A/N So I was in the middle of trying to write a different Arthur/Ariadne piece and suddenly this happened? In the middle of the other story? Okay, whatever. Not my best work, but that's what happens at 2 am and apparently I'm just too much in love with these two to just delete it.
As soon as the plane landed after the Fischer job, they'd all split into different directions. Cobb, of course left with Professor Miles, Arthur and Eames had each arranged a rented a car, Yusuf had hailed a cab and Ariadne, deciding to keep to the appearance of a poor college student, was going to catch a shuttle to the hotel Arthur had directed her to. She was to check in under the alias he had set up for her, Catherine Burton. She didn't know where the name came from but she appreciated the effort he put in to keeping her safe and anonymous. Just in case.
Cobb had told them all it'd take at least three months until they should contact each other, give them some time to feel out if there's been any heat on the job. Ariadne was surprisingly saddened by this. She'd worked and basically lived besides these people. While she had never been a friendless girl, she had instantly clicked with Cobb, Eames and Arthur, even Yusuf to a degree. They were the people that truly understood her, the friends she had at school weren't stupid, but they didn't know what she did. They couldn't do what she did. The thought of going back to the everyday without even a mention of this new, amazing world gave her a panicked, sinking feeling. Would they forget her? Would they drift into their own lives and dreams, forgetting about the young architect that had helped them?
Her thoughts swirled as she walked through the plane and into the concourse. The crushing sense of impending loneliness was overcome by sudden panic. She needed to sit down, the airport suddenly felt immensely small. She rushed past the crowds, weaving her way through the frustratingly slow people. How could they walk so slow, were they that oblivious? How could they not know that there was something more going on around them?
She realized her hands were shaking, so she shoved them into her pockets. She managed to make it to the luggage carousel faster than any of the others, staring at the revolving conveyor belt of luggage, watching the same bright red ladybug suitcase go around at least eight times before finally noticing that her own bag was a right behind it. She didn't notice Arthur on the other of the baggage claim, frowning at her lack of movement, nor did she see Eames raise an eyebrow at the oddly blank look on her face.
The air was suddenly too hot, too stagnant. Ariadne jerked her bag and dragged it behind as she turned on her heel. She walked as fast as she could without obviously looking like she was running out the exit. It wasn't helpful that as soon as she out, people were milling around the sidewalk, waiting for ride. She did her best to weave her way through the crowd without drawing attention to herself, which was actually easier than she thought considering everyone that saw her dismissed her as merely another college student.
She didn't know where this came from, she'd never been claustrophobic before, and LAX wasn't even a small airport, but it was like everything was converging on her. She imagined these people suddenly surrounding her and charging her like Cobb's projections had. No, no they're people not projections, she told herself. Get a grip. She fought her way through the crowd until she made it to a less populated area and eventually to a bench where there was no one around.
She glanced around just to make sure no one was near, fist clutched around the bishop in her pocket. When she was sure there was no one there, she yanked it out and set it on the bench next to her, prodding it with her finger. It fell with a satisfying clunk and she let her breath out, the tightness in her chest easing slightly, though it did nothing to the nervous discomfort of her stomach. She was out of limbo, really. This was real, this was reality. She was forcibly reminded of when she'd watched The Matrix when she was younger. She was completely overwhelmed and confused throughout the movie, unsure what was real and what wasn't. That was now, she needed to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was real. She tipped the bishop again and again, just to be sure.
The too fast beating of her heart finally slowed to an almost manageable rate, but the churning sensation in her stomach merely intensified. In a moment of clarity, she jumped up from the bench and threw her head over the railing and into the bushes. She hadn't eaten much that morning but she emptied the contents of her stomach into the plants, heaving. There was a sudden pain in her head like it had split open and each time she started to retch, a flash of lightning pain shot through her. She moaned, putting a hand to her head when the retching subsided. She glanced up when she heard fairly quick footsteps to see Arthur come into view. His pace quickened when he took in her pale appearance and her doubled over stance.
"Ariadne?" he asked, brows furrowed. "Are you okay?"
"I think so," she muttered. "I don't normally get sick from planes…" She was about to ask what he was doing but she couldn't finish her thought, her pale skin turned even whiter and Arthur could have sworn he could actually see the veins through her skin. She threw her upper body over the railing and heaved again, though there was nothing left in her stomach but bile. She felt a presence behind her and suddenly Arthur's hand was on her forehead, a cool relief against the burn that she hadn't even noticed. He frowned over her shoulder, she was a lot warmer than she should be. She coughed heavily and Arthur rubbed her back and shoulders with his free arm, making a rotation around her back. She stood up with a groan, thinking she might actually be done.
Arthur stepped back, giving her room to get her bearings. He reached into his bag and handed her a bottle of water which she accepted gratefully. She slowly sipped it down, afraid it might start another vomit session. Arthur watched her with a frown as she sat heavily on the bench, taking her head into her hands.
"When did this start?" he asked.
She glanced up at him. "When I got off the plane I felt…it felt like a panic attack I guess. I've never been claustrophobic, at all, but I just felt like the walls were closing in…I know that sounds cliché but I had to get out of there, then out here I got dizzy and it just came on. Oh god," she moaned, grabbing her head as another wave of dizziness and nausea took her.
"Okay, come on," Arthur said. He pulled her back over his shoulder and gently eased her into a standing position. Ariadne swayed on the spot, falling into Arthur's side. He hastily wrapped an arm around her shoulders to keep her upright. She looked up to thank him but found that her vision was blurring slightly. She was barely aware of him ushering her into a cab, then suddenly they were in a hotel lobby, and a millisecond later he had her in a hotel room. Her maneuvered her onto the bed and disappeared from her line of vision only to return a moment later with a cool washcloth for her forehead. He forced her to drink more water, but she just leaned over the bed and threw that up into the trash can. But Arthur was nothing if not persistent and kept forcing water down her throat until she kept it down. When she started to shiver uncontrollably, he gently moved her under the blankets. Thankfully, the shaking stopped and she managed to get to sleep, stirring restlessly. One of the last things she saw was Arthur lean over her, once again putting his hand to her forehead. She thought she heard herself mutter 'why?', but she wasn't sure.
She didn't dream, not at all. She half woke periodically before being sucked under again by extreme exhaustion. Arthur sat dutifully by the side of the bed the entire time, immediately calling Eames. Of course Cobb would have been his first choice but he didn't want to intrude on his friend's reunion with his children, so he was stuck with calling the Briton.
"Arthur," Eames's jovially rude voice came over the line. "Unless I am very much mistaken, you said we weren't contacting each other for three months. Finally taking after Cobb and breaking your own rules? Maybe you aren't as dull as I thought."
"Eames," Arthur said shortly. The tense tone of his voice stopped the other man's chuckling.
"What's happened?" Eames asked, all joking gone.
"It's Ariadne," Arthur said.
"What about her? Did something happen?" If Arthur didn't know better, he'd say the forger had a bit of panic in her voice.
"We both saw how she was acting in baggage claim," Arthur said. "It seemed off so I followed a bit behind her, just in case. She's gotten really sick, vomiting, headache, fever, chills, she's clammy to the touch and was throwing up any water I tried to get into her."
"That hardly makes sense…" Eames sounded just as confused as Arthur felt.
"Did we miss something? Was she poisoned and we managed to miss it? I don't think she had anything that we didn't," Arthur said, the confusion almost managing to drown out the care in his voice. Almost.
"Oh," came Eames's sudden reply, in a typical voice of dawning comprehension. "We never tested the final version of the compound on our dear Ariadne. Her coming along was so last minute that we never got a chance."
Arthur felt his heart sink like a stone. She was having a bad reaction to the chemicals in the compound needed to get three levels deep. Not like an allergic reaction, but close. "That's so rare," Arthur said in a voice like he was going to challenge the other man's conclusion, but he knew he was right.
"Nevertheless, I fear that's what's wrong with our little architect. Did you call Yusuf?"
"No. Honestly, my first thought was poison and next to me and Cobb, you would be the most observant on the plane."
"Wow Arthur, that was almost a compliment, I think I might fall faint," Eames said sarcastically. "Anyways. If you're lucky it should pass in a day or two. If not…well, you know where the best hospitals in Los Angeles are."
"Now no funny business you two, clothes better stay on."
"Goodbye Mr. Eames."
Arthur leaned back in his chair as he hung up on the other man. A reaction to the compound, Arthur could have just kicked himself. It was the obvious answer, and a rather large oversight on his part not to have her test it. But they all thought she wouldn't be coming, there was no need to test the final product on her and by the time it was necessary, there was no time.
He was stubbornly ignoring the voice in the back of his head that was calling him a liar ever since he told Eames that the only reason he followed Ariadne was she looked a little off. He was ripped out of his mental debate when Ariadne gave a little gasp, letting him know she was awake.
She looked around, completely disoriented and confused. Why was it dark, hadn't she just been at the airport? Yeah, she'd gone outside to catch her shuttle and get some air when…Oh. The sudden onset of illness came rushing back to her and…Arthur? She blindly reached to the table next to her bed for the light, managing to turn it on after the third or fourth attempt. She jumped when she realized Arthur was only feet away at the foot of her bed.
"Jesus Arthur!" she gasped.
"Sorry," he said, brows still drawn together in concern. "How are you feeling?"
She sat up straighter, considering this. Her headache was better, not gone by any means, but down to a manageable level. Her stomach no longer felt like it was trying to escape her body, though she did feel obscenely thirsty and oddly, very awake. "Better," she said. "A lot better. How long was I out for?"
Arthur glanced at his watch. "About sixteen hours."
"What?" Ariadne gasped. "Sixteen hours?"
"Just about," Arthur confirmed. The tense set of his shoulders that she'd hardly noticed relaxed visibly when she saw that she wasn't near delirium any longer. "You sure you're feeling better?"
"Loads," she said. "I don't get what happened, I was fine one minute and the next I felt like the walking plague."
"We have a theory."
"I called Eames when you fell asleep," Arthur said. Ariadne raised an amused eyebrow at that, causing Arthur to smile a little. If she could still make fun of the banter between himself at Eames, she must be feeling healthier. "We think you had a bad reaction to the final version of the compound we used. And we were lucky, if you'd started getting that ill during the job…" He shook his head. "Small comfort, I'm sure, but it could have been worse."
"I bet," Ariadne said. She glanced around the room and caught sight of her bag. Arthur watched as she tentatively worked her way out of the bed and to the bag. "I need this," she said, pulling out her toothbrush. "Really, really badly."
Arthur gave her a slight smirk as she disappeared into the bathroom. He exhaled, cradling his head with his hands. She was okay, no permanent damage. Thank god. His heart had just about spasmed right out of his chest with he realized how ill she really was. The smirk in Eames's voice when he heard Arthur had followed Ariadne made it painfully clear that Arthur wasn't fooling the other man. He'd followed her because he needed to, no two ways about it. He leaned back in his chair, contemplating Eames's words. He had already broken his own rule and as they say, if you're going to go to hell, might as well make the trip worth it. He looked up when Ariadne emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later and was pleased to see there was color back in her cheeks and she looked way livelier than before.
"Hungry?" he asked her.
"Starving," she said.
He stood in one fluid motion and she was suddenly aware one again of just how lithe his body was. "Let's go then," he said, opening the door with a great amount of flourish.
She looked between him and then door, then back at him again. "Nice try," she said, turning around and taking a seat in the room's second chair. "Answers first." She held her chin up, trying not to look too defiant but making it clear that she wasn't going anywhere yet."
"Ariadne, you need to eat something," he told her.
"I know," she agreed. "I really do, so you better stop trying to get out of it, sit down and answer what I ask." For a second she thought he wasn't going to listen, but after a moment he let the door close and situated himself in the chair. She fought the urge to give him a triumphant smile. "So, how exactly did you know where I was?"
"I followed you."
"You followed me."
She waited, but he said nothing more. "And why is that?" she asked.
"I saw you at baggage claim. You looked…lost. I've seen the look before, right after a tough job. I followed you to make sure you were okay," he said. "And it's a good thing I did, too."
"Yeah," she said. "I think I could've gone without you seeing me puke but other than that, yeah fabulous."
Arthur laughed, eliciting a smile from Ariadne too. "So are you going to let me feed you now?"
"I bow to your infinite wisdom," she said solemnly, but with a huge grin covering her face.
"Good girl," he said approvingly but with a matching grin.
They didn't go farther than the restaurant on the first floor of the hotel. Arthur refused to let her get a salad, insisting that she needed more calories to get her strength back. She made a face but eventually ordered a chicken and rice dish. She glanced up at him periodically while they ate and mentally cursed him for being one of those people that managed to make eating spaghetti look graceful. Watching him eat inevitably drew her eyes to his lips, sending her soaring back into the memory of him leaning over, his lips on her, the exhilarating feel of him kissing her. It was worth a shot.
As fast as her energy had come on after she'd awoken was as fast as it disappeared and she found herself growing increasingly drowsy at the table. Arthur being Arthur of course noticed this and paid for their food (over her complaints) and escorted her back to her room. The weight of his hand on the small of her back and he gently guided her off the elevator was a small comfort, but also inevitably brought her mind to wondering just where else she'd love to have his hands.
The room was quiet when they entered, neither said a word. Arthur seemed to be focused on locking the door behind them and Ariadne was valiantly trying to sweep thoughts of Arthur from her mind, without much success. She shook her head like she was trying to clear water from her ears, as if she could actually shake the thought of the sexy point man from her mind. She turned to thank him again and was face to face, closer than she'd ever stood to him.
It was worth a shot.
He was much to close. She had to force herself to look up into his eyes, those dark brown orbs that somehow managed to radiate emotions, from happiness, to rage, to amusement but now, she didn't even have a word for the intense stare he was focusing on her. His hands were on her arms and she couldn't remember them moving there. He stepped even closer, eyes boring a hole through hers.
"Arthur," she managed to say, though it came out as a whisper.
He didn't respond, but ran the back of his hand lightly over her cheek bone, a feather's touch. She instinctively closed her eyes, basking in the touch of him. She bit her lip as the hand moved down, trailing light fingers down the side of her throat before cupping her neck, thumb rubbing delicately over her cheek. He leaned over, lips barely an inch from her ear, she could feel his warm breath against her skin.
"I'm glad you're feeling better," he said, the softest sound barely brushing her ear. He pulled back slightly, eyes locking onto hers. She swallowed, every nerve ending was on fire and waiting, all expectant of whatever would happen next. He pulled her minutely closer and closed the space between them.
Ariadne's mind was slowing down. He was getting so much closer, the front of his body was brushing hers and she shivered at the contact. Before she could even process what was about to happen, the familiar sensation of his lips on her engulfed her. But this was more, so much more, the dream had not done him justice at all. His soft lips moved against hers and she, not needing any prompting, kissed him back.
As soon as he felt he respond he deepened the kiss, becoming more hungry, desperate, as if he stopped she would disappear from his grasp. Her arm wrapped up around his shoulder while his arm around her back pressed her even harder into him. They broke, both desperately needing air, Ariadne gasping slightly. She'd had boyfriends before, not many but she had them, but she had never been kissed like that, like he was pouring passion directly into her.
Arthur leaned him head down, resting his forehead against hers, arms encircling her waist. She tentatively reached around his, causing his lips to twitch upwards.
"Ariadne," he whispers her name huskily and her breath catches in her chest .She'd read books of women describing this, but never experience someone actually cause her to be unable to breath.
"Y-yes?" she manages to answer.
"Mm," he said, still resting his forehead against hers. Leaning down, he kissed her once more before pulling away. "Get some sleep Ariadne."
"I-what?" she asked. "You're not leaving are you?" The thought of Arthur disappearing especially now sent a pang of horror through her that she was sure was felt from her toes to her ears. He kissed her forehead soothingly.
"Of course not," he said. "I'm in the room next door. We're both exhausted. Get some sleep, Ariadne."
"Oh," she said, taking this in. "You're not going anywhere?"
"No," he said, his hand still tracing patterns on her neck. "Not anytime soon at all." He kissed her again, softly this time to go with his promise. He turned and walked to the door, before turning back to tell her, "I followed you because I wanted to. I'm not going to let you walk out of my life."
He closed the door softly behind him, leaving a stunned Ariadne with a slow growing smile spreading across her face. Right now, she didn't care that she'd almost gotten stuck in a prison of her own mind, she didn't care that she vomited up everything she'd eaten in the last 24 hours and she didn't care that she was in the middle of a strange city. He wanted her in his life. She closed her eyes and succumbed to sleep, a ridiculous grin never making its way from her face.