Ariadne yawned, pulling on her jacket, heading towards the warehouse door. A clicking and thumping caught her attention. She slowed and peered through the low doorway into the small, side office off the warehouse, which was still lit by a single strip of industrial lighting. She could see Arthur, his back turned to her. He was snapping the locks of a PASIV case. He slid the case aside and grabbed something off the table. Ariadne arrowed her eyes, and then felt her blood run cold. In Arthur's hand was the unmistakable shape of a hand gun.
Horrible images flashed through her mind, of Javier Bardem, Daniel Craig, Clint Eastwood, their rugged faces identically expressionless, raising the cold steel barrel and firing. BANG! She jumped and took a few staggering steps backwards, her heart pounding, her head spinning. Arthur started to turn towards the noise. Ariadne wheeled around and sprinted for the door. It wasn't the main one, but a smaller door which led to the staircase up to the roof.
As she sprinted up the concrete stairs, Ariadne thought she could hear steps behind her, Arthur giving chase. She ran faster.
Ariadne burst out onto the rooftop, and her face was met by a gust of warm wind, pungent with the city smells of cigarette smoke and car exhaust intermingled with sweet pastries and the aroma of exotic flowers, wafting up from the florist across the street. But she kept running, skidding to a halt only when her sneakers encountered the dip just before the edge of the rooftop. Her arms wind-milled for a moment and the stepped back, tears forming in her eyes. She was trapped.
The distant honking and faint pop music filled the warm night air. Ariadne took a few deep breaths and let the familiar sounds and smells calm her racing heart, return her breathing to normal. She began to rationalize, pacing back and forth along the edge of the roof top. It wasn't that surprising, or at least it shouldn't be. She knew what they were doing was illegal, Cobb had told her that right from the start. Technically, that made them all criminals. Lots of criminals carry guns, she told herself. She knew Arthur, trusted him. Sure he was a little aloof, a little reticent, but it wasn't like he would ever hurt her She'd just panicked when she'd seen the gun. Still, if he had a gun, that meant he'd used it on someone. Was the man with whom she'd spent the last three weeks a killer? And what about Eames and Cobb? Didn't it stand to reason that they would have guns too? She sank into a sitting position, dangling her feet off the edge of the roof, and buried her face in her hands. What had she gotten herself into?
The roof door opened and Ariadne twisted around. Arthur was walking cautiously toward her, as though approaching a skittish horse. "You alright?" he asked, drawing steadily nearer.
"Yes," said Ariadne quickly, her voice still a little breathless. "Yeah, I'm-I'm fine. I Don't know what happened. I saw you're…gun," she swallowed, "I guess I just freaked out." She gave a high-pitched laugh. "Sorry."
Arthur sat down next to her and held the gun out in his palm. She recoiled, stomach squirming, but then relaxed and leaned closer, drawn and repulsed at the same time.
"I didn't mean to startle you," he said softly. "I don't even think about it anymore." Very gently, he took Ariadne's wrist and placed the gun in her hand. It was heavier than she'd expected, and her hand dropped several inches before Arthur caught it. She was suddenly very away of the warmth of his skin on hers.
"Not even dangerous right now," Arthur said. He took the gun back and showed her a kind of switch just above the handle. "See, the safety's on."
"You've been doing this for a long time," said Ariadne.
"Always with Cobb?"
Arthur was silent for several seconds. "Sometimes him, sometimes others."
"For how long?"
"Nearly thirteen years."
"And Mal, too?"
"For a time."
"Have you every used this?"
"Yes." Arthur's voice was cold and sharp, the "s" hissing out like a knife.
Ariadne didn't know what do say. To be quite honest, she wasn't sure how she felt at all. One moment, the idea made her feel nauseous with fear and disgust, the ext, thrilled by the excitement and risk of is all.
"We're not bad people, Ariadne." Ariadne's stomach flipped over as she realized this was the first time he'd ever actually said her name. "I'm not a murderer." Ariadne nodded, too numb to register the pleading note in Arthur's voice, desperate for her to understand. "You get used to the violence," said Arthur. "Fighting with projections all the time. None of it's real. You don't even think about it. It's just self defense. You don't see them as real people, you see them as obstacles, diversions. Not real. But it feels real." Ariadne noticed Arthur's hand move seemingly of its own accord to his right knee. "Pain is in the mind. Even when she's not real, she still knows. But it isn't her. It's always Cobb. It's easy to lose track down there, get confused."
Confused was the word alright. Ariadne was completely lost. She waited for Arthur to say something. Finally he smiled, that tight, lift the corners of the mouth that didn't reach his eyes. "I'm sorry. You don't need this from me. In a few weeks this will all be over. You can go back to your normal life." He stood up. Ariadne listened to the soft crunch of his footsteps as he crossed the roof and went back down the stairs.
In a few weeks this will all be over and you can go back to your normal life… It was the first time since Cobb had hired her that Ariadne had thought about what would happen after the job was over. Whether they succeeded or not was irrelevant. Either way, she would return to Professor Miles' class, and continue to study the mundane, pens and paper architecture of the real world.
Could she do that? The first time she'd only lasted a day before practically sprinting back to the dream share. And now she realized the addictiveness of the dream, and why all these men did what they did. She couldn't go back. None of them could.