Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Christopher Nolan, et al. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's Note: This story was written for the Remix Madness part of RemixRedux 9. It is based on "With Thanks to Apollo," by Sour_Idealist, which can be read at either archiveofourown. org/ works/ 172434 or at sour-idealist. livejournal. com/ 31828. html. If you want more of my thoughts on this story and the process of remixing, you can find an extended Author's Note at edenfalling. livejournal. com/ 528785. html.
Summary: In the months after the inception job, Ariadne slips from one life to another. Written for RemixRedux 9.
Postcards from Naxos (You Don't Have To Go Home, But You Can't Stay Here)
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Ariadne gets back to Paris just in time for all her end of semester projects and papers to come due at once. She has extensions on most of them, courtesy of Professor Miles, and she'd been working on them during slow days of the inception job, but it's still an insane amount of work - almost enough to distract her from her growing sense of displacement.
She starts checking her totem after lectures and conversations with people she knows are her good friends, but who suddenly feel paper-thin and impossibly naïve. They don't know that Ariadne has played god, that she helped rewrite a man's entire concept of himself and his reality. They don't know that she pushed her morals aside and broke laws that don't even exist yet - and she liked it, loved it, would give anything to feel that rush again.
She never expected that of herself. Ariadne is an obedient daughter, a conscientious student, a trustworthy friend. She didn't act out when her mother married Tim, and she always tries to be the best big sister and set a good example for Cassandra. Free internet downloads, ignored speed limits, and a persistent habit of jaywalking were the closest she'd ever come to crime.
So why didn't she listen to the little hesitant voice when Cobb told her his work was slightly less than legal? She could have turned back then without ever knowing what she was missing. Even after she felt the rush of dreamsharing, she could have asked Professor Miles about legal applications. There must be some; technology always creates needs people didn't realize they had, and somebody will always find ways to build an industry on new ideas.
But she dove headfirst into Cobb's world, where the only questions that mattered were, "Can we?" and "If so, how?" and nobody thought to ask if can equaled should. Not even Ariadne.
She never knew she could be that amoral. She's not sure she wanted to know. She doesn't think she can forget.
Ariadne turns in her last project, explains the logic behind her design choices, and listens to her teachers rip it apart. She nods and files away their comments - it's always good to know your weak points and fix your errors - but she's not stung and inspired the way she always was before. The spark is gone.
Her roommate Nina pounces on Ariadne the minute she gets home and insists on that she attend a celebratory we-survived-the-year dinner with Marie and Danielle. Ariadne lets herself be dragged over to Marie's apartment and even manages a bit of genuine interest at Danielle's plan to visit Croatia over the summer, but her fingers keep sliding into her pocket and playing with her totem. This isn't her life anymore. This isn't her world.
"Pictures!" Nina says when they give up halfway through dessert. "Come on Ariadne, do the honors."
"You take me for granted," Ariadne says with mock indignation, the way she always does, but she pulls out her cell phone and holds it forward while the other three squash in around her. One last record of her old life, she thinks.
She pushes the button.
The next day, Arthur calls.
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"So you're all working as a team now?" Ariadne asks as Arthur unlocks the warehouse door. "I thought you were pissed off at Yusuf for the sedative thing. And do you and Eames even get along?"
Arthur shrugs, slipping out of his leather jacket and hanging it neatly over a wrought-iron coat stand to his left. "Yusuf did what Cobb asked when Cobb was the boss; he had no reason to think Cobb was lying about the risks. We're working as equal partners now, so nobody can order him to keep secrets. Besides, he's the best. So is Eames. I can put up with a lot in return for skill."
"Your boundless charity and tolerance never cease to astound me, Arthur," Eames says loudly, swiveling his chair to face them across the half-organized mix of clutter and open space that was their home base for a month. "Hello, Ariadne. I see you've developed a taste for adventure."
"Apparently so," Ariadne calls back. "Where's Yusuf?"
"Tracking down the elusive International Herald Tribune. His hotel was mysteriously out of today's issue," Eames says. He stands as Ariadne and Arthur approach, his jacket swinging open to reveal a hideous mustard-colored shirt. "Give us a hug, then?"
Ariadne shrugs and slips her arms around his chest for a few seconds, letting him squeeze her shoulders in return. Then she steps back and hops up onto the empty table that had been her work area. "What's the job?"
"Basic extraction," Arthur says, setting a laptop on the neighboring table and turning it on. "OmniTel is interested in knowing which way Brussels is going to jump on bandwidth regulations next month."
"This is, of course, not half as simple as Arthur's making it out to be," Eames adds, leaning his hip against the table next to Arthur while he addresses Ariadne. "A committee is the only known form of life with a dozen legs, a dozen eyes, and no brains whatsoever. There's no telling what the Eurocrats may spook at over the next thirty days."
"Which is why I set the terms the way I did," Arthur says calmly, tapping several keys in what looks like a set of programmed shortcuts. "We extract the likely voting positions of three key committee members. What OmniTel does with that is their business, not ours."
"It certainly is our business, since we're the obvious scapegoat should anything go awry with their plots," Eames shoots back. "Look here, if we're going to do this at all, we ought to-"
Ariadne kicks her legs and watches the two men bicker. They're terrifyingly competent - she's seen the evidence written in paradoxes, second skins, free-fall kicks, and legions of slain projections - but sometimes she feels they never quite made it out of adolescence. It reminds her of the way she and Cassandra used to bicker before Ariadne left home.
"Better than television, no?"
Ariadne jerks around to see Yusuf standing beside her, folded newspaper in his hand. He smiles. "You have no idea how grateful I am to see you. Without Cobb casting a pall over everything, these two revert to schoolyard squabbles."
"I heard that," Arthur says without turning.
"You were meant to," Yusuf tells him. "I am going to sit and read my newspaper until you have worked out enough of a plan to tell me what compounds you need. Please try not to take more than a week."
Arthur and Eames look up with matching indignation on their faces. Ariadne stifles her laughter and surreptitiously pulls out her phone. She catches the three of them in one shot, then pauses, wondering how to label the file. They're criminals; she shouldn't use their names, just in case. Time and place might also be dangerous.
Literary references, on the other hand, can mean anything.
She sets the picture as her phone's new wallpaper.
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"Smile, you're on Candid Camera," Ariadne says brightly. Eames glances over his shoulder, hand still raised to the chalkboard halfway through writing the address of a mark's psychiatrist. She takes the picture.
"You haven't even got my good side," Eames says, and laughs.
Ariadne thinks honesty is better than whatever he might have chosen to show her.
"Have you finished the design for-" Arthur starts to say, looking up from his notebook with a frown of concentration.
Ariadne takes the picture and grins. "Two hours ago. I was waiting to see how long you'd take to ask."
Arthur shakes his head with a tiny, rueful smile. "Just don't send that to your parents. You don't want them to think an older man is corrupting you."
"Hey, Yusuf, say cheese!"
"Wait, wait, wait, let me take my goggles off. You want a picture of me, not a picture of plastic eating my face," Yusuf says, carefully setting down the Erlenmeyer flask and dropper he was holding. He steps away from his workbench and pulls off his headgear, rubs his eyes, runs a hand through his hair, and nods to himself. "Okay, now!"
It's more posed than Ariadne was aiming for, but his giant grin and thumbs up are so infectiously cheerful she takes the picture anyway.
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"Do you have a secret boyfriend?" Nina asks one evening when Ariadne is late getting home from the warehouse. "I know you didn't apply for that internship after all, since you haven't run off to London, but seriously, what are you doing all day? I never see you anymore."
Ariadne stares blankly into the depths of their refrigerator, trying to remember the excuse she'd worked out three weeks ago. She had worked out an excuse, hadn't she? She must have. Cassandra's always been better at excuses, but Ariadne isn't stupid, especially when she has some lead time to think.
Oh. Right. "Not an internship, and if I had a boyfriend, I'd tell you. This is an extension of the project Professor Miles asked me to participate in last semester - you remember, the one about internal traffic patterns in hospitals. The think tank liked our work and asked us to do a companion study on government buildings in Brussels. If we're lucky, some of our ideas may go into designing new offices for European Union agencies."
"Oh," Nina says, clearly finding the concept unutterably boring - as she's meant to. She returns to her original thread: "So which of your team members do you have a crush on? You've never worn eye shadow before, and don't think I don't see you taking twice as long as usual to decide what to wear in the mornings."
Ariadne blinks. Which of her teammates does she have a...? What? "No, no, no, you've got it all wrong," she tells Nina emphatically. "I'm just trying to look professional, not like a teenager. You know I still look about sixteen if I'm not careful. I want them to take me seriously." She knows Arthur, Eames, and Yusuf take her architecture skills very seriously, but sometimes they still treat her as a little sister to be protected, and she hates that role. She needs them to see her as an equal.
Nina looks skeptical, but mercifully lets the subject drop. "Well, all work and no play makes Ariadne a dull girl. Come see a movie with me tonight. There must be something with explosions and bad martial arts at the multiplex."
Ariadne ought to be refining the beach house getaway for Mme. Saint-Just's dream, but that's easy work. Arthur will be annoyed, but she can do it in the morning.
"Okay," she says, and lets Nina lead her down the narrow stairs of their building and onto the streets of Paris.
Ariadne snaps a picture of Nina's back, walking away, and thinks that when their lease runs out, she'll let Nina find a new roommate. She's tired of staying on her guard in her own home. She's tired of Nina trying to keep her from changing. And it's not like she can't afford a nice place for herself after what Saito paid her for rearranging Robert Fisher's mind.
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"Come on, you know I don't share them. I'll even let you hack my phone and program it to delete all my pictures if I ever try sending them to anyone. And I swear I won't tell Eames you cracked. Your reputation is safe with me."
Ariadne grips Arthur's arm and turns her best innocent, pleading, baby deer eyes on him. It's annoying, it's embarrassing, but if she's doomed to be small and cute forever - and by twenty-three, she's given up on miraculous growth spurts and resigned herself to being shorter than her little sister - she's not above working her advantages.
Either Arthur is more susceptible to cuteness than she thought, or he's in an unusually good mood after the success of their third extraction this morning, because he sighs and says, "Fine, you can take a picture."
"Great!" Ariadne says, and turns them so they're standing against the display window of the bakery they were just walking past. It's filled with cakes decorated in rather unfortunate floral designs, but Ariadne doesn't care. The sun is behind the building so the reflections shouldn't be too bad, and Arthur is willingly linking his arm with hers. His shirtsleeves are rolled up in concession to the heat and the bare skin of his forearm presses against her own.
"You hold the phone. Your arms are longer," Ariadne tells him. "Line us up on the screen and press the top button on the left."
Arthur holds the phone out and frowns as he tries to find the perfect angle. Then he smiles - Ariadne will never get over the way his dimples wipe ten years off his face - and takes the picture. She expects that to be the end, a temporary concession they'll never speak of again, but Arthur holds onto the phone with a contemplative look.
"You should send this one to Cobb," Arthur says. "He asks about you sometimes when I email him. He'll be glad to see proof that you're doing well."
"Really?" Ariadne asks.
"Really," Arthur says. "But send it before midnight, because after that I will program your phone to delete all your data if you try to send a picture message. That includes your address book and the cat macros your sister texts you every week."
Ariadne clutches her phone to her chest in mock horror. "Not the cat macros!" she cries, and runs away in dramatic slow-motion, waiting for Arthur to catch her.
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After the time Yusuf carefully glues all her X-Acto knives to the table, and the time he puts salt in her cappuccino, and the time he fills the emergency shower tank with fruit punch and pretends to spill hydrochloric acid on her that she has to wash off right now... well. Ariadne isn't much for practical jokes, but she's never been a pushover and she doesn't think ignoring Yusuf will work any better than ignoring Cassandra ever did.
She doesn't know anything remotely like enough about chemistry to feel safe messing around with Yusuf's equipment, but sometimes simple is better anyway. She takes a piece of white paper from Arthur's printer, a black permanent marker, and writes KICK ME in thick, bold letters. Then she wanders over to the sound system Eames liberated from somewhere two days into their new partnership, swaps out her iPod for Yusuf's, sets it to a playlist labeled 'Bollywood upbeat,' and eases the volume up until it fills the whole warehouse and easily covers the sound of her footsteps.
Ariadne waits until Yusuf is humming along, shifting his feet and nodding his head to the rhythm. She walks up behind him at a normal pace, making no effort to hide - furtive motion catches the eye even in peripheral vision, Eames says, but if you act like you belong, people tend to ignore you. True to prediction, Yusuf doesn't notice her.
She tapes the sign to his back with one hand and taps his shoulder with the other. "Fun music!" she says, almost shouting to be heard. "What movie is it from?"
"I don't know the name, but my cousin Faizah tells me this is from the scene where the hero catches up to his true love and they dance in the rain," Yusuf shouts back. "I think I recall her mentioning elephants, but I may be wrong. Possibly the elephants were from the wedding later on. Or another film altogether. I never get around to watching films on my own - I only download the tracks Faizah recommends from BitTorrent - so I'm a little unclear on what music goes with what title."
"If you do remember, maybe I can rent if from Netflix and we can watch it this weekend," Ariadne shouts. Then she gestures toward her work table and walks off, leaving Yusuf with his new accessory.
She takes a picture to preserve the moment, and waits for Eames to return and take advantage of the set-up she's provided.
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Saito is the last person Ariadne expects to see in the warehouse.
Well, no, Robert Fisher would make even less sense. As would Nina. Or, god forbid, Cassandra - Ariadne never wants her little sister to find out about her willing plunge into crime. But that doesn't lessen her surprise when she opens the door to find Saito and Arthur sitting on either side of a low table, staring intently at a just-started game of chess. Saito moves a pawn and Arthur tilts his head, furrows lining his brow as he plots his next move.
"Be vewy, vewy quiet," Eames whispers into her ear, close enough that she can feel his warm breath on her skin. "They're hunting wabbits."
Ariadne jams her elbow into his side, more to remind him she doesn't like being sneaked up on than to actually hurt. "What's he doing here? I didn't think it was usual for clients to maintain contact after a job. They want plausible deniability, right?"
"Usually you'd be correct," Eames says at a more normal volume. "Saito, however, is of the opinion that if he already has a relationship with the best dreamsharing team in the business, there's no sense hiring shoddier talent. He wants us to target the CFO of an American company working on an alternative to hydrofracking, to see if their finances are as solid as they claim."
"Hydro-what?" Ariadne says.
"Hydraulic fracturing - it's to do with extracting natural gas from shale," Eames says with a lazy shrug. "Uses kiloliters of unpleasant chemicals and tends to get environmentalists up in arms. This company seems all right from a technical standpoint, Saito says, but their process development is a long-term investment and he wants to know if he'll be shouldering a lot of short-term costs in order to get it. Their CEO seems suspiciously eager to sell."
"Mmm. He couldn't just have someone hack their books?" Ariadne asks.
"Not everything useful is kept on computers, nor are all computers connected to the internet," Eames reminds her. "Consider Arthur's notebooks, for example. That data exists nowhere but those sheets of paper, and even the physical copy is useless without the codes and ciphers he keeps in his head. The shadier a company's business gets, the more likely it is that their secrets are similarly difficult to access. Hence extraction."
Eames glances down at the cell phone in Ariadne's hand - she's already snapped a picture of the scene, its composition too perfect to resist - and purses his lips. "You'll be back in school soon and this job may take weeks, including travel to the USA. Would you prefer to sit this one out and get back to your other life?"
Ariadne bites the inside of her cheek. She does need to think about school. She already has her Bachelor of Architecture degree, and if she keeps up last year's pace she can get her Masters by spring. That will give her a good cover for her dreamsharing work. But if she keeps up last year's pace, she'll be useless to her team and probably a nervous wreck besides.
"I think I'll slow down at school," she tells Eames. "It's perfectly normal to take three years for a Masters instead of two. That should leave me enough time for whatever designs you guys need. But I don't think I can go with you to America."
"Fair enough," Eames says, his eyes focused on Arthur and Saito instead of Ariadne, giving her the faint illusion of privacy. "I'm the last person to talk about living multiple lives concurrently. I will warn you, though, that it takes a lot of compartmentalization to keep things from bleeding over."
"I'll remember that," Ariadne says, and ventures forth to interrupt the chess game.
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Ariadne buys a car when she moves into her new apartment - if she's paying for a parking space in the building's garage, why not use it? Arthur teaches her to drive stick shift, Yusuf rescues her from the side of an avenue the first time she tries to refuel and forgets that some European cars take diesel instead of gas (Europeans are all crazy, Ariadne decides), and Eames buys her a little stuffed Cthulhu toy to hang from the rear view mirror. The car itself is nothing special - small, boxy, and gray - but Ariadne loves it passionately and without irony.
"First cars are special," Arthur says with a little smile, not quite enough to show his dimples. "When I was seventeen I talked my mother into buying a new Camry for herself and giving me her old Buick. It was a piece of shit, horrible mileage and the air conditioning had died years before, but I didn't care. A car is freedom."
"Exactly," Ariadne says.
"Americans are all crazy," Eames mutters, and Yusuf nods in agreement.
Eames is less disparaging when he and Arthur return from America, financial details of the hydro-whatever company extracted for Saito to examine at his leisure. Their flight is delayed for six hours because of thunderstorms and the two men keep each other up all through the ocean crossing, playing sleep chicken. Ariadne doesn't even pretend to understand them some days.
Arthur calls her from Roissy to pick them up, unwilling to risk a taxi when they're dead on their feet and liable to fall asleep any minute. "You're lucky I don't have class today," Ariadne says. "Why can't Yusuf be the designated awake person?"
"Because he's in Mombasa for a week," Arthur says, his usually clear enunciation slurred with exhaustion. "Something about a supplier, I think? I have it written down. I can check." He sounds like Cassandra when she's half-delirious with the flu, ready to embark on an insane project because she can't think well enough to realize there's no need to bother.
"Don't worry," Ariadne says hastily. "I'll be there as soon as possible."
She finds them outside Terminal 2, helps them negotiate their luggage into the trunk of her car, and preempts any argument over who gets shotgun by ordering them both into the back seat.
"We're not toddlers, Ariadne love," Eames grumbles, but he climbs obediently into the car.
Ariadne still doesn't know where either of them lives, though she's been to Yusuf's apartment a few times for movie night. She heads for her apartment, figuring her friends can crash on her couch and her guest bed. By the time she's halfway there, they're both asleep: Eames jammed into the corner between the seatback and the window, Arthur listing sideways until his head rests on Eames's shoulder.
Ariadne is pleased they trust her enough to be vulnerable in her presence. That's definitely progress.
She takes a picture anyway. Blackmail is always useful.
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"You know what we need?" Eames says one crisp October morning between jobs. "We need a holiday."
"I wasn't aware we were overworked," Arthur says, looking up from the solitaire game on his laptop.
"Darling, I am perpetually overworked," Eames says with a sweeping gesture of his arm, "but that's beside the point. The point is that we need to expose our lovely architect to new environments. I suggest Monaco."
"You are a terrible gambler," Yusuf reminds him without lowering his newspaper.
"Also beside the point," Eames says. "But yes, I do want to visit the casinos. It's remarkable what people will let slip when they think they're taking all a body's money."
"That would be because they are taking all your money," Arthur says.
Eames smiles wolfishly. "Au contraire! I'll have you know I gave all my profit from Saito's job to Ariadne and told her to invest it for me in trust. I can't touch it unless she lets me. You're the guardian angel of my better nature, aren't you, love?" he adds, turning to beam in Ariadne's direction.
"You can touch it any time you feel like forging my signature," Ariadne points out.
Yusuf laughs. Arthur smiles. Eames pouts. But somehow he gets his way. Ariadne makes excuses to her professors, moves her monthly Skype chat with her family back a week, and that weekend the four of them head south to Monaco.
Ariadne isn't sure whose fault it is when they end up on a beach. None of them brought swimwear this afternoon - they were planning to be indoors, not down by the water - but the sun and the bitter-salt tang of the sea breeze are uplifting in a way the eerie timelessness of casinos can never compare to. Ariadne finds a moderately sized rock and sits down to watch the waves sweep up and down the shore.
Eames and Yusuf wander down to the water's edge, leaving their shoes in Ariadne's vicinity. Yusuf shouts at the chill - Eames mocks him - and they both wade gingerly outward, soaking the rolled hems of their trousers. Arthur strides off along the tide line, hands stuffed into his trouser pockets, pausing now and then to toe idly at something buried in the sand.
After a minute, Eames stoops and flings a handful of water at Yusuf, droplets trailing from his fingers and flashing in the slanted afternoon sun. Yusuf is caught full in the face and sputters for a long moment. Then he cups both his hands in the water and heaves it back toward Eames.
Ariadne pulls out her phone and waits for the perfect moment. She catches them both halfway through raising their arms, water sluicing from their hands in sun-bright arcs.
"Pretty," Arthur says from over her shoulder. "You make them look like art instead of idiots."
"Nothing says they can't be both," Ariadne says as she titles and saves the picture.
Arthur throws back his head and laughs.
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It's beyond strange seeing her family again, but Ariadne has always gone home for Thanksgiving, no matter how long or difficult the trip. If she broke tradition for what would seem to them like no reason, it would only raise suspicions. And she does want to see her mother, Tim, and most especially Cassandra. So she books her tickets, lets Arthur drive her to the airport, and tries to remember the old Ariadne: the good daughter who only wanted to build skyscrapers and would never, ever steal from anyone, let alone condone worse crimes.
Mostly she succeeds. From the moment Cassandra spots her exiting baggage claim, Ariadne feels like her new life is the dream. Her family grounds her in a way school and her Paris friends never managed.
But little cracks keep opening. Mom and Tim are blind, but Cassandra glances suspiciously at the bracelets Ariadne started wearing to hide the needle marks of frequent PASIV use. Cassandra's ringtone is the song Eames used to signal the kick on their last extraction job. And Cassandra picks up Ariadne's phone while she's in the shower, and starts looking through her photos.
"Cassie, what are you doing?" Ariadne says, gripping the door of their shared room to keep herself from lunging forward and ripping the phone out of her sister's hand. She promised Arthur no one would see those pictures.
Cassandra looks up and winces. "Um," she says. "Nothing?"
That's weird. Normally she'd brazen right through, the way Eames sometimes does. But Cassandra's not stupid. She knows as well as Ariadne that something's out of joint.
"Could I get a little respect for my-" Ariadne starts, which is her usual next line, but it doesn't work right without Cassandra's set-up. She stops and rubs her forehead, hoping she's not going to get stress lines like Arthur is doomed to. "You know what? Whatever. Just don't text anyone and put it back on my nightstand when you're done looking, okay? And turn the light out soon."
She stumbles to her childhood bed and collapses into it with a solid fwump, the sort of noise that used to make her think of feather pillows and hidden peas. But she's not a princess, and her life isn't a fairytale.
It might be a cautionary lesson or an adrenaline-filled pirate saga, but definitely not a fairytale.
Cassandra drops the phone onto Ariadne's nightstand less than a minute later. Apparently Ariadne's finally found the trick to defuse her sister's legendary stubbornness. Except it's too late for that to do any good, isn't it? They live in different worlds now. And while Ariadne doesn't regret her choices - she loves her life, and she's willing to pay the prices and stifle the residual cheeps of her less-than-stellar conscience - she doesn't want Cassandra to follow in her footsteps. She may be a criminal, but she's still a good big sister, and like hell will she let her little sister turn out like her.
Ariadne falls asleep with that decision warm and comforting in her mind. She doesn't dream.
She wakes in the middle of the night, body convinced it's morning - jet lag is a horrible, terrible menace - and sneaks down to the kitchen for a glass of warm milk, her mother's perennial remedy for restless nights. Ariadne sits at the breakfast table and looks at the detritus of life pinned to the refrigerator door: the castle she drew when she was eight, the five-legged dog Cassandra drew when she was six, her high school graduation certificate, a photograph of the four of them and Tim's extended family, a half-finished grocery list scribbled on the back of a used envelope, a mood chart with the pointed magnet set to 'today I feel GRATEFUL.' She remembers this life.
Ariadne rinses her glass and puts it in the dishwasher. Then she walks back upstairs, quietly but confidently, as if she still belongs.
Cassandra is illuminated by a sliver of moonlight falling through a gap in the curtains. It casts her face in black-and-white, makes her seem as remote from the coziness of this house as Ariadne feels.
Ariadne flips her phone open and takes a picture.
Next year she won't come back.
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"How were your family?" Arthur asks when he picks her up from Roissy.
"Good," Ariadne says. "Strange," she adds after a moment. "But good."
Arthur nods as if he understands. Maybe he does. He had a family once too - or at least a mother; he's mentioned her now and then - but only had, always in past tense. The closest he has now is the rest of the team, or maybe Cobb and his children - Ariadne knows he keeps in touch with them.
Yusuf would understand too, she thinks. He still talks to some of his cousins, but he never visits them and he never mentions parents or siblings.
She has no idea about Eames. He might have sprung full-grown from the head of Zeus for all she knows of his past. Yusuf is equally ignorant, and if Arthur knows anything, he isn't telling.
They're all cut adrift from their old lives. They live in a dangerous, cutthroat world, where betrayal can be bought much cheaper than people would like to think. But that doesn't mean they have to stay alone. It doesn't mean they can't hope.
"I'm glad to be back," Ariadne tells Arthur when he comes by her apartment the next evening to invite her out to a team dinner. "It was nice to see Mom, Tim, and Cassandra, but it always feels best to come home."
She gets the waiter to take a picture of the four of them sitting squashed together at the table, herself and Arthur in the middle with Yusuf and Eames on the ends.
This is where she belongs.
End of Story
AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why. (Also, please forgive the weird spacing in the photograph file names - it's the only way to slide them past FF-net's url stripping program.)