DISCLAIMER: I DO NOT OWN INCEPTION.
Epilogue to follow.
Arthur didn't move from his spot. Not even when he heard the distant gunshots fade away, or when he began to hear police sirens at the other end of town. He clung to her, enveloping her limp body in sobs. He wasn't sure how long he was there for, but he didn't move. Couldn't move. Like he was chained to the ground. He knew he couldn't leave her. He stayed, until his eyes were dry and there were no more tears to produce. Until his throat was raw and painful, and he could no longer speak or scream. But still, he didn't move. Not even when he felt his eyes begin to fall, and his shoulders begin to weaken. His hands still weaved through her hair as he felt himself fall forward, and his eyes cloud him into black. He could only summon the strength to whisper-
He wasn't sure who moved him. Could have been Cobb, or Eames, or any of the others. He awoke in a hotel room, surrounded by the pitch black, his body surrounded in the soft fabric of the sheets. He looked down, seeing that his hands were still in fists. But she wasn't there. Whoever had moved him had obviously dealt with the body as well. He was thankful for the darkness of the room. He rolled over, letting his face fall into the pillow. Quiet moaning and wails errupted from him as the memory of the night hit him like a train. He wept until he felt the pillow was damp with salty tears, then he turned it over and began sobbing into the dry side.
He had done this. He had lost her. If he hadn't of been so careless, or damned thoughtless, she would be somewhere else, alive and well and he would be lonely. The way it should have been. She had betrayed him, yes, but not out of choice. She wouldn't do that- she loved him.
It became a vicious cycle. He awoke in the dark, remembered why he was there, sobbed until he couldn't anymore, yelled and cursed into the mattress until he could no longer speak, fell asleep, then woke up again. Never ending. There was that sweet moment, those rare few seconds where the woke up in complete black, and could not for the life of him remember why he was there. Complete blank, until he remembered. It only lasted a few seconds, before the routine started all over again.
The thought had crossed his mind, once or twice. But he had to swallow it down, he couldn't think of it. It would be so easy. He was sure that whoever had taken him there, had neglected to remove the gun from his jacket. According to his calculation, he should have three bullets left. But he would need only one. Just one. Then maybe he could find some peace and remove the welling pain inside his chest. But no, he could never. She wouldn't have wanted that. In fact, she would have been appalled by the idea, and damn it, he would not die from Robert Fischer's doing. So the thought pushed to the back of his mind, leaving him once again with nothing but images on repeat.
He wasn't sure how long he was in there for, could have been a night, could have been two days. Time seemed pointless, and meaningless. But eventually the realisation came to him.
He could not stay.
If he remained in this room, he would not eat, or drink, or leave the bed. He needed to get out. He needed to find Cobb. He had something to say, something that could not wait.
It took him half an hour to summon up the strength and will to finally move. He rolled over, and pushed himself up from the mattress, until he found himself sitting on the side of the bed. His vision felt blurry, and his mouth tasted dry. After a minute or two, he pushed himself up until he stood, hovering above the bed. His torso swayed slightly as he began walking. His days in the darkness had made him weak.
Looking down, he swallowed as a small choke escaped from his lips. He was still wearing his clothes. His shirt, once a crisp, clean white was now crinkled, and tainted a shocking red. Her blood. That wouldn't do.
He reached down and slowly began unbuttoning the shirt, stripping himself of the sickening sweet smell of blood. He held the fabric in his hands, running his fingers along the stained material. She had been in pain, and he was unable to help her.
A wave of sickness washed over him. He ran into the bathroom and threw the clothing on the ground, letting himself fall to his knees by the toilet seat. He gagged as the contents of his stomach emptied. But since he hadn't eaten in a while, it wasn't long before he could taste nothing but bile, and eventually, he collapsed on the ground.
The cold tiles of the floor felt nice against his skin. Cooling, refreshing. Pushing himself from the ground, he grabbed the shirt once more and stood over the sink. He could look at it no longer. The tap water ran warmly across his hands as he began scrubbing the materal. Watching the pink tainted water wash down the drain, he realised that this was in fact the last thing he had of her.
Arthur walked to the warehouse. It was a long walk, and he must have looked like a wreck to any passer-by, but there was no way he could drive. He could barely steady himself enough to dress himself again.
When he arrived, he didn't stop. He didn't even pause as he walked up to the building. He knew that if he did, then he would never have a hope of making it in. All he had to do was go in, talk to Cobb, and get out again. As soon as possible.
He pushed the door open, finding the interior surprisingly empty. The only person there was Eames, who was leaning against a desk top, biting the bottom of his lip tightly. Arthur saw that Eames looked oddly tired, and prominant dark bags under his eyes revealed that he probably hadn't had any sleep in a while. The man looked troubled.
Arthur gave a small cough. Eames looked up, his eyes suddenly snapping back from a previous daze. Seeing Arthur, his shoulders straightened and his face grew hard.
Arthur didn't want pleasantries. Not today. He kept his head up, and managed to hold eye contact with the man in front of him, with no other intentions apart from getting straight to the point.
"Is Cobb here?" he asked, sounding more demanding than he intended. He swallowed, ordering his body to relax and his mind to remain in control.
Eames could sense his discomfort, and spoke very gently to the younger man. "Stepped out with the rest for a quick patrol. Just making sure Fischer's gang got the message."
"I doubt that they wouldn't," Arthur replied, his face set into a grim stare, his lips quickly spreading into a thin, white line. "Who moved me into that hotel?"
Arthur grimaced. "Where is her-"
"I took care of it." Seeing the uncertainty and distraught look in Arthur's eyes, Eames sighed heavily. "Don't worry, I dealt with it carefully. I put her-"
Arthur held his hand up, silencing the other man. On second thought, he didn't want to know, knowing that if he did, he would no doubt want to see her body once more, and if he did, then it's back to the bed and into the darkness of the sheets for him. He could feel his protective wall around him slowly breaking down as he felt more and more unwelcome and uncomfortable in the warehouse.
Eames gave him a sympathetic look, tilting his head to the side. "How are you?" he asked gently.
Arthur didn't like the question. He didn't know how he could answer without breaking down and burst into broken sobs once more. So he swallowed, keeping his gaze just slightly next to Eames, realising that he couldn't look him in the eye. "When will Cobb be back?"
Eames shrugged lightly in return. "Not sure."
Arthur didn't want to hang around. He nodded, understanding that he would have to do without a formal goodbye. It was probably easier that way, and Arthur felt a little bit of weight being lifted from his shoulders. "Right. Well can you tell him-" He paused. What could he say that wouldn't invite too many questions? There was nothing. He sighed, allowing himself to grow quiet. "- That I was just coming to say goodbye."
Eames didn't respond right away. He simply gave him a quick nod, before reaching into his pocket and pulling out a cigarette, and a box of matches. "Where are you off to, then?" he asked, striking a match that quickly turned into a small flame. Arthur watched in silence as Eames lit the cigarette and brought it to his lips, inhaling a deep lungful.
Realising that it was his turn to speak, Arthur turned his head down to the ground. "I can't stay. I have nothing left to do." He sighed, his shoulders falling. "My job was done as soon as Cobb fired that bullet towards Fischer."
"You're leaving the city?" Eames asked, breathing out a cloud of smoke.
"Most likely. I see no reason why I should stay."
Eames gave a deep chuckle, shaking his head from side to side, before bringing the cigarette back up to his lips. "I knew it," he said to himself, finding more amusement in the idea that Arthur couldn't understand. He looked at the younger man, before giving him a careless shrug. "From the moment I met you, Arthur, I knew that you didn't belong here. I knew you'd be the first to go."
Arthur wasn't sure whether that was intended as an insult, but knowing Eames, it probably was. Instant reaction forced him to retort in defence. "Because I'm weak?" he asked, placing a hand into his pocket.
Eames shook his head. "Not at all. Because you're strong enough to know when to leave."
Silence fell between the two. Eames exhaled another smokey breath before turning his back on Arthur, seeming to draw his attention to a briefcase on the table. "Well listen, send me a postcard from wherever you end up. I'll let Cobb know," he said.
Arthur gave him a small smirk, knowing that it was time for him to leave. Eames never gave anyone his attention for too long. "Thanks," he said quietly, before turning his own back and beginning to wonder towards the door.
Arthur turned and caught Eames' eyes once more. The older man was staring at him, with an expression Arthur couldn't quite place. It wasn't the playful smirk he normally recieved, neither was it an absent glare from an insulting remark. No, this was sympathy, understanding, and pity all rolled into one.
"I really am sorry. For...you know," he mumbled, his voice just loud enough for Arthur to hear. "She was lovely." Eames sounded so sincere, that Arthur couldn't dismiss him. It actually felt rather nice to recieve a small amount of pity from him. Eames then went on to furrow his brow, in a look of concern that Arthur hadn't recieved in years. "I hope that this doesn't turn you into something you're not."
Unknowing and confused, Arthur simply gave him the smallest of nods before turning his back and resuming his exit. He mumbled under his breath, "Good luck, Eames."
"You too, mate." Was the last thing he heard.
Arthur didn't plan on leaving without an actual goodbye from Cobb. But a word from Eames would be better than nothing, and he sure as hell wasn't waiting for the rest of the team. No, he didn't want an overflow of sad glances and gentle words for the rest of the day. Cobb would understand. He knew grief better than anyone.
Arthur would miss him, no doubt about that. But he would miss the old Cobb. The Dominic Cobb that loved the city, and took pride in his friends and loved ones. When he was happy with Mal, and things like guns and death and loss were not a part of their lives, and nobody ever considered that they would be. When Arthur didn't have Ariadne, but at least he wasn't as lonely. There was still hope for him, and he still had faith in the fact that he might have a future someday.
He felt a slight relief. Saying goodbye to Cobb would have been harder. He probably would have been less accepting than Eames, or would have asked more questions, maybe even would have tried to pursuade him to stay. Besides, he owed Eames a proper goodbye, considering he owed him more times than he could count. He'd hoped a simple goodbye would be enough to pay it all back.
Paris was something else. The people were different. Arthur felt homesick when he'd first arrived, feeling like a fish out of water in the strange, dazzling city. But knowing that he promised Ariadne that they would go was enough to prevent him from going straight back to New York. The City of Lights was beautiful, and Arthur quickly had escaped all fear of being there. He'd always found adjusting easy, adapting himself to the city like he'd been there for years.
The people were sophisticated, cultured. He felt like he could fit in. He was only planning on staying for a few weeks, but before he knew it, he was in the process of renting an apartment and planning a life there. It had drawn him in, the magnificent architecture, the art, the food, the music, it was all too much.
And the whole time, he couldn't stop thinking of how much Ariadne would have loved it.