As always, I don't own anything but my own imagination. Reviews are ALWAYS appreciated

A Bouquet of Magnolias

- Memory is the diary that we all carry about with us –

(Oscar Wilde)

It was Venice, Venice on a rainy day near the end of November, about five o'clock in the afternoon and the city painted in varying shades of black, white and gray; a dab of color here and there, a faint glitter of gold.

The dream image was a perfect replica of the real city, scrupulously reproduced in sumptuous detail, every angle right, every cobblestone of the Piazza San Marco in place.

Trust Arthur to be precise…

And yet there was something else to this city, something beyond the cold precision of the diligent copyist, a foreign, yet haunting concept, a mere idea, feeling…

The magnificent domes of San Marco and the other churches curved voluptuously against the darkening sky, the high towers stood watch over the quiet dark waters of the lagoon, lapping against the foundations of Venice; but there was an underlying sadness permeating the shady beauty of the scenery, like a soft melody, a melancholy lullaby.

And Eames knew that this was an element Arthur had added unconsciously, unwillingly. They were talking memories here, memories and emotions, not the usual picture-perfect, expertly constructed dreams they moved in when working with Arthur.

Maybe Eames should have been worried, since he knew how memories could mess with a dream, and he'd seen Cobb and Mal… And yet, the only thing he felt was the thrill of curiosity. He knew that the point man possessed a brilliant mind, but Arthur had always been careful not to let anyone see beyond the surface of shining, clean, orderly efficiency and reliability. This was a whole new dimension, a rare and maybe unique insight and Eames wasn't about to let the opportunity pass.

He followed Arthur through the intricate maze of small streets, bridges and channels until they reached a small Piazetta close to the water in one of the less fashionable parts of Arthur's dream-built city that was so much like Venice and yet not the Venice Eames knew. A fountain tinkled into a stone basin in the middle of the Piazetta. Next to it stood a slender young woman in a dark blue, tailor-cut coat that flowed gracefully down to her calves. She held a black, bell-shaped umbrella and all around her, silvery sheets of rain poured down like a flood of tears. She was tall and beautiful, a large pale flower decorating her dark hair and her large eyes never left Arthur's face.

"Lucia," Eames heard Arthur say in a strangely soft and melancholy voice.

The young woman smiled, but the smile was not a happy one. "Arthur."

Eames wondered why she looked so familiar. She was Arthur's memory of a real person, obviously, but he couldn't have seen her anywhere, could he?

"Why did you come?" Lucia asked, her hand flying up to touch the flower in her hair.

Both she and Arthur seemed to feel vaguely uncomfortable about this meeting.

Arthur shifted a little, as if unsure what to respond. "I missed you," he said softly.

Eames still wasn't sure whether this was a real memory or whether Arthur was just constructing the dream with bits and pieces his unconsciousness supplied.

"You shouldn't have come. It will only make it more difficult to leave again."

"I can't do this, Lucia. I can't… I can't live pretending that you don't exist, pretending that they don't exist…"

"You chose this life, remember? And I chose mine. We can't go back, neither of us. You knew what you were doing when you left, didn't you?"

"I did," Arthur replied unhappily, "but sometimes I regret my decision."

Lucia's face softened, and a drop of water rolling off her cheek looked like a tear. "So do I."

Behind her, the stone basin of the fountain cracked, water spilling over the cobblestones of the Piazetta, bathing their feet, and the walls started to crumble as the dream collapsed…