Arthur arrives four months after Dom gets home. One morning he just walks past the study and sees Arthur there, framed in the open door.
“I let myself in,” Arthur says with an incline of his head.
The perfectly pressed tan suit seems familiar, as does the maroon shirt and the striped grey tie knotted neatly at the collar. Dom wonders briefly at how Arthur has managed to spend even five minutes in this house without acquiring the stain of fruit juice or a streak of paint somewhere on his clothes. He decides he doesn’t care enough about the answer to ask: he’s just glad to see Arthur. Only the night before had he realised that he missed his old friend.
“If you’re here for work, we need to do it here, at the house. I don’t want to be away from the kids.”
“I have no problem with that.”
He’s managed to establish some semblance of a routine with Phillipa and James and much to Dom’s surprise Arthur doesn’t throw it off in the least. Dom gets them up, gets them fed, and thankfully Arthur is never around when it comes time to cajole them into the car to leave for school and day-care. Throughout the day he and Arthur work. The plan comes together slowly as there is a lot of research to be done but there is no need to rush. Oftentimes he leaves Arthur to it while he cleans up the house, grateful for the company, the conversation, and the advice.
“I think I’ve asked you before but what’s the difference between baking soda and bi-carbonate soda and can I substitute one for the other?”
“Yep and I haven’t made a cake since that birthday party for Mal, remember?”
Arthur grins. “Need help?”
Dom waves him off. “No, you’ll get stuff on your suit.”
Somehow, Arthur doesn’t.
He picks Phillipa and James up at three o’clock and the afternoon is set aside as time for just the three of them. There are coloring books and pillow forts and games of Sardines that end with them all laughing together beneath the bed and Dom gets really good at baking cookies. After dinner and bubble baths and bedtime stories, Arthur reappears and they sit together on the porch with cold beers and reminisce.
It’s on one such evening that Arthur says, “Speaking of Eames, I think we might need him on this job.”
Dom tells him to make contact; it would be good to see Eames again.
Eames is there when Dom gets back from the school run the next day. He looks up from the couch with a quick smile and an “All right, then?”
It is, Dom tells him gratefully.
They settle into familiar patterns, with Eames and Dom suggesting every idea they can think of and Arthur shooting down the bad ones with careful aim. They seem to have the same discussions over and over again but Dom doesn’t mind – it never turns sour like times in the past.
“You two seem to be getting along better.”
Eames shrugs and offers no explanation.
Dom was worried about the weekends and Phillipa and James, but Eames disappears quietly. Dom always puts the offer out to Arthur for him to join them but he always declines.
“You three were apart for so long – all they ever wanted was you.”
Arthur still finds time to spend with the children, although Dom never catches him in the act of spoiling them.
Taking a half-eaten chocolate bar away from James, Dom tuts and says, “I’m going to have to talk with your Uncle Arthur, he’s spoiling your appetite. Have you seen him?”
James shakes his head. “Not for aaaaages.”
“So young and already a co-conspirator.”
Yusuf shows up just before the holidays are about to begin.
“I can go and come back if you like?”
“No, stay. I’ll be busy with the kids but it’s good to see you.”
And it was. He’d grown to like the chemist during their months in Paris; many was the night they’d stayed up late together, working out the details and Dom’s own neuroses.
“No secret sub-missions this time, right?” Arthur says with a wry grin.
“I swear, I swear,” says Yusuf, hand over his heart.
On the first day of the holidays, not having to do a school run, he decides to give himself an extra half hour in bed, but the sound of a knock at the door and Phillipa’s squeals of delight draw him out. He finds a jeans and sweater clad Arthur on the floor, having the breath squeezed out of him by two very happy children.
“Daddy! Uncle Arthur is here and he brought us presents!”
Arthur unwraps an arm from around James to wave at him.
They spend the morning playing miniature golf around the house and garden, constructing traps and obstacles as they go. By mid-afternoon everyone is exhausted and after Arthur gives Phillipa one last piggyback ride, they all settle down on the couch to watch a movie.
“This is the best bit,” James whispers loudly to Arthur, poking him in the chest.
“Okay,” says Arthur in the same manner, before licking his thumb and discreetly trying to remove the peanut butter James had just worked into the wool.
Over the top of Phillipa’s head Dom says, “Hey. Thanks for today.”
Arthur offers him a crooked grin. “No problem. It’s been a while.”
“Where have Eames and Yusuf got to?”
“I don’t know. Why do you ask?”
“I just thought – ”
After the holidays, Ariadne slips in like a ghost.
Toying with her yellow and black scarf, she asks, “Where do you want me?”
Dom’s just confused enough to take her literally and look for somewhere she can sit. Casting his eyes about, he sees a picture of Mal sitting on the side table by the arm chair. He tells her to take a seat by Yusuf, on the chaise. He hadn’t been getting very far with the design so he has no trouble turning that over to her.
She’s changed a lot, he realises. No longer so insistent, so demanding, always asking difficult questions. She absently asks him if he’s well before turning her attention to the mazes.
The study becomes a quiet hive of activity. They have meetings fairly regularly although Dom rarely pays attention, letting the details wash over him in favour of just enjoying the sound of their familiar voices. They disappear without any notice, going off to do their individual jobs, but each one is always around when he needs them.
He isn’t surprised at all when Saito visits.
“I heard that there was a reunion. Besides,” he says with a clap on Dom’s back, “we said we’d be young men together.”
Dom smiles. “And we have to keep our promises.”
He gets back from running errands to find Ariadne in the garden.
She turns to smile at him. “I was just admiring your tree house,” she says before kissing him on both cheeks. Rocking back on her heels, she tells him, “I was going to say you look good but you look shocked. Sorry about the surprise.”
“Oh,” he says, for want of something to say. “Uh, where are the others?”
The smile remains on her face but her eyes narrow. “Well, you weren’t here so Arthur went to get coffee and pastries. We were going to get them on the way but – ” she blushed and he couldn’t understand why “ – we left later than expected.”
“From the hotel?” He never had found out where they were all staying.
“No, I’m staying with Arthur. We drove up. It took a couple of hours.”
“Oh. Oh.” To give himself time to think, he turns and leads her up to the house. Arthur arrives, licking his wrist where he’s spilt coffee over his shirt cuff, and thus begins a spirited debate over which patisserie in Ariadne’s neighbourhood has the best croissants. After that the conversation turns to Phillipa and James and their latest adventures in mixed media art.
“Macaroni and popsicle sticks in the same piece? Wow, it’s something special.” Ariadne’s laugh is throaty and causes her whole body to shake; Arthur has twined their fingers so that they move together.
Dom briefly brings up work but it dampens the mood so he drops it. He faces twin searching gazes and Ariadne asks again if he’s alright.
“Fine, fine. Thanks to you.”
Arthur and Ariadne don’t show up for work the next day, but the day after that he sees them sitting side by side in the study, shoulders brushed up against each other as they work.
Phillipa and James are at school, Eames is making tea in the kitchen, Ariadne and Yusuf are hooked to the PASIV, Arthur is on the phone, and Saito is once again visiting when Mal joins him on the porch.
“A beautiful day,” she says, sitting down beside him.
“It is,” he agrees, wrapping an arm around her waist.
“I was thinking that we should visit my father in Paris.”
“I’d like that. I’ll book the tickets.”
They have a mock fight over what to pack. He insists she bring the purple dress, she says no, where will she wear it? He takes it from her and places it in the suitcase.
“Daddy?” asks Phillipa. “Daddy, why do you have that dress?”
“It’s for Mommy,” he tells her. “I’m going to take her out dancing in Paris.”
Phillipa leaves the room and Mal returns.
Arthur arrives in the middle of the night. The front door opens with a bang and he calls for Phillipa and James.
“Arthur?” Dom rubs the sleep from his eyes. “I thought you left hours ago.”
Arthur takes in the suitcases in the hall, the tickets and passports on the sideboard, and presses a kiss on Phillipa’s forehead.
“You did the right thing, calling me.”