Ch. 11

Wayne Manor, three days later

"That's it," Eames said. "Arthur is coming out of that room – whether he wants to or not."

"You have to give him some time," Nadira said, trying to keep him calm. "Give him time to come around."

"Oh he'll come around. I'm going in there and I'm going to bring him around." Eames stopped pacing long enough to look at her. "Three days, Nadira. It's been three bloody days - how long are we going to leave him in there? How long do Ariadne and Yusuf have to wait before we can get them back? We were supposed to start training Ivanov two days ago. Actually no - he was supposed to start training Ivanov two days ago. That's 48 whole hours wasted."

Nadira looked down the hall towards Arthur's room. "I'm worried about Yusuf and Ariadne too, but I feel for him."

"Well, feelings aren't going to help us right now," Eames responded, not meaning to sound unkind. "Nadira, let me handle him. You go and rest."

She nodded and disappeared into her bedroom.

Eames marched up to Arthur's door. He banged on it a few times and reached down to twist the doorknob.

"Alright, this has gone on long -," he stopped in his tracks suddenly.

He had only planned to rattle it loudly until Arthur came to the door, but the doorknob turned, so Eames pushed in on the door and let it swing slowly open.

Something wasn't right. The door was unlocked for one thing. Arthur never left his door unlocked, whether he was in the room or not. He had a key he always kept on him for the room.

The room itself was a complete disaster. There were things were strewn everywhere. The chairs that were part of the ornate wooden table set in the corner of the room were overturned and the papers that sat on the table were also on the floor. Eames noticed a stale, musty odor that was heavy in the air.

"Hello," Eames called out, walking further into the room. "Arthur?"

The mattress for the large platform bed was half off its platform with the sheets lying on the floor beside it. The pillows were nowhere to be seen. Eames turned to his left and saw that the dresser mirror had been broken and had blood in the cracks.

"Arthur? Where are you," Eames called out again, quickly scanning the room.

He stayed near the walls and moved towards the large walk-in closet. He peeked inside. There was nothing but Arthur's clothes occupying the space. Eames stepped back out and slowly made his way towards the bathroom. Arthur was sitting on the floor, near the stand-up shower. Eames rushed over to him.

He was bedraggled and haggard looking. He was wearing the same clothing from the night they were captured, except they were no longer spotless. Everything was now crumpled and dirty.

Eames assumed that Arthur hadn't showered any time in the last few days. His hair was greasy and his normally clean shaven face was covered in the beginnings of a beard. He had dark circles under his eyes and looked gaunt from lack of food. Arthur didn't react to Eames entering the bathroom.

He looked down and saw that Arthur had smashed the mirror in with his right hand. Eames grabbed his hand and checked it for signs of infection. He was surprised when he didn't find any. His hand was covered in large cuts in various stages of healing and dried blood, but no swelling, heat, or pus.

"Arthur, what are you doing," Eames asked, still examining his hand. He also noticed a picture of the whole team resting on the floor next to him.

Eames remembered the night that picture was taken. The team was in a restaurant in Tangier the night before their flight to Gotham. It was Ariadne who wanted a picture of everyone. None of the other team members – except maybe Nadira – wanted to do it, but they posed for a picture for her. Ariadne asked a stranger to take a quick photo of them using her camera.

It was a strange memory for Eames. He never socialized with other associates. And he wasn't sure if they were even allowed to do things like take pictures – it could have compromised their safety. He couldn't recall ever having fun on the job, but that night was fun. He genuinely enjoyed himself.

Eames noticed that there were blood streaks where Ariadne's smiling face saw supposed to be. Almost like someone had been stroking that spot over and over again with a bloody finger. Arthur twisted his wrist around until Eames released his hand.

"How did you get in here? Get out," Arthur said. His voice was low and sounded rough from disuse.

"I'm here to get you out of this pigsty you've made for yourself," Eames replied, rolling up his sleeves. He knew he was going to have a fight on his hands. "We've got work to do."

Eames grabbed the picture off the floor and shoved it into his pocket. He then started the shower up and let it get warm.

"Just go away," Arthur replied monotonously. "The job is done. We failed. There's nothing else to do but wait for that bomb to go off."

"The first thing we are going to do," Eames said, ignoring Arthur, "is get you out of those clothes. You are going to take a shower. You smell awful."

Eames reached down and hoisted Arthur up from under his armpits. Arthur began to fight back, twisting his body and flailing his arms.

"I thought I told you to get lost," Arthur said. "Hey – get your hands off of me!"

"Stop fighting me Arthur." Eames struggled to get Arthur out of his dirty clothes. "You can't just stay in here until the bomb detonates!"

"Yes I can – I said get OFF," Arthur roared in response. Eames gave up trying to pull his clothing off of his lean frame and just shoved him into the shower.

"Not until you snap out of this," Eames yelled back, struggling to keep him still.

Arthur was stronger than he looked. That was surprising considering that he probably had eaten little to nothing in the three days he had holed himself up in his room.

"Quitting is not an option. There are too many people counting on us."

"I can't do this – I tried. I'm through – now let me out of here and I won't shoot you."

"No chance of that," Eames answered back, panting from trying to hold down a thrashing Arthur. "We have a job to finish."

Arthur was getting tired and began to feel like he couldn't breathe.

"Stop it – I can't do this – get off! We failed, there's nothing more we can do – we failed – I failed – I LET THEM DOWN – BOTH ARIADNE AND YUSUF ARE GONE - I LET THEM DOWN – IF ONLY SHE HAD COME TO ME – IF ONLY I HAD LISTENED TO HER – I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN - GOTHAM'S DONE – I FAILED -"

"YEAH, IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU ISN'T IT," Eames yelled back, fed up with Arthur's pity party. "WE WERE A TEAM BUT NO, YOU DESTROYED EVERYTHING! THAT'S ALL I'VE HEARD NOW – I, I, I, YOU, YOU, YOU!"

Arthur's face twisted in anger. "YOU SHUT UP AND GET OUT – I DON'T NEED YOUR BS! I'M THE ONE WHO HAD TO CARRY EVERYONE – THAT'S WHY THE MISSION WENT WRONG -,"

"- MY GOD, DO YOU HEAR YOURSELF?! YOU HAD TO CARRY EVERYONE? YEAH – ONLY BECAUSE YOU WOULDN'T LET ANYONE ELSE HELP! YOU WERE TOO BUSY TRYING TO MEASURE UP TO COBB – EVEN ARIADNE COULDN'T COME TO YOU, THAT'S WHY SHE DID WHAT SHE DID -"

Eames was cut off as Arthur's fist met his face.

"You're the last person I'm gonna take a lecture from. And don't you dare bring her up to me," Arthur said with a snarl.

He spat blood then stared at Arthur in shock for a moment before he began to see red. "You just won't listen, will you…?"

Eames then grabbed Arthur by his hair and dragged him out of the shower. "YOU DON'T WANT ME TO TALK ABOUT HER - IS THAT A SORE SUBJECT FOR YOU," he asked sarcastically as he sank a fist into Arthur's stomach.

"SCREW YOU," Arthur responded, doubled over in pain. He made himself straighten back up. Eames was normally very mellow - Arthur forgot how much of a punch the burly man could pack.

He was unsteady on his feet but swung at Eames again. Eames easily avoided his next blow. Arthur was a decent fighter, but he was weak from no food or sleep. His anger made him slow.

"VERY INTELLIGENT RESPONSE, POINT MAN! I'M SURE SHE'LL BE IMPRESSED."

Arthur charged at Eames and knocked him to the ground. He climbed on top of Eames and began pummeling him with his fists. Eames took several hard punches to the face before quickly rolling over and punching Arthur back.

"Enough," Eames said, pinning Arthur, who was still struggling. He grabbed Arthur by the shirt collar with both hands and shook him. "THAT'S ENOUGH - STOP!"

Arthur stopped fighting and just looked at Eames.

"Look at us," Eames said breathlessly. "Look at us. We are supposed to be finding a way to rescue our teammates and instead, we are fist fighting in Wayne Manor. What happened, Arthur?"

The rage left Arthur's eyes, replaced by a deep sadness. "I don't know."

Eames climbed off of Arthur and the two men sat on the cold tile of the bathroom floor, quiet but still out of breath.

"I don't understand what happened. I just… wanted to be good enough. I had to get everything right. I'm the point man. And the extractor. No room for mistakes. I have to be perfect."

"No you don't," Eames said quietly. "That's what the rest of us are for, did you forget?"

Arthur glanced at Eames. "Yeah. I guess I did. But, I know I'm the reason the mission failed. I told Ariadne she could come to me if she needed anything. Then I… I stayed on her and pushed her. I put her under too much pressure."

"But, she doesn't hate you. None of us do."

Arthur looked up at the ceiling and swallowed hard. "I got caught up in being right. Being the best. I compromised the team. And Ariadne…"

He trailed off, lost in his own thoughts again. Eames pulled the picture out of his pocket and looked down at it, studying the happy group of people.

Arthur looked over to see what Eames was looking at. His face flushed red when he realized what Eames was holding and tried to snatch the photo out of his hand.

Eames flicked his wrist and kept the photo out of reach. Arthur looked back up at the ceiling.

"Do you like her," Eames asked after several long seconds of silence.

"Sure I do. She's a nice girl," Arthur answered, neatly sidestepping the question. "Everyone likes her."

"Are you in love with her?"

Arthur went very still at the question. "Don't be ridiculous," he replied in a low, clipped tone. "We're nothing but associates. There is nothing to us outside of a work relationship."

"Yes, I'm aware of that," Eames responded. "But you can't tell me that you haven't entertained thoughts of being with her…?"

"Of course not," Arthur said tightly. "She's just a girl."

He swallowed hard and tried to keep his hands from balling up. This was not a subject he wanted to discuss.

"I don't believe you," Eames said bluntly. "I'm looking at this photo – you've practically worn a hole in her face. I've seen you watching her, following her around. Plus, she's a grown woman – she's only a few years younger than you are. How long are you going to run from this?"

Arthur looked very tired all of a sudden. He blew out a sharp breath. "… I don't know, Eames. I don't know. We're completely different. Look at us."

Eames nodded in agreement. Ariadne looked like a university student while Arthur resembled an IRS agent most of the time.

"True," he agreed. "But they say opposites attract. What do you like about her?"

"I don't know." Arthur shrugged his shoulders in a very un-Arthur like manner. "I mean, she's pretty…"

"Now Arthur, I know your desires are more complex than just a pretty face and a nice body," Eames chided. "You can find that anywhere. No… she has something different. What is it?"

For once, Arthur allowed himself to think about Ariadne without holding back.

"She's a free spirit," he said after a moment. "She's kind. Compassionate. Fun. Smart. Beautiful. Interesting. No, she's more than that – she's captivating, passionate… She's… everything I want to be."

"Do you have anything in common with her?"

"I don't know," Arthur replied after thinking about it. "I spent a lot of time with her, but I feel like I don't know her at all. But I want to. I want to be around her and learn who she is."

"Are you in love with her?"

"No? Yes? I – I don't know. I've given it a lot of thought, but you know how it is. I mean, look at Cobb and Mal. Look how they ended up. There's no room for romance in our line of work. That's just how it is."

"Does she love you?"

"I don't even know if she likes me."

"Well, one step at a time, lad. You can think about that when the time comes. At least you have an idea of where you stand."

Eames and Arthur both got up off of the floor.

"I need to eat something – then we can start again," Arthur said. "The day we tried to get her out, she was trying to tell me something."

Eames waited for an explanation.

"I think I know why he has her. It didn't connect until much later but he took Yusuf as well. Bane's men were reaching for me but were ordered to take him instead." Arthur looked at Eames. "He took our chemist. I think he's gonna make them teach him extraction."

"I thought so as well," Eames said. "She paid one of Bane's men to man the PASIV without knowing who he was. Ariadne would've had to at least partially explain extraction. I'll bet the man took the money and reported back to Bane."

"It's the only explanation I can think of," Arthur agreed, nodding his head. "The man actually got inside Tate's head to take us out one at a time like he had been trained to do it."

Eames stared pensively at the floor. "I wonder… if we're all supposed to die from the bomb, Bane included, what would he need to know how to do extraction for?"

Arthur looked over at him sharply. "I don't know. But we have to save Ariadne and Yusuf – and somehow stop that bomb."

"I agree," Eames said. "But, maybe you should take a shower first. Clean yourself up a bit. You stink."

"Yeah, yeah...," Arthur turned to gather up supplies for a shower and paused. "By the way - you ever tell anyone we had this conversation, I'll kill you."

"What conversation?" Eames gave a cheeky smile before leaving the bathroom.


He could smell burning rubber and gasoline. He could almost feel the heat from a fire.

Ivanov walked down the dark alley hearing the sounds of chaos all around him. He reached the end of the alley and was confirmed in what he saw. In the street in front of the dirty alley he stood in was a burning car. Ivanov stood further back in the shadows and surveyed the area.

Many of the buildings and stores in the vicinity looked abandoned. They either had boarded up windows or the glass panes were completely blown out. Graffiti decorated every brick surface available and trash accompanied it on the streets. The area looked like it had been razed to the ground by an army. There was no one on the streets, but Ivanov guessed that they were probably nearby.

The sound of another explosion convinced him to move from his current hiding spot.

The weather was cool and slightly drizzly as Ivanov walked down the street. Thunder rumbled in the distance and Ivanov looked upwards at the sky, which was very cloudy - almost ominous, if he had to put a word to it. He zipped up his jacket and tightened his grip on the backpack he had and began to walk.

He walked for what seemed like hours, not a soul in sight. He stopped to regroup. He was getting tired and the sky darkened a bit. Ivanov wasn't a betting man but he was willing to say that being outside after dark was probably a very bad idea. He rubbed his hand across the back of his neck, undecided as to where to go or what to do. His thoughts came to a standstill as he heard the faintest strains of sound that were other than destructive.

He followed the sound around a building corner and for a few blocks before he came across a rusty trapdoor next to an abandoned casino. Ivanov hesitated slightly before opening one of the two doors and stepping gingerly through the opening. The passage he stood in was very dark and damp with very little light.

He began to walk, still following the sound that had gotten louder since his descent. He gave up trying to see and just felt his way through the dark and listened for the sound that had become like a beacon to him.

After groping the walls and stumbling through the dark for several minutes, Ivanov's eyes registered a beam of light and under it was a narrow wooden staircase. By this time the sound was much louder although he still had trouble registering exactly what it was. He climbed the rickety staircase and pushed open the thick steel door in front of him.

Ivanov was enveloped by the sound of warm, melodious music playing. He recognized the music to be from Erik Satie. He did not play any instruments but he loved classical music. There was an old man in a tattered tuxedo playing an equally worn down piano. Ivanov had a hard time believing that such a rich sound could come from a piano that was so obviously in need of repairs.

The whole scene defied logic in his mind. He had come through burning chaos to find himself in a large underground room with high ceilings with strong beams of sunlight streaming in. The room, which looked like a very large study, had vibrantly green vines on all four walls.

There were bookcases everywhere with every book a person could imagine. Ivanov was tempted to sit on one of the many fluffy couches scattered around the room but he didn't move for fear of scaring the old man. The music suddenly stopped and Ivanov's eyes darted to the man on the piano.

He felt relief flood through him when the man began to play again. This time, the music was from Debussy; Arabesque, if Ivanov didn't know any better. He looked around him in amazement. Outside the world was nothing but death. He didn't see anyone but Ivanov didn't think he would find any empathy from the projections. But in this room, there was nothing but warmth and life. He felt as though he could just stay there forever.

He stood and watched the man play until the song was finished. The man then got up and walked through a small side door. Ivanov frowned and went over to the piano bench where he saw a five dollar bill sitting. Figuring the man must have left it behind, Ivanov left his newly found haven to follow the man. He found himself back outside the dilapidated casino in record time. He looked around and saw the old man tottering down the street, oblivious to the destruction around him.

Ivanov began to run to catch up with him but was stopped by a group of young men. These men had weapons practically dripping off of them and looked as if they hadn't showered in a year. He suddenly changed his mind about wanting contact with other people and began to sprint away from the men.

He ran down a side street and didn't stop running. After several minutes of running at breakneck speed, Ivanov felt safe to stop. He was out of breath and his legs and chest burned. To his amazement, just up ahead of him was the old man walking his way. He ignored his body's cry for rest and began to walk towards the man so he could try and return his money.

Suddenly, he felt his arms being restrained. He looked up and realized the same thugs that were chasing him before had found him again. The two that held his arms threw him against a wall while their leader, a tall man with matted brown hair and a gold tooth, came up and delivered a vicious punch aided by brass knuckles to the side that had Ivanov desperately gasping for air.

The agonizing pain that radiated from his side told Ivanov that a rib might have been broken. Maybe two. Another body was also thrown against the wall. He looked up to see Eames next to him, also restrained and looking like he had taken a few punches himself. The man proceeded to rip Ivanov's backpack off and snatch the five dollar bill out of his hand. He reached in the bag and grabbed 3 apples and a twenty dollar bill, tossing the empty bag back in his face.

Ivanov watched in utter amazement as the man walked up to the old musician and gave him back his five and two out of three apples. He put his hand on the old man's back and spoke quietly to him. The old man took what was given to him and continued to walk. The younger man walked back to Ivanov and eyed him for what seemed like an eternity after stuffing the twenty in his own pocket and taking a bite of apple.

Ivanov finally found the courage to speak. "You some kind of Robin Hood wannabe?"

The man casually shrugged at him and responded with a soft voice that contradicted his rough exterior.

"'You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.'" He then wagged his index finger at Ivanov. "And we ain't criminals, we're survivors, the lot of us. There's a difference. But, you know what they say about assumptions…"

The leader made a circular gesture with his hand and walked away from them, still eating the apple.

The men jumped on both Ivanov and Eames. He saw the glint of a blade before feeling a sharp, agonizing, burning sensation in his chest. Everything went dark after that.

Ivanov opened his eyes and saw Arthur standing over top of him.

"You still had three minutes," he said, frowning as he looked over his notes.

"He survived longer than I thought he would,"Eames said from the other chair. "Our premature death wasn't quite as gory as it could've been." He unhooked himself from the PASIV then stood up and addressed Ivanov. "We'll do this again after lunch. This time, you'll have to try and actually extract something and stay alive long enough to do it." With that being said, Eames walked out of the room to find himself something to eat.

"Arthur, wasn't the point of this for Eames to actually be with me," Ivanov asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we went under and Eames just vanished."

Arthur chuckled. "Everyone has their own way of training. Our old extractor Cobb like to show a person what to do. He'd guide you through the dream and lecture you at the same time. Eames is more… hands on. Sink or swim. It's not a method I use to train very often but it's effective. You'll get the hang of it."

Arthur left the room leaving Ivanov to his own thoughts. 'This time you'll have to try and actually extract something and stay alive long enough to do it.'

Ivanov wanted to let on that he had just learned more about Eames in two minutes than he did the entire six months they've worked together. The man was cultured and educated. He liked poetry. Kahlil Gibran in particular, it seemed. He loved music and Ivanov guessed that he probably either played an instrument or would have liked to have played an instrument. Ivanov wasn't sure where the old man fit in but he seemed like a father figure of sorts.

The forger lived rough but apparently he operated under a strict set of ethics.

'How cliché,' Ivanov scoffed inwardly. 'A thief with a heart of gold.'

But it was the truth. Eames' job and circumstances didn't allow for kindness. But in his short time spent in Eames' mind, Ivanov found that that particular trait still lived deep in him. You just had to dig through all the muck to see it. This extraction was more successful than what Eames or Arthur could ever guess. Ivanov was sure he had caught a glimpse of the man's soul.

Of course, he was also sure that telling anyone what he saw would be a good way to get shot. Eames had a reputation to keep up, after all.