"I hate you," Arthur says with full sincerity.
Eames smiles, rivulets of water dripping from his chin. "I love you, too," he says, wringing out the hem of his hideous, fraying olive green jacket. The water pools on Arthur's freshly Swiffered floorboards. "But do you mind if we put off the sex talk long enough for you to fetch me a towel?"
Arthur's scowl deepens.
"Please?" Eames adds.
Arthur does hate Eames.
He doesn't hate Eames in the way children loathe peas or the civilized world has a great distaste for famine and disorder. Arthur reviles Eames in the way all great men hate their weaknesses. Eames makes Arthur feel as though he dreamed he left the house naked except it turned out not to be a dream.
"I thought your countrymen prepared for rain wherever they went," Arthur says bitterly.
Eames brushes water from his jawline and smiles winningly. "Did you not notice the bit where I don't live in that country anymore?"
"Did you step in every puddle on the way over?" Arthur says irritably, heading for the linen closet to save his floorboards from further ruin. "I've seen drowned rats who were less wet."
"Are you saying you're concerned for the state of my health?" Eames voice echoes and bounces off of Arthur's high ceilings.
It only rains in Los Angeles twice a year, and both times people seem to act as though Noah's Ark will be sailing down Wilshire Boulevard at any minute. And then there's Eames, who apparently takes the occasion to catch up on any and all missed personal hygiene opportunities.
Arthur grabs his oldest, most decrepit towels. The ones that are so thin and worn with overuse it's like drying off with cotton balls. "I hope you catch a cold," he bitches. "I hope it's pneumonia and you get laryngitis so you will finally shut the fuck –"
Arthur's life-threatening epithets die off when he returns to his living room to find a pile of sopping wet clothes on the floor -- creating a puddle that's heading in the direction of his basket of freshly washed laundry -- and Eames wearing nothing more than several tattoos and partially dry briefs.
Partially dry, white briefs.
Which are rather wet and clingy in all the wrong places.
Arthur grits his teeth and throws the towels with as much hostility as he can muster.
He can muster quite a bit when it comes to Eames.
"Ow! Fucking hell!" Eames curses as one towel catches him directly across the face. "What did I do this time? I thought you'd be happy I wasn't dripping on the floor anymore."
Eames peels a white towel from his face. "I'm not naked?" he says, the smirk on his lips telegraphing that he heard Arthur loud and clear.
Eames is being deliberately difficult. Shocking.
"That's the problem?" Eames carries on. "That I'm not naked? Because I can be naked if that's what will make you happy. All you have to do is say so." Eames drops Arthur's towel into the sodden mess on the floor and hooks his thumbs into the waistband of his briefs.
Arthur is across the room in three strides. He grips Eames' hands firmly, his fingernails digging into the thin skin at Eames' wrists with great intent. "If you even attempt to take these off I will throw you out the front door by your ear, sell your wallet and keys to the most pissed off client I can find, and touch your totem."
"Touch my totem," Eames repeats. "You really are a cruel, sadistic man."
Eames' hair is plastered to his face and there are droplets of water on his bare shoulders.
Eames has freckles on his shoulders.
A muscle twitches in Arthur's jaw. Eames sighs dramatically. "Fine. I will keep my wet pants on to please you."
Arthur rolls his eyes. "You not being here would please me."
"You wound me deeply with your condescension. Besides, I brought you a present."
Arthur's hold loosens slightly. "A present."
"Yes," Eames says solemnly. "In my pants."
When Arthur cuffs him around the ear, it's well deserved. "Stop! Assault!" Eames protests, pulling free sharply. It's possible that Arthur's nails leave marks.
Arthur glowers. Eames frowns. He should not manage to pull off gorgeous, sullen and mischievous all at the same time. And while wet.
"You treat me horribly when I'm good; you treat me horribly when I'm bad. The one time I actually try to do something for you and I still can't win." Eames crouches down, retrieves a black matchbook and holds it out to Arthur. "I mean the American version of pants. I'm trying to speak your language, Arthur, have some mercy. God knows American English is beastly enough."
Arthur takes the matchbook with two fingers as though it might be toxic. On the cover is a woman in kabuki makeup advertising the Geisha Lounge. Arthur can feel Eames' eyes on him as he flips the lid and looks at wet matches and a slightly smudged phone number in the 818 area code, and an address in Laurel Canyon.
"It's the phone number and location of the mistress of Mrs. Chen," Eames says, his voice muffled by the towel he's now rubbing over his face. "I thought you might find it useful."
Arthur's been trying to find Mr. Chen's mistress for three weeks.
Turns out, he was looking for the wrong mistress.
Arthur licks his lips. "Thanks."
Eames' smile should not do that to Arthur's hormones. "Have I performed to your Olympian standards? Will you grace me with the pleasure of your favor?"
Arthur shakes his head; the chuckle escapes of its own accord.
"Fine," Eames sighs. "I'd settle for some dry clothes."
Arthur reaches down and grabs a few items from his laundry basket. "Here," he says, tossing them at Eames before heading for the roll-top desk in the laundry room that also functions as his office.
He pauses under the archway between the kitchen and the living room and turns back. "You know where everything else is. Don't make yourself at home; don't run up my phone bill with sex chat lines and I'm sleeping with a fully-loaded sidearm, so don't get any ideas."
"Does this mean I get to stay the night?"
"If I didn't think you'd catch cold just to spite me I'd kick you out right now."
Eames pauses in drying off under his arms. "You really do love me the best." He's practically radiant.
Arthur judiciously ignores him.
Eames is tiring and Arthur has a low tolerance. This is why he regroups in his office, watching episodes of Top Chef on his laptop until Eames stops banging around in his kitchen.
If Arthur hadn't already had dinner, he might be drawn out by whatever Eames is making, but he knows that's exactly what Eames is betting on. Eames' ability to make a four-course meal out of chicken, celery and stale potato chips is proof of the injustice inherent in the universe.
When Arthur finally surrenders to his body's need to go to bed, he finds Eames passed out on his sofa, hair everywhere and his ass doing obscene things to Arthur's sweatpants.
Arthur considers covering him with a blanket and then thinks better of it. Eames does not need encouragement.
In the morning, Eames is gone, Arthur's laundry is folded and there's a full breakfast on the counter covered with a plastic cover to keep it warm.
The bacon is perfect: greasy and crispy.
Sometimes Arthur doesn't hate Eames quite so much, which is obviously why he doesn't realize the grave error he's made until he shows up at their new warehouse in the City of Industry.
Because traffic on the 5 generally puts Arthur in danger of choking someone out, he tends to arrive before 7 a.m. or after 10 a.m. This morning he arrives closer to 10:30. He walks into the warehouse to find Yusuf and Ariadne leaning over one of the drafting tables and discussing something with great relish and, in Yusuf's case, wildly gesticulating arms.
They both look up when Arthur walks in and the grin on Yusuf's face is enough to give Arthur pause. "What?"
Yusuf just applauds.
Ariadne elbows him sharply; this does not deter Yusuf in the slightest. "I was wondering how long it would take," Yusuf says after he stops clapping.
Arthur looks around. He's clearly come in in the middle of the conversation. "How long what would take?" he asks, removing his suit jacket and adjusting his waistcoat. His suspenders are bothering him too. There's something digging into his shoulder.
"I must say as far as expressions of devotion go it is rather blatant. I did not think you were so blatant, but he is, so I suppose it works out."
Arthur pauses in unbuttoning his waistcoat. He has to fix his suspenders now. "Expressions of devotion," he says, adopting Yusuf's phrasing.
"Yes," Yusuf is gleeful. Yusuf only gets gleeful on Sunset strip after 11 p.m. or when fresh shipments come in from Saito's Osaka office.
"I didn't think you had it in you either," Ariadne admits. "I knew he had it in him, but –" she pauses. "Actually it makes sense. On the occasions that I don't want to sedate him with an elephant tranquilizer or put him in a ball gag, he's pretty sweet and endearing."
There's only one person that could make anyone say something like this.
Arthur begins re-buttoning his waistcoat. "Eames," he says curtly. "You're talking about Eames."
"Well, I am certainly not talking about Cobb," Yusuf says. "I do not think Ariad-- ouch!"
Yusuf gives Ariadne a wounded look to go with the wound she's most definitely just inflicted on him.
Getting slapped with a ruler was never Arthur's favorite part of Catholic school.
"Whatever you were going to say: don't," Ariadne warns, a two-foot long architectural ruler quivering in her hand.
"I was not going to say anything about you and Cobb," Yusuf agrees. "And certainly nothing about the date you had last week at Katsu-ya: did you try the blowfish? I have been wanting to –"
Yusuf is probably the only one who's surprised when Ariadne whacks him again. "Ow!"
Arthur just shakes his head.
"Cease and desist at once," Yusuf says, wrangling the ruler away from Ariadne. "We are not talking about you and Cobb; we are talking about Arthur and Eames, whom we are very happy for."
It's amazing how Ariadne can go from angry and violent to calm and smiling in a heartbeat. She reminds Arthur of Mal. Arthur would say he needs to keep an eye on her, but since she's finished the semester in Paris and is spending the summer in Los Angeles, that part is already taken care of.
"There is nothing to be happy for," Arthur corrects.
"Of course there is something to be happy for," Yusuf says. "You two are happy. He is happy now that you have stopped making him miserable and you are happy now that you are not repressing your feelings for him. You are not very happy when you are repressed."
"I am not repressed." Arthur protests on principle.
Ariadne makes a derisory noise. "You are so repressed."
"I am not!"
Yusuf and Ariadne share a look. "If you say so," Yusuf says.
"He went with Cobb to do surveillance on Mrs. Chen."
Once again Arthur begins unbuttoning his vest to adjust his suspenders. If he's going to kick Eames' ass, he wants to feel composed when he does it.
Arthur hears Eames long before he sees him.
Everything about Eames is loud: his personality, his clothes, his interactions with other people. It's only fitting that his voice be loud, too.
In fact, when the warehouse door rolls up on its chain, Arthur jumps up so fast his chair falls over.
Eames is pulling the door down behind the white Econo van when Arthur sees him; his voice carrying as he presumably recounts some story to Cobb. By the time Cobb cuts the engine, however, Arthur has Eames pressed against the side of the van.
"What did you tell Ariadne and Yusuf?" Arthur demands.
"Good morning to you, too," Eames says, eyes hidden behind the most hideous pair of Elvis shades Arthur's ever had the misfortune to see.
"Don't start with me," Arthur warns.
Eames tugs one hand free to push his sunglasses on top of his head. "Darling, I can't get started because I don't even know where to start. What have I done now?"
"What have you done?" Arthur parrots. "What have you done?"
And then he pauses. He doesn't exactly know what Eames has done, just that Ariadne and Yusuf think that something is happening.
"Arthur, I know you're happy to see us," Cobb interrupts, "but it's not as though I wasn't going to bring him back to you. Do you two need a room?"
Arthur glowers at Cobb across the hood of the van. "That's not even funny."
"I don't know." Cobb smiles. "I think you two are kind of cute together. Strange, but cute."
"We are not cute together," Arthur snaps.
"Yes, you are," Yusuf's voice calls from somewhere Arthur can't see.
"What he said," Ariadne echoes.
"Do I get any say in this?" Eames asks.
Arthur pokes at him sharply. "What did you say to these people?" he demands. "Why do they think we're... you know."
Eames' left eyebrow arches. "Why do they think we're what?"
"I hate you," Arthur says flatly.
"I know you do," Eames says. "And I love you, too."
"I do not love you!"
"Of course you don't love me," Eames says tolerantly.
"Yes, definitely strange," Cobb interjects.
Arthur tosses a truly offended look at Cobb. He can't believe he's abandoning Arthur in his time of need. This is why it takes Arthur a minute to realize Eames has freed himself from Arthur's hold and is now unbuttoning Arthur's waistcoat.
Arthur bats his hands away. "What the hell are you doing?"
"You're uneven," Eames points out.
"I am not uneven," Arthur protests. And then he looks down at his waistcoat. Which is totally uneven. His eyes get caught on their way back up by what Eames is wearing: dirty sneakers, ratty jeans, a generous sliver of navel where his jeans and shirt aren't meeting, and a black t-shirt that Arthur knows very well.
"Where did you get that?" Arthur says, pointing at the massive red die covering Eames chest.
"You gave it to me."
Arthur looks at the enormous white bubble next to the die that says, "Kiss me, I'm loaded."
"I did not give this to you."
"Yes, you did. Last night, when I was naked in your living room."
"And on that note I'm going to go somewhere with less information," Cobb announces, making a hasty retreat.
Arthur hates everyone. "He wasn't naked!" he calls after Cobb.
"Who was naked?" Yusuf answers back.
"He was wearing wet underwear!"
"Who's wearing wet underwear?" Ariadne sounds far too curious.
"Take that off right now," Arthur demands.
Eames licks his lips. "As you wish."
Arthur's graced with an eyeful of pink nipples and black ink before he realizes what he said. "Stop! Put it back on."
Eames lowers the shirt to just above his navel.
His abdominals are ridiculous.
How is this Arthur's life?
"We're not together," Arthur announces to the room at large. "It's just a shirt."
There's no response.
"Oh, so now no one has anything to say," he mutters in disgust.
"I know that," Eames speaks up, "but no one believed me."
"I get the feeling you didn't try particularly hard to dissuade them."
Eames shrugs. He's too built for Arthur's shirt; it's all stretched out. He's ruining it. "People believe what they want to believe. Plus, you are known for your totem. I can see how people might think you branding me with your paintbrush might mean something more."
"I didn't brand you."
Eames tugs at the collar of the shirt, exposing collarbone and ink and a smattering of chest hair. It's possible some cotton rips. "Are you sure?" he says. "Have you investigated for yourself? I know how hands-on you are."
Arthur inhales deeply and counts to ten. At two he can smell apple-scented shampoo; at five it's the WD-40 Ariadne applied to the squeaky wheels on the van's rolling access door; at seven he catches a whiff of those chocolate digestives Eames always seems to carry with him.
Eames is studying him far too closely for him to make it to ten. "Stop staring," Arthur orders.
Eames makes a noise of mock aggravation. "I'm sorry that you're so fit that I can't keep myself from staring, but your genetics are not my fault. You might want to have a chat with your parents."
"Leave my parents out of this."
"Then who shall we bring into it?"
"You're trying my patience."
"More's the pity; I'd rather try something else."
Arthur inhales deeply. He can do this. Without resorting to homicide. "Did you tell them we were fucking?"
"Did you tell them we weren't fucking?"
"That word really does sound obscene on your tongue. Could you say it again?"
"I am not responsible for what they may have inferred," Eames says.
Right. That's enough.
Arthur pins Eames against the side of the van again with his hips and a hand over Eames mouth. "You don't talk; you do what you're told." Eames blinks back at him. "You clear up whatever the fuck is wrong here that has them happy about our gay marriage; you wash my shirt and bring it back to me; and tomorrow this never happened. Are we clear?"
If Arthur pretends he's not hard then he can pretend he can't feel Eames' erection pressing against his hip either. He really shouldn't shift his hips like that: it's blatantly sexual and promises all sorts of things he's not offering. Unless he is offering them.
He may need to reassess the situation.
Eames makes a growling sound. Arthur smiles thinly. "Fix this and I won't be forced to castrate you in your sleep. Deal?"
Arthur ruts against Eames once, twice.
Eames makes a frustrated noise in the palm of Arthur's hand.
"Deal?" Arthur repeats.
Eames nods vehemently.
Arthur steps back and straightens his still-crooked waistcoat. Eames is still plastered to the van, his erection straining his jeans, the shirt rumpled and hitched around his stomach and his cheeks flushed.
If Arthur were a weak man this could be a problem. Instead he adjusts his tie. "Tell Cobb I'm working from home the rest of the day," he says, turning sharply on his heel and ducking around an errant filing cabinet to where Yusuf and Ariadne are hiding.
"Worst eavesdroppers ever," he says pointedly.
When Arthur says he's working from home, apparently what he means is that he's going to go home, jack off in the guest bathroom still fully dressed and get come on the edge of his John Lobb loafers and the edge of the bath mat. Apparently his bedroom -– or bathroom –- is too far away from the front door when he's suffering from an Eames-induced erection.
After this he takes a shower, puts on some of the clothes Eames folded for him and jacks off again while watching some crappy movie on BBC America because all the men sound like Eames.
He doesn't even realize he's fallen asleep until he wakes up feeling irritated and hopelessly frustrated.
It's all the emotional toil of dealing with Eames when he's not even around.
This is not normally how Arthur's days are spent. In fact, he can safely say that if this day never happens again it'll be the best thing that ever happens to him.
And then the door bell goes off.
Judging by the persistent buzzing it may not be the first time this has happened.
Arthur collects himself, straightens his clothes and answers the door.
"What now?" he says by way of greeting. Eames is wearing a black-and-white diamond-patterned shirt. He looks like he belongs on the golf course or in a rap video with Eminem. "What did the world do to you that you thought to insult it with this shirt?"
Eames rubs his shirt-front. "It's my lucky shirt," he protests.
"If you're getting lucky in that, I can only assume the person is blind."
"I meant gambling, but the fact that you automatically assumed I was referring to sex is intriguing. When did you begin associating me with sex so often?"
Arthur's cock thinks this is a rather interesting topic of discussion, too.
Arthur shifts his hips, attempting to angle his body behind the door. "Why are you here?"
Eames' mouth quirks at the corner. "I'm just following orders," he says, thrusting a plastic bag from Albertsons at Arthur.
"Did I tell you to bring me groceries?" Eames' mouth does that thing again. It's distracting. "And stop doing that thing with your mouth."
Arthur has to get a grip. "Eames, focus."
"I am quite focused, I assure you. I have disabused everyone of whatever they thought; I have washed your shirt and freed it of any imaginary diseases I might be carrying; and now I am returning it to you, so I may be summarily patted on the head and dismissed."
Arthur steps forward, pats Eames on the head and then takes the bag he brought.
Eames' hair is softer than it looks.
Eames just shakes his head and chuckles. "Are you happy now?"
"Ecstatic," Arthur says.
"And I'm dismissed?"
"You are dismissed."
"Do I get a kiss before I go?"
Arthur opens his mouth, and then he closes it again. Eames is a wordsmith; they could banter all day. Decisive action seems to be the proper way to deal with Eames.
To that end, Arthur drops the bag just inside the door before he reaches out and loops a finger through the belt loop of Eames' gray trousers. Eames comes when he's tugged, his eyes growing wider with every step until they're chest to chest.
When Arthur can feel Eames' body heat permeating his clothes, he leans in and whispers into Eames right ear, "No. No kiss for you."
When Eames says, "I hate you," he sounds tense.
Arthur laughs against the shell of his ear. "Now you're getting it."
Eames seems rather stressed as Arthur firmly sees him off, but that's not Arthur's problem to deal with.
Once Eames is gone, Arthur tosses the bag on the sofa and goes into the kitchen to forage for dinner. There's leftover Italian from Il Sole, leftover Asian-fusion from Asia de Cuba and leftover Vietnamese from Greengrass. He really is going to have to learn how to cook eventually. But today is not eventually, so he reheats the Vietnamese and grabs two Kronenbergs from the refrigerator and sits down to watch an airing of Inside Man on AMC.
As far as slick capers go, it's definitely one of the better films that's come out. It makes Arthur want to rob a bank just for practice. Not that Cobb would ever approve of such a job, but maybe Saito would let them practice on one of the banks he owns. Not that Arthur knows if Saito owns a bank, but a man who buys airlines and hotels just to make life more tolerable certainly wouldn't think anything of buying his own bank.
After Arthur finishes eating, he turns off the TV and turns on his iPod docking stereo. He puts away the laundry Eames folded yesterday –- which, surprisingly, is actually folded rather perfectly -- cleans up his dishes and starts the dishwasher.
He hums along with "Life on Mars" as he looks through the papers he meant to revise this afternoon. He'll do it tomorrow. Instead he retrieves a white Albertsons bag from the sofa and extracts his shirt.
The white print on the back of the shirt suggests that he "Blow on them, too. That seems to help."
The shirt is profoundly obvious, sexually overt and completely made for someone like Eames.
All things considered, this should be Eames' favorite shirt -– except it belongs to Arthur. And Eames has erased all traces that he ever wore it. The shirt doesn't smell like Eames' soap or his aftershave or his favorite tea (Assam) and chocolate cookies. It smells like Tide and Downy and Bounce and every possible clean-smelling scent you could find in the laundry aisle at Target.
Arthur inhales over and over again to check, until he stops because clearly this is becoming an "issue."
"Memes, you need to keep an eye on the guy on your right," Yusuf says to Ariadne, pointing to a body lying prone on the floor.
"Thanks, Seams," she replies, swinging her scepter –- topped with a red heart -– up onto her shoulder as she strides across the marble floor of the bank.
"Nobody likes a hero," she says right before she clubs a young man with blond hair in the head.
"Lewis Carroll would have been impressed," Cobb calls from the teller's window where he's constructing a house made of cards. All the cards are the same suit: the Queen of Clubs. And all the queens have the same face: Mal's.
"Teams, how many times do we have to tell you to focus?" Ariadne replies.
"Don't rush greatness," Cobb says.
"Tell me where to find this greatness and I will not rush him," Yusuf promises.
Arthur listens to the exchange, occasionally nudging a restless hostage in the ribs with the toe of his black Chuck Taylors. He hasn't worn Chuck Taylors ever in his life, but this is work.
In the beginning, the Chen job involved finding the location of a safe-deposit box which holds several antiques that date back to the time of the First Emperor.
Mr. Chen married his wife under the assumption that the contents of this box would become theirs when they married. Mrs. Chen was not that stupid. Ergo, Mr. Chen is taking matters in his own hands. He probably wouldn't be doing this if he hadn't severely indebted his exporting business to the Bank of Shanghai, but Arthur and the team are not paid for their financial advice; they're paid to extract data for the right price.
Or until the right price changes.
Last week they were working for Mr. Chen. Today, they're working for Mrs. Chen.
Now, instead of liberating priceless artifacts, they're liberating the contents of Box #529 from the First Manhattan Trust at 28 Exchange Place.
Apparently the entire foundation of Mr. Chen's now-crumbling empire can be found in this box.
So far the job is going beautifully: the hostages are too shit-scared by Ariadne's scepter-wielding skills to fight. And the fact that the entire team is wearing balaclavas and copies of Arthur's black t-shirt with the red die that says "Kiss me, I'm loaded" ensures that no one will be able to tell them apart from the hostages.
At least this is what happens once all the hostages are similarly attired in t-shirts and balaclavas and faded jeans with worn patches in the back right pocket where they wear their wallets. Even the women.
That was Eames' idea.
He keeps his wallet in his right back pocket.
Ariadne whacks another hostage with her scepter. She's eerily like the Queen of Hearts from Disney's Alice in Wonderland.
"Do we need to talk about your hidden violent streak?" Arthur says.
"Oh, like you're one to talk, Creams," she retorts.
"Why the hell did I get to be called 'Creams' on this job?"
"Uh, I think the state of your underwear lately makes that self-explanatory."
Arthur can feel himself turning crimson. He has to stop himself from yanking off his balaclava. This is a job. He's working. "That was totally uncalled for."
"Creams, I need you!"
Ariadne smirks. "Eames is calling you."
"Why is everything a variation of Eames' name? Creams. Seams. Memes. What's next -- Dreams?"
"I don't know, why don't you tell us? You're the one who thought this up."
"Oh, sure," Arthur retorts. "Blame me. He gets to keep his–"
"Creams!" Yusuf and Ariadne cut him off sharply.
Fuck, they're working. Right.
"Creams, I need you!"
Arthur follows the echo of Eames' voice down a flight of stairs. On his right is a suite of offices and on his left is an open bank vault with huge stacks of money piled on top of each other.
Oh god, all that money.
"Where the fuck are you?" Arthur mutters.
"I'm right here."
Arthur whirls around and Eames is indeed right there. Sans balaclava and jeans, but still wearing Arthur's shirt. And a pair of bright white briefs, which are not hiding anything.
Arthur swallows. "You're wearing my shirt again."
Eames licks his lips. "You finally noticed."
"I've always noticed."
"No, you haven't."
"Yes, I have."
"I quoted The Princess Bride to you and you didn't notice. You, sir, are an idiot."
Arthur scowls. "Shut up," he says, right before he grabs the front of Eames' shirt and kisses him fiercely. Eames' arms wrap around him, tighter than a vice grip. Eames doesn't kiss him back, he bites. Sharp nips at Arthur's lips and his jaw and his neck until Arthur's entire face is hot and stinging.
Eames' stubble rubs against Arthur's already over-sensitized skin and every part of Arthur catches on fire.
Arthur's hands grip Eames' ass, his fingers curling under the leg holes of Eames' briefs and holding Eames close. Arthur's fingers brush against the cleft of Eames' ass as he rubs himself off against Arthur's thigh and pants in his ear. "I fucking told you so."
"Shut up," Arthur repeats over and over.
Right until his alarm clock goes off.
Arthur wakes up cocooned in his duvet. He's sweaty and his boxer-briefs are sticky and cool where he's come. The freshly-washed black shirt he wore to bed is tangled around his chest. He blindly gropes for his alarm clock... which isn't going off. It's 8:15 in the morning. But it's also Saturday.
It takes him a moment to realize it's the door buzzer.
Arthur extracts himself, shoving most of the bed clothes onto the floor. "I'm coming, I'm coming," he mutters.
He feels utterly vile. And his shirt seems far too big for some reason.
It's only after he's opened the door that he realizes the colossal mistake he's made. Eames whistles low. "To what do I owe the unexpected pleasure?"
Arthur's protective instincts can't figure out if he should shoot Eames, flee, slam the door in Eames face or melt into the floor like an extra from The Wizard of Oz.
Ideally, he'd like some version of all four.
"You are not here," Arthur announces resolutely.
Eames looks down at the bags in his hand -- there's a large paper bag from Carl's Jr. and a smaller bag that says CVS -- then back up at Arthur. "Are you sure about that?"
"No," Arthur turns around and goes back to his bedroom. His die is sitting on the nightstand next to the mobile phone he never uses. He picks up his totem and weighs it in his hand. This is not promising.
He tumbles it onto the unmade bed anyway.
"If this were a dream, you would've answered the door naked," Eames says. He's leaning indolently against the door frame of Arthur's bedroom.
"If this were a dream, you would be naked and screaming my name on a pile of hundred-dollar bills," Arthur corrects.
He feels outrageously victorious when Eames drops his bags on the floor.
"Sorry," Eames says. "Could you repeat that for those of us who misheard the first time around?"
"I never repeat myself."
Arthur pauses. That line's from Inside Man. First the dream and now this.
He needs to start watching less scintillating fare before bed. The Weather Channel could be a good start.
Arthur picks up his die from the bed. He's not dreaming. Maybe lightning will strike him and it won't matter. He'll just ignore the fact that the sun is streaming through the windows and there's not a cloud in the smog-ridden Los Angeles sky.
He sighs, places the die back on the nightstand and strips off his defiled shirt. Strictly speaking it's his underwear that's defiled, not the shirt, but he's not stripping for Eames. At least not right now. That's just asking for trouble.
Arthur climbs back into bed and pulls up the wrinkled flat sheet. The duvet it still on the floor.
"What are you doing?" Eames says, picking up the discarded shirt before sitting down on the bed next to him.
"Apparently I fucked you during a bank robbery and came in my underwear because of that shirt in your hand." Arthur announces. "I'm waiting for the kick because this has got to be a nightmare."
Eames considers the shirt in his hand and then he looks back at Arthur. "Are you drawn to the shirt or to me?"
"Do not analyze me."
"Well, I think it's a fair question, don't you?"
"Since when do you care about 'fair questions'?"
"Since we had sex in your dream and you told me about it."
"Since when do you care about facts?"
"Try not to change the subject, Arthur, or I'll think you're suffering from a bout of avoidance."
Arthur can feel his jaw clenching. "I hate you."
"Of course you do," Eames says, fishing both a poker chip and a silver watch on a chain out of his pockets. He consults the watch and then tumbles the chip between his fingers. The lines on his forehead deepen with each pass of the poker chip.
Eventually Eames slips both items back into his pocket and looks at Arthur, his mouth doing that thing it does at the corners. "You came wearing my shirt?" he presses.
"No, that's my shirt."
"Ah, no, it's not," Eames says. "That's why I stopped by this morning. I bought myself one of those shirts down at a vintage shop on Melrose and I must've swapped them somehow. That's your shirt," Eames points to the CVS bag on the floor by the door. "And this one's mine."
Arthur closes his eyes and waits for the kick.
And waits some more.
Finally the bed creaks and the mattress wobbles. Arthur opens his eyes hoping for an earthquake, but it's only Eames stretching out next to him on the bed.
"Does this happen to you often?" Eames asks.
"Which part of it?"
"Any part of it."
"No, I do not dream about fucking you on piles of money every day."
"Shame that. And the bit about you fancying me wearing your clothes?"
"That didn't happen. You made it up."
"Of course I did. Where'd you get it -- the shirt?"
"It was a gift from Mal."
Eames shifts next to him. "Is this something I should be concerned about, your repressed feelings for me causing you to lose the plot?"
"My feelings for you aren't repressed," Arthur says.
Eames laughs softly. "Of course not."
Arthur turns his head to the side and studies Eames' profile: the stubble, the perfect nose, the wrinkled forehead, the full lips. He looks between their bodies and picks up Eames' right hand.
"I'm not repressed," he says, linking their fingers together. "In fact, we're going to sit here and you're going to be quiet while I try to accept the fact that I apparently want to defile you in ways that would require a new gay edition of the Kama Sutra."
"Tell me more about this perverse defilement."
"Quiet," Arthur orders, using their conjoined hands to push himself to his knees. When Arthur straddles Eames' hips, Eames' eyes light up like Paris at night.
"As I was saying," Arthur carries on, his thumb rubbing the back of Eames' hand. "In five minutes I will have accepted this, or at least pretended to. And then I'm going to go take a shower while you warm up the food you brought."
"But food is so unnecessary," Eames says, shifting his hips suggestively. "We could just stay here."
Arthur replies by rote. "No, we couldn't."
"Have I mentioned how cruel you are?"
"Not today, no."
"Why should we not just stay here?"
"Because I need a shower and I'm not that easy. I require food first."
"If I feed you, then do you promise to defile me in glorious technicolor?"
"And then maybe I'll kiss you."
"A kiss? One? Is that it?"
"Maybe more than one."
"Would you say more than two?"
"Possibly," Eames repeats.
"Probably," Arthur corrects.
"And will this lead to filthy sex on stacks of hundred-dollar bills?"
"Possibly." A beat. "Probably."
Eames squeezes his hand. "And will you go into the office and tell everyone that I am, in fact, your man?"
Arthur just raises an eyebrow. "I've lost my grip, but I'm not insane."
"Does that mean yes?"
"That means one thing at a time."
"Sex first, and then sanity?" Eames' tone is all unflagging optimism.
Arthur shrugs. "I've heard worse ideas."
This story would never have been possible without andrealyn who reminded me of the importance of wet!Eames and it wouldn't exist at all without behindthec, who was all "Hey, so, there's this shirt. Somebody should write about it."
Repeat beta service by the most awesome maurheti who doesn't mind the melodrama that accompanies my, "What the fuck are they doing?" every 500 words. Special picking by lazlet, who will never be superfluous.
ETA: Now with art by johanirae and art (2nd down) by itomaki_chan