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Woke Up a Fraud

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The ring burns.

It weighs heavy on Arthur's left hand, too hot in the sunlight, glowing silver white silver. He can't take it off, can't find the strength to reach for it. It means something; it's something important that he just can't keep a grasp on.

Someone's calling his name, a hand on his shoulder push, push, pushing until he jerks awake, knees hitting the floor before the rest of him. Something tears at his elbow. The skin feels like it's on fire.

"Arthur, come back," the voice says. "You're okay. You're home. Come back." The hands at Arthur's shoulders hold him steady, the voice ever constant. It's okay, you're okay, come back, come back, come back.

"Dom?" Arthur asks, blinking through his blurred vision.

"I'm here," Dom says. The familiar lines of his face begin to fill in. His cologne is strong up close, cloying. Arthur can't breathe. He wants to say you're back, you're okay, you didn't stay with her, but he can't breathe the words out.

"Where are we?" Arthur chokes out. He doesn't remember how he got here, but that means nothing right now. He can't remember much of anything, just flashes of faces and sounds and the lingering feeling of victory.

"We're home," Dom says, slow like he's speaking to a child.

"Where are James and Phillipa?" Arthur asks. Dom's jaw goes rigid for a moment. "Did Saito go back on his deal?"

"Arthur, sweetheart, look at me." Dom touches the side of his face, leaning in. His eyes are bright. Worried. Arthur can feel the smooth, worn side of a ring on his cheek, warm from wear. Arthur looks down at his own hand and catches sight of his own ring. Plain. Silver. A wedding band.


There's something creeping in his chest, cold and afraid. He needs to get a hold of himself. Terror isn't going to help him figure a damn thing out, and that's not how he works.

"You've been under for thirteen hours," Dom says slowly. "I'm going to walk out of the room, and you're going to roll your die three times." Dom watches him carefully, eyes flitting across his face. "I need you to do that. Can you do that for me?"

Arthur nods. He feels sick, like vertigo has set in. Thirteen hours is six and a half days on first level, twelve on second level. Dom holds him for a moment longer, steady and sure. Before he leaves, he presses a kiss to Arthur's forehead.

The room is familiar like it shouldn't be; old wallpaper and framed photos of two smiling children, dressers lined with boxes of cufflinks and carefully designed watches and enough loose change to choke a piggy bank. Arthur knows the angles of the mattress to the door, the shape of the closet's off center moulding.

His die is in his pocket where it belongs. He rolls it once and it lands on three. He rolls it again, jaw clenched tight. Three. Two's luck, and three's a charm, but he doesn't know, can't know, that it's real. He rolled while he was under and it came up spades. His own mind knows how it works. He can't trust himself much these days.

The third roll is a three, and when he tries to change the shape of the walls, all he gets is a headache.

"Arthur?" Dom calls from the hall. Arthur stuffs the die back into his pocket and breathes deep. He's awake. He's only been dreaming.

"I'm awake," he says out loud. He can't hear the relieved breath, but he can feel it, somewhere inside.

"You shouldn't have gone under alone," Dom says when he walks back into the bedroom. He looks tired, hair mussed over his forehead and lines around his mouth. "You shouldn't have gone under for so long."

"I was trying to figure something out," Arthur says quietly. He dreamt of dreaming dreams inside of dreams inside of dreams. He's trying to remember how many times he'd gone under, but the world he'd made is slipping away rapidly, like spiderweb thin strips of smoke.

"Who are you?" Dom asks.

"My name is Arthur. I turned twenty-six in March." Arthur presses a knuckle to his temple. There's white hot pain behind his eyelids. Too much sleep, too many memories that aren't really memories.

"What else?" Dom's crouching down next to him, one hand on his knee, the other on Arthur's shoulder.

"I moved to Chicago after our first job. I-" Arthur wraps his fingers around his die and clenches his eyes shut.

There's flitters of a hotel with no gravity and rain on a busy street lined with gunfire. There's a man he doesn't know with an unusual name driving and another that stood by him for something incredibly important.

"Why did you move to Chicago?" Dom asks. His voice is tight. He's trying not to say something, trying not to give away clues.

"Because-" Arthur sees black, a tux fit to sharp shoulders and a lovely blue flower in a buttonhole. A hand on his, two rings on pillows. "Because I got married." He looks up and sees the wash of relief over Dom's face and it clicks. "I got married to you."

"What else?" Dom asks. "There's one more thing, Arthur. What else is real?"

"I have two children," Arthur says, and he remembers them as soon as he says it, feels guilty for forgetting them as his own. Dom yanks him in close. His cologne is familiar, strong. "I wanted to know something."

Arthur presses his face to the curve of Dom's throat and breathes him in. Reality clicks into place in turns, slipping together in a mishmashed puzzle.

His children- James with his nose, and Phillipa with Dom's eyes, born from a lovely French woman- and his husband- loyal and strong and damn near shaking against him. He can retrace his day, from this moment to hooking himself in to the kitchen table where he'd watched Dom drive away with the kids for a day at the park. Before that is fuzzy, but in the natural way.

"You were married to Mal," Arthur says. "She was haunting you."

"Jesus, Arthur, you can't even think about yourself in your own dreams," Dom says thickly. Arthur shrugs. He supposes not.

They stay on the floor for a long time, pressed together shoulder to hip to thigh, watching the last of the daylight fade away. Arthur can hear the children through the walls, their laughter like bubbles. He aches to see them, to know them as his instead of Mal's, but he's still unsteady; been gone too long.

"What did you want to know?" Dom asks when they head for bed. Arthur doesn't want to sleep, but the tiredness in his bones is weighing him down.

"I don't remember," he says, mouth to the pillow. Dom's hand curls around his elbow, and for a moment Arthur thinks of Dom's arms around Mal's waist, his hands on hers. A memory that never really existed.

He falls asleep to Dom's breaths steady against him and the sound of his children singing in their bedroom. The dream slides slowly away.