Note: Thanks for the reviews as always, your reviews always make my day (Obsession's Dream and Tenar Ohtarwen especially). Fyi, yep, I know that "Wonderwall" was written by Oasis, but I prefer the Ryan Adams version for romantic-y reasons. *Avoids the inevitable garbage that will be thrown at me based on the preference.* He he. Hope you enjoy the next chapter.
Ariadne slowly pulled back from Arthur's embrace which caused him to drop his hands from her body. He tucked his hands into his sweatpants pockets and inched back one step. Ariadne was suddenly reminded of middle school dances. After those emotional slow dances you never knew what to do with yourself. "You should probably get some rest," Arthur suggested quietly. "You can take the bed. I already changed the sheets so you don't have to worry about the wet patch."
"I'm so sorry about that, by the way," Ariadne reiterated although this time she felt no fear.
Arthur shook his head. "It's okay. Believe me. It's just sheets."
Ariadne knew that this was her cue to move. To say another nervous thanks and leave for his bedroom. To close the door behind her, and try desperately to sleep through the night. Or what was left of it. Though she didn't know how the hell she was going to be able to sleep after what happened tonight. She knew she was supposed to leave, but her legs simply wouldn't move. "Arthur...can I ask you a question?"
The point man took a deep breath, already seeming to guard himself against the inevitable question. "Anything."
"During Fischer's dream, you kissed me. I...why did you kiss me?" She always wanted to ask but never had the courage. Especially when they were working together. For a time, she believed that it actually was an honest tactic to keep the projections at bay. She believed that for a time, but she was never satisfied.
Arthur seemed surprised by the question, and he paused as if he was trying to decide whether to tell the truth or not. He looked so incredibly small then. Thin. Eames teased him once that he could be a limbo pole if they ever needed one. Now he looked so young as well, and confused. "I kissed you because I thought I was going to die. Or rot in limbo for eternity."
"So you wanted one last kiss before you died?" Ariadne questioned. It made sense. It fell under the "world is going to end let's all have sex" logic that some seemed to maintain. She should be flattered really. Of all of the people he could kiss...well she was the only real girl in the vicinity. It was just practical. Of course. Ariadne was surprised to feel her chest tighten at the response.
"No," Arthur replied quickly his face wrinkling as if the idea was absurd. "I wanted to kiss you once before I died. It was inappropriate and unprofessional of me. I apologize." Ariadne's eyes dropped down to the ground. So this was all real. Eames was right, her gut was as well. Arthur cared for her. Though, standing there, he made no attempt to even get closer to her. Flirt with her. There was something holding him back.
"When you go to bed I'll stay out here. I have some things to see to," Arthur explained without explaining.
This time Ariadne took her cue. "Okay. So I'll just...try to sleep." She took a step back and pointed towards Arthur's bedroom with her thumbs. "So. Yeah. Good night."
Arthur nodded. "Good night. Let me know if you need anything."
Ariadne made her way back to Arthur's bedroom, she paused at the doorframe and looked over her shoulder. Arthur set down a laptop on the dining room table and sat at the chair closest to the bedroom, his back was facing her. Leave him alone, she thought to herself before closing the door behind her. Her eyes fell on the bed, the same black and white sheets as before, but they were turned down for her. She had to smile lightly at that.
She turned off the light switch, and crawled into Arthur's king size bed. It was more like a never-ending bed in Ariadne's opinion. After living with a twin size bed for over four years, a king sized one was quite a luxury. Ariadne found the pillows at the top of the bed and tucked them under her head. She allowed her eyelids to flutter closed. It had been two months since her last dream. She was sure that she was done with them for good, after all, she'd been working in dreams for over a year now. If only she had such luck.
It was still raining, and she was still running. Ariadne didn't need to turn her head to know that they were behind her. That the three men would find her, that they would catch her. Arthur's name was on her lips before she could consider calling for him. Instantly, Arthur appeared in front of her, his gun pointed at the three men behind her. She ran to his side and watched as Arthur shot all three men without blinking. One, two, three. Three bodies fell to the ground, all dead.
Ariadne looked up to Arthur and smiled widely. "You saved me again," She mumbled.
Arthur's lips curled into a deep smile and then he slowly opened them to speak. But he paused, and pressed his hand to his stomach.
"What's wrong?" Ariadne asked reaching out to him.
Arthur pushed her hand away as he staggered and fell against a wall. He dropped his hand from his stomach to discover it was covered in blood. Ariadne gasped now watching more blood fall from Arthur's lips. When had he gotten shot? She hadn't seen it. Arthur's body dropped down to the ground, limp.
"No...no," Ariadne whispered her eyes filled with tears. "Somebody help please!" She turned around hoping to find someone, anyone. By the time she turned back, Arthur was ghastly pale. Ariadne dropped to his side and reached out to touch his skin. It was cold. He was gone.
Ariadne shot out of bed. Her heart was racing, and she was breathing short, shallow breaths. That knot in her chest had returned and it was tighter than before. "Just a dream," She reminded herself while pushing the sheets from her skin. "Just a dream." It didn't matter how many times she said it, she still wouldn't be satisfied until the light was on. Someone could be hiding in the shadows, it could be a dream within a dream. Ariadne darted for the light switch, and after turning it on her eyes darted to every corner, even the bathroom. No, she was alone. Ariadne's next instinct was to find her totem, but she left her bag outside in the main living area. It's your last dream, chill out, she told herself.
But she knew she wouldn't be satisfied until she checked one more thing...
Hesitantly, Ariadne turned the door knob of Arthur's bedroom door, and pushed it open very slowly. She cracked the door open wide enough to see Arthur at the dining room table. Her breathing slowed, and her heart beats leveled. Arthur was hard at work as usual. One moment he was typing on his laptop, the next moment, he was taking notes on a legal pad. Ariadne's first thought was to tell him to take it easy and get some sleep himself. Then again, perhaps he was wired from what happened, or maybe he needed to tie up any loose ends from the failed job. Either way, it wasn't any of her business.
Ariadne tugged on the door knob determined to give Arthur his privacy. After shutting the door, she closed her eyes tightly. She didn't want to go back to sleep, not really. Not to risk having another nightmare. Watching Arthur die again. She stood by the door still, imagining Arthur on the other side. His fingers moving lightly across the laptop keys. There was a grace to him that she noticed the very day they met. A gentleness. Cobb threw her into a dream, exploded the world around her. Arthur guided her though a dream. Shifting elements of the world to never shock or tease her. Just to guide her. She really did trust him. Utterly.
He held no secrets from her. If you would ask Arthur a question he would answer honestly. Though, looking back on it now, she did see that he did lie to her in a way. He never said a word of his feelings, and brushed off that kiss so quickly. He didn't allow her to notice him as anything more than a co-worker. Someone to help her through the job. He didn't allow her to really think of the possibility of him liking her...
Ariadne never really thought much about love. Not like the classmates of hers in undergrad who seemed to only be going to college to widen their search for their future husbands. In her case, she always thought "what will be will be." If someone asked her out she would go. But if she fancied someone, she wouldn't take the risk to ask them herself. Fearing rejection more than anything, fearing the look on their faces when they told her "no." Why would anyone want to date her anyway? She had boyfriends here and there, sure, but she never followed her own heart. That probably explained why the boyfriends that she had never really worked out.
Now here she was, Arthur on the other side of the door. She could go to sleep, which would be the easiest option although it would be extremely unpleasant with the promise of more nightmares. It would be easier to cope with Arthur in her dreams than to face him now. Or, she could face him. Talk to him. God help her, maybe even flirt with him. The idea of flirting with Arthur made her grin. What would he do? Eames liked to say that Arthur was socially inept and couldn't pick up a girl in a bar if his life depended on it. Sure, he could explain the organization of power at almost any major world corporation, but flirting? Ariadne imagined his face. Maybe he would smile or laugh. Maybe they would even kiss...
Ariadne felt a tightness in her chest again, realizing for the first time what that tightness was. It wasn't an aftershock of the violence that she witnessed. Nor was it fear of what was to come. It was him. It was Arthur.
That was enough. That was all she needed.
Without hesitation, Ariadne opened the door of the bedroom and walked quickly towards the dining room table. She sat down next to Arthur and asked, "Arthur, why didn't you tell me?"
Arthur's eyes slowly lifted from his laptop. "Excuse me?" He asked looking a little taken aback by Ariadne's sudden appearance and question.
Ariadne was focused, and she would get her answer. "Why didn't you tell me that you had feelings for me?"
Arthur, the fearless pointman, blushed. He dropped his head down perhaps hoping that the answer to Ariadne's question would be in his lap. Ariadne watched Arthur struggle with what to say, his eyes darting back at forth for help. Maybe he would lie to her, say that he didn't like her. Not in that way. But Arthur always spoke the truth, maybe this time he wished that he didn't have to. "It would be been unprofessional," Slipped from his lips.
"Bull," Ariadne murmured almost under her breath. "I know you're all about professionalism, Arthur, and doing your job...but you gotta have a better reason than that." So, it was all true, Arthur admitted it. She felt that tightness in her chest once again.
"Dom and Mal," Arthur said simply as if it explained it all. "Even if you wanted me. Even if you wanted me at a fraction of how much I wanted you... We could still turn into them one day. Tortured and in pain. Suffering at the hands of one another. I wouldn't put you through that." Arthur apparently decided that this was the end of the conversation and returned to his laptop.
He didn't know Ariadne that well yet.
Ariadne reached over and closed his laptop, her eyes were on his now, piercing through whatever wall he erected long ago. "I love Cobb," She started refusing to drop his gaze, "I know you love him, too. But Dom and Mal made a mistake. A huge mistake going into limbo together. And I agree, that mistake destroyed them, and I hate that I never got the opportunity to meet the real Mal. I hate that their children won't know her, because of that mistake they made. They could have avoided it all. They could have...made a pact that they wouldn't go into dreams together without there being a job. They would never abuse the dreaming system. Never for fun, even if you missed dreaming. Never. Because being together, reality would be better than any dream possible." Ariadne's words were flowing from her lips now, and when she finished, she knew quite well that she was no longer talking about Mal and Cobb.
They sat there in silence for a moment. Only the sound of firewood burning and crackling, the sound of their lungs slowly taking in air. Even the rain had seemed to let up. Ariadne's continued to watch Arthur, as he tried to take this all in. Tried to understand what she was saying to him. "Ariadne," Arthur began his voice grave and still. That wall was still up despite Ariadne's attempts. "That's easy to say now. We don't know...what will happen-"
"I don't believe in not trying for something because I might lose it in the end," Ariadne replied quickly feeling her throat tighten at the sudden emotion that was coming from her heart. Her hand reached out for his, the simple contact feeling just as warm to her as the fire was earlier. She continued in a whisper, "Besides, Arthur...we're not Mal and Cobb. We're not them. You're too fucking logical to ever let me do anything like they did."
Arthur cracked a smile, although his whole focus was on his smaller hand in his. The look on his face told Ariadne that he was wishing for surrender. "Then if...Ariadne you've never...seemed interested..." He raised his head to see her eyes now. This time, she was the one who had to answer to him.
She knew exactly what to say. "No, I never flirted with you. I didn't think that you would...even respond," She admitted with a quiet laugh. "I never think that any guy would like me. So I don't even let myself think that way about anyone. Especially someone like you who is extremely cool, I must say. Smooth. You are so intelligent and those damn cheekbones. I would probably give my left kidney to...be with someone who is just so sure of himself and incredibly kind. I just...I couldn't comprehend the idea that someone like you would like someone like me. That's why I didn't even let myself think of you like that...til now." She admitted now feeling that sudden self-doubt all over again. It was even more apparent that Arthur was so high above her. He could be a spy, a vigilante, men like that have lines of women waiting outside of their bedrooms just waiting and hoping. Who was she? A nerdy architect who barely saw Paris life beyond the four walls of her tiny dorm room. A girl who was a B cup on a good day and was often mistaken for a boy if she put her hair up. Oh yes, she had a chance with Arthur.
Arthur's face wrinkled up in confusion. "Someone like...like you?" Arthur paused gathering his thoughts, desperation clear in his voice now. "You can't believe that...you who...Ariadne, you could move the world in a dream on your first try. Your imagination is spectacular. You could create anything with just a suggestion. And, you stood up to Dominick Cobb. Put him in his place and learned more about his past than I ever knew, and I have known him for over ten years. You saved the inception job, you got us all through. The girl who never did a job before in her life. At the same time, you manage to be...deceptively beautiful. That, Ariadne is how I would like someone like you."
This time it was Ariadne's turn to blush. "Oh," was all that she could say. Thankfully her momentary self esteem issues were fixed. He even called her beautiful. However, she didn't know what to do. Everything was on the table now. Their hearts on display for both to see. Ariadne waited, hoping that something would come to her. Something that she could do or say. All she knew was that she was not about to go back to bed alone.
"So. What do we do?" His eyes moved up to meet hers.
Ariadne found his eyes again. Found the man who had gently taught her from the start. Cared for her, watched over her, and would have died for her. That knot inside of her chest turned into butterflies. Finally, she knew what to do.
"What do we do?"
"This," Ariadne whispered before leaning over and then brushing her lips against Arthur's. Their eyes closed slowly from the small contact. Innocent as could be. When they broke away, Arthur took a moment and then inched closer, his lips now meeting hers longer, finally being able to figure out what she tasted like. His hand, gently shaking, cupped Ariadne's face as she kissed him back. When their lips parted, their eyes met again, Ariadne was smiling through them. "You love me don't you?"
"Yes." Arthur whispered honestly, "But I'm...frightened. I don't know how to do any of this." His poker face was gone for good, love and fear was all that was left behind.
Ariadne pulled her chair closer and then reached out to him. Her fingers stroked the back of his neck gently. "It's all right. We'll figure it out together," She whispered with a slight smile. This time she would be the one to protect and guide him. Their lips met again. Neither of them noticed the sun rising in the distance.
"I hear the ticking of the clock
I'm lying here, the room's pitch dark
You don't know how long I have wanted
to touch your lips and hold you tight
Till now I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?"
-"Alone" by Heart
Post Note: If you could let me know what you think, and how you think I should continue that'd be grand. I will have one more chapter, just not sure whether I should run with the M rating or keep it "clean." Thanks.