"I suppose," said Eames, "that you're going to tell me this is not what it looks like."
And that was how he learned that Arthur could run almost as fast in heels as he could out of them.
Rather impressive, in Eames's opinion. It had taken him several tries to master that particular trick.
Which begged the dual questions of how long Arthur had been trying and why he was even trying at all. The man had an impressive skill set, but Eames had never thought to take this particular skill into account. It had cost him a moment to wonder why Arthur was pacing around the workspace, another few moments to notice he was a few inches taller than usual. The answer was obvious, but patently absurd. Then Arthur took notice of him, with all the subtlety of a meerkat sniffing the wind, and screeched to a halt mid-stride before immediately sprinting behind the nearest worktable.
"I don't have to tell you anything," he announced, remaining in place even when Eames meandered across the workroom to join him.
"Of course not." Eames took a seat in one of the bentwood chairs that he was half-convinced had a habit of mating and multiplying during the night. "Where do you even find them that enormous?"
"Custom made," Arthur answered flatly, despite having been so adamant about not telling him anything.
"Right. Naturally. You do seem to enjoy that sort of thing." As far as Eames was concerned, possessing an abundance of aliases meant never having to feel embarrassed about buying anything.
"Look," Arthur explained, "if I don't have suits tailored, I look like I'm swimming in them." And he raised an eyebrow as if this was something Eames could never possibly understand. Eames graciously ignored it.
"I don't," he said deliberately, "want to talk about your suits."
"I don't want to talk about anything." The look Arthur leveled him with was almost petulant. "Except maybe why you're here on a Saturday afternoon. No one ever comes in on Saturdays." There was, Eames decided, definitely a hint of sullenness to his voice.
"Excellent, then you can just jump right in and show me what you've mastered so far. Come on, let's see you work it."
"I don't have anything to work." Arthur fixedly began picking at his cuff.
"That's because you're imagining that your parents, your grandparents, your former commanding officers, that girl you liked in university, and probably Dom are all here watching you."
"Please. I've seen you naked, so playing the simpering ingenue isn't going to work. Not to mention I wear heels on the job quite regularly."
"When you forge."
This was going nowhere. Eames tapped his fingers on the table and leaned back. "It was her, wasn't it? Ariadne finally snapped."
"Why do you always put me in heels?"
Arthur didn't look up from his laptop. "I didn't think you minded. You can just project yourself into something new, you know."
"That isn't the point." Ariadne paused significantly until he shifted his gaze to her. "See, when you dream everyone into Pittsburgh in the middle of winter and we all end up running around in the cold, on concrete, there are a lot of things that really suck. And it gets even better when you keep tripping since your stilettos are coming off because you can't feel your feet. And when you're literally dodging bullets, you don't always think to change your shoes, no matter how much the dream world increases your brain activity." She perched on the edge of the table, legs swinging and eyes narrowed. "And that, Arthur, is why I got shot yesterday."
"Which wasn't actually my fault."
"It happened in your mind, so that's a pretty crappy argument," she told him cheerfully. "But I forgive you."
"At least," Arthur insisted, "my subconscious is putting you in sensible heels."
He didn't mention, though he could have, the time Ariadne had been the dreamer and all her projections were dressed in clothes made from car parts because she'd marathoned Project Runway the night before. Yusuf, of all people, had gotten into a spirited discussion about it with her afterward. Arthur still didn't understand why the two of them exchanged smirks every time Cobb used the phrase "make it work."
"Oh," argued Ariadne, surveying the laces on her low-heeled boots, "there is no such thing. Heels are the most patriarchal kind of footwear out there, and teaching women their suffering makes them more acceptable is exactly the kind of skewed logic that you, in a textbook example of male privilege, are perpetuating."
Arthur blinked. "What?"
"I was going to be a soc major for a little while," she said matter-of-factly. "Hey, you know what? Try it yourself sometime."
"What?" This conversation didn't have him at his most eloquent. He blamed the peculiar glint in Ariadne's eyes. "Taking a sociology class?"
"Also a good idea, but not what I meant." She reached for a file, giving him a decidedly challenging look in the process. "Heels. Do it. Or I can just project you into a pair sometime and see how you handle it. Then maybe next time, if you won't let me wear jeans, you'll at least let me have a pair of flats."
She was saying something about the hardships women faced in the workplace and how comfort and ease of movement on the job, especially when unusual amounts of dexterity were required, was paramount. And when Arthur opened his mouth to protest that really wasn't necessary, he found that absolutely no words came out.
"Seriously. Try them out," she insisted, "and then I dare you to tell me you weren't wishing for a pair of sneakers, sandals, fuzzy slippers, whatever."
"How," Arthur said, "do you know I'll even do it?"
"You're an honest guy when it matters," she replied calmly, picking up a protractor. "You like a challenge. And I trust you, which is something you don't want to endanger. Also, video footage would be appreciated."
"Oh, she's good."
Eames was laughing. Arthur was glaring, which didn't deter him at all. "And you got curious, didn't you? Just like she reckoned you would."
It was just like Arthur to become a little too intrigued by a venture like this, however out of the ordinary. For someone with a deathly methodical mind, Arthur abhorred boredom. And so long as that allowed for things like Eames finding him in slacks, a dress shirt, and sleek black pumps like a pinup girl would wear, he wasn't going to breathe a word of disapproval.
"Tell me, why are you conducting your little experiment in transvestism here instead of in your hotel room?"
"It's not actually transvestism. And my hotel room is carpeted. I don't like dreaming carpets anymore."
Eames didn't have anything to say to that.
"She has a point." Arthur was hitching his trousers up slightly, staring down at his feet with a moody expression. "These aren't the most comfortable things."
Shrugging one shoulder, Eames followed his gaze. "They actually work for you, almost." He took his time studying them, the crisp lines of his slacks, the dark dress socks, all the way down to the pointed tips of the shoes. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you have the build for it."
"Really." Arthur sounded amused instead of irritated. "And here I thought maybe you just had a dirty mind."
Letting his hand trail down one thigh, Eames chuckled quietly. "Really."
Arthur was regarding him languidly, a wry twist to his lips and a heaviness to his eyes. Eames let his hand ease higher, up between his legs, touching there as well, and since Arthur allowed it he took a good long time thumbing over the zip of his trousers. Meeting his eyes just for a moment before taking hold of him by one wrist, placing a palm at the small of his back, and drawing Arthur down into his lap. Which was another of those things Arthur allowed without a word, Eames manipulating his body until he was straddling him. Heels settling onto the floor on either side of the chair with a click, a sharp staccato tap that had Eames seizing him by the hips and pulling him in closer just to hear it again.
Fitting them together, both his hands splayed along the slimness of Arthur's back, absorbing the warmth that escaped through dress shirt and undershirt, and Arthur was working long fingers into his hair and probing the tip of his tongue into his mouth and squirming forward until they were touching as much as possible. "You're ruining my fieldwork," he mumbled, and then that mouth was on his, hot and velvet-soft and kissing him like it was a new kind of fieldwork all its own, slick-hot-eager, and Arthur had a hand kneading at Eames's nape and a faint furrow between his eyebrows.
Arthur approached kissing the way Eames imagined he would approach a Rubik's cube, trying out every tactic he could before satisfying himself, something thorough and calculating and all-engrossing. He barely seemed to notice as Eames draw his shirttail free, Arthur's back hot under his hand and his hips unconsciously rocking down against Eames's lap, not taking long before Eames could feel the rub of his erection through the front of his slacks. Quick on the uptake as ever, Arthur worked a hand between their bodies to slide against the line of his cock, palming him through the fabric, laughing low and indulgent and kissing Eames's temple as Eames gasped and went pressing into the touch. He was almost tempted to believe this was a dream in and of itself: they were doing this in the warehouse, which never happened, and doing it with Arthur in a pair of fucking stilettos, of all things, which was something so beyond the pale he'd never even considered it might happen at all. Eames vaguely wondered if maybe he could bribe Ariadne into making Arthur try on a skirt sometime. There were some gambles that had to be undertaken with particular caution.
He paused, breathed against the crest of Arthur's cheekbone, "Let's try a little something else, hm?"
Arthur looked at him, eyes a bit glazed and more than a bit wary.
Keeping his face as innocent as possible, Eames nudged him. "Up you go."
Eames wasted no time unfastening his fly as soon as Arthur complied, but paused when he leaned against the table for support. Eames was kneeling, smiling slowly into the crease between hip and thigh, flickering his tongue there and practically tasting the tremor that ran through Arthur's body. "Oh, no," Eames murmured, drawing Arthur's shirt loose completely, palm slipping underneath to press itself flat to his stomach, stroking ever so slightly. "Can't be having that. Step away."
Arthur made an abortive noise of dissent, but obeyed.
"That's really considerate," he said, "the way you're taking it upon yourself to up the ante."
"Yes, I know," Eames responded lightly, and slid down his underwear.
"Now," he murmured, grazing a proprietary finger over the damp tip of of Arthur's erection, and then once again when Arthur inhaled roughly, "you do have something to work with. Time to test your talent for balancing more than facts and figures."
"I swear, you--" Arthur began.
Eames licked him, and Arthur said no more.
It was everything he'd hoped it would be, Arthur trying not to topple over in those improbable fuck-me heels as Eames went down on him. Eames was adamant, not letting Arthur grip at his shoulders or gain any kind of purchase, secure with the fact that they were far enough from all the tables that there was nothing else for him to lean on either. Twice, Arthur wavered and gripped at Eames's shirt, and Eames patiently sat back on his heels both times and wouldn't touch him until Arthur released his hold. Nothing but his fingers and tongue on Arthur's cock, hands cresting over the curve of his ass and the quivering backs of his legs, and Arthur's own hands opening and closing helplessly above Eames's head before he swallowed down a frustrated little invective and locked them behind his back.
"See, it's tough, right?" Eames was stroking him, slow and lazy, ducking every now and again to let his mouth purse over the head of Arthur's cock and suck there, short and sharp, until he could feel those thin hips straining not to just shove, danger of falling be damned. "Throws off your entire center of gravity."
"I don't think," Arthur's voice was raspy, "that Ariadne is in any danger of being in this situation. Now would you..." Eames bent his head. Buried under the folds of his slacks, Arthur's ankles shook. "Fuck."
Always so greedy, even when he was at a disadvantage, trembling thighs under Eames's fingers when he kneaded up along his calves, feeling the muscle there tensed and taut. "Just fucking let me touch you, you bastard, come on." Dragging one foot to the side several inches, effectively widening his stance and allowing Eames to draw a spit-wetted finger up between his cheeks, and then his name was being uttered in something that was almost an honest-to-God whine and Arthur's knees were bending just a bit. Trying to sink down, trying to urge him into him more. "Yeah, yes, wanna...please?"
And Eames laughed without breaking rhythm, lifting his chin to look fondly up at him."Oh, you are a sweet little slut, aren't you?"
Arthur pushed him back, cheeks pink and mouth agape, as if Eames had actually slapped him. "What did you just say?"
Eames tsked at him, knuckling absently at the corner of his mouth. "What are you going to do, run away?" Caressing his hip, lifting the hem of that thin white shirt to let his lips skim the skin beneath it. Softly, very softly: "Or are you going to be nice, like a good girl, and let me finish this for you?"
"Oh, God..." There was something so, so gratifying about the way Arthur's voice caught in his throat as his fingers caught in Eames's shirt. Eames permitted it, just the once.
"That's it." Taking him into his mouth all over again, slurping and swallowing as filthily as Arthur had been asking for, crooning nonsense at him when he could. "There's a girl, lovely little girl, so sweet of you, trying so hard for me, nearly there, know you can do it..."
Nosing against that shuddering stomach, sucking and nipping just above the navel until Arthur was hissing beautifully needful things at him, cock slick and straining and dripping all over Eames's knuckles. Wobbling, knees locked, so clearly trying so assiduously to be in control, and when his legs finally did give out Eames was ready for it. Supporting him with a hand clamped firmly on either hip as Arthur came, groaning through gritted teeth and clutching roughly at Eames's shoulders and spilling hotly into his mouth.
Even if he'd been able to speak, there was nothing whatsoever Eames could have said to do the moment justice.
"Oh, very nice," he managed, petting up the inside of one thigh, dropping a final kiss to the soft flesh there before helping lift Arthur's clothing back into place.
Silently, Arthur sank into a chair, slouching easily into as supine a position as it allowed. Legs spread wide, posture relaxed, trousers riding up enough to show the shoes off to their fullest effect along with a hint of narrow ankles: an almost Victorian kind of indecency paired with the more conventional indecency of his still-unfastened zipper.
The incongruity of it was making Eames want to touch him again, strip him bare of everything but those shoes and screw him into senselessness. Long legs over his shoulders, those deadly black heels in the air and knees bent up nearly to his ears, since Arthur was delightfully flexible for someone so outwardly rigid. Eames kissing the sensitive spot on the side of his neck and Arthur cursing like a dockworker, writhing and pleading with his hands gripping at his headboard and his feet with their fine high arches curling helplessly into those custom-made stilettos while Eames fucked him slowly and sinfully and hard.
Sometimes, having the gift of imagination was more of a curse. Eames excused himself, murmuring something about mouthwash.
"I don't think I'm going to be able to give Ariadne a full report," Arthur said, once Eames returned from a slightly-longer-than-planned trip to the bathroom.
"But you aren't even done yet. You still have to get yourself home like this."
"What are you talking about? My shoes are right over..." Arthur was pointing. Then, little by little, frowning. Finger still poised in midair.
"Not anymore," corrected Eames. "It isn't fair that you do all your practicing in private when Ariadne's had to battle your unfortunate accessorizing in so many different settings. But taking a cab, of course, would be cheating. And this is Paris. You can wear anything, as long as you wear it with style."
"Eames." There was a dangerous growl in Arthur's voice that made Eames feel very glad he was unarmed. "Give me my shoes."
"Don't worry, the hotel isn't that far," Eames reassured him. He offered a hand, which Arthur regarded balefully before struggling to his feet without taking it. "I'll even let you take my arm if you roll your ankle."
"Exactly my thoughts as well!" Eames beamed at him as if Arthur wasn't obviously thinking murderous thoughts. "I promise, if you manage to make it back without spraining anything, we can do a bit of that in any manner you like."