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31 July 2010 @ 11:35 am
title: the man of my dreams  
title: the man of my dreams
pairing: eames/arthur
rating: pg-13
disclaimer: in a dream, I owed them, but then I woke up.
word count: 4130
summary: When Eames first meets Arthur, he's the man of Cobb's dreams. That doesn't last very long.
notes: Thanks plentifully to eppic for the beta!



Eames despises the old stand-by – the man of my dreams.

In his case, it’s not even true. There is a man, and there are dreams, but when he first meets the man who gets his attention more than any other, makes him want to change skins until he finds the one that fits like a glove and slide his hands over imperfectly perfect suits, it’s not his dream. It’s Cobb’s. So, technically, he meets the man of Cobb’s dreams, but being as there is already a woman of his dreams, Eames doesn’t think Cobb will mind much if he flirts.

“My name is Arthur,” says the man in the middle of a training routine. “I’m the point man.”

“Are you?” Eames had replied, suddenly very interested.

“Yes.” It’s said smoothly, with great control. Arthur slides his full palm out over his tie and waistcoat and Eames thinks it’s such a terrible shame that the blokes who wear those frifferies and fineries hardly ever understand the fun of taking them off. He does hope Arthur is different. “And I’m the best.”

“Aren’t we all,” Eames murmurs, the heavy bass of Piaf mixing in with the wind where they are atop an escarpment. Eames peers over the ledge and then looks back to Arthur. “Well, I always did like to do things in style. Until we meet again, Arthur.” He plunges backwards with his own kick, not breathing until he can’t breathe ever again in that particular dream.

When he wakes, Cobb is staring at him curiously.

“Where did you get to?”

Mal is off in the kitchen, humming softly. She’s making the children lunch and Eames had been terrible six minutes ago, begging for his own sandwich with the crusts cut off. Cobb slides his hands out over the leather armrests of the chairs, which is when Eames takes notice of the truth -- there are only two lines.

“Got up to chatting with your man, Arthur.”

Cobb narrows his eyes, stares at Eames, then to Mal. Eames wonders what little secretive whispers he’s missing out on in the silence of this moment.

“I haven’t seen Arthur since Washington,” is Cobb’s muted reply, leaving Eames to realize that he’s just met a projection of a man that exists in real life.

He does wonder at the suits. The smoothness. Wonders if the real thing is bound to be as handsome as the one he sees in the dream. “Dom, really, giving me the man of your dreams? Very generous.” He can’t help his smug smile, both at being able to get under Dom’s skin and because Mal has just presented him with his very own sandwich, crusts cut off. “Well, thank you, my dear darling love. You’ll have to arrange to let me meet Arthur sometime.”

“He will be annoyed with you as much as you intrigue him,” Mal announces, but with absolutely no disdain in her voice, merely light amusement. “We must do it very soon.”

*

Cobb is paying Eames to learn about deception in dreams. He and Mal are more interested in the mechanics and turning the dream into their own personal sandbox, but Eames knows how to forge better than anyone and for more than just petty curiosities. He’s simply not allowed around the children alone in the event he teaches them something terribly uncouth.

They have sessions twice a week and on the third week of September, Eames gets to see Arthur again. This time, he’s well aware that he hadn’t been there upon sleeping, so he knows this is a projection.

“You came back,” Eames says, legs crossed as he lounges on a park bench. Mal and Cobb have gone to practice Eames’ lesson on Mal’s subconscious while her version of Arthur comes by to have a chat. That is, until Eames throws a wrench in the works, sliding to his feet and getting his fingers entwined and tangled with smooth silk fabric. “You are a gorgeous one,” he breathes out, feeling something in his stomach twist and clench.

He’s fully aware this is a bad idea, but these suits have been haunting him through his days – because he doesn’t have the capability to dream anymore. He’s been thinking about the curve of Arthur’s jaw and when he reaches out his calloused fingers to touch that soft skin, he understands why men go mad when they can no longer devise between reality and dreams.

The man of Cobb’s dreams, now Mal’s, here for Eames.

“I wonder what you’re like in real life,” Eames breathes out as he yearns for a kiss, knows that he should save that until he can charm one out of the real thing, not knowing if he should simply claim one now in the event he won’t get one in reality.

He settles for touching Arthur’s cheek, watching how it barely affects him, how he remains stoic and serious.

Arthur then smiles, a barely-there thing that Eames has to look at him in the right light to catch. “Would you want me in real life?”

“There is only one way to find out.”

But they don’t speak on that more because there is a kick and then Eames is back to a reality devoid of an Arthur.

*

It is mad to be doing what he’s doing, he supposes, three gins to the wind.

He is back in London for the time-being and every other moment his fingers twitch to call the US and ask if he can’t slip under a dream with Mal or Cobb, just for another few moments, just to catalogue more details about Arthur.

On his fourth gin, he realizes that he’s in trouble.

On his fifth drink, he realizes he doesn’t care.

*

Eames owns a PASIV of his own.

He has no receipt, no contact in the government who loaned it out to him. Rather, he once slept with a rather attractive male soldier and in the ensuing confusion of the night – so he will say – he made off with the man’s briefcase and wallet. He’d never forged in a dream before that, never stolen from a mark’s subconscious safe. He’d never even seen the device until he got back to his flat and opened up the silver briefcase to view its contents, never realizing how it would change his life.

It’s seven years later and he’s the best forger in the business, with chemist contacts ranging all over the world. He charms every one of them because he never knows when he’ll need a refill to slip into his dreams and practice, to thieve secrets, to seduce lonely people. To do the things that fantasy is only supposed to provide.

He’s just come back from his chemist in London with a bottle of product and slides under the veil of a drugged dream state to start working on a forgery for a job with the government. He’s supposed to find out as much personal information as he can about an MP so that they can leak it to the press. Good ol’ politicians, thinks Eames, as he adjusts the forgery into a little blonde in an emerald green dress. And they are so willing to pay.

“I’ve never seen you like this.”

Eames freezes up as he stares in the mirror. This dream is supposed to be devoid of persons, but that is a distinct and familiar voice echoing in his mind. The distinct absence of Mal and Cobb also mean that he’s taken a projection and created him in his own mind.

The trouble that he’s in seems to have manifested triple fold.

Eames tries to keep calm, but it’s a touch difficult when his breathing has become more rapid and Arthur is sliding insistent fingers over Eames’ disguise. Of course, he thinks, that Arthur should be more tactile in Eames’ own mind.

“You’re not real,” Eames breathes out again and again, a constant litany under his breath.

Arthur kisses him and Eames feels reality begin to crumple away.

*

Eames meets Arthur for the first time in reality in a dingy warehouse in New York and he has to check his pocket watch to assure the hands are broken, that they aren’t ticking on forward to assure him that this is a dream. He sees him from across the room and freezes in his footsteps. Suddenly, coming here seems a grandiose mistake.

He turns to leave, but is interrupted by Cobb’s entrance.

“Do you know, I think I left the oven on,” Eames says cheerfully, which doesn’t appear to earn him much goodwill. Cobb grasps him firmly by the shoulder, forcibly turns him, and marches him to the lawn-chairs and the whiteboards.

Arthur looks up from his work and Eames tries not to fixate on those long fingers, those thin lips, the lithe body behind the suit. Eames has never felt like a dirtier bastard than this very moment and he really does wish he’d had the good sense to leave a fire burning at his flat so he could leave at this very moment.

“Eames, right? I’ve heard about you,” Arthur says, politely enough.

What does every six year old boy do when the object of their affection might get the slightest hint that they’re liked? Pull a pigtail, kick a chair, throw a spitball. Eames feels himself regressing by the second as he gives Arthur a disarming grin and leans forward to shake his hand.

“Ah yes, the dull stick-in-the-mud, Arthur,” Eames broadly announces, almost relishing in the frown he earns. If he can just stoke animosity between them, he may not have to die of humiliation yet, provided that his projection of Arthur stays away in the dream. “I have heard loads about you, darling.”

Arthur yanks his hand away, Cobb glares at him, and Eames prays that’s enough to mask the fact that his pants are much tighter than they had been moments ago.

*

“So I’m the man of your dreams,” says a projection of Arthur when Eames slips into his dream to have a chat with the man. Eames has barely been in there for more than a few moments before he’s accosted with such romantic tripe. Really, he shouldn’t be watching Casablanca before he comes into these things.

It’s also put Arthur in a fedora, which he pulls off terribly well, the fucker.

Eames feels pedantic today. “Quite honestly, you started off as the man in Cobb’s dreams. You just hitchhiked your way in here,” he says.

“Specifics.”

“You do so love your specificity,” Eames agrees, not taking his eyes off the fedora-hat-wearing, pinstriped-suit-bearing Arthur, who looks at him like the real Arthur doesn’t even know how to look at him, he’s sure – hungry, lustful, loving. “This is very cruel, you know.”

“It’s your dream.”

“Yes, and I didn’t make you up. Now I’m working with you, properly with you,” he accuses. “You can’t be here. I don’t want you to be here,” he adds, firmer than before. “You infected my mind because you were Cobb’s to begin with and Mal brought you along because she thought she knew what she was doing.” He doesn’t think he’s ever felt more serious in his life. It’s a bit scary, really, that Eames is being serious. “You can’t just haunt me all night with those lips and those fingers and the fact that I’ve fallen in love with a projection of a man I’ve only just met. You were a lovely shade to dream up, Arthur, but now that I’ve met the real you, you simply don’t compare.”

Arthur is staring at him and he seems as if he’s smiling, sadly. “You really want me to go.”

“No,” Eames breathes out, his chest aching in this very moment. “I want you to be here. Just not you, darling.”

“You’re never going to have him, you know,” his subconscious’ form of Arthur informs him, but he’s not angry. He simply sounds so very sad and Eames knows that it’s likely the truth. He’s been trying so hard to aggravate Arthur, to keep him away with pokes and endearments and smugness and teasing that he’s never likely to have the real thing.

The thing is, he doesn’t want the man of his dreams.

He wants the man in his reality.

*

The man in reality hates him. Or at least, so Eames suspects when he brings by dinner and gets the cold shoulder, mere touches to his person get shrugged off, and anytime Eames is praised for something Arthur typically gets credit for, Arthur’s face sours as though the world is about to end.

Eames tries the most desperate attempt he can. He sends a lavish three-piece suit, the nicest he can find, in a gift-box to Arthur. The card merely reads saw this and thought of you –E, but Arthur’s lips tighten instead of lift, go icy instead of warm and Eames thinks that he has absolutely no chance.

That is, until three days later when Arthur turns up wearing the suit.

Instead of being pleased with this, Eames panics. Worries that the next time they slip under, the projection will be back. So he finishes his work with Cobb and leaves for Mombasa, sending Arthur a postcard from the airport.

It reads only this: I knew you’d look good in it. Will miss you terribly, darling. Do write.

It’s safe to say such things when you’re thousands of kilometers away.

*

Arthur doesn’t write, but when Cobb comes calling, he thinks that it’s almost worth as much as a handwritten letter. So when they’re back in Paris and Eames is staring at Arthur in his lovely suits, he thinks about postcards and gifts stolen, but never sent. He’s got cufflinks and ties and silk shirts stacked high in his closet in a flat down by the République, waiting to be picked up and given.

At this rate, Eames is thinking of throwing them in the Seine. Maybe not the antique pocket watch, but everything but.

They’re left alone as the sun is setting and all the windows surrounding them cast a brilliant amber glow in the room. Cobb and Ariadne have popped out for dinner and to talk, Yusuf needed to run to find new chemicals, and Saito is brokering whatever business deal a man of his reputation and wealth does at this hour of the day.

“You know,” Arthur is saying as he shuts the briefcase. “Cobb told me before I met you that you and I already had a history. He never explained.”

“You don’t believe in reincarnation, then, love?” Eames replies, all deceit and cheer. He’s heard worse lines in his lifetime and he derives secret pleasure of the way he makes Arthur cringe. “Oh, don’t worry. He just meant that I met your projection before I met you.” There. Honesty, even. Eames almost feels dirty for letting things be so easy.

“Did you like me?”

Eames isn’t sure when they went back to the first grade. “Is there a note I should have so I can check yes or no?”

Arthur remains unwavering. “Did you like me?”

Eames softens at that because the man he actually loves is asking about the first time they met and Eames isn’t sure he has the heart to lie to him, as much as he does enjoy ruffling his pretty feathers. “Very much so, darling,” he agrees, voice fond and warm. “You were proud and intelligent and gorgeous. Cobb would never be inaccurate.” Not like Eames could be, letting his bias affect the shades in his mind when emotions get involved. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious.”

Eames goes back to his work, pictures of Browning splayed out before him and his own chicken scratch shorthand notes at his side. It’s only after Arthur leaves and the warehouse grows empty with heavy stillness that Eames realizes his cock-up.

“Fuck me,” he announces loudly.

It is also the moment that Cobb and Ariadne return. “Why would I want to?” she asks, wary and drawing out the words.

“Gorgeous,” is all he says, sounding strangled and packing up his things. “Cobb, will be back to study later. Ariadne, you are gorgeous, really, and you can fuck me anytime, but I have to go, pressing business to attend to, love you all, goodbye,” he rushes through the words as he all-but-bolts outside to find a cab and track down Arthur, the word gorgeous still incriminatingly on the tip of his tongue.

*

He catches up to Arthur not at the man’s flat, but at Eames’ place. He’s given up on finding Arthur and trying to explain away his words and has resigned himself to merely being the fool that he is. This is what he thinks until he walks into his own apartment to find Arthur sitting in a chair, contemplating Eames’ deck of cards as though they hold the mysteries of the universe.

“The first time I met you wasn’t in New York,” Arthur begins, which has Eames instantly suspicious. It also has his very clever brain making quick connections and understanding how complicated Cobb’s history of them actually is. “Cobb thinks that you’d be good for me, apparently. You were charming, less of an asshole,” he accuses.

“I am charming and an asshole, but I’m a charming asshole,” Eames feels the need to defend himself as he sets his bags down. “I came to apologize.”

“For?”

“Calling you gorgeous.”

“I didn’t think that was the sort of thing you apologized for when you like the other party.” Trust Arthur to be able to turn something that could carry that much hope into something condescending. The Fischer job could go off at any moment and here they are, sitting in Eames’ flat, carrying on like it’s nothing at all.

Eames decides that it’s time to grow up.

What’s the use in being a bratty six-year-old when you can be a nerves-ridden eighteen year old?

He leaves Arthur sitting in the chair and goes to the closet where the gifts are. He hasn’t presented Arthur with a single thing since the suit and he goes straight for the most important gift of all, the antique (yet functioning) pocket-watch with the crest of Louis XV upon it. He brings it back with him and holds it out, dangling it from the chain. “For you. I found it in a little shop in the Latin Quarter. Not quite a suit or cufflinks or…or, fuck, anything that you prissily fawn over…” Well, some of the six-year-old remains, apparently, with very advanced profanity skills. “But it’s for you.”

Arthur takes it carefully and folds it into his palm, staring curiously at Eames. “Gorgeous,” he repeats once more, as if trying to coax something else from Eames. He doesn’t say another word, though, lifts his body gracefully from the seat and departs, leaving Eames to wonder just what’s happened.

They’re on a flight to Sydney the morning after, though, which gives him very little time to figure it out.

*

Los Angeles, as a general rule, is far too bright for Eames. It’s hot and bright and everyone is too bloody obsessed with their perfect machine-manufactured bodies. Eames hardly ever goes to LA unless he needs to pick up a fake-looking woman or a particularly bulky man to add to his mental rolodex and he’s itching to get out as soon as the job is done.

He thinks maybe he’ll go out to South Carolina, get a round or two of golf in, charm an old codger and steal a wallet.

He puts all plans on hold when, while smoking just outside the airport, he is approached by Arthur. Fischer is long gone; Ariadne connected for a flight back to Paris to get back to old friends, and Yusuf said he was going to the closest strip club. Eames isn’t exactly sure he’s joking either, just the same as he’s not sure Saito had been joking about flying his therapist in.

“Going my way?”

Eames exhales, hating that he’s smoking in reality. He does try to keep it to the dreamspace, but inception is just too taxing a time to pull out a fag and relax. He’s had to make do with a quickie at the airport. “Which way would that be, love?”

Arthur looks at him in such a way that makes Eames fumble to recall how he got here, because there is a look in his eye that Eames never thought he’d see outside of a dream, but there it is, as plain as day. Eames wants to do so many things to that well-suited person. He wants to ravish him just for the ingenious drop on the hotel level, wants to talk about the wonderful skiing he got to do. He wants to remember that he and this Arthur do not precisely have the same relationship as he does with a half-fantasized about projection.

“You met me in a dream and you called me gorgeous,” Arthur says, in control of the situation as he invariably is. He has a jacket slung over his shoulder, his hair is perfectly in place, and the sun is casting afternoon light on his face. Eames catalogues all these things because this is the exact moment in which Arthur leans in and tentatively stops, inches from Eames’ lips. “I’m going to kiss you now.”

“You best bloody do it,” Eames breathes out, watching in the enclosed space as Arthur’s lips twitch at the tickle of breath.

“Or I could tease,” Arthur replies, not moving away, making this officially a game of chicken as far as Eames is concerned. “Like you do. Bigger dreaming, darling, well-endowed blonde costumes, and merry chases.” He sways forward, his hips brushing against Eames’ and earning a low groan from the back of Eames’ throat for it.

Eames grins at the anticipation, holding his breath for a moment that keeps seeming to come and then vanish. He closes his eyes, expecting Arthur to lean in, but he doesn’t. So he opens his eyes and ruefully grins as he leans forward until he presses his lips up against Arthur’s, but doesn’t precisely kiss him so much as rest there.

“Eames,” Arthur murmurs. One syllable, one kiss, lips brushing lightly together.

Eames slides his free palm around Arthur’s waist, settling at the small of his back and wrinkling his shirt with great intention. He flicks away the cigarette in his other hand before someone inevitably gets burned. “Yes, Arthur?” Three syllables, one longer kiss. Arthur is the one letting out the simplest of groans, even as they part for a quick breath of air. Eames stubbornly persists, leaning back in again, his top lip settling on Arthur’s bottom, as if resting comfortably upon a ledge.

He closes his eyes, presses his lips together slowly, gentle pressure of a kiss to Arthur’s lower lip before easing their bodies flush together and taking advantage of the sticky heat of Los Angeles, using it to make the moment as lazy and languid as the weather is making him feel.

“If you’re going to kiss me, Arthur…” Eames begins to speak, but due to their proximity, each word is punctuated with brief kisses, too sharp and staccato to turn into anything else, at least until Eames speaks the other man’s name and Eames gets a deep kiss for his troubles. Eames grasps at fabric, but does make sure not to actually untuck Arthur in public, indulging in a kiss that, in reality, is so much more memorable than a dream could ever be.

Eames wonders what Cobb’s projection of him is like. He then wonders why Cobb had both of them meet the other in a dream.

“Which way are we going?” Eames asks, when he’s through properly ravishing Arthur’s lips, satisfied with their wet and pink appearance, just vaguely swollen.

Arthur slides his hand into the pocket of his trousers and unearths a pocket watch that is very familiar. It’s the gift that Eames valued above the others and Arthur is checking it for the time. “Well,” he says considerately, and Eames adjusts his grip on Arthur’s back to hold just a bit tighter. “We have all the time in the world. And the money,” he adds. “How about we start with London? I sent you a gift two years ago,” he says, filled with smug condescension that only makes Eames’ harder than before. “You still haven’t picked it up.”

Eames does have the good sense to appear conciliatory. “Is it lovely?”

“It’s gorgeous.”

Eames simply leans in, pressing a lazy kiss to Arthur’s neck, teeth scraping a light mark of warning to anyone who even dares to look at Arthur and consider him. “I wouldn’t expect any less from a man of my dreams.”
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Silvia Kunderasilviakundera on July 31st, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
oh, I loved this! Lovely.
AndreaLyn: misc: holy starsigns batman!: by ?andrealyn on August 2nd, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for reading!