Summary: Ariadne knows that to maintain her sanity she must return to reality before she turns out like Cobb. But this is easier said than done especially when Arthur turns up in the middle of the night with a strange warning.
Ariadne sat at her desk on her fourth cup of coffee for the night. It was only eleven but it felt much later. Even after all these months she was still having difficulty readjusting to time in the real world. She could almost see it swirling around her like waves. Cobb had warned her about this. Sometimes time in the real world felt as if she were aging decades and decades in a few mere hours and other times it was too fast for her to keep up with. Sometimes she barely had time to check her watch and hours had flown by. She had missed several exams this way leading to awkward meetings with her course advisors and angry phone calls from her parents. How was it that such a good student, the best that had come by in such a long time was suddenly doing so badly?
Of course her previous good record had saved her neck and she'd be allowed to do makeup exams but it was still a struggle. Dark rims under her eyes she sipped at her coffee staring at her practice papers. She hadn't slept properly for weeks. Somehow the real world was feeling more and more like the dream one she had gotten used to.
Suddenly there was a hand on her shoulder and despite the soft touch of it's owner Ariadne jumped out of her skin. She looked up to see Arthur a small smile on his lips. It was always hard to read the emotions of someone like Arthur but Ariadne could tell he was pleased to see her.
"Arthur!" she cried out. "What are you doing here?" A quick glance at the clock confirmed that it was still only a few minutes past eleven.
Arthur peered over her shoulder examining her paper. His dark hair was slicked back neatly as always and he was dressed in one of his many suits. He looked just same as the last time she saw him except for slight circles under his eyes. It figured that the first thing he would do upon seeing her in weeks that had felt like years was to check her answers.
"The working out for number five is wrong" he said simply though the smile didn't leave his face.
Ariadne broke into a smile unsure if she wanted to punch him on the shoulder or to throw her arms around him. She realized though that Arthur wasn't the most affectionate or expressive person so she refrained from either.
The look on her face made him smile in the dim light of her study. "It's good to see you Ariadne" he said simply and Ariadne felt her heart flutter a little. She wanted to tell him that she had missed him but was too embarrassed to do so.
"How do you even get here?" Ariadne got up from her chair, she was always very careful to look the door of her apartment. There had been too many robberies in this area for her to be complacent.
"I have my ways" Arthur finally opened up his arms inviting Ariadne for a hug. Surprised by the sudden show of affection Ariadne fell into his arms breathing in his cologne. She was so glad to see him that she forgot her worries about how easy it was to break into her flat.
Arthur held her against him for a moment before stepping back and stroking her cheek. Ariadne closed her eyes for a moment wishing that time would slow down for them but of course it didn't.
"What are you doing here?" she repeated trying to regain her composure.
Arthur took a deep breath. "We have a new mission and we need-"
"No" Ariadne blurted before he could finish. "I told Cobb, I told you that I can't do that anymore. My life is already messed up enough".
"Ariadne" Arthur pleaded his voice taking on it's usual impersonal tone. "You may not have a choice".
Ariadne stood back confused. "What do you mean?"
"I mean that Fisher's subconscious defenses were more aggressive than we first thought, it seems his company has developed this new type of technology which is able to-"
Before he could finish his sentence Ariadne felt a shudder that jolted the whole room and recognized it immediately as a kick. She hadn't even realized that she'd been dreaming. God she thought she was past that stage. She'd grabbed onto Arthur who was looking around worried.
"I thought this might happen, Ariadne you have to know that this is not a dream!" he clutched onto her desperately. "This is the only way we can get this message to you, meet with your design lecturer tomorrow and he will explain more-"
Another jolt and Ariadne was awake before Arthur could finish. She clutched at her sides where he had held her and sighed. Then realizing what had just happened she panicked reaching inside her coat pocket she drew out her totem, a pawn that she had crafted herself and clutched at it tightly. She was back in her own world. Her own world without Arthur.
It wasn't the first dream that she had that revolved around him. In fact she more or less had dreams with him every night. Dreams that were so vivid that she could almost believe that they were real she wanted them to be real but she had to tell herself they were just her own projections.
After Fisher's inception Ariadne had vowed to return home to her studies. She couldn't live the life that Cobb and Arthur did unable to know what was real and what was not.
Biting her lip she recalled what he had said about Fisher's subconscious security and to meet with Cobb senior the lecturer that had convinced the academic board to allow Ariadne to continue her studies. But she couldn't do that could she? That would be validating the dream world at the cost of the real one. That had to be her world now otherwise she would spend her life seeking dreams where she could be with Arthur. In the real world he probably didn't even feel the same she had to accept that this was her life now.
But the niggling feeling in the back of her mind told her that she should at least meet with her lecturer tomorrow there couldn't be any harm in that, could there?
Thanks for reading, this is my first ever movie fic so feedback is really appreciated :)