The Promise.
(listening to The Promise by Tracy Chapman before or after reading is recommended. It's what I listened to while writing this.) In my headcanon, this song is basically their song. This could be a follow up/ alternate ending to my story Follow The Red but doesn't have to be.

So if you choose to read it as an alternate for FTR, than instead of Saito fixing the problem with Cobol, Arthur goes to fix it with the new CEO himself.
xxxxxx

Parting is all we know of heaven
And all we need of hell. –Emily Dickinson

"Don't go," she whispers, her hands tangled in his trench coat lapels. His duffel lies in the middle of the doorway, opened, contents spilling out from where she kicked it aside. The clock ticks menacingly. It's louder than normal because it wants to taunt them with the seconds they don't have.

"I have to." His hands are similarly clenched into the back of her tank top. The pink one. It was once a spotless white but one of his red socks had crept into the laundry. She kept it in the back of her drawer until they were separated, then it would be filtered into her everyday wardrobe so that once in a blue moon it would pop up in the laundry and she would wear it and not miss him too much. When he would come back it would be neatly shoved to the bottom of the dresser again. "One last job without you. I have to fix things with Cobol for us. So we can be together without threat. You deserve a better life than I can give you right now and I'm going to make sure you get it."

When he says it's just a job, he is lying to her. It's actually going to be a knock down drag out in which he plans to burn their records of her and make a deal with the CEO to leave them alone. Whether that involves force, he is not sure but prepared just the same. He wants to be with her the rest of his life and this is but a small price to pay to get that. Even when he makes it sound less risky than it is, just the name Cobol makes the hairs of her arm stand at attention. They've wanted The Point Man since before she had even met him and they are the kind of company who lies, cheats, steals, and kills to get their fill. She's told him more times than she could count on her hands and toes that she didn't want him to do this for her. That she would rather be targeted again than to risk losing him to the evil company. She's begged. But his answer is always firm. Either he eliminates the threat to her or they can't be together.

Not being together is not an option.

"You won't be gone long, will you?" Soft puffs of air leave her with her words.

"I don't know how long…but no matter how far I have to go…" His head bends low and his lips leave a feathery kiss where her heart should be, "That's my home." His forehead rests on hers then, "And I'll find my way back to it."

He knows she's sucking it up for him. She's pretending to be brave like always, holding in the sounds of heartache she could make but he feels the shaking of her shoulders and hears the quick, faltering breaths she tries to suppress. His grip on her tightens if such was possible, "Will you wait for me?"

The Architect mewls, "I already told you I would."

The light blue of early morning now streams through the blinds in their apartment. It's time for him to go. Their kiss is desperate and the I love you's are too fleeting for their taste. He leaves with his trench coat buttoned, his duffel over his shoulder and his head hung down. She watches the street until the bright yellow disk hangs high in the sky. She's sure it means something for the rest of the world.

xxxxxx

The waiting is the worst. The Point Man has the easy part, she thinks. He knows the timeframe, he has something to keep him busy. The Architect, though, she has no idea. No idea what day he'll come traipsing in again, no idea if a day like that will actually come. At least he can see his enemy. Hers is invisible…her enemy is time. The seconds that turn into minutes and the minutes that turn into hours and the hours that turn into days and the days that turn into weeks. Only her lover and time knew if those weeks would soon turn to months and whether those months would come together to form a year. So since she has no idea, she prepares for it every day just in case. When dinner rolls around she cooks. She sets the table for two. She sits at the table and waits for him, food ready for consumption. When eight o clock comes she knows he won't make it for supper, it'll be a late arrival if he comes in. The girl reheats her food and eats it, puts his leftovers in the fridge and cleans up. When she goes to bed she makes sure everything is set. Her man can't sleep without a fan constantly blowing on his face, so she turns on the fan on his bedside table. His favorite, green silk pajama pants are laid out for him to step into and his side of the bed is turned down so all he has to do is slip in next to her and cover her with his warmth again. Normally, Ariadne sleeps facing away from the center of the bed but now she makes herself face inward, so if he comes in while she's asleep…his face will be the first thing she sees when she wakes up.

It's week three, day five and she hasn't woken up to him yet.

xxxxxx

He misses her more than he can bear but that's not what he should be focusing on. Cobol agreed to leave them be on one condition: he finish one last job for them. In Russia. His mark's subconscious is militarized. His mark himself is militant. If he succeeds, Cobol will deal with the aftermath and give him detailed instructions on how to escape the Soviet's wrath. If he fails, the deal will be broken and his worry won't be if he'll be killed, it'll be which company gets to him first. And he can't just leave Ariadne alone in the world like that. Not when he's promised her.

He doesn't focus on the hopelessness of it all. He can't. To give up on himself would be to give up his girl. So every day he works harder, longer and demands the same of his team. They have two months to ready themselves, enough time for the plan to be flawless. He doesn't stick to researching anymore; The Point's hands are dirty in all sections of the mission. He runs daily tests with the Extractor: strengthening his mind, his ability to cope with changes in scenarios, his ability to evade projections, to handle stress and above all else get the information no matter how the dream around him is crumbling. He watches the forgers, criticizes their performance. Arthur makes them practice until every blink matches their mark. He tries out the substances himself. Every single variation because he knows what is needed to pull the job off immaculately. The substance won't be approved until the stability The Point is looking for is satiated. The architect, he makes create the levels according to pictures. He researches to make sure every thread of fabric, brush of paint, nail and screw are identical. There is no room for difference because there is no room for failure.

His team thinks he's losing his mind.
He thinks he must be, too.
He'd rather lose his mind than lose her.

"You're such a liar!" she accused, "Your ice cream is in the freezer. You haven't even touched it."

He groaned, "But its pralines and cream."

"What's wrong with that?" Another spoonful shoveled in.

"It's not yours." The Point Man's spoon tried to dig itself into her carton for the fifth time.

She screamed like a child throwing a tantrum, "Nooo! You can't have it!" As she tried fending him off, his spoon waving in the air and aiming for her dessert. Then before he realized what happened he was pinned down on the couch. She had lowered her carton to the ground and was lying atop him. Her familiar weight was all the totem he'd needed for months now. Her kisses were all over him. His eyelids, his cheeks, his nose, his forehead, his chin, his jaw, his mouth. His mouth was her favorite, she'd visited it a few times. The pecks were sloppy, wet and cold in complete contrast to the cozy heat of her body on his. "This is the most you'll ever taste of my chocolate ice cream."

"This is the most I'll ever need." He hummed and welcomed the assault.

There was no other option but to return to her. Return to her little body on his, return to the sound of her laugh, the stinginess of her desserts. To fill the empty spaces in between her fingers with his.

xxxxxx

Several months have passed now. Maybe seven, maybe eight. She no longer cooks enough for two. His fan stays off and his side stays made, his pants in the drawer. Feeling the empty silk is tormenting so she hides them away now. Crumpled them in the bottom of her drawers away from sight. He's not coming back any time soon, she realizes.

Wait (weyt)
-verb (used without object)
1. To remain inactive or in a state of repose, as until something expected happens.

She has no reason to expect he will come back in one piece, if at all. When you wait, it's an interval. The end of the interval should be known…how long you have to wait should be known. This wasn't waiting anymore. It was hoping. Wishing. Dreaming. She puts pillows on his side of his bed to simulate the feeling of a body there. But there are no breaths, there are no arms to envelop, there are no long toes tracing her feet and playing with hers. Sometimes she slips into his work shirts and sleeps in them. The cuffs are pulled up way past her hands and she falls asleep with them by her face. The Architects drifts off when the smell of him fills her lungs.

And she dreams of him.

She dreams that he comes home and molds his body into hers while she's fast asleep. She dreams of cooking dinner and feeling his arms surprise her, wrapping around her waist and his voice in her ear: I've missed you. She dreams that he walks through the door while she's drawing in their room. That he calls her name through the house and her heart stops when she hears it. She knocks her drawing into the floor as she scrambles to meet him. He picks her up and twirls her around. I told you I'd come back to you. She dreams that he comes home when she isn't there so he goes looking for her. He finds her in the market. She barters over zucchini and wins but it's taken out of her hands and bagged by him. The Architect sees the cuff of his suit sleeve first and when she turns his lips are on hers instantaneously. I don't know how I've lasted this long without your lips. She dreams he comes back while she's on the job. He tracks her down and shows up while she's under going over layouts with the extractor. But the projections swarm and they ambush her and she wakes up in terror until she feels his hands around hers. She can't believe he's miraculously there but his kiss on her forehead assures her. You're ok. Everything's ok now. I'm back. And for a minute she believes him and everything is right in the world.

Then she wakes up.
To a dark and silent room.
The dreams fade away and memories rush in.

"I can't eat anymore…" she winced.

The Point nods, "That's fine. Don't worry about it." The tray of tomato soup and ginger ale is moved from the bed to the desk across the room and the bed sunk down under his weight as he sat on the edge by her. She could only breathe out of one side of her nose and believed sniffling would help. The ache in her head dulled when his rough and calloused hand pressed against her forehead, "You're still a little warm."

"How? I'm so cold."

"In that case…" The lanky body crawled into bed with her and pulled her into his lap, rubbing her shoulders.

She sneezed and then groaned, "I'm going to get you sick."

"I don't care. Just relax, sleep it off." He kissed her hair.

Her tiny Parisian arms encircled his waist and she laid her head on his chest. His heartbeat lulled her to sleep as much as his fingers combing through her hair did.

If she thinks hard enough she can feel his nimble fingers in her curls now. When the lack of them becomes too overwhelming she turns to lie on her stomach. Her heartbeat presses into the mattress and if she imagines with everything she has, she can pretend it's his. That he's beneath her and her comforting blanket are his arms holding her closer. This way she falls back into a painless slumber. And she dreams of him. Guess who?

xxxxxx

He's been gone too long. He knows by the length of his hair, he can feel it on the back of his neck. The job went over well enough. He'd gotten the information to Cobol but the Russian man knew he'd been extracted. He doesn't know how many more days he'll be imprisoned in this concrete Soviet cell. Eagerly, the Point awaits release. Cobol has all the information they could need to blackmail the man and get him out of there and they will in due time, once they've sifted through it all. Every day seems like an eternity with half of him missing. He feels cut in two, his flesh charred on the jagged areas. Only she can fix it, repair him and make him whole again. He curls into a ball in the corner every night. Its freezing and the concrete floors do nothing but reflect the frigidness into his core. The only comfort is that halfway around the world, the love of his life is safe and sound on a cushiony bed. Toasty, snuggled under the covers. Hopefully still dreaming of him so she won't forget.

He dreams of her.

Her greeting him with wide eyes, her face illuminated with a grin. In his dreams, she glows. She's like a vision, angelic…the light at the end of the tunnel. He dreams of the end of anguish. How when she lays her gaze on him his troubles melt into oblivion. His wounds magically disappear. The Point has entire dreams of just their hands. Entwining for the first time in infinity, folding over each other, tracing the other's fingers, aligning their palms against each other. There are dreams devoted to her touch: running her index finger along his jaw, drawing cities on his stomach, palms rubbing the back of his neck, grazing up and down his suit, his bare chest. Her forehead on his, her nose in the nape of his neck, running along his collar bone. Her feet dragging up and down his legs, her toes tickling the bottom of his feet. All the while he feels the heat of the sun.

There are nights he dreams of her kisses: the messy, passionate, get over here and blow my mind kisses. The adorable, sleepy, half-hearted good-morning kisses. The sly, firm, can I have what I want pretty please with a cherry on top kisses. The long, toe curling, universe-bending, I'm so in love with you kisses. The stolen kisses while he should be working. The pecks on his shoulder while he cooks their breakfast. The delicate kisses on his temple that say I'm sorry you're having a bad day. The kisses on the corner of her mouth while she giggles and swats at him. The kisses that try to sop up the tears. Its not forever, don't worry.

These images only strengthen his resolve to fight his way back to those touches and those kisses. So when they interrupt these images in the middle of the night with a proposal for his freedom, he accepts without hearing the catch: A year's probation. He will be deployed for any job they deign to send him on. Then Russia will let him go; he will be bartered to a company in Africa. He's lucky, Cobol managed to save his life.

xxxxxx

He's been gone a year and a half. Her body still yearns for him, her mind needs him to quell itself. There are gaping holes in her soul, her heart is numbing. Realization is setting in that he's failed. Cobol has exacted their revenge and her Point Man is gone…it's something she should begin to consider everyone says. The man she loves is most likely dead, had been dead and acceptance of that idea should take residence in her. So she starts to grieve. She cries day and night. There are pictures of him, them, that she faces down so his eyes aren't watching her. She stops drawing. She scarcely eats. She doesn't answer Miles' calls. So Miles sends Eames to tend to her.

Eames comes for three months. He keeps her from spiraling into the state Cobb reached when Mal died. He jokes and she laughs but the smile doesn't reach her eyes. They're dull. The crying has turned the chocolate into mud. She sees him more than ever now. She takes second glances at every man with a tie, his face is plastered on every stranger on the street and it stings like shit when she blinks and he's gone. He's gone.

But she knows. She knows that if he died, he died trying. He died crawling back to her. The Architect knows with every fiber of her being that he went down fighting tooth and nail to keep her safe. He gave everything he had for a chance at life with her. That's why when men show interest, she turns them down. They aren't him. They never will be him and so they'll never be good enough. The only person that could make her soul soar was the overprotective perfectionist of a Point Man. He'd claimed half of her. He was the only match. She would belong to him until her fate met his.
xxxxxx

His year of probation ended yesterday. He's been without her two years, three months and twelve days. But he's technically a free man. He made deals with the African company he'd been traded to. He had plenty of money at home and millions to offer if they let him go. Armed with two bottles of water and his duffel, he's been hiking the Sahara. His shoes slosh from the sweat. He's abandoned his suit jacket and ripped the sleeves from his shirt. His hair is to his neck and he has bangs now covering his eyes. She wouldn't recognize him, his goatee covered most of his face and his lean body had thinned out even further. Even if he had to crawl to the next airport, he was coming. I'm coming, sweetheart. I'm coming for you.

How wonderful would it feel to be together again? It was so close he could taste her tears of joy. How happy would she be when she saw him? He could only imagine the delight that would radiate from her pores. In her arms, awaited pure bliss. And now, he could give her a normal life. He could give her anything she wanted without worry, without fear. He could provide her with complete protection.

Her face runs through his mind. The smooth lines, the button nose. He sees her smile. And he sees himself wherever she is. He sees himself on the couch with her at home, with her at the market, in the back of a cab. Wherever she could be, he imagines he's there as well (after all he will be soon) and he imagines that he's been there all along. How much has he missed? How much will she have to tell him?

Philippa got accepted into that private school.
I spent Christmas with Miles.
That firm called me in for an interview.
They closed down our favorite café, but there's another I want to take you to.
I looked for you in every country I had work in.
I broke my finger in a cab door last year, look my left pinky is crooked now.
Eames kept me company for a bit. Don't worry he's still as big an asshole as ever.
For my birthday, I wished for you….

And two days later, you're here.

xxxxxx

It takes him two weeks to cross the desert (unfortunately, not two days) and find an airport. He's finally in France, in Paris at last but he's not home. Not yet. He rides to their apartment, giddy, but finds it empty. There's a cereal bowl in the sink and she hasn't made their bed…but there lacks a presence of anyone else. She still lives alone and she's kept her own promise of waiting in blind faith. He goes to the bathroom and quickly snips hair so she'll recognize him easier and heads out to search for her. Their gravitational connection acts like a compass. He can almost feel her heart tugging on his and telling him where to 's the destination all his journeys end: in her embrace. So he's not home. Not yet.

"Don't make a promise you're not sure you can keep."

He takes her chin and squares it to his, staring her down, emitting his confidence. "I vow to come for you, if you wait for me."

She's at the park, sitting at their bench watching the water ripple in the pools behind the Eiffel. He clutches his die. Is this real? There she is. There's my girl, after all this time. He stands a few feet in front of the bench but she's too lost in the fountains and her thoughts to pay attention to a stranger. So he sounds his voice, "Is that seat taken?"

Her head darts to him and her eyes narrow. Instinctively, she grabs at her pocket for her totem and when she does her eyes widen like saucers and water wells fast. She's near sobbing by the time she stands, she's drinking him in. And he's drinking her in. And he feels tears streaming down his cheeks too. They fall harder when he hears her melodious voice at long last, "Arthur…" she steps towards him.

"Ariadne…" and he towards her.

And then they're hugging with limbs that don't seem long enough and kissing with greedy mouths. The wisps of her hair in their faces. Arthur whispers I love you's into her and Ariadne murmurs how much she's missed him. Their eyes aren't big enough to see everything they've dreamed come to fruition. "You're back! I can't believe you're back…I love you, I love you, Arthur." Arthur picks Ariadne up and twirls her around, tickling her with his stubble as he bestows every variation of their kisses he can manage. "I told you I'd find a way Ariadne…God, I've missed you." Their hands are envious of the rest of their bodies; they now grope and run over each other. Her hands tangle themselves into his shirt and his clench the fabric of her tank top.

The pink one.

And now he's home.

Xxxxxxx

Thank you for reading my brainchild. Reviews are awesome. Look out for my story Hooded and if you haven't read Follow the Red or Say It, I am shamelessly plugging them now. Lol, go take a peek.