Are you still jumping out of windows in expensive clothes?
Well, I fell in love with your sailor's mouth and your wounded eyes
You better get down on the floor, don't you know this is war
Tell me, who are you this time?
Tell me, who are you this time?
Tom Waits, Who Are You (Bone Machine)
“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck it, Cobb! I told you we couldn't do it on our own. Fuck you, I'm not cleaning up your mess this time! Fucking get someone else, I'm leaving and I'm going far away and I'm not coming back!”
Eames hears the door at the top of the stairs slam and footsteps thundering down the echoing wooden treads.
He moves out of the doorway where he had been poised about to climb to the loft he’d been directed to. Just in time for Arthur to come barreling out of the door, slamming it too and turning to stride off down the street, his jacket bunched in his fist.
“Eames? What the hell? What are you doing here? Fucking Cobb, never tells me anything!” he spits, brushing past Eames.
“Hang on, Arthur!” says Eames, “wait a minute, what’s going on up there?”
Arthur turns round, eyes on fire.
“Fucking Cobb and his crap planning! I'm sick of it and I'm not putting up with it anymore and leave me alone! I'm getting away from here and you can't stop me, Eames!”
“I'm not trying,” says Eames, taking a step back, holding his hands up.
“Better not,” Arthur mutters. “You coming?”
“Where, darling?” Eames keeps his distance, but tries to lighten Arthur’s mood. “Shall we fly to Riga for the weekend?”
“Riga!” says Arthur, “don't be ridiculous, Eames!” But he’s smiling a bit. “Riga! What the hell, Eames! Why are you always so …”
“Charming? Brilliant? Inspired? Right?” says Eames.
Arthur is grinning now. “So damn … here?” he says. “Why are you here? Fucking Cobb never said anything. He made me think we were supposed to do the whole damn job on our own and that’s just stupid and if he'd said you were coming that might have been different and oh god, I need a drink,” he says, taking a heaving breath.
“Plenty of great bars in Riga,” says Eames. “Riga’s lovely, this time of year. Lots of cafés, fewer wankers than Paris. Come on, you’ll love it, I know you will!”
“Eames, for fuck sake, I'm not going to Riga with you! What’s even in Riga? Do you even know? I'm going to the bar down the street and I'm going to stay there until I'm drunk and then I'm going to go to the hotel and I'm going to sleep for a week and then I'm going to go back home and hope I never see Dominic Cobb ... for a long time,” he trails off a bit weakly, turning to walk down the street, the way he’d been headed.
“Well, alright, if you insist,” says Eames, following. “We can go to Riga another time.”
Ahead of him, Arthur snorts. He is wearing, now Eames has time to notice, a pair of very well cut charcoal trousers. His waistcoat lets a little peek of shirt escape at the back, the puff of white drawing Eames’s eye. Trailing after an angry Arthur has its upside.
The bar Arthur steps into is empty save for one old man in a baggy jacket reading L’Equipe in a back corner and the bartender polishing glasses and watching horse racing on a silent television.
“Bonjour,” says Arthur.
“Ça va?” says the barman.
“Deux bières, s’il vous plait,” says Arthur.
Eames glances at him. His bad mood seems to have lifted a bit.
Arthur digs out money, pays the barman and carries the beers to a table by the window.
“Thank god for bars,” he says.
“For when Cobb is just too much?” says Eames.
“For when Cobb is just too fucking much,” Arthur agrees.
He sighs and runs his finger down the glass, dragging a clear path through the condensation. “Which is often,” he says, softly, “often.”
“I didn't realize it'd got so bad,” says Eames. “I mean, I knew it was pretty bad in Bangkok, and he was off the rails in Rio that time, but that was just after Mal … I don't know, I suppose I thought he'd get better.”
Arthur sighs. “But how do you, really? Get better, from that? God, Eames,” he says, “I should be more patient, I guess, but it's hard, you know? It's so fucking hard, sometimes.”
“Yeah, well, then he shouldn't be working, putting you at risk, driving you to drink in the middle of the afternoon,” says Eames. “Not that I mind drinking with you in the middle of the afternoon.”
Arthur laughs. “Sure beats drinking alone,” he says, taking a long swallow of his beer. “When did he call you?”
“Two days ago,” says Eames, “I was in Mombasa. Took me a day to get organized, sorry.”
“He never said a word to me, godamnit!” says Arthur, “I just don't know anymore sometimes what Cobb’s even thinking. I'm not sure he does either.”
“Well, I'm here now. We can manage him together, don't you think?” says Eames. “I'm all for continuing the first half of your plan though. I'll get us some more beers, shall I?”
“Yeah, I guess I don't need the second part now, if you’re here,” says Arthur, smiling up at Eames, the light from the window in his eyes.
Eames has to look away, dazzled. “Um, I'll just … “ he says, and steps towards the bar.
How long has he been following Arthur round the world? It's got nothing to do with Cobb at all, he'd have come uninvited, once he heard where he was and what they were doing. Arthur was right, they couldn't have managed it on their own, from what he has been able to piece together from industry gossip. And since when was Cobb so free with talk?
“It's ridiculous,” says Eames, coming back to the table, “I heard all about this job through the grapevine and I know it wasn't you gossiping so it must have been him …”
Arthur is slumped in his seat, drawing on the table with the wet from the beer bottle ring. He looks up, his eyes damp, completely changed from just a moment ago.
“Oh darling,” says Eames, “let's talk of something else, eh?”
“God, Eames,” says Arthur, rubbing at his eyes with the back of his hand, “I'm so tired of it all. I miss her too, and we just fight all the time and I feel so shitty but he just makes me too sad sometimes, you know?”
“Yes, I do know,” says Eames. “Now, shall I tell you about Riga?”
Arthur smiles. “What is it with Riga, anyway?” he says, “Yes, tell me about Riga.”
A couple of beers later, well on the way to the first half of Arthur’s plan, he says, “God, Eames, we better go back, I guess. Damn Cobb, I can't just leave him to his own devices.”
He stands up and holds his hand out.
Eames feels his chest clench. He takes Arthur’s hand to get up and expects him to drop it. But he doesn't. Arthur glances at the elderly newspaper reader, who’s engrossed. The barman is washing glasses. Arthur tugs Eames closer and whispers, “Come back with me?”
“Back where?” says Eames, also whispering. It's an odd moment, a bubble.
“The hotel,” says Arthur. “My hotel.”
“Of course, darling, anywhere, you know that.”
“Do I, Eames, do I?” says Arthur. He’s still holding Eames’s hand as he steps out of the bar. He drops it in the street, but crowds close to Eames, brushing shoulders, bumping hips as they walk down the street, past the loft, where Arthur glances up.
“Fuck it,” he says. “Tomorrow.” They continue round the corner to a Métro stop. Of course Arthur isn't staying in this slightly dingy neighborhood.
“I treated myself to the Plaza,” he says, “it’s the only thing keeping me sane.”
He grins at Eames as they wait for the train.
“Oh Arthur!” says Eames, “of course you did! How brilliant of you! … My bag’s at the …”
“You won't need it,” says Arthur, flatly, and steps into the train car.
Eames is frozen for a brief moment before stepping in after him. Arthur is standing, one hand on the pole. Eames stands behind him and reaches round to grasp the pole as well. Arthur relaxes minutely against him and Eames holds his breath, sure Arthur can feel his heart pounding with a jerky rhythm. Arthur is thrown against him as the train pulls off and Eames tilts his hips a tiny amount. Reflected in the window, Arthur’s eyes are unreadable as Eames stares at him over the heads of the seated passengers. Eames sees his own frown and bitten lip reflected back at him and has to look away. Arthur shakes himself and moves so he’s no longer pressed against Eames.
As the train pulls into the Alma-Marceau stop, Arthur says, “This is us,” and moves to the door.
Back on the street, Eames says, “Walk with me a bit? Take in the view from the bridge?” He’s not sure why he’s stalling going to the hotel, but Arthur nods and falls into step beside him. Alma is not the most romantic bridge in Paris, but the stroll is under trees and the view is pretty.
“Lovely,” says Arthur, turning away from the Seine, “but Eames, I'm actually exhausted. Aren't you? Did you even sleep on the flight? Have you eaten? Had a shower?”
“No, not really. Yes, a baguette. Yes, you'll be glad to know,” says Eames. Arthur tilts his head and slides a smile at him and quickens his pace.
“I can see why you like the area,” says Eames, as they pass Prada and Armani and Louis Vuitton.
“Mmmm, yes,” says Arthur, but he sounds distracted and he doesn't slow down to look in the windows. The Plaza Athénée doorman nods at Arthur and doesn't flinch at Eames following him. Nor does the concierge.
Arthur leads the way to the lifts and thank god there’s no one else waiting because now Eames is breathing a little fast and Arthur is crowding against his side, not looking at him, but Eames can see the corner of his mouth is curved up and a dimple is showing and the lift arrives and Arthur gets in, punches the floor number and turns to Eames, pressing forward, pushing him back into the corner of the lift and running his thumb down Eames’s cheek and across his mouth and Eames’s breath stutters and Arthur leans in and puts his mouth on Eames’s and Eames gasps and opens his mouth and Arthur presses forward even harder and curves his hand under Eames's chin and … the lift stops and the doors open and Arthur leans away.
There’s no one waiting.
Arthur takes Eames’s hand and pulls him out of the lift and down the corridor. Eames crowds up against him as Arthur unlocks the room. It’s a small suite, the furniture upholstered in gold tones, and there is a bowl of cream roses on the coffee table.
“It suits you, darling!” says Eames, and Arthur smiles at him.
“I do love the Plaza,” he says. “I don't always spend the money to stay here, but I had to, this time.”
“Where’s Cobb staying?” says Eames.
“Somewhere closer to the job site,” Arthur says vaguely, “We’re not really talking, outside of work. But I don't want to talk about Cobb, or hotels, or anything. Come here,” he says.
Eames steps into his space, slides his arm around Arthur's waist, tugs him close. He runs his other hand down the side of Arthur’s face, round to the back of his neck, and presses their mouths together.
“Oh Eames,” gasps Arthur, pulling back fractionally, “Thank god you came.”
“Of course, darling,” Eames murmurs into his mouth.
Eames has wondered if Arthur knows how he feels. Arthur seems to keep tabs on him. He flashes him rare smiles. He asked him to come drinking. He asked him back here. But in this moment, is he just a convenient body?
In this moment, does he care? Can he negotiate more later? It seems unlikely Arthur will just throw him out after. They need to work together. Especially if Arthur and Cobb are on the outs.
He drags Arthur closer. “Darling, what do you want?”
“You. I want you, Eames. Don't you know that? Am I so hard to understand?”
“No,” says Eames. “Yes.” He backs through the bedroom door, towards the bed, dragging Arthur with him, and falls back. Startled, Arthur falls too, listing to the side.
Eames reaches up to undo Arthur’s waistcoat buttons, sliding each one carefully free as Arthur props himself on one elbow and reaches down to run his hand along Eames’s jaw.
“I’m glad you didn't shave,” he says.
“Mmmm,” says Eames. “Get this off, won't you.”
Arthur sits up, shrugs off his waistcoat and unknots his tie. He holds out his wrists and Eames at first doesn't get what he means.
“Cuff links, please,” says Arthur. Eames pushes the small black silk knots from their holes, tosses them in his hand.
“Thank you,” says Arthur, taking them and leaning over to drop them on the nightstand. He turns back and waits. Eames gets the hint and sits up and undoes his shirt buttons. Slowly, since Arthur clearly wants to draw this out. Eames has no objection, the slowness only helping to stoke his want.
Eames tugs Arthur's shirt-tails from his trousers, undoes his belt buckle. The soft jingle is the only sound in the room, other than their breathing.
He thinks he understands what Arthur wants, here and now. He wants to be handled, rather than take charge. Cobb has exhausted him.
Eames draws his belt from its loops and drops it to the floor. He runs his hands down Arthur’s chest, under the wings of his shirt, soft and warm from the day, and pushes it off his shoulders. Arthur shivers and climbs into Eames's lap, his long fingers gripping Eames's shoulders, digging in. Eames tips his head back and Arthur drops his mouth to his throat.
“Too many clothes,” he says, his mouth pushing the edge of Eames's shirt collar aside, lips buzzing against his skin. He moves his hands and undoes the tab on Eames's collar. Eames grabs the back of the shirt and pulls it over his head, ruffling his hair. Arthur runs his hand down the back of Eames's head, dragging his fingers through his hair, down his neck, across his shoulder, lingering on his tattoos.
“I knew there was more,” says Arthur. “I've wanted to see more for a very long time.”
“That so?” says Eames. “You only had to ask, darling. Why did you never say, before?”
“Well, why didn't you?” says Arthur, biting along Eames's collarbone.
“Yeah, why didn't I?” says Eames. He has no time for regret, though, because Arthur stands up, drops his own trousers and bends to undo Eames's belt.
For all that Arthur seems to be taking the lead now, Eames thinks he knows what he really wants. He fits his hands around Arthur’s waist, stands up, turns and pushes Arthur down onto the mattress.
“Yes,” Arthur gasps. “God yes, Eames!”
Eames crawls up after Arthur, pushing him back. He grabs one wrist and pins Arthur's arm above his head, drops his mouth to the tender inner skin and noses towards his armpit. Arthur smells of stale deodorant and sweat. It shouldn't be appealing.
Arthur’s other hand cups the back of Eames's head, his thumb running down the nape of his neck, hard, the edge of his nail scratching slightly on the way back up.
Eames’s stomach flips a bit and he swallows. He feels his breath come shallow, jerky, and shuffles back a bit, trailing his hands down Arthur’s chest, his taut stomach, slipping under the waistband of his tight black briefs.
Arthur’s hips buck up as Eames rubs along his hard length, hot against his palm.
“Oh Eames,” Arthur sighs. “Finally.” And then he gasps as Eames skates his thumb over the head of his cock.
Eames drops more of his weight onto Arthur and pushes their hips together. It's awkward, but he pushes Arthur’s briefs down, and his own, and gets his hand on both of them together. Arthur gasps, rocking his hips up, turning his head to find Eames's mouth, biting at his lips, licking in, pulling away, panting. Eames can hardly catch his breath, and Arthur is almost keening under him, sending a wave of shuddery heat up his spine. Eames feels his orgasm building and feels the tremor in Arthur.
Arthur's hand tightens on Eames neck, fingers digging in. Eames speeds his hand, twisting it slightly, and feels Arthur go still, rigid, breathless, under him.
“There you go, darling,” he breathes, and Arthur comes, hot in Eames's hand. It’s enough to push Eames over too, and he collapses on Arthur’s chest.
“Oh god, Eames,” Arthur’s voice is hushed and shaky. His hand on Eames’s neck is warm, a bit rough. Eames heaves a breath and rolls to the side, his arm flung over his face.
“Arthur,” is all he can say, “Arthur.”
Minutes pass with only the sound of their heaving breaths, until Arthur laughs. “Fuck me,” he says, turning to look at Eames, dimples framing his mouth.
“Oh darling,” says Eames, “Anytime.”
Arthur snorts. “Mmmmm, Mr Eames,” he says, and gets off the bed.
The tension they’ve been building since this afternoon dissipates. Eames feels a twinge of regret, but Arthur seems light-hearted in a way he hadn’t before, even when Eames was making him laugh, and he can't regret that.
Eames watches him walk to the bathroom, his first unimpeded sight of the ass he's been admiring in suits for years.
Arthur comes back with a damp washcloth. “Clean up,” he says. “These Plaza housekeepers terrify me.”
It's Eames's turn to laugh. “You've a filthy mouth, love, but you're still so fastidious!”
“Yes, well,” says Arthur, “of course.
“Up,” he says, “it’s almost dinner time.”
Eames groans. “No, come back to bed.”
“Well … alright,” says Arthur, relenting, coming back to the bed and dragging the cover down. “Okay, I'm just going to call Cobb,” he says.
He settles with his head on Eames’s shoulder. “Hello, Dom,” he says into his phone, “What? Yes, he arrived. We'll see you tomorrow. No, I don't want to talk about it. Tomorrow, okay?” He clicks his phone off and flings it on the bed.
Eames looks at him, raises an eyebrow. “Does he know I'm here?” he says.
“Don’t think so. Hope not,” says Arthur. “But I am not talking about Cobb in bed. I have standards,” he says. His eyes have darkened, the spark damped down.
“Of course,” says Eames, “come here.” He leans down and kisses Arthur. “Tomorrow.”
Arthur settles on his side, curled towards Eames, and his eyes slip shut.
Eames’s rumbling stomach wakes him and for a moment he doesn't know where he is. He stretches. He is alone in the bed, but he can hear a shower and smell coffee.
He rolls over and remembers. Arthur’s anger and his sadness and his ferocious need. He takes in the golden luxury of the room and remembers Arthur’s fastidiousness with the covers, after his utter disregard of them.
Eames smiles and sits up just as Arthur comes into the room, a towel around his hips and a cloud of steam following him.
“Morning, Mr Eames,” he says. “Breakfast?”
“God, yes,” says Eames. “But come here first?” he says.
Arthur comes over to the bed, quelling the spike of panic that had flared in Eames's chest as he said it. The horrible, quick uncertainty about his position here. He had assumed the fact that Arthur had allowed him to wake here in daylight implied a willingness for his continued presence. For a repeat of last night. But Arthur hasn't said that.
Arthur leans down and drops a kiss on Eames's forehead. “Hello,” he says, running his thumb down Eames's cheek, across his mouth.
He steps neatly away before Eames can get hold of him.
“There’s coffee and eggs and croissants,” he says. “And I got them to send up a toothbrush as well.”
“Ah,” says Eames, understanding the hint. “Thank you.”
He gets up, goes to the bathroom. It's full of steam and smells of Arthur. Because it is not as if Eames has been unaware of Arthur’s smell all these years. His cologne, his soap. Of course Arthur has a favored soap.
Eames turns on the shower and steps under the hot spray, letting it beat down on his shoulders and ease the dull ache of the bruises Arthur’s hard fingers put there last night. He uses Arthur’s soap, feeling intimate, a bit illicit. It is fresh, herbal. He pushes his hands through his hair, remembering the feel of Arthur's hands there, the way he had tugged, hard, but not too hard.
Stepping out, he studies himself in the mirror. There is a line of red marks along his collarbone. He smiles at himself, toweling his hair, brushing his teeth.
Wrapping a towel around his hips, he steps out.
“Coffee, eggs?” calls Arthur. “Come through here.”
“I'll just … “
“No,” Arthur says from the next room, “don't get dressed.”
Arthur is half dressed in trousers and shirt, untucked. His eyes run down Eames’s torso and he smiles, standing up and wrapping an arm around Eames’s back, running his other hand across the red marks, down his chest. He stops before he gets to the edge of the towel. Pulls Eames in and kisses him.
“Ah, fuck,” he says, “we have to go to work. It's going to take both of us today to get this job running smoothly. Fucking Cobb.”
“Um,” says Eames, feeling very off kilter, “should we go in separately?”
“Would you do that, Eames?” says Arthur, “I just don't want …”
Eames cuts him off. “I get it, darling,” he says. “I'll go back to my hotel, get changed, and meet you at the loft in a bit.”
“Check out,” says Arthur.
“What?” says Eames, not sure he's heard right.
“Check out,” Arthur says again.
“Won't Cobb …”
“Fuck him,” says Arthur. “But yes. Bring your bag here. I'll tell the concierge.”
“Won't he think …?”
“What, that you’re a rent boy? That I just picked you up somewhere? This isn't Pretty Woman, Eames. Do you care? I don't. I don't give a fuck.”
“Well,” says Eames, “I don't care, as such, but I'd hate to besmirch your reputation here. I assume you’d like to come back?”
“Hell, yeah!” says Arthur, “that's why I'll tell the concierge you're an internationally renowned dream criminal and he better not make trouble or you'll shoot him between the eyes.”
“Sure, darling,” says Eames, “that'll smooth it over.”
Arthur is grinning, more dimples than Eames has ever seen.
“Who are you and what have you done with Arthur the stick in the mud?”
“Shows what you know,” says Arthur, and he giggles.
Eames reaches across the room service trolley to where Arthur’s hand is lying by a plate sprinkled with croissant crumbs. He runs a tentative finger across the back of it, bumping over Arthur’s knuckles. Arthur turns his hand over. And Eames's heart turns over too as Arthur’s fingers close on his.
“Shows what I know,” he says.
Arthur lets several minutes pass in silence.
Then: “I don't want to, but I must,” he says, standing up and going through to the bedroom. Eames cranes to see him sitting on the bed pulling on socks, lacing his shoes. He stands and goes over to the wardrobe, takes out a jacket and a tie. Eames has let his eggs go cold, but he can't look away. Arthur bends and picks up his cuff links. He comes back to the sitting room and stands in front of Eames, holding out his wrists and dropping the black silk knots into Eames’s hand.
“Please, Eames,” he says.
Eames fits a knot through the cuff buttonhole, pokes the other one through, and allows his thumb to run over the tender inside of Arthur’s wrist, his heartbeat hard in his chest. He looks up to see Arthur smiling. Does the other cuff.
Arthur unbuckles his belt and opens his fly. Eames swallows as Arthur tucks his shirt in smoothly and refastens his trousers.
“That wasn’t fair, darling,” he murmurs. Arthur’s smile widens.
“Sorry,” he says.
He does up his top button, flips up his collar and ties his tie, standing between Eames’s knees. “Sorry,” he says again.
“Right,” he says briskly, going back into the bedroom, pocketing his phone and wallet, buckling on his watch. “I’m leaving now, see you there in … two hours?”
Eames stands up, follows Arthur to the door and blocks it.
“Not so fast, darling,” he says, slipping a finger into one of Arthur’s belt loops and kissing him hard. “Yes, I'll be there in two, without my bag.”
Arthur grins and opens the door quickly, leans back in and drops a kiss on Eames’s forehead. “Don't be late,” he says, and strides off down the corridor.
Eames collapses in his chair at the breakfast trolley, but he doesn't tackle his cold eggs and lukewarm coffee.
“Who are you, Arthur?” he says into the silent room. “Who the hell are you this time?”
The room has no answer, so he finishes the eggs, pours a fresh cup of coffee, eats two croissants and goes to dress in yesterday’s clothes.
Arthur has left the room key on the little table by the door, and Eames goes down to the lobby whistling.
“Ah, Mr Eames,” the concierge says, “Mr Goldman said you’d need another key.”
“Yes, thank you,” says Eames. “I'll be back shortly.”
“Of course,” says the concierge. There’s a gleam in his eyes.
Eames hails a cab back to his (not nearly as nice) hotel, changes, quickly repacks his bag and is back at the Plaza within an hour. Up in the room, he drops the bag in the bedroom, and opens the wardrobe. Arthur has four suits hanging neatly there, a handful of ties. A pair of shoes. Eames tells himself he’s not snooping. But he is stalling going to the loft and seeing Arthur in public for the first time. This Arthur whom he feels he hardly knows. And yet knows more intimately than before. It's an unsettling feeling and Eames isn't used to feeling unsettled.
But whoever this Arthur is, he needs Eames. Needs him to be a buffer with Cobb. Needs him to take control. Needs him to be willing to be commanded. Eames understands what they did last night and this morning, when Arthur needed to be handled, manhandled, even, and at the very same time, needed to command Eames.
Eames will take orders from Arthur if that makes Arthur feel in control. He will be unsettled if that makes Arthur feel steadier. He will push Arthur into the mattress and take over if that calms him. He came to Paris for Arthur, not because Cobb called. He just hadn't expected … this.
“Ah, Arthur,” he says into the room’s quiet, “Let's not fuck this up, eh?”
He goes into the bathroom, looks at himself in the mirror, twitches his collar over the ink and the red marks, combs his hair and grins.
However unsettling this is, it's also what he's been waiting for, for a very long time.
“Okay, Arthur, I'm coming,” he says to his reflection. “Watch out, Cobb.”
Eames is whistling again as he walks down the tree-lined Avenue Montaigne, glancing in the windows of the fashion stores. At Alma-Marceau, he takes the steps down into the station two at a time. There’s a train just pulling in and he jumps aboard. Plenty of free seats at this time of day, but he stands and grabs the pole and can't help smiling.
The loft Arthur has selected is full of light from huge windows. There is a long table against a wall with a laptop open on it and the PASIV case at one end. A few desk chairs and the lawn chairs Arthur favors for going under.
“Hey, Eames,” Cobb looks up from the box of Somnacin vials he’s twitching through.
“Hello, Cobb,” says Eames. “How’s it going?”
“Well …” says Cobb, “Okay, I guess.”
“Hmmm,” says Eames, wondering where Arthur is, but refusing to ask. “You want to fill me in?” he says, sitting down near the laptop.
Arthur bursts through the door from the stairs at that moment and comes over. “Hi Eames,” he says, “you arrived. Flight okay?”
Eames raises an eyebrow. “Yep,” he says, “fine. Cobb was just about to bring me up to speed on the job.”
“That so?” says Arthur, sitting down at the laptop, close to Eames, as Eames had intended. “Go ahead, Cobb. I'll just carry on here.”
“Well,” says Cobb, “it seemed smooth enough, but it turns out the mark’s been militarized, thank god Arthur spotted that this time.”
Eames glances at Arthur, who is scowling at his screen. Cobb’s unnecessary barb has found its mark. He wants to reach out, run a soothing hand down Arthur’s tense back, but he knows Arthur doesn't want anything like that in front of Cobb.
“Well, of course Arthur ‘spotted’ that, Cobb,” says Eames. “What are we supposed to extract?”
“The company’s plans for a new gas pipeline bypassing Ukraine,” says Cobb.
Arthur rolls his eyes. Eames raises an eyebrow.
“That so? No wonder they're militarized. High stakes business, that. Well, let me read over the complete research and see what I can suggest,” he says. “Arthur, may I see your report?”
“Of course, Eames,” says Arthur. “Here, I'll pull it up for you,” he says, shoving the laptop over. He gets up and stands behind Eames. Cobb is absorbed by his box of vials again and Arthur leans into Eames, reaching over his shoulder to click the report open.
Eames leans back, feels a tremor run through Arthur. “Thank you, Arthur,” he says.
Arthur brushes his shoulder as he steps back. Eames closes his eyes, waits for his breathing to calm down before starting to read. It’s a typically detailed Arthur report, including who militarized the mark, and when.
“Hmmm,” says Eames, “he’s been trained by the second-best, I see.”
He glances at Arthur, whose mouth is quirked up a tiny bit.
The whole report takes another hour to read. Eames takes a few notes on a small pad he carries in his jacket pocket.
“Okay,” he says, “I have a few ideas. Want to discuss them over lunch?”
“You two go ahead,” says Cobb, “I've got something else to do. Brief me later.”
He grabs a jacket and clatters down the stairs.
Arthur stands up, comes over to Eames and spins his chair round. “Thank god he's gone,” he says, his hands hard on Eames's shoulders. “Thought I'd go mad waiting to do this.” And drops his mouth to Eames’s.
Eames pulls him into his lap and returns the kiss just as hard. “Darling,” he says.
Eventually, Arthur stands up and says, “I really am starving. There’s a reasonable little local a few streets over. Let’s get out of here.”
He holds out his hand to Eames and reaches for his jacket.
Out on the street, he drops Eames’s hand, but just like yesterday, walks too close to him, their hands, shoulders, hips brushing and bumping with every step. Eames's breath is catching.
“Slow down, Arthur,” he says, even though he can easily keep pace.
“No, Eames, I won't. I can't. Not now,” says Arthur.
Eames knows exactly what he means, and really, he feels the same way, like they have to make up for lost time and missed opportunities. How many jobs have they worked over the years, how many times have they lain asleep within touching distance of each other?
At the small restaurant, Arthur orders for both of them. Eames reaches for his hand under the table as soon as the elderly waiter turns away.
Arthur relaxes into his chair and sighs.
“What's Cobb up to?” says Eames. “Some side scheme we should know about? So important he couldn't wait to hear my input?”
“He doesn't want to talk to me outside the office,” says Arthur, “and I don't want to talk to him when I could be here.” He tightens his fingers on Eames’s.
“Do you want to hear my thoughts, darling?” says Eames.
“Of course,” says Arthur.
“Well, it occurred to me that maybe we could use the guy’s fondness for Turkish baths? Put him under there, distract him while he’s drowsy in the dream. I could catch his eye?”
“Yes,” says Arthur, “that could work. Of course you’d catch his eye.” He lets his own eyes drift down from Eames’s face. “You’d catch his eye, alright.”
Arthur’s research has turned up the fact that the mark, although married, sees men on the side.
But Arthur frowns, his eyes going dark.
“You don't like that, do you?” says Eames. “Me catching that old goat’s eye.”
“If it’s what will get the job done,” says Arthur, flatly.
“I won't do it as me,” says Eames, “I’ll be someone else. It won't be me catching his eye. He won't see me.”
Arthur smiles, grips Eames's hand even tighter under the table. “Thank you,” he says, “I don't like to share.”
“I didn't think so,” says Eames. “Of course not.” He has to swallow a sudden lump in his throat.
Their food arrives, and they spend the rest of the meal going over details of Arthur’s research that particularly caught Eames's attention.
“I don't know how you do it, darling,” says Eames. “Such a thorough job while you're simmering with rage.”
Arthur snorts. “Something else to focus on other than my desire to kill Cobb,” he says. “Rage sharpens my intellect.”
“Well,” says Eames, “that may be so, but it's too hard on you, too. Let me help.”
I can't just ...” says Arthur.
“But you can. You will,” says Eames firmly.
“I guess,” says Arthur.
“Yes,” says Eames, “let’s go now.”
Arthur shivers and grabs his hand while signaling for the check. Eames feels a trembling and rubs his thumb soothingly across the inside of his wrist. “We can do this,” he says. Arthur nods.
As they walk back to the loft through the drowsy lunchtime streets, still brushing and bumping, Eames tries again: “Is there more to this thing with Cobb? Can you tell me how he got so under your skin?”
He looks sideways at Arthur, hoping he hasn't overstepped and pushed too far too soon.
Arthur sighs. “It's just, I don't know. Maybe I shouldn't have stayed all this time. I was trying to help and he kept demanding and taking more and more and I was just trying to be a friend and I was sad about her as well, you know, and then he just got really mean and sloppy as well and it … Fuck it, Eames! It just happened, you know, before I could do anything and we've been friends a long time and I didn't want to just walk away and I can't do it anymore. I just can't!”
He heaves a huge breath and stops walking. They are standing outside the door of another closed warehouse. Eames takes his hand and pulls him into the doorway, pushes Arthur against the door, hands on his shoulders, angles his body to block out the street.
“That's why I'm here,” he says, pressing their foreheads together. “I came, and I'm not going anywhere and when this job is done I'm taking you far away from Cobb.”
Arthur’s breathing quiets and he grabs Eames’s wrists. “Yes,” he says. “Thank you.” Eames knows it's not just for the promise.
"Where the hell have you two been?” says Cobb as they step back into the loft. He’s staring out of one of the huge windows.
“Working,” says Eames. “Eating lunch. Getting this job done.”
Cobb catches his flat tone and looks round.
“I could ask the same of you. But I won't,” says Eames. “Let’s get on with it.”
Arthur brushes a finger against the back of his hand, a fleeting touch that Cobb won't see. It's full of meaning.
“Right. Well,” says Cobb.
“We’ll take him under at the Turkish bath. The dreamscape will start there as well. Eames will approach him,” says Arthur.
“Are we sure that's the best strategy?” says Cobb. “I'm the extractor.”
“Not this time,” says Arthur. “This is how it's going to work. He won't open up to you. You can't forge. You're not his type.”
“Are you, Eames?” says Cobb.
“Of course. I'll be even more his type down there.”
“Oh,” says Cobb. “Right. So we need a Turkish bath? What else?”
“We can start in the steam room, move to the locker room, give him somewhere to put the information,” says Arthur. “With Eames, it actually is a simple job. We’ll let you get started, shall we?”
“Where are you going? You just got back!” says Cobb.
“Yeah, well, we’ve been working all morning, haven't we?” says Eames. “Now we’re going out, let you get on with the build. Call when you have something for us to try out.”
He catches Cobb's squint at Arthur and wonders how much he is guessing. Cobb’s not stupid, after all.
Arthur closes his laptop, slips it into his bag. He hasn't taken off his jacket. “Call me, Cobb,” he says, turning for the door.
“Um, I guess,” says Cobb as Eames follows Arthur down the stairs.
“Where to now, darling?” says Eames.
“You know where,” says Arthur, “Come on.”
Arthur walks briskly in the direction of the Métro stop.
The train is empty, and Arthur flops into a seat, his bag between his feet.
Eames sits next to him, tips his knee into Arthur’s. Arthur smiles at him.
Arthur smiles at him. Arthur’s smiles used to be rare, hoarded, taken out and examined and packed carefully away again. Now Eames has had more in two days than in two years. They are still precious because there is anger and pain just beneath the surface and Eames isn't vain enough to think that one night and a brush-off of Cobb has fixed that. But there are more smiles now.
Eames holds Arthur’s gaze and returns his smile. Smiling is easy for Eames. He can smile at anyone if he needs to, doesn't feel smiles are being wrenched from him. But that's not how he wants to be with Arthur. He doesn't want to hand him easy, empty smiles, he wants Arthur to know there is a serious intent behind them. So he holds Arthur’s gaze. The elderly man in the seat across the aisle clears his throat, but he’s smiling too when Eames glances over.
At Alma-Marceau, Arthur takes the steps two at a time, Eames trails slightly, admiring.
Arthur glances over his shoulder and raises an eyebrow.
“Don't think I don't see you, Mr Eames,” he says.
“I want you to see, darling,” says Eames.
He catches up to Arthur on the street and they walk towards Avenue Montaigne. Today, Arthur is willing to stroll a little, look in the windows of the fashion stores.
“See anything you like?” says Eames.
Arthur catches his eye in the reflection. “Mmmmm,” he says, “come on.” He walks a little faster towards the hotel, which is festooned with bright red geraniums. “God, I love this place,” he says. “Even more, now.”
Eames’s breath stutters, caught off guard by the declaration.
The doorman smiles at them.
“Mr Goldman, Mr Eames, welcome back,” says the concierge as they pass.
“Bonjour!” says Arthur, jaunty.
In the lift, he reaches for Eames’s hand. “A stolen afternoon,” he says.
Yesterday, in this same lift, Arthur pressed into Eames, signaling his intent, but Eames knows now that Arthur needs him to push. He crowds up to Arthur, lifting their joined hands above Arthur's head against the wall. Arthur relaxes into the hold and slumps slightly, removing his tiny height advantage. Eames slips his other hand round to palm Arthur's ass and Arthur hums his approval.
“God, Eames, your hands,” he says, “I fucking love your hands! I love them all over me!
“Uh-huh,” Eames murmurs against his mouth, “that so?”
He lowers their joined hands, brushing Arthur’s jaw with the back of his fingers.
“Good thing I can't get enough of putting my hands all over you. There’re plenty of places I haven't put my hands, yet,” he says.
Arthur groans as the lift dings and the doors open. A smart elderly couple are waiting. The woman gives them a startled look and Eames grins at her as they walk down the corridor. Arthur is also smiling.
He sets down his bag and takes off his jacket as soon as they get into the room.
“Come here, Eames,” he says. “Come here and put your hands all over me again, please.”
Eames backs Arthur towards the sofa, puts his hands on his shoulders and pushes him down. Arthur resists a tiny amount, just enough to make Eames press harder, and he is laughing up at Eames.
Eames crouches down and undoes Arthur’s tie, pulling it from around his neck. He drops it to the floor. Arthur’s eyes flick to it and Eames can see him controlling the urge to pick it up. “Leave it,” he says.
He runs his knuckles along Arthur’s jaw — Arthur tilts his face into the touch — and starts on his shirt buttons. Drops his mouth to Arthur’s throat and sucks a mark there. Arthur gasps. “Mmmmm, darling, you taste so good,” says Eames.
“Oh my god, Eames, your mouth. Your fucking beautiful mouth that I've looked at for years. Do you know how hard it is looking at your fucking mouth and only being able to look?”
“Oh Arthur,” says Eames, “as if you don't have a bloody gorgeous mouth that’s been teasing me for years too. We are such idiots.” His breath is short and he mouths his way down Arthur’s chest, his hands under his shirt, at Arthur’s waist.
He pauses to undo Arthur’s cuff links, old friends now, and pushes his shirt off his shoulders, trapping his arms. Arthur frowns, then smiles.
“Oh, yes,” he says, “yes!” And relaxes into the sofa, spreading his legs wider.
Eames’s thighs are screaming from holding a crouch and he stands up. Arthur positively whines.
“Wait, darling,” says Eames, taking off his jacket, sitting down to unlace his shoes, take off his socks. He kneels in front of Arthur again, rubs his hands down his thighs, his calves, grips his ankles, feeling the bones.
“Eames!” says Arthur, impatient.
“Ssh,” says Eames. Unlaces his shoes, slips off his socks, cradles his long elegant feet.
“Oh god,” Arthur sighs.
Eames unbuckles his belt, undoes his fly, slips his hands down, rubbing across his erection, so hot, so hard.
“Up,” he says, and Arthur raises his hips so Eames can pull his trousers down. His hands are still trapped in his shirt sleeves. He could easily get free, but he makes no move to.
Eames releases him, and Arthur lifts one hand, runs it down Eames's cheek, along his jaw, round the back of his neck.
“Take your clothes off too,” he says.
Eames stands up, holding Arthur's gaze as he undoes his shirt buttons, shrugs it off, drops it and moves to his belt. He goes as slowly as he can, his hands trembling a bit.
Their breathing is loud in the silent room and his heartbeat bangs in his throat. Arthur bites his lip. Eames undoes his fly, pushes his trousers down, kicks his feet free and drops to his knees again, shuffling into the inviting space Arthur has made for him.
Eames reaches up and slips his hand into Arthur’s hair, teasing it free, dragging his head down. They haven't kissed since they entered the room. He brushes his lips lightly over Arthur’s, fleeting, inviting. Arthur gasps and leans into the touch, his mouth opening, his tongue darting out.
“Oh, fuck, yes!” His voice is a ragged whisper. “Eames …”
Eames leans in, deepens the kiss, his fingers digging into the nape of Arthur’s neck, his other hand hard on Arthur’s thigh.
Finally, he breaks off, sits back on his heels, strokes both hands up Arthur’s thighs, pushing them further apart.
“Here?” he says, “Or bed?”
“Aah,” says Arthur, “um … housekeepers.”
Eames laughs. “Oh Arthur,” he says, “you needn’t worry about that!” He licks his top lip.
“Here, now. Bed, later,” Arthur says, having apparently lost the ability to form sentences.
“Good,” says Eames, his hands at the band of Arthur’s briefs. Arthur lifts his hips obediently as Eames pushes his pants down, keeps them raised slightly as Eames ducks his head, places his hands on Arthur’s sharp hip bones and presses him down again. Arthur drops his head back and brings his hands to Eames's shoulders, digging in, adding more bruises to the ones he’s been leaving there since last night. Eames flexes, hums his understanding.
He never got a good look at Arthur’s cock last night, fumbling a bit awkwardly, just his hand and hardly any time at all. So he takes his time now, just to look.
“Arthur,” he breathes, “you are so beautiful. Every bit of you.”
Arthur makes a pleased noise, a breathy little huff, and his fingers tighten even more. It hurts, but the pain isn't the point.
Eames loves this push and pull between them and he can tell Arthur does too, that he needs it.
Arthur is breathing hard, almost panting, and his hips are twitching.
“Ssh, darling,” Eames soothes, his hands stroking Arthur’s inner thighs, his belly. He follows his hands with his mouth, dropping light kisses, rubbing his stubble gently along the sensitive skin. Arthur’s breaths have gone high-pitched on every inhale.
“Oh god, Eames, please.”
So Eames relents, wraps a hand around the base of Arthur’s cock and brings his mouth down.
“Ah!” Arthur’s inhale is a sharp little cry and he brings his hands from Eames’s shoulders to the back of his head, his fingers pushing through Eames's hair, his strong thumbs rubbing in little circles.
Everything narrows to this tiny space, to pure sensation. The scent of Arthur, mostly musky heat, a lingering hint of his soap; the feel of his cock in Eames’s mouth; the drag of his fingers in his hair; the high, panting sound of his breaths. Eames’s eyes are closed, looking would be too much.
He wants to keep going slowly, but Arthur’s hands tighten on his head and his hips twitch upwards and his breathing ratchets even higher, faster and Eames can't deny him.
Arthur comes with a bitten off shout, his fingers digging in painfully hard. Eames almost can't breathe. He swallows, and swallows until Arthur’s hands relax and drop away.
“Eames,” he sighs.
Eames shifts so his cheek is pillowed on Arthur’s thigh. He is painfully hard, and moves to get a hand on himself, Arthur still sort of passed out above him.
“No!” says Arthur sharply, surprising him. “No, Eames! Get up here!”
“Darling?” says Eames, looking up at Arthur, whose eyes are fierce.
“That’s mine. You're mine, Eames!”
He shouldn't be surprised. This is Arthur, who wakes from a dream and immediately starts to analyze what went wrong or right. Of course he can fall apart and then reassert control.
“Yes,” says Eames, standing up, groaning slightly. “Where?”
“Bed,” says Arthur.
Eames takes his hand to help him up, pulls Arthur against his chest, runs his other hand down his back and kisses him.
“Mmmm,” Arthur sighs into his mouth, licking in. “Bed, and get these off,” he says, pushing at the waist of Eames’s boxers. “I want to see you.”
Eames almost trips as he does as he’s told.
“Oh yes,” says Arthur, giving him a little push towards the bedroom. “Get in there.”
If he was hard before, Eames is even more impossibly turned on by the sharp edge in Arthur's voice. He has used his body to control Arthur, Arthur is using his natural authority, called into question by Cobb’s nastiness. Eames can give him control as well as take it.
Arthur pulls the cover off the bed, raising an eyebrow at Eames, who crawls on.
“Lie down,” says Arthur. “Stay still.”
Eames is panting now, his heart is banging so hard it's almost painful.
“Arthur,” he gasps.
Arthur crawls up the bed, nudging his legs apart, his eyes intent on Eames's.
Eames is scrabbling at the bedclothes in an attempt to keep his hands busy.
“Arthur,” he says again and he can hear a rising note of desperation, “Arthur!”
“Hmmm?” says Arthur, his hands on Eames’s thighs, “This?” Rubbing upwards. “Or this?” Breaking eye contact, ducking his head, bringing his mouth to Eames’s cock at last.
Eames’s hips jerk upwards, his knees, his heels. He arches off the bed.
“God, Arthur, yes!”
Arthur pushes at his hips, fingers digging in. Eames wants to touch but he hasn't been told to. Arthur reaches for his hand, drags it to the back of his head. Eames pushes his hand through his hair, pulling lightly. Arthur hums his approval, a low rumble that arches Eames's spine again.
Arthur's mouth is too clever, Eames is too wound up to last.
As he comes, he can feel Arthur smile.
When Eames wakes up, the room is dark and a street light is shining through the window. He tries to see the time on Arthur’s watch, where his hand is curled on Eames's chest, but it’s too dark. He shifts to get his arm out from under Arthur’s and strokes down his side. Arthur sighs and shifts slightly, but he doesn't wake.
Eames lets his thoughts drift, over jobs they’ve done together, things Arthur has said to him over the years, things Cobb has done. He can't quite put a finger on when he should have known that Cobb was out of control. Bangkok had been a total mess. At the time, they’d put it down to tropical heat and foreign bureaucracy, but considering what Arthur has said about Cobb, it now looks like sloppiness on his part. Eames recalls Cobb’s sniping at Arthur, and the way he had accepted it, soaked it up, refused to let any of it affect the rest of team.
He’s suddenly awash with hard, bright anger. At Cobb, and at himself. At himself for not recognizing what was happening, for not stepping in to deflect it from Arthur, always the easiest target of Cobb's disdain, because of their long, long history.
It's not as if Arthur can't stand up for himself, but he seems to have chosen not to, too aware of his own sadness over Mal to call Cobb out, when his nastiness came from an even deeper pit.
Well, Eames is here now, and for the first time, he feels he has permission to be on Arthur’s side, and an obligation.
At his side, Arthur stirs, rubbing his hand across his face.
“Wassatime?” he slurs.
“I can't tell,” Eames whispers. “Could be midnight, or 9pm, I guess.”
“Too noisy for midnight,” says Arthur, having gone from blurred with sleep to alert in seconds.
“I'm starving,” he says, “Aren't you, Eames?”
“Yes, I am. Do you want to go out?”
Arthur looks over, runs his hand down Eames’s chest, lingering on his ink. “Hmmm, not really,” he says. “I don't think we’re finished here. I don't want you to get dressed yet.”
“Oh, darling!” says Eames, “I bet their room service is pretty good, though.”
“Yeah,” says Arthur absently, “pretty good. I’ll take you to Alain Ducasse another time. Today I want you to stay naked in my bed,” he says. “Tonight you’re not going anywhere!”
The note of command sends another thrill up Eames's spine. He rolls his shoulders, enjoying it.
“Wouldn't dream of it, darling,” he says.
“Ugh, dreams,” says Arthur, a touch of sharpness.
“Well,” says Eames, “except this does feel a bit like a dream. I keep wondering if I'm going to wake up.”
“No, Eames!” says Arthur, “no. This is the most real anything’s felt in ages. Thank god you came,” he says, like he did yesterday. “I couldn't have gone on alone.”
“My love ...” says Eames, and stops, horrified. But Arthur lifts himself up on an elbow and brings his mouth down on Eames's, hard, then soft. It feels like something new.
“Eames,” he murmurs, “Oh Eames.”
Eames closes his eyes, lets himself drift as Arthur traces the tattoo on his chest, his hair tickling Eames’s chin.
He wakes when Arthur rolls over, reaching for the room phone, sitting up.
He listens to him order in French, running a finger down Arthur’s spine, reaching round to grasp his hip. Arthur leans into his hand.
Then he stands up, walks to the bathroom. Eames listens to him pee, run the taps. He comes back swathed in a thick hotel bathrobe. “Come bath while we wait,” he says.
Lying in the bath with Arthur leaning against his chest feels more intimate, somehow, than anything they've done.
“I liked how you smelt of my soap today,” says Arthur.
Alain Ducasse is a multi-Michelin starred chef. He has restaurant in the Hotel Plaza Athenee
The light in the room is still hazy when Arthur’s phone rings.
“Jesus. Cobb,” he says, reaching for it. He sits up against the headboard, pushing his hand through his hair. “What?” he says into the phone, voice rough.
“What? When? Fuck!” He looks over at Eames. “Damn it, Dom! Yes, alright. Will you call him or shall I?” His eyes are dancing now. “Yes, okay. Give me an hour. No. An hour.”
He ends the call. Eames’s phone rings. Arthur grins. “There you go,” he says.
Eames tries to sound as if he’s just been woken. “Cobb?”
“Lubakov is leaving earlier than we thought. We’ve got to do it by tomorrow,” Cobb says.
“Bloody hell!” says Eames. “Is the build ready? Bit tight for a good forge but I'll do my best. Alright. Give me an hour.” He winks at Arthur, ends the call and leans over.
“Morning, love,” he says, kissing the corner of Arthur’s mouth, remembering.
Arthur turns his face, bringing their mouths together properly.
“Wasn't how I planned the morning,” he says, pulling away and getting out of bed. “Fucking Cobb.”
“Well, to be fair, darling, at least he found out in time,” says Eames.
“I guess,” says Arthur. “Let’s shower. We can grab coffee on the way.”
“Go ahead, love,” says Eames, “not sure showering together will be efficient.”
Arthur looks over his shoulder, “Yeah,” he says, “probably not.”
The Métro takes half an hour. It’s early so it won't be too crowded yet. They have time for coffee here. Eames orders.
Arthur comes out of the bathroom naked, toweling his hair.
“Will you be okay, doing a forge that quickly?” he says.
“Bloody hell, Arthur!” says Eames. “Yes, I'll just do someone generic.”
“Yeah, you saw the pictures. Nothing unusual about his tastes, thank god,” says Arthur, his eyes drifting down Eames’s chest. “Thank god,” he says again, softer. He comes over to the bed, sits down next to Eames. “I wish I didn't have to watch, though,” he says.
“Remember, he’s not seeing me, darling, not me. I'm not really there.”
“Except you are, Eames,” says Arthur, his eyes clouded.
“Only acting. I'll draw it out, let him hide his secrets away, then get out before anything really happens. I bet a guy like that likes to look more than anything. I'll make sure he looks.”
“I hate that this is how the first job has to go!” says Arthur, standing up.
“I know,” says Eames, getting up and kissing the back of his neck, still damp. “I know.”
He heads for the bathroom, not sure he can look at Arthur.
The first job, of them, together. Eames looks at himself in the mirror. The red marks from the first time have faded. He doesn't look different. But he feels different.
He gets under the shower spray, thinking his way into a forge. The man he’ll be is thinner, younger, unmarked, blond. Blandly pretty, quite unlike his true self. “He won't see me,” he says to his reflection. He towels off quickly and walks out into the bedroom naked to rummage for clothes.
“Fuck, Eames! Cobb’s timing really sucks,” says Arthur, drinking coffee, perfectly dressed.
Arthur has poured Eames a cup of coffee. As he hands it to him, Eames sees his cuffs are flapping open.
“Let me get those for you,” he says.
“I saved them,” says Arthur, even though these cuffs button, and holds out his wrists. Eames puts down the cup. He fastens the buttons, keeps hold of Arthur’s hands. “There you are, darling,” he says.
“Yes,” says Arthur.
They drink their coffee in silence.
“Right,” says Eames, “Let’s go and do this.”
Arthur takes his hand as they walk down the corridor and take the lift down.
“Let’s get it over with,” he says as they step out into the street. The shadows are still long, the pavements empty. Eames reaches for his hand again.
At the loft, Eames lets Arthur go up while he walks around the block.
Stepping through the door a couple of minutes later, he hears Cobb saying “… not sure why I had to find out, you’re supposed to do the research. If you’d been working instead of taking the afternoon off …”
“Fuck, Dom, can we just do this?” says Arthur. He sounds tired.
A spike of anger flares in Eames. “No, Cobb,” he says, “no! You don't get to pin all the blame for this messy job on Arthur! He's right, let's just do it and get out. Is the build ready for us to test it?”
Arthur has the PASIV case open on a box between two of the loungers. He’s unspooling the tubing, fitting new needles. He glances at Eames, expression carefully neutral.
“Yeah, I guess,” says Cobb, “Steam room, locker room. I added a café, in case you need another space. There are personal safes in the lockers.”
“Right,” says Eames, “here’s how it's going to go. I'll approach him in the steam room, follow him to the locker room, suggest we go get coffee. Encourage him to leave his things. Arthur, you can come collect the documents when I take him out. You don't have to be there until I get him to leave.” He sees Arthur understand what he’s implying and nod.
“That should work, eh? Seems he’s easily distracted by a pretty face,” says Eames.
Cobb looks skeptical. “Seems too simple, Eames,” he says, “You sure he’ll go with you that easily?”
“Yes,” says Eames. “This guy is pretty conflicted about this side of himself, but when he decides, he moves fast. That's what he goes to the baths for, after all. We know his type. This will work.”
He goes over to the loungers, takes a needle from Arthur, brushing his thumb across his wrist, and settles back.
“Five minutes,” says Arthur, sitting on the other lounger. He inserts his line, looks over at Eames. “See you there,” he says.
Eames peers through the steam, getting a sense of the room. It is long and narrow, slatted benches around three of the walls, the door in the fourth.
He looks down at himself. His frame is narrower, his skin unmarked. He runs his hands through his hair, feels curls. His jaw is smooth.
He turns for the door, which leads to a generic locker room. Steel lockers line the walls and there’s a bench down the center. A door leads to a shower room. Cobb hadn't mentioned that, but it's obvious, a good touch. Eames opens one of the lockers, sees the small safe, intended for patrons’ personal valuables. They’re assuming Lubakov will place documents inside, and he notes it’s adequate for that. Cobb might not be on top of his game, but he’s not totally incompetent. The safe has a mechanism allowing each user to set his own code. Eames will have to covertly watch as Lubakov sets his and find a way to pass it to Arthur.
The door opens, and Arthur steps in, wearing a generic uniform: navy polo shirt and chinos.
“Oh!” he says, eyes narrow. “Oh, it’s not you.”
“I told you, darling,” says Eames. He has deliberately made his forge as unlike himself as possible, bearing in mind Lubakov’s type. There was no mirror in the steam room so he hasn't seen how the face turned out. He walks through to the shower room, checks the mirror there. The face that looks back is young, smooth, bland, framed by longish blond curls. The eyes are pale blue. He smiles, the teeth are perfectly even, lips thin.
Arthur has come in behind him and catches his eye in the mirror, expression hard to read.
“Thank you,” he says, and leaves the room. Eames doesn't follow immediately.
Back in the locker room, he finds his clothes, tight jeans and a white tank top. He dresses and walks through the last door, which leads to a small café with round tables, a hissing espresso machine. Arthur is behind the counter.
“I can make coffee,” he says, “then go through to the locker room to pick up towels. Where will you leave the combination?”
“In my locker seems safest,” Eames says.
“Okay, yeah,” says Arthur. He looks away. “The other door leads back into the locker room as well,” he says. He glances at his watch. “Have you seen everything you need to? Time’s up.” He is refusing to look at Eames for more than a second.
“Right, yeah,” says Eames. And wakes up.
In the other chair, Arthur is already sitting up, rolling up the tubing. He turns to Eames.
“Let me,” he says, and pulls out his cannula, placing his thumb on the drop of blood that squeezes up, his fingers warm in the palm of Eames’s hand, trembling slightly. Eames’s breath stutters.
“Thank you, Arthur,” he says, too quietly for Cobb to hear. Arthur smiles slightly.
“Of course,” he says.
“Will it work?” says Cobb. “I added the showers so you don't have to make him get dressed straight from the steam room.”
“Yes, good touch,” says Eames. “I can use that.”
“Arthur?” says Cobb.
“It’ll work. When are we doing this?” says Arthur. He flips open his laptop, opens his report to a calendar he has embedded. “Lubakov usually goes to the baths on Thursday, but you said he’s leaving earlier? I'll have to check whether he’s still going. He puts a stupid code in his phone calendar. Some people are really too easy,” he says, typing rapidly in another window.
Eames looks at the tense line of his back, the tight set of his shoulders, and longs to touch.
“I'm going to get us some breakfast,” says Eames, “What do you fancy, Arthur?”
“Pain au chocolat, café au lait,” says Arthur. “There’s a café round the corner that does good coffee and lets you carry it out.”
“Croque monsieur and a Coke,” says Cobb, “Shall I come with you?”
“No, no,” says Eames.
When Eames gets back with the food, Arthur is outside, leaning next to the building door. He pushes himself off the brickwork and reaches for the cardboard tray of coffees. Inside, he sets the tray on the bottom step and pushes Eames against the wall, leaning in to kiss him.
“I needed that,” he says, pulling away and picking up the coffees.
“Mmmm,” says Eames, following him up the stairs, “me too.”
Back in the work space, biting into his pastry, Arthur says: “I looked at his phone calendar. He’s going to the baths this evening. Sooner than we hoped, but I guess we'll have to make it work. Was there anything you needed changed in the build, Eames?”
“No,” says Eames, “I just have to work out how to get him to leave the documents when I suggest coffee. We’ll have to shower. The sequence is a bit … awkward, because he has no real reason to open the safe at that point.”
“He’s got to get his wallet out to buy you coffee though, doesn't he?” says Cobb.
“Yes, of course,” says Eames. “Okay, that’s fine then,” he says, wiping his fingers and throwing his cup in the bin. “I need to think about the forge a bit more, fix it in place. I think I'll go back to my hotel, if that’s alright with you.” He looks over at Arthur.
“Um, yeah, we can meet back here at … three? Gives us time to get to his club in plenty of time. He’s going at six. Cobb?”
“Yes,” says Cobb. “I'll handle his bodyguard topside. We’re going to need no one else in the steam room so you can take him under there.” He seems less distracted, more present in the job now that it's on this speeded-up timeframe.
“So yes, 3pm here’s fine.” He grabs his jacket. “See you then,” he says and turns for the stairs.
“I really do need to work on the forge,” says Eames, not sure what Arthur will want from him.
“Can you do it with me there?” says Arthur. “If you can't, I'll stay here.”
“I'm not sure, you are terribly distracting, darling,” says Eames. Arthur smiles.
“Can we try, at least? I'd rather be there with you than here on my own.”
“Of course!” Eames grabs his jacket from the back of the chair while Arthur shuts down his laptop. He reaches for Arthur's hand, pulls him closer. “I'd rather you were with me too.”
Back in the hotel room, Arthur takes off his jacket and his shoes and loosens his tie.
“What do you need, Eames?” he says.
“I just need to be quiet and think. I need to imagine him more fully. I'm making him up, so I need to get the details right,” says Eames. He's never explained how he creates a character before. “I usually just lie and stare into space while I do it,” he says.
“Okay,” says Arthur, “I'll just stay in here and read, shall I? Then later, we can go get lunch on our way back?”
It feels so domestic, planning a day. Eames can hardly believe that just days ago he was in Mombasa, alone, and now he’s here, in Paris, with Arthur, having this conversation. He steps over to where Arthur has flopped down on the sofa, braces his hands on the back, bracketing Arthur, and kisses his forehead. Arthur tilts his head back, bringing his mouth up, and returns the kiss. Eames swallows and steps back.
“Okay, I'll go away now,” he says, “before I can't.”
He lies on the bed and starts to think his way into the forge. The feel of the younger man’s narrower torso, his blander smile. His even, straight teeth.
He realizes that as much as Arthur doesn't want to see him entice the mark, he doesn't want to do it in front of Arthur. He suggested it, and it is the best and perhaps only way to do the job efficiently, but after last night things have shifted. Voicing his doubts to Arthur won't make it easier for either of them though.
Eames takes out his phone to see the time. An hour has passed. He gets up and goes through to the sitting room. Arthur has fallen asleep stretched out on the sofa, his phone fallen from his hand. His face is slack, tilted to the side. Eames brushes the back of his hand along his jaw, waking him.
“Hello,” says Arthur, smiling blurrily, wrinkling his nose, “hello, Eames!” he says, catching his hand, “You're here!”
“Yes, well, where else would I be, darling?” says Eames. “I'm done,” he says, “we can go now, if you want.”
“Yes, we should go,” says Arthur. He frowns, shakes his head. “Yes, we should go,” he says again.
“I know,” says Eames, “I'd rather not either, but it’ll all be over in a few hours and then we can get out of here, away from Cobb.”
They haven't spoken about where they'll go. The end of the job has taken them all by surprise.
He helps Arthur up and pulls him in for a kiss, running his hands up along his sides. Arthur leans against him. “Come, love,” says Eames.
Arthur’s hair is mussed from sleeping on the sofa and Eames pushes a hand into it. “Like it when you're like this,” he murmurs.
“God, I can't go out like this,” says Arthur, raising an eyebrow and scratching at the nape of Eames's neck. “You’re a bit ruffled too.”
He studies Eames in the mirror as he combs his hair and washes his hands. It feels too similar to his look in the dream for comfort.
As they take the lift down, Arthur says: “I got us a table at Ducasse tonight.”
“How on earth did you manage that, darling?” says Eames, unable to conceal a fond smile. “I'd’ve thought they were booked for months.”
“The concierge really likes me,” says Arthur with a shrug. “I did a bit of research for him last time I was here.”
“You sly minx!” says Eames.
Please notice that there are several new tags on this story, and see the end of the chapter for an explanation if you are wary.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When they arrive back at the loft, Arthur hanging back to circle the block this time, Cobb is already there, pacing nervously.
“I went to get a look at the bodyguard. Turns out there are two. These Russian magnates couldn't be more paranoid,” he says, squinting at Arthur.
“It was in the report,” says Arthur, “that there are two. Ex-Russian special forces. God, Cobb, what’s your plan?”
“Well,” says Cobb, “can you help me, Eames, just to make sure Lubakov’s alone in the steam room? Arthur’s got to go and get him under.”
“Cobb,” says Arthur, “Eames is doing the whole rest of the job!”
“No, Arthur, it's alright. I can help with distraction, shouldn't be too much to it,” says Eames. He really hopes they're right. The hope is that by doing the job in the steam room setting they may avoid the vicious projections of Lubakov's militarized sub-conscious. It's a hunch, more than a fully worked-out idea.
Arthur has packed up the PASIV and is waiting by the door.
“Let’s get going,” he says. “We need to case the actual steam room before he gets there. Cobb, you went there, based your build on the real place?”
“Of course!” says Cobb, “The same and yet not. He won't notice. Especially if Eames is sufficiently diverting.” He smirks.
“Oh you can be sure, I will be,” says Eames. “The best.”
Arthur has called a cab. The ride doesn't take long at this time of the afternoon. The spa is discreet, in a quiet street with only a brass name plaque at the door. Arthur has taken out memberships for the three of them and the doorman nods when they show their cards.
The steam room is in the basement.
“Will the PASIV be okay in the steam?” says Eames.
“Should be, if we get it out quickly enough. We shouldn't need more than 10 topside minutes.”
“So Cobb will distract the guards, you'll go in, set up the PASIV, Lubakov will arrive, go in, I'll slip in, you'll put him under, then we’ll go under?” says Eames. He knows the plan, he’s just repeating it to keep them all focused. “I know the steam room’s the best place to do this, but working in just a towel … bit tricky,” he says.
He knows Arthur is hating this job, so he’s surprised to hear a quiet chuckle.
“Tricky, yeah,” says Arthur, glancing sidelong, letting his hand brush Eames’s, “tricky.”
It's after five, time to head down.
Arthur starts down the marble stairs, PASIV case in hand. Eames waits a few minutes before following. Cobb will remain in the lobby, follow Lubakov and his men down when they arrive. It’s still a bit early for many people to be there, but the locker room isn't empty. Arthur has found a locker near the steam room door. There’s another one free across from it. Getting into the steam room with the PASIV is going to be the hardest part, they've agreed. If anyone notices, it's going to seem far too odd. Lubakov’s men will likely clear the room, but the locker room attendant will still be there. Cobb and Eames are going to have a lot of distracting to do.
It starts smoothly. A short, broad man opens the door, nods to the attendant, who politely urges the two men who are dressing to hurry up. He frowns at Arthur and Eames, but Arthur says, in French, “Lubakov invited us to a meeting.”
“Ah, oui,” says the attendant, rolling his eyes. “Des Russes, eh?”
Arthur shrugs and turns back to the locker, taking off his jacket and hanging it up. He rolls his tie, puts it in the pocket and sits down to unlace his shoes. Eames sits on the bench next to him, facing across the aisle. Their hands brush and he bends to undo his own shoes. They undress and wrap towels around their hips.
Arthur frowns at Eames, motioning for him to distract the attendant.
“Pardonnez-moi, monsieur,” says Eames, feeling foolish. What to say to keep the man’s attention long enough? He asks how the personal safes work, which gets the man’s head in the locker. Arthur picks up the PASIV and steps through the steam room door.
“Merci,” says Eames, slipping the man a few hundred euro.
A heavy older man enters, with the short, broad guard and another, taller, crew-cut man.
He strides to a locker at the far end of the room, while the guards stand one at the door and the other near the steam room. Lubakov eyes Eames as he passes. He looks mildly interested, but Eames isn't his type. Too old, for one thing.
Eames’s skin crawls. He wishes, again, there was another way to do the job. He’s glad Arthur didn't see that look, and wonders what Lubakov will think when he sees Arthur in the steam room. His slender build is more to the man’s taste.
There’s a commotion on the stairs, and the taller guard steps out. Eames hopes Cobb's distraction is sufficient. Lubakov frowns, but waddles over to the steam room, his eyes trailing over Eames again. He raises his eyebrows, apparently resigned to accepting him in the absence of anyone younger and prettier.
Eames pretends to be surprised and Lubakov snorts. Eames gets up and follows him. The guard at the door is impassive, clearly used to this.
Inside the steam room, Arthur has everything set up in the corner furthest from the door. Eames grabs Lubakov from behind and Arthur smoothly inserts the needle in his wrist. They lay him on the bench, and Arthur hands Eames another needle, his fingers lingering briefly.
“Right,” says Eames, “ten minutes?”
“Yes,” says Arthur, frowning as he inserts his own needle. “Good luck,” he says and pushes the button.
Eames glances at Lubakov as the door shuts behind Arthur. He slides closer on the bench, letting his towel ride up a little. Lubakov’s own towel is straining around his belly as he slouches on the bench, legs sprawling. Eames suppresses a shudder and licks his lips.
“Do you come here often?” says Lubakov. His accent is thick, but his English is careful.
“Not very often,” says Eames, his accent lightly, undefinably “European”, “it’s expensive.”
“One must pay for the best. For privacy,” says Lubakov.
“Yes,” says Eames, sliding closer, putting his hand on the man’s knee, “it’s very private.”
Lubakov smiles, splaying his legs even wider. “I have a lot of money,” he says.
“Oh?” says Eames, pretending not to understand.
“Yes. A lot of money. I would like company,” says Lubakov.
Eames isn't sure how he thought this would go. How was he so naïve as to think it would not go exactly like this?
“Well,” he says, “perhaps you’ll take a shower with me?” He runs his hand up Lubakov's thigh, under his towel. “We can come back here too, if you’d like?”
He stands up, letting his towel slip from his hips, bends down to pick it up. He hears Lubakov inhale sharply and throws a glance over his shoulder, walking to the door.
Eames looks back to make sure Lubakov is following and heads for the shower room. There are no guards here in the dream, a sign of just how confident Lubakov is.
He’s going to have to offer more than a promise. He just hopes it’s quick and he can get Lubakov to stash his secrets, get him out to the café. He wonders how long Arthur will give him. He feels a bit sick with himself. He has tried to assure Arthur that it’s not really him in this moment, but of course it is. It’s a measure of how desperate Arthur is for it to be over that he agreed to do the job this way.
The least he can do, for Arthur, and for himself, is to try and satisfy Lubakov with as little as possible, as fast as possible. And then it will be over and they can go far away from this, and from Cobb and from Arthur's anger. From some of Arthur’s anger.
He chooses a shower stall far from the door, stepping in and turning on the water. Lubakov follows, crowding up against him, pushing Eames against the tile. But Eames in a forge is deceptive. He may look willowy and delicate now, but he is still himself, inside. He spins around and puts his hand on Lubakov’s chest, pushing him back, while making it seem like something else, sliding his hand down, smiling up at him. He runs his other hand through his own hair, drops his eyes and forces himself to make a breathy little sound as he reaches for the man’s cock. Thank god for the Viagra Lubakov has obviously taken; this won't take too long.
Lubakov may be wanting something else, but if Eames is clever, he thinks, he can give him enough for now while promising more later. He runs his other hand down the sagging chest, tweaks a nipple. Lubakov smiles.
“Good boy,” he says.
Eames thinks of all the other boys Lubakov has paid. He is good at this, and he can get this man off reasonably efficiently, he thinks.
But suddenly, Lubakov grabs his hand. “No, little boy,” he says, “that’s all very well, but what about more, eh? Hands only? Pah!”
Eames swallows. “I'm very … talented with my hands,” he says. “You won't be disappointed.”
“Yes, I'm sure,” Lubakov leers, pushing at Eames’s shoulder, “I'm sure your mouth is even more talented, boy,” he says.
Eames curses himself for being so cocky, so certain he could control this, when it is clear Lubakov is a bully well used to getting what he wants. Eames sinks down, the mosaic of the floor digging into his knees.
He gets his hand round the base of Lubakov’s cock.
Distantly, over the rush of the falling water, he hears the door open, the sound of running feet.
“Hell no!” Arthur shouts.
There is the sound of a gunshot, terrifyingly loud in the tiny, echoing space, and Lubakov sags against the tile.
A hand clamps hard on Eames’s shoulder and Arthur is crouching at his side, soaked.
“Oh my god, Eames, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry,” says Arthur, his voice ragged.
“Arthur …” says Eames. The water pooling in the shower is pinkish and Arthur is shaking.
“Eames, I'm sorry, but we’ve got to go,” says Arthur, shooting him in the head.
Eames opens his eyes. A second later, Arthur is sitting up next to him.
Lubakov looks groggily at the needle in his wrist, the tubing, the PASIV case.
Arthur gets the needle out of his own hand, stands up, bangs Lubakov's head against the wall, knocking him out, extracts the needle, shoves the tubing back in the case, turns back to Eames and … stops.
“Oh my god, Eames,” he says, “I'm sorry.”
“Darling, do stop saying that,” says Eames, standing up. His legs feel shaky. He looks down at himself, and sees … only himself.
“How are we going to get out of here with that?” he says, nodding at the PASIV. “We’re early, Cobb won't be ready.”
Arthur looks at the timer. “Cobb thinks we’ll be down there another five minutes,” he says. “We could wait it out, but I'm nervous Lubakov’ll come round, and I really don't want to be in here with him any longer. I don't want you in here with him.”
“Well, no,” says Eames. “But Arthur, you know nothing happened, don't you?”
“Yes,” says Arthur. “No! You were prepared to go through with it for a job!” He finally reaches for Eames. Pulls his head down, runs his hand hard down the back of his neck. “Eames, no!” He takes a breath that sounds very shaky right at Eames's ear. “Not for a job.”
“What made you come in?” says Eames. “We agreed.”
“I don't know,” says Arthur. “I just had a bad feeling. He seemed worse in person, somehow. And that boy you were forging … I just had a very bad feeling.”
“Thank you,” says Eames, into Arthur’s neck.
Arthur lets Eames go. He shuts the PASIV case and shoves it under the bench.
He grabs Eames’s hand. “We’re going out, telling the bodyguard he passed out, and leaving,” he says. “Cobb can work out how to get the PASIV.”
“Okay,” says Eames. He feels wrung out and oddly blurred. “Yes, and then we’re leaving,” he says.
Arthur opens the door.
“Your boss passed out,” he says to the guard, who gives them a startled look. He pushes past the man. Eames follows.
The guard darts into the steam room, runs back out, shouts: “Andrei!” and goes back in.
The other guard bursts through the door from the stairs.
Arthur steps over to his locker, ignoring the attendant, who is hovering, apparently unsure what to do. He is toweling himself off, dressing rapidly, when Cobb comes in. “What the fuck!” he says.
“No!” says Arthur, taking a step towards him, shirt still open. “No!”
Eames is slumped on the bench. He stands up and starts to dress.
“That fucker was about to … he was about to … drop it, damn it!” says Arthur, his voice catching. “The PASIV’s in the steam room. We’re leaving.”
He buttons his shirt, tucks it haphazardly into his pants, sits down hard, pulls on socks and shoes and turns to Eames.
“You ready?” he says, “let’s go.”
Eames jams his feet into his shoes, runs a hand through his hair.
“Yes, let’s go,” he says.
There is an attempted sexual assault in dreamspace. It is not graphic and is over quickly.
Arthur hails a cab, grabs Eames's hand and pulls him in. “Plaza Athénée, s’il vous plait,” he says to the driver.
He slumps into the seat and drags Eames against his side. Eames leans and closes his eyes.
The cab ride is silent, not long.
At the hotel, Arthur guides Eames through the lobby with a hand at his back, gets him into the lift, leads him out, down the corridor, into the room, through to the bedroom. He pushes Eames gently onto the bed, crouches down and takes off his shoes. Eames rests a hand on Arthur’s shoulder, and Arthur grabs it.
“Arthur,” says Eames, “I'm sorry I ballsed up the job. I misread it. I thought I'd be able to deflect him. I thought … I thought I could get away with it. I would have done it …”
Arthur cuts him off. “Eames, no! That’s so … fucked up. No crappy job is worth that! It's just stealing stupid industrial secrets. No! No! None of it is your fault. How could you even think you had to go through with … that?”
Arthur is looking so intently at him, so fiercely, that he has to look away.
“I told you I would finish it and get you away. It wasn't me, entirely, there.”
Eames knows this isn't true, and he knows Arthur certainly doesn't believe it, but he can't stop thinking it, somehow.
Arthur sighs. “Please, Eames, don't say that. Don't ever say that. It's always you, no matter how deep you go.” He tips his head against Eames’s hand on his shoulder.
“I'm glad I didn't have to do it though,” says Eames. “Thank you.”
“You have to stop saying that,” says Arthur, and stands up. “I did what I had to.
“I'm running a bath now,” he says.
“Okay,” says Eames. “Thank you.”
He hears the water start, and Arthur steps back in. “Come, Eames,” he says, taking his hand.
Eames lies in the bath and Arthur kneels by the side of the tub.
“Oh darling,” says Eames, “your suit! Won't you get in, please? And stop ruining your trousers?”
Arthur laughs, briefly. “Yes, Mr Eames,” he says, and strips off with no ceremony.
He sits behind Eames, pulling him against his chest. Eames finally starts to feel like himself again. The clean herbal smell of Arthur’s soap surrounds them. “I like it when you use this,” says Arthur.
“So do I,” says Eames. He feels himself start to drift in the steamy room.
“I like it when you smell like mine,” Arthur whispers, very softly. Eames is not sure if he imagined it.
The water has begun to cool when Arthur stands up. “Come to bed now,” he says.
“What about Ducasse?” says Eames, yawning.
“Another day, I promise,” says Arthur, “Any other day.” He hands Eames a towel, then a bathrobe. “I'll order something.”
Eames laughs. “From the pretty good room service,” he says.
He’s half-asleep when the cart arrives.
“I got you this,” says Arthur, handing him a teacup.
“Proper tea!” says Eames.
“Yes, well,” says Arthur, “this is a very good hotel.”
Eames leans against the headboard, pulls his knees up. Arthur has ordered soup, but Eames is content with his tea. He drinks several cups.
“How did you know, love?” he says.
“Eames, you always order tea if you can,” says Arthur, “of course I knew.”
“No, I mean, how did you know, there?”
“I told you, I had a bad feeling. That fucker!” he says. “I couldn’t let that happen.” His mouth is a hard line.
He takes the teacup and Eames lies down on his side, facing Arthur.
“Thank you,” he says. Arthur will know he doesn't just mean for the tea.
“Yes,” he says, “well, you came to rescue me, and I came to rescue you, so now we’re even. We can start on equal terms.”
He lies down, and drags his hand down Eames’s face and across his mouth, leans in and kisses him. “You can go to sleep now,” he says.
So Eames does.
And wakes with his face pressed into the curve of Arthur’s neck as sunlight filters into the room.
“We can start …” Arthur had said. More than Eames had dared think about, a few days ago.
He’s starving. He gets up carefully, goes to pee and comes back to bed.
“Breakfast’ll be here soon,” says Arthur, sitting up and pushing his hand through his hair, wild from going to sleep with it damp.
“We’re leaving today, yeah?” says Eames, “Where’re we going?”
“I hear Riga’s lovely at this time of year,” says Arthur.