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Sugar Rush

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Eames has always loved cake. For him all good memories were somehow connected to it. His mum’s chocolate buttercream cake that she made for every birthday, his granny’s poppy seed cake that he had the recipe for but never managed to get quite right, the tarte au citron he shared with his ex Robert in a little café in Paris: since he was little he seemed to remember his life in sweet treats. And when he opened the “Dreamshare Bakery” a couple of years ago he hoped that maybe some of his work would become part of the fond memories of others. His shop wasn’t big but cozy. The furniture was mix and match, most of it from flea markets and antique shops. The shelves and walls were decorated with trinkets that Eames had collected while travelling and things that were given to him by friends and family. There were a couple of tables for customers who wanted to have their cake there with a cup of tea or coffee. It should have been a mess but somehow it was just homely. When Eames wasn’t back in the kitchen baking, he could always be found behind the little glass counter where all their cakes were on display. Most of his bakes were all time favourites like elegant red velvet cakes, lemon meringue pies, moist carrot cakes and of course his mum’s chocolate buttercream. All of it with a little personal twist that made these old school recipes somehow turn into something very special. Of course they also sold fashionable cupcakes, macarons and other little treats but he left most of these to Ariadne. She was an architecture student he originally hired as a part-time sales girl but soon he found out that she was a very talented baker in her own right, so he lets her handle the more dainty sugar work she’s so good at. His baking isn’t like that. It’s brash, indulgent and completely meant for comfort. And who could resist that, right?

xxxx

Arthur has no opinion on cake. It’s not that he hates it; it’s just something he never indulges in, never thinks about. That was until he moved into his new apartment. The place was lovely, all open spaces, big windows and clean lines. There was even a beautiful glass balcony that he intended to spend as much time on as possible. When he went to see the place before he rented it, he noticed that there was a little bakery on the ground floor of the building. The estate agent told him a bit about it, probably saw it as a unique selling point but he didn’t really pay attention. A big mistake as he found out after he moved in. He started to notice it a couple of days later. Whenever he opened one of the windows, there was a sickly sweet smell in the air. And when he sat on his cherished balcony it was almost unbearable. It seemed to be worst in the evenings and very early in the morning. Arthur went into the courtyard of the apartment block to investigate and soon found the source of his discomfort: The bakery’s air vent was situated directly underneath his balcony. It didn’t matter that he was four stories above it, the steam from the ovens managed to travel straight into his living room. Something had to be done about this …

xxxx

They managed to almost sell out today so Eames was in a particularly good mood while he started to clean up just before closing. When he heard to door chime go he was practically beaming at the man who just strode into his shop. And oh my, what sight he was: All lean lines wrapped up nicely in a stunning three piece suit, slicked back dark hair, cupid bow lips and such intense eyes. Eames couldn’t believe his luck.

“Good evening! What can I do for you? I’m afraid we’re almost sold out but I’m pretty sure I can still find a sweet treat for your cravings…” Eames started out his giddy welcome but he wasn’t allowed to finish.

“I’m not here to buy any cake,” the guy interjected quickly, a frown showing on his face.

“Oh, okay. Coffee then? You’re lucky, I was just about to turn the machine off,” Eames replied a little less cheerful but still smiling.

“I’m here because of your air vent,” the man said, sounding a little tetchy by now.

Eames had no idea what he was on about. “My what?” he asked wide eyed. “Your. Air. Vent!” suit-guy repeated slowly, like he was talking to an imbecile.

“It’s situated right underneath my balcony and the smells coming from it are simply unbearable. I don’t pay that much rent to be assaulted by whatever sugary monstrosities you’re producing down here.”

“So let me get this straight: You came into my shop because you want to complain about your flat smelling of freshly baked cake all the time?” Eames excellent mood had vanished by now. Could this guy be for real?

“Yes, that’s exactly what I’m trying to tell you,” the man answered, sounding almost relieved that Eames finally seemed to understand his predicament.

“Just one question Mr…”

“Cohen. Arthur Cohen.”

“Hmm, Arthur. Just one question then Arthur: When you went to look at the flat, did you notice that there was a bakery in the building?” Eames could tell that using his first name made Arthur’s ears turn red with anger. Well, he could be a bit of a prat if needed.

“Yes, I noticed but…”

“But now you’re surprised that you can smell cake from your window.” Eames interjected quickly. “To be honest Arthur, to me that seems a little short sighted and I don’t know how it is my fault that you don’t seem to be paying attention to detail” Eames finished his argument, giving that Arthur-guy a rather insolent smirk just for good measure.

“I am more than capable of paying attention to detail Mr…”

“Eames. Just Eames”

“Mr. Eames. It is in fact a specialty of mine. Excuse me that it didn’t cross my mind that your ovens from hell are located right underneath my balcony. I’m pretty sure the ventilation system you’ve got here is a rather old fashioned installation by the looks of the shop and I’m sure a new one with proper filters would solve the problem. So fix it!” Arthur practically spat the last words at the rather flummoxed baker, even jabbing his finger at him.

Eames was so paralyzed by that kind of twattish behavior that he couldn’t even think of good repartee before the guy turned on his heel and strode out of the shop. “What an utter prick!”

xxxx

“What a dickhead”, Arthur muttered to himself while walking back to his entrance. This didn’t go exactly as planned. He was actually expecting the owner (Eames! What kind of stupid name was that anyway?) to apologize profusely for any inconvenience he was causing him. Instead he accused him of lacking eye for detail. All Arthur did was obsessing about details. As a security specialist this was his fucking job. Sorry, that some stupid little bakery wasn’t high on the list of priorities when he found his dream apartment. And what would that guy understand about this anyway? The shop was a mess! Cluttered and chaotic with some of the tackiest decorations Arthur has ever seen. But he shouldn’t be surprised. Judging from Eames fashion choices alone it was clear that this guy was completely devoid of any taste. Arthur noticed that underneath his white apron he was sporting a short sleeved shirt with honest to God pink flamingos on it. He couldn’t see his trousers but it wouldn’t have surprised him if he had been wearing Bermudas and flip flops with it. So unprofessional! Especially since this shirt showed off that he was heavily tattooed. Who would buy cake from a guy who looked like he just escaped from a tropical prison? And this ridiculous face! All smiles with terribly crooked teeth (Arthur wasn’t the tiniest bit surprised when Eames turned out to have a British accent. What a fucking cliché!) and those stupid lips. I mean, what kind of man has lips like that? And who under the age of 70 still wears their hair in a comb-over? While Arthur was on his mental rant he hadn’t even noticed that he was already back at his apartment. And he was even more furious than before. It dawned on him then, that he was probably not going to get what he wanted as easily as he hoped.

xxxx

“And then he had the actual nerve to point his finger at me! “Fix it!” The hell I’m gonna fix this. You should have seen him: Waltzing in here in his stuffy suit and his sour face. Who doesn’t love the smell of fresh cake? But oh no, not Arthur. Ruins his precious “living-experience”. Such a twat…”

Ariadne was used to Eames nattering on about whatever seems to occupy his mind. Though usually it’s about more pleasant things like a new recipe for salted caramel bars or the decision if he should get a little Labrador or why he’d always chose Ryan Gosling over Channing Tatum or other such nonsense. But this was unpleasant. This she just couldn’t take a second longer.

“Has he been like this all morning?” Yusuf, one of their regulars who owns a little pharmacy around the corner, asked Ariadne, still looking at Eames like he just started to grow horns.

“For God’s sake Eames! If you don’t shut up about it immediately I’m gonna duct-tape your mouth shut! You know I usually love your stream of consciousness but you’ve been going on about this guy all morning and I’m starting to develop a migraine. And you’re making Yusuf uncomfortable” His employee suddenly interrupted him, looking a little wild-eyed.

Eames was about to launch into another rant when he saw the pained expression on Ariadne’s and Yusuf’s faces and quickly snapped his mouth shut. She was right. It was bordering on ridiculous how much that little encounter had riled him up. Eames wasn’t known for being rattled easily. Things like this would normally just amuse him. He’d shake his head at the awfulness of people in general, crack a joke or two and move on. But something about the way Arthur talked to him just got his hackles up. He was just so bloody condescending, treating Eames like he was beneath him, that somehow only talking to him made Arthur want to wash his hands after. Unbelievable that he thought he’d get a nice little flirt out of the encounter…

“Do you think you’ll have to do it? Change the air vent?” Ariadne asked him a little worried.

“I have no idea to be honest,” Eames replied. “I mean sure, this one is a little dated but it works perfectly fine. It’s not my fault that they didn’t think about the flats above it when they planned the building. Even if I was willing to, I looked into a little last night online and the one we’d need to install costs a small fortune. I mean, we’re doing well but not THAT well. So as long as he’s not taking this to property management I’m gonna do sod all about it!” And with that Eames slammed the lid on a box of cupcakes he’d been packaging for Yusuf a bit too forcefully, denting their frosting more than a little. But Yusuf looked too scared to complain about it. Ariadne had the feeling that it was going to be a very long day …

Xxxx

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Despite general opinion Arthur wasn’t a recluse. He was just very picky when he chose his company. Growing up as an only child taught him how to enjoy his own company. But sometimes he went for drinks with the guys from his martial arts classes and there was always his best friend Dom. Arthur had met Dominic Cobb during his second year at MIT and although Cobb sometimes had ideas that were a little too out there for Arthur’s taste he felt pretty quickly that the guy was one of the few people he could stand to have around for a prolonged amount of time. The same went for his then-girlfriend (now wife) Mal. But Arthur always suspected that there wasn’t a single living being on this planet that wouldn’t instantly fall for her French charm. So when Dom asked Arthur to go into business with him after school it was a no-brainer. Together they founded “Inception Security”, a firm that specializes in background checks. They basically work for big companies who want to make sure they don’t hire people with a dodgy past or who might actually be working as an industrial spy. Sure, some of the work belonged definitely in the more grey areas of legality but Arthur didn’t lose any sleep over it. If you didn’t have anything to hide, what did it matter? And if you did, well, you shouldn’t really be arguing about legality.

But today Arthur’s mind simply couldn’t focus on work. They had just taken on a new major client, “Saito Ltd.”, and he should have started with the research on some of their new accounting managers right away but all he could think about was the argument he had with Eames the day before. Never had anyone gotten under his skin so quickly. He was usually the very poster boy for “calm and collected” up to the point where people called it unnerving. But there was just something about that baker that made him lose control. And he never loses control! Just when this train of thought was starting to get him all worked up again Dom popped his head into Arthur’s immaculate corner office.

“Hey! Wanna go grab some sushi later?”

“Sure, whatever.”

“What’s wrong?” his partner asked once he noticed the frown on Arthur’s face. “Usually you get all excited when I mention raw fish. Shouldn’t you be on a high from decorating your new digs? I know how much you enjoy that”, Dom said while taking a seat in one of the designer leather chairs facing Arthur’s desk.

Arthur’s mouth couldn’t help but quirk a little at that. “First of all: digs? Really, Dom?” But his friend just shrugged and grinned at him. “And the decorating is going fine. The place just needs some final touches and I’m done but…”

Usually Arthur doesn’t make a habit of bitching about things. He’s always seen it as a sign of weakness. But it seemed like his mind wasn’t going to be able to focus on anything useful today until he’d gotten this out of his system. So he started to tell Dom about the vent, the bakery and the insufferable man who owns it.  “… and I’m pretty certain the guy is going to do fuck all about it. I might have to go to building management with this.”

Once Arthur had finished his rant Dom just looked at him for a moment, a small frown showing on his face. “So let me get this straight: You just walked into this guy’s shop, had a go at him about something that is not really his fault and that he couldn’t have possibly known about before you told him in your less than charming manner. And you really are surprised that he wasn’t exactly agreeable after this?”

“Yes! I mean, no! I don’t think my request was unreasonable.” Arthur was taken aback a little. He did expect Dom to agree with him maybe having some choice words about that Eames character himself. But he just seemed to be out of luck today.

“I’m not saying that you didn’t have a right to complain, Arthur. Hell, I know how it is. Remember the first place Mal and I had together? It was above a Chinese take-out joint. Couldn’t eat spring rolls for years after that. I’m just saying that there might be a better way to go about this.” Dom explained patiently.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, that maybe you should try being nice in order to get what you want.”

Arthur scoffed at that. “Being nice never gets you what you want.”

“Well, maybe then you just don’t want the right things.” Dom said with a grin and started to head out of the office. Just before he got to the door he turned around again though: “Oh, what’s the name of that place anyway?”

“It’s called “Dreamshare”. I mean, who names a bakery like this? It doesn’t even have anything to do with cake…” But Arthur didn’t get to launch into another rant because Cobb went all wide-eyed.

“No shit? That’s Mal’s farourite place! She keeps going on about how this is the only bakery in town where they make a tarte au citron that can compete with the ones in Paris. Don’t mess this up, Arthur! If you make them close down she is going to kill you!” Dom added with a chuckle before he sauntered out the door leaving a rather baffled Arthur behind.

He was still not convinced that making nice was the way to go but an angry Mal was a truly terrifying thought. So Arthur did what he did best: research.

xxxx

There was absolutely no reason to be nervous, Arthur told himself for the hundredth time on his way down to the “Dreamshare Bakery”. He was in the right and this time he was even going to try and be civil about it. Hell, he was even going to present them a perfect solution for the problem. So why did he feel like he was about to write an exam he hadn’t studied for? He took a deep breath and opened the door, making the little chime ring.

“Hi, how can I help you?”

Arthur was taken aback for a second when in instead of Eames he found a small young woman with brown hair and bambi-eyes behind the counter smiling at him.

“Oh hello. I was actually looking for Mr. Eames?”

As if on cue there was a loud metallic clang from behind the kitchen doors followed by some rather colourful curses delivered in a British accent.

The girl chuckled. “Wait a second, I’m gonna get him for you” When she had disappeared through the metal doors Arthur took the time to have another look at the place. It really was in shambles: No piece of furniture matched the other; there were so many weird trinkets on the shelves, rugs with exotic patterns on the floor. But Arthur also noticed that there was some really interesting art on the walls. Surreal images that felt almost dreamlike… But Arthur was torn out of his musings when Eames came bursting back into the shop looking even more ridiculous…although maybe that wasn’t quite the word Arthur was looking for. No flamingos or apron today, instead the baker was clad in old torn blue jeans and a very tight black t-shirt that was covered in flour. He also had flour on his cheeks and his hair was sticking out every which way.

“So, who requested an audience with…oh, it’s you.” Eames brilliant smile vanished as soon as he saw Arthur standing there. And Arthur tried really hard to ignore the little pang that caused him. He cleared his throat instead. “Good evening, Mr. Eames.” He said, as neutral as possible.

Eames crossed his arms over his flour covered chest. “So what is it this time? Am I icing my cupcakes too loudly?” He gave a bitter smirk, his voice devoid of any humor. Arthur couldn’t help but wince a little at that.

“Guess I deserve that. Listen, I am not here to have another go at you” Arthur said in his most composed voice “I actually came here to apologize …”

“Apologize?” Eames eyes widened in surprise.

“Yes. A friend of mine pointed out that I might have been over reacting a little the other day.”

The baker snorted at that. “Understatement of the year, mate.”

Arthur started to bristle again. Why did this guy have to make it so damn difficult? But he just carried on ignoring the comment. “The building’s design is not your fault and you couldn’t have known about my … discomfort before.” Arthur paused, but Eames was just looking at him expectantly like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

“I did some research into what kind of equipment you’d need to fix the ventilation problem and …”

“Oh so did I and it’s bloody expensive, I can tell you that. We can’t afford to have one of them installed and …”

“Jesus Christ, would you just let me finish?” Arthur interrupted him through clenched teeth. Great. So much for making nice. But it did manage to shut Eames up who now made some ridiculous hand gesture urging Arthur to continue.

“I found a filter system that will solve the problem and yes, it is rather pricey. But I also spoke to the building management seeing as it should be their responsibility to remedy things like this and they agreed to cover the majority of the costs. I’m pretty sure the rest of it is tax deductible so in the end it would probably only cost you one or two days of business while the vent is installed.”

After Arthur had finished neither of them said anything. But Eames had uncrossed his arms, stance and expression softened slightly. “Huh. And they agreed to it just like that?” the baker asked, a tiny frown showing on his face.

“Well, I can be very … persuasive when I want to be” Arthur answered a little sheepishly. He almost jumped out of his skin when Eames started to laugh loudly at his remark, showing all of his crooked teeth. And if that did anything to Arthur’s insides he tried to simply write it down as a feeling of relief. Looks like Cobb might have been right after all.

“I bet you are, mate”, the brown-haired man answered when he had composed himself. “Bet the poor person you spoke to spent the rest of the day cowering in a toilet stall” he answered, giving Arthur a little wink.

Arthur could feel the tips of hears go red. “I just know how to get things done. And looking at the state of this place I had the feeling that nothing would be accomplished if I’d left it up to you.” he answered curtly averting Eames gaze.

“Wow, you really have no idea how to play nice, do you?” the baker remarked a lot less brightly, shaking his head. “So, what do I do now?”

Arthur gave a little sigh. “Call building management and tell them everything has already been negotiated with me. They’ll get things in motion”.

“Yes Sir!” Eames answered with a little mock salute.” Should we exchange numbers so I can keep you in the loop?”

“No!” Arthur exclaimed “I mean, I don’t think this will be necessary. You can leave a message with my doorman if anything should come up.” If he didn’t know better Arthur could have sworn that Eames looked the tiniest bit disappointed at that.

“Right, okay. Good thing I know where you live, darling!” And with that Eames disappeared back into the kitchen leaving a slightly rattled Arthur behind.

xxxx

“Oh my God! Was that the guy you constantly talk about?” Ariadne asked as soon as Eames came through the door.

“First of all: I don’t constantly talk about him. And second: Where you eavesdropping?”

“Not my fault these doors aren’t sound proof” Ariadne replied with a shrug. Sometimes Eames wasn’t sure if he had hired a little sister instead of an assistant. He turned back to his work station which was still covered completely in flour. He hadn’t had the best of days so far. First he failed to get a decent rise out of is brioche dough, then his lemon-buttercream split and then one of the food processors decided to have a hissy fit, covering everything in its reach with flour. So of course when he found Arthur standing in his shop again, looking like an Armani-Robot in his tight suit-pants and sweater west, he wasn’t feeling ecstatic. Their first encounter had left a bitter taste and was probably responsible for his lack of concentration today.

“He didn’t seem as bad as you made him out to be” Ariadne piped up.

“Oh believe me; he was when he came around the other day.”

“Oh come on, he apologized for that today.”

“Yeah, looking like he was passing a kidney stone while doing it kinda takes the sincerity out of it, don’t you think petal?”

“You’re one to talk. You still haven’t apologized for accidentally covering my phone in buttercream the other day. At least he admitted his mistake” his assistant replied with sour look on her face.

“I haven’t apologized because I told you before that you shouldn’t leave it lying around the work station just so you won’t miss a text from Yusuf…” Eames said laughing, barely able to dodge the hand full of flour coming his way.

“There’s nothing going on between me and Yusuf!”

“Yeah, you tell yourself that, love” Eames answered chuckling.

“God, you can be such a bastard” Ariadne said but you she was smiling. They were always teasing each other mercilessly. “I bet you’re just in a mood because he didn’t give you his number.”

Eames tried to look indifferent. “And why would I want his number? Even while doing a nice thing he still managed to insult me!”

“He’s probably just using the kindergarten way of flirting: calling you names and pulling your hair. Besides, he’s totally hot. And exactly your type…”

“I don’t have a type!” Eames replied with a huff.

“You do, too. Dark, slender, very well put together … I know you just want to mess him up!” Ariadne joked poking Eames playfully in the side.

“Alright, he is hot. I admit that. You’d have to be blind not to see that” Eames sounded a little defeated. “But I don’t fancy him. He is a rude stick in the mud who probably wouldn’t know what fun is if it bit him in the arse.”

“Yeah, that’s why you started flirting with him…”

“I didn’t flirt with him!”

“Uhu...Oh, I bet you do!...Good thing I know where you live, darling!” Ariadne repeated in her best impression of the Brit.

“You’re accent is terrible.” Eames muttered.

“I bet you even winked at him!”

“I wasn’t chatting him up, okay?” the baker insisted, turning a nice shade of pink. “I was just trying to get a little rise out of him.”

“Whatever helps you sleep at night…” Ariadne grinned and left him on his own.

Eames went back to cleaning up his mess definitely not thinking about Arthur’s tight trousers or the way he seemed to blush at Eames’s remarks… Oh bollocks! Sometimes he really hated Ariadne.

 

 

 

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It was a slow day. Tuesdays always tended to be slow at the bakery. No one needed a pick-me-up because of Monday blues and it wasn’t time for weekend treats yet. So Eames was sitting at one of the café tables with a cup of tea, doodling and watching Ariadne and Yusuf making fools of themselves. No matter how often Ariadne tried to deny it, Yusuf was clearly smitten with her. He only ever ordered stuff that he knew she had made and he always made sure to come in when Ariadne was behind the counter and not Eames. Eames knew he did it on purpose because he once caught him walking past the shop ten times only stepping through the door when his assistant had taken over serving duties. And she always giggled at the stories he told her about his cat “Mr. Mittens”. And “Mr. Mittens” wasn’t that funny. “Ahh, young love”, Eames sighed none too subtle causing Ariadne to give him stink eye and a slightly flustered Yusuf bid a hasty goodbye.

“You’re such a dick sometimes” Ariadne huffed. “Now you scared him away.”

“Oh, I’m sure he’ll be back, love. I’m pretty certain he’s incapable of abstaining from the shining light of your presence for too long” Eames teased fluttering his eyelashes at her. “That poor chap is even willing to give himself type 2 diabetes for you. No one should eat that many cupcakes.”

Ariadne had to chuckle at that. Since there were no customers to serve at the moment she grabbed a coffee and sat herself down opposite Eames. “What are you sketching?” Eames looked at her questioningly like he had only just realized what he had been doing. “Huh? Oh, nothing.” He replied averting her gaze again.

Ariadne looked at him suspiciously. “Uhu…” Before Eames had even time to react she had snatched the little sketchpad out of his hands. “Hey!” Eames protested but it was too late. Ariadne’s face was already lighting up like a Christmas tree.

“Oh my God! I knew it!” she practically squeeled with glee, waving Eames artwork in front of his face. “You were drawing Arthur! You are so in love with him!”

And there really was no denying who those two floating heads were supposed to be. One had an impressive frown while the other was smiling brightly showing dimples. Both had slicked back hair and a little tie around the neck. So yeah, it would be pretty futile to deny who he had been drawing. Still didn’t mean he was going down without a fight.

“Jesus Christ, will you stop with that nonsense already” Eames muttered, snatching his drawing back from his grinning friend. “I don’t fancy Arthur. I have to leave a message telling him what building management said. Thought this would probably ruffle his immaculate feathers a little.”

“You two are worse than pre-schoolers” Ariadne said with an eye-roll. Eames decided to give her one of his glares that basically translated into “Drop it or die” and for once his little assistant obliged, changing the topic. “So what did management say?”

“Oh, they were most agreeable. Arthur must have scared the living hell out of them” Eames answered with a little smile. He could just imagine Arthur giving them a no-nonsense speech in his business voice …

“And?” Ariadne interrupted his train of thought.

“Ahem… and they’re actually going to cover most of the costs. They’re going to send a contractor around soon to take a look at the thing. And that’s why I have to leave Arthur a message. He’d probably want to know about this.”

“Sure.” Ariadne looked at him knowingly. “It’s just about business…”

xxxx

Arthur has no idea how long he had been staring at his computer by now. He just knew that he hadn’t actually managed to focus on anything showing up on the screen in front of him. Instead his gaze kept wandering to a little piece of paper lying on his desk. When he left for work this morning his doorman Mike had called him over because there had been a message left for him last night. Arthur took the slightly grubby looking note from him. It was a bit wrinkled like someone had scrunched it up in order to throw it away and then had changed their mind about it. There were also some smudged fingerprints on it like the writer had been handling chocolate before. Even before Arthur had unfolded the note he was sure who had left it for him.

“Arthur darling, I’m sure you’ll be ecstatic to hear that I did as I was told and called building management. The contractors will be coming around soon so you won’t have to endure this terrible discomfort for much longer.

xxx

E.

PS: They’ve never been so nice to me before so thanks for whatever gruesome threats you threw at them for my benefit J”

But it wasn’t just the message that had Arthur looking at the stupid message about 20 times before he had even reached the office (What kind of grown man signs with kisses??? And Arthur certainly was not his darling!). It was the little sketch next to it. It was clearly done in a hurry and in a rather child-like style but there was no mistake that it was meant to be him. An angry and a happy version of him to be exact. The smiling face even had dimples and he was pretty sure he had never smiled at Eames like that so how did the bastard even know that he had them?

And then it occurred to him that he knew nothing about Eames except that he was British, obnoxious and clearly full of himself. Before he knew what he was doing he had abandoned his actual task completely and called up the bakery’s homepage. There wasn’t much personal information on it though. A picture of Eames and his younger assistant (who was apparently called Ariadne) and a list of their signature bakes with whimsy sketches of them instead of photos. The rest was just standard information: contact details, order forms, a link to their Facebook and Instagram pages (although unfortunately they seemed to be run by Ariadne) and opening times. Finally, among the general site information, he found what he was looking for: a name. W. H. Eames. Well, he should be able to work with that.

An hour later Arthur was close to putting his fist through the screen he was so frustrated. Who on earth didn’t leave a digital footprint these days? There were a couple of articles and reviews about the bakery. All glowing of course (no wonder he’s such a smug bastard), some pics of him on the site of a Parisian patisserie where he seemed to have worked before and a class photo from Goldsmith College in London. Seems like Eames had been studying art there at some point but the picture was about a decade old and he wasn’t in the graduation photo of said class. Of course Arthur could have found out more if he had applied some of his dodgier research techniques but that would have felt like admitting that he was desperate to find out more. And he wasn’t obsessed. He wasn’t …

At that moment there was a little “ping” and the office messaging system popped up on his screen.

“Hey man! Tnx again for inviting Mal and me over for dinner on Sat. I know you won’t do dessert but Mal asked if you could pick up some tartes au citron from “Dreamshare” for the occasion. If you haven’t been banned from the shop, yet ;) D.”

Great. Just fucking great …

xxxx

The morning at the shop had been crazy; even more than usual on a Saturday. It seemed like the whole city was on sugar withdrawal. Not that Eames was complaining. It was only gone noon and he already had to make second batches of almost everything they had on display so he decided to close the shop for lunch until they actually had more stuff to sell. He was just wiping down the tables in the shop when he saw a familiar face peeking through the window. It had been three days since he had left the message with Arthur’s doorman but had heard nothing so far from his bristly neighbor. He had almost started to believe that he had completely blown it and that this was the end of their little back and forth. But apparently he had been mistaken.

He gave the man a smile and a little wave and signed to him that he should come to the door. Eames felt practically giddy when he unlocked the shop again (but left the sign on “closed”).

“Arthur, come in! What brings you to my door today? Did you get my message?” If Arthur noticed that Eames was talking a little faster than usual he thankfully didn’t let it show.

“Uh, hi!” Arthur said hesitantly; following Eames into the shop. “I did get your message. Thanks for the heads-up. That’s not why I am here though.”

Eames was intrigued. “You’re not?”

“Uhm, no” Arthur answered; looking adorably sheepish for some reason. “I am actually here to buy some cake.” He looked at the almost empty displays “Seems like I’m all out of luck though.”

Eames beamed at him. “Yeah, we had quite a busy morning, that’s why I had closed the shop for lunch in order to make more. What were you looking for? Most things have already come out of the oven.”

“I was told to pick up two of your small tartes au citron. Apparently they are the only ones that will compare to the tartes in Paris” Arthur told him with a little quirk to his lips.

Eames mockingly grabbed his heart while he opened his eyes in surprise. “Such glowing praise! These words can’t be coming from you, love. I’m sure you’d sooner bite your own tongue off than give me a compliment” the baker teased.

And it seemed to be working since the well-dressed man even gave him a little smile. Eames heart skipped a beat.

“I do give praise where it is due. But you’re right; it was my friend Mal who spoke so highly of your work. She and her husband are coming to dinner tomorrow and apparently this is her favourite bakery. I’d never hear the end of it if I didn’t pick something up for dessert.”

“Mal? She isn’t by any chance a very charming, slightly scary and beautiful French lady?”

“Yup, I think that sums her up in a nutshell” Arthur said with a chuckle.

“My, Arthur, who knew who had such interesting friends!”

“She’s my best friend’s wife. I’m pretty sure she’s just learned to tolerate me over the years”. It was clear though from his tone that he wasn’t being serious.

Eames couldn’t believe it. Did Arthur just show some sense of humour? Might this even be his way of flirting? The Brit was pretty sure if his own smile was going to get any wider right now it was going to split his face in two. “Don’t sell yourself short, darling. I’m sure you’ve got your charms although you’re trying to hide them so well.” But there was no malice in Eame’s voice and Arthur didn’t seem to take offence. “Anyway, about your request: I’ve just taken a couple of tartes out of the oven” Eames informed his visitor while making his way behind the counter “but I’m afraid they need to cool down a little before I can pack them up. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll make you a coffee while you wait” Eames said while already busying himself with the espresso machine.

“Oh no! I uh … I don’t want to be any trouble” Arthur stammered. “I can just go back upstairs and pick them up later when they’re ready…”

But Eames waved him off. “Nonsense! No trouble at all. You’d even be doing me a favour. Ariadne has gone on her break and it gets terribly dull in here all by myself. Please, take a seat”

Arthur looked torn for a second so Eames could only just suppress a relieved sigh when he finally gave him a little nod and chose one of the tables close to the counter. The Brit was determined to draw this out for as long as possible. For the first time Arthur seemed to be in a more than agreeable mood around him and he wanted to make the most of this opportunity. Especially since the man looked more than a little delectable again. He was clad in fitted dark blue jeans, a crisp white Oxford with a maroon cashmere jumper on top and a pin-stripe tie tucked underneath it. Hell, this guy probably counted this as casual wear. Maybe Ariadne was right and he did have a type.

He made his way over to Arthur’s table; coffee and a sweet treat in hand and placed both in front of his guest.

Arthur looked surprised. “Double shot of Espresso, no sugar. How did you know?”

“Well, the way you act it wasn’t too hard to guess that you prefer to take your caffeine …sharp” Eames leered at him. “I’m also pretty good at reading people.”

Arthur took a sip of his coffee; his brow a little furrowed in thought. “You also knew that I have dimples.”

“Ah, so you appreciated my little work of art then?” Eames said grinning.

“The resemblance is uncanny” Arthur shot back deadpan which delighted Eames even more.

“Ha! Glad you liked it, pet. And I didn’t know you had them; I was merely hoping. You haven’t exactly showered me with smiles since we met.” And if someone would have accused Eames of pouting at that moment he would have downright denied it. It was worth it though because Arthur seemed to be blushing a little. “Here, try some of this” the baker said while pushing the plate he brought towards his guest. “I’m sure it’ll give you a reason to show your dimples.”

But Arthur wrinkled his nose in distaste. “What is it?”

“It’s a lemon slice. I thought with your penchant for tarte au citron and sour faces this would be right up your alley.”

“I …uh..thanks but I don’t eat cake.” Arthur replied while pushing the plate back in Eame’s direction.

The Brit just gaped at him for a moment before he found his voice again. “What do you mean you don’t eat cake? Like, never?”

Arthur shook his head. “No, never. The tartes I ordered are just for my friends. I don’t eat sweet things at all.”

Eames almost couldn’t control the look of disappointment on his face. “Darling, if you’re wondering where this sound came from; it was my heart breaking into a million pieces!”

Arthur rolled his eyes. “Don’t be so over dramatic Mr. Eames. It’s not that big a deal.”

“What are you talking about? You practically just told me that you don’t enjoy the best thing there is in this world. Well, besides sex of course… Oh God, please tell me you’re not celibate as well!” Eames exclaimed; an almost pained expression on his face.

Arthur’s face had practically taken on the colour of his jumper by then. “Don’t be ridiculous! Some of us just don’t think that stuffing our face with sugar all the time is that pleasurable.”

“Oh, don’t look at me like that. I don’t mean you should eat this every day. I mean, I hardly ever touch this stuff” Eames replied while simultaneously sticking the fork in the lemon slice and putting a sizeable piece of it in his mouth. It didn’t pass him by that this had Arthur’s gaze flicker to his mouth for the briefest of moments so he made a bit of a show of it; wrapping his lips around it and sucking a little on the fork it before putting it back to the plate.

But Arthur just snorted at his claim, as if he didn’t believe him.

“It’s true!” Eames exclaimed. “When you make these things day in day out you lose the appetite for it a little. It’s like working in a chip shop. At the end of the day the last thing you want are deep fried potatoes.”

“So why do you do it then?”

“To make others happy, I guess. I love how some people’s eyes light up when they spot something in the display that they like.” Eames answered sincerely. “For me cake has always been more than a quick sugar fix. It’s something you make or buy for the people you care about; whether it’s for a special occasion or to show your appreciation. It can bring some solace during troubling times or it can just be something you buy to cheer yourself up or as a reward after a stressful day. But my point is that cake always means something good and is always presented with the best of intentions. That’s why I love what I’m doing.”

 Arthur looked at him like he had grown a second head.

Eames cleared his throat. “Sorry, I must sound like a mad man to you.”

“Oh no!” Arthur said hastily. “No need to apologize. I was just a little surprised that …”

“That I’m a sentimental prick?”

Arthur actually laughed out loud at that. And my God, he really did have dimples.

“So if you’ve sworn off sugary delights, and I still think you’re insane by the way, what do you indulge in?” Eames asked after he had composed himself again.

His visitor seemed to contemplate this for a moment before he looked at him and said: “Suits.”

Eames couldn’t help himself but laugh with delight at the answer. But Arthur seemed to take this the wrong way because the all so familiar frown was back on his face.

“Didn’t think a guy who dresses like you do would understand this” Arthur shot back sounding insulted. Eames immediately stopped laughing. This wasn’t what he had intended.

“Oh, I’m sorry darling. I wasn’t laughing at you. I just thought that this was the most perfect answer. In fact I should’ve just guess it myself and … Hey, wait a second!” Now it was Eames’s turn to frown. “Did you just insult my sense of style?”

“If you can even call this style” Arthur replied; his eyes glinting challengingly. “I mean, look at you shirt!”

“There is nothing wrong with my shirt!”

“It has cupcakes on it for God’s sake! And they’re orange! You’re not a toddler Mr. Eames.”

“First of all: I happen to love this shirt! Ariadne gave me this shirt. Some of us can think beyond the common colour schemes, you know. And second: Please stop with the Mr. Eames already. I’ll call you Mr. Cohen if you insist but I keep expecting my father to show up behind me and it is driving me bonkers” Eames finishes by theatrically clasping his hands in front of his face.

“Alright alright! Jesus! Are you always like this?” Arthur sounded a little exasperated by then but Eames just grinned like a big Cheshire cat.

“No, just if want things to go my way” To Eames utter delight the tips of Arthur’s ears were starting to turn a little pink again but he knew better than to take his chances. Arthur reminded him of a skittish animal that would lash out and run away if pushed too far. So he clapped his hands together and got out of his chair.

“Right, I think your tartes should be ready for travel by now”. The Brit went behind the counter and as soon as he had disappeared through the kitchen doors he let out a big sigh of relieve. He felt like he had just sat through an exam. What was it about this guy that kept him on his toes like that? But he didn’t have time to contemplate right now. He took two of the by now only lukewarm tartes and placed them in a little white box wrapping it with a bit of golden ribbon for good measure. When he entered the shop again, Arthur had already gotten out of his seat and was just putting his empty espresso cup on the counter.

“Here you go: two small tartes au citron. Give Mal my best regards, will you? Her praise is much appreciated.” Eames handed Arthur the box, not so accidentally brushing his fingers against the other man’s hand. If he expected anything at all it certainly wasn’t the small electric shock that went straight through him; making his heart skip a beat. The other man must have felt it too, if the look of shock on his face was anything to go by.

It was Arthur though who found his voice again first. “Uhm… thanks. I will. Tell Mal, that is.” He stammered. “What do I owe you?”

Eames blinked a couple of times before his brain managed to make sense of Arthur’s words. “Owe me? Oh, right! For the cake!” He blurted out, probably sounding like an idiot. “Nothing, they’re on the house. Consider them a form of compensation for my ovens from hell, as you so charmingly put it.”

Arthur at least had the decency to look a little embarrassed at that. “Yeah, sorry about that. Dom has told me before that I might have anger management issues”.

“You don’t say” Eames answered with a smile.

“Uh, yeah. Anyway, thanks for the cake. And the coffee. Guess I’ll see you around.”

“I certainly hope so, darling” Eames said, giving him a quick wink. Arthur just blushed a bit more, gave him a little nod and made his way out of the shop.

When Ariadne returned from her break five minutes later Eames was still staring through the window in the direction Arthur just went, a wistful smile playing on his lips.

“Hello? Ground control to Major Eames!” His assistant jokingly called out, waving her hand in front of his face. “What happened to you? You look like you’ve just seen a unicorn.”

“I think it might have, pet” Eames replied ominously. “I think I just might have …”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

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“That was absolutely great, man! Thanks for dinner!”

“Yes, it delicious mon cher” Mal agreed with her husband.

“Thanks guys. You know I’d like to do this more often. We don’t spend enough time together anymore.” Arthur said with a wistful smile.

Dom nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Hey, you should come over for lunch next Sunday. You’d get to see the kids too. They’re missing their Uncle Artie.”

Arthur groaned. “You know you’re dead if you ever call me that in public.” Dom just laughed at that. “But yeah, lunch would be nice. Really haven’t seen Philippa and James in ages. I’m a shitty godfather,”

“No darling, don’t say that. You just work too hard. When was the last time you actually had some time off?” Mal asked a little concerned.

“Don’t worry about me Mal. I get plenty of time to myself.”

She looked at him pointedly: “Maybe that’s what I’m worried about, mon ami.”

“Careful buddy, if you want to get her off your back now, I think you’d better bribe her with dessert,” Dom joked.

“Arthur! Please, tell me Dom told you to pick something up from the place downstairs. Everything they make is divine but…”

“…but their tarte au citron is your favorite. I know, Mal. You’ve trained you husband very well.” Arthur said with a little smirk in Dom’s direction and got up to get the cake from the kitchen, completely ignoring Dom’s petulant look.

“I’m not a dog, you know. I don’t need to be trained to want to please the woman I love.” This earns him a kiss on the cheek from Mal.

“Calm down, man. You know I’m only joking” Arthur said, returning a couple of minutes later with the plated up tartes and three espressos on a tray.

Mal doesn’t waste a moment and hums happily around the first fork of her favorite treat. “Cheri, I simply cannot understand how you can forsake such pleasures.”

Arthur just shrugged. “It’s not difficult if you’re not used to it. You know I grew up without sweet treats.”

“I know. It still makes me sad though. Especially since you now live above the best bakery in town. Have you met the owner, yet? So charming!”

Dom just snorted at that. “Oh, they have met. Don’t think Arthur was very charmed though.”

Mal looked at Arthur like she’ll beat the story out of him if he wasn’t going to tell her this second.

Arthur sighed. “It’s nothing. I might have had a complaint or two but it’s all getting sorted out.”

“Ah, so you took my advice and made nice?” Dom asked a little surprised.

“Don’t look at me like that. I am not as stubborn as you might think.”

“Oh Arthur!” Mal sounded a little exasperated. “And here I thought he’d be just your type!”

“My what? I don’t have a type! And even if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be someone so annoying, chaotic and full of himself.” He replied, crossing his arms.

“Oh stop protesting darling. I know you like your men broad, charming and pretty but a little rough around the edges. Tell me he doesn’t exactly fit the description! And have you looked at his lips?” His French friend was getting quite worked up about this now.

“Hey! I’m still here you know.” Her husband chimed in, looking amused and a bit miffed at the same time.

“Oh, don’t worry mon cher. You know I have only eyes for you. But this one is just to Arthur’s taste.”

“Would you stop it please? I’m not interested in this guy. And I’m pretty sure Eames has no desire to spend more time than necessary with me either.”

“Ah! So his name is Eames. And he’d be insane if he didn’t want to get to know you better, mon choux.” Mal gives Arthur a warm smile. “How long has it been since…?”

“Since Marc dumped me?” Arthur finished her sentence a tad testily. Mal nodded. “3 years.”

“Don’t you think you deserve another shot at happiness?”

“Jesus Mal, I’d hardly call a guy who happens to work downstairs a shot at happiness.”

“But as far as I’m aware you’ve not had a date with anyone in forever! You can’t close yourself off like this forever, Arthur, just because it didn’t work out the last time.”

“Mal, he cheated on me. He cheated on me and then he left me for some guy in a band because, and I quote, I just don’t have any imagination. Also, I’ve been on dates, thank you very much. I’m not a celibate. I’m just staying away from the creative types from now on.”

“Yeah Mal, Arthur went out with Dennis from Accounting the other week” Dom came to his friends aid. “How did it go by the way?”

“Yes Arthur” Mal asked, “how did it go with Dennis from accounting?”

“It was … fine. We had a nice evening.” Mal looked at him scandalized.

“Fine? Nice? My poor darling, that sounds like you had coffee with your aunt, not with someone you want to make passionate love to.”

“Mal!” Arthur blurted out his ears turning pink.

“What? I’m just saying. Doesn’t sound like Dennis gave you goosebumps.” And Arthur’s blush only deepened at that, thinking about the jolt he felt when he accidentally touched Eames hand earlier today…

xxxx

It’s been two days since Arthur last came into the shop. 51 hours to be exact. Eames knows this because he couldn’t stop thinking about their last encounter since then. It’s also the reason he is currently only half listening to the contractor checking out the air vent and explaining to him what has to be exchanged.

“… and we should actually have all the parts in stock so we could begin work by Thursday if that’s alright with you Mr. Eames? Mr. Eames?

Eames blinks and tries to look like he’d paid rapt attention the whole time. “Yes, of course, that would be splendid. The faster this gets done the better!” He gives the contractor a slightly forced smile but he doesn’t seem to notice.

“Excellent! Well, it should probably take about two days to install the new system, so you’d have to close the business until Saturday or Sunday.”

“I’m pretty sure my assistant will be delighted about the extra time off.” Eames jokes. “Are we done here for today then?”

“Yes, I think that’s all” the contractor, Paul, says while exiting the kitchen towards the shop, Eames on his heels. “I just need to make a quick visit to Mr. Cohen upstairs to check out the situation from the balcony. Good thing you kept the ovens running.”

“Mr. Cohen? So, he’s expecting you?” Eames asks, his heart starting to beat a little faster.

“Yup, told him to come home a little early from work today so I could see how bad it is. So, I’ll be seeing you on Thursday Mr. Eames. Don’t hesitate to give me call if you have any more questions before then.” And with that he gives a curt nod to Ariadne and makes for the door.

Eames realizes quickly that this is a chance that won’t come around again so quickly. He tears of his apron and frantically turns to Ariadne: “Darling, do me a favour and hold the fort, will you? I might take a while so close the shop when it’s time, too.” Eames gives her a quick peck on the cheek and rushes out after the contractor shouting: “Hey mate, wait a second!” Leaving a completely baffled Ariadne behind.

xxxx

Arthur can’t remember the last time he had left work this early. But the contractors had called him to say they needed to take a look from his balcony to see where exactly the air from the vent goes. So here he is, sitting on his sofa in the late afternoon, watching the news. Or at least he’s trying to watch the news. He hasn’t really been paying attention to any of it so far. It was the same at work. There couldn’t have been a better day to leave the office early since he hadn’t exactly been a poster boy for productivity. Again. His mind just kept drifting back to the things Mal had said about happiness and Eames. Especially Eames. Of course Arthur had been lying when he told his friend that the baker wasn’t his type. He was exactly the kind of guy he’d used to fall for: the big shoulders, the tattoos that kept poking out of his sleeves and collar, and his lips … God, those lips. A shame that most of the things that came out of them were said to get under Arthur’s skin. And not in a good way. Or was he mistaken? The last time they met Eames was a lot more pleasant than before. He still managed to rile Arthur up a little but it didn’t seem malicious. Most of it seemed downright flirty… But Arthur’s musings were interrupted when his buzzer rang. Arthur got up and answered the intercom. “Hey Mike!”

“Good afternoon Mr. Cohen! The gentleman from the contracting firm is here to see you. Shall I send him up?” his doorman asked.

“Yes yes, sure. Send him up Mike.”

Arthur stood by the door waiting for the knock; not even bothering to look through the spy hole before opening the door. And God did he wished he had. There, right in front of him, was the contractor, and a grinning Mr. Eames right behind him. He was wearing ill-fitting grey slacks and a mustard colored paisley-shirt. He looked… well, he looked … It took Arthur a second to notice that the first guy was holding out his hand for him to shake.

“Paul Nash, I’m here to check out the vent situation. We’ve spoken on the phone, Mr. Cohen?”

At that Arthur managed to shake himself out of his stupor. “Yes, of course! Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Nash. Please, do come in. And Mr. Eames. What a surprise. To what reason do I owe the honor?” Arthur manages through a clearly fake smile but if the Brit notices it he decided to just take it for the real thing; practically beaming at Arthur.

“Oh, I thought I’d accompany Mr. Nash here and take a look at the situation myself” Eames answers while stepping past a frowning Arthur and into the flat. Mr. Nash had already stepped out onto the balcony. “So far I’ve just taken your word for granted. You might have been fibbing.” Eames continues, narrowing his eyes at Arthur.

“Are you for real?” Arthur asks, his eyebrows practically shooting into his hairline which makes Eames start to giggle at him and Arthur’s heart does a little leap at this ridiculous sound.

“Of course not love. I believe every word you say. I just saw a good excuse to come snooping round your flat.” The Brit answers with a shit eating grin. And Arthur can’t help but laugh at this much insolence.

“Well, at least you’re honest about it. God, I can’t believe you! Hey! Why did my doorman not tell me there were two of you?”

“Oh, cause I asked him not to” Eames says; still grinning. “Mike comes into my shop almost every second day.”

Arthur can’t help but groan “Ughh! Is there anyone in this world you haven’t turned against me? First Mal, now Mike…”

“Mal?” Eames asks confused. And only then does Arthur realize what he just said.

“Oh, nothing. Don’t you actually wanna take a look from the balcony now that you’re already here?” Arthur tries to change the topic.

“Nah, I prefer the view from right here” he practically leers at Arthur; who in turn blushes rather profusely (and what is it about him looking like a 14 year old wallflower all the time at the moment?) and is only saved from further indignities by Mr. Nash’s return.

“Mr. Cohen, do you have a minute?”

“Sure. How can I help you?” Arthur answers rather relieved, joining the contractor who had progressed into the kitchen; leaving Eames wandering around the living room.

 “I checked everything and now I know exactly what needs to be done but since you are the complaining party, building management needs you to sign some forms so everything can go the regulated way.” Arthur nods as Mr. Nash is pushing some papers his way. He skims over them and signs on the dotted lines. No need to leaves Eames unsupervised for longer than necessary.

“Thank you Mr. Cohen. Your problem should be solved in a couple of days.” And with that he grabs Arthur’s hand to shake it goodbye. “I’ll see myself out.”

“Goodbye Mr. Nash and thanks” Nash just nods and leaves.

When Arthur returns to the living room he finds Eames staring at the wall. And why did Arthur not make him leave with Nash? Damn it!

“So you do have a soul.” Eames comments; still staring ahead.

“Excuse me?”

Eames points at the art prints in front of him.

“Escher, Hockney and …Bacon? You’re into art. You can’t be into art if you’re a robot. Art needs soul.” And with the last word he looks at Arthur with a rather fond smile on his face.

“I can’t believe you actually called me a robot just now.”

“On the contrary, darling. I said you’re NOT one after all. But I have to admit that I had my doubts at first. You’re always so well put together and you refused my offer of cake. No one ever does that.”

“Well, there’s a first time for everything.” Arthur grins at Eames; whose smile turns blinding as a result.

“Indeed there is, love. So tell me, why these three paintings and do you have more?”

“No, those are the only ones so far. I’m still picking things out for the apartment. These three were already hanging at my old place but now that I have more space I can hang more.” Arthur glances at Eames and finds that the baker is looking at him expectantly so he continues. “The Hockney print was actually a gift from my friend Mal. She gave it to me to brighten up the place. But it’s really grown on me although it’s not to my usual taste.”

“And the naked guy isn’t so bad either” Eames says laughing.

 Arthur has to chuckle. “Yes, that helps, too. Anyway, the Bacon Print I got while I saw an exhibition of his work a couple of years ago. I know it’s a little creepy but I love how it looks like we can see the inside and outside of that man at the same time. Like he’s revealing himself to the world, if a little reluctantly.” He gives another furtive glance in Eames’s direction and finds the Brit staring at him with rapt attention. It’s a little disconcerting so Arthur just rambles on. “And I’ve always loved Escher. This one has been with me since university. I was a little obsessed with the concept of paradoxes at the time. Still am a little if I’m honest.”

Eames clears his throat before he says: “And here I thought you’d give me some shit about them going well with your designer sofa.”

“Sorry that I disappointed you.” Before Arthur knew what he was doing he says: “Why did you drop out of art school?” Eames almost gives himself whiplash his head turns towards him so quickly.

“How do you know I went to art school?” Eames asks; eyes wide as saucers. He sounds more intrigued than angry though so Arthur decides to go with the truth.

“Well, I might have done some research on you. Guess I was just curious after our little … disagreement. So I did a little search online but couldn’t actually find much about you without applying professional measures. But I came across a picture of you with your art class at Goldsmith. You weren’t in the graduation photo though so I figured you must have quit or changed schools.”

Arthur barely dares to look at Eames. He knows that what he did is highly inappropriate. So when he finally looks at the baker he expects everything but the pleased grin he’s seeing there.

“You were curious about me! Curious enough to go all CSI:Cyber on me!” He’s sounding so smug that Arthur wishes the floor would swallow him whole.

“I wouldn’t call typing your name into google hacking. Didn’t even touch my professional resources so don’t flatter yourself.”

“Professional resources?” Eames eyes were narrowing. “What exactly is it that you do, love?”

Arthur visibly relaxes at that. Talking about his job is something he feels safe with. “I’m a security specialist. Companies hire me to run background checks on their employees, current or prospective. My friend Dom and I founded the company right after university.”

Eames looks at him bemused for a second. “So basically, you invade people’s privacy for money and then sell them out to The Man.”

Or maybe Arthur just thought he was comfortable talking about his job. “Jesus, you make me sound like a criminal!”

Eames laughs heartily at that; showing off all his crooked teeth. “Takes one to know one, darling!” he says giving Arthur one of his little winks.

“And what exactly do you mean by that, Mr. Eames?”

“What do I get if I tell you?” The Brit says wriggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Arthur chuckles. This guy was absolutely ridiculous. “How about a beer for a start?”

“Deal!” Eames says and makes his way over to the couch while Arthur retreats into the kitchen.

Once he’s out of sight Arthur releases a breath he wasn’t even aware of holding. What the fuck was he doing here? Earlier today he would have sworn that this guy was nothing but a little inconvenience to him and now he’s flirting with him! And there was no doubt about it. Eames was flirting with Arthur and he was trying his best to keep up. Hell, he even suggested he stay for a beer! Arthur took a deep breath, took two bottles of pilsner from the fridge and headed back into the living room. He finds Eames slouching on the sofa, legs widely spread. He hands him one of the bottles and perches himself in the other corner of the couch.

After they clink bottles and their first swig Eames gives a little groan of pleasure. “Oh thank God, you got the good stuff. I was afraid I’d get the terrible swill you yanks decide to call beer.”

Arthur gives a small laugh, turning towards Eames. “When I do indulge myself I don’t cut corners.” And he could have sworn that Eames just looked a little flustered for a second there. Well, two can plays this game …

“Don't you, darling? Well, I’m totally supportive of that.”

“Don’t try to stall. You said you’d tell me why you’re a criminal. And you still haven’t answered my question about art school!”

“Right, I did promise and you held up your half of the bargain.” Eames says and takes another drink from the bottle. “Well, one story kinda answers the other as well. You can’t graduate from university if you’ve never actually finished school, can you? I was terrible as a teenager. The bad apple. Spend my days skipping class, hanging out with a bad crowd. We made money conning tourists and picking pockets. After a while I figured out that I was pretty good at forging signatures as well, so credit card fraud was added to the list. Almost ended up in the slammer for that once but I got away with community service. But needless to say that most schools weren’t prepared to take me back on after all this and I thought just as well. At the time I was too busy practicing my forging skills, moving on from signatures to documents and stuff. I always had a knack for drawing and still did so as a hobby. But it wasn’t until my first boyfriend Ethan kept pestering me about doing something proper with my talent. He wasn’t happy with me being a criminal but it was all I knew.”

Eames takes a long drink from his beer looking like he was gathering his thoughts. And Arthur was in no way staring at the way his full lips were wrapped around the bottle or the way his stubbled throat was working while he swallowed…

“Anyway, I really didn’t want to disappoint him so I was looking at art courses. But turns out that you need at least some form of academic qualification in order to join the proper ones. So I forged them.” Eames gives Arthur little pained smile, looking almost embarrassed when he sees the surprise on Arthurs face.

“You’ve swindled your way into college?”

“Yeah, pretty successfully as well. Goldsmith has a great art program. Damian Hirst went there! I did quite well, too. But as they say, crime doesn’t pay and when they introduced student fees during my second year they went through some of the student records for some reason discovered some irregularities with my papers. I decided to drop out before they could convict me.”

“Good decision. You’re too pretty for prison.” And what the fuck? Did he actually just say this out loud? Arthur looked at his beer and noticed that he had almost finished it while listening to Eames. Never drink on an empty stomach! Never! He could already feel the flush crawl up his neck but Eames seemed pleased as punch at this comment.

“Ha! Glad you agree with me on that, pet.” Eames laughs, eyes gleaming. “Ethan wasn’t very impressed with me though. God knows how he thought I got admitted to university without A-Levels. Prick dumped me of course. I didn’t want to go back to my old ways though. Had enough close calls at this point so in order to earn some cash a friend landed me a job as a delivery driver for a cake shop. Got to hang out there between delivery runs and watched them work in the bakery. I liked what I saw. It wasn’t painting but it was creative and it was something positive. I remembered how I used to help my Mum make cakes for parties, birthdays and such so I applied for an apprenticeship there and never looked back.” The Brit looks at Arthur a little nervously like he was afraid of what Arthur would make of his story.

And Arthur is indeed a little overwhelmed. He isn’t used to people telling him their personal stories just like that, much less sharing his own. But he takes pity at Eames and gives him a dimpled smile. “That is quite a tale to tell, Mr. Eames.”

“Ugh, I told you not to call me that.” The Brit pouts.

“I know but I like it. And since you haven’t told me you first name yet…”

“Not gonna happen!” Eames cuts in rapidly. “If I tell you I’d have to murder you!”

“You could try…”

“I’d rather not, pet. I have a feeling there is much more hiding underneath this rigid exterior of yours than you let on. You might be a ninja.” Eames says, giving him a faux-scared look.

Arthur chuckles. “I assure you I’m nothing of the sort. And my story is not anywhere near as interesting as yours.” He only just notices how they had both turned towards each other on the sofa and he wasn’t tucked away in his little corner anymore.

“I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting stuff I don’t know about you… yet. You’re different from me. Doesn’t mean you’re story is boring. Probably just means you’re smarter than I am. I could never do what you do.” Eames looks at him all sincere and Arthur feels a little flutter in his chest.

“Well, I certainly can’t picture you in an office, wearing a suit everyday” Arthur says jokingly. Although he isn’t completely honest. He can damn well picture Eames in very well cut suit, framing his broad shoulders and … But his sartorial musings are cut short by what Eames says next.

“Well darling, maybe you’re just lacking a little bit of imagination”

And it is clearly said in jest and he can’t find a single sign of cruel intent on the Brits face but it still feels like someone has dumped a bucket of ice over his head. And it must have shown for Arthur’s face for a second or two because Eames smile falters a little and he almost looks concerned.

Arthur clears his throat and puts his bottle on the table turning effectively away from Eames before he says: “Well, it was nice talking to you but I think we should call it a night.”

“Is everything alright, love? It’s barely past six o’ clock. Did I say something wrong?” Arthur is sure Eames sounds more than a little confused and maybe even hurt but he doesn’t have the guts to look the man in the face right now. It wasn’t his fault, he didn’t know about his Ex but the words still managed to cut straight to the bone. “No, no you didn’t. Everything’s fine, I just have some things to do. Left the office early and you know…” Even to his ears this sounded like the weakest excuse ever but thankfully the baker decided not to pry any further.

“Alright, if you say so I’ll leave you to it.” And before Eames gets up from the sofa he briefly puts his hand on Arthur’s knee; giving it a quick squeeze. “Thanks for the drink, darling.” He gets up and moves towards the hallway. But before he’s out of sight he turns around looking at Arthur. “It really was nice to get to you a little.” And with a last tiny smile he’s out of his sight.

Arthur can hear the door open and shut and he’s still sitting on the sofa looking in the direction Eames just left in. The ghost of Eames hand on his knee is practically burning a hole through his skin …

 

Chapter Text

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The bakery had been closed for the last two days because of the building work and Arthur is kinda relieved about this. The less chance there is of him running into Eames the better. He’s still embarrassed about the other night. God, the man must think he’s insane. One minute Arthur was flirting with him (And yes, he’s actually admitting it) and the next he basically threw him out of the apartment without any discernable reason. So yeah, if he could avoid any awkward encounters for a little longer it would be amazing. Although he can’t quite keep himself from throwing a quick glance through the shop window as he walks past. And of course, there he is, joking with one of the handy men. He’s in a pink tank top, bright green hoody and grey track pants. Looks like Eames just came from a run because he’s also a little flushed and his hair looks a little damp and … and Arthur makes damn well sure to hurry along before he gets spotted.


He runs some errands as he always does on Saturdays: food shopping at the little organic market, dropping off and picking up the dry-cleaning and today he also picks up some presents for Dom and Mal’s kids. He was going to stick to his word and join them for lunch tomorrow. At least that would take his mind off a certain British baker. He was even having trouble sleeping because his mind just wouldn’t shut up about it and therefore he had developed a nagging headache that even a triple Espresso shot couldn’t cure. And because he had also run out of painkillers he makes his way to the little pharmacy around the corner.


When he walks into the shop someone’s already in there, leaning on the counter while chatting to the owner. He realizes it is Eames assistant (Ariadne?). When the door falls closed behind him those two turn around startled; like they’d been oblivious to the world around them before. The guy looks flustered like he’s just been caught with his hand in the cookie jar.


Arthur clears his throat. “Uh, hey. Sorry to interrupt.”


The young woman smiles at him. “Oh no, no worries. I’m not a customer. We just had a little chat.”


Arthur smiles back politely then turns towards the pharmacist. “Can I get a small bottle of Aspirin?”


“Sure. Anything else I can get you?” Thankfully the pharmacist seems to have recovered enough to serve Arthur.


“No, thanks. That’ll be all.” The guy nods and turns towards his shelves.


“You’re Arthur, right?” The girl asks, still smiling at him.


“Uh, yeah. That would be me. And you’re Eames’s assistant.”


The girl beams at him and holds out her hand. “The one and only. I’m Ariadne.”


Arthur shakes it with a little nod. “Pleasure to meet you, Ariadne.”


“Likewise! I mean, properly. Only seems right since Eames talks about you all the time.”


And that piece of information made Arthur’s breath hitch in a way that it sends him into a small coughing fit. Ariadne pats him on the back; looking worried and amused at the same time. The guy behind the counter just looks mildly confused.


“Sorry, something must have gone down the wrong way.” Arthur croaks out once he has composed himself.


“That’s 4,99” The pharmacist says.


Arthur digs out his wallet and hands over the money; pocketing the pills. Before he leaves he turns to Ariadne again. He simply has to ask. “So, Eames talks about me?”


“Huh?” Ariadne looks at him surprised. Seems like she’d been staring at the pharmacist before. “Oh, yeah he does. Told me that you don’t eat anything sweet and that apparently you have a rather impressive taste in art. And suits.”


“Huh.” That’s the smartest thing Arthur’s mind can come up with after what he hears. The look on his face is probably not the most intelligent either. But the young woman just continues smiling at him.

“You know they’re doing building work at the shop until tomorrow but we open again on Monday. You should come by after work; see if it’s all to your satisfaction.”

And if Arthur didn’t know better he could have sworn the last part was said with a healthy dose of innuendo. Maybe Eames’s way is contagious.

“Sure, uhm…I’ll see if I’ve got the time.” Arthur stammers. “So, have a good weekend.”

“You, too!”

When Arthur’s out of the shop he takes a deep breath. Somehow his headache has just disappeared.

xxxx

Eames is glad they were able to open the shop again today. Those couple of free days had been nice but he is glad to be back in his kitchen baking. Because free time means time to think and time to think has recently started to mean obsessing over Arthur. Eames couldn’t believe how much his perception of his upstairs neighbour had changed. At first he really thought that Arthur was a first rate prick and if he was being honest, he could still act like one. But there seemed to be so much more beneath that uptight surface. Mind you, a very handsome, well-dressed surface but Eames was desperate to find out what made Arthur tick, what would make him lose his so well maintained control – and of course what was underneath those exquisite suits. He couldn’t believe his luck when Arthur seemed to finally open up and even flirt a little. But then, from one second to another, he had shut down completely and Eames had absolutely no clue what he did to bring this change of mood about. There was no point overthinking it though so Eames had spent all day baking for queen and country. He had just put another batch of chocolate-stout-brownies in the oven when Ariadne stuck her head through the swinging doors.

“Hey Eames, is it okay if I leave a little early today? I’m meeting … friends and I still need to get home and change.” His assistant asks hopefully.

“Sure, pet. Bugger off and have a good time with Yusuf.” He replies with an evil grin.

Ariadne gives him a death glare in return. “I hate you.”

“Oh, if that’s so maybe I do still need some help back here…”

Ariadne’s eyes go wide. “Changed my mind: Love you! See you tomorrow!” She chirps and disappears from sight. Five Minutes later he can hear the shop door close and his assistant is gone.

He busies himself by starting to clean up the work station while the brownies are in the oven but only a couple of minutes later he hears the door chime go again and a muffled “Hello” from the shop. He glances at the clock: 10 minutes before closing time. Bugger.

“Just a second mate, I’ll be right with you.” Eames grabs a kitchen towel and wipes his hands on it while he goes back out to the café. He stops dead in his tracks when he sees who’d come to pay him a visit. There, standing in the middle of the shop is Arthur; clad in a slim black suit with a matching black skinny tie looking like a hot CIA-Agent. And he is staring at one of the paintings on the wall.

“Hey darling” Eames says a little more hesitant than he had intended. But when Arthur turns fully towards him he can see that he’s smiling.

“Hey there yourself. Sorry about bothering you just before closing time but I couldn’t leave the office any earlier.”

“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. Still got things to do anyway.” He could hear that he sounded quite nervous. Why was he so nervous? “So, what brought you here? Not to look at some art I bet. Or to buy cake.”

“No, I came by because I met your assistant the other day and she told me to come over and have a look at the work that’s been done. She must be worried that otherwise I’ll never stop complaining.” Arthur says with a sheepish smile.

Damn you, Ariadne! Eames thought. Or maybe Thank you! depending on how this is going to play out.

“But the art is a nice bonus.” Arthur continues. “Did you paint all of these?”

“Uhm, yeah, I did.” Eames answers a little flustered.

Arthur raises his eyebrows. “Eames, I am impressed.”

The Brit huffs a laugh. “Your condescension as always is much appreciated Arthur.”

“Oh no! It wasn’t meant that way” Arthur looks a little panicked. “Christ, I can’t even seem to give a compliment without sounding like a dick.”

“Don’t worry love, it is part of you charm.” Eames says with a dazzling smile.

“Yeah, right” Arthur laughs. “So, did you paint these at university?”

“No, most of these are from my time in Paris.”

Arthur looks surprised. “You’ve lived in Paris?”

“Yeah, and Vienna, Zurich, Munich, Istanbul, Florence. Decided to travel around a bit after my apprenticeship; learn the tricks of trade in different countries. But Paris was the only place where I stayed a little longer before I came here.”

“God, that sounds amazing. I’ve only left the states twice: Once for a holiday in Mexico and once for a work trip to Canada. What made you stay in Paris?”

“Why do people do anything: love of course.”

“Oh. Of course.” Arthur answered weakly and Eames could have sworn that his face fell just a little.

“Didn’t last though, did it darling. His name was Robert; his dad was the head of a big company that he was about to inherit. He wanted us to settle down, take over his father’s position at the firm. I wasn’t ready though; had my eyes already set on the states. Just wasn’t meant to be.”

Arthur gave him a small understanding nod.

“But you didn’t come here to listen to my war stories and I have to take something out of the oven anyway. So why don’t you follow me into the kitchen and take a look at what your little complaint has bought me?”

Arthur moved towards him a little hesitantly. “Is that okay? Am I allowed back there? I mean, because of hygiene regulations…”

“Darling, I’m sure you’re probably the cleanest thing in here.” Eames chuckled and held the metal door open until Arthur had walked through.

“Wow, the smell in here is quite… overwhelming.”

Eames snorts. “You know pet, some people might even call it delicious. But the most important thing is, that none of this will reach your flat anymore thanks to this baby” he says pointing at the new ventilation system above the ovens.

Arthur follows his hand with his eyes. “Looks good. Not that I know anything about ventilation.”

“Neither do I pet, but they assured me that it’s the best there is on the market. So I guess I have to thank you for that.” The baker says with a smile that Arthur rewards by showing him his dimples. Eames is so taken by the sight that he almost jumps out of his skin when the timer goes off.

“Bloody hell! Just a second darling. I need to take these out of the oven.”

He dons some kitchen gloves and opens the oven latch, taking out a beautiful tray of chocolate-stout-brownies. Arthur eyes him wearily while he puts the tray down on a cooling rack. He almost looks like he’s afraid the cake might jump him. It is really weird and strangely endearing.

“Arthur, can I ask you a question? And I think you definitely owe me one since I’ve been practically spilling my guts the last two times we talked.” Eames says taking off his kitchen gloves and leaning back against the counter.

Arthur looks a little uncomfortable; like he’s wasn’t sure what Eames was aiming for but eventually he relented. “Sure, ask away.”

“Why don’t you eat cake? And don’t say that you simply don’t like it because there are a million different types in this world and it’s impossible to dislike them all.”

Arthur starts to fidget a little; obviously contemplating on how to word his answer but after a moment he sighs and starts to talk. “When I was little my dad had a heart attack. It wasn’t that bad!” he adds hastily when Eames face goes all compassionate. “It was just a small one and he was fine after a while but his doctor said that this was probably due to his bad diet. My dad had weak spot for fried chicken and a sweet tooth to boot. It wasn’t really surprising that his heart wasn’t too happy about this. My mum felt responsible though. She thought she could have prevented it by watching what my dad ate. So from then on she went a little health crazy. Fast food and sweets were banned from the house. Everything had to be organic and so on. She still wanted me to have treats so she made heathy versions of everything. Unfortunately my mum wasn’t the greatest cook so they ended up not tasting very nice. Needless to say that my birthday parties weren’t the most popular at school. After a while I just told her that I didn’t mind not having anything sweet at all and I just carried on like this ever since.”

Eames looked at him with a little frown on his face. “Did you never disobey her? Like, stuff your face at a friend’s house or nick some sweets from the store?”

“Nope, never.”

“Not even as a teenager?”

“No. I didn’t feel the need. At first I just pretended to dislike it just to make her feel better but after a while it became true I guess.”

“You darling, are the strangest person I’ve ever met.”

“Jeez, thanks a lot.” Arthur says a little disgruntled.

“Nah, that was definitely a compliment. Doesn’t mean I’ll stop trying to get you to eat some of my sweet creations tough.” Eames grins at the other man and gives him a pat on the shoulder. And then he realizes what he has done. While leaning on the counter he must have put his hands in some flour which now had left a powdery print on Arthur’s otherwise immaculate suit. Arthur’s eyes follow Eames’s gaze to his shoulder and his eyes become wide as saucers.

“Oh my God! What did you do?”

“I’m so sorry love” Eames starts to apologize. He grabs a kitchen towel and tries to wipe at the stain but Arthur jumps back; turning even more agitated.

“Are you insane? You’re only gonna make it worse! This is special dry-clean only.”

Eames can’t help but chuckle a little. Turns out that Arthur looks rather adorable when he’s this flustered; completely losing his cool. “Calm down love, it’s just some flour.”

“Just flour? This is Brioni!” He snaps pointing at his suit.

Eames puts on a faux-concerned face. “Arthur, I know you love your suits but giving them names might be taking it a little far.”

“Oh God, Brioni is the designer you… you…” the other man splutters. And that does it for Eames. Now it’s his turn to lose it a little.

“Bloody hell, Arthur! I know that this is the brand. I’m not a total peasant! I was merely making a joke but you don’t seem to have a funny bone in your body!”

It took the Brit a second to notice that he had moved towards Arthur during his little outburst; cornering the still furious looking man against the counter. And by God, he was gorgeous when angry. All sharp angles, pale skin and dark eyes. He smelled subtly of cologne and starched shirts and something that was clearly just Arthur. Both men were panting a little harder from their anger and before Eames could think about it he grabbed Arthur by the back of his neck and pressed their lips together. The other man froze at the touch and for a second Eames was afraid that he might get kneed in the bollocks for his little stunt but to his great relieve Arthur started to relax after a moment. And when he even started to kiss back Eames almost let out a little moan of joy.

Kissing Arthur was glorious. Turns out that there was a lot more passion hidden beneath that strict exterior. The slighter man grabbed Eames shoulders pushing their bodies closer together while opening his lips to let Eames tongue inside. He gradually started to explore Arthur’s mouth, licking his way inside, entangling their tongues. He was getting light headed but he didn’t really want to come up for air. He could happily drown in this man. Arthur was getting ever more pliant underneath Eames’s hands, melting into the baker’s touch. Eames’s lets one of his hands travel a little further south, squeezing Arthur’s bottom; which earns him a delicious moan and a little grind against his thigh. He was just about to really go for it when in the back of his mind he heard the door chime but his brain was too pre-occupied in order to react. Only a moment later he heard the kitchen door fly open and Ariadne’s voice.

“Eames, I forgot my phone and …” The little assistant stopped dead in her tracks; a look of mild shock on her face when the two men’s heads whirled towards her. And Eames can only imagine what kind of picture they made. He glanced at Arthur and his breath hitched a little at the sight. He looked utterly debauched. None of them were moving though, like they were still frozen from shock. Only when Ariadne started to speak again (“Oh shit! I am so sorry guys! If I’d have known…”) did Arthur move. It seemed like he was shaking himself out of a stupor, giving Eames a little shove and quickly moving away from the counter.
“Sorry, I uhm…I better go…” Arthur mutters and moves toward the kitchen door; picking up the pace with every step until he’s practically running out of the bakery.

Well, damn you Ariadne!

xxxx

Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God … Arthur’s mind was repeating this thought at a hundred miles an hour. And his feet were almost matching it for speed. Once he makes it out of the bakery he practically races upstairs to his place. Good thing Mike barely lifts his head when he sprints through the lobby to the relative safety of the lift. He better not bump into any neighbours since he was sure that he was in quite a state. How could he let this happen? This was so unlike him! He hadn’t been caught making out in public since his teenage days. But somehow Eames managed to make him act like a crazy person.

Once he’s inside his apartment he slumps against the wall, closing his eyes and taking deep breaths. Eames just kissed him and he could still feel the broader man’s body pressing against his own, firm and soft in all the right places, the heat he was radiating. He could still smell him as well, like lemon and spices and something that was so clearly Eames that it made him almost dizzy with want. Once he felt those ridiculous lips on his own all rational thought went out the window, especially when Eames hands started to knead his bum like he was dough. And this train of thought really didn’t help him calm down.

When he opens his eyes his reflection is staring back at him through hooded eyes from the full-length mirror in his hallway. What he sees is almost obscene: his hair’s sticking out, his face all flushed and his lips a little swollen. His favourite suit is covered in dusty hand prints and his half hard cock is clearly visible through the tight cut of his trousers. But the most startling thing is the lazy smile on his face. He looks a mess. He looks like a manwhore. He looks … happy.

Chapter Text

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“How many times do I have to tell you that I am sorry, Eames?” Ariadne asked exasperated.

“Oh I don’t know. Maybe until I’ve forgiven you for ruining my make-out session and making Arthur run for the hills?” Eames was still a little pissed at his assistant the next day. He knew that it wasn’t her fault but he was terrified that this had made Arthur run for good.

“Make-out session? What are you, 15?” Ariadne teased.

“Not helping your quest for forgiveness, pet.”

“Hey! Do I have to remind you that he wouldn’t have come in, if I hadn’t told to him to visit? You should actually be thanking me.”

“Oh yeah?” Eames tried to still sound angry but his lips were having a hard time not curving into a smile. He could never stay angry with Ariadne for very long. And she had a point. “Where did you bump into him anyway?”

The question had his assistant squirming a bit. “Well, uhm… I was at the pharmacy when …”

“Ha! I knew it.” Eames grinned at her. “Had to get your daily Yusuf-fix while we were closed.” Eames looked positively victorious. “How was your date last night by the way?”

Ariadne opened her mouth in indignation, about to start denying it when suddenly her demeanor changed. Like she was tired of it and a big smile spread across her face. “It was great!” the young woman exclaimed and her eyes were sparkling.

“Fucking finally she has stopped protesting! Good for you, darling. He seems like a nice bloke. But if he’s messing with you I’m gonna break his neck!” Eames was practically beaming at her.

His assistant rolled her eyes at him with a chuckle. “Thanks, I’ll make sure to tell him that.”

They went back to work when some customers came in but as soon as they find themselves alone in the shop again Ariadne turned towards him with a slightly concerned look on her face.

“You know that I truly am sorry, right?”

Eames gave her fond smile. “I know, pet. Don’t worry about it. It wasn’t your fault.”

She nodded at him. “So, what are you gonna do now?”

The Brit gave her a wicked grin. “Now? Now I’m gonna up my game…”

Xxxx

Arthur wasn’t able to get out of the office until very late that day. Well, it was his own damn fault. Instead of doing his work he spent the morning daydreaming about what had happened the evening before. The bolt of excitement that shot through him when Eames had grabbed him, the way his lips had felt like plush raspberry colored pillows, the way the bulk of his broad body had pressed against Arthur’s lighter frame… And then he had ruined everything by running like a scared little kid. Why couldn’t he have just laughed about it? Ariadne would have probably made a hasty exit and they could have continued but no; he had to freak out. Again. God, Eames was probably fed up with him and his irrational behavior by now.

Arthur just wanted to get up to his apartment and hit the pillows when his doorman mike called out to him. “Mr. Cohen! Something has been dropped off for you!” Arthur stopped in his tracks and walked towards Mike’s desk accepting the little white box the man handed him. The paper box had a familiar gold ribbon wrapped around it and Arthur’s heart skipped a beat. He usually took his mail upstairs but he just couldn’t wait and opened the little parcel right there and then. Inside was one of the brownies that Eames had taken out of the oven the night before and on top of it lay a folded piece of paper. He couldn’t stop the smile that started spreading on his face as soon as he opened the note.

Darling,

I am so sorry about what I did to Brioni. Is he going to be okay? I really shouldn’t have manhandled him like this. Hope you brought him to a good suit-doctor. As an apology please let me pay the medical bill, yes? It’s the least I can do.

Xxx

PS: I thought I’d try and tempt you with one of the brownies that I made yesterday. I’m not giving up on the cake front ;)

Next to it was a sketch of a suit lying in a hospital bed. It was ridiculous. It was whimsical. And Arthur just couldn’t stop grinning.

“Mike, do have pen and paper?” Arthur asked his doorman who provided him instantly with both.

Dear Mr. Eames,

Thank you for your concern and your apology. Brioni is feeling rather worse for wear but there won’t be any lasting damage. I left him in the hands of a specialist. But I would like to take you up on your offer. A proper suit-doctor doesn’t come cheap so thank you very much.

Sincerely,

Arthur

PS: Mike says thanks for brownie.

He folded up the paper and put his dry-cleaning slip inside. Arthur had dropped the dirty suit off before work this morning if only to keep him from staring at the white handprints that had been left all over it.

Arthur turned towards Mike holding the open box out. “Hey, fancy a brownie?” The man nodded enthusiastically. “Oh nice! Thanks Mr. Cohen! Are they from “Dreamshare”?”

“Yes, they are.” Arthur answered. He put the paper back in the white box handing it to Mike. “Could you do me favor? Could you give this to Eames at the bakery tomorrow? I know it’s not your job to run errands for me but I’d owe you one.”

Mike just waved him off. “No problem at all Mr. Cohen. Was going to get something for the Missus anyway. I’ll just drop it off during my break.”

“Thank you so much”. Arthur handed him the box and headed for the elevator. He was still smiling when he finally opened the door to his place. That night, Arthur had the best dream he’d had in a while.

Xxxx

Arthur was still in a particularly good mood on his way to work two days later, although he hadn’t heard back from Eames yet. But Mike had probably not given him the message before yesterday afternoon so he was pretty confident, that he’d be getting a reaction soon. He was still so happy about the fact that the baker didn’t seem to put off by his weird behavior after all. From now on Arthur was going to get a grip and play it cool. Hell, there was a point in his life where he could even pull of being rather charming. He should be able to tap into that skill again.

He was still deep in thought about Eames and that he’d really try to flirt with him the next time they met when he walked into work. That’s why it also took him a second to realize that Dom was already waiting for him at his office which was unusual.

“Hey! What’s up?” Arthur asked, giving Dom a worried look. “I’m not late for something, am I?”

Dom sighed. “No, you’re not. But there seems to be a situation. Mr. Saito is here. He is currently waiting in the conference room.”

Arthur raised his eyebrows. “Mr. Saito? We handed that job over at the end of last week. Did he say what this is about?”

“No, he didn’t. He just showed up at the crack of dawn; insisting that we both meet with him. I would have warned you otherwise. Do you know what this could be about? You handled this one personally, right?”

“Uhm, yeah I did. But I have no clue what he could want from us.”

“Right then. Guess we’ll have to find out from the man himself.”

When the two friends entered the board room Mr. Saito was standing with his back to them; looking out the window. He was an imposing figure: tall, impeccably dressed and always absolutely in control. To say that Arthur had a lot of respect for this man would have been an understatement.

“Mr. Saito, sorry that we kept you waiting.” Dom said a bit more cheerful than necessary.

“No worries Mr. Cobb, Mr. Cohen.” The businessman nodded to each of them.

“Mr. Saito, to what do we owe the pleasure? Has there been a problem with the research we did for you?” Arthur tried to seem as calm as possible but he had a bad feeling about this.

“You could say that Mr. Cohen. According to the information you handed over to us last week all the monitored employees came out clean.” Mr. Saito still seemed calm and collected but it was apparent from his clipped speech that he wasn’t a happy camper.

“Yes, they all checked out fine. But this is not unusual. There isn’t always a black sheep hidden in the flock.” Dom tried to joke but Mr. Saito just gave him a stern look.

“Except when there is.” Arthur said, beating his client to it.

Mr. Saito looked at him and nodded. “Yesterday we found that one of the men you were supposed to be researching had stolen some vital information from the company. He was a mole planted by our biggest rival, Cobol Engineering.”

Arthur’s stomach dropped. This couldn’t be happening. Dom looked at him and he was trying really hard to keep a panicked expression from his face. “Mr. Saito, this is absolutely impossible. It can’t have been one of our marks. Mr. Cohen handled this case personally and he is the best at what we do.” Dom said, trying to protect his partner.

“Mr. Cobb, I am not trying to be disrespectful. I am sure Mr. Cohen is very competent at what he does but this time it seemed to have slipped through his fingers.” The client gave an unreadable look to Arthur who had trouble meeting his gaze. He knew Saito was right. He wasn’t concentrating while handling this. He was obsessing over Eames instead of doing his job. He’d let himself be distracted from what he does best and he had fucked up royally.

Arthur turned to Dom. “He is right. If this really has happened then there is no one to blame but me.” He then spoke to their client, never letting his professional demeanor slide although he was furious with himself. “Mr. Saito, we are going to check this mark again and if it should turn out to be the culprit then I am offering you my sincerest apologies. And of course we will be waiving your fee.”

Mr. Saito seemed to be satisfied with this as all three gentlemen stood up to shake hands. “Thank you Mr. Cohen. This is much appreciated. I have respect for men who can admit their mistakes. Instead of waiving the fee maybe you could do another job for me without charge?”

“Of course” Dom cut in quickly; shaking Saito’s hand again and a little too enthusiastically. “Thank you for being so understanding.”

Arthur wished for the ground to open up and swallow him whole. When Dom had escorted their client out of the building he came into Arthur’s office.

“What the fuck Arthur?” But his partner didn’t really sound mad at him. He sounded surprised and disappointed which was way worse. Arthur looked deflated.

“I’m so sorry Dom. I don’t even know what to say. I really fucked up.”

“Yes, you did! And that’s what’s got me so worried, Arthur. You never fuck up. What is going on with you? How could you have missed this? I would have expected this from everybody but you.” Okay, maybe Dom sounded a bit pissed off but his little speech touched a sore spot in Arthur.

“Oh yeah, perfect little Arthur. He never makes mistakes! He lives for his work. Real workaholic. Like a machine this one!” With every sentence he got a little more agitated. “In case you hadn’t noticed Dom, I am a human being. I make mistakes. Doesn’t mean I’m not the very best in my field but I am not a fucking robot!” By the look on Dom’s face he probably had turned a nice shade of crimson during his rant. At least his little outburst managed to get his friend to back off.

“Alright Arthur. Just… just fix this, okay?” And with that Dom left him to stew.

 

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Arthur still couldn’t believe how much of a mess he had created. He spent the afternoon going over every bit of research he had done on the job. But it wasn’t until well into the evening hours when he spotted what he missed the first time around. Damn it. He was already certain before that this was his fault but actually seeing it made him furious with himself all over again. How could he let himself be so distracted? It was all Eames fault. Eames and his stupid shirts and his tacky flirting and his ridiculous mouth… but he already knew that it was pointless to blame the Brit for any of this. It was Arthur who had let his professionalism slip, no one else.

When he got home way after nine in the evening he felt utterly exhausted. He just wanted a stiff drink and crawl underneath the covers. But when he stepped out of the lift onto his floor he had to blink because he just couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He approached his apartment very carefully trying to be as quiet as possible. Because there on floor with his back against his door was Eames with a suit bag and one of his white paper boxes next to him. The best thing was though that the man was fast asleep. His eyes were closed making his long lashes fan out over his cheekbones. His mouth was hanging open a bit exposing his snaggletooth and he was snoring a little. It was probably one of the most adorable things Arthur had ever seen. And then he noticed the shirt. Eames was in his torn jeans and another black shirt. Only this time it wasn’t plain. It had a little white monster on it that looked like a child’s drawing and above it Arthur could read “Come to the dark side. We have cookies.” And just like that Arthur’s terrible day at work seemed to matter no more. He should have been mad at Eames for showing up unannounced, for apparently bribing his doorman again, for distracting him from his job… But instead Arthur started to laugh. It started as a small chuckle but soon developed into a full belly laugh. This woke Eames up with a start. And the confused und disgruntled face of the baker made Arthur laugh even harder. He could already feel tears running down his face. He attempted to wipe them off while he took a couple of deep breaths to compose himself.

“Darling, are you alright?” Eames looked at him suspiciously; like he was afraid that Arthur would have a nervous breakdown any second.

Arthur gave another chuckle. “Yes, I am perfectly fine. Nice shirt.” At that Eames beamed at him.

“Do you like it? Thought I could use a little support for my seduction.”

“Seduction?” Arthur said with raised eyebrows.

“Of course, pet. I’m still trying to get you to try my sweet creations”.

“Of course you are.” But Arthur didn’t sound annoyed. “How long have you been sitting here?”

“Don’t know” the baker said while picking himself up off the floor, smoothing this clothes. “Maybe a bit more than an hour? Came over after I closed the shop. Had to promise Mike a cake for his daughter’s birthday for letting me in. Oh, and I picked up Brioni.” He held the suit bag up triumphantly. “He really missed you terribly, love.”

“Well, thank you for bringing him back home then.” Arthur said with a smile and then he pointed at his door. “Do you want to come in and have a drink? I sure as hell need one.”

Eames looked at him like he couldn’t believe his luck. “Splendid darling! And here I was afraid that you’d have me escorted out of the building.”

Arthur snorted. “Don’t be silly. You brought me my suit back. That does count for something.”

Arthur could feel Eames following him into the apartment. He hung the suit bag on the coatrack and walked into Arthur’s kitchen. “Darling, where do you keep the forks?”

“First drawer on the left. Why?” Arthur called out. He was getting two tumblers and bottle of very fine Scotch from the drinks cabinet in the living room when Eames came sauntering in, carrying his white box and a fork.

“Because we can’t eat this with our hands. I mean we could but I do have some manners.”

“Whatever is in there, I am not eating it.”

“You say that now, love, but wait until you see what it is.”

“I know what it is. It is cake.” Arthur said with an exasperated look. “Scotch okay for you?”

“Oh, very nice!” Eames smiled at Arthur while accepting the glass from him. They both settled on the couch like last time toasting each other.

After they had taken a first sip of their drinks Eames turned towards Arthur. “So, what made you longue for a stiff drink tonight? Bad day at work?”

Arthur chuckled but there was no mirth in it. “You could say that. I really fucked up a job for an important client. Really really messed up. And it could have been so easily avoided. I just wasn’t paying enough attention and Dom was so disappointed with me because making mistakes like this just isn’t like me.” He took another drink from his glass.

Eames frowned at him. “Pshhh. Everyone makes mistakes, darling. It’s human; it’s what we do best. I bet your mate Dom fucks up all the time.”

This made Arthur chuckle. “Maybe not all the time but he tends to be a bit of a mess. That’s why I’m there.”

“Yeah, but you can’t always save the day. Sometimes you have to be the one to cause the chaos.” Eames says with a devilish grin that made Arthur’s heart jump a little. “Arthur, do you like your job?” the Brit asked him a bit more seriously.

Arthur looked at him puzzled. “Uh, yeah, sure. I mean, I’m usually brilliant at it.”

“Ah, but that’s not what I asked. Have you always wanted to be a security specialist? Was that what you’ve seen yourself as when you were younger dreaming of the big wide world?” The look on Eames face was so sincere that Arthur had to look away, staring at his glass instead. He swirled the whisky around while contemplating his answer. After a moment he dared to look back at the Brit: “An architect. I wanted to be an architect.”

He couldn’t remember the last time he told someone about this. People usually had a hard time believing him. But Eames didn’t look surprised. He looked delighted.

“Really? That’s brilliant. I can absolutely picture you in your light strewn studio building models of pristine skyscrapers.” Arthur looked away all bashful. “Why didn’t you do it?”

He sighed before he answered: “Never thought I had the talent. Most of my teachers didn’t think me to be the creative type. The engineering bit of it? People can absolutely picture that. No one ever thought that I had the imagination for it. Not even my parents.”

The baker regarded him with a slightly sad but fond smile: “What do you care about what other people think about that? They’re absolute idiots by the way. You do have imagination. You love art and generally all things beautiful. I can see it in the way you made up this flat. And the way you dress! Tell me that you don’t need to be creative to put these lovely outfits together.”

Arthur could tell he was already blushing furiously so he tried to hide it by taking a drink pretending that Eames wasn’t watching him do it.

“Why don’t you do it now?”

“Huh?”

“Why don’t you go back to school and become an architect now? You’re definitely clever enough.”

Arthur didn’t really know what to say. He’d never event contemplated this option. Once you’ve picked a career you stuck with it didn’t you? “Wouldn’t that be…? I don’t know…silly? I’d be the oldest student there.” He answered with a shy smile.

“Again, why would you care about that? Also, people go back to school all the time. You’re allowed to change your mind about what you want in life you know.” And there it was again, Eames’s fond smile. “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling.”

And with that Arthur’s heart felt a little pang. But I am afraid! He wanted to blurt out. I am always so fucking afraid of getting what I actually want. But that would be pathetic and totally overdramatic so he changed the topic and nudged the pastry-box on the table with his toe. “So what lethal sugary concoction have you brought me this time?”

And he couldn’t have been more relieved when Eames sincere expression turned into one of pure mischief again. “Ah, I was afraid you’d never ask, pet!”

Eames put his drink down and picked up the little parcel. He opened the lid and turned it towards Arthur so he could have a look inside. There was a slice of what looked like a chocolate tart with a filling so dark it was almost black. And it shimmered.

“What is this?”

“This, my clueless friend, is a salted chocolate tart.”

“But it glitters.”

“That is also true. It’s the salt flakes. And I may have put edible glitter on it.”

“Why would you do that?”

Eames looked genuinely confused. “Why, to make it look like a night sky of course.” And Arthur just had to laugh at this. This man was the most ridiculous person he had ever met. And he loved every minute of it. Especially when Eames smiled at him like this. “Arthur, would you please give in this time? I made this especially for you. It’s not even that sweet. It’s made with 80 percent cocoa chocolate which is almost as bitter as you can get and the salt is setting it off so nicely. I promise you won’t find it revolting.” The baker gave him actual puppy dog eyes. Fuck.

“You can’t actually promise that” Arthur replied with a raised eyebrow.

“But I live in hope” And the baker gave him another one of his tacky winks. Which had absolutely no effect on him whatsoever.

Arthur sighed. He knew that Eames wasn’t giving up on the matter any time soon and right here, right now, with that silly, gorgeous man on his sofa and a glass of warm whisky running through his veins, he really couldn’t think of a single reason why he shouldn’t give in just this once. So he gave a very theatrical sigh and a massive eye-roll (somehow he just knew that Eames would absolutely love this) and put the man out of his misery: “Oh for fucks sake, alright. I will try your salted whatever.” And if he’d known that saying this would make the Brit look like a kid on Christmas morning he might just have given in a little sooner.

Eames was practically bouncing on the sofa. “Brilliant! I promise you won’t regret it!” A second later he had the fork in hand, broke off a piece of tart that was mostly filling and held it in front of Arthur’s face, who just looked at him a little bemused.

“I am very capable of handling a fork. There is no need to feed me, Mr. Eames”.

“Oh but this way is so much more fun. Indulge me, hm?” And the Brit’s voice had dropped so low by now that Arthur was having trouble forming coherent thoughts. So he gave up arguing and wrapped his lips around the first piece of cake he’d had in about 20 years. Eames watched him like he was a bomb that might explode any second and Arthur decided to draw out the suspense for as long as possible. He took his time chewing, licked his lips and then just looked at Eames for a moment, who seemed to be actually holding his breath. He eventually took pity on him. “Well,” he started looking thoughtful, “that wasn’t horrible.”

Eames finally exhaled a small relieved smile showing on his lips. “I might have been looking for a bit more enthusiasm but I guess this is probably the highest praise I can expect from you.”

“Already giving up on me? You know, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had cake and then probably nothing quite like this. It’s very hard to form a proper opinion from the first bite and I do take my research seriously.”

Eames looked at him a little dumbfounded. “So, you want another bite?”

“Yes, Mr. Eames,” he answered looking Eames straight in the eye “I would very much like another piece.” And the baker didn’t waste any time to oblige. And again he held the fork out to Arthur so the man could wrap his lips around the sweet treat. And this time Arthur made a bit of a show of it like the time Eames did when he ate a lemon bar in front of him. He could tell it worked a charm because Eames was looking very intently at his lips. When he was done he decided that Eames probably deserved a proper answer.

“You know, I think I actually kinda like this. You were right: it’s not really that sweet. And the salt should be horrible but somehow it’s not and I have absolutely no idea why.”

“You know, the beauty about it is, that you don’t need to know why it works” Eames said sounding genuinely happy at Arthur’s conclusion. “It’s simply two opposites bringing the best out of each other.”

Eames sounded like he wasn’t just talking about the cake but Arthur wasn’t sure so he just asked for another bite instead which made Eames face light up in surprise. “Darling, does that mean you actually like what I’ve made for you?”

Arthur snorts as a response. “Shut up Mr. Eames and give me the cake.” And Eames was nothing if not obliging at Arthur’s request; feeding him another fork full with a massive smile on his face. And Arthur had to admit that he did actually like it. It wasn’t like any cake he ever had before. It was bitter but not harshly so, sweet and also salty. It was weird and delicious and totally worth breaking his rules for. And when Eames reached out a finger to playfully wipe at some chocolate that must have caught around Arthur’s mouth he thought: Fuck it. To hell with the rules for today and gave Eames thumb a tentative lick. The baker’s hand froze where it was and there was a look of slight shock on his face. Arthur had definitely caught him off guard and somehow that realization made him even more daring. And oh was he glad about that when he saw the stormy look in Eames’s beautiful grey-blue eyes as Arthur wrapped his lips around the finger and sucked at it. The gasp from Eames mouth at his brazenness was one of the sweetest sounds Arthur had ever heard. Although he had to rectify this almost immediately when Eames practically purred his name in this stupid accent of his just before he grabbed Arthur’s tie to pull him forward. And this time Arthur didn’t have to think twice about kissing back when he felt those soft lips on his. It felt different tonight though. It was less rushed, less desperate but somehow even more intense. Eames hands had found their way to his face cupping it in his big palms and holding him in place while his clever tongue languidly licked its way between Arthur’s lips. And the slighter man eagerly opened his mouths to let him in, making their tongues dance with each other while his hand was running through the short hair on the back of Eames’s head trying to push them even closer together. The taste of the chocolate mixed with the whisky they just had and underneath it all he was able taste Eames and it made him feel almost dizzy. Although that could just have been the lack of air but Arthur would be damned if he broke this kiss for something as mundane as breathing.

Eames made the decision for him though when he grabbed him by the waist and pulled him over so Arthur faced him while straddling his hips. And Arthur would be lying if this little display of strength didn’t have him half hard in his pants. When he looked at Eames’s face though he was almost taken aback by what he saw: yes, his pupils were dilated with lust and his lips already looked obscenely red and swollen but the most important thing was how he seemed to look at Arthur with such awe. Like he couldn’t believe he got to be so lucky. But a second later Eames blinked and recovered himself a little. He didn’t take his eyes of Arthur though while his hands started to push Arthur’s suit jacket off and then started to undo his tie.

“Darling”, the Brit started in slightly breathless voice, “undressing you is like opening a present.” He pulled the slim slip of fabric from underneath Arthur’s collar and threw it on the floor before his nimble fingers started to work on his shirt buttons. Eames face was drawn in concentration while he watched each button give way, revealing more and more of Arthur’s pale skin. And he really wanted to kiss this look off of the bakers face but he somehow didn’t dare disturb the moment while Eames regarded him with such reverence. When he was done opening the shirt Eames let his fingers ghost from Arthur’s collarbone down to his taught belly. Arthur shivered at the touch, Eames’s fingers were light like feathers but the calloused skin of the tips made him break out in goosebumps.

“God, you’re perfect,” Eames breathed. “Can’t believe you hide all of this under so many layers.” And Eames gaze was so intense that Arthur almost wanted to cover himself up again. Instead he blushed furiously which made Eames smile and lean forward to press a kiss and a couple of kitten licks just below his collarbone. “Mhhhm, so lovely, pet. Like someone made you from marble.” He follows his compliment up with a lick of Arthur’s right nipple and that’s all he could take. He buried his hand in Eames’s hair and dragged the Brit’s face back up to kiss the living daylight out of it. The bigger man didn’t seem to mind this in the slightest though if the low moan in the back of his throat was anything to go by. But Arthur had already decided that Eames was still wearing way to many clothes in comparison to himself so he tore himself away find the hem of Eames’s ridiculous t-shirt and pulled it over his head. What it revealed made his breath catch in his throat. Of course, he knew that Eames was bigger than him and he’d seen his tattoos peek out from under his clothes but nothing prepared him for actually seeing the real thing. This guy way seriously built! And not in the photo shopped underwear model kind of way. He was just on the perfect side of solid: strong arms and wide shoulders, a firm stomach with just a hint of abs and his pecs… God, his pecs! Arthur had to rely on every bit of self-restraint to keep him from just squeezing them with his hands. And all of this was covered in the most chaotic combination of images. Some were delicate and some were bold, there were tacky tribals and garish “prison tattoos”, beautiful sketches of feathers and birds that seemed to be his own designs and writing in all kinds of languages. Arthur knew he was staring and he really hoped he wasn’t drooling.

“You alright there, love?” Eames asked with a smirk while his thumb ran along Arthur’s waistband.

“I didn’t realize you had so much ink.” Arthur stated not very intelligently, still letting his eyes run over the gorgeous man in front of him. Who suddenly looked a little self-conscious.

“Uhm, yeah. I’m a little addicted to it.” Eames said with a sheepish smile. “You don’t like it?”

At this Arthur’s eyes snapped back up. “No! I mean…Yes! You’re like a piece of art.” He realized that this probably sounded a little too sentimental so he hastily added with a smirk: “A dodgy piece of art!” And damn was he glad he said that when Eames erupted into a full belly laugh shaking them both.

“That,” he still chuckled “was probably one of the nicest things you’ve ever said to me.”

Arthur was just about to reply when Eames flipped them again so he found himself on his back on the sofa with Eames looming over him, his face just inches from his own. And then the baker kissed him again for all it was worth. Arthur held onto those muscular shoulders almost digging in his nails when Eames started grinding their hips together. And damn was he happy that he didn’t seem to be the only one who was already very excited by all of this.

Eames kept pushing their groins together which had Arthur moan into the kiss. The bigger man’s weight on top of him felt delicious and he could have happily continued this way. But he was already feeling pretty close and he actually wanted this to last never mind avoiding coming in his pants like a teenager. When Eames broke the kiss to lick his way down Arthur’s throat, he uses the moment to push the other man off just the tiniest bit. “Eames…” And God was that really his voice? He already sounded totally wrecked. “Eames… Eames, slow down. I’m gonna… I”

At that the Brit braced himself above Arthur and lifted his hips. He looked absolutely gorgeous with a dazed expression on his face. He bent down and kissed Arthur’s forehead and then his cheek before lowering his lips down to Arthur’s ear. “What do want, pet?” He punctuated his whispered question with a bite to his earlobe. “Tell me what you want and I’ll do it.”

Arthur’s mind was reeling. He couldn’t even remember the last time someone had asked him that. What did he want? And suddenly Arthur felt like all his inhibitions were just falling off of him. He had this gorgeous wonderful man half naked and disheveled right in front of him and he was going to make the most out of it.

Eames might have been heavier than him but Arthur’s martial arts training still had him an advantage. He grinned at Eames before he flipped the tattooed man on his back pinning his wrists above his head. The Brit stared at him with a mixture of shock and awe. “Fucking hell, pet! It’s always the quiet ones…”

Arthur let go of his wrists to shrug off his shirt completely before attacking Eames neck with little bites and kisses. He traced some of the tattoos with his tongue working his way down to his nipples. He gave a tentative lick to one of the beautiful pink nubs and then started sucking on it which earned him a hand in his hair and lovely moan. He gave the other one the same treatment and had Eames squirming in pleasure. The hand in his hair tried to nudge him to go a little lower but Arthur had other plans. He stopped his ministrations and went back up to look at Eames. The Brit looked dizzy with want by now, panting and flushed. He looked good enough to eat. And then, for first time in a very long while, Arthur said what he wanted. “I wanna fuck you” he breathed with a little grind of his hips. “God Eames, please let me fuck you…”

Just for a second or two Eames just looked at him and Arthur was afraid that he might have overdone it. But then the baker grabbed him by the shoulders and crushed their mouths together in a brutal kiss that had their teeth clicking together. He pulled off to look Arthur up and down.

“Darling, bedroom. Now!”

xxxx  

If Eames would have actually been able to still form coherent thoughts he probably would have wondered how he ever got to be so lucky. He had his suspicions that underneath all those rules, and neat clothes there was another Arthur lurking. One that was fun, and playful, and passionate. But he would have never thought that he’d actually get to see him tonight. He was just looking for a little flirt, maybe a drink if he was lucky. And now he’s on his back in Arthur’s bed with this gorgeous creature looming over him, moving inside of him and it was driving him wild.

This wasn’t just fucking. It wasn’t what you’d call “making love” either. It was bloody intense though and so damn hot. He should have known that Arthur did nothing by halves and being on the receiving end of this man’s full attention was glorious. And it was even better to watch Arthur unravel. This usually so well put together guy was coming apart at the seams. His pale skin so beautifully flushed and his normally slicked back hair was breaking free from the gel, falling in waves onto his forehead. Eames thought he looked like a fallen angel. Although he might also be hallucinating by now, his mind shot to bits he was so close.

“Arthur… God, Arthur…” He barely recognized his own voice. “Darling…I need…I need”

“What do you need?” Arthur managed to grit out between clenched teeth. He seemed to be close to the edge himself. “Tell me what you need, Mr. Eames!”

Since he was too far gone to form full sentences a simple “More!” and deep moan had to do. But Arthur clearly didn’t need any more explanation and by God did he give it to him. Didn’t take long after that until Eames’s orgasm came crashing down over him and he came with a shout, his vision almost turning black. He was glad though that he recovered quickly enough to see Arthur following him over the edges moment later, his beautiful face twisted up in pleasure. And the noise, damn Eames will never forget the noise he made. The slighter man slumped forward and buried his face in Eames’s neck and the baker knew that he could happily stay like this forever.

 

 

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Arthur can’t remember the last time he slept this well. He’s usually wakes several times during the night and it’s not unusual that he’s up when it’s still dark outside. Not that he minds. Gives him time for a morning run. But when he slowly blinked open his eyes this morning it was already bright and sunny. He felt like he slept for a thousand years. No surprise though after the night he had. A lazy smile started to stretch across his face when he thought about it. He had sex with Eames. With gorgeous, funny, infuriating Eames. He couldn’t believe how this big strong man had turned pliant underneath his hands. How he writhed under Arthur’s touch, his face contorted in ecstasy. It gave Arthur a delicious thrill that it was him who was responsible for his unraveling. And he knew that he did plenty of unraveling himself. It’s been a very long time since he let go like this but with Eames he felt like he didn’t need to hold himself back. Especially not during the second and third round …

Arthur stretched a little, feeling wonderfully sore and sated. Okay, maybe not that sated. He turned around to cuddle up to Eames again and give him a very good morning but when he reached out with his hand he found that the other half of the bed was empty. Arthur opened his eyes fully in surprise and looked around the room: no sign of Eames and his clothes had disappeared off the floor as well. He listened if there were any sounds coming from the adjoining bathroom but there was nothing. Eames was gone. His stomach dropped at the realization. How could he have been so wrong? Yes, the sex had been a little wild but it didn’t feel meaningless. At least not to him. But he should have known. Eames probably did things like this all the time: the flirting, the teasing, plying his chosen conquests with sweet nothings and cake. Arthur started to go from hurt to angry. Mostly at himself though. He should have known better. He should have never let his guard down and … He had just worked himself up into a rage when he heard a massive clatter from somewhere inside the apartment.

He jumped out of bed, quickly put his boxers on and strode out of the bedroom. He probably looked a right mess but he really didn’t give a shit at the moment. When he got to the living room he heard some muttered cursing coming from the kitchen and followed it. When he poked his head around the door he saw why he had woken up alone. There in his kitchen, just wearing his torn jeans and sporting serious bed head was Eames, kneeling on the floor, trying to clean up what looked suspiciously like a dropped pan and some eggs. When Arthur pushed the door open to enter, Eames looked up at him, his look of surprise turning into a warm smile when he saw who just came in.

“Morning darling! So sorry about the mess. Hope the racket didn’t wake you up.” Eames said wiping his hands on a kitchen towel while standing up. At first it looked like he was going to move towards Arthur but something made him stop himself.

Maybe it was Arthur’s frown that he knew must have made an appearance on his face by now. “What are you doing?” he asked a little tersely. Eames grimaced at the mess on the floor. “Ugh yeah, I was planning on making you breakfast but I seem to have two left thumbs this morning so …” But Arthur interrupted him before he could finish his explanation.

“You don’t have to do this” he bit out. He could hear the slight note of anger in his voice. Arthur knew it was stupid but he still felt rattled by waking up alone, by the intensity of disappointment he felt when he thought that Eames had done a runner.

Eames looked at him utterly confused. “Excuse me?”

“You don’t have to do this” Arthur repeated adding a sweeping hand gesture to indicate that he was talking about the whole breakfast thing. “You don’t need to make me breakfast. In fact, we don’t have to make a big deal out of this period.” Arthur could feel his defenses rising again. Better a pre-emptive strike than having the inevitable bomb dropped on you, right? So he rattled on although Eames looked more and more like he had no idea what he was on about. “Last night was fun. It really was! And I’m grateful that you brought me my suit but I think we just got carried away a little and then there was the whisky and the cake…”  But he stopped short when he saw the thunderous look on Eames face.

“Are you fucking serious, darling?” And Arthur could hear from his tone that the baker was furious although he hadn’t raised his voice. Arthur had no real answer so he just stammered something like “Well, I’m … I just thought that …”

“Yeah, you thought. Like you always do. I bet that, while I left you to your own devices, you have already thought of a thousand reasons why this was a bad idea, why you shouldn’t have done it, why I’m a bad choice and of a million reasons why I wouldn’t really want you anyway.” Arthur could barely look at Eames since every single word cut right through him. “But you have no idea what I want. You think you’ve got me all figured out but you have no idea who I am or what I am like. God knows who did such a number on you that you can’t imagine that someone would like you just for who you are but I’d happily break his neck. You need to understand though that I am not him, Arthur! I am not like this!” Eames has moved a little towards Arthur during his speech so Arthur could see that his blue-grey eyes were still looking stormy but when he started to speak again his tone had changed. Instead of angry he now sounded defeated.

“Last night was more than I was hoping for. I couldn’t believe my luck when you invited me in and even less so when you let me touch you like this. I wanted to pinch myself to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming. Whatever last night was, it wasn’t casual and it wasn’t a mistake. If you want to throw this away because you’re afraid then fine. Be a coward. Tell me to go and I’ll go. But don’t blame this on me, Arthur.”

And in a matter of seconds it flashed before his eyes: Eames leaving. Eames walking out this door and not coming back. Eames never sitting on his sofa again, looking at him like he was the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen. Never touching him again, never arguing with him again… And it made Arthur sick to his stomach. Unfortunately this must have rendered him silent for much longer than he anticipated because when his mind found its way back into his body Eames looked crushed. He must have interpreted his silence as some form of answer so the Brit gave Arthur a curt nod.

“Fine, alright” Eames sighed. “I’ll just find my shirt and …” This finally managed to kick Arthur out of his fog.

“Charcoal three piece vintage Gucci, red paisley tie and a pocket chain” he sputtered.

Eames stopped and stared at him like he had lost his mind. And considering what Arthur had just spit out in a mad panic he was probably right.

“What?”

Arthur took a deep sigh and repeated more slowly. “Charcoal three piece vintage Gucci, red paisley tie and a pocket chain.” The baker still didn’t seem to understand but he wasn’t leaving either so Arthur just continued.

“I once said to you that I could never imagine you in a suit. But I lied, okay? I can picture you in a suit just fine. More than fine actually. And you know why that is?” Eames looked at him a bit dumbfounded shaking his head no. And Arthur knew that he probably sounded like a mad man but he was beyond caring.

“It’s because you’re all I fucking think about! All day, every day. Even every night. You’re the only thing that is constantly on my mind. I can’t even do my job properly anymore because I can’t concentrate on anything but you. At first it was because you got me so damn angry but even then you managed to crawl under my skin. And first I really hated you until somehow I didn’t. You are the most infuriating person I have ever met! You’re irritating, and insolent, you give me stupid pet names and try to pry me with cake although I keep telling you that I don’t want it, you’re chaotic and silly and your clothes sometimes make me want to go blind.”

“Wow, flattery will get you everywhere darling.” Eames cut in with a snort but Arthur wouldn’t let himself be interrupted. If he doesn’t get it out now he never will.

“Shut up, I’m not finished yet!” And this came out a little bit harsher than intended but Eames just put his hands up in mock surrender and if Arthur wasn’t completely mistaken he probably spotted the slightest quirk of the baker’s lips there. So Arthur just rolled with it.

“You’re all of those things. You’re all I never thought I’d want but now that I know what it’s like to have you… It’s fucking terrifying! I don’t know how but you see right through all my bullshit. Like just now you call me out on all the crap I spout because I think it’s the right thing to do; because I’m terrified of you dumping me. I always tried to be sensible but I don’t want to be sensible anymore. I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want you!” There, he said it. Arthur’s heart was beating a hundred miles a minute. He never had laid himself bare like this and now he felt raw and there was a lump in his throat and if Eames didn’t respond any time soon he was sure that he would just self-combust leaving nothing behind but a little pile of ash.

He was saved though from this gruesome fate when Eames suddenly closed the distance between them and crushed Arthur to his chest. He hugged him so tightly with his massive arms that Arthur was afraid he’d suffer a couple of bruised ribs from this but he really couldn’t care less when he had Eames face buried in the crook of his neck. After a while Eames did let go but only to cradle Arthur’s face in his hands and the look in his eyes was so intense it made Arthur’s breath hitch in his throat.

“Darling, you are the biggest idiot I have ever met. Don’t you ever do this to me again!” the Brit said, his voice rough with emotion. “Don’t push me away again if you don’t really mean it.” Arthur swallowed and gave a little nod. And then he kissed him, hoping that Eames could feel everything that Arthur still wasn’t really able to put into words. When they pulled apart Arthur smiled and almost whispered “I promise, Mr. Eames”.

Xxxx

Epilogue

It was one of those mad Saturday mornings. Since he’d opened the shop he and Ariadne hadn’t managed to even get a five minute break. He dashed between kitchen and counter, trying his best to get more things made while still helping out front with the service and giving his customer’s his usual flirtatious spiel. But Eames wasn’t complaining. No matter how busy he was he still managed to steal glances at the table in the left corner of the shop. There, with a stack of books and his laptop on the table, was Arthur. His Arthur. It was a little more than six months since they started seeing each other but his heart still did a little leap at that thought.

Two months ago Arthur had gone back to college to study architecture. He was still working with Cobb, it was his company too after all, but mostly as a consultant. On the weekends Arthur did his coursework at the bakery; sitting at his favorite table; waiting until Eames got a little break so they could sit together, have coffee and bicker (it was their very own brand of PDA after all). And Eames loved every minute of it.

Finally, around lunchtime, things started to quiet down so Eames made two coffees (Espresso for Arthur, a Latte for himself), grabbed a brownie (Arthur still didn’t have a sweet tooth but if it was dark or sour enough he could be persuaded) and made his way over. He gave his boyfriend a kiss on the cheek and sat down.

Arthur was engrossed in whatever he was reading about but after a minute he turned around with a smile. “Sorry, just wanted to finish the paragraph.” He gave Eames a little kiss on the mouth and an appreciative hum when he saw the coffee and the cake.

“Thought you could use a little lunch break, pet.”

Arthur glanced at his watch. “Jesus, is it this late already? I totally got caught up in this text. Didn’t mean to ignore you all morning.”

“Ah, it’s quite alright, love. It was so busy in here I didn’t have a single minute to catch my breath until now anyway. Besides, I love to watch my genius study” Eames teased and ran his fingers through Arthur’s thankfully gel-free hair. Arthur snorted and batted his hand away.  Eames loved him in his pristine suits and all but “Down Time-Arthur” was especially lovely with his lose hair and soft jumpers (and his glasses if he was especially lucky).

Arthur picked up his fork and started on the brownie, sighing contently around the first mouthful. “Eames, these are brilliant. What have you done with them? They’re a little… earthy?”

Eames beamed at him. Praise from Arthur still made him happier than a million good reviews in the paper. “It’s beetroot, darling.”

“It’s fucking great, that’s what it is!” Arthur said and continued eating.

“Don’t spoil your appetite though, pet. You know were expected at the Cobb’s for dinner.” Of course Eames and Mal had gotten on like a house on fire as soon as they met. Arthur claimed it was a match made in hell but Eames knew that he was pleased that his friends got on although Eames and Dom were still a little weary of each other but they were making progress (Dom was squinting much less these days when Eames was around but he was bribing him with cake so …). And Arthur had taken to Ariadne like a little sister. They bickered and they joked like siblings, ganging up on Eames and talking about college.

Arthur’s frown indicated that Eames must have been staring at him for a little longer than absolutely necessary because Arthur started to give him a rather bemused look.

“Is everything alright?”

Eames gave him a goofy smile. “Yeah, everything is perfect, darling. In fact, it’s so perfect that I sometimes still have to pinch myself to make sure that I’m not dreaming.” It must have been the perfect response because Arthur rewarded him with a glorious kiss that started out sweet but got steamy pretty fast. Until they got hit by a scrunched up piece of grease paper.

“Hey you perverts!” Ariadne called out from behind the counter. “Get a room or a least go to the storage room. This is a respectable establishment.” Both men just snorted at that and Ariadne couldn’t keep a straight face either.

“You're just jealous that your boyfriend isn’t here making out with you” Arthur teased, keeping his arms wrapped around Eames.

“Well, unlike yours mine is a professional” Ariadne shot back to which Arthur just raised a mocking eyebrow. And Eames … Eames couldn’t be more in love if he tried so he pulled Arthur back into the kiss.

“What was that for?” Arthur asked a little breathless when the pulled apart.

“For being an insolent little shit” Eames answered with a grin and Arthur laughed.

“You’re ridiculous, Mr. Eames.”

“I know darling but you love it.”

And Arthur really really did …

 

FIN