And it's so very hard for Ariadne to forget it, the lies they put into his head, when he is looking up at her with a curious mixture of hope and uncertainty filling his brilliant blue eyes, because she knows with surety what is going to come next.
"Marry me," he says softly and he's so close that she can see each and every one of his spiky lashes, could count them if she were so inclined.
And God help her, but she hesitates, picking out the sounds of individual raindrops on the tin roof above them.
"Marry me, Ariadne," Fischer says again, stronger this time. "I love you."
And then, worse because she knows it is coming:
"You're the woman in my dreams."
She doesn't have it in her to say no.
: : :
She's walking away from the luggage claim at LAX, away from the team, away from inception and the impossible world of dreams, is nearly to the door when she hears a man's voice above the clamour of the terminal.
A few steps more and then again:
"Excuse me, miss!"
She can't help but lean into the warm hand at her elbow. It's surprisingly calloused, Ariadne thinks, to belong to the heir of the soon-to-be-no-longer Fischer Morrow empire, but she has learned nothing in the weeks past if not that things are rarely what they seem. She turns and arranges her features into a mask of careful concern, smiling at him gently. "Yes?"
Fischer looks surprised to see her and blinks. "I, uh—"
He's out of breath and she feels her skin break into goose bumps at the idea that he could have possibly been following her.
Does you know? You can't possibly know.
"Sorry, do I know you?"
From a building. Do you remember falling, Robert?
"I don't think so," she bites her lip and furrows her brows, pretending to think, to sift through a churning sea of lost and forgotten faces.
His voice is different in reality than it is in the dream, gentler somehow. She feels like she could trust him, maybe; in another world, at a time and place different from the one they fill now.
You're disappointed, then.
His eyes trace her features and she can tell that he is trying to place her. The sister of an acquaintance, maybe. A former employee. A girl from a bar. An announcement over the intercom announcing the arrival of American Airlines, flight 865, jerks him back to the here and now.
"Well, here," he says, seemingly at a loss for further conversation. From the recesses of his suit pocket, he pulls out a scrap of patterned silk, purchased last spring from a Roma child near the Arc de Triomphe, and presents it to her."You dropped this."
Her hands jump irrationally to her throat, which is strangely—and uncharacteristically—bare. There is a brush of fingers as she takes it back and she feels her pulse jump at the unexpected contact. "Oh," she exclaims, the resulting smile not quite reaching her eyes. "Thank you."
"You're welcome." His eyes are searching her face and she can't help but feel that he knows, he knows, he knows.
She needs to get away from him before he recognises her, before he remembers, before he—
"Listen," Fischer is saying. He runs an anxious hand through the artful disarray of his dark hair, clearly stalling for time. "I don't do this kind of thing very often."
She's purposefully oblivious, maybe even a little flirtatious. It's only appropriate, considering the circumstances. "What, returning scarves? Do you normally keep them for yourself?"
A moment of confusion before he starts to laugh, low and attractive, realising his mistake. "No. This. What I mean is, could I call on you sometime?"
No, you can't. Because then you might remember.
She panics then and breaks from him, starts to walk away. The door is less than twenty feet away and she can taste the air outside before she even goes through, smog-filled though it may be. Anything is better than the cloying smell of guilt. She can't stop herself from glancing back over her shoulder at him.
"Wait," he calls out. "Can I at least get your name?
"We met on the plane," she yells back over the noise of a group of Japanese tourists and she isn't sure whether or not he hears her. Doesn't matter, doesn't care. "I have to go! I'm sorry."
: : :
Ariadne takes a taxi to the kind of hotel she's always dreamed of staying in and decides to go down to the bar when neither a nap nor a soak in the tub is able to numb the heavy dread that she feels. In a chiffon dress she regrets packing, she orders a glass of white wine, is vaguely surprised when the bartender asks to see identification. She's been gone too long. The US doesn't feel like home anymore and it is odd still to speak English with the people she encounters. English is for school, for the team, for dreaming...
He looks positively villainous leaning in towards her like that under the muted lights above them and she starts, without meaning to. His cool eyes widen with alarm when he registers this, immediately apologising with a soft hand on her forearm.
She wishes he wouldn't touch her like that.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you."
He seems lighter, somehow, very different from the man on the plane and the man in the dream. Ariadne smiles forgivingly—nervously?—and nods when he gestures to the stool next to her. "May I?"
"And about earlier, too," he says, draping a casual arm across the back of her stool. "I'm sorry."
"At the airport," he prompts. "I didn't mean to offend you."
"You didn't," she says, as she turns to face him, somewhat apologetic herself. "Honestly."
Fischer smiles knowingly. "Some strange man coming up to you and manhandling you?"
"I really was in a hurry."
They sit in companionable silence for a minute or two and Ariadne drains what is left of her glass. She knows that he doesn't believe her, thinks it to be an excuse.
When he does speak at last, his voice is different again—clear and decisive—and it isn't a stretch for her to imagine him in a boardroom, at the helm of a multibillion dollar company. "Your name."
"It's the very least you can do to repay me."
"Ariadne," she says, instinctually, and then mentally kicks herself. She should have lied. Why did she tell him her real name?
"Of the labyrinths."
"Mazes," he explains and the hairs on the back of her neck stand straight up. He signals to the bartender who comes over and refills their drinks, before adding, rather sheepishly, "I studied Classics and Greek mythology in college."
She already knows this, knows everything about him—from the name of the stoner roommate freshman year who sold pot to high school students, the 3.9 GPA that was a source of personal antagonism to him to this very day, a discreet affair with a Finnish teaching assistant—but feigns surprise. "Really?"
"Mm." He sips generously from the drink in his hand which she knows to be a gin and tonic. It always is.
It's your favourite.
"Robert Fischer," he says after a moment and pauses, presumably waiting for her eyes to flash recognition.
Oh, so you're that Fischer. You don't say.
It's been all over the papers for weeks and weeks. She can only imagine his surprise when it doesn't come.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Robert," she says, offering her hand.
He takes it and stares at her intensely for a few seconds before shaking it. A boyish grin breaks over him like a wave, crinkling the corners of his eyes. His fingers linger at the base of her wrist, drag over the palm of her hand as he pulls away:
"The pleasure's all mine."
: : :
At one o'clock Fischer insists on escorting Ariadne back to her room. When he kisses her in the elevator, she isn't sure if it's the wine, the job, or the guilt—maybe an exhilarating combination of all three—but she finds herself kissing him back. She's attracted to him, she realises belatedly, and his hands are in her hair as they ride the 40-odd floors to the top and then stumble out.
"Over here," he says, and pulls a passkey from his pocket, activating the second elevator up to his private suite.
"Well, aren't you important," she remarks dryly when the doors close, and it's much easier for her now to pretend that she doesn't know him, that this is only a chance meeting. She slips her hands into Fischer's jacket, sliding them around his slim waist and pulling him toward her.
"Something like that," he tells her and presses his mouth against hers once more.
: : :
Ariadne wakes in the morning alone in a bed more luxurious than she thought possible. She stretches sinuously, relishes the feel of Egyptian cotton on her skin and realises rather belatedly that she is naked.
She doesn't sleep naked.
Head pounding, she does a quick survey of the room, trying to find her clothes. There is a man's dress shirt hanging from one of the posts at the foot of the bed and not much else.
She doesn't remember how she has gotten here, to this strange white room, and panics. Where is her totem when she needs it?
She slips quietly from the bed and puts it on, pads toward the bedroom door and groans as it opens with an obnoxious creak.
"Good morning," says an all-too-familiar voice. Clad only in a terrycloth robe, Fischer has his legs crossed and the New York Times open across his lap.
What in sweet hell is she doing in Robert Fischer's hotel room?
Ariadne fights the urge to run out of the room screaming before it's too late and smiles weakly instead. She makes a show of pulling the collar away from her body and staring down at her nakedness. "Is that so?"
The smell of his coffee is making her salivate.
"All things considered."
There is a blanket on the couch opposite him, a crisp white pillow. She is confused. "You slept on the couch?"
"Scout's honour," Fischer says, sending her a mock salute. He folds his paper and gets to his feet, vanishing from the room for a few moments and returning with her dress on a hanger. "Here," he says, and lays it carefully across the back of the couch.
And then, as a peace offering because she is still standing in front of him awkwardly: "I took the liberty of having it dry-cleaned for you."
"You're not very good at this, are you?"
Fischer chuckles and shakes his head. "No. I told you."
She is about to take her dress and leave when Fischer becomes suddenly aware of her next-to-nakedness and guides her to the couch.
"You must be freezing," he says, and she is. It's practically sub-arctic. He covers her with the blanket she noticed earlier and says, by way of explanation, "I'm sorry. I'm warm-blooded. Can I get you something? Some coffee? A bagel?"
"Coffee would be great," Ariadne yawns and pulls the blanket tighter, ignoring the nagging voice in her head telling her to leave. "Cream, two sugars."
: : :
A tall redheaded woman comes to her door with orchids, later in the day. Ariadne starts to smile in spite of herself when she sees there is a card.
"Ariadne," it reads, in confident black script. "Please allow me to apologise for my behaviour this morning. Have dinner with me. Does 8 o'clock work for you?"
Her bishop is hard between her fingers when she decides to go. Only to test him out, she swears.
To see what you know.
: : :
Dinner doesn't happen, at least not that night.
She answers the door in a silk robe because she is running late. "Robert!" she exclaims.
"I'm early," he says, eyes dropping to glance anxiously at his watch. "I can leave and come back if you like."
"No, please. Come in." The door clicks closed behind them and she gestures to the orchids on her dresser. "The flowers... they're beautiful. Thank you."
Fischer smiles and she notices how blindingly white his teeth are. They're standing too close.
"I'll be a couple of minutes," she says, making no move to head towards the bathroom. Fischer is standing very still. "I just need to get dressed—"
"Can I ask you something, Ariadne?" She blinks in surprise but Fischer doesn't wait for a response before taking a slow step towards her and going on, "Are you certain that we don't know each other?"
You remember, now, don't you, Robert? Browning, the hotel, a mountain. Men in masks, Mr. Charles, a safe, and me—
"We met on the plane," she answers weakly, and her response sounds pathetic, even to her. She starts judging the distance to the door, wondering if the walls are thin enough for someone to hear her scream.
"Before the plane," he says, and the lull of his voice is mesmerising, hypnotic. "Try to remember."
She should get away now while she still can, but she doesn't. Another step
"Where did you grow up? Where did you go to school? Where do you live?"
"What do you do with yourself?"
Strong hands on either side of her face tip her head back and she stares up at him, chest heaving. The pad of his thumb brushes her lower lip, soft as she remembers. Fischer doesn't want to hurt her, she realises belatedly; his eyes are heavy, closing. He is whispering to her now like a lover, enunciating each word slowly, carefully, and she can hear a little of the Australian accent he has learned to hide slipping through.
"Where have you been all my life?"
: : :
Fischer's jacket was soon abandoned, tossed onto the floor like it didn't cost more than Ariadne's monthly rent and he is crawling towards her now on the bed; her robe joins the suit jacket, soon after. She's flat on her back in only her underwear. Unwilling to lose contact with the beautiful, beautiful hands that are stroking the sensitive skin covering her ribcage, Ariadne loosens Fischer's tie for him and sends it, too, to the ground.
He's actually wearing suspenders, she notes with amusement, and slides her hands beneath them, helps him work them over his arms. A reddish flush covers his face as he pulls away from her, unbuttoning his own shirt slowly. He's staring at her intensely.
There is a smattering of fine dark hair covering his chest and definition in his arms and shoulders suggesting regular exercise. Racketball, or squash, Ariadne thinks, though she can't be certain. Something well-suited to his lean, wiry frame, nevertheless.
Fischer kisses her with his eyes open, runs his fingers along the lace of her bra. She pushes him away with a hand on his chest.
"You're staring," she tells his inquisitive eyes, his smirking mouth. "Stop it."
"I'm sorry," he says for what seems like the hundredth time and drags his teeth along the edge of her ear. "It's just that I can't believe this."
Can't believe this?
"This is actually happening," he whispers and Ariadne feels her blood run cold as he lowers her into the mattress. "You're real."
: : :
"You're still staring. Stop it."
Fischer laughs and the bed shakes from the force.
"I'm serious," Ariadne says, without opening her eyes. "It's weird and it's creepy."
She feels him roll onto his side, support the weight of his head with his free hand. The other one draws languid circles on her back.
"Tell me what you were doing in Sydney," he instructs her, even though she picks up on the volition in his tone
"An internship." It's the cover they agreed on, she and the team. She itches her nose on her crossed arms. "With the Australian Department of Infrastructure."
"What kind of internship?"
"I'm an architect. Or rather will be. It was the practical requirement for my degree."
"What was an American doing with the Australian government?" He's curious, rather than suspicious.
She shakes her head. "I'm not American. My father's Australian."
He's surprised, then.
"He's a professor of Economics at Berkeley. Where I grew up."
"I wanted to go to Berkeley."
"Why didn't you?"
"My father decided that it would be more practical for me to go to Stanford. A better business program," he laughs, "or so I was told."
Ariadne doesn't say anything.
"And your mother?" he asks after distracting her with a brush of his knuckles against the side of her breast. "She was Australian, as well?"
"She was Canadian, actually. From Halifax."
Perceptive, Mr. Fischer. Very well played.
"She passed away when I was five."
She turns her head towards him and can see that he really is. There isn't any point thanking him for his condolences, it happened almost twenty years ago, so she settles for brushing his hair back from his forehead, instead.
Fischer surprises her by leaning into her hand and kissing the base of her thumb. He glances from one eye to the other and then back again before finally telling her what she already knows. "I buried my father today."
A/N: Written for a prompt on the lj kinkmeme. This heterosexual thing is weird for me, but I really love Ariadne/Robert. How did I do?
In case you were wondering, the title is from a Radiohead song.