Word Count: 3,389
Notes: Written for the 'Dress-up' square of my kink_bingo. This turned out much longer than I was expecting and there are emotions and things :)
Summary: How complicated could it get? Eames only wanted to give Arthur a birthday present...
"Oh, don't be like that, darling." Eames was pouting, and Arthur hated that. It was ridiculous - a grown man pouting like a child. He hated even more the fact that it worked. Ariadne glanced across at them and looked like she was restraining a giggle.
She let teeth show show in her grin. "Oh, I don't know - if my boyf..." Arthur glared at her. "...colleague and/or booty-call wanted to do something special for my birthday then I'd think it was romantic."
Arthur debated the merits of throwing the stapler at her or his now cold cup of coffee. One was merely messy, but one might actually draw blood...
"Eames is not my 'booty-call'," said Arthur, tightly. "He's..."
"Yes? I'd love to know what I'm classified under in that tidy little brain of yours." Eames' voice was drawling, but his eyes were bright with laughter. Something unclenched in Arthur's belly, he didn't actually want Eames to feel upset or be offended by what were really his own issues. And something told him that Eames could be offended. Eventually. If Arthur tried really hard.
He didn't want to try that hard.
"You are all ridiculous," he said instead, "I don't know why I need to even continue this conversation."
"Because I want you to say yes to Eames," said Ariadne, brightly, "And if I keep pushing then you'll say yes because it's the easier of the two options, and then you can escape and leave the room to go and brood and clench your teeth somewhere else. Is that about right?"
"I'm not getting into it," says Eames, holding up his hands, "I just want to give Arthur a birthday present."
"Fine." Arthur realised his teeth were indeed clenched, and immediately stopped. He stayed and tidied up the papers on his desk for another five minutes too, just because.
But he was probably still brooding. Dammit.
"So." Eames had his lips pursed and his fingers steepled. It was quite possibly one of the hottest things Arthur had ever seen. He loved it when Eames took charge in any way, although he tried not to show it in case Eames abused the privilege. So Arthur raised an eyebrow instead.
Eames smiled and evilly chewed at the top of his pen just to torture Arthur some more. "What shall I get you? I suppose it will have to be a surprise. You'd never tell me what you'd actually want so I'm going to have to go in blind. As it were."
"You'd be disappointed if I made it too easy."
Eames quirked his lips. "Well, perhaps, but you'd be more furious with yourself, so I think I'll manage to live with the guesswork."
Arthur froze for another moment, and looked carefully once more. No, Eames was still not upset with him. It was a miracle, Arthur knew it. Outsiders might think that Eames was the annoying one in the relationship, might see him teasing Arthur and wonder how he could put up with him, but Arthur knew that wasn't really true. He was the guy who couldn't trust his emotions, who had to keep testing things, and it was Eames who was the mainstay, their rock. It was Arthur, for example, who couldn't even call Eames his boyfriend. Not without wincing anyway. Eames put up with a lot.
He got up and went over to Eames as he sat at his desk in their own apartment, goddammit, before leaning over and kissing him softly, caressing the longer hair at the nape of Eames' neck. He came out of the kiss and found Eames was looking up at him with a ridiculously tender expression. It made Arthur want to clear his throat, but he held it in, desperately, not wanting to spoil yet another moment.
Eames glanced over at the clock and then grinned up at him through his lashes. "Happy Birthday, Arthur, love." It was five minutes past midnight.
"What do you mean you won't sleep with me?" said the woman in obvious disbelief.
She was a redhead and beautiful if your taste ran to voluptuous curves with too much make-up, Peter Roper thought as he began to walk past her. He was a shy man himself, and would have preferred that such discussions weren't carried out at the top of a rather piercing voice from a table at a street cafe but he realised he was probably the minority in that, here in Paris. The man with her was scruffy and rumpled, but good-looking enough and built. It seemed odd he might be turning her down.
"Look, pet, I'm sorry about it but there you are. I've met someone." The man looked almost bored, if that were possible. The woman was pouting in an extremely fetching manner now and Percy couldn't help but stare as he slowed his footsteps down.
Until she slammed her coffee cup so hard that it jumped and spilled her espresso. "I don't care about that, Eames - you may sleep with whoever you want, I don't see why that should affect us? I've never asked you for exclusivity."
The man - Eames - looked wistful. "Ah, but he would never ask. That is part of the problem. But he would care." He waved his fingers in a c'est la vie manner. "And I don't want to cut the journey short."
Obviously prey to high passions, the woman then thew her coffee in his face. Peter continued on past, shocked to his very soul. What was the world coming to?
Sandy Kowalski was twirling her long blonde hair around her finger, desperately trying not to give in to the temptation to put it in her mouth. She was an inveterate hair-chewer but was trying to stop ever since she'd seen a program all about bezoars. Eww, how horrible to have a ball of hair like that growing in her stomach!
The bar she was in must offer some distractions - there were hot guys everywhere, after all, you just had to know where to look. Her eyes opened wide. Just like that guy there - wow, look at all those muscles. And the tats. Mmm. Sandy was into tats. The guy looked like he might be a wrestler or maybe he'd done some time? Sandy tried not to giggle - the guy was looking hotter all the time...
Oh boo. Sandy tapped her nail on the bar. Some other bitch had got to him first. Today was just not her day.
"Hiya, honey, do you want to buy a girl a drink?" said the bitch. Ha! Did she know she had lipstick on her teeth! God, look at her, pushing her tits into into his face like that - this girl had no class.
"Well, while that would have been an interesting prospect once, I'm afraid that these days I am all spoken for." The man leaned away from her against the stained wood and brass of the bar counter, his shoulder flexing under Sandy's fascinated gaze. "I'm afraid my jealous gay lover wouldn't understand."
Yikes, a British accent too! Sandy sulked just a bit more - she bet Hot Tat Guy was just making up being gay to get away from Slut Girl. She bet he wouldn't have pushed her away...
"Hi," said Logan, his voice as deep as he could make it without sounding ridiculous. "Will you dance with me?"
He had been forced to lean right into the guy's side in order to make himself heard above the music, a throbbing pounding beat that made Logan itch. It made him want to do dangerous things - stuff he knew he wanted to do with all his desperate seventeen year old might, but not really quite knowing how. He thought this would be a good start. Maybe. Fuck but the guy was hot. Leaning this close Logan could smell the musky spiciness of him, he could see the stubble at the underside of the jaw that the guy hadn't caught when he shaved. Logan wanted to lick right... there.
There was the rumble of a laugh that Logan felt even through the vibration of the club around them, which made him stumble a pace back, feeling his face flame. But the gorgeous guy didn't seem to be laughing at Logan's clumsy attempt to chat him up, at least, not quite.
He leaned forward and turned Logan's face, this way, that way, towards the light. His voice was amused but not insulting, when he said, "Well, aren't you the sweet one."
Logan shut his eyes and as quickly opened them again, in an agony of anticipation. What did it mean? Maybe they would dance? Maybe it meant they'd go straight to something more interesting than dancing?
"There would have been a time," said the guy, a wistful note colouring his tone, "When I wouldn't have hesitated to eat up a lovely little thing like you."
He stroked down Logan's cheek and neck, before holding on to his shoulder. Logan wanted to lean into the phantom touches like a cat.
"I would have taken you home and we'd have done all sorts of depraved things to one another. Would you have liked that?"
Logan swallowed a suddenly dry mouth. "Umm, yeah. We could still...?" Words failed him, even as his imagination went into overdrive.
"Sadly, times do change. Or not so sadly, for me at least. My Arthur would have a fit if he knew I was even touching you." The guy's smile was pained, but also somehow fond. Logan wished he could be as lucky as this Arthur guy one day.
"Is Arthur your boyfriend then?" Logan asked, not knowing if he should ask really, but wanting to keep talking, even knowing it was hopeless.
The gorgeous guy laughed, but it seemed wistful now, rather than happy.
"Maybe one day," he said, and patted Logan goodbye on the cheek.
Arthur woke up gasping, and scrabbled for the IV line, pulling it out too fast, leaving more than one bead of blood staining his skin. He took a breath, and then another, feeling his racing pulse slow down, before getting to his feet calmly and deliberately, and not throwing himself off the sofa in a panic. He was better than that, he could cope, he could put himself together again, he wasn't bleeding into a dozen different people. He didn't have breasts. He didn't...
Eames was staring at him from the armchair, his IV still not cleared. He looked like he was expecting Arthur to run, or explode, or maybe try to shoot him. His mouth was wary, and his eyes dark; he didn't look happy. Arthur's heart gave a thump.
He walked across their living room, and he knelt down at Eames' side. He pressed on the skin at the point of exit, and then smoothly withdrew the needle, rolled up the line, and put it away in the PASIV case. He moved his hands back to Eames' skin, took a cotton ball and taped it to the wound. A little over the top for professionals like them perhaps, but he had to do something. He had to touch Eames, to make sure he was real and in front of him. A beautiful sack of meat and bones, not a mind stretched round his, not invading, not...
Arthur cut off that train of thought. The muscles in Eames' forearm flexed under his fingers, but Arthur couldn't let him go. His mind was spinning, he'd never known anyone to do what Eames had just done for them. A completely new technique. For a birthday present. Arthur took another breath as the implications started to build and his brain went to work on the problem. They could use this in jobs. They could...
"You didn't like it." Eames was matter-of-fact. He was still sitting, not moving. An alarm rang in Arthur's head.
"No, it was extremely impressive. The possibilities are... breathtaking."
Eames looked away. "But you didn't like it. What I showed you. It didn't mean anything."
"I'm not sure what you mean." Arthur was stalling. He was trying not to think about the actual experience itself. The feeling of being completely surrounded by another person, smothered in them like a child cocooned in a blanket, and then have them become someone else, many others, all their personalities swirling around the squeezed desperate core that was Arthur - it was profoundly disturbing to him. He had a sudden flash of a new baby wrapped up in swaddling and hung on the wall like a little mummy. It made him feel slightly sick.
Eames' face spasmed, and Arthur realised he should have deflected, should have walked away, not let Eames see his expression, because although he had a good poker face, Eames knew all his tells.
"No, it's alright. I understand." He got up abruptly, Arthur's fingers sliding off his arm. "I'm going off for a quick constitutional, you know. Clear my head."
Arthur experienced a sudden see-saw effect, as the world shifted through its axis ninety degrees. He had a horrible premonition that if he let Eames walk away now then things might never be the same again. The two of them, they would fracture, and then eventually they would fall. Arthur couldn't bear even the idea.
He clutched after Eames, who did at least pause. Arthur stood uncertainly wondering how he could explain... He raised his head in a determined tilt and walked forward. Eames was wearing a revolting spotted shirt with a pair of chinos, but at least the shirt was soft against his fingers. His own vest and rolled up sleeves wouldn't get in the way either. Arthur turned Eames round, and stood against him, his front to Arthur's back, and pulled his arms around him.
"This is how I felt, ok?" He pulled Eames arms around him tighter and tighter. "Like this, only more so. It was... I was squeezed too closely, that's all. It was constricting - but I know I'll be able to handle it in the future, it was just a surprise and I let it get to me. I promise you this kind of forgery around a different dreamer is a masterpiece, and I apologise if I didn't make that clear enough." He took a deep breath. The smell of Eames' cologne was all around him, his arms entirely circling Arthur's body. He could catch a wriggle of ink if he looked down. It felt... safe. Secure. Completely different to the dream. Arthur sighed, and wished he could explain better, knowing he didn't have a way with words, but knowing that Eames knew that. Knowing it had never bothered him before.
Eames leaned his head forward, until his chin could rest on Arthur's shoulder. But he didn't let him go, and that made Arthur feel a lot better.
"You're an idiot, darling," said Eames, "You know that, don't you?"
Arthur stiffened and made to pull away, but Eames wouldn't let him.
"Yes, it's a new dream technique that I've been working on but that wasn't..." There was a gusty sigh that tickled his ear and cheek. "Did you not look at the dream itself? The people? The situations?"
Arthur kept his voice even but cold. "Yes, it was hilarious. You were having attractive people hit on you. I'm sure it happens all the time."
Eames squeezed him slightly, then turned his head so his lips were just resting at the pulse point in Arthur's neck. Arthur nearly shivered, goosebumps chasing a surge of want at the delicate touch.
"Those were memories, my most dear and obtuse Arthur." Arthur opened his mouth to complain about the stupidity of using your own memories, the irresponsibility of it, the danger. Eames took that second to bite down lightly, and Arthur swallowed his words in a gasp. "There are other encounters I could show you - but they all end similarly. There's only you. I wanted you to know. I mean, really know, deep down, viscerally, I wanted you to believe in me." Eames pressed a butterfly kiss to the same spot. "Because you don't, love, and it scares me. I thought this would help."
Arthur thought about the dream, he tried to remember what he'd seen past the panic and the claustrophobia. There'd been a string of people, and they'd hit on Eames-the-projection, while the real them had watched - Eames always forging someone else, Arthur wrapped up inside his forge.
As forged by-standers they had predominantly been selfish, or detached - they'd had no real vested interest in the outcome, and they'd all watched the various flirtations from different perspectives. They'd seen... Arthur wasn't sure. Had they seen the real Eames in his projection? Were the scenarios really memories? It may have been a reckless thing to do but that was hardly out of character for Eames. But Arthur only had Eames word for that - and that of his subconscious in the dream. Could he trust them?
He took a deep breath and felt the flex of Eames' muscles against the fine wool and silk of his suit vest. There was a scent of coffee curling in the air from their French press. Arthur knew the laundry needed doing, because they were goddamn-well living together. What other proof did he need - was he really that suspicious? What did he think Eames was trying to pull if this wasn't real?
Arthur was standing being cradled in the arms of the man he loved, who had just tried to show how much he loved him in return, as a birthday present. What the fuck was wrong with him?
With a tiny indescribable noise, that Arthur really hoped Eames wouldn't bring up later, he turned his head to meet Eames' lips with his own. It was a bad angle for a kiss but he didn't care, Eames had given Arthur a new technique for the dream, and his heart on a plate. And Arthur had kicked it in the metaphorical teeth. How typical of him and his stupid emotional constipation - no wonder Eames had needed to go for a walk. Thank god he'd stopped him. Fucking hell.
Arthur pulled away, but only long enough to turn round, so they were pressed together down the whole line of their bodies, Eames' arms still surrounding him, allowing Arthur to run his own palms up the loose fit of the horrible shirt and onto hot skin. There was a heavy promise lying low in Arthur's belly, and Eames' hard length pressing insistently against the snug dip of his hipbone. Arthur stared into changeable eyes and knew they weren't. Not for him. That he was ridiculously blessed.
"Ariadne will be disappointed," Arthur whispered at last. Eames looked as curious as any man was capable of being in the throes of seducing his significant other. Arthur smiled, trying to convey the wealth of his tumbling emotions in the few words he could ever really manage. "Now you're officially my boyfriend, she'll not get to call you my booty-call."
Eames stilled just for a split second and his clutch on Arthur tightened, before he chuckled quietly and dipped down to scrape his teeth along Arthur's jawline.
"I think you underestimate our Ariadne's ingenuity," he suggested, in a bland tone that had Arthur's skin prickling in suspicion, "I have it on excellent authority that she's considering upgrading the campaign to snuggle-bunnies..."
Eames wasn't the best forger in the business without knowing the intricacies of body language. He swallowed Arthur's protest with a kiss.