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[Inception] [Arthur/Cobb] [PG]

Originally an experimental piece written for this prompt at [ profile] inception_kink that I ended up liking more than I thought I would.

all the pretty little horses

Arthur comes awake with a jolt, coughs up water and grit to the realization that he's washed up on shore with no idea of where he is, how he got here, here, with nothing but miles of stormy ocean spreading out before him.

It's raining, and his skin stings cold as he pushes clumsily to his feet, swaying unsteady for a moment as the world tilts on an axis he isn't used to. It feels like he's being swallowed by water, by crashing waves and pouring rain, and his head is pulsing, full of static, images fuzzy and blur around the edges.

Then he sees a head of dirty blond hair in the distance, and everything else falls away into periphery, nothing but muted white noise.

"Hey," he yells. It comes out barely a croak, his voice stuck in his throat, and he tries again, again, till the figure hears him and turns around, and--


It's Cobb.

It's like the howling of the wind calms against the thunder of Arthur's heartbeat.

He's in a casual shirt-and-jeans ensemble to Arthur's three-piece suit, soaked through from the rain, hair already falling damp into his face, but it's Cobb, eyes burning blue and bright when everything else is drowning.

Something explodes in Arthur's stomach, bursts into life as he reaches Cobb in four long strides and fists a hand in his shirt, jerks him forward unthinkingly. Cobb startles as Arthur crushes their mouths together to taste salt and sand and home on Cobb's tongue, to taste fire and ash and finally, fucking finally echoed on his own.

"Arthur," Cobb breathes, when they break away, and Arthur's sharp inhale is just as shaky.

"I found you," he says, because that's the important thing, somehow. That, and this, this proximity, both of them close enough that Arthur can see the drops of water clinging to Cobb's eyelashes, the ones sliding down the line of his throat.

There's a beginning of a thought: I want--, and then there's the bare-bones structure of a house, door already open and inviting, and Arthur's backing Cobb straight into it.

Cobb doesn't protest.

The apartment's a work-in-progress as they stumble inside, and they almost trip over still-assembling furniture as they enter the room, trekking water across the dark oak floor. For once, Arthur doesn't care. He doesn't even pause to appreciate the snowskin rug unfurling beneath their feet, barely notices the huge, glass windows just being erected around them, too distracted by the sight of shock and awe washing over Cobb's face, in turn.

The roof is slow to come, and Cobb tilts his face to the still-falling rain, lips parted.

"Arthur," he says again, wonderment in his voice, and Arthur leans over to taste that, too, feels Cobb's laughter vibrate in his chest, like a secret, melodious in the strangest way. This is the soundtrack to his life, he thinks, and every Pentrose stair he's ever built would've led him straight to this, the one impossibility in his life of self-created everything.


The windows are almost done now, panels of them lining the staircase as Arthur backs Cobb up them, their mouths still fused together as the rain beats down on the glass.

Taking that first step is a mistake; and Arthur breaks away when he sees a quicksilver flash of blood on his hands.

A second step, and there's a picture of a tastefully lit hotel room.

Cobb tugs him up one more, and it's the inside of a van and exploding elevators, sudden weightlessness and the phantom sting of a well-placed fist to the gut, gunfire ringing wild in his ears to the sweet sweeping tones of edith piaf--

Cobb wraps a hand around Arthur's tie, reels him in again, but every step they take brings the memories back, snaps another puzzle piece into place: the job, the dreams, Mal, the team.

Waking up underwater.

Realizing Cobb hadn't.

Diving back down to follow him.

Arthur's throat is suddenly dry, stomach twisting.

I found you, he thinks again, chest tight as Cobb smirks and murmurs against his mouth, "I'm not looking for mazes, Arthur. I just want to see the bedroom."

It's almost enough to give Arthur pause. The roof is spiraling up overhead, and Arthur wants to steal the last of the rain from Cobb's lips. He's almost tempted to keep going, to get to the top and find the bedroom, make one, have Cobb so close there isn't any air he can pull in that Arthur won't be sharing with him, the same way he's been stealing Arthur's breath for years now, god, years.

"We're almost there," he hears himself say, instead, and squares his jaw when Cobb presses their mouths together again, hands fisting in Arthur's jacket.

But there is no bedroom at the landing.

There's no landing at all, and the movement around them halts when Cobb does. "What--" he begins.

Arthur can still feel the phantom warmth of Cobb's mouth slanted against his own when he closes his eyes. He wonders if this is how Mal felt when Cobb wouldn't - couldn't - go with her.

"Arthur," Cobb says, voice low and urgent.

Despite the way he steels himself, Arthur sounds rough and shaky when he says, "Paradox," and edges Cobb out into open air.

The house crumbles alongside them as they fall.
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