Disclaimer: Inception does not belong to me. I got the idea for this from one of Angelinthemorning1978's fics, and also because I tend to write fics that are pretty angsty, so I thought something light hearted might be a good contrast.
Arthur sighed as he heard the agitated voice of the backstage announcer. He wriggled in the chair he was seated in, noting in irritation that the heat of the backstage room was causing his face to flush. He could not go out and face everyone with a red face. It was so-
"OK, let's fix the damage!"
He breathed a sigh of relief as Trudi, his make up artist appeared, holding a large pot of foundation. She tilted her head, and looked at him critically, then smiled.
"Those cheekbones," she said, admiringly. "I could slice parmesan on them." Picking up a large brush, she mashed the head of it in the pale beige powder, and then began to expertly brush it onto Arthur's face. He sat completely still, letting the gentle sweep and cool powder take the heat out of his skin. Her touch was light, and after a few seconds, the brush was lowered, and she took a step back.
"Perfect," she said, smiling. "You're gorgeous. But then, you know that already."
Arthur blushed, his skin taking on a fiery hue that not even the powder and foundation could conceal. He raised an eyebrow. "Its amazing what two hours sitting here can do." He studied his reflection. He never ceased to marvel at how they could brush out ever slight imperfection. He no longer even looked real, he considered, but bloodless.
"Two minutes!" the announcer barked. Arthur sighed. Trudi raised her eyebrows. "You're on, superstar."
Arthur smiled wryly as he got down. He studied himself in the mirror, the sample of the latest collection of suits clinging perfectly to his lean, toned frame. He sighed, and began to walk to the entrance to the catwalk.
"They're all watching you, kiddo," whispered his agent, Eames, who was also standing backstage. "Don't fall over, ok?"
Arthur nodded, dumbly. As soon as he stepped on the edge of the catwalk, he was transformed from a thinking, sentient young man, into a walking piece of meat. He began to walk, trying to stare straight ahead, ignoring the flashbulbs exploding in his face. He heard the coos of delight from the young women clustered around the edge, and also felt the bushes of envy. "If only I had hips like that," he heard one woman mutter, and he felt himself blush with embarrassment.
Please let this be over soon, he prayed, feeling the light grey suit weigh him down. He turned at the end, and began to walk back towards the exit, almost stomping his feet in his impatience.
Watching him from the back, Eames frowned.
"So what was going on out there?" Eames asked, puzzled. They were sitting in a small cafe away from the madness of fashion week, and out of the suit, in jeans and a light blue t-shirt, Arthur was looking refreshingly normal. He sighed and picked up his cup of black coffee, looking enviously at Eames' mocha. His trainer had told him he'd gained half a kilo in the last few weeks, which he almost took pride in.
"I'm just...sick of this," Arthur mumbled. Out of defiance, he grabbed the sugar shaker, and tipped it in his coffee. Eames' eyes widened.
"Hey, hey!" He said, reaching over and taking it from Arthur. "Don't, please! I'll get the blame - and the bill - if you start bursting out of those suits!"
Arthur shrugged. "Send it to me. I can afford it." He sighed and picked up the cup. Eames looked at him, his irritation growing. "Look, Artie, talk to me. I'm your agent, your friend. What's going on?"
Arthur tipped his head onto his shoulder. "I live in a dream. A dream world where everything is airbrushed to perfection...and I'm sick of it." He slumped in his seat. "I hate sugar-free coffee."
"Sorry," Eames said, shrugging, "but you heard the photographer-"
"I did," Arthur cut in. "Oh, Arthur, you're getting a double chin. Oh, Arthur, those bags under your eyes! Oh, Arthur, you're nearly 30 and that means your career as a male model is as good as over." He lowered his voice. "Did you hear what happened to Fischer?"
Eames' eyebrows went up. Robert Fischer, with cheekbones carved out of baltic ice and light blue eyes, was a rival. "What about him?"
"He got dropped. By Giovanni." Arthur hunched over the table. "They said he was too old."
Eames' eyes widened. "He's only two years older than you!"
Arthur nodded. "Exactly." He sighed. "I need to find something else in my life, or I'm going to end up a has-been, fit for nothing but looking at my old photos, with a row of bony women cooing over how gorgeous I was." He shuddered.
Eames grinned. "You need some fun. I can fix you up with-"
"No, don't," Arthur protested. "No more models, please! I really cannot handle going out for a meal and seeing who can eat the least, and then listening to her weeping over her alleged cellulite!" He groaned. "Please, if you are going to fix me up, find me someone normal!"
"No, no," Eames said, shaking his head. "I was thinking of you going away for a bit. A friend of mine - a good mate, as it happens - has a lovely house here in Paris. And he has children and a gorgeous wife. You could immerse yourself in a family life for a little bit."
Arthur nodded. "Sounds good." He stirred the now cold coffee. "I could actually meet people who are real."
Eames started to grin. "I'll give him a call."
Eames bit his lip. "OK, Dom, I hear you," he said, his tone worried. "But he's already left! He's on the evening flight out of New York! Oh, so you're not actually in Paris, you've had to go to L.A on business? And you've taken the children? So who's at the house? One of Mal's father's students? Is she hot? You have no idea? OK, don't worry, I'm on the next plane, ooh, sorry, bad connection-"
Arthur lugged his flight case out of the back of the cab, and handed over several crisp euro notes to the obliging driver. He swallowed. The flight has been seven hours of just...relaxing. And, he thought with a grin, eating the high fat, high salt foods that he was normally banned from.
"Stay lean," his trainer kept instructing him. "Stay starved," he muttered with disgust.
He lugged the case up the steps of the elegant Parisian townhouse. He was feeling nervous, but also somewhat excited. And happy. Happy to be with people who had normal lives, normal jobs, normal children. He rang the door bell.
After a couple of minutes, no-one had answered. Slightly irritated, he pressed again. No response.
Now his nerves were getting frayed. Normally, he wanted something, he got it. Immediately. He pressed again, beginning to think this was either a joke, or he was standing outside the wrong house.
"That's it," he muttered. "I'm-"
Suddenly, the door opened. A flustered looking young woman stood in front of him, her hair damp and hanging around her shoulders. She was wearing a terry cloth robe. She bit her lip anxiously as she opened the door.
"Hi, I'm so sorry!" She said, her voice catching slightly. "I was in the shower, and had no idea anyone was coming around, and I-" she stopped, and peered at his face, blinking. "Um, who are you?" she asked, timidly.
Arthur blinked. "You have no idea who I am?"
She shook her head, smiling. "Nope."
He bit his lip. "I'm, um, Arthur," he said, extending his hand. "A friend of Dom's."
She nodded, and took his hand, her fingers still warm and damp from the shower. "Ariadne," she said, brightly. "Come on in!"
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