone, anyone—to see that this really happened. A drop of red wine on the white tablecloth. Eames was here. With Arthur. He came with me by choice. I didn't steal him.
"So we're back to the exhibitionism."
"And since you bring it up, perhaps the reason I wanted you in that suit is so I could take it off you again. I'll kindly let you decide the location, but I think you should consider that our fellow diners would appreciate the show." Eames looks around. "Most of them seem to have eyes. And I think I can find a very creative use for that last bread stick."
"Remind me again why I decided to sleep with you?"
"I'm extremely charming. And it's been said I know how to dress a man properly. Isn't that the key to your heart?"
"It's the key to my closet. And when are you charming?"
"Which contains your deliciously bespoke suits, which contain all the delicious parts of you that decided to sleep with me. Because I'm so charming."
"Except my head," Arthur says drily, and narrows his eyes abruptly. "The one with my brain."
"I appreciate the clarification. Was that part involved in the decision?"
"Then allow me to address myself directly to the parts that I did successfully charm." Eames pushes his chair back and lowers himself on one knee next to Arthur, steadfastly ignoring Arthur's alarmed look, so he can speak to the suit. Somewhere in the waistcoat area. Perhaps towards the bottom. "Thank you. You've made a wise choice and I do hope one that is ultimately deeply satisfying."
"Eames," Arthur hisses. "Stop that."
"Your orgasms are much appreciated." Eames says grandly, and winks at the waitress passing by next to the table. She gives Arthur a knowing smirk.
"Mr. Eames," Arthur sighs heavily. "You're a very bad man."
Eames looks up through his lashes at Arthur and grins, sliding his hand over Arthur's thigh and squeezing. "And that, darling, is why you decided to sleep with me."
"You're god damn right it is," Arthur says.
"I don't think this is how this position is supposed to work," Arthur says to Eames's arse. They're sprawled across the bed on their stomachs facing opposite directions.
"Hush, back there," Eames pushes himself up on his elbows so he can kiss the curve of Arthur's lovely bottom. "I'll get to your front soon enough."
"Could you make that a little sooner?"
They look over their shoulders at each other. Arthur raises his eyebrows imperiously.
"So demanding!" Eames huffs and gives Arthur a shove, rolling him over onto his side so Eames is face-to-face, so to speak, with Arthur's lovely cock, where he must immediately plant another kiss. "Hello, darling," he murmurs to it.
"Hello, dick," mutters Arthur, and flicks his tongue over the head of Eames's dick.
Eames giggles and nuzzles into Arthur's crotch.
"That's not actually the best thing for my self-esteem," Arthur says, "laughing directly on my penis."
"Arthur's penis," Eames giggles.
"You're a complete child, aren't you?"
Eames nudges Arthur's cock with his nose and stage-whispers to it, "Don't you listen, darling. I'm all man."
"Never," Eames proclaims, and proceeds to plant a row of loud, wet kisses up the ridge of Arthur's cock. "What we have is pure and true and you'll never come between us, Arthur!"
"I'm pretty sure that's exactly what I'll do."
"Oh my god." Eames twists to look at him in horror. "I missed an innuendo. A really…big one. Arthur! This is terrible. I have a reputation to uphold."
"It's okay, Eames," Arthur pulls a sympathetic face. "It happens to everyone sometimes. Even really big ones." He grins and kisses Eames's cock.
"Darling," Eames says, smiling so hard his cheeks hurt. He feels silly and euphoric, feels like he's floating on clouds and sunbeams and stars and god that's ridiculous…but maybe that's allowed on your last night with someone. He officially declares being silly with Arthur and Arthur's penis allowable, acceptable, and to be encouraged.
"Oh, my face gets to be 'darling' again? What an honor."
"I'm going to kiss the smart right out of your mouth, darling."
"You can try," Arthur holds open an arm in invitation, and warns, very seriously, "but I have a lot of smart."
Grinning, Eames turns himself around, kissing his way up Arthur's body and sighing happily when he gets to the top. Arthur's eyes are warm and playful and Eames still can't believe that's for him. He wriggles in under Arthur's open arm. He's so lucky. He's so very lucky. "Arthur."
Arthur bumps their foreheads together. "Eames."
They lose themselves in soft, slow kisses for a while. Eames lets his hands wander, sliding over Arthur's hips, cupping his jaw, following the muscles down his arms, just touching. Arthur hums and sighs contentedly beneath him, pressing little murmurs into his mouth that sound like Eames's name. Eames doesn't want it to end.
"Arthur," he says huskily.
Arthur's eyes drift open and he smiles.
"Arthur, I've had a nice day," Eames whispers.
A little furrow appears on Arthur's brow, but his smile stays gentle. He brushes Eames's hair back from his forehead. "Yeah," he says, just as quietly. "Me too."
Eames swallows hard and kisses Arthur again, this time with intent. Arthur responds immediately, wrapping a hand around the back of Eames's neck and pulling him in tight, deepening the kiss with a hungry little sound that runs through Eames like electricity.
"God, Arthur, you're so beautiful," he groans, even though his eyes are closed. He feels Arthur underneath his palms, the heat and steady movement of his chest. "God, let me. Let me…"
Arthur smiles against his mouth. "Let you what?"
Eames pushes himself up to kneeling so he can look at Arthur, all of him. He picks up Arthur's hand, runs his thumb over the backs of Arthur's long, elegant fingers. "Anything," he says huskily. "Anything you want. Just let me."
He sees Arthur's throat work, once, as his smile fades and his eyes darken. Wordlessly, Arthur pushes the box of condoms across the duvet towards Eames, and then rolls slowly over onto his stomach.
"Yeah," Eames says thickly, "yes, yes," and lays himself on top of Arthur's back, just to feel the press of their bodies, just to kiss the back of his neck. "Yeah, we can do that."
He's breathing hard and he's sweating and he's sliding into Arthur, but Eames has it all under control, he really does, until he feels Arthur's whole body shudder under his. And Arthur groans his name.
Eames saw Mactague die, he saw it. He's seen death, a lot of it. What he had somehow never seen before was the look in Mactague's eyes just before it happened. The one that said no, please, wait, I still—
He still wants Arthur to laugh at his dancing. He wants to spread Arthur out on a beach towel and kiss his sun-hot salty skin. He wants to leave pornographic drawings in Arthur's Moleskine. He wants to just watch him work, tapping away on his laptop late at night. He wants to buy him Christmas presents and wrap them badly. He wants to make him tea and bring him biscuits after he's had a long day. He still wants so much. He still—oh, god. He doesn't want it to end.
He makes a sound that's far too close to a sob, and wraps his arms around Arthur as tight as he can, too tight, desperate. He's burning. He's burning and he's growling like an animal, base, biting, slamming into Arthur and clutching at him, squeezing him in closer, tighter, arm around his throat, hand in his hair, fucking, salty sweat burning his eyes, he's burning, and he's taking Arthur with him, because he can't, he can't leave him, he will fucking bury himself so deep and hard and fast inside Arthur, shaking, snarling, because he can't ever let him go.
He comes with a cry of pathetic rage and despair and even then he can't let go of Arthur, kissing him and clutching him, and even though Arthur is whispering, urgently, "Eames, Eames, it's all right, it's all right," it isn't all right. His throat hurts and his eyes sting, and it isn't all right, even though Arthur is tending to him, cleaning them both up, running cool, soothing hands through his sweat-damp hair.
"It's all right," he parrots, petting Arthur back, whatever parts he can reach, gentling, because Arthur shouldn't be upset, "shh, it's all right."
"Shhh. Shh. It's all right."
"Shhh. Darling. Shh."
He buries his face in Arthur's shoulder and tries to fight the darkness.
But he sleeps.
He's died a hundred deaths already, so what's one more, really?
Eames pulls aside the terrace window curtain and puts his hand flat against the window pane, drawing the cold in. The sky is clear, last night's storm of emotion has passed, and Eames feels as grey as the pre-dawn light.
His thighs are sore. He wishes he had a cigarette. He wishes he'd looked at those pictures Miriam sent of her kids. He wishes he'd finished the Rousseau. It was really turning out beautifully. He wishes he hadn't walked out on Tove the way he did, all those years ago, because it was a shite thing to do. He wishes he'd had a chance to get that panther tattoo.
But he's seen Asia and Africa and the Americas and the northern lights, glittering skyscrapers and filthy alleys and waterfalls and fireflies and monsoons. He's seen worlds rise and fall in dreams like rolling waves. He's been young and old and beautiful and ugly and everything in between. He's cried until he threw up. He's laughed until his sides hurt. He's beaten and been beaten until fists bloodied and bones broke. He's touched so tenderly he thought his heart might break.
Maybe he's done it all wrong, but let it never be said he hasn't lived.
He dresses quickly in clothes chosen for warmth and movement, dull colors meant to not be noticed. He needs to get as far away from Arthur as possible before they catch up with him, and he's already lingered far too long.
He creeps back into the bedroom for one last self-indulgent look. It's so hard to go. Arthur looks even more like a sullen boy when he sleeps, and it's so hard to go. Eames leans over him, but he doesn't make a sound, and he doesn't touch. When he straightens again, there's a red casino chip, smooth side up, on Arthur's bedside table.
Maybe he's done it all wrong, but let it never be said he hasn't loved.
Eames tucks his semiautomatic pistol into his shoulder holster and his Canadian ID into his pocket.
It's not as though he doesn't actually have a plan. Eames always has a plan. He has his go bag stowed in the hotel's car park. There are a great many ships headed for a great many destinations hunkered down in the Vancouver Harbor, waiting for the weather to clear. Eames will be on the bulk carrier bound for western Alaska, hoping like hell the storm has thrown Manago's men off his scent long enough for a head start. He will lead them on a merry chase.
The bullets that zing past his head and spark off the side of the van behind him seem to have other plans.
Eames hits the ground, scrabbling belly-down on the concrete for cover. His gun is already in his hand, a familiar weight, as he squeezes himself under the van and then out on the back side. He peers around the van's back panels. His heart is pounding, but his breath is steady. His fingertips are tingling. His eyes are sharp. There, the glint of fluorescent light off metal. There, a shadow where there shouldn't be. And there. And there. And…so many.
The gunfire has stopped, and he knows they're changing position, getting him back in sight. He can't stay here. But he can't track them all at once. He's going to have to just pick a direction and move. His fucking go bag is on the other side of the van, so that's lost. He snaps his attention from corner to corner of the car park, watching for movement.
When a body slams the van next to his, Eames swings around to blow its head off. And jerks the barrel of his pistol up again.
"No!" he rasps as panic constricts his throat. "No, no, no, Arthur, no, get out of here!"
Arthur raises his wrist to his mouth. It crackles once before he speaks into it. "Lone Wolf is secure. Light 'em up."
And the car park explodes with gunfire.
Eames instinctively slams Arthur into the side of the van, shielding his body with his own, one arm cradling his head, so he's a little distracted and takes him a moment to realize none of the fire actually seems to be aimed at them.
"Eames. Get off me."
Eames draws away, head still low, and clears his throat. "Forgive me, Arthur," he says conversationally, "I'm a bit perplexed by certain recent developments."
Arthur's wrist crackles again and says, "Corridor to east wall is clear."
"We're moving on three," Arthur returns, looks at Eames, and readies his MP5K.
And this is familiar. This is what they do. It's just a little more real now. Eames nods sharply.
It's over quickly and after the last few bullets hit their marks and Arthur's wrist crackles the all clear, they turn and just sit down in the snow on the pavement, backs to the concrete exterior wall of the car park. The park with the trees Eames kissed Arthur under is just across the street. A yacht is chuff - chuffing its cautious way across the icy harbor, circled by a few sluggish seagulls. Eames can hear the sirens making their way closer through the still-icy city streets.
"My arse is numb," he observes.
Arthur reaches into his tactical vest and pulls out a small red disc. He presses it into Eames's hand and says, "You dropped something."
They go back to the suite.
They go to their separate rooms and put on dry clothes and come back out to the sitting room. Eames stands beside the fireplace. Arthur stands in front of the sofa.
It would be really very nice to be able to read him more easily.
Eames licks his lips.
What can Eames say? He doesn't have the words. They're all too pale. He doesn't even have a bloody tension-relieving quip. Arthur doesn't look much like he wants to laugh anyway. So finally Eames just asks, "How?"
"Jocelyn Evers is in Hawaii. Her eldest daughter is getting married in Oahu this weekend."
"I see." Eames says. He drops his gaze to the floor and his mouth twists wryly. "My congratulations to the happy couple."
"Evan Mactague was murdered in Singapore twenty-eight days ago. Eames, twenty-eight days."
"I know that, Arthur. I was there."
"Did you, on even one of those twenty-eight days, think of asking me for help?"
His voice cracks a little at the end, and Eames's eyes fly up.
Arthur's laugh is hollow. "I thought that's why you wanted me here, at first. To ask. After the Fischer job, I thought we…we had…but you didn't ask, so I then I thought you were trying to seduce me into helping you. Take advantage of the way I felt about you, and I thought…but doesn't he know? Doesn't he know all he needs to do is ask?"
"The way you felt about me?" Eames echoes.
Arthur stares at him. "Are you fucking kidding me?"
Eames shakes his head helplessly. "Arthur, I didn't—"
"Shut up." Arthur holds up a hand. "I went along with it. To see. And…and because I feel the way I do and I wanted to. Jesus, Eames, I wanted you."
"Shut up. But you didn't come to me for help at all, did you? I kept waiting for…for the punchline."
"No." Eames surges forward, takes Arthur by the shoulders so hard he rocks him back a step.
Arthur braces his hands against Eames's chest, holds him away, and locks their gazes. "But last night…"
Arthur's voice goes soft. "Last night was real. The whole day, all of it. Was real. Wasn't it?"
All Eames can do is pull Arthur into a hard embrace. The air rushes out of their lungs when their bodies slam together and then Arthur's arms are like steel around him.
"I thought about using the PASIV, taking you under, I could say it was a drill, or ask you to look at a dream I was building, more time," Eames whispers, words tumbling out in a tight rush against the side of Arthur's neck, "but I couldn't, because it had to be real. You said yes and I wanted more time, god, you don't know. But, Arthur, you said yes and it had to be real. With you. Every second, every touch had to be real."
"Tell me you understand why, Arthur."
"You left me your totem."
Eames rocks them back and forth, his arms around Arthur, Arthur's arms around him. It feels like they're one person. "That's right. That's exactly right. Christ, Arthur," he huffs into the humid patch he's breathing onto Arthur's neck, "you might have bloody told me."
Arthur twists his fingers in Eames's hair. "You might have bloody asked."
"The odds weren't good enough."
"You always underestimate me."
Eames takes him by the shoulders again and holds him away, just far enough to meet his eyes, because this is important. "No, Arthur," he says gruffly, and holds his palm to Arthur's cheek, stroking with his thumb, "the odds weren't good enough."
Arthur's eyes darken. "You're a terrible gambler."
"And an idiot."
"And an asshole."
"Granted," Eames smiles, and starts to kiss Arthur's beautiful, smart, sullen mouth, but then he remembers. "Manago."
"What about him?"
"Darling, it's not over. He won't stop."
Arthur shakes his head. "It's not a problem."
"Arthur, it is, he won't stop. Manago—"
"Is taken care of," Arthur says steadily, his expression perfectly calm.
Eames stares. "Arthur…you're a bit terrifying, did you know?"
"I'm glad you finally recognize that fact."
"Oh, darling, you've always terrified me."
Arthur's eyelashes sweep down, hiding his eyes, and he shrugs. "I called in a favor."
"You called in a favor."
"Okay…" Arthur glances up, almost sheepishly, and says, "I called in pretty much every favor I've ever been owed. For, you know, for all of it. Manago and the team here and…all of it."
"Eames, whatever this is, whatever happens," he gestures between them, "I've got your back. Always, okay?" His expression turns fierce. "Always."
"Darling," Eames says gravely, "you can have my back, my front, my top, and bottom. Particularly my bottom."
"And there he is," Arthur sighs.
"Can I have yours, too? I'll take excellent care of it."
"I was trying to be nice," Arthur grumbles.
Eames grins. "Snowboarding, was it?"
Arthur's mouth twitches. "That was the plan."
"Indeed it was. I believe I promised you some spectacular arse-falling. It's lucky for you, darling, that I have such a spectacular—"
And before Eames knows what's hit him, his foot is caught and his breath is gone and he's toppling backwards. He lands on his backside on the soft carpet with a yelp.
"Now that's out of the way," Arthur grins a fox-sly grin and straddles Eames's hips.
And there it is again, bursting out, knocked out of him, that enormous, goofy embarrassing laugh, full of relief and joy and uncertainty.
And the man who single-handedly took down a bloody crime lord, for Eames, Eames's now-and-forever personal bloody hero, blushes and grins, all bright eyes and dimples.
When he can breathe again, Eames gulps down the last of his laughter into a husky, reverent whisper, "I don't deserve you."
"No," Arthur sighs sadly, and reaches for the buttons of Eames's shirt. "You really don't."
"Well, if it's quite all right with you, I'm going to keep trying, hm?"
"Good." Arthur plucks open the top button of Eames's trousers. "You can start right now."
"Oh, my most darling Arthur," Eames runs his hands up Arthur's long thighs and beams at him helplessly, stupidly, adoringly, "I think this is going to be a very good day."