Comfort and Joy (or, Five Times Arthur & Eames Cuddled and One Time They Didn't)
Inception, Arthur/Eames, R, 3215 words
The first five times don't count, because Arthur says so, and after that he's sort of lost count.
Eames may call Arthur a stick-in-the-mud with no imagination but (Eames is a jerk and anyway) that doesn't mean Arthur doesn't know how to balance work and play. When you're as high-profile in the mindcrime world as Arthur is, you have to learn how to lie low between jobs and not attract the wrong sort of attention. Arthur has long stretches where he isn't poring over research and drafting spreadsheets or whatever other unimaginative but necessary things Eames likes to handwave as unimportant. (And even though Eames is the type to work in the moment, plotting on the fly, adapting as necessary - even Eames appreciates the thoroughness of the work Arthur does, which Arthur knows, which really just makes Eames's teasing about Arthur's meticulousness that much more aggravating. But Eames is a jerk, we've already established that.)
So Arthur knows how to relax when necessary. Sometimes he goes out and has a drink to unwind, shirtsleeves rolled up, tie loosened. (Sometimes he doesn't even wear a tie, when he stays in and reads a good book - he does enjoy Donald Barthelme - but Eames never sees him like this, so maybe it doesn't count.) The point right is: Arthur is not opposed to a drink or two. He's usually alone because chatting up strangers is not entirely advisable when you're an internationally wanted criminal, although wanted for a crime most of the world doesn't even know exists. Still, there is much to be said for the exercise of caution. But tonight Arthur is not alone because they just wrapped up a job - simple, straightforward, no frills - and Eames has tagged after Arthur to the pub.
"Can't let a man drink alone," he says, feigning appall though both he and Arthur know he's lying. They both drink alone frequently. But Arthur says nothing because he's tired and a nice glass of whiskey sounds infinitely preferable to wasting his breath arguing with Eames.
The thing about Arthur is that he doesn't indulge in excess and that is probably why Eames teases him about being a stick-in-the-mud. Arthur drinks, but never to the point of being ill (at least, not anymore, but you can't really hold anything he did in his early twenties against him, he maintains, because everyone was young and stupid then). Eames, though - Eames always likes to interrupt Arthur's thought processes with a quip or disturb his professionalism with a drawled "darling". It makes a sick sort of sense that he would continue the trend by throwing a wrench into Arthur's tried and true routine.
They get drunk.
Arthur has only the haziest of recollections on how they return to his hotel room (a long-suffering cabbie is involved, hopefully well-tipped), but his memory is not so kind as to be vague when it comes to what happens after.
There is cuddling. There is Eames pressing his face into Arthur's neck, breath gusting over Arthur's collarbone, sticky hot. There is a heavy thigh thrown over his and, worse, there is Arthur's arms draped over Eames and possibly, very possibly, his fingers carding through Eames's mussed hair.
So they get drunk and they cuddle. But, whatever, it's okay because you can't be held responsible for what you do when you get drunk, Arthur reasons. Even though Eames will be sure to point out the next morning that lowering your inhibitions only means you are doing something you wanted to but was afraid of doing while sober. Arthur will argue that being drunk is not like dreaming, and then they will get into a lengthy discussion about the subconscious while using big words and creative gesturing.
Somewhere in the middle, Eames will suggest lunch and they will continue the discussion cum argument over food at a café. Arthur will conclude the conversation feeling like he's won (if you can win a conversation), setting his fork down with a sense of satisfaction. But Eames will look suspiciously smug despite Arthur's obviously superior rhetoric and Arthur will have no idea it's because he was conned out onto a lunch date (because Eames paid while Arthur was busy making his winning point, though he may have scrawled someone else's signature on the bill).
But that's tomorrow. Tonight, Arthur is content to let his impaired judgment justify the way he's got a hand cradled against the back of Eames's skull.
"Drink your soup, darling. There's a good patient."
"Fuck you," says Arthur and takes the soup anyway.
"Not while you're ill, Arthur. You're still weak and recovering. We can renegotiate when you're well."
Arthur would throw the soup in Eames's face except, well, it's delicious and hot and doing wonders for the scratchiness of his throat and grumblings of his stomach. The soup is too good to waste on Eames, though Arthur does pause long enough between mouthfuls to say, "Your bedside manner is terrible. Feel free to leave." He means it to be flat or pointed, either works to convey his displeasure, but it's difficult to be either when your mouth is full of savory chicken and noodles and broth.
Arthur is sick and he hates it, holed up in his apartment in New York in the summer, where everything is sweltering hot and the smell of city is not exactly keeping Arthur's queasy stomach happy. Eames is here because Eames is a jerk.
"Honestly, you're such an unappreciative patient." Eames leans over the bed, smirking, and fluffs Arthur's pillow. Arthur clutches his soup bowl and glares at him and wishes, not for the first time, that Eames hadn't invaded his apartment two days ago. (It feels like so much longer and Arthur thinks he deserves a medal for being this miserable and not having shot anyone yet.)
They're in between jobs and Eames needs to lie low from the Czech authorities for a while after a heist that took place in the real world. ("Can't be getting out of practice," he explains to Arthur, who reluctantly acknowledges the logic in keeping one's skills - illegal though they might be - honed, though he still doesn't understand why Eames feels the need to invade Arthur's place while trying to stay under the radar, skeptical as he is of Eames's merry "It's the last place they'd think to look, darling, as surely everyone knows how you barely tolerate me." Arthur doubts Eames's logic is sound unless, and Arthur is horrified that this might be a real possibility, Eames has actually recklessly made known his acquaintance with Arthur to the Czech authorities, antagonistic relationship or otherwise. Arthur would prefer to remain unknown to the higher powers in most governments, thank you.)
Arthur is sick with the summer flu, which is about a billion times worse than a winter flu, and he is miserable and viciously glad to spread the misery around. If he were honest with himself, and he makes only an occasional practice of that, he would probably have to admit that it's nice to have Eames around if only to snap and grumble at him. Eames likes to argue back, of course he does, and when Arthur protests that it's unfair to be unkind to an invalid, Eames only laughs.
"You, pet, are anything but."
Arthur is not quite sure what to make of that and whether it was intended as a compliment or barb. He squints blearily at Eames instead and demands another cup of tea. "And don't call me 'pet'," he remembers to shout after Eames's back.
"Sure thing, babe."
(In retrospect, there may be worse things to be called than 'pet'. Included on that list are 'babe', 'heart of my hearts', 'dearest heart', 'kitten', 'precious', and 'sweetest'. Arthur grudgingly allows 'darling' after the first day and a half and tries to ignore the delight on Eames's face when he realizes.)
Two days into this arrangement, Eames climbs into Arthur's bed at night and determinedly wraps around him, cuddling. Arthur yells about hygiene and Eames argues that the contagious period has already passed anyway and cuddles more determinedly. He is impossible to get rid of, and Arthur is more or less forced to give in, especially when the extent of damage he can do to Eames even while weakened would probably incapcitate him for life, and Arthur can't justify destroying his (rather lucrative) career. So Arthur blames his fevered state for the enjoyment he gets out of the cuddling, as he relaxes against a heat source that warms his chills and slides cool cloths over his forehead when he's sweating.
It's like something out of a bad movie or cheesy porno or horrible romance novel. It's a situation Arthur is more than familiar with in a theoretical manner, but he never expected to be trapped in a living example of it.
He stares at the tent, pitched tremulously on hard ground and weighed down random objects salvaged from the helicopter. He stares at the rapidly sinking sun and tries very hard to feel his nose or his toes, but it is frigid.
There is nothing to it. They will have to share body heat, tucked between two sleeping bags zipped together. When you're trapped in the Yukon with a smoking helicopter and scant supplies, you do what you have to in order to survive the night and make it until help arrives the next morning. Arthur is nothing if not practical and that may or may not explain why he can't quite look Eames in the eyes. He may have been somewhat out of his mind the last two times he shared a bed with Eames, but that does not mean he doesn't remember.
Eames, however, does not look like he's reflecting on time spent curled up next to Arthur's body while their breathing synchronized and they drifted into slumber. He looks, actually, rather annoyed.
"I'm never taking another job with you," Eames tells him waspishly as he stares down at his fingers, stripped from his heavy gloves as he inspects them for frostbite. "Also, I think my balls have crawled back into my body. Now don't be a prick, Arthur, and strip off already. If I'm dead in the morning, I'm blaming you. I'll haunt you until you die."
In the end, it's probably the horrifying idea of a ghost more obnoxious than Eames could ever be in real life (he would be able to follow Arthur anywhere, and that's something Eames thankfully has not yet managed in reality) that spurs Arthur to slide naked into the sleeping bag and allow Eames to curl up around him. Well, that and logic. The tent is flimsy and the winds are bitter and Arthur would really prefer not to die either.
He valiantly does not think of Eames's other statement pertaining to certain body parts. Logically, it would be illogical, when sharing such proximity, and also unprofessional. Arthur stares up at the tent in the dark for a long time.
The job isn't terrible, but it runs into more difficulties than Arthur ordinarily prefers. On a scale of one to ten, one being the Nolan job and ten being, well, inception, this job rates an eight. The intricacies of extraction were compounded by the fact that of the team (Arthur, Eames, architect Santos, and chemist van Patten), only Arthur can manage any Korean, and his skills are pared down to necessities. It makes navigating through the city harder, because four foreigners do not exactly blend in. Thankfully, the mark is capable of English in his dreams. Unfortunately, he is also militarized.
Arthur's research alerted the team to this fact (militarization is a detail he triple-checks nowadays; don't look at him like that, he's only being thorough), but that doesn't mean it's any more fun ducking bullets and avoiding hostile projections. They come out battered and bruised, exhausted mentally if not physically. It's no surprise that when they go their separate ways - "separate" here meaning that Arthur and Eames leave together, while Santos and van Patten disappear on their own paths, because Arthur and Eames more or less work as a team now; there's really nothing to it except that they complement each other's styles, they know what to expect from each other, and honestly, Arthur trusts Eames and has done so for probably far longer than their quasi-partnership struck up - Eames is yawning and slouching in his seat. They're in a cab heading across the city towards the airport that will take them out of Busan; ocean and skyscrapers fade fast behind them on the road and Eames's head tilts slowly to the side, ending up slumped against Arthur's shoulder.
"Eames," says Arthur and gets only a sleepy murmur in return.
Arthur stares out the windows and doesn't think, winding down his mental process now that the job over because, yeah, he's exhausted. He knows it. It's why he doesn't push Eames away, doesn't shrug him off with a sharp reprimand. Eames is exhausted too and he did a good job (okay, so he was fantastic) as the mark's estranged brother - Arthur gives credit where credit is due. He's not stingy. He knows he works with the best and that's why the partnership works, why Arthur and Dom worked so well together and why, somehow, now, Arthur does so well with Eames. It's not as strange as it might sound, Arthur tells himself, and wonders if he would have imagined himself here five years ago, or even three. Sometimes life feels more surreal than the dreams.
(And that always makes him pause and grope for his totem, even though he knows it won't answer the question that sporadically spins around in his head: what is 'reality', really? What if his perceived 'reality' is actually the dream, and it's in the dreams he is alive? But that train of thought meanders and leads him places he doesn't quite like to visit, and anyway, for now, that's neither here nor there.)
Right now, Arthur is here, in his reality, in a cab in Busan. Here, with Eames nearly folded in half on the seat beside him, head bobbing gently against Arthur's shoulder as the cab zooms over broad streets lined with crowds. Here, with Arthur allowing it - but only because he is satisfied with a job well done, of course. It is only well-deserved rest, a brief respite before their flight out of Korea.
Arthur is a little worn out himself, so he drifts off with Eames's head still resting on his shoulder. Maybe they wake up more entangled than separate, but in that drowsy state of haziness that is common to surfacing from a dreamless sleep, Arthur can't bring himself to care, because Eames is warm and smells like musk and spice and Arthur feels languid and happy.
It is rainy and they are drinking tea and watching a movie and maybe they just want to cuddle, okay? Sometimes it is just that simple.
Arthur is over at Eames's flat and it was a right mess when he showed up but they struck a compromise - evidently they are better at this than Arthur first believed, as the quasi-work partnership is panning out into other areas - and Arthur would do up a quick stir-fry if Eames would clean up. So after their respective puttering around, Eames sorting through his things and stacking them in slightly more respectable piles, and Arthur pushing around chicken and vegetables in the wok - after that they crowd around Eames's table and ate, and if their knees bumped, it's because the table is tiny. More fit to seat one than two, Arthur points out, and tells Eames he should invest in a new table. "It's not like you don't have the means," he says reasonably.
Eames says, "You should come with me, help me pick it out. Something that will meet your exacting standards. I wouldn't want to purchase something only to have you by later, complaining again." He quirks his mouth, a twinkle in his eye, and Arthur rolls his eyes in return but says all right because there really is no trusting Eames's taste when it comes to these things.
They each have a glass of wine with their food and since neither of them are domestic enough to feel the need to wash up immediately after, the dishes go in the sink, soaking in soapy water. They end up on the couch with mugs of tea and a BBC rendition of an old classic on television, the murmur of voices barely audible over the patter of rain outside. Arthur has his legs propped up on the couch, both hands wrapped around his mug and his head tucked into the crook of Eames's neck.
It's not his fault that this is the most comfortable way to watch the movie and it's definitely not his fault he doesn't notice the weight of Eames's arm around his shoulders; those are insignificant little things, anyway. He's engaged in the movie and he's off the job, so he really shouldn't be expected to be hyper-aware of little things like that when he's relaxing. Eames has his legs stretched out in front of him, ankles crossed on the coffee table, and maybe he is paying more attention to Arthur's cheek and jaw and neck, plying them with nudges of his nose and warm, close-mouthed kisses, but that's Eames's fault for having no attention span for the movie and hardly Arthur's responsibility.
(Arthur ends up losing the plot about two-thirds of the way through the movie when his tea is done and Eames's kisses get more insistent, open-mouthed and wet. Arthur ends up sprawled more in than out of Eames's lap, but we're not talking about that because by then they've moved past cuddling.)
They're not drunk and no one's sick and they're between jobs and there is no cuddling on the couch. No, this time it is flat-out hungry kissing, Arthur's tongue fucking deep into Eames's mouth, Eames's hands fumbling frantically over Arthur's shirt, pushing it down his shoulders, pulling it off. This time it is Arthur's hips pushing forward into Eames's thigh, gasps between their mouths as Eames clutches Arthur closer and thumbs the sharp jut of his hipbone. This time they tumble directly to bed and wind around each other, greedy hands and swollen mouths, leaving marks and memories as they thrust against each other again and again, until Eames moans and Arthur arches and Eames, eyes dark and lidded, licks Arthur's hand clean. This time they collapse beside each other on the bed, still panting, and it's all about the sex.
Afterwards, after the sex, they end up cuddling anyway, because Arthur has gotten used to wrapping himself around Eames, who is better than a furnace on the chilly March nights, much to Eames's delight. It works out better to wake up tangled in each other anyway, because it just makes it that more convenient when they have sleepy morning sex, slow and sensual, and then Arthur makes coffee as Eames takes a shower, because they would never get anything done if they showered together and Arthur, though he may have changed a little, still values efficiency above all things. Most things.
Cuddling is up there.)
Started: 2010.08.23 | Finished: 2010.08.24