Disclaimer: It's still not mine. I do not have Nolan's genius, unfortunately for me.
It's so complicated
I'm so frustrated
I wanna hold you close
I wanna push you away
I wanna make you go
I wanna make you stay
Should I say it?
Should I tell you how I feel?
Oh, I want you to know
But then again I don't
It's so complicated... – Complicated by Carolyn Dawn Johnson
The first two jobs are in Berlin and Seattle, and though it's summer, the heat in those cities is bearable. Their third job, however, is in Seville, Spain. The old loft where they've set up shop has no air conditioning and the windows don't let much air in. They have fans, but all that does is stir the warm air, and it doesn't cool them much at all.
In all honesty, Eames is not much bothered by it. He can wear tweed and paisley in Mombasa, for God's sake. He could do without the humidity, but there's not as much difference between 'dry' and 'wet' heat as people like to think. Hot is hot, regardless. But, luckily for him, many people do buy that there's a major difference, which is why he's able to justify showing up for work in wifebeaters every day, though he still wears long pants since he's always hated shorts. He's not the only one, either; Ariadne comes in each day in spaghetti-strap sundresses, her hair twisted up off her neck. Arthur is the only one who dresses almost the same as he would in bloody Iceland, the lack of a waistcoat and rolled up sleeves his only initial concessions to the heat.
"God, doesn't it ever rain here?" Ariadne says as she works on one of her models, fanning herself with the paper in her left hand.
"Not in July," Arthur says absently.
"You researched the climate, Arthur?" Eames has to ask, because really, even for Arthur that's a bit much, isn't it?
"No, it's just not the first time I've been here," Arthur replies. "It was before I got into the business." He turns back to his computer, one hand reaching up to undo his tie and his top button, revealing the hollow of his throat. Eames watches, finding it hard to look away. The point man doesn't even notice, too absorbed in his work.
This is both the best and worst thing about working in Seville, Eames decides. Watching Arthur unravel slightly over the course of the day and seeing Ariadne's skirt hems get steadily higher. He's never claimed to be a saint, after all, so he enjoys looking. Both of his partners are very easy on the eyes, something he was never exactly unaware of.
But it's rather difficult to always admire what you can't touch. Ariadne's not quite the innocent she appears to be, but sometimes he still thinks she'd break if he touched her. And Arthur, well, he's a special sort of torment, because Eames knows how the point man's skin feels against his own, just as much as he knows he's never getting that close again.
And the thing of it is, he would be fine if it was just about those two being devilishly attractive. It wouldn't be the first time Eames was attracted to someone he couldn't have (usually someone married, as that's one sort of trouble he doesn't care to get involved in, thank you), and as a rule it doesn't bother him much. He just finds someone else.
He's tried that. But inevitably, the only women who draw his eye are petite brunettes with sweetheart smiles, and the only men he's willing to consider are whipcord lean with neat dark hair. Eames has learned the hard way that bad replacements only make it worse, so he's given up on that strategy. It really is becoming a problem, and though the latter issue is not entirely unfamiliar, he's never had it quite this bad before.
He'd call it bloody inconvenient, except it's a bit more than that. He'd thought he'd gotten Arthur out of his system, and he'd never expected Ariadne to get under his skin like this. The fact that he is so spectacularly wrong on both counts could end up being a disaster.
Arthur might not notice the looks Eames shoots at them both, but Ariadne does. It doesn't bother her though. It can't, really, not when she's guilty of the same thing. Hey, Eames is all but asking for it with those damned shirts – if they can be called that – and for Arthur, rolling up his sleeves and taking off his tie is practically stripping. And all three of them are sweaty, so... Yeah. She's twenty-four, and human. And maybe she's purposely trying to add a little more tension to the situation by choosing sundresses with shorter hems, but... Eames has certainly noticed, and she's pretty sure she's caught Arthur's eyes flicking her way once or twice (and she thinks she's seen him dart quick glances at Eames too).
It's just the latest confirmation of her suspicions from graduation, namely that she didn't really know what she was getting into. Turns out she'd been absolutely right about that. Because it's not just that Arthur and Eames are, well, for lack of a better term, hot. It's... It's Eames' teasing quips, and that half-smile Arthur gets sometimes. And it's the way that they all know what to get each other on food runs without asking.
Ariadne's had crushes before. Never on two guys at the same time, but she'd thought that was all this was. And it had kinda started out that way. But... It's not like watching the cute TAs and trying not to blush when they look at you. Or any of the other stupid older guy crushes she's had over the years. She didn't know those people. Arthur and Eames are part of her daily life, always there. So it's different.
The problem is, she knows how to handle crushes. And this is something else entirely. It's the kind of something else she's never experienced before, even though she used to think she had. And for some reason, some insane reason, she keeps thinking about Mal.
"Do you know what it is to be a lover? To be one half of a whole?"
She doesn't really know any more about it than she did then. She's not a virgin, but just sex doesn't make one a lover, she knows that, not in the way Mal had meant. So she doesn't. But she keeps wondering about that one half part. Because she's not sure half of a whole is always how it goes. She can't stop thinking about that, and wondering what other definition she might be on the verge of finding. And if she does find it... What will it mean?
Technically speaking, the job went fine. They got the information they needed, so on and so forth. Of course, it all went to hell in the dream, but since they're all still breathing in reality, it's fine, right? That's what Arthur keeps telling himself, anyway.
But there's a problem with this theory. The problem is that he was the only one left standing in the dream. He'd been working distraction duty while the other two got the information, a job he usually took on once in in the dream. He thought he'd gotten all of the security, but he hadn't, and... Well. At least it wasn't real.
Ariadne had said it was her fault, she's the one who tipped the mark off, and maybe that's true. But Arthur's not thinking about fault, at this point. He's thinking about two corpses on a linoleum floor, two pairs of glassy eyes, one gray and one brown, staring blankly up at him. He's trying very hard not to think about it, but his subconscious won't let him. Arthur's never stopped dreaming for real; he keeps waiting for his dreams to vanish but they don't. Unfortunately, when he's not plugged in, he never realizes that he is, in fact, dreaming.
Which is why he's checking his totem for the third time tonight, after having sat bolt upright in the dark, waking from a nightmare in which what happened in dreams had happened in reality. Nightmares where Eames and Ariadne are actually dead, because he fucked up somehow and led an enemy to them, or just wasn't quick enough with his gun.
He rolls the red die across the nightstand, one, two, three times. Six, every time. Reality. He was only dreaming. But why is it bothering him so much? He's seen plenty of people die in dreams, he's shot people he liked in the head in dreams. Christ, he's committed suicide more times than he can count. He ought to be completely desensitized to dream death at this point, and he'd thought that he was. Apparently not.
The thought of seeing either of them dead in reality is enough to have him pushing aside the bedcovers, pacing his hotel room in the dark. What the hell is wrong with him? He's never reacted so badly to dream death, not even in the beginning. So why...?
He gets back into bed, lying flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. And he's thinking about the past few months, Ariadne designing worlds around them, Eames flickering in and out of faces as he tests out new forges. Fights over the last egg roll or slice of pizza on the later work nights, that day when Ariadne and Eames had both gotten caught in the rain and, on seeing the amused smirk he hadn't quite been able to hide, the pair of them dragging him out to get soaked as well. And though he probably shouldn't let himself think about it, both of them coming to work basically half-dressed for the past three weeks, far more distracting than they seemed to realize.
It all blurs together in his head, easing the knot in his gut at the memory of something which isn't real anyway, which never will be real if he has anything to say about it. That's when he realizes just why it bothered him so much, and why these past months have quite possibly been the best of his life. He'd never actually considered that possibility before, and he's sure they haven't. Which means he is completely screwed, of course. That thought bothers him, but not quite as much as it should.