He’s been chasing Dom for half a year when he and Eames get the first chance to see each other for longer than a snatched night or two in some city they arrive at in different planes, Arthur getting to touch and kiss but never gets his fill, and in the morning Eames always waits for him to leave to remind him that it’s Arthur leaving, Arthur who has sins he has to work off via the charity work of cleaning up after Dom Cobb, he says, when he’s feeling uncharitable.
It’s not often, though. He’d known, of course, when Arthur told him what had happened, that Arthur needed to be with him. Arthur was always grateful that Eames hadn’t fought, because Arthur is an immovable object elsewhere, but in their house, no pretense, when Eames exerts any force, Arthur’s defenses are aluminum-thin.
He’d closed his eyes, and said, Arthur and Arthur had said, I need to go, I’ve got a few hours and Eames had groaned low in his chest, but never said stay.
Arthur would have stayed. He owes Eames for knowing that Arthur had to, just this once, choose Cobb.
But now — “You invented this whole job,” he says, sharp in their cramped rented car, the two of them out on pretense of scouring the city while Dom meets with the architect. “You — this is… you sold this job as a three week stretch.”
Arthur is thinking about the money, the vast amounts of money they’ll have to throw at the architect and Dom Cobb and the fucking expenses. He knows it must be obvious, because Eames reaches over the armrest, his fingertips hovering over Arthur’s wrist like he doesn’t know for sure if he’s allowed to touch.
“Oh for fucks sake,” Arthur snaps, and yanks him by his tie to let their mouths crush against each other for the briefest of moments before he demands: “get us to the hotel.”
“The mark — he’s someone my cousin would like some information from, they'll be real secrets in there, and you know Daniel will play Cobb just fine,” Eames says, in a hurry.
Arthur is muttering under his breath, “Stupid, stupid, so fucking reckless,” and Eames keeps one hand on the wheel, but touches the other to his mouth. Arthur thinks, I know you’re amused, asshole, but he doesn’t say it. Regardless of the appearance he keeps, Eames is actually an astute investor, good with his money — their money — and if he decided to make a crater in their retirement fund to get the chance to see Arthur, well. Arthur is sure he can pick up his anger, after, if he still wants to.
It’s hard to make it up to the hotel, Arthur going around back and Eames taking a more circuitous approach. Arthur still feels grimy from the flight, and riding on this sickly backwash of the adrenaline reaction he’d had when he’d seen Eames’ face, waiting in a rented room, and all the pieces had fallen into place. He washes his face at the sink, and then pulls off his shirt in a quick, efficient move to also give his underarms and neck a quick swipe with a hotel washcloth.
The door swings open and Eames slips in like smoke, closing it behind him soft and silent. “Hey,” Eames says.
Arthur drops the washcloth into the sink, embarrassed. “Hey.”
“I meant to give you more time,” Eames says. “You know. To let you worry I got killed.”
“What the hell,” Arthur says, turning towards him, but Eames’ mouth is lifting in the corner.
“You know,” he says. “You always let things slide after you get worried about me.”
“You didn’t wait very long,” Arthur says.
Eames hasn’t taken his shoes off yet, but Arthur looks down instinctively anyways, picturing the way his toes would be flexing against the plush carpet out of nerves if they were home. “I — overeager, I suppose.”
Arthur steps in, presses himself close against Eames, noticing too late that he’s mussing Eames’ shirt with the damp of his own upper body. “Sorry,” he says against Eames’ chest, for the shirt and for the fact that it’s been six weeks since he’s the last time he’s been close enough to touch.
“I should have never lent you out,” Eames says, pulling at his shoulders like there’s any space between the two of them that Eames can cut through.
“I’m not a library book,” Arthur says, letting Eames crush him tight.
“And yet somehow I get the distinct sense that you’d be much better off if I had you back on my bookshelf.”
“I can’t tell if you’re trying to be dirty.”
Eames pulls back, just a few inches and palms his face, smiling. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“You got me here,” Arthur reminds him. “We’re spending a fucking fortune to have this vacation.”
“I could do a double cross play on you and Cobb and the architect,” Eames says helpfully. “Then we’d only be out warehouse rental and, whatever, expensed sandwiches.”
Arthur huffs out a long-suffering breath. “I would have to cut you out, publically. We’d never be able to take a job together again.” Arthur moved his hands to Eames’ collar, undoing Eames’ tie, laying it out carefully.
“Sounds like you’d get off easy,” Eames teases, but there’s something nervous in his eyes.
“You’re so fucked up,” Arthur says, working Eames’ shirt off and putting it down with the same care. Once he’s got Eames properly shirtless, he shoves him back — Eames folding himself down to accommodate him — onto the hotel bed. Arthur climbs up and around him, planting both knees to either side of him and landing gracelessly across his chest, resting his forehead on Eames’ sternum.
Eames brings his hands to Arthur’s hair, ghosting fleeting touches in the spots where out of place are least likely to be obvious: behind his ears, at the nape of his neck.
“We’ve had expensive vacations before,” Arthur says, the words practically slipping out of him, now that he’s got Eames pinned beneath his weight. It feels safe to close his eyes, just for a few minutes.
“That’s the spirit,” Eames says. Arthur can feel the rumble of his voice in his own body, and after days of exhaustion in the middle of months of exhaustion, it’s a balm against the shores of his tired bones.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Arthur mumbles, finding a comfortable spot on Eames’ neck to rest his face, “you’re going to be eating beans on toast until we retire.”
Arthur isn’t aware of falling asleep, but he does wake up, body jolting before his brain has a chance to catch up. “Damn,” he says, looking down at where Eames is still beneath him. He’s wide awake. “I’m sorry. You should have given me a shove.”
“It’s only been half an hour,” Eames says, quiet. Arthur scrambles to get off of him, his own legs shooting sparks as he wakes them up, trousers bunched painfully at his bent knees, and he wasn’t even the one crushed beneath the weight of another full grown man.
He swipes a hand across his face. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Eames says, and his lush mouth is set in a somber rest. “I’ll take you any way.”
“I meant to get you back here to get you off,” Arthur says, flushed with sleepy heat and already regretting the loss of his skin against Eames’.
Eames reaches out to reel him back in, and Arthur goes easily against him, feeling small and warm when Eames spreads a hand against the small of his back and holds onto him. “I’ll need lots of delays on this job.”
“We should go,” Arthur says.
“You told Cobb we needed a few hours,” Eames says, hitching his leg over Arthur to keep him still, dry palms running down Arthur’s side. Arthur feels the dual pull of letting himself sink, sink into Eames, who he hasn’t seen in six weeks and two months before that, and demanding himself up and back out there, working, doing damage control on this idiotic thing Eames has done, and the other desire, to get up and suck Eames off like he wants to, to reward him for finding him, the way he always has.
Arthur falls asleep again, warm and curled up in Eames’ negative space, and stays there until Eames wakes him up, one calloused hand on the back of his head. “Let’s get you presentable, love,” he says.
Arthur briefly forgets that it isn’t the way he wakes up anymore. Thinks to tell Eames I had a terrible nightmare.
He catches himself. “Alright,” he says, reaching for Eames.
Arthur is acutely aware of how Eames presents in front of other people. He seems more than a little reckless, solid enough to take care of himself, and in possession of a feral sexuality. One look at him and people just know he’s had a dance card a mile long.
Arthur hasn’t figured out how he manages, when somehow Eames has so many obvious miles and Arthur can stop getting carded, but it always makes him laugh that he seems to be the only one in the whole world that knows Eames’ dirty secret: they’ve only ever been with each other. Eames father had thought he's buy himself some time putting his gay son in West Point, that it would cage him for a few years until he was ready to retire from international politics and he could let Eames flounce around doing whatever the hell he wanted. Instead, Eames had met the love of his life.
In fact, the first time he and Eames made out in Arthur's dormitory, Eames came in his pants. Arthur never brings it up, of course, because in their long history, there’s been plenty of time for Eames to witness Arthur’s own foibles, sexual or otherwise. It doesn’t mean he doesn’t give Eames a hard time, because that’s something fundamental in the makeup between them.
On the second day, between Arthur pretending to research and Eames pacing the floor, Arthur stands up. “Cobb,” Arthur barks. “I need you to come—” he starts, but Cobb holds up a hand at him, palm forward. Of course he does. Arthur has calculated his demand for backup for a moment when Cobb’s body language as at its most tense, clearly too wrapped up in his own tasks.
“Eames,” Arthur barks, just as harshly. “I need you to come with me to meet this contact, in case I need backup.”
Eames looks at Cobb, as if to say really? and Cobb shrugs, unhelpful, before going back to his own papers.
Eames installs himself into the driver’s seat of the rental, driving a little messy.
“I have a thought.” Eames says.
Arthur has been sleeping with his safety off for six months, under constant anxiety and high-level panic, but here with Eames, on a job that doesn’t exist, not really, he is flooded with the endorphins of being in close proximity, the safety of knowing Eames has his back, that there will not be a splitting of priorities, because they’re each other’s top priority. “Say it,” Arthur says. Arthur tenses, waiting for Eames to ask him to stop running.
Arthur is weak. He’s not sure what his response will be.
“If you can’t figure out a way to get Cobb home in three months,” he says, very serious. Arthur’s stomach lurches. “I am going to kidnap his kids in the states and set him up in fucking Croatia.”
Arthur is surprised into laughter. “You love Croatia,” he says. “There’s no way you’d let Dom settle there. I’d never hear the end of it. Pick somewhere else with no extradition treaty.”
“Fucking Kazakhstan,” Eames corrects himself, looking relieved that Arthur isn’t arguing with him.
They end up back at the hotel, going up separately again. This time Eames makes it in first. “I’m going to do this right this time,” Arthur tells him.
“You’ve never gotten it wrong,” Eames says.
Arthur doesn’t even acknowledge Eames, because he’s spouting bullshit. Yesterday he’d seen his — his Eames — for the first time in weeks and he’d fallen asleep in him like a kitten instead of letting him fuck him. Arthur catches his mouth against his own, and spends very little time being timid before they both start moving a little frantic with each other, Eames hand comes up to cup behind his head, and Arthur’s hand ends up digging into the swell of Eames’ hip over the top of his button down, Eames moving to drag his mouth to the side of Arthur’s face, rasping his stubble across the skin of Arthur’s neck, and Arthur’s embarrassingly hard in almost no time at all.
Their angled hips crush against each other, Eames hands grasping at Arthur, his knee coming up to put pressure on his cock and Arthur grinds down onto it, making a little pained sound as he does so, heart and breath quickened. “Do you really think,” Arthur says, as Eames wrangles him out of his shirt without letting up the pressure on his crotch. “You’d kidnap Cobb’s kids?”
“Yes dear,” Eames says, mouth curled. He sets it against Arthur’s nipple, giving it one swift nibble, and Arthur’s hips surge forward without his permission, now properly riding Eames’ thigh.
“Oh fuck,” Arthur breathes, grinding himself down, down, catching Eames and pulling him close again so he can suck on his shoulder in desperate pulses with the delicious waves of pressure. “I’m not going to,” Arthur says.
“Of course you aren’t,” Eames says, laughing but still managing to sound fond, “what would you like?”
“Please get inside me,” Arthur says, and Eames doesn’t waste any time getting him out of the final remnants of his clothing, belt and trousers and underpants and shoes and socks, before taking off his own with surgical precision. Arthur’s glad Eames came prepared, because he hadn’t expected, hadn’t known Eames would be here, but Eames did, so he’s got a bottle of lube he warms and then applies liberally to the tight space with a painter’s care and attention to detail, leaning down to press a wet kiss to Arthur’s cock while he fingers him.
“Don’t,” Arthur says, a little mangled, meaning don’t suck because he knows he will be completely gone in an instant if his cock makes its way into Eames’ mouth.
Eames shushes him, before moving his hand to his own cock, sliding the rest of the lube from his damp palm onto it. “You ready?” he asks, and Arthur lets his legs fall open.
“Please,” Arthur says, begging a little mindlessly, looking up at his — his something, the longest, most important thing he’s ever had. Maybe the only thing — the only thing that’s ever belonged to him, really, hair a little scruffy and face unshaven, and still the most handsome man Arthur knows.
Eames leans down to lay kisses on Arthur’s face, forehead to chin, and moves into him gracefully, sinks until he’s fully seated, still pressing chaste touches with his mouth while he sits, still. His stomach is heavy against Arthur’s cock, and Arthur squirms beneath him.
“You’re here,” Arthur reminds him, wrapping his legs around Eames’ hips, rocking against him.
“I’m here,” Eames confirms, and pulls out, so slow and careful, before sinking back in. Arthur throws his head back. Eames sets a rhythm, slow like the first time they’d danced in Eames’ apartment, and Arthur thinks about that afternoon now, light slanting through the apartment's shitty blinds, and Eames grinning crooked every time Arthur fumbled.
“I love you,” Arthur tells him, hands sweeping down Eames’ side, across the ragged bulk of his muscles and ticklish hair and stupid tattoos with his initials hidden in there like like easter eggs, and Eames’ hips falter, stuttering against him.
Eames groans, some mangles version of his name, and sets his teeth against his shoulder. Arthur hopes he has a crooked half circle in mauve there to show for it in the morning.
“Three months,” he rasps in the afterglow, Eames growing soft inside of him but still joined. “If I haven’t figure it out in three months, we’ll, you know, do your thing.”
Eames, sweat-damp and overheated, turns his arm — casually draped over Arthur — into a complete vice. “If you don’t stop it with that kind of talk, love, I’m going to get hard again.”
Arthur rolls his eyes. “I’m serious. You think I’m having fun out here? It feels more hopeless every day. We should have just done a bank heist and hired Dom two-point-three million dollars worth of lawyers.”
“That’s what I said,” Eames growls in his ear.
“Next time we go with your plan first,” Arthur says, dragging a fingertip in lazy circles on Eames’ skin.
“While you’re in a conciliatory mood,” Eames says, an unholy light suddenly present in his eyes. “I think when this is done, we need to spend at least two years hemisphere jumping so that I don’t have to do winter anymore.”
Arthur laughs in his face. “As if. Remember, we’ve already talked about how you’re on a beans-and-toast budget for the rest of your natural life.”
“You’ve caused me pretty severe emotional damage,” Eames grouses.
Arthur stiffens underneath him, and he can feel the color draining from his face.
Eames shushes him. “I know. You’ve met my brother. If he needed me to fake my own death for six months, you know I’d have to put you in the same position. I didn’t — ”
“No,” Arthur says, to cut him off. “I mean, yeah. But you didn’t. This time it was me.” He breathes in and out quietly, trying to sync up with Eames’ breathing, which used to come naturally. It’ll come naturally again. “One year. We can skip one winter.”
The rest of the job — Arthur prides himself on his work, usually likes that sentence to end goes off without a hitch, and even though it isn’t real, he means to do a good job, because Eames has done his due diligence, the job is pretty soundly constructed.
Except, when this job is over he goes back to chasing Cobb around, miserable, sending short, coded texts from his burner to Eames’, meeting for three hours in Scotland before he has to leave him again. Arthur thinks of Eames with his eyes closed, waiting for Arthur to step away, knowing that he will, sure as the tide, but the waiting has drawn his skeleton out of hibernation, because Eames never eats properly when Arthur isn’t there to take care of him. Arthur thinks of all of that, every mental picture like a tender bruise behind his temple, and makes a single deliberate mistake.
“Sorry, Dom,” he says, cutting his eyes past Cobb to look at Eames, and feels like the most self-indulgent, spoiled man when he says: “We need another day, at least.”
Eames keeps his eyes open.