ofvanity: (thardy.)
[personal profile] ofvanity
Title: Only In My Mind
Author[livejournal.com profile] ofvanity 
Pairings: Arthur/Eames
Word Count: 10,500
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Explicit drug abuse, sensitive themes.
Disclaimers: This, children, in no way ever happened. Nolan is beautiful and Inception is his pet that I occasionally walk through a park of bad, wild ideas. As far as the actual content goes, there is an additional disclaimer, here. Just so we're clear.
Author's Note: I think this one will speak for itself.
Summary: Eames is addicted to heroin. Arthur watches him destroy himself.


It was never a question of strength.

Arthur has always been strong. His father raised him to never let emotions compromise an objective or cloud his judgment. He understood that and as to so far, he’s been fine. There’s a time to work and another time to be emotional and they are not usually simultaneous. But when he really thinks about it, it almost bothers him that Arthur can only remember three times where he’s cried, his whole life. Not little tantrums at the store as a child or the stray tear for an independent film.

But actually crying, he can only remember three.

The first was when he was seven. His mother had just run out for milk at the corner store, which meant she’d be gone half an hour, gossiping with the cashier. His dad was at work and wouldn’t be home for hours and his sister was asleep. He pulled a chair to the kitchen counter to reach the cookies on the top shelf. He was only going to grab a few of them, certainly not enough to spoil his lunch. But the shelf was just out of reach and the farther he stretched, the wobblier the chair became. He climbed the counter and reached the shelf just fine.

His bare feet touched the counter where his mother had spilled cooking oil. The arch of his foot slipped and he hit the counter, the chair, and finally, the floor. It was an instant of bursting fear, of falling, and then the room cut black. When he came to, his sister, Hannah, was kneeling over him with tears in her eyes and a phone wedged between her ear and her shoulder. His body felt dull at first, a blur of red slowly pulsing back to life. Then he felt it, the screech of pain in his mouth. It racked all the way to his teeth, scraping against his raw gums. He reached for Hannah, numb and trembling with panic.

He tried to move his head but couldn’t, throbbing sharp and angry all around his skull, it scared him enough to realize he was sobbing. Tears and snot and fear, he could die with the smell of all this blood, his blood, and his hands like lead. “Hannah,” he whimpered.

She dropped the phone and held him, sobbing and shouting prayers into the fabric of his shirt. Arthur was too young to understand God then but he prayed with her in his head.

His leg was broken in two places, but would heal with time and PT and painkillers. His skull split open, he gave himself a concussion and it took months for the bone to knit itself back together. It took months for Arthur to walk on his own two feet. But he got all the cookies he wanted after that.

The second time happened when he was nineteen. He was curling his fingers into Alex’s thighs, parting them to dance weak and drunk in the dark of some Croatian forest. It was six hours after he learned his father was dead. Dad, who fixed his skinned knees and took him shopping for his Mother’s Anniversary gift.

The US Marines were stationed here, under rumors of a revolt that would fall on Eastern Europe like a house of cards, everywhere and messy. Alex was thin and when she let it down, her hair was long and red, falling to her back in waves. She didn’t like swear words and they both knew that if she wanted to, she could beat Arthur to death. The thing was, if he really wanted to, Arthur could beat her, too.

He sat slumped against a tree and she smoked unfiltered Croatian cigarettes and drank Polish vodka from the bottle. Her parents were alive and well but if they died, she’d fall apart. Her fingers are sharp but they touched his bare ribs like fireflies. He could see her touching him but he couldn’t feel it. “Arthur, tell me about your father.”

And he did, because he couldn’t feel the vodka or the nicotine or her mouth. Dad loves me. Dad played hockey with me. Dad has no brothers so he spoiled me. Dad yelled at me when I got suspended for fighting. He bought me a beer when I lost my virginity. Dad eats food with his left hand but does everything else with his right. Dad quit his job to sit in the hospital room with me and Dad was in PT with me every day. Dad used to rub my back to get me to sleep when I had a fever.

Dad loved mom. Dad loved Hannah. Dad loved me.

Dad’s dead. He’ll be in the ground soon, rotting. Dad won’t ever fly a plane again, and smile at me from across the sky. Dad won’t ever buy me a beer anymore; he won’t spoil me and encourage me or be proud of me. Dad won’t love me from the ground, Dad won’t love mom or guide Hannah. Hannah will not pray anymore because she is angry with God. Dad was the one who signed her up for Sunday school.

Alex held onto his chest, listening to him fall. She ran her fingers through his hair like a child. A bastard child now, he thought.

“Are you angry with God, Arthur?”

He turned to her with cigarette burnt eyes, saliva stuck to his mouth.

“I don’t believe in God.”

She sat in his lap and rubbed his chest, bare and flushed with grief. His face was wet, he couldn’t help it, and his chest was wet because Alex was crying, too, trying to be there with him. The sun doesn’t rise and Arthur doesn’t look for it. He had to wait until the weekend to leave to his family, which was fine. Dad would still be dead in three days. Hannah would still be angry with God.

The next day, he sparred with a Sergeant and ignored the complete concept of rank or respect. His body hit the mat harder than Arthur remembers hitting. Alex watched and pinched her arm nervously until it turned red. Arthur soothed her arm and the Sergeant got off the ground to introduce himself. His name was Cobb. He used to steal money from the collection plate and ever since then he had thought himself to be at war with God. So he joined the military to learn to fight. Arthur was the first person to kick his ass in a long time.

Arthur laughed at him, bitter and unimpressed. When they made their peace with Croatia, Cobb handpicked them for Dreamshare.

The third is now.

He is twenty seven and he met Eames almost five and a half years ago.

Eames smiled at him, all charmingly wonky teeth and coarse accent, in Seoul. The barman passed him a drink and Cobb leaned over his seat to talk to him. Eames spared Arthur a single glance. Arthur crossed the room, started a bar fight and got them thrown out. Forty eight hours later, they were on a plane to Barcelona.

Eames faked his way though conversations with locals in Spanish until Cobb told him to get his head in the game. He sat on Arthur’s desk and asked for lessons in Spanish. He learned six broken sentences and then he showed Arthur he could roll his tongue. They had sex twice that night. Eames didn’t learn any more Spanish and got better at faking it. Cobb didn’t notice. Cobb couldn’t speak Spanish either.

For the next job, Eames goes to Caracas. In between waking up and blowing Eames, Arthur agreed to go with him. Mal mets Eames in Turkey, eight months after that fist fight in South Korea. She gave Arthur this look, like she knew, like she was fucking clairvoyant. She tells him that Cobb said he knew the moment he saw Arthur punch Eames in the face.

They had their first break up fight in Marseilles on a holiday. It lasted two and half hours and the makeup sex went on longer. They went thirteen months before they fought again, really fought. Before either of them was ready to admit they had committed too quickly, Eames accepted a job in Kabul and left. It was a stupid fight, about a frivolous thing but it escalated. It took Arthur four months to find Eames after he left Afghanistan. Nine before he finally found an excuse to see him.

Arthur walked into a shop in Mombasa and found Eames plugged into a PASIV. He had honest intentions when he boarded the plane but with Eames’ chest rising and falling so placidly, like he used to, Arthur couldn’t think honorably right then. It had been too fucking long. When he woke up, they got drunk and agree to reset.

In the hotel, they spent the day in bed, apologizing and rediscovering. They stopped pretending like they didn’t miss each other. They spent two months in Florence (shopping and eating and painting and fucking) and when they realigned with the world again, Mal was dead.

Arthur went after Cobb, and only saw Eames a handful of times a year until Inception. It’s been four months since that. The now team, sans Cobb, has new job lined up, a relatively simple extraction. Like a stretch after a run.

Arthur finally saw it today. He’s seen it before, and he fully suspected it, he’s known Eames for years, but they can’t take back what happened today.

Arthur and Ariadne had dropped into Eames’ dream, each a minute after the other. Eames was just supposed to practice a forge but Ariadne wanted to tweak a maze and requested Arthur’s approval at the last second. He wakes on the shore of an isolated beach, cliffs standing crooked against waves, fierce and white. There’s a serene feeling, the air of the shore is fresh in his throat. It’s endearing almost, Eames always loved the ocean.

Water lapped at his feet, where his suit was gone, replaced by simple black swim trunks. The water was cold and he kicked around in it, seashells sticking to the sand and seaweed wrapped around his ankles. He was tempted to swim around in it when the water rises into the sand and sticks, congealing black. Tendrils of tar licking his ankles. He backs out, bile rising out of his throat because the ocean smells like petrol then, thick and nauseating.

In the distance, Ariadne’s screams jolt him out of it.

He whipped around and found her standing faraway in a short beach dress. He charges across the beach after her and turns into the opening of a small cave. She stops him from going in and when she moves, he can see why. Her voice is thin and panicked, “What the hell--What the hell is this, Arthur?”

A mob of projections were standing over Eames--not a projection--his mangled body, each of them, families in polka dotted swim suits, holding daggers black with blood. Eames is on the floor, drowning in his own blood--projections don’t bleed--gagging for breath. The waves are quiet against the wet choke of Eames dying. Their hands drip black over the sand, sinking venom into the ocean. Eames always loved the ocean.

The projections turn to look at them, Ariadne and Arthur frozen in shock and beat passes before they all drop their weapons and return to the beach, laughing like they’re going about their usual business. Ariadne fell to her knees next to Eames, tugged apart his tattered clothes and filled her tiny pale hands with blood running dark across the shore. She started hyperventilating and screamed at Arthur to help her, for fucks sake. “Eames is fucking dying. Arthur!”

Arthur took a thundering breath in which his chest nearly burst open and he grabbed the nearest dagger and killed Ariadne. It was painful but she would have to forgive him.

Eames blinked up at him, blood gurgling at the crusted edges of his mouth. His eyes were glazed over and black, like an animal. And Arthur would kill him, out of mercy and pity; he should have killed him, actually. But Eames has been off lately, just a little different. After all this bullshit, Arthur’s got a sadistic streak.

Arthur’s seen this twice before in dreamers. Alex was kicked off the Dreamshare program because of it. Cobb did it to suppress Mal for a few months. (It only made her more inventive.) Arthur killed himself, thinking about Alex’s firefly fingertips.

The warehouse was dark when he woke up. He didn’t open his eyes until the soft clack of Eames’ shoes grew small in the silence. Yusuf was huddled over a panicked Ariadne, who was crying into her hands. He ignored her demands for an explanation and crossed the room in tense strides.

Eames watched him approach and thumbed the filter on a trembling cigarette. His eyes were blown dark and watched him with twitching fingers like he couldn’t predict what Arthur would do. Arthur smoked from his cigarette and asked, “Alright?”

Eames swallowed, palms flat on his trousers, “Course.”

“You scared Ariadne.”

“She’s a big girl.”

Arthur nodded, turned his back to him and walked back to Ari. Her eyes were wild with fear and panic, Arthur’s own heart had been hammering shallowly in his throat. He smoothed her hair and told her not to worry. It was a fluke; it’s been known to happen.

But he lied to her. He’s lied to her before, it was easy. And no one corrected him.

In his apartment--he made his way out of the warehouse as quick as possible, ditching Eames in the process--he lets it go. He sat down at his kitchen table with a few bottles of Jose Cuervo and proceeded to get spectacularly drunk. A few hours later, he lies on the floor and thinks about Eames.

Thinking about Eames is dangerous, like handling heavy machinery. Which is why he got drunk beforehand.

He asked Eames to leave it before. He saw Eames do it in Mombasa. Maybe that’s where he picked it up. After five months in Afghanistan it’s not easy to know. He asked Eames to leave it in Florence and didn’t spend enough time with him at any one time after Mal’s death to see if he actually had stopped. But now when he thinks about it, the wave of crime Eames left in his wake after that was sloppy at best.

He seemed fine for Inception, but Arthur was just a bit preoccupied. It’s been four months, so either Eames started it again or never stopped. But it’s more likely he never stopped. Arthur should have seen this. Arthur blames himself.

Alex was beautiful once, she had long ancestry and lean thighs that spread like ink, endless and slow. Her eyes were the sharpest green Arthur ever saw. And now she’s dead, buried with a hole in her chest put there by some Afghan insurgent. They were never actually together but Arthur thinks he could have loved her. If she stopped pulsing against the Earth, that is. She was gorgeous and strong willed and that fucking country had to rip her apart. She had to get herself kicked out of Dreamshare and get sent to Kabul.

Arthur will never go to Afghanistan. Eames knew that. Maybe that’s where he picked it up.

This goddamn habit, fucking recreational activity, Arthur could kill him for it, really. It might be an addiction--but it’s not like Eames doesn’t know what he’s doing. Eames knows, he always knows what’s doing. He is always in control. He’s doing this to himself--depreciating his life, his body, his talent--the kind that Alex had and now she doesn’t. The life she could have had. He’s throwing that all away. There are so many things he’s throwing away, Arthur knows. He’s one of them.

Arthur stands and crosses the room, shedding his clothes as he goes. There’s a fury working in his hands, Arthur all but rips his fucking shirt off. In the bathroom, he turns on the cold water of the shower. It’s freezing cold and bites his skin. He lets it, lets it beat into him, trying to stop the red hot anger in him.

It doesn’t work. The water pelts at his skin but something is his chest, bubbling since the cave, ruptures and before he can stop himself, his fist is in the shower tiles, pulling back and punching again and again. The red hot screaming rage prickles through his muscles, boiling through his skin. Pain shoots up his arm and straight to his shoulder and he ignores it. The tiles break, splitting and falling to his feet. He rips another and covers them in blood, his probably. There’s stinging behind his eyes and lets it, gritting his teeth through the pain of it, of Eames, fuck Eames. Arthur will not let this happen.

The back of his eyes sting more than his shoulder or the bones of his wrist. He lets himself cry, silently examining the wounds on his wrists, slumped against the pelt of shower water and his aching grief. The shower floor is dirty and these tiles have left a gaping, ugly hole in the wall.

When he sobers up in the morning, he bandages his wrists, cleans up the shower and calls Cobb. He breaks his lease and cancels the job. He leaves to LA with the team in tow. He tells them he canceled it because he forgot Philippa’s birthday and they barely believe it. Truth is if he’s going to fight like this, he’ll need Cobb on point.

-

Cobb paces when Arthur tells him. He stares at the toaster, making breakfast waffles before the kids or Eames wake up, and paces, brow knit and lips pursed in concentration. When Arthur finished talking, Cobb stays quiet for a few minutes. Tension is building in the house already, Cobb drawing up his shoulders with anxiety.

There’s a stirring and then the opening and closing of the bathroom door upstairs. Cobb’s eyes fly to Arthur’s. They conversation they’re having is in Russian, because Arthur is absolutely sure the only Russian Eames knows are the words, ‘down’ and ‘off’, that lesson hadn’t gotten very far. Still, Eames will be suspicious if he comes downstairs to find them speaking Russian. It is 6:45 and the kids usually sleep until 7:45. That stirring will be Eames.

Arthur steels himself, “I know what you’re going to say.”

Cobb’s face hardens, like he expects more of Arthur.

“Then call Ariadne and get out of my kitchen.”

-

The first sign might have been his sleeping pattern. Eames never used to wake up early

-

Arthur calls Ariadne in front of Eames, to prove a point. She answers at the last ring, out of breath and Arthur can already hear her bitching before she speaks. He apologizes, “I know how much you like to shower, especially with those removable shower heads.”

“Eat me,” she replies with no bite.

“I already had breakfast, thanks.”

Eames and Cobb shoot him a look and Arthur waves them off. He pads, barefoot, into the kitchen, where Philippa is coloring at the table. He ruffles her hair and leans his hip against the counter, speaking curtly to cut off whatever Ariadne is talking about.

“I want you to come to Cobb’s today. Pack an overnight bag, I don’t want you to drive late or anything.”

“What for?

Philippa smiles crookedly at him, like clairvoyance runs in the family, “Is that Aunt Ari?”

“To be together,” he tells her,”The kids miss you.”

The line stays quiet for a minute and Arthur waits it out. Cobb needs Ariadne to be here for this, and Arthur needs Cobb. “Arthur, is this about what happened in that dream?”

Arthur strokes Philippa’s hair, a golden blond color and vaguely thinks about the day he’ll have to start shooting boys in the kneecaps to keep their hands away from her--in honor of Mal’s memory and such. “Yes.”

“Tell me what the fuck happened in there and I’ll consider it.”

“It’s not that easy. Get here first.”

“Will you tell me the truth?”

“Of course I will.”

“Are you lying just to get me there?”

“Probably not. “

“I’ll be there in an hour or two.”

The line is dead before Arthur considers hanging up. Either way, it’s just as well, because Eames pads into the room, also barefoot, and picks a water bottle out of the fridge. Arthur ignores him, listening to Philippa explain her drawing to him. “It’s my family, see? That’s Daddy and that’s James and Grandpa—”

He doesn’t even realize Eames has noticed until he feels Eames’ hand over his own on the counter, lightly fingering the cuts on his knuckles from fighting the bathroom wall, some 36 hours ago.

“These look nasty. Where’d you get them?”

“Oh, you know me,” Arthur pulls away, “Bar fight.”

He watches Eames pull his face into a stoic mask in a flash. He pulls his hand back and leaves the kitchen. For a second, Arthur regrets it but then it’s gone, replaced by a sudden urgency.

He asks Philippa to put her shoes on and he takes her to pick up Ariadne from the hotel instead. Philippa is old enough that Arthur doesn’t have to, but he picks her up onto his hip anyway. He shouts their departure to Cobb and buckles her into the backseat while she titters happily.

He teaches her what granite is, the purpose of traffic lights and what Ariadne’s name means. Any sourness in Ariadne’s expression disappears when Philippa jumps into her arms. As they check her out of the hotel, the receptionist confuses them for a young couple and their daughter. Neither of them corrects her.

-

The house is quiet when they get back. After they left the hotel, Arthur called Cobb and announced he and Ariadne were taking Philippa to a nearby carnival. “You bond with your son. Ariadne and I are going to spoil your daughter.”

“What about Eames?”

“He’s not still there, is he? He hates you sometimes; he probably didn’t even bother to tell you he was leaving.”

There’s a shuffle on the other line, like Cobb is moving throughout the house. After a second, he says, “Huh.”

“Yeah. We’ll be home late. Play lots of catch.”

The carnival glows with neon lights and fills any tension with the sound of vendors, pleading their case. They spend more money than is ever necessary to spend at a carnival and win stuffed animals and Philippa’s smile. They tell her to win a few for James, who will be jealous and cannot be left out.

Philippa gets on all the children’s rides without them and Arthur leans into Ariadne’s shoulder to tell her. “I think Eames is addicted to heroin.”

He turns away from her to wave to Philippa, who is overjoyed at having his attention from the carousel. He feels the grip of Ariadne’s fingernails, bruising into his arm but doesn’t turn to her. She presses a kiss to his cheek; resting her head on his shoulder and Arthur can feel her grinding her teeth inside her jaw.

When Philippa gets off the ride, they drown their sorrows in cotton candy and milkshakes until Philippa falls asleep on Arthur’s shoulder. The second Arthur reaches across the car to pick her up, she wakes. She grumbles into his arms, confused and half-asleep, “Five more minutes, Daddy, please.”

Ariadne lags behind them, smiling fondly. When they lay her in her room, Cobb appears from the hallway with James asleep in his arms. He nods at them in greeting with blurry eyes and takes James straight to the Master bedroom. Arthur and Ariadne watch as Cobb throws a protective arm over James’ body and falls asleep in an instant.

Arthur and Ariadne fall asleep on the couch, watching Lifetime movies about teenagers with sexual identity issues. At dawn, Arthur pretends not to notice Eames sneaking into the house.

Arthur pretends not to notice a lot nowadays.

Eames gets up around noon the next day, lounging in a pair of shorts and a Trucker’s hat. He does the social niceties with Cobb and Ariadne and even spins Philippa around a few times before he corners Arthur in the kitchen. He smells like aftershave and sweat.

He brackets his arms around Arthur and presses his back into the counter with focused eyes. He kisses Arthur slowly, with control and power and all the things that make Arthur hungry for more. Arthur bites his lip and Eames growls into his mouth, pressing him harder against the countertops. His hands are wet, from dishes he was just washing, but that doesn’t stop him from pulling Eames in by the waist, bare skin against his fingernails. Eames loves fingernails; his breath always hitches when Arthur scratches at the hair under his navel or down his back.

There’s wolf whistles in the background and they part with smiles on their faces, turning to meet Ariadne. She sticks her thumb in her mouth, talking around it, “Don’t stop on my account. By all means, please, continue.”

Arthur rolls his eyes at her and Eames presses another kiss to his cheek before heading towards the door. Ariadne goes after him. “Wait, hey, where are you guys going?”

“We’re going to jump in the pool with the kids,” Ariadne offers.

“Yeah,” Eames looks over his shoulder at him, “Littlest can’t swim. Biggest wants to correct that and Princess over here figured we should help, being God-fearing Yanks and all.” He winks at Arthur under the hat and heads out through the back door.

Arthur watches them trot across the back yard, where Philippa and James are already waiting and jumping up and down with excitement. Absently rubbing his hands between a washcloth, Arthur minds the wounds on his knuckles. Behind him, Cobb shuffles into the room. “Where’d you get those?”

Arthur looks down at his hands for a second, “Sparring.”

“They don’t let you spar bare knuckled at the gym.”

“With my shower tiles,” Arthur finishes.

“Ah,” Cobb wanders over and takes his hand, observing the wounds. “I have Neosporin, if you want some.”

Arthur levels his gaze at Cobb, brow furrowed. “Do I look seven years old?”

Cobb returns his stare with a self-deprecating grin, and Arthur tries not to think about the time they got drunk and made out in South Korea, “I suppose not.”

Arthur drops his hand and returns to the dishes, tossing the rag over the faucet. He busies himself, doing the dishes so he can read a bit before the kids get back inside. Cobb stands at the sliding glass doors for a second, staring at something in the yard before he crosses the kitchen.

He leans against the counter, next to Arthur. “He was watching us.”

“I know.”

“He’s paranoid.”

“Yeah, he is.”

“It’s getting worse.”

“I know, Cobb.”

“You should have come to me earlier.”

“What for?” Arthur snaps, “So you could state the obvious at me?”

Cobb flinches but stays quiet. Arthur sets the plate down in the sink and leans over the counter with a defeated slump in his shoulders. Outside, they can hear the muffled cries of joy as the children play. They’re in danger, the children. They’re in danger with Arthur here; he shouldn’t have been so selfish. “I’ll leave if you want—“

“Shut up.”

Another beat passes between them, Arthur’s shoulder tensing higher. Cobb knows his children are in danger with Eames here, but Arthur would never let such a thing happen. Cobb wouldn’t either. “We’re doing this today. I want--”

“Wait, today? Why today?”

“Arthur, look, I know this is hard for you, but if we’re wrong, then there is something seriously wrong with Eames’ subconscious. If we’re right, then it’s only a matter of time before the drug and the Somnacin cross and end disastrously. “

The slide door opens and Ariadne tumbles through, giggling. She’s completely dry save for arterial spray of water across her shirt. She shrieks in laughter and shuts the door behind her, where water splashes across the glass. She mocks Eames on the other side and backs off, walking towards Cobb and Arthur.

As she approaches them, her flip flops slapping on the tile, her face sobers. “What did I miss?”

“We’re moving today. We’ll plug Eames into the PASIV, I’ll go and Arthur will go. You’ll stay topside and watch for any physical reactions. If things go south, I’ll have Miles here by the end of the day and he’ll take the kids for a few days. And Yusuf, we’ll need Yusuf. He came with you guys, so all we have to do there is pluck him out of those dens he creeps around in South Central.”

“If things go south,” Arthur reminds him.

“Right,” Cobb agrees, “If.”

Ariadne looks between the two of them, tense shoulders and frowns and then announces. “I have a question.”

“Go ahead.”

“How are we going to hook Eames up? We can’t sedate him; he’s too smart for that.”

“She’s right, he’ll know,” Arthur says helpfully.

Cobb glares at the floor, chewing absently on the inside of his cheek. Arthur can see the gears turning in his head and it’s starting to make him dizzy. This is deception now, it’s not just disloyalty and disunity. This is Arthur, and he’s going to break into Eames’ mind.

“I’ll approach him and tell him that—“

“You can’t con him, Cobb.”

“You don’t even know what I was going to say.”

“I do and you know you can’t trick Eames into anything. It’s all in your eyebrows.”

“There isn’t shit in my eyebrows, be quiet.”

“Cobb, really, you squint and furrow them and there’s this line right here,” Ariadne touches the space between his eyes, “It’s a whole thing.”

“There is not. I’ll tell Eames that I want to see if Mal is still in my subconscious. Or—”

“It won’t work; you are the paragon of shit at lying.”

“I’m the what—!”

“Paragon—”

“Shut up, the both of you. I’ll do it.”

Ariadne and Cobb turn to Arthur, watching him skeptically. “I’ll get him to sleep deep enough for us to hook him up. Ariadne, get out of here, you’ve been in here too long, he’ll suspect something.”

Ariadne glances at Cobb and he nods in approval, waiving her off. She disappears behind the glass doors and her laughter bleeds into the silence of the house.

“Arthur—“

“I said I would take care of it.”

“Alright,” Cobb stands, prepared to leave Arthur hunched over the counter. “Just don’t go sparring with my shower tiles.”

-

When Eames gets out of the shower, with boxers slung low on his hips and a towel wrapped over his shoulders, he crosses the room and curls himself into Arthur’s lap. It’s nothing new, always slightly off with the weight difference, but Eames likes to be the center of Arthur’s attention and will not compete with a sodding book, Arthur.

“I was reading that,” Arthur says, setting down the water bottle he was drinking from.

“Hemmingway is rubbish, I’m doing you a favor, really,” Eames straddles his thighs and wraps his hands around Arthur’s neck, pulling him for a kiss.

Arthur’s hands fall to his waist and he scratches at the waistline of the boxers, tugging on the trail of hair. Eames bucks his hips into his hands, expectantly. Arthur breaks the kiss and breaths deeply, while Eames works kisses around his jaw. Arthur swallows, arching his neck for Eames. They haven’t had sex in almost a week, Eames is positively vibrating in Arthur’s hands.

His hands run down Eames’ back, where he can feel the bumps of his ribs. The first sign might have been all the weight Eames lost. He never used to be so light. Eames turns back to his mouth, licking in with quick strokes of tongue against Arthur’s teeth, against his tongue. Arthur pushes his mouth into Eames, waiting for an opening to take control.

Their kisses are always like a sparring match, Eames is brute force and strength but Arthur is quick and lithe. Not that it matters today, because Philippa appears at the door, which, admittedly, they should have locked. “Uncle Arthur, I—”

Eames scrambles off and into the bathroom as Philippa bursts into giggles. If Arthur was at half-mast a few seconds ago, there is certainly no evidence of it now.

“Philippa, what have I taught you about knocking?”

She pouts, closing the door and knocking feebly against the wood. Arthur takes a deep breath and stands to answer the door. In the bathroom, Eames is leaning against the door frame and mumbling curse words under his breath.

Philippa looks up at Arthur with innocent eyes, “I’m sorry, Uncle Arthur. Daddy said that if you could come help him with a very impotent math problem.”

“You mean important?”

“That’s what I said.”

“Tell him I’ll be right down.”

She nods and walks off. Arthur heads back to the bathroom, where Eames is resting his forehead on the mirror. “I’ll be right back; Dom is just impotent when it comes to fractions.”

Eames snorts, turning to face him and kisses his mouth chastely.

Arthur wraps an arm around his bicep and pulls him in for another kiss, all sloppy with teeth and tonguing the roof of Eames’ mouth. Eames pulls back abruptly, “Go help Dom. Come back fast. Tell him no more interruptions.”

“Don’t start without me,” Arthur admonishes.

The last thing he sees before he closes the door behind him is Eames on the bed; boxers slung low on his body and the lasciviously inviting splay of his legs.

He finds Cobb in the kitchen, pacing with the PASIV open on the table. Ariadne is chewing her nails, sitting on the counter top. The TV is playing loudly in the living room to cover the noise, so Arthur crosses the room and sticks his fingers far down his throat, retching in the wastebasket.

-


PART II
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December 2011

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