A/N: Hi guys , sorry this took so long to upload, I actually finished it ages ago but didn't have time to edit it properly until today... I should just warn you, though, it's rather anticlimactic for an ending and I think the characters are way OOC... but on the other hand you get fluff :)
Chapter 5: Perfection
Tip #5: Talking to mirrors can yield unexpected results.
'Yes' is the most beautiful word in the English language.
"Before I met you, Ariadne, I never thought I could feel about someone the way that I feel about you. I didn't know what it was like to fall in love. Since we've been together, though, you've turned my world around and now I honestly can't imagine it being – nor do I want it to be – any other way. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and I hope you want the same thing too, so I guess what I'm trying to say here, is… will you marry me?"
There was no reply.
Arthur groaned in frustration, shoulders drooping, and his reflection in the mirror followed suit. He was thankful that he was alone in the warehouse (the guys had left long ago and he told Ariadne he needed to work late) and subsequently no one was around to hear him make a fool of himself as he rehearsed his proposal speech. Well, technically speaking, he didn't even have a proper speech yet.
At this point, he decided to switch to a different tack and paraphrase a line from a romantic comedy he had watched with Ariadne once, with some extra song lyrics thrown in for good measure:
"I love you more than there are stars in the sky and more than there are drops of water in the oceans. You're the first person that I want to look at when I wake up in the morning and the last person I want to see before I fall asleep at night. When you love someone as much as I love you, truly, madly and deeply, then getting married is the only thing left to do. So will you marry me?" He added as an afterthought: "Please?"
His reflection scowled back. Hmm, somehow that had seemed a lot more convincing in the film. But since he was going to quote others, who better to turn to than the Bard himself? Arthur knelt down with a flourish, ring proffered in one outstretched hand, put on his best Elizabethan-era accent and proclaimed in a faux-theatrical voice:
"'One half of me is yours, the other half yours,
Mine own, I would say; but if mine, then yours,
And so all yours.'"
His reflection grimaced unsympathetically. Shakespeare turned over in his grave.
Arthur shook his head as he stood up and brushed the dust off his trouser leg. "Oh Ari," he sighed to the empty room, "I'm never going to get this right, am I? I mean, we're in the most romantic city in the world here… I guess I should probably take you to a candlelit dinner at your favourite restaurant, a night-time cruise along the Seine accompanied by schmaltzy violin music and then whisk you up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and have the words 'MARRY ME' written across the sky in fireworks or something."
His reflection glowered in response, clearly unimpressed.
"Or if not pyrotechnics then at the very least a trail of rose petals leading up to our suite at the Ritz and a gypsy quartet to play 'Fascination' like in that Audrey Hepburn film you like so much, although I hope to God you would never choose Gary Cooper over me because he's far too old for you and I can't stand him. But maybe you think he's romantic. That's what this is about, isn't it? I know you say you don't care about that stuff, but I know it wouldn't hurt. I should probably take you ballroom dancing, except that for all my fondness for tuxedos I have never learned how to waltz."
His reflection returned his blank stare.
"Yet instead of doing any of the aforementioned, I'm stuck here in this abandoned warehouse – probably the most unromantic place imaginable – avowing my eternal love to a mirror because I don't have the faintest idea how to go about asking you in person. The best I could come up with is: Iloveyouwillyoumarryme?" The words came out in an unintelligible mumble and Arthur sighed. "But that's hardly the proposal of your dreams, hardly the amazingly memorable speech you'll want to look back on again in fifty years' time when we're old and wrinkly and surrounded by our children and grandchildren… because that is what I want, by the way. I want to be with you for the rest of our lives, when we're old and wrinkly and happy, surrounded by our children and grandchildren. I just… I just want us to be together, always, and you remind me in my every waking and sleeping moment that reality is better than dreaming because I have you, and that's the only thing that matters anymore."
"You're rambling now, but I think I prefer that last one," said a quiet voice from behind him.
Arthur whipped around in surprise. "A-Ariadne!" He was too stunned to move; his nerves seemed determined not to obey his brain signals and so he was rendered immobile and inarticulate. "I, um—wha—that is—I-I thought you left already," he managed to say after a few attempts.
"No, not yet." She looked ever so slightly bemused as she stated the obvious. "I was going over some last-minute changes in the maze levels."
"Uh-huh." He nodded dumbly, the ring clenched in his sweaty palm suddenly feeling much heavier than its denoted carat worth. "I was just—"
"Proposing to the mirror?" she teased. "Nice impression of Portia, by the way. Bassanio would approve, I'm sure."
He blanched. "How long have you been standing there?"
Ariadne laughed affectionately. "Oh, Arthur," she said, walking over to where he was standing. "For a man as clever as you are, you really can be extremely obtuse sometimes. When will you understand that I don't care for the candlelit dinners and the music and the flowers because all I want is to be with you? Hell, if you asked me to marry you while we were standing in the middle of the street with a doughnut in lieu of a ring, I would still say yes."
"You don't even like doughnuts," he managed to say before his brain registered her meaning, before the full implications of her words set in. If you asked me to marry you—
She kissed him, soft and slow and tender. "For the first time that you asked," she replied; "yes, because I want to spend the rest of my life with you too. For the second time that you asked: yes, because you are the first, last and only person I want to see when I'm dreaming and when I'm awake. For the third time: yes, because if mine then yours, so I am already all yours and forever yours. For the fourth time: yes, because the best you can come up with is good enough for me. Yes, because old, wrinkly, happy and surrounded by our children and grandchildren sounds good. Yes, because perfection belongs in dreams but I'll gladly take reality and all of its imperfections as long as it means I can have you."
"And the fifth time?" he whispered, brushing their lips together. "Love you, Ari. Marry me?"
"For the fifth time that you asked, Arthur," she smiled, wondering when they had both turned into such sappy romantics; "yes, absolutely, because I love you too."
He pressed the ring into her hand then, and he saw her eyes widen with – surprise? Delight? He couldn't tell. In the end, he had chosen a platinum band with about a dozen small, channel-set diamonds evenly spaced around its circumference, and one larger princess-cut diamond in the centre, sparkling and prominent but flush-set so as not to disrupt the ring's overall flowing shape. It wasn't as ostentatious as a lone solitaire, but when examined in proximity it shone in equal measure and distributed its radiance evenly around. A study in squares and circles, a fusion of art and mathematics, a jeweller's tribute to geometry.
"There's an engraving on the inside." Ariadne lifted it up to the light for further examination, and smiled as she read the three words that were inscribed in cursive lettering on the interior surface: This is real.
"Do you like it?" Arthur asked quietly.
In response, Ariadne slipped the ring gently onto the third finger of her left hand – the ring finger, the digit that the Ancient Egyptians believed contained a vein leading straight to the heart – and tilted it an angle so that the diamonds caught the light, a slender halo of brilliance. "It's perfect," she breathed, giving Arthur a kiss. Then she laced their fingers together and they left the warehouse and walked home together; the ring felt cold and hard to the touch where it scraped his skin, but he noticed only that her hand was soft and warm in his.
Ariadne, Arthur realised, had more than 58 facets, more than 58 moods to her ever-changing character. She had just as many flaws, just as many inclusions and blemishes as any other person, but each of her imperfections – her slightly burnt cooking and her oddly accented French, her habit of taking up more than her allotted half of the bed and hogging the duvet – only made her even more endearing to him. They were both imperfect people and yet, somehow, together, they made a perfect fit.
A/N: So that's the end and I hope you enjoyed reading it; if nothing else it was fun letting the other characters share the spotlight for a change, especially Eames. As always, your thoughts/comments would be greatly appreciated so please leave a review - and maybe go and read some of my other A/A stuff too? :) Thanks.