Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Christopher Nolan, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, and if you want to borrow them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
Finally finished! Sorry for the delay, folks; NaNoWriMo always screws up my schedule. One more chapter and an epilogue. Thanks so much for reading and telling me what you think!
As ever, many, many thanks to Cincoflex for edits, encouragement, poking, admonishment, and beautiful banners. I couldn't do it without her!
Sixteen months later
"It's more to show my family than anything else." Ariadne gazed at the stiff sheet of paper that declared her a licensed architect, and felt a curl of thrill in her belly despite her casual words.
"Of course it is." Arthur's sarcasm was gentle, as was the kiss he placed on her temple. "Are you going to take it home to show them?"
She leaned against him, his arm warm around her shoulders, and sighed happily. "I suppose I should visit, it's been a while." Ariadne looked up at her lover, seated next to her on the couch of their apartment. "Will you come with me this time?"
He cocked his head. "If you like."
She rolled her eyes. "Don't make me do it alone."
Arthur chuckled, and Ariadne looked back down at the license in her hands. For so much of her life, this object had been her goal, her promised gateway to her dreams - the first complete step down a road that would let her make her mark on the world.
It was amazing how much things could change.
It wasn't that she planned never to use it, Ariadne told herself. Dreams were incredible but they were also ephemeral, and even if their plan worked she still might want to build something in the real world someday. But Otherworlds was due to go live in Hong Kong in just over a month, and there were whole universes under construction, Dream-realities that would last longer than the space of one sleep. Between the company's architect, its manager, its chemist, and its silent partners, they had a team well-funded for the venture and ready to open up the world of the Dream to people who just wanted to play.
It was even legal, at least in Hong Kong. And, as Arthur had pointed out wryly, had the distinct potential of making them all even richer than extraction work; but the money wasn't why she was doing it. Okay, most of the reason why.
Her dreams weren't the same. But, Ariadne reflected, that didn't lessen her achievement.
Arthur squeezed her and let go, standing gracefully. "This deserves at least a night out on the town. I'll go make reservations."
"Okay." Ariadne watched him go, pursing her lips thoughtfully. I'm not the only one who's changed. Over the last year she'd seen Arthur actually start to believe that the future she envisioned for the both of them could be real; when he'd suggested that they buy a flat to share she had almost cried. The months she had spent working towards her license he had used to research every possible aspect for the creation of a recreational Dream company, gradually becoming as dedicated to the idea as Ariadne had. The fact that he was no longer risking his safety on extraction jobs was a major bonus, to her mind.
And Dom's investment in Otherworlds meant that he and Arthur got together on a regular basis, two old friends staying close. Sometimes Ariadne thought that brought her more satisfaction than anything else.
She tilted her head back to see Arthur, standing in the doorway of the kitchen and lifting his phone to his ear.
Half of a whole. And the whole…
"You know I love you, right?" she called, and caught his quick smile, the tender one that he kept only for her.
"Of course. Ah, bon soir - " He turned away to talk to the restaurant, and Ariadne grinned to herself and set her license carefully down on the low table. Tomorrow she could get it framed, maybe, and take a picture for Professor M.
She was trying to decide between ebony and floating glass when arms wrapped around her shoulders from behind and another kiss landed, this time on her jaw. "You know I love you too, right?"
Ariadne reached up to touch his wrists, strong and warm. "Of course."
"Good." His fingers on her chin turned her head for a proper kiss, and Ariadne lost herself in it, feeling possibility open up around her like a bloom of light.
And always would be.