Here was the thing: Eames was fantastic at sorting out other people's feelings. He had a PhD in Psychology from the University of Southampton. Granted, he now used his knowledge to earn a great deal of cash from people with more money than ethics, but that didn't mean he'd been sloppy in university. He could observe a mark for a few days and figure out exactly how he or she felt about every person in his or her life. He was brilliant at sorting people out; he knew it, everyone knew it. It was why Dominic Cobb had shown up in person to Mombasa to ask him to join his team of suicidal idiots. It was why even Arthur, who always acted like acknowledging other people's skills physically pained him, had given Eames not one, not five, but in fact nine compliments in the two and a half years they'd known each other. (One of those compliments had actually been about Eames' shoes, but it still counted.)
And this brings us to our second thing: Eames was absolute shit at figuring out his own feelings.
It was something that had plagued him his whole life, from his first crush on Lucy Notts in primary school to his obsession with Mark Foubrais in sixth form, the latter of which also came with the realisation he was gay. Mark Foubrais had been a lean young man with dark locks hairsprayed into perfection (hey, it was the early 90s), and he'd been the star of the school's track team. Young Eames had joined rugby specifically because that and track had held practice at the same time, and he'd gotten quite a few beatings for staring at Mark Foubrais' flexing arse instead of watching his own teammates. It had been nearly twenty years and he still couldn't fully extend his pinky, those vicious bastards. It wasn't until he'd left for uni that he'd realized all that had been a crush, and that what he'd mistaken for admiration had, in fact, been puppy love.
Somehow, Eames never made the connection between Mark Foubrais -- whom he'd never actually spoken to, not even once, even though they'd been in the same History and Maths classes -- and one Arthur Last-Name-Redacted. And he never would, because this story is not about that.
However, Eames was aware of two things. First, that Arthur had a certain je ne sais quoi about him; Eames found him incredibly fascinating. The second was that Eames wanted to fuck him very, very badly.
But what seemed to be preventing this was that Arthur was his mate, sort of, and that was all Arthur really seemed to think of him as. Men who were interested in Eames usually just came out and told him, or blatantly flirted with him. Yet Arthur never did any of these things. Instead, he made a point of keeping in touch with Eames throughout the years. It never really bothered him that Arthur always seemed to know where he was, or that he sent emails and occasionally called to complain that Cobb didn't respect him. He was grateful when Arthur would call to give him a heads up someone was after him; Arthur even sent e-cards on his birthday, something Eames' own parents didn't do.
("Seriously, are you an idiot?" Yusuf asked when Eames showed him that. "Yeah, you're mates, all right.")
It was all nice and friendly. Eames just figured Arthur needed a friend, and it looked like he was doomed to be it. In the end, Eames didn't really mind; it must have been difficult being the third wheel in Cobb's love affair with his dead wife's homicidal projection. And anyway, it wasn't like Eames had a problem being friends with a gorgeous, interesting young man with an arse that wouldn't quit.
So when Arthur showed up at his hotel in Vegas a week after they'd landed in LA -- looking as beautiful and as poised as always, in a dark brown suit that made his skin look magnificent -- and asked, "Where are you off to next?" Eames immediately scrapped his plan of tripping acid in the mountains of Thailand.
"Haven't the foggiest," Eames lied, making Arthur a gin and tonic from the mini bar.
Arthur accepted the drink and, impressively, downed it all in one go. "I was thinking of heading to Italy," he said after a long moment, wiping his mouth on the back of his hand. "I was wondering if you'd like to come with me."
"Is there a job?" Eames asked.
"No," Arthur answered, shaking his head. "I was thinking it'd be a nice vacation."
Eames stared at him, confused. "Were you drinking before you got here?"
"Yes," Arthur replied. "Are you coming to Italy with me or not?"
It hit Eames like a slap in the face: "Arthur," he asked, delighted, "are you asking me on a date?"
"Nevermind," Arthur huffed. He grabbed his jacket off the bed and folded it over his arm. "If you're going to be an asshole about this--"
He made to leave, but that wasn't what Eames wanted at all. He had Arthur in his hotel room, with no job in front of them, no Cobb giving Arthur orders, and he'd had this fantasy before. He especially didn't want Arthur to leave when Arthur was finally showing interest in him. Certainly, this was coming out of nowhere, but Eames was hardly the one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"I didn't say no, now did I," Eames said, grabbing Arthur's wrist and stopping him in his tracks.
Arthur looked down pointedly at Eames' hand, and then at Eames' face, and suddenly they were kissing. Eames stumbled backwards until he hit the wall, moaning as Arthur's tongue slid inside his mouth. He grabbed Arthur's luscious arse with both hands and pulled Arthur tightly against him, pushing their cocks together. Arthur made a sound that went straight to Eames' dick; Eames cupped one hand round Arthur's face and raised his chin so he could nip at Arthur's lip, first the top one and then the bottom. But Arthur kissed him again, sliding their tongues together, and Eames' mind went blank as he lost himself, rocking against Arthur's hard belly.
With one last kiss to Eames' lower lip, Arthur pulled back a fraction. His face was flushed, his hair was falling out of its perfectly-gelled coiffure, and his lips were swollen. Eames honestly thought Arthur had never looked more gorgeous than he did in that moment.
"I'm going to suck you off," Arthur announced.
"By all means," Eames said, swallowing thickly.
When Arthur slid to his knees and looked up at Eames through his lashes, Eames' cock twitched.
"I was going to wait until Italy," Arthur said, carefully drawing Eames' cock out of his trousers. "But what the hell."
"I knew you only wanted me for my--" Eames began, but he cut off with a groan when Arthur began sucking him.
Eames stared down as Arthur curled one hand round the base of Eames' cock. He mouthed the head, using his free hand to rub Eames' balls. He looked obscene like that, his pink mouth stretched and his eyes glazed, whilst the rest of him was still in his posh suit and his expensive shoes. Eames couldn't help but thrust a little into that wet heat, and Arthur let out a surprised but entirely happy sound, and a few shallow thrusts later Eames was coming in Arthur's mouth, his hands fisted in his hair.
His cock slid out of Arthur's mouth, and he shakily dropped to his knees and kissed him again, tasting himself on Arthur's tongue. It drove him crazy, and he shoved Arthur down onto the floor, fumbling at his braces until Arthur took pity on him and just pulled them off himself. Then he tugged down Arthur's undoubtedly expensive trousers and took him into his mouth.
Arthur moaned as Eames sucked him, dragging the flat of his tongue along his cock and jerking him off at the same time. He felt a hand on the back of his neck, and he looked up to find Arthur watching him.
"What'd you want?" he asked. His own voice sounded like he'd smoked an entire pack of fags, but he didn't miss the way Arthur shivered. "Just this, or--?"
He thumbed the head of Arthur's cock and Arthur gasped, "Your fingers, I want your fingers in me."
Arthur kicked off his trousers and grabbed Eames' hand, sucking his fingers into his mouth with that same hot, wet pressure as when he'd been happily sucking on Eames' cock, and if Eames had been ten years younger he would've been hard again. Instead, he watched Arthur's cheeks hollow round his fingers; he gave Eames a heated, almost defiant look that made Eames' cock twitch in interest.
As soon as his fingers were good and wet, Eames drew them out of Arthur's mouth and went back down, sucking in Arthur's cock as he circled Arthur's entrance with one spit-soaked finger. Arthur swore and his thighs jerked, but Eames slid a finger in and took him in deeper; he added the second finger and began fucking him earnestly, swallowing round him until Arthur came with a cry.
Eames waited until Arthur softened in his mouth before pulling back and collapsing against the wall. His trousers were trapped round his knees and his throat was dry, but he felt fucking amazing.
Arthur didn't move from his position on the floor. "I've wanted to do that since the day we met."
"What?" Eames asked, startled. "Are you-- what? Seriously?"
"So," Arthur said, turning his head to look at him. "Italy?"
Sadly, it took Eames approximately three months to realise he'd somehow developed feelings for Arthur that went beyond friends with benefits.
It started when they were in Liverpool.
No, sorry, it actually started a few weeks before that, when they were in Tallinn and Eames pulled Arthur on top of him in bed and pushed two fingers into him. Arthur breathed wetly into the curve of Eames' neck, his pointy knees shaking even as they dug into Eames' sides, his hands clenching and unclenching round Eames' shoulders in the same rhythm as Eames' fingers moving in and out of him. When incoherent noises began to spill out of him, Eames buried his nose in Arthur's hair and ran his free hand down Arthur's sweaty back; he reached down and adjusted his cock until he was fucking between Arthur's thighs.
Arthur groaned at that. He raised his head; his eyes were almost black, and the hair at his temples was damp with sweat. Seeing how close Arthur was made Eames push up into him faster, dragging his cock along Arthur's thigh, which was slick with lube that had slid down from where Eames was inside him.
"Eames," Arthur said hoarsely, kissing him, all tongues and teeth. Then Arthur was drawing his knees up higher and reaching back to position Eames' cock between his arse cheeks. It wasn't as tight or as slick as his thighs had been, but Arthur was rutting wildly now, getting off on it, and that was even better.
Eames loved this, loved turning Arthur into an incoherent, sodden mess. He loved Arthur's tight, lithe body and the way it made him feel, and right now, he wanted to see what his cock looked like rubbing against that glorious arse. When Arthur came, his legs squeezing the breath out of Eames, he pushed Arthur over onto his belly and spread his cheeks and just rubbed off against him whilst Arthur made encouraging sounds. He was frantic, almost dizzy, too close to the edge from watching Arthur fall apart. Ever conscientious, Arthur reached behind him and pushed his cheeks together so they clenched perfectly, so perfectly, until Eames pulled out and came all over his back.
Afterwards, they went to a late breakfast and Arthur smiled radiantly at one of his terrible jokes, and Eames thought, I'm never fucking anyone else again.
But Eames was terrible with his own feelings, so it didn't register what that meant until what happened in Liverpool.
Things went to hell on one chilly, sunny afternoon, when he and Arthur were picking up coffees.
"If you could go shopping or have a shag, which would you choose?" Eames asked. He plucked his cup of filter coffee off the counter and followed Arthur to the sugar and milk station.
"It depends," Arthur replied. "Where am I shopping, and who am I shagging?"
"Quartier 206, and myself."
"Shopping," Arthur replied instantly. He added two packets of sugar to his cappuccino and tossed the crumpled packets into the bin.
"I am genuinely offended by this," said Eames.
"I can have your penis anytime I want," Arthur said as they walked out the doors of the Cafe Nero. "But how often am I in Berlin? Hardly ever."
He said it as they passed a group of teenagers in school uniforms going into the cafe. They giggled at Arthur's words, but he either didn't notice or didn't care. Bemused now, Eames followed as Arthur turned the corner and headed away from the high street and toward the dodgy little guest house they were staying in, which was, according to Arthur, full of cockroaches and HIV-laden heroin needles. Ah, Liverpool, he thought.
"You needn't have answered so quickly," Eames replied. "You know, there are loads of nubile young men who'd be grateful for my cock."
Arthur gave him a narrow-eyed look. Eames would have liked to think Arthur was jealous, but it was more likely he thought Eames was mental. "Name one."
"Ariadne," Eames said.
"You said young men," Arthur pointed out.
"Yusuf?" said Eames.
"Why do our conversations always end with us discussing your dick?" Arthur asked. "This is why people won't work with us anymore."
That wasn't entirely true: they had finished an extraction a mere few hours ago, a very simple corporate espionage job the both of them could have done in their sleep. (Ha!) But simple was how they wanted it, lately, ever since the fiasco that had been the Fischer extraction. There wasn't much risk of getting their brains scrambled trying to figure out if Company X was attempting to screw over Company Z.
None of their recent jobs had been anything like the one where they'd performed inception. They were both perfectly fine with that. Well, Eames was fine with it, and Arthur hadn't fled in the middle of the night back into the waiting arms of Cobb (Eames assumed -- he actually hadn't spoken to Cobb since the aeroplane landed in LAX; for all he knew, the man had retired, or died), so it seemed like he was satisfied with how things were going. He also seemed very pleased with their sex life, which Eames took full credit for.
Their extractor had kicked off immediately following the job, but neither Eames nor Arthur had seen any point in making a run for it. It was nice being able to hang round as long as they felt like it. With Cobb, it had always been, "We need to flee the city/country/continent before the person/company/government I pissed off comes to kill us." Eames didn't particularly enjoy being shot at. Nor did he enjoy being tortured, arrested, or chased. What he did like was finishing a job, having a nice supper, and fucking Arthur's brains out, with the day ending with the two of them loading Google maps and choosing a city to go to next. It had been a very relaxing three months. Eames' tan was fabulous.
Realistically, he knew it was bound to end eventually, with the two of them going off to jobs on the opposite sides of the world. Possibly they wouldn't see each other for months or even years, and Arthur would eventually meet someone. But for now, Eames was having a good time, happy, even -- he had money in the bank, he was able to continue living in this lifestyle in which he had grown accustomed, and he had Arthur at his side and in his bed. There was nothing about this he didn't like.
Which was why Eames was horribly annoyed when someone began shooting at them two blocks away from their guest house.
The first shot took out Arthur's cappuccino.
"That was four quid," Arthur said, irritated.
"I'm sure the assassins are very concerned with how expensive your coffee is, darling," Eames said, as they both ducked behind a dumpster.
Arthur pulled his Glock out of its mysterious hiding place and began returning fire. The shots were coming from the direction of an alley down the street; Eames started to fire back as well, but then more shots came from the roof of the neighbouring building, narrowly missing them. He yanked Arthur down by the back of his waistcoat before someone took him out.
Less than five minutes later, he and Arthur were ducking into a mostly-empty but spacious Indian restaurant, heading toward the kitchens in back. From behind him, Eames heard gunshots shatter the windows, followed by screams. The bell over the door signaled they were being followed on foot.
Arthur, being the faster of the two, was halfway through the kitchen by the time Eames pushed through the door. He may have been fast, but Eames was strong; as soon as he heard the kitchen doors swing open behind him, he stopped abruptly in his tracks and grabbed a frying pan off the hob. He spun round and slammed the hot metal into the face of the man closest to him, sending tikka masala flying everywhere. The gunman fell with a strangled scream. Without hesitation, Eames snapped the wrist of the gunman to his right and then knocked his head against the wall. Eames didn't have to take out the last guy, however, because Arthur did, shooting him in the chest; he dropped to the floor, eyes open and staring blankly.
Two cooks were curled up in the corner, shaking. Eames almost felt sorry for them.
Dimly, he heard the sound of the bell chime from above the front door. More gunmen were coming.
Arthur held the back door open. "Come on!"
They dashed through the alley and into a charity shop, and then out the back into a side street. Shots were being fired over their heads, still. This team just didn't know when to give up, Eames decided.
He followed Arthur into a squat building claiming to be a community art centre, but the gunmen were fast on their heels. Arthur was still a good deal ahead of Eames -- who wouldn't admit it, but was starting to feel winded; he'd never been good at running -- and he ran through a swinging door on the other side of the floor.
When he heard shots fired, Eames shouted, "Arthur," but suddenly he had four new men on his back, throwing punches. He knocked the first one out with a punch to the face, who fell into the second one; the whole lot of them hesitated because of that, giving Eames enough time to pull out his HK pistol and shoot each one in the head.
Arthur burst through the swinging door, his expression severe. "Eames, are you okay?"
"I'm fine," Eames answered. He wiped the sweat off his forehead with the back of his hand.
Later, somehow, they lost each other.
Eames followed Arthur into a Costa Coffee. They were headed for the toilet to clean up a bit when someone in the front of the shop screamed, and then came the sound of gunfire. Arthur immediately unholstered his gun and began firing round the corner of the corridor, but Eames headed directly to the door with the exit sign hanging over it.
He cracked open the door and peered outside. He didn't see anything, but that didn't mean there weren't snipers waiting. But when he opened the door a little wider, nothing happened.
"Clear," he called back to Arthur.
Arthur was still firing away. "You first," he grunted. "I'll be there in a sec."
But something must have happened, because Arthur didn't come out.
Eames held off a full two minutes before he ran back inside. It was silent inside, save for the sounds of crying and moans. There were a few injured and several dead, but none of them were Arthur; alarmed, Eames opened every door and even checked behind the counter, but he couldn't find him. He would have waited all day except he heard the unmistakable noise of police and ambulance sirens heading in his direction. With one fleeting glance round the now-destroyed Costa, he was off.
Eames waited to hear from Arthur. He waited an entire day in Liverpool, lurking round the train station, but he didn't feel safe. He then headed straight to Calais and kept a low profile. By day five, an unfamiliar, rotten feeling was curling in his stomach.
Despite Arthur's post-coitus confession on the Las Vegas hotel room floor months ago, Eames had never reconsidered his theory on just why Arthur had kept such close track of him throughout the years. Now, though, he was thinking about it. When he'd first found out about Arthur's dirty little secret -- by accident, when one of their mutual associates had mentioned Arthur had called asking about him, despite that he hadn't even been on the same job -- he'd assumed it was because Arthur had thought he was thick, that he'd been unable to do his job properly. It had infuriated him. The gall of that pretentious little pouf, he'd thought to himself. But, as far as Eames knew, Arthur had never intervened; he'd simply liked, for whatever reason, to know Eames was still alive out there.
It would be romantic to say Arthur and Eames had met in the military long before either of them had become thieves and they had fallen madly in love and blah, blah, blah, but in reality they'd met back when Arthur had been attempting to be an architect and Eames had only first discovered how to forge. Eames hadn't been particularly impressed by Arthur's elaborate dreamscapes, but he had been fascinated by Arthur's precision and carefulness. (His being fit hadn't hurt either. The man could wear a sweater vest.) Arthur had been -- and still was -- prickly and condescending at times, but he had seemed to enjoy their bickering as much as Eames had. They had worked four jobs together, one right after another, and Eames had gotten better at forgery whilst Arthur had stagnated at architecture.
It had only been a few years prior to this that Eames had been a clinical psychologist in Her Majesty's Armed Forces. So whilst Arthur hadn't been someone Eames would've chosen as a friend, it had been nice working with a familiar face, especially at a time when Eames had still been feeling out this whole dreamsharing business.
The first time Arthur had emailed him had been to tell him to keep an eye out for an old extractor Eames had once worked with who'd been arrested by the Egyptian authorities. He might have made a deal with the government to help them locate the rest of the extraction team >:-C, Arthur's email had stated.
Cheers, Eames had sent back, not really thinking about it. He'd remembered Arthur -- who wouldn't have remembered him? it was difficult to forget those cheekbones and that arse -- but mostly he'd been wondering why Arthur was emailing him, and what the hell that emoticon was supposed to be.
I got a job as a point man with a new extraction team, Arthur's next email had read. It had been two months later, and it was the first email Eames had received since changing identities and moving to Mombasa. Their names are Dom and Mal Cobb. They asked about forgers and I gave them your name. :) They have some really interesting theories.
That had normally been the kind of email Eames had deleted. After all, Arthur had been a near-stranger, and Eames had hardly been interested in working with people who'd been more interested in the theoretical side of dreamsharing, for personal reasons. But for some reason, Eames had found himself replying: And what exactly do you do as their point man?
It had continued from there, and one day, weeks later, Eames had received an email that read, My number's +1 310-555-9900 =<_<=
But Eames had never called it. But that didn't matter, because Arthur had called him. He had worked one job with the Cobbs and Arthur, and then the lovely Mrs Cobb had offed herself, and the next time he'd seen Arthur, Cobb had been on the wrong side of the law -- Eames' side, as a matter of fact -- and Arthur had seemed ten years older and easily a million times more interesting.
By the time of the Liverpool shooting, Eames and Arthur had known each other for two years and nine months, and Eames had never, not even once, been the first one to make contact. He had never seen the point; after all, Arthur had always known exactly when and where to find him. (Eames also once mentioned that using emoticons at Arthur's age was ridiculous, but that didn't deter him. And then Eames started to receive emails from Ariadne, and he discovered she used more emoticons than words. Bloody kids.)
For the first time, standing in the middle of a dreary hotel room in Calais, Eames rang Arthur's mobile number.
This number cannot be connected, was the automated response.
"Bollocks," Eames said. He refrained -- barely -- from smashing his mobile against the wall.
Eames didn't even know where to begin. Firstly, because he had never had to search for Arthur. Secondly, because he had never been in this kind of situation before; Eames had always believed in every man for himself, until now. He had abandoned many a teammate before, but none of those people had been Arthur. So he did the first thing that came to mind: he called Cobb.
"Did Arthur call you?" Eames asked, pacing his hotel room.
There was a pause. "No," said Cobb. "Why?"
Eames didn't know how to say, I may have possibly gotten your point man murdered and I feel sick about it, so he kept quiet.
"Eames," Cobb said threateningly.
"Sorry, going into a tunnel," Eames said, and hit 'end.'
Still pacing, he ran through a mental list of mutual acquaintances who, other than Cobb, would not double-cross, blackmail, or kill them, and who might actually be of any use to him:
2. Yusuf (maybe -- morals questionable)
3. Guy Nameris
4. Chandra Boparai
5. Amie Rizer
First, he tried Saito, but that was a bust. It turned out random people couldn't simply phone the CEO of a transnational corporation for no apparent reason.
The last two names on his list -- Boparai and Rizer -- were other people in dreamsharing he and Arthur had both worked with at one time or another. He called them next; neither had heard anything. In fact, Boparai had thought Arthur had been killed ages ago.
"Yeah," she said seriously, "I'd heard Cobb committed murder-suicide."
"You're really not being helpful," he told her, hanging up.
Nameris, on the other hand, was not technically in dreamsharing. In fact, he had been the RMP who had been ordered to bring Eames back to Britain dead or alive. This was after Eames may or may not have taken with him the British Army's blueprints for a new PASIV, which he'd then sold for a new identity and safe passage to South Africa. He may have also blown up a significant portion of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Nameris had hunted him for years, and then he'd been court-martialed for something absurd -- something involving letting Eames escape in full view of at least a dozen other officers, or something; really, who was keeping track of these things anymore -- and now he was a fount of information for all sorts.
Nameris' speciality was locating people, possibly in an attempt to be ironic. Either way, he was a bit obsessed with Eames; frankly, Eames had always suspected he was a little in love with him.
"I need a favour," he told Nameris.
"Well, well, well," Nameris said, his voice tinny on the mobile's speaker. "Dr Eames. How the tables have turned."
Eames scrubbed his face with his hands. He wasn't in the mood for this. "This is very important, Guy, so please try to pay attention. I need you to find a man called Arthur."
Eames told him. "He was last seen in Liverpool," he added.
"Ah, that Arthur. Your Arthur."
Eames' stomach dropped. My Arthur. "I need you to find him," he repeated, voice ragged. "And while you're stretching out your feelers, I need you to find out what went wrong in Liverpool."
"I'll do what I can. But one day, Dr Eames," Nameris added forebodingly, "I will ask a favour of y--"
Eames hung up the phone. He had no time for theatrics.
On the sixth day, Eames no longer felt sick. Instead, that feeling had been replaced by a white hot burning fury.
Arthur didn't call.
Nameris, however, did. "I haven't found your boy. But I did find out something about your... problem. It would appear your client had second thoughts about paying you."
"Ta," Eames said, working his jaw.
"You owe me!" Nameris managed before Eames ended the call.
Eames immediately decided two things:
1. He was going to kill someone, or possibly many someones.
2. In order to accomplish this, he was going to have to ring Yusuf.
Yusuf may have sold out his team for Cobb's share, but he was, and always had been, the best person to go to when one needed something illegal. Without Yusuf, Eames never would have made his contacts in the dreamsharing world, and he would probably still be working the same low-wage job in South Africa under the name Johan Alpert, hiding from Her Majesty's Armed Forces and wondering why he hadn't made himself a better deal when he'd sold the PASIV.
"Do you still have the number of that weapons dealer in London?" Eames asked the moment Yusuf answered his mobile. "The one with all the shiny new toys from Russia?"
"Hello, Eames. Good to hear from you, too. I've been well, thank you for asking."
"Yusuf," he snapped.
"I believe I still have Vladimir's number, yes."
"Good." Eames took a deep breath and tried to keep his voice even. "I want you to buy me something big enough to raze a city to the ground."
Yusuf was quiet for a long moment. "Raze a-- what?"
"I intend to burn it down."
"Burn what down?" Yusuf asked.
"Oh," said Yusuf. "Ah, that's probably not a good idea."
"Arthur's missing," Eames informed him.
He tucked his mobile between his shoulder and ear and opened the notebook computer he'd picked up the day before, quickly clicking through sites until he got to France's Eurostar website. A few seconds later, after digging through his wallet for a credit card he'd nicked at Victoria Station, he was reserving a seat back to Britain. He didn't have a plan yet, but he knew what he had to do: get back to Liverpool, find Arthur, and destroy anyone who'd so much as touched a perfectly-gelled hair on Arthur's head.
"We were on a job in Liverpool, but the client had a change of heart," he continued, typing 'Bill Morrison' under 'name.' "Arthur and I were separated."
"Do you think he's dead?" Yusuf asked sceptically.
Eames blew a sharp breath through his nose. "I don't know, but I'm going to find out. And if he is--" He broke off, unable to do it, to say the word dead. "If he is, I'm going to make sure those who did it are very, very sorry."
Yusuf went quiet. "Listen, I know Arthur's your mate-"
"He's more than just my mate!" Eames growled.
And that was it, wasn't it? Eames had a sudden, sickening epiphany. It was the sort of epiphany adults who had reached a normal emotional maturity would have reached ages ago. But Eames, being who he was, an emotionally-stunted thirty-something English dream forger, was only realising it now.
He slouched in his chair, just completely shocked.
"So he's--? Are the two of you--? Are you in love with him?" Yusuf sounded incredulous. "You are. You're in love with Arthur!"
"Oh, God, I am," Eames replied. "That's it, I'm in love with him, aren't I. Jesus suffering fuck."
"Are you okay?" asked Yusuf.
"I don't know," Eames said honestly. He stared at the wall blankly. "I've never been in love before. I'd thought it'd be... different."
"How is it?"
"Terrible," Eames said. "I feel like absolute shit."
"Possibly when your significant other is not missing and presumed dead, it's much nicer."
"Let's hope so," Eames agreed, rubbing the bridge of his nose with two fingers.
"I'm right happy for you two, but--"
Someone knocked on the door.
Eames wasn't expecting anyone. No one knew he was here, and he was certain this motel didn't have room service -- and even if it did, he hadn't ordered any. Using his free hand, he slid his gun out of its holster and crept to the door as Yusuf continued to babble in his ear about why burning down Liverpool was a bad idea. He turned the safety off.
Quickly, Eames threw open the door.
Standing there, looking perfectly calm, was Arthur.
Three consecutive thoughts ran through Eames' mind as he stood in the doorway, staring. His first thought was to check his totem, but he hadn't been one to confuse dreaming and reality before. The second was to grab onto Arthur and never, ever let him go; it didn't matter right now if Arthur didn't love him back, Eames didn't care, he wasn't going to let him out of his sight ever again. He'd become Arthur's personal bodyguard if he had to. His third and final thought was to punch Arthur right in his perfect fucking face and then go get roaring pissed.
"Hey," Arthur said.
He said it like it was no big deal. It looked like the third thought was beginning to win favour.
"Yusuf," Eames said into his mobile as he moved aside to let Arthur into the room, "Arthur's here. I'll call you back."
"What do you mean, 'Arthur's here'?" Yusuf demanded. "That twat--"
Eames hung up and slid his mobile into his trouser pocket. He watched Arthur drop one of his ubiquitous satchels to the floor and glance round the room for a brief moment before turning back to him. Arthur looked perfectly fine from where Eames was standing; there was no blood, no visible wounds, not even dark circles under his eyes. Eames was relieved. And furious.
"Are you okay?" Arthur asked, his eyebrows shooting up. "You don't look so good."
"No, I'm not okay," Eames said, perfectly calm. "I didn't know what had happened to you, Arthur. I was ready to burn the entire city to the ground looking for you."
Arthur looked puzzled in a way Eames normally found endearing. Right now it just made him want to hit something. "After a failed job, I always have a policy of no contact for a minimum of five days," Arthur replied.
"Oh, of course," said Eames, and then he slammed his fist into the wall. The way the plaster dented under his hand was very satisfying; the pain that shot through his arm wasn't. He sucked in a breath in through his teeth.
"I thought you knew," Arthur said slowly.
"How would I know that?" Eames snapped.
Arthur pulled Eames' fist from where it was curled against his chest and held it in both his hands. Gingerly, he stroked a thumb across Eames' rapidly-purpling knuckles. "How did I know you were in this country, in this city?" he asked, his voice almost gentle. "At this motel?"
"Because you're a wizard?"
Arthur looked at him sourly. "Because I know you. I thought maybe you knew me too," he added sadly.
"No, you're not turning this round on me," Eames exclaimed. "I'm not the one at fault here! I'm not the one who disappeared during a shoot out and then didn't give any indication I was alive. Do you know how worried I was? I rang Cobb. I now owe a favour to Guy Nameris. I was going to do something that could be construed as extremely rash."
"Isn't Guy Nameris that creepy English guy who always tries to trade you information for sex?" Arthur asked, brow furrowing.
Eames yanked his hand out of Arthur's grip and took a step back. "Are you listening to me? Do you even care how this makes feel?"
"Okay, calm down," Arthur said. He held out a hand like Eames was-- like Eames was Cobb or something, on the verge of a complete meltdown. "I'm sorry, I honestly thought you knew about my contingency plan. I didn't mean to scare you."
And Eames could have been okay, he could have been perfectly satisfied with that apology, had Arthur not immediately ruined it by tacking on, "Maybe if you'd bothered to learn anything about me, you would've known that."
"I do know you," Eames protested.
Arthur arched a brow at him. "What's my favourite colour?"
"Black," Eames answered.
"Who am I, Wednesday Addams?" Arthur asked.
"I have a very carefully-constructed view of you in my head," Eames said. "What if reality doesn't match up? What if you really aren't an ex-Special Ops agent who can parkour and learned to give blowjobs by seducing your superior officers?"
"Are you serious, or are you just being an asshole?" Arthur demanded.
"As a matter of fact, both." Eames smirked meanly. "And don't act so high and mighty, darling; you don't know everything about me."
Arthur's eyes narrowed dangerously. "Your name's Cedric Cuthbert Harrington Eames. You were born in Essex in 1977. You have an older brother, Peter Rothbert Harrington Eames, who's a CEO of the South East Asian branch of Imperial Leather. Your childhood pet's name was--"
"Okay, okay," Eames cut in, annoyed. "Just because you internet stalked me for two years--"
"I didn't stalk you, I was interested in you," Arthur growled. "You stupid, obtuse, insufferable, overweight--"
"Hey, let's not say anything we can't take back," Eames interrupted.
"I should've stayed in California with Dom and the kids."
"Are you honestly saying you should have stayed with a man people think murdered you and then killed himself over being with me?"
Arthur's face went frighteningly blank. "But I'm not with you," he said almost defiantly, like a child. "We're just fucking."
Eames laughed incredulously. "We're not together? Do you think I had fun this past week, waiting round for you? Waiting for you to call, or for someone to get in touch with me and say you'd been found dead somewhere? Do you really think I'd be this concerned if I didn't care about you?"
"What I think," Arthur said, aiming for the gut, "is you don't have the right to be so worried about someone you know so little."
Because Eames was, as we've discussed, emotionally immature, his immediate reaction to such a slap in the face was to move to punch the wall again. But when he curled his hand into a fist his fingers throbbed, and so he did the next thing that popped into his mind: He grabbed Arthur and manoeuvered them both toward the bed.
"Eames, what the hell are you doing?" Arthur demanded. He wrenched free of Eames' grasp and started to move away, but Eames caught him round the waist and flung him face-down on the bed; quick as a flash, Arthur scrambled to his knees, but Eames sat and pulled him until he was draped over his lap, his legs dangling over the side of the bed.
"I have no problem beating the shit out of you," Arthur said, his voice muffled by the duvet.
"I know," Eames said evenly, as he helped Arthur toe off his shoes.
He did know. Arthur may have been right about Eames not knowing him as well as Arthur knew him, but this was one thing he did know, down to his bones: Arthur was only letting him do this because he trusted him, and because he was curious as to where this was going.
"Seriously, I'll snap your neck," Arthur continued, now turning his head to glare at Eames sideways.
"I know," Eames repeated.
That was when Eames spanked him. Not a teasing, sexy little spank, but an open-handed one, the kind his Nana used to give to him as a boy. The kind that made Arthur's entire body jerk, his mouth dropping open in surprise.
Everything was silent after that initial sound of his palm smacking Arthur's bum.
"Did you just spank me?" Arthur asked in disbelief.
"Yes," Eames replied. With his thumb, he rubbed circles into the skin of Arthur's pert arse. "Have we learned our lesson?"
Apparently stunned, Arthur didn't reply. Eames loosened his arm round Arthur's waist enough for Arthur to wiggle away if he wanted, but he didn't. Instead he lay there, and Eames spanked him again in the same fashion.
Arthur burst out laughing. "This is so ridiculous."
"Don't talk back," Eames instructed, spanking him again.
Arthur was still laughing, his whole body shaking with it, and that made Eames sort of angry -- angrier -- and he began spanking him earnestly now, over and over, until Arthur started squirming back into it and a line of sweat began dripping down Eames' face. When Arthur let out a low moan, Eames realised he could feel Arthur's cock hardening in his trousers. It made the blood in his body drain down to his half-hard dick, too, and he swallowed. Suddenly, he wasn't angry anymore.
He stopped, his hand paused right over the swell of Arthur's bum.
Arthur raised his head. His face was flushed and sweaty. "Why'd you stop?"
"You're hard," Eames said stupidly.
Arthur blinked as if he was just noticing it, too.
"Spank me again," he said thoughtfully.
What Eames wanted to do was suck him until he was fully hard and then lick his cock until he came, shivering all over, maybe easing a finger inside him -- but just one, so he didn't feel full enough, so maybe he begged for another, or for Eames' prick, like he had done once in Aalborg ("Please, Eames, come on, put your cock in me, please, please") -- but he stroked the firmness of Arthur's arse and made an executive decision. He eased Arthur's posh trousers down to his thighs.
He spanked Arthur again, and then he did it again and again, until Arthur's bum was red and he was squirming in Eames' lap, shamelessly rubbing his cock along Eames' thigh. Eames was painfully hard now, leaking and straining against the zip of his trousers, and Arthur was letting out deep, gutteral groans as his hips jerked in time to Eames' spanking. Without much finesse, Eames spat on his good hand and shoved two wet fingers into Arthur's arse, pumping them wildly until Arthur's groans turned into sharp gasps.
"Eames, Eames," Arthur repeated over and over, his toes curling. He pressed his face against the duvet, shaking.
"That's it," Eames said gently, as Arthur rutted against him.
Eames knew exactly what Arthur needed. With the one hand, fingers crooked, he rubbed Arthur's prostate; he rubbed his other palm soothingly up and down Arthur's back, which had grown damp with sweat. When he added a third finger, Arthur shoved against him once, twice, three times, and then he came in a full-body shudder all over Eames' lap.
Eames gently eased his fingers out. Arthur didn't move from his position. His trousers were pulled over his thighs and his face was beet red, eyes glassy. He was stunning. If Arthur had died in Liverpool, if Eames hadn't been stupidly, unbelievably lucky--
Eames twisted his fingers in Arthur's damp hair. "Get up," he insisted softly.
"Huh?" Arthur asked, almost as if he were drunk.
He climbed off Eames' lap and crawled on the bed on all fours, clumsily peeling his trousers and pants off and tossing them to the floor. Even though he felt like he was about to burst, Eames took pity on him and helped him out of his button-down and undershirt until he was gloriously naked. Arthur collapsed in the middle of the bed, pillowing his head under his crossed arms.
Eames pushed down his own pants and trousers, pulling out his dick.
"Condom?" he asked.
"Pants pocket," Arthur said. His eyes were closed and he was smiling.
After he'd finished undressing and rolled on the condom, Eames grabbed Arthur by his narrow waist and rolled him over onto his side. He slid in behind him, scooping Arthur's leg up out of the way and sinking into him in one, continuous push. Arthur arched his back until they were pressed together, his back to Eames' chest, Eames' face buried in Arthur's hair. Fuck, Arthur smelled good, masculine and sexy; he'd always smelled good. With a sigh, Arthur raised his leg up even higher, and he reached back one arm to squeeze Eames' arse.
"You feel so good," Eames murmured, mouthing the back of Arthur's neck, his shoulders. He bent forward and dropped open-mouthed kisses along Arthur's jawline.
Arthur twisted his head round for a slow kiss, and they did just that for a while, kissing and rocking into each other. In this position, Eames couldn't fuck him hard, but that was okay; this was just the way he wanted it, in Arthur, surrounded by Arthur, his dick in Arthur's tight heat and Arthur's long leg draped in the crook of his elbow.
"I'm going to eat you out later," he said, pressing his forehead against Arthur's cheek and breathing him in again. He raised his head to drag his tongue across Arthur's ear. "I'm going to get you nice and wet, and you're going to beg for me. We're not leaving this bed until I've fucked you six ways to Sunday."
"Sure," Arthur said, "okay, whatever."
Eames had a retort to that 'whatever', but then Arthur started clenching round him, squeezing his cock like a vise. It sent a jolt through Eames' body; he already felt overheated, like his skin was too tight and he was seconds away from coming, and so he choked out, "Arthur, ah, don't, I'm going to come if you keep doing that."
Arthur tossed him a glare over his shoulder. "I know. What do you think I'm trying to do?"
"I think you're trying to drive me crazy," Eames laughed, a little hysterically. Arthur tightened round him again, and it was too much. "You always-- everything you-- Christ, I love you."
Control slipping, Eames pulled out and nudged Arthur onto his back. He slid back in quickly; Arthur's legs came up round his waist, his ankles hooked against the small of Eames' back, pulling him as close as they could be. They kissed, open-mouthed and messy, as Eames pushed into him again and again and again.
When Eames came, it was staring at Arthur's face creased in pleasure, at the raised corners of his lips.
After, he tied the condom off and hurled it in the general area of the bin. He couldn't be arsed to check where it landed. Instead, he half-draped himself over Arthur and tangled their legs; Arthur hummed in satisfaction and palmed his arse, still smiling.
Eames was dropping kisses over Arthur's still-heated cheeks when it hit him: he'd said, in the throes of passion, the L-word.
Groaning, he covered his face with a hand. "Did I tell you I loved you?"
"Yes," Arthur replied, condescendingly running his fingers through Eames' hair, "but don't worry, I already knew."
Eames looked down at him in surprise. "But... I didn't even know until a few hours ago."
Arthur kissed him softly. "You're so stupid sometimes," he said. But Eames couldn't be terribly offended because the way Arthur said it made it sound like, 'I love you, too.'
"Am I a terrible boyfriend?"
"Not... terrible..." Arthur said reluctantly.
"Your words inspire me with confidence," Eames said wrly.
Something beeped in the direction of his trousers, and he rolled off Arthur before leaning over the side of the bed to rummage for them. It was definitely his mobile that was making that sound; a number seven was superimposed over the icon of his inbox. He clicked on it to find all seven messages were from Cobb, all dating back over the last few hours.
He didn't check them just yet, because when he glanced over at Arthur, he saw he was already asleep. Chuckling to himself, Eames got out of bed long enough to pick the bed sheets off the floor, and then he climbed back in, dragging them over the two of them. He settled back against the pillows as Arthur rolled onto his side and pressed his face against Eames' hip.
"Love you," Arthur murmured against Eames' skin.
Eames carded his fingers through Arthur's hair and opened his messages.
The first one read: EAMES Y AM I RECEIVING CARDS THAT SAY 'SRY 4 UR LOSS.' CALL ASAP!!!!!
The second through fifth: CALL ME!!!!
The sixth: I WILL FIND U.
The seventh: I'M ON THE PLANE.