NOTE: Thanks again to everyone who has continued to follow this story on its journey. I really appreciate all the positive comments I've received and love reading everyone's own Inception stories. I always click on the commenter's name and read some of their stuff because I like reading too!
This little one is short but I promise…the next chapter will make up for it :)
Now after much delay…
White. Endless white. Snow clouded her vision as she skied down the mountain side with ease (a skill that Ariadne never had managed to master in her real life) and whisked to a crisp halt by Cobb's side.
Her heart was pounding from both the sudden exercise and the fear that coursed through her veins. This was it. The final moment in which all their hard work paid off. Or didn't. Fischer had to see the right thing in there or all hope was lost. She didn't even know what would happen if they failed the mission. They had never spoken of it. How could they all go back to their lives after this?
Ariadne half-listened to the chatter over the freezing wind as she took in her surroundings. Everything was drenched in the white cover. Tree tops sparkled as they shook every so often in the wind, dumping powdery white down the mountain sides. They were in a flat clearing with an enormous rocky edifice rising behind them.
As she moved her gloved hands to adjust her cream hued hat she caught a snippet of the erupting argument. They were trying to decide how to divvy up the group. Saito was now volunteering to accompany Fischer and Ariadne and Cobb were to cover from afar. Eames was in charge of distracting the projections long enough for Fischer to get inside. A perfect job for the forger.
The next thing she knew she and Cobb were watching as, despite major complications, Saito and Fischer had managed to get inside the fortress. Cobb was positioned next to her, peering through the view of the gun, scanning through the strategically placed window, for threats.
"There's someone else in there," he muttered quickly to himself and Ariadne felt her body tense. His hand flew to the trigger, finger curling, ready to attack. The projections had found them. Fischer still hadn't opened the vault. They were screwed.
They watched helplessly as feet appeared, then legs, and finally an upper body clad identically to the rest of the team. Maybe it was just Eames. The slim arm raised a gun toward Fischer and that's when Ariadne saw her face. Mal.
"How is she here? How did she find them!" Ariadne shrieked suddenly to Cobb, watching his finger hesitate over the trigger.
"She's not real! Shoot her!" she continued, stepping toward him. All she had was a knife and even if she had a gun, there was no way she could even clip her from this far. This was the biggest risk of the mission. Mal entering the dreamspace and ruining everything. A risk that no one but her knew about.
This was the real pivotal moment. Everything up until now had been a test for Cobb. Could he keep Mal out? Could he force himself to remember that she was dead and that nothing could bring her back? Ariadne didn't understand how love could do this to someone. How it could cloud everything. Change everything. Alter meanings and skew perceptions. How could one person do this?
"COBB!" she tried a final time, watching in horror as Mal pulled and fatally shot Fischer, his body thudding to the ground. Saito was nowhere in sight as Cobb pulled the trigger a moment too late, Mal's body crashing to the ground lifelessly next to Fischer's.
The snow swirled around her and her eyes began to tear up from the gust of wind. What happened now? Fischer was dead. Saito was slowly slipping away due to his injury. Soon they would both be lost in limbo forever. A place where only Cobb knew the real dangers. How on Earth were they going to pull this off?
Moments later they were inside. Eames was crouched over Fischer's lifeless body. He and Cobb were murmuring to each other, trying to figure out how they were ever going to clean up this mess.
"We can still do this," Ariadne started quietly, contributing to the hushed conversation. She felt like the child interrupting a big discussion between the two parents. A discussion she shouldn't be involved in. Something too over her head.
Looking up at her, the parents glared but softened as the idea flooded over them. Her voice shook as she spoke, her eyes surveying the scene of the dead and the dying. The living just as hopeless. Cobb agreed and they prepared for the worst. The child took her father's hand and followed him into the darkness. Scared and unsure.
"He's fine!" she screamed over the loud sounds filling the house. Everything in limbo was falling. Crashing. Buildings were rising and tumbling like waves in a tumultuous ocean. Wind whipped past Ariadne and through the open front door, into the dining room where Mal thrust the chef knife through Cobb's abdomen.
"You're not good enough."
The words echoed in Ariadne's ears as she finally understood that Cobb was in control the whole time. He knew he had to face Mal. He knew he had to put his nightmares to rest. But he was strong. He knew the complexities of the human person could never be imagined by another. Their so called 'pure creation' only went so far as dreamers.
Accompanying the rugged sound was that of a bullet piercing Mal's skin. She managed to shoot Mal without even grazing Cobb's skin. Whether it had been the adrenaline or Arthur and Eames' combat talent rubbing off on her, she didn't quite know.
"What are you doing?" screamed Cobb at Ariadne, now hoisting Fischer's body with one hand and a gun with the other. He was coherent, but barely, when she had found him on the porch. Alone in this strange place. She couldn't even imagine.
"Improvising!" she replied before shoving Fischer off the porch. He fell fast into the endless depth, debris whipping around him. His eyes glimmered as he disappeared into the darkness below. The unknown.
"Go!" Cobb told her, explaining he had to find Saito. His mission was not complete. And without Saito all would be for nothing. Only he could bring Cobb back to his family. His reality. His true life.
She was standing there looking helpless. Lost. She was torn. Torn between reality and the dream. She didn't want to leave Cobb in the same way he couldn't leave Saito. To leave him would be cruel. A punishment.
"Bring Saito back. Don't lose yourself," Ariadne warned before throwing herself off the dangerous edge, clasping her eyes shut and waiting for the end of the fall. Waiting and falling.