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A Cafe, Somewhere

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Dom has no trouble getting out of the country. He's a smart man, with a mile wide streak of professional ruthlessness. He runs and doesn't look back. At least not until things are settled, the children with Miles, Dom established in Hong Kong.

Arthur cleans up after him. Dom is a professional but things can always be neater. He washes whatever traces of Dom's flight he can find. He considers the crime, not-so-idly plots three ways to make the charges disappear, but executes none of them. He can't make everyone forget, is the problem. There are too many human elements.

In the end, he does what he can to make it easier on Dom, to give him more of a running start. There's little he can do for the children, but he tries. He does some of Dom's looking back for him, maybe, and for his trouble, Miles asks him to be a pall-bearer. As statements go, it's a big one, saying a hundred things that Arthur and Miles don't say out loud. Arthur loved Mal, loves the children like they’re blood, but he'd been Dom's friend first, and would always be Arthur of indeterminate last name, of strange associates, and clouded past. Miles knows who he isn't (a real boy, with a real social security number), and knows - must know - who he's still talking to.

It's a quiet service, for which Arthur is selfishly grateful.

Later, they drink coffee that Miles' sister has magicked up from nowhere Arthur can tell, and look out onto the backyard, where the children - Phillipa, James and all their cousins - are amassed, strangely subdued. Miles doesn't say anything except, "They love you," but Arthur hears the rest of it and is glad. For a while, until things are safer, he’s glad to be a go-between.

***

Dom doesn’t call. Arthur tracks him down. It takes him longer than he expected, but his expectations are based on the Dominic Cobb who was a respected architect, military contractor, and dabbler in shared dreaming. Arthur revises his expectations.

Predictably, he’s a mess.

Dom loved - still loves - Mal so much. He loves her in a way that Arthur can’t quite grasp, in a way that he’s never known. He spends the flight over quietly sipping a scotch, on the knife-edge of making a scene, because Mal is gone, Dom’s life is over, and he has no idea what to do for his friend. So he researches, and attempts to prepare himself for Dom’s sure to be less than polite grief.

He’s booked himself a room in an understated hotel that caters to foreign business people. The staff speak perfect English and have uniformly bland, English first names. Arthur blends right in, just another Westerner with a Blackberry and pressing business. Arthur lays out a fresh suit and takes a brief shower. Everything is where it should be - the service reassuringly impeccable, and just unique enough to this hotel to be real. It’s as much a totem as his die.

Dom’s hotel isn’t quite as nice. A few casual questions, and a quick search, are all it takes to pin him down once Arthur’s got his temporary address. Temporary, but he’s been here long enough to become a regular of the tidy French cafe down the street from the hotel. It’s inoffensive but predicable, too obviously a refuge for overwhelmed expats, with equal measures of adoration and disdain for the motherland. Dom hasn't yet got the knack of being on the run, but it's fine--Arthur can teach him.

Arthur drops neatly into a chair across from Dom, folds his hands in his lap and politely waits. Dom acknowledges him with a nod, which is more than he gets from the wait staff. Eventually he gets his black coffee, and gets Dom talking.

"I love her," is the sum of it. Dom bleeds out, while his untouched espresso cools.

Arthur holds his coffee cup up in a studied, light grip, occasionally taking polite sips. It's not a native gesture, but one he'd learned, like his posture, like the knot he prefers for his tie. Masculine but not showy--reassuring through and through. His other hand is under the table, fingers digging into his thigh. It’s a tell, or would be one if Dom were paying him that much attention. He digs into the flesh of his thigh until the pain pushes out everything else, and all that’s left is Dom's voice.

Arthur isn’t built for this, he thinks. But he can be this, given enough time. He's always been a quick learner.