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03 October 2010 @ 11:11 pm
inception fic: plate tectonics (1/1)  
Plate Tectonics
Inception: Arthur/Eames
Rating: PG
5,637 words
Arthur is forced to move in with Eames. The world moves.
Unbeta'ed: Sorry! All mistakes are mine. I just had to get something out.


Arthur is the worst roommate in the entire world. "This is a fact," Eames declares.

"Opinion," Arthur says, "unless you can prove your awareness of every living situation on our seven continents."

"You silly fuck," Eames says.

"This degenerated quickly," Yusuf opines.

****

Arthur had shown up at Eames' flat in Mombasa, with a bag slung over his shoulder.

"Jesus," Eames said. "Even your carry-all is poncy."

"You really like it?" Arthur asked and brushed past Eames on his way inside.

Eames closed the door behind Arthur, turned and crossed his arms. "It must be an awfully tight scrape for you to lower yourself to staying at my humble abode."

Arthur had already shrugged off his jacket, and was booting up Eames' laptop. "One of my many enemies is after me. It's nice that this one's putting the energy into making a passable attempt on my life. Keeps me on my toes." The words flippant, but Arthur is wound as tight as Eames has ever seen him.

"You can stay here for one week," Eames said. He held up a finger. "One."

"Seven days will be more than enough to clear this up." He squinted at the screen, nodded in Eames' general direction. "Thank you kindly."

****

"How long has it been?" Eames asks Yusuf.

"17 days." Yusuf pours a cup of tea, blows on it a bit before passing it over to Eames.

Eames groans, swallows half the cup, heat searing his throat on its way down.

"Is it such a horror?" Yusuf asks.

"He doesn't shower nearly as often as you might have guessed," Eames says viciously.

****

The truth is, Eames hasn't lived with another person since he skipped out on boarding school. He enjoys his personal space. A man's home should be sacred, a place of freewheeling selfhood. It would be difficult to adjust to just about anybody moving in with him, really. On this particular matter, he is set in his ways to the point of calcification.

Arthur has taken over Eames' living room. He has schematics strung across the back of the couch, a whiteboard mysteriously procured that stands in front of the TV set with surveillance photos held up by magnets. By the fifth day, Eames refuses to navigate the mess gingerly and barrels through, piles of paper be damned. It's a matter of principle, and if it gets Arthur to move out more quickly, well, masha'Allah.

Instead, what happens is that Arthur becomes neater. He slides the whiteboard underneath the couch in the evenings, produces crates in which he stacks folders and pushes them up against the wall. He takes down his schematics every evening and only re-hangs them when Eames has finished banging about the place. It almost makes Eames feel guilty for his silent seething.

"Thank you," he says to Arthur one morning over coffee.

Arthur grimaces. "This is taking me longer than I thought. I should find another place to stay."

Eames tries not to seem too eager. "I know a good hotel."

****

Arthur's hotel room gets shot up within the day. Eames shows up to take a look, strolls past the shattered windows, examines the crater in the wall where the sniper's round had erupted into many, very sharp fragments.

"Jesus Christ," Eames says, curiosity refusing to be dispelled now. "What did you do?"

Arthur is collecting the shells from his own weapon, carefully dropping them into a plastic bag. "Look," he says, frustrated, "is it my fault that the country collapsed so totally? You ask for destabilization, and destabilization is what I deliver."

Eames surveys the ruined room. The air still clearing from the several tear bombs involved in the attack. "This doesn't feel like revenge of the professional kind. This feels personal, dear heart."

Arthur stands, cracks his back. The wound on his shoulder is clotting, oozing dark. "Seduction is a tool," he says smoothly. He seals the Ziploc bag, shakes the many casings. "Fuck," he says, wearied.

****

Arthur moves back in with Eames. His passport has been flagged and Eames agrees that there's no point in running. Better to hunker down in a safe place and get a sense of how long this particular tempest will roil.

Eames briefly considers foisting Arthur off on Yusuf, but Yusuf has been a good and kind friend. Besides, Eames and Arthur are forming a sort of rapport.

Eames has a job of his own that he's working, tailing a poacher who's exporting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of ivory and rhinoceros horn, but perhaps it isn't of the most vital importance. There are pachyderms at stake, true, but Arthur's life is of some value, too, Eames is sure. He sips his tea, staring at Arthur's suspect board in the morning. For a fairly lethal man, he has one too many living enemies.

He waits until Arthur stirs on the couch, blinks awake. He gestures at the board with his mug, says, "Want help with all this?"

Arthur sits up and runs two hands through his hair. He grunts.

"Speak up, Arthur."

Arthur glares up at Eames. "I'll manage," he says. Then, sighing: "I'll come to you when I hit a wall."

"My breath is bated," Eames says.

****

Eames comes home late one night that week, near four, but Arthur is still awake. He's all askew, stripped down to his undershirt and slacks, barefoot, ink on his lip from the pen he's gnawing down to a nub.

"You're a vision," Eames says. He can't help it.

"Fuck," Arthur says. "Fuck this fucking shit to hell." He pulls a hand over his face.

"Amen," Eames says.

"This is embarrassing." Arthur has his hands on his hips.

"You know," Eames says, stripping the linen shirt off his back as he heads to his bedroom, "I begin to wonder whether this is all an elaborate ploy for you to bask in my admittedly charming presence."

"Yes," Arthur calls after him. "Because it's long been my dream to cohabitate with a man who subsists on a diet of cigarettes and meat pies."

"Ha," Eames says. "I see into the dark recesses of your heart."

****

Yusuf brings a meal over the next evening. He's a more than fair cook, an extension, Eames likes to think, of his background in chemistry.

Arthur tucks in, ravenous, and Eames nods in emphatic agreement with the stew currently in his mouth. He agrees with every delicious point it's making.

"Yusuf," Arthur says. "Let me kiss you on the mouth."

"Are you sure you want to do that, Arthur?" Eames asks. "Isn't that sort of behavior part of what got you into this mess in the first place?"

"Yes, Arthur," Yusuf says. "Heed Eames' advice about self-control and learning from one's mistakes. In these things, he is just spectacularly well-versed."

"Fuck off," Eames says.

"Yusuf, really," Arthur says. He wipes sauce from his chin. "We should be much better friends, I think."

"I fear you may require even more upkeep than the friend I already have," Yusuf says.

"You can afford to have more than one friend," Eames points out.

Yusuf fixes him with an appraising gaze. "Can I?" he asks.

****

Eames is thankful that his flat is, at least, large. He's been at home for the past several days, painting a duplicate of a Chagall that has long been locked away by private collectors. He could steal the real thing, he supposes, but this client isn't paying him enough for that. He'll get a lovely forgery, though.

Arthur is pacing the finish off of Eames' wooden floors, but he's doing it two rooms away. Eames makes sure to close the door and finishes the painting with time to spare. He's kicked open the door and propped up the windows to air out the room and is carefully transferring a partial print onto the frame when Arthur coughs behind him.

Eames pulls the cellophane away easily, then looks back at Arthur. "Yes?"

Arthur leans against the door jamb, hands in his pockets. "Nothing. It looks nice. You're talented."

"I was expecting something more along the lines of constructive criticism," Eames says. "A note that the colors are too dull, or that my line work is a millimeter too thick."

Arthur shrugs. "You're the expert in this field. Why should I presume to know better?"

"It's your job to know more than anyone."

Arthur smiles. "No," he says, looking down at the floor. "It's my job to know what will keep me one step ahead. And even that sometimes I can't do."

Eames stares. "Will wonders never cease," he says.

****

"I think Arthur's decided to take a break," Eames tells Yusuf. He's babysitting the sleepers in Yusuf's backroom, Yusuf's usual decrepit keeper at the dentist.

"What do you mean he's taking a break?" Yusuf asks. He checks the fluid levels of a new client, a man extremely large.

"Exactly what I said. He hasn't set up his ridiculous whiteboard in days. He spent most of yesterday fixing the sink. He told me to ask you to show him how to make nyama choma and ugali. He's taking a break."

Yusuf nods, distracted. "I think this man is using recreational drugs," he announces. "His body is not reacting at all appropriately."

"Should we wake him up?" Eames asks.

"No, I don't think he'll die. Let's see what happens." He takes off his glasses, rubs at the bridge of his nose. "So, Arthur. Will he go back to work, then?"

"Too much to risk taking on a job in the midst of all the sudden color in his life, I think. But who knows? Maybe if he lies low for long enough, his jilted lover will lose interest."

Yusuf rests his hands on the stomach of the man in front of him. "And you think this is a good idea?"

"It's not a bad idea."

"And so he will be living with you indefinitely?" Yusuf looks very skeptical.

"I'll give him three months. And of course he'll pay rent."

"Of course," Yusuf says. "I wonder how long it will be that your detente lasts. Could it be a permanent peace?"

Eames leans back in his chair. "I live in hope," he says.

****

Arthur has time on his hands, but he is also exceptional at finding things to occupy that time, a product of his vast and varied interests. He's made it clear that he is grateful for the sanctuary Eames is providing and does his best to stay out of Eames' hair, especially when Eames is consumed by the delicate art of crafting master dies for American currency, an engraving he is two days late delivering.

Eames throws up his hands around seven, goes out to the restaurant around the corner. Arthur is sitting in the back, feet up on the chair across from him, sitting under a flickering light bulb in a short-sleeved shirt, lightweight pants. He looks admirably native. He also has food on his table.

Eames sits across from him, pushing at Arthur's feet, steals a spoon and dives in. He hasn't eaten since this morning.

"By all means," Arthur drawls.

"Apologies," Eames says. He signals for the waiter, but Arthur pushes his dish closer to Eames.

"No, it's fine. I ordered too much." He picks the newspaper up from where it sits at his side, snaps it open, and folds it neatly by columns. He reads for a little while, letting Eames eat, then asks casually, "Can I offer some advice?"

"I long for it," Eames says.

"Get your dies to your client tomorrow if you want to get paid. The mint's going to announce a redesign on the hundred dollar bill on Friday."

Eames wipes his mouth with a napkin. "Sources say."

Arthur smiles at his paper. "Sources say."

****

Eames gifts Arthur with a present.

"You bought me a cot," Arthur says. His face carefully blank.

"It has to be better for your back than the sofa. I don't even remember how I acquired that sorry piece of furniture."

"Hm," Arthur says. "Thank you." He sits on it, testing the spring, then lies down. His feet hang off the edge.

Eames purses his lips at that. An unanticipated flaw in an otherwise successful display of the depths of his consideration.

Arthur smirks.

"Comfortable?" Eames asks.

"Extremely," Arthur says. He's trying not to laugh. "The height of luxury, Eames. You spoil me."

"Your feet should dangle, actually. It's good for the circulation."

"Oh, I'm aware," Arthur says. "I don't have enough superlatives to accurately sum up my feelings for this cot."

"And to think you thought me boorish once," Eames says, shaking his head.

****

They live, still, distinct lives. Arthur begins his inquiries again and finds some of his accounts frozen, many of his contacts blackmailed or simply paid to keep silent in response to Arthur's probes. It's not debilitating, exactly, and vastly preferable to surprise firefights, but it's enough to be obnoxious. "I don't think I have to stay in Mombasa," Arthur says. "It doesn't make sense that your apartment is somehow particularly mystifying to anyone they'd hire to come after me."

"No," Eames says. "I'd avoid any of your own homes, though. And the hotels you typically frequent."

"Right," Arthur says. He's shaving over the kitchen sink, bare to the waist, while Eames takes apart a broken pocket watch at the table. "I'll look for a place available for sublet. In Chicago, I think. I haven't been to the U.S. in a long time."

Eames chews on his lip as he pries at a tiny, wedged spring. "Just leave a note when you go, love. I worry."

****

Eames gets called out to Harbin for a job. "I dread the ice," he tells Arthur. "The only reason I left England was because of the cold."

"I'm excited to have the place to myself," Arthur replies.

Eames clicks his tongue. "No parties. I like my flat as-is."

"Yes, there is a pure and Spartan sophistication to it." Arthur looks around the place, making a show of taking it all in. "Maybe I'll invite Yusuf over. Have a few boys' nights out."

"Stop trying to steal Yusuf from me," Eames says. "It's painfully unsporting and you'll only embarrass yourself in the end."

"Should we lay a bet?" Arthur asks.

****

In Harbin, Eames follows a Russian bureaucrat around, notching the details of the man's monotonous routine on his belt. One Wednesday night, Mr. Solovyov picks up his petite mistress as always, but instead of taking her for sukiyaki, he has them driven to the ice sculptures set up along the river, massive constructions of frozen water that glow against the black night sky in a Technicolor display.

It's garish, almost, in pink and green and blue, but there's something to be said for that kind of blatancy. The ostentatious trumpeting of beauty. Mr. Solovyov holds his mistress' hand; he settles her fur-lined hat lower on her head to keep her ears warm. They wander through castles and pagodas, quiet under the watchful eyes of gods, of snow-formed goddesses. She kisses him tenderly in a rare bit of shadow, there, under a sphinx.

People can surprise you, Eames remembers. Small sparks of romance, of pathos in even the most humdrum of lives.

They leave, eventually, but Eames doesn't follow. He stays at his perch, watching the sun rise, the colored spotlights clunk off, transparent monuments of ice transforming the dawn into a refracting, uncageable light.

****

Once, early on, Arthur had said to him, "Do you ever think that what we do is wasteful?"

"How so?"

"I don't know." Arthur stared, hard, at the scene below them, the both of them standing at the tip of a cliff. "We could do beautiful things in these dreams. Something really...breath-taking, instead of this."

Eames tore his gaze from the explosions, the unfurling of smoke and fire below. He could see militarized projections rushing toward them over razed ground. "We'll have to indulge this dewy-eyed streak of yours later, Arthur," Eames clipped out. He dreamed up a flamethrower. "I need you on your game, please."

Arthur had snapped to attention. His face going smoothly planed. "Of course," he said, then grabbed Eames high up on his arm and kicked off the ground, taking them both plummeting toward the earth; the last thing Eames sees, Arthur's teeth, gritted tight.

****

Yusuf picks Eames up at Moi International. He's wearing a black hat of some sort, which Eames assumes is supposed to be an attempt at a chauffeur’s cap, and is holding up an emphatically unflattering photo of Eames, in which he is both drunk and armed.

"Hilarious," Eames says, snatching the photo from Yusuf's grasp.

"I thought so," Yusuf says smugly.

He reaches for Eames' bag, but Eames slaps his hand away irritably. "Enough with the pantomime, I didn't sleep a wink on the flight."

Yusuf shrugs, doffs the cap and tucks it under his arm. "Do you still want me to drive, or would you rather?" he asks once they arrive at the car.

"You do," Eames says, throwing his bag into the back, then settling into the passenger's seat. Once they're on the road, he asks, fiddling with the radio, "So is Arthur gone?"

"No," Yusuf says. "Did you want him to be?"

"I had dared to imagine the possibility," Eames says, blithe.

Yusuf shrugs. "I think you might be stuck with him for a while longer yet." He cuts a glance over to Eames, slumped in his seat. "He checked into another hotel, caught a beating in the stairwell a few nights ago."

Eames sits up. "How bad a beating?" he asks.

Yusuf brakes for a stoplight. "It's Arthur," he says, infuriatingly oblique.

****

Arthur is mostly fine. He has a few bruised ribs, two sprained toes, a split lip and dark, yellowing blossoms under the skin over his cheekbone, along his sides and thigh. The kind of pummeling he's been trained to take.

Eames checks the stitches Yusuf had run, tightens the bandages around Arthur's chest, takes a satisfaction in hearing Arthur hiss when he pulls. When he's done, he asks, "Did you shoot them?"

Arthur huffs. "Contrary to popular belief, I don't constantly carry around a firearm." He touches lightly at his lip, freshly bleeding again where he'd bitten it. "I knifed them," he says, enunciating, eyes carefully blank.

****

Arthur wants to spar, in the weeks following. When he asks the first time, Eames rolls his eyes and digs his fingers into the massive bruise on Arthur's right thigh, smirks when Arthur shouts, leg collapsing under him. Eames finishes off his piece of chapati, sucks a crumb off his thumb, then pats Arthur's shoulder reassuringly as he walks off.

The second time, Eames goes for Arthur's ribs, but Arthur grabs Eames' wrist, pushes Eames' hand backward--as if he's trying to make it touch Eames' forearm--and drives Eames to the ground. He has a foot planted in Eames' crotch, ready to slam down then asks, politely, for a proper sparring session.

So now they fight regularly. Eames uses every advantage--out of habit, really, an ingrained tactic when taking on an opponent that might outclass you--and abuses Arthur's injuries, steps heavy on the toes he knows are only just recovering. It's not spite; more a reminder to Arthur that he's human, really.

Yusuf watches a few times, when he arrives early for their card game, full of helpful hints for Arthur about Eames' weaknesses. His reattached Achilles. The bullet wound that still aches over his liver.

"Thank you, Yusuf," Arthur says smugly, his knee at the back of Eames' neck.

"It's a sad thing when a friend betrays you," Eames huffs out.

"What can I say?" says Yusuf. "I am all for the underdog."

****

"Right then," Eames says, walking out into the living room in his boxers, "this has gone on long enough."

Arthur's brushing his teeth over the kitchen sink. He spits. "What has?"

Eames crashes onto the couch, tosses the pillow there onto the cot behind him. He tugs a crate over, spreads dossiers across the coffee table. "You have to tell me what you did. This sort of retaliation...Arthur, I don't think you'll be able to wait them out."

Arthur sighs. He gargles water, pats at his mouth with a hand towel. His hair is growing, longer than Eames has ever seen it. "Eames," he says, already beginning a sidestep.

"Out with it, Arthur. Fucking hell. At this point, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that you married this mark's target."

Arthur's mouth tightens, almost imperceptibly.

Eames raises his eyebrows, studying Arthur. "Arthur--"

"Affianced," Arthur says, quickly. Like he was always going to tell of his own free will. "And not to the target. His daughter."

Eames can only laugh. "You are a font of newly discovered delights," he says.

Arthur groans. He rubs at his eyes, and says, quietly, "Don't, Eames. It wasn't--I'm not proud of it. She was a good person, who didn't deserve to have me dick around with her life because her father happened to be in a position of power."

Eames takes him in. The guilt staining his face. "We do shameful things with every job. Why does this bother you so much?"

Arthur laughs, then. "I don't know," he says. He leans back against the kitchen table. "Because she made sure I knew, how I'd hurt her."

****

Eames makes Arthur go over his exit strategies for this particular dilemma many times over. It turns out that Arthur has known exactly who was after him from the start, but that he investigated the threat as thoroughly as he knew how from the beginning anyway.

"A waste of time," Eames declares.

"You have to practice thoroughness," Arthur says calmly. "It doesn't come naturally. But I've made decisions before without realizing the extent of the consequences. Seeing everywhere the path branches comes with time and effort."

"All that self-satisfaction must weigh heavy on your brow," Eames says.

"Oh, good," Arthur says. "Our sparkling work relationship has remained unsullied by our living arrangement."

****

They spend several nights discussing everything from borrowing from the wit-sec program ("I'm not changing my name to Mortimer, no matter how suited you think it is.") to Eames' favored and tried-and-true strategy: throw a bomb, blow it up.

Finally, Arthur scrubs his hands over his face and says, "Look, I appreciate your help, but I need you to get the fuck out of here for a little bit. What did you used to do with your nights off before I dragged you into my shit? Go do that."

Eames' level of frustration is running high, to the point where he would throttle Arthur's stubborn neck if he refused to take any kind of serious action one more time. He shoves away from Arthur and pulls a clean shirt from the closet, heads out to a hotel bar he's patroned before.

Mhairi is visiting Africa for the first time and finds Kenya beautiful. She is long-legged and red-haired. He smiles at her, and she trails her fingers over the edges of the tattoos that are visible. When she asks him what they mean, he spins stories--that this one he'd gotten with his mates after crushing at a rugby tournament, the other while serving with the VSO in Laos. This little one, there, he'd had done by a man here in Kenya, with the black of charcoal.

She agrees to walk back to his flat with him and kisses him, sweet, at his door. He pushes it open quietly, does a quick scan, and Mhairi tiptoes, looks over his shoulder and spies the cot, Arthur's bare feet hanging off the edge.

"Who is that?" she asks.

"A friend," Eames says, and takes her to bed.

****

In the morning, Eames wakes up naked. There's a looseness to his bones he hasn't felt in a while, right up until he hears laughing from outside his bedroom, and realizes Mhairi isn't in the bathroom as he'd assumed. He wraps his comforter around himself before investigating. He has a feeling he'll want to be armored.

He finds Mhairi sitting at the kitchen table, laughing at something Arthur's said, and Arthur is grinning at her, so big he's dimpling. He's attempted what look like pancakes, and Eames watches as Mhairi spoons preserves onto her short stack, then onto Arthur's.

Arthur is wearing a worn t-shirt rather than going bare-chested as he normally does in the mornings. Out of a misguided sense of propriety, Eames is sure, but it feels strange to see him covered up, paradoxically more stripped down thus than he ever was with the show of skin.

"Good morning," Eames says, needing, suddenly, to be a part of their conversation.

"Good morning," Mhairi says. "Your friend is lovely."

"Did you hear that?" Arthur asks, still smiling. He doesn't shy from Eames' gaze.

****

Eames isn't working now, turning down every job offered to him. It's a boring set of clients, he tells Yusuf. A stretch of unimaginative job after unimaginative job.

He's home at all hours of the day. He discovers that Arthur works out at two o'clock in the afternoon every day. When the flat is at its hottest. He's set up a make-shift pull-up bar in the doorway leading into the bathroom, his back flexing muscles that fly out, like wings should be attached there, and dripping with sweat.

He'd have had to be blind not to know that Arthur is attractive. It's a fairly objective observation. He'd have to be a fool, now, not to know that he is, for the first time, sincerely interested.

****

Eames has had relationships in the past. People, who had shaped the unformed clay that was his heart, pressed it into its current form. Kaya, who had sunk her teeth into him, who had cried, a little, when they lost their virginity together, whose even row of very white teeth he had loved to trace with his tongue.

Kento, who had pulled little pieces from him to roll between his fingers. Who let Eames use him in the end.

Sarah, after that, and then a few others. And with every year, he settles more into his chosen form. A little less malleable, despite his talents in the dreamscape.

Eames watches Arthur carefully, now. On his toes, now that he knows the magnitude of the threat.

****

Arthur, on Saturday, comes back from the market with food to overflowing. A veritable cornucopia. "Hey," he says to Eames, who is twisting a paperclip into a makeshift tension wrench. "I'm going to make dinner."

"Should I ring Yusuf?" Eames asks.

"Sure," Arthur says. "And get off my cot."

Eames lies back into the pillow, bracing his feet on the back of the couch. "My cot, technically."

Arthur ignores him, empties his bags. Tosses a cabbage between his hands, sends it spinning toward the ceiling as he surveys his bounty. That bruise over his cheek has yet to fade. Eames could press his thumb into it. Watch the skin blanch, then flush when he lifts, the blood rushing in.

****

Yusuf is late, and by the time he rushes in, the table has been set, the flat flooded with the smell of good food.

"I'm sorry," Yusuf says, "I had a request for extra time in the dream and I couldn't turn the man down. He was extremely eloquent."

"It's fine," Arthur says. "You're here for the part that matters."

Yusuf surveys the table. Arthur carving the leg of lamb. "Jesus," Yusuf says, turning to Eames, "You should have told me this was a goodbye dinner."

Eames shrugs. "Is that what this is?" he asks, spreading his napkin over his lap.

****

On the drive over to the airport the next morning, Arthur says, "I found her, you know. They'd done a good job of hiding her away, but I'm close to sure I know where she is. I think I can end this. Make it right. So it's not just the last in a long line of regrets."

"You should take someone with you. I can still get a seat on your flight. You can have Cobb meet you there, I know."

Arthur shakes his head. "I can mop up my own messes."

"I have evidence to the contrary," Eames says. They're close, now. Eames can see the runways, jets taxi-ing. He rolls down a window. "What is it about this job? You're a career criminal."

Arthur laughs at that.

"Did you fall in love?" Eames asks, finally.

Arthur undoes his tie. "No," he says, shoving the silk into his pocket. "But I remembered I could."

****

Arthur has a little time before his flight. They walk through the terminal and Eames strides past security, all the confidence in the world.

"I can see why you chose Kenya," Arthur says, his hands in his pockets. His collar open a couple buttons down at the neck. The both of them looking out a long, floor-to-ceiling window at the planes, earthbound.

Eames shrugs. "I'm not married to it. Mombasa has been good enough for a long while."

Arthur nods. "There's some of it in you, I think. The heat. A little of the ease."

"It's not an easy place, really."

Arthur smiles. "It has been for me."

Eames crosses his arms. Looks down at them, the skin bronzed from many months in the sun.

"I think it's beautiful here," Arthur says, and it's quiet, words whose wake is strong enough to crush the heart in Eames' chest, a ball molded inside Arthur's fist.

****

When the plane starts boarding, Arthur says, "Thank you."

"Fuck yes, you should thank me," Eames says.

Arthur laughs. "You didn't have to wait with me for this long, you know. It probably says something that you did."

"You can't pin it down any neater than that?" Eames asks.

"When I have time I will," Arthur says, a promise.

Arthur hefts his stupid bag. Hand-crafted leather, Eames knows now. Stitched together by monks in the north of Nepal, from the hides of cows they'd raised from calfdom, no doubt.

"Look, I feel more than a handshake's deserved at this point," Arthur says, then hugs Eames awkwardly, pats him firmly on the back twice. He laughs at the stiffness of it, then nods at the plane. "I have to go."

Eames wants to say more, but he's always known the importance of timing. He watches Arthur go. "Arthur," he calls. The name unbidden, rising from his lips.

****

Eames' life is changed. It's not dramatic, but the space in his flat seems to be infinite. He folds the cot up and stands it against the wall. Arthur didn't leave a thing he needed behind; Eames' living room is his again.

Maybe he'll leave for a little while. There's a job in Sydney that's more than routine, an extractor with a flash of brilliance.

He spends an especially hot day with Yusuf, in the back room of his pharmacy, all these people dreaming. Their faces serene, lips tipped down at the corners. There are a few who have been sleeping for almost two days now and Yusuf dons rubber gloves, slips ice chips over chapping lips.

Fans are whirring, and Eames says, in the dry cool of the room, "You've got to be richer than Croesus."

Yusuf smiles at that, bats the swinging chain from a light bulb out of his way. "I get by," he says.

"Is this satisfying to you?" Eames asks. "Where's the joy in acting as steward over these bodies?"

Yusuf stands straight. He taps the readout of a PASIV. "This man," he says, "pays me what he can. He is the child of a third-class citizen in a third-world country, who worked to arrive at his station, driving goods from the port here in Mombasa to towns across Kenya. A good living, and a good man." He slides ice across the man's lips. "But sometimes he likes to dream. What the world would be if he had been luckier and born to a more prosperous land. He strives to change even those circumstances. In sleeping, he grapples with the world."

Eames surveys the stillness of the men and women sleeping here. The hidden activity. "And all of them, their stories are so noble?"

Yusuf spreads his hands. "A matter of perspective." He rests his hand on the chest of the man in front of him. "But his story. His I like."

****

Eames gets a text message from Arthur.

alive and in bolivia. copacetic.

Out of character, somehow, in so few words. A change.

Then another:

meet me here.

****

In Bolivia, they go out to the salt flats. They park the car on the road, a couple miles outside of their destination and hike the rest of the way.

They both gasp for breath in the altitude. Arthur's stride never breaking. When they break into and upon the salt flats, there is nothing but an expanse, white and blue and glassy, like the world would shatter at the touch.

Eames watches Arthur drink it in. The distance distorted by how vast an unbroken meeting of firmament and earth.

"This used to be a lake," Arthur finally says. "Lifetimes ago."

Eames nods. Eames waits for Arthur to turn around, to look at him from where he stands, suspended in nothing but blue sky, cloud reflected in the film of water across the plane of crystallized salt.

"What I mean to say is things can change." Arthur looks at him, grinning. "Paths I chose long ago, I can still leave."

Eames opens his arms.

Arthur steps close. "What I mean to say is that I can still make my life what I want it to be."

In the circle of Eames' arms. The warmth of him exhilaratingly unfamiliar. We can have even this, Eames thinks, and says, "Then kiss me," ready again to be made new.
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The Companion the Doctor never Talks Aboutwirrrn on October 4th, 2010 07:08 am (UTC)

This is brilliant. Love the descriptions of the landscape, Arthur and Eames banter, even as they pirouette around their attraction, and Yusef. Plus they're stopping the ivory/rhinoceros horn trade. Go team!!

On this particular matter, he is set in his ways to the point of calcification

-Loved that line. Witty and clever both!
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
Haha, go anti-poaching team for sure! I'm so glad you enjoyed this, and that you liked that line! I think even Eames probably has some long-held habits. Why not.

Thank you for your kindness!
Bess Farrismeewunk on October 4th, 2010 07:20 am (UTC)
Oh <3
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 05:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! <3
theeverdreamtheeverdream on October 4th, 2010 07:29 am (UTC)
This is brilliantly beautiful. Not only is the story itself engaging and lovely but the way it's written just blows my mind. Like every word was chosen because it was the absolute best, and combined with the words around them would form a weapon, sharp and cutting and perfect.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 05:53 pm (UTC)
Oh, man. That is super generous of you. I'm so, so happy that this worked for you and that the word choices worked so effectively and specifically--I am pleased as punch--it's all I could hope for!

Thank you so much.
Bunnie: bad bromancedumbimps on October 4th, 2010 07:57 am (UTC)
Oh, I really liked this ♥ I love the last bit with Yusuf and I like that Arthur has some regrets. And Eames, oh ♥
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 05:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! I like that last bit with Yusuf a lot, too. Yusuf! He creeps up on you. I'm so glad you enjoyed Arthur and Eames, too. ♥
Raph: JGL: <3chrisrichfan on October 4th, 2010 08:00 am (UTC)
Love love love love! I especially love how you set the whole fic mostly in Kenya, so everything is hot and vibrant and lively. :)

"Eames refuses to navigate the mess gingerly and barrels through, piles of paper be damned. It's a matter of principle, and if it gets Arthur to move out more quickly, well, masha'Allah."
I laughed hard at this line. XD Oh Eames!

I also love their 'fight' over BFF Yusuf! :D And the part about Arthur working out, hotdamn.

My favourite section would have to be where you described Eames and his past relationships, that was beautiful. And thank you for giving them a happy ending! And the unwritten kiss, that was just lovely.

<3
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked this! Thank you so much for your generous feedback. I'm glad you liked the setting in Kenya, and the section about Eames and his ex-loves. That was one of my favorite parts to write.

Thank you again!
winterweathered on October 4th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC)
SHE LIVES! Hi! Now I have to go see this movie just so that I can read this story.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:18 pm (UTC)
CAM. Hi!! Haha, I do live, but continue on to suck at LJ in general. I'm stoked to hear from you, though!! You should definitely watch this movie; it is a pretty good time! Also, Tom Hardy is a quickly-consuming obsession. Haha.
Solitaire and Xpyne: A&Esoliandxpyne on October 4th, 2010 08:27 am (UTC)
Oh, this was so very lovely. <3 Thanks so much for sharing this!
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you liked it! Thank you for reading it.
rennerenne on October 4th, 2010 08:31 am (UTC)
"I think it's beautiful here," Arthur says, and it's quiet, words whose wake is strong enough to crush the heart in Eames' chest, a ball molded inside Arthur's fist.

This is so so LOVELY. Ugh.

Also:

"Yusuf, really," Arthur says. He wipes sauce from his chin. "We should be much better friends, I think."

"I fear you may require even more upkeep than the friend I already have," Yusuf says.

"You can afford to have more than one friend," Eames points out.

Yusuf fixes him with an appraising gaze. "Can I?" he asks.


This made me actually laugh out loud.

Edited at 2010-10-04 08:32 am (UTC)
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
Haha, I'm so glad you liked this! I love that this version of Yusuf is a hit. Thank you for reading!
dannywinterlive on October 4th, 2010 08:34 am (UTC)
i love how perfectly centered they both are in themselves. lovely work. <3
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:54 pm (UTC)
Winterrrr! I like sharing fandoms with you. Let me follow you around for always. Haha, I'm so glad you liked this! <3
(no subject) - winterlive on October 7th, 2010 01:00 pm (UTC) (Expand)
zetaorizetaori on October 4th, 2010 08:45 am (UTC)
This is exceptional in the very best ways.

The way you describe their living arrangement, it really feels like a very long time with subtle changes. Truly amazing.

The goodbye dinner and the scene at the airport had me close to tears.
"I think it's beautiful here," Arthur says.
Here, have my heart. ♥

Fantastic work. I'm deeply impressed.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
Ah, I'm so glad that the pacing felt true, and that the change-over-time came through. Thank you so much for your kindness, I really appreciate it.
All you know about me is what I've sold yousoul_cake_duck on October 4th, 2010 09:09 am (UTC)
<3

This was beautiful.

Just - theres two small mistakes re: the food if you dont mind me pointing them out?
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:56 pm (UTC)
Oh man! I don't mind at all! Hahaha, thanks for going out of your way to help me, that's awesome! Just let me know when you can and I will hop on the corrections.

I'm so glad you liked this, though! Thank you.
(no subject) - soul_cake_duck on October 4th, 2010 10:42 pm (UTC) (Expand)
(no subject) - indysaur on October 4th, 2010 11:24 pm (UTC) (Expand)
shoppermania: I'll be your mirrorshoppermania on October 4th, 2010 09:29 am (UTC)
awww ♥ this was beautiful!
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:57 pm (UTC)
I'm so happy you thought so! Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 08:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much! Yusuf ♥ indeed, haha.
not_sallynot_sally on October 4th, 2010 09:42 am (UTC)
I haven't read more perfect guy-voices ever. Loved this.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, I'm so glad the voices worked for you. It is tricky coming from being in CWRPS fandom for so long! I keep wanting to write Texas drawls. Thank you for reading!
(Deleted comment)
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:00 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, Eames is excellent. I'm so glad you liked it! Thank you!
 ♔ リマ 。 kissしたままさよなら: h ate  ou ykirakostik on October 4th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
oh oh oh so perfect in every way. it's different than the norm. i adore this so much. it has subtle humor which did make me laugh out loud and brief emotions which speak volumes. i hope i got that part right lol.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:34 pm (UTC)
Haha, I totally get what you're saying! I'm so glad you liked this and that the emotions and humor spoke to you. Thank you so much!
True, for a given value of 'true': inception jgl white shirtjohanirae on October 4th, 2010 11:04 am (UTC)
Oh brilliant! This fic just makes me lol and awww all at once :D I especially love the brilliant banter you gave Arthur, Eames and Yusuf (great bonus points for Yusuf being a caretaker for his customers. I love this depth you gave to him.)
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad you liked Yusuf here! He was fun to write. Thank you so much for reading this; I'm really happy you enjoyed the banter!
Show me your jazz hands!: General: thursday_kat on October 4th, 2010 11:20 am (UTC)
Absolutely lovely story! I was smiling the entire time I read it - perfect voices, brilliant characterization, witty lines - all of it was fantastic. &hearts &hearts &hearts
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
Haha, I'm always stoked to put a smile on people's faces. Thank you so much!
kellifer_fic: JGLkellifer_fic on October 4th, 2010 11:26 am (UTC)
loved this!
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm so glad.
batmanboxers on October 4th, 2010 11:47 am (UTC)
Gorgeous!
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:38 pm (UTC)
I'm happy you thought so! Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
Haha, awesome, thank you so much for reading.
riotguns on October 4th, 2010 12:54 pm (UTC)
I adore this so much.
And I LOVE Yusuf in this fic.
The perfect blend of romance, action, and comedy.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:39 pm (UTC)
Yusuf. He is a hit! Haha, thank you so much, I'm glad the blend worked for you here!
orehime: Duo excitedorehime on October 4th, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
Love this! If only there were 2 of me, so I had time to read all the amazing Inception fic that must be around. WOE :(
But at least I managed to read this one so... YAY \o/
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:40 pm (UTC)
Hahaha, oh man, I ALWAYS want a duplicate that will allow me to read mas y mas Inception fic. All time best!

I'm glad you found the time for this one, too! Thank you!
Jencandesgirl on October 4th, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
This is so gorgeous. It's also so...them. It paints them pretty much as I'd suspect it would go, slowly falling in love after barely tolerating each other. It has such a natural flow to it, the story and your words, particularly. Really, really well done.
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
I'm so glad that the characterization worked here for you! I think that is tough for me in general, so it's nice to hear that it went pretty okay here. Thank you so much for your kind words, I really appreciate it.
clair3: THardyclair3 on October 4th, 2010 01:37 pm (UTC)
this is truly awesome!
indysaurindysaur on October 4th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
Haha, I'm glad you thought so! Thank you!