Fandom: Pairing: Inception: Arthur/Eames (+ crossovers with Stargate, Buffy, Harry Potter, White Collar and Batman.)
Rating: please see individual ficlets
Words: 4250 (15x250, 5x100)
Concrit: Please. If you spot a typo or a grammar glitch, feel free to tell me in comments.
Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be. No harm, no foul, no money made.
Warnings/Squicks: please see individual ficlets
Summary: A little bit of everything in 250 word snippets.
Notes: Written for round 1 of fics20in20. Signups for round 2 are open here.
Thanks go to: literati, outsideth3box & entrenous88 for their unstinting support and cheerleading.
Title: Mirror, Mirror
The first time Nana Esmae's mirror appeared in a dream that wasn't his, Arthur dropped the Glock he'd been reassembling. Newly oiled parts skittered off towards the edge of the table unnoticed as Arthur stared over Eames's shoulder as he prepared to forge.
It was a triptych mirror, three in one, though when Nana Esmae had talked about her most precious family heirloom, she'd always called it her 'cryptic' mirror. He'd known better from the age of eight, but he'd never corrected her, it hadn't seemed right.
Almost fifteen years had gone by since Arthur had last seen the real thing, but Eames's reproduction looked flawless, from the gleaming walnut frames to the antique silvered glass.
He recognised the mottled water stains running down the outer edge of the left mirror, a lasting reminder of the night the old apple tree had been hit by lightning and taken the back porch and half of the rear wall with it when it toppled over. He could even see the double notch in the top of the center frame, the first caused by his dad as a clumsy toddler, and the second put there the same day by his grandfather, 'to balance it out and make it right again'.
The original was long gone now, most likely trashed or lying forgotten in someone's attic. Arthur's pretty sure Nana Esmae would have loved to know it was still in use, and been amused by how; she'd always told him to follow his dreams.
Title: Minor Annoyance
It's the third time this month that he's lost a bet to Eames; the third time this month he's ended up having to dig his driver's license out of his wallet while a doorman looks at him like he's fifteen and trying bluff his way into the local strip joint.
Eames is no help; he's enjoying every moment. He's pressed tight against Arthur's back, one hand resting dangerously low on Arthur's hip, the other looped possessively across Arthur's chest, his thumb toying with Arthur's left nipple through his thin white cotton tee.
The doorman scrutinizes Arthur's ID, flips it over to check the back, and then peers suspiciously at Arthur beneath the flashing neon lights before once again examining the laminated card in his hand.
Arthur knows exactly what the guy is having trouble with. The photo shows a young man in a suit jacket, smart shirt and pinstriped tie, his hair swept sleekly back from his forehead. Right now, thanks to the lost bet, Eames has poured Arthur into indecently tight, threadbare jeans and a tee that is at least two sizes too small. His hair's untamed and still damp, curling around his face and making him look absurdly young. He's beginning to think Eames has some sort of fetish for being thought a corrupter of underage boys.
The doorman passes Arthur's license back with a grunt and steps aside to let them in. Arthur pretends not to notice the way he smirks at Eames on the way past.
It was the end of a particularly unproductive day. Their architect had just stormed out of the loft they were using as a base of operations, infuriated by yet another of Arthur's detailed critiques of his latest design.
Arthur was on his feet as soon as the door closed, hands cutting through the air in flamboyant gestures as he began to mimic the irate Italian with vicious accuracy.
"You have no soul, Arthur! No heart! You seek to destroy that which you will never understand! Americans? Philistines!"
Eames's laughter was equal parts amusement and relief: amusement at the mimicry, at the unfettered glee in Arthur's eyes; relief that Arthur was finally back to letting himself have fun while on the job.
"Oh, darling, I have missed you, terribly. I was beginning to think I'd have to get that stick surgically removed."
Arthur froze, and Eames had just enough time to consider physically tackling him to the ground to prevent him shoving the damn metaphorical stick back where it had no business being, and then his narrow, well-dressed shoulders lifted and fell in a shrug that was almost painfully familiar.
"Mal said something similar, the second time we met. She spent the entire evening trying to make me laugh. There was no stopping her once she realised I had dimples."
"You loved her."
Arthur laughed. "Of course I did. She told me I needed to find something to replace the stick up my ass, and then she introduced me to you."
Title: Eternity in a Moment
A minute is nothing, really; no time at all.
You can't boil a kettle in a minute; can't brush your teeth. If you plan to wear anything more complex than pyjamas or a robe, you can't get dressed. All but the youngest, the oldest and the sickest can easily hold their breath for a minute without fear of consequence.
If you have a PASIV device, unrestricted access to the best Somnacin blends, and a partner who has spent so much time in your head that your projections have begun to treat him like one of their own, you can live entire lifetimes within a patchwork of borrowed, begged and stolen sixty second increments.
One minute in the real world becomes twenty in the dream; a second level draws that out to over six and a half hours.
You can get a lot of living done in those hours; a lot of loving done too, though either one, or both, would rather stand before a firing squad than admit such things out loud.
They're models of decorum on the surface, for given values of both 'model' and 'decorum'. The sniping and the poking and the 'How have they not killed each other yet?' condescension continues unabated. They have fun with it. But, two layers down, they spend a lot of time naked.
It's not always four hundred minutes of athletic, sweaty sex; not more than once or twice a week, anyway. Non-existent refractory period aside, sometimes they'd rather just be.
Title: Meat in the sandwich
Warnings: warning: brief f/Eames/f threesome, graphic Eames/Arthur/Eames threesome.
This isn't the first threesome Eames has ever had. He has very fond memories of a visit to his family's Devon retreat when he was nineteen, where he'd had the very good fortune to meet up with a brace of buxom beauties on the lookout for an adventurous man. He'd spent one damp Sunday afternoon with his head buried between the luscious thighs of a sweet-natured, sweet-nectared strawberry blonde, while her redheaded friend had buggered him senseless with a sparkly purple latex strap-on.
This time, however, Eames gets to watch himself, or, more precisely, Arthur's projection of him, make a performance out of prepping Arthur's firm little arse, while Arthur tries to swallow Eames's dick whole, right down to his balls.
Eames knows he's biased to a most impressive degree, but he really does think Arthur's beautiful like this – yards of pale skin, with a fine blue tracery of underlying veins, all delightfully pink from so much focussed attention. The muscles in his thighs and arms are quivering already, and Eames – both of him – has barely begun.
The projection looks up from his task and catches Eames's eye, then pulls his fingers free and lubes himself. Eames reaches down and pushes sweat-tangled curls out of Arthur's eyes as Arthur struggles to swallow and breathe around his cock.
Projection-Eames doesn't wait for Arthur to answer real-Eames's question, just pushes in, blunt force and steady pressure stretching Arthur open, relentlessly.
Arthur trembles, caught between them, and they begin to thrust.
Warnings: PASIV-assisted suicide, of a sort
The first medical job they do is a personal favour to Saito. The wife of an old friend has spent three years in a coma, despite the best efforts of world-renowned specialists.
The man isn't expecting miracles; he's resigned to never seeing her smile again, to never taking her home. What he wants – needs – to know is if she's spent those years locked inside a broken mind and motionless body. He's painfully aware that he might have spent two thousand hours holding the hand of an empty, undead corpse.
He doesn't care what they tell him, just so long as he knows. If she's gone, there are doctors waiting to disconnect the many machines that pump her blood and feed her body and keep her chest rising and falling. If she's somehow still in there, trapped...
She is, but it's not as simple as that; it never is. She's spent the last three years locked into a dream state disturbingly similar to limbo, if limbo came with a super-sized serving of scrambled personality disorders and an eternal scream.
They're not expecting his driver to produce a second PASIV device, or for the medical personnel to escort them out at gunpoint.
He has to do this, he tells them; he was the one behind the wheel, it's his fault. He has to make amends, make it right.
He doesn't wake up when the drugs wear off.
That night, in bed, Eames holds on to Arthur and knows he'd do the same.
Title: Pretty When Wet
Eames is almost certain the first time's an accident. Arthur's far too enamoured of his early morning java infusion to waste it on such a juvenile gag, no matter how hard he laughs at Eames wriggling and cursing as he strips his shirt off.
The second time, when the glass of ice water ends up soaking through Eames's trousers and into his underwear, he's not too sure.
The bottle of fruit juice down the back of his neck has Eames downright suspicious, but also curious and slightly hopeful.
Arthur apologises profusely after each incident, eyes flickering with badly-concealed humour. He swears it wasn't done on purpose; Eames hopes he's lying.
He doesn't care what Arthur splashes, tip, pours or sprays all over him when it makes him laugh like that, when it makes him look like that, but he knows, with bone-deep certainty, that Arthur wouldn't feel the same, so he has to find alternative methods of retaliation.
The first time, Eames passes behind Arthur while he's seated at his desk and drags a nail along the line of his collar.
Arthur drops his pen.
The second time, Eames dances his fingers over Arthur's ribs while squeezing past him at the whiteboard. He's never heard Arthur make a sound like that before, but he likes it. The stunned expression on Dom's face is an added bonus.
The third time, Eames approaches with intent to tickle, but Arthur's ready.
Eames is still dripping with milk when Arthur lands the first kiss.
Title: Bedside Manners
For the first twenty-four hours, Arthur's flying high on a powerful combination of morphine, adrenaline, a broad spectrum antibiotic and a tetanus jab.
His world is fuzzy around the edges. He spends an inordinately long time tracing the words that someone's written across the otherwise pristine cast on his left arm. He has no clue what it says, but it's pretty.
The next twenty-four hours he spends mostly asleep. It's only when he wakes on the third day that things begin to get complicated. Eames is sprawled in a chair beside the bed, feet up and resting on the mattress next to Arthur's hip.
"Eames? Wh-what are you doing here? Where's Dom?" He's aware that he's whining but he's too sore to care.
"Oh, Arthur, were I a lesser man, I'd be grievously wounded by the fact that every time you've been awake for more than thirty continuous seconds, your first instinct is to ask for the great Dom Cobb." Eames laughs at Arthur's scowl. "But of course, you know me better than that, so here we go again. Dom's at home with his children, my love, but he calls at least three times a day, to make sure I haven’t killed you yet."
"But- Why you?"
"Pippa called from the hospital; said you were asking after me just before you fell. She's a proper little matchmaker, that one."
"Stop lying, darling, it's time to change your bandages. I think I'll start with that luscious arse of yours."
Title: Musket, Pipe and Drum
"What about this?" Eames leaned in over Arthur's shoulder and tapped a finger against the seventh bullet point on Arthur's meticulously detailed list. "He's a member of the Sealed Knot, a British Civil War re-enactment society. Do we know his role?"
Arthur swatted Eames's hand aside to gain access to his preliminary research files. Amused, Eames pulled his hand back and rested it casually on Arthur's shoulder, leaning in even further until his chest was pressed against Arthur's back, his breath disturbing the stray curl of hair tucked behind Arthur's ear.
It only took a moment to find the information Eames had requested. "He started out as a pike man; spent almost eight years waving a sixteen foot pole around in battle without accidentally injuring anyone."
Though he'd never admit it, Eames knew Arthur was at least a little impressed.
Arthur flipped the page and exposed several black and white photos of a crumpled car.
"And then there was the incident that got us hired. The spinal damage mostly healed okay, but not well enough for him to go back to his pike division. Next time he was out on the field, he was dressed as a senior officer, letting everyone else do the heavy lifting and the running around."
Eames hmmmmed directly into Arthur's ear and was delighted by the shiver that snaked down Arthur's spine.
"Spiriting an officer off a battlefield will be quite a challenge. How's your English accent, darling?"
"Better than your Russian, tovarisch."
Title: Up in Flames
Eames fades in and out of consciousness for the better part of two days, unaware of much beyond the sounds and smells of his hospital room, and the waxing and waning of pain between doses.
On the afternoon of the third day, they remove the oxygen tube. When he swallows, it feels like he's gargled with razor blades and broken glass, but he can breathe unaided again, and speak. Okay, croak. Barely.
Dom arrives shortly after dinner has been cleared away. His clothes are rumpled and smell faintly of smoke; the scent turns Eames's stomach but he doesn't complain. He has other things on his mind.
"Have you seen Arthur? Is he okay? They won’t tell me anything, just that he's 'doing as well as can be expected', whatever that means."
The legs of the chair squeak against the tiled floor as Dom settles himself beside the bed. He reaches out awkwardly to pat Eames's arm, faltering at the expanse of bandages that leave only the back of his hand bare.
"He's still on a ventilator, but he's actually in better shape than you are right now. There are a few superficial second degree burns on his arms and legs but the smoke inhalation was the worst of it and that's almost cleared up."
Relief washes over Eames and he lets himself relax into it for just a moment.
"He was so pale, so still. I-I thought-"
"You got to him in time, Eames. You saved his life. Thank you."
Theme: Food - Breakfast
Arthur is woken by the tantalizing aromas of freshly brewed coffee and frying bacon. It almost makes up for rolling over to find the other side of the bed empty and cool to the touch, the pillow knocked to the floor, the sheets wrinkled and still smelling of Eames's cologne.
After pulling on fresh boxers and a favorite, stretched-out tee, Arthur shuffles into the kitchen, still more asleep than not, to find Eames in front of the stove in his rumpled suit pants and an open shirt.
"What did I do to earn this?"
"Oh, love, what didn't you do?"
Title: Two By Two
Theme: Food - Lunch
Arthur doesn't realise Eames has left the warehouse and returned until his pencil is stolen and his files are flipped shut with a cheerful 'Lunchtime, darling. No arguments.'
Before Arthur can do more than sputter and glare, Eames removes a plain white box from the bag he's balanced carefully on the corner of the desk. He lifts the lid with a flourish, letting Arthur see that it's filled with his favorite nigiri sushi – colorful slabs of salmon, tuna and octopus, balanced on bricks of rice. There's even a small dish of pickled ginger.
Arthur's so charmed he lets Eames share.
Title: Cake and Cross-Examination
Theme: Food - Afternoon Tea
"I never joke about receiving a royal summons from my grandmother, Arthur. She wants to meet the young man who's kept me out of trouble in recent years. You're better off saying yes now; you have no idea how much trouble she can cause with her network of contacts."
"Wait. Is she the reason you-?"
"I don't want to talk about it, and you promised not to ask."
"Fine. So, the Ritz? Really?"
"Just be glad she's decided on a Champagne Afternoon Tea instead of Traditional. There won't be nearly enough alcohol, but at least it's a start."
Title: Home Ground
Theme: Food - Dinner
'Carlo's' is a small Chicago restaurant, owned and staffed by a sprawling family only two generations removed from Napoli. It's Arthur's favorite place to go when he wants good pasta and a pleasant atmosphere, without pretensions or awkward questions.
When the waitress comes to take their order, she places a single platter of antipasti in the center of the table instead of giving them a plate each. At Arthur's puzzled frown, she giggles.
"Papa says you've never brought anyone in for the family's approval before, cousin. Special guests demand special treatment."
"Darling, I'm honoured."
"An Englishman, Arturo? Papa will flip!"
Title: Midnight Snack
Theme: Food - Midnight Snack
Arthur wakes up fucked out, filthy and thinking only of food. A quick wipe down with a towel removes the worst of the mess before he wanders naked into the kitchen to study the contents of the fridge.
It's obvious Eames was the last one to do the grocery shopping. Arthur recognizes the ingredients of some of Eames's favored recipes, but there's very little there that can be eaten as a midnight snack without prior prep.
He's crunching the last of the asparagus tips when Eames stumbles up behind him.
"You grab the strawberries; I'll heat up the chocolate syrup."
AUTHOR'S CHOICE - Crossovers
Title: Silly Stories
Theme: Crossover: Stargate Atlantis/SG-1
Everything was fine until Arthur learned the mark's name –Rodney McKay– and then all hell broke loose.
"I need to know who contacted you about this, Eames, and who it was that pointed them in our direction. I hope it's just a crazy coincidence, but if there's the slightest chance they know... Fuck! I need to make a call on a secure line. When
Dom gets here, don't let him leave. I should be back in about an hour; please try to stay out of trouble until I get home."
"You militarized the subconscious of an entire US Air Force base? Is that even possible?"
Arthur checked his watch for the seventeenth time. He wished O'Neill would hurry up.
"No, Dom, I worked on about thirty of the top scientific minds in the country, and then the brass decided I needed to teach some of their people how to get the job done so they could kick me out of the loop. They already had their own PASIV, so I was more than happy to leave them to it."
There was a strange sound in their kitchen behind him, and then a familiar voice spoke up.
"Lieutenant, I do hope you haven't been telling tales out of school; I believe you signed a piece of paper promising not to do that. He hasn't been telling you silly stories about aliens and flying cities, has he, children?"
"General O'Neill, sir! I haven't-"
"Good! 'Cause that's my favorite part of the job!"
Title: Potential: Lost and Found
Theme: Crossover: Buffy
The mark is a thirteen-year-old girl who, six months ago, was a well-behaved, straight-A student volunteering at a retirement home. One day she was reading to the elderly, the next she was breaking curfew and getting arrested for violent outbursts.
Her parents were at their wits' end when the father heard a whisper about dream therapy and went digging. He unearthed Arthur and Eames.
And so here they are, locked in a hotel suite with a drugged underage girl while her parents wait downstairs in the bar, doubtless expecting to hear that their baby girl's been viciously assaulted and raped, or worse – anything that would explain the sudden personality shift.
The tranquilizer wears off before they can hook up to the PASIV and she takes down Arthur without breaking a sweat. She's rounding on Eames when the door swings open and two new guys walk in – a slender, wiry blond in a leather duster, and a taller, bulky man with a mess of dark curls and an eye-patch. He immediately starts talking.
"I know you think something's wrong with you, Rachel; that either you're going crazy or the world is. It's not, and neither are you. You're part of something amazing. Terrifying," he amends with an awkward shrug, "but amazing. We're-"
"Before you start the 'Potentials' spiel, pet," the blond interrupts, "we need to get rid of these idiots."
"Hey!" Arthur scrambles to his feet. "Her parents-"
"-are getting educated as we speak. Check's in the post; now piss off."
Title: There's Something I've Been Meaning To Tell You, Darling...
Theme: Crossover: Harry Potter
Dedication: For literati, as is all my Harry Potter fic. ♥
"Yes, Eames, I'd completely forgotten I was a wizard."
Eames took a sip of his butterbeer and imagined Arthur and Draco together. The possibilities made his pulse race.
"Okay, it was a stupid question. You can hardly blame me. It's not like I'm used to thinking about this stuff any more. The Malfoys have no use for squibs, remember, cousin?"
Draco winced, tossed back his fire-whisky and signalled for another.
"Times have changed. My father's in Azkaban and I'm working for the Ministry of Magic."
"It obviously agrees with you. I still don't understand what you need us for. Surely, you must have access to spells that-"
"Yes, yes, and as soon as someone thinks of that, they'll start pointing fingers. No. This can't be traced back to me at all."
The second shot of fire-whisky arrived, and Draco sipped it slowly before complying.
"There's a man." He paused, scowling at Eames's delighted grin. "He's convinced he's in love with this girl but all he really wants is to be a part of her family. The short-sighted idiot doesn't realise that he already is. I'm sure the Weasleys would throw themselves on burning pyres en masse if they thought it would make him happy."
"Wait. Weasleys? You want us to incept Harry Potter into being gay for you?"
"No! Merlin, be quiet! He treats her like a sister; the marriage would be a farce. He needs to know he has... options."
"You love him."
"I'll call Arthur."
Title: Partners Old and New
Theme: Crossover: White Collar
Eames turned away from the bar and froze, a double single malt halfway to his lips.
Across the room, he could see Arthur in an animated discussion with someone who could only be a federal agent, judging by the cut of his suit and the shoulder holster. He immediately began checking out the rest of the bar's patrons, quickly zeroing in on a man half cloaked in shadow beneath the stairs.
Even with the hat disrupting the clean lines of his profile, the lean, elegant frame of Neal Caffrey was unmistakeable. The last Eames had heard, Caffrey was restricted to a few square miles of Manhattan, courtesy of an electronic leash. There was no way he should be here, unless...
Eames turned back to take a second look at Arthur's new best friend, unsurprised when a hand came out of nowhere to steal his glass.
"Macallan always was your first choice after a successful job, Archie. What was today's score?"
Eames's fingers wrapped around Caffrey's wrist, pinning his hand to the bar. "Who's asking, darling, you or your fed?"
"Archie, you know me better than that. I was hoping you and your... Arthur would join me and my partners, Peter and El, for dinner."
Caffrey's smirk left no doubt as to what he meant, and Eames took a third, more careful look at Neal's 'partner', finally understanding Arthur's amused, bemused expression.
"A fed, Neal? Really?"
Neal winked. "His wife made the first move. Come to dinner. Meet them; you'll understand."
Title: Batman or Chickenhawk?
Theme: Crossover: Batman
Warnings: (insinuations of pedophilia)
Arthur hangs up the phone and sighs. "I have to go home for a few weeks. My uncle Alfred's been taken ill, and his employer needs someone to take up the slack until he's back on his feet."
Eames tries, unsuccessfully, not to pout. "I thought we were taking a couple of months off to relax and recuperate, darling. You're still limping from where that bullet clipped your delectable arse. Couldn't your uncle's boss call in a temp or something? What does the old man do, anyway?"
There's a car waiting for them at the airport. Them, because, despite Arthur's best efforts, Eames has insisted on tagging along.
"Bruce Wayne, Arthur? You tell me you're off to play at being butler to Gotham's most eligible bachelor and don't expect me to go with you to make sure he knows you're taken? I've heard the stories, you know. All those pretty young boys he takes into his house; keeps a fatherly eye on? You may be slightly older than his usual fare, but you still look like you're twelve in the right light. I'm taking no chances."
"I can't believe you didn't tell me!"
Arthur finishes loading the dishwasher and turns to Eames with a sly smirk.
"Eames, I am impressed. I thought it would take you longer. What gave it away?"
"I thought I'd help you out by unloading the dryer. When I found the tights, I wondered- But then I put it together with the armoured underwear, and..."