Author: kissoffools / wakeyourheart
Pairing: Arthur/Ariadne, "Inception".
Summary: "The first time it happens, it’s purely accidental. Ariadne will swear that up and down." In which Ariadne gets awfully friendly with her projections.
Disclaimer: Nolan created the characters and the world. I'm just playing with them.
Notes: My first time writing in the Inception fandom! And the first time in ages that I'm writing something that isn't RPF. Word Count: 4,609. Basically, this is like... two-thirds smut. Make of that what you will.
The first time it happens, it’s purely accidental. Ariadne will swear that up and down.
She’s testing a level that she’s still partway through building; it isn’t perfect yet, and she’s been doing this for too long to show Cobb anything that isn’t one hundred percent finished. She goes under alone, because it isn’t like there’s any danger – she’s the dreamer and the subject, and her own subconscious won’t turn on her. She doesn’t think.
She never even considers that it’ll fuck with her head.
Ariadne’s wandering around the rich manor she’s crafted, and her attention is drawn to some curtains – are they too heavy? Too deep? She’s running the material through her fingers, debating if it feels real, when she hears a cough behind her.
After a year of working with the team, she definitely knows that cough.
“Arthur?” she says with surprise, turning her head to look at him.
He’s leaning against the doorjamb, hands resting loosely in the pockets of his trousers. He’s studying her, his expression unreadable, and she wonders fleetingly how long he’s been standing there.
Arthur surprises her when he gently pushes himself away from the doorframe and takes a few steps into the lush parlour. He hasn’t spoken one word, and that strikes Ariadne as a little odd. Any other time that he’s shared a dream with her, he’s made his opinions perfectly well known; whether he was pointing out an unrealistic object or a flaw in the maze, he always had something to say.
“What are you doing here?” she asks as he approaches, almost a little annoyed. Did he not trust her to explore a dream alone? She’d had more experience by this point; she knew what she was doing. “Seriously, Arthur, I didn’t invite you. I can take care of this – ”
But his lips cut her off.
The kiss isn’t a long one; short and chaste, it reminds Ariadne of their first kiss almost a year ago, there in Fischer’s dream. But that time, the kiss had been done out of what she thought was necessity. There is nothing necessary about this.
“ – by myself,” she finishes when he pulls away. She’s a little breathless – from shock and nothing more, she insists in her head – and her eyes flick up to meet his. He stares down at her, so self-confident and sure, and a dozen questions sit at the tip of her tongue. They range from “What are you thinking?” to “What gives you the right?”, and there’s even some weird ones like “What kind of aftershave do you use?” floating around in the mix.
She takes a breath to ask, and ends up bringing her mouth up to meet his instead.
This kiss lasts a little longer, but it’s nice and slow; Arthur lets her take the lead. And that’s Ariadne’s first little clue, a tiny trigger at the back of her brain that tells her things aren’t exactly as they seem. But his large hand rests against her waist and pulls her in a little closer, and she can’t quite bring herself to care.
Ariadne explores, and he lets her. It’s almost like her first time building a dream: applying a little pressure here, capturing his lower lip between her teeth, experimenting and watching in awe at the results that unfold before her. Her hands slide up the back of his neck to grasp at the ends of his hair, and that pulls a little noise from him, a soft moan that travels from his mouth to hers. Ariadne files away that little trick for future reference, just as any good architect would.
She has no idea how much time has passed – one minute or two or ten – but she knows that when Arthur pulls back, it hasn’t been enough. His hands are gone from her waist and he’s backing away, still giving her that focused, determined look, and she’s about to go after him, to ask him what the hell that all was –
Ariadne opens her eyes and she’s spread out on a lawn chair in the middle of the warehouse. All the other chairs around her are empty.
Running out of time in a dream makes for a much more peaceful wake-up than being shot or stabbed or crushed, but what happened with Arthur may as well have been a nuclear bomb; she feels just as shaky when she climbs to her feet. Her fingers scrabble for the bishop in the pocket of her jeans, and she exhales slowly as she feels its smooth surface in the palm of her hand. She can feel the weight of it, the shape, the small indentations she’d carved into the bottom. Reality.
Reality and Arthur was nowhere in sight. That didn’t feel right.
Ariadne’s glad that Arthur’s office is between the chairs and the exit; she doesn’t even have to make up an excuse to head that way. She slows when she reaches his small cube of an office, rapping her knuckles against the open door. Arthur looks up at her with surprise.
“Ariadne,” he says, a courteous smile lighting up his eyes immediately. “Finished for the night?”
“Yeah,” she replies, and normally that would be it – she’d wish him a good evening and he’d tell her to have a safe walk home, and that would be that. But she can still feel the grip of his fingers on her waist, and it’s that more than anything else that leads her to ask, “Have you been in here all afternoon?”
Arthur blinks at her, a little perplexed. “Yes,” he says, his hand waving over the files open on his desk. “If we’re going to get the password to Blair’s computer system, I have to be thorough.”
Of course he has to be thorough – Arthur is his job. And the job is far too important to him to risk it on dreaming for fun.
“Right,” she says, feeling a little stupid now, “of course. Have a good night, Arthur.”
“Get home safe, Ariadne,” he says, and without a second look, he turns his attention back to his notes.
The second time it happens, Ariadne claims she wasn’t expecting it. She lies.
She uses the job as an excuse; she needs to test the level again, she tells herself, because she’s worried about the way she’s designed the second floor of the manor. She puts herself under right at the end of the day, after Cobb and Yusuf and Arthur have all gone home for the night. The last thing she wants is them nosing around and asking questions, or worse, asking to join her. She’s not very good at saying no, and she’s even worse at keeping a straight face.
Ariadne walks through the manor, her footsteps echoing in the hallway around her. That’s good, she thinks. I got the acoustics down. She runs a hand along the wood-trimmed wall, trying to focus on how it feels. But her mind is elsewhere, thinking about the way her limbs are tingling, the way her veins seem to burn in anticipation. She’s hoping, even if she won’t admit it to herself.
That’s why she doesn’t even balk when Arthur steps into the hallway to meet her.
“Hey,” she says quietly to him, and she doesn’t even know why she’s bothering. Some projections talk, sure, but she knows that her projection of him won’t. Arthur is too complex, too unexpected; there’s no way she could ever dream anything realistic for him to say.
Instead of replying, he presses her up against the wall, right there in the hallway. And Ariadne doesn’t mind at all.
Theoretically, she knows she should feel guilty. She’d seen what happens when a person uses the dream for something other than work; she knows how messed up it can be. Arthur and Cobb and Eames have emphasized the hazards to her a hundred times. And it’s not like she’s trying to lose her grip on reality, but… well, Arthur’s pinned her hands above her head. She doesn’t even think about saying no to that.
Ariadne tilts her head back, and Arthur’s lips immediately hone in on her neck. He’s sucking and nibbling, dropping wet kisses over her soft skin, and her own eyes slip shut. The world of the dream may as well be non-existent; his lips centered on her throat are the only things that matter. He moves his head just a hair to the right, and his teeth sink gently into her collarbone. She makes a sound, a soft gasping “Ah!” and she can feel him smirk against her skin.
Even in a dream, he’s self-satisfied. Of course.
Ariadne’s barely thinking when she hitches a leg up around his hip, and god, she’d die if anyone ever saw her like this. She’d probably die if Arthur saw her like this for real. But his projection doesn’t care – no, he wraps an arm around her thigh and tugs her leg up even higher. He’s pressed right up against her now, their hips flush together, and Ariadne’s aware, so aware, of just how little material separates their bodies.
His fingers skate up under her shirt, barely a brush against her stomach, and even that sends a shiver through her entire body. “Arthur,” she whispers as his fingers slowly creep higher, and her voice stutters a little when she feels his hand graze the bottom of her bra. “Arthur, we shouldn’t – we can’t -”
He silences her with a kiss.
She doesn’t want to have sex with Arthur, not like this. If she’s ever going to do that (which, considering the way he acts around her in real life, is anything but likely), it isn’t going to be in a dream. If they’re going to have sex, it’s going to be skin on skin, in a place where they can fall asleep together afterwards and she can make them pancakes in the morning. If they’re ever going to have sex, it’s going to be for real.
But really… it doesn’t hurt to play for now, right? she thinks as his thumb brushes over a nipple. Ariadne doesn’t have a clue where her bra ended up.
Her head is tilted all the way back against the wall, and her shirt’s pushed right up over her chest, giving Arthur all the access he wants. Her hips rut slowly up against his, and he’s dropped his head to place sucking kisses against her breasts, and oh, god, she doesn’t know how much longer she can stand this. She’s glad she can’t see herself, doesn’t want to see the way her hair is mussed from being pressed against the wall and the way the one leg that’s supporting her is shaking. She’s never been this wild, this wanton, and she’d probably be embarrassed if it didn’t all feel so damn good.
Arthur presses up against her, harder this time, and she gasps out, “Arthur, I’m –”
She’s back awake. She wipes at her eyes, exhaling loudly in frustration. Why right then? She’s almost debating adding more time to the clock as she wiggles the needle out of her arm.
“Enjoying yourself, love?”
Eames is perched on the edge of a table, right there next to her.
“Shit, Eames,” she curses softly, sitting up straighter in the lawn chair. She runs a hand through her hair and prays to god that she isn’t too flushed. “I thought you left.”
“Meant to, but I had to come back for a notebook.” He crosses his arms and leans back a little bit. He’s watching her with this amused, know-it-all grin, and she’d jump up and smack it off his face if she thought it would help. “What are you doing?”
Ariadne scrambles out of her chair and starts rolling up the IV cord. “Just testing the level,” she tells him. Her eyes don’t meet his, and he notices.
“You’ve been testing this dream for weeks now,” he argues. “You’re too good to need this much time to prepare.”
“Maybe I just want it to be perfect, okay, Eames?” There’s a drop of irritation in her tone now – he notices that, too. “I don’t want to send you guys in there and end up with you in trouble over something that’s my fault.”
“Sure, like Nash,” she agrees, even though she hasn’t the faintest clue who or what Nash is. She snaps the locks shut on the briefcase. “I’m basically done now, anyway.”
“And the level will be ready for Cobb?”
“It’s ready whenever he wants to see it,” she replies tersely. Her jacket and bag lie in a heap on the floor, and she stoops to swipe them up. All she really wants to do right now is get as far away from Eames as possible; the longer they’re in the same room, the more questions he’s going to be able to ask. And while she knows that he can’t tell what she was up to in that dream – the purplish bruise Arthur had left on her neck has vanished in reality, thankfully – she also knows she’s a crappy liar.
“Good,” Eames says, and it seems like he’s going to let her go. She shrugs her bag over her shoulder and nods in his direction, the little smile on her face wishing him a good night. She’s halfway across the warehouse before he speaks.
“Ariadne,” he calls, and she hesitates. She doesn’t turn around, and she’s pretty sure he hasn’t moved, either. “If you’re going to dream, make sure you don’t do it when other people are around. You never know who’ll be tempted to join in and see just what’s going on in your head.”
The warehouse door slams shut behind her with a bang.
The third time it happens, Ariadne’s waiting for it. Eagerly.
This time, there’s no pretense. She doesn’t wander through the house and examine its details; the level is perfect and she knows it. No, this time she heads straight for the bedroom. Her shoes lie on the floor, kicked aside and forgotten, and she’s up on the bed and waiting by the time her projection of Arthur shows up.
Ariadne removes her shirt right away, and she relishes the way Arthur’s eyes widen as he stares.
That’s what she likes so much about doing this in a dream – the way she can shed her inhibitions and be really, truly unafraid. She knows that this Arthur won’t judge her, won’t stop to criticize or critique. It’s all about touch and taste and feel, and she gets to be beautiful and wanted. It’s such a nice change from the way the real world works.
Arthur’s on top of her almost at once, his long, lean body spread out everywhere, and Ariadne finds herself pushing up against him. She doesn’t want sex, and she’ll stick to that, but… well, she’s done this a few times already. She has no intention of waking up without coming this time.
Her bra’s already long gone when he moves to the waistband on her jeans, and she doesn’t hesitate, not once. No, her fingers reach down to fumble with his, to help him push the pants down past her thighs. He mouths over her stomach, tongue sneaking out to swirl around her bellybutton, and she can feel his fingers slowly, achingly slide up her thigh.
“Arthur,” she gasps when he nips at the skin of her abdomen, not expecting a response. She’s unable to say more, unable to tell him where she wants him, but he runs a thumb over her and damn it, of course he knows. Somewhere at the back of her mind, she wonders if the real Arthur would know that, too.
He starts out slow, one soft finger rubbing impossible circles over her, exploring and taking his time. He slips the finger lower, over her clit and finally into her, and she lets out a shaky breath, her legs opening a little wider. When he adds a second, her back arches up off the bed, a delicate curve, and she tries desperately to keep her hips still. When he introduces a third, she gives up all pretense and decorum. Her breathing is short and ragged, and she can’t help but push back eagerly against his fingers as her hair splays out over the mattress.
Ariadne tries her hardest not to close her eyes, to keep her gaze focused on Arthur’s face as he moves over her. She may never get a chance to see this again, to see how sexy he looks from this angle, and god, she wants to remember every detail when she wakes.
But then Arthur drops his head and nips at her trembling thigh, and her eyes slip shut of their own volition as she comes, mouth falling open in a gasp.
When she opens her eyes again, she’s back in the warehouse and it takes all her effort not to curse out loud.
Ariadne’s cranky as she stands and puts away the PASIV machine, and she knows that she shouldn’t be – who on earth gets cranky after an orgasm like that? But it's the fact that her ‘after’, well… it's this. There is no cuddling in bed, or returning the favour, or anything, really. Her ‘after’ is waking up in reality and returning to her daily routine, one of mazes and hard work, one where she can’t so much as hold Arthur’s hand.
And of course, this is the moment Arthur chooses to wander into the main room of the warehouse for a cup of coffee. He looks up in surprise when he spots her standing next to the PASIV.
“You’ve been going under a lot,” he comments. “Everything all right?”
“Sure,” Ariadne replies, trying to sound far more cheerful than she feels at the moment. “Just running some tests. You know.”
“Right,” he says. His gaze lingers curiously on her for a moment more before he turns his attention on the coffee maker. Once he turns his back, she runs a hand through her hair and makes her way back to her mazes.
Reality, she thinks bitterly, kind of blows.
The fourth time it happens, Arthur catches her.
She’s only been in the dream for a short time, something like ten minutes, and this time, Ariadne and her projection of Arthur have begun on the couch. He’s seated with her straddled above him, his large hands splayed out over her hips as she arcs her back and kisses him deeply. She’s not sure how far she wants to take things this time, but she sucks his tongue into her mouth and figures she’ll play it by ear.
It’s when he rolls her over that she spots Arthur.
He’s not far from them, only ten feet from the couch, and for a moment she thinks she’s projected two Arthurs into this particular dream. She’s never consciously thought about a threesome, having twice as much of him, but maybe that’s something she just hasn’t realized yet…
But then he yells, “Ariadne!” and that, combined with the look of fury on his face, tells her that she’s no longer dreaming alone.
“Oh shit,” she curses under her breath, hands reaching up to shove the projection of Arthur off of her. She has no idea what to say or how to explain herself, but she has a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach that there’s no way this can end well.
And then Arthur draws his gun and shoots the projection straight in the chest.
“What the hell, Arthur!” Ariadne shouts, flinching at the bang. Her projection of Arthur tumbles over the arm of the couch and onto the floor, unmoving.
Arthur tucks the gun back into his pocket. “What on earth do you think you’re doing?” he asks, and his voice is low, so quiet she almost has to strain to hear him. That actually frightens her more than another yell would have.
“I –” she stammers, because really, how on earth can she explain her way out of this? “Sorry, Arthur, I was just fooling around with my projection of you because you won’t let us get off together in real life?” Yeah, not so much.
“You aren’t supposed to be using dreams for recreation, Ariadne,” he says, and damnit, she hates it when he lectures her. “Dreams are for jobs. It’s too easy to get mixed up with what’s real and what isn’t. They aren’t for acting out your little…” he pauses, seemingly searching for an appropriate word, “fantasies.”
“I know that, Arthur, I just –”
“Cobb trusts us to behave responsibly,” Arthur continues. “I hardly consider this a responsible use of the PASIV!”
“I wasn’t trying to –”
“This is exactly why it’s a bad idea to hire someone so young,” Arthur murmurs, practically to himself, and Ariadne has had it. She climbs off the couch, a fire in her eyes, and moves quickly towards Arthur. A good smack across the face will probably –
She jolts awake. On the lawn chair next to her, Arthur blinks.
“Arthur,” she beings. She isn’t sure what she’ll follow that up with, but she wants to explain. To apologize. To say something to defend herself.
Arthur doesn’t even look at her. He removes the IV from his arm as quickly as he can, standing and returning it to the machine without so much as a glance in her direction. Then he adjusts his tie and walks away.
And oh, god, Ariadne is angry.
“Arthur!” she yells, tugging the IV from her arm and tossing it carelessly towards the PASIV. Then she scrambles to her feet and jogs after him. “Arthur!” she repeats, louder this time. She doesn’t knock and wait politely outside his office door as she normally would; no, she barges right in, marches up to him and plants herself directly in the path that he’s pacing across the room.
“Won’t you just give me a second to explain?” she demands, hands on her hips.
And that’s when he kisses her.
It isn’t slow and sweet like the first time she’d kissed his projection; it’s firm and intense and filled with need, with want, and it’s all Ariadne can do to grip his sides and keep up.
She isn’t sure when or how he gets her up against the desk, but she can feel the smooth wood edge pressing up against the small of her back. Arthur stands over her, tall and commanding, his legs spread so that one foot is planted firmly on either side of her. His hands are against her face and hers are in his hair and oh, this was so much better in reality.
“Ariadne,” he breathes when they break apart for air, and her name – her fucking name, of all things – sends fire straight to her core. She wasn’t used to this, to an Arthur who’d talk back to her in a voice thick with desire, and it made her press closer against him. Desperate.
She manages to push his suit jacket off his shoulders, and it tumbles into a crumpled heap on the floor. A part of her thinks they should pause and fold it neatly on the desk – it’s a Tom Ford, after all – but Arthur just nips at the tendon in her neck and mumbles “Leave it” against her skin. She tugs a little on his tie in response.
Ariadne knows that she’s been waiting to do this with Arthur, to do this properly – a slow, tender moment instead of a quick, rushed fuck. But she can barely stand his proximity, his warmth, and she doesn’t even bother with her shirt. Arthur forgoes his as well.
“Next time,” he pants as he moves for the button on her jeans, and she can’t help but grin into the crook of his neck. He wants a next time.
Two pairs of pants join Arthur’s jacket on the floor, and there’s a flurry of hands – preparing, getting each other ready, feeling - and then Arthur wraps an arm around her waist and lifts her up, propping her on top of the desk. He pauses, leans down, and his eyes find hers.
“You okay?” he asks, and she can tell he means it. She can tell that if she says no, stop, he will. He’ll pull back and help her back into her pants and they’ll go about the rest of their day. He’s that much of a gentleman.
She doesn’t say no.
Ariadne hears the tear of foil, and she only has to wait a few seconds before he moves right up against her. He goes slow, gentle, and he curves his back so he can lean down and kiss her at the same time. There’s a pen jabbing into her shoulder and she’s already getting a crick in her back, and she is so, so glad she waited.
“Okay?” he asks after he’s given her a moment to adjust. She nods, and he starts to move.
Arthur stays upright, one hand gripping at her hips to get the best angle. He places his other hand on the table beside her, and Ariadne thinks that’s for leverage. But when she reaches down and laces her fingers through his, and he smiles, she thinks maybe not.
It’s faster than she would have expected, and he’s good – his hips swivel at the same time as they press forward, and it isn’t long before her back is arched and her fingers grip so tightly at his that her knuckles turn white.
“Oh god,” she whimpers, trying to meet his thrusts as best she can, trying to keep her eyes open to watch the way his usually-perfect hair hangs in his eyes. “Oh god, oh god –”
“It’s okay,” he murmurs, one hand skating comfortingly across her thigh. “I’ve got you.”
Arthur groans when he comes, and Ariadne thinks that might be the sexiest sound in the world.
He keeps one hand twined with hers and brings the other one down, rubbing against her to help bring her to the edge as well. He looks focused, determined, and she can’t stop pressing her hips up into his hand.
“Come on,” he mutters, coaxing, “come on.”
She can’t keep her eyes open when she comes this time, either.
When she opens them again, Arthur is stretched out next to her on the desk. He’s shoved aside a few things, a laptop and notebooks and such, but she knows there’s probably a ruler or two poking into his back. His head rests against hers, and somehow, their hands are still clasped together.
“I’m sorry about the dream,” she murmurs, tucking her head up into the crook of his neck. “I shouldn’t have –”
“It’s okay,” he interrupts, his thumb rubbing gently over the back of her hand. “You’re off the hook.”
And it’s all so perfect, so right, that Ariadne almost starts to panic. What if – what if she’d actually stayed under? What if this whole thing was a dream? She tries to find purchase on the desk and push herself up into a sitting position.
“What are you doing?” Arthur asks, not letting go of her hand.
“My totem –” Ariadne begins, but he cuts her off with a laugh. Arthur tugs her down so that she’s propped up against his chest, and he reaches up to kiss her once, gently.
“Trust me,” he says with a grin, “I’m real.”