Title: I will follow you into the dark
Luke slams the door of his and Noah’s apartment in frustration. All of the things he has discovered about what may have happened to Noah keep playing in his mind on a loop. He always knew that the Colonel would go to great lengths to keep them apart, but brainwashing is something he really couldn’t fathom until now.
He calls the number that Adam gave him, and the fact that nothing but an automated recording answers only increases his frustration.
He leaves a message that just a day ago would have sounded insane to him. With words like dream share, and extraction and inception being used. Words and concepts he still doesn’t even remotely comprehend.
He makes it very clear that money is no object at all and time is of the essence. He just hopes he comes across as convincing instead of just plain crazy.
As he waits for the phone to ring he starts doing some research of his own, looking into the info Adam provided. Unfortunately there are no legitimate sources detailing the military projects or their illegal aspects, only some websites from some pretty intense conspiracy theorists. Who knew they were right?
Luke continues reading, while taking every new discovery with a grain of salt. He’s not sure what to believe, and feels like he is coming away with more questions than answers.
Just as he’s about to shut down his computer and call it a night, Luke’s phone finally rings, startling him. He holds his breath as he checks the call display, hoping it’s not just his mom or Casey. He doesn’t recognize the number shown and answers tentatively.
“Luke Snyder?” The voice on the other end asks.
“This is he. May I ask who’s calling?”
“I’d like to ask you a few questions first if it’s not any trouble.” the man says, his voice steady and even.
“Um, sure thing.”
“How did you obtain my contact information?” The man doesn’t sound angry or accusing. In fact there is a distinct lack of emotion in his voice.
“I-uh got it from Adam Munson?” Luke finds himself asking, though he knows it’s the truth.
“I see.” the man replies. “And what is it exactly you think I would be able to do for you?”
“You see, there is a chance that someone-not just someone, my boyfriend’s father, used inception or extraction or something to remove and replace the last four years of his memories. I was told that if anyone could help it would be you. And like I said in my message, money is of no consequence. I just need you to help Noah.”
Luke knows he sounds desperate, but he doesn’t care. He is desperate. He doesn’t have time to play games.
“Very well Mr. Snyder. My associate and I will make our way to you in a week in order to take a closer look at the situation. There is no guaranteeing that we will be able to solve your problem, or that we’re even the right people for the job. However, we will do our very best, and you will be charged for our time. I’ll see you soon Mr. Snyder.”
Before the man is able to hang up Luke responds. “Wait! How do you know where to find me? How will I know who you are? And can you please tell me what your name is?”
“Mr Snyder, it’s my job to know how to find people, let’s just leave it at that. I will be in touch in a few days, and my name is Arthur. Have a good evening.”
And before Luke can ask any other questions, Arthur is gone. The strangeness of the situation increasing once more.
Luke comes over for dinner, with news that he may have found someone who can help.
Overall the experience is somewhat uncomfortable. With Ethan and Natalie asking question after question (until they are told to stop), and Luke hovering as if Noah will drop dead any moment, he feels a little overwhelmed.
Noah can’t help but feel awkward throughout the entire meal. Some of the pictures on his phone demonstrated in great detail how close he and Luke actually were, and now he can’t get the images out of his head.
He had honestly never considered that he might be gay. Between what he could ‘remember’ and what he now knows to be true, he feels conflicted and confused.
So when Luke tells him he wants to talk to him in private, Noah’s mind goes straight to the images of Luke laid out on the bed, naked and smiling. And his confusion is replaced with anger.
He’s living a life he doesn’t know and the one he knew seemed to be a lie. But all he has of his own are his memories, whether they are real or not. As Luke explains what he has discovered so far, Noah is wracked with the thought that his memories are lies and his reality is gone. And that starts to really piss him off. No one can understand, and no matter how much they try and help, there is a chance that he’ll be stuck like this forever.
“-arriving next week to see if they can reverse the damage. Noah are you listening to me at all?”
“Honestly, not really.” Noah answers bluntly. Luke is visibly shocked at the response.
“I don’t understand Noah. You were gone for six months. Six. Your dad brainwashes you into forgetting your life, and now that I may have found a solution you’re tuning me out? Jesus Noah, I’m trying to help you here.”
Noah can’t help but feel threatened, though he knows it’s irrational.
“Brainwashed? This isn’t a movie Luke. I’m not some simple minded idiot that can just be hypnotized into forgetting his life. But it’s great that you think I am. And I didn’t ask for your help Luke. I don’t need your charity, your goddamn hovering, or you shooting me those sad pathetic little looks all the time. I feel bad enough as it is. I don’t need to feel guilty because I don’t remember you on top of that.”
Luke’s jaw drops in shock. Noah knows he’s gone too far and that he shouldn’t be taking his frustrations out on Luke, but he just can’t help himself. He is so fucking mad and he just wants his life back. Whatever life that may be.
“I-I’m sorry Noah,” Luke says sadly. “I was just trying to help. I didn’t mean to make you feel guilty. I just want to fix this, and I feel so goddamn helpless right now. I know I can be overbearing, I know. I just...”
Luke sits heavily on the couch, his head in his hands. This isn’t what Noah wanted at all.
He moves from the armchair over to the couch, sitting right beside him. “Luke I’m sorry. I know you’re just trying to help me and honestly, it’s more than I could have ever hoped for. I’m just so frustrated all the time you know? I feel like everyone is staring at me wondering when I’ll remember, when I’ll stop being such a burden. I just want my life back.”
He takes Luke’s hand in his and squeezes.
“I know Luke. I know about us.”
A look of hope flashes across Luke’s face, and Noah hates to be the one to extinguish it.
“No, I don’t remember anything. I just saw some pictures. On my cell phone.”
Noah’s face is crimson red, as Luke figures out just what’s he’s saying.
“Pictures? Oh, oh pictures” Luke is blushing now too. And Noah’s heart skips a beat.
“Are you, um okay with all of this?” he asks. Noah hopes the fact that he’s still holding Luke’s hand is a small reassurance.
“I don’t know what to think about a lot of things most of the time. And finding out that I’m uh-gay and that we’re, you know, was definitely a shock. But the more time I spend with you, the more sense it makes to me. You have been nothing but wonderful to me Luke and I’m willing to do what it takes to get better again. For us.”
They sit in silence holding hands for a long time. Cause nothing more needs to be said.
“Who was that on the line Arthur?” Eames asks as he enters the room.
“ A new job.” Arthur responds. “We’re heading out in a week.”
“Would you care to at least tell me where it is we’re going?” Eames smirks.
Arthur knows that Eames will go anywhere he asks him to and vice versa. It just comes with the territory of being partners in crime and partners in pretty much everything else in life.
“Oakdale, Illinois. It’s a few hours outside of Chicago.”
Eames gives Arthur a curious stare. “And what pray tell will we be doing in America’s heartland? Extracting fertilizer recipes from competing farmers?”
Arthur roles his eyes and smiles. While their job requires a lot of travel, they usually frequent much larger cities, or at least ones they’ve heard of before.
“From the conversation I had with the client and the intell I’ve managed to pull together so far, the son of a disgraced vet may have been extracted and incepted out of his memories. Nothing he remembers matches up to the life he led. The feds are looking for his father as we speak.”
“And I thought I had heard it all.” Eames replies. “What would make a father do such a thing to his own son?”
Arthur’s shoulder’s visibly tense at the question, while his voice remains calm.
“The son, Noah is gay. And his father, the Colonel, has made his disapproval known in various illegal and often violent ways. It seems that he was trying to straighten his son out for good.”
Eames knows how truly angry Arthur must be. Hell, he’s angry too and he was lucky enough to have parents who were accepting of his sexuality. Sadly, he can’t say the same for Arthur.
“I take it you want to accept the job then?” Eames asks, as if he doesn’t already know the answer. Arthur would never pass up an opportunity to undo damage caused by a homophobic parent. They’ll take it, but he’ll be there every step of the way to ensure that this case doesn’t bring Arthur’s past back to haunt him.
“Well I spoke to the boyfriend just now. He’s as rich as he is desperate, so apparently money is no object. Since we’ve never dealt with anything exactly like this I’ve decided to bring Ariadne and Yusuf in on this as well if they’re available. We’ll need all the help we can get.”
While he’s glad for the opportunity to see Ari and Yusuf again, he can’t help but wonder if ‘all the help they can get includes calling Dom Cobb as well.
Last they had spoken to him, he had settled down with his kids. Gotten out of the business of dreamshare entirely. But Eames also knows that if Arthur truly needed him, Cobb would be there.
As if he can read Eames’ mind, Arthur says “If you’re wondering whether I’m going to call Cobb, I haven’t decided yet. I figure we should just get to Oakdale and take a look at what we’re facing. If it’s truly an untenable situation, I may have no choice but to bring him in. He’s still the best.”
Eames smiles at Arthur and takes his hand. He pulls him close and whispers in his ear “Dom was great, but you Arthur are the best.” then he heads to their bedroom to call Yusuf.
He knows this job won’t be an easy one. He just really hopes that it helps Arthur bury some of his own demons, instead of bringing them to life.
Luke speaks to Arthur again in the week before he is scheduled to come to town, and he finds the man just as hard to read as the first time they spoke.
He’s still a bit weary of the entire situation, but he also knows that they are dealing with something bigger and more complex than they could have ever imagined.
He books four rooms at the Lakeview for Arthur and his team, though he is informed that one of the rooms will be required as their base of operations as opposed to living quarters.
Luke doesn’t think much of it, just assuming that a couple of team members must be married, or are just accustomed to working long hours and sharing space. He is given no information to corroborate or disprove his theories. And it really doesn’t bother him, since he has way more important matters to focus on.
They’ve discussed their situation at length. And as scared as Noah is (and he is scared, Luke can tell), he does his best not to let on. But they both know that they are pining all of their hopes to something they can’t even begin to understand.
The week before the ‘team’s’ arrival is a difficult one. While he and Noah do grow closer as friends, Luke can’t help but worry that this is as good as it will get.
Unfortunately since realizing that they were more than just friends Noah has been sending Luke all kinds of mixed messages, though he doesn’t seem to realize he’s doing it.
Where in one instance he can be distant and standoffish, he can suddenly, just as easily become affectionate and attentive.
From giving Luke the standard “nothing” answer when asked about something that is obviously troubling him, to sitting so close that he and Luke are touching from knee to shoulder, Luke can’t help but not know what to do.
All he knows is how much he wants. Wants his life back, wants Noah’s memory back, and wants Noah. He can’t help but relish the torture of being so close to someone he can’t have, because he rather have Noah close by than not at all.
The day before Arthur and his colleagues’ arrive, Luke and Noah sit watching ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ in their apartment, hoping that it will jog Noah’s memory. And Luke finally snaps.
Noah is sitting so close that Luke can smell his shampoo. The couch is built for three, but based on Noah’s proximity you would think it was built for one and a half. Noah’s arm is flung carelessly over the back, not quite touching Luke’s shoulders, but not too far from it either.
“Noah? Um, what’s going on?” Luke finally asks.
“We’re hanging out?”
“No.” Luke’s exasperation clear. “This, what is this?” he motions between the two of them.
“Last I checked I was watching old movies I don’t recall, in an apartment I don’t remember, with a boyfriend I didn’t know existed until last week. So forgive me if I’m not quite sure how the hell I’m supposed act.”
The last thing Luke wanted was to frustrate Noah any further, it’s an untenable situation all around and he can’t bear the thought of making things worse.
“Jesus Noah. I understand that this is hard.” Luke presses the palms of his hands into his eyes and stands up, walking over to the mantle adorned with pictures of better times.
“It’s just. I don’t know. One minute you’re so far away, and the next you’re right there next to me like nothing changed and I start thinking ‘maybe he’s remembering, maybe today is the day’. But it never is, and that’s not your fault, but it fucking hurts alright. Maybe I’m being selfish, scratch that, I know I’m being selfish. But I can’t help it. I miss you Noah.”
Noah gets up and walks over to Luke, seemingly mindful of the space between them.
“Don’t you think I want everything you want Luke? I see these pictures and hear these stories and you know what? I’m jealous.” He moves closer to Luke, picking up a picture of the two of them arms twined around each other, smiling.
“I am jealous of my own fucking life.” he says quietly, as he runs his fingers over the image.
“I want to be him so badly it hurts. But I’m not him and I don’t know if I ever will be again. And that’s why I sometimes push you away, but other times I am just so tired of not knowing that I just want to immerse myself in you, in the hopes that something will come back to me. That I’ll come back to me.
Luke’s eyes grow soft at the admission, and he silently curses the Colonel for doing so much damage.
“Oh Noah. We’ll figure it out I promise. And even if you never get your memory back, I still want you. We can start again, maybe even fall in love all over again. But only if you want.”
“You know what?” Noah says, as he takes Luke’s hands in his own. “I think I do want. But first-”
And he leans forward and places a chaste kiss on Luke’s lips. It’s feather light, but it’s more than Luke has had in 6 months, and in this moment it’s everything.
“Are you sure?” He asks, his eyebrows furrowed.
“I guess I’ll never know until I try huh?” And he leans in and kisses Luke again.
This time it’s anything but chaste.
Eames enters the living room to find Arthur methodically assembling and disassembling his favourite firearm. He knows it’s Arthur’s way of relaxing, so he just leans on the door jamb and watches quietly.
“I know you’re there.” Arthur finally says, voice still. “You think you’re being quiet, but I can hear you breathing.”
Eames smiles “I’m not sure if that’s sweet or just the slightest bit creepy Arthur. Probably a bit a both.”
He walks over to the couch where Arthur is sitting and plops down next to him, laying his head in Arthur’s lap, to Arthur’s obvious dismay.
“Eames c’mon.” He complains. “I’m working here.”
Eames grabs to firing pin from Arthur’s hand, effectively ending Arthur’s actions.
“This isn’t work love. It’s worry. Talk to me. Your precious Glock 17 isn’t going anywhere, but I’d like to know where your head is at before we head off for this job.”
Arthur sighs, putting the gun down. He runs his hand through Eames’ unstyled hair and says nothing for a long while.
Eames just lays there, feeling Arthur’s fingers massage his scalp. He knows not to push, that Arthur will speak when he’s ready. He always does.
“It’s just” He starts. “how could someone do this to their own son? It’s one thing to not accept that he’s gay. I get that. I lived that. But this. It’s like the Colonel has made it his life’s mission to destroy his only son’s life. It’s beyond cruel Eames. It’s sadistic.”
Eames takes Arthur’s hand in his own “And you want to avenge him, yeah? This Noah? Let me guess. After we’ve done all we can for him, for better or for worse. You want to go in search of dear old colonel dad, guns blazing right? It’s not our place Arthur. We do what we can for the kid, but after that we need to step back.”
Eames can feel Arthur go stiff beneath him. As much as he doesn’t want to argue, he knows that he can’t just let it go.
He sits up, taking both of Arthur’s hands in his and looks into his eyes.
“I’m know your father hurt you terribly, and some nights I can’t help but think that if the bastard wasn’t dead already I’d have killed him myself. But you can’t be everything to everyone Arthur. We’ll do our best to get this Noah sorted, but beyond that you’ve got to let it go. Leave the colonel to the feds alright?”
He looks pleadingly at Arthur hoping that anything he said had an impact, but he can’t be sure.
“I know you’re right you know.” Arthur finally replies, his voice barely above a whisper. “I know I can’t run around avenging every gay kid that caught a tough break. I’ve just read so much about this man, and it makes my skin crawl. I don’t think he ever gave a shit about this kid Eames. Just wanted to mold him into a sad, lonely clone of himself.”
Arthur’s eyes look so sad that Eames can’t help but gather him up into a giant hug. He knows he’s squishing Arthur’s face to his neck and mussing up his hair, but neither of them seem to care.
Tomorrow they head to Oakdale.
~~~~“Here’s goes nothing.” Noah says to himself as he enters the Lakeview. He’s meeting with Luke, and the team of specialist brought in to help him. He’s nervous and excited and scared as hell, but if he’s going to get his life back, he has to take this step.
They meet in a suite on the 17th floor that has been booked as their base of operations. Apparently discretion is paramount since their actions aren’t always entirely legal.
Luke had wanted to pick him up, but Noah insisted on coming alone, giving him time to clear his head. And while he doesn’t regret taking some space, nothing is any clearer to him.
He knocks on door 1710 nervously playing with his fingers. He’s not sure if he’s religious, but he can’t help but pray that whomever or whatever is on the other side of the door can help him.
An attractive man with broad shoulders, a crooked grin and slightly questionable fashion sense answers the door and extends his hand.
“And you must be Noah. The name is Eames. Do come in.”
Noah shakes Eames’ hand, smiling at his English accent. It’s quite a novelty to hear, and he’s always had a bit of a thing for accents. Or at least he thinks he does.
He looks around the room and besides Luke he recognizes no one. There are three other people there; a very professional but young looking man with slicked back hair and what is no doubt a very expensive suit, an equally young looking girl, who appears small enough to be in high school, and a smiling curly haired man looking over a vial of some unknown substance.
Luke gives Noah a small smile, and though Noah may not have known him very long, he can tell that he is being quieter than usual.
Eames continues. “Noah I’d like to introduce you to the rest of our team. This is Arthur, he is one that Luke contacted. He is the eyes and ears of this operation and if anyone can figure out a way to help you it’s him.”
Noah shakes Arthur’s hand, his grip is firm and confident. Seeing him up close Noah can tell he’s not as young as he first assumed. He figures the same goes for the girl.
“Pleased to meet you Noah.” Arthur says. “I’m sure you have many questions, and we’ll do our best to answer all of them.”
“All in good time.” Eames interrupts. “But I’d also like to introduce you to Ariadne and Yusuf.”
The small girl steps forward and shakes Noah’s hand with almost as firm a grip as Arthur.
“Hey Noah. It’s nice to meet you. I really hope we can help you out.”
“Nice to meet you too.” Noah replies, “And trust me, no one hopes you guys can help more than I do.”
The final member of the team --Yusuf, just looks at Noah and asks “Do you have any fatal allergies that you are aware of?”
Shocked by the question, he looks over at Luke who nods ‘no’ with an equally confused look on his face.
“No?” Noah responds, his answer sounding more like a question.
“Splendid. I’ll be setting up the PASIV if anyone needs me.” and he walks over to other side of room to a silver brief case on the table.
“PASIV? What? If that the same briefcase that my dad had? Can someone please just break this down for me?”
Arthur directs Noah to a seat, and sits down next to him.
“I assume Luke gave you the broad strokes of the situation?” he asks.
Noah nods silently, still in need of much more information.
“Well from what we’ve deduced your father used that same kind of briefcase --a PASIV or Portable Automated Somnacin IntraVenous Device in order to both extract and insert information into your mind. Those processes are referred to as extraction and inception. And while inception is designed to alter the thoughts and ideas of a person, it was very surprising to us that he was not only able to extract bits of your memory, but remove them all together. Our goal is to undo all the damage your father has caused, and to do that we need to enter your subconscious.”
Noah scrubs his face with his hands, his disbelief very apparent.
“You know this is completely insane right?”
Luke moves to the seat on the other side of Noah, taking his hand.
“I know this is crazy, but we agreed that we would do whatever it takes. And it seems like this is our best bet to reverse whatever it is your dad did. I’ll be with you the whole time, and I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Luke last words seem to be directed more towards Arthur than Noah, and Noah understands perfectly well how he was able to fall in love with this man.
“I understand your concerns, and we are more than happy to go over anything as many times as you need. Just so you know what all of our roles are, I am what is known as a point man. I am responsible for all intel and recon during a job. To be honest with you, I probably now know more about you by now than most people, but I assure you, it’s necessary for the job.”
Noah nods in understanding.
“Eames is what we call a forger, however it’s much different than what you are probably picturing. Within the dreamscape, forgery includes taking on the personas of other people and is a considerable art that few have mastered to Eames’ level.”
Noah can’t help but notice a look between the two men and wonders if there is something more to it than professional pleasantries.
“Ariadne” Arthur continues “is our architect. She will build the world of the dream and teach it to the dreamer, me. And you as our subject will subsequently fill that world with your own subconscious. It is then that we will discern what your father has been up to, and the best way to go about fixing it. And Yusuf over there is our chemist. He creates the compounds that allow us to enter dreams in the first place. Forgive his abruptness, but when he’s focused it’s all he can think about.”
Noah feels wrung out just from the explanation, but at least he’s starting to understand. Little by little.
“So what happens now?” Noah asks. He’s ready to get this all over with.
“Well” Arthur responds “once Yusuf is done setting up the PASIV we’ll all connect ourselves up to it and take a look around your mind, see what kind of trail your dad may have left behind. It will also give us an idea of how we go forward in repairing the damage he’s done.”
Luke squeezes Noah’s hand tightly. He can tell how much effort it is taking for Luke to keep himself calm and not demand immediate answers.
“So we’re all just going to go running around in my head now. Is that how this works?”
Arthur smiles at Noah thoughtfully, “Not exactly. You, Ariadne, Eames and myself will enter your subconscious together with me as the dreamer. And Luke, I can assure you it’s all very safe. You can even keep watch. And feel free to asks Yusuf anything while we’re under if you need to.”
Noah can see it in Luke’s eyes that he’s a little uneasy, but Arthur’s reassurances seem to calm him somewhat. Noah can at least feel his fingers again.
Eames brings the PASIV device to where they are all sitting and unspools four i.v. lines, handing the first to Ariadne and the next to Arthur.
“Hope you’re not scared of needles.” Eames smiles at him as he inserts the cannula into Noah’s wrist. Luke squeezes tightly once more, his worry easy to see.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ve had worse than a little pin prick.” he replies, hoping his relaxed demeanour doesn’t show his concern.
“Well in that case, sleep well Noah.” Eames winks at him, as he returns to his chair to insert his own line.
Yusuf presses the large button at the center of the device and just like that, they’re out.
The dream Ariadne built for the test run is simple enough. They are in the quad of what looks like a college campus, young people milling about and not really paying them any mind.
“Welcome to your subconscious.” Eames says with a flourish. Arthur can’t help but roll his eyes at his actions. All the while he has been reminding Arthur to keep his distance, but Arthur can tell that Eames is quite fascinated with Noah himself. He’s lucky Arthur’s not the jealous type, but the same probably can’t be said for Luke, so Eames really needs to behave.
Noah looks absolutely awed by what he’s seeing. He can’t seem to help himself from touching the trees, the dirt on the ground, smelling the air.
“This feels so really though.” is all he can say as he wanders along the grassy knoll.
“So far so good.” Ariadne says to Eames and Arthur. “I figured the neutral setting of a college campus would be easy enough to navigate. Now what?”
“Now we find the idea that the colonel had implanted into Noah’s mind and see if we can piece together how he was able to remove memories all together.”
Arthur notices what looks like an ROTC squad lining up in formation in the center of the quad facing them. Noah is still inspecting the landscape as Eames catches Arthur’s attention.
“Um Arthur. ROTC don’t normally carry weapons in this country do they?” He asks.
In that moment Arthur realises that the soldiers aren’t only facing them, but staring straight at them.
“Take cover!” he yells as he makes a dash towards Noah.
Eames and Ariadne manage to make it behind a brick partition just as the soldiers open fire on them.
Arthur grabs Noah and shoves him behind the side of a building, before taking aim and firing.
“What’s the hell’s going on?” Noah yells “Why are they shooting at us?”
As Arthur ducks back behind the building he looks at Noah who is calmer than one would expect for being shot at.
“Your subconscious seems to be militarized. It’s a tactic that is meant to protect the mind from intrusion. Like you own personal army. Your father must have done this as an added precaution.”
Noah’s face is suddenly stone serious. “And what happens if we get killed? We don’t really die right? Is killing these things in my mind going to cause some kind of brain damage for me?”
“First of all, we’re going to do our very best not to get killed, but if we do, just know that dieing in a dream is an effective, though inelegant way to wake up. It’s pain that really lingers, so as harsh as it sounds I will kill you if you get shot. I would do it for anyone else on my team. But I honestly don’t think you’re their target.”
“So they’re trying to kill you guys to protect whatever it is my dad did?”
Arthur nods and returns fire once again. He spares a moment to look over at Ariadne and Eames who are holding their own in fighting off the projections. He can’t help but think how handy a rocket launcher would be right about now.
“Give me a gun.” Noah demands out of nowhere.
Noah gives Arthur a dead serious look. “I’ve been shooting guns since I was a kid. I can’t just stand around doing nothing. If you’re right and they’re not trying to kill me, then I can help.”
Arthur’s not quite sure about this, but right now they can use all the help they can get. He hands Noah a pistol and directs him to go for the kill shot.
As they shoot they carefully make their way over to Eames and Ariadne, the projections reluctant to shoot directly at Noah.
“Arthur. Why does the kid have a gun?” Eames asks confused.
“It’s nice to see you too Eames.” he replies just as Noah shoots one of the projections right between the eyes. “And that’s why he has a gun. The projections don’t want to hurt him, so he can get a better shot than any of us at the moment.”
As they keep returning fire, at times even successfully, Arthur begins to see the futility of the situation.
“We need to get out of here and regroup, and I’d rather not wait for the timer to run out. You guys head out first so I can keep the dream stable.”
Ariadne is the first to raise her gun, with no reluctance. “Meet you up top” she says just as she shoots herself in the head and disappears.
Noah’s mouth gapes open at the sight, and in his moment of distraction he is hit by a round that was most certainly meant for Arthur.
He cries out in pain, dropping his gun and clutching his left arm tightly. Before the pain can get any greater Arthur puts the barrel of his gun between Noah’s eyes and pulls the trigger.
As Eames and Arthur remain, the projections seem to redouble their efforts.
“Eames go. I’d rather not have the dream collapse on the both of us.”
Eames pulls Arthur close to him and says “See you on the other side pet.” Just before he shoots himself and disappears. Arthur follows immediately after.
When they wake in the hotel suite the look on Luke’s face is anything but happy.
“What the hell happened down there? Noah was screaming right before he woke up. And I thought you were all meant to wake up at the same time.”
Arthur calmly removes the cannula from his arm, as Eames is already removing Noah’s.
“We ran into some unexpected trouble in the dream. Nothing we haven’t seen before. But now that we know what to expect we can be prepared.”
Luke doesn’t seem placated in the least by Arthur’s non-answer.
“It seems Noah’s father has placed protections in Noah’s subconscious in the form of armed soldiers. But like I said, we’ve dealt with this before. Much worse even. It will be fine.”
He can tell that Luke isn’t completely pacified, but he can’t be bothered by a hysterical boyfriend at the moment. They have a lot of work to do.
Since the team found out about the protections the colonel had placed in Noah’s mind, they had been working non-stop to create scenarios to bypass his subconscious security.
Luke tries to remain as inconspicuous as possible the whole time, not trying to butt in to things he clearly does not understand fully. So he sits back and listens, using every ounce of strength he has not to question the judgement of the experts.
In a show of gratitude, Luke invites the whole team over to his parent’s house for dinner the night before they are to enter Noah’s mind.
With the guest list including Lily, Holden, Casey, Alison, Lucinda, Reid, Noah and himself, along with Arthur’s team the night is an interesting one to say the very least.
Reid repeatedly questions the medical risks involved in dreamshare and the potential side effects Noah may experience. And while Yusuf reassures him that it is a virtually innocuous endeavour, the doctor doesn’t look completely satisfied.
“Since Noah’s memory loss wasn’t caused by a traumatic injury, surgical intervention will be of no help. Since the damage was caused by directly attacking his subconscious, that’s how it must be fixed.” Arthur explains.
“I know you all are very concerned about Noah’s welfare and most likely quite confused as to what we’re even capable of doing. But I assure you, we are Noah’s best chance of recovering the memories he has lost. We take great pride in our work and don’t take this matter lightly at all.”
Though Arthur has been the epitome of cool and collected, Luke thinks he hears something in his voice. Not doubt, but genuine concern. For some reason, it seems that this may not just be another job for him. He is further convinced as Eames places a calming hand on Arthur’s shoulder, their connection now clear as day.
Noah gets up from the table soon after, excusing himself. “I think I just need some fresh air for a minute.”
As Luke starts to follow Noah, Eames beats him to the doorway.
“Let me talk to him Luke. I promise to gentle.”
Luke can’t help but hate the smirk on the man’s face, but Arthur gives him a knowing look that puts him more at ease. He follows anyway.
He knows he shouldn’t be listening. Should give Noah some privacy, even if it’s with Eames. But Luke just can’t help himself.
He can hear them on the back porch talking as he approaches the door.
“Y’alright there Noah?” Eames asks. Luke positions himself better so he can see them both.
“Hey Eames.” Noah replies as he shrugs his shoulders “I guess I’m as okay as can be expected.”
“I know this isn’t easy for you Noah, but you have got to know that we are going to do everything we can to fix this for you. And if I may be a bit cocky for a moment, we are the very best at what we do.”
Noah smiles at Eames’ bravado, and Luke can’t help but wonder if Noah is even the smallest bit attracted to it.
“It’s not--I mean, I know that you guys are doing your best. And I believe you when you say you are the best. But what if your best isn’t good enough? Where does that leave me?”
“It leaves you with a town full of people who really give a damn about you. And though that may not be everything, it’s a sight more than many people get. I can’t guarantee that after tomorrow you’ll be the Noah you once were, but all those people in there won’t give a toss either way. Trust me, reading people is something of a speciality of mine. You will not be defined by your father’s cruelty, no matter what happens.”
Noah smiles at Eames and Luke can see that his words really resonated. And something inside him aches that he wasn’t the one to reassure Noah so completely.
“And” Eames continues “it looks like you’ve got a man in there that would love you even if we returned you in worse shape than before. Which I promise we won’t.”
“Yeah Luke has been great.” Noah says smiling, a wistful look flashing across his face that makes Luke’s heart pound.
“He can be a little much at times you know? But I think that’s just cause everything is so unfamiliar. But I can tell that he’s really been trying, and that he really loves me, or at least he loves who I used to be. I guess I just don’t want to disappoint him. What if the new me, doesn’t compare to the old one? We had so much history that I can’t remember and maybe never will. I just want to be the man Luke deserves.”
Eames rests a hand on Noah’s shoulder, his voice low and serious. “You’re a good man Noah. And you got dealt a shit hand. But at the end of the day, memories or no memories you are still you. And that is the man Luke loves. It may not be easy, hell, it may be the hardest thing you ever do. But take it from someone who knows the love of a difficult man. They may cause the most headaches, but they bring the most joy. Believe me.”
Noah grins from ear to ear at Eames’ admission. “So you and Arthur huh? I thought so, but I didn’t want to assume.”
“Assume away mate. We have been loving each other to the brink of insanity for years. And it’s been worth every minute.”
Luke steps away from the door feeling a little guilty for eavesdropping. As he turns around he finds Arthur standing there watching him curiously.
“Did you find what you were looking for?” He asks, though his voice carries no real judgement.
“I don’t know, I guess? I just needed to know what he was thinking. And I feel like there are things he doesn’t say sometimes. Like he wants to protect me. I just needed to know how he felt.”
Arthur sits down on the couch and Luke joins him.
“And did listening in help at all?”
Luke isn’t sure why Arthur and Eames are going to such lengths for them. He honestly can’t fathom why they care.
“A little I guess. But what I really need to do is talk to Noah. Um, why do you guys even care?”
Arthur smiles at Luke’s question as if he somehow expected it.
“Believe me, we normally don’t get so invested in our clients lives. But I guess this just hit particularly close to home for us.”
Luke can see that Arthur isn’t entirely comfortable, but he continues.
“My father, he wasn’t a good man, to put it mildly. And when Eames and I met I was at a pretty low point. But he helped me find my worth, the way it looks like you’ve helped Noah. I guess I can just relate in some ways.”
Luke is stunned, shocked that this man who has been a beacon of professionalism chose to share something so personal with a virtual stranger. But now he understands why he has been so invested in their case, and it makes him come to appreciate them even more.
“Arthur, I really can’t thank you enough for this. No matter what happens tomorrow I know that Noah and I will be alright.”
Arthur shakes Luke’s hands and nods.
“I know you will be too.”
Noah and Eames return soon after, just as Lily is setting out after dinner tea and coffee.
Finally, Lucinda (who has been suspiciously quiet all evening) clears her throat, effortlessly commanding the attention of the whole room.
“I would like to say a few things before we go our separate ways tonight. Noah, you may not remember us, but you are part of this family and always will be. Regardless of the outcome, you hear me young man? And as for you specialists,” she says pointedly, waving at Arthur, Ariadne, Eames and Yusuf
“my grandson loves this boy with his whole heart. And we are paying you a small fortune to bring our Noah back to us. If you do anything to harm this young man, or cause him a moments more torment than he has already experienced, there will be consequences. Grave ones.”
Luke stands up, placing his hands on his grandmother’s shoulders and gently sits her backs down.
“It’s okay grandmother, we trust them. And even if Noah doesn’t get all or any of his memories back, we’re going to find away to make it work. Right Noah?”
Noah smiles at Luke in a way he hasn’t seen in months, in a way he thought he might never see again.
“Yeah Luke, we will.”
The house is quiet and Noah can’t sleep. It wasn’t long after Lucinda’s grandiose proclamation that people started to trickle out.
The team claimed they still had some tests to run, but Noah could see the way that Arthur and Eames were looking at each other, and he just assumed “tests” meant different things to different people. As he wished them a good night, he heard Yusuf ask Aridane where they could find a bar ‘in this God forsaken town’. Noah wasn’t offended though, he could tell that they were used to much more high profile clients in more glamorous locals. It actually made him even more grateful.
Luke hung around long past everyone had left and they just sat on the couch in a comfortable silence, Luke’s head resting on Noah’s shoulder, with Noah’s arm around Luke’s shoulders.
He still isn’t completely used to the fact that he had a boyfriend, but everyday it becomes more and more comfortable, though still technically unfamiliar.
By the time Luke left, they could barely keep their eyes open, and something in Noah wanted to ask him to stay. Instead he let the opportunity pass, letting Luke return to their apartment alone. He wasn’t sure if it was the right decision, but it was the one he made.
Now it’s 3 am, and Noah is anything but tired. He doesn’t want to go down to the kitchen, for fear of waking the family, but he can’t just lay there staring at the ceiling any longer.
He flips open his cell phone and stares at the photo of him and Luke on the main screen. Would they ever be that way again? He scrolls though all the pictures of a life together that had obviously been a part of, but can’t remember. He knows in his head that he truly loves Luke and doesn’t want to give up until he feels it in his heart as well.
He sends a text to Luke’s number, hoping that he is still awake. He doubts it, but it’s still worth a try, and aren’t late night texts something that fall into ‘boyfriend territory’ anyway?
I hope this wakes you up. And i’m not ashamed to admit it. ;)
He waits with the phone pressed tightly to his chest, waiting for it to vibrate. When it does Noah can’t help the grin that spreads across his face.
That’s pretty mean noah. You’re lucky i love you.
Noah can feel his cheeks blushing at the text. He is starting to figure out that being loved by Luke is pretty awesome.
I am lucky. You’re one of a kind snyder he replies.
So are you mayer. Everything alright?
Noah tinks about unloading all his fears and worries onto Luke. Telling him everything he had told Eames earlier in the evening. But they are in a good place tonight, and he doesn’t want to do anything to ruin it.
I’m good. Just a little nervous about tomorrow I guess, no big deal
As he waits for Luke’s reply, Noah is startled by the long buzzing vibrations coming from his phone, indicating a call.
He doesn’t have to look at the call display to know who it is.
“Hey, you didn’t have to call. I’m sorry I woke you, I’m just being ridiculous.” Noah apologizes.
Noah can hear Luke scoff on the other end of the line “Are you serious right now Noah? I don’t think there is a text book way to deal with something you didn’t actually know was possible.”
“No I get that.” Noah stresses. “And that’s the problem. I didn’t just lose my memories of you, I lost me memories of me, my friends, my job, my life. And I don’t want to get my hopes up just to be disappointed, but I don’t want to seem ungrateful either. I just don’t know how I’m supposed to feel right now.”
As he silently berates himself for saying all the things he had wanted to keep to himself, he can hear Luke chuckling softly on the line.
“Sorry Noah I don’t mean to laugh but, this is just so you. If I was going through all of this I would be an irrational hysterical mess. But here you are trying to keep up appearances; still wanting to do whatever you think is the right thing. Well let me tell you Noah, however you feel is right, you just need to allow yourself the freedom to feel it.”
“Oh.” Noah responds, not sure what to say.
“All I can say is no matter what, your father can never and will never take away the person that you are. Will we have to rebuild from scratch? Maybe. But it will still be me and you against the world. Just like always.”
Even though it’s been said before that things will be okay between them, Noah really truly believes it now.
“Thanks Luke I--I, well thanks.” He doesn’t know what else to say.
“Don’t thank me Noah, you’d do the same thing for me. Now try and get some sleep okay? We have a big day tomorrow.”
They stay on the line silently, a while longer, neither quite ready to say goodbye. And that is how Noah finally falls asleep.