This fic was written for a prompt over at LJ: Five times the men of Inception come visit Ariadne at school; her friends wonder who these men are.
Fic Rating: R for language and adult themes (sex)
Warnings: This fic is heavy on OCs
Author's Greeting: There will be five chapters posted, and I hope to post one per day for the week. Enjoy!
"I can't believe he wants a twenty page paper on Gothic Revival architecture by next Monday."
Ariadne and her friends, Martin and Darcy, walk out of the lecture hall and out of the school of architecture building.
"Last week it was a twenty page paper on the importance of the Tuscan order in classical architecture." Martin continues. "And the week before that it was a twenty page report on the history of the Moorish arch. Doesn't he know that architecture students have lives outside of pointy spire cathedrals, practical stocky columns, and horseshoe-shaped arches?" Once they're outside, he lights up a cigarette and takes a drag, blowing out the smoke in frustration. "And doesn't he know any number aside from twenty?"
"You know what I think? I'm convinced something weird has happened to the real Professor Miles and the Professor Miles that we've got is an evil replica sent to torture us with his grumpy disposition and long-ass architecture assignments." Darcy, petite and bespectacled and life-time believer that extraterrestrials had abducted her when she was seven, looks contemplative as what's sure to be a far-fetched, if not imaginative, explanation takes shape in her mind.
She gesticulates her reasoning. "I bet it has to do with his mysterious summer sabbatical. Maybe aliens abducted him and forced mind control experiments to see if they can turn the nicest of our human species into diabolical, grouchy, misanthropes who like to kick puppies and knock over old ladies crossing the street. I mean, he hasn't even invited anyone to have afternoon tea with him!"
Ariadne, amused and used to the dramatics of her fellow architecture students, takes a seat on a bench in the courtyard.
"Darce, we've been over this, if anyone is likely to be abducted by aliens, it's you." Ariadne smiles when her friend nods her head in agreement.
"But c'mon Ari! Even teacher's pet has to admit that our recent workload has been beyond overwhelming."
"And that Professor Miles has been rather out of character lately." Martin takes a seat next to her, neatly crossing his legs, assuming an air of gentility. "He hasn't been his usual charming and grandfatherly self." He tries to blow a smoke ring through the air.
"I'm not teacher's pet." Martin and Darcy roll their eyes at each other. "But I'll admit the assignments Professor Miles has been giving us are a bit much—"
"A bit? Both Martin and Darcy interject.
"Okay, more than a bit. But as far as his demeanor is concerned, he's probably just stressed out or something."
"It could be ali—"
"I don't think it's because of aliens." She gives Darcy a look.
Ariadne can acknowledge that something is off about their professor. And while it bothers her more than she lets on to her friends, she isn't inclined to think extraterrestrial invasion is involved.
"Well, whatever the reason, it's ruining my love life. Professor Miles has got to stop giving us twenty page assignments that we have to finish over the weekend. It's stifling my progress with Paul. So far, we've only had one date, and it was just coffee and a croissant" Martin snuffs out his cigarette stub on a nearby trashcan. "I think he's losing interest. He probably thinks I'm using homework as an excuse to blow him off when I'd really like to blow him instead."
Ariadne and Darcy both groan.
"I can't help it if I'm the only one here with any semblance of a love life."
"Hey, I have a boyfriend." Darcy pouts.
"Yeah, and Brad is off in Texas studying cows or pigs, or something. Unless you're cheating on him, I doubt you've been getting any these last few months." Martin gives her a haughty look.
"Yeah, well we did plenty before I came back to Paris, believe me."
"Oh, you mean you two had 'won't be seeing each other for a while, let's fuck 'til we can't walk sex'? How do they do it down in Texas, with cowboy boots on?"
"Contrary to popular belief, not everyone from Texas wears cowboy boots. I do own a cowgirl hat, though."
"Ride 'em, cowgirl." Martin makes a lassoing motion and swivels his hips.
Darcy laughs. "That's right. A girl's gotta tame her buckin' bronco every once in a while, right Ari?"
"Mmm-hmm, yeah." She agrees quickly. "I've been thinking, maybe if we all go and talk to Professor Miles, we can explain to him how unreasonable it is to assign twenty page assignments that are due in less than a week."
"Oh, now, now, Miss Ariadne. Don't try to change the subject." Martin gives her a sly smile. "Although, I guess I would too if I were in your shoes—which I'm not, thank god. They're both sexless and unfashionable." He stares down at her serviceable brown boots.
"Ari, just because your architectural style is inspired by the Notre Dame, doesn't mean your personal life should be inspired by nuns." Darcy gives an impish grin. "You haven't let any guy tap that ass for quite a while now. And I mean: Quite. A. While."
Ariadne sighs. She's never minded her friends' teasing, but it is getting tiresome having to explain how she's managed to semi-intentionally exile herself to a life of celibacy. It isn't like she didn't have any opportunities. Some were flattering but most were less than, and in the end she knew she wasn't the kind of person who could enjoy the kind of intimacy that sex could offer unless she felt something—love, ideally—for the guy.
And the one guy whom she had even remotely felt that way for in recent history is…
Well, she doesn't know where he is, exactly.
Thus here she is talking to her friends about her non-existent love-life.
"I told you guys, I'm not the 'casual sex' type." She turns to Darcy. "I want what you have, with Brad. I'm holding out for a guy who will love me and who I know I can trust, even when he's thousands of miles away."
Darcy takes a seat on the other side of her and takes her hand. "I know, Ari. You're waiting for the right guy."
A secret smile appears on Ariadne's face and she softly replies, "I suppose I am."
"You know, Brad and I have been together for so long that sometimes I take for granted what we have and how lucky we are. You always make me remember that Ari."
"You're a good friend, Darcy. And Brad's a great guy. You two deserve each other and deserve to be happy."
"And you know we're just teasing you, right Ari? It's okay if you're waiting for that special someone. I'm sure he'll be here soon. I can feel it." Darcy gives her hand a reassuring squeeze.
"Enough of this lovey-dovey mush. Laugh like I said something witty and urbane."
The two girls look over at Martin, who has been uncharacteristically quiet during their conversation. He's staring at something or someone among the crowd of students in front of them.
"It's going to be hard to pretend you said anything witty and urbane, since you never have. Now, if you told us to pretend you said something completely inappropriate and tasteless, I think we can help you." Ariadne and Darcy share a giggle.
Martin is pleading out of the corner of his mouth. "I made eye contact with this totally gorgeous guy a couple of minutes ago while you two were giving each other vomit-inducing affirmations. He's coming this way. I've got first dibs, Ariadne." He shoots a quick look at her before taking a drag on his cigarette and casually blowing out the smoke.
"What are you talking about? What guy?" Darcy asks. Both she and Ariadne turn to scan the crowd.
"Cobb!" Ariadne gasps in recognition of the 'gorgeous' guy Martin is referring to. He's headed their way and stops in front of the trio.
Ariadne jumps up from her seat and without thinking, reaches out and hugs him tightly. Cobb is momentarily startled, but laughs lightly and hugs her back.
"Sorry, Cobb, I'm just so surprised to see you. I kind of forgot myself for a moment." She blushes lightly after they release each other.
"Don't worry, Ariadne. And forget Cobb, call me Dom. It's good to see you." He gives her a tender smile.
She tests out his name, "Dom," and smiles brightly. "You look very well." She means it too. He has the look of a new man, one who doesn't have the weight of the world on his shoulders. His once haunted eyes are replaced with a light that she'd only caught glimpses of when he spoke lovingly of Mal or his children. The often times melancholy air that had followed him before is gone. And his once somber face is now graced with an easy smile.
"Thanks, so do you."
A not so subtle cough reminds her of the presence of her curious friends.
"Oh, sorry. Cobb—I mean Dom, these are my friends, Martin Gallegos and Darcy Niedermeyer. Guys, this is Dominic Cobb.
They exchange pleasantries before Ariadne asks, "How are you? And how are your kids?"
"I'm doing well." Grinning, he relates how James has just started school and Philippa is testing his patience with a crush she has on one of her classmates. The love and happiness in his eyes are evident.
"So what are you doing here? Are you…working?"
He smiles, catching her questioning look. "No, I'm not here for work. Well, I am, but not the kind you're referring to. Actually, I'm here to see Stephen. Professor Miles."
"Oh." She had forgotten that her professor is his father in-law. She hadn't been told until after they had completed the job.
"You know Professor Miles?" asks Darcy.
"Yeah, he was my professor once, a long time ago."
"You're an architect? What firm are you with?" Martin, having found out about the kids, is no longer impressed with Dom.
"I am an architect, but I've been doing a lot of…consulting. And actually, I'm applying for a teaching position at a local university back home."
"Really? You're not going to miss…consulting?" It's hard for Ariadne to picture Dom as anything but a ruthless extractor.
"No. I'm done for now. I'll probably do a bit of it on the side, maybe once the kids are older, but for now, I'm out of that business. And teaching has its own rewards, or so I've been told. Actually, that's why I'm here. I need to talk to Miles about references."
Ariadne frowns. "You came all the way here to talk to Professor Miles about references?" It seems like an awful lot of trouble.
Dom manages to look sheepish as he explains. "Yeah, well, Miles and I are sort of…well, we're not on good terms right now."
"Is he being a mean jerk to you, too?" Darcy asks in all seriousness.
"What? We've just been talking about this Ari." Darcy, with Martin's help, relates their recent predicaments of unfair assignments and odd behavior from their once beloved professor.
"I'm afraid his recent behavior may be partly my fault. You see, I may have offended him when he first suggested I go into teaching this past summer. When we parted ways, he was still upset and he hasn't been returning my calls. That's why I'm here. I need to smooth things over with him, get back into his good graces."
"While you're at it, could you ask him to lighten up on his students?"
Dom smiles. "I'll see what I can do." He turns to Ariadne. "If you're free tonight, maybe we can have dinner? Say around, seven o'clock at the usual place?"
"Sure, I'd love that."
"Great, I'll meet you there. It was nice meeting you both." Waving, Dom heads towards the architecture building.
As soon as he's out of sight, Martin and Darcy turn to her, speaking over the other while Ariadne tries to answer their barrage of questions.
"Why didn't you tell us about this Dreamboat Cobb?"
"There's nothing to tell—"
"How did you guys meet?"
"We met this past spring, at that internship I told—"
"Why did he say, 'the usual place'? Were you two going out?"
"No, it's just a little restaurant we'd go to sometimes, after work. We weren't—"
"Is he married?"
"No, he's actually—"
"He's really handsome."
"Yeah, but too bad he has kids."
"Quit thinking about yourself for once, Martin. Besides, he's interested in Ari."
"What? No, he's just a—"
"You're right Darcy, I'm being selfish. We've got to take care of our girl. I've got an idea. Let's go back to your place, get her all dolled up—"
"I don't want to get all—"
"Yeah, she can borrow my hot pink dress."
"We're going for classy here, Darcy, not trashy."
"Hey, it's a nice dress! I get a lot of compliments in it."
"Getting leered at by drunks in a club at three o'clock in the morning is not necessarily complimentary."
"Still, it gets me noticed."
"That's not the kind of impression we want Ariadne to make."
"Stop!" Ariadne finally breaks through the back and forth by raising her arms and her voice. Unfortunately, she's also drawn the attention of some of her classmates.
Lowering her arms, she continues in a more reasonable tone. "Look, guys, it's very sweet of you two to take care of me, as you two put it, but really, it's not like that with Dom. We're just friends. We worked together on that office park project during my internship this past spring, that's all."
Her friends knew about her 'internship'. It's the cover story she was made to memorize. She'd been referred to a temporary internship position by Professor Miles to help a fledgling architecture firm design a state of the art office park in Los Angeles. But funding fell through at the last minute and the plans were never actualized. She had been given fake documentation that Arthur and Eames drew up in case she ever had to show someone proof of their ruse. She had even drawn up a sketch of the would-be office park.
"But Ari, this guy could be the one! Remember, I said I had a feeling you were going to meet your special someone very soon, and then what happens but Mr. Captivating Blue Eyes comes to visit. It's fate. It's destiny!"
She would have stopped Darcy, who looked close to breaking into song, if Martin hadn't butted in with his two cents.
"Who cares if he's the one or not? Ariadne, take the advice of one of your Greek forebears, Nike, and just do him."
"Martin, there are so many things wrong with what you just said, I don't even know where to begin, so I won't. Look, guys, Dom is just a friend and we're going to have dinner as friends. There's nothing more to it."
Martin and Darcy sigh. "Fine. You win Ari, but at least get him to convince Miles to ease up on the assignments."