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Butterflies

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Dream sex, Ariadne decides, is the best thing *ever*.

It's all about the mind's tendencies to fill in the blanks. In reality, getting from point A to point D requires going through points B and C as well. In a dream, especially a well-controlled one, you just *are* there, with no awkward transitions.

And okay, her first few attempts were a little too perfect. Sex isn't about perfect. There have to be some flaws in there, some irregularities, some awkwardness, some bumping. But if you find the right balance you can do what you want.

You don't even need to involve anyone else. Just you and your subconscious, if that's what you want.

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Once, though, she tries something else. Goes with Eames, because he gets it and because she knows him, she's shared dreams with him, she feels like she kind of knows him (even though she knows she doesn't).

"You get what I'm asking for," she says again, "you know what to do," and Eames rolls his eyes.

"Yes. I'm a guy. I know what sex is." She glares, and he shrugs. "Gentle stimuli, enough to get a physical response, not enough to jolt you awake, yes, yes, I *get* it."

She nods, and takes a deep breath, and says, "Do it."

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She's built a garden, flowers for color and trees for shade and grass for walking on through. Butterflies and birds, and the buzzing hum of cicadas, but no bees or wasps or ants. There's the skyline of a city in the distance, faceted crystalline towers glinting in the sun, but she wants the garden. She lies on her back on a patch of grass, arms flung out, staring up at the sky.

Waits.

It's really quite peaceful, and she almost forgets why she's here, what she's waiting for. Almost. She's too good for that.

The first thing she notices is a shiver through the trees, like a breeze, but it ripples the bark as well as the glittering leaves. The air grows heavy, like the weight of an approaching thunderstorm, even though the sky's still clear.

She turns her head and realizes that one of her hands is radiant, glowing, like a flashlight behind crepe paper. The area of illumination spreads, creeping up her arm and across her ribs, down her stomach and her legs, until her whole body is alight.

The colors in the garden have changed, too. She gets to her feet, looking around her. The flowers are impossible colors, too vivid for nature, some in hues that can't be described in words. The trees, which had started out with the deep green leaves of summer, are now a riot of color, everything from the yellow-green of baby spring leaves to the gold-red-rust-orange ranges of autumn to a prismatic clear no-color that casts tiny rainbows everywhere.

There is an unlocalized rumble like thunder, and the space around her ripples; it's like the roll of a gentle earthquake, but everything, not just the ground. And in fact, Ariadne realizes, there is no ground, any more. The grass is gone. The flowers and trees are still there, hanging suspended in midair; the butterflies swirl like a hurricane around her; below her feet, there is a depthlessness that she doesn't have words for. Maybe Limbo, but she's in no danger of falling.

She just is.

And then a bolt of lightning arcs from the still-cloudless sky to frame her in a halo of crackling energy, and she feels like she can't breathe, and everything shatters and falls away.

Not everything, she realizes fuzzily; there's one butterfly that had come to rest on her hand that's still there, fractal wings quaking in a nonexistant breeze.

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"How was it?" Eames asks when she awakes.

"Good enough," she tells him.

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