There's No Place Quite Like It
Disclaimer: The writer does not own nor is affiliated with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, the characters they portray, or Inception.
You return to her on a Sunday night nestled in your couch with a bowl of cold sesame noodles on her lap. You know that she will be having dinner; you know her schedule, her unconscious routine like your very own. (It's seven thirty; she'll be watching Top Gear in her pajamas and having dinner, the fireplace comforting to her bare feet. She'll have her hair undone and she'll look beautiful. She always looks beautiful.)
The door clicks shut. You despise noise and banging and the vulgar and crass. (She's never been any of those things, she's simple and she's straightforward and stubborn but never for one second has she been undignified.) She hears you come in, springs up in fear, her hand diving into her pocket. (She fingers her totem twice a day and whenever she is scared. You'd like to think she wouldn't need it, but you know – both of you know – that that totem defines you, shapes you, ties your loose ends with a thin red thread and pulls you together.)
You watch her big brown eyes grow even larger, and her dinner clacks heavily against the coffee table as she sets the bowl down. "Arthur?" (She says it like she can't believe it, and you curse yourself.)
"I'm home." And you set your briefcase down. She sits and stares, watches as you slowly pull off your jacket and set it down on the armchair, tweaking the sleeve so it will lay just so.
And then she's in your arms, face buried in your neck. "I've missed you."
You place soft kisses on her cheeks, her forehead, even one in her hair. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."
You don't know what you're apologizing for, except for the fact that you know that this should not be how it is. (She deserves so much more, she deserves everything from the stars in the sky and you would get them all for her if you could.)
She pushes away hard, stares you down, and you notice something in her. (It starts with your tie, and her fingers brush across your collar bone as she works on taking it off.) "You'll make it up to me."
You're taking your time, pulling slowly at her scarf. (She's groaning, telling you not to, to just get it on with, but you want to watch her, watch her gradually lose herself.) The silk brushes her cheek, and then she's out of your grip, and she's in control.
(Too fast, too fast.)
It all ends before you'd like it to, bodies tangled together under white sheets, but it's good, it's always been good with her.
"Fuckin' tease." She mutters into your neck as you lay beside her, and she nestles herself into your chest, her soft curls ticklish against your stomach.
"I love you too."
You believe it is Monday morning by now. Neither of you have had much sleep, and your mind has skipped and fluttered and fallen over itself since the night before, and as you watch her from the behind as she stacks the dishes, your train of thought rumbles off once again. (It was seeing her undressed, not that you haven't before, but last night it was so oddly different – oddly thrilling.)
She hears you shift on the quilt, turns around, and your dress-shirt that she's wearing hitches up a notch. "Good morning."
"Mornin'" Your throat is dry and your voice sounds different but she smiles nonetheless.
"Want to go fix your hair?" She knows you well, better than anyone who has ever known you. (Then again, how can anyone know someone unless you've lived and breathed and shared your heart with them?)
She fixes breakfast. A café au lait just the way you like it and hot croissants with jam. (For a slight moment you smile to yourself – you are not the only one that pays attention to details.)
"What is this? A beautiful girl bearing breakfast? You are far too kind to me, mademoiselle."
"Oh, monsieur. For you are tall and dark and handsome, I simply could not resist your charms." She pushes the food onto a white plate, sets it in front of you and then grins. "Bon appétit."
(She loves it when you speak French, and you love it when she replies. Maybe it is one of the reasons why you have stayed in the city ever since that very first job together.)
You pull her in by the waist and kiss her, noticing how her hand flutters down to her waist as she's crushed against you.
"Let's talk." You've got her head on your shoulder and your fingers are laced together, entwined so you both share the same start and the same end. (No distance, there is far too much of that already.) The Wizard of Oz is on video, and even though the volume is down, you both know the words.
"Okay." She starts counting up your arm with her fingers, her digits ghosting over the delicate skin. "We'll talk."
"Ari." Her fingers slip under the hem of your sleeve. You gently push her hand away. "You're distracting me."
"I thought you liked my distractions." She grins wickedly at you, her hair falling over her eyes in a way that makes shivers climb down your spine.
"I do." You press light lips against her knuckles, and watch as she giggles. "I do, very very, very much."
Her tongue flicks out once, just to leave a clear layer of moisture over her rosy lips. "I knew you would say that."
She sits up straight, pushes her hair out of her eyes. "I know that tone of voice, Arthur."
(She reads you better than Cobb, better than Mal did, heck, even better than Eames. She reads you like a book because part of yourself is with her, you have given it to her; let her in, past that wall that no one else has managed to break.)
"Ariadne," you sit up almost as straight as her, your legs crossed on the sofa as well. You reach out a hand and tentatively pull the bottom of her thin gray blouse up, noting the obvious small mound where it once was flat and smooth. "You've started to show."
"Is that all?" Her frown from before relaxes and her lips fall slightly apart again. (With relief or resignation, you cannot tell.) She falls back against a cushion, her legs folded under her, her top still folded above her waist. "You've been gone for a while, Arthur."
"I didn't realize."
"It's all right. I forget how long you stay away; I should have given you a call or something." She looks adorably embarrassed, and pulls her shirt down roughly.
She flops down on the cushion again, pushes her curls over the pillow so they're spread out like an ocean of dark brown waves. "Shoot." (She knows you're not done. You have that glint in your eye when you've got too much to say but not enough words to say it.)
"I'm quitting extraction."
The words hit both of you like two bullets.
For you, it is the first time you are hearing it from your mouth, it barely seemed real five minutes ago, but you have decided, and it has been said, therefore it will stand. For her, she is in shock; she practically springs off the cushion and sits upright with an awkward space filling the air between the two of you.
"Don't." She finds the words and then collapses into herself, her shoulders folding under and her arms snaking around her stomach like two limp pieces of ribbon.
"What do you mean?"
"Don't feel like you need to destroy your reputation, your career, your life, your dreams, just because there's suddenly an extra part of this family."
You wrap your arms around her; inhale deeply when your nose joins her shoulder. (She smells vaguely like you, but mostly her, the cinnamon spice of her moisturizer and the charcoal and turpentine which follows her like a cloud of creation.) "I'm not."
The words scramble and unscramble in your head, leaping over and dashing each other with vapid moans of tell her, tell her. "I just, I just don't want to run, anymore, Ari."
She turns her head to you. "I don't want you to run either."
(There. It has been said, and then the tension in the air piles up even higher. Now what, now what?)
For a minute you sit motionless, just looking at each other, and then she drops her palm down to her swollen stomach, and runs her palm over it. "D'you hear that?"
You look right at her, then down at her stomach, and then back into her eyes.
"The baby kicked." She grins up at you, and you recognize the young college student that you fell in love with all those years before.
(It was her scarf, so bright red against her gray top that you noted as she brushed past you angrily, fiery and full of life. You love it, and hope to God that Dom is right, that she will return.)
She falls into your arms, kisses you hard, and then pulls your hand down to her bump. "Our baby kicked."
There is a moment of comfortable silence, and the soft flutters under your palm are enough for you to choke out your next few words.
"Hi there, baby, it's Daddy."
(It's the easiest thing since sliding the ring on her finger just six months ago, the most natural thing to do, and though you couldn't have predicted it for yourself, you wouldn't ask for anything more.)
"Daddy's come home."
For the girl who had a birthday and is forever asking me to write a Tom/Summer fanfiction. I adore you. You're the greatest friend ever.
Happy belated new year, and happy early Valentines day.