AN/ I have no idea where this came from, only that it was prompted into being by reading an absolutely amazing Arthur/Eames story called 'The Last Romantics' by .. I cannot stress how well it is written no how beautiful it is. It's not up on FanFiction, but I urge you to seek it out regardless.
"The ninety and nine are with dreams, content,
but the hope of the the world made new, is the hundredth man
who is grimly bent on making those dreams come true."
Edgar Allan Poe
The Hundredth Man
They argue that night, brittle words that started off scratching but now are gouging, clawing deep wounds, and there is beauty in the sky with the moon risen pale and full in the sky. The air is cold, coarse from out flung opinions given as statement, their pitch reaching new impossible heights of ferocity. And Arthur screams and Eames screams back, and it's a cacophony of matched remorseless tones, shouted to smother any emotion other than anger, broken feelings discarded as carrion by the desiccant roadside as they tumble along selfishly, pulling low shots that cheapen them both.
Eames names Arthur a stick-in-the-mud, a teasing play-phrase ashen and resentful. Unimaginative also is a word that is thrown up, but they are sticks and stones battering against Arthur's hard outer wall, cracking the glass slowly – a glass that lines them both in a fragile epidermis that none believes will break under assault even as it begins to – the Point Man countering with other adjectives dragged from every irritant and every complaint. Lazy. Inconsiderate. Too caught up in himself to let anyone else in. Eames scoffs at that, derisive and mocking, parrying the blow with another offence. Arthur can talk. When does Arthur ever think about Eames? When does he ever think that sometimes all Eames wants is a little time for the two of them, together? That's what couples do, isn't it? But no, it's Cobb this, and Cobb that, and it's always about the bloody job. Never about them, never inclusive of an us instead of the singular I.
Eames barrels in with that one because it's easy to drag up old issues in light of the shining new. Cheating, but he doesn't care.
And Arthur might pass off as respectable, with his suits and impeccable dress sense and clipped appearance, but he swears like a trooper then, acidic words dredged up only during their arguments. Outside the home, when he deploys the curse words when something goes wrong in the dream word, it's funny – a sign that pristine Arthur doesn't hold as much control as he believes he does. Arthur likes control, fashions his world from it out of intricate formations when it comes to the detail, but that world is rattling on its foundations now, control tramped and stepped upon, sullying its colour, as he questions Eames on his last point. When does he get the chance for them to have time together? What about Eames and his excursions out of the country? Picking up jobs Arthur is well aware aren't legal, not for mere monetary gain but for the kick, the loss of discipline; the Forger losing himself for a few days under the dripping sun of the Mombasan sky. Gambling, trailing the totem of a poker chip he always withholds in his suit pocket over the knuckles of his hand. Where's his fucking concern for his and Arthur's time then?
Both men's control is shot to hell and stumbling and neither cares as it bleeds out from its wounds on the black-and-white lino floor beside them. A casualty of an unnecessary war.
Arthur doesn't hold back anything when he interrogates Eames why the hell he stays with him if it's such a problem.
Eames doesn't hold back when he shouts that he doesn't know.
There is a frozen silence that ices over the atmosphere immediately, empty words now floundering and stammering in their need to understand how it came to this. Arthur doesn't reply to what Eames just voiced. His shoulders, poised and proud in defence, fade back down like a great weight has hoisted itself upon his back. He leans his back flush against the door frame he stands against like it's his whole support system, eyes hooded, everything closed off, entrances to his inner emotions slammed shut. Eames has forfeited that right to know.
And Eames blindly forces his way past Arthur and his pillar in a frame of wood, and abandons the house. Shoving the door closed behind him so it smashes against the frame, crying on its hinges.
Arthur doesn't follow him.
Eames doesn't expect him to.
He prowls the streets like he has something to prove, considerations of bitter anger welling up in tides to stoke his fury. He closets his coat around his form, dragging the two sides of fabric together, shielding himself from the wind. He slows from his brisk angered pace after a while, and halts under the shelter of a bus station. There is graffiti scarred into the plastic front of the noticeboard, clawed out words formed with a penknife; violent harsh lines that spell out affections to people Eames will never know or meet. He learns that Toby loves Maddy, that at the time of writing Jareth and Deb were going to be together '4eva'. And then something his cynicism can relate to, hatred that is gashed in deeper, sentiments of love broken by a line or a scrabble. It turns out that Toby hates Maddy, that Deb is a cheating bitch and Jareth a lying prick. Childish retorts to failed teenage romances, but it weirdly comforts him, knowing that other relationships can be as turbulent as his. If he were still sixteen and trapped in the pangs of adolescence, he might consider adding his name and comments to the tirade of complaint channelled into the plastic.
There is a mutilated bottle on the ground, carelessly dropped and allowed to wallow where it lies, the pieces of it glittering in the halo of light from a nearby street lamp.
And Eames stares it the refraction of light and wonders how much more of this he can take.
Love isn't meant to be like this. Eames has been in love, knows the ways of such things – if he really knew what constituted as such. (Has he ever really understood?) There is no definition he can configure his judgements from, because it's not, is never, that easy. There are no set guidelines he can abide by to help him. It's all raw initiative, and relying on that is frightening, throwing himself over the edge without knowing how far he could fall.
But he believed he knew the score. How things worked. Nothing ever set Eames up for this; the passion that knocked him down, passion that comes in the intermixed guises of ardent romance and emblazoned anger. How the boundaries between the warring emotions of love and anger blur like watering ink so easily.
He hates Arthur, hates him for making him spiralling so far out of his comfort zone, tripping and falling down the never-ending Penrose steps, for making him fall so hard it hurts when he finally hits the ground.
And he loves him. Every bit of him.
Maybe that's what he hates the most.
After a while wasted scuffing the tips of his shoes on the pavement of the bus shelter that is pockmarked with ground-down chewing gum and cigarette butts discarded by errant smokers, he throws himself out into the elements of the wind and cold, progressing further into the city. Eames forces himself upon the nearest drinking house and drains away the hours that trickle into the early numerals on the clock fastened to the wall with alcohol. It's an easy choice, one that needs no thoughtful consideration. He asks for his usual lager, and then moves into stronger areas the drunker and less concerned he becomes. The bar is sticky from sloshed liquid. The music being mashed through the stuttering speakers is obviously from a cheap compilation album of so called 'classics'. The barman spends more time chatting up the blonde twenty years younger than him who clearly isn't interested than attending the sparse clientèle, but the place is good enough for what Eames wants out of it.
He mumbled his last order to the barman, clicking his fingers impatiently to get his attention, so he cannot be sure what exactly he is drinking. Only that it does its job and aides him into forgetting high carved cheekbones and brown eyes glaring unblinkingly into his own.
Features that sweep and infest his subconscious. Details his dreams don't quite recreate in all their imperfections and uniqueness. Like the way his eyebrows lower and his eyes squint slightly when he smiles, lines down from his nose framing his upturned lips. Eames always teases him. Calls him adorable and then suffixes that with a 'darling'.
He swears, words that become as familiar as friends the longer he stays, and he orders another with a clumsy wave of his hand. The barman glares at the disruption from his one-sided conversation with the blonde, but acquiesces as Eames tunes back into blankness of thought as he stares at the line of bottles that are regimented along the wall.
And when Eames corners a glint of his reflection at the bottom of his glass, catches sight of the drunken man staring up at him with reproachful eyes, he quickly depletes the fluid remaining and demands another.
He's not yet drunk enough to forget.
A sculpted face rises unbidden in his head. Angry words replicate themselves vindictively and there is the sound of a loaded dice being rolled as a background to his misery, a blur of red clacking on a hard surface, the side that always faces up to six covered by a delicate curl of fingers, the cube held in a pale palm; fiddled with when it's tempting to check whether this is real. Long slender fingers that type out official documents and research information like they're crafting definitive acrylic lines with a paintbrush. That convert everything into a graceful art-form.
No. He's definitely not drunk enough yet.
The clock is hitting on nearly one, marching out the beat of time that Eames is trying to step out of sync with, and someone lowers a hand onto his shoulder. Prying into his life, someone submerging themselves momentarily into the life of this stranger. If he was in any other mood, he might take the time to be grateful. They're asking him if he wants help getting home. It's that Asian girl in the corner, who ordered a two vodka cranberry's for her and her girlfriend half an hour ago. They probably only crossed the threshold of the bar for a quick drink on the way back from work, and afterwards will withdraw back into their own existences, retreating to their own homes or maybe they even live together. The girl contacts with his shoulder lightly, like she's handling china, with an arm crammed with bangles that clang and clink beside his ears. The other girl – who speaks behind him in an accented murmur, South African he makes out – asks the first whether he's ok, like she'll know the answer.
Even Eames isn't sure.
Maybe they think that this is a movie, a deep art-house affair that dallies with 'big issues', in which Eames is the sad fucker who drinks himself into oblivion at a run down bar. Who then loses his secrets in a set aside scene where he's been ground down one too many times, has them tumbling from his hold to whoever offers out the olive branch of a kind glance. And in this movie Eames might end up crying on some strangers coat lapels in a 'heartfelt emotional scene', not even the protagonist in this affair where the main story is pulled out of his hands and control . He might feel a little bit better after confessing his sins and taking up any advice given, because everyone is a bloody amateur psychologist these days.
Life isn't a movie, and Eames spits curse words. He shrugs his shoulder harshly, wanting the girl to stop touching him, stop pitying him. The lyric of Arthur's name is an vexatious half-recalled tune in his head.
He wants Arthur. Misses Arthur.
The hand retreats away promptly, and the two leave, their words swept away from him on the inrush of air on account of the opening door. He doesn't hear what they say about him. He honestly doesn't care.
Life isn't a movie; because in movies, opposites attract gently and slowly in a set pattern of growing affection and eventual togetherness, not colliding in a spattering car-crash that comes from two completely different people daring to try and make it work. This would be a nice rom-com, nothing too challenging, nothing too unpredictable, something simple that is the old-reliable when it comes to choosing a film to watch. This would have played out nicely, been so much easier.
He and Arthur would be the happy odd couple, probably not the main characters because there is rarely an angst-free story if it's a movie about gay people in Hollywood. Everything would be labelled correctly, personalties classified and stored and amalgamated from tropes long lost in their originality. They'd each have their own stereotypical niche where they slotted in correct places. Arthur would the more effeminate one, with the predictable mince and diva-ish tendencies; inhabiting a world constrained to carefully observed menswear and an organised one-bedroomed flat that they live together in, one that is scented with wooden furniture polish and candles and the dinner that Arthur cooks wearing an apron and oven-mitts. Eames would be the straight gay – because they wouldn't understand how to portray bisexuality in a Hollywood movie if it didn't involve portraying him as promiscuous deviant of the fuck-and-run variety. He would go out daily and work, something serious like accounting or management, and every night would return with a kiss and a bouquet of flowers. Because apparently love works like that. Works like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces slotted together, everything already following a cosmic order of how things should go.
If Eames was going cliché, he could voice some remark about how all's fair in love and war. But the saying is overused and overwrought and doesn't even get a shot at the heart of what he is trying to mean.
But Eames has been at war with love for far too long, lasting such a duration that the battle lines have become worn away and moved.
The two of them; the soldiers, the dreamers – they are not men who are constrained. They are not to be labelled, not to be mocking stereotypes of the lifestyle they live. They live together as two men – cohabitation or whatever term you want to attract – but it doesn't mean that they immediately erase their sense of identity and become the ideal boxed reality of what media imagines. Arthur is not effeminate, nor would he ever be caught dead mincing. Eames has no employment that can legally be filled out upon a tax form, does not bring flowers home because he's allergic and Arthur wouldn't appreciate the gesture. They are their own men, but flawed. Cracked in places, bandaged up from old wounds and old hurts, dragging with them emotional baggage that is the consequence of living their lives by their own rules.
Eames is infected with a terminal wanderlust that doesn't permit him to settle in one place for more than six months. He habits old dusty rooms in the countries he stops in, with a patch of damp at the edge where ceiling meets wall, suitcase packed with necessities, impersonal things that everyone owns. All that is of value to him stowed away in a pocket; his phone, house keys to a flat that is theirs, a totem impressed only with his touch.
And Arthur – Arthur who has barriers he finds hard to force down, who prefers things just so, Arthur who really messed up those ideals when he fell in love with Eames– Arthur who is loyal to Cobb and loyal to his godchildren in Phil and James and who loves Eames with every thump of his violent sceptical heart. Neither party allowing any give, gaining compromises like prospecting for gold, and both are just as frayed and snapped from all the shit the world has thrown at them.
Life is not like movies. This thought strays, repeated in the grind of his drunken slowed thoughts, shuffles its feet as it lingers. Eames eyes the bottom of his glass stonily, swilling the dregs in a clockwise spin.
Yet, if this was a movie, there could be no dreaming. Things like that don't happen in films, the strangeness and griminess and abstract qualities existing only in reality. None of the thrill of the chase, the converging of projections while his gun spits out bullets. There could be no forging. Papers and identities maybe, but like an artist, Eames is drawn hypothetically to the final product. The figure that is not himself created anew from an old copy in a mirror; the mannerisms of a new person shaped and laboured upon till he deems them perfect. Eames can be whoever he wants, shrouding himself with falsities, making the real world only sweeter when he comes back to it.
There would be no more of his team because real people can't be replicated so simply in a fabricated theatre show. All the flaws, and secrets, all the little things that on their own are insignificant trivia, but which together make up the depth of a person. Like how Eames rode his bike without stabilisers for the first time when he was six and nearly went over the handlebars, like how he had his first kiss when he was eight with a girl called Becky who spoke with a lisp and had a pink backpack, how he had his second kiss with a guy called Ryan when he was fourteen and impetuous, how his favourite colour used to be green but has changed over the years to a comforting mocha brown. Stupid little things that are swallowed in the grand scheme of things. But what form every part of him, and every experience he is still having are chipping away into new facets to think upon.
There would be no Cobb, not the man he is, the introvert that he warped into after Mal; no more Yusuf who hums to himself while he works, who wrinkles his nose and gives a snorting sigh when Eames makes a bad joke; no more Ariadne with her concerns of grades, the way she seems to mother the team with offers of coffee and biscuits after an extraction.
And no more Arthur.
In movies there is a fairytale ending, closure, a happily-ever-after Eames feels he deserves after so long waiting. And in this cycle of relentlessness that the two of them tumble through with no totem to earth them, Arthur is not the Prince with which Eames gets to live with in a white castle.
Yet Arthur is something to him.
Everything to him.
No matter how much this destroys them both, because this is just how it works. How things go, the steps they take, the paths they follow down to their eventual end. Not a fairytale, not a film, just life. Real and solid and with all the nastiness that comes with it.
And Eames will slink back to Arthur like he always does, and forgiveness will be murmured, along with frantic kisses later, and then they'll start over again. Treading around tenderly before dropping back into the old routine; teasing and joking and familiarity, till an argument flares up again from an old wound of war, and Eames is again alone and drunk, leaning on a bar like he can't bear the weight any more.
And through it all a sense of belonging is present that nestles in Eames' heart, protected from the battering outside of rain and thunder. That is a constant whether he is in Mombasa or Monte Carlo, Los Angeles or Lagos; that does not depend or rely on a specified place but on a specified person. The knowledge that he will be there waiting when Eames returns, embracing him with a tight hold, removing him of his coat and suitcase and telling him to stay. Something Eames is all too willing to comply to .
It is time to go home.
It is two when Eames stabs his key into the lock, twisting it into the mechanism with a vicious curl of his wrist. He misses first time, scrapes around the slot before he searches it out again.
The light is still on.
Arthur will be awake, waiting for him. Just like he always is.
The Point Man is in the living room, his body sunken into the sofa, tie torn from around his neck. Evidence surrounds him like a crime scene, testament to his hours waiting up for Eames. (Worrying?) A mug of tea stagnates cold on the low centre table, barely drunk, and Arthur hasn't even used a coaster to stop stains from soiling the glass top with a circular tattoo. The TV remote is next to that, and the standby light is still fixed at a constant red glow, indicating that Arthur has most likely channel flicked aimlessly before getting sick of repeats and game shows that are all that is on at this time of the morning. There is a glass of wine in the claw his hand is making around the stem, and the bottle on the table that comes after seems mostly empty, a line of proof showing the digression of his night, trying tea and television to distract him before yielding in favour of something with more kick.
Eames moves across the living room carpet with slow steps – trying to coordinate himself, drunkenness still liable to trip him up over the edge of the carpet – before dropping down next to Arthur. He doesn't put an easy arm around his shoulder. Nor does he ask how much of that bottle he's gotten through. The Point Man is drunk as well, reading the signs from the transparent glass that glazes over his eyes, the upset painted on his face in thick deplorable colours.
Arthur missed him. Just like Eames missed Arthur.
Eames tries to say sorry, attempting to push and shove the words out of his mouth, but Arthur gets there first. Fixes a look with eyes that even with the tinge of intoxication, still hold their own.
"How much longer can we do this?"
Eames releases a breath in an outward sigh and manoeuvres his figure on the sofa, shuffling awkwardly over, closer to Arthur. It is human touch he needs now, connection. Arthur places down his head on Eames' shoulder, lowering it slowly, slotting into a space he has occupied before, and the Forger makes no move to indicate he wants him off. Instead, Eames wraps an arm around the Point Man's shoulder, drawing him in closer.
They both understand the question.
"I don't know, darling" Eames mutters, and tilting his head allows himself to rest it against the top of Arthur's, the Point Man resting in the hollow of his neck where it meets his shoulder. Holding him in close, them against the world outside. He isn't sure of how else to reply. It never occurred to him that any of their arguments should dictate the end of this. It makes little sense to him, to sacrifice something so intrinsically important to him. "But I'm not giving up yet"
Arthur doesn't smile like he usually does, but there is a laxness to his posture that indicates forgiveness. Instead he burrows in further into Eames hold, tracing the bold lines of art that decorate Eames' upper arms, the monochromatic montage of significant personal images that only Eames understands the true significance. The twisting then straight lines of arrows, a black shaded star standing out in the middle near to the visage of a woman's face. The touch of his fingers is light, soft as it strays over to inspect the Union Jack that adorns there. They can read the body language now , and Eames' offer of the proximity is a crudely given apology. Arthur's acceptance gives the same message. No words are really needed.
They worked hard for this relationship. Fought and battled others and each other to find a niche of happiness, no matter how flawed and blemished it may be. It's not perfect, but it never will be, and if anything goes some-way in Eames mind as forming a part of being in love, learning to live in such close quarters with them is that, seeing the bad mornings and the moods, the getting pent up over little things like football or junk mail.
"Neither am I" Arthur replies quietly.
In the end, that's all they need to make this work.