Arthur has a secret, and letters are exchanged. Crossover with Harry Potter, kind of. Will have a sequel soon.
Eames shows up at Arthur's Nice apartment looking drowned and abused, but absurdly happy.
Also, he shows up at a little past four in the morning.
"Arthur," he says, or breathes, really, when Arthur answers the door, Glock in his hand and his head pounding. He'd barely been asleep an hour. "I told you I'd find you first," he says. He's carrying what Arthur is sure is a PASIV, too bulky for the carpet bag Eames has stuffed it into, and a frayed, dirty backpack.
"That's not what you said," Arthur points out, but he stands aside and lets Eames in, and closes the door behind him. Eames shrugs, like it doesn't really matter, and maybe it doesn't.
No, it really doesn't. "Jesus," Arthur says, eyes adjusting to the lights in his kitchen. "Can I get you anything? Are you sure you haven't been followed?"
Eames dumps his luggage in the hall and sighs dramatically. "As if I would lead anyone to your door, love."
Arthur gets the bottle of Jack Daniels from the cabinet, and sets it on the island, very purposefully. It's full, sealed, and he avoids eye contact with Eames when he slouches into the room, because Eames will know Arthur bought it just for him, and maybe he's too tired to make a deal of it now, but Eames wouldn't ever forget it.
Making eye contact would be as good as admitting it, so he doesn't. Eames just smiles and drops onto a stool.
"So thoughtful," he says. "Do you have anything to eat?" Arthur turns to look at him, to see if he's making a joke about Arthur's cooking, but he just looks tired. He's bruised around the arms and his knuckles look tender. There are dark circles under his eyes, and he's not filling out his shirt.
It is, however, a really ugly shirt. Arthur is strangely reassured by it, and wordlessly goes to the fridge. There's overpriced pork lo mein in a tupperware, so he takes that out. "This okay?"
Eames nods. "Don't worry about heating it, it's fine," he says. Arthur thinks he must be starving to eat that shit cold.
"Here," Arthur says, handing him a fork. Eames spears most of it and starts stuffing his face, and Arthur takes that as his cue to get out the glasses.
He's got two tumblers in his hand when Eames makes a choking noise. "Shot glasses," he says. "Get the shot glasses."
Arthur scrunches his nose at him for a minute, then raises an eyebrow. Eames laughs. "I've missed you," he says, soft. "It's been too long."
"Eames," Arthur says, setting the glasses on the island. He doesn't know how to follow it up, but Eames just smiles at him, showing off a spectacularly split lip, and reaches for the bottle of Jack.
"So, so, I'm trying to go unnoticed in this truly horrible little village in Southern Germany, and all of the sudden there's this man who knows my name--my real name, mind, so I must've known him back before," Eames says, slamming his hand onto the table. They've moved to Arthur's living room, and Eames is on the floor, keeping himself propped at the table by his elbows. Arthur is tired and drunk and he keeps misplacing the bottle, probably because Eames keeps hiding it every time he hints that they've had enough.
"Did you get caught?" Arthur asks. "How many fights did you get in?"
"So he says, to me, did you know they've got a warrant for your arrest? Loud as you please, in perfect German--I could've killed him, I really could've."
"Eames," Arthur says. "EAMES."
He blinks, smiling at Arthur. "I've missed you, darling. All your angry faces, too."
And that's the last thing Arthur remembers.
They wake up in Arthur's bed, his white sheets filthy from Eames' clothes, and Arthur doesn't have a chance to slide out before Eames wakes up. They're both respectable, though hung over, and they're not even touching, but Arthur feels spectacularly out of his depth when Eames smiles, and closes the distance between them by stroking the side of Arthur's face.
It's more than he can handle, really, but he's Arthur, so he does.
"Hi," he says.
That's when Eames kisses him.
Arthur feels like it's lying when he thinks nothing happened. Technically, nothing did happen. They get drunk one night, end up in Arthur's bed together, and share the single most intimate moment of Arthur's life. Eames then stays for two more weeks, though he tends to sleep on the couch, and by the next Friday, he's clean and looks healthier and has made Arthur's kitchen smell like real food, and he's leaving.
"I'll write," he says, and kisses Arthur on the cheek.
Arthur acts like this isn't a big deal, because it shouldn't be. "I won't," he says, smirking (he can't help it), but he doesn't close the door until Eames is out of sight, down the four flights of stairs and into the sunlit street.
Eames has been there three days when the letter comes, and it's a testament to how fucking tired Arthur is that he can't even complain about the slowness of the mail. He still hasn't taken Eames to see his mother, and he looks worn bare, drawn.
They're staying at a hotel, which Eames thinks is strange, but Arthur is nothing if he's not full of unexpected quirks, so Eames just leaves that like everything else, and tries to keep an eye on Arthur.
Things get weird after five days. Arthur hasn't slept properly since Eames arrived, and for weeks before that if the state of his face is any indication, but Eames is moderately well-rested, so he's pretty sure he's not hallucinating.
It's early-ish, still, and Arthur is wearing the same black housecoat he's been in for two days, when there's a knocking at the window. The hotel is old, and the windows still open, and instead of drawing the blinds, Arthur opens it, and lets in an owl.
Eames is reaching for his totem, but the bird is gone, and Arthur has the newspaper in his hands, so maybe he was just seeing things.
"What time is it?" he asks. Arthur looks down at him in alarm.
"Not quite six," he says softly. "Go back to sleep, Eames."
Eames does, and when he wakes, there's no sign of the paper.
Around midday, Arthur leaves to buy food. He goes out in the housecoat, and returns with sandwiches wrapped in paper. They're delicious, but it's so startling. Eames has never seen Arthur wear a teeshirt--the idea of him wandering around town in his pajamas is ludicrous. He says so.
Arthur wrinkles his nose. "There's nothing wrong with my robes," he says, and Eames chalks it up to stress.
There are things like that--small things, little incongruities and mishaps--for two days. Arthur continues to wear his housecoat, his "robes," everywhere, and Eames dreams about Arthur taking the paper from an owl once more. He catches Arthur murmuring nonsense a few times, and, inexplicably, finds that there is a window in the bathroom, when he could've sworn there wasn't when they first got the room.
None of it prepares him for Monday.
Their suite has a fireplace, of course, in the middle of a nice, wood-floored parlor, decorated with antique furniture. The mantle is covered in what appear to be ornamental candle snuffers. It's visible through a doorway from the bed, which Arthur and Eames have been sharing.
Eames wakes up on Monday to find the fireplace blazing, and Arthur with his head stuck in it. He checks, very quickly, to see if he's dreaming, but he's not, of course he's not. "Arthur," he yells, launching himself out of bed. He's tugging on Arthur's shoulder, insistent, when he notices that Arthur is not getting burned.
That is, approximately, when he passes out.
Arthur revives him somehow, though Eames suspects he's done it with the stick--wand?--in his hand. He looks all the more tired now, and tells Eames in a very soft, defeated voice, that they can go visit his mother later today if Eames promises not to freak out.
"Arthur," he says. "You, fire, I." He clears his throat and tries again. "What?"
"Eames," he says. "I'm a wizard."
Eames considers this for as long as he thinks Arthur will let him. He compares the knowledge that Arthur is magic with his concept of Arthur--lean, muscled, competent Arthur. Angry Arthur and emotionally constipated Arthur. Classy dresser Arthur, scarily well informed Arthur, inhumanly efficient Arthur. Arthur, whose subconscious is all subdued businesspeople, even if the dream is a club, even if the dream is Hell.
"Eames?" Arthur tries. He sounds apprehensive, like he's three steps away from shutting down, and Eames looks him in the eyes, because if Arthur didn't look so bloody tired, Eames would think this was an elaborate joke.
Then again, he did have his head in the fire.
"Okay," Eames says, and he feels heartened when Arthur manages a little smile.
The reason they couldn't go see her before is that she is apparently not at hospice, which is really the least of Arthur's lies. The wizard hospital is strange and loud and if Eames is cutting off Arthur's circulation at the elbow, he's being gracious enough not to mention it.
There's a lady with an extra set of arms in the ward with Arthur's mom, as well as a young girl who regularly emits streams of bubbles from her ears. Eames watches them with horrible fascination while Arthur whispers to his mother, and tries not to think of anything at all.
Arthur's mother is a lovely woman. She's energetic and a strangely iridescent purple color, which the doctor ("Healer," Arthur corrects.) says is a symptom of the disease.
"It's not spattergoit?" Arthur asks, looking nervous. "You said it was still possible."
The healer eyes him with pity. "As soon as she started shining this morning, we had to rule that out," he says. "Look, Mr.--"
"Arthur," Arthur says.
"Mr. Arthur," the healer repeats. "We don't know how she managed to contract this, but we're doing everything we can to make her better. We don't know what it is, but she seems to be in good health otherwise."
"Other than the fact that she's hiccuping blood and turning purple?" Arthur growls. The healer gives him a placating smile.
"Yes, exactly," he says. "There are nurses on patrol if you need anything. And visiting hours end at seven PM." He waves to Eames with his clipboard, and then backs out of the room.
Arthur's mother gives him a significant look before she turns to Eames. "He always does that," she says, voice conspiratorially low.
"What?" Eames says.
"Talks to the healers like I'm not here, like I've already kicked it," she whispers. "It's annoying and rude, don't you think?" She raises her voice momentarily and gives Eames a terrifyingly sharp smile.
"Yes," he agrees. "Definitely."
"So," she says. She looks him up and down, and Eames looks to Arthur for help. Arthur raises an eyebrow at him, but moves his hand to the small of Eames' back. Arthur's mother watches the movement with equally sharp eyes. "You're the lucky man, are you?" she asks.
Eames looks to Arthur, who looks away, but he can see the smile pulling at Arthur's dimples, and he's rewarded with pressure on his back when he tells Arthur's mother, gleefully, "Well, yes, I suppose I am."
They stay up late that night, talking. Eames asks about Arthur's childhood, about his education, and about his connection to the "wizarding world" now, and he listens and tries to grasp it as more than a complicated hoax when Arthur describes his school ("No, Eames," he'd said, "I did not go to Hogwarts."
"But it exists?" Eames had asked, hoarse. "It really exists?"
"Yes," Arthur had said, smiling. "It does. And so does Harry Potter, so don't ask.")
They talk until they can't anymore, and instead of Eames going to bed and leaving Arthur perched on the couch which is their usual routine, Arthur joins him in the bed, pushing in close and brushing half-kisses along Eames' neck. They're both too tired to make it into anything else, but the sentiment is nice.
Eames falls asleep thinking that today has been weird. He thinks, it can only get weirder, and he thinks, this is Arthur, so it's okay.
He would be confused, upon waking, about why he couldn't remember Monday, but he doesn't remember what happened, and it doesn't seem important, so when Arthur tells him that his mom has gotten better, and he can go, and he'll see him around, doing jobs, very soon, Eames notes that a) Arthur is wearing real clothes, b) he looks better rested, and c) there's nothing really fishy about any of it.
So he leaves.
Arthur is very, very aware that he's an idiot, but he's not an idiot who takes unnecessary risks, so he endures his mom yelling at him that he's let a good one go, and when he stops going to visit her, he puts up wards so her howlers can't get through.
He starts taking jobs again once the healers figure out what's wrong with his mom, and Eames nearly gives him a heart attack when he asks if she's doing better, but then he mentions hospice, and Arthur is reassured that his memory charms are fucking impeccable.
Eames looks disconcerted at the distance Arthur puts between them, and Cobb gives him a searching look, but Arthur shrugs at Dom and keeps the distance from Eames, and he tells himself it's for the best.
He's not sure he believes it, but it's all he's got, and if he keeps saying it, maybe one day it'll be true.