Most of the characters and situations in this story belong to Christopher Nolan, Legendary Pictures, Syncopy, NBC, and other entities, and I do not have permission to borrow them. No infringement is intended in any way, and this story is not for profit. All others belong to me, and if you want to borrow them, you have to ask me first. Any errors are mine, all mine, no you can't have any.
The opinions expressed by characters in this story may or may not be those of the author.
Good grief, this took way too long. My apologies. I had some (minor) health issues to deal with, but I still should have got this up sooner.
Cincoflex got me through this story from start to finish, from approving my choice of plots all the way to the final line, plus all the lovely banners along the way. Thank you, dearest.
Two months later
The woods behind Dom's house were beautiful in the sunlight. Ariadne let Philippa lead her down what was obviously a well-used trail, the small fingers warm in hers, and after a few minutes the trees fell back to reveal a light-filled meadow, high-standing grass starred with wildflowers.
"Wow," Ariadne said appreciatively.
"It's my favorite place," Philippa said, tugging her forward through the grass, where another faint trail led. Ariadne followed obediently, trying not to think about ticks, and they ended up at the far side of the small space. Under a wide pine sat a little wooden playhouse, obviously homemade and charming enough to make Ariadne instantly jealous, even though it was shorter than she was.
They settled cross-legged inside, among a light litter of small dishes and toy cars, and Ariadne regarded Philippa thoughtfully. "How's it going, kiddo?"
Philippa rolled her eyes, though the exasperation was not directed at Ariadne. "Okay."
"Nightmares?" Ariadne guessed. She had them herself, still, and even a caress of her new totem, the metal and stones cool under her fingertips, could not always shake the feeling.
"Yeah. Daddy says they'll go away." Philippa drew up one knee and rested her chin on it, palpably doubting, and Ariadne sighed in sympathy.
"I think they will, but it sure does take a while."
Philippa nodded glumly. "And that lady kept asking questions."
Ariadne laughed sourly. The FBI Special Agent was persistent, and Ariadne couldn't quite blame her, but she too had been very tired of the official probing before the woman had closed the case. Ariadne couldn't see why she'd tried so hard, given that Nash was dead and hadn't even died in the United States, but Arthur had counseled Ariadne to cooperate.
Though he'd…hovered, during the interviews. She had to smile at the memory; he hadn't managed to make Agent Harris nervous, but she guessed it had been a close thing. "She bugged me too."
"Yeah." Philippa idly scooted a toy car forward a few inches. "Do you hafta talk to somebody too?"
Ariadne quirked her lips. She'd refused to, steadfastly, until the crying jags and sudden losses of temper made Arthur's sober suggestion sound good. Nightmares, I can deal with. Losing control…not so much. "I do, yeah. Your grandfather found me a counselor like he found you one."
Philippa brightened a little. "Doctor Ann lets me make a fort out of the couch cushions sometimes, it's fun."
Ariadne was struck with a pang of amused envy; the Old-World richness of her shrink's office allowed for no such lightheartedness. "Sounds like it. Mine just lets me sit on his."
For some reason this made Philippa giggle, and Ariadne grinned back. She didn't understand children any more than she had before, but she felt like she had a better grasp on this one, at least, and it was very good to see her safe and happy.
"Want to play tea party?" Philippa asked, picking up a small cup, and Ariadne laughed.
Inevitably, Dom drifted to the back door to watch for the girls coming back. Arthur refrained from comment; he understood the sentiment.
It had taken him more than a few weeks to stop waking in the night to check that Ariadne was still by his side, pillow scrunched under her head and exhaling the soft whistle he found so inexplicably charming; and it wasn't until she grabbed him by the tie, put her nose up against his, and ordered him to stop breathing down her neck that he'd managed to leave her alone for more than an hour or so.
And she's an adult. I can't even imagine what it's like when it's a child.
Perhaps fortunately for Dom's sanity, Philippa was too young to chafe at her father's need to watch over her. Arthur trusted that Dom would get over the urge by the time she left for college.
They went on chatting about Dream architecture, casual shop talk even if Dom was out of the business, and Arthur continued with the chore Frances had set him, shelling peas. The motion was repetitive and almost soothing, now that he had the hang of it, and part of his mind catalogued the sounds of her creating something elaborate in the pantry, small clinks and mutters in French. Dom's house held an aura of peace, now; a little wistful, a little sad, but content and homey.
A good place to raise children, even without a mother.
His fingers were nimble enough to oust the slick little spheres without looking, and so Arthur caught the shift in Dom's posture, the slight relaxation. "They're on their way back?"
Dom glanced back from the window, lips curling wryly. "I'm that obvious?"
Arthur shrugged amusement, not bothering to reply. Dom quirked a brow at him, shorthand for the retort that Arthur wasn't exactly unconcerned either, and looked back out again. Arthur counted peas silently and reflected on the emotional undercurrents of this visit - Dom determined to prove his gratitude, if quietly, and Ariadne desperately embarrassed and wishing Dom would forget all about it.
Normally he would be on Ariadne's side, Arthur thought, but this time he agreed with Dom. She might argue that she only did as any decent human being should have, but they all knew better; and she deserved the acknowledgment, whether it was Miles' hard hug or Dom's deference or Frances' brief, choked thanks.
Or James' favorite toy car, a present for taking care of his big sister and one that was all his own idea. Ariadne had thanked him gravely, and the little vehicle now rode in her sweater pocket.
He was down to the final pod. Arthur let the last legumes roll into the waiting bowl and set the emptied pod on the pile of its brethren, gaze catching on the flicker of light from the totem encircling his finger. It had been his idea to get matching ones, even though only Ariadne's had been lost, and her expression when she'd realized what he meant was a moment he treasured still.
She wasn't the same, of course; a little more sober, a little more wary now. But neither was he the same.
He popped a pea into his mouth, biting down on the sweet greenness, as Dom swung the door wide for the girls. Some things were worth holding; some things were worth remembering.
And as Ariadne's eyes met his over Philippa's head, and lit her grin with love, Arthur swallowed and smiled back.