11 am GMT, 25 December
Happy Christmas, Princess!
Gwaine, give Leon his mobile back, or you're fired.
Sorry about that. You know how he is. Don't worry. He only had it long enough to send that text, not to look through the photos.
If you're going to keep the pics we took, you need to put a password on your lock screen, Leon.
You're right. It's password locked now.
Good. What is Gwaine even doing at your flat? Is Percy there too?
I was planning to sleep in, but they came round at 8 am and banged on the door. Percy made us all pancakes with bacon. He put little bits of candy cane in the pancake batter. They were amazing!
That sounds vile. Glad I missed it.
No, not really. I would have eaten the bacon.
Right. So when is your next flight boarding?
In a few minutes. Hey, let's do something nice for New Year's Eve, yeah? Love you.
I love you too.
11 pm GMT, 25 December
The tasteful saxophone version of "At Last" which Arthur used as Leon's ring tone was far too subtle for most people to identify, but it warmed Arthur's heart every time he heard it. Their connection had instantly felt so strong that he'd selected it only a few weeks after their first date.
"Leon? I'm so glad to hear from you," Arthur said.
"Arthur," Leon's voice came over the line. "Happy Christmas." He sounded a bit subdued.
"Happy Christmas, Leon," Arthur said. "I'm sorry I couldn't spend it with you."
Leon cleared his throat. "It's alright. I don't mind that, but—well, Gwaine mentioned that you never spend the holidays in London. He thought I knew that you'd volunteered to go to Los Angeles for this meeting."
"Ah, well, that's true," Arthur said, with a sigh. None of that was private information, but Arthur hadn't wanted to discuss it, not even with Leon. "I don't....I don't really care for Christmas."
"You could have told me that," Leon said, almost too quietly for the phone to pick up.
Arthur bit his lip. "I know. But you and I have only been together for half a year, and I didn't want you to think I had a lot of hangups or anything."
"Everyone has problems, Arthur," Leon said. He sounded patient, as he usually did. "It's okay for us to open up about the things that trouble us and support each other."
"Of course, you're right," Arthur said. He took a deep breath; he really wasn't used to being encouraged to talk about his feelings. "My father has never celebrated it, not since my mother passed when I was born. He's always said it was a waste of time."
"Oh," Leon said. "I see." There wasn't any pity in Leon's tone, just calm acceptance, so Arthur continued.
"I got in the habit of keeping myself busy, you know. I don't remember my mother; it's not that. But, well, my father doesn't like the holidays at all, and I...." Arthur trailed off and swallowed, gathering his thoughts. "Well, I just avoid the whole thing. I told you last month that I'd be away because I thought that would give you time to make plans to spend it with your family up north. If I'd known you were going to be alone, I would have explained. I do apologise. It wasn't right to keep this from you."
"I understand, Arthur. There's nothing to forgive. And anyway, Gwaine and Percy only just went back to their own flat, so I wasn't alone. I wouldn't have minded if they hadn't come by, though. I don't much care for Christmas myself," he said.
"You don't?" Arthur asked.
"Well, I like the idea of Christmas, but I don't enjoy spending it with my extended family. They all know I'm gay, and my parents are fine with that. But some of my aunts and uncles and so forth still think it's just a phase, even though I'm almost 30 now. They spend the whole day asking me when I'm going to find a wife. It doesn't make for a very pleasant holiday, and it's such a long train trip up there. My parents understand why I'd rather not go."
"I didn't know that," Arthur said. "I should have asked why you were staying home."
"It's not a big deal," Leon said. "It's just nice to have the time off work. I'm not too fussed about what I do for the actual day of Christmas."
"Ah," Arthur said, an idea forming. "Maybe next year, that is, if you want—" Arthur cut himself off, abruptly realising that he was asking Leon to make a rather big commitment, even though they'd only been dating for a relatively short period of time.
"Yes, Arthur?" Leon asked gently. "What were you going to ask?"
"Maybe next year, we can go on a trip somewhere together. Somewhere tropical. Get away from all the rain and cold," Arthur said. "What do you think?"
"And just sort of forget it's Christmas?" Leon asked.
"Well, no," Arthur said. "We can have Christmas-themed cocktails. Maybe Christmas-themed sex, if you want."
Leon laughed. "I'll be Santa, and you'll be a naughty elf. How about that?"
"I like it. You have the beard already, although we'll have to start working on your paunch," Arthur teased. "Which means one of us is going to need to learn to bake, I expect."
"I can't really imagine that happening," Leon said. "We can leave the costumes out of it."
"We do rather well without the costumes, don't we?" Arthur said, thinking of the last night he'd spent with Leon, and the excellent use they'd made of Arthur's large walk-in shower.
"We do indeed. Oh, that reminds me, Gwaine brought presents today. He said they were for both of us."
"Oh God. What did he give us?"
"Some sort of couple's starter kit, the cheeky sod," Leon said, chuckling. "It's got all the toys one would expect. Nothing too advanced."
"I suppose you were as gracious as ever and didn't show him what's in the trunk at the foot of your bed, then," Arthur said.
Leon laughed loud and long. "Of course not. He's far too interested in other people's sex lives to be shown evidence of what exactly we get up to," he said.
"Agreed," Arthur said, laughing too. "Well, it's a date, then."
"What is?" Leon asked.
"Tropical paradise, next Christmas," Arthur said.
"Yes. I'm going to hold you to that," Leon said, then yawned.
"Ready for bed?" Arthur asked. The sun was just now setting in the sky outside of Arthur's hotel room window, but he estimated it was about midnight in London.
"I think so," Leon answered. "I miss you. Be safe, okay?"
"I will. I miss you too. Love you, Leon," Arthur said.
"I love you too," Leon said. "Talk to you soon."
"Good night," Arthur said, and ended the call.
Arthur's business meeting wasn't until tomorrow afternoon. His internal clock wasn't matched up with London at the moment, but it also wasn't on Los Angeles time. He had eaten and slept on the plane, so he wasn't tired or hungry, even though it was about dinnertime here now.
He decided to search on his mobile for places nearby where he could shop for a gift tomorrow morning. He hadn't ever bought anyone a Christmas gift, but he wanted to get Leon something thoughtful.
Last month, Leon had loaned his thermal winter gloves to Gwaine, who had no doubt lost them already. Some warm gloves, then, would be a nice gesture. Perhaps Arthur could also select something to add to the collection they kept in Leon's trunk. Gwaine was right; anything like that would definitely be a gift for both of them, but Arthur didn't think Leon would mind at all.