"What happened?" Arthur asks once they've pulled themselves up onto the rocks under the bridge.
"Cobb stayed." Ariadne gasps, sucking in deep breaths as quickly as she can handle. A small part of her at the back of her mind is impressed that even soaking wet and panting he was already beginning to compose himself. The rest of her is still reeling from her whirlwind through Limbo and the other Dreamscapes. Her hand finds the bishop in her pocket and she palms it, even though the unfamiliar weight of it provides little in the way of reassurance.
"No. To find Saito."
Arthur's shoulders drop - so slightly that she might not have noticed it if she hadn't spent so much time preparing with him - and he gazes out over the water.
"He'll be lost…"
"No. He'll be alright."
He turns back to look at her, eyes searching. Whatever he sees must be satisfactory, because he gives her his little smirk and stands to examine their surroundings. Ariadne tears herself from the swirling thoughts of Limbo to focus instead on their current situation and next steps for survival. She's faintly surprised to find herself shivering, the wind and rain biting at her exposed skin and a chill creeping through her wet clothes.
"There's Yusuf," Arthur is pointing a little ways down the bank to the man huddled next to the water. "Doesn't look like he's ready to move anytime soon. We better get over there. Here."
He offers a hand and she allows him to pull her up - "Thanks." - before they stumble their way over to the Chemist.
"Are you alright?" Ariadne asks once they reach him.
Yusuf nods, coughing.
"Fine. Not doing this again anytime soon." He looks to Arthur. "What's our next move? This isn't what we planned."
The Point Man shakes his head.
"You're right about that; we were supposed to have a day or two left, tops. With our accelerated timeline, only a few hours have passed on this level. We've got most of a week left."
"Well what does that mean?" Ariadne asks.
"It means we're playing a waiting game. We don't have to worry about Cobb and Saito, leaving Limbo for them should mean waking up with the rest of us in the real world, but we have to make it until then without getting killed by Fischer's projections. You kept the safehouses you designed in?"
"Yes, of course. But like you said, we were only supposed to be here for a couple days; I don't know if they can keep us safe for that long."
"Let's hope they can. If not… We'll worry about that when we get to it. Right now we need to get moving before Fischer's subconscious stumbles across us."
"You're- Wait, why haven't we seen any projections yet?"
"They can sense that Fischer's out of danger now," Yusuf speaks up. "But sooner or later they'll start looking for me again. Eames will be fine as long as Fischer thinks he's Browning, and so will the two of you as long as you don't draw any attention away from the hunt for me. That's why I had you put my hiding place in the train tunnels, remember?"
"Of course, sorry, I just- I guess I'm a little disoriented." She jumps a little as a weight settles across her shoulders, and Arthur raises his hands as if to keep from spooking her, an odd look in his eye. Ariadne gives him a small, sheepish smile in return and wraps his wrung-out jacket more tightly around herself.
"It'll pass. We went pretty deep, and it's your first real job," Arthur says. He turns to Yusuf. "Are you ready?"
He stands in response.
"I know where to go. If all goes alright, next time I'll see you is back on the plane. Good luck." With that, he turns and staggers away.
Ariadne bites her lip as Arthur leads her up the riverbank in the other direction, already puzzling things out in her head like a new building she needed to plan.
"I'll show you how to get to the place I designed for you from here, and then from there it isn't too far to-"
He had stopped and turned so abruptly that she stumbles face-first into his chest and he has to grab her to steady her. She jerks back at the sudden contact and finds Arthur staring down at her with a hard set to his jaw.
"No? What do you mean, 'no'?"
"You're staying with me."
Ariadne bristles at the blatant order. He's never directed such intensity toward her before.
"I am not. Cobb said we attract much less attention separated."
"I don't care what Cobb said, you're staying with me. There's no way you'll be able to protect yourself if the projections get hostile."
He does have a point, but…
"You don't get to order me around," She says, wrenching herself out of his grip. "I know this Dreamscape better than you, and I can find a place to hide."
"Ariadne, this isn't up for discussion; either you come with me, or I'm picking you up and taking you."
Ariadne snorts derisively.
"You wouldn't. It would attract way too much attention."
"Then don't make me."
They stare at each other, Arthur stern and Ariadne glowering, until finally she huffs and opens her mouth to speak. He doesn't wait to hear it, simply turning and striding off so that she's forced to scramble to catch up with him. She's fairly certain he's smirking, the thought making her glare at his back.
Any emotion that the Point Man might have been showing has dropped by the time they enter the city. Ariadne, skittish around the projections they pass and trying her hardest not to show it, is startled when he wraps an arm around her, pulls her close, and gazes down at her with that lopsided grin of his. She feels herself flush at the sudden intimacy and immediately wants to pull away, but she recognizes what he's doing and stays where she is. None of the projections give them more than a once-over for their sopping clothes, but those are easily dismissed as a product of the storm and they arrive at the desk of the hotel with no issues.
It's only once Arthur has confirmed his reservation, accepted his roomkey, and steered her into the elevator that they separate. Despite her lingering anger, Ariadne can't help but miss the heat he'd provided as her shivers become more intense.
"I must admit I haven't actually seen any of this before." Arthur breaks the silence.
"You haven't? I thought Yusuf showed you?" She's surprised, and suddenly a little nervous at the idea of witnessing his first reaction to the 'safehouse' she'd designed specifically for him.
Arthur shakes his head.
"He assured me it would work, and there were too many other details to get right for the job. All I had time to do was memorize the location," He glances at her. "I am eager to see it, though."
As if on cue, the elevator chimes and opens to a short hallway containing three ornate doors, the outer two bearing 'exit' and 'stair' signs. Arthur gives them each a cursory examination before opening the door straight ahead of them. Ariadne hangs back, observing as he takes it in.
She had carefully designed the suite to suit him. Or, at least, her perception of what would suit him. It echoes the art deco and modern style of the rest of the building, all sleek lines and hints of glamour. Functionally, there are polished and reflective surfaces everywhere to provide Arthur with easy defence as well as a concrete-lined chamber accessed through a trapdoor under the bed that he could theoretically lock himself in until the sedative wore off.
The suite is equipped with a living room, kitchen, bathroom, sauna, and bedroom, all screaming easy luxury. Arthur gazes about, moving through the place methodically until he finally ends at the large windows - plexiglass - to peer out over the city.
"You did an incredible job," He remarks as Ariadne closes and locks the door behind her. "Maybe even better than Cobb when he started."
"Thanks." She doesn't really know what else to say; the Point Man doesn't hand out compliments lightly and his words give her a warm feeling despite herself.
"You should go take a bath; you're shivering. I can slip some dry clothes outside the door for you."
She doesn't bother arguing, since she really is quite cold and her clothes are dripping all over the plush carpet. Soon she's sinking into hot water in a bathtub big enough for a horse and a bathroom bigger than her whole apartment. She takes a deep breath, relaxing into the bath as her shivers gradually fade, and her mind turns unbidden to the man in the other room. She's still outraged at being ordered around, and determined to confront him about it later, but he makes it hard to hang onto the feeling for long periods of time. She just finds him so… fascinating. From the moment she met him he's been like a maze she can't solve. It gives her a thrill down her spine when he let slip a detail about himself that she can add to her understanding of him. And yes, she finds him attractive - how could anyone not? - but it's so much more than that that draws her to him. The worst part is she suspects he knows how he affects her, what with those sly looks he sometimes sends her way and his tendency to get just close enough to make her nervous. Even now, the idea of laying naked one room away from him sends some feeling - whether she refuses to name it or simply lacks the ability to, she isn't sure - coursing through her.
Ariadne shakes her head as if she can physically clear Arthur from her mind and idly swirls the water around with her hand. She can't afford to be preoccupied with such thoughts when they have to spend a week together in this dream. Trying not to die and go back to that place.
Author's Note: I hope you enjoyed! I just watch the movie for the first time and I was so obsessed with the dynamic between Arthur and Ariadne (plus the actors are both so attractive) so I just had to write this. Please let me know what you thought!
Much love, Miss Luxe