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who: paris in summertime: by ?

I hear the song of your sadness

if they've become the same, it's time you unbecame

who: paris in summertime: by ?
AndreaLyn andrealyn
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This level of the dream looks worryingly normal.

Colours are off by a slight shade and the world is askew by only the smallest of millimetres and Arthur experiences a moment of hope that the lack of change means that they’ll find Eames without a mask. Eames has done very little to change Cobb’s design. This is memory, pure and simple. It almost bodes well.

The projections ignore them, for now, and Arthur takes the opportunity to load up on ammunition in every holster that he can. “I suggest you do the same,” he says to Cobb as he keeps an eye out for the militarized projections that are inevitably coming for them. “At least until we can find Eames.”

“And then what?” Cobb demands. “We’ve barely kept ahead of them on two levels. What happens if this is the level that they catch up to us before I can jump you deeper?”

“I’m running Mr. Charles and using you so that you’ll be protected when I jump the level,” Arthur says with assured conviction that he isn’t entirely sure he possesses. He’s bolstering himself up to give himself a push, knowing that he’s entirely capable of this, but at the same time everything is so important on this job that he absolutely and utterly cannot fuck it up. He hasn’t dealt with pressure like this since the Fischer job. “It’s the only way to buy you some time down here. I’ve seen how Eames trained, you don’t want the depths of his subconscious ripping you apart,” Arthur says and he’s not just worried about Cobb.

If Cobb falls, he falls into limbo. If Cobb falls before Arthur can get deeper, the dream collapses. If he falls, they fail and Eames stays as broken as the mirrors they found on the level above.

“Where are we?” Cobb inevitably asks. “Where do we need to go?”

Arthur looks at the marquees around them and the busy shops lined with tourists. “Leicester Square,” he says, knowing where he has to go from here. “There’s a small restaurant two blocks away. There’s a bar there. Eames will be there.”

“How can you be sure?”

Arthur tenses his grip on his gun and keeps charging forward. He knows this place because it’s not just a dream, but a memory. It’s a memory just slightly amended of a time years ago when they met around a small table and their knees knocked against each other. It’s a memory of the first time they kissed.

“Of all the places to do it,” Eames had whispered with a throaty laugh pressed against Arthur’s pulse, his fingers busy with emptying the packets of sugar on the table into the coffees that had just arrived, “you choose here.”

“You don’t choose the moments that really matter,” Arthur had replied back with absolute certainty. “They’re all just waiting to happen.”

Arthur stops and reaches out to stop Cobb from barrelling forward. He sees the table, he sees the waiter and the meal he so distinctly remembers, and then instead of seeing Eames as he should be, he sees her.

“Crap,” Arthur exhales.

“What?” Cobb asks, sounding alarmed.

“I was hoping it would be anyone but her,” Arthur admits, gravitating forwards and swallowing hard. The plans have to remain the same. They have to run Mr. Charles and he knows that he has a better shot of this, but Cobb is going to be the one that remains behind, so Arthur grasps hold of his arms and pilots him to the bar. “Stay here,” he advises. “Until I give the signal. I’m going to convince Eames that you’re the security. It shouldn’t be hard. You already militarize people for a living, why not manifest sub-security with your face?”

Cobb arches his brow and studies Arthur warily. “Are you sure you’re going to be able to handle this on your own?”

“With Eames wearing that forgery?” Arthur asks, glancing over his shoulder and smiling when she waves at him and beckons him closer. “Trust me. It’s best if you just give me some time to lay the groundwork. Wait for the signal.”

Arthur turns to head towards the table, but he feels Cobb’s hand at the fabric of his shirt and he feels a sudden strike of panic bolt through him at the thought of a delay that might somehow alter the kicks.

“What?” he hisses.

“I’ve never seen that forgery before,” Cobb admits. “Who is she? And this level. Arthur, this is practically London as it should be. Eames hasn’t made very many modifications at all. What’s going on?”

“Eames uses this forgery when he wants to feel comfortable without giving the mark a look at his true face. It’s Eames, once removed, with all the same history and the same personality, but a different body and a different face so a mark won’t be able to place him once they wake,” Arthur admits under his breath.

All the while he speaks, he can’t stop himself staring across the restaurant as she picks up a menu and starts rifling through it. He watches the way the light catches the gold band on her finger.

“The stress and the number of jobs he was taking fractured Eames from reality and he lost control of the narrative. It splintered off from reality. Now this forgery thinks that we’re married and that we live together when we’re not off extracting from people. It was...” he struggles to explain, to fight past the look of Dom’s disapproval, “It was a good forge when Eames was in control. The marks loved her because Eames played it like a natural, because it was so easy for Eames to work in that skin. It just got convoluted.”

Suddenly, Cobb looks entirely like he understands. “Like you just lost control of how things were supposed to be.”

Arthur hesitates at the heavy and sudden blanket of grief that seems to cover them. He knows that the subject has grown to loved ones and that Arthur’s trying to do what Cobb never could.

“I don’t want to lose him,” Arthur admits, roughly. “But it isn’t the same. We’re going this deep in order to prevent it from being the same.”

He looks to the side to gauge whether Cobb understands and he’s met with a knowing look. Cobb orders a gin and tonic from the bar and settles down on a stool in order to look unassuming and professional at the same time. Clad in the suit he’s wearing, it shouldn’t be too hard to convince Eames that he’s dreaming and that Cobb is there to secure him from extractors.

He takes a deep breath and ignores the pit in his stomach as he crosses the restaurant. When he’s halfway there, Eames rises from her seat and shifts around the table to press a kiss to his cheek. “And here I thought you were going to be late for our anniversary,” Eames chides. “I’d have had to hurt Cobb if you’d done that.”

Arthur leans into Eames for a long moment and takes in the slight differences – how the cologne Eames usually wears is sweetened, but pressed to the same pulse points that Eames always uses, right at the neck and the wrist. He takes in the god-awful floral print of the dress, the same print that’s on two of Eames’ favourite shirts.

He braces himself and sits down opposite from her, making sure that he keeps his mind focused on his plan. “Eames,” he starts, knowing that he’s about to cause a great deal of chaos.

“You know, you’re allowed to use my first name,” she dryly notes.

“Maybe later,” he quips, trying not to laugh at that with helpless despair. He’s saving the name for last, he’s saving it for when he needs it to do the most work. He reaches over the table and gently pries Eames’ hand into his own, manipulating her ring finger and brushing his thumb over it in careful and constant circles. “Eames,” he says quietly. “I want you to look around.”

“Are we playing a game?” she asks with slight bemusement.

“Eames, really look at this place. Look at the sky, the way everyone here keeps staring at me occasionally. Eames, you’re dreaming,” he says, clasping her hand just slightly tighter than a moment ago to ride her through the panic. “But it’s okay,” he continues, barely pausing. “You brought your security into the dream with you,” he says and shifts in his chair to subtly indicate Cobb at the bar.

Eames harrumphs and then lets out a crow of amusement.

“Something funny?” Arthur asks.

“I suppose I’m not entirely surprised that Cobb is the face of my security down here,” Eames admits. “But my god, does he have to look so bloody constipated while he does it? He’s such a pretty man when he’s not contorting his features into that. But don’t worry, Arthur, I only have eyes for you,” she assures.

She’s still staring at Cobb and Arthur holds his breath. This is the moment in which Eames is going to decide whether the truth is being told and this will be the moment in which Eames decides to work with them or whether Eames is going to let the projections rip them apart. They will, anyway, when Arthur needs to employ their exit from this level, but there’s no sense in bringing them down earlier than need be.

“You’re in control, Eames,” Arthur says, giving Eames the message for this level. “In this dream, in everything, you’re in control. What do you want to do?”

Eames eyes Arthur critically and there’s something dangerous about that look that Arthur doesn’t want to lend much thought to. It typically comes right before Eames says or does something that Arthur wished he hadn’t.

True to Eames’ nature, the next words out of her mouth are a very calm and thoughtful, “well, then, let’s talk about us.”


“Yes, us, darling, have you gone deaf now, too? I want to talk about our future.”

Arthur hears the click of his jaw cracking as he tenses up, almost unable to believe that he’s about to spend valuable time in a dream discussing what’s over the horizon. “Eames,” he gets out, needing to voice his concerns aloud. “I’m...you’re...we’re dreaming and you want to just put everything aside and take out our planners so we can synchronize?”

“Well, I didn’t imagine we’d have planners,” she replies. “But yes, Arthur. Better here than anywhere else. I feel like I barely see you.”

He feels like he’s going to snap at Eames, but putting her in an emotionally unstable state is probably bad as far as plans go. “Eames, the point of all of this is to make sure we even get a future. We don’t see each other,” he agrees. “That’s true. When you wake up, things are going to be different, so different,” he insists.

He knows that it’s going to be different for Eames if this works. If things go well, Eames will be losing several personalities that have been with him for years crafting memories of their own, but Arthur wants Eames to be sane, not to be happy in so many splintered fractures.

“You’re not cheating on me?” Eames warily asks.

Arthur lets out a breathless laugh of disbelief as he shakes his head. “Oh god, Eames, is that what you think it is? You think because you never see me, I’m cheating on you? Are you kidding me?”

“Honestly, Arthur,” Eames gripes, half petulant and half angry, “you don’t have to make me sound like I’m an idiot for thinking so.”

“Eames, I’m there with you all the time. If anything, I’ve given up large portions of the life I used to have, for you. And before you even say it,” he warns, when Eames opens his mouth to speak, “this is not meant to be a guilt trip.” He takes a deep breath and rubs his palm over his forehead, glancing at Cobb to check how much time they have.

Not much, if the way Cobb is tapping the face of his watch is any indication.

“Eames, you’re in control and I’m going to follow you,” Arthur says, sticking to the truth. “I’m not cheating on you. If you’re worried that we don’t have a future because I’m drifting, there’s no need for that,” he promises, grasping hold of her hand and squeezing it lightly. “Now, Eames, come on. You’re dreaming and we have to move before the people who are here for you can get to you,” he lies smoothly.

It’s strange in a way that makes Arthur’s stomach uneasy. Right after that first kiss, they had sat at this very table and talked about their future. The fact that he’s being made to go through a parody of the same now is almost like a cruel taunt from above.

There’s a very tense moment in which Eames looks across the bar and freezes up and Arthur looks to find out what’s going on and when he sees what Eames sees, he goes stiff as well. At the end of the bar, directly opposite from Cobb, sits Mal.

Mal is there.

Fuck. Arthur didn’t expect this, he thought that Cobb was better, after all, it’s been ten years. He gives Eames an apologetic smile and shoves his chair back. “I’ll find out what’s going on,” he promises.

“I thought he was better,” Eames says, her brow furrowed with concern.

“You and me both,” Arthur insists, hovering over the table. He leans over Eames and presses a kiss to her cheek, “Don’t move,” he pleads. “Stay right here and I’ll find out what she wants.”

Arthur reminds himself to breathe with every step that brings him closer to Mal and he practically strains himself telling Cobb to stay where he is.

“Hello, Arthur,” Mal greets him calmly as he sits down in the stool next to him. She’s not looking at him, stirring her gin and tonic with a plastic swizzle stick, wearing a peaceful smile.

She looks nothing like the ghost of a madwoman who haunts Cobb’s dreams and instead almost reminds Arthur of a melancholy spectre lingering to protect the ones she cares about. Arthur is glad to see she isn’t stabbing or shooting him, but her presence is still worrisome.

“What are you doing here, Mal?” Arthur asks worriedly, casting his gaze over his shoulder to Eames to make sure that she hasn’t decided to go visit Cobb or come and aid Arthur in his conversation.

She looks up, now, and regards him with a fond smile. “Don’t be mad. I know what’s coming next and I want you to be prepared.”

“I’ve prepared,” he replies sharply before she’s even finished speaking. “Mal, it’s critical that this goes according to plan. You can’t be here,” he insists. “Whether you’re here because of Cobb or me or Eames, you can’t be here. Please,” he begs, staring at her and sure that his face is fraught with emotion.

“Don’t be so emotional, Arthur,” Mal chides with a roll of her eyes. She sips at her drink and crosses her legs smoothly. “I’m here to help. Dom knows how important this is to you.”

Arthur lets out a stressful exhalation and isn’t sure whether or not he can trust anything that she says, but abandoning the plan to worry about outliers like Mal at this point isn’t going to do him any good, and so he simply grips the bar tighter.

“You know what’s coming next,” he says, his eyes stuck to the granite of the countertop he’s gripping.

She gives a thoughtful hum. “Limbo,” she agrees. “You’re going to the world that Dom and I built.” She reaches over and presses her fingers to his cheek to turn his gaze towards her. “You must promise me that you won’t get lost.”

“I’m going to find Eames,” Arthur insists. “I won’t lose myself when I’m going there to find him.”

“You’d better hurry,” she says, her accent playing with the vowels and making words of warning sound lilting and lovely. “Eames’ security is going to be here soon.” She gives him a light push at his back and Arthur takes a second to compose himself again before returning to the table and passing Cobb in the meantime.

“Is she...”

“She’s yours,” Arthur says, his voice clipped. “She says she’s here to help. I don’t trust her, Cobb,” he warns. “One wrong move and I’ll pull the trigger.”

“I’ll keep an eye out,” Cobb promises.

Arthur returns to the table without the certainty that they’re safe, but now he really needs to push harder. “Eames,” he says, feeling the rush of the moment and the panic that’s starting to sink in, three levels down. “Eames, you’re dreaming. Cobb is your Mr. Charles, I need you to trust me, will you do that?”

She eyes him as the dream starts to quake and the projections begin to stare at Cobb.

“No, Eames, look at me,” Arthur demands. “Trust me.”

She’s up on her feet as the roof of the restaurant begins to tremble and the light fixtures begin pouring out fine dust onto their heads. Eames looks as though at any moment, militarized projections are going to swoop in and take Cobb out.

Arthur pushes forward and wraps his arms around Eames from behind, trying to calm her via swaddling, as though the presence of his heartbeat so close will do the job. “Eames, please,” he begs. “Do you trust me?”

“Until the ends of the earth,” Eames replies, “but none of that trust applies to Dominic Cobb and his murderous projections,” she finishes wryly.

“Cobb is mine,” Arthur lies. “Cobb is my projection. He’s not really here. Just like Mal isn’t really here. You only need to trust me, Eames, and I’ll get you through this dream.” He signals to Cobb – who is already on his toes and edging closer to the both of them – and Arthur grips Eames tighter than before.

Subsequently, it’s what makes her start to panic slightly and struggle. “Arthur, what are you doing?”

“You said you’d trust me,” he reminds Eames. “You have to trust me, right now,” he says sharply. “Right this second,” he insists. “You have to believe in me. I need you to accept me as part of your subconscious, Eames,” he begs.

She moves slightly and it brings her cheek to his lips and he brushes a hasty and clumsy kiss to the skin there, inhaling a scent that reminds him so strikingly of Eames that he forgets for a second that this is only a forgery and not the real thing – not yet.

“I’m part of you, Eames. I’m half of your whole,” he goes on, his voice growing guttural as gunshots start to ring out nearby, just down the street. “Eames...”

If the struggling worried Arthur, then Eames’ sudden limpness makes him fret twice as much. It’s as though she’s given up, completely. Cobb is in front of them now, brandishing a weapon and steadying it in his hands.

“Arthur, we’re running out of time,” Cobb warns.

Eames is pliable and lifeless in his arms and that’s enough to make Arthur shake her harder. This is just another shade of Eames, a deep fragment that has broken off from his sanity and lodged loose in a level so deep that even though it’s almost him, it’s still not quite there.

He’s off. He’s wrong. She goes slack in his arms and Arthur closes his eyes tightly and stares at Cobb. “You know what you have to do,” Arthur insists, voice low and devoid of emotion.

Eames struggles, now, as if she knows what’s coming and Arthur braces his hold tighter, keeping her in close. “Arthur,” she protests, all-but-shrieking as she bucks against him. She’s pleading as though it’s all he needs to change his mind – and Eames isn’t entirely wrong, but this isn’t any normal situation. “Arthur!” she begs. “Arthur, don’t do this. Arthur, it’s me. It’s Eames, this might not be our reality, but what are you doing, you’ll send us both to limbo,” she begs. “Don’t do this, Arthur, please don’t do this.”

Arthur holds on as tight and watches Cobb load the gun with two bullets.

“You kissed me here,” Eames is begging. She’s stopped fighting and is staring down the gun. This forgery is dangerous because this forgery knows everything there is to know about extraction and the minute that Cobb shoots, Arthur can’t imagine that Eames’ subconscious is going to be very kind. “Remember, Arthur? You can’t choose your moments. You can’t choose this,” she insists sharply, a frustrated growl to that usually melodic tone he has while wearing this forgery.

“Eames, there’s only one option,” Arthur says, keeping his voice even and he lets go of her just slightly, giving Cobb the signal. He has to time this message with Cobb’s shot carefully otherwise she’s bound to run. “You’re in control. If you want to kiss me again and make another moment, you can. It’s all up to you, Eames. You’re in control of what happens when we wake up.”

She stares at him and he keeps a hold of her forearms. Her back is to Cobb and Arthur can see him over her shoulder as he aims the shot. Mal is still there, but she’s running point and helping them, taking out Eames’ security with well-placed shots from her pistol.

“Eames, you are in control,” Arthur promises and tightens his grip on her. “You’re in control,” he insists, his gaze sliding just to the side of her face where he gives Cobb the signal – a blinked now in Morse code – and holds his breath as Cobb pulls the trigger once, then twice.

Arthur barely has the time to remember how much he hates the feeling of dying in a dream before his body is crumpling on the ground of the restaurant.

The last thing he sees is Mal urging Cobb to get the bodies in order to set things up for the kick.

The very last thing he hears is Eames taking one last gasping breath before Arthur’s drowns in a whitewash of absolute silence.

The next thing he knows, he can’t breathe and there’s water rushing past his ears.

The next thing he’s aware of, he’s made it to limbo.