She Wakes Up

Ariadne stands at the baggage claim and watches the bags go by. Moments earlier she had watched Cobb meet Miles and walk away into freedom. Now she is left watching the baggage carousel and wonders what she is supposed to do next. She wonders if she should just go back to Paris and finish her degree. She wonders if she should do some sight seeing and maybe go back to school some other time. Out of the corner of her eye she watches Eames meet her eyes and send her a polite nod. She flashes him a smile and the forger walks outside towards public transportation. Saito walks by and he makes no attempt to acknowledge her. She does not expect him to but she is a little worried when she sees how tense his shoulders look. Ariadne reminds herself that he spent extended time in limbo and the real world must be overwhelming to him. She too went to limbo but there was really no way of knowing how long he had spent down there. Either way she wishes him the best and hopes that he is going to be all right. Yusuf brushes up next to her and takes his bag. Their eyes meet, he smiles and he vanishes into the crowd. Her bag comes around the corner and she moves to pick it up.

"Allow me," a voice says and she turns to see Arthur picking up her bag and setting it at her feet.

"Oh, thank you," Ariadne says,unsure whether or not she is supposed to act like she does not know him.

"Let's go for a walk," he says and he picks up her bag along with his own. Ariadne hesitates for a moment and then joins him as he walks across the baggage claim. "I know you're probably a little overwhelmed right now but I was wondering if you'd like to continue to work together." She notices that he is being very vague right now and that he is doing that on purpose.

"I am to be honest," she confesses because it is true.

"I understand," Arthur says and he hands her a white business card. His fingers brush her wrist when he places it in her palm. "If you decide that you'd like to talk about future prospects give me a call." Ariadne meets his dark eyes for a moment before he sets her bag at her feet, nods and walks out the door to the taxis. He is gone in a flash of perfect suits and she is left in Los Angeles alone. Adjusting her bag Ariadne walks toward the terminal to book a flight back to Paris.

Several months later and Ariadne is starting to get restless. At first it was nice to get back to her normal life. She took the rest of the semester off and did some traveling with the money from the inception job. Now the semester is ending and she is just so bored. Miles had returned but whenever he caught her staring off into nothing he did not accost her about it. He knew why and she was glad he did not pursue it. Now she's turning the card over through her fingers and wondering if this is the right course of action. What they had done was illegal, Ariadne did not try and convince herself otherwise, but from what she gathered about the Cobol job things in the business got just as dangerous topside as they did down in the dream. They had been lucky the inception job was so low risk physically despite the threat of limbo.

Ariadne picks up her cell phone and dials the number. It rings over and over again before it goes to voice mail. Arthur's voice says 'leave your contact information' in three different languages and then there is a beep. She hesitates before saying her name and leaving her number. She wonders if he is going to call her back or even what she is going to say if he does. Ariadne busies herself around her apartment for the next three days until her phone rings. The number is listed as unknown and she is not at all surprised when Arthur is the one who is calling.

"How are you?" he asks after some small talk.

"I'm doing well," Ariadne replies. "I am a little bored to be honest."

"I understand," Arthur says with a chuckle. "Care to meet for dinner?"

"You're in town?" she asks surprised.

"No, but I can be in a day or so," he says.

"Oh, sure, call me when you get into town?" Ariadne says stuttering.

"I'll see you in a few days then," Arthur says and he hangs up without a goodbye. Ariadne stares at her phone and tries to sort out her train of thought.

Dinner is going at a socially smooth pace and Ariadne is not at all surprised that Arthur is just as easy to talk to as he was when they were building worlds together. The conversations were mostly superficial but it seemed like he was having a good enough time talking to her.

"Have you decided if you'd like to come back to work?" Arthur asks as they are finishing their drinks. Ariadne looks down at her glass of wine and smiles.

"I'd love to," she says and Arthur grins at her.

Arthur kisses her after their first job together. They finish turning over the information to the client and go out for drinks. He kisses her as they are walking out of the bar and Ariadne kisses him back without a second thought.

They are walking through the city that she has built trying to keep a low profile. The extractor is somewhere in the dream, she can feel it, and the mark is starting to get anxious. Arthur had said she could come into the dream this time but Ariadne can tell he is starting to regret that.

"Stay close to me," he says and they walk into an empty store. No one turns around to look at them but there is the sound of glass breaking behind them. Ariadne screams and there is the loud echo of a gunshot. Arthur looks down at his chest as blood pools around his heart. Ariadne screams, she begs, as he falls to the ground in a growing pool of blood.

She wakes up.

"The first time you see someone you know in a dream die, it's hard," Arthur says to her hours later. Even now Ariadne can still feel her limbs shaking because she had completely forgotten that it was a dream. "It gets easier and you'll start to remember that you're in a dream and that they are only waking up." She is not sure how she feels about the idea of 'it getting easier' to watch someone you care about die but she only pulls Arthur closer before closing her eyes.

Arthur turns a corner slowly before two men tackle him to the ground. They wrench the gun from his fingers hard enough that Ariadne hears bones snap. He fights against them until one pulls out a knife and stabs him in the chest. Arthur tries to hold back a blood curdling scream but cannot and he clutches the wound in his stomach as the blood pools around him.

She wakes up.

They are racing up stairs to the top of a four story building. Arthur slams the door shut and leans against it as people slam against the wood. He tells her to go to the other end of the building and try to make her way down the fire escape. Ariadne nods and runs off without looking back. The sound of wood splintering makes her turn around and she sees a large man taking swings at Arthur. He ducks but takes a few hits to the chest. The man hits him hard enough that he stumbles back and falls to the ground below. Ariadne looks over the edge to hear the sickening sound of bones cracking and sees Arthur's broken body on the ground below.

She wakes up.

Someone is holding her back and they are asking her questions. Ariadne cannot tell what the questions are but every time she does not say what they want her to say they hit Arthur over the head again. Blood splashes to the ground below and his face is covered in blood. They make her watch as they hit him again and again. She begs them to stop, that she will do anything if they will just stop, but they hit him again and Arthur's eyes are wide and unfocused. Ariadne is crying, she cannot stop the tears and they hit him again. This time he is completely still in their arms.

She wakes up.

Two large hands snatch Arthur from behind and the sound of his neck snapping echoes like a gunshot as his body crumbles to the ground.

She wakes up.

They are driving away from someone, she does not know who, but they have to get away from them. Ariadne is shaking because she cannot take any more of this. Arthur tries to tell her to calm down, that she's okay, that they are going to be okay, but the entire world seems to be closing in on her. It is too much, this is all too much, and a car slams into them from behind. Arthur hits the steering wheel with a sickening snap, the smell of blood is in the air and she cannot do this anymore.

She wakes up.

Ariadne is in her hotel room with her hands over her ears, eyes shut tight. It was real, it had to be real, because she had seen the bullet enter Arthur's skull and she did not remember waking up. She remembers the smell of the blood as it splattered on the ground, the pieces of skull and brain, the hole in the back of his head because bullet holes were always so much uglier than people realized. Now she is alone and she cannot handle this anymore. It never got easier, he lied to her, it never got easier to watch him die.

"Ariadne?" a voice says behind her and she turns around quickly, a gun in hand. Arthur stands before her, completely fine, his hands held up in surrender. "Ariadne, what are you doing? Put the gun down."

"You can't be here," she says and she barely recognizes her own broken voice. "You're dead."

"I'm not dead, I'm right here, see?" Arthur says and he takes a step forward; Ariadne clicks the safety off of her gun and he freezes

"You are dead, I watched you die, I've watched you die so many times and this time I didn't wake up so you can't be here," Ariadne says and this Arthur standing in front of her begins to look a little worried.

"It was a dream, Ari, it was all a dream. I'm right here and I'm fine, this is reality, please check your totem," he says and she shakes her head, hot tears in her eyes.

"You don't get to tell me what's real. You're a projection, you have to be a projection, which means I must be dreaming right now because the real Arthur is dead," she spits out and there is a little fear in his eyes now.

"I'm not a—"

"I'm not going to let you become my Mal," Ariadne screams as she scrambles to her feet. "I'm not going to twist you into something ugly, I'm not going to let you rule my life, you don't get to do or say anything to me anymore because you're dead." Arthur takes a step toward her, to take her gun or hurt her, so she fires. He grunts as a red blossom forms over his heart and he falls to the ground, a hand over the wound. Ariadne walks over and looks down at him, his eyes look sad and broken, and she fires two more shots into the projection's chest. He struggles to say something through the blood but she cannot hear it. He is dead, Arthur is dead, and he is just a projection so his words have no meaning.

Ariadne closes her eyes and waits to wake up.