a/n: sitting down to write the final chapter for this story feels incredibly surreal, to be honest. after my last update, i became busy with my junior year of high school, and now i'm about to graduate from high school altogether. my life has changed quite a bit! i'm afraid i'll get emotional if i think too much about it, oops. but, as i promised a thousand years ago, this is the seventh and final chapter. as time has passed, i'm certain my writing style has changed (i'm rather rusty these days, unfortunately), so please forgive me. i simply cannot thank you all enough for your endless encouragement and kind words—i'm certainly not deserving of them, but i cherish them nonetheless. thank you for sticking with me and this story.
also, a few production notes, if you can call them that. the title of this story was taken from the title of a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode. it was incredibly touching and, strangely enough, a welcome departure from the show's usual formula (not that i don't love it regardless, of course). i also listened to the episode's theme quite a bit for some inspiration simply because it's so gorgeous. anyway, there ends my input. enjoy!
The months slowly began to slip away from them—mere sand between their fingers, water spilling from a cup.
Twenty-two months, and the sun is setting.
She physically cannot function on her own in any respect, and he just can't watch.
He knows she wouldn't want to die in hospice, so he hires a nurse to perform the most mundane activities. She's come to accept it by now. This way, at least, they won't have to give up their shared dreaming.
He sleeps in a chair in her room most of the time. The children, sharp as they are, have deduced what type of situation is occuring before them and lets the adults keep to themselves.
Fate gave him a cruel hand.
Not having much else to do, she sleeps most of time. If she thinks about it, it's morbidly humorous—it's almost as if she's preparing for the next life.
He doesn't intrude much these days. She understands why he avoids her dreams more than he does.
Night has descended upon the house, and she's certain that he and the kids are sleeping. She's never asleep during these strange hours. Her mind is always teeming, flooded with thoughts, ideas, images, pictures, hopes, desires, hatreds, loves—everything she can't have.
She stares intently at the ceiling, as if God will display images of the future to her, as if it'll combust and burn away to nothing if she glares long enough.
It's hard not to wish that upon everything these days.
In his heart, he knows that this is the last time they will ever dream together.
They sit on their knees on a vast shore, taking in the fading light and the soft sounds of the waves rolling along the coast. They have not said anything to each other—they don't need to anymore.
She takes quick, delicate breaths—perhaps the last she'll ever take in this life.
"Let me say it."
The plea freezes in the cold ocean air and resounds in his mind.
He can't let her say it. (And yet, he wants to, needs to.)
He can't accept it. (And yet, if he does not, they will both fall apart.)
He can't let her die. (And yet, it's already been written into the grand blueprint of life and of lives, the stars and the fragile balance of the universe.)
She manages a bittersweet smile as she weakly takes his hand, giving it the softest of squeezes. He's suddenly aware of the fact that he's trembling violently. The ocean breeze is calming, foreboding, and the waves begin to crash down harder, serving as warnings for what is to come.
A strange silence ensues, but she doesn't appear to be uncomfortable with it. They bask in the sunset's soft glow.
They look off into the distance, and he notices that the waves—much larger and rougher by now—keep rolling in, never ceasing.
"Come with me," she says breathlessly, somehow summoning the strength to stand up without support.
He follows silently—apprehensively—while studying her. He can't decipher her expression, but her stride is capable and confident. She walks toward the ocean, toward the waves, ready to face it all.
"You know…" she says. "I hope you don't feel resentful or hopeless or something."
Her voice is neutral, a façade, a mask to hide behind while she falls apart. He hears her wish—sees it. Her lips tremble and her knees shake, a disjointed spirit in a failing body. She never wanted anything but to create; this he knows. He can't imagine how devastating it would be to her if all she left behind was destruction. His destruction.
They walk until their feet are immersed in the frigid water. The waves grow stronger every minute and still crash down angrily upon the shore, but they are safe for now.
(For now. It's always "for now.")
"Well? Are you going to say anything, Dom?"
What good are words in the face of looming death? Yet, he indulges her.
"I'll be fine. I promise."
She quirks an eyebrow doubtfully and looks at him. He looks back, if only because he must etch her face into his memory. He must not forget, he cannot forget—
"I really hope so. You don't have the best track record for being fine."
"I swear." His voice strong with conviction. He pauses, trying to collect his words before she responds.
He looks off into the distance, into the great sunset bathing them in orange light. His heart pounds in his chest—all the words he stowed away must be said.
"You made me feel real again," he confesses shakily. "I can't lie. I…never thought I would be the same after everything that happened. I'm still not the same, actually. But I felt like I was in purgatory. Just drifting through life, with no real purpose, no real raison d'etre. Working with Arthur and you and Eames on a regular basis wasn't bad, don't get me wrong. That inexplicable something just wasn't there, though."
Her eyes are full of tears that threaten to spill over. She grips his hand with both of hers. "Dom, I—"
He shakes his head.
"I started building again so that I could fill the void, but I never thought it would. I never thought I would ever feel like a whole person again. But then…we started building together. I was afraid, Ariadne. That feeling became so overwhelming. I knew what would happen, but—"
"But we didn't really have any other choice, did we?" she murmurs, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear.
He is silent. They speak of this as though it was a mistake.
(Was it? He can never tell.)
"Thank you," he whispers breathlessly, his brow creasing in concern as he watches the ferocious waves crash down around them.
She's quiet for a time before saying, "No, thank you. For not leaving."
"Who would I be if I left? I'd like to think I have some goodness left in me, Ariadne."
She laughs, leaning her head against his arm. They are quiet, with only the sound of the wind and the waves sweeping through the air.
He will always remember this. The soft sand, the cold water, the warm light—her beautiful eyes. Her smile.
His heart stops, however, as he sees a wave, larger than any of its predecessors, building up in the distance, growing taller and taller with each second. He isn't ready, not prepared in the least. He holds his breath and hazards a glance down at Ariadne's calm face.
His eyes feel so dry. Must he say goodbye so soon?
"Can I say it?" Her voice is nearly inaudible—it is a shaky whisper, a plea.
The wave is so tall, so much taller than them—it will consume them.
He doesn't know what to tell her. Shall he make a sacrifice and let her soul rest easy, or should he spare himself the unimaginable pain that will come with the words? He has a feeling that the battle in his heart simply will not end.
He says nothing and lets her decide.
"I love you."
The words are simple; she says them plainly, factually, and that convinces him more than anything else that they are true.
It's a cliché, it's a bad romantic tragedy, it's the stuff of terrible Harlequin novels. He only wishes it was kept to such domains.
The wave draws ever nearer, and it will overtake them in a matter of seconds. They turn to each other, their expressions a mix of paradoxical panic and calm. Her eyes watch him expectantly.
His body shakes. He is ready.
The rush of wind from the wave whips her hair around violently.
She holds his hands so lovingly, and he refuses to believe that this will ever end.
—and finally accepts the hand he has been dealt.
"I love you too."
Against himself, against everything, he smiles. She returns the gesture.
"Thank you for building with me. We…really created something beautiful, didn't we? Anyway. We'll meet again someday. You can't get rid of me for long."
He stares at his feet.
"It's okay, Dom. It'll be okay…"
The wave crashes down cruelly upon them—
("…And we drown.")
He opens his eyes slowly, squinting in the morning light.
He sits up in the chair, casually rubbing his neck before remembering everything that just transpired. Jumping to his feet, he saunters over to her, taking in her still body. Her features are calm, the calmest he has seen in years.
And she is gone.
The suffocating silence of the room is too much for him to bear, but he is paralyzed by the sight of her lifeless self.
He does not cry. He does not breathe, does not dare to move.
Something strange overtakes him as he grips her still-warm hand. His soul is peaceful, as peaceful as her face.
He is alone once again, but he does not feel alone. Not in the least.
He stares, stares endlessly, and says, "Thank you…for showing me who I am."
He falls to his knees.
The funeral is a small, private affair. A handful of acquaintances come, but judging by the atmosphere, it is apparent that the team was her true family.
His mind is somewhere else. The sky is clear and beautiful, and the sun beats down pleasantly upon them all. He knows his team all too well—they're all keeping their grief to themselves.
He doesn't know what will become of them.
After the event has died down, he walks through the graveyard stares at the blossoming trees and the lush grass surrounding him.
A gust of wind passes by, and he sighs.
He is fine.