Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Inception, even though I really wish I did.

A/N: I had this story planned out months ago so I just bit the bullet tonight and cranked it out. It might not be my best writing, but I've really missed writing for Inception and I just wanted to get something out there. Eames/Mal is such an underrated pairing, anyway. They need all the attention they can get.

Mal finds you tucked away in a corner of South Africa, and you've been expecting her.

She shows up at your doorstep in the middle of the afternoon, skin slightly damp from droplets of warm summer rain. She's a vision in that sunny yellow dress- Paris, you think, you'd bought that for her in Paris- with her hair all wet and windswept, teeth bared in a gleaming smile.

She looks so much like she did the last time you saw her that for a moment, you think you must be dreaming. The woman in front of you is not the woman that the rumors are being spread about, that Arthur has called and warned you about, his voice tinny and thin over the telephone line. She's not that woman, and you knew she never could be- couldn't be that cold or that cruel or as sullen and surely as everyone has been saying.

Darling, you say, darling, come inside.

You notice she's shivering when you lead her inside. Trembling from head to toe.

Darling, she says, darling, I've missed you.

Her fingers curl around the curve of your neck and when she kisses you, she tastes like rainwater and something you've missed more than you realized. Her lips are soft, better than you remember, and you're glad when you notice that the subtle wafts of her floral perfume haven't changed.

Darling, she says, darling, I need your help.

Its documents she says she wants, says she needs them to finalize a plan.

The pad of your thumb brushes against the soft skin of her cheek and you say yes, yes darling, whatever you need, because how could you ever say no?

There's a flash in her eyes, something tender, something like affection, and she smiles that smile of hers, all predatory and alluring and she says thank you, thank you darling, thank you for believing in me.

Always, you say, always, darling.

And that's when you see it there, the change in her, the person she's become. That smile on her face, that's not Mal's smile- not the one you used to put there, back when you were only kids and in love and the world was yours to conquer. That smile, this woman- they're dangerous, seductive like a siren, and not Mal at all.

But you ask her what she needs anyway, touch her curls and twirl them around your finger, listen while she talks about Dom and about dreaming and how much she misses her family, the one you wished she realized was just a plane ride away.

You wonder what's happened to her, that bright, lovely woman you once knew, because you can't see her there any longer. She's not your Mal, not the woman you love, the one you would go to the ends of the earth and back for.

But somewhere, somehow, she is still Mal so you will go to the ends of the earth, bend to every silly whim and fancy, scour the globe to find what makes her happy.

It comes in the form of false credentials, of faked evaluations and forged signatures that are produced over a span of just a few hours, but are guaranteed to fool even the best and most seasoned of police men. That's what you promise her when you hand them over, brushing your fingers across the backs of her delicate hands, the ones you used to hold and squeeze for hours on end. The ones you know you'll never get the pleasure of touching again.

And she smiles at you, and that smile, your smile, the one you love so much, is back.

Darling, she says, you are so like him, you know. Like my Eames. She touches your cheek, strokes it gently with her thumb. I always loved him.

Make sure you tell him that when you see him again, you say, and you force yourself to smile. And give the kids a kiss for me, yeah?

When the phone call comes six days later, you decide to pretend that she did.