Neverlandspirit: Eames is a treasure. And you know, I don't think Arthur would ever be unwilling. Lol there'll be some pain. I promise. Lauraa-x: Even if he was punched, he probably still wouldn't realize he's a dick. Lol. And we'll seeeeeeeee. Oh and thanks for favoriting a few of my oneshots! The Pink Archer: Aw. I know Ariadne's being frustrating but she can't really help it! And no problem. And yay! =) kamarooka: yes, their relationship has been pretty rocky throughout this, haha. And take your time reading mon ami, we all have lives so I understand being behind reading. I'm almost always behind updating! LOL. Thanks for reading it when you do. I appreciate it! And I loooove your input and that you 'pretty much have a playlist' for my stories. That's awesome Your reviews are always so fun to read so thank you. CoffeeBean: Yes, I agree. A lot feel super bad for Arthur right now but I feel like Ariadne is something of a priority. She can't really help what she's thinking and feeling and behaving like. And I also think her spiral is inevitable. Four chapters? LOL…yeah about that…
Thank you New SFollowers and SFaves: Jess'sStories, glittergirl73 and sunnycali33
Chapter 21: Trust.
Memories that won't stop stinging
Promises I can't believe in
I knew better than, I knew better than
To trust myself, To trust someone else
Trust the doubt in the back of my mind.
Trust the trail of pain left behind.
Yes, I knew better than, I knew better than
To trust 'love' again.
Ariadne got no sleep. She refused to eat, she refused to talk, she refused to do anything but pace behind a locked door, barred by a chair for good measure. Inception? Surely, she couldn't have been incepted without having picked up on it, right? She was a dream architect…how come she couldn't detect it? Was she living with a liar? Literally five minutes ago, Robert was supposed to be the only one she could trust. And a week ago, the only one she could put faith in was Arthur. Was the problem trusting either of them or was the problem not being able to trust her own decision about them? What happens when you can no longer trust yourself? When you can't rely on your mind or your heart or anything you think you're familiar with? When literally everything is up in the air and nothing is certain? Who do you become?
Mal. That's who you become. A lost soul wandering through space. Change is ever upon you and it comes like a gust of wind. Your whole world rocked by a breeze. Everything you say, you second guess. You question. Your own words feel like lies falling out of your mouth. Everything you feel, good and bad, starts to feel like fire and ice. The bad, it numbs your fingertips and the pads of your toes. It chaps your lips and turns you blue. You feel a thousand knives in a cold so stark that you freeze until you harden and you break apart. And then the good burns and not in that nice warm way anymore. You're afraid you're too lenient with the good you feel and that the hot will get hotter and you'll be burned alive, your flesh charring and falling off before you realize. It's so searing that you can't differentiate whether it's incredibly white hot or just really cold and that's why it becomes confusing. Because the good feels like the bad. And the bad has echoes of the good. And whether you're turning black from the frostbite or from your own ashes, all of it hurts. You start to hunger for truth and not just in the way that your stomach feels like it's eating itself to keep nourished. No, you hunger in that desperate, bloodthirsty way…willing to shed some of your own blood to shed some light. You cry until your face is so raw it feels like you're crying it off. And it gets to the point where the tears on your cheeks become so normal that you don't realize you're crying until you feel the wetness on your pillowcase or your shirt, or dripping down your chin and your neck. The uncertainty stays with you like a shadow. It crawls into bed with you at night and wraps its arms around you as you dream just like your lover used to. You watch the sun rise and set, watch the people on the streets, your everyday life behind some kind of barrier like animals through a cage at the zoo. Except you feel like the animal in the cage. You don't want the weight of your questions but they smother you and they paint themselves on your skin like tattoos so no matter what you do, every time you look at yourself in the mirror you see them. And they hold you down like a gravity. So the only thing you can think to do is to fall. Fall down. Fall further and further through the air. Let it pull you down where it wants you because it has to have this hold on you for a reason. You think it'll be never-ending. That you'll always have this feeling in your gut like it wants to fly up out of your mouth, that the gravity of your doubts and insecurities will keep you in this limbo of a descent. But, oh, you start to dream.
And Ariadne started to dream…to dream of hitting the ground.
A Hard. Violent. Abrupt. Smash against the pavement. Bones crushing. Cracking. That blood and light she thirsted to be shed, snaking out of her. A cold that she knew was most definitely cold. But it would be over. And it would be done. And when she closed her eyes, she dreamed of waking up. To life. Beautiful life. Her real life. Ariadne wanted that with a fire and an ice. Once, in Dom's subconscious, Ariadne told Mal she just wanted to understand. She should've been careful of what she wished for.
"Ariadne, open your door, please." Fischer had been standing there for hours that next morning, trying to coax the Architect out. She wouldn't respond. He couldn't even hear movement from the inside.
Four days. He'd only been with her for four days; this wasn't fair. Robert and Ariadne were just beginning to ease into a more comfortable level of their relationship and then that Point Man had to come in and ruin everything. What was done, was done. Couldn't Arthur see that? Anything Arthur said or did to make Ariadne understand the truth or to deter her from her new boyfriend was just a matter of stalling. All it did was add some time to Robert and Ariadne's gradual fall into their inevitably united future. "Ariadne, baby, I'm serious. Let's talk." The man leant against the door with his shoulder, talking to the crack. He jiggled the knob and it was stuck. Not in the normal way it was when it was locked…but like there was something wedged against it. Robert huffed, "I'm coming in." With a few thrusts of his body into the door, it finally busted open.
Arthur stood on the balcony, shirt hanging open and blowing back. Glass of scotch in his right hand. He didn't know what else to do. It's not that he wanted to give up but Ariadne didn't want the truth. She didn't want him swooping in and turning what she thought she knew on its head again. And he guessed if the lies were what were keeping her alive, then why would he want to interfere? Why would he want to take her peace of mind away just to sleep in the same room again? Why would he want to cause any more pain?
He reasoned that what she wanted was for the best but that didn't stop him from falling apart about it. From seeing Ariadne in everything. In the first rays of light that streamed into his room. In the foam of his coffee. In the reflection of the skyscrapers standing across from him, in the softness of the clouds, or the vivid hue of the sky. He heard her in the silence. In his inhale. His exhale. What happens when the person you love gets so far gone that you're powerless in bringing them back? When your desperation and worry and despair becomes all you are? Who do you become?
Dom. That's who you become. Scrambling, rummaging for answers, for explanations you can give and she will take. You claw through her reasoning like clawing through garbage bags in a dump. Scrapping for beliefs that used to be hers. Beliefs she'll understand in words she'll trust. Flinging the leftover bits, the ones she denies over your shoulder with the force of a hurricane and scraping for something else, anything else you can offer her. It becomes a fight against her, for her. You wave your sword and you give her your shield. You plough through the enemies not realizing it's useless— because you hope it's not. You refuse to think it is until it's too late. Until you've seen the damage you've unmistakably helped cause. You realize that, somehow, you're part of her army and yet she's on the other side of the battlefield. Everything you're fighting is within her, a part of her now. Her warped mind, her uncertainty, all of it races with the blood in her veins and pumps through her heart. And you can vanquish all of her evil but then you will have vanquished all of her good.
You want it to be you. You want to take her place. To be the one burning alive. The one freezing to death. You beg to be the one that's starving for answers. Plead to take the gnawing out of her stomach and put in yours. You need it to be your face raw with tears instead. Need to take that uncertainty of hers and wrap up in it like a blanket so she won't have to. You want to be the animal in the cage so she can be set free. And you wish you were the prisoner. You wish you were the one burdened by your doubts and that gravity was holding on to your ankles and wrenching you downwards through the air. But because it can't be you, because it's already her, you decide. If you can't stop her or take her place, you wish you were at least chained to her so you could follow where she fell. No. You want to lead. Because more than anything, if she hits the ground, you want to hit it before she does. You can't live a second without her…so you can't afford to be second. You have to be first.
The hotel phone shrilled in the background relentlessly. Cobb was taking a shower and Yusuf was out for something. Arthur didn't know why they didn't just leave already. The fake job was terminated and their real one had been a demoralizing success. They'd done their worst and accomplished what they set out to so the Point Man wasn't sure why they hung around instead of claiming their prizes and going home. Eames claimed guilt on all their parts but Arthur just wasn't buying it. Speaking of, it was the Forger who rolled off the couch and answered. His "Hello?" carried out the sliding doors. Normally, Arthur would be curious and ask about their random caller but today he continued not giving a shit and downing more alcohol. Eames' voice got both confused and annoyed sounding, "Ok, ok, slow down, Princess. I can't understand you." Static silence filled up the time it took for the person on the other end to answer. When Arthur heard sped up footsteps, he turned to find his friends' eyes blown wide and terrified, "What?! Shit. Alright, calm down. Arthur's right here."
The Point looked apprehensive about the phone held out to him. Not because of who he thought it was but because of what he thought was the emergency. Ultimately, once Eames was close enough, Arthur snatched the device from it and pressed it eagerly to his ear, "Ariadne?"
"No. It's Robert. Oh God…." a breathless basket case replied. Arthur not only heard but felt the panic come through the receiver. Not many circumstances would prompt the pompous heir to call frantically for Arthur. He dropped his scotch glass on the concrete to hold the phone with both hands, "What's wrong? Did she hurt herself?"
The other man rasped, "I don't know!"
Arthur brushed past Eames. Whatever the circumstances, this called for action and he needed to be prepared. He headed straight for the front door where his shoes were. "The fuck? What do you mean, you don't know?" Beside him, Eames was opening the closet for a jacket and slipping his shoes on too.
"I mean I don't know! I think she has." Robert shouted from the pressure. The forceful puffs of breath puncturing Arthur's eardrums were heaves, "She wouldn't let me in herself so I barged in and she was nowhere to be found. And…her bedroom window was open."
Arthur stumbled back. Suddenly dizzy. His legs didn't want to support him and his lungs felt paralyzed. A familiar feeling washed over him. All he could picture was her sitting across from him in their totaled car. Her eyes glazed, her forehead and nose bleeding. Her chest eerily still from not breathing. "No…" whispered the man. An image he'd seen in Dom's mind of Mal freefalling flashed across his eyes. "No, no," he got louder and then louder and then growled like a lion, "NO." He wasn't going to believe it until he saw her. Until he cradled her body. And you'd damn better believe he was going to hold her before Robert did. Arthur ignored Eames' litany of questions and bolted out the door.
He didn't bother with the elevator, he propelled himself down flight after flight of steps and then burst out into the street in full speed. He heard Eames' paces matching his for a few blocks but he was sprinting so fast he was sure he'd left him behind. For some reason, though it was impossible, Arthur kept telling himself Ariadne hadn't hit the ground yet. That he still had time. That he could get there fast enough to catch her. That as long as he was running as fast as his legs could carry, he had a chance at saving her still. When Robert's building was in seeing distance, Arthur's chest started to cramp. He didn't want to see but he knew he had to. So he picked up speed despite the exhaustion of his legs and the piercing sensation when he huffed and puffed. There were a few police cars and an ambulance and Robert was striding up and down the pavement in front of the yellow caution tape, pulling at his hair. That's when Arthur choked up. At his destination, there was nothing to keep pushing for, nothing to race against or hope for. Nothing for him but to be faced with the worst waking nightmare of his life. The adrenaline began to wear off and he found himself stumbling to the edge of the crime scene, grabbing the hood of a cop car to keep upright. One of the policemen standing by caught sight of the Point Man and sauntered over.
How could everyone be so calm about this, thought Arthur. Ariadne was dead. The buildings should be crumbling, the sky should be falling, the sun should be freezing over, the world should be stopped. People shouldn't be going about their daily lives as if nothing had happened—the world was ending. "Sir, I'm going to need you to be on your way. We're clearing the entire vicinity of the building."
Normally Arthur would shove his way past in a fit of temper and determination but he only had the energy to beseech the officer, "Please, you don't understand. I have to see her."
The officer moved his sunglasses to the top of his head and piteously raised his eyebrows, hands on hips, "Sorry, man, there really isn't anyone to see."
Arthur's head began profusely shaking on its own as he stretched up to see past the policeman's shoulder and between the siren lights. Any other point in time, Arthur would've told the man off and bolted to where Ariadne was strewn. But at this point, Arthur was petrified of what he'd see. Terrified she'd be unrecognizable. So he stayed put. Robert noticed Arthur was there and scurried to him, his own ball of traumatized mess. The Point wondered if the Heir had found or seen her body and that's why his eyes looked bloodshot with distress. "Arthur," he panted, "We can't find her."
The aforementioned straightened and sobered. He began to inquire but Fischer kept rambling, "We couldn't find a body. We think she scaled to the fire escape and climbed down the building from there."
Arthur sucked in a breath like the kind you gasp for when you've been under the water too long and your respiratory system threatens to burst just before your head breaks above the waves. He rubbed at his forehead, breaking into a grin, almost laughing because he was just so happy. So happy. That's why the sky was intact and the buildings remained tall and sun still shone with a bright eyed vengeance…because Ariadne wasn't dead and he still had a chance keep it that way. Robert was frantic, "We have to find her. She wasn't in a good way after you left."
Arthur agreed. He shouldn't celebrate just yet. He wouldn't allow himself too until the Architect was safely in his arms again. But where would she be? Where in New York would she run to for a last comfort? Central park? That was peaceful. No. Where did she normally run when she needed security? When she needed support? When she needed to draw upon something or someone else to amplify her own courage to do something? Well, actually, she normally ran to Arthur.
Next to him, Robert was pinching the bridge of his nose, scouring his brain for the same answer. The thing about Robert, though, was that he didn't truly know the Architect. Everything he knew of Ariadne he'd stolen from Arthur. The knowledge of her, the memories of her. On his own, he was having the most difficult time coming to a conclusion of where in the world his dream-girl would go. Frustrated, he shouted at the officers, "Search the entire building again. Every room! Look through all the adjoining streets, dammit. Stand on the roof with a telescope if you have to!"
That made Arthur do a mental double take. Earlier that morning, he was standing on the balcony musing over how he saw Ariadne in everything. The clouds, the sky, in the reflection of the skyscraper across from them…that's because he freaking did. He really saw her in the glare of the windows across from their balcony—sitting on the roof of their hotel… Shit. SHIT. The Point Man revved himself up and instructed the other man hastily, "She's at the team's hotel. Call Eames and have him double back. Then call Dom and Yusuf. They're there, they can get to her much faster. Tell them no sudden movements. If she thinks they're going to try and drag her off the roof, she'll jump."
"What are you going to do?" wide-eyed Fischer asked. Gesturing to his uncle Browning to get the car and pulling his cell phone from his pocket.
Arthur started moving, "I'm going to run."
It took heavy restraint for Dom and Yusuf not to barge through the door to the roof. Instead, they stopped dashing at the top of the stairs and the Extractor calmly and slowly pushed the bar to let them out. The Architect was across the large expanse of the roof on the ledge, swinging her legs, talking to herself.
Cobb had instant flashbacks of billowing curtains and a slender woman in a black dress. He watched her close her eyes, open her arms as if welcoming death and step out of her window. Heard himself screaming after her, hoarse and cursing. Dom grabbed at his head and apologized to the Chemist, "I can't do this. I have to wait inside. I'm sorry." As swiftly as he came, he left, leaving a nervous Chemist watching after him. Yusuf understood but the entirety of the pressure being on his shoulders alone made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
Yusuf cautiously shuffled forward. He started with a whisper which he himself couldn't even hear. His voice failed him too many times, getting carried away by the immense gusts of wind. Finally, he croaked timidly, "Ariadne?" It was thankfully loud enough for her to hear but Yusuf found himself startled backwards when she replied without looking, "I don't want to talk." He stood in his spot. Swaying back and forth on his heels, trying to come up with something he could do or say to help. To get a positive response. Ariadne paid no attention to Yusuf as he stood, tracing his shadow with his foot. He couldn't convince her of anything and even if he could, he was too scared of the sound of his own voice to try. Yusuf would watch, dumfounded, as she did whatever she wanted. He'd be too nervous to move a muscle or do anything about it. And they both knew. So Ariadne ignored him like he was just another slab of concrete.
A minute or a few later (it felt like half an hour to Yusuf), Eames soundlessly tiptoed onto the roof. The reinforcement was reassuring for the poor Chemist. The Forger patted Yusuf's back then swallowed for bravery. "Darling—" he started.
"I already told Yusuf, I don't want to talk."
The Forger closed his eyes and sighed. Yusuf could see his friend's hands shaking and was thankful he wasn't alone in that. Both of them were so tense their backs were in knots. One wrong word—or even one right word said the wrong way—and they could prompt their beloved Architect to end it all. Nevertheless, Eames wasn't one to lose his vocal abilities under stress like Yusuf so he tried again. "Love, I just want to—"
Ariadne warned, "I'm going to wake myself up no matter what. So unless the two of you want to watch, get off the roof." The Architect gave them a few seconds to make up their minds.
The two of them gawped at each other. What should they do? They couldn't very well leave could they? Leaving would be resigning her to death. It would almost be accepting her decision and supporting it. But to stay…would that be the same thing. Were they supposed to stay and watch? They couldn't just watch, they had to talk some sense into her. They had to stall and keep her alive at least until the Point Man showed up. But how would they do that if she didn't want them to talk? They couldn't very well make a run for her either, she'd push herself off before they could take two steps. They were damned if they talked and damned if they didn't. Damned if they left. Damned if they stayed. Damned if they moved. Damned if they remained still. Yusuf was darting his eyes all over the place as a result of his overwhelming feeling of helplessness and Eames squeezed his head between his hands. Thinking, thinking, thinking.
At the silence, she figured they had decided to watch, so she shrugged, "Ok then," and wriggled to the edge. Turning her hands so that her fingers were facing behind her and a gentle nudge from the heel of her hand would be all it took to tip her over.
"Wait! Wait!" Out of nowhere, Yusuf heard himself urgently and desperately screaming at the top of his lungs, "Please just wait until Arthur gets here! Don't do this without him!" He cracked under the pressure and all his dignity was lost. She couldn't see him because she wasn't looking but he was on his freaking knees.
The woman froze—causing the two men to hold their bated breath—and picked herself up with her palms and scooted back. It was only a centimeter but still. "I'm not waiting forever," she commented icily.
Once Yusuf was up on his feet again, Eames took his shoulders and praised him quietly, "Good on you, mate. You just bought us more time."
Yusuf nodded in thanks, "No matter what her brain's been tricked into, she still loves Arthur. I was pretty sure it would appeal to her on a subconscious level if nothing else." There was nothing else to be done until the Point got there but stand and observe. Try to memorize her like this (alive) while they still could.
Then, stupidly, at a moment in which they gained her temporary trust, the roof door busted open with a loud scrape and reverberating bang and Robert came lobbing through it. Ariadne twisted around to see Fischer shoving her former friends and sprinting stubbornly towards her. Yusuf and Eames caught the change of glint in her eye. Saw how her fiery determination suddenly had a blazing anger in it and they knew without a doubt that she wasn't going to let Robert get close enough to touch her. That if he kept gaining distance, she'd not only let herself fall off the ledge she would indignantly throw herself off of it. "Don't, Robert, I swear!" she seethed at him as her hands turned back around to their ready position. Her fingernails dug into the concrete and she started shifting in her seat. Taking deep breaths to prepare herself while watching the men, making sure she didn't turn her back and let them get the upper hand.
"Ariadne, you can't jump!" he dumbly argued. The son of a bitch wasn't going to stop either. His selfishness was going to practically push her off the building. Yusuf and Eames chased after him to keep him from speeding up the inevitable but all Ariadne saw was three people heading her direction wanting to drag her away from the truth.
Ariadne lividly snarled, "Don't tell me what I can't do!" and holy shit…she pulled her feet in and stood on the ledge, turned around to glare at them. Defiantly. Challengingly. Her arms crossed on her chest. Eames and Yusuf skidded to a stop. Eames so quickly that his shoe slipped on some rubble and he fell backwards. "Robert, I mean it! Don't come closer!" One of her feet lifted up then—
"ROBERT, STOP!" Arthur's voice cut through the wind like a battle cry. After being intently focused on the Architect—on pins and needles even—expecting her to plummet any second, Arthur both shocked and scared the Forger and Chemist into jumping. As if in a daze, they watched Arthur whiz passed them.
The Point spotted Ariadne's vulnerable stance, the sheer resolution in her face, the one foot itching to step back and throw off her balance. He saw where Fischer was in his peripherals as he chased him but he was locked into Ariadne's gaze. He shook his head at her as he ran and pointedly looked to Fischer. Promising with his eyes that if she put that foot back down for one second, that he would keep Robert away. He promised her that he wasn't sprinting her direction to challenge her, that he didn't think he could keep her anywhere against her will. He promised that he loved her. And pleaded with her not to jump yet. The Architect's teeth grit. She looked at Fischer. She looked at Arthur.
Then miraculously, she put her foot back on the ledge.
And Arthur lunged forwards and tackled Fischer to the ground. They were only halfway across the rooftop, how the hell did Robert think he stood a chance? He pinned Fischer down with his knees on Fischer's arms and his forearm digging into the man's neck. The Point's tone was murderous, "You think you can make it all the way over there and pull her off of that ledge in under a second? Because that's all it'll take her to plunge to her death, you understand me? You won't make it; you'll only force her off. So you fucking stand up and don't move a muscle unless she says."
Robert choked and sputtered. Yet, Arthur had no pity for him; he wrenched him upwards by the collar of his shirt and shoved him back. After that he turned to face Ariadne—his hands up in the air— and slowly backed up. He'd dealt with hostage negotiations. This wasn't really any different…except the idea that the hostage was being held by the hostage…but he decided to apply the same kind of cooperation, diligence and understanding needed. In those types of situations it was always vital you established a trust between yourself and the person holding the hostage. Now with Ariadne, the groundwork was already laid. Deep down, he knew she trusted him. She'd told him once before that her faith in him was innate. That even before she really got to know him, there was something about him that she could rely on. That was still somewhere in her subconscious. What Arthur needed to do know was show his 'compliance' with her demands. To show he was on her side. That whatever she wanted, he wanted so that she'd let him in again. Let him closer. He needed to remind her why she could put her life in his hands and trust him to protect it.
When Ariadne was satisfied with the distance between them again, she turned back around on the ledge and sat like she had been. They didn't even have time to think before she demanded, "I want everyone off the roof."
Arthur couldn't help himself. He knew why she wanted that…so she could jump in peace. She didn't want them looking on with sorrowful eyes. They made her think too much of changing her mind and Ariadne was done with change in all of its forms. She wanted nothing more to do with change and indecision. "Ari, ple—"
"Everyone OFF. Or I'll do it this second."
Yusuf and Eames looked to Arthur for instruction. Should they stay against her will and chance it? Or should they leave and let her have her way? Either way…The Point Man's face scrunched up but he nodded towards the door. One by one they filed away, Arthur nearly on the verge of a breakdown, his hand on the doorknob.
"Arthur," she called to him. Back still turned. He whipped around like lightning. She was swinging her legs again, "You can stay."
"Could I sit by you?" he ventured. First, he received a wary look over her shoulder. So he made more promises. Except this time they were with his mouth. "I won't try anything, I give you my word. I'll sit on my hands." He thought it was no when she turned her head back to the front and then down to look at her lap. But then he saw the subtle nod of her head and thanked God that at least he could be close to her one last time.
Arthur gingerly got up on the ledge next to her and swung his legs over to sit identically. "You have five minutes," she notified, which made his heart heavier knowing there was a time limit. He studied her meticulously. The curve of her eyelashes and the cute bump of her nose. The way she licked at her lips. The way she breathed. Constant, continuous, rhythmic. It reminded him she was still alive. And God, he wanted to touch her but he couldn't. And he wanted to be with her forever but forever was rapidly becoming shorter and shorter of a time. Ariadne naturally met his eyes when she felt them on her. And she was appalled. The way he was looking at her…he was adoring her and yet mourning her. The adoring part was fine. But the mourning? Like he wished her brain was working differently. Like she wasn't normal. Like he pitied her state of mind. The woman sneered, "Don't look at me like that. Like I'm crazy…I'm not."
His head tilted, his mouth opened, and Ariadne knew what was coming. She cut him off, leaving his stare to look at the building across, "And don't waste your five minutes trying to talk me out of this."
Arthur sighed, "You know I have to try."
"Tell me this," the Architect chided sardonically, "You're desperate to get me to stay in 'reality'. I know. But how are you so sure this is reality?"
Shaking his head, the man answered as calmly as he knew how with the time restriction ticking in the back of his mind, "Because it is. This is reality for me. And for our team and for Miles and for your family and friends. I'm so sure because this is the world I met you in. This is the dimension you and I fell in love, the one we've lived together in."
If he thought that his feelings gave her some form of solid proof she could self-validate, he was wrong. "Look, I don't want to hurt you," she soothingly stated. But it didn't soothe him enough to keep his face from falling , "but that doesn't make a difference. That doesn't prove anything." Arthur bunched his pant legs in his fists while she continued, "I know leaving you here is going to break your heart…but I want you to know that that's not my intention." Her brown orbs met his again with sympathy, "You've never been anything but sweet and forgiving and selfless, I don't want this for you…but I can't stay." Arthur's eyes closed, his face twisted up and the water started to leak. He wasn't allowed to touch her but she allowed herself to touch him. To run her hand down his shoulder, "I'm so tired, Arthur. I can't live like this anymore. I can't stand the confusion and the turmoil it causes." It almost sounded like an apology when she whispered, "I have to wake up. I have to stop this, I have no choice."
Arthur rasped at her, red faced, "You keep talking like you've decided this is a dream but you just said you're confused. You don't know. If you can't trust that this is reality then you can't trust that it isn't!" His frustration clobbered his grief and it made him angrily spout his case, "What if it is? Ari, you won't wake up. You'll die."
"I know," said Ariadne simply, unaffected by his sudden tantrum. "It doesn't matter."
"What do you mean 'it doesn't matter'?" grunted Arthur.
Ariadne shrugged, "Either way, it'll be over. I'll stop guessing and thinking and wondering. It'll all make sense up above or it'll all just stop."
Desperation climbed on top of him and put him in a headlock. Arthur irritatedly spewed out reasoning at her, "Sense of reality is subjective. Everyone decides for themselves. I mean, you can have the firmest belief in reality and still never be sure. But you do have control over this, Ariadne. You can fix yourself. You can make it stop, yourself. Just pick what you want to be reality, decide you're going to believe it and all the confusion will go away."
"You have one minute," she warned, disregarding his spiel. The brief stint of Arthur's irritation transitioned back into weeping. Pulling his hair. Crumbling.
It was going to happen. Ariadne set her mind to it. So, watching her bite her lip and praying he'd be able to kiss her one last time, Arthur resorted to his last ditch effort. "Ok. I respect your right to decide. And I understand that you're going to do this regardless. Even if I could somehow pull you off this ledge you'd find another way. This is reality but if you choose not to believe that—if you choose to jump—fine. But let me go first."
Ariadne's eyebrows furrowed, perplexed. Amidst all the uncertainty, there was one thing she was certain of and that was that Arthur meant his request with every fiber of himself.
"I love you so much. I don't want to—I can't—live a second without you. Don't experiment with your life to prove whether this is a dream, experiment with mine. If I disappear mid-air or after I've died—like a subject who wakes up normally does in the dream— you'll know you're right and that it's safe to fall. But if I splatter and someone has to scrape me off the pavement and bury me…maybe you'll finally realize we're already awake. Maybe I can still save you from this."
"Arthur…" everything about her tone and visage said his proposal was horrifying to her. She didn't want him to tempt fate like she decided to.
The Point broke the rules. He grabbed her hand and linked their fingers, "I'll take a leap of faith for you." Ariadne's eyes grew wide as she shook her head at him. Like she'd cut him off earlier, he did the same to her, "You are my reality. I choose to believe what you choose to." Arthur kissed her hand tenderly, one of his tears falling on her hand and running down her arm, "What do you want to be real?"
The Architect took her time. She spent a total of fifteen seconds looking at their meshed hands in thought and then around two minutes staring hundreds of feet down at the ground. Since, she'd spent longer mulling over the descent than anything else, Arthur knew she was still going to pick it. And because he meant what he said, he prepared to fling himself off first. He let go of her hand; there was no way he was going to drag her with him because if he died (which he knew he would) maybe she would rethink it like he said. Maybe his death would be the proof she needed. Arthur lifted his chin and squeezed his eyes shut. Thinking of the wrongs he should've righted, the things he wanted his mother to know before he went. He took a deep breath and, "NO."
Ariadne seized his hand. "You."
"I want you to be real. I want us to be real. I want our world to be real," Ariadne blurted, "I love you, I know I do." She pointedly dropped her gaze to their hands, "This is right. I want this to be my reality." She shook her head but not negatively. She shook it in happy disbelief that things were turning up, that things were making sense just like he said. "I choose this as my reality. This is reality."
Arthur gasped for air in relief, "Thank God. Oh, thank God."
And there, right there, she cracked the first smile he'd seen in forever, "I can already feel the haze going away." And then she laughed and shook his hand to make sure she had his attention, "I feel normal! I haven't felt this normal since our anniversary night."
Unable to contain his joy at the monumental reversal of her inception, Arthur leaned in with his dimples. He also was unable to stop himself from humming as her hand caressed the side of his face and their lips got closer and closer, "Arthur?"
"Yes, my beautiful, breathing, Ariadne?"
"As much as I want to kiss you senseless right now," her nose rubbed his, making his heavy lidded eyes slide closed, "will you please get me off this ledge, first?" The man opened his eyes again to her tense 'now that I'm sure this is reality, I'm actually terrified to move a finger' face. He nodded. That was probably a good idea, "Gladly." He carefully maneuvered down to solid ground and then pulled her to safety from behind.
The instant her feet touched the roof, she twisted and pressed her lips into Arthur's. He could feel all sorts of emotions pouring out of her the more desperate and demanding her kiss became. He felt her joy of knowing her place in the way she melted into his body. He felt her fear over all the things she threatened to do and only now felt the weight of in the tight grip of her fists on his shirt. He felt her remorse for hurting him in the deepening of every kiss, in the languid sweetness of each one. And on Ariadne's part, she felt Arthur's enormous relief in the way his lips venerated her neck and her jawbone and her cheeks and her forehead. Everywhere he could reach. His got too overwhelmed with the surging of her emotions and his and he broke down into more tears. Broke their kiss to bury his face in her shoulder, to wrap his arms around her waist so tightly that she'd never be able to break free. To just hug her, holding her with her feet off the ground. Ariadne felt his relief in that.
When all the sensations simmered down to a tolerable measure, he put her down. And she rubbed his chest, "I'm sorry for being so much trouble."
He smiled softly at her, "It's not your fault," and cupped her face with one hand, his thumb brushing her cheek. "It's Fischer's."
"Ugh." Ariadne pulled a disgusted face.
"And Browning's. And Dom and Eames and Yusuf's…" he hardened.
With a little ire but more idle bitterness than anything she squinted, "Sons of bitches."
"You want me to avenge you and kill them all?" Arthur was kidding. Sort of.
"No." Ariadne rested her head on his chest and reveled in the feel of his embrace and the way it grounded her to truth. And light. And reality. "I want you to take me home."
And I'm sure quick to lose
What was never mine to keep
And I cannot stand on what's broken under me.
I don't know how to forgive myself for everything
But I must
Thank you everyone for going on this freakin confusing whirlwind with me. Whether you reviewed or not, I appreciate you taking the time to read this.
I know I estimated about two or three more chapters but when I sat to outline it, it just didn't seem right. We weren't exactly at a climax but a high point and I wanted it to keep going up instead of bottoming out for a couple chapters which would basically be filler about Ariadne being upset (again). We already know she's upset and crazy and she thinks she's finally got a handle on things and then Arthur turns that upside down and it just made sense for her to take that as the last straw and go off the deep end wanting it to be over. And truthfully, while this story was fun to plot for a while, it's been pretty dang stressful and I'm not too heartbroken to see it go. Obviously though, I hope you guys' viewpoint is different and the ending was pretty satisfying if nothing else.
New Story: Pretty please keep an eye out for my next story! It's under 'Coming Soon' on my profile as 'Sweet Child O' Mine' but I may change the title before posting it to 'Sweet Child' or 'Family Man'.I'm suuuuper excited for that one. Look for it around this time next week. =)
Also I'm thinking of permanently deleting Two Words and Hollow Men from the site (already gone off computer). Every once and a while I clear my archive out because for some reason I feel like I have too many and need to make room for more lol and those were some of my first so I'm like ehh... I keep going to do it but I've kept them because of the few ppl that have fave'd them—I always hate going to look at a story I've favorited and found that the author has deleted it. Anyone have any thoughts or advice on the matter?