tea

where is the lid?

the lid is right here; it was behind the sofa, really.

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the great game (1/1) - dream_holiday fic for recrudescence
panda coffee
iri_descent
title: the great game
pairing: arthur/eames
rating: NC-17
word count: ~5,500
warnings/notes: edging, implied open relationship


June

“Mr Eames,” the bartender calls out, beaming broadly, as Eames steps into the warmth of the pub. At first glance, the place appears deserted. There’s no one at the bar but a few regulars huddle together at rickety tables, bartering information and replacement PASIV parts. “It’s been a while. The usual?”

This is no ordinary pub; there’s a dreamcade in the basement and PASIV devices for pay-by-the-minute use upstairs. It is here that most patrons can generally be found – drawn to dreaming like moths to flame, lured back repeatedly despite better judgement and responsibilities of the real world.

“Please and thank you, mate,” he grins, adjusting his spectacles. The strap of his laptop bag is digging into his shoulder; he ignores it. “Just started an undercover con. I’ve hardly had time to sleep, let alone socialise. How’s business?”

“Slow.” As he attempts to sit down at his customary spot, the bartender nods towards a corner table. “Forgot to mention; there’s a guy waiting for you. Came in about an hour ago. Said he was an old friend?”

Eames glances over at the man in question, casually. He is suddenly mindful of the gun strapped to his ankle.

“Did he?” he murmurs, very softly. “I’ll have to take his word for it.”

***

“To what do I owe this pleasure?” he asks, pulling out a chair.

“I was passing through,” Arthur replies curtly, sipping his scotch. His hair is longer, curling around his ears, and there is the distinct, sickly scent of sleeplessness about him. “Let me buy you a drink.”

“No need for all that,” Eames smirks, drumming a beat into the scuffed table top. “I’m fairly easy. Just say the word.”

“Look, if this is a bad time–” his face flushes. Whether from alcohol or anger, Eames can’t tell and doesn’t care to know. In any case, it’s an improvement. At least now he looks somewhat alive. “You said to come–”

He cuts off again, forehead furrowed, swilling down the last of his drink. Eames stares at him, something like dread seeping into his chest. Five months ago, as Arthur had been readying to leave their hotel room, Eames (still naked, still half-asleep) had said come find me whenever.

Apparently, this is whenever and Eames is an arsehole.

“I’ll have a Campari, then,” he says, maintaining eye contact. He’s not going to be the one to look away first.

Arthur gazes back impassively, tracing patterns of condensation against the empty tumbler. They probably look ridiculous, acting like two wilful little kids trying to outlast one another in a staring contest.

“Sure,” he finally says, offhand, mouth twitching into a slight, tight smile.

“Oh, fuck you,” Eames grumbles, smiling back reluctantly.

***

They haven’t slept together since January but Eames remembers this; the knotted scar on one shoulder, the dark trail of hair meandering down to his cock, the boniness of his ankles, the heat of his mouth.

Once upon a time, he would have had to relearn Arthur from scratch – remapping the span of his shoulders, moulding his palms over protruding bones and cataloguing the cusses falling from his lips.

Nowadays, it’s just nostalgic. Eames kisses him and thinks yes, I’ve been here before.

***

“Eames?”

“Hmm?” He stops typing, hands resting on the keyboard, and glances down at Arthur.

“About before.” The laptop screen casts an eerie blue glow across his cheekbones. “I was in a shitty mood. Sorry.”

Unreasonable as it may be, it pisses him off that Arthur is able to apologise so bluntly and effortlessly. Whether sincere or not, it’s still fucking annoying.

“It’s all right; I thought nothing of it,” he says, swallowing down his frustration and schooling his features into neutrality. It’s amazing; Arthur brings out the douchebag in him. “Botched job?”

It’s none of his business, as Eames is very well aware. But there are rumours, sibilant and insidious: rumours that Cobb has lost his touch for building, rumours of a hushed-up murder, rumours of bribery and extradition and shady multinational corporations.

Superficially, it seems that Cobb works with only Arthur. But the truth is that no one but Arthur will work with Cobb given a second option. Not for the easy cash that comes with humdrum extractions, no. Cobb is (or was) brilliant, there’s no question about it, but there are plenty of other not-as-brilliant but perfectly competent extractor-architects out there.

Who are likely to be less unhinged too – which is always a plus, one would assume.

At first, he thinks Arthur has lapsed back to sleep because he doesn’t reply. A few moments later, however, his eyes flicker open though they are inscrutable in the dark.

“Something like that. The mark caught on and tore us limb from limb.”

“Well,” Eames smiles faintly, clicking open a new browser window. The heat from the laptop is searing through the thin material of his boxers, “can you really blame him?”

“Her,” Arthur corrects drowsily. “And thanks for the sympathy, asshole.”

“How’d she find out?” Eames ensures his tone is nonchalant. Interested but not suspiciously so. After all, it wouldn’t do for Arthur to gather that Eames had already known exactly who the mark was and, moreover, that she wasn’t –

“Militarised.” Arthur doesn’t bat an eyelid, doesn’t avert his gaze, doesn’t prevaricate or falter or fumble. Certainly, he’s not as slick of a fibber as he likes to think but he’s not half bad either. “You know how it goes.”

“Yeah,” Eames nods sagely, the sound of his typing reverberating obnoxiously loudly in the otherwise silent and shadowed room. He hits the keys a little harder, just to be a dick. “Tough luck.”

“Huh,” Arthur grunts, rolling over. “Liar.”

You’re one to talk, Eames thinks, amused, languidly admiring the sharp slopes of his shoulder blades.

***

Sometimes, despite his intrinsic indifference to physical contact, Eames wakes up starved for touch. He will want, desperately, in those dream-addled moments: the warmth of another body in his bed, to wind his arms around a narrow waist, to drape one leg over muscular thighs.

The identity of the body is irrelevant. It is the sensation (skin on skin, fabric on fabric) that he craves.

He hates it, feeling like that.

He hates it, but cannot help it.

Tonight, he scowls at Arthur’s bare back and, in an appalling moment of weakness, wonders if he is game enough to brave the ever-present hazard of his flailing limbs.

Opportunely enough, Arthur chooses that instant to garble something incomprehensible and kick one leg up into the air. He thrashes about for a few more heart-stopping minutes (Eames has visions of copping a blow to the head) and then, finally, mercifully, settles.

No, definitely not worth it.

So Eames rolls over and waits.

Because tomorrow he will feel himself again.

***

It is still dark outside when Eames rolls out of bed cursing and stumbles to the bathroom to take a leak. His flight leaves in four hours; there should be time enough to head back to his own hotel to shower, shave and change into fresh clothing.

Under the blankets, Arthur is coiled up into a compact ball – hands wrapped around his ankles, knees practically touching his chin, that sort of thing.

Painful as it appears, he has been sleeping in that position for as long as...

For as long as Eames has been sleeping in the same bed to observe it, he thinks dryly.

***

“I’m heading off.” He has been prodding the lump under the covers for five minutes, to no avail.

“Hey.” A hand darts out and closes around his wrist as he turns on his heel. Arthur peers out from beneath the sheets, hair sticking up in tufts. Judging from that level of dexterity, the bastard had been awake the whole time. “If you don’t want me to find you – if it’s inconvenient or whatever – you’ll just have to do a better job of hiding.”

Eames huffs out an incredulous laugh, sweeping his thumb along one of several bruises darkening on Arthur’s collarbone.

“I’ll keep that in mind.”

***

Eames doesn’t see Arthur for five more months after that.

He tries and fails not to feel too smug about it.


November

The first time Arthur asked him, they had been fucking around for eight months – on and off, never exclusive, exchanging blowjobs in grimy bathrooms and catching up for dinner in airport lounges whilst in transit. Arthur had brought it up in the SilverKris lounge in Changi airport, come to think of it; he had looked up from his novel and murmured, straight-faced and forthright, “There’s something I want to try.”

I want to see how long I can stand it, he had said later as they crowded into the Skytrain to Terminal 2.

Eames had glowered at him, already half-hard, awkwardly aware of all the other people in the carriage. Arthur had smiled impishly and patted him on the hand, condescending and conciliatory in equal measures.

The first time had been fantastic, utterly unlike anything he had ever experienced before. Maybe he’d gotten off on the power of rendering another person incoherent with his touch. Or it might have been the fact that Arthur had chosen Eames, out of all people he could have approached.

Yet with the benefit of hindsight and experience, Eames is also able to see the flaws. They had both been unspeakably nervous, almost shaking with excitement and desire and frustration – wanting now and impatient to wait. He had unwittingly rushed Arthur to orgasm by pushing him over the edge too soon. Arthur had mulishly refused to communicate, perhaps afraid of being tempted to plead and beg for release.

With the advent of age and increasing self-confidence, Arthur has improved at both asking for what he wants and controlling himself. Gone is the flighty twenty-three year old that had dug his fingernails into Eames’ elbows as he had come all over them both with a strangled sob, back bowed beautifully and eyes watering.

Despite his own misgivings and usual reserve, Eames had doted on him that one night in Singapore – kissing him all over, mumbling nonsense into his hair, branding bite marks into his sweat-slippery skin. To his credit, Arthur had let him despite his own hang-ups; had indulged him, even: opening his mouth wider, winding his legs around Eames’ hips, mouthing sloppily and lethargically at the underside of his jaw.

***

When Eames steps out of the elevator, overcoat neatly folded over one arm and looking forward to a strong drink, his eyes are immediately drawn to the man seated alone in the nearly-empty lobby, pretending to read a newspaper. Though not surprised to see him, Eames is vaguely impressed at how fast Arthur makes his move.

It has been one week since Eames returned to the field after an extended period of self-study spent refining various forgeries and developing tolerance to larger doses of compound. Word of his availability has already trickled through the necessary channels and he has two jobs lined up back-to-back.

Arthur is watching him over the top of his newspaper.

As has become their custom, Eames could walk straight out the double doors and wait for Arthur to catch up.

They could make their way through the city’s bars and clubs, ultimately falling into bed in the early hours of the morning, drunk and languorous. They could simply stroll for as long as they want, shoulders brushing, observing the vibrant nightlife and talking about whatever comes to mind. They could use a PASIV to dream for what feels like days but is in actuality only a handful of hours.

There are many threads of possibility with Arthur; Eames has always appreciated that about him.

Tonight, he decides upon a more straightforward approach.

“Arthur; fancy seeing you here,” he says, taking a seat.

“It’s good to see you, Eames,” Arthur says crisply, pages rustling. There is a familiar weariness about him; his smile is genuine enough but is fraying at the edges. Life on the run is taking its toll, perhaps.

“Do you have plans for this evening?”

“No,” Eames admits, amused. Arthur’s not one for pretty words and misdirection. He is candid in his likes and dislikes, his wants and do-not-wants. “Why don’t you tell me yours?”

***

Towards the end of the night they end up tangled together in Arthur’s hotel room, his back resting against the ornate headboard of the bed and Eames kneeling in front of his parted legs. They’ve already stripped off the outer coverlets and extraneous sheets. The colour is high in Arthur’s cheeks, but from being out in the wind rather than any embarrassment.

Unlike six years ago, Eames knows without having to second-guess what reactions can be coaxed from Arthur. He knows how far to push, and when to yank him back from the brink of coming. He knows that grazing his balls even delicately will cause Arthur to lose his composure and that, after orgasm, he remains obstinate and bristly.

Eames runs his thumb over the head of Arthur’s cock and watches the tension bleed out of his frame. Arthur is lovely like this, calm and compliant, limbs lax. His clavicles, hipbones and the lower margins of his ribcage jut out against the otherwise flat topography of his skin.

“Should I tie up your hands?” he asks quietly, cupping Arthur’s cheek with his other hand. The significance of this encounter is not lost on him. In a few weeks it will be one year since Mal’s death. It is at times like these that Eames feels out of his depth – defeated before the battle has begun. Like he said, it’s fucking annoying.

Why, with me? He would ask if it didn’t a) make him sound like a complete twat and b) kill the mood entirely. I could gut you, right now, on a whim.

Do you truly believe I wouldn’t?

I would never let anyone do to me what you let me do to you. Not even you.


“No,” Arthur licks his lips, fingers curling into fists. “I won’t touch.”

***

Arthur’s hips jerk involuntarily, back arching against the mattress, in an unconscious attempt to angle his body away from Eames. Though he still hasn’t let out a word, the stubborn fucker, his breathing is harsh and shaky. His chest heaves in time to the brisk pace of Eames’ strokes, individual ribs made visible with every ragged exhalation.

(He has lost weight – the thought is fleeting, insubstantial, observed out of habit than intent.)

Jacking him off with one hand, Eames lets the other drift down to skim his balls, which are taut and painfully full. Arthur grabs his forearm instantly, squeezing in warning. Eames backs off immediately, idly rubbing one hipbone in apology, and takes the moment to watch Arthur’s abdominal muscles flex and relax with each trembling intake of breath.

His left hand has snaked across the lower part of his belly, coming to rest just above the dark, damp thatch his of pubic hair. Eames can’t quite tell if he’s pressing down like he sometimes does when being fingered or whether it’s merely an intuitive gesture of comfort.

“What are you doing, hm?” he murmurs, leaning in to kiss Arthur on the mouth, cheek, chin. His skin is fever-hot despite the fan whirring above them lazily. Everything feels slick, sticky with pre-come and lube and sweat. “Feels good?”

Arthur nods abstractedly, sucking at Eames’ neck, although he’s too far gone to really consider the question. By now he must be running on pure instinct and willpower, torn between needing to come and wanting to test his limits. He vacillates between spreading his legs wider and trying to close them, hips thrusting up shallowly into Eames’ hands.

“I think I’m going to win this round.”

He forms a loose fist around Arthur’s cock, tugging upwards brutally. Arthur spasms, breath hitching and toes curling, teeth clamping down viciously on his lower lip.

Normally, he swears incessantly while they’re fucking. For all his laughable inability to talk dirty, he has a filthy mouth. But every so often, he bites his lips raw in an effort not to speak.

Unwilling to be bested, Eames will play along – alternately attempting to wrench or cajole the words out of him.

***

At long bloody last, Arthur comes with a shudder – wild-eyed and shaking, knees nearly ramming into Eames’ elbows, cock pulsing out long strings of come onto his stomach and chest. Eames can never get enough of seeing him like this, uninhibited and untethered, pulled apart and far removed from his usual self.

“I won,” Arthur rasps tiredly, brows drawn together fiercely, ostensibly belligerent. But Eames can discern the smile lurking about his eyes, the wry twist of his split lips. Weariness is still etched into his features but the rigidity has abated, for the meantime.

“Yes,” he agrees, own voice suddenly hoarse. Arthur is skimming his fingertips along Eames’ thighs, almost absent-mindedly, lightly massaging circles into his quads. “You did.”


January (mid)

“Fuck off, stay on your own side,” Arthur scowls when Eames huddles closer on the bed, throwing one leg over Arthur’s shins. The angle isn’t all that great and truthfully, Eames isn’t one for sharing space either.

“Indulge me just this once, Ar-thur,” he drawls, nuzzling the curve of his jaw. The skin there is warm, rough, and unshaven; Eames trails his mouth lower and finds the smooth, predictable throb of his carotid pulse.

It doesn’t quicken under his lips (now wouldn’t that be flattering?) as, after all, Arthur is well-known for being rarely ruffled, whether trapped in the midst of a rapidly unravelling con or splayed flat on his back, hands tied to the bedposts, cock straining and unable to touch himself.

He wonders how many people have seen Arthur in the latter situation; or rather, have been allowed to see him like that.

(See, Arthur comes apart at the seams like any other human; the trick is that he is singularly skilled at hiding the evidence.)

“This is uncomfortable,” Arthur mutters around the mouth of his beer bottle, seemingly fixated on the procedural cop show currently playing on telly. It is late, late enough to be considered early, but they’re both operating on different time zones and too alert to sleep. Drinking, watching rubbish television, sex; all these are ways to while away the hours till daybreak.

“Indubitably,” Eames agrees, shifting over to grab his own sweating bottle from the bedside table.

Arthur elbows him in the ribs, hard, but doesn’t move away.

Honestly, Eames doesn’t know what the hell they’re doing right now. They’ve never bothered to waste time together like this before. When they meet it’s generally to fuck, discuss a job opportunity or network. Sometimes all three.

But this new turn of events is not unpleasant.

Not in the least.


January (late)

“Hey, I’ve a question,” Eames mumbles into the crook of one arm. He knows without needing to look that the curtains are drawn right back, revealing a murky harbour and towering bridge. The sky is a deep and decadent blue but predawn light seeps over the sails of the Opera House, insipid and wan.

“Yes?” Arthur is seated at the edge of the rumpled bed, fully dressed and armed, rifling through multiple passports and flight itineraries. Over the years, he’s gotten a lot better at deciphering Eames’ sleep-speech.

“Why is it,” he continues muzzily, the words dissolving like sherbet on his tongue, “why is it that you’re always the one to find me?”

Arthur frowns down at him. Similarly, over the years, Eames has gotten a lot better at deciphering Arthur’s various frowns. This one is contemplative, tinged with something enigmatic – some private memory or secret. “It’s what we agreed upon when we first started doing this, remember? Plus, there’s no paper or electronic trail of any correspondence this way.”

Eames hums thoughtfully, flopping onto his side. How could he have forgotten; they’re both paranoid bastards. They’ve been fucking for six years and, as far as they know, no one is aware of it – not even Yusuf or Cobb. He tries to say as much, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to string together a cohesive sentence. “Hardly seems fair.”

“No, it was quite selfish on my part. Because if it was up to you, you wouldn’t come find me at all, would you?”

“Oi,” he protests feebly, blearily squinting up at Arthur who is staring out to sea. He is smiling, dimples on display.

“It’s a statement, not a complaint. You don’t need to be around people as much. I’m envious, would you believe?”

“No, I wouldn’t,” Eames replies automatically. His heart is hammering out a staccato beat; again, it feels like he has lost to Arthur. He should have known better, should have taken more care in concealing himself. Instinct and self-preservation urge him to refute it but it seems cowardly and pointless to deny something they both know to be true.

“Why are you telling me this?” he asks instead, eyelids fluttering.

Arthur’s smile is confusing – shrewd and speculative but also strangely soft.

(But Arthur is not soft; how absurd.)

“Because you won’t remember it when you wake up again.”


March

Eames spends the entire month holed up in London, thanks to a re-dislocated patella. He squanders his days hobbling from bedroom to kitchen and poring over the faded, crumbling books that are stacked precariously atop one another and lined against the cracked walls.

It’s the first time in a long while that he has been wholly without work.

He doesn’t mind it as much as he thought he would.

Yusuf calls now and then, mostly to complain about setbacks in his latest batch of experimental compound or the dismal lack of willing test subjects but occasionally with a snippet of underground news or sliver of gossip. Who’s fucking who, who’s betrayed who, who’s collaborating with who.

“You know, you’d make a decent point man,” Eames tells him one Friday evening, phone cradled between ear and shoulder, stuffing week-old laundry into the ancient washing machine. “If you could be bothered, that is.”

Yusuf chuckles; much of the sound is swallowed up by the static crackling along the line.

“Developing variations on existing compounds is where the money’s at these days, Mr Eames. I’ve never understood this reckless fascination with going into the field.”

“Maybe we’re all just living out our geeky adolescent fantas–” he stops abruptly, straining to hear above the steady sloshing of the wash cycle. There it is again – three loud raps on his front door.

“Eames? Everything all right?”

“I’ll get back to you on that.”

He hangs up and limps cautiously through the living room. It takes longer than he would like to lever himself down on his good knee to retrieve the dusty Springfield XD hidden under the couch; he tucks it into the waistband of his track pants once he has regained his breath, blood pounding in his ears.

Meanwhile, the knocking continues at a sedate pace – three raps, a lengthy pause, then three more raps. It’s not persistent enough to hint at impatience, but only just.

By now, he’s fairly sure he knows who it is.

***

“I truly regret having brought you back here all those months ago,” he sighs, leaning against the doorframe. There is a slight sheen to the pavements; it has been drizzling, though Eames hadn’t noticed.

Arthur simply laughs and hands him a bag of groceries, shaking raindrops off his bright blue umbrella.

***

“Your hair’s darker.” Arthur reaches across the kitchen table and grazes his hand through the cropped and dyed strands of Eames’ hair. The pads of his fingers are firm against his scalp. “And shorter.”

“It was for an upcoming con,” Eames says, trying not to flinch away, uneasiness causing him to offer an explanation though none was expected of him. Talking unnecessarily is a childhood habit, one that he had eradicated along with his birth name. Nevertheless, it recurs from time to time. Unwanted but resilient.

Much like Eames himself, it could be said.

Fuck. He blinks away the memories; they are musty mementos that have no place in his current life.

Arthur withdraws his hand and goes right back to spooning soggy cereal into his mouth and frowning at the ‘world news’ section of the morning paper. Like nothing out of the ordinary has taken place. If this heart-warming show of domesticity isn’t enough, the neighbour’s kitten is curled up on his lap, purring pointedly and stridently. She decides to take up temporary residence in Eames’ house whenever Arthur is in the vicinity, apparently.

It is easy to forget how tactile Arthur is, possibly because you would never guess it from looking at him. Indeed, it is highly doubtful that even Arthur is aware of it, at least not on a conscious level.

Because if he knew, Eames is certain he would police his impulses; he would never allow himself to reach out so unthinkingly, so openly, so wistfully.

***

On Sunday morning Eames kisses him goodbye in the muddy kitchen. The neighbour’s bedraggled kitten is mewing between their feet and Arthur is soaked to the skin, having rescued aforementioned kitten from a watery death down a storm drain just ten minutes past.

Rain batters against the windows, thunderous, rattling the panes and shrouding the city in a monotonous haze of grey.

“My taxi’s outside,” Arthur points out mildly, sandwiched between Eames and the batter-splattered breakfast bar. There is dirt streaked across his cheek and a twig twined in his damp hair.

It’s all very clichéd.

“I know,” Eames replies gravely, and kisses him again.


July

“By the way,” Athwal says, off hand, as she chucks him a bottle of chilled water from the humming bar fridge installed by Rutherford’s workspace. “You have writing on your arm; did you know?”

He blinks, pops the plastic lid and stares up at her from where he is sprawled on a deck chair. It is far too warm for thought.

“What?” he says, sluggishly. His tongue feels heavy in his dry mouth, thick, unused to forming words. He sips slowly, the icy water trickling down his throat.

“Here.” Trim nails scratch the back of his upper arm, just above his elbow, where his shirt sleeve ends. Dark hair escapes the confines of her ponytail and there is sweat beading her forehead. And she is accustomed to the weather here. He can only imagine how wrecked the rest of them must look. “Numbers.”

“Write them down for me?” he murmurs, tossing her a pen from his desk.

Rutherford is blatantly listening in on their conversation now, vials and needles forgotten, more bored than curious.

She complies with such focused diligence that he is acutely reminded of another point, this one a man, who had been fast asleep when Eames had slipped out of the hotel room fourteen hours earlier.

“Here,” Athwal repeats, tearing out the page from her sketchpad and handing it to him. Her face is carefully blank; if she has formed any theories or conjectures, she is keeping them to herself. She learned from the best, after all.

It’s simply a sequence of numbers, arbitrary and anticlimactic. As far as he can tell, they do not signify birthdates, combination locks or telephone numbers. There are too many digits, for one, interspersed with –

And then, like an optical illusion that is unexpectedly perceived but thereafter can never be unseen, he understands.

Eames crumples the scrap of paper into his pocket, and kisses her on the cheek.


August to December

Contrary to first impressions, Eames isn’t reckless. He might have been, long years ago, but that is neither here nor there. As Eames, his present persona, he can’t afford to be. He takes risks, of course, but they are calculated ones.

As such, he doesn’t act on the fledgling hypothesis he has formed although curiosity niggles away at him day by day.

He waits, instead, for Arthur to show his hand.

But the thing is – Arthur doesn’t.

Time ticks on and they do as they have always done. The single discrepancy is that Arthur continues to hide his cryptic messages on Eames’ skin (the back of his right knee, the sole of his left foot, the nape of his neck, the ridges of his spine) as if completely comfortable with the idea that Eames may never see them.

Except that he has, and it changes the game.


January

Eames flies into Tokyo on an impulse, acting on the information that had been imprinted onto his skin (left shoulderblade, six weeks ago) and fed up of being patient. By the time he gets to the hotel, it is late evening. The promise of rain is implicit in the thick clouds dotting the horizon and the acrid scent of ozone in the air.

There is a key waiting for him at the front desk. He accepts it with a smile and tries not to let apprehension get the better of him. For all he knows, he could be walking straight into a very elaborate trap.

As luck would have it, he passes Cobb in the hallway and thinks shit, that’s done it. He needn’t have worried – Cobb barely registers his presence, hands fisted in his trouser pockets and eyes far, far away.

The room is shadowed, the single point of light being emitted from a desk lamp. The television whispers in the background and Arthur is asleep, slumped down in one of the intricately upholstered armchairs, mouth open and head tilted back against the cushioning.

Eames wonders, at that -- wonders how long Arthur has been waiting. It is almost too much: the implications, the consequences, the level of trust involved.

Swiftly, he crosses the room until he is towering over Arthur's limp frame, perversely imagining gloved hands winding around his exposed neck or the cool muzzle of a silenced gun inches from his temple. He straddles Arthur’s thighs, sinks down onto his lap, redistributes his weight and waits.

Arthur regains consciousness in a matter of seconds, instantly and unnervingly oriented, adrenaline kicking back in hard. His thighs tense, his fists curl, his eyes snap open.

“Hey,” Eames says, soothing and steady, worming his fingers into soft shirt fabric.

Blinking owlishly, Arthur relaxes in increments, sinking back into the armchair with a sigh. He uses the hand which had been reaching into his jacket to make a show of rubbing at his bloodshot eyes, stalling for time, pretending like he hadn’t just been about to shoot Eames in the face.

“You’re fucking heavy,” is what he ultimately grumbles, bucking ineffectually.

“And you’re fucking ridiculous,” Eames says, bridging the gap till he is close enough to count individual eyelashes, nose nudging Arthur’s. It’s kind of embarrassing, this proximity. He wonders what Arthur might be reading in his own features. “Leave your messages in places people will actually look, wanker.”

Arthur hums, smug, hands skimming over Eames’ trousers, his lower back, his arse.

“Weren’t you meant to be the observant one?”

***

Arthur’s mobile starts vibrating in the middle of the night, noisy and persistent. Though normally a heavy sleeper, Eames is already awake - having been roused twenty minutes earlier by the dull ache of an old gunshot wound.

He answers it on the fifth buzz with a hushed hiss, groggily sliding out of bed. “What the fuck, Nash? Did you even bother to check the time difference before calling?”

Eames remains motionless, only opening his eyes when he hears the soft snick of the bathroom door closing.

Nash is an architect – passable, but prone to inconsistency and inaccuracy when in over his head. Presumably they are working together, which in itself is interesting. Either Arthur is being over-cautious and consulting with a second architect or the stories are true and Cobb has lost his touch. Or Eames is completely off the mark and this is merely a social call.

Yeah, right.

The urge to eavesdrop is powerful. There are people who would pay lavishly for intel on Dom Cobb. Throw Arthur into the package and the price would double. Maybe triple, depending on the buyer.

He stares up at the ceiling, twiddling his thumbs.

***

The following morning he rolls over to find the other side of the bed empty, sheets shoddily tugged into place in a semblance of neatness. Outwardly Arthur projects orderliness but Eames has long had suspicions about the interiors of his closets. There is a coffee-stained mug abandoned on the carpet, of all places, next to the key card for the room.

He finds it whilst brushing his teeth.

Arcing from his collarbone to sternum is a string of numbers and letters, inked dark and thick.

Coordinates and a time, dated some two weeks from today. And three words—come find me.

Eames smiles and spits into the sink.

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Oh, I love this - the push and pull of their relationship, how things are said without being said (both between Arthur and Eames, and in the narrative itself). There's a feeling of... established history in this that's created so gently (and skillfully) that everything just seems to fit naturally. I particularly like how you wove the canon bits in to their time together.

Thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write such a lovely and thoughtful comment! I'm beaming right now - you should see my face :)

Some parts of this story were a struggle to write, so I'm both glad and relieved that the end result worked for you. Thank you, again.

And of course, THIS is lovely, as is everything you write!

Whaaaaat, oh my goodness, I don't know how to respond to this /o\

Um. Thank you. You're very kind. (I'm really embarassed now, eep). No, really, thank you for reading. I truly appreciate it :)

Oh gosh, don't be! You've written something awesome. ^_^

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Oh, thank you so very much. Characterisation is something that I agonise over, so I'm really pleased you liked it.

Yes! I see Eames as being detached, but perhaps underestimating his own attachment to Arthur. Arthur is more invested but maybe that doesn't bother him. Idk, really. I like that there are so many different variations on canon possible with these two. That goes for the rest of the characters too, I suppose!

In any case, after much trial and error, I think they've reached a good, practicable stage in their relationship/arrangement :)

Thank you for this! I love the pacing, the subtle and precise ways they have of dancing around each other while still knowing each other very intimately. Some of my favorite details in this are the ones you use to dovetail everything with canon and the world of dreamsharing in general (the dreamers' bar, bartering with PASIV parts, Arthur working with Nash, Eames being acutely aware that he could sell his intel on Cobb but not doing so).

Oh, and you managed to work in ARTHUR RESCUING A KITTEN without making it cracktastic. Brb, putting on a hat so I can take it off to you.

You're more than welcome! I'm just really annoyed I couldn't get it to you in a timely fashion and hope you didn't feel left out or anything. I'm very, very sorry if you did at any point.

Thank you so much for reading and leaving some feedback too. I was incredibly worried about this fic (thinking that it would come across as sappy or far-fetched or just plain odd) so I'm ridiculously happy and grateful that it worked for you. I love adding in those little details, so it's awesome that you liked them as well! Dreamsharing is fascinating; I only wish I was game enough to explore it in more depth without fretting over the technicalities.

And hurrah for the random kitten! I probably took your prompt too literally, haha.

Thank you, again, and I hope you have a great year ahead :)

i've been waiting ages for something from you. and boy have you delivered!

Hello! Oh my god, you really have; it has been months D:

I really suck at finishing things, sigh, and am a terribly slow writer too. In any case, thank you for reading and commenting, as always, and for being interested in what I write :)

oh no! that wasn't meant to make you feel bad. only to let you know that i look forward to when you write! :)

Oh, no, I know! Ack, sorry, I didn't mean to imply that I was offended or upset or anything like that. Those were just some things I've realised about myself recently, haha, and am hoping to improve on :)



This was so delicious and lovely. Also, this scene nearly killed me:

He straddles Arthur’s thighs, sinks down onto his lap, redistributes his weight and waits.

Arthur regains consciousness in a matter of seconds, instantly and unnervingly oriented, adrenaline kicking back in hard. His thighs tense, his fists curl, his eyes snap open.


Oh, boys.

Thank you for reading! And it's always awesome to be quoted back sections of a story :D :D

This was fantastic! I loved the weaving of canon into it, the details Eames noticed and the choices he made based on them.

I like how Eames seems to be lost in their game, all the while analyzing it. I had distinct moments reading, thinking that if Eames is so non-plussed and a bit hostile towards the idea of Arthur and their strange relationship, why does he continue? But then I realized that he is infatuated. He's so very tender with his actions while being abrasive with his thoughts. All the cuddling and nuzzling he does, though he says it's a terrible habit or need he can't escape.

Well done!

Oh, thank you so much for reading and taking the time to write down your thoughts. You always leave such detailed and considered comments. They never fail to make my day or week!

This Eames was hard to characterise. He was alternately detached and then in-Arthur's-space, abrasive and then fond. Idk, I imagined that he had spent so much of his life being independent, self-sufficient and a loner that the mere idea of becoming attached to someone was unnerving or, even, distasteful. I think Eames still thinks he can walk away from Arthur if he wanted to, though whether that is true remains to be seen. His actions certainly bely his words/thoughts! I also think Arthur is lot more switched-on than Eames is often willing to acknowledge. He's got it figured out :)

Ack, I'm getting carried away. Thank you, again!

Lovely story. I especially liked the pacing and the dichotomy between Eames' thoughts and Eames' actions.

Thank you! I'm really pleased that you liked the pacing; I was worried about each segment being too short/fragmented.

Eames is certainly rather contradictory (or, perhaps, stubborn) in this story, which I imagine can be frustrating to read, so it's good to know that you found it all right.

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Thank you for reading and commenting! Writing after so long was more difficult than I had anticipated, so I'm very glad you liked it.

That line! I have a soft spot for secrets being told whilst the other party is half-asleep/out of it :)

I really did enjoy reading it. It has such a unique pace.

Thank you so much :) I post something and then worry about it for days afterwards so it's lovely and very rewarding to hear that you enjoyed it.

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