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Strawberries and Wine

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** ** ** **


Rain lashed at the windows of the small house, rattling them in the frames. Arthur thought they were probably the original glass, judging by the way the dim, grey light filtered through them. Somehow clear, and watery in a way that had nothing to do with the rain. Not very energy efficient, but pretty. Arthur liked old things, original things.

The house was little, Tudor-style, and tucked out of the way in the next state over from the job they had just wrapped up. (No flying for either of them, not until the scandal their extraction had broken blew over. Just to be safe.)

Arthur set down his go-bag and hung his wet coat up on the hook in the pantry.

"Bit chilly," Eames said, closing the pantry door behind him. "Sorry about that."

"It's fine," Arthur said.

Eames had been the one to locate and rent this house for the two of them. Usually that was Arthur's job, but this time, Eames had just been quicker. How that that even happened? Maybe, Arthur thought, he was losing his edge.

"A monsoon in the springtime," Eames griped. "Whose idea was this?"

"Welcome to the northeast."

Eames set down the PASIV, wrapped in plastic to shield it from the rain, and took off his coat and shoes. A mini-fridge hummed away on the counter in the kitchen – Eames had also taken care of that. Next to it stood an antique, cathedral style radio.

"Wow," Arthur said, running his finger through the dust that covered it. "Can I have this when we leave?"

"What, steal it, you mean?" Eames asked.

"Would that be okay? We can't be traced to here, can we?"

"No, I suppose not. Probably does belong to the owner, though. You know, maybe it's got sentimental value. And you can get them on the internet for a hundred or so American dollars. But I won't stop you if you really want it."

Arthur turned to him, considering. Did Eames not steal things from certain people, or under certain circumstances? He'd never wondered about it. Trust Eames – a professional thief - to make him feel ashamed for thinking of stealing something.

Maybe their days of stealing were dwindling, anyway. It wouldn't be long before more and more people had access to the PASIV, and eventually it would become commonplace, like computers had, ages ago. PASIV dreaming would be legal, sanctioned, and tightly controlled. Nothing special.

Arthur turned away from the radio. "I'll go turn up the heat if you want," he said.

Before he could go looking for a thermostat, Eames turned the radio on. The damn thing actually worked. It was tuned into a station playing some old ragtime song.

Eames circled Arthur's wrist gently with his hand, and pulled him around so they were face to face.

"What..." Arthur said.

He wasn't able to finish his thought before Eames slung his other arm around the small of Arthur's back and pulled him close, hip to hip. He threaded his fingers through Arthur's.

Oh. Oh. Eames was dancing with him. Right. Arthur didn't really know how to do this sort of thing. He put his free arm around Eames's waist in return, and just kind of shuffled his feet, looking resolutely over Eames's shoulder. The rain continued to pound the kitchen window.

"Something on your mind?" Eames asked.

"No. Yes, but it's not important."

"If you say so." He didn't press the issue, and Arthur was grateful.

Eames nudged his lips against the side of Arthur's face. And finally, this was Arthur's comfort zone. The slow, ambulatory embrace that passed for dancing, that was weird. The tinny strains of AM radio music was a tad creepy. But making out with Eames, yeah, this was easy. Except Eames didn't kiss him right away. Instead he just pulled Arthur's hips tighter against his own, while his lips remained just a millimeter out of reach. He swayed, humming softly and tunelessly, breathing against Arthur's lips.

Arthur darted his tongue out and licked slowly against Eames's upper lip. He tasted like rainwater. Still, Eames just kept on teasing, swaying slowly with him. But Arthur was wet, bedraggled, chilly, and awkward.

"Hey," he said. "I need a shower first, okay? I'm freezing."

Eames didn't take it personally, or sulk, or even offer to join him in the shower. Arthur liked privacy while he took care of business, washing up, brushing his teeth, combing his hair. Shower sex could be nice, but Arthur just didn't prefer it, and Eames got that.

"I'll straighten up then, shall I?" Eames said, letting Arthur go.

He did straighten up while Arthur was showering, and he also made tea, which Arthur sipped while Eames had his turn in the bathroom. Arthur opened a bottle of wine that Eames had brought along and poured a glass for each of them. It was only late afternoon, but what the hell. They weren't going anywhere.

His phone pinged, and he opened his mail to read that their client had deposited the money into his account. It came with a message that read "Well done," and included a smiley face. Somehow, that stupid gesture of thanks was better than the money. It was nice to be appreciated, even if he hadn't really done much this time.

So it was that forty five minutes later found Arthur warm, comfortable, twenty thousand dollars richer, and slightly buzzed as he fucked Eames on the starchy new sheets that covered the creaky bed. He happily sucked and gently bit the back of Eames's shoulder, held him around the waist, nuzzled into his hair. Eames's hair was a little longer than usual, slicked with water and sweat, and curling a little at the nape of his neck. Arthur couldn't get enough of putting his face there.

Eames was like he always was – vocal, responsive, purring and humming his pleasure. "Arthur, Arthur," he said, and, "fuck, yes, my Arthur."

Arthur liked that, the "my" part. It made him laugh a little breathlessly, a little drunk. He got up onto his knees and reached for his wine glass on the table.

"What?" Eames said, turning his head.

"Stay there," Arthur told him, pressing him back down with a hand between his shoulder blades.

"Yes, sir," Eames said, smirking a little around the words, but it nonetheless gave Arthur a little thrill.

Arthur tipped the wine glass over Eames's back, splashing it across his shoulders. He watched it spill down his spine, and bent down again to lick it up as he fucked him.

"Jesus, Arthur," Eames said. "Christ, yes."

Arthur pressed close to him again and continued licking every drop, until Eames came into their joined hands.

** ** ** **

The next day, Arthur was surprised when Eames said that he had to go out shopping for food.

"You already stocked everything, though," Arthur pointed out. And Eames had; he'd thought way ahead, getting non-perishables, soap, toilet paper, everything they would need.

"Forgot something, though," Eames said. He gave Arthur a kiss and went to the door.

"Well, be fucking careful," Arthur said. Because for fucksake, they were supposed to be hiding out here. And yeah, of course no one knew they were here, and they would hardly be recognized a whole state away from the last job. But still, why take the risk? And it was still raining.

Arthur set up his laptop and checked the news, dug around on the internet for any mentions of him, or Eames, or dreamwork, or the job. All looked well. There really wasn't a lot of followup for him to do. And for that matter, there hadn't been much preliminary work on this job, either. Nothing out of the ordinary, anyway. He hadn't even had to go into the dream this time, and that kind of made him feel a little underused. And then Eames had taken care of their escape. The job could have gone on without him, really. They could have used a second-rate point man and probably gotten the same result.

Maybe Arthur was becoming redundant.

He was just closing his laptop and wondering what to do with himself when Eames returned. Arthur glanced at the clock. He'd only been gone an hour and he was soaked, and looking somewhat sheepish. Sheepish was a rare, strange and worrisome look on Eames.

Arthur folded his arms across his chest. "What?"

Eames set a bag of groceries on the counter, stripped off his coat, and hung it up. Then, smiling, he took Arthur into his arms. Other people hugged and embraced and cuddled and rutted, but Eames had a way of actually sweeping people (well, Arthur,) into his arms. One arm behind Arthur's shoulders, the other across the small of his back, and holding on so tight that Arthur had to come up on his toes or be lifted off the ground, which was saying something because he had about an inch or so on Eames.

"What?" Arthur asked again, winding his arms around Eames in return because, what else could he do? And also it felt awesome, even though Eames was wet.

"Bought us something," Eames murmured into his neck. "For later. Or now, if I can get you to stop working."

"I wasn't working," Arthur said, even as he tipped his head back so that Eames could get to that spot that he loved, on the side of his neck, a little to the back. Eames found it and scraped his teeth gently across it before sucking. Arthur arched his hips into him because that one spot was his "on" button. "I hardly worked at all on this job," he managed to say.

Eames stopped sucking on his neck and drew back. He looked Arthur in the eye and said, "Ah," with a note of revelation that Arthur always dreaded. It said 'I've got you figured out.' Arthur hated it because most of the time, Eames did have him figured out, sometimes even before Arthur had worked it out himself, and also Arthur didn't want to be figured out. Sometimes he just needed to not think about things.

So Arthur asked, "What's in the bag? Come on, let's see it. What was so important you had to go out on a day like today?" He disengaged himself from Eames's arms (sometimes it seemed like he had anywhere from four to eight of them, and Arthur found himself thinking of Shiva,) and went to the counter to look in the bag.

Strawberries. Yet more wine. Honey. And whipped cream. This was an awful lot of sugar and fat, all of it completely unnecessary.


Arthur took the can of whipped cream out of the bag and turned to Eames, holding it up and thinking of what to say. Nothing came to mind, so he stood there with his mouth open.

Eames grinned at him, crooked teeth and crinkling eyes, and said, "Food sex."

** ** ** **

Eames was up on his knees and Arthur was straddling his thighs, which were wider than Arthur's by half again, hard with muscle, and just the right side of scratchy with coarse hair. Eames rubbed up against him, his hand around both of them, calloused, sticky and firm. They were supposed to be having some kind of erotic moment with food, but so far they had just sat here like this, naked and grinding against each other and kissing. The bottle of wine, open and forgotten on the end table. The can of whipped cream knocked over on the bed. The carton of strawberries dripping juice onto the sheets, next to the unopened honey.

Also, Arthur had put some wet paper towels on the end table. He thought around the corner like that.

"Wait," Eames said, breaking the kiss even as Arthur chased his mouth. "Wait, wait." He slowed his hand, slowed his hips, and took a deep breath.

Arthur did as Eames asked, even though waiting sucked.

"Last night," Eames said, "when you poured the wine on me and then licked it off. God, Arthur."

"Okay," Arthur said, panting and trying to get his breath back. "Okay we – yeah, sure. Hang on."

Arthur had to arch back and reach behind him to grab the bottle of wine off the end table. Eames groaned, bucked against him, ran his hands up Arthur's ribs, down his stomach, and dug his fingers into his hips.

"Christ, the things I want to do to you," Eames confessed with his mouth against Arthur's sternum.

"We'll get to them," Arthur promised.

He swigged the wine out of the bottle and then kissed Eames, open-mouthed and wet with alcohol. While Eames was occupied with his mouth, Arthur tipped the bottle and spilled some of the wine down Eames's shoulder. Then he broke away from him and bent his head to lick the rivulets that ran across Eames's collarbone. Some of the wine pooled briefly in the divot between his clavicles and Arthur lapped at it, then continued up the column of his neck, stubble rasping against his tongue.

"Good?" Arthur asked, mouthing against Eames's lips.

"Yes," Eames whispered, gripping Arthur by the arms.



Arthur shoved at his broad shoulders, getting him to lean back a little – it was like trying to move a goddamn ox, he was so solid and so fucking strong. When he got the idea, he went willingly, and Arthur tilted the bottle again, watching the red wine splash across Eames's tattoos, the wiry hair on his chest, down the firm muscles of his stomach. He bent over and caught as much of it as he could on his tongue. Eames was trembling beneath him, braced back on his arms.

When Eames leaned back up, he had the bottle of honey in his hand. Such quick, clever hands Eames had, picking things up while Arthur was otherwise occupied. His face was open, expectant.

Arthur thought that one through. "You might be a little too hairy for that," he said, imagining trying to lick honey off of Eames's chest. He'd be picking hair out of his teeth all night, and that wasn't sexy at all.

"No, I was hoping you'd... Wait." Eames flipped the top open and poured some of the honey onto his fingers. He actually managed to look a little shy as he held his hand out to Arthur.

Unsure of what Eames was thinking – was he going to jerk them both off with that? (also too sticky) or god forbid did he want to use it as lube? - he nonetheless took Eames's wrist in his hand and looked at him questioningly.

"Suck," Eames ordered.

The tone of his voice went straight to Arthur's cock. He actually felt his own eyes roll back as he drew Eames's fingers to his mouth, god, fuck, he liked it when Eames pushed him around a little. Just sometimes. He sucked the first two fingers into his mouth, tonguing between them to get all the honey. He licked up his palm and even bit the fleshy part of his thumb before sucking again, making sure he got all of it.

Eames stared at him, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. He moved his fingers in and out, stroking over Arthur's tongue softly. When Arthur finished off the honey with a few sultry licks, Eames reached for him. It looked like he was going for his hair, but Arthur stopped his hand. He leaned back again and grabbed one of the paper towels.

"Oh," Eames said, laughing a little. "Right."

Arthur laughed with him as he wiped the stickiness from his fingers. There was a practicality to keeping this fun and hot instead of awkward. And Arthur had to be useful in some aspect of life.

When he was done, Eames ran his clean fingers through Arthur's hair, kissed him, and said, "What next? You think of something."

Resting his arms on Eames's shoulders, Arthur looked around at their options. The strawberries looked good, so he reached for one of them. He poured a little honey on it before holding it to Eames's lips.

He liked watching Eames eat even at the dullest of times, but when he wrapped his lips around the tip of the strawberry and sucked, keeping eye contact, Arthur was glad he was already on his knees. Eames darted his tongue out, licking Arthur's fingertips around the fruit and drawing them into his mouth. Then he pulled back and bit into the strawberry, tugging it out of Arthur's fingers.

Arthur leaned forward and bit into the other end of it.

The shared strawberry turned into the messiest, stickiest, sweetest kiss he'd ever had.

Arthur laughed, pulled away and wiped at his mouth with the back of his hand.

"Arthur," Eames said, gripping his shoulders, massaging down his arms and then back up again, cupping his jaw and his face, "Arthur, I'd like to lay you out on the bed, lick food off of your chest and belly and cock, and then fuck you until you can't think. Can we? Can I fuck you tonight, Arthur?"

Arthur kissed his sweet mouth and said, "I'd like nothing more."

Eames shoved him down onto the sheets and said, "I'm going to get you so filthy. Going to get you so filthy and then clean it all off of you."

Arthur flipped halfway over to reach for the paper towels on the nightstand, intending to wipe his face off. Before he could grab them, Eames pinned him with a hand between his shoulderblades and licked up his spine. His free hand slid down Arthur's side, around his hip, and cupped his ass, squeezing just the way Arthur liked it.

A little frantic, Arthur swiped at the paper towels and wiped his face off. He didn't bother offering it to Eames.

"I love your back," Eames said against his neck. "I love how smooth you are. And the dusting of hair down here." He pet his broad hand across Arthur's lower back. "But I love seeing your face when I've got my fingers in you. Turn over, there's a love."

He was so hard now it ached, food and kinkiness and experiments aside. It was just Eames. It was Eames, and when he was honest like this, open and telling Arthur just what he liked, none of the extras even mattered to him. Arthur turned over and opened his mouth, his arms, and his legs. Eames fell into him the same as he always did, unrestrained.

Within thirty seconds, Arthur had forgotten about everything but Eames's mouth, his touch, the weight and closeness of him. Eames was rubbing one thigh between his legs, digging his fingers into Arthur's shoulders, and kissing slow and deep. Arthur gripped the hard muscle of his hip and his back. He scratched his fingers through the hair on his chest, cupped his jaw and Eames leaned into his hand like a big cat.

Eames's hand cupped him briefly before traveling lower, lifting his leg up and out of the way and good god, when had Eames found the time to get his fingers slicked up? It was like a magic trick when he did that, sexual sleight-of-hand, necessities that he took care of while Arthur was busy getting lost. He had to admit, Eames was more graceful about things like this – Arthur was always a little more hesitant when he topped. He had actually read up on it before trying. Because he couldn't read people the way Eames could, couldn't gauge their responses as deftly, so he always stopped to ask if it was good. He had to work on things that came naturally to Eames.

But Eames was already slipping fingers inside him, and Arthur had to break away from his mouth to gasp for breath. Eames kissed his neck, moved his fingers slowly but with surety and familiarity. He knew how much to touch, and exactly where. How hard and how fast, without fail. God, he was good.

Without removing his fingers or even slowing them down, he braced up on his knees and leaned over Arthur. With his free hand, he flipped open the cap of the honey and watched, seeming rapt, as he dripped it onto Arthur's chest. It tickled a little and Arthur laughed softly even as he was panting.

Eames thumbed at the honey he'd poured smearing it over each of his nipples in turn. His mouth was soft, his tongue warm when he licked the honey off. Even in this he was effortlessly precise, knowing that Arthur was really sensitive here and didn't like too much pressure or teasing. He kept his teeth mostly to himself, sucked a little at one nipple while gently moving his thumb around the other until Arthur didn't know which way to turn, which way to move to get more of everything. His hips wanted to press down onto Eames's fingers, his chest wanted to arch up, and he knew he was just writhing, graceless and awkward, but he couldn't stop.

"God, you're sweet," Eames said, when he came up for air, pressing, pressing, pressing against his prostate without letting up. "No pun intended, of course."

All Arthur had to say in return was "Fuck" and even that came out garbled.

Eames slipped his fingers free and let Arthur catch his breath. Arthur stretched, restive but willing to wait for it, and combed his fingers through Eames's sweaty hair. He'd been right on the edge; it took him a few seconds to come down a little.

Eames cleaned his hands off and grabbed the bottle of whipped cream. He lifted an eyebrow as he shook the can. "You know," he said, "I'm not even sure I like whipped cream. Always seems to ruin the sundae."

"It's not bad," Arthur said, grabbing the can from him. His cock was demanding most of his brain function, and he felt light-headed, but he still had the wherewithal to flip it open and spray some onto his hand. "Of course, back in college we didn't actually eat it. Did you ever do whippets?"

Eames lay down beside him, propped on his elbow and petting his hand up and down Arthur's chest. "I'm not into bestiality," he said, smirking.

"Ass," Arthur teased. "Either way, nitrous doesn't go well with somnacin. And this shit is nothing but processed sugar. Still tastes okay, though." He licked it off of his fingers, letting Eames watch.

Then he sprayed some more into his hand and, without warning, reached for Eames's cock.

"Fuck, that's cold," Eames said. But he lay back anyway and let Arthur smear it all over him. "Christ," he said, "I've never."


"No." Eames side-eyed him. "Have you? Had whipped cream sex before?"

"Once, but I was high," Arthur admitted. He neglected to add that he'd found the experience pointless. Nice, fun for a few minutes, but not worth it in the long run. Sort of like whipped cream itself.

Yet when he started licking it off of Eames's cock, that ceased to matter. Eames liked this. And Arthur got to have him writhing under his mouth, the hot taste of him mixing with the sweetness of the sugar. Strange, how things that seemed pointless with other people meant something with Eames. He'd have to think about that later, maybe, if he ever got any bloodflow back to his brain.

"Don't," Eames gasped. "Not too much, I don't want to come yet. Still want to fuck you."

Arthur scaled it back a little, giving him room to breathe, licking at the base to get the rest of the whipped cream off (because, in all practicality, Eames had just said he still wanted to fuck him.) When he sat back up, wiping at his mouth again, they just looked at each other for a few seconds. Arthur couldn't get enough of watching Eames, his red mouth and wide eyes, sweat sliding down his temple. God, he was just so pretty. He also had a dollop of whipped cream right below his belly button. Arthur swiped it away with his thumb, and offered it to Eames.

Eames licked it off, laughing a little when he was finished. In turn, it made Arthur laugh, too. Here they were, both ridiculously turned on, and covered in wine, whipped cream and honey. Eames sat up and kissed him. It was a friendly kiss, with only a little heat behind it, just a quick 'hello there' before he nudged Arthur back down to the bed.

"I want to make you come, darling," Eames said.

"By all means." Arthur waved his hand munificently.

"I want to make you come in my mouth, with my fingers in you is what I mean. And then fuck you after. If that's all right with you?"

"I think we can manage that," Arthur said. Sex after orgasm was sometimes complicated for him, but he'd done that before with Eames, too.

And anyway, he couldn't really think of much else as soon as Eames started touching him again. First gentle, stroking touches, and then a little firmer. Eames grabbed the bottle of honey again, and this time, he dripped it onto Arthur's cock. It was sticky as hell and was going to be...

"Very difficult to get this off of you," Eames said. He was already rubbing it gently around the underside, over the head with just two of his fingers, and Arthur forgot all about how messy it was, how sticky. "I'm going to have to work really hard to clean it off," Eames said.

He wiped his hand clean on a wet paper towel, and this time Arthur actually saw him slicking his fingers up. And then those fingers were inside him once more, and Eames's mouth was on him, licking hard in broad strokes, sliding down and then back up, sucking tightly. Eames slid his free hand under Arthur's hip, encouraging him to move, to thrust if he had to (god, and he did,) to take whatever he wanted. Eames pushed his fingers inside him, circling and beckoning and pressing, as his mouth sucked Arthur clean. He wasn't wasting any more time. Little shocks of heat started to burst through Arthur's nerves until they suffused him and he was hot all over, burning with it.

Arthur tried to warn him, tried valiantly to do the polite thing, but he got as far as "Eames, I'm-" before cutting short with a cry. It was so much, almost too much, and he tried to twist away, but couldn't. Eames swallowed him down and held him there, and he was – oh god – "Christ, still coming," Arthur said, incredulous, because it seemed unending.

Until finally he was able to drag in a full breath again. And slowly, all of the muscles held tight relaxed, drained of tension. When he fell back against the bed, he realized how far he had arched up. Eames was staring at him with something like wonder on his face, and maybe a little bit of pride, too, the bastard. Arthur gathered his wits enough to at least smirk at him.

"All right," he said to Eames, "get over yourself."

"No, it's..." Eames drew back from him and wiped his hands clean. "No, it wasn't me, it was you. Just watching you, my love. That's all."

Before Arthur could answer that—not that he had any idea how to, anyway—Eames was slicking himself up and pressing inside.

It was easy like this; Arthur was still turned on enough for it to feel good. He planted his heels into the mattress and met Eames halfway, the way he knew Eames liked it sometimes. And he was right; it wrenched a groan out of him that made him tilt his head back. Arthur watched the sweat run down his neck and he just let Eames... he just let him. Let him move hard and fast, let him touch, and kiss and stroke, let him run his thumb across Arthur's bottom lip and the pads of his first two fingers across the top. He let Eames kiss him, and feel with his fingertips where their lips met. He let Eames plant his palm in the center of his chest and hold him down, and finally he let Eames tug his calves onto his shoulders and fold him nearly in half. Eames braced on his knees and elbows for leverage and Arthur opened his mouth to let Eames's tongue inside.

He let Eames pull his hair and sink crooked teeth into his shoulder when he came, and it all, all of it, felt fantastic. Easy. Necessary.

Eames was panting and nuzzling into his neck, moving slowly, riding out the aftershocks, shaking a little as he came down. He was always noisy during this phase, too, all "Mmms" and "aahhs" and messy kisses. Arthur gently kneaded the back of his neck and kissed his ear.

"Lovely," Eames said. "So lovely."

Arthur just nodded in response, inhaling deeply the scent of strawberries, sugar, and sweat. It was nice now, but in a few minutes he would want – need - to wash everything off.

Eames knew this, or maybe he sensed it, like he always did. He slipped away gently, kissed Arthur on the cheek, then rolled onto his back. When Arthur didn't move right away, Eames tapped on his wrist, a companionable sort of gesture. Arthur tapped back, his index finger against Eames's palm, before sliding down and linking their fingers together.

"You can have the shower first," Eames said. "I'll clean the bed up a bit." His way of letting Arthur off the hook from further contact.

"Thanks," Arthur said, sincere. He didn't mind a little cuddling after, but he liked to be comfortable first. Eames drew Arthur's hand to his mouth and kissed his knuckles, then let him go.

Arthur's mind buzzed pleasantly with absolutely nothing at all while he took a hot shower. Honey and strawberry juice and wine all washed down the drain, and afterwards, he slipped into flannels, brushed his teeth, and came out to a clean (maybe a little too cold) room.

It wasn't until Eames went into the shower that the haze of pleasure cleared from his head, and rational thoughts started to slink back in. Arthur lay on the bed listening to the rain and wind rattle the windows. He pulled the blanket up to his chest and closed his eyes.

This little bit of food play had been fun, nice, an interesting experiment. But it wasn't something he needed all the time. Like any game, it would be something to build up to and enjoy on occasion. Arthur was more than happy with just straight up fucking. Extras were just that: extra. Nice to have, but unnecessary.

A little like yourself, maybe, he thought. He tried to dismiss that notion as ridiculous, but the truth was, work was really easy these days, and just getting easier. He guessed that most people would like that sort of thing, but it took a lot to engage Arthur's mind, even more to keep it stimulated and interested. He tired quickly of bullshit, but he actually liked cataloguing other people's bullshit details.

When Eames came out of the shower, trailed by steam and the scent of coconut shampoo, he lay down on the bed beside Arthur. For a few minutes, they stayed there side by side, listening to the rain, Arthur listening to his own thoughts.

"Are you unhappy with the job?" Eames finally asked him. "Or is it something else?" There was no mistaking the hope in his voice – even Arthur could read this: I hope you're not unhappy with me.

"Not this job, exactly," Arthur said. Because he owed him the truth, at least, and anyway Eames knew when he was lying. "No, it went well and all. I guess I just worry about the future sometimes. It's no big deal. It's stupid."

"Well, I'm sure you've enough money saved," Eames said.

"Yeah. It's not that." He sighed, and rolled his eyes at himself, at his own pettiness and stupidity. "I just didn't have enough to do this time, I guess. I wasn't really entirely necessary to this job."

"You were," Eames said. "I needed you on point. And you did the same work you always do."

"Not really."

Eames got up on one elbow and looked at him seriously. "You did. You just did it more efficiently than you used to. You've gotten better at it, is all. When you were with Cobb, it was hectic, sure. You had a big workload then. But now you've found ways to streamline your work. That's a good thing, Arthur. Most people consider that progress, personal growth and all that."

"Maybe," Arthur said. The work had been similar. It had just gone a lot smoother than it used to. But still. "But one of these days," he said, "dreamshare is going to go legal and – okay, I am always happy when jobs go off without people shooting at us, so that's not what I'm saying. But once it goes legal, no one's going to need a point man anymore. Research, sure. Market research, maybe. Filing. Collecting data. A handful of the details that I take care of now, but not a point man."

"Now, Arthur," Eames said, smiling crookedly and running his fingers up Arthur's arm, "a job without you would be like a broken arrow."

Arthur arched an eyebrow at him.

"Pointless," Eames said.

Arthur stared at him for a second before laughing quietly, half a groan. He rubbed his hand across his eyes and said, "God, you're so pleased with yourself over that one, aren't you?"

"It was rather good," Eames conceded. "Are you really worried about this, Arthur?"

Arthur shrugged. Yes, he was. At least sometimes.

"But you're the best there is. Believe it or not, people actually like it when you come in, clear the paths, mow the obstacles down and get us all out in time and in one piece. The fact that you do it more effortlessly than ever is not a flaw; it makes you more in demand. And if dreamshare goes legal, then we can still stay in the business. Legal or illegal, as long as I get paid."

"It's not about the money to me," Arthur said. "I mean, partly it is, but the dreaming. That's what I love, the creation. You know? 'Anything I wanted to know. Anyplace I needed to go."

"Oh," Eames said, "don't tell me, I know that poem, hang on. It's right there." He pounded his fist on the mattress, trying to place the words.

"Led Zeppelin," Arthur said. "And you call yourself an Englishman."

"Oh yes, of course. I would have gotten it eventually." Eames yawned and rolled over onto his back, lacing his fingers and drawing his arms over his head in a stretch. Arthur turned on his side to watch him, because he never tired of watching Eames. The thick muscles in his arms lengthened and he arched his back. Arthur felt like a teenager around him sometimes, always ready to go again when he looked like that.

"Well, either way, Arthur," Eames said, easing out of his stretch and relaxing back on the bed, "you will always be necessary, and you'll probably always be a handful of steps ahead of everyone else. I flatter myself that I will be, too. I'd pull any job with you, any time."

Arthur considered this. "You will? Would, I mean?"

"Yeah, of course." Eames shrugged. "I like to work with the best. That's you. And we're nice together, me and you, right? I mean, this." He gestured vaguely around the room, as if indicating 'and all the sex, too.'

"Oh," Arthur said. He sat up, resting his arms on his knees. That would be good, yes. If Eames was willing to go legal if it came to that. Or to keep working outside of the law with him. Either way, with him. Maybe permanently, some day. "Yeah, we are. Good together, I mean."

"Like strawberries and wine, we are."

"You're the strawberries," Arthur said.

"Fuck you, you're the strawberries, I'm obviously the wine. I'm intoxicating and unbalancing. You're sweet and full of antioxidants."

"I'm not sweet, Eames. I've hidden bodies."

Eames sat up behind him, grabbed him around the shoulders and pulled him back down. He wrapped his arms around Arthur from behind and bit his neck. "Well, you're sweet to me," he insisted.

Not exactly the way Arthur would have put it.

He lay back against Eames's chest, as Eames's hands ran up and down his ribs, soothing instead of stimulating. The rain continued to splash against the old windows. No, of course he wasn't sweet, no matter what Eames thought. But they were still good together.

Arthur let himself think about that for a while.