It's exactly six months after inception that Cobb finally takes on another job. Saito is the one who offers it to him, handing over the files with a warm smile and a comment about how the best never retire. Flattering as it may be, it takes him a good week before he accepts the job and even then he has to seriously think who he's going to take on in his team. At least that's before Arthur comes to his doorstep and demands to know why he hasn't called. After which Eames and Ariadne show up, following Arthur's example of insisting they'd be useful and probably the only people he could trust with the job.
He agrees but only after Ariadne promises his children that she'll bring him back as soon as the job is over and they'll all go out for ice cream afterwards. And since his children were happy with that, well then so was he. In theory it's supposed to be a simple extraction- a simple matter of tricking and distracting the target's subconscious long enough as they steal the necessary information.
But of course, because it's them, something just has to go wrong.
Arthur had mentioned that the target's subconscious had been attempted for extraction several times before with little success since previous extractors had found themselves handcuffed randomly to a person in their team. Yet Cobb had brushed it off as unimportant- it had only happened once, it was highly unlikely to happen again.
He should have known better.
“If you ask me, it doesn't seem so bad,” Eames comments dryly. “It's better than getting shot.”
Cobb glares at him and waves them off, “go do distraction for us- I'll find the key.”
Eames salutes and all but drags an amused Arthur out the hotel door. The resounding silence that ensues as the door clicks shut makes him stare down at his companion. She smiles up at him grimly and he can feel her hand twitching slightly.
“So... how do you want to do this?”
At first he's sure of what he's doing. He looks around for a bit and searches the most likely places for a key without much success. All the while in his search, he is completely aware of the way Ariadne is forced to stand right beside him, arm stretching out next to his as it moves this way and that. Even he can feel the discomfort running through her.
He shifts uneasily and runs his free hand over his chin. What had the report said again? Arthur in his amusement had mentioned it at least twice, but he couldn't for the life of him remember what it was. It was something important about the hiding place of the keys for the past extractors who had been in their current situation.
“You don't remember do you?” Ariadne sighs.
“Pardon?” Cobb turns to her and finds her squirming uncomfortably on the spot.
“Arthur said that the past extractors had to deal with it... for a while.”
Cobb stares at her, yes he knew the handcuffs didn't immediately disappear after a key was found but what he didn't understand was why she was just standing there, as if it was something horribly embarrassing. It was a rather silly predicament but nothing they couldn't handle.
She sighs and runs a hand through her hair, “The previous extractors did mention something about the target coming to them...”
Cobb stares at her. Then he groans. If that's how it is then that means-
“Well then we'd better get out of here.”
“But what about the ke-”
“If the target finds us in here, and sees us like this, then she'll know we're not supposed to be here.”
Realization dawns upon her and she nods, moving with him as they scramble for the door, slipping and colliding awkwardly with one another. Cobb drags her, his long legs taking more of the distance between them and the stairwell. He hears her huffs and puffs of her attempts to keep up with him and takes pity on her, grabbing them both and maneuvering them both onto the lobby floor and into a nearby storage room.
He flicks on the light and looks around, if the target has any luggage here then they're screwed. Otherwise...-
“We should be fine now.”
“Yeah, for now,” she replies sarcastically as she lifts her wrist to rub beneath the metal bond surrounding it. “What are we going to do when we actually have to run away from people?”
Cobb opens his mouth then pauses a little lost for words. He sighs and closes his mouth, slumping against the wall only to have Ariadne jerk forward with him. He grunts as she collides with him and immediately stiffens when she places her hands on his chest. He hasn't had someone touch him like that in so lo-
She backs off immediately, and he watches with intrigue as she blushes a little and attempts to pull back only to have him dragged into her. A squeak and a grunt later and they're toppled over some boxes, her lithe frame crushed beneath his.
“Sorry,” he mutters, moving to stand up, reaching out to grip her hand cuffed to his, and settling them firmly on the floor.
A few moments are spent in evening their breath and looking at everywhere except themselves. Then Cobb decides enough is enough.
“Look we can't just sit here through the entire dream, we've got to help the team,” he slips a hand in his pocket.
“I'm not sure if you've noticed but I'm pretty sure if we get caught by any of the projections with handcuffs, Smith will know we're not supposed to be here,” Ariadne sighs and idly pushes a stray strand of hair out of her eyes. “I think we should just... try and figure out where the key is.”
Cobb's brow furrows. Well, it is the only thing they can do right now. Only one problem-
“And where do you propose we start looking?”
Ariadne closes her mouth and glares at the floor, right hand automatically going up her scarf only to have his weight pull it back down. She frowns and sighs, shoulders dropping in defeat, “I'm not sure... I mean these handcuffs should have a-”
She never gets to finish her sentence because in the next moment the door opens, revealing a lovely young brunette, staring at both of them with mild surprise.
“Am I by any chance interrupting something?”
Ariadne stiffens beside him and his legs flex, ready to start running at any given moment. He tilts his head to the side and asks, “and just what do you think you're interrupting?”
“Well obviously some sort of kinky sex since you've got handcuffs on her- might I also add that if you cuff her other hand it'd be much more enjoyable to see her squirm?”
His younger companion gasps beside him and he immediately moves in front of her, shielding their linked hands from view. Did Smith think this was-?
“Ah, I see... Don't worry I get the clue- I'll leave you two alone,” she waves them off with a smile. “I was just wondering if you two could hurry up? I was planning on using this for my own sex-related purposes.”
She winks at him and turns to exit. Feeling his own skin flush with embarrassment he turns back to Ariadne only to see her blushing. He raises a brow at her and watches, with astonishment as her blush turns a deeper shade of red.
“Guess we were lucky she didn't see your hand...” she mutters, tugging at her scarf with her free hand.
Cobb nods and decides, now would be a good time to look for the key elsewhere- being stuck in a closet was stifling and not to mention already a scene of one too many shameful moments than it had any right to be. He slides open the door and tugging his sleeve over his side of the cuff he all but drags her out the door and into another room to fumble once more for the key.
It takes them the remainder of their time but after many embarrassing fumbles, squeaks (Ariadne had all but screamed when he'd accidentally tripped, sending himself over her body and into the hard floor) and sore muscles (it took them a while to get used to running with handcuffs restricting almost any arm movement) they finally, finally find the key.
“I don't believe this,” Ariadne huffs angrily, “all this time and it was in your damn pocket!”
Cobb nods stiffly, frustration threatening to bubble over and join hers.
“Those two had better have gotten the information because I am not coming back here.”
He lets the key slip the bonds open and bites his lip. Pity, he had rather enjoyed the freshness to the job- as annoying as the predicament had been, it was a nice way to come back to work. However as Ariadne continues to complain and curse Ms Smith's subconscious he notices her hand twitch in his direction. He allows himself a smile just as the dream fades away- he could almost swear she smiles back too.