Thanks for the response! Neverlandspirit: I'm really excited you love it and I hope you continue to! And no problem…I was missing posting so bad that I was like 'whatever. I sort of have a main plot line let's go for it' hahaha. Lauraa-x: That's what I like to hear lol. You never know. Anything is impossible in Inceptionverse. A little of that reasoning will be visited this chapter. Thank you! Can't wait for your analysis in later chapters! =) cinematherapy: thanks! And I will. Lol. Whatshername76: Yay! We will definitely be questioning it as much as Arthur will be questioning it.

So honored to have favorites and follows after just the first chapter. Huge thanks to the very sweet: whatshername76, Skyler13 and Lauraa-x.

P.S. I don't know whats going on with fanfiction and the random gibberish (which is always exactly the same. the whole "progress llways (ing room" stuff) in my a/n's. It happened the last few chapters of my last story and these. But I'm continuing to figure out how to get rid of it and I hoped it worked. Because it never shows up for me, I literally don't see it until I go back and look later on the site.

Chapter 2: Belief

Belief makes things real,
Makes things feel, feel alright.
Belief makes things true.
Things like you, you and I.
—Gavin Degraw

"Ariadne? Who's Ariadne?"

It was like Arthur had the wind knocked out of him. Dumfounded from the shock, Arthur dropped his hands from Dom's shoulders. What did he mean who's Ariadne? He leveled a look at the Extractor sitting across from him, "The Architect from Inception."

Cobb's eyes grew dark as he stilled and stiffened from the mention of it. The blonde twisted and agitatedly turned the music off. Arthur was so caught up in the remnants of the dream upon waking that he didn't hear the faint melody of "Non, je ne regrette rien…" coming from the headphones and mp3 on the cushion by Dom's leg. He could've sworn he heard music before passing out on the stretcher. Dom peered at him in a paranoid manner, "What do you know about Inception?" his voice steely and hushed since the Professor was in hearing distance.

"Everything?" replied Arthur as Dom regarded him wildly, embarrassed, "That it's the reason you can go home."

"You know I can't go home, Arthur," rubbing his palm up and down his face, Cobb grit, "They think I killed her."

What? Arthur's pulse sped up and he insisted, "No, you can. Saito fixed your charges after our inception on Robert Fischer." What game was Dom playing? Because it wasn't funny. He could cut the crap.

Cobb's face twisted into seven shades of worry. He plopped onto the sofa and took Arthur's shoulders, "No…Saito ambushed us on the roof of our hotel in Japan after we failed the Cobol job. He forced us under. I woke up in a dumpster in an alleyway in Sydney all beaten and shit (Its true. Cobb had the healing black eye and scabs to prove it) with a strange and random yet firm resolve never to cross Mr. Saito again. I tore Australia apart only to stumble on you here in Paris in one of the warehouses."

Arthur fumbled for his totem: his trusty red dice. He rolled it. It landed on it should. Cobb caught the confusion on his face and suggested, "You may want to scrounge up another totem just in case. They've been compromised. I think that's one reason you were lost down there for so long…because they found and manipulated it." Arthur stayed guffawing at the cube and its six white dots on the floor. How could this be reality? And how come his totem worked in the other reality too?

Dom's words whizzed by him like wind, "They got a hold of mine too. I woke up by accident not because I realized I was dreaming. I think the fall from the truck to the dumpster gave me a kick…one second I was calling you up to talk about another extraction job and the next I'm lying in leftover shrimp. I've had to construct a new top," he pulled a newer looking silver spinning top from his pocket to show.

So Arthur had been lost for over two years in dream time? He'd imagined the impossible job and reckless romance? He'd fallen in love with his own subconscious? (How terribly narcissistic of him.) Miles came bounding through the door and over to Arthur. "My God, you gave us a fright." The elder nodded to Dom and they both helped Arthur up (Arthur was naturally a bit weak), "Come, come. I've got hot tea ready for you," Miles insisted they go sit in the living area to soothe the Point's nerves.

The seating in the living area was far more worn and comfortable than that of Miles' office. Probably because it was less expensive and more frequented. It was ribbed and dark orange; a permanent indention on the left cushion. Arthur set himself there. Meanwhile Cobb plopped next to him and Stephen placed two mugs of earl grey in front of them on the coffee table. Miles then situated himself in the lazyboy recliner from the same set of furniture to the right of Dom and the end table. As Arthur just sat there staring off into space, his friend picked up the mug for him and set it into his hands. Dom and Miles gave him some silence as he sipped. They both—especially Dom—knew what it was like to be thrown into reality after a lengthy and vivid dream. Everything you knew seems foreign. They watched patiently as he rolled his dice a second and third time and then scanned the living room: The prints of Monet paintings on the walls, the grey paint, Miles' worn out house slippers in the corner by the bookcase. The end table and on it the mosaic shaded lamp, the copy of War and Peace and a silver frame with a clock on one side and a picture of a petite architect with familiar brown orbs and welcoming smile on the other.

Arthur sat his mug down harshly on the coffee table (he missed the coaster and slammed it on the glass which elicited a loud and unforgiving clank) and reached over Cobb to take hold of the picture. She was real. "Professor."

"Yes, son?" the Professor's fatherly stare was wary but intrigued at the same time.

"This girl." With two hands gripping either side, he brought the picture an inch from his face desperately and studied the curvature of her smile, counted each freckle on her face. It was undoubtedly the girl of his dream. The one Dom claimed not to know of. "What is her name?"

Miles broke into a grin. That of a proud papa. "Ariadne. Unique, I know." Cobb crinkled his brows and looked to Arthur (obviously he wondered how that could be. How Arthur could conjure up a real person he'd never met in his head.) Oblivious, the Professor praised on, "My new Dominic Cobb as it were. She is a brilliant young woman; I've taken her under my wing."

Oh yeah…NOW Dom recognized the name. He knew Miles' new protégé had a strange sounding one. Didn't expect it to be the random one Arthur woke up babbling about though…But how was it possible for Arthur to recognize someone he'd never met? The only reason she looked familiar to Dom when he peeked over Arthur's shoulder at the picture was because the frame had been sitting on Miles' end table for three years now. Actually on second thought…if he thought hard to remember the dream he pulled Arthur out of, he did sort of place her face on the girl Arthur paraded around town that night. The one in Arthur's car. There was no way she could've shared the dream with them, she wasn't hooked up to the PASIV. Still, he might've found some other way to get Arthur out besides ramming a vehicle into the her side of the car if he suspected she wasn't some clingy projection holding his Point Man under. But she was wasn't she? Had to be.

Stephen stilled and analyzed the man as if the air was sucked out of the room by the Point Man's odd behavior. Having known Arthur for most of his adult life, it was common knowledge that the young man kept things close to his chest. And 'close' meaning nearly invisible. Arthur did not attach himself (with exception to the Miles/Cobb family but only because they took him in and he felt obligated to be loyal). What little emotion he actually felt he bottled up. You never saw its effects on him. He didn't live per say, his gears merely turned. But here he was staring at Miles' protégé's picture with unwavering reverence. With Miles' own warm feelings towards Ariadne, It moved him to comment, "Do you know her?"

When Arthur went to answer yes, Dom cut him off, "He woke up asking for her."

"We were together in the dream. In a relationship, I mean. It was very serious. I was starting to think about marrying her…"

The Professor's response was to emphatically blink and glance at the back of the frame Arthur was holding. If there was any question that his protégé actually shared that dream it was proven wrong by his standards. Ariadne was in no way ready for monogamy. She had a boyfriend for a few years (they mutually called it off when he dropped out of school…) but she was much better suited on her own. Ariadne was a very independent woman. She kicked ass and took names. She was definitely more interested in her career than snatching up a man. That was also due to her proud feministic views and high standards for males. Most of them, she believed were assholes not worth her time. Not that marriage was exactly Arthur's cup of tea. He was married to his work. He was a lot like Ariadne in that respect—finding their passion for their career choices more important than hopping bars for companionship. Arthur hadn't had a girlfriend since Miles knew him. But at the same time Arthur was traditional. He was a gentleman. Marriage was completely characteristic for him, completely his style. Arthur was committed to everything he did and everyone he cared about, if he found the right girl it wasn't a surprise to Miles that he would devote himself to her forever. Ariadne would have a harder time settling down and being even the slightest bit domestic. She wanted years and years of architecture and adventure first.

But it was a shock to hear that that 'right girl' was Ariadne. And not even really Ariadne. Now, it wasn't a shock because Ariadne wasn't capable of attracting men. Despite her disinterest in them, many were interested in her fiery allure. Arthur was a man. He wouldn't escape that fate. It was more of a shock because it came out of nowhere. And was a small world.

Dom's response was to glance at Arthur with furtive concern, "there must've been a projection of her down there that you—believed you were in a relationship with."

Miles' eyebrows rose but he seemed to be the only one that understood. In fact, he nodded in agreement and let a small chuckle slip, "I'm actually not surprised she left an impression on your subconscious. Put Ms. Bourgeois in a room with anyone for ten seconds and she'll brand you with her personality."

"Wait. You met her in reality?" inquired Cobb, flabbergasted. Even he had only heard of the up and coming female version of himself (well and seen the picture). And how would Arthur have made her acquaintance without him? He normally only came to Paris when he accompanied Dom.

The Professor finished a swig from his mug and nodded enthusiastically, "Yes. Yes, and you did too." His hand waved flippantly, "Maybe not formally. She was here for dinner last year over Christmas break when you and Arthur barged in to leave presents for me to take to the children." Without break he addressed Arthur again, "You probably only saw her in passing but those encounters make for the best projections."

Now that Miles brought it up, Arthur did remember a smallish, curly haired figure mixing a salad in the kitchen while they passed through to get to Stephens' study. He hadn't paid attention to her though because she looked like a teenager. Or he thought he hadn't paid attention to her. His subconscious proved that theory wrong.

The two men were going to duck it out in Paris until there was news that Saito moved on to the next group of heads to chop. Since he'd been awake a week or so longer and had time to recoup, Cobb went out to find a hotel for them to stay in while Arthur rested at Miles' the remainder of the day. The Point showered to clear his head, picked through some of the books in the library and then joined the elder of the two for dinner. The spaghetti went down his throat before the question came up it, "She lives in the fourth arrondissement. Correct?"

Miles sighed. All day (since Cobb left) Arthur sporadically brought Ariadne up in form of basic facts: She is studying Architecture with a minor in Art History. She dislikes Gaudi's style most of all. Does your protégé have a penchant for scarves? Her family lives in Maryland. She craves Chinese food, doesn't she? They were little things he remembered from the dream that he wanted Stephen to confirm so that he could justify her existence. Or rather, find a way to make their imagined relationship a tangible one. Some things didn't match up (like this one) but some things did. Which—to Arthur—proved something but to Miles only proved coincidence. "No. Sixth."

Frustration flickered across Arthur's face for a second and then was gone. He plunged back into deep thought while twirling the pasta on his fork. Miles eyed him, not looking at the parmesan he was sprinkling on his own plate. The obsessive nature being displayed was not Arthur's and it bothered him more and more after each invested query. "Her middle name is Grace. Am I correct?" stated the Point Man. His fork of noodles halted in front of his mouth, waited for a reply before entrance.

Stephen picked up on the minute fidget of the boy's fingers on his utensil. There was no use in telling him he was right. Her full name was on the framed copy of her honors society letter she had sent Miles which was currently tacked on the fridge. Right behind Arthur. It'd been hanging there since her freshman year and Arthur often helped himself to bottles of tea inside the fridge when he and Dom visited. Another detail about her his subconscious could've easily picked up. Miles abandoned his plate for a sip of wine and then clasped his hands on the table to look at Arthur sternly. "You were lost in the dreams for a while." How could he break it to him gently without coming across as accusatory, "You're disoriented. Confused. I know it's difficult to wake up one day and find out everything you've lived and experienced for two years was fabricated. That a very important relationship with another person was in your mind—"

"—She's real though, Professor," the utensil rested back on the rim of his plate. Spaghetti left to get cold. "Ariadne Bourgeois is a living, breathing, walking person."

"Yes. But she's not the person you think she is." Miles shook his head and sighed again. He needed to be patient and cut Arthur some slack. After all, Mal was just as fervent about her delusions being real. And it was neither of their faults that their brains had been tampered with. When he spoke again it was gentler. "Your subconscious took a name and a face and projected the ideal personality for you to become involved with into it." Arthur stared at his plate, hands in his lap, shaking his head. "You're not in love with the Ariadne here. The real Ariadne. My little Ariadne. You're in love with her template. Please accept that and drop it before it drives you insane."

Arthur let it slide for the rest of dinner. But lying on his back and staring at the chipping white popcorn ceiling in his hotel room, he could not shake it. He hadn't bothered to change into clothes (purchased in the city so he'd have something else to wear) to sleep in or to turn down the plush comforter of the bed. The tv only annoyed him; only reminded him of Downton Abbey and the Architect. Out past his closed blinds, the Eiffel Tower sparkled from base to tip, tourists and couples perused the streets on their way back from dinner and the like. He couldn't look out at the city without wondering where Ariadne was. What she was doing. If she would remember him if she saw him and most unlikely…if she would love him the same as she did while he was under. Every now and again, a fellow hotel patron would stroll down the hall or some kids would run and yell excitedly and their parents would get on to them because 'some people are trying to sleep, boys'. There was the ever present humming of the room's air conditioner in the background. He hadn't bothered to fool with the temperature. The room was freezing. So cold, he muscles seized in effort to create warmth but he couldn't bring himself to get up. Arthur was trapped in his pitch black box of thoughts. He was possessed by the idea. All the promises the name 'Ariadne' held. Arthur was like both the Cobbs all in one.

Like Dom: Haunted.
Every time his eyes closed, her face was the first thing to pop up in his mind. Her face smirking at him as she sauntered back into the warehouse fiddling with her red jacket and quipping about creation. Her eyes shining and smiling, sitting on a bench in the park, joking about Eames. Her heavy lids and mouth agape, sighing his name. Her deadened gaze in the smashed vehicle. Arthur was in that desperate state his coworker dwelled in constantly. Where all they truly wanted was to lose themselves again—even if just for a moment—to love and be loved in the midst of impossibility.

Like Mal: Consumed.
The Point Man knew the dangers of staying in a dream for too long. As did Mal. They both knew they could lose themselves. And still, while everyone told them they had been found, they insisted they were still lost. Even as every scrap of evidence established their world was real, a deep-rooted feeling ate at them. Whispered to them they might be wrong. For Arthur, it was hard to comprehend a world where he and Ariadne weren't together even if that world happened to be reality. If that was the case maybe he didn't want reality. That notion scared him shitless more than anything else ever had.

In the dream, he and Ariadne were warned of the danger of their serious relationship by everyone in dreamshare that knew them. Arthur had to admit he was paranoid himself that her passion for dream share might cause her to slip from sanity. He held out on her at first because he was terrified of becoming Dom and Mal. Everyone always drew the parallel between those two. Always instilled the fear that Ariadne was going to trail-blaze down Mal's foosteps. Fall down Mal's spiral.

How did everyone know it wouldn't be Arthur?

But how could he justify sacrificing his life for the illusion of someone, for the illusion of devotion? For a being his brain had created of his own volition to pass the time in the dream. What still continued to baffle Arthur was the fact that Ariadne Bourgeois wasn't entirely a conjure of his imagination. She existed. But the paradox was that while she existed and he existed, they didn't exist. It was a universal fallacy for them to be but not be. He felt down to the marrow in his bones that he still belonged with Ariadne and whoever she turned out to be here in the waking realm. So this had to be a nightmare. Someone was hiding something, manipulating him.

He pulled out his laptop to research Fischer-Morrow. For proof the empire had crumbled as a result of he and the Inception team. There were articles scattered all over the web mourning Fischer Sr. but nothing that suggested it had affected the corporation in any way. While Robert inherited the company, Mr. Browning was appointed CEO. There were rumored negotiations of them buying out Saito Industries and gaining full control of the energy industry but no plans were solid as of yet. Fischer-Morrow seemed to be moving along as powerful as ever. And Robert had fallen into a drinking problem as a result of losing someone so disappointed in his failures.

But HOW can you just plot and execute an inception in your head? It always bit at him that Eames insisted he had no imagination. Arthur had some…but not that much, dammit. (And here is why he knew he was crazy, now. Because why would he argue he wasn't equipped creatively enough to do such?) Then again, dreams feel real while you're in them so it's plausible that he could believe an impossible job was successful. In truth, that was the type of job that could only have a good outcome in a dream. Or you know…He was loyal to Dom. He wanted Dom to be able to get home. So did his dream-self scrounge up a far-fetched way to get him there? Or was it an excuse for him not to follow his best friend around like Lassie anymore? Did he harbor some reluctance or blame Dominic for having to keep an eye on him? Or perhaps it was to fulfill the hidden desire in himself to settle with a nice girl? But that had been so unexpected. Arthur hadn't wanted a serious relationship, had no need of one. Ariadne came in and stole his heart before he blinked. It wasn't something he yearned for when they first met. He never anticipated that he would want to move in together, or put a label on them or that he would contemplate being with her for the rest of his life. Why would he dream up something the old Arthur—reality Arthur—wouldn't have initiated even as a last resort? Maybe that's why it felt so realistic.

He had to figure this out.

Arthur opened another tab and searched her up. Where she lived, where she frequented, when her classes were. He had to see her if he was going to make sense of this. He needed proof that this Ariadne wasn't his Ariadne.


The Point Man watched her for weeks. He rented a black Beamer from somewhere in town and claimed to Cobb that he was doing surveillance for a new job. And he was…there was a project in the works he would ask the Extractor to sign on for once he finalized the requirements and got permission to build his own team. He did research on it in the hours she spent in the classroom to pass the time. No doubt, Dom was concerned about Arthur's stability and whether delving back into dreams would be good for him but Arthur insisted that working was what kept him grounded. The more occupied his mind was, the more normal he'd feel again.

Problem was—what his mind was occupied with.

Live in the sixth arrondissement, she did. Floor five. A corner flat. That allowed for him to have access to her through two windows. Both were rectangular and gratuitous. The one on the farther side was longer in width and looked into her kitchenette and what he could make out was a living/study area. The top of a dark blue sofa peeped out over a big black box (tv) in the back of his view. Nearer to the window, he guessed she either had a window-seat or a breakfast table because she would sit their most early mornings with a book and a cup of tea or coffee (which he observed depended on how late she stayed up the night before) and gaze out onto the misty maze of roads. The bottom of the window began a little below her shoulder level. Sometimes in the afternoon, she would come home from school and (obviously) shower before sitting in the comfy alcove to study with dripping wet hair. This Ariadne was a devoted studier just like his had been. In fact, most of her late nights were spent with her nose buried in the textbooks. The television was seldom used. She mostly used it for noise because it was always flashing but hardly ever the focus of her attention. More often than not, the architecture student would eat dinner in front of that window—the delicacies of a starving undergrad like frozen dinners, sandwiches, cereals and (it startled yet relieved him) Chinese takeout. Judging from how long it took the delivery boy to show up after her call, The Point Man had narrowed her restaurant of choice down to three possibilities. Le Chow's was two blocks down, Yums was across the street (if it was them, they were terribly slow) and Le Orientale was one block west and across the bridge. The window on the other side of the corner was longer up and down. Through process of elimination, it could only be the one in her bedroom. The drapes were always closed (he couldn't quite make out the color of them) but her silhouette was always seen last in that room at night and first in that room in the morning.

The creepy nature of his "research" on her was not lost on Arthur. After all, if Miles and Cobb and everyone else he'd sought advice from were right—and there was a good ninety-nine percent chance that they were—he was stalking a complete stranger. There is a fine line between romantic attachment, curiosity and cause for a restraining order. And there were moments—like when Ariadne's eyes would cut side to side nervously and shut her curtains in haste. Or when she crossed campus to meet with Miles (the sight of the old man guilt Arthur into wanting to pack up, leave Paris and find a dream therapist to erase her from his mind). Or when she would halt in the middle of the street and look over her shoulder in suspicion—where it all seemed clear that Arthur was out in left field, here. Completely wrong. That he had no justifiable reason to be watching the young girl like a hawk. Everything felt so clean cut and certain. And he could almost, almost believe he should forget about her and this whole mess.

Then there were other moments—where Ariadne would be walking home in the evening. A loaf of French bread in one hand, the other swinging in time with her strides which were not bouncy but not a glide either. Her messenger bag bumping against the back of her hip and her gaze trained on the streetlamps flickering on like fireflies around her…just like the stroll he'd memorized. Or when she was out for lunch with friends and would order the large soda and barely sip at it. And as he remembered, would tear her burger into fours and nibble. Pick it apart and dip everything into ranch dressing. Her method of eating would suggest she ate like a bird but Ariadne cleaned her plate like a bottomless pit. Or the times when she would break off half of her sandwich and feed it to the stray dog hobbling down the street with empathy and nurturance, showing that ever bleeding heart—that was when everything seemed dark and murky. When all signs lit up in neon and pointed at the girl. Told him she was the same person he dreamt up. Had to be. And the rest of the planet had to be conspiring against him. He couldn't just imagine something so perfect and complex and beautiful as she.

But how on earth was she so perfect and complex and beautiful in every dimension? In the dream. In reality. The quality of that magnificent creature was too consistent to be a creation of his or anyone else's.

One day, around his third week of surveillance he braved the patisserie she visited every Monday and Wednesday morning before her study group met. The class prepared them for real world job situations so every week they were rotated on a group project to learn about delegation, working with others (some who you may not like) and etcetera. Everyone brought a snack to wake them up and she always picked up half a dozen croissants and half a dozen éclairs from Gateau Bebe. Roughly around seven, seven twenty-ish depending on how late she slept in. And most weekends she would drop by and pick up some macaroons for herself in the afternoons before they closed up shop. Since she was a regular, they gave her deals at the end of the week to clear out the shoppe and prepare for fresh goods. Normally, Arthur waited on the bench in front of the bakery with newspaper in hand until she breezed by him and the bells of the door sounded. The wind caused by her stroll sent a waft of graphite and vanilla mixed with something tropical. Pineapple maybe. The second was fleeting but Arthur always waited for it to pass. Then he would abandon his newspaper, promptly walk down the street to his car and get in to wait for her to go somewhere else. He did that Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday for two weeks before he randomly, compulsively, made to follow her inside. Just once…he told himself resolutely.

He had been right in the judgment of her height in the dream—accurately so. The top of her head was level with his collar bones. Ariadne woke up on the dot today for she had ample time to French braid her hair back from her face and put effort into her outfit before class. She donned skinny ankle pants (orange with small white dots), a white, sleeveless blouse, brown cardigan and lacy scarf. A quiet tapping noise came from her fingers dancing against her bag while she waited. The line wasn't long this early. She was called up within seconds. This Ariadne bounded to the counter with some Euros already pulled out for the register. Arthur didn't think to figure that they'd be expecting her (It was routine. Why wouldn't they?). That they would pull her order from behind the counter with knowing smiles and thank her, telling her to have fun in class almost instantaneously. The exchange was faster than he anticipated and the man found himself clinging to the back of her head with his eyes as she quickly ambled out without acknowledging him. Without even noticing him. As if there had been no one behind her. Behind her—he forgot he'd have to order something eventually. Arthur half-heartedly pointed to something behind the glass and asked for a cup of espresso to go. He tossed bills on the counter, told them to keep the change, grabbed his breakfast and paced out and back to his car, mad at himself for giving in and breaking his self-enforced protocol. He was so self-absorbed and angry, in fact, that he blazed through the crowds while ripping open the wrapping of his pastry and not paying attention where he was going.

He bumped right into her.

His hands instinctively flew to steady the girl and her box of pastries before he saw the polka dots on her shins and realized who it was. Arthur's blood slowed to a stop when their eyes met. This was love…he still felt it. Still felt the prickles along his skin from touching her. Still melted when her mouth formed the perfect '0'. His coffee was knocked out of his hands and splashed in an explosion of black liquid at their feet which caused her to jump to avoid the scalding drink and keep her pants stain free. Arthur choked, "I'm sorry."

She shook her head, blushing a little and readjusted her box of goodies, "No, I'm sorry. I'm the one chilling in the middle of the walkway." The Architect's laugh was spurred by nervousness and she made an excuse while her hand dug through her bag, "I can't find the key to the lock on my bicycle." His eyes scanned to the right and saw the infamous vintage, yellow bike. The one she owned in his dream was a sea foam green he'd noted weeks ago. Ariadne scooted closer to the curb to let him pass and dropped the conversation. Arthur walked a few paces then turned back. He could pick the lock on it for her, start up a conversation. Yet, shiny silver reflected at him as she pulled the key out of the front pocket and knelt down to unchain her mode of transportation. Pivoting back around, he acted no more interested in her than she was of him and waited til her wheels were long gone in the eastern direction to drive over to the University. It was only natural that he overanalyze the few sentences they shared. She regarded him as a simple stranger. Not even a hint that she recognized him at all could be traced in her eyes. That should've been enough for him to drop it.

But Arthur was feeling bold on that day of days. He strode into the campus, found her 11:30 class with Stephen and sat at the top in the back row, hidden in the shadows of the corner for the period. The class was taking their mid-terms that week so it was silent save for the shuffling of papers and awkward clearing of throats. When the last student had left (Ariadne was one of the first to finish) he stood to make himself known to the Professor.

Miles already sensed he was there, "Need something, Mr. Talesco?" He took the stack of papers and tapped them on the desk to line them up better, "That's the only time you visit me without Dom. And he only visits when he needs something. I trust you're doing much better? Dom said you were back to work."

Hands in pockets, (he always felt like a young child in trouble when in Miles' presence even in his expensive suits and elusive Point mask) Arthur descended the stairs of the auditorium to stand in front of the elder at his desk. "I've got a new job lined up and I'm in need of an Architect—" He could tell what the older man was fixing to suggest before he opened his mouth—"Cobb can't build anymore. Mal's projection won't let him."

Stephen's eyes narrowed, "You have millions of contacts. I'm sure one of them will do."

Still, Arthur pushed, face straight and un-emoting as ever, "I need someone better than Dom and everyone knows you breed the best to be had."

"You want to corrupt one of my brightest and best." Miles reiterated for him. He leant back in his chair. Clasped his hands on his stomach. Waited to see which move the young man would make in their game of skirting around and avoiding the elephant in the room.

Arthur licked his lips. Avoided the man's eye, "It's a simple, two level extraction for a private firm. Experience isn't a requirement. There is no threat if we fail. Whomever you choose should fit the bill," his stare flickered back to the Professor darkly (because he was trying to cloak the hope).

Nothing got passed Miles.

"I'm not introducing you to Ariadne," he clipped. Arthur had time for a hard swallow before the Professor continued, "I don't want her exposed to dream share. She possesses real world potential and I want her to use it. I made a mistake with you, Dom and my own daughter; I will not make it with Ms. Bourgeois."

"All we need is someone to design. She won't be needed in the field," reasoned the Point Man, using all his weight to lean over the desk with his hands. He was ready to promise anything.

Miles exhaled and stood to wipe off the chalkboard, "What do you think will happen, son? That she'll see you and magically be who you want her to be? Do you think you can merely recreate your dream and that'll make her fall in love with you? Because Ariadne isn't the type of girl to be wooed by love at first sight." He wished he hadn't turned to gage Arthur's reaction because it was made up of hard and shamefaced eyes. Stephen tossed the eraser onto his desk with the shake of his head, "Arthur, you're worrying me. It's been three weeks and you're still on this kick. Reject these ideas before they've consumed too much of you."

The Point dropped his elbows to Miles' desk and ran his hands through his hair, "You don't understand how hard that is for me. She was my world down there. I'm in love with her."

For the millionth time he tried to break it to Arthur, "You. Don't. Love. Her. Please, give it up. You'll drive yourself mad. I can't watch that happen to another young one I care about."

Arthur's head tilted. He didn't want to concern and stress Stephen out like this but it didn't feel like he was in control of it. The pleading, troubled, fatherly gaze from the Professor made Arthur feel remorseful when he confessed, "I just need to meet her. I need to spend time with her so I can convince myself of the differences. So I can convince myself that my Ariadne is not this one. So I can move on. Until I'm sure—I'm stuck."

He made a valid point. What he needed was to get out of his headspace and be forced to face the truth. Miles dragged out his answer warily so the young man could tell he was on the fence, "I don't want to risk her sanity for yours. She'll love it. I'm afraid she'll get sucked in forever. No one could ever replace Mal but Ariadne is like another daughter. She is very dear to me. I couldn't bear to lose her—the both of you—over this. Much less to play a part in it."

"I won't let her get sucked in. Give me one job's time and then I'll cut her off from the dream world. I give you my word," promised the Point.


"Her next class ends in an hour and a half in building two. We'll approach her then."

Oh, you stood by me
And I'll stand by my belief.


So the confusion builds. Explanations make sense as well. What did you think of A/A's coffee encounter and what are you expecting their introduction through Miles to be like… ooooooooh ;) Poor Arthur is going to go insane over her I think.