The ringing in Eames’s ears starts the day he and Arthur find out they’re having a boy.
Arthur—constructed as he is out of logic, rationality, and top-notch hair gel—just nods once he hears the news and then quirks a brow at Eames, who’s useless for anything other than gaping like a goldfish for the next several minutes.
“This doesn’t mean we’re painting everything blue,” Arthur says sternly on the way home. “And could you please let go of me? It’s hard to drive when you’re breaking all the bones in my hand.”
The light turns green and Eames, abashed, relinquishes the vise-like grip he hadn’t realized he’d caught Arthur’s hand in.
Arthur’s calmness is so complete it’s almost offensive, really, and it makes Eames look absolutely mental by comparison. His anxiety kicks into high gear because now this all seems more real, somehow, as if the paint swatches and gender-neutral baby clothes and solid medical proof of Arthur’s condition weren’t real enough all on their own.
He can’t even say it until later, when he’s up to his elbows in dishwater and Arthur’s demolishing yet another plate of curry. “Fuck. You’re going to have a little boy.”
“We both are,” Arthur corrects. “And not for another few months.” He’s not even twenty weeks in, but the bump of his belly shows plain as day on his slim frame. Lately, he’s taken to wearing Eames’s shirts around the house, though he’s drawn the line at appearing in public clad in anything that hasn’t been tailored just so. Being a visibly pregnant man attracts enough attention and Arthur’s made it quite clear that he’s not about to attract even more by wandering around in leopard-print tracksuits as he gets further along.
Even though Eames has never owned a leopard-print anything, he’ll defend the comfort value of tracksuits to the grave.
He sidles up to the table and traces a hand over the curve of Arthur’s stomach, solid and warm through the loose folds of one of his own old t-shirts. Arthur tears himself away from his plate long enough to look up and smile at him. “Plenty of time to let the news sink in, right?”
“A boy,” Eames says again, stupidly. “Christ, how are we going to pull this off? I was a terror when I was a kid and I have it on good authority you were as well.”
“I know.” Arthur winces. “And Matt was worse. He made me look like an angel. He still makes me look like an angel, since apparently going into extraction is several steps above becoming an IRS agent.”
Eames sinks heavily into the chair beside him and steals a spoonful of curry. “Wait, you mean it isn’t?”
Arthur looks at him with round, horrified eyes. “We have to act like we know what we’re doing. Seriously. Or else I’m going to get so many smug ‘I told you you’d understand when you had children of your own’ emails from my parents about the trials and tribulations of having a son.”
They’ve already weathered a barrage of “of course you’re getting married before you have any kids, aren’t you?” emails and phone calls from Arthur’s mother and, before then, a similar onslaught of “you’re both men, what do you mean you’re trying to get pregnant?” messages from his father.
“Maybe we should’ve just gotten a parakeet instead,” Eames muses.
Arthur lobs a chunk of naan at him.
For better or worse, the side effects of pregnancy permeate both of their lives. Arthur grumbles and groans and goes through an appalling amount of lotion. He spends a fair amount of time fretting over articles on everything from the success rates of other couples who have been in their shoes to methods of reacquiring one’s abs after giving birth. He has headaches and backaches that leave him crankier than ever, and he obsessively keeps tabs on all the job offers passing them by.
He also melts like butter when Eames makes good on his promise to spoil him rotten with massages and comes very close to purring when Eames rubs his stomach. It’s ludicrously adorable.
“Better?” Eames does his best not to feel smug, but it’s hard not to when his only answer is a pleased little groan and the hot hollow of Arthur’s palm molding itself to his knee, stroking lazily.
Naked, he’s beautiful—sprawled and lax, so different from the Arthur who once went through life wielding weaponry like it was an extension of his limbs, but no less gorgeous. He’s gained weight ever so slightly, aside from the obvious curve of his belly, the sharp angles of his body not standing out in quite as high relief as they once did. Eames can’t stop touching him there, kissing it, still fuzzy-minded with amazement that they’ve done this at all.
“I miss being able to wear things that fit,” Arthur says after a long spell of silence, not opening his eyes.
This is an issue that crops up just as frequently as Eames anticipated it would. It’s still a mystery to him how Arthur ever managed to globe-trot beside Cobb with any less than half a dozen suitcases to accommodate his wardrobe, but he wouldn’t put it past Arthur to have strategic storage units set aside on every continent, each one of them stuffed with suits.
“You’ve been more or less the same size as long as I’ve known you,” he points out, drumming his fingers on the stark wing of Arthur’s clavicle. Eames has shaped and reshaped his body enough times to have a rather desultory view on his own sartorial choices, but he suspects Arthur imprinted on an issue of GQ as a child and was never able to shake it off. “It’s a curse, isn’t it?”
“You’re a curse,” Arthur says blandly, landing a light kiss on the apple of his cheek. “I feel like Scarlett O’Hara.”
Eames gropes around for the sheets, tucks himself against Arthur’s side and the covers around them both as best he can without expending too much energy. “Once you’ve got the whole giving birth thing out of the way, I’ll lace you up as tight as you like. You’ll look stunning in a nice silky little number.”
He’s only half teasing. In Eames’s expert opinion, there isn’t much that wouldn’t look stunning on Arthur. But even though Eames thinks he’s made some very convincing arguments for this in the past, Arthur’s never bitten.
“You actually want me to parade around in lingerie for you, don’t you?” he accuses, tugging lightly at his hair until Eames obligingly kisses him.
Eames doesn’t waste his breath denying it. “Speaking as the one in this relationship who’s actually worn lingerie, I can confidently assure you it’s not that awful. I’m only trying to give you some creative ideas about how to dress for a completely new body shape.”
Arthur seems unconcerned. “I’ve already gotten used to those belly band things and Under Armour does compression shirts that are supposed to be great at keeping stuff in place,” gesturing towards his still completely flat chest. “I’m all stocked up on custom orders, so I think I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
He might not have any breasts to speak of, but he’s still deliciously sensitive there, nipples pebbling from just a few gentle sweeps of Eames’s tongue. Eames teases them, brushing his lips against the hard little peaks too lightly to even be called kisses, until Arthur gets fitful and kicks the blankets down around his knees.
Before this all began, back when they scarcely knew each other—and Eames knew what Arthur looked like naked long before he knew his real name—Eames learned a thing or two about what turned Arthur’s crank. It still blows his mind that even now, after years of putting up with each other, Arthur still squirms and swears when Eames slowly takes his cock into his mouth. Still tries to arch off the bed when Eames pulls off after two or three long, slow sucks and kisses him. Eames presses his tongue deep, probing into the heat of Arthur’s mouth, letting him groan around the taste of himself.
Arthur whines a little when Eames ducks to nudge kiss after kiss alongside his navel, and this is still new, still strange and fragile and fucking terrifying if Eames is honest with himself. But he lives for the way Arthur’s fingers catch at his shoulders, the way Arthur grates out his name with a mixture of desire and exasperation that’s so quintessentially Arthur.
“God,” Eames murmurs, drawing a fingertip along the apex of his belly and making Arthur wriggle a bit in the process. “Fucking hell, look how much you’ve changed already. How are you even going to last the next five months?”
“Diet, exercise, and really good posture. Iris is opening up another prenatal class,” Arthur says serenely, and loops an arm around his neck. “C’mere.”
His lips are warm against the underside of Eames’s chin, sucking there not quite hard enough to leave marks. “We can last through anything,” he says, giving Eames’s arse a squeeze as if that’s going to prove him right. “Don’t you know that by now?”
Over the course of lives as tumultuous as theirs have been, consistency can be hard to find. Eames has teased Arthur for being boring a thousand times over, but one thing he’s always excelled at is consistency. Sleek-suited Arthur, deadly with dozens of firearms and always on time to the second. At the end of the day, Eames wouldn’t change a thing about him.
Stretched out beneath him, Arthur spreads his thighs and jerks his head pointedly towards the lube they never bothered to put away.
“Of course I do.” Eames murmurs the words into his skin like a prayer, and Arthur opens for him.
Eames languishes in every last bit of it: the way he writhes so eagerly just from having his nipples pinched and played with, the way he leaks precome over the gentle swell of his belly while Eames kisses his slack, sweet mouth.
“Look what we did to you,” he hears himself saying, hushed and raspy between long, deep kisses. “Oh Christ, fuck, how did we ever manage to pull this off, darling, just look at yourself.”
Arthur gives him a cheeky little smirk. “I really don’t remember. Maybe you should reenact it for me.”
Then he folds his long legs out of the way and does something terrifyingly hedonistic with his hips.
Eames licks at the precome that’s smeared against the lower curve of his stomach first, just to make him squirm and strain his thighs apart a little more. He works Arthur open with two fingers once the desperate little hitch in his breath becomes too distressing to ignore, feels his body try to clench down and force him out even though Arthur’s hands are splayed across his back and his voice is stuttering out a mantra of please, god, yeah, please.
“Over for me, that’s it,” Eames urges him, and together they ease Arthur onto his side.
Eames slips inside him once Arthur eases up enough to allow it, fucks him that way—one hand cupped low on his stomach and the other keeping Arthur’s leg hitched up. Arthur reaches back, trying to twist his body around in a way he can’t quite manage anymore, scrabbling for purchase at his hip. “Careful there,” Eames chokes out, forcing himself to scale back. “Too much?”
Arthur’s head thrashes against the pillows in a very emphatic no. “Keep--fuck—don’t stop, I want you to…”
“Want me to what?” Eames gives a particularly slow roll of his hips and draws his nails down the side of Arthur’s belly. Even though he deliberately avoids touching his cock, the way Arthur bucks up into his touch is telling enough.
“To fill me up,” Arthur whispers. “Everywhere, I want it, just—I want all of you.”
Eames gives it to him.
The squabbling sets in with all the grace of a grenade.
Arthur’s schedule boasts a steady stream of follow-up appointments, trips to the gym, and refusals of any work that isn’t remote, no matter how safe it sounds or how well it pays. He and Eames both throw themselves into revamping the spare room, previously used as a storage space and de facto guest room on the rare occasion they had guests overnight. The bureau ends up groaning with more onesies than should be possible. The walls end up goldenrod and cream, bright and demure and unimaginative as hell in Eames’s opinion, but Arthur refused to let him try his hand at murals. There’s still no crib because apparently Arthur has to note down the pros and cons of every model both on and off the market before making up his mind.
“I pinned a few that you might like,” says Eames at one point, caught up in finally sifting through his emails and wondering if cheating on eBay auctions is beneath him.
“Pinned?” Arthur repeats with altogether too much disbelief.
“It’s an integral part of parenthood, getting a Pinterest account,” Eames says defensively. “Some of these people are insanely creative, though of course plenty of them are insane full stop. Did you know you can actually make baby mobiles out of recyclables? They remind me a bit of the Striker job, the one with—”
Arthur looks pained.
When he sighs and walks out of the room without another word, Eames regrets mentioning dreams at all. For a little while now, Arthur’s been starting to show signs of strain at not being able to dream or participate in a job as anything but a remote component, though they’ve both agreed it’s for the best.
An hour later, Eames braves the odds and joins him out back to see if he’s finished stewing.
“Are you hungry?” he asks at last, since Arthur seems determined to ignore him.
Arthur just steadfastly stares at the same page he’s been staring at for the past five minutes.
Eames is ready to shrug this off and leave him to his own devices when Arthur suddenly snaps his book shut and mutters, “Sometimes I really want things to go back to how they were.”
Clubbing him with a sledgehammer would have been kinder. Eames sits back down, lightheaded. “Do you wish we hadn’t—” he begins haltingly.
“Jesus, no,” Arthur spits. “It’s not that. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.”
For the millionth time, Eames mentally skims the list of facts he’s accumulated about pregnancy and irritability. Arthur’s been jumping down his throat every other minute, but it’s all part of the process. Couples have been weathering this since the dawn of time and Eames has been weathering Arthur’s bouts of irritability for almost as long. He takes a deep breath, watches the way Arthur slouches a little more in his seat, the way his fingers pick at the wicker of his chair.
“I wake up every morning and tell myself this is real, that you’re the most incredible thing that’s ever happened to me,” Eames says quietly. “Every morning, because that’s how hard it is for me to believe I didn’t just make you up.”
Arthur groans and leans forward until his elbows are resting on his knees. “I don’t know if I’m ready for this.” He says it with his face in his hands, but each syllable pierces Eames with cool needlelike precision.
Eames forces himself to swallow around the knot of dread in his throat, then forces himself to sound calm even though he’s on the verge of blurting out please tell me you don’t regret this. “No one’s ever one hundred percent ready to go head-to-head with a baby, are they? They’re such unpredictable, demanding little things.”
“What?” Arthur frowns at him. “No, I mean this. Having you all over me like you’re waiting for some kind of disaster to happen.”
“Please,” Eames says, leaning back and spreading his hands, “don’t hold back on my account.”
“I think you should take a job,” Arthur says abruptly.
Eames waits a few seconds for him to admit he’s joking, but either Arthur’s comic timing is particularly awful today or he’s actually serious. “What?”
“Take a fucking job.” Arthur guiltily shifts his gaze to the ground. “Just for a little while. The thing in Winnipeg that Koretsky was telling you about, it’s not for very long and they really need a forger.”
“So now you want to ship me off to Canada.”
“Yes,” Arthur says emphatically. “I want to be able to breathe again. I want some time alone to be pissed off at the world and I can’t do that with you hovering around trying to make everything better. Just…go, okay? I’m sick of your face.”
“Darling,” Eames starts, taking one of his hands.
Arthur squeezes it, lines carving their way across his forehead. “I can’t deal with you saying this shit to me about how I’m the best thing that’s ever happened to you, not when I’m feeling like this.”
“Like I’m about to explode.” He gestures to his stomach. “Not just physically.”
“I’d be there to stick you back together again if you ever did. No matter how insufferable you are.”
Arthur shakes him off and gets to his feet. “That’s the fucking problem. Stop treating me like I have some kind of free pass to be a huge asshole just because I’m the one popping out a kid.”
“Caesarian,” Eames says mildly, “is hardly the same thing as popping one out.”
“Shut up, you know what I mean,” Arthur grumbles, and stalks back inside.
A change of scenery, apparently, is exactly what he needs.
Eames can’t force himself into feeling even slightly guilty for thinking it. He regrets calling Arthur insufferable, regrets being such a shit father-to-be that it resulted in Arthur practically cattle-prodding him out of the house, but he doesn’t regret the leaving itself.
And, as usual, Arthur was right. The job in Winnipeg is almost absurdly simple, but it really does demand the skills of a forger.
There are two marks this time: David and Fionnula McHugh, a couple married over fifty years. David is starting to succumb to Alzheimer’s and Fionnula is determined to have a team to go into his head and forge old memories once they’ve gleaned them from her own subconscious. This is where Eames comes in.
A week. It’s only supposed to last a week.
“Just a week,” he growls at Arthur two weeks later. “I was supposed to be here a week at the absolute most. In and out.”
“If you accidentally kill him, do you still get paid?” Arthur asks. Eames is going to wring his pretty little neck the next time he sees him. “I don’t get it. The only extraction you’re even doing is from someone who’s willingly letting you do it.”
“This has nothing to do with extraction and everything to do with Keller earning his chemistry degree by sending in cereal box tops.” Eames undoes his tie as best he can one-handed and falls backwards onto his hotel room’s overlarge bed. “He didn’t do his research on just how badly Somnacin would interact with some of the old man’s medications, so now we have to wait it out until he’s come up with a blend that won’t put anyone in the morgue.”
Normally, Eames would have no qualms about walking away from work that ends up lasting longer than expected. He has his own agenda to keep to and enough clout in the dreamshare world to get away with it. But Arthur wants his space, loath as Eames is to let him have it, and he really does sound as though being on his own these past several days has mellowed him.
“Aaron’s been active,” Arthur tells him then, apropos of nothing, and Eames is back to cursing Keller and Winnipeg and teary-eyed octogenarians all over again. “I’m waiting for him to explode out of me like one of those alien babies. How do you feel about Ripley for a middle name?”
“You’re the absolute worst at nurturing instincts,” Eames says, grinning a bit in spite of himself. “Hasn’t all your point-running given you even a bit of a leg up on this?”
“I know,” Arthur agrees mournfully. “And why the hell would you make that connection? Being a point man means you get really good at shooting anyone in your way, not crooning at them until they fall asleep and stop kicking your bladder. If Aaron turns out to kick in his sleep anywhere near as much as you do, we’re in serious trouble.”
They hadn’t actually chosen a name, per se, but Aaron emerged half as a joke and half out of convenience shortly after Eames’s sister-in-law turned up at their door and importantly handed over two thick tomes, one of boys’ names and one of girls’. Even Eames, well aware of the significance of a good name and having worn quite a few different ones in his time, was daunted by the sheer size of them. Arthur had pronounced them excellent bedtime reading, and true to his word was out like a light before he’d made it past the B’s in the girls’ volume that night.
Eventually, they acknowledged there was no way in hell either of them was ever going to make it past the C’s without losing their mind. Aaron was the first name in the boys’ book, Abigail in the girls’, and Eames hadn’t really seen the point in reading much beyond that. “They’re both good, solid Jewish names,” Arthur had said. “Abigail means ‘father’s joy’ and Aaron was a badass back in the day. I’d be okay having a joyful badass for a kid.”
And that was that. Up until they learned the sex of the baby, he and Arthur had referred to it as either Aaron or Abigail. Eames had always sort of assumed an actual name would present itself organically somewhere along the way, but he’d grown so used to thinking of the baby as Aaron that now it almost seems silly to call him anything else.
“Tell him I miss him,” he says gravely. “And I miss his daddy even though he’s the most temperamental little shit I’ve ever impregnated.”
“Excuse me, who else have you impregnated?” Arthur demands, though Eames notices he doesn’t challenge him on the temperamental part.
Two weeks later and Eames is starting to go mad. Keller’s compounds need to be refined even further, David McHugh really does end up hospitalized, and Eames is fully prepared to pack up and hop the next plane home. Then Fionnula breaks down, offers to pay as much as they like, just please can they bring her husband back long enough for her to speak with him while he’s lucid for one last time.
Eames has spent the last few weeks being led through her subconscious and picking up memories. He’s still boggling over the magnitude of being married for half a century. It’s impossible to say no.
Arthur routinely keeps him from losing his head, whether it’s by sending photos of new purchases—the crib he’s finally deemed worthy of their offspring looks like something out of an architect’s porn bank—or emails full of the most terrible name suggestions known to man or just plain picking up the phone when Eames most needs an ear.
“If it lasts more than another week, I’m pulling out,” Eames swears. “I don’t care how many sob stories or banknotes she throws at me, Fionnula can find someone else to rekindle her precious husband’s memories. God, you’ve probably been having an awful time just sitting around being moody all alone.”
Arthur snorts. “Actually, no. Everyone’s been really nice and thinks you’re a jerk for leaving me.”
Eames’s jaw drops. “Seriously?”
“No, not seriously,” Arthur groans. “It’s not like I’m just scowling and watching fucking Titanic all day, okay? And even without you here I’ve got a bunch of people from the gym and the hospital, plus a few from work, plus therapy appointments, plus your sister and my parents all checking in to make sure I don’t do anything stupid without you around. It’s like everyone thinks I’m doomed to failure.”
Before Eames has a chance to respond to that, there’s a mewling sound in the background and Arthur suddenly laughs.
“Hang on, that’s Kiki.”
“Kiki,” Eames repeats flatly, his mind immediately flashing to escort girls and full-service masseuses.
“Yeah,” Arthur says easily. “I’m kitten-sitting.”
It takes Eames a minute to realize that isn’t actually a euphemism. “Fuck me, I knew it. You talked me into leaving you on your own and now you’re replacing me with someone cuter and fluffier.”
“I wouldn’t say that. You can be very fluffy. Give me just a sec, she’s demanding attention.”
“Get on Skype,” Eames tells him. “I want to see this.”
It fucking hurts, seeing Arthur in one of his sweatshirts, lounging on the sofa with a sleepy little tabby in his lap. Behind him, Eames can make out what looks like a crossbow leaned up against the wall, proof that either Arthur’s been getting in touch with his inner Robin Hood or he’s found some new ways to channel his frustration. They’ll have to talk about childproof weapon storage soon, but that can wait.
“The Ortegas had to go out of town for a few days and needed someone to keep an eye on her,” Arthur explains. “I said I’d do it.”
“You actually volunteered?” Eames tries not to sound too aghast. “Arthur, the last time you volunteered to keep an eye on anything, it was Cobb. Have you forgotten how swimmingly that went for everyone involved?”
Arthur shrugs. “I might as well see how much I suck at taking care of living things before Aaron gets here.”
“You don’t suck.”
“I might. You just fucking told me how much I sucked at keeping Cobb in line.”
“Cobb isn’t a kitten.”
Arthur looks long-sufferingly at the ceiling. “Thanks for saying. I don’t know how I get along without you.”
“You appear to be getting along just fine.” Eames tries not to seem too put out by this.
“When you told me the job was running long, I stocked up on batteries. That helps a little.”
Eames raises an eyebrow.
“What?” Arthur half-grins and lolls back a little more, emphasizing the pull of Eames’s shirt across the swell of his middle. If he could, Eames would reach through the screen and shove that shirt up enough to bare him completely. It’s been hellishly difficult not having Arthur around. Over the past few months, Eames developed the habit of just touching him there, fitting his palm against his stomach and stroking as long as Arthur allowed it—which generally he had, up until he’d decided Eames needed to be exported to Canada before he became any more overbearing. “I thought about just not getting myself off at all until you got back, but after about three days I realized that just wasn’t gonna happen. So…batteries.”
“You’re killing me,” Eames says gravely. “Don’t I get a demonstration of these batteries in action?”
“Not in front of Kiki.” As Eames watches, the kitten yawns and bats a paw at Arthur’s hand. Arthur gently kneads his fingertips behind its ears, his lashes dipping and his mouth curving into a small smile. Eames doesn’t even have the excuse of morning sickness on his side and he wants to throw up.
“You’re doing this just to make me suffer, aren’t you?” he blurts out.
“Don’t insult me. If I wanted to make you suffer, I’d use more than just a kitten.”
Arthur sighs. “One more week, you said?”
“I could just come home early,” Eames suggests, reckless.
Arthur pauses mid-scratch and regards him with calculatingly neutral eyes. “Would you?”
Eames curses under his breath. “I really did promise Fionnula another week,” he admits. “But that’s the last of it; either we get it by then or we don’t.”
“When I said you should take a job,” Arthur murmurs, after a long spell of silence, “I didn’t mean for it to be this long.”
No one in the world has the power to render Eames speechless quite like Arthur. “I know you didn’t. Just a little more, all right?”
“This little old lady really has you wrapped around your finger, huh?”
Eames swallows. “Fifty years, Arthur. Over fifty bloody years they’ve been together.” The two of them have scarcely cracked five, not counting all the paces they’d put each other through before actually making things official. “Can you even imagine that?”
He’s waiting for Arthur to respond with a snort and some quip along the lines of I thought I was supposed to be the one with the out of control hormones, but instead he just shrugs the shoulder of his kitten-free arm and says, quite calmly, “Maybe I can.”
Eames has already booked a flight home. The extraction is finally over, the plane leaves first thing in the morning, and Arthur is peering at him from a Skype window once again.
“Fifty years, right?”
“Fifty and then some,” Eames answers, preoccupied with folding shirts into his suitcase.
Onscreen, Arthur looks pensive. “And you’d marry me if I asked you, right?”
This, Eames knows, is the sort of thing that should broadside him and leave him giddy for hours. Instead, it feels like the most natural thing in the world. It’s a topic that they’ve brought up before, then didn’t bring up at all for a little while because Arthur was determined to scandalize his parents as much as possible even though he never actually said so. “Depends on the tax benefits,” Eames says breezily. “Don’t you have a brother with the IRS?”
Eames leaves his shirt half-folded and perches on the edge of the bed, angling the laptop to be sure Arthur isn’t left looking at his half-packed luggage instead of his face. “Of course I would.”
“When you get home,” Arthur muses, “we should get on that.”
He’s close to the camera; Eames can only see his face and the occasional flash of collarbone. When he shifts slightly, Eames could swear he catches a glimpse of something odd about his shoulder, but it shifts back out of sight just as quickly when Arthur leans in a bit more.
“I also miss fucking you,” he clarifies, as if Eames would really rake him across the coals for failing to mention this.
“Are you sure?” says Eames. “It seems to me you’ve been making due more than well enough, if I recall correctly.” Just the other day, Arthur had been coming in his neat little boxer shorts practically on Eames’s command. The kitten, thankfully, had been returned to its owners by then.
Arthur’s eyes narrow. “Don’t be obtuse. It’s a semantics thing, okay? A vibrator can’t hold me down like you do and it’d be kind of weird to try and marry one.”
Before Eames has a chance to inform him yet again how charmingly hopeless he is, Arthur dips his head and says bluntly, “Nothing’s the same without you touching me. You didn’t have to go, you know.”
Eames lets that sink in, then takes another few seconds to be sure he heard right. “You said you needed—”
“I did. I do. But you didn’t have to,” Arthur repeats, brows lowering. “Eames, I’ve known you for how long now? No one ever makes you do anything.”
“The fuck, was this some sort of test? Am I supposed to bring you back a dragon’s head, too?”
“Shut up, no. It’s not like that. But you could’ve fought me on this some more instead of just giving in.” Arthur grimaces and Eames wants to kiss him almost as much as he wants to wallop him upside the head with a pillow or six. “I’ve got you kind of whipped. It’s weird.”
“You let me get you pregnant,” Eames says curtly. “It seemed a fair enough tradeoff.”
“Well, it’s not, all right? It’s just not. If I’m being a pain in the ass, don’t let me get away with it. Call me out the same way you always have.”
Eames sinks back against the headboard, ready to demand if there’s anything he has been doing right.
His frustration must show because Arthur’s face softens into a dangerous little smile. “And don’t even think about signing off. I didn’t get all dressed up for nothing.”
“You didn’t what,” Eames starts, bewildered.
Arthur shrugs and for the first time, Eames looks, really looks, at the slim black strap peeking into the corner of the screen along with Arthur’s shoulder.
“I wasn’t done,” Arthur continues nonchalantly. “Look, I know I’ve been kind of passive-aggressive, so I wanted to give you something to think about on the flight back home.”
And then he’s sliding out of sight, the room jerking as he resettles the laptop and then resettles himself in the center of their bed, and this time…
This time, Eames can see all of him.
He’s not sure what takes his breath away more, the picture Arthur makes or the proof that all those pregnancy hormones have finally turned his brain. He knew that treatment was too experimental to trust.
“I knew it.” Arthur sounds triumphant. “I knew you weren’t just fucking with me all those times you brought up lingerie. Eames, you could’ve just asked instead of trying to be coy for once in your life.”
At the moment, Eames is thinking he really shouldn't have exposed his weaknesses. Arthur has on a black babydoll slip that boasts just enough structure in the bust to give the illusion of small breasts and fastens in the front with nothing but a slim little ribbon over his sternum. Lower down, a pair of modestly cut black lace-edged knickers clings to his hips.
Eames’s eyes can’t decide whether to settle on the curve of his stomach, the clear outline of his cock, or the devilish smirk on his face. And that’s it, really, that’s Arthur to the last—finally giving in, but only now that Eames is across the ocean, staring like a simpleton and too far away to touch.
“Why.” He doesn’t mean to sound as astounded as he does, but Arthur can fucking well deal with it.
Arthur just smooths at an imaginary crease in one of the diaphanous panels of his slip. This is far more surreal than any of the dreaming Eames has done since he first arrived in Winnipeg. “Like I said, I just thought it’d be nice to give you something to think about on your way back.”
“As if I’m not thinking of you all the fucking time as it is.”
“And you’re the only one with that problem?”
“I thought I might be for a little while, actually,” Eames grouses. “Sometimes it slips my mind you aren’t actually an android.”
“People like us aren’t supposed to get complacent about anything,” Arthur says simply, with no trace of the irritation Eames was expecting. “Every fucking day I’ve had to talk myself out of running after you like some screwed up version of Lassie. I needed to know I could handle things on my own.”
Eames is seconds away from pitching forward into a pillow even if it means losing sight of Arthur in all his finery. “Darling. Don’t make things more difficult than they already are, for—”
“I almost bought you leather motorcycle gloves the other day even though you don’t even have a motorcycle,” Arthur cuts in suddenly.
Just as suddenly, Eames regains control of his posture. “Go on.”
And Arthur does.
Arthur tells him about nearly buying the gloves on a whim because he saw them in a store window and couldn’t stop thinking about Eames wearing them while finger-fucking him open. He tells Eames about being so fucking rattled sometimes and needing to smooth himself back down all on his own just to be certain he still could. That it’s been unexpectedly challenging having to do all his own cooking without just throwing in the towel and gorging on takeaway and Cadbury bars. That sometimes he comes before going to sleep and still wakes up sweat-soaked, gasping and writhing and wishing it were Eames sucking or fucking him awake instead of his own overzealous cravings.
“All the time,” Arthur says. “You don’t even know, Eames, all the time. I think of how much I want you just pinning me down and…” His voice peters out, and now Eames is paying extra close attention to the way his hand presses ever so subtly against the lace between his legs.
“Fucking you?” Eames offers, letting his voice drop a little lower.
Predictably, Arthur squirms. “Sometimes.”
“Licking you, maybe? Is that what you think of, love? Me shoving your legs wide open and eating you out until you’re fucking your arse back on my tongue like you were made for it?”
Arthur pinkens gradually, as if he’s willing his blood vessels not to give in, then nods. “That too.”
“Arthur.” Eames draws out his name like a long strand of taffy, still watching the way his hand flexes in his lap, over the lace. “Dear Arthur. Are you hard?”
“Yeah,” Arthur breathes.
Eames’s voice is hardly more than a breath itself. “Show me your cock. Let me see it.”
And Arthur eases the panties down with a sharp inhale and the soft rasp of silk.
“God, you’re a piece of work,” Eames murmurs, half proprietary and half accusatory. “Such a fucking piece of work.”
Arthur gives him a wry look, slips one slim hand around himself. “Surprise.”
“Easy now,” Eames admonishes. “All the way off, that’s it, and spread your legs.
“You too,” Arthur starts, somehow managing to oblige him without looking ridiculous. “Eames, come on, I wanna see—”
“Hush. Keep talking for me. Tell me what else has been on your mind.”
“I did,” Arthur grits.
“Maybe you should tell me again,” Eames says brightly, undoing his flies as slowly as possible and easing his hand even more slowly beneath the cloth. “Go on.”
Arthur heaves a disconcertingly adolescent sigh and mutters what sounds like, “Maybe you can go suck an egg.”
Then he straightens up, serious, arching into his own touch before Eames can get a word in. “Like I said, maybe I wish you’d fought me on this.” He sighs again, eyes obsidian-black and locked on Eames’s own. “Maybe I wish you’d stayed and made me see how wrong I was for telling you to leave in the first place, maybe I was so goddamn horny I was ready to fuck anything that moved the other day, maybe it was killing me not to just jump a plane to Winnipeg. Maybe it still is.”
Eames has to raise an eyebrow at that. He’s well aware that Arthur is on a list, having managed to get himself barred from Canada of all places. And as much as he’s missed him, the last thing he needs is his stubborn, pregnant, idiot boyfriend getting himself into a kerfuffle at customs, never mind how many sets of false passports he’s personally made for Arthur over the years.
Arthur isn’t finished. Arthur is starting to sound far too somber for someone sitting there wearing nothing but a silk slip and a hard-on. “Maybe it scares the hell out of me sometimes because nothing’s the same without you and we’re not—we can’t—this isn’t something you can just wake up from. You know?”
“Hey, hey, there’s no need for that,” Eames interrupts, taking his hand out of his pants at this sudden twist in topic. It’s something that’s been the undoing of many extractors, trying and failing to grow used to reality after living through dream upon dream.
“I said sometimes,” says Arthur, ever pragmatic. “This, right now? Isn’t one of those times.” His head lags forward, hair in his eyes, fist tight around the head of his prick. “This is where I tell you hard I’m gonna make you come when you get home, h-how I want you to—” his shoulders shudder, “—make me wet and fuck me hard and come inside me so I’m even wetter, and I’ll do the same to you, I don’t care, just come. Okay?”
He’s on his knees, braced with one hand on the mattress behind himself, and the other…Arthur isn’t touching his cock anymore, his fingers slipping lower, farther back.
Eames knows he’s not mistaken when he sees the glisten of slickness on his inner thighs.
“Fuck. You’re wet already, aren’t you?”
It’s all the answer he needs when Arthur pushes at least one finger inside himself with a groan, his free hand coming up off the bedding and undoing the ribbon holding the babydoll in place. “Eames.”
When the fabric falls away, Eames actually does a double take.
Arthur’s nipples are flushed, tight and peaked and clearly sensitive as ever, but there’s something different. Something new. There’s the slightest, most subtle convexity to Arthur’s chest, easy enough to mistake for simple weight gain, but Eames knows what he’s seeing. Arthur has small, barely budded breasts and Eames can’t even pretend to disguise the way his hips buck up into his hand once he realizes. The forger in him finds it fascinating, the way Arthur’s body is reshaping itself. The sex fiend in him just finds it hot as fuck.
“Christ, you could have let me know about this a little sooner.” He tries to sound at least slightly irate, but the awe creeps through clear as day. He’s seen Arthur jerk himself off plenty since they’ve been apart, but Arthur has always kept his shirt on, or at the very least shoved up under his arms. Arthur, Eames is reminded yet again, is a ruthlessly underhanded little shit.
“I thought you might like it,” says Arthur, smiling sweetly. He isn’t wrong and he knows it. Eames’s cock throbs, leaks over his fingers.
Arthur delicately pinches one of his nipples and hisses when his erection arches against his belly. “That’s the idea. Are you planning on helping me out or just staring?”
Eames does both. He watches the flush of Arthur’s skin and the gleam of wetness between his legs as he fucks himself on his own long fingers, teases and praises him every step of the way until Arthur finally cries out and comes, whimpering and spattering his belly and making Eames want to pin him down and lick every last inch of him. It kills him, absolutely kills him, that he can’t actually follow through with this, almost as much as it kills him knowing that Arthur sat there bickering with him when he was slick and ready to be fucked the entire time.
“Do you think you could wear that to the airport?” he asks afterward. He’s stretched out diagonally across his bed, his clothes crumpled on the floor and his neck craned awkwardly so he doesn’t lose Arthur to the glare off the laptop screen.
“Maybe the bottom half,” Arthur says, in that way of his that makes it impossible to tell how serious he is. “You know, I’ve gotten more suspicious packages through airport security than anyone should ever be able to, and now my entire body is basically one big suspicious package. Security’s probably going to try to do a full body cavity search on me even though I’m just picking you up.”
Eames snorts. “I’ll phone ahead and make sure every Heathrow staff member knows that’s my job.”
“I’m hanging up on you now,” Arthur warns for the third time, and doesn’t. “Try not to get into any trouble until I see you again, all right?”
Eames can handle that.
This fic has also been illustrated by the gloriously talented and admirably patient Shu, who was fabulous about cracking the whip when I needed it and also combing the internet for Arthur's outfit. :)