It's the Gilt Bar at the Palace Hotel, a place so spangled and gleaming and orange-rich it feels like the overheated heart of a Faberge egg — so of course Arthur is sitting at the overpriced bar squinting at a copy of yesterday's Wall Street Journal like an absolute twat.
Eames spares a minute to repress the shameful flare of affection he feels at the sight of Arthur's loosened tie and rolled up sleeves, his elegantly-tailored-but-workmanlike trousers in this ocean of glitter, and slithers over to the bar.
"You look lonely," he says, rough and not quite himself, into the shell of Arthur's ear.
"And you — " Arthur glances away from his paper and blinks " — look different."
Grinning, Eames closes the two inches between them, presses himself up hot along Arthur's arm, thumb stroking over Arthur's wrist, where the blue veins are delicate beneath the white skin. When he'd left the office earlier that day, he'd been dressed for research: slacks and a button-up, and because it was cold and Eames thought dignity overrated, a blue pullover Arthur's mother had sent him years ago.
"Different? Have we met before?" he asks, raising his eyebrows, and he thinks he probably sounds a bit East Enders, now, but Arthur won't know what that means.
Arthur is staring just above Eames's eyes. "You…cut your hair."
Eames had trimmed it close, shaved most of it off, a throwback from his old rocknrolla days when people tried to buy him for blowjobs all the time and he said no to the ugly ones. It had been a sort of mildly depressing reminder of how close to forty he was, the process of digging through his wardrobe to find the skintight jeans he was wearing, the white t-shirt that stretched threadbare over his chest. He's seen Arthur eyeing the battered motherfucker of a leather jacket he's wearing dozens of times over the years: the material distressed and wrinkled like a weatherbeaten face.
He runs a hand over the back of his heat, bashfully showing off, and he sees Arthur's eyes take note of the leather snap bracelet on his left wrist: black, half an inch thick.
"Always wear it short," Eames says, grinning around the words. "Keeps people from jerking on it."
Arthur makes an annoyed face at him. "You mean me."
"I mean clients," Eames returns meaningfully. Usually Arthur isn't this slow on the uptake.
"What are you even doing?" Arthur asks, fiddling with the corner of his newspaper like he really wishes Eames would stop trying to solicit him for sex in a bar so he can go back to — Jesus Christ, so he can go back to reading about the Irish debt crisis.
Gritting his teeth, because Eames is nothing if not a professional, he says, "I am trying to see if you're interested in some company tonight."
Arthur tugs at his tie some more. "Okay, right. I get it."
"Yeah?" Eames asks, feeling a probably unwarranted moment of hopefulness. "You up for it? Got a room?"
Which just prompts Arthur to raise his eyebrows some more and say, "Seriously, Eames?"
"Bob," Eames corrects, petulant and annoyed, because of course, out of all the people in the entire fucking world, he would fall in with the one arsehole who can't be fucked to indulge in a little erotic roleplay. Eames is fucking great at roleplay of any kind. He'd spent ages preparing for this. He has shitty downmarket lube packets and cheap condoms in his jeans — he's a God damn champion at this and he's being cockblocked by Arthur, whose heart is a lump of sexless, humorless coal.
The raised eyebrows melt seamlessly into a long-suffering expression, and Arthur just says, "Okay, sure, Bob, whatever," and turns back to his newspaper.
"Right, what are you like?" Eames demands, snatching the paper out of Arthur's neatly trimmed grasp. "This isn't even today's paper!"
"Well it's not like I had any time to read it yesterday," Arthur snaps.
Eames rolls up the paper and barely resists the urge to beat him with it.
"Arthur, I am very close to attempting domestic violence on your person," Eames confesses.
Arthur just sighs. "Is this about how I thought you were a hooker the first time we met?"
Eames has never worked this hard and failed so completely at achieving sex with someone he's already sleeping with, but of course this sort of shit is to be expected when one is in a relationship with Arthur, he thinks glumly, tries to stave off his incipit migraine by sheer force of will, and asks, "What?"
"Because that's Cobb," Arthur explains. "He told me he hired a real pro for the job."
"Fascinating," Eames says. "That explains both so much about our interactions during that first job, and why I have always hated Cobb so extremely — " Arthur cracks a grin " — and stop smiling, I'm fucked off with you."
As if Eames ever needs any other reminders that Arthur is thoroughly unafraid of him, Arthur just laughs, slides a finger down the collar of Eames's leather jacket — the pads of his fingers topside, outside of dreams, still soft like a scholar's hands — and asks, "Really, Eames, what's this about?"
Trying not to go instantly forgiving at the touch, Eames rallies enough to say, "It's our anniversary, you dick," and instantly hates himself for it.
"And you thought you'd…change it up?" Arthur asks, his tone quieter now, so that the small but fascinated audience tries even harder to hear them over the baseline thud of the overloud music. Exhibitionism is low on the mile-long list of things Eames lists among his major sexual kinks, but he can't help but to like this, the way everybody's watching him, how they all must have the absolute wrong idea about them. Arthur looks like a third-year associate at top tier law firm, someone straight-ruled with a perfectly clean professional background — and the way he's touching Eames now, speculative, must make him look like that same guy, version likes to pick up hustlers and do who the fuck knows what.
"Yeah," Eames says, hushed.
Arthur's eyes are dark now, as dark as all the atmospheric shadows in the bar, the lights gone red from orange as everything dims another two degrees. "Was I boring you?" he asks, bland, but Eames can feel the scrape of Arthur's nails on the back of his neck, and he croaks:
"No, I — wanted to make sure I wasn't boring you."
And this time, when Arthur smiles at him, it's his shark smile, that one where Eames can see all his all-American teeth and feel the razor edge of him, dangerous and immolating-hot, unstable like TNT and water, and the lust that had been banked under his skin starts churning, desperate and needy and near the surface.
"Oh, I'm sure you won't, Bob," Arthur breathes.
The Palace staff are too professional to be anything but blandly disinterested in the way that Eames more or less shoves Arthur into the elevator, pins him against the paneling and bites down on his shoulder, and Arthur just hisses, "Fuck, fuck," and scrabbles against the panel of buttons until he hits 49, and the doors start sliding shut.
"What do you want?" Eames asks, scraping a day's worth of whiskers against the white skin of Arthur's throat. He loves that, how Arthur, in dreams, keeps things that never happened when awake — a long scar on his back, callouses from holding a gun, a burn on the side of his neck — but that they vanish in reality, dissolved into untouched perfection. "Tell me what you like."
"I," Arthur manages, and shoves Eames away, sends him thudding against the opposite wall of the elevator, face red and his mouth red and his chin already pink from beard burn and his shirt a disaster, tails pulled out of his trousers, "want you not to waste your time thinking."
Eames leers. "Yeah?"
"Obviously, your talents are better leveraged elsewhere," Arthur answers, and Eames would find that insulting except for the way Arthur reaches over and presses a thumb against Eames's mouth, his lower lip: assessing, proprietary, careless, like Eames is hot and interesting but disposable, and that shouldn't be hot except it is. "When we get inside the room, I what you to suck me off."
"I can do that," Eames agrees.
Arthur cocks an eyebrow. "I wasn't asking your permission," he says, casual, and that hand on Eames's mouth turns into five nails scraping down the front of his chest, to the button-fly of his jeans. "How long can you fuck for?"
Christ, Eames's mouth feels dry. He's had sex with a lot of people, a lot of people he's wanted badly, even, but he's never wanted anybody the way he wants Arthur, in such a sustained and unrelenting and fearless way, and he wants to get on his knees right now, bury his face in Arthur's hip and lip at his dick through his slacks, breathe hot against the fabric, and beg.
"As long as you need," he says, hoarse. "As long as you want."
That shark smile comes out again. "Good," Arthur purrs, and the elevator doors open.
Arthur's in a corner Tower suite, all clean Art Deco lines to go with an in-room safe, three dual-line telephones, wireless, and fucking butler service, pretentious shit Eames demands wherever they go — but that Bob finds intimidating when Arthur opens and closes the door behind them. The room's dark save for the foyer light, dim against the huge and glittery blackness of the city outside the windows, beyond the lounge and past the bar, the bedroom shaded in moonlight through an opened doorway.
"S'nice," Eames says, touches the walls, touches the sofas. "Expensive."
"I like expensive things," Arthur answers, and leaning back against the bar, he says, "Well, mostly — come over here."
Eames goes, and when he gets there, when he crosses the distance, he gets on his knees, too, because he can see it in the heavy-lidded look of Arthur's eyes, his mouth panting open and the wet pink temptation of his lower lip. "This what you wanted, sir?" he asks, saucy, ghosting the words over the zipper line of Arthur's trousers, mouth catching against the warm-cold metal teeth. "This what you meant?"
"If I'm not fucking your mouth in ten seconds flat," Arthur says, "you're not getting paid."
He says, "Can't have that," and dips his head, knees creaking in protest against the plush Berber carpeting and he slides two hands up the narrow muscles of Arthur's thighs — hot underneath the fabric — and undoes the button, the other button, the zip, without any showmanship or playful seduction. His fingers are careful on the seams as he pulls Arthur out of his boxer briefs to grip him by the base and lick him root to tip. Eames is a diligent giver of fellatio, a careful student of his partners' likes and triggers, but before he can do anything fancy or exercise any privileged knowledge on Arthur's dick, Arthur just cups the cut of his chin with one elegant hand and says:
"Good, just keep your mouth wet and open for me."
Eames has about two milliseconds to process what that might mean before Arthur's fucking his face, sliding his hand from Eames's jaw back around the curve of his skull — his scalp hot, and close to the surface, Arthur's palm depressing the short hairs at the nape of Eames's neck — cock buried halfway down Eames's throat.
This is the sort of shit Arthur is always leery of, so it's a thrill, it's a fucking rush, to be down on his knees having Arthur bruise Eames's lips with is dick in selfish jerks of his hips, grinding his cock into the wet red of Eames's mouth like he's dying for it, like he doesn't care if Eames is dying on it. Eames can take it, maybe he's been gagging for it, and he just moans around the ache in his jaw, the burn in his throat, the slap of balls against his chin — getting wet and sticky, saliva and precome — and grips at Arthur's thighs for purchase, lets his eyes flutter shut.
Overhead, Arthur gasps, "Oh, you're fucking made for this," and presses all the way in, until Eames's airway is cut off with cock and Arthur just makes him take it as he comes, bitter-salt spunk pouring down Eames's throat. Arthur stays there, buried to the heart of him, for ten seconds, fifteen, thirty, until Eames is feeling that dizzy, coital rush of airless heat and Arthur pulls away abruptly with a hiss, rubbing the head of his cock over the burst-open red of Eames's mouth as he instructs, breathless:
"Bed. Undo your pants — don't take anything off."
When Eames manages to say, "Oh, Jesus fuck," he sounds ruined, all the words just scratches on his voice box, but he manages to get up, to stumble his way to the bed and gets on his knees on it, fingers clumsy at the button and zip of his jeans, numb from lust and shock and still lightheaded from oxygen deprivation.
Arthur watches him, predatory in the dark of the room, and unwraps himself. Such a shame, Eames spares a second to think, tense like a spring on the king-sized bed, its hotel linens spotless. Unwrapping Arthur has always been one of his favorite things, to free buttons from meticulously hand-sewn buttonholes and smooth his hands down the beautiful, put-together lines of him, the basted lines of Arthur's shirts and and elegant French cuffs, the neat, exacting hemlines of his trousers, cuffed perfectly over his shoes. And underneath, a thin, pale chest, dark pink nipples, the severe line of his sternum and the mirror parabolas of Arthur's ribcage — all appearing one by one in the faint and secondhand city light, pouring in through the uncovered windows as Arthur walks toward him, walks toward the bed, discarding shirts and ties and cufflinks and slacks as he goes.
"How do you want me?" Eames asks, ever aware of putting the customer first.
"On top, for now," Arthur says, after a moment of indecision, and when he climbs up on the bed, crawling his way to flop against the bank of snowy pillows, he says, "Lube's on the other side of the bed."
It is where it always is, next to Eames's battered Penguin paperback edition of A Study in Scarlet and three ferociously stupid Pick-Up Artist books he's sourcing for his next gig and his reading glasses, and Eames reaches over to snatch up the tube, can't help but say, "Looks like someone else is usually on this side of the bed."
Arthur's eyes gleam, and like a conditioned response, Eames slings a leg over, until he's perched over Arthur's hips, dick hard as rock hanging out of the fly of his jeans. And Arthur just smirks, strokes possessing hands up from the worn-white knees on the denim, up to run his thumbs in the crease of his thighs, and says:
"He's not here right now."
Eames barely manages to hide his scowl. Recognizing it's completely insane to be furious at the thought of Arthur cheating on him with himself, he just mutters, "Right — condoms?" and produces them from his back pocket, in excruciating colors, all: plum purple, peacock blue, and a hideous neon lime color, all visible through clear plastic packaging.
"I'm not letting anything that cheap get near my ass," Arthur retorts, and slaps them away. "Just get me wet."
Eames grins. "Likes danger — poor boyfriend," he says, faux mournful, and flicks the cap open, gets his fingers dripping. He shifts back, plucks out Arthur's long and beautiful legs with his clean hand and spares a minute to pull them close to press kisses to the insides of his knees as Eames settles between them. "Lucky me."
Arthur smiles up at him, chest and face flushed, and back arching as Eames presses a thumb inside, into the cleft of him, lube icy cold against the white heat of Arthur's skin, moaning, "Ah, Jesus," as Eames scissors him open with two fingers, three, rubbing his thumb along the pink rim of his ass. Eames presses delicately behind Arthur's balls, all the muscles lax from his orgasm, his whole body soft and wet now, giving. Eames has always loved Arthur like this, in the immediate aftermath, right angles and hard lines blurred and such a fantastic wreck — can't wait to get inside him, stuff him full.
"You ready?" he asks, and he has to remind himself to ask because he doesn't anymore. He can read Arthur's body like a book, like well-loved verses, familiar except when knowing it better turns up new details, and he has dog-eared the pages and broken the spine and reaches for it every night.
Arthur sighs, luxuriating, "Yeah — now," his voice a breathy afterthought, and he opens his hips like petals, welcoming, and Eames fucks into him with the greedy gratitude of a man starving.
Arthur's rough on his own merchandise, showing none of the care for his clothes on his body: he's covered in absentminded bruises and papercuts and three of his knuckles are torn from the parmesan grater incident earlier this week. Right now, with Eames looming over him still-dressed, Arthur's savaging his lower lip, biting it blood red and tempting. Eames rolls his hips into Arthur's, fucks him in long, deep strokes, and kisses him, runs his tongue over Arthur's sharp teeth.
"Like that?" he asks. "Is that what you wanted?"
Arthur just stretches into the fuck lazily, languid.
"Getting there," he says, and he reaches over to dip his thumb into Eames's navel. Why that's hot, Eames has no fucking clue. "Get me hard again and — " he catches Eames's eyes " — no touching my dick."
Even if Eames didn't know Arthur has a slow burn and is a vicious cocktease, he'd still be groaning, "You're a proper shit, you know that?"
"Don't make me call your — " Arthur's breath hitches, tumbles into a laugh " — your manager, Bob."
Eames realizes he's just ruined one of his favorite personas, since he's never again going to be able to think about Bob without wanting to dick punch this fucker for sleeping with Arthur, which is sufficiently dissociative to keep him on that same knife edge of orgasm for another few moments longer.
Arthur's white-hot like a coal, a tight clutch around Eames, and his thighs — the skin on the insides addictively soft — are loose around Eames's hips, knees squeezing for purchase so Arthur can ride Eames's rocking, like they're the body of a ship in deep water. Arthur's dick is slick wet from Eames's mouth still, and soft against his crease of his leg, and Eames watches it twitch when he strokes in and in, and thinks he's going to be dead before Arthur's hard again and makes an executive decision.
"Hold on," he says, and Arthur just has time to favor him with a pleasure-damp and disconnected look before Eames hitches up Arthur's hips, pins Arthur's knees to his chest, and starts fucking into him at mach three. Arthur has enough time to gasp, "oh, oh," and then he's lost it, all his words, just totally liquid against the mattress, his whole body coming undone at the seams, eyes half-closed and fingers clawing weakly against the bedlinens, just murmuring syllables that have lost their other halves.
Eames loves this, has never had it with another person before, this encyclopedic knowledge of Arthur's body. It makes him reckless and unafraid because it's in the bone now for him, what Arthur loves and likes and hates and doesn't expect, ever, and he presses Arthur deeper and deeper into the bed and rides him relentlessly, with a casual violence because he knows Arthur can take it.
He's swearing under his breath, huffing for oxygen to stave off his own orgasm, and he loses track of time, trying not to think about the lush wet of Arthur's ass or the way Arthur's chest is sheened with sweat, and he's doing okay until Arthur's dick twitches with genuine renewed interest, until Arthur makes a purring, interesting noise.
"Oh, oh," Arthur says, and Eames mumbles, "Ah, fuck," because he can't do this if Arthur's going to be God damn vocal — it's going to tip him over, push him unexpectedly past the line. Eames has spent more than one night coming, surprised and a little sullen, at an unexpectedly kittenish noise from Arthur, and fucking Bob's not making the same mistake.
But then Arthur's thighs tense on his sides, like all the easy relaxation is draining out of him now, muscles tensing underneath the skin and breaths coming faster. Arthur presses a hand low on his belly, where — shit, Christ, fucking shit — Eames's dick is rubbing inside of him, like he can feel it from the inside-out, and his scrapes the nails on his other hand up under Eames's t-shirt, where it's soaked with sweat now and scratches lazily at Eames's stomach.
Arthur exhales, "Fu—fuck, yes, yeah, like that," and Eames manages to say, "God fucking damn it," drops his chin to his chest and sucks down a huge mouthful of fortifying oxygen, since the room just smells like fucking now, like sweat and jizz and the bed they've been sharing a week already. But Arthur, that arsehole, is just saying, "There, yes, just like — yes," like Eames is a fucking service, like he's really Bob, and he's really temporary, and God, that sends a spike of something down Eames's spine.
By now Arthur's dick is red and pearly at the tip, rubbing wetly against his stomach again, and Eames is about to beg without dignity to fucking come already when Arthur presses a hand over Eames's heart and says: "Stop."
Eames gasps, and his hips jerk involuntarily, which earns him a hiss and a cat-like claw from Arthur, raking over his nipples. "You can't be serious," Eames protests.
"Stop," Arthur says, flushed and wildly smiling, "right now."
"You are the worst human being alive," Eames swears at him.
Eames spends the next twelve seconds deciding that this is shaping up to be an even worse anniversary than their second, when he'd decided to be nonchalant about it and Arthur had scheduled himself on an away job, just like a man, Eames had thought in disgust then. And he's still feeling intensely sorry for himself when Arthur employs some murderously sexy judo move and flips them over, never separating them, until Eames is breathless and on his back, jacket bunched up under his chest and hands automatically flying to Arthur's hips to steady them both as Arthur leans back into it, Eames's dick pressing in that last inch thanks to gravity.
"Oh, fucking Christ," Eames hears himself squeak.
Arthur grins down at him, fringe wet and pasted to his forehead, and he closes a fist around the base of his cock and says, "Hold on."
Eames does, barely.
Arthur grinds down on him like a five-diamond whore, his spine a long and beautiful arch and his head thrown back, and he rolls his hips slow, at first, until he finds that perfect rhythm and the perfect spot and he makes a faint and tortured noise at the back of his throat before he takes the speed to punishing.
It's the Palace, so of course the mattress is too good to really shriek in protest, but Eames thinks they might break the God damn bed. Arthur shoving down on him and Eames bucking up to meet him, and either way they're both going to be sore like motherfuckers in the morning, corresponding bruises on Arthur's ass and thighs and Eames's hips. The boxspring and frame are making that protesting noise now, that faint creak now that they're rocking it down to the bolts, and the headboard starts slamming, and Eames can barely pay attention to any of it because Arthur's hand is whipping over his dick, and Eames is at that point where pleasure is starting to starburst into pain, and he pleads, "Please, please, can I — please," and he hears Arthur say, "Fuck, yeah, fill me up — do it," and comes and comes and comes.
It takes a couple of seconds to orient himself when he wakes up. He stares at the mess if linens next to his face in the bed where he's alone for a beat, and it filters in slowly that he's still dressed, jeans undone in an awkward way, and he feels a beat of vertigo before he hears Arthur saying, "No, we're fine. Just taking the day off."
Eames pushes himself up to his elbows, looks over to where Arthur, dressed in just his shirt from yesterday, is plucking pants and braces and and socks from off the floor, one of his infinite mobiles clutches between his shoulder and an ear, his hair sticking up wildly and all over the place.
"Hey," he says, and his voice is still wrecked.
Arthur glances up at him, murmurs, "Gotta go, talk later," into the phone before ending the call. He smiles. "Hey — you passed out."
"I did," Eames agrees, cheerful.
"I normally don't let hustlers stay the night," Arthur tells him, too serious, and dumps his armful of clothes on the chaise lounger by the window. "But you looked too peaceful and handsomely thuggish to throw out."
Eames raises an eyebrow. "Won't your boyfriend mind?"
"Oh, he's pretty open-minded," Arthur dismisses. "Always trying to get me to agree to three-ways — " Eames squawks, because that had been once, and so what if they'd barely gotten Arthur's shirt off before he'd panicked and thrown out their third participant " — or rope bondage — " a tremendous mistake, Eames remembered sadly " — or dressing up like a prostitute and picking me up at hotel bars."
Solemnly, Eames says, "He sounds like a real catch, you should hold onto that guy."
"I don't know," Arthur says, climbing back into the bed, crawling under the covers, knees cold from the hotel room air and his skin pebbled. "I kind of like you."
Eames glares at him. "I fucking hate Bob," he declares, dropping all of his purposefully chavvish intonation for his usual blur of an accent, and he seizes Arthur by his narrow waist and drags him in, until Arthur's pressed full-length against him, childish and unwilling to share in a way that is all Eames and not Bob at all. Eames isn't even sure Bob's ever liked anybody enough to get jealous over them.
"Well, I do like you better," Arthur agrees, indulgent, and slid his hands up the back of Eames's t-shirt without any heat, just familiar affection. He pulls a face. "I can't believe you cut your hair for this."
"It'll grow back, love," Eames promises.
Arthur huffs. "It better," he says, and adds, "Come on, this can't be comfortable," and through trial and error they peel Eames out of his too-tight clothes, dump them on the floor on his side of the bed. Arthur tells him, "Hey, thanks," and Eames says, "Thank you for playing along — eventually," and Arthur laughs and says, "God, your fucking face," and Eames snaps, "You were literally reading yesterday's news."
The next day they'll be back at separate jobs, Eames flying out for Chicago and Arthur still in New York pulling together the last loose ends of a by the book corporate militarization. It'll be another two weeks before they're back home in London, and then it'll take another day before Eames is comfortable in his own skin after being out of it for so long, but it's good to know that after everything, after all of it, that it's him Arthur likes best, and that when he rocks up to their flat it will be Arthur at the door.