Author's Note:This idea came to me at some point during the morning. I wasn't going to write it at first, but I received a lovely moleskin notebook from a good friend, and I just had to write something. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please drop me a nice little review! It really does make my day. Thanks very much! (I also don't own Inception, or these characters, as the wonderful Christopher Nolan thought of them first!)

Feels Like Goodbye

"Eames."

His tone is gentle, understanding – not questioning. I recognize and respond, turn my head, and smile. "Darling." The word flows easily, unbidden, from my lips, but it feels natural. It feels natural for Arthur too, I suppose, because his tense shoulders slacken just enough.

He reaches for me, hesitates, but I move to meet him, offering my hand (larger than his, though his fingers are longer and more slender – piano fingers). He takes it, I hear his breath catch and his eyes close for the briefest of moments. In that second, caught in stasis, he is beautiful.

"I missed you," he says, but he doesn't say it; he breathes it, and the soft hairs on the back of my neck prickle.

"I'm right here, Darling," I say. Bring his hand to my lips and kiss it. He flinches. I frown. "Arthur?"

"Nothing," he says. "It's nothing." And for some reason, I don't know why, I believe him. "Let's walk," he says, and we do. We walk, and the world changes subtly around us, but there's no one else around to notice.

This place feels familiar, like I've been here before, but I can't quite grasp it. It looks like -

"- Mombassa," Arthur fills in. Immediately my mind supplies an onslaught of images, fading in and out in quick succession. Poker chips; losing spectacularly and laughing it off; scantily clad women who glanced in my direction, wondering if the man with the interesting accent would want to accompany them back to their hotel room. Arthur, bathed in moonlight on a cool, sandy beach. He tasted like sea-surf and peppermint toothpaste.

Reality.

We stand on that same beach at this very moment. A warning, echoed from something like a far off memory. "Don't ever build places you know," I say, and we stop walking.

We stop walking and Arthur turns to face me. When he kisses me, he doesn't taste like sea-surf. He still tastes like peppermint toothpaste, though. Like Arthur. And his hands come up to fist in my shirt (My horrible orange paisley shirt) and he suddenly shoves me away, backing up so suddenly that he trips backwards over a dune that I swear wasn't there before.

"You bastard," he accuses, and I think I can hear his voice breaking, like he's having a hard time speaking. He chokes on his next words. "You left. You said you'd meet me in Mombassa."

I look around and give him my most charming smile. "A bit late." Spread my arms. "But we're here now, aren't we? Enjoy it, why don't you? Would you like a drink?" A fruity pink/orange lovely appears in my hand as I speak, complete with fashionable pink umbrella.

"No."

It vanishes immediately. I approach him cautiously and he lets me get close enough to encircle my arms around him. Around his slender, muscular frame concealed by the three-piece suit he is so fond of wearing. It strikes me as odd just for a moment that he should be wearing such a garment on a beach. (In my memory, he isn't wearing a suit; he doesn't wear a shirt at all.) Standing here, with him in my arms, he is beautiful. I tell him so, and he chuckles. Not a genuine laugh, but a half-laugh, and I get the feeling that he's doing a lot of things with partial effort recently.

"Eames."

"Mm?"

"I'm starting to forget. I can't remember what you smell like."

I struggle to help him, to search for the missing detail, but this too is absent from my own memory. "Does it really matter? That's just a detail, Darling."

He sighs and pulls away, and when he does, looks at me almost sadly. "Of course the details matter, Mr. Eames. I'm a point man. This is a dream. And you -" (He reaches and touches my cheek, gently, tentatively, and this feels like goodbye) "You aren't real."

And as he speaks, I know it's true, because the surf is lapping at my heels, drawing me out to sea with it. I fade away, and as Arthur wakes up, I rejoin his subconscious.

This feels like goodbye, Arthur realizes, because it is. The goodbye that he never got, and the one that he deserved.