Disclaimer: I do not own Inception.
a/n: This was inspired by a series of sketches by the lovely elontirien on deviantArt. If you want to look at the deviation, ask, and I'll see if I can work around fanfiction's violent dislike of links and get you there.
p.s. I still love each and every single one of you amazing people who have showed me love and affection over the past few days. I'll admit, I've never gotten this many reviews and faves in my life. w;
"Arthur, we don't need a new Extractor."
Ariadne was trying to catch up with him through a typical mid-May tourist flock, all ogling the Parisian landmarks lining the Champs Élysées. It was partly due to said tourist flock that she was trailing behind him. She blamed the other half of the problem on the fact that he had told her to look nice—"But I always look nice." "Nicer."—for this "meet and great" (which, in Arthurese tended to mean "coercion"), and she had subsequently made the terrible decision to wear a pair of turquoise Mary-Jane heels that, while slightly less painful than the ordinary formal women's shoes, were still Hell on Earth to walk in, and she was running.
Also, Arthur was walking quickly.
And, finally, he stopped walking and turned around to give her the least impressed expression she had seen cross his face in a while. Come to think of it, she was fairly certain that look was reserved for Eames.
"I do believe you know better than to talk about our job in public, Ariadne," he said, and she rolled her eyes, dragging a hand through her hair. Her feet hurt.
"And I do believe you know better than to think I'll keep quiet if you're going to go walking off without me," she retaliated, eyebrow arching. "And anyway, you're the one who called me. Remember that I'm doing you a favor on this one."
Arthur chose that moment to look a) incredibly uncomfortable and b) highly irritated.
"Jesus, you're ornery."
Ariadne laughed, tossing her head back.
"Poutain, tu m'emmerdes," she said, sickly amused and thinking that she probably should have told him that her cat just died, hence her terrible mood.
Alas, she did not.
"Et toi, salope," he returned with a very callous smirk, starting to walk again. Her heels clicked on the pavement as she fell in step beside him, shaking her head.
"Touché. Are we finished?"
"Sure. Now would you please explain to me again why you think we need a new leader? You'd be plenty good at the job, and you know it."
He sighed, slipping his hands into his pockets as they paused at a crosswalk.
"Ariadne, we both know that I don't consider myself a leader. The question is not whether I can or cannot do it, but how well I can do it. Considering how unnerving the thought of leading jobs is to me, I doubt I would live up to whatever potential I have. And anyway, we've worked with Jacques before. Stop worrying."
She grimaced as she stepped onto the curb, adjusting the strap of her satchel on her shoulder, eyeing a small family unit bickering over restaurants on the corner.
"Point taken. Still, I can't say I like the sound of him. Eames was laughing way too hard for this to be a good thing."
"Eames is an idiot. I wouldn't take cues from him on anything. Jacques is a decent guy, all things considered."
Jacques, it turned out, was a lanky, blond, mustachioed Frenchman whom Ariadne had an almost immediately difficult time taking seriously, mostly because she couldn't figure out if he was gay or not.
Her questioning of his sexuality was interrupted by a quirk of his inquisitive eyebrow, and the faintest of smirks, both aimed in her direction as he invited them in.
"I had imagined you would be stopping by soon, Arthur," Jacques started, closing the door, taking a drag on his cigarette. He was so suave that Ariadne wanted to strangle him. "However, I was operating on the assumption that you would be bringing Eames. I don't believe I've met this particular lady."
Also, if he didn't stop eyeing her like a particularly enthusiastic antiques dealer met with a turn-of-the-century breakfront in solid mahogany, she would be sure to light at least one building in his next series of dreams on fire. Whether or not he was in those buildings would be entirely up to chance.
Arthur didn't look much more amused than she did.
"Jacques, this is Ariadne. She's our Architect."
Jacques smiled, extending a long-fingered hand, which Ariadne took out of a sense of propriety. She proceeded to be as polite as polite could be, keeping her skepticism and lack of appreciation for Jacques' general aura to herself as much as possible. She felt certain he managed to understand only a few of her sotto voce remarks on his intelligence.
When they left, she was feeling, all-in-all, fairly pleased with herself.
Her mood was dampened, though, when Arthur told her that Jacques would likely be taking Dom's place indefinitely, and the mental image of Jacques smiling that pompous smile of his reminded her of her cat, and she once again became painfully aware of the fact that her cat had died.
"L'est un ordure," she said simply, and Arthur darted a glance at her.
"You're feeling very French today," he observed. It was not often that Ariadne spoke French—she tended to be too absorbed in the conversation at hand, or the world in general to focus on her second language.
"Mon chat… Leo liked it when I spoke French."
"Your cat likely can't tell the difference between English and French, Ariadne."
"Then explain why he actually looked at me when I spoke if I used French."
"Your inflection changed? I've no clue. I'm not a cat."
"Exactly. Which is why I hold that he liked it when I spoke French."
"…Why have you been using past tense this whole time?"
"Ah." Well, that explained her moodiness. Though they were far from knowing each other well, Arthur had a feeling that the brunette determinedly not looking at him had been inordinately fond of her cat. "I'm sorry."
"Oh, don't apologize. It's not like you killed him," she said shortly, still avoiding looking at him.
"This is true."
And then they were at her apartment, and they waved and agreed to be at the workspace—a new warehouse half a mile from the old one, for the sake of flouting any suspicion raised with the comings and goings of a flock of such young, businesslike people—at nine the next morning, and they both ate alone in their apartments. It was a total coincidence that they were both reading Kafka's The Castle.
Two days thence, Ariadne was pulled from her breakfast by the intercom. Feeling baffled, she buzzed the delivery man—he didn't tell her what he was delivering, said he would leave it by the door when she said she couldn't let him in if he wouldn't tell her, but that leaving it by the door was a bad idea—in, and waited by the door for the knock.
He was winded—something to do with the fourteen flights of stairs up to her apartment, and the lack of functioning elevator—as he held up an artfully folded cardboard box from the pet shop a few street over, and told her that she didn't owe him anything, and left.
She pulled a note off the top, recognizing the handwriting as Arthur's, and knowing damn well what was in the box. It was hard to ignore the distressed mewing coming from within.
The note read, simply:
I don't think I can handle you being in a terrible mood much longer. It's not the same cat, I know, but it's a cat. You're obviously a cat person.
Do us all a favor and stop frowning.
"That bastard," she said, pulling the gray tabby kitten out of the box, unable to keep a smile from her face.
That morning, she was running late—predictably—and she ran into Eames on his way out. He waved distractedly, gesturing to the phone pressed against his ear, smiled, and went on his way, and she continued up the clanging, metal stairs.
She found Arthur leaning back in his chair, toes balancing him as he read through a sheaf of notes. The book open on the table next to him meant that he was buried in researching. A glance at Jacques confirmed him to be trying to get her attention from his side of the room, and she waved as she set her bag down and advanced on an unsuspecting Arthur.
For someone with innate instincts akin to a cat, she had no idea how he didn't hear her coming. However, she wasn't complaining—at all—when she tipped his chair backwards with the toe of her shoe, and he flailed in a highly undignified manner.
She caught the chair as it attempted to fall with a hand on the back of it, the same foot she had kicked it with settling on the rail, steadying it, but still allowing it to fall forward enough for him to see her mild smirk as she leaned forward to kiss a very surprised Arthur.
"Thanks for the cat," she said, letting the chair fall onto all fours, trailing her fingers down the front of his vest as she walked to her worktable, lifting her eyebrows at the stunned Jacques, feeling pleased with the entire world today, entirely missing the unrestrained grin on Arthur's face.
"What'd you name her?" He almost managed to sound curious—really, he was just trying not to laugh.
"Olga," she replied, pulling a sketchpad from the rack beside the table, still looking far from businesslike.
"Olga. She looks like an Olga."
"I have fantastic naming sense. No need to tell me."