It's late, and god, they have just finished testing a few of Ariadne's dreamscapes, labyrinths, and rehearsing, as best they could, the plan for the latest job. It was extensive and exhausting for each team member, but productive which meant that Cobb could leave the circle of lawn chairs satisfied. As soon as they're awake, Ariadne returns to her workspace to work out some of the kinks in her design while Cobb, sure enough, stretches and exits to call his children. Eames remains seated, lounging casually on the lawn chair while he watches Arthur begin to put away the expensive dream machine.
"Arthur," he begins, and Arthur hardly spares him a glance as he winds back up all of the IV cords into the machine, but he's waiting, "Why don't you take that machine back out?" He has left his IV attached to his wrist, and when Arthur looks at him expectantly for it, Eames teasingly covers up his wrist and slightly pulls away.
"What for?" The point man asks, all business-as-usual. Eames clears his throat and repositions himself comfortably on the lawn chair.
"I've got a few new faces I'd like to try out if you're willing to take them for a spin."
"Of course," Arthur replies without hesitation, settling back into his own lawn chair across from Eames. "But why not ask Cobb?" He rolls back a sleeve again and reaches for the IV cable. Eames uncovers his wrist and relaxes his arms, closing his eyes.
"Do you really think I want to run into his bloody wife?" The forger chuckles, but he's completely serious. He's already been killed by Mal once today in an earlier dream share with Cobb. At his side, Arthur can't help but chuckle too, no doubt remembering the act and finding it amusing, the bastard. But in all truth, the only one wanting to run into Mal is Cobb, and they both know that. "Besides, I think we can both bet that he'll be on the phone for hours." He rubs the back of his head and gives Arthur what he hopes is a neutral glance. "Now before you can suggest Ariadne, I think we both know she's busy."
Arthur stares back at him evenly and merely shrugs in reply. It doesn't really matter; it's preparation for their job. And even though he's tired, he can see the use in the exercise. What else is there to do anyway?
"Okay, are you ready?"
"If you are, love, we're going into your dream this time, you know. Pretend you're the subject."
"Of course," Arthur replies, resisting rolling his eyes.
"Oh, and please not the hotel again, Arthur…"
"What do you mean?"
"You always use the hotel. Dream up something original for once, use your imagination."
"I'm sorry I'm not an architect but hotels are convenient. They can serve multiple purposes for what we do."
"Dearest, we're not on a job right now… and I want something other than the bloody hotel."
Arthur takes a deep breath and gives Eames a look. "Fine," he gives in, reaching over to press the button on the machine.
In another instant, they're both out.
They are standing in a diner.
"Somehow I don't see this as being much better," Eames grumbles to himself with a roll of his eyes. Stepping in front of the mirror of the small, cramped bathroom, he transforms into a beautiful woman—not his blonde, but rather a raven-haired beauty with ruby red lips and slightly narrowed eyes.
The woman steps out of the bathroom pouting her lips and glances around for Arthur. The projections begin to stare at her but she ignores them and heads toward the counter. There sits Arthur, all dressed up in a suit… at a diner. Eames can't help but scoff inwardly.
"Waiting for someone?" The woman asks Arthur in an alluring alto voice with a strange accent.
Arthur glances up, slightly on guard. "Yes. For a friend." And when she moves to take the stool beside him, he adds, "I'm sorry, but I know he'll be here soon."
The woman takes the seat beside him anyway and Arthur just lowers his head politely and concedes.
"He can wait," the woman insists, crossing her legs and leaning forward in a way that makes her breasts converge and jut out. "Because you know what? I've been waiting for you…"
"Eames," Arthur says simply, rolling his eyes as the woman begins to drag a finger down his chest. He leans on his hand, elbow propped up on the counter, looking unimpressed, but absolutely smug. Eames plays along anyway, because it's fun.
"Eames?" The woman plays with the name on her tongue and repeats it in a low whisper. "No, not Eames. Veronica."
"I'm sure. Well, it's nice to meet you, Veronica, but I have to go find someone now." Arthur begins to try to stand up but the woman grabs his wrist and tries to pull him back down to his seat.
"But I'm right here!" She says, staring into his eyes. "Please don't leave me…" She pulls him in for a kiss, closing her blue eyes but he breaks away before their lips can touch and he stands up.
"Good night," he says curtly, breaking off all further conversation as he steps out of the diner and into the sunset that had begun to fall at his words. He seems so impatient, Eames notices, and he can't help but watch his every move as he pushes his way out the diner's door.
Somehow Arthur always does this. He trusts Eames to keep things all business only to be disappointed when Eames's intentions very obviously change. Any other person would have been able to see it coming before even entering the dream state, but not Arthur. And Eames is glad. It makes it that much more amusing and endearing when Arthur gets frustrated and storms away.
Eames waits until Arthur has moved far enough down the sidewalk and out of sight before returning to the bathroom. There he turns into a young man, very similar to Arthur's age and size with almost matching brown hair. He ruffles the hair and smirks into the mirror, admiring his latest disguise. His eyes are dark green and his voice rough and more American. He exits out of the diner through the back alley in order to meet up with Arthur on the street.
He pulls out a gun from his side and turns the corner, pointing it at Arthur's chest before the other man has time to react. Arthur, slightly surprised, tries to reach for his own gun, but the boy says "Don't even think about it!" and brandishes the gun at him meaningfully. Slowly, Arthur's arms go up, but his expression doesn't change.
"And what do you want?" The point man asks skeptically, a hint of amusement in his voice and eyes.
"You're coming with me," Eames says, "because you have something I want."
Arthur raises an eyebrow.
"Eames? This isn't a very casual encounter…"
The projections are definitely staring at him now and it's interfering with Eames's attempts at fooling Arthur. Not that he's really concerned with being subtle anyway; it's all just sort of a game. Arthur doesn't know it, but he knows it.
The boy pulls back the gun and grins widely as Arthur lowers his arms and shakes his head reproachfully, as though in embarrassment at the small scene he's caused in front of the projection.
"And what if I'm not Eames?" The boy asks, moving closer. "What if I'm really kidnapping you?"
"Then you're godawful at what you do. Well," Arthur gives a dark laugh that surprises Eames, "I suppose either way you would be."
Oh, that gets Eames going a bit. After all, he was really just playing around for the sake of flustering Arthur and getting him into a tizzy. But, Eames decides as he narrows his eyes at Arthur and tucks away the gun, it's just time to get serious. He drops the boy charade in front of everything and stands tall facing Arthur.
"That really sort of hurts you know. Try to put a little excitement into dear Arthur's life and he'll be a buzz kill, ah yes, I see now. But you just wait, darling, I have other tricks up my sleeve…"
Arthur snorts and begins to turn away. "For the sake of our job tomorrow, I hope they're pretty damn good."
"Oh, they're bloody brilliant; they'll blow your mind, I can assure you," Eames promises with a mischievous grin before walking in the opposite direction. Because it's not true; Arthur won't even know right away that he's been messed with.
Once he's far enough away from Arthur, Eames ducks into a convenience store and changes quickly into another brunette.
Arthur by this point is completely bored walking through the idle city streets. There are gunshots in the distance, but it doesn't really matter. If anything, it means Eames is leaving the dream on account of even the projections being unable to put up with his latest attempts, all of them foolish and painfully obvious.
Arthur is making his way back to the diner, wondering how much longer the dream is going to last, when he sees her.
She's lying in the middle of the street, clutching her bleeding side. Her wounded brown eyes find his and she calls out to him frantically from her spot on the concrete. Her breathing is erratic and it sends a sharp feeling of fear and surprise down Arthur's spine as soon as he notices it.
"Ariadne…?" He calls, rushing forward. He bends down to hold her before glancing along the street to make sure no cars are coming. "What are you—"
"I saw you and Eames had stayed behind for another dream share… so I got curious and followed you in." She gasps in pain and stares at Arthur longingly. "I know I shouldn't have, but I just couldn't help myself. And then I was looking for you and they- they shot me. It's not fatal, but it hurts..."
Her face wrinkles strangely in pain and confusion as she glances all around them at the streets and sidewalks.
"Where's Eames? Isn't he here with you?"
Arthur doesn't even take the time to look around, he's too busy trying to figure out the best way to end Ariadne's pain. Well, obviously, it's death… but… His hand hovers over the gun at his side. They're not heavily sedated so there's no real harm in it, and he's done it hundreds of times before to Cobb and others, but this is just a lot to take in.
He blinks up in surprise to make eye contact with her.
Arthur snorts and begins to explain... unable to keep some amount of derision out of his voice.
"Well he wanted to try out some new faces on me and he's been glaringly obvious the entire time. I'm sure it won't be long before he shows up again. He's sorely out of practice."
Ariadne smiles slowly, and Arthur takes it for uncertainty. But he doesn't really have time to dwell on her reactions because she's hurt and action needs to be taken.
"I'm going to get you out of this pain, okay?" Arthur tells her, checking her wounds.
Ariadne nods. "You go and find Eames. Things are starting to get a little violent here… are you okay?"
"Of course," he replies despite himself, standing up and backing away.
Arthur aims the gun at her, but hesitates for a split second. Then, a gun is fired, but it's not his. He doesn't even have to look at his side to see that one of his projections has shot Ariadne.
Eames wakes up in an instant, smiling. Glancing over at Arthur, he watches as the other man continues to sleep peacefully. He chuckles to himself, imagining Arthur shooting the projection and then searching frantically all about the diner and the street corner, trying to find him so they can get out. It's amusing, really. And actually, Eames figures, it serves Arthur right for doubting the practice of his forging skills. He just sort of wishes he was still in there watching.
After waiting for a minute or two, Eames decides that Arthur's had more than enough time to "find" him and gives him a painful kick off of his chair.
Arthur groans and takes a moment to take everything in before rounding on Eames.
"What the hell?" He exclaims furiously, picking himself off of the ground and dusting off his trousers. He glares at Eames. "What happened to you?"
Eames holds back a grin and replies, "One of your projections hit my poor bloke with its car. And then it swiftly got out of its car and proceeded to stab me. Tell me, are you really that inwardly violent, Arthur?"
"Where's Ariadne?" Arthur asks, ignoring the question. Eames smirks and shifts in his spot on the lawn chair.
"I guess she got tired of waiting for you to wake up. Had important work to do and all that."
Arthur doesn't reply. He locks away the machine in its briefcase and rushes toward the exit as though to follow after Ariadne.
"Good session today, Arthur," Eames calls after him absently, "thank you very much."
The point man stops and nearly matches Eames's smirk in smugness and condescension as he glances over his shoulder at the forger.
"You've got work to do, Eames, that was awful." Eames wrinkles his nose at this and runs a hand through his hair. "Subtlety isn't your strong suit, as usual."
Eames can't help but grin as he takes his totem from his pocket and flips it casually up into the air. He knows he's better than what he had done in the dream, and Arthur knows it too. Terrible, stupid, condescending, and more importantly, unknowing Arthur.
"Then I suppose this means we'll be spending more time together, yes?" Eames says confidently, folding his hands in his lap.
But once again he's ignored as Arthur exits the large warehouse to find Ariadne. After a moment or so, he yawns and stretches, preparing to follow after him. After all, an embarrassing conversation was soon to commence between Arthur and Ariadne, and well, Eames just can't miss it for the world.