Disclaimer: I don't own Inception.
A/N: More Arthur/Ariadne fluff. I just can't help it.
When Ariadne made her way out of the airport, her mind felt as if it was ready to explode with the recent memories that were imprinted into her brain. What was supposed to be nothing more than a few complex dreams had turned into a nightmare of the worst kind.
But as she stepped outside and watched the quickly setting sun, for a moment not knowing what else to do, there was only one particular memory that played in her mind over and over again.
Quick, give me a kiss.
Perhaps it was a subconscious effort to prevent herself from falling apart right outside the American airport. To think of Arthur's lips against her own was infinitely more pleasant than being forced to see the final confrontation between Dom and Mal in her mind's eye once again.
That didn't mean that it was an easy memory, however. The other things that had happened, no matter how horrible they were, made sense. Arthur's kiss – and the unlikely explanation for it – didn't.
It was ironic that it was Arthur, not Cobb, who she was thinking about. Cobb was the one who had been in real danger after all, not Arthur. She wouldn't have even been there, so far away from her home and university in a world that she hadn't even been aware of for so long, if it hadn't been for Dom.
But Arthur... Arthur had always just... been there. Cobb made the plans, Arthur helped him achieve them. Cobb did the impossible, Arthur followed him. Cobb introduced her to the main aspects of the work, Arthur informed her of the details. Dom always came first, and the rest of the team followed. Dom was the one she had looked up to, turned to for guidance. Perhaps the things he had to say had demanded so much of her energy and concentration that there simply wasn't much left for the other members of the team.
In the end, Cobb had gotten lost in his own nightmare, in a place where not even Arthur had followed him. The point man hadn't been directly involved in their escape from limbo, but still, he was the one she was thinking of so soon after having seen how Cobb was attacked by the projection of his own wife.
Although she had been more than relieved when the leader of their team had opened his eyes, just like the rest of them, just before the plane had landed, her attention had quickly shifted to the man sitting so closely behind him, dressed just as neatly as always. He had been the only one who truly looked like this was nothing more than a boring flight in between two business meetings.
As soon as she had laid her eyes on him in reality for the first time since the stolen kiss during the seemingly insignificant moment of the dream, her mind had begun to race, frantically analyzing all she knew of him – which wasn't much.
Had Arthur smiled at her in a way that Cobb or even Eames never had? Had he looked at her more often than was necessary, in a way that suggested that he thought of her as more than just a new co-worker? Had he been kinder to her after that first terrifying experience in Cobb's dream than another man would've been?
She didn't know, because she had never paid much attention to him. Would she have noticed things about him if she had actually seen him as a man instead of the organizational force of the team - would she have noticed him? Had she missed something so important in the real world, because she was too focused on the new dimensions that Cobb had shown her?
He had suggested that the kiss was meant as nothing but a distraction, an effort to escape the hostility of the projections. In retrospect, Ariadne realized that he should've known even better than she did now that there had been nothing at that point except for Fischer himself who could've altered the behavior the projections.
But that kiss... it had left her mesmerized and, strangely, longing for more. No matter how short the moment had been, no matter how much it had surprised her, there had been something in the way that her lips brushed against her own that she wouldn't forget for a long, long time, not even if she'd want to. Arthur's kiss, so demure and brief, that didn't even take place in reality, had evoked more sensations within her than any other man had ever done.
Even now, after all what happened, she could only think of that brief kiss, an unexpected moment that should've been forgotten after what had happened in limbo.
But no matter what his intentions where, whether she had been more to him than a colleague or even a friend, there was only one thing very clear to her: Arthur acted as if the kiss that had left her breathless and shaking had never happened.
Ariadne knew that they were supposed to act as if they didn't even known each other in order not to arouse suspicion, but she was sure that Arthur could've done something to acknowledge what had happened between them in the dream. However, from the moment that they woke until she lost sight of him in the crowded terminal, he hadn't even looked at her. If the situation hadn't been so strange and confusing already, she'd think that he was actually avoiding her. But why would he do such thing?
He had just walked away when she tried to communicate with him without using words or getting suspiciously close to him, and only now she realized that it might as well have been the last time that she ever saw him. Cobb had needed her for this task only; he had achieved what he wanted to and she was rather sure that he would take care of his family from now on and would stop risking his life in the dreams of others. If he made an end to his team, he wouldn't need her anymore either – and she would never see Arthur again. That thought was a very unpleasant one.
But there was nothing else to do. All that she was going to do now was somehow find her way to the hotelroom that was booked on her name to await her flight back to Paris during the following day. It was all arranged already, and for the first time she realized that this must've been Arthur's work. It was his job after all; it was one of his tasks to take care of her as long as she was part of the team.
Staring at the sun, which had almost disappeared behind the buildings on the horizon now, she suddenly wondered if he had booked the room knowing that she was the one who was going to spend a night there, whether he had chosen the hotel because he somehow thought that it suited her, or that she'd appreciate the particular room he had arranged for her.
It began to dawn on her that the dreams could be confusing and dangerous in more than one way. She had learned to check whether she was completely in the real world or that only her body was there, sleeping, and that her mind was in either her own dream or in someone else's - her totem made sure of that.
But how could she find out, once the dream was over already, whether the things that had happened there had actually happened? How could she be sure that the things she had felt there – or thought to have felt – were nothing but a dream within a dream as well?
Ariadne had always thought that some parts of the dream were reality, if only because they contained persons who also existed in the real world. And because those persons usually acted – at least to some extend - like they would do in the real world...
The architect shook her head, wondering if she was getting insane at last. And that was the moment that she saw him from the corner of her eyes, exiting the terminal through the same door as she just had done.
Something inside Ariadne fluttered as she watched the point man heading for the row of waiting cabs with the same confidence as he always carried himself.
With a sudden clearness she knew that if she wasn't going to find out now, she would never know whether the sparks she had felt when he kissed her only existed in her imagination. She had to act now to prevent a lifetime of wondering.
She quickly walked towards him but reached him sooner than she had expected; it had taken only a few seconds to close the distance between them. It was too quickly for her to come up with some sort of plan, to give herself an excuse to approach him in public like they all knew she shouldn't.
Even if she would've had more time, Ariadne seriously doubted whether she could've thought of a good way to approach him. What was a rational thing to say in such a situation? She couldn't really demand him to tell her why he had truly kissed her in the dream, or could she?
Just before she could make a fool of herself by staring at him for ages without knowing what to say, her instincts took over. She didn't even think of what she was going to do; it was something that her being did on its own accord, like a subconscious memory. It was an impulsive action, one of the kind she usually detested so much. But this wasn't a time to be picky.
"Quick, give me a kiss," she said, her voice trembling, as she placed her hand on his right arm, that was reaching for the door of the cab already.
Arthur turned around to face her, his expression as unreadable as always. He looked at her, his right hand resting on the knob of the door of the cab, and remained standing still.
Suddenly, Ariadne was painfully aware of the disheveled state she was doubtlessly in after the far from normal flight she just had experienced. He however still looked like nothing strange had happened, even from this distance.
The young woman looked closely at him, suddenly very curious to find out whether there wasn't anything in his face that betrayed the events of the past ten hours. Well, technically ten hours had passed, but in the dream so much time had passed that she really didn't want to think about it just yet.
Thus, she found herself getting lost while studying his face for the very first time. She took in the dark, neatly gelled hair, the pale skin, and his eyes, those surprisingly warm, brown eyes...
She wondered now how it could possibly be that she hadn't noticed him before – or at least, not in this way. He was handsome, of course, but there was something more than that. Something in his eyes, something so inviting, that she wanted to give in to so badly... Had it always been there? Or was she just making it up? Was it another dream, her subconsciousness playing tricks on her?
Only when he blinked, the architect realized that she had been staring at him for much longer than was appropriate, especially after having made the suggestion she just had. Her cheeks reddened quickly as it dawned on her that she was embarrassing herself in front of him after all.
But then, when her mind was screaming at her to run and her body prepared to turn away from him, he stepped closer to her. Intuitively, she found herself leaning into him and a second later, their lips brushed once more.
In reality it was so much better than it had been in the dream. Not only was she a lot more prepared, but now that there were no potentially dangerous projections surrounding them, it was so much easier to completely forget the world around her and just enjoy what was happening between the two of them.
For a moment, they stood perfectly still, only their lips and noses connecting. It wasn't awkward; it felt right to stand like this, more than most things Ariadne had ever experienced.
She was aware of everything now; she could feel his breath against her cheeks and for the first time, she was aware of his scent. He didn't smell like anything in particular, but just like Arthur – reliable and strong.
Seconds passed and he moved slightly; he broke the kiss but instead it seemed like he was gently rubbing his nose against hers in an unfamiliar but extremely comforting and pleasant way. It was enough for her mind to catch up with what was going on exactly and once she realized that she had asked Arthur to kiss her and that he had actually done so, her heart began to pound.
With difficulty, the woman took in a deep breath of air, only to find her knees buckling beneath her. She wondered briefly what was going on, how it could be that her body was reacting to him like this.
Needing support to make sure that her legs didn't simply fail her, she reached for the thing that was closest to her – which happened to be Arthur himself. Her hand found his waist and a shiver went through her when she felt the warm body beneath the expensive fabric of his suit, when she noticed how he trembled lightly at the unexpected touch.
Before she knew it, his lips were against hers once more, but this time a chaste kiss wasn't enough. He opened his mouth and she found herself deepening the kiss as well. Arther pulled her closer to him and to her horror, she couldn't contain a moan when her body was pressed against his.
Arthur didn't seem to mind at all however and when their tongues met, she wasn't even aware of the dull sound of the suitcases that both of them dropped when they put their hands to better use.
Kissing Arthur was unlike anything she had ever known, caused sensations that no one else ever had. If Ariadne hadn't been so overwhelmed by the feeling of being completely surrounded by him like this, by feeling and tasting him, she would've marveled at the transformation within him that she had caused.
The controlled and distanced point man disappeared for a moment and she literally embraced the unexpectedly passionate man who took his place.
Lack of oxygen forced them apart at last and with difficulty, they move a few inches away from each other. Breathing in deeply, she tried to understand what just had happened, but her mind refused to do so.
And so they just stood there for a moment, their arms around each other. Even though her heart was beating too fast and her entire body was shaking, Ariadne felt more calm and at ease than she had done during the entire day, or even since the moment that she had met Cobb and had heard of the process of extraction and inception for the first time.
She closed her eyes, savoring the feeling of Arthur's arms around her and her head resting against his chest. Never before she had shared a moment with a man that she wanted to last forever, but this certainly was something that she didn't want to come to an end.
After a few heavenly minutes however, he was gone.
Bewildered, she opened her eyes, just in time to see him close the door of the cab behind him. For a moment she was horrified, fearing that she has done something wrong and that he wants to get away from her.
Only when she saw him smile - a broad, genuine smile, that caused more fluttering inside of her – she realized once again their situation and that they weren't supposed to be seen together. Not yet, anyway.
Feeling very self-conscious and realizing that she has just shared a rather passionate and long kiss in the middle of a crowded street, the architect straightens her clothing, hoping that the gesture will slow down her heartbeat and make her face turn back into its usual color.
Only as she touched the fabric of her skirt, she felt that there was something in the pocket of it. With fingers that were immediately trembling once more, she reached inside the fabric and pulled out a small and folded piece of paper.
She opened it as quickly as her shaking hands allowed and stared for a moment at the row of numbers that were written on the paper.
Only after a few seconds she realized what she was looking at. When the truth dawned on her, Ariadne felt like laughing out loud, not being allowed to behave in an attention-capturing way or not.
A phone number. His phone number. Arthur's phone number. There was nothing else it could be.
She wanted to scream with joy because she knew then that it had never been his attention to just walk away from her like she had initially thought. He must've put the piece of paper into her pocket a while ago - his hands were on a lot of places during the past few minutes, but nowhere near that pocket. Although Arthur was doubtlessly very talented when it came to things like that, she knew that he couldn't have put the paper in the pocket recently – she just had been paying very much attention to his hands after all.
He must've placed the paper there during the flight, just before or just after the dream. Or perhaps he had done so even before. Now that she thought of it, he was the one who had given her the clothes in the first place. It was not that she had things in her wardrobe herself that were suitable for such first class flights and company of men like Fischer Jr.
Smiling happily and filled with a sudden sense of purpose, she watched Arthur's cab until it was out of sight. When she was sure that she could contain the joy she felt, she got into one herself. As she told the driver the name of the hotel where a room was booked for her, Ariadne was absolutely certain that Arthur had indeed chosen something especially for her. And, more importantly, she knew with a certainty that the dream had ended, but that reality was only about to begin.