Hola. We meet again. It's taken forever but I've finally gotten to a point where I can start posting this multi-chappie fic! Woo! The chapter titles are taken from lines in T.S. Eliot's, The Hollow Men poem. I thought it kind of related but it really had no deep effect in the story. I do consider this chapter one but it has the makings of a prologue, in that it's kind of setting things up and showing a bit where they are in their relationship and how they got there. The last section (the one void of italics) is present day.
I do not own Inception.
Chapter1- We Are The Hollow Men.
"I'd just thought I'd let you know I've got a job in Australia starting Thursday." Arthur said stepping into her flat.
"Oh, do they need an architect?" She said hopefully.
"Actually, I already signed someone on for that."
"I thought it'd be wise if we had some separation."
Ariadne's eyebrows furrowed, "You want separation?"
"Yes. Even coworkers—" He sat his briefcase down by the door.
"We are not coworkers…This isn't how you treat your coworker. Dinners, walking me home…Unless you call Yusuf periodically to tell him you miss him too. Or devise plans to dream with Eames alone so you two can kiss in secret."
Arthur gritted his teeth and tried avoiding her eyes.
"Sounds to me like we're more of a—"
"Don't say it." Arthur demanded.
"Couple." She enunciated just to tick him off.
"We're not a couple."
"We could be."
They kept chiding back and forth, "You're too young for me."
"Not by much."
He knew he'd have to do some lying to get her off his back. Ariadne was a persistent woman. "You're too inexperienced. Too immature."
"Looks like someone's chivalry just died…" It bruised her ego a bit but she kept at him.
"You're a nice girl, Ariadne but that's all you are. A little girl. There are millions of them just like you everywhere."
It was silent between them for a few moments. The weight of what he'd just said bared its teeth into her. A little more than hurt, she was livid. A little girl? She was twenty three…that's not a little girl no matter how short and demure she was. Arthur was one of the few men who had ever respected her as an equal and now he was turning into one of those biting, demeaning, chauvinists. So she caught him off guard, bit into his flesh with her words as well, "Then why are you in Paris?"
It did the trick. He mentally fumbled over excuses. Arthur almost found a believable one too when she'd continued her accusations. "You don't live here. And the last job you did was with me. In Vancouver. Three months ago. There is no reason for you to be in Paris."
"I was passing through."
She lifted her eyebrow in that way that made him both furious and nervous, "It takes you a month to pass through? And even then you have no obligation or excuse to spend that time with me."
Caught red handed. Pinned to the wall. In a last ditch effort he conjured up the worst thing he could say to her, "I don't want to be a couple with you."
And knowing he was an asshole and a coward and a liar she took that idea, ran with it and threw it in his face."Ok." She shrugged her shoulders impassively as he would have done. Ariadne walked to the door and swung it open for him to leave…something he hadn't at all expected. To Ariadne, though, if he wanted a way out, she would give it to him. No point in wasting time and falling further for someone who would only run when things turned serious. "Go ahead, Arthur. Go to Australia and drown in your OCD and your files and the million Sheilas just like me…and I'll see how many college boys I can screw before I get my degree. Win, win. And you don't have to worry about contacting me for…ever." She smiled and brushed pass him to plop on her couch and turn on the tv.
Arthur stood stunned. He absentmindedly picked up his suitcase and stared at the back of her head. He expected her to turn around and keep nagging at him for them to be together. Honestly he'd rather have suffered that then her blatant disregard for it all. Like she could care less.
She was always aware of his presence and she still felt him in her house. Putting on a mask of boredom and sarcasm first, she turned and addressed him over her shoulder, "I know you're perfect and everything…but I don't think you can teleport just yet, so…you might want to start walking Daddy Long Legs. Australia's kinda far."
Ariadne stared blankly at the tv and waited to hear the click of her front door closing before she allowed herself to be upset about his rejection.
Three raps at her door. Her friend Clarisse wasn't supposed to show up for another thirty minutes and it always pissed Ariadne off that she was early. Every single time they did something. Ariadne was always left throwing herself together because of Clarisse's impatience. The top half was ready: Hair, beanie, sweater, scarf. The bottom half: sweatpants and bunny slippers…not so much. She opened the door, "Clarisse! Je le jure devant Dieu—"
Dark apologetic eyes, gelled hair and a stony clean shaven face stared back at her.
He felt a gust of wind as the door shut in his face. He breathed in and out slowly and knocked three more times. Her face begrudgingly appeared after a long pause and she spat, "What?"
"I'm a Point Man."
She rolled her eyes and talked down to him, something she'd never the courage to do before. It was quite liberating. "Very good, Arthur…" Ariadne commended him facetiously.
Arthur let it roll off his back and continued, "That means I'm capable of and will hunt down and kill every single man that touches you while I'm gone."
She leaned against the doorframe, not impressed, "I hardly think it's your place to murder my long line of suitors."
Again he deflected her sarcasm with his serious tone, "Wait for me, Ariadne."
"Ok, what ditch did you dump Arthur's body in?"
The Point Man took a deep breath and gently rested his hand on her shoulder, "I'm serious. You know I was lying through my teeth on Tuesday. We both know I have feelings for you… And as irresponsible as I know they are, I can't control them anymore."
She shifted but the sarcasm seemed to drip away. Ariadne kept quiet and let him elaborate, "Being together…it's not smart. It's not safe. And it sure as hell won't be easy. But I don't want you seeing other men and I don't want to meet other women…You're the only one worth the risk. So, if you want me to take it, I will." It was a statement, however, an underlying question was there in his eyes.
Ariadne looked back over her shoulder inside her house, "You should probably go. You don't want to miss your flight."
Arthur swallowed. Prepared to turn around and leave when she put her hand on his shoulder, "So, are you going to call me when you land, or…?"
He smirked, "If you want me to, yes."
She began tweaking his lapel and flattening it out, "I mean, it'd be nice to know your plane didn't crash on the way."
He promised, "I'll call you first thing."
The Architect then fiddled with the cuffs of his sleeve, "And maybe you could call me while you're there, too. So I don't forget you and start searching for a suitable replacement."
"You will do no such thing," he challenged, growing ever closer to her face.
"I don't know," Ariadne shrugged coyly, "Two months is an awfully long time to be apart."
"You haven't heard the saying?" Ariadne found herself pressed against the doorframe. "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Soft and luxurious, his lips covered hers.
After pulling away she joked, "Well, go then."
Arthur turned and descended a couple steps. Turned again, "One more," he pecked her lips sweetly and then merrily went on his way.
It was a long two months in Australia; The majority of their official relationship had been spent on the phone together. What better way to get to know each other than to talk, though, right? Sure they hadn't been able to kiss or hold hands or even see each other but that only made their connection stronger on a mental and emotional level. Arthur was more than ready to make up for lost time; he hoped she would be too.
Ariadne's eyes felt glued shut. She pried them open to wince at her clock and sneer. Begrudgingly she sat up, letting her eyes close one more second. She makes herself go to the door and crack it open.
"Any men I have to kill?"
"Arthur!" She jumped to hug his neck and succumbed to a yawn as she pulled away. "It's 2 am…I thought you weren't coming back until tomorrow; I was going to meet you at the airport."
"I changed flights. I tried to wait but—" The adorable way she rubbed the sleep out of the corner of her eye prompted his word choice, "There's nothing quite like missing you."
Ariadne laughed into another yawn, "Is it just…pure adoration?"
"Must be." He gently pushed his way into her flat and closed the door behind him, "Have you missed me?"
A little more awake now, the Architect ran her hand through her hair, "Of course."
Arthur leaned in for a kiss but she blocked it, cupping her hand over her mouth. "Don't kiss me!" She muffled through it, "I have morning breath."
"I don't care." He gave her that smirk she'd been trying to remember and removed her hand so he could bestow the long awaited kiss of return. He lost it when he felt her arms snaking around his neck and so he deepened. It was well worth the wait to be able to come back to someone so immaculate, even in her pajamas, and be made to feel this way. It was as exhilarating as dreaming, being close to her again. Arthur wrapped his arms around her tiny waist and picked her up to be closer to him, so she wouldn't have to tip toe to kiss him (as cute as it was). A wave of emotion rushed over him and he smiled into her when he felt her bunny slippers brush his arm as she wrapped her legs around his waist. It was all in a chaste manner. The only thing they cared about was the mere presence of each other and the way they could recreate that first peck of theirs over and over just because. In time, he set her down.
"How did we survive the past two months again?" She chuckled.
"Hell if I know." He swayed unnoticeably. Still inebriated from their contact.
"You look exhausted…" Ariadne reached up and put one of his fallen hairs back in place with the rest of his gelled head.
He reveled in it without letting it show too much. They were still in the fairly early stages of their relationship. Last thing he wanted was to fall all over himself for her too soon and mess everything up. Look too unprofessional, too undone. "It's called a 'red eye' flight for a reason, I suppose."
The Architect disappeared into her bedroom. When she resurfaced she held sheets, a blanket and a pillow. "Here. Just sleep on my couch tonight."
Arthur being the gentleman suddenly felt like he was intruding. He began to feel uncomfortable, "No, I don't want to be a burden. I'll call a cab and find my hotel."
The girl was already readying the couch for him, "It's late Arthur. Just stay."
Through more persuasion and big brown eyes batting their lashes at him Arthur agreed to accept her hospitality. "Night, Arthur." She lazily smiled leaning against the doorframe of her bedroom.
"Goodnight Ariadne." He adjusted his pillow as she stepped out of view.
"Amazing work. As always." He ogled her newest creation. A model of level 2: a permaculture village.
First, Ariadne looked over at Eames to make sure he wasn't listening then lowered her voice and asked The Point Man, "Amazing enough for a kiss?"
His face remained a blank mask, only a hint of smirk playing off his features and only so she alone could see, "I promise you one after work, Ari."
She leaned back, surprised, "'Ari?'"
"Would you prefer I not call you that?"
"No. I like it." He watched her while she picked up the hot glue gun and resumed creating a Penrose staircase on the model. "Now, I just have to find a nickname for you…" She opened her mouth-
Arthur laid down the rules straight away, "Not Artie."
He allowed himself the semblance of a chuckle.
"Art? No, I don't like that. Sounds…chopped off." She took the next few minutes to muse over…"Suits R Us...? Tall…? Dark, Handsome?" She laughed.
"I like handsome." He chided while he handed her another block of foam board.
"No. It has to be part of your name, like mine. Thur? OhmyGod, Thor. You can be Arthor…." She shook her head. "Thurry? I don't even know what I'm saying anymore."
"Ari, just call me Arthur."
Her face scrunched, "But that's not endearing. Everyone calls you Arthur. It's not special."
"It is when you say it." Arthur's hand slid just enough to brush one of Ariadne's fingers resting on the table.
"Shoot me in the bloody balls. You two are disgusting." Eames teased as he walked by. Their reaction was always the same. Ariadne liked that Arthur would slip and show enough affection for her for others to notice. So when the Forger said things like that and teased Arthur, she always had to stifle a laugh. Arthur, however always wanted to shoot lasers through Eames' skull and would give him the look to prove it.
The projections were swarming, there wasn't enough time to make it through Ariadne's maze and extract what they needed to. It was inevitable this job would fail and they'd have Leeholt and Sons Inc. on their tails for doing such a bang up job. The team was readying themselves for the kick, hiding out in a hotel room.
"We can still do this."
Eames gave her a doubtful look. He didn't want to crush her hopes but the kick was coming in a minute and they were on the other side of the world from the safe. Their lead extractor, Henry, had been shot by projections before he made it there. The guy sucked.
"I added a shortcut. There's an underground tunnel leading to the bank. I can get there."
"There's simply not enough time," Eames shrugged his shoulders and Arthur added, "Especially if you happen to get turned around."
She gave them a look, "I know the maze. I designed it."
Arthur then declared, "The kick is coming any second and I don't want to risk you missing it."
"I won't. Give me your gun." The architect adamantly held her hand out.
"It's worth a shot!" She turned to Eames desperately, "Eames?"
He rolled his eyes, blew air out of his cheeks and said, "Go for it."
The building shook. She held out her hand for Arthur's gun expectantly. He gritted his jaw and shook his head. The look he was giving her was like he was never going to see her again and it unnerved her. Took a bite out of some of the confidence she'd just had in herself. Ariadne made brief requesting eye contact with Eames. The forger cleared his throat awkwardly and turned to set some charges for the kick. Believing to have more privacy, Arthur inquired, "What if you don't wake up?"
Hesitantly he put the gun in her hand and she cocked it. Before she turned and sprinted out of the hotel room and down the corridors she brought her lips to his ear and whispered, "But just in case…I love you, Arthur."
They'd had to blow the hotel room and kick up without her. She hadn't made it back in time. The kick had come and gone on both levels and they were sitting awake in the train. The four words Ariadne had confessed to him before she slipped out of sight only made waking up without her all the worse. He hadn't said it back. With bated breath, and a tingling in his chest he watched her shoulders rise and fall rhythmically. It was a foreign feeling that had washed over him. Love. He never thought he could feel that. He felt incapable, closed off to even the notion of it. Mal and Cobb had made him afraid of that emotion. He wasn't bold enough to publicly declare it. Cobb wouldn't approve, he'd already been skeptical when Arthur mentioned they'd been seeing each other…often. But Ariadne pulled it out of him. She MADE him want it. There were a few times over the course of this past job where the Point Man thought he might have felt it. Or something like it. But he would never dare confess it to himself, much less the Architect. Even if it was true. Even if he did…love…her. Even if he thought there was a possibility that he was falling…in love…with Ariadne. What he could admit to himself though was that—well, Arthur was never a very religious person. He respected different beliefs and chose to go along with the customs of certain religions but he wasn't big on it-He couldn't say he believed in a fiery hell but he could now say he believed in heaven. And heaven had to be a place on earth. Namely sweet, sweet Paris. Or with more specificity, anywhere the Architect chose to grace with her presence. Arthur was getting in deep over his head. He was drowning in all of these thoughts. All because she had pulled him close and whispered-
Gasp. She bolted forward in her seat and tried to calm her breathing. Her hands shot straight for her bishop in her pocket and Arthur shot straight across the aisle to kneel by her side. "Are you—"
"I'm ok." She reassured him, "I'm ok."
Henry turned around in his seat frantically, "Did you get it? Did you make it?"
A smile grew on the Architect's face, proud of herself. No longer on the sidelines, the hero of the job. The extractor. The pivotal hinge of their success. "He's guilty. The money is in the Swiss Bank Account #3739002."
"Good on you, Ariadne. You're just determined to be better than Cobb in everything aren't you?" Eames let out a good chortle and high fived her.
Mr. Leeholt graced her with an approving nod from across the aisle as well, "Nice work."
The girl had been praised by everyone but Arthur. She looked down at the figure in front of her. Arthur had a proud smirk on his face. Not only was she his creatively talented and beautiful—significant other…(that was still kept very private and out of the workplace) but she was his excelling student. He'd taught her the basics of dreaming and she took it and ran with it. A year ago he was telling her what an extractor was and now she was taking the dream sharing world by storm. His Ariadne, capable of anything. For the first time, he kissed her cheek in front of Eames and Henry and the chemist and the client (if he was still looking, Arthur didn't notice). His first public display of affection in his work setting. The first sign of a chink in his armor, the first concrete confirmation to Eames' badgering questions and teasing. The kiss was for everyone to see his pride in her; she earned that small victory. But his next sentence was whispered just for her ears, "I love you too, Ari."
"I hate you!" Arthur screamed as a loud, sickening popping sound echoed throughout the room.
He gritted his teeth and dropped the gun to his side, turning his head to look at the Architect. Body purpled with bruises and cuts tarnishing her face. It nauseated him. She met his eyes with swollen, red rimmed, bloodshot eyes of her own. Tears spilled down her face and a sharp pain of guilt and enmity washed over him. Arthur's tears welled up before she turned her head away from him and looked at the slumped figure on the ground. Blood pooling around his head and staining his suit. Succumbing to anguish, she heaved and doubled over as much as the two men holding her back would let her. He heard the screams of two kids wailing for their daddy…and he wanted to kill these people for making him a monster.
"Very good choice, Arthur." Ice cold, blue eyes patronized him and the suited heir lowered his pistol from Ariadne's temple. The gunman lifted the architect's chin to his face and seemed pleased at her emotional state.
"Get your hands off of her." Arthur warned menacingly.
"Shut up." The leader of the operation poised the barrel of his gun in front of Arthur and two henchman restrained the Point Man from behind. The gunman turned back to Ariadne and leaned in close, "It's alright, little architect. No one will miss poor Mr. Charles."
His sadistic grin didn't falter as he pulled away from her and turned to leave his torture chamber. "His name is Dominic Cobb." She spat the correction at him and he whipped around to slap her before she knew what was happening.
"Hey!" Arthur's blood boiled and he attempted lunge at the offender. He flailed around, trying to break free and tear this man limb from limb. Never had so much hate filled his body before.
Robert Fischer ignored the chaos and strolled out of the room like it was a sunny day in the park, "Get his blood off of my floor."
Wow. That chapter was mostly italics. Sorry for screwing your eyes up guys :/ Let me know what you think so far! I know it wasn't much of the actual story to go on. If I get a couple reviews, I'll probably update tomorrow. Press the magic button! ;)