A/N: Hey! This fic is slightly dedicated to thereisafire's story "The Empty Sky", I used that as an inspiration for one scene (don't kill me! I swear, I asked her/him first!) Please read her (gonna go with her) fic "With Hidden Noise".
This story is Robert Fischer's take on the projections morphing into his POV of the whole frigging dream. So I'm sorry if my writing style seems to switch part-way through.
I probably messed up some the quotes from the movie, I couldn't find some of them online. If you have any corrections, please PM me or send a review!
His fingers slipped around the porcelain sink. Robert could almost imagine it cracking under the pressure, white dust swirling around him to disappear into infinity, like it did in the training. But the training never prepared him for this, nothing did.
"Think, Mr. Fischer. Think. Where were you before this dream?"
He finds himself obeying the voice, strangely enough. Fear coils it's way through the center of his gut, fading outwards as his tongue grows numb, neck itching as burlap cinches tight around it, and beneath all the gunfire in his head he hears a series of numbers repeating over and over and over and over and over and-
"Th-there was gunfire, and-" God, why can't he remember, he needs to remember. For Mr. Charles. "Oh God, we've been kidnapped!"
The training had said his subconscious would protect him; Robert Fischer racks his mind for any memory of a Mr. Charles. They did say that the people he was closest to would manifest themselves inside of his mind. Makes sense, after all. But no one he knew would look at him with those wide, pleading eyes as he pressed the gun to his head.
No one cared enough.
Robert thinks Mr. Charles is all that he wishes he could be.
The other two projections are mild enough, boring might be the word if Robert Fischer were a straightforward man. The girl is pretty, like a wallflower, much too prim and proper and everything his father would wish in a businesswoman to be considered truly beautiful. The man is the same, too bland and too sharp and what-you-see-is-what-you-get to have been anything like the guys from the college frat parties.
Even if their reason for getting into his pants was to reach his wallet, Robert doesn't begrudge them. Those nights trapped beneath sweating, grunting, moaning bodies were the most alive he'd felt in years.
Robert shudders as the man brushes past him, heading for a room whose numbers he feels scratching at the edge of his conscious and bleeding into his chest from a too-pretty girl's fake phone number. Robert Fischer thinks the man and the girl are everything he is expected to be, and would rather die than become.
But as they glare and whisper with a condescending air when they think they're out of sight, Robert Fischer is afraid he is already just like them.
Uncle Peter's eyes seem to dim and blaze in tune with Robert's thoughts, relief, confusion, suspicion, and loss. He wonders if a part of himself had always distrusted Uncle Peter. How else could Mr. Charles have pinpointed Uncle Pe- Browning's plans so quickly? It doesn't matter, though, they're going to find out the real reason Unc-, Browning wanted to kidnap him.
But, God, it hurts to be betrayed.
He is nothingness for a moment, and Robert Fischer isn't afraid until he wakes up, standing upright and shivering even through the snowsuit. He was shivering before, but he was wet then, not frozen, standing on a corner in a storm and he can't remember how he got there.
He brushes it off, the projections are planning something and he wants to be a part of it.
He thinks it odd that they have stayed with him. Shouldn't this world have been populated only by Browning's subconscious? Maybe they'll follow him in any dream world, the trainers were vague on that point, and it's getting harder to recall exact details. Robert wonders if he'll remember this dream once he wakes up.
One of them races off to distract the guards, the projection flashing the group a quick smile as he expertly skies out of sight. The alarms are already blaring; Browning's mind is a formidable place. The Asian projection, Robert is sure he's seen him somewhere before, leads him away.
The man is quiet, the coughing barely heard above the biting wind. He grunts at Robert's joke, "Why couldn't he have dreamt of a goddamn beach?" but Robert doesn't sense the outright disdain he'd felt from the two business-like projections.
The wind whistles past Robert as he falls, hitting the snow with no more than a few scrapes before rolling, sliding and skidding and Robert's afraid he'll never stop, just tumble down forever- like Alice down the rabbit hole or just an unimaginative nightmare. He's almost more afraid of stopping, though. A sickening crunch against something hard and brutal, and he'll lay there, a mass of bones and blood on some sidewalk as everyone stares at his broken body, unable or unwilling to help or even scream.
And some little child, unaware of the apathetic masses, might cry out in shock. A half-yelled, half-sobbed, 'Mother'. And a man might stand there. Watching, waiting, uncaring and unmoving and unloving, saying: "Robert, there's really nothing to be said."
The Asian man, projection, grabs his arm, hauling Robert to his feet and shaking off the snow. Robert half-yelps, half-grunts as the projection stumbles into his arms, blood splattering the snow with a sick realization as they both sputter Fuck.
The Asian projection is like his father, sick and withered and Robert can't wait to see him just die.
But Robert still doesn't want to let him go.
It hurts, and there's a cord wrapped around his wrists and a cloth in his mouth. It's gritty with sand and Robert tries to spit it out but a "shh" comes from behind him and he freezes.
The woman is pretty, she glides into his line of sight with eyes that shine like an animal's, bright and feral. There's a raw sort of beauty to them. The college guys have said the same about his eyes, but they're just a plain old blue, nothing special. They didn't have to use such false compliments to get what they wanted, Robert thinks with a hysterical giggle.
She drags him out to the porch and leaves him, a flimsy thing of wood and dirt swaying precariously below an empty sky. The color isn't right, but he doesn't think about that now.
He shivers at the edge of the house, the paint peeling beneath his cheek. He doesn't want to fall - God - He's so afraid of falling.
There's the business girl from before, she reaches towards him, words lost in the wind. She yells louder. "I'm improvising!"
And as she pushes him his nails catch on the porch steps, a sickening jolt to his gut and his eyes meet hers in a silent plea and then he's falling and falling and falling and-
The door slides open with barely a whir of its gears. Robert wonders why it seemed built for him, as if Browning's only purpose was to reveal his secrets. He knows that somewhere beyond this door lies the destiny only he can reach.
He still wishes Mr. Charles were with him.
The room is black. The tiles a tasteless grid, so unlike the office where his father lay, waiting to die, surrounded by no one who cared. Robert wants to run towards him, afraid at each second he'd pass away, the beep of a flatline destroying the silence and the dream. Robert had almost forgotten it wasn't real.
Dis- Disa- Dis-
I know, Dad, I know. You were disappointed that I wasn't you.
N- no, no no no. I was disappointed that you tried.
Robert has no response to this, can only hold his father's hand and pray that this is the truth, even though it isn't real. The hand flops out of his, gesturing towards an unremarkable safe. The numbers feel right, natural as his fingers punch them into the code, almost without any conscious thought. It opens.
His fingers barely skirt the edge of the paper, The Last Will and Testament is thin compared to the other, official will, but Robert doesn't care.
The bottom of the toy is broken from when he dropped it, long ago, his unsuspecting father stepping on it and Robert's own fingers as he reached desperately to save it.
The edges are discolored from when his mother spilt her wine on it, long after the day at the fair. She was always drinking.
The center is streaked with yellow from when Robert tried to draw a smiley-face on it, days later when Mother was dead and Father almost was.
But the pinwheel perfect, even with all it's flaws, and Robert can only cry as the flopping hand ceases it's futile motions and lays there. A familiar jolt spreads through his chest and he squeezes his eyes as the world turns to fire around him.
Browni- Uncle Peter hauls him up the last few feet of water, gasping and choking. The hair on Bro- Uncle Peter's arm is dark from the rain and water, Robert blinks again and it's grey. Must've been his imagination, God - he's just so tired.
Uncle Peter apologizes, meaningless platitudes. The kidnappers are gone, the fear and betrayal coil sharply in Robert's chest and he hates it and wishes it weren't real and he would Just Wake Up-
The water spills over his hand as he jerks, flailing for a moment before meeting the flight attendants eyes and accepting the immigration form. The announcement blares comfortingly close, We will be landing shortly. Flying is a necessary burden, and through the years he's grown used to it, but Robert is always grateful to have his feet firmly planted on the ground.
"Welcome to Los Angeles, Mr. Cobb." The man checking the passports says with a smile as Robert grabs his luggage. Mr. Ch- Cobb stares dumbly, and Robert tries to remember where he's seen him before.
He recalls a toast for his father with the man behind him and turns away, shortly forgetting the matter entirely.
A/N: Purposefully ambiguous. Did the idea take? If it does, will Robert even go through with it? Eh. Who knows. I don't.
BTW, the movie ending was real. The top dropped during the credits, the children were older and wearing different clothes, and Cobb wasn't wearing his wedding ring (he did so only in the dreams). Suck on that, haterz.
Aw, you know I love you.