Inception, Arthur/Eames, PG, 1960 words
In which Eames doesn't know how to cuddle, Arthur finds himself giving lessons, and arguments are won by cheating.
Written for this prompt: Arthur has to teach Eames (who isn't used to people wanting him to hang around after sex) how to cuddle. Bonus if Arthur gets all clinical about it and Eames is all, fuck it!, and smooshes his face into Arthur's belly like he's secretly always wanted to and that's that.
Eames is in an uncharacteristically foul mood all day, snapping at Ariadne and Yusuf and glowering every time Arthur snaps back at him. Arthur doesn't know what crawled into his breakfast and died, but it's not really important - what's important is that they're looking at another two or three weeks together on the job and he can't have Eames fouling up team dynamics this early on.
"We need to talk," he tells Eames curtly as Ariadne leaves for the night, slinging her bag over her shoulder and looking miffed. She doesn't hold grudges though, so Arthur expects her back tomorrow, needling Eames about whatever it is that has him so unpleasant today. Arthur is hoping tomorrow won't be a repeat of today; he is, as a matter of fact, staying behind to make sure it isn't.
Eames lifts a sardonic brow, crosses his arms. "I'm all ears."
Arthur closes his laptop and turns to face him. "What's with the attitude today, Eames?"
"Haven't a clue what you're talking about."
"Arthur." He's back to scowling, Arthur notes tiredly. He wishes briefly that Cobb were on the job, in his de facto leadership position, so it would fall on him and not Arthur to address Eames's belligerence. Arthur would rather handle files and outlines and guns; people are too unpredictable, too unfathomable. How Eames has gone from easy-going and casually annoying to tense and unbearable, for instance, is baffling.
"Just tell me what the problem is so we can deal with it," Arthur says, suppressing a sigh. He thinks he should sound more irritable than he is, but mostly he's tired. "I don't care if it's personal. You can't let it affect the job like this. Yusuf looked like he wanted to drug you and hit you."
There's a moment of silence between them that stretches long, as Eames stares back at Arthur blankly. Then his eyes drift to a spot over Arthur's head and his shoulders tense. "I went out last night."
"Brought someone back to the hotel. Pretty thing, he was. Good fuck." His words come slower and Arthur can sense the shift in the air, the sudden awkwardness. Eames, awkward? "He-- Thing is, apparently he wanted-- Afterwards, I mean, he got into his head to--" Eames says the word like he's never heard of it: "cuddle."
Arthur looks at him.
Eames uncrosses his arms, shoves him into his pockets, and sort of glares at Arthur. He looks a bit sullen, as if Arthur asked to cuddle after sex. As if Arthur would ever have sex with him, much less demand to cuddle afterwards, even if the sex would probably be good enough to wear him out, bone-deep ache and sweaty exhaustion--
Arthur clears his throat. "I take it you're not a fan of cuddling?" He's still not sure how this translated to Eames's foul mood.
Eames says, "Not exactly-- It's just, who even wants-- I've never met anyone who wanted to."
Of course not, with his sleeping habits. "Sleeping" being somewhat misleading a word for what he does - and what he does, evidently, does not involve cuddling afterwards. Arthur is nothing if not quick on the uptake. A point man has to be.
"Are you telling me, Mr. Eames," he says, trying to keep the corner of his lip from tugging up in sheer incredulity, "that you've never cuddled?"
"Darling, you--" Eames starts superciliously, but Arthur isn't swayed by his sudden lofty tone. His mouth quirks.
"No," he says. "You're telling me you have no idea how to cuddle, aren't you?"
Eames falls back into sullen silence, cheeks pink-tinged.
Arthur manfully does not laugh. Instead he smiles blandly and leans his hip against the table. "Well, Mr. Eames, the solution is simple. Either learn how to cuddle or pick up fucks who don't want to. We can't have another repeat of your behavior today."
Later, he will argue that his words in no way constituted an offer on his behalf to teach. Eames will usually win the argument by turning his face into the crook of Arthur's neck and snuffling a bit, smug smile pressed warm against Arthur's skin. Arthur really hates arguing with Eames.
"What are you doing-- stop that! Eames!" Arthur bats Eames's hand away from his thigh. "Cuddling does not entail groping. That was the first thing we covered."
Eames heaves a sigh and flops back onto the bed, flinging his arm out and to the side. "You, Arthur, are absolutely no fun at all." His eyes slide a dark look at Arthur from under his lashes. His lips, pink and wet, are pouting.
Arthur is unmoved. Beyond unmoved, he is disgusted, he tells himself. A grown man such as Eames should be above pouting.
"Cuddling is PG," Arthur says aloud, severely. "Hands above the waist."
Eames continues pouting. "Why on earth people like to cuddle, I haven't the faintest," he grumbles. "The good part's over, anyway. And," he adds with another look at Arthur, "I didn't even get that part."
Arthur carefully doesn't think about what "that part" entails. "I'm not another one of your fucks, Mr. Eames. I'm only here to teach you about cuddling." And how he'd gotten tricked into this, he still isn't sure. But now that he was laid out on Eames's hotel bed - for authenticity, Eames insisted - he might as well get this over with as quickly as possible.
"Cuddling is a form of intimacy," he says. "It's not about sexual urges, just about being close to someone you care about. It's about connecting with someone else - their body, their warmth - in a platonic way."
Something unreadable crosses Eames's face and then he is rolling onto his side to face Arthur.
"Shall we try again?" asks Arthur.
Obligingly, Eames slings an arm over Arthur's hip and tugs him closer. Arthur can feel him through all the layers of his clothes: the weight of his arm, the warmth of his hand through Arthur's slacks, the faint gust of his breath over Arthur's ear. He suppresses a shiver and tries to ignore the slow burn igniting low in his belly. Cuddling, he thinks firmly. Platonic. And it isn't even real; this is only a lesson. It's nothing more than free education.
"Better," he says, regulating his voice so he sounds normal, faintly approving. He allows himself to inch closer, giving in to the internal impulse to curl his body into Eames's. His head dips slightly against the pillow.
Eames is smiling, just a little, a stretch of his lips that Arthur doesn't see often. It's gentle, almost - not the cocky grin he usually sees or the sarcastic tilt when Eames is finding Arthur particularly overbearing. It looks sweet and easy and Arthur finds himself wanting to trace it with his fingers. He blinks and pulls his gaze away, flushing hot under his collar. The dangers of cuddling lessons are forgetting that they're not reality, only a facsimile. He might as well be in a dream.
Fighting the urge to grope for his totem, Arthur says, "The point of cuddling is just to touch in a non-sexual manner. Often in as many places as possible."
"Like this?" Eames murmurs, sliding Arthur even closer. Their chests are touching now, legs tangled together. Eames's breath is ghosting over his hair now, stirring flyaway strands. Arthur hopes Eames can't feel how fast his heart is beating.
"Y-yes." He clears his throat. "That's good."
"What about this?"
Eames's voice is low, practically a growl, as he noses against Arthur's ear. His hand has slipped from Arthur's hip to the small of his back, fingers spread wide and palm flat against the waistcoat, pressing lightly. Arthur's breath hitches.
Eames nudges his leg a little farther between Arthur's legs, strong thigh flexing under his slacks.
"I just hold you like this, yeah, love?"
Then there are teeth on Arthur's ear, and tongue flickering out against his skin. Arthur shoves Eames back as his dick jumps, arousal skidding along his skin like fire. "Eames," he protests, glaring hard. "I said PG. Non-sexual contact."
Eames is laughing, the bastard, and the wide smile is back. "In my book, darling, a little kissing is about as PG as it gets." He waves his hand at the murder Arthur is determinedly wishing him via his glare. "All right, all right. Don't be so tense. I'm only teasing. I just don't think all this cuddling business is very fun with all these clothes on." He looks hopefully at Arthur.
Arthur lets his glare speak for itself. As if he would take his clothes off and let Eames-- God, he shouldn't even let his mind go there. His cock is interested enough as it is.
"Fine," sighs Eames.
"No kissing," Arthur says firmly.
Eames winds his arms back around Arthur, who tentatively - and somewhat suspiciously - allows his arms to drape around Eames as well. It seems all right; Eames is keeping his hands above the waist and his mouth is nowhere near Arthur's skin. Arthur allows himself to relax incrementally.
Then: "What about a little licking, then?"
This time, Arthur kicks him in the shin for good measure. "That's it! I don't know why I bothered." He makes to get up, rolling over on the bed and quickly shoving a palm over his dick before he sits up, his back to Eames.
Eames yanks him back, hand closed around Arthur's wrist until Arthur sprawls onto his back, staring at the ceiling. Eames's face appears above him. "Wait," he says, pleading, "just a moment. I'll be good, I promise." He wriggles a moment and then there's a heavy warm weight against Arthur's belly and Eames is practically horizontal on the bed.
Arthur blinks at the ceiling.
"Is that your face on my stomach?"
"Shush, love, I'm cuddling."
Arthur blinks a bit more.
That is indeed Eames's face smushed against his belly, just above his belt. His arms are wrapped around Arthur and it's actually sort of uncomfortable that one is shoved under him, a constant pressure against his back. Eames's scruff tickles a bit where it prickles through the thin material of Arthur's dress shirt.
Arthur glances down; all he can really see is the top of Eames's unruly hair, mussed from rolling about in bed. His heart chooses then to turn over slowly, a gentle ache in his chest. Arthur can't even find it in himself to be horrified at his traitorous body. Eames - well, Eames always seems to throw him off his rhythm.
Eames's nose digs into his stomach as he turns his head and presses a kiss just above Arthur's hipbone.
"Think I'm getting a handle on this cuddling thing," he murmurs, a smile in his voice.
Arthur winds the fingers of his left hand through Eames's hair. "Yeah," he whispers.
Later, of course, Eames slides back up Arthur's body and presses kisses into the hollow of his throat and up his neck and under his jaw. And Arthur protests feebly, says cuddling doesn't work like this, but then Eames licks into his mouth and peels away his clothes and murmurs, laughter in his voice, "No, but sex works like this." And maybe it's a bit odd that they go from cuddling to sex instead of the other way around, but Arthur can't seem to find voice to complain. It's the first of many arguments Eames delights in winning by cheating outrageously, with use of his fingers and his tongue and the things he does with them.
(Arthur learns to win arguments, too, by cheating. Nothing gets Eames to shape up and follow orders like having sex - or cuddling - with Arthur withheld.)