For a couple of weeks, things are okay.
The weed does quell Arthur's nausea and gives him an appetite again, and Eames is certainly willing to provide more marijuana and meals if it keeps Arthur acting more alive.
Eventually, he tires of driving around town while Arthur's at chemo and chooses to sit in the waiting room and read or on some occasions actually in the room with Arthur and the other patients. It seems Arthur's become fairly good friends with quite a few of them.
An older woman with no hair shakes Eames's hand the first time he comes in and says in her small voice, "Arthur's told us so much about you."
Eames isn't really sure how to process that information, so he decides to answer with, "Hopefully good things."
"Of course not," Arthur says, and if Eames didn't know better he would say Arthur is blushing.
It's during these times that Eames learns more about Arthur than he ever expected. It seems that Arthur is more comfortable talking about himself in front of strangers that couldn't possibly harm him—but then again, there's always the fact that he could be lying about all of it.
Arthur grew up in Wisconsin with his parents who were both doctors and his older sister Vanessa. When he was sixteen, his parents were killed in a car accident. He and Vanessa had been in the back seat, arguing, and his father had turned around to tell them to stop, and the car had been hit by a truck that ran a stop sign. Arthur broke his leg and Vanessa had to have twenty-two stitches, and both parents were dead almost instantly.
"What happened to Vanessa?" the old lady that seems to like Eames asks one afternoon.
Arthur stares at a spot on the wall and says, "She… I don't know… Something was lost in her the day that they died. I… I couldn't—I mean… I…" Arthur trails off and glances at Eames momentarily and says, "We don't talk."
Later, on the drive home, Eames asks Arthur, "So, where is Vanessa?"
"I don't know," Arthur replies softly.
"I don't buy that," Eames says. "You know where everyone is all the time."
"I… assume she's still in Chicago. She lived there with our aunt for a while, went to school there, but I don't go looking for people who don't want to be found, okay?" Arthur says in exasperation.
Eames nods and concentrates on driving for the next few minutes. "Don't you… want to find her anyway?" he asks hesitantly.
"I don't want to bother her," Arthur replies, and though the answer is completely insane, Eames tries to just accept it.
"I don't think it would bother her," he offers, "for what it's worth."
"She blames me for our parents' death," Arthur responds bluntly, and it rattles Eames a little. "I was the one who started the argument… Fuck if I remember what it was about… but… who's to say it isn't my fault?"
"Maybe this…" he gestures to himself, "is some sort of divine justice or something. Who knows?"
"No more talk like that, all right?" Eames says, and he's smiling so Arthur doesn't realize how much that talk terrifies him. "Let's go out tonight."
"I don't want to…"
"It'll be fun. You need to have some fun."
"I really don't."
"You really do, and I won't take no for an answer."
Arthur sighs and then raises an eyebrow, a corner of his mouth turning upwards. "So… where are we going?"
Eames takes Arthur to the club.
It seemed like a good idea at the time.
"It's so loud in here!" Arthur shouts over the pulsing beat. "I can't hear myself think!"
"That's the point," Eames explains, chuckling and orders a couple of glasses of seltzer for each of them. "Tonight we're going to forget about everything and just have a bloody good time, savvy?"
Arthur accepts the seltzer and sips at it before frowning at Eames. "This is dumb! What made you think I would enjoy this?"
"Darling, you haven't even given it a chance!" Eames laughs, hooking his arm around Arthur's tiny waist and leading him to a squashed little table. "Just try, all right?"
"You'd better be glad you let me get high before we came here," Arthur replies grumpily.
They finish their seltzer and then Eames drags Arthur onto the dance floor, and that's when it seems Arthur starts loosening up.
At the start it seems like Arthur is an absolutely terrible dancer, stiff and awkward and lacking a bit of rhythm, but Eames pulls him closer and tells him to lighten up, and Arthur takes that as a challenge (which is exactly what Eames had wanted him to do). He presses up against Eames and moves with a bit more grace and frankly…
Well, frankly, it's entirely too attractive.
"If I get a couple of drinks in you, are you going to get all slutty on me?" Eames laughs.
"Get a couple of drinks in me and you'll find out, won't you?" Arthur says, eyes dark and defiant. Eames shivers a little.
"Should you be drinking though?" Eames asks.
"I think I have a right to have a couple of drinks," Arthur grumbles. "You wanted me to have fun, so how about it?"
Eames sighs. "What do you want?"
Arthur orders a few beers and from then on his dancing becomes much less inhibited. The tipsier he gets, the more willing he is to grind against Eames's thigh and to let Eames dip him back. He's not drunk by any means, but his words start to slur and he starts to laugh more loudly and generally he starts to have the fun Eames wanted him to have.
For about two hours, they both seem to forget that Arthur has cancer.
They're just having fun. Just dancing. Just laughing. Just singing along.
…but then they're just kissing, and then they're just making out, and then Arthur's just moaning and whimpering, and then…
Eames gasps against Arthur's lips, pulling away from the kiss. "What—what, what are you doing?" Eames asks, and he feels like it's the dumbest thing he's ever said. He has no idea why he would dare stop something so good.
"We've done it before," Arthur breathes. "I haven't fucked anyone since you… It's been so long… Please, just—just take me home and… please…"
"I don't know if…" Eames mumbles, but then Arthur presses up against him, and there's something desperate about it, and all he can do is drag Arthur out to the car.
Arthur practically sobs, letting Eames press him against the side of the car and mouth at his neck, and he's stammering and begging wordlessly. It takes all of Eames's power just to separate himself from him and get into the car.
Once inside, both of them just exhale, staring out at the parking lot, panting. Arthur licks his chapped lips and looks down at his lap.
Eames feels the air thicken with the realization of what they had been doing, what they were planning to do.
"…Sorry…" Arthur mumbles. "I… sort of lost it there… I…"
Eames's heart is racing, and everything seems too bright.
"I… I mean, I've just… It's just that I've seen you," Arthur continues, "on the couch, you know?... and I mean, I know I don't exactly have much stamina right now, but sometimes I still… you know. I see you sometimes, and I think back to that day, and I just get kind of crazy."
"Y—yeah, well, don't we all," Eames says, and he's not sure he's been so uncomfortable in his life. He's thrumming with fear and worry and uncertainty while at the same time he's suffering from a very distracting hard on.
Arthur's hands are folded on his knees, and there's a tent in his pants as well. He swallows thickly and says, "We… we still can… I mean… if you want. I just—I don't want you to just do it because I…"
Eames leans over and shuts Arthur up with a long kiss, and Arthur mewls against his lips, hand coming up to rest against his cheekbone.
"Let's go," Eames says and starts the car, speeding towards the apartment.
Maybe it's a bad idea for Eames to follow his hormones, but it's not quite easy for him to do otherwise at the moment. He doesn't know why the fever is so strong, but as he drives the fog clears just a little from his head, and he realizes that there's something else thrumming underneath the arousal, something else…
He doesn't know what it is, and before he figures it out, he and Arthur are at the door of his apartment, snogging passionately and almost violently. It's quick and it's rough and it's desperate, just like the first time.
Arthur pulls Eames's shirt off, scattering buttons everywhere, and he drags his teeth across his chest and mouths at his nipple, and Eames groans, sliding his hands up under Arthur's shirt. He can feel his ribs.
They stumble around in the dark down the hall to the bedroom, and Arthur falls onto the bed with Eames on top of him, tugging clothing off and throwing it about haphazardly in the effort to get closer to each other, to touch, to feel.
Arthur moans and yelps as Eames kisses down his chest, hips thrusting upwards as invitation, and Eames sits back on his knees to look down at him spread out below in the dim light and…
"Arthur…" Eames whispers hoarsely, and whatever that feeling is that's been pulsing below his arousal seems to be taking over. "Are you… sure about this?"
Arthur looks up at him and hurt flashes across his features. Eames isn't sure why until Arthur shoves him off of him and mumbles, "Right… I… I get it."
"Get… get what?" Eames asks as Arthur stumbles towards the door.
"I get it," Arthur says, and his voice is trembling as much as his shoulders, even though he's smiling while he pulls his underwear back up over his slender hips. "I mean… you're right. You're right, Eames. It's just—it's just sex, after all, right? I mean, we're friends and all that, and—yeah. I mean… it's better this way. We really shouldn't keep doing—after all, we don't want things to get complicated or something like that. No, no, you're right. We shouldn't. We shouldn't. "
"Arthur…" Eames says slowly, catching his clothes when Arthur chucks them at him with a bit more force than necessary. "I…"
"No, no, no reason to explain yourself," Arthur says, and he's shaking quite noticeably now. "I get it, Eames. We don't want to ruin anything, do we? That's a horrible idea. Besides, why would you even want to—to fuck me anyways? I mean, look at me!" He's laughing but the sound is even more painful that if he were sobbing. "I'm underweight, and almost all of my body hair is gone, and I'm fucking yellow. I probably can't even last, so really, it's fine. You're right, Eames."
"Arthur," Eames says again, and he's not really sure how to react to the way his own voice cracks.
"Just—just go," Arthur says, opening the door, not looking at him. "Just go to bed. I'm tired. I want to go to sleep."
Eames gets up, and he reaches out to touch Arthur's shoulder, but Arthur yanks it away, still refusing to look him in the eyes. "Arthur… I didn't mean to imply that—"
"Get out!" Arthur shouts. "I'm tired!"
Eames trudges out of the room and returns to his couch, and Arthur slams the bedroom door.
Eames doesn't sleep for the entirety of the night.
The next few weeks are bad.
Arthur barely speaks to Eames, and so Eames stops waiting around at his chemo treatments. They eat dinner together, but Arthur always smokes alone, always sleeps alone. He sleeps most of the days away, and he never looks right at Eames so much as he looks through him.
Eames tries to talk to him, but he really doesn't know what to say, so all of his words fall silent on the edge of his lips. It's the worst feeling imaginable… Sometimes when they're eating Eames thinks that Arthur is waiting for him to say something, waiting so that he can break his stubborn streak and say something back, but Eames always fails, and dinner stays silent.
Eames goes grocery shopping.
When he returns, he hears the shower going, but he finds Arthur lying on the bathroom floor.
"Did you fall?" he asks, breathless.
Arthur finally talks to him, if only to say, "No… I was just so tired… I had to lie down… I just wanted to take a shower—I just wanted…"
…and then he starts to cry.
Eames is momentarily flabbergasted because Arthur never, never cries… but there he is, curled up in the fetal position on the floor, sobbing like a child who'd lost his toy, all because he wants to take a shower.
Eames kneels down, lifting Arthur up and stripping him down before placing him in the tub, and Arthur sobs the entire time while Eames bathes him. He wails, cheeks ruddy, nose running, and he doesn't stop until Eames is drying him off, and that's when he slumps against him, falling asleep.
Eames pulls Arthur into his arms and looks up at the ceiling, and he wonders just what happened to the Arthur he used to know. He wonders what's become of the cool, confident point man Arthur with his luxurious slicked back hair and steely gaze, the Arthur that had control over everything and never cried and never made Eames feel useless. He rocks this shallow husk that once was Arthur, this alien-like version of him in his arms, lost.
His heart hammers against his chest, and his brain supplies him with the most terrifying thing he's ever dared to think.
Arthur is dying.
Arthur is going to die.
His heart clenches, and it's so painful that Eames winces.
He carries Arthur to bed, dresses him and stays there, curled up at his side, too afraid to leave for fear that his thoughts will become reality.
When Arthur awakes, he seems to not know where he is for a moment. He stares into Eames's eyes and croaks, "Am I dreaming?"
"I'm afraid not," Eames mumbles. "Is there anything I can do for you, darling?"
Arthur's eyes grow wet again, and he says, "I… I want you to leave."
"I understand. I'll just go back out to the lounge then—"
"No," Arthur says more stubbornly, setting his jaw, but even with that motion he still doesn't look like the Arthur Eames knows. "I want you to leave. I want you to leave my apartment. I want you to leave me alone."
"W…what?" Eames asks, stunned. "You can't—You can't be serious."
"I am," Arthur says, eyes darting away, and he sniffs. "I… I can't stand it anymore. I… I can't do this… I was doing just fine before you showed up, and I don't want you here anymore. You're fucking up my system."
"Your system?" Eames scoffs. "I'm taking care of you!"
"I don't want you to take care of me!" Arthur shouts, scrambling to his feet. He looks around the room, eyes wild, and then he says, shaky but softer, "I don't… want you to take care of me anymore… because… I can't stand it. I can't stand you being here all the time, always bothering me, always asking me if I'm okay. I'm okay, all right? I… I can't keep using you like this—"
"You're not using me, love," Eames tries. "I… I want to help you. I'm your—"
"We're not friends!" Arthur shouts, voice strained, and then swallows and adds, eyes at the floor, "We're not… You… you're just a guy I work with that I fucked once…"
It's like someone's taken a knife and stabbed it directly into Eames's chest. "You don't… you don't mean that," he says quietly. "I know you don't."
"Just leave," Arthur whispers, "and don't come back."
Eames stands and walks to Arthur, cupping his jaw in his hand, and he's alarmed by how his own hand is trembling. "Arthur… please…"
"Just go… I don't want you here anymore, and if you want to help me, just leave."
Eames sighs, and though it goes against everything in him, he mumbles, "Fine. You have my number."
He grabs his bags and is at the door when Arthur says, "Eames."
Eames looks back at him. Arthur is leaning against the wall, looking so young, so vulnerable, and so, so sick.
"Goodbye, Eames," Arthur says and it's like someone has taken the knife in Eames's chest and twisted and turned it a million times.
"Arthur," Eames nods and leaves.
He won't say goodbye.
He can't make it that real.
Eames takes on another job.
It's a challenge most definitely, but it's exactly what he needs to get his mind off of things. He's working hard for over a month, though it's not without his own side projects.
He's got phone numbers and addresses stashed away for safe keeping.
He works with fervor because he rarely sleeps. When he sleeps, he dreams, and when he dreams, he dreams about Arthur.
He's grateful for getting the somnacin back in his system because the dreams stop… but then when he starts going under with his team, he starts to realize that all of his projections look like Arthur: one of them with his same honey brown eyes, one with his shaved head, one with his yellowing skin, and then—most painful of all, one with his smile.
Most people don't notice.
"Eames," Ariadne says, and as soon as she says it Eames is regretting taking on this job as a favor to her. "Where's Arthur?"
"I don't know," Eames lies… sort of. It's a distinct possibility that he's no longer at that apartment.
Eames just doesn't like to think about where else he could be.
"Yes you do," Ariadne says. "Arthur was acting weird, and then you started acting weird, and both of you have been off the radar for a while."
"Is that so," Eames says flatly, only looking up when Ariadne gasps.
"Did you guys get married?" she asks excitedly.
"What?" Eames stares at her as if she's insane because she really must be to come to such a ridiculous conclusion. "Are you off your nut? Where the bloody hell did you get an idea like that?"
Ariadne seems surprised, as if Eames is the one acting crazy. "Well… wait… you guys aren't together? Like together, together?"
"What?" Eames says again.
"Really?" Ariadne says, eyes bugging out. "Oh, my God, I'm shocked. I really thought—I mean, the way he looks at you—"
"You really thought—what do you mean by—" Eames can't seem to find words. He's so confused… and so…
Ariadne blushes. "Oh, um… see… it's just… it's so obvious that he's… you know… in love with you?"
"Pardon?" Eames chokes.
"W—well… I mean, he's always looking at you all lovey-dovey," Ariadne says softly. "You guys flirt all the time. Clearly he's interested, you know?... and uh… I mean, I thought you two were together because you seemed interested too, and then you two started acting all funny around each other, so I thought maybe you finally admitted it, and then you both disappeared for a while and—I… I'm sorry. Maybe I'm just watching too much television, but I really thought that…"
Ariadne has to be wrong, Eames is sure of it.
Arthur in love with him?
No, no, no.
That can't be true. It just can't be.
…because Arthur is going to…
It takes Eames three days before he caves and calls Arthur.
The phone rings six times, and Eames can picture Arthur debating whether or not to answer.
Surprisingly enough, he does.
"Hello?" he sounds bad.
"…Arthur?" Eames sounds bad too, he realizes belatedly.
"Hey," Arthur sighs. "Um… how… how are you?"
"Fine… but ah… how… how are you?"
"Um… I'm… I'm not doing so good," Arthur admits softly. "I… uh… you know... this whole thing…"
"I know…" Eames whispers. "What's going on?"
"Um… the ah… the chemo's not working… they said it isn't really working… I mean, it did some stuff, but… but um… they said that I need a bone marrow transplant."
"O—oh…" Eames stammers, and suddenly his eyes feel wet. "Oh, um… well that ah… that sucks."
There's a long moment where Eames just listens to Arthur breathing on the other line.
"So, um…" Arthur mumbles. "I'm sorry about… before… I didn't mean to be so uh—mean."
"It's all right," Eames says. "I… I know you're ah—going through a lot."
It's so awkward that it hurts… at least, he thinks it's awkwardness.
"So, uh… they put me in the hospital, but um… if you want to… you can come by… for a visit. I don't really—I mean, no one knows so I don't really get any visitors, you know? I…"
"Ah, sure, yeah, yeah, I can come by. I'll come by tomorrow. I was just finishing up a job anyways."
"Oh, uh—great, uh… I'll uh… I'll see you tomorrow."
Eames hangs up, calls the extractor, quits the job, and then makes another phone call.
Eames is so nervous that he throws up on the way to the hospital. When he gets there the nurse very nearly admits him from how ashen he is and how dark the bags under his eyes are, but he assures her that he's just looking for Arthur.
At that, she seems stunned. "Really?" she asks, and there's hope in her voice and it makes Eames's heart absolutely shatter.
Eames nods, eyes burning. "Yeah, I'm ah… I'm a friend."
She gives him the room number, and he thanks her and makes his way slowly down the sterile white hallway. It seems to take forever, the sound of his footsteps echoing too loudly around him… and then he's at the door and suddenly it feels like it's happening too fast. He hesitates in front of the door, hand trembling over the knob.
He goes inside.
Arthur's in the bed, dressed in a hospital gown, and he looks worse than he's ever looked. It makes Eames momentarily want to run out screaming. "Hey," he says, and his voice is softer than he ever remembers it being.
Arthur's eyes light up, but even with that he still looks so weak. "Eames," he says scratchily. "Uh… hey… Thanks for… Thanks for coming. I know you've probably been busy or… or whatever…"
Eames's throat closes up, and his eyes itch, and all he can do is shake his head. "No… No, I…" he says awkwardly. "I didn't think you wanted to see me."
He hates admitting to that, even though Arthur knows.
"I'm sorry about that," Arthur says, looking down at his lap. "I… I mean, I've just been really selfish."
"Selfish?" Eames scoffs. "Darling…"
"I was," Arthur interrupts. "I… I couldn't… I couldn't stand having you help me anymore… because I realized that… there was no point. I was letting you take care of me, and it didn't matter, and I was wasting your time."
Eames sniffs, looking out the window rather than at Arthur. "You shouldn't talk like that. You shouldn't be thinking that way."
"It's okay," Arthur says, tugging his knees up to his chest. "I'm okay… I've accepted it, you know? I never thought it would happen this way, but… I accept it. I'm… ready for it."
Eames looks back at him, and he realizes that the pain in his chest is the feel of his heart breaking.
His heart is breaking.
Maybe Ariadne hadn't been so crazy after all.
"You're not going to die, Arthur," Eames tells him. I can't let you die.
"I am if I can't find a donor… and odds are slim," Arthur mumbles. "I just… and I keep being selfish, but… I just wanted to see you one more time before…"
Eames goes to his side, sitting on the end of the bed, and Arthur looks surprised and confused and Eames doesn't know why… and then he realizes there are tears on his face.
"Why are you crying?" Arthur asks, eyebrows furrowing, and his smile is so small and hopeless.
Eames can't talk, so instead he just pulls Arthur into his arms and refuses to let go. Arthur sits stiffly for a few minutes and then lifts a hand to settle it on Eames's back.
"Eames," he says, nervous. "Eames, it's—it's fine… You don't have to… I don't understand…"
"You're not going to die… I won't let you…" Eames whimpers, dropping his head to Arthur's shoulder. "You can't… You can't die…"
"Why do you even care? I mean… you and I… aren't even—"
Eames pulls away from him and sees that Arthur has tears in his eyes too.
Neither of them says anything. It's too dangerous to talk. Instead, Eames just lay down with him and holds him in his arm, and both of them sleep peacefully for the first time in weeks.
When Eames wakes up a few hours later, he walks out of the room to have himself a smoke. He has made an effort to quit, but perhaps he figures it'll help him take the edge off of… everything.
He finds his mobile buzzing in his pocket and discovers he has about twenty-two missed calls from the same number, and when he looks up, he sees a woman standing by the nurse's stand with her phone to her ear, and he realizes she's the one calling him.
Eames approaches and touches her shoulder, and she jumps at the touch, turning around.
She's beautiful, with long dark waves of hair and a slender frame, and she's wearing too much makeup to cover up the fact that she's been up long hours and likely sleeping on a plane (she smells of the airport, and her rumpled clothes lead Eames to believe she's gotten off a plane not too long ago).
"You're Vanessa?" Eames asks, and immediately her honey brown eyes fill with tears.
"You're… the one who left the voicemail on my phone," she says, and her accent is distinctly like Arthur's, her voice bell-like. "You're… Arthur's friend?"
"Ah… I suppose you could say that… Um… I didn't really expect you to respond."
"Are you kidding me?" she says, lip trembling. "I… is it true? Is Arthur here?"
"He is, and… he's very sick. I told you about all that, but ah… he needs a bone marrow transplant, and I thought that perhaps you might… be able to…"
She puts her arms around Eames and squeezes him. "Thank you… thank you for calling me, for letting me know… Christ, I've been so stupid. I've been so dumb. All of this…"
…and even though she's a stranger, Eames holds her, and he lets her cry in his arms… because they have the same fear and apprehension, the same Arthur…
Eames goes to a hotel room for the night since visiting hours are over, but he's back at the hospital first thing the next morning.
Arthur is awake, and he's got a look of astonishment on his face. He stares at Eames and doesn't even say hello. All he says is, "They found a donor…"
Eames stays silent, hands in his pockets.
"They… they said that my sister was here… How did she… how did she even know I was here? I didn't… I don't even…"
"I called her," Eames admits. "I hunted her down and called her right after you called me… I thought that—that maybe she could help, and if she couldn't that… that you'd want to at least see her."
Arthur reaches out and grabs his hand, tugging it out of his pocket and holding it tightly in his long, graceful fingers. "Really?... Eames, I… I don't know what to say…"
"Just say that you won't give up, all right?" Eames says softly, squeezing his hand right back. "You and your sis have lots to talk about."
Arthur frowns. "There's no guarantee it'll work."
"I don't want to hear any more talk like that. You can't lose hope, Arthur… That's all any of us have got, you know?"
Arthur looks into his eyes and just nods a little. "Will you… will you stay here? With me?"
"I wouldn't dare be anywhere else," Eames says.
He wants to hold him and kiss him, but he refrains.
The air in the room grows progressively more uncomfortable as the day passes, and even when they move Arthur downstairs to prep for the transplant, it still feels stuffy and tense.
It's only about ten minutes before that Eames realizes he's scared.
…and he isn't the only one.
"Eames," Arthur says suddenly, and it's the first thing he's said since he'd asked him to stay.
Eames turns, slowing his pacing to a stop finally. "Arthur," he says, and his voice trembles because Arthur is staring at him, eyes wide, lip quivering. "Arthur…"
"What if it doesn't work?" he asks. "What if… what if I don't get better? I—I said I was ready for it, but I'm not, Eames, I'm not… I can't—I don't want to die. I'm only thirty, I'm not ready to die…" He's shaking rather violently, breath coming out in short gasps.
"You're not going to die," Eames tells him, though he's not sure if he's trying to assure Arthur or himself. He sits down at his bedside and grabs his hand in both of his, squeezing it, remembering how he'd been so fixated on those beautiful fingers before Arthur had told him, remembering how they'd raked down his back. "You're not… You're not going to die."
"I don't wanna die," Arthur whimpers, voice breaking, and God he's so young. He's so young, and he's so sick, and he's so beautiful. "I don't wanna die, Eames—I—I never got married, I never had any kids—I've never even ridden a fucking motorcycle, never been to Disney World, never seen the Aurora Borealis…"
Eames gasps as Arthur throws his arms around him, squeezing him tightly, and Eames finds he's immediately squeezing him back just as tightly. "You'll see it, you will… I'll bloody take you to Disney World as soon as you're well, and we'll drive there on a motorcycle, and…"
"I've never even… I never even told… Never…"
"You're not going to die," Eames says again, and he's being tugged by the arm by a nurse.
"Sir, we're going to have to take him away now," she says softly.
"Just… just give us a moment, please—" Eames says, and the look in his eyes is so desperate that she steps back and waits without complaint.
Arthur sniffs, cheeks wet, and Eames just looks at him, stares straight into his eyes because he fears this could be it. This could be the last time. People died from anesthesia all the time, and… it could be useless… it…
"Eames, I…" Arthur says, and illogically Eames hears Ariadne's voice ringing in his ears.
"Oh, um… see… it's just… it's so obvious that he's… you know… in love with you?"
"You're going to make it through this," Eames tells him, and he's not sure, most definitely not sure, but there is one thing he's sure of, a thing he's never been more sure of in his whole life.
Arthur with his dimpled smiles and glittering eyes, with his laughter… with his iPhone full of Guns n' Roses music and his lonely apartment and cups of tea… Arthur with his beautiful hands and the scrunch of his eyebrows when he pouts and his insistence on doing things himself, with his insecurity about his hair and the way he laughs when he's high… with his casual advances and condescending little smirks… with his tailored suits and specificity and his sad, scared trembling and oh, God…
"Arthur!" Eames cries out, just as they're rolling him away to the transplant ward.
Arthur looks up at him.
"I love you," Eames says, and before Arthur can respond, he's rolled away.
His hand slips from Eames's, and it's only then that Eames realizes he's been holding it the whole time.
The waiting begins.
Eames sits in the waiting room, staring at the wall for a bit, flipping through magazines for a bit, pacing for a bit. He knows he won't see Arthur for a while. They have to keep him isolated. Arthur has to take immunosuppressant drugs, has to stay completely sterilized to lower the risk of infection. He's going to be in the hospital three to four weeks, and Eames can't see him until then…
…but he still comes to the waiting room every day… just in the hopes that he'll hear something.
He ends up not being alone in his pacing.
Vanessa shows up about the same time every morning with coffee and donuts, and they have breakfast together. Eames tells her all about Arthur's life (the legal parts anyway) because she knows nothing about him, and she cries and talks about what a horrible person she is and how she never blamed Arthur but actually blamed herself and oh, how could he stand looking at her every day?
She's really quite lovely, very much like Arthur. He can see why they would butt heads a lot.
Eventually it gets to the point that she asks Eames what his relationship is with Arthur, and Eames really doesn't know what to say, so he just says what he knows.
"I'm in love with him."
This answer doesn't surprise her.
"I always thought he was that way… You know, the playgirl magazines under his mattress gave him away, but when Dad found them he just said they were mine."
Eames smiles warmly. "I imagine you didn't take well to that."
"There was the slamming of doors and lots of yelling, but that was just another day between us… We argued and fought all the time, but… I loved him. I still do."
"I think Arthur argues and fights the most with the people he cares about the most," Eames says. "At least, I hope he does because that's good news for me."
She smiles, and her cheeks dimple the same way Arthur's does, and it makes Eames's heart hurt. "He's always been a stubborn idiot," she says. "He loved getting into challenging situations so he could get himself out of them, liked being able to use his brain, you know? I'm sure when he found out about… all this… he wasn't sure how to handle it. He probably felt backed into a corner."
"He panicked," Eames agrees softly, "and he went to me… and I was so stupid that I didn't realize anything was going on. I've tried to make up for it, but I think I've said the wrong thing far too many times."
She's a stranger really, but Eames finds himself opening up to her the way Arthur opened up for the patients at the clinic. It feels good, cleansing even, at least until he gets in his car to go back to the hotel for the night.
The radio is playing "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" and Eames sobs rather embarrassingly and sings along.
The weeks pass too slow and yet so fast.
Eames is dozing in a chair, and Vanessa is playing with his hair. "You know they said we could visit, right?" Vanessa says as she usually does.
"I won't be the cause of an infection that kills him," Eames replies with a monotonous hum. It's the same reason Vanessa won't go, that and her feeling that they need to talk when he's well. He's seen her anxiously step towards the door once or twice, even down the hall once, but she never makes it the whole way there.
"Well… hop up. I need to use the ladies' room," she says, and he rolls himself into a sitting position, nodding to her as she cross the room and disappears behind the door. He's decided he quite likes Vanessa, though it may be his bias towards Arthur. They really are ridiculously similar, right down to the way they drink their coffee.
He's about to settle back into his chair to nap when he sees someone standing in the doorway out of the corner of his eye. He glances there and away, and then he's looking back, staring, stunned.
It's Arthur in a brown sweater and tan corduroy pants and his woolen cap that Eames bought for him. He's still pale and yellow and skinny… but he's there, unless Eames is hallucinating.
Arthur smiles a bit unsurely, tugging at a sleeve. He says nothing.
"Arthur," Eames whispers, standing a bit unsteadily.
There are so many things Eames wants to say. Are you okay? How are you feeling? When will you know if it worked? I missed you. I've been worried sick about you. Are you real? Are you angry with me for what I said before? I meant what I said. Are you supposed to be standing? Can we go home? I love you. I'm sorry about all the things I said or did to hurt you… Oh, please, tell me that you're okay. Please tell me that you've figured out that this is all a dream and shoot me out of it. I need you to be okay. I need you. I can't live without you. I love you. I've loved you for years and I'm so stupid for not seeing it until now and if there's anything I can do to make you forgive me just say it and—
Arthur crosses the room briskly, puts his arms around Eames's neck, and presses his mouth to Eames's before a single thought can escape it, and for that moment everything just seems to stop and disappear, and it's just the two of them and the orchestra music that's in Eames's head and hell, maybe there are doves and angels singing just because.
Arthur pulls away but hovers close, forehead pressed to Eames's and asks, "Did you mean it?"
"I would never lie to you, my love," Eames replies softly, hands cradling is thin, bony hips.
"I… I wanted to tell you…" Arthur stammers. "I've been… for so long, and I… I went to you because I… but then I thought that you wouldn't want me and… I… I don't have any guarantees for the future… and there's still so many hospital tests a—and so much baggage that I just don't…"
Eames shuts him up by kissing him again.
He doesn't care what the future holds. He doesn't care about Arthur's baggage at all.
Nothing can tear him away.
"Just say it," Eames says.
"I love you," Arthur says, and kisses him again.