Sleep is a complicated matter for those in their line of business. Those who don't start out with sleep issues -- the military grunts, the cocky thieves, the clever con men -- usually develop them, either out of paranoia or simply too much knowledge. Once you know about subconscious security, you can't help but worry about your own. Eames knows people who are insomniacs, hypersomniacs, sleepwalkers, people whose Circadian rhythms are shot completely to hell, and those are just the conditions that can be brought to the local hospital and explained without shifty eyes and a hand on your gun.
He's been lucky so far in that he's managed to avoid developing any of the really serious conditions. The worst Eames has is that he's a light sleeper, and he's hardly the lightest of those he knows. That honour belongs to Yusuf. Eames roomed with Yusuf one time in Mombasa, and in the middle of the night he crept to the fridge to steal the piece of cake that Yusuf told him he was not allowed to have under any circumstances. Eames might have listened if Yusuf had been talking about a sandwich or some leftover noodles, but this was cake and Eames has a slight problem with cake. It just sort of flies into his mouth whenever it's around. So there he was creeping, when Yusuf woke up, screamed, and stabbed him with a needle.
There are many things wrong with this story, least of all how fucking quiet Eames had been in his creeping and still, and still, Yusuf knew.
Ariadne is a snorer. Cobb is a deep sleeper.
Arthur...well, Eames used to think that Arthur was the most normal out of all of them. Whenever they were on a job, whenever they woke up after being hooked to the PASIV, Arthur always looked perfectly put together. No concerns at all, unlike Cobb, who would need some slapping on the face and Ariadne, who would let out a final snore as loud as the bells in a cathedral before snapping awake. Arthur didn't have any of that. He was always the second to wake -- after Yusuf -- and the first to put himself back together.
Eames asked Yusuf once. "What's Arthur's tic?"
"What?" Yusuf replied.
"His sleeping tic. You know. Everyone's got one."
And Yusuf shrugged and said, "Eames, my friend, are you one of those people who think it's appropriate and charming to watch others sleep? Do you go see Twilight and sigh over how Edward sits by Bella's bed and holds vigil over her all night?"
Eames said, all offended, "I'm totally Jacob."
"When you take your shirt off, you are certainly hairy enough to be a werewolf," Yusuf agreed, and Eames chalked it up as a failed attempt to learn more about Arthur. Why he wanted to know was no secret. This was Arthur they were talking about, smooth badass motherfucker Arthur whose badassery did not preclude him bringing oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for everyone that one time they stayed up late reconfiguring the PASIV or lending Eames a scarf that one time when it was really windy. Granted, Cobb had made the suggestion for Arthur to lend Eames the scarf, but Eames liked to think there was some extra special feeling in the way Arthur handed it over. It was warm from his own skin, after all, and Arthur could have given him a scarf that wasn't his favourite. So, true love, obviously.
Let no one deny that true love hurts.
Oh, it wasn't so bad the first twenty times Arthur turned down Eames' offers for hot, hot sex -- the first fifteen had been just to see Arthur's expression; the last five had been sincere. It wasn't so bad that time Arthur shot Eames in a dream, and then shot him again in the next one -- which he swore was an accident the second time, but come on, Arthur was too good with guns to make an accident like putting a bullet in Eames' face. It wasn't even that bad when they finally got down to doing it, fucking in a hotel room in Sydney, pressing each other up against the full-length windows, and Arthur moved in one direction and Eames miscalculated, and Arthur's knee ended up jamming Eames in the balls.
Okay, even ball-jamming wasn't as bad as what Arthur's sleeping habits turn out to be. Because the pain then was fierce but only lasted a while, whereas Eames and Arthur have been having sex for two months now, squeezing each other into their schedules whenever they can, and it's fantastic, okay, it's fucking brilliant. But Eames would like to get some goddamn sleep when Arthur stays over. Instead he gets pushed, shoved, kicked, and generally beaten up just by being within a foot of Arthur sleeping.
He doesn't mind sexy bruising. But when he's getting a black eye because Arthur's elbow jammed him in the middle of the night, and Cobb is shooting him overly concerned looks, that's when it's time to get serious.
"We're going to work out before we go to sleep," Eames declares.
Arthur gives him a bored look. "I think that's a rather harsh assessment of your own skills in bed."
"A workout that's not sex," Eames clarifies.
"What's the point in that?" Arthur asks, and crawls over to him.
"How do you feel about bondage?" Eames asks.
"You mean holding me down when I'm asleep?" Arthur asks. "How do you feel about a third bullet in your face?"
"Herbal supplements!" Eames says, holding up the brown grocery bag.
Arthur looks up from the newspaper that's he reading. The sight of him in Eames' flat, lounging around in boxers and a t-shirt, waiting for Eames to get home, is one that Eames never thought he'd get to see. It's strange and rather nice. Eames isn't used to this kind of domesticity; this isn't his usual brand of fuck and run. At least, the niceness lasts until Arthur opens his mouth. "Did you just buy that from the skeezy drug store down the street? The one where you have to say the password to get inside?" he asks.
"Uh," Eames says, and decides it's probably not a good idea to crush the pills into Arthur's coffee. Arthur has a second sense about these things.
"Okay, so these new supplements are Yusuf-approved," Eames says.
"That means next to nothing to me," Arthur replies.
"Ouch, I'm going to tell Yusuf you said that."
"Yusuf is a great chemist. I trust him professionally, completely. But he's also your friend and easily bribed by Star Wars action figures." Arthur narrows his eyes at him. "How do I know there isn't something in these supplements that'll make me grow two penises or something?"
Eames pauses to think.
"That was not a suggestion," Arthur says, correctly interpreting the silence following his remark.
"B-but double the pleasure!" Eames replies.
"A relaxing bath!" Eames says. "Look. I have candles and music and then I can massage your legs before going to bed."
"You know what," Arthur replies with a smirk that does awful things to Eames' blood pleasure but wonderful things to his libido. "I'd rather just fuck."
"That works too," Eames says, and damn it, now they're just back to attempt number one. At least the sex is knock it out of the ballpark fantastic, even if afterwards, when Arthur is burying his face into Eames' pillows, his leg kicks out and knocks the air from Eames' lungs.
How Eames finds the solution is luck, really, though he'll tell anybody who asks -- and nobody asks, but that doesn't stop Eames from telling -- that it was just a matter of logic. Of observation. Of good research skills. Because he's noticed that when he puts his hand on Arthur's head, usually to hold on to him while kissing, Arthur's eyes will droop and his body will go weightless. Sometimes he even makes a sound that's like a purr. Eames knows this and completely exploits this when he wants to get his way, typically in bed.
It finally occurs to him to try it in sleep.
So three months after they fuck against the windows in Sydney, Eames turns over in bed, dodges Arthur's roving limbs, and gently strokes him on the crown of his head.
Arthur lets out a little breathless gasp. His body goes still, and for a second Eames is slightly worried that he's killed him, that he's found the mythical Arthur's Heel or something like that. But then Arthur shifts closer to him and buries his nose in Eames' shoulder. Eames normally does not like Arthur to get that close when they're sleeping because that's just asking for much anguish, but Arthur sighs into Eames' skin and actually stays relatively still. Eames waits five minutes, and then ten, barely willing himself to breathe. But Arthur doesn't kick, punch, or headbutt. At all.
"I am a genius," Eames says to the air. "I am goddamn Einstein."
Arthur makes a chortling sound like he's laughing. Eames looks over at him, but Arthur's still asleep. Figures, he's able to condescendingly respond to Eames even when unconscious. But then one of his hands rests on Eames' belly, warm and easy.
Eames smiles. Then he sleeps.
Unfortunately scratching Arthur's head does not magically solve the other difficult parts of Arthur's personality. Like, when they are arguing about which model of gun is better, scratching Arthur's head does not cause him to change his opinion and see Eames' superior argument. Or when they are at the grocery store because they have a midnight craving for Twinkies, scratching Arthur's head does not cause Arthur to stop arguing with the cashier over the coupons. What a cheapskate. Apparently Arthur doesn't mind spending thousands of dollars on clothes and art and weapons, but he'll bicker over how many pennies he wants to shell out for a box of Twinkies.
Nor will scratching Arthur's head cause him to change his mind about the most efficient way in which to approach their next mark. Ariadne shoots them an odd look and says, "Whatever kinky business you guys are up to, I don't want to know. At all. So don't tell me."
"Amen," Cobb mutters.
"What the hell are you doing?" Arthur asks Eames, trying to bat his hand away, but let the record stand that Eames is a persistent bastard. "Why are you touching my head again?"
"Your hair is so lovely," Eames murmurs. "Tell me, what kind of shampoo do you use?"
"Still don't want to know!" Ariadne sings.
"I use Herbal Essences," Yusuf offers helpfully. "I've always found it effective in making my hair shiny and luscious. You can touch mine if you'd like." Ariadne turns to him with a reply and they strike up a conversation about the benefits of various shampoos and conditioners while Arthur frowns at the sudden change of subject and Cobb wanders away to phone home and check in on his children.
Eames scratches Arthur behind the ears.
"I'm not a dog. Or a six-year-old who needs a prize," Arthur points out.
"Hey guys, check out Yusuf's hair! It really is that soft!" Ariadne interrupts, while Yusuf beams and beams.
Arthur looks down at his careful charts and meticulously drawn diagrams. "I hate my life," he mutters. "What the -- no, Eames, that is not an invitation for more head scratching; what are you on? Is this some kind of fetish?"
"Oh, as if you don't have worse, Mr. I Like To Put On Short Shorts And--"
"La la la, not listening!" Ariadne says.
So stroking Arthur's head is not an open invitation towards pliability. It only works when Arthur is sleeping and/or about to get laid. But, as Eames lies in bed later that night with Arthur curled up against his side in a warm ball of skin and pyjamas, and his right hand is nestled comfortably along the groove of Eames' hip with his thumb trailing over Eames' tattoo -- well, Eames is pretty damn proud of himself. And this way, he gets the peaceful sleep he needs to wake up bright and early the next morning and surprise a still-groggy Arthur with a blowjob.
Win/win, no doubt about it.