"non, je ne regrette rien"
Mallorie was stunning at twenty-one. She had a certain grace about her, a certain poise which extended from the way she moved to the way she spoke in not one, but two languages. She never thought herself as particularly gorgeous – at least, not in the way that people considered women to be beautiful. Like most women, she had her own private criticisms about her appearance.
That did not stop her from being comfortable in her own skin, and that was what got her noticed.
Close friends knew better than to ask her out; they knew she was not looking for a relationship. She was working far too closely on her father's projects (whatever they may be) to concentrate on a relationship outside of her trade. However, strangers at bars and clubs felt free to ask her – she always politely declined, and if they were a little too insistent, she would insist right back that she was not interested.
And it was the truth. She wasn't interested. Twenty-one years old and she had never been on a proper date. She had too much on her mind; too much creativity, too much fascination with the dream world. She had never had time for a relationship – never.
She did wonder what it would be like, though. Sometimes she cursed herself for being so stubborn; one day, she promised herself she would give some poor man a chance, just to see what would happen. It was partially out of curiosity, but mostly out of desire to see what it felt like. Despite her love for her art, she thought there was nothing quite like the love of one human being for another.
Eventually, she did want to experience it.
Just not quite yet – not quite yet. She had much work to do – so much to create, so much to explore. Her passion drove her, refusing to be caught up in anything unrelated to it.
That evening, she met Dominic Cobb.
He was very young and intense when she first met him. He insisted on working late into the night, working right through until all creative output he had from the course of the day ran dry. Each field had the kind of person who would insist on doing no wrong, on going by the book, and Dominic was the one for the dream worlds.
For the most part.
Once she coaxed his creative side, he suddenly didn't care for her father's rules quite as much. Though her father was his guide and mentor, Dom felt quite free to create his own guidelines for exploration, as long as he was talked into doing so. That became Mal's job. She recognised that his mind could potentially be quite as stunning as her father's – perhaps even surpassing him.
And no one surpassed her father.
It intrigued her. She wanted to see how far they could go together, to explore new dimensions, new heights, see where the dream world could take them. Delve as deep into the human mind as they could.
It was there that the secrets lay.
She just needed to convince him that it was the right thing to do.
Fortunately or unfortunately, that was the easy part.
It had been several years since she began working with Dom when she made her first contacts in the black market.
She did so out of curiosity; she had long since heard of their prowess in the dream world, of the way they dared to go where no one had dreamed of going before. It was perfectly logical – these men and women worked on the black market. They infiltrated other people's minds with the intention of stealing their secrets. They were, at a very base level, thieves.
And she would freely talk with these thieves, if only to provide herself with information they had gleaned from their exploits.
Dom didn't think it was a good idea. He did not want to associate himself with the black market, even if it was only for information – and once they did, there was no turning back. They would be marked forever by people in the right circles. On the other hand, he agreed that they could not progress much further on their own without expanding their knowledge base.
They quarrelled. It was one of their first major arguments.
In the end, Mal convinced him to come to her side. She usually won, in the end.
She had always been attracted to him; from the moment she first saw him, she had been attracted. It had something to do with the look in his eyes, the passion with which he spoke, the way his hands clutched a pen when he was sketching out ideas on paper. And she knew he loved her, too. It was there, in the way he spoke softly to her over the table, in the way he held her hand as they went under, in the way he smiled at her when they returned.
But he was her partner – she couldn't jeopardize that relationship. Out of love for the work they shared, she couldn't. There was too much at stake.
Then one evening, after they returned from the dream world they had created, they were sitting together in Mal's living room, a bottle of wine opened on the table, discussing what they had seen, what they had explored, the full extent of the world they had created. They were experimenting with projections; seeing how far one could taunt them before they began to swarm and attack the dreamer.
Mal clinked her glass with his and smiled as she took a drink. He was looking at her, a familiar fondness in his gaze. She lowered the glass and asked him what he was thinking.
Je crois que je t'aime.
She froze at his words, uncertain of what to say or how to react. The simplest thing to do was to smile and back out, but she found herself not wanting to do that. How long had been that she had denied herself this? How long had it been since she had begun to desire something more out of life?
How long had it been since she had first desired him?
There was no more hiding. She couldn't do it anymore; her wants and desires had changed. Her life wasn't solely about the dream world anymore – it was about him.
And by God, she would show him just that.
Mal set the glass aside and shifted forward across the couch, pressing her lips against his in the hungry kiss they had been denying themselves for three years.
He asked her to marry him with the promise they would grow old together, living to see and create new worlds.
She cried when he presented her the ring. It was something she had never dreamed would happen – she had always been too much of an outsider to the rest of the world to think that she would ever be married. But Dom was different. He was hers, as much as she was his. Nothing had ever felt more right than when she was with him.
And she knew he felt the same way.
She never gave him a verbal answer – she couldn't find the words, in either language. Instead, she had pulled him up, put her arms around him and kissed him.
It was all the answer he needed.
Their wedding ceremony was private – a small event, with only their closest friends and family members. Mal had wanted it to be as personal as she could make it, and so they chose her parents' Paris backyard garden as the location.
She couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day.
Having been born to a bilingual family, Mal was insistent that she keep with the family tradition. Dreams were her trade, but words were just as important and beautiful to her. And so, they wrote their own vows in both English and French.
Later in her life, her wedding was one of the most perfect of her numbered days. Unfortunately, later in life she couldn't be certain that it had happened exactly as she remembered it.
She almost gave up on dreams entirely when she fell pregnant.
This was something no dream world could ever create. While the dreams were addictive and their exploration rewarding, nothing gave her such a strong sense of fulfillment as giving birth. Here was something to which nothing else could compare – the creation of a child. A new life. A precious life.
She cried when she was born. After hours of intense labour (wherein Dom claimed she nearly broke his hand), Mal clutched her daughter to her breast, filled with such joy that she felt her life was complete in this moment.
Only a few years later, her James was born.
Their daughter and their son – their children.
As she watched them grow up, she knew she would do anything for them. Anything at all – but the pull of the dream world was too much for both her and Dom. Eventually, despite her father's warnings, they returned to their exploration and experimentation, even as their small children rested in the rooms above.
They began to argue.
Dom's obsession with exploration and creation was greater than hers; her thoughts still remained with the children and she was more hesitant to return to the work she loved. She claimed it was because she had born the children, not he – though of course that automatically brought on the argument that she could not possibly love the children more than he simply because she was their mother.
In those later days, it was one of their predominant arguments.
Their roles had reversed. At first, she did not realise it, but eventually it dawned on her. Before their marriage, she had been the one insisting on further and deeper exploration of dreams. She had converted him to that line of thought; she was responsible for the opinions he held about dreams. She had made Dom the man he was today, the man who argued incessantly with her about which was more important – the children or the dreams.
Eventually, they both agreed that both were equally important.
And so they came to a truce. They would explore only at night, only on certain days of the week. Otherwise, they would spend their time with their children.
Or so Mal believed – her memories of that time were blurred and indistinct. It had not been long after that they both fell into limbo and became trapped.
She knew which world was real. She could always tell. She was familiar enough that even though the world tried to trick her, she could see past it.
That was what she told herself.
That was how she knew the world she inhabited was false. Her children were false. Her friends and family were false. Her husband, however, was not false. He was just as trapped as she was, and it was her duty to make him see that.
He shook his head, insisting that they were back in reality now. She argued, throwing her hands in the air, fighting back against his insistence. How could this world be real?
The top still spun, when she laid her eyes on it.
Or so she thought.
Once, she tried to take Phillipa and James away from him, to coax him into admitting that they were still trapped in limbo.
He stopped her.
She threw a kitchen knife at him.
She hadn't meant to. It barely grazed him and there was very little blood, but even then the act horrified her. She allowed herself to be taken to three different psychiatrists, just to please him. All three verified that she was sane.
More proof that this was, indeed, the false world.
She tried to take her own life more than once, but each time something stopped her. At first, it was the images of her children – her Phillipa, her James – scattered about their home. She would see their faces and forget that they were not her real children; they were her dream children. If she wanted to see them again, she would have to kill herself and escape this false reality.
But she couldn't do it without Dom. She loved him. Despite the heated arguments, despite the growing distrust, despite everything that had come to pass between them, she loved him. She couldn't go without him, she couldn't leave without making sure he would follow.
She needed him to be there with her.
Then, one morning, she woke up with a very distinct plan in mind. A plan that would convince Dom to come with her. A plan that would allow them to escape this reality together.
It would work. She knew it would. She had faith in it.
All she had to do was wait for their anniversary.
She sat on the window ledge of the hotel, dangling her feet over the busy street many stories below. Her shoe fell, plummeting towards the ground a dizzying distance away, and she felt almost giddy.
She could feel the adrenaline rushing through her body. It was always like this in a dream, moments before taking her own life to escape. It was dizzying, intoxicating, and fatally enthralling.
Dom was yelling, pleading with her from across the way. He was half-way out the window, ready to follow her when she jumped. All she could do was smile back. She had made her peace with this false world. It was time to escape it; and he would follow it.
She was certain – even though Dom was still convinced this world was real.
Part of her mind, very, very far away, held the distant thought that he could, potentially, be right. It was possible that she could have tricked herself into thinking that the real world was false, and the false world was real. Human longing was fickle; it could be manipulated in many ways as the mind was an extraordinary thing. Love could be created and destroyed, all within a dream. All within something that did not truly exist.
But what was existence? The mere fact that it was real, solid and tangible, or the fact that one thought it was real, solid and tangible?
Such was thoughts for philosophers and scholars. She would not be troubled by them. Mal knew where her opinion lay; she knew this world was the false reality. She would escape it. She would escape it with her husband, and they would return to their true children.
She believed it with all her heart.
She looked across the way at Dom, sensing his panic, his despair and he desperately continued to plead with her. She smiled, pressing her hands into the cold stone of the window sill.
Follow me, my love. Je t'adore. Notre place n'est pas ici.
It's with our children. Our family. Our home.
She closed her eyes, feeling the wind in her hair. Dom's voice faded, overtaken by the pure drive of life rushing through her.
C'est la joie de vivre.
A/N: And that, lovely folks, is the end. I hope you enjoyed this series of ficlets; they were a lot of fun to write and to explore different situations from different places along the Inception timeline. The characters of this film are a blast to write and I'm thinking of doing some more Inception stories in the future – but probably not as stylistically experimental as this fic here.
Thanks to all of you who are reading!