Art by LemonYellow
Artist Notes: a Saito/Cobb onigiri
After Robert Fischer's successful inception and his subsequent reunion with his children, Dominic Cobb had thought his life would be complete. He had thought that it would be the final act of closure he needed to leave the world of dream sharing forever
He had thought that was it.
But now, living the simple, the safe, the seemingly perfect life; it is missing something. It is incomplete.
There's this little voice inside his head that remains restless, longing for more, longing for something bigger.
He doesn't crave the adrenaline rush, the thrill, the chase, the crimes.
He longs for something else; he longs for the family he had found in his team.
Eames and Yusuf and Arthur and Ariadne, and yes, he'll admit, even Saito.
He loves his children to pieces, yes, and he's so so so happy that he can finally see them again. Dom is not a religious man, but every night, he utters a small prayer to whatever higher power there is for that inception, for Saito. The Japanese businessman did more for Dom than he probably thinks he has.
And yet, despite his children, Dom longs for his family, not of blood, but bonded closely nonetheless.
One day, when this loneliness threatens to overwhelm him, he calls Arthur.
The younger man, in the confidence of trust, had given Dom his private phone number that he keeps on him at all times and vice versa, when their partnership was still beginning and Mal was alive.
Now, after all they have gone through, Dom fully trusts Arthur to share even these innermost private thoughts with him. And frankly, he misses their camaraderie despite years on the run as fugitive criminals.
Dom knows he's an asshole, a rightful prick, and after the risk, he had put Arthur and the rest of the team for the inception, he would accept any and all well-deserved animosity.
But he hopes Arthur doesn't, no matter how selfish of him it is.
Dom has always been a selfish man, he's that much self-aware.
Selfishly, as he always as, he calls Arthur (almost expecting the other man to drop everything for him as he had).
"Cobb?" rings a familiar voice, sleep slurring his speech, which is when he looks at the time and realizes it must be the night for him (Why is he in Europe anyway?).
"Arthur, good to hear from you," Dom greets him warmly.
"It's 3 AM. What's up? Is it another job? I thought you left?" The man pelts him with questions, more alert and awake.
"Yes, I did leave. No, it's not another job, and I promise this call won't take too long and you can go back to bed soon."
"So what is it?
"I- I miss it."
"Dreamsharing? Are you getting the shakes because of somnacin withdrawal?" His voice is concerned, and he can hear rustling on the other side.
"No, I'm not having any shakes, although, I will admit, I do miss dream sharing. No, what I meant was that I miss our team, us, the dynamic. We were like a family," Dom reluctantly admits, his voice a quiet whisper.
Arthur goes silent for a second, and he wonders whether he has lost the other man.
"I- I get what you mean," Arthur tells him. "I miss the team, as well. We were the best, we were amazing, and that's why we pulled it off. Lots of other teams have tried it and failed, but we didn't-"
"Almost failed," Dom interrupts him.
"Yes, almost failed, and that was very scary at the moment, but now, now I feel like I can have a good laugh over it."
"So, you miss us?" Arthur's voice has a teasing edge to it, that betrays his real age, and Dom's forgotten how young he really is. How young Ariadne is. How young all of them are - physically, at least, though dream sharing and Limbo makes Dom feel as though he's a million years old. Dream sharing can make a child out of a fully grown man, teaching him the power of creation and dreams, but it also ages them inexplicably, and despite being in his forties, Dom feels like a geriatric man already. He's living this false life, an old man who's lived for hundreds of years, in the body of a man whose age he cannot understand.
"Yes. And I was going to ask if you wanted to come over?"
"To LA, you mean?" Arthur clarifies.
"Yes. For Thanksgiving."
There's yet another short pause, and Dom wonders if he's overstepped his bounds. Perhaps Arthur still needs more time off and alone to heal from the wounds of Dom's betrayal of his trust.
Limbo and the threat of it still haunt them all - he doesn't know how the rest of them passed their week in the first dream without losing their sanity and reality.
"I- I really want to," Arthur's voice is small, "but we're going to visit Ari's parents at their house soon, and I don't know how long we'll be there, maybe until after the holidays."
"Oh. Ari?" Dom is a bit confused - since when were the two youngest members of their team this well-acquainted with each other. Though he supposes, he should have seen it coming; in retrospect, their wandering gazes at each other, their need to be close to each other, the way she gravitates towards him after he had left the two of them alone for a few days to learn during his trip to Mombasa.
"Ariadne, yeah, we're a thing, I guess, you could say that," Arthur's voice is sheepish, and Dom can imagine the man running his hands through his hair nervously.
Dom grins. After everything, both of them deserve some happiness, and if it's with each other, who's he to stop them.
"I'm very happy for you and her, too," his voice is filled with warmth and pride, and he truly is very happy for them.
Perhaps earlier, when he was stuck in the past, buried in Mal's memories, carrying that burden and toxicity, ready to sacrifice anything and anyone for his children, he may have boiled with jealousy that in this precarious world of dream sharing, they committed the sin of falling in love.
He adds, "No worries, though, you enjoy your time together. Come by anytime you want, and bring Ariadne too!"
They exchange a few more pleasantries, before Arthur's yawns are no longer stifled and audible through their call. Dom cuts their call and lets the younger man sleep.
Similarly to Arthur and Ariadne, both Eames and Yusuf have their own plans for the holidays, and with a barrage of apologies, tell him that they would, unfortunately, be unable to come over, but will try to visit him soon.
It's Dom's own fault, really. He should have planned out for the holidays sooner, and now he's all alone, Miles and Marie both travelling in France with Philippa and James; they wanted to give him some time off for the holidays but now, Dom is acutely and painfully aware of the loneliness beneath his skin.
There's one last name remaining on his list, and if the four of them were not available, it would be a Christmas miracle of sorts, if Saito, by chance, was.
Besides, Dom is not even sure if Saito considers them close enough for this sort of informal invitation.
He tries, anyway.
Ringing that number from the personal card Saito had given to him when they parted ways in the airport, Dom remembers the Japanese man's words to him: Call me if you need anything.
He needs company.
Dom knows and is brave enough to admit that he is lonely.
The dial tone shows that the cal has gone through but it keeps ringing and ringing for ages; Dom is ready to give up when someone picks up the phone.
"Mr. Saito?" He asks hesitantly.
"Mr. Cobb, how are you?" Saito's voice rings clearly through the speaker, and he sounds genuinely pleased to have gotten his phone call.
"I'm good. Really good, in fact," Dom tells him. "How are you?"
"I'm glad. I'm fine. Been helping out young Mr. Fischer split the energy empire, and my company is doing much better as well."
"Good good. I'm glad."
"Is there a particular reason why you called, Mr. Cobb?" Saito's voice sounds amused, but intrigued, nonetheless.
"Everything is fine. It's just that, I miss those days, back when we were all a team. I miss us. I'm quite lonely."
"I miss it, too," Saito replies, without missing a beat.
"Despite starting my own company from the grassroots, Mr. Cobb, that was the freest and most alive I had felt in ages," Saito freely confesses.
And, dear god, Dom can understand and relate to him so well now.
That freedom, that teamwork - it was a drug, and Dom misses the hell out of it.
"So, did you just call to tell me you were lonely, Mr. Cobb?"
"No, I came to invite you. For Thanksgiving, and the holidays, if you're free."
"Hmm, sure. I do happen to be free and I'd love to spend the holidays with you. Is this Thanksgiving dinner you mean?"
Dom did not expect this. Not at all.
Saito is the last person he had expected to be free and to accept his invitation.
But, in a weird coincidence, he's the only one Dom can truly relate to.
Though both Ariadne and Fischer had come into Limbo, they hadn't experienced it like Cobb and Saito.
Only the both of them know what it's like to become an old man and return to the body of their youth. Their minds are a hundred years old and their bodies half that.
Dom forces himself to reply rather than engage in this silence, "No, not dinner. I am an atrocious cook, actually. So maybe just take-out."
"I have a better idea actually."
So, that's how Cobb finds himself in his own kitchen learning how to make authentic onigiri from multi-billionaire Saito. Saito, on the other hand, looks completely at ease in this Californian kitchen, with his jacket and vest off, in a crisp white shirt. He's fast and adept at shaping the rice balls, in comparison to Dom, who's wearing an apron to 'protect' himself from his crumbling onigiris as he tries to emulate the older man.
Though the motions are repetitive and the room basking in silence, it's nice. Very nice, in fact. The silence is amiable, and Dom, for once, feels at peace. The restlessness inside him has found a soothing balm.
"Have you have ever had onigiris, Mr. Cobb?" Saito's voice breaks him out of his musings.
"Dom, and a couple of times, in Japan."
"How were they, Dom?" Saito emphasizes his name.
"Quite yummy, Saito," he responds in kind.
The man lets out a boisterous bark of laughter.
"I'm glad, but, not too brag," Saito's voice lowers itself into a conspiratorial whisper, "my onigiris are the best you'll ever have. It'll knock the other ones out of the park."
The pride in Saito's voice is almost adorable.
A billionaire businessman and his claim to fame: his onigiris.
Dom's voice must have been dubious because Saito narrows his eyes, and offers him the tuna onigiri he had just finished shaping.
It smells as good as it tastes, and his mouth is almost watering.
Just as Dom's about to pick it up from Saito's hand, he brings the dish up to his lips, inviting Dom to bite.
With a tentative glance, Dom takes a careful bite.
It's an explosion of flavour, and he sighs happily into the chewing.
Saito makes a triumphant noise and grins victoriously.
It is moulded in such a way that the meat and spices are uniformly spread in the rice, and Saito offers him the rest of it, still holding his hands up to Dom's mouth.
It's been a while since Dom has been fed in such an intimate manner, but cooking together with Saito reminds Cobb of some more pleasant memories he had shared with Mal. His stomach has been fluttering with butterflies then and now, and he has to bite his lips to stifle grins and laughter at the adorably competitive streak that runs in Saito.
They spend the rest of their afternoon, basking in the glow of each other's company, as Saito teaches him more traditional Japanese dishes, and Dom's loneliness fades away.
No longer haunted by the ghosts of his past and the memories of Mal, Dom is a free man once again from his history, free to begin again.
And it's on a Friday afternoon, making onigiris with a billionaire that's become one of his closest confidantes, that Dom finds himself watching it begin again.