Taking Point

Summary: Arthur's job is to put himself in danger. Arthur/Cobb friendship.

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Note: I don't own Inception. This story was mainly born out of the fact that a lot of people out there have no idea what a point man is. The term point man is real and will be explained in this story. I'm not assuming people don't know, but I've encountered a lot of posts in places where people ask what exactly a point man does and it really annoys me when they answer with things like "they go out and gather information!" cause seriously folks, Arthur is not that useless.

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1.

"What exactly is your job, Arthur?" Ariadne asked one day, while looking over her models. "Cobb told me you're the point man, but what does that mean?"

"Do you have any knowledge of military terminology?" Arthur asked, putting down his notebook and pen.

"Not really," the architect answered. She wasn't sure where the point man was taking the conversation.

"You see, the term is known as taking point," Arthur explained, he had a look on his face, almost as if trying to find a good way of putting what he was about to say, "When a person takes point, they are in the first and most exposed position in formation. If there is any immediate danger, the point man will be the first to encounter it."

"So, you put yourself in danger?"

"It's not as simple as that. I do it so that the rest of the team can do their job without a hitch."

"Isn't it really stressful then?"

"For some it can be. If we were in the military, we'd be on rotation, but we don't have that luxury."

Arthur picked up his notebook again when he saw the look on Ariadne's face. It was the look he had gotten from many people when he explained his job. Pity and sympathy were always the two culprits. But he didn't need either, he was perfectly happy being what he was.

2.

There was a time, years ago, when Arthur wondered if he had made the right choice in doing what he did. He wasn't a point man originally. In fact, he wasn't much of anything except a researcher and a lookout. He would be in the dream to help, but he had no specified role because he was so new.

Then on his third job with Dom and, at the time, Mal, they ran into trouble. Their previous point man had been taken down too soon, leaving them with no way of carrying out their original plan. When Dom looked at him and asked him to take point, he had hesitated.

"You can do it, Arthur," Mal said to him, her voice gentle and reassuring.

And with those words, he was sold. His grip tightened on the gun in his hand and he jumped into the fray. He distracted the projections and made sure they were trained on him by setting off alarms and creating chaos. By the time he was gunned down, Dom had already gotten what he needed.

Waking up that time was strange. He had never experienced death on a job before. He had experienced it in training and with projections from his team's minds, but being killed on the job was far different from that. His hands were shaking when he woke and he had to close his eyes and force them still.

"You did a great job," Mal smiled at him, her hand comforting on his shoulder.

The next job he was called back and they gave him his official role. Point man.

3.

Arthur worked a lot for Dom and Mal, so much so that he eventually stopped doing jobs for other people. When the Cobbs referred to him, they didn't call him a point man or the point man, they called him their point man. Their relationship evolved from work to true friendship.

Arthur was there when Phillipa was born. He got to take pictures of Mal holding their new born daughter, glowing and so beautiful. And they named him her godfather, telling him they wouldn't think of anyone else. He was a part of the family and he finally felt like he belonged.

But then, Mal was out of commission for many months due to the strain of giving birth and the need to take care of her new child. Dom would call on him to do jobs and he did them, out of loyalty, out of love.

But jobs had a way of going wrong those first few months. The extractor was distracted, constantly thinking of his wife and newborn daughter. It was in those few months that Arthur wondered if being point man could drive him insane.

The worst was during the Dunn job. Dunn was a married man and one who held a very respectable image in politics. However, this man was seen with many girls who looked too young to be around a man who was already in his fifties. They were hired to see if Dunn was doing anything illegal.

That was the first time he met Eames. Even back then they bickered, but for Arthur it was jealousy that drove his hurtful words. When Dom had called the forger the best, he felt a tug in his chest and it made him feel an immediate dislike for the man. Older now, he knew better, but he kept it up because whether he wanted to admit it or not, it was almost fun bantering with Eames.

The training had gone off without a hitch and Eames forged a beautiful, young girl who looked as if she came from some mystical corner of the world all black haired and grey eyed. But no amount of training prepared them for what happened on the job. Dunn proved to not only be a criminal, but a complete sadist.

Eames had tried to trick Dunn with his disguise, but the mark just wasn't interested. That was, until Arthur walked in, wearing a three suit and reading glasses. The mark was more than a little interested. Arthur played along because it was what Dom would have wanted him to do. It was his job and he followed Dunn through the dream to a secluded place.

They all underestimated what their mark could do. In a moment when the point man wasn't paying attention, Dunn wrapped a wire around his throat and proceeded to strangle him. Arthur wasn't able to fight back and the way the other man slammed his head against the ground made his vision blur. He vaguely felt Dunn's hands tugging at his clothes.

Looking back, he thanked god for Eames, who had the good sense to follow them. The forger was on Dunn in moments, pulling the mark off of the younger man. Eames had dropped the forge and his fists connected again and again with Dunn's face. Then the projections were coming and Arthur had to pull himself together.

Gunshots rang out, over and over again. Save for one bullet, the point man was as good as out of ammo. From the sound of the forger's firearms, he knew they would be torn apart by the projections and Dom was nowhere in sight. As the projections came closer, he turned to the other man.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Eames." The forger hardly registered those words before Arthur put a bullet between his eyes.

The point man forced himself to calm down, then closed his eyes and took a deep breath, waiting for the projections to overtake him.

When he woke, Arthur was shaken, yet completely livid. He could still feel the hands of Dunn and the projections tearing at him. He had sprung into action and injected the mark with more sedatives. Eames simply watched him, silent and forgiving of his actions back in the dream.

"Arthur," Dom's voice was apologetic.

The point man didn't give the extractor a chance to say what he wanted. Arthur got Dom in the jaw with a well aimed right hook, "Never take me on a job again unless you're focused and in control of yourself!"

He walked out that night without another word.

4.

Long after James has been born, Mal kills herself. Arthur was devastated by the news, but he couldn't have imagined what Dom was going through. The extractor told him all about how he was tied up in the system because the law thought Dom had been the one who killed Mal. The thought alone made Arthur feel sick to his stomach.

Dom had to flee. The two didn't stay in contact for a good six months before the point man got a call late in the night. He was hardly able to register who was on the other end.

"Do you want a job?" the voice on the other end was familiar.

"Dom?" Arthur asked, sitting up in bed and rubbing his eyes.

"Please, don't call me that anymore," the extractor's voice gave away just a hint of strain. Mal had called him Dom, affectionately and Arthur should have known better.

The point man breathed, running a hand through his hair, "Do you need me Cobb?"

"Yes, I do."

"Will you be alright?"

There was a pause. "Yes."

Arthur should have known it was a lie. The first time they train together after their long separation was a complete disaster. At first nothing was wrong. They waited for the music, the kick and tested out their building abilities. Cobb refused to build and Arthur tried his best, but he was no architect.

When they heard the first strands of music, they were off guard. It was then that Arthur encountered the projection of Mal for the first time. In the dream she was a stone cold bitch, her lips always in a wicked smile. There was no warmth in her eyes, she was there to torment. In that moment, she was completely deadly. She incapacitated them both, shooting them in the arms and legs.

She practically danced around them as the music kept playing. Arthur tried to get a grip on his own weapon, but Mal's heel came crashing down on his hand and he screamed in pain as he felt the bones break.

"Naughty, naughty," the projection said with a playful smile. Gracefully, she plucked the point man's gun from the floor, her fingers running the length of the barrel carefully and seductively.

"Mal!" Cobb tried to stop her, but he was far from able to do anything.

The projection stood over Arthur and kept pulling the trigger until no more bullets would come. All Arthur could remember was the sound of his own voice, screaming and cursing. Then blood was pouring out of his body and flooding his mouth. And then the kick was coming and he could only close his eyes and sigh in relief.

He woke, feeling disoriented and the phantom pain spreads through his body. He rubbed a hand over his face and tried to get his bearings. He had just seen Mal in a dream and she was nothing at all like the woman he had once known.

"I'm sorry, Arthur," Cobb said, sitting up in his chair and burying his face in his hands.

The point man debates yelling and screaming, but instead he decides it's not worth it. He knows why the extractor was dreaming of Mal. He knew it wasn't his place to judge. Pulling the needle from his arm and getting up to put away the equipment, he responded, "For what?"

5.

After a few more times of Mal ambushing them, Arthur realizes it's not something that was just going to go away. So he puts himself out there and does his job. When he felt a situation needed to be scouted out, he would go out and do it. If the job called for a distraction, he would be the one to create the distraction. He kept his eyes and ears open, always, for any signs of Mal.

He died again and again at her hands. Sometimes she was swift, others incredibly cruel and unrelenting. He never knows how to predict her moves. It pained him to see her projected the way she was. The Mal he knew was so radiant and kind that this projection was just a shade, a cheap imitation.

The point man knew Cobb was getting better, but only marginally. The extractor always had this look in his eye, as if he was haunted by something. Most jobs go off very well, they got what they needed. Arthur just had to keep putting himself out there and keep taking the worst of it.

6.

"We can call in someone else to take point for a while, if you want," Cobb said to him one day, a year after Mal has died.

"Why would we do that?" Arthur asked, not looking up from his paperwork.

"Because I've known people who have… suffered mentally from-"

The point man doesn't give him a chance to finish, "Cobb, I'm fine. Don't worry."

"Alright."

Arthur knows why Cobb calls him the best. Neither of them had known anyone else in the business that had taken the position of point man longer than a year or two. They all opted to trade off on the job as it was extremely stressful and taxing on the mind. The constant need to be on guard and detail oriented was hard to keep up, especially when every dream was different and often called for improvisation.

Arthur had been doing his job for a very long time. He hadn't started out as a point man, but it was the one position he knew for certain he would never trade out of, especially if Cobb was the one calling on him.

7.

Ariadne had been right. Arthur's job was to put himself in danger, but he doesn't mind it. He knew what his role was and he did his job extremely well, hardly ever making a mistake. Yet, sometimes in the back of his mind, he still wondered if the experiences he had put himself through would one day drive him insane. The point man knew it couldn't be healthy to put yourself through death so many times.

But the thoughts never deter him from the jobs. If he had to do it over again, going back to when Cobb first asked him to take point, he would have still answered with, "I'm on it."

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Note: Thank you everyone for reading. I hope you enjoyed this story and please leave a review if you're able. Thanks again!