Alright, here's to the longest chapter yet, and the final one. I hope some of you are surprised, and maybe some of you saw it all coming, whatever it is, I just hope you all have enjoyed the story and feel this ending fits :) Thank you all so very much for reading, and even more for taking the time to review. It means loads.
The water made her gag and spit as she gasped at the coldness of it. It spun her and turned her, churning like a giant toilet bowl. It was impossible to catch a glimpse of her companions in the mess of waves, and Devona was more concerned with staying upright anyway. Whether the water was black or blue or gray or green, she couldn't tell, as it was all of those colors and it stung and the cold bit and numbed her, and she couldn't find up. The thought of drowning flitted in her mind as she gagged on more water. What would happen? Vaguely, she remembered a mention from the Englishman about "limbo", but he hadn't seemed eager to elaborate. Coming from the Forger, that certainly wasn't a comforting reaction.
Her body jerked as she was finally thrown roughly onto the land, her legs scraping against the gravel, feet struggling to find a hold before the tide pulled out again. She was shoved by another wave and this time, her hands grabbed too, clawing forward in the sand, finally pulling her torso out of the cold water, exposing herself to the even colder air. The sky had completely clouded over.
Devona crawled forward another couple inches, her legs cold and tired and weakly working, her arms pulling most of her weight across the sand. She coughed up bitter salt water feebly, as more dripped from her hair.
"Eames?" she choked, wincing at the all-too-real burn the ocean water left in her lungs. She rolled over, coughing and spitting still. "Eames?" the name was a plead now, as she was desperate for her reality in this nightmare. "Ea-" she cut herself off as she turned and spotted him, lying on his stomach in the sand, one arm bent around his head and hiding his face, the waves washing up around him.
Her tired and cold limbs and aching insides were nothing compared to the panic that came with seeing the Forger so. She scrambled towards him, stumbling forward and toppling over on her first try, but making it to his side, shaking away water. "Eames?" she breathed, grabbing his sleeve and forcing him on to his back. He merely groaned softly, eyes not opening. Devona's mind raced for a solution and, hands shaking, she tore open the first couple buttons of his shirt, pressing her ear to his chest.
…tha-dump…tha-dump….tha-dump…. She sighed, but the relief was short lived. Now what? He was unconscious, surely at least as water-logged as she'd been. Frantic, she clasped her hands together and shoved them into his chest. Again. Again. Again. He arched upwards as he coughed and turned his head, water spilling from his lush lips.
"Eames! Eames, can you hear me? Come on, wake up," she shook him, gently, and he coughed up more water. His deep blue eyes finally, slowly blinked open.
"Dev? Are- Jesus, I feel like shit," he coughed again, rolled over, and spat, before slowly pushing himself into a sitting position. He looked as thought he felt a hundred times worse than she did. "Are you okay?" he asked hoarsely, voice thick from the salt water. "Devona? Are you okay?" he asked the question slowly, each word a sentence in itself.
She nodded. "Yeah, yeah. I'm fine. Are you-?"
"Water-logged, but breathing," he interrupted.
"Wait-" she froze, eyes roving frantically around the lonely grey breach. "Where's Mr. Hammond?" she asked softly, before suddenly shouting, "Mr. Hammond!" Devona scrambled up, her feet holding her shakily. "Mr. Hammond! George!" But he wasn't anywhere among that grey sand and black water. "Eames, Eames he's-"
"I know, Dev," he soothed, unsteadily on his own feet at that point.
"But he's- we can't just-.."
"He wasn't real Dev," the Englishman said softly, carefully reminding her, "He was just part of the dream. Remember?"
She nodded, slowly, calming herself. "Right..right, of course.." She took a shaky breath. "Sorry."
A slow, soft smile. "It happens. D'you still have that information?"
"Uh, yeah," she pulled the envelope from the inside of her dripping jacket. "But it's ruined. There's no point."
"Ruined? Devona, darling, this is a dream – simple things like a little water cannot destroy our purpose. Water doesn't damage your thoughts, does it? Make them unreadable?"
"Well no, I guess-"
"And there we go." The Forger grinned, taking the suddenly stark-dry envelope from her hand. "Problem solved."
Devona half-smiled. "This is mad."
"Oh without a doubt," Eames agreed good naturedly, quickly tearing open the packet, pulling out the fair-sized bunch of papers, pictures, and letters. He flipped through them rapidly, dark eyes merely skimming.
"Is that what we were after?"
He nodded, although his handsome features did not appear victorious. "It most certainly is."
"And now we can go?"
"Now we just have to hold tight until the PASIV runs out."
"Oh," she paused, taking a moment to study the Englishman, breathing easier now and grateful to be near him, both of them in one piece. Wait. "What happened to your hand?"
His movements of flipping through the stolen information ceased, and he glanced quickly at the scratch along his left palm. He didn't answer.
Something cold and sickening crawled up Devona's spine. "Eames…tell me what happened to your palm."
"I got cut," the answer was short and vague and soft, hoarsely whispered. He had no problem looking at her, but his dark blue eyes were sympathetic, full of something she'd seen before but hadn't been able to identify or understand. It was guilt, something much like guilt.
"You…" she breathed, searching for the right words, a way to put her churning thoughts into sentences, "that wasn't Mr. Hammond."
"And that wasn't you."
"Was it a projection?"
"The version of me that you saw? Yes."
"You were Hammond."
A pause. "Yes."
A longer pause. "Why?"
"It was part of the job."
"Part of the job?" Devona echoed, staring disbelievingly. "To what end?"
"You couldn't-… It doesn't matter."
"Doesn't-..? Eames, what the hell is going on?" Her gaze was a glare now, dread creeping upon her, partnering with slow understanding. But the Forger wouldn't speak, merely stared back sympathetically. Devona snatched the papers from his hands.
But she backed out of his feeble reach, her own eyes skimming the notes and pictures. Notes that didn't mention a Mr. Campos at all, but rather a Mr. George Hammond. Pictures that didn't show anything involving a stern man with dark blonde hair, but instead a tall gentleman with dark, graying hair. And, in one of the images, Devona saw her own face. On a couple of the papers, she saw her own name.
"No," she whispered, staring at the papers she'd helped steal, "you-..this can't-…" She was beginning to understand, and it horrified her. This information, these secrets that she'd helped obtain, none of it had to do with a Campos or Simcoe. It all involved Mr. Hammond, the man she'd worked for, a man who trusted her and treated her like a friend. Who, at one point, had treated her as something more than just a friend. And that, that mistake was even before her, printed and blatantly shown. Any wrong decision, any mistake that had ever occurred in her seven years of service, it was all evident in her hands.
Quickly, she pulled the thick ring from her finger and studied the inside. AWAKE. If it was Eames's dream, she shouldn't have been seeing the words. He didn't know what her ring said. She recalled the times she'd idly played with it in the dream, and how the Forger had always done something to distract her from it.
Devona looked slowly up at the Englishman, her hands trembling. "What does this mean, Eames?" His name was rancid in her mouth, adoration replaced with repulsion.
"Devona, I'm so sorry, it was just business-"
It was as if he'd slapped her. She closed her eyes, taking a breath. "I want you to tell me the truth. About everything."
"Dev, there's no point-"
"Do it," her tone did not leave room for arguing.
The Forger swallowed, dark blue eyes dulled and guilty. "The job Dom hired you for, it was a lie. We didn't need you for Security. We needed information from you. The same information we claimed you were helping us steal, we were actually stealing from you. Campos and Simcoe don't exist. We set up the plot and the actions, dropping hints into your subconscious so we could extract the necessary information."
He shifted. "Things like telling you to think of secrets and where you would keep them, or a "back-up" combination, so that, in actuality, everything that you thought up, would be put into the dream, with your information, unknowing to you. Your own subconscious betrayed you."
"You betrayed me, Eames," she whispered with venom, and he flinched.
"Dev, I didn't want to, you have to believe that. At first it was just business, but then it just didn't seem like a good idea-"
"I'm glad you fought so hard," she sneered, throwing the papers and pictures at his chest.
"Dev, darling, I couldn't-"
"Don't call me 'darling'!" she snapped, growing more furious at the swimming sensation his voice and words still put in her stomach.
Sympathetic blue eyes pleaded with her. "Please, Devona-"
"Is this really your dream?" she interrupted.
He paused. "No."
He nodded. "I just designed it and allowed my subconscious to populate it."
"Why did you design it like…like all of that," she gestured vaguely towards the direction they'd come from, "with that perfect scene on the bench and the bakery and the Irish women and…why? How did you know I'd like that?"
The Forger seemed to sink even further into himself, dropping her gaze for a moment and practically wilting. The pathetic, discouraged look was still alluring, on him. He slumped to the sandy ground and rubbed a hand across his eyes. "From your file."
Devona was quiet for a moment, recalling when she'd talked to him in the warehouse, just before going under. "My file." Her words were flat.
"Yes. I had a file on you, specifically so I could create a dream that would appeal the most to you. And so I..so I could convincingly become George Hammond."
"Why did you need to be George?"
"We needed you to be reminded of your relationship with him – both professionally and personally – so that your subconscious would instinctively make the information in the safe be about him."
"Then how in the hell did that projection of you show up?"
He paused, dark, troubled eyes gazing out across the even darker, restless ocean, a small smile touching his lips. "You were looking for me," he answered simply, "so 'I' showed up, behaving how your mind interpreted me."
"But when we got here on the beach, you were just you."
"The shock of falling off the boat and fighting to survive the water caused me to drop the Forgery. You stopped focusing on just me, and the projection vanished too."
"So now this is real, this is us?"
The Englishman nodded, before finally looking up at Devona again, his alluring, gorgeous features distressed. "I'm so sorry, Dev, I am. I didn't want to do this."
"But you did!" she exclaimed, frustrated and choking on betrayal. "You did! How could you? Now George's life is going to be destroyed, because of what I supplied you with!"
"He'll never know it was you, Dev. You'll still be paid, and you can disappear if you want to-"
"But I don't want to! I just don't want to ruin that man's life!"
"Devona, please, try to understand this-"
"What is there to understand, Eames? You're all thieves and liars, and now you've…I've…" she couldn't even find words now, her mind scrambled and emotions raging, limbs shaking with fury and shock.
"I know, love," the Forger murmured to her surprise, and his gentle hand reached up to grasp her own. "I know," he repeated, hoarse, accented voice soothing, and he was pulling her down.
Her legs collapsed and she dropped beside him, faint, unnoticed tears in her eyes, incoherent mutterings falling from her lips. She didn't want him touching her. She didn't want any of this to be happening.
"Dev, darling," he whispered, and he was pulling her a little closer, moving himself a little nearer. They were both still soaked, freezing, and both shaking from it. But his voice was warm and rich.
"I hate you," she whispered back, her voice trembling, "I hate that you did this."
Eames didn't reply, wanting to agree, wanting to take her into his arms and stop her shivering and make her forgive him. But he'd known it would come to this. So they sat in silence, both cold and trembling, Devona's body shaking through the Forger's. He shifted, carefully pulling her into him in an attempt to warm her, hoping she wouldn't turn him away. The exhausted woman did tolerate him, unable to help her freezing, shaking body's reaction to the slightly-warmer man: to press closer, closer, grasping for warmth away from the air. The dark blue ocean had turned black and hectic with the change in Devona's mood, and charcoal clouds rested ominously overhead, a steady wind whipping at them. It was miserable, but they had no choice but to wait. No, they did have a choice.
"Dev," Eames said softly, "I know a way to get you out of this, out of here." She didn't answer. "We can get back before the PASIV runs out, before Arthur and Cobb come too, and you can leave."
She pushed away from him as if only then remembering she was supposed to be angry at him, and automatically repulsed by it. She attempted to glare despite the incessant shivering. "And how does that ch-change anything?"
He paused, neither of them looking at each other. "It doesn't, Dev. Cobb will still take the information. I have it now, in my mind, and I have to give it to him."
"You don't have-" she started, turning to him, but his dark eyes stared back sympathetically. She stopped. "R-Right. Business."
"We have the PASIV specially s-set," he continued softly, ignoring the jump in his speech as the cold got to him, too, "so that Arthur, Cobb, and I will wake first, giving us time to disappear before you wake. We planned to leave y-you the money you'd been promised, and then leave to deliver the information." He paused. "You'd never see us again. You w-will never see us again, no matter what happens from here."
"So what are you s-saying?" Devona asked impatiently, hiding her offense and hurt behind annoyance.
"I'm saying, I know a way that could get you back-k before the rest of us are supposed to wake, so you can be the one to disappear."
"I know it's n-not much sweetheart, but it's all I've got to offer. You can take your money and disappear, making-g you the one that has the last say. Take my meaning?"
Devona said nothing for a long moment, thinking over the Englishman's words. It was disturbingly frightening, the feeling of helplessness she found herself with. She couldn't change any of what had happened, or any of what was going to happen. She'd caused ruin to a man's life - unknowingly, yes, but it was her fault, and there was no way to go back. She was merely being offered the lesser of two evils.
"W-what's your idea?" she finally asked.
Eames hesitated, dark, earnest eyes boring into her. "You kill me," he started, "and when I wake, I'll g-give you a kick, jumping your wake-up."
"Couldn't I just k-k-kill myself?"
"Could you?" he asked quietly, not teasing, but knowing. Devona didn't answer. "H-here, I have a gun," he reached into his wet jacket and pulled out a .45, "All you have to do is sh-shoot me – just like we've practiced before – and when I wake, I'll knock you out of-f your chair. When you wake, I'll give you the money, and you c-can disappear. Okay?"
Devona stared at him, at his casually handsome features, hair damp, dark eyes soft and sad, lips full and alluring as ever. She loathed him. Loathed, and – unceasingly – adored. Another strong spasm-like-shiver shook her. "F-fine."
He handed her the gun silently. She took it, weighed it in her palm, and glanced at him. His gorgeous face showed nothing, only patience as she struggled to find the courage to pull the trigger. She lifted the weapon, attempting to level it at the Forger as her entire being trembled without ceasing, and took a breath. She knew it was all just a dream, all lies and betrayal, but once again, something stayed her hand.
"Devona," he whispered, his gentle voice seeping into her skin, shaking the slightest with the same chill that gripped her body, and he leaned closer, closing his larger hand around her own, around the gun. If she'd had difficulty pulling the trigger to start with, now it was impossible. His close proximity blinded and numbed her, the crashing of the waves seeming louder that it had been, the air not nearly as cool.
Then everything went silent and blank when his mouth touched hers.
Unlike their first kiss, which was spontaneous and hasty and showy, Devona felt this one. She felt the soft press of his lush lips, the way they gently separated her own, stealing her breath and sharing his taste with her. She felt the tender caress of his palm against her neck, his fingers nestled into her hair, holding her against him. Heat emanated from his skin, from the chest that pressed against her, that she only now realized was bare, his shirt still open. She trembled convulsively against him, his strong, warm body a comfort. His breath was soft and warm, his lips so gentle and sweet, this kiss not ferocious or passionate, but tender and assuring.
His hand moved against hers, pulling the trigger.
Devona jumped at the sound and felt the impact of the bullet into the Englishman through their kiss. His lips were torn away, and a soft breath escaped from him, before he slumped over, to the grey sand. She stared. His eyes were half-open, lips parted, body resting on one shoulder, tilted upwards so his chest showed from the open shirt. A solid chest, sturdy and muscled, decorated with tattoos in a number of places. She wondered what they each could mean – and then turned away, sickened. She was enticed by a dead body.
Then it felt as though the ground dropped from beneath her and she was rushing down, falling, uncontrollably. She gasped and jumped, panicking at the sudden sensation. The world around her flashed and vanished, and she was briefly shown an immaculate, lavish hotel room – Arthur? – and then that flashed away too, until she blinked, and found herself beside a simple lawn chair, in a dark, grungy warehouse, the striking Forger kneeling over her.
He smiled softly, slightly, and offered a hand to help her from where she lay on the floor. She stood shakily, and looked down to see her chair had been tipped over, dumping her unceremoniously onto the floor.
"Sorry," the Englishman apologized, "but that was the simplest way to give you a kick."
She didn't answer, looking over at Arthur and Cobb, who both still lay on their own chairs, unmoving. "How long until they wake up?"
"A couple minutes. But once they realize we've gone, they'll be quick to get out too."
She eyed the Forger. "Will they know what happened?"
"Of course. They expected you'd find out somehow."
"D'you think they'll worry you'll take the information and sell it for yourself?"
He shook his head, smirking. "No. I may lie for a living, but I'm trustworthy enough." Devona didn't reply, and he sobered. "I am sorry, Devona," he said quietly, handsome features not so careless anymore. "Here," he moved towards the large duffel bag Cobb have arrived carrying. He dug into it, then pulled out a couple stacks of hundred dollar bills. He didn't hesitate to hold them out to her, but she was reluctant to claim them.
"It's your share, Dev. And some of mine. So you can get the hell away from here."
Slowly, she took the money. "You really want to get rid of me that bad?" she asked softly.
He stood up straight, slowly, dark, compassionate eyes unreadable, handsome features gentle. "You don't understand, Devona. Now matter how highly you think of your Mr. Hammond, when bad things happen to people like him, they know how to figure out how it happened. Even if they don't find you, our employer doesn't like loose ends. We're supposed to make you disappear anyway."
He shook his head, knowing where her mind was going. "Not in that way. Cobb wouldn't let it come to that."
"Then why the rush to get me out of here at all?"
He half smiled, although it was more of a grimace. "Like I said – control. Which means you need to get out of here, now," his words were urgent, and he led her towards the exit with a light hand on her elbow, but his features were gentle. "I'm sorry, darling, sorry things went this way."
"Things were always going this way, Eames. What can you be sorry for?" she meant for – wanted – her words to be sharp, accusing. But they were a breathless whisper.
"It was just business, Dev. And everyone knows business can never get personal. People begin to regret things." He smiled crookedly, emotionlessly, and almost idly, he reached out to trail his fingers down her cheek. Devona trembled unconsciously, and he smirked with mild feeling.
She remembered the hundred different encounters they'd had where a single touch or look from the handsome Englishman make her tremble or gave her that pathetic swimming feeling in her gut. She remembered all the easy, charming grins and loud laughs, the firm instructions and hours spent together teaching and being taught. And suddenly, she was mortified to be forced to leave.
Eames took a half-step back in surprise as the smaller woman pressed herself into him, her arms circling around his torso. His response, however, was immediate, as his arms closed around her shoulders and held her tight, taking a heavy breath as he felt every line of her body press into his own. She buried her face in his chest, inhaling every bit that was him, and neither of them thought about the inappropriateness of the scene. Eames kissed the woman's head, his own ridiculous emotions overwhelming him, and then he ducked down to press his lips against her cheek, against her mouth.
Devona put feeling into the kiss too this time, giving it more passion than the previous one. Her hands knotted in his shirt, and his cradled her face, holding her mouth to his. Again, his kiss closed the world out for her, whereas to him, every second seemed to last an hour. He loved the feel of her small, frail, innocent body against his bulkier frame; he loved the way she held her breath as they kissed; he loved the way she let his mouth guide hers. This was bad.
The Forger pulled back and broke their kiss. "You have to go, Dev. They'll be here any second." She nodded, staring up at him with those big, innocent blue eyes. He half-smiled sadly. "Try to forget me."
She started to nod again, then stopped, biting her lip to prevent her ridiculous emotions from overrunning her. Eames's gaze dropped to where her teeth pulled at the skin of her lower lip and he smirked slightly, before acting on the temptation he'd had every time he'd seen her make the action over the past two weeks. He kissed her again, hard and blinding and in a way that made sure she wouldn't forget him. Although he'd do his damnedest to forget her. But he kissed her, passionate and brief, and then leaned his forehead against hers for a moment.
"If you ever need me, darling," he murmured against his own previous words and rational thought, "I'll be in Limerick," and then he nudged her away.
Devona stumbled away from him, disoriented by the kiss and trying to decide how his parting words made her feel, but knowing she had no time. She glanced at him again, relishing his casual, rugged handsomeness and charm, his warm, intelligent eyes and devilish, crooked-toothed smile, and hoarse, accented voice. Then she slipped out the door, turning him into just a memory in shadows behind her.
The devious Englishman had been staring at the exit door for less than a handful of seconds, when he heard movement behind him. He turned, in no hurry, and slid his hands into his pockets as he sauntered towards the awakening Dom Cobb and Arthur. His stance was careless and unkempt as always, but his handsome face was dark, troubled.
"Eames! What the hell?" Arthur snapped immediately, leaping to his feet and storming towards the Forger, "What did you tell her? And where is she? What the hell got into your head back there?"
"Oh, what does it matter, Arthur?" Eames drawled back, "She's gone. We've got our information."
"You can't just take things into your own hands like that, Eames! You screwed up the whole damn plan!"
"Oh shut it! Cobb's got his bloody information, alright? That's all that mattered anyway."
"That doesn't matter! What matters is that you completely went off on your own-"
"Eames is right, Arthur," Cobb intervened calmly, "our purpose was to get the information. As long as we have that, and Devona is sufficiently out of the picture, there's nothing to worry too much about. We're all alive, right?"
Arthur didn't answer, still glowering at the Forger.
When the Forger turned his dark eyes to the Extractor, however, there was a dangerous glint in their depths. "This was the worst fucking idea you could have come up with, Dominick. We're not doing it again, you hear? I'm out if you do." The Englishman's voice was low, rough, and menacing. Furious.
"Eames, it was just what we were hired to do-"
"I don't care!" he snapped, "I don't care. She didn't deserve that. We used her! She was totally innocent, and we made her seem like the villain."
"We've had to do things like that before. Why are you throwing a fit now?" The Point Man intruded, brows raised slightly on his passive face.
Eames only glanced at him with a snarl, "Piss off, Arthur. Cobb, from now on, we are our own Security, yeah?"
Cobb nodded, pale eyes studying the tense younger man. "You're right," he agreed, "We can protect ourselves better than anyone else can."
"Exactly. No more using people, Dom, for anything. Or you can find yourself a new Forger," he punctuated the remark with a firm clench of his jaw, eyes dark and hard as sapphires. The threat wasn't empty, as they all knew, and they also all knew he was the best at what he did. Cobb would be hard-pressed to find another Forger that could match Eames's skill. Whether because of that fact, Cobb would listen to the man's demands, or because it simply made sense, it didn't matter. Eames didn't care. He just knew Devona had left him sickened with guilt, a feeling he didn't often experience and certainly wasn't fond of. It made him angry.
"Where can we find you?" Cobb called, as Eames's feet had already carried him half out the door.
The Englishman paused, guilt briefly flooding his system again, "Mombassa."