Fall Apart Today

Chapter 3

Cobb slowly walked out of his office unable to stop the smile sliding onto his face at the sound of his children's laughter filtering in from down the hall. Even after so many years he couldn't believe he was back. He could still recall the desperation, the hopelessness when he'd been treading the globe for a way to get back to them. With Arthur of course. Every step of the way the young man had been by his side, carefully taking every step he had, pushing him back into the right direction when he'd needed it, pushing him further or holding him back when it was right. The ex-extractor wondered where he'd be had it not been for his best friend. What if Arthur hadn't been there? A large part of him doubted if he would have been able to see his children's faces again quite so soon. He owed it all to the man.

Dom pushed the back door open walking out onto the decking allowing the pleasant air to swirl around him and leant on the rusting railing sighing quietly, the sound getting lost in the wind. His thoughts wandered to the pair that were somewhere downtown holed up in a dodgy hotel room infiltrating someone's mind. He wondered how Arthur was fairing. He'd spoken to Eames the previous night who'd informed him in a grave voice that the extractor wouldn't stop badgering them about 'the architect that had always worked with them before'. Dom had winced even though he knew that the question would have come up eventually, if it hadn't already. Arthur and Ariadne had been widely known, almost always working alongside each other – and Eames, and often Yusuf, and almost never walking away without success. Then things had stopped suddenly, they'd disappeared, or so it seemed, and at the same exact time. It was without difficulty for the dreaming world to put it down as the young pair desiring to have a life together. While the two may have been the epitome of professionalism through every job there was no mistaking their feelings. That and Eames liked to talk. And while Arthur mainly kept to himself –with few exceptions Ariadne did not. She made friends easily in the business, more than she had acquaintances – heeding nothing of Arthur and Eames' warnings of the more unsavoury characters of extraction - and because of it many had witnessed the wedding that had been hers and Arthurs. And so it was therefore a subject of great interest when Arthur had suddenly appeared once again, working, and yet there was no sign of Ariadne. And no answers.

He'd thought back on Eames' next statement, another plea for Cobb to try once more to have Arthur stop working. It was an empty question, as both Dom and Eames knew even as it spilled from the latters lips. They'd tried, both of them, along with Yusuf, his wife and Miles to dissuade Arthur to stop working. Dom knew he shouldn't have been – but who was he to judge, never the less say anything. But he had been there through everything that had taken place. He had watched the team, his family, fall and crumble and then build themselves back up only for them to be struck down all over again. They had been through hell over the last twelve months and now they were left broken and empty. And yet Arthur went back to work – back to what he knew, and Dom had more than a few reasons as to why his best friend had done so even if others couldn't understand. But the point man had returned, and he was still the best. But he was also different. Nothing was the same.

His thoughts were silenced as a small hand slid into his own and a moment later he scooped his daughter up from the ground accepting the abnormally large cookie that she held in her hand for him.

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Eames' fist made contact with the torn bag as it swung back towards him. He felt a wave of adrenaline rush over him as he sent a powerful strike into it. He could feel the sweat running down his bare back and could only vaguely see the others scattered around the old Arthur had led them to the day before. His head was pulsing loudly and painfully but he couldn't stop, he needed to get the stress out, the worry, the anger and anxiousness. With another strike he heard the bag tear slightly more at the top where it was joined to the ceiling. He'd been all too glad when he'd spied it on arrival that morning. Having consumed too much coffee, studying their latest mark overnight, he'd felt jittery enough – too much energy making him tense all morning. Their extractor had passed by him once asking him where he was up to with the mark and Eames had certainly not missed the subtle 'get the hell back to work' but paid it no notice, quickly dismissing him with a bunch of things about their mark he'd learned the night before. After he'd snapped at their architect who'd perched on a chair several hours later to make small chat nobody bothered him – realising his foul mood. It was several hours later though when the sound of glass shattering on the concrete floor bounced off the walls did he stop and turn – and internally curse. Their extractor, Antonio, had called his name, but his focus had already been on the source. His stomach had plummeted as panic began to take over. He somehow forced his legs to move, though they felt like lead, and crossed the warehouse until he stood only metres from the point man.

He stood glass shards littering the floor around his feet with his phone clenched in one hand. He swayed for a moment and his other hand clenched around the edge of his desk, Eames froze in his step, for some reason not wanting to get closer. But it was Arthur's expression that sent a chilling jolt down his spine. But all of it had nothing on the words that were finally choked from Arthur's throat.

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Dominic Cobb sighed for the umpteenth time that afternoon as he turned the paper over flipping the pencil between his fingers. The architect had, after several years, begun to do some freelance work and had slowly made a name for himself. Along with Ariadne of course, who worked right beside him – within their private practice. They'd quickly discovered how smoothly they worked with each other and it was only her relentless pushing that the young architect strictly referred to as 'encouragement' in the beginning that had him picking up the sketch book once more. He had a lot to thank the woman for.

Yet like everything else around, business had suffered badly. Her absence caused great changes within the business and Dom supposed he hadn't really been focused on it either. But he also knew that the woman had never wanted to see it fail. They'd built incredible things, real things. Real, touchable building that people lived, studied and worked in. Hell they'd built building that people celebrate in and study in. And Dom smiled fondly recalling her excitement that bloomed with every project that came to life. She'd make them have lunch somewhere close by every day and visit the site her satisfied grin indestructible. Well – at least until it hadn't been.

He'd hired other architects to cover work when she'd stopped working – and he practically had as well. When everything fell apart. Yet they'd lost plenty of work. When he'd run out of things to do to help, to bring any sort of comfort and hope to Arthur and Ariadne. When he'd run out of practical things to do he'd gone back. Dived into his work – their work and vowed to keep it alive. For her. And yet he'd do anything and more if everything could just go back to the way it had been.

As the papers, scrunched up, discarded and thrown away began to pile up around him, he grew more and more frustrated. Saved, however, by his phone letting out a shrill ring, he leant back in his chair fishing the object from his pocket before raising it to his ear. He froze when his eyes caught the name on the screen and his chest tightened. He knew he shouldn't be ringing during the day. He knew it meant something.

Dom could feel the panic building inside of him and he paused not wanting to hear the voice on the other end of the phone. Not wanting to hear anything come from the forger because he was expecting the worst. They all were. And after this long no one could blame him, could blame anyone. They had tried to keep their hope alive, to keep positive but even Ariadne had always been their undying source of optimism who often complained of the cynicism and scepticism she was surrounded with. Knowing the phone would stop ringing shortly he jammed his shaking thumb onto the buttons and raised it to his hear his heart thundering,

"Eames" there was heavy silence for a moment before the man cleared his throat to speak.

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Arthur flipped through the pages and photographs quickly. His eyes flickered over the pages with great speed, searching for something he'd missed, something he'd not yet put together. Everything was set, he knew it and apparently Eames who was wasting time beating the pulp out of the bag in the corner knew it too. It was only several hours to the job though and he wanted to make certain that it would run smoothly he couldn't afford unexpected right now. He began to run his level through his mind again remembering each feature and grimaced remembering the suggestions he'd made to the large room. They were undoubtedly Ariadne and he wished he'd kept his mouth shut. The architect had been delighted though – thanking him before making the changes. Ariadne had definitely rubbed off on him and he knew far more about architecture of a dream that he needed to.

The point man ran a shaky hand over his head as he forced his shoulders to relax forcing his thoughts away from her. Not that it was really possible. She owned his thoughts each and every minute. Arthur's eyes slid closed allowing the darkness to soothe his aching head and pulsing temples. But not a moment later he straightened once again and pulled another folder towards him harshly flicking it open. Once he'd closed the back cover he moved to the next and then the next. He couldn't stop, when he stopped he thought and when he thought he felt. And he didn't want to feel the feeling that thinking brought on. He couldn't afford to feel, he was sick of feeling like this, so he didn't – which meant he couldn't' think, which meant he couldn't stop. So he continued siphoning through papers for something he'd missed, something that he knew, in some deep, logical part of his mind that he would never find. But he didn't stop.

Fifteen minutes later though an unsettling feeling built and built until his limbed ached and trembled slightly and Arthur took a shuddering breath pushing the pages away. He let his pen drop onto the wood before he turned and stalked form the room to the toilets. The door closed loudly behind him but he didn't care as he shook his hands that had begun to tingle slightly. He racked his brain for something to think of, but nothing worked, he could only see her, them. He fumbled slightly as he reached for his die at the bottom of his pocket. He rolled it for the forth time a minute later his eyes not leaving the small dots that stared up at him. He pulled a glass that sat on the shelf above the sink and filled it with water taking a long sip. Several minutes later he moved from the room glass in hand and cursed himself as he almost jumped when his phone rang from his pocket and a shoot of panic erupted with him as it did every time his phone received a call. When he glanced at the screen he stopped mid-step. Noise was muted and everything was blurred – everything except the familiar number that was on his phones screen. His whole body turned to ice for a moment and in the next second a wave of powerful nausea consumed his body. Somehow he managed to raise the phone to his ear.

"Matthew Lane" he said and his steady voice surprised him. When the familiar woman on the other end of the phone spoke he felt all the blood drain from his face. Once he'd hung up he saw the ground move beneath him. It wasn't until two familiar feet made their way into his vision that he seemed to snap out of it. He reached for the desk to steady himself and hardly saw Eames until the man took another step towards him.

"Arthur" he couldn't focus though, all he could do was try and force himself to breathe. He had been waiting for this day for months and months on end. It had been eating away at him, slowly destroying him and finally it was here.

"Arthur" Eames' voice was louder this time and in response Arthur's gaze snapped up to his friends' concerned face,

"What happened?" he asked and this time Arthur could hear the panic in the forgers voice. He knew what he must be thinking, what must have been running through his head. He knew that Eames was thinking that it was all over. After all this time it had happened. But it hadn't and Arthur only just heard his own voice as he answered the forger,

"Ariadne's awake"

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