Eames should’ve known better.
Teasing Arthur is like going all in during poker; like picking up a revolver for Russian roulette; like slipping on a blindfold during sex for the first time, in that if it all turns out badly, yet he’s still left standing afterwards, Eames has no one but himself to blame.
The men’s panties are blatantly ridiculous - a wonderful, flimsy construction of lace in the silhouette of boxer briefs, and the instant Eames spots them amidst all the other frippery of the online adult store, he has to order a pair. That he gets to do so in full view of Arthur whilst they’re in the planning stages of a job, for maximum disapproval, is just a fantastic bonus.
The little package arrives a week later in the PO box he’s renting for the duration of their Chicago job. Eames promptly returns to the foreclosed house they’re working out of to present them to Arthur, just as Arthur is wrapping up his weekly rundown with Takeda and Yelena, their architect and extractor, respectively. He couches the panties as a very belated Valentine’s gift – unwrapped, but paired with a vulgar leer and blatant innuendo, accompanied by Takeda and Yelena’s shocked snorts and laughter.
Arthur accepts them wordlessly, with all the stone-faced mien that he’s (in)famous for.
“You’re angling to get shot in the balls, man,” Takeda says to Eames later, shaking his head as he passes. Eames smirks.
Because Arthur isn’t a stoic, violent robot, no more than Eames is a hyper-sexed, feckless twit – but it suits both their purposes to play those roles. In the wake of their success with inception, they still play those roles to the hilt with everyone they work with.
But through an unspoken agreement, they dial back with one another. Eames knows this.
That’s when he realises he’s made a serious misstep in ordering the panties – in presenting them publicly even more so – because that’s the behaviour of an Eames from years ago, pre-inception. That’s the behaviour of an Eames who’d thought Arthur to be mildly homophobic, not shy. And Eames as he was then would have had no compunctions about ordering lace panties if it aided his efforts in discomforting a homophobic man.
Eames of six months ago knows better. He knows Arthur craves affection like others crave food. He knows Arthur wraps his pride around himself like plate armour, and Eames of six months ago would think such a prank to be a serious misstep because it would leave Arthur feeling betrayed, like he’d exposed himself to Eames, only for Eames to fail to appreciate it.
But the Eames of now knows even better. He knows Arthur is not as vulnerable as all that, for all Arthur may be gentle at the core. Eames-as-he-is-now knows that it’s a misstep because Arthur’s sense of shame is non-existent. His sexual appetite is voracious, and his lack of creativity is more than made up for with sheer, unadulterated bloody-mindedness.
Arthur has ridden Eames for hours, staving off his orgasm, or Eames’, or both, until they were writhing and incoherent. He’s pushed his tongue into Eames’ arse, alongside his fingers, and licked filthily, messily into him, wrestling Eames down as his hips do their level best to buck off the mattress. Arthur’s dropped to his knees before Eames in semi-public spaces – during preparations for jobs – to yank at Eames’ trousers, pull his zipper down, and fuck his mouth down on Eames’ cock, his brazen stare daring Eames to keep quiet.
Arthur’s done all of that and more. And when he finishes, he’ll look at Eames, smirking, and asks if Eames wants more, like Arthur can get them both hard again through sheer force of will—
(and Eames’ answer is always yes. Yes, yes, God, fuck yes – delivered between panting breaths and in stunned, wrecked tones)
So if Arthur’s decided that Eames needs to be punished for his joke, then Eames has no choice but to weather it until it’s over.
Still, Eames only truly begins to regret it after Arthur launches his opening salvo in the campaign to wreck Eames’ nerves, shatter his professionalism, and – bugger whatever he’d just said about not being hyper-sexed – permanently warp Eames’ libido.
They’re working out of a foreclosed home in Hyde Park (sadly nothing like its English counterpart) when Eames, draining mug after mug of tea, has to duck into the bathroom.
The rain is absolutely bucketing down outside - Eames can hear rain water gurgling along the gutters, even from inside the bathroom - when Arthur strolls in less than a minute later, drenched and bedraggled. He’s carrying what looks to be a spare set of clothes, and he starts stripping down whilst Eames is still pissing at the loo, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world for him to do.
Startled but recovering quickly, Eames says cheerfully, “There’s no need to risk pneumonia just so you can strip down in front of me, Arthur.”
Arthur glances at him, chest ghostly pale in the fluorescent bathroom light, before turning away primly to unbuckle his belt, unzip his trousers. Eames stays cheerful, right up until the point he glimpses wet black lace on pale skin, and it’s a good thing Eames is finished, because he may very well have pissed up the wall otherwise.
As it is, he goes hard instead, cock still held in his loose grip.
Arthur pulls on his new set of trousers – charcoal grey this time, instead of the navy he’d been sporting this morning – right over the lace panties like it’s nothing. Like the sight of them hasn’t hijacked all the higher functioning regions of Eames’ brain.
“Shouldn’t–” Eames starts, his voice already going rough, “shouldn’t you change your pants as well?”
Arthur flicks a glance over his shoulder, but doesn’t say anything; just keeps doing up his fly before sliding his belt back through the belt loops.
“It’s just– they seem rather… damp,” Eames adds lamely. “Uncomfortable.”
Arthur still doesn’t say anything. He dresses the entire time in silence with his back to Eames, like a terrible, wondrous reverse strip tease. Once he’s fully dressed – wholly armoured in cotton and silk – the look Arthur levels at Eames before he leaves is as distant and remote as the gaze he usually levels at everyone who isn’t Eames.
And it’s then that Eames realises the game. “Holy fuck,” he swears to himself.
When Eames emerges from the bathroom a few minutes later, Arthur’s already returned to his laptop and the table he’s commandeered in the living room. But he’s moved his chair to the other side, positioning it so that Eames, from his vantage point on the sofa, has a perfect view of Arthur’s back, unimpeded by the table and the stacks of manila folders on top of it.
With his reverse strip tease over, Arthur’s next assault on Eames’ sanity is subtle. He doesn’t do anything so blatant as stretch over the table, or bend at the waist to pick things up. Nor does he find excuses to walk past Eames with the intent of brushing his hip or his arse against Eames as he passes.
No– Arthur is completely and relentlessly professional. It harks back to his behaviour when they’d first met – when Arthur had worn his suits crisply, spoken with military curtness, and stood with less ease. When there had been no loosened ties or rolled up sleeves; no sly smirks at Eames, and no sarcastic asides, let alone long, lingering kisses or wet, dirty blowjobs.
Well. If Arthur wants to play that game, Eames can cut that off by simply not engaging.
He turns to Yelena and begins an in-depth discussion on the mark – Anthony Bertolli – and his potential psychological weaknesses; Yelena, a double doctorate clinical psychologist before she’d been lured into extraction, launches into the discussion with enthusiasm. It’s engrossing work, and Eames does genuinely enjoy getting beneath the skins of the marks and his prospective forges.
But every time he comes close to putting the image of those panties clinging to the curve of Arthur’s arse out of his mind, Arthur shifts, like his body suddenly has a direct link to the pattern of Eames’ thoughts.
The first time he does it, Eames realises Arthur isn’t wholly impersonating the uptight prig he’d been when they’d first met, because Arthur’s belt isn’t tightened perfectly. It gives the waistband of his trousers just enough slack – not much, they’re still tailored after all, but just enough – to slide down slightly and allow his shirt to untuck a little.
And Eames has good memories – he has fan-fucking-tastic memories – of reeling Arthur in by the waist, or by the tie. Of slowly teasing Arthur’s shirt out of their tucked-in neatness. Of rumpling Arthur’s clothes, whittling away Arthur’s control, one slow thrust at a time.
It’s one of Eames’ very favourite things to do, unravelling Arthur.
Eames knows that Arthur knows this.
So for Arthur to be moving like he is now – in small, indolent wriggles, his shirt becoming progressively untucked with every shift – is nothing short of vindictive. Each movement presses the material of Arthur’s shirt against his skin briefly, and Eames’ gaze is drawn helplessly downward to Arthur’s hip, where he thinks he can see the impression of black fleur-de-lis beneath pale cotton.
Eames wants to get up, walk over, and draw Arthur’s shirt out. He wants to slip his fingers past the waistband of Arthur’s trousers and run his fingers against rough lace. He imagines bending Arthur over the table, yanking those trousers down, getting his hands on those panties and then ripping–
He comes back to himself only when he realises Yelena’s been saying his name over and over. “What?” Eames says, blinking and squirming a little on the sofa. Arthur doesn’t even turn his head.
Yelena’s gaze slides from Eames to the back of Arthur’s head, before returning to Eames. She smirks. “Never mind,” she says in her light Russian accent. “I can see you’re… preoccupied.”
Eames doesn’t reply. He simply goes back to glowering at the line of Arthur’s back.
ur a cock tease darling, Eames texts, when Arthur goes out to install surveillance bugs in Bertolli’s home and office.
Arthur’s reply comes a minute later: You can spell out cock tease, but you can’t be bothered spelling ‘you’re’?
And only Arthur, the fastidious bastard, would drop quotation marks around a word in a text message.
it was the most important word
Half an hour passes before Arthur’s next reply dings on Eames’ phone.
It’s a picture message.
The little bastard, Eames fumes, as he gets up to go to the room he’s claimed as his, cock chafing against his underwear as he takes the stairs two at a time.
He gets Arthur alone in the kitchen, late that evening, after Yelena and Takeda have already turned in for the night. Arthur’s leaning forward, stretching up to open a top cupboard, and Eames’ hand slaps heavily against the cupboard door as he presses himself along Arthur’s back, crowding him against the counter.
He puts his mouth against Arthur’s ear and hisses, “Listen, you wretchedly shameless—”
“I’m wretchedly shameless?” Arthur repeats, disbelieving smirk ringing clear. He doesn’t turn around. “Which one of us ordered the panties again?”
“That was just for a lark, you bloody-minded—”
“That’s right,” Arthur cuts in, and now he does turn, clearly not giving a shit that Eames is crowding him in with his bulk. Arthur’s always been irritatingly unintimidated by Eames, even when Eames had been at his most muscle-bound and Arthur at his most lissom. Arthur’s voice drops a whole octave below its usual tenor, and Eames’ body goes hot on hearing it. “It is a lark, Mr. Eames. And I’m having lots of fun – aren’t you?”
Christ. Mister Eames. Like it’s a year ago, like they hadn’t performed inception together. Like they hadn’t gone to Amsterdam, and Barcelona, and Cairo, and Seoul, and fucked and fucked and fucked in all those locations. Eames wants to smack that faux-innocent, self-satisfied smirk off Arthur’s face, then pull him forward and grind their hips together until they’re both panting from it.
Arthur takes the decision out of his hands by hooking his fingers into the belt loops of Eames’ trousers and tugging him forward, sliding his thigh between Eames’, and rolling his hips in that fucking obscene way that had seen them thrown out of a hotel bar in Seoul.
And Eames remembers suddenly, vividly how he’d fucked Arthur against the wall of an alleyway afterwards: Arthur’s back against the brick, one of his long legs thrown over Eames’ arm, the other leg wrapped around Eames’ waist as Eames thrust into him, over and over, quick and hard. He remembers the glittering sharpness of Arthur’s grin, the blinding pleasure as he hitched Arthur’s knee higher and drove himself in deeper, and the feel of Arthur’s teeth at his throat as he’d come.
Eames groans, both at the sensation and the memory, and shoves Arthur hard against the counter. He digs his fingers into Arthur’s hip bones, hard enough to bruise, as he rolls his hips in time with Arthur’s, and oh Christ, it’s good – it’s exactly what Eames needs.
Arthur makes low, satisfied noises as they rut, and Eames has to get his mouth on him. He ends up with his lips against the corner of Arthur’s jaw, and sucks a bruising mark high above the point where Arthur’s crisp collars can hide it.
Arthur’s hands are running along Eames’ shoulders, palming restlessly, before sliding down his chest. But Arthur doesn’t lower his hands further. Eames has only a moment to wonder at that, before Arthur’s palms flatten, and he shoves, using all the deceptive strength he has coiled in his arms.
The shove is hard enough to make Eames’ back hit the wall, and Eames gasps out, his voice gone breathy like he’s been punched in the solar plexus, “Arthur— what—?”
“My apologies, Mr. Eames,” Arthur says formally, shadow of a smile still on his mouth. “That was— unprofessional of me.” His voice is approaching that beautiful ruin, the one that makes Eames want to push Arthur to his knees so he can get his cock out and wreck it further.
“Unprofessional?” Eames gapes.
“I don’t fuck on the job.”
“You— what? You bloody well do,” Eames says wildly. “You bloody well did just last month, when we were—”
“I don’t fuck on the job,” Arthur repeats, his syllables neat and precise. “It tends to muddy professional relationships.” And the smile he gives Eames then is distant and wintery.
It tends to muddy professional relationships.
Oh good God, Eames remembers those words. Eames had said them to Arthur, a long, long time ago, after Arthur had screwed up the nerve to make a pass at him, lent courage by copious amounts of whiskey. It had been in Singapore, after the extraction on that biochemist, Goh Suan Lin – back when Cobb’s recklessness had been charming, not infuriating, and Mal’s dark smile had been alluring, not terrifying.
Eames had said those words because he’d still been at the stage of writing Arthur off as another US military Project Somnacin reject, uptight and closeted because of DADT, and Eames had had no interest in fucking self-loathing closet cases.
Has Arthur seriously waited all this time to get revenge for that? Eames despairs.
But Arthur’s sudden smirk dispels that notion. No. This is just Arthur being gorgeously, maddeningly malicious because he can. Playing at being the person he was years ago, only with a cock tease slant, because he’s confident and secure in the knowledge that Eames will let him; that Eames will take it, no matter how frustrated he gets.
Eames isn’t sure what will happen first: his heart giving out from love, or him succeeding in wringing Arthur’s neck.
“You started this game,” Arthur says, briefly returning to his normal tone of voice, but drawling out the syllables to maximum effect.
“I wasn’t starting anything,” Eames lies, because he’d definitely been trying to start something, but not this. “It was just for a lark,” he repeats, half-distraught, turning his gaze heavenward.
Arthur doesn’t reply. He simply takes Eames’ distraction as an opportunity to slip past and head for the door.
“You’re honestly just going to go?” Eames says, incredulous. He’d just had Arthur’s erection pressed up against his own, and he’d been able to feel perfectly how deliciously hard it was.
Arthur’s stride doesn’t change at all. “How many times do I have to say it? I don’t fuck on the job.” There’s a beat, and then: “But after the job? Well, that’s a different story.”
“Arthur,” Eames tries one last time, “there’s no need to wait at all. Do you want me to apologise? Because I will. I am truly, truly sorry I ordered those panties—”
“Are you?” Arthur asks, and he stops, right in the doorway. He half-turns and hooks a finger into the waistband of his trousers, tugging them down slightly. Eames’ mouth goes dry at the scant bit of skin he can see through lace. And when Arthur had gained the ability to make Eames grow harder by exposing two inches of skin – harder than Eames’ last ex had been able to get him by exposing his entire body – Eames has no idea.
Arthur fingers the waistband of the panties thoughtfully then says, “Are you sorry? Because I’m not.” His smile glitters. “This is going to be fun, Mr. Eames. Try to enjoy it.”
And then he’s gone.
“Fuck,” Eames snarls as he marches up his bedroom – a room that will apparently remain wholly devoid of Arthur for the remainder of the job – to have a brilliant, furious wank.
Years and years ago, back when Eames had been an utterly self-serving bastard (... well, when he’d been even more of an utterly self-serving bastard than he is now) a boyfriend of his had tried to make him wait for sex. To make the ardour grow stronger, Marco had said, and to ensure they had a connection beyond the physical.
If Eames had been a less self-aware man, he would’ve been surprised, and perhaps appalled, at himself for how little he valued their relationship once sex was (temporarily) removed from the equation. But Eames hadn’t been less self-aware.
Still, for all that he was (and is) self-serving and opportunistic, he wasn’t (and isn’t) a cruel man. So he’d promptly informed Marco that such an experiment was completely unnecessary since they had no connection other than the physical. And, he said, with his voice gentling slightly, he suspected Marco knew it too.
(Marco had known it, and they’d parted amicably after some truly fantastic break-up sex.)
Eames recalls all this in the third week of the Chicago job, as he stares down the furlong of one more week before the job’s wrapped up. He recalls it because Arthur has been slowly – ever-so-slowly – breaking him, one subtle twist of his hips at a time.
But unlike with Marco, calling things off with Arthur is out of the question.
Eames had considered it, briefly. He’d considered what it would feel like to glance at his phone and not have a persnickety text message waiting for him. What it would feel like to not wake up to Arthur’s folders and papers fanned out around him on the bed, Arthur already awake and typing noisily on his laptop. What it would feel like to not say something ridiculous to get him to stop typing, to not be the recipient of that dimpled smile. Eames had considered the idea for a nanosecond then promptly dismissed it.
However, that leaves him stuck between the rock that is Arthur’s indomitable will and the hard place of— well.
He’s resorted to tracking Arthur’s every move around their workspace with a predatory – some would say unnerving – attention. He’d almost hit Takeda with a paperweight for getting in the way the other day. Yelena and Takeda have taken to staring at Eames warily now, circling behind him when they need to get past rather than block his line of sight to Arthur. It’s a wholly unnecessary course of action, in Eames’ opinion. Then again, so is obsessively watching Arthur.
Because Eames doesn’t need to watch Arthur to imagine him in those panties. The memory of them is seemingly seared into his brain. Eames has been constructing myriad fantasies about Arthur in those panties – about getting Arthur alone after the job is finally done, and ripping those damned trousers off of him, before tearing those twice-damned panties with his teeth—
Eames gets up, strides over to Arthur, and stands beside him at the whiteboard. “You can’t honestly be wearing those same panties day after day,” he murmurs, looking sidelong at Arthur. “You’re never unhygienic unless circumstance forces you to be.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. Of course I’m not.”
Eames breathes a sigh of relief at that, because at least now he might have a better chance at stopping his imagination from calling up the shape of Arthur’s arse beneath flimsy lace—
“That would be unhygienic. So I bought more. All identical.” Arthur makes another note on the whiteboard like what he’d just said was nothing. Like he’d hadn’t just lobbed another devastating grenade at the barricade of Eames’ willpower.
Eames manages to say weakly, “Taking buying cues from Saito, are we?”
Arthur inclines his head, but makes no further reply. Eames is possessed – not for the first time – by the urge to shoot him.
Rather than act on said impulse, he says lowly, “A man has needs, Arthur.”
“A man has a hand,” Arthur replies. He switches to using a red marker and, rather than put his notebook or the other marker down, uncaps the new marker with his teeth. He flashes a brief grin at Eames around the lid - that blank all-American one he gives to clients - before schooling his face into impassivity and returning to his note taking.
Eames glares at Arthur’s profile, at the perfect, ramrod stiff military posture he hasn’t affected in years, then returns to his room to act on Arthur’s suggestion.
Five days later, his cock is honest-to-God chafed from wanking.
But Eames is never a man without a back-up plan (never mind what Arthur says), so he commandeers the PASIV, telling Yelena that he needs time alone to perfect his forge. Yelena, perhaps remembering how close the paperweight had come to Takeda’s face, surrenders the PASIV with nary a protest.
Eames sets the PASIV for ten minutes. Two hours in the dream – more than enough time. He reclines on the sofa, reaches out to push the button, and drops instantly into the dream.
Usually, when Eames is the dreamer, the dreamscapes he creates are lush, verging on lurid; background landscapes full of bright colours, clear sounds, and sumptuous textures. This time, however, there’s barely any foreground, let alone background.
The blank, unconstructed space doesn’t bother him. He has exactly everything he needs in the dream right now, and nothing he doesn’t. There’s one leather wingback chair, one king-size bed covered in crisp Egyptian cotton—
And one Arthur.
Well. A version of Arthur.
This Arthur is not Eames’ Arthur. This Arthur looks barely legal, and is even more whippet-thin than the Arthur that exists topside. This Arthur is simpering, eager to please, and is, in every derogatory turn of the phrase, a whore. An absolute cock-hungry slut, desperate for Eames in a way that his Arthur – at least outwardly – isn’t.
And Eames has absolutely no compunction about using a projection of Arthur for sex because, by God, he’ll wait out Arthur’s little game, he will, but he’s not a saint.
In the space of a thought, Eames’ projection of Arthur is on him and getting his trousers open, sucking Eames down like it’s the only thing he ever wants to do – it’s what Eames dreamed him up for, really. The suction is hot, wet and deep, right from the start. It’s amazingly good after three weeks of fucking his own hand, and why hadn’t Eames come up with this idea sooner?
It takes less than a minute for Eames to start thrusting his hips up. He fucks into the greedy dampness of this Arthur’s mouth, straight down his throat, and of course this Arthur has no gag reflex, of-fucking-course, and oh Christ. Eames gets one hand tight on the back of his neck to hold him in place and starts fucking in harder.
It’s something he’d never do with the real Arthur. It’s something his Arthur would never abide, being held in place and choked by Eames’ cock without express permission beforehand.
But it’s fine with this Arthur. This Arthur keeps moaning around Eames’ cock, breathing sharply through his nose because his mouth and throat are stuffed full, tears leaking involuntarily from his eyes, and he’s still trying to get Eames in deeper and, oh fuck, yes. Eames groans unashamedly, and then—
“You dirty fucker,” a very, very familiar voice breathes, right by his ear. “He looks barely legal.”
His projection responds to his subconscious panic and freezes too. He stops sucking and pulls back, shying away with a meekness that the real Arthur would never permit himself to exhibit.
Arthur steps out from behind Eames, his expression locked down. But he’s dressed head to toe in devastating pale grey Zegna and, suddenly, there’s no room for alarm or embarrassment. Just hot, all-consuming want lighting up Eames’ nerves as he takes Arthur in hungrily, panting for breath.
Arthur’s appearance is immaculate, as it always is in dreams. No loosened tie, no ink staining the side of his pinky, no stubborn curls escaping his pomade. It makes Eames’ cock throb and his arousal spike up. He wants nothing more than to drag Arthur – his Arthur – down into his lap to mess him up.
(The projection vanishes. Neither of them notice.)
Arthur circles Eames’ wingback. The look in his eyes is uncompromising, but even Arthur’s best disapproving look can’t dampen Eames’ arousal. The second he’s in grabbing range, Eames lunges up and gets an arm around Arthur’s waist, squeezing tightly.
He hauls Arthur up and around – drags them both back onto the bed, rolling so Arthur’s half-kneeling over him, one hand thrown out beside Eames’ head to hold himself up. Eames keeps a firm grip on Arthur with one hand, then works Arthur’s trousers open and down to mid-thigh. He exposes— God, yes, Arthur’s wearing those fucking panties.
A groan stutters out from Eames then. He lifts Arthur up by the hips and shoves him into his lap proper. He doesn’t bother to check if Arthur’s straddling him securely. Just digs his fingers into Arthur’s hipbones, right over where he’d left bruises, that night in the kitchen, and starts rocking upward, his cock sliding against the cleft of Arthur’s arse.
It’s maddening – almost painful – the drag of rough fabric against sensitised skin, but Eames just keeps going. Keeps rolling his hips, over and over, and— Lord, he wants to fuck Arthur. He wants to get deep inside him, but he’ll take this for now, rutting hard and fast, eyes fixed on that obscene bulge straining against dark lace and silk. There’s a damp sticky patch at the apex, and Eames changes his grip just enough so he can rub the heel of his palm against it.
He gets rewarded with a hot, needy little sound from Arthur, one that sounds like it’s been ripped out of him, so Eames does it again, rubbing harder as he keeps thrusting upward. Arthur bucks helplessly into his hand, then grinds back against Eames’ cock, and that’s somehow loads more arousing than Eames’ projection of Arthur taking him halfway down his throat. Eames honestly has no idea how Arthur does this to him.
And then Arthur’s laughing, no longer imitating his younger, more distant self. It’s just his Arthur, lovely and complicated, leaning in close, and pressing his mouth to Eames’ ear.
“I meant what I said,” he says, and Eames can hear the grin in his voice. “I don’t fuck on the job. Topside or otherwise.”
Eames blinks. A second later, he’s staring down the barrel of Arthur’s favourite Glock 17—
And Arthur shoots him squarely between the eyes.
Eames thrashes into waking – stunned, still aroused, and bloody furious. He’s vaguely aware of Yelena and Takeda backing away hurriedly, but all his attention zeroes in on Arthur.
Arthur who’s just beginning to wake, having clearly turned the gun on himself straight after. Eames doesn’t give him a chance. Quick and practiced, Eames pulls the cannula out of his arm, then lunges off the sofa and grabs the back of the chair Arthur’s reclining in. He jerks it sharply and dumps Arthur unceremoniously onto the floor.
“What the fuck, Arthur?” Eames snarls as Arthur picks himself up.
Arthur doesn’t reply immediately. Just pulls the cannula from his arm with far more care than Eames had with his, and jerks his head at Takeda and Yelena. It’s a clear ‘you’d better get out of here’ signal. Eames doesn’t give a fuck if he has witnesses or not, he’s going to murder Arthur brutally either way.
Arthur gives him a long, cool stare, taking in what Eames has no doubt are his wild eyes, and the way he’s heaving for breath - torn between frustration, fury and arousal. Eames has never behaved like this with any of his other lovers, and it’s infuriating.
Eames opens his mouth to ask if Arthur has any last words—
And then Arthur’s leaning in close, putting his mouth to the shell of Eames’ ear, in a mirror of what he’d done in the dream. Eames’ hands twitch to reach up and throttle him—
“You’re going to wait,” Arthur says. “You’re going to wait because I want you to, and you do what I want. Right, Mr. Eames?” His tone is casually aroused, faintly arrogant, and it cuts through the tangle of Eames’ furious frustration like a knife.
Eames pulls back so he can better see Arthur’s expression. He takes in his slightly slack mouth, flushed cheeks, and dilated pupils. It ignites a fresh bead of want low in Eames’ gut, and he wants nothing more than to grasp Arthur firmly by the back of the head and pull him in for a hard, claiming kiss.
But he reins in the urge, and steps back.
He’s rewarded with one of Arthur’s slow, dark smiles then – the one that peels back his mild veneer to expose the razor sharp edges of him. The one that ought to make the hair on the back of Eames’ neck stand up, but just gets his skin prickling with sweat instead.
Eames is either going to have the best sex of his life once this job is over, or he’s going to die first.
When the extraction finally does roll around, it goes off without a hitch, and thank fuck for that. There’s an undeniable thrill involved when extractions go to shit - when all that can save you is raw skill and ingenuity - but Eames doesn’t need to get his thrills from this job. He’s been promised something better, the second this job is wrapped up, and Arthur is not one to fail in delivering.
They’re winding down now, packing away equipment and destroying what isn’t necessary, as Arthur delivers his usual post-extraction spiel: the money will be wired into their pre-nominated accounts five days from now; the communication blackout will take effect the minute they leave the house, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Eames has worked alongside Arthur for so long that he can repeat it verbatim whilst crafting a forge.
The second Arthur stops talking, Takeda closes his briefcase with a loud clack. He looks back and forth between them, eyes wide, and says, “You two... you’re both crazy motherfuckers. Crazy talented, but still crazy motherfuckers.”
Arthur accepts this with a mild tilt of his head. Takeda shakes his head at him. He grabs his briefcase, shoulders his duffel bag, and leaves after shaking their hands with a firm: “Never call me for a job again if you’re going to be doing whatever fucked up ridiculousness you’re doing right now.”
Yelena, for her part, simply smirks at Eames and brushes a light farewell kiss over Arthur’s temple before leaving. It’s only Arthur’s complete non-reaction that saves Yelena from a repeat of the paperweight incident.
It’s entirely possible that Eames has become slightly unhinged.
And then it’s just pair of them, alone in the living room, which looks far more like a living room, and less like a base of operations, now that it’s been thoroughly cleared of all their work materials.
Eames takes in the slim line of Arthur’s back, bent over the PASIV, and the sight imposes itself over memories of Arthur bending over Eames’ bed in his London flat; of Eames’ hand pressed between his shoulder blades, pushing him down and forward as he fucks into him.
The lust simmering beneath his skin stokes higher.
Arthur looks up at Eames’ approach, but he makes no move to walk toward him, leaving it entirely up to Eames to close the distance. He isn’t quite sure whether Arthur is still affecting his younger, colder self, or if he’s just making Eames work that little bit extra because he feels like it. Either way— he’s such a little bastard, Eames thinks, perversely fond.
“All done?” Eames asks when he comes to a stop in front of Arthur. Arthur doesn’t respond. Eames tries again. “Am I forgiven now?”
“Depends,” Arthur shrugs, expression blank. “Are you sorry?”
Eames almost says ‘yes’, thinking it’s what Arthur expects, before he remembers Arthur’s “Are you sorry? Because I’m not.”
“No,” he says, and he’s even relatively certain he’s telling the truth.
Arthur grins at him fiercely then, and his hand shoots out like a viper – wraps firmly around Eames’ tie to yank him forward. “Right answer,” he purrs, and seals their mouths together. And, just like that, he’s forgiving Eames, Eames is forgiven, and thank God for that—
The kiss is hard like a punch. It’s all growls, a harsh clash of teeth and tongue, and this feels like the Arthur of old – the one that fought with Eames as often as he brushed him off. The one that would push and snarl, even as he was coming, mouth dropping open and back arching, on Eames’ cock.
But Eames doesn’t give a shit which persona Arthur’s playing at right now – he’ll take Arthur in any form he can get him.
Arthur’s thigh is a warm, solid weight between Eames’ legs, and Eames presses closer, groaning. One of Arthur’s hands slides over his arse, the other sliding higher to grasp his shirt and untuck it from the back.
“The same goes for you,” Eames says as he works Arthur’s tie loose. He draws the shirttails of Arthur’s shirt out and unbuttons it. He takes a moment to admire the smooth expanse of pale skin, to run his fingers lightly along the parabola of Arthur’s ribcage. Then he’s slipping fingers around and down, past the small of Arthur’s back and the waistband of his trousers. Ends up brushing his fingertips against rough lace and, fuck, how had he forgotten about those?
“God, Arthur,” Eames gasps out, rutting unashamedly against Arthur’s thigh. “What do you want? Name it, and we’ll do it. Whatever you want, we’ll do it.” It’s not even about the panties anymore, not really. They’re merely a symbol of what Eames hasn’t been getting for nearly a month, and Eames just wants.
Arthur tenses against him. Eames hears him breathe sharply through his nose, and he forces himself to pull back, to open his eyes and meet Arthur’s gaze.
Arthur’s stare is hungry, fixed in that way that indicates he’s moved entirely beyond his (very, very few) inhibitions, and it’s gorgeous. His jaw is slack with arousal, and Eames cups it firmly. Can’t help but push his thumb into the inviting wet of Arthur’s mouth and slide it in and out, again and again.
Arthur wraps his lips around the digit and sucks, eyes still locked onto Eames. The hard, sucking pressure makes Eames’ cock ache with sympathetic arousal.
“Whatever you want,” Eames says again, breathing shallowly, and he means it.
He usually lets Arthur have his way in the bedroom because there aren’t many kinks that he won’t try, at least once. But whenever Arthur gets like this – singularly focused and demanding – there’s an extra layer of deliciousness to surrendering. Arthur responds to Eames' offer instantly, eyes going hooded and intent. He releases Eames’ thumb after one more lick.
“Get on the couch,” he orders quietly, and Eames is moving before he’s even really processed the words.
He settles himself primly on the sofa with his knees spread only slightly apart. He leans back into the cushions and gives Arthur an insolent smile. Plays deliberately obtuse, saying, “You mean like this?”
Arthur’s eyes are dark, liquid dark, the pupils almost swallowing the brown of his irises entirely, and Eames feels his attempt at levity shrivelling to ash in the heat of that stare.
“Not exactly,” Arthur says evenly.
He puts a hand on Eames’ shoulder and puts all that wiry strength to use, shoving hard. It sends Eames sprawling along the length of the sofa, half on his back already.
Startled, Eames blinks up at the ceiling, but Arthur doesn’t give him time to recover. He takes only the smallest of pauses, to make sure Eames is watching, before he moves his hand to his waistband. And Eames is watching. He’d never look away, not while Arthur's removing his belt, thumbing his fly open and sliding the zipper down. Arthur shoves the trousers off, not bothering to make a show of it because he already knows Eames wants him, wholly and utterly, and then, just like that, it's Arthur's cock encased in black lace and on show.
Eames let's out a groan, low and pained, from deep in his throat.
It’s not that he wants Arthur as a woman. It’s not that he wants Arthur looking weak. Far from it. Eames wants every hard plane and angle of Arthur’s body, undeniably masculine, and he’s never let himself forget how very dangerous Arthur is. But the dark opacity of lace turns the curve of his cock and the jut of his hip into a veiled suggestion, and Eames doesn’t know when Arthur hiding skin could get him going as much as Arthur revealing it, but it does.
His hands twitch with the desire to grab Arthur by the hips and pull him on top of him, but Arthur’s way ahead of him. He gets a knee on the sofa and slings one lithe leg over Eames. He climbs over him, straddling him high up along his chest.
And it seems as if Eames’ hands have their own agenda anyway, flying up immediately to cup Arthur’s arse, one round cheek in each hand, and yes, it’s just as fantastic as he remembered - maybe even better because he hasn’t had his hands on it for weeks.
But Arthur doesn’t stay put. He huffs out a laugh almost straight away, and his forge of his younger self falls away a little. “You and your enormous fucking shoulders,” he mutters, and then he clambers forward until he’s got one knee on either side of Eames’ head, and, oh Christ.
Arthur’s up on his knees but it feels like he’s bearing all his weight down on Eames’ chest, the way Eames suddenly goes breathless and lightheaded from desire. There’s no mistaking what Arthur wants to do. Eames’ mouth drops open in anticipation. “Arthur,” he croaks.
Arthur smirks down him, not bothering to ask permission because Eames has already given him carte blanche to do what he likes. Still, it seems Arthur feels the need to explain himself because he says, “You were doing the same thing to me.”
Lost in the moment of reacquainting himself with the exact curve of Arthur’s arse, Eames doesn’t quite hear him right away. Then he blinks. He what? He’d never, not unless Arthur said he– oh. Oh. “The– with the projection?”
“Yes, Eames,” and it’s just Eames now, no more ‘Mister’; more of Arthur’s facade falling away in chinks, “with the projection. The projection of me.”
“But that wasn’t you,” Eames says, motivated more by an automatic need to be contrary rather than any genuine desire to defend himself.
“Damn fucking right it wasn’t,” Arthur says, and he rears up higher on his knees. He hooks his fingers into the panties and yanks them down to mid-thigh.
Eames has only a second to mourn losing the near-Victorian peepshow sight of Arthur’s cock encased in lace. But now it’s Arthur’s bare cock, mere inches from his face, long, hard, and already wet at the tip.
If he were in his usual frame of mind, Eames would perhaps tease Arthur about being over eager, or being hoist on his own petard. But Eames isn’t – all his words drying up before they reach his tongue, even as his mouth floods with saliva – so he simply licks his lips, getting them slick and smooth, and looks up at Arthur expectantly.
Arthur grins that feral, dangerous grin, takes himself in hand, and tilts his hips forward. The tip of his cock nudges Eames’ bottom lip and Eames opens his mouth right up, pausing only to lap the salt stickiness from the head, before angling his head back and parting his lips further.
And Arthur takes that wordless invitation, slides unhesitatingly into Eames’ mouth; confident that Eames can manage, confident in his knowledge of Eames’ limits, and oh, there’s no sight more beautiful than an Arthur so thoroughly self-assured during sex.
Eames want to do nothing more than submit. He tilts his head back further, loosens his jaw, and swallows around Arthur greedily. He stiffens his tongue, rubs it hard against the underside of Arthur’s cock, and Arthur groans. He starts fucking in with that reckless edge that had surprised and charmed Eames when they’d first started sleeping together, and will never be able to get enough of now.
Eames’ awareness has narrowed down to just Arthur, nothing but Arthur, and there’s no room for anything else. It’s all sweat and musk scent, and the salt of pre-come on his tongue. There’s smooth skin beneath his hands, the solid press of Arthur’s weight against his chest, against his head, and the sound of Arthur’s unabashed moaning layered over it all. Every one of his senses feels overloaded and Eames revels in it, drunk on sensation.
Arthur’s just as gone, driving in hard, over and over; Eames can feel lean muscle flexing and working beneath his hands. The head of Arthur’s cock keeps nudging the back of Eames’ throat, right at the edge of what Eames can bear with each pass, and it’s amazing, it’s fucking terrifying, the outright, exhaustive knowledge Arthur has of Eames’ body and how much it can take. It makes Eames bucks his hips, just a little, helpless, seeking friction he knows he can’t get, and won’t get – not yet.
The hinge of his jaw is starting to ache, almost throbbing in time with Arthur’s rhythm, and Eames groans. The vibration makes Arthur’s hips jerk reflexively, and oh-god-yes that’s hot. Eames wants that, wants Arthur’s loss of control, so he moans again, longer and deeper this time. Arthur’s thrusts start stuttering in earnest, and Eames seals his lips around Arthur as best as he can whilst keeping his jaw lax, sucking hungrily as Arthur's movements turn suddenly erratic.
“Fuck. Fuck— Eames, your mouth, your fucking mouth—” Arthur pants, his voice gone ragged. His thighs tense, his cock hardens further, and then it’s over – too hard and too soon, but so, so good – Arthur grinding, throat-bruisingly rough, into Eames’ mouth and spilling down his throat as he chants Eames’ name in a gorgeous, broken refrain.
Arthur falls forward as his cock slips out of Eames’ mouth, barely catching himself before he goes face first over the sofa. He’s bracketing Eames with his body, and Eames brings his hands up to steady Arthur by the hips. The muscles of Arthur’s thighs are twitching with the aftershock. Eames rubs his palms up and down them soothingly, tilting his head awkwardly against the sofa arm so he can see Arthur’s face as they both take in huge, gasping breaths.
Arthur looks dazed and wholly blissed out. Now that he’s pulled away somewhat, the thrum of arousal running through Eames’ body gets rerouted, reasserting itself urgently in the desire to end up looking equally fucked out as Arthur.
He can’t resist – has to take one hand off Arthur so he can palm himself through his trousers, letting out a desperate, pathetic noise at the first touch of his hand through two layers of cloth.
To his credit, Arthur rouses a little at that. He pushes himself upright and back, twisting to look over his shoulder as Eames rubs himself off like a horny sixth former. He turns back to face Eames and dimples at him, that sweet smile blurring his deadly edges. “You all right there?”
Eames grits his teeth and forces himself to stop. “You know I’m not. Not after four bloody weeks.”
Arthur quirks an eyebrow at him. “You weren’t the only one who had to hold out, you know.”
“I wasn’t the one playing the cock tease.”
Arthur shimmies down Eames’ body in a lovely sleek movement. Eames takes a moment to admire it. “You don’t need to play the cock tease,” Arthur says under his breath as he works at Eames’ fly, and pulls his trousers and briefs down together. “Your entire fucking existence is a tease.” But he’s still smiling as he says it.
And Eames realises suddenly that Arthur was playing hard and cold because it was the only other persona he knew how to play; they'd never really had much success with role play, for all Arthur had been game to try. Eames’ mouth tips up at the corners.
“I treasure your compliments, Arthur,” he says wryly, “honestly I—” and then his voice fades out into a gasp as Arthur sucks him into his mouth.
Arthur always gives head like he’s starving for it, and it never fails to floor Eames, how much hungry desire Arthur can express through a blowjob. His blowjobs are filthily wet in the best way, and Eames is torn between the urge to let him keep going, because he wants to come – wants to come right now – and the urge to hold off so he can beg: can they please, please, please fuck?
In the end, Arthur makes that decision for him, pulling off with one last noisy, sloppy suck and grinning at Eames, lips spit-slick. The insistent throb in Eames’ cock is temporarily overridden by his heart seizing up. Eames adores him with everything that he is – he truly does.
Arthur clambers off him, looking gloriously undone in only an unbuttoned shirt and socks. Eames takes the reprieve to unbutton his own shirt and strip it off, revelling in the mild hedonism of being totally naked in a space not typically meant for nakedness.
Arthur gives him an amused look as he crosses to his suitcase sitting by the door and— yes, Arthur has lube. Wonderful, ever-prepared point man Arthur, with his back up guns cache on every job, bug out bag in the closet, and lube ready in his suitcase.
He’s demanding, annoying-because-he-can-be point man Arthur too, urging Eames to sit up rather than continue to sprawl back on the sofa. Still, Eames finds he can’t complain too much when Arthur climbs into his lap again, one knee on either side of him, fingers already wet and reaching behind himself.
Eames brushes Arthur’s shirt aside to press a reverent kiss to Arthur’s sternum, and he looks up to admire the way Arthur’s shoulder flexes as he screws his fingers deep into himself. Eames reaches back as well. He rubs his fingers mindlessly against Arthur’s hole, caresses those clever fingers as Arthur works himself open, and Eames wants to get inside Arthur so badly it hurts.
“Tell me you’re ready,” he says, choked. “God, Arthur, tell me—”
Arthur bares his teeth at him, half-grin, half-threat, and pulls his fingers out abruptly. He gets off the sofa, only to turn around and sit back down, facing outward now. He grinds his arse against Eames’ lap, Eames’ cock nestled between those magnificent cheeks.
He can’t be ready yet, good Lord. Even relaxed from orgasm already, he can’t be. A better man would pull away, lay Arthur down and get him prepped properly, make sure he’s loose and wet. But Eames isn’t a better man, and he’s been teetering on the brink for days – weeks – and Arthur’s glancing over his shoulder, grinning, that reckless edge to him emerging again.
That does it. Eames shoves him away only long enough so he can slick his cock – spilling some lube over his thigh in his haste – and then he’s grabbing at Arthur’s hip, drawing him back and urging him down as Eames steadies himself with one fist.
It takes every inch of control Eames possesses to keep his hips still and not start fucking up the instant the head of his cock slips into Arthur. Arthur keeps lowering himself onto him, slow and smooth and relentless until Eames bottoms out—
And then he stops.
“Arthur,” Eames groans, not even sure what he’s begging for. For Arthur to move, maybe. For Arthur to let him move, to let him come.
Arthur laughs breathlessly, and leans backward to wrap an arm around the back of Eames’ neck. He cranes his head to look Eames in the eye and says, “All right, go on then,” even as he lifts himself up then drops back onto Eames’ cock in one hot, jolting movement.
Eames doesn’t need to be told twice.
He spreads his legs wide and braces his feet on the floor. Fucks up into that tight, white-hot heat with greedy relief, and oh God, they’d stopped using condoms two months ago, but every single time he slides into Arthur – skin against skin, nothing in between – the sensation is so fucking good it feels as if Eames is going to come apart at the seams.
He has to push at Arthur then, and he tilts his hips so Arthur’s forced to lean forward. And when he does, Eames stares hotly; his gaze is fucking riveted on Arthur, and the way he's stretched wide around Eames, perfect and beautiful and all his.
Eames’ grip on Arthur’s hips goes bruising then, punishingly hard. He can never quite help himself, nor can he ever summon up the necessary contrition afterwards—
(he always thumbs the marks instead, childishly possessive in a way he’s never been over anyone else.)
But Arthur doesn’t care. He’s holding Eames tight by the wrists, in fact, stopping him from prying them away, and he’s grinding down with a twisting movement that has Eames’ eyes rolling back and his mouth dropping open on a moan.
The air between them feels sex-damp and humid, Arthur gasping roughly, while Eames’ breath huffs out in pants. Eames is talking nonsense – fragments and half-sentences about Arthur’s arse, his cock, his mouth; how Eames can’t get enough of him, wants all of him, never wants to stop fucking him—
“God— Eames. Oh fuck, yeah,” Arthur is saying, his words coming out in a staccato beat because Eames is slamming into him now, not feeling an ounce of regret for doing it because this is Arthur; Arthur who can take anything Eames dishes out and level it all back at him, devastating and scorching hot.
He does it with work, he does it with sex. He does it even with his fucking dirty talk. Because Arthur doesn’t talk during sex, not usually. He doesn’t say a word until he’s close to coming, but when it comes to Eames— once he knows Eames is close, once he hears Eames start babbling, suddenly it’s: “Come on, yes,” and “I want it, fuck me. Do it— like you— like you want to—”
The sound of Arthur’s voice, the way he begs without reserve in this, and only this, only for Eames— it drives Eames mad; mental. He loves it, and it’s all going to be over embarrassingly soon. Arthur may have driven him to wanking throughout the job like a schoolboy, but Eames has still been climbing too-rapidly up that incline, until he’s teetering on the edge, hovering like he’s going fall over it any— second—
Eames’ orgasm strikes through him, hard enough that he can’t breathe. He clamps his teeth into the muscle of Arthur’s shoulder savagely, tightens his hands, and forces him to hold still while Eames shoves his own hips up, groaning as he comes.
Utterly spent, Eames slumps back against the sofa afterwards, bringing an arm up and around Arthur’s chest to pull him back too. Arthur goes with him easily, limbs loose and relaxed. That pretend persnickety facade is gone, and his sharp, dynamite-unstable side is safely tucked away for the time being.
For a while they simply breathe together, their bodies damp with sweat, and sticky with lube and come. Eames is sure he could doze off like this, but, of course, Arthur doesn’t let him.
He’s wriggling in Eames’ lap before long, nudging gently but firmly at Eames’ arm to make him let go. Eames does so with extreme reluctance and Arthur laughs at him.
“I’m going to the bathroom to clean up,” he says, before his voice turns teasing. “I suppose you’re just going to lay there and expect me to come back with a washcloth?”
Eames grins, toothy and lazy, because Arthur’s teasing, but they both know the answer will be ‘yes’. Arthur shakes his head at him then disappears into the next room, still wearing nothing but his unbuttoned shirt and socks, and all the more delightful for it.
In Arthur’s absence, Eames gives into his body’s desire to be horizontal and he returns to sprawling along the sofa. It means he mainly ends up gazing at the coffee table and the floor, which means he spots the flimsy black scrap of fabric that had started everything.
He stretches an arm out and picks the panties up off the floor. Is rubbing his thumb along the scalloped lace edge when Arthur returns, bearing the promised washcloth.
“You turned me into a right berk,” Eames complains, holding the panties up. He can’t contain all the professional horror in his voice when he says, “I threw a paperweight at Takeda.”
Arthur laughs, looking distinctly unapologetic. “You crafted profiles on Bertolli and his cousin so accurate that Yelena’s certain you worked in psych before you got into dream share.” They both share a wry look over that – if only Eames’ pre-dreamshare experiences had been so savoury – then Arthur continues, saying,
“You managed to do that, plus all your other prep work, with half the blood to your brain taking up permanent residence in your dick. I think they’ll overlook the paperweight incident.”
“That was your bloody fault.”
“Do you really want to try playing the blame game again?”
Eames pauses in wiping himself off to reflect on his weeks of torture and says, far too quickly, “No.”
“I didn’t think so,” Arthur smirks.
“You’re a smug bastard,” Eames says sourly, tossing the washcloth aside.
Arthur’s smirk gets bigger and he drops back down into Eames’ lap now that he’s cleaned up. He slings an arm around Eames’ neck and presses their foreheads together, saying easily, “You love me for it.”
Eames smiles helplessly. “I do.”