The folder was just sitting there, wide open with his picture at the top of the stack.
Arthur tried not to look at it.
The thick auburn hair, startling green eyes, pale freckles dusted across his prominent nose and sharp cheek bones… he remembered it like it was yesterday. Brushing a hand across the picture, the memories flooded back to him, slamming into his head until they were all he could see. He drew in a shuddery breath, wanting nothing more than to forget about everything else.
Someone cleared their throat beside him. He jumped slightly, his hand scattering some of the papers in the folders as he clumsily sat forward. Eames stood over him, his lips turned up slightly in a smile as he handed Arthur a coffee cup. "Something wrong, love?"
"No," Arthur replied coolly, slamming the folder shut and trying to ignore the waves of emotions that were hitting him. He had been so close to forgetting it all. It had been ages since he last thought of him and that night; he was determined to put him out of his mind forever. Sighing, he tucked the folder under his arm and grabbed the coffee from Eames while muttering a thank you. Forever clearly wasn't long enough for him.
When they walked over to Cobb, who was sitting on top of a desk, typing furiously on a laptop. Ariadne was on the floor cross legged, flipping through a sketchbook.
"So, what's the plan?" Eames started after a few minutes of going unnoticed. Arthur stood awkwardly next to him, watching Cobb and feeling like the folder was weighing down his entire arm.
"We're going tomorrow. We'd go in tonight, but I had to talk something over with Yusuf, because we need some heavier sedation for this job," Cobb replied before looking up at Eames. His eyes caught Arthur's for just a minute before returning back to Eames.
"Why?" Eames and Ariadne asked simultaneously.
Cobb jumped off the desk, motioning wordlessly for Arthur to hand him the folder. Arthur did so, ignoring it when Cobb's fingers brushed against his for just the slightest moment. Ignored it when they brought up memories of him…
"Because. What we're required to extract is the information from many years ago, when Mr. Greyley was in college. Meaning that it will be held in his deeper subconscious, so it's going to take longer for us to extract it from him. I'm erring on the cautious side by giving us some more time, and asking Yusuf for a slightly heavier sedative," he replied, flipping through the folder. "Which means we have to be on the cautious side while we're in there. No dying."
Arthur felt himself drop into the chair that mercifully happened to be behind him. All he could hear was Cobb saying 'college' over and over again. He shut his eyes, slumping backwards into the chair. He couldn't avoid it anymore. He wasn't going to be able to avoid him. All he could do was hope that maybe he wouldn't remember Arthur, and pray that the others wouldn't find out as well.
The ceaseless white noise of them talking around him stopped, causing him to open his eyes and find all of them watching him with worried eyes.
Eventually Cobb broke the silence. "Get some sleep. We'll meet up tomorrow at 6 before heading to grab our mark." The entire time he spoke, his eyes never left Arthur.
Ariadne and Eames chatted a bit before heading over to the area of the warehouse with cots. It was no use for them to sleep in a hotel since it was already past 1 AM and they'd be getting only a few hours of shut eye.
As Arthur weakly climbed out of his chair, wanting nothing more than be able to sleep as well, he heard Dom call his name. Biting down so hard on his cheek that he began to draw blood, he forced his feet to turn around.
"Is there something you'd care to share with me?" Cobb asked flatly, not bothering to look up from the folder. When Arthur didn't say anything, he folded it up and placed it on the edge of the desk. He took in Arthur's miserably disorderly state, and his expression softened. With just a push off the desk, he was right next to Arthur – soclosesoclosesoclose – and looking at him intently.
"You're not sleeping, are you?"
Arthur shrugged coolly, just wanting to leave. He was exhausted, so tired, achingly tired. He thought of laying down on that cot and sleeping, even though he knew if would never come to be.
The fact that Dom could see right through him was scary. No matter how hard Arthur tried to push him farther and farther away, Dom managed to claw his way back. It was supposed to be for both of their sakes. Ever since Dom had finally gotten over Mal, he should've been able to move on, get on with his life. He shouldn't have to worry about Arthur instead now.
Arthur built walls for a reason. To keep people out. If they could see into his dreams, he was perfectly fine with that. That doesn't mean he was fine with them seeing every inch of his soul in real life.
"Arthur. Are you there?"
"Hm?" he mumbled, jumping slightly as Cobb placed a hand on his shoulder, frowning and knitting his brow together.
"I asked you how long you've had difficulty sleeping."
Arthur started thinking back. The last time he remembered sleeping was about a week and a half ago. He'd dreamt that night about him, before waking up screaming in his empty hotel room.
Ever since then, whenever he closed his eyes, that night years ago was all he could see. Right after we got the case was there on the tip of his tongue. Everything about the case and his history with the mark was there, waiting to spill out.
"Uh, not that long," he lied, just wanting to shake Cobb off. Cobb raised and eyebrow, clearly not buying it. "I swear, I'm fine. It's just stress."
Dom crossed his arms, sighing. The corner of his mouth turned up. "Liar. You don't get stressed. You've said that on multiple occasions." Spluttering for a second, Arthur tried to backtrack, but Cobb was smiling completely now. He waved it off. "If you say you're fine, I'll believe you." Arthur smiled in reply, waiting for Cobb as he turned and shut out the light, grabbing all of his stuff.
When they finally reached the room with the depressed looking cots, Eames and Ariadne were both sleeping. Cobb switched the light on, which got a pillow thrown at him from Ariadne and loud curses from Eames.
It also helped Arthur to see that there was only one cot left.
As he watched Cobb drop his stuff in the corner of the room and begin to change, he realized he hated situations like this. Because he was fucked any way it happened. He'd have to share the cot, he'd end up on the floor, or he'd bring up sharing the cot to Cobb, who'd think the idea was idiotic or something. But Dom seemed to be oblivious to all this.
"Where the fuck is the other cot?" Dom whispered loudly.
"Outside. Go find it. You can talk out there too. Cause I'm sleeping," Ariadne mumbled sleepily, muffled by her pillow. Cobb shot a look at her before looking up questioningly at Arthur.
"Guh, don't listen to her. She just needs her beauty sleep. The cot broke. All but one of the legs fell off, so that's all that's left," Eames told them, shielding his eyes from the light as he turned over.
"I'll sleep on the floor," Arthur offered quickly. Dom made a face to that.
"With you looking like you're about to drop dead on your feet, I'm not going to have you spend all night on the floor."
"I could go out there. We both know I'm not going to sleep anyway," Arthur tried again, going back and forth from one foot to the other.
Dom folded up his clothes, sighing. "There's no harm in trying again. You'll sleep on the cot, Arthur. As will I."
For a while, Arthur was pretty sure he was hearing things, because he was almost positive Dom had just suggested that the two of them share the cot. "What?"
"The cot is huge, and you're skinny as a rail. We can both fit on it, and maybe in the mean time, you can get a few hours of sleep," Dom told him, and from the tone of his voice, Arthur could tell that there was going to be no getting out of it.
"If you two don't shut up, I'm going to break both of your legs while your sleeping," Ariadne exclaimed, pulling her pillow over her head. Grumbling slightly, Arthur dropped his stuff and began to change as well.
And later as he settled onto the cot, which fit the two of them snugly, he felt something begin to wash over him. The warmth of a body next to him, his face slightly pressed into Dom's shoulder, his knees hitting the back of Dom's…
It wasn't until the next morning that he realized that the feeling had been sleep.
Maybe it was his fault for not saying anything. He was easily putting the rest of the team in danger by not telling them his history with the mark. But, as he thought about it more, he managed to convince himself that there was not a chance in the world that the mark would be able to remember him, and that he was simply overreacting. Everything was going to be fine.
There were so many projections at first, Arthur almost couldn't distinguish between them and the team. He knew he was off of his game a bit; slower than usual, maybe his aim turning to the left as well. But he knew that it was nothing that could bring harm to the team.
He heard Cobb's yelling, and Eames' cursing, and Ariadne's loud grunting noises, which meant they were getting the best of the projections. He relaxed slightly, lowering his gun arm to where it hung at it side, as all the projections that had latched themselves onto him were now on the ground by his feet.
As he looked back on it later, he saw what a perfect set-up it was. So perfect that he normally would've seen it coming. But he was - he was just so distracted. When the first arm looped itself all the way around his waist, pulling his feet off the ground, he didn't even react.
"You thought you could come in here unnoticed? Take something of mine without asking?" Greyley laughed darkly, right next to Arthur's ear. "Hm, sounds familiar."
If it was possible at anytime in his life, Arthur was positive his heart stopped at that moment. He started to thrash against the arm holding him back against Greyley's chest. Swiftly, Greyley's grabbed onto Arthur's gun and threw it far across the pavement.
"Don't think that I don't know how this works. I'm dreaming, I know that. Why else would you be here, Arthur?" Arthur squirmed at the way he pronounced his name. Ar-thur. "I learned about this in college, remember? With you. We're all sedated. How heavy is it?"
Arthur looked away. "Go fuck yourself." He watched as more projections seemed to appear from nowhere and fill into the streets, where Eames, Cobb, and Ariadne were now fighting a losing battle
Greyley laughed, his breath brushing over Arthur's ear. "My, my. Still so charming. And yet still such a horrible liar. So I'm going to guess we're heavily sedated, which means you would prefer for none of your friends to die, am I right?" He tensed immediately at those words, but cursed the fact that he did. He knew at the moment that he had lost it.
"All right, well. We'll make a little deal. They don't seem to realize I'm here. So you're going to come with me, and we'll finish what we started years ago. And in return none of your friends will take a trip to Limbo. Deal?" Greyley asked.
"Prove it," Arthur snarled, still trying to pull away from him. Immediately, the projections seemed to slow, their movements sluggish through the air.
It was one of the stupidest thing Arthur had ever done, but wasn't there some saying about foolishness sometimes being bravery, or something like that?
While Greyley seemed distracted, he lifted up one of his legs and kicked Greyley hard in the knee. It sent him flying backward, off of Arthur and on to the pavement. Arthur used the few seconds he had to try and run across the street to grab the gun that Greyley had thrown. If he could just grab it…
Just as his fingers brushed onto the metal of the barrel, a hand wrapped itself around his other wrist, yanking him backwards. He flew across the cement in a heap on top of Greyley, who was fuming. "I shoulda taken you when I had the chance!"
Time seemed to stand still, as Arthur ignored Greyley quickly wrapping his limbs around Arthur and pulling him to his feet, slamming one of his hands down over Arthur's mouth. Instead, Arthur watched the others, who definitely heard what was happening by now, and turned around to watch.
As he felt the heels of his shoes scrape the pavement, being dragged by Greyley, he felt like time had stopped. He heard Ariadne shout his name. He heard Eames yell protests mixed with numerous obscenities. And then he locked eyes with Dom.
He hadn't said anything. But then again, he never really needed to.
When Arthur joined Dom years ago, he realized that going into someone else's mind was a bit like violating them, it took a while for it to sit well with him. Dom had to convince him that they wouldn't remember it, and they'd have no visible or mental scars of the event. It would be like it never happened.
Arthur eventually put that past him, okay with the logistics of it.
Now, as he was half-lying, half-propped up against a wall, handcuffed to a pipe and mouth covered with duct tape, he couldn't believe he had any problem with it.
"Do you still remember that day, Arthur?" Greyley whispered harshly against his neck, before replacing it with his lips. His hand snaked up the fabric of the vest Arthur was wearing, easily undoing all of the buttons. "Do you remember what you did to me?"
He resisted the urge to squirm under the touch. He was never one to break a deal.
His lips traced down to Arthur's now exposed collarbone, licking a stripe along the prominent bone. "You ruined my life. You couldn't just keep your mouth shut. I was arrested."
The buttons on Arthur's white shirt began to undo themselves, revealing his bare chest. He couldn't remember a moment in which he wanted nothing more than to die.
"I loved you. More than anyone else ever could and will. Why would you do that to me?" Greyley whispered, pressing his face into the crook of Arthur neck. Arthur resisted the urge to tremble, knowing it would be taken as an invitation for more. "But we can fix it, Arthur. You can still fix it."
And suddenly, the kissing, caressing, softly-spoken Greyley was gone and replaced by one who enjoyed biting and scratching and pulling at the waistband of Arthur's pants. Now was the moment in which Arthur wanted nothing more than to die.
Fingers slithered below his belt and waistband, wriggling around and trying to loosen the pants. They were Arthur's favorite. Or, at least the one's he was wearing back in the warehouse were.
He'd never be able to wear them again.
As Greyley grabbed a hold of Arthur's cock, he gripped it, working it violent. Arthur's whole body shuddered violently, his back slamming against the wall. Greyley laughed against the skin on Arthur's neck. "All you have to do is ask me, Arthur." His lips trailed down Arthur's chest sloppily, his large palms holding onto Arthur's waist.
When he'd been in a similar position to this years ago, he'd always wondered what he would've done if it had actually happened. If Greyley had had the chance to go through with it. He'd heard accounts from other people that when this was happening to them; they spoke of going to a place far away in their minds. Now that it was actually happening to Arthur, he couldn't imagine ever doing that. This was all he could see, all he could feel.
He thought of the others, hoping they were okay. This was his mistake, and they shouldn't have to pay for it. He hoped they caught the first kick out, saving them from a disaster in limbo.
Greyley was undoing the button and zipper on his pants, his belt thrown across the room. He didn't say anything, didn't even make a sound, though he was screaming and fighting on the inside. He couldn't risk their safety.
He knew what was coming next; he just hoped it wouldn't.
The door cracked when Dom kicked it in, Eames and Ariadne in tow behind him. Dom had his gun sharply aimed at Greyley, who still had his hand stuck down Arthur's pants. He took one look at Arthur – hair out of place, cheeks flushed, shirt sliding off his shoulders, his head resting against the pipe to which he was handcuffed with his eyes half-open – and Cobb could practically feel Greyley's bones breaking under his fingers.
"Get your fucking hands off of him," he growled, taking a step closer to the two of them. Arthur shot him a tired look, before closing his eyes. Something exploded inside of Cobb.
When he looked back at Greyley, the redhead was grinning, his hand now simply resting on Arthur's knee. Cobb desperately wanted to walk over and shoot his hand off. No one touched his point man. No one.
Greyley laughed darkly. "What are you going to do if I don't? You wouldn't risk his life, would you?" He crawled across the floor until he was situated right underneath Arthur. "Try and shoot me now. Send us to limbo. Both of us."
Dom heard Eames swear behind him, but he was trying to comprehend everything. He looked back at Greyley, who was smirking at him before he wrapped his arms around Arthur's bare waist. "He's mine. He always has been, and he always will be. Now, put your gun down." Locking eyes with Arthur again, who just looked so broken, it made up his mind. Finally deflating, Dom lowered his hand, dropping the gun to the floor, despite the desperate look in Arthur's eyes.
Grinning, Greyley moved quickly from behind Arthur, grabbing the gun off the ground and situating it in his hand. He aimed it at Cobb, who put his hands up as a sign of innocence. The next few minutes happened in such a blur, Dom couldn't really tell where one began and where the others ended. All he heard was the shots ring off, and he instinctively shut his eyes.
When he opened them, expecting to find himself in limbo, he was still in the dark basement, with Greyley on the floor, a neat bullet hole in his head. And Arthur, with his white shirt quickly turning red, as the warm, red liquid seeped down his chest.
"Why did he do that?" Eames asked roughly, yanking off his jacket and shoving it against Arthur's chest in an attempt to stop him from bleeding out. Ariadne was right next to him, speaking softly and gently pulling the tape off of his mouth.
"He's trying to send both of them to limbo. If Arthur and he both die in this dream, they'll be sent to limbo together," Dom said flatly, searching Greyley's pockets for the key to undo the cuffs. He found it, and quickly undid them, grasping Arthur under the arms and pulling him onto his lap. As Eames lifted the jacket for just a moment, he paled, seeing that it was soaked with blood. He met Dom's eyes for just a minute, before replacing the jacket and pushing down significantly harder.
Arthur moaned, his body shuddering under the pressure from Eames. "...don't wan' go t' limbo," he slurred, blinking weakly up at Dom. It took all of his will power not to turn away from Arthur, who laying in his lap right now looked about ten years younger.
Strongly grabbing onto the younger man's hand, Cobb squeezed. "Like hell you're going. You're not going anywhere without me." The fact that his voice was shaking terribly scared him even more than the fact that Arthur's hand was shaking in his own.
"How much time until the kick?" Ariadne asked, grabbing onto Arthur's other hand. Before Dom had the chance to open his mouth, the kick set in, pulling them all back to reality.
Dom opened his eyes with a startled jump, yanking the IV out of his hand immediately. Eames and Ariadne followed, while Arthur neatly took his IV out of his arm, silently shaking. He got to his feet and walked out of the building without a word to any of the others.
"Six years ago."
Dom turned from his spot on the bed, to find Arthur leaning on the frame of the door, eyes focused on the ground. To see the point man yet again looking so young, dressed in a thin t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants, his hair damp and hanging in his eyes; it left Dom's throat dry. He fully turned his body on the bed, motioning for Arthur to come and sit next to him. He hadn't seen Arthur since he had run out of the warehouse earlier this morning... Arthur sighed, walking across the room to sit on the couch next to Dom.
"Six years ago, when I was in classes with Greyley, he and I talked to one another. Friendly, light conversation - you know, stuff people say to one another in passing. It - it was nothing serious. I don't know where he got it from, but he took it that it meant a lot more..." Arthur shifted uncomfortably on the bed, but Dom placed a soft hand on his knee.
"He became obsessed with me, thinking that I was in love with him, and we were in a relationship. It wasn't a big deal at first. He started to send me thing - notes, gifts, emails with places he thought we should go together. I just didn't put it all together until that night..."
When it came to Arthur, Dom had always seen him as a bit mystifying. There was never a way to know everything about him, which was perfect for this line of work. But as the two of them became closer as partners, and as Dom realized that line blurred between work and friendship, he couldn't help but want Arthur to let him in. True, he saw the wall he kept up as a protection from the outside world and their enemies - but he also saw it as a way Arthur was trying to keep him out.
"Nothing terrible happened, but I had him reported to the campus security for sexual assault, which led to his arrest. That's why we couldn't find anything on him from the ages of eighteen to twenty-one," he finished, beginning to pull at a loose string on the bottom of his pants.
"You knew that he was our mark?"
Arthur nodded slowly, still not looking at Dom. "I'm sorry I didn't tell you. I just - I tried to put it out of my mind, and I didn't want to bring any one else into it."
"Don't fucking apologize to me. Don't you dare apologize," Dom whispered, his hand wrapping around Arthur's forearm. Squeezing down on it, he caught Arthur's eyes. Te expression on Arthur's face was a mix between sadness and confusion.
"I didn't want to screw it up. I just - I couldn't..." Arthur started, his voice and his composure finally breaking apart. Dom watched the few tracks of tears trail their ways down his cheeks before the younger boy wiped furious at them with the back of his hand, sniffling and managing to let a few more tears escape.
Slipping his hand down Arthur's arm, he wrapped their hands together. "You're fucking crazy, you know that?" he mused, which got a laugh from Arthur. Strange as it may sound, he knew it would. "I don't really know many other people who would knowingly enter the dreams of their past stalkers..." he added, his tone still light.
Before either of them had another chance to say anything or Dom could even react, Arthur was grabbing at the collar of his shirt, pulling him closer until their mouths met. Messy at first; tongues and teeth and lips colliding, it slowly seemed like they'd been at this for years. Dom pushed Arthur back against the pillows of the bed, searching his mouth hungrily.
This was what he had alway wanted from the point man. To know that there was something humanistic and almost immature behind that perfectly primped exterior. When Arthur broke away for a second, he smirked up at Cobb with pink, shiny lips.
"To put up with you, I've got to be out of my mind."