This is reality, Ariadne reminds herself. Her totem told her that. So has Arthur's; he said as much, rolling the die on the sidewalk and straightening with a curt nod. Even if they're shivering and dripping wet in the rain, and the scent of wet leather makes her mind flash back to the Fischer job, she has to pay it no mind. She trails after Arthur into the apartment that's their safehouse for this job and starts peeling off her jacket. It feels as dank and cold inside as it does outside, and Arthur fiddles with the thermostat.
"You should warm up," he says. "Get in the shower." Maybe she's been spending too much time with Eames, because the comebacks bubble up in her throat, but she dispels them with a shake of her head.
"You first. I'll be okay," she says, and gives him one of those looks that says she will accept no disagreement. And maybe he's gotten more used to her incredible stubbornness, because he nods and stalks off. It would be more impressive if his shoes weren't squelching. Wrenching the thermostat all the way to the right leads to some ominous knocking sounds from the radiator, and she starts stripping off her wet clothes.
She hears the shower stop and realizes she's standing there in her underwear. It's too cold for this. Arthur appears in the doorway with a towel around his hips and his wet hair pushed out of his face and Ariadne really, really hopes that the flush in his cheeks is from the heat of the water. But she slips past him without a word, feeling all the tiny hairs on her arms raise as she passes and scurrying to the shower as quickly as possible.
The shower is not as grimy as she expected. And maybe the water only runs hot and stings her skin but the heat is welcome. She realizes Arthur left her the larger towel, and she wraps herself in it and pads back through the apartment. After all, her bag is in the living room. Hopefully Arthur's dressed by now.
As it turns out Arthur's only half dressed. Seeing him in just jeans and an undershirt is disorienting; even when he's more casual he still gives off the impression of being buttoned up to his chin and freshly starched. But more surprising is his hair. Pomade and gel were not on the list of amenities for this place and as the water from the shower disappeared, his hair has begun to dry into curls springier than her own, clustering around his face. Ariadne's never seen him like this. There's a bubble in her chest and she isn't sure if it's laughter or desire. Possibly both. And the flush has returned to his face, just barely.
"You should get dressed," he says. Ariadne ignores it, stepping closer and feeling her mouth move into a smile she can't fight back.
"Is this why you wear all that stuff in your hair all the time?" she asks.
"Do you think anybody would take me seriously if I didn't?" He tilts his chin down as she moves closer. She can see from this distance how his stubby lashes shade his eyes. "Ariadne?" It's probably meant to sound warning, but the tremor in the middle gives it an entirely different tenor. Like he's trying out how to speak to her as a woman rather than the girl he has to look after or the partner he's still training. Holding the towel shut with one arm she reaches up and tangles her fingers in the curls, her smile widening. And apparently that was exactly the right thing to do. Because his eyes slide shut and he inhales with a shudder and the breath comes back out in a rush when she twists gently. He makes this little noise that seems to arrow right between her legs, like the tug was enough to crack the fine armor he has built around himself and let something softer peek through. After that it's a foregone conclusion - of course she will pull his head down to hers and give him a kiss, even though there are no projections to distract.
His hands are fluttering, she realizes as she sucks his lower lip into her mouth, as if he can't decide where to put them, where would be safe territory when she's wearing nothing but a towel. So she twists the edge of the towel under itself and puts her other hand on his waist and pulls him flush against her, and this time he moans and she can't stop a soft laugh from escaping into his mouth. He tries to pull away but the tension in her fingers won't let him get far. This time when he murmurs her name his lips brush hers with every syllable. Finally his hands settle on her waist, the cotton rough against her skin and his long fingers stretching across her back. Maybe he doesn't realize that his thumb is tripping over her ribs through the fabric or that she's up on her tiptoes to reach him. He just looks down at her with that arresting gaze, those eyes that can calculate a thousand trajectories in the time it takes to blink, and having that attention turned on her makes Ariadne falter. Just for a moment, just long enough for him to shift his weight in preparation to break away and start muttering apologies and pull the armor back on, and she can't bear the thought of that. So she tugs him down, her heels hitting the floor and his spine curving as he follows her and covers her mouth with his own again.
She finally has to pull away and catch her breath, and he stares at her with his mouth slightly open. That has to be a good sign. He licks his lips and she grins and he grins and it's a fucking revelation. Curls and dimples. There is an entire world beneath the surface of the point man's carefully crafted exterior and she wants nothing more than to wedge her hands into the cracks in his armor and pull it all down. Right now she settles for letting go of his hair to grab the undershirt and yank. This would be easier if she were taller; as it is, it gets stuck around his shoulders, but he's pulling it off and chuckling low in his throat. "We're going to have to work on that," he says. Another bubble of laughter escapes from her mouth as he pulls her close again and mouths at her ear, drawing the lobe delicately between his teeth and kissing his way down her neck.
"Those fucking scarves," he mutters as she tries valiantly to stay standing, one hand pushing the heavy wet mass of her hair to the side. "I don't know if I should throw them all out or make you wear them every day so I'm the only one who gets to see this."
"If you throw them out I'm cutting up all of your ties," she gasps. He draws back and fixes her with a glare that looks much less impressive when he's shirtless and tousled and pink-lipped.
"I totally would." She turns and takes a step towards the bedroom. Breaking the contact is a chance for him to decide this has all been a terrible mistake, that their working relationship as colleagues is too important, but she takes another step and feels his hand at the small of her back guiding her along. When she perches on the edge of the bed Arthur kneels in front of her, hands coming to rest on either side of her on the blanket, and she realizes that he's waiting for her to take the lead. This time she puts both hands in his hair, starting just over his ears and combing back till she's got a double handful of those improbable curls. She tips his head back and has the satisfaction of seeing his eyes slide shut just before she kisses him thoroughly. Terrible lines from her mother's romance novels float through her head, words like plunder and ravish, as she's licking into his mouth, and he keeps making these helpless little noises that make her want to throw him on the floor and climb on top of him right there.
He slides his hands into the gap where the towel's edges meet and parts it slowly, then tosses it away. She's silently thankful that he doesn't make any comments, just looks at her with something like reverence and leans in to press his lips to her skin. Ariadne has never thought of her sternum as a particularly sensitive place, but she may have to reconsider that as Arthur kisses a line between her breasts and down. The kiss on her navel makes her laugh and she can feel him exhale.
"This is - it's good, right, you're -" he starts to say, and she tips his head back again with the grip on his hair so she can see his face.
"If you stop now I might die of sexual frustration. Or I'll have to get myself off," she adds as an afterthought, and the way he inhales sharply makes her wonder what other things he'd like to see her do. "That was a yes." He gives her another one of those miraculous grins and kisses the soft curve of her belly and then nuzzles in between her thighs, kissing the tops of them too. After she parts her legs he just looks for a moment, then leans in and kisses the place where her flesh rises highest. Her legs start to spread and he presses the advantage, drawing his lips down over her outer folds and darting his tongue in between, a flutter of heat that makes her breathe more quickly.
This would probably be easier if she were lying down, but she doesn't want to let go of his hair. The coordination required seems beyond her as he starts tracing a finger between her labia, dipping slightly further inwards at her entrance. But the decision is taken away when he parts her with two fingers and lets the flat of his tongue paint a broad, wet stripe up the center. Like her totem toppling over, she falls back and hits the mattress with a thump. Now he sets to work in earnest, settling his shoulders between her thighs and using those two fingers to keep her spread open while his tongue keeps moving. And it hits her like - she refuses to think like a freight train, not anymore, but like the swift and sudden impact of the fall against her back, the way he suddenly has one of those long slim fingers pushing into her and she's already wet and can feel him sliding slickly inside. Holy shit.
His mouth fucking buzzes and it takes her a moment, after she's arched towards him, to realize that he was laughing against her and that she said that last part out loud. "Shut up," she says, pulling on his hair again with a sharp jerk. The hiss that follows is extremely gratifying.
"Yes, ma'am," he says, and she's staring at the water-spotted ceiling but she can hear his smile. She presses him forward and he gets back to business, exhaling warm air over her before sealing his mouth on her flesh and tonguing her clit firmly. Her hand tightens into a fist when he sucks, and he is just as relentless in this as in everything else, not letting his mouth move and sliding another one of those impossibly long fingers in. Finally she has to drag him off, pulling him up by his stupid fluffy hair till he's hovering over her on the bed, and his chin is wet when he kisses her. It's sloppy and wonderful and she never wants to let him go. But she does when he slides his hands under her shoulder blades and scoots her till she's lying lengthwise on the bed, and at some point he must have pushed off his pants because when he climbs up and kneels between her legs she can feel his bare skin against her thighs.
"I really, really hope you have a condom," she says. He kisses the tip of her nose, which is so incongruously sweet that she has to concentrate very hard on not giggling at him.
"I am prepared for every contingency," he tells her. The straight face would work better if his eyes weren't crinkling. A dead giveaway. He should never play poker, she thinks, and this time she does laugh. Arthur reaches past her to the cheap bedside table and comes back with a condom, praise Jesus and the patron saints of poorly timed sexual encounters, and pauses with his face over hers, searching her face for something. The messy tendrils frame his face at this angle, reminding her of portraits of Renaissance princelings. She'd never tell him that.
"Don't stop now," she says, and the line between his brows smooths out. He sits back and fumbles - she can't see what he's doing from this angle, but she watches his face and exhales slowly as he moves back up over her and slowly, slowly guides himself in. And now he's the one hissing, even as her breath catches in her throat at the blunt pressure, and he slides home and she pulls his face down to hers so she can kiss him hard.
"God, Ariadne," he says, and she wraps her legs around his hips and squeezes and he mouths "Fuck" into her cheek and starts moving. The bed creaks horribly and she is not going to laugh, she's not, she focuses on his chest brushing against her breasts and his short sharp thrusts and the little noises he's making. One hand stays in his hair, gripping it tightly as his face moves past hers. She snakes the other down between them to circle her clit with familiar motions. She presses and swirls and then she's coming, she can feel herself clenching around him and he fucking keens into her hair and thrusts into her one more time, hard and fast. She thinks he says her name.
After a moment where he lies there covering her, his weight warm and heavy over her for all that his frame is deceptively skinny, he pulls back and does something she can't see with the condom before lying down again, curling around her. The silence stretches out beyond comfortable and into something that might be awkward. God, she hopes this isn't going to be awkward.
"I never would've thought you liked being pulled around," she says finally, and when he laughs it's like that moment when she can see the path through a maze and knows how to get out.
"Me either," he says in a voice she doesn't recognize, warm and low and sweet.
"You have got to stop wearing all that shit in your hair," she says, wriggling around till she can see him. He looks at her with an expression she can't quite read.
"So you're --"
"I'm saying if you want me to pull your hair when we have sex you're going to have to wash it first. And I'm saying I'm only going to regret what happened if you keep asking stupid questions. Okay?" That was a lot of words, she realizes, and he looks a little stunned. But then something must resolve in his head, another one of those trajectories calculated as she blinks, and he kisses her cheek.
"Fine. But you have to move, I'm cold and you're on the blankets."
"So are you. Shut up." He smiles, then grins when her hand finds its way back to his hair, and she silences him with another kiss. And she knows already she's never letting go.