The loft is silent apart from the hum of the refrigerator and the drumming of rain outside. Eames should be on his way to the airport for his God awful early flight to London; his equipment all packed neatly in its black rolling class, his clothes decidedly less neatly shoved into a battered duffle bag.
He sucks in another lungful of smoke, watching the raindrops chase and merge with each other across the window. His view is just a brick wall, zigzagged with a rusty fire-escape, and a dingy alley, but he isn't really aware of it, lost in his own head.
He doesn't turn when the door slides open and slams shut, but he can hear Arthur stumble and laugh quietly to himself.
"Oh. You're still awake," Arthur's voice is quiet, but Eames can hear the underlying disappointment in his tone.
"Yeah. Gotta get ready for my flight," he drops his butt into the last dregs of his coffee and listens for the hiss before setting it down in the sink.
"Oh right, off to the mother land," Arthur giggles to himself.
Eames finally turns and looks at him. His face is weary with exhaustion and alcohol, his normally shellacked hair is slipping across his forehead and it makes Eames nostalgic. He remembers unruly curls that were never in place, merely held back sometimes with pilfered bobby pins.
He's leaning against the wall as though any minute he's going to lose his fight with gravity and go sprawling across the floor.
"Why don't you sit down, love?" Eames dutifully ignores Arthur's grimace at the pet name.
Arthur shuffles over and flops onto the overstuffed couch with a pleased sigh. He tilts his neck to the side and blinks up at the ceiling.
Eames isn't allowed to leave his mark on Arthur. Not anymore anyway.
It used to be that it was one of Arthur's favorite things; to wake up the next day and catalog all the bruises and hickeys, then grin wickedly at Eames while running his hands over his own body.
But once his modeling career had taken off he'd put a stop to it, claiming it looked unprofessional.
"I don't do your kind of pictures now," he'd smirked meanly.
That's why he knows the shadowed bruise on Arthur's slender neck isn't from him.
It's not so much a surprise as a confirmation, but it still takes a long moment for him to inhale a painful breath. He moves closer and it feels as though takes forever, like he's walking underwater and Arthur is moving away. He reaches down and grips Arthur's chin, his fingers biting into the skin so hard the knuckles are white.
Arthur makes a muffled noise and attempts to bat him away, Eames ignores him and forcibly tilts Arthur's head until his neck and the dark, mouth shaped bruise is visible.
"What's this then?" he hisses through his teeth. He hopes he leaves finger shaped bruises on Arthur to counteract the messy mouth shaped one he can't stop looking at.
"None of your fucking business," Arthur shoves him again and Eames stumbles, the back of his legs hitting the battered coffee table.
"None of my business? You fucking little piece of shit," Eames wants to shake him until his teeth rattle.
"Whatever. Like it's a surprise," Arthur leans his back against the bars, his elbows pressed into the edge in an attempt at nonchalance. But Eames knows him too well not to see the thrumming tension in his body.
"No, not really, darling," he shoves his hands into his pocket, his jaw aching from clenching of teeth.
"I just can't see myself with you anymore. You're an embarrassment, Eames. Robert can get me into places while you just keep me out."
"An embarrassment?" Eames chokes.
"Yes," Arthur tilts his chin and raises an eyebrow.
"What. Exactly. Is. So. Embarrassing?" he bites out each word, hiding the way his heart twists.
Arthur lets out a sharp, humorless laugh and waves his hands at him. "Oh. Just everything. The way you dress. This piece of shit apartment. And your job. Do I need to go on?"
"Oh no, I understand perfectly. You're too embarrassed to be seen with someone who loves you and whose pictures, need i remind you, launched your fucking career. But you're perfectly happy to be Robert fucking Fischer's cum bucket."
Eames slumps and heaves a sigh, regretting it the minute the words leave his mouth.
"Fuck you," Arthur's eyes narrow and he stands up straight.
"I'm sorry," he forces himself to say.
"That's right. You're the sorriest piece of shit I've ever seen."
Eames only shrugs. He's distracted by his phone chiming. The taxi is downstairs and waiting.
"I have a flight to catch. I'll be back in a month. Please..." he swallows, wiping a hand over his mouth. "Please have your stuff out before then."
"Don't worry, I don't want anything from this life."
"You're not my Arthur anymore."
"Damn straight," Arthur crosses his arms and glares until Eames turns toward the door. He slides the handle out of his suitcase and kicks it gently onto its wheels before scooping up his bag.
He turns back to find Arthur hasn't moved.
"I loved you. With everything I have. I hope eventually you can take at least that from this life," he doesn't wait for a reply before swinging into the hallway and down the stairs.
When he pushes out the front doors he isn't surprised to see that it's still raining. He takes a minute to close his eyes and let the water patter over his upturned face before shaking himself and helping the driver load his luggage in the back of the cab. He looks up at where he knows his window is and sees nothing. No shadow of Arthur or even a light. He feels numb as he slides into the backseat and doesn't look back again as the cab pulls away from the curb.
"Surely not," Eames barely glances up from the schedule Ariadne is pushing into his face. She's tiny and pushy, and Eames wouldn't get through a single day without her.
"Excuse me?" the boy's forehead wrinkles as he fidgets with the hem of his t-shirt.
Eames heaves a heavy sigh and gives the model his full attention.
"Look darling, as lovely as you are," he lets his eyes trail up and down "...and you are. Very lovely. I'm not into kiddie porn."
"I'm twenty two," the boy scowls, his tone weary as though it's a familiar argument to him.
"Prove it then."
Eames turns his back, effectively dismissing the boy, and braces himself to argue with Ari about the schedule despite the fact he knows she'll get her way.
It's the principle of the thing.
"I think we'll want the red rope for Miss Dee Vine," Eames is holding two bundles of nylon rope, one red and the other black.
"Yeah, it'll look good on her skin," Ari nods, making notes. "I'll have Nash get started on the knots. Give us about 20 minutes."
She rushes off looking for their shibari expert. Nash is a useless, greasy piece of work, but he knows how to tie pretty knots and that's all Eames really needs him for.
The boy from yesterday has returned, defiant, with his chin tilted up in challenge.
"Just Eames. Here's my i.d."
Eames sticks his pen in his mouth to free his hands and examines the square of plastic.
"Well...Arthur. It does seem as though you're legal. Unless it's a forgery," he squints, mumbling around the pen.
The boy...Arthur rolls his eyes, somehow conveying that Eames is the stupidest man on Earth with only a flick of his eyelids.
"That's right. I spent an exorbitant amount of money on a forgery just so I can take dirty pictures. It's what I do for thrills."
Eames laughs and hands the card back to him.
"Welcome, Arthur Levine from Boston. What brings you here to my little den of iniquity?" he pulls the pen out and twirls it between two fingers.
"Dom sent me. He said you could use me."
"Oh, yes. I think I could find a use for you," his voice comes out in a rasp and he enjoys the way Arthur's pupils dilate just a little. "First, we need to take some candids just so I can decide where we want you. Come here and stand in front of the desk."
Eames hefts his camera up and waits for Arthur to get settled. He's not great in front of the camera, the minute Eames lifts it to his face Arthur's whole body stiffens and his eyes widen, giving him the appearance of a deer in headlights.
"Relax, poppet," Eames coos, snapping a few shots.
"I thought we established that I'm not a kid," Arthur's mouth falls open and he narrows his eyes. "Wait, were you still checking me out when you thought I was underage?"
Eames is entirely unfamiliar with the concept of shame and merely shrugs. "I appreciate beauty in all forms."
Arthur bursts into laughter and it transforms his entire face. He throws his head back and rests his hands on his stomach as though he's trying to keep it in. His dark curls come loose from behind his ear, curling into his eyes, and he has dimples that make him look even younger.
Eames is stunned. He wants to make Arthur look like this all the time, in front of, and without the camera. He almost forgets to take any pictures and only captures a few after Arthur has stopped laughing, but is still grinning and shaking his head.
"That's the worst line I've ever heard."
Eames raises an eyebrow. "Oh believe me, I have much worse."
"Guess you'll have to show me then."
Eames swallows and nods, but is interrupted by Ari appearing in the doorway and reminding him about their trussed up model. She looks between the two men with a knowing smirk but doesn't say anything as she herds Eames off to the set.
If she notices Eames slips the memory card with Arthur's candids into his pocket before he goes home, she still doesn't say anything.
It takes all of a week before Eames finds himself naked in bed with Arthur.
He's supposed to be sorting through the RAW files, choosing which ones will be Selects. But he may just be flipping back and forth through the images of Arthur. He's saved all of them to his external hard drive and deleted them more than once. He really needs to get laid and get the other man out of his system.
Instead, he deletes them one more time and stands up, shuffling over to the kitchen. He pulls out a bottle of whiskey and tilts more than a few fingers worth into a glass. He's just taking his first mouthful when the door to his loft slides open without warning.
He frowns as Arthur is revealed in pieces, a hand, a shoulder, then the dark hair and grinning dimples that Eames has become oh so familiar with.
"You should really keep this locked. Don't you know that New York is a dangerous city?"
Eames shrugs, attempting nonchalance. "It's news to me."
Arthur grins and steps inside, turning all the way to push the door shut and Eames takes the second to admire his ass in those tight jeans.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?" he takes another sip and waves the glass at Arthur.
"I was in the neighborhood?" Arthur lies with a smile.
"Since you're here then, can I offer you a drink?"
"Sure. What are you having?"
Eames doesn't reply, just fishes a second glass off the shelf and pours the whiskey. Arthur has wandered over to the desk and is tapping his fingers idly against the top.
"Are these from the shoot?"
Eames nods and hands him the glass. Arthur takes a too big swig and coughs a little before wiping his mouth clean with the back of his hand.
"Can I see?"
Eames makes a gesture for him to go ahead and Arthur sits on the edge of the chair, clicking through the thumbnails. He stops on one of him.
"Is it any good?"
It isn't something Eames would submit for this project, but to him it's perfect. Arthur looks freshly fucked and debauched, his hair in a tangle, a blindfold still on but the gag slipped free of his mouth. His red, slick, shiny mouth, and Eames just barely managed to suppress a groan.
"Yeah. You're a natural, love," he goes to take another sip but his glass is empty and he sighs, thunking it down on the desk.
He watches Arthur push back and set about exploring his loft without permission, his glass dangling precariously from the tips of his long fingers. There isn't much to explore. A ratty couch that he refuses to get rid of sits in the middle of the room with a steel coffee table where he eats most of his meals, a massive television in front of the whole thing. In one corner is his tiny galley kitchen that he rarely uses, and where a dinner table probably should be is his desk and most of his equipment piled in the corners. Across from the whole thing is his bed; a dark wood four poster that'd been a real bitch to get up here in one piece, but it'd been worth it. It's the only thing he's ever spent real money on that has nothing to with photography. It has blackouts hanging from its rails thanks to the windows that take up the entire wall across from the front door.
Ariadne has told him he can have electric curtains installed but he hasn't looked into it because he doesn't care that much. Besides, the natural light is perfect for when he's working.
Arthur finishes the short exploration and stands in front of the bookshelves in the kitchen cum office looking at the titles, dragging his fingers across them and shifting some forward to get a closer look, his mouth moving silently as he reads.
"So, what are you doing here?" Eames doesn't entirely care what the answer is, but he can't think of anything else to say.
Arthur sets his glass down and turns to fix Eames with a stares, his brown eyes liquid and dark.
"I'm here to do you," he laughs at his own joke and pulls the hem of his t-shirt up and over his head.
Eames closes his eyes and takes a deep breath. "Look. As much as I want to..." he swallows as Arthur stalks closer.
"As much as I want to..." he repeats, licking his lips. "I have to warn you, I'm really not influential. If this is your way of sleeping your way to the top, it'll be useless."
Arthur rolls his eyes, pressing forward into Eames' immediate space.
"You're an idiot. This is my way of sleeping with you, because I want to sleep with you. No. I want to fuck you. And if you like, I'd like to still be here in the morning so we can fuck again and then we can get breakfast, come back here, and fuck some more."
He looks like he might go on, so Eames stops him with a kiss. His lips are soft and they open easily for Eames' tongue. He wraps an arm around Arthur's slim waist and pulls him flush against his body, feeling his dick rub against Eames' own.
"I think I get the idea," he whispers into Arthur's neck before hauling him up easily. Arthur goes with it and wraps his legs around Eames' waist, laughing in surprise.
Eames walks and kisses, the kisses sloppy and tasting of whiskey.
"I'm gonna let you go," Eames murmurs against Arthur's mouth, before dropping him onto the bed. Arthur starfishes and does a little wiggle to push himself further up onto the bed before lounging against the pillows.
"This is a great bed. If I wasn't already planning on sleeping here I definitely would be now."
Eames laughs and pulls his shirt over his head, throwing it at Arthur's face, who bats it away easily. His mouth is open as he watches Eames push his sweats down and step out of them. Eames is so hard it hurts, his dick bobbing up against his stomach as he crawls on all fours across the bed. Arthur's eyes are dilated and he's panting slightly as Eames stops at his waist and leans on one elbow to lower himself and work the buttons open. The jeans are so tight that Eames has to tug them off inside out with a grunt of effort.
He takes a minute to admire the way Arthur's dick stands at attention, straight up in the air.
"I feel as though I should be saluting it, love."
"You can salute it with your fucking mouth," Arthur mumbles, gripping the comforter and arching his back. Eames takes pity on him and wraps his mouth around the head, giving a loud suck. He groans when Arthur pushes up into his mouth, demanding and gasping, but lets him by relaxing his throat and petting the side of his hips in silent permission.
"Oh my god," Arthur tilts his head forward to watch and pushes his hands into Eames' hair, his long fingers curling around the strands and tugging hard. He keeps repeating it as he fucks into his mouth and if Eames could smirk he would, but instead he just hums and reaches below himself to squeeze at the base of his dick.
"I'm gonna come," Arthur pushes one last time and Eames feels him in the back of his throat before he convulses once and is coming with a long, loud moan. He collapses back onto the bed and Eames continues to suckle until Arthur bats him away with a shiver and choked off laugh.
Eames exaggerates a pout but crawls up to lie on his side next to a boneless Arthur. He pets Arthur's chest, running gentle fingers across his nipples, enjoying the way he jumps and hisses each time.
"You alright, poppet?" he bites down gently on Arthur's shoulder, laving it with his tongue.
"I am. Thank you."
Eames grins at the weird formality.
"You're very welcome."
"What about you?" Without turning to look, Arthur gropes for Eames' hard on and gives it a slow squeeze.
"I'm up for anything. We have all night, and even after breakfast, if you're to be believed."
"True. But I asked what you want. Tell me, Eames," he rolls onto his side and switches hands on Eames' cock. "If you tell me, I'll probably do it."
Eames feels stunned again. He's starting to get the idea that Arthur just has that effect on him. But he's lying here with his hair standing on end, his mouth wet and open, just offering himself to Eames.
"You can't fucking say things like that," Eames' voice sounds wheezy and punched out.
"Why not?" he rolls them both until he's sitting straddled across Eames' thighs and grinning down at him. "You wanna fuck me?"
Eames groans, wrapping his arms around Arthur's skinny waist and hauls him down for a kiss. His dick is trapped between them, rubbing against Arthur's half hard one, as he slides a hand down Arthur's sweaty spine and slips a hand between his cheeks to press a dry finger to his hole. Not enough to go in, just a little tease, but Arthur still breaks the kiss with a gasp.
"Lube," he demands while pushing himself back and letting the dry finger tip slip in.
"Impatient," Eames slips a hand under one of the pillows and pulls out the bottle. "Condoms are in the side drawer."
Arthur leans over, Eames' finger slipping free and scrabbles at the handle. He blindly plunges his hand in, shuffling papers around until he makes a triumphant noise. He sits back up with a gold wrapped package scissored between two fingers.
"Turn around," Eames slaps him lightly on the ass, but Arthur creases his brow in confusion. Eames sighs and leans up to kiss him gently, before taking him by the hips and manhandling him around until Arthur gets with the program and turns himself around, almost kicking Eames in the teeth with the effort. When settled, he's facing Eames' feet, hands planted on his thighs and bent over a little so his ass is on display and his cheeks spread enough that Eames can lean back and look at his tight little hole.
"Eames," Arthur complains and shakes his hips.
"Sorry, love. Just admiring the view," he slicks the fingers of one hand and uses the other to press a hand to his lower back. He slides a finger in almost all the way to the knuckle and marvels at how Arthur sighs and relaxes around it, as though he's just been waiting for it, so he slides another in beside it. The third gets a little tight and Arthur mutters a pained 'wait' while he shifts and gets accustomed to the stretch. Eames has to clench his teeth and just watch the way his fingers slide inside and fit perfectly as Arthur adjusts.
Once Arthur says he's ready, or rather demands 'Eames, fuck me already. I won't break', Eames tears open the condom with his teeth and, with great concentration and slippery hands, slides it on, adding a little more slick before resting the tip against Arthur's gaping hole.
"Sit back a little for me, Arthur," his voice is just above a whisper and he stutters out a breath when Arthur obeys and he can watch his dick disappear slowly inside until Arthur is fully seated and gasping quietly.
He lets Arthur set the pace, and he keeps it agonizingly slow; sliding up and almost all the way off Eames' dick before even more slowly dropping back down. He's making little whimpering noises in the back of his throat and Eames is trying not to leave bruises as he grips hard onto Arthur's hip bones. Arthur twists around and gives him a grin before pulling himself all the way to the tip and just sitting there with an eyebrow raised, his asshole sucking Eames' dick in but Arthur doesn't budge an inch.
"You little fucker," Eames growls and pulls him down in one movement so they're back to chest, and lifts Arthur's thighs up until they are bent against his shoulders. Arthur laughs breathlessly and rests his feet on Eames' bent knees, reaching between them to push his cock back in. He holds it still while Eames lifts up and slams into him, Arthur shouting and scrabbling for the headboard behind them, holding on with a white knuckled grip. Eames takes advantage of the position, Arthur basically helpless to do anything but hang on as he keeps up a punishing rhythm. He gives up on trying not to bruise, knowing there'll be finger shaped bruises on the back of Arthur's pale thighs from Eames holding them up so tightly. His muscles burn but it's worth it for the pleasure that pushes out through his whole body as he slams into the tight heat. He can't do much for Arthur's dick bouncing around, and he takes a second to feel bad about it before he realizes he must've found Arthur's prostate somehow, because he clenches and comes all over himself with a shudder.
He's even more limp now but Eames is close, so he continues to hold him up and pound into him until he feels his balls tighten and he comes with a groan, biting down hard on Arthur's neck, sucking it as he comes down and feels himself slip out. He releases Arthur's legs and lets him roll off to the side in a heap.
"Oh my fucking god," Arthur mumbles, pushing his face into the pillow.
"Don't suffocate," Eames pulls the condom off and ties it, before standing and shuffling into the bathroom. He comes back with a wet cloth to see Arthur still face down, looking like he may have passed out. But when he goes to wipe him down he flails and smacks at Eames' hands.
"Don't be a baby," Eames scolds before finishing the clean up anyway.
He rolls the drowsy man over so he can get the wet duvet out from beneath him and shoves it to the floor, pulling the curtains closed before sliding in beside him. He tucks him easily into his larger body and presses his face into his sweaty curls, letting himself relax.
"Breakfast tomorrow?" Arthur mumbles, shuffling further back into the curve of Eames' body.
"I believe you promised more fucking before food," Eames nips lightly at his ear.
"Right. So I did. I never break a promise," he turns his head and smiles. Eames can feel the minute he falls asleep, all the tension draining from his body, and he doesn't take long to follow after with a small pleased smile.
Arthur slots himself into Eames' life and career without so much as a splash. He'd been renting a perfectly abysmal one room apartment in a terrifying part of the Bronx, and he didn't have much in the way of possessions so when he kept showing up and eventually just...stayed, Eames hadn't even noticed at first.
He's digging around in his cupboard for something to munch on, too lazy to put on trousers and go and get food, but too immediately hungry to wait for take out. He discovers a brightly colored box of cereal with some kind of military cartoon character on the front, and stares at it completely baffled before he remembers Arthur demanding he buy some the last time he was at the bodega on the corner.
Then he'd propped himself up in front of the tv and sloppily spooned it into his mouth while laughing at The Daily Show. Eames looks around the loft and sees Arthur's socks and shoes tucked under the coffee table, his battered copy of "The Stranger" splayed open on the couch, and Arthur himself asleep on the bed, snoring lightly and wearing a pair of Eames' boxers. They're much too big for him, which is why Eames enjoys it when he wears them, slipping off to reveal the curve of his ass before Arthur hitches them back up.
Eames 'hmms' to himself as he munches on a handful of cereal and tried to remember the last time he'd slept alone. He isn't too fazed when he realizes it's been a handful of months at least. In fact it makes something pleased well up inside him; the way Arthur just fits so seamlessly, it's as though he's been here all along.
He realizes he really should've known. His entire new series is of Arthur alone, and the showing had sold out after the second night. Arthur had been godsmacked that people would pay so much for "porn."
"Nudes, darling. Art. You're breathtaking and people want to own a piece of it."
"Too bad, I'm all yours," he'd smacked a kiss on Eames' unshaven cheek and gone after the cocktail waitress that had passed them seconds before.
Eames had stood in the gallery with a dumb smile on his face before Dom had dragged him off because he had someone Eames just hadto meet. He'd lost track of Arthur in the crowd of leering smiles and congratulatory back slappers.
At home Arthur had showed Eames all the cards he'd been handed.
"Some of them asked for private shows," Arthur had sneered, tearing them up and sweeping them into the trash.
"You shouldn't do that, love. Some of those people can make you very wealthy and famous," he'd tugged Arthur closer so he could work on undoing the buttons of the waistcoat on his new fitted suit.
"Dom already said he'd be my agent too. I trust him. Besides, he sent me you."
"Ah. I think it was the other way around," Eames started working on the Oxford's buttons.
"Well you're wrong," Arthur insisted as he pushed Eames toward the bed. "I could barely keep my hands off you. You look so fucking good in a suit. Everything actually fits you, and I've wanted to rip it off you all night."
"Go ahead. I can always buy another. Give you an excuse to go shopping again."
Arthur laughed and gave him one final shove until he tripped and landed half on the bed, barely having time to scramble onto it fully before Arthur was in his lap on a mission to get them both naked.
Eames is hiding in his office and playing solitaire. Albeit quite poorly; he's had to reshuffle about ten times in the last five minutes. He hears the studio doors open and slinks down further in his chair. Ari has already read him the riot act for staying so late every night.
He just can't go home. Not when there's nothing to go home to these days. Arthur's frequent absences are only magnified by everything that's there at home. Discarded clothes that smell of someone else's cologne, dirty dishes from the few painfully stilted meals they've shared in the last weeks, the way the bed only smells of Eames now.
He just can't see those things, and he prays that his ostrich defense is working, and that they won't see him either with his head in the sand.
"I saw Arthur at the Our Legacyshow last week," Yusuf's tone is cautious.
"So what?" Ari snaps. "Where the fuck is my phone?"
Eames can't see it from where he's sitting, but he prays she doesn't check in here.
"It was bloody awful, that's what. I felt like a fucking voyeur. I know you don't think so, but we should really tell Eames."
"You think he doesn't fucking know, Yusuf? You think he's that fucking oblivious?!" Eames can imagine the way she's likely drawing herself up to her full five feet and getting in Yusuf's face.
"I don't know," Ari's tone softens. "Maybe he just wants to keep pretending. Live in denial."
"But shouldn't we talk to him? I mean...Arthur wasn't exactly subtle. He acted like I wasn't right there, like he didn't care if I was. If I wasn't such a pacifist I'd have punched him in the throat."
"You're not a pacifist, Yusuf. You're just scared of Arthur."
"He's pretty terrifying. I bet he could take me out and still not get any blood on his shoes."
"Believe me. I want to strangle him everytime I see him. Oh, there it is. Right in front of my face."
He hears the door close behind them and he lets himself slump over with his head in his hands, groaning loudly. He can feel the tips of his ears burning in embarrassment. He'd thought maybe his best friends just hadn't noticed how fucked up his life had become, but it turns out they know, and just think him pathetic. He isn't sure what's worse at this point.
"Fuck," he slams his fist down on the desk, ignoring the pain that radiates up his arm.
He ignores it for as long as he can, makes excuses to himself and to his friends. Arthur is busy. It's a lot of work to be the next big thing in menswear. He has to make connections, with designers and other models. There isn't anything going on.
But then it blows up in his face. Arthur doesn't even try to hide the mark, as though he wants Eames to see it. To find out. He wants Eames to be the bad guy so he doesn't have to.
When Eames returns from his trip, all evidence of Arthur is cleared from the apartment. The only thing Eames has left is the photographs. He gets outrageously drunk and clears them all off his computer and hard-drive, sweeping any hard copies into a trash bag that he takes stumbling down to the dumpster. He doesn't trust himself to wait until later, knowing that once he's sobered up he'll only dig them all back out.
Besides, if he really wants to see Arthur, he can open almost any magazine and find him amongst its shiny pages. It wouldn't be much of a difference from their relationship for the past six months anyway.
He allows himself to wallow in self pity for two weeks. He'd probably have gone on longer but Ari barges into his loft and makes him take a shower and eat real food. He truly regrets giving her a key.
"Look, I'm gonna say this once, Eames. Then it'll be something we never speak of again. You're better than this bullshit. I love you, and I don't love whiny babies. So get yourself together."
"Oi! The compassion is overwhelming."
"Hey, I have lots of compassion. You just don't deserve it."
Eames shovels eggs into his mouth and tries to blink through his hangover. "He said he loved me too."
Ari moves to his side and pets his hair lightly. "And I'm sure he did. Maybe he even still does. He's just young and ambitious, Eames."
"Oh my days, were you trying to be nice there? You really do care."
"Fuck you. Fine, I think he was a dick and if I see him again I'll cut his off."
"I believe you would. Thanks, love."
"You're welcome. Now, you have appointments all day tomorrow so you better get some actual fucking sleep. We have a lot of wasted time to make up for."
She busies herself pouring all his alcohol into the sink and bullying him into going to the laundromat. He doesn't feel any better after she leaves, just cleaner and unfortunately sober-er. He doesn't sleep that night, but he gets up in the morning anyway. He takes a few deep, painful breaths before rolling out of bed and starting his life all over again.
3 years later
Arthur hates everyone. He can't stand the way the hair person keeps batting their fucking eyelashes at him. And he hates the black coffee that Robert has forced on him. He wants something with cream and sugar and that only just barely tastes of coffee.
But Robert says 'that's what plebs drink.'
"Maybe I wanna be a fucking pleb," he'd mumbled and Robert had rolled his eyes before flouncing off to get his own hair done.
Or to get his dick sucked. Arthur's too exhausted to care. Sometimes he can't believe he left Eames for the most boring man on the planet. They never talk about anything besides fashion gossip. They never argue because Robert merely laughs and acts as though Arthur doesn't even have an opinion, much less a different one to his own.
And the sex is just abysmal. Lights off, under the covers, doggy style. Robert is always the bottom, he doesn't move, and he most definitely doesn't suck cock. Lately, Arthur's taken to hiding in the bathroom and jerking off to memories of Eames and their fucking, coming harder than he has in years. Then he feels sick and guilty while he cleans up. Not guilty because he feels bad thinking about someone else whilst he's with Robert; he's long since stopped giving a shit about him. No. He just knows that he fucked up when he left the best thing that'd ever happened to him.
He's thought about tracking Eames down. He's even called the studio once; Ari had answered and she may be tiny, but the girl is truly terrifying. He hadn't called back after her warning.
He likes his balls where they are, thanks.
He hears Mal approaching, her heels clicking merrily along the floor.
"Mon cher! You look terrible!" she gasps.
"Thanks, Mal. That's very comforting," he responds dryly and submits to her cheek kissing.
"You mustn't frown so much. You're getting wrinkles."
"I'm only 26, Mal. "
"Psh. That may as well be a hundred in this industry!"
"Well, I can't argue there," he sips his coffee and sighs.
"It's lucky you have such a baby face," she pats it affectionately and drags him across to wardrobe. "Where is your amour?" she says it with a wrinkle of her nose. She's never actually liked Robert, and it gives Arthur a surge of petty satisfaction.
Robert's the one who introduced them; Mal had been the fashion editor at Vogue Homme and she'd immediately taken Arthur under her wing. Without her connections Arthur would never have made it in the fashion world. And without her friendship, he'd never have made it period.
"I don't know. Where's yours?"
"Oh psh. Dom's always working," she waves a manicured hand before pushing him toward the rack of clothes marked for him. "Did I tell you we decided if the baby is a girl she will be Phillipa?"
"Oh for the love of God. Don't do that to the poor thing," Arthur makes an exaggerated grimace.
"And to think, I was going to ask you to be the Godfather. Not with that attitude!" she teases.
"Really, Mal?" Arthur catches her by the hand and stops her movement.
"Of course, cherie. You're the reason Dom and I even met, after all."
"I'd be honored," Arthur nods solemnly. "Still gonna give her a nickname though."
They smile at each other, something genuine and easy, something that Arthur doesn't have a lot of any more. Their moment is interrupted by Robert inserting himself between them.
"You look lovely, Mal," Robert simpers. Mal flicks her eyes over him before nodding.
"Of course I do," she turns away, her curls bouncing, and starts pulling hangers off the rack. The fitter, a frantic blonde woman, comes rushing over, her eyes wide as she waits to be berated.
"Have you seen the new photographer?" Robert grins at Arthur. "He's gorgeous. Not much of a dresser though. I'd love to see what's beneath it all."
"And I'm sure you will," Arthur mumbles.
"I just might," Robert smirks.
Arthur rolls his eyes and is grateful when Mal calls him over.
"I think we will start with this," she shoves a pair of bright red underwear into his hands. He sighs and stretches them between his hands.
"Mal, these are at least two sizes too small."
Mal ignores him but smiles to herself when he begins to undress. No one even pays attention; there's no such thing as modesty on a fashion set. He pulls them up his legs and does a little wiggle to get them fully on. He supposes that if they fit they'd be very comfortable, but right now he feels like his dick is being squeezed into a vice and he has to do some maneuvering to make sure his balls aren't peeking out the side.
Arthur glares at her, arms crossed over his chest.
"Ah here he is! The photographer!" her eyes light up at someone over his shoulder and she makes an impatient gesture with her hands.
"Mallorie, demanding and breathtaking all at once."
Arthur stiffens and his brain screams at him as he slowly turns. His breath catches in his throat when he catches sight of Eames. He's a little older, a little grey in his stubble, has more creases around his eyes, but he still makes Arthur's knees weak, and he thinks that's really fucking unfair.
"Arthur," Eames smirks, but his eyes betray his true feeling. He gives Arthur a slow up and down once over, eyebrows raised. "You also look breathtaking, as always."
"But you know each other?" Mal claps her hands in delight.
"Oh yes, Arthur and I go way back," his words are perfectly innocuous, but the way his voice lowers and his mouth twists has Arthur sweating and trying to convince his dick not to get hard.
"It's good...nice...uh...to see you. I have to go...um...make a phone call."
Arthur doesn't run. He doesn't. He walks away slowly and with as much dignity as he can muster. The effect is ruined when he turns back and catches Eames watching him, his eyes dark and unfathomable.
The editorial is two men in their underwear, very expensive and fashionable underwear of course, and even though Vogue isn't ready for to go full on gay, it's toeing the homoerotic line as much as it can get away with.
But Eames walks in and changes everything.
He takes maybe two snaps of Robert and Arthur lounging on a bed, sweaty and sex tousled, before he snaps that it isn't working. He calls Mal over and they have a whispered conversation.
Robert is seething over being cut out, and attempts to get in Eames' face to make his point known.
"Do you know who I fucking am?"
"Yeah, mate, we've actually met," Eames glances at Arthur and he internally cringes. They've met more than once actually and every single time, Robert has been an absolute dick. And Arthur, well, Arthur had been fucking him behind Eames' back. So who was the bigger dick, really?
"Come on, Arthur, let's get the fuck out of here. See what kind of photos this amateur comes up with then."
Everyone's head swivels to look at Arthur. Except for Eames, who's still watching Robert like he'd glady rip his face off before getting back to work.
"No, I'm staying," Arthur stands from where he'd perched on the edge of the makeshift bed.
"What?!" Robert's face has turned an interesting shade of burgundy.
"Come on. You're embarrassing yourself," Arthur tries to grab his bicep and lead him out, but Robert pulls away and shoves him with the other arm.
"Don't touch me," Robert hisses before storming out, trailed by Mal and two burly tech guys.
"You alright, darling?" Eames doesn't touch him but Arthur aches for it, finding himself leaning closer before catching himself.
"Yeah. Turns out he was an arrogant piece of shit in the end."
"Yeah. Well, he was an arrogant piece of shit all along..." Eames raises an eyebrow.
They stand still, surrounded by crew pretending to be busy, and there's a whole conversation left unspoken between them. Arthur opens his mouth to make some grossly inadequate attempt explain or apologize, but Eames shrugs and turns away.
So the new editorial will just be Arthur in his very expensive and fashionable underwear. Still probably homoerotic as fuck, it is Eames' shoot after all, and Arthur thinks there's no way he's going to make it through the day without getting an erection in his tiny fucking scrap of clothing.
"Arthur," Eames drags out the 'r' as he kneels over Arthur's prone body. His knees make divots in the sheets and all Arthur can see is his mouth from behind the camera. "Do you remember the time in the elevator?"
Arthur feels himself flush at the memory of Eames holding him up and their frantic grinding surrounded by mirrors, coming in their pants right before the elevator shuddered to a stop at their floor.
He'd been right earlier; it's impossible not to be hard, and he's sure half of the film they shoot today will be unusable. He'd even jerked off in the bathroom before the last wardrobe change, and when he'd emerged from from the bathroom, Eames had been leaning against the wall with a knowing smirk.
It hadn't even helped. Eames is so close and he smells so good; he smells familiar. His voice is a constant low growl and Arthur just wants to shamelessly rub himself all over him. Instead, he closes his eyes and fists the sheets, attempting to ignore it. Now Eames is fucking straddling him. Technically, he isn't touching him at all, hovering right over him with his knees just far enough apart that they don't brush against Arthur at all.
It's all Arthur can do not to arch up into it.
"What are you doing?" Arthur grits through his teeth.
Eames moves the camera out of the way, his eyes wide and innocent. "Whatever do you mean, darling?"
"Do you really have to be...there...?" he gestures, his fingers brushing against Eames' thigh and he pulls back as though burned.
"No, I don't have to do anything. There are many things I'd like to do though," he licks his lower lip and Arthur actually moans out loud.
Rationally, he's aware that they're still surrounded by people. Ariadne is barely a few feet away waiting for Eames to need something, but it feels as though it's only them in this tense little bubble, getting smaller until Arthur's finding it harder and harder to draw a breath.
"Alright, love, new position," Eames slides off him, and Arthur only has a moment to breathe a sigh of relief before Eames slips a hand under the arch of his back and flips him over. Arthur squawks and ends up sprawled ungainly out on his stomach.
"On your knees, please," Eames demands, right in his ear, and Arthur imagines this is what going insane feels like.
He can only imagine the picture he creates, the briefs so small that they don't even come up over the swell of his ass, and his back arched. At least in this position his cock isn't as obvious.
"Turn around and look at the camera, dear heart."
Arthur obeys, but scowls at the camera as he does. Eames circles him, taking shots and murmuring praise that Arthur just wants to sink into. It's been hours, surely this has to be over soon.
Eames finally calls an end.
"Let me just look at these for a moment, poppet. But I think we're done."
Arthur collapses onto the bed and attempts to suffocate himself until the PA brings him his robe. He's drawing it on over his shoulders when Mal announces that they're finished and thanks everyone present.
"Come and look, Arthur," she pulls him by the elbow over to the laptop that Eames is sitting with.
They're good shots. Perfect even. Arthur looks debauched and sex drunk, and somehow furious about the whole thing.
"I love how he looks like he'll kill the person who's left him alone. It's so much better than what we originally envisioned, Eames!" she grasps his head and presses a kiss to his hairline. Eames indulges her but his eyes are on Arthur.
"Please send me the selects, rapide," she already has her phone to her ear as she squeezes Arthur's hand before marching off. Around them, people are breaking down the set and leaving slowly.
"Eames," Arthur is gripped by the sudden fear that this may be the last time he ever sees Eames and it squeezes in his chest.
"What, Arthur?" Eames suddenly looks tired, all the mischief and snark gone, replaced with a weary sadness.
"I just...can I see you again?" he hadn't meant to say that, it just came out.
"I don't think that's a good idea," Eames stands and starts packing away his things, effectively dismissing Arthur.
"Okay, yeah. I understand," Arthur hadn't really expected anything else, but he can't help the swell of disappointed grief in his chest. He walks back to wardrobe so he can change and get the fuck out, back to the life he left Eames for.
Eames doesn't smoke any more, but he's bummed one from the lighting tech because he needs something to calm his shaking nerves and he doesn't think alcohol will be a good idea. He's huddled behind a pillar, sheltering against the biting wind, and he doesn't see Arthur come out of the building until he's suddenly right in front of him. His thin, solemn face looks determined.
"Arthur. Please," Eames snaps. He thinks if Arthur asks again, he'll say yes, and he's more scared of giving in that anything else. Even though every part of him screams for it.
"Okay. Can I just tell you something?"
Eames makes an impatient gesture, waving his hand, but Arthur doesn't continue right away. He pushes his hands into the pockets of his overcoat and tucks his chin into his massive knit scarf, chewing on his bottom lip.
"I'm sorry. I fucked up. And I know it isn't enough, it's not even close, and it really doesn't mean anything. I'm probably only doing it to make myself feel better, and it's a selfish shit thing to do, but I had to say it."
Eames hasn't buttoned his coat and he can feel the icy wind against his chest. He focuses on that and closes his eyes against the hopeful look on Arthur's face.
"What do you want me to say to that? That I forgive you. Because I don't," Eames sighs.
"No. I don't even forgive me. I made the biggest mistake of my life and I guess I just have to live with it," Arthur smiles sadly and shrugs. "It was good to see you. I'm glad you look so good and are...doing good?" his voice lifts at the end in question.
"I suppose I am," Eames flicks the cigarette away.
"Alright. Well, I'll leave you alone then."
He watches Arthur leave, and he isn't sure he can take it again. "Wait."
Arthur pauses and half turns back toward him.
"Thank you. For the apology."
"You're welcome, Eames," and then he smiles; a real one for the first time all day, dimples cutting into his red cheeks.
It's Eames' complete undoing. It always was. Nothing has changed.
"I still live in the same place, you know," Eames offers and is absolutely horrified at himself. Before he can say anything else, he wraps his arms around himself and walks away, his shoes scraping against the cement. Arthur doesn't call him back.
He decides maybe a drink is a good idea after all.
He doesn't get drunk, not really. But he feels too scraped over and raw to return to his own empty home, so he ends up crashing on Yusuf and Ari's couch. Yusuf pets his hair and makes sympathetic noises but Ari just watches him, her eyes dark and knowing.
Before he leaves the next morning, head sore but clear, she hugs him bruisingly tight and whispers. "Be careful."
He forces a smile and pretends that he doesn't know what she means. It's a moot point because Arthur didn't call him back anyway.
He takes the stairs up to his floor and blinks at the figure slumped to the side of his door. For just a second he thinks it might be a hobo found a way in away from the cold. But hobos don't wear Gucci loafers and gabardine overcoats.
He's blindly grateful that he isn't drunk as he nudges Arthur's body with his toe, watching as he wakes slowly and stares up at him sleepily.
"I love you," is the first thing he says, still slumped on the floor with Eames towering over him.
"Get up," Eames reaches out a hand and hauls Arthur up to his feet, steadying him as he stumbles forward into Eames' space.
"Why did you tell me you still lived here?" Arthur doesn't move back.
Eames sighs and lets his head drop to rest his forehead on Arthur's shoulder, his eyes burning. Arthur presses a cold hand against the back of his neck and they stand there just breathing in tandem for a minute.
Eames clears his throat and stands, giving himself a few steps of space from Arthur.
"I suppose, because despite myself, I still love you too."
He can see the way Arthur visibly shudders when he says it.
"But, I should tell you to fuck right off."
"You should," Arthur nods.
But he doesn't leave, and Eames heaves a sigh. "'I love you' doesn't mean shit if I can't trust you."
"I know. And I know you don't care, but I'm completely miserable without you. I can't stand who I am without you. I fucked up, and I deserve your hatred. Maybe that'd be easier, if you just hated me and called me every vile thing you could think. But you love me still, and I can't..." he presses his hands into his face, and makes a wounded noise. "...I can't have you."
"Do you want me?"
Arthur looks up, his eyes sharp. "More than anything else in the world. I know what I've lost, I really do, and you can't trust me, I get that. But I want to try and prove myself to you. Anything you want. Even...even if you want to just be friends."
"Friends?" Eames' tone is incredulous.
"Acquaintances then? You know, people that say hi if they see each other on the street and say "let's hang out" but never do. Even that would be better than you not being in my life at all. Maybe we could work our way up to people who have coffee together sometimes. Anything, Eames."
Eames turns and unlocks the door before sliding it open.
"Well, come on then. I must be a right git but let's try this again."
Arthur crashes into him and they're kissing for the first time in years. The time melts away; they're both older, probably not any wiser, but together again. And it feels completely right.
Arthur tugs him inside and while Eames busies himself with shutting the door, he can feel a confusing mix of trepidation and joy swirling inside him. He shakes his head and stamps it all down, turning to focus on Arthur who's standing in the middle of the room grinning and pulling his clothes off.
He'll take this, with his eyes wide open. It doesn't matter if it goes down in flames a second time or a third time, even a hundredth time. He'll never be able to deny Arthur his love and his life. He gives himself permission to just have this, whatever it is, right now. Whether he gets burned or not.