"I like to think in real life I'm not that creepy."
"Then you would be sorely mistaken. I don't think you've spent enough time with yourself as a pregnant woman."
Eames frowns a little. "I was perfectly charming. Ariadne said I had a glow about me."
Arthur continues to make little notes at the secretarial desk and refrains from saying that Ariadne thinks everyone has a glow about them when she is high, opting to ignore Eames who is busy staring at himself across the hotel lobby.
"I don't think I've ever looked so…focused in my life."
Arthur finally glances up, face the same unlined, expressionless block it normally is when concentrating on the job, even one as small and tedious as this.
"That is something we can both agree on."
A small smile breaks across Eames' face as he gets an idea.
"I think I'm going to go over there and have a little fun."
He's surprised when a hand shoots out and crushes his wrist in a vise. Eames tenses and jerks around to face the other man, who is suddenly looking very displeased.
There's a sharpness in Eames' smile now that wasn't therefore. His eyes harden while he twists his wrist and grips Arthur's in turn, clenching his fingers just as tightly. Even when he is on the verge of anger, his voice is light.
Arthur tugs his hand twice, in warning. He already knew that Eames hates being told what to do, especially in the tone of voice he had just used, but he uses it again, anyway.
"Eames. Leave it alone."
"What are we afraid of, darling? It's not like there are any big secrets. There isn't much I can keep from myself."
Arthur refuses to look at him in the eye. Instead, he's furtively drawn back to that corner with the easy chair where Eames' copy sits with a newspaper half folded in his lap. There's a harsh and self-admonishing light in Arthur's face before it closes up and melts down into something almost like pity. Suddenly Eames is less angry and more intrigued.
His hand is abruptly released.
"Fine. But I'm coming with you."
While they cross the beige and cream tile, Eames observes the low slouch to Arthur's shoulders, the flat line of his lips that seem exaggeratedly nonchalant, the ways his steps are short and cut. To anyone else it would be nothing but to Eames he gets the feeling Arthur is feeling a little hunted the closer and closer they approach the clone, who is by the way staring across at the two of them completely unashamed and with thorough attention.
When they get close enough and Eames can see himself clearly, he stops. The clone is not looking at him, but at Arthur, who stands still, a few feet away. It's almost palpable, from the way clone Eames' lips are tilted slightly to the side in half smile, the way the clone's brows are slightly tense, the soft, tenuous curve of his jaw.
It's a little terrifying, to see that look on his own face, because Eames knows what it means. Eyes going wide, he feels a little stunned and out of sorts when he finally realizes what it is that made Arthur so hesitant, that what the clone is revealing isn't Eames' secret but someone else's. Arthur doesn't turn around, instead his shoulders hunch even more, a little defeated in their set.
Eames' mouth unsticks itself, still numb from the shock before he blurts, "I didn't know."
When Arthur speaks, he sounds a bit tired, though his voice smooth and even. "It doesn't matter. It's- I just." A small sigh breaks his words. "Please don't hurt him. He's just an idea, he doesn't have much. Just let him be. He'll fade away eventually."
A small, choked sound escapes Eames' throat despite himself, half laugh and half something else.
"Don't- don't hurt him? Don't- you know you are talking about-"
The sharp movements of a hand cuts off the rest of what he says. "I know," The words pressed tight, as a small thread of anger increases the trembling in Arthur's hand while he tries to keep control. "I did this to myself."
Eames physically turns him around, whirling him away from that impostor, from that reflection that is as much of Arthur as it is of himself.
This was too fucked up. Arthur was protecting it, a reflection that had nothing to its name, not even its own emotions, but really it was Arthur who was protecting himself but who wanted to protect him, Eames.
When they face each other, it's almost as strangers. Arthur still looks composed, but this deep, tense furrow scores his head while he seems puzzled, at a loss of what to do in the face of this confrontation.
"It's fine if you just ignore it. He's not dangerous. It's just a projection."
His mouth opens to object but Arthur interrupts again.
"It's my subconscious, Eames. You have to know that not everything you think of when dreaming, uninhibited or not, translates into reality. I don't- I can't- feel anything like that up above."
And there's this look on Arthur's face as he stares straight into Eames' eye, like he's sorry, like he's apologizing for their lukewarm acquaintance, like he's letting Eames down easy, even though it's Arthur's subconscious projection that shows he's in love with Eames.
It's small and it's painful, it's so horribly awkward, and Eames tries to think of something to say- anything.
"Does he know?" Is the first thing he blurts out.
Arthur turns to give a quick glance to the clone. "That his feelings are just the reflection of what my subconscious wants you to feel? I don't know, I've never talked to him much. It's dangerous to wrap yourself up in projections of people you know."
Eames thinks of Cobb and Mal and that whole mess. Then, he thinks about how he and Arthur are nothing like that, and this small trickle of relief slowly seeps back inside him, relaxing the jittering tension he held inside himself since he saw the way the clone looks at Arthur. The shock still sits in the back of his mind, but-
"Yeah. I know." And he does, because unlike Cobb, he and Arthur know the difference between dream and reality. There's no romance between them, they aren't a great tragedy because the idea of the two of them in love is so far removed from how things are, from who they are, and Eames has to be relieved because even though he has lived and done a lot, he still doesn't know the first thing about taking up something as heavy as some one else's love.
So the two of them stand in the lobby, facing each other, purposefully ignoring the third man behind them as the music starts to seep in, a slow and fine finale to this strange dream.
When Arthur pulls his gun out from his side holster, the last thing Eames sees is himself, opaque and alien eyes watching their death scene with something like jealously, something like wistfulness.