There are at least a dozen peanut butter sandwiches in the stack, but this doesn’t appear to deter Arthur as he methodically unwinds the twisted neck of the bread bag and extracts two more slices, dips his knife into the jar, and starts making another.
“Yusuf!” Eames hisses, cutting a glare across the flat to where Yusuf is playing Halo, happily oblivious. “He’s at it again.”
Yusuf pauses the game and twists back to look over his shoulder at Arthur and the mile-high stack of sandwiches. “Ah,” he says, “yes, we’re working on that.”
Eames takes a moment to level a particularly exasperated look in Yusuf’s direction, but it’s quite obviously lost on him as he’s already unpaused the game and resumed shooting people or aliens or whatever one shoots in Halo. And yes, alright, it’s hardly an emergency — Arthur’s sleepwalking has mostly involved this sort of mundane and harmless if compulsive activity — but Eames would rather like if Yusuf showed some sort of remorse for the side effects inflicted by his experimental mix du jour.
But they all have their roles to play on the job. If Yusuf is the unethical druggist, and Arthur the willing lab rat, then it falls to Eames to play mother hen, to take Arthur gently by the elbow and reassure him that yes, that’s probably more than enough lunches for the near future, well done you, let’s just see about going down the corridor and checking that the beds are all made. Arthur asleep is distinct from Arthur awake in tractability if nothing else. He smiles sweetly and goes along with Eames’ suggestions, and it’s only a minute or two before Eames has coaxed him back into his bed and into a horizontal position more usual for unconsciousness.
“Still working on it,” says Yusuf the next time, when Arthur’s very determinedly hoovering the front entrance with a vacuum cleaner that is neither plugged in, nor actually a vacuum cleaner. Eames calmly wrests the lacrosse stick from Arthur’s grip and says, “I’m half tempted to hand you a duster and set you to work,” and Arthur leans into Eames and casts him a loopy grin and says, “But actually I need to finish the dossier on Angela Lansbury, Cobb needs it for tomorrow.”
“Honestly,” says Eames, guiding Arthur towards his bed yet again, “even your sleepwalking dreams are boring and terrible.”
The next night they’re all asleep, and it’s not until Eames stumbles out of bed in need of a midnight piss that he notices the sounds coming from the living room. Arthur’s paging through his notes methodically; if it weren’t for the fact that the lights are all out, Eames would almost think he was awake this time.
“Come on, then,” says Eames, taking Arthur by the elbow. He’s getting quite used to that, to the warm sharp point of Arthur’s arm poking into the hollow of his hand, to the way Arthur moves at his guidance. “Come along, darling, that can wait until morning.”
“The cat’s messed it all up,” insists Arthur, showing the first signs of resistance. Possibly Yusuf’s formulations are starting to change the side effects after all, though not yet for the better. “He came in and organized everything by date of modification instead of alphabetically by last name.”
“He’s a very naughty cat,” says Eames, “though I must point out that it’s rare for cats to know the alphabet well. You should be impressed he managed chronological sequencing.”
“You'll note,” says Arthur, huffily, “I didn’t say he did it right.”
“How dreadful,” says Eames. “Up you get. There’s a good boy.”
And Arthur gets up and leaves his files scattered, follows Eames towards his own bedroom in the flat they’re renting during the job. Eames gets him settled — here’s another thing he’s growing used to, tucking the coverlets up under Arthur’s stubbly neck-bearded jaw, covering up his narrow shoulders and the pea-green t-shirt that reads I’m an architect - I do it with models.
They all sleep for a living, effectively, but there’s something unsettling about Arthur in this state. Eames lies awake for a long time trying not to think about it.
“Right,” says Arthur, “fuck it, I’m going to go lay down for a bit.”
“Lie down,” Yusuf says. “You mean ‘lie down’.” He looks up from his titration apparatus. “You used the transitive verb.”
Arthur looks at him, steady and dire.
“Lie or lay,” Eames ventures, looking up from his files, “I don’t give a shit so long as you stay there.”
“I’ll do my best,” says Arthur. “I told you I locked my door last night, for all the good it did.”
“Well, if you find yourself dreaming of chores,” Eames says, “I’ve got three shirts that need ironing.”
Arthur doesn’t bother replying, just grunts tiredly and trudges towards his room. He looks awful, he really does. For all the time he’s spending under on this job, pulling double duty as architect and point, he’s clearly not getting much rest thanks to Yusuf’s new somnambulic formulation. There are great dirty circles under his eyes, and his already spare frame is looking leaner by the day.
“You need to work it out faster,” says Eames, a little more sharply than he intended.
Yusuf looks over and sighs. “I’m doing my best, here.”
“We’re no good with a point who’s dead on his feet during the job,” Eames says.
“I know, I know,” Yusuf says. “We’ll figure it out.”
But Arthur doesn’t budge during his afternoon nap. He closes his bedroom door and that’s the last they see or hear of him for three hours, give or take the occasional soft snore.
“Told you I’d sort it out,” Yusuf says.
“Time will tell,” says Eames, unconvinced.
“I’m just saying,” says Yusuf, “he’s not ironing shirts.”
“Bravo,” says Eames, “please bend over so that I may pin a red, red rose on your luscious arse.”
Eames wakes in the wee hours, but this time it’s not a full bladder but the cut of light under his bedroom door. “Fucking,” he says, “fucking — no. Christ. Yusuf, you tosser.”
Arthur’s ironing, god save them all, the iron plugged in and steaming and it’s a wonder he’s not burning his hand off in his state, running the searing hot metal over his shirts, stood there in his boxers and t-shirt with his hair going three ways at once.
“I was taking the piss, about the shirts,” says Eames, closing his hand round Arthur’s elbow. “You’ll finish in the morning, darling, let’s go to bed now.”
Arthur looks over at Eames, sharp and startled. “What? Shit, you scared me.”
“Oh,” says Eames, “you’re really awake this time?”
“Yeah, I’m fucking awake,” says Arthur, calm and quick, “I’m starching my collars. What does it look like?”
“You’ll forgive my incredulity,” says Eames, “only I wouldn’t put it past you to be starching collars whilst completely asleep.”
“How’s this for proof,” says Arthur, frowning slightly, going back to his ironing, “go fuck yourself.”
“Oh, no,” says Eames, “it’s no trouble, I delight in making sure you’re safe and well, darling, stop embarrassing us both with these effusive flights of gratitude.”
Arthur pauses, hovering the iron over his shirt-back, the clouds of steam huffing out over his forearm. “Get your wrinkly shitty shirts out here,” he says, “and we’ll call it even.”
Eames lets go of Arthur’s elbow and fetches the shirts, dumps them over the free end of the ironing board. “Do sleep eventually,” he says, though he’s not sure why he cares. Arthur’s a grown man. He’s awake and in full possession of his faculties and Eames doesn’t need to coddle him even a little, now.
“Yeah,” says Arthur, “sure.”
If Arthur is the only one of them who dreams recreationally, thinks Eames, then he should at least have the common courtesy to dream of something other than making lunches or hoovering or filing. Arthur should reclaim all their lost dreams on behalf of the collective of professional dreamers; Arthur should be dreaming of flying, of circuses, of mad parties and unlikely final exams and endless road trips with random celebrities. Arthur should be fucking, good lord. Eames hasn’t had a proper sex dream in ages, he longs for one, misses the feeling you get the morning after when you spot the person who guest-starred, and you come over all randy and awkward and embarrassed in one indrawn breath. If Arthur’s sleepwalking he should have the decency to be humping household appliances, not — not spreading condiments on bread. He is exasperatingly pedantic, even when asleep.
They do the job; Arthur’s dreamscape is sleek, perfect. There is not an unironed shirt to be seen on any projection, every floor is hoovered, and Eames has no doubt that every file is alphabetized perfectly and no one lacks for a neatly made sandwich in their bag lunch, though he doesn’t bother to check. They do the job. The job gets done. Transitive verb.
Normally there’s a planned walkaway and no one makes contact for a predetermined length of time, but the gig was low-risk, low-exposure. They spend one last night in the rented flat because they get done too late for most red-eye flight check-in times. They go back to their shared living room and open some beers. Yusuf passes round a joint. They gossip about other criminals, and tell tall tales of extractions gone wrong, extractions gone right. Yusuf retells the story about the elephant, the facial mask, and the pup tent, and Arthur laughs so hard he wipes his eyes, after. They’re all a little stoned, a little drunk. Happy, well-paid, self-satisfied.
“I didn’t do anything,” says Arthur, really working at the stub end of Yusuf’s joint, and blowing out a cloud of marijuana smoke on a faint cough. “Untoward?”
“Alas,” says Eames, “no. You’re an extremely uptight somnambulist.”
“So I never,” Arthur says, and clears his throat aggressively, “said anything.”
“You made mention of a dyslexic cat,” Eames offers.
“Huh,” says Arthur, “well, that’s a relief, I guess.”
“Considering I spent a few hours inside your head today,” Eames says, “I feel like I scarcely know you at all.”
“That’s probably for the best,” says Arthur. “Imagine if our roles were reversed.”
“I’d just be humping the dishwasher,” says Eames.
“What,” says Arthur, straightening up a little, confused.
“Never mind,” says Eames. “I’m off to bed.”
Eames comes awake as his cheek makes contact with his pillowcase, the cool soft cotton jolting him back into reality. “Oh shit,” he says, “wait. Why am I getting into bed all over again?”
“Because I say so,” says Arthur, somewhere nearby, and suddenly Eames connects the warmth at his shoulder with the touch of Arthur’s sure hand. “Go to sleep, Mr. Eames.”
“What was I doing?” Eames asks, sitting up, horrified. “Oh god, did I try to passionately take the microwave from behind?”
Arthur’s fingers clench as he registers that Eames is fully awake, and then he laughs shortly. “No, no,” he says, “just — you’re fine. Go back to sleep.”
“What did I do?” Eames asks, not so easily placated. “Arthur. Just — tell me. I don’t remember a thing.”
Arthur’s expression is difficult to make out in the dark of Eames’ bedroom. His hesitation is audible, though. “You — you were, ah.”
“Oh, christ,” says Eames, reaching under the covers, checking, “did I have my cock out?”
“No,” says Arthur hastily. “Just — you woke me up.” He pauses. “Getting into bed with me.”
“Jesus,” says Eames, heartfelt.
“You didn’t try anything,” Arthur says, then adds, “unless you count spooning.”
“Fucking Yusuf,” says Eames, “what the fuck is in that shit he’s giving us, bloody hell? Turns you into Martha Stewart and me into”—
“It’s fine,” says Arthur, “you’re a good hugger.”
“Go fuck yourself,” says Eames.
“I mean,” says Arthur, “it’s not like it means anything. It’s not like I’m secretly obsessed with cleaning.”
Eames probably lets the silence go a little too long, after that statement.
“I am a little obsessed with cleaning,” says Arthur. “I find it soothing.”
Eames’ reach is instinctive, blind in the darkness, but his hand closes unerringly on Arthur’s warm pointy elbow. He slides his grip up and squeezes Arthur’s biceps, the unlikely sleek bulk of hard muscle just under the hem of his t-shirt sleeve. “I don’t remember it,” he says, “getting into bed with you.”
“It wasn’t really that exciting,” says Arthur. “I pretty much jumped out the second you hit the mattress.”
“Did you want to give it another go,” Eames says, “without the element of surprise?”
He can feel the bump of Arthur’s pulse in some big vein on the underside of his upper arm, the way it goes from a steady thump-thump to a more insistent thrum. “Yeah,” says Arthur, “we could both stay awake and see if it works better.”
It doesn’t take long to get settled, to get Arthur’s narrow body slotted up against Eames’ own; this seems unlikely, given that they’ve never tried this before, but maybe Arthur was exaggerating how quickly he reacted earlier. Maybe Arthur let Eames find this exact comfortable position: thigh over Arthur’s, hips tilted just so, and Arthur’s head pillowed on Eames’ shoulder, Arthur’s ear close enough to kiss.
“You’re nicer to touch than I expected,” says Eames, “even if you’ve awful dreary taste in dreams.”
“That’s not fair,” exhales Arthur slowly, burrowing into Eames’ neck, “you’ve barely even started sorting out the rabbits and already you’re way ahead in the scoring system.”
“Sorting rabbits,” repeats Eames.
“I told you,” insists Arthur, “the steamboats get loaded up first and then we can have ice cream with Justin Timberlake.”
Eames dips his head and kisses Arthur’s ear. “Just as you like, darling,” he says, “so long as you stay put.”