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Er, der Herrlichste von Allen

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Eames meant it, what he’d said to Arthur about switching sides sometime. It’s not like he has any hang-ups about that sort of thing. Eames has no delusions of his own overwhelming manliness; he doesn’t believe he’s been sent to this earth in order to be on top, to dominate, to conquer.

(Eames learned a lot of this phallocentric language when he’d taken Women’s Studies in his sophomore year – initially, true enough, to pick up a certain hippie harp student – but within two weeks Eames had found himself earnestly saying things like, ‘no, really, I think I’m essentially a feminine person,’ and ‘I don’t understand why there’s this obsession with being penetrated as an act of submission – has none of these arseholes ever heard of the cowboy position?’ and ‘fuck the patriarchy!’ He’d enjoyed the class beyond his wildest expectations. He’d shagged the harpist too.)

So yes, Eames honestly has no issues about the concept of bottoming for Arthur. In the abstract, it’s actually excellent fantasy fodder – Arthur pressing into Eames, wide-eyed with pleased shock at the sensation, Arthur being awkward and tentative over the whole thing, apologizing with muttered words even as his eyes slam closed and Eames gently urges him into motion. It’s one of Eames’ favorite images, has been for months and months.

It’s just that – truth be told, the patriarchy and his comfort with his essentially feminine nature and Eames’ ease in not conflating power and penetration aside -- it’s just that Eames honestly never expected Arthur to take Eames up on his offer.

Arthur’s weird and repressed and American, but there’s no mistaking certain gestures. Eames is fairly sure that there is no mistaking this one: waking up to the weight of Arthur draped over his back, long fingers skimming down Eames’ arse crack. “Good morning,” Arthur says, smiling and kissing Eames’ ear.

It’s probably just surprise that makes Eames roll away, blinking awake.

“What”—Arthur starts to ask.

“Not a good idea, first thing in the morning,” Eames says. “You know.”

Arthur’s cheeks flush pink. “Right,” he says.

It’s just the surprise of it, that’s all.

Eames hurries into the shower. After a while Arthur joins him there and they have comfortable enjoyable sex up against the tiles, exchanging hand jobs and kissing and Eames isn’t sure what exactly had thrown him like that, Arthur is lovely and slender and somehow satisfyingly neat even when wet and naked. In any case, Arthur has to go to school soon and Eames has a performance at an opera benefit tea and that’s the end of Arthur’s wandering hands for the time being.

And for a couple of weeks after that Arthur is terribly busy with schoolwork and concerts, at the conservatory twelve or more hours a day and kipping in his dorm room.

(“It’s your own bloody fault,” Eames tells him when they catch ten minutes alone in a practice room, “you could have been sensible and spent your junior year taking contemporary music theory and drawing pictures about how Cage and Reich and Xenakis make you feel inside, but no, no, you take Schenkerian analysis like a giant twat and spend half your life going around with that awful grumpy expression.”

“I have to get back to practicing,” Arthur says, grumpy expression firmly in place, “why are you here anyway?”

Eames considers letting Arthur suffer for this, but he’s drawn in as usual by the weird charm of Arthur’s surliness, and instead goes down on his knees between the piano keyboard and bench, and Arthur has nothing at all to say in response; he only drops the scowl and unbuttons his pants, his right forearm bashing out some rather Cageian cluster chords in his haste.

“We’re doing 4’33” for my recital,” Eames tells someone outside the practice room who looks at Eames askance as he slips out the door a little while later. “Tough technical piece, that. Lots of rehearsal needed.”)

Eventually, though, Arthur turns in a massive analysis assignment and performs in his big chamber music concert and gets his concerto (Rach 3, the saucy boy) under control, and one Friday night he shows up at Eames’ flat with snowflakes in his hair and a red-tipped nose and a long-absent looseness to his limbs. “Hi,” he says, stomping the snow from his shoes, bending down to untie the laces, shrugging off his gorgeous wool pea coat and unwinding his cashmere scarf. Eames, sat at the small kitchen table with his scores spread open before him, sags back in his chair to watch Arthur come unbuttoned, not one to miss the significance of the moment.

“You should have seen Mal in class today,” Arthur is saying, “she was telling the story about playing for that Texan tenor, the one with all the empty space in his head for his massive voice,” and he goes on in his warm amused voice while Eames watches his hands carefully smoothing out his coat, hanging it up on Eames’ only wooden hanger, and using a bit of paper towel to wipe down his shoes before pushing his shoe trees into them and setting them down perfectly lined up on Eames’ mat. “And you completely tuned out three minutes ago,” Arthur says as he straightens up again, impeccable barring the slightly damp hair and still-pink nose.

“No, of course not,” Eames says, sweeping his scores to the side. “Get over here.”

“What is that about?” Arthur asks, faintly frowning. “What, are you going to ravish me on the table?”

Eames looks down at the tabletop. “That does seem a little unsanitary,” he pretends to hesitate. “God knows where you’ve been.”

“That’d be more convincing,” Arthur says, coming over casually, “if you didn’t eat every meal off your lap in front of the TV.” He doesn’t straddle Eames on the chair though, just stands beside him and pushes his fingers through Eames’ hair, contemplative. Eames shamelessly leans into the touch, eyes drifting closed. By god, he’s missed Arthur. “I was thinking of the bed anyway,” Arthur tells him, voice dropping half an octave, settling around a low D.

Eames lets Arthur pet him for a moment longer before the notion of sex overwhelms this warm sense of comfort and he scrambles to his feet, getting Arthur by the fingertips and towing him towards the bedroom.

Normally Arthur is not one to care for ambiance, and Eames certainly isn’t either; they most often just fuck with the overhead light on, the bedroom door open, the bed unmade under them, utterly normal and straightforward because it doesn’t really matter when they’re naked and getting each other off. Once in a while, though, Arthur seems overcome with a weird sense of romance, and does what he’s doing now: tidying up the room, hastily drawing up the covers, switching on the bedside lamp and turning off the ceiling light, lighting the scented candle Eames mostly uses to cover the smell of pot, switching on soft unobjectionable music. Eames takes advantage of Arthur’s distraction to strip down and spread himself over the bed wantonly, enjoying Arthur’s pleased blink of surprise when he turns away from the stereo.

“Come here,” Eames says again, head propped on one palm, lying on his side.

“Just a second,” Arthur says, and goes into the top drawer of Eames’ bureau.

For one instant Eames is filled with pleased anticipation, and then he remembers Arthur’s drifting fingers, and his pulse skips from moderato to allegro in a dizzying rush. It’s more than surprise, Eames is willing to admit this time, and it’s more than excitement too. He keeps his smile casual, though, and tries to talk himself down as Arthur comes to the bed, lube and condom in hand.

“This okay?” Arthur asks, but without any actual concern in his voice.

“Of course,” Eames says, because – it is okay, fuck. Of course it’s okay. Eames has taken a football to the head, he’s been crushed in a rugby scrum, he’s broken bones and had concussions and been in fights, and he’s never once felt this clench of physical anxiety that’s grabbing his guts now as Arthur insinuates himself into the space around Eames, kissing and pawing at him.

Arthur doesn’t waste any time, he kisses Eames’ throat for about a minute before his hand is sliding around Eames’ back and down to his arse, and Eames unthinkingly catches him by the wrist, stops him. “Why, Arthur,” he says breathily, putting on a southern belle voice, “you’re taking such liberties.” It’s supposed to be funny, and Arthur smiles easily in response, but Eames finds he’s not really joking.

“Eames,” Arthur says, smiling and sweet and cajoling.

Eames holds onto Arthur’s wrist, carefully maintaining a teasing expression, and shifts Arthur’s hand around to his front, guiding it to his cock. “A lady needs some warming up,” he says, even though he usually goes straight for Arthur’s arse when the tables are turned and they both know it.

“Right,” Arthur says, smirking, but he gamely takes hold of Eames’ cock and strokes it lightly, kissing Eames’ collarbone, his chest. Eames sags into the familiar feel of it all and takes a mental break, trying to get round whatever mad part of his psyche is making him turn away Arthur’s totally intellectually welcome advances.

It’s – it’s undignified, Eames is horrified to hear himself think, it’s tacky somehow to have Arthur going round sticking his finger up Eames’ bum, that’s what it is.

It’s – it’s – well, it’s utter crap, is what it is, Eames tells himself, stop being an Etonian prig and let your fit amazing boyfriend have his way with you, except of course that’s not the way he should think about it, Arthur’s not having his way with Eames, they’re just having sex a different way than before, and Eames needs to jettison this unwelcome and heretofore unsuspected horror of Arthur doing this to him.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” Eames says, blinking his eyes open again, steeling himself. “Come on, now.”

“Yeah?” asks Arthur, pleased.

Eames rolls over, thinking this might be easier if he can’t see Arthur’s face, and he shifts his uppermost leg to give Arthur better access, and he presses his cheek into the cool pillow and breathes slowly through his nose.

“If you don’t want to,” Arthur says, because he hasn’t got Eames’ knack for reading body language but Eames thinks maybe he’s not being very subtle at the moment, “we don’t have to.”

“No,” Eames says, summoning a smile, “no, I want to.”

“Okay,” Arthur says, doubtfully, and spreads a little lube on his fingers. He gets no further than moving his hand towards Eames’ arse, though, before Eames breaks.

“Maybe I don’t want to,” he says in a rush. “Fuck, Arthur, I’m bloody sorry, this is just – it’s giving me the worst kind of creeps, I’ve no idea why.”

Arthur has the grace to look only mildly sceptical before wiping his fingers with tissue and flopping down onto the bed, flat on his back. “It’s okay,” he says, maybe a little disappointed but doing his best to hide it. “You can do me.”

Eames is far more disappointed than Arthur sounds, the feeling a sick pit in his stomach. Whence the dirty beautiful fantasies of Arthur fucking into him, of Arthur trembling and joyous and taking pleasure in Eames? It’s not bloody fair, and Eames is pouting, which he knows is completely daft, but he can’t help it, it’s too much to be denied this by some disgusting chauvinist or maybe classist part of his id.

“Hey,” says Arthur, pulling gently at his shoulder, rolling Eames onto his back. “What the hell is this?”

“I don’t know,” Eames admits miserably. “I’m a snobby patriarchal git or something.”

“Shut up, you are not,” Arthur says, and closes the space between them to pull Eames’ head onto his shoulder. “It’s just nerves, probably.”

“No,” Eames says, settling into despair now. “No, it’s not okay. Fuck.”

Arthur strokes Eames’ eyebrow with his thumb. “Explain?”

Eames can’t explain, it’s – it’s not something he can say to Arthur, not after all the times he’s done Arthur this way. He has to come up with some answer though, so he clears his throat and awkwardly tries, “It just seems – your fingers. I don’t know.”

“Why don’t you do that part then?” Arthur says reasonably. “I can watch, maybe.”

“Maybe,” Eames says, because – well. They both of them know that Eames quite likes being looked at. His cock twitches approvingly at the thought.

“I mean, you’ve, you’ve done it to yourself before, right?” Arthur asks, dear and confident in his experience of Eames as a shameless wanker.

“Of course,” Eames says. “Well, actually. Not.”

“Really?” Arthur snorts, tilting his head down to peer at Eames. “Well, there’s your problem then.”

“You mean to say that you”— Eames begins, and then he has to sit up and turn around to pounce onto Arthur. “Arthur, that’s filthy. Tell me more.’

Arthur makes a prim face but can’t maintain it, his hands coming up to skate down Eames’ sides as his mouth curls. “I’m not telling you anything, you’re going to have to find out for yourself.”

“Okay,” Eames says gamely, and unearths the lube, getting up on his knees over Arthur.

“No,” Arthur says, closing his hand over Eames’ fist, “no, you get to do that on your own first. Trust me, it’ll be easier. Less awkward.”

“I couldn’t possibly be more relaxed than when you’re looking at me,” Eames tells him, wide-eyed. “Come on now, let me be wanton and horrible while you watch.”

“No,” Arthur says firmly, working the lube out of Eames’ tight-clenched fist. “But you can watch me and learn something if you want.”

Eames sits back and lets the bottle go in his delighted surprise, then makes a gracious gesture of by all means. Sometimes Arthur is simply a brilliant person to have around in the naked sense.

After Arthur’s show-and-tell everything changes. Eames has been given an assignment by Arthur, he discovers, and Arthur is quite bloody serious about it. He rebuffs every advance Eames makes, pulling his hand away decisively when Eames tries to guide it back, testing. He pointedly leaves a bottle of silicone-based lube next to Eames’ soap in the shower. He even bookmarks a page on Eames’ internet browser, right at the top where Eames normally keeps his current favorite porn site, and when Eames clicks through to it, it’s a website clinically titled ‘Anal Pleasure Through Digital Stimulation’ which Eames reads avidly, mostly because he suspects that Arthur has methodically tried all the techniques suggested and it’s wonderful to imagine the process.

The first night of winter break, Eames spends an hour getting the bedroom squared away and filled with flickering light and soft music, but when Arthur comes in he just makes a critical face and says, “Have you done it to yourself yet?”

“Of course I have,” Eames lies, naked on the bed, thighs apart, shameless.

“No you haven’t,” Arthur says, and drops his book bag to the floor. “I’ll be in the other room watching TV. You stay here and romance yourself if you’re so in the mood.”

Eames thinks Arthur can’t possibly be serious, but then twenty minutes go by and Arthur is down the hallway watching telly and Eames is lying here naked and lonely and bored.

“Please?” Eames shouts.

“No!” Arthur shouts back. “And I’ll know if you don’t do it, too!”

Eames sighs and closes the bedroom door, then lies down on the bed and fiddles with the cap of the lube bottle. It’s just immensely silly, that’s all. It’s like sticking your finger up your nose: exploration of the body for its own sake. Eames has no idea why it seems so ridiculous and mundane when the thought of Arthur doing the same thing is maddeningly hot. Still, Arthur probably will know somehow if Eames doesn’t actually fiddle around with his bum, so Eames sighs and pulls back one thigh and wets a finger.


Eames isn’t as flexible as Arthur; it’s a bit of a workout to get a good angle without pulling any muscles, and made all the more difficult by the memory of Arthur’s effortless and smiling demonstration. It’s desperately weird, is all, and Eames gives a frustrated sigh before pulling his finger back and using the lube to get his right palm nice and slick instead.

“I’m wanking off!” Eames shouts.

Arthur doesn’t answer.

“Ooh, baby, yeah,” Eames tries, “this is so ace with my finger in my bum and all!”

More silence.

Eames pictures Arthur’s grouchy face and gets a little interested in spite of himself, but it’s not until he’s really close that Eames slips his left hand down and pushes inside with his index finger, hard and fast, curling up.

“Fuck,” Eames says, some seconds later, gasping and blinking against the black spots swimming in his field of vision. “Oh, fuck.”

He eventually gets himself together enough to clean up and pull on pyjama bottoms, stagger down the hallway to where Arthur is watching telly and eating microwave popcorn. Arthur looks up at the sight of him – Eames all too aware of his flushed face and silly helpless smile – and nods. “There you go,” Arthur says. “Popcorn?”

Eames ignores this and flops onto the couch, sliding into Arthur’s side, all noodly and gloriously pleased with himself. Arthur’s hand settles on his shoulder, soft and comforting, and Eames drifts off to sleep.

But Arthur’s apparently not satisfied with Eames’ work yet. “No,” he says gently, the next evening when Eames makes another pass at him, “no, once isn’t going to do it.”

Eames groans and flops back onto the bed, wondering how on earth Arthur has so quickly turned everything on its head, how it is that Eames is now literally desperate to give Arthur a go at fucking him and Arthur’s the one holding back. The only good side effect of this desperation is that it makes Eames less reluctant to conduct Arthur’s required experiments. He becomes less and less self-conscious about it, but it’s when he realizes that he can pretend his fingers are Arthur’s that he goes a little mad with it. After that he’s wanking like a teenager in the shower, in his bed in the middle of the day while Arthur’s practicing, on the couch at night when Arthur’s working a couple of holiday piano gigs, anywhere and anytime he can.

Eames becomes practiced at finding the perfect angle, the perfect pressure, and he gets good at pacing himself, sometimes restricting himself to just fingers until he’s truly good and ready for his hand. Eames imagines doing this in front of Arthur, imagines Arthur sucking him and fingering him, imagines what it would be like – what it will be like – when Arthur’s cock pushes into him the first time, the breadth and length of it.

And then they have to catch a plane to Pittsburgh for Christmas, and Arthur turns into Pittsburgh-Arthur. Pittsburgh-Arthur comes complete with stupid rules about what kinds of sex they can have in his old bed (even though Peter and Esther have at last given up the charade of the cot in Aaron’s former room); he orders Eames to stop taking such long showers because it’s embarrassing having to tell his mom why all the hot water is gone every morning. Eames can’t even shout at Pittsburgh-Arthur about it all being his own fucking fault – he’s turned Eames into some sort of arse-fiddling pervert! – because the house has thin walls and there’s a baby in it at the moment anyway and Eames started caring at some point about not making Mr. Goldberg hate him too much.

“It’s only six days,” Arthur tells Eames, impatiently, when Eames gets pissy about being restricted to silent swift oral sex because, as Pittsburgh-Arthur says, that’s the only thing that doesn’t make a mess.

“Tell that to my arse,” Eames says, folding his arms over his chest.

“Oh my god, you’re the neediest bottom in the world and I haven’t even fucked you yet,” Arthur hisses, scrubbing at his hair, crazy-eyed.

“I know, what are you bloody waiting for?” Eames returns with equal energy, and then has to drop his expression into gentle courtesy as Esther comes into the living room with a tray of mulled cider and mugs.

But some of this must have gotten through to Arthur because finally, finally that night he slips his finger back while going down on Eames, and Eames feels not one jot of the hesitation that had seized him the first time Arthur did this – it’s only relief and joy and anticipation, and for all Eames’ recent experience doing this, it’s something else to have Arthur there, a better angle and easier too, and besides all that, it’s Arthur.

Arthur pulls off. “Eames, shut up, oh my god.”

“Sorry,” Eames says, and pulls a pillow over his head. Anything not to interrupt Arthur’s magnificent work.

The next morning it’s much easier to be cheerful, Eames finds, and besides, Aaron and Rachel have brought the sprog down again from their new flat in Pittsburgh. Jacob is wonderfully fat and drooly and full of amazing throaty belly laughs that Eames can summon at will by pulling faces at him and playing peek-a-boo and horsey ride and all the other mad idiot things one does with fat drooly laughing babies.

“You can’t have one,” Arthur tells him yet again after an hour of this.

Eames pops Jacob’s blue dummy in Arthur’s mouth, grinning, because Jacob is possibly the best toy ever and also Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg are unabashedly delighted with Eames’ delight over Jacob. Mrs. Goldberg even tells them all a pointed story over dinner, about this very nice gay couple who came into the clinic last week, with their adorable adopted Chinese daughter.

“Don’t be an idiot, of course I don’t want one,” Eames tells Arthur later in the privacy of their bedroom, “but if it makes your dad smile at me and offer me a second helping at dessert, why should we correct their way of thinking?”

Arthur groans and flops onto the bed, arm over his face. “You don’t even know how this could snowball on us,” he says pathetically.

Eames doesn’t bother answering, just kicks out of his trousers and tugs off his shirt before joining Arthur on the bed. “Want me to show you everything I’ve learned?” he asks, because the best way to cheer Arthur up is definitely not peek-a-boo or making faces. “I’m a very fast learner when I’m properly inspired.”

“No,” Arthur sulks, but he’s uncovered his face and is staring at Eames anyway. “Well, okay. Fine.”

All the way back on the plane, and then the train, they both know that they’re not going to make it too far inside the doorway of Eames’ flat before they throw propriety to the wind. They’re probably going to wind up shagging up against the kitchen table after all, forget ambiance and romance and all that shite. Eames certainly can’t stop himself from thinking about it, and he’s sure Arthur can’t either, judging from the way he keeps catching Arthur staring blankly off into space with an uncharacteristically dazed expression, and the way he shivers once when Eames brushes fingers with him accidentally.

They noisily clatter up the stairs to Eames’ second floor flat, their luggage thumping on the stairs because they can’t be arsed to carry it properly. Eames has a bad moment when he can’t find his fucking keys but finally he digs them out of the pocket of a jacket that he’d packed inside his suitcase and they shove everything through the open door, Eames’ luggage trailing clothes everywhere in the front entrance, both of them tripping over each other and the suitcases in their haste.

“Hold still,” Arthur says, and crowds Eames back towards a handy wall, pupils blown and mouth wet, “fuck, just”—

There’s an abrupt loud knock at the door. Eames prays fervently that it’s not the idiot from upstairs finally come down to make a complaint in person about their noise, but there’s no pretending that they’re not in with the racket they’ve been making and their door not quite shut anyway. Arthur grates out a sigh and Eames navigates back over to the door, kicking his clothes out of the way as he goes.

It’s the super, not the idiot from upstairs, Eames is surprised to see. “This came for you,” says the super, holding forth an impressively large box plastered with mailing labels. “Been holding it for days.”

“Cheers,” Eames says, and takes the box, which has a good heft to it. “Happy Christmas,” he adds, and boots the door closed in the super’s face because Arthur is coming up behind him and he’s fairly sure the super doesn’t need an interpreter to read the expression on either of their faces.

Eames’ eyes slide closed as Arthur presses up behind him, insistent and grabby and already really noticeably hard even through his coat and Eames’, and Eames nearly drops the fucking box from sheer dizzy pleasure. He opens his eyes, catching the parcel as it slips, and it’s then that he sees the label and the sender.

“Oh, brilliant!” Eames says, backing up and shaking Arthur off. “Gran, you fantastic marvellous”—and he hurries to the table to set the box down, pulling it open messily to reveal the beautifully wrapped basket inside, padded and insulated with a million foam peanuts.

“Eames,” Arthur is saying, trying to get his attention and failing.

“Tea,” Eames says, pulling the basket free, scattering peanuts everywhere, “and Christmas spice biscuits, and -- oh, fuck -- brandy butter. There’s got to be – yes, here’s the pudding.”

“What is it?” Arthur asks, impatient.

“It’s a Christmas hamper from Fortnum and Mason, innit?” Eames says, too enraptured to explain further, yanking at the cellophane, desperate to get at the biscuits and tea.

“It’s food,” Arthur says, flatly, clearly implying the second half of the sentence: and food is not sex.

“It’s English Christmas,” Eames says, pulling out a biscuit and taking a bite, delirious with delight. “Arthur. You can’t – here, have one.”

Arthur doesn’t take the offered biscuit. “Eames.”

“You can join me or not,” Eames tells him, deadly serious, “but I’m not going to take off my clothes until I’ve had a taste of everything in this hamper.” He pulls out a box of dark chocolates. “Here.”

Arthur doesn’t understand, of course not, but he at least seems to see the futility of reasoning with Eames at the moment, sinking down into one of the kitchen chairs and taking the chocolates while Eames continues to giddily unwrap the hamper until the bounty is spread out across the table. “What time is it in England?” Eames asks, overwhelmed and needing to express his gratitude to his marvellous brilliant gran.

Arthur moodily checks his watch, chewing on a chocolate. “It’s ten here, so – three a.m.?”

“Ah, it’ll have to wait then,” Eames says sadly, and opens the jar of nuts.

“There’s a card,” Arthur says, digging through the mess of discarded wrappings. Eames is too busy stuffing his face to answer, so Arthur shrugs and opens the small envelope. “Happy Christmas,” he reads, and then his mouth curves. “Happy Christmas, Charles and Arthur.”

Eames offers the open jar of nuts to Arthur. “Half yours, then,” he says, “there go my plans of hoarding it all for myself.”

Arthur takes a few cashews, smiling shyly. “When you call tomorrow, put me on so I can say thanks too.”

It’s hard to tamp down on the urge to eat everything at once, but Eames still has hopes of salvaging some kind of sex from the wreckage of Fortnum and Mason wrapping all around them. He forces himself to stop after he’s had a bite from almost every container and spent a blissful minute just smelling the tin of loose tea. “Right,” Eames says, and stands up, grabs Arthur’s hand, “where were we?”

“Well,” Arthur says, a little coldly.

“Arthur,” Eames says, and pulls him to his feet, “don’t pout, darling, I just spent six days having very quiet sex with you and misleading your parents into thinking we were planning to adopt a Chinese baby and going to temple and being a very well-behaved boy.”

“Very well-behaved might be a stretch,” Arthur says, but not without some fondness. “All right, fine.”

It’s not like any of Eames’ fantasies, it turns out, not like the ones he used to have where Arthur was uncertain and overwhelmed, and not like the more recent ones where it was all about how it would feel, the physicality of taking Arthur inside him. It’s not even like Arthur’s first time, last summer, which was mostly about trial and error and – finally – their first shattering success.

Fuck the patriarchy indeed, Eames thinks dizzily as Arthur gently but firmly pushes Eames’ right thigh up, but there’s no getting around it, not really: this is an act of trust if not of submission, this is quite literally opening himself up for whatever Arthur gives him. It’s rare that there’s no trace of laughter between the two of them, but here Eames is feeling utterly serious and breathless with Arthur very soberly and carefully arranging their hips so they line up the right way.

“Okay?” Arthur says – Arthur whispers, actually, though it’s loud in Eames’ ears, even with the whoosh whoosh of his pulse. Eames hasn’t got a voice, he has to make do with a nod, fixed by Arthur’s dark eyes, his care and intensity. “Okay,” Arthur says again, and pushes in very, very slowly with a control Eames never knew he possessed.

It’s rending. It’s painful, a little, but that’s the least of it. It’s rending. Eames is moving aside, he’s making room for Arthur inside him, and it’s hard to breathe, it’s hard to think, but Arthur’s got him, he’s got him, he’s –

“Shh, it’s okay,” Arthur says, “give it a second, it gets better.”

Eames unclenches his hands, realizes he’s been balling up the sheets in his fists; he forces himself to exhale, hearing the jagged shape of the breath as it’s jarred by his pounding heart, his panicky tight belly muscles.

“Shh,” says Arthur again, “yeah, that’s it. It’s okay, it’s okay.” And Arthur moves again, and this time it goes easier, a long slick glide that ends with Arthur tight against Eames. “I love you,” Arthur says, “it’s okay.”

Eames closes his eyes, trusting, feeling his body give way incrementally.

Arthur is decidedly not uncertain, thank fuck, but he’s unimaginably careful at the beginning, enough so that Eames starts to feel guilty all over again about how he was when their positions were reversed, because he didn’t know – he didn’t know, how it was, how it is, the terror of it only slowly giving way to acceptance.

“Yeah?” Arthur says, after a few minutes of very slow rolling thrusts. “Okay?”

Eames licks his lips and opens his eyes, nods.

“Okay,” Arthur says, red-cheeked and intent on Eames, “okay, I’m going to,” and he does something clever with Eames’ legs and pulls out further and strokes in again while the world ripples around the edges. “That’s it, see, it gets better,” Arthur tells him, and does it again and again.

It does get better, it gets better remarkably quickly after that. Soon Eames has all but forgotten about the first minute or two; it’s like dreaming because he suddenly isn’t sure how he got here, under Arthur, being fucked by Arthur, except here he is now and it’s good, it’s good, it’s so good.

Eames reaches up and strokes Arthur’s sweaty shoulders, his sides, his flexing arms, and Arthur grins down at him, and the humour flashes between them, a sudden shared inside joke of fuck, this is fun, isn’t it? and Arthur presses Eames’ legs down enough to kiss him for a while before easing back and picking up the pace.

“You can,” Arthur says, as he moves faster, “you can, you know,” and he nods down at Eames’ cock. Eames grins sheepishly because he’d actually sort of forgotten about it, but there it is, his cock: hard and wet at the tip and flexing with Arthur’s thrusts. It’s pretty fucking amazing once Eames gets his hand around it and starts moving his fist up and down in counterpoint, messy and joyous. He comes almost right away, to his surprise, and the weirdest thing isn’t the intensity of the orgasm – that he’s come to expect from the Arthur-assigned explorations – it’s that it almost doesn’t cut down on the pleasure afterwards. It’s too much to touch his cock now, true, but Arthur inside him is still good, it’s still good.

“Keep going?” Arthur asks, checking, and Eames lifts his hips in answer, and Arthur resettles his weight before beginning to move, picking up where he’d left off. Eames watches him, still breathless and shaky himself, watches the gorgeousness of Arthur fucking him, all sexy fluid motion and sweat-sheened skin and red lips and furrowed concentrating brow. “Fuck, fuck,” he’s saying, and then his always-impeccable rhythm falls to shit, not a sensual rubato so much as complete metronomic failure, and Arthur forgets for a delicious instant to be so careful and considerate and slams into Eames with a rough cry as he comes.

Eames gentles him through it, containing Arthur between his palms, stroking his heaving sides and flexed jaw and taut shoulders until Arthur can come back to reality, back to where Eames is waiting for him. Arthur goes lax as the orgasm ebbs away, letting Eames’ open thighs support his weight for a while before he rouses himself and goes to pull out.

“Wait,” Eames says, “wait. Feel that?”

Arthur smiles and nods and then kisses the inside of Eames’ knee tenderly. “I feel that.”

“I like that,” Eames says. “For the record.”

“Me too,” Arthur says, hiding his smile against Eames’ skin, then slowly pulls out, ditches the condom, flops down on top of Eames so they can kiss and kiss, lazy pleased entitled kisses. “I like you too,” he says finally, rolling a little to the side, “for the record.”

“Thank god,” Eames says, “here I thought you wouldn’t respect me in the morning.”

“I didn’t promise anything about the morning,” Arthur says, already drifting, naked and beautiful. Eames is glad Arthur’s eyes are closed because he thinks he was wrong before, that this -- this -- is the most terrifyingly vulnerable Eames has ever been. There’s nothing in the world Eames wouldn’t do for him.