I just watched Inception last weekend, and it was the characters who caught in my mind and wouldn't stop nagging me until I wrote this.
It's kind of an exploration of Ariadne's relationship with three of the men in the team, but with my creative liberties taken.
She's met men like him before. Charming, witty men who kissed her hand and threw around the endearment "darling" around far too frequently. Men who retained egos so massive, there was the constant danger of imploding out into the atmosphere. Ariadne knew of thousands of these men in Paris.
Only he was the most successful she'd met.
Voice like velvet lulling melodic syllables from a silver snake tongue, he was everything her mother had warned her against. She'd find his sharp cobalt eyes snipping up and down her figure far too frequently, but the knowing smirk he'd shoot her afterwards had her honestly concerned about the transparency of her clothing, no matter how many times she'd look down to check.
He preyed on young, naïve girls, with infallible success. Ariadne would watch these occurrences with a sense of self-indulgent superiority… Because underneath it all, she was a mere schoolgirl.
She applauded herself on surpassing her contemporaries in maturity. She didn't giggle at his jokes or swoon at his magnetism. She didn't encourage his flirting, as innocent as it was. But she wanted to.
Underneath the thick layer of carefree charm, he was nothing like the stereotypical skirt-chasers he was affiliated with. There was darkness beneath the suave. He was cunning, dangerous, and devious. He played on his victim's emotions a bit too well, and lied through his teeth a bit too easily. His harmless pranks and taunting turned violent when he was on a mission. This side of his scared her.
But if she dug even further down, so deep that she'd almost miss it, she'd strike a gold core. He had morals and a sense of justice, underneath it all. He hadn't held her hand in the turbulent car ride for romantic thrills, but to honestly comfort her. Ariadne trusted him with her life. But the golden core was constantly obscured in a shield of filth and Ariadne was far too impatient to attempt to dig down that deep. It wasn't worth it. They forgot about each other in the span of a week.
Eames meant nothing to her, either.
Cobb could've been the one. It would've been so easy to fall in love with the man. He was the hero, the protagonist of the story. Everyone couldn't help but revolve around him. It was unsaid, but he was the unspoken leader of the team. No one would care if Yusuf took a sick leave or if Ariadne went on vacation. But if it were Cobb, the Earth would cease to rotate.
It might've been his experience- he was legendary, apparently, in the world of extraction. It might've been his integrity- he was the poster child for loyalty and would dive into burning building for even his enemies. It might've been his imposing figure- there was something about the way he held himself that oozed power. Whatever it was, it fascinated Ariadne to no end.
In any other situation, she could've fallen head over heels in obsessive, and most likely unrequited, love with the older man. Because he was perfect. Everything she could ever want.
But the problem was that the hero of the story had already found his princess. And it wasn't Ariadne. In fact, the fairytale had ended long ago, but the story continued and twisted their happily ever after into something much more sinister.
Ariadne was nothing if not bold. She stole into the dark crevices of his mind out of pure curiosity. Looking back, it turned out to be a wise move. If she hadn't seen the perfection of the two unreasonably beautiful people in love on the beach, if she hadn't snuck down to the deepest secrets of Cobb's mind and witnessed firsthand his utter insanity, there was the chance she could've fallen in too deep.
A stroke of luck- she unraveled his perfection to find a madman with a suicidal lover trapped in his mind. Her rapidly progressing infatuation with this man was quickly exterminated on the spot, to be looked back upon as a simple schoolgirl crush.
Besides… Mal was beautiful. Voluptuous, sultry, and so womanly that she made Ariadne look down on her thin, waifish figure in distaste. There was no competition- Ariadne didn't dare compete with such a woman, even if she were a mere memory now. Ariadne couldn't stand the thought of being a downgrade.
Add two angelic children, with adorable faces like cherubs, and Ariadne felt like an intruder in this sphere of domesticity. More than that, she felt like a child. Mal had called it right- Ariadne had never been in love before.
And a secondhand man like Cobb wasn't the one she was going to experience it with.
Arthur had always been around, but she'd never really paid much attention to him. With Eames and Cobb commanding all her attention, though the former less subtly than the latter, it was hard to notice anyone else, especially someone as under the radar as Arthur.
He melted into the background with his ultra-strict professionalism. She didn't see him as methodical and professional in his three piece suits and slicked back hair. She saw him as boring.
He was the Point Man, but she'd much rather run around rampage with her fellow artists then stick around with the Producer of the show. He was the one closest to her age in the group, and she supposed he was handsome under his stoic façade, but it never registered in her mind. He might as well have been a robot, so foreign he was to what she was used to.
Which is why she was so surprised when her senses burst into white-hot lightning when his astonishingly soft lips met hers. It didn't make sense. But then again, nothing made sense in her life anymore.
Ariadne lived with her head in the clouds, in her daydreams. Her imagination knew no bounds. Meanwhile, Arthur's severe lack of creativity was appallingly obvious. She had never fantasized about a guy like him before. Someone who could lecture her for hours on tax return policies wasn't normally her idea of a knight in shining armor. Her attraction to him defied logic.
But then again… Wasn't there the clichéd concept of opposites attracting? It was her subconscious beckoning out to stability and order in her life. It would balance out perfectly. Besides, he was in desperate need of some spontaneity now and then.
One kiss and she was designing their future. One kiss and her entire perception of him twisted in a mad 180 twirl. One kiss and she was ready to give him her all.
Because she knew better. Arthur was an extremely intelligent man. He wouldn't waste his brilliance and risk his neck for just the money. There were more legal, and more efficient ways of getting money without the risks. He did it for the thrill. And Ariadne, a fellow adrenaline-junkie, could relate to that.
They fit, perfectly, like two pieces of a puzzle, and Ariadne cursed herself for not seeing this earlier. Eames was too dangerous and difficult. Cobb was too broken. But Arthur was perfect.
So when Ariadne casually slid her hand into his as they walked out of the airport, Arthur didn't react, but to knit his fingers more comfortably into hers. And Ariadne had the sneaky suspicion that he'd been planning this all along.
But she didn't mind because it worked.
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