I have to tell you guys: I pretty much hate this fic right now, it's eaten at my soul, I have massive fucking doubts about it, but just. angelgazing says I have to post it, and I need it out of my damn to-do file, and just. *Tears at hair and makes pleading eyes* I CANNOT OFFER ANY...ANYTHING FOR THIS ANYMORE. I JUST CAN'T. I AM SORRY. BUT THERE'S LIKE 3K OF RIMMING PORN TUCKED IN IT? I JUST. I DON'T EVEN. NO MORE SPEAKING.
And, with that auspicious introduction:
Title: life long local foreigner, i
Wordcount: 19,464 (JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE ACTUAL SHIT, SELF)
Summary: Arthur grins, lazy and relaxed, and Eames thinks that maybe this is how people get through these things, tethered to one another when they can't hold on anywhere else.
Author's Note: This story is the seventh in a series called Wherever You Will Be (That's Where I'll Call Home), also known as the domesticverse; the link takes you to the series master post. Specifically, it is the companion piece to pressed against the pending physics of my passed down last name; the titles are from the same song and everything!
Eames is immersed in a pilfered copy of The New Yorker when the front door slams.
"Darling?" Eames calls, looking up. "That you?"
"No," is the gruff response, "it's a burglar."
"Oh," Eames says, glancing back down, "well, in that case, there's a painting in the bedroom that I've been trying to convince Arthur to burn for months. Take it off my hands and I'll let you live, hmmm?"
"Don't even fucking start," Arthur snaps, storming into the room and throwing his coat over the armchair. He bends down to drop his briefcase and starts pulling at his tie, kicking his shoes off in the process. "I swear to god, I am not above taking out my murderous impulses on you."
Eames just laughs, flipping his magazine closed. "Bad day, was it?"
"You've got no idea," Arthur growls. He straightens up, and that's when Eames catches sight of the wicked shiner gracing his left eye. He raises his eyebrows.
"You've got something on your face there, love," he offers. Arthur flips him off and goes into the bedroom, and Eames sighs, gets up off the couch, and goes to the freezer.
"You want to tell me about it?" he calls.
"I want to shoot someone," Arthur replies, muffled by whatever shirt he's pulling on. "Is that the same?"
"For you or for sane people?"
"I don't think anyone would be sane after everything that's gone pear-shaped today," is the response. Biting back his laughter--Arthur's accidental slips into British colloquialism never fail to amuse--Eames selects an unopened bag of frozen peas and shuts the door. "Seriously, I didn't think it could get any worse than Cappleman refusing to pay us again, and then I was proven entirely fucking wrong."
"Cappleman's a tosser," Eames agrees, moving into the living room with the peas behind his back. "But that's hardly your fault."
"Cobb's not going to see it that way," Arthur grumbles, emerging in a pair of boxers and a t-shirt that Eames is pretty sure is his. He stalks past Eames towards the kitchen. "And then I went to get the fucking bonds from that guy you told me to hire and he suddenly wants 15% more than he did last week--"
"Arthur," Eames says.
Arthur turns, mouth opened around something undoubtedly nasty, but Eames meets him halfway with his arm raised. He presses the peas into Arthur's black eye and catches him around the waist in one smooth movement, hauling him for a kiss without losing grip on the bag.
"Mmmph!" says Arthur, and then, after a second, follows up with a considerably more relaxed "mmmm." He sighs into Eames' mouth and opens his own, letting his fingers tangle with the back of Eames' shirt. Eames makes a pleased noise and grinds into him a little before pulling back, keeping his arm around Arthur's waist and holding the bag in place.
"Let's try this again, shall we?" he says, smiling. "Hello, darling."
"Hey," Arthur says ruefully, his mouth quirking up at the corners. "Sorry."
Eames doesn't reply, just kisses him swiftly again and then lifts the bag to peak underneath. Arthur's eye is a mottled purple, just starting to swell shut. Eames whistles. "Christ. You want to tell me who blacked your eye?"
"If you laugh," Arthur says sternly, "I will harm you. Bodily. Not in the good way."
"Noted," Eames replies, solemn. Arthur sighs and puts a hand to his eyes.
"Some little punk tried to car-jack me," he says.
Eames blinks. "You're kidding."
"Eames, he had a spray painted water gun," Arthur moans. "He tried to frighten me. With a spray painted water gun."
"I feel like I should call him," Eames says, shifting the bag a little. Arthur lets out a small, pained hiss. "I'd love to know how he managed to get the drop on you."
"He was waiting behind my car," Arthur says mournfully. "I thought he was lost, he couldn't have been more than fifteen--and then he sucker-punched me and pulled that stupid gun. I mean, of all the embarrassing, ridiculous--"
"Poor thing," Eames says. He releases his arm from around Arthur's waist to run a hand through his hair, even as Arthur glares. "No, no, don't look at me like that--I meant him, not you, darling. What did you do to him?"
Arthur shrugs. "I dislocated his shoulder," he admits. "And then I took his cell phone and called his parents, leaving out some necessary details, of course."
"You model citizen, you," Eames says, letting himself laugh at last as he runs his thumb across Arthur's cheek. Arthur tries to glare at him but ends up smiling, looking ridiculous with the bag over half his face, and Eames can't resist kissing him one more time before stepping away. "Hungry?"
"Starving, actually," Arthur says, taking control of the ice pack. "I was going to pick something up, but I didn't know how long I had before my peripheral was shot. Did you eat?"
"Yeah, sorry. I'll make you something, though, if you keep the bag on your eye. You're on your own, if not."
"Deal," Arthur sighs, collapsing onto the couch.
"Anything in particular sound good?"
There is a pause while Arthur considers this. "Is there any of that stew left?"
Eames goes to the fridge and looks. "A bit. I could throw it over pasta?"
"Sounds great," Arthur calls. "Did you get the mail?"
"On the side table," Eames replies, starting a pot of water boiling and grabbing some parsley out of the crisper drawer.
He hears Arthur mumble a thanks and then the faint rustling of papers, the television clicking on. He smiles and reheats the stew, dumping it over the pasta when it's done, and he's got the whole thing in a bowl when he hears Arthur say "Oh, fuck."
He wanders back into the living room, the bowl in his left hand. Arthur's got his head tilted all the way back against the couch, trusting gravity to keep the bag over his eye in place. He's holding what looks like a wedding invitation over his head, glaring at it with unmasked irritation.
"I feel obligated to inform you that you cannot actually set things on fire with your eyes," Eames says, proffering the bowl. Arthur flips him off and takes it from him, putting down his peas and tossing the invitation aside in order to fall on his dinner like he hasn't eaten in weeks. "What's wrong, then?"
"Not now, eating," is all he gets as an answer. Eames shrugs and sits down, stealing the remote and flicking through the channels until he finds a James Bond movie.
"You're such a stereotype," Arthur snorts, when he pauses for breath and notices what's on. "But at least it's Sean Connery. This is fucking delicious, by the way."
"Thanks, love," Eames says absently. He leans back against the couch and lets himself drift with the plot of the film. After a couple of minutes Arthur wordlessly hands him the invitation, getting up to put his bowl in the sink.
Eames looks it over and raises his eyebrows. "Your sister's getting married."
"One of them," Arthur agrees, coming back. "I knew I should never have given them this address."
"She left you a lovely note," Eames drawls, glancing at the handwritten addendum. "And here I thought you were the violent one in your family."
Arthur laughs, a little fond. "I had to pick it up somewhere." He sits down and stretches out, curling up to fit along the length of the couch, his head on Eames' chest. Deftly, Eames reaches behind him to pluck up the bag of peas and hold it to his eye again, grinning and batting Arthur's hand away when he tries to snatch it off.
"I know it's bad form, wanting you to be able to see in the morning," he says, "but I'm afraid it can't be helped." Arthur rolls his one visible eye but smiles slightly, and Eames glances at the invitation again.
"Don't these things usually come a bit sooner than two weeks before the wedding?"
"That's Rachel," Arthur mutters darkly. "She knows that if she'd given me a bigger window I'd have found a way out of it."
"You're not honestly considering skipping your twin sister's wedding," Eames says, frowning. "Not that I'd judge you, darling, but you'd drive yourself crazy. You actually like Rachel."
"I love Rachel," Arthur snaps. "Of course I'd have gone. I'd just have…snuck in the back, or crashed her bachelorette party or something. Avoided the rest of them. Now I don't have time to plan for that."
Arthur is doing the bristling thing with his shoulders. Eames sighs, pressing his free palm against his spine and rubbing until he feels a couple of muscles relax.
"It might not be so awful," he tries.
Arthur's laugh this time is wry and humorless. "You don't know my family."
"They know where to find you, you know. They'll probably keep bothering until you go out there."
"Or we could move," Arthur sighs. "I hear Yemen is lovely this time of year."
"I could come with you," Eames offers, after a slight pause. He's not entirely certain it's the right thing to say--whether it's trekking too far past Arthur's silently established boundaries, the ones that make Eames crazy sometimes--but he can't help himself. "To the wedding, I mean. Not to Yemen. I stridently object to Yemen."
Arthur sits bolt upright, staring at him with crazy eyes, though admittedly the blackened eye is the crazier by a fair margin.
"What do you mean you could come with me?" he demands. "If you're not going I'm not going, someone has to be there to stop me from committing matricide--Jesus Christ, when did I indicate even once in this conversation that I'd go without you?"
Eames laughs, feeling strangely light in the chest area. "Sorry, love," he murmurs. "I didn't want to push, that's all."
"Bastard," Arthur grumbles, settling down again. "Throw me into the fucking lion's den, why don't you?"
"I think, based on what limited discussions we've had on the topic, you might actually prefer that."
"Lions are easy," Arthur agrees, turning toward the television and letting Eames press the compress to his eye again. "The worst they can do is eat you. My family is….a little more complicated."
The house is in Oyster Bay, not small but not particularly massive either, with paint peeling under one window. Eames had imagined Arthur's childhood home as being grander, more pristine, and when he says as much Arthur almost laughs.
"Wait till you see pictures of me as a kid," he says, quirking a slight smile. "It's all skinned knees and oversized t-shirts."
"You're having me on," Eames replies, widening his eyes. "You came out of the womb fully clothed in a bespoke onesie, I know you did."
"If you could never say the word 'womb' again," Arthur winces, and then he scrubs his face with the back of his hand, his levity slipping away. "There's still time for Yemen, I'm just saying."
"Not that I don't see the irony in that, love," Eames says, "but we're already here."
"Fine," Arthur sighs. He lifts his hand to knock but Eames catches it, holds it. He means to say something bracing and sardonic, something that will settle Arthur's ridiculous spasming shoulder muscles, but when Arthur turns to glance at him Eames is struck by how young he looks all of a sudden.
He threads his hand through Arthur's hair and drags him in for a kiss instead, the knock forgotten. It's a sign of how tense Arthur must be that he allows this, closes his eyes and opens his mouth, humming faintly and fisting the hem of Eames' shirt.
"It's going to be fine," Eames mumbles against his lips. Arthur responds to this by growling and sticking his tongue into Eames' mouth, a little more violently than is really pleasant, and Eames laughs without breaking the kiss and put a hand on the small of Arthur's back, drawing him closer.
Arthur makes a soft sound and nips at Eames' lower lip, his free hand coming up to cup his neck, rub a circle against the patch of missed stubble along jawline. Eames is seriously considering the merits of getting back in the car and finding somewhere discreet to relax Arthur further when--
"Oh for god's sake, Arthur," a woman says, "your first time home in five years and you have to put on a show?"
Arthur jumps away from Eames so fast it's like he's been burned. He's bright red and obviously horrified, and Eames itches to do something to fix him, to drain that expression from his face.
He doesn't know exactly when Arthur being completely mortified stopped being hilarious and started making him angry. It's one of those things he avoids examining too much.
"Mom," Arthur says, "I, uh--"
"He's been a victim of my hideous behavior," Eames cuts in smoothly, smiling at her. "As I'm sure he'll tell you at great length, I am entirely incorrigible and cannot be helped."
"Not that I'm trying to dodge a bullet, but that's really true," Arthur mutters, glancing at Eames with a expression that's hard to read. Eames can't tell if it's irritation or gratitude.
"Arthur didn't mention he was bringing a friend," Arthur's mother says, giving him an unimpressed look. Next to him, Arthur groans.
"Yes I did," he says, "I told you yesterday and Rachel and I talked about it a week ago, and Eames isn't my--"
"Well, Rachel never said anything to me," Arthur's mother sniffs, breezing past the rest of it. "I guess it can't be helped, though. Eames, you said?"
Eames nods, offering his hand. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Mrs--"
"It's Sharon, please," she interrupts, shaking. "No need to stand on ceremony. Arthur, what's happened to your face?"
Arthur shoots Eames a brief glare, one that says 'You can hardly even see it,' my ass, and sighs. "It's nothing. Some guy tried to carjack me a few weeks ago."
"Well, that's what you get for living in that filthy city," Sharon tuts. "I told you you'd be better off on the East Coast, people are more reasonable here."
"Your myriad objections to my living arrangements have all been noted," Arthur says. He is already visibly exasperated, wound so tight that Eames can almost imagining him uncoiling like a spring and shooting him into the air. He wants to reach for Arthur's hand, but recognizes that it probably wouldn't help right now.
"And when's the last time you had a proper meal?" Sharon continues, undeterred. "You're skin and bones, I can hardly stand to look at you. And those clothes, Arthur, I don't know why you insist on dressing like you're some kind of celebrity."
Arthur pinches the bridge of his nose. Eames can hear his teeth grinding. "Is Rachel here?"
"It's always your sister, with you," Sharon sighs. "Heaven forbid you ask your mother how she's doing first."
"We talked yesterday," Arthur growls. "For an hour and half while I was trying to get work done--"
"Job before family," Sharon replies sternly. "It's no way to live, Arthur."
"Fine," Arthur snaps. "Hello, Mom, how have you been, it's great to see you, is Rachel around?"
In reply, Sharon turns and bellows "Rachel, your brother is here!" down the hall. She turns back to them and says "I hope you're satisfied," and then she stalks away, leaving them on the stoop with their bags.
"Christ," Eames says after a minute, blinking. Arthur offers him a tight smile.
"I tried to warn you," he says.
Eames casts around for something to say other than Is she always like that--obviously, yes--and Am I allowed to smack her--obviously, no. He settles on, "I'm beginning to see why Yemen was so appealing," and is rewarded with a slightly more genuine smile.
"There's still time," says Arthur, stepping a little closer, letting their shoulders bump. "Doesn't even have to be Yemen. We could go to Cairo, I know how you like Cairo."
"You loathe Cairo," Eames points out.
"I like it better than here," Arthur mutters. Then a woman comes around the corner and he smiles properly, stepping away from Eames to cross to her. "Rachel!"
"Arthur," she cries, pulling him into a hug. "Thank god, I thought I was going to have to murder Mom all alone."
Arthur laughs. "And make that hit I ordered as a wedding gift useless? Good thing I showed." He releases her and looks her over appraisingly. "You look good."
"You'd hardly know," she tells him, raising an eyebrow. "I haven't seen you in ages."
"Oh for fuck's sake, not you too," Arthur groans, but he's still grinning. "I'm here now, aren't I?"
She breaks into a brilliant smile, bright and uninhibited. "Yeah, you are."
She's a gorgeous woman, Eames observes, with hair the same shade as Arthur's and bright blue eyes. Her tone is light, kind--Eames has spoken to her a few times over the phone and is pleased to discover that her voice suits her face. When she turns to look at him, she smirks, and Eames realizes that she and Arthur look a lot alike.
"Arthur," she says, "you told me he was attractive, you didn't tell me he was gorgeous."
"Don't flatter him," Arthur warns, flushing slightly. "He's insufferable enough as it is."
"That's hardly going to change, darling, regardless of the truths spoken about me," Eames says, grinning. "It's lovely to finally meet you, Rachel."
"Likewise, Mr. Eames," Rachel says, and then she hugs him too, warm and close. When she steps away she glances briefly between them, grinning hugely.
"You look happy," she decides. Arthur's blush goes considerably deeper, and he ducks his head; Eames can't keep his smile in check. Rachel clearly takes that as confirmation enough. She rushes forward, helping them with their bags, leading them up to the room Arthur had argued hard against taking.
"God, I cannot imagine there was a time I ever enjoyed sleeping in here," Arthur mutters. Rachel groans.
"Don't even start. I pushed to get her to let you guys take a hotel, but she bitched and bitched--"
"Yeah, I know," Arthur sighs. "Where is everyone?"
"Hannah's getting her bridesmaid dress refitted--"
"Of course she is," Arthur says, rolling his eyes. Rachel laughs.
"Dad took Josh and Evan out on some errand, I think just to try to avoid Mom, not that I blame him," she continues, sitting down on the bed. "And Sarah's around here somewhere--she was trying to get the kids down for a nap, last I saw her."
"Jesus, I forgot about the kids," Arthur says, blinking. "How old are they now?"
"Noah's four, Sam's two," Rachel says, rolling her eyes. "I've been sending birthday gifts from both of us, you're welcome."
"Thanks," Arthur says, crashing down onto the bed next to her and laying back. Eames smiles down at him and raises his eyebrows, gesturing at the room around them, which was clearly his as a child. Arthur nods and waves a permissive hand.
Eames sets off exploring as Arthur says, "Any major changes?"
"No, it's pretty much business as usual," Rachel says.
"So complete fucking chaos, then?"
"Pretty much," Rachel sighs. "And Evan is as creepy as ever, in case you had any doubts about that. He and Hannah have joined some religious movement, Mom is thrilled."
"Never liked that guy," Arthur mutters. "Speaking of which, where's your husband?"
"Not my husband yet," Rachel says cheerfully.
"Common law," Arthur replies, smirking. She bats at him with a pillow.
"Mike's picking his brother up from the airport," she says, "he'll be back in a bit."
They fall into an amicable enough argument about how easily Arthur could have picked Mike's brother up himself if Rachel had only asked, and Eames tunes them out, looking around. The practice of preserving rooms after the children have left the house is one he's never understood, but he's grateful for it now.
There are indeed photos of Arthur as a kid with skinned knees and oversized t-shirts, which Eames makes a mental note to steal at the first opportunity. There are also a number of plaques, academic awards and the like, and--
"Baseball, darling?" Eames asks, amused.
"What?" Arthur says, rolling over to look at him. Eames holds up one of the trophies, grinning. "Oh, yeah. Shortstop."
"Fascinating," Eames purrs, gratified by Rachel's laugh. "And what else did you get up to as a child, hmm?"
"Okay, we have to get you out of here," Arthur sighs, stretching and standing. "No more snooping."
"I can't believe you weren't kidding about the t-shirts," Eames comments as he's steered bodily from the room. "I feel I've missed a vital portion of your psyche."
"You know plenty about my psyche already," Arthur says, his voice surprisingly honest. Eames turns to look at him and he's making a horrified face, like he hadn't meant to say that at all. Behind him, Rachel is grinning.
"Do I now," Eames says lightly. He lifts a hand to toy at the collar of Arthur's shirt; Arthur reaches like he's going to bat him away, so Eames catches his wrist.
"Yes," Arthur admits, flushing a little, when it's clear he's not getting out of this. "Now let go of me."
"I really can't see any pressing reason why I should," Eames muses, running his thumb across the thin skin. Arthur's flush goes a little deeper, and--
"Arthur," someone hisses, "my children are here."
"Oh my god, is everyone going to catch me out today?" Arthur demands. He'd looked calmer before, calmer and happier, but all the tension is back in his jaw now. Eames releases him, feeling guilty.
"They weren't even doing anything, Sarah," Rachel points out to the hisser, who Eames has gathered is another of Arthur's sisters. She's shorter, slightly heavier than Rachel, with a round face and that same hair. There is an expression on her face suggests that she's just smelled something foul.
"And you might say hello," Arthur adds, his voice taut.
"Fine," Sarah sniffs. "Hello, Arthur. Hello…Arthur's friend."
Not that they've ever gone out of their way to put a word to what it is they are, but Eames is discovering a hitherto unknown hatred for the term "friend." He holds out his hand anyway.
"I'm Eames," he says. "Pleasure to meet you."
Sarah shakes, looking him over, but doesn't say anything. And really Eames is starting to get very irritated, and he knows better than to say anything, but sometimes his self control is…minimal.
"Generally," he says, pleasantly enough, "the next step here is for you to tell me your name."
"You heard my name already," Sarah says, pulling her hand back. Eames raises his eyebrows and feels his jaw clench, even as he sees Arthur flinch out of the corner of his eye.
"Hmm," he says, deciding not to rise to it. He turns to Arthur and then lets his eyes soften, because Jesus, he looks tense. Arthur meets his gaze, and his expression darkens into something strange, something between a smile and a frown, his mouth twisted in on itself.
It says I told you my family was complicated. Eames kind of wants to kiss it off his face and never allow it to return.
"Is that really necessary?" Arthur asks Sarah, narrowing his eyes.
"I don't think you and I really need to go into what's necessary," she says, glaring back.
"Jesus Christ," Arthur snaps, "are we really going to spend this entire weekend rehashing--"
"Well we wouldn't have to if you hadn't--"
"Because what you said wasn't just as--"
"Oh come on, Arthur," Sarah sneers, cutting him off, "don't be such a bitch."
Arthur has been insulted with considerably more skill than that--Eames has seen it. Hell, Eames has called Arthur worse names than "bitch," and been met with nothing more than a visceral, cutting reply. If someone had asked him, at any moment prior to this one, whether he could imagine a universe in which Arthur could be beaten in verbal combat by anyone, he would have laughed in their face.
None of this explains the way Arthur's face floods with color, the way his mouth works soundlessly for a second before he comes out with "Jesus. Fuck you too, Sar."
They glare at each other for a second. Then Sarah says, "Well, Rachel. That counts as making an effort, doesn't it?" and walks away, her heels clacking on the stairs.
"Don't start, Eames," Arthur says immediately. Eames raises his eyebrows, turning to him.
"Don't start?" he repeats. "Darling, what the bloody--"
"We had a fight," Arthur says shortly. "Last time I was here. I'd rather not get into it."
Baaaad fight, Rachel mouths over his shoulder. Baaaad.
"I'd gathered as much," Eames says. "Christ, Arthur--"
"Seriously," Arthur sighs, "seriously, don't. I can't do this right now. Please, Eames."
Eames stares at him for a second. Then, slowly, he nods. Arthur lets out a long breath and Eames actually aches to touch him, but he restrains himself, figuring that impulse has caused enough trouble today already.
"Well," Rachel says, "that went well."
"I need a cigarette," Arthur mutters. "Are they in your bag or mine?"
"Neither," Eames says, pulling the pack out of his back pocket and handing it over. "Do you want me to--"
"No," Arthur barks. The surprise must register on Eames' face, because when Arthur meets his eyes he winces and sighs again, reaches out to touch his arm.
"Fuck, sorry," he says. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to--I just need a minute, okay?"
"Of course, love," Eames murmurs. Arthur's grip on his arm tightens for a second, and they exchange quicksilver smiles before Arthur turns to Rachel.
"Oh, don't, it's not like I expected anything better," Rachel says, rolling her eyes. "Go indulge your bad habit before you snap and break someone's neck."
"Thanks," Arthur says, and heads down the stairs. This leaves Eames with Rachel, who is giving him a probing look.
"You let him go," she says, like she's testing him.
"Well of course I did," Eames snaps, having reached his breaking point. "I am perfectly capable of discerning when he wants to be followed. I'd prefer if this was one of those times, actually, but it's not, and the hell if I'll go out of my way to make anything worse."
Rachel smiles at him. "Mr. Eames," she says, "I'm impressed."
"Oh Christ," Eames says, already feeling the beginnings a splitting headache, "you really are twins, aren't you?"
In the twenty three minutes Arthur spends smoking--not that Eames is paying attention to that or anything--Rachel gives him a tour of the house. He asks the right questions, how she met her fiance and where she went to college, teasing her lightly about cold feet. He enjoys her company; she reminds him more than a little bit of Mal on her best days, and he wonders with a dull ache if that's what had drawn Arthur to the Cobbs in the first place.
"So," she says finally, when they've settled out on the front stoop with glasses of lemonade, "I bet you're curious."
"About Sarah?" Eames asks. "Of course. But I'd rather hear it from Arthur, if it's all the same to you."
Rachel narrows her eyes. "Either this is an act, or you're actually a good guy. I'm kind of leaning towards the latter, to be honest, but maybe that's just wishful thinking."
"Ah," Eames hazards, "well, it's not an act, but I wouldn't say I was a particularly good guy either. I do try, though, with Arthur."
"Do you?" Arthur asks, coming up the drive. Eames glances up, surprised, but Arthur looks better, more himself. He touches Eames' jaw, brief and light, and almost smiles. "That's news to me."
"No it's not," Eames says, grinning up at him. He's loosened his tie and his jacket's in his hand, his sleeves rolled down to his elbows, and the sun is low enough in the sky that Eames has to shield his eyes to hold his gaze.
He does. It's worth it.
"Yeah, well," Arthur says, the corner of his mouth twitching. "I'm sorry I snapped at you."
"Do we live in a universe where you apologize for snapping now?" Eames muses aloud. "My, my, New York really is a mythical place."
"Shut up," Arthur says, the twitch at the corner of his mouth mutating into a grin. "God, you suck."
"I didn't need to know that," Rachel deadpans, and Arthur snorts out a laugh. It's nice for a minute, quiet, comfortable.
Then two cars pull into the driveway, and everything descends into chaos.
Eames meets Ben, Arthur's father (short, quiet, genuinely glad to see his son), Josh and Evan, his brothers-in-law (odd and entirely whipped, respectively), Mike, Rachel's fiance (broad in the shoulders and smiling like he means it), Mike's family (clearly old friends of Arthur's parents), Hannah, Arthur's third sister (nearly as odd as her husband), and Sarah's kids (pleasant enough but obviously spoiled).
A man who knows when to shut up and watch, Eames is mostly silent through the dinner that follows. Arthur's family is loud, and they argue about almost everything--Hannah's new religious decisions and Sarah's husband's tie, the way that Noah, the four-year-old, refuses to eat his chicken. When they're not arguing they're telling jokes, raucous stories with ridiculous endings, half-cocked, self-depreciating jabs piling up on each other. They all have to shout to be heard.
They are incredibly unkind to Arthur.
Eames isn't even sure Arthur notices, at first. He doesn't flinch when Hannah brings up how clumsy he was as a child, when Sarah slips in a slight about his military career. He's horrified at the idea that Arthur could be so used to this as to just ignore it, and then Sharon works a dig about Arthur's dress sense into an entirely unrelated story, and Eames feels his patience wear thin. He opens his mouth to say something, and suddenly Arthur's hand is on his thigh, a light touch.
"Don't," he says quietly, "trust me, don't."
The fact that Arthur is not ignoring it, but consciously choosing not to defend himself, is actually considerably worse than the thought of him not hearing it at all.
To distract himself from the murderous impulses, Eames talks to Mike, Rachel's fiance. He and Rachel have apparently been together since high school, and Eames catches him looking at her when the conversation slows, like he can't believe his luck. He nudges Arthur, showing him, and Arthur nods his approval, his eyes crinkling at the corners.
"You like him," Eames observes. Arthur nods, smiling a little.
"He loves my sister," he says, "and I've known him for years. He'll do."
"I can hear you, Arthur," Mike points out, amused. Arthur doesn't even flinch.
"And he knows what I'll do to him if he hurts her," he continues, "don't you, Mike?"
"You are the most terrifying younger brother anyone's ever had," Mike agrees cheerfully, cleaning the last of the chicken from his plate with one bite. "I live in fear."
"Two goddamn minutes," Arthur mutters. "Two."
"Arthur!" Sharon calls, before Eames can needle him about that until he's really, properly grinning, "aren't you even going to offer to help clean up?"
"Kill me," Arthur says to Eames, standing and stepping out of his reach. "Please, for the love of god, just kill me."
He's gone for twenty minutes. When he comes back he looks defeated, and Sarah's got her mouth opened around what is obviously going to be another attack, and Eames decides it's past time for some subterfuge. He glances around for Arthur's mother, confirms that she's not around to guilt Arthur into something else, and then he sidles close, pressing his chest to Arthur's shoulder.
"Darling," he says, "didn't you want to show me around? I'd love to see the neighborhood."
Sarah narrows her eyes at the endearment, which Eames pointedly ignores. Arthur's brow creases for a second, but then he huffs out a long breath and nods.
Behind him, Rachel is giving him a shrewd look that might be approval; Eames can't quite tell.
"Fabulous," he says, taking Arthur's hand and tugging. Arthur follows him down the stairs and out of the house, up to the end of the street. When Eames finally stops moving they're at a playground, and he lets Arthur go, offers him the cigarette pack wordlessly.
Arthur doesn't speak for ten minutes, just takes a cigarette and smokes it, leaning against the fence. When he finishes he sighs and toys with the stained filter, flicking at the paper with his thumbnail.
"Well," Eames says quietly, "I imagine there's a story behind all that, hmm?"
Arthur takes a deep breath and exhales, smiling crookedly. "It's not particularly interesting."
"They're just--" he sighs, runs a hand through his hair. "Sarah and I never got along, even when we were kids."
"I can't imagine why," Eames says, when it's clear that nothing else is forthcoming. Arthur laughs--or it would be a laugh, if the noise wasn't pained, bordering on hollow.
"She wasn't always like this," he says. "She just didn't get her way much, and our parents kind of…spoiled me, I guess, because I was the only boy. But then I disappointed them, and she never wanted to let me live it down, like I wasn't getting it shoved down my throat anyway. My mother still hasn't forgiven me, you know. For dropping out of business school, for--I mean, I was supposed to get married and take over my dad's firm. I was supposed to be around more. She still tells me I've broken their hearts."
"How kind of her," Eames mutters. Arthur kind of glares at him, but it's lacking its usual challenging force. He just looks tired.
"I didn't need them to be kind," he says. "Jesus, this isn't some kind of--I'm not…it's not like it keeps me up at night or anything. I don't really care anymore--I didn't really care then, I wasn't looking for anything from them, but…oh, fuck, Eames, I don't know. They just wanted me to be one person, and I turned out to be someone else, that's all."
He sighs, tilting his head back. "Last time I was home was right after Mal…well, you know. I just, I had arranged the whole thing and got Cobb in town for it and then, you know, out again, and I knew I had to go meet him and I just--I didn't know if I'd ever even be back in the States, and I didn't know where else to go, and I thought I should at least try to see them."
His mouth twists, like he's admitting a weakness he'd rather have kept hidden, and Eames hates himself. Because he'd known, he'd known when he woke up alone the morning after Mal died that Arthur needed him to follow, and he'd made it all the way to the fucking airport before he told himself he was being ridiculous. Don't flatter yourself, he'd thought, and even when Arthur had texted him in the middle of the night and then answered his call he hadn't let himself see it, that he was needed, that he should go.
He hadn't known Arthur as well then, hadn't understood that he never asks for the things he fucking wants, but he'd ignored his instincts and Arthur had come here, here, where everyone treats him like a pariah, like a disappointment.
It's all Eames can do not to set something on fire. It's all Eames can do not to grab Arthur and run.
"Sarah was pregnant," Arthur says. "She'd just found out, and there was a party, and I had to meet Cobb, and she wanted me to stay. And I couldn't, because I'd promised and Cobb was already taking jobs and I couldn't let him die too and, look, not to get into it too much, but she said I'd never given a fuck about anyone but myself and I just--I kind of snapped. And I really shouldn't have, but--"
"Jesus fucking Christ," Eames spits, "of course you did. That's the most wrongheaded thing I've ever heard."
Arthur blinks at him, slowly, like he's not sure what to do with himself. Then he shakes his head and says "I called her an overbearing judgmental bitch and told her I wouldn't stay if I could, is the point. I told them all I wouldn't stay if I could. Things have been--strained, since."
He's got the cigarette filter ripped to shreds now, bits of cotton caught underneath his fingernails, nicotine staining itself yellow on his hands. And Eames doesn't bother stopping himself the way he's been stopping himself all day--he just steps forward and pulls, wrapping himself himself around Arthur in one clean motion.
"Jesus," Arthur says, pulling back as far as he can, "Eames, get off, don't be stupid."
"No, I don't think I will," Eames says. "The thing is, love, I've been restraining the urge to commit acts of violence since we left the airport, so I need you to just shut up and come here, alright? For the sake of my criminal record, if nothing else."
"That is such a flimsy fucking lie," Arthur mutters, but he stops fighting and lets Eames gather him up. After a minute some of his stiffness slides away and he puts his arms around Eames, his palms flat against Eames' shirt. His head drops to Eames' shoulder and he takes a few long, low breaths, like he's measuring them out.
"You know," Eames says quietly, "I'm rather fond of the person you turned out to be, for all he's a bit of a prick."
Arthur laughs but doesn't reply. After a few minutes he says "Thanks," in a voice that is smaller, less sure than his usual one, and Eames doesn't know what he means--if his gratitude is for what Eames said or for the contact between them or something broader, for the fact that Eames is here at all.
He decides it doesn't matter. He tightens his hold and stays, working the flat of his palm against the knot between Arthur's shoulder blades, until the sun is completely gone from the sky.
The next morning, true to form, Eames wakes up far earlier than he means to. Cursing his stupid inability to get comfortable in a bed other than his own, he tries very hard not to shift overmuch and wake Arthur, who is crashed out against his side.
It's a testament to the regularity of this particular quirk that Arthur wakes up anyway, blinking up at him with bleary eyes.
"God, Eames, what time is it?" he moans. Eames winces.
"Six-thirty," he admits. "Sorry, darling. Go back to sleep."
"You," Arthur mutters rebelliously, and then apparently forgets the rest of the sentence. "Hate your fucking…sleep...things."
"My sleep things?" Eames repeats, trying not to laugh.
"Shut up," Arthur mumbles. His hair is an unholy mess, and Eames ruffles it a little, just because he can. "An' stoppit."
"Really," Eames says softly, "go back to sleep. I'm going to run to the loo and grab the paper, maybe, but I'll be right back."
"Okay," Arthur sighs, closing his eyes again. Eames presses a kiss to his cheekbone and is rewarded with a small "mmm" noise, and he extricates himself as carefully as he can. He goes to the bathroom, takes a quick shower, and snatches the paper from the front stoop, hoping no one will object too much when they discover it missing.
When he gets back upstairs, Arthur is sprawled across the entire bed. Eames laughs and gingerly lifts one of his arms, slipping underneath it carefully.
Arthur makes a noise that is half snore and half groan and shifts, curling in on himself with his head on Eames' thigh. Used to this, Eames flips the business section open with one hand and buries his other in Arthur's hair, stroking absently every couple of minutes.
When he's finished the entire paper and is halfway through the crossword, Arthur begins to show some signs of life.
"Fucking fuck," he says. Eames, who has come to expect some random swearing before Arthur's higher brain functions kick in, hums an agreement and resumes considering the beguiling puzzle of 41-down.
"What're you stuck on?" Arthur asks eventually, his eyes opening. Eames taps his pen against the clue and Arthur peers at it, blinking.
"Leskov, I think," he decides over a yawn. "With a K, not a C."
"Thanks, love," Eames says, filling it in. "You can go back to sleep again, if you like."
"No, we've got shit to do," Arthur sighs, stretching. "Did you steal the whole paper or just the crossword?"
"Whole thing," Eames says, reaching down and handing it over. Arthur sits up, half-propped against him, and flips the front page open.
After a few minutes, he leans over and kisses Eames' neck absently. "Morning."
"And to you," Eames says, putting down the crossword for a minute to draw him in and kiss him properly. Arthur smiles a little against his lips, warm and close. "Ugh, darling, your breath."
"Yours is worse," Arthur hums cheerfully, picking the paper back up. "And you've been awake for ages."
"And haven't even had a coffee," Eames confirms. "You looked like you needed the sleep."
"I could have slept without you," Arthur points out. He's grinning, though, one of the silly, sappy ones he always pretends didn't happen.
"But not as well," Eames counters, glancing back at the crossword.
"Mmm," Arthur says, noncommittal. "Whatever you say, Mr. Eames."
And Eames has to kiss him again, because his hair is everywhere and his mouth is still a little slack from sleep, and he keeps almost-yawning, these little half-gasps that he's stifling against his hand. Eames has to kiss him again because there are days he thinks Arthur is a projection, days he's sure this can't possibly be real. And Arthur shifts under his hands, open his mouth and releasing a wave of that foul, foul breath, and he yawns again even as he sucks at Eames' bottom lip.
"You are adorable in the morning," Eames says, without nearly enough mockery in his voice, because he's thought it a million times and he might as well.
Arthur punches him, but not all that hard.
In jeans and a sweater, Arthur looks like the version of himself only Eames gets to see. They spend the morning at the house, doing various errands and generally trying to be helpful, and Eames stares at Arthur considerably more than he means to.
Arthur catches him at it sometimes, and scowls, and tries to look away before Eames can see him smile. Generally he fails.
It's just that it's odd to see him like this, surrounded by people who all look and sound vaguely like him, falling into old habits almost unthinkingly for all he's tensed. Because there is, visibly, love there--underneath the criticism and the bad blood, underneath the tight line of Arthur's shoulders--and it's obvious that Arthur can't help but slip into certain patterns, learned behaviors he can't quite let go.
Like: when Arthur's mother says honey he smiles reflexively, even though it's usually followed up with a complaint or a criticism. Like the way his hands twitch automatically when the dishwasher beeps, in a way that indicates that emptying it had once been his chore. Like the way he says certain words with the very, very faint hint of his mother's Brooklyn accent, and then scowls, catching himself at it.
When Eames catches sight of one of Arthur's Bar Mitzvah photos, sitting in a frame in the middle of the bookshelf, he can't help staring at it. Arthur's thirteen and gangly and wearing one of those prayer shawl things (Arthur is remarkably reluctant to explain Jewish traditions, but Eames would rather learn about it from him than Google it), and he's got braces. Braces. And atrocious acne.
It's maybe the most adorable thing Eames has ever seen.
"Look at you," he says, before he can help himself.
Arthur looks up from the place-cards he's sorting and makes a terrible noise, but it's too late--Sharon is pulling the book of them off the shelf before Arthur can stop her.
She shows him all of the Bar Mitzvah photos and then others, ignoring Arthur's protests. Arthur at three with peanut butter all over his face and Arthur at 16, grinning wildly and holding up his driver's license. Arthur in various Halloween costumes and Arthur with his sisters, all of them, playing and laughing.
She seems proud and wistful and a little sad, showing him. Eames can see how, stripped of the palpable tension between her and her son, he might come to like her.
Of course, there are photos that make his heart clench, too. Arthur with a military buzz cut, looking miserable, and Arthur standing at the edge of too many family gathering with a scowl. Sharon flips past those quickly and closes the book, and Arthur turns away before Eames can look at him properly, before Eames can say anything at all.
He wonders, absently, what it would have been like to know that younger Arthur, happy and easy and unburdened by the weight of everything he expects of himself, and then realizes that in some ways, he already does. He thinks about Arthur in the mornings and Arthur late at night, Arthur leaning into him when he feels like shit and Arthur calling him from across the world and pointedly not saying I miss you.
He is staggered, and stunned, and--oddly--proud of Arthur. He really doesn't know what to do with himself at all.
"This has been delightful," he says, because he has to say something. Sharon beams at him, and there's something in it that rankles Eames a little, like she's offering him a bit of forgiveness for not being who she wants for her son.
"Not for me," Arthur says, coming back from the kitchen with a half-eaten roll in his hand. He means it lightly, Eames can tell, but Sharon's smile falls off her face and she stands, storms off.
"Jesus," Arthur sighs. He hands Eames the roll and scrubs his face. "I keep forgetting to watch it with the sarcasm."
"Not your fault," Eames says, but Arthur shrugs it off.
"Look, I have to get Rachel a wedding gift," he says. "You want to come?"
"No, I want to stay here alone," Eames says, rolling his eyes. "But I thought you already--"
"Oh, yeah, I upgraded their flight and the hotel suite for the honeymoon," Arthur says, taking the roll back and popping the last bite into his mouth. "But I have to get something tangible, or it'll be a thing."
"Ah," Eames says, at a loss. Family politics aren't something he's ever had to deal with, really--his house was always more of a cold war than a battlefield. He understands, though, or tries to.
"Also," Arthur adds, "I want to get out of here," and that Eames understands considerably better.
He follows Arthur out to the car and lets him drive, because he knows nothing winds him down like breaking the speed limit. They've been in the car for maybe fifteen minutes when Arthur swears, cuts a hard left, and veers down a small street.
He turns into the car park of what appears to be an abandoned office building a minute later, swinging the car around to the back and cutting the engine.
"Interesting shop," Eames comments, glancing around. Arthur fiddles with his sleeve, looking out the window and at the steering wheel and anywhere except at Eames.
"Look," he says, "I just--I'm a little stressed, okay, and I kind of thought we might--"
"Oh," says Eames, cottoning on. He grabs Arthur by the back of the neck, wrenching his face up. Arthur is faintly flushed, not that he'd ever admit it, and his hand is still caught on his sleeve.
"Get over here, then," Eames growls, and kisses him.
Arthur moans into his mouth and scrambles over the gearshift without breaking the kiss, gripping Eames' shoulders. Eames settles his hands over Arthur's hips, and Arthur is lithe and firm underneath him, the denim of his too-nice jeans rubbing a pattern into Eames' palms. Eames lets one hand slide under Arthur's waistband and squeezes his arse, and Arthur squirms pleasurably, straddling him in one fell movement.
"Christ," Eames murmurs, "and here I thought I was going to have to go all weekend without."
"Just because I don't want to fuck in my parent's house doesn't mean I don't have needs, Eames," Arthur replies, and draws his teeth down and across Eames' earlobe. Eames hisses and tightens his grip on Arthur's ass, a frisson of pleasure traveling all the way down his spine to pool in his groin.
"Shouldn't have underestimated you," Eames agrees, a little breathless. "I think we're going to want a bit more room, though, darling."
"Backseat," Arthur says, already opening the door. "Backseat, now."
"Gladly," Eames says.
He gets out after Arthur and opens the door for him, and when Arthur rolls his eyes Eames grins and shoves him in there, a little too hard. Not expecting it, Arthur goes sprawling, landing across the leather expanse on his back, and Eames thanks all the higher powers he can think of for his decision to get a sedan instead of a coupe.
"Asshole," Arthur says, grinning and looking entirely like himself for the first time in days.
"Mmm, there's an idea," Eames purrs, and climbs in, shutting the door behind him. He levers himself over Arthur, pressing them together lengthwise, and attacks the expanse of his neck, biting and sucking.
"Jesus," Arthur gasps, "don't you fucking dare leave a--god, I can't be telling you not to leave hickeys in the back of a fucking car, this is high school all over again--"
"And who were you doing this with in high school?" Eames demands, mock-affronted.
"You cannot be jealous of my high school boyfriends," Arthur laughs.
"Boyfriends?" Eames repeats, accentuating the plural.
"That's just--completely irrational--"
And Eames isn't jealous, not really. It would be irrational, irrational and silly and entirely unlike him, and anyway it's not like he has any doubts about Arthur, not these days. Still, Arthur is laughing, he's laughing and some of that terrible tension is seeping out of his shoulders, and Eames doesn't see any reason not to drive home the point that he is, for any number of reasons, Arthur's very best option.
"Ah," he says, "well. Allow me to illustrate how far superior I am to your boyhood conquests, hmm?"
"I'd like to see you try," Arthur growls, mostly to be contrary. Eames pushes himself up on his elbows and leers down at him, smirking. There's a challenge in his eyes, bright and tempting, and Eames has never, ever been one to resist a challenge.
"Right," he says.
And then he's got his hands on the flies of Arthur's trousers, sliding them down and ripping them off, tossing them up into the front seat. He pulls at Arthur's pants next, gets him free, and oh, Arthur's already hard. Eames runs the pad of his thumb along the line of his cock and Arthur releases a long, low breath.
"Is that the best you can do?" he asks, quirking an eyebrow.
"Oh, hardly," Eames laughs, and slides down.
One of the best things about Arthur is how sodding eager he is, how much he says with his body that he'd never let come out of his mouth. He hooks his legs over Eames' shoulders and his hips jerk a little, bringing his dick up towards Eames' mouth, and it's almost funny, how wrong he is about what's about to happen.
"Oh, no, darling," Eames murmurs against his thigh. "I'm proving my worth, after all. I can be a little more creative than that."
He dips his head, down past the line of his cock, past his balls, to get at the curve of his arse. Arthur lets out a little half moan of anticipation, which is nothing compared to the drawn out groan he releases when Eames sinks his tongue in to lap at him, a long, smooth stripe.
"Fuck," Arthur gasps, "oh, shit, Eames--"
"Shhh," Eames murmurs. He pushes in deeper, flicking his tongue inside Arthur's hole, and Arthur's whole body jerks in a shudder. Eames lifts his hands, spreads Arthur's thighs wider across his shoulders, and hums, blowing a hot breath into Arthur's insides. He curves his tongue and runs it jaggedly against Arthur's edges and Arthur is keening, arching and pushing himself closer.
"Eames, Eames, fucking shit, oh, god, Eames," he moans, "oh, fuck, that feels so fucking good--"
"Does it?" Eames inquires, pulling back just enough to form the words. Even that, even just his breath caught between Arthur's cheeks, makes Arthur shudder. Eames grins.
"God, yes, just--why did you stop, don't fucking stop--"
"Are you willing to admit that I've come tops yet?" Eames asks, pressing a kiss into his skin. He lets his teeth bare into it a little, grazing, and Arthur's thighs clench around him.
"This isn't--this isn't some kind of fucking--"
"So that's a no, then," Eames murmurs, endeavoring to sound disappointed. "I'll suppose I'll just have to make my point more clearly."
He dips his head again, his tongue probing and focused, and this time Arthur reaches up a hand to fist in his hair. His grip must be white-knuckled, if the way he's pulling is anything to go by--Eames thinks he may be balding by the time he's done, and doesn't really mind. Because regardless of the state of his hair, Arthur is going to be a gibbering wreck when Eames is finished with him; Arthur is going to be as bloody relaxed as he's ever been in his life.
"I'm going to take you apart," he hisses, not even sure if Arthur can hear him. "I'm going to undo you."
"God, yes," Arthur chokes. "Fuck, Eames, yes."
Eames doesn't reply, just slips his tongue back in again. He reaches his hand up, feeling blindly until his fingers find Arthur's mouth. And Arthur doesn't even hesitate, just sucks three of them in to the knuckle, slicking them.
Eames' cock twitches so hard that his vision goes white for a split second, just from that.
"Excellent," he murmurs, pulling his fingers back, "oh, darling, I appreciate that, I really do," and he moves his face away from Arthur's hole only to press two fingers in instead. Quickly, before Arthur can react, Eames gets his dick in his mouth, hollowing out his cheeks and sucking hard as he spreads his fingers wide.
Arthur releases a strangled half scream and arches his entire back, his legs still over Eames' shoulders, pushing himself off the leather seat entirely. "Oh, Jesus, Eames, what--what the hell are you doing, oh my god, oh my god, oh my god--"
Eames figures he's got another minute before the overstimulation makes Arthur come too early. He uses it to his advantage, swirling his tongue over Arthur's weeping head, pressing a third finger into him just to feel him shake. Arthur keeps up a litany of curses, sentences he can't finish, Eames' name, and Eames is so hard he can't imagine he'll ever recover.
"Unless you want me to," Arthur pants, "you--Jesus Christ, Eames, how--how the hell am I supposed to--"
"Sorry, love," Eames says, not sorry at all. He pulls back and smirks, his fingers still buried deep, and Arthur stares at his mouth, transfixed.
"You've," he manages, "you've got a little--"
"Why don't you get that for me," Eames purrs, slipping his fingers out, and Arthur is letting his legs drop from Eames' shoulders and scrambling up to kiss him before Eames can blink. He lets a hand slide up under the sweater Arthur is still wearing as Arthur tears at his mouth, all teeth and vigor, shaking with all his fucking want against Eames' chest.
"Eames," he says, and it's mostly sob, really, "Eames, Jesus Christ, you can't just--I feel like I'm going to fucking die, I--"
"Let's get that shirt off," Eames murmurs. In truth he himself is having some trouble with self-control, is finding his words clumsy in his mouth--because Arthur is fucking gorgeous like this, sweating with wide pupils, a complete, deconstructed wreck. He grips the hem of the sweater and pulls it over Arthur's head, and bends down to bite at Arthur's nipples even as Arthur reaches to pull Eames' own shirt off. Eames shakes out of it quickly and resumes, even as Arthur grips his shoulder hard enough to leave bruises.
"Nnng," says Arthur, as Eames flicks at the sensitive skin with his tongue. "Fucking fucking fuck."
"Are you ready yet?" Eames asks, grinning up at Arthur with one nipple caught between his teeth. Arthur glares down at him.
"What the fuck," he demands, his breath hitching, "of course I'm--of course I'm fucking ready, what are you--"
"To admit that I'm the best you've ever had," Eames growls. He leans back and flips Arthur over in one smooth motion, bending down to lick his hole again. "To admit that no one has ever--"
"Stop playing games and--oh--and fuck me, Eames, fucking shit, shut up and fuck me," Arthur insists, his face pressed into the smooth leather of the car seat.
"Not until you say it," Eames murmurs. "Not until I hear you admit that--"
"Fine," Arthur chokes, "fine, fine, you're the best, you're the fucking best, no one else has ever even come close, Eames, now would you just fuck me please."
And for a second, Eames can't even give him what he wants, because he's so bloody blindsided by it. Not that he hadn't known what he was asking, not that he had doubted his ability to bring Arthur to saying it, but--but hearing it…
"Oh, Arthur," he murmurs, leaning down to press a kiss to his bare shoulder blades.
"Don't get sentimental, you ass," Arthur gasps. "Jesus, it can fucking wait, I'm going to fucking explode--"
"Okay, okay," Eames agrees, "shh, okay."
He undoes his own flies and pulls his cock out, dripping and ready. He's got a condom in his wallet and his rips it open, pulls it on as fast as he can. Arthur is stretched so wide that he slides in easily, and he hisses out a staccato breath as Eames presses his full length in, tantalizingly slow.
"Motherfucker," Arthur grinds out, "harder, now, Eames, shit, right fucking now--"
"Like this?" Eames asks, and jerks back and forward again, shoving himself into Arthur's prostate. Arthur groans and jerks, his fingers clenching.
"Yes, yes, oh god--"
"Because no one else knows what you like, Arthur, isn't that right?" Eames murmurs, leaning forward so he's up against Arthur's ear. He's got one hand bracing himself, trapped in the space between Arthur's shoulder and the back of the seat. Arthur leans in and bites his wrist as he talks, and Eames shudders, brings himself down even harder.
"Because who else fucking fills you like this, in the back of a car like you can't even wait for it, who else knows how you sound when you're being sodding filthy--"
"You've made…your fucking…point," Arthur manages.
"But you like hearing it, don't you," Eames hisses against the shell of his ear, pounding him mercilessly, reaching down underneath to fist his cock and yank. "You like hearing it--because no one's ever been like this for me, Arthur, I'm just as fucking bent for you and you love hearing me fucking say it--"
"Yes," Arthur groans, "yes, okay, yes, fucking--fuckfuckfuck Eames--"
And suddenly Eames can't finish like this, can't push the last few strokes he's got left into Arthur's arse without being able to fucking look at him. He pulls out and runs a soothing thumb down Arthur's spine when he keens at the loss.
"No, darling," he says, much, much softer than he was before, "no, shh, just flip over for me, come here."
And Arthur glares a little, but he doesn't even have the breath in him to complain, just lets Eames turn him over and slide back in. He's a quivering mess, his hair everywhere, drips of precome coating his stomach and thighs, and Eames slips his arms under his back and picks them up, pulls them both into sitting. The change in position makes Arthur moan, and he drops his head to Eames' shoulder, taking a shuddering, sobbing breath as Eames drives up into him again, pulling lightly at his dick. And then Arthur's coming, spewing spunk all over Eames' thankfully bare stomach, biting Eames' shoulder and keening.
Eames jerks himself up once, twice, three times and comes himself, feeling Arthur's arse, exhausted though it has to be, clench around him. He lets out a guttural moan and tightens his arms around Arthur, riding it out, and then he's blinking and gasping and coming back to himself.
Arthur's in his lap, naked and shuddering, his legs wrapped around Eames' waist and his face mashed into Eames' neck. Eames lets himself slide out with a faint pop but doesn't move Arthur at all, just runs a hand down his back, soothing and slow.
"Jesus fuck, Eames," Arthur says, "holy fucking shit, what."
"I thought you wanted to blow off some steam," Eames murmurs. "And I bet you feel better, hmm?"
"God, yes," Arthur mutters against his neck. "But fucking hell, you are--just--depraved, shit."
"That's why you like me so well," Eames agrees. He runs his hand down Arthur's back again and Arthur tightens his arms, buries his face a little deeper in Eames' neck, and sighs.
He doesn't say anything for a long time, just stays like that, curved into Eames and touching everywhere. He's oversensitive and his breathing is labored, and Eames doesn't bother to check the urge to kiss him wherever he can reach--his shoulder, his ear, the side of his neck. Arthur can't seem to work up the energy to do much more than move his hand, but he does do that, dragging his fingers in lazy circles on Eames' back.
"Okay," Arthur breathes eventually, clearly mostly to himself, "okay, we have to--we have to get cleaned up, we've got--"
"Shut up," Eames says easily. He presses a lazy kiss against Arthur's mouth, sighing into it as Arthur parts his lips and kisses back. "We've got another minute, yeah?"
"We really don't," Arthur murmurs, but he doesn't pull away either, and for awhile they're just kissing, shagged out and slow in the back of the car.
Still, all good things must end, and finally Arthur leans back, rolling his eyes when Eames makes a small noise of protest. His gaze is fond, though, and he wipes the come off of Eames' stomach with an undershirt they're going to have to throw out, lets Eames run his fingers through his hair a few times, until it's less of a mess.
They do end up going to the shop, and Arthur moves easily through the aisles, loose and languid, selecting a hand-blown glass bowl that he's sure Rachel will love. When Eames brushes up against him he smiles, leans into the touch a little, and even on the drive back to his parents' house his shoulders are lacking the knotted agony Eames has grown to hate.
He changes into a suit for the rehearsal dinner and harasses Eames about his own clothing choices, mocking gently, and god, he's just--he seems better.
Then they actually get to the banquet hall. Trust Arthur's family to undo all of Eames' hard work.