stumbled walked perfectly down the hall, until Ariadne’s evil drafting table came out of nowhere. Arthur bounced back, accidentally knocking a cup of pencils to the ground with a clatter.
“Shhhh!” Arthur said, finger to his lips for maximum effect. When he was certain they would stay quiet, he continued on his way. He had a goal in mind, and he needed to reach it.
The goal: Eames’ bed, but not in the obvious sense. Eames - the vagrant - had adopted one of Yusuf’s kittens, and that kitten was currently snuggled on Eames’ ridiculously fluffy duvet cover. Though he’d deny it to his death, Arthur was a master cuddler, and by god, he’d cuddle something tonight if it killed him.
Arthur couldn’t ever decide whether he liked living with coworkers on jobs or not. His lists of pros and cons always came out too even. On the con side was the fact that he had to live with other people, and he didn’t often like people. On the plus side was Eames (and sometimes Ariadne), who he did actually like. The best thing, though - Eames slept with his door open.
Slinking stealthily inside, Arthur spotted the mass of fur curled up against Eames’ back.
“Xerxes,” he whispered. “Xerxes.” The kitten cracked his eyes open a slit, then stretched lazily when he saw he had an audience.
“Hey little guy,” Arthur breathed as he climbed onto the bed. Eames was surprisingly still asleep, and Arthur took full advantage.
Arthur situated himself on his back before scooping Xerxes up and plopping him down on his chest. Arthur stroked behind his ears, and Xerxes pressed his head into the touch before ducking away to get Arthur to pet the other side.
“Putting aside the fact that Yusuf needs to spay his cat,” Arthur whispered, “I’m glad you’re here.”
Eames rolled over so that he was facing Arthur, but he didn’t wake, so Arthur stayed where he was. He was just going to pet Xerxes for a few more minutes, then he’d leave. It didn’t matter that Xerxes was a warm, comfortable, purring ball of fur on his chest, or that Eames smelled really good, and was really warm himself. He’d leave in a few minutes. Really.
It was 3:13 a.m. when Eames felt the bed dip. He knew because the clock was in front of him. He knew it was Arthur, because his voice clearly said, “Hey, little guy,” in what sounded like it was meant to be a whisper, but was more stage whisper than anything. Eames blinked in bafflement at the clock and stayed perfectly still.
When he’d retired, he’d left Arthur in the glow of his laptop. Everyone else, sensibly, had gone to bed hours earlier, but Eames had stayed up scrolling through photos of the mark’s P.A. and Arthur had been... actually, Eames didn’t really know what Arthur was doing. Whatever it was had him frowning at his laptop and periodically clacking furiously at the keys. He’d helped himself to a gin and tonic earlier and was on his second glass and 137th round of mad typing when Eames stretched up and decided enough was enough.
Eames had to walk behind Arthur’s chair to get to the hallway to the bedrooms, and stopped briefly to glance at Arthur’s screen. It was a spreadsheet with dollar values, and Arthur kept flipping back to an online currency calculator. There were times Eames really didn’t envy Arthur’s position. Ostensibly it was the extractor’s job to manage the finances, but Eames knew one of the reasons Cobb kept Arthur around was so that he wouldn’t have to bother. Eames rubbed Arthur’s shoulders for a second, which, unbelievably, stopped Arthur’s fingers.
“Don’t go to bed until every penny’s accounted for, yeah?” Eames teased.
Arthur just hummed and sagged into the impromptu massage. Eames pressed his thumbs into some particularly hard knots of muscle before lightly tapping Arthur’s shoulders and heading off down the hallway. “G’night,” he said.
“‘Night,” Arthur replied, and it was a second before Eames heard anything else, but instead of more key-tapping, he heard Arthur get up and open the fridge. Eames smiled and entered his room.
He had no reason whatsoever to expect a visitor, so hearing Arthur, clearly having worked his way through a good portion of the gin, macking on Eames’ cat — on Eames’ bed — was surprising indeed. Not wanting to wake and startle Arthur into leaving, Eames feigned sleep and with a deep, tired breath, rolled heavily over. He felt Arthur stiffen for a second, then relax.
There was a few more minutes of silence, just the soft movement of Arthur scritching Xerxes behind the ear, when Arthur spoke again.
“Must be nice,” Arthur whispered, actually whispering this time. “Anybody cuddles you when you’re in the mood. You’re a cat. You just... go wherever and butt your head against someone and even if they think you’re annoying, you still get petted.”
Eames kept his breathing even, but he was fully awake by then.
“You just climb all up in his lap, right?” Arthur lengthened his pets to stroke right down Xerxes’s fluffy tail. Aside from the slurring, Eames knew Arthur must be drunk because he’d never heard him speak so candidly and intimately to anyone before. “Lucky bastard,” Arthur muttered sleepily.
Before long, Arthur’s petting slowed and stilled, and his breathing evened out, heavy. Eames risked reaching out, at first just to scritch his own hand through Xerxes’s fur, but finding Arthur’s hand there, Eames cautiously brushed his fingers against Arthur’s skin. Arthur breathed in deeply, suddenly, like one who’s just realized they fell asleep, and with no believable recourse, Eames just stilled his hand and left it there as if he were still asleep.
Arthur didn’t even wait to see that Eames was still out. He gently lifted Xerxes off his chest and onto the bed between the two of them, then turned to face Eames. He petted Xerxes for a moment until the cat decided he was fine being where he was put and settled down, then Arthur moved his hand to Eames’ shoulder and stroked up and down Eames’ arm. He hummed like he wanted to say something, but didn’t. Eames would have paid good money to know what that was going to be.
The thoughts spinning around Eames’ own head were loud enough, and they wouldn’t settle down. What did Arthur mean earlier? Was Xerxes lucky to sit in Eames’ lap? Or just any lap? And was Arthur really that way anyway? Current evidence suggested yes, but it was causing Eames to reevaluate a lot of what he knew of Arthur.
In the end, Arthur’s lazy strokes of his fingers lulled Eames’ thoughts, and it being well past 3:00 a.m., Eames’ body got the better of him and he drifted off.
Arthur came awake, surprised to find that he’d fallen asleep at all, with Eames’ hand on his. Figured that Eames would naturally cuddle in his sleep. The man had an ease with touch that Arthur couldn’t understand no matter how hard he tried.
He settled Xerxes on the bed between them and stroked his back, making sure the fur was smooth and tangle-free, because a scruffy Xerxes didn’t look as good as a scruffy Eames did. Arthur could tell that Xerxes appreciated a well-groomed coat the same way he himself appreciated a finely tailored suit. When he was satisfied, Arthur gently reached to Eames and slowly moved his hand along Eames’ arm. He lost himself in the repetitive action, drawn in by the comfort offered by the warm safety of Eames’ bed.
Why couldn’t this happen when they were both awake? Eames acted like a jackass on the job, but then he’d go and do little things, like the massage tonight, that would make Arthur take another look. It was infuriating. The man was infuriating.
Arthur hummed, ready to tell Eames exactly how infuriating he was, but thought better of it. If Eames hadn’t woken up on his own yet, Arthur wasn’t about to do it. On the one hand, he should leave and go to his own room before Eames did wake up and inevitably punched him in the face in surprise. Eames would half-heartedly apologize, then laugh and tease, and Arthur would rather avoid that. On the other hand, he wasn’t ready to leave Xerxes yet.
“Come on, Xerxes, let’s go sleep on my bed. It’s bigger.”
Xerxes didn’t move.
“You can sleep on a spare pillow,” Arthur bargained.
Xerxes looked unimpressed.
Arthur let out a soft noise of frustration and reached for Xerxes. He was the human, and they’d do what he wanted. In response, Xerxes dug his claws in the covers and refused to let go. Arthur kept pulling, but then Xerxes let out a huge meow.
“Fine, you win,” Arthur said, letting go with a nervous glance at Eames. Arthur glared at the kitten, who glared right back.
They stayed there, locked in their battle of wills, until both of their eyes begin to droop close and they relaxed into sleep.
Eames woke at 7:30, despite the fact that it was their day off. Unlike most in dreamshare, Eames kept a regular sleep schedule and slept and woke without too much issue. Unfortunately, this meant rarely indulging in a lie-in. On that Saturday, however, he was glad of it; otherwise he might have out-slept Arthur, who, miraculously, was still in his bed.
Xerxes was gone, and with him went all pretense of somno-pet-cuddling. Eames considered for a moment getting up and leaving Arthur to wake alone in what was clearly not his bed, to give him the opportunity to ignore the situation altogether.
He didn’t get the chance to choose, though, because he noticed that Arthur was looking back at him. He suddenly wondered how long that had been the case, and he noticed with some surprise that he’d been playing with the hem of Arthur’s t-shirt. He stilled his hand but left it there.
“You’re probably wondering why I’m here,” Arthur said croakily. “I was... there was a lot of gin. And Xerxes...”
“Do shut up, Arthur,” Eames interrupted. “Turn over.”
Arthur frowned at him for a second, then warily did as he was asked. Eames shifted forward and wrapped an arm around Arthur’s waist, pulling him in tighter to Eames’ body.
“You don’t have to ask,” Eames murmured. He couldn’t see Arthur’s expression, but from what he could see, he could imagine the crinkles at his eyes and the sheepish smile.