"If your boss ever catches on to the whole teleconferencing thing, we’re so screwed."
Arthur laughs from the adjacent bathroom. He’s gathering up his toiletries before his flight at five; an inhumane hour to be up for, Feliks has pointed out often enough. Feliks would help him, but Arthur is a pro at packing by now, and besides that, he’s not all that keen on giving up the warmth of his bed until he absolutely has to.
“I really wouldn’t worry about that,” Arthur says, popping his head around the door. “He’s the type of man who still forwards chain emails from the 90’s, if he’s figured out Skype I’d be more impressed than anything else.”
Arthur lingers in the doorway. “Oh and speaking of Skype, 12pm GMT on Christmas, have you written it down ?”
Skype, a necessary evil. Conversations don’t flow the way they do offline. The minute he logs on Feliks finds that the words fall from his head and he has nothing left to say. Maybe it’s the awareness of being on camera that ruins it for him, the way he and Arthur are forced to maintain eye contact through every pause.
But despite this, he’d be lost without it. With a half dozen countries between them, Feliks is dependent on it. He may complain, but the pauses always come to an end, conversations are always struck up, and an Arthur made of pixels is better than no Arthur at all.
“Yeah, it’s saved on my phone. I still can’t believe you’re leaving just before Christmas.” There isn’t any disappointment in his tone, he’s simply stating a fact. He’s long since resigned himself to the fact that he and Arthur will spend many special occasions apart.
“I am sorry, truly. You know I’d rather be here with you than anywhere else.” Arthur wheels his suitcase into the room behind him and sets himself down on the end of the bed. “I’ll be back for New Years, no business this time, I’m using my own time off work.”
“Pffft, New Years, ” Feliks scoffs, propping himself up against the headboard. ” I don’t even know the words to Auld Lang Syne.”
“Does anyone ? Everyone knows the first line, the rest is just drunken slurring.” Arthur rises from the bed and wanders towards the window. The bed looks too appealing at this hour of the morning, and it’s probably for the best if he leaves it before he lets it trap him.
Feliks’ bedroom never did have the best view, the trees outside usually keep the world outside out of sight, but the leaves are gone this time of year and Arthur can catch a glimpse of a nearby bus stop illuminated by street lights if he turns his head the right way.
Strangely he finds he’ll miss those branches scratching on the glass and the way their shadows dance around the room. He turns his back on the window before he gets too sentimental.
”And don’t dismiss New Years so quickly, ” Arthur begins, trying to shift his own mood. “It’s a time for reflecting on the parting year, planning for the upcoming one, and fitting in one last act of debauchery before it arrives. “
“Debauchery ?” Feliks repeats, laughing but covering his mouth in an effort not to wake the neighbours. “What exactly are you planning for New Years, should I be freaking out right now ?”
“No plans, really. I was thinking we could keep it low key, maybe watch the count down on the television ? Or we could go out and watch fireworks if you’d prefer ?” Arthur isn’t particularly set on either thought, they’re only suggestions after all. And besides that, Feliks knows this city better than him, he’d have more of an idea what to do.
“Sounds nice,” Feliks says, checking the time on the clock on his bedside table. The early hours seem to have passed them by like a shot, and Arthur’s taxi to the airport is due in less than a quarter of an hour. “Have you got everything you need ?”
Arthur gives his pockets a quick pat down; keys, passport, ticket, wallet, everything is accounted for. “It’s all here,” he says, “And everything else is packed away.”
Arthur heads for the bedroom door, carting the suitcase along behind him and Feliks climbs from the bed, taking the duvet with him. “Wait, you’re not leaving yet, right ? We haven’t finished talking.”
“I’m only putting the bag in the hall, I don’t have to go just yet. ” Arthur pulls the duvet tight around Feliks’ shoulders. It’s a cold morning and he’s only wearing a light pair of blue silk pyjamas. “Was there something specific you wanted to talk about ?”
Feliks rests his hand over Arthur’s before he gets a chance to pull it away. “I guess I just wanted to let you know that I put your Christmas present in your suitcase last night. Merry Christmas.”
Feliks says it partly for the reaction, the one he won’t see on Christmas morning, and partly so they say goodbye on a warm note. Feliks isn’t certain what he expected from Arthur’s response, maybe some wide eyes and lips open in the slightest oval shape. But what he gets is the faintest of grins.”And I hid yours under the bed last night.”
Feliks throws his arms around Arthur and the duvet falls around his feet. Like all typical romantic goodbyes there’s kissing, but for the most part they just hold each other, clinging to each other like it’s not really goodbye until they let go.
But they have to let go eventually. Soon enough the taxi driver comes over the intercom and it’s time for Arthur to leave. They try to stretch their final moments as much as they can, but they’re pressed for time and Arthur pulls out of the embrace.
“I’ll call you when I land.” He always does, he only says it to distract from the melancholy of goodbye.
Feliks is brave. He’s always been that way, whether it meant standing up to schoolyard bullies or pushing down that sinking feeling in his gut to introduce himself to that British businessman at the bar, but it’s a whole other type of courage to carry on when you’re hurting. “See you on Christmas,” he says, fighting every urge he has to ask Arthur to stay.
Soon he’ll fall back into his normal routine, where contact with Arthur comes through text and screens. It will return to being his norm and he’ll come to terms with it all over again, but he’ll never get used to saying goodbye.