Chapter 1 – Whispers and Lies
Summary: REPOST He had been cautious all of his life, but as his world slowly starts to come back to him, Arthur's mind races with who set him up. His wrist tugs on the handcuff attaching him to the rusted radiator as he watches a male figure finally come into focus and he stares at his would be betrayer in shock? Eames?
Disclaimer: Anything that is related to Inception is the property of the amazingly brilliant (read genius) Chris Nolan and sadly not me!
A/N: Okay so am reposting this story. I really want to thank everyone who liked the original version (and your feedback in giving me the confidence to repost) but I felt it was too rushed so instead of redoing every chapter am starting fresh and adding things and will be stretching things out and developing the story more and hope that's okay. It's always a risk to do this (ask any author) but hope it works. This is a new fandom for me so that's also very scary b/c I love the characters and hope I have them in character for the most part and as we remember! I loved the on-screen bickering/banter/chemistry between Arthur and Eames as I'm sure you all did. So am gonna take a deep breath and hope you like this offering.
Thanks to Kiyoshi Takeshi Raiden for the discussion. Hope I did this redo some justice.
"Welcome back darling."
The familiar husky voice registers in his throbbing brain as Arthur's eyes slowly open and try to focus on the figure crouched down before him; gun in hand. Arthur's angry dark gaze finally registers the warm blue orbs before him seconds before they narrow in contempt. Had he been able to actually get words past the damp cloth drawn tightly between his lips he could have cursed the person before him. But all he could do was helplessly tug on the cuffs keeping him trapped to the rusted radiator and wonder if it was Eames who had betrayed him or if he was there to free him?
Ever since he was a small boy Arthur had learned not to trust those around him; his birth parents teaching him the meaning of betrayal with their very first act – something he was old enough to understand and something that would stick with him for the rest of his life. Only Cobb knew the truth about his childhood; Mal eventually figuring it out and the two of the only ones on the team and that's how he was determined to keep it.
Since the moment he was abandoned by this birth parents, he had come to learn that the only person he could trust and rely on was himself; the bulk of his life being spent physically alone and emotionally detached from those around him; telling himself it was safer and less complicated. You don't love – you don't hurt. The day he met Dominic Cobb was the day his walls started to weaken a little; the charismatic extractor and this then wife Mal, readily accepting him into their tightly knit family circle with open arms. But even then he remained guarded; never allowing either Cobb or his wife to delve into him enough so that he'd feel his walls starting to crumble. No one would ever have the strength to push down his walls, peer inside and then help him rebuild them.
The job over and the team back on American soil; it was now time for some muchly needed downtime. He stands by the luggage carousel in the Los Angeles airport and glances to his right; looking at a male figure a few feet away and offering a small smirk at his glib comeback to some female passerby before looking back at the baggage turnabout, his mind starting to wander. Eames. He inwardly chuckles at their very first meeting some time ago; a first impression lasting a lifetime.
'Arthur right? Well love when you decide to pull the pole out of your ass let me know. Life's a lot funner if you can breathe normally.'
'Funner,' Eames had playfully argued back, his blue eyes seeming to sparkle brighter with the knowledge that he found someone who actually didn't bow to his old world charm and had the balls to argue back – and quite successfully at times.
It was only when Arthur found himself muttering the word 'funner' in disdain did Eames chortle and slap him on the back. 'There you go darling…now how about we go and have that drink and toast you coming back down to earth with the rest of us mere mortals.'
But it was the playful banter and brotherly protective concern that Eames displayed toward him from that moment on that for the first time in years forced him inside to feel a sense of longing, yearning even; almost allowing himself to dare to dream about what it would be like to have belonged to a proper family with an older sibling. One that actually gave a damn about your wellbeing instead of would be sympathizers preying upon your every weakness and sucking the very imaginative life out of you from a very early age.
'Come now Arthur, do tell…who stole your imagination from you.'
'I'll leave the flights of fancy to you Eames. You're just a part of the job, I make it a success,' he had boasted with an exasperated huff; something to which Eames was amused at instead of angered with. The Englishmen's calm exterior always something that infuriated Arthur but at the same time forced him to admire and rally to the challenge that Eames always delighted in presenting the younger man.
Eames, however, was also a master of manipulation and Arthur had to quickly remind himself that the forger was still dangerous to his highly protected walls and that he couldn't be trusted to peer inside for even a few brief seconds; no matter the skilled questions. That's why Arthur always made sure that Eames was never around when he went into his own personal dreamscape – it was safer for him that way.
He catches a wink from Eames and turns back, his bags finally arriving and allowing him to collect his luggage and be on his way.
"Tell me darling where are we off to in a hurry hmmm?"
"Have to return an overdue library book," Arthur replies with a sharp grin as he slings his garment bag over his shoulder and reaches for his briefcase.
"You know you're the only one that each time I ask after a job ends gives me rather interesting reply but one that's certainly a lie. Do tell? Lady friend perhaps?"
"Safe flight back to Mobassa Eames. Until next time," Arthur concludes with an endearing but somewhat strained smile; a small gesture of nervousness that is not lost on the forger's always inquisitive mind.
Eames watches Arthur's rather tense frame slowly meander through the crowds toward the exit and feels himself wanting to give in to his innate curious nature. All his life, right from a small boy he'd been fascinated with people – watching, observing, studying and finally copying. Getting their traits, mannerisms, habits, patterns and characteristics down so pat that in the dream world he could become an entirely different person or sex if he wanted and pull it off with perfection. But right from day one Arthur had always intrigued him.
'What's his story Cobb? The smartly dressed one over there. You sure you can trust him?'
'I trust him like I trust myself Eames. Arthur is the best point man there is and a close friend. Treat him well. Like a brother.'
'Oh don't worry, I intend to, when I figure him out.'
But while the others would let slip inner feelings by either emotion or word; Arthur was careful about everything. At first Eames just labeled him an anal-retentive SOB without an ounce of imagination or the ability to just let his hair down as it were and invite everyone around him into his inner sphere. Only Cobb knew personal things about Arthur but it would be like pulling teeth from a snapping dragon before the protective extractor would reveal anything. It was Arthur's life and his job to do that, Cobb had reminded him one time.
'You want to know about Arthur, you'll have to do the work Eames.'
As Eames follows Arthur at a discreet distance his mind wonders where the young man could be headed. Library my ass, he inwardly chuckled after Arthur's rather lame but deceitful comeback. But it's not until he notices Arthur heading for the domestic departures gate that his mind starts to work overtime. Domestic? He's not heading back to Paris? What else would keep the point man on American soil longer than intended? Or who? As much as he wanted to turn and head for his own flight and seemingly dull life to get back to and another routine blackjack game; inner curiosity got the best of him and without much mental resistance finds himself heading for the ticket counter and getting a ticket to…
"Your ticket to New York Sir."
"Right, thank you," Eames replies as he looks at the piece of paper in his grasp before proceeding. "Dear Arthur…what secrets are you keeping from us?"
'Hey Arthur…you daydreaming again? What's the point of having an imagination in a place like this! Dreams don't come true! You should know that. Dreams die here and if you're not careful you will to!'
Arthur's body jerks awake with the small bit of turbulence, his mind being roughly pulled from his sordid thoughts from his childhood; his hands rubbing his face as he settles back into his seat, staring out the window absently and not realizing that he was being watched.
'Live a good long life Arthur and keep out of trouble. You have sharp wits about you and a keen sense. Use those to your advantage. But when you get the chance come back and drop by for a coffee or even a hug. You know my door is always open to you. But just be careful out there. If people can take advantage of you in any way they will.'
He feels his stomach tighten as he recalls several sets of narrowed eyes watching him with disdain.
'You want to go where? Paris? Maybe you do still dream! As if you'll ever get there! As if anything that came from here would amount to anything. You remember who you really are! No one!'
He had shouted back something along the lines of a curse and had vowed in that second to make himself into something better – if not for the sole purpose of showing them up. That time was now. He now feels inside he could return to his tormented childhood, head held high and show those pesky naysayers that he did make something of himself; if they'd even be there. Besides…I dress better now, his enjoys a small silent joke, the man next to him arching a brow as Arthur nods and then looks away with a small frown; Eames watching in wonder.
Come now Arthur…what is going on love? Who are you going to see? Eames mind had pondered as he watches Arthur's facial expressions tease the plane between happiness and outright anger. It wasn't the man next to him, as irritating as he could imagine it would be stuck beside the ill-mannered sod the entire flight; but something else. What else? Maybe a someone else? Unlike Cobb, who talked about Mal at every opportunity, Arthur was always carefully guarded with talk about his past or even present relationships.
'You ever met Arthur's parents?' He had asked Cobb at one time; the extractor giving him a small nod but then quickly changing the subject into something a bit tenser and all light hearted conversation instantly faded. Course he has family…everyone has family…right?
Giving a nervous glance back, Arthur collects his things and heads for the nearest NYC yellow cab, climbs in the back and offers his destination to the waiting cabbie; Eames getting into the cab behind and saying with a small smirk "follow that cab."
'When were you back last?' Cobb had asked when they had a private moment alone back in Paris.
'A few years…a bit longer.'
'You're about due. After this. Go and see Garth. He'll want to see you again. You need to do this Arthur. For you.'
He leans his head back on the seat of the cab and allows his mind to try to get his inner anxiety to lessen.
'Mustn't be afraid dream a little bigger darling,' his lips slightly twitch upward as Eames iconic phrase dances in his weary brain. That coupled with his concern in the hotel room, for a few seconds, made him actually consider telling Eames his plans; wanting even a smart comeback to make himself feel a part of something bigger than him. Family perhaps? Why would Eames care? The job is over…he goes back to his world and I to mine – alone.
"Better this way," Arthur mumbles to himself as he straightens up. He casts a dark gaze out the window, catching his worried reflection in the clear windowpane for a few seconds and wonders how the reunion will turn out. Would his former tormentors actually be around? Surely they've moved on also? All adults move on right? But as he enters the less than reputable part of town, he tosses aside his reunion worries and wonders if he shouldn't have told Eames even in passing where he was going just for safety's sake alone. What if something were to happen? No one would ever have any idea that he was missing until it was too late.
"This the right place?" The cabbie asks with a small snort; Eames instructing his driver to stop a few car lengths back as he gets out and then heads into a shadowed alcove to watch.
"Yes. Thanks," Arthur nods as he pulls out a few bucks, pays the driver and then slowly gets out, standing on the curb in the seedy neighbourhood and looking down the street with a heavy frown.
"Hey pretty boy!" Someone calls out, Eames attention snapping back to reality as he turns back to see a rather gruff looking man slowly heading toward Arthur. "You lost?"
"No I'm found. You looking for trouble?" Arthur asks pointedly; his contrived gruff tone always making Eames somewhat amused. No matter how mad Arthur tried to come across, his slick attire and rather innocent boyish expression always made him seem a less than formidable enemy. One on one he knows Arthur could handle himself; especially since he knows he's packing – something. However, if he attracted trouble and more came to the other's aide; things could get sticky and fast. Thankfully the man takes the hint and continues on his way; Eames relieved he didn't have to reveal himself to the point man this early in the game. In fact he hopes to only gain a small bit of insider info on the elusive point man and then catch the next plane out.
"Guess not," the man shrugs as he carries on; Arthur's anxiety building as he heads toward the somewhat rundown building and disappears inside.
Eames removes himself from his rather clever hiding place and heads toward the front of the building; still remaining on the opposite side of the street – wanting to keep a careful distance incase Arthur suddenly appears and he has to explain his very out of place appearance. "What are you up to in that place?" Eames muses as he rests against a darkened door and stares at the building across the street. "Who's in there that would make you fly across the country? What are you hiding from us all Arthur?"
As soon as Arthur steps inside his mind thinks back to that night so many years ago.
'Mom, what's going on? Why are we here?'
'Your father and I have to go away and since we are both only children there is no one else you can stay with. You'll like it here.'
'You're coming back right?'
'We'll see you sooner than you think. You be on your best behavior now. We'll be back soon.'
"But you never came back," Arthur whispers as his jaw tightens and his core warms; his mind desperate to push away the tormented childhood memory and get on with the task at hand. He knocks lightly on the door and then pulls it open and steps into the familiar office.
"Arthur? My boy is that really you?"
"Garth," Arthur offers a warm hug to the older man before pulling back a few seconds later.
"Not that I'm not happy, but what brings you back here after all these years?"
"You said your door is always open and I was in town for a few days," Arthur adds with a small lie, not wanting to tip his hand entirely. "How are things?"
"A struggle as always. You look as though you've done quite well."
"Ah window dressing," Arthur replies modestly as he eases himself down into a chair at Garth's direction. "I really wanted to know how things are here? Could you use a little help?"
"You mean with physical work on this place? Ah that's just window dressing," Garth smiles as Arthur's lips twitch into a small smirk. "Could always use a hand with that. Wow…this really is a surprise. How have you been?"
"Doing well. Busy."
"What do you do for work these days?"
"Business. Boring stuff."
"Boring? Never figured you'd take a boring job. Always figured take something grand. Follow your dreams and all that."
"Dreams?" Arthur arches his brows in wonder.
"You did dream at one time. You don't anymore? I find that hard to believe."
"I know someone who might argue with you on that point," Arthur retorts with a small smirk.
"You having dreams? You're darn right I'd argue."
"I have been told that I lack imagination."
"By who? A new friend? Ah I take it by that cryptic smile it is a new friend?"
"Actually…he gets on my nerves most of the time," Arthur smirks as he leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees. "But he is under the very strict impression I don't know how to dream or if I do its mostly boring."
"You used to dream and dream big. Maybe part of you losing that was my fault," Garth offers in a quiet tone as his expression clouds and Arthur's countenance instantly sinks.
"Garth I didn't mean to imply…"
"This is hardly the place for dreams to flourish. I don't fault you at all for losing most of that. You had dreams at one time. This place changed you and for that I apologize if it affects you now."
"Dreaming isn't what it used to be," Arthur mutters under his breath. "I guess I had to grow up sometime right?"
"It's not a bad thing. But you were always very…structured," Garth answers honestly before the older man's face breaks into a small frown. "I think most of the others envied that. They were always all over the place and I can see how it's affected you for the better and them for the worse even now. But am glad you're back. You came for the fundraiser?"
"I had put in an ad i…wait isn't that why you're here?"
"No I really was just…what ad?"
"Wanted to have an open house to get some extra funding from the city. Happens in a few days so we have some work to do first. Things are tough these days and they want to shut this place down. But this is the only place some boys have you know? So if we can make it look respectable then maybe we can get a few extra bucks to help out. I'm sorry I thought you heard. But no matter, you're here now and it's great to see you. Come on…let me show you to your old room. Unless…you are staying at some fancy five star hotel?"
"I'll stay here," Arthur replies with a friendly smile as he collects his things. "Is Ricks Corner Mart still open?"
"It sure is. Why not have a walk down there after you're settled? I have a few things to tend to and then I was going to pour myself something strong to drink which should be just about the time you get back. Shall I add a glass and we'll catch up on old times?"
Eames eyes keep fixed on the rather shabby looking establishment and could only guess as to why Arthur was lingering. Surely he's not planning on staying in there? Heavens Arthur your fine taste is slipping I see, his mind muses as he dares to leave his hiding spot and head across the street, having left his suitcase carefully hidden in the shadows a few feet from where he was standing. Come on darling…what are you up to? Did you lose a bet? Hmm you know I'm the only one you should be losing a bet to.
He casually walks toward the front entrance, his mind trying to piece together reasons as to why elusive Arthur would be lingering in such a place. What do you know about Arthur's family Cobb? Ask him yourself Eames. And that was it. Always wondering but never being satisfied with just a few musings, mostly of his own doing and Arthur of course never telling anything. He had at one point considered drugging him and entering his mind but didn't want to betray his trust and so kept pushing. Each time Arthur would make up an excuse and the conversation would drop. Eames watches two rather surly looking men near the building and falls back; ducking into a closed store's entranceway and slipping out of sight but well within earshot only a few meters away.
The conversation between the two men is chipped at best, each of them offering only short answers, mostly about some ad in the paper, a fundraiser and if anyone one from the good old days would be back and if anyone they liked or hated.
But as soon as he hears the conversation come to a sudden stop, his curiosity once again seizes him and he dares to peer around the corner from his hiding place and watch as a familiar face steps into view; his brow instantly furrowing. Hmm no suitcase. Is he really staying there? Arthur, love what's going on? But he wouldn't have to wait too much longer for his answer. And the answer? Would surprise even him.
"Well well well. Look who came back. Welcome home Arthur."
A/N: Thoughts? Yes I did amend this from the original (added some bits and took some away to work on building the backstory). I always wondered at the supposed "lack" of Arthur's imagination so ran with this idea and built on it. So…would love your thoughts darlings haha (oh damn when Tom Hardy says it I always melted *sigh*) on this start. Who betrays Arthur? How will Eames play a part? Will Arthur actually open up to Eames and what danger is waiting for both? Please do review before you go and thanks so much!