DISCLAIMER: Inception © Christopher Nolan
A/N: Thank you, my lovelies, for your reviews and cheer. C:
"You cannot dream yourself into a character;
you must hammer and forge yourself one ."
He wakes and it's sudden and sharp, lying in the dark, open eyes the only thing that's changed. The first thing he considers is that this is not his room; this is not his bed. He waits for what woke him and he hears it again. A soft little sound not so different than a hum; a slow and constant rhythm. He sits himself up, pushes back the ache, and looks over.
Ariadne is on the courting chair - she's snoring lightly.
He stays that way for a while, sitting and watching her.
Ariadne is different. She doesn't quite fit into the mold. She was born under ordinary circumstances to an ordinary family and had for the most part of her life carried on in what she would equate to an ordinary lifestyle. She is a student, she is an architect, and at the same time she is much more than that.
Eames can laugh at himself for how little he had considered her before. He had felt her difference when they had met, when they had worked together, but he had just never dwelt on it. The young new thing - all doe-eyes and unabashed curiosity. He had been busy, he had been preoccupied and uninterested in baby-sitting. He knows now why Arthur spares his time just as he is suddenly unsurprised that Cobb did make it out of that pit in Limbo. The bishop is not so much unlike a lighthouse - some weighted, brass beacon.
Ariadne is different. She knows about building dreams, bending cities into impossible shapes, about smudging the line between reality and fantasy. There are no more boundaries. There are no more limitations. Yet Ariadne still is different. She sees other lines, other angles. There is morality, there is right and wrong, there are friendships and responsibilities to them. She doesn't quite fit into the mold of this game. She'll flip a city just to see it from another angle.
Eames stumbles into the room supported and supporting. Ariadne is trying to get him to the sink, but all he wants to do is sit; to lie down. He gracelessly collapses onto Yusuf's couch and the Chemist staggers into his bathroom on his own. There is water running and Eames can't be troubled to place from where with his eyes screwed shut and his head still ringing. There is muffled talk and then something cold up against the side of his face and dull eyes open and she's standing there, staring down at him. There's a wet towel against the swelling along the side of his jaw. Bloody, swollen knuckles reach up and clumsily press against the wet cloth, holding it. He hears her say, "Don't fall asleep."
Ariadne is a mover and shaker. She changes the game.
Eames watches her hurry off beyond his sight and he can hear Yusuf groaning from somewhere and Eames thinks that they can all sod off and he closes his eyes and escapes for the while.
Ariadne is different.
Eames thinks that's the string that binds.
She wakes and it's slow and groggy, lying in the dark uncertain and disoriented. The first thing she considers is that this is not her bed - this is not nearly as comfortable. She looks for what woke her and he's standing over her, leaning into her view, a shadow. A soft rumbling sound, not so different than a heavy hum, says her name again. She straightens up and hears her back pop faintly. There is something against her palm - she tucks it into her pocket.
Ariadne is on Yusuf's small sofa. Eames is watching her, offering a hand.
"Time for bed, Ariadne."
Ariadne tries to place the pieces back together.
"I was dreaming..."
He watches her patiently.
"I don't remember of what."
He helps her up and watches as she rubs at her eyes.
She looks up at him in the dark and whispers, "It wasn't all a dream, was it?"
He smiles a little and he doesn't know if she can see it or not and says, "Afraid not, love."
She looks around in the dark for a moment, placing the pieces back together.
Eames is a liar. He is a thief, a grifter, a fraud. Eames is a forger of records and papers; a forger of identities. He creates elaborate lies and sells them to dreamers. He is a shifter. He is a lie.
Ariadne opens the door, Yusuf keeps fumbling with the keys. There is a ridiculous comfort upon entering the room, one little lamp casting a warm golden glow across the walls. She helps them inside.
Eames is from Mombassa. She doesn't know whether he lives there or just spends his time there. She doesn't know if it's just another place on the map or some song that stirs him. She thinks privately that he belongs there, somewhere exotic and dusty and beautiful, smelling of spice and earth and coastal winds. Some tepid pulse running through twisting streets and thrumming back-alley markets.
Ariadne watches Eames slump into the couch, dark eyes hooded and distant. She tells him not to fall asleep. He focuses on her briefly and bleary and she sees gray - heavy gray, like a monsoon. She thinks it's befitting, the gray. No color to ground him, no distinction between black and white. She leaves and helps Yusuf in the bathroom, the Chemist wet and dripping blood into the sink. She digs around for the first-aid and can't help the tiny tremors in her hands.
Eames is a gambler. He enjoys the game and the thrill of chance, but he is not an unnecessary risk taker. He always has a backup plan. He always has a card up his sleeve, a loaded die. A stack of chips tucked into a pocket. Trap doors and air ducts that cut through a maze. She understands this. All is fair in love and war. Eames likes to rig his games so he can walk away from them every time. He doesn't believe in unnecessary risk - not when you have a vivid imagination, and no clear distinction between black and white. He's clever and versatile and witty, and somewhere along the way he smudged the line into a shade of gray.
Ariadne and Yusuf make it back out of the bathroom. The Chemist is disoriented and growing groggy and she's trying to keep him alert, trying to keep him focused. Eames has fallen asleep on the couch and she tries to wake him, tries to wake him, tries to wake him up, and Yusuf is suddenly there with a bottle of whiskey. He pulls off the Forger's jacket and pours whiskey down his back and she watches the striking way Eames comes awake at that.
Eames is a Forger. Ariadne looks in a mirror and she sees her face. Eames looks in a mirror and sees possibilities. He'll swap his skin for another, he'll change his face in a mirror, he'll sing in a different note and he'll dance in a different swing. He looks in a mirror and tells a lie. He tells it so convincingly that he believes it, and then he turns around and makes everyone else believe it too. He can be anything you want him to be. He can be anything he wants you to think he can be. She wonders what he is, really.
Ariadne watches the way Eames tips back the whiskey and drinks it down like prohibition is back in swing. There is a tremor in his hands and he holds the empty bottle after to steady them. Yusuf's hands tremble so that he can't thread the needle, and she tries for him. She can't help the numb shivers in her own hands. She gets it in the end and Yusuf sews Eames closed.
Eames is a gentleman. This, she is certain of. He doesn't come cheap, but he doesn't sell out his colleagues, Cobb tells her. He doesn't know when to quit, but he doesn't carry a grudge, Arthur says to her. He doesn't invest his money wisely, but he's a reliable source, Yusuf laughs to her. Ariadne thinks of a liar and a thief, a dangerous con-man in an underground world, and his gentle demeanor and good-natured humor. In this criminal practice, Eames is a gentleman.
Ariadne finds a ridiculous comfort settled in the room, one little lamp casting a warm golden glow across the walls. They are dry, they are warm, and they are bruised but alive. The tinge of blood is almost gone. Her mind drifts over tattoos and whiskey and the totem in her hand and she's falling asleep on a wide, padded chair.
Eames is a Forger and a thief from Mombassa, as complicated as a maze.
Ariadne is an Architect. She is very good with mazes.
She jerks and takes the silhouette of his hand. He helps her up.
Eames leads her out the door and into the hallway. The lights on the walls burn her eyes and she squints hard all around, like she's just stepped out of a dream. Maybe she has. She looks at Eames, ragged around the eyes with tousled hair, bruises raised discoloration, and wonders what she must look like. He hasn't bothered to put his shirt on, jacket thrown over him haphazardly, and she can see the meshing of ink and damaged skin. She wonders what they must look like right now.
"What time is it?" she asks.
He rubs scabbing fingers across the stubble on his chin.
"Very early." He peers blearily at the watch on his wrist. "Just after three."
She's looking at him and she muses that he looks punch-drunk in this half-light.
"Are you all right?" And she ignores how stupid that sounds.
He just smiles at her and the side of those full lips may just be a little bit swollen.
"I'll see you at the party." Is all he says, and hands in pockets he slouches to his room.
The gala seems a lifetime away as she pads to her door and fumbles with the lock. Inside, on the floor just inside the entry, someone has slipped in a note. She picks it up and feels some little pang in her chest. I'm sorry stares up at her apologetically from its neat little scrawl. She doesn't know if the sensation is from missed opportunities or from her lack of regret.
Ariadne crawls into her bed and considers the night and thinks, No, I regret nothing at all.