I owneth not the wonderful world of Inception: only an endless gratitude to the brilliant Chris Nolan and the idea for this fanfic, which he may or may not have implanted in my mind through Inception. Also, I own Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In my dreams, of course. Oh boy, do I ever own him. Anyway, ignore me and read the fic.
"With my freeze ray I will stop the world
With my freeze ray I will find the time to find the words to
Tell you how
How you make
Make me feel
What's the phrase?
Like a fool
-"My Freeze Ray (Laundry Day)" by Neil Patrick Harris, "Dr. Horrible Sing-A-Long Blog"
She remembers his words well.
"Once an idea has taken hold in the brain, it's almost impossible to eradicate."
She starts with the floor. Ceramic tile. Cream and black. Simple, but elegant. It compliments the walls, which are two shades darker than the floor. The ceiling isn't too high, but just enough for a huge, gorgeous chandelier to hang at its very center, like the heart of the room. It draws attention away from damn near everything thing else, except one thing.
The tables are all cherrywood, but only the legs are visible to prove this fact. Black cotton tablecloths hang from each one, accenting the glass silverware. Something about glass always fascinated her. Pristine, yet delicate. Sturdy, yet breakable. Maybe some part of her had been reflected in her continued enjoyment of examining it. She's standing at the door, waiting for the maitre'd to take her to her table. Yes. Her table. She belonged there. She had a place there; a place specifically suited to her tastes, her needs, her desires.
The dress is black. She doesn't know why. She likes colors fine: red, purple, and yellow specifically. But not tonight. Black is more suitable. It's slimming, after all. She didn't really need it: she was very slender for a short person, but some part of her likes the allure of the color. It hides, yet defines a person. The dress stops at her knees and slides to the side to reveal a bit of leg, but not too much. The upper portion is halter-top style, exposing the clean line of her neck and the slope of her shoulders. No cleavage, though. She didn't have that much to begin with.
At last, the maitre'd starts to walk her to where she'd be dining. There's a low murmur of the other people: the clinking sound of the glass, low voices, and shared laughs. The lighting is dim, but she can still see certain things clearly due to the glow of the crystal chandelier, which hangs directly above where her table is.
She stops. There is someone sitting there. A man. His back is to her. She can't see his face. She gets the faint feeling that she knows who he is, but she's not entirely sure.
The maitre'd steps aside, waving his hand to the chair the man is seated in. His large hand palms an empty wine glass, twirling it so that the light catches. She's fascinated by it for a few seconds before turning her eyes to the man as he slowly turns to face her and smile.
The short brunette blinks, jolting out of the dream so quickly that she almost thought it had been a Kick. She sits up in her chair, staring about to gather her bearings. She's sitting at a desk in her office, dozing over spreadsheets and pens and caps. A blonde woman, her friend in the department, is leaning over her with a curious look on her face. Ariadne spares her a quick smile before digging into her pocket for her totem: a miniature King chess piece. She drops it on the paper and makes sure that it stops rolling after a while before answering.
"Sorry, I was in another world. What do you need?"
"Just a quick overview of this next design, that's all. Roberts wants it finalized by the end of the week." Jennifer explains, sounding apologetic. Ariadne flips through the notebook, her quick eyes analyzing every bit, before finally nodding and scribbling out her signature.
"It looks great."
"Thanks. Are you getting enough rest? I mean, of course, you're an Architect, but that's not the same thing." Jen continues, leaning against her desk.
"I'm fine. Just…it's sorta weird, but I've been having a recurring dream."
"Really? Of what?"
Ariadne hesitates, frowning as she tries to remember. Darkness. Glass. Black and white. Other than that, it's a haze. "Not sure. I can only remember bits and pieces…"
"Jen!" An authoritative voice calls from behind them in the hallway. Jennifer smiles apologetically once more and begins edging out of Ariadne's office.
"Sorry, I've gotta go. Tell me at lunch!"
Ariadne is less than enthused about this idea, but nods anyway. She sits upright in the chair and starts sifting through the papers to get back to work, but her mind still lingers on the dream. What had it meant? Who was the man? And why did it matter to her so much that she discover his identity? Her work with Cobb and his gang of misfits had been over a month ago. After they all got stateside, she'd spent some time in America before going back to France to finish things up. Cobb's stepfather had arranged a job for her in a small branch of the military working on Architecture. She'd been delighted to continue constructing dreams of her own. She hadn't had much contact with the guys since then, but hadn't really expected to. She had managed to drop by Cobb's place and meet his lovely children before going back to France, but that had been it. Had a piece of her adventure stuck in her subconscious? Why couldn't she control the situation? Would the man persist? If she ignored him, would he become like Mal?
Ariadne shudders as she thinks about Cobb's deceased wife. For weeks afterward, she'd had nightmares about her but they eventually faded like many things did. It was for the better anyway.
The rest of her day slowly drags itself to a close. Jen had missed their lunch on account of having to catch up on last minute work so Ariadne was spared describing the dream to her. Instead, she'd gone home and taken out a notepad to scribble down what she could remember. Colors. Details. Emotions. Something her mind needed to unlock but didn't know how. There had to be a way.
Ariadne sighs and tilts her head back, pushing her socked foot against her desk so that the chair leans. Maybe one of the guys would know, she thinks. I mean, it wouldn't hurt just to give them a call, would it? Then again, only Cobb and Arthur had left numbers, but she suspected that would happen anyway. Eames didn't seem like much of a people-person and Saito lived in a completely different plane of existence. Cobb's Dad would be too busy with his coursework, and she didn't want to disturb Cobb now that he'd finally gotten out of the dream world. That left Arthur. Who wasn't too bad.
She lets her eyes close, drifting back to their insane inception trip. Gunfire. Car chases. Avalanches. Mal. The hotel. The kiss.
"Ack!" Ariadne flails momentarily as her chair almost topples over backwards since she'd stopped paying attention. She lurches forward to put the chair on all four legs, mentally smacking herself for daydreaming. Shameless. She shouldn't have taken that kiss personally anyway. It didn't mean anything. So what if Arthur was ridiculously handsome, driven, and had a certain serious charm to him? Big whup. Matter of fact, she would prove how little she cared by calling him and asking his advice about the dream. Yeah. That made total sense.
She grabs her cell phone and the sticky note with his number on it that had been haphazardly slapped on her wall and dials, tapping a finger impatiently as the phone rings.
"Didn't expect this call," Arthur's warm voice says when he picks up, making her roll her eyes.
"Neither did I. You busy?"
"Not particularly. What do you need?"
"I had a question."
"I've been having a recurring dream. It's nothing dangerous, before you ask. But there's part of it I can't seem to get around."
"Describe it to me."
"That's the thing. I can't seem to remember it all. Only bits and pieces." She explains. He sighs, taking a moment before replying.
"Well, it could be a number of things. It could be a secret that's trying to be discovered…it could be a repressed memory…or it could be an unconscious desire."
Her cheeks flush. "Unconscious desire?"
"Sure. Maybe something you've wanted for a while, but haven't acquired."
Ariadne frowns. "I don't think I have anything like that."
"Of course, but that's your conscious mind saying that. The unconscious doesn't have a sense of decency, if you recall." A bit of humor creeps into his voice, reminding her of that secretive smile he has. She immediately ignores the mental image.
"Right. Just before I can see him, the dream always ends."
She closes her eyes and curses herself mentally. "Yes, him, if you must know. There's this guy sitting at a table and just before he turns around, I wake up. It's been happening for maybe a few weeks now."
"And you don't recognize him from the back?"
Ariadne's voice gets a little indignant. "How many people can you recognize from behind?"
"Depends on the person, really."
She lets out an exasperated sigh. "Fine, Mr. Perfect. What would you suggest I do?"
He chuckles briefly. "I could refer you to a few people or…"
"I could meet up with you and perform the workshop myself."
Her breath stops for a moment. "You don't have to do that, I—"
"I'm due in France in a few days on a job. It's no sweat. Unless you don't want to see me for some reason…" His tone is teasing again. Arrogant jerk. She thinks about saying no.
"Alright, I guess that's fine."
"I'll contact you when I'm in town. In the meantime, keep taking notes."
"I will." He hangs up before she can say goodbye. Strange man. She closes her cell phone and wonders how the hell all of that just happened.
Four days pass and she hears nothing from him. Jerk. She chews her nails damn near down to nubs, bounces her leg up and down every time she sits in a chair, and combs her thick hair incessantly, all while not knowing, or really noticing, why. She's in bed at half-past midnight, almost asleep, when her cell phone rings. Groaning, she rolls over and gropes around her nightstand for it and answers grumpily.
"I'm here." It's him.
Ariadne palms her forehead, growing more irritated. "Here where?"
There's a knock at the door. "Here here."
Her mouth drops open and she's out of the bed in seconds, hopping out of her pajamas and into a t-shirt and jeans in mere seconds and running to the door. When she opens it, he's standing there with that damn smirk. He looks exactly the same: black suit, black tie, slicked back hair, tanned, and impeccable in every way. Damn him.
"How did you even…? I mean, who…?" In the end, Ariadne throws up her hands.
"Forget it. I don't wanna know. Just come in already."
Arthur grins and walks inside, carrying the infamous silver suitcase. She shuts the door and he rotates slowly, taking in her small but comfortable apartment.
"Thank you. Now explain why exactly you couldn't come by during daytime hours like a normal person." She snaps, crossing her arms underneath her chest. He slides one hand into his pocket, still seeming amused.
"I'm not entirely welcome in Paris, so I thought I'd stay under the radar by traveling around at night."
He pauses and the grin stretches. "Nice shirt, by the way."
"What do you…?" She glances downward and realizes she put her t-shirt on backwards. Her eyebrow twitches in irritation.
"Let's just get on with this so you can stop annoying me." She sighs. He shrugs, sitting on her red leather couch and unsnapping the locks to the suitcase.
"Fair enough. Have a seat."
She sits in the loveseat, ignoring the urge to go back in the bathroom and turn her shirt around just because he'd pointed it out. No time. It would be better to get this over with so he could stop teasing her in that subtle way of his.
"When you go, try to relax your mind. That way, the dream will come to the surface," Arthur instructs, rolling up the sleeves of his white dress shirt. She nods. He leans across the space between them and straps the IV to her arm, preparing the needle. His hands are warm. Weird. Sometimes Arthur seemed cold and calculating, but he wasn't like that actually. His lips hadn't been, anyway. Shit. She mentally kicks herself into concentrating.
The needle bites into her skin and she settles back into the chair, feeling the calming sensation as the drugs take effect. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Arthur doing the same and then everything goes black.
"May I take your coat, monsieur?"
The maitre'd glances at the both of them in question. Ariadne looks about the room and noticed the settings: the black, the cream, the chandelier. It worked. Better still, the projections hadn't noticed Arthur yet either. Good.
"No, thanks. I'm fine." Arthur answers politely. The maitre'd nods. Arthur leans slightly to murmur in her ear, which makes her jump a bit.
"Thanks. I designed it myself." She mutters back, too busy searching the crowd for the man.
"I meant the dress."
Ariadne blinks, turning to face him. He's smiling again, but it's half-teasing and half-sincere this time. She feels her cheeks flush once more. Why was this man so damn good at making her blush?
Arthur nods to the ballroom. "Alright, what normally happens at this point?"
"The maitre'd asks me to follow him to a table. I think someone's expecting me."
As if on cue, the maitre'd beckons them. As they walk, Arthur continues speaking.
"If you want to see this guy, you're going to have to focus, even more than usual. If it's a secret, there might be someone there to defend it. Maybe even your projections."
Her brow furrows with worry. "Will they hurt me too?"
"Sometimes it happens, if your mind thinks it's protecting you for your own good."
"You could have told me that earlier." She hisses, glaring.
"Relax. We'll be fine. Just think about how you feel while we're walking. It might buy us enough time to figure it out."
She lets out a deep breath. "I felt…nervous. But not like something bad was going to happen. It's almost like a sort of eagerness. Like I'd been waiting for this person and he was waiting for me. He smiles at me. I smile back. Then I wake up."
Her heels echo across the tile forever, it seems, but at last she can see the table beneath the almost heavenly chandelier. The man is indeed seated, his back to her. She recognizes his posture now and how familiar his hands looked twirling that glass. She'd seen them before. Twirling something else. Something brightly colored. Red. A die. A loaded die.
She grabs Arthur's arm, turning him away from the table. "I-I've changed my mind. I think we should go. Wake me up."
He frowns at her in confusion. "What do you mean? We're almost there. He's right in front of you."
Ariadne shakes her head wildly. "It's not important. Just wake me up!"
He doesn't like the urgency in her voice, or the tone. Ariadne wasn't the type to keep secrets, especially not from him. It'd be risky if he resisted her but some part of him just has to know what's going on. Without warning, he slides out of her grip and strides quickly to the table despite her protests and grabs the arm of the man, turning him around. Arthur freezes.
A perfect doppelganger stares right back at him in surprise.
The man in the dream is him.
The restaurant shakes as if it had been rocked by an earthquake and seconds later, the dream collapses. He's thrown back into his own body, breathing hard because the Kick had been so abrupt. When he regains his bearings, Ariadne is already out of her chair and incredibly distraught.
"I-I'm sorry, I should have known—it was stupid bringing you into this." She babbles, hands pressed against her temples as if she could press the mental image right out of her head.
"Ariadne—" He reaches for her but she spins, desperate to keep the distance between them.
"No, don't say anything. Please, just go."
His brown eyes harden their gaze on her. "You can't expect me to just walk away from that."
"Why not? It's not real—none of that was real and there's no reason we should do anything about it and I don't want to make this any more complicated than it has to be—"
She doesn't get to finish her sentence because Arthur grabs her by the arm and drags her to him. Her arms bump into his firm chest and she opens her mouth to yell at him but he leans down and kisses her, one hand gripping her arm, the other cupping her chin to hold her still. Ariadne freezes. His lips are soft and warm, just like his hands had been. The first kiss is firm, insistent, but the second is gentler and deeper, and the third kiss involves tongue and she feels every last bit of resistance evaporating out of her mind like mist. Even so, she is a woman run by logic so she has to at least say something.
"This is never gonna work," Ariadne mumbles drunkenly, fingers wrapped around the seam of his black vest. Arthur smiles that secretive smile.
"Let me worry about that."
Five minutes later, when he's hovering over her with his vest gone and half of his shirt unbuttoned, kissing a line of fire down the side of her neck, she stops him and pounces for the nightstand, finding her totem. She tips the chess piece over. It rolls across the wood and hits the floor, stopping when it bumps into one of her slippers. Ariadne smiles and grabs him by the collar, pulling him back down to her lips.
The idea of wanting him is impossible to eradicate, and frankly, she doesn't want it to anyway.
A/N: I watched Inception for the second time today and left the theater with this plotbunny firmly in place (seriously, Dom, I am watching you because I think you really did implant this thing in my brain) and just wrote it out. It's my very first Inception fic and I have no plan to continue it, but you never know what the future holds. Therefore, please review and let me know if the characterization and all other story elements are good. Maybe I will be inspired to write more.
Thanks for reading!
P.S. Yes, the title seems a little odd but it honestly was inspired by "My Freeze Ray" and if you read the lyrics enough, it makes sense with the story. I hope.