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Fic: The Shade That Haunts

Title: The Shade That Haunts
Characters/Pairing: Eames/Arthur
Rating: M
Word Count: 2000+
Spoilers: The movie.
Disclaimer: Inception is Christopher Nolan's amazing creation. I don't own these bloody brilliant characters.
Arthur'sAuthor's Note: References to my other fic, Chocolate, Coffee and Gingerbread.
Summary: In which Eames discovers Arthur's Shade.

The Shade That Haunts

“Aren't you going to invite me in, darling?”

The first time he ever went over to Arthur's flat, Eames had been surprised.

“I'm trying to decide if you'll match the décor or not,” deadpanned the younger man, pretending the unexpected visit hadn't thrown him off.

It was immaculate; that wasn't so unusual, but he couldn't find a single photo, painting or picture in the apartment. Granted, he hadn't seen the inside of Arthur's bedroom (and didn't that just sound so wrong?), but the rest of the place was nothing except white walls and expensive rugs. A matching three-piece leather set in the living room; lacy, gently-wafting curtains shielding a set of doors that presumably led out onto the balcony; a pair of sturdy, large bookcases packed with novels and texts; a spacious kitchen with all the latest in high-tech gadgets and knickknacks; it all screamed 'Arthur' but Eames had honestly been expecting more.

The second time around, he'd discovered the gramophone while Arthur was brewing some coffee for them. Eames couldn't stop the little smile from forming. It was very old-style but charming amidst the 32-inch flat screen TV, and the chic chrome and glass coffee table.

He wandered over to the small stash of vinyl records. Plucking out the one with the largest amount of signs of handling, he carefully unsheathed the disc and set it on the machine. A few moments later, the opening strains and haunting voice of Edith Piaf filled the room.

Non! Rien de rien
Non! Je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal tout ça m'est bien égal.

“Ah, I see you've found my collection of vinyls,” the Point Man entered the living room, bearing two mugs of piping-hot caffeine. “That particular one was a hard find. Took me well over two months to track down an original.”

“I imagine, then, that I'd never have found a copy at all,” chuckled the Brit. “Probably cost a pretty penny too.”

“That, and an arm and a leg. Not mine, luckily.”

Eames thanked him for the sugar-laden, creamy white coffee and relieved him of it, taking a slow sip. “Aw, darling, you remember exactly how I take my coffee. You shouldn't have.”

Arthur threw a glare at him but it was only half hearted. They settled on the leather couch; Eames curled up, feet tucked under his legs and Arthur sitting up perfectly straight, body angled slightly towards the other man.

Ever since Christmas, things had been different. Though, if Arthur was honest with himself, things had always been different between the two of them. From the taunting jibes to the flirty teasing. Covert glances and secretive smiles. The lightest lingering touches.

They lapsed into a comfortable silence, the music of Edith Piaf washing over them.

Eventually Arthur broke the silence. “Why are you here, Mr. Eames? Surely this isn't just a social visit?”

“You can dream and design. The hotel was proof of that. I want to know the real reason you don't design dreams. I know I said you lacked the imagination and creativity to be an architect but I was only joshing you.”

There was another silence. This one seemed a tad more stifling though; Arthur had lost any trace of humour in his eyes. If Eames really wanted to know, perhaps it was better he find out now, rather than later, and better to hear it from him rather than Cobb.

There was a reason Arthur was so fascinated by the dream scape, by the world of sleepers. Eames had figured it out early on. Not the reason itself, but the fact that there was one. It didn't take a genius, and Eames certainly never proclaimed to be one, to realize that Arthur always had a reason for anything and everything he did.

The Briton however, had never expected Arthur to come right out and tell him. And he had figured, if Arthur ever did tell him, it would be under pain of torture, except he knew that even then, Arthur wouldn't cave and reveal anything, or maybe he'd have to be three sheets to the wind first.

It felt like hours later, but it was probably closer to five minutes before he spoke.

“My mother used to love M. C. Escher. So much so that she had several of his works hung up on the walls in our house.”

Eames wasn't cluing in. But he liked to listen to Arthur's voice, so he stayed quiet. It was rare for the Point Man to talk about himself, and Eames wasn't going to interrupt and lose his chance to find out more. Perhaps being in his own apartment gave Arthur a sense of security. Enough so that he was in a more talkative mood than usual.

“I used to have a copy of Waterfall with a dark gold frame, hanging right by my bed. It was her favourite one and she hung it in my room, just for me. I used to look at it at night while I lay in bed. Count the steps one by one until I fell asleep. Thirty-two steps in total. Exactly thirty-two and always thirty-two.”

The Forger thought he could see where this was going. He also thought Arthur had a smidgen of a case of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, but he decided it was prudent to keep that little fact to himself. He did like his limbs where they were after all.

“She was dying you know. Cancer, and not a damned thing anyone could do. But I wanted to give her one last gift. So I began looking. And I'm good at that. The researching. The exploring. The investigating. Then I found Cobb. I found the PASIV device.”

Arthur didn't look at Eames, not once, while he was speaking. Instead, he watched the loaded die in his fingers, turning and turning. He found it easier to talk about himself when he wasn't looking at someone else. When he couldn't see the look in their eyes when he told them the truth. The one he'd hidden away inside of himself for so long.

“Waterfall was the first dream scape I ever created. It was the only thing I could do for her, you know. Even if her body was failing her, she was alright in the dream world. It was like...living the impossible. Living inside one of his drawings. Where you can walk the paradoxical staircases, Penrose stairs. Or watch a waterfall that would never exist in real life. An endless cascade, endless stairs, endless corridors. Loops within loops.”

He used to think Arthur was so straight-laced; a veritable stick in the mud. No imagination or creativity. How wrong he was. And now Eames was beginning to wish he had been right.

“God. The look on her face. Like I had given her the world. Like everything was perfect, and she was healthy and she wasn't dying. I thought I had done the right thing.”

How Eames wished he could take the question back. Regretted asking in the first place.

“Except it hadn't been. Instead, the real world was no longer good enough for her. She hated it. Being trapped in her ailing body, in the hospital. Surrounded by the sounds and scent of death. She didn't want it anymore. She was suffering, and she wanted to escape. Back to the dreams, back to the fictional place I'd created. She didn't want reality.”

It was getting harder and harder to speak. A small lump building up in the back of his throat, choking off his voice. Setting his die down, Arthur picked up his coffee; cold now but he didn't notice or care for once. It gave him an excuse not to talk. A moment to collect himself before forcing himself to continue.

“But, as you know with dreams, there are dangers. Losing yourself, losing sight of reality. That was what happened to my mother. She didn't want reality anymore. But I couldn't take her there. I couldn't leave her there like she wanted. She...she begged me to take her back. To the place that made her happy. A place where she was healthy. A place that didn't even fucking exist. But I refused. And she hated me for it. Every single visit I made to her, she always pleaded for the escape, the dream world, and every single time I refused. It was always the first thing out of her mouth, and the last thing. She...she didn't want to see me anymore though, when I kept refusing and denying her the dream, and she died without ever going back.”

He set his drink back down again and pulled one leg up against his chest. Curled in on himself, arms slipping around his knee. Pressed a cheek against the top of the knee, facing away from Eames. It made him seem far younger than a man in his late twenties, made him vulnerable, which Eames was always certain had been impossible. Until now.

“And that, my friend, is why I don't design or create anymore. It's just...easier if I don't. It's why I can never blame Cobb for Mal. I couldn't help him and I couldn't stop him. But I couldn't save her either. Not my mother, not Mal. But isn't that how it always is?” he gave a smile but it didn't even come close to reaching his eyes. “Too little, too late. Every time.”

It was the same for Cobb, and for Fischer. And now, Eames was sick to find out, Arthur as well. A small idea formed in his head. For one fantastical moment, he considered it. He was the best Forger out there. He could do it; infiltrate Arthur's dreams, and give him his mother back. The same way he'd given Fischer his father. Yet even as he fleshed out the plan, he knew even with dreams, it was always too little, too late.

“Arthur, it's not like that. What you gave her was a gift. It was...selfless and amazing and wondrous, like you. Never think otherwise,” Eames said, even as found himself on the other end of the couch, sliding his arms around the younger man. “I just hope one day...maybe you could take me there.”

As though, by hugging the other man so, Eames could shield Arthur from all the hurts in the world, from all the bad memories and thoughts.

Arthur refrained from burying his face into Eames' neck. The words that came next were muffled.

“We all have our own personal Shade.”


Eames watched Arthur, sleeping on his bed of silk sheets. He'd led the other man to the bedroom and tucked him in. For once, Arthur hadn't argued or put up a fight; it was a testament to how emotionally exhausted the man was. Then the Forger had gone about putting away the record and cleaning the coffee cups.

In the kitchen, he'd found a jar of cookies. Homemade from the looks of it, with a familiar aroma tickling his nose.


Eames felt a small smile creep across his face.

It didn't take long to tidy up the place. Then he pulled out his cellphone, and called in a couple of favours.

When morning came, Arthur shuffled out of the bedroom. He stopped dead in his tracks. Eames was still in his flat, sleeping on the couch with a throw pillow under his head and his jacket as a makeshift blanket. That wasn't the thing that had shocked him though.

With a racing heart, Arthur crossed the living room. He lifted a trembling hand and brushed it across the smooth canvas, surrounded by a dark gold frame. Thirty-two steps in total. Exactly thirty-two and always thirty-two. An endless cascade.


It took him a couple of minutes to realize there was a note pinned between the wall and the painting. Arthur tugged it loose, feeling his heart constrict. He swallowed hard, and unfolded the piece of paper. Eames' messy, loopy scrawl.

Clutching it in his fist, he stumbled over to the slumbering Forger. He placed a hand against a stubbly jaw, thumb tracing the full lower lip. Pressed his forehead against the older man's and just breathed. Breathed in the scent of Eames. Stale cigarettes and a scent like sandalwood and water, uniquely Eames.

By the time Eames woke up, Arthur was in the kitchen, poised, composed and making breakfast. Eames wondered if the hand he'd felt was real, the brush of a set of lips against his own. The whisper of his name.

Darling. You are selfless, amazing and wondrous. Never think otherwise.


Feedback is much appreciated. <3

Tag, You're It:


( 18 traces — Leave a trace )
Aug. 16th, 2010 04:40 pm (UTC)

Awwww! Loved it lots. Arthur's explanation was sad and haunting, and Eames' response and subsequent actions very in-character and very romantic...
Aug. 16th, 2010 04:49 pm (UTC)
Thanks for reading it! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :)
Aug. 16th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)

That was amazingly imagined. I could FEEL Arthur's pain as he described his story; I could understand his mannerisms (not looking at anyone while talking about something very personal); the combination of love and pain that he feels for his mother/shade.

And the totally LOVELY gesture Eames makes at the end is A++++!

Wow! *mems*
Aug. 16th, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
<3 You just made my day. I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thank you~ ^^
Aug. 16th, 2010 06:43 pm (UTC)
::flails:: Oh, ARTHUR. ::sniffles::

Also: lacy, gently-wafting curtains ... HEHEHEHEHEHE.
Aug. 16th, 2010 07:01 pm (UTC)
Aug. 17th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, that icon is awesome. xD
Aug. 17th, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
Yes, someone got the reference, hee hee! *gives you a gingerbread cookie*

O.o *also gives you a tissue* Sorry? ;-;
Aug. 16th, 2010 07:02 pm (UTC)
Oooh, this was wonderful. I love me some vunerable!Arthur, as long as Eames is there to look after him :D
Aug. 17th, 2010 04:29 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading. I'm glad you liked it. :) Yes, sometimes Arthur needs to stop being so strong and professional and just be human. Eames is good at getting him to show that side of him, I think. ^^
Aug. 16th, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)
I love how you could FEEL the emotions in this.

Eames can be so sweet and caring when he wants to. :)
Aug. 17th, 2010 04:31 am (UTC)
Why, thank you. ^^

Exactly. :3 He really is such a sweet cutie at heart!
Aug. 17th, 2010 08:55 pm (UTC)
Extra cute! I really like that way you wrote about Arthur, it adds an extra layer of complexity as well as develops his character and you did it really well, seamlessly, too!
Aug. 18th, 2010 10:15 am (UTC)
Thanks for reading~! :) I wanted to flesh them out and give Arthur a little bit more background as to why he is the way he is. <3
Aug. 17th, 2010 09:25 pm (UTC)
Awww... this is also lovely.

Is it weird that the Inception fandom seems to have accepted the idea that Arthur's mom died when he was younger?

I don't know man, but I've read that in like, four fics and it's in La Vie and man I don't know.
Aug. 18th, 2010 10:18 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)

I don't think it's that weird. I mean, for some reason, every fic I've read has a poker chip as Eames' totem, but I swear we never found out what it was in the movie. O.o Some things just...click with the characters, I guess. In poor Arthur's case, it would be his mum dying when he was young. :/
Aug. 18th, 2010 01:52 pm (UTC)
ohhh so lovely & beautiful!

“I'm trying to decide if you'll match the décor or not,”

I like this line the most though XD
Aug. 18th, 2010 08:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks! ^^

Yeah, I really like that line too. Because really, Eames probably doesn't match the décor, haha. xD
( 18 traces — Leave a trace )