Disclaimer: I do not own Inception.

a/n: So, uncharacteristically, I have a lot to say about this one. Numero Uno: I think there is some correlation between my brain, one o'clock in the morning, and Inception-related inspiration, because this is the third (count it: third) Inception fic I have started, thought through, and completed from such a start time. Needless to say, I'm feeling productive and sleep-deprived. Numero Dos: I'm... really not sure if the random song lyrics were a good idea formatting-wise, but if anyone likes them and wants to know a) where they're from, b) if they're half as awesome as they sound, and c) kittens, they are i) all from songs I was listening to while writing this, and ii) all (I am fairly certain) get-able on YouTube. Ask, and I'll give you names and artists (and maybe links!). Numero Tres: I think I have some really weird fixation with Lolita-esque imagery and, like... mahogany-colored sentence structure, because this is the closest I've come to my personal writing style in a long time, and I only just noticed it. Numero Cuatro: Sorry for the potential incomprehensibility/aimless fluff of this fic. Need I repeat the "I started this at one in the morning" sentiment? (In case you were wondering, it is now three-thirty where I am. gdi.) Numero Cinco: I am possibly obsessed with Arthur/Ariadne. I apologize for this.

That is all.

OH! I lied. ONE!) I LOVE ALL OF YOU PEOPLE WHO HAVE REVIEWED/FAVED/FAVE AUTHORED/STORY ALERTED MY TWO OTHER INCEPTION FICS/ME AS A WRITER. I LOVE ALL OF YOU SO MUCH THAT I CANNOT EVEN BEGIN TO EXPRESS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU, THOUGH I SUPPOSE SAYING THAT IS A WAY TO BEGIN EXPRESSING THAT. WHATEVS. TWO!) (This is for all of those who Story Alerted stories of mine) I hate to say this, but unless I specify, my stories are oneshots. I just hate saying that in summaries. Sorryyy...

THAT is all. ahem.

I am on reprieve,

Lacking my joie de vivre.

Two weeks after the job, they found themselves eating at small outdoor restaurant, French green curry and cold soups shared between them, a bottle of good pinot grigio in an ice bucket beside their table—only the bottle was left, the wine sitting in their heads and stomachs and glasses, and all because she had called and left a message, and he had called back.

She had been surprised, she supposed, to hear his voice coming from the other end of the phone while she sat in her apartment, eating leftover pasta, drinking her evening glass of wine, only her cat and Rubber Soul for company. He hadn't sounded distracted when he asked her what was up, why she had called, though he had made a sheepish noise under his breath when she said that she had left a message, and why was he asking if she'd left a message? He said that he had called the second he saw her name pop up on his recent calls list—because he always checked that before listening to voicemails, and she smiled.

Her message had said:

"Oh, hi, Arthur. I-I guess you're busy or sleeping. Sleeping is probably a good idea—it's late, I guess. Well, no, it's not, it's only ten, and we're grown-ups. Still. I'm not sure why I'm calling this late. I think I just…I'd been wanting to call for a while, you know. I've gotten so used to having you and everyone around, so it's weird for me not to…see you…it's been two weeks, after all. Anyway, I was reading about stairs—well, it's more interesting than just stairs, but you know what I mean—and I thought of you, so I thought I'd call. I…want to have coffee sometime? I don't know if you like coffee, but if you'd like to meet up and…do something, just…oh, you know what I mean."

She had never been very good at leaving messages.

When he followed up on her offer to coffee—repeated to him via live phone conversation, and with a significantly decreased amount of stuttering and digression—with a much more straightforward offer to dinner, she dropped her fork and said yes before she realized that she was about to walk straight into a week of exams, and she should really be studying in that time.

She didn't call him back to revise. Her exams could suffer for dinner.

And then one day,

One magic day, he passed my way.

He showed up at her apartment door at six forty-three two days later, dressed in one of his nicest three-pieces—lightest of grays, cotton, paired with a slim red tie—hands in pockets, shoes polished. She smiled worriedly, her hair over one shoulder, burnt umber waves brushed and burnished to tumbling perfection, her small body clothed in heathery purple, dress fitted to the waist with artful draping, falling to her knees freely, flowing, Mary-Jane heels an oddly suiting turquoise. Cheeks in high color, mouth a rose—

He smiled.

"You've been waiting," he said, lifting an eyebrow. Her eyes darted away, and she shrugged, hair shifting with the movement.

"I think the point of dates is to wait, honestly. Wait to wake up, wait to eat lunch, wait to get ready, wait to put on shoes, wait to answer the door." She paused, looping her satchel over her shoulder, smiling her faint, full smile. "Wait to leave."

"Wait to drink, wait to eat, wait to talk—I agree." A pause from his end. He offered her his elbow. "Shall we?"

She took the elbow, preferring not to say the compulsory "We shall." Her arm in his was enough agreement for them to descend the stairs. Fourteen flights, because the elevator was always broken.

He was amazed she could function so well in heels.

I can see a lot of life in you,

And I think the dress looks nice on you.

They sat on the patio, their table as close to the Seine as they could get, and they laughed quietly in all the right places, and they managed not to feel terribly uncomfortable. It was only natural to go to dinner, after all, when they had been thinking about that bare, brief brush of lips, unsatisfying and counter-productive, for weeks.

He had showed her his totem, hadn't he? It was under the guise of teaching her, of course, but a totem was a totem; a totem was trust.

Des yeux qui font baiser les miens,

Un rire qui se perd sur sa bouche,

Voila le portrai sans retouche

De l'homme auquel j'appartiens.

Just beyond the restaurant, under warm summer lamplight, the river was to their left, and his arms were around her waist, her hands on his face pulling him down to meet her, calves aching from standing on tiptoes. It was sweet this time, and rich, like red wine and dark chocolate, and they both hoped that whatever they had just nurtured and allowed to grow would last.

The light was slight and disappeared.

She was not meek.

He was not shy.

He was well-versed.

She was illiterate.

Both were sure.

Both were unwavering.

But that was just who they were.

Isn't it good,

Norwegian wood?

When a dress and a tie, two pairs of shoes, stockings and a jacket hit the floor, his apartment was dimly lit and warm, the spartan décor unnoticed and unheeded. They had argued over Kierkegaard at dinner, he inclined against the table, arms folded on the tablecloth, she leaned back, wineglass in hand, both with dark, scrutinizing eyebrows raised, thoughts fueled with rich, heady food and spices and gulab jamun. He could still taste the rosewater on her tongue, and she could smell his soap, his hands tracing her ribs and her waist and her hips.

She told him she was new to this, because she was never afraid to admit to a lack of knowledge, and he stared at her like Theseus emerging from the maze—awed, triumphant, grateful.

When her fingers brushed his collarbone, he smiled the most she had seen him smile, and the kiss was sweet and rich again, and when he taught her, it was like he was teaching her how to dream again—impossible, awe-inspiring. She felt almost philosophical, and laughed at that.

We don't know what side we're on.

Dreaming with our heads cut off,

Half in love and underground,

Most of you will not be found.

When she graduated, they shared a dream, and they built a cathedral out of glass. The parish was decorated with lithographs of seashells, and the pews were covered in wallpaper with tiny, rose-colored flowers. They stained the vestry walls with tea, and glued pressed leaves to the moldings, dangled paper cranes made out of pages from the Old Testament from the chandelier, Moses and Abraham and Jephthah leaping out if they looked long enough. They kissed in the doorway.

Arthur admits, to this day, that the tea was all her idea, but still takes credit for the cranes.

Love, you think you can contain me,

But the future is already known.

We give up our rest, and the best of us, though;

We'd be better off alone.