This is for my beloved CLAIRZA for her stellar efforts in the field of keeping me coffee-fuelled <3 She asked for Arthur/Eames with banter, references to the past, and suits. I then stole some prompts from Aja and Del and added my own desire to muck around with established-relationship fic, and mixed it all together, and out came the self-indulgent beast you see below.
This is NOT, in fact, my Inception WIP. My WIP and I are having a stubbornness contest. It's winning.
five ties arthur can't wear any more
The first thing their new forger does is look Arthur up and down in a way that's just the sensual side of appraising; the first thing he says is, "And aren't you a sharp one. I do like the socialist tie."
"Arthur, this is Mr Eames," Cobb says, and the man Eames extends his hand. Arthur shakes politely, firmly.
"William Morris," Eames says.
"What -- oh. Yes." Arthur touches the tie, which was a gift, a long time ago, from someone who knew his tastes well enough that he still wears it. "He was English, wasn't he. Textiles."
"He was a libertarian socialist poet," Eames says, sounding happy about it. "And not to presume on our all-too-brief acquaintaince, darling, but I doubt you'd wear any of those words nearly as well as you wear that suit."
"Nobody calls me darling without buying me a drink first, Mr Eames," Arthur says, and turns away. "I've only put together some initial dossiers on the mark and his family, but it'll do for the first stages of planning. Here."
Eames sits through his presentation without saying anything else, chewing one finger and kicking his foot. Every so often he flicks a glance from the computer to Arthur without changing his intent expression, as though there's just as much to be learned from Arthur himself.
Three weeks later Arthur reaches for the tie, wanting to match the blue to the pinstripe in his new trousers, but as soon as he sees the pattern he can hear Eames's voice saying libertarian socialist poet as though it's somewhere between an insult and the funniest joke in the world.
"Fuck," he mutters, and throws it to the back of the shelf.
"You're early," Arthur says.
"I'm on time." Eames is sitting on a bench outside the office building, watching the morning commuters, sipping coffee and moving his eyes from person to person.
"You're usually late." Arthur sits down next to him. "What are you doing?"
"Watching people check their watches," Eames says; Arthur's been working with him for a month by now, so he doesn't find this as ridiculous as he might have. "Asians tend to lift their whole arm, bringing it almost up to eye level. Europeans move only their hand, and look all the way down. I don't know why. Men keep their wrists straight but women flex them downwards; I worked that one out."
He leaves an obvious pause. Arthur sighs. "Why?"
"Their watches tend to be looser, and their wrists smaller. The flexion pulls the watch right against the hand and holds it in place."
Arthur pushes his hands deeper into his pockets against the chill of the morning air, and finds himself looking at people's wrists. It's nearing nine in the morning and a lot of people are frantically checking just how late they are.
"Here," Eames says abruptly, and picks up another cup of coffee that had been shielded from view by his legs. He passes it to Arthur. "Latte."
Eames gives him an affronted look and waggles the cup. Arthur takes it and removes the lid.
"You're quite welcome, darling."
"I told you --" Arthur stops. Thinks.
"You failed to specify," Eames says, watching the crowd again. "If you meant alcoholic, I'm willing to negotiate terms."
Arthur takes a sip from his still-warm, unsweetened coffee. It's very strong. "A few shots of vodka and you'll be entitled to escalate to sweetheart, is that it?"
"If you like," Eames allows. "I was thinking more along the lines of, a bottle of Penfolds Grange and I fuck you until you forget your own name."
Arthur snorts coffee with such force that the cup itself slips from his hands and deposits its contents all over his coat, shirt collar, and the top half of his third-favourite Hugo Boss tie. When he finishes swearing, Eames is looking at him with that infuriating expression that says Arthur is as transparent as the glass covering the face of his watch, and he knows every cog and every tick. Arthur wants to punch him in the teeth.
"Ninety-eight," he says, and has the satisfaction of watching Eames's face twitch in confusion.
"I hope you're not implying I'm only worth an inferior vintage, Eames."
Eames blinks, forms a triumphant smile with his pornographic lips, and before Arthur can move, leans in and kisses him. He tastes like the hazelnut syrup that he habitually inflicts upon innocent espresso.
"Wouldn't dream of it," he murmurs.
"I'm simply saying, Arthur, that the purpose of language is to communicate meaning."
"What's your point?"
"The point is, regardless of its content, you understood what the text message was saying."
"Barely," Arthur says. "Is it so difficult to locate the punctuation button? Or construct a few words that could actually be found in a dictionary?"
Eames turns away from studying Ariadne's grid on the whiteboard and gives Arthur a speculative look. "Words are the least interesting unit of communication."
Arthur rolls his eyes. "Do enlighten us --"
"I'd be delighted to," Eames cuts in, and reaches out to grab Arthur's forearm. Arthur swiftly suppresses his first two instincts, which are violent, and lets himself be pulled into a kiss that's probably more about having an audience than anything else. They don't do this at work, as a rule; Eames is likely expecting him to protest, or at least retaliate and take over the kiss, but a large part of their relationship has always been the joy they find in messing with each other's expectations. So Arthur goes pliant, letting Eames's tongue work into his mouth at a leisurely pace, and it's so fucking good he decides to forgo the pleasure of watching Yusuf try not to gape; instead he closes his eyes and leans into Eames's hand, now resting in the small of his back, and listens to the blood rush through his own head.
"Jesus," Eames mutters, almost inaudibly, just before he pulls away. His eyes have gone dark and purposeful. "You'll be the death of me, pet, you really will."
Arthur smooths down his hair, perfectly composed. "If we're quite finished with the object lesson, I thought Ariadne might take us through --"
"Hah," Yusuf explodes, all of a sudden, as soon as Eames is sitting down. He claps a hand over his mouth and shakes with laughter, staring at Arthur.
"Oh, evil," Ariadne says, almost enviously, and Arthur follows her line of sight into the middle of his chest. His tie is no longer an unsullied mint green, but has gained a message, which it takes him a moment to read upside-down: OH BABY YOUR SO FINE it proclaims, in what looks like whiteboard marker. The YOUR is in slightly larger letters than the rest, just in case he missed the fact that Eames is attempting to broaden the definition of justifiable homicide.
It's only when he yanks it off that he realises that Eames managed -- without looking, from an awkwardly close angle, and while (Arthur flatters himself) highly distracted -- to do it in Arthur's own handwriting.
"What was that?" Eames yells, as the gunshot rattle dies down.
"Reinforcements," Arthur says grimly. "We thought there might be --"
"Yes, but not here, I thought that was why we added the back door."
Arthur reaches down and pulls the gun from his ankle holster. "I'll take the irritating one on the roof, you figure something out for --" and that's as far as he gets before the grenade explodes and both of them go flying.
Luckily, it's not enough to wake them up; unluckily, it means they're not dead, just battered. Arthur inhales, winces, and clears dust from his eyes with hands that are just as dusty. Rubble is digging into most parts of his anatomy that he could come up with a name for, and a few besides. Sitting upright hurts like hell.
"Move," he says, and pauses to cough the dust out in spasms, which hurts even more. "They'll be in here before long, and I just lost my spare gun."
"Huh," says Eames, and moves his hand to stare at his bloodied fingers. This has the additional effect of revealing the mess that used to be his ear and the skin above it.
"Fuck, Eames," Arthur bites out. He's undoing the knot of his tie before he can even register the thought as a coherent plan; that's how he is, when he's on a job, and he's never stopped being grateful for it. "Blood loss isn't what you need right now."
Eames hisses air through his teeth when the fabric touches the worst part of the wound, but stays quiet otherwise until Arthur pulls the tie pressure-bandage tight on the other side of his skull, and knots it.
"How do I look?" he asks then.
Arthur gives him a fast, tight grin. "You look like a drunk hippie."
"Whatever floats your boat, darling." Eames grabs onto his forearm and Arthur pulls them both to their feet, stifling the grunt when Eames stumbles against him.
"Ribs?" Eames says anyway.
"Nothing I can't handle." Arthur looks around for the best exit and tugs Eames towards it. It's perfectly true. Much more trying is the fact that he'll never be able to look at that particular tie again, even in the real world, without seeing Eames's blood all over it.
"Ariadne," he says, opening the comms. "Change of plans."
Eames has to know, is the worst part of it. He has to know that everything about the outfit is flawless, sublime, mouth-watering, everything Eames's clothes usually aren't -- except the tie. The tie is the ugliest fucking accessory Arthur has ever seen, and watching it sit smugly between Eames's all-too-amused mouth and that masterwork of bespoke tailoring is nothing short of a disgrace. Arthur writes terse dot points about the mark's financial assets in his notebook and tries not to look at Eames too often for fear he'll either throttle him or kneel down in front of him and start ripping buttons off the shirt with his teeth.
It doesn't help that Ariadne and Yusuf won't shut up about the fact that Eames can, in fact, dress himself with more care than a ten-year-old, and as soon as they catch Arthur's pointed let's-get-back-to-work glances, they pile on the compliments with even more gusto.
They do two trial runs of a complex heist, and by the end of it Arthur's projections are doing weird things like setting the scenery on fire. He wakes up to Yusuf whispering at Eames and laughing at whatever reply he gets, and sympathises with his subconscious wholeheartedly.
"I have a date," Ariadne announces loudly, pulling her jacket on. "Anyone else have any special plans for tonight?"
"I hate all of you," Arthur says, and goes to splash water on his face.
When he comes back out Eames is leaning against the wall near the door that goes to the lifts, looking like every Bond movie Arthur's ever seen and a few magazine spreads thrown in. It's almost physically painful not to touch him. Arthur walks across the room, and pauses in the doorway, and doesn't lift a finger.
"Pity about the tie," he says with soft deliberation. "You'd be almost tempting otherwise."
"Ah, well, about that." Eames lifts the end of the offensive thing between two fingers. "I thought you might have a few improvements among your own collection."
Then he steps forward and traps Arthur against the wall and Arthur can feel that soft, soft wool beneath his palms and Eames kisses him with a sound like savage laughter and from there things don't really slow down enough to be coherent until the next morning, when Eames is reassembling his suit in front of Arthur's bedroom mirror. The tie he chooses is a dull gold that drinks in the light, one of Arthur's best -- of course -- and Arthur watches him whip it messily into a sleek knot.
"I think it might even look better on you."
"You're still a terrible liar, darling." Eames meets his eyes in the mirror. "We should work on that."
"Hmm." Arthur finishes buttoning his own shirt and steps closer until they're side-by-side. "You're right. It would look much better on me."
"And yet," Eames says, turning his head to drop a lazy, early-morning kiss onto Arthur's mouth, "it's mine now. Funny how these things work, isn't it?"
"It certainly is," Arthur agrees, and kisses him once more, pulling him close and winding his hand in the silk.