Character(s)/Pairing: Ariadne-centric, Arthur/Ariadne
Summary: She still visits the warehouse, stands outside and studies the frame of the roof against the clear-cut sky, and tries to remember what it was before that kept her rooted in this world.
Disclaimer: DO NOT OWN. (however much I would like to...)
A/N: First Inception fic. (And the first since my 8 month hiatus...oh boy.)
She doesn't realize it until later, but it is so much harder to keep a grip on the dreamscape than reality.
Reality? What exactly constitutes reality nowadays? Reality
is was cramming for tests, reality was cups of coffee in between classes, scant hours of sleep stolen in between assignments, banter with the professor, graphite permanently staining her fingers as she sketched her surroundings.
Then reality became two minute mazes and abandoned warehouses and that perpetual scar on her inner wrist, a tiny pinprick, barely discernable unless you knew where to look.
((the crease between his eyebrows. the quirk of his mouth. his hand on her shoulder: hey. it's alright. you're okay.))
She still visits the warehouse, stands outside and studies the frame of the roof against the clear-cut sky, and tries to remember what it was before that kept her rooted in this world.
((because now everything she's ever known pales in comparison))
It feels like months or years or decades; her perception of time has never been the same since.
((seconds here turn to minutes turn to hours turn to months and years and years just like that and she didn't think that was even possible before))
A part of her regrets accepting Cobb's offer, regrets giving up the coffee stains, the meaningless dreams, the academic chitchat, the silver-smudged hands. Back then it was manageable, normal. (legal)
Yet she knows that if given the opportunity again, she'd accept in a heartbeat, because what she had gained in return was worth it all.
((otherwise she never would have known her capability to create the impossible, bend cities upon themselves, create mazes, defy normalcy))
And now, reality merely becomes a way to pass the time.
((waiting-watching-hoping-dreaming—for what, she doesn't know))
Only at the baggage claim does Ariadne become conscious of the fact that she has no idea what to do. They had planned everything concerning the objective—down to every minute detail—that it was only until afterward that she considers the future. Is she simply going to waltz back to the university like nothing had happened in the first place? Was it some unspoken rule to just split the place after a job?
Cobb is the first to leave, delirious in his impatience to see his children again. Saito departs without a second glance, after a time followed by Yusuf, who risks a small smile in their direction.
Eames winks at her conspiratorially, grabbing his suitcase and whistling cheerfully as he walks out the door.
Half-desperate, she brushes against Arthur as she reaches for her bag, willing him to look at her, just a second or two of acknowledgment.
He glances over (he was always so good at reading people) and answers the unspoken question in her eyes with a barely perceptible nod, mouth quirked in a way that is distinctly like and unlike himself as he surveys her panic.
Yes. It's over. You can go back now.
(We'll find you if we need you again, she likes to think he meant.)
Ariadne watches as he walks away, to another job, to tie up loose ends, she will never know. Something inside of her clenches after he disappears into the crowd, some acute, very real sense of loss registers, and she searches her memory, wants to memorize the shadow of a nonexistent kiss as its giver (or receiver, depends on how you look at it) vanishes.
But already the sentiment escapes her, for how do you remember something that hadn't actually happened in this world?
((it was worth a shot.))
She takes the next flight back to Paris and spends the trip thinking of how she'll be able to collect herself, pick up the pieces in order to create some normal semblance of her past reality.
She is not Cobb. She still dreams; dreams of half-forgotten memories—if you can call them that. They are anything but lucid, merely sensations, (sightsoundsmelltastefeel) impressions of what she's already experienced, just not in this reality.
((the shower of glass, a knife in the stomach, the telltale click of a trigger—usually people would be able to recall these things more clearly))
The recollections turn traitor; once awake, she's left scrabbling for the bits and pieces of what she can remember, to try and convince herself that it had happened in the first place.
((she speculates that memory is a fickle thing—what transpires in dreams remains obstinately out-of-reach, for she can still remember them: appearance, character, quirks and all))
((clean-cut lines and straightforward words and the ever-present imprint of a loaded die clenched in the skin of his right hand—a reminder))
She knows Arthur is real; she doesn't trust her imagination to create someone quite like him, in all of his clarity and complexity.
((all of the others materialize in and out of her dreams on a whim, but he alone remains a constant))
She curses herself for having the mindset of a Harlequin character, but can't bring herself to make an effort to barricade him from her dreams.
((who is she to tell her own subconscious to stop?))
She's in her apartment, eating breakfast when she hears the static of her neighbor's radio through the open window. (she has long since gotten rid of the curtains.)
((non, je ne regrette rien…))
She doesn't know how, but somehow she ends up slumped against her bedroom door, breaking out in cold sweat and fingering her totem.
((waiting-watching-hoping-dreaming—for what, she doesn't know))
A realization hits her at three o' clock in the morning weeks (months?) later, and she jolts awake, frantically grasping at dreamstate memories and having them slip between her fingers.
((do you know what it is to be a lover?))
She's sketching bridges on the Seine that afternoon, her subconscious lingering on that border between trance and actuality until it gives in to slumber.
((it isn't until she wakes up that she realizes that she'd written half of a whole along the edges of the paper)) --
The next day she immerses herself in the remnants of her past life; calls her parents, (yes, yes, mom, I'm fine, why do you ask?) arranges a lunch date with her friends, (Christ, it's about time Ari.)and turns in a sketch so solely lodged in the realm of practicality that it could be considered brilliant if not unimaginative (receiving only a cryptic glance in response from the Professor.)
((she'd rather be her own self rather than half of something that never lived up to its potential))
Reality becomes a weak imitation of life before the Fischer job—waking up to barely-burnt coffee, silver-smudged fingerprints on graph paper, weekend brunch with friends—a collection of things so familiar yet jarring at the same time.
((she figures that she's fighting a losing battle, but can't bring herself to acknowledge it in its entirety just yet))
It's pouring rain outside (something that strikes a chord in her mind that she chooses to forget at the time) and she and her friend laugh while letting down their wet hair, cradling warm cups of coffee between chilled fingers.
"Sweet Jesus, wouldn't mind him taking me home sometime," her friend mutters to her, eyebrows raised suggestively as she surveys a newcomer walking into the café.
She laughs, shaking her head, before glancing at the man in question.
((she didn't know that she could still experience that feeling of free-fall in this world))
"Ariadne? He's not that unfortunate-looking. Stop, you're scaring me; it's like you've seen a ghost."
((the sharp, precise lines of his clothes and rain-slicked hair, mouth quirked in a way that is distinctly like and unlike himself as he looks straight at her))
She tears her gaze away and somehow manages to form a coherent reply, suggesting that they should leave before the weather gets any worse.
((her friend complies, thank goodness, and they leave without a second glance, Ariadne fingering the golden bishop in her jacket pocket.))
Back at the apartment she curls up on her couch and tries to convince herself that she's dreaming.
((her totem lays on its side on the coffee table, obstinate—she glares at it in accusation.))
((she's not about to let him jeopardize all that she's worked hard to regain))
She's expecting the knock on the door (he was always the man with the details) but is nevertheless shocked into immobility upon hearing it.
"Ariadne, open the door, please."
((his voice brings her back to swanky hotels and silver briefcases and his expression as he surveys her reconstructed labyrinth—))
((quick, give me a kiss.))
She rubs her wrist—and before she loses her nerve, lets him in.
"There's another job," he says, after casting a casual glance around the apartment, gaze lingering on the totem on the coffee table, swinging around its base.
((his ability to commit things to memory was always one that she envied))
She takes the time to really look at him, sweeping over the strange yet familiar planes of his face, victim to some sort of tender nostalgia as her eyes reacquaint themselves with him.
"And I'd thought that you'd be interested," he finishes, swinging around to look at her, the corners of his mouth curling up the smallest amount.
((he really shouldn't know the effect he has on her.))
Her decision is made within a second, (since when have any of her choices been well-thought-out?) but she pauses, perhaps to reconsider, weigh the consequences.
((but who is she kidding?—it's been obvious that this is
who what she's been waiting for since day one))
((because anything and everything else she's ever known pales in comparison))
"Well. You do need the best, don't you?"
He laughs, something like relief in his eyes, though the rest of his body stays in sharp focus.
"I take that as a yes?"
"Yes, you idiot."
((he smells like rain and expensive cologne and she hopes that he doesn't mind that she's wrinkling the back of his jacket in her clenched hands—she just needs a confirmation))