Note: Hello everyone! Long time no see! I'm sorry, but I have to make this short. I'm strapped for time and I need to get back to studying. Thank you all for your kind reviews of the previous chapter and I'm sorry you've all had to wait (and will probably have to wait for the next few chapters as well).
By the time Arthur made it home, it was already past eleven in the evening. He was relieved that the children would at least be in bed when he walked in. If he knew Cobb, he knew the man would be waiting for him. Eames was right. Cobb's been keeping a real close eye on me. Why haven't I noticed? As he walked up to the front door and inserted his key into the lock, he made up his mind. He would move out of that house as soon as possible. He was fully capable of taking care of himself, even with physical therapy and the medication he had been slowly weaning himself of.
"You were out pretty late," the extractor's voice greeted him the moment he walked through the door.
"I was just out," the point man answered, trying to keep it as vague as possible. He didn't want to reveal that he had spent time with Eames and a good portion of his day wandering through the city, trying to decide what to do now that he suspected Cobb was tampering with his memories.
"I left some dinner for you in the kitchen," the older man said.
Cobb's voice showed no suspicion, no signs of worry. Though Arthur knew that should have been a red flag, it actually caused him to relax in the other man's presence, "I'm not hungry."
"How about a drink then?" the extractor asked, though he didn't wait for an answer before he headed into the kitchen.
The point man almost protested, but decided that a drink wouldn't hurt. He thought that perhaps it would even be a good way to express the fact that he wanted to get out of that house. He made his way into the kitchen and found that Cobb had already placed two glasses of juice on the counter.
"Dom, we should talk," the younger man said, standing by the counter and pulling a glass to himself.
"Sure," the extractor smiled, "What do you want to talk about?"
Arthur watched as the other man took a long drink and followed suit. Swallowing, he was silent for a moment as he tried to think of a good way to phrase what he was about to say, "You've been really great about me being injured and unable to take care of myself, but I feel like it's time I get back to my own life, my own apartment, my own environment."
"What brought this up?"
"I just…" He felt so thirsty suddenly. He licked his lips and had more of his drink, unable to understand why he was suddenly feeling tongue tied. "I feel like I've been intruding and it's not exactly an ideal set up. James and Phillipa can't have me around forever."
"I understand," Cobb said with a casual wave of his hand, "I know you're eager to get back out there and you want to start working again."
"Yeah, that's it. I'm… I'm really glad that – uh…" Why is it so hard to think of the right words all of a sudden?
"Besides, there's no reason for you to stay here. You're not a prisoner, Arthur."
"I…" The point man's tongue felt thick in his mouth. He placed his hand on the counter, feeling the floor shift beneath him. He felt as if all the blood in his body was draining away from his head, leaving him lightheaded and dizzy, "What did you put in my drink?"
"You don't have to know," Cobb answered, his voice calm, yet filled with lament, "You won't remember. You never remember."
"You've done this to me before," it wasn't a question that escaped Arthur's lips. It was a statement. Something clicked in his mind and he realized that this scenario had happened before. Déjà vu. Eames was right.
Arthur's legs gave out from under him and he hissed in pain as his hands and knees connected with the tiled floor. He tried to look up, see the face of the man he called friend. He wanted to see the look on Cobb's face, wanted to know why this was happening. What surprised him, even in that moment, was that the look on the extractor's face wasn't one of malice. It was a look of regret.
"I'm sorry," Cobb sounded genuinely apologetic, "I have to keep my promise."
The point man tried to speak, but then the floor was coming up to meet him and all thought fled.
Eames stared at his phone, willing it to ring. He had woken up at four in the morning with an uneasy feeling. He couldn't sleep for the rest of the night and ended up chain smoking until he was out of cigarettes. By the time 7AM rolled around, he decided it would be a good time to start getting ready. He had to keep his meeting with Arthur after all.
By the time he was done getting ready, it was almost 8AM. He expected his phone to ring at any moment. The point man had told him the meeting place would be relayed before they meet. When the call didn't come, Eames chalked it up to Arthur being busy helping the kids get ready for school. But by the time the clock read noon, he started to worry. Arthur was hardly ever tardy and when he was, he called and had a good reason.
Something's not right, the forger thought as he got on his coat and headed out of his room. And Cobb has something to do with it. I just know it.
"Arthur?" Cobb asked, standing by the entry way to the living room, watching the younger man sitting on the couch, watching TV.
"Yes?" the point man replied, not looking up.
"Are you alright?" the extractor asked as he approached the couch and sat on the arm rest.
Arthur looked up then and gave the other man a smile, "Of course I am. Why do you ask?"
"You've been really quiet all morning."
"I just wanted to relax and watch TV for a while. Besides, I have physical therapy in a few hours. I don't really feel like doing anything else."
Cobb stayed seated, watching as the point man flipped through the channels, hardly stopping to watch, hardly even blinking. Seeing that, he felt a terrible tightening sensation in his chest. This wasn't the man he had known for years. This wasn't the man he had worked with and trusted with his life. The man before him was only a shade of his former self and it was his fault. It's my fault. He was coming back to his senses and I stopped him.
A hard rapping on the front door made him look up. It even pulled Arthur's attention away from the television. Cobb put his hand out, signaling the younger man to stay where he was. The extractor approached the front door and before he even opened it, he knew who was standing on the other side. It was Eames and he looked livid.
"Where is he?" the forger asked, already inching his way inside.
"Eames," the extractor tried to get the words out of his mouth, but the other man was already pushing past him and walking into the house, "Come back here!"
Cobb immediately felt his throat seize up when Eames pulled the point man up from the couch by one arm.
"Where have you been?" the forger demanded, looking back and forth between Arthur and Cobb, "Has he been keeping you here?"
"What the hell are you doing here?" Arthur's voice was filled with confusion at the arrival of the British man standing in the living room, "And who the hell do you think you are, barging in here like this?"
Eames' gaze immediately went to Cobb, glaring at him with such intensity the extractor had to take a step back, putting his hands up, ready to defend himself.
"What did you do to him?" the forger asked, stepping toward the other man, "He doesn't remember I was here."
"Eames, look-" Cobb couldn't get the words out before Eames' hand closed around the shirt of his collar.
"Let go of him!" The forger froze, feeling the barrel of Arthur's Glock pressed against the back of his head. "I have no idea what's going through that thick skull of yours, but you better let him go before I pull the trigger."
Cobb drew in several deep breaths when Eames released him, "Arthur, put that away."
"No, it's okay."
The extractor could see that the point man wasn't willing to relax, even with those words to reassure him. For all he knows, Eames was here to kill me. But that look of alertness, of fierce concentration, Cobb hadn't seen that look in a long time and it caused him to instantly think back on the jobs that they had done together. It made him think back to how Arthur handled the situation over a year ago.
"You've got him trained, don't you?" Eames said, voice dripping with venom. "Made sure to go back in a rewire him, am I right?"
"Eames, I can't explain right now," the extractor tried. Even as those words came out of his mouth, he couldn't help but let his gaze fall on Arthur.
"Because he's here?"
"Cobb," Arthur's voice was in full command, "He shouldn't be here."
That voice nearly startled the extractor. He hadn't heard it in so long, it sounded foreign, "I'm sorry, Eames, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"I'll show myself out," the forger sneered as he pushed past Cobb, their shoulders colliding as he did so.
The extractor jumped, hearing the sound of the front door being slammed shut with so much force it felt as if the whole house shook on its foundation. He breathed a sigh of relief before looking over at Arthur. The younger man already had his weapon holstered and was standing calmly in the middle of the living room.
"Mind telling me what that was all about?" the point man asked, annoyed.
"I don't know what to tell you," Cobb answered, feeling the other man's questioning stare. He knew one day he would buckle under that look on Arthur's face, but this was not the day.
The younger man simply rolled his eyes and waved his hand dismissively, "I'll look into it tonight. He has to be here for a reason."
"If you think you should."
The extractor watched as Arthur sat back down on the couch and started to channel surf again, eyes glued to the screen as if what had happened had never occurred. I'm sorry, Arthur, but it's all falling apart.
Note: Thank you all for reading, please let me know what you think. The next chapter is in the works and hopefully I can get it down between work and school. Life has just been so hectic and I do feel bad for making you all wait so long as you're all so nice about reading and reviewing.