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Merry Christmas, Darling

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Merry Christmas, darling
We're apart, that's true
But I can dream, & in my dreams
I'm Christmassing with you

*


To: Darling <arthur@dstinct.com>
From: Eames <eamescsquared@rocketmail.com>
Subject: darling

Attached: xo.zip

Arthur opens the (basically blank) email and stares at it. Trust Eames to be spontaneous and cryptic with a simple email. After a moment's deliberation, he pulls out his phone and types out a message to Eames.

Me:
Did you just email me a virus?
Eames:
u didnt even open it did u? its not a virus i promise

Reluctantly, Arthur unzips the file.

He listens to it three times, first only giving it half his attention, then playing it back to be sure, and a third time after checking his totem. When the final notes play once more, Arthur takes a deep breath, exhales slowly, and says, "Okay."

Me:
I didn't think you were much for Christmas.
Eames:
just bc i was out of contact for all of decembr last yr doesnt mean im a scrooge
Eames:
id like 2 make up for it this yr
Me:
By sending me pirated music via email?

A few minutes later, Eames still hasn't responded, so Arthur stows his phone away in his coat pocket, wraps his scarf around his neck, and ventures out into the snowstorm. He's got a Christmas gift to buy.

******

Arthur is standing in a frustratingly long line when his phone buzzes in his pocket.

Eames:
among other things. what are you doing
Me:
I'm out braving the elements in the name of Christmas. This is the bad influence you've had on me.
Eames:
glad to hear it. call me later?
Me:
Sure. I'll give you a call after I get home.

He smiles at the guy behind the counter when he gets to the front of the line and points out what he wants. The poor guy looks about at the end of his rope, and Arthur hates to add to his misery. Which is why he anticipates the cringe he receives when he asks the guy, "Can I have this gift wrapped?"

******

When he nears his apartment complex, hands shoved deep in his pockets, he sees his elderly neighbor, Mrs. Henderson, struggling to carry boxes of tupperware to her car. He hurries forward to meet her, greeting her while taking half of the boxes.

"Oh, Arthur! Yes, hello, thank you, dear. I was just talking to your friend. Gave him your spare key. He helped me with the cookies! Darling boy he was. What was his name?"

Arthur's eyes narrow as he looks toward his apartment door. He puts on a polite smile and tells Mrs. Henderson, "Oh, that's just a work colleague of mine. Visiting for the holidays."

"That's nice dear," she says, clearly having tuned him out. Arthur holds the car door for her as she climbs in, then waves her off until she's out of sight.

He nears his apartment door with caution, fingers twisting the red die in his pocket. His gun is just inside the door, under the side table holding the plant Mrs. Henderson had given him last week as a Christmas gift. If he's quick with opening the door, he can get to it in less than 10 seconds. It should be enough time, unless someone is waiting for him right inside the door.

He moves with precision, his hand wrapping around the butt of the gun just as he registers the unfamiliar smell of baked goods filling his apartment. His finger pauses over the safety, and he lowers the gun with a sigh.

"Eames, did you break into my apartment again?"

"For the last time, Arthur, I have never broken into your apartment. The first time was an emergency and your window was unlocked. Every subsequent time, I have been let in by someone who, unlike you, considers me a trustworthy gentleman."

Arthur rubs at his left temple with his free hand. "They don't know you like I do."

Eames takes the gun from him slowly, as if he's treading lightly, and places it on the table. "I made cookies," he says quietly, like a peace offering. "Your neighbor had some leftover cookie dough, so I thought--"

Arthur wraps his arms around Eames' neck, pulling him in for a kiss. The shopping bag hits Eames' back carelessly before sliding off Arthur's wrist onto the floor.

Eames makes a pleased noise and then wraps his arms around Arthur's waist under his coat to pull him closer. They kiss until Arthur's lips feel raw and he's far too warm to still be wearing a coat.

"And here I thought I was going to have to exploit mistletoe to my advantage," Eames says as Arthur hangs his coat by the door.

"Not today," Arthur answers. He's still got that song by the Carpenters stuck in his head, and it makes him smile every time he remembers it.

Eames makes a noise as if he's just remembered something and rushes back into the kitchen. When he returns, he's holding a small gift box that he presses into Arthur's hands, saying, "I got you something."

"You know Christmas isn't for another 2 weeks," Arthur reminds him.

"Can't wait that long," Eames says with a grin.

"No, I expect you can't," Arthur mumbles, opening the box. His breath catches when he sees what's inside, and he looks at Eames incredulously. "But... 'cufflinks are what you buy someone when you're in a relationship with them.'"

Eames scoffs. "What kind of tosser would say that?"

"You said that. Last year, on your birthday, right before you ran away to Mombassa and we didn't talk for 5 months."

"Oh, right. So I did." Eames hand slides under Arthur's, curling Arthur's fingers in so he's holding the cufflinks firmly in his palm. "Maybe I was right."

He looks so open, a touch nervous, that it takes every ounce of Arthur's self control not to jump him right there, or possibly melt into the floor. He's not sure which would be worse for his ego. After carefully returning the cufflinks to their box, he reaches for the bag on the floor and says, "I have something for you too."

He hands Eames the box, which he tears into enthusiastically. "Arthur," he says, smile stretching across his face. "I think this falls under the same category as cufflinks."

Arthur returns the smile, taking the watch and sliding it onto Eames' wrist. "Wishful thinking."

He kisses Eames softly, cherishing the moment. When Eames tilts his head and licks into Arthur's mouth, Arthur starts contemplating moving this to the bedroom before they inadvertently have sex on the couch again. But when his oft-neglected oven beeps loudly, Eames groans and reluctantly moves away.

"You're choosing cookies over me?" Arthur says in mock outrage as he follows, watching Eames pull the sheet out of the oven.

"I'm choosing cookies over burning your apartment down," Eames clarifies, depositing the tray on the counter. "Trust me, there are few things that could tear me away from you at this moment." He pulls the oven mitts off and tosses them over his shoulder carelessly as he approaches Arthur once more.

As if the universe is mocking him, as soon as Arthur gets his hands back on Eames, Eames' cell phone goes off.

"Sorry, love," Eames says with a wince as he takes the call. He doesn't loosen his grip on Arthur's waist with his other arm, so Arthur settles against his chest to wait it out.

The voice on the other end sounds unhappy, and Arthur can feel Eames growing tense as his responses grow shorter. From the pieces Arthur hears, he surmises that it's about a job, most likely the last job Eames had come from. He starts to wonder if Eames will have to leave so soon before Eames finally says, "Listen, I'm spending the holidays with my boyfriend. This will have to wait until the new year." He hangs up without waiting for a response. "Fucking wanker," Eames mumbles, scrubbing at his face.

"You know, that's weird," Arthur says, pausing to suck a kiss into the skin of Eames' neck. "I don't remember inviting you to stay for the holidays."

Eames moans and tilts his head to give Arthur better access, his hands resting on Arthur's hips, fingers just barely brushing over Arthur's ass. "I'll leave whenever you want me to leave, darling, but not a second before."

Arthur pauses in his ministrations and pulls back to meet Eames' gaze. "That's a pretty weighty promise."

"I'm serious," Eames says, gaze sincere. "I know I've put you through the ringer with this whole relationship thing, but if you'll have me--"

Arthur's hand slides past the hem of Eames' pants, moving over the curve of his ass and effectively shutting him up. "How about we skip all the emotional bullshit and you let me spread you out over my new sheets," Arthur suggests, already steering Eames back toward the bedroom.

"Works for me," Eames says. He snakes his arms around Arthur's waist and kisses him soundly, distracting them from their destination temporarily.

Arthur's mouth turns up into a smile, preventing the kiss from staying too heated, but he can't help it. The thought keeps echoing in the back of his mind: Eames is staying.

"What?" Eames says, but he's smiling just as wide.

"Nothing. Merry Christmas," Arthur says.

"Merry Christmas, darling," Eames says, allowing Arthur to pull him along to the bedroom.

THE END