Title: Looking out on the day
Word count: 1,527
Rating: PG-13 (use of F-word)
Disclaimer: Do not own. Wish I did, though.
Notes: Haven't written fic at all in over a year. Just playing a little in Chris Nolan's world, and getting inspired again. Title/cut text from Gorillaz' On Melancholy Hill.
Summary: One of the, too many, downsides of Arthur's line of work is that he doesn't dream.
Arthur cowers behind a desk, breathing heavily and trying to think fast. There are projections on the other end of the room, perched and ready to take him down if he grants them a view of so much as a finger. No doors, no windows, no Cobb anywhere to be seen. There’s just Arthur and a gun with an unlimited number of bullets. He’s just going to have to deal with this on his own.
He slips his vest off, bundles it up and throws it out from behind the desk to the left, while he flings himself to the right half a second later. While the projections react to the vest, Arthur gets clean shots at three of the five. They sink to the floor while Arthur rolls and ends up on his feet, runs along the wall and hits the two confused projections that are left. They, too, go down and don’t move.
Arthur pauses then, wipes his forehead with the arm of his shirt and sighs. It’s a good thing he didn’t get killed and woken up; this is a really fucking important job and it, presumably, isn’t done yet. He hears a low chuckle from the desk and twists around, gun automatically pointed at a beautiful woman.
She has long blonde hair in delicate curls, a black strapless dress that looks painted on, and a very entertained smirk on her beautiful face. If Arthur had ever been attracted to women, he would’ve been completely struck. She is perched on the desk, her legs crossed, her stiletto clad foot swinging back and forth.
“Wow,” she says, still smirking. “You can really handle that thing.”
Arthur frowns, glances at his gun. “It’s my job,” he says shortly.
“You’re good at your job then,” the woman chuckles darkly. Her dark eyes are sweeping over Arthur, making him feel naked and extremely uncomfortable.
“What are you?” Arthur demands, tightening the hand that’s gripping the gun. “Projection or extractor?”
“Sweetie,” the woman says, slipping off the desk and smoothing her hands over her dress. “I can be anyone you want me to be.”
“Quit fucking around,” Arthur growls. “I will shoot you.”
She chuckles again, and the sound is almost masculine. It doesn’t fit her small frame and frail voice, and Arthur starts. Who is this person? When he’s focused again, she’s closer, looking at him over the barrel of his gun. To his horror, she leans forward, darts her tongue out and gives the barrel a quick lick.
“No, you won’t,” she says.
Arthur opens his eyes. He’s back in the warehouse and Cobb is looking down at him. “You okay?” he says grimly.
Arthur frowns but nods. “I’m fine, but who the fuck was that?”
“Who?” Cobb asks absentmindedly, already looking over the equipment and looping cords over his arm.
“The girl, there was a girl there!”
Cobb shrugs. “Projection probably.”
He seems to be in a darker mood than usual, not really present in the moment. Arthur knows that his mind is somewhere far away, with the wife he has loved for uncountable years. She’s been gone a month, and Arthur is growing worried. Every job they do, he can glimpse Mal just out of the frame of his sight. She slips around them, glaring and observing their every move. Arthur can feel her, and it hurts to know that in some way she is not at peace. He can only imagine what Cobb is feeling.
“Wait, did we get the info?” Arthur asks, the thought just now occurring to him.
“We did,” Cobb nods. A dark smile flits across his face and is gone in under a second. “He’s fucking the wife’s sister.”
“Of course he is.”
Arthur gets up from the out-of-place lawn chair and helps Cobb with the equipment under silence.
One of the, too many, downsides of Arthur’s line of work is that he doesn’t dream. He hasn’t had a dream in years, and can barely remember any he’s ever had at this point. From the moment he falls asleep until the moment he wakes up, all he experiences is blackness. This isn’t something he minds, really, it’s just that he feels like some of his natural imagination has been taken from him.
He and Cobb are in Belfast on a simple job, and they’re staying at a cheap hotel in the middle of town. When they finally get back from shadowing their mark to see her routines, Arthur is ready to collapse. He carefully unbuttons his vest, shirt and pants and folds them over the back of a chair. No use being careless when he has no idea where the nearest drycleaner is.
That night, Arthur dreams.
He’s standing at the ledge of something, looking out over a brilliant city. The fog is hanging lower than the point where he’s standing and he looks around in bewilderment.
He’s on the top of the Eiffel tower.
“Hello,” a voice next to him says.
He spins around and sees the woman from their last job, with the long blonde hair and sharp stiletto heels. “Hi,” he breathes.
“How about this view, then?” the girl smiles and seems honestly interested in what Arthur thinks.
“We’re on top of the fucking Eiffel tower,” Arthur laughs, feeling more free and light than in ages. “I’d say the view is pretty damn okay.”
The girl laughs with him, the low and dangerous laugh that Arthur remembers. He instantly sobers up.
“Who are you?” he asks, letting his eyes take in her every feature and recognizing nothing past the last (first) time they met.
“No one,” she shrugs, “you just interest me.”
“I do?” Arthur asks. He’s not used to having the full attention of someone, that’s not the kind of person he’s ever been. “Why?”
The girl smiles, and it’s a little crooked. “You’re amazing, Arthur.”
When Arthur wakes up, it’s with a confused smile on his face and the memory of how her voice felt wrapped around his name.
He doesn’t tell Cobb that he’s seen the girl again, nor that he’s been dreaming on his own accord. They stay in Belfast for a week, and every single night Arthur is taken somewhere with the blonde woman. She shows him Egypt’s pyramids, the rivers of Venice, the ice on the North Pole. They talk about Arthur, about how he grew up in a mind numbingly normal family with 2.5 children and a Volvo, and how he finally got away at sixteen and met Cobb and Mal.
They talk about how Arthur wants to save Cobb, how he too misses Mal being there, and how he wonders if he’s lost them both but in different ways.
She listens to him, her face somber when it should be, and touches his shoulder when he stumbles over his words.
It’s my dream, he thinks. She’s only doing what I want her to.
When the job in Belfast is finally over and done with, they head to London. Cobb tells him to relax a few days while he gets some things done. Arthur listens to him, and just wanders around London a few days, relaying buildings and bridges to his memory. Just in case.
The first night in London, he dreams about her.
They’re on the London Eye, slowly revolving and looking over at the Houses of Parliaments and the river below.
“I’m not gonna be able to come anymore,” she says, her hand gently pressed against the glass window.
“Okay,” Arthur says, and he always knew he wouldn’t be permitted to dream on his own forever. This was just a loan from someone higher than them.
“Sorry,” she says hastily. “But I meant what I said, Arthur. You’re amazing.”
“You’re amazing,” Arthur splutters, feels the need to let her know even though she’s just a figment of his imagination. “You’re all I think about during the day.”
Her face softens, and she turns to look at him. “Thank you,” she says, “but I’m nothing special. Besides, we’ll get to see each other again, sooner than you think.” And she kisses him, just a soft notion of their lips barely touching.
Then she’s gone, and Arthur’s alone in a hotel room.
“Arthur,” Cobb says when he enters the abandoned warehouse they’re using a while. “Arthur, I want you to meet someone.”
Arthur straightens up from the chair, tucking in his shirt a little and keeping his neck stiff.
Cobb rounds the corner with a man in tow. The man is wearing out-of-date clothes, dress pants with a silk shirt and a tweed jacket. His hair is slicked to one side and he’s impossibly tan.
“This is Eames,” Cobb says. “He’s gonna be with us on this one.”
“Okay,” Arthur says slowly. Cobb very rarely lets someone else work with them, his trust issues make sure of that. Arthur steps over to him and offers Eames his hand. “Arthur.”
“Arthur, charmed,” Eames says, and their eyes meet.
Something clicks very distantly in the very back of Arthur’s mind. “Hey, do I know you from somewhere?”
Eames laughs low and dark and gives Arthur a crooked smile.