Summary: With each passing year, Arthur has noticed dramatic changes in his mental state and ability. Concerned, he visits his physician. Shortly after being diagnosed with a disease, the Point Man turns to what he does best.

A/N- The site's having small glitches with uploading documents. So, hopefully, this doesn't mess with the structure of the story.
This chapter is more of an introduction into this Arthur's story. It's in the 2nd chapter that things get to the actual plot.
I will warn you that it does get a bit technical, but I'm sure you'll follow.

This is a series, and hopefully, since I only have one final left, this will get to where it needs to be in the time predicted.

I apologize for any typos- I have re-read and fixed both documents.

The single quation marks are not current time conversations. I don't use them unless I am writing in the past (past conversations) or to enclose quoted material within other quoted materials. Otherwise, I use double quotation marks.


It wasn't sudden.

In fact, Arthur had always noticed that his lack of reaction in regards to concern was due to the fact that he was very apathetic, and that wasn't normal in an individual to lack care for so many things.

To an average degree, sure, but not to the amount that he was expressing, or, rather, lacking.

When he was younger, he was sent to a series of therapists and psychologists.

His parents, middle class and stuck up, thought that he was depressed- a common diagnosis within children who rarely showed much care for things they don't consider fascinating. His parents had thought that he should be more intrigued with his life setting. They considered their class, surname and status despite being diverse in character, yet mannered, something to be very proud of, along with happy, considering that he was far more fortunate than others.

So when the psychologist diagnosed him borderline sociopathic, just to not delve into to the fact that they really meant full blown at such a young age, his parents collapsed within themselves. They weren't entirely ignorant as to what that meant, how Arthur would behaved, react, how he saw things- how that would stir his future; if he ever cared to have any.

Though as 'knowledgeable' as his parents said they were, they didn't entirely understand the disorder, and only managed to see the overwhelming wrong of it all. So they not only shut themselves away from the issue, but thought that in doing so, Arthur would understand as to why,

But Arthur was only 15, and while he understood many things, he was pretty ignorant when it came to personality disorders.

For a long while he never considered asking his therapists or psychologists about it, thinking it taboo since his parents never answered his questions.
But one day, as it became annoying to a stressful degree. The curiosity got the best of him, and so he asked the psychologist that followed after the one that had first diagnosed him.

This psychologist was an older male, his handsome years leaving him with the wrinkles that drooped across around his eyes and mouth, nearing his last years in the field known as blissful retirement. He didn't seem bothered in a negative sense by the question, but in fact, seemed rather surprised.
He, his new psychologist, had double checked the file that he was holding to jot down the session, rereading his patients information. This had been, in fact, Arthur's 7th month as a patient, so why, his psychologist wondered, had this young man not known the background of his disorder?

The older man laughed when Arthur asked if it meant he was going to die soon, like the dreaded cancers. The psychologist, by surname Alanson, shook his head as he removed his spectacles, his blue eyes practically glowing in the dimly lit room.

ASPD, an acronym for Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Arthur edged in the sunken leather armchair as the older man went on about how it's usually found in people with traumatic experiences or a consistent release of serotonin in the brain.
Dr. Alanson later talked about how it shouldn't be mixed up with psychopathic disorders. Along the line of describing sociopaths as something rather ill minded, he had paused and changed the topic into his own idea of what he was dealing with- dissocial personality disorder, -similar, but not entirely-, and how he wanted to approach it. This man said they had jumped the gun rather quickly in Arthur's disorder, and how that was a pretty serious leap.

After the long talk, Arthur sat quietly on the ride back home. It wasn't until they left the car and walked through the large garage accompanying another car towards their homes car that he spoke as his mother started to turn the key in the lock.

Needless to say, she and her husband were immensely upset, and immediately demanded that Arthur see another psychologist.

He wasn't entirely surprised by this. So when he walked into a new office in a rather tall building somewhere on the other side of town, he walked in as casually as ever.

Though this man wasn't as seemingly old, he still held that air of confidence and experience. Slightly frightening, his knowledge vast, the man was anything but cruel. He skimmed the papers faces, flipping through them almost carelessly once Arthur's parents left, then, looked to Arthur. At first the mans aged brown eyes seemed cold, but then he spread a genuine warm smile.

He had introduced himself as Dr. Millon, even gave his first name, Theodore, and gave Arthur the permission to call him either. He didn't miss a beat when he, with a rather disgruntled expression, told Arthur he thought the previous psychologist was wrong in thinking he had DPD, with a dismayed tone.
His features had changed as he sat up and with that returning smile that didn't falter, told Arthur that he thought that he may have ASPD, and fell under the certain nomadic subtype within the ten, which meant that Arthur was more so over SPD, which stood for Schizoid Personality Disorder, along with AvPD, Avoidant Personality Disorder.

The former meant he usually lacked much interest in relationships, romantic or friendly, with individuals, thus explaining his aptitude for a rather solitary lifestyle, lack of emotional presentation, and for his apathy, as to why this whole thing started. Dr. Millon stopped as if he forgot to say something, and abruptly added with a bit of desperate reassurance that Arthur not confuse the word Schizoid in SPD for Schizophrenia. Arthur visibly calmed. The latter, AvPD just meant as it sounded, he was just generally someone who avoided others because of fear of being ridiculed.

Arthur scoffed, and Dr. Millon laughed. He asked Arthur not tell his parents that he was going in depth with explaining his diagnosis rather than just analyzing his patient, in fear that he might get kicked off, seeing Arthur as a rather interesting subject for his now 16 years of age.

The teen nodded, and they continued with his sessions.

At 18, Arthur stopped seeing any form or therapist or psychologist with the final diagnosis being SPD- Schizoid Personality Disorder.

Somewhat satisfied and relieved, -that he wasn't what they considered an empty shell-, his parents allowed him to make the decision to never see a doctor concerning his mental state again, with the promise that he'd take his medication and try to socialize with his peers as he entered college. He nodded, and with a practiced smile, promised.

But shortly after, he stopped taking his medication, it causing negative effects; He started to lose the ability to experience joy in the little things, like the minute pleasures while exercising or during sexual activities. So he stored the pills away, but nothing changed.

Over time, he decided they weren't needed, and neither was treatment, and Arthur easily became the man Cobb hired two years later.

Though the job was not legal, Arthur didn't mind.

Skeptical at first, Arthur agreed in allowing Dominick Cobb prove to him that the P.A.S.I.V device, acronym for Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous, -back then an even more bulky machine in its years of being more like a prototype fit for trails-, did as Dom promised.

It wasn't until Cobb went through the devices complete jargon, as if assured that Arthur would accept the job afterwards, was Arthur allowed to experience it.

Dom explained the configurable control settings for the accurate monitoring and adjustment of the Somnacin drug dosage levels- which was essential to ensure that the amount of time wasn't over done, and that the dream wasn't too lucid, to also not lose oneself in determining what was real and was not when waking up.

Pointing, he explained the reason for the 12 inch IV lines that allowed more than one person to dream in the same dream state, known as 'Dream Sharing'.

The LED display, -which Cobb mispronounced as LAD display; in which Arthur interrupted him with a stifled laugh and corrected him-, had an atomized timer to monitor precise flow rates of the drug.

Arthur allowed the tall older man go on about the device; how the synchronizing monitoring chip was to check the flow monitoring the automated adjustments in order to optimize output flow- which rather confused Arthur, failing to enjoy much when Cobb had to go into detail, which only became even more confusing.

Dom moved on, talking about how the Lithium Iodide batteries had over 200 hours of life, so the device would eventually turn off, but not kill those hooked up to it as a result.

The empty vials storage units did have a purpose, and it was to allow multiple doses in the field.

Arthur asked in concerns to that, -slowly starting to buy this lunacy as it got more technical-, as to how the person in the real world would be able to determine if the person in the dream state would need more of the dosage applied. Cobb had given him a look and simply shrugged. After a long pause the older male said he didn't entirely understand the device himself, but that its use was basic once you got the hang of it.

Arthur then wondered if it was something anyone could get to, and how it could be dangerous if, -like Cobb had talked about-, the person got to the memory backup stationed in the device for further retention of its infusion output data.

Cobb closed the case, and then asked Arthur to try and open it. A blush crept on Arthur's face when he spotted the case lock, simple to reasonably predict, it was not a simple lock to understand; and if the person depressed the lock button and the two latches the wrong way, the case would lock itself with a series of interior locks that the company had to crack open.

He then asked Cobb what would happen if there was a random spur of failures. Dom pointed to the ease access to the fuses and batteries nearby and within the devices case, also adding that even if the person tending to it had some nervous breakdown, the person monitoring it would get a warning, -a sequence of beeps that would work as a continuous alarm-, a minute beforehand, giving the person enough time to change it. If it was a immediate sudden interruption, there was a manual valve under what looked like a small white button, which, when pressed triggered Somnacin infusion.

Suddenly, Arthur wondered how Cobb would be able to keep the device alive for more than 200 hours, since he did himself say he wasn't entirely knowledgeable, thus proving that Dom wasn't the inventor. Cobb shrugged and said that they'd have to contact Cobalt's Engineering. Again, the younger male was confused, and Dom added that it was C-O-B-alts, not C-O-B-B-alts, thus, not being his.

After inserting a vial of Somnacin into a synchronized injection piston, a gas-tight reciprocating pump which would accurately measure the dosage as it dispels via the IV infusion line, Cobb asked that Arthur take a seat.

With an unconvinced smile, sustaining a laugh, which didn't phase Cobb, -who no doubt faced the same moment in the same approach when he was first asked about testing the item-, Arthur took a seat in one of Dom's dinning table chairs.

Holding up the IV line, Cobb asked if he'd prefer a seat without hard or sharp edges. Arthur's brows furrowed in question, but with a slight shake of his head, he said he was fine where he was.

Arthur heard Dom mutter something about it being set for five minutes to himself.
Confused, Arthur asked, with a hint of uncertainty, if five minutes would be enough, though not shaking the fact that this was some joke, and probably something set to kill him; he didn't know what was in the vials, not entirely, just what was said to be in them.

'Afraid of needles?' The older man had smirked while holding it before him and the 'Tourist'. Furrowing his brows, seemingly insulted by such a question, Arthur shook his head once.

As if he had gotten his kicks, Cobb inserted the IV into Arthur arm, a confident smile on his features, rather giddy, which frightened Arthur slightly. He assured that five minutes was enough. Shortly after he called out someone's name, and Arthur couldn't specify its gender until a thin woman with an hour glass figure and at a near female average height walked in, seemingly lost at first, but after spotting the device, with a small smile, approached the two.

She spared Arthur a warm smile, 'Going to sleep, are we?', she had asked with a rather light comical tone as she grabbed the device and nudged it to square towards her lightly. Cobb smiled, his eyes to her the entire time, fixed, lovingly, as she approached the lights and either turned them off or dimmed them. 'Be careful, and don't overwhelm the young one too much.' She had lectured lightly, her accent more thick, one that Arthur immediately knew as French origin.

Bending over lightly, she placed a slow loving kiss on Cobb's forehead, slowly pulled away and looked into his eyes. 'Come back soon.' She whispered against his skin, her nurtured gaze never faltering. Her smile growing, she returned to the device, and, -glancing in Arthur's direction with a playful yet kind smirk-, pressed the button at the center of the machine.

Needless to say, Arthur wasn't aware that the scene had dramatically changed, and had no reason to find that he was suddenly sitting at the bar table in a tavern as something odd. It wasn't until Cobb, who sat next to him, had started talking to him, did Arthur slowly start to put two peaces together.

At first, it was rather difficult, since the yet to be Point Man had no recollection of what was going on prior to falling into the Dream State. It wasn't until things around him started to blow up or explode did he believe Dom.

At some point, he started yelling over the noise of the world around him ripping itself apart as Dom curled into himself- a question that he wouldn't remember asking in the first place after the roof collapsed onto him, but that Cobb recollected.

'Because I dunno about you, Arthur, but I don't think I'll ever get used to glass stabbing me in the face.'

Arthur later came to remember that he had asked Cobb as to why he was hiding away from the collapse while it was taking place. He later wondered why Dom saw as to why that mattered.

'Your dream.' Dom had shrugged. 'I wake when you do. So if you die before me, doesn't matter if I'm hardly wounded, I wake up too.'

Mal was sitting in an armchair in the living room nearby, flipping through her magazine before looking up to Arthur, who was hissing in pain due to the fact that he hit the edge of his chair hard when he suddenly woke. She looked to him with a distracted caught-off-guard expression, before it became another genuine warm smile. Without setting the magazine down or away, or much change in her expression or position, 'Again?', she simple asked, and he, of course, did not pass on the request.

They were given another five minutes, and this time, Arthur watched as the world turned around him; how Dom was able to build from nothing. Because he was the dreamer and the Architect, he explained that the people around him, projections of his subconscious, wouldn't attack them as he shifted the world. But that if he were to change the world abruptly in Arthur's dream, that the projections would, in fact, rip them apart. He then, with a twisted smile, as if the matter of feeling limbs being torn was a comedy, said that you felt every bit of it until it was too much that you woke.

Arthur had to be able to differentiate certain things in Dom's dream, and add what certain things needed to make it convincing. With narrowed and observant eyes, Cobb found that he considered a lot of what Arthur thought as necessary and essential in fooling a subject into thinking they were awake while extracting information whenever they'd hire one.

After what seemed like two hours of building and fixing, when they woke, Arthur was hired, and was given the titled occupation of Point Man.

However, Arthur found it too easy. The interview was too chaste, and the analytical part of it all way too simple. So he wasn't surprised when, after putting the briefcase homing the device away, he was asked to face the table, Dom and Mal sitting across from him, for some questions.

Mal who, in truth, he expected to be part of their short handed team, and not married to Cobb, sat with a pencil and notepad.

Fingers laced and placed before him on the table, Dom lightly leaned in and looked Arthur in the eye.

He informed that he'd have to ask the Point Man a few questions, since in both dream states they were in Cobb's, thus, neither of them knew what world Arthur would create if he was asked to do so. Therefore, they had to asses his mental stability if it ever came to him being asked to do such, and before jumping into his dream world.

After a short series of questions, Dom looked to Mal, who exchanged the same uncertain glance. She spared a look towards Arthur, then went back to the sheet, circling some things, then passing it to her husband.

He skimmed over it, flipped the pages from time to time, then nodded to himself.

At first, Arthur suspected that they were sending each other secret notes, but later, when he was given the papers out of all fairness as a gratuitous gesture, he realized they were keywords.

'Do you have a close relationship with friends or family?' Cobb asked.

And Arthur almost laughed at the replay of the situation, but kept a firm professional fixed gaze as he sat straight in the seat and calmly answered. 'No.'

'Does that bother you?'


'Do you prefer to be alone, or among others?'

Arthur shrugged, looking away. 'I prefer to spend my time alone from time to time. But not always.'

'So,' Cobb shrugged lightly as he looked for the words. 'Would you say you'd prefer to do things on your own or as a team?'

'Don't mind team work when essential. I'm used to doing all the work, especially when that was mostly the case in high school.'

A smile crept on Dom's face, and Arthur wondered if it was that of someone who related or understood. 'So, smartest or most driven in class?' He asked for the sake of short conversation during the assessment.

Arthur shrugged. 'Guess. Can't say I wasn't favored among my peers. Did what I had to do.'

Cobb nodded, satisfied with that answer. 'So, how would you react if someone were to criticize you?' He had looked up from Mal's notes, face dropping upon looking at Arthur's confused expression. 'We need to know if you'll be able to handle such things, you know, in case the Subject, or 'Mark' were to have hostile, aggressive or insulting subconscious projections. They might have adverse effects if you respond to their natural behaviors.'

'How does that work?'

Mal leaned in and began to explain. 'You see, while it is not your dream world, the person, or target, will fill it with people. Those people are not real, Arthur, but figments. The dreamer always sees fit that the world be littered with what is considered normal, and we are not even aware of this. But these people are not real, as I have said, but a part of the subject or dreamer. If they react to your reaction, you are that invasion. They act like white blood cells, and try to attack in order to preserve something, like- euh…' She drifted off, looking to her husband at a loss for words. 'Comment voulez-vous dire?' She asked him, French fluid, sweet.

Dom spared her an appreciative glance. 'In order to preserve their creators safety. You are seen as something dangerous, something that could harm the originator to their world.'

'So like…' His eyes drifted for an analogy. 'Religious fanatics.' Arthur joked lightly with an apathetic expression.

Dom and Mal huffed a small laugh with smile. 'Something like that.' Cobb nodded.

Wafting a hand lightly, Arthur's eyes focused on the tables expensive oak wood. 'Don't worry. Insults and anything people might consider offensive doesn't bother me.'

Cobb nodded. He considered that as something excellent, good. Afterwards, he stood. Arthur followed, and they shook hands. He later said he couldn't wait to see Arthur's dream world.

That's how the Point Man assessed that either Cobb misdiagnosed his mental status, didn't care, or didn't see it as something dangerous. Who knows? Maybe in the dream world, apathy is a blessing. Maybe Cobalt Engineering was a collection of calm individuals who weren't swayed when the Mark threw an insulting remark about their family or loved ones.

He, along with Cobb, were surprised when they both went into his Dream State.

Arthur was the dreamer now, and was given a taste of what it meant to be the Architect. Although he was raised in a rather successful family that lathered in their name and status, Arthur was never subjected to the classy realm that his mind displayed.

Dom didn't seem to find it dis-pleasurable, so when it came to the Saito Job, and the Japanese styled temple castle was designed in modern styles along with those of the past, Arthur didn't seem ashamed or embarrassed about the fact that it did seem way over the top.

Months had passed after being hired like years. Dream States always extended the actual time they'd come to know each other.

A temporary hire that worked as a 'Tourist', but who wasn't the client, just a curious young female by the name of Mel, had theorized as to why what Cobb said made sense, -in which the mind functions quickly when in a dream-. She said it was like the stage in which one hits REM sleep. In that moment, when you hit a completely paralyzed and total lucid dream stage, a normal occurrence, is the moment in which your brain shoots out images that closely resembled a woken state; lucid, realistic. That the reason as to why the eyes move rapidly was because the mind is trying to register what it was seeing. This usually happened when readers eyes would minutely twitch, as a sort of reset, or trying to understand and register what it's seeing. REM sleep was the same, only the images played rather quickly, and as a result, the eyes would try to register what it would see in response regarding the time received, along with the brains strain on trying to interpret and make reason of everything the dreamer is experiencing.
She later added that while asleep, when the dreamer hits REM sleep, it can seem to last for hours, maybe even a day or two- but as one ages, REM sleep cuts down by the hours. The PASIV might work the same way, in which a few minutes could feel like hours, manipulating dream time in regards to real time.

So whenever Cobb had to explain that while in a dream the mind functioned at a far more quicker state as to why time seemed to pass slowly, Arthur would always add that it was also the reasons as to why five minutes in the real world gave you an hour in the PASIV D. dream world.

The first time Arthur had said that, Cobb seemed impressed by the add-on, so Arthur continuously used it, like a mantra, for every new subject before or after using the device for the first time.

It didn't take long for Arthur to feel like he finally belonged, and that he began to doubt his earlier diagnosis.
As time passed, he found himself more joyous, his apathy fading as he grew more fascinated with what he did rather than for the paycheck.

He became more social, a bigger tease, more chivalrous, thought it wasn't as if he didn't dress as if though were a natural at those recently developed skills since the moment Cobb hired him.

They were a team, the best at what they did, and even better when hiring people to do the job.

It wasn't until Dom's downfall, the moment in which Mal committed suicide, -and he had to leave because of the evidence she planted which made him seem an abusive husband who killed her-, that things had dramatically changed.

Cobb was no longer considered mentally stable. But because he was the best Architect and one of the best Extractor's, -though that wasn't his hired trade-, Cobalt's couldn't risk tossing him away.
They knew he was innocent, even though he had first tested Inception on his wife- as he told the company he worked for he would before hand. They didn't blame her suicide on him, and helped him escape.

For almost three months, Arthur had heard nothing from his partner, and his work was put on hold as well.

As a Point Man, he was sought after, though only Cobb had seemed impressed with the worlds he was able to create in his dreams.
So the Extractors would either laugh or get angry at his style of design. He failed to reason with them even after he explained that it was his default set while using the PASIV, and that he was most certainly NOT their Architect.

So he, in time, stopped answering the phone with the familiar three digit starting numbers following the area code, -that was a familiar purposely set series of numbers among those who worked with the company-, and only picked up if it was from Cobalt's Engineering, always hoping it was Dom on the other end, or some news of the missing man.

After the first few weeks, he had theorized, -with a sliver of fear-, that Cobb had killed himself with grief or some unreasonable guilt. But the better part of his mind debated and reminded him that Dom had two kids that he would never leave behind, and that the man most likely berated his wife for killing herself while knowing that her children needed her.

But who was he to say? Mal was considered sane by multiple therapists hired in sworn secrecy by Cobalt's; another reason as to why they knew Dom was not responsible for her death. And she killed herself because she wanted to be with her children, to take care and raise them.

This sometimes made Arthur wonder if perhaps she was right, if maybe she was there with her children, and that he was stuck with Dom in Limbo, and that the people they hired were projections. At some point, even he himself began to wonder if he was real, and not some projection who suddenly grew a conscious in Dom's mind.

It wasn't long after, when Arthur asked Cobalt's if they could find him a psychologist, that Dom came back into his life.

He didn't know if his poor luck was at rest, or if he was in a dream, but like some hero waiting for his cue, Cobb was back, and, as if nothing had happened, got right back to work.

The scene was rather odd. Cobb just suddenly knocked on the door of Arthur's condo in California, briskly walking past him while shoving a file into the younger's chest.

As if though burning with excitement, like a giddy child facing the gates to an amusement park waiting to get in, Cobb explained the situation of a new case, briefing as if though this was something completely new to him.

Arthur considered asking Dom if he was alright, but the older man pretended like nothing had happened, though didn't fake the fact that he knew his wife was really dead.

Somewhere along the debriefing of their new case, Arthur had to interrupt and ask Dom if he really did kill his wife.

Cobb went silent, glared at him, and snidely responded, 'No, Arthur.' in a clipped tone. Though his voice was low and contained, the Point Man noted the way Dom's face became red with held rage. 'I didn't push her out a fucking window...' Arthur didn't miss how he avoided her name. Cobb eased lightly, hands in his pockets as he turned away, looking out the large window that faced the cities beautiful nightscape with what seemed like longing in his dimmed, once vibrant, blue eyes. 'But I won't deny the fact that I might've led her to it.' He added quietly.

Without resorting to any form of comfort, since Arthur knew it would either annoy or destroy his friend, he looked back down to the file, the sheets within now scattered on the low coffee table, and they got to work.

All seemed smooth, though Arthur cautious about the way he approached Cobb, since he was, in no doubts, still strongly affected by Mal's death, something completely understandable.
Though it was at times difficult to avoid or comprehend, since Arthur's apathy, which at some point in their career he thought diminished, often times returned. It made him incapable of being able to feel, in any way, affected by the situation.

Which he himself found strange, since he had associated with Mal plenty; had many dinners with the Cobb family, watched as Philipa and James, their children, grew, like a godfather, uncle, or just dear friend.

He was there, from the moment he was hired, to the day her death was witnessed by an unfortunate bystander on the sidewalk below roaming the city at night.

Their days passed as though it never happened, that was, as long as she and the topic of death was avoided.

But at times, Arthur would note the distant gaze Dom had in his weary eyes as he seemed to recall the moment in which she sat on the windows frame. At times, Arthur could almost see the way Mal's hair might've swayed with the wind in Dom's haunted blue eyes.

It wasn't until the mission was near its play that the topic was brought back. He didn't mean for it to be intentional, but there was hardly any other option- it had to be done.

It was around the time their notorious team began to form, in a hotel room suite booked for a week somewhere in Germany.

While talking to Arthur, -who stood at a white board, brown eyes scanning magnetically pinned information-, and a newly introduced Eames, -sitting in a nearby arm chair, who was to be the Forger and Thief-, Dom had mentioned that he had no luck finding an Architect.

Arthur immediately reacted, standing straight, looking away from the papers he was reading about their Mark and towards his friend.
'What was that?' Arthur's tone must have either seemed completely taken aback or insulted, because Eames looked to him as if he himself were offended. Arthur spared him a glance then focused his eyes onto Cobb, who shifted uncomfortably, his laced fingers tightening in their held clasp, hanging in between his leg as he leaned forward, weight on the forearms that pressed against his thighs.

'I can't be the Architect anymore, Arthur.' He didn't look up, and the Point Man could tell he was uncomfortable with talking about in front of a stranger and temporary asset.

Noticing this, Eames shifted and stood, the balance in his feet in a small teeter, hands in his pocket. A hand was brought up, the back of his index finger subbing against the tip of his nose lightly. 'Uh,' He looked ahead. 'I'll leave you two alone.' He said with an almost incredulous expression before striding out the room as if nothing happened.

Arthur watched the Forger walk away, then directed his confused glare to his teammate. 'Why can't you be the Architect anymore?'

Dom drew in a breath before looking up and towards the younger man. 'Cobalt's declared me incapable. Because of Mal.'

Arthur almost shrugged as if that wasn't something that would hinder the operation as long as Dom kept his mind on the mission- but Dom wasn't him, so he wouldn't take that suggestion too kindly. 'What do you mean? Mal's dead, Cobb.' Arthur reminded him, words coming out softer than he expected, which was rather a miracle.

Dom looked away, uncomfortable. 'Yeah. It took Cobalt's three months to determine I wasn't in denial, or that, like Mal, delusional. I know I'm awake. I know that she's dead. But she's in here.' He jabbed his index finger into his temple. 'She won't leave my mind.'

Arthur stared at him, his figure slumping lightly in pity. 'Dom.' He shook his head lightly.

'Don't.' Cobb put a hand up. 'I'm not here for the pity. I came back for the job, not for the sorry gazes.' He lowered his head and took a breath, steadying himself. His shaky breath was surely not a method to contain his temper, Arthur knew that it was to keep himself from crying. He looked up, cheeks a light rosy color. 'Let's just…' He glanced towards the papers below on the coffee table at his knees. 'Let's just focus on the mission.'

He then shouted for Eames to return. Not long after, the tall British man came back in, his legs slightly swinging with each step as he slowly approached, uncertain, one hand in his pocket, the other against his face, thumb idly rubbing against his parted bottom lip.
If he was trying to hide the fact that he eavesdropped, he did poorly.

After about a week, the mission had to, no questions about it, come into action. But Dom wanted to push it back because they had yet found an Architect.

Although Arthur knew Eames had heard, he still approached Cobb with a hushed tone. 'Look, just give it a try.' He beckoned with a small reassuring smile. 'You're the best man when it comes to this job. No one's as good as you. I'm sure you've got this.' He tried to reassure.

And he honestly thought his encouraging words would do the job.

But then Mal appeared as a projection, -or more like the leader among the subconscious crowd-, her snide words coming out as if though she were really there. But this wasn't Mal, with a dark expression and cruel tone. It was a sinister sadistic fake, who embodied the ability to ruin everything.

When they all woke from the collapsing dream, Eames sat up in the recliner, silencer in hand, and shot the client straight in between the eyes. A collection of nervous gasps and flutter of questions from the other two came shortly after the Forger killed the Mark, telling him how he really did just kill a man.

But Eames didn't seem phased as he said he knew they were awake. He just placed the gun right next to the PASIV device on the table, stood up, and, while staring at the dead man, dialed a number. As the dial tone sounded and Eames waited for the other end to pick up, he reminded the two men of the demanded sworn secrecy, and how Cobalt's could have them killed if the Mark found out about the existence of such technology.

No one talked about the incident afterwards, and it was never brought up as a reminder, example or dark joke against Eames.

There were small hints that started to bleed through Cobb, however, that made the fact that he was changing all the more apparent.
Like the fact that rather then referring to a death in a dream as 'suicide' if they had to wake up, but rather as just being 'killed'. He then explained that the 'killer' was either the Dream World as it closed in and warped. Or that the ones in the Dream were responsible for their death if they had to shoot themselves in the head to wake from a terrible experience. But never did they call it 'suicide' again.

It was around the time when Dom had demanded that the temporarily hired Architect's never discuss the dreamscapes layout and to never mention his wife or children prior or during a job, that Arthur started to feel a void spreading within his chest.

His apathy was returning. And it was thick, dark.

It was consuming him.

Shortly after, Dom, -on a casual stroll assessment of his team-, after entering Eames dream world, announced that it was Arthur's turn.

It was evident in the way Dom looked around with narrowed eyes that displayed questionability, -though he tried to hide it poorly-, that he knew something had changed.

The décor surrounding that Arthur so commonly displayed was gone, and instead, in some areas, looked normal, or lacked life.

Nothing was said throughout the dream, Dom being the only one with Arthur, Eames not stepping in, a courteous exchange in favor, since Arthur was not in Eames' dreamscape.

When they woke up, disgruntled, as if though waking from an actual dream, both sat up with a heavy sigh and tense joints. Cobb had looked towards Arthur, slightly rolling his shoulders to loosen the aching muscles.

The Point Man only looked ahead, with what looked like shame, slowly looking towards his friend, who wouldn't look away, as if expecting an answer from what they had just experienced.
But Arthur provided none, and instead, pulled the IV out, stood from his seat, and walked away, ignoring Dom, and Eames who sat in an armchair across the two, - and the PASIV and its set-up-, an arm prompted on an armrest, fingers across closed lips, assessing the situation silently.

That was when Arthur realized that Dom was not only a dear friend, but someone he once depending on.

The dreamscape, to him, was an obvious, sans words, statement.
It represented the dramatic change. The loss.

He had not only lost Mal, who was also a close friend, but he had lost Dom as well.

And he was sure, even today, -as he stood alone in a hotel room a year after the Fisher Job with a PASIV Device sitting alone, locked and bolted, on the mattress, Yusuf's Somnacin concoction in various vials beside it-, that Cobb never came realize just how much Arthur needed him as well.

Continues in chapter 2