Prompt: biased, touch
Word count: 3,641
Summary: Arthur makes an offer, Eames makes an assumption, and things go wrong until they don't.
Notes: Also inspired by this prompt on the kink meme.
In most cases, Eames finds watching someone else read about as interesting as watching paint dry. Adding Arthur into the equation—sleeves rolled to just above the elbows, light cresting the bend of his wrist when he twirls a pen between his fingers, the graceful movement of his throat when he occasionally sips at the coffee left over from a late dinner of takeout—kills logic in all its forms.
Logic, Eames is positive, has nothing to do with how absorbing it is just to covertly stare at Arthur wetting a fingertip with his precise pink tongue and flipping page after page. He doesn’t always understand how Arthur can make the most mundane tasks seem fascinating. He isn’t sure he’ll ever be used to it.
It’s just the two of them left, since Ariadne has homework and Yusuf is still pulling his raw materials together and Cobb is doing whatever the hell someone like Cobb does when he isn’t working. Arthur, for the better portion of an hour, has been frowning over a sheaf of files and Eames has been pretending to do the same but really stealing too many glances at Arthur to actually be productive.
When he eventually admits to himself that he isn’t likely to gain anything else tonight other than a new appreciation for Arthur’s dual powers of concentration and obliviousness, Eames stands, stretches, and starts packing up. Arthur works right on, not seeming to notice anything even when Eames comes over to clear away the remnants of takeaway boxes.
He’s picking up his jacket and wondering whether it’s worth shattering Arthur’s focus to tell him good night when, out of nowhere, Arthur twists to look at him. “Eames.”
There’s a peculiar look in his eyes, as though he’s just realized Eames is there at all. “Yes?” says Eames, and Arthur turns away, sharp-profiled and pale in the halo of light cast by his desk lamp.
“Cobb doesn’t always have people he can count on. But I think we can count on you.” He says it so matter-of-factly that Eames can’t tell if it’s a joke or an actual opinion.
“That’s a bold statement. Are you positive about that?” He isn’t proud of it, taking refuge in sarcasm the way he usually does when he’s not quite sure he’s reading Arthur correctly. It’s a bother, since reading people is something that normally comes as easily to Eames as blinking.
“I can’t afford to be positive,” Arthur says, sober as a judge. He watches Eames as if he’s weighing his words very cautiously, which is silly since Eames would let him say practically anything and get away with it. “Are you trying to prove me wrong?”
“Not what I said,” Eames answers, and he thinks he sees some of the guardedness leave Arthur’s gaze. “Cobb came for me on his own. Incredibly brave and incredibly stupid of him. How often does he go off without you?”
“You make it sound like I’m supposed to keep him on a leash.” A brief, wry smile crosses Arthur’s face and disappears far too quickly. “Sometimes he prefers being on his own. Sometimes it’s better if he isn’t.”
That, Eames thinks, is a very diplomatic way of saying it. “Out of curiosity,” he blurts out, as Arthur seems ready to turn back to his papers, “does that mean you don’t have any plans tonight, since Cobb isn’t on the verge of doing anything hazardous?”
Arthur goes very still. “No. Are you offering?”
This is the point, Eames knows, where he could just make a flippant remark and leave. “Maybe I am. Are you taking me up on it?”
Slowly, Arthur caps his pen and sets it down. He doesn’t say a thing, remaining silent to the point where Eames isn’t sure he’s going to respond at all. Then Arthur gets to his feet and fixes Eames with a long, cool stare. “I know it’s what you do for a living, but don’t bullshit me.”
“I’m not,” Eames says. “Not at all.
He can tell Arthur is trying to decide whether or not to believe him. Eames is fully prepared to be given the brush-off and it surprises him considerably when Arthur ventures a few steps towards him, then reaches and takes his hand. There’s no apparent ulterior motive—he’s not checking up his sleeve for a weapon, not prodding against any pressure point, just holding. Stepping in close, maybe waiting to see if Eames steps away, which he doesn’t.
Only for a moment, fingers sliding between his own, and Arthur’s face doesn’t change at all. “All right. How?”
“Fucking or getting fucked, Mr. Eames. Or is this another case of versatility?”
He sounds like he’s conducting a business transaction. Eames stares.
“Unless I’m completely misinterpreting something here. Then you can just pretend I never asked.” Arthur actually looks a bit uncertain. It makes Eames want to throw him down on top of his meticulously organized files and fuck him through the desk until his voice gives out and his skin is smeared with sweat and ink.
“No,” Eames says quickly. “No misinterpretation. Versatility is excellent, actually.”
He goes for broke, reaching to mold a palm to Arthur’s profile and coax a kiss against the perfect Botticelli curve of his mouth, but Arthur is already sitting back down and shuffling through another folder.
Eames has the odd sensation of someone who’s just been rejected, though of course that isn’t the case at all. “I have a few loose ends to tie up,” Arthur says, lips pressing into a thin line, a little garnish of mockery. “Give me another hour and I’ll be in my room by then.”
If Eames thought Arthur would allow it, he would lean in and kiss him anyway.
The first time he met Arthur, Eames was coming off another commission and still sporting the spectacles, Irish brogue, and prim little wisp of a mustache he’d used for it. The first thing Arthur had done was turn to Cobb and flatly announce that if Eames was going to dick around then the job was off.
Arthur, Cobb informed him, was very good at his work. Eames had done enough asking around to believe it.
Their job had gone as smoothly as could be expected and, although Arthur never mentioned how much intel he’d accumulated on Eames, Eames could hazard a guess or two. And he learned a few things of his own, like the way Arthur kept lists religiously and never shared them with anyone and sometimes looked at Eames just a touch too long. The way he slouched in his seats like a bored schoolboy but carried himself like a soldier, the way he drank coffee like water and looked particularly striking in red and had a habit of spinning pens through his long fingers without seeming to notice it.
Even though the last time they worked together was months ago, he’s still striking. Still attentive and dedicated and wearing things that flatter him in ridiculous ways. And maybe interested in him back, just maybe, but Eames prefers not to live on maybes.
Eames keeps his true sentiments close. He changes his body, accent, and affiliations depending on circumstances and motivation and necessity. The things he can’t change, those are what he locks away the most fiercely.
So Eames allows him the hour he needs, which drags by at a snail’s pace. There’s no deviating from his routine even now; Arthur is always the one making sure nothing too important gets left behind in the workspace, that the windows are still papered over and the PASIV is squared away, unless Cobb decides otherwise. And exactly one hour later, Arthur is standing stern-faced just inside the door of his room, almost fully dressed aside from his shoes and tie.
There are two ways this can go, Eames thinks. Either Arthur’s so tightly wound that everything’s going to be a struggle for power or he really just wants someone to take control and give him a chance to let loose a bit. This is, of course, assuming he does at all, even in bed. He wonders—perhaps unwisely, since Arthur hadn’t seemed particularly keen on that sort of thing before—what it would be like to tug Arthur’s shirt free of his slacks and kiss him too hard for him to even think of making some sort of wisecrack.
Then Arthur opens his mouth and that just won’t do. “I—”
And Eames has his back pressed to the door, arm round Arthur’s waist, teeth in the softness of Arthur’s neck, before he can say another word. Arthur shivers, going tense under him, then relenting, gasping when Eames sucks high on the side of his neck, just under one ear.
Eames is all set for this thing of theirs to be at least half fight, which might not be his personal preference but works well enough for someone who’s prone to the occasional brawl as it is. “How many people have seen you like this?” he demands. Arthur’s hands are dragging his jacket down his arms, his body jerking when Eames slots a thigh between his legs and pushes, rough and unashamed.
“Maybe you make a habit of it, is that it, propositioning your team members since you need so badly to take the edge off? Everyone you’ve worked with has to know how much of a whore you are for it.” He’s being a bit of a bastard, baiting Arthur before Arthur can bait him, but he imagines it’s all par for the course. After all, he’s fully expecting to end up with scratches down his back, bite marks in his shoulders, and Arthur cursing and coming apart beneath him with his face shoved into the pillows like he can’t stand having the climax wrung out of him.
Arthur grits out his name, but doesn’t answer—and really, that’s the challenge, trying to rile him up, find out what makes him lose his cool. His mouth drops open when Eames touches him, wraps a hand around his cock and squeezes once his pants are down at his knees. Eames flips them back to front so Arthur can’t catch him smiling, gives him a nudge that sends him toppling to the mattress. “Like that, don’t you?”
Braced on his forearms, Arthur only arches back against him, shirt rucked up and pants at his ankles. Eames flips open the lube he brought along, goes nipping up Arthur’s spine. By the time he’s palming his arse apart to touch with one slick finger, Arthur is writhing under him, but there’s something off about it, something that has no place in a quick no-strings-attached fuck between occasional colleagues.
“Eames,” he hisses again, and as much as Eames enjoys hearing his name in Arthur’s voice, there’s something not quite right about that too.
Then Arthur twists free, turns onto his back, and the next thing Eames knows he’s sitting up, looking frustrated and pissed off.
Eames steels himself up for whatever Arthur’s about to say. Probably a lengthy critique of his technique, complete with suggested readings for improvement.
But then Arthur scrubs a hand over his face and sighs. “I don’t think I’m what you want.”
It’s so unexpected Eames is too confused to make any sense of it at all. “What?”
“Look, if you’re just looking for someone to bend over and get off on, you should find somebody else.” Arthur is staring at the bedspread, already drawing his trousers back up to cover himself. There isn’t any ire in his voice, just disappointment.
“What makes you think—?”
“And I’m not your whore,” Arthur interrupts mildly. His ears are stained red at the tips.
For all the jobs they’ve collaborated on and all the improbable situations they’ve been in together, Eames doesn’t recall ever seeing Arthur self-conscious. It goes to show just how accustomed he is to his work, really, since self-consciousness indicates uncertainty and weakness and no one wants to be the weak link. If you can’t have faith in yourself, Cobb once said in one of those nonchalantly incisive moments of his, then no one else is going to have faith in you either. And Eames has learned to appreciate a good poker face, even though Arthur’s is particularly maddening.
But now Arthur is sitting on the edge of the bed, actually a little pink in the face, and at first Eames is just stunned by the picture he makes. Then it clicks. “That was my mistake,” Eames says, candid, “and I apologize.” It’s a little strange to use those words and actually mean them.
“I think maybe this could’ve gotten off to a better start.” His fingers seek out the crumpled cloth of Arthur’s collar and smooth it back into place, which is a bit silly considering the rest of Arthur’s shirt is in a rather dire state. “But I want to kiss you this time, if that’s all right.”
For several leaden seconds, Arthur doesn’t reply to that at all. Then he’s threading their fingers together again, the same absurdly chaste way he’d done in the workspace.
Only this time he leans in, keeps leaning in until Eames can feel him smiling, Arthur’s mouth soft against his cheek.
Eames’s free hand goes slipping through his hair and down the back of his neck, and Arthur relaxes into the touch with a sigh, suddenly seeming even younger than he’d looked when Eames saw him for the first time, years ago. Arthur had been wearing a scowl and a t-shirt and a pair of skintight jeans, his hair shaved short, a slim serious presence at Cobb’s side with a PASIV open in front of him. Back when they knew each other by reputation but not by sight, back before Eames was aware just how devastating it could be to know Arthur by sight.
Eames is bearing down on him again, hardly realizing it until Arthur starts murmuring, “Easy, easy.” And slowing him down but still kissing him back, gradual and thorough, ducking a bit when they part. Almost bashful. “Your mouth is…”
There’s the shadow of a dimple in his cheek, a sheepish not-quite smile. “Wow.” Sounding entirely serious, no irony, no mockery, no second shoe about to drop. “I always thought…”
He catches himself and swallows the rest of that thought, but Eames is already grinning. “Did you, now?” And Arthur is smirking and telling him to shut up, good-naturedly this time, right up until Eames dips his head between his legs and sucks the ability to smirk right out of him.
“There’s a thing or two I’ve thought about you, too,” he confesses into the crease of Arthur’s thigh. “Can’t keep my eyes off you sometimes.”
“I…” Arthur tries to push up onto his elbows, fails, then reaches to tip Eames’s face into a less distracting location. “When you watch me,” he says, sounding a little wary, “it’s like you’re waiting for me to screw up,” and Eames wants to shake him and kiss him and laugh at him all at once.
“That isn’t it at all. You’re always fucking about with pens, wandering around in trousers that look like they’d split if you sat down too suddenly.”
He kisses him again and again, until any retorts Arthur might be formulating cede to Eames’s lips and teeth and tongue. “I can’t believe how terrible you are at guessing ulterior motives.”
“Not everyone can make a career off it,” says Arthur, and gives a pointed tug at Eames’s trousers.
Each time Eames gets ahead of himself, Arthur has him scale back and take it slow, but he makes exceptions for the most important things, like discarding clothes and taking Eames’s erection in his fist. He’s almost courtly about it, asking before touching—do you want me to?—and Eames answers each time he kisses the freckles under his eye, the soft dip of his belly button, the arch of his neck. It’s like a new kind of intoxication, the way Arthur seems so completely absorbed by each new expanse of flesh he uncovers and explores, and Eames is close to embarrassing himself entirely by the time Arthur is reaching for a bottle of lube and handing it to him.
Then there’s that self-consciousness again. “It might take some time. I haven’t…” Another sheepish little grimace. “It’s been a little while. That’s all I’m saying.”
Eames just snatches the bottle out of his hand and topples him back down to the mattress, drinking in Arthur’s laughs like ambrosia when they end up jockeying for position, grappling atop the ugly hotel duvet. This time around, Eames is careful not to pin him facedown and give the wrong impression again.
And it does take time, but he’s beautiful and responsive and Eames reassures him he could go on for ages just to see him like this, that it’s so much better than he imagined. He never imagined Arthur would be like this at all.
Arthur locks up around him like it’s the first time he’s ever been touched there and actually apologizes at one point, a little self-mockingly, which Eames immediately lets him know is completely unnecessary. And after a lot of lube and a lot of patience he’s splayed on his back, face red and nipples perked, his voice catching around Eames name and his body wanting so much even though it can’t take it just yet. It’s both disturbing and exciting that no one’s seen him like this, not recently, since someone like Arthur deserves to be seen to often and attentively.
Eames tells him this, tells him all manner of things. When he finally eases his fingers out and curls a hand against Arthur’s hip, Arthur only squirms against him and refuses to turn onto his stomach.
“I’m kind of a traditionalist.” The color in his face has deepened and spread and there’s no way to call it anything but a blush, but his gaze doesn’t waver. “At least for the first time. If missionary’s not imaginative enough for you, you can pick something more exciting for next time.”
Next time. Eames sucks an earlobe between his teeth and grins. “Does this mean we should turn off the lights and get under the covers?”
“Oh,” Arthur says, “not a fucking chance.”
Then Eames presses inside him and he can’t seem to say anything at all.
There’s no chance of Eames extricating himself long enough to reach the light switch anyway, not that he would even if he could, not with Arthur’s legs wrapped around him and his nails in Eames’s nape, there on top of the covers with the lights still on. Even with his breath coming in wild little gasps and Eames’s hips practically flush with his arse, Arthur doesn’t lose a bit of his bullheadedness. He guides Eames into a pace that’s almost agonizingly slow, drawing it out until they’re both slippery with sweat. Arthur’s cock is caught between them, untouched, and his eyes are heavy and dark but never leave Eames’s face.
The words next time are still soaring through Eames’s mind. In the coppery lamplight, he can see every nuance of pleasure that crosses Arthur’s face when he strains and moans. His mouth is slick and hot on Eames’s and he does, eventually, get his voice back, whispering that he feels so good, needs it so much—already evident in the way he soaks up affection and physical contact like he’s ravenous for it, the way he can’t take his hands off Eames for more than a moment at a time.
When he finally, finally comes it’s all Eames can do to not just collapse on top of him and stay there. He thinks Arthur might not even mind it.
Even after Eames pulls out and tries to give him at least a semblance of personal space, Arthur just rolls over and holds him until Eames starts going on about needing to get cleaned up. In response, Arthur just reaches back to the night table, tosses a packet of moist towelettes at him, and then pulls him close to kiss and touch and entangle them all over again the instant Eames is done making use of them. With his loose hair and his lush mouth, he seems so innocuous when he cuddles in close and drowses, his arm slipping around Eames’s waist and his fingers petting through Eames’s hair like he can’t physically make himself stop touching him in some way.
If Eames could melt, he would.
“What were you before you became this?” Arthur asks him suddenly. Eames never thought Arthur would care much for talking, either during or after the act, but he’s gotten used to being wrong. “Growing up, I mean. No kid knows what mindheist is.”
“Classically trained cellist.”
“You fidget too much to play anything.”
“Guess I lied, then.” Arthur coasts a hand down his side and Eames blindly turns to kiss the joint of his jaw. “Nothing personal.” He’s not ready to tell anyone these things, not when he’s gone through so much trouble to keep them hidden.
Arthur just snorts. “Guess I’ll have to wait. Or dig a little deeper.” Eames doesn’t doubt that. He can’t forget that Arthur is as much of an amateur detective as Eames is himself.
“I thought Cobol would chew you up and spit you out,” Eames admits, since it seems only fair to divulge a little truth of his own. “You’re getting better and better at being delinquents.”
Arthur’s face isn’t smiling, but his voice is. “If I was going to trust anybody in this business, it would be you. Don’t make me regret it.”
And Eames hears himself saying, “I won’t,” and not having any motive but wanting Arthur to know it’s true.