Eames had been doing this for a while. At least, that was what he'd say if asked; he'd been on one of the very first teams to attempt shared dreaming, and as far as he knew he was the very first person to successfully forge. It never got old, though it did get easier. But he'd seen quite a bit of what people could do in the dreamshare and had accepted that this was how things worked: that most people would simply replicate what they knew in one form or another in the unconstructed space.
Ariadne was different. The first inkling he had about her was when Cobb found him in Mombasa. He'd asked about the architect and Cobb had simply smiled and said she's new. It wasn't till later that he found out just how new she was and just how that lack of experience freed her mind. Folding cities on her second time in the dreamshare, building paradoxes with ease and adding pipelines and ductwork with only a slight furrow of her brow. Diving after Cobb into Limbo with only a moment's thought for how she might lose herself, and the same sort of courage to find Arthur when nobody else will go into his own head. She rearranges their lives with the same sort of ease with which she builds their dreams. It's remarkable and if he didn't know just how determined, how brave and unthinking she can be, he wouldn't believe that it happened at all. Sometimes he's still not sure how she transformed the two of them into the sort of men who buy property and settle down.
When he comes back after a job, when he finally has the time and asks to see what she's been working on for one of her clients – it's incredible in the oldest sense, he literally cannot believe that he's seeing what he is. His totem will do him no good for understanding that she's created an entire island that is sitting on the back of a turtle that is swimming through space. A nebula passes by slowly overhead, clouds of shifting orange and purple that shimmer like the northern lights. Ariadne is lying down, feet dangling over the edge of the turtle's shell. Eames watches the massive flippers paddle against nothingness, the great bulk of its squared-off head stretch in front of twinkling stars, and has to sit down against a tree that shakes with flowers like tiny chiming bells.
"Sweetheart," he says finally, "are you doing rather a lot of drugs?"
Her laughter sounds like the flowers in the tree. "I'm just using my imagination, Eames. Why bother to dream if you're only going to see the same things you'd look at when you're awake?"
"Because that's what most people do, love. The things they see every day get churned up and come back out while they sleep." He flips the poker chip between his fingers, then grabs for it as it starts to float away. There's enough gravity to keep them on the turtle – a thought he cannot believe just went through his head – but apparently not enough to keep everything there.
"How boring," she replies. "I think I'll stick with making things up. It's more fun. And less risky." Harder to believe your world is limbo when you dream so fantastically, he supposes. He walks over to her, moss springy beneath his feet, and sits down on the edge with her.
"Don't fall," she says. "I don't know how to catch you from here."