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Title: Illusions
Fandom: Inception
Characters: the whole team
Prompt: [community profile] trope_bingo square - au:magic
Word Count: 750
Rating: G
Warnings: none
Summary: Illusions in the waking world require a different skill than those in the dream state.

---

Eames drummed his fingers on his spellbook impatiently. It was patently unfair, he decided, that Ariadne was the illusionist, and not him. Oh, he was sure that it was part of her preternatural ability as an architect, and one of the reasons Cobb was so hot to get her on the team.

But still. He was the forger. He was the one who became other people, took on other forms. The power over illusions in the waking world should have been his as well.

Not that he was lacking in magic. But his own innate magic was of the conjuring field, to make something out of nothing. Idly, he conjured a ball of energy and bounced it on his hand. He considered flinging it at Arthur's ass, just to see the pointman jump, but a frown from Cobb stayed his hand. He sighed and let the energy dissipate. He made a point of focusing back on the group before Cobb could take him to task. Really, the extractor never let him have any fun any more.

Ariadne was manipulating the image of the first dream level with small gestures of her hand, and Eames was entranced despite himself. She spun the image this way and that, showing all of the traps, conundrums and paradoxes that she had built into it. When he looked more closely, he could even see little images of the team and their mark running around in the space. Suddenly, the illusion shattered and reformed into the next level of the dream, in an effect he was sure ILM would sell their soul to be able to replicate.

Grudgingly, he admitted that having their architect be an illusionist was certainly beneficial for the team, probably even more so than him being one. When Cobb had been their primary architect, he had to use models and drawings to design and teach the levels. Ariadne's ability to summon up whole dreamscapes with a flick of her fingers made the whole process more effective and efficient.

Besides, he consoled himself, it wasn't like magic worked in dreams anyway. The same tricks that Ariadne could pull in the waking world, he was perfectly capable of mimicking in the dream-state. He wondered if that was why Cobb and Arthur got into the dream business in the first place. Neither man had been born with magic, but the dream-sharing state allowed them to access a similar level of control and power.

"Eames!" Yusef's voice hissed in his ear, and an elbow to his side brought him back to the present.

Eames blinked and found Cobb looking at him in annoyance, while Arthur was rolling his eyes.

"Sorry, what? I was lost in Ariadne's lovely bit of make-believe."

Arthur snorted. "You'd know all about that, wouldn't you?"

"What's that supposed to mean, darling?" Eames ask sweetly.

"Not now," Cobb said firmly. "What I asked was if you had the chance to review the file on LaBlanc's mistress? She is going to be our best shot for getting at him."

"I have," Eames said, now all business. "I'll show you, if I can get a little help, Ari luv?"

Ariadne cocked her head and stared at Eames for a minute. Then the corner of her mouth curled up and she thumbed through her spellbook. When she found the page she was after, she nodded to herself.

"Sorry, don't do people-based illusions very often."

She stepped up to Eames and began muttering under her breath in the language of magicians. She ran her hands an inch over Eames's body, leaving behind a trail of change. When she stepped back, there was a dark-haired woman in a green cocktail dress standing where Eames used to be.

"Meet Elisabet Milchard," Eames said in his own voice and winced.

"Didn't need that," Arthur said, looking amused despite himself.

Ariadne giggled. "Sorry." She touched Eames's throat and whispered something.

Eames cleared his throat and was pleased when it sounded much higher. "That's better," he said in a husky alto. "Thanks, luv. Now as I was saying, meet Elisabet Milchard. By day, she is a high powered investment banker, known to be fearless and a risk-taker. By night she is LaBlanc's own personal sex kitten. Some might argue that such a position requires similar risk taking."

Cobb and Ariadne circled his illusionary form, eyeing him critically.

Eames stood with a smirk on his assumed face. Yes, it was a damned shame that he wasn't an illusionist. But having access to one might be good enough.
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