“Your neighbor is hot,” Eames tells Yusuf across Yusuf’s work desk.
Yusuf sighs, pushing his glasses up his face. “Can you please stop stalking everyone who lives within five miles of me?”
“First of all, Yusuf,” Eames says indignantly, “I had legitimate reason for Robert--”
Yusuf scoffs. “Yeah, legitimate reason for Robert’s cock.”
Yusuf raises a hand, stopping Eames. “You know what? Just stop roping me into your shit, I don’t want another boy crying at my doorstep because your dick gave him illusions of domesticity. One of us has to pay the rent here.”
“I’m your guest,” Eames says.
On the walk back to Yusuf’s place after a nighttime shop run, Eames notices a familiar figure jogging in place at the curb.
He sidles up to him. “Hello, Yusuf’s hot neighbor,” he says lowly.
Yusuf’s hot neighbor glances at him, then pulls an earbud out. Something loud and upbeat pulses out of it. “Sorry?” he says.
“Oh, I was just saying--do you live around here?”
Yusuf’s hot neighbor swipes some sweaty hair out of his eyes and drinks attractively from his water bottle. “You’re new, aren’t you?” he says, peering at Eames. The side of his face lights up as cars pass through the intersection.
Eames nods. “Just here visiting my friend--Yusuf?”
“Hmm.” Yusuf’s hot neighbor looks away, worrying his lip in thought. Then, he perks up. Eames is entranced by this heretofore unseen range of emotion on his lovely face. “Oh yeah, Yusuf--sorry, I don’t see him much,” he says. “Visiting for what?”
Eames shrugs and smiles in the way he knows gets people to look at his lips. “No occasion. He lets me come over when I get sick of the shite weather and shite people up north, I pay him in actual human meals.”
Yusuf’s hot neighbor smiles in response, just barely. “That sounds like a good deal to me.”
“I think I’ve got the better end, personally,” Eames says, and smiles again.
Yusuf’s hot neighbor is watching him, a sort of calculating look on his face. Not hostile. Cautious, maybe.
Eames shifts his shopping bag to his left arm and sticks out his hand. “Eames,” he says.
Yusuf’s hot neighbor looks at the hand, a split second of decision, and accepts it. They shake. Eames holds on a little too long, warm and friendly.
“Arthur,” Yusuf’s hot neighbor says carefully, like he’s saying something else. He lets go. The pedestrian call button beeps at them to start crossing the road.
“You’re going back, aren’t you? I’m just,” Eames makes a vague gesture, “you know, a little lost--I really shouldn’t have left the flat at night. D’you think you could take me home?”
Arthur tilts his head, expression unreadable.
“...Or not, if there’s someone,” Eames says. He flicks a glance up and down Arthur.
Arthur shakes his head and huffs out a laugh. “Sorry, it’s just that I’m a little gross right now.”
“That’s perfectly alright,” Eames says. “I like it.”
The bed creaks when Arthur drops down onto it, pulling Eames with him. As Eames stumbles into a kneeling position over Arthur, a furry black blob streaks off the pillow.
“You have a cat?” Eames asks.
“Yes.” Arthur’s hands start fiddling with Eames’s belt. “You’re not allergic, are you?”
“Mmm,” Eames says, doing absolutely nothing to help Arthur. “Not particularly.”
“Great. Don’t worry, she’ll go away.” The last part is muffled as Arthur pulls his shirt over his head.
Eames, captivated by the newly-revealed skin, leans down and starts peppering Arthur’s chest with warm, wet kisses. Arthur sighs out and clutches the back of Eames’s head.
Eames forgets about the cat soon enough.
“Your cat is back,” Eames says, later. He’s perched on the edge of the bed, midway through pulling his trousers back on.
Arthur’s sprawled out on top of the blanket, arm covering most of his face. Eames can just see his hair, a dark splatter against the pillow.
“Is she?” Arthur says, half-sitting up. He holds his hand out. “Come here, sweetheart.” The cat eyes Eames without concern, then leaps up onto the bed and settles by Arthur’s side. “Hello, my beautiful girl,” he coos, scratching her head.
Eames takes the hint and leaves.
“His name is Arthur,” Eames comments as he flicks the stove on.
“So you slept with him already,” Yusuf says mildly, sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop.
“I protest this assumption,” Eames protests. “I don’t just sleep with everyone, I can have a normal conversation every now and then.”
Yusuf looks at Eames over his glasses. “Am I wrong?”
“You are a terrible friend,” he concludes. This is punctuated by the hiss of the pan as Eames tosses in a chicken breast.
“Would I be a good friend if I just ignored everything you did?”
Damn. Eames pokes at the chicken breast with a spatula and elects not to respond.
The next time, Arthur rides him into the bed.
“Holy shit,” Eames says, staring up at the long expanse of Arthur’s body.
Arthur slaps his hands down onto Eames’s chest and really leans into it, his hair falling all over his face. A groan emerges from somewhere deep within Eames.
After they both come, Arthur says, “Do you have something against cats?”
Eames snaps his eyes from the cat licking itself under the window to Arthur.
“No,” Eames says.
“Okay, great. Can you get out, I need to take her for a walk.”
Eames stares at Arthur. “A...?”
Arthur waves at him dismissively, then pulls on some pants over his dick and gets up from the bed. The cat stands, stretches, and meanders over to rub against Arthur’s legs as he tries to leave the room. It takes a couple seconds of Arthur staring at Eames from the bedroom doorway before Eames realizes he’s waiting for him to leave.
Eames rolls his eyes. “Alright, I’m going, I’m going.”
Eames hums as he presses a slice of bread into the batter. One slice of French toast is already sizzling away in the pan, and one is being eaten by Yusuf.
“I would complain about being subject to your obvious afterglow way more frequently than appropriate for a normal friendship,” Yusuf says, mouth full, “but you make the most incredible meals when you’re in a good mood.”
“Flattering, but I’m fairly certain even you could make French toast, Yusuf.”
“Keyword ‘could,’” Eames clarifies. “‘Would’ is a whole other matter.”
“You know me so well. Who knew breakfast could be so good?” Yusuf wonders.
“How are you even alive?” Eames asks. “Don’t answer that, I don’t want to think about the five boxes of Pop-Tarts I saw in your pantry.”
“Hey, at least I don’t hate my own family’s business so much that I spend half my time in the company of the guy with five boxes of Pop-Tarts.”
“Ouch,” Eames says. “By the way, that slice of French toast had arsenic in it.”
“And it was delicious,” Yusuf replies.
It’s been an exhausting day, and not just the sex, so this time Eames lays around afterwards and dozes. Surprisingly, Arthur lets him.
Eames is there for so long, in fact, that the cat gets bored of the scratching post in the corner of the room and jumps up to nose at Eames’s face.
“That’s Eames, I fuck him sometimes,” Arthur deadpans from beside him.
“Hello, darling,” Eames says, ignoring how Arthur saying ‘fuck’ makes him consider another round. The cat sniffs him without comment, then steps across his stomach and squashes into the space between Eames and Arthur.
As Eames wheezes, Arthur stretches his arms up over his head with a groan, then settles curled in towards the cat and rubs her cheek affectionately. The cat sprawls out, apparently content in the scant inches between their bodies.
“Oh,” Arthur says, an afterthought, “and this is Bibby. She’s the love of my life.”
Eames, wary, holds his hand out. Bibby doesn’t seem concerned about it, so he pats her side gently, then strokes her paw with a finger. It’s very soft.
“Don’t get stabbed,” Arthur says.
“Huh?” Eames says, nudging her toe beans. “Ow, fuck!” He whips his hand away from her now unsheathed claws and stares in dismay at the fresh red lines across his knuckle.
Arthur sniffs and lays his hand over her back, closing his eyes. “She doesn’t like being pet there.”
Eames gives Arthur a wounded look and rubs at his knuckles. “‘Course she doesn’t. Why would she.”
Arthur doesn’t say anything, but Eames catches him hiding a smile behind Bibby.
“He has a cat,” Eames says.
They’re squashed together on Yusuf’s tiny couch that Eames swears shrinks a little bit every time he visits, watching a random action movie they both lost track of about forty-five minutes ago.
“A cat?” Yusuf sounds genuinely surprised. Eames really should make him go outside more, it’s uni all over again. “Huh. Maybe I should hook up with him.”
Something unpleasant prickles up Eames’s spine. “Don’t,” he says. “Arsehole.”
Yusuf laughs. “So now you’re the only one allowed to sleep around?”
“No,” Eames says, disgruntled. “Just...not him. That’s weird.”
“If you insist on bringing him up literally every bloody day, I’m going to have to try him out for myself.”
“Yusuf, fuck off,” Eames snaps.
Yusuf shifts. Eames feels him looking at him in the dark, but he stares resolutely at the screen. Some dude’s shooting another dude.
“I was kidding,” Yusuf says. “‘Course not.”
Eames props his legs up on the coffee table and crosses his arms. He’s very focused on the movie.
“I’m not gonna steal your boy with my frankly irresistible wiles.”
Eames glances at Yusuf. “You and your fucking irresistible wiles,” he says.
“Hey, I can’t promise anything, just don’t bring him here when I’m around.”
“...You never leave.”
“My point stands.”
They run into each other at the shops instead of in the bedroom for once.
It’s just before lunchtime. Arthur’s in his work clothes, pushing a full cart of party paraphernalia, hair working its way out of its gel and mouth set in its firm don’t-fucking-speak-to-me line. He doesn’t register Eames’s presence next to him as he glares at a package of sugar cookies until Eames touches his waist, just lightly.
Eames doesn’t really know what Arthur does for a living, but he knows it’s stressful and miserable and he goes running and has sex as an outlet for that.
Eames doesn’t mind. He’s happy to be of use. It’s not like he isn’t always running from his own shit.
So Eames backs Arthur into the family bathroom, locks the door, and goes down on him, until Arthur’s hissed complaints turn into muffled gasps and moans.
He makes sure to put Arthur back to rights, or at least as close to rights as he can, as Arthur pants against the wall with his eyes closed. The don’t-fucking-speak-to-me mouth has been replaced with soft, swollen lips, but.
“How long are you visiting Yusuf for?” Arthur mumbles into Eames’s shoulder.
Eames grunts out a noise that might be a word, if pressed. Arthur sucks another kiss into Eames’s neck, folding his shirt collar down for better access.
“Erm,” Eames clears his throat, “a bit.” He usually leaves whenever he gets bored and the rich old fucks on the board of his family’s business start grumbling about the flighty son again.
Arthur hums and starts unbuttoning Eames’s shirt, and that’s all he says about that.
“We’re going to the beach.” Arthur bustles around Eames, who’s still fucked out on the couch, stuffing things into a duffel. “You can come if you like.”
“The beach,” Eames echoes. He muses about how he hasn’t seen the ocean in a while before his brain registers the second sentence. “Hah?” he says intelligently.
“Or not,” Arthur continues, zipping open Bibby’s carrier. She hops in, tail flicking, and pokes her head out of the opening Arthur leaves her.
“No--I can.” Eames sits up and runs a hand through his hair. “I mean, sure.”
Arthur glances at him. Eames isn’t quite sure, but he thinks he’s pleased.
Turns out the beach means an hour sitting in the car next to Arthur, listening to Arthur’s music, with Bibby occasionally mewing from the backseat. Eames had considered going back to Yusuf’s to grab swim trunks or sandals or something, but he was worried Arthur would secretly take off while Eames was gone and Eames’s slant window of opportunity to admire the freckles on Arthur’s shoulders under the sun would disappear forever.
It’s a gorgeous day for the beach. Eames cranks the window down and lets the wind buffet his face over the lukewarm warbles of Maroon 5. He can taste salt in the air as they get closer to their destination. Bibby starts getting restless in the back, and Arthur coos mindless, comforting things at her. Eames would think he’s crashing their date, but--Arthur invited him, after all.
Once they get to the beach, Arthur fits a harness and leash onto Bibby and lets her lead the way, tail high, down the boardwalk to what is apparently their regular spot. Arthur makes Eames set up the umbrella and the blanket while he takes off his shirt and rubs sunscreen all over himself like it isn’t the most erotic thing in the world.
Then, Eames has to sit under the umbrella and stare at Arthur struggling to get the last bit of his back until he finally snaps and grabs the sunscreen from the blanket and rubs the last bit himself.
“Thank you,” Arthur says. The wind tosses his hair over his face. He looks so much younger like this, Eames thinks.
Bibby has been sitting patiently on the sand, but she perks up as Arthur unfolds himself from the blanket, leash in hand. She bolts off toward the water, Arthur following behind at a jog, and splashes right in.
What an odd cat.
Eames has almost been completely lulled to sleep by the warmth of the sun and the sound of the waves when Arthur returns, sopping wet and a happy black cat by his side.
“What, you don’t like the water?” Arthur pants out, hair dripping cold water everywhere.
Eames shrugs and hands over the beach towel. “Keeping an eye on the stuff, hey?”
Bibby trots up and steps all over Eames in her quest for the duffel beside him.
“There’s treats in there for her,” Arthur says over Eames clutching his stomach and curling into a ball of hurt.
“Your cat hates me,” Eames moans.
Arthur laughs and pats Eames’s back. “No, she doesn’t.”
Eames rolls back over and fixes Arthur with a very serious look. “Your cat,” he repeats, "hates me.”
Arthur beams. Eames feels all the breath rush out of his chest at once.
He has dimples.
There’s actually two sandwiches wrapped up in Arthur’s duffel, which Eames did not see him pack. He’s forced to conclude Arthur is some kind of wizard. He watches the tips of Arthur’s hair curl up as they dry, sandy and salty, while the both of them eat their sandwiches. Arthur feeds Bibby treats and showers her with adoration. She purrs and looks very pleased with herself, blinking her eyes at Eames like she’s saying look how much he loves me. Bow before your queen.
When Arthur leans across Eames to grab a water bottle from the duffel, Eames thumbs Arthur’s chin and captures his mouth in a kiss. Arthur sighs and leans into it, hand coming up to touch the side of Eames’s face.
It occurs to Eames that the other people on the beach would assume they were a couple, maybe, out for a Saturday date with their cat. They would pile back into the car as the sun set, sunburned and happy. Go back to their flat, eat leftovers from the week, sleep in on Sunday, cook breakfast together, watch telly. Next week, do it all over again.
He finds he doesn’t mind it so much anymore.
Eames gets busy after that, has to fly up and hang around for a few days to reassure the rich old fucks that he exists. His burn has faded into a rather nice tan by the time he pays Arthur another Friday evening house call.
“Hey,” Eames says when Arthur opens the door, still in work clothes, but looser, with his sleeves rolled up and collar open, “d’you wanna--”
Arthur gives him a brief, distracted smile. “Oh, hi, Eames. Sorry, I have someone over right now. Maybe later?”
Eames stops. “You what?”
“Someone…” Arthur flaps a hand behind himself. “Just someone from work.”
You hate work, Eames doesn’t say. Instead, he tries to subtly angle his head around Arthur’s body, but all he can glimpse is a coiffed head of brown hair and a jawbone.
“Come back later?” Arthur asks, a little more pointedly now.
“Okay,” Eames says.
Eames stares at the ceiling, half-empty wineglass on the carpet beside him. “I’m bloody in love with him.”
Eames shifts his head for a sideways look at Yusuf, carpet rubbing pleasantly against his hair. “Did you hear me?”
“Yes?” Yusuf, sat up on the couch, glances at Eames, then does a double take. “Oh, is this, like, serious? Oh God, please don’t cry.”
“I’m not crying,” Eames sniffs, eyes welling up.
A tissue box smacks the carpet next to Eames’s head. Eames grabs one and blows his nose.
Yusuf sighs. “How much wine did you have?”
“He has dimples,” Eames sobs into the tissue.
Yusuf slides down onto the ground next to Eames and props his head up with a couch cushion.
“I have to go back, you know,” Eames says wetly.
“Yeah, mate, you always do.”
“I don’t want to.”
“‘Course you don’t,” Yusuf says, stroking Eames’s hair. “You fucking hate that place.”
Eames hiccups. Wow, he’s a little drunker than he thought he was. “I have to tell Arthur,” he says.
“Well. That’s new.”
“What if he finds someone else?” Tears leak uncontrollably down his cheeks.
“Oh, Jesus.” Yusuf hands Eames a couple more tissues. “You move on. You always have.”
“He’s--But he’s so--” Eames buries his face in the tissues and tries to take some deep, calming breaths. “He’s got dimples,” he finishes, muffled.
Yusuf pats Eames’s shoulder and lets him cry it out.
Eames slumps over a bowl of cereal at the kitchen table, hungover as a fucking dog, wearing Yusuf’s sunglasses.
“Oh. Hello?” Yusuf asks.
Yusuf’s at the door. Someone knocked on it a moment ago, very authoritative-like. Eames hopes it isn’t someone the rich old fucks sent--it wouldn’t be the first time. Yusuf is great at fending them off, though. Eames has faith in Yusuf.
“Hey. Yusuf, right?”
Eames snaps his head toward the door, then stops and clutches at the table as the world spins slowly around him.
“Arthur,” Yusuf responds. “You have a cat.”
Arthur laughs. “Yep. Her name is Babadook, but I call her Bibby.”
“Oh, brilliant. Good for you. She sounds lovely.”
“She’s the love of my life,” Arthur says warmly. “Can I come in?”
“Sure,” Yusuf says, stepping aside.
Eames ducks behind the box of cereal just as Arthur comes in.
“Eames,” Arthur says.
“Oh,” Eames pops his head up and laughs nervously. “Arthur. What a pleasant surprise.”
“I asked you to come back later.”
“Yesterday. I said come back later.”
Eames searches past his wine-soaked memory and--oh. He did, didn’t he.
Eames looks into his bowl of cereal and stirs it around. “I got busy,” he mumbles.
“Are you busy now?”
“Yusuf says I can’t have sex with anyone when he’s around,” Eames says immediately.
“Would you look at the time,” Yusuf says, “it’s my regular Saturday appointment to leave the flat.”
“Yusuf--” Eames starts.
“Do not fuck this up,” Yusuf hisses, grabbing his jacket and his wallet.
Arthur sits down at the table just as the door shuts behind Yusuf and stares at Eames expectantly. Eames’s spoon clinks in the bowl.
“Are you mad at me?” Arthur asks.
Eames blinks. “What? Why would I be mad at you?”
Arthur shrugs. “Beach thing was too much, maybe. You disappeared after that. Then Cobb was over yesterday.”
“Maybe I was just busy,” Eames says. “I’ve got shit to do, too.”
“As far as I can tell, no, you literally don’t.”
Eames frowns. He eats another spoonful of cereal.
“I think the beach thing was too much,” Arthur muses. “We can just go back to fucking, if you want.”
Eames sucks in a breath and lets it out. “The beach thing was lovely,” he says.
Arthur glances at him, genuine surprise.
“It was lovely,” Eames continues, “I don’t do stuff like that often.”
Arthur raises his eyebrows. “Go to the beach?”
Eames’s head pounds. “Just...going out somewhere. With someone.”
“You’re telling me you don’t go on dates?”
Eames winces. “I suppose.”
Arthur leans over the table, toward Eames, and says, “We’ll have to change that, won’t we?”
Eames feels something flutter in his stomach. He stares at the upward curl of Arthur’s lip, the one that’s always there, even in its don’t-fucking-speak-to-me line.
“I got drunk last night over you,” he blurts.
“Always something a boy likes to hear.”
“Arthur,” Eames says, “what do you want?”
“I don’t know,” Arthur replies, not unkindly. “Anything. What do you want?”
Eames doesn’t think Arthur is in love with him yet, but that’s alright. They’ve got time. With everything else in his life a fucking mess, he might as well see how this goes.