They were fighting again. He hated it when they fought. All the same, every time they began to spit at one another, he found an innate stubbornness rose in his throat like bile, refusing to let him back down, even if he'd wanted to.
It hadn't yet reached this boiling point, but he knew it would. It was lighter, slyer, more slippery fighting at the moment, but it was fighting all the same. He still hated it when they fought.
"It's become an obsession, you realize. It's unhealthy."
He looked up from the blueprints he was studying so insistently, brows raised over quizzical, carefully guarded eyes. "Excuse me?"
"Don't act like you don't know," she responded, the annoyance clear in her tone. "You're many things, Arthur, but stupid and unobservant are not among them. Your job requires you to be both highly intelligent and detailed. Which is what I'm talking about." Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Your job."
"You've addressed the problem yourself, Ariadne," he replied in as toneless a voice as he could muster. "It's my job."
Pursed lips accompanied the narrowed eyes now. More danger signs. He knew what had set it off - he only used that tone when he had something he felt he needed to protect. Namely when they were fighting. Her own voice was barely on the brink of measured as she said, "But we haven't addressed the problem. Which is, in itself, a problem."
Paradox. She had learned well.
"Your job," she continued, "is interfering with our... relationship." She said the word rather oddly, as though it tasted strange on her tongue.
"I'm afraid I don't follow." It was a lie.
"Are you blind?" And she knew it. The way she snapped at him indicated this would neither end well nor soon.
"I'm doing the best that I can."
"But are you?" The abrupt shift from hot anger to icy cold shocked him slightly, though he would never admit it. "We used to have a balance, Arthur, and equilibrium between work and personal life. What happened to that?"
"My work is my personal life."
"No, it's not. Perhaps it's something you know deeply on a personal level, but it's not something you have to take home with you every night!"
"I invade people's dreams, Ariadne - I access and steal their innermost thoughts, secrets. How is that not personal?"
"It's not personal to you. There are things you don't tell me Arthur, I know there are. You're not open with me, and quite frankly I'm tired of it."
Shit. He could feel himself getting hot around the ears, a sign that his temper was only just in check. The silence that followed was heavy.
He clenched and unclenched a fist, gaze still trained downward. "It's not me that's keep-"
That did it. The clenched fist came down hard on the table, sending papers fluttering. His eyes flashed up to meet her equally angered gaze. "How dare you?"
"Liar, I say!" They were both on their feet now, somehow nose-to-nose across the tiny kitchen table. "It's you! The light in your eyes, the catch in your voice, your damnable glamour! It may not be tangible to most, but don't think I haven't noticed, don't think I don't know!" Her voice was becoming more choked as she shouted; it was worse than he'd anticipated. "I know Arthur, and I can't, I can't..."
Even with the emotion, he couldn't flush his anger. "You can't talk like this." She tried to say something, but he cut her off. "No. Stop. Stop! I don't want to hear it! You can't talk like this! You're mad, or else I'm dreaming. No more of this nonsense."
She was shaking her head. "You can't just leave it in the middle like-"
"No. I'm done with this discussion."
"What, then? Afraid you might learn something from it?"
He had turned to leave, but this stopped him in his tracks.
Her face was completely open; she was letting him see everything. "I can't, Arthur. I can't live like this."
"You think I can live like this? You think I fucking enjoy living like this? I am doing the best that I can! What more do you want from me?"
It was too much. She had crumpled into a chair, hands violently clutching her own hair, entire body trembling with a spectrum of anger and despair. "I want..." Her voice shook too. "I want... I want you to be honest with me." When she looked up at him this time, there was something in her face, her eyes, that caught him off guard. "No avoiding. No lies. No more secrets."
His mind was void of rational thought. He wanted to give it to her. He wanted to hold her, kiss her, tell her everything was okay. But he couldn't.
"I can't," he echoed. "I can't. I can't promise anything. I can't just drop everything and say 'no more secrets'. This job doesn't work that way. I don't work that way."
"I think you should go."
"What about not leaving things in the middle of-"
"A fine example of the power of raw emotion. Now get out."
Lead in his chest, he took one last look at her defeated form and shut the door behind him. Silence.
He slumped against the door, sobbing.
If she heard, she ignored the noise. The door stayed firmly shut.