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ninety-nine days

Title: ninety-nine days
Fandom: Inception
Characters: Ariadne, Arthur
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,889
Summary: As the days go on, part of him worries that she won’t ever leave here, and that he won’t ever be able to leave her.
[Written for i_reversebang , to accompany renisanz 's lovely artwork here! GO LOOK AT IT NOW!!! ]
Disclaimer: Inception is Chris Nolan's world. I just like to play in it.

Once again, thanks to renisanz  for providing the awesome art/her infinite patience while I took forever to get both stories done and for looking this over, angleico315678  for providing some feedback and 11th hour reassurances, and starzangelus  and the_azure_blue for helping me streamline my ideas into a coherent fic!



The first glimpse he catches of her, she’s illuminated by lightning. She’s alone—for no one else would be foolish enough to be outside in this weather—standing at the water’s edge, clad in jeans and a sweatshirt. Her hair swirls violently behind her as she embraces the storm, and he struggles to stay upright as the wind seeks to blow him down and the sand sends him stumbling as he makes his way towards her. Icy rain pelts his face and stings his eyes. He calls her name but the wind swallows up his voice, so he continues to fight his way forward.

She doesn’t turn around, but somehow he knows she’s aware of his presence.

Arthur comes to stand next to her. It’s wet and freezing and miserable out, but now that he’s with her, he can take it. When she speaks, he can barely hear her. He moves closer, but she flinches and turns to him, another flash of lightning illuminating her frightened face.

“Did Eames send you?” she shouts.

Arthur shakes his head. “I came here on my own.”

“Then how did you find me?”

“I looked.”

She crosses her arms defiantly as she shouts, “You can’t make me go back.”

“I know.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“To see if I could convince you to come home.”

“You can’t. I won’t.” She turns back to the water, dismissing him, but he doesn’t move. He’s not losing her again. Not now that he’s found her.


The storm from the night before has settled into a steady but quiet rain. It’s still cold and miserable but it’s nothing compared to last night’s weather, so he’ll take it. He finds her on the beach, sitting this time, letting her toes rest in the water. Once again she knows he’s there.

She hugs her knees tightly to her chest, staring out at the water. “I didn’t think you’d be back.”

“I’ll always be back. May I sit?”

“You can do whatever you’d like.” Remembering the way she flinched last night, he leaves a sizable distance between the two of them when he sits.

“You won’t convince me to go back,” she says as he settles.

He picks up a seashell fragment and tosses it into the waves. “Maybe not.”

He says nothing and neither does she. Silence between them is nothing new, and he is comfortable with it and uncomfortable at the same time. “Aren’t you going to try?”

He shrugs and says, “When you’re ready.”

She doesn’t ask how he’ll know that and he doesn’t offer and they sit there in the rain until the gray sky darkens, a hint of stars peeking through the clouds.


“How is everybody?” she asks out of the blue, the first time since she’s spoken since the second day. It’s the fifth day he’s come to the beach to see her. The storm has slowed to a slight drizzle now and the surf is a gentle rush of waves upon the shore.

He’s got his slacks rolled up so that they’re not soaked as they sit at the water’s edge; she’s still in her sweatshirt and jeans. He looks at her carefully, not quite sure how much to tell her, how much she’s ready for.

“Worried. Missing you.” He doesn’t tell her about Eames’ and Yusuf’s revenge mission, the one that Arthur would be on as well if there weren’t more pressing matters at hand. He doesn’t mention Eames’ rage, or Yusuf’s private agony, his vow not to rest until Ariadne returns and Declan’s brought to justice. He doesn’t tell her about Cobb’s quiet sadness, all of which could be quelled if she would just come home. She doesn’t need that now. She doesn’t need to come back for the others, just for herself.

“I miss them, too.” A small smile plays across her lips and he knows she’s thinking about them, about Yusuf and Eames and Cobb, but just as suddenly her eyes are shuttered and dark and she pulls her knees up to her chest. “But I can’t go back.”


“Ever.” He knows she believes that, but he hopes he can change her mind.


“Why haven’t you built anything?”

She rests her cheeks on her knees as she looks at him. “I can’t.”

“Can’t or won’t?” he asks, but she refuses to answer.


As they sit on the beach in the misty evening, looking up at the stars, she asks him why he’s still there.

“I’m not leaving without you.”

“You’ll be here a very long time.”

“I’m willing to wait.”

“You could be waiting forever.”

“I know.” She says nothing, just pulls her sweatshirt closer around her and scoots a little closer.

Arthur smiles. It’s progress.


She refuses to tell him why she ran away, insists that she’s not going back, but it seems to be getting a little bit better. She’s talking to him about other things now.

She even lets him build them a shelter—a makeshift thing that can stand against the wind, simple, but effective. It’s nothing grand, nothing at all like she can build. Just a little beach shanty that doesn’t take too long to put up and it works for now.

Outside he can hear the gentle ebb and flow of waves on the shore, lulling him into a sense of peaceful contentment as he watches Ariadne. She’s sleeping on the other side of the room, illuminated by the light of the full moon. It makes him think back to the days before she left, when she’d fall asleep on the couch in their makeshift office. He remembers chuckling to himself as he realized that those are the only moments where her expressive face is peaceful. As he watches her now, he thinks at least this hasn’t changed. He traces every line of her face until sleep claims him, too.


He wakes up one day to the sun streaming into his eyes. It’s been far too long since he’s since he’s seen it. He steps out of their little shelter and finds Ariadne, without the dark sweatshirt since the first night he found her. There’s no need for it anymore as the sun beats down on them and he rolls up his sleeves.

He comes up to her where she’s sitting in a beach chair, lying in the sun. Her jeans have been replaced by a bathing suit and she smiles when she hears him coming.

“Arthur,” she says. “You’re still here.” She says it everyday, but this is the first time it sounds like she truly believes it. She sits up, crossing her legs and drinking him in.

“I told you I would be,” he says, smiling down at her. He looks down the beautifully clear stretch of beach. “Let’s walk.”

They walk along the surf not talking about much of anything until their little hut is out of sight. It’s too nice a day to broach the subject of going back, so he shelves that discussion for later.

She still won’t talk about what happened to her and he knows she’s not ready, not yet. But she takes his hand as they walk back to their shelter, his heart soars. Another step in the right direction.


When she kisses him, he tries to tell himself that it’s another step. A good step. That this mean’s she’s okay or she’s close to okay, and that everything is going to be fine. But he can’t keep the doubt at bay.

She pulls away, smiling brighter than he’s seen her smile in a long time, so he doesn’t tell her that it tastes wrong.


He doesn’t know if kissing at the beach is an art form, but over the next few days they try their damnedest to perfect it.


They rock back and forth in the hammock, where she curls softly into his side. A steady rains pelts the roof of their shelter.

“It hurt too much to stay,” she says, finally speaking about the last job she did, the first and only job she did without him. “I didn’t want to be there anymore.” His arms tighten around her and she plays with the buttons on his shirt. He knows that when she’s upset, in this world or in his, that she likes to give her hands something to do.

“Eames said it would be easy, And I guess it should have been—it would have been—if Declan hadn’t turned on us.” Rage boils up in the pit of Arthur’s stomach. He’s heard the name from Eames and Yusuf, but they were either too far gone to explain what happened or decided that it was Ariadne’s story to tell and refused to say more than that Declan had betrayed them and that they were going to take care of the problem.

“It doesn’t count if it happens in a dream, right?” He wonders if she’s forgotten already. “But it felt real. It felt so real.”

“They didn’t—“ He can’t bring himself to finish the thought. She shakes her head.

“They wanted to. But they didn’t,” she whispers. “But they did other things.”

She tells him slowly, haltingly about the treacherous point man, the three days of torture she’d endured at the hands of Declan and the mark, while above, Yusuf remained blissfully unaware of the turmoil below. The three days of agony before Eames and their extractor, Fermin, had broken free of their own restraints and liberated her.

“I couldn’t go back,” she says, tracing invisible scars up and down her arm. She angles her head so she can see him, her eyes anxious. “You understand, right?”

He nods, choking back anger and tears at the thought of the things they had done to her. He knows it’s foolish to blame himself, but he thinks that if he’d been there—if he hadn’t taken that job in Brazil and had waited just a few more days—Ariadne never would have had to go through that. He grabs her hand, bringing their twined fingers up to his lips and places the softest of kisses to her palm. “You can come back now. I’m here. I’ll keep you safe.”

She shakes her head, burrowing against him. “But you’re here now. Why do I need to go back?”

“Because what if I’m not real?” The words frighten her; he can tell by the way she clutches him tightly and he regrets them immediately.

“You’re real here, and that’s enough.”

She’s not ready.


Late that night—or early that morning—it’s hard to tell—he feels Ariadne climb into his hammock.


She hushes him with her lips on his, swallowing whatever it was he was going to say. Which is all well and good because when she’s touching him like that his brain can’t really form words anyway.

“Love me,” she whispers as she takes off his shirt.

He can’t find the words to tell her that he already does.


Sometimes he wonders if he’s making a mistake. It’s not that he doesn’t love her, because he does; he wouldn’t be here if he didn’t. But she’s not his Ariadne right now. Not really. What happened with Declan changed her, maybe for good. But she’s getting better. That’s what he tells himself, at least. Every day he feels like they’re making progress. Every time she kisses him, every time she gives herself to him, he feels like part of her is letting go of the agony that brought her here. Every day she seems a little happier.

There’s a part of her that’s still closed off, even to him, but he’s sure that in time she’ll be ready. He loves her. He tells himself that he can be patient.


“I love you,” he whispers after they make love. They’re rocking back and forth in his hammock—their hammock now—and traces the letters on her back. It’s the first time either of them has said the words out loud, even though it’s been inside him since soon after the Fischer job.

She closes her eyes and smiles. “I love you, too.”

He twines his fingers with hers and closes his own eyes. This moment is almost perfect, and if he lets himself, he might just forget why he’s there.

He opens his eyes and stares up at the ceiling. “We have to go back.”

Ariadne doesn’t stir, doesn’t protest, just sleepily asks, “Why?”

“Because this isn’t real.”

She snuggles into him and yawns. “I know. It’s better.”

But Arthur shakes his head. “This isn’t real.”

“Does it matter? We can make it our reality.”

He’s trying to figure out a way to answer her when he realizes that she’s asleep. Tomorrow. There will be time tomorrow.


Arthur sits near the edge of their makeshift home and watches her dip her toes into the gentle surf and he can’t help but worry.

He’s stayed far longer than he should have, certainly far longer than Cobb expected him to. He worries that the longer they stay, the harder it will be for them to leave. Part of him worries that she won’t ever leave here, that he won’t ever be able to leave her.

The others were afraid about that long before he set out on his mission, and he thinks back to the conversation he had with Cobb before he left.

“You get her and you get out, do you here me?” Cobb had said, running his hands through his hair.

Arthur had looked up at him then, and asked, “What if she won’t come back?”

That had given Cobb a moment’s hesitation. “She’ll come back,” he’d said finally, but Arthur was insistent.

“But what if she won’t?”

“Then you come back. We’re not losing both of you.”

Cobb had known, probably long before then, that Arthur loved Ariadne too much to let go so easily. This was Cobb’s way of warning him. Arthur certainly knows that Cobb never expected he’d stay nearly this long.

He should start forcing the issue, he knows, but he’s been patient this long. As if she can sense him thinking about her, she turns and smiles at him, waving. In that moment she looks so much like the Ariadne he knew that hope wells up deep within him.

She’s getting close. He can feel it. She just needs more time.


On the fifty-ninth day, he steps out of their hut to find her building a sand castle.

“Can I help?” he asks, coming to stand beside her. She squints up at him and smiles, reaching to pull him down onto the sand.

“Of course you can.”

She’s building again, even if it’s not in the way he had hoped.

It’s a step, he thinks. A good sign.

He’ll bring up going home again soon.


Ariadne’s once again out on the beach. Arthur is about to go join her when he notices something he hasn’t seen before. A safe. He doesn’t need too many guesses at the combination before the door swings open.

His heart sinks when he finds the bishop. He takes it, holding it in his hands, knowing that he shouldn’t touch it, but that doesn’t matter here and tries to hold back the sense of loss that fills him.

He finds her on the beach, sitting in the sun and building a sand castle. Funny how yesterday he’d thought that was a positive sign. She smiles up at him, his Ariadne, the one he knows so well.

“This is yours.”

He drops the bishop in her lap and just like that, his Ariadne retreats behind shuttered eyes. “Where did you get this?”

“Why did you hide it?”

“I don’t need it anymore.”

“Yes. You do. Pick it up.”


“Pick it up, Ariadne. Please.” She does, however reluctantly. “Tip it. What is it telling you?”

She doesn’t move, just holds it in her palm and stares at him with tears in her eyes. “Why are you doing this?”

“Because I need you back. I need you to come back.”

“But I’m right here.”

“Then prove it. What is this telling you?” She scrambles to her feet angrily, knocking over the castle. The wind picks up, blowing her hair in her face and just like that the storm kicks in. She feels the weight of the bishop in her hand, tries to tip it over in her palm, and recognition flashes in her eyes. Arthur holds his breath, hoping.

But that’s gone as soon as she hurls the bishop at his chest.

“I don’t want it,” she bites out, and turns, running away from him.

He wants to throw something, but he settles for kicking down what remains of her sandcastle.


Neither of them speak of the bishop or the argument, but it’s taking it’s toll. Ariadne had come back before night fall, begging him to make love with her under the stars. Afterwards she pretended that nothing at all had happened, that they hadn’t argued, that she hadn’t thrown away an integral part of herself. He tried to do the same.

But while Ariadne might be able to pretend that everything’s fine, he can’t. It’s getting harder to look at her while she loses herself in this fantasy.


Sometimes he’s afraid he’s losing himself, too. This Ariadne loves him, and sometimes it’s so easy to get caught up in that that he forgets that she’s not always his Ariadne. He keeps hold of the die in his pocket, holding on to it like a lifeline. He can’t lose himself. Not if he’s going to save them both.


Other days he wonders if perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad to let himself fall with her. After all, why would it be so bad? Maybe it’s easier, he thinks as he rolls her bishop in between his fingers. Maybe it’s better.

But then he thinks of the things he’d like to do—things he’d never even thought about before he met her—and he knows that this isn’t better.

He has to try to get her to see that, too.


“We have to go back.” They are having this argument more and more often but Ariadne refuses to listen. The woman that had been his—his from before Declan and who’d slowly been emerging as the days had gone on—is hidden now, and had been for a long time.

“I don’t want to.”

“Why not?”

“Because I like it here. Because we’re good here.” She takes his hands in hers, pleading with him. “We have everything we need right here.”

“What about our friends?” he demands. “What about our families? The people that love us? Cobb and Yusuf and Eames—you don’t think that we need them?

She backs away from him, her eyes darting left and right like a cornered animal. She can’t possibly think that he’ll hurt her, but this argument seems to terrify her. “Besides,” he says, running his hands over his hair, “there are things we can do there that we can’t do here.”

“We can do anything here.”

“Can we get married?”

She opens her mouth, sputtering for a moment before she says, “We don’t need—“

“Can we have kids? Because I know that’s what I want. And once upon a time I know you wanted that, too.” He takes a step towards her and her back hits the wall.

“Please, Arthur.”

“Don’t you want something real?”

“We are real.”

He cups her cheek and rests his forehead against hers. “I love you, Ariadne. I want you, all of you. I want a family. I want a life together. Do you want the same things?” Come back, he’s saying silently, For me. For us.

But she shakes her head, choking back a sob. “You’re asking too much.”

“You’re not asking for enough.” Arthur backs away, pulling the bishop out of his pocket and placing it on a nearby table. It’s his turn to leave.


He spends the night under the stars, listening to the howling of the wind and the crashing of the waves. A light rain is coming down on him but he doesn’t care.

When he comes back she’s standing at the edge of the water, head bent and hands clasped to her chest.

He sees her mouth moving, like a prayer of sorts. And then she raises her arms and tosses something into the ocean. It shimmers in the waning sunlight before it drops into the ocean.

The bishop.

She’s made her choice. His Ariadne is gone.


They don’t speak after he returns. She spends her time sitting on the beach and watching the waves while he lies in his hammock trying to pluck up the courage to do what he needs to do.

Finally he decides it’s best to just do it. He walks outside, hands shoved in his pockets. He can’t look at her when he says this.

“I can’t stay here with you.”

He hears a hitch in her breathing, then a shuddering, “Why?”

“Because I want my Ariadne back. When you’re here, you’re not you.”

“But I’m better here.”

“No, you’re not. You may think you are, but how can you be better when you aren’t yourself? You’re not you, and it was unfair for the both of us to pretend that we could live like that.”

“I thought you loved me. I thought you said you were never going to leave.”

“I do love you. And that’s why I can’t stay. Come home with me, Ari. Please.”

“I’m sorry. I can’t.”

“I know.”


He sits on the beach letting the water lap at his toes. He doesn’t know what he’s still doing here. He should have left long ago, but he can’t quite bring himself to do it—to go back to a life without Ariadne.

After all, that’s why he came down here after her, to bring her back because the prospect of losing her forever was too bleak to contemplate. But he’s going to have to face it sooner or later.


He squeezes the dice in his hands. Is it better to live without her or to live with a lie? Can he give up his life, his friends, his future—for a shadow of her?


He makes his choice. He digs a small hole in the sand and lets the red die drop in before he covers it again.

She’s stretched out on the sand when he comes back to her.

“I’m lost,” he hears her whispering.

“I’ll find you.” She sits up straight at the sound of his voice and turns around.

“You’re here.”

“I couldn’t leave.” She stands and waits for him to come to her and when he reaches her, she wraps her arms around his waist and rests her forehead against his chest.

“Thank you.”

He holds her tightly and kisses the top of her head. She might not be his Ariadne but it’s better than nothing.


“I think I’m ready,” she tells him as they rock back and forth in the hammock.

He can’t stop his heart from skipping a beat. “You don’t have to—“

“I want to.”

“Are you sure?”

Her arms tighten around him and he can feel her pulse racing. But she takes a deep breath and then nods. “Yes.”


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:51 am (UTC)
I love how in love they are, even if Ariadne isn't quite herself. I read this one first, then I read Moments. A good order to go in, if I do say so myself. This was also a wonderful read!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 12:14 am (UTC)
<3 Thank you! I'm so glad you liked this! Hehe, I wasn't sure what a good order might be but I'm glad reading this, then Moments worked for you <3<3

Thanks so much for commenting!
Apr. 18th, 2011 04:48 pm (UTC)
Came here from renisanz's LJ. This is not my fandom (I've only seen the movie once in theaters) so I'm sure I'm missing nuances, but I found it very lyrical and a little heartbreaking. A great read.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
Thanks for coming out to read it! I'm glad you were able to enjoy it, even if it's not one of your fandoms, and thanks so much for commenting <3
Apr. 18th, 2011 06:52 pm (UTC)
I think I've already told you how brilliant your fic is. So here I am yet again to drive the point home. This is bloody brilliant. You did a wonderful job on a limbofic. And I'm always happy to reassure you, although you might not need it!

Great job Ness!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 12:19 am (UTC)
You are just incredibly awesome and I <3 you. That is all :)
Apr. 20th, 2011 07:44 am (UTC)
The tone here was so lovely.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 12:17 am (UTC)
Thank you!
(Deleted comment)
Apr. 22nd, 2011 12:18 am (UTC)
I'm always unsure of how I write angst (even though I tend to write a fair amount of it, it seems...) so I'm glad you enjoyed it! I love trying to do things that are a little out of the ordinary, so I'm glad you liked that, too <3 And seriously thanks so much for your help talking me through this whole idea because I was completely lost before then <3
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:07 am (UTC)
Loved this!
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:18 am (UTC)
Oh goodness. This was so wonderful I can't even <3

Lovely job.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 10:15 pm (UTC)
This is so beautiful and heartbreaking and...Did I say beautiful?

Thanks for posting!
May. 3rd, 2011 02:50 am (UTC)
this was amazing. it was bittersweet yet beautiful. you captured them perfectly, and i definitely enjoyed every moment of this story. great job! :o)
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )