Why I Cry
Synopsis: "But you don't owe him anymore," Ariadne argues, tears running down her face. "Gods, Arthur, you don't owe anyone anything anymore." But Arthur thinks, no, because to be honest, he's had this burden for so long he just doesn't know what he'll do without it anymore.
Notes: Hmm. I am very late to this fandom. Please be kind to me. Thank you for taking the time to read this.
Disclaimer: I do not own Inception. Any similarities in events or characters living or dead are entirely coincidental.
Why I cry
"'Not all those who wander are lost,' " Arthur is told, and he can't help but laugh, staring up at the ceiling in the dark.
"Are you quoting Tolkien at me?" he asks, because it's the obvious thing to do, to reply with what you know when you're subtly being tested.
"Well, don't," Arthur replies, moving his hands across the bed covers. "I'm hanging up now."
"Mm. If you want to."
"Bye," Arthur says, and he does just that, eyes never leaving the ceiling.
Later, he'll be staring up at the ceiling again, phone in hand, but nobody has called him to quote something at him. He doesn't think anybody ever will again.
He turns over in his bed, feeling the sheets under him, and doesn't sleep.
He doesn't like the way Ariadne looks at him, with something like pity and sadness rolled into one. He doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for him. There's no point to that.
"Jesus, Arthur, when was the last time you slept?" she asked him, watching him pace around the living room, never still enough. The air crackles with tension and weariness as rain splatters the window.
"Why are you here?" he asks back instead, not caring that he is answering a question with a question.
"Because I—" she struggles to explain. "God damn it, Arthur, do I really have to explain myself? You know why I'm here!"
"Then you should also know that you shouldn't be," Arthur replies matter-of-factly, hands tucked into his pockets. "There's nothing for you here, Ari, go back."
"To where?" she whispers, looking like so might cry. Arthur's afraid she might. "There's nothing for me in the real world, Arthur, and you know it. Just like there wasn't anything for you. That's why you're here in the first place."
"You're looking too deeply into this," he warns, and Ariadne stands up.
"But you don't owe him anymore," Ariadne argued, tears running down her face. "Gods, Arthur, you don't owe anyone anything anymore."
"Have you ever been a lover?" Arthur asks her seriously. "Have you ever been half of a whole?"
She picks up his coffee table with surprising strength and throws it at him; Arthur dodges and it crashes with a horrible splintering noise onto the ground.
"Don't you quote Mal at me!" she screams at him, wiping at her eyes.
"I didn't quote Mal," Arthur interjects. "Mal learned that line from me."
Ariadne leaves, sobbing, and Arthur lets her go, standing in the middle of the room, finding it hard to breathe, because he may have been the one to tell Mal that, but someone else had told that phrase to him first. Someone else from a half-remembered dream; but Arthur doesn't think about that.
He kills a man in a wet, rain-soaked alleyway. He's thick and brutish and reminds Arthur of someone he ought to remember, but he simply holsters his gun and walks away. It's a graceless kill with far too much struggle beforehand. Arthur's lip is bleeding and his ribs ache from the punches donned onto his torso. But the man is dead, ugly in his death, and Arthur decides not to care.
Cobb is standing around the corner when he makes it around the block.
"You didn't have to kill him, Arthur," he says, eyes hollow like the day of Mal's funeral.
"But I wanted to," Arthur argues back.
"But you didn't have to," Cobb points out, and falls into step with him as the two make it down the street. "Arthur, just because—"
"You know what?" Arthur cuts in, rounding around so that he was blocking Cobb's path. "Talk to me when shades of your dead wife aren't trying to take my knee out with her gun."
He walks the opposite way now, listening to Cobb as he hollers down the sidewalk, "That was one time, Arthur! Christ!"
Arthur laughs at that, short, like a bark. His hands are jammed into his pockets where it's not any warmer and he thinks that Cobb is such a liar, like himself, like him, and that liars ought to stay quiet more often than not.
He walks down the street and sees another man, similar to the one he just killed.
Similar to somebody else that flickers in Arthur's memory.
He takes his gun out, and crosses the street again with the safety off.
"I call you darling because you're dear to me, of course. Why else would I say it?"
"I don't know," Arthur shrugs, peeling an apple. "To piss me off, I guess?"
"Arthur," and it's warm and low, homely and comforting. "Arthur. I'd never want you mad at me."
"Yet you infuriate me every day, you fool," Arthur retorts, but it's fond, fond banter, something they go through daily to keep their life moving.
"I'm sorry, baby, I don't mean it, really."
"If you're really sorry, cut the carrots," Arthur snorts, throwing the vegetable over. "This salad isn't going to make itself, you know."
"You're absolutely right, dear."
Arthur sits inside this apartment, and the kitchen is cold and unfriendly. The shadows leap out at him and he thinks he can hear voices, whispering soft nothings to him, but he brushes them away.
There is nothing in this room.
"Mon cher," Mal says, when he opens his eyes. She's sitting on the edge of his bed with a small, sad smile on her face. "How you've changed."
"Go away," Arthur mutters, turning over to the empty side of his mattress. "I still haven't forgiven you for shooting me in the knee."
"I know," Mal replies, smoothing out his wrinkled blanket. "Dom told me. I'm sorry, Arthur dear, it wasn't me when that happened."
"Yeah, Cobb happened, that's what," Arthur says, watching the rain fall outside his window. His chest aches, and his stomach hurts. Sometimes, he thinks his lungs are failing.
Mal pauses, still as a statue.
"You used to call him Dom, Arthur."
"He used to be my friend," Arthur retorts. "He's put me through enough shit. He's Cobb to me."
"If you say so," Mal sighs sadly, and they lapse into silence once more. Then, Mal gets up and withdraws a gun from her jacket, shooting him through the knee. Arthur lets out a noise like a wounded animal and throws the lamp at her. Mal trips and falls onto the ground, swearing in French. Arthur digs his Glock out from under his pillow and shoots her through the head.
For another hour he lies prone on his bed, panting through the pain as Mal's corpse remains still on the ground, steadily bleeding out.
His knee takes about a month to heal. Even after, he limps throughout the apartment, ordering take out every day and rarely moving away from his bed.
Outside, the rain continues to fall a little faster.
"Nothing," Arthur says, pressing the heels of his palm into his face. "Nothing, just a really bad dream."
"Oh, darling, you dreamed? C'mere, it's okay."
"I'm not a child. I don't need to be coddled."
Their bedroom is dark save for the light glowing from where the phones are charging on the table next to a pile of papers and a laptop. Warm arms snake around Arthur's middle and pull him close to what should be a thick, brutish body, but to Arthur it's just descriptive words to hide what a secretly soft-hearted romantic within.
"It's okay to ask for help sometimes, you know,"
"Yeah, but I don't need help," Arthur grumbles, tucking his head into the warmth. "It's nothing."
"Don't say that. You will always be something."
Arthur opens his eyes, sweat beading his forehead, chest clenching painfully at the remains of the nightmare that just tormented him. He doesn't even remember what he dreamed anymore. The bed is cold, and nobody tells him he's worth something anymore.
Nobody talks at all.
When he wakes up again, Ariadne and Cobb are hovering over him, worried and hesitant. They look different from the last time Arthur remembers; dark circles under their eyes, hair frazzled with a harried expression on their faces. Both of them are soaking wet.
"Did you two break into my apartment?" Arthur asks, sitting up groggily. His leg twinges in an echo of pain.
"Your door's not locked," Ariadne whispers, and her voice is thick, emotional, but it's not emotional in the same way she was the last time she visited him and threw his coffee table. Ariadne's voice sounds firmer, steadier…real. Cobb also looks sharper, like Arthur's been seeing him through bleary eyes before. It's disconcerting.
"Oh," Arthur says, gingerly moving himself out of bed. Cobb's eyes zero in on his leg instantly.
"Were you shot?"
"Your lovely wife did it," Arthur snaps. "Move, please."
"Arthur," he says instead, sounding ill and worn-down. "Arthur, what are you doing?"
"Getting out of bed, that's what," Arthur hisses. "What does it look like I'm doing?"
"Arthur," Ariadne half-pleads. "Arthur, do you even know where you are?"
There's silence in the room.
"Yes," Arthur replies. "And no, I'm not going anywhere other than here."
"Arthur," Ariadne says, and she's starting to sound a little hysterical. "Arthur, you're in fucking limbo, and you want to stay?"
"Yes," he replies, cold and halting, limping his way to his bedroom door. "Why are you here, anyway?"
"You're at the hospital in the real world," Cobb whispers. "We got you on life support, Arthur. You were dying in your own house when we found you."
"Good," Arthur replies savagely. Then, he stops and runs Cobb's words over in his head. "Wait, why am I on life support?"
"We put you there—" Ariadne starts to say, but Cobb interrupts.
"Are you trying to kill yourself?" Cobb demands. "Because if you wanted to, Arthur, there are far more efficient ways to do so than slowly torturing yourself into insanity with your memories." He speaks like a man who's already killed himself as opposed to a man who simply watched someone perform the act, but Arthur cuts him a bit of slack; he's long since suspected that Dom had died and become a ghost of his real self since Mal.
"Go away," he says instead, waving Ariadne out of the way as he hobbles into the kitchen. They follow him out like uncertain children. It's nearly laughable.
"Arthur," Ariadne pleads quietly. "Come back. Please. You don't need to do this."
"You know what you told me the last time you came?" Arthur asks, picking up a kitchen knife and toying with its sharp edge. Cobb's face goes unnaturally white.
"What? Arthur, I've never been here before," Ariadne says, looking startled. "We've never been here before—this is our first time talking to you in limbo." Arthur blinks.
"Okay, then all of you might've been a projection or something, whatever. The point is, you told me I didn't owe anyone anything anymore. But you're wrong. I can't just—drop this, this fucking emotional baggage. It's impossible."
"Arthur, I never said that," Ariadne whispers, tearful. "You said that, through my projection. You want to believe that you don't owe anybody anything. You're in denial, but it's not going to get any better when you hide in limbo. Come back to reality. You have to stop feeding yourself all these lines."
Arthur turns the handle of the knife over, the edge glinting in the dull light of the kitchen bulb. Thinks it over, slowly, unnecessarily.
"No," he replies, and Cobb lunges at him, sending both of them sprawling on the ground. Ariadne swears and screams for them to stop, but Arthur lashes out, striking Cobb in the face before he's shoved mercilessly into the ground, face-first, impaired because of his bad leg. Fucking Mal. Fucking Cobb. Fuck everything.
"You need to see reason, Arthur," Cobb pants, struggling to keep his grip on Arthur while he thrashes and squirms madly. "You can't stay here! I made the mistake of staying! You can't do it either!"
Arthur's hand closes tight on the fallen knife, and he stabs blindly backwards. Cobb cries out in pain and releases him, and Arthur scrambles to the wall, watching as Cobb staggers back to Ariadne, holding the wound on his forearm, were the knife is protruding from. It's a deep stab. There's blood trailing onto the ground.
"Arthur," Cobb gasps, sliding into a sitting position on the floor. "Arthur, please."
"I'm not coming back," Arthur says firmly, hands shaking a little. "I'm not."
"For god's sake, Arthur, it wasn't your fault!" Ariadne screams, supporting Cobb. "You have to stop blaming yourself!"
Arthur's heart stammers in a panic—this conversation was moving rapidly into unwelcome territory for him. "Stop—"
"Yes, you shot the bullet, but you can't just shoulder the blame! It was an accident! You didn't mean it! You didn't kill Ea—"
"ENOUGH!" Arthur bellowed, and his voice shakes the small space, rattling the walls, scaring Ariadne into silence. There's a ringing noise in the room. Arthur breathes heavily like he'd just run a mile, shoulders shaking. There's tears running down his face, and he adamantly ignores them. Outside, the rain has turned in to hurricane-weather.
"Don't say his name. You can't say his name."
Ariadne doesn't reply. Cobb looks desperate. Arthur closes his eyes and whispers, "You need to go. Right now. Leave me alone and don't ever come back."
"Never," Cobb grits out.
"We're your friends, Arthur, we won't do this to you," Ariadne begs. "Please just come back, please."
"I'm going to kick you out," Arthur warns.
"We won't leave you," Cobb says hurriedly. Arthur closes his eyes.
"Don't—" Ariadne starts to shout, and the entire building explodes.
She opens her eyes. Dom is hovering over her, looking ten years older, if that was even possible.
"Ariadne?" he asks, voice scratchy, offering her a hand. Ariadne sits up slowly, her limbs weak and shaky. It feels like her very bones had just been disintegrated by the intense heat.
"What did he do?" she asks quietly. Dom runs a hand through his straggly hair.
"Blew up the building. We all got kicked out of his dream."
Ariadne winces, glancing over at Arthur's still body lying on the bed. The dark-haired man looked tame, calm, but nothing but a bag of skin and bones. He was literally a skeleton. The hospital room was unnaturally quiet. Ariadne freezes.
"Dom? Where's the life support?"
Dom looks away. There are tears in his eyes.
Ariadne scrambles to her feet and staggers over to Arthur, grabbing his thin wrist. There is no pulse.
"What the fuck," she stammers, whirling around to face Dom. "What is he—what's happened to Arthur? Why isn't he awake? He would've kicked himself awake to, Dom, why isn't—why isn't Arthur—why is he—?"
"I'm sorry," Dom cuts in, choking on his own words. "Ari, I'm sorry, but he's not going to wake up."
The room seems to narrow down onto the three of them, blindingly bright and painful to look at. Ariadne lets Arthur's hand drop back onto the creaseless sheets. He falls like a puppet without strings, and it feels so wrong; the Point Man who builds Penrose steps like a child stacks Legos, bypasses through federal firewalls like they're don't exist, and makes headshots like it's easy as breathing lying stiller than a statue, colder than a block of ice, and a lifeless corpse—
"What do we do?" Ariadne whispers, tears running down her face.
"We go, now," Dom replies, picking up the PASIV. "We can't stay."
For a moment, Ariadne can't make her legs move. "But he didn't do it," she whispers. "Arthur didn't kill him. It was only an accident, we were being chased and Arthur was trying to get that other asshole—it's not like meant to shoot him. Why would he trap himself in limbo and live in his guilt—?"
Dom straightens, a deadened look in his eyes. "Maybe," he says huskily, "It's the knowledge that you couldn't save them anyway that will ruin you."
Ariadne turns, her face ashen, but Dom's already slipping out of the hospital room, barely casting a shadow on the slippery tiled-ground. She scrambled to keep up with the Extractor, her mind whirling.
You couldn't save them anyway.
Am I going to have to live with this feeling too? Ariadne thinks, Arthur's unnaturally still body burned into her memory.
She picks up the pace.
Arthur sits at the kitchen table, turning over the paper for the continuation of the column he was reading. A mug of hot coffee cools on the surface, leaving tendrils of wispy steam spiraling into the air before vanishing into nothing. Sunlight pours through the ceiling-to-floor windows, warm and bright. The traffic snakes along like ants in the street below, and the television is delivering some nature program in a quiet murmur. The radio is playing Louis Armstrong's What a wonderful world.
There's a jingle of keys at the door, and a moment later, it opens. Arthur looks up, smiling.
"You're late," he says, folding the newspaper up.
"Sorry, darling, but traffic was a right pain in the arse. Be a doll and help me with these groceries in, will you?"
"This is getting way too domestic," Arthur says, deadpan, but he moves across the foyer anyway to help pick up the plastic bags.
"You love it domestic, dear."
"No, I don't," Arthur replies, straightening. "But only with you, you fool."
A smile, and it makes Arthur's stomach melt.
"Thank you, Arthur,"
"Come here, you idiot," Arthur mutters fondly, reaching up to wrap his arms around the broad shoulders, leaning into the instant embrace, seeking out soft lips. They kiss in the doorway, bathed by the mid-morning sunbeam, and everything just seems to stand still for a moment.
And I think to myself…what a wonderful world.
Yes, I think to myself…what a wonderful world.
(What did I just write?) Thank you for taking the time to read!