The conservatory is never silent in February. Even now — Saturday night, at the unholy hour of three o'clock in the morning — as Eames turns the corner towards the student lounge, he can hear a clarinet, a violin, several pianos, and the chime of the undergraduate microwave as it finishes cooking whatever one eats at three in the morning on a Saturday in February.
Eames isn't here to practice himself, of course. He's a singer, not an obsessive-compulsive instrumentalist. And besides, singing would be a terrible plan in his state: throat a bit raw from shouting and smoking, vocally fatigued even before that from the closing performance gala, and now teetering on the brink of dehydration after too many pints with the rest of the opera's cast.
No, Eames is only after the Merola young artist housing application he’d left half-completed in his study space. He's rather proud of himself for having thought of it, bladdered as he is. The singers closed down the student pub, parted ways drunkenly and bidding fond sloppy 'toi toi' farewells to each other. Alone, Eames paused for one last fag after weeks of keeping his smoking down to almost nil, and then out of nowhere remembered the form in his carrel.
He feels quite grown-up, and cheerful about it too, digging for his keys and doing his best not to trip over his own feet as he crosses the lounge and makes for the grad student office.
"Oh, hey," says Arthur, and suddenly the slouched miserable form by the pinging microwave resolves out of murky anonymity and into Eames' lovely overworked boyfriend. "What are you doing here at this hour?"
"Looking for you," Eames improvises with a grin, hoping it's not too obvious that he's altering course as he heads for Arthur. "You're mad, I knew you'd be here somewhere, snapping strings and tormenting yourself."
"Or, y'know," Arthur says, pulling the microwave open and extracting a plastic container, "eating MSG and edible meat derivatives. Making some solid middle-of-the-night nutritional choices."
"I'd offer to take you out but I'm afraid whatever’s on offer at this hour would be worse yet,” Eames says, coming in close to help Arthur pop the lid. The mysterious contents breathe out a huff of soy-sauce infused steam. Eames' stomach growls with its own middle-of-the-night decision making prowess, but Eames ignores it. He takes the dish and sets it aside in favour of crowding Arthur back against the rickety table, kissing him hello several times. He's scarcely seen Arthur the last few weeks, busy as he's been with the opera. It's ages since Arthur stayed the night, and longer yet since they had anything like a proper conversation.
Honestly, though, it's not really conversation that's foremost on Eames' mind as he gets a hand up the front of Arthur's worn 1994 piano camp t-shirt.
"Eames," Arthur says against Eames' mouth, not pulling away. "What are you"—
"Mm, no," Eames tells him, and uses his other hand to get Arthur by the back of the neck, prevent him from wriggling away as Eames kisses him more. Arthur resists for approximately two seconds and then he huffs out a sound that's probably meant to be exasperation but instead is all heated assent, and the next second Arthur's got his own hands jammed down the back of Eames' jeans and one thigh thrown up around Eames' legs. Finally it's up to Eames to pull back, after all, his reluctance to do so not helped by the way Arthur lunges after him, all long arms and seeking mouth and warm flushed skin. "Come home," Eames says, "we'll split a cab, come home with me."
Arthur blinks and tips his head to the side confusedly, like he's forgotten about the outside world. Possibly he has. God knows how long he's been holed up here without Eames around to remind him to eat and sleep and breathe fresh air. "I've got more to do," he says. "And you're drunk."
"That almost sounds like a recrimination," Eames says, amused. "I'd be more convinced if you didn't have your hands all over my arse, darling."
"Just — come into the practice room for a minute," Arthur says.
"No," says Eames, laughing at Arthur's stubborn sticking-out jaw. "Come home with me or it's strictly solo work for you, tonight."
"Right," says Arthur, smirking back now, "because it's so hard to get your pants off. Seriously, I have stuff to do but — come into my practice room, just"—
But Eames is stuck on it, now, the possibility of having Arthur in his bed tonight, and the awfulness of the alternative: hasty too-brief hand jobs up against the door of Arthur's practice room, Eames leaving alone and going to sleep on his wide empty mattress with Arthur's balled-up pyjama shirt tucked next to Eames' pillow.
(It doesn't even smell of Arthur anymore, that shirt. It's been far too long.)
"I'll make pancakes in the morning," Eames says. "I've got my mark-out of beans from the store, we'll have fresh coffee and you can read the paper first."
Arthur wrests his hands out of Eames' jeans and tips his head forward onto Eames' chest, sighing and groaning with displeasure. "Eames," he says, "don't — god, it's not that I don't want to."
"What is it that Miles says to you?” Eames says, feeling victory in his grasp even as Arthur resists him. "You have to leave the practice room now and then if you're going to understand what it is you're meant to be — god, I am drunk, I have no fucking clue what I'm trying to —" and he gives up on words and urges Arthur's face up again, two fingers under his chin, kisses his pouting mouth. "Come home with me, Arthur," he says again. "Please."
"I'm going to be seriously annoyed," Arthur says, "if I do come home with you and you pass out flat on your face before we even get to"— and then there's the click-creak of a door opening and they have to pull apart embarrassedly, give curt no-we-weren't-dry-humping-on-the-microwave nods to whoever's crossing the lounge.
"Well, if you want to be safe about it," Eames suggests, once the room is clear again, once he's pulled Arthur back in towards him so they're pressed hip to hip and belly to belly, "we could have it off in your practice room and then catch a cab together."
"Nah," says Arthur, and rakes his fingers up the back of Eames' hair, strong hands and devilish grin, "I'll make sure you stay awake."
"Well, it's not as though I knew you were coming round," Eames says, before Arthur can voice any of his obvious opinions regarding the state of Eames' flat: dishes in the sink, laundry on the floor, books scattered everywhere.
"Ha," says Arthur, instead, "I knew you weren't looking for me, at school." And though it's a bit grudging, Arthur can't suppress the smile on his face as he kicks aside a towel to clear a path across the kitchen floor. "Please tell me your bedroom is less disgusting."
"It's wonderful," Eames says, "it's a haven of romance and sensual ambiance.”
"I'm giving you thirty seconds to shovel off the bed and hide all your dirty dishes," Arthur says, not fooled. He perches on the edge of Eames' table and arches an eyebrow. "Twenty-seven...twenty-six..."
Eames fritters away another two seconds giving Arthur a saucy look, then double-times it to his bedroom in order to hide the worst of the mess. His bedroom really isn't quite as disastrous as other parts of the flat, mostly because he's only spent a handful of sleeping hours here during the run of the opera. Mostly it's just cast-off clothing and an empty takeaway carton, a couple of beer bottles, and that issue of GQ with the model who looks enough like Arthur to suit Eames' purposes on his lonelier nights. The sheets on the bed are mussed and need changing but there's no helping that, not at this moment. Probably Arthur will bully Eames into helping with the task in the morning anyway.
"Ready or not," says Arthur in the doorway, and Eames looks up from his half-arsed job of smoothing the sheets, finds Arthur shrugging out of his raggedy 90s t-shirt and working on the button of his jeans. He's all floppy hair and elbows and lean carved torso, lined strong forearms and sleek coy deltoids from hours spent at a keyboard.
"I'm never ready, quite," Eames says, a bit stunned in spite of himself. The GQ model has nothing on Arthur, nothing at all, christ. "And if you want to just — keep on going, with that — I wouldn't mind in the least."
"Oh, yeah," says Arthur, cocking one hip, putting on a self-deprecating smirk, "me and my hot buff gym body, I'm"—
—"No, take your time," Eames says, getting settled on the bed, wriggling around until he has a good view of Arthur.
Arthur hesitates, thumbs hooked under his waistband, and a slow pink flush rolls up from his chest as his gaze flickers away. Embarrassed, poor dear. Eames can never decide if he dreads or breathlessly awaits the day when Arthur finally realizes how fucking fit he is — but for now there's an easy solution that will relieve Arthur's awkwardness.
"Take ze dress off slowly," Eames says, tucking his arm behind his head. "Turn around."
"Are you seriously doing True Lies," Arthur says, his blush fading away.
"Now dance for me," Eames orders lazily, twirling a finger in the air.
Arthur cracks up, as predicted, but he does execute a little unselfconscious hip wiggle as he sheds his jeans, takes his underwear down separately after turning around and shaking his arse in Eames' direction.
But a sarcastic striptease is still a striptease, so Eames settles back and enjoys the show. Arthur's not actually prudish, not shy about his body, but he's young enough yet that this sort of exhibitionism is either granted in jest, or absentmindedly, unintentionally. Arthur doesn't show off, not on purpose.
(He saves that sort of thing for his musical performances, Eames supposes.)
"You're not falling asleep, are you?" Arthur asks, looking back over his shoulder as he shuffles out of the briefs pooled around his ankles.
"Not in the least," says Eames, who has none of Arthur's coltish uncertainty and even less shame, palming himself happily through his jeans, making sure Arthur can see the outline of Eames' cock through the denim. "Just wondering if I'd lose my damage deposit if I installed a pole in the bedroom."
"It looks like you already have a pole," Arthur tries, arching an eyebrow at Eames' display.
"So I do," Eames says, unzipping his jeans and freeing himself. "Want to come over here and"—
—"Please don't finish that sentence," Arthur urges him, covering his eyes, snorting. "Just — take off your clothes, god."
"Should I do it slowly, or," Eames says in his terrible French accent, but he's already stripping down to his skin because he wants Arthur closer now, wants him here with Eames.
Arthur parts his fingers over his eyes and then drops his hand entirely so he can gape at Eames free of obstruction. "Shit, when did you get more ink?" he asks, and sure enough, he's being lured in by the sight of Eames laid bare, rounding the edge of the bed and kneeing onto the mattress, straddling Eames and running his narrow fingers over Eames' belly and up to where the fresh tattoo curls just over Eames' left pectoral muscle.
"Hmm, a couple of weeks ago," Eames says, arching up in to the touch. "Christ, Arthur, I've missed your hands. Don't stop touching me."
"Is this the rider from Erlkönig?" asks Arthur, outlining the dark shape with his fingertips, gentle even though the tattoo's healed over by now. "Eames, this is creepy as fuck."
"No, it's not," Eames says, looking down to see the tattoo and getting distracted all over again by the loveliness of Arthur's hands on his skin. "It's epic. And symbolic of — of —"
"Is it for me?" Arthur asks, as he does every time Eames gets a new tattoo. He dimples and pinches Eames' nipple. "Am I the horse? Are you riding me to safety?"
"I would ride you anywhere you liked," Eames exhales, shivering, writhing under Arthur's touch. "I'm so fucking happy you're here, Arthur, god, it's been far too long."
"You should stop talking," Arthur says, leaning forward and stopping up Eames' mouth helpfully with his own. "You're going to be so grumpy tomorrow when you remember saying all this shit to me, you sloppy sad drunk."
"No," Eames protests, kissing Arthur back, shaking his head as much as he can without losing his place on Arthur's lips, "I mean it, every word, you belong in my bed, you belong exactly here: naked and on top of me, fuck, Arthur."
"Mm, wait, I thought you were riding me in this little fantasy you got inked onto your tit, here," Arthur says, rearing back and giving Eames a decidedly ungentle if playful slap across the chest. "You can't even keep track?"
"You want that?" Eames says, rolling up a little to try and reclaim Arthur's mouth. "I can do that, I can go on top."
"Wow," says Arthur, leaning back and evading all Eames' attempts with easy grace. "You are sloshed."
Eames sags back onto the mattress, laughing, and jounces Arthur up and down a few times, enjoying the splay of Arthur's thighs over his waist, the slight weight of him, the fluid way Arthur keeps his balance and grins through it. "I can fuck drunk," Eames insists. "See?"
"Yeah," says Arthur, catching Eames' wrists and pinning them above his head, "but you like getting fucked even better when you're like this."
Eames exhales hard, unwilling; his turn to blush, then. "Yeah," he says, quietly, "I do."
They haven't tried it this way before. It's easy enough when it's just Eames half-kneeling over Arthur, letting Arthur finger him slick, kiss Eames' mouth and murmur little encouragements, Arthur's eager cock brushing the inside of Eames' thigh, Arthur's soft breath whispering over Eames' neck and ear. But then Eames has to shift back onto his knees, and it's more difficult than Arthur's ever made it look, balancing and taking his time and finding the right angle, Eames' thigh muscles shaking and his heart pounding and his ankle twisted the wrong way so he has to stop again, apologise confusedly, rearrange his limbs and start over.
"Hey, hey," Arthur says, his big palm splayed wide at the small of Eames' back, "it's going to feel so good, Eames, you look fucking incredible, just let me," and he holds his cock steady, knocking Eames' own fumbling drunk hand away, and that makes it simpler. Eames steadies himself with both hands on Arthur's strong if narrow shoulders, feels Arthur's cock kissing wetly at his arse, and suddenly it's nothing at all, just the slick length of Arthur and gravity working its magic and Eames tips his head forward and groans because Arthur's right as usual. It feels so good.
Arthur's free hand strokes up and down Eames' flank, which is wrong when Arthur's meant to be the steed, but Eames doesn't care, doesn't care at all.
"Yeah, you're okay," Arthur's murmuring, "that's it, that's almost all of it, you're okay, shh, yeah. It's okay, babe, that's it, that's all."
And Eames could have sworn he wasn't this drunk twenty minutes ago but his head is swimming now, his ears are buzzing, he's got no hope of thinking clearly and he doesn't really care to try. Eames just wobbles as he tries to get his knees under him again, gasping at how utterly hard and unrelenting Arthur's cock is, how unapologetically inside Eames he is. It takes more coordination than Eames has ever appreciated when he's been in Arthur's place, finding his balance and then finding leverage, and after all that he's still got to find a rhythm even as Arthur arches and gasps under him, as Arthur pinches Eames' arse and hips and thighs, finally wraps his hand round Eames' cock and pumps him a few times, rolls back his foreskin and slicks his thumb through Eames' wetness.
"You're heavy," Arthur says, trying out a few hip thrusts, gasping with the effort of lifting Eames' weight with his narrow body.
"And you're the soul of tact, as ever," Eames answers, finding an lopsided smile in spite of all the fireworks going off in his brain. "Stop trying to take over, you're a bossy bottom even when you're not really the bottom."
Arthur opens his mouth like he's about to answer but goes satisfyingly mute when Eames rolls his hips a few times, slow and steady. It's overwhelming, too much. Fuck knows how Arthur does this on the regular, it's — Eames can't, he — but god, it's wonderful even when it's utterly too much. Eames chases the feeling, grinds down into it, finds himself first leaning forward with his palm flat to Arthur's chest, and then sinking back the other way, letting Arthur's cock drag sweet-harsh against that perfect place even though it makes Eames dizzy with this weird clawing want, like an itch that worsens the more it's scratched, god, what a terrible way of framing it, but — oh, christ, it's true. Eames pushes Arthur's hand away from Eames' cock because he wants this to last, suddenly, last as long as it possibly can.
"I'll do my best," Arthur agrees in a strained voice, because Eames must have voiced some or maybe all of that train of thought. "But, oh, fuck, Eames — you look so hot like this."
"Close your eyes, then," Eames advises, shaking and gasping and riding Arthur steady now, hard and fast for a few dizzy moments before forcing himself slow again. "You're perfect, how are you so fucking perfect?"
"Shut up, your voice," Arthur says, throwing an arm over his eyes, pulling a face. "You and your stupid voice, don't fucking — Eames, ah, god, stop for a second."
Eames stops for a second and lets Arthur collect his control while admiring the view, himself: Arthur spread out and shiny with sweat, Arthur with pale torso lined with lean muscle, Arthur's forearm flung across his face, his big hand splayed with palm open and fingers curved. "Wait," says Eames, "no," and he lifts up off Arthur and tumbles to the side, scrabbles at Arthur to get him close again. "Like this," Eames says, once Arthur's over him and between Eames' legs. "I want to see your arms like this."
"My arms," Arthur repeats doubtfully, but he doesn't waste time reaching between them and pushing in again, easier this time. He braces himself over Eames, frames Eames' chest and neck with his shoulders and arms and hands, fucks Eames steady and hard like he's not willing to waste any time on sweetness, not now. Eames hitches his thighs up and crosses his ankles at the small of Arthur's back, meeting Arthur's thrusts as perfectly as he can. "If — if you want me to last longer, you need to stop making those noises," says Arthur tightly.
"M'not making noises," Eames says, "but I want you to come, darling, I want you to, yes."
"You're making so many noises," Arthur says, grinning, holding himself up one-handed and reaching between them, damnably coordinated Arthur with far more upper body strength than you'd expect with that wiry little chest, those soft pale boyish shoulders. That big hot hand working Eames off expertly in perfect damn time, coordinated Arthur, god — Eames knows he's making noises, lots of them, but he's a singer and he expresses himself vocally, and oh — oh, Arthur's grip is strong and sure. "Yeah, yes, Eames," Arthur's saying as Eames comes between them, over Eames' belly and Arthur's, wetting Arthur's fingers. "I missed you too, I missed you so much."
And then Arthur's lowering his forehead down to rest against Eames' shoulder, he's losing his rhythmic precision as he always does near the end, and then he's making soft open-mouthed sounds of his own into Eames' skin as he comes. Eames curls his hand round the back of Arthur's neck, steadies him, afloat on that peculiar foggy feeling of tenderness that Eames always feels when Arthur comes inside him, the same warm dangerously soft feeling that always has Eames wondering why he doesn't do this all the time, and at the same moment amazed that Arthur does do this all the time, he clutches Eames to him and takes Eames in and — Eames is overthinking it, again. Arthur always says so.
"Now," says Eames, scratching his short fingernails over the nape of Arthur's neck, "now that was much more satisfying than a wank job in the bend of a piano, wasn't it?"
Arthur exhales and half-laughs and punches Eames in the side, then collapses down onto him. He bitches to no end when Eames does this to him, but Eames supposes it's permissible when their roles are reversed if only because Arthur's a feather, he's nothing at all even when he's sloppy and sweaty and too warm splayed over Eames. "I'm still hungry, though," Arthur says, rolling his hips into Eames a few more times, riding out the last faint aftershocks. "Do you have any cereal?"
"I think so," Eames says, not willing to relinquish Arthur just yet. He rolls them both to the side and pulls Arthur against him a little more securely. "And ice cream, too, still."
"Ice cream," says Arthur longingly, though he's not making any attempts to escape Eames' grip on him. He is, in fact, going limp and languid and warm. He's melting into a sweet splay of sweat-damp limbs, come-spattered skin, and curling heavy dark hair. "Or pancakes in the morning," he says, barely moving his mouth now.
"Pancakes and shagging," Eames amends. "And coffee. And more shagging."
"But I have to go in to practice, later," Arthur says; his next inhale is half a snore.
Eames waits until Arthur's completely dropped off before he extricates himself and slips into the loo to wash up a bit. He feels entirely and weirdly sober, now, though he's fast losing his second wind. Exhaustion is creeping in a bit more with every second. Eames wipes his belly with a damp flannel, his arse, his inner thighs, and wonders if he might be getting past the age where he can stay up all night drinking and fucking and still feel normal next day. He studies his reflection for a moment: circles under his eyes, yes, but a flush still high up in his cheeks, clinging to the tips of his ears, a dark-pupilled recently-fucked look to his eyes.
His gaze drops briefly to the still-unfamiliar black of his fresh tattoo, rider clinging to horse and clutching at the bundled shape of the boy under his cloak. Eames wasn't thinking of Arthur when he chose this design, honestly; he was, he thought, working out some deep and best-left-tangled shit around his father, his childhood, and paying homage to Fischer-Dieskau and Schubert as he went.
But now Eames traces the powerful line of the horse's galloping foreleg and shivers: Arthur. Arthur, bearing Eames away from danger. Eames, clutching something horribly vulnerable and small and fragile and precious. Arthur, Eames' best and only hope of rescue, slender graceful dark Arthur.
Eames takes the flannel back to bed with him, but Arthur's rolled onto his front in Eames' absence and he'll probably wake up glued to the sheets, grumpy, hypoglycemic and wild-haired. Eames drops the cloth on the nightstand and clambers under the sheets, pulls the covers up over both of them.
He doesn't fall asleep for a long while.