When Arthur opened his eyes, they latched onto Ariadne's sleeping face from across the bed. Her eyes flickered open, wandered a bit, and then met his.
"Ariadne, I love you," he whispered. He'd been leading up to that right before the dream had abruptly ended. He sat up, missing her warmth. He ignored the buzzer on the PASIV. Her eyes were glassy when she carefully removed her line before he hugged her. Her neck pressed against his, he could faintly feel her pulse. His eyes and nose started to prickle.
"I won't let you go crazy. I won't…"
Then Ariadne croaked, "Can't breathe."
Immediately he loosened his grip on her shoulders and back. "Oh, sorry."
Her hands were clasped together between his shoulder blades. Sniffling, she asked, "Don't tell Cobb about this, okay?"
His jaw tensed. What arose in Arthur's mind was his disappointment in Cobb for having carelessly brought an inexperienced dreamer into his messed-up head; for not having enough faith in his own friend and point man to help him; for being such a closed book even when the favorite activity of Cobb's projection was to hold guns to Arthur's head; and for putting the lives of others like Eames, Yusef, Saito, and even Fischer Jr. in peril. He was just plain selfish…
If not for Ariadne... I should have been nosier, I had not idea it was so bad, I should've— No, I can't blame myself. Cobb knew better. Maybe one day I'll forgive him for that.
"Arthur." Her voice steady and strong, Ariadne pressed him to speak. "Promise me you won't tell Cobb I showed you the hotel? It's… too personal."
He sighed, feeling drained. "I… I promise I won't. I promise…I love you, and I promise I won't tell Cobb about the hotel. It'll stay between us."
Involuntarily, he shivered.
"Thank you... I love you, too," she replied, agreeing with him with a subtle shiver of her own. "What time is it?"
They pulled away from each other and Arthur turned to see the round-faced clock on her side table, its tiny black arms pointing straight to twelve and two. "Late."
Ariadne rubbed her face with her palms. She then tugged gently at the lines of the PASIV to trigger them to coil back into the case. "I wanted to get up early to research for any specialized materials that could take the kind of stress I need for my less realistic designs. I guess I lost track of time while we were watching TV." Although several firms had scrambled to snatch up such a brilliant architecture student, Ariadne's employers still treated her like a novice. She'd been assigned to a project that nobody cared about, but she'd said that if she don't care, she didn't expect to be assigned to the bigger projects. This smaller work project also left her time to build up her body of personal designs.
"I should probably go then. Let you sleep if you need it." Arthur heard the disappointment in his voice as he watched her close the silver lid on the machine. It sealed with a dull click.
She looked up at him and smiled. "Though, you could still sleep here, too."
His brow lifted, smirking. "What about your research?"
"If you're so concerned about my work, you can just slip out in the morning."
"Good point." Arthur grabbed the handle on the case and slid off the bed in one motion. "But, Ariadne, I thought I was more than a one-night stand to you."
Ariadne flashed her teeth at his forced deadpan expression. "Sorry, babe, but I can't be tied down to one man. No hard feelings?" She laughed.
The warm sound filled his ears, causing a pleasant heat to spread across his chest. He sighed dramatically, making his voice crack on purpose. "Oh! You've crushed me, Ariadne." He staggered towards the doorway with the PASIV. "Stomped my heart into a billion tiny pieces!" He clutched his free hand to his chest.
Ariadne laughed again and chucked a pillow at his back. He instinctively arched his back to dodge the projectile, and it bounced off the wall just as he ducked out of the room.
"Come back and take that pillow like a man!"
He heard Ariadne's feet hit the floor while he walked down the short hallway to the coat closet.
"I'm gonna start washing up, okay?"
"Got it," he called back. "I'll put this back so it's nice and safe." He then stood in front of the open closet.
Squatting down, Arthur gently replaced the PASIV in the architect's hidden compartment in her closet floor and pulled the rectangular, hinged panel back down over it. He checked the seal on the hidden space and rearranged the old jacket and shoes back over the floor.
It's certainly clever… I wonder if it was her idea or Eames's...
Closing the closet door, he turned to the TV, shut it down, and turned out the rest of the lights in the apartment. He paused a moment to look out the French doors overlooking the city beyond Ariadne's balcony. Only a few other apartments were still illuminated by anything other than the glow of street lamps below.
After a bit, he wandered back to the bedroom. The table lamp was still on, and Ariadne was lying quietly under the sheets in her bed, her back to him. He lingered in the doorway, watching her side rise and fall. She was already sound asleep. At dinner, she had spoken about an idea that was pissing her off because it was perfect for a dreamscape, but, no matter what changes she made to the personal project, it just wasn't very applicable in the real, gravity-ruled world.
I think the dream world would've found you whether it was us who introduced you or not. You took to it so quickly. There really isn't anything like it, is there?
He crept to the bathroom to clean up before coming back into the bedroom to strip down to his undershirt and boxers. As quietly as possible, he switched off the table lamp and carefully slipped under the cool sheets, trying to jolt the bed as little as possible. Distantly, he could feel the heat radiating off her small, sleeping body.
He yawned and started to feel fatigue take him, too. For now, he was using most of his time for research, too, on weaponry and the underground crime scene by gathering information from his network of contacts. Through half-open eyes, he could see her relaxed face and made a silent promise to her and to himself. While he'd been concerned about her physical being, she had been worried about their mental states.
Don't worry, Ariadne… we won't repeat history. I won't let you go crazy.
A/N: I hope you guys and gals enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it! :) Thanks for the reviews and favs, and be sure to check out my other stories if you've got the time!