In this business you have guns pointed at you to the extent that it becomes mundane.
This is the first time – the last time – that Eames knows that this is not something he is going to walk away from.
The man with the dead eyes and hollow cheekbones has tied him to a chair and the rope bites into his wrists and ankles. Why he has bothered to keep Eames alive so far when he so clearly intends to kill him is a mystery. Until a sheet of paper and a pen are dropped onto the table in front of him.
“You should say goodbye.”
“I know that if I was in your situation, I would want the chance to say goodbye to my wife.”
The gun stays pointed at him and his ankles remain tied as a pocket knife slits through the rope around his wrists.
Eames picks up the pencil, weighing up his options. His captor has stepped out of Eames’s range so that the pencil is useless as a weapon. The ropes on his ankles are too well tied to escape quickly and Eames has no doubts that if he tries anything his death will only come sooner.
Silence. Blank paper.
He thinks back on his life, on the things that made it worth living: the smell of the sea, the noise of the markets in Mombasa, afternoon tea, his mum, his brother – and Arthur. Above all things, Arthur.
Putting pencil to paper he writes the words he wishes he had said every day.
There is an envelope on the floor when Arthur gets home. He’s exhausted and is tempted to leave it on the table to deal with tomorrow.
But the bright whiteness, marred only by his name in neat copperplate - there’s something insistent about it.
Rubbing his eyes – this will only take seconds. It’s probably a flyer, a menu; something that will go straight in the trash.
There is another envelope in the envelope, but there is a cover letter too.
Arthur reads it.
He reads it again.
Then he picks up his phone and calls every number he’s ever been able to reach Eames on. He calls Eames’s mother, his brother: neither of them have heard from him. They’re worried now but he promises he’s looking into it.
Another phone call, this time to the best of his contacts.
He doesn’t open the other envelope.
When Arthur gets home from identifying the body, he sinks to the sofa, not feeling the softness of the cushion under his thighs or the cold of the apartment.
He sits there for hours, not feeling.
There, on the coffee table, is the other envelope.
By the time he reaches for it night has fallen, and by the orange light of the streetlamps through the window he reads his name, in Eames’s neat writing.
His fingers brush over the word, feeling the indentation in the paper.
He opens it carefully and slides out a single sheet of paper.
There are so few words, but they mean everything.
Arthur makes sure to put the letter and the envelope safely back on the table before he lets himself cry.
Chapter 2: I can still hear your voice
It's raining on the day of the funeral. Fitting, really.
As the heavens pour down on Arthur, he thinks about how Eames always hated the rain – it reminded him of home, of bad memories. The only thing he ever liked to do when it was raining was have a cuppa and cuddle up to Arthur on the sofa. It was one of the only times he was ever needy like that. While Arthur hated his sadness, he loved being the one who held him while he pulled all of the scattered pieces of himself back together.
So it’s only fitting that it’s raining now, soaking through Arthur’s greatcoat and best black suit, as pieces of Arthur scatter and are lost to the wind. Bits of the day strike him like heavy blows – Ariadne’s sobs, the way Dom keeps throwing worried glances at him – but most of it is experienced through a grey cloud of grief.
He can’t look at the mausoleum. It just makes him angry. Eames wouldn’t have wanted this but the family insisted. It wasn’t even that they thought that he deserved a place in the family plot – they didn’t care about Eames but they did care about what people thought of them. When Arthur tried to fight them about it they insisted that as he and Eames weren’t married and Arthur didn’t have any other legal rights, he didn’t get a say.
Arthur stares down at the grass by his feet, the way it bows under the weight of the raindrops. The presence of the mausoleum is heavy, like a gravity well trying to suck him in. He remembers after his father’s funeral, the way his mother had been drawn to the fresh earth, falling to her knees like the pull of what it hid was too much for her to resist. Arthur understands that now.
It’s a mistake when he looks to his side, because Eames’s brother looks even more lost than Arthur feels. He and Eames are twins, in their thirties, but right now Tom looks like a little kid, like he doesn’t even understand what’s happening. An impulse makes Arthur reach out to hold his hand. Tom looks at him, his lower lip shaking and his eyes – there’s a shattering behind them, like nothing is going to be alright again. He squeezes Arthur’s hand tightly and Arthur moves to stand nearer to him, taking in some twisted comfort from Tom’s grief.
The minister – a fucking minister, Eames would have hated that too – finally finishes his speech, and for a minute there’s nothing but the wind and the rain and the thrum of loss. Everyone stares wordlessly as the rituals are finished up, like any of it means anything, and people slowly start to drift away.
Dom looks at him but he understands better than most and just touches Arthur’s shoulder before leaving, guiding Ariadne and Yusuf away. Most of the other people talk to Eames’s mother. She barely spoke to her son – maybe once a year – and the distance that had grown between them makes it easier for people to offer condolences to her.
No-one approaches Tom and Arthur. They stand side by side in front of the mausoleum, hating to be there but unable to move. All Arthur can feel is pain. It presses down on his throat, making it hard to breathe; twists in his chest and screams through his brain. Where Tom is holding his hand too tightly, Arthur can barely feel it, other than it adding a stab of guilt to the mix.
They’re identical, Tom and Eames, but Arthur never saw Eames looking the way Tom does. Like it’s the end of the world. Arthur feels like he’s had part of himself torn from him, but for Tom it must be even worse. Even though they didn’t see each other very often thanks to Eames’s job, whenever they were together they were inseparable. Arthur loves his brother and sister but with nowhere near the intensity of Tom and Eames. They were twins; half of a whole. And now Tom is alone.
“I’m sorry,” Arthur says, not knowing what else he can say. The words are useless – he’s felt anger bubble dangerously when others have said it to him. But he has to say it. He is sorry, because, “I should’ve done something. I should have-“
“No,” Tom says, his voice breaking, and he pulls Arthur tightly into his arms. “It’s not your fault. Don’t blame yourself, Arthur,” he whispers, and it’s Eames’s voice, and that’s what makes Arthur crack.
He buries his face in the thick material of Tom’s collar and cries. Arthur doesn’t cry in front of other people, ever. Ever. Not even in front of Eames. But without him – it doesn’t matter anymore. Nothing does.
Both of them weep, sharing their grief. Wanting to be strong for Tom – knowing that someone else understands – lets Arthur pull some of his control back.
“I don’t know how I’m supposed to live without him,” Tom says in a very small voice.
“Neither do I,” Arthur says, feeling as lost as Tom looks.
They look at each other and start the walk to the car in silence.
Arthur thinks of Mal invading Dom’s dreams and wonders if Eames will haunt him like that.
He hopes so.