Title: The Process of Getting Tears Dried
Inspiration: Many thanks to Karallaye for the suggestion ^^
Disclaimer: I do not own Inception or any of its characters.
Note: I like this one a lot. Not the whole distressed-Arthur of course; just in general. Hope you do too!

Midnight's half gone when he slams into the house. Eames doesn't mind; he's awake. He sits on the couch, muted television casting a blue light over the room. He hasn't been watching, just staring really and there's something like relief on his mind when Arthur returns. Relief because at least he's finally home and Eames doesn't have to worry about Where is he? and When will he be home? and What's he doing? The relief falls apart quickly though, once Arthur pads into the living room. Eames takes one look at his face and knows; though he's expected as much.

"Bad, then?"

He exhales in response, makes some noncommittal gesture with his hand and crosses into the bedroom. Eames has to force himself not to follow right away. He wonders if Arthur's drunk. That doesn't usually happen but he did look especially off-balance. Far more so than normal for these nights. Eames listens to the open and close of drawers and the soft movements of Arthur-getting-undressed and Arthur-pulling-on-pajamas. There's the creak of bedsprings and Eames wonders if he'll just go to bed. That might be easier but probably not healthier. He would sleep and then in the morning act as if all were completely, entirely well. Which they would both know to be a lie.

The labored breathing and its hitch tell Eames that this will be a hard night.

Rising without hesitation, Eames slips into the bedroom. He lingers at the doorway, watching him. Sitting at the foot of the bed, Arthur's back is a perfect arch, bringing his face to his hands, elbows propped up on his knees. There are soft sounds being muffled that Eames never would have thought he'd hear from Arthur. Not that Arthur is some entirely emotionless being; surely not. But he is one of the strongest people Eames' has ever known and it does not mesh that he would be crying into his palms in thick, wracking pulls.

Eames has seen him cry before, but it was always something of a quiet, formal affair.

Arthur is a mess but Arthur-standards. Eames clucks his tongue sadly which makes Arthur look up. He's frantically wiping at his eyes and trying to contain the shortened breaths as Eames makes his way over to him. He stiffens when Eames lays a hand on his shoulder, still quivering. "Fuck," he gasps out, voice wrecked. "Sorry, I'm sorry." He won't meet Eames' eyes.

"Don't apologize, you silly sod," Eames says in return, laying an arm over his shoulders. Pulling him flush to his own side, he rests his forehead against Arthur's temple. "It's perfectly all right."

Arthur makes a broken little sound that might be him saying "It's not all right" or might be nothing at all but grief and regret. Eames holds him tighter in response and Arthur surprises him by burrowing his face in Eames' neck, hand clutching at his shoulder spasmodically. "Fuck!" he says quite clearly despite it being through tears and fabric. "Fuck all!"

Arthur cries for a good deal longer than he meant to and all the while Eames is nine hairs away from flipping out entirely. If he weren't such a fantastic liar he would have to admit that he's bloody-all scared out of his mind over his Point Man who has never acted anything like this. It's never been this bad before and Eames even had the delusion to think it might better this time. But it's not so Eames does what he can: nuzzles his face against Arthur's, runs his fingers soothingly through his hair, a hand over his jerking spine. Murmurs soft "all right, love"s and "I've got you now"s. Every so often, there's a kiss dropped to Arthur's hair; soft and halting.

Not quite ten minutes later and Arthur has calmed slightly. The tears have more or less stopped and he's just giving little shudders now and then. There's a moment's pause where Eames holds his breath and Arthur just breaths before he speaks. "It's not even," -a broken hitch- "because of Mal."

"Then what's got you crying, hmm?"

A sigh. "Okay, not only 'cause Mal. Mostly 'cause... Because he's my closest friend, not counting you, and I don't know what to say to him. I don't have anything to say to him. Because I thought we were done with this. I thought after the Fischer thing and... I thought we were done and he was just as bad as he's always been and I still had no fucking idea what to say to or do for him." A muffle swear and then he's pulling away, running his wrist harshly over his eyes.

"You do this for him."

Arthur looks at him blankly. On any other day he would have glared and made some snarky comment about needing something a little more specific, thank you, Mr. Eames. So Eames clears his throat through the catch and sighs.

"I mean, you do what I am. I'm shit at this, with- But the point would be that I am here and trying and I think that it's enough, is it not?"

There's a long pause where the only sounds are the cotton rush of cars outside and Arthur's jagged breathing. And then a ragged sigh and he settles his head in his hands again. "It's more than enough, yes," he admits softly, so softly Eames nearly misses it.

He doesn't though and despite everything, he smiles. "Well, for that I am glad. And I believe Dom thinks it the same way; just appreciates your presence, yes?"

Arthur nods and Eames rubs a solid hand down his back before rising. "Come, love. Let's sleep?"

He nods and they arrange themselves on the bed. Eames stays up long past Arthur, watching him sleep with restless inhale-exhales and running soft, weightless fingertips over the streaks of left-over tears.

AN: Again, many thanks to Karallaye for the suggestion. Let me know what you think, please!