Characters: Ariadne, Arthur
Rating: R for language
Summary: It's been a few months since their attempt at inception and Ariadne's guilty conscience won't leave her alone.
Disclaimer: No infringement intended as 'Inception' belongs to Chris Nolan.
Ariadne nurses the glass of white wine in her hands as she surveys the surroundings around her. Robert Fischer is staying at this hotel and chances are he'll stop by this restaurant for a late dinner as he has done several times this week.
It's been five months since their attempt at inception and she still has no idea if they were successful. Although a small, selfish part of her hopes they were, she stifles the thought when she's reminded of their actions: they invaded Robert Fischer's dreams, intruded upon his psyche, and possibly changed the very person that he is; that kind of power is not something she's comfortable with. Even though the adrenaline rush from their little adventure made her feel almost euphoric in the beginning, the true consequences of their mission sunk in few days after their plane ride: inception destroyed Mal's life, what if it had the same effect on Robert?
Since then, Ariadne has been obsessed with finding out more about their mark.
She's pored over the business section of newspapers for months now. Unfortunately ever since his father passed away, Robert Fischer has remained low-key. He has yet to dismantle his empire, which gives Ariadne hope that maybe the inception didn't take. And now that he's in Manhattan for a business trip, it's her best chance to discover more about him.
Glancing at her watch impatiently, Ariadne takes a sip of her wine. Never having a high tolerance for alcohol, she's already slightly buzzed when someone gently grips her shoulder from behind. Ariadne doesn't need to turn around to know who it is: there's only one person whose touch can make her feel this nervous and angry at the same time.
She doesn't acknowledge his gesture which only encourages him to take the seat next to her. Reluctantly, Ariadne meets his gaze. "What are you doing here?"
"I could ask you the same thing," he replies.
"I'm having a drink."
He cocks his eyebrow. "And it's a co-incidence it happens to be in the same country, city, and hotel as Robert Fischer?"
"Yes," she lies, mimicking his calm, mocking tone. "Of course it is."
Arthur's eyes remain fixed on her, and Ariadne fights the urge to lean in closer and breathe in the faint scent of his cologne. She hasn't seen him in months, not since she walked out on him after their fight, and up until now she hasn't even allowed herself to think about him. Now that he's here, sitting so close she can reach out and touch his face, it hits her how much she's missed him. And how furious he makes her.
"I thought we discussed this," he continues, his voice calm and steady.
It disgusts her that she can barely hold it together in front of him while he's completely unaffected by her. Jaw clenched, she glares down at her wine glass. "This has nothing to do with you, Arthur."
"I'm responsible for taking care of loose ends."
She responds with a bitter smile. "Is that what I am now?"
She finishes the last of her wine.
"Do you think seeing him in person is going to make you feel better?" Arthur asks.
"I just... I want to know we didn't screw him up for life."
"It's too late to change it even if we did," Arthur says matter-of-factly.
It pisses her off how cool and detached he is at all times. He never gets upset, never loses control, no matter what the situation.
Nothing ever gets to him, least of all her.
In their dreams, he stole a kiss from Ariadne. In reality, he rejected her with a consoling smile because he didn't want to compromise their professional relationship. When she started exhibiting guilt over the part she played in their scheme leading to an emotional breakdown in front of him, he informed her oh-so-politely maybe she needed a break from work and go back to school. She walked out, hoping he would come after her. He never did... until now.
"I'm not here to screw things up for you, Arthur. That's not what this is about. I have no intentions of telling Fischer anything."
"You may not intend to, but guilt has a way of messing people up."
"What do you know about guilt?" Ariadne fires back. "You're made of stone. There's nothing in you that's capable of feeling."
"Maybe you should calm down."
"Maybe you should go fuck yourself."
He gives her a patronising smile. "Why don't we go up to your room and talk about this?"
"Oh, is that how you assume you're going to take care of me?" she scoffs.
"Well, aren't you here to get my attention?"
"You arrogant son of a bitch!"
Ariadne could care less the bartender and other patrons' are now staring at her but the last thing she wants is to draw Fischer's attention if he happens to walk in right now. She stands up, ready to storm out when Arthur grabs her elbow and pulls her back. "Let me go," she bites out through gritted teeth, glaring angrily at him.
"Think about what you're risking, Ariadne," he whispers, his voice soft as velvet even as his eyes glint with the cold hard determination she's become accustomed to from him. His thumb gently strokes her skin as he leans in closer, peering at her. "You can ruin everything Cobb's worked hard for."
"I would never do that."
"Prove it. Walk away from Fischer. Go back to Paris."
They remain frozen in place, gazes locked, until finally he eases his grip on her. For a moment she spies something curious in his eyes, almost like regret, but it quickly disappears and Ariadne realizes she must have imagined it.
"I'm not going to make this easy for you, Ariadne."
She used to love the way he said her name. Now, it sounds nothing less than a threat.
"And I'm not going to let you scare me off."
She walks out of the restaurant, acutely aware of his eyes following her every move. Maybe Arthur was right, she muses as she waits for the elevator. Maybe a part of her is doing this to get his attention.
The elevator doors open up, she steps inside, and is about to press the floor button when Robert Fischer slips in. He sends her a polite, disinterested smile of gratitude to which she replies with a slight nod. However, all thoughts of Fischer quickly dissolve in her mind as the doors close; it's Arthur, standing a few feet away, who has her full concentration.
Arthur. Angry and hostile.