Arthur is unaccustomed to plans not going as he planned them. Yes, it's happened on more than one occasion, but not nearly as often as plans have gone right, and Arthur continues to feel irritated at the ones that go wrong on sheer principle.
What happened with Eames… that went more than wrong.
The team hasn't seen Eames since he left the hospital, and even Dom hasn't been able to track him down, or if he has, he isn't letting the rest of them know, which under the circumstances Arthur finds unforgivable. Knowing Dom, he's aware of the reason Arthur is silent and does his job only, and no more, without any of the friendly riposte that is part of their usually working environment. Aware, yet still won't tell Arthur where or how to find Eames. Or can't. Arthur doesn't care, because being unable—or worse, unwilling—to find Eames is even more unforgivable.
So, Arthur does the only thing he can do in this state of affairs.
Eames is not where he expects him to be, but that is typical. Arthur has to work twice as hard to find Eames as he's ever had to work tracking down anyone else, which is also typical. Infuriating. There are a few choice phrases knocking around Arthur's mind by the time he exits the plane, joined by several more by the time he enters Yusuf's shop.
Yusuf isn't there, of course, being in New York with the rest of the team, but the old man is there, minding the shop while the secondary business goes on in the back.
The old man knows why he's there, and waves him through without a word.
There's someone else manning the dreamers, but he's been warned of Arthur's arrival, so doesn't give the American a second look. Arthur is free to roam the gathered dreamers and find the one he's looking for. It isn't difficult.
Arthur stands there for a few minutes, staring down at the sleeping Eames, and all those vicious things he'd been planning to say simply evaporate. Completely beyond his control, he kneels down and touches Eames' face, studying the new crags and lines with sight and touch. God, it's worse than he remembered, worse than any of them thought it would be. No wonder Eames ran away. It might have been the cowardly thing to do, but perhaps it was also the only thing he could do. Arthur stands, prepared to turn away and leave without letting Eames know he was ever here, but he's stopped by the new watchman, who has brought a cot for him and offers a line.
"No, thank you, I—"
The man interrupts him in his language, completely unintelligible to Arthur's ears, but he gets the idea. People come here to dream, and to wake up. If he wants to speak to Eames, he will have to enter the dream to do so, and he should speak to Eames. He needs to, Arthur realizes. He wouldn't have hopped on a plane to come so far if there wasn't a need behind the impulse.
So Arthur accepts the cot, and the line, and enters a sleep that surpasses any dream he's felt except one.
There are so many people in this dream, and the world is so vast, it takes Arthur a good five hours in the dream to find Eames. Even then, he'd expected it to be more difficult, considering Eames can be anyone he wants. But he isn't. In the end, Eames sits on the bench surrounding a fountain that reaches twenty feet high as only himself, and surprised to see Arthur.
"Well," he says in his rolling British accent, "I should have expected you'd track me down sooner or later, darling."
Arthur can't even bring himself to tell Eames not to call him that.
"You didn't make it easy for me," he replies with a shrug. "Though, in retrospect, I should have seen it sooner. You need the shared dream, and this is the only place in the world we know of that offers it to civilians."
"The only place you know of. Don't include me in your ignorance, darling, I am far better at many things than you give me credit." There is a trace of bitterness to the words, no, more than a trace. It begins as a trace, and ends fully realized. Arthur understands this is why he needed to come here, to talk to Eames. Well, one of the reasons, anyway.
Eames' shock shows only in the brief flicker of his eyelids. Arthur goes to him, sits next to him on the concrete bench wall, and stares at the stone beneath his feet. It isn't only stone, he realizes and has to smile when he sees the brilliant sparkle of diamond next to his leather shoes, and there are gleams of red and blue he thinks must be rubies and sapphires. A twenty-foot fountain surrounded by a walkway of chipped jewels. Not Eames' usual style, but then he's only shared dreams before with the man in his role as Forger, and subtly is the craft of a Forger's art.
His smile fades a little and he sighs into the silence. "I'm sorry," he repeats, feeling his throat tighten around the words this time. "It was my fault. I know that."
He glances at his companion. Eames just stares at him out of the one good eye left in his face, and Arthur wonders why he doesn't choose to look like himself in the dream, whole and unmarred. Perhaps Eames reads the question in his face, or his posture, because he answers, but looks away as he does. "I can't. I can't even look like someone else. No matter who I look like, they also look like this."
To demonstrate, Eames slowly melts into the Buxom Blonde he loves to use so much, but who will no longer be useful. The right side of "her" face is as delicate and flawless as ever, but the left side warps and bends with the same pattern of burn scars and crushed bone as he man beneath her shell.
As Arthur watches, Eames returns, emerging from the woman as though from a Halloween costume. His right eye is as sharp and penetrating as ever, the left lost somewhere in the mess of his suffering. Arthur shudders, but he looks, he studies it, he takes it all in because he has to, because it's his fault this happened. Because he didn't trust Eames, because he thought his plans would go as planned, because even he can't plan for every contingency, because he gave orders that Eames followed grudgingly. Because part of him had forgotten the reality of the real world and the consequences thereof. Because of his goddamn pride.
The right side of Eames' face goes hard, and he stands. "I know it's difficult to look at, darling, but you could at least try to hide your revulsion."
"No," he says automatically. "It's not that."
"Of course not, it would never be that." The sarcasm oozes from Eames' tone like something suspiciously close to hatred. "Just because I'm a scarred monster doesn't mean you're repulsed by looking at me."
Eames twitches, and at his sides his fingers close to fists, and Arthur's certain any moment Eames will punch him.
"I'm revolted by the sight of you because I did it to you. I'm the one who ordered you to enter the building. I'm the one who thought the mark wouldn't have left anyone to protect his room." It isn't nearly as hard to say these things as he thought it would be, perhaps because it isn't a simple matter, it isn't a small thing. It's a very large thing. Eames face, his life, even his livelihood, it seems, which shouldn't be restricted by his physical appearance but is, because the damage is beyond physical. "I'm disgusted by the thought that I let this happen to you."
Eames doesn't say anything for a long time, but when he finally does he is as infuriating as ever. "Nice try, darling, but you never were very good at lying. Or humility."
Rage propels Arthur up from the bench. "And you could never see past your own damn nose!" Rage fuels his steps as he moves toward the stunned-looking Forger. "You wouldn't know the truth if it bit you in the ass." Rage moves his fist as he drives it into Eames' good left cheek.
It's something other than rage that moves his other hand to clutch at Eames' hair behind his scarred left side, and something other than rage that pulls Eames forward until their lips collide with the force of a planetary shift. Arthur can feel the smooth burns that paralyze the left side, and can feel the shock that paralyzes the right side, but he doesn't let either of them stop him from taking out his anger and guilt on them. When at last Eames' mouth opens to accept him, it's another collision; Arthur can almost hear the crash and feel the Earth move.
In a moment, Eames pulls away, and Arthur really can hear the crash and feel the Earth move. He can also hear the screams of their fellow dreamers who aren't aware that what is happening to their safe dream space is harmless, just a metaphor, really.
Eames is grinning, and Arthur supposes it would be a grotesque thing to look at for anyone else, but to him it's just Eames, and always will be, especially when the man speaks. "So, it was that good for you, then? Image what will happen when we really get somewhere."
"Asshole," Arthur says, and punches Eames in the chest.
"We'll get there, too, darling, don't worry."
Arthur wonders if Eames realizes his face is shifting.