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Mutually-Assured Seduction

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It starts, as these things often do, with a bet.


Ariadne pulls a chair up to where Cobb and Yusuf are having lunch. Arthur and Eames are on the other side of the cavernous warehouse space, engaged in a heated debate over ... well, Ariadne's honestly not sure what they're arguing about this time. Just like every other day since they've reunited for the job.

In the past, if asked, Ariadne would've said that both Arthur and Eames have lovely voices. Rich, masculine, complex. She might've even described Eames' accent in particular as having “dulcet tones” and she knows for a fact Arthur laughs more readily than people expect him to. But at the moment, after five days of sniping, Ariadne's ready to toss their voices on a list with nails down a chalkboard or the nighttime howls of feral cats in heat.

“Oh my God,” Ariadne says. “Don't those two ever shut up?”

Cobb smiles around his sandwich. “Not really. Not for any length of time anyway. Unless one of them is asleep. Or unconscious.”

“That can be arranged,” Yusuf reminds. “Voluntarily or otherwise.”

“No drugging team members without consent, Yusuf. You know the rules.”

“You never did say why you have a rule for that in the first place, Dom,” Ariadne points out, but Dom just tries to look stern and shakes his head. She'll have to wait for another day, possibly another handful of birthdays, to hear that story.

“But seriously, what's the deal with A&E?” Ariadne asks, digging a container of leftovers out of her bag.

Cobb squints at her over what appears to be peanut butter and CheezWhiz on Wonder bread. Ariadne's fairly certain the kids have been helping Cobb make his lunches. “You mean, why do they keep running marathons of Murder, She Wrote and frightening reality shows about those people who keep everything?”

“No,” Ariadne says. Cobb really needs to upgrade his cable. She hooks a thumb in the direction of Arthur and Eames. “I mean them.”

“Oh, A and E,” Yusuf says, grinning. “It's like a code.”

“Yeah, okay,” Ariadne interjects. “I can't figure out what their deal is.”


“You know. The arguing, the ridiculous posturing and game-playing and bickering. Do they really dislike each other or is that just a serious amount of unresolved sexual tension?”

Yusuf looks across to where Arthur is standing with a stapler in one hand and a mug of coffee in the other. He looks like he's considering using one or both for purposes they were never intended. Against Eames. “The only other people I've seen bicker like they do have been married fifty years.”

Ariadne grins at the possibility. “Maybe they're a couple!”

Cobb makes a face. “A couple? What do you mean 'a couple'?”

Ariadne looks at Yusuf for help, but he's carefully buried his face behind an enormous mug of something that smells a little like coffee and a lot like Bailey's.

“A couple, Cobb. Two people. Together. Do you know if they're sleeping together?”

“No, of course not!” Cobb looks ridiculously uncomfortable and shakes his head.

Ariadne is as persistent as a terrier. “No, you don't know, or no, they're not sleeping together?”

“Either! Both! I don't know. And I don't want to know, Ariadne.” Cobb avoids glancing over at the two of them, as if they might start going at it right there. Personally, Ariadne thinks it would be better than the arguing. She'd fucking sell tickets. Cobb sighs, defeated. “They're just—that's how they are. They argue. They've done that as long as I've known them, and I've known them both a long time. It doesn't mean anything.”

“It really looks like sexual tension to me.”

Cobb sputters something about needing to check on the kids—apparently he means Phillipa and James not Arthur and Eames in this instance—and leaves Ariadne to her lunch. She realizes Yusuf is contemplating her over his mug of not-entirely-coffee. She tries the direct approach, using her fork full of tabouleh to reinforce her argument.

“Yusuf, you know Eames. What's the scoop?”

Yusuf shakes his head. “I really don't know him much better than you do. Our dealings in Mombasa were largely professional.”

“But?” Ariadne senses a kindred spirit here.

Yusuf stares across to where Eames is gesturing broadly while strutting around the table, and Arthur is standing perfectly straight and still, looking like he's three seconds away from stapling Eames to death. “You might be right, although I doubt they've consummated anything the way they're pulling one another's pigtails.”

“I know, right?” Ariadne agrees triumphantly. She knew she couldn't possibly be the only one who sees it. “There's definitely something there.”

Yusuf grins at her openly before setting his mug down on the table and leaning forward conspiratorially. “My dear Ariadne, would you care to make a wager?”


The terms of the bet are simple. The stake is $5000 because after the Fischer job it's not really a lot of money for either of them.

If Arthur and Eames were two racehorses, it would be a clear race to the finish, first to nose across the line wins. In such an analogy, as Yusuf points out, he and Ariadne would be the trainers or the jockeys, each certain his horse would be the winner. Yusuf is putting his money on Eames, Ariadne on Arthur. Each believes they've chosen a prize stallion. Neither of them is wrong.

The “horses,” as is often the case in such things, are given minimal consideration in the matter. Do they want to be involved in the race? Do they care about winning? Would they not rather be in the stable with sweet oats and a soft bed of hay? Would they not prefer to choose their own mates to be bedded with?

“So,” Ariadne says, making sure the terms are clear. She's been around these men long enough to know the details are important. “If Arthur seduces Eames, I win. If Eames seduces Arthur, you win.”


“And if they're both too stupid to figure out they want each other?”

“Then nothing has changed, I suppose. The status quo remains, and neither of us is out a penny.”

Ariadne sips on her coffee and watches Arthur tidying his desk at the end of the day. “How do we give them a push in the right direction?”

“Well,” Yusuf says, grinning, “that's the real challenge, isn't it?”


“Are you kidding?” Arthur says when Ariadne shows up at his hotel room with a bottle of scotch. She doesn't think her idea is that crazy, but Arthur's looking at her like he's about to bundle her off to a hospital for the criminally insane.

“Oh, come on, Arthur,” she says dramatically, flopping down on the queen-sized bed in his room. “There's $2000 in it for you.”

“Aside from the fact I don't need the money, and the whole concept of this makes me feel like you're trying to prostitute me, what makes you think I have any interest in seducing Eames?” He's standing with his arms crossed over his chest and he looks more puzzled than angry, so Ariadne figures she's got a chance if she plays her cards right.

Ariadne shrugs. “Well, if you don't think you can do it ...”

The sound Arthur makes is derisive. “Oh, I can do it, Ariadne, but why would I want to? It's Eames!” The contempt in his voice is enough to make Ariadne think maybe she's been reading the situation all wrong; maybe they really don't like each other.

“Are you saying you don't find him at all attractive?”

“No.” Arthur refuses to meet her eyes. “I mean, yes, he's attractive, if you like ridiculous shoulders and tattoos and those stupid, full lips—”

Ariadne smiles. “Yeah, personally, I hate all those qualities in a guy. Not to mention the accent and the muscles and his quick fingers—”

Arthur's eyes narrow. “What would you know about his—you know, never mind. I don't care. I have no intention of trying to seduce Eames for your entertainment.”

Ariadne shrugs and slips off the bed, preparing to leave. “Too bad. I guess you don't mind if Eames wins then.”

“Wait, what? How does he win if I don't participate?”

“Well, he told Yusuf you were pretty much a sure thing, and he'd have no trouble at all getting you into his bed.” Ariadne is not above lying, especially when the job they're working is about as exciting as watching someone else watching paint dry. “I guess he's more certain of his seduction techniques than you are.”

“He said that?” Arthur looks annoyed.

“He put money on it,” Ariadne says solemnly, figuring Arthur knows Eames really isn't a foolhardy gambler. He likes to bet on things that have a reasonable outcome of netting him a payout. If Arthur thinks Eames is already on-board, his competitive streak should kick in. Ariadne only feels slightly bad about the lie. “He and Yusuf seemed to think you'd be helpless to resist his charms.”

“Oh, they did, did they?” Arthur's face is a full-fledged scowl, and he makes a grabby hand motion for the bottle of scotch Ariadne brought with her. “I resisted his damn charms for years, and everyone knows he was the one desperate to get into my pants. He wouldn't fucking know what to do with himself if I decided to come on to him in the middle of a job.”

Ariadne grins smugly, watching Arthur pour himself a generous two fingers of scotch. He belts the drink back and his face is flushed when he looks at Ariadne.

“What are your terms?”


Arthur doesn't give a damn about the two thousand dollars Ariadne's willing to pay if he can put Eames in his place, which in Ariadne's opinion seems to be on his back in Arthur's bed. Nor does he care about whatever wager Eames seems to have going with Yusuf; Eames' overconfidence has always been his weakness.

The only thing Arthur truly cares about is winning, and if winning in this instance means putting Eames to bed and doing naked, sexy things to him, Arthur's fine with that. It's the principle of the thing that's important.

No one needs to tell him he's too competitive for his own good.


Eames is standing in line at the coffee shop, contemplating whether it's a chai latte or an English Breakfast morning, when Yusuf pats him on the shoulder. Eames looks at the hand and the slightly sympathetic turn of Yusuf's mouth, and says, “Okay there, mate?”

Yusuf looks at him kindly. “You don't have to put up a brave front for me, Eames. I'm surprised you're still buying the bastard coffee.”

Eames blinks as the line shuffles slowly forward. “Sorry? Buying what for who?”

“For Arthur,” Yusuf says as if that explains everything. “You usually get him a coffee, right?”

Eames takes a minute to think about that. Sure, most mornings he gets Arthur a coffee, but some mornings he also gets one for Ariadne or Cobb or even Yusuf. Some mornings, he doesn't get anyone a damn thing. He doesn't set out with a coffee-buying plan (as he's sure Arthur must); he prefers to live moment-to-moment, and if the mood strikes him, if he wants to buy Arthur one of those soy-based frothy whipped concoctions with too little espresso and too much sugar, the kind that inevitably leaves a tiny line of foam around the edges of Arthur's lips after he drinks, well, Eames likes the element of surprise in the gesture, the genuine dimpled smile that crosses Arthur's face when he says, “Thank you, Mr. Eames.” But he wouldn't want Arthur to come to expect such things from him. Where would be the fun in that?

Yusuf keeps on talking as if Eames hasn't been analysing his coffee habits. “Of course, if you're getting him coffee, I guess his nefarious scheme must be working.” He sounds put out on Eames' behalf, and although Eames appreciates the sentiment, he hasn't the foggiest what Yusuf's on about.

“What are you on about?”

“Arthur.” Yusuf shakes his head. “And worse, he's dragged Ariadne into his games.”

Eames bites his lip, confused. “Arthur. I don't understand, Yusuf. What's he done? And what's it to do with Ariadne?”

“He's made a bet.”

Eames raises an eyebrow at that. Arthur's usually the one giving Eames a bloody lecture about gambling on the job. “What sort of bet?”

Yusuf looks uncomfortable for all of half a second, then gleefully proceeds to spill the beans.

“Arthur bet that he could seduce you before the job is through without even making an effort. I believe the expression was 'a sure thing,' and he seemed quite confident you wouldn't know what to do with yourself if he came onto you.”

“He actually said that?”

Yusuf nods solemnly. “He seems to think you're hopelessly in love with him, mate. Doesn't realize you flirt with everyone that way.”

Eames doesn't bother to point out that, in fact, Arthur's the only person he flirts with quite that way, because it doesn't change the situation any. Eames has always thought they had an understanding of how to behave on the job together. Flirting's allowed, innuendo and casual touches are allowed, anything more blatant is strictly off-limits. Arthur has a thing about professionalism, so it strikes Eames as a flagrant disregard for the unspoken rules if Arthur thinks he can seduce him with his pretty smile and perfect arse. No, if Arthur wants to change the game just to prove he can—or worse, to impress Ariadne of all people—he's going to have to do better than that.

Eames may be pretty much a sure thing—he's always been mad about Arthur, it's true—but when bragging rights are on the line, when it's a test of willpower and showmanship and who can seduce whom first, when it's for a bloody bet, Eames has no intention of giving in easily.

“What's in it for me?” Eames asks as they reach the counter.

“I've got a little side bet with Ariadne that says you'll seduce Arthur first. When we win, I'll split it with you.”

“How much?”

“Your share's $500, mate.”

Eames considers. The money's only a token, anyway. It's the thrill of the chase he enjoys, especially when he knows Arthur will be chasing him too. Really, as far as Eames is concerned, it's a win-win situation even if he loses. Either way ... Arthur.

“Deal,” Eames says, then turns to the harried barista. “Two large Earl Grey tea, and one of those exquisite Cafe Americano things with soy milk, please, and lots of sugar.” Eames winks at Yusuf as he hands over his credit card. “After all, I've got an altogether too cocky point man who needs to be taught a lesson about seduction, and one can never go wrong with coffee.”

If Yusuf is grinning a bit more widely than strictly necessary, Eames doesn't think much of it. Eames hands him his cup of tea, and the two of them head to the warehouse together, Eames' own tea and Arthur's coffee nestled side by side in a cardboard tray.


Day 2

“You look particularly fetching this morning, darling,” Eames says, openly admiring the way Arthur's suit drapes elegantly along the lean lines of his frame.

“And you, Mr. Eames, look like you were fitted by a blind tailor with palsy.”

“Thank you for noticing, love. It means ever so much to know you're paying attention.” Eames kisses Arthur on the top of his head as he walks by Arthur's desk, and Arthur simply shakes his head and goes back to work.


Day 2 and a half



“No, Eames.”

“But, darling, if you'd only—”

“Put your shirt back on right now, Eames, or so help me, I'll shoot you.”

Ariadne looks up with alarm. “Arthur, we're not in a dream!”

Arthur glares steadily across to where Eames is begrudgingly pulling his rain-damp t-shirt on again. “I didn't say I was going to shoot him in the head.”

“You, my dear stick-in-the-mud, are no fun at all,” Eames says and wanders off to bug Yusuf.


Day 4

Ariadne sips thoughtfully at her tea. “You know, maybe they're really this awful at relationships.”

Yusuf adds a generous splash of something from his flask to his coffee. “I thought it would be like watching tigers circle. It's more like circus clowns on those tiny bicycles.”

Ariadne nods and reaches for Yusuf's flask.


Day 7

Arthur comes in with sleeves rolled-up and buttons undone, complaining about the heat.

Eames agrees and promptly strips off his shirt, exposing his tattoos for all to see. Ariadne does not drop her coffee on the maze designs, but it's a close thing.

By the end of the day, Arthur and Eames are down to their boxers, sitting warily on opposite sides of the warehouse, pretending to work. Cobb stares from one to the other when he returns from a meeting at Philippa's school, and says, “I'll get the air conditioning fixed tomorrow, okay? Guys?”


Day 9

They're doing a walk-though of the second level and Ariadne gets separated from the others. When she finally finds them again, Arthur's shirt is torn and his hair is mussed. Eames is limping and there are bruises darkening his neck. Mouth and finger-shaped bruises.

“Um?” Ariadne says.

Eames shrugs and doesn't object when Arthur slips under his arm to help support him. “Projections got a bit agressive.”

“And you fended them off with your ... neck?” Ariadne asks skeptically, noting Arthur's furious blush.

Eames nods solemnly. “One does what one must to protect a team-mate's virtue.”

“You're such an asshole,” Arthur says, but he doesn't let go of Eames as they wait out the kick. Ariadne tries her best not to grin when Eames rests his head on Arthur's shoulder, or when Arthur, seemingly without thinking about it, pets at Eames' hair.


Day 12

Yusuf and Ariadne huddle over the last set of designs.

“That five grand is so mine,” Ariadne says, casually slipping into Yusuf's work area. “Arthur's been resisting for years, and now that he's turned the tables, well, Eames will probably drop to his knees right in the warehouse.”

“I wouldn't count your forgers before they're seduced,” Yusuf says knowingly. He glances across to where Arthur's accepting his daily coffee from Eames, their fingers brushing lightly as the cup is exchanged. “Eames has the persistence of a tax collector and the patience of a sniper. He can outplay, outwit, and outlast Arthur. I have no doubt.”

Ariadne shakes her head. “I'm sorry I ever introduced you to Survivor,” she says mildly, watching Arthur break into a smile that shows off his dimples. Good boy, she thinks. The dimples are definitely a direct hit.

Eames fumbles his own cup of tea, spilling on his trousers. Arthur's up in an instant, pulling out a handkerchief and dabbing indiscriminately at Eames' wet lap. Okay, clearly Arthur gets points for not being subtle, but Ariadne really expected a bit more finesse than that. Or a lot more finesse. And perhaps more resistance on Eames' part—she really doesn't think the tea spilled there.

“Jesus!” Ariadne says, blushing, as she watches Arthur determinedly steering Eames towards the bathroom and Eames playing the brave soldier card, wherein he assures Arthur it's nothing really, he's had worse burns than that, but perhaps he should have it looked at just to be on the safe side.

Ariadne and Yusuf stare at one another as the bathroom door swings shut. The sound of a door locking is unmistakable in the sudden quiet of the warehouse.

“Crap,” Ariadne says intelligently. “How are we going to know who actually does the seducing and who gets seduced?”

“I have no idea,” Yusuf replies, looking pole-axed and like he very much wishes he were drunk. Or at least more drunk than he currently is. There's something that sounds like a belt buckle hitting the tile floor, followed by a very filthy laugh. Ariadne feels a little dirty just hearing it.


“Lunch sounds fantastic.” Ariadne grabs her scarf, her sketchbook, and her purse. She doesn't want to have to come back to the warehouse for anything. She's never using that bathroom ever again.

If the two of them scurry out of the warehouse faster than necessary, well, it's only because the prospect of lunch is really, really exciting. It has nothing to do with the breathless sounds coming from the warehouse bathroom. Nothing at all.


When Cobb wanders into the warehouse in the late afternoon, things appear to be much the same as usual. Arthur and Eames are bickering over how best to approach the mark and what forgery will accomplish their goals most expediently. They're sitting rather closer than they usually do, and Arthur's dimples are showing. He's also not wearing a tie, and in the open vee of his shirt Cobb can make out a bluish bruise. He frowns. He really hopes Arthur and Eames haven't started resorting to physical violence. They're enough of a handful as is.

“Where's Yusuf?” Cobb asks.

“No idea,” Eames says, not looking away from Arthur.

“And Ariadne?”

“Probably with Yusuf,” Arthur offers, not at all helpfully.

“Hm,” Cobb says to no one in particular. At least no one's in their boxers. Cobb's going to count that as progress.


That night Arthur collects $2000 from an apologetic and very drunk Ariadne.

“I didn't mean to make you a prosit—prosti—a whore, Arthur,” she says, patting him on the head. “You didn't have to go through with it.”

“It's fine, Ariadne.” Arthur smirks as he tucks the bills into his wallet. “I'm sure I'll get over the trauma someday.”

He leaves her staring morosely into her drink, and slips the bartender fifty dollars to make sure she gets back to the hotel without incident.


Eames accepts his $500 from Yusuf, although there's some continued dispute about who actually did the seducing.

“I don't know, Eames,” Yusuf says. “Arthur looked pretty in control there. He wasn't the one dropping trou.”

“All part of my clever plan of seduction.” Eames taps the side of his head and winks.

Yusuf still looks skeptical. “Your clever plan was to get scalded with tea and expose yourself to Arthur as a prelude to seduction? If that actually worked, I suppose you deserve the money.”

Eames nods and tosses a twenty on the bar. “Have one on me, mate.”


When Arthur returns to his hotel room, Eames is already there, stretched out languidly on the couch, counting his money and sipping a glass of scotch.

“How much?”

“Five hundred.”

Arthur laughs. “For a con man, you're such an easy mark sometimes.”

“What's that supposed to mean?” He narrows his eyes at Arthur across the room. “How much did you get?”

“Two grand.” Arthur's face is a dimpled minefield. “Apparently Ariadne was very confident in my seduction abilities.”

“This, in spite of that bewilderingly chaste kiss you bestowed on her in Fischer's mind? Truly the girl's judgment is baffling.”

“It wasn't that terrible a kiss, and besides, it was only meant as a distraction.” Arthur sits down on the couch beside Eames, stealing both the money and his drink and setting them on the coffee table.

“It was distracting to me, you sod, and I know for a fact you can kiss much better than that.”

Arthur grins. “Why thank you, Mr. Eames.” He waves the stack of bills under Eames' nose. “Two thousand dollars.”

“Oh, bugger off, Arthur. Yusuf's a cheap bastard. Nothing new there.” Eames grabs the money and tosses it on the table, then tips Arthur neatly onto his back, crawling on top of him.

“Did you honestly say I was a sure thing?” Arthur asks, as Eames nuzzles at the open collar of his shirt.

“No, darling. I would never take you for granted like that.” Eames settles between Arthur's legs and places kisses under the curve of his chin, the edge of his mouth. “Did you really say I wouldn't know what to do if you came onto me?”

Arthur smirks, lips pursing to keep back a laugh.

“You wanker,” Eames says affectionately, nipping at Arthur's throat. “I think I've more than proven that I know exactly what to do with you.”

“I will neither confirm nor deny such a thing,” Arthur says archly, but he can't hold back a smile, which only makes Eames kiss him again.

“Just for that I should make you stick to the original agreement.”

Arthur pulls a face that on anyone else would be a pout. On Arthur, it looks slightly less than murderous. “There's no point; they already know.”

“No, love, they don't,” Eames says. “Ariadne's under the impression you seduced me, and Yusuf's under the impression I seduced you, and Cobb is under absolutely no impression at all, as per usual.”

“So they can think we're having a fling.”

“Arthur.” Eames brushes lightly at the hair curling around Arthur's ear. “Didn't you say it would be unprofessional for us to publicly carry on a relationship when we're working together? In fact, I believe your exact words were, 'Really, Eames, it's only a month.'”

“Damn your eidetic memory,” Arthur murmurs against Eames' mouth, settling his arms around his broad back. “How was I supposed to know this was going to be the longest, most boring job in the history of extraction?”

“Isn't it your job to know, love?”

“Shut up,” Arthur grumbles. “A month didn't used to feel this long.”

Eames grins, delighted. “Oh, darling, if I didn't know better, I'd think you've missed me.”

“You'd be wrong,” Arthur says. They both know it's an outrageous lie. “I see you every day.”

“Seeing and being able to touch are two entirely different things.” To underscore his argument, Eames licks gently at the hollow of Arthur's throat, pleased when Arthur moves into the touch, his breath coming in shallow contented huffs. Eames sits back and goes to work on Arthur's buttons. “I know when we started this there were probably perfectly good reasons for not sleeping together on jobs, but for the life of me, Arthur, I can't remember what they are now.”

Arthur doesn't remember either, although he's not telling Eames that. “I'll admit the original agreement lacks a certain something.”

“You mean sex? I'm pretty sure that's the quintessential flaw with the whole 'no shagging while working' arrangement.”

Arthur lets himself be relieved of his shirt. He shivers as Eames brushes his fingers lightly over the contours of Arthur's stomach. “Forgive me for wanting to maintain some level of professionalism.”

“I'll forgive you, love, but only if we can put a rest to this nonsense, yeah?” Eames lightly traces along Arthur's ribs. His voice is a shade more serious than it should be, but no one except Arthur would likely notice. “There are far more unprofessional things than shagging one of your colleagues.”

“Like betting on it?”

Eames smiles wolfishly and rolls off Arthur, extending his hand to pull him up, tugging him towards the bed. “That's just smart in this case. We're $2500 to the good.”

“Ariadne will kill us if she finds out, you know.”

“We'll add the money to our get-away fund for if she sends assassins after us in the night. What's life without a little danger?”

“Still, it would probably be best if you stayed here,” Arthur says without missing a beat, although he feels Eames hesitate beside him. “There's safety in numbers.”

Eames raises an eyebrow, but doesn't try to quash the grin threatening to overtake his face. They're standing at the edge of the bed, and Eames is lit up like a winning slot-machine. Arthur's never quite sure what to do with that level of happiness, nor with being responsible for it in someone else.

“I believe 'safety in numbers' implies something higher than two, dearest.”

“Two's still a number,” Arthur says stubbornly. “I'd hate to have to find another forger for this job. You should really just stay.” It's not unusual for them to share a bed, but it almost never happens when they're working, and Arthur knows that's been mostly his fault. Well, he can change.

“What about appearing unprofessional in the eyes of our esteemed colleagues?”

Arthur rolls his eyes, aware that a fierce blush has crept onto his cheeks. “Eames, for fuck's sake, forget the agreement. I want you to stay.”

“For the night?” There's no judgment in the question, just a hint of curiosity, and Arthur lets out an exasperated sigh and meets Eames' eyes.

Forever, Arthur wants to say, but doesn't. He suspects Eames understands it anyway from the way his smile softens, Eames' hands coming up to cup Arthur's cheeks and kiss him deep and sweet. They've never really talked about it, but it's been a long time since either of them expressed an interest in being anywhere else.

“You can consider the original agreement to be rendered null and void,” Arthur murmurs when Eames pulls back to let him breathe.

“Well, its terms were somewhat out-of-date,” Eames agrees, “although this means we'll never be able to fleece our co-workers into speculating on our relationship again.”

“Considering the people we regularly work with that's probably sensible.”

“True.” Eames tumbles Arthur neatly onto the bed, sliding up to press him into the duvet as they kick off their shoes. “Best we stick together from here on out then,” Eames says, managing to waggle his brows and leer all at the same time. “You can interpret that anyway your heart desires, Arthur.”

He undoes Arthur's trousers and loosens his zip. He shifts off just enough to let Arthur kick loose from the rest of his clothing and slip under the duvet, then lies back as Arthur undresses him between lazy kisses. It's nothing like their usual passion, bruises and bite marks traded for firm, sure strokes and a slow, relentless build towards release. It leaves Arthur breathless, not only because Eames has worn him out, but because he knows even though they've often treated it like a game, it's never been that at all. It feels as if the tumblers on a safe have clicked into place, and when Eames shifts to get cleaned up, Arthur moves with him, trapping him against the sheets to kiss him a dozen times more.

“I meant what I said, Eames. I want you to stay.”

“Professionalism be damned, eh?” Eames grins and allows Arthur to hold him in place. “You know I love it when you're so very reckless, darling.”

“I'm serious.” Arthur can't contain the note of hurt that slips into his tone.

“Arthur, Arthur, love, I know.” Eames' voice says he knows exactly what Arthur's been fumbling to convey. “Otherwise, it would've been positively churlish of you to take the liberty of settling my account and cancelling my room. You left me with nowhere to go, plus you stole all my things and brought them here. My darling, how could I not know you were asking me to stay?”

Arthur does his best not to look guilty or worse, stupidly besotted, but it's a lost cause. Eames just grins at him, pulls him close and laughs, loud and unrestrained as he tangles their limbs together. “Oh, my love, you really are a sure thing, aren't you?”

“Only for you, Mr. Eames.”