Hello?

Hello?

My eyes flutter open, out of the dream. There was a girl's voice, electronic and distorted, like drifting out of a cell phone. Is someone calling me? No, that doesn't make sense. I lift my head and my eyes come to a tired focus on my phone, sitting idly on the bedside table, beside Eames's battered copy of Good-Bye to All That. For several moments I wait, wondering if I'll hear it again. She sounded ghostly and anxious, and it made me a little afraid.

When eventually I am sure it was just an echo from the recesses of my mind, I roll over gingerly onto my back. There's a dull ache coming to me from all over my body, but I haven't found my voice enough to moan. The ceiling fan is whirring gently, and for a moment it is the one static object in a spinning room. I close my eyes and open them again and everything rights itself.

For a long time I gaze upwards, not really thinking much of anything, just lying there. After a hypnotically long time I become aware that Eames is sitting on the edge of the bed, watching me.

I look at him. "Hello," I say.

"Hello," he says.

Long pause. There are a lot of things I have to ask, and I want to ask them all with as few words as possible.

I settle for "What happened?"

He shrugs. "It's been a few days. Everybody's lying low, but it looks like Johnny's leaving us be, for now anyway."

"How long do you think that's gonna last?"

He looks away for a while. "I don't think he's going to come after us," he says. "I think he's pretty well done for."

I find myself wondering if what I last saw of Johnny wasn't the end of the story. I decide not to ask.

"You okay?" asks Eames, looking at me again. "You were in and out for a while there. Last night was your first full sleep."

"I feel okay," I say. This is sort of a lie, and he sees right through it, but he doesn't push me.

The silence is oppressive, but I am exhausted and I don't feel the need to break it.

"Well," he says finally. "I don't quite know where to begin."

"What happened to everyone else?" I ask, my eyes closed, pretending away the residual pain.

"Yusuf's home, Saito's back with his people. Kent got taken care of and went back home as soon as he could," says Eames. "He's pretty sore about the whole thing."

"Really," I say. "What about Archy?"

Eames laughs like something is really funny. I open my eyes and look up at him. "He's working for Saito now."

"Oh my god," I say. "You're shitting me."

"No. I wish you'd been conscious on the plane. Archy took to him like a moth to flame. Within minutes he was offering advice on corporate endeavors. Saito hired him the moment we touched ground."

I am finding this less hard to believe the more I think about it, but at the same time I'm extremely suspicious that Eames is fucking with me. "Are you fucking with me?" I ask.

"I am not," says Eames with a smile. "Say what you will about Archy, but he's a damn fine businessman. Saito knows one when he sees one, after all."

I shake my head and am about to ask about the Scottish guy (I finally figured that accent out) with the numerical name, when there's a timely and timid knock on the door.

Eames gets up quickly and opens it. One Two is there, peering in at me.

"Well, hey," says One Two brightly, inviting himself in. "It lives."

"At last," says Eames.

One Two looks back and forth between us awkwardly, shifting his weight. "Look, eh," he says, "I figure I should be on my way soon. Finally tracked Mumbles down."

I manage to prop myself up on my elbows, which is somewhat excruciating but I can sacrifice personal comfort for being in on the conversation. "Mumbles the guy who was dead?" I say.

"Yes," says Eames. "The whole thing was a blind. We don't know who started it exactly, but after we got back Yusuf tracked Mumbles down in a day. He thought we were dead too, of course."

"Wow," I say. I don't know how to feel about this, and I'm not totally sure why. "Family reunion," I say moments later, and there's something in my tone that makes Eames look at me for a moment with an illegible expression.

"Congratulations," I say, and this breaks the moment and Eames turns back to One Two.

"Yeah," says Eames. He and One Two look at each other like they don't know what to say to each other and never have.

"It was good to see you, Bob," says One Two with real feeling.

Eames smiles and pulls One Two in for a hug, which One Two accepts dubiously, giving Eames sort of a perfunctory slap on the back.

"Stop bein' such a gay," mutters One Two in a vigilant but ultimately doomed attempt to maintain his gruff exterior.

Eames laughs and shoves him away. "Stay in touch this time," says Eames. "And for god's sake stay out of trouble."

"Whatever," says One Two. He looks over to me. He feels obligated to say something, and what comes out is, "Well done Arthur, staying alive and all. No hard feelings?"

I stare at him.

"Oh, he's fine," says Eames, patting One Two on the shoulder and maneuvering him out of my line of vision. "Just tired. Not too talkative yet."

"Right," says One Two.

"Now bugger off, will you?" Eames steps out into the hallway with him.

What I don't see for the fractional moment they spend in the hallway together, just outside the door, is the look One Two gives Eames, which is very unlike him. Eames is not Bob anymore, and it has left them worlds apart. One Two is jealous, and proud of his friend, but he'll never admit that.

"Well," he says.

"Go on," says Eames. "We've said too many goodbyes already."

One Two punches him lightly in the arm and turns. He doesn't look back, and Eames doesn't watch him go. Eames comes back in and shuts the door.

"Sorry about that," he says.

I shrug. I've sunk down onto my back, staring fixedly up at the ceiling.

Eames comes back and sits down again, this time closer to me. I refuse to make eye contact, not just yet.

"You're upset," says Eames.

"Of course I'm fucking upset," I say, and it just cascades out of me, catching me completely unawares. Eames of course saw it coming ages ago. "I got tortured, molested, shot and almost garroted by a guy you knew was dangerous, knew we shouldn't get mixed up with, and you never warned me, didn't do anything to stop it. Because you just had to delve back into this bullshit, just had to find out which of your completely alive-and-well friends was supposedly dead, didn't you? Dragged Yusuf into it, dragged in some hapless asshole we don't even know—"

"Quite possibly saved Saito's life—" cuts in Eames, calm and collected, which infuriates me for some reason.

"Yes, well, lucky us," I say, pulling myself back up to a sitting position, wincing with the effort. "Saito is not the point. Yes, he could have died. Everybody could have died." I stop myself because the combined effort of sitting up and yelling is too much for me. "Was it worth it?" I ask.

He looks at me steadily. "Yes," he says. "It was, because everyone made it out okay, because we stopped him from doing anything to Saito and fucked him up properly. It was, because even though you're angry with me, and you have every right to be, you know a lot more about me than you would have had I not gone through with this. Because I am a coward, Arthur."

Whatever I was expecting, it wasn't this.

He looks down at his hands, which are limp. "I don't know that I ever would have told you about any of it. And whatever you know now, I'm glad."

Eames doesn't want to be the bad lie. Eames wants to be the bad liar.

I reach out, weak and determined, and wrap my fingers around his.

He smiles down at it for a moment, then he says, "I saw you, you know."

My hand falters.

What?

"What?" I ask, trying to remember what it was I did.

"With my projection," he says, and looks at me.

Oh.

"Ah," I say. Does that count as cheating on someone? Does it count if it's technically the same person, even though it isn't at all? I wonder suddenly, perhaps instinctively wanting to escape this thoroughly weird conversation, whether I accidentally incepted Johnny Quid with the idea that I was a hot piece of ass because I made out with part of his subconscious.

"Why'd you do it?" asks Eames, and his tone is calm as ever, just curious, because who wouldn't be, really?

I don't know how to answer that one. I start talking and words come out. "I just… I thought I might never get to be with that part of you. And I wanted to know what it was like, even though it wasn't really… he was just part of Johnny's…" What am I saying? Flustered, I finish with really choice defensive stammering. "I just—I don't know, okay? I was confused, it was confusing."

Eames reaches over and he kisses me deeply, which is startling. His arm is around my waist, supporting me gently, careful to avoid the parts of me that are still healing. He pulls away, leaving me wordless, and rests his forehead against mine.

"How was that?" he asks quietly.

I am very bewildered by the whole series of events, and I wonder suddenly how many drugs I am on right now. "I don't even know," I answer pretty honestly.

He pulls inches away, gazes at me, breathes. "I am sorry," he says. "I am sorry for all of it, and sorry I couldn't just tell you."

"Why couldn't you?" I ask. "What, you used to go by Handsome Bob? Used to hang out with a vaguely homophobic inept Scottish gangster? It's not that surprising."

"I don't want to be there anymore," he says. "I want to be someone else now."

I look at him, tilting my head a little, thoughtful. "You are," I tell him.

"You don't get it, Arthur," he says. "That's all I ever am."

He looks at me, and in a moment I understand that he has never been able to narrow himself down into one person. Handsome Bob was a contradiction of a gentler man who wanted more, wanted distinction and grace, and wanted his best friend. He was smarter than he acted and he acted better than most people. And since then he's been everyone and anyone, he can be whoever he wants you to think he is, and it's all confidence, isn't it? It's all the conviction that he himself carries, that he is this person or that person. If he believes it, the audience believes it, and he can make anyone see him as anyone. So who is that lie for—is it for everyone else, or is it for him?

"So," I say quietly. "So who the fuck is Robert Eames?"

He flinches so very slightly at the use of his full name, barely even visible, a little tremor I can feel beneath my fingertips.

"I don't know," he says.

"Yeah, well," I say, and this time I pull from another Harrison Ford movie, only it's not Harrison Ford that I quote when I say, "I don't care."

Again he looks at me, and it's one of those moments where it doesn't matter anymore, because it's exhausting to think like this, and no one ever really arrives at a conclusion, do they? No one knows who he is because no one necessarily has to. We define ourselves, or judge each other, or we never know and that's the way it's always going to be.

Come here. Come closer.

Remember when we met? Layers and layers of makeup and hair and nail polish and nicotine, chains and chucks and jeans and dark jackets. Remember the way it all fell apart, how you lied to break my lie, and how it all came crashing down at the first sign of weakness I could give. Remember every single moment of my stupid little life. Remember the stupid words, I love you, and the stupider words, I know. Remember all of it, or none of it, or whatever you want. Because I don't care.

"I love you."

So difficult, and yet so easy, that I don't even notice it's slipped out.

He smiles into my shoulder, suppressing a laugh. "Obviously," he says.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Eames.

END


Disclaimer: All characters and events from RocknRolla are the property of Guy Ritchie and Warner Bros. All characters, elements and concepts from Inception are the property of Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros. The song quoted by Johnny Quid in Chapter 8 is "Opposite Day" by Andrew Bird; the song whistled by Johnny Quid in Chapter 10 is "Wait" by The Beatles. References to other movies include The Empire Strikes Back, Reservoir Dogs, Brick and The Fugitive. Hamlet is the property of nobody, but also Shakespeare. Good-Bye to All That is the property of Robert Graves. There is probably more that isn't mine, but I'll leave it there. Thanks for reading.