"He's Gone by Many Names"
"What if I said I wasn't from around here?"
"I would say, 'Of course you're not'."
"And I didn't mean England."
". . . Fine. I'll play. And how did you get here?"
"Well, I could show you if you'd like."
The job is finished and everyone lives. Cobb's a little dazed and Saito walks with a limp every so often, before he shoots up straight with the realization that his legs are healthy and strong, whatever his memory tells him, but everyone lives, really lives. Sane and "happy" and whole.
No one talks about how much of a surprise that is, but Eames doesn't blame them. He knows better than anyone that sometimes you just take the blessing and run.
Yet, he doesn't. Run, anyway. He's got his things, what little can fall under that category, but he waits, as Arthur plucks his bag off the conveyor belt and asks, "So, where's next?"
Eames just cocks a smile. He does know, for once. "London. It's been—"
And then, he hears it.
A boom. Then a roar or a whirr, something in between, weak at first like it's fighting to be heard and then pounding in his ears.
No. He can't be hearing this. Shouldn't be able, he felt it die himself, felt flames burn at his core and wires spark trying to save itself—but he does. He's madder than the maddest of men but he's not insane and he's not imagining things.
And as he turns he sees it, he does, and it's blue and boxy and wonderful.
And he smiles again but this time it's real, because this beautiful thing in front of him is real.
"It's been far too long," he whispers.
"How—" Arthur starts but "Eames" doesn't let him go on, as he whips his head back around and says, "Arthur. Arthur who made the slow path so much faster and who likes the impossible."
". . .Yes?" Arthur asks, the You're daft written all over his face, and maybe, just maybe he is.
. . . Okay. Most definitely, he is.
"How would you like an adventure?"
"TARDIS. Time And Relative Dimensions In Space."
". . . It's a phone booth."
"Oh, Arthur. Always so short on imagination."
Arthur steps in.
And in, and out, and in, and out.
"It's impossible," Arthur announces, Arthur who weaves Penrose stairs into all of his dreams. It's more than a little disappointing, imagination problems and all, but the Doctor's (and he really is, the Doctor, it feels right to think it now he's here, he's back)got bigger concerns. Like how the decor's shot right back to the copper fashionings he had going on around his ninth and tenth incarnations and that just isn't going to fly.
"—Do you have to call me Eames?" he asks, turning away from the consoles. He'll change things up later. There are even bigger concerns, things he really out to put right now.
And Arthur's still stepping in and out like a child on the border of two towns, even as he says:
"I've called you Eames for seven years. Yes, I do."
Which is quickly just becoming annoying. But as for what Arthur said . . . Fair enough, the Doctor thinks. He's been here long enough he's gotten used to it himself. He's going to have to pick up someone else to call him Doctor. After he figures out how the TARDIS became very not dead. And he gets Arthur to just stand bloody still.
Which, on that note: "It's still going to be bigger on the inside, darling, no matter what you try."
"It's impossible," Arthur says again. But he does step in and stay in this time.
"I thought you loved paradoxes."
"In dreams, Eames. I prefer my reality paradox-free."
"So you don't think you're dreaming?" It's more than a bit surprising. Most dreamers tend to check their totems if they pour the wrong cereal in the morning, especially ones that have been working as long as Arthur has.
All Arthur says though is, "You said it yourself. I'm not this imaginative."
"Maybe it's my dream."
"You're too lazy."
And the Doctor has to laugh because, for this version of him, it's true.
"So, it's Doctor Eames."
"No. Just the Doctor."
"Doctor of what?"
"Nothing really. I am just that good."
"You're an alien."
"Yes. Timelord, specifically—I know how you love your specifics."
". . . You're an alien."
It's all Arthur says. He seems very hung up on that fact which isn't the best of signs. The Doctor'll give Arthur "Eames" if it'll make him more comfortable to call him that. It isn't as if he is only the Doctor, always the Doctor; he's gone by many names in his lifet (or twelve lives, however you wanted to go about counting).
(And actually, he quite likes it, a name that's just for Arthur—it's been a long while since any of his companions have deviated from the norm.)
But. Aliens are a large part of the TARDIS package. Perhaps the largest part. Arthur might not have any imagination but if he can't even handle this much, they're going to have problems before they even start. There is always Ariadne though, he supposes. And actually now that he thinks it, his stomach clenches up in something close to guilt. She would love it, she would. She'd be all questions, open arms out and reaching to grab it all before it slipped away.
But she's already gone. And honestly, he just doesn't know her well. And maybe he knows Arthur too well, which is something he'll have to go and examine later because there are certain promises he made to himself after River but right now he's really, really hoping that Arthur will say something more.
Arthur blinks. Leans back on the console a tad too close to some red flashing buttons that the Doctor quickly adds to the "Things I Should Put Right in a Few Seconds" list and rubs at his eyes.
But Arthur's voice is that brand of world-weary the Doctor's come to know maybe too well when he says, "Of course you're an alien," and the doors of the TARDIS close with a snap of his fingers.
It's been far too long.
"And you just go . . . anywhere?"
"Anywhere, anytime. Earth very often. I love Earth maybe more than it deserves."
"And you've been stuck there for ten years because this—"
"—this had been destroyed."
"Come now, Arthur. I know you're quicker than this. Yes, it was. Though, evidently, now it isn't."
"So how is it back?"
"I can't say that I know. But I am very excited to find out."
. . . I feel as if I have opened a door that should not have been opened.
Thanks to joanses for planting a seed long, long ago. It just took the inception100 drabble community and a friend to make it grow.
And yes, I mixed my metaphors, because it was 1:24 AM when I wrote this and I am clearly insane.