Heating

The following day, Arthur parked his car at the same spot where had dropped Ariadne off last night. Usually he would've been in the warehouse already, but today there were things that he wanted to do before continuing his work.

Adjusting the temperature inside his car to ensure a pleasantly warm indoor climate, he held a close eye on the front door of the building where Ariadne lived.

Even as he had decided to pick her up this morning, Arthur had felt rather foolish and knew that it probably wasn't a good idea to drive the young architect to the warehouse. This feeling hadn't changed, but it ceased to matter when Ariadne exited the hallway of her apartment.

It was tempting to say that he took an interest in her because she was of priceless value to the team, that he had to take care of her because someone had to so now that Cobb was fighting his demons. No matter how easily she picked things up, she needed guidance in order not to lost track of her real life.

The point man told himself that those were the reasons that he found himself looking at her much more frequently than he usually would and thought about her more than of any other of his colleagues did, but it was more than that.

There was something about her that made it even more exciting to be part of the team and work on the Fischer job, something about her that made him feel strangely pleasant. Her intellect and talent were stimulating, but her eyes and smile truly fascinated and inspired him.

He knew what this meant and that it was a most unfortunate development, especially during a job like this, that required all their focus and dedication.

But yet, he honked to get her attention, smiling when she waved at him and headed for his car. The harder he tried, the harder it was to stay away from her and he found himself being actually distracted by her while working.

Usually he could prevent himself from casting glances at her too often, but yesterday he simply hadn't been able to ignore her as she sat shivering behind her desk. He had tried to persuade himself that it wasn't his concern, that he shouldn't be more worried than the rest of the team was – and look where that had gotten him.

But yet, just seeing that she was wearing a proper coat this time made him feel happy, because it made clear that she hadn't forgotten today that there was also a world that didn't exist in dreams only.

"Good morning," he said after opening the window of his door of the car, feeling even more ridiculous now that he saw her.

"Hey," she replied, looking rather sheepish. "May I ask what are you doing here?"

"The storm isn't completely over yet and I figured I might as well give you a ride, just like yesterday."

At least that sounded rational.

A gust of cold air was blown into his car when he was talking to Ariadne through the open window, but he only felt warmth when he looked at his new colleague.

She looked indecisive for a moment but then she nodded, although she still looked as if she wasn't sure whether she should or shouldn't accept the offer. Hoping that this had to do with her usual fondness for walking through the awakening city and not with a reluctance to spend more time with him, Arthur gestured her to step in as he closed the window of the car.

When he drove through the Parisian streets, he realized how much he had missed good company in his life. It was difficult to stay in touch with family and friends when being in the kind of profession that he was, and it was even more harder to find new friends, let alone create a new family.

He had his colleagues, of course, but mostly they were not more than that. After years of working together, Cobb and he had formed a respectful friendship, but the extractor wasn't someone who he wanted to talk with about his deepest thoughts and feelings, especially not now that Cobb was already more troubled than a single person should ever be.

Moving from one secret and dangerous job to another and going from one foreign city to the next wasn't a good way to maintain relationships. Arthur knew this and had accepted it. Unlike others in the field of extraction who he had gotten to know during the years, he also wasn't someone who was comfortable with forming relationships while laying low somewhere far from the most recent crime scene, only to disappear after a while to never return.

The point man loved his work more than anything and was willing to give up a lot for it. He had been rather sure that he didn't need a best friend – or a girlfriend – as long as there were jobs for him. But as he was getting to know Ariadne, he began to doubt this. Suddenly, waiting to commit himself to someone until he would quit his not exactly legal work hadn't seemed like such a good plan anymore.

"Nice car," she said as she stepped in.

"How so?" he asked, wondering what she was thinking now that she had taken a proper look at his car for the first time. Which was rather odd, for he usually didn't care what people (and then especially Eames) thought of whatever car he temporarily owned when preparing for a job.

"It's not... it's not what I expected."

"Well, we can't all park our exclusive and expensive cars with a foreign license plates in front of the warehouse and hope that no one begins to wonder what exactly is going on inside."

Ariadne laughed at the obvious reference to Eames's shiny new Mercedes and Arthur found the sound quite a lot more enchanting than the mighty roar of the engine of said car, which he thought was a very impressing one – but it was not that he would ever tell that to Eames.

"Wherever I go, I try to get a car that is most unlikely to rouse suspicion. I only rent them as long as the job lasts anyway."

"That sounds like a very sensible thing to do," she simply said. "But I do like this car."

Arthur tried to find the expected mockery or insincerity in her voice, but he couldn't detect it. He couldn't suppress a small smile, for some reason pleased that she genuinely seemed to like his car. That was something he would most certainly remember the next time that Eames made a joke about his green Renault.

When they drove out of the street, they began a conversation about the benefits of car rental for a while and to his surprise, it was very easy to have a casual conversation with the new architect.

Soon the topic changed to the storm that had swept through Paris and Arthur was pleased to hear her quote information from the news report of that morning. For him, listening to news reports on the radio or watching them on television was a good way to keep track of reality. The thought that Ariadne had taken her time today to check the news and actually remembered a lot of parts of it, was a comforting one.

The storm had caused quite some damage in the city and as they started to talk about the various parts of trees and buildings that were at places where they shouldn't be, Arthur realized once more how much he had grown to enjoy her company.

He both wanted to continue spending time with her once the job was over and possibly to develop their companionship into something more than that, but he knew that this was impossible. He wasn't even sure whether she liked him as a colleague and even if she did, the example of Cobb and Mal wasn't an encouraging one.

"I hope the warehouse is actually still there," Ariadne said after a moment of silence, interrupting his train of thoughts. "It is quite old after all and not very stable. Have you heard anything about it from the others?"

"I haven't," he replied, mentally checking the phone calls he had made that morning just to be sure. Usually he would remember exactly that kind of thing – and would've asked the same question about the current state of the warehouse before anyone else had. Mentally he reminded himself again to stay focused, even when he was talking to Ariadne outside of work.

They arrived at the workshop before he knew it and and as he drove around it, looking for an available parking space, both of them also checked the walls and roof of the building.

The only unusual thing they saw however was Eames's car, that for once wasn't double parked. Positioning his Renault next to the black Mercedes, Arthur didn't feel a twinge of regret or even annoyance this time.

Only as they stepped out of the car and headed for the entrance of the warehouse simultaneously, Arthur realized that this idea was even more risky than he had thought. Ariadne wouldn't be the only one knowing that he had offered her a ride – the entire team would know too as soon as they would step into the workshop at the same time.

The woman who was walking next to him didn't seem to be aware of this and the point man tried to follow her example. Pretending that nothing out of the ordinary was going on, he pushed one large door of the building open for Ariadne and followed her as soon as she was inside.

Yusuf was busy mixing chemicals in his corner of the warehouse and didn't see them entering the building together, just like Cobb who was nowhere to be seen at that moment. Eames was studying Browning's file but immediately looked up when he heard them, his eyes widening with surprise and then amusement as he saw them.

Arthur knew that expression on the forger's face only too well. It was clear that Eames wouldn't leave him alone until he he had found out exactly what was going on between him and Ariadne, as if interacting with the young architect wasn't challenging enough without Eames interfering.

But it was too late to change anything now anyway and at least Cobb hadn't seem them. If there was someone who Arthur didn't want to explain to what he thought that he was doing to the young architect, it was the leader of their team. The point man knew of the risk that he was taking by even thinking of Ariadne as more than just a colleague or even a friend.

The point man sighed inwardly, but the upcoming confrontations with an obviously intrigued Eames and a doubtlessly concerned Cobb were temporarily forgotten when he became aware of the temperature in the warehouse. To Arthur, it seemed to be at least as cool inside as the day before and although that didn't really bother him personally, he was afraid of the influence that it might have on Ariadne. Last night her body had gone so cold after all that he had seen no other way to keep her warm than covering her body with his own jacket.

The architect had chosen her clothes a lot more wisely today but he knew from experience that thick layers of fabric helped only to a certain extent against the cold when one had to sit still for a long period of time.

Arthur had prepared for this however earlier that morning, doing a bit of shopping just after opening hours before he went to Ariadne's apartment. Back then he had told himself that he was only going to help the architect this way because he couldn't go giving her his jacket every time that the seemingly sensitive woman was cold, but after the short but very pleasant car ride he was willing to admit that he just wanted to help her, whether that benefited him as well or not.

When he had initially entered the warehouse, he had been too busy considering the consequences of his decision to give Ariadne a ride to remember to carry his purchase into the building.

As she headed for her desk, Arthur returned to his car and opened the trunk, exposing the portable electric heater that he had bought earlier that day. Locking his car again, he carried the object into the building, standing still on the threshold for a moment to survey the interior of the warehouse before he decided where to place the heater.

In order not to make things too obvious, he carried the heater to a still empty spot between Ariadne's desk and the one of the team member sitting closest to her, which happened to Yusuf.

Before he had even been able to switch the heater on, the chemist looked up from his work.

"What do you think you're doing?"

"Well, I..."

Before the point man could find the right words to explain to Yusuf that he wanted to place the heater near Ariadne's desk without making it too clear that it was all about Ariadne, the chemist began to talk about the materials that he was working with and that sudden changes in temperature had potentially negative effects on the sedatives that he was experimenting with.

The monologue caught Ariadne's attention and the point man felt even more self-conscious when her curious eyes moved from Yusuf to him and back, only to eventually rest on him. The things she did to him, apparently without even being aware of him, were disturbing indeed.

Eventually, Yusuf concluded that a heater wasn't such a bad idea considering the weather, but that it couldn't be near his workplace. Since the heater was easier to move than his desk, Arthur should chose a new location for the heater.

All the four present members of the team were either discussing or listening closely to the conversation and even if Arthur would've had the courage to admit to Yusuf that Ariadne was the reason that it was not the heater that could be moved, he certainly didn't dare saying so now that both Eames and the architect herself were listening intently.

He cast a careful glance at Ariadne, hoping that she could somehow support him. He could see that she wanted the heater to be near her desk as much as Arthur did himself, even though she was sitting in the same part of the room as Yusuf. But, just like yesterday, she still felt insecure about getting involved in situations like this.

Luckily, that was the moment that Eames decided to join the discussion. The Brit began a rather theatrical speech about his general aversion of warmth, seeing the climate in which he had grown up. He had the nerve to wink mischievously at him even as he was talking, but Arthur was too grateful for the forger's support to care.

During the minutes that followed, everyone's location in the warehouse was re-evaluated and it was decided that Eames and Ariadne would swap desks. This way, Ariadne would end up sitting in the opposite part of the room, as far away from Yusuf's chemicals as was possible. This also incidentally meant that she was going to be right next to Arthur.

Arthur tried not to look too smug when he switched on the electric heater at last, realizing that there was no better place for it indeed than right between Ariadne's desk and his own.

Taking their files, mazes, tools and other material with them to their new desks took Eames and Ariadne longer than expected, but after another ten minutes the colleagues had completely swapped places and the full team could go to work at last. The point man was rather glad because of this, a part of him feeling guilty for delaying the work of the majority of the team like he just had done.

It seemed to him that the temperature in the room – or at least Ariadne's and his part of it – increased rapidly as soon as they got back to work and he wasn't sure whether this was because of the heater or because of the fact that the architect was sitting much closer to him than she had before.

He could see her brow furrowing with concentration, how she bit the edge of her pencil every once in a while, the hand that toyed with some loose locks of her hair...

Arthur shook his head, wondering what was wrong with him and whether it had been such a good idea after all to (attempt to) work at such a close distance of the charming architect.

But then she looked up and met his gaze. This shouldn't have come as a shock, for he wouldn't have been surprised if she had actually been able to feel his stares. But yet, he wanted to look away as quickly as he could, his cheeks coloring slightly because she had found him staring at her just after he had arranged her to sit in the same corner as he did. Embarrassing – and unusual for a man like him – indeed.

He couldn't even find the will to look away however. Their eyes locked and to his delight, she smiled at him. The smile was rather shy, but it was a smile nonetheless – a smile that made him beam at her.

During the previous day, they had shared a similar moment. Although she had been the one to gaze at him first, she had looked away when he saw her and had pretended that nothing had happened.

This moment however was very different. They both acknowledged what was happening between them and it made him feel at ease. It seemed that he could look at her now without having to fear the consequences – or at least not from her side – and when they went back to their work, he found it much easier to focus on his files instead of Ariadne than before, simply because he could look at her now if he wanted to.

Cobb returned not much later, the ancient looking books that he was carrying with him suggesting that he had gone to Miles for additional information on extraction or inception, or perhaps for advice.

The extractor rose an eyebrow when he noticed the change, but he didn't say anything. Arthur was glad because of this; he didn't want Cobb to presume anything about Ariadne and him, not now that Eames was already suspicious. It would be rather humiliating if the entire team would know about his interest in the new architect before he had figured out the depth of his feelings for Ariadne himself.

After a few hours she approached his desk, carrying a piece of paper with her. She explained that she had made some notes based on the dream of the hotel that she had revised the night before. She had found some possible errors and would like to hear his opinion before going to try to fix them.

Usually the team would solve things like this by going into the relevant constructed dream together, but because both of them had lost quite some time during the previous and the current day already, they decided to postpone this.

Not having worked before on a dream of such a large scale, she had some questions about the general layout of the city of Yusuf's dream, where they were supposed to pick up Fischer somehow. Since Cobb refused to help her with things like that, the point man was the only other logical choice.

Arthur was aware of that, just like he knew that they shouldn't. But before they knew it, her chair was behind his desk already, next to his own, and he was answering her questions, enthusiastically sketching in one of her notebooks as he was doing so.

Time flew by and both of them were completely caught up in the drawings of the large maze as he explained things to her that she didn't fully understand yet.

Arthur loved his job and had done so for quite some years, but he couldn't remember a moment during which he was so grateful to do what he did as when Ariadne and he were working together.

Only a not so subtle cough from Eames reminded the point man that time still existed and that the mazes weren't the only thing that should be completed before Maurice Fischer died.

He cast a glance on his watch, horrified to see that he should've called one of his contacts half an hour ago. Excusing himself to Ariadne, who quickly went back to her own desk looking rather guilty as well, he picked up his phone and chose the right number, hoping to get in touch with the informant after all.

Waiting for the phone to connect, he watched how she undid the top button of her blouse and loosened her scarf, clearly not being cold any longer or aware of the fact that he was looking at her.

By then Arthur knew for sure that it definitely wasn't the heater that made him feel so flushed.