Arthur was worn out. Since Cobb had gotten out of the business, he had been playing both extractor and point man on every job and he was exhausted. Basically the only sleep he got was under the influence of somnacin and it was working sleep. So when a man claiming to be an extractor came along, having been trained apparently on a later military venture, the point man jumped at the chance to hire him.
Though that's obviously not to say he would be anything less than perfectly thorough. Arthur called in Eames and Ariadne to help him vet the guy. The architect would be the target, and the forger would try to confuse the new extractor. They'd gotten a tried and tested batch of Somnacin from Yusuf and set up in their warehouse. Saito had bought them the building as another thank you gift.
It all went to shit quite fast. Turns out the extractor, who'd said he was clean, had an even more violent, messed up subconscious than his predecessor. With Cobb, at least it was just Mal. This guy had his whole family, three ex girlfriends and two boyfriends, and his drill sergeant all trying to kill them. Arthur didn't know why the man had thought he could do the job at all. They weren't trying to pull off inception or anything, but there was just no hope of doing anything in the dream here. They were uncontrollable, even in Ariadne's mind.
In her own dream, she got torn limb from limb.
Eames was the next awake, Arthur having shot him in the head to get him there. The forger quickly pulled out his cannula and ran over to the girl's lawnchair to pull her into a tight hug. When you died in the dream you woke up in real life, but that didn't make it any less painful or any less terrifying. She was shaking like a leaf, and he guessed it would be hours before she was completely calm again. He knew from his own experience in the military that your first few particularly violent deaths were hard.
Ariadne curled up a little into the Eames, who, by his own admission, was a rather huggable man. Much more so than Arthur, at least, with his sharp suits and wiry frame. The point man had woken up right after, but had a different task than comforting on his mind.
He gave the still-sleeping extractor the kick by flipping him out of his lawn chair and dragging him over to slam against the wall. He ripped out the tubes in the man’s arm in the process, and drew a spurt of blood. Far less than he'd seen from Ariadne.
“I didn't know!” the man protested. He was far taller than the point man, but he didn't look it at this time.
“Yes you fucking did,” Arthur snarled back. “You can't have a subconscious like that and not know. If not, you're a fucking idiot as well as an asshole to think bringing others down there was a good fucking idea.” He let go of the man with one last shove, cracking their drywall. “I don't work with idiots. Get out of my sight, and out of this fucking business while you're at it. Or I'll take you out of it.”
It was not said loudly, but with such conviction that the man scurried to leave, abandoning his PASIV in the process. At least that was one gain that had been made. Arthur sighed, the hard planes of his suit falling into something a little less harsh, and pinched the bridge of his nose to get rid of his Somnacin-induced headache. He was getting more sensitive to the stuff.
“I'm so sorry Ariadne,” he apologized earnestly, turning to the girl still wrapped up in Eames’ arms. “I should've vetted him more thoroughly, though nothing at all indicated anything like this.”
“It's alright,” she said, though her voice was still shaking and she looked about to cry. Eames hadn't let go of her yet, though he'd loosened his arms.
“It's not,” Arthur countered, but let it go from there. “If another man claiming to be an extractor comes along, I'll dream with him first before pulling you in.” He knew a little incident like this was enough to shake Ariadne, but not to make such a talented and enthusiastic architect like her drop out of the business completely. “I should have done that this time. I'm sorry.”
“I'll give you a ride home, love,” Eames offered, helping Ariadne to her feet. He shot Arthur a look that said clear as day ‘you better still be here when I get back. We need to talk.’
Once the forger and the architect had left the building, the point man collapsed. He sat down heavily on his lawn chair, not bothering to wipe away the blood from the needle in his arm. He let himself slide down until he was flat on his back, feet on the floor, staring up at the ceiling. What was he going to do now? He knew he couldn't keep playing both extractor and point man, or he was going to make more, deadlier mistakes. It was bad enough that Ariadne had gotten hurt. The logic that Mal had done worse to him and yet he stuck by Cobb didn't change anything. A point man and an extractor were a team, and without the latter, Arthur wasn't going to make it very much longer. His options seemed to be find a partner or quit the business. He didn't know if there were any decent lone extractors around, but he also didn't know what he would do with himself if he wasn't a dreamer.
“She said to tell you not to blame yourself,” Eames said. Arthur refused to let his body show that the sudden noise had nearly made him jump out of his skin. Had that much time really passed, for Eames to drop Ariadne off and come back? It felt like five minutes ago. “She knows you better than I think you think she does.”
“She's good with people,” Arthur acknowledged. Hell, that girl could probably run a one man, or rather, one woman extraction if she set her mind to it. “How's she doing?”
“Alright, considering.” Considering what the projections had done to her. Jesus. Arthur had seen a lot of shit in his life but that. Seeing one of the few people he cared about ripped apart like that was going to give him nightmares when he actually managed to sleep. “Her girlfriend is taking care of her.”
“You didn't tell her what happened, did you?” Arthur asked, sitting up sharply.
“Darling, please, do you really have such little faith in me? I told Hope that we'd gotten in a minor car crash and that Ariadne was just rather shaken up but unhurt.”
“How ‘bout you, love?” Eames asked, at one time casual and caring. “You look pretty wiped.”
“I'm fine,” Arthur dismissed his concern.
“I'm a con artist, Arthur. Don't try to lie to me.”
“What do you want me to say, huh? That I got Ariadne ripped to shreds because I was too stupid to check out his subconscious before I took him into a dream with her? Because I'm desperate? It seems pretty damn clear that I'm having a helluva bad time playing both extractor and point man, so do I really need to tell you that I've basically stopped sleeping, and that when I do, I never dream?”
“No, love,” Eames replied softly in response to this outburst. “It's quite clear from your face. You really never dream?”
“Haven't had one I remembered in months.”
After using Somnacin for awhile, it became impossible to dream without it. Arthur had tried to limit his use; he never used it recreationally, only when he was working, and then only to look over the architect’s work and for the job itself. But he had been using it for nearly a decade, having been one of the earliest users while in the military, and started using it when he was younger than Ariadne was now. In his line of work, the loss of his dreams was bound to happen eventually, but he thought he'd get another decade before his sleep became blank.
“Shit man, even I still dream,” Eames said. “About you, oftentimes.”
Arthur didn't acknowledge that. There was enough on his plate right now without trying to figure out what the thing between him and the forger was.
“It feels stupid to get out of the business now, when the damage has already been done,” he said instead.
“It looks to me like you're still doing plenty of damage to yourself,” Eames countered. “You don't have to quit, but I think it would be good for you to take a break for awhile, either to find a new partner or just to rest.”
“Maybe you're right,” Arthur agreed with a sigh. He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands.
“Come stay in Mombasa. I have a lovely little safe house where you can hide away. I have contacts there too, who might be able to find you a partner. Come stay with me.” Eames came and sat next to Arthur.
“Tempting,” the point man sighed.
“Then why not? Come stay with me, my love.” The forger turned to the side and took the other man’s head in his hands, and kissed his forehead.
“Alright,” He relents. “I’ll come with you to Mombasa.”
The forger pulls him into an embrace. Maybe this was, in fact, the right time to figure out what it was between him and Eames. And maybe I’ll be able to dream, the point man thinks, when I’m wrapped up like this in his arms.