Eames is four years old, swimming in a too-large paisley shirt. He’s staring at them with a confused look in his eyes and reaching two small hands up to Arthur and Arthur hasn’t hesitated for a single moment before picking him up, like it’s written in his blood that he is Arthur, Carrier of Eames. Arthur protectively curls him close to his chest while barking at Yusuf to fix it.
“You need clothes,” Arthur sighs as he picks at the shirt-tails of the giant piece of clothing. It only figures that just when he’s ready to admit that he has a thing for Eames and the rest of the world has stopped trying to get into his pants that Eames would suddenly become an age that has absolutely no concept of sex whatsoever. He watches Eames pick at his shirt and keep his eyes averted, almost like he’s...
Well, it’s almost as if he’s shy.
That can’t be right, though. Eames is Eames is Eames, no matter the age. His hair is soft and tousled in all directions and he’s curling up against Arthur’s chest, grasping fistfuls of his suit jacket with tiny fingers.
“Eames?” Arthur prods, slightly worried and bemused at once. “Say something.”
“Dad’s called Eames,” is all he gets for his trouble. “Who are you?”
Arthur gapes at Eames for a long moment. Apparently without any knowledge as to whom he is, Eames had insisted on Arthur picking him up and curling him close. The more terrifying part of that confession comes next: Eames has no idea who they are.
“Yusuf!” Arthur snaps, getting his voice to carry across the warehouse with even more rage. “He doesn’t know us!”
“Fixing it!” Yusuf cries back in a panic.
Arthur takes a long look at the child in his arms and tries to compartmentalize like the professional that he is. The Eames in his arms is clearly just a child version of the man he knows. The man he knows has gone to Timbuktu as far as his sanity is concerned. Arthur is not going to give himself a moral crisis by thinking about how he wants to ravish the grown-up Eames and not let him out of bed for a period of at least forty-eight hours (and fifty two minutes; Arthur has made up a color-coded schedule as to exactly what tasks they’re going to spend their time occupied with and yes, it will take every last minute).
He feels a tug at his sleeve and peers down at the boy in his arms. “I’m hungry,” he complains softly.
This is part of the reason he wishes children came with user manuals and schedules of their own. Left to his own devices, Arthur probably would have forgotten about this considering his own penchant for working through meals, birthdays, and other basic human necessities like sleep. “Okay. Okay, what do kids like to eat?” he finally asks.
Eames arranges his face in a dubious look, like he’s almost worried about Arthur. The four year old in his arms looks worried about him. “Didn’t your Mum and Dad ever feed you?” he asks, peering down at Arthur’s body. And then, then, then the little bastard just goes, “Oh,” knowingly with a look at his waist like he’s suddenly discovered the explanation for Arthur’s cluelessness.
He’s being bested in wit by a four-year-old.
This cannot be happening to him.
“Stay here with Yusuf,” Arthur mutters as he sets him down on the ground with irritation rankling through every pore in his body. “And don’t burn anything down while I go get you clothes. Then we’ll find you something to eat.”
He actually has to disentangle Eames’ fingers from his own and only for a small moment does he feel bad about it.
Arthur returns from his shopping trip with three bags filled with designer cardigans, jeans, khakis, and even horrifying print shirts all tailored to fit a four-year-old and finds Eames curled up on the sofa in a tiny ball. He’s snuffling lightly with his arms curled around a stuffed animal he doesn’t recall having seen.
“I brought it from the hotel,” Cobb says softly when Arthur finds the man staring at Eames from across the room. “It’s James’. He took to it instantly. It’s about the only thing other than you that he’ll look at or even touch.” It’s a small yellow rabbit and it’s tucked in between Eames’ hands as he rests in the fetal position on the couch.
Arthur exhales, taking the moment to feel sheer relief flooding him now that he knows Eames isn’t staring at him and documenting his every move with tiny critical eyes. “He’s four.”
“Eames is four and he doesn’t know any of us,” Arthur says again, as if the chances are that if he protests more, something will change in regards to the situation.
Cobb glances up, faintly amused. “He seems to like you.”
“I’m fairly sure he imprinted on me like a duckling,” Arthur says, trying not to sound either too pleased (he’ll never get away from the teasing) or too miserable (Ariadne might volunteer to babysit instead) about that.
Cobb shuffles over to drape a blanket over Eames. “You have to admit, he’s a very cute duckling.”
Arthur will admit no such thing.
Not aloud, anyway.
Ariadne tries to curl him up in her arms when she sees him, but Eames goes skittering anxiously behind Arthur’s legs the minute that she gets close enough to touch him. Arthur sighs and endures the tight clasp Eames has on his legs. “He’s a bit shy,” he explains to Ariadne.
She bursts out laughing. “What? No,” she says when Arthur doesn’t join in. “Eames? Shy? Are you sure we’re talking about the same loudmouth that grabs asses like he’s trying to make it an Olympic sport?”
Eames presses his face into the back of Arthur’s knee and clutches on tighter to the point that Arthur worries that he’s not going to have any circulation left over for him. Arthur’s knees buckle slightly and he turns around to glare at Eames. “Stop it,” he demands.
“Stop it,” Eames mimics right back.
“That’s what I said!”
“That’s what I said!” Eames shouts back, getting progressively shriller.
Arthur glares at Eames and crosses his arms as he decides that this is war. “I’m a pain in the ass that steals bedsheets and looks terrible in paisley and I hate the Queen.”
Eames just stares up at Arthur in absolute silence, but no repetition comes at all. Instead, Eames just smiles up at him sympathetically and then he leans in and pats Arthur on the thigh twice as if he’s trying to console him. “But nobody hates the Queen,” he corrects him, wandering off to pick up the coloring book and crayons that Cobb had brought with him that morning.
Ariadne just gapes at Arthur. “Did he just...”
The worst part is that this little stunt officially makes it Arthur: 3, Eames: 5.
He’s sure that taking Eames to the park is one of those mistakes that will inevitably rate up there with Arthur’s decision to let Cobb run Mr. Charles, to let Ariadne near soluble markers, and to let Yusuf test drugs out on Eames. Still, he brings Eames along and lets him run out to pretty ladies and tug on their hands.
At first, Arthur can only roll his eyes and assume that the womanizing genetics start early in the Eames men, but inevitably all the pretty young ladies gravitate in Arthur’s direction with soft smiles and tentative looks.
“Your little boy said that you were lonely,” is generally what they start with. “He’s such a sweetheart.”
He’s such a dead man, is all Arthur can think when he has a moment to get past his gaping shock before he informs each and every one of the lovely ladies that no, he’s actually taken, and his boyfriend is just out of town for the moment. Eames inevitably sprints back towards him and jumps onto the bench to curl up against Arthur’s lap.
“You didn’t like any of the pretty ladies,” Eames says, sounding dangerously close to petulant. “How come?”
“Because I don’t want a pretty lady.”
Eames’ tiny face scrunches up in confusion and Arthur sighs, pinching the bridge of his nose. He cannot be expected to explain to a four-year-old version of the lewdest member of their team that Arthur is bisexual and would prefer to be fucking a man instead of planting sunny kisses on soft cheeks. “I don’t understand,” is what Eames eventually says plaintively.
“Sometimes,” Arthur sighs out, wrapping his arm around Eames’ shoulders and keeping him close, “neither do I.”
“Do you like pretty dogs?”
“Oh my god, Eames!” Arthur shouts. “Do I look like I...don’t answer that,” he sharply retorts. He feels as though he needs to find a babysitter as soon as possible because Eames completely wrecks any sexual desires that Arthur has been keeping well-buried. “You ask whether a person likes pretty men before you ask about dogs!”
He’s getting the stink-eye from other mothers on the playground and feels as though if he stays any longer, there will be police crawling all over him.
Eames kicks his legs idly on the park bench, peering down at his Velcro-snap sneakers. “So who’s the prettiest man you know? Is it Mr. Saito?”
Arthur feels a sudden crushing weight against his chest as he realizes the truth. “No, kiddo,” Arthur admits with a half-there smile. “I’m pretty sure it’s you.”
“Oh, s’nice,” Eames murmurs tiredly, peering up with a lazy smile at Arthur. “Cept, I like pretty dogs best.”
Arthur slams his palm into his face.
Arthur should have known that ice cream was a mistake, but Ariadne insisted and that’s how they’ve ended up with cones of soft serve in their hands, lying about on the lush green lawns of Versailles amidst other picnickers and tourists. Eames is trying desperately to keep up with the melting ice cream, but is having a terrible time of it and, due to his proximity to Arthur, is dripping it all over a dark Calvin Klein suit.
“Eames!” Arthur snaps. “You’re getting ice cream all over my...”
He trails off and the silence is enough to make Ariadne look up quickly enough to find Eames is mouthing and sucking ice cream off of Arthur’s suit, mouth formed like a lamprey stuck on a victim. Arthur’s face of horror is apparently worthy enough to have a picture taken of it and he stares down at Eames, who has started to make sucking noises as he gets to his lapel.
“You can’t waste good ice cream!” Eames snaps, perilously close to a tantrum by the sound of his voice.
Arthur is still incredulous that this many insane things can happen when Eames is supposed to be an innocent young mind untouched by horrifying and dirty thoughts. “We could have bought you another!” he snaps right back, aware that he sounds to be on the same edge of hysteria that Eames is parked at.
“I like this one,” Eames says simply, pointing to the remaining spot on Arthur’s lapel.
Ariadne softens just slightly. “He’s so adorable.”
“I have Eames saliva all over my neck and not in a good way,” Arthur says evenly with as much horror as this is due. “Apparently, the world doesn’t want me to have sexual thoughts about his adult self ever, ever again.”
Arthur will, possibly, admit that the pyjamas Miles has brought over are adorable. He’s also sure that the companies who make them have put some kind of chemical into the fabric in order to make all adults think so. He watches Eames hop around and wiggle his bottom and toes in order to fit into the footie pyjamas before tearing off for bed, calling ‘I get top bunk!’ as he goes.
“Bunk beds?” Miles cheerfully asks. “I wasn’t aware you designed your flat for children.”
Arthur sighs and shakes his head. “Top bunk just means the master bed.” His only bed. He gives Miles a tired smile. “Thanks for bringing James’ old stuff, though. And tell Dom that if he really intends to go forward on selling t-shirts with pictures of Eames in the duckling pyjamas, I want a cut.”
“You cannot blame me for encouraging my son-in-law’s best and brightest ideas,” Miles apologizes as he leaves.
Arthur wanders back to the main room and finds Eames is already planted face-down on the bed, limbs splayed in all directions creating a very tiny star in footie pyjamas in the center of the bed. Arthur pushes Eames in the stomach and doesn’t manage to wake him so much as earns an Eames pressed firmly to his side. “When you’re yourself again,” Arthur sighs, “we’re not going to talk about this and we’re going to wait six months before we even touch so I can dismiss every last notion of you as an innocent being from my mind.”
Eames lets out a snore in reply and Arthur pretends that this is assent and somehow things will go forward in a rational way.
“You couldn’t have reacted to Yusuf’s insane chemicals in a less disturbing way?” Arthur grumbles, stealing his pillow back from Eames’ tiny hands and trying to ignore the warm breath against his neck.
This is so very much not the way he wanted this to go.
Eames had been four when they entered the warehouse that morning and by lunchtime appeared to be just slightly taller than before. At first, Arthur had thought it a trick of the eye until suddenly Yusuf commented on it as well, tucking his lunch away and bringing out the tape measure.
“I was hoping it would be this simple!” Yusuf exclaims eagerly, swallowing the last of his brochette and hurrying to kneel at Eames’ side, peering at him like a show dog – checking his eyes, teeth, and ears. “The chemical is wearing off his body slowly. As it does, he’ll regain memories and age without having to introduce another unwieldy compound to his body chemistry. I wouldn’t want to turn him into a dolphin.”
“Or a decent human being,” Ariadne pipes up with a smirk.
“Or something Arthur can’t keep his hands off,” Dom deadpans, shooting Arthur a look that says that he knows his best friend all too well.
“Does dolphin cover that?” Ariadne wonders.
Arthur feels that his glare communicates quite well that he hates every single person in the room at that moment. Perhaps all but Eames, who is simply faultless (currently) and is in need of a hug, from the way he curls closer to Arthur. “If I find a single item of dolphin paraphernalia near my workstation, I’m going to remind everyone of the varying ways the army taught me to torture people,” he warns, patting Eames lightly on the head.
Days later, Eames is now nine and is quickly remembering all the things he’s forgotten.
He remembers his first pet, his first kiss, and his first arrest – Midas the Fish, Ellie Worston in the gazebo because he dared her that she couldn’t kiss him and not catch cooties, and apparently he streaked across a benefit held by his parents to raise money for cancer. If these are the memories that Eames recalls at the ripe old age of nine, Arthur is starting to dread what’s in store for eighteen.
Eames is currently in the process of playing the shell game with Yusuf, who had thought this would be a fine way to earn some sterling off of Eames.
“You wanna grab some food?” Eames asks Arthur later, holding out a hand flush with bills. “Don’t feel like taking any more of his money. I feel bad.” He’s already out the door by the time Yusuf shows his face again.
Arthur has absolutely no sympathy for him. “He learned to pick locks at seven with a bobby pin,” he reminds Yusuf. “And you gambled with him.”
“You just wait until he turns twenty-one,” Yusuf snipes before heading to beg a couple of euros from Ariadne so that he can eat dinner that night. “Then,” he shouts over his shoulder. “Then we’ll see who suffers!”
Arthur realizes the mistake of going to bed with a thirteen-year-old Eames hugging the edge of the bed. The changes are happening with much more speed and Arthur wakes up to find that the young boy has become a young man and by the looks of the lanky body and the face, Eames is sixteen now.
He probably would have also guessed that Eames has moved into his burgeoning sexual awakening judging by the way Eames is mouthing at Arthur’s neck with great desperation and rocking his hips up against Arthur’s thighs, trying to get some kind of friction.
“Are you even awake?” Arthur demands, grabbing hold of his pillow and shoving it between their bodies to create a comfortable barrier between Eames and getting off on Arthur’s body. It’s all kinds of wrong, especially seeing as Eames had only been a four year old a week ago.
Eames lets out a desperate moan and opens his half-lidded eyes. “Arthur?” he mumbles in surprise. Arthur exhales deeply and wonders if he has absolutely fucked himself over for taking care of Eames when he had been younger. Now, Eames has memories of him. Now, Arthur is the idiot who took care of him when he was younger.
Now they’re never going to have sex.
Arthur might as well just call in to a monastery and get his bed good and reserved and the hair-shirt sized up.
“Eames,” Arthur snaps, fending Eames’ cock off with a pillow – and really, what is his life? “Don’t make me turn you into a eunuch.”
Eames seems to consider waking up properly and dealing with Arthur – who is perilously close to having a stroke – and falling back asleep and not worrying about things like sex, panic, or Arthur. In the end, he chooses sleep and Arthur lets out a sigh of relief as he sneaks out of bed and hurries to the washroom in order to deal with his own morning problems.
Only at the last moment does he toss the pillow back to the bed, managing to smack Eames in the head with it and he takes an immense amount of satisfaction from that.
Eames is twenty-one and is wearing one of Arthur’s suits. Eames is twenty-one years old, in one of Arthur’s good suits and has taken Arthur out to a happening little discotheque where the girls wear silver lamé and the boys don’t wear much at all. Eames has followed in their example, taking his shirt off the first chance he gets and leaving Arthur to tidy up after him.
Eames orders them blowjobs and insists they drink them the proper way.
Arthur hates his life and texts as much to Dom.
He receives a message back five minutes later: STILL HAVEN’T SLEPT WITH HIM YET, THEN?
Arthur sends a message to Ariadne to inform her that she can absolutely start playing music from nineties pop groups as Cobb has had a miraculous change of heart and would love nothing more than to plan all future jobs, visits, and life goals to the Spice Girls’ best hits.
Arthur may still hate his life – which has not improved at all given that Eames has taken to grinding up against him, kissing at Arthur’s neck and tugging his ass back against his hips – but at least now Cobb is getting an idea of just how badly Arthur is suffering at the moment.
At twenty-four, Eames is starting to resemble the man they all know. When he arrives at twenty-six, he will remember Arthur properly, but they’re still two years away from that. Now, they’re merely dealing with a very bored man who wanders the warehouse and doesn’t know what they do in their line of work.
“Strategic city planning,” Ariadne had said.
“Model making,” was Cobb’s response.
“Personal consulting,” Arthur replied when Eames had asked.
“...I just really like to mix chemicals,” was Yusuf’s less-than-genius reply. “And the others didn’t get enough love as children, so they build things for some unknown person’s approval.”
Eames is now rocking back and forth on a chair that continuously squeaks and he’s staring at his palm, frowning and scrunching up his nose. “I’ve got little bites all over,” he mutters, poking at his skin. “It’s like I’ve been attacked by spiders or really very small staplers.”
“The wild staplers of France have been a problem lately,” Arthur deadpans in reply, not even bothering to look up. When Eames doesn’t play along with a reply, Arthur does look up with wild concern and is caught off-guard by the look of utter adoration and blind love that’s all over Eames’ face.
Apparently, at a younger age and a simpler time, Eames really was very...well, endearing.
Eames won’t stop staring at Arthur ever since he explained properly what’s been happening to him and why he can wake up a twenty-five year old and hit twenty-seven by noon. Arthur’s still not sure how he’s living the sort of life where ‘you were suffering from being the subject of a love potion and when Yusuf tried to fix you, he knocked off thirty years of your life’ is any kind of normal explanation.
“So, after you realized your great love for me,” Eames is saying, fiddling with his poker chip, “I was turned into a four year old who clung to you so tightly that you thought it only best that you take me under your wing and pervert me with memories of you?”
Arthur also knows it’s entirely wrong to think Eames’ voice is the sexiest thing he’s ever heard when he says things like ‘pervert’. He needs to focus. “In my defense, you started wailing when I tried to pass you off to Cobb.”
“Yes, well, that squinty face of his simply isn’t made for children. It reminds me of a clown,” Eames complains, regarding Arthur and trying to assess him carefully. “Just so you know, I’m hardly crippled with the thought of you as a figure in my early days. I still very, very much want to get on my knees, suck you off, and then fuck you against the wall until you’re good and properly blissed out to the point that you can’t even babble out a ‘thank you, Eames, I’d like another’, never mind to question me about whether the situation is strange.” He follows this up with a pleased and lazy smile.
Arthur is just glad he’s sitting as he feels the slightest of quivers in his ankles at that.
Eames seems aware of the effect that he has on Arthur and he merely blows him a pretty kiss. “We’re almost there, Arthur, darling. We’re almost there.”
Eames is glowering when they bring in the cupcake bearing a candle announcing ’30!’ with great enthusiasm. Eames makes a joke about wanting to shoot it and Arthur actually knows Eames well enough that he hides all the bullets and jams the safety on every last gun in sight, just in case he takes his frustrations of age out on a poor innocent pastry.
“I was just four two weeks ago,” he mutters grumpily, blowing out the candle and smearing frosting all over two of his fingers.
“They grow up so fast,” Cobb remarks as he snaps pictures of Eames pressing the frosting to Arthur’s cheek, licking his way slowly over to his mouth. “Okay,” Cobb deadpans. “Eames, this is not the time or the place for you to turn me into your director of photography for porn,” he complains as Eames grabs Arthur by the back of the neck and starts to give him a taste of the frosting, tongue to tongue.
When Eames is content to ease away, Arthur is breathless and Eames is pelting the thirty-candle out the window, likely hitting some poor passing pedestrian who really didn’t deserve to have their Parisian style ruined by wax and frosting.
“So, what are you going to get me for my birthday?” asks Eames when he gets Arthur’s attention again.
Arthur is staring at the second-hand of his watch with great deliberation. “Seeing as you’ll be thirty-one in a matter of hours, you’ll get a grand total of nothing.”
“Just you wait until I have my mid-life crisis,” Eames mutters and goes off to ask Ariadne if, as the birthday boy, he is entitled to ice cream.
Eames arrives back to his natural age exactly two weeks and five days after Yusuf’s compounds rendered him a very small child. He is thirty-four years old and is lacking any of the lovely innocence that Arthur had found so endearing in him.
Although, seeing as Eames is holding himself above Arthur so as not to fuck him too deep too quickly and shoot his load too early, Arthur can’t exactly think much of the charms of innocence as he lets out a ragged gasp and demands Eames go, “faster, oh god.”
It’s only after when Eames presses his face against Arthur’s neck that he takes a moment to recall how shy Eames had been when he was smaller.
Rather than tease or poke, Arthur slowly buries his fingers into Eames’ hair and takes his time massaging there, kissing his temple soothingly and promising, “It’s all right,” quietly. “I’ve got you,” he adds in French, sure and steady and pleased when Eames settles at that, like he’s been waiting for it all his life.