Once upon a time there was a point man named Arthur. Arthur's life was one of drudgery and boredom. His best friend having died tragically in a mysterious fall from a hotel (on her anniversary, no less), Arthur had sworn vengeance on her killer: a man named Dominic Cobb, whom said best friend had married one time in what Arthur could only presume was an act of temporary insanity. In the guise of loyal friend, Arthur set about to gather as much evidence as he could to prove Dom was a murdering murder who murdered.
Unfortunately, a few hours into said gathering, Arthur realized Dom was too stupid to kill anyone, after which he was just stuck following Cobb around.
While Arthur derived a certain schadenfreude from watching Dom fuck up job after job, saving their necks time and again was getting old. Fortunately for Arthur, around the time he was getting well sick of getting shot at, Cobb met a forger named Eames.
As a person, Eames was insufferable, but as a forger, he did seem to prevent Arthur from getting shot at, so Arthur figured he could stay. Unfortunately, Arthur neglected to tell Eames that he could stay, so after one too many Cobb-related failed jobs, Eames vanished.
To Arthur's deep dismay, he missed Eames. There were lots of thieves, but very few good forgers, and only one who excelled at Cobb's wtfery. Arthur even missed Eames the person--his affability and apparent interest in Arthur as a human being; his tendency to wear orange and make Arthur coffee. Sometimes Arthur even suspected that he would rather face a bit of getting shot at, after all, if it meant that Eames would face it with him. But those were no thoughts for a responsible point man to have, so Arthur continued to look after Cobb as best he could, and try to find Eames.
The first time Eames came back--or, rather, the first time Cobb dragged Arthur with him to meet Eames, since the job was in Shibuya and so was he--Arthur was so angry at Eames that he couldn't properly speak to him for a whole day. Why he was angry, he couldn't have said, but he was. He was furious. So it shouldn't have come as a surprise when Eames calmly packed up his duffel on the day they finished the job and walked out.
Well, Arthur thought. Fine, Arthur thought. But still he held his thumb over the words, "hi," for three weeks afterwards, wanting to text Eames and feeling afraid down to his bones at the thought.
The third time E dropped in to Arthur's life, it was Inception. And although it was Inception, which should always be thought of with a capital 'I,' forever afterward, Arthur would remember it as the job where their hands had brushed; where Eames' eyes had smiled at him, forgiving and warm. Which was why, when Eames dropped off the radar again immediately afterwards, Arthur was right pissed about it. This time, Arthur was determined to find Eames and tell him that he could stay if he wanted. As long as he wanted. Whenever he wanted.
Arthur was quite the researcher, but all of his skills led him nowhere. Eames was well and truly off the grid. After a month of searching, Arthur hooked himself up to the PASIV device and lowered himself down a level, the better to brainstorm places Eames might be. His dreams were minimalist & monochrome, so he hardly expected to drop into a jungle with Hawaiian-shirt-print flowers and a talking toucan. However, once the toucan started calling him a rotter with Eames' accent, Arthur wised up.
He glared at it. "So where is he?" he snapped.
"S'not that easy," said the toucan. "Thrice you sent him away. Three's a powerful number. It's not magic you can snap your fingers and undo."
"What are you talking about?" Arthur demanded.
"This is a fairy tale, chap," said the toucan. "Or didn't you figure that out already? If you want to find him you'll have to travel east of the sun and west of the moon."
"But that's impossible," said Arthur.
The toucan glared. "Well, you don't have to get literal about it," he said. "It's a fairy tale. Use your imagination."
Arthur glared back. Then he thought. He thought about Eames and himself, and about dreaming a little bigger. Finally he huffed out a breath and crossed his arms.
"Are you telling me he's somewhere along the 180th meridian?" he asked.
The toucan flapped its wings and said, "Only one way to find out!" before flying away into the houndstooth-leaved jungle.
So Arthur planned, and packed his suitcase very carefully, and sent a message to Eames' last-known phone number that just said, Really????
Then he set off for Chukotka.
Eames wasn't in Chukotka.
Or anywhere on the Chukchi Peninsula. Or anywhere in Russia, for that matter.
But Arthur did get to pet a caribou, so he figured that was okay.
From there he traveled south, asking for Eames wherever he stopped. He tried Tuvalu, and Kiribati. He stayed an extra two weeks in Fiji because he was so sure that Eames would be there. But no luck.
Finally on the last leg of his journey, he stopped at a small town with an outlying island, only accessible by daily ferry at dawn and dusk.
It's only for fishermen and tourists, the locals told Arthur. No one lives out there. Then they added, except for the Bird of Paradise.
The Bird of Paradise had pulled up to the inlet one morning in a tiny boat, wearing a bright orange blazer under an ill-fitting coat. He had sailed around the other side of the island and parked there two months earlier, and no one had seen him since.
"How do you know he's still there?" Arthur asked. "The fishermen hear him blasting New Order every morning on his yacht," they said.
"Take me to him," said Arthur.
And so he came to be climbing over rocks and wading through sand one bright Sunday Oceana morning. (Or Monday, depending on where you stood.)
Eames was standing on his boat deck swabbing things, sunlight bouncing off the polish of his muscles and his sweat-slicked hair. Arthur smiled and approached. It took a moment for Eames to register his presence, because he was busy bopping around and singing, "I used to think that the day would never come," in a ridiculous voice. But eventually he turned and saw Arthur, who was standing beside the boat and smiling.
"Arthur," he said.
"Eames," said Arthur.
They looked at each other. Then they looked some more.
"Nice boat," said Arthur.
"Thank you," said Eames, still staring. Arthur stared back.
"Well," said Eames after a moment. "Did you want something?"
Arthur grinned wide after a month of searching. He stepped forward, tugging Eames straight into his arms. "Yeah," he said. "I actually do."
(And, of course, they lived happily ever after.)