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05 August 2012 @ 07:50 pm
[Inception] (letting you see) a different side of me - part two [Arthur/Eames]  
Arthur dropped his pen onto the notebook in front of him and pressed his fingers against the itch of his eyes, wishing he could call it a night. He was feeling decidedly drained and out of sorts since getting back to the apartment some hours ago.

The muggy heat he’d felt when stepping out of the airport the previous evening seemed to have doubled in its intensity and Arthur had never felt more uncomfortable in one of his expensively tailored suits as he had whilst out and scouting the three locations on his list with Eames.

He'd picked out a nice waistcoat and pant ensemble to go with his brown and cream brogues, but less than a minute under the hot African sun had him wishing he'd opted for a pair of board shorts and some flip-flops (never mind that he didn't own anything so classless).

He'd further regretted his choice of clothing when Eames stepped out behind him in a pair of light cotton trousers and a surprisingly tasteful shirt in a shade of sea green (tasteful in the sense that there wasn’t a pattern of any description to be seen). Eames had smirked at him, donning a pair of shades as he mockingly half-bowed and gestured for Arthur to precede him.

Arthur refused to start removing layers on principle, ignoring the way the wet heat seemed to press down on him as they made their way from location to location. His skin felt sticky and the sensation of sweat beading under his arms and at the backs of his knees made him wince in distaste.

Eames must have known of his distress, but beyond a few knowing smiles whenever Arthur ran his finger around his shirt collar or pushed the falling sleeves of his shirt back up his arms, he didn’t say a word. Arthur felt oddly grateful for his consideration. Lord knew their relationship previous to this job had always been one built up of casual insults and insinuations- nothing cruel or done with the intention to seriously offend, of course. If anything it was an amusement and kept things from becoming too dull. And yet, insofar as he’d been in Cape Town, Eames hadn’t done much in the way of ‘ripping the piss’ out of him (as he liked to say).

It was… nice. And at the same time, strangely disconcerting the way Eames seemed to be playing so nice with him.

He thought briefly over the past twenty-four hours and how Eames was always plying him with coffee and food, how he’d kept him entertained with witty comments about the job and the people he was working with, how he’d reach out and brush his hand over his arm to get his attention when Arthur was too zoned in to a particular task to notice him (how he’d ran his fingers through Arthur’s hair because he’d wanted to and how Arthur had almost wanted to let him keep doing it).

There was also a moment that morning, before they’d left the apartment in De Waterkant for the inner city locations, when Arthur had been coming back up the stairs towards the main floor after showering and changing.

He’d heard half-raised voices and hesitated on the stairwell, not wanting to interrupt whatever argument was taking place. He’d just decided on heading back to his room before the sound of his name caught his attention. He faltered long enough to hear Francois voicing his concern over Arthur’s abilities as a Point Man and whether or not he could be counted on to deliver what they needed in the tight timeframe he’d been given. He’d heard things, apparently, about his time on Point with Cobb that left him with doubts as to Arthur’s capability.

Arthur bristled. This sort of comment, coming from someone who hadn’t been in the business all that long, was more than a little perturbing.

Eames had been quick to defend him, which was oddly warming if expected seeing as he’d called him in on this in the first place.

“There’s no one else we could have called in on such short notice.” Eames argued. “Arthur’s the best in the business, I don’t care what you’ve heard. There’s only so much a Point can be expected to do when paired with a lead who consistently chooses to pick up bad jobs and associates.”

There was a moment of silence and Arthur envisioned the two men sizing each other up before Francois swore. “Fine. But if he can’t deliver by tomorrow I’m calling this off. I don’t care what Zama says.”

“We won’t have to. There’s no one else I trust more than Arthur.”

The conversation ended then and Arthur gave it a few more moments before stepping up onto the main floor and slipping into the office. Eames was waiting for him and he offered him a somewhat tight smile as he headed for the desk and made a show of collecting his pocket notebook and a pen.

It was hard not to think about Francois’ words and feel the bite of them. He could tell himself over and over again that he was only doing this job because Eames had asked, but knowing that he was being thought of as incompetent before he’d even began left him with a bad taste in his mouth. And though it wasn’t the worst thing anyone had ever thought (or indeed said, about him, and even to his face), hearing it so soon after his monumental failure with the Inception job was enough to have him doubting himself and his abilities once more.

Eames had stepped up to him then and casually slipped his hand into Arthur’s, offering him a tight but quick squeeze of comfort.

“Eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves,” he quoted, but his smile was amused more than judging and Arthur snorted, feeling his momentary moroseness fade as Eames slid his hand away again.

“I don’t know, Mr Eames,” he easily returned, thinking instead about what Eames had said of him. “I think I heard some pretty good things about myself.”

Eames had laughed and Arthur allowed himself a small smile in return.

He smiled now to think on the moment even as he picked his notebook up again and slipped the end of his pen between his lips, thinking to get back to work.

Their foray into Cape Town earlier that day had proved mostly prosperous, at least for Arthur and his initial predictions for the secondary location.

They’d gone round to the Mark’s house first and managed to bribe his girlfriend into letting them into Deon’s ‘office’ for another look around. Arthur hadn’t found so much as a whiff of anything work-related in that room (or any of the others he’d slipped into on the way in and out of the house) but he’d taken a few discrete pictures on his phone regardless should Zama decide to incorporate any of the rooms into the Architectural designs.

Their next stop had been the gaming den, which was nothing more than a steel door leading down into a basement room beneath an auto repair shop. There was no way in or out of the den except through that door, and though Arthur had managed to procure the planning documents for the building, there wasn’t much else either Eames or himself could do without trying to get in for a game (something Eames thought he was up for, but which Arthur threatened bodily harm if he so much as considered it with any degree of seriousness).

The third stop was to the Dockyard where the Mark worked. It had been easy enough to walk into and look around. No one working there paid them a bit of notice (except to make mocking comments as to Arthur’s attire, but seeing as most of them were wearing what could only be described as dungarees, he barely paid them any heed). They’d separated as they approached the container-like offices (Eames not wanting to be seen by the Mark just in case he had to lose the forge in the dreamscape), and Arthur had gone on to engage the Mark in some quickly made up story about a missing shipment.

Not only had he been lucky enough to get a good look at the inside of the office space, but he’d managed to sneak a few video shots of the room too as he pretended to search for an emailed document. He’d also, much to Eames’ grudging approval, seen their Mark stashing some documents into a lockable filing cabinet and looking very guilty at being caught doing so. It might not have meant a thing, but where the other two locations proved futile, Arthur felt gratefully justified that his initial instinct was looking to be the most promising of them all.

Getting back to De Waterkant, Arthur wasted no time in downloading and printing the pictures and video snapshots in preparation for his presentation to the Du Plessis’ the following morning.

It was just going past ten in the evening and even though he still had so much more he could do, he felt himself slowing down as the lack of sleep and oppressive heat still hanging over the city began to take its toll him. He rocked onto the back legs of his chair, stretching his own legs out onto the desk as he eyed the map of the docklands he’d procured and pinned to the wall, and considered whether or not he could stomach some more of the instant coffee they had in the kitchen, or if he could bribe Eames to go and fetch him some more from whichever little coffeehouse he’d been visiting.

As if on cue, Eames stepped into the doorway; leaning himself casually against the frame as he eyed Arthur’s pose with appreciation.

“Alright, Darling?” He called over as Arthur looked up, his lips twisting up into a fleeting smile as he watched Eames drag his eyes along the length of him. He wasn’t even a little bit embarrassed at being caught with his feet up. Eames had seen him in worse positions of unprofessionalism this week after all.

“You owe me for this, Mr Eames.” He said.

“Yeah?” Eames grinned back in question. It was a tired sort of grin, Arthur noticed, realising that although he hadn’t had to suffer the burden of travel, Eames had still been up for almost as long as Arthur himself had.

“Yes.” Arthur agreed. “I don’t know what possessed me to agree to help you out here-,”

“-my devilishly good looks and irresistible charm?” Eames interrupted, waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

“I highly doubt it,” he quipped, softening the blow with a smile: “With all this work you’ve have me doing, I haven’t really been able to appreciate either, now have I?”

“Something we should remedy immediately!” Eames exclaimed then, pushing away from the doorframe and stepping towards Arthur’s desk with his hand extended in invitation.

Arthur hurriedly dropped his legs and the chair back to the floor, knowing first hand of Eames’ proclivity for tipping him.

“I really can’t-,” he started, gesturing half-heartedly to the pile of work he was still getting through for tomorrow.

“I won’t take no for an answer.” Eames insisted.

Arthur bit back a smile. “Eames…”

“No. No excuses.” He reached over and snagged Arthur’s hands up in his own, dragging him to his feet.

“We,” he began, plucking Arthur’s pen and pad from his hands and laying them down on the desk, “are going out for food, fresh air, and coffee, and whatever else it’ll take to get you to have a break.”

“Sleep?” Arthur asked, only half teasing as he let Eames man-handle him out of the room.

“We’ll see.” Eames laughed, taking his hand again and pulling him towards the front door.

Arthur stepped quickly after him, his fingers flexing against Eames’ before he casually extracted his hand. Eames took the motion in his stride, as he led them both out of the apartment they were holed up in and out into the muggy Capetonian night air.

 - - -

“You’re going for the forth option aren’t you?” Eames asked as they settled in at some late night bistro that was trying so very hard to be old school American and hipster hang out all at the same time.

Arthur turned, half-distracted from the sight of some barely-of-age kid with his ass hanging out of his pants ordering from the 50’s styled bar. 

“Yes, and no,” He answered, sipping at the strong coffee he’d ordered as soon as they were seated. “My preference is still for the work office, so I’ll suggest option three first and then give them four as an alternative. At least that way if they don’t trust my judgement they have the best possible fall back.”

Eames frowned. “Why would you think they wouldn’t trust you?”

Arthur shot him a look. “My eavesdropping aside,” he answered, “I wasn’t given the warmest of welcomes from Francois. And I shouldn’t say it based just on first impressions, but I suspect he’s the sort of man who’d disagree with me for the sake of it.”

Eames chuckled lightly. “You’re not wrong,” he agreed. “Except as much as he likes to think he’s in charge, it’s Zama who calls the shots. And she likes you.”

“You can’t know that.” He said, shaking his head. “I’ve barely spoken with the woman. She’s not likely to choose my opinion over her husband’s.”

“I can. And she will, if she believes it’s the right option.” Eames said with confidence. “Besides, I’ve already vouched for you, and she trusts my judgement.”

Arthur raised an enquiring eyebrow. “Am I missing something here?”

“What do you mean?” Eames asked slowly, as if he already knew what Arthur was asking but wasn’t going to make it easy for him.

Arthur hesitated, hiding his indecision behind another sip of coffee. He let his eyes roam around the bistro, ignoring Eames’ patient stare. It wasn’t really any of his business, of course. And he considered changing the subject entirely, except Eames was looking at him as though he wanted Arthur to ask.

“Is there something going on between you and Zama?” He asked finally. Eames’ eyes widened, his mouth dropping open in a rare sign of shock (though of course, it was a sight Arthur was fast becoming used to. He seemed to be continuously surprising Eames this week). And then he began to laugh.

“Are you serious?” Eames gasped.

Arthur shifted uncomfortably, scowling at the amusement shining in Eames’ eyes.

“Oh, Arthur, really?” He asked again, quickly quashing his laughter.

“It’s not an unreasonable conclusion to come to,” he defended.

“Zama and I have been friends for a long time. She’s utterly devoted to Francois.” Eames said and Arthur frowned at him.

“I haven’t been spending all of my time with Zama, now have I?” Eames continued, smiling now.

“No,” Arthur agreed, “but then you’ve been too busy helping- me…”

Eames chuckled softly and Arthur stared at him. “But the way you kept looking at each other during the introductions?”

Eames shrugged. “I’ve been talking about you.”

“You-,” Arthur stopped, then: “Wait, is that why Francois doesn’t like me? What on earth have you been saying?”

“Oh, Arthur,” Eames sighed. “You’ve just realised there’s something going on between us and your first thought is that I’ve been badmouthing you?”

Arthur could feel the exact moment his cheeks heated at the admission from Eames’ own lips.

“Oh god, I’m sorry,” he apologised, biting at the inside of his cheek, not sure what else he should say.

“It’s fine. And don’t worry about Francois. It’s not personal. His problem is with me.”

“I- um.” Arthur started then stopped. Eames waved a hand between them, as if to dismiss the moment.

“You’ve done most of the prep work for tomorrow, haven’t you? Do you have much still to do?” Eames asked, changing the subject with about as much subtlety as a train barrelling through Downtown Los Angeles.

Arthur frowned but took the offer and answered, stiltedly filling Eames in on what he’d achieved with his afternoon and what he still hoped to get done come his presentation to the Du Plessis’ the following morning. His mind was only half on the conversation and he was still trying to juggle that and the startling revelation that Eames thought there was ‘something’ going on between them when their meals arrived.

They lapsed into a silence that, whilst not uncomfortable, seemed full of expectation and Arthur found himself completely flummoxed at not having seen this coming. He should have, he realised, thinking back on the whirlwind of hours they’d spent together whilst in Cape Town. Even before this week, there’d always been the hint of something, but it had been so easily to just push thoughts of that nature aside, to play it as though it were just a game between them.

“Is this why you called me?” Arthur eventually asked. It would have been out of the blue except for the way Eames looked as though he’d been expecting Arthur to say something.

“Partly,” he admitted. “You are the best and only person I knew of who could help us out with this on such short notice.”

“The other part?” Arthur asked, watching Eames carefully.

“I knew you didn’t have a job. Hadn’t had one since Inception. I was worried you were going to follow Cobb into leaving the business.” He admitted.

Arthur frowned. “Why should that worry you?”

Darling,” Eames answered as though it should be obvious.

Arthur ducked his head, smiling despite himself. “So you thought giving me a job would stop that from happening?”

“Were you thinking about leaving?” Eames asked.

Arthur shook his head at him. “I hate when you answer my questions with questions.”

Eames just smiled at him. “Well?”

“Fine. Yes. I was.” He said, looking away.

Eames reached out, folding his hand over Arthur’s a moment. “And then I called.”

Arthur swallowed heavily, feeling the gentle pressure of Eames’ hand curled around his own upon the table. He flicked his eyes up, catching Eames’ smile a moment before he pulled his hand back.

“And then you called,” he agreed, then laughed softly. “Not that you really gave me much choice in the matter.”

“The less time you had to think about it, the less chance you had to decline.” Eames said, leaning back in his seat and giving Arthur some space.

“And was my being sleep deprived part of your grand plan?”

“You have been a lot more obliging than I’m used to,” Eames answered, neither in agreement nor disagreement.

“It’s been nice,” Eames said then, “seeing you like this. Not so… put together.”

Arthur rolled his eyes, shifting in his seat. “I think I’m so far beyond embarrassed about the whole thing now that it’s not even registering anymore.”

“What’s there to be embarrassed about?” Eames asked, cocking his head. “It’s nice to know there’s an actual human being beneath the suits and pomade.”

Arthur laughed. “Yeah well, don’t get used to it.”

“I’m sure I can arrange something for our next job,” he said with a wink as Arthur shook his head fondly.

“You aren’t still thinking about quitting are you?” he asked.

“Not really,” Arthur shrugged. Eames looked surprised at the non-answer.

“What I don’t understand is why? After what we did, what we achieved! How could you want to give that all up?”

Arthur frowned at him. “You talk about it as if the whole thing went to plan. The entire job was a disaster from start to finish. I messed up with the Mark, Yusuf lied to us about the compound, Cobb betrayed m-us all and ended up getting our Mark sent to Limbo, we missed half our kicks and if it wasn’t for our tourists we probably wouldn’t have managed it at all.” He fisted his hands just thinking about the Inception job and Eames’ reached out, resting his own hands atop Arthur’s once more.

His own monumental failure aside, Cobb’s betrayal had been the biggest dent to his confidence. He’d trusted Cobb, and been used as a means to an end by him, as if everything he’d done for the man meant nothing, as if his very life was something so easily discarded. He’d been betrayed by teams before, of course, but he’d never been as invested in them as he had been in Cobb. He would never have believed that the worst betrayal would come from someone he was so close to.

“A job like that was never going to run smoothly, Arthur.” Eames said, squeezing until Arthur relaxed his own hold.

He smiled deprecatingly. “Says the man who threatened to quit on the first level.”

“And if we hadn’t been so heavily sedated, I’d have taken my chances with his security,” Eames confirmed. “You’re right, nothing went as planned, and Cobb screwed us all before we’d really even begun. But at the same time, what happened, happened. And we all came out of it relatively unscathed.”

“But with everything that went wrong-,” Arthur began in protest.

“- there was something that went right.” Eames finished. “You can’t plan for every eventuality, Arthur, not even if you wanted to. Sometimes you have to choose spontaneity over specificity.”

Arthur laughed then, hearing an echo of the words he’d used back when they’d still been in the planning stages of Inception.

“What was it like?” He asked softly. “That moment when it took hold? When he gave himself the idea?”

“It was beautiful,” Eames confessed. “And heartbreaking. It was perfect and terrible and terrifying. To know that we did that, we made somebody re-evaluate a lifetimes worth of memories and emotions and see what we wanted him to see in them. God.” He finished, breathless, shaking his head.

“I wish I’d been there to see it,” Arthur murmured.

“Me too.” Eames squeezed at his hands once more before pulling away.

“How do you come back to doing this?” He asked then, referring to the Extraction type jobs Eames had taken since then.

“There’s still a challenge to be had in Dreamshare,” Eames said. “Especially for a Forger. Nowhere near as exhilarating as our last job but I don’t suppose there’ll be much that can match it.”

“No,” Arthur agreed. “But aside from wanting to sleep for the next month first, I don’t think I’ll mind if my next job requires my kind of specificity.”

“You can plan and design until your heart is content and I’ll do all the fun stuff,” Eames laughed, looking relieved and talking as though they’d be working more jobs together after this. Perhaps even as a team and not just when one of them needed a favour from the other.

Arthur didn’t say anything, even as he considered the idea of working with Eames on a more regular basis. He already trusted the man, but then, he’d trusted Cobb too. And you needed trust if you wanted to share dreams. He caught Eames watching him, his lips curled and Arthur found himself smiling in return.

They didn’t linger long after they finished their meals, if only because Arthur looked as though he might actually try to fall asleep on the table despite the amount of coffee Eames had been plying him with throughout the day.

“Please tell me you’ll grab at least a couple hours of sleep?” Eames asked as they left the bistro and started on the fifteen minute walk back to their apartment.

Arthur smothered a yawn behind his hand and nodded. “I don’t think I have much of a choice,” he agreed, willing to admit that he’d about reached his limit. Eames laughed, brushing their shoulders together as they walked.

They were about halfway into their journey when a flash suddenly lit up the sky. They stopped where they were, looking up just as a BOOM! of thunder sounded and the heavens opened, drowning them in a sudden downpour of rain.

Arthur laughed aloud in shock as the refreshingly cold rain soaked swiftly through his clothing. Shrieks and laughter sounded from other pedestrians as they all ran for cover from the rain. Eames grabbed at his arm, dragging him beneath the awning of the nearest shop and squeezing in tightly beside him as the thunderstorm rumbled across the sky, clearing the muggy heat that had been lying oppressively over the city for the better part of the past fortnight.

Arthur was still laughing when Eames turned from the rain to look at him. His smile didn’t fade as Eames unabashedly ran his eyes over Arthur’s face. Arthur let him look his fill as he did the same: seeing the spark in Eames’ eyes; the flush of excitement reflected in his cheeks; the way his lips had parted as he breathed on a laugh; the faint hint of stubble coating his jaw; his skin wet with drops of rain.

Eames licked his lips then and Arthur only realised that he’d mirrored the gesture when Eames stepped impossibly closer, one of his arms sliding around his waist to hold him. It didn’t even occur to Arthur to stop it from happening, so caught up in the moment was he.

When Eames leant in, his mouth so near that every puff of breath tingled at Arthur’s lips, Arthur could have pulled away, or told him to stop. But he didn’t. And without even consciously thinking about it, he knew he didn’t want it to.

The kiss, when it happened, was softer than Arthur thought it would be; softer than it had any right to be in the middle of a thunderstorm, and yet so contradictory to it as to be utterly perfect.

He ran his hands up Eames’ chest, curling his arms around his neck as he pressed his mouth closer; letting Eames lead but at the same time making it known that he wasn’t an unwilling participant. Eames moaned appreciatively, his free hand coming up to cup at Arthur’s jaw, cradling his head as he tilted it a fraction before deepening the kiss.

Arthur shivered as Eames licked at his mouth, his lips parting readily at the touch. His fingers clenched in the collar of Eames’ shirt, and he felt the heated press of Eames’ arm curled around him, the stroke of his palm to Arthur’s face, holding him, directing him. The kiss was less sweet now, more messy and eager and desperate as they breathed together, rain bouncing up at their heels, lightening flashing and thunder roaring and them ignorant to all but each other.

The storm lasted only minutes, just a quick downpour to clear the air. And as it eased, so to did their kiss, with Arthur slowing then pulling away from it. They were breathing heavily as they parted, but Eames was smiling widely and it was hard not to match his expression. Arthur leant in, burying his head against Eames’ neck as he laughed breathlessly. Eames turned his own head, pressing a light kiss to the lobe of Arthur’s ear, before sucking it into his mouth and causing Arthur to shiver, his fingers clenching at Eames’ shirt.

“You’re taking advantage of me, Mr Eames,” Arthur laughed, lifting his head enough to speak into Eames’ ear. He felt Eames’ laughter rumble up through his chest and he smiled a moment before loosening his hold enough to put an inch of space between them.

Eames leant in again and Arthur let him steal a few chaste kisses before pulling back once more. He lifted a hand to Eames’ face, stilling him. Hating to stop him but knowing he had to.

“I don’t want to ruin this, but we can’t do this now,” Arthur said softly, his eyes flickering between Eames’ own. “Not whilst we’re on a job at least.”

Eames eyed him carefully, “Not now.” He repeated, his hold loosening and Arthur unconsciously tightened his own.

“But not never,” he said, not wanting Eames to let go with the wrong impression.

Eames smiled gently. “But not never,” he agreed, leaning in to chance one more kiss. Arthur allowed it, moaning lightly as Eames let the kiss linger then merge into one more and then one more again.

They parted, eventually, rain wet and smiling, and when Eames took Arthur’s hand this time, Arthur let him.

 - - - 

The presentation the next morning went about as well as Arthur expected it to; with Francois looking as though he’d very much like to disagree with everything Arthur said, but with Zama and Eames teaming up to overrule him before he could get a word in either way.

He’d gone to bed just before midnight and even after forcing himself back up at six this morning, he still felt a mile better for what sleep he’d managed to catch. He suspected most of his good mood was as a result of what happened with Eames the previous evening.

He’d been the first one up that morning and had wheeled the whiteboard out of the office and into the lounge, setting it up with the two main options he was presenting to the team (the Mark’s office, and the Unknown Location), and he was just setting out the folders with the information he’d managed to gain on all three locations when the du Plessis’ came into the room.

Eames came in from the front door not long afterwards and Arthur only briefly wondered when he’d left before he caught sight of the tray of coffees he was carrying. He smiled thankfully at him upon receiving his own and Eames offered him a soft smile in return.

They didn’t linger however and Arthur soon launched himself into his presentation, offering up his opinions as to why he thought option three (the Mark’s office at work) would be their best, with four a close contender if only to keep all their bases covered.

The first two options (the home and the gambling den) he briefly mentioned and offered them the folders he’d compiled on them but mentioned they wouldn’t be of much use unless Zama wished to incorporate them into an edited design for option four.

“So either way, you think it’ll be the workplace?” Zama surmised, flicking through the significantly larger folder of specs and photos Arthur had compiled for the Mark’s container office.

He nodded. “There wasn’t enough evidence to suggest that options one or two would be better contenders, although-,” he nodded in deference to Eames, “-we weren’t able to get a look into the gambling den so can’t officially rule that one out.”

“Not much use that,” Francois muttered. Zama elbowed him gently.

“No,” Arthur agreed, “but after what happened to your last Point Man you can hardly have expected any differently. That’s why I’ve provided you the forth option as well.”

“This is great work,” Zama said once he’d finished. “Using the office in a one level dream should makes things significantly easier as well, providing the Mark doesn’t need to leave the dockyard. I can’t believe you’ve managed all this in such a short space of time, Arthur.”

“Eames was a great deal of help in sorting through Jamieson’s notes,” he admitted.

Zama smiled knowingly at him and Arthur half-frowned at the look as she asked: “How confident are you about the workplace?”

“Very.” Arthur answered with confidence.

“And you, Eames?” She said, turning to him with a bright smile, looking to gauge his reaction.

“I’m with Arthur on this one.” He agreed. “I liked the gambling den but after checking out all the options, it seems more likely that, even if he doesn’t keep any incriminating evidence at work, his mind would still be ready and willing to reveal his secrets whilst at his workplace.”

“Do you think you can do it with just one level of the dream?” She pressed.

“I can certainly give it a go.” He said, easing forward in his chair. “There’s no reason to think one level won’t be enough. Everything is as straightforward as it needs to be with this guy. I’ll have a folder with me in the dream, once we’re in his office I’ll have him believe it was given to me by whoever’s threatened me, his mind should immediately fill it with the information we need.”

Zama nodded, pleased. “Franc?” she asked, turning to her husband. Arthur watched as Francois’ expression softened minutely as he looked to his wife.

“Option three. We’ll go with Arthur’s plan,” he agreed, surprising Arthur.

“Thank you very much, Arthur,” Zama enthused then, standing and moving over to shake his hand. “We’ll transfer you your share after the job’s completed tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” he returned.

“I hope next time we’ll actually get to work together,” she smiled at him before shooting one of her looks towards Eames. Arthur half-smiled back.

“Now if you’ll excuse me, I must go and add all this into my designs.” She spared him one last look before moving towards the staircase that would take her up to the first level bedrooms.

Arthur started packing up what wasn’t needed, and was just handing over a small stack of folders to Eames when Francois came up to him and offered him his hand. Arthur hid his surprise as he took it, shaking once.

“Your help is very much appreciated,” Francois said, gruffly. Arthur inclined his head, catching Eames’ eye over Francois’ shoulder. “Leave anything to be destroyed at the door and we’ll see it’s done.”

Finished, he turned and headed towards the kitchen where he’d set up his lab for making the compound.

“I’m impressed,” Eames said, following Arthur into the office, “Man’s never shaken my hand and I’ve worked with him a few times now.”

“Are you sure he doesn’t think you’re into his wife?” Arthur asked, offering him a cheeky smile.

Eames snorted. “Positive.” He answered, eyes fixed on Arthur.

He raised an eyebrow but Eames just smiled and moved to place the folders on the desk. He paused in putting them down, seeing Arthur’s two small travel bags sitting at the foot of the desk.

“Leaving so soon?” He asked nonchalantly, turning to him.

Arthur nodded, shifting. “My job’s done.”

“We’re not performing the Extraction until tomorrow,” Eames began. Arthur heard the question in his words and shook his head.

“And you’ll need the rest of today to prepare,” he pointed out.

“I’ve prepared enough,” Eames insisted. “I’ve got this.”

“The last thing you need is a distraction.” Arthur said, even as he let Eames step in close enough to touch.

Eames eyed him, carefully. “I’ll be done in two days time.” He said then, not wanting to push.

Arthur almost wanted to smile. “You know I can’t stay,” he said, feeling his heartbeat speed up at the frown that furrowed at Eames’ brow a moment before he smoothed his expression out once more.

“I understand,” he said, stepping back.

Arthur reached out, grabbing at Eames’ wrist and stilling him. “I meant that I can’t stay here.” He said, referring to the apartment. “I don’t have anywhere else I need to be. I may be inclined to hang around Cape Town for a few more days. Catch up on some sleep, that sort of thing.”

Eames’ smile was slow. He stepped in again. “Sounds nice,” he agreed, cupping at Arthur’s face. “Might be nicer with some company?”

Arthur smiled then. “I’m sure I could make myself available in a few days time.”

Eames was still smiling as he leant in to kiss him.

Arthur was still smiling as he let him.

end.

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