|The Japanese Castle
Author: Nightengale PM
Mal grips the railing and doesn't look at him. "What are you doing here, Dom?" Dom leans his forearms on the railing and tries to catch her eye. "I thought you might have missed me." -A rewrite of the second scene; instead of Mal lost to limbo, Dom was-Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Supernatural - Mal & Arthur - Words: 4,468 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 2 - Published: 03-09-11 - Status: Complete - id: 6810576
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"What is the most valuable thing in your life?"
Saito sips his wine and says nothing. Cobb waves an arm indicating the ornate, wood worked room full of chattering party guests.
"Is it your home? Your family? Your profession?"
Saito's eyes shift away over the crowd.
"Your Swiss bank account?"
His eyes snap back.
"Um," Arthur clears his throat. "What Ms. Cobb is trying to say…"
"Your ideas." Mal holds up a finger and touches the side of her head. "Without your ideas you would not be who you are, your company would not be yours, your personality, your life, nothing about you would be you without your ideas."
Saito purses his lips and sips his wine again. Mal feels Arthur's foot tap against hers but she ignores his warning.
"If someone were to steal your ideas, your secrets, it would be as stealing you. Your ideas, your mind must be protected."
Saito finally looks at her, lowering the glass from his lips. "And you can do that?"
"Yes," Arthur leans forward slightly, hands low and non-threatening. "When you're asleep your conscious defenses are lowered which makes your thoughts vulnerable to theft. It's called extraction. We can teach you to protect against that."
Saito cocks his head, eyes shifting between them. "How?"
"Because I am the most skilled extractor you will ever meet," Mal says, no pride, no arrogance, simple fact. "I know the methods, the tricks, and I can teach them to you so even when you sleep your defense is never down."
Saito looks away, disbelief and perhaps a touch of boredom on his features. Mal's eyes flick to Arthur. He shakes his head once but she smirks.
"If this is a dream," Saito's eyes snap back to her, "and you have a safe of secrets, of your ideas, I need to know what is inside."
Saito's eyes flick briefly to the sliding doors to their right and the empty dinning room beyond, something hidden in the wall.
"I need to know you best to help you." Mal touches his arm and his focus is completely on her. "I need to know my way around your head." She touches one finger to his forehead then lets her hands fall away. "You have to be completely open to me."
Saito hands his empty wine glass to a passing attendant and wipes his hands together, a visual end to the discussion. He looks up, palms together and nods at them both.
"Enjoy your evening, while I consider your proposal."
Saito pivots and walks away into the throngs of brightly dressed projections, Arthur and Mal tracking his retreat with their eyes. Arthur slides closer to Mal and dips his voice low.
"It doesn't matter." She sips her wine and speaks around the glass. "Did you see his eyes when I mentioned secrets?"
"Yes, the safe."
"I can get it."
"Don't be overconfident."
Mal drops the glass from her lips and glances at Arthur. He peers at her out of the corner of his eyes; a conversation in looks. Mal always thought Arthur was more European than his American upbringing should have allowed for. They stare, eyes locked for a beat then Arthur acquiesces to her unspoken argument. He motions with his chin toward the door to the porch. Mal turns on her heel then walks over and through the door out into the cool night.
Out on the porch, small pockets of people stand gazing out at the crashing sea; one couple nearest to them at the corner, a few gathered around the door to catch the warmth and view at once. The world around them shakes slightly and some clay tiles crack, tumbling down the roof.
Arthur looks up. "What's going on up there?"
Mal glances around but only presses her lips tightly together. They walk along the wood toward the edge, Mal's steps restricted somewhat by the form fitting dress. Arthur glances around them again then he stiffens. Mal tilts her head in question and Arthur motions with his eyes behind her.
"What's he doing here?"
Mal turns and sees a familiar, so familiar, figure yards away down the balcony standing at the railing. Mal breathes in slowly and touches Arthur's shoulder.
"I will handle it."
Arthur purses his lips and she can see him holding back. "We're here to work."
She presses her glass of wine into his hand. "Go to the room; I said I will handle it."
Arthur turns with that military clip which resurfaces when he's frustrated and marches back to the door. Mal sighs and walks along the balcony until she stands beside the man.
"Quite a view here." He looks over at her. "What would happen if I jumped?"
"Wanting a swim?"
"Would you follow me down?"
Mal grips the railing and doesn't look at him. "What are you doing here, Dom?"
Dom leans his forearms on the railing and tries to catch her eye. "I thought you might have missed me."
"I always am, Dom, but..." she looks over at him and he smiles; his smile was always truthful but now it looks like a smirk. "I cannot trust you. You know I cannot."
"You always trusted me." Dom touches his tie. It's black to match her dress, two button suit and the silver cuff links she never forgets.
"Not now," she shakes her head, "not anymore."
He follows her, she knew he would, into the room one floor above the kitchen. A tiny voice which sounds like Arthur tells her she should have known, shouldn't have been the dreamer. She did know but she ignored.
Dom walks around the room as she strips out of her dress and changes into the waiting pants and loose shirt, black jacket on top.
"Did you let Arthur pick the decorations?" Dom says as he stands in front of a painting, pointing with his wine glass.
"The subject is partial to post-war British painters," Mal replies.
Dom makes a 'hmm' noise and walks in long strides over the floor, two steps left and three steps right. He always walks in circles now, circles around her, circles inside her. Mal pulls up a chair and takes Dom's hand, guiding him as if she's really in charge.
"Sit down, please."
Dom curls his fingers around her hand and sits as he's told. The wine glass disappears, a prop no longer necessary. Mal bends her fingers, wants to stay connected but she slips out. The feel of his hand stays imprinted on her skin; Dom's fingers like tattoos of vines.
"I'll always be here." Dom answers her thoughts, her feelings, as he builds up from her subconscious. "You can't pretend not to hear me."
There's no need to pretend when he knows everything she knows but she still won't look at his face. She pulls leather gloves over her hands and picks up the coiled rope from the shelf on the wall. Mal bends down at the base of the chair and wraps the rope around the left leg.
"Do they miss me?" Dom asks, voice just pitched enough to show a crack, to show her pain in him.
A vice clenches her heart, the back of Phillipa's pink jumper and James' puff of hair curling at the ends.
She plants a hand on the floor to steady herself beside his shoe. "You know they do, you feel it too."
"And we can have them back."
Mal swallows but doesn't trust her voice. She ties off the rope then stands and keeps her eyes away from Dom, eyes on the job. She lets out the rope as she walks backward to the window.
"Where are you going, Mal?"
Dom's voice dips, lowers, changes into dangerous and sounds like someone else, not quite her husband. She swings open the window, curtains blowing in, and steps up onto the windowsill. She turns back to see Dom watching her, heels and knees together, hands on the arms of the chair.
"Just a little walk. Don't move."
She grasps the rope tight and jumps once out of the window so she swings down and her feet hit the solid wall. Slowly, she walks herself down the side of the building past wood supports and stucco. It's lovely work and she can't help a smile at the design. She reaches the window to the kitchen and, just as she gets her feet in place on the out cropping beneath, the rope gives. Mal gasps, slipping and reaches out erratically as she falls to grab the jutting frame around the window. Her hands clamp over the lower edge just in time, nails digging into wood, and the rope slides down to earth away from her.
"Dominic," She groans, full name for the bad times, for the mistakes; for her mistake and her simple stupidity at playing with him up in the room as if she could count on her mind in his form.
She breathes in slowly, strains, then pulls herself up. Luckily, dreams make her stronger, make her light, make her able to pull herself up onto the window sill, half crouched over it like a cat. At least she didn't fall until she crashed on the sand, small mercies of her own mind.
One circle, one slip, one window open and Mal slides back inside the building. She weaves through the tight spaces, past the clean food prep tables and the quiet sinks. She pulls her gun from the holster in her coat and twists the silencer in place.
"Do I look like James Bond?" Dom holds the new gun with the silencer up and strikes a pose.
"He used a Walter PPK."
Dom smiles. "Not every time."
"Every time that mattered."
"Still secret agent, though."
"You are not a secret agent, Dom."
Dom pouts a little and Mal touches his hair. "You look like you, always dashing."
He smiles again, a face to melt her heart.
The first man Mal sees receives a shot in the back. He falls into Mal's waiting arms as she slides forward and lands in front of him. The second man she pulls against her and shoots in the head before he notices her hands.
Coming to the room with the safe, Mal quietly slides open the door and closes it behind her. She strides across the room and opens the panel in the wall. A beautiful, gray-black safe sits set into the wall with a circular lock. Mal spins the dial around, memorized order, and the door makes a clicking noise. Mal pulls the door open to see a lone manila envelope inside. Perfect. She slides out the envelope and stuffs it into her coat as she pulls out another she brought to replace it. Dreams rely on distraction, shinning lights and beautiful scenes to keep the mark where one wants them. She always comes prepared. Mal places the blank envelope back into the safe just as the lights turn on.
She spins in place, gun in hand, to see Saito and Dom standing in the door way.
Dom points his own gun at her. "Gun down, honey."
She always hated the term 'honey,' so ridiculously American. Mal shifts herself away from the wall, second envelope grasped between her fingers, and keeps the gun up. Suddenly, two projections drag Arthur into the room by the arms.
"Now, please, Mal." Dom turns his gun on Arthur.
Mal clenches her teeth and places the gun on the table, sliding it away. Arthur glares in her direction, such French fire in his expression and she knows he's going throw this in her face later. She shakes her head once slightly and tries to say with her eyes that they're not done yet.
"Now the envelope," Saito commands, "Ms. Cobb."
"How did you know?" Mal asks Saito as she puts it down. "Did he tell you?"
"That you are here to steal from me," Saito's eyes narrow, "or that we are actually asleep?"
Mal stiffens and Arthur makes a noise much like a growl. Dom presses the muzzle of the gun against the side of his head for a moment. Arthur breathes in sharp and closes his eyes. Mal steps forward quickly but Dom holds up a finger and she stops. He backs off from Arthur and Mal knows this hurts for Arthur too.
"I want to know the name of your employer," Saito asks, voice all authority and control.
Dom cocks the trigger.
"Dom…" Arthurs says, voice low.
"Arthur." Dom's voice sounds dispassionate, empty, and Mal sees Arthur flinch involuntarily.
"Don't threaten him, Dom, it's no use," Mal says. "You'll only wake him up. So, let him go."
"Yes, if I killed him I'd wake him up but I don't have to kill him to make you talk."
"Stop it, Dom!" Arthur snaps.
Suddenly Dom moves, pulls Arthur from the arms of the projection guards and throws Arthur to the floor. Arthur gasps and flips over onto his back. He moves quickly to jump up but Dom aggressively plants a foot hard on Arthur's chest, knocking him down harsh and hard as Dom never was in life. Arthur hisses and Dom shifts his foot, crouching low over Arthur. Mal stiffens, hand itching for her gun. Dom leans close, gun pressed into Arthur's neck.
"Pain is in the mind," Dom says to Arthur's face but he speaks to Mal, slides the words across the room and into her chest.
Mal sees Arthur grit his teeth.
"The name," Saito says, face impassive as if the scene provokes no reaction.
Mal shakes her head sharply. "You cannot expect – "
Dom leans back, moves his gun, and cuts her off with a shot straight through Arthur's leg. Arthur screams, body jerking under the blow and Dom's weight over him. Dom stands up, stepping over Arthur curling around himself. Dom smiles cruelly and turns to Mal.
"Pain is in the mind," he repeats.
Dom looks back down at Arthur and Mal jumps up onto the table in the same moment making Dom's head snap around.
"Arthur!" She shouts.
Arthur forces his head up and with one motion she dives to her knees, grabs the gun off the table and shoots Arthur between the eyes. Arthur's head knocks back, gone a layer up.
"Mal!" Dom screams.
Mal rolls off the table down to the floor as the room begins to shake and dust showers down around them. The beautiful Japanese lanterns above them begin to fall down one by one like hail. Everyone ducks, dodging glass, so Mal takes the window and bolts out of the room. She hears Saito scream behind her and bullets begin to fly by. She shoots back at the projections, racing over the wood floor.
Mal chances a look over her shoulder. Dom stands in the door way, dust swirling around him like he's a sink hole pulling her in.
"I love you…" His lips move and his voice carries even though she's running away. "I love you, love you…"
She leaps down stairs, looks where she's going, shoots behind her. Beams on the veranda above break in half, crashing down to the floor. A bullet hits a glass booth full of vases and shatters as she runs by. Projections chase her and she shoots the closest one in the chest, no time to waste on them. She slides around the corner, wood crashing, hitting projections for her. She hunches and rips open the folder. There are three papers inside but some words are blocked out. The lay out is there, this and that, dates and times and cost but the actual product, the proposal is only solid black.
"Merde!" She stands up, flipping to the last page, trying to find a clue.
Suddenly something slams her to the floor, stinging in her face and she knows they're trying to wake her up. Not yet, one more page to read, one more chance inside. She stands up, eyes scanning the lines. Then everything stills. She looks up and water crashes through the latticed wood at the ceiling, the ocean coming to meet her.
Dom's voice from behind her says, "Fall with me."
Mal jolts in the water, hands grabbing the edges of the bathtub, yanking herself back into consciousness. She breathes in sharply once her head breaks the water's surface. To the left she sees Saito holding Nash and Arthur with his hands held up in the door way. Mal stands quickly and punches Saito in the jaw. He stumbles, his arm loosens around Nash, and Mal shoves Nash in the shoulder. Nash falls forward, Saito falls to the side and Mal jumps out of the bathtub. Arthur catches Nash and Mal grabs the gun out of Saito's hand. Saito lands heavily in the leather chair Arthur was sitting in when they first went under. Mal cocks the gun and points it at Saito's chest before he can regroup.
Everyone stands still.
Frozen beats count inside her, one, two, three, then suddenly the tension leaves Mal, Dom's voice fading into the black, quelled back again, and she eases. Nash and Arthur relax like they'd been waiting for her signal, for the okay that the dream is still on their side.
"You came prepared?" Mal indicates the gun in her hand with a flick of her wrist.
Saito glares, eyes flicking to the men standing in the doorway. "Not even my head of security knows this apartment, how did you find it?"
Mal smiles, lips quirking in a sneer she never possessed before. "Do you believe a man of your position could keep a love nest such as this secret?"
"Especially when a married woman is involved," Arthur adds.
Behind Arthur, Nash moves to the bed, hands quickly packing up the PASIV device, keeping the job, the act, in place. The second layer may have faltered, Dom pulling her strings again, but this layer holds strong.
Saito shakes his head at Arthur. "She would never."
Mal laughs once and Saito turns back to her. "Yet here we are."
Something crashes outside, yells intensifying. Arthur steps backward into the other room and goes to the window. Mal glances at the glass behind her but not enough to really see the chaos outside.
She tilts her head, a warning. "A dilemma."
"You got what you came for," Saito snaps.
"Ah." Mal waves her free hand. "Pas vari; you held back key pieces of information." She leans back against the tub. "You knew what we were up to yet you still let us in?"
Saito sits up straighter. "An audition."
Saito scoffs. "Doesn't matter. You failed."
"We extracted everything you had in there," Arthur counters, coming back into the doorway.
"But your deception was obvious." Saito spits out the last word to Arthur then turns back to Mal. "So, leave me and go."
A soft tune suddenly ripples through the air, light above their heads; French words, a sultry alto voice. Nash's eyes peek over Arthur's shoulder and Mal glances at Arthur. His face says 'now, we have to get it now.'
"Mr. Saito," Mal stands up straight, "we are not leaving without what we came for."
The sounds of the crowd outside grow louder. Mal hears the whoosh of fire building. She shakes her head and throws her gun to Arthur. Arthur catches it and turns it on Saito, flow of practice and ease of a gun in his hand. Mal steps forward once and crouches low in front of Saito.
"So, we leave you, we give our clients the information we have and it is not enough. What happens to us?" She glances significantly at her two companions then frowns with a shake of her head. "But that you have no reason to care about. But," she holds up a finger and wags it once, "but should we do something else?"
Saito turns his head and she can tell he wants to shove her aside; he wants to knock her to the ground, take the gun, turn it on Arthur. His body is itching for escape because he can see what's turning in her head. He is not new to blackmail, to how easy good can change into bad and how suspicion is sometimes all one needs to ruin a life.
"Ah." She smiles. "You know how the world works, Mr. Saito. We need only inform your company of the loss of these bits of information, let them know the loss came from you."
"It is my –"
"It is your company, yes, but not yours alone. It is not impossible for your board to push you out, to supersede your power. Do you think we, we who stole into your mind to steal from you, would be above ruining your life because you did not give us what we wanted?"
Saito's hands clench on the chair arms, his eyes darting around the room. His face says 'escape, escape, escape' but he also knows he's covered and has no recourse, no way out through force.
"But, Mr. Saito," Mal continues, "if you give us what we need then no one will know how our clients learned of your project. No one will know your mind was to blame and you will have time to plan your counterstrike, no?"
Saito swallows hard and another crash comes from outside. Mal glances quickly to Arthur and he makes a 'wrap it up' sign with his hand.
"Mr. Saito?" Mal insists. "I can no longer wait. Choose now and believe me, you know which is right."
The pause stretches, all four motionless. The crowd yells louder, cars crashing, fire growing and Mal counts seconds in her head, seconds making even less seconds. One last chance. She stares into Saito's eyes, tilts her chin and opens her mouth to speak.
"Behind the chair," Saito abruptly spits out and his body slumps, "it is all there."
Mal jumps and strides into the other room heading for the chair in the far corner. Behind her she hears a yell and turns to see Saito leap from his seat and grab Arthur's hand holding the gun. Arthur spins, thrown off for only a second, then he cracks Saito's back into the door frame. Saito shouts and the gun falls. Arthur yanks Saito sharply then slams him down onto the tiled floor of the bathroom, chin making a sharp cracking noise. Saito groans in pain.
"All good," Arthur says to Mal with his eyes still locked on Saito.
Mal leans over and picks up a leather briefcase from behind the chair. She opens it quickly and pulls out the lone black folder inside. She wrenches out the papers from within and quickly scans the page. Then she hears a laugh from the bathroom. They all turn and look at Saito on the floor.
"This apartment was never grand." Saito grins and something seems to stab behind Mal's eyes. "I did little to make it into much to see… except the tiles." His hand not held tight behind his back by Arthur slides across the bathroom tiles. "I had marble tiles put in."
Mal sees Nash breathe in very slowly and a light goes on, a crack; she knows something is wrong. Arthur's eyes dart to Nash then over to Mal. He sees it too and he shakes his head.
"Right now, I am lying on ceramic which means I'm not lying on the tiles in my apartment." Saito begins to laugh, a sound low and menacing in his chest. "I'm still dreaming."
Arthur shoots a worried look at his watch then up at Mal. "Do you have it?"
Mal rips the papers violently in half. "Oui."
Arthur vanishes. Saito stands up, his captor no longer present, and brushes down the front of his coat.
"Very impressive, Ms. Cobb, a dream within a dream. You have lived up to your reputation."
"And succeeded," Mal inserts.
Saito glares. "For now. But we are still dreaming and in my dream you play by my rules."
"Ah," Nash's voice pipes up from between them, "but we're not in your dream, Mr. Saito."
Confusion flashes over Saito's face and Mal allows a smile to creep across hers.
"We're in mine."
Suddenly, on perfect cue, the door crashes open, projections stampeding through with murder in their eyes and fists formed. They flow straight to Nash before yanking her to the ground, Saito untouched in front of them. She sees his eyes widen in horror as hands pull hair from her head and tear her shirt like tissue.
"Asshole!" Arthur barks as Mal and Nash open their eyes. "Ceramic?"
"It's not my fault!"
"You're lucky Mal already had the information. What if she'd been a minute later?"
"I didn't know he was going slam his face on it!"
"You're the architect!"
Mal rips the IV line from her wrist and Saito's, the man still sleeping on. Arthur slams the PASIV device shut and glares are her.
"And you, what was all that?"
"We learned what we needed to know." Mal's eyes shift away. "I have it under control, détendez-vous."
Arthur raises an eyebrow. "I'd hate to see you out of control."
Mal stands up briskly and pulls on her coat. She grabs her briefcase from the shelf above and pulls out a roll of bills.
"I am getting off at Kyoto." She throws the bills to the boy seated on the floor. "We will meet up later as planned. Au revior."
"He's not going to check every compartment, Mal!" Arthur calls after her.
"You know where this train will take you but it doesn't matter!"
His eyes staring back at her, so certain now.
"Tell me why, Dom!"
The tracks rumbling, his hand tight in hers. "Because you'll be…"
Mal's jaw clenches. "I do not like trains." She slides the door shut with a click and does not look back.
When Saito finds her and Arthur high on their hotel roof, Nash dragged away by nameless black suited employees, he has not come for blood. He does not seek revenge; he asks for recompense. They stole from him so they should, in turn, give back to him and take the job he offers.
"So what?" Mal replies.