Mr Eames has a problem. It’s a maddening and raven haired and ridiculously attractive problem. It’s also a stick-in-the-mud OCD control freak whose favourite pastimes include tidying, infuriating Eames and shooting people. It’s a problem Eames finds stupidly sexy. Arthur is kind of – fairly – well, completely not the kind of person Eames goes for, and he’s pretty sure the feeling’s mutual. They’re opposites. Like a good twin and an evil twin, though that’d be kind of incestuous. They quarrel, they clash, they can’t stand each other. But Eames sort of maybe really wants to fuck him.
The thing about Arthur is, he has to be in control. He needs it, or he’ll fall apart. Eames wants to get under his skin, to smash that perfect glass box of self-discipline and watch the ever-expressionless bastard freak out as it shattered around him. Problem is, Eames can only think of two ways of doing that. The first is to get him hot and gasping underneath him, grabbing and grasping, groaning for more. The other is to annoy the hell out of him. Eames choses the latter. He’s not particularly skilled in the art of seduction (he’d not like to admit it, but it’s been a while), but the art of irritation – well, he has far more practice at that.
It’s a simple enough plan: exasperate Arthur into bed. Or, more likely, into insanity. Or an early grave. OK, Eames doesn’t think it’s a good plan. But he never expects to succeed. He gets by annoying Arthur. He gets off on it. It’s probably really sick and weird and unhealthy but he keeps on getting left alone with him and he is ridiculously attractive and it really has been a while and if Eames is going to get frustrated every day then fuck, Arthur is too.
But we’d better begin at the beginning, because that’s when stories start.
Eames meets Arthur in a bar in Amsterdam. Cobb’s got a job proposal for him and of course Eames is going to take it, even though they’re working in some dingy rented office space above a grocer’s, even though it means three more months in Amsterdam, even though it’s a bitter, bleak autumn, even though Cobb’s nearly got him killed before – he needs the money. Cobb’s taken his new point man along. And. Well. He’s handsome. Devilishly so. His hair’s black and slicked back, like a neat oil spill. His cheekbones are angular, his voice level, his handshake measured. He’s solid, sharp, slick. Eames at least tries, because he’s going to spend the next three months with this man and he’d like to do a little more besides just working for all that time and Arthur really is handsome and Eames could do with a bit of fun. So he smiles, he jokes, he’s charming. Arthur’s too cold, polite enough, barely interested. At the end of the meeting he just gets up and walks away.
“Pleasure to meet you,” he says, voice laced with condescension.
And Eames is annoyed. No-one can just resist his charm like that. How dare Arthur be distant and disinterested. Eames decides there and then that he does not like him and he never will.
Arthur must have made a similar decision because he shoots him the next day. They’re doing a training exercise but they get so up each other’s noses that Arthur just pulls out his gun and has done with it twenty minutes in. It’s a simple exercise: acclimatising themselves to working with one another’s subconscious. They’re in a city, and it’s Eames’ dream so of course it’s a bit crazy, a lively mishmash of old and new. They walk past a cathedral looming above them, great and gothic, a tiny bungalow with a neat front garden, a modern art gallery cutting into the sky.
“My God,” says Arthur, looking at the odd world around him.
“What? What is it?”
“Your projections are as badly-dressed as you are.”
Eames rolls his eyes.
“No, seriously,” Arthur goes on, “Your mind is not somewhere I want to be. Who puts a Victorian train station next to a Norman castle and PC World? And is that a sex shop?”
“Oh yes,” Eames remembers, smiling.
Arthur gives him a searching look, as if he’s utterly insane.
“You don’t want to go in there,” Eames adds ominously.
“What is this?” Arthur asks, gesticulating towards the whole world, “It’s so… disordered.”
“I like it.”
He likes the messiness, the colours, the liveliness. He also likes how it offends Arthur’s desperately conservative taste.
“I knew there was something about you I didn’t like,” Arthur says.
“There’s a lot about you I don’t like.”
Arthur hums haughtily.
“You seemed quite friendly last night.”
“Yes, well,” Eames says, cheerfully dismissive, “That was before I realised you were a prick.”
Arthur laughs, short and sarcastic.
“Don’t you think I mean it?” Eames says snappily, “Because I do. Really, I think you’re a complete, utter, top-notch prick.”
Arthur just smirks knowingly.
“What?” Eames demands.
“I think someone’s hurt that I’m not interested in them.”
And Eames wants to hit him then, really he does, because he doesn’t like him and he’s a dick and he’s right about Eames and that doesn’t happen often, being seen through so quickly. But he doesn’t hit him, not just yet.
“You’re really not my type, darling,” he says.
“The feeling is mutual,” says Arthur, looking in distaste at the people walking past him.
Eames fumes silently as they walk through the city, all village post offices and council flats and trees and factories and English country houses, and it’s obvious that Arthur hates it, and what right does he have to judge him, how can he just come into his life and be so cold and contemptuous and superior. He’s not even that handsome now he really looks at him, he’d thought he was, but really he’d just wanted to fuck someone, and Arthur just happened to be there, and he’s glad he didn’t get involved now that he knows what a twat he is, he’d rather be as chaste as a bloody nun than be with him, and that’s quite a strong oath coming from Eames, because he’s normally willing to fuck most people, not that he’s a whore or anything. Well, maybe a bit. But a guy can’t help it if he’s bloody gorgeous, can he? Anyway, Arthur, he hates Arthur, he thinks he is a dreadful person, remember that Eames.
“I can’t decide if I want to rearrange this place, or just get the hell out of it,” Arthur remarks, and Eames snaps.
“Let me help you decide,” he says, and punches him.
He manages to shove him up against the wall, which is completely not sexual at all, and he’s about to cut him up, or at least attempt to, when Arthur takes a gun out of his suit and shoots him in the chest. Eames chokes, shocked, staring at the red stain blossoming across his shirt, and fuck, he’s dying, he’s actually dying, only it’s not real but it fucking feels real, he’ll never get used to it, and Arthur killed him, he just killed him. What a bitch. That’s Eames’ last thought, because then he collapses against the wall, and dies.
“If only I could get rid of you this easily in real life,” says Arthur, as Eames slumps to the ground.
When he wakes up, Eames is furious. He’s not one to just let things lie, (which, if he thinks about it, is probably why Arthur killed him in the first place), and that smug git is not going to just kill him and walk away without serious punishment. Arthur wakes up when Eames shoves him backwards off his chair. Needless to say, he is not well pleased.
He locks his eyes onto Eames with almost Biblical fury.
“You pushed me over!” he says indignantly.
“You killed me!” Eames says, somewhat more indignantly.
“Ah, fuck, my arm, Eames. It fucking hurts.”
“Oh yeah, getting shot through the heart, that’s not at all painful.”
“You’re still alive,” Arthur retorts, rubbing his arm, “Unfortunately.”
“If I have to work with you any longer, I think I might just kill myself anyway.”
“I wouldn’t be complaining.”
Eames thinks Arthur isn’t aware of what an utter prick he is, and he’s just about to deal with that problem physically when Cobb walks in. By that point Eames is standing over Arthur, about two seconds away from laying into him. Arthur doesn’t look too concerned about this. That annoys Eames.
“Everything alright?” he asks, as if he doesn’t already know the answer.
“What does it look like?” Arthur says flatly.
Cobb raises his eyebrows.
“It looks…” he begins, “Not very professional.”
Arthur looks concerned about this.
“What?” he says, his voice hard and heavy.
“Hey, it doesn’t matter that you’re… like that,” Cobb hesitates, holding up his hands, “But we are on a job. And I know that sounds hypocritical, because that’s how I met Mal, but…”
Arthur’s eyes tell the story of Dom Cobb’s tragic sudden death.
“You think I’m fucking him?” he says, gesturing towards Eames with evident disgust.
“What?” Eames catches on.
“Exactly,” says Arthur, and wait, are they actually agreeing on something? “I’m not desperate.”
Turns out they’re not agreeing anymore.
“Oh yes, because you’re obviously getting some.”
“Eames, I am going to –”
“OK,” Cobb says, interrupting Arthur before he can tell Eames what he’s going to do to him (and probably not in the fun, sex-based way), “You know what, I’m going to go now. So can you just – please finish whatever it is you’re doing by the time I’m back?”
He backs out of the room, Eames and Arthur hurling angry words after him. The door slams shut.
“Well, fuck this,” says Eames.
Arthur is staring at him as if he’s just leant over and licked his neck – and why the fuck is that the first thing that comes to mind?
“What?” says Eames.
Arthur punches him.
Cobb comes back over an hour later. He’s phoned Mal and told her the job’s going fine, how’s the baby, he misses her, he’ll be back soon. His colleagues don’t notice him as he slips in. They’re both suspiciously dishevelled. Arthur’s hair is unkempt because Eames decided it looked fucking stupid scraped back and shoved a hand into it. Eames’ shirt is torn, because it offended Arthur’s eyes to have pink paisley that close to him and he never wanted to see it again. Arthur’s got a bruise on his neck because Eames is a bastard and he did that just to annoy him and he didn’t enjoy it at all, really, he didn’t. They’re both slumped against the wall, silent, surrounded by debris. It’s strangely intimate, considering they’ve just been beating the shit out of each other.
Eames looks sidelong at Arthur.
“I fucking hate you,” says Arthur.
And he smiles. Eames never forgets that, the first time Arthur smiles at him. It’s all sharp edges and numbed anger and maybe something fond.
“Oh darling,” says Eames, “I hate you too.”
And his voice is too soft and Arthur’s eyes are too soft and they’re just sitting there looking at each other like it means something but they don’t know what yet.
It takes them a while to figure it out.
They start work on the job. Arthur rakes through the mark’s history like the impeccably dressed stalker he is, and Eames follows the mark around like the atrociously dressed stalker he is. And Cobb builds an imaginary world like a crazy old guy who smells odd and believes he’s the Prime Minister. It’s a happy enough existence.
Eames and Arthur make an agreement: no violence whilst the job is on. It’s partly to do with creating a positive working relationship, but mostly because Eames has spent the past few days complaining about the damage to various parts of his anatomy and the satisfaction of socking him really isn’t worth enduring the whining afterwards. Also because Cobb gives him these looks whenever Eames says something like, “Oh fuck, Arthur, how did you do that to my back?” or “God, you don’t go easy on a man, do you?” or “That bruise on your neck is the most wonderful green, you know.”
They do both keep to their agreement – well, apart from that one time, but Eames really should have seen it coming and Arthur can’t be expected to stop himself from reflexively taking action against a tie that hideous. It’s only three months of abstinence, after all. But not fighting doesn’t stop them from warring. Eames does what he knows best, and winds Arthur up like a clockwork toy he’s playing with. And Arthur, wonderfully tetchy stick-in-the-mud Arthur, always rises to the bait. There are days when Eames is annoying and tiresome and just maddening, and Arthur hates him. And there are days when Eames is sweet and charming and just Eames, and Arthur loves him. But there’s not so many of them.
“Eames, what the fuck have you done to me?”
Eames bites on the end of his pen, not looking up from his work.
“Don’t pretend you don’t know, fucking look at me.”
Eames turns around in his chair, unsuccessfully attempting not to smile as he looks at Arthur.
“What?” he asks, because if he says more than one syllable he is going to laugh and that could be very dangerous with Arthur in this mood.
“What do you mean, ‘What?’ I am fucking covered in pen!”
Arthur’s glare would be terrifying, if he didn’t have I’m a twat written on his forehead. Eames had seen Arthur asleep in his chair, dreaming, and taken full advantage of the situation. He is an opportunist, after all.
“Well, won’t it wash off?” says Eames unhelpfully, “It’s only pen.”
“It’s fucking marker pen, Eames, it doesn’t come off!”
“Well that’s unfortunate.”
“Yes it is, Eames, it is very unfortunate, because I am going out tonight and it means you have to die.”
Eames’ eyes widen.
“Really?” he splutters, “Oh fuck, I didn’t know – you’re actually – going out – oh God, that is just hilarious…”
He breaks down laughing, because he actually has perfect timing and this is the funniest thing to happen since forever, and Arthur’s probably going to kill him in a minute so he might as well enjoy this while he can.
“Don’t worry, darling. If she loves you, I’m sure she’ll accept you as you are,” Eames says, because he doesn’t value his life.
“It’s a business meeting, not a – a date or something.”
“Oh yes, I forgot you weren’t getting any.”
“Someday, I am going to kill you, Mr Eames,” Arthur growls, stalking off to the bathroom.
“You already did that, remember?”
He comes back half an hour later, his forehead red-raw.
He doesn’t find the rest of it until the next day. Arthur storms into the office, tearing off his jacket and throwing his suitcase down on the desk.
“Hello, Arthur,” says Eames cheerily, sipping from his tea.
“Why did you draw sexual positions on my thighs?”
“Good morning to you too.”
“I mean seriously. That is not the kind of thing I want to find when I take off my pants.”
It takes Eames a moment to realise that Arthur means trousers, and isn’t just randomly talking about his underwear. Because that would be kind of weird, and now Eames is thinking about Arthur taking off his pants and what the actual hell.
“It took me forty-five minutes to get them off,” Arthur rants.
“The drawings or the trousers?” Eames smirks, and takes another swig of tea.
Arthur leans angrily across his desk.
“My body is my fucking property, Eames, not something for you to play with for your amusement.”
Eames chokes on his tea. He’s sure that Arthur didn’t mean that to sound so wrong. Almost definitely.
“Never go near my thighs again. You hear me?”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he says, because his brain is screaming innuendos at him and Arthur’s angry and there’s something brilliant about that.
“Erm, good morning everyone,” says Cobb, who looks like he’s slightly disturbed but trying to conceal the fact with a smile that’s so strained it’s really creepy.
He looks from Arthur to Eames, and Arthur doesn’t look sexually aggressive in this position, and the lines under his eyes don’t look like he’s spent the last three nights having particularly energetic sex, no, not at all.
“I’m going to make some coffee,” he says, but his voice is stilted as he shuffles into the kitchen.
“Cobb still thinks we’re fucking and it’s all your fault.”
Part of Eames wants to say If I fuck you will you get over it? and another part of him is just going Are you actually contemplating fucking Arthur? and the first part of him is replying Fuck yes, and it’s pretty weird that he’s having a conversation with himself but nothing is really making much sense anymore so he just rolls with it.
Then Arthur sighs and looks up and says quietly, “Eames?”
“You know… that thing… that you drew… above my left knee?” he whispers uneasily, drawing closer to him.
Eames tries to remember what exactly he put there. Then he remembers and well.
“Oh, er, yes?”
“Is that even possible?” Arthur asks, “I mean, can you actually do that?”
Eames takes a breath.
“Oh,” says Arthur, short and open.
“Uhm, hey, we’ve run out of milk,” Cobb says, sticking his head out of the kitchen.
Eames sincerely doubts this.
“I’ll go get some,” says Arthur, pushing himself up off the desk.
The door clicks shut behind Arthur. It’s only five minutes later that Eames realises his phone is missing.
“Son of a bitch,” he mutters under his breath.
But he’s smiling.
Arthur sends the text when he’s in the queue for the milk. He scrolls down the address book in Eames’ phone, and he’s going to send it to one of his business associates, because that would be very unkind and Arthur is not feeling very kind towards Eames. But then he sees a contact named only Darling, so he decides to send it to whoever she is. Well, she or he. Arthur doesn’t know what floats Eames’ boat, but he certainly does seem to be thoroughly knowledgeable about a wide range of positions, and that should not be at all sexy but it kind of really is. He buys the milk and tries to forget that he just used the words sexy and Eames in the same sentence.
When he gets back, he brushes past Eames, slipping the phone back into his pocket.
“Oh thank you, I was wondering where that was,” Eames says with a small smile, “You know, I think you left yours on the desk by the way.”
Arthur considers breaking their agreement and punching him in his stupid face, just to get that smug expression off it.
“Oh darling, you look very tense,” says Eames, because Arthur thinks he can hide it when he’s angry but he really can’t, and Eames puts a hand on his shoulder that’s probably meant to be comforting but really isn’t.
And then something clicks in Arthur’s mind – a terrible, excruciating possibility – and he grabs his phone from the desk. 1 New Message. Arthur reads it.
Hello darling, I just realized that my clothes are hideous, would you mind terribly getting me out of them? ;) xxx
Eames leans over his shoulder and grins.
“I knew you weren’t getting any, Arthur, but this is verging on desperate.”
Arthur treats Eames to an expression that can only be described as incandescent rage.
“You listed me as Darling on your phone?”
“You sent yourself a sext from my phone?”
“That is not important,” says Arthur, even though that does sound a bit weird when Eames puts it like that, “Because, Darling? Really?”
“It suits you,” says Eames, touching him under the chin.
Arthur wants something, anything to take him away from this infuriating, ridiculous, silly man. But he’s already got through one month with him and he does need to help Cobb out and he doesn’t give up and just walk out on a job. And, for some reason, he is more than a little fond of Eames. So he stays.
Eames texts Arthur after that. Turns out he has unlimited texts and too much spare time on his hands, and it’s an incurably annoying combination.
just saw 2 pigeons mating outside the window, it made me think of you xx
just wondering, could your suits get any tighter? gives me a great view of your backside xx
oh fuck theres 3 of them now
things are getting pretty involved over here
arthur i am too aroused by this
but not as aroused as i am by you of course ;) xx
Eames. Stop. I know you don’t mean that.
im sure i can persuade you otherwise… ;) xxx
Arthur stops replying pretty quickly. It only encourages him.
Arthur loves paradoxes. He loves the complexity, the intricacy. He loves understanding and constructing something perfect. His sketchbooks are full of them, neat notes and detailed diagrams and precise plans. He thinks they’re beautiful. Eames doesn’t. He thinks they’re the most boring, overcomplicated, tortuous, hateful things ever to be created by man, except possibly Arthur. But he likes peeking over Arthur’s shoulder to snatch a glance at his sketchbook, because it’s like suddenly seeing into his devastatingly logical mind. It also really pisses him off. One day Arthur leaves his book open on his desk and Eames pores over its pages like a holy text, because it’s something strange, something indescribable, something he doesn’t understand. Something like Arthur. There’s triangles. Triangles within triangles within triangles, a great pyramid of intersecting lines, each one cutting into the other, and he grasps at a sense of limitlessness, of endlessness.
“Don’t touch what isn’t yours, Eames,” Arthur says curtly.
Eames looks straight at him.
“You’re amazing,” he says.
He means it.