velvetfiction: (chocolate&magic)
[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: Sleepers Awake
Fandom: Inception
Characters: Ariadne/Arthur
Rating: PG
Word Count: ~2k
Prompt: 5 times Ariadne had nightmares and Arthur had to make her feel better and one time where it was vice versa. Written for Round 6 over at [ profile] inception_kink
Summary: You would think that dealing in dreams on a regular basis would make nightmares less terrifying. You would be wrong.


They are in Seattle, doing research on their next mark. Ariadne spends her days drifting around the buildings of the University of Washington, preparing to rebuild them in a dream, and grateful (for once) that she looks 5 years younger than she is. Arthur is around too, posing as a visiting scholar. She doesn’t know where Cobb is or what trouble Eames is getting into, and most of the time she prefers it that way. They’ve taken a small apartment downtown, and all and all it should be one of the easier jobs they’ve done.

None of which explain why, three nights running, she’s woken up swallowing a scream, hands trembling so badly that she sloshes water all over her bed stand. All she can do is curl up on her side and watch the lights on the street until dawn, drink an extra cup of coffee with breakfast, and ignore the concerned looks that Arthur gives her. And pray that she sleeps better the next night.

She doesn’t. But before she can wake herself up with a scream (again), a pair of hands shake her awake. Confused, she looks around wildly and then her hand automatically dives under her pillow to grip the cool, comforting metal of her bishop. She withdraws it and hefts it a couple times. The weight is right, so she relaxes enough to notice the rest of her surroundings. Which is when she sees Arthur sitting on the edge of her bed, giving her a knowing smile.

She opens her mouth to explain, to apologize, but he cuts her off with a shake of his head. Gently, he pushes her shoulder back down, and waits while she arranges herself and her pillow. “Sleep, Ariadne,” he says, “I need my architect at her best tomorrow.” His soft tone is at odds with the impersonal words. “Sleep, and I will watch over you.” It is said so quietly, that in the morning she can’t even be sure it was real, and she falls asleep again with soft hands brushing her hair, lulling her into a dreamless sleep.


The feeling of falling is a familiar one, by now. Even in her sleep-fuddled state, Ariadne embraces it, because she knows it will bring relief from the nightmare she is having. The overwhelming sense of vertigo is followed quickly by the ghosting sensation of impact and she awakens with a jolt. The touch of the spring breeze is cool on her flushed cheeks, and it is perfumed, even at the late hour, by tulips.

“Dammit, I thought you said I was going to stop being able to dream,” she grumbles. She sits up straighter, stretching, trying to work the kinks out of her neck.

Arthur turns slightly on the bench they are occupying and looks at her levelly for a moment. “You don’t really want that,” he says eventually.

Ariadne deflates a bit. “No, I suppose I don’t.” She draws her knees up under her chin and gazes out across the canal. “But it would be nice not to have the nightmares sometimes. Or if I’m going to have nightmares, at least they could be a bit more creative.”

Arthur cocks his head, asking the silent question. There is a growing trust there, that says I’ll listen if you want to talk.

Ariadne makes a face. “I was running. From something, from someone, it was never clear. Just the usual running, running, running.” She chuckles. “At least I know how to wake myself up now. I threw myself off a bridge.”

“I usually try to get myself shot,” Arthur says confidentially, with a slight smile playing around his lips. “I find that more reassuring, some how.”

“That involves having someone in the dream willing to do that, though. Finding a bridge or building to jump off of is completely within my control.” She pauses and then laughs, face relaxing for the first time since she woke up. “It’s a good thing there’s no one around here right now. I can’t imagine what people would think of this conversation.”

“They’d probably just chalk it up to us being crazy American kids.” Ariadne looks at him, and for a moment, she can see how someone might think that. Arthur is wearing jeans and an un-tucked button down shirt, and he looks about a decade younger than he does in those three-piece suits. She firmly clamps down on the thought before it can skitter away into places best left alone.

But all of her good intentions go by the wayside when Arthur stands and gallantly offers her his arm. “Come on,” he says, “I know a cafe that’s open for another few hours. We can get some coffee before we have to catch the train.”

Ariadne’s stomach flip-flops as she takes the proffered limb, and all thoughts of her nightmare recede to the deepest corner of her mind. She briefly has the sensation of falling again, and she welcomes this feeling just as readily as the dream version.


The scream tears out of her throat and echos around the small room. “No, no, no, let him go,” she whimpers, still half-asleep.

The sound of a door opening brings her fully awake and she huddles under the blankets as the silhouetted form approaches the bed. The bright light from the adjoining hotel room - always adjoining, now, ever since that debacle in Rio - obscures his features, but Ariadne knows Arthur’s shape as well as her own now.

Without a word he sits by her and gathers her into his arms. “The job?” he asks simply.

She nods, and no other explanation is needed. It was the job from hell. If it could go wrong, it did, from the very beginning, and the mark’s mind was militarized beyond what any of them (including Cobb, which scared the hell out of him) had seen before. The projections seemed to enjoy a twisted cruelty, and sought to capture and torture the invaders rather than simply killing them. Ariadne had managed to avoid capture; Arthur had not been so lucky.

She trembles in his arms for a few moments, giving into the fears that she’s held in check in the daylight. Eventually she disentangles herself and moves to stand by the window. They are high enough up to see the lights of the city spread out before them, the darker section of the Forbidden City standing out like a bulls eye target. She shudders again and starts to turn away.

“Don’t let one job, one person taint the entire city for you,” Arthur says, putting his arms around her again. “We need to disappear, but no one ever said we had to leave. Why don’t we fade into the masses for a week or two, play tourist and explore the city. They’ll likely be watching the airlines anyway. If we all try to leave at once, we’ll be noticed.”

Ariadne turns and smiles up at him with such radiance that he can’t help but smile back. “Yes, please,” she agrees eagerly.

“I’ll arrange it with Cobb, then. You try to get some sleep,” he says, and leads her back over to the bed. He tucks her in and places a light kiss on her forehead, and pauses for a moment in the door way before going back to his own room. Then, with a smile, he closes the door and picks up the phone. He has arrangements to make.


That she dreams of suffocating isn’t particularly surprising, all things considered. She has spent the past week swathed head to toe in dark fabrics. For all that Dubai is a modern marvel in terms of architecture (and she can’t wait to get some of those buildings into her dreamscape), it is deeply conservative in other ways.

She sits up fast, gasping for air. A hand on her back steadies her and a second hand materializes in front of her, holding a glass of water. She blushes, but accepts the water anyway. For all that they’ve been sleeping together (in both sense of the term) for over a month now, she still feels like a giddy school girl every time she sees sleep-rumpled Arthur.

“Thanks,” she says and tries to calm her breathing.

“Want to talk about it?” he asks, running one finger down her cheek.

“I was buried,” she says quietly, “trying to claw my way through. . . something. I don’t even know what it was. It was getting harder and harder to breath.” She shudders again.

Arthur rubs her back until her breathing slows to normal, but she makes no move to lie back down.

“Bet I can make you forget for a while,” he says suggestively, with a hint of the dimples she loves so much.

“Oh do you now? Only - ” She hesitates.


“Only can I be on top?” she says in a voice barely audible. “I don’t think I could handle you being on top of me right now.”

Now he does grin and pulls her on top of him. “Anything you want, Ariadne. Let me show you how creative I can be.”


She wakes with a sob, rather than a scream. Her cheeks are already wet and her breath hitches as she buries herself into the warm mass that inhabits the other side of the bed. Her tears soak through the thin sheet but she is comforted by the slow, steady rise and fall of the chest beneath her.

“What’s wrong, love?” Arthur’s sleep-fogged voice is the most beautiful thing she’s ever heard.

“You- you - you stopped breathing. And th-they couldn’t g-get your lungs working again,” she sobs, bringing on a fresh set of tears.

He wraps his arms around her and holds her as she rides out the hysterics. “I’m fine,” he says as she quiets again, “my lungs are fine. Dr. Pullman said everything looked great the last time I was in to see him, but I can go in again when we get home, if you would like.”

Ariadne hesitates and then nods. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, “it’s just that -”

“I know,” he cuts her off. “I know why, love.” The ghost of her father, dead these 15 years, from lung cancer, will haunt her always. “But,” he continues, “I’m yours forever. I won’t leave you. See, this is my promise to you, remember?” He holds up her left hand, where the diamond on her ring finger catches the dim light of their Tuscan bedroom and shimmers faintly in the dark.

She sniffles again and then smiles. “Promise?” she asks in a small voice.

“I promise.”

et un plus.

He sits bolt upright with a gasp. “Mal?” he pants.

The woman next to him stirs sleepily and places a comforting hand on his leg. “‘salright, love. Just a dream,” she says.

Arthur swallows thickly. “You were gone,” he whispers, “you were gone and you took her, and -”

“Shh. Love, it was just a nightmare. Here, I’ll prove it to you.” She slips from between the covers and pads softly into the next room. She returns a moment later carrying a small bundle, which she hands to Arthur.

“See? Mallory is fine. She’s here, I’m here, and neither of us going anywhere. I promise. This is real, Arthur.”

“Thank you.”

Ariadne smiles fondly at her husband and daughter, both of whom are now dozing again. The pre-dawn air muffles the omni-present heartbeat of the City of Lights, making Paris as soft and still as it ever is. She brushes both of them across their foreheads and wanders off to the kitchen to begin brewing a pot of coffee and enjoy a rare moment of peace.

Some might say that the half light of the early morning warps and blurs reality, but for Ariadne, nothing could be more solidly reassuring. She knows how malleable the senses can be, and she finds comfort in the stately progression of the sun, the smell of brewing coffee, and the slight snores that emanate from the bedroom. This is her reality, and she wouldn’t have it any other way.


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