For one blissful moment, everything stopped. Arthur's hand was warm in mine, an anchor keeping me in the peace of our paradise, where nothing could touch us.
But then reality cut in. With a gun.
"Lucas?" I breathed, squinting at the imposing shadowy figure.
"That's right." He sneered, stepping out of the inky shadows to face me. His eyes were mad - burning like fiery coals into mine as he looked down upon us in hatred. The effect was terrifying, I had never seen him like this, didn't know he was capable of such hatred.
"Lucas." A calm, cool voice cut into the conversation. "I know you hate us right now, but it's my fault, not Ariadne's. She told me she had a boyfriend but I wouldn't leave her alone. It was me who did all the chasing."
I looked at Arthur in disbelief. Surely he wouldn't sacrifice himself for the sake of me?
Or maybe he would, because that was what love was about. And if he loved me so much that he was willing to do that, and in my heart I loved him just as much, I knew what I had to do.
"He's right." I spoke up coldly. "He seduced me and I made a mistake. Please forgive me Lucas, I was so hurt after you attacked me that I ran into his arms. Please. Don't kill me. Kill him."
My heart slowly wrenched into two pieces as I said it, but I kept myself together knowing that I didn't mean it but that Lucas would believe it all the same. Arthur's expression was in two minds. He wore a look of relief that I was going along with his story and taking the blame off myself, but shock saturated his face as he took in the harshness of my face, the bluntness of my words. He understood that I loved him too much to really mean it, but couldn't understand where I was going with this. I guess with all the fight I usually put up against his protectiveness, he expected me to jump in and defend him. Looking deep into those soulful eyes again, I tried to communicate my love and sorrow as I got up and shoved him away from me, backing away towards Lucas.
Though it brought bile to my mouth, I reached up and touched Lucas' clenched face. "I love you Lucas," I murmured. "Say you'll forgive me. I'll do anything."
"Anything?" Lucas repeated with a sneer.
Lucas jolted me round to face him and kissed me roughly, and I squeezed my eyes shut, making my body impassive and cold. He let go of my suddenly.
"You're lying. You barely responded in that kiss!" Lucas brought the gun to my head and breathed hard, the clenched look back in his face. I fluttered my eyes shut and imagined Arthur's face as I waited for the jarring impact of the bullet against my skull. I didn't permit myself to smile in relief, but inside I was glowing that at least my plan was falling into place-
"No. This isn't your fault."
My eyes flew open in shock. Lucas had lowered the gun and was looking at me thoughtfully.
"You've been tainted by this guy. The only way for us to truly be together and for me to forgive you is if you put an end to his life." Lucas said matter-of-factly.
Oh my God. He had completely gone mad. There was a gleaming, far-away look in his eyes as smiled happily at me.
"Lucas...you're asking me to kill someone for you?"
"It's the only way to prove how much you love me."
I looked at Arthur, who stared very composedly back at me. He nodded subtly, and I felt a jolt of shock go through me. What the hell did that mean? Did he want me to shoot him? I wished time would freeze again, so I could figure this out, but Lucas pushed into my thoughts again, shaking my shoulder roughly.
"Come on, Ari, before someone comes."
Without breaking my gaze from Arthur, I put out my hand for the gun, and felt something smooth and long. I looked down, confused, at the twelve inch knife resting in my palm and looked up at Lucas.
Chuckling, he spat "Like I'd give you the gun. It's better this way. More personal."
I gaped in horror.
"Go on." He chided. "I haven't got all night"
I shuffled over to Arthur with the offensive knife in my hand, tears escaping silently from my eyes.
'What do I do?' I mouthed at him anxiously.
'Whatever you have to do to survive.' He mouthed back, still calm as can be.
Survival. My life was nothing without Arthur, he was the anchor keeping me grounded to the world. If he was taken from it, I would follow without a doubt. Survival meant saying with him, which meant if he died, then I would too.
'I love you.' I mouthed at Arthur, before swinging round the blade with a cry. Lucas cried out as the knife slashed his cheek, and I took advantage of the situation by forcing his gun arm upwards, body trembling as his strength pushed against mine. For a few heart-stopping moments, the gun sank lower and lower to my head, before Arthur came out of no-where, wild fury on his face, and kicked Lucas' legs out from underneath him.
We all toppled to the ground, and the gun was lost for a few seconds. Lucas thrashed from underneath we and Arthur and flung his fist carelessly at Arthur's head. Jerking back, he smacked into me, sending me rolling off Lucas, dazed. He took advantage of the situation to reach desperately for the gun, and him and Arthur grappled for a moment whilst I summoned the energy to pick myself off the ground to help. Stumbling over, I reached out a hand to pull Lucas back. But he sensed me, and elbowed Arthur viciously in the face as he grabbed the gun, span around on his back, and pulled the trigger.
For a few seconds, all I could see was the glint of the gun, then I felt the agonising blast through my body as the bullet slammed into me, knocking me off my feet. The stars gazed over me, blurring and focusing as I struggled to stay awake. Howls reached my ears, followed by footsteps thudding to my side. Arthur's beautiful face peered over me, creases disturbing the perfection. He rapidly dialled on his phone and held two quick conversations, and I strained to hear them, but everything was merging and I couldn't make sense of much. And I was too distracted by his face - hell, he looked hot even when he was crying.
Crying? Don't cry. I tried to tell him this, but I couldn't form the words.
But I must. I must tell him why I said those things to Lucas.
"Don't talk Ari," He gulped, containing his tears. "I've called an ambulance, and Cobb. They're coming. You'll be fine, I promise."
Despite everything, I rolled my eyes, registering the protective tone again. So like Arthur.
"No," I sighed. "I need to tell you in case I-"
"In case nothing Ari! You stay with me, ok?"
"Arthur! Shut up dammit." I tried to yell the words, but they came out a feeble squeak. He stopped reassuring me though.
"What I said to Lucas, about k-killing you...I knew you were trying to protect me..." I gulped with difficulty, feeling my life draining away. It was weird how calmly I registered that. "And if I said it was my fault, he would see how in love we were. I had to lie. It killed me to do it. But if he saw how cold and selfish I was being...I hoped he would kill me instead." I finished with relief and drooped against him.
"I know Ari." Tears dropped onto my hair. "I love you." Arthur cradled my face and reached down to press his lips to mine, and I vaguely heard door slams and siren wails, the blurred faces of Cobb, Eames and Yusif behind him. People pulled Arthur away from me, but I clung to him, savouring the moment before darkness consumed me and I fell into sleep with relief.
My eyelid fluttered, refusing to open against the harsh white light trying to flood in. Well I guess people were right about the whole 'go towards the light' thing when you die. I wondered what I'd see. Would some form of Arthur be there? I only hoped so.
Oh God. What if I went to hell? Would what I did to Lucas and Arthur qualify as bad enough? Well, there was only one way to find out. Fearfully, I peeped through my lashes, and then opened them wide.
Eames, Cobb and Yusif stared back at me, simultaneously breaking into grins. Huh. No Arthur, but I had my friends. That was good enough.
"Thank you Lord." I murmured.
Eames frowned and leaned over to Cobb. "She's not brain-damaged is she?"
I rolled my eyes. "So you're still not nice, even in heaven."
The three looked back at me blankly, then Yusif got it and smiled kindly. "Ari, I hate to break this to you, but you're not actually dead."
"I'm not?" I said stupidly.
There was a beat of silence, and then before we knew it, we all burst into laughter. Jolts of pain ran through my body as I did but I refused to stop, hardly daring to belief I was actually alive. There were a few blanks in my memory, and I knew that I needed to be serious and face them.
"Wait, what happened? Is Lucas ok? And Arthur?"
"Well, you got shot." Eames said bluntly.
I rolled my eyes. "No kidding."
"And Lucas is...well I hate to say it but he's alive, not that I care or you should either. Luckily Arthur got his, ours and your revenge by knifing him in the thigh so he couldn't run away. He passed out before you did."
"Arthur knifed him in the thigh?" Wow. It sound pathological, but I was impressed. He sounded so dangerous, and, well...sexy.
"Speaking of which, where is Arthur?" Suddenly realising my urge to see him.
"The slave you mean." A warm voice issued from the door, and warmth fluttered through my body, chasing the pain away, as I met his gaze.
"Hey," Eames butt in. "Give us the coffee then, before it gets cold."
We both rolled our eyes in unison, a typical facial expression when we were around Eames, as Arthur brusquely thrust the coffee in his direction and sat on the end of my bed.
"Soooo..." Eames said, searching for a conversation starter. Me and Arthur both looked at him, as did Yusif and Cobb who had got up to leave.
"What? Where are you going, we just got our coffee!"
Cue another eye roll from everyone in the room. At least I could do that without any pain!
Cobb shook his head at us, and tugged Eames out of the room until, thankfully, I was alone with Arthur.
We simply looked at each other for a while, until I burst out "Did you really knife him in the thigh?"
Arthur smiled, just a little. "Yep. Though if I had it my way I would've done a lot worse." His face clouded over, the eyes losing their warmth. I shivered slightly, hating that love could bring out such dark emotions in people, the things lovers would do for one another.
"You've done more than enough already." I snaked my hand out to touch his, not able to hold it fully due to the wires criss-crossing over me and imprisoning me to the bed. Arthur slided near to me, wrapping both hands around mine.
"Where has he gone?" I asked fearfully, wondering if he was in the hospital and about to burst through the door for his vengeance.
"They patched him up and shipped him off to prison for attempted murder and fraud."
"Yeah. They searched his house, and bingo, they found all those documents in the study. Though George had to be arrested in the process." I shook my head, pitying him for his absurd loyalty.
"So...now what do we do?"
Arthur looked at me for a few seconds. "Now," He paused dramatically, "We go meet my parents."
"Oh yes." Arthur contained his laughter.
"What if they hate me?"
"Why would they hate you? What's there to hate!"
"Arthur, not yet. I need time to prepare myself."
"Well, obviously you can't see them in this state." He gestured to my bed boundness.
"I meant mentally prepare!"
Arthur sniggered. "Jeez, you'd take a bullet but not meet my parents, they're not that bad."
"What do you mean that bad? Oh no, they're not rich are they?"
Arthur stayed ominously silent.
"They are, aren't they? Kill. Me. Now."
"I think you've had enough near-death experiences." He whispered seriously. We both stayed silent for a minute, before Arthur's face broke into a grin.
"Maybe I'll just bring them here to see you, seeing as you can't run away."
"You wouldn't." I gaped in horror.
"Maybe I would." Seeing my outraged face, he broke into laughter and he leaned over to try to kiss me. I pushed him away, trying to maintain my fury.
"Uh uh. You cannot get in my good books. I said no!" But Arthur carried on kissing my neck relentlessly until I gave in and brought his lips to mine, kissing passionately as I savoured the fact he was mine forever.
Sometimes, there are things you just can't fight. People think death is the one thing in life you can never fight, but they're wrong.
You can't fight love.
And I had Arthur, so I didn't fight it. I embraced it.