Ariadne awoke on the day of her graduation with a genuine smile. It wasn't really because she was done with school; that was no surprise. Yesterday, Professor Miles had tracked her down at her favorite cafe and told her that Cobb and the kids were landing in Paris later that day, asking if she would like to come to his place for dinner after the ceremony. She was more excited, more animated about the prospect of seeing them than she had been about almost anything since her return.
Miles was her sort of adopted grandfather, as he had been since she arrived. Her parents and most other relatives lived in a suburb of Columbus, Ohio, so many thousands of miles away that she had seen them only three times in her five years at architecture school. They couldn't come today—her father's ailing health prevented him from flying. She would visit them in a few days, at which point she would hopefully have an explanation planned for how she had the money to do so. When she was eleven, they had saved enough to go to Europe for two weeks. They let her pick the place. Young Ariadne, already fascinated with buildings and bridges and their formation and also already enrolled in French classes, had chosen Paris. As the plane passed the Eiffel Tower on its way to Charles de Gaulle, she had fallen in love.
Now, as she fastened the gold earrings her mother had sent for her last birthday in her ears and resettled the red silk around her neck, she looked out over the city that had truly become her home, and smiled. Ariadne glanced at the clock. 10:18. The ceremony began at 11:00, and she was a twenty minute walk away. She grabbed the vibrant scarf and jacket out of her closet, stopped momentarily at the door for her heels and purse, and walked out the door.
After the ceremony, Miles motioned for her to join him. She made her way through the crowds slowly, only hearing another familiar voice when she was fifteen or so feet away.
"…saw. James, can I see what you drew for your sister?"
Ariadne smiled inwardly and stepped around the final group of people separating her from them.
A blonde-haired girl, maybe eight years old, approached her and stuck out her hand. "I'm Phillipa," she stated. She pointed at the boy who was standing with a kneeling Cobb a few feet away. "That's my brother, James."
"I'm Ariadne." She shook Phillipa's hand gently. Phillipa definitely acted older than her age, but then, Ariadne had expected that. Phillipa also seemed to have inherited her mother's vivacity.
Dom Cobb stood at this point and pulled Ariadne into a brief hug. "Congratulations," he said. "It's wonderful to see you." It had been six months since they parted at LAX. He looked at his daughter, who had taken his hand again and was eyeing Ariadne with interest. "I see you've met Phillipa." He looked to his son. "This is James. Say hello to Ariadne, James."
James looked up at her. "Hi Ariadne," he greeted, smiling widely at his new friend. James, she noted, seemed to befriend anybody with whom he came in contact.
"Hello, James, it's nice to meet you," Ariadne replied. "How have you been?" Ariadne directed her question at Cobb.
His face brightened. "Great. I'm taking time off at the moment, spending time with the kids. It's been good for all of us. And you?"
Ariadne hesitated for just a moment. She'd been telling people she was fine, but how was she? She had spent the last several months readjusting to normal life as a student, but she truly missed the wonder of building for dreams and the people she had worked with in that world. It was as though she had found this new sort of family of people and then they had stepped off the plane at LAX and disappeared. Dom was the first of them she had seen in six months.
"I'm all right," she concluded finally, "but I miss the job." She glanced at his quickly-becoming-impatient children. "We'll talk tonight."
Cobb nodded in agreement. "See you then."
She turned to Miles as he left. "Congratulations, Ariadne," he said warmly, embracing her tightly. "I'm proud of you." He pulled back to look her in the eye. "If you do go back to extraction, just promise me that you'll keep yourself grounded. Don't lose yourself."
"And build something in the real world, too," he added. "I want to be able to brag about your work to my friends when I'm in the retirement home."
"See you tonight?" Miles prompted.
"Of course," she replied.
"All right, I'm off." He turned and started to the exit with a final warm smile.
When Ariadne arrived at her former professor's home that evening, Cobb answered the door with Phillipa and James following behind. They rarely let him out of their sight. When Phillipa saw who it was, she bounded away from the door, calling, "Uncle Arthur! Uncle Arthur!" Ariadne started a little, whatever comment she was about to make to Cobb stuck firmly in her throat. He grinned a little indulgently.
"Arthur happened to be in town. He decided to stop by."
"I can hear that," Ariadne commented, wondering a little at his expression as she shut the door firmly behind her. The Cobb children reappeared in the hall a few seconds later with an amused Arthur being dragged behind them.
They deposited him in front of Ariadne and then led their father away with a similar grip. "Come on, daddy, we have something to show you," Phillipa explained.
" How are you?" Arthur asked, holding out a hand for the jacket in her hand and hanging it on the coat rack.
"Fine," Ariadne answered without much consideration, her mind still reeling a little from the surprise. "And you?"
"Fine, as well," he answered, studying her face carefully. "You miss it, don't you?" It wasn't a question. "It's why I came, actually. Eames and I have a job lined up next month. We need an architect."
Ariadne had, somewhere in her mind, been hoping for this for six months. "You interested?"
"I'm going to the states for a couple of weeks on Tuesday, but after that, I'm in."
He turned back from where he had been leading her to the living room. "Actually, the job's in the states, too. We'll just meet you there."
Ariadne narrowed her eyes playfully. "You already know where I'm going, don't you."
Arthur continued to walk. "What kind of Point Man would I be if I didn't?" he queried. "But the job's in Boston. We'll meet you there in three weeks?"
"I missed you," he said softly.
"I missed you, too."
The next morning, when she stopped at her café for her morning coffee, a figure with dark hair and a newspaper was already at her table. Ariadne grinned. "You speak French," she observed, gesturing to the newspaper. He looked up with a raised eyebrow. "Of course you speak French."
She sat down. "What is it, Arthur? Why are you here? "
"Like I said, I missed you. I wanted to make sure that you're okay. That you're happy."
"I'm fine," she protested.
"I know," he countered, folding up his newspaper and setting it on the table. "That's not what I asked."
"Fine, if you honestly want to know, I'm not. You looked after me for one day in L.A., and then all of you just vanished. Four months of my life, and everything related to them, gone. Do you have any idea how much of a shock it was, readjusting?"
"I do, actually," he soothed, grasping one of her hands for a moment. She jolted at the contact. "I did it too, once."
She studied Arthur's expression and found nothing but open honesty. "I miss the job, Arthur. Like I said, there's nothing quite like it." He smiled at the phrase, but sensed that there was more and stayed silent. "But I miss the people, too, maybe even more than I miss pure creation. I miss Cobb's trust in me and Yusuf's stupid jokes and Eames's incessant teasing and…and I miss you. "
He paused. "I also needed to see if you—"
He was reaching for her hand just as his cell phone rang. He looked apologetic as he answered.
"Yes, I know, I…no, that's fine, I'll be right there…yeah…okay,bye."
He looked up at Ariadne. "I'm sorry, I have to go." He stood and pressed a lingering kiss to her temple. "We'll see each other soon, I promise." With that, he dropped a few bills on the table for his coffee before she could protest and left.
She was alone left to contemplate her now greater confusion as she swirled the coffee remaining in her cup and watched it slosh quietly against the sides. That conversation really hadn't answered anything.
Ariadne was considering dream worlds as she stared absently out the plane window and waited for the final passengers to board.
"Nice view, isn't it." The voice came from immediately beside her. She knew that voice. Her head spun quickly to face him as he settled into the seat beside her.
"If I could see more of Paris it would be. Charles de Gaulle might be the ugliest airport I've ever flown through." Ariadne paused briefly. "You're on my plane," she stated. His eyes lit with silent laughter. "And you have the seat next to me." His mouth twitched. "How did you do that?" Arthur was silent. "What, do you have some secret business in Columbus that you have to tend to immediately?" He still didn't answer. "Fine, be mysterious like you always are. It suits you."
Arthur laughed. "Actually, I came because…"
Ariadne's brow furrowed. Arthur was never at a loss for words. When she met his eyes she was surprised at intensity of the gaze. He gently placed a hand on each side of her face, caressing her cheek with his thumb, and leaned forward. Her heart skipped a beat. Ariadne gasped in a handful of air and reached out for his jaw as their lips met. They kissed deeply, peacefullly until they were both out of breath, their chests heaving to take in air.
Arthur chuckled deeply. "I came because of that. That's what I was about to say at the café. I came because I needed to see if you still made me feel the same way."
"You'll stay this time?" she asked after a moment, her voice more insecure than she would have liked.
He pulled her hands into his. "I'll stay as long as you like."
"Good," she declared.
"So, what is Columbus like?" She smiled at the gesture and began to regale him with stories of her childhood. They traded these for the 9-hour flight, oddly comfortable with the familiarity of it.
And when they landed in Boston and Eames came to pick them up, they were not at all surprised at the delighted smirk he gave them when he saw their joined hands. "Come to your senses finally, did you?"
Ariadne glared a little.
"He's an ol- stick-in-the-mud," he warned her.
Arthur looked murderous.
"I think I'll manage," she told him. "Now, on with the job?"
"Oh, God, darling, he's rubbing off on you."
"Oh, shut up," Ariadne protested.
"This may sound strange, but I actually missed you," he replied.
Ariadne smirked. "I missed you, too, Eames. I missed you, too." She took a deep breath. "So, tell me about the job. Arthur says you have more details."
He swung an arm around her shoulder, effectively pulling both of them with him. "It's about a chemical company…"