Disclaimer: I own nothing except the plot, that's all mine. Everything else belongs to Christopher Nolan, Emma Thomas, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy Films, Warner Bros. Pictures and anyone else involved. "Isolation"is from a Joy Division song from the album Still.
Author's Note: First and foremost I want to apologize for not finishing my other Inception story, When We Were Lions. I bring this up because there is a rather obvious reference to it in this story. This is a one-shot, since I'm awful at updating, but would love to hear any feedback. Questions, comments and concerns are always welcome. Towards the end of this Eames get a little out of character. It was written that way, he is supposed to be out of character because, to me, Eames is acting. Thanks so much for reading.
"Mother I tried please believe me, I'm doing the best that I can. I'm ashamed of the things I've been put through, I'm ashamed of the person I am." – Joy Division
There was something about Eames that Ariadne was extremely fascinated by. He was mysterious, unreadable and a stranger. She had never met anyone like him and was pretty sure she would come to meet very few. She understood that in their line of work a certain level of secrecy was expected. Out of everyone she had worked with she knew the most about Cobb but that was her own doing, really. She could read Arthur fairly well. It had taken a while but they were about to finish their third job together and she was confident she had a handle on his cool demeanor and overzealous work ethic. Yusuf was simple. What you saw with Yusuf, you got. He was honest and open, for the most part. But with Eames there was nothing. She was always unsure of whether he was serious or joking. His face was kept unnervingly straight expect for the crooked smile that he always seemed to wear. He was an enigma to her, a walking contradiction. He was her challenge.
In retrospect, she admits that she started her quest rather naively. She went to Arthur. She almost considered calling Cobb first but it seemed unnecessary and disrespectful to pull him back towards his old life. So Arthur it was. She knew that he and Eames had known each other a long time but she wanted to know the hows and the whys. She waits until late one night when it was just her and Arthur left going over plans. They are silent, cleaning up their work when she clears her throat and blurts it out.
"How long have you known Eames?" it all comes out as a jumble of words and she damns herself for letting her guard down.
He stops what he's doing and stands stock still. He's got a pencil in his hand and he's holding it in the air halfway to his lapel pocket. "Why do you want to know?" he asks with a raised eyebrow.
"I don't really know." She answers honestly, "He's so strange. Not weird, just unusual."
Arthur lets out a small chuckle and nods his head as the pencil finally makes it to his pocket. "I met him years ago. When I was first starting out."
Ariadne moves closer to him while rolling a blueprint in her hand. "How?"
Arthur looks thoughtful for a minute then swallows a lump in his throat. Eames does not like being discussed and as much as Arthur and Eames jibe each other, he still respects Eames' need for secrecy. But Ariadne is stubborn and likes to dig little holes around everyone and it'd be easier if she went through him than going to Eames. "He was a school friend of Mal's. I was a student of Miles' and had just started working for Cobb. Cobb invited me to Mal's birthday party and Eames was there." Arthur lets his usual demeanor go for a second as he smiles at the memory. "I thought Eames was rude, a spoiled playboy, at first. I don't think Miles liked him very much either. But Mal adored him."
Arthur can see Ariadne thinking this over in her mind, trying to picture the scene herself. She opens her mouth to ask another question but Arthur holds up a finger and stops her.
"That is all I'm telling you. I don't know much about him and what I do know may or may not be a fallacy. But I will tell you this; Eames does not like being examined. He lives the way he does for reasons that no one really knows. He does not respond well to nosiness."
Ariadne puts the roll of blueprint down the desk with a sting of rage, "I wasn't being nosy."
"I know but he might not see it that way." Arthur gives her a small smile then turns his back on her to pull on his coat. She offers him a small goodbye and leaves quickly, more curious than ever.
When she gets home that night she decides that it would be best to observe Eames, see if she can dig up anything on her own. She searches the internet extensively for a few hours until it dawns on her that Eames is probably a pseudonym and just another way to protect himself. She'd be lying if she said she wasn't nervous over the next couple days but after a week passes without Arthur mentioning anything and Eames acting no less out of the ordinary she assumes her inquisitiveness is forgotten.
Ten days later Ariadne is the last one to leave. She stays about an hour after everyone before finally calling it quits. She starts stretching in her chair and goes to grab her coat from behind her when she notices that it's missing. She turns around and scans the floor then looks under the desk she'd been working at. When she sits back up in her chair she lets out a small gasp and jumps slightly. She finds Eames standing before her with a broad grin on his face, holding her coat.
"Thought I might walk you to yours." He explains as he makes his way towards her.
She gives him a pleasant smile but shakes her head as she organizes her desk. "That's okay. I'm fine walking home by myself. I thought you left."
He gives a slight shrug and runs a hand over the back of his neck, "Come in late, work late."
She walks toward him and takes the proffered coat. "Seriously, I'm all right."
He studies her for a minute than leads the way to the elevator, holding the door open for her. "Unfortunately, darling, I'm not."
Ariadne doesn't know how to respond and she can feel herself tensing up in the elevator as he presses the ground level button. "Oh, why?" is all she can muster after a few silent beats.
She's a little startled when he lets out a small chuckle. "Don't be nervous, I'm not angry. I'm not going to stash your body in some back alley. Just wanted to have a word. Arthur mentioned that you were asking about me."
He still looks pretty serious and Ariadne can't help but focus on how big he is compared to her. How big he is compared to anyone, really. But she reminds herself that he's Eames and while they may not be buddies they do work together and work together well and that somehow reassures her. "I did. You confuse me. You're so clandestine and my curiosity got the best of me."
She looks up at him and he gives her a genuine smile. "Curiosity killed the cat, you know," he says in a sing song voice but this time she can actually tell that he's joking.
She allows herself to let out a sigh of relief that she turns into a laugh as the elevator comes to a halt. She looks up at him again before the doors open and gives him a small smile, "I'm sorry, Eames."
He follows her out of the elevator and walks in time with her out of the building. "What did Arthur tell you?" His voice in calm but even and Ariadne wonders whether it would behoove her to lie. She reminds herself that Arthur probably told Eames everything anyway so best to be truthful.
She keeps her eyes straight ahead of her as she answers. "He said you and Mal were school friends and that he met you at a party she and Cobb had."
He slows down a pace and walks behind her to let a couple pass them before resuming his spot next to her. "Ahhh, yes, if I recall I was rather rude to Arthur then. Thought he was a waiter."
Ariadne attempts to hold in a giggle but comes it out despite her efforts. She feels at ease again and starts to goad herself into more. She thinks that if it really was so wrong to want to know about him than he wouldn't have approached her in the first place. She finally decides to throw caution to the wind and see what happens. "You went to school with Mal?" she asks, voice full on interest.
She can feel Eames' eyes on her and chances a glance at him. He doesn't look angry or upset. In fact, he's looking at her with something that resembles admiration. He put his hands in his pockets and kicks a rock clear across the street before he answers. Ariadne doesn't realize that she's biting her right thumb nail in anticipation. "Sort of. Not exactly. We went to boarding schools in the same area. She was a year below me at the girls' school. I was at the boys' academy across the way. We met at this silly "get to know one another" thing her first year. All we ever did, really, was skive off class, drop ecstasy and dance to Joy Division."
Ariadne stares at him before letting out a laugh, "you're bull shitting me."
Eames gives her a small smile from the corner of his mouth as he maneuvers her around a puddle. "It's interesting that you say that."
"Why?" Adriane asks.
"That's one of the only honest stories I have ever told." He looks at her again with his full attention and Ariadne realizes for the first time how old his eyes look. She's unsure of his age but figures he's in his early to mid-thirties but those eyes of his belong to someone far older, someone who was there when the Earth was created and was damned to live on it until it was destroyed.
In an attempt to lighten the mood Ariadne brings up the other fact that Arthur shared with her, "Arthur also said that he didn't think Miles liked you very much."
At hearing this, Eames lets out a hearty laugh and runs a hand over the stubble on his chin. "And quite right too."
"Why do you say that?" Ariadne isn't even focused on the walk home at all anymore, relying heavily on muscle memory as her full attention is now on their conversation. Maybe just maybe, he'll open up to her.
"He…ah…"Eames pauses and searches for the right words, "well, I suppose he thought I was a bad influence on her."
This makes Ariadne smile, "I'm really not surprised."
He elbows her lightly in the arm and continues, "We got arrested once. I had run away from school and was getting ready to leave the country. Mal met me in London and we went to this club over in Covent Garden. Some bloke pushed me or I pushed him…this was years ago, mind you, don't really remember…but next thing I know I'm bleeding and in handcuffs and Mal's right there with me. Miles came and put up the money, got us out. He didn't like me much after that. But that's how she met Cobb. He was Miles' assistant back then. Drove with him to pick us up."
Ariadne is silent, taking in all the details he's provided for her. She doesn't know what to say and is thankful when Eames continues. "Miles is a good man and he loved…loves… his daughter. That's what fathers are supposed to do."
His tone of voice changes as he quietly says the last sentence. Ariadne notes that he has lost all brashness. There's no hint of arrogance. It has all been replaced with a hint of sadness.
Ariadne can't help but to go out on an even further limb. "Do you have a family, Eames? Have you ever been married?"
He gets a faraway look in his eyes but a snap later he lets out a loud guffaw that slowly fades into a cough before coming to a complete stop. He clears his throat, "that is neither here nor there."
"Where are you from?"
"Where do you think I'm from?"
Ariadne ponders this before answering with the obvious, "England."
"Very good. Aces for you. But what part, love?" He puts emphasis on the love which makes his accent seem overdone and slightly dramatic.
"I don't know." She answers honestly, "I always thought London but there's a poshness that creeps into your voice sometimes. Maybe you're not even from English at all."
He gives her a smile and pats her patronizingly on the head, "Very good. For all you know I could be from Vermont."
"You're not. That's one thing I know for sure about you." She responds matter-of-factly, "I'm from Vermont."
He laughs as they come to a halt on the top of her street, "Yep, knew that. Which number is yours?"
"You already know that too, don't you?"
"Sixteen Thirty-Three. Flat D. Name plate says Frances Glass." He crosses his arms and rolls back and forth on his heels with a large grin on his face.
She crosses her arms and stares at him. "How come you can know everything about me and I'm not allowed to know anything about you? People probably don't even know your favorite color."
He tilts his head slightly to the right and regards Ariadne with mild amusement. "Green. No…blue. Hmm…I liked blue last Thursday at tea. Might be yellow in the morning." She gets a cross look on her face and he sighs and places a hand on her shoulder. "Ariadne, darling, I am an illusion. Everything you see is a fabrication. There is no room for vulnerability in my life. Now you have an early day tomorrow and I have a late night tonight. Time to get to it." He slowly removes his hand from her shoulder and stands at his full height. She can almost picture him as a spy or a soldier or even some farmer from Minnesota but she knows that the interview is over, most likely forever, and she will only ever know him as Mr. Eames, the conman. This is the saddest thing she has discovered about him.
Ariadne gives Eames a quick hug, which startles him but she lets go before he even has time to reciprocate. She says a small good night and heads up to her apartment. He watches from the street until the light in her bedroom glows. As he turns and makes his way to his favorite haunt he fails to notice Ariadne standing at her window watching him walk away. It's open and through the breeze she can hear the faintest whistle. It's a tune she recognizes but only a little. An old Joy Division song her friends in college used to listen to. She sings along to herself as he walks further down the street and the whistle grows fainter, "isolation, isolation, isolation."