croik: (Arthur's tripping)
[personal profile] croik
Fandom: Inception
Title: There Are No Elephants In This Room, Only In Your Head
Chapter: 2 (2,700 words) (Follows All You Think About Is Elephants. It's Pathetic.
Rating: NC-17
Pairings/Characters: Arthur/Eames, Arthur/Robert, Eames/Robert, Arthur/Projections, the rest of the team appears.
Warnings: Violence, graphic sex, underage drinking and sex, group sex, dub-con, non-con, attempted suicide, other possibly triggering content.
Disclaimer: These characters and setting do not belong to me and are being used without permission but for no profit
Summary: Of all the things Arthur thought might tear him and Eames apart, he never expected it to be Robert Fischer. Canonverse AU that takes place mid-movie.
Notes: C&C Welcome and appreciated. Many thanks and much love to [livejournal.com profile] sneaqui for being my beta <3

This fic is going to be updated kind of slowly, since I'm working on my Bangs (and holiday challenges are coming up, eeeeeek), but I am dedicated to finishing! Because [livejournal.com profile] ae_match is over, I've also decided to expand this fic past my original concept, so I've added to the warning list. Apologies if that keeps you from being able to continue.




The week preparing for the inception was the strangest of Arthur's life.

They talked about Robert Fischer every day, all the time. They analyzed every aspect of his life, speculated on his eating habits and art preferences, and discussed at length the intricacies of his relationship with his father. Arthur tried hard to let the talk flow through him, taking it in but not allowing any emotion or uncertainty to take hold. He spent every day on edge and covered it as best he could with a variety of defense mechanisms and countermeasures. His work ethic was his greatest ally as were logic and sarcasm. Ariadne was a brilliant distraction, forcing his mind into order whenever he was called upon to teach her. Having their client, Saito, constantly in attendance helped to keep him from dwelling on personal worries.

But then there was Eames. Eames led most of the mark-specific planning sessions, relating everything he had learned in Sydney in addition to his own instinctual insights. He practically beamed whenever he talked about their lovely victim. And then, just when Arthur's stomach was in knots and he was sure he couldn't take another moment, Eames would smile at him and make everything normal again. They would banter and flirt and snip like they always did, and Arthur would relax and think, I can do this.

They snuck into each other's rooms every night. They fucked in the beds and in the showers and against the walls, sometimes hard and frantic, sometimes slow. Sometimes Eames would crush Arthur beneath his weight, groaning and beastly; sometimes he would drop to his knees and worship Arthur like a king. It left Arthur exhausted, but he couldn't get enough of it. The dark hours passed in a blur of scraping bodies and unconsciousness rather than sleep, giving Arthur no time to wonder if he should question Eames' uncommon vivacity. He wanted it that way.

"I've tried it once before, you know," Eames confessed one night, just as Arthur was pulling his pants back on to return to his own room. "A few years back. It didn't take."

Arthur looked back. "Why not?"

Eames was still in bed, naked, his fingertips moving idly back and forth across his stomach. "It doesn't matter," he said. He smiled at the ceiling. "But it's going to work this time, I just know it. And it's going to be the best thing that ever happened to him."

Arthur pulled on his shirt but didn't bother buttoning it. He stopped next to the bed. "You're really sure of that, aren't you."

"Yeah." Eames' eyes pinched at their corners, just enough to keep his secrets from spilling out of them. "It'll be brilliant."

Arthur went back to his room, and for the first time in years, he dreamed without a needle in his arm. He dreamt that he was falling, cold New York pavement rushing up to meet him, but when he should have smashed into blood, he instead splashed through to the other side. The world reversed and he was falling into the sky, into the moon. Everything grew cold and silent, and hands reached out of the abyss, dragging him deeper into infinity. Just when his body began to cave in, crushed by the emptiness of space, he awoke and couldn't remember for several minutes who he was.

Arthur was exhausted, so exhausted that when Yusuf brought him coffee and asked, "How're you holding up?" his response was, "I've slept with Robert Fischer."

Yusuf blinked at him, the coffee mug still in his hand, frozen. After a moment's confusion he glanced around as if to see if someone else had heard, but they were alone in their corner of the workroom. "Excuse me?" he said.

"I've slept with Robert Fischer," Arthur said again. He already regretted saying it, but he was committed, and he met Yusuf's confused stare with determination. "I had to tell someone, and it couldn't be Cobb or Saito or Ariadne or Eames, so it had to be you." He leaned back in his chair. "And now you know."

"I see..." Yusuf's eyebrows perked as he finally gave Arthur his coffee. "Well. That explains the face you made when we speculated on his perpetual bachelor status."

Arthur frowned into his mug. "You saw that?"

Yusuf smirked knowingly, but as soon as he settled into the chair next to Arthur's, he quickly sobered. "In all seriousness, Arthur, you ought to tell Cobb. If you had a relationship with the subject, it's going to--"

"It wasn't a relationship," Arthur interrupted. "We slept together, that's all. And no one is telling Cobb." He glared. "Right?"

Yusuf started to smirk again. "That depends on how generous you are with--"

"Yusuf."

"All right, yes, I won't tell Cobb." Yusuf sipped his coffee. "Only because you were kind enough to let me experiment on you the other day. But still, you have to expect that it's going to affect the job. What if he recognizes you?"

Arthur scoffed. It helped him cover the lump threatening to tighten in his throat. "He won't recognize me, and even if he does, you know that won't matter down there. His subconscious will explain me away, just like it will Saito. I just...had to say it." He had hoped that it would help, that he would feel a sense of relief, but the skeptical look Yusuf was fixing him with only turned his stomach further. "I can't back out now," he went on as if he could convince them both. "The job's already planned. Cobb needs me."

"He needs a dreamer for level two, yes," said Yusuf. "But this is a delicate operation, as you know. That dream must remain stable." He scratched his chin thoughtfully. "It wouldn't be difficult to bring in another extractor and teach them that layout."

"Another extractor? Like who?" Arthur leaned forward and ticked the names off on his fingers. "Bone refuses to work with Cobb. Kikuchi refuses to work with Eames. Wallace and Grace are off grid, and last I heard, Eleanor was in prison. I've already thought about this, believe me--there are no extractors good enough to trust with this."

Yusuf lifted his mug. "What about Tung?"

Arthur heaved a sigh in exasperation. "Yes, that's just great. I'm going to hand over the mark I had a relationship with to a sociopath who just happens to be Eames' ex. Have you even been following this conversation?"

"You said it wasn't--"

"I'm sleeping with Eames," Arthur blurted out. "So, no, I am not handing my seat in this job over to Tung. Or anyone else. All right?" He gulped down his coffee.

Yusuf shot him another look. "Ahh, that explains quite a bit more."

"I shouldn't have said anything," Arthur muttered, scrubbing his face. "Even Ariadne would have been better. Just promise me you won't--"

He trailed off when he realized that Yusuf was staring past him, his head quivering in a strictly-contained gesture of Stop, stop talking, right now. Arthur swallowed his dread and turned, and he just managed to keep his poker face despite Saito watching them. He even smirked. "Ah, Mr. Saito. Can we help you?"

Saito buttoned his shirt cuffs. "Arthur," he said, his tone oozing amusement. "Can you spare a moment?"

"Of course." Arthur glanced to Yusuf, who was burying his face in his coffee mug, and with a gulp, he stood. When Saito motioned for them to step to the side, he had no choice but to follow. You just had to say something, he thought, fists clenched in his pockets. Now you're going to get thrown off the job, and Cobb will have no choice but to ask Tung, and oh God, Eames will kill you for that, all because you had to open your mouth and--

"I'd like you to join me for dinner tonight," Saito said.

Arthur stared. It was his job to plan for contingencies, but he had nothing. "What?"

"Dinner," Saito repeated with an almost sympathetic smile. "Once we're finished here tonight. My driver will take us at seven."

"All right..." Arthur started to say, but by then Saito was already striding off.

*


Saito's driver picked them up promptly at seven and deposited them outside an extremely posh Parisian restaurant. Arthur was well-dressed for the occasion but failed in all other avenues of preparation. For once, he was completely at a loss with no idea of Saito's intentions. Fortunately, Saito did not keep him waiting long; he ordered for them both, and as soon as they had their wine, he stated his business.

"I know who you are," he said, but Arthur didn't believe him until he added, "I knew your mother, Allison."

At least it wasn't the worst thing Saito could have said. Arthur lifted an eyebrow as he swirled the wine around his glass. "I hope you're not about to give me some manner of 'I am your father' speech."

Saito chuckled. "Having met your father as well, I know better than to make jokes like that," he replied. "It was almost twenty years ago, of course. Her firm helped us to negotiate the purchase of a growing corporation in the States. Very capable woman--you remind me of her."

Arthur sipped his wine. "I'm flattered, but I'm wondering why you had to invite me to dinner to tell me this," he said.

"I thought you would appreciate my discretion." Saito leaned back in his chair. "You were particular about not wanting Mr. Cobb to know about your past...affiliations."

Arthur just managed to not choke on his drink. He heard. The sly glint in Saito's eye was unmistakable. He heard everything. He was tempted to tell him everything he had told Yusuf, about how the affair had meant nothing to him, how he was still the perfect man for the job, but then he realized...Saito hadn't fired him yet. "What do you want?" he asked bluntly.

"When I first approached you with this job, you said it couldn't be done," Saito said. "You've expressed doubt all along. I knew almost from the beginning that there was a chance you knew our little prince, through your parents. But I did not expect..." His lip twitched, and he didn't need to finish.

Arthur put his glass down and met Saito's gaze seriously. "I am completely impartial," he said, meaning it. "You're right--I didn't think this job was possible. But I do now, and nothing is going to stop me from doing it. You don't need to worry about me, Mr. Saito."

"I should hope not." The humor in Saito's face turned to ice. "Because I have a great deal of information about you, and I know what to do with it, should you fail."

Threats. Arthur was almost relieved; threats he knew how to handle. "Spare me," he said without missing a beat. "Information is my business. If we're going to play that game, there is plenty I can say about you." He folded his hands on the table. "For example, that you're the reason our mark has ten million dollars in kidnapping insurance."

Saito's poker face was impressive, but not nearly as good as Eames', and Arthur could see the slight tensing that indicated his displeasure. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

"You're the one who wanted to talk about the past," Arthur pressed on. "I could tell everyone how you had a thirteen-year-old boy kidnapped from his private school in order to distract his father from the fact that you were implementing spies in his New Zealand offices."

"Preposterous," said Saito with a heartless grin.

"Or the particularly gruesome way your associates retaliated to Fischer Morrow's agents when they were caught at your offices in Hong Kong."

Saito shook his head. "You're inventing stories that have nothing to do with--"

"--The job at hand, I agree." Arthur snatched up his glass again. "And who I've fucked has nothing to do with this job, either. You're lucky Cobb is even letting you go under with us considering your history with this mark, so I'd appreciate it if you backed off the intimidation tactics and just let me do my job. You'll get your money's worth, I promise."

Saito continued to glare back at him, but before he could answer, his cell phone rang. "Excuse me," he said as he answered.

Arthur gulped down the rest of his wine. He was contemplating an escape through the bathroom window when Saito's expression abruptly hardened. After a few words in Japanese, Saito hung up and looked across the table. "Maurice Fischer just passed away in Sydney."

*


Arthur dreamt he was facing a nighttime sky line. Wind tugged at his clothing and stung his flushed skin. It felt real, more real than even a PASIV dream, and he knew with certainty that when he fell, the streets would lay him open. He would burst like overripe fruit--he would splatter on taxi tires and drift into the gutter. And he wouldn't be alone.

"We should jump," Robert said beside him. His long, knobby fingers tugged at Arthur's urgently. "Let's just jump. At least then we'll be free."

Robert started to lean forward. Arthur wanted to do the same, but it was too real, and panic seared the back of his throat. He jerked back, tearing Robert from the edge and into his arms. In desperation he twisted their bodies together--saved Robert's life with aching, breathless kisses. Their legs tangled, and they fell to the roof, all bones and sweat and alcohol on their tongues.

They fell through. The roof gave way and they splashed through to the other side, floating down into the cloudless sky, past golden city lights that glinted in endless black. The further they fell, the more the atmosphere crushed in around them, until Arthur could breathe only by stealing the air from Robert's lungs. So he didn't: he gave it all to Robert, until his chest caved in, and he could feel the pressure pushing his eyes from their sockets.

Arthur awoke on a plane with a jerk. He could still feel the impossible weight of space surrounding him, preventing him from taking a breath. He pawed at his necktie, but his fingers were sluggish, and the knot wouldn't loosen. Wake me up. Someone wake me up!

Eames' warm hand fell on the back of his neck and then the other on his tie, loosening the restriction without effort. "Arthur," Eames said close to his ear. "Calm down, you're awake."

Arthur took in a full breath and coughed when it stung. He felt cold, and he wanted to just curl up in Eames' arms until the dream images left him, but he remembered too soon where he was and who could be watching. "I'm all right," he croaked, straightening up. "I'm fine. It was just..."

"A nightmare?" Eames leaned back, but he kept one hand on Arthur's neck. Once upon a time it would have been the perfect comfort. "Been a while, hasn't it?" he said sympathetically.

"Yeah." Arthur scrubbed at his eyes, sealing his composure once more. "Didn't think that was still possible."

"Tell me about it."

Arthur glanced around them. They were in Saito's jet, on their way to Sydney--on their way to Robert Fischer. Ariadne was trying not to watch them from the next seat over. "No, it's fine," he said. "I'm fine."

Eames let his hand fall. "All right."

It's not fine. Arthur closed his eyes, trying to find his center, but he could still feel pinpoint stars prickling his skin. I'm not fine. I can't do this. Just tell him--tell him you can't do this.

"Eames," Arthur said quietly. But when he looked up and saw the innocent, even sympathetic face Eames was fixing him with, his courage faltered yet again. "What did you tell Fischer Morrow when you left?"

Eames frowned. "That there was a death in the family."

"Do you think they would let you back in, if you showed up?"

"I suppose," Eames said slowly. "Why?"

Arthur took in a deep breath. Of all the things he should have said, he picked the worst. "I need to see inside Fischer's mind before the inception."

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