If Dom expected this to be funny, he had a sick sense of humor. Really. Because bringing Arthur to meet the man who he called 'the world's best forger' and then showing up with the horribly dressed, greased up oaf who could barely get out his own words was fucking hilarious. Arthur could barely contain himself; it was that good of a joke.
"Are you joking?" Arthur asked, raising an eyebrow and motioning over to the other man, who was currently chewing on a powdered donut and spraying sugar everywhere. Arthur resisted the urge to not cringe. "Are you sure that this is him? That you didn't lose the actual forger somewhere on the street"
Dom started to open his mouth, but was quickly interrupted through a mix of a mix of a rogue accent and a spray of crumbs. "Easy love. If you don't believe him, I can surely show you I'm the real thing. Through and through…" Arthur could practically feel the leeriness oozing off as he waggled his eyebrows.
"For the love of God," he muttered, pinching the bridge of his nose. He was supposed to work with this man. Who in the first 30 seconds of meeting had already hit on him and insinuated exposing himself to Arthur. Things were most definitely not looking good for them.
To make it even worse, Cobb was enjoying this. He was chuckling and shaking his head. "Arthur, relax. Eames' is all talk…" Cobb stopped and frowned, before shrugging. "Well, ninety percent talk."
"Yeah I am…" Eames agreed, grinned through a mustache of white powder.
"It doesn't matter though, because I need both of you for this job. Mal is already working on the architecture, but I need you two to work together on putting the rest of the scape in order. And if you two can't even bother to get along, we're all fucked to hell," Dom told them, and it was in the voice that Arthur could never tell if he was serious or joking around.
"But-" Arthur spluttered as Dom began to leave the room. He waved his hands at Eames, hoping that maybe if he wiggled around a bit more, Dom would be able to see the clear and rash mistake that he had just made. Clearly.
"Play nice, Arthur," Dom warned, calling out as he shut the door.
Behind him, he felt Eames clap a hand down onto his shoulder, chuckling and reeking of cheap aftershave. "Yes, darling. Play nice."
Play nice? They were going to be lucky if Arthur didn't shoot himself before the night was over.
"So darling, what are we working with?" Eames said with a grin, leaning over the table in an attempt to glance into the folder that Arthur was looking at.
"Do not call me that. Ever," Arthur growled through gritted teeth, his hand frozen halfway to reaching the page.
Eames reached down and mussed Arthur's perfect hair. "Oh, darling. You'll get used to it! Now tell me the details, pet. No time to waste."
Arthur squared his jaw, contemplated throwing the folder across the table and smacking Eames straight in the face. Wiping that cheesy grin right from his face.
"Whatever. Just – just don't touch my hair…" Arthur sneered, flipping the cover of the folder open. He desperately began to pat at his hair, trying to smooth it out with no avail. "Our case is to infiltrate the subconscious of a professor of oneirology."
"I'm sorry? Ore-Ida-ology? The study of fried potatoes?"
Biting on the inside of his cheek to stop himself from saying something especially ruthless, Arthur sighed. "Oneirology. The scientific study of dreams. The dean of the college hired us to find out if the professor is extracting information from his students without them knowing."
Eames frowned, crossing his arms. "So we're dealing with someone that knows the trade. That doesn't leave any room for mistakes. He's also probably hidden the data in his own subconscious, trained his projections, everything. He's going to be ready for us," Eames muttered, before getting up from his chair and wiping his palms on his pants. Arthur watched him carefully as the forger began to walk around the room with a folder and a pad of paper, scribbling mercilessly on it.
He really couldn't help it, but Arthur felt his lower jaw drop. Where had the blundering idiot gone?
"You're not going to be able to do that."
The only sound that filled the room was the pen slipping out of Arthur's hand as he stopped writing, immediately sensing that Eames was standing over his shoulder. He immediately tensed up, slowly turning to face the older man, who was busying himself looking through a manila folder. "I'm sorry. What?"
"Your plan that you're currently writing. You won't be able to do it. Start over," Eames said softly, not bothering to pull his nose out of the folder.
"And why would I do that?" Arthur asked, his voice bordering on the verge of laughter. Or maybe it was screaming. Either way, it was hysterics…
Eames groaned, slamming the folder shut and walking over to the table and standing over Arthur, his body leaned over so closely to Arthur's. "Because. That's going to get you killed, and I sure don't want to have to deal with you dying in there…" Arthur looked down at his list and what Eames had been motioning to – 'take out projections. get dom to the mark.'
He didn't get it. If Eames was the great forger that Dom had built him up to be, then he should understand that projections are almost the only hindrance to a job. So why would he be telling Arthur that he shouldn't do his job?
"Are you insinuating that I'm incapable of doing my job? Because, frankly, I doubt you're one to talk…" Arthur asked darkly, rising from his chair. He could take the garishness of his clothes and the crude behavior, but he never asked for someone to tell him how to do his own job.
Eames stopped whatever he was doing, frozen stiff in place. Arthur could see the rigid tension lining his shoulders. "What do you mean by that?" he replied softly, lacking the edge or insult Arthur had been expecting.
It put Arthur off for a second, as he slowly put together the rapid and seamless change from the bawdy, vulgar lout into this streamlined and focused worker. It had happened without even a word. The past few hours had happened without Eames even bothering to hit on him. It was like…
It was exactly the description that Cobb had given Arthur.
Open mouth, insert foot here much? Thrown off, Arthur began to stammer incoherently instead of answering. "Oh, I – uh – yeah, uh." Feeling the rosiness creep into his cheeks, he just stopped, giving up.
Eames sighed, eventually turning around and taking a step toward the pink-cheeked point man. With a sigh, Eames crossed his arms. "The reason why you shouldn't do something like take the projections head-on at that level is because you'll most likely die. And with the intricacy of the information we're extracting, I have a feeling that the sedation is going to heavy enough to send us limbo with any mistake. Therefore, when it comes to the projections, you either wait for me, and then we bring Cobb. Or, we lay low and try to steer clear of them. Either way, you're not going to limbo on my watch."
Arthur sniffed, still not making eye contact with Eames. Slowly, he nodded. "Thank you," he muttered. Arthur was good at many many things, but being apologetic was not one of them. Especially considering he couldn't remember the last person he actually apologized to. Whenever he felt the word prickling on his lips, he reminded himself that he was above the person that he was planning on apologizing to...
Arthur watched from the back corner of a bar where Eames, currently forged into a young girl who could pass for a college student chatted amicably with Dr. Levinstein. The projections hadn't made too much of a disturbance yet, giving Eames just enough space to try and find out what he needed to.
It really was like watching a master. The mannerisms and the facial expressions, and everything. Eames managed to forget about the person he truly was and sink into the persona of this young girl he had just created. To think that at one point Arthur had discredited his skills was completely unfair.
"Do you mind if I join you?" an unrecognizable voice asked, hovering just above the table.
Arthur looked up, finding himself facing a grinning Levinstein. The doctor was remarkably young, most likely in his mid to late thirties. When Arthur should have been fluent and persusasive and completely casual, he failed. This wasn't in the plan. He wasn't prepared for this.
"Er – yes. I mean, of course."
"Thank you. I couldn't help but notice that you were sitting over here, and I caught your eye a few times, hoping maybe you'd get the hint."
Arthur heard bits and pieces of what the doctor was saying, but when he focused in over at the bar and noticed the girl was gone, along with any other sign of Eames. Arthur immediately zeroed in on it, only hearing Levinstein and the blood that was now pumping through his head.
Levinstein smirked, ducking his head and chuckling. He swallowed the last bit of wine that he had brought over to the table. In the shady light that was illuminating the table, Arthur noticed that he looked even younger. The smirk, the laughing, the sudden mystery and sharpness that had climbed into his voice – it made Arthur's skin crawl with disgust.
Slowly, Levinstein picked his head up, his eyes narrowed and his jaw set squarely. In a hushed yet harsh whisper, he growled "I know we are dreaming. I know what the forger at the bar was trying to do. Did you really think that you could perform extraction on a professor of dreams?"
Arthur spluttered, finding his body suddenly pushing itself back in the chair, as if trying to find a way to escape. He couldn't think on his feet, couldn't breathe, couldn't react to what was currently happening.
"If I'm as good as they say I am, which I thoroughly do, we should be coming out of this slumber in a few minutes. And once we do, I hope you understand that I will end you. And I will enjoy it-"
From that point on, Arthur didn't hear anything else. His body flew from the table, legs carrying him as fast as he could away from Levinstein. He was panicking, which went against every single rule that came with extraction. But this wasn't like any other extraction.
He needed to find Eames.
When Arthur opened his eyes, he felt funny. It was almost like he was in his own bed. There was a large warm blanket on top of him. And his alarm clock was screaming at him. But he couldn't remember going to sleep in his own bed.
As he opened his eyes more, he released that it wasn't his alarm clock screaming, but actual people. And the blanket on top of him wasn't a blanket, but none other than Eames, who was currently trying to shoot Levinstein, who was spraying the two in a barrage of bullets.
"Get off," Arthur mumbled thickly, pushing Eames with no avail.
"Just stay down," Eames said through gritted teeth, elbowing Arthur slightly in the ribs. "It'll make it easier to shoot us if there's two targets…" He fired off another bullet from behind the couch that they were currently in back of.
"But that doesn't make any sense…" Arthur protested weakly.
"Pet, I don't have time for this. I'm trying to save both our asses, so just let me do it. Okay?" Eames shouted. Before Arthur could argue back any more, Eames grabbed onto his forearms, rolling the two of them as close to the couch as possible.
"Think you can fool me?" Levinstein laughed. "Think you can steal from me? I wrote the book on extraction! You have nothing on me!" His voice was shrill and practically hysterical, shaking with exhilaration. "Show me yourselves! Take this like the men you say you are!"
"Stop shooting at us! That's not a very welcoming reason to come out!" Eames spat back before another bullet pierced the couch. He lifted his hand to shoot again, but from the moment he pulled the trigger, Arthur felt his heart stop.
The barrel was empty.
"Please tell me you have more bullets," he whispered softly, tangling a hand in Eames' shirt.
Eames brought the gun down, staring at it in shock for a moment before he slowly turned to Arthur. "You wouldn't happen to have yours on you, would you?" he said softly, the quietness of his voice sending a chill down Arthur's back.
Arthur let out a shaking sound that was a mix between a cry and a gasp. Levinstein approached them, laughing and his gun aimed straight for them. "This is too precious," he said, looking down at Eames, who was still pressed on top of Arthur. "Something that I've always dreamed about…"
"Eames, for the love of god, get off me," Arthur hissed, trying to push the large man off of him. This was going to be the end of it. The end of everything that Arthur had come to know. He wasn't going to be able to experience the majority of his life. He wasn't going to see anything that he had hoped to. And no matter how he acted or how he presented himself, he wanted to live happily.
To make it worse, Eames was going to die as well. All he could picture was the other man taking a bullet for him. He shut his eyes, practically feeling the blood from a wound seep from Eames' body into his clothes. Eames would die, their bodies pressed together, and then Arthur was next. He couldn't stand it.
When a bullet rang out, Arthur didn't even bother to open his eyes. He just laid there, waiting for the horrible feeling, finally convincing himself that what he imagined was bound to happen.
"Arthur?" Eames asked, sounding pretty okay for a guy who just took a bullet for him. "It's over, darling. Open your eyes."
The warmth from Eames left his front exposed as it disappeared, leaving Arthur cold and feeling hollow. He opened one eye, finding Eames and Cobb standing above him and watching him. From his spot behind the couch, he saw a limp arm still barely clutching onto a gun.
Levinstein was dead. Eames wasn't going to die. Neither was he.
He looked back up. Eames was watching him intently, his face a mix of concern and worry. Dom was whispering on the phone to Mal. But none of it mattered. Because all Arthur could hear in his head was that Eames had almost died, and it would've been his fault.
His fault. His fault. His. Fault.
So Arthur did the only thing he could think of when face with the current situation…
Eames wasn't exactly sure how to handle what happened after the showdown with Levinstein. Arthur hadn't been heard from since he ran from the scene without a word, and the hush-hushness of dealing with the body and covering it up always left Eames reeling a bit.
He headed back to their hotel, just wanting a bit of peace before he'd have to leave again in the morning. Back to the job. Never a moment of peace or rest. Never anything for comfort…
Multitasking as he poured himself a tumbler full of rum and loosened his tie, he reveled in the silence. Usually it made him feel anxious and jumpy, but now it was soft and peaceful. Like a humming noise.
He placed the glass back down on table, which was when he noticed that the other glass was turned on its side, its contents dribbling out of it. So unless the cleaning staff was getting tipsy on hours, only one other person could've been here. Still was here.
Eames walked into the bathroom, finding the shower running with the curtain drawn. "Arthur?" he called out softly, noticing the lack of steam or humidity that was produced from a hot shower. He took another cautious step in. "Arthur, it's alright. It's just me…"
With a shaking hand, Eames found himself grabbing onto the curtain and pulling it to the side. Sitting in the bathtub, his body hugged tight to him and his clothes plastered to his skin, was Arthur. The spray beat down upon him, leaving him trembling with shivers. His hair trailed into his face in jagged messes as he peered up at Eames was wide eyes, before turning back to stare into nothingness.
Wordlessly, Eames sighed and climbed into the tub to the left of Arthur, now receiving the directness of the icy water. Feeling Arthur press up against the side of him made him even colder.
"I can't get it off," Arthur mumbled, his jaw shaking furiously as he managed to strangle out the words. Before looking at him, Eames pulled the point man closer, hoping in some desperate attempt to warm him with body heat. "It won't clean. The blood. Your blood."
Eames watched the younger man warily, unsure of what exactly he was talking about. But at this point, it really wasn't so much about the story as it was the storyteller. "I'm fine, love," he whispered, running his hand up and down Arthur's upper arm.
Arthur laid his head down into the crook of Eames neck. "Dom says I'm good at what I do. But I'm not. I can't do my job. I almost killed you."
With a sigh, Eames frowned. He was now dripping and freezing, and the point man who was currently wrapped around him was feeling guilty over something he had no control of. Eames realized that he could try and talk to Arthur, convince him it wasn't his fault and all that schmutz.
"Cold?" he asked, to which Arthur nodded weakly. He switched the tap from cold to warm, letting it spray over the two of them. Entwining his own fingers with Arthur's, he enclosed his hand with Arthur's smaller, hand, pulling him closer. "We can fix that. Nothing is irreparable."
Slowly, but still trembling with the cold, Arthur turned to face Eames, his face no longer as blank as it looked before. Eames wrapped his other arm around Arthur, pulling him so close to the point where it was almost impossible to see where one body started and the other ended. "I'm sorry," Arthur whispered, so softly that Eames almost didn't hear it.
Pressing a soft kiss to Arthur's temple, who snuggled in closer, clutching onto him tighter, Eames whispered "Don't apologize, love. You're perfect just the way you are."
ending scene is based on the shower scene from james bond's casino royale.