Eames is like a tomcat, Ariadne thinks to herself, watching him sprawl across the booth next to her. It's two months after the inception, and they're in New York, on Saito's dime, to celebrate the fruition of their grand, ridiculous plan.
It's two a.m. by now, and it's down to Eames and Ariadne. Saito and Arthur have long since gone back to their rooms; Yusuf has just recently gone back to his room with a very pretty redhead. Cobb was never with them in the first place; he sent his regrets, and no one needs to talk about why.
Anyway, it's two a.m. and Ariadne is still a little wired and still a little drunk. She and Eames are at the diner across the street from the hotel; Ariadne is drinking coffee and watching Eames watch the waitresses. He appraises them carefully, his eyes flicking up and down their bodies, lecherous but aloof. Catlike.
Ariadne rolls her eyes. "See something you like?"
Eames is, of course, not fazed by her disapproval. "I'm thinking about the black-headed one."
She follows his gaze, looking for his target. "Eames, she looks about seventeen."
"And," she mimics, "we do have laws about that here."
A grin spreads over his face. "How old are you?"
She scoffs. "If you're in the mood for an innocent virgin, you're several years too late."
"I don't know if you're aware," he says, turning towards her, "but virgins require an intense amount of hard work, and hard work is, as we both know, not my strong suit." He leans closer, like he's confiding a great secret. "The trick is to find the ones who are just past that stage, but not quite ruined yet."
She narrows her eyes at him. "And ruin them."
"Mmm, no," he says, smiling to himself. "And train them up."
"For what?" she asks, feeling repulsed and compelled, all at the same time.
He gives her a leer. "I'll tell you when you're older."
She sighs. "You're disgusting."
"You have no idea," he tells her, motioning to the object of his affections for more coffee.
Ariadne goes to bed alone that night, but his words follow her.
Ariadne's been in France for a long time, long enough to be in love with it and sick of it. Some days, it's charming and breathtaking; some days it's chilly, packed with pretentious assholes. Some days she's living the dream, so to speak, surrounded by creativity; some days her classmates are incredibly provincial while they're pretending to be so very cosmopolitan. Lately, it's more bad days than good, more days where she sits in class and sketches impossible stairways in the corners of her lecture notes. She'll get over it- she always does- but in the meantime, there's Eames.
Eames is just sort of around, in Paris. It's not that much of a surprise; Paris is, as Ariadne has learned, something of a hotbed of mind crime, what with France's lax attitude towards tramping through other people's heads. He turns up like a bad penny; she runs into him in random places, bookstores and restaurants and nightclubs, scattered here and there. She's pretty sure he lifted her cell phone at some point and took down her number, because he calls, too, at odd hours, wanting to pose a ridiculous hypothetical or drag her away from her studies. It isn't like he's stalking her or anything; he's just become part of her landscape, someone she knows rather than someone she knew once.
And, God help her, but she's starting to find Eames refreshing, a welcome antidote to the Parisian mindset. He has a sort of affected sleaze and an old-money sensibility about him, but he certainly isn't pretentious. Eagerly crass and usually quite profane, but not pretentious.
She knows Eames must be working, because she'll be unable to raise him for days at a time, after which he'll come swooping in, flush with cash and full of stories. She's working herself, off and on- not anything nearly as complicated as the Fischer job, just a level here or there. She slips them quietly into her portfolio, with innocuous titles like "Penrose Study" and "Dream Concept No. 4".
But today is one of Eames's triumphant returns, apparently, because he suddenly drops into the chair across from her as she studies at a cafe near the college. He picks up her MP3 player, looking at the screen. "Massive Attack have a new album out? I haven't thought about them in years. How many have I missed?"
"None," she says, pulling her headphones off. "You're back from Italy?"
"All of Rome's secrets have been laid bare for me," he says, smirking, leaning back in his chair and lighting a cigarette. "As well as one very gorgeous young lady. Brunette, tall, and she did this thing with her hips that absolutely-"
"Could we maybe not talk about this in public?" she says, flushing. He does this, all the time, comes back with stories of conquest, each one more offensive and anatomically unlikely than the last. The thing that gets to her about it is that it turns her on just as much as it pisses her off- which is, of course, a lot- and she can't really get a handle on why. It's totally degrading, but there's this voice in her head that won't stop saying that those stories should be about her.
"We're in the middle of Paris," he says dismissively. "Only half the people here speak English, and most of them are ignoring us for fear of admitting it." Eames grins when she rolls her eyes. "What about you, my dear? Have you done anything interesting in my absence but labor long into the night over your increasingly elaborate drawings?"
She makes a face. "I'm a college student, not a medieval monk."
He catches the way she's looking at his cigarette, pulls it from between his lips and offers it to her; she accepts it without hesitation. Eames takes out his case and lights another before he speaks. "Forgive me for saying so, but it's sometimes hard to tell."
Ariadne takes a long drag and exhales with a satisfied sigh; she never seems to smoke except when Eames is around. "Maybe I just have better things to do than go out and make questionable decisions."
"Yes, but while your classmates have nothing but miserable Frenchmen for their questionable decisions, you have a dashing English rogue at your disposal," he tells her. "Completely different caliber of mistake."
And he says things like that, things that are suggestive but only just, things that make it infuriatingly difficult to decide if he's joking or serious. They match the way he touches her, the way he'll put his arm around her shoulders as they walk or let his thigh rest against hers underneath a table, touches that could be completely innocent or slyly inviting.
She gives him an appraising look. "Do I?"
Eames smiles, wide, lots of teeth. "Say the word, darling."
And so it goes on like that, as he gets more and more ingrained into her life. He keeps talking a big game and she keeps listening; he keeps winking while she keeps frowning; he keeps making her laugh, so she keeps letting him in. She's annoyed by the lingering suspicion that she's being seduced, but more so by the fact that he will not fucking hurry it up.
He keeps pushing and pushing and pushing, until finally it breaks. They're standing in front of her wardrobe, of all places, where he's insistent on vetting her sartorial choices for the gallery opening she's been invited to, because, "No offense, love, but you dress like you're on your way to a poetry slam."
She's reaching to the back of her closet for a neglected skirt; he slides his hand onto the small of her back, and she has absolutely had enough. She rounds on him and snaps, "Put up or shut up," and Ariadne never makes it to the opening. She doesn't even make it to the bed. She rides him right there, on the floor, on top of all her best clothes, his big hands all over her. Raucous is a good adjective for that night. After the floor, it's the shower; after the shower, the kitchen counter; after the kitchen, it's, improbably, the windowsill, where she looks out over the lights of Paris as he takes her, the breath of her moans fogging the glass in front of her and blurring them out of focus.
When she wakes up in the morning, stiff and sore in a dozen places, she's expecting him to be gone, maybe even gone for good, now that he's gotten what he wanted from her.
But then he just isn't; he's lying next to her, spilled out across her bed, his face lax and pleased-looking. And after that, he just sticks around. He still calls and shows up and bothers her. The only real difference is that now they're having sex.
All the time.
It's not like she's been having bad sex and just now realizing it; it's just that this is really great sex. She doesn't realize she's been handled with kid gloves until she isn't; he hasn't got any compunctions at all about covering her up with his body, trapping her against the mattress, holding her still and making her take it. He isn't rough with her- except maybe a little, when it's appropriate- he just doesn't hold back. He presses her hips into the bed and licks her open, his fingers moving slowly in and out of her; he keeps it up for an hour, so good but not quite enough, and when he finally lets her come, she actually cries in relief.
It feels sort of cliche, honestly, the whole experienced older man thing. He's not even that much- well, okay, he's a lot older than she is, but he knows things. He knows what to do and how, how to coax reactions from her body that she's never experienced before. It's a point of pride for him to get her off as often as possible. It isn't that he's selflessly devoted to her pleasure or anything; he goes after her like he's trying for the high score, like the satisfaction of seeing her wrecked is enough for him.
But sometimes, it's the opposite. Sometimes he lays back and expects her to do all the work. And it frustrates the hell out of her, because she's just not as good at it as he is. She can bring him off, but it's not good enough, it's not the same; she can't shake him up, the way he does to her without even really trying.
So she learns. She figures him out, piece by piece, cataloguing him, discovering every little vulnerability. Then she turns around and uses it against him. She'll crawl between his legs and just mouth at his cock, letting it brush against her cheeks and lips and tongue before she finally takes it into her mouth. Or she'll sit back on her heels, just out of his reach, and touch herself, one hand massaging her breasts while she slides the other over her clit, her legs spread wide so that he's sure to see. She'll wait until just the right moment to moan out his name, and he'll be on her in an instant.
They do, of course, do things other than have sex, but more often than not, everything with Eames feels like foreplay, every touch like it's a promise of more; every word has a hidden intention.
And one Sunday morning, as she watches Eames make breakfast wearing nothing but his tattoos, she realizes that they seem to have a thing.
She has a moment of nonsensical panic when she realizes she's shacking up with a criminal; it subsides when she remembers that she is a criminal. It's still kind of a jarring realization, nonetheless.
It's early in the summer and early in the morning. They're only up because they haven't gotten around to going to sleep yet. Ariadne is feeling sleepy and sated and sore; she's commandeered Eames's arm for a pillow, and she's contemplating drifting off.
Eames turns toward her. "I had a very interesting conversation with an old friend today."
She's momentarily distracted by the sight of him, all naked and stretched out next to her. "Hmm?"
"He asked if I knew any good architects," he says, and that gets her attention. "He didn't specify whether he meant in the Biblical sense or not, but-" She punches him lightly in the chest. "Anyway, he wants you for a job."
"Would you take it?" she asks.
"I already have," he tells her. "Sleep on it if you like, but I don't think you'd regret joining us."
She only sleeps on it because she literally falls asleep, right then; she accepts, naturally, and they go to meet the team that afternoon. He doesn't tell her where they're going until Ariadne's already figured it out, already recognized that the streets can only lead back to one place. When they get to the warehouse, he pops around the corner for a pack of cigarettes and leaves her to go up on her own, up steps that are exceedingly familiar.
Arthur is standing in the middle of the workshop, doing something with the PASIV; and Ariadne didn't think their first meeting was long enough ago for her to feel nostalgic for it, but there it is anyway.
"Long time no see," she says, and Arthur turns. He is just as put-together and dashing as ever, and he smiles when he sees her.
"I didn't know if you'd come," he tells her, slipping his hands into the pockets of his exquisitely tailored suit pants.
"No place I'd rather be," she admits.
He nods. "I thought you might say that." He cocks his head towards the door. "You and Eames?" he asks; the question is pretty clear.
"What makes you think that?" she says, trying to sound casual.
"For starters, you're wearing his shirt," Arthur informs her.
She feels her face get hot. "What makes you think this is Eames's shirt?"
He smirks, just a little. "It's orange paisley and three sizes too big for you. I sure hope it's his."
Ariadne crosses her arms over her chest. "Are you going to warn me to stay away from him?" she asks, though she's not entirely sure why she feels so defensive.
Arthur gives her a strange look. "If that weren't incredibly belittling, you mean?" He sighs at her frown. "Look, don't ever tell him I said this, but Eames is very useful. If this is what you want to do, he's somebody you want on your side."
She's sort of shocked by his laissez-faire attitude. "I was kind of expecting you to tell me he was going to break my heart."
His brow furrows in confusion. "What's that got to do with anything?"
Rather than attempt an English-to-Arthur translation, she just lets it go. "So, who's the extractor? Cobb?"
"No, not Cobb," he says. "Have to be the job of a lifetime before I'd pull him in."
She jumps a little when Eames slides his arms around her waist. "And we already did that, didn't we, Arthur dear?"
"Mister Eames," he says dryly. "So nice of you to join us."
"Eames," she chides, in a low voice. "Not while we're working."
"We're not working, we're talking to Arthur," he protests. "If you think Arthur didn't already know, then you don't know Arthur." Arthur shrugs, not quite a confession and not quite a denial. "And besides, you are wearing my shirt."
"You're the one who let me walk out of the house in it," she hisses.
He smirks. "Yeah, I did."
Arthur just laughs at them.
The new extractor is short and angry, and Ariadne knows from the second she meets him that he and Eames are going to get into it. Vitor's great at what he does, he's just headstrong and narcissistic as fuck. He and Eames are catty with each other from the very start- not playfully and productively antagonistic, like Eames and Arthur, but genuinely hateful, slipping in jabs at each other into every other sentence.
It finally comes to a head two weeks in. Ariadne's not there for the start of it; Eames and Vitor are on a trial run of the first level, while she and Arthur are working out some tricky spots in the plans for the second. There's still three minutes on the clock when they come back up, and neither of them look happy about it.
Vitor yanks the line out of his arm, jumping up from his chair. "What the fuck was that?"
"When I say go left, I fucking well mean go left," Eames says, through clenched teeth, his hands balling into fists, "not turn around and run straight into the fucking projections."
Vitor gets up in his space. "I wouldn't have had to turn around if the goddamned map was right."
"You're the one who cocked it up," Eames tells him, his finger right in Vitor's face. "Ariadne did a perfect job with that layout."
"You just think she's so amazing because you're fucking her," he snaps.
"No, I think she's amazing and I'm fucking her," Eames fires right back, "and if you've got a problem with any of that-"
Arthur just appears between the two of them; he puts a hand on Eames's chest to keep him back, but he doesn't touch Vitor. "If you don't cut it out immediately, I will replace both of you and keep her, because she's the only one acting like a professional right now."
Eames looks like he's going to jump over and beat the hell out of Vitor at any moment, but he takes a few breaths, calming down, his nostrils flaring in displeasure. "Let's run it again," he says. "And pay attention this time."
Eames and Ariadne don't talk about it; he's moody and annoyed for a day or two, and she gives him a wide berth. It's different, though, after that. He doesn't try to keep his hands off her while they're working, and she doesn't try to stop him from touching. He'll hook an arm around her while they're talking or press a distracted kiss to her head while they're studying their plans; if he sometimes does it while he's glaring at Vitor, Ariadne is good enough not to mention it.
Vitor never stops being pissed off, and Arthur never stops being wary yet smugly amused, but, somehow, everything goes off without a hitch. They get in, they get out, and the mark is none the wiser.
And when they're done with the job and hiding out in Key West, she ties him to the headboard and blows his fucking mind.
It's another month or two before they stop pretending that they're not living together. Ariadne isn't even entirely sure she's ever seen Eames's apartment, if he even has one, and Ariadne's is, thanks to Saito, ridiculously large, so it's not like it's a hardship or anything.
They are not, from what Ariadne understands, a normal couple. He doesn't ask to be introduced to her friends, and she doesn't volunteer. It's not a shame thing; it's just not any of their fucking business. There's already a break between her and them, what with her being a highly paid corporate spy and everything, and if they think she's spending her nights alone with her drafting table, then so much the better.
But they are comfortable. Eames rubs her back when she's been bent over her schoolwork all day; Ariadne meets him at the airport when he returns from whatever highly suspect venture he's been off on. He still talks about other women, from time to time, but only because, by his own admission, he thinks it's hot when Ariadne gets angry and territorial. But she knows that there isn't really anything to worry about. He wouldn't bother to cheat on her; he'd just leave. It isn't any better, but at least it's honest.
Ariadne finds it in a second-hand store. It's just big enough to fit her, or maybe she's just small enough to fit it, and she's pretty sure the man at the counter is totally confused as to why she's blushing so hard over making such an innocuous purchase.
She puts it on that night; Eames is waiting for her in bed, highly intrigued by her offer of a surprise. Her fingers fumble a little as she pulls it out of the bag and puts it on. The skirt is short, but she rolls it up a little anyway, so that the pleated blue plaid only comes down to the middle of her thighs. There are white knee socks to go with it, and she throws on a pair of black flats over them. The shirt, it turns out, doesn't quite fit, so she just lets it hang open, showing her somewhat lacy white bra.
She looks at herself in the mirror and feels ridiculous and turned on, all at once.
She's losing her nerve and Eames is threatening to start without her, so she steels herself and comes out. She leans against the wall, and says the sexiest thing that comes to her mind, which turns out to be, "Hey."
Eames's eyes go dark, and she thinks for a moment that she's gone too far, pushed over into something that's a little too real, a little too accusatory.
But then he surges forward, pinning her to the wall. He leans down and attacks her mouth, biting at her lips, pawing at her like he hasn't even got the time or the presence of mind to be gentle. He hoists her up, hooking her legs around his waist; her panties are cheap white cotton, and he rips right through them, the fabric hanging tattered around her.
There's no talking, just "Are you-" and "God, do it" and he pushes into her so fast that it kind of knocks the wind out of her. He buries his face in her neck, biting and sucking, and she just knows she'll have a long line of marks down the side of her throat. He fucks her hard and deep, his fingers digging into her ass as he holds her up, keeping her pinned in place. He's relentless; he's almost hurting her and it's heady, it's amazing, because she's finally got his number, she's finally fucked him up, made him totally lose it for her.
Afterwards, they're in sort of a heap on the floor, catching their breath. They're both still half-dressed; Eames is draped over Ariadne's lap, while she idly cards her hand through his hair.
"That was a sound investment," she says, amused.
He makes a noise of approval, shifting closer to her. "Knickers are a total loss, though."
She waves a hand. "There's plenty more where that came from."
"I certainly hope there is," he tells her. "Slightly tarnished young innocent is a good look on you."
She snorts. "If you start calling me 'Lo', I'm calling the police."
He grins dirtily. "Sting can't save you now, my little nymphet."
Ariadne's so startled that she laughs out loud. "That is the creepiest thing anyone has ever said to me."
"Why thank you," Eames says, looking pleased with himself.
A thought comes to her mind, an old one that's been banging around in her brain. She knows she shouldn't voice it, but it's like a sore that she can't keep from touching. "Am I trained?"
A flash of something passes over his face- pain, maybe, or regret; it looks so strange on his features. He doesn't say anything, just takes her hand and lifts it to his face, brushing a kiss across her knuckles.
Eames is like a tomcat; one day she's going to wake up and he's just going to be gone, gone, gone.
But it hasn't happened yet.