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Steinway Fic: Soft the Drowsy Hours

  • Feb. 27th, 2011 at 7:31 AM
toomuchplor: (Default)
Fandom: Inception
Pairing: Arthur/Eames
Rating: PG for some Eamesian humour
Length: 1122 words

Summary: Arthur’s insomnia often kicks in not when Eames is away but when he’s home.

In the Steinway 'Verse, set around the time of Under the Steinway. I slept almost exactly three hours last night, so this falls under the heading of 'write what you know'. Sigh. But it's sweet and happy?

Read on AO3 or below the cut here.

Eames comes awake all at once, not with a start but with a quiet sense that something isn’t quite right. He’s home, yes, which is all too unusual, but it’s maybe his fourth night since coming back, maybe fifth night? Eames has grown reacquainted with the softness of their linens, the give of their mattress. That’s not what it is, whatever woke him in the middle of the night.

Eames turns his head on the pillow and is unsurprised to find Arthur blinking blearily at him, lying belly down on the bed but otherwise very clearly awake, and not willingly so. Eames twists his mouth in rueful sympathy; Arthur’s insomnia often kicks in not when Eames is away but when he’s home, probably because Eames disrupts all Arthur’s careful routines and regimens, the things he’s learned through trial and error to keep his sleep well regulated. I should sleep better with you here, Arthur often grouses, it’s not fair, which is of course a very sweet sentiment in its way.

“You’re meant to get up and do something else,” Eames reminds Arthur gently. “You’re not supposed to lie here awake.”

“I know,” Arthur says, voice sleep-dark and tired. “I kept thinking that, but”— and he reaches over to cross the handful of inches separating them, not quite touching Eames, clumsy with exhaustion.

“Mm,” says Eames, knowing what Arthur means, knowing exactly how it is to wake with Arthur beside him and feel vaguely bothered to be wasting such wonderful proximity with hours of unconsciousness.

“Sorry,” Arthur says, whispering now, pulling his hand back slowly. “I woke you up.”

“Nah,” Eames answers, and wriggles a little closer, tugs the covers down to expose Arthur’s bare back. “Hm?” he asks, drifting his fingers over Arthur’s smooth warm skin.

Arthur inhales slowly through his nose and sighs with quiet pleasure. “Yeah,” he accedes, and his eyelids sag almost reflexively.

Eames traces lines and circles with his fingertips, loving Arthur’s smooth back, the little divot of his spine dividing him neatly, the dip of his lower back, the solid wings of his shoulder blades. Arthur’s breath slows and his mouth curves unconsciously.

“Letters,” he requests after a few minutes have slipped away.

Eames smiles and smoothes his palm over the canvas of Arthur’s back, their unspoken shorthand for cleaning the slate. He switches to his index finger and writes a sprawling blocky capital F.

“F,” Arthur says.

Eames traces a long tall curve, open at the top.

“U,” Arthur says, and then huffs a voiceless laugh. “Eames.”

“Fine,” Eames says, and swipes the slate clean, starts over.

“D,” Arthur says, then, “A…R…L…darling.”

“You didn’t let me finish,” Eames pretends to complain, and nips in for a second to kiss the point of Arthur’s shoulder. “Right, next.”

He does niebelung next, and then hexachordal, and piazolla. With every word, Eames can see, Arthur is growing a little slower to respond with the letter, finally coaxed into something like a trance if not yet a light sleep.

“Eames,” Arthur says, smiling, when Eames does felcher next.

“New game,” Eames says, and swipes his palm across Arthur’s back before drawing his hand from left to right with fingers slightly spread, five parallel lines. This one is harder because they both lose the sense of the staff lines too quickly and it’s easy to mistake larger intervals for each other. Eames sticks to stepwise melodies, stupid nursery songs that quite suit the game anyway.

“Twinkle Twinkle?” Arthur asks, on the third round.

“No,” Eames says, and does it again.

“The Alphabet Song,” Arthur guesses, smiling.

“No,” Eames says, “it’s Baa Baa Black Sheep. And you call yourself a professional musician. Shameful.”

Arthur is too sleepy by now to manage more than a half giggle. “Another,” he requests, and Eames draws out Mary Had a Little Lamb; it’s taking Arthur longer and longer to respond.

“I should just go and watch TV or something,” Arthur suggests, perhaps not even noticing that Eames has drifted back into random patterns.

“Shh,” Eames tells him softly, and hums a little soothing melody. All Through the Night, Eames realizes after a minute of singing, the one his gran would use on him when he was a sprog. If Arthur’s dignity is offended by being sung a lullaby, it’s hard to tell, his eyelids drooping further and further with each repetition.

“No, it’s okay,” Arthur says, sounding drunk now. “I can go.”

Eames hushes him again, now moving his fingers in the same slow circle over and over, in time to the Welsh melody. Arthur’s breathing, at first keeping subconscious rhythm with the song, starts to lose its tempo and find its own cadence, in and out. Arthur’s eyes slide shut.

Eames doesn’t stop, not then, and not for long minutes after; not even when Arthur’s obviously out, hands unclenching and mouth pulling open a little. Eames’ arm is aching vaguely with the protracted exertion by the time he dares bring his hand to rest, and then it’s another long wait before he gently tugs the covers back up over Arthur’s back.

He should slip out, Eames knows; he should go and kip on the couch and leave Arthur to sleep the rest of the night undisturbed. But like Arthur breaking his own rigid rules of insomnia management, Eames can’t, he can’t go and sleep somewhere else, not when his throat is still aching with tenderness and his fingertips tingle from so much repetitive motion.

Eames looks down the landscape of Arthur’s long lean body as he gingerly settles back into his own pillow. The covers obscure most everything, but Eames can make out the shape of Arthur's narrow elegant foot, draped with the sheet like a Grecian statue in miniature. Eames likes Arthur's hair tumbled messy on the pillow, he likes being close enough to see that, unpixellated, and without Arthur's express permission and arrangement to get it on the laptop screen.

Lulled thoroughly by the familiar sound of Arthur’s deep breathing, Eames drifts off.


But you bloody hate crumbs in bed, Eames narrowly avoids saying when Arthur surprises him with a plate of toast and a mug of tea the next morning. He closes his mouth around the thought and wriggles up to sit against the headboard, feet pleasantly warm under the sheets. Arthur comes round the other side of the bed and joins him, carrying his own mug of coffee and with the Globe folded and tucked under his arm.

It’s another insomnia no-no – doing things other than sleeping in or on the bed – but Eames avoids pointing this out too, charmed by their all-too-rare bout of domesticity.

Instead, Eames twines his ankle around Arthur’s skinny hairy calf and eats his toast.


A/N: Only one YouTube link on this one. I love this sweet old-timey recording. Just try to ignore the fact that the lyrics are about a lover dying and drift away on the gorgeous crackly sound.

All Through the Night


fleurrochard: A black and white picture of a little girl playing air-guitar and singing (Default)
[personal profile] fleurrochard wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is so warm and lovely and really left me smiling. Thank you!
toomuchplor: (Default)
[personal profile] toomuchplor wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad that my crap night of sleep at least resulted in fic.
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 06:16 pm (UTC)
Oh my. This was really lovely, making me think of all the ways insomnia is troublesome and demanding and inconvenient, but sometimes inadvertently supplies the moments of the most aching love and tenderness, unexpected and beautiful. ♥

Thank you for this!
toomuchplor: (Default)
[personal profile] toomuchplor wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks! I only wish I had an Eames to coax me back to sleep. Sighhhh...
renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
[personal profile] renay wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 07:51 pm (UTC)
This fandom is the first I've been in to really write about insomnia in such insightful ways. I have also been going through that same, "I want my own Eames, universe!" for months now. Sigh forever.
toomuchplor: (Default)
[personal profile] toomuchplor wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
Aww, that's crappy. Hope it gets better soon!
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 02:52 pm (UTC)
This was such a sweet story-- it made me smile. ♥ I loved the sense of domesticity.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
Aw, thank you! *g*
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 03:27 pm (UTC)
Lovely, lovely update. It was so warm and comfortable. Wonderful job!
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Lack of sleep FTW.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 03:56 pm (UTC)
This is so lovely and warm. I like how you evoked the quieter edges of love and affection but still had them being very much themselves.

And that's my favorite lullaby. The one I sang to my son almost every night so it resonated beautifully.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 04:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Yes, it's easy to get carried away on the lovely banter between these two but it was nice to write a bit of how they might be when all that is dampened momentarily.

And that's my favorite lullaby. The one I sang to my son almost every night so it resonated beautifully.

I sang it to my baby niece, verse after verse after verse, back when she was seven months old and completely resisting the notion of sleep and I was her weekly caregiver. She's three years old today. Crazy.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Aww, Happy Birthday Aunt Plor! or something like that?

It is crazy, my son turned 14 two weeks ago. What?

And yes, dampened but "felcher" made me LOL for real.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 05:52 pm (UTC)
Hee! Second niece, but born very soon after the first one (less than a month, obvs to different sibs) so it still feels like the third anniversary of auntie-dom. I was there the night she was born! *sniff*

"felcher" made me LOL for real

Me writing when utterly sleep deprived. *shakes head at self*
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
Oh ♥ My knees go weak for men singing lullabies, sigh. (Even when they do it badly :[)
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
N'awww. My brother mostly does the Imperial March from Star Wars. Less of a lullaby and more of a rhythmic low thing that stuns babies into silence. Whatever works. *shrug* :DDD
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 06:30 pm (UTC)


[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 02:31 am (UTC)
bauble: (Default)
[personal profile] bauble wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 08:10 pm (UTC)
Aww, very sweet. I feel you and Arthur both on the insomnia--no eating in bed for me either!
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 02:32 am (UTC)
I am rarely insomniac, honestly, so I don't feel I have the right to complain -- but I've had two bad nights in a row now and I'm soooo tired. Hopefully it's all better as of tonight!
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
So nice to jump ahead a few years and see them together and happy (though, clearly, not together enough. Why doesn't anyone explain that to would-be musicians until it's too late? Sorry, my issues showing through. Some of the most gifted musicians I know are no longer, because they couldn't in the end make that sacrifice).
ANYWAY. I loved the part with Twinkle/Alphabet/BaaBaa. That made me smile, as did the whole tender, sweet game.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 02:33 am (UTC)
Why doesn't anyone explain that to would-be musicians until it's too late?

Seriously, I spent the first few years of my pro career going, "Why didn't someone sit me down and make me work through this whole thing? Like, finances and personal life and travel? WHY."

*g* Glad you liked, and got the Twinkle joke. This is one we pull on my 3 yo niece all the time when she starts singing. We join in with the words to one of the other songs which induces 3 yo rage which is killer funny. (Yeah, we're mean.)
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 27th, 2011 09:58 pm (UTC)
Quiet, tender, and warm. I loved this. Also, I WISH I HAD AN EAMES TO HELP ME FALL ASLEEP IN THE MIDST OF MY INSOMNIA.

On another note, I think it's funny how a lot of people in Inception fandom are actually insomniacs XD
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 02:35 am (UTC)

ME TOO. Ugh. This whole fic is basically what I was lying there fantasizing about while unsuccessfully trying to sleep. *g* Though I rarely have insomnia so I should probs just shut up. Still, the sleep/insomnia thing as a trope -- I love it. Sleeping has always been sort of a weird kink/fascination of mine.
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 09:55 am (UTC)
My heart! *clutches*

This is achingly lovely.
[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
Thank you! :DDD
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 03:13 pm (UTC)
gorgeous, sweet and perfect *happy sigh*

this whole verse may just be my most favourite thing in the world <3
[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
Thanks! I heart the Steinway boys -- if only they weren't giving me so much writer's block, sigh...
[identity profile] wrote:
Feb. 28th, 2011 08:02 pm (UTC)
Oh. Oh. How did I miss this earlier?

Never mind. I found it at the right time - a faintly melancholy evening when I must go to bed early because several days of madness start bright and early tomorrow. Now I'm wandering around YouTube listening to male choirs sing Ar Hyd Y Nos and letting myself go, just like Arthur.

I love this 'verse like chocolate. And this story, what a beautiful interval.
[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:03 am (UTC)
Thank you! Yay!
[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 1st, 2011 11:16 am (UTC)
I always miss your updates somehow :(

But this was really really lovely. I loed the way they played games on Arthur's back untill he finally fell asleep. Absolutely gorgeous.
[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
Thanks so much! My insomnia had some benefit, anyway. *g*
[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 3rd, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC)
Oh, that was lovely.
*happy sigh*

[identity profile] wrote:
Mar. 8th, 2011 02:04 am (UTC)
Thanks!!! :DDD

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