Word Count: 844.
Fandom: Inception/White Collar Crossover.
Pairing: Neal/Kate (mentioned), Arthur/Ariadne (mentioned)
Disclaimer: Inception is the work of Christopher Nolan. White Collar is the work of Jeff Eastin. I own nothing.
Notes: Written for metonymy, because she's perfectly lovely and gave me this idea. Crossposted to inceptionfic.
Ariadne is small for her age, quiet and thoughtful and aware of everything around her. Even at the age of nine, she’s older than her years and doesn’t quite fit with her peers. She’s a loner in the group home, alone with daydreams for company rather than people, and that suits her just fine. She’s a strange child, or at least that’s what the families that pass her over always say, with a strange name and strange ideas and a heaviness in her wide eyes that makes them look away toward other, more acceptable children.
She sits outside and sketches on paper, with a pencil that’s wearing down, ignoring the other children who play and fight and do whatever it is they’re meant to do on warm spring days when summer feels imminent. They ignore her. She’s small but she’s shown on more than one occasion that she can handle herself and now they leave her be. She doesn’t mind. She likes the quiet and the feel of a pencil in her hand, shapes and images forming on the paper and turning it into something more than it was. Something better.
But today is different. She can feel it, can practically taste it in the air, even before he sits down next to her. He’s a handful of years older than she is and she stares at him with a sort of awe, a warm feeling settling over her that she might call love in a few years when she’s read of its facsimile in books. He’s carelessly graceful, all long limbs and tousled hair, bright blue eyes and a smile that makes her ache to draw him. And he’s looking at her and at her paper, and then taking the pencil from fingers that are suddenly lax.
"This is good," he says, nothing false in the words. He doesn’t want anything from her. Sincerity is a rare commodity in their world. "But the shading will work better if you try it like this." Sure fingers move the pencil effortlessly, showing her tricks to make it better, to make her better. It sets off a strange fluttering in her stomach, butterflies dancing a whirling dervish, and she can’t help but smile. He grins and tucks her pencil behind his ear, pulling a new one seemingly from nowhere and a surprised laugh from her throat. She decides then that he’s magical. He hands the pencil to her and watches her recreate his work, then kisses her hand and tells her she’ll be amazing one day.
He tells her his name is Neal. He tells her that he’s sixteen and he’s going to change the world and he’ll be leaving soon. It makes her sad in a way nothing does any more, but she manages a smile and he promises he’ll never forget her. Then she tells him her name and he weaves a tale of golden thread and monsters made of men and bulls, of beautiful girls, daring heroes and impossible mazes. And Ariadne feels like she knows herself better than she ever did before, and she wants to thank him but the word seems so trivial, so she draws him, the way she wanted to from the start, signs her name and tells him to keep it. And she knows she’ll keep the smile he gives her in her mind for years to come, and thinks she probably got the better gift.
A girl calls out to him, dark and lithe and tragically beautiful in a way Ariadne knows she’ll never be. And Neal lights up and breathes a name. Kate. And Ariadne knows too that this is reality, that everything before was a pale imitation of this, not false but not so painfully real. That Neal is alive with this girl and that she’s the princess in his story and that she’ll break his heart over and over again but he won’t care because there’s no way he can resist her. And Ariadne dreams that one day a boy will look at her that way. They say their goodbyes and Neal walks off with the girl and life goes back to normal. And if the colors seem a little dimmer, well that’s just her imagination.
She looks down at her sketchpad and decides she’s going to make the world more beautiful.
It’s years and lifetimes later. Kate is gone and Neal is fractured in places, but not broken. Ariadne’s met the boy who looks at her like she’s everything he never realized he wanted. And they still see each other, now and again. Ariadne has her dreams, and Neal has his tracking anklet. And whenever she finds herself in New York, she leaves Arthur behind in their bed and goes to an apartment and dances on the roof with that charming boy who stole her heart when she was nine.