Eames secretly hates working jobs with Ariadne, because they always end up working out of Paris, so that she can still attend classes, and Eames hates Paris. Hates it with a passion so bigoted and without foundation that he suspects he inherited it.
She meets him at the airport and the third thing she says to him, after, “It’s so good to see you!” and, “How was the flight?” is:
“Arthur’s already here,”
and Eames will be damned if that makes his ears prick up in interest. Of course Arthur’s here. Ariadne’s first experience of the dreamshare community was Cobb. She’s more paranoid about the type of people she works with than most intelligence agencies.
When they reach their short term office rental, it’s empty but for a few haphazardly arranged desks, a tangle of cables and Arthur, who is leaning back in his chair in that easy, reckless way of his and chewing on the end of a pen.
“Hello there, Arthur,” says Eames, sitting on the edge of his desk.
Arthur doesn’t even say hello, just tips his chair back onto all four legs with a clack and says, “Look at this,” and thrusts a manila folder at him.
To be contrary, he sits on Arthur’s desk while he looks through it, painstakingly analyses every photo, reads every scrawled footnote. Arthur just fishes his pen out from underneath the edge of Eames’s jacket and carries on working, and Eames is glad he took this job after all.
In June, his mother turns seventy, which seems to set off some kind of maternal ticking time-bomb of a clock. She starts calling him twice weekly, instead of yearly, and always at exactly four o’clock in the afternoon, Greenwich Mean Time, which, depending on his location and time zone, ranges from slightly annoying to professionally inconvenient to absolutely hateful.
“Mother, this is not the most ideal time for me,” he says, when in reality, there is absolutely nothing to do. There is no surveillance to piggy-back on, no phone calls to be made, no research to be done. Eames is waiting for Arthur to finish his teleconference so they can find some lunch. But of course, doing absolutely nothing is immeasurably preferable to chatting to his mother.
“I am at an age where death could strike at any moment,” she says imperiously. “You should value every second of my life you inhabit.”
Eames’s mother takes a slew of vitamins and denies drink, is an accomplished vegetarian and still rides horses frequently. She is the fittest, healthiest seventy year old woman he knows and as far as he can see, the only thing that will be endangering her life any time soon will be matricide.
“I am a busy man, mother.”
“You always say you’re busy. All young people do. I’m sure that cannot be the case.”
“Mother,” says Eames, pinching the bridge of his nose. Arthur is smirking across the office from him, talking blithely into a headset. “The fact that I am so busy is built on success. If I am kept from my success, then I will lose my credibility and then there will be no business. Do you understand? This is a circle of dependency--”
“Your birthday’s coming up, dear,” she deflects expertly. “I haven’t seen you in so long. It would be lovely if you came and visited.”
“Have you not been listening? Busy, mother, very busy. I am in fact on a business trip over my birthday.”
From across the office, Arthur’s ears prick up and he starts looking less amused and more curious. Eames waves a hand in his direction in a what can you do? sort of way.
His mother steams on, regardless. “Oh? And where would that be, that you will not be able to hop home and visit your ageing mother?”
“Sri Lanka,” he says. This is actually true. While it never hurts to be paranoid, the likelihood of anyone knowing he has a mother, instead of emerging fully-formed from an SAS crucible, is vanishingly small. And if anyone had tapped her phoneline, Eames feels confident they would have died of high-society boredom well before now.
“Sri Lanka? That sounds--”
“South Asia, yes. Very far away from London. Very far from almost everything. Impossible to visit.”
“I think Jane took a holiday there with her daughter, she brought back some lovely photos--”
“--they get along so well, those two, they go everywhere together--”
“Yes, yes, uh-- I’m sorry, mo-- You’re breaking--”
“Hello? Hello? Dear, if you do that trick with the sugar packet again, I will be so very angry.”
He doesn’t try the sugar packet trick and just hangs up instead, with a sigh of relief that he can’t keep in, and goes back to highlighting the vaguely interesting parts of Reverend Brown’s telephone record.
After a few tremendously boring minutes, he starts getting that creeping, itchy feeling, like someone is watching him. Sure enough, when he looks up, Arthur is looking straight back at him, looking completely unembarrassed to be caught staring.
“What?” says Eames.
“It’s just funny,” Arthur says, smirking.
“What is so funny, Arthur?”
(Arthur finds the oddest things funny. Gory horror films and ghastly sitcoms that make such indiscriminate fun of every facet of society that it shakes Eames’s politically-correct upbringing to the bone.)
“Just--you. Having a mother. And talking to her on the phone.”
“Everyone has a mother, Arthur.”
“Yeah, I knew abstractly that you had to have at least had a mother, at some point in your life, but I guess I just don’t associate you with having one.”
“And this is funny?”
“The conversation you just had with her was funny for different reasons. But, just think for a second about this,” Arthur looks at him very seriously, points a finger at himself and says, “I have a mother.”
“Well,” says Eames, leaning back in his chair and letting that sink in.
Arthur smirks, says, “Exactly,” and goes back to his desk, leaving Eames with nothing to do but think. Well, and highlighting things, but an untrained monkey could do that.
Fortunately, Eames has observed Arthur in various states of disarray too many times to account for. Arthur often has his tie loosened, his collar slightly crooked. If a job really goes to shit, then everything is up for grabs. Eames has seen Arthur shirtless, shoeless, covered in masonry dust and tarmac abrasions. It’s only in dreams that Arthur gets to indulge his fantasy of being impeccably dressed all the time, but that always tends to be the version that people remember when they’re on the business end of a loaded gun. One could be forgiven for thinking that man, the man with the gun and the delicately pressed waistcoat, must have sprung into the world fully-formed. It’s difficult to imagine that man as a child, with a bad haircut and missing front teeth and grazes on his knees.
Eames has never seen the photos, but he’s sure they must exist. Arthur’s mother--the mother that he has, of course he has--his mother must have kept them.
If Eames had a bucket list, there would be a space reserved for seeing those photos.
Later, Eames remembers Arthur saying,
I guess I just don’t associate you with having one
and lies awake in his too-firm hotel bed, worried about being remembered as the man on the other end of the gun.
When the Paris job is done, it is over and done with so neatly, so tidily, that Eames finds himself in a good enough mood to justify hopping the channel and visiting his mother. It takes half a cup of tea for him to remember why he generally avoids this.
His mother clinks her teaspoon on the rim of her cup and says nonchalantly, like she’s not opening this conversational battle with an atomic bomb, “You should make the effort, dear. Find someone to settle down with,”
and Eames has such a deep-seated, stomach-churning reaction to it that on the next job he pulls, he watches Arthur’s legs pace in front of his desk, sees the beauty of his hands and the line of his neck, and falls brutally in lust with him, just to spite her.
“It could be your birthday,” Arthur says, smiling, on the first day of their lightning-quick extraction. Eames could have felt either disappointed or flattered by Arthur hiring him in for such a simple two-man job, but he’s far more interested in watching the way Arthur’s fingers curl around his chin as he rests it in his hand.
“Could be? Could be my birthday? Now, that doesn’t sound like the Arthur I know. In fact, that’s quite a woolly set of facts you have there, not at all up to your usual exacting standards.”
“Your birthday is either today, or tomorrow, or the day after that.”
“Stunning detective skills, there, Arthur. You’re the next Sherlock Holmes.”
Arthur smiles again, wider this time. “We’re in Sri Lanka.”
“Honestly, darling, you really should have pursued a career in private investigation, dreamshare is wasted on you.”
Arthur leans forward and says, looking gleeful, “You told your mother you’d be on a business trip in Sri Lanka on your birthday.”
“Now, really,” Eames replies, smiling a con-man’s smile. “This is me we’re talking about. Did you not think I was lying?”
“Lying to your own mother, Eames?”
“Who says I was talking to my mother? It might all have been an elaborate ruse.”
“No, I don’t think so,” Arthur says, more seriously. “You’re not that kind of person.”
Eames isn’t sure what makes him say it in the end. Maybe it’s his newfound desire to lick the corners of Arthur’s smiling mouth or maybe it’s just the knowledge that Arthur has him cornered and no amount of bargaining will prevent it.
“Today,” he says. “My birthday. It’s today.”
“That wasn’t so hard. How old are you?”
“Now that is a secret.”
Arthur lets him get away with that while he chew on his lip speculatively. “Do you think we have enough time to spare on birthday drinks?”
Eames looks down at his notes and weighs up how the night could go, the probable magnitude of his hangover tomorrow. “I don’t know, Arthur. Personally, it doesn’t seem like a good idea to spend time so frivolously on--”
“Eames,” Arthur cuts in. “That wasn’t really a question. I’m telling you that we have enough time to spare for a drink or two. Just make sure everything’s finished up for today. We’ll leave at seven.”
A couple of drinks turns into five or six, exchanging bad anecdotes and laughing over each other like they never used to when they first knew each other. Eames first knew Arthur as a dreadful bore who triple-checked everything and tailed behind Dominic Cobb’s brilliance like a faithful, overly twitchy dog.
He remembers Arthur from the middle of their acquaintance, just after Mal-- Well, just after Mal. Always looking tired. Not trailing Cobb any more, but running to catch up with his mania. Never looking quite as razor sharp as he used to, like some corner of his brain was still calculating when he could next get some sleep, when he could get Cobb to sleep.
Now Arthur is laughing so hard that other patrons are looking around for the ruckus. There’s a small patch of damp on his knee from the condensation on his drink and Eames has never before had the opportunity to look at his dimples so closely. He appreciates them all the more now. Wants to stroke his fingers over them so that they never go away.
Later, he will wonder how he didn’t see it coming.
They’re standing on the balcony of Arthur’s hotel room and it’s one of those quiet lulls of a moment that makes Eames’s fingers itch for a cigarette, even though he quit nearly ten years ago. Arthur looks to be just the same, judging from the way he keeps rubbing his fingers together, and Eames files that away in the same place he now keeps for the beginnings of crows’ feet in the corners of Arthur’s eyes and those bewitching dimples.
They lean on the railing together, shoulders just nearly brushing, and Arthur says,
“Happy Birthday, Eames.”
Eames checks his watch and it’s five minutes to midnight. Still his birthday. “Another year older,” he says.
“Another year wiser.”
“I’m glad you think so.”
Arthur turns to look at him, slowly. “I’m glad that you’re here. I’m glad I picked you,”
and Eames is drunk enough that he can’t help but kiss him for that.
It’s hurried and slightly rough, because Eames can’t quite believe that it’s all been so easy. He should have realised he could have had this years ago. He clutches at Arthur’s arms, presses him back against the railings, suddenly terrified that this is all a dream--Eames hardly ever gets what he wants and never in such a timely fashion--but doesn’t break off to feel for his totem, because if this is a dream then he doesn’t want to find out until it’s all over.
But somewhere under the pounding of hearts, the fumbling of hands, Eames can sense a hesitation in Arthur.
“Come on,” he mutters into Arthur’s neck, because if Arthur leaves now, he’ll be left with a case of blue-balls that some men would fix with a trip to Amsterdam. Maybe Shanghai. “This’ll be fun. And I’m pretty good at remaining friends afterwards.”
This, it turns out, is not the right thing to say. Arthur stiffens, then pulls away.
“Eames, that’s-- That’s not what I want,” he says, his eyes wide and his voice halting, like he’s saying something awful.
“What?” says Eames. “You-- You don’t want to be friends after?”
Arthur, inexplicably, looks relieved. “No,” he says, smiling. “No, I don’t.”
Eames looks at Arthur for a long, long moment, then says, “Fine. All right. We don’t have to be friends any more,” and turns to go inside.
“No, Eames!” says Arthur, urgently, grabbing for his arm. “I meant--”
“Save it, Arthur,” he snarls back, throwing off Arthur’s hand. “If that’s what you want, fine. Just leave me be.”
And Arthur’s just standing on the balcony, looking devastated, like he’s messed everything up and he has, he has, because Eames had come here wanting a bit of fun between friends--
friends, he thought they were friends,
--but instead Arthur’s been planning this, what? Farewell fuck? One night to celebrate his removal from Arthur’s life?
Speechless with anger and horror, Eames flees back to his own hotel room. It’s only across the hall from Arthur’s but he doesn’t follow. Eames throws himself down on the bed and catches sight of the clock from out of the corner of his eye.
It’s a minute to midnight. It’s still his birthday.
He has exit plans for every job he pulls, just in case there’s an emergency or everything falls to pieces. An hour after his and Arthur’s argument, he calls one of his favours in while he’s still too drunk to think what a bad idea that could be.
When he gets into the discreet car they send, he feels like a coward, but he’s not sure he’d be able to finish the job otherwise.
He’s never not seen a job through to the end before.
He runs away to South America, where he works a difficult, boring job with a sub-standard, gossipy team who spend more time drinking coffee and arguing than actually getting any work done. Just as Eames thinks he might be missing Arthur’s absolute efficiency (however much that feels like pushing a knife into his own gut), the mediocre and lazy chemist corners him with a baffling non-sequitur.
“There’s that rumour about you and Arthur,” she says, blowing her gum into a greyish-blue bubble and popping it with a snap.
Eames sighs and continues working, wondering whether to rise to it. After a few seconds of that horrible, smacking, chewing sound, however, he gives in.
“Oh, you know,” she says. “The one where you have that lovers’ tiff.”
“It’s Arthur’s fault,” he replies. “I’m waiting for an apology,” and leaves it at that.
Eames may indeed be waiting for an apology before he even so much as thinks about working with Arthur again, but after running to the other side of the world to escape, he has made it undeniably difficult for Arthur to get that apology to him.
One month and two boring jobs down the line, he meets up with Yusuf, who presents him with an already opened envelope.
I’m sorry, it says. Please let me apologise in person.
There’s a plane ticket in the envelope. Reykjavik, in a week’s time. When he looks up, Yusuf is frowning at him.
“You read the letter?” Eames says in defense.
“Of course,” Yusuf replies. “I have no scruples. It’s a good job he’s offering, so I hear on the grapevine. Fairly simple, good payoff.”
“You don’t say,” says Eames.
“Are you going to tell me what this is all about?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Yusuf says, waving a hand dismissively. “I think I have it all figured out anyway.”
Arthur is waiting for him when he gets off the plane in Iceland. He makes a move to take Eames’s suitcase from him, then thinks better of it.
“I’m sorry,” he says, like he’s been bursting to say it. “It was all my fault. Please forgive me.”
Eames looks him over, takes in how terrible he looks. Arthur’s so tired, his eyes look bruised. He looks deflated and run down, looks like he’s not sure what he’ll do if Eames doesn’t say yes.
Eames puts out his hand. “Yes, all right. I’m sorry, too. Friends?”
Arthur smiles in relief, takes his hand and shakes it. “Friends.”
“Dear, you sound terrible! Have you been getting enough sleep?”
“Yes, Mother, I have been getting enough sleep.”
It’s always with a certain sense of irony that Eames reassures his mother about his sleeping patterns. He is a dreamthief, after all. He earns his pay while asleep.
“I’ll know if you’re fibbing to me!”
“Mother, I so very rarely lie to you.”
“I should hope you never lie to me at all.”
“Only about the things you’d really rather not know about.”
He’s taking this week’s call outside, because chatting to his mother in front of Arthur is one thing, but doing it in front of Arthur and their new-hire chemist, whose trustworthiness and discretion are completely unknown, is quite another.
“I do wish you’d visit more, dear,” she says, unperturbed. “It was lovely, the last time I saw you.”
It had not been at all lovely. His last visit was what got him in this mess, made him and Arthur fall apart so much that working together is an exercise in quiet gestures and tentative words. They used to have such delicious push and pull. Now Eames is too afraid to push in case Arthur leaves entirely, and remembers the night of his birthday too well to do anything like pull.
“I keep telling you I’m busy, I don’t lie about that--”
“Yes, yes, busy with this job,” she snaps, and Eames is shocked. His mother hasn’t been angry in years. She thinks it’s unhealthy. “I don’t like how you never talk about it. You never tell me stories about your work. Never about the people you work with. It makes me think-- It makes me think such terrible things.”
“Like what?” Eames shoots back. “What could be so terrible?”
“I dread to think, dear. I shan’t say, just in case you lie to me and it all turns out to be true,” she replies, and Eames hears a distinct breathless sighing sound.
“Mother,” he says, “are you smoking?”
“I shouldn’t think it’s any business what I do or do not do,” she says. “Just as you never let me take an interest in your life, you shouldn’t have to care about mine,” and hangs up.
Eames returns to his desk in a blisteringly bad mood, which takes all of seventeen minutes to get on Arthur’s nerves. They have a terrible, embarrassingly ugly fight in front of the intern that culminates in Eames storming out. Unfortunately, it’s not until he reaches the pavement that he realises he has emerged into the Icelandic winter without his coat.
Arthur finds him, eighty minutes later, in a local library, pretending to read a book. The only thing preventing Eames from voicing some very hurtful comments (all of which had come to mind precisely half an hour after they were needed) is that Arthur is holding a paper cup of coffee and an opulently large danish.
“I’m sorry,” he says, which dashes Eames’s infinitesimal hopes of leaving this mess as the bigger man.
“How come you always say sorry first? It makes me feel like a bad person.”
“You are a bad person, Eames,” Arthur says, but he’s smiling, so maybe he doesn’t really mean it.
“I am trying to better myself.”
“I can see that. Although, I didn’t think self-help was really your--what do you say?--cup of tea.”
Eames looks down at the book he’s not been reading for the last half an hour. “The Enchanted Self. Boosting your self-esteem and healing your dysfunction. An admirable goal, to be sure.”
“I don’t think self-esteem needs boosting and your dysfunction may be beyond help.”
“Well, one of those is certainly true,” says Eames, and then everything goes quiet.
“Why did you run away?” Arthur says, eventually, once the quiet has gotten too heavy. “I didn’t want you to do that.”
“What, just now? Or--”
“Both times. Every time you do it.”
“I would have thought that was exactly what you wanted. Sometimes things just happen so terribly between us, I thought you’d be rather glad to be rid of me.”
“No,” says Arthur, looking tired. “No, that’s not what I wanted at all.”
Eames doesn’t know what to say to that, except maybe, What was it that you wanted? Except he’s too afraid to ask, so the silence stretches on and on, until Arthur shakes his head and says,
“Eat your danish,”
and turns to leave.
Eames hurries to follow him, though, because if he’s learnt one thing from this whole debacle, then it’s that running away never solves anything.
Ariadne calls both of them up at the tail end of their Icelandic trip with another job for them.
“Her tuition fee coffers must be running low again,” Eames grumbles, resigned to another month without curry or macaroni cheese. Arthur just ignores him and books the flights.
When they arrive, it’s a horrifically sunny day and Eames nearly swelters himself out of his suit. Jackets come off, so do ties and collars are unbuttoned. Ariadne looks at the way Eames is studiously not looking at the hollow of Arthur’s throat and works it all out within two minutes.
“It’s a war scenario,” she says, pulling out her mood board to show them. “The mark is ex-military, fought in Afghanistan.”
Eames looks down at the photographs and newspaper clippings of dusty craters and shanty towns and has a brief flash of boarding school and its strict professors, the thwack of a ruler on a desk, and the quote comes out of him like it’s been pulled:
“When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die.”
Jean-Paul Satre. Fifth Form history class. End of year report: Could do better.
Ariadne--dear, sweet, youthful Ariadne, saved from the terrors of rote learning--comes over all impressed. “Eames, that was quite poetic!”
“You mean to say that I am not poetic all the time? That every word I say is not equivalent to the first larksong of spring?”
“Well-- No, it’s just-- You’re not usually inclined towards philosophy.”
“Yes, well,” he says to Ariadne, “war makes a philosopher out of every man.”
“And a philosopher into a solider,” Arthur calls over, a knowing smile on his lips, and another of Eames’s secrets is lost to be catalogued in someone’s memory, to be told fourth-hand among shady dreamshare criminals.
Later, when Ariadne has holed herself away with her ipod and enormous amounts of craft glue, Arthur sidles up and says, “What made you join the army?”
“That is extremely personal question, Arthur, and I am a liar. Think how this conversation might go.”
Arthur looks a bit sad and a lot uncomfortable. “I wish you wouldn’t lie to me.”
Eames feels embarrassed and off balance, so he says quickly, “I don’t make a habit of it.”
There’s a long silence, punctuated by the sound of tinny drums coming from Ariadne’s direction. She listens to her music too loud, will ruin her hearing in years to come.
“So why did you?” Arthur asks again. “Seems a long way to go, from pen to gun.”
Eames doesn’t ask how Arthur knows he studied philosophy in university. “You have to see the world,” he says instead. “What point is there learning other people’s philosophy when you haven’t had the time or the care to form your own?”
“But what if everything you learned prepared you for the future?”
Eames looks back down at his work and says, “It didn’t.”
There’s a long, understanding sort of pause, one that could go on forever, but Eames has never been fond of the maudlin, so he asks his own question, because Arthur’s already had his. Swings and roundabouts, after all.
“So why did you join the army, Arthur? Was it the promises of glory? The dying for one’s country?”
Arthur’s mouth twitches, not quite a smile. “My mom was sick.”
Eames lets that sit a while, then, “I’m sorry, what? Your mother was sick, so you joined the army?!”
“No, no,” Arthur says, shaking his head earnestly. “This was in high school. She got real sick and there was no one around to look after her, so I dropped out of school. After she got better, I couldn’t get a decent job--you know, high school drop-out--so I joined up.”
“That-- That is--” Eames says, nonplussed. “Commendable, Arthur, really.”
“Thank you, Mr Eames,” says Arthur, but then a phone vibrates. He fishes it out of his pocket and says apologetically to Eames, “It’s Cobb. I should take this.”
While Arthur retreats to his desk to take the call, which by all accounts is likely to be less about dreams and more about baby food, Eames sits and thinks.
Arthur joined the army because he dropped out of school early to look after his sick mother.
He seems to be doing a lot of thinking, these days.
Cobb used to be the sort of person who cared about health and safety and all that shit. Used to make sure you got wiped down with alcohol before you inserted the PASIV line, used to squint across the meeting room and announce that you looked tired, that you weren’t going under again until you’d slept at least five hours unassisted.
When Mal had died, he’d stopped all that, like he was too preoccupied to remember to care, too broken under his grief. It had frightened Eames, he remembers, the first time he’d worked with Cobb after the incident. He’d tried to avoid those jobs as much as possible after that, always surprised, always, that Arthur had stuck around. He’d always assumed that it had been because of guilt, maybe, or pity. In those days, he hadn’t the patience or the wish to dissect Arthur and Cobb’s relationship.
Now he thinks about Arthur’s mother and realises that Arthur’s just one of those good people -- the sort who do wonderful things and expect nothing in return, who takes care of you when you’re sick, who smiles at chubby babies in prams, who supports their friend as they work through their consuming grief, and Eames suddenly feels grubby in comparison. Not tarnished, just never shining in the first place.
Sometimes, when it really takes him unawares, Eames realises that he is very probably deeply in love with Arthur.
He has already realised, with that horrible sinking feeling associated with profound regret, that Arthur was, at a certain point, almost as deeply in love with him. Only Eames had a few too many glasses of bad wine and fucked it all up. He didn’t listen, didn’t see what it was that Arthur had wanted.
If he could go back, he’d do it all differently.
During the prep work, they spend an afternoon faffing around in the half-constructed dream. Eames tries on half of his forging repetoire, just showing off.
He forges a pregnant woman and Arthur just stares and stares. Eames knows he’s remembering Mal and is suddenly, painfully grateful for not being a woman, for not being able to bear Arthur’s children, because it would hurt too much if he looked at Eames, swollen with their child, and only saw Mal.
To break the awful tension, which Ariadne seems blissfully unaware of, he flattens himself against a wall and covers himself in brick-effect.
The shocked grin that lights up Arthur’s face is worth all of it.
The job wraps up, all hefty payoff and slightly traumatic execution. It’s raining in Paris, has been raining for days, and Eames just wants to get out, wants to pack up his things and leave behind his bland hotel room and escape to some tropical island. Except, not really.
Eames isn’t used to feeling like this, like he wants to call someone up in the blush of morning and say, I’m watching the rain make puddles on my balcony and it made me think of you.
Because everything makes him think of Arthur these days. It’s awful. And wonderful.
He’s leaving Paris, but so is Arthur. Soon Arthur will be somewhere else entirely, somewhere where Eames will have to spend at least a few weeks and a few thousand pounds trying to find him.
He rushes out of his hotel room and down the hall, hammers on Arthur’s door. There’s no answer, so he tries again, but still no one opens the door. Suddenly afraid that Arthur’s gone, that he’s already left, he dashes down the stairs to the lobby, three at a time, nearly breaks his ankle on the second floor landing.
Arthur is at the front desk, handing in his key.
He turns, sees Eames, and the look that travels across his face is unreadable, torn somewhere between relief and desperation and resignation.
“Eames, what are you--”
“Arthur, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, this is all my fault--” He’s out of breath from running and can’t quite get the words out. They tumble from him, nearly unintelligible. “Don’t-- I-- Where are you going?”
“Now. From here. Where is it that you are going?”
Arthur shifts his grip on his suitcase handle and looks around, a little uncomfortably. “I’m going to visit my mother.”
Of course. Of course Arthur’s going to visit his elderly mother. Of course he is.
“May I--” Eames begins, then thinks better of it. “I mean, not to be rude--raised better than that--but would you mind? That is, if I were to--?”
“Eames,” says Arthur, soothingly, because he’s worked everything out, that brilliant man that he is. “Would you like to come with me?”
And while Eames is still reeling, he carries on, “I’d like you to.”
“Yes,” says Eames, finally. The word rushes out of him, like a breath that he’s been holding for far too long already. “Yes, I’d like that.”
They stand there for a moment, grinning at each other, while the hotel staff look on in covert interest, before Arthur looks down at Eames’s dishevelled appearance and says,
“Might want some luggage, though. My mother’s the traditional sort.”
“What? Oh, yes,” says Eames, flustered. “I’ll just go get it.”
He turns towards the lift, then stops, and reaches back, holding out a hand for Arthur to take. “Come with me?”