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No Medicine for Regret

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Arthur walks into the den, passing by row after row of sleeping bodies, sallow skin and sunken eyes, the cloying smell of opium sticky in the air like molasses. Yusuf tips his glasses down and nods in greeting, fearless of retribution. Arthur’s not here for petty drugs, though he’d happily shut down every last facility if he thought it would do any good. With the miserable conditions in this city, real crime would only escalate.

He makes his way to the back, navigating the maze of cots until he finds his target. “Asshole,” he says eying the fresh pinpricks of blood in the crease of Dom’s elbow. One day, Arthur is going to find Dom dead, if he gets there in time to find him at all. Yusuf cleans up quickly. Arthur doesn’t have to think about where the bodies go, so long as they don’t wind up as paperwork on his desk—so long as it’s anonymous Johns and Janes, not his partner.

“C’mon, Dom,” he says as he forces Dom to sit. Dom’s eyes slit open, hazy and distant. “You know she’s gone.”

“You don’t know,” Dom murmurs. “In my dreams, we’re still together.”

“In my dreams, you’re sober,” Arthur sighs.

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” says a voice from two beds over, accent curling over the consonants in a low, husky rumble. It sends chills up Arthur’s spine hearing it again. He can practically feel the ghost of hot breath on his neck, the drag of lips across his skin, the strong muscle beneath his fingertips. He thinks of long nights and passionate kisses, of whiskey and wine, of shared trade secrets.

Turning his head, Arthur takes in Eames sitting on the edge of a cot, half-ashed cigarette wafting smoke above his head. He looks skinny and pale, with bruised eyes and hair shaved short. There is grit underneath his normally meticulously groomed fingernails.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” Arthur says dryly, trying to appear unfazed though his tongue feels like sandpaper and his heart is racing.

“You’re supposed to be a detective,” Eames shoots back with smirk, eyes bright and intelligent as they ever were.

Arthur gives his appearance another once over, only now seeing it for the façade it is. “How long are you undercover?” he asks.

Hope floods through Arthur like a wellspring when Eames replies, “I’m not, anymore.”