Title: merry xmas, r u there?
Pairing: Arthur/Eames
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2385
Summary: Correspondence between Arthur and Eames while they're home for the holidays.
Notes: In the same 'verse as my college AU, You're Waiting for a Stranger, but could be read on its own as a general college AU. Thanks to [info]reinventweather for reading through. ♥

DEC 2010

When Arthur wakes up to discover 9 unread text messages, he has no doubt who they're from.

still stuck at bloody jfk
srsly how can there be that much snow
delayed again
bloody fucking hell
tell u what tho the airport is a goldmine of psychology case studies
attempt #4 to nap in airport chair
mission successful mostly
thank christ im on a flight
talk 2 u when i get home

The last message was sent about half an hour ago, but Arthur has no way of getting in touch with him on the plane, and he won't be able to text in England.

Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, Arthur boots up his laptop and sends Eames a few offline IMs.

arthuratlaw: Glad to know you made the best of a bad situation by studying people.
arthuratlaw: Your gift probably made it to your house before you. Try not to open it before Christmas.
arthuratlaw: I'll talk to you soon.

Satisfied that he's got the message across, Arthur powers down his laptop and crawls back into bed. He's going to need his energy to deal with relatives for the rest of the week.


DEC 2010

He doesn't receive a response from Eames at all that day, a sure sign that the traveling didn't go so smoothly after all.

When he wakes up on the 22nd, though, he's got a screen full of offline IMs.

toextreames: omg
toextreames: i hate airports
toextreames: im swimming back 4 next semester
toextreames: your present is here and i can tell u rapped it and i really want to open it
toextreames: when do u wake up anyway
toextreames: arthur
toextreames: what is it
toextreames: u sent it early just to torture me
toextreames: it feels like a planner
toextreames: u didnt buy me a planner did u
toextreames: which is not 2 say that wouldnt be lovely if u did
toextreames: bloody hell
toextreames: its a planner isnt it

Arthur checks the time. The last IM was sent an hour ago, and Eames is still signed on, if idle.

arthuratlaw: I am not giving any hints.
arthuratlaw: I see you finally found your way home.
toextreames: arthur!!!
toextreames: what is it :(
toextreames: please can i open it
arthuratlaw: You have no patience at all, do you?
toextreames: mm u knwo the answer to that ;)
arthuratlaw: Well you've got to learn it sometime.
arthuratlaw: I haven't opened your present yet.
toextreames: go right ahead
toextreames: you open yours and ill open mine
arthuratlaw: It's a Christmas gift, Eames. You open it on Christmas.
toextreames: ill just tell u wat it is
arthuratlaw: Don't you dare.
toextreames: fine :(
toextreames: i have to go deal with family all day and u wont even give me a hint
arthuratlaw: I have to deal with family all day too. I've been dealing with them for a week.
toextreames: sorry darling
toextreames: i wouldve skived off exams and been moral support if youd let me
arthuratlaw: You skipping exams would cause more problems than it would solve.
arthuratlaw: Though I appreciate the offer.
toextreames: g2g
toextreames: getting a xmas tree apparently
toextreames: wish i could text u :(
arthuratlaw: Put the present under the tree with the other presents you will wait to open and IM me when you get home.
toextreames: i do love when ur forceful
toextreames: ttyl

"Arthur!" his mom shouts up the stairs. "Your Aunt Meredith is here!"

Arthur groans and puts his head in his hands. It's going to be a long day.


"What do you do on that thing all day anyway?" Aunt Meredith asks that night when Arthur brings his laptop down to the family room. He'd hoped it would send a message that he wanted to be left alone, but so far no such luck.

"Talk to my friends," Arthur says noncommittally, not looking up.

"Oooh," she says in a tone that is far too interested. "What kind of friends?"

"Meredith, leave the boy alone," Uncle Oswald says. Arthur's always liked Uncle Oswald. "Can't you see he's busy?"

He's really just clicking around, willing Eames to sign on, but if it makes him look busy then even better.

He spends an hour watching YouTube videos on mute - god, what has his life become? - when the IM window pops up, bringing a smile to his face.

toextreames: just escaped
toextreames: how abotu u?
arthuratlaw: Family dinner in 10, unfortunately.
arthuratlaw: How extravagant is your Christmas tree?
toextreames: i am trying really hard not to make a joke out of that
toextreames: lol hard
arthuratlaw: Eames, I'm sitting in my family room. Try to behave.
arthuratlaw: Okay, how about this: How crazy did your parents go with the Christmas decorations?
toextreames: u should listen to this later in ur room: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PolcJd2eh-w
arthuratlaw: I'm not even going to click that right now.
toextreames: as crazy as usual
toextreames: the tree is huge and i maen that both ways
arthuratlaw: I'm being summoned to set the table. Apparently I am still a child.
toextreames: ill send u a pic of my xmas tree for later ;)
arthuratlaw: I hope you mean the actual tree.
arthuratlaw: Eames?
arthuratlaw: Gotta go.
toextreames: lol bye love


Eames does send him a blurry picture of the tree, and his room, and himself from three different angles. He's gone to bed by the time Arthur gets the email, though, so Arthur replies to the email and calls him a camwhore, a term that he learned from Eames. He's fairly grateful that Eames hadn't actually followed through on the joke, because as much as he'd love to have Eames properly right now, lewd pictures would only serve as an unwelcome reminder that he wouldn't get to touch for another four weeks. He's never cared that Loyola's schedule was different from his school's; now it just seems unfair.

He listens to the Lady Gaga song Eames had linked earlier, which makes him laugh simply because of course Eames would link him to that. He sneaks downstairs in the dark to snap a picture of their own tree and emails it to Eames with the subject 'My Christmas tree's delicious.' Satisfied that it will make Eames' morning, he crawls into bed with a smile on his face.


DEC 2010

Arthur awakes to the uncomfortable feeling of his two nephews climbing onto his bed.

"Uncle Arthur! Uncle Arthur!" they chorus, and Arthur's head already hurts. "Wake up! We 're building a gingerbread house!"

"Hey, guys," he mumbles, managing a smile. "Why don't you go get started, and Uncle Arthur will join you in a few minutes?"

"We can't!"

"Aunt Catherine says we have to get you so we can start!"

Curse his mother. Arthur recognizes this for what it is: passing off the munchkins on the younger members of the family.

Reluctantly, Arthur lets them pull him along out of the room, casting one longing glance back at his laptop before they head downstairs.


arthuratlaw: Please tell me you haven't gone to bed yet.
toextreames: im here darling
toextreames: bad day?
arthuratlaw: It all started when the kids dragged me downstairs in my pajamas.
toextreames: lucky u were waering pajamas
arthuratlaw: That's what Aunt Merebitch said.
arthuratlaw: I wanted to tell her that I usually sleep in the nude with my boyfriend, but I refrained.
toextreames: u shouldve
toextreames: might shut her up for a while
arthuratlaw: Not long enough.
arthuratlaw: Two more days and she'll be gone.
arthuratlaw: How was your day?
toextreames: better than yours, i think
toextreames: played footie with my brother in the snow
toextreames: avoided other relatives
arthuratlaw: That sounds nice.
arthuratlaw: I wish I was there.

Arthur stares at the screen, the only light in his room, and wonders if that was unwise of him to say. He'd feigned a stomachache after dinner and escaped to his room, feeling a bit like a kid. He's sure his mom could see right through the act, but she let him go anyway, so presumably he's free for the rest of the night.

toextreames: id get u a plane tkt rihgt now but i wouldnt wish the travel stress on u
toextreames: also i know ur all talk
toextreames: u were excited to go home 2 weeks ago
arthuratlaw: Yes, and I had a great few days here with my parents. Now there are little kids and vindictive aunts and I don't think I'm even going to see my grandmother this year.
arthuratlaw: I can't make any plans because someone always steps in and guilts me into 'family time' aka doing whatever they want to do.
arthuratlaw: If you were here at least we could step into the shadows and make out once in a while.
toextreames: mm that would be nice
toextreames: ive gotta get to bed
toextreames: not by choice mind
toextreames: unless u want me to stay up
toextreames: i dont mind a little sleep deprivation
arthuratlaw: No, you should go to bed.
arthuratlaw: I won't be around at all tomorrow, we're going to my dad's house.
toextreames: k
toextreames: wat abt tomorrow night?
toextreames: we could skype
arthuratlaw: I would like that. It might be late, though.
toextreames: ill be up.
toextreames: talk to you then <3
arthuratlaw: Goodnight, Eames.


DEC 2010

"You look terrible," is the first thing Eames says to him after they get the video chat working.

"Nice to see you too, Eames," Arthur says with a smile. He actually means it; it's been too long since Eames insulted him where he could see that smirk of his.

"Have you slept at all?"

"Define 'slept'," Arthur says, complete with air quotes.

Eames laughs, and Arthur finds himself smiling just at that. "Now I know why you're so picky about getting eight hours at school."

"It's not always this bad," Arthur insists, rubbing his eyes. "Just. Family."

Eames makes a sympathetic noise and begins recounting a story about his cousins. Arthur laughs and trades his own story, and before he knows it, Eames is wishing him a merry Christmas because it's midnight.

"Merry Christmas," Arthur echoes back, "though it has been for a while, for you."

"Eh, time zones," Eames says, waving his hand.

"Are you going to open your gift?" Arthur asks.

Eames smiles giddily as if this has just occurred to him and then disappears from view. Arthur laughs at his enthusiasm, picking up the shoddily wrapped package he'd received from Eames in the mail earlier that day. He really does miss him. He usually enjoys these family get-togethers a whole lot more overall, and he hopes none of his relatives are taking his standoffishness personally. He could explain to some of them what's got him down, but then they'd tell the others who really, really shouldn't know, and it's just not worth it.

He's broken out of his reverie as Eames comes rushing back to his computer, brandishing the package in front of the camera as if Arthur doesn't know what it looks like.

"Can I go first?" he asks excitedly, looking back expectantly.

"Go right ahead," Arthur says, fighting a smile.

Eames doesn't waste a second, tearing into the wrapping immediately.

Arthur watches his expression with mild trepidation. "You've probably already read it," he prefaces. "But when I saw it at the bookstore, it reminded me of you, so I thought--"

"Arthur," Eames says appreciatively, cutting him off. "This is one of my favorite books. I'm always nicking my brother's copy, but I've never gone out and... gotten my own..." he continues, voice going soft as he looks down at the copy of On the Road. "Is this a special edition?"

"Fiftieth anniversary," Arthur answers. He doesn't have to ask if Eames is serious; he can tell by the look on his face. "There's something else, inside."

The video freezes for a moment, but Arthur still hears Eames' laugh before he says, "A bus pass. Brilliant." The video jumps back to show his smiling face. "You realize this is going to encourage me to visit you even more."

"That would be awful," Arthur says with a smirk. "I never would have predicted."

God, Arthur's missed that laugh. "I'll remind you of that next time you lecture me on skipping class."

"Who said anything about skipping class? Eames," Arthur says sternly.

"Your turn, darling," Eames says with a grin.

Arthur glares into his camera for another moment for good measure, then picks up the package.

Inside are two DVDs - Ghostbusters and Memento - and a card. "Are these two of your 'essentials'?"

Eames nods. "You said you only own DVDs that are worth watching more than once. Trust me, these two will make the cut."

Arthur's willing to take his word for it. The card contains a Politically Correct Christmas Greeting that makes Arthur laugh, along with an iTunes gift card.

"You've got to take some of my recommendations, though," Eames stipulates.

"I've had Lady Gaga stuck in my head for two days," Arthur says, letting him know just what he thinks of his 'recommendations'.

"You're welcome!"

Arthur huffs out a laugh, but it turns into a yawn.

Eames hums, looking fond. "I really wish I could kiss you right now."

Arthur ducks his head to hide his smile. "Likewise."

"Right," Eames says after a pause. "I've got approximately... two hours, twenty-seven minutes until the kidlets wake up and demand we all join them in the gift-opening."

Arthur curses softly. "You should get some sleep."

"You're always saying that to me."

"I keep hoping you'll actually listen."

"Maybe just this once," Eames says, stifling a yawn. "Goodnight, love."

In that moment, Arthur acknowledges to himself that he's got it bad, but all he says out loud is, "Night, Eames." After he ends the call, he marks another day off in his planner, checks to see how many days until Eames gets back in the country, and takes a deep breath. He falls asleep with Eames' laugh still playing in his head, wondering if Eames misses him this much.

He wakes up to 25 new IMs and decides to take that as an answer.


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