Author's Note: I'm a HUGE Nolan fan and, since Inception is coming out this Friday, I decided to curb my enthusiasm by writing this here little one shot. Now I haven't seen the movie yet, but I got the basic gist of Arthur and Ariadne's characters and built on them from there. If anything changes when I do see the film, anything that conflicts with what I've written here, I will go back and change it. In the meantime, who else is excited? I definitely am! Can't wait for the 16th!
Disclaimer - Ariadne and Arthur belong to Christopher Nolan.
Outside appearances always captivated her, pulled her in. She was an architect, after all, and outward pretenses, glass-like facades in their fragility, and paper-thin walls of resolve, were the first thing she noticed about structures. He was tall compared to her, although everyone seemed to be, like a skyscraper that just brushed the legs of the stars. And that was the basest sense she had of him, of his character – that he towered over her. Intimidated her even.
And that was it, all she had to offer in terms of first impressions.
It wasn't until later that she would recognize the rest of him, flitting in and out of her cognizant reflections like ghosts in the snow – unseen, but detected, even heard.
The missing pieces scattered in her mind that would make him human in her eyes.
Second impressions were more lenient with him, but were also more revealing. She had always been a creature founded in the roots of logic, of what was there and what she could see and touch and that was all. With him, there had to be a spark of creativity as well in order to discover new elements of what lay beneath the skyscraper, the towering man. She had that too.
Fragments began to piece together a more fleshed out version of who he really was in her mind, and the first to set itself in stone was his voice. It was elegant, almost soft in a way that suggested poise, as if he was always set to thinking and the currents of his thoughts flowed through his mouth. He more often than not used his hands when he spoke, which were pale, but lovely, and were like puppets, telling an age's worth of stories without ever resorting to using words. If she had to pick a part of him that intrigued her most, pulled her in as a tide pulls in the water, she'd have to admit her fascination with his hands.
In her own private deliberations, she imagined they'd be soft, spared the disastrous effects of hard labor, but always strong.
She left most of him to imagination, really. It would be a tragedy in of itself to unveil such an enigma so rapidly. And so, she unwrapped him slowly, taking care to taste each facet she came across and thoroughly appreciate its flavor before the initial novelty of it wore off and faded into the background. Though it never fully went away, his novelty…it loitered on the corner walks of her fascination, always having something new to show her when she had the time to really look.
And she found that there was always, always, a new surprise.
He was intelligent, there was no denying that, once she had a mind to look and see the brains beneath the handsome, reserved exterior, but he displayed his intelligence with less finesse than the others. Almost as if he wanted to prove himself with actions, not phrases strung along on fragile egos and brazen intentions.
And he had already, proving himself with Cobb.
She had no doubt in her mind that he would prove himself to her too. But slowly, so that she would never see it coming.
He was fascinated by people. And even if that intrigue didn't trickle into personal relationships with them, interacting with them, it pooled in the deep places of his mind in the form of a beautiful idea. It was why he was the point man, after all. Researching and collecting data for heists was his expertise because, in essence, he was a bit of an anthropologist. At heart, and by practice.
Often, when they were alone, he would sit in his chair, the pads of his fingers pressed to his temple as if he were summoning all of his intrusive powers of thought. She would feel rather naked beneath his invasive eyes, though she caught herself wondering, not too often to her relief, that nudity wouldn't be so bad, not if certain things entailed her vulnerability. But with a shudder, she'd recollect herself into the well-composed woman of professional intentions. Because she had everything to prove and everything to lose.
He'd still be watching, of course, blissfully unaware of her ventures into the more forbidden territories of possibility. She'd refocus herself into something like a quiet energy, something that she didn't have as often as she would like, being surrounded by men she could classify quite comfortably as thieves.
Regardless of his profession, she felt oddly at ease around him. He was always mild, never the torrential rainstorm of emotions and temper that Cobb seemed to be, and so she trusted him, to an extent.
But it wasn't like that predatory focus that one finds themselves prone to at bars or in dark alleyways, the kind that set their skin ablaze with goose bumps and that strange feeling of being somehow…dirty without realizing why. It was a gentle graze of simple curiosity, though nothing was ever simple with him.
Nonetheless, he took great care to be kind as he sifted through the phases of her personality, unearthed whatever secrets he could find, and hung all of the physical aspects of her in plain view.
Once he was finished, he put them all back where he had found them, and released her from his attention.
"Find anything interesting in there?" She asked, always the first one to speak, but the last to say anything as remotely eccentric as he always seemed to do.
He took in a breath, always the picture of calm, and released it in the form of an intellectual's sigh. Sort of dreamy, as if he had the endless mysteries of the world in his grasp, and it would unravel, bared before him, if only he could find the right switch to pull, the right idea to present it with.
"Humanity is like a labyrinth, really – it is always confusing to navigate the many twists and turns a person presents, but one can never complain of being bored in their presence." He relayed to her, and for a moment, she thought she caught a glimpse of the man behind the mask.
He caught her knowing smile, but let her keep it.
After all, he had a whole collection of them.
A lifetime's worth of wisdom left her with a feeling of superiority over most women her age, mostly because she prided herself upon having more than the rest of them. She found, as her image of him shrunk from the colossus, the menacing skyscraper that soared over her head and left her feeling insignificant in contrast….that he became something less like a metal monster and more fit to distinguish itself in the good name of humanity.
But she got lost, somewhere along her philosophical journey of piecing him together, as if he were a piece of art, a structural design coming together at last. In her victory, she found only disappointment – not in him, but in herself.
She had overestimated her powers of perception.
Or rather, underestimated them.
She began to notice facets of him that were beginning to lose their rational structure. His calmness, in the epicenter of such a chaotic and draining profession, became somewhat of a lighthouse for her, a beacon just on the edge of her sanity, and when she reached out, he would always be there to take her hand. His voice, his appearance, his very nature…all became skewed as her vision began to undergo a change, something bigger than she could've ever imagined. It was like the dreams, always changing, always moving, the separate pieces always rearranging to better fit the grand design.
And this was it. The grand design.
She liked him. Really liked him. And that was a word she'd never use when thinking of him, at least she never thought she would. Yet, fate always had a funny way of looking at you one way and then, if you took your eyes off it for even the slightest moment, it would twist. Completely different, and yet somehow the same.
He had only been him before. Always just him, anonymous in her careful consideration, never seeming to display the smallest wish of taking on a name, becoming something more in her eyes than just a structure, a nameless face.
Somewhere along the way, when she wasn't looking, she'd become accustomed to the sound of his name in her head. His real name, the one he was born into, wore as easily as his pressed suits and his air of intellect, his manners which gently suggested reservation and composure.
She called him Arthur. Not the human skyscraper, not the daunting metal monster she'd once seen, in the beginning, when things still made sense.
Just Arthur. Nothing more…