Disclaimer: Inception does not belong to me.
Arthur took a gulp of black coffee, and checked his watch. The new semester would begin in precisely half an hour, and as Vice Principal of the J. E. Fox High School, he considered himself woefully unprepared. He hadn't finished his exam analysis or checked the timetable. He swirled the coffee in his cup, wishing that time would stop, or he could invent a few more hours.
"Glad to be back?"
He turned, and found himself face to face with Dom Cobb, Principal. He smiled tiredly.
"Ask me at 3pm," he said, looking into the coffee cup.
"That good already?" Dom walked up to Arthur, and patted him on the shoulder. "Just think - in a few minutes, we'll be meeting new students, looking at familiar faces, meeting new Faculty-"
Arthur blinked. "New Faculty?" His mind began to race. "Whose gone?"
"Nash." Dom shook his head. "I couldn't trust him, Art. Not after the way he tried to pass his work off as the students, due to him being too lazy to get them to reach their deadlines."
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Good riddance. So we have a new Art and Design teacher this year?"
"Oh, yes." Cobb nodded, smiling. "We do."
Arthur shrugged. "OK. I take it Eames will be back?"
"Did you not notice that as soon as I hired him to teach Literature and Drama, interest in the subject went up a hundredfold?" Dom was laughing now. "I swear, every girl in the school fantasises about him."
"Wrong," a feminine voice said, and both men turned to see Mallorie Cobb, Head of Modern Foreign Languages walk in. She looked a million dollars, in a fresh linen suit with heels. "Not every girl fantasises about Eames," she scolded her husband. "I'm quite happy to be with the Principal!"
Arthur smiled for the first time that morning. "Oh, I'm sure its not just the girls, Mal. Quite a few boys like him too, I'd wager."
"Arthur!" Cobb was laughing even harder. "Please!"
"Yes, Arthur!" Mal said with mock severity. "Here, have a cookie." She offered him one from the box she was holding, and tutted at the younger man. "You're still as thin as a rake! What were you doing all summer vacation?"
"I went hiking and climbing," he confessed, reaching for a chocolate chip cookie, biting into it. "It was great." He swallowed the mouthful of biscuit. He'd gone nowhere. He'd spent the whole of the summer vacation working, either in the school, or at home.
She wrinkled her nose. "Not my idea of fun." She turned to Dom, who reached over and kissed the top of her head. "Yusuf is here."
"Oh, great," Arthur groaned. Memories of the previous year were bubbling up. Yusuf was Head of Chemistry, an enthusiastic man who encouraged his students to be as experimental as possible. The experiments had wandered into the realms of sedative making, leading to irate parents about why their children were falling asleep in class. Arthur felt a sting of annoyance. As Vice Principal, he felt he had to deal with complaints, aggravations, and irritations over every little thing, leaving Cobb to glide through as everyone's pal. He'd mentioned this to Cobb once, and remembered him being told that "without you, Arthur, this school wouldn't run. You make it seamless."
"Yeah, but everyone thinks I'm a humourless, boring, stick in the mud. And thats just the Faculty!" He'd felt his face growing hot as he protested. "You should hear what the students say about me!"
"Yes, Arthur," Cobb said, with a straight face. "Very interesting things they say about you! Some of the girls want to propose marriage, trust me!"
Arthur glowered and stormed out. As he'd left, he'd barked at a couple of male students who were loitering in the corridor. He was sure he'd heard "prick!" muttered by one of them as he'd turned and walked.
Straightening his shoulders, he turned to leave. A new Faculty member - he would be in charge of helping them settle in. Time to play nursemaid, he thought, grudgingly. Time he couldn't spare to waste, when he had reports to monitor, data to crunch, and students to deal with-
"Cheer up, miseryguts, its already happened!"
Arthur stopped. Eames. His eyes swept over the older man, who was more substantially built than Arthur, and wearing clothes that caused the Vice Principal to baulk in horror.
"What," Arthur said slowly, pointing to Eames' chest, "is that?"
Eames looked down, puzzled. "Its my shirt, darling. What's wrong with it?"
"Eames. Its orange."
The Drama teacher shrugged. "Very observant of you. Its also clean, which for me is a rarity...sometimes. Now, can I go to my classroom? I haven't been down there since May, and I'm sure all my books have disap-"
Arthur stood up straight, flaring his nostrils a little. When he spoke, his voice was clipped.
"Eames. You know that Fox High has standards." He spoke with cool authority, noting how the British man appeared to shrink under his gaze. "You are not wearing a tie. Your shirt is not appropriate, and I must ask you to-"
He stopped. A peculiar wild sound had escaped from Eames. He started to redden with anger as he realised the Head of Drama was trying to stifle a squeal of laughter.
"Oh, Artie!" Eames burst out, tears of mirth in his eyes. "Oh, I forgot how much I love you! You walk around pretending to be this joyless, authoritarian killjoy...and then you try and impose it, and its just too funny for words!" He choked slightly, and put his hand on his side.
Arthur went scarlet. He opened his mouth again.
"Eames. I am the vice-principal. Please resp-"
"Respect your authority?" Eames was laughing even harder now. "Oh, dear, have you been watching South Park again? No, its probably on past your bedtime! See you at the Faculty meeting!" Grinning broadly, the older man swaggered down the corridor, winking at a couple of the female math teachers as he passed. Arthur could almost hear them cooing after the man. As they approached him, their expressions froze. When they passed, he heard them stifling their giggles.
He marched on. Passing the science labs, he saw Yusuf, his head in a cupboard. Not even bothering to say hello, he walked on. He checked his watch. Nearly time for the Faculty meeting. And the students would arrive thirty minutes later.
He swallowed, and pulled at his collar. It was a warm day, and the three piece suit he was wearing suddenly felt heavy. He continued to walk...only for his irritation to flare up as he saw someone in the corridor.
He blinked. She was wearing an outfit that looked as if it had been composed of the first few things she'd picked off the floor. A red denim jacket. Faded jeans. A loose fitting top. A neck scarf. She was wandering the corridor, holding a canvas bag, and looking confused.
Oh, God, Arthur thought, angrily. Another student who had arrived too early. He walked over, prepared to give her a dressing down.
"You!" he snapped.
She jumped. "Me?"
"Why are you in the hallways?" He glared at her. "Students aren't supposed to arrive until half nine!"
"But, I did-" She blinked. "I was told to arrive at this time! I have to see someone!"
"No, you don't!" he informed her, coldly. "Stop answering me back!" He couldn't believe it. Every year, they tried to sneak in early, and every year, it was the same tired old excuses. He looked at her, witheringly.
"Just turn, and leave."
"OK, I will," she snapped. "You can explain to the Vice Principal why I'm late!"
Arthur's head snapped back. "What?"
"You can explain to the Vice Principal why I'm late!" She pulled a letter out of her pocket, brandishing it at him. "I'm Ariadne Henderson, the new Art and Design Teacher. I'm supposed to meet Arthur Ogilvie, Vice Principal, at 9am!" She looked at him. "So, will you tell him for me? And can you show me the way to his office?"
Arthur opened his mouth, but no sound came out. He swallowed.
"Of course I'll show you, Ms Henderson," he said, hurriedly. "Follow me."
Reviews always appreciated. Thank you!