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24 September 2011 @ 08:31 pm
Silver and Silent [standalone]  
Title: Silver and Silent
Author: my_0wn_madness
Beta: fuzzyniffler
Rating: R?
Warnings: Phone sex
Characters: Arthur/Eames
Summary: Inspired by this graphic. Arthur works at a twenty-four hour sleep disorder hotline. On a Thursday morning at 3:03 AM, a low, smoky and unforgettable voice tells Arthur he can't sleep.
Word Count: Around 8,370
Disclaimer: Inception is not mine in any way, shape or form..
Author's Notes: I saw that picture and the idea wouldn't leave me alone. It got away from me when I started writing it, as it was only supposed to be half the length it ended up being. It's also different from anything else I've written, I think, so tell me what you think. Enjoy <3

"Twenty-four hour sleep disorder hotline. How may I help you?"

It was 3:03 in the morning on a Thursday when Arthur first heard the smoky, low tone of the, "I can't sleep" that would eventually linger with him, first like a fog hovering in the back of his mind. After that, it would crawl, creep forward in his mind and solidify into something more tangible, something that Arthur would swear he could see if he turned around. Like something over his shoulder, breathing smoke into his ear. Even with these first two words, Arthur could hear the taint of a cigarette in the man's voice.

But Arthur didn't know this then.

He nodded, staring down at his notes spread in front of him on the table before the soundboard. He reached up with one hand, touched the headphones on his ears and said calmly into the receiver, "Of course, sir. Before I can assist you, I must ask for permission to have this call recorded for research and academic purposes."

"That's fine." An accent.

Arthur made a mindless check on his paper. "Thank you, sir."

"Call me Eames."

"Eames," he echoed, as if tasting the name on his tongue. "Now, Eames—"

"What may I call you?" The words were quiet, just as rough as before, and Arthur heard a soft exhale. Smoke, he assumed and he paused briefly, because hardly anyone was interested in his name. "Isn't it only fair that I know to whom I am speaking? You know me, I'd like to know you."

Arthur didn't answer right away. "I'm Arthur," he said carefully after a moment.

"Arthur." His name sounded like a purr on the ridges of the other man's voice and Arthur imagined lips forming the syllables, his name visibly appearing as a curl of smoke in the air. A smog that loitered before fading until there was nothing but lips. He imagined these lips grinning in their corners.

He shivered subtly and swallowed, glancing down at his paper to see he had been drawing curls in the margin. "Now, Eames," he said, hoping the distraction wasn't evident in his tone, "what exactly is keeping you from sleeping?"

Another exhale, loose, almost like a soft sigh. "I can't say exactly," Eames mumbled. "What keeps you up at night, Arthur?"

Arthur tilted an eyebrow and he couldn't help himself. "Usually my job."

Eames chuckled lowly, the sound echoing in his ears and he curled his toes in his shoes, staring blindly at his piece of paper. This voice, in its tenor and texture, settled thickly, hotly in Arthur's stomach. "Well played," Eames said. "I'll let you win this round. Now, tell me, what would you prescribe for my nightmares?"

"While there is no textbook treatment for a nightmare," Arthur explained almost mindlessly; he could recite this in his sleep, "confrontation is perhaps the most effective way to remedy them. In order to do this, write them down the instant you wake up. Write them as detailed as you can remember them and then alter them. Rewrite them with a different ending, one that you don't find nightmarish. Or, if you'd rather, simply tear them up after you're done writing them down. It really depends on if you find a physical or mental catharsis to be more empowering."

In the pause that followed, Arthur imagined lips breathing in and out, breathing smoke. "I see," Eames whispered after a moment, his voice even wispier than before. "Do you tell that to every poor soul that calls you about nightmares?"

Arthur cocked his eyebrow a bit further. "Of course. And they almost never call back."

"Mm, I see. Well then, Mr. Arthur, I'll give it a shot. Thank you for your advice."

"Thank you, Mr. Eames," Arthur said automatically, "for calling the twenty-four hour sleep disorder hotline and I hope you enjoy the rest of your night."

"I can't sleep."

The second time Arthur heard these words, that voice, that smoke, it was Saturday at 3:03 in the morning. It was true that Arthur had forgotten about Mr. Eames but he was quickly reminded and something stirred inside him. Arthur had never remembered someone simply by their voice before but there was something about the thick texture of smoke and the accent that he recalled almost instantly.

"Am I speaking to Mr. Arthur?" Eames asked.

"You are," Arthur said as professionally as he could. "Mr. Eames, if my memory serves me well?"

A pleasant tilt of a hum. "It does. And it's fine if this conversation is recorded for academic and research purposes." A pause, an exhale.

Arthur couldn't help but smile very subtly, glancing down at his paper as he did so. "It seems your memory has also served you well. What can I do for you tonight, Mr. Eames? Have your nightmares subsided?"

Another hum, though this one was different. It was crooked, bent downwards and consisted of a darker depth than the one before. Yet, Arthur still imagined it served with an equally twisted grin, just in the corners of lips. "I'm afraid not."

"Could you elaborate for me? What exactly are these nightmares?" Arthur leaned forward, his elbows perched on the table, as if he was facing Eames, leaning in to listen.

"Well." Arthur listened as Eames shifted, a rustling of sorts and then there was a click. Another click, one more, and then an exhale. Arthur closed his eyes and saw a faceless figure shifting back on his bed, putting out a cigarette only to light another one. The lighting of the room in his mind was lovely, dark with the glow of a street lamp streaking an orange illumination across the bed sheets. "I'm afraid my nightmares aren't only in my mind, much less only in my dreams."

Arthur didn't open his eyes. He barely dared to breathe as he listened. Eames felt closer than before, with the exhale in his ears and Arthur could almost smell the nicotine on his breath. "I wake from my nightmares," Eames continued, his voice heavy, "and they're still there when I open my eyes. They're in the shadows on my walls and I do confront them, I'm staring them in the eye now."

Another pause, but there was no exhale this time.

"But they're always there, Mr. Arthur. The blackest black you can imagine and then a shade darker."

Arthur was shaking and he snapped his eyes open because the inside of his eyelids were abruptly too dark for his liking. He couldn't speak for a moment, the words haunting in his mind and leaving him in a brief, paralyzing fear. It was how they were told, how they had reached his ears like a fog, a laying low on a dark street in the middle of the night.

Well, at this time of night.

Then there was a broken chuckle, rousing the feeling back into Arthur's insides. "Don't tell me you've left me with them too."

"I'm—I'm afraid, Mr. Eames," he said, feeling betrayed with the uneven shake in his voice, "that I can't help you beyond sleeping. Perhaps a therapist would be better suited to help you. My apologies."

"Of course," Eames breathed and Arthur's throat felt dry. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Arthur."

"Thank you, Mr. Eames, for calling the twenty-four hour sleep disorder hotline and I hope you enjoy the rest of your night."

Eames followed Arthur home that night. In the form of a fog lingering in the back of his mind.

Eames didn't call Sunday morning, but he continued to follow Arthur home. Arthur's hands were stuffed in his jacket pockets as he wandered down the sidewalk at dawn, a lighter violet breaking the black sky above his head. And he looked over his shoulder once before he reached the door to his apartment, swearing he had heard someone exhale.

On Monday morning, he looked over his shoulder twice, this time swearing he heard the shards of a low, rough sound.

On Tuesday morning, three times, swearing he heard that chuckle, that dark, lasting noise that he imagined appearing on curves of thick, toxic smoke.

And on Wednesday morning, Arthur swore the shadows of his room extended far beyond their boundaries. He stared at them, confronted them as they reached across his walls, his ceiling and across him like he was nothing. Like he wasn't there. He swore they were opaque, even in the dim glow of the rising sun filtering just barely into his room from beneath his curtains.

Don't tell me you've left me with them too.

Never before did Arthur realize just how alone he lived.

Nothing moved in his apartment. Except himself. Except the shadows.

Nothing lived in his apartment. Except himself. Except the shadows.

In the mornings that followed, Arthur would stop on his way home and stare up at the expanse of the sky. Some nights, dawn had yet to crack the black illusion of infinity and Arthur felt small, suffocatingly small, crushed almost. He couldn't get home quick enough; at least he could confront the smaller shadows of his walls.

The blackest black imaginable. And then a shade darker.

"I can't sleep."

It was Saturday. 3:03 AM.

Arthur nearly crumpled his paper as his fist clenched upon hearing Eames' voice. Nearly. He instead reached sideways and brought his mug of coffee to his lips and took a sip. He felt wired.

"Am I speaking to Mr. Arthur?"

Wired. Off balance, teetering on the edge of a thin line. He hadn't slept decently in days because every time he managed to close his eyes, he'd hear words. Eames' words. Eames' dark, smoldering and smothering words.

"Speaking," he said a bit hoarsely after a moment.

An exhale. The one he heard on his way home. Over and over again. "You may record this call for academic and research purposes."

"Thank you." Arthur's heart was pounding. His leg was bouncing beneath the table, he felt like a blurred image, one of two outlines that refused to line up. "How may I help you, Mr. Eames? Have your nightmares subsided?"

"I'm afraid not." And there was a click, two clicks. Arthur imagined fire, ignition and then smoke.

"Did you go see a therapist?"

"I'm afraid not."

Rationally, Arthur felt he should want to hang up. This was beyond the reach of his field, beyond what he knew: dreams, nightmares, insomnia, sleep paralysis, sleep apnea, everything in between. He was not obliged to help Eames and, in fact, Eames was the reason he was so off center.

But he had seen the shadows. He had seen the way they watch him as he lied in bed. Watch him as he wandered home, watch him from above. Sometimes Arthur felt like he was being ridiculed. Judged.

And he didn't want to be left alone with them either.

"Why not?" he murmured, massaging his forehead.

"Because I don't want to. I'd rather talk to you."

Then the outlines of Arthur's form merged and he focused into one. It was then that his heart stopped, his leg stopped moving, his nerves settled and he stopped shaking. The paralysis set in again.

"I don't know the names of therapists," Eames said. "I don't know who I'm speaking to. I don't know them, so I don't trust them."

"Is there any way," Eames continued and Arthur thought of ashes, blackened and skittish enough to disappear at the slightest breath, "that you could perhaps, ah, prescribe something for me? Something that you're familiar with."

There was a double-meaning in there, Arthur knew it, he felt it in the inflection of Eames' voice, the odd arrangement of his words.

"Perhaps you could elaborate?"

"Something to help me confront the nightmares."

Something with familiarity. Confrontation.

Never before did Arthur realize just how alone he lived.

And he understood. It sent his heart into momentary chaos.

"I see," he began and his hand was shaking once more as he curled it around his coffee mug. He hesitated with his lips against the side, the heat of the coffee suffocating against his skin. Hesitated, and then he wondered if the shadows moved when he was gone; there was, after all, no one to watch over them.

He gave Eames a list of things that calmed him down: three candles lit, two baked goods of a sort with one cup of hot chocolate, often with four marshmallows which could be substituted for one cup of tea with two teaspoons of honey and one helping of macaroni and cheese served at the diner located on the fourth floor of a six story building that's about nine blocks down.

Carefully. Recorded for research and academic purposes.

"Did that help?"

"Mhmm," Eames said distractedly. And there was a pause and Arthur scribbled his own phone number down quickly in the margins to make sure he had explained it correctly. "Yes, thank you, Mr. Arthur. I'll give that a shot."

"Thank you, Mr. Eames, for calling the twenty-four hour sleep disorder hotline and I hope you enjoy the rest of your night."

The call disconnected. Arthur's frame distorted once more, the lines of his body refusing to settle into one image.

Arthur's legs were bent over the side of his bed, bare feet planted on the carpet beneath him. His shoulders were folded forward beneath the black t-shirt he usually slept in, his legs shaking restlessly within his plaid pajama pants. His posture was hunched as he faced the shadows of his wall, stared at them and, from the corner of his eye he could see the blaring red numbers of his clock saying it was 5:21 AM. The lighting of his room was lovely, dark with the glow of a street lamp streaking an orange illumination across the bed sheets. Arthur would eventually realize that Eames' bedroom of his mind was his own.

Arthur parted his lips, ready to ask the walls to close their eyes so he could maybe sleep for even an hour when his phone buzzed on the bed beside him. It startled him as the silence broke and he glanced down to see a number he didn't recognize.

He brought his phone to his ear. "Hello?" he said huskily, clearing his throat afterwards.

When Eames murmured, "I can't sleep," Arthur turned his back on the shadows and sat cross-legged on the rumpled sheets of his bed.

When Eames murmured, "I can't sleep," Arthur closed his eyes.

When Eames murmured, "I can't sleep," Arthur was a paradox with the relief that bled into his shoulders and the tension that knotted his stomach.

"Is this call being recorded for research or academic purposes?" Eames went on and Arthur could hear him smiling. So he smiled faintly as well.

"Not that I'm aware of."

"Good, 'cos while I don't mind, I think I'd prefer it this way." There was an exhale, one that Arthur had found himself used to, even after only three conversations. Though he did hear it every night, just over his shoulder. "I wasn't sure if you'd be up, Mr. Arthur."

Arthur opened his eyes slowly and stared blearily at the shadows of his bedspread. "I can't sleep either," he confessed. "And I think I have you to blame."

He closed his eyes once more as he heard a shifting on the other end. He imagined someone faceless leaning close. "I'm sorry," Eames said quietly in smoke, "I didn't mean to make you see them too."

Arthur shook his head and kept his eyes closed. He loved the smell of cigarettes. "I can't believe I never saw them before." Eames chuckled breathily in his ear and he loved the heavy, sharp scent of nicotine.

For a moment, he felt insane.

"They're friendly, even when you realize they stare at you. It's just, once you realize they stare at you, you can't shake it, yeah?"

Arthur's hands spread across his bed sheets, slipped forward. But they stopped before they could realize that the faceless, smoky figure behind his eyes wasn't actually in front of him. "Yeah," he said.

Nothing was spoken between them for a long while, a few minutes, at least. It wasn't silence—Arthur knew all too well what silence was—because he could hear the occasional drag of the cigarette on the other end. He heard a bit of shuffling. He stayed perfectly still so that he could. And, for a moment, this entire thing seemed ridiculous. He didn't know who Eames was—didn't even know if it was his real name—and, yet, he had given him his phone number. Yet, he was talking to him at about 5:30 in the morning, trusting him to make him feel less… Less…


Less… insignificant?


Less alone?

This entire thing didn't stop seeming ridiculous. Especially not as he slowly let himself lay back on the bed, still just listening to Eames move on the other end. But there was a reason he hadn't hung up yet.

"You know," Arthur said quietly after a moment, "knowing someone's name doesn't mean you know them."

A low sound. A purr, much like the way Eames had first said Arthur's name, and Arthur felt himself nearly melt within the cracks of it. He was now spread out across his bed, free hand resting on his stomach. "No," Eames mumbled and Arthur couldn't get enough of the shards in his voice, "but I think you know more about me than anyone else does."

"Is it too forward of me to ask what you look like?" Eames asked at 6:02 the following morning, the words far more put together than any Arthur had heard the other man speak. He wondered if Eames was out of cigarettes. Or perhaps quitting.

Maybe smoking was one of the shadows that stretched across Eames' walls.

Arthur looked down his body, which was once more stretched across his bed. The paling light of dawn was creeping over his clothes, the orange glow of the streetlight blending with it. "Well, to start, I'm American."

Eames chuckled. "I assumed from your accent."

"An American with dark brown hair—" Arthur reached up and touched the loose hairs curling across his ear, "—I usually wear it slicked back. I think I look about fifteen if I don't because it's really curly." He paused, sucking on his lower lip as he thought and he wanted to see if Eames was smoking. He didn't seem to be this time. "My eyes are also dark brown. Clean shaven. I'm five foot ten—" Arthur laughed quietly because this was ridiculous. "I feel like a Craigslist ad."

Eames gave an amused sound on the other end. "You sound better than a Craigslist ad."

"An E-Harmony ad, then? Christian Singles?"

"Getting classier, yes, but you still sound better than both of those."

"Well," Arthur said with his smile still in place, staring up at his ceiling, "I'll take that as a compliment. Now, what about you?"

"Oh, I say I'm an E-Harmony ad at best."

Arthur didn't notice the depth of the shadows. "No, what do you look like? Is it safe to assume you're from… Britain?"

"It is." And as Eames went on, his voice still without the rough texture, Arthur closed his eyes and filled in the faceless figure behind his eyes. Light brown hair, often parted on the slide and styled down. Gray, green eyes—they changed depending on his mood. Right now, they were green. Stubble. "My lips are something people often point out to me. I guess they're fuller than most." About 175 centimeters—around five foot nine.

"Well?" Eames said when he finished. "E-Harmony?"

Arthur smiled and stared at the person in his mind for a moment. He liked what he saw. "Or Christian Singles," he said.

Eames scoffed. "There's one major problem with that theory, I'm afraid."

Arthur cracked his eyes open and briefly saw the webs of veins in his eyes spread across the ceiling. "Oh?"

There was a pause. The closest thing Arthur heard to silence while he was on the phone with Eames. "I don't mean to generalize and I apologize if you're Christian or something of the like. I just don't know if a Christian dating site would allow me to enter my sexual orientation."


The smoke that was usually in Eames' voice seeped into his throat. Perhaps it was from the ignition in the pit of his stomach. He could hear Eames waiting patiently beneath the increasing volume of his heartbeat.

"I don't think they'd allow me to put mine down either," Arthur then said quietly.

He imagined full lips curling in their corners.

Eames never called the hotline, not in the couple of weeks that passed. He always called at some point between five and six, which worked well for Arthur. He called every night. And, as of late, Arthur fell asleep with Eames still on the line, listening to him take drags from cigarettes, to him clicking his lighter, to him shifting. He always woke up with the phone beside him on the pillow, the line dead.


"Hn?" The sound was groggy, as if Eames had just been roused from sleep. 7:01 AM, Friday.

Arthur paused and turned on his side, staring at the curtains before his window. They were open, just a crack, just enough to let the beginnings of daylight seep into the shadows of his room. "Do you see them in the sky? The shadows?"

Click, click, exhale. Eames chuckled quietly, darkly and humorlessly. "The sky is the darkest shadow of them all."

The darkest black imaginable. A shade darker.

Eames said, "One shade darker than the rest."

When Arthur walked home, he'd stop and look up at the sky. And the sky was still staring right back at him. He still felt small, suffocatingly small, crushed.

But he knew that the sky was imposing on Eames too. It was watching them both.

"Would it be forward of me to assume that you're alone?" Eames asked on Sunday, 5:02 AM. "I don't mean to offend, I simply mean, if you weren't alone, you wouldn't be talking to me right now."

Arthur exhaled. His breath was invisible and he made a mental note to go pick up a pack of cigarettes when he could. "Yeah," he said and glanced sideways, meeting the gaze of his shadows. They were leaning forward in interest, as if they had heard their name. "I'm alone."

They titled their heads, wondering just why he had called their attention.

"Mm, me too." Arthur closed his eyes and imagined Eames. He reached out to touch the bed sheets next to him. "What's your view like?"

Arthur opened his eyes, his eyelids heavy. The varying hues of darkness above him blurred and he gave a dry chuckle. "Dark. I can't see the color of my ceiling."

He heard a smirk grace full lips. "They don't have windows in your part of the Land of the Free?"

"All right, all right, give me a moment." Arthur's limbs were lead as he sat up. Exhaustion weighed heavy inside him as he slowly crawled to the edge of his bed, cell phone caught between his ear and shoulder. His feet dragged as he trudged to the window and peeked out the curtains, the streetlight casting its glow across his face.

After a moment of surveying, he described to Eames the apartment buildings across the street from his own. They were lined, one right next to each other, no yard. White siding, green door, steps and a railing leading up to said door. Three windows, two lower on either side of the door, one above. They were identical to his own. The streetlights across the street were identical to his own.

Above, a purple dawn was easing its way into the sky. He described that too.

"Do you really have a bakery nine blocks down?" Eames asked quietly after a moment, as if telling a secret. As if he didn't want the shadows to hear.

Arthur smiled. "I do."

Then Eames told him of the bakery across the street from him. It sounded like he lived in the city, on the second floor of a building because, if the curtains were open, he could see into the apartment atop said bakery. The buildings were lined as closely as Arthur's apartments, but they weren't identical by any means. They were green, brown, beige, white, red, white again, a darker brown. Windows scattered about. None of them had steps leading to their door. Fire escapes.

Above, a purple dawn was easing its way into the sky. He described that too.

"So," Arthur said with his eyes still closed, staring at the view across from Eames' place, "you don't live in Britain? If it's still dawn where you are?"

"No, love. I'm only a few zip codes away."

Neither of them asked if they could meet in person.

"Care for a fag?" Thursday. 5:42 AM.

Arthur chuckled and reached over to his nightstand to grab his pack of cigarettes. "Don't mind if I do." He plucked one from the box and listened as Eames did the same. He waited until he heard the clicks of the other man's lighter before he lit his own. As he took a drag, he shuddered, the warmth of the smoke sliding across his throat.

He liked the way the smoke drifted away as he breathed out.

"Smoking is always better with someone else," he whispered, his voice adopting the ridges that he had fallen in love with in Eames' voice.

"Mm, agreed. I wish I had a patio, or something like that." Eames chuckled quietly. "Then we could sit out there and smoke."


Eames must have caught it too because neither of them moved, neither of them breathed. The cigarette was caught between Arthur's index and middle finger as he stared at the wall. We. It was Eames' voice on the hotline all over again, telling him of shadows and nightmares, paralyzing him.

When he finally closed his eyes—they burned briefly with how long they had been kept open—he imagined Eames' view. The bakery, the discolored houses, and he stared at it from behind the wooden bars of a patio that he sat upon. He looked sideways and imagined light brown hair, parted on the side, green eyes, full lips, stubble, five nine. Eames was crouched beside him, back leaning against the door to his apartment as he took a drag and then let the smoke curl from his lips as he breathed out.

Eames looked at him. Green eyes. Full lips.

And Eames kissed him. Full lips. Slow, poisonous, that heavy and sharp scent of nicotine. Warm, thorough, Arthur's lips and lungs and mouth were burning. Stubble against the smooth skin of his jaw.

When he snapped his eyes open, Arthur found it difficult to breathe. His lips and lungs and mouth were still burning.

"Fuck," Eames whispered on the other end, voice shattered.

"My vice," Eames drawled lazily on Friday at 6:37 AM, "well." He chuckled and, behind his eyes, Arthur saw the sound escape full lips on a haze of smoke. "Guess what it is."

"Smoking," he said quietly and brought his own cigarette to his lips. He looked out at the bakery across the street.

Eames laughed again. "Not quite. There's something that'll jump me quicker than lung cancer. Though I do smoke while doing said vice."

Arthur licked his lips. They were bitter with the taste of poison. When he gave a low, thoughtful hum, he felt the sound scratch against his throat, catching in the notches lining it. He shifted subtly against the cool sheets of his bed, against the hardwood of Eames' imaginary patio and he felt the fall breeze chill his lungs when he opened his lips to respond, "Drinking."

"Lung cancer will jump me before kidney failure."

"Sex," Arthur said quietly, tentatively.

Eames' lips curled as he purred his approval. "Isn't sex everyone's vice? Orgasms are addicting."

Arthur set the cigarette between his lips and ran his hand down the soft cloth of his shirt. "Yeah," he whispered. "They are."

There was a lingering pause on Eames' end and Arthur's fingers stopped at the bottom hem of his shirt. His fingertips were cold against the warm skin of his stomach peeking out from atop his pants. "Do you give up?" Eames finally asked, tone hollow.


"Gambling," Eames watched him sideways with his dark, green eyes. "That is not to say that I'm rubbish at it—in fact, I'm very good. I'm too good. 'Cos I know how to play, I know how to play fairly and I know how to play unfairly."

Arthur watched the shadows that fell across the stubble of Eames' jaw. "So you cheat?"

No confirmation. Just, "I see my vice in the shadows. I don't know why they haven't done away with me yet."

His vice? Arthur didn't know. But he couldn't stop staring at full, pink lips wrapped around a cigarette. He couldn't stop stroking his stomach, not even when the cigarette in his own mouth began to burn him.

"Is it too forward of me," Eames began like he had many times before and he didn't continue for a long moment. This morning, this Monday morning at exactly 6 AM, it was raining outside Arthur's window. The drops would plop on the glass, a sort of erratic beat over the hush of the downpour falling against the street outside. Occasionally, a blinding flash would overpower the glow of the streetlamp and he'd watch the shadows retreat, exposing the beige walls of his room. There was no thunder that followed.

"Is it too forward of me," Eames started again, like he had said it wrong the first time, "to tell you that I imagine what you look like sitting beside me?"

"No," Arthur breathed and looked sideways at his empty bed. There were no cigarettes tonight.

"What if I told you that I close my eyes and imagine you sitting beside me, smoking in between the words of our conversations?"


"What if," there was that pause again and Arthur imagined full lips worrying themselves, perhaps even silently shaping themselves around words until they found the correct ones to say, "I told you that I sometimes lean forward in the lulls of conversation and imagine how your jaw would feel beneath my fingertips?"

The warmth ignited in Arthur's stomach. It curled, stirring itself into a heavy weight and he was still staring at his bed sheets. But he didn't really see them anymore. "No," he breathed like he was smoking.

"And if I told you that, after I imagined your skin beneath my fingers, I imagined your lips beneath my lips?"

Arthur let himself close his eyes. He'd imagined it too, several times after the first. In almost the same fashion that Eames' had described. First the touch to his face and he had previously imagined Eames' fingertips to be soft but now, for some reason, they were calloused against his jaw. First that, then leaning in until full lips were warm, slow against his own. Prying gently, as if asking for permission and Arthur parted his lips just like he would in the kiss.

It sent his heart to his throat. The burning in his stomach kindled his veins.

"No," he whispered once more and this time he wasn't breathless like he was smoking. He was breathless like lips were on his own, stealing each of his attempts to inhale.

He didn't dare open his eyes. Not with Eames' other hand reaching up and holding his face, holding him close like he wanted him.

"I imagine," he heard in his ear, voice just as rough as his own, "how hot your mouth would be around my tongue. I listen to your voice and imagine how you'd sound panting and giving just the slightest moans. I imagine slipping my hands up and through your hair, releasing strands one by one until they curled around your ears."

The kindling inside him was growing, spreading across the highways of his veins and through his limbs, through his muscles and he felt heavy against the sheets of his bed—the wood of the patio—boneless beneath Eames' words—Eames' lips, his touch, his body.

"Am I being too forward now?" Eames whispered tentatively.

Arthur shook his head. "No," he said. "No, keep going."

A blinding light flashed before his eyelids but he still didn't open them. For a moment, he saw the veins of his eyes and then he saw Eames pulling away, grinning subtly at him as he gave a breathless laugh on the other end.

"Tell me if you want me to stop, yeah? Because I can keep going for a while, I'm afraid."

"Yeah," Arthur breathed and shivered subtly. The hand that wasn't holding his cell phone to his ear—holding was probably an understatement, it was more clinging to it like if he loosened his grip Eames would cease this—touched the quick beat of his pulse in his throat before slipping down to touch the collar of his shirt.

On the other end he heard a heavy exhale, one he had heard several times. "Right, then, I imagine how you look—American, dark eyes, matching hair that I've made curl around your face, clean shaven jaw—and you look so lovely. I imagine that I wouldn't be able to help myself as I slipped my hands lower, down your neck, your collar and… This is where I'm at a loss, I'm afraid. I don't know what's lower."

Arthur swallowed thickly, feeling that the fire had spread to his throat. His hand was still on his collar, feeling the protrusion of his collar bones. "What do you want to know?" he whispered with his eyes still closed.

"First, I suppose, what you wear day to day."

Slowly, Arthur forced himself to open his eyes. He felt like the shadows above him were spinning as he thought, though it was difficult with how distracted he was. "To work, I guess I usually wear a dress shirt with slacks. Sometimes with a tie, sometimes with a waist coat, sometimes with a jacket. Maybe a sweater."

Eames exhaled once more. "That sounds like a fancy dress code for talking on the phone all night long."

With a very quiet chuckle, Arthur grinned in the corners of his lips. "That's not the dress code. I just like looking nice."

A long pause. Arthur stared blindly at the darkness above, his pupils dilating whenever lightning flashed in through his window. He didn't realize how wide he was holding his eyes open, not even when they began to sting. His breathing was shallow though quiet, as if he was afraid he'd miss what Eames had to say if he breathed too loudly.

"Now I'm imagining," Eames finally continued, his voice enough to rouse the stirring heat within Arthur, "you, the straight lines of your clothes, the perfect fit of a crisp, black jacket over your waist coat, tie, dress shirt. You're black, white and gray and so put together. And then… I'm imagining taking you apart. Piece by piece."

Arthur's eyes closed once more and Eames was close to him again, fingers plucking at the buttons of his jacket.

"First your jacket," Eames said lowly.

Firm hands slipped it from his shoulders and Arthur folded his shoulders back to better pull it off. His breathing was quickening.

"Piece by piece. Then you're waist coat—fuck, I bet you didn't guess that waist coats are a fetish of mine." Eames equipped that shudder inducing statement with a breathless, almost nervous laugh.

"Maybe," Eames went on, "I'll eventually imagine ravishing you with it on."

Arthur's body shifted on the bed sheets as he stared down at Eames' fingers now undoing the buttons of his favorite waist coat. His back arched into a subtle angle, further into the air, further into Eames' touch. Outside his mind, his own fingers dipped down the soft cloth of his shirt, pausing at his ribcage.

"Then it's your tie—a gray silk, so soft my fingers feel rough against it." The words were heavy, weighed down with the smoldering tone of Eames' voice. "I imagine plucking it open, my fingers brushing against the hot skin of your throat as I do so. And then your shirt—crisp, white, flawless, the closest thing to god sent I've seen."

In his head, Arthur leaned back on his hands and watched darkly as Eames exposed his skin, first is collar, then his chest, stomach. The calloused fingers were hot against his skin. Out of his head, Arthur arched further and pushed his shirt up, letting it pool just above his nipples. Light flashed across his room once more, coloring his skin as a sharp, white contrast against the darkness of his bed sheets.

"Is this okay?" Eames said carefully. "You're not talking to me."

"No," Arthur said quickly, his voice unlike he'd ever heard it, "No, yes, this is okay, keep going."

Arthur's shirt was off, discarded over the wood of the patio. "Okay," Eames whispered through full lips, "Okay. I imagine how your chest would feel beneath my hands. I imagine the quick pulse of your heart, your muscles flexing as you arch into my touch. I love anatomy, Arthur, I love seeing and feeling the different contours of the human body and I love imagining yours."

Arthur felt like a puppet beneath Eames' touch, arching as the heat of the man's hand trailed lower, down his ribcage, across his stomach. He let his head tilt back, exposing his throat and he was very aware of the lines of his body, the way his muscles feel beneath his skin as they were manipulated. The way his skin quivered with the pound of his heart.

"I," Eames started and then swallowed audibly. "I imagine the way you'd shiver as I run my tongue across your nipple."

Arthur's hand slipped back up to his chest and he flicked his nipple. He twitched and the motion slowly faded into a shudder and he saw Eames' wet tongue lap at it. His chest was always sensitive and he wasn't sure if the breathless moan that slipped from his lips was in his head or out loud.

It was out loud because Eames breathed heavily, "Fuck. Fuck, Arthur are you—"

"Yes," Arthur whispered huskily before he could think about it.

"Jesus christ." There was a shuffling but Arthur was caught up in the way Eames was holding his hips, his hands firm and nearly bruising. Outside his head, he circled his nipples and his mind spun dizzily with the stimulation. Eames began to breathe heavier. "Can. Can I imagine myself sucking your cock?"

Arthur groaned. His hips automatically arched off of the bed, off of the patio, and, good god, it had been so long since anyone had blown him. "Yes," he nearly moaned again. He watched as Eames' full lips pulled away from his skin and they crooked up ever so slightly.

"Good," Eames nearly purred, but the silk of the word was lost with the lack of breath. "Right now, I'm imagining your hipbones, thumbing over them, tracing them before undoing the button and zip of your trousers."

Arthur's fingers were light and weightless as they trailed down his bare skin. He lifted his hips and slowly pushed his pants down to his thighs. He watched as Eames undid his pants, fingers deft, skilled. "I think I'll imagine you naked," Eames said with a cracking voice, "because it'd be a shame to ruin the perfection of your clothes."

Arthur distantly heard the shallow breathing on the other end of the phone as he watched Eames do as he said. He pulled his legs from his slacks, underwear—he sat up just enough to kick off his pajama pants and underwear before he relaxed once more into his sheets. His shirt was still pushed up to his shoulders and he felt hot all over, hot and pulsing with a craving for touch. He splayed his fingers over his stomach and ran his hands all over the warmth of his skin. His body shuddered beneath his own touch and lightning flashed once more into his room. He was a greater contrast than before.

"I'm imagining," Eames' voice was breaking further with each word, "the heat as I drag my tongue up your cock. Arthur—" The purr of his name again, the low, husky one that stirred the fire inside him, "—will you help me out a bit? How can I imagine your cock?"

"Um," Arthur stuttered, feeling the burning of his cheeks beginning to spread down his neck as he wrapped his long fingers around himself, "m-more length than girth, I guess."

"Fantastic," Eames breathed. "I'm imagining the weight of you inside my mouth, the way your body convulses, the way your lips part in a wrecked sound. Let me hear it, love."

Lightning illuminated Arthur's room once more, highlighting the taut lines of his arched body and straining muscles. He imagined everything just as Eames said it, imagined Eames' tongue dragging up the length of his erection, imagined full lips stretched around him. The heat. The hot, wet heat that sent his mind and heart into a dizzying chaos. He imagined everything as his hand began to work around his cock, pumping himself thoroughly until he was panting and, when Eames asked, Arthur groaned brokenly.

"There's a love, fuck, I want to take all of you, all of your lovely cock into my mouth." Eames' voice darkened, putting itself together for one phrase that made Arthur lose his breath, "I'm still taking you apart. Piece by piece."

And, god, he was. Eames was peeling Arthur apart with just his words, with the smoke of his voice. Eames was destroying his insides with a fire that Arthur couldn't hope to contain. Eames was the wet mouth on his cock, the weight of hands holding his hips firmly in place, the lack of breath. The trembling of his nerves, the tension of his muscles, the angle of his spine.


Arthur lost his breath as he worked himself, thumbing over his head.


Arthur moaned just as Eames whispered a, "Bloody hell." Both of their voices were thoroughly wrecked.


Arthur came with his body bent off his bed, mouth dropped open in a silent sound, lightning once more flashing across his white skin. He nearly dropped the phone from his ear.

"Twenty-four hour sleep disorder hotline. How may I help you?"

It was the next day when Arthur first wished that Eames would call him during work again. Wished and, on second thought, didn't wish. Wished because he missed Eames' voice. He missed Eames' breathing, missed the way Eames' words would touch him physically, caress his cheek, his neck, lower. Didn't wish because Eames' words would touch him physically and even deeper than that. He'd feel their smoke deep inside him, burning him slowly until all he could do was close his eyes and listen. Imagine. Feel himself reduce to ash.

"I've been having night terrors." A woman's voice. Not 3:03 AM.

As he asked for permission to have their conversation recorded, Arthur wondered briefly if Eames, as only a voice for him to latch onto, made Eames any less real.

He distractedly explained the nature of night terrors and noted that his shadows didn't seem quite as imposing with Eames' voice in his ear. He would stare at them as they talked into dawn and they would watch quietly from a distance. From a distance while Eames was right there, full lips close to his ear.

That, if anything, made him far more real than anyone else Arthur had ever met.

"I imagine you folded on your hands and knees, naked, spread open."

Tuesday. 5:57 AM. It wasn't raining this time.

In that moment, Arthur was just what Eames had described. His cheek was resting on his pillow, one hand holding his phone flush against his ear as the other was wet with lube. His knees were tucked beneath him, legs spread to expose his ass to the empty room around him. It was empty but he felt anything but alone with Eames' rough breathing in his ear.

"Arthur." That purr. "Arthur, is it too forward of me to say that I imagine myself fucking you?"

Arthur closed his eyes. All he knew of Eames' place was the view from their imaginary patio, so that's where they were, the merciless wood digging into his knees. "No," he whispered, voice already ruined.

Eames' words were the caresses down the notches of his spine, against the curve of his ass. "I imagine, mm, I imagine your arse just for me and I want to spread you open for me. I want to take you apart in an entirely different way, Arthur, this time I want to start with the inside."

Arthur's wet fingers were shaking as he reached back, rubbed his fingertips over his entrance. He felt himself shudder, his toes curling against the sheets, the patio deck.

"Arthur." Not that purr—this one was the smoke that Arthur knew so well. "Arthur, I'm beating to the thought of holding your hip in place—I still imagine the slip of your bone—as I finger you."


Index finger. Arthur groaned softly and arched, his cheek sliding a bit against the soft of the pillow, the hard surface of the patio.

"So tight, hot around my fingers. You're perfection and I was lying through my teeth when I said your shirt was the closest thing to god sent I've ever seen. No, fuck, you bent, folded, trembling, tensing and those sounds are far closer." Eames moaned and Arthur's mind briefly lost its grip on the image behind his eyes with the sound. The next words were mindless, Eames babbling breathlessly and Arthur briefly imagined him tilting his head back, exposing his throat, "Not close to god sent; the very definition of it."

Middle finger. Arthur was trembling as he tried to place himself back on the patio but it was difficult. His head was spinning, losing control of itself as he spread his fingers slowly, worked them in and out of himself. He pulled them out, pushed them in, each time reaching deeper, deeper inside himself.


"And then," Eames panted, "I imagine you tight and hot around my cock. I imagine the line of your spine bending as you arch, dropping your head back, I imagine your shoulder blades shifting, muscles tensing, and I imagine you're the most fantastic lines I've ever seen."

Arthur lost the image in his head as he moved his fingers faster. The heat of his cheeks spreading downwards and he felt like he was close to suffocating. He still buried his face into his pillow and twisted his fingers.

"Holding your hips in place, fucking you hard, fuck, Arthur, please let me hear you."

He did. The sound that dripped from his lips was dark as he crooked his fingers, twisted them again, again, pushed them in, out, and they were deep, but not deep enough.

Ring finger. Arthur groaned again. The noise was raspy against his throat, wrecked and trembling and loud despite it being muffled by the pillow.

"That's it, there you are, fuck I imagine you feel so good, I—" Eames words cut and Arthur would have imagined a body bending in the shadows, further exposure of a throat and a catch of a breath. He would have but his own mind was lost, spinning behind his eyes as he worked his fingers in and out of himself, hard, deep, as deep as he could reach.

Not as deep as a cock, he was sure, but when he crooked his fingers, they brushed his prostate and he jolted, a broken cry soaking into the pillow.

"Fuck." Breathless. Smoke. Perfect.

Arthur was shaking, his hands unsteady and uncontrollable but he continued, flexing his fingers a couple more times and his climax barely had time to build.


He knew these orgasms: the ones that built up from deep inside, a small spark that expanded until it burned in a tingling sensation across his entire body. A fire that sent him outside of himself, out of his mind, just for a moment, only to send him crashing back down in a pile of useless limbs and heavy muscles.

When he pulled his fingers from himself, he shuddered and fell to the side, his arm aching from the awkward angle it had been in.

"How are you, love?" Eames whispered huskily after Arthur's mind caught up with itself.

"I need a cigarette," he breathed and smiled tiredly as Eames laughed huskily on the other end.

They cleaned up and at 6:19 AM, Arthur settled back on his bed, propped up by his headboard, and pulled out his pack of cigarettes. Click, click on the other end, heavy, drawn out and well-deserved exhale. He lit his own cigarette and the hot smoke felt wonderful against the ashes of his lungs.

He dipped his head back, breathing out nicotine as he closed his eyes and saw the bakery once more, the mismatching buildings.

"You know," he said and laughed tiredly, "I keep imagining that you actually have a patio."

Eames chuckled. "So do I. I imagine sitting on it and smoking with you."

"Maybe one day we won't have to imagine it."

Silence. Arthur waited patiently and took a drag, stared up at the dawn breaking above the buildings. "Maybe," Eames finally murmured. Arthur glanced sideways and imagined the word served with a soft grin.

The shadows watched Arthur enter his apartment at 4:59 AM on Friday. Arthur stopped and stared at them in return. He wondered if they would even exist if he came home to Eames every morning.

His phone buzzed in his pocket. 5:03 AM.
Are you watching?fuzzyniffler on September 25th, 2011 02:27 am (UTC)
You know I do love this <3 I think it's such an interesting concept c:
L: Tom- Heemy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
I do know love and I thank you for that. I also thank you, as always, for editing it and dealing with my persistence ♥ c:
Just_Jane_Doejust_jane_doe on September 25th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC)
This is gorgeous. Lovely descriptions and incredible connection between Eames and Arthur. Really... just damned near perfection.
L: Arthur- Wait for the kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 04:28 am (UTC)
:D I'm really glad you enjoyed it so much. I can't thank you enough ♥ c:
she just wants to be kissed all the time: arthur being beautifulanne_jumps on September 25th, 2011 03:27 am (UTC)
I remember seeing that gif on Tumblr -- what a lovely thing you've done with it as a prompt! So well crafted. Forgive me for hoping for a sequel even though it's basically contained in itself; I can't help it!
L: Eames- The kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 04:29 am (UTC)
I'm really glad you think I did it justice! It was something else entirely in my head and then I began to write it. And I had no control after that, hah. I don't know if there will be a sequel-- I'm very partial to open endings-- but I will keep it in mind!

Thank you so very much ♥ c:
Jessica: Tom's Shoulderbat_hawk on September 25th, 2011 03:38 am (UTC)
Oh, I really love this. The atmosphere is just perfect. I can feel the shadows and the slowness and the smoke and the dark. The pace is just so relaxed; it really feels like the middle of the night. Fantastic work, love, this is going to get quite a few re-reads from me.
L: Joseph- Happeh timesmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 04:30 am (UTC)
That's exactly what I was going for, so I'm so glad it worked :) I'm really glad you enjoyed it so much and I can't thank you enough ♥ c:
Rebekahv0id_dweller on September 25th, 2011 04:04 am (UTC)
MY GOD this was hot.
L: ArthurEames- Contactmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 04:30 am (UTC)
:D Thank you! I'm glad you think so c: ♥
↟↟↟ ☾ ↟↟↟wolf on September 25th, 2011 04:23 am (UTC)
This is such an interesting, achingly-beautiful story. Thank you for sharing with us! ♥
L: Arthur- Wait for the kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 04:31 am (UTC)
And thank you for taking the time to read and for your wonderful feedback :D ♥
clair3clair3 on September 25th, 2011 06:18 am (UTC)
That was superbly amazing!!!!!!
L: Tom- Heemy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D <3
rainxdrops12: Other: L and Lightrainxdrops12 on September 25th, 2011 06:19 am (UTC)
oh wow, I haven't read anything by you in such a long time,
I'm so glad that this story caught my attention, I've never read this pairing before, I see it around on my flist but I was never interested, but I sure am now lol
This was amazing and I look forward to any other stories you write :)
L: ArthurEames- Contactmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
Oh man long time no talk to! :) And you certainly should read more of Arthur and Eames. They are very amazing, I promise.

Thank you so much, love, I'm really glad you enjoyed it c: <3
theeverdreamtheeverdream on September 25th, 2011 08:31 am (UTC)
This is... creepily beautiful, wow.

And I just... I was scrolling down as I read so I didn't know the ending was the ending until it was all over and it was so perfect.
L: Eames- The kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:34 pm (UTC)
:D Thank you so much! I'm really glad it worked out c: <3
we_reflamingoswe_reflamingos on September 25th, 2011 11:13 am (UTC)
I really love the way you've set the atmosphere up in this. The way Arthur starts seeing his world in light of Eames' comments and their shared life on the non-existent balcony. <3

The phone sex didn't hurt either. ;DD
L: Joseph- Happeh timesmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
Haha, thank you! I thought the phone sex definitely added something :P I'm really glad it all worked out! Thank you for reading and for your wonderful feedback c: <3
Profiterole: Inception - Eames Arthur and Girl!Eames_profiterole_ on September 25th, 2011 01:50 pm (UTC)
This was such a lovely, lovely read. <3
L: Tom- Heemy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:41 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D <3
fitz_yfitz_y on September 25th, 2011 03:14 pm (UTC)
wow. this is so gorgeous and evocative and just fascinating. reading it felt like looking at a series of paintings. love it!
L: Arthur- Wait for the kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:42 pm (UTC)
Ah thank you so much! I'm really glad you enjoyed it so much c: <3
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious.: A/E smilesberryblue_girl on September 25th, 2011 05:02 pm (UTC)
Oh holy Jesus, that was hawt!!! Grrreat job, dahlin'!

Peace, Love and Happiness to You...Sarah
L: ArthurEames- Contactmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:43 pm (UTC)
Thank you so very much! :D ♥
scarcelyever: mescarcelyever on September 25th, 2011 05:40 pm (UTC)
this fic has wrecked me. it has this dark, creepy atmosphere with absolutely amazing hot scenes. it reminds me of something i knew once.

and i think i need a cigarette.
L: Eames- The kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Oh man, thank you so very much. I'm really glad it affected you so much, even if it wasn't for the better? I really aim to touch people with my writing, so I can't thank you enough ♥
(no subject) - scarcelyever on September 25th, 2011 09:32 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - my_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 09:45 pm (UTC) (Expand)
osaki_nana_707osaki_nana_707 on September 25th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Absolutely wonderful. I loved the imagery you used here.
L: Arthur- Wait for the kickmy_0wn_madness on September 25th, 2011 08:45 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! :D I'm really glad it worked well c: ♥