Warning: Sort of spoilers for the movie.
Pairing: Ariadne/Cobb, Arthur/Eames
Summary: For the inception_kink prompt: "Five things that make Phillipa and James love Ariadne". A continuation of "The Mouths of Babes".
Phillipa and James love that Ariadne can get their Dad to do anything. Anything ever. They get to have a sleep over in her little apartment, all four of them, in the living room. She gets Daddy to let them have a Moon Bounce at James birthday, and it's the best.
They have begged to go to Disneyland, but Grandpa and Grandmere said 'no' and Daddy keeps saying 'someday'. One night there's a commercial for it on TV, and Phillipa watches it, sadly. Ariadne looks up from the big blue maps that she and Daddy work on and says 'Phillipa, what's wrong?' because she has a magic power and knows when to hug them or tickle them or make them smile.
“Disney looks really fun,” Phillipa explains.
“I want mouse ears,” pipes in James.
Their Daddy tells them 'they'll talk about it later', but Ariadne looks very surprised.
“Cobb, you have to fix this. These children have lived in California their whole little lives and have never gone.”
“-Understood the tremendous importance of this parental rite and held off for you. Kids kill to go to the park.”
He puts his chin on his fist and gives her that goofy look he sometimes does. “You haven't ever visited, have you?” Like there's something making him really happy but he won't tell anyone.
“That's besides the point,” she says.
“Okay,” he sighs after giving Ariadne the funny look again. “I'll see about tickets.”
It's the best trip ever, except for the part where the lady mistakes Ariadne for their sister.
James and Phillipa love that Ariadne doesn't treat them like babies.
One day they have a really fun BBQ and everyone comes and Daddy goes upstairs with Uncle Arthur because Uncle Eames got ketchup on Uncle Arthur's shirt and Uncle Arthur said he knew where Uncle Eames slept. He's gone for a while and Phillipa and James are afraid he's left them again, so they run to go find him.
He's sitting on his bed crying, and they want to find out why but Ariadne scoops them up, plopping them down back in their room.
“Your dad just needs to be alone right now,” she explains, sitting on the floor between their beds. “He misses your Mommy and needs to cry about it”.
“But grownups don't cry. Daddy shouldn't cry,” says James because this is what he knows. Ariadne's eyes get really big, like malt balls.
“Grownups cry all the time, James. We cry when we are happy or sad or hurt, just like you guys. Sometimes, it's the only way to feel better. Even the strongest, bravest people cry.”
“Is Daddy strong?” asks Phillipa. “Because Uncle Eames has bigger arm muscles than him.”
Ariadne smiles at them, and nods. “Your Dad is the strongest man I have ever known,” she says, and they know that she means it. “He's got a very strong heart, and the heart is a muscle, too.”
Later, when their Daddy comes back out and his eyes are red, they both run over to him and kiss him on the cheek. When he hugs them back it's the strongest hug ever, and they know why.
Phillipa and James love Ariadne's pancakes because they are always yummy, and sometimes when it's somebody's birthday or she's just really happy, she makes them with chocolate chips in them. They have to have fruit and nuts and yogurt with them, but that's alright, because they are so good.
Most times they are awake but still in Pjs when she rings the doorbell, and they run to let her in and say “Hello!” to her.
But one day it's different. They wake up because they hear Ariadne laughing in the kitchen are are worried they missed her ring the doorbell. She and Daddy had been watching a movie when they had gone to bed the night before.
Their Daddy is hugging Ariadne from behind, trying to tickle her neck with his nose. She's got a can of whipped cream in her hand and she's waving it threateningly at him. When they come in the room she smiles really big and says “Hey, kids!”
Daddy looks up and there's whipped cream on his face and now it's on her neck and the really big shirt she's wearing. James says “Hey, that's Daddy's shirt”, and Ariadne gets red like a tomato.
“Your Daddy is letting me borrow it right now,” she explains and turns around with a really big plate of pancakes. “Is anybody hungry?”
Phillipa sees that they're chocolate chip pancakes and tries to remember if it's somebody's birthday, but she knows it's not. “Did you make pancakes because you are happy?” she asks before she takes a bite. The pancake is fluffy and the chips are gooey. It's perfect.
Ariadne smiles at their Dad, like they know some secret and that's when Phillipa knows they're best friends and then Ariadne says “Yes”.
When she moves in, they have pancakes more often.
After Daddy asks Ariadne to marry him, he takes them all out for breakfast at a fancy restaurant, but the pancakes aren't as good as Ariadne's.
James loves how Ariadne gets love.
He's sixteen and he's got acne and his art teacher thinks he's too avante-garde and Sydney? The girl he's loved only since forever? She's going to be at her dad's band's concert, and he knows Mike Rosco is going to ask her to the big dance because his dad owns the club, and seriously? Who came up with being sixteen because it sucks. Hard.
Dad asks him how is day was, and he just keeps walking to the shed because he just wants to go airbrush something, loose himself in the prcess. He doesn't notice Ariadne until he turns at one point and she's leaning against the door, arms across her stomach.
“It must be a bad day if you've got Aladdin Sane playing.”
He sets the airbrush down and tears his face mask off. He wonders how she got her magical powers of Cobb family detection. Probably a spider bite.
She hands him a Dr. Pepper and hoists herself up on the counter so she can be closer to eye level. He's like, twice her height these days and it's sort of funny.
“Spill,” she says, and he does.
When he finishes explaining that he loves Sydney, like really loves her, but hasn't had the guts to say anything and now it's too late and she just made him so happy, she tries to discreetly wipe at the tears (and Ariadne rarely cries), so he hands her a paper towel, trying not to laugh at her emotional state.
“Oh, don't look at me like that!” she exclaims, weepy. “It's just this...this is entirely fixable” she finishes in in a definite tone. She slides down off of the counter. “Come on, I'm grabbing the keys and telling your Dad where we are headed.” He wonders where exactly that is until she say's “The club, now go burn a mixtape or something,” and then he knows she's freaking psychic.
They get there quicker than they should, and then Ariadne does some little flirty thing with the bouncer at the door, and suddenly there he is with his tiny little step-mom inside the club. He sights Sydney by the speakers, and Mike, who is trying to squeeze through the crowd towards her, and he just wants to give up and go home and sleep for a week and maybe, quite possibly, die. Or go online and chat with a friend about all of this.
“Let's go,” he sighs.
“Oh, hell no,” Ariadne says. She grabs his hand and proceeds to dart her way through the crowd with all the expertise of a seasoned concert-goer. One particular couple refuses to move, so she yells “Woman with a baby!” and pushes past the shocked pair.
They beat Mike to Sydney. She agrees to go to the dance with him. And she kisses him. Basically? The best night ever.
It isn't until they are in the car on the way home that he realizes what Ariadne said. “Woman with a baby?” he repeats. Ariadne would never refer to him, or Phillipa, or even ten-year old Clara as a baby. She prefers the proper terms for everything, and makes up ones for others. Like his art teacher; he's a 'judgey person'.
“Don't say anything to your Dad,” she says, grinning, embarrassed, “but I think you are going to have another little brother or sister.”
“Dad's gonna flip,” he answers, promptly. Actually it's kind of cool.
“Yeah, I know.”
He enjoys their car rides, the way they talk. She's sort of like a mother, but not, and like a friend, and it's nice.
“Thanks,” he says, “for doing this, I mean I know I'm young but I really think-”
“Love is love, James. It's bigger than you or me and it makes us do things we normally wouldn't, couldn't, even dream,” she assures him, then smiles. “Besides, I know you Cobb men: you would have never said anything, and then you would have wallowed, and I'm going to be an emotional mess for the next few months, so I couldn't take it.”
“This knowledge comes from first-hand experience, huh?” She nods.
“Driving to a club is nothing compared to your father. I gave him an ultimatum before leaving for a conference in Tokyo. Your Uncle Saito basically kidnapped your father and flew him out to see me. Your Dad worked up the nerve to tell me he loved me and came charging into the conference...while I was in the middle of presenting.”
He and Sydney only date for four months, but he's okay with it. He learned, looking at his Dad and Ariadne, that love isn't one person and it makes mistakes, but in the end it's totally worth it.
Senior year of high school, Phillipa finally comes out to her parents, choosing to do so at the best possible time: the car ride back from an open house at a Jesuit College she's just nixed off of her list of potential schools.
Ariadne is driving, but her parents exchange a look and tell her they appreciate her honesty, and they're glad she feels comfortable enough to tell them, and then they ask if she wants help coming out to their friends and family. Ariadne hands her a stack of books from her college days, all on women's lit, and her Uncles Eames and Arthur come over and by the end of their talk she finally feels happy with herself.
And everything is cool for a while. She gets a little crap at school but she stands up to those kids and besides, there are more important things to worry about, like homework and her future and that one girl in chem class she really likes.
Then one day, it happens, and it sucks.
Ariadne drives her to Mrs. Gells to babysit Alana and Stewart, quite possibly the two cutest kids ever, with the exception of her baby brother DJ. Mrs. Gells stands on the front porch and says that she's found a new babysitter, that she won't need Phil 'coming around her house anymore', and there's something really hard about her eyes that makes Phillipa's tear-up.
Ariadne, nose trained to the scent of a spouse or a child in danger, is already crossing the street to the Gells' frontyard. “What's wrong?” she asks.
“Nothing,” mumbles Phillipa, and she tries to go back to the car, but her stepmother stops her. Ariadne's looking to Mrs. Gells for an explanation.
“If it was just Stewart home alone...” trails off Mrs. Gells. Phillipa feels like it's a kick in the gut, and she tries to turn around again but Ariadne squeezes her hand.
“No,” she says firmly, in a tone she rarely uses. “I want you to hear this.” Her attention is directed back towards Mrs. Gells, who is still watching nervously from her front porch. “The fact that you can't even finish that sentence shows that you are just as cowardly as you are close-minded, Karen. How dare you make Phillipa feel ashamed of who she is. She's brave, and caring and more intelligent than you could ever hope to be, and her sexuality doesn't change any of that. Two weeks ago, you were praising her at the block-party, but suddenly she can't be trusted with your children because of a societal label? Shame on you, Karen Gells, thinking that this is an acceptable example of behavior for your children to see.” At this, she takes Phillipa's hand and tugs her towards the car.
“Don't even worry about any of my children coming over to your house; the next time you hear from us, it will be through our attorney about sexual discrimination in the workplace charges.”
Phillipa is glad for the petite woman's arm around her shoulders, because she's in such a state of numb shock that she can barely make out the blades of grass beneath her flipflips. Ariadne is already on the phone with Uncle Saito about a lawyer when Mrs. Gells scrambles and sputters her way over, asking how she can fix this.
Ariadne raises an eyebrow and watches the woman coldly. “I think it's rather obvious.” She's using the tone of voice she reserves only for Agency recruiters and 'judgey people', and it's clear that Mrs. Gells is now a member of the second group.
“Sorry,” the woman says, hastily, and to Ariadne.
“No, to Phillipa, and mean it.”
An hour later, they're sitting in the flatbed of the truck at the beach, eating ice cream.
“You didn 't have to do that,” Phillipa says inbetween spoonfuls, and her stepmom shakes her head.
“Yes, I did. No one messes with Cobb kids.”
“But James and I aren't-”
Ariadne's spoon hits the bottom of her cup, and she turns to face her stepdaughter. “I love your father. Your father loves you. Transitive theory, Phil. Aside from that, even if I wasn't married to your father I would love you both; I don't have to have given birth to you to care about you, be proud of you.”
“Of course. James and his art. You and your intelligence, and compassion. You make me proud every single day. Don't ever, for a second, think that I don't love your or am not proud of the incredible young woman you are starting to become.”
Phillipa relates all of this to her brother in the shed, while they watch his newest painting dry.
“Really? She said all that?” Phillipa has already stopped him from riding over to the Gells himself, because Uncles Arthur and Eames already threatened to steal their car or pull a B&E.
“Yup,” she says, and looks around the shed. It's was Ariadne's idea to turn it into her brother's art studio. Sometimes she comes out just to watch him paint, and marvels at it. “I guess we should have realized all that before.”
This new knowledge leaves a warm feeling in her chest, a comfort, a safety net. It's one of those things she relies on from then on.
Ariadne is not their biological mother, and they know this. She doesn't try to replace her, or be her, but she loves them. And they love that she loves them, and love that she, ever the architect, has built them a family that shines with it.