Annacat's note: Mostly Pre-movie, some during. Explicit language, but the sex isn't graphic.

Multiple pairings and mindfucks, but most is just conjecture by Eames (and you, my dear readers). This is a slight (crossover?) with Shutter Island, I used a few images from that book.

Hope you enjoy!

The reason Eames knows that Inception is possible is because Cobb told him.

Not exactly in that way, of course. Not straight out. Not a "Hey-Hey-Killed my wife-How?-Inception" conversation, but dreams speak clearly enough.

Or at least, she does.

Eames doesn't remember Cobb asking him to share a dream, just like Cobb doesn't remember the nights afterwards. Maybe Eames slipped in, one quiet night with Cobb's mind wide open and the steady drip-drip-drip of the IV tube as it slips it's way under Cobb's skin. Maybe it was after a job, or just before one. Maybe curiosity overcame common sense (of which he lacks most of, anyway). Eames doesn't know, or care, the beginning matters little once the idea takes root.

Once she takes root.

She watches him, that first night. She's so pretty, eyes bright and beautiful. So bright they hurt, Eames thinks as she stalks him through the hotel room until he leans back against the wide open window, her breath stinking of alcohol and blood. She wraps her arms around his shoulders, dainty hands rubbing his neck, calluses catching on the tiny hairs.

"You can be my lover," She proclaims, a hint of laughter vibrating through her chest like a far-away train.


"My other half," She kisses him, a quick peck across his lips. "My Dominic. You can stay here with me," She kisses him again, long and slow. "Together," And he kisses back as his hands scrabble for purchase on the ivory ledge. "Come back soon, baby," Mal laughs as she pushes him out the window.

Eames does come back, days later creeping into Cobb's hotel room. Arthur lies straight as a board in the only bed, face blank in a dreamless sleep while Cobb twists and moans on the cushioned recliner, the sounds drowning out the monotonous dripping of an IV tube.

If asked, as Eames did ask himself later, staring into the mirror before smashing it to tiny fragments with an full bottle of wine that dripped down like blood, why he listened to Mal, Eames would say it was concern for his fellow extractor, or the chance to lay hands on a beautiful woman.

The Forger is prepared now, Eames leers with Cobb's soulful eyes at the curves laid bare by the tossed-aside bathrobe.

She smiles, her eyes bright and inhuman as she kisses him, whispering about trains and beliefs and together forever.

She straddles him and pushes down hard, moaning as he fucks her. He throws her on the bed, she drags him down with her and for a moment, Eames thinks he might be going a little too fast, digging a little too deep into the dream. But then she laughs so he laughs and Cobb laughs from the empty elevator shaft as he plunges down and down and down and down and-

But the answer that makes him smile and nod to his shattered reflection is the fact that it's a challenge. Cobb has been into all of their dreams, yet none have been into his. Eames wants to know what makes him tick, the innermost secrets and desires. Eames wants to know why Cobb's greatest desire is to love himself.

And Eames has never been afraid to dream big.

Eames isn't surprised when Arthur corners him in a back alley. Arthur probably told Cobb he's off to get some groceries, heaven forbid the milk is an hour past the expiration date or they're out of lettuce. Arthur's not furious, not yet, but he's close, and Eames grins when he sees the wrinkles in Arthur's suit.

"What's got you all hot and bothered, darling?"


"Oh really? I never would've guessed." Arthur doesn't flush as the implication sinks in, though he does draw himself back, hands twitching from Eames's shirt collar to hang lifeless against his side.

"Mal is getting worse. I don't know how, or why" The practiced speech slides smoothly off Arthur's tongue, and Eames wonders if he's ever heard Arthur say or do anything spontaneously. Arthur draws a deep breath, "But you're the cause."

Eames shrugs, "You so sure about that?"

"Yes" the reply is quick, short and fast like gunfire. "And I want you to stop going into his dreams. Stay away from us."

"Us?" Eames whispers, a hint of mocking laughter vibrating through his chest. "Are you really worried about Cobb? Or are you just jealous 'cause now that Mal's all nice and sated he doesn't fuck you anymore? You're the Point Man, darling, you're not supposed to get involved."

Pain explodes in Eames face as Arthur punches him, blood dripping down the white undershirt as it splatters from Eames' nose.

"You don't know him! You don't know what he's like. What Mal's like. She - She's not a normal projection! Mal knows what's going on out here, in the real world. She watches from his eyes."

"You broke my dose! You broke my fuggin-!"

"I know Cobb. I know him because that's my fucking job! I don't know Mal, but I know when she's in control. And somehow you're making her stronger. You have to stop."

The sand sticks between his bare toes. Cobb's fingers play idly with the toy green shovel left abandoned.

She lifts above him, sits back down. A nice, easy rhythm, in-out-in-out. Like the waves lapping at his toes.

Her eyes squeeze shut as Eames releases inside her, and when she opens them they shine with unshed tears.

Eames knows that he can stop at any time. It's just a form of release, Eames thinks as he drags Cobb back to his hotel room. Cobb's more relaxed now, no longer running away, but trying to find a way back home. Mal hasn't interfered in a job for the first time in months. All in all, Eames is pretty proud of the work he's doing.

Arthur's gone to get detail on yet another Mark, some Asian guy, so Eames'll have to part ways with them for a while. He'll stay close, though, as close as someone can be with half the countries having a price on his head. Somewhere to the south of them, where it's warm. Eames is sick of all the ski trips he went on as a kid.

Nash is probably out boozing, Eames sneers to himself. How can an Architect, one whose very life depends on the details, allow himself to mess around like that?

Eames kisses Mal, her long nails drag along his back like broken glass, the slightest touch welling blood to their tips.

Her eyes are so bright, he thinks, staring into the sun as she readies the toy shovel. Like an animal's.

The shovel digs into his gut and breaks through, blood dripping into the sand and sticking to his body.

He doesn't scream this time.

Eames sleeps by himself these nights, the heat clings to his skin and perspires down the IV tube. He hasn't dreamt since he left for Mombasa.

He's been avoiding it, citing fatigue as his reason. But Eames knows the truth. He's afraid.

He just doesn't know of what.

The ocean waves crash against the rocky cliff face. Bits of metal and shards of glass are swept away with each blow.

Almost like a sandcastle.

Mal floats by the edge, feet hardly touching the ground. Her shoes are already lost in the water.

She beckons him, laughing. And she's beautiful. All perfection and grace, sharp edges and gentle curves. Eames knows she shouldn't be here, but he doesn't remember why. It doesn't matter, though. The dream feels real once you're in it.

It's only afterwards that he'll wonder why her teeth are stained with blood.

Eames feels nausea settle into the pit of his stomach when Cobb slips into the bar with Mal's furtive, hopeful eyes. He laughs, though, the mask settling so perfectly it feels almost real. Like a dream.

Cobb doesn't remember any of their dreams, or the nights they spent together. Cobb can't lie. And Mal, in her own, twisted way, can't either. The chase is routine, Cobb flashes Eames a quick grin as the latter leaps into the van, and all thoughts of declining the job fade into the wind with the stench of alcohol and blood.

But Mal doesn't taste like blood, she tastes like freedom. Wide open skies and endless sandy beaches. Eames thinks that being locked away would kill her.

Their toes dance along the edge of the cliff, and when they tumble down she still kisses him, even though he's not Cobb anymore.

It's then that Eames knows it isn't Cobb's dream.

Eames holds no ill feelings towards Arthur. Their friendly banter is just that, nothing more. Either that or Arthur's just very good at lying.

Arthur's moved on, already distancing himself from Cobb. Arthur does nothing without a purpose, without being in control. And the accidental brushes, the way he strokes her wrist while pulling out the tube, point very clearly towards his objective.

Ariadne will be good for him, Eames thinks benevolently as his kicks yet another chair out from under Arthur. Like a dream come true.

Eames isn't so sure about the others. He guesses it might be about money for Yusuf, and a sense of adventure for Saito. All that talk about regrets, how could Saito not go?

He's never experienced the thrill of creation, so he can't tell what drives Ariadne. He's a copier, not a builder, and it's no fun only fooling yourself.

Mal pleads with him not to go. To stay with her. "Don't get on that plane," Eames wonders if Cobb is having the same dream, a chair and a world away. "Don't leave me behind,"

She stares him down, and for all her soft tears and curves and smiles, her eyes are too bright, too sharp. Eames guesses, in a far off part of his mind that knows she isn't real, that for him it was her eyes that defined her. Not feelings of guilt or love or even lust. But her eyes.

"Then go." She whispers, and her eyes are bright like a dog's. A wolf's, maybe. "And if I find you again, I'll kill you."

She does kill him. Each and every night until the day they take off. But he has to see her before it's over.

Mal might not be good enough for Cobb.

But Eames thinks she's just right for him.

If anyone notices that the cliffs are shaped like buildings crumbling into the snow, no one mentions it, and Eames is grateful.

And it's funny, really, at the end of it all, that when Cobb shoots Mal, Eames doesn't know if she's Cobb's projection, or his own.

A/N: For those of you who caught the Shutter Island references (and a seven-word direct quote), congrats! Lemme know in a review, kk? (laughs nervously at the unsubtle hint). Love you anyway, even if you just take the time to read. BTW 1st Mal X Eames fic!