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Hide and Seek

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Eames could have (and had done, in point of fact) told his fellow dreamers that it wasn't the people who were dangerous on the surface that you had to watch out for, rather, it was the people with imagination. Not a characteristic that gun runners or corporate raiders were exactly known for as a group. Ambition and anger issues, yes. Imagination, no.

Ariadne went tearing past him, shrieking. He paused in lighting his cigarette to assess the situation. She was decidedly loud, but apparently happy as she barreled straight into Cobb, knocking him into his sandstructure. (Eames had called the previous version a sandcastle. That had not gone over well with mini-Cobb.) Eames winced and waited for the screaming, but even at age five, Ariadne had unprecedented Cobb-wrangling powers and pulled him straight into her game of chase, Yusuf hard on their heels.

He flicked the lighter, dragged on the cigarette until it caught, and released the first cloud of smoke on a sigh. He knew a dream cigarette contained no nicotine, but the soothing psychological effect was not to be discounted. 

He also could have told Cobb that getting involved with a man who could make a murder investigation 'go away' with a single phone call was not and would never be a one time job. And yet, Arthur had told him that Cobb had seemed surprised to be called back into the field.

Arthur had been matter of fact about it, but his eyes had been laughing. An optimistic man would have taken that as an invitation to share the joke; however, Eames considered himself a pragmatist and thus was never quite sure whether he fell on the inside or the outside of Arthur's jokes, particularly if the joke was on Cobb.

Honestly, though, Eames hadn't put up any argument. He wasn't under Saito's thumb the way Cobb was -- and he owed Cobb exactly nothing after the stunts he pulled around the Fischer job -- but he had no real objection to working with Arthur again. And Arthur evidently still followed where Cobb led.

Actually. He stilled and looked around the playground. Yusuf, Ariadne, and Cobb were easy to spot, tearing around shrieking as they were. Saito was explaining up at Miss Sumisu, the subject of the dream, that he could get her fired if she didn't let him go play on the swings right now. She didn't seem at all impressed which actually boded rather well. But Eames didn't see Arthur. He frowned. The schoolyard was a small dreamscape, well bounded and looped back in on itself at the gates. 

He'd started to step away from the cinderblock wall, when something small but with some speed behind it thwacked his shoulder. He turned. Ah. There he was. "Did you just kick me?"

"Maybe." Arthur smiled from his perch on top of the wall, the very limit of the dream. "Where're you going?"

"I was just looking for you."

Arthur gave him a rather skeptical look. For a kindergartner. "I'm right here," he pointed out in an unimpressed voice that was certainly familiar, albeit in a different pitch than usual. Then he thrust his hands out and down towards Eames. "I want down."

"How did you get up in the first place?" Eames muttered around his cigarette, but reached up and lifted Arthur to the ground. Arthur shrugged once his feet hit the pavement. Contrary to every expectation Eames had, Arthur didn't immediately wander off. "Aren't you going to go play with Cobb-- er, Dom?"

Arthur peered at the trio who were now scaling a metal structure at the other end of the yard. He shook his head and stepped closer to Eames, wrapping his small hand around a couple fingers. "Want to go treasure hunting?"

Not an inaccurate description of their work, Eames supposed, though it was an interesting intuitive leap, given that the others seemed to have forgotten their purpose with the unplanned change in ages. But there was no real reason Eames couldn't poke about on his own until the timer ran down, and if he were sufficiently persuasive about how thoroughly he'd dug for Sumisu's probably non-existent dark secrets, perhaps they could skip a second trip. He doubted Sumisu had anything more interesting going on underneath; Saito's niece's sweet, imaginative teacher seemed to be sweet and (far too) imaginative all the way down.

Apparently, he'd spent too long considering the proposal. Arthur made another (hilariously adorable) unimpressed face and tugged at his hand. "Come on, Mr. Eames. I've found all the best hiding places!"

Eames stubbed out the cigarette and allowed himself to be pulled.