Summary: This is what his life has become: hotels and coffee and reveling in those few hours he has to himself. The French news lulls him to sleep, and Arthur thinks if he can just get through this job, then it will be over. If only. Arthur/Eames, Fischer Job
Disclaimer: The title belongs to T.S. Eliot; mostly everything else belongs to Christopher Nolan. The italicized sections are directly taken from the movie, in chronological order.
A/N: Out of all of my stories, this is the only one I have ever edited (although I am sure there are still several mistakes... I didn't say I edited a lot). Murphy's Law dictates that this will be the least well-received of all my stories. I hope that's not true, because I want to write more Inception fics, but just in case it is, please criticize me nicely. Also, be forewarned, this is choppy – similar to It Might Start Now. There is a reason for it, although mostly it's just because that's the way it turned out.
Also, this started out as a thousand-word story I didn't even like. I don't even know what happened. Arthur took on a mind of his own. Sometimes my imagination confuses me. There might be more in this universe, so tell me what you think. This is canon-compliant.
These fragments I have shored against my ruins
The problem with a big team, Arthur thinks, is that there's more work for him.
When it's just him and Dom, Arthur does as he's told and leaves it at that. Dom has all sorts of good ideas, and all Arthur has to do is make sure the idea won't get them killed. That, and look up every fucking detail about anything pertaining to the job.
Arthur doesn't mind that sort of thing. He's a good point man because he likes research and is naturally practical. It's not a hardship for him. And he likes the somewhat convoluted routine he has with Dom – living on the run, working in seedy third-world countries, getting killed by projection-Mal. With the Fischer Job, that routine abruptly stops.
Okay, so the truth is, Dom is sort of shit at being a leader (he was better, when Mal was around, but without her it's different, and his genius is a bit more like insanity now). Dom is good at making speeches and coming up with plans, and he might even mentor Ariadne occasionally. He has absolutely no interest in details or liability or research. So, basically, Dom takes the good stuff and leaves Arthur to organize the rest. Which is fine, because to Arthur the organization is the good stuff.
Still, he just knows the Fischer Job is going to suck, that Dom has gone too far this time.
It was easier, back when they didn't have to always have an architect. Arthur can build dreams easily, even if he lacks the imagination to create something truly genius, and he will gladly do it if it means he doesn't have to bother double-checking the designs of an architect. It was even easier when Dom designed dreams, too. The two of them could do the job of an architect without any fanfare.
But then Mal started infiltrating the dreams, and soon Dom couldn't build anymore, for fear of Mal knowing the layout. So it was on Arthur to build. And that was perfectly fine, except Dom knows Arthur and Arthur's preferences and so after awhile it got easy enough for his subconscious to guess the rough layouts.
So now they have Ariadne.
Not that Arthur minds, exactly. Ariadne is sweet and brilliant and eager to learn. But she also takes up an inordinate amount of Arthur's time. By the time he's done teaching her everything, he could have just made all the levels himself.
It's not like they can do much anyways, with Dom off fetching Eames. And it's also likely Eames will take another few weeks with his research. So there's time, at least.
But that doesn't make Arthur any less tired. Ariadne is young, and her enthusiasm makes Arthur feel old and world-weary, even though he's not much older than her.
Arthur finds himself a nice hotel room – a suite with a couple of rooms, so it sort of feels somewhat like a home. It's a luxury hotel and close to the warehouse. Arthur is content, and he doesn't think about the money it is costing him. He thinks of Dom, but doesn't bother to organize living arrangements for him.
There is a Starbucks in the lobby, which is rather lovely, Arthur notes as he walks towards the elevator. Once inside his hotel room, he clinically takes off his clothes and folds them. He fishes around for his sweatpants and an old Dave Matthews t-shirt (from college – there are a couple of holes in it, but it smells like home, wherever that is) and pulls them on. This is what his life has become – hotels and coffee and reveling in those few hours when he can relax and go to sleep.
The French news lulls him to sleep. As his eyes drift shut, Arthur thinks, Just get through this job, then it will be over.
Cobb comes back with Saito and a man named Yusuf in tow.
"We're back," Cobb calls out as he enters the warehouse. Arthur looks up from his computer and Ariadne appears through the doorway that leads to the "office" Arthur designated as hers.
"You must be Arthur," Yusuf says, grinning widely. He looks good-humored and honest, which is a rather refreshing change for Arthur. "I've heard all about you."
"I'm sure you have," Arthur says drily. He shuts his laptop and stands up, shaking Yusuf's hand. His grip is strong. "I've met your cat."
"Have you? Which one?"
"Delilah, she was lovely." Arthur doesn't mention how Delilah got cat hair not only in his own hair, but all over his favorite Armani suit as well. "I didn't realize you worked in the field."
"I don't, usually, but Eames can be rather convincing."
"That he can be," Arthur murmurs, thinking, money can be convincing, too.
Dom clears his throat. "Eames flew straight to Sydney to start recon."
Arthur glances at his watch and does some mental math. He sighs. Ten hours is a rather inconvenient time difference for phone conversations. Time zones are a bitch. "When will he be here?"
"Couple weeks, he said."
Arthur nods and then turns to Saito. "Mr. Saito, I didn't expect to be seeing you so soon."
"Hello, Arthur," Saito says, smiling wanly.
Arthur can feel Ariadne's presence behind him, and a second later Dom does the introductions, allowing Arthur to walk away and continue his work uninterrupted.
Several hours later, just as he's about to leave for the night, Arthur gets a call from Eames.
"So, inception. I'm rather surprised."
"There wasn't much of an option," Arthur replies. He glances around the warehouse. It's late, and everyone is gone except for him and Ariadne. They are all tired from the flight, he guesses. "You're up early."
"I," Eames says stuffily, "have work to get to. I'm wearing a suit and tie, darling, and they match; you'd have a heart attack just looking at it. Or an orgasm."
It's crude and so utterly expected that something seems to unknot in Arthur's back as he replies dryly, "I'll try to contain my primal impulses."
"I could send you a picture," Eames offers.
"I'll pass. Do you need something?" Arthur deflects smoothly.
"Why would I need something?"
"Well, you called me," he points out reasonably. Arthur can feel Ariadne's gaze on him, but ignores it.
"I wanted to hear your voice," Eames says cheekily. Arthur thinks Eames just likes to fuck with him, as if it's hobby to play with Arthur's emotions as much as he can. "And also I was wondering if you could send me your notes on the mark so I can get an idea of what I'm walking into today. And anything on Peter Browning, I have a feeling he's going to come in handy."
"Is that all?"
"You know me too well. There's another thing, have you established the dream levels yet?"
"Nothing concrete. As of now the first level is going to be a city, with Yusuf as the dreamer, but it's subject to change. And Dom hasn't added his input yet. Why, any suggestions?"
"I'll have a better idea of what I'm dealing with in a couple of days, but I was just going to suggest we stick to impersonal places – except perhaps in the final dream. I have good credentials, but not as such that I'll be able to access private apartments or anything as such, and from what I've heard all of their residences have very tight security, so espionage is inadvisable."
"As shocking as this is, I agree. The information on the Fischers' private residences is minimal and very secretive. My research is good, but not nearly good enough to base a dream off of, especially in such fragile dreaming space on such an important job. The second level might to better as a hotel or office building, and Ariadne's building a hospital as the deepest layer, to evoke feelings of Maurice Fischer. Keep me updated if you have any ideas."
"Alright, darling," Eames replies, and damn it if that doesn't make something clench in Arthur's chest.
He clears his throat and tells Eames, "I'll send you those files tonight."
"Tomorrow's fine. You should get some sleep," Eames responds, his voice unmistakably tender, which is exactly what Arthur doesn't need.
"Have a good day at work, Mr. Eames," Arthur says dispassionately, and hangs up.
He's tired, so tired, and yet simultaneously feels like he's in a dream he can't wake up from.
It's not like he's suicidal, it's just that he hasn't stayed in once place for more than a few weeks in the past two years. He follows Dom, and in the time in between jobs will usually go to visit Phillipa and James, because they miss Uncle Arthur. Visiting them is painful, and not just because of the memories, but he can't quite stand to leave them, when both of their parents already have.
Then he returns to Dom, who never fails to be bitter that Arthur is able to visit his kids when he isn't. After that they take on another job, in which Mal most likely kills Arthur, causing his memory of his best friend to be even more ruined.
On good days, Arthur calls it a fucked up routine. Really, though, it's a vicious loop, and Arthur wants it to end, but in the back of his mind he still doubts they will be able to pull off inception, if only because of Mal.
Arthur keeps to himself, working diligently and gathering all the information he can muster.
He calls in a couple of favors – Benjy and Marietta – and manages to hack into Robert and Maurice Fischer's personal e-mail and phone without being detected. Dom is busy being creative in a corner, dreaming sporadically. He keeps Ariadne busy, discussing dream theory and the experimentation he used to do before Mal died. Dom hasn't had such an intent student in awhile, and Arthur finds himself glad that Dom is distracted.
Saito comes in and out, usually on his phone, always professional. He mostly directs his questions at Arthur, as if he has already discerned the team dynamic between Dom and Arthur.
Arthur likes Yusuf the best, because he is quiet and cheerful. He teases Ariadne and laughs with her and tells her about Mombasa and about dreamsharing. He tells her the nice parts, not the scary ones, and for that Arthur respects him. If she decides to pursue dream work, she will have to have her eyes opened, but for now it's unnecessary. She's not even going into the field.
One day, Yusuf comes to sit next to Arthur. He has two coffees and three scones in his hands and says, "Thought I'd pick one up for you, too. And scones, if you're hungry."
"Thanks," Arthur says, taking the cream only coffee and taking a sip. It's hot and lovely. The scones don't look bad either, but Arthur doubts he will have one.
"So, how did you end up meeting Delilah?" Yusuf asks conversationally.
"I visited Eames with a job offer while he was cat-sitting," Arthur replies. "He spent the day dragging me all over the place before agreeing to the job. I think he did it to annoy me."
Arthur eyes him for a moment before sighing and asking, "You haven't been in the field for two years?"
"Eames did say you know everything," Yusuf comments. He sits down in the chair nearest Arthur. "You are correct, yes. Is it going to be a problem? I'd gladly go under with you."
"If you wouldn't mind, I think that would be a good idea," Arthur says somewhat apologetically. He doesn't like being patronizing, but it's almost part of the job description.
Yusuf doesn't appear to take any offense. He smiles and says, "Of course."
The next day, they are sitting in the same chairs with a PASIV on the desk in-between them.
"As of right now, you're dreamer for the first level," Arthur says as he sets the timer for five minutes. "Things might change in the future, but Ariadne's started building a city setting."
"That's not a problem," Yusuf says. "So do you want me to give it a go?"
"Whatever you come up with is fine," Arthur says. "This is really just a formality."
Yusuf dreams up a beautiful city – a mix of Mumbai and Bangkok and London, Arthur thinks. It's wonderfully done, and they spend a nice forty-five minutes walking around, discussing Yusuf's compounds and when he'll need Arthur to start testing them out, until they find the beach. Yusuf sits in the sand, and Arthur stands, observing the skyline, until Yusuf invites him to sit. Reluctantly, he does. They have about ten minutes left, and Arthur is content to wait them out, listening to the waves crash against the shore.
"This is nice," Arthur says.
"You work really hard, don't you?" Yusuf comments, and it's not really a question. Arthur doesn't respond, choosing instead to occupy himself by taking off his shoes and socks. It's peaceful for another few minutes until Yusuf murmurs, "He took the job for you."
Arthur stares mutely down at the sand, digging small holes with his feet.
"He really likes you, you know."
There's probably a snide comment on the tip of Arthur's tongue, but they wake up before he can say it.
"You can't kill her," Arthur confronted Dom once. "You can't, but you need to."
"I love her," Dom said, as if that was a valid excuse.
"She's not real, Dom," Arthur replied, and he didn't mention that Dom never seemed to have a problem killing Arthur, who followed Dom around the entire fucking world and was actually on his side.
"She's my wife," Dom practically snarled. "She's always going to be real to me."
"Maybe that's the problem."
Eames arrives in his usual flurry of activity and brightness.
The unusual part is that he doesn't arrive at the warehouse at some decent working hour. Instead, he knocks on Arthur's hotel room door at two in the morning, everything about him mocking Arthur, who answers the door with bags under his eyes, bed head, and nothing but sweatpants on.
"Good morning, darling," Eames greets him.
"Go back to Mombasa," Arthur grouses. "No one wants you."
"Lying is bad, darling," Eames says with his maddening smile. His comment hits a little too close to home and he probably knows it.
"Take the couch, I'm going to bed," Arthur mumbles, wandering back into the bedroom. "We're leaving for the warehouse at seven."
Eames probably says some smartass reply, but Arthur doesn't hear it. He just crawls back into the bed and hugs his pillow.
Arthur lets his eyes droop and thinks life is unfair. He doesn't want to feel anything for Eames, he doesn't want to be so fucking pathetic. He doesn't want to follow Dom around the world. He doesn't want to be unhappy (and worried, so worried, all the time).
Arthur drifts off to sleep, wondering why he always seems to play the fool.
Eames arrives to the warehouse on Arthur's heels, talking cheerily about his latest job in Bangalore that was a spectacular failure, by all accounts. Yusuf rolls his eyes and gets back to whatever he's doing, but Ariadne is enraptured. Arthur already heard about it from Benjy, but he lets Eames talk so that he doesn't have to bother making conversation. In the back of his mind, Arthur also knows this is how Eames celebrates being back in his own skin, not the skin of some uptight businessman with a matching suit and proper voice. It's hard to be angry at him for that.
Regardless, there's no denying Ariadne and Eames distract each other nicely.
Of course Eames, being Eames, ensures that Arthur is always a part of the conversation, asking his opinion on everything and insisting that "you would have loved it, darling".
"I'm trying to work," Arthur says finally.
Instead of being deterred, Eames just walks over and sits on Arthur's desk, asking conversationally, "Where is Cobb?"
"Out," Arthur says, forcing himself to keep his focus on his work and not on Eames.
"We should follow his lead. I know a wonderful little sandwich shop. Let's all go," Eames suggests, bringing Ariadne back into the conversation.
"That sounds like a good idea," Ariadne agrees brightly. "Come on, Arthur, you could use a break."
"I think I'll stay," he says delicately, and ignores the way Ariadne's face falls.
"Yusuf?" Eames asks.
"Why not?" Yusuf agrees with a shrug.
After assuring Ariadne that no, he doesn't want to go, and no, he doesn't want them to bring anything back, Arthur is finally left in peace.
It takes him a moment to realize maybe that's what Eames was aiming for all along, and hates the man for knowing Arthur too well, for knowing he just wants time alone to work.
Eames returns with a sandwich for Arthur. He doesn't say anything, just leaves it on Arthur's desk.
"… Now in the first layer of the dream, I can impersonate Browning and suggest the concept to Fischer's conscious mind. Then when we take him a level deeper his own projection of Browning should, should feed that right back to him.
"So he gives himself the idea?"
"Precisely, it's the only way it will stick – it has to seem self-generated."
"Eames, I am impressed."
"Your condescension, as always, is much appreciated, Arthur, thank you."
"You and Eames seem close," Ariadne says one day, her voice deceptively casual.
"We work well together, despite how it may seem," Arthur says, and it's true. It's just that there's more, too.
Arthur first met Eames when he was young and entirely too vulnerable to the man's charms, even if he appeared indifferent.
He fell hard, and he's still falling, even though he tries to hide it (and he's certainly not going to act on it). Eames only became interested in Arthur more recently, a few years ago. Either he is physically attracted to Arthur or delights in the fact that Arthur has a crush on him. Regardless, neither of the two options is encouraging. Arthur isn't about to respond to Eames' flirtations when he knows it's just going to end in disappointment.
He has enough problems in his life as it is.
And, anyways, it's been so long that Arthur is used to it. It's become the new norm, feeling his heart speed up when Eames touches him or having something catch in his throat whenever Eames smiles. He's trained himself to not focus on Eames' lips, to not look at him more than anyone else when they are in a room together with other people. And he almost, almost doesn't care when Eames calls him those pet names.
"I thought maybe there was something more," Ariadne suggests tentatively, because she's young and impetuous and hasn't yet learned subtlety.
"There's not," Arthur tells her shortly.
"Happy birthday, Uncle Arthur!" two voices squeal into his ear.
"Thank you," Arthur says, a smile spreading across his face as he leans back in his chair, thankful that he decided to decline going out for a late lunch with the rest of the team (minus Saito, who is off somewhere else).
"We miss you."
"Yeah, we miss you. Are you going to visit soon?"
"I have a dance show soon, you should come. Can you come Uncle Arthur?"
"I'll ask your grandma the date, how about, and I'll do my best to make it," Arthur promises.
"Will you come to my soccer games?" James asks.
"Sure, Jamie," Arthur agrees, smiling in spite of himself. He subconsciously slows down, ambling down the street as he lets himself bask in the sun and the happiness on the other end of the line.
James adds, "We mailed you presents to Grandpa, he said he would give them to you."
"I wanted to send you a birthday cake, but Grandma said you can't mail birthday cakes," Phillipa pouts.
Arthur laughs slightly and suggests, "How about I visit the month after next, when it's your birthday, and we can all have cake then. I'll even help you bake it."
"Can you visit on my birthday, too?" James asks.
Then Phillipa adds, "Can you visit before that? Two months is a long time."
"I don't think I can, I have work," Arthur explains apologetically. "I'll visit as soon as I can."
"That's what Daddy always says, too," James complains.
"Is Daddy with you right now?"
"He is, actually. We're working together," Arthur says.
"Did he make a birthday cake for you?" James asks.
"Of course he did," Arthur lies as he puts the call on speakerphone and uses his free hands to roll up the sleeves of his shirt.
"Did he make the frosting green?"
"Mhmm," Arthur says absently, "green, and the letters were blue."
"Was there pink?" Phillipa asks.
"No, no pink," Arthur says. "Pink frosting is boring because it doesn't turn your tongue a different color. Your tongue is already pink."
"Is your tongue green and blue?" James asks.
"Did you have cake for breakfast?" Phillipa questions. "Daddy always lets us eat cake for breakfast on our birthdays."
"Yes, we did. Although that was awhile ago so, my tongue isn't green anymore."
"But it's not even time for school yet!" Phillipa protests.
"I'm in Paris right now, so I'm eight hours ahead of you guys," Arthur explains. "I'm in the same place Grandpa is."
"Oh, well we have to go to school now," James complains. "And Grandma wants to talk to you."
"Can you call us soon?" Phillipa asks.
"If you'd like," Arthur says.
"We miss you."
"I miss you guys, too," Arthur says, the words catching in his throat for a second.
"I love you, Uncle Arthur."
"Yeah, me, too. I love you."
Arthur replies quietly, "I love you guys, too. Have a good day at school."
He finds out when the dance show is from their grandmother – he probably won't be able to make it – and hangs up the phone, feeling lonelier than he has in a long time. The team comes back soon after the phone call ends, but by that time Arthur has collected himself and is back to his work.
"I'm going to class," Ariadne says one day.
Arthur looks up and says, "I'll walk with you – I have to talk to Miles."
"You know him?"
"Oh, yes," Arthur says, smiling vaguely. "He doesn't like me much."
"Arthur was the one that introduced me to the illegal side of dreaming," Dom says, glancing up. "What do you need to see him for?"
"He has a package for me," Arthur says. He glances over at Ariadne. "Do you mind?"
She shakes her head. "No."
They walk together into Professor Miles' classroom. The man is sitting at his desk, grading papers and steadfastly ignoring the students trickling in for his next class.
"Corrupting another one of my students, are you?" Miles asks when he looks up and spots Arthur and Ariadne. He has a friendly smile on his face, but Arthur knows better. "I should have known you'd be in on it."
Ariadne glances between them confusedly before moving to take her seat for class. Arthur just smiles tightly, approaching the desk and says, "Phil and Jamie said you have something for me?"
Miles smiles thinly and gives Arthur the package. "Just came today. Happy birthday."
Arthur nods and leaves, giving Ariadne a brief smile as he passes her.
They got him two ties, a soccer ball, and a hand-braided bracelet with little beads on it, no doubt Phillipa's work…. The two handmade cards are what he cherishes the most.
"Alright, well try this: my father accepts that I want to create for myself, not follow in his footsteps."
"That might work."
"Might? We need to do a little better than 'might'."
"Thank you for your contribution, Arthur."
"Forgive me for wanting a little specificity, Eames. Specificity?"
Somehow, Eames never sees to find a hotel room of his own. Arthur isn't all that surprised. He sleeps on the couch, in the main room – it's a pullout – and shares the shower with Arthur. There's a second bathroom (no shower) in the hallway by the hotel room door that Eames uses otherwise. Eames probably intended at the start to charm his way into Arthur's bed. If that's the case, then he's disappointed.
It's not such a bad thing, having Eames with him – Arthur makes sure Eames gets to the warehouse on time and Eames almost always gets him a coffee from Starbucks ever morning while Arthur showers. There's something natural about Eames' presence, like he has always played such an integral role in Arthur's life, even though he hasn't.
It becomes even more worthwhile after one of their more frustrating workdays. They have the dream layers decided on, Eames is going to impersonate Browning, and they have the general idea of what they need to accomplish in each dream so that Fischer will eventually give himself the idea.
They just haven't quite figured out the "how"s yet. More precisely, they have a lot of options, but no genius ideas have been coming forth from Eames or Cobb, and both are frustrated about it.
Arthur goes to sleep later than he should, irritated and discouraged (despite what Dom says, they need to have at least some fucking clue what they are doing down there), only to wake up to a shadow looming over his bed.
Arthur swears, hand instinctively reaching for his gun.
"Relax, darling, it's just me. I have an idea," Eames whispers, turning on a light. Arthur squints at Eames (he's shirtless, and Arthur is fairly certain he's only in boxers). Oblivious to Arthur's staring, Eames places Arthur's PASIV on the bed and opens it, setting it up and passing Arthur one of the needles. When he realizes Arthur is still staring at him, Eames urges, "Hurry up, I think I know how to do it."
"Incept Fischer, of course," Eames replies. "You are quite adorable when you're tired, did you know that?"
"It's three o'clock," Arthur mumbles, glancing over at the clock. "This better be a good idea."
"It is, just trust me," Eames promises.
When they go under, Eames has dreamed up a rough replica of the first level and Arthur's mind is more alert, less sleep-muddled. Of course, he is slightly distracted upon finding that Eames is standing next to Arthur, still in his boxers. Arthur, at least, had the foresight to dream up a t-shirt and khakis.
"Right, sorry, love," Eames says, noticing, and a moment later he's in jeans and a Jesus and Mary Chain t-shirt. "Now come on."
"What is this about?" Arthur asks as he follows Eames.
"We use a safe," Eames says, a manic grin on his face. He stops and turns towards Arthur. "That's how extractors do it, right? Well we can do the same thing. Make it about a safe – in the first two levels we will twist his mind into believing Browning is evil and his father wants him to break up the company, and then in the final layer Fischer will automatically put that thought into the safe, just like in extraction. Except then it's Fischer opening the safe, and he gives himself the idea. That's how we do it."
"Alright, that makes sense," Arthur says carefully. "But how do we plant the first seed of doubt?"
Eames hesitates. "We kidnap him. We kidnap Fischer and say we want the combination to a safe – the safe that doesn't exist. The guy is filthy rich, kidnapping him wouldn't be completely out of the realm of possibility. Then in the second layer, we make him suspect Browning of setting it up."
"Or," Arthur says slowly, "we kidnap Browning – that is, you – as well, and have you start feeding him information right at the start. Then in the second layer, we 'reveal' Browning's true colors to Fischer."
"Yes, yes, we plant the seed early, so in the second level his projection of Browning changes." Eames laughs delightedly, "Darling, that's perfect. And then you have Fischer's Browning basically admitting to sabotaging the Fischers, and in the final level Fischer gets the catharsis with his father at the expense of Browning. This is perfect."
Arthur smiles back at Eames, who looks like a kid on Christmas.
"So, we need a warehouse, or something," Arthur says, glancing around the dream space. "I'll tell Ariadne tomorrow."
Suddenly, right in front of Arthur, a battered old warehouse appears, with an entrance for cars right in front of them. "Come on, love," Eames urges, and Arthur walks in. Eames starts sporadically creating the space, acting out the screams of pain he'll make to encourage Fischer and giving Arthur all of the precise imagery of what will happen if all goes according to plan.
"The next level will have to be based off of what happens here, but we'll have nothing if not time," Eames assures Arthur.
"So long as Fischer doesn't get suspicious."
Their two hours in the dream are over quickly, and then Arthur is waking up, blinking blearily up at the light, which promptly shuts off a moment later. Arthur stiffens as he feels Eames shut the PASIV and crawl closer to Arthur in the bed.
"Shh, don't move," Eames murmurs. He tucks Arthur's head gently under his own. Arthur can feel Eames' neck and chin against his forehead and his chin in his hair. A hand is stroking his hair. "I love your hair like this."
Arthur means to move, really he does, except he just ends up falling asleep like that instead.
Arthur wakes up to an empty bed (and, yes, it hurts) and to his phone vibrating.
He stares at it for a moment before picking it up.
"Arthur?" Dom's voice asks. "Where are you? It's nine."
"At the hotel, I guess we overslept."
"Eames is here," Arthur mumbles, rubbing his eyes and trying to wake up more quickly. "He had an idea last night about how to make Fischer turn on Browning. We, er, were working on it for most of the night. We'll be in later, okay?"
"What did you figure out?"
"A lot of stuff," Arthur says. "We can show you when we get there."
Dom is quiet. "Arthur, are you and Eames…"
"It's not that I have a problem, but he-"
"Dom, I know. Let's just not have this conversation," Arthur says, the pang in his chest only amplified by Dom's obvious concern. "I'll see you soon."
Arthur hangs up, and the resulting silence is strange. He sits on the bed, feeling all of fifteen years old and drowned in the covers. The PASIV is gone, just like Eames. Arthur stares down at his hands, pale against the dark comforter. Always playing the fool, he thinks.
When Eames walks into the room, already showered and with two coffees in his hands, Arthur is still in the same position.
"Arthur, I-" Eames hesitates in the doorway.
"I'm taking a shower," Arthur says, forcing his heavy limbs to move, because he knows Eames' words will disappoint him.
He doesn't need any more disappointment in his life.
"So, we need guns in the dreams," Dom says the next day when he and Arthur are sitting eating lunch in the warehouse. They both have Cobb salads, which Yusuf got them as some kind of joke.
"I'll take care of it."
"Sorry about being late yesterday."
"It's fine," Dom says, shifting uncomfortably. "You've been working too hard, anyways, I should have noticed earlier.
"I'm fine," Arthur says.
"I mean it," Dom insists. "You're doing too much. Just let me take some of it off your plate."
Arthur shrugs, looking Dom straight in the eye. "Most of it is done. We know how we're going to introduce Browning, with the kidnapping. We have the three layers and their dreamers, who know the layers. And we know in a general sense what we want to accomplish on each level and how to do it, to ultimately have Fischer's subconscious give him the idea to break up his father's company. Most of it will rely on what we find in the dream."
"Sorry, I know you hate that."
Arthur shrugs. "We have all the time in the world down there; I think we will be fine."
Dom nods and then asks what he really wanted to from the start. "Have you talked to Phillipa and James at all recently?"
"Yeah, a little," Arthur says.
Dom nods again, and the jealousy on his face is impossible to miss.
"You okay?" Eames asks one day after setting a large coffee and croissant on Arthur's desk (from the nice cozy little place that is Arthur's favorite because it's the only place in Paris with normal coffee in large cups, but that is also out of the way of the warehouse, which makes him both thankful and suspicious).
"Ariadne wants both of us to go down with her to check out the third layer, but I can take care of it if you like," Eames offers.
"No, I'll go. I haven't seen the most recent version yet."
"Alright." Eames shrugs. "You should go back to the hotel afterwards. You're overtired."
"I heard you working until three last night," Eames tells him gently.
Arthur flinches. "Maybe you should find your own hotel room."
"Someone needs to make sure you get to sleep and bring you coffee in the morning," Eames points out.
Arthur just says, "Tomorrow I need to see how your forgery of Browning is going. And you'll need to have a couple others ready just in case."
"I would be insulted if I thought you were serious, darling," Eames tells him. "But I know you know I have Browning down, and you also know I have several men and women lying about in my repertoire, just in case."
"I still want to see," Arthur says, and that is that.
Arthur has been avoiding the talk he has to have with Cobb, but eventually it comes to the point that it's unavoidable. So one night he packs up most of his work, takes his laptop, and sits next to Cobb, who is in the dreamscape.
Yusuf and Saito are gone, and Ariadne gives him a strange look as she packs up but doesn't say anything.
Eames is a different story. As soon as Ariadne is gone, he walks over and asks evenly, "Should I be a part of this conversation?"
"No," Arthur says.
"Are you lying?"
Arthur remains silent.
"Darling," Eames says, just that one word. Arthur glances at the clock – there's still four minutes until Dom wakes up.
"You know his mind is a little fucked up," Arthur says finally. "I just need to make sure he understands that he needs to be fucked up on his own time, not ours."
"He can't exactly turn it off," Eames points out reasonably. "Besides, having Mal or the kids walking around isn't the end of the world, really."
Arthur stares at Eames' hideous shirt and says flatly, "His projection of Mal has been sabotaging our dream work for awhile now."
The change in the room is subtle, but it's there. Arthur can feel it. His eyes travel upwards, and he see the way Eames' face goes hard and stony, can see his jaw tense and his breathing pattern change just slightly, less leisurely than before. Arthur looks down at his hands. He's never been very good with eye contact with Eames. It's a bit too uncomfortable, too personal.
"What does she do?" Eames hisses, and this is exactly what Arthur doesn't want to happen. "Arthur, what the fuck does she do?" He says it angry and passionate (and protective?), even though he already knows what Arthur's going to say.
"What do you think? I'm usually the fucking dreamer," Arthur snarls. "She shoots me, kills me, tortures me, whatever. And Cobb doesn't fucking kill her, even though she's not fucking real!"
Arthur doesn't like that he let his voice rise, and he truly regrets it when he sees the raw anger seep out of Eames, only to be replaced by something much more daunting.
"That," Eames says, his voice calm and matter-of-fact, "is not 'whatever' at all. I'm going to fucking kill him."
In that very moment, Arthur has no doubt that is what Eames plans to do. Maybe he wouldn't even mind, except there's more to the world than his problems and Eames' whims.
"No, you're not. You're going to go back to the hotel room and calm down, and I'm going to talk to Cobb," Arthur says evenly. The clock is counting down.
Eames glances between the clock, the door, and Arthur, looking torn. "We're going to talk about this later," Eames informs him. He gives Arthur one last, indescribable look, and walks out.
Arthur lets himself relax slightly, watching the clock count down the last minute.
When Dom wakes up, he blinks and looks around before his gaze finally settles on Arthur.
"Hey," he says, sounding surprised. "I thought you had left."
"No," Arthur says, leaning back and tapping his fingers against the desk. "How was Mal?"
"What?" Dom asks, feigning innocence.
"Don't insult me, Dom. Which memory was it this time?"
Dom takes the needle out of his arm and starts packing up the PASIV, saying, "That's none of your business."
"Yes, it is," Arthur contradicts. "It is my business, when you could sabotage a job that I have a personal and professional stake in."
"I have it under control," Dom tells him a bit coolly.
"If you're not on your game down there, I'll shoot you," Arthur says. "And Mal, too. Don't think I won't."
"I have it under control," Dom repeats.
Arthur shrugs. "I've heard you say that enough times that I know better than to take it at face value."
"Arthur, you know how hard it is," Dom tries to say, leaning forward and speaking quietly, as if he's sharing a secret.
Arthur stands up. He doesn't have time for this. "Goodnight, Dom."
"Speaking rationally," Eames says that night – he's leaning on the doorway to the bathroom as Arthur brushes his teeth, and just from his voice pattern Arthur knows he's planned this out, "Dom could compromise this entire job. It's dangerous. If he fucks up and we're discovered, we have one of the most powerful companies in the bloody world after our blood, not to mention Saito's displeasure to deal with."
"Yeah," Arthur agrees. He's too tired to fight. He stares unseeingly into the mirror – he looks horrible, his skin is sallow and there are bags under his eyes – and likens his life to a dream, a weak, unsteady dream that's crumbling before his very eyes, surrounding him. There's no escape, he thinks, and wonders why he's even trying anymore, if his life is just going to crumble into ruins around him. Why delay the inevitable?
He wants to wake up, but can't. This is reality.
Eames steps back and watches with shrewd eyes as Arthur first walks past him out of the bathroom and into the bedroom. Arthur doesn't want Eames to watch him undress, but he doesn't want to verbalize that sentiment, either, so he wordlessly unbuttons his shirt and peels it off, draping it over a chair. Seconds later, his pants follow.
"Darling, I know you might not want to hear this, but Cobb really isn't good for you. He's not the same person he used to be," Eames says gently, sitting on the bed as Arthur pulls on his sweatpants and t-shirt.
"I know, you don't need to tell me. And you don't need to act like I'm your fucking mental case, either."
Eames is silent. Arthur crawls into the bed, as far away from Eames as possible. Eames lets him, but he stays sitting on the bed, watching Arthur and making him uncomfortable. He turns away from Eames, but that just makes Arthur wonder whether Eames is looking at him.
"If Mal shows up," Arthur says finally, rolling over again so he's facing Eames, "we need to shoot her and Dom, no questions asked. He can wake up and we can finish the job. He's not indispensable. We could do it without him at any stage."
Eames nods, reaching forward and running a hand through Arthur's hair. He carefully positions himself on the bed, lying next to Arthur.
He lets Eames shift so he's under the covers, watching silently.
Arthur knows it's going to hurt later. Either it will be tomorrow night when Eames goes back to sleeping in his own bed, or later when he has a girlfriend or boyfriend that isn't Arthur.
He reaches under the covers and takes Eames' hand. It's not a sign of affection, he just needs an anchor. Eames squeezes his hand and smiles.
"So once we've made the plant, how do we get out? I'm hoping you have something more elegant in mind than shooting me in the head."
"What's a kick?"
"This, Ariadne, would be a kick."
Arthur walks around the hotel disinterestedly.
He knows it by heart by now, Ariadne has showed it to him enough times. It's a comfort, though, to walk around and reassure himself. He dreams up a few paintings on the walls, just to liven the place up, even though he knows that he can't put them there during the actual job. Behind him, Saito's footsteps echo his own. Arthur has been under with Saito several times, teaching the man the basics of dreaming. It's gone easily, because Saito is nothing if not sensible (and he already knows how to use a gun).
"You do this very well," Saito comments. "Yet you are still very young. Have you been in this business long?"
He handles the dream like a second skin – he knows this, because people have told him so. Everyone loves Arthur because he is meticulous to a fault and incredibly stable, which are exactly what a point man needs to be. That's why he's the best. Arthur is also incredibly pragmatic. If he wasn't, then he would most definitely be in a mental hospital. As it is, there's only so many times your dead best friend can cold-bloodedly kill you before there start to be a few effects. All things considered, Arthur thinks he's holding up pretty well.
"Do you need to do anything particular down here?" Arthur asks, drawing a gun. "I'm fine with ending this early."
"As am I," Saito agrees. Arthur raises the gun and shoots him, then does the same to himself.
When Arthur wakes up, there's still two minutes left on the clock. He glances over at Saito, who is sitting still, alert. A moment later, he hears the voices.
"He's still dreaming with Saito," Eames is saying.
"Well, when is he done?" Cobb demands in that voice he only uses with Eames, and only when they are alone. Cobb and Eames have been the two creative minds for the entire job, and the competition part of it is starting to make itself subtly known. And, if Arthur had to guess, Cobb is none too happy about Eames playing with Arthur.
"Maybe another five minutes, and then he'll have no time for you, because I'm taking him back to his hotel room and making sure he goes to bed."
"That's ridiculous, it's noon."
"Regardless, I'm making him take a break. He's overworking himself," Eames insists calmly, but firmly.
"Don't you think Arthur can put himself to bed?" Dom challenges. Arthur winces, avoiding Saito's questioning eyes.
"No, I don't, because you have been-" Eames breaks off and huffs, "You know what, fuck you. Arthur is overtired and acting as general manager here while your off dreaming away and teaching your new apprentice."
"Ariadne's our architect, she needs to get more experience…"
"Yes, because this is her first job," Eames snarls. "What kind of first job is inception, huh? Arthur is checking all of her work. You could have gotten a more experienced architect for this sort of thing, don't you think?"
"Ariadne's a natural, her dreams are exceptional," Dom retorts, "no one else could make those."
"You could, if you didn't have your little Mal problems. Oh, don't act so surprised," Eames laughs scathingly. "You haven't been honest with anyone, have you? Not even Arthur, I bet. He's figured things out for himself, I'm sure, because he's smart, but I bet you haven't shared anything. Some friend you are. I don't even know why he's stuck with you for this long. Arthur could be working with anyone he wants, and he chooses a bastard that overworks him and takes him for granted."
Arthur stays stock still, wishing they stayed in the dream for longer.
"Don't act like you know Arthur," Dom says finally. "Don't act like you know him or care about him."
"You think I don't care about him? Shows what you know," Eames snorts disgustedly.
"I know exactly what you want, and I know you will end up hurting him."
"You're hurting him right now."
"I'm trying to get back to my family, for me and for Arthur."
"Yeah, well try this: if you do anything that could even possibly harm Arthur down there, I'll shoot you and finish it myself – don't kid yourself, I'm the only indispensible person on the team, really. We could shoot you and finish it. And if that happens, after the dream I'll shoot you in real life, too. Remember that."
"Arthur doesn't concern you, Eames. Why don't you stay out of it?"
"Arthur will always concern me. Don't fuck this up, Cobb," Eames says, and then his footsteps recede through the door and out of the warehouse.
Saito is still looking at him, and Arthur forces himself to meet the man's gaze. "Mal," Saito repeats. "Is that going to be an issue?"
"It's a bit too late now, don't you think? Maurice Fischer is going to die any moment now," Arthur says. "Anyways, I'm taking care of it."
Saito nods. "I'll just wait here for a few minutes, shall I?"
Arthur waits until Saito is busy on his phone before walking out into the main part of the warehouse. Cobb is standing in the center of the space, staring at the whiteboards they have covered with notes and photos. He looks up upon hearing Arthur's footsteps.
"Arthur," Cobb starts.
"I'm going out for a walk," Arthur interrupts, because he's certain that if they talk, if everything gets put into actually words, all of the seams holding together his pathetic life will just come undone. And that's not going to happen, because they are in the middle of an impossible job, and Arthur is a fucking professional.
Dom just stares at him, and Arthur leaves without another word.
That night, Saito walks into the warehouse and gives Arthur one look, and he knows.
"It's time. Maurice Fischer just died in Sydney."
"When's the funeral?"
"Thursday, in Los Angeles."
"Robert should accompany the body no later than Tuesday. We should move."
At the airport, they all act as strangers, which is comforting because it means Arthur can walk around by himself and just have time to think.
He goes to the Duty-Free shop while still in Paris and buys a few French books for Phillipa, because he knows she enjoys them. After landing in Sydney, he buys some Johnny Walker, a hat and shirt for James (both with kangaroos on them, because that's his favorite animal).
On the way back to the first class lounge, Arthur spots Eames next to the restrooms. Their eyes meet, and without another word Eames enters the men's restroom. Arthur follows suit, walking over at a measured pace and walking in just as Eames is washing his hands.
"You alright?" Arthur asks.
"I overheard a conversation in which it was made clear that the only reason our architect is on this flight is because she knows something about Dom that no one else is aware of," Eames says calmly, avoiding eye contact and speaking quietly. It doesn't matter, the security cameras don't have sound. "Thought you should know."
"Yeah, okay," Arthur replies. He sighs. "This might go really badly."
"That is a distinct possibility, yes," Eames agrees amiably. "See you on the flight, darling."
He finishes washing his hands and leaves. Arthur does the same moments later, and the next time they see each other, in the first class lounge, they don't acknowledge each other's presence except for a brief moment of eye contact when it's time to board.
Here we go, Arthur thinks, and he steps on the plane.
"This was not a part of the plan – he's dying for god sakes!"
"Well, let's put him out of his misery."
"No, no, no, don't do that. Don't. Do. That."
"He's in agony, I'm waking him up."
"No, it won't wake him up."
"What do you mean he won't wake up-"
"It won't wake him up."
"- you die in a dream, you wake up."
"Not from this, we're too heavily sedated to wake up that way."
"Right, so what happens when we die?"
The mark's subconscious is militarized (and, fuck, Ariadne doesn't even know what that is, doesn't even know what limbo is).
Arthur doesn't know how he could have missed it, with all his detailed research. He never misses anything. And as this one goes, it's pretty fucking big.
"I'm going to kill him," Eames mutters murderously.
"Jesus," Arthur swears. "Fuck."
"I don't fucking believe this. I'm going to kill him, I swear. And a freight train?"
"This is my fault," Arthur says robotically, "it should have been in the research that the mark was militarized-"
"Arthur, don't fucking defend him," Eames snarls. "He knows as well as we do that powerful people can hide their actions, can erase them. He was yelling at you, hoping no one would notice he put a bloody freight train in the middle of the dream! And also, it would seem, hoping to cover the fact that he fucking drugged us without our knowledge."
Arthur stares at the wall of the warehouse, because there's really nothing to say to that.
It's not a dream, it's a nightmare.
And they can't wake up.
He kisses Ariadne for a variety of reasons, most of them dishonorable.
He's tired and scared and worried. He doesn't want to be stuck into limbo – he's afraid of his own mind – and soon everyone else is going to go into the final layer. He's going to be alone with projections that want to kill him. He will have other people's lives in his own hands while simultaneously putting all his trust into other people to finish a job that might not be possible.
Mostly, though, it's about Eames. Eames as a woman, in a short dress, strutting past like he owns the world, like he owns Arthur.
(He sort of does.)
"Security's going to run you down hard."
"And I will lead them on a merry chase."
"Just be back before the kick."
"Go to sleep, Mr. Eames."
Arthur stares at the unmoving bodies surrounding him, sprawled out over the hotel room.
He's alone now. He has to face Robert Fischer's subconscious alone, and if he fails he will go into limbo.
He just has to stay alive. Stay alive, and get back for the kick. He can do this. He was chosen for the second level because it's the most difficult one – synchronizing the kick perfectly so as not to be too early or too late is something that Arthur should excel in. Except Dom is furious at him and he might go to limbo and it's all gone to hell now.
Arthur steadies his breathing, takes off his coat, and steels himself for the task ahead. He can do this.
Just in case, as Arthur exits the hotel room and the first projection begins to follow him, he starts figuring out how the hell he could create a kick in zero gravity. Given the projections chasing after Yusuf, it's highly probable that he will get scared and start the music earlier than desired. If Arthur misses that kick, he needs a backup plan.
Arthur's already fucked up enough for one job, he sure as hell isn't going to do something else wrong.
Some how he does it. They all do it.
He's not sure how.
When they land, Arthur gets a text from Eames.
Kick in zero gravity?
Arthur smiles in spite of himself and replies. Blew up the elevator.
It takes Eames a few minutes to respond. Genius, darling. Also, I'm glad your brains didn't turn to scrambled egg.
Arthur stares at the text for a long moment. Me, too.
He gets into a cab – he's separated himself from the rest of the team, as he should – and he's halfway to the hotel he's booked a room in when Eames texts him again. Where are you staying?
Arthur doesn't reply.
He checks into the Presidential Suite in a very nice hotel, shuts off his cell phone, and sleeps for a very long time. After he sleeps, he orders room service and takes a long shower and then he spends a number of days doing nothing of consequence at all and steadfastly not thinking about the inception job. He ignores phone calls from everyone, even Dom. He'll get to them later.
Predictably, Eames shows up at his door just when Arthur is starting to relax.
"What are you doing here?"
Eames laughs with a trace of bitterness and says, "Darling, stop playing dumb and we might actually get somewhere."
Arthur crosses his arms. "Maybe if you were straightforward for once, we would actually get somewhere."
"You want straightforward? We almost went into limbo. We almost died, and I was worried about you the entire fucking time, but what do you do after it's over? You leave and you don't answer my calls, you arsehole. I've been looking for you for almost a week, going to every single fucking hotel in the area," Eames practically growls. "And I don't understand, because I know you like me, but you keep pushing me away."
Eames steps into the room and closes the door. Arthur remains motionless.
"And here," Eames adds, "is really straightforward."
Then Eames is kissing him.
This is a bad idea, Arthur's mind tells him, but he kisses back anyways.
It's one of those kisses where you know sex is going to follow, and Arthur acknowledges it, but he still doesn't pull away, not even when Eames starts moaning filthy things against his mouth.
"Jesus, fuck, why didn't you let me do this during the job, I was fucking wanking off every fucking night and every time I took a bloody shower," Eames rambles in-between kisses as he yanks Arthur's shirt off. "And you're hair, oh Christ, Arthur, you're wearing sweatpants. You almost died."
Arthur lets Eames lead him to the bed. He lets Eames unwrap him (more carefully than he imagined) and they fuck slow and needy, holding each other close because there might be nothing left for them to hold onto. Eames is loud, moaning and whimpering filthily and rambling breathlessly into Arthur's ear. Arthur is quieter, panting and trembling.
He holds on tight and tries not to think.
Arthur wakes up to sunlight streaming through the window. Eames is still there.
To be more precise, Eames is in-between Arthur's legs, his sinful lips wrapped around Arthur's dick. Their eyes meet, and Arthur whimpers, because it's the most beautiful image he has ever seen in his life – Eames taking down all of him and sucking and moaning, needing it.
After Arthur comes – which doesn't take long – Eames tenderly kisses his thighs, making a trail up his hip and stomach and finally ending at his lips.
"Good morning," Eames tells him, and he's smiling, pleased.
Arthur's sated and his eyes are drooping and he just wants to sink into the bed and let Eames kiss him some more, but he's not a bastard so he reaches over to give some reciprocation. Eames knocks his hand away, even though Arthur can see how hard he is, and says, "No, don't. Just, just stay like this. You're bloody gorgeous."
So Arthur does. He lets Eames order them room service and run his hands all over Arthur's body and press them so close that Arthur can't keep track of what's him and what's Eames.
He never wants it to end.
Dom calls and says he should visit.
"Yeah, maybe," Arthur agrees. He's sitting cross-legged next to Eames' sprawled out body, wearing nothing but his boxers. The sun is streaming into the room, warming Arthur's skin pleasantly and making Eames' skin glow.
Eames is snoring softly, and Arthur realizes he's smiling, because Eames may be snoring and he may make Arthur look like a pale and spindly computer geek, but there's no one else he'd rather be waking up next to. Arthur realizes belatedly that Dom is saying something.
"Sorry, what was that?" he asks, running a hand through Eames' hair.
"Are you still in LA?" Dom repeats.
"Yes, but I'm probably leaving soon." Arthur shifts the phone from one ear to the other, arching his back and reveling in the stretch. "I'll come over before I leave, if I can. I have a few things for Phillipa and James."
"Yeah, that would be nice." Dom pauses, then admits, the self-loathing only partially veiled, "You've seen Phillipa and James more in the past couple of years than I have."
"That's not your fault," Arthur points out.
"It's just, they miss you, I think." There's silence for a moment, and then Dom adds, "I, er, never did say thank you, for everything you did."
"It's fine," Arthur says.
Dom clears his throat awkwardly, "No, it's not fine, and I'm sorry."
Arthur can't really deny that, and he can't quite bring himself to accept Dom's apology, so all he says is, "It's over now."
"Yeah, it is."
"I'll call you when I know when I'm coming," Arthur says. "Eames might be with me."
There's that awkward pause in which Dom digests what Arthur has just said, and Arthur waits for what he knows is coming.
Dom sounds pained as he says, "He's going to hurt you."
"I know," Arthur replies, "but right now he's making me feel better."
Eames' lips tighten when Arthur mentions going to visit Cobb before flying out of Los Angeles, but ultimately he agrees. They arrive in the midmorning, Arthur smoothly maneuvering the rental car into the driveway and shutting it off. They've been listening to Eames' music – mostly the Smiths and the Jesus and Mary Chain – for the entire ride, and the subsequent silence is solemn.
"Just be nice," Arthur says before getting out of the car.
"He hurt you," Eames tells him quietly, grabbing Arthur's arm.
You'll hurt me, too, Arthur thinks, but he doesn't say it out loud. He just walks into the house with Eames on his heels.
"Hey," Dom greets Arthur, pointedly ignoring Eames. Before any awkward conversation can be made, James and Phillipa attack Arthur, and he is wonderfully distracted.
They go into the living room, and Arthur sits down cross-legged in-between James and Phillipa. He doesn't quite trust Eames and Cobb alone together, but he doesn't feel like being a referee either. And anyway, they are just a few feet away.
"Look at what I made," James says, showing Arthur his Legos.
"Can we play chess?" Phillipa asks, because last time Arthur came he taught her now to play.
Arthur reminds Phillipa of exactly how each of the chess pieces moves and helps James find the different parts he needs to build a house. He thanks them for his birthday presents when Eames and Cobb are out of hearing range. Later, he gives them their presents and they all pass a soccer ball around in the yard before having a late lunch. After lunch Arthur lets Phillipa read with him as James falls asleep in his lap, his new baseball hat covering his face.
Tomorrow, Arthur and Eames will get on a plane and by nightfall they will be in Barcelona. They will lie on the beach and shop on the streets of the city. Arthur will wear jeans and Eames will wear hideously bright shirts. Arthur might swim a bit and Eames will probably gamble and there will be lots of sex. Eventually, Eames will tire of him and leave, but it won't be so bad because Arthur will be expecting it. Eventually, everything will reshape into a new normal.
In the meantime, Arthur thinks he's going to be okay.
"I'm not going to leave you, you know," Eames says on the plane, his fingers entwined with Arthur's. "Cobb thinks I will, he told me so at the house, but I won't. You know that, don't you?"
Arthur doesn't say anything. He doesn't think he can.
Eames leans in and whispers, "I'll show you, I promise."