The first job they work together after inception, Eames doesn't hide his shock at seeing Arthur's tail curling out from his wool trousers, wagging slightly as he strides into the abandoned Danish printing press where they've set up shop.
Arthur is surprised, frankly, because he knows that he and Eames had met once before Cobb went on the run, before he'd (temporarily, always temporarily) started suppressing in order to remain more anonymous during their ordeal as fugitives on the lam. (Yes, Cobb had made all the wolf/lamb jokes imaginable at the time. No, Arthur hadn't ever found them funny.)
Arthur distinctly remembers how Eames had smelled that chilly November night they'd been introduced--of bergamot and leather and furniture polish and a keen, curious intelligence. Now Eames smells salty; he has almost an oceanic tang. And there's also an unmistakable whiff of desire. Arthur tries not to overly rely on his nose, as it can be fooled, just like any of the other senses--by what you want to smell, by what you are in denial of smelling. But this is so obvious that unless Eames has developed a whole new biochemical forging ability, he believes it.
Anyway, he shouldn't have expected differently he now realizes. This is a man who claims, dubiously, to have had sex with both a ghost and a merman. It's just that Arthur had assumed all this time that Eames had known his nature and not found it particularly compelling in comparison to those other rarer creatures. But apparently Eames had missed it somehow.
"Arthur," Eames drawls out his name as he strides over. "How--and why, pray tell--have you been keeping this from me?"
Arthur raises his eyebrows.
"I assumed you knew," he replies dryly.
He doesn't bring up their first meeting, irrationally afraid for a moment that Eames could have forgotten it. Instead he says: "you know, you must know, that nearly all of the early military dreamshare teams were made up of wolves, right?"
"Yes, but not all of them," Eames responds. "I had my first go of it with a team who were all human."
Arthur smirks at him.
"Intelligence units didn't get a whack at it until they'd already worked out all the kinks on the real badasses in the Greyteeth units."
"I can't believe you're using that line."
"I can't believe you're surprised."
"But seriously, I remember our first meeting and there was no sign of this … " he gestures toward Arthur's tail, which is long with bushy gray fur, "magnificent part of your anatomy."
"I promise you, there was. You're probably misremembering."
"No. I'm not. It was in Munich. November. We were under a streetlight. You were standing next to Mallorie and your hair was curling in the damp. You were wearing this gorgeous herringbone overcoat ... It was hidden by the damn coat, wasn't it?"
Arthur can't keep himself from laughing.
"Not intentionally; I swear. I still have that coat. I can't believe you remember it. I couldn't have told you that I was wearing it that night though if you'd paid me."
Arthur himself can't recall what anyone was wearing, honestly, and only vaguely the streetlight and the weather. But he remembers the scents. Mal's peppery anxiety at meeting with a real criminal overpowering her usual smell of gardenias and fresh-cut grass. He knows own wariness was slowly replaced by a surprised attraction, one he's felt on and off since then but never really intended to act upon unless he got some unexpected sign that Eames' flirtation was serious.
That will be more difficult now if Eames is going to attempt to add Arthur to the supernatural notches on his bedpost.
Arthur is not the kind of wolf who gets off on humans with a kink for his kind. Not that he's opposed to fucking humans. He's been doing that since he was 17. He just doesn't like being some kind of curiosity for a thrill-seeker. Especially considering that it really isn't all that different, despite what all the rumors say--or at least not without his making a serious effort for it to be, which he has no interest in doing, thank you very much.
Arthur had been completely unfamiliar with the type until he joined the Army and lived among wolves for the first time in his life. He'd been part of an elite, all-wolf reconnaissance unit, and was later transferred to an even-more-elite, top secret, all-wolf dreamshare unit. Some of his fellow Greyteeth had relished the image of the ravishing wolf and were happy to get sexually aggressive and live up to the stereotypes with any human woman (or man, depending) who looked at them twice. Others considered this disgusting behavior, borderline traitorous, and would never so much as smile at at a human if they could help it.
Arthur, who had been raised among humans, by adoptive human parents, had been so ignorant about wolf culture and naive about the dynamics of many human-wolf interactions when he first joined up. So much of his squadmates' behavior had seemed foreign and mysterious to him initially.
Eventually, though, he'd learned to fit in and those had been some of the most-contented years of his life. It hadn't been just the exhilaration of running around the world on daring missions with his pack of squadmates. He still does that now, albeit with a more-variable and less-trustworthy crew of career criminals. It was that once he finally understood the wolf community's ways, he'd taken so easily to living in a culture that believed very deeply in letting everyone know where they stood at all times.
His childhood had been a happy one. His parents were loving and supportive, despite the fact that they thought they'd been taking in a stray pup and had ended up with a son instead. But he'd still battled anxieties about being different from them, and from nearly everyone else at school, too. It had been tremendously freeing to leave all that behind. No games. No subterfuge. No second guessing himself or others. Everyone in wolf culture simply wore their hearts on their sleeves and took everyone else at face value.
Although he's left that wolf society far behind, there's a part of Arthur that still craves that aspect of it. And Eames is pretty much the opposite of everything Arthur had once valued about wolf culture. He lies for a living. He pretends to be all sorts of things he isn't. He ferrets out other people's deepest secrets and manipulates their emotions to his own ends.
To Eames' credit, however, he's also antithetical to many of the aspects of wolf society Arthur had come to loathe over time.
The Denmark job is almost dull. Really, the only thing about it that isn't completely by the books and boring is Eames' continued and increasingly wanton flirtation.
Unless it is required for a con or a character, Eames rarely dresses in ways that will call attention to himself. But as the weeks of job prep go by, he proves that he certainly knows how to. When he's dressing down, he wears low-slung jeans and too-tight tees or plaid pearl-snap shirts that emphasize his forearms as he inevitably rolls up his sleeves. When he's dressing "professionally," he wears tweed pants that hug his ass and cashmere sweaters that show off his shoulders. And on the night he tails the mark, a pharmaceutical bigwig, and his wife to an opening at the opera, he shows up in white tie so perfectly fitted that Arthur wants to track down Eames' tailor and either steal him or tip him, he isn't sure which.
Eames stretches at his desk, pulling his shirt across his chest, or his trousers across the backs of this thighs. He lets his legs fall open invitingly when Arthur glances his direction during meetings. In front of everyone!
Arthur corners him one evening when everyone else has left the building.
"Tell me, does this kind of behavior usually work for you?" he asks, half irritated, half impressed.
"Always, darling. Although I rarely have to resort to such blatant techniques," Eames replies, lowering his lashes and smirking rakishly.
"Well knock it off. It's getting embarrassing."
Eames' scent changes on a dime from sexually receptive to hurt and angry.
Arthur worries for a moment that he's overstepped and considers apologizing, but then Eames says: "I thought you might be in the market for a new 'best friend' to trot along after now that Dominic's out of the picture" and Arthur stops giving a fuck about whether or not he's hurt Eames' feelings anymore. He shoots him the meanest, scariest glare that he can muster in human form and it clearly cows Eames, who takes a step back and unconsciously lowers his head in fear.
"I can see you looking at me, Arthur. You can't pretend you're not interested. I can practically smell it," he says, changing tactics again from lashing out to last-ditch desperation.
The nerve of Eames! Arthur can't help himself; he growls low in his throat when Eames says that, which is, of course, precisely what Eames wants. Arthur can sense Eames' body temperature rise and see the flush on his skin in response.
"Don't play with me, Eames," he replies, curtly. "I'm not interested in these kinds of games and they're not going to get you anywhere."
He turns on his heel and strides away, allowing the door to slam behind him as he leaves.
In the morning, Eames quietly sets a steaming soy latte and a peanut butter scone on his desk by way of apology. For the rest of the job, he's quiet and polite, but no longer the friendly, bantering chatterbox with whom Arthur is accustomed to working. Arthur doesn't miss the outrageous flirting, but he misses the easy camaraderie he and Eames had always shared in the past before Eames had discovered Arthur's wolfish nature.
The next job they work together, about six weeks later in Toronto, Eames is so subdued that the chemist, Danika, someone new whom Arthur doesn't know, but came recommended by Yusuf, actually asks if they've met before.
"Oh we've worked together many times before," he responds. He's guarded, because he's not sure whether or not Eames can hear them from the next room over, but it's likely. "He's just acting weird toward me right now."
"Oh did you have a thing? Are you exes?" she asks, as nosey as Ariadne and not half as charming.
"No, he just gets moody sometimes," Arthur responds, unwilling to give her more, and unsure if he wants Eames to overhear him voicing his current opinion that things might actually be easier by now if something had happened between them back in Denmark. He'd honestly rather deal with Eames preening in the wake of a successful seduction than this quiet mouse who seems afraid to say anything to Arthur at all that isn't strictly related to the job at hand.
As it turns out, he's grateful not to have given Danika any personal information about himself, or about Eames, when, on the morning before the job, he wakes up from a trial run to find her pointing a gun in his face. He hears a gurgling sound and turns to see Jackson, the extractor, bleeding from a nasty looking shoulder wound, making animal noises in his pain.
Arthur has always liked Jackson. He's solid and dependable. Handsome. As close to a Boy Scout as one can be as a professional criminal.
He feels his blood run hot and lets the wolf take over, hears his clothes tearing as he transforms and leaps forward, pinning her against he ground by the throat.
She's clearly an amateur, in way over her head and terrified, he can smell it as she sobs and shakes beneath him. She must have known this was a possibility. Arthur had never hidden himself from her. Either she's stupid or even more afraid of someone else. He might feel sorry for her, if he wasn't so angry about Jackson.
Eames wakes up. He'd been the dreamer and stayed behind to work on the forge for a few more minutes. It might have saved his life.
Arthur can smell the adrenaline coming off Eames in waves. But not panic. He's icy calm in the way of someone who has lived through enough life-and-death situations to automatically control his own instincts.
Out of the corner of his eye, Arthur sees Eames walk a wide circle around he and Danika as he holds her steady against the floor, canines just over her jugular, threatening, but not striking. Not yet. Eames squats on his heels a few feet away and holds his palms up, placating.
"Danika, I don't know what on earth you were thinking, but you must have known this wouldn't end well for you," he says, voice flat and cold, emotionless. "Would you please explain yourself before my colleague here rips your throat out?"
But she's scared beyond the capacity for speech.
"Arthur, love," Eames reaches out slowly, slowly, inching closer to them. "Why don't we back off a bit and hear what she has to say."
Arthur takes a deep breath. Then another. He lets her throat go, but leaves his paw on her sternum, holding her down with his weight. He lets Eames crawl forward and tie her arms above her head and then bind her feet together. Then he jumps away and changes back to his human form. Standing naked, he watches as Eames hoists her into one of the lawn chairs and continues to secure her, working quickly and methodically.
"Now, Danika. I personally don't care if you live or die. But I would like to get Jackson here to hospital and, if possible, I'd like to know what on earth possessed you to do something so monumentally stupid," Eames asks, his voice and hands as steady as if he were requesting that she pass the sugar.
This snaps Arthur into action. Jackson is slipping in and out of consciousness, face turning pale. He's not going to make it to a hospital, Arthur realizes, so he lifts Jackson, runs to the tiny kitchen, and lays him across the table, where he cleans the wound with Eames' not-so-secret stash of whisky from beneath the sink and then digs around for the bullet with a set of takeout chopsticks.
The chemist is always in charge of supplying the first aid kit, but he can't find one by Danika's station and doesn't really want to go over and see what Eames is up to with her in the next room. A person with Eames' intelligence background could do some fairly terrifying things to make someone talk in a setup like this and Arthur doesn't have the stomach for torture, despite the fact that he'd nearly killed her himself just now, probably would have if Eames hadn't gotten through to him.
At least for now, he's glad he didn't. It's one thing to shoot a man in battle or to claw or bite him on a mission, it's another to tear a person's throat out in anger and taste her blood in his mouth for days afterward. He shudders at the thought and feels bile rise in his throat.
He finds a tiny hotel sewing kit in his messenger bag and uses it to stitch up Jackson's shoulder. Then he does something he'd be embarrassed about if Jackson were awake. He transforms back and laves his tongue over the now-closed wound, knowing the antiseptic quality of his wolf saliva will help promote healing. He's glad he hadn't taken the time to change into the spare set of clothes he always keeps on hand. Why bother when his wolf self can help just as much as his human self?
He continues licking until he hears Eames' footsteps treading behind him.
Eames clears his throat and Arthur changes back to his human form and turns around. As a kid, he would have been embarrassed to be seen naked like this, but after spending so long with the Greyteeth units, he's lost his sense of shame about this skin. He likes clothes, loves their textures and colors. But he likes his skin, too. He doesn't feel the need to hide it.
He would have predicted that in this situation Eames would get distracted, run his eyes all over Arthur's body, deviate momentarily from their purpose. But he's surprised to see that Eames is all business. He doesn't seem to register Arthur's nudity at all.
Perhaps now that he's seen Arthur's wolf form, he no longer views him sexually. It would probably make Arthur's life easier, although part of him must admit that he's a bit disappointed. He hadn't remotely enjoyed Eames' earlier lasciviousness, but he'd begun to secretly hope that maybe someday something could happen between them, in the ordinary way, not just as an experience for Eames to boast about afterward.
"What's the situation?" he asks.
"What did you … nevermind, it's none of my business."
He realizes that part of him is a bit disturbed by Eames at the moment. It's one thing to know, intellectually, someone is able to turn off his humanity and interrogate another person under duress. It's another thing to see it first hand. Or almost see it.
Arthur supposes Eames might be feeling something similar about himself at the moment. It's one thing to know one's co-worker is a werewolf. It's another to see him transform and kill a person with his jaws. Or almost kill her.
Eames rolls his eyes irritatedly.
"Of course it's your business, you silly twat. I didn't kill her. If I'd wanted her dead, I would have let you do it. I hardly laid a hand on her, to be honest. All it took were a few choice words and a few strokes of my finger to that vulnerable throat of hers, thanks to you. Are you seriously going to go getting all squeamish on me now?"
Arthur doesn't know quite what to make of that.
"OK," he says, stupidly.
"Well, would you like to know what I learned?"
"Did she do it for money or was she being blackmailed? Those are the only two possibilities I can imagine for someone so clearly unprepared for what she was dealing with," Arthur raises his eyebrows to acknowledge that he's referring to both of them here.
"Neither, actually. She snapped. Freaked out about exactly what it is we do for a living. Decided she couldn't go through with it and somehow convinced herself we were all going to kill her if she walked away. I'm never trusting Yusuf about anything again. I'm sure she has a brilliant mind, but it takes a special one to handle this line of work. I suspect Somnacin toxicity, honestly."
They pause, looking at each other. Arthur isn't quite sure what to make of this information. He'd encountered things like this in the early days of dreamshare in the military, but it had been ages. The criminal community seems to be good at finding their own, separating the wheat from the chaff.
"How's he bearing up?" Eames asks, tilting his head toward Jackson.
"I got the bullet out, cleaned the wound with your whisky--sorry--and sewed it up with a needle and thread. And … well you saw. The saliva, it's antiseptic. He'll live, but the scar will be ugly and he will need some antibiotics sooner rather than later."
"Let's vanish then. I've got a safehouse we can lie low in for a while, drop him off at vet friend I've got along the way."
"What about Danika? We can't just leave her here, can we?"
"She's sedated to the gills at the moment. I vote we leave her here and summmon Yusuf to come deal with it. I happen to know he's in New York at the moment. He can be here by evening. Perhaps she deserves to die for this, but I confess I don't really have the heart for it. I've seen enough bad reactions to the stuff in my day to have a degree of sympathy for anyone who suffers from it."
Arthur is surprised. Maybe Eames isn't such a hardcase after all.
"OK sure. You call Yusuf and the vet. I'll get dressed and this place cleaned up."
It's a long and exhausting day, and by the time they arrive at Eames' safehouse, a tiny, unassuming cabin somewhere outside the Thousand Islands region, Arthur is too tired to worry about how things stand between them or what Eames thinks of his transformation now that he's witnessed it with his own eyes. He showers off the blood and sweat and collapses onto the couch. Eames tries to roust him after his own shower and offers to share the sole queen-sized bed, but Arthur is too tired to move, even the few steps to the other room.
In the morning, Arthur wakes early and aching. But he forces himself off the couch, leaves his clothes on the back porch, shifts form and walks the perimeter of the property sniffing for threats. He's gone for hours, following up every suspicion, and Eames smells panicky when Arthur returns, switching back to human as he mounts the back steps.
"Christ, Arthur, you had me half convinced you'd left!" he shouts.
"I made sure to leave my clothes somewhere conspicuous so you'd know I was coming back," Arthur says.
"I thought those were telling me that you'd taken off."
"That's just … stupid," Arthur says.
Eames looks insulted. Smells insulted. And Arthur feels bad about it. He just can't believe Eames thinks so little of him that he believes Arthur would just up and split without a word.
He says as much.
"I honestly don't know what to make of any of this lately," Eames mumbles in reply.
"What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"
Arthur suddenly feels how naked he is standing there in front of Eames, who apparently is disgusted by him now. He also feels how chilly it is now that summer is starting to turn to fall.
If he'd thought at all before he stopped surpressing his tail about how Eames might react to seeing him shift, Arthur would have suspected that Eames would shrug it off like just another quirk of life. Eames has always taken strangeness in a stride. It's a little bit heartbreaking that he's apparently taking it so poorly in actuality.
Arthur grabs his clothes, wrenches the door open and heads back to the ancient bathtub, feeling sweaty and dirty again in his human form after traipsing around the woods all morning.
Eames is waiting for him when he emerges, and hands Arthur a cup of tea, eyes big and round with what looks like regret, although his scent is unrecognizable.
"Are you going to leave?" he asks.
"No. I'm not an idiot. We're in a safe house. I would prefer to stay safe."
"OK … "
"Would you prefer that I leave?"
"What! No! I'm the one who just bloody fell apart when I thought you'd left me here alone."
Arthur frowns at this.
"I though you were afraid of me now."
"I've been afraid of you for a long time, Arthur, but there's nothing new about that."
"What's that supposed to mean? You have certainly never acted frightened by me before."
"You're so bloody perfect. Such a know-it-all. Never a hair out of place, except artfully so. And gorgeous to boot. How could I not be terrified?"
Arthur shakes his head. How could he have missed this?
"I think the only time I ever tried to scare you was a few weeks back when I wanted to stop you from throwing yourself at me. Even the first time we met, I was mostly concerned with not letting you know how afraid Mal and I were to be meeting a real criminal."
He laughs at himself and Eames joins in, easing the tension momentarily.
"I'm sorry for upsetting you … in Denmark," Eames finally adds when their mirth dies down. "I'm embarrassed for myself, honestly."
Arthur feels raw all over again. But he knows it's better to just have it out now.
"I just … I never expected that from you. I know you've got a thing for … supernatural sex or whatever, but … I thought we were friends. I didn't expect to be treated like some … item to be checked off a list."
"We are friends. I just … I felt so caught on the back foot, not knowing. All the years we've worked together and I missed it entirely. I … " Eames looks at the floor, scuffing his shoes like a goddamned teenager. "I … had been lusting after you for so long, and I was suddenly mortified that you'd known the whole time that you'd sensed it or whatever and I figured I might as well go for broke … it made a certain sort of sense in my head at the time … ."
Arthur is stunned. This is why he's always reminding himself not to overly rely on his sense of smell. Because he'd missed Eames' attraction the whole fucking time, assuming the flirting was nothing more than his usual m.o. for getting under people's skin.
"I thought … I was worried … that you were only suddenly interested in me as a kind of novelty act."
"Oh my days, no. Arthur, how could you not have noticed? I've been pining for quite literally years."
"Well you can forgive me for thinking that considering your constant bragging about having sex with both a merman and a ghost," Arthur retorts, rolling his eyes.
Eames snorts out half of a laugh at that.
"Oh Jesus, was I cockblocking myself with those ridiculous stories?" he responds.
"So you admit they're made up," Arthur finds himself grinning as he asks. "I fucking knew it!"
Eames shakes his head.
"No they're real. Or real-ish anyway. Just rather more pathetic than I make them out to be."
"OK I gotta hear the details."
Eames is actually slightly blushing.
"Well, the ghost bit happened when I was still a boy, just 14. We were visiting my gran at some country house that belonged to a friend of hers and I was bored and sulking and in my room and … you know, doing what teenaged boys do with every available moment of their free time. And right in the middle of this fantasy about the captain of my school rowing team, this white figure just sort of appeared and hovered over me, watching. It was rather frightening, honestly. But I persevered. And when I finished, it passed through me, left me feeling all icy and I was put off wanking for a solid two weeks afterward, which was practically an eternity at that age."
Arthur is chuckling quietly.
"Are you fucking serious right now?"
"As the grave. Which is not a poor pun. It was horrifying."
"OK so what about the merman?"
"He was very nice to look at, gorgeous upper body and all that. But … well, darling, he didn't have a prick now, did he?"
Arthur bursts into full-on laughter at this point.
"What? Did you never think about that any of the times you heard me tell that story? Nothing but fish parts down below; it's all such a waste, really."
"So what did you do?"
"We snogged for a while although his teeth were a bit fangy and terrifying, and I just sort of rubbed off against his scales. Not one of my prouder moments."
"Will you be offended if I agree that those stories are pretty pathetic?"
"Only slightly. And I probably deserve it anyway."
They are uncertain about how long to stay in hiding given the situation, but eventually settle on just two weeks as an appropriate amount of time to let things cool off in case Danika was discovered by anyone other than Yusuf.
Eames makes a late-night trip into town to get Arthur some fresh clothes from some kind of farm supply store--jeans, tee shirts, and itchy wool button downs--since he hadn't stocked anything outside of his own size.
After that, they quickly fall into a routine of sorts. Arthur continues to sleep on the couch and does his perimeter searches in wolf form every morning. Eames chops wood for the stove and cooks their meals. In the afternoons Arthur reads his way through the collection of mysteries that line two of the main room's four walls. Eames locates a basket of wool in the hall closet and commences to knit a sweater.
"How have I never seen you doing that before?" Arthur asks, incredulous. "You seem pretty damn good at it. Like someone could actually wear that sweater and not be embarrassed about it."
"Ariadne taught me," Eames replies with a laugh. "That job in Seattle where she and I were stuck on the houseboat for three days, she made a baby blanket and she taught me to make a scarf. I enjoyed it, so I've kept up the hobby when I'm not working."
Things get easier between them as the days go by, almost back to how they used to be. Arthur tries to shove Eames' confession to the back of his mind. A few months ago, he would have acted on it, finally secure that Eames wanted something real from him, not just idle flirtation. But now this peace between them feels so fragile, he doesn't want to risk upsetting it.
Then exactly a week after the job went south, Eames makes them a couple of old fashioneds after dinner. And then another couple. And another.
Arthur has to consciously remind himself not to lean into Eames as they talk. He keeps standing to move to the couch instead of staying at the dinner table with Eames. But he always comes closer again when he needs to make a point in their conversation, or to eat a smoked cherry out of the jar.
During a lull in conversation, Arthur is seriously considering crossing the room and kissing Eames when he notices the anguished expression on the other man's face.
"Arthur I … I have to apologize for what I said in Denmark."
"The smell thing? You already did. Don't worry about it."
"No, not that. I apologized for my ridiculous behavior, but what I said about … about you trotting after Dominic … I … I've been agonizing about it practically ever since … I'm so sorry. That was such a hurtful thing to say and I didn't mean it. I was only lashing out, which is no excuse."
Intellectually, Arthur knows that laughing is probably the wrong response here, but he can't help himself. When a pained look flashes across Eames' features, he moves to sit across from him and covers Eames' hand with his own on the table.
"You are far from the only person to make a comment about the whole loyalty stereotype when it came to Dom, Eames," Arthur says. "I don't really believe in that sort of thing, but plenty of wolves would not just agree with it, but insist upon it."
Eames looks at him with open curiosity and Arthur is just drunk enough to start rambling along that stream of thought.
"It's just that … lots of wolves, most of organized wolf culture anyway, believe in having your personality, your courses of action be, sort of … predetermined by your biology. And, honestly, I think that's mostly bullshit."
"What, so you think all those hierarchies and such that your lot lives by, or at least did in the military units I knew, are just … made up?"
"I think there's some biological urge there, but I think civilized beings should be better than to codify their most-baseline instincts into a culture."
"I can't argue with that. You make wolf culture sound like those Neanderthals who believe women are biologically compelled to stay home and raise sprogs and men are biologically compelled to fuck everything that moves."
Eames puts on his considering face.
"You might feel that way now, but you surely didn't always if you spent so many years as part of wolf society in the military."
"Yeah, well, I liked it a lot at first. I was raised by humans, in a community of mostly humans, and there was something really liberating about living among my own kind for the first time when I joined up. I love my parents. They're wonderful people. But … it was freeing. There are things that humans could learn from wolves. There's no gameplaying in wolf culture. No manipulation. Everyone is open and unashamed about their feelings."
"I can see the appeal," Eames says, blushing again.
Arthur intertwines their fingers and squeezes Eames hand. It feels like he's crossed some kind of Rubicon here. This is going to happen between them. Maybe tonight, maybe tomorrow, definitely soon. And he isn't sorry about it. Not even a little.
"No one cared that I wasn't interested in women, and that was huge for me at 18, when I'd spent years feeling doubly different than everyone else for being gay and a werewolf. Not like I was a social reject or something. I had friends. I was on the hockey team. There were a few guys I fooled around with on the side. But … ."
God he feels vulnerable. He can't even finish the sentence.
"You didn't feel like you could ever just relax and be yourself."
"So what changed your mind?" Eames asks.
Eames isn't being pushy, but Arthur can't bring himself to discuss it. He can feel himself freezing up, which he doesn't want. He just can't talk about it like this, when he's drunk and raw. He's barely ever been able to talk about it with anyone at all, just his folks and Mal that one time when she was freaking out after finding out she was pregnant with Pippa.
So he stands, leans across the table and kisses Eames, who responds with a whimper and then threads his fingers through Arthur's hair.
"You can just say you don't want to talk about it, you know," he pants out when they break away. "You don't have to do this to distract me."
"I'm not in the mood to talk about it right now. But I am in the mood to do this," Arthur responds, pulling Eames to crawl across the table and wrapping Eames' legs around his waist.
"I just need to make sure this is really what you want," Eames says shyly, barely meeting Arthur's gaze.
"It is, Eames. I promise," Arthur replies, kissing him again, running his hands up Eames' thighs and cupping his gorgeous ass.
After a few minutes of this, he leads Eames to the tiny back bedroom.
"Please tell me you stocked your safehouse with supplies for this?" he asks.
"Well I didn't want to presume," Eames replies. "But I did purchase some condoms on my shopping trip last week. And I had slick here already for personal use. Everything's in the hall closet"
Arthur fetches everything they'll need and starts ever-so-slowly stripping Eames from his clothes, taking the time to note every hitched breath, every whiff of desire, every leap in heart rate. When Eames is down to his underpants, Arthur stands up and pulls off his own layers of shirts and unbuttons his jeans. But before he picks back up where they left off, he has something he needs to clear up.
"I don't know what kinds of rumors you've heard about this, but I have to tell you that it's really not very different from what it's like with a human. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"Uhhh … no, I don't believe that I do," Eames responds, voice gone hazy and stupid with lust.
"I have a tail. There's a small possibility that my ears might change, if I'm concentrating very hard on listening to you. But nothing else about me is going to shift in any way. You get that?"
"Arthur I have no idea what sort of freakery others have expected you to get up to, but I promise you that I've wanted this for ages, since long before I ever knew you were a wolf. Please … "
He's blushing beet red now, but he smells honest. Honest and very, very turned on.
For Arthur, fucking properly demands a coordinated effort of all five senses, but he's always especially appreciated scent and taste. He pays attention to every tiny change in them, and he's capable of detecting very minute differences. It's is one way that fucking a werewolf actually is different from fucking a human. He's like a sponge, absorbing his lover's body's responses, and trying to achieve the perfect alignment of arousal in the signals his partner's smells, tastes, sounds and pulse points are sending him.
Not everyone likes it. Some human men are shy about being with someone who is picking up their bodies' output with that degree of sensitivity. Arthur really hopes Eames isn't one of them, because he wants to learn every inch of him. Starting right now.
He covers Eames' skin in nuzzles and nibbles and kisses and licks, taking note of all the places that make his heart pound, his muscles clench, his precome spurt, his sweat pool in dips and hollows. Jesus, Eames is gorgeous. And intoxicating.
"Your body is sick," he whispers as he tastes the crease of Eames' thigh. "I could do this forever."
Eames' adrenaline spikes at that and Arthur figures that Eames must have a thing for his voice. He keeps talking as he flips Eames over and rubs his week-old beard all over Eames' neck and back, smelling the pheromones pouring off of his skin at the contact. Arthur feels drunk as he finally pushes Eames up to his knees and starts to nibble on the backs of his thighs, which makes Eames whimper, and then moves to licking behind his balls, which makes Eames moan wantonly.
Arthur isn't going to end up accidentally switching to sporting his wolf ears while straining to hear Eames' reactions; that's for sure.
By the time Arthur actually pulls Eames' cheeks apart and starts licking him open properly, Eames is shivering and gasping and he smells charged with electricity, like a thunderstorm over the desert. By the time Eames starts shaking so hard that he can't keep his arms under him, Arthur pushes him flat on the bed and starts working him open with his fingers.
"Please, I'm ready. Want to feel you," Eames gasps.
Arthur smirks, although Eames can't see it.
"You're not feeling this? My mistake."
"Fuck! You know what I mean, Arthur," Eames replies, voice already hoarse. "You don't seem the sort to require begging."
"I'm not," he says, grinning to himself, and pushes Eames up to kneel and grab the headboard.
He lines himself up and wraps one arm Around Eames' chest, using it to pull their bodies together.
"God, Arthur, your forearms do my head in," Eames whispers, voice muzzy sounding.
Arthur growls at that, biting Eames' neck tendon gently.
"I'm sure we can find a way to use that another time," he says, tightening his grip, just to feel Eames shiver in response.
"Arthur," Eames purrs. "I'm not letting you fist me, no matter how far gone I am over you."
"Jesus, Eames, that is not what I meant. Also, you're more coherent than I'd like right now. I'm going to have to remedy that."
Arthur moves as methodically as he can, rolling in and out of Eames in even, steady thrusts, slowly working away Eames' last vestiges of speech, leaving him groaning and grunting in approval of every movement. He digs his fingernails into his own palms, holding on to his control until Eames loses it and finally abandons the headboard to reach for his own dick, pumping it mercilessly until he spills everywhere, Arthur tumbling over the edge after him.
Their daily routine gets a lot better after this. Arthur still reads mysteries in the afternoon, and Eames still knits. But first they have sex.
Then they pick up their hobbies for a few lazy hours, before making and eating dinner and then having sex again.
They can't seem to get enough of each other. Arthur feels like a teenager again, insatiable and always ready to go.
Arthur fucks Eames face to face. He can feel himself falling hard, admitting that this is more than just a fun way to pass the time at a safe house, as Eames strokes his hair behind his ears and they gasp and pant together in perfect synch
He fucks Eames on the couch. In the shower. Bent over the railing of the back porch. On the kitchen floor. In the grass. Pretty much everywhere but in the back seat of their getaway car.
He finally gets to know what it feels like to have Eames' luscious mouth on his cock. It's something he could experience every day and never find any less enticing a prospect.
On the last night before they're set to leave the safe house he cages Eames' head with his much-loved forearms and rides Eames' dick, tail lashing furiously through the air the whole time.
"I don't do that often, just so you know," Arthur says afterward as they lie panting on the coverlet. "But every once in a while it just hits the spot."
"Pun intended?" he asks, and Arthur hits him with pillow for pointing out his accidental entendre. "But seriously, darling, do I seem like I'm complaining about how we've been doing this so far? Because I assure you, I am not."
Arthur grins and kisses the tip of Eames' nose.
"So," Eames asks. "Does your informing me of this preference mean that you want to do this again after we depart this place tomorrow?"
Arthur rolls up on his elbow and looks down at Eames, frowning slightly.
"Do you not?"
"I very much do. I think I've been clear about my feelings … I wasn't sure what you wanted though. We hadn't ever really talked about it."
"I find myself getting attached," Arthur replies. "And don't you dare say it … not a word, Eames."
"Arthur you seem to live in perpetual fear that I'll make some sort of observation about your behavior and werewolf stereotypes. You can stop that. I understand you've probably been dealing with that sort of thing for your entire life. But my thoughts about you were formed long before I was aware of your true nature. I don't know how many times I have to say it before it sinks through your thick skull."
Arthur sighs and rolls to look at the ceiling, afraid to see Eames' face as he explains.
"I know I probably protest too much," he says.
"I honestly don't give a toss whether you do or you don't. You have your reasons. You can tell me about them when you're ready."
"I told you I was adopted by humans."
"That you did."
"My parents found me in a box on the side of the road. I was in wolf form and they thought I was an abandoned puppy. I'm so grateful that they moved to officially adopted me when I shifted for the first time a week later and they realized they had brought home a boy instead."
Eames entwines their fingers, stroking Arthur's soothingly.
"You must have been an adorable little ball of fur."
"They thought I might have been an accidental pregnancy, a wolf-human hybrid whose human mother was terrified by the result of an affair gone bad or something. Maybe a scared teenager … "
"These things do happen. It's sad that anyone feels that kind of desperation, but … well you're probably better off than you would have been, aren't you? I try not to judge too harshly."
"I didn't either. Not for years. Until I was well into my twenties, living in a Greyteeth community, finally thinking I was fitting in with wolf society, happy. Thinking I might be able to settle down there. Then a woman in my unit's husband died when she was pregnant … Wolves don't like to be alone. Longterm mourning isn't really a concept in that culture. She was engaged again within less than a year … and the baby … " Arthur trails off as his voice gets tight, unwilling to cry in front of Eames, not in a relationship so new. "It's considered not just normal, but advisable to abandon the offspring of a previous marriage. If they're old enough to fend for themselves, or to contribute to a relative's household, then great, but otherwise … it's acceptable to leave them to the kindness of strangers."
Eames is quiet for a long time and then says, "I try not to comment on cultures not my own when I don't understand all the nuances, but that's monstrous."
"It is terrible. And stupid. It's capitulating to the worst, darkest instincts for no reason other than a decision that conformity is more important than … just decency."
Arthur's voice is getting louder and higher and cracking like a teenager's, but he's not crying dammit. He won't. Embarrassingly, Eames rolls over and crushes him in a bear hug, making Arthur's ribs ache. Arthur lets him. Doesn't fight him off until he really can't breathe and has to get some air.
"I don't really want to, you know, analyze it, or whatever, OK. I'm aware that I probably reject some of my innate wolf behaviors as just being my personality because I want nothing to do with that culture right now, but, well, that's just how I'm going to live for the time being. If that's a problem for you … "
"Arthur, if you think I'm going to push you into changing because you are standing up for your own individuality, you can just banish that thought from your head straight away."
Arthur smiles gratefully, and decides that they ought to have one last shower together.
"I don't know if I can come again so soon, even in this perpetually lust-addled state in which you've got me, darling."
"That's fine, babe. Let's just soap off and go to bed."
"Babe?" Eames asks, raising one eyebrow.
"Got a problem with it, darling?"
In the morning they wipe the house clean from top to bottom and go over plans to meet up again in two weeks in Barcelona.
Eames drops Arthur off at the train station and hours later when he's unpacking his meager belongings in a bland New York hotel room, he finds the sweater Eames had knitted folded neatly at the bottom of the bag. A note pinned to it reads: I miss you already.