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12 September 2011 @ 07:20 pm
life among islands  
.life among islands
ariadne needs a vacation. so does arthur, but he doesn't know it yet.
notes: premise lifted from the movie 'the holiday'.
beta-read by the wonderful gelbwax.
r . 22124 words . AO3

Ariadne needs a vacation. She tells this to the woman in line ahead of her at Bean Surfin’ by way of conversation, and because it’s something she’s been thinking ever since her father died and it became apparent that most things on the islands remind her of him.

The woman just blinks at her with a bovine sweetness and says, “Aren’t you on vacation, dear?”

Ariadne isn’t on vacation. She isn’t. She lives here, and she tells the woman as much, and the woman nods.

“It must be lovely to live here,” she says after a moment, during which the line advances none at all and Ariadne attempts to pull a desperate face at Eames, something that will make him start her order before she gets to the front of the line. They should have a special line, for locals, where a Hawaiian drivers’ license (or library card, for the kids) would immediately put you in the front. Ariadne deserves this. It’s the least they could do, to make up for days like this, when Ariadne truly regrets patronizing Bean Surfin’, with its weak pun of a name and kitschy decor. She hates it, actually. If their coffee weren’t so good it would be ridiculous for the place to reel in anyone but tourists, but here they are, a muddle of tourists and locals, together in line.

“You could do a homeswap, you know dear,” the woman in front of her says. “I hear that works quite well. And if you live here--”

The woman exhales a long, envious sigh. They are close enough to the front of the line now that Ariadne can catch Eames’ eyes and roll hers. He winks, holds up the cup in his hand, mouths “for you.”

So there’s that, at least.

But normally Eames would mock her griping, tell her that the tourists make this place, and he knows her boss doesn’t give a shit if she’s late, and he’s kind of a tourist and doesn’t she like him?

And she’d punch him in the shoulder, call him a surf bum and a vagrant, ask him if his visa hasn’t expired yet and when he’s going to run out of money or run awry of the law and get out of her life for good.

That was before the funeral, though. And Ariadne is grateful for the coffee, but she knows he’s only made it up ahead of time because she looks like shit, like shit warmed over and then left outside to cool again. She plasters a grin on, wallpaper covering a structural flaw that cuts to the quick, and goes out into the sun, hitting the wheel well of her car with her hip as she passes to ensure it will start.

She needs a vacation.

Subject: Homeswapping, 13 October 2010
To: Swap 5324 (swap5324-785@homeswapping.com)
From: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
Attachments: beach.jpg; front.jpg; livingspace.jpg

I saw your advertisement on homeswapping.com (obviously) and was wondering if you might be interested in doing a swap with me--I live in Hawaii in a little bungalow on a pretty sweet stretch of beach (pictures attached--there’s also a bathroom and bedroom, but they’re pretty predictable. I can send those too if you want.). Not quite as swank as your digs (seriously, though, your apartment looks great), but this is vacation, right?

I know you mentioned the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving would work well for you, which is fine by me, BUT my mom would rip me a new one if I wasn’t home for the holiday, so there is that.

Let me know what works!

Cheers,

-Ariadne Jones-Kahue


Subject: Fwd: Homeswapping, 14 October 2010
To: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com) CC: Mallorie Miles (mallorie.miles@milesandcobbconsulting.com)
From: Dominic Cobb (dominic.cobb@milesandcobbconsulting.com)

I know you won’t be pleased with this development, but please see below. You need a vacation.

I will seriously consider firing you if you do not accept this offer. Mal agrees.

-Dom


Subject: Re: Fwd: Homeswapping, 14 October 2010
To: Dominic Cobb (dominic.cobb@milesandcobbconsulting.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)

You asshole.

Take down that listing immediately. Those photos are an invasion of privacy, and if you fire me for this I will be suing you so hard you’ll see stars.

-Arthur


Subject: Your Immediate Termination, 14 October 2010
To: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)
From: Mallorie Miles (mallorie.miles@milesandcobbconsulting.com)

Dom has informed me that you are not acquiescing on vacationing at the lovely house in Hawai’i. Please understand that I’ve taken the liberty of gathering some information this should ensure that, if you do decide to sue us, your personal and professional reputation will be in tatters.

I hope you will take that into consideration when making your decision. Otherwise, I am afraid I will have to ask you to meet me in the boardroom at seventeen hundred hours.

-Mal


Subject: Re: Your Immediate Termination, 14 October 2010
To: Mallorie Miles (mallorie.miles@milesandcobbconsulting.com), Dominic Cobb (dominic.cobb@milesandcobbconsulting.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)

Dom: Your wife is terrifying.

Mal: Please stop sending me e-mails containing my social security number and credit card information. Also, we don’t have a boardroom, but that may not be relevant.

Both of You:

I will reply to the Hawaiian woman’s e-mail if you send it to me again. I deleted the original from both my inbox and my trash in a fit of rage, as should be expected when one’s friends are meddling in one’s life so unabashedly.

-Arthur


Subject: Re: Homeswapping, 15 October 2010
To: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)
Attachments: houseswapcontract.pdf

Ms. Jones-Kahue:

I would be amicable to a house swap, but be aware that I do live with a cat, and if you have any allergies and/or are incapable of cleaning a litterbox during your stay please consider staying elsewhere. There will also be some basic cleanliness standards; I have attached those in contract form. Please sign and either mail or fax me this contract. If you would like to take similar precautions, I understand completely.

Otherwise, I suggest we arrange our vacations beginning November 12th and ending on the 19th. I will send information about obtaining a key upon receipt of the contract.

Sincerely,

Arthur Faraday

Ariadne’s just going to come out and say that the contract is a little disconcerting. She just wanted to get off the islands, and New York City seemed as good a place as any--not to mention this guy’s apartment actually was nice, a loft with big windows, sleek details, tasteful decorations that hinted at some personality beyond that of nervous, contract-writing homeowner. And it’s about as different from her place as you can get, which is something she was looking for, too, maybe the main thing. The contract, though--she signs it and scans it at the office about the time she tells her boss that she’ll be taking a vacation.

“A week and a half,” he says. “Before Thanksgiving.”

“Yes,” Ariadne replies, and he shrugs.

“Whatever you need, as long finish your assignments on deadline.”

Which was about how she expected it to go. She works for a graphic design firm, a sort of scraggly operation founded by a friend of her mother’s who wanted to do design and didn’t want to leave the island. She likes it. It pays the bills, as they say, and she likes the combination of precision and artistry that digital design offers. What she needs is a vacation not so much from work as it is from the island, where very nearly everywhere she goes she runs into someone she doesn’t feel like talking to, is reminded of something she’s in no mood to remember.

And that’s what she’s going to get, even if she has to clean someone else’s cat litter and sign a crazy ass contract to get it.

It seems better than the alternative, which is swapping with someone who lives in a shithole or an unimaginatively designed house in the suburbs (Ariadne studied architecture in Paris, but she’s not a snob about it, really). Ariadne’s house is awesome. This kid’s apartment will do, for the week and a half or so. She’ll be homesick by the end of it, hungry for pineapples that taste like the islands and fish that tastes like the ocean, but now she needs something new. Just for a moment. Just to remind herself that the things she likes about home are still there, even if other things--aren’t.

Subject: Re: Re: Homeswapping, 15 October 2010
To: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)
From: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
Attachment: ariadneendrosesthiscontract.jpg

Arthur--

I’ve attached a signed copy of your contract. W/r/t my house--if you break the hammock you owe me (a new hammock, plus some compensation for distress), the toilet is a little persnickety but there’s a plunger in the linen closet, feel free to eat whatever you find in the cupboards but please don’t take the weed in the underwear drawer (unless it’s an emergency). Oh, and if my brother stops by with fish just take them.

-Ariadne

Arthur is not sure what he’s gotten himself into. Actually, strictly speaking: what Dom and Mal have gotten him into, because they can’t leave well enough alone. Sitting in the office, staring at the e-mail from the Hawaiian woman: who the hell is she? Should he have asked for references? Does her house really exist? Is the hammock seriously the only part of the place she’s concerned about? Is it a shack? Maybe it’s not really on the beach. Maybe she shares it with dozens of other potheads. Maybe it smells like piss.

“Don’t worry about it,” Mal says, coming up behind him. “It’s going to be wonderful. I wish I were going to Hawaii.”

“How did you know what I was thinking about?” Arthur asks, glancing up.

“Woman’s intuition,” Mal says. “Also, this just came out of the printer, and I believe it’s yours.”

She drops Arthur’s contract on the desk, and it slides across the dark wood. Ariadne’s signature at the bottom is startlingly lovely--illegible, but lovely. She has nice handwriting. Maybe there’s hope for this endeavor yet.

“Right,” Arthur says, instead of what he’s thinking. “Thanks for bringing it by.”

“My desk is right there,” Mal says, jerking her chin to the left. It’s true that all their desks are in one room, because it’s cheaper that way and they’re hardly ever in the office, but that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t be thanked. It’s common courtesy.

“Thank you,” Arthur repeats, sifting through the files on the right-hand drawer of his desk and slipping Ariadne’s contract into the file labelled “contracts, external.”

Mal just smiles him in that thin lipped, quirky way of hers, like she’s laughing but not quite.

“Arthur,” she says. “This is why you need a vacation.”

“No,” he says. “But I’m okay if you want to pretend that’s why.”

Mal’s smile turns wan and tight, and she sits down at her own desk and begins to shunt through papers.

Arthur knows why Mal and Dom thinks he needs a vacation: because he’s single, and they’re married, and they think he’s too tightly laced, afraid of risks, needs to escape his comfort zone. Or Mal thinks so; Dom just goes along.

“It’s not about being single,” Mal said one evening when he was waving a wine glass threateningly at her, silence softened by drink. “Or it wouldn’t be, if I thought you were happy.”

It was such a Mal thing to say, and Arthur still wants to do something, prove her manipulative self wrong. Just because happiness doesn’t look the same on different people doesn’t mean he’s unhappy. Just because he spends some evenings at home with Eero doesn’t mean he’s destined to die single alone, his eyeballs eaten by cats before anyone finds the body.

But maybe he does need a vacation, from condescending friends who think they know better than he does. Maybe that’s precisely what he needs.

Subject: Homeswapping, 10 November 2010
To: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)

Ariadne:

Just making the final arrangements for your visit. My friend Mal will meet you at J.F.K., bring you to the flat, provide you with the necessary key codes and key, introduce you to Eero (the cat). She’s a brunette Frenchwoman, probably won’t carry a sign but will be wearing impractical heels.

AF


Subject: Re: Homeswapping, 10 November 2010
To: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)
From: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)

Arthur--

I’ll leave a key under the potted hibiscus to the left of the door. If you have any trouble, just slice a screen and go in the window, no worries about replacing it.

Cheers,

-Ariadne

Arthur doesn’t like the lei they give him at arrivals. He has allergies; mostly to goldenrod but it seems like, theoretically, he could have allergies to some of these flowers if only he’d encountered them before, because they’re big and perfumed and he thinks he sees pollen on their little flower sex organs or whatever. It seems rude to take it off right away, but as soon as he gets to the baggage claim he slips into a restroom and puts it in the waste basket. A man comes in to use the urinal and looks at him strangely, probably because Arthur’s standing in front of the mirror smoothing the front of his oxford and trying not to look suspicious.

Arthur is, under normal circumstances, good at not looking suspicious, so it’s stupid that he’s ashamed of this to the point of skulking around the mens’ restroom, trying to avoid making eye contact with people in shirts with parrots on them.

The car service Ariadne arranged to take him to her house arrives, careening into the arrivals gate a little too late, navigated by a stout woman who apologizes profusely and single-handedly hefts his bags into the trunk.

“I’m Esther,” she starts, and keeps up a steady stream of talk after that, rarely leaving Arthur room to contribute. He finds he likes it that way: it’s easier than actually having to participate, and her chatter interspersed with gossip and facts about the locations they’re passing is more interesting than small talk. “So you’re staying at Ari’s, then? You’re sure to love it. It’s on the windward side of the island, a bit nicer, I think. What brings you here? Vacation, of course, sorry, stupid question.”

She pauses then, and glances at Arthur, who is riding shotgun because the car seems to be not so much a car service as one of Ariadne’s friends doing a favor, or some woman’s business run out of her car. There’s a child’s seat in the back, a pile of books, a Ziploc bag full of what look to be cheerios, and some crumpled candy wrappers.

“Vacation, yes,” he provides, and Esther grins brightly as she swerves off the main road.

“That’s great,” she says. “Really, you’re going to love Ari’s place. And she’s staying at yours? Where’s that?”

“New York,” Arthur replies, then adds: “City.”

“Not for me, big cities,” Esther says. “We get a lot of refugees from the big cities here, though. You’ll probably meet Eames, he’s from somewhere like that, don’t know where ‘xactly. But I’m Hawaiian. Born and raised on Spam. Couldn’t bear to leave. There’s Lanikai, off there? If you like hikes, that one’s worth the bother. Of course, if you like ‘em, probably don’t think of it as a bother--Oh, we’re here!”

The car screeches to a halt and turns down a gravel drive, and Arthur recoils against the seatbelt for a moment before gathering his bearings.

Ariadne’s house is kind of charming, and precisely as it appeared in the pictures: a bright bungalow in fresh, vibrant paint, a striped hammock slung across the porch, a blue door framed by two sprawling hibiscus plants. And the beach--the beach is there, sand buff, water perfectly crystalline.

Arthur is taking it in while Esther is already on her way out of the car, kicking the door shut behind and going around to the trunk.

“Isn’t it just?” she calls to him. “I’ll bring your bags to the porch.”

Esther deposits the suitcases on the porch and then says something Arthur doesn’t quite catch, about how badly she needs to leave.

The key is under the plant, actually, although it’s under the plant that’s to the left of the door if you’re going out, not coming in, and Arthur winds up with dirt under his fingernails before he finally extracts the key from its hiding place and gets it in the door. Ariadne failed to mention that opening the door took a little elbow grease and a sharp jolt from the hip, but when the door does open it looks--wonderful. Not somewhere Arthur could live, but maybe somewhere he could vacation: bright colors, mismatched furniture, things piled and draped on the chairs, like even the prospect of an anonymous guest couldn’t bring this girl to bother tidying. Arthur supposes he should be glad there isn’t any underwear strewn around, just soft, shapeless things, blankets and sheets and maybe sarongs.

It occurs to Arthur that he’s staring at Ariadne’s furniture when he could go outside and look at the wide expanse of the Pacific, sink his toes through layers of warm sand and wait for the sun to set.

So he does just that.

Subject: Arrival, 12 November 2010
To: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)

Ariadne:

I trust your arrival went smoothly and Mal wasn’t too much trouble. Please let me know if you have any questions or need any help.

AF

Ariadne actually goes to sleep directly after Mal leaves. The first advantage to New York over Hawaii is how cool the autumn air is, and Ariadne takes great pleasure in burying herself beneath Arthur’s duvet and just resting. Not that she doesn’t rest at home, but the airport itself wore her out and the mattress here is precisely right and it’s nice to sleep with the guarantee that no one will wake her up, except perhaps the cat, a fluffy Persian who disappeared beneath a couch as soon as Mal and Ariadne arrived.

She doesn’t know how long she sleeps, but when she wakes up again it’s dark outside, and the cat is watching her from above her head. She stretches, and peers out of her cocoon of blankets.

“I suppose this means you’re hungry, huh?” she asks, and the cat lets out a small mewl.

“I am, too,” she continues, pulling herself out of the stridently soapy smelling linens and wandering towards the kitchen. There are cans of cat food on the counter, and she opens one for Eero and tips it into his dish before rifling through the cabinets and finding--nothing.

That isn’t strictly true: there’s a jar of fancy olives, a bottle of gin and one of vermouth, and it’s obvious what those are intended for. But there’s nothing to make a meal out of, and it’s apparant this Arthur person intends for her to procure her own food for the length of her stay. Either that, or he just doesn’t eat. Which is fine, really. Ariadne is perfectly capable of going downstairs to some drug store, market, whatever, and purchasing--something.

Ice cream, she decides. And beer. Proper food can wait. This is supposed to be a vacation, after all.

The rain that was sliding down when her flight landed has abated now, leaving the sidewalks glazed but largely undisturbed. It’s still early evening, and the sidewalks aren’t clogged, precisely, but busy enough with gaggles dressed for clubbing, late dinners, and couples or singletons walking their dogs, smoking cigarettes. Ariadne finds herself walking aimlessly before she hits upon a corner market that has what she’s looking for. She balances the paper bag between her left hand and her hip as she returns to Arthur’s apartment. No one has stopped her to tell her how sorry they are, about what happened. New York, she thinks to herself: Just the ticket.

There’s a bum in the doorway when she gets back, wedged against and overlarge backpack. He seems be asleep, but he looks harmless, an Indian man with a head of thick hair. Ariadne is aware that most people look harmless when asleep. She kneels down to shake him on the shoulder, and he starts awake, blinking owlishly at her. His eyes are dark, fringed with thick lashes.

“Excuse me,” she says. “I’m just need to get through.”

“You live here?” he asks, and it’s Ariadne’s turn to blink.

“Not precisely--” she starts, wondering if this is the doorman. Maybe sleeping on the doorstep with large backpacks is a thing doormen do now, here, a sort of fad.

“I mean,” she says. “I don’t live here, but I have the code for the keypad, and a key. I’m staying here for a bit, as a guest.”

The man blinks again, more rapidly, like he’s still catching his bearings. It occurs to Ariadne that she may be explaining herself, with undue detail, to a bum. Maybe this is some sort of set-up for a mugging. She begins to mentally sketch a contingency plan: the pint of ice cream is still cold and somewhat hard, and she could throw that, or maybe break a bottle of beer on his head. Though that might be a waste of beer.

She snakes a hand into the bag, just to be safe.

“Sorry,” he says, lifting a hand to scratch the back of his neck. “Sorry. I’m just waiting for someone.”

“Oh,” Ariadne says. “Right.”

The man gets to his feet and shifts his backpack out of the way, and Ariadne goes up to the keypad.

He’s still watching her, and this is all much more awkward than Ariadne would like. Ariadne is sure the bum is very nice. He was polite. He probably is waiting for someone, though it seems like he would just call them, if that were the case.

“I have my cell,” she says. “If you want to give whoever you’re waiting for a ring.”

“Thanks,” the man says. “But I don’t actually know his number.”

“But you know where he lives,” Ariadne says, trying not to sound skeptical.

“Oh, Arthur’s lived here for ages,” the man replies. “Or at least since he fell in with that couple. Don’t know where he got the money, though--are the apartments here rent-controlled?”

“Arthur?” Ariadne repeats.

“Arthur Faraday?” the man says. “Dark hair, about this high? Do you know him?”

“Actually,” Ariadne says slowly. “I’m staying in his apartment.”

“Wonderful!” The man’s face splits into a grin. “Can you call him, then? Tell him Yusuf’s here, just for a few nights this time.”

“I’m staying in his apartment while he’s away,” Ariadne expands. She’s trying to sound diplomatic, though she’s not entirely certain she succeeds. “And he’s at mine. But I could--”

Yusuf’s watching her, and she fishes in her pocket and then hands him her bag.

“Here, just a sec,” she says, and calls her own house and waits for it to ring through to the answering machine.

“You’ve reached Ariadne, leave a message or get out,” it says, and her recorded voice sounds distant and foreign to her own ears.

“Arthur,” she says. “If you’re there, please pick up--someone named Yusuf is here. It’s Ariadne, by the way. Just pick up, could you? Or call me back. You have my cell number, and this machine has caller i.d. if you can figure out how to work it.”

“Fuck it,” she mutters, flipping the phone shut against her thigh. Yusuf looks mildly amused, and when she looks up at him and shrugs he flashes her a grin.

“Häagen-Dazs and beer, eh?” he asks.

“You want some?” she counters. He’s probably not a psycho killer. And if he is, well, at least they won’t be standing around out here with the ice cream melting.

“Sure,” he says, smiling easily this time, like strange women invite him to share ice cream and beer on a regular basis.

“Well come on then,” Ariadne replies, and keys in code again.

“I went to college with Arthur,” Yusuf offers helpfully as they climb the stairs. “So this isn’t really strange at all.”

“I’m going to have to contest that point, actually,” Ariadne says, but she finds herself grinning slightly.

“And refresh me again on how you know Arthur?” Yusuf asks.

“I met him on the internet and we’re swapping homes,” Ariadne says.

“So this is strange,” Yusuf says. “But not because of me.”

“I’m sharing my beer and ice cream, aren’t I?” Ariadne says, and Yusuf laughs.

Eero appears and disappears like a lightening bolt when they come in.

“So he still has Escher?” Yusuf asks. “I thought the fucker would’ve died by now. Always hated me.”

“I think he has,” Ariadne says. “That was Eero.”

“And so Arthur got another prissy purebred?” Yusuf asks, snorting through his nose. “When there are all sorts of homeless cats in this city--”

“What, are you in PETA?” Ariadne asks. She was raised be to skeptical of PETA--her “Fish are Friends, Not Food!” sticker was entirely ironic.

“No,” Yusuf says stiffly. “But I donate regularly to the SPCA.”

“My dad’s a fisherman,” she offers, to salve any offense. “My brother is, too.”

Her father was a fisherman, she realizes, is the correct way of it, but amending it now seems awkward. Instead she sifts through Arthur’s drawers until she finally locates a bottle opener in the back, which she holds up with a pleased smile.

“Arthur doesn’t drink much beer, does he?” she asks, cracking open a bottle and handing it to Yusuf.

“Never did,” Yusuf says.

“What’s he like?” Ariadne asks. “Bit strange, not knowing a thing about him. You know he made me sign a contract?”

“Sounds like Arthur,” Yusuf nods. “He’s a good guy. Can come off as stiff--but. Probably a product of circumstances.”

Ariadne is looking for an ice cream scoop, but she gestures for Yusuf to continue.

“We were at MIT together. He was in ROTC,” Yusuf says, taking a swig. “I think ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ kind of fucked him up. Not that he was completely open before that, but it certainly didn’t help.”

“Oh,” Ariadne says, and pauses as if to consider this.

“My brother’s gay,” she adds, apropos of nothing. “Or bi, really. But the last dude he dated--was a dude.”

“Arthur never dates,” Yusuf responds mildly.

“But he’s not in the military anymore, is he?” Ariadne asks, and Yusuf shakes his head. “Works for some consulting firm, according to his e-mail address.”

“They let him finish his commitment with civilian work,” he says. “Though I don’t know why.”

“Maybe he’s a spy. But it’s not really my business, is it?” Ariadne says wryly. She’s located an ice cream scoop, and dishes, and proceeds to divide the pint between them.

“Probably not, no,” Yusuf says, catching the dish Ariadne slides across the counter to him. “And here I am telling you.”

“I’m going to e-mail Arthur right now and ask him about MIT,” Ariadne says. “And whether he wants me to set him up with my brother.”

They’re both leaning on either side of the smooth granite island at the center of Arthur’s kitchen, and Ariadne studies the careful way Yusuf extracts his spoon from the ice cream it fell into, examining it and then licking it from top to tip.

“If Arthur thinks I was gossiping about him--”

“Gossiping about Arthur was not actually in the contract,” Ariadne says, swirling her spoon in the air. “Now let’s gossip about you.”

“I don’t think--” Yusuf says.

“I’ll start,” Ariadne interjects. “I hear there’s this guy named Yusuf who sleeps outside apartment buildings trying to get an unsuspecting resident to take him in. You know anything about that?”

“I think,” Yusuf says slowly. “That he’s been been backpacking around the states in an effort to kill time before his postdoc starts and was hoping to stay with an old friend, only to be unexpectedly preyed on by a small, nosy person.”

“Who gave him beer,” Ariadne says, opening another bottle. “And ice cream.”

“Well spotted,” he replies. “Anyway, that’s what I hear. But do you know anything about the small, nosy person?”

“Ariadne,” Ariadne provides, unsure, now, whether she ever gave her name. “I think she’s from Hawaii, or maybe fucking Guam. But she’s vacationing from islands.”

“On an island.”

“With bridges,” Ariadne says. “The bridges are important. I can tell you aren’t from an island, because you say this.”

“I grew up in London,” Yusuf says. “U.K.’s a few islands, isn’t it?”

“No,” Ariadne says decisively. “I’ve heard all about your European islands. They’re bullshit.”

“Right,” Yusuf says, raising his eyebrows. “Another beer?”

“Sorry,” Ariadne says, and passes a bottle to him. “Arthur’s a terrible host.”

Arthur would have made me a martini or a gin and tonic by now.”

“What, does he think he’s James Bond? That’s all the food he has in this place.”

“He can’t cook,” Yusuf says. “Mostly eats takeaways. But I thought we were going to stop talking about Arthur?”

“We were,” Ariadne says. “But somehow the conversation circled back to him.”

“We should be more careful,” Yusuf says. His eyes are hooded, but there’s a hint of a grin about the corners. He’s not bad looking, Ariadne decides; probably good looking, but she’s slow to notice these things in people she’s actually interacting with. The first time someone told her Eames was hot she had blinked at them very rapidly and then tilted her head back towards Eames, jagging her thumb in his direction in a gesture that was clearly meant to ask, “Him?”

Yusuf though. Ariadne likes his hair--it looks thick, like she could thread her fingers through it and pull.

“Right,” Ariadne says, taking another bite of her ice cream. “And how do you propose we do that? Arthur’s the only thing we have in common, and I don’t even know him.”

Yusuf hums a little, as if to himself. Ariadne tongues her spoon, studying him. His lips are plush and look soft, and Ariadne wonders if he’ll say it or if she’ll have to. She’d prefer it if he did, just because most men seem to prefer it if they do--but. She would prefer it if they got past the pleasantries.

Her phone rings. The ring tone is Not Embarassing, but she tells herself that too frequently for it to be true. Glancing at the screen, she sees it’s coming from her own home number, which--

“I have to take this,” she says. “It’s Arthur.”

Yusuf grins at her, a quick flash of white teeth, and Ariadne tries to grant him a returning grin that says she understands the irony of this situation, but she really does need to take this call, in case Arthur set fire to something or is about to tell her that he doesn’t know anyone named Yusuf, actually, and this man is just a very capable liar.

“Ariadne,” he says when she picks up. “This is Arthur. Sorry about Yusuf.”

“Not a problem,” Ariadne says.

“We went to college together,” Arthur says. “And he shows up from time to time. If you don’t mind, the guest bedroom--”

“No, of course not,” Ariadne says. “I don’t mind at all.”

“Good, then,” Arthur says, sounding uncomfortable. “Well, your place is very nice.”

“As is yours.”

“I’ll just leave you to it, then--” he says, and Ariadne hangs up on him.

“So, suspicions confirmed, it would appear Yusuf and Arthur attended college together,” she says, turning back to Yusuf, who has come over to the other side of the island and is watching her. “If you were wondering.”

“I was a bit concerned about this Yusuf character,” Yusuf says.

“So was I,” Ariadne says, stepping towards him. “I was beginning to suspect he and Ariadne were going to fuck.”

There’s a moment, where Yusuf just looks at her. If Ariadne weren’t just little drunk and fuzzy about the edges she would say the moment was loaded: as it is, she waits. She likes to have everything out in the open and it is, now. She doesn’t need to wait for Yusuf to broach the topic, or for them to each have a third beer or move on to the gin and lower their boundaries just a little bit further.

Ariadne has never been one for patience. Even waiting now is discomfiting her.

“Right,” Yusuf says, not taking his eyes off her. “I was rather thinking that, myself.”

After that, it’s simple enough: another step closer, maybe two, and their bodies bracket together. It’s sweeter than it should be, because it’s just sex, really, but Ariadne allows herself a moment or several for her mouth to appreciate Yusuf’s, which tastes distantly of cigarettes and more recently of lager. He kisses with more patience than Ariadne has ever had for anything in her entire life, and she finds she likes the way his lips feel against hers, exactly like they looked, soft and strong.

She likes everything about this, really. Teasing her fingers along Yusuf’s jawline, feeling his cock harden against her, Yusuf’s arms tight around her waist, the way his fingers roam lower on her back, eventually finding her ass, eventually lifting her off the ground and transferring her to the table to level their heights.

“I’m not taking advantage of you, am I?” Ariadne breathes into his neck.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Yusuf replies, and Ariadne begins to finger his fly, just to prove him wrong, and also because she wants this, because never before in her life have circumstances and bodies slotted so well together.

They both wind up in the guest bedroom, a tangle of sheets and limbs, because there was something in the contract about having sex in Arthur’s bed, and Ariadne did sign it, after all.

Subject: Yusuf, 12 November 2010
To: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)
From: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)

No worries about Yusuf. He’s agreed to show me around the city, and he might stick around to see you after I leave if that’s alright.

-Ari

Arthur slept on the couch his first night at Ariadne’s. It’s a thing he does, though he has no good reason for it: he likes to ease himself in to new places, and sleeping on the couch, his forehead pressed into a cushion and his feet dangling over the armrest, just about does it. Sleeping in a bed feels permanent, sleeping in a couch feels transient.

Not that Arthur needs to explain himself, because there’s no one there to see, because he is on vacation and Ariadne’s house is private, presumably.

It is private, but when he wakes up, someone is watching him. Arthur can feel the weight of eyes on the small of his back--on his ass--and he wonders if maybe sleeping in his briefs on a stranger’s couch was not the best idea. He exhales into the pillow.

He can take this person, if it comes to that. Arthur has training in these things, and even if he’s a civilian now and doesn’t carry a gun--

He rolls over.

There’s a man, sitting on a stool in front of the kitchen counter, leaning back on his elbows and smirking at Arthur, like this is all normal. He looks entirely at ease, and obviously he let himself in, because Arthur didn’t bother to lock the door last night.

No, scratch that, Arthur definitely locked the door last night.

He’s on his feet in a flash, but the man looks decidedly nonplussed.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asks, and the man grins.

“I could ask you the same, darling,” he says. “Not that I don’t appreciate it. Ariadne never looks quite this good in the morning.”

So the man’s British, then. And distractingly good looking, if Arthur were in any mood to be distracted.

“I’m staying here while Ariadne’s away,” Arthur says. “Not that I need to explain myself to you.”

“But you are, aren’t you?” the man says with a shrug. His shoulders are--his shoulders are broad, in a word, and thickly muscular. Arthur could still take him, though: he clings to that fact, because nothing else on this playing ground is even.

“And you are?” Arthur prods, because he might as well give this man a shot, since he knows Ariadne and there are not one but two cups of coffee on the counter behind him.

“I’m Eames,” he says. “Ariadne lets me surf here, in exchange for coffee.”

He jerks his chin in the direction of the cups, and studies Arthur, “I don’t suppose you like your lattes with two shots of espresso and two shots of caramel, do you?”

Eames is probably a thief. Arthur needs a little time to ascertain this, though.

He takes the latte and sits down on the couch.

“And your name is?” Eames prods. It occurs to Arthur he’s still in his underwear, and talking to a potential thief, but he doesn’t quite have it in him to care.

He sips the latte. It’s too sweet, but good, with enough espresso that it bites.

“Arthur,” he offers. “Ariadne and I are doing a homeswap.”

“Ah,” Eames says. “She may have mentioned that.”

“And you may have ignored her?” Arthur asks, quirking his eyebrows.

“I had to make sure you weren’t rubbing your naked body all over my mate’s furniture. Which apparently you were, so point goes to me on that one.”

“I was not naked,” Arthur says.

“Close enough,” Eames says.

“Should I get dressed then, if I’m offending your delicate sensibilities?” Arthur asks.

“Please don’t,” Eames says. “I was quite enjoying the view.”

It occurs to Arthur, too little too late, that this would probably be construed as flirting in some circles. He takes a long gulp from the latte, to shore himself up against something, though he’s not entirely sure what.

“If you’re here to surf, why aren’t you dressed for it?” Arthur says, in a weak effort to return to the conversation to the issue of potential thievery. Eames is dressed innocuously in a grey t-shirt and jeans.

“Wetsuit’s in the car,” Eames replies, arching an eyebrow like Arthur’s question means more than it does. He probably thinks Arthur wants to see him in a wetsuit. It’s an unspoken question, but Arthur refuses to dignify it with any sort of response.

And, with that thought in his head, Arthur does want to see him in a wetsuit. The jeans only hint at the shape of Eames’ thighs.

“I figure,” Arthur says evenly. “It would even the playing field.”

Eames laughs at that and flashes Arthur a broad, goofy grin that is nothing short of charming.

Arthur is fairly certain he’s doomed. The worst part is this man is obviously a womanizer, or a manizer, or whatever the hell you call it. A flirt. Arthur refuses to be reeled in by a common flirt, even one with lips that have probably should be outlawed for indecency.

He’s here to escape Mal, with her conviction that Arthur needs to open up and be someone he’s not. He refuses to prove her right, and he refuses to do so with some British surfer.

Subject: Eames, 13 November 2010
To: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)

Ariadne:

An “Eames” stopped by and claims you give him access to your beach in exchange for coffee. Is this true?

-AF

Yusuf’s already gone when Ariadne slithers into wakefulness the next morning, and it takes her a moment to process where she is, unfamiliar blankets and high, white ceilings. It smells faintly of sex and bacon. She puts on a shirt from the floor and pads into the kitchen, where Yusuf is humming to himself and tending a heavy cast iron skillet.

“Some of that for me?” she asks, running her hands along the counter. In the morning all of this feels strange, but not entirely bad. Not entirely real, either, though the granite countertops are still as hard as reality would dictate.

“Wasn’t going to be,” he says without turning around. “But now that you’re here, I suppose I don’t have a choice.”

“That’s right,” Ariadne says. “Did you go out and buy food? How did you get back in?”

“I may have gotten the door code off you last night,” Yusuf says, not sounding contrite in the least. “And swiped your key.”

“I can handle that,” Ariadne says. “For bacon. Have you see Eero?”

“Fed him,” Yusuf says. “One can, right?”

They fall silent after that, save for Yusuf’s questions about how Ariadne takes her eggs and the gentle sizzle of bacon in the pan. Ariadne settles into one of the barstools along the counter, watching Yusuf’s back as he watches the food. When he does slide the eggs and bacon onto a plate and turn around he starts for a moment.

“You’re wearing my shirt,” he says. Ariadne has to look down at herself to confirm this is, in fact, true, even though she probably should’ve noticed already: it’s too long by half, and it smells like a stranger.

“I guess I am,” she says. “Breakfast?”

He slides her a plate and sits down besides her.

“What do you want to do today?” he asks. “Central Park? Staten Island Ferry? Something that’s not touristy as shit?”

“Something touristy as shit,” Ariadne says. “Anything, really.”

Subject: Re: Eames, 13 November 2010
To: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)
From: Ariadne Jones-Kahue (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)

Yeah, Eames is great. He works at Bean Surfin’ most weekday mornings, stop by and he’ll give you discount joe (and whatever else they sell, I mostly go for the coffee).

-Ari

So Eames isn’t a thief. Arthur supposes he should be pleased, but this just means he can’t homoerotically beat him up and then call the police and never see him again. He could, he supposes, ask Eames not to surf here, but even Arthur knows that asking someone to leave because he’s unreasonably attracted to them is unreasonable.

So he looks at his laptop for a moment, and then swings it shut. Eames is somewhere outside, surfing, Arthur supposes. In his goddamn wetsuit. After they finished their coffees he had left, saying he would change out by the car, and Arthur could come watch if he wanted. Arthur had blinked at him very rapidly and declined.

Thinking about it now, about Eames’ body encased in tight black slick of a wetsuit, Arthur can feel something warm sinking from his stomach to his groin, and the feeling is somewhere between queasy and aroused.

Arthur’s always been good at nipping thoughts like this in the bud; holding them off until he can release them, quietly and quickly, in private. Revealing attraction leads only to ruin--but then there’s Eames, wearing his sexuality boldly and lightly, letting a sliver of tongue out to wet his lips when Arthur had stretched after rising from the couch, and then laughing, just as lightly, at Arthur’s sniped rejection.

It’s the combination that makes Arthur ache--that makes him want to slip back into the shower and come with his forehead pressed against the cool tile and the water rushing down on all sides, washing it away.

It would be easy, Arthur suspects, to go outside and tell Eames that yes they can sleep together, or course they should fuck, here on the beach where sand will get in all sorts of uncomfortable orifices. It would be so easy and delicious, just a brief thing, people have meaningless sex on vacation all the time.

Arthur suspects, though, that it would also be easy to fall in love, just a little bit, just a little bit too much.

He goes outside anyway, against his better judgment, to face the green and gold of the shore and the dusky mountains and fathomless blue of the sea. And Eames--Eames will probably be there, too. Still, faced with the bright warmth of the sun, a small weight lifts, and when Arthur’s eyes snag on the dark silhouette out among the waves it doesn’t give him as much pause as it might. This is Arthur’s vacation. He’ll sit on the beach if he damn well pleases, and if he wants to watch the surfer bob and weave amongst the waves, that doesn’t have to mean anything at all.

Arthur’s not sure how long he sits there, watching Eames rise and ride and occasionally fall, before the man himself emerges from the surf, trailing water.

The wetsuit is honestly more discomfiting than it had been when Arthur imagined it, all the lines enhanced with the glint of water. He’s distracted from the sharp jut of hipbones by Eames shaking off his head, running his fingers through his hair, and as he approaches his eyes come into sharp focus.

But Arthur is not going to talk about his goddamn eyes.

“Nice madras,” Eames says wryly, and that’s enough to snap Arthur out of whatever trance he might have been in.

“Are the shorts going to be a problem?” he asks, and Eames shakes his head, hiding a grin.

“No,” he says. “You just look like the definition of a preppy bloke on vacation. I suppose you also packed your seersucker?”

“So I’m supposed to wear, what, shirts with macaws on them?” Arthur asks.

“You could just wear your usual clothes,” Eames suggests, and Arthur purses his lips. These are his usual clothes, at least when going to the beach. But the Hamptons aren’t Hawaii.

“Don’t worry too much about it,” Eames says, settling down into the sand besides him. “I like it.”

Arthur snorts.

“Does that line work on all the boys?” he asks. “I like it?”

“Does it sound that poncy when I say it?”

“Probably,” Arthur says. His arms are stretched over his kneecaps, hands dangling, and he looks at the water, not at Eames. “I’m not going to sleep with you, just so you know.”

“Are you straight, then?” Eames asks.

“No.”

There’s a moment of silence that stretches on, dissolves into lapping water. Arthur imagines he can see the tide coming in, as he waits, waves reaching progressively higher on the shore.

“Okay,” Eames says.

“Okay?” Arthur echoes. He’s relieved to find his voice doesn’t crack, but it comes out faded and small. Thankfully Eames doesn’t seem to hear; he’s getting to his feet again, and he turns around and offers Arthur a hand.

“That’s not the only service I offer,” he says. Arthur glances at the proffered hand and gets up on his own, and Eames just keeps on talking. “What were you thinking to do today? I could take you to Pali Lookout.”

“Esther mentioned Lanikai.”

“That’s best saved for a morning,” Eames says decisively. “Let’s go up to Pali. And I know a place, we can get lunch and ices.”

Arthur agreeing to this seems to be a foregone conclusion, and so he’s not entirely surprised when he finds himself clambering into Eames’ strange green car. Eames navigates with languid ease, pointing out landmarks that seem to exist as landmarks primarily in his own head. A bright, busy stretch of shorefront goes uncommented, as does a house that could easily pass for a mansion, but he points out a tree here, a road that leads somewhere, the place where someone he and Ariadne know lives.

“There’s a waterfall, that way,” Eames says when they’re coming back pointing to a dirt track down a valley. “We should go there. Tomorrow?”

Arthur considers asking Eames, then, who he is. He shifted from flirt to friend within moments, and it’s disconcerting. Arthur dodged a bullet, probably, in outright refusing to sleep with him--it would have been just a lark for Eames, and then he’d retreat into this jolly tour guide persona, or some other one, aloof Englishman, maybe, or superior surfer.

If he really is so protean Arthur shouldn’t trust him in the least, should be too on edge to enjoy Eames’ company as much he does, regardless, but when they get up to the Pali Lookout Eames is talking enthusiastically about some bit of Hawaiian history, a battle or something, and then the subject segues gracelessly into Hawaiian myths.

“Close your eyes,” Eames says, when the car is winding its way upwards. “It’s better from the side.”

Arthur looks at him in a look meant to imply that he won’t do this, what the fuck, but Eames is watching the road.

“Just do it,” he says. “Trust me.”

Arthur doesn’t, but he closes his eyes anyway, lets the world fall away and congeal in sounds and flickers of light on his eyelids. It goes dark, bright, dark again, and then Eames the car is slowing and groaning.

“You should be in second,” Arthur says.

“Your eyes should be shut,” Eames says.

“I can hear it,” Arthur says. “You’re killing your clutch. And I probably should open my eyes, check you aren’t driving us off a cliff.”

“You can open them now, anyway,” Eames says after a moment, during which the car accelerates and slides into darkness again. “If you shut up about the clutch.”

“Like I need your permission--” Arthur starts, and then he opens his eyes. “Oh.”

They’re pulling through a tunnel, but already Arthur can see the island unfurling before them like a fresh new thing, bright and green, hemmed by sea.

“Yes,” Eames says, sounding pleased in the simplest way. “Exactly.”

Subject: Re: Re: Eames, 13 November 2010
To: Ariadne Jones (ariadne.jones@gmail.com)
From: Arthur Faraday (arthur.faraday@miles-cobbconsulting.com)

He also claims to sunbathe nude here.

AF

Ariadne lets Yusuf develop their itinerary, because her plan had consisted of going out onto the street and walking in any direction until she hit upon something interesting, but Yusuf says there too much to see to go about it that way.

“It’s not about seeing everything,” she tells him, mostly to be contrary.

“It should be,” he says. He’s produced a map from somewhere, and it’s spread out on the table between them, while Yusuf jabs at it intermittently to indicate a route.

“We could just stay here and have sex,” Ariadne says, and Yusuf looks up at her, wrinkling his brow.

“Don’t you want to ride the Staten Island Ferry? It’s free.”

“So am I.”

Yusuf looks at her again, leans forward and puts a finger on her nose.

“Not that the offer isn’t tempting. But aren’t you here to see the city? Not just to fuck some bloke in a posh apartment.”

Ariadne is here to not be constantly presented with the reality of her father’s death. She’s living in his house, for fuck’s sake--he left her the house, the one he had kept as a retreat even though he and her mother lived in Honolulu. Sex is a good distraction, good as any, better than most.

But she can’t tell Yusuf that. She hardly knows him.

“No boats,” she says finally.

“Afraid you’ll remember that you’re on an island?” Yusuf asks, grinning, and Ariadne shrugs.

“Kind of.”

“Central Park it is, then,” he says. “And the Met.”

Ariadne nods. The Met is good. The Met is something she is interested in but not dad, no, he tired of art museums after one gallery and usually baled to do something else.

“I’d rather be fishing,” he’d grumble, hiding a grin. “I’ll go if you like, Ari.”

And she’d say no, that was fine, and he’d just wait outside until she was done.

“Alright, then?” Yusuf asks, and Ariadne shakes herself out of her head and nods again.

“Yes,” she says. “That sounds good. But no seafood, alright?”

Yusuf gives her a peculiar look.

“No seafood,” he repeats. “Right.”


part 2
 
 
 
Lacey McBain: Inception Eames Charminglaceymcbain on September 13th, 2011 11:31 pm (UTC)
LOL
The story's delightful - I like how bold everyone is in their own way.

But why I'm stopping in the middle to leave a comment is this: Sex is a good distraction, good as any, better than most.

I laughed when I read that because in the place where I grew up there was a cleaning service that had a huge advertisement by the bridge I had to drive over every day. Their business tagline was "Good as any, better than most." I always thought it should've said "could do worse". It's honest, but it's such a weird way to advertise a business. Anyway, that line brought back memories and made me laugh.

Now on to part 2.
kate: no funwldnst on September 14th, 2011 02:46 am (UTC)
Re: LOL
Thank you! I hope the rest of it held up.

I think clearly drawn characters are kind of necessary for this particular set up, because 'The Holiday' really has a premise more than a plot--without strong characters, it sort of fizzles and dies after the fancy house porn.

But that's another story for another day, probably. I love local billboards; I can't think of my favorites right now, but there's something about them. Sort of like the terrible Wiscondo TV ads. I would die laughing pretty much whenever one came on (these actually aired on local television channels). Because I'm easily entertained.
Just_Jane_Doejust_jane_doe on September 15th, 2011 11:01 pm (UTC)
I read this and then... reread it. Arthur finally letting Eames in and taking that chance... that was really lovely, but I really enjoyed Ariadne's adventure, too - Yusuf *is* a nice guy and what a great way to put them together! Great job on this - loved it!!
katewldnst on September 16th, 2011 03:10 am (UTC)
Thank you! I really enjoyed developing these versions of the characters and bringing them together, I'm glad you liked reading it.
beeppearljamz on September 16th, 2011 07:45 pm (UTC)
IT IS WRITTEN YESSSSS

I love how blase ariadne is with sex. That girl sure gets what she wants. Totally jealous hahahahha.

Also, surfer eames who sunbathes naked is the best thing ever.
katewldnst on September 17th, 2011 12:02 am (UTC)
I do finish things every now and again ;)

The original movie had one relationship where the pair had sex pretty much immediately upon meeting, and I thought that dynamic suited Ariadne/Yusuf well. Plus, those screenwriters know a thing or two--it was nice to have a relationship that was clearly 'THEY WILL' in contrast to the will they/won't they thing Arthur and Eames had going on.

Thanks for comment! I am not actually sure if Eames actually sunbathes nude or was just messing with Arthur, but, you know.
karmic_fickarmic_fic on November 7th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC)
This is amazing!
katewldnst on November 11th, 2011 11:07 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Again :) I like following your trail of comments through my fic.
i've got interpersonal issues and syphilisjacobella41 on January 9th, 2012 08:34 pm (UTC)
I HAVE A BIG LESBIAN CRUSH ON YOU AND YOUR WITTY, WITTY DIALOGUE. have i honestly not read any of your work until now. excuse me while i gorge. seriously, you kept me up until 1am. expect love notes. lots of love notes.
katewldnst on January 11th, 2012 01:28 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Though--get some sleep :) I love finding new authors I enjoy, so I'm glad I could be new-to-you, as they say.
brunettepetbrunettepet on May 19th, 2012 06:13 pm (UTC)
This is wonderful. You've seamlessly slotted these characters into this completely different world and it's working a treat. I'm loving the email exchanges and inadvertent friend swaps that have come along with the house swaps. Ariadne and Yusuf really click and I'm loving how Eames is hijacking this vacation that Arthur didn't even want to take. In all the breezy exchanges and banter, Ariadne mourning her father and Arthur's tight self control are offering some emotional depth that makes the story really sing. It's a great read so far.