Characters: Arthur, Eames
Warnings: Language, some violence
La Vie En Rose (Continued)
Eames is twenty-six today. He’s spent the last four years traveling around the United States, hoping to find a place to call home.
He keeps to himself, although he does make casual conversation with his apartment neighbors from time to time.
(“Oh, are you new? I don’t see you around here.”)
(“I’ve lived here for a few months, so yes ma’am.”)
(“Oh! English, right? I’ve been there. Beautiful place. What brings you here?”)
(“Just wanted to try something new.”)
He’s in Los Angeles because he wants to know if the hype about the city is really true. So far he’s not sure what he thinks of it. It reminds him of London, of his birthplace, through the sight of bums and drugs and stray animals scattered on the side-streets. But there’s also a constant whir of complexity. Everyone is always doing something, alarms are always wailing, horns always honking, and the unceasing hum of different languages melding together makes for a sort of music unlike anything he’s heard before.
(It’s here that he truly begins to observe people.)
He sits on the corner of 7th Street and watches as the people pass him by. When he begins, he follows their movement with his entire body, twisting and turning to see where they disappear into his blind spots. However, this soon stops when the fifth person to notice flips him off and charges him while screaming obscenities and using her purse as a shield.
(It’s a little old lady. He’d laugh if he weren’t so terrified. It’s painstakingly obvious that she’s survived this long here for a reason.)
(He’s a little more nonchalant about his viewings afterwards.)
As a twenty-six year old, Eames doesn’t celebrate his birthday. He’s not even sure if this is the right day; all he knows is that this is the day they honored back in London, so it must be right, right?
(Not that he cares either way. Another year gone by just means another year closer to death. He’s not morbid. He’s a realist.)
Eames, although he’s changed locations, doesn’t really change his identity. He still steals, but not like before. He pickpockets, choosing people that have the money to spare. He focuses on one specific person, reads their expressions and body language. He learns to differentiate between the people who wear expensive looking clothes just to feel good about themselves even though they lack money, and those who wear whatever they want because they can afford to buy whatever they want.
(They hold themselves differently. The people faking it walk too loosely, too relaxed. They always appear to be trying too hard and constantly have a look in their eye that screams, “Don’t look too deeply into me. I’m not what I seem.”)
As a twenty-six year old, Eames calls his dad.
(He keeps in touch, sort of. He calls for holidays and to see how everyone is. Everyone being his dad and Amelia.)
(“Happy birthday,” his dad strains over the phone. “You don’t call as often as you used to.”)
(He calls at least once a month, if he can. “I’m sorry.”)
(“How are you? You’re staying safe? Keeping your eyes out for muggers?”)
(Eames sighs, and laughs slightly. He’s sure his father doesn’t think that people should be protecting themselves from him, even though he isn’t a violent thief. “Dad, I’m fine. I’m staying at a lovely apartment complex. I’m keeping out of trouble.”)
(“What about a job? Have you found a job?”)
(“Not entirely, but I’m thinking about working with money.” Honest enough.)
The clatter of the city increases slightly as a group of high school teens pass by.
(“What’s that noise? Where are you? Are you at a bar?” his dad asks.)
(“No, no. I’m walking around, enjoying the nice weather.” A boy stumbles into Eames and as soon as he’s able to push himself off the ground, breaks off into a run to catch up with his group.)
(“And you’re on the phone?” his dad continues. “Pay attention to your surroundings! I won’t have my only child die at the hands of some stranger because he wasn’t taking notice.”)
(Eames laughs. “I’m fine.” He shoves his hand into his pocket, and frowns when he doesn’t feel the bulge of his wallet. “Oh, bloody hell.”)
(“Bollocks. I have to go. You got me mugged, dirty old man,” he jokes. “I gotta go inform a teacher that their student needs detention. I’ll call you later.”)
(“Later meaning in three months, right?”)
(“When I can.”)
(“Stay safe. I’ll tell Amelia you say hi. She misses hearing from you. You should call her.”)
(“I will, dad.”)
(“Oh! Before I forget, I wanted to tell you something.”)
(“That Millington boy, uh, Frederick, right? The really dodgy one.”)
(“What about him?”)
(“They, the police, found his body outside his brother’s trailer. I’ve been hearing that he overdosed on something, but not much information is getting out.”)
Eames lets out a shaky breath. He doesn’t speak for a few moments.
(“Thank you for letting me know.”)
(“I just,” his dad starts softly, “I know that you were friends. I wanted to let you know before you found out some other way.”)
(“I’m not sure I would call what we had a friendship, but we were…something, yes. I really…I should go.”)
(“The funeral is in three weeks.”)
(“I don’t think I’ll be going, but you can send my regards. I’m going to hang up now.”)
(“I love you, Eames. Come visit sometime.”)
(“Love you, too. Goodbye dad.”)
He doesn’t cry; he’s in too much shock to do that.
Instead, he makes his way over to his apartment, where he takes a shower and changes into the first thing he sees. He then makes his way to the nearest bar.
He sits in the back because it makes him more comfortable. No one comes over to ask him how he is, which he’s thankful for. He’s not sure how he’d answer, anyways. He’d be lying if he said he was surprised by this turn of events, but it’s shocking all the same.
(He’s vaguely reminded of his mother’s death. He knew it would happen, but that doesn’t mean he was prepared when it did.)
(He then mentally kicks himself for comparing Frederick to his mum because he honestly doesn’t care that Freddie is gone.)
That’s the revelation that shocks him the most. He feels that he should care, he should feel some sort of remorse, but he just feels…the same as before.
(“Are you alright?” a young lady, easy on the eyes, with a forgettable face, asks him. “You’ve been staring at the same spot on the table for the last twenty minutes.”)
(He smiles sweetly at her. “I’m fine, ta. Just thinking.”)
(“Would you like me to buy you a drink? You look like you could use one.”)
(“No, no thank you.”)
She nods, and thankfully says nothing else as she walks away.
Eames trains his eyes on the door, and watches as people enter and exit at a fairly consistent pace. He narrows his eyes as a clearly distraught man walks in. His clothes look too large and his hair is disheveled and a quick glance at his face makes Eames think he’s cried recently. He observes as the other man orders drink after drink, barely taking the time to breathe between shots.
It’s the fact that he looks too young to be at a bar that makes Eames get up and walk over.
(Alcohol poisoning doesn’t seem like a very good way to end anybody’s day.)
He sits on the stool next to him, taking in the figure.
He starts to open his mouth, to say something along the lines of, “Don’t kill yourself,” or, “Maybe you should spend some of that money on food instead of booze.”
The dark-haired man beats him to the punch, though.
(“You hava pretty face.”)
(Eames sighs quietly. “Much appreciated, darling.”)
(“I’m not gay.”)
(“Never said you were. Neither am I.” He can see how the darling might have given that effect.)
(“Your shirt’s disgustin’.”)
(Eames scoffs. “As is your attitude, dear. But that didn’t stop you from talking to me, did it? Are you here for the same reason I am? This guy I grew up with, bloody terrible bloke, overdosed on drugs and I just found out today, of all days.” Why is he talking? He should shut up, but he can’t. The guy is plastered. He probably won’t even remember any of this. “It’s not like we were close, and the strange thing is that the only thing I really can think about is that I owe him a lighter. And then some dodgy character stole my wallet.” He groans. “What a daft way to spend a birthday, wouldn’t you say? What’s your story?”)
(The man is silent, eyes slightly glazed over.)
(“You haven’t heard anything I’ve said, have you?”)
(“Yeah, sure. I have.”)
(“Why am I here?”)
(“To distract twenty-two year olds from feeling numb with your atrocious outfit that makes me feel like putting a bullet through both of our heads because it makes me want to hurl and puking sounds awful right now and obviously you’re delusional if you think it’s okay to go anywhere in that get-up?”)
(“Sorry darling for putting on the closest thing and coming down here to forget things.”)
(“What are you forgetting?”)
(“Myself,” Eames says half-truthfully. “You?”)
(“Myself,” he parrots.)
They’re both silent. Eames turns his attention towards the bartender, preparing to order a drink when the man next to him gives him a weak slap. It shocks him more than anything, but he still cries out.
(“Ow! Bloody hell, what was that for?”)
(“You hit me, you fuck.”)
(“Sorry. Imma little drunk.”)
Obviously. Does this guy not have a ride home? There’s no way he’s driving back to wherever he came from when he’s this plastered. Eames will not be responsible for some random stranger’s death or mutilation.
(“I’d say so. Let’s get you out of here.”)
He pulls out a wad of cash from the stranger’s wallet (his had been taken, after all, and it wasn’t like he was going to pay for some alcoholic’s addiction with his own money), and drags him to the bus stop down the street.
This is where the man oh-so-conveniently pukes on him and passes out in a heap, somehow missing the puddle of vomit.
(“Bloody fuck! Christ, mate!”)
(Those were his favorite shoes.)
He’s not heartless, and he waits for the bus to make sure the guy gets somewhere. Someone must be missing him. Plus, he really wants to get home and the bus stops off by his apartment.
He props the passed out drunk on a seat, and watches as he slumps over to the window, which supports his weight as his body bends at what looks to be an uncomfortable angle.
(Eames silently hopes that the man’s house is on the other side of town. Wanker.)
The bus halts where he needs to get off. With one last look at the still prone and silent young man (he reads so much pain and loss on his face, his eyes squeezed shut rather than relaxed, rolling around behind the skin of his eyelids. Nightmare, most likely, Eames thinks), he stands up.
(Probably the reason he went to the bar in the first place.)
He doesn’t like that look, and without really thinking, moves his hand to smooth down the hair of the other. He flinches his hand back as the man groans, and quickly gets off the bus, sincerely hoping no one saw.
(If anyone did, they don’t say anything.)
Eames is twenty-six and carting around drunken strangers because it’s better than feeling the same, despite changes.
As a twenty-six year old, Eames wishes himself a bloody happy birthday, and he almost means it. And that’s something that confuses him the most.