Chapter 1: Arthur (1)
The Alternative Limbo
“...are there any notable side effects, Arthur?” Yusuf asked, having monitored the Point Man’s dream state. He had just formulated a new compound, which Arthur agreed to test.
Arthur leant forwards in his chair, rubbing his temple. “A pounding headache?” he replied, sleepily. “....uhm...uhm...” his eyes closed and he fell forward. Jerking back upright, he said “did I mention a pounding headache?”
“So that’ll be some short term memory loss then, tiredness, headache, disorientation...” Yusuf muttered to himself, scribbling on a piece of scrap paper which he then pinned onto his board.
“How many fingers am I holding up? What’s seven multiplied by twelve? When is your birthday?”
“Three, eighty four, second of the second....”
““You go have a rest now, Arthur. Ariadne? Tidy him up, would you? Give him a paracetamol and let him sleep for a bit. I’m going to grab a coffee.”
“...no...paracetamol...just...sleep...” Arthur muttered.
“Just... a ... moment” the Architect said, concentrating on her latest dream model. There wasn’t an upcoming dream job, but Cobb wanted her to keep up the practice. She straightened up and walked towards Arthur, who had fallen asleep in the deck chair. She raised an eyebrow at the sleeping man who had dragged her away from her work. Lengthy cables coiled around his shoes, reaching from his wrist over to the PASIV. After releasing his wrist from the aluminium machine, she allowed the retracting wires to shoot back into the silver case, closing and locking it before leaving it by the chair. Shrugging, she bent down to peck the Point Man on the cheek before returning to her creation, smiling.
“I saw that!” called Eames, from across the warehouse.
Arthur woke in his deck chair in the late afternoon, surprised he wasn’t at his desk. His headache was more or less gone, but he knew from experience that an early night would do him good. He checked his totem quickly, before deciding to leave now, as opposed to staying through until nightfall. Rising up, he stepped quietly over to his desk, shuffling papers and the odd beige file from his immaculately tidy work space into his briefcase. His slender fingers curled around the worn handle of the leather briefcase, and he lifted the case carefully from the table as he straightened up to face his colleagues.
The Point Man nodded at each of them in turn, straightening his tie. “I’m heading back to the hotel now, Cobb – Ariadne – Yusuf – Mr. Saito – Mr. -”
“And me, darling?” Arthur let out a small sigh and rolled his eyes in irritation. The piercing English drawl that carried through the entire warehouse could only belong to one British bastard. “You know, it’s snowing outside. You might want to call a taxi, pet.” The other man spun 90 degrees in his spinney chair from a light conversation with Ariadne to face the Point Man. He winked. Arthur’s eye twitched in annoyance. The opened-necked loud shirt that screamed polyester didn’t help.
“...Mr. Eames.” Arthur replied curtly. He rechecked his totem, having forgotten he had already done it. I was about to say you, you know, had you not been the terribly impatient man you are. He wrenched open the door of the warehouse and stepped into an icy puddle.
“Bloody snow...” he muttered under his breath. The hairs on the back of his neck prickled, as he felt the whole team watch in anticipation. It was common knowledge that Arthur did not do whatever Eames suggests, so he either had to sacrifice his freshly pressed three piece suit, or wound his pride and call a cab.
A rainbow coloured umbrella exploded beside him, as the noisy Eames approached, narrowly avoiding hitting him in the face. Water dripped down his face from his hair, but the effect of the umbrella was immediate. “Snow is definitely not for me, when you’ve just spent half a year in Mombasa,” he announced. Definitely not the cab, Arthur decided, closing his eyes in exasperation.
A muscled arm shot out, causing Arthur to shift backwards to prevent being thwacked in the jaw, as the arm waved to hail an oncoming taxi. Arthur watched as the other man closed his umbrella swiftly, shaking snow over Arthur’s neatly shined brogues, and scooted into the leather seat. “Care to share the ride, darling?” he patted the seat next to him and flashed a grin at Arthur, which he did not return.
“I’ll walk,” was the abrupt reply from the irritated Point Man. The Forger pouted. “C’mon dar -“. The threat of another pet name was enough to make Arthur extended a thin arm into the rain and slam the door: the taxi swiftly shot off along the misty carriageway. Arthur breathed heavily, pinched the bridge of his nose with icy cold, white fingers and swiftly began the lengthy, slushy walk to Mr. Saito’s hotel.
Stupid...annoying...Eames. Can’t let me get my own taxi. Although he knew it was his own stubbornness that brought this cold on him, he couldn’t help but blame the man a little.
Arthur kicked at lumps of ice, chipping them and sending chunks of the cold stuff skidding down the path. The Point Man trod through the ice, frowning at each potential hazard on the pavement. He was recalling all the pet names Eames had called him that day. Always the same, every day: Pet...darling...love...dear... The one instance Arthur had questioned him about it, Eames had answered, “I know you love my little terms of endearment, pet.”, and accompanied this comment with one of his winks. At the time, Arthur had narrowed his eyes. “In your dreams, Mr. Eames”, had been his sharp response, before he had continued his research. The Point Man was frustrated, not so much at Eames, but at himself. Why do I keep thinking about this...him...Eames? He’s just a bloody bastard he kept trying to convince himself. Arthur stopped and twitched his head, his wet hair curling out of its usual gelled back smoothness and into his eyes. A loud scream stopped him in his thoughts.
“Please quiet down, miss and –“as he looked up as she shrieked. He caught sight of the man to his right, across the seat with the gun. He jerked his own hand towards his hip where his own glock was tucked away, before a hellish heat ripped through the hand on his waist clutching the handle of his gun. He felt the bullet shatter through the bone and flesh, imbedding itself into the soft tissue in his side. He registered this much: the man was dressed similarly to himself in a three piece suit, and a bowler hat. Dissimilarly, he was a complete wreck, cackling insanely as policemen tackled him to the ground.
Arthur’s eyes widened, as he recognised him as a previous mark they had worked on. A man they had extracted information from, without consent. Without authority from him. Illegally. Arthur’s head moved again, as he noticed more policemen, running towards the man.
During that jolt of pain that wrenched him to the ground, the Point Man felt very calm – after all, he had died many times before, and his mind was fixed upon the one thought: that dying would just mean waking up. After all, that was part of the basis of being in “the dream job”. Literally. Arthur smiled at the pun. He had already forgotten what his totem had previously told him. His brain dimly acknowledged the flashing blue lights and sirens of police cars and ambulances alike, and he felt the warm wetness of his blood spilled over his fingers where he clutched his ribs, spreading across the side of his suit. This was what he loved about dreaming. At least it’ll be clean when I wake up. Lying on the sodden pathway, he felt in his pocket for it – the small red die that would determine his fate. Just in case. He let the warm weight roll of his bloody fingers and onto the ground, watching it tumble onto the ice and slide away from him. Four.
Arthur closed his eyes as the foggy tendrils of his subconscious dragged his mind into the unknown. Shit.
..."So, what’s your totem, Eames?” Ariadne asked the Forger.
“Mine?” Eames leant awkwardly into his swivel chair, reaching into his trouser pocket to pull out a red poker chip. He twiddled it expertly between his fingers, leaning forwards towards her. As he saw movement in the corner of the warehouse, he turned his head and swivelled round slightly. A slim man with carefully gelled hair and a black suit was straightening his tie. Eames caught the end of the conversation and couldn’t help but interrupt.
“...Cobb – Ariadne – Yusuf – Mr. Saito – Mr. -”
“And me, darling? You know, it’s snowing outside. You might want to call a taxi, pet,” he swung right round properly to grin gleefully and wink at the Point Man, who sighed. Eames caught the flash of white as his eyes revolved in their sockets, then narrow and twitch. The Forger slightly raised an eyebrow.
“Mr Eames.” Eames leant backwards, laughing silently as he annoyed his favourite Point Man. He had not yet managed to achieve total infuriation, but one of these days... he smiled as he watched Arthur’s skinny hand reach out to wrench open the warehouse door. As he had forecasted, it was snowing heavy, fat flakes of white. He could almost hear Arthur’s mind working as he chose between getting soaked and catching a cab. Eames knew how to make him pick.
Ducking down to grab his rainbow umbrella and his jacket from off his spinney chair, he haphazardly caused it to wheel round and crash onto the floor. Ariadne flashed her eyes in annoyance. After sending her a quick pleading gaze at her, she lifted it up, tutting, as he strode over to the door. He turned his head to the team, all of which were staring at him in anticipation. They had all been waiting for the day Arthur would take Eames’ advice. Eames absent-mindedly checked for the round, weighted chip, and his blackberry, before removing his hand from his pocket and pushing open the umbrella beside Arthur, narrowly avoiding hitting him in the face. The controlled Point Man did not flinch. Impressive. He moved it to cover the shorter man. “Snow is definitely not for me, when you’ve just spent half a year in Mombasa,” Eames declared. In the distance, he saw the yellow car approach. This time, Arthur had to move to avoid his arm, although Eames wouldn’t have actually punched him in the face. But Arthur didn’t have to know that.
The cab slowed down; the door opened and Eames ducked to get in, closing his umbrella, and shaking snow purposefully over Arthur’s brogues. Patting the seat beside him dry, he grinned at the Point Man. “Care to share the ride, darling?” Eames knew the answer before the words had rolled off his tongue. The predictable answer came without a returning smile. “I’ll walk.” Eames pouted in a mock sulk, but inside he was slightly hurt that he didn’t even get a smile. Well, I do bring it on myself, he thought as Arthur slammed the door with unnecessary force. He looked out of the window, and caught sight of the sullen Point Man kicking chunks of ice down the road, muttering under his breath, before the vehicle shot past, leaving Arthur to walk the lonely road back to the hotel, wet. Eames felt a pang of regret, as he realised it was because of him Arthur would return to Saito’s building dripping and cold.
“We’ve arrived, sir.” The voice of the taxi driver broke through Eames’ rare thinking moments. He had been thinking about Arthur, and why he liked teasing him so much. His little niggly habits that made him so amusing to taunt. The slight narrowing of his eyes, his eye roll, pinching the bridge of his nose as he controlled his temper...
“Oh yes, sorry. Here.” He handed him the money, and left the cab, before hurrying into the warm of the hotel. Arthur wouldn’t be here yet. The walk was at least half an hour, if not longer in this weather. He felt another twinge of guilt that his trip would have saved a precious twenty minutes of the Point Man’s time. He sighed and leaned against the reception desk, hands clasped, his jacket slung loosely over one bicep.
“Eames, Mr, room five-oh-eight” he addressed the receptionist. She looked up, expecting the flirty Brit to be gazing down at her suggestively with half lidded eyes. Instead, he was staring down at the desk, deep in thought.
“Something on your mind, Mr. Eames?” She asked, handing him the key.
“...Uh, nothing, thanks” he nodded at her, smiling genuinely. Her eyes fluttered widely in surprise, as he walked past to catch the lift. He walked in, stabbed the “5” and waited for the doors to slide lazily to a close. Sighing, he stared at his feet. Why do I feel so guilty...I always tease him. Something, Eames thought, has gone wrong. The thought that he was too right did not pass his mind.
The lift dinged! as he reached the fifth floor. Inserting the card key into the slot, the door opened with an electronic beep, and he pushed down on the handle. Running a hand through his cold hair, he peeled a melting ice drop from his hair. He hadn’t realised how cold it was, especially for a thinly built man like Arthur. Stop fretting. Arthur is a man. He can look after himself.
The Forger threw his jacket less than gently on the bed, letting it fall in a sprawled heap over his double, and leaving his phone and chip on the desk, having checked both before readying himself for a shower. Sighing, Eames stripped off, letting each garment fall to the floor in a messy pathway to his bathroom. The water was hot and relaxing to his muscles as it pounded off his skin. Breathing in the steamy air deeply, he allowed the stream from the shower head to wash away any thoughts, not trusting himself to think until he was done. Grabbing two white towels, and turning off the shower, he wrapped one tightly round his waist, tucking it into itself to secure it. Holding on just in case, he rubbed the other soothingly over his cropped hair. As he held open the door to step into his bedroom, he heard a buzz.
Chapter 3: Cobb (2)
Cobb's blackberry trembled to signal the incoming call. Arthur never calls unless something's happened. Especially since there isn't a job at the moment, Cobb wondered. And I doubt its Eames. What's going on? Since the only people he knew who had private numbers were on his team, he had no reason to believe who it actually was.
" 'ello, I'm lookin' for a Mister. Dominic Cobb, is that right, sir?"
"This is Police Constable Ryan. We 'ave the authority to notify you that one of your colleagues 'as been in accident. 'e 'as been 'ospitalised."
"Mr. Eames?" after all, he had been the one in the vehicle, and much more likely to be involved in an accident.
"...no. Mr. Arthur, sir." Cobb's eyes widened in shock, and his mouth fell open into a small 'o'. He looked around wildly.
"I understand your confusion, Mr. Cobb. If you'd bear with us..."
"Where...where is he now?" Said Cobb, confused.
"Local 'ospital, sir."
"Th...thanks." Cobb hung up, hands shaking. It was most unlike Arthur to be careless enough to get in an accident, let alone one bad enough for him to be sent to hospital.
"Ari, Yusuf, Saito – Arthur's in hospital. I'm going to go check up on him, make sure he's alright."
"Me too. I'll come," piped up Ariadne "I mean, just to check up on him" she felt her cheeks go hot, hoping no one else noticed. No one was fooled. Cobb smiled at her understandingly.
"I'll stay, the chemical needs some work, still. Send him my best wishes" Yusuf nodded, before returning to his work.
Saito raised his head. "I must come; I must ensure my employee is looked after most carefully." He too, nodded. Together, the three left for Saito's chauffeured Bentley to the hospital.
The automatic doors slid open lazily. Cobb strode in with Saito, Ariadne following quickly behind, eyebrows creased with worry. A huge receptionist with a phone squashed between cheek and shoulder sat on the groaning desk chair, fat oozing over the edges, oblivious to the protests of her seat. She inspected her chipped, pink nails while gossiping to "Marlene".
"Hang on a tic, Marl – "she pressed her stubby hand over the speaker and turned to Cobb, her eyebrows like caterpillars above her piggy eyes.
"A man has been in an accident recently and –"
"How recently." She said, in her nasal voice.
"About uh... 10 minutes ago?"
"Are you a blood relative?"
"No... But I'm a collea –"
"Sorry. Only relatives and in-laws are allowed to see those in emergency intensive care. Speak to my boss if you want further details." She raised the phone back to her cheek and continued her gossip.
Cobb banged the desk in anger. The receptionist didn't flinch; instead shot a glare in his direction.
"Saito, you tell her...Saito?" the businessman had walked away, without either Ariadne or the Extractor noticing. "Where'd that damn..."
"Saito!" Ariadne called, in relief, as the Japanese man returned.
"Madame, please show us to Mr. Arthur's room." He said, pointedly at the lady.
"Only relatives and in-laws are allowed to see those in emergency intensive care. Speak to my boss if you want further details –"
"The boss will listen to me. The chain of hospitals belongs to me. I just bought them." Once again, Cobb's mouth fell open, followed by Ariadne's.
"Come on. We must tend to Arthur; he must be very unwell." Saito jerked them back to reality. The fat lady rolled her eyes, heaved herself out of the chair and toddled over to the corridor to the team's left.
"First right turn, first door on the left." She grunted.
Cobb pulled Ariadne around the corner as she thanked the lady, and pushed down the door handle. The nurses and doctors filed into the corner as he made his way over to the man he considered his brother. His mouth fell open for the third time that day. Nothing had prepared him for this.
"Shit, Jesus..." Cobb heard Ariadne's whisper breeze past him.
He took a deep breath. It wouldn't do to fall apart, not now. He had to stay strong, just like he did when Mal...No. Arthur couldn't die. Cobb wouldn't let him.
He turned to the nurses, as Ariadne texted Yusuf, telling him about Arthur.
"How is he?"
A doctor stepped forward timidly. "We can't say, right now."
Cobb narrowed his eyes.
The doctor continued, "It depends whether or not he wakes up. If he does, I would say he has a much ... much higher chance of survival."
Five minutes of anxious waiting later, Yusuf stumbled loudly into the room, carrying a large bag full of chemicals.
"Thank you. That will do now. Please come with me, I have some matters to discuss about rooms and the care for Arthur." Saito ushered the doctors out with him, after flashing the legal documents for the hospital to them.
"... Eames will want to know about the situation, Cobb." Saito reminded him, in a quiet voice.
Cobb pulled out his phone from his pocket, and speed dialled Eames.
It rang once. Twice. Three times. Come on Eames...answer...
"Eames. Come to the nearest hospital. Now."
"What's the hurry?"
"Just be there."
Cobb hung up.
"Eames is coming," Cobb directed at Ariadne, who had sat in a chair to the side of Arthur. She was clutching his pale white hands with cold, desperate fingers. He wasn't surprised when he saw she wasn't crying. Members of the team had to be strong, as accidents in dreams could easily lead to fatal consequences. Yusuf was injecting the Point Man with a chemical into his arm, before strapping a familiar silver briefcase to his arm. Cobb watched, and raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"I developed this compound a couple of years back, especially for children in comas. It's for their parents who longed to see them alive, one last time, before turning off the life support machine." Cobb stared at him, horrified. "I believe it can prolong Arthur's condition." Yusuf stood up. "I need a minute with the nurses" he explained, and left in search of those in Saito's company.
Eames’ blackberry vibrated on the side table. As the Forger left the steamy shower room, rubbing the pristine white towel over his dirty blonde, wet hair, he heard the buzzing. He strolled (in the way only he could stroll) over to the phone and left the towel in a crumpled heap next to his jacket on the sheets of his double bed. He reached across the table to pick it up with his right hand, the left preoccupied with keeping his towel around his waist. Cobb. As he lifted the black phone to his ear, he habitually picked up his poker chip and rolled the familiar mass between his fingers, leaving his towel to sit on his hips.
“Eames. Come to the nearest hospital. Now.”
“What’s the hurry?”
“Just be there.”
The phone line went dead as Cobb hung up. Strange call. Eames wondered, slightly annoyed at having to go out into the cold again, especially as he had just come out of his burning hot shower. Wonder if Arthur’s going. He already knew what the answer would be, but scrolled down the list of contacts nonetheless, and hit the call button. He held it by his ear, looking up at the ceiling. No answer. Something very strange, he decided. Arthur always had his blackberry on, carefully sheathed in the pouch that came with it. The blackberries were courtesy of Saito, along with many other gadgets he had decided the team were worthy of. Eames had lost, or “misplaced” as he liked to put it, his pouch already, in a messy hotel room not unlike the one he was staying in. He decided to leave a text to his favourite Point Man:
Call me when you get this text, pet. ;-)
A ghost of a grin flickered past Eames’ face as he imagined all of Arthur’s little habits, rolling his eyes at the text, sighing in exasperation, pinching the bridge of his nose between his pale forefinger and thumb, the crease in between his eyes as he frowns...
He stopped as he remembered. “Fuck. I’m meant to be at the hospital.”
“What was the rush, Cobb?” Eames strode over to the front desk at the reception of the Hospital, still buttoning up his crumpled purple shirt. “And, where is everyone?”
“Arthur. He’s been in an accident. Ariadne is here, Yusuf is working with the nurses at the moment.” Eames mouth fell open dumbly, as he allowed the Extractor to lead him down the Emergency Department and into Intensive Care: a room full of scary looking equipment and instruments. This was not what he had been expecting.
Eames closed his mouth and took a deep breath. He expertly hid all his emotions behind his “neutral” face, and pushed open the door.
Eames would never forget what he saw. Tubes leading into the Point Man’s pale white arms. The single breasted jacket and waistcoat, slick with a combination of blood and snow, discarded on a side table, a cruel tear across the surface of each garment, which even the best of tailor’s wouldn’t be able to mend. A bowl of pink water, to show where nurses had cleaned the blood off each of his clever hands. The scratched blackberry. Unresponsive fingers which were clutched between Ariadne’s own frantic digits. A pang of jealousy shot through Eames, inappropriately, just as it had when he saw her kissing Arthur, asleep.
He focussed of Arthur himself. Thin lips gently parted, naked chest rising up shallowly through his open shirt. Tie undone. Eyes closed. A dark hole in to the right of his stomach, which could only have been where the bullet had ripped its way through Arthur’s body. The support machine with digital lines and the “beep” which indicated Arthur’s life force. Eames shook his head. This was wrong, all completely wrong. Arthur: organized, neat, sarcastic, fastidious, professional, sceptical, alive. Not living off a machine, mechanical. Robotized.
Eames also noticed Arthur’s briefcase, on its side. On it a red piece of cloth, wet and sticking over a small cube. Eames realised that the red cloth was actually Arthur’s handkerchief. Red, with blood - Arthur’s blood. He bent to lift the cloth, gingerly between his thumb and forefinger, but Cobb warned him off with a small shake of his head. He understood. Underneath the handkerchief was Arthur’s little red die, his totem, which he wasn’t allowed to see, once rolled. Arthur had gone to the extreme of pulling out his handkerchief to cover it. Eames smiled weakly, inside. That’s the Arthur he knew. So professional.
Eames noticed an odd silver briefcase; hard, aluminium. A PASIV, open. His shirt whispered over his warm skin as he stood up from his squat. He rubbed a hand over his rough jaw, feeling the unshaven stubble. Frowning in concentration, he followed the grey lines past all the other tubes and leads, to the white band, strapped across the Point Mans wrist, perfectly camouflaged against the snow white skin. Eames looked up at Cobb expectantly. Cobb sighed.
“Yusuf...had designed a chemical purposefully for those in comas.” He closed his eyes, and pinched his nose. A habit of Cobb’s too, Eames noted. “Yusuf was certain that it could prolong Arthur’s... Arthur, stabilize him for the moment. “
“How long ‘till he wakes up?” The mask on Eames face could fool everyone, but he couldn’t help the catch of longing in his throat on the end of the sentence. Eames turned his head as he heard the door open behind him. Saito entered. Eames turned to Saito inquiringly.
“Sorry I was late. I was ensuring that my employee receives the finest care whilst hospitalized,” Saito answered Eames’ silent question in his soft Japanese accent, tucking what looked like a cheque book into his jacket pocket. Eames turned back to Cobb.
“Like I said, the chemical will prolong his...condition. But unless we do something soon...” Cobb shook his head. He pulled up a chair next to the silent Ariadne, the metal base screeching painfully loud along the floor. He sat sideways, to continue his conversation with the Forger.
“His condition? He’s dying, for fucks sakes. How are we meant to wake him up?” Eames had whirled round to grab Cobb’s shoulder in a moment of anger, and pull him round to face the unconscious body of Cobb’s colleague.
“That’s... why we need you. You’re going to wake him up.”
The whole team was seated or standing around Arthur. Eames didn’t like the feeling: it felt like they were around a death bed. True to his words, Saito had had the injured Point Man moved to a private room, along with several desks, whiteboards and deckchairs to prepare the team for their next job: Saving Arthur.
Yusuf was sitting next to Ariadne, who hadn’t moved. Eames, who was opposite the Chemist, was sitting with his head in his hands feeling exceptionally guilty. Cobb was leaning against a desk, listening intently to Yusuf, who was continuing the story behind the coma compound.
“...Although it was originally used for grieving parents to say their goodbyes, this compound does not make them die, it just allows outsiders like us to enter their subconscious mind while they are in a coma. One time, a father asked to use this compound on his son, who had been in a car accident. Whilst in the dream, he became so distraught of what he saw; he shot the boy in the head, before shooting himself. As the father awoke, he saw that miraculously, his own son had woken beside him.”
Cobb’s eyes widened in anticipation, and both Ariadne and Eames moved to stare at Yusuf, in equal awe. It was fine. Arthur could be saved.
“...however. This chemical gives you 5 hours for each 5 minutes. The son had been in the dream state for so long, that he had grown up, and forgotten who his parents were, who everyone was. His dream was his reality – this was the reason his father had shot him. He believed he was releasing him from his own mind – whereas in fact, he had confused the son into not knowing what was real, and what not.
In the end, the father hung himself; for selfishly bringing back his son into what he thought was a better world. The son went insane, and died also.” Yusuf concluded his story, before a nurse quietly slid in and tugged Yusuf away, presumably to another talk about drugs and things Eames concluded.
“So...everyone died anyway.” Eames concluded, ducking his head back into his hands, rubbing his hair, so it stood on end. Ariadne shot him an evil look, which Eames didn’t catch.
“All we have to do is make sure Arthur knows he’s in a coma? That won’t be too hard.” Ariadne asked, always the optimist. It was Eames’ turn to glare at her.
“What exactly do I have to do? And why me?” Eames asked. Cobb unfolded his arms, and tucked his hands into his pockets.
“You’re going to enter his coma state.”
“...why? Why not Ari, or you or Yusuf or...”
“Ariadne is an Architect. I don’t think Arthur’s subconscious will take kindly to being messed about. Remember, this isn’t a normal dream space. If we change anything, Arthur’s mind may become extremely confused. We don’t know how stable his mind is. I can’t because...”
“Because of Mal.” Eames finished. Cobb grimaced. Eames had thought he was over her, but obviously not yet.
“Yes. And Yusuf needs to watch over Arthur, to make sure the compound doesn’t do anything it shouldn’t.”
What do I have to do...Eames worried to himself. As if in answer, Cobb spoke again.
“You will have to persuade Arthur’s mind that he is actually dreaming. We don’t know how hard that will be, or easy for that matter.”
“That won’t be hard. I’ll just get him to roll his die, and he’ll be fine and dandy.” Eames concluded, sarcastically. Of course it wouldn’t be that easy with Arthur. Eames saw out of the corner of his eye Ariadne sigh deeply, eyebrows furrowed, and return to staring at Arthur. Eames eyebrow twitched slightly, and he too, sighed in exasperation. The guilt that was gnawing at his insides intensified as silence fell over the room, allowing the events of that afternoon to worm into his mind. If only I hadn’t provoked him...if only I hadn’t annoyed him. It was enough of the if only's. What had been done was done. It was his fault.
“I’m off. Drink.” Eames stood up suddenly, disrupting the silence. He struggled to string the three words together, and hurried out of the door, desperate to smother his memories in alcohol. The doors of the hospital slid open to release him into the slushy grey of the outside world. Eames stumbled out into where it was snowing. His cheeks were wet. He liked to think it was snow.
No one approached the Forger that evening. Normally in a bar like the one he was in, he’d be dancing the night away with some pretty girl, or singing loudly with the live band. Instead, he was uncharacteristically hunched over in a dark corner. The figure drained another pint, pushing the empty glass towards the barman, who whisked it away to refill. In his other hand, he twiddled his faded poker chip, slowly, clumsily, feeling each familiar dip and letter. It slipped from his shaky hand and clattered onto the bar. He slammed his hand down on it with unnecessary force, before sliding it off the surface and into his pocket, cursing it for telling him something he didn’t want.
Another man slid beside him. Cobb.
“I’ll take the same as him.” He said, to the barman. A pint of beer arrived in front of him. Taking a gulp, he turned to the Forger.
“It’s not –“
“Don’t say that. Don’t tell me it’s not my fault.” Eames growled, deeply. His eyes closed as he felt the tears well up. Don’t spill over... don’t spill over, he willed. Cobb turned away as Eames slumped onto his arm, facing the back of the bar.
“Whether or not you had let him take the taxi, that man would have injured someone. Thank Jesus it wasn’t more,” Cobb insisted.
“Wha...ha...happened...?” Eames slurred, almost incoherently, staring into the space in front of him.
“The man was clinically insane.” Cobb continued, in a quiet voice. “He was someone we had previously done work on. He found out somehow, and also discovered what area we were in, roughly. The fact that he bumped into Arthur, a man his subconscious recognised from the dream, was pure coincidence...” Cobb’s voice seemed to trail off in Eames’ mind as images and sounds of shooting went off in his head. He felt the Extractor shake his arm, and groaned in response. “I'm...listerrninnnng...” he mumbled, fumbling for his glass. Instead, he knocked it over spilling the brown liquid all over the bar. The glass rolled over the side; luckily it was caught by Cobb. The barman frowned and began cleaning it up.
“Come. Let’s get you back to the hotel, old man.”
I’m not old... Eames meant to say. Instead, it came out more as “I’m’nt ul”
“You’re mental? Glad you know it,” retorted Cobb. Eames felt the man tug on his arm once more, and pull him heavily off the stool. The world swirled around him, and he staggered forwards into Cobb. Strong arms caught him and together they staggered towards the door. Arthur. It’s all about Arthur. Arthur, Point Man. Cobb’s Point Man, his Point Man...no Ariadne’s Point Man...Eames sighed, and he felt Cobb heave him into a vehicle. Somehow, Cobb had magicked up a taxi for them. What is it with that damned archite – no it’s not her fault. It’s mine. Mine. My fault. My Arthur. My Point Man. He heard the ding! of the lift, and the bleep of the card key opening the door. He was falling...and landed in a comfy armchair. He was back in his hotel room. The door closed.
Eames dragged open his heavy eyelids. It was still dark, the curtains still open. The Forger felt in his pocket for the worn poker chip, feeling its dips and dents before tossing it in the air. He tried to catch it, but missed. Damn, I’m drunk. He thought. The hangover says it all. He groaned into his hands, rubbing his eyes. He knew he should order a hot coffee. Service would guarantee it to be there in two minutes. Instead, he leant back into his chair, and dared those tears which threatened to spill over earlier to trickle down his stubble coated cheeks. But his eyes remained dull; his cheeks dry as he sat through the night, wondering what the hell he was going to do in the morning.
Cobb was leaning against a grey table, which had documents strewn over it and an equally messy whiteboard on it, propped up against the wall. It was amazing how much mess was generated when Arthur was absent. The Extractor didn’t want to imagine how the warehouse might look if they didn’t get him back soon. The team all surrounded the Point Man. Cobb tried to avoid looking at him. If he didn’t look, it wasn’t true, his mind had deduced. It was a silly thought, but he wasn’t ready yet, not after seeing Mal fall to her death.
Instead, he watched Yusuf carefully, listening to his explanation about the coma compound.
“...Although it was originally used for grieving parents to say their goodbyes, this compound does not make them die, it just allows outsiders like us to enter their subconscious mind while they are in a coma. One time, a father asked to use this compound on his son, who had been in a car accident. Whilst in the dream, he became so distraught of what he saw; he shot the boy in the head, before shooting himself. As the father awoke, he saw that miraculously, his own son had woken beside him.” Cobb raised his eyebrows, not quite believing what he had just heard. Could Arthur be saved?
“...However.” Cobb released his breath. Of course. There was a however.
“This chemical gives you 5 hours for each 5 minutes. The son had been in the dream state for so long, that he had grown up, and forgotten who his parents were, who everyone was. His dream was his reality – this was the reason his father had shot him. He believed he was releasing him from his own mind – whereas in fact, he had confused the son into not knowing what was real, and what not.
In the end, the father hung himself, for selfishly bringing back his son into what he thought was a better world. The son went insane, and died also.” Yusuf finished, looking at the unconscious man. Cobb noticed movement by the door, as a nurse edged in to take out Yusuf. As the man passed Cobb, he murmured something about medicine and side effects, before sliding out after her.
“So...everyone died anyway.” Of course, Eames had to have the last word. Cobb shut his eyes, and shook his head slightly. He looked up at the team again, and caught Ariadne glaring at the Forger.
Ariadne turned to Cobb, with that inquisitive look, which he had first seen in the inception job when Fischer had been shot.
“All we have to do is make sure Arthur knows he’s in a coma? That won’t be too hard.” Cobb raised an eyebrow slightly, not enough for anyone to realise.
“What exactly do I have to do? And why me?” Eames turned to Cobb. The Extractor shoved his hands into his jeans, having unfolded them, and stepped forwards towards the team. .
“You’re going to enter his coma state.” Cobb said, matter-of-factly.
“...why? Why not Ari, or you or Yusuf or...”
“Ariadne is an Architect. I don’t think Arthur’s subconscious will take kindly to being messed about,” Cobb retorted, looking from Eames, to Ariadne and back to the Forger. “Remember, this isn’t a normal dream space. If we change anything, Arthur’s mind may become extremely confused. We don’t know how stable his mind is. I can’t because...” Cobb chewed his bottom lip.
“Because of Mal.” Eames completed bluntly. Cobb grimaced, slightly embarrassed that he still hadn’t got over his late wife, after such time.
“Yes.” He nodded. “And Yusuf needs to watch over Arthur, to make sure the compound doesn’t do anything it shouldn’t.”
He watched as Eames’ head swung back to look at Arthur, with an odd expression Cobb had never seen before. Was he... worried? Normally, Cobb expected the Forger to just speak his feelings out. It had never bothered him before. Perhaps he was just worried about what he had to do.
“You ...will have to persuade Arthur’s mind that he is actually dreaming. We don’t know how hard that will be, or easy for that matter,” he said a little hesitantly.
“That won’t be hard. I’ll just get him to roll his die, and he’ll be fine and dandy.” Eames rolled his eyes, voice dripping with sarcasm. The Extractor realised the forger had carefully pulled a mask over his face, to make it appear carefree. No one would know if they hadn’t seen that worried look in his eye earlier. Ariadne was easier to read, Cobb noted, as he turned to look at her. She stared at the Point Man, frowning. What was hard was guessing which one hurt more. Eames, probably blaming himself for the incident, or Ariadne: Everyone knew how Ari felt for Arthur. Except maybe Arthur himself, Cobb mused.
“I’m off. Drink.” Eames’ British voice broke his train of thought. Cobb watched as the man went out in a brisk walk, almost a run, Cobb noticed. The guilt must be getting to him. This was like Mal all over again.
“I guess I’d better...” Cobb muttered to Ariadne, jabbing his thumb over his shoulder to indicate following the Forger.
“Stay, stay here with me...us?” Ariadne looked up, the worry obvious in her voice.
“He’s not going to awake. Not now” not yet he added silently. She turned her gaze back to stare at the sleeping man. She touched his brow gently, running a finger along the soft, black hairs.
“I’ve never seen him so peaceful.” She whispered.
“Yes, our Point Man is...” was... “...very hard working.” He said sadly. A ghost of a smile flittered across his face. Ariadne mirrored it, with forlorn eyes. She extended a hand from Arthur, and gently touched Cobb’s own.
Cobb noticed the Forger’s shape in the shady corner of the bar. Sighing, he resigned himself to a depressing evening. As he sauntered over, he watched as the other man fiddle with his totem with an experienced hand, although was not overly impressed when he heard plastic fall on the granite bar. God, he must be drunk. He took the seat next to the Brit.
“I’ll take the same as him.” Cobb wiggled his fingers in the direction of the barman, to attract his attention. He put down a pint of beer on his coaster. He took a sip to wet his throat, before turning his attention to the man beside him. He sighed a small sigh, and began speaking.
“It’s not –“
“Don’t say that.” The rough voice responded. “Don’t tell me it’s not my fault.”
What a good start. Cobb thought, as Eames leant his chin on his arm, staring at the bottles on the far wall. Cobb stared into his beer, having nowhere else to stare. He decided to try a more tactful approach.
“Whether or not you had let him take the taxi, that man would have injured someone. Thank Jesus it wasn’t more,” Cobb said, harsher than intended.
“Wha...ha...h’ppen’d...?” Cobb raised a virtual eyebrow in his mind, as he barely understood what Eames had said.
“The man was clinically insane.” Cobb slowly, quietly. “He was someone we had previously done work on. He found out somehow, and also discovered what area we were in, roughly. The fact that he bumped into Arthur, a man his subconscious recognised from the dream, was pure coincidence. He didn’t even know he knew him – he was just bottled up with an intense anger... and when his subconscious recognised Arthur, he reacted by shooting him. He didn’t know what he was doing. It was not your...Eames? Eames? Are you even listening?” Cobb reached over to shake the Extractor’s arm.
“Come. Let’s get you back to the hotel, old man.”
“I’ mental.” Was what Cobb heard from the drunk.
“You’re mental? Glad you know it,” Cobb sighed. Grunting, he nudged Eames’ arm off the bar, and heaved him off the stool; Eames collapsed into him and the Extractor staggered to support him. Jesus, he was heavy. Blocking out Eames’ crazy muttering, the Extractor managed to half drag, half lurch over to the bar entrance, to a taxi stand. He allowed the door to open automatically, before pushing the Forger over, and sitting in himself. After giving directions to the driver, they drove into the night.
Cobb stood with his back to Arthur, resting with his hands on the desk, scanning over the papers they had gone through today. Ariadne was there also, eyes dull, hands still curled round the Point Man’s. Although his body was dead tired from dragging Eames back to his room, he knew his mind wouldn’t let him rest. Instead of counting sheep all morning, he had to pretend to do something helpful. He pulled his totem out of his pocket, spinning it with a whirring noise on the desk.
Sorry I haven't updated! I've been doing exams D: Please excuse me!
The Forger leant with his forehead against the cold glass pane, watching the sunrise. His sad blue-green eyes were almost grey in the light, as they lifted to watch the orange star struggle through the misty morning. The man watched as no golden beams broke through the clouds. No sunlight to reflect and dazzle all from the snow.
He ached all over. Eyes. Head. Heart. Miserably, he turned around to get ready for the long day ahead.
Eames shuffled into the messy hospital room. The cold, flickering light above them, the incomplete team’s dull and tired eyes all reflected the weather. Eames reckoned none of them had managed much sleep, if any. Except Ariadne and Arthur. The former had sprawled over Arthur’s torso sometime in the night, hands still clutched, body tense; the latter was still asleep, the only difference being his hair, which had been dripping and plastered to the Point Man’s face was now soft and tousled, gently curling round his ears and brow.
“Wow. I didn’t know Arthur had hair that long.” Eames raised his eyebrows. Ari groaned slightly, as she awoke.
“Good morning, darling.” Eames smiled without really smiling. Ariadne returned a similar smile.
A silence followed, before Cobb spun in his chair to face his team. He closed them briefly, before re-opening them.
“Today’s plan is simple. The first steps will be done by you, Eames. You will enter Arthur’s coma for exactly ten seconds. There’s no doubt there will be armed projections but – “
“Ten seconds?!” Eames scoffed. “Like that would be enough to find out anything!” ouch. He winced as his loud voice rang in his ears, painfully.
“Ten seconds equals ten minutes. Don’t forget that,” Cobb noticed the wince and smirked, pulling a banana out from his pocket.
“What’s that for?” Ariadne asked, tiredly.
Ah, bananas are very useful for many things...” Eames winked. Ariadne stared at him in a moment of confusion, blushing deeply. The Forger chuckled, as the Architect shot him an irritated look as if to say, trust you for thinking of something so dirty.
“Actually, it was for you.” Cobb smiled slyly. Eames moved forward in anticipation, as Cobb began to unpeel the banana.
“I hope I’m not going to have to remove my -” Cobb darted forward and stuffed the banana into the Forger’s mouth, mid sentence; Ariadne spluttered with laughter.
“MMFFF!” Shock overwhelmed Eames, before he quickly replaced it with a frown. He saw Ariadne raise an eyebrow in the background.
“Actually it’s for your hangover. Banana’s are a good source of potassium, you know.” Eames scowled as he munched his fruit.
“Enough of the fooling around. When are we to begin?” Saito’s deep yet silky voice pierced through the light-hearted mood of the team. “Do not forget, we have a friend in trouble.” Eames’ smile vanished.
“He’s right. Cobb?” It’s hard to speak in seriously with banana smush in your mouth, he decided, shrinking down into his seat to make himself look small under the glare of his employer’s dark eyes as the light made them flash menacingly in the dark. Of course, Saito wasn’t menacing, it was just his fierce Asian eyebrows. The Forger ate his way to the end of the banana before flinging it onto the desk and rolling over to be beside the PASIV. Eames felt Yusuf expertly fix him up to the machine, before he felt the sting and pressure of the plunger at his wrist, before the iciness – a feeling that Eames associated with sleep - slid up his arm.
“...Remember, you have ten minutes to find your bearings and see if you can spot him...” Cobb’s voice dwindled off as Eames fell into Arthur’s foggy dream space.
(07:16) [dream time]
Eames felt rough bark on his back, through his shirt. Quickly, he checked his poker chip. Sweat prickled at his neck as he shifted uncomfortably against the tree he was leaning on. Feeling far too hot, he unbuttoned his Hawaii orange shirt, before looking down, pleased to see he had shorts on. He wriggled his toes, feeling the sand sift between them. He stopped, frowning, and looked around.
It was early morning: the red sun just kissing the horizon, above the gentle waves of the turquoise sea. Bewildered by such an unexpected environment, Eames turned his head and spotted a small wooden cabin in the distance. How unlike Arthur, Eames mused. He turned to the tree, which he now recognised as a palm tree, and ran a hand over the sharp texture of the trunk. His eyes flicked back down to his watch, then at the cabin. Turning his back on the plant, he sauntered over to the sea, where the waves lapped over the sand, changing it from white to dark brown. He crouched and dipped his pinky into the clear water, before rubbing it off with his thumb, then smelling it. It was strong and salty. He noticed a few projections in the corner of his eye. Relaxed, but watching him.
Eames stood up from his crouch and breathed in the fresh air, deeply, to fill his lungs before he jogged lightly over to the back of the cabin. He slowed to a sneak as he approached, and stood back-to-back with the half-logs curving against his spine. He peeked around the corner, feeling like a spy. All clear. He allowed a boyish grin to cross his face as he shuffled around it, and dropped to a crawl under the window. The Forger stole a look across the deck and his heart jumped to his mouth as he recognised the slight figure playing chess with himself.
Eames watched as the Point Man’s eyes flickered intelligently up and down the board, his hair flopping naturally, gently framing his face. He was fine.
Eames breathed a loud sigh of relief. As his lungs emptied of air, he felt the unmistakably cold metal of a gun barrel, pressing into the back of his head. The last thing he saw was the flash mild surprise in the Point Man’s dark eyes reflected in his own and the clatter of the chess piece, before the bang.
SO SORRY that this took so long to update! I might put up two/three chapters to make up for it...
The Architect sat, clutching white fingers within her own. His fingers. She didn’t move, apart from to check his pulse occasionally, just to make sure he was still with her, still living, still pumping that precious blood around his body. She felt her eyelids drop and snapped them back open. She had to stay awake. Stay awake... for him...
The shuffling of Eames’ feet in the hospital room pulled the girl back into consciousness. Groaning, Ariadne found herself embarrassingly sprawled over Arthur. She stretched backwards slightly, pulling out her aching muscles.
“Good morning, darling.” The Architect flashed Eames an emotionless smile in return, which didn’t reach her eyes. She rubbed her fingers, desperate to get heat back into her frozen digits.
The whir of a spinney chair indicated that Cobb was also in the room. Ariadne had forgotten that, and blushed slightly, only enough to tinge her cheeks with warmth, as she remembered the way she lay across Cobb’s best man’s body.
“Today’s plan is simple. The first steps will be done by you, Eames. You will enter Arthur’s coma for exactly ten seconds – “
“Ten second?!” Eames exclaimed. “Like that would be enough to find out anything!” Ariadne rubbed sleepy dust out of her eyes, and slid her chair slowly over to the heater by the window. It was off. Ariadne flinched away from the cold metal, and bent to twist the dial on.
“Ten seconds equals ten minutes. Don’t forget that.” Ariadne looked up at their leader, only to see him pull a banana from his pocket.
“What’s that for?” Ariadne said, baffled that, after all this time, he would still come up with the extraordinary.
Ah, bananas are very useful for many things...” Ariadne caught the wink. She pulled a confused expression, a second before registering what she had said. Trust him for thinking something so dirty. She threw him her dirtiest look, turning cherry red.
“Actually, it was for you.” Cobb smiled a sneaky half smile. Ariadne watched as the Forger leant forward, hoping that he got some form of punishment. Cobb unpeeled the banana, with a gentle sort of ripping sound that only a banana can make.
“I hope I’m not going to have to remove my - ” Ariadne’s eyes darted to his crotch subconsciously. A second before anyone realised what happened, the Extractor shoved the banana into Eames’ open gob. Ariadne let out a loud PFFT with suppressed laughter. Eames looked too funny, eyes as wide as saucers with a banana sticking out of his mouth. Not sexy, Ariadne decided.
“MMFFF” Eames protested.
“Actually it’s for your hangover. Banana’s are a good source of potassium, you know.” Cobb smiled, knowingly.
Ariadne thought she heard a tiny sigh in the dark corner of the room, before Saito’s deep voice broke through the cheery feel in the room.
“Enough of the fooling around. When are we to begin? Do not forget, we have a friend in trouble.” Ariadne’s smile faded, as she flicked her eyes in the direction of Arthur’s still body. The room was silent, apart from a squelchy chomping noise, as Ariadne noticed Eames trying to gather all his dignity and speak.
“He’s right. Cobb?” Ariadne smirked a little, as the Forger cowered under Saito’s glare, but stopped as she felt his eyes scan the room, and she felt him looking at her.
There was a thump as a banana skin landed on the desk next to Arthur. Scowling slightly, the Architect picked it up by the stumpy end with her forefinger and thumb, before dropping it ino the bin beside the bed. She was sure that Arthur would not appreciate any mess left by the troublesome Brit. She heard Velcro rip, and several buttons beep as she looked up to see said troublesome Brit to be strapped up to the PASIV next to Arthur. Feeling a slight pang of jealousy that Eames he would see the man again so soon, Ariadne crossed her arms as she stood up and scowled quickly. Still, he would be back in ten seconds.
“...Remember, you have ten minutes to find your bearings and see if you can spot him. Don’t get too close and don’t let him see you!”
“Find him...” Ariadne added, desperately. Too late. The man was already dead to the world as he snored gently, his arm slipping off the arm of the chair, limp. She took in a sharp intake of breath, counting down from ten. 7...6...5
It wasn’t. It couldn’t have been. The Point Man blinked twice and shook his head. As always, he was right – it wasn’t. There had not been anyone there. The sigh must’ve been the sea. He...well; he just craved some company. Unfortunately, it had to have been Eames. Almost certainly conjured up as a figment of his imagination...although the brightness of his shirt... Arthur didn’t know if he could imagine something so horrific. Open, flapping in the wind. He’d always knew Eames to be generously proportioned, but he’d never thought of him as compact. His defined abs and stomach muscles were burned into his mind, rough hairs leading down to the waistband of his board shorts, sitting low on his hips.
He bought himself back to earth. He had heard a bang, just as Eames’ mischievous blue eyes caught his. The bang had probably just been a car backfiring. Arthur twitched his mouth, annoyed at himself, before scratching his palm. He looked down at it: a red welt which reminded him of a bug bite was irritating him like crazy. Flexing his fingers, he decided to ignore it and continue playing his game of chess, picking up the fallen pawn.
“Jeez shit!” the quiet hiss of the PASIV announcing Eames’ entrance was barely discernible under the stream of curses that flowed from the Forger’s mouth. He clapped a hand to the back of his head, feeling under his fingers for any remains of the bone-shattering bullet which had been shot through his head.
“You’re early, Eames. What happened there?” Yusuf was looking at his watch with a serious expression.
“What did you do this time, Eames.” Cobb looked at him, frowning.
“He’s bloody fucked up! The projection snuck up on me and shot me in the head!” The Forger said, indignantly.
“Why did it see you in the first place? You were supposed to check out the surroundings and stay undercover. You were meant to make sure no one saw you: you’re meant to be professional, Eames! What the fuck did you do!” Cobb stood up suddenly, his chair scraping on the linoleum floor as it skidded away from him. He made to move to where Eames was sitting, but Ariadne stood to stop him. Still fuming, he stalked over to a wall and thumped it with his fist, before allowing it to drop down into his pocket.
“Cobb. Let him speak,” she said, quietly. Eames sighed deeply, and let his head drop into his hands, before he reached for his totem with his fingers. After determining that it was reality by rubbing the familiar dips in the plastic, he relaxed into his chair. He felt everyone lean in towards him in anticipation, except Cobb, who was looking at his feet. Sighing, he bent forwards from his seat, rubbing the short blonde hair on the back of his head and giving a nervous chuckle.
“It’s not that interesting, chaps.”
“Get on with it, Eames.” Cobb said, slightly monotonous.
“Well, he was...I mean... I... was on a beach.” Eames fumbled. Ariadne raised her eyebrows slightly in surprise, mirroring the shrug in Eames’ shoulders.
“Struck me as slightly odd, but it was really realistic. Hawaiian shirts, palm trees...the lot.”
“...he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt.” Ariadne’s jaw dropped. Eames flapped his hand at her.
“Don’t be stupid, dear. He was wearing what he always wears. Shirt and suit pants.” He smiled slightly, neglecting to mention that his shirt was unbuttoned and sleeves rolled up, showing off the Point Man’s pale white, sun-starved skin, shaped over his thin form and lean biceps. Odd that it was for him to be so casual with his clothing, Eames felt rather smug that it was he, not Ariadne, who had witnessed this.
“I was the one wearing the shirt. A tasteful orange one at that.” He said thoughtfully. I need one of them.
“Anyway, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted –“ he paused to scowl at Ariadne “-I was on a beach. It was really early, the sun was just rising. Over to the left was a lovely little log cabin. I went over to it, and he was on the deck playing chess.” He shrugged again. “I had noticed a few projections, but not any in particular which followed me. Then, the guy shot me.” He stopped talking as he remembered the look in Arthur’s eyes. The slight disbelief in seeing his colleague standing getting shot in front of him, before they flickered back to look at his game. It hurt the Forger to think that the man thought so little of his life. Then, he realised everyone was still watching him. The poker chip he was holding danced nimbly over his knuckles once more, before he slid it down his hand with his fingers, making it disappear. He wiggled his fingers like a magician and wink at Yusuf, who had been watching extra closely, trying to hide his sombre feelings away.
Serious once more, the Forger turned his gaze to Cobb’s back. He was now looking up at the ceiling, thinking.
The Extractor took in a deep breath, then released it slowly.
“You shouldn’t have let him see you Eames.”
“Look, I’m sorry okay? It –“
“Eames. You are professional. We knew he was trained.” His last words were final, and Eames knew that any arguments would be in vain.
Cobb turned around fully, and strode towards them, clapping his hands once. Everyone except Saito jumped.
“Jesus, Dom!” Eames exclaimed.
“Breakfast. Come on.” And the Extractor herded everyone out.
How random. Eames thought, as the unlikely looking team entered the small corner café – Cobb at the front, chatting animatedly to Ariadne, and Yusuf looking small whilst shuffling behind Mr. Saito in his suit, who had to duck to avoid the bell above the doorframe, before sitting and cramming his knees under the table.
The Forger stood to shove his hand into his jean pocket, searching for loose change, when suddenly Ariadne let out a small gasp.
“I’ve left my purse at the hospital!” she jumped up suddenly, and practically dashed it out of the door, leaving the bell tinkling harmoniously behind her.
“What was THAT all about.” Eames raised his eyebrows at Cobb, who shrugged at him. A pretty waitress came round.
“What will you guys be having?”
“Ooh. A tea with the full English brekky would be lovely, thanks dear.” He grinned at her, winking and wiggling his eyebrows. Yusuf scowled at him.
“Black coffee would be perfect, and perhaps a slice of toast?” The Chemist nodded at her, hands clasped over his belly.
“Same for me, but two sugars in the coffee would be great” Cobb leant forwards, elbows on the table.
Eames rubbed his hands together to get circulation into his cold fingers. He noticed movement in the corner of his eye – Ariadne had returned, walking somewhat slowly. He noticed her eyes darting around erratically. The bell tinkled again as the door was pushed open, then rang for the last time as it fell shut behind her. He was just about to ask about her purse when -
“Yeah, I found it. It was just on the floor. Next to the PAS – Arthur. Where I thought it would be. Didn’t move.”
“...you sure you’re alright, Ari?” Cobb looked up, somewhat suspiciously.
“Leave the dear girl alone, Dom.” Eames frowned jokily towards him, but at the last second his eyebrows darted from serious to quizzical. Cobb responded likewise, before they broke eye contact; Cobb patted the seat next to him, indicating that the girl should sit. She sat down slowly, fumbling with her bag, before sitting on her hands nervously. What’s up with her, she looks like a nervous wreck! Eames thought to himself.
Just as his stomach began to growl and expose his hunger, a large plate of golden-brown toast, accompanied by an egg, bacon, sausage and beans was nudged in front of him; the waitress smiled coyly.
“Ooh, with toast!” the Forger raised his eyebrows, impressed.
“I buttered them myself.” She winked.
“Well, thank you, m’darling.” He tucked into the meal.
...4...3... She hadn’t finished her silent countdown before -
“Jeez shit!” The Forger’s eyes opened suddenly, panicked. He leant forward, feeling the back of his head with his hand, before looking at it. Ariadne knew he was checking for blood.
“You’re early, Eames. “ Yusuf looked at his wristwatch, before his eyes flickered up at him, under heavy eyebrows. “What happened there?”
Ariadne felt Cobb shift in his chair behind her. “What did you do this time, Eames.”
Gasping in anger, Eames snapped “He’s bloody fucked up! The projection snuck up on me and shot me in the head!” he glared at Cobb in disgust.
Ariadne winced. “But-“
No one heard her, as the screech of the wheels on a spinney chair scraped against the floor. Cobb had stood up, eyes blazing.
“Why did it see you in the first place? You were supposed to check out the surroundings and stay undercover. You were meant to make sure no one saw you: you’re meant to be professional, Eames! What the fuck did you do!” On impulse, Ariadne released Arthur’s cold hands and stood up, pressing her fingers firmly against Cobb’s shoulder, pushing him back. She still heard him muttering as she sat back down to stare at Arthur, and the muffled bang of Cobb’s fist against the wall.
Ariadne sighed quietly, before addressing her boss, “Cobb. Let him speak.”
Eames sighed, and relaxed into his chair. Slightly excited (staring at a sleeping man does have its limits), she glanced at him in anticipation. Jokily, he began with “It’s not that interesting, chaps.”
The Architect felt as if the temperature dropped into the negatives, as Cobb muttered coldly, “Get on with it, Eames.”
Stuttering slightly, Eames began his story, with him on a beach. Ariadne arched her brows.
How odd, she thought, before the Forger mentioned Hawaiian shirts. Her jaw dropped, but she closed it quickly as the man explained in his oh-so-derogatory tone. Dear this. Darling that. Add a hand flap. The man did irk her. Why oh why did that infuriating Eames get to see her Point Man? She missed the way Arthur softly mumbled, the corners of his eyes creasing as he smiled oh-so cutely.
The story continued with Arthur playing chess, before ending with a dramatic scene that Ariadne could picture in her mind.
Her hero stands there with a smoking gun, one arm around her shoulders, suit tails flapping in the wind. Eames falls to the ground and disappears...Arthur flips his loose hair sexily, before bending down to kiss her...
Ariadne jumped from her stupor, looking around. It was only Cobb, who had clapped his hands and walked over to Arthur’s feet.
She shook her head to clear away the thoughts, smiling to herself.
“Breakfast. Come on.” Surprised, Ariadne found herself bustled to her feet and out of the door.
“Breakfast, Cobb?” Ariadne shoved her hands deep into her pockets, talking more to the frozen ground as she shuffled around small snowdrifts.
“Yes well, my diligent team need a break sometimes.” Her boss squinted up at a cosy looking café. He held open the door, bell tinkling, as she passed under his arm. She dropped down into a creaky chair, thinking about Arthur.
Breakfast. She thought. Reaching down to her right hip where her shoulder bag usually sat, she patted right through to her hip. Panicking slightly, she looked down, to see just that – her hip, nothing more. Gasping, she jumped up.
“I’ve left my purse at the hospital!” Panicked thoughts of Arthur and her purse ran through her head. Pulling her scarf around her tighter as the bell rang behind her, she headed into the snow.
Hurrying towards the automatic doors which slid open lazily as she approached, the Architect quickly washed her hands in the sink provided before nodding to the receptionist, signalling that she was visiting a patient. Attentively, she pushed open the grey door, feeling intrusive. On the counter was her brown shoulder bag – she sighed in relief and trotted over to pick it up. Next to the bag was a silver briefcase.
Cobb’s words echoed in her head, I don’t think Arthur’s subconscious will take kindly to being messed with...
Acting on impulse, she unclipped the lid and pulled it open, the machine with its wires roughly rolled up glinted at her, as if luring her into Arthur’s dream world.
Ten seconds. Ten seconds is all I need.
But look what happened to Eames in ten seconds.
Arthur hates Eames. He likes you.
How do you know that?
He kissed you!
Her mind was made up. Sinking into the deck chair beside the Point Man, Ariadne glanced over at him, lying down peacefully. A lock of hair was caught between his delicate dark lashes; she gently brushed it away with her finger, each strand whispering against his alabaster skin as she pushed them away.
The machine read, 0 hrs 0 mins 10 sec. Hesitating slightly, the girl hit the backspace twice, and changed 10 sec to 7 sec. That should be perfect.
Her eyes darted to the heavy silver door. Nervously, she removed the scarf from around her neck, and tightened the strap around her wrist. A familiar mist descended over her mind, and she relaxed into Arthur’s subconscious.
(7:16) [dream time, exactly 48 hours after Eames arrived]
The Point Man sat at his glass table, sipping coffee whilst staring intently at his laptop. His Apple Mac was blank, as if mocking him. Safari would not load any websites with updated news on them. What was wrong with the internet on this god forsaken beach!
He noticed a silhouette, a dark figure approaching, through his window. The noise of guns cocking around him was as common as birdsong – and Arthur thought nothing of it. The Point Man’s fingers tensed, hovering above the silver keyboard.
Ariadne’s unmistakable red scarf fluttered slightly in the breeze. Arthur relaxed, and somewhere in the back of his mind, he sensed the guns lowering.
“Come in.” He said, pleasantly, as knuckles tapped on glass. Sometime whilst he hadn’t been thinking, he must have upgraded his traditional wooden cabin for a modern glass structure.
“What brings you here?” he tilted his head slightly. He always made sure to cover his tracks...although recently, he couldn’t remember what steps those covered.
“I...uh...actually I was just around this area. I can only stop by for a minute” She answered vaguely in her light tone.
He frowned, a crease forming between his brows.
“How did you know I was here?”
She smiled slightly. “Eames told me.”
That made Arthur grimace. That man...
He swivelled around in his chair, and stepped lithely onto his toes in a smooth movement, taking the door from the girl, and closing it softly behind her. Walking around her as she gazed out of the large window pane in front of his desk, he approached his fridge and grabbed the jug of cold water, pouring it into a glass for himself.
“Can I get you anything?”
“An iced coffee would be great...if you have any.”
A ‘no’ was just about to roll off his tongue, as he tugged open his fridge. He never had iced coffee, yet on the fridge shelf, stood a sleek mug, filled with brown liquid. The handle of the mug was cold; it had obviously been there for a while. He stared at it.
Hang on. Why am I confused? Ariadne loves iced coffee. She would have popped around sooner or later, knowing Eames with his big mouth. I should have been surprised she hadn’t arrived sooner. I put it there earlier, remember?
Shaking his head, he lifted it towards his nose, inhaling slightly to make sure it was coffee, before handing it over to and joining the Architect, who had sat down in his cream leather sofa.
Sipping his own cool water, he moistened his lips.
“It’s good to see you again, albeit for such a short while. I hope you head round again,” he nodded towards her, but she didn’t appear to be listening as she swiftly said,
“Oh, and if Eames ever comes back ... just... he wants to talk to you.” Before nervously checking her watch and giving him a small smile.
“I’m sorry Arthur I -”
“I understand. You need to go. But it was good to see you, again.” He repeated. Standing, he took her half drunk coffee gently from her grasp, and set it by the sink. She sighed audibly, before standing and shuffling towards the door.
“I just wanted to check to make sure you’re okay, Arthur. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.” She stood on the step that led to the white sand, before reaching up to hug him, with her arms set softly but firmly around his neck. Slightly surprised at her response, Arthur hesitantly wrapped his own around her waist. Looking down into her chocolate brown eyes, he realised she wanted to repeat the kiss that he had given her once.
Guiltily, he moved his head away from her searching lips, lifted his chin and pressed his own against her temple. He hadn’t wanted her to dwell on that kiss. Stroking a lock of hair out of her eyes, he set his face in what he hoped was a ‘sorry, but I can’t do this’ face. She smiled back happily; obviously oblivious to the signals he was sending her. Sighing sadly he let go of her waist, and nudged her slightly off the step. Turning to close the door, he pinched the bridge of his nose and exhaled loudly, not noticing the Architect’s figure dissipate in the wind.
Running his left fingertips along a ridge in his gelled hair, he scratched at the centre of his right palm with the nails of the same hand. His knuckles writhed beneath the pale skin as he strained to remove his discomfort. Sticky sweat stuck under his nails – he imagined the slimy grimey ick and shuddered. Turning his hand over, his sweat was red. Blood. In the centre of his hand was carved a deep hollow, half an inch deep and the same width. Flexing his fingers, he quickly checked under the nails. They were stained scarlet, as if dipped in a crimson emulsion. With growing horror, he slowly ran the underside of his thumb nail under his index finger, but relaxed as he found no flesh substance. He took a deep breath, and took another look at the wound. It itched, yes, but any pain was just a dull throbbing around the skin carpeting the laceration, stopping raggedly at the cliff-like edges which fell unnaturally at ninety degrees to the fleshy wall of the inside of his hand. Looking closely, the Point Man noticed miniscule, black lumps of foreign material buried inside the tissue.
Swallowing audibly, Arthur stumbled to the bathroom, and pulled open the medicine cabinet that hovered above the sink. Although he never took medicine, lest it mess with the chemical effects of Yusuf’s compounds, the clinical white cupboard was filled with capsules; tablets; lozenges; syrups and the like. Uncharacteristically hurried, Arthur raked through them all with his fingers, brushing them aside and letting them clatter to the floor. Pills and broken glass danced dangerously over the tiles, sliding to a halt through sticky brown liquid. A small battered box, obviously well used even though he never remembered opening it, hid in the back corner. He pulled it towards him with frantic fingers, fumbling with the paper flap at the top and pulling out the roll of dressing. Trembling, he dropped half of the nest of bandages. Flecks of blood already speckled the white bathroom tiles spread across the discarded white fabric, before he pressed one end of the dressing against the crater and wrapped the rest tightly around his hand. He used more than necessary, to stop any remaining blood from soaking through. Breathing heavily, he stared at his trembling hands, confused.
What...what’s happening to me? First the coffee, then my hand and the medicine cabinet...
He reached into his pocket, where his faithful red die sat. Using his good hand, he tossed it in the air and let it tumble to the floor, where it skipped deftly around small puddles of red, as if trying to avoid them. Four.
The four little painted dots he had once considered his ultimate safety now stared at him mockingly.
Posting 3 chapters, because I've been a bad, disorganised girl, so I figured I should upload a few more...
Smearing lip balm on her lips as she walked towards the white building that shone in the sun, Ariadne undid the scarf tied around her neck, allowing the breeze to caress her neck. Nice as the weather was, the hairs on the back of her nape prickled in the unfamiliar atmosphere of Arthur’s sub-conscious. The uncomfortable feeling of being constantly watched increased, as she heard what sounded like guns cocking in the trees around the beach. Far from feeling secluded, she felt that the trees were watching her, intimidating her.
She smiled as she reached the frosted glass door, a style that was so Arthur. His soft drawl drifted in the wind as she rapped on the glass, and she pushed down the cold metal handle. Peering around the door, Ariadne’s face split into a grin. She saw her Point Man sitting at his desk and leaning back as if he had always been there, and she felt as if he’d never left.
“What brings you here?” a slight smile played on his lips, she noted. He must be happy to see me...! she thought, elated.
Ariadne then realised he had actually asked her a question.
“I...uh...actually I was just around this area. I can only stop by for a minute” Literally.
“How did you know I was here?”
Now was her time to smile. “Eames told me.”
Arthur’s face said it all, and Ariadne had to struggle to keep a laugh from escaping. As his frown faded, he rose from his swivel chair and moved towards her. Her eyes flickered up towards his brown pair gazing down. He extended a hand towards her... and took the weight of the glass door from her shoulder. She hadn’t realised it was still open. It closed with a gentle swoosh, as Arthur strode past her, towards an open kitchen. Breathing slightly harder than normal, the girl closed her eyes for a moment to think. One minute... don’t do anything stupid, Ari.
“Can I get you anything?” his American drawl startled her slightly, and she opened her eyes again.
“An iced coffee would be great...if you have any.” Looking around the apartment, she ran a finger along an immaculately dusted window sill, looking over a dark blue ocean. A cream sofa sat modestly by the wall, facing a large flat screen TV. She perched on the edge of the soft leather, to find it much comfier than it looked. Shuffling back slightly, she sank into it as Arthur returned with her drink. She nodded her thanks, and took a sip of the refreshingly cool liquid, gulping it down and gave a nervous smile to Arthur, who was watching her.
“Oh, and if Eames ever comes back ... just... he wants to talk to you.” She added quickly before checking her watch. 7:21 am. SHIT I ONLY HAVE TWO MINUTES LEFT.
“I’m sorry Arthur I -” she stumbled over her words in her haste. Slightly stunned at how fast the five minutes had passed, she felt the coffee being pulled from her hands.
“I understand. You need to go. But it was good to see you, again.”
She sighed. How she had missed him. Walking over to the door, she pulled it open and stepped out.
“I just wanted to check, to make sure you’re okay, Arthur. I couldn’t bear it if anything happened to you.” She choked up slightly as she finished her sentence, before reaching up to hug him. She cupped his neck with her hand, and closed her eyes, resting her chin on his narrow shoulder. Smiling to herself, she felt strong hands tightening around her waist, and she turned once more to gaze into his almond shaped eyes. As if in slow motion, she tilted her head, but was disappointed when his lips glided past hers and landed on her forehead. She had wanted to taste his lips - he was intoxicating and she hungered for more. A finger lightly tucked a stray hair behind her ear and her eyes met soulful dark brown for the last time before she blinked.
...and opened her eyes to the grey tiled ceiling of the hospital room. Sitting up, she unwrapped the PASIV from her wrist, smiling to herself. She touched her chapped lips. It had definitely been a dream. Sighing, she gently touched the soft dressing wrapped around his hand, hiding the ugly gunshot wound, before bending down to kiss his white forehead. Slinging her bag over her shoulder, she swiftly checked that the PASIV was in relatively the same position it had been when she had entered, before leaving.
I think I’m walking too fast. Don’t walk so fast. Slow down. Amble. Make it look like you have all the time in the world. Ariadne’s hurried strides dawdled into deliberately small shuffles, capping the toes of her boots with chunks of snow. Using the tips of her chilled red fingers, she pressed against the small wooden door, thankful it was neither heavy, nor metal. Glancing at the group – Saito, Yusuf, Eames and Cobb – and back, she tried not to look too suspicious. Everyone stared at her. To break the tension slightly, she burst out -
“Yeah, I found it. It was just on the floor. Next to the PAS – Arthur,” she fumbled, “Where I thought it would be. Didn’t move.”
Cobb narrowed his eyes and turned his head, frowning. “...you sure you’re alright, Ari?” before tapping the seat next to him, where she had previously sat.
“Leave the dear girl alone, Dom.” Thank you, Eames , for being useful at last, Ariadne thought, as she sat down, moving her bag onto her lap before sitting on her hands. She rocked back and forth on them slightly; they were cold, and she wished she were back on the warm beach.
The arrival of an English breakfast induced a small growl from the pit of the girl’s stomach. Looking up at the pretty maid, Ariadne tried to catch her attention but she was too preoccupied with fluttering her fake lashes at the Forger in front of her. Eventually, she ordered some hot tomato soup, and began to wait impatiently for her food.
Super short chapter o_O
“So, Yusuf, what’ve the doctors got to say about helping Arthur?”
Eames was glad that Cobb was the first to break the comfortable silence that had fallen on the team. Although he didn’t want to act anything other than his normal laidback self that the team had grown accustomed to, he was extremely anxious to get back to the hospital and back under the Chemicals – back under to Arthur. He didn’t know what it was, but something was tugging at the back of his mind, something that told him he had to save Arthur. It was more than guilt weighing down on his heart. It was really cheesy, but all he wanted was for the Point Man to open his eyes and smile.
Gulping down the last cooling dregs of coffee, Yusuf placed his elbows on the table, fingers locked under his chin.
“We must try to wake Arthur within two or three days. His brain is still alert, so there is a possibility that it will try and warn his subconscious of his injuries. If he starts to believe that his body is dying, his brain will automatically slowly begin the shutting down process of his vital organs whether he wants it to or not, whether he really was dying or not.”
An evil screech resounded in the small café. Eames looked down, to see that he had been scraping his fork unnecessarily hard against the ceramic plate to scoop up his scrambled eggs. His knuckles were white and his fingers ached from gripping his cutlery so hard. He released them with trembling fingers.
“Great...” he began fiercely, still looking as his plate. Recovering his composure, he took a deep breath and looked up at the team. He tried to continue, injecting annoyance into his voice. “Great. We sitting in this run down little café whilst our” – my – “Arthur is lying in a grey room with his brains turning into scrambled egg.”
“Well technically”– Eames sent Yusuf a death glare, and he fell silent.
“Arthur. Is. Dying.” The Forger looked at Cobb.
“We needed to eat.” Cobb retorted.
“Arthur is DYING” Eames emphasised, leaning forward towards the team leader.
“We need to be alert.”
“For fucks sakes, can you get it into your bloody little head Cobb? Your best friend is dying on a hospital bed.” Eames didn’t even bother to raise his voice. Sarcasm did enough to show his anger.
“YOU DON’T FUCKING UNDERSTAND, DO YOU EAMES? WE NEED TO BE ON OUR MOST ALERT, OUR MOST VIGILENT BEFORE WE CAN SHARE OUR SUBCONSCIOUSNESS WITH ARTHUR. HE DESERVES THE BEST!” Cobb stood up, fists reaching to drag Eames out of his chair. Ariadne had stood up too, arms around the Extractor, trying to calm him.
Breathing hard, Cobb sat back down. Closing his eyes, he tried to begin an apology, but Eames coldly stopped him.
“I’m going back to the hospital.” Throwing his napkin onto his plate, he stood up and sauntered out, leaving the café waitress staring after him in the snow.
Apparently I'm one of those awful people who takes a million years to update :( I apologise profusely! You'll be rewarded for waiting! -hands over cookie-
A hunger eats him from the outside. Gnawing him from the surface of his pale white naval into the innards of his stomach. Groaning, he rakes at the hunger with everything he can, clawing away at it on his belly, each scrape bringing short relief followed by a worse pain. Someone screams. His throat is raw.
The red die stares at him.
Tucking his knees against the pain in his stomach, Arthur wondered why he felt so sticky and disgusting, and why there was a dull pain in his head. Lifting his fingers to his temple, he realised he must have bashed it on his way down. He had fainted in front of the medicine cupboard above the sink, where a steady dripping of blood told him exactly where he had bashed it. Squinting, he did his best to avert his gaze from his totem, which was hiding just under the sink. Brown syrup oozed from a bottle to his left, splinters of glass littered around the lid. He vaguely remembered the smash as he had groped for the bandage. He looked at his hand, wrapped in the bandage. It was red on the outside as well as, he knew, on the inside. Blood was under his nails again. Am I hallucinating? Scraping at it with other nails, he flicked lumps of red out. Nope. He looked around to find the source.
His gazed dropped to his knees, which were pressed against a dark hole to the right of his belly button. Another one? He groaned out loud as the pain intensified, now he had realised what was there. Fresh crimson liquid spilled over his kneecaps as he fumbled for the roll of bandages, which had somehow managed to stay void of any spillages. Arthur unbuttoned his shirt quickly, pulling it off his arms. The hairs on his arms prickled with the change in temperature.
“...Fuck...” He cursed. The hole was similar to the one in his hand, but what irked him was that the blood had poured down in rivers, soaking into his trousers. Resigning himself to a cold evening, he removed them and hung them on the laundry basket, standing in only his blood stained boxers. Pressing one end against the hole of congealed blood, he pulled the roll round and round his naval, desperate to cover the aching, itching crater. He ripped off the end, before dipping it into cough syrup and slapping it onto skin.
Lying down on the floor, he hugged himself, pulling his arms in with his hands and willing the pain to vacate his battered, broken body. Taking a deep breath, he opened his eyes weakly, gazing around.
Red. Red everywhere. Red whirlpools swirling in pretty patterns against white floor tiles. He drew an intricate rose on the floor, dipping his finger into the excess blood that had splattered in puddles around him. Realisation hit him. He was drawing. In blood. Trembling and disgusted, he swiped his hand over the tile, smearing his artwork across the floor.
The die under the sink stared at him. He had been wrong before – it wasn’t hiding, it was mocking at him. Smiling at him. Laughing at him. Red was everywhere. Why red? A dark red hue clouded his view in one eye from the rim, spreading rapidly across his whole vision, dice dancing in front of him. Rocking and moaning, a voice reverberated in his ears. Make it stop...MAKE IT STOP...
The red. He wanted it to go away. He wanted anything else. Black. No, white. A blinding, burning pure colour, to wash away the madness. He snatched at some white bandage and hurriedly ripped off the end, his hands seemingly working on their own accord. He pulled the fabric taut, before closing his eyes. He pressed it over the sockets, pulling harder and harder, eager to block out any remaining light. Finally, all was dark. He curled up in a small ball on the bathroom floor, flinching away from the pools of cold dark goo. His arms trembled slightly with the exertion of holding the fabric so tight, but anything was better than blood red. Blackness enveloped him.
Omnomnom 'nother cookie!
Huddling inside his jacket, Eames stomped hard on the mats upon entering the hospital, white foot prints disappearing as they melted into the carpeted surface. Muttering profanities to himself, he walked, shoulders hunched, towards the dimly lit corridors.
Seeing the dark look on his face, the nurse in Arthur’s room scuttled out. Relieved to be alone with Arthur for once, he collapsed into the chair by the Point Man’s bed. Gently reaching out, he lifted the hand that rested on Arthur’s chest, trying to press some warmth into it. It felt cold, but not unnaturally so. Not cold like a corpse.
Pushing those thoughts out of his head, he satisfied himself by watching Arthur’s chest rising and falling weakly, and checking out the machines which beeped frequently. Sitting up straight, he swung his legs over to rest on the length of the plastic deck chair. Reaching over to the silver briefcase, he deliberated over the small black buttons – 10 seconds? 1 minute? What the fuck. His index finger came down hard on the third button along, after a moments hesitation. He barely felt the prick of the needle, and the small hiss of the machine was the last thing he heard.
Eames waited for the sound of cocking guns – the sound that meant Arthur was consciously fighting. The rush of waves filled what would otherwise have been silence. He glanced across the ocean, where the impossibly dark midnight blue merged indistinguishably with the writhing black sea. Creeping around the silvery building that had replaced the small shack since his last visit, the man squinted in through the double glazed patio, where the only light emanated from a door, next to the kitchen. A digital clock on the seemingly unused oven glowed a bright green –
Eames raised himself slowly from his squat, ignoring his thighs screams of protest and half crouching, he slid open the glass door. He moved smoothly with a small swish of minute brushes against glass. Listening hard, he tip-toed towards the door and stopped just outside it to clear his throat, calling gently,
Heart pounding, he stuck his head around the door frame. Half naked, a small man lay curled in the fetal position, knees tucked up beside his chest, pressing against a half-bandaged stomach. The end of the white fabric trailed through oozing liquids of brown marbled with a watery crimson that looked suspiciously like blood. What looked like coloured sweets of every shape and size littered the floor around him. Tense hands, one of which was also bound, were clenched tightly around another strip of bandage, which was stretched painfully across his eyes.
“Eames.” The whisper slipped past chapped lips and Arthur’s broken voice cracked over the Forger’s name.
“...Darling...” Eames whispered in reply. Shuffling towards the ruined body of the Point Man, the Brit knelt down in the sticky mess Arthur was lying in. He felt the cold seeping in, but he didn’t care.
As gently as he possibly could, he reached out with trembling hands and placed them over the other man’s. Using the pads of his thumbs, he slowly slid the fabric up over Arthur’s eyes, hushing the man as he whimpered in feeble protest. Dark bruises around his eyes – from lack of sleep or the fabric, Eames didn’t know – had formed, and Arthur squinted from the light of the bathroom, eyes shadowy with fear, pain and sheer helplessness. What felt like a bolt of electricity shot through the Forger’s body, as he gazed into the pools of brown that showed him more of Arthur than he had ever known existed. Arthur’s name tumbled from his lips like a prayer. He needed to protect this vulnerable man.
A cold finger stroked his cheek.
“...wet.” Arthur mumbled, hoarsely.
He let the tear run down his cheek, where the Point Man caught it on the tip of his finger. Together, they stared at the little globe of water in silence.
Eames sniffed loudly, annoyed at himself for having to ruin the comfortable silence, before running his eyes over the Point Man’s pale body. Finger shaped bruises wrapped around thin biceps showed where he had physically held himself together. Smears of dried blood covered his body, on his temples from where he had resorted to binding his eyes to stop seeing. Stop seeing...what? Fresh crimson flashed in the corner of his eye. A lonely red cube catching the light stood out among the round capsules scattered around the place where Arthur’s head had been, just under the cabinet. He quickly shut his eyes before his brain had had time to register the white dots.
“It doesn’t work. It. Tells. Me. Nothing.” Arthur pronounced each syllable precisely, each consonant ringing in Eames’ ears. He decided to remain silent, not wanting to affect the way Arthur was thinking.
Keeping his eyes closed, the Forger groped around for the discarded piece of cloth, shuddering slightly as gloops of syrup and congealing blood clung to his fingertips. He then felt for the cube, and carefully covered it with the cloth.
“What doesn’t work, love?” Eames stood up and pulled the hand towel roughly off the rack and threw it in the sink. Turning on the hot tap, the room soon filled with steam as the Forger washed, wrung and then shook out the hot towel. He hung the towel on the edge of the bathtub, before kneeling down and putting his arms around the smaller man. With one arm supporting Arthur’s knees, and the other tucked under his arms, the Brit lifted Arthur with ease, before setting him gently into the bath tub. He dropped back to his knees at the edge of the bath, before putting his hand tenderly around Arthur’s bicep, cautious of the bruises. Arthur relaxed at his touch, as Eames lightly rubbed his warm hand up and down his arm, rubbing away the goose bumps. Then, with his other hand, he pressed the warm towel against the other man’s pale face, which was streaked with drying blood. Taking care over an obvious wound on his forehead, Eames also noticed that the blood from it had run down into his eye. He gently peeled it open, blood gluing Arthur’s black lashes together.
The Forger had hesitated, as he peered into Arthur’s eye, before looking at the other, a gorgeous chocolate brown in comparison to the horrible red one. “What’s wrong...with my eye?”
The Brit was startled back into reality, having realised that he had been staring into Arthur’s eyes for far too long. Slightly embarrassed, he cleared his throat.
“Hrmm – you seem to have blood in your eye. I don’t know what to do.” He was unnaturally serious as he contemplated the situation. “I don’t really have any first aid training or...”
“Eye bath in the cupboard – but it might be somewhere on the floor.” Arthur responded, quietly.
Having found the little box that was thankfully in the cupboard as opposed to in the mess of medicines on the floor, Eames handed it to Arthur, touching his cold hands. He wanted nothing more than to take those pale fingers and warm them with his own, so he quickly moved before the temptation grew too great.
Grabbing the towel, he washed it again, watching the pink water drain down the drain, before gently dabbing the dried blood away from the rest of Arthur’s body. Moving down Arthur’s to navel, he started to peel off his black boxers, catching Arthur’s eyes, before tucking the end of the bandage in to the rest of the white fabric wrapped around his body. Not bothering to avert his eyes, Eames carried on cleaning, waiting for Arthur to say something, but they both continued in silence.
The darkness wasn’t completely black. Where he moved his eyeballs to glistened with flashes of red shapes, disappearing a moment later. Silence roared in his ears getting louder all the time as if ready to wash him away from this reality into an unknown, but somehow a low voice broke through the white noise. An unmistakeably British voice.
It was like a prayer, a miracle... one Arthur didn’t believe. Of course he wouldn’t be here. Why would Eames, of all people, come here now, when all he had ever been was a nuisance in the wrong place at the wrong time. He ignored the voice, but somewhere in his next breath, his named slipped out – “Eames...” his voice filled with the hope of salvation.
And Arthur knew it was real, he knew he was there. Eames.
Large hands enveloped the ones clutching the cloth to his eyes. They were warm, and reassuring, and the warmth spread through Arthur like wildfire, his shakes reduced to trembles. Thumbs slid the fabric off his eyes, and the Point man groaned slightly as the light from the bathroom burned through his eyelids, red all over again. But then, with one eye, he saw the face of the most beautiful man, a face wet with tears. He was real. Eames really was there, here to help him.
“...wet.” Arthur reached out to touch his cheek, and he caught a tear running down Eames’ heartbreakingly sad face.
A loud sniff broke the silence. Arthur watched as the Brit looked critically over his body; he knew he must look pretty disgusting. At least that’s how he felt, although safe now that Eames was here.
Eames’ eyes had strayed to under the cabinet, where Arthur’s die was sitting, before snapping shut. Even though it was his totem, and he knew under no circumstances should he let it be seen by anyone, the Point man really didn’t care by then. Anger rose from his chest up to his throat.
“It doesn’t work. It tells me...nothing.”
Arthur’s eyes followed the larger man as he stood up to leave. He opened his mouth slightly to say something, anything to keep him from going – but Eames just reached for the white fluffy hand towel and put it in the sink. The Point man tilted his head slightly in curiosity, watching as the Forger washed the now hot towel, steam raising the room to a comfortable temperature. He watched Eames put the towel on the edge of the bath, before coming back towards him and scooping him up. Although Arthur didn’t want to make the Brit all sticky, he couldn’t help but nuzzle his face and press his cold fingers against Eames’ broad chest, soaking in the warmth before he was settled gently into the bathtub.
Revelling in the warmth of Eames’ touch and the rub of the warm towel, Arthur felt the tension seep out of his limbs as he relaxed. He felt Eames’ thumbs brush gently over his bad eye, as he peeled it open. He watched the Forger examine the eye, bright blue green eyes darting between his own.
“...Eames?” Arthur wanted to know the verdict. “What’s wrong with my eye?” He bit his lip as Eames cleared his throat to tell him.
“Ermm... you seem to have blood in your eye. I don’t know... what to do. I don’t really have any first aid training ” Arthur smiled slightly as he watched Eames’ eyebrows sink into his eyes as he frowned. It was amusing watching Eames think.
“Eye bath in the cupboard, but it might be somewhere on the floor.” Arthur looked over the edge of the bath, but he couldn’t see the box anywhere. Eames stood up to look in the cupboard, and suddenly, even though he was only about a metre away, loneliness washed over Arthur again. Gripping the side of the bathtub hard, he stared after him. The feeling grew up to his chest threatening to overwhelm him. His stomach twisted and a hot burning sensation rose up his throat, his mouth dry. Eames was going to leave him, naked and half bloody, in his bathtub. Or maybe, he had really been hallucinating. Arthur continued watching the Brit, as if he was moving in slow motion. He scrutinised his every move, waiting for the moment he disappeared to prove he was a figment of his imagination... but then the Brit grabbed the box and came back.
Arthur lifted his trembling hand to take the box, brushing Eames’ warm hand. The trembling stopped as warmth sparked from where they touched, and he wanted more, but the other man moved to pick up the towel before washing it in, thankfully, the bathtub. He didn’t want Eames to go to the sink again; the fear of being left from before was still turning inside him.
Pouring the eye-cleaner into the cup, he tilted his head back and pressed it against the socket. Blinking several times, the red film over his eye lessoned into pink. After a couple more rinses, it was gone. What a stupid thing to worry about. He thought angrily, embarrassed at his thoughts from earlier. Pouring the pinkish water into the bath, he noticed Eames hooking his fingers into the edge of his sodden boxers.
He stared at Eames, who stared back with his beautiful eyes. What the fuck, he thought, uncaring. Arthur shifted to assist in the boxers being removed. Relaxing into the tub, the Point man let Eames clean him in a comfortable silence, as Arthur drifted in and out of consciousness at ease.
Arthur was woken by the shifting of a blanket over his very naked body. Words drifted around the room, and he registered a couple which were very familiar. Darling...pet...
He opened his eyes to frown, but only saw Eames’ face smiling softly at him, before kissing him on the forehead. A spark seemed to shock him inside, a jolt that made everything clear. Why he didn’t mind the pet names any more. Why he felt safe when only Eames was there. Why his favourite colour was a mix of blue and green... the perfect combination that shone in the Brit’s beautiful bright eyes.
“You missed.” His eyes widened in shock. Was it he who said that? But now, there really was only one thing to do. Trembling slightly for the first time since he had stopped from earlier, he reached up to cup Eames’ neck, drawing the Forger’s face towards his own. Parting his lips slightly, he closed his eyes and kissed Eames. The rough stubble rubbed against his chin; and mixed with the husky woody Eamesy smell, it was unlike any kiss he had had before. His fingertips extended to feel the short hairs under the other man’s skull, mussing up the short blond strands. It was sweet, but fear of rejection and that this wasn’t real started as a thought in the back of his mind, before it exploded in the Point man’s mind like a parasite. It spread through his body, immobilising him, and he felt the warm pressure ripping away as he pulled back. Tears stung in his eyes, threatening to spill over as his throat dried and tightened. He doesn’t want me, what was I thinking, what do I...
His train of thought was broken as he felt his lips move back under the Brit’s, and he felt like he had melted in a puddle of warm goo, as he kissed him back. A choking force wrapped its tendrils around his chest, his heart, before melting away as a warm tongue whispered between their lips. Stunned, he felt a shiver of goose bumps run down his back.
“I guess I know where I’m sleeping tonight then,” the Brit chuckled. Arthur watched as Eames began to unbutton his shirt, but as he turned away to change in another room, the thing in his chest constricted causing panic and bile to bubble up his throat. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Don’tgodon’tgodon’tgo...
“...stay?” he managed to croak thickly, acid coating his tongue. Please!! The voice in his head shrieked.
The Forger smiled and nodded, reaching out to touch Arthur’s face. The touch calmed him slightly, as Eames stripped, unembarrassed, leaving his clothes crumpled on the floor. A pang of annoyance ran through him, and he wanted to get up and fold them – just as the blanket rose behind him, the mattress sank and a comforting warmth pressed against his back. Rough hands pulled him close, and he felt Eames’ face bury into his shoulder. Closing his bruised eyes, Arthur wrapped his arms around himself, keeping the Brit’s arms in contact with his torso, holding them together. Lips skimmed the smooth skin of Arthur’s back, following the angular bones of his shoulder above the dip where his collar began.
Arthur traced his fingertips over the Englishman’s bicep, where he knew green ink swirled beneath the skin. Turning in Eames’ arms, he reached out and held the Forger’s face, lip twitching as Eames’ own lips curled into that mischievous smile that had perpetually annoyed him. Playfully, Arthur reached up and kissed him, savouring the woody taste. He felt Eames’ tongue dash between the joined skin, before quickly darting away. The Point man smiled into the kiss, and opened his lips, inviting him back in. Eames responded with enthusiasm, and Arthur was rolled onto his back. Most of the weight of the heavier man was taken on elbows that indented the mattress, but enough was resting on his stomach and hips, where –
Where his very naked body is pressing against my own skin... Arthur’s eyes widened slightly as he acknowledged this now very obvious fact. Heat rushed to blush his cheeks; and more embarrassingly further down his body, where his hips spasmed against Eames, as if a jolt of electricity sparked through every nerve ending at his realisation.
“Eames... I don’t” he managed to choke out, but Eames cut over him.
“Darling...” he saw the twinkle in the other man’s eye, and the small smile that warmed his heart. “You... don’t know what you... how... how long I’ve wanted this...wanted you. ” A hot breathy mouth that suddenly appeared by his ear, nibbling the lobe hesitantly. Suddenly, a shiver ran down his spine, raising the hairs on his arms as he realised this as well. How he always hoped to see the man, just to hear his snarky comments and witty comebacks, his laidback attitude and cute pet names, annoying as they were, he realised that he had come to be rather fond of them.
“But... you were saying?” The Brit whispered, and Arthur found himself staring into mesmerizing bluey green eyes. And he suddenly didn’t care. He wanted this.
“Fuck it.” Arthur responded, bucking up again. Eames chuckled.
“I’ll be much obliged to, pet. But...Are you... sure?”
“I said, fuck it.” Arthur snarled, pulling Eames back into a heated kiss.
Long time no update... Sorry!
Exhausted, Eames looked at the pink towel in his hands, hoping that Arthur wouldn’t be too pissed that the colour would never come out. Fuck... he shook his head. He’s dreaming, he won’t give a shit. Rolling his eyes, he dropped the towel to the floor and looked at the Point man, who was half-asleep in the bathtub. The steam in the room had long gone and touching the pale skin, Arthur was ice cold. Eames tucked his arms under Arthur’s body to lift him again, and cradled him against his chest as the other man’s spidery thin fingers crept up round his neck, making Eames shudder against the cold. He was so small. Smiling down at him, Eames knew that he’d be alright. He could do this; just tell him he was in a dream, and Arthur would be saved, forever in his debt, forever...his.
Eames moved out of the bathroom, turning off the light with his elbow, and into the spacey bedroom, where the blankets were folded neatly. Eames preferred not folding his blankets, leaving them in messy piles. He kept telling himself it was because it was more comfortable when he would return, or if he was in a hotel, that the maid would do it – but he just couldn’t be bothered.
He put the Point man down in the cold looking bed, and covered him with the blanket. Looking down at Arthur, he brushed locks of his soft brown hair from his eyes. He looked so young with his hair free from gel.
“You’re safe now darling. It’s all ok, we’re gonna get you back soon, pet.” He murmured softly, smiling and humming. He bent down and gently kissed the Point man’s forehead. Moving back, he saw that Arthur’s eyes had opened slightly, creasing ever so slightly at the corners, twinkling. Eames knew a small smile hid beneath the blanket.
A hand pressed the back of his head down, softly but firmly towards Arthur’s own. Before he knew what happened, he felt the softest, slowest pressure against his lips, tainted with the salt of blood and tears, and an intoxicating sweetness that made him hunger for more. In a strange contrast, the velvet breath that had brushed against his lip was gone in a rush, as if it had never really been there. And he realised, that he had just been kissed.
He stared at Arthur; Arthur stared back, eyes filled with worry...and fear. Eames didn’t want to see him like that anymore; he didn’t want to see those wide brown eyes looking at him like that.
Anyway, he wanted to kiss Arthur again.
Leaning in fast, he could feel the Point man’s smile beneath his own. He kissed him deeply, passionately, taking in as much as that satin scent as possible.
Reluctantly, Eames drew back.
“I guess I know where I’m sleeping tonight then,” he joked. Arthur smiled at him, his brown eyes creasing into adorable little half moons. Smiling back, he headed to the bathroom to change, but Arthur whimpered softly, “Stay?”
Eames understood. He quickly unbuttoned his blood stained shirt, pulled off his jeans - which still had cough syrup on the knees – wriggled out of his boxers and got into the bed. With the thin, cold other man huddled on the other side, the bed felt cold and empty. Reaching out, he tucked them under Arthur’s arms and pulled him towards his own chest. The cold of Arthur’s back made him shudder a bit, but it soon warmed as he shared his body heat. He felt the cold dissipate as they melted together, breathing in sync. Eames gently rubbed the tip of his nose against Arthur’s silky white skin, humming gently. The Point man’s scent trickled down his throat as he drank it in; soothing a pressure that he hadn’t realised had been pressing in his chest. Each breath was deeper, as if he was breathing for two. He was one, with another. Before, he was incomplete: now, finally, he felt whole. He felt needed. He felt wonderful.
Nuzzling into Arthur’s nape where soft hairs caressed the tip of his nose, he felt a feather-like touch tickling his arm. Squirming slightly, Eames curled around the smaller man as he turned towards the Forger. He grinned slightly, before tilting his head to kiss Arthur. Uncharacteristically cautious, he darted his tongue out to sweep across the Point man’s thin bottom lip. He crossed his fingers behind Arthur’s back – but berated himself for ever worrying and laughed slightly as he felt the brunette’s mouth open. Sliding his hand down to the small of Arthur’s back, Eames rolled him over to rest on top of Arthur, propping himself up on his elbows to prevent squashing the smaller man. He ran his lips and the tip of his nose across Arthur’s cheek, dropping small kisses along his smooth jaw. His senses were highly sensitized as their bodies brushed and pressed against each other, and he smiled as he heard a tiny gasp as his body slid up Arthur’s hips.
He pulled away from Arthur’s face, and stared past the long black lashes that framed dark chocolate eyes; the sort that girls would kill for. The sort that guys didn’t care for. He rested his forehead on Arthur’s own, the tip of their noses just touching. He could feel the tingle of synchronised breath as it whispered past their lips, millimetres apart.
“...Darling...you...don’t know what you...how-how long I’ve wanted...this. Wanted...you,” he whispered, shifting back up to Arthur’s ear lobe to nibble gently. He was slightly afraid, although he needn’t have been: they had already come this far.
“But... you were saying?” he added pulling up again; as he realised that the Point man had been saying something.
“Fuck it.” And Eames felt Arthur’s hips move up and slam not unpleasantly against his own hips. Grinding back down, he chuckled.
“I’ll be much obliged to, pet.” He said, grinning. But he didn’t want it all to be about sex. Arthur was more than that.
“...Are you... sure?”
“I said, fuck it.” And their lips crushed back together.
A thin ray of gold shone through the gap in the curtains, illuminating the Point man’s face, chocolate eyes open. “Arthur...” Eames hummed happily, feeling like he had never slept better. He lifted one of Arthur’s hands from beneath the cover. Clutching the spidery thin hand which was wrapped in bandage, he slowly peeled off the fabric. He wanted to see the damage for himself, but his heart was in his throat as more and more blood soaked linen trailed onto the blankets. Eventually, the last layer hid the wound he knew was on Arthur’s palm. He slid it off, gasping slightly. He had expected a massive hole, not unlike the one in real Arthur’s hand. Instead there was just a newly grown brown scab, the kind that as a child, the Brit would always have on his knees and elbows. Frowning, he rubbed a thumb gently over it.
Eames shuffled up to press his body against the other man, who had moved away during the night. Gently, he pushed back the flopping hair from Arthur’s dark brow.
Arthur turned towards him.
“You’re still here...” he whispered. Eames leant in towards Arthur; he couldn’t have slept well as there was no trace of staleness in his breath, only the sweet intoxicating Arthur smell...he ran a finger down the Point Man’s cheek from his forehead, tucking it under his chin to lift it up and kiss him silently, before kissing him again, just because he was Arthur.
“Of course, darling,” he said lazily,
“But...you never stay.” Eames froze.
“What...what do you mean?” frantic thoughts rushed through his head.
“I’m not just a...”-
“A what, darling?” Eames felt his own eyebrows sink with worry.
“Just one of your one night stands.” The small voice mumbled, muffled in his chest. A warm fuzzy feeling grew in Eames chest as he relaxed. Smiling gently, Eames kissed the tip of his nose.
“Don’t be ridiculous now.” He murmured in the other man’s ear. “I’ll be here for as long as you want me here.”
“You won’t go?” Eames shook his head in response.
“Promise.” He added, to reassure and wipe the worried look of the Point Mans’ face. Content that Arthur was now at peace, he wrapped his arms tightly around him in a hug, before relaxing back into sleep...
Eames was curled up uncomfortably, something hard digging into his back. Groggily, he rolled to the side where he knew Arthur should be – and promptly crashed to the floor, ripping out the needle of the PASIV and gashing his arm.
“Ohhh shit...” he groaned, rubbing his back where the arm of the deck chair dug in. He opened his eyes to see Ariadne kneeling beside him worriedly, Cobb with his head tilted back against the wall, face covered by his hands in a WhatTheFuckDidYouDo sort of way. Ariadne stood back up, sitting on the chair where he was just a moment ago.
Yusuf popped up from the other side of Arthur, looking down at the Forger through delicate frameless glasses, as he pushed needles into Arthur.
“We had a moment in which Arthur’s condition spiked dangerously, before easing back down.” Eames shuffled to lean against the wall opposite the Chemist, resting his wrists on his knees, arse on the hard floor. He raised his eyebrows, remembering the night he spent relaxed with Arthur in his bed.
“Y’mean, last ni- I mean, just now?” He corrected himself.
“Yes; just a few moments earlier, when we were....around the time you left breakfast. The machine registered it. However, the time would have been different with Arthur...” He paused apologetically whilst gesturing at relevant machinery, whilst Eames shot a dirty look up at the Extractor who still had his eyes covered. Closing his eyes to concentrate, Eames tried the math. Set the timer for ten minutes... one minute an hour...I got there at what, nine thirtyish? Fuck my inability to do math. Thoughts tumbled one after another through his brain as he banged the back of his head rhythmically against the wall. Thump. Thump. Thump. Ten? Eleven minutes ago? Subtract a minute means subtracting an hour, maybe less or more... anywhere around seven or eight, to nine ish?
“Yes...it was night time then. Seveneightnine...ish?” He mumbled. The genius chemist lifted an eyebrow, and Eames rolled his eyes, annoyed.
“Anyway, what you need to do is convince Arthur that he is dreaming and you need to do it soon. You have one, at most two shots at it...” How do I do that? The Forger mused, staring at the wall. Oh damn... he checked his watch. Unknown minutes had already passed.
“...Totem might not work, time is different, but everything is perfect to his taste, everything works. He might not be aware of anything unordered happening...”
“Yusuf, how long has it been since I woke up?” Eames blurted out, cutting of Yusuf mid speech. The Chemist stopped his rambling to stare at the screen beside Arthur.
“Two minutes and fifteen...sixteen...seventeen...”
“...and what was that totem thingy you said?” Eames narrowed his eyes. It doesn’t work. Arthur’s words rang in his ears. Yusuf tutted quietly at him.
“I wish you would think some times. He’s in his own mind. You think Arthur’s subconscious won’t know his own totem? You’re so stupid sometimes.”
Ignoring Yusuf’s insults, Eames stood up.
“Let me come back too.” Ariadne said quietly from beside Eames. Eames looked at her, forgetting that she had even been there.
“I told you ‘no’, remember?” Cobb responded, sighing. He strode from the wall over to Eames, and put his hand on his shoulder. “You can do this Eames. Bring him back, we all need him.” Eames looked at the blonde man. Cobb’s dull eyes reminding him painfully of Arthur’s, and he instantly regretting yelling at the man earlier. Arthur wasn’t important only to him. Eames nodded in reply, and sat down in the reclined seat as the Architect moved for him.
“But” – Cobb shook his head at Ariadne, who then shot a pleading glance at Eames. He knew how much Arthur meant to her, too.
“I’ll get him back.” Eames looked her in the eye to reassure her, and felt a small knot of guilt twist in his gut. If he did get him back, he certainly had no intention of letting Ariadne have him. Lying down on the plastic chair, he reached for the tubing that extended from the PASIV. Cobb fiddled with the buttons on the machine, whilst Eames reattached a new needle to the end of the tube, and clumsily tried using his left hand to inject himself. He found himself steadied by a small hand. With Ariadne’s help, the gush of chemicals pulled him under.
Try as he might, Arthur couldn’t sleep. His body screamed in fatigue. He tried to breathe in sync with the steady breaths of the man beside him. Trying not to disrupt Eames’ slumber, he brought his bandaged hands up to look at it. The pain had subsided somewhat to a dull throbbing ache. He turned his gaze to the sleeping man’s face above his. Reaching up, he gently touched the back of his index finger to Eames’ tanned cheek. Arthur traced the other man’s jaw to his chin, before lightly running the tip of his finger along Eames’ slightly parted lips. His warm breath induced a small tingle in Arthur’s spine, in a way he thought no projection could. Then again, he had never had an experience like this, let alone with a projection. Frustration bubbled up in his chest as his head battled once more. If I’m in a dream, Eames would stay. Because he never stays. I know he always leaves the girls. But, if I’m in a dream, my fucking totem wouldn’t show four. But if I’m not in a dream, how does it explain the coffee? Or the beach? Or that Eames turned up, when I wanted him to. Or that Eames... kissed me back.
A small sob crept up his throat. This had to be a dream. Eames would never want him like that. Why Eames anyway. Why did it have to be fucking Eames.
STOP. A voice in the back of his head told him to stop sobbing. Here was Eames, a man who he had just realised meant a lot more to him than he had ever thought, in his bed asleep next to him. But he had to know.
Groaning quietly, he rolled away from the warmth of the Forger’s body, and slid out of the bed. Walking backwards to make sure the other man didn’t vanish before his eyes, he crept into the bathroom and whipped off the cloth that covered the die. Without taking his eyes off the sleeping Eames, he picked up the red cube and tiptoed back to the bed. He rolled it behind a blanket dune cautious that in a moment of consciousness, Eames may see the dots on the die.
Fuck you die, fuck yo- Arthur took a deep breath to calm himself. No. Arthur. Just accept it. This is reality. Pinching the bridge of his nose, he clutched the die in his hand and crawled back under the covers. Turning away from Eames, he lifted the cover slightly to allow the silver rays of moonlight illuminate a small area. He rolled the die. Four. He rolled it again. Four. And again. Four...
Through the night, the slim man tossed the cube whilst the Brit lay sleeping, blissfully unaware beside him of the Point Man’s struggle to believe his totem.
It never crossed Arthur’s mind that in the bathroom, there had been no blood on the floor, and that the pain in his hand grew lesser each time he threw the four, whilst he became more convinced that this was his reality.
The air shimmered as the sun rose over the blue sea, lighting the otherwise dim room. The man beside him rolled over to face Arthur. A small smile lifted the corner of his lip. He stayed. Arthur remained contently still as the Forger shuffled closer and lifted his hand to remove the bandages. It didn’t hurt anymore. Arthur’s smile grew, and his heart skipped erratically as hot fingers caressed his palm, followed by a small gasp. He could feel the soothing rub of Eames’ thumb against the middle of his hand, rubbing away any lingering throbbing, before the hand moved to smooth the Point man’s hair from out of his eyes. Blinking, Arthur shifted to stare at Eames’ sparkling eyes.
“You’re still here” he stated quietly. He wanted to hear Eames speak; hear his voice to just be sure. His heart jumped again as an unexpected kiss landed on his lips: the bitter taste of morning coupled with Eames’ musky taste wasn’t all too unpleasant.
“Of course, darling,” Arthur released the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding, before blurting out,
“But you never stay.” He closed his mouth quickly as he realised just how whiney he sounded.
“What...what do you mean?” the other man frowned.
“I’m not just a...”- Arthur looked sideways, not wanting to meet the other man’s eyes, or admit his fears in case they were correct.
“A what, darling?” Eames said gently. Giving a small sigh before nuzzling into the Brit’s naked chest, he murmured
“...Just one of your one night stands.” Corners of his mouth drooping slightly, he looked up at Eames sadly, but his lips twitched into a smile as another kiss was planted on the end of his nose.
“Don’t be ridiculous now. I’ll be here for as long as you want me here.” Forever... Arthur thought.
“You won’t go?” he asked.
“I promise.”Smiling broadly, he pressed his face back into the warmth of Eames’ chest, cradled in strong arms.
Arthur woke up and froze. Something was wrong, and an instinct born from working illegally in dreams kicked in. Slowly, he slid his hand under his pillow, down the back where the mattress met the head board and gripped the handle of his glock. The familiar shape of cool metal in his hand calmed him. In one flowing movement, he got off the bed and whirled around with his back to the wall, pointing the gun away from him.
Starting from the door, he panned his gaze across to the window on the opposite wall.
The eerie silence was broken by a choked sob. Eames was gone.
Arthur lowered the gun. The sheets were still crumpled around an indent where his body had lain. Walking around the bed, he lifted up the duvets. It was still warm. Heart pounding, he moved towards the door. His trembling steps increased in pace until he sped across the floor to rip open the door. Running bare foot, the soft sand spilled over his toes. Eames had gone without even leaving a track.
Crashing to the sand, naked and crying, he howled the Forger’s name like a curse to the sky.
Dry whimpers emanated from the Point man. His heaving body was curled in the fetal position, and he could feel the presence with guns in a large uncertain circle around him.
He’s gone. He rolled the die that appeared in his hand. He didn’t think that he had brought it with him. He didn’t care that it was strange to have it there. Four.
He’s gone. It’s real. This is reality. He left me. He doesn’t love me. He just wanted to fuck with me.
Strong hands picked up his body and he felt himself being picked up off the ground.
“You’re weak, Arthur.” The voice was unfamiliar, but crooned softly in his ear. He felt a door open, and resisted the urge to peel his eyelids open. They were stuck together with tears, sand and sleep. He felt himself being taken up stairs. His house wasn’t a house. It was a bungalow, and didn’t have stairs. Or maybe it did. He didn’t care.
He felt himself being laid down on a cool floor, before the bed sheets were thrown on him. Rubbing his eyes, he carefully opened them and squinted at the man in the suit.
He should have been surprised because standing in front of him was himself. The New Arthur squatted down to his level, and spoke to him.
“Don’t worry Arthur. I won’t let him hurt you again. You’re safe down here. Down here, you won’t hurt anymore.” He felt his chin being lifted up, and he found himself staring into brown eyes. They were solid and blazing.
Arthur fumbled for the die that he had been clutching in his hand.
“Take this,” he said, offering it to him, but the man shook his head.
“I know what’s real and what’s not, Arthur. I won’t forget.”
“If he comes back...send him here?” Arthur pleaded quietly. Even though he knew he shouldn’t, that Eames would just hurt him again, he couldn’t resist asking to see him again. The New Arthur’s mouth mashed into a frown.
“You’re weak. I’m better off without you,” but even so, he nodded curtly, before turning away and leaving him in the dark.
Arthur opened his eyes from what seemed like an abnormally long blink. Somehow, his heart felt a lot lighter. Stronger.
“Sir?” One of his men stared at him curiously. He had stopped in the middle of the staircase. Trotting down, he checked the cuffs on his sleeves and straightened his suit jacket before gazing around the room. It was void of everything, except a glass chess board. Excellent. Sitting himself down, he rolled up his sleeves.
“Watch the border for him. He will come back.”
Arthur felt Eames arrive. He was here. But it was alright, he didn’t hurt anymore. All the hurt, the feelings, the love, the pain was locked upstairs in a dark corner. He was Arthur, Eames didn’t matter. That was all that was real.
He held the round head of a black glass bishop between his thumb and forefinger, the other hand propping up his head, and held it steady above the tile he wanted to put it down on, before the obscene yell of “DARLING!” startled him. He prepared himself for the wash of relief and love that was sure to come – but it never did. The corner of Arthur’s mouth curled into a smile. It was working.
Footsteps signalled their arrival. Putting down the bishop, he looked at the glass window where the Forger’s broad frame was reflected in. His hands were pressed behind his head, eyebrow raised in confusion.
But he was just another man. He didn’t feel anything for him anymore. His lips broadened into a smirk. He was winning.
“Exactly what I was going to say to you.” Arthur pronounced each word carefully. There were many things he wanted to say and do to the man behind him. Mainly, tell him to fuck off and never come back, but he had agreed to open up his emotional side to the man one last time. Arthur was terrified at doing this, he didn’t want to admit it but he was afraid of letting his feelings get the better of him once more. Of letting Eames break him again.
He narrowed his eyes. I’m stronger than that.
“What happened?” the Brit said in a low voice. Arthur sighed. Fucking idiot. Standing up, he straightened the knot at the top of his tie before turning to look at Eames full on.
The man had another atrocious shirt on, buttons undone at the top. His head was pushed forwards by his arms which were still trembling behind it, and he was frowning deeply, wrinkling his forehead. Even so, he looked exceptionally attractive. Arthur sniffed, irritated.
“What happened...? What happened was exactly what I knew would happen. You said you wouldn’t leave, but you left. What meant something to me meant nothing to you. I was just another boy to play with. Mind games, hm, Eames?” he sneered.
“That’s all you do. In fact, thinking about it, what happened was...nothing of great importance. I don’t need you anymore.” He threw the words at the man, intending to hurt him. He didn’t care anymore. He had left the caring part of him behind.
“In fact,” Arthur smirked as he cut across the other man, “let me show you where I put things that don’t matter to me.” Raising his eyebrows to emphasise his point, he turned to the stairs, shoes tapping against the white floor. Ever the gentleman, he stopped to motion Eames up the stairs first. It’d be easier that way.
Suddenly, the large man tripped and his heavy weight knocked into his arm. Normally, Arthur would have had to push and step back to regain his balance – but Arthur felt stronger now, not only in his mind. He caught Eames by the arm, but the other one pressed annoyingly against his chest. Expecting warmth to flourish from the touch, he gasped inaudibly, but felt nothing. Again, he smiled.
A hot finger ran up the side of his face, along to his chin to prop it up. Even though he was stronger, taller, better, he was still shorter than the Brit. Huffing inside, he tried to make himself taller, not tearing his gaze from the blue green eyes which no longer held any meaning for him.
“What happened to you?” the accented voice rasped, catching on the words as, Arthur knew, a lump formed in his throat. A teardrop gathered at the corner of Eames’ eye; the Point Man looked away, uncomfortable and worried he wouldn’t be able to keep his emotion checked.
“After you, Mr. Eames.” He lowered his voice, before looking back up at Eames.
“No. After you, Arthur.” Lip twitching in annoyance, he sighed before heading up the stairs.
Eames needs to go. He needs to go. He needs to go. He needs to go...
“Arthur...how much further?” the Brit’s exhausted voice broke through his seemingly endless chanting. He finished his flight of stairs, surprised to see the bent form of Eames in front of him, clinging to the banister. Quick as a flash, Arthur took the Forger’s wrist and twisted it into a lock behind his back.
“Here... will be just fine.” The landing of the flight of stair dropped away from Eames’ toes, leaving him teetering over the edge of a dark hole. Gently, he nudged Eames forward.
A word danced on the tip of his tongue.
The beach had changed. Underfoot, the ground was rough and dry, with sparse tufts of brown grass poking through. Palm trees were meshed out by high security fences, men with guns patrolling the entrances. Arthur’s defence. He stared at some of the projections. He had found that the projections would always hold a small piece of the person projecting them – and he saw one staring right at him, head cocked the way Arthur would regard an enemy. They were definitely Arthur’s creation.
Eames put his hands in the air, knowing it would be the fastest way to get to Arthur without getting killed.
“Darling!” He called. A hard prod in the small of his back confirmed that the projections, and through them the Point Man, had registered his presence. Thank fuck he didn’t want them to shoot on sight...
“What’s happened since I was gone?” He lowered his hands slightly, but put them back up as the projection repositioned its gun. The projections frowned at him, as if he had done something offensive. The one in front of him, standing profile with its gun by its side in an Arthur-like fashion tilted its head, and said mechanically,
“He told us you’d return.”
The forger’s lowered his eyelids, not knowing where to look. “He...he said that?” His heart also sank a little, annoyed that his waking up had made him leave Arthur, and that since then something drastic had obviously happened.
Eames’ arms burned as he held them above his head, whilst the projections marched him into a room. The room was of medium size, with a staircase in one corner that led up to what Eames assumed would be another room. The walls were a metallic translucent colour, but the room wasn’t dark. There was a grey, creepy feel. In the middle of the strange room sat a dark haired man in front of a glass chess set, looking bored. Arthur. A black tuxedo framed his body in a way only he could, and a thin black tie ran down his white shirt. Long fingers framed his face, pushing up against one eyebrow as he contemplated his move. Eames’ heart pulsed in his throat, and he felt his eyebrows sink.
“What...” Eames said. He realised that his eyebrows had pulled down not due to worry, but with anger. This whole place made him angry as hell, and the person who sat playing chess couldn’t be Arthur. Or at least, it wasn’t the Arthur he had left ten minutes ago. No emotions played in his mind for this man.
“Exactly what I was going to say to you.” Arthur said slowly, meticulously. Eames took a deep breath and let it go, allowing his brow to unknot. Arthur’s voice calmed him, even if it was cold. Cold didn’t suit his voice, Eames decided.
Swallowing, Eames started again. “What happened?”
Eames watched as the Point man turned his pale face towards him. There was something a bit different about him, Eames thought, unable to pin point it. Face gaunter, pointier at the chin? thin lips thinner, dark eyes deeper? ... has he... grown?... this... Arthur thing. Thoughts flurried like a blizzard in his mind.
“What happened? What happened was exactly what I knew would happen. You said you wouldn’t leave, but you left. What meant something to me, meant nothing to you. I was just another boy to play with. Mind games, hm, Eames? That’s all you do. In fact, thinking about it, what happened was...nothing of great importance. I don’t need you anymore.” The words stung more than a slap to his face would have. Eames would have preferred it had this new Arthur shouted at him, screamed, sobbed, spat. Anything better than the harsh cold words spilling from his mouth. Eames’ eyes dried out slightly whilst he stared at this new man slightly, trying not to cry. Pressing his lips together, he avoided the temptation to look down, to look ashamed.
“I”– Eames begun to protest, in a low voice, but the new Arthur would have none of it.
“In fact, let me show you where I put things that don’t matter to me.” The new Arthur’s lip curled up into a mean smile.
The Brit had a chance to compose himself when the armed projections pushed him towards the staircase, to which the new Arthur was walking towards. He stumbled, nearly into the new Arthur, who was holding out an arm, motioning Eames to proceed ahead of him. Eames put out a hand to steady himself, catching it on the new Arthur’s arm. He stood upright, everyone stopped moving. Running his hand lightly up to the new Arthur’s neck, he lightly touched the pads of his fingertips on the new Arthur’s jawbone. The smooth white skin was cool but not too cold. Nothing special. Eames watched the man’s brown eyes carefully as he touched him. There was definitely no detectable emotion registering in them, nor had there been the expected tingly warmth Eames normally felt when he was so close to normal Arthur. He brought his other arm up, and gently cupped the new Arthur’s face.
“What happened to you?” Eames whispered, and a tear escaped from the corner of his eye, as realisation crashed down on him. This wasn’t Arthur, and he was now another step further from saving the man he loved. The Forger saw the new Arthur’s chest move slightly as he took a small breath.
“After you, Mr. Eames.” He said. Eames’ eyes caught the new Arthur’s brown ones. He narrowed his own in mistrust, noticing the dull cold brown that had replaced the infatuating hazelnut ones.
“No. After you, Arthur.” He replied, firmly. Eames thought he was going to refuse, but gave a tiny sigh of relief as the doppelganger turned and went up without further ado, before starting up the dark stairs after him.
The stairs climbed and climbed and climbed. The New Arthur didn’t seem to tire, and continued relentlessly, whilst Eames felt they were going nowhere. Slowing slightly, he dragged his feet up the step. And the next. And the next.
“Arthur...how much further?” he called out, not able to see the man as he’d already gone around the corner and up the next flight. He wasn’t expecting the quiet voice to breathe in his ear, or the twist of his arm to press it uncomfortably behind his shoulder blade.
“Here will be just fine,” Arthur’s voice hissed. Eames looked forward as the landing for that flight of stairs dropped down away from his toes. A gentle push from the New Arthur, and he toppled into darkness.
He landed with an undignified grunt on his backside. A whisper of ragged breath in the corner caught his ear, and he whipped round to see a more familiar looking man, tangled in white sheets.
“Arthur!!” Eames whispered harshly, scrambling to his feet. They rubbed against the cold, rough concrete that was littered with sand. Sand that, when Eames caught the Point Man’s face in his hands, coated his cheeks. Arthur’s eyes were so similar to the New Arthur’s that Eames almost dropped his hands in immediate distrust. But there was something else in them, something more human. The regret that stared back at him pulled his heart into his throat.
“Arthur, I didn’t mean to leave.” He said, in a low voice. Arthur rocked backwards and forwards slightly, shocking white fingers curled around his knees.
“You fucking flirt, with your pet names and shit, you were just trying to get me into your bed. Well you know what? Look, it worked...Too well.” Arthur said quietly, through clenched teeth. Both men leant forward into each other; Eames wrapped his fingers around the back of the Point Man’s neck, Arthur reached and dug his nails into the Forger’s shoulders. Eames could feel his throat constricting as he stared into chocolate brown eyes, fuelled with pain and hate because of him.
“Arthur I came to help”-
“You want to know something, you did help. After Ari came, I thought I was dreaming. Why would I have iced coffee in my fridge? Why the fuck am I on a beach? Why is my fucking hand bleeding? Why did you show up last night when I needed it? I thought my totem was lying, but it was telling the truth the whole time. You. You come here, expecting me to just be one of those other pieces of trash you use. This is fucking reality, and you fucking proved it. Thank you, Eames.”
A sudden shove sent Eames flying: Arthur was surprisingly strong.
He put his hands on his face, over his eyes. What have I done... I’m meant to be trying to convince him to leave this dream world… what else can I – his eyes widened. Death.
“Arthur you’re wrong. Your totem doesn’t work because you’re in your own dream. You were hurt because the real reality is bleeding through. You were shot.” He put his hands up protectively, looking ashamedly away from Arthur. He couldn’t bear to see the hurt anymore.
“Darling… I left because I woke up.”
“NO.” A primal shriek ripped from Arthur’s body as he stood, still wrapped in his sheet, trembling. “THIS ISN’T A FUCKING DREAM, EAMES. THIS is reality. YOU are real. THE HURT is real. And I KNOW this is real because this, Eames, this is what you do to people. You FUCK them and then LEAVE them.”
Angry tears streamed down Eames’ face. Angry at himself, because he knew that was what he did, but also anger at Arthur because this time, it wasn’t like that.
The metal barrel of his gun pressed uncomfortably against the small of his back. He reached behind him to retrieve it. Arthur stepped backwards, his sheet trailing behind him.
“Eames – what are you doing…” he hissed, and the Forger noted the fear coating his voice. Sometimes it didn’t help being a forger – all those tiny details, those emotions. He saw them all. Another sob cracked in his chest as he realised that Arthur – poor, beautiful, traumatised Arthur – thought the man he loved was about to shoot him.
Swallowing audibly, Eames swivelled the gun in his hand and pushed the cold metal against his temple. He closed his eyes.
He reached into his pocket and pulled out his tattered totem, rubbing the small craters with his thumb. Arthur stumbled towards him, hand outstretched.
“I came back for you. I love you.”
As he flicked the red chip into the air, Eames felt cold arms envelop him.
“EAMES I CAN’T LOSE” –
“You have to believe, darling. See you soon.”
Plastic clattered against concrete. He squeezed the trigger.
Ariadne pushed the syringe into Eames’ arm, before sighing as the Forger slumped down into the deck chair. Turning back to Arthur, she stroked his cold hand, wishing it would warm. The machines Yusuf was fiddling with beeped irregularly, and every time it did, she would jump a little. Arthur however, looked the same as always. His skin was almost translucent and very unhealthy looking. She used her finger to sweep away his lank black hair from where it clung to his clammy forehead. The machine beeped again, twice.
“These readings aren’t looking good…” Yusuf suggested, timidly. Cobb twitched his shoulders, which were hunched and tense.
“I’ll give it thirty seconds, and I’ll go down and wake them myself.” Cobb decided.
“…But…Mal?” Ariadne looked at him, incredulously. “She’ll do something, Cobb. We can’t risk anything happening to him – them.”
Cobb was silent at that, and the Architect nibbled her lip anxiously. Then the PASIV hissed, and Ariadne whipped around to look over Arthur and at Eames. His head jerked forwards, and his eyes were screwed up in pain – She recognised the signs. He had just been shot.
“Eames! Are you ok? Wake up, Eames! Where’s Arthur?” She reached forward, ready to shake him awake, properly, but Cobb sent her a warning glare. Eames groaned loudly, and then opened his eyes. Ariadne opened her mouth to speak but then -
“Eames. EAMES. That was fast, Eames.” Yusuf cut across her. “Mind you, Cobb would’ve joined you in another half minute. You were out for about a minute; equivalent to an hour. Arthur sure as hell better be joining us soon…you did what you could, right? We don’t have much time left…”
Ariadne barely noticed as Eames stood up, wobbly, because the machine beside her beeped. The Architect jumped, letting out a small yelp. It beeped again. And again, at regular intervals. She squeezed Arthur’s hand, willing him to wake.
A crease formed between his brow, before the eyelids opened and chocolate eyes resurfaced once more.
Eames swallowed and sighed, ignoring the murmured voices in the background as he regained consciousness, blinking to shake away the ache in the side of his head. He touched his temple, before running his fingers through his hair.
“.. Mind you, Cobb would have joined you in another half minute. You were out for about a minute; equivalent to an hour. Arthur sure as hell better be joining us soon…you did what you could, right? We don’t have much time left…” Yusuf rambled, fiddling with his biro in his anxiety.
Rubbing his eyes, Eames propelled himself off the deck chair, forcing himself to his feet.
“Yep – he’ll be here in a tic. I … better go,” he mumbled, knocking over a small table with chemicals and syringes littered on it. Cursing, he stumbled his way to the door, trying to ignore the pounding in his head.
Just then, Ariadne, who had been clutching Arthur’s hand and staring idly at the machines next to his bed let out a little scream, synchronised with a loud “Beboop” of the monitor.
He pushed down on the metal door handle, ready to yank it open.
Eames stood, in the doorway, not moving. Unable to make a decision. His body was poised to run. His brain was telling him to leave, something about not being able to face Arthur. Not wanting to face the others. After all, he hadn’t told them anything.
He turned his head, just in time to see the Point man yank wires from his body, before pushing Ari away and scrambling to get off the hospital bed.
“Eames..!” The Point man stumbled forwards, before gasping in pain and clamping his hands to his stomach, where red blossomed.
Whirling around, Eames skidded towards Arthur, catching him as he fell. He scooped the smaller man into his arms, holding him tight against his chest and waited for Arthur to stop shaking from the shock.
“Arthur darling, Arthur,” Eames couldn’t help cooing at him, gently lifting the man back onto the bed. “You made it, you did. You made it.” He closed his eyes in relief, as Arthur reached out to touch Eames’ cheek, rough with stubble.
“He ought to sleep.” Cobb said, slightly sharply.
“…No!” Arthur’s eyes snapped open, brown laced with terror.
“Cobb, he’s just been catapulted from one reality to another via shooting himself in the noggin, before falling out of his bed without realising he has a grievous wound in his stomach. Give the man a break.” Eames frowned at Cobb’s retort, putting a hand protectively on one of Arthur’s shoulders.
“No Eames,” Yusuf added timidly, waving a small vial of liquid. “This will put him in a dreamless, immediate sleep. You need to rest,” he turned to Arthur.
“Yes, and that gives me a chance to talk to you.” Cobb nodded at Eames. Eames rolled his eyes at that, before turning back to Arthur, who was scrabbling at Eames’ sleeve. The Forger squatted beside Arthur, stroking his forehead.
“It’s ok, Arthur. I won’t let you get lost again. If you do, I’ll come and find you. It’s ok, I’ll come and find you,” he repeated, softly. He nibbled his lip in concern as Yusuf administered the chemical. True to his word, Arthur’s hand slid back down to rest on his bed and his breathing deepened as he fell asleep.
Cobb pulled a chair out from under a desk and sat in it, facing Eames. The Forger sat on Arthur’s bed, where the man shifted in his sleep to curl around Eames, making him smile. The group looked at him, expectantly. Clearing his throat, Eames began.
“I got back at night time, for Arthur. Around nine-ish. He … he was in a bad way. Somehow his wounds were seeping through from reality, into the dream. Everything was a mess in his cabin. His hand was a mess too; a huge gouged out crater-like hole…” he grimaced, reaching over to pick up Arthur’s bandaged hand. “His stomach was also… but not as bad as his hand.” He gestured to the bullet hole in Arthur’s belly. “I cleaned him up, and … put him into bed.” He said, vaguely. Cobb’s eyebrows rose slightly, not buying it.
Yusuf was frowning deeply, his own eyebrows almost touching.
“Remember when you woke up, I told you that we had Arthur on the verge of waking? Well, did he say anything about being confused about reality, or that he thought he was dreaming?”
“We talked, I asked him what happened, and yes, he did seem really confused…”
Everyone looked to Yusuf for an explanation.
“It’s just that he could have woken up, if he believed he was in a dream, and his wounds killed him in the dream, or he killed himself. He would have woken up here, safe, and knowing that he had been dreaming before.”
“Well… his wounds started fading after I cleaned him up…” Eames confessed. It was more after I got back though – remember, I woke up and then went back down a couple of seconds later?”
“Nothing else happened?” Yusuf pressed. “This is important Eames. Why didn’t he wake up?”
“I… nothing did! I just cleaned him up, and did my best to stop him from falling apart, he was going crazy down there in his own head!”
“Answer the question, Eames. The team needs to know. We need to know. We need to know what’s going on with you and Arthur, and the reason why he didn’t wake up.” Cobb sat opposite Eames, making him feel like he was being interrogated, like a deer, cornered by wolves.
He looked wildly at Cobb, then Yusuf, before squeezing his eyes closed.
“He… he kissed me. And one thing led to another…” he forced out, putting his elbows on the table and running his hands through cropped blond hair.
“You…you kissed him? And then what, fucked?” Shit. Eames thought. He had forgotten about Ariadne.
“I didn’t kiss him, he kissed me!” Eames huffed as he tried to defend himself. He didn’t even know himself why he had kissed Arthur back, but he did. He closed his eyes, thinking back. He remembered the floating feeling as he had kissed Arthur, rising from his stomach and making him feel higher than the sky, lighter than the clouds. It was like nothing he’d ever experienced – women all tasted of apples and perfume that stung his nose. Arthur was sweet, but spicy and exquisite. Eames reddened slightly. Something in the back of his mind was telling him it was wrong, to kiss a man. To be gay. But the feeling in his heart of completeness… it felt so right.
“And as I said…” Eames continued.
“One thing led to another and you ended up shagging. Why did I not expect this,” Cobb threw his hands up, exasperated.
“Wait, why didn’t you expect…?” Eames raised an eyebrow, confused. Yusuf quickly butted in, cheeks slightly flushed with the unexpected turn of events.
“And that’s why Arthur didn’t wake up, I suppose. Somehow, what you did together made him believe that that was reality. Well done for fucking him up. Both physically and mentally.”
Eames slammed his fists into the table.
“I couldn’t fucking help it. I couldn’t watch as he ripped himself to pieces over what was real and what wasn’t,” The Forger hissed dangerously, anger rippling in his chest. It was hard enough for himself to accept what he did, without everyone else getting at him for it.
“So we fucked and then I woke up again in the dream and fucking told him I wouldn’t fucking leave, and then because of the stupid fucking timer I ended up waking up, and then I went back down and he was… he was all…” his voice cracked as he remembered the New Arthur, the one who replaced him.
“Another Arthur?” Yusuf said gently, trying to ease the answers out of Eames more tactfully.
“Yes.” Eames said. He was glad that Yusuf had understood before he had said it; the Forger had no idea how to put what happened into words. After all, he didn’t know what happened. Cobb and Ariadne stared at Yusuf with equally blank faces.
“When someone is emotionally traumatised, he, or she” – Yusuf glanced towards Ariadne – “can push away the emotions or memories associated with the pain they feel. In Arthur’s case, I suppose, the confusion directed at Eames about whether or not he was in reality. It’s like putting on a mask, so to speak.” Yusuf shrugged as he gave his explanation. “Does this fit the description of the…the new Arthur?”
Eames rubbed his eyes, squeezing them together.
“Yes. Yes, I suppose.” He swallowed, glad to finally have an explanation. “So this… this new Arthur mask thing pushed me into the place where he had put the proper Arthur.”
Let me show you where I put things that don’t matter to me. The words rang in the Forger’s head, and his heart clenched painfully. Even if it was an Arthur doppelganger who said it, it had still come from somewhere within Arthur. Somewhere in the Point Man’s mind, he didn’t care about Eames.
“He was there, still blaming me for being confused. I couldn’t see any way to get him to wake up in the time I had left, so I shot myself in the head and woke up.” Eames swallowed thickly, not wanting to say any more.
“That’s the end of that story, and I’m off to the pub.” Pushing his chair back, Eames didn’t stop to take a look at his team, or at Arthur, before stalking off to find the closest bar.
Light glinted off Arthur’s brown eyes, and Ariadne sighed slightly with relief.
Ariadne let out a small squeak of indignation before she could help it. Eames? Why was that the first word that came to the damned man’s mind! Ariadne leant towards Arthur to turn his face, to show him it was her that was holding his hand, willing him awake. She gasped again as Arthur threw back the covers, and her hand, stumbling after the Forger. Rejection sat heavy in her chest as she gazed miserably at the thin man, watching as he scrambled off the bed.
Ariadne lunged forwards over the bed as she heard Arthur groan in pain before collapsing, and watched as Eames caught him. She felt inclined to look away, almost embarrassed as Eames held onto Arthur, rocking him and comforting him. It was obvious – something had happened between them whilst Arthur had been under. How could she have been so stupid and blind, she cursed, flushing crimson. Arthur doesn’t want me… Luckily, all eyes are on the pair on the floor, the Architect thought, blinking away the stinging sensation in her eyes. Pulling herself together, she sank back into the chair as Cobb shifted forwards , to look at the team’s Point Man.
“He ought to sleep.” He said, authoritatively. The corner of Ariadne’s lip curled up in a small smile; she was glad that someone else saw the dark circles under Arthur’s eyes. Even though he had been asleep for such a long time, his subconscious had been awake and working.
“NO!” Arthur jerked upwards, clutching at Eames.
“Cobb, he’s just been catapulted from one reality to another via shooting himself in the noggin, before falling out of his bed without realising he has a grievous wound in his stomach. Give the man a break.” Ariadne couldn’t help but widen her smile at the Brit’s sarcastic retort, even if she didn’t agree with it. Her eyes flickered away from Cobb to look at Eames’ earnest green eyes.
Yusuf lifted a tube of viscous liquid.
“No Eames, this will put him in a dreamless, immediate sleep.” He busied himself with putting the contents of the vial into a syringe.
“You need to rest,” he said to Arthur.
“Yes, and that gives me a chance to talk to you.” Cobb said. Ariadne couldn’t help but feel slightly ignored, as Eames scowled heavily at the team leader, and Yusuf firmly injected the Point man with the dreamless sleeping chemical. Saito, Ariadne just noticed, was nowhere to be seen.
She bit her lip as she saw the muscles in Arthur’s arm tense against the needle whilst Eames tried to comfort him, the Point Man no doubt terrified at the prospect of returning to limbo, before the muscles relaxed and the man sagged back into the pillow.
Movement to Ariadne’s left tore her gaze away from Eames’ hand, which was idly stroking Arthur’s forehead, where soft curls of dark hair had gathered. Finally, Arthur’s face smoothed and was peaceful.
Cobb sat in the free chair beside Ariadne, pulling it out from under the table, to look at Eames across the hospital bed. The Architect wanted to reach forward and take Arthur’s hand again, eager to feel the soft skin again, but it was still resting against Eames. A slight silence fell, and she felt inclined to look at Eames, as he was the one to explain what exactly had happened between them.
“I got back at night time, for Arthur. Around… nine-ish. H- he was in a bad way. Somehow his wounds were seeping through from reality, into the dream. Everything was a mess in his cabin. His hand was a mess too; a huge gouged out crater-like hole. His stomach was also… but not as bad as his hand.” Eames used one hand to pick up Arthurs’, and the other waving towards the bandage around Arthur’s torso.
“ ’Cleaned him up, and put him into bed.” He said, vaguely. Ariadne huffed slightly, sure that this wasn’t all the happened. Yusuf was also frowning, as he spoke.
“Remember when you woke up, I told you that we had Arthur on the verge of waking?” he said, fidgeting with his fingers. “Well…did he say anything about being confused about reality, or that he thought he was dreaming?”
Ariadne thought back to the time she was in his dream. Nothing particularly unusual had happened…
“We talked, I asked him what happened, and yes, he did seem really confused…”
Her eyebrows rose slightly in confusion, before turning to the brains of the team.
“It’s just that he could have woken up if he believed he was in a dream, and his wounds killed him in the dream, or he killed himself. He would have woken up here, safe, and knowing that he had been dreaming before.” Yusuf smiled nervously.
“Well… his wounds started fading after I cleaned him up. It was more after I got back though – remember, I woke up and then went back down a couple of seconds later?”
“Nothing else happened?” Yusuf pressed. “This is important Eames. Why didn’t he wake up?”
“I… nothing did! I just cleaned him up, and did my best to stop him from falling apart. He was going crazy down there in his own head!”
Cobb tutted loudly, obviously as annoyed as Ariadne with the lack of proper answers.
“Answer the question Eames! The team needs to know. We need to know. We need to know what’s going on with you and Arthur, and the reason why he didn’t wake up.” Ariadne noticed the flush rising up from Eames’ neck. Yes. She thought. There was something else.
She took a deep breath to pull herself together.
“He… kissed me! And one thing led to another…” Ariadne’s eyes widened in shock, her mouth falling open as her heart thumped hard in her chest.
“You…you kissed him?” She managed to say. “And then what, fucked?” the words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them, but hell if she regretted it.
“I didn’t kiss him, he kissed me!”
“That…that doesn’t make it any better!” She said, angrily. She didn’t know why she was angry – but that fucking Brit wasn’t even listening.
“And as I said…”
Cobb also looked equally annoyed with their Forger, as he breathed heavily through his nose.
“One thing led to another and you ended up shagging. Why did I not expect this.”
“Wait, why didn’t you expect…?” It was Eames’ turn to be angry, and somehow this calmed her slightly. At least he was fighting for his cause, now, before Yusuf sidled in.
“And that’s why Arthur didn’t wake up, I suppose. Somehow, what you did together made him believe that that was reality. Well done for fucking him up. Both physically and mentally.” Ariadne let out a derisive snort.
Eames banged his fists on the table, loudly.
Rage emanated from the Forger, as he snarled, “I couldn’t fucking help it. I couldn’t watch as he ripped himself to pieces over what was real and what wasn’t. So we fucked and then I woke up again in the dream and fucking told him I wouldn’t fucking leave, and then because of the stupid fucking timer I ended up waking up, and then I went back down and he was… he was all…” he trailed off miserably, looking at his hands. Ariadne had a strong urge to hug the man, since the anger she had felt had been undermined and evaporated by Eames’ sudden outburst.
“Another Arthur?” the Chemist pushed, gently.
“Yes.” Ariadne looked at Yusuf automatically, waiting for the explanation that was sure to come.
“When someone is emotionally traumatised, he”- or she Ariadne filled in mentally.
“Or she, can push away the emotions or memories associated with the pain they feel. In Arthur’s case, I suppose, the confusion directed at Eames about whether or not he was in reality. It’s like putting on a mask, so to speak. Does this fit the description of the…the new Arthur?” Ariadne still didn’t really understand, but that was dream work for you. She mirrored Yusuf’s shrug.
“Yes. Yes, I suppose.” Eames answered, rubbing his eyes. The Architect was thankful to see that he seemed more tired, now, than angry.
“So this… this new Arthur mask thing pushed me into the place where he had put the proper Arthur…He was there, still blaming me for being confused. I couldn’t see any way to get him to wake up in the time I had left, so I shot myself in the head and woke up.”
An uncomfortable tension filled the room as Eames babbled the end of his story. Ariadne, feeling bad, moved to touch Eames’ shoulder. Anything to show him that she wasn’t really angry, just spurned. But the Brit was already at the door, leaving Ariadne, once again, on the verge of tears.
The door closed with a bang behind Eames, leaving Ariadne and Cobb sitting next to each other, around the table. She felt him look at her as she tried to hide her face behind her hair, before his arm reached around her. Burying her face in his shoulder, she finally let loose the traitorous tears that quickly seeped into his cotton shirt. Cobb stroked her hair gently.
They sat there like that for what seemed like an age, until her salty tears ran dry, leaving her cheeks streaked and clammy, and her sobs had slowed into occasional hiccoughs. Her head was resting against Cobb’s shoulder, and he had pulled them round to hold her properly. Finally, he spoke in his soft American drawl.
“Ari…Ari, is this about Arthur?” Ariadne couldn’t trust herself to speak. She didn’t know what it was. Was it Arthur? He was the first one to show her the reality of dream work. He trusted her, and let her trust him. He had liked her – he had kissed her, after all. Although, she remembered, he did say that that was a distraction.
“I don’t know. I don’t know.” She murmured, quietly. She thought about Arthur. She thought about Eames.
“Have they always been like that, Arthur and Eames?”
“Been like what?” Cobb’s lip curled into a slight smile. “Bickering like an old married couple?” The Architect gave a small snort of laughter, her red eyes crinkling at the edges.
Cobb nodded, giving a small chuckle himself.
“Yes. Ever since University.”
Her eyes widened. “they… they were at University together?”
“Yes, it’s always been Eames, Arthur. Arthur, Eames. Always arguing. It’s only ever been a matter of time. I’ve always told them; opposites attract.” He grinned wildly, eyes sparkling. Ariadne smiled back. It didn’t matter anymore, she realised. She had only been a tiny part of Arthur’s life; Eames was so much more. And if it was going to be anyone, she decided, she was glad it had been Eames.
Cobb looked over to the sleeping man, before nudging the Architect.
“C’mon, go grab a coffee and wait for Eames to come back. I just need to phone Saito and tell him Arthur woke up.”
Then Ariadne remembered the missing Japanese man.
“Where… did he go?”
“He had to leave for a business meeting some time ago.”
Shrugging, Ariadne stepped out into the hospital corridor, her heart somewhat lighter than it had been for a while.
I’m gay. I’m gay. I’m gay. Recurring thoughts flurried in his head like the snow outside as the Forger knocked back another whiskey. He had never minded messing around with men: sex was sex. But when it came down to a real, stable relationship… Eames groaned, pressing his eyes into his head with his knuckles. He had never really thought about it. This was Arthur though, someone he had confessed his love to. A clever, quick-witted man with nerves of steel. A soft, kind man who he was comfortable with. Someone Eames loved to wind up and tease, have fun with. Everything Eames would have wanted. Someone he’d known since he was a teenager. But he was a man. Then another thought hit him: Why did it even matter? Eames let the thought roll around in his fuzzy brain, before chuckling. It didn’t matter. It was Arthur.
Still laughing, Eames pushed a handful of coins in the general direction of the bewildered bartender, before heading out of the almost empty bar.
The icy wind blowing on the way back to the hospital cleared the Brit’s head of any lingering doubt. Eames had initially planned to head straight to Arthur’s room, but Ariadne called to him from the waiting room, signalling him to go over.
“S’matter, Ari?” Eames asked, collapsing into the chair beside her. Eames had never been close to Ariadne; probably because they had both been so focussed on Arthur as their goal.
“Did…did Arthur mention anything about me to you?” She asked quietly, looking around.
Eames thought back to his last conversation with Arthur. It had been an angry one, and every word still rang in his head. After Ari came… I thought I was dreaming. Why would I have iced coffee in my fridge?
“Yeah… he mighta said something… something about, coffee?” He raised his eyes, and saw her’s widen with recognition.
“Iced…coffee?” She asked, as he nodded. He watched her sigh, and remembered what Cobb had said to her. “I don’t think Arthur’s subconscious will take kindly to being messed with...” Eames recalled.
“You went down too, didn’t you. When you left the café to get your purse. I don’t blame you, mind. That fucking adorable idiot.” Eames cleared his throat.
“But uh, I won’t mention it to Cobb, ok?” Ariadne nodded, but her eyes looked red. Eames looked at her, before wrapping his arm around her shoulders, pulling her into a gentle hug.
“He’s a gorgeous gorgeous man, anyone can see that and I’m… I’m … I’m sorry.” He mumbled, unsure of what to say, before pressing a soft kiss into her hair. Swallowing, he stood up, glad to see that she wasn’t crying. She sent him a watery smile, breathing deeply and fixing her features into a calmer smile as Cobb came down the corridor.
“He’s awake, Eames, and he’s been asking for you.” Cobb nodded curtly at the Forger, before sitting down in the now free-chair next to Ariadne.
Eames all but ran down the corridor, eager to see Arthur awake again, but when he got to the door he pushed it open hesitantly, slightly unsure of what he would say. Looking in through the glass pane, he saw Arthur propped up and lying peacefully on the bed, eyes closed. Eames frowned, slightly, and opened the door.
A smug look flitted across Arthur’s face, before it resettled into calm. Eames, trained to see these slight changes of emotions, grinned. Sitting down, he took Arthur’s limp bandaged hand in his.
“I know you’re awake, you little shit.” At that, Arthur’s eyes opened, sparkling and brown. The knot in Eames’ chest relaxed, and warmth bubbled inside him as Arthur smile, dimples and all, making his heart skip and making his cheek muscles hurt from the ridiculously large grin plastered across his face. Eames sat on the edge of the bed, resting his forehead against Arthur’s. Arthur had freshened up; the nurses had obviously helped him wash his face, brush his teeth: No doubt Saito keeping his promise and looking after his employee.
“What made you come back, darling?” he asked, seriously. A lot had rested on that move, shooting himself in the head.
“Because… it didn’t matter if it was reality or not. A world without you… is a world not worth living in.” Arthur whispered, voice cracking slightly, before he buried his head into Eames’ chest.
Eames froze as the words echoed in his head. Gently he rocked backwards and forwards, partly to comfort the man who was sobbing quietly in his arms, and partly to recover from the shock of Arthur’s confession.
“Arthur, Arthur, Arthur… You. Are. The. Most. Fucking. Adorable. Man. I. Have. Ever. Met.” Picking up the Point Man’s chin with his fingers, he gently knocked his forehead against Arthur’s own with each word, as if to emphasize them more. Cold, thin fingers twisted in his calloused hand, locking them together.
“Just… don’t ever do that again. Promise me again.”
“Again? What, that I’ll never leave?”
Arthur gave a small nod.
“Darling, I’m going nowhere,” he grinned, before pressing a chaste kiss on Arthur’s shy smile.
Wuhoo! It's finally ALL BEEN PUBLISHED!!! <3 love to everyone who's read it, you're all wonderful people! Thank you to OneWhoSitsWithTheTurtles, she has been a FANTASTIC beta reader, and writes beautiful wonderful fics, go check out her work!!
The drug was not as effective as locking his conscience out of his body, and Arthur was stuck wandering in the fleeting thoughts that crossed the waking mind. It was like dreaming, only the landscape was forever changing; colours that warped as the lights flickered in the real world, sounds that echoed and hissed strangely in the background. Projections walked around too, briefly before disappearing as you got closer. Like strangers hidden behind mist, half remembered faces.
There was one prominent feature that Arthur was able to point out in each and every one of them. The way that one walked – no sauntered – across the ground. The sparkling turquoise eyes that flashed before him, before evaporating as he tried to get closer. Sometimes the sensation of some raw and passionate hunger settled in his stomach, before fading away. It had always been about Eames, since the day they had met. Arthur smirked as he remembered the shirt, the god awful brown shirt that first time they had met. Never mind the carefully spiked hair or the designer scruff that lined his jaw; the sea green eyes or that gorgeous smile.
The faintest musky sweet scent wafted by him, and he breathed it in, longing for it to be there and real, but it quickly faded without a trace.
It reminded him that things weren’t permanent.
But hell, he was going to fight for this permanence.
His eyelids moved first, the start of a quick chain reaction that flowed down Arthur’s body, releasing it from its paralysed state.
“Arthur.” Cobb’s voice was loud by his ear. He felt Cobb prop him up against the headboard, before smiling at him.
“You’re really back.” It wasn’t a question, but the Point Man nodded anyway. Yusuf was holding a clipboard, frantically scribbling the final readings on the computer that Arthur recognised as showing his stable condition.
Clearing his throat, he coughed before saying quietly to his friend,
“Where’s Eames…?” He wasn’t going to lie to himself – he had been slightly saddened that Eames hadn’t been there when he woke up.
“He went to the pub but should be back. I can go get –” Arthur frowned heavily, feeling his bottom lip jut out and feeling very much like an overgrown child.
“He just needed to sort things out in his head. Not everyone thinks like you.” Cobb raised an eyebrow, before going to the door.
“I’ll go get him.”
Yusuf also looked up, aware that he was the only one left in the room. “Yes… I er, need to take these readings to the nurses.” He nodded enthusiastic, smiled at Arthur, before turning to leave.
“Wait – Yusuf, do you have a toothbrush? And a flannel, maybe?” Arthur felt disgusting, and the least he could do was feel clean, even if he wasn’t.
The chemist smiled for the last time before leaving Arthur alone with his thoughts, a small white facecloth and a toothbrush.
Finally feeling fresh, Arthur let out small sigh of relief. It seemed like everyone knew the… situation between himself and the Forger. Then, he heard the loud footsteps of a man running. Recognising the heavy footfalls, his heart sped up in his chest. Closing his eyes, he settled back down onto the bed, not quite knowing what to expect.
A surprisingly gentle hand took his, rubbing his fingertips with rough ones.
“I know you’re awake, you little shit.” Arthur couldn’t resist smiling a little bit at the Brit’s familiar, warm voice. He opened his eyes and saw Eames’ lopsided grin smiling down at him, before it moved closer. Lost in those emerald eyes, Arthur could only stare as Eames rested their foreheads together. Then Arthur breathed in. Eames’ smell made him relax: He was home. Home from that hell that was limbo – no, a different sort of limbo. An alternative limbo.
“What made you come back, darling?” Eames’ husky voice was rough, and although there was the light overtone, it was laced with worry. Arthur grew hot as the answer formed in his head. It was really cheesy, but it didn’t matter, not really. It was true, after all.
“Be… Because… it didn’t matter if it was reality or not. A world without you is a world not… worth living in.” His dry throat caught on the words as they tumbled from his tongue, and he nuzzled his head against Eames’ chest, embarrassed. God what had they injected into his system to make him say something like that… Arthur was just about to say something witty and sarcastic, before Eames gently tucked a finger under his chin to lift it up. Arthur looked up at the smiling man, as his thudding heart echoed in his ears.
“Arthur, Arthur, Arthur…” The gentle British coo made him want to curl up in Eames’ lap, and never move again, as its warmth spread through his body. Still smiling, he pressed his forehead against Eames’, just to feel more of the Forger. A hand wove into his hair, rocking the Point man slightly to knock their foreheads together in time with Arthur’s name.
“You. Are. The. Most. Fucking. Adorable. Man. I. Have. Ever. Met.” Arthur felt his cheeks grow hot as he blushed furiously. Taking Eames’ free hand, he squeezed their fingers together. Somehow, Cobb was right for once. Opposites attract. Arthur was black and white; literally. Ghostly white skin, jet black locks of hair. Eames was colourful: tanned and blonde with shining green eyes. Arthur had hated that phrase since the day Cobb had first said it, with a wink and a grin. The Point man had scowled angrily at him, before vowing never to go near the Forger again: of course, that didn’t happen.
He closed his eyes, and held on to Eames’ hand tightly.
“Just… don’t ever do that again.” He said, quietly. He needed Eames to say it again. In reality, not in a dream. “Promise me …again.”
“Again? What, that I’ll never leave?”
Keeping his eyes tightly closed, he nodded.
“Darling, I’m going nowhere.” Eames’ earnest answer had Arthur smiling a small, genuine smile. Still smiling, he leant up to kiss the still grinning Forger.