Kat (clearillusion) wrote,
Kat
clearillusion

We Are All Illuminated [3]

Part 1 | Part 2
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Eames is all for charging straight back into Arthur’s ward, shoving his real totem back into his hand, and telling him everything – it’s Cobb who holds him back and points out that they have to think carefully about how they do this. With Arthur so deep into his delusions of limbo, there’s no guarantee that presenting him with his real totem will snap him out of it. So instead, they go back to Cobb’s and – once they’re certain James and Philippa are safe – begin to hatch a plan. There is only one way, in their minds, that Arthur is going to be truly convinced that he is back in reality – and that is if they play along with his own beliefs that he has been in limbo. It won’t be a simple task, but thankfully they are both rather skilled at less-than-simple jobs. They had performed inception, after all – this should be a walk in the park.

Cobb phones Saito, calling in another favour. Five minutes later, and they have a private room reserved in the most prestigious hospital in the state, patroned solely by the rich and the famous and, helpfully, owned by one of Saito’s own business ventures. Arthur would have been there all along, if it wasn’t for the fact that this particular hospital didn’t have a psychiatric ward. That’s the simple bit done; the hard part will be moving Arthur from Resnick to the new hospital, whilst asleep, and then convincing him that everything that had happened to him since his totem had been switched had been a dream (“We’ll say he had an allergic reaction to the PASIV – we’ll talk to Yusuf”). On talking to Yusuf, the chemist not only happily allows them to place the blame on him – he trusts Arthur not to seek retribution – but also insists he comes over to help. Cobb awkwardly suggests to Eames that maybe Ariadne should help as well, to try and lighten the workload, but Eames is quick to say no. He would far rather have more work to do, than let that woman back anywhere near Arthur. After what she had admitted to, if he never sees her again it will be too soon.

And so the preparations are done. All that’s left is to break Arthur out of one hospital, and get him into the other, without him waking in between. Eames’ profession makes it child’s play for him to create some false letters from all the relevant authorities, explaining to the hospital that a transfer has been requested for their patient and stating the date when orderlies would come to pick him up. He also uses the letters to explicitly state that Arthur should not be told of the transfer beforehand, due to the potential distress it could cause. Putting on the false voice of Arthur’s fictional doctor, he phones the hospital to repeat all that the letters say, determined not to leave any room for error. That done, Eames turns to preparing everything else in the run up to the big day. At the apartment he makes up the bed, returns all the knives to their true homes in the kitchen, and puts the key for the balcony back on the bedroom dresser. He goes through every room, again and again, until he’s sure it’s back the way it was before the Neill job. The day before they move Arthur, he shaves and gets his hair cut, returning himself to the way he had looked before his life had fallen apart and he’d given up caring about such things as personal appearance. By the night before the transfer he’s as certain as he ever will be that no evidence remains of the last few months.

**


Forging in dreams is so much easier than in the real world, Eames thinks, trying his best not to scratch at the false beard he’s attached to his chin, or push the glasses back up his nose. He feels like a prat, even if he knows the disguise has worked in his favour more than a few times in his past. It doesn’t help that this is by far the most high-risk job he’s ever pulled, in the real world or in a dreamscape. Stealing and conning from the rich and influential pales in comparison with this; tricking his own lover into believing the last hellish few months have been nothing but a dream, whilst in reality he’s been lying in a coma induced by an allergic reaction. The plan that has seemed so foolproof during the last few weeks suddenly feels purile, idiotic. He can’t believe this is going to work.

But it’s too late to turn back, and he offers an awkward smile towards Cobb and Yusuf – both also suitably disguised and dressed in the white outfits of hospital orderlies. They look even more uncomfortable than him, he thinks, though that’s hardly surprising. He doubts either man has ever been asked to play such a con without the safety net of dreams. Still, first time for everything. “Come on,” he nods towards the hospital, bathed in early morning sunlight. “Let’s go do this.”

Guiding the two men up the steps and into the front entrance of the hospital, Eames strolls up to the reception desk with a level of confidence he doesn’t feel. Introducing himself as Dr. Cooper, complete with his false American accent, he is quickly allowed clearance up to Arthur’s ward. Nodding to Cobb and Yusuf, he guides them along the now familiar route towards Arthur’s accommodation. Apparently Arthur’s doctor at the hospital had been warned of his arrival, because the man is waiting for him at the secure doors that mark the beginning of the ward. He guides them the rest of the way to Arthur’s room, chatting with Eames amiably, clearly under the illusion that he is speaking with another medical professional.

“If you don’t mind, doctor...” Eames politely brushes the other man off as they reach the door to Arthur’s private room, wanting a modicum of privacy now that they are at this stage. Thankfully, Dr. Cooper doesn’t seem to take offence, just nodding and shuffling off down the corridor to his own office. Letting out a small huff of breath, Eames turns his attention instead to Yusuf. “Ready?”

Pulling the cap from the sedative-filled hypodermic he had kept clenched in his hand, Yusuf squeezes down on the plunger gently until the liquid within begins to dribble free. Satisfied, he nods back at Eames. “I am ready.”

“Then let’s go.”

Pushing open the door, Eames leads the way into Arthur’s room, standing back whilst Cobb and Yusuf do what they have to. Thankfully, luck is with them, and as Eames had hoped Arthur is still in bed from the night before. His lover barely has time to register he has company before Cobb is holding him down and Yusuf is plunging the needle into his upper arm. For a moment, the three men struggle briefly, before Arthur’s eyes roll back and he falls against Cobb’s chest, a dead weight. Yusuf had stated that the sedative should be strong enough to keep Arthur out for a good few hours, but Eames still tells him and Cobb to hurry as they go off in search of a gurney. If Arthur wakes before they’re all in place in the new hospital, then all of this effort will have been for nothing.

“This’ll all be over soon,” he mutters at Arthur’s sleeping form, perching on the edge of the bed whilst Cobb and Yusuf are gone, stroking gentle fingers through his lover’s dark hair. “I’ll have you back. And this will all have been a bad dream.” Casting a quick glance at the door, just to make sure none of the hospital staff are looking in, he leans down and plants a quick kiss to the slender man’s forehead. He doesn’t know if he’ll be able to carry on, if this doesn’t work.

Moments later and Cobb and Yusuf are back, wheeling the gurney between them. The three men together lift Arthur up and onto the stretcher, before Eames sends his two friends off towards the lifts down to the ground floor and their waiting car. Hanging behind, he remembers to play his part and pops his head into the office of Arthur’s doctor, thanking him for his help and bidding him farewell. Again, Cooper is thankfully uninterested, and doesn’t keep Eames long.

He catches up with Cobb and Yusuf outside the hospital, where they’re already bundling Arthur into the car. It’s early enough for the area to be silent, no medical staff, patients or visitors around to question why three men are placing an unconscious man in the garb of a psychiatric hospital patient into an unmarked car. Still, they make it quick, all of them aware that they are currently looking less than legal. Within five minutes, the gurney has been returned to the hospital and Cobb is speeding out of the hospital complex, across the city towards Saito’s hospital. Yusuf sits in the passenger seat, staring silently straight ahead, whilst Eames cradles Arthur’s sleeping head in his lap in the back seat. Every bump in the road, or swerve of the car, makes him wince and stare at Arthur’s face, waiting for him to show signs of coming to. Yusuf’s sedative seems to be living up to the chemist’s expectations, however, and they make it to the hospital within half an hour, Arthur still fast asleep.

There’s a medical team there waiting, paid enough to do as they are ordered without asking questions. Arthur is quickly lifted from the car and onto another gurney, before being wheeled into the hospital. Following close behind, Eames keeps his eyes firmly on Arthur’s face, so scared about him waking too soon that he begins to imagine twitches of his eyelids, or at the corners of his mouth. But they reach the room set aside for his lover without event, and as Arthur is transferred to the bed – which would have looked more at home in a five star hotel than a hospital room – Eames finally feels himself begin to relax. They’re through the worst, now... all that remains is to convince Arthur his past few months have been nothing but a dream.

“How long have we got left?” He turns to Yusuf, checking his own watch at the same time.

“I cannot be sure. Half an hour, maybe 45 minutes.”

Eames nods – it’s long enough. Moving close to Arthur’s bed, he leans in to press a kiss to the man’s forehead, before turning his attention to the waiting medical staff. “Do what you have to do,” he tells them, knowing they’ve already been briefed. “Set him up as you would any other coma patient. It has to be perfect.” The team nods, and immediately begin to swarm around Arthur with drips, needles and various other pieces of kit.

Leaving them to it, Eames, Yusuf and Cobb leave the room, whereupon Cobb quickly hands out the three plastic bags he’s brought with them from the car. A complete change of clothes each, so that they don’t have to face Arthur looking like a doctor and his orderlies. Without a word, the three men disappear into the toilets to change. Emerging first from his cubicle – though that seemed an understatement for the white-tiled room he had found himself in – Eames stares at himself in the opulently decorated mirror, trying to make sure there’s no part of the doctor’s persona left in him. Running fingers through his hair, he messes up the neat styling, making himself look far more like a man who has not left Arthur’s bedside in weeks. He’s tired enough from the months of heartache that at least the dark circles under his eyes are natural. His clothes, too, look slept in, and in desperate need of a date with an iron. He had bundled them up for a week, at the bottom of the wardrobe, determined to look the part.

Declaring himself ready just as Cobb appears from behind another toilet door, Eames turns and gives his old friend a nervous smile. “Nothing left to do now,” he comments, and Cobb just nods in response. There’s nothing more than can be said.

Unable to wait any longer, Eames leaves Cobb and Yusuf to it, heading back to Arthur’s room and sliding into the chair, ready at his side. In what could only have been ten minutes, his partner has been completely transformed. Now dressed in a hospital gown, rather than the loose-fitting white flannel of Resnick Neuropsychiatric, he lies still in the luxurious bed with a drip fixed up to one arm and a heart-rate monitor beeping away steadily at his side. Reaching into his pocket, Eames pulls out Arthur’s totem – the real one, weighted as it should be in reality – and places it neatly on the bedside table. Taking up one of his partner’s hands in both of his, Eames holds it tight and fixes his eyes on Arthur’s face. There is nothing more he can do, now, but sit here and wait.

The first sign Eames receives that Arthur is coming around is a slight twitch in the hand he’s holding between his, followed immediately by a slight speeding up of the beeps that map out Arthur’s heart-rate. Staring up at his lover’s face, he finds he doesn’t need to be a professional thief and forger to look as if he’s about to talk to a loved one lost in a coma for the last three months. The feelings come completely naturally to him. What he finds less easy is to leave Arthur’s side, even for a second, pressing the button at his bedside that calls for medical assistance. He wants to be alone with his partner, when he comes to, but this has to be convincing. He cannot let himself take a single risk.

A doctor shows up almost immediately, and makes quick work of checking Arthur’s vital signs before standing back a little from the bed, just in times for Arthur’s eyes to blink slowly open. For a moment, there’s no reaction at all, no movement from the man in the bed, and Eames’ heart sinks – he’s as emotionless as ever, the move has all been for nothing. But then his lover starts, visibly, tensing and trying to sit himself up in the bed. Yusuf’s sedative appears to still be making him groggy, however, and he manages little more than propping himself up slightly on one elbow.

“What? Where’m...?” He mumbles, sleepily, and Eames heart soars as fast as it had plummeted, seconds before. He opens his mouth to speak, to explain, but the hospital doctor gets there first.

“Steady, now,” the doctor’s voice is deep and reassuring. “I’m Dr. Hobb. You’re in Mercy Hospital, Los Angeles. You’ve been in a very deep coma. Your friends have all been very worried about you.”

“I... wha-... how long?” Arthur manages to ask, before seemingly becoming aware that his hand is being held, turning and registering Eames for the first time. “Eames?” Eames gives him his brightest smile in return.

“A little over three months,” the doctor answers, without so much as skipping a beat, and Eames makes a mental note to give this man a hefty cheque in thanks, when all of this is over.

“What happened?” Arthur sounds more confused than anything else, and Eames struggles to hide the smile that’s threatening to split his face in two. His lover is buying it, every last word, and he cannot help but think that, finally, all of their worries can be put behind them.

At Arthur’s question, the doctor too turns his attention to Eames. “Maybe I should leave you two alone?” He suggests, calm as anything in the face of Eames’ ridiculous smile. “Press the button, if you need anything.”

Waiting – just – for the door to swing shut behind Hobb, Eames squeezes Arthur’s hand tighter and stares into the pale, drawn face, full of emotion for the first time in such a long while. “I’ve been so scared,” he admits, letting his words tumble from his mouth. “So, so scared. I thought I was going to lose you, Arthur. I really... really thought...” he cannot even find it in himself to be embarrassed as his voice catches and quavers in his throat.

Reaching out with his free hand, still looking more baffled than anything else, Arthur strokes his fingers gently through Eames’ hair. The touch is so soft – barely there – the smallest sign of affection, but it’s more than enough to open the floodgates. Before he’s even truly aware of what he’s doing, Eames’ face is wet with tears as he sobs out all the fear and stress of the past three months. Arthur - his Arthur – is back, stroking his fingers through his hair and somehow already being more reasonable than he is, two minutes after waking up. For the moment, everything is perfect.

And then Arthur speaks.

“My totem...”

“What about it?” Eames’ heart all but stops as he sits up straighter, looking at his lover with wide, nervous eyes.

“Where is it?” Is all Arthur asks, at first, pausing before adding, “I need to... please? I just need to be sure.”

Letting out a breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding in, Eames points out the little red die, sat on the corner of the bedside table. “It’s right there, darling. Made sure no one took it away.”

Pulling his hand free, Arthur reaches for it, and Eames can see some sort of tension drain from his lover as he takes the totem in his hand. He knows Arthur can already feel that the weighting is back the way it should be, and it takes everything he has not to start crying again as Arthur rolls it and it comes up as four, again and again and for a third time.

“Eames...” Arthur has a smile on his own face, now, a sight that Eames had almost forgotten existed. “I think I’ve been in limbo...”

**


Arthur’s allowed home two days later. Eames struggles to keep his eyes on the road as he drives them back to their apartment, unable to keep his eyes from the other man for much longer than 20 seconds. He still cannot quite believe that their plan has worked, that Arthur has bought their explanation that everything that had happened with his totem was nothing more than months spent in limbo.

For the first few days, Arthur stays in bed, weak from months with minimal food and minimal movement. Eames stays at his side, never having been more happy to spend a few days doing nothing but laze about. Arthur asks him constant questions, which the Brit answers to the very best of his abilities.

“What happened to me?”

“Yusuf tried out a new compound, for the Neill job. Doctors said it was an allergic reaction.”

“Why didn’t anyone come after me?”

“It was medical, darling. Pulling you out before you were ready... it would have killed you.”

“Just before I woke up, one of my projections... injected me with something.” Arthur presses a hand to his arm as he makes this comment. “I can feel it, now.”

“The doctors tried to wake you with some sort of stimulant,” Eames bluffs, having been waiting for this one. It had been his main concern, when Yusuf had admitted the only way to sedate Arthur would be through injection. “The feel of it must have filtered into your subconscious.”

Arthur makes a quiet noise, as if he’s impressed by the powers of his subconscious, and doesn’t mention it again. That night, both men sleep a little easier.

**


“When did you last see Ariadne, Eames?”

Freezing, head in a kitchen cupboard where he’d been unloading the fruits of Arthur’s trip to the grocery store, Eames thinks quickly to try and cover for the complete disappearance of the architect from their lives. After her revelation about her part in everything that had happened, Eames had refused to have anything further to do with her, even if she had risked everything by coming clean. Last he’d heard Cobb was making sure she, along with his own children, were being kept safe, but Eames hadn’t bothered asking too many questions.

“Uh... just before you woke up,” he tries to keep his answers as honest as possible. The closer to the truth he stays, the harder it will be to contradict himself further down the line.

“Did she come and visit me?” Arthur’s leaning up against the kitchen door now, arms crossed and looking puzzled.

“Yeah. Everyone did. Cobb was by your side almost as much as I was.”

“Yeah. Practically getting a message a minute from him checking I’m doing okay,” Arthur smiles and laughs for a moment, before turning serious again. “Heard from Yusuf too. Just not Ariadne. I tried calling her this morning, but she didn’t pick up.”

“I’m sure she’s just busy, love,” Eames reasons, moving away from the cupboard and towards his partner, grabbing hold of him by the hips and pulling him in close. “Anyway, why would you want to talk to her when you’ve got a lover as gorgeous as me waiting on your every command here?”

Arthur laughs and kisses him, and Eames spends the next hour in the bedroom with his lover, making sure Ariadne was the last thing on his mind. Leaving him to doze after, he sends a quick message to Cobb, saying that Arthur’s been asking after the architect. Cobb sends one straight back, saying he’s on to it, and when Arthur’s phone starts ringing that evening Eames can guess who’s at the other end. The conversation is a short one – Eames doubts Ariadne wants anything to do with any of them ever again, especially Arthur – but when the dark-haired man hangs up he’s smiling.

“You were right,” he grins, flopping down at Eames’ side on the sofa. “She was busy.”

**


Days turn to weeks, and weeks to months, and Arthur shows no signs of reverting to the broken man in the psychiatric hospital. It’s clear to Eames that what his lover now thinks of as ‘his time in limbo’ still haunts him – more than once he’s walked in on Arthur rolling his die across a table-top – but Arthur always laughs it off and pockets the totem again with a grin and apology for ‘being so ridiculous’. The Fischer job had shown Eames how limbo had affected Cobb; if Arthur feels the need to check his totem more than he once had, then he is okay with that. It’s a far preferable behaviour to trying to throw himself off their balcony.

Two months after bringing Arthur home from the hospital, something finally relaxes inside of Eames, almost as if his partner has been given the all-clear by his own mind. The next time a job offer comes along – a real-world con job in San Diego – he decides to take it. It’ll only mean being away from home for a couple of nights, after all, and Arthur’s not shown a single sign of being a danger to himself since coming back home. He’s even started talking about getting back to work himself, joking about asking Yusuf to go back to his old PASIV compound to avoid another three months stuck in limbo. If Arthur can joke about the traumas of the months gone by, then Eames thinks he really doesn’t need to worry about leaving his lover alone for a day or two.

In the end, he’s gone for three nights, the job taking a little longer than originally planned. Eames rings Arthur, as soon as it becomes apparent that more times is going to be needed on the job, and he’s glad to hear his lover sounding as jovial as ever down the line. That evening, the con goes off without a hitch – a wealthy art-dealer successfully tricked into handing over a great deal of money for a forgery – and the next morning Eames heads for home with a spring in his step and a large amount of money weighing down his bag.

Making it through the front door just after lunch, Eames calls out into quiet flat for his partner, but his greeting is met with silence. Immediately, there’s a prickle of fear at the back of his spine, even as he tells himself that he’s panicking without cause. Arthur’s car had been in its normal spot, yes, but they live in the centre of town; there’s a million and one places he could have gone without the car. Or Cobb could have called, and taken him out somewhere. Or he could just still be sleeping. Just because he’s not come rushing to greet him home, it doesn’t mean anything bad has happened.

Dropping his bag in the doorway, Eames pokes his head into the bedroom on the way through to the kitchen. Quickly, he is able to cross one possibility off of his list – Arthur’s not still sleeping. Carrying on through the flat, the Englishman’s worries are momentarily alleviated by the sight of the day’s post spread across the kitchen table, including a newspaper with the day’s date on it. This, at least, means that Arthur has been around in the apartment this morning.

Flicking on the kettle, Eames pulls his mobile phone from his pocket, about to ring Arthur and find out where he’s got to when he catches sight of something on the table that brings a whole new stab of panic to his chest. It’s an opened envelope, nothing suspect there, but the logo drawn onto it is one Eames will never forget.

Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital.

Grabbing for it, he checks inside, but finds it empty. A mad scrabble across the contents of the table follows, until Eames has the letter in his hands. It’s addressed to him, immediately suggesting that Arthur too had recognised the hospital’s logo and had investigated further himself, and goes into detail about the proper channels through which to file a lawsuit against them. Eames had all but forgotten he’d started that ball rolling, back when Arthur had been attacked by a fellow patient.

Still, tardy organisation is the least of his worries as he drops the letter, dashing through every room in the flat in search of his lover. No sign of him in the living room, or the bedroom, and Eames takes a small steadying breath as he finds the balcony door locked shut. As he pushes open the bathroom door, the forger takes a steadying breath; if Arthur’s in the apartment, this is the only place left that he can be. For a moment, he calmly takes in the scene before him, before his brain manages to process just what it is he’s looking at.

And that’s when he starts screaming.

The words ‘Arthur’ and ‘no’ come flying out of Eames’ mouth, in continuous, loud and random combinations, as he runs the few steps to the bath where his lover lies in water turned red by his blood. Not caring an inch for his own clothes, Eames plunges both arms into the water, grabbing Arthur around the chest and pulling him out onto the bathroom floor. The water’s still warm, though that barely registers in Eames’ consciousness as he lays Arthur out on the tiles and leans in close, searching for a pulse and listening for his breathing.

The point man’s pulse eludes Eames, but the other man is still breathing, if shallowly. Both wrists have been slashed to pieces, and with nothing better to hand, Eames starts to bandage them up as best he can with the bathroom towels, one hand on the job whilst the other scrabbles around in his pocket for his mobile phone. Dialling 911, he screams at them to come quickly, before he hauls Arthur’s deathly pale and unresponsive body into his lap and cradles him close.

**


Arthur crashes, moments before they arrive at the hospital. Pulling up in front of the ER, the paramedics begin to prep him for resuscitation whilst a medical team from within the hospital come rushing out to help. Eames is quickly ushered away from the scene, despite his tears and protests, and is left alone in a small waiting room with uncomfortable plastic seats and an out of order coffee machine. It’s suggested to him that he phones someone, and so he numbly dials Cobb’s number and explains the situation. Unable to do anything but wait, Eames switches between moments of frantic energy, where he paces the small room and considers fighting through anything that gets in his way to be at Arthur’s side, and moments of complete despair and apathy, where he flops into a seat and just lets his head rest in his hands.

He’s in the latter state when Cobb shows up, bursting through the door of the waiting room at a sprint. Immediately, he’s blabbering in Eames’ ear, asking what’s happened and what the hospital are doing and all sorts of other questions that Eames really doesn’t care about. He can’t find it in himself to care about anything, whilst Arthur’s life hangs in the balance.

“He worked it out,” he answers simply. “He worked it out, and slit his wrists. They were trying to resuscitate him, when we got here.”

Cobb swears, and flops down into the seat next to Eames’. More than once, he opens his mouth to speak, but shuts it again moments later without letting a word pass his lips. There’s nothing to say, Eames figures. There’s nothing anyone one can say.

**


The two men wait in silence for half an hour, before a doctor comes to find them. He introduces himself quickly, with a firm handshake, and the smile he gives shifts a humongous weight from Eames’ shoulders. “Your friend is stable,” the doctor tells them both, and at once Eames is on his feet and demanding to see Arthur. The doctor continues to talk as he walks them both from the waiting room.

“He crashed, just as he arrived, but we managed to resuscitate him within a couple of minutes. He’s perfectly stable now, though he’s likely to be very sleepy and confused for a while.” Eames thanks the man for the information, though privately thinks ‘sleepy and confused’ will be the least of their worries.

The doctor leads Eames and Cobb as far as the room Arthur’s been set up in, before leaving them both to settle themselves at his bedside. Slipping down into one of the chairs, Eames takes a gentle hold of one of Arthur’s hands, careful not to touch his newly-bound wrists. Those scars would never heal... there would be no possibility of convincing Arthur that he was dreaming, this time.

“What are we going to do now?” He croaks out at Cobb, who’s taken up a seat on the other side of Arthur’s bed. “How are we going to get him back now?”

Cobb shakes his head, looking just as short of ideas. “Let’s wait and see how he is when he comes to, yeah?” He suggests, but he sounds as hopeless as Eames feels. Still, the forger nods, and settles himself into the chair to wait for Arthur to wake up.

**


When Arthur does begin to stir, another half hour or so later, Cobb quickly gets up onto his feet and excuses himself. Taking a deep breath, Eames waits to see how his lover will be, now that he’s worked out the truth of what he’s been through over the last few months.

“’mes?” Arthur’s voice is heavily slurred as his head turns towards his partner, eyelids slowly fluttering open. For a moment, his brow furrows in puzzlement, clearly confused as to where he is.

“Hey,” Eames struggles to get the solitary word out, reaching up to stroke a few fingers through Arthur’s mussed-up hair. “How are you feeling?”

“I... I don’t...” The confusion is there for a moment more, and then his features flatten out as realisation hits. “I found...”

“I know. Arthur. Will you listen to me? I can explain everything, if you let me.” Eames figures the truth is the only door left open, now.

For a moment, Arthur doesn’t respond at all, and Eames panics that he’s gone straight back to the completely unresponsive Arthur of the psychiatric hospital. But then he nods, the movement small but definite, even going so far as to reach out and take hold of Eames’ hand.

Taking a deep breath, Eames opens his mouth and tells the whole story. About never doubting reality, about Resnick Neuropsychiatric, about Ariadne’s revelation and the subsequent transferral to Saito’s hospital across town. About hiding all the evidence in the apartment, in the hope that Arthur would accept the story they’d fed him. “And there’s no more I can do, now,” he finally concludes, throat dry and voice hoarse from the amount he has spoken. “If you still think you’re dreaming, if you’re still determined to kill yourself, then I guess I can’t stop you. But... please, if there’s any part of you that can still trust me, then believe me. Everything I’ve said is the truth.”

Again, Arthur doesn’t react for a long time, long enough for Eames to hang his head in resignation. Staring down at his feet, vision blurred by tears he refuses to let fall, he doesn’t realise Arthur’s moved until he hears the voice near his ear.

“Was I resuscitated?”

“Pardon?” Eames is so stunned to hear Arthur’s voice, the words barely register.

“Here, at the hospital? Was I resuscitated? Did... did I die?”

“Y-yeah, darling. You did. Just for a minute.”

Arthur appears to consider this information for a moment, before he speaks again. “I didn’t wake up... I don’t remember waking up. I don’t.... I don’t remember anything. I was in the bath, and then... I was here. If I died, I should have woken up. I... I think I’d remember that.”

Eames nods, struggling not to smile, to get his hopes up.

“I think... I don’t know, Eames. Maybe... maybe what you’re saying is true.” Arthur continues, still sounding as if he’s mulling everything over as he speaks. “Maybe it’s true, and maybe it’s not. Maybe there’s never going to be any real way to tell.”

“M-maybe.”

“So... way I see it, I can either spend my life trying to kill myself, on the possibility that when I do I wake up to reality. Or I can accept this life, regardless of what it really is. At least I can be happy here. With you.”

“I’m not going anywhere, I promise.”

“Then... then, maybe, we’ll be okay. Maybe this can be my reality.”



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