Dom let his eyes lower, thinking hard about the question he'd just been asked. He felt the cold of the warehouse ebb closer to his bones, and he felt the emotions he tried to keep at bay begin to dance threateningly close to him.
"It's complicated," he replied, after an augmented pause.
Ariadne's eyebrows furrowed in skepticism. She may be new to the world of dream sharing, but even she didn't accept that answer. She swallowed one comment, realizing who she was talking to, and then voiced another "Everything is essentially complicated—but complicated is just a long list of simplicities."
Just for a moment Cobb looked her in the eye, She is Miles' student after all, he said to himself, resisting the urge to grin at what he believed were the Professor's words coming straight from Ariadne.
"What happens when you've been using the PASIV for an extended amount of time?" he said, using the brusque tone of authority mixed with nurturing that he had first used to speak with her, so many months ago in Paris "What happens to your dreams?"
"You stop dreaming on your own," she replied immediately. She tossed the end of her scarf over her shoulder and leaned further in her chair "You require the PASIV and Somnacin to be able to dream."
"Exactly," Dom replied, nodding.
"It's a tragedy."
Cobb raised an eyebrow, a taunting have smirk on his face. "That's the best answer to your question. It's 'tragedy'."
Ariadne didn't take the dubious expression off her face. "So that's your answer? That's how dream sharers live out their lives? It's 'tragedy'?"
"Think about it."
Dom leaned forward; he raised a hand passively in front of him, his eyes narrowing. "Look at the people that have surrounded us," he intoned quietly "The people you've shared dreams with."
"Arthur," Ariadne replied "What about Arthur?"
Dom licked his bottom lip, not entirely liking the reality he was going to tell her "Arthur will be the most excellent point man in extractions for more years than any of the rest of us will be in the game."
"Yes," Ariadne said dryly "I can see the tragedy already."
"No," Cobb waved his hand impatiently "Think about it. I can't dream anymore, Arthur barely has a real dream anymore. Eventually dreams will stop for him as well. He'll continue on for a few years, eventually he'll begin to see everyone as a mark, he'll not be able to differentiate what information he's supposed to be stealing from them, he'll sink into the addiction of the PASIV and the somnacin, he'll begin dreaming more and more, spending less and less time in reality."
"How can you be sure?" Ariadne asked, the future that Cobb painted affecting her more than she would allow to show. It looked so bleak.
"Because that was my future," Cobb said steadily. Ever since he'd been back in America he hadn't extracted with any member of the team once, he also hadn't had a single dream either. If he hadn't been allowed to get back to his children he knows the future he would have had.
"Can you imagine being a point man?" Cobb prodded "He is solely responsible for the information the team makes decisions on, and for what happens in the dreams. He needs to be prepared for the dream shifting in any way. Can you imagine living with that level of paranoia not only in dreams but in reality as well? Can you imagine if you couldn't tell you were awake anymore and you carried that paranoia for years?"
"I see what you mean," said Ariadne after a brief pause. "But I think a person can still change that."
Dom stood swiftly "Look at Eames—he's always so calm right?"
Ariadne didn't reply, she let Cobb begin to pace around the small deserted section of warehouse un-disturbed. She had latched onto the opportunity to pick his brain when he had showed up ready to help the team plan, if not to dream.
"Eames is a forger." Cobb said "His pride and glory is mixing reality into dreams, cloaking the eyes of the marks. What happens when he loses the idea of who he was originally? After so many years under the influence of somnacin how long do you think he'll be able to put up with all the psyches he's been forced to become, person after person that he's required to emulate? What happens when Eames loses Eames?"
Ariadne stayed silent.
"Even Yusuf doesn't dream anymore," Cobb said, though his brief swell of emotion was leveling down again. He sighed.
"I know a lot of people in this business," he said, turning and crossing his arms, squinting at the dull concrete floor. "You want to know how these people end up? What happens when you live an entire life of dream sharing?"
"Look at Mal, Ariadne, Jesus, just look at what happened to Mal," Dom said, his voice less choked than it would have been a month ago.
Ariadne instantly felt guilty, of course she shouldn't have asked Cobb this question, not when she had Mal as an example in front of her.
"So many people get lost," Dom continued, his tone was solemn "So many people can no longer test reality apart from dreams, so many people put themselves under with the PASIV until their bodies waste away in the chairs they sleep in, so many people just give up."
"You didn't," Ariadne spoke up, she tried to make her tone subtle, but the defiance wasn't easy to strip out of it.
"I'm one of the few," Cobb acquiesced, sliding back down into his chair. "I had something that made reality so much more appealing than dreams, a lot of people don't."
They were silent for a while. It was companionable, the same as the silences they shared when planning for inception, both too preoccupied with thoughts to speak. They were so similar.
"What do you think is going to happen to you?" Dom asked, breaking the silence in a soft pleading tone. He wanted her to understand. He smiled across at her sadly "I may have damned you by recruiting you."
"I don't know," Ariadne whispered back.
"We have an extraordinary opportunity, being able to share dreams," Dom's voice became rough, his eyes shining a little too brightly "But we pay Morpheus an extraordinary price for that ability."