Disclainer: Anything you recognize is property of Christopher Nolan.
"You look like a fucking mess, Eames."
Arthur wishes that the statement hadn't obviously been a croak, his voice cracking halfway like some kid's. Normally, Eames would jump on that right away and shoot off his mouth. Now, all the Englishman does is force a smile around his cigarette and nods at Arthur.
"I'd be more inclined to agree if I hadn't just witnessed you putting your fist through the wall."
There's no smirk in Eames' voice, just tiredness. Even though he wants to punch the wall again, Arthur's knuckles are already aching and plaster dust is mixing with the blood to turn them pink. So, he asks Eames for a cigarette in a voice that sounds tinny to his own ears.
"It never stops hurting all the way." Eames says, after they've been smoking together for a few moments. "But it gets easier, I promise."
Arthur inhales sharply just so he can blow a jet of smoke into Eames' face, the other man just takes it. This is not right, Arthur thinks, Eames shouldn't just shrug it off like it doesn't mean anything. Eames should be saying something nasty, shoving him into the wall, or be doing anything but taking off his sunglasses to reveal red-rimmed eyes.
"My dad died when I was thirteen." Eames says, and then goes back to smoking.
And all Arthur does is nod and then look out the window, because what is the proper reply to that? Telling Eames that he knew already, from some background check years ago? Maybe he could point out that Mal wasn't a forty-something year old man who'd abandoned his family in favor of the bottle? Or offer up sympathies?
No, Arthur decides that the best course of action for now is to smoke with Eames in silence, until some relative of Mal's collects them for the services.
James sits in his lap during the wake, because Arthur is the person that the boy knows best next to his parents.
Just shy of two, James doesn't understand what's going on and keeps asking when he can go play. Arthur shushes the boy weakly throughout the services, wishing that Dom wasn't sobbing loudly in the coat room, because then Arthur would be able to pass James off. It doesn't go unnoticed by him that Eames is only a bit further down in the pew either. He's squished himself between Miles and Phillipa, staring straight ahead with his sunglasses back in place.
After six men who are total strangers to Arthur carry out Mall's casket, he steers James over to his grandmother, who kisses Arthur's cheek and thanks him with tears in her eyes. The entire exchange makes him uncomfortable and it only gets worse when Eames brings Phillipa, because then the woman is sobbing and telling Eames that he's been like a son to her, even if she never showed it. The worse part is that Eames starts crying a little too, hugging the woman even as the children start to panic.
All this emotion is sloppy and something Arthur is not trained in, especially not when it makes his own chest twist painfully. He's been working with Mal ever since she married Dom, but had never known about her relationship to Eames. It makes him feel betrayed for reasons he doesn't understand, so he excuses himself quietly and then leaves.
In his rental car, Arthur sits for a good twenty minutes and tries not to cry before starting the ignition.
He goes to a bar on the shadier side of town, because Arthur would rather that any future business associates that attended the wake not know how he tends to deal with grief. The bartender studies his ID for nearly five minutes, assuming it's fake (the name and address are, but the age is real). The process is obnoxious, but Arthur gets his martini in the end. He's downed more than half of it when he feels warm breath on his neck, then tenses and prepares himself for the worst.
"Christ. Do you fancy yourself to be James Bond?"
Eames, of course. The Englishman's voice is raw as he orders off-brand whiskey, downs it in one, then orders another. Arthur takes a moment to study him. His suit jacket is crumpled and tie loosened, but other than that, Eames' outfit is still carefully put together. Arthur still holds the belief that Eames himself is a fucking mess, though.
Arthur is on his second drink when Eames is finishing his third whiskey, now at a more leisurely pace. The bartender has a frown on his mouth, but doesn't stop serving them. Arthur wonders if it's always like that after funerals; if mourners wear signs around their necks visible to only each other and barkeeps. It's a stupid thought, he decides.
"I have a sister back in England." Eames says after a while.
Arthur doesn't like that Eames is telling him all these personal details, because they both know that Arthur researched and filed them away years ago. That's Arthur's job and he's excellent at it, even if he never was able to find out the sister's name, just that it starts with an 'M'. But Eames is giving him this pathetic look though, like all that matters in the world is that someone listens to him, so Arthur does.
"She's a wee thing, but feisty as hell. Knocked out my front teeth when we were kids."
There should be a laugh there, but neither one can manage it. Eames continues after taking a swig of his drink. "I missed her when I left home. It was rough for a couple of years, because I was doing these things that would fucking horrify her. And then I met Mal."
"And she made you feel better about what we do." Arthur says knowingly.
"More than that. Mal was the one that sent my sorry arse back to visit my sister, because she couldn't believe I hadn't been home in four years."
"You two were close." Which is another thing they both know, but Arthur still thinks it should be said.
Eames nods and finishes his drink, then looks down at Arthur's empty glass. He reaches across the counter, goes to take it and wraps his hand around Arthur's in the process. For a brief moment, the bar seems to go silent and the world stops spinning on it's axis as the two share a look. By the crinkle of Eames' eyes alone, Arthur is sure that he's about to be kissed. He doesn't know what he's supposed to be feeling, but a mix of dread and excitement are rising up in his chest and then-
-and then they both look away like cowards and Eames pulls the glass out from under his hand. He orders them both whiskeys this time and by the way is accent is faltering into something less generic, Arthur knows that Eames is a lot drunker than he's letting on. He drinks the whiskey when Eames passes it to him, squaring his shoulders with resolve.
Tonight, they'll drink, because god only knows what tomorrow is bringing.
They don't quite make it to tomorrow, because after a good five hours at the bar, Eames and Arthur get kicked out. Arthur is the better off of the two, even if he sways precariously when standing. Eames, on the other hand, needs help just to stand and his speech has deteriorated into a kind of grunting that might not even be English. At least, Arthur thinks that he hears some French mixing in, but that might just be memories of Mal haunting him already.
The thought depresses him, so he follows Eames back to the his hotel room rather than going back to his own apartment. There, they raid the mini-fridge and then have to make three attempts before they succeed in calling room service to order up some wine. (The hotel is shockingly tasteful and doesn't serve hard liquor without prior notice).
Arthur turns on the TV so the room doesn't have to be so quiet. Even though neither one of them are really up for talking, he makes an attempt. Nodding towards the game between San Francisco and Dallas, Arthur asks Eames. "You like football?"
"Needs foots fer football." Eames murmurs with his eyes half-focused on the screen.
"Don't see any foots bein' used."
He stands up from his chair after what must have been a Herculean effort and makes his way over to Arthur. Eames looks sad more than anything else, even with tiredness lining his eyes and making his mouth go slack. As his head is framed by two of Eames forearms against the wall, Arthur can't help but think that he is entirely too drunk for this.
"Thanks, pet." Eames mumbles, and then leans in to rest his cheek on Arthur's shoulder.
One of his hands drifts lazily down Arthur's side to rest at his thigh, but Eames doesn't move past that and neither does Arthur. After a truly uncomfortable moment, Eames lets out a great snore against Arthur's shoulder. Room service knocks at the door a half-second later and Arthur's mind betrays him by pointing out how funny Mal would have found this.
They bond in the morning through vomiting.
Or rather, Arthur has to ask Eames to hold his hair back between heaves, because with the condition Mal was in those last few months, he hasn't had time for a haircut. Eames just smiles and says he likes Arthur's "unruly curls". The whole thing should be mortifying but Arthur can't really focus past the throbbing in his head, queasiness of his stomach, and ache in his chest.
"My mum always said that if you were a good drunk, your hangovers were hell." Eames has the decency to keep his voice low and it doesn't help, but it doesn't make anything worse either.
Arthur scrounges up the energy to pull his cheek off the toilet seat and attempts to kill Eames with a single look. It isn't very effective and the swirls of Eames' tattoos make him feel like he's spinning, so then Arthur is gagging all over again.
"Put on a shirt." He commands weakly.
And Eames chuckles and says how Arthur can't really mean it, but his voice is hollow.
Still, he throws the button-up he lost during the night and then goes back to holding Arthur's hair, even if no puking is going on. Then, after a moment of hesitation, he starts to scratch Arthur's scalp in lazy circles. It's pleasant and frighteningly intimate, but Arthur can't make himself care because his headache seems to be calming down.
Then his phone rings and all it takes is one pathetic look before Eames goes to fetch it for him. Arthur thinks about what he'll do next, deciding that coffee would be a godsend and maybe he and Eames could get breakfast when Arthur's stomach stops planning mutiny.
Eames comes back with his mouth drawn into a tight line and says. "It's Cobb."
Dom, predictably, is still an absolute disaster. Arthur can't even understand him, because Dom is, without a doubt, crying and trying to hide it. Then, he says something about Mal's death occurring on 'suspicious circumstances' and how the police have been looking for something to charge him on in years. Arthur only hisses the word fuck when Dom quiets down for a moment then asks what he intends to do.
"I'm fleeing the country." Dom says his voice broken and raw. "It's the only way, Arthur."
He hangs up after that, which makes Arthur go fuck again before he throws his cell phone against the wall. It bounces on the tiles and makes Arthur's head throb worse than before. He stands and forces his way past Eames, who was watching the exchange from the doorway.
"What did Cobb want?"
"To tell me he's going on the run from the cops. This is such bullshit."
Whether Arthur's talking about the situation or the fact that he can't find his shoes is unclear. Eames keeps quiet, which is a bad sign. Sure enough, when Arthur looks up again, something dark is lingering in the Englishman's eyes. Finally, he points out. "Running is what guilty people do."
Arthur wants to hit him, but doesn't, because who knows how long he has to get Dom and then get the hell out of Dodge. Slugging it out with Eames surely would be satisfying, but this is one of those times when duty comes first. Instead, Arthur tosses some bills at Eames.
"For the hotel room. I don't need to owe you anything if I'm trying to keep a low profile."
And then, because he's finally found his shoes and put them on, Arthur walks out. He imagines that he hears Eames' fist go through the wall and, Arthur won't lie, it makes him feel a little better.