Follow the Red

So I started working on this one around the time I started finishing up my story Say It, went through a bunch of writer's block and put this away to pursue a different story line. Now that that one is past the halfway mark, I've delved back into this one and I'm pretty excited. I haven't done a story where A/A's romantic relationship isn't really established. Crappily, 's image loader thing won't load my entire image without cropping it, so the link to the story banner is on my profile. :P I know this chapter is short but it's just to get the ball rolling.

I do not own Inception or the characters. They're fun to mess with though!

Chapter 1- Is He Coming For You?

Yeah he's coming for you.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks better run,
better run, outrun my gun.
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks better run,
Better run faster than my bullet.


It was 7 am when Arthur got the call.

He'd been up since five. He showered, brushed his teeth, put on the infamous three piece suit, gelled his hair and sat down to an omelet and cup of coffee while reading the New York Times. He was in-between jobs and expecting to meet up with a potential client this Wednesday. In the meantime, he was free to roam New York and wrap up the most recent job the team had worked together. It was five and a half months since the Puckett job and things were running smoothly; their last payment was to be wired in by lunch. There was another month of isolation to go…which is why it startled him when Cobb's name flashed across the screen of his phone. Normally they kept little contact and when Arthur called to check in, it was always periodically. The two friends had developed somewhat of a schedule of it. Upon answering, Arthur hadn't been able to utter a word before Cobb ambushed him with a question, "Have you been watching the international news this morning?"

The Point Man cleared his throat and turned the page of the paper. The stocks page proudly displayed its statistics and some doctor was explaining why coffee was bad for you (again.) "No, I hate politics. You know this."

Cobb ran his words together, "Miles just called me…he's safe. He's been sick so he sent a substitute into class today."

Arthur furrowed his eyebrows. Well if Miles was safe, then what is Cobb's issue. International News? What was Arthur missing? Clearly he had missed part of the conversation while he was reviewing the latest news on Wall Street. "I'm glad he's alright but I'm not sure I'm following, Cobb."

"Turn on CNN."

The Point Man lazily obliged, his interest only piqued. The news anchors were on a split screen yelling into their earpieces at each other but he couldn't quite make out what they were fussing over. There were people running and ambulances pulling up and around. It was only then that he caught the language being spoken: French. The ticker across the screen read 'University of Paris-Sorbonne shooting. Art and engineering departments in full lockdown. 224 killed. 435 severely injured.' The only other person they knew from that University was…

"Ariadne. Is she ok?" Arthur's voice was short and rigid. He stood instinctively.

Cobb sighed, "No one has heard from her. Miles is having a meltdown. Yusuf is out of pocket. I have kids to take care of…James has a cold, I can't up and leave them."

Arthur was already on his laptop booking the next flight to Paris. He held his cell phone in place between his ear and his shoulder as his fingers furiously flitted over the keys to accomplish his mission. "I'm on my way. I'll call Eames. Do me a favor from LA?"

"Whatever I can."

He was packing the last of his necessities-variety of guns, passports, wireless routers- into a small duffel and heading out of the hotel when he asked, "Do some periodical call-ins to hospitals. Call me if she's been admitted into any."

Cobb nodded his head as if Arthur could see him and pulled up Google on his computer to find some phone numbers to be of use, "Will do."

"I hope I don't hear from you." Arthur answered grimly as he hung up and speed dialed Eames. The forger answered in that annoyingly smart ass way as usual. Arthur had no patience for it this time. To rephrase, Arthur had even less patience than normal this time. As he explained the events to Eames, the Brit's demeanor quickly changed to match the situation. He asked question after question, each of which Arthur had no answer to; this only amplified the anxiety in both the men.

"Eames you can get there faster than I can. You're closer. I just—Miles needs to know she's alright."

Despite the situation, Eames smirked at the slip up of the Point Man but answered seriously. In fact, he informed that he was already on his way to the airport and had already purchased a ticket on his smart phone. It was only a three hour and twenty five minute flight for Eames and a 7 hour for Arthur. He promised he would answer when Arthur called on his layover. The Point Man thanked and the Forger relished in that. As Arthur pulled up to JFK Airport, he braced himself for 4 hours of pure stress.

The plane ride was less than enjoyable; normally they calmed Arthur. On this fine flight, the only thing he could think of was knocking the pilot out and flying to London himself. Surely he would get there faster. If he missed his next flight because this pilot was reveling in the particularly sunny clouds this morning, there would be one less pilot on American Airlines. This Frank Bennett- who loved to make stupid jokes and small talk with his passengers instead of booking it to their destination- better enjoy those sunny-ass clouds. They just might be the last thing he'll see. And….the damn flight attendant must've asked him for a drink every two minutes on the nose. He was polite when he rejected her and always asked how close they were to landing. She would be polite and tell him they were two minutes closer and two minutes later would offer a drink again. No. He couldn't afford to be the least bit hazy. Not in this situation. He needed to be alert, lord knows Eames would arrive aloof and drunk and make matters worse.

Eames had landed in Paris on the happy side. He was not too keen on turning down alcohol when it was offered on the plane. Especially in this stressful situation. He needed to be calm, lord knows Arthur would show up with a stick up his arse and make matters worse.

Arthur had taken his watch off when the start of the third hour of his flight came around. Looking at it every other minute did nothing for his nerves. Every minute that passed was that much longer Ariadne could be bleeding to death in some hospital somewhere…or worse, lying helpless in her school's hallway…or worse, already dead. When was this plane landing, again? He scuffled in his seat and tried his best not to awaken the massive passenger who'd claimed the aisle seat of his row. Eames' flight had been slightly delayed due to weather and had just made it to baggage claim when Arthur had called. "Anything?"

"I've just landed. It's raining cats and dogs here." Eames was standing outside under an umbrella waiting for a cab to pull up. "And the cab service is slacking today. Bloody fantastic." Despite the slur, his voice held an edge.

Arthur tapped the waiting chair with his fingers in an unknown rhythm, "Well, my next flight is fixing to board. You've got three hours to find out something. Have some info for me when I get there. Let's hope this pilot isn't as damn leisurely as the last."

Arthur's next flight was worse if that was possible. Due to the thunderstorms in Paris, all flights were put on hold. His airplane had to circle the city until clearance from the towers told them it was their turn to land. The Point Man fidgeted with his buttons as he looked out his window. The turbulence was settling down but it was torture knowing he was there in Paris but stuck in the air. He peered through the window for who knows how long, trying to find any sign of ambulance lights, bunches of cars, maybe people…it was futile though. Even if there weren't dark flashing clouds in between him and the city, he wouldn't be able to make out anything of that sort.

Arthur called Eames as he was driving to the University, ramming the accelerator into the floor of the rental car. Being a forger in the waking world as well, Eames had convinced the French authorities that he was an investigator so he could peruse in the chaos. He used bits of jargon he'd learned from studying a mark of theirs that was an investigator himself and he'd always carried different passports, ids and badges in case such an opportunity or circumstance called for them. By sticking his nose in closed off areas, eavesdropping and impersonating a substitute teacher for a spell, Eames had discovered two things in the three and a half hours Arthur was en route.

One: Ariadne had gone to school that morning.

Two: The seat that she always sat in was sprayed with blood.