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How I Know You

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Summary: Nothing John can say will convince Sarah that she's only a figment of his imagination.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
DC Universe > Batman
Movies > Inception
VashtiFR1511,696021,00128 Feb 1328 Feb 13Yes
Title: How I Know You
Series: Companion to the "Midnight City" series
Fandom: BtVS/The Dark Knight Rises/Inception
Character(s): John Blake, Sarah the OC Slayer, Ariadne, Dominic Cobb, Arthur
Rating: PG-13
Warning: trigger warning for self harm
Summary: Nothing John can say will convince Sarah that she's only a figment of his imagination.
Length: ~1660
Disclaimer: Only the words are mine, and that’s probably up for philosophical debate.
Dedication: Everyone who enjoyed "Midnight City". I can't promise that this will be your cup of tea, but you made writing and posting the original series a lot of fun and I'm grateful.
Notes: This story will not make sense if you haven't read the "Midnight City" series. If you have not seen Inception, this story will not make sense to you. "Midnight City" is longish (16 stories), but reads pretty quickly. This is set some months after that series ends, and more than a year after TDKR ends. Uh, it takes place some indeterminate time after the events of the movie for Inception.

§§§

"Are you serious?!" Sarah screamed, nearly shrieking. "You’re going to believe them? A bunch of guys who broke into our condo, tied us up in our living room while we were sleeping and drugged us?"

"Look, Sarah..." John leaned over to put his hands on the armrests of Sarah’s wheelchair, but she quickly pushed back. Her loose hair fluttered around her face as she slid halfway across the living room, and nearly into the hallway beyond.

"No! Don’t touch me!"

John sighed. "I don’t have a disease. I’m not contagious," he said, crossing his arms over his chest.

“Are you sure?”

Any other time this would have been funny. He should be crossing his arms and smirking, not pulling his lips into a thin line. "And they didn’t drug us." Sighing again, John dropped his arms. His shoulders and head slumped, too. "There is no ‘us’."

"Did they tell you that?" Sarah asked, matching his lower volume if not his tone. "Did they tell you that I wasn’t real? What about Buffy? Is she real?"

When he wouldn’t quite meet her eyes, she screeched, the sound muffled behind her teeth. "Why can’t you see what they’re doing to you!? The mind games they played on you!?" Her voice had begun to rise again. Her permanently tan skin was flushed with anger. "Do you really want to get out of this life so much? Then quit! But don’t become their toy, their pawn!

"You don’t think this isn’t all a trick to get to something else? They know you’re close to Gordon. They know you’re close to the head of the SI. They know you have some relationship with the late Bruce Wayne, otherwise how could we afford the things that we have and what we’ve done?" Eyes wet with unshed she tears, she shouted, "And you’re going to just let them pick your brain apart!"

"Sarah—"

"Don’t you ‘Sarah’ me!” she snapped, rolling toward him. “How can you think I’m a figment of your imagination? Why would someone as well-adjusted as this...this...this..."

"Arthur," John supplied in an even tone.

"Arthur," she spat out the name. "Why would Arthur create a broken lifestory to fit into a broken world? Aren’t dreams supposed to make you better?"

"Sarah—"

“And I am not a figment of your imagination. I am not one of those filler people they told us about in the dream. Because, yes! That was the dream. This is reality!"

Angry again, John snapped at his sister. "How can you be so sure?!"

"Because." Pinning him with her stare, she rolled forward until she was well within arms-reach. She gestured for him to kneel down.

John was still angry, but he complied so that they were talking face to face. "Because," she said more softly, with leashed control, "most slayers have a history mental instability. Including Buffy. But I’m not one of them."

John frowned. She’d spoken so reasonably that John wanted her words to make sense, but—“Huh?”

“You heard me.”

“Yeah, I did. But what does your mental state have to do with this being a dream. I’m the dreamer. You’re—” He grit his teeth. “—a projection of my mind. To fill the space.”

“A figment of your imagination?” An eyebrow went up along with her chin, in an expression reminiscent of someone else.

“I guess you could say that.”

“Then who’s to say that you aren’t a figment of my imagination. That you aren’t my projection,” she shot back.

“What?”

“They told me the same thing, John. They fed me the same load of bull.” Crossing her arms over her chest, Sarah said, “That I don’t believe it and you do just proves who has the stronger grip on reality.”

It should have been funny, but neither was up for joking.

John shot to his feet. “Sarah—“

“What John? Is this part of your dream, too? A counter-measure? Explain this to me!” She gestured to her lap, her legs primly and neatly closed and leaning to one side. “Why would I kill my family, Arthur? Why would I let myself be paralyzed, Arthur? Why can’t I get the guy I like to like me back?” Her voice rose with each question, her consonants short and sharp enough to snap bone. “Why don’t you have any control?! Why don’t I?! Why do people die every night when one of us screws up?!”

John made as if to kneel again. “Sarah—“

“Don’t touch me!” she snapped, pushing herself back again. Though she hadn’t gone as far, she was well out of easy reach. Trembling, she hugged herself tightly and turned away so that he couldn’t see her tears.

“Sarah…” John started again, but more gently.

“What?” Her voice was thick and wet.

“You are…” He took a deep breath. “You are the projection of my actual sister, whose name really is Sarah, though she’s not…”

Head snapping around, she pinned him with her dark, wet stare. He clenched his jaw, seeing her again almost as if for the first time. Small, but compact with firm muscles that gave her deceptive curves. The long sleeves of her shirt that hid the strength of her arms as much as it did the warmth of her skin, despite winter sallowness. Her wide, gently down-canted eyes that turned into slits when she smiled or laughed. Her hair’s distinctive red coloring had grown out when she’d been hospitalized and she hadn’t yet re-dyed it. He’d been meaning to tell her for weeks how well her natural black suited her.

Forcing his jaw apart, he continued. “That Sarah played at dreaming and got lost in limbo. I went in after her, and now I’m lost, too. I made you up when I couldn’t find her.”

Fresh tears running silently down her face, Sarah continued to hold him with her eyes. “That so? I’m just the substitute for the one you couldn’t save?”

“Something like that.”

She pressed the palms of her hands into her insensate thighs. “And then you couldn’t save me again?”

“I guess.”

She looked away from him, brushing the tears from her cheeks. “Well. Why haven’t you shot yourself yet?”

“You heard what they said. It doesn’t always work that way in limbo. They’ll have to give me a kick. Drop me. They couldn’t find my mind before, but now that they have…now that they know I’m ready to come out, they can do it.”

“Yeah, that’s what they told me, too,” she said, still facing away. “Or something like it. But you know what else they told me? It doesn’t have to be a literal drop. Sometimes shock can do it, like when they give you paddles in the hospital. Or severe, severe surprise. The girl, Ariadne, explained it while that blonde guy was talking to you.”

Sarah turned to look at him, hands clasped together on her lap. Closing her eyes, she took a deep breath then let it out in a rush. "What if this is something that Crane is doing.” It sounded like she was making a last ditch effort. Her now open eyes seemed unusually large and bright. "Doesn’t this sound just like him?"

"Sarah..."

Looking down and away at the floor, she sniffled loudly muttering something that sounded like, "Father God, you made me strong but would that you had made me a stone."

John saw fresh tears sliding down her cheeks. Before he could approach her, console her, she was talking again. "And why weren’t you able to save me last time?" she asked.

"According to Cobb, the blond guy," he added for her benefit, "since I didn’t know it was a dream I had to obey the rules of the world the original Sarah and I created. Now that I know it’s a dream I should have more control."

"Yeah, that’s what Ariadne told me about it, too." Sarah nodded, swiping at her cheeks again. "Well then, I guess if the shock doesn’t kick you out, you’ll have a chance to practice that lucid dreaming."

He almost didn’t see the glint of steel before Sarah plunged the dagger into her gut.

"Sarah! No!"

§§§

He jerked once, eyes popping open. His heart hammered hard enough to make his head pound and his vision swim. Only force of habit kept him from scrambling to his feet—habit and fear.

His vision clearing, a smooth expanse of clear skin framed by dark hair filled his vision, hanging over his face. "Sarah?" Her dark lashes made spiked crescents on her cheeks. She didn’t respond to her name.

He could feel his heart in his throat as he reached up to touch his sister’s cheek with a trembling hand. “Sarah?”

His breath came out in a rush when he felt her skin warm under his fingertips. Hunched over him as he slept in her lap, his sister whined in her sleep but otherwise didn’t respond. He smiled. "Sarah."

Now he could see how her hair shifting slightly as she breathed over him. Gently toying with the spiky crescents on her cheeks got her to grumble in annoyance, but she stubbornly refused to wake.

Slowly, carefully, he slipped his body off the couch, sliding his head and neck from her lap, to crouch on the floor by her feet. When it was clear that not even this would get his sister to wake up from what had to be an uncomfortable sleeping position, he rose and looked down at her, watching her intently for long long moments.

Finally satisfied, he carefully, slowly, he lifted her into his arms. Muttering, she nestled into his embrace. Recognizing the garbled syllables as his name, incomprehensible though they were, he smiled. "I love you, too."

He carried her to her room and tucked her in.

[in]Fin[ite]

The End

You have reached the end of "How I Know You". This story is complete.

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