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Disclaimer: See Prologue
Rating PG13
Pairing: Dom Cobb and Ariadne Bishop
Note: Sorry it’s taken so long but I had hand surgery. I’m typing with my dominant hand/arm in a cast. It really slows things down and using a mouse with my left is almost impossible. I split the chapter because it was getting way too long and there is still more to write. This will be divided into three parts.

Previous Chapters: Prologue - To Be Or Not To Be - Ch 1 - Slings and Arrows Of Outrageous Fortune ; Ch 2 - Whether 'tis Nobler In The Mind To Suffer ; Ch 3 - To Take Arms Against A Sea Of Trouble ; Ch 4 - To Die, To Sleep No More ; Ch 5 - For In That Sleep.... ; Ch 6 - ....What Dreams May Come ; Ch 7 - The Heartache and The Thousand Natural Shocks
Art Credit: All the amazing art found in this story is done by wickedandcruel. The originals and many more lovely pieces can be found at her Tumblr Your Own Destiny

Enjoy




To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

By Lattelady

Ch 8 – The Undiscovered Country – Part I

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dominic Cobb woke slowly. The first thing he was aware of was that a woman was sleeping in his arms. Her head was on his shoulder and her hair bushed against his face. His mind cried out, ‘No, not again.

He kept his eyes closed, refusing to look at her – refusing to accept that Mal was back. He’d thought he’d finally gotten rid of his guilt and set her free, but here she was pressed small and tight against his left side. Whether he was having a real dream or she was a projection, he didn’t know or care, all he wanted was to stop living in the past.

He forced himself to take the next step; to open his eyes and deal with whatever illusion his mind had created. A shock of relief hit his system in waves as he recognized the dark head pressed close to his. The small boned hand, porcelain complexion, and petite features didn’t belong to his dead wife. “Ariadne,” he gasped and buried his cheek against hers, breathing in her unique scent of citrus and spice. Holding her close and tight, not quite trusting that she wouldn’t disappear or change before his eyes, Cobb dug in his pocket for his totem. He flipped the tiny hourglass over in his hand and watched as the sands ran quickly from the upper bulb to the lower one.

“Thanks you, Ariadne,” he whispered and held her closer. He was awake in Miles’s study. The woman beside him was real and there had been no unwanted projections visiting his dreams. Ari had guided him to truth seven months earlier and this time she had kept him anchored safely in the present for his children, for himself and for any future he might ever hope to have.

“Hmmmm,” she groaned.

“Go back to sleep,” he murmured, gently brushing her hair away from her face.

“What?” Her neck hurt and though her pillow was warm and comforting, it felt strange. Her nose was pressed against something that made it itch. She scrunched up her face, but that only irritated her skin more. Bringing up her left hand, she rubbed the sensitive area with the back of her knuckle. The action made her pillow jump under her head.

“Hey, don’t poking me,” Cobb’s deep voice rumbled next to her ear as his fingers curled around her quickly moving hand.

“Dom?” Her eyes flew open, her lashes brushing against rough skin.

“Yeah.” He rolled her over and pressed her into the couch when she tried to rub her nose again and jab him in the neck.

“Where are we?” she whispered, disoriented, not sure where or when they were but cognizant of the fact that neither of them were hooked up to the PASIV. That meant they had to be lost in a dream somewhere.

“Look at me. Everything is real.” His fingers were wrapped around her wrists on either side of her head and he pressed her deeper into the couch when she tried to buck him off. He’d promised to keep her from falling and until she was completely awake he’d do whatever he had to do, even it meant sitting on her, to protect her. “You’re safe. We’re both safe.”

“This isn’t the cottage in the Loire Valley. The light isn’t right.” She raised her head trying to get a better look but was caught by his deep blue gaze.

“We’re in Miles’s study where we started last night.”

“You’re sure this isn’t a dream?” Even as she asked, he moved his head enough so she could see brown leather furniture and the unique antique chandelier high above them. The room was cast in shadowy morning light that filtered in through closed blinds, enhancing the surreal feeling of what was happening. As nice as it felt, Ariadne couldn’t make sense out of waking up wrapped around Dom Cobb alone in his in-laws’ house.

He held up his totem with his right hand and turned it over demonstrating that they were awake, as sand grains ran quickly from one section to the other. “Now, Ms Bishop, care to tell me why you saw fit to poke me in the neck after I made sure you were able to get a good night’s sleep?” His eyebrows flicked upward into hair that was falling over his forehead instead of neatly combed into place.

“I did sleep, didn’t I?” She smiled contentedly and fought the urge to stretch, as she watched his miniature hourglass, believing for the first time since she woke that the months of sleeplessness might possibly be behind her.

“You sure did and so did I, but that doesn’t answer my question.”

"Which question was that?" She tried to look serious but the corners of her mouth fought to curve upward.

"The poking me in the neck one." He squinted at her, knowing she was teasing him and willing to play along.

“Because, Mr. Cobb,” Ariadne pulled her hands free and cupped his face, running her short neat nails over his scratchy cheeks and on down to his slightly longer but still rough goatee. “Phillipa is right, your whiskers tickle.”

“Oh, they do?” Blue eyes danced with delight as he reached again for her wrists and pinned them beside her head. Leaning down he rubbed his face over her neck. “You don’t insult the whiskers,” he ordered over her giggles.

“I can if I want.” She laughed harder, as he dove toward the tender skin below her ear. Their bodies bounced and bumped with amusement as they enjoyed a gentle clash of wills with carefree abandon.

“But then you pay the price.” Cobb rubbed his chin against the other side of her neck as his deep rich laughter filled the air. It was a sound Ariadne had only heard once. It had been the night before, when he’d been playing with his children. It made her light headed to be the object of his joy.

“Dom,” she gasped his name as she tried to catch her breath between bouts of giggles.

“Ariadne,” he imitated, his voice warm with delight and something else that caught them both off guard. For one tiny moment the world stood very still and there was just the two of them. Both were aware that the pleasure they were feeling wasn’t simply due to two strong willed people who enjoyed verbal sparing. There was a deep physical pull that caught at them and threatened to drag them under, as their bodies moved intimately against one another.

Blue eyes stared into brown ones, looking and seeing for the first time. The room was silent except for deep breathing that bordered on gasps. She felt his breath on her face and the delicious press of his hard body over hers. He knew there were wisps of her hair tangled in his beard and that she was soft and firm, yet delicate and strong. An odd mix he’d found strangely exciting from as far back as the time she'd met his challenge to draw labyrinths and succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. This morning the excitement had a stronger, richer more intimate tone.

Ari licked her lips, wanting desperately to lock him out, but she couldn’t. She nodded her head, unsure if she’d agreed with some unasked question or if she was simply acknowledging that it terrified her that Dominic Cobb could punch holes in her emotional walls without even trying. It made her shiver to realize how exposed she was.

A shaft of desire, deep and carnal, made the blood pound in his ears. It was unexpected. Admiring or appreciating from a distance was one thing but to actually feel sensuality again... No woman since Mal...Or at least he'd thought no woman since Mal... But he couldn’t think for wanting...wanting...wanting what, just a random woman or one in specific? Dom blinked and his vision cleared, becoming aware that Ari was trembling beneath him. His inner voice whispered, ‘Too soon, too soon.’ That voice brought with it a number of truths that fell into place and he wondered why it had taken him so long to figure them out. He cupped her cheeks and dropped his forehead onto hers, as she held tightly to his shoulders. “I’m sorry,” he whispered.

“It’s okay.” And she knew it was, no matter what she’d let him see about her feelings for him, honesty had never hurt anyone. It was lies that ate at the soul and tore at the flesh. She’d learned that lesson nine years ago and tried to teach it to Cobb last fall.

Dom pulled himself to his knees, letting his fingers slide from her face to her shoulders and down her arms until he held both of her hands in his. He pulled her upward until she was sitting. “I didn’t mean to frighten you, Ariadne,” his voice was soft and uncertain.

“You didn’t.” She shook her head and curled her legs under her body as she leaned sideways against the back of the couch, facing him. “And I didn’t mean to cause you distress.”

“You didn’t.” He smiled, knowing it was true.

“Okay, then,” she grinned and nodded as she offered him her hand. “Still friends, Cobb?” Her right eyebrow twitched in challenge. Friends – the idea gave her a sense of relief because it kept him well on the outside of her emotional perimeter.

“I believe so, Ms Bishop,” he agreed, as his much larger hand engulfed hers. “I believe so.” Dom knew it was his smartest move until they had Ariadne glued back together. He was done with acting on emotions stirred up from shared dreaming. Real life was far too important to be based on fantasies.

“I see you're awake.” Miles Elkins opened the double doors to his study letting in the bright morning sun and the noise of two young children eating breakfast with their grandmother somewhere in the distance. “I gather, from all the laughter that I heard moments ago, that things went well last night?”

“I slept.” Ari smiled at the Professor, giving into the urge to yawn and stretch but it was cut short when painful neck and shoulder muscles made her wince.

“Are you all right?” Cobb ran his hand up and down her back.

“Sure, nothing a hot shower won’t take care of.” She plastered a smile on her face and slid along the couch until she was out of his reach.

“Dom, how did last night go for you?” Miles was intrigued by the young couple’s interaction but he needed to keep all of them focused on the issues at hand.

“Sleep hasn’t been a problem for me since last fall.” He tried to shrug away his father-in-law’s question. “Everything went fine, once we re-entered the shared dream. Both of us slept.”

“Any signs of natural dreaming?” Elkins kept digging. Dom had made great strides in the last seven months and he wanted the improvements to continue.

“I thought I had, but now I don’t think so.”

“Tell me about it.” The older man encouraged.

“When we went into the shared dream for the second time, we were sitting up, with Ariadne safely between the back of the couch and me. I have a vague memory of waking up uncomfortable. The room was dark and cold. I picked her up and carefully lay her down, covered us up and went back to sleep.” He’d done more than that. He’d pulled her tight and close, overcome with the need to protect but it wasn’t information he was going to share with anyone. “I thought at the time I was having a dream but when we woke and were lying down, I knew it must have really happened.”

“You’re probably correct, but without sleep monitors there can’t be any way of telling for sure.” His father-in-law agreed. “It would seem that you’re both making progress.”

“What does that mean? I slept, so am I cured?” The dark haired woman looked back and forth between the two men.

“Ariadne, stop trying to run away.” Cobb turned toward her. “We need to see this to the end.”

“But--”

“No buts about it.” His temper was rising. “You made me face things I’d been hiding from. Now it’s my turn to help you.”

"Dominic is correct, Ari," Elkins agreed. "We aren't finished."

“All right,” she sighed, giving up for the moment. Why was it so hard? All she wanted to do was go home, though she was unsure where home was anymore. “Miles, what’s the next step.”

“We start again tonight, but this time we go deeper. The first level will remain the same. Ari, you’ll enter Dom’s dream, again. What you built last night worked well for both of you, Dominic. The easiest thing would be to keep using it. For the second level, Ariadne will be the dreamer.

“What do I construct for that one?” Cobb was quickly sorting and planning ideas of possible structures.

“A large empty room with one door. Give Ari’s subconscious a few minutes and if it doesn’t fill the area with whatever she’s trying to keep out, whatever is causing her inability to sleep, than go to the door and step though. In there you will have built a replica of where you slept last night except you should create it with one significant change. It’s up to you what you change, but it has to be something to differentiate it from where you’re sleeping one level up. It will help you know instantly which level you’re on. Once the two of you are there, you should sleep and we’ll repeat the exercise tomorrow night, going another level down.”

“Wait, wait, guys.” Ariadne held up both hands and her voice grew anxious, as it became apparent what was really happening. “This is basically an extraction and I’m the mark.” She looked from one to the other as her anger grew. “Exactly how deep are you planning to dig in my subconscious?”

“As deep as we need to.” Cobb relied coolly. Trying to hold onto his temper, he got up and paced as he spoke. “And there is nothing easy or run of the mill about any of this. We’re not trying to steal your secrets, we’re attempting to find something that is so deeply buried you couldn’t recall it if your life depended on. Damnit, Ariadne, take a good long look in the mirror. You’ve pushed yourself very close to the edge and one night’s sleep doesn’t change that very much.”

“Dom, take it easy, yelling at her won’t help.” Miles tried to bring order to the room.

“Don’t you think I’ve figured that out for myself.” Ari shot back at Cobb, as if the Professor hadn’t said a word. “But it isn’t only me on this little pleasure cruise of ours. You’ve all been through a much worse version of this before. I can’t move in here and put you though it all over again. You - all of you - have lives to live that don’t include me. Dom, don’t you understand how much you could lose if this goes badly.”

“It’s not going to go badly.” He insisted as he sat beside her and put his arm around her shoulders.

“But...”

“No,” he whispered and dragged his thumb gently over her lips, while mouthing the word, ‘later’.

She nodded slowly in response, too wrung out to argue more.

“Ari, we’ve got safeguards in place. You’ll be safe and so will Dominic.” Elkin’s eyes grew sad, knowing he had to tell her the rest. “Sabine and I talked about it last night. We only wish that we’d been as aware, that someone had been as aware of what was happening when our daughter needed help. We couldn’t – didn’t save Mal and nothing will change that but we can be sure that you come out of this safely. In return, we expect you to cooperate and do your share of the work.”

“You don’t play fair Professor.” Ariadne watched the older man shrug but he didn’t look the least bit guilty. If it had been anyone else, she would have assumed he was simply trying to use emotional blackmail to get his way, but Miles was one of the kindest men she’d ever met. “I’ll do my part, whatever you need, I'll do it.”

“Good, because there is one other thing. You, both of you,” he included his son–in-law as well. “You need to be getting some talk therapy, while participating in shared dreaming. Sabine has volunteered her professional services.”

“Sabine,” Ariadne gasped and met Dom’s gaze. She knew that no matter what it meant to her personally, she wouldn’t break his confidence nor could she tell the older woman about the shade of a projection that Mal had become.

“If you don’t feel you can talk to my wife, than you must talk to each other.” He looked from the young man to the woman. Both were frozen in place, sitting close together on the couch in his study. “It’s a rather elegant solution to a sticky problem, since sending a trained professional in with you would likely defeat the purpose.” It had been a maneuver on the older man’s part and all he needed to do was push it home. “The two of you are the only ones in that shared dream. Talking about the issues that arise while dreaming, when you are awake, is the best way to stay grounded and sure of what is real and what isn’t.” He looked from one to the other. "It’s an important piece of the process for both of you, so I need both of you to agree."

“Of course,” Dom replied without taking his eyes off of Ari. “Actually we’ve done it before, except she was the one making me dig for answers and I was fighting her every step of the way. I wouldn’t have made it home to my children if she hadn't been so persistent."

"I...all right," Ariadne agreed hesitantly as she pulled her gaze from deep blue eyes that she was sure were going to haunt her for as long as she lived. "Though I worry these therapy sessions will make this whole thing take longer."

“That's a possibility but not something you should worry about. You're better off if it does take longer. You need a few more nights of sleep like the one you just had. You'll be stronger, more capable of dealing with whatever has damaged your sleep cycle.” Miles looked at her gravely.

“I was so pleased to get some rest last night, I'd forgotten about that part of it.” She pulled back slowly, aware of Dom’s arm across her shoulders and the press of his thigh against her. She'd seen first hand how vicious his subconscious demons could be, were hers any less treacherous? "You realize our minds are equipped with coping mechanisms so we can live our lives and remain relativity sane." It was a subject she was very familiar with, after a year of therapy when her parents had died.

"That's true, my dear, but waking oneself up whenever one tries to sleep is not a coping mechanism, at least not a healthy one," Miles reminded her gently.

"You're probably right." She gave in but didn't look happy about it.

“Good try, Ariadne, now stop pouting. We can do this.” Cobb ruffled her hair as if she were Phillipa.

"Stop treating me like one of your children." She growled and a glared at him as she pushed his hand away and combed her fingers through messed curls.

“Sorry,” he mumbled, surprised and confused. Was he deliberately putting her into a more childish role so he wouldn’t have to deal with the very adult responses sleeping with her in his arms elicited?

“I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have snapped. You're right, I do need more than one night of sleep.” She turned to look at him and accidently brushed against him. The current was back between them. It flowed sure and strong. “And you were correct earlier when you said we’d be all right, because we will be.” It was as close as she could get to promising that she would do her best to stay away from intimate situations that still belonged to Mal.

“I have the utmost faith in both of you.” Miles smiled. “Keep in mind that the drugs I’m using don’t have the exaggerated extenders Yusuf’s did, time will move slower the deeper you go, but there won't be as intense a difference between levels, as there was with his compounds. Though, I’d advise giving yourselves less and less dream time with each level as a safeguard. But that's information for tonight. I don't know about you two, but I'm hungry. Anyone care to join me for breakfast?”

To Ch 9 - The Undiscovered Country Pt. II

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
moonlight1314
Nov. 9th, 2010 10:51 pm (UTC)
All I can actually say in response to this chapter is: <3 and =3 :D
lattelady6
Nov. 10th, 2010 02:30 am (UTC)
Ahhh not sure exactly what that means but I'll assume that you loved it and couldn't find the words. hahahaha
moonlight1314
Nov. 10th, 2010 03:18 am (UTC)
That would be exactly it! :D I was smiling the whole time. The interaction had me sitting there and grinning like the Cheshire cat! I THOUGHT he was moving a TAD too fast but after reading the last chapter (9) I think the pace is going to be just right! The way you have them moving about each other is just... indescribable for me. It’s like with the way you write them, I want to smoosh them together and go “Get on with it!” but I also wanna sit back and see more of the way they're going about it now. I don't know if that makes sense either, at least that how I see it. And in all the fic so far there were only 2 things that got me a bit hung up, I’m almost positive it was this chapter and chapter 9.

It was just here: “Hey, don’t poking me,” Cobb’s deep voice rumbled next to her ear as his fingers curled around her quickly moving hand.
I’m not sure which way it should be going but I figured it was either “Hey, stop poking me,”, “Hey, don’t poke me,” or “Hey, quite poking me,”.

That was one and I’ll find the other eventually on my re-read! Sorry to nit-pick! >,< But honestly I do love it. You've done a wonderful job and I am looking forward to more.
lattelady6
Nov. 10th, 2010 05:34 am (UTC)
This was my first chapter written after my hand surgery. Between my iPad and using Drop Box to keep my computers in sinc some things fell through the cracks. The typos are why I went back to using a beta. I need to go through the whole story and fill in those small places where my brain filled in what should be there instead of fixing what was there. If that makes any sence.
moonlight1314
Nov. 10th, 2010 05:46 am (UTC)
I understand completely! And I even had a typo in my thing. I should have put quit instead of quite. >,< And wow! I give you mad props madam! I've never under gone surgery so I don't know how it feels exactly, but I do hope there weren't any complications. And like I said I think your brain and hand have a pretty good connect from what I can read if those before were unbeta-ed. :D I didn't re-read chapter nine yet (I think it is my favorite thus far) and that was the only other place I saw something odd/wrong with a sentence.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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Quotes

The moving finger writes: and having writ Moves on. nor all your piety nor wit Shall lure it back to cancal half a line, Nor all your tears wash out a word of it...The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

If I quiet the voices in my head, I would face the day with nothing to write. - Unknown

I must go down to the seas again the lonely sea and sky...J Masefield

Cinderella walked on broken glass,
Sleeping beauty let a whole lifetime pass.
Belle fell in love with a hideous beast,
Jasmine married a common thief.
Ariel walked on land for love and life,
Snow white barely escaped a knife.
It was all about blood, sweat, and tears.
Because love means facing your biggest fears


The heart has its reasons that reason knows nothing of...French Proverb

I have drempt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after. They've gone through me like wine through water and altered the colour of my mind ...E. Bronte

To love someone deeply gives you strength. Being loved by someone deeply gives you courage...Lao Tzu

It takes chaos to give birth to a dancing star ..F. Nietzsche

How many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true? But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face...Yeats

Let us go, you and I, when the evening is spread out against the sky...T. S. Eliot

In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter, that is the day when I first met you, appears the words, "here begins a new life".
La Vita Nuova

Midnight courage of the heart...Jen Kirkwood

The three o-clock in the morning courage which Bonaparte thought was the rarest...Thoreau

Did you say it? I love you; I don't ever want to live without you; you changed my life. Did you say it?
Make a plan, set a goal, work toward it, but every now and then, look around, drink it in, 'cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow. - Meredith Grey

Shakespeare is easy, life is hard...Wheels

Don't try to be a great man, just be a man. Let history make up its own mind...Z.Cochron

I had a job to do and I was unafraid...Jack to John Creighton

For I dipt into the future, as far as the human eye could see. Saw the vision of the world, and the wonders that can be...RWW Hipwell

Without diviation from the norm, progress is impossible...F. Zappa

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea, In a beautiful pea-green boat: They took some honey and plenty of money, Wrapped up in a five-pound note. The Owl looked up to the stars above, and sang to a small guitar...E Lear

Sweet and low, sweet and low, Wind of the western sea, Low, low, breathe and blow, Wind of the western sea! Over the rolling waters go, Come from the dying moon and blow, Blow him again to me;... Tennison

Charmed magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn... Keats

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