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16 September 2010 @ 02:11 pm
Inception, Arthur, Dom / Mal, PG-13  
Title: With You Swallowing the Shine of the Sun
Pairing/Characters: Arthur, Dom/Mal
Summary: This is how Arthur meets Dom and Mal and this is how Arthur loses them.
Warnings: Angst, brief suggestion.
Author: blacktofade
Words: 3,272
Rating: PG-13
A/N: This has not been beta'd, so feel free to point out mistakes/offer concrit.
Disclaimer: I am not associated with Inception or any of their affiliates. I don't mean any harm, this is all made up.



Arthur is an observer. He watches and learns, and removes himself from the threat of personal relationships. Arthur will admit that he’s not the friendliest of people. Those around him tend to be put off by his sharp suits and clipped tone – he knows this because two out of the three girlfriends he’s had so far have told him as much.

But then he meets Dom and Mal.

At first, he thinks it’s the same. They’re introduced through a mutual acquaintance and they stand awkwardly along the outer edge of some loft party in a block of glitzy apartments, too expensive for Arthur to even dream about owning.

He shakes Dom’s hand and nods politely to Mal, who smiles warmly.

“Hello, Arthur,” she says. “I’ve heard much about you.”

He glances around the room warily, because what could she have possibly been told? She laughs; it’s the kind of laugh that hits straight in the chest and pushes a smile up the throat, to the lips, regardless of whether it’s wanted or not.

“Don’t look so worried, it was nothing but praise. I have been told you are skilled at what you do.”

It’s something Arthur doesn’t expect her to say to him. He’s only just starting out in the dream business, only knows a few contacts, but apparently she still hears about him.

They move on and Arthur watches them talk easily to anyone and everyone they pass by.

Arthur drinks from a plastic red cup that reminds him of his college years, and makes casual conversation in a corner with an Englishman, who introduces himself as Eames and seems very out of place.

At the end of the night, Arthur expects to offer thanks to the host, hail a cab, and head home; however, as he’s heading for the door, Dom touches his elbow lightly and pauses him.

“Arthur, what would you say to a job with us?”

He glances over Dom’s shoulder and watches Mal briefly as she sweeps her gaze around the room, unaware of his attention. He can’t be finicky, though, as there’s a pink bill waiting on his kitchen counter for him to pay.

Dom tells him if he wants to join them, they’ll start work in four days, which is lucky because Arthur’s electric will be disconnected in seven.

*

The job is simple enough: to find out what some guy’s wife is hiding – the husband is paranoid that she’s cheating, pointing out that she’s always running off at odd hours of the day and always receiving phone calls from a private number whose speaker is a man with a gruff voice who weakly asks for the wife by name. Dom leads and Arthur follows obediently. Maybe that’s why he’s good at what he does.

They find the man’s wife snoozing on her own sofa and they easily slip into her unconscious mind.

In the dream, she’s riding the subway, a bouquet of yellow daffodils clutched tightly in one hand. She keeps her eyes fixed on the floor until her stop and they follow her discreetly. She walks a block then enters an apartment complex that doesn’t exactly look stable, but they continue, just a few flights below her, up the stairs. She begins to cry as she gets higher, but by the time she reaches a door labelled 506, her face is dry and all signs of tears are gone.

An elderly man opens the door and greets her with an unsteady embrace.

“Hi, dad,” she says before walking in and shutting the door. Arthur shoots Dom a look; this isn’t what they’ve been expecting.

Dom knocks on the neighbouring door and after a minute, a middle-aged man answers, wearing an old shirt that’s covered in flecks of orange paint. Dom smiles.

“Have you seen much of Allison lately? Only I live just the other side of her father and I’m starting to worry.”

“I think you just missed her,” the man says, craning his head around the corner to look down the hallway. “I heard her dad has throat cancer. He only just got out of the hospital. From what I can tell, it’s just a matter of making him comfortable for his last months.”
Dom pulls a face that’s nothing but sympathy.

“Oh god,” he says, “I had no idea.”

Mal steps forward and curls a hand over Dom’s shoulder to show comfort. When it comes to acting, these two are apparently good. Arthur almost believes them himself.

“Thank you for your time,” she tells the neighbour and gently pulls a silent Dom away, back down the hallway.

They don’t need to pry anymore. The job is quick and sharp, like the bullets they use to bring themselves around early. Before Arthur has time to register pain, they’re back in the real world, packing up the PASIV device and leaving through the front door with a quiet snick.

When they meet up with Allison’s husband two days later, Dom reveals nothing of the sick father. He says only that the wife’s not cheating and to talk to her. The man is furious and refuses to pay them, yelling that he hired them to work for him, not against him.

Arthur doesn’t expect that marriage to last long.

On their way out, Arthur notices the way Mal touches Dom’s elbow as though to say that she’s sure he made the right decision to keep quiet. Watching them, Arthur realises they’re their own team.

Dom slows his pace down the sidewalk and bumps against Arthur’s side.

“Thanks,” he says, though Arthur doesn’t really know what for. He just took a job and didn’t get paid. “Could have gone worse, huh?”

Later, when Arthur reaches into his pocket for his house keys, he finds an envelope with more than enough money to cover all his outstanding bills. For a year.

*

Three weeks later he gets another job with them and after that Arthur can’t see himself working with anyone else.

*

Mal is a very beautiful woman, Arthur can’t help but notice.

One evening when Dom is finishing paperwork in his office, he asks her if she’d like to grab dinner with him, but she just smiles softly and tucks a strand of hair behind his ear.

“You should gel it,” she tells him, “to make it stay out of the way when you’re working. Jobs are already hard enough without distractions.”

Dom steps out moments later and helps Mal into her coat. Arthur understands.

*

Dom brings him coffee. It’s not what he likes, but he drinks it to be polite.

Dom’s earlier to work than usual and he sits across the room from Arthur, fidgeting and tapping out tunes with no rhythm onto his paper cup. The fifteenth time Dom uncrosses and crosses his legs – he’s been counting, because each time Dom does it, his pants rustle irritatingly – Arthur looks up from his research and stares at him.

“Is there something wrong, Dom?” he asks, clicking his pen and holding it lengthways between two index fingers.

“I’m going to ask Mal to marry me,” he blurts and Arthur blinks then laughs.

“I thought it was something serious for a moment.”

“It is,” Dom complains, getting up and beginning to pace.

Arthur smiles kindly because his intentions were never to offend.

“I know, it’s just, I’m surprised you hadn’t done it already. She’s always wearing rings and I just thought you two had eloped months ago.”

“You think it’s a good idea then?”

“Dom, I think if you take any longer to ask her, she’ll do it herself and you’ll wake up one morning with a marriage certificate stapled to your forehead.”

They both turn towards the sound of clicking heels and Arthur watches as Dom turns faintly green.

“Dom, it’s all right,” he says, clicking his pen again and starting to scribble down more notes, “she’ll say yes.”

Mal walks in with bright eyes and a wave of sweet perfume that Arthur always associates with her.

By the end of the week, Mal is wearing a modest gold band and the biggest smile Arthur has seen from her.

He knows it won’t be long before he receives an invitation to the wedding.

*

Mal looks radiant standing at the altar; Arthur’s never seen anyone glow so much. The woman sitting next to Arthur bursts into tears during the vows and Arthur politely offers her his handkerchief.

In the evening, he shares a dance with Mal, resting one hand on her shoulder blade and the other on her hip. She’s soft and warm and laughs when he dips her backwards. It’s easy and Arthur is truly happy for them.

She clings tightly to him and whispers in his ear that she and Dom are going to have a child. He glances across the room at Dom, who’s chatting animatedly with Mal’s father and shoots him a small smile when he catches his eye. Dom slowly makes his way over and politely cuts in, requesting to share another dance with his new wife. Arthur obliges and parts with a gentle kiss on Mal’s cheek.

He sits at a side table and drinks champagne until he’s buzzed enough that taking home one of the bridesmaids seems like a good idea. When he slips inside the woman below him, the one who doesn’t even know his name, keeps calling him Andrew, he thinks of Dom and Mal and knows he’ll never find anything quite like what they have.

*

Mal makes him help pick out names, gives him a five page list to sort through until he narrows it down to three. She tells him she approves of his choices and when she gives birth to a healthy baby girl, she picks his top name and calls her Phillipa.

Arthur can’t help but spoil her. When she’s young, it’s with soft stuffed toys. He buys her so many over the years that eventually Mal complains and says they’ll need to put in a new closet if he keeps it up. After that, he switches to candy. One day it’s chocolate, the next it’s bubblegum, and Arthur can’t seem to stop.

He’s never been at all family-orientated, his relationship with his parents isn’t the best that’s ever existed, practically non-existent, and maybe that explains it, or perhaps it’s just the sort of person Arthur is. Either way, it’s completely different, Arthur’s not used to tickling a giggling child, or brushing away tears from flushed cheeks after a nasty fall and a scraped knee.

From Phillipa he learns that a kiss can cause laughter or soothe a sore and from Dom and Mal he learns to feel as though he’s a part of their family.

*

They ask him to join them for a barbeque. Well, Phillipa invites him, and Mal laughs and smiles, then seconds the idea. He probably has work he should be focussing on, but he says Of course nevertheless. Phillipa grins and climbs into his lap, where he’s sitting at the kitchen table.

Mal moves to stop her, apologising for her behaviour, but Arthur smiles and shakes his head.

“It’s fine,” he says as he slips his hands under Phillipa’s armpits and lifts her up fully. She plays with his tie and eventually he undoes it and begins to teach her how to knot it properly.

“She’s three,” Mal says and Arthur looks at her seriously.

“The earlier the better.”

Phillipa accidentally pulls too hard and it ends up choking off his laugh. Mal doesn’t look at all concerned; she nods and carries on cutting up apples for the pie she’s making.

“I see what you mean.”

Dom walks in carrying a paper bag of groceries. He sets it down on the countertop and walks over to Mal, kissing her neck briefly. Arthur pretends not to watch, focuses back on his own tie, and Mal tells Dom that Arthur will be joining them at the weekend.

Dom sighs jokingly.

“That’s what happens when you get yourself caught up with this family, Arthur. There’s no leaving us afterwards.”

*

Mal looks ready to burst and Arthur takes the picnic hamper from her to lighten her load. They spread a blanket out on a sunny patch of grass and Phillipa asks for apple juice before Arthur even has time to set the basket down. They eat bologna sandwiches and Pringles, then Dom takes Phillipa down to the pond nearby to let her feed the ducks with bits of crust.

Mal shifts her weight and presses a palm against the top of her pregnant stomach.

“Everything all right?” Arthur asks, worried, but Mal just smiles.

“Phillipa was a good baby,” she tells him. “Never moved around much, but this one,” she winces and pushes her hand down again. “Must be a boy.”

Arthur laughs and nods.

“Wouldn’t surprise me.”

She takes a hold of his hand and, even though he tries to tug it back, she rests it over the curve of her belly and keeps it there. He feels it, the gentle shift of the baby inside. It’s surprisingly intimate. He looks down at their hands and wonders if one day he’ll do this again with his own wife and child.

She finally lets him go, but he doesn’t pull away.

He knows he’ll never be able to tell her how much she means to him, so instead he presses a kiss to her hair and hopes that he can at least convey part of it.

*

Arthur’s mom dies after the shittiest work week of Arthur’s life.

He gets wasted at some bar on the corner of Green and Fourth and walks home alone at three in the morning.

He finds Dom sitting at his kitchen table drinking a glass of orange juice. There’s a large bottle of water and a sandwich waiting for him and Dom slips the spare key next to the phone then helps him sit down.

Dom stays and listens to everything Arthur has to slur at him about his life. Arthur tells him that he hadn’t spoken to his mother in two years and that, despite the fact, it’s still not easy. Dom explains that he doesn’t know what it’s like to lose someone, but that he’ll always be there for Arthur.

Arthur throws up in the sink and he doesn’t remember the rest of the night, but Dom’s still there in the morning, fast asleep in the armchair next to the sofa Arthur wakes up on.

Dom stays true to his word and Arthur’s not really used to someone doing that.

*

Dom and Mal take a private job for a client in Washington. When they return, they’re not quite the same and it’s a long time before Dom tells him what happened.

Mal’s out to dinner with her dad and Dom invites Arthur over for a drink while he watches the children. Dom picks at the skin around his thumbnail and Arthur swigs from a bottle of beer. Phillipa and James are already asleep and Mal will be home soon.

“I messed up in the dream,” Dom says not meeting his gaze. “We were trapped in limbo. Three hours spent in the dream-space and everything’s changed.”

Arthur’s heard about limbo, but has never met anyone that’s actually been there. He watches Dom’s face for a moment, noticing new frown lines and flecks of gray in his eyebrows. He knows Dom’s not even in his forties yet, but he looks as though he’s lived a lifetime already, and maybe he has.

Arthur’s pretty sure Dom doesn’t tell him the whole story, but he doesn’t press. He doesn’t truly want to know. Ignorance is bliss and for now he’s perfectly okay with that.

*

On their anniversary, Arthur sends them flowers with no note, though he’s sure they know they’re from him. He has the same white daisies delivered to them every year and each time, Mal hugs him when she walks into work. This year Mal never shows up and Dom slips in quietly, head down, starting his work before Arthur even has time to say good morning.

“Need a babysitter?” Arthur asks that evening when they’re slipping on their coats and locking the place up for the night.

Dom shakes his head.

“Their granddad is looking after them.”

It’s the first year Arthur has been replaced and he pretends that it doesn’t sting.

He slips the door key into his pocket and nods to Arthur before getting into his car and driving off. Arthur exhales slowly and unchains his bike from a lamppost. It’s a cold night and he’s forgotten his gloves. His hands go numb before he even reaches the end of the street.

Mal kills herself four hours later.

*

He drives numbly to Dom’s house and does his best to comfort him. It isn’t easy, but he tells Dom that he knows what it’s like to lose someone and that he’ll always be there for him.

Dom hides his face behind his fingers.

“It’s all my fault,” he whispers.

Arthur places a shaking hand on Dom’s shoulder and bows his head.

“It’s not,” he says. “It could never be your fault.”

He misses Mal already.

*

The funeral is a silent affair. Arthur hasn’t seen Dom in over two weeks and Dom’s not there to say his final goodbyes.

He stands shoulder-to-shoulder beside a stranger as Mal’s casket is slowly lowered into the ground. The hysteria hits him hard, not when he’s at the graveside, but when he dreams that night and Mal and Dom are standing together at the edge of a room, looking the same as when Arthur first met them.

He wakes and goes running until the sun starts to droop and cars switch their headlight on. His whole body hurts, but it exhausts him enough that when he gets home, he falls into bed and doesn’t dream at all.

After that, he throws himself into his work and tries his best to pretend everything’s all right. He buys new suits and slicks his hair back and takes every job he’s offered.

*

They take the children to the beach. They sit in folding chairs and Mal wears a large floppy hat with a wide brim and large white sunglasses. Everything they eat has a little crunch of sand in it, and they laugh as it grinds between their teeth. Mal takes Phillipa down to the water’s edge and tries to tempt her into the sea, but she shakes her head and pushes her heels into the shore.

James sits nearby, digging in the sand with his bare hands.

Mal gives up and starts heading back to them; however, before she’s able to leave the blue Atlantic water, Dom jogs towards her. With a scream from Mal, Dom scoops her up and carries her further out, until they’re both sent tumbling into the water, knocked over by a large wave.

They reappear laughing and spluttering, and Phillipa wades into knee-high water, asking to be taught to swim now.

Arthur tells James not to put shells in his mouth and shuts his eyes, turning his face up into the sun.

This is the last happy memory Arthur has of the Cobb family.

When he works again with Dom, when Dom finally finds him while he’s working in Berlin, he first meets Dom’s projection of Mal. It’s not how he wants to remember her, so every now and then he loses himself down at the beach in his mind, where Arthur helps James build sandcastles and Dom and Mal share kisses in the water.

 
 
 
pymparticles on September 16th, 2010 09:15 pm (UTC)
FIRST
pymparticles on September 16th, 2010 09:37 pm (UTC)
Jo. Jo. Jo. This is so lovely. It's... just right. It's adorable. I love it. You're amazing.
You won't see penny one from me you slag!: Inception; Arthur & Eamesblacktofade on September 16th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
Ffff I am so glad you like it, love! Happy early Birthday! ♥ :D