Eames is in the kitchen, sitting at the table, drinking tea and reading the paper.
It's a rare quiet moment in Margaret's infancy.
Well, no, not quite, Eames revises when he catches himself thinking this. It’s six weeks in, now. Margaret still sleeps most of the time (though rarely when they’d like her to, or for as long as they’d wish). But there's lots of quiet, actually, now Eames thinks about it. Just — usually it’s underpinned with low-grade anxiety over some small baby-related issue, some domestic thorn, occasionally even something related to their field of former employment — a rumour, a story, a worry.
But here they are, today, six weeks in: the house is quiet, the baby is sleeping, it's rainy and warm and cozy. Joy's got the day off so Eames hasn't been arsed to get dressed further than his dressing down. He hasn't shaved, hasn't done much more than what he's doing now. It may be early afternoon. Eames doesn't care; it's lovely.
He turns his mug of tea round, eschewing the handle in favour of curling fingers round the hot porcelain, gives a small happy sigh, and lifts it up for a sip.
This is, of course, the very moment that Arthur comes stomping into the room and starts tossing the silverware drawer: clatter clatter clatter bang clatter.
"What on earth," Eames says, lowering his mug again, frowning.
“What did you do with the pablum spoons?" Arthur demands, half-shouting, and slams the drawer shut: crash.
Eames sets the mug down and composes his face into innocent concern. "Do we need them urgently?" he asks, knowing they don't.
"I just, I know I left them here,” Arthur says, "and you always move things."
Unfair and untrue, but Eames has been married too long to think of arguing. He ignores the accusation — for now — and answers with a simple eyebrow lift.
Arthur at least seems to know he's being mental, because all the wind goes out of his sails at once. He slumps against the counter. Unlike Eames, he's nicely groomed, dressed, put together: jeans and a striped Oxford with the sleeves rolled up, belt and socks and shoes, his hair finally starting to grow out to a familiar length.
Eames can’t work out if it’s a natural predilection of his, or something Arthur’s conditioned in him unknowingly, but for some reason he can never resist perfect neat Arthur. He’s not even thinking about it, really; Eames just comes to his feet and steps a bit closer.
Usually, trying to hug Arthur when he's in this kind of a black mood is like trying to snuggle a cat fresh out of the bath: you're lucky to come out with only a few scratches and a sense of terror.
Eames risks it anyway, because if ever he's seen an Arthur in need of a hug — he approaches widdershins, cautious and casual in case he needs to alter course at the last second. Arthur's shoulders snap up in response, and he looks wary — but then, when Eames hesitates, he sighs and grabs Eames by the fingertips, tugs him in.
Eames waits until he's got Arthur up against his chest before he lets himself smile, so Arthur won't see it. "Do you want to tell me?" he asks, after a moment has passed and Arthur has begun to relax against him.
Arthur heaves a short miserable breath. "I forgot to put the little mittens on her hands," he says, in an awful dark voice. There’s truly more remorse in his tone now than there was when he admitted to missing Fischer's militarisation. "She — she's got this big awful scratch on her nose."
Eames' heart heaves with alarm, because this isn’t at all what he expected, and it’s awful. It takes all his willpower not to push Arthur away and sprint to the nursery, see for himself.
They are both utterly irrational, obviously.
"When she was still in the hospital," Eames says instead, tightening his hold on Arthur a little, "that first night, her blood sugar was low, she wouldn't take a bottle."
Arthur is the one to pull back now, frowning faintly at Eames, worried in retrospect like Eames is helplessly worried about a tiny scratch on their perfect baby.
"They had to check her blood sugar every couple of hours," Eames goes on, letting his hands slide away from Arthur's back, his shoulders. "They use a little lancet on the heel, and she'd - god - she'd yell bloody murder. Her — you know how her chin wobbles, her lip comes out?"
Arthur huffs a miniature laugh, and his mouth curls reluctantly. "Yes, and when she does it, you make the exact same face."
"It's the saddest thing in the world, that face," Eames protests earnestly.
Arthur laughs again, a little more easily now. He's pulling himself together, and the dark cloud over his head seems to be clearing up.
"Anyway, the third time they went to do it," Eames says, reaching over and tugging out a different drawer, pawing through spaghetti serving spoons and mashers, "I refused, I wouldn't allow it. She'd had two ounces, nearly, I told them. She was sleeping, I wouldn't let them wake her. She was fine."
"Sounds so reasonable," Arthur says, impressed.
"Truth be told, I was going to take that little lancet and attempt murder with it if they even tried," Eames adds, though Arthur's guessed as much already. He finds the little basket near the back of the drawer and wiggles it free. It's full of tiny spoons with rubberized bowls, soft for little gummy mouths.
Arthur takes the basket without comment, sets it down on the counter. "I know she can't go through life without ever feeling pain," he says, "if that was the moral of the story."
"The moral of the story?" Eames repeats, amused. "Have my stories ever had a moral, darling?"
Arthur straightens the handles of the spoons, fidgety. "Well, what was the point of”—
—“Only to say, it's not the first time she's been hurt. You weren't the one to nick the perfect paint job."
"Did you just compare our daughter to a new car?" Arthur asks.
"Here, I'll make you some coffee," Eames says, "you sort out where you want to keep those pablum spoons."