Rating: PG-13 (for this chapter—-some suggestive dialogue, language, alcohol/cigarette use, mention of homophobia)
Characters/Pairings: Ariadne/Eames, the team, other characters
Summary: Ariadne and Eames grow closer to each other as a teammate's milestone approaches. For this prompt at inception_kink
Disclaimer: Christopher Nolan owns Inception, darlings. I don't make any Benjamins off of this, but he does!
Notes: OH SCHNAPPLES, I CAN WRITE SHIPPY, FLUFFY FIC THAT'S NOT TOTALLY CRACKY? D: Well, it was worth a shot... Also, I don’t like writing multi-part fics, but the word count here is so long in my personal terms that I decided to split it into parts. I decided as I was writing this chapter that it would work out best as a three-parter (Originally a two-parter), so this is the second part out of three.
Word Count: 3304 (for this chapter)
Maybe it was for the sake of their good friend, colleague, and unrequited love Arthur, but two months since that shopping trip, Ariadne and Eames no longer wanted to throw food at each other in anger, but rather pillow fight in playfulness. Lunch dates were more frequent than usual. They'd secretly laugh about what wedding shenanigans might or might not happen (Yusuf would definitely take advantage of all the free champagne), and joke about how they could sabotage the ceremony (Although in reality, they still had enough class to never do it). Or they'd predict what Cobb might say in his Best Man speech (He'd make many allusions to how Arthur saved his ass in all their jobs together) or what Saito actually bought for Arthur and Miranda's wedding gift (Both were still confident he bought them a house).
Most surprising of all though, they started to notice the little things about each other: How he flicked his fingers when he was bored. How she rolled her eyes and shrugged her shoulders in acts of defiance. How his bad smoking habit would show its teeth whenever he laughed too hard and he’d start coughing. How she’d sometimes twirl her pencil into her hair during team meetings. How he’d expose part of his chest tattoo everytime he leaned over in an unbuttoned shirt. How much taller she could look when she stretched her arms up and out. How easily he could make a kissy face with those full lips of his. How she ran—-well, like a girl. Those little things endeared the both of them.
It was about two weeks before the wedding when the bride and groom held their bachelorette and bachelor parties.
Ariadne would’ve much rather have been at the bachelor party, where she could sit beside Yusuf or Donovan. If Cobb or Saito were there, she’d certainly stick with them too. And Eames—-oh gosh, who knew she’d be able to tolerate him as much as she did these past few months? Perhaps, it was even more than tolerance.
“Hey lady!” Ariadne felt a hand pat her back. She looked beside her and saw Arthur’s bride bunching up her floral skirt to take the stool next to her.
“Hi Miranda,” she said quietly. “I’m just waiting for the part of the party where the male stripper arrives,” Ariadne said sarcastically.
“Oh, please,” Miranda chuckled. “I told the ladies not to get me one.” She took a swig from her beer bottle. “Unless you want one, if it’d make your night, honey.”
“I was just kidding,” Ariadne shyly looked away. It was always awkward being around Miranda. It wasn’t because Ariadne didn’t like her or because she was about to be bound to Arthur forever—-she simply carried herself with grace and confidence all the time, two qualities that Ariadne wish she could find in herself. “So, uh...getting married to Arthur! That’s pretty cool.” What the hell was that, Ariadne?
“Ah, yes, getting married is pretty cool. It wasn’t cool with the first husband. Lazy, scared little boy,” Miranda took another swig. “But Arthur...Arthur is a man on point. I guess that’s why you all call him the point man. Strong, fiercely dedicated to his work and in life, and when he loves, he loves with all his heart. Oh my, let me put down that soap opera script for a while!” She let out an almost high-pitched laugh. “You knew that already!”
“I do. I...do,” Ariadne took another sip of her martini.
“What about you, Ariadne? Arthur told me that you and Eames have been getting pretty close.”
Something caught in Ariadne’s throat as soon as Miranda mentioned Eames, causing her to cough continuously.
“Are you okay?” Miranda rubbed Ariadne’s back.
“I’m fine, I think just drank the alcohol too fast,” Ariadne wiped her mouth with her hand. “Eames? What did Arthur tell you about me and Eames?”
“Just mentioned that you two were getting a little chummy lately. Quite unusual since he tells me that wasn’t the case back in the day,” Miranda crossed her arms and raised her eyebrows at Ariadne.
“Key words being back in the day,” Ariadne regained her composure. But what to tell her? That she and a man once lusted over Miranda’s groom-to-be? “I’m actually becoming quite fond of that big British bastard.” Oh, what the hell was THAT, Ariadne?
“You like him.”
Ariadne laughed uncontrollably, burying her face in her arms splayed across the bar before cocking her head back up again. “I am charmed by him! I don’t know why. Everything about him that I used to hate, I now find adorable. I feel like...Yusuf drugged me with something these past few months to MAKE me like him.” There. It all came out. Not quite coherently and thoroughly, but Ariadne was no longer in denial. She hoped the martini didn’t take on its full effect.
Miranda laughed. “You are too adorable, Ariadne!”
“Wait,” Ariadne laid a hand on Miranda’s wrist. “You’re not going to tell Arthur? Or Eames, right?”
“Woman-to-woman. There are some things that should be kept sacred. It’s safe with me.” Miranda put her hand over Ariadne’s and gave it a firm squeeze. “And you don’t have to lie to yourself!” She said as she stepped off the stool. “I think love comes from the most unexpected places, or in my case, the most unexpected person. I think that might be happening with you too.”
Ariadne tried to process what Miranda meant with her second statement, only to scoff and nod in disbelief. Fond of that big British bastard she was, but in love? Not in this lifetime.
“Come on, I’ll introduce you to the rest of the party,” Miranda led Ariadne to a table, as the architect’s thoughts still swirled with the release of her confession and if the older woman could actually be right.
“You’re not drinking very much tonight. This is unusual.” Eames stopped slamming his glass of beer on the table and looked up to see Yusuf with his flask of champagne, moving the chair to sit in it.
“I haven’t been up for it lately,” Eames tore his hand away from the almost-full glass.
“It’s the wedding blues, isn’t it? I’m actually surprised you agreed to be Arthur’s groomsman, considering how much you hate weddings.”
“Yusuf,” Eames turned around in his seat to face his colleague and friend. “Do you remember that one time in Mombasa, way before Cobb and Arthur ever came around...” He took a cigarette and a lighter from his inside pocket and lit up before continuing. “And after the divorce?”
“I remember,” Yusuf looked at Eames through the cloud of smoke he created.
Eames took another puff. “You found me outside the back door—-whiskey bottle in my hand, sitting on the ground. I told you time would heal itself if I just buried myself in my work.” He momentarily glanced at Yusuf. “I may have been juiced up. But I meant it.” Eames turned around to look at nothing again, taking drags in between sentences. “That’s why I had such love and admiration for Arthur. He was as into his work as I was. Certainly much more tight in the pants than I was, however.” The two men shared a laugh at that last one. “Anyway, with all the time I’ve spent on this job, I realized that he was much more than the handsome fellow.” Eames turned around again, putting his cigarette out. “I realized that’s the kind of fellow I want to be. And that’s why I told him, ‘Yes, I’ll be a groomsman.’ Only for you, because I want to honor you. But I told him that more along the lines of ‘I’m the only person who can wear a tux better than you.’” Eames reached an arm around Yusuf and squeezed him. “You know if you ever got married, I’d like to be your groomsman too.”
“Someday,” Yusuf grinned. “But I’m quite content living life like this right now.” He chugged down the rest of his champagne. “What about you? Do you think you’ll ever get married again?”
“There’s no way of knowing the future, Yusuf,” Eames finally downed a sip of his beer.
“I’ve heard Miranda’s sister has taken quite a liking to you.”
“A sister of Miranda’s? How does she even know me?”
“Arthur and I laughed about it. She saw you tagged in a couple of his Facebook pictures. She apparently thinks you’re adorable. And better yet?” Yusuf laughed. “She’s going to be your partner in the bridal party.”
“What?” Eames took a palm to his forehead.
“There something wrong? She’s quite lovely, actually.”
“Yusuf...I already don’t want her.”
“Eames, you can’t have Arthur…”
“Shhhh! I know!” Eames grabbed a hold of Yusuf’s shoulder and lowered his voice. “I’ll get us more champagne. Lord knows we’ll both need it after I tell you this.”
It is two weeks later that March becomes April. It is two weeks later that everything comes together for the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The wedding is in a church garden—-Miranda’s pick—-and the dinner takes place in a palatial ballroom with a high-rise ceiling with skylights and a balcony overlooking the White House—-that was the suggestion Ariadne made and gave to Miranda’s parents, which they loved right away.
Ariadne beamed with pride and joy when Arthur said her name as part of the acknowledgment he made for his team during the opening toast. She still felt like a tiny person (Also because she WAS tiny at her 5-foot-1 frame) in a large space, but having been better acquainted with the bridal party and having Miranda’s parents introduce her to everyone else for her choice of the exquisite venue, she felt much more comfortable here in contrast to the bachelorette bar party.
What she wasn’t comfortable with was seeing Eames obviously uncomfortable with the obviously fake platinum blonde that he was seen linking arms with during the rehearsal ceremony and at the beginning of the dinner. Her name was Jennifer. A perky girl like her sister Miranda, but much, much more touchy-feely and louder. It was strange seeing Eames so intimidated by her because if it was two years ago, he probably would’ve carried her to a dark corner and do the dirty, Ariadne thought.
But instead, he pulls away, doesn’t look back, and walks out toward the balcony overlooking the White House.
“Is Eames okay?” Ariadne asks Yusuf, who she’s been standing near the dessert table with for a few minutes to sneak glances at the potential couple. She likes the song that’s playing from the speakers right now, “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. But it makes her a little melancholy. Maybe it made Eames a little melancholy too, because he left during the first few chords of the song.
“Ask him. Now’s your chance,” Yusuf said as he downed his third glass of champagne.
Ariadne’s hair flipped along with the flick of her head as she turned to the drinking chemist. “My chance for what?” She never told Yusuf about her feelings for Eames, so how could he know?
“Just tell him you like him!” Yusuf had already started to make his way across the room, presumably to talk to the bride and groom. Ariadne felt a little unsettled, knowing that he knew something. She took a deep breath anyway, her high heels sounding as she walked across the ballroom floor and through the sliding door to the balcony. If she wasn’t going to tell him that she liked him, she at least wanted to know what was bugging him.
She found him pacing back and forth alongside the railing, smoking a cigarette, taking deep breaths, and stretching. She opened her mouth to say something, and all that came out was,
Eames turned around and saw her, looking like the Ariadne he knew but in a form-fitting black dress and heels, her hair curled a little thicker.
Ariadne saw the moonlight shining down on the strands of his normally side-parted hair falling to his forehead, as if he had been sweating; his white collared shirt and red tie looking quite patriotic with his navy blue pants as he stood next to the silhouette of the White House (But for the fact that he’s British, the Union Jack is red, white, and blue too). It felt like a few minutes before she could fully drink in the view of him and walk toward his form. “Are you doing okay?”
Eames put the cigarette to his mouth again and turned around, looking toward the skyline. “Ariadne?” He called out her name after he took a puff.
She nervously approached him and put both of her hands on the railing, then putting one down to place on her hip before turning to him. He continued to look out into the sky, but felt the weight of her stare on him.
“You’re not okay,” she whispered.
“Have I ever told you that I was married once?” Eames moved the stray strands of his hair on his forehead as he wiped off the sweat, and finally turned to look her in the face.
“No. You never told me.” Ariadne slid her arm closer to him along with her body. The words didn’t bother her, but rather made her want to know more, and why he decided to tell her this just now.
“I was your age.” Ariadne watched as his cigarette dropped to the ground and Eames’ foot stepped on it, extinguishing the light. He went back to staring out into space.
“I was 26. She was 28. We were married for about two years.” Eames turned around and crossed his arms, leaning back on the railing as Ariadne mirrored his motions. “Then she found out that I also liked men.”
“Did you cheat on her?”
“Honest to Lord, no. But she was insecure, thinking that I someday would. She left me, and for the past twelve years, I’ve been a wreck in love. No relationship of mine, if you could even call it that, with a woman or a man, has lasted for more than a couple of months. And a couple of months was considered a long time.” Eames strided towards the small atrium of flowers. “It’s why I hate weddings, Ariadne. And it’s why I hate this bloody song because it always reminds me of ‘us’ and how it was ‘our’ wedding song. I swear, if I didn’t care for Arthur as much as I do, I wouldn’t even be here.”
Ariadne cautiously approached Eames from behind, but placed her little hand on his broad shoulder without thought, signaling for him to turn to her. “Anyone who can’t accept you for everything you are doesn’t deserve to have you, and you can’t let someone from your past like that keep you from jumping into what could be good things for your future.” Ariadne suddenly felt a rush of blood go straight to her cheeks. Hopefully the darkness would mask it. “If this was just another wedding you had skipped, we wouldn’t have spent that day at IKEA and getting a dress for me.”
Eames finally cracked a smile, also noticing the subtle one on Ariadne’s face. “Even if I ended up skipping this wedding, I still would’ve done the polite thing and bought the couple a wedding gift,” he assured.
“Face it, if you weren’t a groomsman, you’d just buy them gift certificates for whatever fancy buffet is in the area. And you wouldn’t need my help.”
“You know too much about me.” A new gleam twinkled appeared in Eames’ eye, as if he thought of an idea. “There is one invaluable skill that ‘she’ taught me and that I shall always make use of.”
Before she could ask what it was, Ariadne was pulled back into the open space of the balcony. She let out a squeal of surprise as Eames unexpectedly led her there. He turned around to face her, put an arm around her waist, and intertwined his left hand with her fight in an outward position. Knowing what was about to commence but feeling wonderstruck by this new intimacy with him, Ariadne wrapped an arm around his waist. The song booming from the ballroom and through the window was no longer “Nothing Compares 2 U,” but the sweet acoustic guitar strings of “You and Me” by Lifehouse. Eames led them through the melody, slowly sweeping his feet across the bricked floor as she followed.
“She taught you how to waltz? The Viennese waltz?”
“She was into all forms of ballroom dance, but this was the only one she taught me. Said it would reform me,” Eames spoke as he raised his arm up to lead his lady into an underarm turn.
“And did it?” Ariadne asked as they came back to closed position.
“It made me a hit with all the old mums at banquets with open dance floors, that’s for certain.”
They spun through some more turns when Ariadne said, “I took ballroom lessons for fun when I was a university senior in New York, before I went to grad school in Paris.”
“This was your idea of fun?”
“I figured it’d get me some French boys, you know? The waltz was something classy.”
The two had paused on the waltzing and instead, found themselves enwrapped in each other and moving slowly to the music, like in a middle school dance. She felt his warm breath grazing on her ear when he asked,
Ariadne paused to think it through, but she realized she didn’t have to. “Actually, I think you’re the first guy ever to dance with me like this. Nobody else knew how.”
“You’re a beautiful dancer, darling.” Eames suddenly dipped Ariadne, causing her to hoist one leg up in the air and make a sound that sounded like a cross between a moan and a giggle. And all she saw was an upside-down version of his face and the background of night sky as he delivered his kicker, “But I’m better.”
“Eames, I don’t think I want to ask why you’re almost on top of Ariadne but I’m sorry for whatever we’re interrupting.” Jason Wade’s recorded voice was drowned out by the real-life tone of Arthur, standing in the doorway with Miranda, Cobb, and Yusuf looking on with their mixed of amused and confused expressions.
Ariadne stood up, staying close to Eames so she wouldn’t fall back. She immediately locked eyes with Miranda, who mouthed something along the lines of “Did you?” and shot a glance at Eames. Ariadne shrugged her shoulders and mumbled something that she couldn’t even make out on her own. Miranda just disapprovingly nodded her head. Oh well, Ariadne thought.
“I just wanted to make sure you both saw an old friend, and because we all need a group photo,” said Arthur. The group at the door parted to make way for said old friend.
“Ah! What tomfoolery are both of you up to this time?” a buttery voice sounded through the tiny crowd.
“Saito!” Ariadne was the first to greet the fashionably late businessman with a hug and small talk. Eames started walking toward him as well but was stopped by Yusuf as he walked to meet the forger.
“Anything happen?” Yusuf asked quietly.
“Progress was made,” Eames replied. “If only you buggers didn’t come barging in like this, I would’ve had a perfect moment to tell her my feelings.”
Eames quietly watched Ariadne’s backside as she gestured toward Saito and Cobb, not really hearing, or caring what they were talking about, but he didn’t want her to hear what he’d tell Yusuf.
“Petrified. I think this might be the first time in twelve years.”