Title: And I Feel Fine
Characters/Pairings: Arthur/Eames, Ariadne, Dom.
Spoilers/Warnings: No and no.
Summary: So as it turns out, Arthur is in love. This is not a particularly welcome revelation, besides which he isn't quite sure what to do with it.
Disclaimer: Inception is absolutely not mine, nor is anything you recognize from it.
Notes: This is papered's holiday gift! Inspired by this lovely e-card from someecards.com, that most wonderful of websites. Title shamelessly yanked from The Beatles ("I Feel Fine").
EDIT: Now with fabulous and adorable art by distracterisey.
So I wrote this fic all the way through, in order, which hardly ever happens. I've got no idea why that happened, nor do I have anything particularly interesting to say about it so honestly, why did I bring it up? No one knows.
I sort of adore writing Arthur: Normal Human Doing Normal Human Things, of course always with the understanding that while he's picking up his dry cleaning or buying toilet paper, he's a highly-trained dream criminal with a working knowledge of a wide variety of weapons and a temper which could occasionally be described as hair trigger. This all goes hand-in-hand with my appreciation of, say, RoadRage!Arthur. I also have an ambition to someday write him in any variety of low-grade annoyance situations (he's eating at a nice restaurant and has to send his food back! he's sitting on the bus and someone spills coffee on his shoes! the grocery store checkout clerk gives him the wrong change! etc., etc.).
So here is Arthur: Purchaser of Peppermint Lattes.
Arthur is waiting in line for his morning coffee (grande peppermint latte and no, he doesn’t care how non-threatening and/or corporate it makes him, he fucking loves Starbucks) when it hits him. Upon later reflection he will decide it was inspired either by the barista’s plaid scarf or the particular shade of blue in the tile beneath his feet, but at the time he just thinks, holy shitting fuck, WHAT?
“Good morning! What can I get started for you?” The plaid-scarf-wearing barista chirps.
I love Starbucks baristas. They are always willing to have mini-conversations with me, they are remarkably cheerful even at godawful hours of the morning, and they never side eye me for being a non-coffee-drinker hanging out in a Starbucks.
“I’m in love,” Arthur tells her and then, “Oh shit, sorry.”
“Yeah, a lot of people react that way to the prospect of caffeine. Don’t worry about it,” she says.
Not with the profanity, maybe, but I have witnessed this flavor of conversation in coffee shops.
“It turns out I’m in love,” Arthur says the next day. Delia Lewis, who is probably the twelfth-best extractor in Europe and is certainly in the top twenty, turns to glance at him.
I enjoy Delia, even if we only see her during the space of this conversation. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to decide if she should be the seventh-best or the twelfth-best extractor, and whether that should be in Europe or the Northern Hemisphere or what. Does it matter? NOT PARTICULARLY. Did I obsess over it? You bet I did.
“Okay,” she says, “but are you going to be able to get me through the lobby?”
“Of course,” Arthur says, one hand resting easily on his gun. “Just wait for my signal and then try to stay behind cover as much as possible. I’ve never actually been in love, but based on how disgustingly cloying people get when they talk about it this has got to be what it feels like.”
Arthur may not be all-business all-the-time in this fic, but he's definitely going to get the job done. I honestly thought idly musing on the fact that he was in love could be in-character for Arthur, but falling down on the job was a definite no.
“Disgustingly cloying isn’t really something I associate with you,” Delia says, pushing a stray curl behind her ear and scanning the room. “Do you think it would be better to go right and use the sofas, or go left and just sprint like a fucking maniac?”
“Sofas,” Arthur says. “Try to avoid being a fucking maniac whenever possible.”
I had a few people tell me they liked this line, and I enjoyed it to although it wasn't really one of my favorites when I wrote the fic.
“Right,” Delia says, “good plan.”
“I don’t know, I just feel like this must be the frame of mind people are in when they write terrible sonnets,” Arthur says.
“Honestly? You can be as love struck as you want, but you’re going to have to do it on your own because I have to run across a room full of highly-trained assassins now,” Delia says.
“I’m not a sonnet kind of guy,” Arthur says. “I’m just not.”
Poor Arthur, trying to come to terms with the vague possibility that he may be moved to write a sonnet. I wouldn't take that well either.
god paris is boring when all u c of it is the inside of a hotel, Eames texts him at 4:02 in the morning.
Some of us are trying to sleep, Arthur replies.
u & i are going to have a srs conversation someday about ur use of capitalization & grammar in txts, Eames informs him at 4:07. There is a pause and then Arthur’s phone vibrates again.
I'm a complete sentences, names and places capitalized, grammatically observant kind of texter, and it drives some people absolutely up the wall which always takes me by surprise somehow. Ah, well!
also u were not sleeping, u answered 2 fast. also also, i’m not even convinced that you sleep. i’m pretty sure you think it’s a waste of time.
The average person spends a third of their life asleep, Arthur replies. Which I do find unsettling, yes. As for the capitalization and the grammar, I suppose I just value clarity a bit more than you do, Mr. Eames.
let me b vry CLEAR, then: nobody is checking ur texts against the OED. leave out a few vwls. live a little, Eames answers.
If temporarily deserting grammar is your definition of a walk on the wild side, you’re a good deal more boring than I thought, Arthur texts.
oh, i’m every bit as interesting as you've heard ;), he receives a minute later. oops, g2g, getting shot at.
"oops, g2g, getting shot at" WAS one of my favorite lines, I will confess. One of the other things I really enjoy reading and/or writing is people discussing weighty issues/life-or-death situations in text speak. It hits my sense of humor spot on for some reason.
“Well,” Arthur says to his empty kitchen, “nothing to worry about, I’m not head-over-heels or anything, oh wait, fuck.”
Arthur, when he isn’t working, tends to spend his time holed up in New England eating ridiculously expensive lobster, haunting used bookstores, and watching reality television. The bookstores usually enter the equation when he’s trying to fight the sick sense of guilt that results from too much Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
Arthur Watches Reality Television could be a reality television program in itself, I think. People could take bets on when he would throw things at the screen and when he would just sink back on the sofa, resigned.
“Are you looking for anything in particular?” A pleasant, middle-aged man inquires one gray afternoon.
“Not really,” Arthur says, “except I happen to be in love, so if you’ve got anything for that...?”
Honestly, I kind of wanted him to sound like he was looking for medication of some sort, here. CURE THIS 'LOVE' PROBLEM, PLEASE, IT IS VERY INCONVENIENT.
“Hmm,” the man says, rubbing absentmindedly at his bald spot. “You mean books of poetry, that sort of thing?”
“Oh God no,” Arthur says. “You cannot imagine how dangerous it would be to arm me with love poetry at this moment in time. No, I think I need a self-help book or something.”
I have certainly felt this way before.
The man laughs. “Well good luck to you, buddy,” he says.
“Thanks,” Arthur says and wanders in the direction of the murder mysteries because honestly, something packed with mindless violence might go over pretty well right now.
I asked myself, how would Arthur deal with unwanted, potentially unrequited warm & fuzzy feelings? And I answered myself: MURDER...mysteries.
“So, I’m in love,” Arthur says.
“That’s cool I guess,” James says. “I want a robot for Christmas. Can you build me a robot?”
He probably could, James. Keep bugging him about it, you might get somewhere. If he can't, he definitely knows someone who can, so DON'T GIVE UP.
“Oh,” Arthur says. “Hi kiddo. Can you put your dad on the phone?”
“Sorry about that,” Dom says after a moment’s rustling.
“Your son wants a robot for Christmas,” Arthur informs him. “I don’t know if that’s cause for concern in your household, but I just thought I should tell you.”
“He’s wanted a robot for Christmas since he was three,” Dom says with a sigh. “That he hasn’t gotten one yet doesn’t really seem to have dampened his spirits.”
I was definitely like this. I wanted a computer, starting from about age four, and I was totally undaunted by the consistent lack of one under the tree, until I was thirteen and my parents gave me their old one, so: SUCCESS.
“Huh,” Arthur says. “Well, maybe he wants it for benign purposes.”
“Really? Think back to when you were five, Arthur. Would you have asked for a robot and then instructed it to, I don’t know, devote its energy to complex brain surgery?”
I rewrote that line above so many times. The phrasing was so damn awkward, in some many different iterations, and eventually I settled on the variation you see above, but I've seen it in so many versions that I really don't know how it reads any longer. Sometimes you just have to hit post, I suppose!
“No,” Arthur says.
“No,” Dom agrees. “No, you would’ve used it to crush the power structure of the United States government under your heel and then declared National Ice Cream Day.”
This is the line upon which distracterisey based her awesome art: see it here if you haven't already! I am always SO DAMN FLATTERED whenever anyone draws anything for anything I've ever written, ever. Art is difficult, you guys! Art is so cool, not least because it is something I cannot produce! And when people take the time to draw things for my fic I get all blush-y and flustered and thrilled. So thanks again, distracterisey, you are fabulous. ♥
“I could do that without a robot,” Arthur says. “Easy. Also, I’m in love.”
“Well alright,” Dom says. “A minute ago if you’d told me that I would’ve been a little shaken, but the idea of you and your robot minions orchestrating a coup is way more unsettling than the idea of you being in love. The idea of you being in love is kind of sweet, actually. If unexpected. I didn’t know you were seeing anybody.”
“I’m not,” Arthur says.
“Okay,” Dom says, “this has the potential to get weird, but what the hell, I’m an expert on weird. Let’s hear it.”
Hee, I adore that little declaration from Dom for some reason.
The woman Arthur sits next to on the Greyhound has watery blue eyes and graying hair that is escaping its braid. She doesn’t look like the kind of person that gives a shit what her hair’s doing, which is sort of great.
“Where are you headed?” She asks cheerfully half-an-hour after they depart Bangor.
Someone asked me in the comments, I think (which, when looking back at this fic post, I realized I never answered; not a single one of them! what do I do? is it creepy to go back and reply to them now? arghhhh) why Arthur was vacationing in Bangor, of all places, and I didn't really envision him vacationing there as just having a place there where he could go and hole up every once in a while. Not even when he's on the run, just when he's feeling a little worn down. So it's not a vacation, so much as a recharge. I don't know. Does that make any sense to anyone but me?
“New York, probably,” Arthur says.
“Fun if you’ve got the energy for it,” the woman says. “My name’s Sophie, by the way.”
“Arthur,” he says. “Where are you going?”
“Philadelphia,” she says. “My daughter’s going to supply my first grandchild within the week, and I don’t plan to miss it.”
“Congratulations,” Arthur says.
“Why thank you,” Sophie says. “She’s going to be a wonderful mother, in spite of my influence.”
Arthur’s phone vibrates.
where r u?, it demands.
I’m on a bus, Arthur replies. Why?
need ur advice re: thomas flooding. worth working with? Eames asks.
If you enjoy unreliable, collapse-prone architecture, then yes, Arthur says.
damn. i suspected as much. should’ve asked b4 i signed myself up 2 do 2 weeks of corporate espionage extraction with him, huh?
You are an idiot, Arthur answers. Back out now.
how ungentlemanly! it won’t do. i’ll just have to b even better than usual, eh pet? Eames says.
By which you mean you’ve already sunk in too much money to do the intelligent thing, Arthur says.
details, details, Eames says.
Arthur rolls his eyes and shoves his phone back into his pocket. The best method to deal with the stomach-churning terror, he’s discovered, is to ignore it entirely.
“I’m in love with someone whose disregard for grammar warrants capital punishment,” he tells Sophie. She tsks sympathetically.
“Withhold sex until she has a proper respect for parts of speech,” she advises.
“He,” Arthur says distractedly. “Do you think that would work?”
“It’s certainly worth a try,” Sophie says bracingly.
I am fond of Sophie as well, I have to say. She's a woman with a real respect for grammar, clearly.
“Hey, you’ve reached Ariadne! I'm busy living my absolutely thrilling life at the moment or, more likely, I fell asleep studying again and right now I'm drooling all over my laptop keyboard. Either way, just leave me a message after the beep and I’ll call you back, assuming I actually want to talk to you. Bye now!”
I am something of a connoisseur of voicemail messages, and I adore listening to peoples'. I think you can tell a bizarre amount about somebody just by listening to their voicemail message.
Beep! Ariadne’s voicemail says.
“I’m in love,” Arthur tells it. “And considering the people I tend to know and work with, you are probably the least hopelessly warped by life. So, you know, any advice you have would be appreciated.”
'And considering the people I tend to know and work with, you are probably the least hopelessly warped by life.'
Now that, that was a line I adored, I have to say. I was pleased even when I wrote it, which is sort of unusual for me-- I tend to like stuff when I read it in context and see how it flows together, especially dialogue, but that line made me happy the minute I wrote it. Weird, I know, particularly because it isn't a masterpiece or anything. It just made me happy.
She calls back that evening, when he’s just gotten back to his hotel room. Sophie was right: New York’s great if you’ve got the energy, but he really doesn’t.
This reflects my New York experiences. :/
“Love, huh?” Ariadne says. “You know, for a second I thought you were messing with me and then I realized that apparently you just express your love via pigtail-pulling. They're metaphorical pigtails, but still. That’s, like, ‘mental age of a six-year-old’ stuff, you do know that, right?”
Arthur considers taking offense, but decides it isn’t worth the trouble.
“Yes,” he says.
“Okay then,” Ariadne says. “Just checking. So, advice.”
“Yes,” Arthur says again.
“About anything in particular?” She asks.
“How not to strangle him would be a good start,” he says.
“Kinky,” Ariadne says. Arthur doesn’t quite manage to suppress his startled laugh.
I think I like my Ariadne in this fic. I'm not always 100% confident writing her, but I had fun here. I think I made her a little more grown-up than I do sometimes, which is weird since I've written her as a thirty-five year old and she's definitely not thirty-five here.
“Wow, I feel like we corrupted you somehow,” he says.
“Just to check, you didn’t feel like that immediately after you’d gotten me hooked on an illegal and morally deplorable profession?” Ariadne asks.
“Nah, not really,” Arthur says.
“You could try telling him,” Ariadne says.
“And deal with his sarcastic, infuriatingly British reaction?” Arthur demands.
“Is your definition of ‘in love’ one that I’m not familiar with?” Ariadne asks, bemused.
“Probably,” Arthur says with a sigh.
“Welcome to Nairobi,” Eames says when he opens the door. “I hope you’re appreciating the scenery right now because past experience informs me you’re going to spend the next week holed up in a depressingly bare room doing excessive amounts of research.”
“Fuck off, you’re the one who asked me to come,” Arthur says, taking a deep breath. Eames is just so Eames, standing there in his entryway being deliberately smarmy and giving Arthur one of those looks and god this is just depressing, really it is.
And THAT reflects my experiences with love, ahahaha.
“Oh hush, you love the mocking,” Eames says. “Come in, you’re in time to eat some truly abysmal pizza.”
“How could I possibly resist?” Arthur asks rather faintly because there is absolutely no way the smell of burnt cheese should suddenly have become so appealing.
“I can’t tell if I’ve always been like this and just not noticed or what,” Arthur tells the supermarket cashier. She spares him a bored glance from beneath her ridiculously long eyelashes and goes back to scanning his groceries.
“In love, I mean,” Arthur continues. “Because looking back, it’s frighteningly possible that this is not a new problem.”
“Mm,” the girl says, searching for the bar code on a loaf of bread.
“How am I supposed to work? Genuinely, how am I supposed to work?” Arthur demands. “This morning, I was undoing a knot in my shoelaces and it reminded me of something he said three years ago while we were arguing about flaws in the American health care system. How does that happen?”
More wisdom from the comments: someone told me they've actually had people come up and tell them these sorts of things during their time working, and I just LOVE THAT.
“Cash or credit?” The girl says.
“Cash,” Arthur says, and resists the urge to slam his head into the checkout counter.
“I have something to say,” Arthur says.
“Generally speaking even if I wanted to stop you, I wouldn’t necessarily be able to,” Eames says.
Bahahaha. Fair point, Eames.
“I,” Arthur says. “Um. Well.”
“This is going well so far,” Eames observes.
“It’s just that I have-- I’m not-- oh fuck this, seriously,” Arthur says, and is turning on his heel to go when he feels a hand on his wrist.
“Even acknowledging the fact that you could probably break my hold with minimal effort right now,” Eames says with incongruous care, “I’m going to ask you to finish what you were saying, please.”
Eames has a sneaking suspicion this is something he wants to hear.
“I worry about you all the time,” Arthur says, spinning around furiously. “I cannot stop wondering if you’re getting yourself killed, and if so, how you’re doing it, and then to stop myself from throwing some kind of screaming fit I have to mentally catalog the various ways in which I could dismember anyone who tried to hurt you. Also I find you incredibly annoying, and suspect I would hate your taste in music, and the worst part of all of it is that I secretly sort of love those really atrocious orange checkered socks you are wearing right now.”
“Oh, that?” Eames says. “Goodness, darling, that was all? The feeling’s mutual, of course. Stop worrying, I don’t like the way it makes you squint.”
“Oh,” Arthur says. “Well. Alright.”
“Alright,” Eames agrees cheerfully, pressing a quick kiss to his mouth. “Now, much as I’d really enjoy taking you to bed and pointing out all the things we could’ve been doing for years, we do have a job to do.”
Eames is a professional. A flirty professional, granted, but a professional all the same.