charlieblue: (Default)
Something like a crossroads song ([personal profile] charlieblue) wrote on August 31st, 2010 at 03:40 am
Fic: Without You, Ambiguous Backstory Is Nothing
Without You, Ambiguous Backstory Is Nothing
Inception/Ocean's 11; PG 13; 3 500 words; Rusty/Eames, Rusty/Danny

Companion piece to the brilliant I Don't Think You Think I Think About Probability by [ profile] karanguni.

So then she says, "What did I do?" and I say, "What do I look like, a pancake eater?"

Rusty is a mistake, because Rusty is always a mistake. He understands this, even, to some degree, encourages it. He enjoys the principle of the thing, being a purveyor and snake-oil salesman of Catholic shame and hard-boiled fantasies. He’s not much for one-night stands, but he likes falling in love with people, likes being fallen into, but above all, he likes the walking away.

He’s not a particularly cruel man, but he’s not quite like other people. In another life, he might have been Luna Lovegood. Not that he cried during the seventh book or anything. Not like Danny did, anyway.

The point is, Rusty does people, but he doesn’t do people. Not for protracted lengths of time anyway. Danny doesn’t count, because Danny never counts, and by that he means that Danny always counts. If Rusty was a deck of cards, Danny’s been counting them since he was a sixteen year old grifter dressed in hooker jeans and a stolen sable, and had bitten off more of the Russian mafia than he could chew, which for Rusty is not only technically embarrassing, but also figuratively.

So when he meets Eames, Eames who had maybe accidentally just blown Rusty’s favorite Cuban bar sky-high, Eames who had merrily picked up a still-smoking cigar from the wreckage and puffed at it with bloody lips, Eames who took one look at Rusty and smiled a Frank Sinatra smile, Eames who took him to a hotel that night and fucked him against a soaring floor-to-ceiling hotel window, Rusty goes along with it. His breath fogs up the surface next to Rusty’s hand, and when he pressed hot lips against Rusty’s tattoo, it was while watching himself in the mirror with cool, laughing eyes.

They spend a week like that, holed up in the Presidential suite, and Rusty doesn’t talk much, but that’s okay, because Eames doesn’t stop. He argues with Fox news about South African politics from the shower, digresses on the failures of the second generation of the Frankfurt school of critical theorizing while mixing ever more ridiculous drinks, and bitches about Lauren from The Hills after he wakes both of them up due to a nightmare to which he refuses to admit. In fact, the only time he ever seems to keep quiet are when Rusty feels like talking, and when he’s sucking Rusty’s dick. One of these things happens with a lot more frequency than the other.

Rusty is a little enamored with all this, enjoys the way that Eames treats everything around him, including human beings, like they belong to him. He enjoys all the ways that Eames reflects himself.

‘So then I told him that if he was so displeased with my services, he was perfectly welcome to take his chances with the luddites.’

‘Luddites?’ Rusty is drowsy and naked, spread across and around five different pillows and a feather-down comforter, warm and flushed, barely enraptured with the story until the strange choice of word.

‘You know, John Henrys, daywalkers, reality rats, old schoolers. You, darling.’ Eames is lying on his stomach, watching the twinkling skyline through the windows. His hair is ruffled and his tattoos fascinate Rusty, who has always had a weakness for permanent things.

He frowns deliberately, and waits for Eames to notice.

‘PASIV.’ Eames says the word like he’s testing the waters. When Rusty makes no motion of understanding, a slow revelation rolls across Eames’ face. ‘You don’t know. Well, consider it a homework project. If you have the means to work it out, then you deserve to know.’

Rusty considers protesting this paternal bullshit, but figures if it’s a game worth knowing, a wink’s better than a punch or a fuck. That’s the last night.

On the seventh morning Eames orders Rusty room service for breakfast and disappears from the balcony when he went goes out to take a call. Despite the billowing curtains and an angle that doesn’t allow him to see around the corner, Rusty knows it the moment Eames is gone. He smiles to himself, tucks the white cloth napkin into the remains of his shirt and starts into the honey pancakes and sugar-dusted strawberries with unconcerned abandon, because he thinks that here he has found a man who will never bother him again.

He likes being the mistake, likes the way that being made to feel like one absolves him of all emotional responsibility, and from the looks of things, Eames is an expert in emotional avoidance.

This was, Rusty would come to find, a common miscalculation that people tended to make when faced with the whirlwind disappearing act that is Eames.


‘Hello darling,’ the voice is low and smug in his ear, and Rusty snaps the phone closed and goes back to blackmailing one of the Grimaldi kids in the VIP room of Carpe Diem.

Three hours later, he walks into the first class cabin of a plane heading to LAX and Eames is waiting in the throne next to his.

Rusty smiles, sits down, and unwraps a lollipop.

‘You’re an extractor,’ he says.

‘Please,’ says Eames, delighted, ‘don’t insult me.’


‘It’ll be fine.’ Rusty says around a martini olive. His head slides an inch down his palm, and he can smell the faint spice of Danny’s aftershave when he settles in beside him. ‘We’ll be fine,’ he amends. He can’t see Danny out of the corner of his eye, but that’s okay, because everything is pleasantly blurred anyway. ‘High risk, high return,’ he nods, that’s how they’ve always worked.

He senses an air of discontent buzzing around Danny, who obviously needs to down one or two fingers himself. He knows what Danny’s thinking, but he doesn’t like it any more than Danny does. ‘We need a Sandman,’ Rusty says, because Danny won’t, pouting as he is down into his glass.

They sit in silence for a while, both pretending to ogle the stripper sliding down a pole in a position that would put Cirque de Soleil to shame. Rusty has his doubts. ‘I have doubts,’ he says.

‘No you don’t,’ says Danny, ‘You have a martini.’ And they both know what that means. The last time Rusty drank martinis, he ended up in Belize. And Rusty hates politics.

Rusty finishes his drink. ‘A fucking Sandman,’ he agrees.

‘I’ll get it,’ Danny says, and walks out.


Huh, Rusty thinks when Danny brings in their Sandman, that was unexpected.

He pops another caramelized Brazil nut into his mouth and crunches, noting with an unexpected surge of satisfaction that Eames is watching his mouth quite unashamedly. Rusty blinks mildly, and tilts his head back to watch Danny, who is slowly trawling his eyes from Eames to Rusty, and back again, like a cobra that hasn’t quite decided whether it wants dinner or a fight.

Rusty is used to being a disruption, when the need calls for it, but now he worries that Danny, always off in ideas, always full of jetsetting, cloud-surfing, irrepressible urges to be clever, has brought in someone who is not only a disruption by nature, but also endangers the entire concept of con.

Rusty is not the most self-aware of people, but he does know temptation when he sees it. Dreaming is new, and new is always good, except when it’s not. And when it’s not is precisely when it makes Danny irrelevant. Rusty’s already feeling the tickle of a new means to old ends.

Danny is arguing with Eames. Well, Danny never really argues with anyone so much as he talks at them until they realize they agreed with him to begin with.

‘Look, Ocean, I understand you are new to the game of dreaming, so I’ll forget you said that. But I’m a forger, le faussaire. To steal from a man’s head, you need extractors, point men, architects, not to mention chemists, access, time, and experience.’ Eames is courtly with his insults; he has the unwitting charm of the silver-spooned, and leaning easily against the edge of the hotel wall, he would be almost unreadable if he hadn’t been deliberately projecting a careless condescension.

Rusty crinkles the packet in his hands and tosses it over his should. ‘Forger,’ he says, nodding at Eames, ‘point man,’ he says, pointing to himself, ‘architect,’ he points at Danny, ‘experience,’ he points at Eames, then back to himself, ‘access, time, chemistry, I mean, come on Eames. Who do you think we are?’

Eames folded his arms and quirked his lips, ‘Amateurs,’ he says, almost like he regrets it, ‘and I don’t work with amateurs.’

‘Anyway,’ Danny says, like the conversation never detoured, ‘we’re not stealing something from the mark’s mind.’

‘No?’ Eames looks like he’s ready to be amused further. Rusty licks his lips, ready for the carrot.

‘No,’ Danny says, meeting Rusty’s eyes across the room.

‘We’re putting something in.’ Rusty says, and makes it sound just as dirty as it does in his head.

When he sees the familiar glint transform Eames’ face, he knows he’s in. It’s that same longing for the challenge, that same fascination with a terrible, brilliant idea that he’s seen in the mirror ever since he met Danny and learned that the world didn’t always obey the rule of the mundane.

As it turns out, Eames is utterly, disgustingly professional. He nearly makes Linus cry. Rusty approves.


What they are trying to do is dangerous. It’s slipshod and ramshackle and devil-may-care. Rusty knows this because Eames has told him, in so many words and more.

‘No architect, no extractor, no point men,’ Eames is muttering, pacing around the storyboard like it’s a rabid dog and he’s meant to feed it. ‘To plant an idea, and idea of his own. Create emotional feedback loops through the layers; close the circuits, the mark creates his own storyline, the dreams need to be designed in order to create that emotional continuance that leads the mark to create infinity loops of emotional issues throughout the layers, leading to a self-conceived inception in the hidden vault of the final layer. There’s no other way. Self-imposed. Fuck. Fucking fuck.’ He doesn’t sound frustrated, he sounds delighted. Delighted with frustration.

Rusty is fascinated. He slides in behind Eames’ next turn of pacing, and examines the labyrinthine diagram. Up close, it’s simpler, up close, it’s a flow-chart.

‘What’s this say?’ He mumbles around a mouthful of flaking pastry.

Eames spins like a cat, caught off guard, and Rusty, who has been watching him rather closely in the three days since he arrived, wonders if Danny knows Eames was SAS.

‘Methuselah.’ Eames says.

‘No’t doesn’t,’ mocks Rusty, ‘says: monster truck. That’s clearly a ‘t’ there.’

Eames looks like he can’t believe his ears. After a moment he huffs, smiling like he’s dealing with a toddler, and reaches out, swiping a crumb off the edge of Rusty’s mouth. Rusty swallows, and Eames’ eyes drop to his throat.

‘Methuselah, the wise old man before the deluge. Oldest man who ever lived. A life well-lived, impending doom, the love of the divine.’ Eames’ voice drops, soft now, with the weight of myths and lust.

‘Also a big fucking bottle of champagne.’ Rusty notes, wondering how Eames got so close without moving. By the smug look on Eames’ face, Rusty is inclined to think that maybe it was Rusty who moved.

‘Yes,’ Eames agrees, tilting his head to one side, lashes like you wouldn’t believe catching in the sun, ‘also a big fucking bottle of champagne.’

Rusty kisses him smiling a shark smile, and Eames catches his lip in his teeth, grips the base of his skull and pulls him close with a hand against the small of his spine. Rusty bends into him, kissing him hard, because this is a test, because Eames is just like him, is all play and spit and fuck you too, and if they can’t have wildly narcissistic sex, Rusty isn’t interested.

Of course Eames passes, because of course to him, to both of them, this is a game, and the game is this: Danny had paused in the doorway two minutes and thirty-seven seconds ago, and neither of them are ready to call chicken.


‘No architect, no dream,’ Eames repeats. Rusty finds his attitude frankly appalling.

‘Why does it need to be realistic? Why can’t it be a symbolic dream? Y’know, visually, tactically. Obviously everything in a dream is symb…’ That’s Linus, who is frowning at the board, biting his lip, his voice drowned out by Eames’ blank stare. Rusty is fond of Linus, because he’s both scared to state the obvious, and far too unmannered to resist doing so. It’s a compelling combination when it’s found in someone as blatantly intelligent as the kid.

‘Excuse me?’ Eames is sitting beside him and they have their arms criss-crossed over the back of the couch, and now he turns to looks straight at Rusty. Rusty keeps his eyes on Danny, because he knows that Danny knows that Rusty is thinking what he’s thinking.

‘Simple,’ says Danny. ‘I’ll dream it.’

So of course they all end up in jail.


Rusty nearly laughs. In fact, he does, albeit silently, tilting his head back, mouth split wide, eyes crinkled up in their folds.

‘No, don’t laugh, you know it’s true. You’re a benevolently tolerant misanthropist,’ Eames, of all the people in the world, is perhaps the only one who could pull off a phrase like that out loud.

They are in black and white, literally and sartorially, and Eames looks like a particularly obscene silver screen matinee idol. He’s lounging in on his bunk, smiling his Cheshire smile. Rusty slides a bobby pin from behind his ear and begins working on the old-fashioned lock barring their way.

‘Oh, I wouldn’t bother with that, if I were you,’ drawls Eames, somewhere in the background of Rusty’s focus. Rusty deems this a low priority and keeps working, so that when Danny appears and the bars twist up and out in butterfly knife patterns, he’s caught off guard and leaps backwards, landing on his palms, his shirt riding up.

This is when Eames moves, and he moves very fast. He’s gripped Danny’s head and twisted it viciously before Rusty can even stand, and Danny’s body crumples with a cruel suddenness, so that all Rusty can do is stare and stare in silence, even while Eames steps back and slides a knife up and through his ribs, all Rusty can do is stare at the space where Danny disappeared.

Danny deals with his murder like he deals with everything else. He checks his cuffs and raises his eyebrows, flings the experience out into the abominable ether and waits for it to throw inspiration back his way.

Rusty wakes up, takes one look at Danny, and walks calmly into the ensuite bathroom where he locks the door, takes a long look in the mirror, and then violently throws up.

When he comes back out, Eames is awake and scribbling something no doubt illegible across his board.

He turns and eyes Rusty curiously for a moment, almost as if he’s unsure of something, and Rusty notices that he’s twirling a poker chip around and around his right hand fingers. After a moment, he turns back to Danny.

‘Well, your subconscious is absolutely useless,’ he says.


Rusty’s head is not on straight anymore, which is a problem. It is Rusty’s job to keep Danny’s head attached to the ground. If Rusty’s losing gravity, so is the con.

But Danny’s not interested in the means. Danny’s interested in winning. Always has been, always will be. The means are Rusty’s specialty; he is an instrument, pure and simple. The joy is in the artistry, and the artistry of dreaming is beginning to eat at his joy.

Eames does not understand. ‘What’s not to like?’ He demands, ‘Mucking about in people’s heads is the most liberating form of crime imaginable.’

Rusty, used as he is to the truly eclectic fashions of Danny’s circle, is still not entirely immune to the effects of Eames’ paisley three-piece. He shrugs, and lets Eames steal three of his chips; no more, no less. ‘It encourages a violent attitude toward your fellow human beings,’ he informs Eames, ‘of which I cannot approve.’

‘Good god, darling,’ says Eames, ‘I never took you for a pacifist.’

Rusty grins, shit-eating, butter cooling, ‘Why do you think I got into this life of crime?’

‘So does that mean the inception is off?’ Somewhere in that drawl there just might be a hint of hysterical disappointment.

Rusty frowns, ‘inception?’

‘The job, Rusty, the dream job. Is this you breaking up with PASIV?’

‘Oh, that.’ Rusty crunches into a chip, and Danny says, ‘well. We thought about that, but the fact of the matter is that there was never a great chance of success with this ....’

‘Inception,’ Rusty supplies.

‘Right, inception, to begin with,’ and Rusty knows this tone, he knows Danny’s face, and he knows the con, so he knows the yellow brick path Danny’s going down.

None,’ Rusty emphasizes helpfully, swiping a chip across the air in a dead line.

‘And besides,’ Danny looks across to Rusty, and Rusty flourishes with a chip, ceding the floor, ‘besides,’ he continues, ‘we have no point man, no architect, no extractor, and no chemist.’

‘Or experience, or contingencies,’ adds Rusty happily.

By this stage, Eames is watching them like they are a particularly M.C. Escher sketch, his gaze bounding around from face to gesture and back again.

‘Right,’ agrees Danny, ‘and it was never suited to our skill set to begin with -’

‘- our methods don’t suit the illogical sequencing of dreamstates,’ Rusty says, ‘so, no.’

‘No?’ Asks Eames.

‘No,’ confirms Danny.

‘We are not breaking up with PASIV.’ Rusty elaborates.

‘At least not until the morning after,’ finishes Danny.


So this is how the job goes: the mark is isolated from his marvelous party by a three cater waiters with impeccable references and sedated by one guest with an impeccable pedigree. The dream is beautiful, and uncut and unbuilt, barely outlined in advance, and they barely manage to descend to the next level before the ballet troupe of swans breaks through the ark door. The tomb of biblical kings is thick with gloom and honor and a perfect fit to the melodramatic Catholicism of the mark. A crack in the wall, the pretense of a divine voice and an empty tomb; the mark lies himself down in his mausoleum and accepts that he has been marked for death from the day he was born. Out through the doors of the tomb and into the garden, and it’s a party all over again, full of giant bottles of champagne and sprouting fountains of blood. There’s a locked book with a spin-dial, landed in a pile of gold. Eames plays an angel, an angel of a dying sister. The book is unlocked and the mark reads something none of them can decipher. A strange ripple strokes the dream, and for a moment, the mark locks eyes with Rusty, and Rusty knows this is a broken con.

Danny kicks them back up to swans and the flood and a boat in a storm, but now the mark is lucid and raging, and Danny has the gun, but he can’t kick them when the Ella Fitzgerald hits their ears, so Eames has to kill them all over again.

The problem is, the mark wakes up at the same time as everybody else. And while the mark’s mind may be unmilitarized, the house of a superstitious, highly spiritual Spanish oil baron is hardly the place to be when said baron recognizes you as men who have stolen into his dreams.

The con is broken, the means laid bare and useless. Rusty may make a living building houses of tumbling cards, but he knows when to get the hell out of one when he needs to.

But when Eames slips out his PASIV line and points a silenced Glock against the old man’s head and pulls the trigger before the breath he was drawing in could be released into a yell that would see them all done for, it isn’t the swift viciousness of the act that shocks Rusty, but the unexpected surge of admiration for Eames' achievement of the larger objective.

Because Eames is Rusty in another life, and Rusty isn't exactly comfortable with the way Eames has turned out; all Peter Pan, all smiles and murder to go with the flight and impossible things.

Eames offers a hand down to Rusty, and his lips are speckled with blood. Rusty rolls over and stares at Danny, and they both realize that this if dreaming was the carrot, Eames is the stick.


Rusty sits on a bench in front of the Bellagio and eats a cheeseburger.

Eames left, because he doesn’t belong, not here, not to the lights and Robin Hood world of Ocean. He’s going to Mombasa, and Rusty knows this because Danny knows this.

Rusty swallows hot cheese, and tries to remember when he became the guy who makes mistakes.

‘There’s an art job opening up in Beijing. Belongs to a Proclus Global subsidiary. Apparently they’ve got a Harbinger system.’

‘I do like the Harbinger systems,’ Rusty takes another bite, and his mind is already spinning webs.

‘We’d need a-‘

‘Yeah, but only if we pull the-‘

‘Of course.’

‘How’s Tess?’

‘Still mad.’

‘Over the –‘




‘I guess we’d better do it then.’
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