A/N: First foray into this fandom.


1.

There's a beach. One that stretches on endlessly, so blue and so very vast. The sun is setting, but it never quite sinks below that infinite stretch of water, suspended forever in the sky in all its pink and hazy glory.

He sits, legs splayed out on the sand, hands and arms supporting the weight of his upper body as he leans back slightly, eyes taking in the ocean. She lays, head on his lap, knees propped up, face lifted towards the sky and eyes hidden behind their lids.

"Where are we?" she hums, burying her toes deeper into the sand.

"On a beach."

She cracks an eye open. She notes the way his short hair ruffles in the breeze, unconstricted by gel, and the tiny quirk of his lips. He looks younger. It's endearing. She tries for a glare. "No, really?" It's meant to be biting, but it comes out softer.

He gives a non-commital shrug.

"But seriously, where is this? It's beautiful."

"This is a dream. We're nowhere."

"We've got to be somewhere, Arthur. Even in a dream."

"But it isn't a place you'd ever be able to go to. Not in reality. Never create from memories, places we know. Remember?"

Silence hangs between them for a moment. Pensive and comfortable.

"Yeah, but you must have created with something particular in mind. Details from a place you know. It's too vivid, too - too real for there to be no element of reality."

He chuckles in amusement. "You don't give up easily, do you?" At her defiant stare, he relents. "There may be bits and pieces. Places I've been, photos on postcards. But this place doesn't exist outside of this dream, not as a single entity anyway."

"So this ocean, it's real?"

"It could be."

"Then, which is it? I want to say it's the Pacific but -"

"Does it matter?" he interrupts, squinting down at her, laughter in his eyes.

His breaths fall in warm puffs on her forehead, his hair falling slightly over his own. He cranes his head down so that his lips are hovering over hers and her eyes flicker from his gaze to his lips, her breathing shallow and loud in her ears. (She wonders if he can hear the cacophony that is her heartbeat.) Suddenly, she finds that maybe she doesn't care that much after all.

"No," she breathes. "I guess it doesn't."

2.

He thinks he can make out glimpses of London, Paris, Rome (and he's pretty sure they've just passed some distorted version of the Met), but none of it is concrete and none of the buildings, towers, structures are the actual thing. It's like being in a entirely different world with all the familiarity of the one he knows. That's what he finds the most impressive about her skills as an architect: her ability to make her dreamers (make him) feel safe, at home.

She's a few steps ahead of him, easily navigating her way along the sidewalk through the throngs of her projections. He follows behind at a leisurely pace, noting with amusement (and some bewilderment) the way the cement beneath his feet turn seamlessly into cobblestone.

"Are you always building in your dreams?"

She shoots him a pointed look over her shoulder. "I'm an architect. It's what I do."

"But isn't it - I don't know - a little dizzying?" He won't admit it to her, but he can barely get his bearings straight what with new buildings erupting out of nowhere and new streets and roads opening up channels and paths to places unknown.

She stops and smiles shyly at him. "You get used to it after awhile." And just like that, she's offering him something: to dream with her. To always share this world (her world) with her.

Her hand suddenly slips into his, small but warm and reassuring. "Now, come on," and now her smile is teasing. "There's a lot more to see." The gentle tug at his hand gets him moving again, feet now shuffling over cement once more. Yeah, he thinks tightening his grip around what he knows to be real, I could get used to this.

3.

In the real world, they mostly live out of anonymous hotel rooms and rented warehouses, huge, empty and distinctly missing something. If they're being honest, they really have no home but in each other. Which suits them fine. Both of them had always been wanderers anyway.

Except that now, now they stand in front of a house. A real house (in a dream) that's sleek, modern, all clean and crisp lines. Yet the giant oak and the blooming flower beds soften the edges, welcoming and almost friendly. It's shrouded in something that beckons them, that appeals to them. A promise, maybe.

She spins around to stare at him in awe. (He can't believe she's this amazed by his handiwork. She's the architect, after all.) "You built this?" she whispers incredulously.

He shrugs, rubbing a palm over the back of his neck, bashfulness and embarrassment flushing his skin. "Yeah. It was just something that's been floating around in my head. What kind of house we'd own if we had the time to live in it." (There's an unspoken this could be our home.)

His we is enough to make her eyes burn and her vision blur. She smiles carefully around the tears. "I can imagine us living here." She faces the house once again and practically skips towards the front door. "Come on. Show me the rest."

He hurries after her, catching her wrist just as her feet graze the front steps. "No, we can't. Go in, that is. Not yet."

Confusion and possibly hurt dims her previously bright eyes. "Why not?"

"It's not quite finished yet. The interior's not exactly -," his eyes dart around, trying to find the right words. He settles on, "It's still a work in progress."

She nods in acceptance, in understanding. "Okay." The smile and the bright eyes are back. "Just promise you'll show me whenever it's ready."

"Okay." But she doesn't need him to promise her anything. He's always intended in showing her all of it anyway.

4.

There back and it still looks the same. Giant oak in the front, half obscuring the sleek and elegant planes that make up the house.

"It's done." Butterflies flutter in his stomach as he says this because this, this is it. And it could be a mistake. Because she could always say no.

"Already?" she teases.

He bristles. "Brilliance takes time."

"Okay, Hoban."

"I wanted it to be perfect."

"Are you trying to impress me? Get me into bed?" She waggles her eyebrows suggestively. It's a ridiculous look on her and he can't help the chuckle that escapes despite his nerves.

"No, it's just - you deserve nothing less than perfect."

Her giggles fade and she looks at him with soft and earnest eyes. Her hand reaches to cup his cheek. "Whatever you build for me will always be perfect, Arthur."

Everything inside him becomes undone, and with blood rushing through his veins and heart pounding in his chest, he takes her hand from his cheek and interlaces their fingers. "Come on. Let's go inside."

She happily obliges and lets him guide her, as he has always done. Anticipation builds and she feels as though she might very well erupt with joy. He's dreamed up a house - a home - for them. A place where they would live and grow old together. And she finally, finally understands what Mal had been asking her: what it is to be a half of a whole. Because she is his, and he is hers.

He grips the doorknob with a shaky, clammy hand (Ariadne doesn't notice) and tells himself to breathe, to just fucking inhale and exhale.

The door opens and Ariadne wonders how a house, a lone structure of brick, drywall and wood could radiate such warmth. She can't make herself grasp the idea that a place she has never been inside, has never even known could emit such a strong sense of belonging. But of thing she is certain: she hasn't known what it meant to be home until that moment.

They step in. She marvels at the light filling the space before her, space already occupied by plush, comfortable furnishings and elegant, tasteful decor. "It's stunning."

He leads her, through the living room, dining room, kitchen and backyard (she loves the swing set and the sunflowers that grow tall near the kitchen window, faces upturned and basking in the sun). She follows wordlessly because words would fail at conveying any of the emotions she wants to express.

(He can read them all in her face.)

They climb towards the second landing, the stairs winding, circling - endless. Then, finally -

"Infinite staircases are kind of impractical in a house, don't you think?" she jokes, staring over the edge.

"There won't be one in the real house."

She looks at him, eyes wide with surprise. "The real house?"

He nods. A hand slips into the pocket of his pants and when it reemerges, there's a delicate diamond ring pinched between his thumb, index and middle finger. "If you want it, that is."

Exhilaration, elation and pure joy ripple through her entire body. She grips the railing to keep herself upright. She knows that she wants it, she wants this and everything else he's offering her. "What are you asking, Arthur?" But she knows, god she already knows, she just wants to hear it.

"Marry me."

It's everything she's imagined. And more.

5.

The diamond sparkles in the morning light. She brings it closer to her face to make sure it's really there, on her hand with all of its promises intact. There's this burning need to be certain that her mind isn't playing some cruel joke on her (it's very good at that). Her hand instinctively reaches for the pawn, fingers ready to snatch it into a tight, reassuring grasp in her palm -

"This isn't a dream." The statement is muffled into her shoulder, sleepy and warm, followed by the gentle pressure of lips. The sensation lingers. "It's real."

She twists around to face him, sheets shifting, knees grazing. "You proposed in a dream."

His answer is a goofy, lazy smile. Her lips twitch to mirror his.

"Well, 'proposed' isn't exactly the right word. You more or less demanded that I marry you."

He pretends to look affronted. "The question was implied -"

A scoff. "I didn't even hear an inflection -"

"-and you could have said no."

She rolls her eyes playfully, fingers curling into his mussed up hair. "I didn't say yes either, did I?"

"I'm pretty sure it was implied in that kiss."

She feigns innocence. "What kiss?"

"The one where you hurled yourself at me and nearly threw us off the staircase."

"Hmm. I don't know, Arthur. Jog my memory."

He looks at her questioningly. "How?"

She shrugs. "I don't know. A reenactment is always good."

Laughter bubbles out. Her hands come to rest on his rumbling chest. "You want me to propose again?"

"Only if you think if might help." Her head inclines closer to his, whispering conspiratorially, "I have it on good authority it will."

He, too, leans in. Their foreheads touch. Their noses brush. "Okay." A beat. "Okay."

They stare at each other for a moment. Gazes searching but never questioning because they both know the answer already. Have known for a some time now.

"Marry me."

Her lips come crashing down on his, followed smoothly by the rest of her body. Again, it's answer enough. But his heart still soars all the same when he feels, hears, hell even tastes the murmured 'yes' in his mouth.

And then, all he feels - the only thing he's aware of - is her. Her dark tresses grazing his cheeks, her hands roaming his neck and shoulder, her lips moving deftly over his.

Abruptly, she pulls away. He almost moans at the loss of contact and heat. "Besides," and she's teasing him again (something he's come to find quite enjoyable), "how could I refuse when you've offered me a house?"

He laughs heartily. "What can I say? I'm a man of grand gestures." He brings her back down, closing the space between them and drowning himself in her once more.

It would be easy to get lost, he thinks. And then he remembers: he can.


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