Disclaimer: Characters are property of Chirstopher Nolan.

Mal meets Eames in Paris, a little more than a year after he'd gotten into the business of dream sharing. At this point, Eames can count all the jobs he's done on one hand and it was on the last one that he attempted forging. Mal is more experienced, has been doing the work since she was eighteen, and she's smiling wickedly at Eames as she strides across bar.

Her mouth and dress are a bright red, hair curling around her shoulders like dark smoke. Eames has never been to Paris before this last job, but his mates in school had said that the women were always gorgeous beyond belief and would make the first move. He'd scoffed at the idea, until Mal slips into the chair across from him and orders them both whiskeys.

"I've been hearing about you, Mr. Eames."

She's still smiling at him with eyes full of sparkle. And as she leans in to steal a smoke from his pack, Eames can't even find it in himself to be concerned that the woman knows his name. Instead, he offers up his lighter and Mal thanks him in French. He has to clear his throat and they sit in silence until the whiskey arrives. She idly swirls the drink for a moment before downing it in one shot. It is entirely possible that she is the sexiest woman that Eames will ever meet in his life. And that thought makes her even sexier.

"What type of things have you been hearing, dove?" Eames asks, carefully sipping his own drink.

Her smile only grows with that and, in an action that must have been on purpose; Mal looks him over as if she plans to devour Eames alive. At this point, he finds the idea pretty appealing himself. Mal doesn't devour him, though. Instead, she lounges back in her chair and passes him a folder that she seemingly conjured out of nowhere. Eames opens it and finds a short biography of some doctor in Budapest.

"Some friends of mine say you've got forging potential. I want you for that very reason."

Every syllable, especially the word want, is slowly pronounced and filled with another meaning. Eames blinks rapidly, wondering if he is looking at himself in the form of a French woman. Still, he takes the job without another moment of hesitation and swears that the woman across him is purring with pleasure. Definitely the sexiest woman Eames will ever meet.

"I was hoping that you'd agree. Now, how did you get here, Mr. Eames?"

The question seems ridiculous for a moment, until Eames realizes that he has no answer. Mal laughs sweetly across from him and flicks her wrist, freeing a silver top. It spins without falling until Eames wakes up, apparently on a train just west of Vienna.

Mal and Eames are drinking together after work, because they found they got on quite well after their first shared dream. They sit in a corner table, trading stories and flirting with whoever comes to get them more drinks. Each of them earn a handful of numbers, which delights Mal to no end and at the end of the night, they wind up splitting the cost of a cab back to the hotel.

Eames can't help but feel languid and his limbs seem to liquefy as he stretches out on the seat. Mal only laughs, a soft weight pressing against his side. It's nice, so Eames hooks an arm around her shoulder to guarantee that she won't be moving any time soon. The only response he gets is a laugh and Eames can't help but liken it to birdsong with the amount of alcohol he's had.

Naturally, Eames wakes up with a ridiculous hangover in the morning and spends half an hour in shower until his brain stops trying to beat free of his skull. Mal is waiting for him, looking far too amused and like she's in not nearly enough pain as she types away merrily on her laptop. Each click is like a bullet and Eames will never try to meet her shot for shot again, because there are some battles you just can't win.

The wedding and reception have gone off without a hitch. Mal is lovely as always, Dom finds the strength to ignore his hangover, and when Eames steals a finger's worth of frosting, it's from the back of the cake. Mal still notices though and mentions it as they spin lazily around the dance floor. All he does in response is dip her low and smile cheekily.

"I have half the mind you steal you away to elope." Eames tells her.

"My husband wouldn't like that very much, even if you did pay for drinks and lap dances last night."

Mal's eyes are warm as Eames shrugs helplessly. This time she dips him and a couple of people catcall, Dom among them from where he sits at the head table, chatting to a sliver of a man in the three-piece suit. The song ends, but they keep swaying until the next starts up. It's faster and Eames pulls Mal closer until their hips are touching.

"You really are gorgeous, dove. Dom is a lucky bastard."

He means it, because Mal is his closest friend and Eames could see himself settling down with a woman like her, in a different life. Instead, they've spent the past four years working with each other more often than not. Mal is regarded as one of the best extractors in the world while Eames' forges are unbeatable. When Dom came on as their architect a year and a half ago, he had said something about them being incredibly in tune with each other.

Eames personally thinks that it's because he and Mal are close as siblings. They've shared shitty hotel rooms and excellent take out and, in dreams; they've killed each other more times than either can count on both hands.

So, he really doesn't see the issue in giving Mal a peck when the second song ends. And yes, maybe it's more of a kiss on the mouth than a peck, but even as she slaps him, Mal can't keep the smile out of her eyes.

"Dom just dropped his drink." Mal reports, eyes glued to the scene over his shoulder. "I think he's going to try and kill you in a moment."

"Worth it." Eames laughs, dipping her one last time even though there is no music and Dom has a hand on his collar.

Including Mal, Eames is the third person in the world to know that the Cobbs are expecting. He likes to think that he would have gotten second if he'd been on the same continent, but he doesn't let that bug him. Instead, Eames orders for a basket of flowers and chocolates to be sent to Mal's house in LA, along with a note saying that he'd be along shortly.

It takes a week for Eames to wrap up his current job and get to California. He's grinning like an idiot as he maneuvers through the airport with a stuffed bear half his size, looking for Mal. She spots him first, nearly tackling Eames to the ground.

"That can't be safe for the baby." Eames points out with a laugh, hugging her tightly. "It's my duty as a future uncle to tell the child about what a horrible mother you are."

"Who said you'll be an uncle?" Mal shoots back.

Eames makes a face at her, shifting the bear so it's resting on his hip. Later, he insists on taking Mal to the nearest baby boutique in town and spending an absurd amount of money on a mahogany crib. A store clerk says that they're a gorgeous couple. She also goes bright red when Eames wraps an arm around Mal's shoulder and says. "Actually, she's my sister."

The mother-to-be only chides him on embarrassing innocent people later, as they try to fit Eames' purchase into her trunk.

They're in a dream right now, sitting at a table and splitting an expensive meal. It's an easy job, but they need Eames to forge the mark's husband in order to stage an affair. Mal runs one heeled foot up his leg, making Eames grin and lean forward.

"Your husband doesn't seem all that fond of this idea." He points out as he takes her hand.

Mal laughs softly and glances across the restaurant. Dom is at the bar with the mark, working his first job as an extractor. It's not smart for Eames to look, but he's sure that Mal's husband is squinting like mad as Eames leans over a kisses his friend. The whole thing is terribly awkward, even if Mal looks fetching with her hair up and a chiffon dress on.

She has a smirk on her mouth when Eames pulls back. "They're starting to come over. The mark looks terribly upset already."

"That seems to happen whenever we kiss, dove."

The rest of the job goes off without a hitch. Mal and Dom leave right away in order to head back home where their sitter is waiting, leaving Eames and the Cobb's point man to clean up. He's awfully serious in dreams, but now that they're just packing up and burning evidence, Arthur seems relaxed.

"Kissing her wasn't part of the plan," Arthur says, tossing file after file into the bonfire they've built. "And while I know Mal is pretty, you really should control yourself, Mr. Eames."

"It's dead useful for distracting projections. Besides, you'll find that I can control myself very well when it suits me, darling."

Eames waggles his eyebrows and Arthur lets out a snort that turns to a chuckle that turns to the two of them laughing like madmen as the fire casts shadows. Eames watches attentively and notes how they cover Arthur's eyes, the hollow of his throat, and his dimples.

He doesn't even feel ashamed when, later that night; he calls Mal so they can discuss, because one of the things they have in common is a complete fascination with Dom's preferred point man.

They're sitting on the same couch when the clock chimes one and Eames is still wearing the cardboard tiara that Mal shoved onto his head when he first arrived. It proudly declares 'Happy New Year' in golden letters and if he moves too much, glitter falls from it like snow.

Mal is smiling, eyes on her husband as he scoops a sleeping James up. They'd been betting on whether or not the one-year-old would make it to midnight and Eames is about five dollars richer. Phillipa is asleep against his knee, even if earlier in the night she whined about how scary his new beard was. Mal's eyes are trained on it now, still smiling.

"I know it's cold in Copenhagen, but that thing really is hideous."

Eames makes a wounded face, stroking his beard lovingly as he points out that he wouldn't have to take jobs in Copenhagen if she's just hire him for a job. They've only worked together a handful of times since Phillipa was born and none since James. Which doesn't really bother Eames, because he knows that he can always pop in for a visit, but there's something about the sight of Mal shooting projections that nothing can compete with.

"Unfortunately, we can't all be fabulous globe trotters forever. Dom and I would hate to leave the children for anything and no one needs our services in LA." Mal smile grows a little wickeder then and her voice drops to a purr. "We do, however, plan on doing some independent research to keep from getting rusty."

Eames raises an eyebrow, but then Dom comes back for Phillipa and Mal stands up in order to kiss him. Dom makes a surprised noise, but still shifts his daughter onto his hip when Mal curls a hand around his neck. Feeling very much like he's watching a movie, Eames laughs and tells them to get a room. Mal pulls away to remind them that they have a whole house and casually flips him off.

This is the last time Eames sees her alive.