He had always woken up alone. At 7 AM exactly, no exceptions, no hitting snooze, not even for an illness. Always. Then he'd take a shower, get dressed, do his hair, have breakfast and read the paper, in that order, although all the things were done in the typically precise way of a middle-aged businessman, not of a man in his twenties. He didn't have any current plans on changing that routine any time soon either, even with Cobb's clever little en passant of making the pawn a bishop, something Arthur had never expected. Cobb said it was the only way Arthur would ever talk to a woman. Sneaky bastard.
Just as he had finished skimming the sports page and before he was able to skip the comics for his favourite section, business, his phone rang. He glanced blankly down at the unknown caller ID.
"Arthur! Oh, thank god!" He flinched back from the voice, yelling through a blare of static.
"Yes, yes, it's me!" Her frantic tone was making him uncomfortable. "Arthur, I need your help!" He was already standing before she finished her sentence, his mind whirring with possibilities of what she could have possibly gotten herself into.
"What is it? What happened?"
"I can't talk too long. Just get to the Sirin warehouse, on the corner of East and Downing. And please get here quick."
He was out of the door before the line went dead.
The Sirin Incorporated warehouse was, as expected, nothing special. Ordinary, unassuming gray building, with grimy windows and seedy surroundings. It was one of the numerous ugly ducklings on the abandoned street as opposed to the majestic corporate headquarters downtown, whose only purpose was to be seen by everyone, visitors and bystanders, and to show off the wealth of the company. This building, however, was only privileged to the purpose of storage, and meant to be seen by the unfortunate few who worked there.
Arthur had no problem getting in, since it had been abandoned for years. He wandered through the empty crumbling lobby, the corpses of fallen ceiling tiles crunching underfoot, nothing but the sound of his own breathing and the birds above. The silence was anything but comforting.
"Ariadne?" He called out, his voice echoing in the quiet. He paused before he rounded the corner, reaching back for his gun, tucked behind his jacket. He froze when he touched nothing but the back of his shirt. "Shit…" He turned to go another way, around the back maybe, where he wouldn't be spotted so easily—
And had to duck almost immediately to avoid the fist flying at his face. As he swerved, he felt a needle jam into the back of his neck, and in his last moments of consciousness, chided himself for walking straight into a trap.
He awoke with his hands and feet handcuffed to a chair. He nearly sighed at the predictability of it all. Did really they think he couldn't get out of handcuffs? He reached for the bobby pin he always had on his shirtsleeve, only to find it gone. He looked around on the floor, the chair scraping against linoleum, and frowned as he saw it lying right in front of him, directly out of his reach. He glowered at it, as if all blame fell on the pin for his being stuck in a potentially inescapable position.
Right. He just had to rethink his options…
"Stuck now, are we?" Arthur paused a moment, then looked up at the man leaning against the doorway, his face covered by a ski mask.
"Not really. You just didn't give me enough time to finish." Arthur smirked and kicked the handcuffs to the man and stood. "What do you want?"
"What, you don't even want introductions?" Arthur's glare told him otherwise. "Because I think there's someone who wants to say hello." He motioned behind the wall, and a bloody Ariadne stumbled forward, hands cuffed behind her back.
"Arthur!" She rushed forward and hugged him, or at least tried to. More or less, she ended up punching him in the stomach. He reached up to examine a gash on her face, but as soon as he touched her, she crumbled to dust, like she was made of brittle clay.
"Wh…what did you to do to her?"
"I didn't do anything, darling." That voice… he knew it sounded familiar.
"Eames?" There was a glimpse of a smile behind the ski mask, and the man pulled it back to reveal a shock of brown hair and cocky smile.
"What the fuck, man? Why did you attack me? Where's Ariadne?"
"Had to get you out of the house somehow, didn't I? And she's alright. That was fake blood by the way. One of Yusuf's delicious concoctions." Eames smiled as he handed a small silver key to Arthur.
"You could've called me like any other normal person." Arthur said, rubbing his wrists as he dropped the handcuffs and they fell with a clatter to the ground in front of meticulously shined, uncuffed shoes. He followed Eames out into the weak sunlight, and they got into an unmarked van. "And why the hell did you handcuff me—?"
"Relax. The only way you'll get out of here is when the timer hits zero."
"Of course…Tell me, how did you get to the warehouse, again?"Arthur thought a moment and groaned.
"Dammit." He cursed softly.
"Ah, you're getting rusty, darling."
"Why did you go through so much trouble just to get me—?"
"We had to get you to go along with us without a fight. This next extract looks like it's going to be dirty. Something that's hard to imagine Cobb agreeing to."
"Where is it?" Arthur asked, watching flat, dry red desert roll by.
"Oh, you'll see when you wake up. I expect Yusuf already has you loaded in the car. Poor chap, you must be heavy with all that ego."
"Is she with you?" Eames chuckled softly at his thinly guised interest.
"You should've known that answer as soon as you came in the building."
"She made that?"
"Of course. She is one of the best."
"How did she do that crumble-to-dust trick?"
"Ah, now that's something she wanted to show you. She's been practicing since we broke up." Arthur felt his throat close.
"We? You and her were—?" Eames sighed in annoyance.
"The group, love, not her and I. Seems your infatuation's worse than I thought…"
"Infatuation?" Arthur colored. "Eames, you've finally gone round the bend—"
"I expect you'll want to see her now, yeah?" Arthur didn't answer, but stared at him with annoyance. "Right, well, best not keep her waiting." And with that, he swerved straight off the road and into a canyon.
If you want to hear this storys "theme" song, listen to "Sun Gangs" by the Veils. Happy readings!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything pertaining to Inception. That's all thanks to Christopher Nolan.