An absent Arthur Who: Basilio -> Cobb and Cory with Arthur driving -> Arthur What: Basilio goes to get their wayward team mate Where: Cory's house, Passages, then the warehouse in Paris When: Following this Warnings/Rating: Violence? Basilio being unapologetic, Cobb being an ass, and Arthur being a little bit broken.
The Holroyd residence was so quintessentially middle class American that it looked like a sixties postcard, complete with the faded colors and the neatly manicured lawn recently gone yellow. The one-story house had an old roof with blue trim, and the two car garage hinted at the nuclear family even more than the carefully stenciled four-digit address and the neat but distinctly seventies curtains in the living room window. There were some oil spots on the empty driveway, and the neighborhood was absolutely quiet in the way that only a suburb of Las Vegas attempting to differentiate itself from the rabble of visiting tourists and gambling millionaires can manage.
The house did not look like somewhere a twenty-something would live, too familial, too cultured and empty despite the furiously humming air conditioner. There was no little-sedan-that-could in sight, but around the side of the house the smallest of the three bedrooms was pounding 90’s Linkin Park into the early dusk through an unlocked window three feet off the ground. The back of Cory’s head was clearly visible from a certain angle even from the sidewalk, his face toward the wall and a twisted blue coverlet covering most of his body except for gray socks and the line of his cheek. He could have been sleeping, and that was exactly why Arthur had chosen that position, hoping it would explain why Cory would not wake at a tap on his door.
Doing something for the man in his head was so strange that Basilio waved away most of the explanation in favor of going to find this Cory/Arthur person. All he got was that Cobb was worried and that the guy was missing. Whatever. He checked his cell phone to make sure that he didn't have any calls before he parked his baby in the driveway. The first thing to catch his attention, besides the idyllic Americana of the place was the music coming blaring out of an open window. No knock on the door was going to be heard over that.
So, gun tucked into the back of his pants, he went to find out where the source of the noise was coming from. The open window was the likeliest source and as he got closer, he saw the back of someone's head. A quick check confirmed that it was familiar, but without a face to confirm, neither he nor the man in his head were perfectly sure of it. Waiting for a lull in the music, he slammed both palms into the windowsill to make sure he got the guy's attention. "Hey!"
Despite the lull between screaming songs, the shout had absolutely no effect. In fact, Cory didn’t even move. There was a pause as the MP3 playlist on the computer, which was faintly glowing, shuffled on repeat. The music was just loud enough to drown immediate sound but not quite loud enough to piss off the neighbors, and it was obvious that Cory’s sleep was so solid that he was either dead or barely breathing. The potential dead could have been a real problem--at least up until the point that a faint glimmer of silver just became visible. A PASIV was mostly hidden in the blanket at the end of the bed. The faint hiss of it working licked at the edges of sound right until the music resumed.
Cobb knew what it was as soon as he saw the glimmer and the cable that ran from it and under the covers. A PASIV. He wasn't going to ask how Cory got one here or even what he was doing, but he did let Basilio know what he needed to do. There would be no plugging up to the machine, but he would give a hell of a kick. The window wasn't up high enough to keep him out and it didn't take much to pull the screen out since he wasn't particularly aiming for being careful. What he was aiming for was in the bed, wrapped up in a blanket. Basilio didn't bother taking it off him, just looped his arms under Cory's armpits and dragged him out of the window. Without a kick to wake him up though, he was nothing but dead weight. Or he was until Bas got him halfway out of the window and promptly dropped him. He needed to fall and this was easiest, even if it did have Cobb yelling in the back of his mind.
The room smelled of stale teenager even though Cory was no such thing, and triumphant George Lucas characters looked on with neutral interest as Cory’s limp form was hauled out across the long carpet to the window, still trailing the PASIV tubing from one wrist. Asleep he looked a lot more like Arthur than when he was awake (except for the HAN SHOT FIRST t-shirt), and as expected there was no resistance all the way up until the fall. Cory--and Arthur--dropped three feet to solid cement like a heap of wet laundry. Fortunately he didn’t crack his head, falling on his side instead, and Arthur was faster to react than Cory was. While Cory was still reeling from the sudden fall that jerked him out of his dream, Arthur knew exactly what a kick felt like and he was rolling up into standing with unmistakable skill almost immediately. He darted a look left and right and then saw the undeniably intimidating figure of Basilio standing framed in Cory’s window. Neither Arthur or Cory knew what the man looked like, and Arthur shoved Cory’s sleepy consciousness entirely out of the way and crouched in full readiness for a very physical fight if the muscled man started climbing out the window after him.
Years ago, Basilio had been in his fair share of fist fights on the street and he knew what a fighting crouch looked like. The fights were less now, fewer people willing to go up against a man of his size, and when they did they usually weren't as small as the man that had just fallen out of the window. It was definitely the man they were worried about -- Cory, or Arthur given the way the man had moved. Cobb gave a very brief warning that Arthur knew how to fight and then went quiet again to see what Basilio would do. Turning away from the man for a moment, he went to lower the volume coming out of the computer speakers. Once it was down to a level where he could speak without shouting and be heard, he returned to the window. "I'm not going to ask how you got one of those things over here, or why the fuck you're using it, but you've got some people worried about you and we're going to take care of that."
Cory was still mumbling sleepy complaints in the back of Arthur’s mind as the point man slowly straightened out of the crouch. No one who had come to hurt him, kill him, or threaten him would very much bother with the stereo before he got to it. Arthur was sliding the needle out of his skin when the large man returned to the window. He brushed off Cory’s sleeve and ignored a rapidly bruising right arm in a way that Cory would not have been able to manage. The sleeping look of innocence was gone despite the proliferation of fluffy hair in all directions. “And who the hell are you?” Arthur asked, his eyes flicking down to what he could see and back up to Basilio’s face. A dangerous man, whoever he was, and you could see him thinking it. There was something about him that reminded Arthur of Eames, however, which set him even more on edge.
The PASIV couldn't stay. Picking it up, it went out the window with little more care than the other man. "I'm taking that and I'm Basilio," he said, smiling in a way that was perhaps a little less than comforting even though his eyes crinkled up at the sides in a way that Cobb's rarely did anymore. Even with the look on Arthur's face, assessing, that slight edge that people got when they realized that they were in a place they didn't want to be with a man that could kill them just as easily as he could smile at him, didn't throw Basilio off. "You got your journal in here? There's some people that want to talk to you."
The concern and fear went away as the PASIV clattered onto the pavement at Arthur’s feet. It was obvious that the man had no idea how to care for it, and Arthur could reasonably expect that it wouldn’t be damaged (that was why it was in the case) but he would need to replace the tubing and possibly the spool that fed it out to the dreamers. Arthur used one of Cory’s socked feet to push the PASIV behind him. Basilio’s name rang no bells. “You’re not taking it,” Arthur said, evenly, putting himself in front of the device and letting Cory’s eyes narrow the slightest bit as he examined Basilio’s face. Someone who knew of the journals. Not necessarily a good thing. “It’s around.” He wasn’t going to hand over his damn journal to the man.
That smile turned a little sharper, the edges a little harder as the crinkling at his eyes stopped. Brave guy, whoever he was. "Where is it?" He asked in such a way to suggest that he'd toss Cory's room if he had to, damage all those triumphant faces from George Lucas movies and that he'd do it without a single damn care in the world. For now he'd let the man think that he was going to keep the device, but it was damn well going in the trunk of his baby like Cory was going in the front seat. Or the back seat if he decided to put up a fight. It didn't really matter to Basilio.
Arthur was left with a problem. There was more than one weapon in the room, and Basilio was in the room. The journal was in there, and the PASIV was out here. Cory was afraid, worried his parents would come home and get hurt by the hulking guy starting a fight with Arthur, but Arthur was more concerned with his own safety--and Cory’s, by extension. Two choices. Stay and fight, or take the PASIV and run. Cory shouted at him about his family, and Arthur rolled his eyes up in an unmistakable reaction to a voice in his head. The expression was undoubtedly familiar to all patrons of Passages Hotel. Stay and fight, then.
Arthur bent down and closed the PASIV, jerking the IV tubing out and leaving it so that the case locked down with a very permanent-sounding click. Then he straightened up again. A bland expression in return for the question, and no answer. Instead a question in return: “Who is looking for me?” Arthur moved forward, confident, and put one hand on the top of the open window and the flat of one foot on the bottom. He hopped through and landed on the carpet again amidst a soft puff of dust. Cory never vacuumed. Computer wires and discarded game boxes were everywhere.
Basilio knew that look, though most times he just ignored the man in his head except for when Cobb needed something. Like this guy, whoever he was. Up and moving, it was obvious now of the difference in their heights and Cory, or Arthur -- Basilio was sure he was dealing with Arthur in Cory's body -- was considerably leaner than he was. He had a hundred pounds of muscle on the other man, easy. But muscle didn't always win fights and Basilio knew it, just like he knew that pre-fight aura. That change in the air that signaled that prey just didn't know when it was prey.
'Don't hurt him.' Cobb practically poked into his brain. Fine. They wanted him out alive. Whatever. Basilio kept his gaze on him because if the other man decided that he really wanted a fight, he was not going to let the string bean get a jump on him. "Get the fucking journal if you can find it." How did anyone live in this much clutter? "Either way, we're leaving in thirty seconds." He resisted the urge to sneeze. "And learn to fucking vacuum, would you? It's not going to kill you."
For someone vastly outmatched muscle for muscle, Arthur did not seem visibly alarmed or even worried. In Cory’s body his expression of concentration was about as seriously bothered as he was going to get, and the unexpected addition of someone out to kidnap him (or less likely, Cory) was not going to throw him off. Focused on the very slim possibility of recovering Eames, or at least finding where he’d gone, almost nothing had managed to reach past Arthur’s new cold skin. It felt like metal armor, making him even more distant than usual, and he would use it. Only Cory, with his mad, childish flutterings about that damned girl, made it into Arthur’s head, and that only because he was already there and not to be removed.
Arthur stared back at Basilio. “No,” he said, simply. He wasn’t going to get the journal. “No.” He wasn’t leaving. The vacuuming was the only thing he didn’t disagree with. At least the clutter gave him a little bit of home ground, though not much. Arthur had fought in all kinds of places. A child’s room like this was actually fairly common in most untrained minds.
He could disagree all he wanted, fight and kick and anything short of putting a bullet in Basilio's brain was not likely going to stop him from doing exactly what he wanted. He'd never failed before and some guy that was as big as a firefighter's pole wasn't going to break his streak. "You know a guy named Cobb? See, he wants to make sure you aren't hurt. Me? I'm here to make sure you come through the fucking Door. And if I have to put you through every fucking wall between here and my car, because you won't do this the nice, easy way, I'm going to. Cobb, Spider girl or whatever the fuck her name is, Eats, Oats, Seams -- whatever the fuck his name is, they might not be real happy, but you're coming."
Arthur stiffened, his spine arching back into a line and everything from his fingers to his eyes snapping with sudden energy, and not any good kind, either. “Eames? Eames, did you say?” Basilio had plenty of experience with all kinds of people, undoubtedly. In his profession, he probably saw people at their absolute worst--and he would know what it would look like when someone was about to go completely off the rails. It was a hard suicide glint that touched the eyes and lingered, like a piece of shrapnel too fine for pain, and it got there when someone decided to fuck everything else except the one thing they wanted most, be it power, love, pain, or freedom. Arthur took one step forward, and while physically he couldn’t have managed to be the least bit concerning, he was suddenly lit up with a maniac intensity, like a kamikaze flight.
Yeah, he knew the look all right. People went fucking crazy with that look. Some people high up on coke or eight balls or meth got that look and they went down like bulldozers and fought like junkyard dogs. Just cause the guy was thin like a wood post didn't mean that he wasn't crazy as a fucking loon and wouldn't put up a fight like a motherfucker. Bas was ready for it though. If all else failed, he still had his gun tucked into the back of his pants. "Yeah, whatever his fucking name is. He's there too and he wants you. Now are you going to go easy or am I changing the fucking floor plan in your slice of Americana?"
There were guns in the room, Arthur’s guns, weapons he’d purchased and hidden when Cory was far away in his dark depressions down in the depths of his mind. Arthur was too well trained to look in any direction, but he knew they were there, like a chess player with pieces on the board. But Eames’ name hung in the air in front of him, and it changed the game. This wasn’t chess. This was a mad you vs. me with a lot of blood and bruises on the table, and it was only a question of how far Arthur was willing to risk himself--and Cory--for something like information. Cory was afraid. Arthur was not. The point man’s sense of responsibility to Cory wavered, warring with his need for Eames and anything related to him. “Why did he send you?” It felt strange. It felt like Eames would tell him... somehow... that it was safe. But maybe that was wrong. Doubt flickered over Arthur’s features. Some of the madness went out of his eyes.
There Bas actually wavered and he had to listen. This was why he didn't get involved in shit and fuck it all, this was going to be the last time he went to rescue one of Cobb's wayward pups. "He can't control his guy on this side," Bas finally said, making a face as he continued to listen to the tirade going on. Anyone who had someone on the Door side that they listened to would know that face. "And Spider girl tried contacting you. When that didn't work, it was down to me or her and they thought I'd be able to get to you." If he was going to have to fight fluffy haired here, he really did not want Cobb going off in the back of his mind while he was doing it. "Cobb wanted to. You're his point man. His responsibility to make sure you get out." Oh, and fuck if the man in his head didn't like him letting that one slip. Oh fucking well.
Arthur went back to being a man standing in the middle of a room, rather than a bomb about to go off. It made far more sense that Cobb would send a man like this to come get him; Cobb would not think to make a concession for safety or reassurance, and he would feel enough responsibility to come send someone when Arthur did not respond. Ariadne (Arthur had no trouble with that reference) would be likewise worried, and Cobb would feel someone like this would be more effective, which was not exactly untrue. Arthur’s eyes widened slightly and the doubt drained away entirely as he remembered what he had been told about Cobb’s alter. This must be him. “Oh,” Arthur said, nodding slightly. He relaxed. Glancing at the bed, he said, “Sorry for the trouble. I was... working.” In Cory’s mind, apparently, or his own. It wasn’t like there was anyone else in the room. He stepped sideways and kicked out a pair of tennis shoes from where Cory had left the behind the bed, sitting on the coverlet to tie them on.
"Working." Basilio repeated dully and it didn't take two hot brain cells rubbed together to figure out that he believed that as much as he believed in being sweet and nice. "That thing's coming back." And there it was, the line between Basilio and Cobb wavering. Cobb knew what it was like to spend time alone in the dream world. Sometimes it was good as long as you weren't spending time in memories. Given the previous discussions on how Mal and Arthur weren't sure what was a dream and what was real, he was so taking the damn thing. Bas didn't know what the fuck he was flipping out about, but whatever. This whole damn thing was a shit load of what-the-fuck-ever. The case was going. The guy was going. "Grab your journal." And Bas was not leaving this room because he had a sinking suspicion that if he wanted to run, he would, and Basilio did not feel like chasing him the fuck down.
Arthur lifted his head. Under the deceptively sweet, floppy fringe of Cory’s hair, the dark eyes were thoughtful. “The PASIV? Why? I use it here.” Implying habitual use, and not just this time. Arthur wasn’t quite arguing--he could bring it back the same as he could bring it here--but it would complicate the process and he’d put a lot of work into making the chemical available here. Cory’s soft face remained tipped toward Basilio’s for a few seconds more and then Arthur stretched his body sideways. He reached between the mattress and the frame and pulled out the small black book and a sleek black handgun that definitely wasn’t new. Arthur nonchalantly rose and concealed the gun in the small of his back. He winced one eye slightly as Cory proceeded to flip out.
"Yeah? How's that grip on reality?" Bas shot back and good God if that didn't send the man in the back of his head off. What-the-fuck-ever. No one in this group needed coddling and he knew Cobb agreed with that. He ignored the gun and the journal and stepped over boxes, ignoring what could have been a path or might have just been artfully placed boxes to get to the door of his bedroom. "C'mon. And crack that journal open. I'm not writing and driving." Yeah, that would have been a sorry ass obituary. 'Local Man Dead, Caught Writing on Diary Behind Wheel'. He'd shoot himself before he ever did that and Basilio wasn't all that keen on shooting himself, by accident or on purpose.
Arthur smiled. It was a really unpleasant smile, the kind that crackheads and schizophrenics sometimes wore when they were thinking about things that didn’t exist. As if in answer, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a red six-sided die. He rotated it in the fingers of his right hand as he wrapped his left around the spine of the journal. “You’re so sure that this is real? ...I’ll meet you out front,” Arthur added, casually, watching the other man move toward the door and putting the flat of Cory’s tennis shoe on the window again. The PASIV was still lying on the ground on the side of the house, just behind the water heater a few feet from where he’d been dropped.
Bas had more muscles than brains. He'd accepted this long ago, dealt with it, moved past it, and he was generally a happy guy. He didn't mourn what he didn't have, but he knew, with that fucking smile, that it was a really bad sign when he -- the fucking hitman of the group -- was the saner of the bunch. And Cory, or Arthur, was definitely going to be a pain in his ass. Sighing, Basilio shut the door and followed him out the window, both hands grabbing onto the frame as he hauled himself up and kicked his feet out. Not quite as graceful as Cory, but he was bigger and there was no way he was going to get out quite as easy. "Yeah, I'm fucking sure this is real." He held his hand out for the case. "Consider this a fucking intervention."
Arthur reappeared around the radiator, die gone, journal in his back pocket, and the PASIV dangling from its handle in one hand. He’d kicked the used tubing under the water heater; he’d get it before Cory’s father had any need to be around this side of the house. He gave Basilio a completely perplexed look. “What for?” Arthur didn’t realize that Cobb was interfering, and he also didn’t even see the parallel between Cobb reliving his memories after losing Mal and what Arthur had just been attempting to do in Cory’s mind. Misinterpreting, he said, “I wasn’t hurting him.”
It was half Cobb, half Basilio. "Yeah, you fuckers are like a bunch of junkies taking hits off the Dream pipe. You've got dreams. Other people have coke and crack and motherfucking peyote. And all of you are fucked in the head. Can't fucking tell what's real and what's not," he grumbled and held his hand out for the case as he got a mental kick from the other man. Fucking assholes deserved it. "This is the last time I'm doing this," he grumbled, more to himself and Cobb than anyone else. "So, hand it over. You want to play with it, do it on that side." Fuck, it was like teaching someone where it was okay to play with their dick.
Arthur frowned deeply at Basilio as if they were both professors in an Oxford faculty lounge and the other man had just said something careless about physics. He made absolutely no move to hand the PASIV over, and in fact drew it backward about an inch behind his right knee. “I can’t give it to you. I was working with...” He paused, because he hadn’t actually asked Cory’s permission to be in the younger man’s dreams and it would cause a huge fight. Deciding to work around that Arthur continued, “something that requires being on this ‘side.’” The way he used the term implied something that other people did not when they used it; Cobb might recognize the tone Arthur used when he said “levels.” Cory was suspicious, but he wasn’t smart enough to quite get to the right conclusion, not yet. “The technology is sensitive. I’m not leaving it with you,” Arthur finished, with a tone of intended formality.
He didn't care what terms Arthur wanted to use about it. Basilio knew a junkie when he saw one and knew that technology belonged on one side of the Door and not the other. And he was getting really, really tired of it. And once that decision was made, the gun was out of the back of his pants and he didn't waste a fucking hot second before he was aiming it just to the right of Arthur's foot and shooting into the ground. "Fucking now," he said as he brought his gun up, not aiming it at Arthur's head, but at the hand holding the case. Not even Cobb could have stopped that.
Arthur saw the gun withdrawing and he was already jerking back out of the way of a potential shot. Thought didn’t much enter in the picture when someone was about to pull a gun on you, and as he had so many times before (disturbing in and of itself), Arthur pulled the PASIV up to protect the majority of his torso as he leaned to dart behind the water heater. He wasn’t nearly that fast, of course, not out of a dream. Cory’s face went white as the boy wailed in the back of Arthur’s mind. Arthur froze. He wasn’t stupid, and he considered Basilio and his gun for only a split second before his jaw set. He dropped the metal suitcase on the ground and kicked it over the ground so it slid the short distance between the two of them to stop short at Basilio’s feet. Arthur’s eyelashes flickered, and he was making calculations about how long he could survive in the paltry shelter of the water heater and comparing it to how long it would take him to take the gun from the small of his back.
Basilio picked up the stupid case, christ it was not a fucking first born child, without taking his sight or his gun off Arthur. "Now get in the fucking car, open up your fucking journal and talk to those people. Fuck. Could have made this easy, but oh no. Treating that fucking case like it's your dick," he snarled, waiting for Arthur to get a move on before he started heading that way. Neighborhood like this, they didn't have much time before someone called the cops and Basilio was not hanging around to find out how long it took for Las Vegas' finest to show up.
Arthur favored Basilio with a very cold glance (as cold as he could manage) but after a hesitation he started moving the right direction. He wasn’t going to get shot over this, or more accurately, get Cory shot over this, and he was already feeling a little guilty about how he’d been treating the boy lately, especially with the dream experimentation and now starting fights with trained killers twice his size. “The case is valuable,” was all Arthur would say. He wasn’t going into government experimentation, military training, or its extremely handy use as a method to peddle custom dreams to people who could afford to pay for them. Arthur resisted the urge to put his hands up, and he walked out and down Cory’s driveway, hoping that no one in his neighborhood was looking out the window for the source of the shot. He looked at the car. “That is exactly the kind of car I would expect you to have,” he told Basilio.
"Really? Valuable?" Did he have the shotgun in the trunk? Cause he was pretty sure that would change the very valuable case into a very worthless paperweight. Or several. "Get in the fucking car." The gun was still too hot to go back into his pants, so he kept it out and at his side as he walked around his baby to the trunk. Pulling the keys out of his pocket, he opened it up and put the case inside, next to the shovel, the bag of lime, the rope and the tarp. There was a roll of duct tape rolling around, but it was all fairly standard for a man that might have to bury a body at any time. And now it had a very valuable case too. Shutting the trunk with more care than he ever showed any person, he went around to the driver's side and got in, gun in one hand and keys in the other.
Arthur decided not to argue, and he was very good at not pressing the sore point he’d just prodded a second ago. As Basilio rounded the tail lights, Arthur waited until the trunk was closed and then made sure the tail of Cory’s t-shirt hid the gun before he bent and got in the passenger side. Arthur surveyed the broad dash and all that oiled leather. Could Basilio be any more obvious? He tipped a gaze sideways at the hitman, something sardonic under his floppy gaze, but he said nothing. Instead he got out the little black book and flipped to the most recent pages in the middle.
At least now he did what he was told. Putting the key in the ignition, he gunned the motor and pulled out with a scream of tires and a roar of engine. Las Vegas' finest could kiss his fucking ass. And somewhere along the way to the hotel, he began to relax, the gun loose in his grip. The shotgun wasn't in the trunk, but he could take the case home, take it out into the desert and unload a few rounds of buckshot into it. Then no one would have to worry about the damn thing and they could make pretend that they weren't all fucking insane. "Next time I'm knocking you the fuck out."
By contrast, Arthur grew more tense. It was not like the insane whiplash edge he’d been on before; he flipped through the pages without attempting to inscribe on them and then closed the book to concentrate on the passing road. For the intervening minutes it was as if the car moved of its own volition, and Basilio and his gun weren’t even there. It was a safe bet that he’d even forgotten about the PASIV, lying in the back of a hitman’s trunk where it was to be ignored, misused, or more likely lost. He shifted like a schoolboy at 2:58 in the afternoon, leaning this way and that way, sitting up out of a slump to keep the gun from grinding against his spine in a motion that spoke of absent-minded long habit. When Basilio finally said something Arthur gave him a blank look, as if he needed to translate what the man had just said into English. Slow blink. “You plan on doing this often, then?”
"Fuck, I hope not." Once was quite enough and if Arthur, or Cory, was planning on making a habit of this, he'd likely end up shooting the other man like he almost had today. "I don't know what the fuck you do over there, if you're having some kind of dream orgies or fucking what, but here? This is fucking real. If you want an orgy, go like everyone else does and find one. Don't spend your life fucking dreaming." Life 101 by Basilio fucking Agnoli. Sex was always better when it was real and while he really didn't pry about what Cobb was doing in his dream world, he knew that these fucking people were all bent up about something. Or pent up, given the way that Arthur was fidgeting like a boy about to go out on a date. Maybe he was, both neither he nor Cobb were interested in following that train of thought.
Arthur smiled the scary dreamer’s smile again. “Orgies?” he repeated. “That’s what you think we’re doing? You think those are the kind of dreams Cobb is good at making?” The suppressed laughter was fully audible. Cobb was devious, deadly, fully intelligent and probably the most terrifying person Arthur had ever met when he got his mind set on something. But he most certainly was not of a naturally sexual nature, and to appease a dreamer that ordered something like an orgy, you had to have imagination. Arthur had never been able to make much with those kind of jobs on the rare occasion he’d been desperate enough to take one. He was better at setting up the darker fantasies, the ones that included blood, death, pain, or power. For some reason people liked to dress those up in elegance, and Arthur was better at elegance than anything else. Arthur stopped twitching in his seat and faced Basilio fully. “I like being awake, too,” he said, plainly. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
"I don't care what he's doing, but I know that anything else isn't worth dreaming about and dreaming isn't half as good as being awake." It was almost wise, but then he'd learned something when he came here. Now he'd learned something else: whatever it was, whatever they did, belonged on that side and not this side. This side of the world was his and that side could be Cobb's and yeah he'd go over cause the man had a crazy ass fucking wife and two cute kids and one day he might even have the proverbial white fence and a fucking dog, but that was Cobb's life. Not his. And he wasn't going to spend his life dreaming. "You're fucking dreaming. You wanna do it, do it on your side, not on our fucking side. I'm not going to pretend to give a shit about your boy's life or what he's doing or what kinds of drugs you fucking do to get high, but there's a fucking reason we're separated and not all sitting around the campfire eating s'mores and singing kumbaya."
This was quite a speech, and far more than Arthur expected. There was more to Basilio than met the eye, clearly. Rather than being put off by the man’s opinion, Arthur had more reason to listen when he expected the man to wash his hands of everything to do with him at the soonest opportunity. He frowned deeply, obviously disturbed. “You’re making it sound like I’m drugging him. That’s not it. It’s to understand the mind, Basilio, not make it senseless. We can fool people to steal what they have, yes, but I’m not trying to steal anything from anyone.” Not right now, anyway. What he wanted to know Cory couldn’t tell him. No one could. They kept insisting this was the way things were, and he should just let it happen. That wasn’t in Arthur’s nature, and his friends should know better. “I don’t want to be dreaming. I can’t be sure I’m not, and neither can you, though I know you don’t understand that. I want to know what’s going on. I want to know why Eames can just disappear. I want to know why I’m with Cory or why he’s with me. I want to know what’s real. You would too, in my place.”
Basilio pulled up in front of the hotel, the engine rumbling as he did. It was almost methodical, the way he parked the car, turned off the engine. He wasn't a deep thinker, he didn't sit around pondering the world's problems or if he was real. What reality meant, or what was out there in the universe besides them. If there was anything out there in the universe besides them, but there were some things he knew, like breathing and how to hold a gun, how to shoot and walk down the street, how it felt to end a man's life and why he always took them away from their families to do it. He was hard in ways that others would call cruel, but life was hard, filled with as many joys as it had heartaches. "I wouldn't take over his life and drug him to find out the answers. He wants answers, if Cobb did, he can find them on his own fucking side. I'm not his fucking ass puppet that he can move around as he wants and he's not mine. And I am going to take that sensitive, valuable case of yours out into the desert and when I'm done with it, it's going to be a piece of fucking garbage cause that doesn't fucking belong here."
Arthur made a hissing sound somewhere between disgust and disappointment. “You don’t understand.” He pushed his fingers against the back of Cory’s neck, feeling a crick in it where he hadn’t been wise enough to lie properly on the pillow before he’d set the PASIV. In the inside of his right wrist it was just a tiny little hole in the vein, not even thick enough to go really deep red where the needle was jerked around and out in the bedroom back in the suburbs. “Take it, then, if it will make you feel better.” Arthur tried his door to see if he could get out of the car, away from its rumbling engine and disturbing conversation. “It’s like trying to stop the invention of the combustion engine. It’s going to happen.”
The doors were unlocked and Arthur was free to go if he wanted, Basilio wasn't going to stop him. "And here I thought it was you using him to get answers," he shot back. "Just like you're using him now." There had never been a time when Cobb had taken him over, not like this and even if the other man screamed and shouted and railed against his brain, Cobb wasn't hooking him to a PASIV and playing around in his gray matter. And it certainly never included the other man moving him around like a marionette, or a chess piece of a board that Basilio really didn't understand. Chess was a game for people that thought and plotted, that used dance moves when he used absolute, brutal fucking force. Cobb was definitely a fucking chess player.
He climbed out of the car, not quite trusting still that Arthur would get to the door and go through. Locking her up, he stalked around the front of the car, the gun finally cool enough to be tucked into the back of his pants.
Arthur was not able to counter Basilio’s argument. He was using Cory, and most definitely against his will, at this point. He hadn’t told him about the dream experiments to attempt to understand the connection between alters, and right now Cory wanted to call his parents, to leave, and Arthur simply didn’t allow it. Arthur’s expression set and he did not reply. Without looking back or attempting to recover his very expensive and rather dearly bought PASIV, Arthur strode away to the front door of the hotel and through, not looking back to see if Basilio was following, his mind now focused on the door and who was meant to be beyond it. The journal had not lied yet, and it was just possible this was not one of Cobb’s schemes.
Tucking the keys into his front pocket, he didn't quite follow Cory, it was just that they happened to be going to the same place. Cobb wanted to check on everyone and more than that, he had a few words of his own for Arthur. The only thing he paused to do was to respond in his own journal that yes, he had Arthur and yes they were coming through in a few minutes. A few minutes would give enough time for Cobb to say what he had to say and then, maybe, if everything went well, Basilio was going the fuck home to crack open a beer and see if he couldn't find someone to relieve some tension.
Arthur barely noticed the hotel as he moved rapidly through the lobby and up the stairs. Something in his mind noted the heavy breathing and the sound of the front door that indicated Basilio was following, but it barely registered. He didn't smell the dust, didn't notice the doors whether open or closed, and he moved forward with an intent, habitual absence, following a well-worn path that took him to the right place.
Cory was speaking softly into his mind, using a strange hushed tone that Arthur had never experienced before. The fear there was no longer directed at Basilio, but rather the hitman's words seemed to have made Cory understand that neither of them had been dreaming natural dreams lately. It hinted at a childlike sense of betrayal that Arthur was not prepared to confront, so he pushed away so the words were unintelligible and only wisps of Cory's bitter suspicion and worried isolation made it through. Bringing the prospect of seeing Eames again to the forefront of his mind and keeping the guilt in the back, Arthur pressed through the door.
The change was not as profound as it should have been. Arthur was wearing just what he had been the last time he had been pushed back into Vegas: a horrible plaid pullover from a Fall runway three seasons gone and a comfortable but equally out of date pair of brown corduroy pants. His hair was not slicked back, but had recently dried in disarray, and he looked very much like Cory, complete with the blank expression. He looked down at bare toes, and then around at the warehouse.
Arthur turned to face the door he had just come through. "Is he here, or you just wanted my attention?"
The change from Basilio to Cobb was more dramatic and not limited to just their clothing choices. It was everything from the lack of hair to a full head, the sheer physicality of Basilio turning into something leaner like a battering ram into a stiletto blade in the night. Even their shoes changed, Cobb's polished and gleaming, a little less worn than Basilio's Nikes.
It wasn't that often that Cobb got involved in the lives of his teammates. Not Arthur, not Eames, not Ariadne, because Basilio was right. He was a chess player and you couldn't turn a pawn into a bishop. People were going to be the way they were and sometimes it was better to just let them be and get what you could from it. But he also knew what it was like to slide into dreams, to spend more time in them than in the waking world and he knew what happened if you traded dreams in for memories.
"Yeah, he is." And Cobb being Cobb could be just as brutal and unforgiving as the battering ram he likened his Vegas person to. "He," and Cobb tilted his head towards the door they'd just come through, "wants to take the PASIV into the desert and shoot it until there's nothing left. And if it were me, I'd do the same goddamn thing."
Arthur was used to being Cobb’s chess piece. He preferred being a functional part of a group rather than trying to manage something on his own, but he had already discovered that none of his colleagues believed there was anything the least bit wrong with the scenario they were all living, and so Arthur had to do his best alone. He did not expect Cobb to be particularly concerned about his personal life except in the event that it would affect their jobs, and the years that they had known each other had not ever translated to the sort of intimacy that suggested a friendly tête-à-tête or bonding football games.
Arthur wasn’t sure he believed Cobb when he said that Eames was here, but he didn’t argue. He gazed out at Cobb passively. His dark hair was very long when he didn’t tame it, reaching almost past his chin. He could get away with a rock concert, and it was somewhat disconcerting. He made no move to push it out of his eyes. “You might be willing to sit around and wait while we spontaneously disappear, but I’m not. There has to be something connecting me to Cory, if you go down deep enough.”
It was a thought, a good one. One that even Cobb might entertain, but hooking up Basilio to a PASIV? And given the way that Arthur was controlling Cory -- a boy that held no interest for him except for the fact that he held Arthur-- it was going to end real fucking bad. Without a word, Cobb fished the top out of his pocket and walked over to the nearest table to set it spinning. They weren't dreaming and his proof came when it toppled to the side, still.
He wasn't the one to deal in what ifs, and coulds, and maybes. He dealt with what he knew, not in Arthur's hair or what he used to make it slick, not with the drama that centered around their Vegas counterparts, or whatever romance was brewing between Eames and Arthur. Cobb had been honest when he told Ariadne he didn't know, but nor did he care unless it interfered with their jobs. But he was no stranger to using someone. He'd used them all to get back home and back to his kids and would again if he needed to.
And yeah, he knew exactly what damage he'd done with that, courtesy of Eames' memory. People would do anything to keep what they cared about, that was Extraction 101. Picking the top off the table, he put it back into his pocket, but even there he rolled it back and forth between his fingers. Their Vegas counterparts weren't subjects and as much as he might ignore Basilio, he recognized the dependency in that relationship. They weren't separate, they were almost one of the team. "Did he agree to let you experiment on him?"
Arthur did not wait patiently. He turned away as Cobb produced Mal's totem, thinking as he always did that no totem was a good totem if it used to be someone else's. And now Mal was here, walking around, somewhere, breaking all the rules of reality. It was incredible that no one else saw it. Arthur wove around the chairs, ignoring the cold warehouse floor under his bare feet, and for once not thinking once about what he was wearing. He kept scraping his hair back behind his ears with his fingers, feeling as young and stupid as it made him look.
Cobb's question made Arthur glance over his shoulder from where he stood next to one of the chairs. "Cory? No, of course not." Arthur saw the look on Cobb's face and quirked a brow, turning over his shoulder so he could look at the man with a distinctly teenage challenge. Cobb was probably the most hypocritical of men, dealing out orders and rules and then breaking them at the slightest provocation. Cobb thought with his heart, and while it made Arthur absolutely crazy, it was also the source of the deep loyalty he felt for the man. He'd walk through fire if Cobb asked him to, because Arthur felt he would never have that intensity of feeling. It made Arthur think of children and innocence, and certainly nothing else in his life did. His mouth twisted. It would be quite rich if Cobb started giving him shit about experimenting in dreams. He was almost hoping he would, just so Arthur could yell.
Cobb could be patient while it was worthwhile to be so. He could wait, but here he did not as he faced off against his point man. To him, Arthur was caution, stability when everything else seemed to be falling apart. He'd never admit it though, would keep that particular card as close to his chest as he did with most things.
"Would you experiment on Eames? Ariadne?" He asked, as bluntly as ever. It wasn't so much the experimentation that Cobb objected to -- experimentation in dreams had taught them so much more than he could have ever thought -- but they had all known what they were getting into, more or less. They knew most of the risks, but Cory? "You keep it over here. You want to go that deep, do it here." Because if something were to happen, Cobb wasn't sure he could go in after either one of them on that side of the door. On this side though? He knew he could. More than that, Cobb knew they should find out why, or what it was that tied them to certain people, but if they were going to find out, Cobb knew they had to do it on this side. On that side, it'd be too easy to perform inception again and while he wasn't necessarily protective of Basilio, he didn't want that done by accident. He'd done it once by accident. Never again.
Arthur made a quick sound of impatience. It was a dark sound, fast and sure, like the wet slicing of the guillotine. "I can't see it in anyone else. I know myself, even deep down. I know Cory, too. I can't experiment on myself because I'm too close, I'm just seeing me. But deep down in Cory, I know what's him and I know what's me. I just have to find out why we're connected. Why are we both there?" He turned when Cobb didn't give him the cards he needed to really shout, and he started to pace. Arthur had never been one to stand or sit still when he could move, but generally his movements had more purpose than this restless, bare-footed movement across the room. More and more, he was becoming certain that Eames was not here, that this conversation was about him, not Eames. The book could lie.
It was that restlessness that had Cobb concerned. Arthur wasn't one for stillness, but his movements had more purpose and that combined with the way that he looked, his hair loose and untidy, his clothes -- there was something very wrong. "Keep the PASIV here." There it was, final. Whatever was going on Arthur, whatever was going on with Cory, it wasn't his business. But making sure they could do whatever jobs they got? That was his business and he wasn't going to let this shit interfere with that. "I need you at your best. If you're not, I'm pulling you out until you are."
"You took my PASIV," Arthur pointed out. He could get another one, but it would take a lot of money and effort, connections that Arthur had but Cobb could theoretically try to block, if he really wanted. Ultimately, if he really, really wanted to work for it, Arthur could find a PASIV. He could take one from a military--there were many--or a government--there were even more of those. Maybe it wasn't worth it. Maybe he should just take a bullet and try to wake up. He had time to decide. His eyes went wild, as shadows went wild in the dark. "I'm not at my best. Do what you want. I'm not even in, Cobb." Arthur turned and shoved out the warehouse door, and he didn't stop to think about fucking shoes.
Cobb didn't try to stop him, but watched as he shoved out of the door, barefoot. He said nothing, didn't even stay because he knew Arthur would come back when he was ready to. They always did. Even he came back. And he'd make sure that Basilio checked on Cory's house to make sure he didn't smuggle another PASIV out.