Would just like to thank everyone that gave this story the light of day. And special thank you's go out to the reviewers/alerters since last chapter: cinematherapy, Anonymous, and Moviefanatic2.0
It's been a pleasure. Warning: this is insanely short.
Chapter 20: And This Is How The World Ends.
A year and eight months later.
Ariadne walked the corridors with her new employer. She'd taken up a job with a major company and the lead extractor was giving her a tour of their quarters. Each member of the team had their own office. They passed by a red head, getting water from the fountain and he pointed out, "That would be our forger, Mr. Andrews." The Architect nodded politely at him as they continued. The extractor stopped by the chemist's room and his own office, showing it off to her. They passed the kitchenette he informed they would be privy to and then opened the door to a pristine looking office.
"And this is our Point Man."
Ariadne's lungs stopped functioning. She stared at the top of his gelled head, glued to his computer. "Arthur this is our new architect—" The aforementioned looked up from his laptop and gaped.
"Ariadne…" He whispered. It was like he'd seen an apparition. The Point Man fished out a red die from his pocket and rolled it two, three times on his desk before daring to look at her again.
"You two know each other?" The extractor looked between the both of them.
Nodding, Ariadne numbly explained, "He was the Point Man on my first job…He taught me how to dream."
The extractor was completely oblivious to the tension filling the small office and so brightly said, "Well, I'll let you two catch up."
Arthur watched the door close. He tried finding his voice but it was scratchy and dry. He forced out, "I guess the nightmares are gone, then?" He closed his laptop slowly and stood.
"Yeah. Um. I stopped seeing my psychiatrist and I don't need Eames anymore. I, uh, live by myself over in that new residential area, Au Pair. You?"
Arthur's aura was cold. Like they were old acquaintances who hadn't seen each other since they parted ways at LAX after the Fischer job. "When I'm not traveling I still reside at the old place."
She nodded understandingly, "And your nightmares?"
The Point Man avoided her eyes, "I still have regrets that haunt me."
"This is my first job since…everything." She confesses. Her look was hesitant, her voice timid and far away, "I took it to get over you…"
Arthur's eyes gravitated to hers and she confessed further, "I've missed you." His eyebrows furrowed and he rounded the desk to stand in front of her. "I've missed you so much, Arthur. You have no idea. I put pillows on the other side of the bed so it feels like you're there. I-"
"I've missed you too." Arthur shook his head. "It was all my fault," he declared, "Eames didn't take you away from me. Neither did Fischer or Browning, I did it myself. I pushed you away instead of being there for you. I'm so sorry, Ariadne…" He wanted to touch her, to run his fingertips down her arms and entwine their fingers. To breathe in her scent again, feel her hair tickle his nose again. He held himself back, though. "If I could do it all over again—"
"Me too." Ariadne did what he had been too afraid to do.
She cupped his face with her left hand and he could feel something foreign. Something that wasn't her skin. Arthur's stomach did flips as he imagined it being her engagement ring. He was too impatient to wait and find out, he slid his hand to cover hers and felt for himself. The familiar middle gem, the miniscule diamonds on the sides, the thin band…the hope of a second chance. "I should've never doubted you, Ariadne. I wasn't in my right mind." Their hands intertwined with each other's and she brought her head to rest on his. "I trust you more than anyone."
"Forget about all of it. None of it matters anymore…" She traced the lapel of his jacket with her free hand and his free arm took its rightful place around her waist.
"Is it too late to beg you to come home to me, Ari? Let's pick up where we left off." He whispered, their noses brushing tenderly.
Tears welled in the Architect's eyes as she shook her head, "I told you I'd always love you…"
Arthur's hand anchored her neck, "Quick, give me a kiss." He crashed his lips onto hers. Their hands released and wrapped around each other as they deepened. Ariadne melted into him. Her body a perfect fit, the puzzle pieces put back together, filling every space between them. He'd forgotten what it felt like to be whole and happy. He forgot what it felt like to surge with bliss. He forgot what it felt like to have love for Ariadne seep out of his every pore at the very touch of her. You couldn't count how many times he'd sighed 'I love you' into her. How many of her tears he tasted.
He chuckled, "What happened to 'pictures are frozen memories'?"
"That's when I'm not sweaty and gross…"
"Nonsense." He snapped another picture and then kissed her forehead, "You're always my beautiful wife." Then he put his finger in the hand of the little figure she was holding and it curled its hand around it. Ariadne lay in her hospital bed, cradling their newborn. The baby was sleeping peacefully and angelically. The Point Man analyzed the baby's features, the already long eyelashes, wisps of light brown hair and the cream skin. "He looks like you…has your nose too." He kissed the architect's nose proudly.
Ariadne lifted the baby's body a little and changed her focus, "What do you think, baby, does Xavier look like me?"
"No mommy, you're silly. You are a pretty girl; baby Zavier is a boy!"
Ariadne giggled and shared a glance with Arthur. The Point Man's logic had seeped through to their first born and he never let his parents forget it. The architect nodded. He took the baby from her and began swaying back in forth. He made sly eyes at the architect and smirked that way that never failed to give her butterflies…two babies later. "I want a little girl next."
Ariadne was tickled but feigned rejection, "Hey now Mr. Greedy, I just had a baby. We're not bunnies…you have to wait a couple years again."
"You hungry?" He asked after laughing with her. She nodded and Arthur kissed the baby's forehead and placed him in his own spot near her bed. "Strawberry?"
"Please." She batted her eyelashes.
"Come on, Dominic, let's go feed Rex and find mommy more Jell-O." The Point Man ruffled the four year old's hair.
The boy smoothed his hair and whined, "Dad!"
Arthur and Ariadne watched as the little boy carefully collected and stacked his coloring books and slipped them in his suitcase looking book bag. He'd begged for one like Daddy's. His parents shared knowing, amused looks with each other. Ariadne always teased that their son was going to be even worse than Arthur in the OCD department but she secretly loved having a baby Arthur to dote on. Dominic then put his markers in their box and laid them inside. Lastly, he stuck his toy train in the pocket and closed it. "Ready to go." He stood and looked expectantly at his father.
Arthur smirked an, "Ok," and fixed the position of his son's clip-on bowtie. In response, the boy straightened his sweater vest. "Love you," Arthur cooed and kissed Ariadne's lips.
Dominic stood on his tippy toes and strained with puckered lips. The architect lowered her head so the little boy could leave a sloppy wet kiss on her cheek and say, "I love you, mommy."
"Love you too, Dom."
He grabbed his dark red stuffed dinosaur, gifted by his favorite Uncle Eames, and stopped by the baby's hospital crib. Again on his tippy toes, he kissed the glass. "Bye little brother!"
Arthur smiled down at his son and took his hand, winking at Ariadne before they disappeared into the hallway. She watched her two of three boys go. The taller one, a suited Casanova. His hands capable of being ruthless and controlled for holding guns. Yet, capable of being gentle and comforting for holding their children's hands. The smaller one, adjusting his pace and steps to match that of the father he idolized. A little suitcase swinging in one hand and a stuffed animal safely tucked under the arm of his other. Sensing her, like his father could, Dominic James looked back and beamed at his mommy before turning the corner.
She tipped her golden chess piece and watched it fall with a thud on the table beside her. Sometimes reality is worse than a nightmare but sometimes reality turns out much better than a dream.
Thanks again! Now I can focus completely on Follow the Red! Yay! And for anyone curious, I have a picture of "Dominic James" (A/A's firstborn) on my profile. He's so cute.