Summary: "Are you ready?" he asked again. Ariadne smiled. "One. Two." His lips brushed against her cheekbone. "Three." She opened her eyes. Sequel to 'The Back of Your Hand'. Oneshot. Arthur/Ariadne.
A/N: So, I'd really had no intention of continuing this story the way it was, 'The Back of Your Hand' was supposed to be a legitimate oneshot. But then the response to it was SO HUGE and overwhelming (in just the first day it was posted!), that I just had to give you all another piece. I'm not going to be adding chapters to either this or 'The Back of Your Hand', but I am considering making this into a trilogy and writing one more segment (this one would be about the job). No promises, but if you are interested in that, let me know. I adore this couple. I just…ugh, I love them. And Eames is so much fun to write, even if he hasn't shown up that often thus far. :]
Arthur shifted on his feet, twirling the small red die in his pocket nervously between his fingers. They'd been out before, but never like this. Not since they'd brought what was between them out into the open. The fact that tonight was their first official date made him way more nervous than he had ever wanted to be. He cursed his own anxiety, trying to will himself to finally knock on the damn door. He could go to battle with a thousand projections of someone else's subconscious, but he couldn't knock on a damn door.
He was pathetic.
A loud noise and a yell from inside finally pulled him out of his pit of cowardice. He knocked on the damn door.
"Ariadne?" he yelled, uncertainly. "Are you okay?"
"Fine!" came the answer through the door, but her voice sounded strained. "I'll be there in a minute!"
"Okay," Arthur answered, even more uncertainly.
Another banging noise or two later, Ariadne finally opened the door. She looked a little flustered, and her hair was still slightly askew, but all Arthur could register was that she looked stunning. She was wearing a dark blue dress that hugged her curves in just the right way and left him feeling stunned and a little stupid. He was aware that he was just staring at her now, with a stupidly stunned expression on his face, but he was having trouble thinking of anything else he could possibly do.
"Sorry," she said, acting as though she didn't realize he was practically salivating at this point, "I got a little caught up in sketching. I'm almost ready, I swear. Come on in."
Arthur blinked hard a few times before following Ariadne into her small apartment.
She certainly could have afforded more, but Arthur was starting to get the feeling that Ariadne felt most comfortable living in a space that was too small for her ideas. He wondered if confining herself physically helped her to focus on expanding the horizons of her mind. Just like her workspace, the apartment was far more cluttered than his had ever been. There were books everywhere, and not enough bookshelves to hold them. The excess were in stacks on the floor. Even more abundant than the books were the piles of paper covered in sketches of buildings and of dream worlds. Arthur picked up one of the sketches, admiring the precision of her lines even amongst the chaos of the page.
Ariadne had retreated back into the bathroom to fix her hair. He could see her through the open door, tucking strands of her lovely brown tresses into a lopsided knot near the base of her head. A few curls fell out of her hands and laid themselves elegantly over the curve of her neck, which was just about enough to drive him mad.
Turning back to the room around him, he called over his shoulder, "What was the noise?"
"Oh, I — Well, I ran into the table," Ariadne admitted sheepishly. "And then that stack of books." She gestured dismissively at a pile of upturned books near the small table in the kitchen area.
"Are you okay?" Arthur asked her with some concern. She was small enough that the edge of the table could hit her right in the gut.
"Yeah, I'll be fine," Ariadne answered, waving a hand. "Okay," she added, coming out of the bathroom. "I'm ready."
There was no question of her beauty. Arthur had to power up all his mental ability to keep himself from openly gawking at her again.
"Are you ready?" he asked out of habit before realizing that she'd just answered that question and silently cursing himself.
She just smiled, though, as though they were sharing a joke. "Yes," she answered.
He opened her door for her and stepped back so she could go first. Once they were out in the hall, he placed his hand delicately on the small of her back and led her down the stairs and out of the building.
His palm was warm against the small of her back, and she had to suppress the shivers from running up and down her spine at his touch. He left his hand there the entire walk to the restaurant, occasionally reaching up with his other hand and just barely brushing her elbow with the tips of his fingers, guiding her down the street. She was trying very hard not to show him that she was going mad at his touch. Something fluttered in the pit of her stomach every time any of his fingers moved on her back.
He'd somehow managed to find a Chinese restaurant within walking distance of her apartment in Rome. She couldn't help but laugh when she saw it. It was too perfect, too much of an inside joke between them.
"You found Chinese!" she said delightedly.
Arthur smiled, pleased that he'd made her happy. "I did. I searched."
He ordered wine for them both as she perused the menu.
"You like small restaurants," Ariadne observed.
Arthur nodded as he swallowed his sip of wine. "I find they have more character."
"Do these owners know you?"
"Not yet." Arthur smirked.
Once they had their food, Ariadne looked up and studied Arthur for a minute.
"What?" he asked, noticing her eyes on him.
"Will you let me on this job?" she asked bluntly.
Arthur glanced shrewdly at her. "Can we talk about this later? We're on a date."
"You're supposed to talk on a date," Ariadne pointed out.
Arthur smirked again. He found himself pretty much incapable of being annoyed by Ariadne. "I've been thinking about it," he promised.
"And, I haven't quite decided."
Ariadne pursed her lips and returned to her food.
They spoke about pleasantries for the rest of the evening. When they'd finished their food, Ariadne prepared herself to head home. She found herself disappointed that the evening was coming to a close. She wanted to spend more time with Arthur.
"Are you ready for phase two?" Arthur asked, surprising her.
"There's more than one layer to this date, Ariadne."
He held her hand this time. His thumb stroked hers as they walked. She kept herself close to him, feeding off the warmth of his body. He glanced at her once or twice to see if she knew where they were going, but she was clueless. It wasn't until they were on the same block as their destination that she got it.
"Are we going to the warehouse?" Ariadne asked incredulously.
Arthur just smiled.
"Just wait, Ariadne," he told her.
"Patience has never really been my strong suit."
Ariadne put up the hand that wasn't tangled in Arthur's in surrender. They arrived in front of the warehouse, and Arthur turned to face her. He looked adorably excited to show her what was inside.
"Close your eyes," he commanded.
She heard the warehouse door slide open loudly before both of Arthur's hands wrapped around hers. He tugged gently and she followed him forward a few steps before he stopped. He moved around to her side, and she could feel his warm breath on the side of her face.
"Are you ready?" he asked again, his voice right next to her ear.
"One. Two." His lips brushed against her cheekbone. "Three."
She opened her eyes.
The warehouse had been transformed. Their workspaces had been pushed back to make room for hundreds of candles and eclectic lamps and strings of fairy lights which lit the space instead of the overhead lights. The flickering of the candlelight made the room seem almost like a fairyland. It was like a dream.
Arthur was watching her face as she looked around the room.
"Arthur, it's beautiful," she breathed. "How did you do it?"
Arthur shrugged, barely keeping his cool and containing his glee.
"Did you pay Eames to come in here and set this up while we were at dinner?" she asked him.
"I might have arranged for him to light the candles," Arthur admitted. "Do you like it?"
"I might," Ariadne answered, grinning at him.
"There's one more thing," Arthur told her, and crossed the room out of the circle of light and to the far wall. Music started piping out of unseen speakers as he returned to her. "May I have this dance?" he asked politely.
As his hand connected with her hip and hers found his shoulder, Arthur looked down and smiled a wide, rare grin at her. Their solitary hands met and they began to sway steadily to the music. Ariadne had never been a great dancer, but Arthur was a strong leader, and soon their movements were so tied to the ebb and flow of the music, she was barely thinking about her feet anymore.
"So what's phase three?" she asked, jokingly. "Dream-walking on the moon?"
Arthur laughed. "Dates inside dreams are surprisingly more complicated than dates in real life," he answered.
"I can't believe you planned all of this," she said, looking around at the lights that encircled them. "All these details."
"Details are my job, Ariadne."
"I'm glad you did."
He grinned again.
Ariadne sighed contentedly and Arthur ducked his head down so his lips were next to her ear.
"You know I want you in that dream with us," he murmured.
"I know," she answered softly. "You're concerned. I understand."
"There are just so many things that could go wrong. I don't want to overwhelm you, and I can't afford to be distracted."
"Do you find me distracting?"
Ariadne smiled to herself.
"But," Arthur continued, "I want you on this job."
Ariadne pulled back to look at his face. "Meaning?"
"Will you come into the dream with Eames and I?"
"You mean it?"
"Yes! I'd love to!"
Arthur gave her a slight smile. "Good."
He ducked down to lightly brush his lips against hers, but she caught his lips as he was pulling away and kept him there. Their hands broke contact and she reached up into his hair and around his shoulders, pulling herself up on her tiptoes. He supported her weight, wrapping both of his arms tightly around her body, pressing her to himself as their mouths moved together as one. The swell of the music gave way to the ebb and flow of their kiss. They held each other like life preservers in the ocean, clinging on as though afraid to let go. When Ariadne finally needed to break for air, Arthur kept going, tracing kisses down her jawline and throat. Her fingers latched onto the back of his neck and tangled in his hair as she gasped for breath.
"These are the sort of distractions we'll need to avoid when we're on the job, right?" Ariadne asked.
Arthur let out an adorable giggle in response as he nuzzled the curve where her neck and shoulder met.
"Oh, no," Ariadne said in realization.
"What?" Arthur asked, his voice slightly muffled by the proximity of his mouth to her skin.
"Eames is going to have a field day tomorrow. We're making out in the warehouse. We're never going to live this down."
Arthur lifted his head and rested his forehead against Ariadne's, kissing her nose lightly and smiling.
"Does it look like I give a damn about Eames right now?"