Title: Five Times the Inception Team Tried to Extract Information from the Atlantis Crew
Fandoms: Stargate: Atlantis/Inception crossover
Characters: Ensemble (gen) and an OC, with some Ariadne/Woolsey and brief Woolsey/Arthur
Word Count: 3,475
Contains: Canon-typical violence. Manipulation. A little world-building of my own, and possibly some world-mangling too. Takes place after the SGA finale. I don't think there are any spoilers for either source.
A/N: Semi-flashfic. Thanks to catilinarian for comments; remaining mistakes are mine. #5 especially is dedicated to sabinelagrande, who needed something happy-making before she left for Dragon*Con. This is late, but maybe it will still help.
If you haven't seen Inception, all you really need to know is the premise of the movie: that there are people who can plug into and shape your dreams in an attempt to trick you into revealing private information.
Five Times the Inception Team Tried to Extract Information from the Atlantis Crew
1. John (Cobb, Arthur, Eames)
John is enjoying a nightcap in the ski lodge with Evel Knievel and Chaya when a fight breaks out behind him. He swings around, wearing his field uniform and sighting down his P-90, and tries to figure out which guys are the bad ones. Is it Genii? Taliban? There's a bunch of Secret Service-looking guys in suits, converging on a trio of armed civilians.
"I know he's militarized through and through, but I thought we'd have more time than that," gripes one of the civilians—British—as he dodges a punch and throws one of his own.
John isn't sure where to aim, if he should even fire or just go hand-to-hand. And then the gun jams, and his heart's pounding, and he can't remember what he's doing here—
A man in a polo shirt and slacks intercepts him, looking like he just stepped off a golf course. John wonders for a second if he's the proprietor, then moves to push past him.
But the man puts a hand on his shoulder. John turns to look. At a second glance, he seems familiar. Gray hair, bushy sideburns, kind brown eyes, businesslike demeanor.
Then it clicks. "Mr. Z?"
Z inclines his head. "It's been a long time, Johnny. Do you know why I'm here?"
The adrenaline starts to wane. Slowly, John lowers his weapon. "I'm dreaming." The realization, the declaration, is like opening a window in a smoky room; he feels his head clearing, even though it had seemed clear before. He remembers, now, the series of endless mornings in his father's office when he was six or seven, when he'd wanted to play outside but was stuck in a too-big armchair with an IV in his arm while a proper Southern gentleman he'd known only as Mr. Z taught his subconscious how to protect itself if anyone came prying for company secrets. A precursor to the sessions he underwent with the Air Force fifteen years later as part of special ops training.
"Someone's trying to… Someone's in my head." Which is just deeply unsettling.
"That's right," Z says calmly.
"I'll kill them." John turns to the fray again.
But Z grasps his arm. "If you go after them yourself, you risk forgetting you're in a dream and falling prey to whatever they're after. Let our team take care of them. You trust your team, don't you?" As John watches, the Secret Service guys transform into Ronon and Teyla and Lorne and Bates and even Rodney.
"Yeah," he says, throat dry. "I trust them."
Z steers them into the neighboring room while the fight goes on. Shots pop behind them, echoing off stone walls and high ceilings, but Z doesn't seem worried, so John follows him to a pair of armchairs by the fireplace.
A vague half-memory tugs at him while they sit. "You were there, weren't you," he murmurs. "In Afghanistan. When they had me. You helped me out."
"But the guy who trained me at Hurlburt, he didn't look like you."
"I suppose your subconscious decided to stick with the persona it already knew."
"Well," says John. "Thanks."
"Not at all." Z taps his temple. "It was all you." Then he cocks his head. The other room has gone quiet. "All right. It's safe to wake up now."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that," Z agrees. "Go on. And be careful, son."
John opens his eyes.
2. Teyla (Ariadne)
Teyla's dreaming brain decides to throw a party in the apartment Ariadne designed for her.
"Perfect," Ariadne whispers, and takes a seat on the couch. Glancing around to confirm that none of the party-goers or Teyla herself is suspicious of her presence, she reaches for the photo album on the coffee table. She'd planted it there when she put the final touches on her blueprints, and with any luck, Teyla's subconscious will have filled it with memories.
On the cover is a photograph of what looks like a city on an ocean. It reminds her of the Emerald City in Oz, all sleek blue towers glinting in the sun. The architect in her is fascinated, but Ariadne has a mission to accomplish. She flips the book open in search of something useful.
A blurry image of an old woman, wizened, smiling, kind. Grandmother, probably. Images of families in tents and around fire pits in a grassy clearing in some kind of semi-permanent campground or nomadic settlement. Ariadne doesn't recognize the culture, but then she's always been more into architecture than anthropology.
She flips further. A group photo of Sheppard, Dex and McKay, all kitted out in vests and gear, taken somewhere forested. Pacific Northwest, looks like, but what they were doing in uniform there, Ariadne isn't sure. Wilderness training, maybe.
Next, there's an image of a dark-haired man holding a baby. More of the baby. Cute baby. Ariadne makes a mental note to follow up on the possibility that Teyla has a kid. There's a shot of a dance studio or workout room with tall stained-glass windows. Sheppard again, in the same room, this time wearing a blue button-down. Ariadne takes a moment to appreciate the sight, because she may be on a mission but she's not dead, and then moves on. A shot of McKay at some kind of tea party. Dex and a couple of unfamiliar women in a cafeteria.
"Come on," she whispers. "Where's the stuff about your assignment? Who do you work for? What goes on at Cheyenne Mountain?"
A hush falls where Teyla's standing. Ariadne freezes, risks a glance up. No one's looking at her, thank God; they hadn't heard what she said. But something's clearly off.
Teyla has gone still. "This… is not right."
Ariadne holds her breath.
"The light," Teyla murmurs. "The light is wrong."
Ariadne bristles despite herself. She and her team always pay exquisite attention to time of day and the angles of light and shadow, and she doesn't see anything technically wrong with this scene.
Teyla turns to one of her friends. "Where am I?"
Ariadne curses as Teyla begins to wake. She flips through more pages as quickly as she can as Teyla's apartment warps and books and glassware fall to the floor: past more shots of Sheppard and Dex and one of their boss Woolsey holding a glass of wine in a dim apartment, something like a huge earwig against bloody skin, a giant metal ring set in the ground in a meadow, Earth from orbit, the Emerald City again, another shot of the team but this time with too many moons in the sky, a dark place full of cobwebs big enough to trap a person, what looks like a space ship, a man with yellow eyes and a distorted face, shit, shit, the memories (if they're even memories anymore) are all jumbled up and she can't see clearly—
The room dissolves around her.
3. Rodney (Cobb)
It's a generic science lab as Ariadne promised, populated with what look to Cobb like generic science nerds. McKay must know them, though, because he's yelling at one by name and seems to be enjoying it.
Cobb takes the opportunity to look down at himself. He's wearing a lab coat and, God help him, a pocket protector. He's got a security badge, too. Bingo. He twists it around to see. It says Atlantis.
McKay finishes yelling and turns to his computer. Action time.
Cobb blends in as best he can, trying to look busy while making his way over to McKay's work station so he can get a look at what's on the screen without attracting attention. He picks up a tablet computer along the way, hoping it'll have access to decent intel, but the alphabet's all wrong. He taps nonsense into it as he walks. The tablet and the backs of most of the laptops in the lab have stickers that say Atlantis on them, too.
By the time he gets to McKay's bench, a blonde with proportions more suited to a Barbie than a human being has draped herself over McKay's shoulders and is nuzzling his ear. McKay hums happily.
Cobb angles himself so he can watch sidelong over their shoulders. McKay's laptop screen is filled with lines of code, the stack of papers next to him covered in scribbled equations. It's Greek to Cobb, but he commits what he can to memory to share with his technical consultant later.
"Yes, yes, yes," McKay is murmuring, and then, as the blonde takes her hands off him to stare at Cobb, "No. Wait, what? Where are you going?"
Damn it; Cobb's been standing there too long. He busies himself with the useless tablet and starts to walk away.
"What do you want?" McKay says to his back. Cobb stops. "I don't have time to fix your grade school-level mistakes, that's what Zelenka's for. I'm about to make my Nobel breakthrough, here, and… then Natalia… demonstrates her appreciation of my genius. Oh, whoa, déjà vu."
"I didn't mean to bother you, Dr. McKay," Cobb says, taking the same tone as the berated scientist he saw earlier, but McKay isn't listening. He's picked up some of the papers and is squinting at them.
"Rodney?" calls one of the nearby scientists, some balding guy with flyaway hair. More heads are lifting and zeroing in on Cobb. "Is something wrong?"
"Shut up, I'm checking something." Then his eyes widen in triumph. "Ah ha!"
He shoves the papers at Cobb. The numbers and letters morph and swirl as he tries to read them.
"Crap," Cobb mutters. Dreamsign. McKay's figured out that this isn't reality. He's probably a practiced lucid dreamer.
"Ha," McKay says again, shaking the papers at Cobb now, because—double crap—he's just outed himself. "That'll teach you to think twice before you try to break into the mind of one of the smartest and most paranoid men you'll ever meet."
"Usually the paranoid ones are the easiest," Cobb admits, keeping a close eye on McKay's body language. It's not too late to salvage this situation. "They're so obsessed with keeping secrets, their subconscious leads us straight to what we're looking for."
And… bingo again. McKay's hand twitches toward the mouse. Cobb is careful not to let on that he noticed, even though his fingers itch to grab it and find out what's on that hard drive. McKay probably doesn't even realize he's just given away the game.
Make that definitely; McKay crosses his arms and demands, "So who are you working for? The Trust? Private sector? Or are we talking a government-level operation here?"
Cobb checks his watch, making another note to find out what the hell the Trust is. "Sorry," he says, summoning up a smirk. Best to back out and let McKay think he's won. "I have to go now."
"That's right," McKay says, raising his voice as Cobb starts to disappear. "And stay out! Fool me once, et cetera!"
"Goodbye," Cobb calls, as Arthur and Ariadne finish waking him. He blinks away an afterimage of a whale.
"It's in his computer," he says, sitting up and swinging his legs over the edge of the sofa. "But we'll need to send one of you instead and keep a low profile."
They pack up and get out before McKay rouses.
4. Ronon (Cobb, Ariadne)
They bring Ronon into the dream less than five seconds before huge hulking creatures in leather trench coats come screaming past them, firing laser guns straight out of Star Trek.
Cobb dives for cover, heart pounding. "What the fuck? Ariadne!"
"What?" she shouts back from behind a Dumpster. "I just built the streets, I didn't know he'd populate them with an army of Matrix twins!"
The things only have eyes for Dex, at least, all streaming white hair and horrible pointy teeth. Some of them have lumpy gray masks instead of faces. Dex is running and taking cover and running again and shooting at them over his shoulder with another laser gun.
"You know what, I didn't sign up for this," says Ariadne, getting to her feet. "I'm outta here."
Immediately, one of the creatures swings its head toward them. Before Cobb can shout a warning, it grabs Ariadne by the throat and shoves her against the side of the Dumpster. Cobb's on his feet by the time he hears her gasp. The thing leers down at her, teeth glinting—
And then something knocks him to the ground, and Cobb has an attacker of his own to worry about. He grapples with the creature, but it's as inhumanly strong as it looks and slams him against the cement hard enough to stun him. Somewhere nearby, Ariadne screams. Cobb struggles, but the thing just leans in, too close, sniffs at him, snarls, and presses the heel of one hand to Cobb's breastbone with rib-cracking pressure.
Cobb yells. There's something cutting into his chest, sucking energy out of him like a vacuum. The creature makes a disturbingly sexual sound and presses harder, and Cobb can fucking feel his life leaching out of him. His body goes slack; his vision grows dark.
He wakes up breathless and shaking. Beside him, Ariadne doesn't look much better.
Arthur frowns and stands up when he gets a look at them. "What happened?"
"Nightmare," Cobb says shortly.
"Seriously," adds Ariadne, wiping sweat from her face, "that guy needs to stop watching sci fi flicks."
In the next bed over, Dex snores.
5. Woolsey (Ariadne, Arthur)
"I still can't believe you're making me do this," Ariadne mutters after she and Arthur materialize in the swanky hotel bar she likes to use for high-end seduction scenes. "We could've asked Eames to forge himself into a woman."
"He's not available until after we need to finish this job," Arthur returns placidly. "You'll be fine. You look gorgeous. I'll be at the table in the corner."
"You just like finding excuses to kiss me," she shoots back, blushing, but they both know she doesn't mind.
She makes her way to the empty bar stool beside Woolsey. Despite what she said to Arthur, she does feel sexy and powerful in a classy black cocktail dress and killer heels. Arthur's research told them Woolsey goes for women who are well-dressed, well-educated, self-confident, and a little lonely, and Ariadne thinks she can pull off the whole package.
Woolsey's trading long looks between his tumbler and a beautiful, sad-looking brunette at the other end of the bar who's making eyes back at him. He'd probably end up with her in this dream if Ariadne and Arthur weren't interfering.
"Hello," Ariadne says, taking a seat.
Woolsey turns. He seems surprised she's talking to him. "Hello."
"It's a beautiful evening," she says. "I didn't want to spend it alone. Do you mind?"
"Not at all," Woolsey says.
The bartender comes over, and she orders a glass of Woolsey's favorite red wine.
"That's my favorite red wine," he tells her.
She smiles. "Mine too." She holds out her hand. "I'm Rachel."
He takes it, kisses her knuckles. Her smile widens before she can help it. "Richard," he says.
"Pleasure," she returns, insinuating as much as she can with the word. It feels silly, but she definitely has Woolsey's attention now.
They flirt and make small talk for a while, and when the time seems right, Ariadne lets her leg brush his. He visibly swallows but doesn't protest, so she rubs up against him more deliberately.
"Richard," she murmurs, putting a hand on his forearm where it rests on the bar. "I have a proposition for you."
His pupils have gone big and dark behind his glasses, and his lips are slightly parted. "Yes?"
"It's a little… unusual," she says, ducking her head and trying to blush.
"Well… That's my lover over there," she says, pointing. Arthur holds up a hand and begins to make his way over to them. Woolsey raises his eyebrows. "Sometimes we like to… spice things up a little. See, he wants to watch me make love to another man"—Woolsey's eyes go darker at that—"and I'd like that man to be you."
It takes Woolsey a couple of tries to make his voice work. "I—"
While he's struggling, Ariadne goes on: "I like you, Richard. You seem kind, and sophisticated, and—pardon me if I'm overstepping my bounds—maybe a little lonely, too. I can help you with that." She fingers his tie. "And I do appreciate a man in a good suit."
"It is a nice suit," Arthur concurs behind them. "You always have had impeccable taste, darling."
Ariadne resists the urge to elbow him. Instead, she leans in closer and murmurs near Woolsey's ear, "Would you like to come upstairs so we can get you out of it?"
Dream-inhibitions are always so much lower than real ones. "Yes," Woolsey says at last. "Yes, very much."
It's a quick trip upstairs to the room she created. When they step inside, Woolsey surprises her by taking Arthur by the shoulders and pushing him against the wall of the entryway.
Her heart stutters. Are they caught?
Arthur doesn't make a move one way or the other, just blinks and waits. Then Woolsey kisses him.
"Mmph," says Arthur, while Ariadne watches open-mouthed. So, not caught then. Also, she is never, ever going to let Arthur live this down. Especially not now that he's caught on and is playing along, kissing Woolsey back.
Woolsey pushes Arthur's jacket off, lets it fall to the carpet and smoothes his hands over Arthur's vest and shirtsleeves.
Eventually, Woolsey pulls away. "I hope that's all right," he says breathlessly. "I know you only want to watch. But that is exquisite tailoring."
"It's very comfortable," Arthur manages.
"Few people appreciate that," Woolsey says. Then he turns to Ariadne. "Shall we?"
She swallows a laugh and follows him into the main room. "Prefers women, huh?" she whispers to a still-frozen Arthur as she passes.
Woolsey's standing next to the standard king-size hotel bed Ariadne made along with a couple of armchairs and a reading lamp for Arthur. There's the open suitcase with clothes and personal items that look like they could be hers and Arthur's, and the book is waiting for them on the bedspread.
"Oh," she laughs, while Arthur, having apparently collected himself, walks in. "How embarrassing. That's my diary." She picks it up and slips a finger between two random pages, glances inside. They're still blank, the way she created them. "It's childish, but I like having a safe place to keep all my most sensitive secrets. Like things about my job I can't talk about when I get home. You know what I mean?"
Behind Woolsey, Arthur rolls his eyes. Subtle as a brick, she can almost hear him thinking.
But Woolsey is nodding, and when Ariadne glances down again, the pages have started to fill with his handwriting. Excellent.
"Well," she says. "Let's get this out of our way, shall we?" She hands the book over to Arthur, who takes a cursory glance at the contents and gives her a nod of approval before settling into the armchair.
"How shall we…?" Woolsey asks, glancing between the two of them.
Ariadne steps up to him and puts a hand on his chest. He reaches tentatively to cup the sides of her face, stroke back the loose tendrils of her hair, and she stretches up to meet him for a kiss. He tastes a little like whiskey and a little like Arthur.
She urges him back on the bed, kicks off her shoes and straddles him. "How do you feel about blindfolds, Richard?" she murmurs, slowly unknotting his tie and sliding it free.
"Oh," he says with another glance at Arthur, prim and innocent in the chair. "I, er."
"It's all right," she quickly reassures him. "I'm not going to hurt you. It's just… Have you ever noticed how much your other senses come alive when you close your eyes?" Still holding the tie, she begins unbuttoning his shirt, letting her fingers brush his chest hair in what she hopes is a tantalizing way.
"All right," he breathes. "Yes."
Good; plan A is still a go. She takes his glasses off and glances at the clock when she puts them on the nightstand. They have half an hour left before the kick. Woolsey seems like a sweet enough guy, smiling crookedly up at her and resting his hands on her waist; she thinks this might even be fun.
"Let me steer, Richard," she murmurs as she secures the tie over his eyes. Beside them, Arthur cracks open the diary and starts to read. Woolsey tips his head back and offers himself up to her. She smiles. "You just lie back and think of Atlantis."
Comments and concrit are always welcome.
p.s. Now someone needs to write the alternate version of #5 where Eames-as-a-woman has sex with Woolsey while Arthur reads/listens, yes? Also the remix where you get the SGA perspective between scenes.
x-posted to approximately 1 million places: inceptionfic, sga_noticeboard, stargate_xing, crossoverfic, allcrossovers, and AO3