Eames regarded him carefully, took in every detail. “So why are you here?”
“I’m in love with you,” Arthur said simply. “I’ll take whatever you will give me.”
Eames felt the wind rush out of him, knocked out with the force of heartbreaking honesty. “I know what that feels like,” Eames said, head bowed, huffing out a laugh down his chest after all.
Arthur, for once, didn’t bother to put a mask on. He looked devastated, but determined. “If you’d let me live here, I wouldn’t be a bother,” he began.
Eames looked up at him, unbearable fondness crushing his lungs with the weight of it. “You’re an awful flatmate. You never cook, rarely do the washing, terribly cranky in the morning-“
“I’ll be better,” Arthur said, panic and desperation clawing their way out of Arthur’s throat, and Eames realized that Arthur was taking him seriously.
Eames crossed the room and took Arthur’s shaking hands into his own. “You don’t have to be anything but yourself, darling.” He smiled, leaning his face closer. “I never said it was too late.”
It’s a horrible idea, and Arthur can’t even tell himself it’s not. It’s really obviously a horrible idea. It’s so obviously a horrible idea, but when he gets the text from a throwaway cell, naming off a hole in the wall diner and a time, he slides a gun into his waistband and he goes.
He goes because it’s labeled “-e.”
Arthur doesn’t get very many texts from dead people.
He’s early, of course, because when you’re possibly going to be shot at any moment, you arrive a lot of places early. Surveillance to look for and such. He gets a booth, orders coffee and toast, and folds his hands in front of himself to wait.
Maybe he’s off his game. He doesn’t even hear the chimes of the front door when a familiar figure slides into the other side of the booth. The silence is long, deafening, all-encompassing, as they stare at each other. Eames actually dares to crack a smile, and Arthur sets his jaw and glares. Tries to fight back the urge to roll his eyes. Fails.
He’s gotten what he needed.
Arthur lifts a hand to catch the eye of the waitress, nodding and mouthing the words, “check, please.”
“Fuck, Arthur, aren’t you even glad to see me? We were nigh inseparable for a good while there. It’s been a long time. Haven’t you missed me?” Still with that playboy smile, the one Arthur wants to slap off his face, but he looks every inch a man who’s been run ragged for the last few years.
“Screw you, Eames. This isn’t a romance film. This is reality. You vanished. You left. That was two years ago, two years ago, and you expect to just elbow your way into my life like you were away visiting your family for the weekend, are you fucking kidding me?-”
“Arthur, I left to protect you.”
The following silence is broken by the waitress laying down the check, and Arthur functions on base instincts enough to smile and thank her, before his expression hardens again as he looks at his former partner.
“I left to protect you. I… wrecked a job, bad, they were coming for me- for you. They would’ve used you to get to me.” Arthur just lets out a hollow laugh, grabbing up his coat and moving to get out of the booth. Then, Eames’ hand circles around his wrist, gripping hard, halting any further movement from him. “Please. Just… coffee. Something. Please.”
Arthur yanks his hand away, keeping quiet, trying to prevent this from becoming a scene in a hole in the wall diner how cliche could we possibly get?! but he slowly settles back into the booth.
“Fine. One condition.”
“Arthur, I… anything. Anything.”
“You never make that decision for me again. Ever.”
[When Eames finds out that Arthur never went to his senior prom, he decides he needed to fix that via the PASIV.]