Author's Note: Here it is. The end. I know I promised this almost a week ago, but I just started a new job and it wore me out. To make up for it, I went and added to the story a bit and fleshed it out for all of you. I hope all of you enjoy the final chapter.
This story originally just kept my mind from spiraling into the void while I wrote Arthur's chapter in Shadows and it did just that. While these stories aren't my typical thing, it was still fun to write something out of my comfort zone.
Also, I'd like to thank all of you for the overwhelming response I got for this story. All the readers, reviewers, and people who put me on alert. You're all wonderful. Thank you!
Now, please read, enjoy and PLEASE leave a review, telling me what you thought!
Two years ago.
It had been two years since Ariadne had seen Dom Cobb.
She had no idea if the others had been in contact with him, but besides the occasional inquiry via Miles, she had no idea what the restart of this life had come to.
So when she received a phone call from him one spring evening, informing her that he and his children were spending some time in their grandparents' home in France and he wanted her and a few others to stop by for a visit, needless to say she was surprised. Pleasantly.
A cozy home just outside Paris.
Ariadne found herself admiring the elegant design and the sprawling green lawn that was littered with toys. She went to the door to knock and found if being thrown open by a blonde girl a little shorter than herself.
"Oh! Um, hello. You must be Phillipa?" Ariadne rushed out, suddenly all nerves. Phillipa stared at her a moment, then smiled.
A little boy came running up behind her and stared up at Ariadne, grabbing his sister's shirt and tugging on it. "Let's go!"
"Hold on, James! Daddy!" Phillipa tossed her head back and shouted into the house.
Cobb walked through the foyer, curiosity evident in his voice. "Who's at the door? I thought you two were going out to play? Ariadne!"
Caught in an abrupt hug, she stiffened a moment before relaxing in Cobb's arms. Used to his professional demeanor, this open and affectionate version of a man she trusted with her life was something wholly unexpected. But she was glad for him, because this meant he'd truly moved on and was living for himself and his children.
"Hey, Cobb. Thank you for inviting me here. This place is...something else."
He motioned for her to come in and shooed his kids outside, who ran straight for the back of the house. "Oh, its nice to see you again. I sort of missed all of you. But, I wouldn't trade any part of what I have now, either."
He lead her through a screen door to a patio just off the kitchen, where Miles sat, drinking tea and animatedly discussing something with Eames, who's back was to the door. When Miles saw her appear from behind Cobb, he gave her a genuine smile.
"Ah, my best student has arrived. It's good to see you, Ariadne!" He lifted himself from the wicker couch and took both her hands in his and squeezed them warmly.
Eames turned in his seat and grinned at her. "I should have known if he was bothering to invite me that he'd tell you to tag along. Hello, darling." He took her and and tugged her down to him, surprising her. She nearly toppled over the back of the chair, but caught herself in time. As she went to straighten herself, she heard him whisper quietly in her ear, "Just thought I'd warn you, dear. He is coming as well."
He chuckled as she furiously blushed and took her arm from the Brit. Several months before, they'd both worked together with a point man named Daniel for a quick job. While she'd been under and sharing a dream with him, helping build his dream, projections of a certain suit-wearing, dark-haired point man had kept popping up. Something Eames had noticed immediately.
And teased her relentlessly over.
Ariadne found her seat next to Cobb and caught up with the others and listened rapturously over the affectionate tales Dom told about his children. Miles talked about how none of his newest students were living up to his expectations, yet. "I have hope for them, though," he added with a chuckle as James came to him, handed him a bouquet of weeds, then ran off once more.
Eames told Ariadne about the two extractors that had been to the house before she'd shown up. Lucy and Nolan were two of the oldest in the network and had trained quite a few in the business, apparently.
"Hate to interrupt, but I've got to use the bathroom, guys..."
Cobb stood and took her to the door. "Down the hall on your right, the second door. The place isn't big, so you shouldn't get lost."
"My home is a bit on the small side," Miles laughed.
When she finished, she took her time getting back to the others. Taking a moment to look at the photos that lined the hallway walls, she sound a story splayed out for her. Miles family, people she didn't know, were smiling at her. Happy times, gatherings, children forced to sit still for portraits. Memories that she saw were well-preserved and cherished. She lifted one of a woman with two babies and stared at her beaming face.
Not a speck of dust rested on the frames.
And Ariadne was overcome with a sudden longing for memories. For moments that could never be forgotten.
"Ever curious, aren't you?"
She jumped and let out a squeak, startled. She spun around and saw Arthur, who was wearing his signature grin and leaning against the wall. "Arthur!"
He chuckled. "Sorry." Coming to stand by her, he bent down and began picking up broken glass. Taking a step back, she realized that she'd dropped the frame she'd been holding.
"Oh no," she muttered, also bending down and checking the photos. They were all thankfully intact and unmarred.
"Are you okay? You were lost in thought. I'd called your name out, but you hadn't answered." Arthur stood, hands full of glass shards, and lead Ariadne to the kitchen. She watched as he wrapped the glass up before sticking it in the trash before answering.
"I'm fine. I was just distracted, I guess." She propped the frame against a row of canisters and looked at the faces once more before turning to Arthur. "Did you just get here?"
He grinned down at her before pouring himself a glass of wine that he pulled from the fridge. "I've been here for nearly half an hour. The others asked me to see if you'd gotten lost. Or possibly distracted." He chuckled before bringing the glass to his lips.
They stood in the kitchen, talking casually and keeping things light. Ariadne watched him the whole time. She finally took in the casual state of his dress. He was still clothed in nice, expensive-looking clothes, but it was all laid back and something Ariadne had never seen on him before.
His face was more open. Expressive.
It radiated warmth.
Something in the back of her mind poked at her memories, willing her to remember something. His face had triggered a feeling in the back of her mind that made her stomach simultaneously clench and fill with thousands of butterflies. She went to speak, but she was interrupted by a squeal of laughter and two blonde heads running into the kitchen.
James chased Phillipa around the room several times in a loop before she bolted out, towards the hallway with him quick on her heals. He'd been carrying a handful of worms.
Arthur looked shocked, a small grin forming at the display of sibling play.
Watching his lips quirk upward, Ariadne was overcome with a sense of urgency. The feeling she'd gotten the last time she'd seen him outside of work, all her thoughts and worries and everything in between rushed over her in a sense of determination.
He turned from watching the doorway to face the petite woman. "Yes?"
When had Ariadne gotten so close to him? Had they always been standing so close?
He could smell her perfume; light, unobtrusive to the senses. Her eyes were like polished wood. Strong. Full of determination and utter fear.
Like he'd been so many months ago. The memory sparked in his mind the same moment her lips touched his.
Minutely, he opened his mouth more, moved his hand up to hold her head close.
They sprung apart, putting half the room between them as they looked around for the interruption.
James was pointing an empty, dirty shovel at both of them, looking as if he'd just discovered a pool of cooties. Phillipa came around the corner quickly. "What's 'eww', James?"
She looked at both Ariadne and Arthur for a moment before her face lit up in a moment of clarity. A grin quickly covered her face. "Come on, let's go bug daddy!" She grabbed his free hand and dragged him away, promising him a cookie if he hurried.
Ariadne watched them go, a hand covering the blush on one of her cheeks. Arthur pushed off the counted and walked over to her, taking her hand from her face and folding his fingers around hers.
"You beat me to it tonight," he murmured, putting on a small grin.
She was quiet a moment before looking up at him, her grin much larger. "I had to. If we kept playing this little game, it'd be another two years before we kissed again."
Arthur laughed, loud and throaty, which made Ariadne shiver.
"Are you going to make me wait again, Arthur?" she asked, playfulness spiking her voice like a tempting drug.
She barely finished his name before his lips collided with hers, eagerly taking them for himself. Her hands went straight for his slicked back hair, his hands for her waist. They heard a giggle from the hallway and when Arthur tried to pull back, Ariadne held him firm to her, only slowing down the kiss to somewhat chaste pecks.
They separated slightly, him keeping his hands on her sides, she kept hers on his upper arms. Catching their breath, they kept their eyes locked on one another for what seemed like ages.
"Well, its about time," drawled Eames, who had a hand on Phillipa's shoulder. The little girl had a hand on her mouth, stiffing her giggles. She and her brother had obviously said something to the others outside when they'd run off. The Brit had a grin not unlike a satisfied house cat.
Cheeks on fire, Ariadne hid her face in Arthur's chest, which shook with a chuckle.
"Eames, go take Phillipa to her father, please."
He mock saluted and turned himself and the little girl towards the back door, stage-whispering a thanks for telling him what she'd seen.
Arthur took Ariadne's hands and lifted them to his lips, placing light kisses on the knuckles. As he finished, she lifted her head, her lips searching for his.
"I promise not to wait so long in between kisses," he whispered, making her grin.
A/N: Well? I hope it lived up to all your expectations. I know it's a bit abrupt in terms of endings, but I wanted to keep this at three chapters. And I know I could have wrote another chapter or two. But I need to keep my limits in check. Please don't hesitate to leave a review! They make me crazy happy and inspire me to keep posting things here. I hope you all enjoyed the story!