A/N:This is a Robert Fischer-centric fic in two parts. Why Robert Fischer? I like a complex character. He and Cobb fascinate me the most. I need to explain what inspired me. I found my old high-school notes on Brave New World by Aldous Huxley while cleaning the attic room and they inspired me. We dedicated two lesson to dreams, in particular dream incubation (which is inception, basically), and went all philosophical on whether we can make ourselves remember our dreams, as well as remember very subconscious things in our dreams. It's all very complex and some interpretations vary. I am no dream expert, so I simply tried to stay as close to the movie as possible, while daring to incorporate some of my ideas about dreams, as well a my personal experiences. I do believe we can "train" ourselves to remember dreams, or remember things in dreams. In fact, that was one of my Brave New World home-works back in the day (my teacher was enthusiastic). And surprisingly, it worked to an extent. There is always the danger of false memories, but hey, it was fun. Also, I believe that something seemingly insignificant, especially if we try to achieve this, can trigger a whole bunch of memories. This is a slight nod to Proust's Combray, but really only a slight nod. Combray contains the matter of involuntary memories, after all, and we're dreaming here.
I hope you have fun reading this two-part story.
The premise: I remember that it was said in the movie that if inception on Robert Fischer worked, it might change him significantly (or something along those lines). This story is my take on how inception might have changed him.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Inception, at all, but it might own me. I wish I owned Nolan's brain for a week. It would be enough to get some awesome ideas.
Robert Fischer often dreamed and his dreams were mostly just like everyone else's. He was being chased and the more he ran, the more his legs turned into water and whatever was chasing him was always about to take him down, but never did. He was missing a very important event because he was being terribly late and in the end, he either entirely missed that event or entered a wrong room. In his dreams, he was even flying, speaking to absolutely fictional strangers and petting snakes.
But he never dreamed that he was falling – and for the last month, this had been his only dream. The scene was always the same. He was tied and gagged, sitting on the edge of a derelict stone balcony, a long, long way from the gray ground that he could barely see from his precarious vantage point. And then, he was already falling, watching the world above him shrink and grow smaller as he was approaching the ground beneath him with uncomfortable speed, and with it came – death. As he was falling, his mind was empty of everything but panic. He could feel the pressure of the approaching ground growing in his back, spreading all over his body and just before he was going to meet the gray, cracked concrete, he woke up, shooting up in his bed and panting. Every single night.
Something was not right and he wanted to know why he felt that way, why he was so very certain of something being terribly amiss. The answer was in the dreams, but he knew very little about dreams, only what he was taught when he was being trained to block out any attempt at extraction. But he knew one thing – he could make himself dream about falling and expand the scene. He had never done it; in fact, he had never really cared about dreams, other than the dreams one was supposed to follow to lead a happy, fulfilling life and he had problems even with those, since he had no idea what exactly he wanted.
But this would be a challenge and truthfully, Robert Fischer liked a challenge.
Before going to bed, Robert pondered on the dream and when he was certain it was the last thing on his mind, he allowed his sleepy mind to drift.
He turns around and for a split second, he sees an illusion of a woman, her eyes cold and empty, her soft lips curled up in satisfaction, her wavy, short, deep brown hair glistening around her pale face like a dark halo. Her beauty is in contradiction to the sordidness of her actions. She raises her arm, a gun in her hand, and before he can comprehend what she wants from him, why she wants to end him, the gun sings, spits out a bullet and kills him.
But strangely, the scene shifts rapidly and he finds himself coughing out salt water. He is sitting in the ocean, with water reaching to his chest, and the creamy waves are hitting him and splashing more salt into his face, stinging his eyes. He lifts himself up and wobbles to the shore, his black suit – wasn't he wearing a white ski suit before? – dripping. For one strange moment, he thinks, Am I dead?Is this heaven? But instinct tells him that it is not. Heaven should feel beautiful and like the one place in the world where you want to be, but he feels discomfited and even repelled by it. Hell? Who knows. He is hardly a believer.
He looks up, removing his wet hair from his face, and freezes – there she is, standing in front of him, the woman who killed him. Her beauty is pronounced and alluring, but she has already shown him her claws and he doesn't trust her. She offers him a lovely grin and it's very hard not to smile back, if only a little, but the distrust remains. It should – he sees now that the gun is still in her hand and she does not even attempt to hide it.
"If I kill you now, Robert," she speaks with a velvety voice, "you will never wake up again. Now, please come with me," she purrs sweetly, as if she's not issuing threats, but talking about flowers and rainbows. "I am expecting guests."
Robert sighs. She is petite and he could manage her, but she has a gun and he knows very well that she can and will use it if she has to – if she wants to. And she wants to, but not yet. How long does he have? Well, he is not suicidal.
He is not scared of her. He is scared of his inability to act. This brings back to memory his father and his last message to his son.
Somehow, Robert wants to prove him wrong. He wants to show his father that his only son is not such a disappointment. So he follows the woman into the unknown, under the threat of her gun, hoping that from where his father is now, he will see his son accepting his fate like a man.
He didn't tell anyone that he was trying to remember why he was dreaming about falling. Actually, he would never share something as private as his dreams with anyone. He didn't want anyone's attention. Everyone's eyes were on him as it was, ever since he announced at the last board meeting that he was disbanding the company.
That came to him as an inspiration of a moment, but it was one such inspiration that was solid and lasting. It happened a little more than a week ago, on a truly nice, sunny day, with cotton clouds dotting the sky every now and then. Robert didn't really care about the weather, or at least he cared about it when he had to – rain required an umbrella and a lot of patience because he just hated wet socks, which could never be avoided; sunshine required sunglasses and that he liked because he could hide from the world for a while, not having to conceal the emotions in his eyes, as the sunglasses did all the work for him. And that was that. But on that day, sunshine felt really good, tugging at one of his inner strings gently, reminding him of something that he had thought about for the first time in his life. When you had been a shadow all your life, trying to be someone else to please another person, although a father's love should, by default, be unconditional, you tended to forget who you actually were.
Robert wanted to know who he was. It was as simple as that.
"Did you say something, Robert?" Peter Browning inquired, while Robert was leaning against the back of the black leather swivel chair he was sitting in at the head of the long desk during the board meeting, tapping his chin with an index finger, his thoughts drifting.
He didn't know if he had said anything; perhaps he had voiced his thoughts aloud. I want to know who I am. He might have done that while he was daydreaming.
He was aware of who the newspapers thought he was – a rich young man who had everything he wanted, from expensive cars and summer, as well as winter resorts, to beautiful ladies; he was aware of who the board members thought he was – an heir still green behind his ears; and Uncle Peter, and his so-called friends, and the girls he'd been dating. They all had an idea about him. But the important thing was that Robert Fischer didn't know who Robert Fischer was and it came to him, like a whisper, the idea that his father did love him, after all, and had been so tough on him for his son's sake.
Tough love. It sure did sound like Maurice Fischer's kind of love. And although he never said as much, he was sure that his father wanted him to be his own man, not defined by Fischer Morrow, but by himself, his own choices, his own decisions, his own actions. His father wanted Robert to be proud of himself. Now, Robert wanted to know who he was and the massive energy conglomerate would not give him a good answer, or any answer at all. Could he do it? He was scared, but it was possible. All his life, he had been an idea; now he wanted to be a person.
It was then that he interrupted Peter, straightened his silk tie and, giving a faint smile, announced his decision. He was disbanding the Fischer Empire.
The reaction was expected – the stares of disbelief, the o-shaped mouths of silent horror, the indignant shaking of heads.
"It would break your father's heart," someone said, while the hubbub of voices buzzed around him, demanding whether he knew exactly what he had just said, what his decision entailed, what the consequences would be.
"It is your inheritance, your right, your duty!" Uncle Peter roared, silencing the rest of the board members with his grizzly authority.
But the things Peter Browning said were not true. His father founded the company, not Robert. It was his father's wealth, not Robert's. The company was bequeathed to Fischer Jr. because no one had seen another alternative, because everyone thought he should get everything only because he was the son of the right man, even if the founder of the energy conglomerate would have rather seen it led by someone else, someone more competent, and someone more like Maurice Fischer. Technically speaking, his inheritance was not his right, but a consequence of age-old nepotism. But really, what would be the worst thing that could happen to Robert Fischer if he disbanded his father's company? He wouldn't even end up being poor; instead of being a multi-billionaire, he would shift down to being "only" a millionaire. Things were so easy for him, even too easy, since he'd had his own account since he was born and a good portion of those millions were left to him by his mother, and as she said in her letter to her little boy that was attached to her will, "Use it for education and your dreams."
Well, he was educated, and now he would find himself and live by his dreams, when he found them.
And that reminded him of his objective – to crack the mystery of his dreams about falling, to seek the possibility of a meaning in those dreams. He just had to know and there was not really any logic behind it, just the need to know.
He remembered the "dream team", as he called them in his mind during his training against extraction, telling him about lucid dreams, in which the dreamer knew he was dreaming, and he had been explained how to achieve such awareness, with practice and over a long span of time. Yet Robert wasn't interested in dreams back then and failed to practice, but now he wished he'd had. He had already extracted a scene from his mind, if his amateurish attempts could be called like that – the alluring woman with the gun, killing him first, then keeping him as a hostage. He was ready to dig even deeper. He was such an amateur at this, but it was his mind, his dreams and he had at least some control over them, he supposed.
"Robert!" Uncle Peter's voice called again, but instead of replying, Fischer Jr. stood up from the swivel chair without a word and went home to dream.
What kind of place is this? Buildings rising from the concrete, then collapsing, a world of eternal earthquakes and strange, surreal eruptions. He doesn't remember the moment when his wrists and ankles were tied together and a cloth shoved into his mouth. But it's happened and now, he is sitting on the edge of a crumbling stone balcony, fearing for his own life. He squints over the edge and his head becomes a little dizzy because it's a long way to the ground. There is no escape in sight and he thinks it was how the Greek soldiers sailing between Scylla and Charybdis must have felt.
He tries to spit out the cloth; it's hurting his jaw and the simple feat of swallowing down is suddenly a problem. But he can't do it, not with his hands incapacitated. He closes his eyes and tries to calm down with controlled breathing, but even that is hard to achieve, what with the damn cloth obstructing his breathing a little. He's tempted to panic, but he's stronger than that. His father would disown him if he knew that his son, a Fischer, visited a psychiatrist every now and then, but at least Robert knows how to stay calm now, equipped with the knowledge of how to battle anxiety. But sitting on the edge of a crumbling balcony, threatened with falling to his death and being gagged – well, it's not easy to stay composed.
In search of sanity, he conjures up the memory of a garden, and a lush oak tree, and a blanket stretched out underneath its magnificent green crown across the freshly mown grass. There is his mother, taking pictures, and then there is his father, actually chuckling, and little Robert blowing into the paper blades of his pinwheel with frowning concentration. The adult Robert opens his eyes as something grazes his shoulder and he looks down into the concrete abyss, his mouth agape as he sees a pinwheel, just like the one from his memory, floating down and there's…a tree has risen from the gray concrete. What is this place?
He hears voices coming from outside the room from which the balcony is protruding and he becomes still, ceasing with the wriggling with which he tries to free himself of the bonds of the rope. One voice is familiar – the woman who is keeping him here. While he is straining his ears to hear better, a silhouette steps onto the balcony and it belongs to a young woman with a sweet face, warm brown eyes and swirling brown hair. She is the exact opposite of the one who has brought him here.
"Are you okay?" she inquires and she genuinely wants to know.
She pulls the cloth out of his mouth and he takes a deep breath, then nods, confirming that he's okay. She goes about releasing him from the bonds eating at his wrists and ankles. He has so many questions to ask her. He knows that he can trust her, but he cannot explain why. It's like an innate feeling. He stands up, but just as he positions himself on his feet, the girl touching his arm to keep him balanced, the already shaking world begins to quiver wildly and it feels like the apocalypse. He doesn't panic often, and he tried not to panic before the girl came to save him, but now he feels like panicking, even though that's not what a Fischer does in a crisis situation.
Amidst the chaos, a man appears on the threshold of the balcony and Robert winces in recognition – he knows him. Isn't that Mr. Charles? And if that's Mr. Charles, he's…dreaming. Everything is just a dream? He can hardly believe it, but before he can express his confusion with words, the girl – the man, Mr. Charles, called her Ariadne – grabs Robert by an arm, shouting, "I'm improvising!" and pushes him off the balcony.
She fucking pushes him into the embrace of death. He remembers this is a dream, but it feels very real and the panic consumes him, laced with anger. He is falling because of the girl with a beautiful, ancient name. Well, damn h –
Robert woke up panting, his heart performing a wild mazurka in his chest.
He woke up from dreaming about…dreaming. A dream within a dream. Had he been reading Poe lately? No, he hadn't since high school and even then it was an obligation. He was never one for morbidity.
What the hell did the dreams mean? He knew now that in his dreams, a girl by the name of Ariadne pushed him from that derelict balcony and pretty much killed him. And now, after dreaming about the two women for a week, he was recalling some strange snippets of snow, a fortress-like building, explosions, unknown hotel rooms and waking up in a van filled with water, although he was not dreaming anymore. Those things had never happened to him, but they were now lodged inside his memory like a factual truth. He pinched himself hard to make sure he was real.
He was confused and that was a gross understatement. He looked at the time and scrambled out of the big bed in his hotel room at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, although it was not even seven in the morning. He chose New York for the time being because it was his mother's home city and whenever he was not in Sydney or Los Angeles, he went to New York, although up until now, his trips to the metropolis had always had something to do with Fischer Morrow.
Two weeks ago, he was resigned to inheriting his father's company and spending the rest of his life doing something he hated. He didn't mind the luxury; it was all he had ever known and it suited him just fine. He minded the boredom of a life he didn't want, of a life chosen for him by his father. Yet he never said anything, he never opposed it. He was a Fischer and Fischers accepted their responsibilities, even if it pained them to do so. But not him, apparently, because a week ago, he had a strange, unbidden epiphany and he set in motion the process of disbanding Fischer Morrow. Just like that. And he did not even feel the slightest bit sorry or bad, or guilty because of it. He finally felt like his own man. And then, he went to New York, his starting point in the process of finding his true self.
The dreams were not helping.
He really needed to clear his head and think about it all in peace. He got dressed, something casual – a pair of washed-out Benetton jeans, a black Benetton hoodie over a white T-shirt and even a pair of black Chucks. He felt almost like a stranger in such abnormally casual attire, a weird doppelgänger of Robert Fischer. His body felt comfortable in Armani and Marc Jacobs and bespoke suits. He had never been seen in public in such every-day clothes, but he liked the novelty. It was not like he was going to a business meeting; he just wanted to take a walk all the way to Central Park and do nothing in particular, apart from figuring out what was going on inside his head, and he wanted to do it inconspicuously, without bringing attention to himself in fancy clothes. Today, he wanted to be just like everyone else for a change.
Once in the main foyer of the hotel, he saw the waiting guests reading the New York Times – and the front page was showing a picture of himself, with the title Heir of Fischer Morrow Making a Drastic Decision – The End of the Reign of Fischers? above it.
His decision followed him everywhere. Well, screw them. He put his sunglasses on, although the day appeared to be cloudy, and walked out of the hotel, welcomed by the hubbub of Park Avenue. He had never actually walked the streets of New York before. He had always been driven around in a limo or some other expensive car imported from Europe. He was fascinated by another new thing he was about to do. He knew he didn't want to give up the millions, but he wanted to use them for something that would bring him both relative comfort and happiness. He just had to remember what it was that Robert Fischer really liked.
He began to walk, wondering how long it actually took a person to get from the Waldorf-Astoria to Central Park on foot. He had some money on him, in case he needed to take a cab or if he got hungry and wanted to eat a normal hot-dog for breakfast, instead of exotic fruit on a silver plate that he was actually required to eat with a fork and cut with a knife. Walking down East 58th Street, he passed a library and the association it gave him came in the form of the name Ariadne, a girl from an old, Greek myth. The myth version of Ariadne saved Theseus; the girl in his dreams killed him. Robert had no idea how he had even come up with an Ariadne in his dreams. He was not into Greek mythology. He barely knew it, only the basics someone with an education was supposed to be aware of. All he knew was that in his dreams, he tended to conjure up women who killed him. How about that. Briefly, he wondered what Freud would have made of that and it made him smile.
Then, a thought hit him out of the blue. Mr. Charles. A slide of mental pictures rolled before his eyes.
"Shit," he muttered to himself and dug his hand into the pocket of his jeans to pull out his cell phone and call Uncle Peter.
The thought unraveled to completion. Mr. Charles, the man he remembered from somewhere, introduced himself to him as a projection in charge of protecting his mind, Robert remembered, which meant – Shit. Robert had no idea as to how he came up with that, but he did and he knew it was true. Those people were not figments of his imagination. Someone had been inside his head. He was sure of it, although he didn't know how to prove it, or how he even remembered that.
Shit, an extraction had happened, to him. His insides shuddered. What information did he give away? Just the very thought chilled him to the bone.
He searched for Peter Browning's name in the phone's menu of phone numbers and pressed the call button. Before the connection was even established, Robert cancelled the call and halted his steps, his hand holding the phone falling limp down the side of his body.
She was walking towards him at a leisurely pace, talking into her cell phone animatedly, in what Robert understood was French. He closed his eyes and looked again. She was still there, approaching him.
He was dreaming. That was the only explanation.
He pinched himself to appease the feelings of uncertainty and his fingers stung the skin stretching over his wrist and still, he didn't wake up. Ariadne kept on walking towards him. Robert looked over his shoulder, half expecting the other woman, the fatal brunette, to be standing behind him, pointing a gun at him, while offering him one of those alluring, unearthly smiles. He expected to see Mr. Charles, but only Ariadne was there and Robert's mind was hovering – was he dreaming or not?
He decided to talk to her and if he heard what he wanted to hear, then he was dreaming. If not, he was still safely ensconced in the brutal reality and things would make no sense at all. At least that was his idea of dreams: in them, you had what you wanted; outside their sphere, everything seemed to be out of reach.
She was only a few steps away from him now and he waited on his spot, his arm ready to shoot out and make her pause. Yet, she actually did him a favor. Her eyes met with his unintentionally and instead of looking away immediately, as a complete stranger would have done, her orbs stayed on his, her mouth opening in surprise. The next moment, she tried to feign that the second of recognition never happened and she walked past him at a suddenly brisk pace, but Robert turned around, calling her name on an impulse.
He was suddenly sure that he was not dreaming. This was real, she was real and she had been inside his head. He wanted to know why. He absolutely demanded it.
She froze, her back going rigid. She turned around slowly, barely able to meet his eyes. She said something into the cell phone and closed it, shoving it into her purse. Her attire was casual, like his, only that she seemed to prefer browns and reds to the black he was wearing.
"I'm sorry, how did you call me?" she spoke with crumbling calm.
He knew he should have been angry, but he wasn't. He should have been screaming at her, calling the police, but he didn't do any of those things. He was just insanely confused. His enraged monologue should have been, "You, you were inside my head and you extracted something that was only mine from my thoughts! I am calling the cops for this." He should have grabbed her hands to disable any attempt at an escape. He should have been authoritative towards her and demanded justice.
But for two weeks, nothing had been the same anymore. He was a different Robert Fischer. He felt, absurdly, that she had a hand in this – and how could he be angry when he was happy about the way things were finally standing in his life, when he was free to do anything his heart desired? No, he should be angry. Extraction was theft and it was the worst kind of invasion into one's privacy. It was a humiliation done upon the simple intimacy that every man was entitled to possess only for himself.
But he wasn't angry. Now that the woman who killed him in his dreams was standing before him, his anger evaporated and Robert gave up. Apparently, nothing made sense, so why bother? It was not only that he found her attractive the way a man could see a woman; it was more. And he would find out why.
"You pushed me off the balcony," he stated matter-of-factly. It was not an accusation, merely a statement.
"W-what?" she stammered, then chuckled nervously. "Sir, I don't know you and I don't know what you're – "
"Everyone knows me," he interrupted and found it surprising how arrogant he could be at times.
He shook his head and took a step forward. "Let's just make things easy here. I won't call the police. I should, but I won't. I just need to know – what did you extract from my mind, and for whom? I know you're an extractor. I know how these things work."
He crossed his arms across his chest, as if shielding himself from her. This girl had been in his mind; she must have seen things, very private things. He felt naked in front of her, all of a sudden.
She just stared at him in surprise and shock, unable to word her thoughts.
"Can I buy you a cup of coffee?" he offered, and he made sure she knew he was not taking no for an answer. "I hear Starbucks serves great coffee."
He shocked her and it was to his advantage. It worked.