The first time she sees Eames as a woman doesn’t count. The first and last she sees of him is a glimpse of arch femininity, passing briskly through the hotel lobby. And anyway, both of them have better things to do than stand around and stare at each other.
The second time, she’s under by herself, or she thinks she is. She’s not doing much, just walking through a new layout by herself, checking on escape routes and paradoxes; it’s so much easier to see what she’s doing when she can actually see it.
When she’s satisfied, there’s still time on the clock, so she’s standing by the not-Thames and enjoying her handiwork.
The sound of footfalls on the bridge startles the hell out of her; she dreams a gun into her hand, levelling it at the complete stranger who’s walking towards her.
She lazily raises her hands, but she keeps walking, her hips swaying. “There’s no need for that, love.”
“Eames?” she asks, feeling ridiculous.
“Got it in one,” she says, smiling in a way that looks so much like him that Ariadne’s brain kind of hurts. “Just came down to see what you were up to. No need for gunplay.”
Ariadne shoves the pistol down the back of her jeans, turning back towards the river and leaning against the bridge’s railing. “I’m finished,” she tells her. “Just waiting for the countdown.”
“Seems like a waste, just standing around, when you could be doing much more interesting things.”
Ariadne cocks an eyebrow at her. “Like what?”
She shrugs. “Robbing a bank. Folding the city into little squares.” She smiles, predatory, her teeth bright white against her red lipstick. “Fucking.” Ariadne looks up at her in shock; Eames leans back on the railing, right next to her, taking advantage of the position to highlight her cleavage, the swell of her breast brushing against Ariadne’s arm. “Like what you see?” she asks, huskily.
She still feels it, the weird panic when people know she’s not straight before she tells them, even though she’s been out for years now. She snorts in amusement, even though her heart is racing a little. “Sorry, not my type.”
“Is this one of those philosophical sexuality crisis moments? Because I have been told I am indistinguishable from the real thing, for all practical intents and purposes.” Eames looks her up and down. “And I do have many intents and purposes.”
Ariadne shakes her head, motioning to her; Eames turns her face toward her, cocking an ear in her direction. Ariadne leans in close and whispers, “I like them with bigger tits.”
Eames pulls back, grinning, dirty and surprised. “Oh, I like you.” Ariadne is about to reply, but then the music kicks in. “Ah, well,” Eames says lightly. “Better luck next time.” Then she hitches up her skirt, climbs over the railing, and takes a flying leap into the water.
The next time, they’re on a training run with Arthur, gearing up for another job. This time Eames is a raven-haired, six-foot stunner; it doesn’t help that she’s wearing an obscene amount of tight black leather. Scratch that- what makes the black leather obscene is where she’s not wearing it.
“What the hell, Eames,” Arthur says, without malice in his voice. He’s looking her up and down, but coolly, the way someone might look at a statue.
Sometimes Ariadne thinks maybe she’s not the gayest person on the team.
“I need to practice,” Eames protests, pouting prettily at him.
Arthur just shrugs. He's indulgent like that sometimes, letting Eames get away with murder just as long as he doesn't get in the way; Ariadne's got to admit that it seems to make things much easier.
They end up pinned down; Ariadne makes a bottleneck to stop them, but they keep coming, and playing shooting gallery only has limited appeal. When Eames has had her fun, she pulls a grenade out of god knows where and lobs it at them. While the projections are regrouping, she grabs Ariadne by the waist, pulling her in for a fierce, biting kiss, their bodies pressed tight together.
“Better?” she asks.
“Not by much,” Ariadne admits.
“Damn,” she sighs. Then she shoots Ariadne in the head.
The next time Eames just shows up as her.
“One, no,” she says. “Two, is that really what I look like?”
She rolls her eyes. “You are at once so much more and so much less narcissistic than I hoped for.”
Persistence, as it turns out, is one of Eames’s virtues. He tries a whole host of female forms, springing them on her at odd times, usually just when she's forgotten about the whole thing. Fake-innocent college girls, stern older women, incense-scented hippies, even what Ariadne is fairly certain are a couple of prostitutes. He tries classy and trashy and tall and short and big and small and he still fails to hit the mark, every time.
On what must be the fourteenth or fifteenth time, he walks in with the PASIV, clacks it down next to her, and says, “I swear I’ve got it this time.”
Ariadne sets her book aside and offers him her wrist.
She’s sitting in a coffee shop; it looks vaguely familiar, like maybe it’s based on the place up the street where they go some mornings. Even though the place is full of projections, she knows Eames immediately when she sees him.
This iteration has curly black hair, swept up into a loose ponytail, falling artistically out of it to frame her face. She’s wearing a grey corduroy jacket that hugs her slim figure; it doesn’t quite meet over her full breasts, but she’s not showing much cleavage at all. Her jeans are close-fitting, worn and frayed, a gash in one of them revealing a swath of her soft skin. She’s smiling, just a little, and she looks at Ariadne shyly, settling her messenger bag on her shoulder. Her smile is just like his, her eyes lighting up the same way, just a little softer, warmer.
“Wow,” is the only thing Ariadne can think to say.
Eames tugs Ariadne up from her chair, leading her towards the stairwell at the back of the coffee shop, pulling her up the stairs, through the door, into a small, sunny bedroom. She pushes Ariadne back against the bed and crawls on top of her, kissing her slowly, thoroughly. Ariadne's honestly expecting hard-and-fast, get-it-out-of-the-way, but that's not in Eames's game plan, apparently. They make love all afternoon, until they're worn out, until the sunlight is gone, until the projections are scrabbling at the door, until the dream collapses around them.
Ariadne wakes up before Eames does, the dream vertigo making her head spin worse than usual, the feeling of separation between herself and the real world towering over her, and she touches her bishop just to be sure. Eames isn't a lot of help; he blinks awake, and he's all male, big and muscled as ever, nothing like he was just moments ago.
Ariadne stands up, trying to hide the fact that her legs are shaking as she walks over. She leans down over him, and before he can respond, she kisses him.
When she lets him go, he looks up at her, one eyebrow raised. “That was not exactly the reaction I was expecting,” he says carefully. “Though it is not at all unwelcome.”
“I never said I didn’t like guys,” she tells him.
Eames just stares at her for a moment. “All this work, when I could have just showed up here and said, ‘Hello, Ariadne, nice weather we’re having, would you like to fuck?’”
“But you didn’t,” she points out. “And you kept throwing beautiful women at me. It’s not like I was going to turn you down.”
“So you’ve just been toying with me this whole time?" Eames demands. There's a pause. "I really like you.”
Ariadne just grins.
The next time Eames drops in on one of her dreams, she’s all soft skin and curly black hair.
“Shut up,” she says, defensively. “It’s comfortable.”
Ariadne takes Eames’s hand in hers and whispers, “It’s a good look on you.”