plazmah: Abstract circle and square with "plazmah" underneath (inception: dom/mal)
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Title: Keeping It Complicated
Author: [livejournal.com profile] plazmah
Rating: PG
Fandom: Inception (FUCK YEAH INCEPTION)
Pairing: Ariadne/Cobb, Ariadne/Arthur
Summary: Cobb thought he gave up that life, but Arthur and Ariadne (mostly Ariadne) pull him back in, despite the fact Arthur and Ariadne are barely speaking to each other anymore.
Notes: Unbetaed, written for [livejournal.com profile] inception_kink. Yeah yeah, I know. Thankfully, it's low on the kink. I don't even ship Ariadne/Cobb that hardcore (I'm all about the Arthur/Ariadne) but I was compelled by the prompt; "Cobb follows Ariadne down into one of her dreams, for a change." This fic is pretty OT3 if you squint hard enough, actually. Post-movie, so obviously SPOILERS.

---------------

It amazes Dom just how seamlessly his life comes back together after that fateful flight to Los Angeles, that he can sit there in the backyard and watch his children play in the light of the slowly climbing sun like the slate has been wiped clean (except for the Mal-shaped impression that can't be erased).

Still, it's a second chance. And it's more than he could have hoped for.

"Well, you have to remember that Saito's power is pretty immense. I should know, after all the research I did." Arthur says, looking far too distracted as he sits next to Dom. It doesn't take long before he gets the younger man to spit it out; Ariadne is back from Europe. And she has a client. But Dom doesn't want that life any more, has no need for it, and neither should they, not after getting paid for breaking up Fischer's empire. Dom gives Arthur a silent look of disapproval, wondering how he and Ariadne can still play this game.

Arthur sighs as James runs up to them and deposits a rock in each of their hands. "I told her you weren't interested, but she's convinced she can change your mind.”

"You couldn't even change my mind, so how does she expect to do it?"

"I told her the same thing, trust me. But you know how she is..." Arthur trails off casually.

Dom watches his son run after his daughter and closes his eyes. He remembers Ariadne's face in the elevator, he remembers her face after she shot Mal in limbo. Yes, he knows exactly how she is.

-

She talks him into it so quickly that he's a little embarrassed by how fast he folds. The sun is setting as she sits at his kitchen table, toying with the brass bishop in her hands and making her case. Light glints off its surface and flashes in Dom's eyes, and it's sort of indicative of the way they interact. Despite the fact that he knows more, has seen more, has experienced more, there's something about her that blinds him, sending him down paths he never thought he would tread.

-

Ariadne is exactly as Dom remembers her; curious, brilliant, and unflinchingly earnest. The only difference this time is the way she and Arthur dance around each other, exchanging half-sentences and awkward glances. Dom wouldn't care except for the fact that it's interfering with the goddamn group dynamics, and when he tells Arthur to man up and fix whatever it is that he's broken, the younger man squirms uncharacteristically.

"It's not that simple." Arthur admits, suddenly looking at Dom like he's the final key. "Hey, could you do me a favour? You owe me after what I did to get Fischer Morrow's corporate hounds off your trail."

They make it look like another training exercise (this despite her all too legitimate protests that she doesn't need any training, not anymore, not after all she's gone through). Her guard is lowered, she thinks this is a solitary experiment in object manipulation, and Dom can't help but feel a little bit of satisfaction as Arthur hooks him up to the machine.

She's the only person in the whole world who witnessed the darkest depths of his subconscious, and it doesn't exactly sit right with Dom, that strange imbalance of knowledge between them. It's only fair that he gets a chance to peek into her mind as well.

-

He expects a different reaction somehow, that her eyes would go wide with shock at seeing him, that she'd feel just as exposed as he had back then. Instead, she laughs, and her eyes are amused to see him here... wherever 'here' is.

"Never thought Arthur would get you to do his dirty work." Ariadne comments, the wind whipping her hair around her face. "Isn't it supposed to be the other way around?"

Dom shrugs. "I owe him." He sits down on the grass next to her and takes in the scene before them. They're sitting on a hill that gives them a brilliant view of sharp cliffs and blue waters, where immense white boats race back and forth as the breeze ruffles through the garden that surrounds them. Bright green and red and yellow leaves, azure and pink flowers,a riot of chaotic colour. Plus, the shadows are all wrong because there are three suns in the sky and a fractured rainbow crisscrossing the blue and it makes Dom's head dizzy if he tries to take it all in at once.

It all feels so... alive.

"Arthur isn't much of a talker." Ariadne says calmly. "Maybe if he talked a bit more, opened up a bit more, you wouldn't be here, sneaking into my dreams like this."

"He'll get going sometimes, when he wants to." Dom deflects, then pauses. "Or when you get a couple drinks in him."

She sighs, flops backwards onto the grass. "I don't want to get him drunk. That's not how it happened last time."

"How what happened last time?"

"We slept together, once. Right after we landed in L.A." She explains, looking somewhat blasé.

-

They slept together, once. Right after the plane landed in L.A. She could have done anything she wanted with hew newly acquired money, but all she wanted to do was undo all of Arthur's straight lines and sharp creases, to find out if he would be just as precise and meticulous if she slipped her hand into his pants and hauled him off towards a shadowy corner somewhere. After what she's just seen, gun fights and crumbling buildings that she jumped right off of, nothing scares her anymore.

She walks up to Arthur just as he's about to hail a cab, presses a slip of paper into his hand. He looks down at it, looks back up at her with a questioning expression.

"No pressure." She gives him a slight smile. "And no expectations. Just... if you want to."

He nods slowly but she can see his mind moving at a million miles an hour. And while he's occupied with his thoughts, she leans forward and kisses him, snagging his lip between her own before pulling away.

She hasn't even been at her hotel room for an hour when there's knock on her door. His hands are sliding down her waist minutes later, grabbing her hips and pulling her close; Ariadne pushes Mal's loaded question out of her mind and pulls Arthur towards the bed.

-

"I went to limbo." She blurts out later, when she's tangled up in bedsheets and he's running his fingers through her hair. "Mal was there and I had no choice but to shoot her." The story comes pouring from her mouth and she doesn't let herself stop to catch her breath, because the visuals are almost too much to comprehend... the dying concrete skyscrapers, empty roads filled with ghosts and lost memories.

When she's finally done, Arthur looks at her with an unreadable expression. "How did he take it, when you shot Mal?"

She considers Dom's reaction, how it all played out in the end. "Surprisingly well. At least I thought so."

"Huh. Interesting."

She frowns at him. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"It means you got through to him, even though he loved her more than anything in the world." Arthur looks her in the eyes. "I think he sees a lot of himself in you."

"Only younger, less crazy, and a girl, right?" Ariadne says wryly, even as she processes his words and stifles a sudden shiver. "Somehow, I knew I had to be there with him, or else we would have lost everything."

"Sounds like you're boasting."

"Well, maybe I am."

Arthur stares up at the ceiling. "Two can play at that game then; I had to get creative about giving you guys the kick." She waits for him to elaborate, but in typical Arthur fashion, it doesn't come. "Probably not as interesting as limbo, but-"

Ariadne smiles and kisses him. "You don't have to convince me, I'm sure it was fantastic." She says warmly, but her mind is already elsewhere, remembering a cityscape like a tomb, creating structures that don't exist in this reality.

-

"Just to be clear, I don't want to hear about you and Arthur having sex." Dom says, unsurprised by how easily she's talking about very personal experiences. He gets the feeling that she's only over-sharing because she's comfortable with the audience.

"Then why are you even here, Cobb?" She asks, sitting back up and facing him.

Dom squints at her, doesn't say it's only fair, you know the darkest part of me and I can’t handle that, doesn't even say that he's here because Arthur thinks there's a reason she's clamming up around him, some hidden reason that Dom could have teased out by slipping into her subconscious and playing the confidante while her guard is down. Because Dom's looking up at the sky and the kaleidoscope rainbows, the bright flowers swaying heavily in the wind, white sails flapping on the waters, and it's clear that if there's a problem, it isn't with Ariadne.

Ariadne doesn't need to be fixed because Ariadne isn't broken.

"I don't have any deep, dark secrets, Cobb." She breaks through his thoughts, echoing the conclusion he's already arrived at. "No skeletons in the closet, no tragic back-story. I'm not as complex as you." She holds his gaze. "We're alike in a lot of ways, but not this one."

"My mistake." Dom replies, and when he starts to chuckle Ariadne looks at him like she's afraid he's lost his mind.

"What's so funny?"

"Nothing, it's just..." Dom shakes his head. "I'm always surprised by how perceptive you are."

"I'm not really that perceptive, Cobb. I just get you." Ariadne says quietly and it's the way she's looking at him, surrounded by a cacophony of colour... Dom thinks of Mal and everything he's lost and gained back, and before he can put together a single cohesive thought, Ariadne leans forward into his space, close enough that he can feel her breath against his lips, close enough that her eyelashes brush against his skin when she blinks up at him. But she doesn't touch him and when he shifts forward to close his eyes and rest his forehead against hers, her arms circle him protectively. It's so strange to think that this bold wisp of a girl is his protector, but that's the inescapable truth.

"I never thanked you for saving me." Dom murmurs, fingers grazing against her cheek. "I wish I hadn't put you in so much danger. I don't ever want to be in that position again."

"Which is why you were so against taking this job." She replies, putting the pieces together before he has to say the words.

"If anything happened to you- or Arthur- I'd never forgive myself. You of all people know just how high the stakes are."

"It's worth the risk." Ariadne whispers, absolute certainty in her voice. "The best things in life are worth the risk." And then she kisses him, gently at first but when Dom draws her closer she's pours her hunger into his mouth, tasting like sugared promises. Around them, the earth trembles. Jagged glass spires sprout from the ground and shoot up towards the sky, shimmering like diamonds.

"What are you going to tell Arthur?" She pulls away and asks, holding him tighter as music starts to play.

"I'm going to tell him-"

Dom's eyes snap open and he wakes up in their make-shift headquarters, sitting on a hard, plastic chair. Arthur is leaning against a table, looking at Ariadne but not quite looking at her as well.

"Sorry." Arthur says to Ariadne as she sits up and looks at him disapprovingly. "I thought I could... that Dom might... well, maybe we should just start over."

She presses her lips together in thought, then glances at Dom. "Maybe we should all start over."

Arthur takes in a slow breath, his gaze flicking towards Dom, and there are so many questions in his eyes but Dom was never one to give answers easily.

Dom gets up from his chair and crosses him arms. "We start over. We do things right this time." When he walks from the warehouse, he can feel their eyes on his back, he can still feel Ariadne's lips on his, and for a moment he truly believes that they will get it right this time.

- end -
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November 2010

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