Dates with Eames are pretty much the best times Arthur’s ever had in, well, a long time.
It’s their fourth date and by now, they are well past the awkwardness of conversation, falling easily into topics, picking up the trailing end of stories from the time before and started in text. Neither Arthur nor Eames pause anymore to describe a co-worker or a facet of their respective jobs or their day-to-day routine. They laugh and talk and gesture emphatically. Arthur can feel himself shimmy farther from the Arthur he’s been lately and closer to the Arthur he was, years ago. Which is a good thing.
Eames is a little too vibrant sometimes, in ways Arthur at first doesn’t understand, in ways that might have left him a little breathless, but that’s good too, he considers. And if their hands will sometimes touch, brush when both reaching for roll or the stem of a glass or on the walk back to the car, well that’s just nice, he supposes. Easy, uncomplicated. Arthur offers himself that, this niceness.
It’s unexpected at first. Because Arthur hadn’t even been given the chance to decide if he was going to make use of the “business” card with the private number before Eames had made the decision for him, waiting not even a full twenty-four hours to call him up. Arthur was pretty sure Eames snagging his phone number off a police report was a little muddy, ethically speaking, but Arthur couldn’t be bothered by the misconduct, only the way it tugged fondly at him. He merely curled a little into the phone—truthfully so, into that perfectly inappropriate tone that could quite literally make any phrase sound almost pornographic—and agreed to a date.
He then agreed to a second and proposed the third himself.
And everything was nice. Really nice. Nice in a way Arthur hadn’t known for a long time, cutting through the sparse earthen thing his life had become like a river of cool water. Nice in a way that made him think stupid shit like that.
But he’s starting to, not entirely, and not quite to a concerning point, consider what comes next. It's been a while, but he knows how these things go. Because constraint is becoming more and more of a thing Arthur is sure he’s seeing in Eames, the way the man is almost holding himself back from lingering touches, intent gazing, soft turns of his mouth and nervous flicks of his tongue across that bottom lip thoughtfully… that sort of thing. Eames is, of course, kind and funny and really good looking, a perfect recipe; that gruff and indecent charm Arthur remembers enticing him right off only doing more to him now that he’s actually spent some quality time with the man. Eames has never once pressed his advantage, although Arthur is sure the probability only waited for the right word; it's just a matter of time.
And Arthur isn’t, well, he’s not scared. That's ridiculous. He is a grown adult, a man in his late-twenties, for God’s sake; he is not scared of sex. But Eames, well. Eames might be another issue entirely.
It's the end of their fifth date when Eames leans into him as they’re slipping into their coats after dinner, leans in with just enough space between them to indicate intent with delicious promise, and smooths his palms over Arthur’s shoulders. Arthur would be lying if he didn’t admit to the feeling going out of his knees just then. As confident as his actions and the warmth of his body, Eames’ voice still cracks a little when he asks, “Wanna go?” Arthur nods, almost outside himself, autopilot actions.
This time Eames takes Arthur’s hand warmly in his as they wait in the late-Autumn chill for valet to pull his car around.
Arthur swears, ten minutes into the drive that he’s seventeen again and they are headed to some cliché dark point outside the city, where they’ll park and… Arthur can’t help the knot of indecision and excitement that ties itself inside his chest. He grips his hands together, nervously, at once thankful for and despising the odd quiet; wishing for Eames’ hand again in his and, at the same time, glad it isn’t.
He doesn’t feel like this, ever. It's unnerving.
They don’t park. Thank God. They actually pull into a cracking-cement driveway in a quiet burg, just outside the lights of the city. Somehow, Arthur feels better and worse. It takes him a minute to get out of the car, struggling with the seat belt, and in doing so, he completely misses the way Eames is shaking, dropping his keys on the ground and the uneasy laugh when he finally gets the right one in the lock.
Arthur realizes then that they’re suddenly at the point where he is going home with Eames, because this is his house, obviously so. It looks exactly as Arthur imagined Eames’ house would look, everything just so in a completely unrelated sense, the fish named Fish swimming in a tank that frankly looks too big for the lone goldfish.
Eames hangs up his coat and then Arthur’s, his actions ordinary, composed. Arthur forgets for a second his own trepidation and watches, catching the small unguarded movements that Eames has probably done without thinking a million times, every time he comes home: a small hum in the back of his throat as he kicks his shoes off without bothering at the laces, a quick sweep through his short hair with one hand as he tosses his keys and scarf with the other onto the small table in the entry. Arthur feels a sudden swell of delight, a diverting joy at the privilege of being present for this fragment of Eames, a small truth uncovered with a simple, honest openness.
Arthur is smiling when Eames ushers him through the hall and into the living room, his hand moving to the narrow of his back like it belongs there. Arthur considers the first time Eames had done that, a little over a month ago, and his reaction. There’s still a thrill, but Arthur doesn’t come to pieces. Although he suspects that will come later.
Arthur settles into the couch and Eames looks for a long moment at the space open beside him before grunting something Arthur misses and disappearing into the kitchen with a clatter.
“Do you want a drink?” he calls, in a voice that’s clearly hopeful.
Arthur swallows, dryly. Yes, a drink is what he needs. Maybe a drink, or two, and. “Please,” he answers.
Eames comes back after a minute with two beers and an apologetic smile. “All I had,” he offers, passing the local brew into Arthur’s waiting hands.
“It’s ok,” he says, the beer cold in his too warm hands. Arthur’s never much cared for beer but the alcohol is welcome to his nerves and the taste isn’t unpleasant. He takes a few solid swigs, letting the heady liquid rush boldly over his tongue and the inside of his mouth. He takes a deep breath. Because he can do this. Of course he can do this.
It's just sex. He knows what and how. It's just sex.
Eames feels a million miles away when Arthur reaches for him, hardly waiting for the man to pull the beer away from his lips before Arthur claims them. There’s an awkward moment, a brief miscalculation and off-center trajectory that’s quickly corrected and, though Eames is shocked at the initial contact, going breathless and still, he isn’t as soon as his head catches up.
Eames frees himself from the cold beer—maybe it misses the table and hits the floor; Arthur can’t hear or think over the sound of his pounding heart—and brings his large hands up to wrap around Arthur’s shoulders, run the length of his arms, across the back of his neck, cradle the sides of his face. His hands are hungry for the feel of Arthur, like his mouth which yields to Arthur’s and then takes control, his tongue urgent. He moans, softly, and it tremors through them both.
This is what he wants, Arthur tells himself. Arthur wants it too. Yet he’s somehow still lukewarm all over as he follows the pattern with his own hands, feeling for the buttons of Eames’ shirt after the hem has been rucked from his waistband; his fingers bumble and struggle. He’s taking Eames’ lead, working his mouth in kind, shifting a little and back. Eames is over him, all over him.
And it’s nice, this, he thinks. It is really nice, and his body is responding like a dry desert to rain, tight and warm in all the right places. But he feels snipped somehow, floating above himself, above them. Its autopilot responses, chemical impulses rushing his brain, and he knows, with suddenly clarity, that he’s only filling this dry dune with a shimmering oasis of want and need; a mirage.
His breath hitches in his chest, like a cough, a stutter, and everything falls apart. Because he’s gone still for just that right amount of time beneath Eames that Eames knows. And Eames, in all his sensual, gruff charm, pulls away without a grumble, and quickly.
He's on his elbows, lips kiss-stained, breathing heavily. His body is bracketed around Arthur; his hips placed just so, heavy with possibility. Arthur feels embarrassed, claustrophobic, and embarrassed again. He puffs air out of his chest and glances up into Eames face, catching sight of the fondest look anyone’s ever given him.
“Are you ok, love?” and Arthur feels like he might just break apart. Instead he turns away, indicating with a feeble flap of his hands that he wants up. Out. Away. Eames bends off him, the soft, tender look never leaving his eyes. Arthur sits up and Eames moves back.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur says, holding his hands together to keep them from shaking, and it doesn’t sound like him. Hell, this isn’t him. It’s just sex and Eames is good to him and very hot, and it’s been… God, it’s been ages—since dating, since liking, since kissing, and everything else.
“Did I…” Eames choose at that moment to ask, in a wretchedly small voice. And that's it. Arthur drops his head in his hands and lets out a hollow whine.
It's just sex, he thinks frantically, angrily.
“No,” he answers, too loud, too hard, frustration coursing through him, and he looks up, not missing the way Eames is so far away again, hands wringing themselves together, white and red raw. “No,” he says again, softer this time, and the rest just pours out of him, rearing straight up and hurled at the wall across from the couch, eyes fixed anywhere but Eames’ face.
“This is all me, Eames, and I know how that sounds,” he gestures pathetically and continues on, hands stressing his every point, because that’s what he does in situations like this. “I have been thinking about this—well, not thinking, but you know, thinking. About you. And about… and I mean I would like to. Do that. With you. But I haven’t in a wh—I mean, I have, you know, but I haven’t with like… with anyone in… and I thought you. Well you’re always saying these things… you know, you must know how you sound. And I was going to just do this, because i know how this goes, because you just have to do it, right? Damn that sounds… I don’t mean… But then you’re there and I’m here and. Fuck, I just don’t know.”
Arthur is flush-red, he can feel it just beaming out of his every pore. He peers over when all the air is gone from his chest and there’s just quiet after. He peers over and Eames, bless him, isn’t scowling or anything. He’s just sitting there, his hands and mouth a little slack, soft creases at the corners of his eyes.
Arthur knows he’s in love; he’s known it for a while. But it’s not like he’s going to say it now. Not right after an idiotic ramble like that.
“Arthur,” Eames says, his voice stronger than before but blown out at the edges like embers, smoldering. “As much as I would like to be with you—and I mean that in every sense, of course—we absolutely do not have to do that tonight.”
“But you asked me back to your house,” he argues, stubbornly, because Arthur is a stickler for details and he keeps doing this to himself really.
Eames chuckles, a sweet rumbling sound. “I did, didn’t I?” he muses, pushing away from the far corner of the couch, just a little. “Honestly, I wasn’t considering the possibility.” He looks sheepish, unintentionally vulnerable again: an unplanned openness.
“You’re kidding,” Arthur says, and his tone is incredulous because, forgive him, he is.
Eames rubs a hand across the back of his neck. “Well I mean, I have thought about it. Arthur, you’re bloody gorgeous, you know that, yeah?”
Arthur blushes. Actually blushes.
“But no, it wasn’t my master plan.”
“Then what was?” Arthur broaches, carefully.
Eames is closer now, and Arthur takes a second to survey the tender damage they’ve done to each other in that hot desperate moment, feeling sort of ridiculous about their joint states of nearly-undressed. Arthur’s shirt is terribly crumpled and the zipper is actually down on his jeans. He doesn’t know how that happened—well, he knows how, but he doesn’t quite remember when it happened. Eames’ shirt, similarly, remains by a single button, the black lines of a tattoo poking along his collarbone, terribly tempting.
Tattoos, Arthur muses, remembering Eames mentioning it, trying to look away.
Eames grins. “No plan, actually.” His eyes brighten, blue and alluring. “Although the making out thing was nice,” he says, probably not even aware that he’s licked his lips greedily.
Arthur cringes. “Is anyone over fifteen even allowed to say that?”
“Perhaps you'd prefer ‘necking’?” Eames ponders. “Tonsil hockey? Snogging?”
Arthur is actually appalled. “Stop. They all sound disgusting.”
Eames laughs outright, loud and high, his head thrown back and he looks so sweet, so open, and Arthur can’t help himself. He touches that tempting tattoo and Eames goes still, his laugh cutting short into a low sound gathered at the back of his throat. Arthur continues, running his fingers along Eames’ collarbone curiously, tracing down his chest and up, brushing aside the shirt to gain access, following the tattoo back as far as the crest of his shoulder where it blooms out of sight. Arthur is wild-eyed in wonder at the ink in his skin.
“Darling,” Eames says, bringing his hand up to cover Arthur’s fingers, drawing Arthur’s palm flat to his chest, hissing at the contact like it’s a sweet brand. “You are a mess of contradictions,” and there’s a blown look to his eyes, pupils widening in desire.
“I’m not,” Arthur disagrees, aware that he’s gone warm all over again. “I just like these.”
Eames grins, wide and wolfish. “Well I do have more.” He leans in to the curve of Arthur’s face, setting his lips—no, his teeth to the corner of Arthur's jaw, sharp uneven edges putting sweet pressure into his skin. “I could show you,” he purrs, cheeky, sinful, and promising.
Arthur softens against Eames, his body betraying him once again, and tries like hell to wrangle the soft sounds back into lungs as Eames trails his lips and teeth across the underside of his jaw to the tender place beneath Arthur’s ear: kissing, nipping, and ah, sucking. Arthur shudders, fingers bending, nails unintentionally scratching against Eames’ chest and Eames comes back to himself, mouth hot, resting in this closeness a long moment before pulling away with a trembling sigh.
“Another time,” he consents, his voice soft, affectionate.
Arthur lets the tightness leave his chest. He exhales sharply.
"Thank you," he said, feeling knocked out of orbit, tumbling, lost.
Eames clears his throat. "I wasn't kidding about the kissing thing," he says. "If that's all you'd rather us do for now."
"Sure," Arthur scoffs and tries to pull away. Eames doesn't let him but draws him swiftly closer, slotting him easily into the space of his arms.
“I’m serious,” Eames continues, absolutely somber. “We can go slow. I promise.” There’s something about his voice that sounds strong, like he’s desperate to prove himself to Arthur, and himself. It sets off a wave of fondness inside Arthur and he turns his palm up against Eames' hand, fingers interlacing. He bends his head back, then, and smiles.
"Prove it," he challenges.
Eames kisses him firmly, growls gently through his teeth, fills Arthur’s mouth with a quick, yearning tongue. His right hand remains tangled in Arthur's, while his left roams only from making slow circles between his shoulders to cup Arthur’s cheek earnestly, fingers solid, right before they finally break apart.
A victorious grin spreads Eames' mouth.
“See,” Eames proclaims, joyous. He leans back, cranes his head around, repeating it again. “See, Fish?”
Fish, as expected, remains completely unaffected. Arthur laughs.
And the words are in his mouth then; the affectionate string of letters prodding him, packed militarily against his teeth like they’ll charge right out if he opens his mouth too wide and conquer, probably to destruction. So Arthur gives a polite ahem, dislodging them back into his heart where they belong, for now. Eames takes the sound as invitation and brings his mouth down to Arthur's again, gladly.
It's nice, Arthur thinks, as they go on, like they're young and wild and don't have criminals to catch or cases to oversee. Nice in a way Arthur knows he could get used to and build something beautiful on. Nice in that unmistakable way he knows will eventually break him open with sweet yielding want—open him up just enough for Eames to see those swallowed words and that tender spot carved out for him already in the rusty mechanics of his heart. Yeah, nice.
They fall asleep on Eames' couch, sometime after the kissing stops and the cuddling begins, hands together, legs tangled under a patchwork quilt Arthur makes mental note to inquire about later.