Disclaimer: Not mine.
A/N: So, this is the first installment in a oneshot series called Three Is More Than Just Company, in which our favorite forger, architect, and point man form an extraction team and find themselves becoming much more than mere coworkers. No romance in this one unless Ariadne ogling Arthur and Eames counts... which it doesn't because the girl's not blind.
Come on, here's your chance
Don't let it slip
Right through your hands
Are you ready
For the ride of your life
Your dreams are ridin'
On the wind
Just reach out
And pull them in
For the ride of your life – Ride of Your Life by John Gregory
It's not planned, the three of them meeting outside the airport. Or at least, Ariadne didn't plan it. Considering that Arthur and Eames walk up to the cab line together, she can't say they weren't planning anything. If they're together, then apparently they don't have to pretend to be strangers anymore. The conversation they're having seems oddly... Well, the only word she can think of is intimate, though it's an odd one to apply to Arthur and Eames together. Or maybe not. The weeks of prep for the Fischer job had been punctuated by the near-constant verbal warfare between the forger and the point man, but Ariadne suspects it was more in fun than not. Not wanting to just leave without a good-bye to anyone, she waves at them, not sure if anything else is welcome.
"Ari, love," Eames calls to her, a smirk on his face, "we were just talking about you. Share a cab?"
"I don't think we're booked at the same hotel," she says, but she's already walking over to them.
"We're actually not going to our hotels just yet," Arthur explains. "We were going for lunch, to talk some things over. You might be interested."
Ariadne raises an eyebrow, because she thinks she knows what this is all about. She isn't entirely sure how she feels about the idea, but she doesn't... She's not ready to go back to the mundane world just yet, and spending a few more hours with two of the only people who have any idea of what she's just experienced – not all of it because they didn't go to limbo, but close enough.
They end up at a nice restaurant, and Ariadne waits for one of them to bring it up. It's Eames who does, once the waitress has taken their orders. "So, Ariadne. How would you like to keep on with dreaming?"
Ariadne tilts her head. "Why do you ask?" She thinks she knows why, but something about Eames' way of always seeming like he's teasing, just a little, makes her be playful in her replies.
"Well, Arthur here and I were discussing the benefits of a partnership. We'd need an architect."
Ariadne hesitates, toying with her glass of Coke. Arthur must think she's unwilling but reluctant to say so, because he chimes in with, "You don't have to, you know. If Limbo put you off..."
She looks up then, meeting Arthur's brown eyes and then Eames' gray ones, smiling wryly. "It didn't. It probably should have, but it really didn't. I don't think I could go back now, it just wouldn't be the same."
"So are you in then?" Eames wants to know.
Ariadne chews on her lower lip, debating how to put this. Finally she just decides on direct. "Will this offer still be open in three months?" she asks.
"Three...?" Eames trails off, puzzled.
"You want to finish your degree," Arthur realizes, tipping his chair back slightly as he studies her. "You know we don't care if you're official or not."
"I know, but..." She laughs. "It's just, I spent all that time working toward it, I even moved to Paris so I'd be learning in the best place in the world for it, and if I drop out now it'll feel like I wasted the past six years of my life. And that's a really depressing thought." Not to mention, she thinks, that her parents were already so bemused over her not choosing to major in some obscure area of academia that she can't bear to throw them off even more by not getting her degree. Oddly enough, she thinks her parents would almost prefer the thought of her being a dream criminal to her being an architect – they'd find it "infinitely more interesting," as her father would say, if nothing else. That probably says something, but Ariadne doesn't care to examine it too closely.
She raises a quizzical eyebrow. "So? You never answered my question."
Eames sits back, giving her a very obvious once-over. Arthur rolls his eyes, and Ariadne laughs outright. Eames smirks at them both, and then says, "Three months for the best architect I've ever seen? Ari, my dear, I can certainly live with that. Darling?"
The point man taps his fingertips on the table for a moment, then nods. "I really can't say anything against having a degree, and three months isn't that long. And stop calling me 'darling', Eames."
"Well, gentlemen, I think we have a deal then," Ariadne says, and on a whim lifts up her glass for a toast. There's a moment's hesitation, then both men follow suit, clinking their glasses together.
Ariadne's parents can't make it for graduation; her mother is on an archaeological dig somewhere in Africa and her father's in Athens working with their Antiquities department. They were both present when she got her bachelor's, and so she's not too upset that they aren't there now that she has her graduate degree. Her brother Percy, now seventeen and much taller than his big sister, is there, though their sister Cassie is at home, staying with a friend. Percy's with a group of his friends, who have decided to make Paris their first stop on a backpacking trip through Europe.
It's good, it's even convenient, because Perce isn't the only one here. She'd spotted them in the crowd from the stage, Arthur in a black suit and Eames, shockingly, in a soft gray one. She figures he decided to forgo his usual paisley and bright colors in order to blend in, though she had noticed the shirt was a bright shade of green. She can only imagine Arthur's reaction to that one.
Percy's glad enough to see her, hugging and congratulating her, showing her the video he'd taken so Mom, Dad, and Cassie will be able to see, but he's eager to run off with his friends. She can see it, and she's just as eager to meet up with the boys – why is she thinking of them like that? – so she doesn't mind. "Have fun and don't do anything I wouldn't do!" she calls as her brother turns to leave.
"But how am I supposed to have fun then?" Percy tosses back cheekily.
"Bye, Perce," Ariadne says, rolling her eyes. Percy just laughs and runs to catch up with his friends, and Ariadne is chuckling as she goes off in search of Arthur and Eames. She hasn't seen them yet when her onetime roommate, Sam, grabs her by the arm. "Oh my God, who are those two?" she whispers urgently into Ariadne's ear. "I mean, they're totally gorgeous."
Sam's always been a bit boy-crazy, Ariadne remembers, and has to school herself not to roll her eyes as she follows the blonde's gaze. Then she has to bite back a laugh because of course Sam is looking at the very two men Ariadne was searching for. And, well... Suddenly trying not to laugh isn't hard, because Ariadne can't help but notice that Sam has a point.
It's not like she hasn't already figured that one out. After all, she'd seen them both day in and day out for several weeks, she knows they're attractive. But somehow... During the inception job, she'd been so distracted by being new to dreaming, and by Cobb's mess, that she hadn't really... Sure, that brief kiss with Arthur has stayed with her, sitting in her memory alongside Eames' sidelong grin, but none of that has really registered with her until just now.
It occurs to Ariadne as she shakes off Sam and heads over to where her new partners in crime – literally – are waiting, that she really has no idea what she's getting herself into. But she has a feeling that this is going to be a lot more complicated than she'd thought.