Somehow, this is turning into a 'verse. :) This is a direct sequel to A Horrible Muddle, so if you haven't read that, you should.
Disclaimer: I do not own Inception!
Arthur hopped off the bus, brushing by the legs of the human passengers with ease. Eames followed him down onto the sidewalk and then they both shot under the bushes outside the bank, worming their way between the low branches until they were invisible from outside. Arthur crouched, taking in and categorizing the scents of damp earth, pigeon, and… mole? He frowned and put his nose closer to the ground. It was odd for a mole to be living in such an urban environment. In fact, Arthur hadn't smelled mole since his brief stint in suburbia, his mother explaining the world to him as he wobbled about the garden. He could only barely remember her voice now, but the scents had stayed vivid.
"Eames," he said, tailing swishing. "There's a mole here. A mole."
"Focus, darling," Eames chuckled, his own attention on the shoes passing by. His ears were swerving back and forth with all the noise. "Robert's house is only a block from here, and as soon as the bus leaves, we can go." There were, as of the moment, too many humans roaming around. Eames tended to get nervous when that happened.
"Right." Arthur didn't tell Eames that he already knew where the apartment was, having scoped the place months earlier in his frustration. He didn't want Eames to know he was that pathetic. "How are we going to get in?"
"Just watch and learn, Arthur," Eames said slyly and Arthur sighed. "Let's go."
Robert lived on the seventh floor of a redbrick building a little south of downtown. As buildings went, it was fairly boring, its only ornamentation being the graying flat arches over the windows and the belt-courses between stories. It was fortunate, however, that the belt-courses projected far enough to create a ridge wide enough for a cat to walk on. Eames and Arthur circled to the back of the building, leapt onto the Dumpster, and then onto the fire escape. It was tricky but not impossible to reach the ridge from there and soon the two were standing outside a partially-open window by the right front corner of the building.
"This is where you get in?" Arthur asked. "Doesn't the family notice you?"
"Nope," Eames said, preparing to leap to the sill. "Be careful, here. I don't want you to fall."
"Please, Eames," Arthur said drily. "I haven't fallen off of anything since I was a kitten." He watched as Eames jumped and wiggled his way under the frame, vanishing behind a lacy white curtain. He calculated the trajectory of his own jump perfectly and was soon inside himself, standing on a gray stone counter. He and Eames were in the apartment's bathroom, apparently. The whole place smelled like soap and cologne. Arthur sneezed at the strength of it, the citrus stinging his nose.
"Sorry about that, should have warned you," Eames said. He gave the room a once-over and then relaxed, bestowing upon his paw a quick lick. "Robert's probably in the den." He walked to the edge of the counter and plopped to the floor. Arthur spent a second or two investigating the sink before following, landing silently on the tile.
The bathroom opened up to the kitchen, Eames sauntering in as if he owned the place. The lights were off, so it wasn't as bright as Arthur had expected. Nonetheless, he didn't think he'd ever seen a room so white. The walls were white, the floor was white, the countertops were white… The room was also filled with the glorious aroma of foods of all kinds. Arthur was most interested in the undercurrent of salmon and the faint whiff of cheese. Arthur loved cheese. He loved its taste, loved its texture. He even liked the fake stuff that they sprayed chips with for flavoring. Sometimes Cobb's children had Doritos with their lunch. Arthur was always delighted when that happened.
"Come on, darling, we don't have all day," said Eames, watching Arthur nose his way around the cabinets.
"You said they wouldn't be back until dark," Arthur replied reproachfully, loathe to leave such a fascinating place.
"I said they probably wouldn't." Eames gave him a look and Arthur huffed but accompanied him into the den. The carpet under his feet was much softer than the one at the library and he imagined taking a nap on it.
"Robert," Eames meowed softly, staying close to the wall as he made his way around the room. "Are you in here? I brought Arthur with me this time. I know you wanted to meet him."
There was a rustle by the corner and a sleek brown head poked out of a wicker basket. Robert's face was thin and angular, his ears pointed. He had startlingly blue eyes. Arthur felt a stab of jealousy even though he and Eames had reaffirmed their relationship, emotionally and physically. Several times. He hung back while Eames bounded ahead.
"There you are!" Eames stopped beside the basket and waited for Robert to stand and stretch before batting him playfully on the shoulder.
"Eames," Robert purred happily. He climbed out of his bed and butted his head against Eames's. Arthur looked away, pretending to be engrossed in the furniture. "And you must be Arthur." He blinked, suddenly nervous as well. "Eames… He talks about you a lot."
"He does?" Arthur shot the cat in question a suspicious glance but Eames just started purring, apparently sincerely.
"He does," Robert said, and he stepped forward. Arthur, more hesitantly, met him, and they circled each other curiously. Robert's coat was sleek, almost glossy, and he was well-fed. Arthur couldn't see even a hint of rib. He looked like a cat in a magazine. He looked like he was living the high life. Arthur almost dismissed him right there, but then he realized- And he froze.
"They…" his ears slipped back, "What did they do to you?" He had been wondering why the apartment hadn't felt lived-in. Robert, obviously, hadn't properly marked it.
"It doesn't bother me anymore," Robert said, though he did look embarrassed. "I was young. I don't even remember." His tail started to twitch and Arthur dropped the subject, glad enough to get away from it.
"Well, I'm glad to meet you," Arthur said, allowing Robert to headbutt him, too. The housecat seemed to crave attention in the way Arthur usually craved food, and when Eames was so clearly fond of him he had no reason to object.
"Yes, me too," Robert said.
"Good, you get along," Eames chirped, and walked to stand between them. "So, Robert, what's new?"
"Not a lot." He sat down and Eames joined him. Arthur, after a few minutes of listening to them chat about the family and the house, left to explore. When he returned from chasing one of Robert's ubiquitous toys under the bed (because he could, not because he had to…) an hour later, Eames was just finishing.
"…And don't fall outside again," Eames admonished. "It was a miracle that that cart was there at all."
"I know, I know." Robert sighed and tucked his paws under his chest. "I won't."
"Right. Oh, there you are darling. We should probably head back." The light slanting in from the window was turning golden. They needed to get back to the bus stop.
"Okay," Arthur said. He tapped Robert on the shoulder and then headed toward the kitchen.
"Thank you for coming," Robert purred, rubbing cheeks with Eames.
"I'm sure we'll be back," replied the tom, and he stood.
"You didn't tell me Robert had been cut," Arthur said abruptly as he and Eames boarded the bus, slinking to the back.
"You didn't ask," Eames said. He was twitchy, his ears flicking every which way, his fangs poking out. "And it's not something one brings up in polite company."
"Well, it would have been a comfort to know that that he wasn't sleeping with you," Arthur muttered. "That he couldn't want to."
Eames glanced at him. "You were really worried about that, weren't you?"
"I wasted four months pining!" Arthur hissed before he could stop himself. His eyes widened and he lay his ears flat.
"You pined?" Eames purred for a breath in laughter. Then he rubbed his cheek along Arthur's side.
"Shut up, Eames," Arthur gritted out, riding the rest of the way back to the junkyard in silence.
The two of them did go back to Robert's apartment, at least once a week, for the next three months. The winter was now in full swing, with six or seven inches of snow on the ground and temperatures reaching fifteen below. Even only a few hours in the warm living room, napping under the Christmas tree and on top of the presents, was a welcome respite from the chill. It was getting harder to visit, though, as the window was only infrequently left open. Sometimes they were able to lever it open when they found it cracked. More than once they climbed up the icy wall only to see it shut tight against the wind.
"I'm beginning to think living in a house isn't so bad," Arthur confided one evening, nestled with Robert inside his wicker basket. The two of them had grown fairly close over the weeks and Arthur found that Robert was actually quite pleasant company. Robert could read, too, and was quite interested in the economy. He was worried about the rising price of fish and the scarcity of tuna. He told Arthur that it kept him up at night.
"It is rather nice in the winter," Robert allowed, his eyes slipping shut. He made a small noise of protest as Arthur shifted and climbed out of the basket. "Where are you going?"
"For food," Arthur said. He paused on the plush carpet. "If that's okay?" Robert had been nothing but kind to him, but he still felt like he was imposing.
"Mm. Help yourself," Robert sighed sleepily.
"Thank you." Arthur padded off into the kitchen, heading for the plastic bowl by the corner. It was full at all hours with dry pellets which, when there was nothing else, tasted like heaven. All things considered, Arthur preferred fish, or chicken, but beggars – and that's what he was, wasn't it? – couldn't be choosers. He crunched on a mouthful, happily full for once, and looked around for Eames.
"Up here, darling," called Eames, and Arthur peered upward to see him sitting on the kitchen counter. He had one of the shiny balls from the Christmas tree up there with him and was absently rolling it between his paws.
"Eames," Arthur purred cheerfully. He took a sip of Robert's water and then leapt onto the countertop, sitting next to Eames and curling their tails together. "What are you doing all by yourself? You should come back to the basket. It's warm."
"In a bit," said the tom. He turned so that he was nose-to-nose with Arthur. Arthur felt the heat where their noses touched and felt a quickening in his belly. "Shall we take ourselves into the bedroom?"
"I would like that, yes."
They hopped down to the tile, landing lightly. Eames made sure that the ornament didn't come with them; if it was found broken, Robert would get the blame for it. Arthur led the way, determined despite the fact that Eames was playing with his tail. They were about halfway to the bedroom, paused in the mouth of the living room door, still entwined, when a sharp click resounded through the apartment. From the basket, Robert's head shot up, his eyes wide.
"They shouldn't be home yet," he said, tense. "Go! I'll keep them busy."
"-and to go and forget something like that… Make my life harder why don't you?" A woman hurried into the room, dressed in a voluminous fur coat and carrying an expensive purse. Her face was pinched in the human expression of displeasure. "What am I going to do with that- What the hell?"
"Mother!" mewled Robert, shooting out of his basket and attempting to wind himself about her ankles. "I am so glad you're home. I missed you and I love you and I want you never to go again and-"
"Shoo," she snapped, pushing him aside none-too-gently with her foot. Her eyes were riveted on the spot where she'd seen Arthur and Eames. She tossed her purse onto the couch and jogged into the kitchen.
"Eames, she's right behind us!" Arthur called, throwing caution to the wind. They were in the bathroom, so close to freedom, but Eames was only halfway out the window.
"I know, I know, but bloody hell if I'm not stuck…"
"You're stuck?" Arthur's pupils thinned. He headbutted Eames. "Go, go!"
Mrs. Fischer threw open the door like it had wronged her and let out another screech. "How the fuck did you get in here?"
"Eames!" cried Arthur, slipping off the counter as the angry lady of the house made a grab for him. He managed to avoid her kick, but ended up on the other side of the room from the window.
"I'm going, I'm going, it's going to be all right," muttered Eames, almost to himself. He shoved again with his back feet and gained another half-inch. "Fuck, fuck-"
He almost fell when the window was wrenched open.
"Out!" shouted Mrs. Fischer. She grabbed Eames by the scruff of the neck and threw him out the window.
"Eames, no!" Arthur yowled, making a leap for the sill. He had just enough time to see Eames's paws slip from the ledge before a laundry basket was shoved down over him and he was trapped.
Reviews make me happy! I'll try not to take too long with chapter two.