Post-series fic that's a remix of coricomile's fic here on AO3 ( /works/346732)

Arthur never leaves.

Dom doesn't know what to think about it, doesn't know if he wants to think about it, and across the board it doesn't really matter. James and Phillipa love him, and Dom wants him there, and that's all that matters.

They have the kids - there are the kids - Dom has the kids. But it's good to have someone older than a tween in the house. It's good to have Arthur there, full stop.

It feels right. Arthur's been there with him for his entire exile. Why not now?

Chicago puts Arthur ill at ease. Dom is observant anyway, but this much is obvious. He stays at home when he doesn't have to run errands, when he's not out with Dom; he has no desire to explore, which isn't like him at all. He's quiet, reserved, but he's not withdrawn.

Except in Chicago.

"Do you like it here?" Dom asks him one night, while they're having drinks and the kids are in bed.

Arthur's let his head loll back on the couch, and raises it slightly. "What?" he asks.

He gestures offhandedly with his drink. It's not important. "I was wondering if you like it here." You don't have to stay here if you don't want to.

There's the slightest pause, and the corner of Arthur's mouth turns up, gentle and doubting. "Yeah," he says. "Well enough." The half-smile goes wry.

Dom gives a small scoff, and drinks. He dismisses the thought.

Arthur's done looking after him. It's not a matter of needing to keep Dom from falling to pieces; Arthur knows that. At least, he hopes.

Dom goes to get Phillipa and James Halloween costumes, and it's so great.

He was, admittedly, expecting pumpkin duty, but the kids decided that he wasn't going to pick the right pumpkin and could at least manage to buy boilerplate costumes, not that they would have put it that way. He can't complain. He hasn't had a chance to do this since before Mal jumped, and it almost didn't count then. They were too young, and barely remembered, and all it meant was adorable pictures, mostly coordinated by Mal. Now they get to pick, themselves, and it's all incredibly exciting.

It's not their ages, how much they've grown, how long it's been since Mal, how different it all is, now, away from dreamshare. None of that is the strangest thing. It's the reality of leaving them with Arthur that's jarring.

He'll never have a better friend. Point man. Companion.


No label seems to fit. But it doesn't matter.

(Arthur smiles when Phillipa twirls in her costume, and it stirs something in Dom, who says nothing at all.)

Arthur drops. He drops a lot.

Dom doesn't drop, or he doesn't try to. He's not in denial; it's not like that anymore. It just feels like it would be wrong because things have changed, and because he's not in denial. There's nothing to hide from, there's no reason to avoid reality, and dreams are pointedly not reality. If he's learned anything, he's learned that.

He doubts Arthur would agree, but Arthur's been pointedly dropping and they both know it. His view is a little skewed on this.

He doesn't watch Arthur sleep or anything severely creepy like that, but can hear him in the other room, tossing, turning, watch him wake and wander to get a glass of water, all weary and harangued, like he was so close, and the stupidest thing about it is that somehow, for some reason, he's vaguely jealous.

He blinks away the light when Arthur goes back to bed. He drifts, touches on sleep, and that's when Phillipa screams.

They all settle, all four of them, family as they are, in Phillipa's twin bed, James against Arthur's chest, Arthur and Dom's feet just about dangling, but close.

Being by Arthur, so close, is the least lonely he's ever felt, as lonely as he's felt in a full, chaotic house, as lonely as he's felt since she fell. He doesn't think about that, either. He just closes his eyes.

Something about this is strangely beautiful.

"Thank you," he mumbles to Arthur when his eyes have closed and breathing slowed. Thank you for this.

He's an idiot. He does it.

It's not Mal, thank god. She's lovely, though, narrow and brunette like Ariadne, all angular features.

It doesn't happen the first time, his zipper undone when James's alarm clock drops heavily to the ground at two AM. The second time, when he's dark and sharp and all suit and hair, Dom surrenders.

It helps.

He's a hypocrite. As usual.

Now that he's fucked around some, dreams or not, Dom has to ask. If it's gotten to him, it has to have gotten to Arthur even more.

It takes a few beers, mind. He doesn't really want to ask, but he has to do a lot of things he doesn't want to do. (Including risking this. But he doesn't want to think about that.)

"You don't have to spend all of your time here," he says finally.

Arthur shrugs, like this is easy. "I like it here."

"If you'd like to go out - " God, he sounds like an idiot. You've trapped him here. He's obligated. He thinks you need him. "Or if you'd like to bring someone home, I can... make myself scarce." Or you can go. I'm fine.

It's like Arthur can hear it all, can hear his guilt, his intense shame. "I'm fine," he promises, a final edict, all wry. "I'll let you know if I need a break from you."

Dom raises his eyes from the label of his beer can, says nothing, his gaze just touching on Arthur's before directing away.

James gets chickenpox. It's not that Dom doesn't trust Arthur, because he does.

He just wishes that he was there for him, that they were both there for him.

Arthur spends a night out with Ariadne, and there's vomit on the steps the next morning.

Dom will never admit to some relief at nursing Arthur's hangover. He calls Ariadne, whose vague smile translates easily through the phone.

"He talked about you," she says.

"He's here a lot," he says, comfortably guarded.

"I bet."

Comfortably guarded is the way to be. Dom manages wryly amused at Thanksgiving, when Eames suggests he and Arthur may as well be married, and an eyeroll at Ariadne's broad smile. He manages some brief warmth to Arthur, who looks abashed and frustrated.

It's fine, he tries to bring across with a look. It doesn't completely work.

Dom says nothing when Arthur returns from his cigarette with Eames before he departs, and only offers a drink. Arthur accepts it.

"Sit," he orders amiably.

Arthur does so without any protest, and drinks. "He's an asshole," he says.

"He's our asshole," Dom answers, and sits down by him.

"True enough."

Dom can tell Arthur thinks it's a dream, and he almost wants it that way, before he thinks, no. He wants it to be real, to both of them, so Arthur knows that it's real, that it's been real for a long time.

It flashes in Arthur's eyes, in the touch of his hand to his face, and Dom feels something shift inside of him.

"You never leave," he says.

"I hadn't planned on it," Arthur says, faux-blithely, just as fantastically shaken as he is.

"Okay," Dom says, breathing through it. "Okay."

(The kiss is slow, but good. Perfect enough, for what it is, just as they are.)