A/N: So I've read a surprising number of stories that have Arthur being a former drug addict and the Cobbs being the people who saved him, and I think it's basically the accepted backstory for the kid. And I don't know why I'm calling Arthur a kid 'cause the actor's like 5 years older than me. Seriously. Anyway, I was playing around a bit with the backstory and this is what came out. It got away from me a bit, did it's own thing instead, but I think it turned out okay. Be warned that there is swearing in this fic, although I think the first sentence makes that clear enough. Enjoy.
In retrospect, it was really fucking dumb of me to let Mal and Dom introduce me the dream-world.
I've got an addict's personality, always have. When I was a kid it was adrenaline that got me high, resulting in me careening down hills going too fast on my bike, then when I got a car I would fly down the highway at over a hundred miles an hour, the windows down as the landscape blurred past. When I was in college I discovered drugs, and that was a huge mistake but I didn't see the problem until I was underweight and broke, having dropped out of school because I was a fucking idiot and all I could focus on was getting my next fix. But I cleaned up. It was hell but I did it, and to distract myself from the constant gnawing need I threw myself into studying. Knowledge became my new drug, and I devoured book after book and eventually I came upon the section in the library on dream work, and I read the whole damn section, which isn't really saying much because it was a really small section, only about twelve books or so, but they were pretty big tomes and I would read them slowly and carefully, imprinting those pages into my memory.
I was at the library when I met them. They were just these two beautiful people seated at one of the tables in the back, hunched over their research, and I didn't mean to eavesdrop but as soon as I realised they were talking about dreamwork I couldn't help it. They had found a snag in their plan, some small thing that they couldn't smooth out, and before I knew what I was doing I had stepped out from behind the shelf where I'd been lurking like some creepy nutjob and I was suggesting a solution to their problem even while my brain was yelling at me to shut up shut up you fucking dolt, god, you're so stupid. They'd kind of stared at me and I'd scuffed my shoe a bit on the floor and muttered "Never mind, it's probably wrong...", but when I turned to leave the woman said "Wait!" and man offered me a seat, which I took because it wasn't like I had anything to lose. So that was how I met the Cobbs.
They didn't have huge warehouses then. They were just getting started in the extracting business, and their office was this run-down little craphole that Mal had fixed up as best she could. When I first saw the PASIV I was struck by the severe beauty of it, the cold silver casing hiding the coiled needles, and I admit I was a bit scared when Dom slid the needle into my arm, but then I was under, and as Dom has said many times you can't go under just once.
Like I said, really fucking dumb.
Anyway, I loved it. Of course. I especially liked the paradoxes, how they at first glance seemed normal but when you looked closer you saw how surreal they really were. The Penrose stairs were my favourite, the steps forming an uneven rectangle and when you walked on it you could climb upward forevereverever. So I started working with the Cobbs. Since I liked doing research so much, that became my main focus, and it turned out that I was really good at it. Soon I was able to afford nice clothes, and I started polishing my shoes so that they shone, and gelling back my hair so it wouldn't hang in my eyes anymore. I needed those clothes too, needed the dark suits and soft jackets and long-sleeve button-downs to hide the growing garden of needle marks that were becoming permanent fixtures on the undersides of my arms. If I were to walk down the street in a short-sleeve shirt you might see those marks and think I was a junkie, that maybe I just started getting hooked on heroin. Anyway, I polished myself up too, started putting effort into speaking eloquently and into being poised and posh, and after a while there was little trace of that drug-addled dropout I'd once been. Sometimes in my head I still talk like that strung-out kid, but that's only when I'm nervous or stressed out.
The years after I met the Cobbs were good ones. Business flourished, and we went to lots of new places, met loads of new people. Paris and London were my favourite places to go, but I was also fascinated by Rome, Shanghai, Tokyo, Mombasa, and Brasilia. All of those cities were so different from each other, and so very much the same. I loved them all. Still do.
When Mal died everything got shot to hell. We did that inception job, but Dom couldn't hold it together and before you know it there are three people in Limbo and we've missed the fucking kick and the gravity's gone so I can't drop everyone properly. It worked out in the end and we all got paid ridiculous amounts of money, and Dom got to go home to his kids. But I don't think it was worth it. Because Dom stopped working then. He wanted to do safe, legal work instead, so there was no chance of anything happening to him that would leave his kids as orphans.
See, I've never really worked with anyone besides Mal and Dom. Sure, every once in a while I'd go off and do a job for another extractor, but I would always, always, end up back with the Cobbs. They were my family. They still are, I guess, since I can't picture myself going off to be someone else's Point Man. I'm Dom's Point Man, and that's all there is to it. I don't know if I can work without them, but I can't not work either, because once you hook yourself up to a PASIV you're hooked up for life.
The PASIV...it steals your ability to dream naturally. After going under several times you start to sleep dreamlessly, and then you have to go back to the warehouse at one in the morning so you can hook up and dream, because otherwise you get all keyed up and have trouble sleeping. Dom retired a couple weeks ago and I haven't had a job since then, so I haven't been dreaming and I swear to God it's killing me. So yesterday I stole one of the backup PASIV's from the warehouse and now I set it up on the dresser next to my bed, so I can dream of my days with Mal and Dom, maybe dream of a future with Ariadne, though that probably won't happen because she could still go and do architecture in the real world if she wanted, she's not tied to the dream-world to the extent I am.
My hands are shaking as I set the timer and hold the needle hovering over my skin. I steady my hand and slide the greedy point into my muscle. As soon as the needle is burrowed inside I relax, can feel my eyes rolling back and my mouth hanging slightly open while my breathing peters off to a slow tempo. Okay, this is good. It's good. I'm fine now. I have it all under control.
I'd hate to see it out of control.