Characters/Pairings: Ariadne/Arthur (this is apparently the fandom wherein I write things I don't ship)
Rating/Warnings: PG (R for cussing, but the rest is innocuous)
Written For: inception_kink (don't judge me!), prompt: "I was addicted to saying things and having them matter to someone."
A/N: So, a while back I found a link to some (plotty) fills on the meme. I liked the fills and lost the link, and went back today to hunt for the things. I assumed this would not lead to projects, as I normally avoid kinkmemes (being a pearls-clutching innocent me.) Then I stumbled across this prompt. I don't know if anyone knows this, but I am a sucker for prompts I can relate to. And although this isn't Ariadne gen, it is firmly focused on her.
Ariadne is so damn tired of being twenty-two.
She's tired of being 'just a student.' She's tired of condescending teachers, of older students and the odd professional architect and even students in her own grade, usually men, telling her she's flat-out wrong without listening to a word she says.
She tries to get a job on her current credentials, less for the money than for the sake of mattering; the over-the-phone interview is the most relaxing conversation she's had since she got back from the States. (No, since three days after she got back, when Arthur called to check in. The call was to offer her a job, but she wanted to build something she could touch. They ended up talking for three hours anyway, weighing the pros and cons and simply sharing stories. He wanted her back but never discounted her reasoning.)
That, however, is irrelevant. Right now she needs to focus on the real - on the surface, waking, legal world.
Getting ready, she thinks this must be how Eames feels when he's forging someone new. Ariadne the student, twenty-two and quiet, falls to the floor with her thrift-store scarf. She slides into the suit, shivering at the strangeness of the cloth against her skin; she's only ever worn something like this once, in Arthur's dream. She likes it.
"Yes?" She almost jumps to her feet.
She watches her interviewer's face turn blank.
All through the interview, she knows what's coming. We're looking for someone with a little more experience. Everyone is. She designed a hotel and a fortress-hospital and an entire fucking city in under a month, and she remembers every inch of it. She helped rearrange the boundaries of possible and dreamed her way into madness and came back out. How’s that for experience?
But she can't say that, and nothing else she says will dent the shell of being twenty-two.
"Hey, Ari!" her roommate, Bernadette, chirps. "You will not believe - wait, is something wrong?"
"A job interview went badly," she says, grim and thin-lipped, pulling the pins out of her bun.
"Oh, that sucks. Listen, you're not going to believe what Professor Miles said today about the nature of reality. He's such a -"
Ariadne turns on a heel and walks out. She's told Bernadette a thousand times that she doesn't want to hear her grouse about Professor Miles.
She still has Arthur's number in her cell phone's history.
"Ariadne? Is everything all right?"
"Yes, it's fine. I'm sorry. I didn't think about the time difference. Did I wake you?"
"No, no, I stay up late. I just didn't expect you to call."
"Maybe I missed you." That isn't her reason, she didn't even plan to say it, but his voice makes her think of oversize fireplaces and panelled wood and a house that smells like books, and she imagines he's got a bottle of wine open and his shirt-sleeves rolled up, and suddenly she does indeed want to see him.
"Well, that's flattering," he says, hesitant and just a little bit dry. "Ariadne, are you really all right?"
"Yes, yes, I am. I was actually calling to ask - do you still have room on the team for an architect?"
"Yes," he says immediately. "We haven't found anyone half as good as you yet; I've been doing my best, but Eames threatens to walk out if we use half of my designs. Have you reconsidered my offer?"
She chuckles into the phone. "Yes. How soon do you want me there?"
"Can you be here in two days?"
"I can be there tomorrow, if you like."
"Well, don't abandon anything, but that sounds wonderful."
"Then I'll be there."
"Perfect. And how have you been, Ariadne?" Something rustles on his end, as if he's leaning back and settling in to listen to her.
"Ariadne!" He's standing just outside security, waving. He's wearing a dark-green waistcoat, crisply cut, and he looks as polished as ever. She stops herself from running, but not from moving a bit more quickly.
"Hello," she says when she reaches him, and he smiles. They're very close together already, so she links an arm around him and kisses him gently, as if they've been together for twenty-something years.
The effect is ruined by the heat in her cheeks when she pulls back, but it looks like - yes, he's blushing too. They blink at each other for several seconds before he asks "And what brought that on?"
"Camouflage," she offers. "So nobody will guess why I'm really here."
"I approve of the notion, although I'm not sure how much it will accomplish." But he's smiling.
"About as much as it accomplished against projections?" That startles a laugh out of him, bright and clear.
"Touché, touché," he grants, outright grinning now. He reaches for her suitcase, but steps back with a not when she grabs for the handle, and for that she threads her free hand through his. He squeezes, just lightly, but enough. Between the calluses, his hands are surprisingly soft.
She still wants to build, and at the end of the day she wants her work to leave her with something she can reach out and touch. But perhaps she'll be happy running her fingers across something a little softer than marble.