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Life Could Be a Dream

Chapter Text

Arthur lingers in the doorway to Cobb's home office. The door's already open, but he knocks on it anyway to announce his presence.

Cobb doesn't look up until after Arthur enters, crosses the rug, and sits on the windowsill next to a desiccated succulent. So Marie never came in here to water it, and Cobb hasn't gotten around to throwing it out yet.

Arthur thought he'd schooled his features into something casual, but Cobb's sharp eyes dart over him, seeing past it. "I'm not going to like this conversation, am I?"

"You tell me," Arthur replies unfairly.

"Are you leaving?" Cobb asks.

It's a fair question, since they haven't really discussed his presence here. They went their separate ways at the airport, but then the next day Arthur booked a flight to LA, and he's been in Cobb's guest room ever since. But still, Arthur can't help but wish Cobb didn't feel the need to ask.

"No, I'll be a guest in your humble abode for as long as you'll have me."

"Good," Cobb says. "They love you." For a minute Arthur thinks he said something else, until he realizes Cobb means James and Phillipa.

Arthur grins. "They associate me with getting presents." But Cobb won't have to send him here with care packages anymore, now that he's home. Now that they're both here.

"It's more than that. You listen to them. They know they can depend on you."

"Actually, it's the kids I wanted to talk to you about."

"Did something happen?" Cobb asks without urgency. He must know that if it had, Arthur would have gotten to the point by now, but if he's meandering, it must have more to do with Cobb than the kids themselves.

"No, it's something that hasn't happened yet."

Cobb darkens. "You mean the party."

Arthur nods, and then Cobb's off on a tear about being able to handle planning things on his own without Arthur's meddling. "They're my kids." He rattles off the research he did into the local regulations on fire safety and the legality of the types of fireworks he's picking. He rounds it out with, "I want to make something memorable for them."

Arthur looks him in the eye. "They're going to remember it regardless, because it's going to be the first big event you've had together since you got back. They're going to remember it because you'll be there."

"That's not enough."

"Of course that's enough. They don't need a light show, they need a father," Arthur says. "And all their fingers."

Cobb looks sad. Arthur gets up and walks around the desk to be next to him.

Now that he's closer, Cobb all but whispers, "They're only getting half of what they need."

Arthur gives Cobb's shoulder a squeeze.

"They're getting everything they need. All of you. All your love and attention. All the effort you put into doing things for their sake. All the voices you put on when you read them stories and tuck them in at night. And if you need a hand, I'll help pick up the slack."

That scatters Cobb's gloom. "Heard those, have you?"

"I'm partial to your Mr. Lion."

"Yeah, he's my best one."

~

Cobb cancels the fireworks, the caterer, and the sound system. He crosses most of the names off the guest list.

On the Fourth of July, the only things on fire in the Cobb family backyard are the grill and two pairs of sparklers.

Cobb burns the burgers, but all in all, it's enough.