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01 August 2010 @ 01:41 am
breaking point  

Fandom: Inception

Characters: Arthur/Eames, Ariadne, Cobb, Yusuf

Prompt: MORE ANGST. Eames flirts and Arthur ignores, but not because he doesn't feel the same way; he's just afraid. One day, Eames takes his flirtation a little too far. Cue Arthur having a (mini/huge) breakdown, then hot, tender lovin'.

Disclaimer: you're dreaming this, I never wrote it, honest. (Thank you to everyone on the kink meme for your all your comments, spurring me on to actually finish my first Inception fic and what a wordy monster it is)


When Eames meets Arthur, it's hate at first sight. This immaculately put-together child talks too little and has hair that is too neat and steals all the lovely Mrs Cobb's attention and seems to think he can tell Eames what to do and never, ever, lets him have any fun. He decides the most mature course of action is to ignore him until he goes away. After all, none of Cobb's point-men have lasted long.

These feelings survive for all of two days.

By the fifth day of working together, Eames finds himself spending his spare time mentally compiling a list of things that make Arthur smile.

It's painfully short, and mainly consists of "Cobb", "Mal" and "successful explosions orchestrated from moving vehicles".

Clearly, the most mature course of action is to broaden the boy's horizons.



****




The pet names are almost accidental. Arthur isn't the only one, as much as Ariadne likes to frequently and loudly insist otherwise, but he is the one that Eames graces with the most affectionate and creative endearments. ("What's with the names?" she asked once, giving Arthur a significant look, and Eames replied "He's so sweet when he squirms," only because it's a marginally better answer than "I can't stop myself.")

The first "darling" is in the heat of the moment, but when he's rewarded with such a look of impressed annoyance (he suspects the "impressed" part has more to do with the grenade launcher, but since Cobb won't let him carry one around in reality he selectively ignores that fact), who is he to resist? Arthur, for his part, doesn't react at all as expected. He doesn't seem irritated or particularly surprised - in fact, he takes them in his stride without so much as a blink.

"Don't suppose there's any coffee left, love?"

"Plug me in, sweetheart."

"Darling, if you look at me like that again I won't take you home tonight."

"Dear, you're so stiff you're going to do yourself damage. And I don't mean stiff in a good way."

"I always said imagination is key, precious. Who cares if the helicopter is strictly necessary?"

When Arthur automatically responds to "Angelcakes, I'm hungry!" by throwing him a bagel, it feels like some sort of victory. But when Arthur does the same for Yusef's "what smells so good?", Eames realises he doesn't even notice.

That doesn't mean he stops trying.

****

Eames is a naturally tactile creature. He's never found it difficult to express his interest with a few well-calculated invasions of personal space. Arthur, however, is either the most oblivious or the most cold heartedly disinterested man in existence. Blatantly appreciative gazes seem to go straight past him, a leer and double entendre (well. Slightly more than a single entendre, perhaps one and a half?) appears to be viewed as a poor joke at best and at worst a sort of personal attack. Those times his face just sort of shuts up tight and Eames never pushes further when he sees that expression.

Even without what he now refers to as those feelings, annoying the point man is as natural as breathing. If nothing else (pathetically, and only ever admitted even to himself at 2 am and drunk) it makes Arthur look at Eames. A tip of the chair, a bump in the shoulder or unwanted ruffling of his perfect hair elicit the most delicious glares. Interruption and distraction become an art form, in Eames' eyes, though he doubts anyone else sees it that way, particularly after Cobb confiscates his paintball gun.

He's not a complete bastard; he can see Arthur doesn't like to be touched, and starts slow. Simple things, gestures between friends - a congratulatory pat on the back, a careless brush of fingers when handing him a file or a tool or ammunition. He stands close enough to feel it when Arthur shifts his centre of gravity (a better early warning system you couldn't ask for) and always tries to sit somewhere it is necessary to kick Arthur's legs out of the way.

"My god, Eames, what is this agenda you have against personal space?" Arthur snaps, waiting in the elevator for the kick.

"Couldn't pay me to keep my hands off you."

Arthur rolls his eyes, and it's so ridiculously endearing Eames misses the tiny frown that creases Cobb's forehead.

"I mean, you probably could - well, Saito could, but as a metaphor of how appealing I find your ass in those pants the statement stands... ow, darling! That was unecessary!"

And so it continues. He never quite understands why Arthur gets so annoyed - after all, aversion therapy costs a fortune, and here he is giving it away for free like the upstanding citizen and loyal friend he absolutely is. He even tries different faces, when they're under, but no matter how generously proportioned the brunette goddess Eames dreams up, Arthur still brushes him off like he's a toddler clamouring for attention. The only revelation is that Arthur, gentleman that he is, only feels comfortable actually shooting Eames when he's wearing his own face, which (no matter how you look at it) isn't that encouraging.

One day, feeling particularly daring, Eames takes the opportunity to lean over Arthur as he works, bending in so close that he can feel Arthur's shoulder muscles against his chest, and tries to grab the printout that is being painstakingly underlined and footnoted.

"Eames?" Arthur says calmly, neither pulling away nor elbowing him in the stomach, "Get your hand off my page or I'll put my pen through your hand." Eames pouts and wanders off to find coffee, and while Cobb smirks the little frown disappears. It doesn't come back.

The idea of giving gifts comes to him like a slap to the back of the head from god, only made better by the fact that it's such a challenge. Arthur is Arthur; he has everything that he needs (probably indexed somewhere on thin yellow paper) so it's Eames' job to find out what he wants.

He begins with food and coffee, memorising Arthur's preferences, and is rewarded with occasional lopsided smile Arthur gives despite himself. He dismisses flowers as childish, reconsiders, buys roses and then notices in frustration that one of the bunch is wilting just as Arthur approaches with a quizzical expression. He gives them to Cobb with a flourish instead, because he'll be damned if Arthur gets imperfect things from him. And if Cobb has an ensuing crisis of sexual identity, that's not his problem.

He can never pick a pair of cufflinks no matter how many he looks at. None of them seem to have enough class. It's probably for the best, because when he does buy the perfect tie, silk and dove grey and classy, Arthur unwraps it warily and then shakes his head with a sigh. "Very funny, Eames." Perhaps it would have been better not to give it straight after making a crack about Arthur's head falling off without suitable fabric support. (It doesn't stop his heart feeling like it had been used as a crash test dummy.)

In desperation Eames takes to walking around the warehouse topless. All this achieves is making Ariadne blush and stutter. He also takes to 'accidently' appearing nude in training dreams. All this achieves is getting him pushed off buildings. Which would be fine, if only Arthur didn't look so disdainful as he did it.

Damned if the look doesn't suit him, though.


****


A month after inception they have a new mark. Like all the jobs since Cobb returned to his kids it's small scale, low risk and local. Cobb pitches it to them nervously, still not understanding that none of them are going to push him for more.

It's a political job, and even a cursory background check clearly shows that Eames' curvaceous blonde is the quickest and easiest way to get this thing done. Ariadne is back in Paris for exams, so in the end it is Arthur who lowers himself down opposite Eames as the sedative pumps into his bloodstream, and Arthur who appears next to him a moment later, already focused on their task of designing a suitable hotel.

Drawing from bits and pieces of opulent suites from Eames' fonder memories, and Arthur's prediliction for straight lines and glass and fucking Penrose Steps, they weave a luxurious maze without an exit. The bar on the bottom floor has doors to the penthouse, the elevator takes you left when it goes up and every room shares a floor just above the ceiling of reception, making emergency access a matter of willpower and possibly chainsaws.

"I think that's more than enough." Arthur says softly, as Eames re-adjusts his dress and peers at his new cheekbones in the floor-to-ceiling mirror he was using to line the penthouse wall. "It's more important that he doesn't want to leave, than whether or not he can."

"Well, I have that covered." Eames flutters his eylashes.

Rather than spare Eames his usual you're-unforgivably-unprofessional-and-stop-touching-yourself glare, Arthur simply looks curious. "I haven't seen you as her before."

A couple of thoughts run screaming and flailing through Eames' mind - the foremost being 'he's kept track. He noticed' - and it's all he can do to keep calm enough to turn and give Arthur a better look, hands on hips. Figures he'd like this one; long dark hair, tiny frame, all Audrey Hepburn poise and giant eyes.

"You like?" He asks in his best porn voice, and Arthur actually has to bite back a laugh.

"I think you do!" Eames skips forward, and attaches himself to Arthur's arm.


"Don't." Arthur says, but not forcefully. Eames ignores him and puts a tiny hand on Arthur's belt, and the point man's tone deepens, firmer and angrier. "Stop it, Eames!"

"Oh, come on, we've got time to kill." Eames goes in for a kiss, reaching for his fly at the same time (uncertain where he got the courage, and too caught up in the moment to care). The moment their lips touch Arthur jerks away, shoving Eames back. On instinct Eames plays to character, making a small pained noise and looking up with hurt eyes. The momentary guilt and confusion is just enough; Arthur is off balance, and Eames hooks his foot around the other man's ankle and sends them both tumbling to the floor.

Underneath him Arthur feels warm and real, and his lips taste slightly sweet. Then he's being pushed off.

"Get off me, fuck it, Eames..."

Eames flutters his eyelashes - her eyelashes? he doesn't really care - and pouts. "Don't you ever just have fun?"

"I would never want this!" It's like a slap to the face, which is why Eames does something very, very stupid.

"What, you prefer this?" letting his deception slip is a decision he regrets instantly, as the body pinning Arthur to the ground is no longer a slip of a girl but altogether larger and stronger and heavy, the unexpected change causing Arthur's eyes to flare in panic. He tries to get off, let him breathe, but Arthur's fingers are already on his gun.

He can't blame him, really, and braces himself for the shot. When it comes, only a fraction of a second later, it's deafening and his ears ring but it doesn't hurt, and then he feels the limp weight underneath him. Straight in the jaw, wasn't a mistake he thinks, dully, and headwounds bleed everywhere.

Arthur's blood running down his face, Eames rocks back on his heels murmuring "well, fuck" to the uninterested room, and waits for the kick.

****

He wakes up to Arthur yanking the sedative from his arms, and realises that he is definitely going to get punched in the face this time. Probably more than once. He also realises that needling Arthur has gone beyond fun now; it's goddamn addictive.

Surprisingly, while Arthur has the same look in his eyes he gets just before he deems it necessary (or, Eames suspects, simply convenient...) to blow Eames' brains out his ears, all he does is pull Eames to his feet and then turn his back to him, stalking across the warehouse floor to stare out a window.

Eames absentmindedly pats at his pocket, feeling a reassuring weight. "No shouting this time, love? Don't tell me you've gone and developed a sense of humour." A joke, a joke, make it a joke. "Throw my whole world perspective out of whack, that would."

Arthur doesn't respond.

"Don't be afraid to say you enjoyed it, darling. Your silence just encourages me."

Arthur flinches, and for a moment Eames wonders if he should feel a little guilty, but then he whirls around and closes the space between them and Eames doesn't have room to think anything except that the expression on Arthur's face is terrified and terrifying all at once.

"You want to fuck me?" Arthur bites out the words fast, like they hurt. He's taking off his jacket, and it falls to the floor and lies there in a pile. Crumpled. Eames stares at it and starts to panic.

"Darling, I..."

"You want to?" Arthur won't pause. He jabs Eames in the chest and his hand is shaking."Don't go all quiet on me now, Mr Eames. Fuck me. Do it. Go on, bend me over the fucking desk and get it over with."

Eames gapes and Arthur lets out a small, bitter noise that might just be a laugh. Then he moves, steady and deliberate, until he is leaning over the desk with his arms out to brace himself and his head bowed so low his forehead almost touches the surface. Eames hates himself with all the bile he can muster for not being able to look away from the arch of his back, the little glimpse of skin along his hip where his shirt has come untucked, the curve of his pants.

"Arthur? If you're trying to scare me you've succeeded. Points for imagination and style, now stop it."

No answer. Eames clutches his totem like the very literal lifeline it is and steps closer, just behind Arthur.

"Are you... serious?"

"I said you can."

Suddenly, he just feels angry. "Oh yes, I can, you've given me permission like you're some sort of toy I'm allowed to play with because I yelled loud enough. Jesus, Arthur. Is this your concept of- " and then he cuts off, because Arthur is trembling and maybe it fucking is, and then Eames really has no choice but to take Arthur's fingers ( white, curled around the edge of the desk) and unwind them with his own. The moment he does Arthur slumps, the arms holding him up going limp, but Eames is ready and folds him gently aginst his chest to hold him tight.

"Oh, love. What is going on in your head?"

****

Eames doesn't expect a reply, and he doesn't get one. For a long time the only sound is Arthur's heavy, broken breathing and the thundering freight train that is Eames' heartbeat. Eames is no stranger to the way perception and time interact and disrupt each other, but he honestly has no idea how long they stand there like that, a strange tableaux on a bare stage decorated with the fragments of their latest job, wires and paper and a half-erased whiteboard.

Then in a moment of pants-wettingly horrifying clarity, it occurs to Eames that when a colleague (friend too much to ask for now, he's sure) has a psychological collapse due to you accidently molesting them, a bear hug is probably the worst possible idea.

Swallowing his growing desire to top himself with a potato peeler, Eames focuses on Arthur. He hasn't resisted, he's not even tense, just pliant in Eames' arms, which has the potential to be so much worse. He releases his grip a little, a tentative experimental shift, and Arthur buries his face just a fraction deeper into Eames' shirt. It's enough. A little later, Arthur mumbles something.

"What was that, love?"

Arthur tries again. "Not your fault." He doesn't look up. Eames wonders at how, even in this state, he can read his mind. "This isn't your fault. I'm sorry."

"Don't be bloody ridiculous," Eames replies, as gently as he knows how. "It's definitely my fault." Arthur pulls away until he's standing on his own. He looks skeptical, and exhausted.

As an excuse to move Eames reaches for the discarded jacket and brushes it off, with not a little apprehension, and hangs it on the back of the nearest chair. "Better, yeah? That freaked me out a little." he runs his hand through his hair and risks a look back at Arthur, who is gazing at the jacket like he's never seen it before.

"Look, da- Arthur, I wasn't just being a dick." Explanations, in Eames' experience, tend to make things worse. He's sort of willing to risk that, this time. "Well, I mean, I was being a dick. I love annoying you, but I did honestly think, uh, hope that you might want... what I... wanted. But I'll be good as gold now, I won't touch you. I can get a message, eventually. I know you... don't want. Um-"

He has no idea how he planned to end that sentence. He doesn't have to, though, because Arthur starts to laugh like he's just been told the saddest, funniest story in the world, one hand clapped to his mouth to try and hold it in. Eames blinks, unable to feel hurt but sure he'd deserve it if he did.

"Sorry," Arthur says tiredly, then again. "Sorry." His eyes meet Eames' for the first time, seeking understanding, forgiveness. "It would be so easy if it was just something I didn't want. I know all about that, I can deal with that." The words are painting a picture Eames doesn't like one bit, fury pooling in his stomach alongside a desperate need to make sure Arthur never says sorry again. "But I don't-" he takes a deep breath, then lets it out. "Honesty for honesty? I think I might want you too. But I don't know, don't know how to be sure. And that's so scary. You scare me."

It's more than Eames can process. Arthur bites his lip, some of the hardness back in his voice, some of the drive, as if saying the words out loud has left him with nothing to lose. "It's not fair on you, is it?" He pauses. "If you wanted to..."

Eames stops breathing.

"If you want to try again, I promise not to shoot myself." Arthur says, and reaches up with one hand to rest his fingertips on Eames' lips.

****


As has become the norm where Arthur is concerned, Eames doesn't really have the chance to make a choice. His lips press against Arthur's fingers once, twice, three times, and then he's kissing along the other man's wrist, captured in one hand, and placing the other gently on Arthur's waist to pull him closer.

Kissing is allowed, Eames tells himself, and Arthur's lips part willingly for his. Kissing is good. I can do that for him, make him feel good. Even if I want it too (so much, so much) it can still be for him. Arthur is kissing back, not hesitant exactly but almost inexpert, and so very wonderful. Eames wants to claim every inch of his mouth, wants to line bites down his collarbone and his jaw. He undoes the first button of Arthur's waistcoat, and freezes when he realises. Arthur takes his hand and guides it to the next button, never breaking his concentration from Eames' bottom lip.

After all this time undressing Arthur is practically ceremonial. It's something he wants to do properly. He unbuttons and lifts and folds away fabric, running his hands along each exposed stretch of skin, licking and tasting and nipping gently. As he gets to Arthur's belt his own shirt is pulled away. Arthur is receptive to every touch, quiet but betrayed by hitching breaths, returning touches and kisses of his own across Eames' chest. There is something heart-breakingly stilted about these responses, though, as if he were unsure what to do, or if he were allowed to do it.

They back up against the desk as they move, and Arthur reaches behind him blindly to brace himself on it. Eames knows (feels, without real reason but enough emotion not to care) immediately that this would be wrong, very wrong, and takes a hold of Arthur's hips, all but dragging him into one of the empty deck chairs, thankfully free of loose extraction wires.

Stretched out on the chair, Arthur's hair is a mess, lips swollen and he's hard - Eames doesn't have to think twice. Sliding down the point man's body he kneels between his feet, meeting Arthur's wild-eyed look with his most arrogant grin. Then he licks a languid stripe from the base of Arthur's cock.

"Jesus, Eames!"

Eames is good at this, that is one thing he knows for certain. Pressing his lips together he takes Arthur fully into his mouth, moving with the involuntary thrusts. A low hum in his throat, a flick of his tongue just there... if he's honest, he's never enjoyed it more, seeing what it does to Arthur, seeing it make him feel good.

Arthur tries to moan a warning before he comes, and it's adorable, really, the way he tugs on Eames' hair without conviction. Eames just takes him deeper, and can feel the moment every muscle in Arthur's body tenses, beautiful lines under perfect skin. Then the tension is gone, the energy dissipated; Eames feels like it went straight through him, and he's on the edge himself now, painfully hard, thoughts a jumbled mess. Arthur's saying something, but all Eames can gather is that he seems to be confusing him with god. Silly Arthur. Eames licks his lips and pulls himself up for another kiss.

He's kissed back, hard, and it occurs to him that Arthur is a fucking fast learner, before he feels deft fingers pull at his pants. Oh christ on a stick yes please, his head says. "You don't have to," say his traiterous lips.

Arthur blinks at him, gaze a little unfocused in a delicious, gorgeously post-orgasmic way, and groggily twists his fingers deeper into Eames' hair and pulls. He pulls hard, pulling him until he's on top of Arthur again but this time he's being held there, firmly, hungrily. "Like hell I don't," Arthur growls, wrapping his legs around Eames' waist as best he can.

Eames grinds forward despite himself, all coherent thought lost. Arthur swears and rids him of his underwear with one hand. The other is on Eames' cock, stroking from base to tip in one long, slow movement. "Love," Eames begs, struggling to articulate any concept other than more-yes-now "you gotta be sure. You really sure?"

Arthur edges forward and bumps their noses together in response, slightly clumsy and somewhere between a nuzzle and a delicate headbutt. "Yes, damn it," he says, voice tinged with amusement but more importantly thick with something that strips Eames of any flickers of restraint he had left. "Please."

The gasp Arthur lets out at the first finger inside him leaves Eames with serious doubts that he's going to make it. He forces himself to try another, and then one more, and Arthur is holding on to his shoulders like Eames is the only thing between him and freefall. Eames thinks he might be doing the same thing as he pushes inside Arthur, and suddenly his world is made of tightness and heat and sweet jesus it's intoxicating. He thrusts, hard, and Arthur pushes back against him. Again, again, more - he doesn't last long and doesn't care, any more than he cares that he yells (it might be darling, or pet, or it might be my love) or that at last it's more than the poor deck chair can stand, and they tumble to the floor in a mess of clinging, trembling limbs.

Lying on their sides on the hard floor, face to face and curled towards each other, Eames lets his breathing fall into time with Arthur's, gradually slowing and softening. Arthur's looking right at him, no, looking right into him. Eames has seen that look before, those widened eyes in the waking moment after the kick when they absorb the whole world, open to every detail, drinking in reality.

He wonders what Arthur sees looking at him. A big stupid grin, no doubt, and one he can't get rid of even though his cheeks hurt from the broadness of it. "I'm not such a bad bet, then?"

"Mr Eames," Arthur says, tangling their legs together, "it was never you I didn't trust."



****



They get dressed slowly, dressing each other, and Arthur straightens Eames' coat with every bit as much solicitous care as he ever has his own. Eames does Arthur's tie wrong three times, and Arthur lets him.

Then they share a cab to Cobb's house, where Arthur is staying, and Eames kisses his neck to make him blush before mumbling goodbyes and giving the driver the address of his hotel. The cab driver, old enough to be his mother, asks if that "nice young man" is his boyfriend in a way that speaks of a great effort to hide disapproval. Eames grins like a lunatic and tells her he's working on it.

The next morning he wakes early, feeling light enough to bounce out of his skin. He tortures the room service staff with ludicrous breakfast requests involving liver pate and wasabi, then tries building a card pyramid out of toast, and finally can't stay in the room any longer. No one will be at the warehouse for over an hour, but he never was any good at waiting.

No, that isn't entirely true - there's another motive, which he only recognises when he arrives (overpaying the cab magnificently, just because he can) and sees the room, so different in the warm morning light, but the deck chair still there, overturned. Eames reaches for his totem and grins. Proof. It had been real.

He's putting the chair back when the door creaks. His heart jumps, but he makes himself turn slowly.

"Couldn't stay away?"

Cobb, one eyebrow raised, nods suspiciously. "I guess so." He says dryly and grabs Eames' arm as he backtracks and stutters. Cobb is wearing his sternest father-of-two, no-you-may-not-have-that-Barbie-dream-house expression, managing to be affectionate and massively intimidating at the same time. "We need to talk."

Next thing he knows a protesting Eames is being dragged away from the main floor and into an empty storeroom. "Do we? Because we could always, you know, be manly and repressed about it- "

"Arthur told me."

Oh. Eames is annoyed at himself for feeling disappointed. Arthur and Cobb, he can't hope to separate the two, can he? A little spike of jealousy flares in the back of his mind.

"He explained how a projection triggered a bit of a... a breakdown, and that you talked him through it. I wanted to thank you."

He lied to Cobb for me, Eames realises, and in his head he pulls his shirt up over his face and runs through the warehouse screaming in victory. "Really? I mean, yes. Right. It wasn't a problem."

Cobb's eyes narrow slightly. "I'm sure it wasn't. He might not tell me everything but I'm not stupid." Eames swallows. "He's a grown man, he can make his own decisions. But if you two are... there are things I need to say."

Ah. Of course. Eames raises his hands in surrender. "I get it. I hurt him, you get my head on a spike. Fair deal, I like those terms, we should shake on it."

It's Cobb's turn to look surprised. "No," he says slowly, then shoots a look at the door, reassuring himself they are alone. "That's not what I was going to talk about, Eames. I don't know what he told you, or how much, but there are some things that I think you should know."

Eames stiffens, and can see flicker of approval on Cobb's face.

"You know the type of people who work in our field," Cobb continues, and it isn't a question. "I was lucky - I was picked up by Miles, trained by him. He's a great man, and he and Mal were the best teachers you could ask for. Arthur wasn't trained by them. He wasn't trained by me, either." This is a surprise; Eames had always assumed that was how it had been. "He was only a kid when we met, but he'd worked for a couple of people. They... were not Miles." The distinction is significant, unmistakeable. "They initiated him into the practice of entering dreams, and other aspects of the job. Other things. He didn't come to me in good condition, you have to understand that."

"I get it." Eames growls. Cobb seems torn, and part of Eames hopes that's all he'll say.

"It's easy to forget, because he's, well, he's Arthur. He's so strong." Cobb tilts his head, staring past Eames into space. "The first time I took him into my dream was ridiculous. He was fearless. So in control. Later on, Mal suggested he practice dying in the dream, so he could become accustomed to trusting us. I explained it to him. He agreed, of course... and when I got in his dream, jesus, he'd set up some sort of fucking torture factory. Said he wanted to give me some choice, like he was anxious to perform well for me. I don't think he even understood why I got angry. I think he thought I was angry at him."

There's a sharp crack and it startles Eames, for a moment, until his knuckles start hurting and he realises he just punched the wall. "You're saying that these people-"

"That's not for me to tell." Cobb says. Eames finds it highly hypocritical that the man has suddenly begun to develop a respect for privacy at this damn point in the conversation, but doesn't say so. Unless he doesn't know any more, which he hopes but can't believe to be true. Cobb is looking at him approvingly again, like he's passed some sort of test.

"Yeah. Well, if that's all- "

"He'll tell you. If you ask, he will. He'll feel he owes it to you."

"Yeah." It's Eames' turn to give Cobb a slow, measured look. "So did you ask?"

Cobb doesn't answer.

From outside they both hear Ariadne calling his name, and the moment is broken. Eames steps back and opens the door for Cobb with an exaggerated bow, and they return to the main floor where the rest of the team are assembling. Just before Cobb strides past, Eames is certain he hears him say, under his breath, "Yes, if you hurt him, I get your head on a spike."

It's kind of comforting.

****

The whole team is there, now, and the comfortable, familiar sounds and smells of take away breakfasts, copious coffee and well-intentioned bitching fill the space. Arthur, one hand on his hip, is smiling down at Ariadne as he welcomes her back and asks for a kiss, tapping his cheek, and Eames only has eyes for him.

Which isn't particularly unusual.

What is unusual is that he's unsure, for once, unsure just how to act.

The Arthur standing there now is the Arthur Eames knows, the Arthur who is all sleek lines and dangerous energy, for whom everything is proper and in its place, not a hair out of place. He's the Arthur who has taken it into his head that it's his job to look out for them all, who threatens Eames with disembowelment when he tries to change the music, who points out Cobb's hypocrisies even while facilitating his every request. Arthur who likes smaller machine guns because he wants to be able to move freely and will collapse half of a floating New York as a distraction and just shrugs his shoulders when you ask "but how?" The subconscious they train in the most, because no one's projections turn so hard or so fast.

Except for that look, that split second when he walked in and his eyes met Eames and they were so warm. Because he's also the Arthur who needs someone (maybe even needs him, but he can't put it that way, because if he does he'll end up shouting it to the world in giddy pride), the Arthur Eames held last night.

Eames isn't a man to be bothered by contradictions and the reconciling thereof. Complexity feels right. For him, Arthur has never made more sense.

"So the exams went well?" Arthur inquires. Ariadne groans. She's wearing higher heels than Eames has seen before. Her dress is a little more expensive, a little shorter, and her silk scarf thrown a little bit more dramatically around her shoulders. Clearly they have been influencing her in all the right ways, he muses proudly.

"I barely remember a thing. I spent the whole time repeating "there is such a thing as gravity" over and over in my head. But, god, I hope so!"

When Arthur sits he takes the chair just next to where Eames lounges across his and sits back, relaxed (for him anyway, a bit less than poker-straight). Eames slumps further until his thigh rests almost imperceptibly alongside Arthur's. Arthur doesn't move, or look, just passes doughnut from the box on the table to Eames, who takes a bit and once again is sure.

"How did the layout rehearsal go?" Cobb asks, patting Ariadne on the shoulder and mouthing 'well done' with a wink. She perches near him, blushing slightly.

"Exceptionally," Eames declares before Arthur can open his mouth. "We are actually brilliant, but no news there. Although I have to say, there was one strategy at the end there that might need a repeat performance. It had a lot of promise."

Cobb's eyebrows appear to be trying to flee to the sanctuary of his hair. At no point, Eames thinks smugly, did I promise you subtlety.

Arthur's poker face is flawless. "If it would purely be for my benefit, there's no need for you to put yourself out."

Eames' heart constricts. "I don't do charity, pet," he says, and lets the softness underneath the light tone let on that what they are talking about was more than a favour to a hurting friend. "Practice makes perfect. And I'd go so far as to say that lives may depend on us getting lots and lots of practice. Got to get the Bond moves down." Ariadne lets out a small bewildered laugh. Cobb looks faintly horrified.

Arthur tilts his head, as if to consider the argument. "In that case... I'd have to say I agree with you."

"We're talking about how to cover the hotel entry points, right?" Yusuf asks, and Cobb reassures him very loudly and emphatically that yes they are, and how is his latest sedative coming along? The one with the painkillers and traces of dubiously legal hallucinogens to reduce the severity of ghost pain?

As Yusuf waxes lyrical on his latest breakthrough, Eames shares a fond grin with Ariadne. "That's all very nice, but when do we get to test it? Or do anything without a four-step progress plan drawn up beforehand?"

"Some of us have slightly more complicated jobs to do than deliberately not wear a bra, Eames." Arthur says archly, and Yusuf almost chokes on his coffee as Eames stares around with wide, indignant eyes.

"How dare you! And I thought you were a man who understood the importance of not undertaking such tasks without appropriate support."

"Dreaming a little too big for comfort?" Arthur asks innocently. Ariadne looks for a moment like she's considering giving Eames some practical tips on underwire, but shuts her mouth just in time, probably saving Yusuf from death by second hand embarassment.

"As I was saying," Cobb interrupts, and Eames settles for prodding Arthur in the side. Arthur doesn't dignify it with a response. "As I was saying, this shouldn't be too difficult as long as we keep to schedule. Yusuf, you need one more day, correct? Ariadne, get Eames to show you the map of the hotel. I need the recon on his childhood now, Arthur, and- " Cobb's eyes flicker between Eames and Arthur before smiling slightly. "Nice tie."

"Thank you, Dom." Arthur touches the dove grey silk self-consciously, straightening an imagined crease, an- oh. Oh. Eames almost stabs himself with his own pen he clutches it so tight. That colour really is perfect on him. Worth the fourteen hours of browsing overpriced shiny white stores, without a fucking doubt.

Arthur is looking at him funny. Clearing his throat Eames starts out of the chair to show Ariandne the hotel plan when he feels something touch his ear. Time runs slow, and at the same moment everyone in the room has to accept the fact that they are witnessing Arthur, face as serene as if he were doing the everyday task of writing out a dot-pointed safety plan or drugging a middle aged oil tycoon, gently tuck a few loose strands of Eames' hair behind his ear and then turn back to his work like it was completely normal.

For once no one, not even Eames, can think of a single thing to say.

For once, no one needs to.


 
 
Current Music: Fake Plastic Trees - Radiohead
 
 
 
strike up the band!: adorable couple is adorableyetunknown on July 31st, 2010 04:35 pm (UTC)
HEARTS IN MY FREAKING EYES.

SERIOUSLY.
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 12:37 am (UTC)

♥_♥

thank youuuuu so much!
You won't see penny one from me you slag!: Muse; Howard; PORN!blacktofade on July 31st, 2010 06:17 pm (UTC)
De-anoning so I can properly declare my love for you because this has been amazing fun waiting for updates of this fic! I really hope you write more for this fandom because you're fantastic at it. You managed to fit so many emotions into this and it flowed so well and just there are no words to tell you how happy it made me! The ending is perfect and delightfully sweet! You are fabulous, dear! ♥
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)

thank you, not-anon! It was awesome fun writing it and such a great prompt to begin with.

haha, you couldn't get me out of this fandom with a crowbar :P

No, you're fab *pokes tongue out childishly* YOU WILL NEVER THINK OF A COMEBACK FOR THAT.
(no subject) - vegesoup on August 2nd, 2010 03:23 am (UTC) (Expand)
I like people with opinions: Bogie & Bacallsunlight_dust on August 1st, 2010 01:44 am (UTC)
I had to take a moment before I wrote you a comment because everything would've been incoherent otherwise.

Everything was just so perfect and I ADORED the ending.
Your portrayal of the characters was fantastic and the development of the story was so beautifully done.
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)

♥ I'll take any comment I get, incoherent or not :D thank you so much!

I'm really glad you liked the end... I was worried it would be too IDK silly but I wanted to show that the banter doesn't die when the sexual tension is resolved :P it just gets more awesome.

I love your icon. Bacall is sex with a pout.
COMIC BOOKS; THE MARIJUANA OF THE NURSERY.: b/j daaawnewbluemoon on August 1st, 2010 02:26 am (UTC)
OH MY GOD, WHAT IS IT WITH THIS FANDOM AND TURNING MY HEART TO OOEY GOOEY MUSH?

OH, ARTHUR. OH EAMES. OH AUTHOR.<3 I LOVE YOU FOR WRITING THIS. SO MEMMING.
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 02:31 am (UTC)

I'M SORRY. I WILL GET YOU A NEW HEART. OR PROVIDE A PROTECTIVE CASING FOR THIS ONE.

THANK YOU SO MUCH I LOVE YOU TOO ♥
lady_fro: Eameslady_fro on August 1st, 2010 03:06 am (UTC)
I'm getting those lovely warm fuzzy feelings... :D

This was beautiful... :D Awesome job... ^__^
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 09:05 am (UTC)

I'm glad to be the cause of warm fuzzy feelings ♥ thank you
(Deleted comment)
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 09:11 am (UTC)

Ahhh thank you! *blushes* (what can I say, Eames has a beautiful mind, and his thoughts get all ~artistic when Arthur is around)

Eames doesn't need a bra, 'cause he's a REAL MAN. Who is a sexy woman.

aaaand now I've confused myself.
a_singlenotea_singlenote on August 1st, 2010 04:45 am (UTC)
GUH SO GOOD. Love. So much. thank you!!
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 09:06 am (UTC)

No, thank you! :D
Disastrolabedisastrolabe on August 1st, 2010 07:33 am (UTC)
This was so very, very enjoyable. I had such a long day at work, and all the way through I was thinking *I'ma go home and read me some Inception slash*. This was exactly what I was hoping for: cleverly written, totally in-character, and way hot.

Thanks!
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)

Thank you! Everyone should come home to Arthur/Eames after a long day.

So glad you thought it was in-character ♥
downjune: BAMFArthurdownjune on August 1st, 2010 12:53 pm (UTC)
Forgive my profanity, but, Holy Fuck.

This pairing generally doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me, but right now, for the life of me, I can't remember why, b/c um. This was bloody brilliant.

Why is it so much fun to torture poor Arthur?
downjune: BAMFArthurdownjune on August 1st, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
And this?


"If you want to try again, I promise not to shoot myself."

Is just, whoa, in the best possible way. One of those lines that puts a character sharply in perspective.
(no subject) - greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 01:08 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - greenpixiehair on August 1st, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC) (Expand)
But what if I'm not the hero?: Ashley Greene 04vintagememories on August 1st, 2010 03:49 pm (UTC)
brilliant absolutely brilliant, I loved the whole thing. made me laugh a couple times and I was grinning like an idiot at the end there.
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:26 am (UTC)

:D I'm so glad! I can't write angst without garnishing it with humour or I go insane.
White Asterwhite_aster on August 1st, 2010 05:24 pm (UTC)
Oh man, this is awesome. I love your Eames!voice here. It is so spot on. :D
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)

Thank you! Eames-voice is enormous fun.
vaguelyagnostic: oh my godvaguelyagnostic on August 1st, 2010 10:08 pm (UTC)
Oh, just...guh! I mean...so...beautifully written, and Eames' voice is just captured perfectly, and I really want to be annoyed because I was writing my own Eames/Arthur fic and now I can't because you said everything I was going to say only better but I can't be annoyed because you said everything I was going to say only better and...*coherency lost in the love*
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:23 am (UTC)

NO NO YOU MUST FINISH YOUR FIC I DEMAND IT

PLEASE

I'LL BEG IF YOU WANT.
(Deleted comment)
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:25 am (UTC)

*blushes and stutters and can't think of a response*

I don't deserve such words but thank you so much ♥
(Deleted comment)
(no subject) - greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:50 am (UTC) (Expand)
London Clockworkpolaris_starz on August 1st, 2010 11:49 pm (UTC)
THIS IS AMAZING. ♥ ♥ ♥
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)

♥ YOUR KIND WORDS ARE AMAZING ♥ thank you
Semi-Obsessive Mesol_se on August 2nd, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
I love this!
The Girl Anachronism: arthur (darling)greenpixiehair on August 2nd, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)

thank you!