Title: Worth The Postage
Rating: PG-13 (but only for language!)
Characters/Pairings: Arthur/Eames, and a smidgen of Yusuf. Also, I feel I should confess that this could essentially be gen. Seriously, I'm not even posting it to any shipping communities. It's a pairing if you read it that way!
Summary: Eames gives in to a sudden whim and begins to communicate only via pen and paper. Arthur is annoyed, although maybe not for the reasons he'd like to be.
Disclaimer: Inception is certainly not mine, nor, for that matter, are SpaghettiOs.
Notes: This is myricarubra
's holiday fic! Because yeah, I'm still writing holiday fic. So what if it's April? Anyhow! She gave me a fabulous AU prompt that I was totally incapable of writing, but which featured the detail of letters, and this is what happened. Ta-da? The title is from a quote which the internet reliably (reliably?) tells me is courtesy of Henry David Thoureau's Walden
. The full quote is, "I have received no more than one or two letters in my life that were worth the postage," and it is only tangentially related to this story but the snark of it amuses me.
On May 3rd, 2011, Arthur gets a letter.
This is unsettling for a number of reasons, the chief one being that on May 3rd, 2011, Arthur is in the middle of reconnaissance in Estonia and has not told anyone where to find him.
But the letter is unmistakably addressed to him, in spiky block letters, so he sets it down on the kitchen table and glares at it while making dinner. By the time he’s finished eating his SpaghettiOs he’s run through a list in his head of everyone he’s pissed off lately, and hasn’t come up with anyone who’s got both the wherewithal to find him here and the inclination to take revenge via the postal service.
He slips his nails under the envelope flap and tears, and a crumpled half-sheet of paper falls out. Why hello, darling!
The letter begins and of course, of course
it’s from Eames. Arthur should’ve guessed. The ink is running and the letters have smudged, just a bit, but it’s readable and it could, conceivably, be about something important.
Why hello, darling! I do hope you’re well. If your life is anything like mine the phone never stops ringing with atrociouslly boring offers and you’re starting to wish you’d never heard the name “Robert Fischer” because maybe if you hadn’t all these deadly dull, rich bastards wouldn’t know who you were.
Ah, well. Do stay on your toes, will you, and make sure you don’t become a deadly dull, rich bastard. I don’t know who’d nag me about being thorough and efficient and so on and so forth if you were sitting around in a penthouse apartment apraising art and breeding pugs.
Give Jakob my love, and tell him I haven’t forgotten his discretion in that little matter with the CIA and my own copious blood loss. He’s a marvelous landlord, incidentally, provided you don’t mind the occasional power cut and one or two or seventeen instances of shady dealing in the basement. You chose wonderfuly, as I’m sure you always do. Best of luck with the job, and look me up if you’re ever in the neighborhoud.
Arthur sighs. Nothing important whatsoever, then, and four separate misspellings which are combining to give him the first suggestion of a headache. He pulls out his phone and scrolls down to Eames’ name.
It rings five, six, seven times and then a pleasant, mechanical voice informs him that the number he is trying to reach is not in service. He frowns and tries again, staring down at the torn corner of the letter.
“We’re sorry,” the woman’s voice tells him again, “the phone number you are trying to reach--”
Arthur hangs up and pulls his laptop toward him.------
Two hours and seven separate, terse phone calls later, Arthur has pretty well assured himself of the fact that Eames is not dead, the annoying, elusive bastard.
“Yusuf,” he says resignedly on the eighth, “what the fuck does he think he’s doing?”
“I don’t know,” Yusuf says, and Arthur can hear
him shrugging. “Perhaps he yearns for a simpler life?”
“Yeah, or perhaps he’s just an asshole,” Arthur says.
“Or that,” Yusuf says cheerfully.
“Has he,” Arthur says and then stops, reconsiders. Has he sent you a letter?
, he thinks, and it’s on the tip of his tongue for the second time when he suddenly decides that he is not a romance novel heroine. He doesn’t need to know.
“Has he...?” Yusuf asks with a tone that implies he knows rather more than Arthur would like.
“Nothing,” Arthur grits out. “If you hear from him, tell him he can go fuck himself.”
“I probably won’t,” Yusuf says apologetically, and Arthur sighs.
“I’ll consider it,” Yusuf says, and hangs up the phone in that way he has which somehow telegraphs both sympathy and amusement. Arthur has heard it a few too many times. He sighs and slips his own phone back into his pocket. He slides the letter back into its envelope and drops it into his duffel bag.------
Three weeks later Arthur steps into his Tokyo apartment and pauses, foot in mid-air, when he spots something white on the ground. He’s running down the checklist in his head (booby trap? ransom note? rare, sheer white, flat, exotic, lethally poisonous tree frog?) before he’s taken his next breath, but as he bends a little closer, still suspended in what probably looks like an amateur yoga position, he realizes it’s a letter. Not, of course, that letters can’t be perfectly dangerous all on their own, but this one is addressed in Eames’ handwriting and is therefore, he decides, more likely to be annoying than deadly.
Not that it couldn’t be both.
He rolls his eyes at himself even as he yanks the letter out of its envelope and reads.
YOUR REFUSAL TO RESPOND TO MY PREEVIOUS CORRESPONDENCE HAS LEFT ME DESPAIRING, DESPONDENT, AND GENERALLY OUT OF SORTS STOP. I CANNOT SAY THAT I APPROVE STOP. IF I HAVE DONE SOMETHING TO OFEND YOU-- AND THE ODDS SAY I HAVE-- PLEASE GET OVER IT AND STOP BEING SUCH A CHILD STOP. P.S.: DO NOT WRITE ME BACK A ONE LINE LETTER THAT SAYS, ‘I AM NOT THE CHILD IN THIS SCENARIO’ STOP. WERE EITHER OF US A CHILD, MY ALL-CONSUMING LOVE FOR EVERY FIBER OF YOUR BEING WOULD BE EXTREMELY DISTURBING STOP. SO I AM GOING TO CEASE USING THIS METAPHOR STOP. HAVE ALL THESE CAPITOL LETTERS GIVEN YOU A MIGRAINE YET STOP. I WILL STOP STOP.
“Oh fuck off,” Arthur tells the paper in his hand, just before he crumples it up and throws it in the trash.
Before he leaves Tokyo he fishes it out again. He can’t have people tracing his identity just by going through his garbage after all. It’s an amateur’s mistake.------
Arthur receives his third chiding bit of mail while he’s not-quite-on-the-run in Florida, of all places. It’s a postcard with Van Gogh’s Starry Night
on the front, and on the back are three lines, clearly dashed off in something of a rush.
Really now, Arthur, it’s wrong to continue deppriving me of our lovely chats. No one’s called me an asshole in nearly a week, and we both know that’s something I relie on you for. I had to insite a complete stranger into calling me an asshole last Tuesday and it absolutely broke my heart. Do cooperate.
“How exactly do you expect me to get ahold of your address?” Arthur demands of the postcard, but neither Van Gogh or Eames can be bothered responding to that. Arthur will admit it’s a weak excuse-- he can get ahold of anyone’s address, anytime he likes-- but he doesn’t need
an excuse to ignore Eames. They hardly talk outside of work, which used to be just damn fine. Arthur doesn’t know what’s changed, but apparently something has. He sighs and sits down at the shitty Motel 6 desk. He scratches out Eames’ writing on the postcard and writes, You are a remarkably annoying person, and it’s a quality you tragically combine with persistence and a poor eye for proofreading. In summary: fuck off.
Then, because he is a pathetic human being, he scribbles over the last four words before he mails the thing.------
It doesn’t even take a week for the next letter to arrive, which means he’s still holed up on the edge of the Everglades waiting for everyone in the immediate vicinity to stop wanting him dead.
How lovely to hear from you pet! The humidity is so awfull where you are this time of year, please don’t succumb to heat stroke-- but do imagine me winking at this point, since ‘heat stroke’ sounds INCREDIBLY euphemistic. Other things you should do: keep on writing or I will throw an absolute tantrum. We both know I’m capable.
Arthur stares at the letter for a minute, trying to process, and then yanks a piece of paper out of his notebook.Admit it, you bought and consulted a dictionary,
he writes. Only one misspelling. What’s next?
He gets a cut out bit of newspaper in the mail eleven days later, the newsprint written over with thick black sharpie which says only THE APOCALYPSE
, and snorts into his cereal.------
It’s an intriguing way to communicate, don’t you think? Some people might say ‘quaint,’ but I’ve got an irrational hatred of the word ‘quaint,’ so I wouldn’t. I’d probably say intriguing. Which I already have. Anyway, letter-writing. I’m growing fond of it.
“Of course you are,” Arthur grumbles, and pulls out the stash of envelopes and paper he’s started keeping in the outer flap of his briefcase
For a month, each letter Arthur receives is in different handwriting. There are rounded Es and loopy Ls from Prague; slanted, tall pencil strokes from Berlin; short, squat, impatient capital letters from Cairo.Not bothered with being yourself anymore?
Arthur asks on the first of September, on the back of a postcard from Wrigley Field.Darling!
Eames replies within the week. And here I was thinking you wouldn’t miss me.
Arthur decides it isn’t worth the energy to correct him and talks about the Cubs’ playoff chances instead, for a page and a half.------
The problem with being an internationally wanted criminal-- well, one of the problems-- is that you don’t always have access to a reliable postal service. Arthur sends off a letter about his distaste for the weather in France in late August and doesn’t get one back for nearly a month. When it does arrive it’s on the back of what he’s almost positive is someone else’s phone bill, and it says, Not much free time at the moment, sorry, I’ll do better soon probably
and he drops that one into his portable shredder in a fit of something which might be caution and which might be pique.If you’d bother to pick up a phone once in a while I wouldn’t have to sit around waiting for these damn letters
, Arthur writes, and then stops. He blinks down at the words on the page and then scratches them out with quick, sharp lines.
Two hours later he scribbles them in again, feeling remarkably stupid, and mails the damn thing before he can change his mind.
He spends the next week waiting for a reply. It’ll be pining away for me darling?
or missing my melodious tones, are we?
Instead his phone rings just as he’s buckling himself into his seat on American Airlines Flight 712. He answers it automatically, ignoring the glares from the flight attendant who’s making her way down the aisle.
“Arthur,” he says.
“Now that’s interesting,” Eames says, and Arthur can feel himself smiling just a little. “That’s interesting, that you’re bothering to identify yourself, because I really cannot imagine that anyone has ever called this number by accident. Do you know how many people I had to casually threaten to get this number?”
“I’d guess about seven,” Arthur says, “but I really can’t be sure.”
“So, have you got a minute?” Eames asks as the flight attendant looms over him, one eyebrow raised.
“No,” Arthur says.
“Brilliant, let’s chat,” Eames says.
“Sure, let’s,” Arthur says, and undoes his seat belt, swings his bag onto his arm, and shoulders his way off the plane.