Erik was up and out on his daily perimeter check before dawn, moving around the estate's walled grounds at a swift and steady pace, senses open and mind alert to the fine details of his surroundings. The trees were alive with birdsong, the territorial chorus an echo of his own intent – to protect what was his against all comers, to keep intruders at bay – but there was nothing to be found in the woods and the hollows and the untended corners, no sense of intrusion or unfamiliar metal. For today, at least, all was just as it should be.
There was something quietly glorious about the world at this hour, when everything was still and calm and waiting, the coming day a mere blue promise on the eastern horizon. As usual, however, he was the only one awake to appreciate it as he returned, dew-brushed and sweat-stained, to the mansion, all the other inhabitants still tucked up in bed.
He snorted to himself as he manipulated the lock on a side door to let himself in. Their loss.
Charles was a lump under the covers as Erik slipped back into the room they invariably shared, no matter the celibate fiction they tried to maintain for the others. He wasn't quiet about showering but the lump didn't seem to have moved when he emerged. Sighing, he turned the lamp on and crossed to poke at what he assumed was a shoulder. "Wake up, leniuch. You're missing the best hours of the day."
"Mmph," the lump protested. Go away. Too early.
Erik rolled his eyes. "The sun is up, Charles."
The covers twitched. Barely.
"You were a student for far too long." Erik hauled the blankets back. "Come on, up you... what?" He broke off with a laugh. "Bloody hell, Charles...."
"What?" Charles glowered at him and made an ineffectual grab for the covers. "This isn't funny!"
"No, no, it's... it's hysterical!" Erik was doubled over, gasping for breath. "God, your hair...."
"What about my hair?" Charles reached up, but no amount of finger-combing was going to tame the sleep-rumpled brown clumps sticking out in all directions and none, the image of wild disarray. "Stop laughing! What?"
"Do you have... have squirrels nesting in there?" Erik choked out, leaning in to ruffle Charles's hair. "Mice?" He tugged playfully at a clump over an ear. "You look like you've been in a hurricane!"
Charles scowled and snatched at the towel slung around Erik's hips, pulling it away and hitting him with it, which only made Erik laugh all the harder. "Get off – it's not funny!"
"Oh, but it is..." Erik jumped onto the bed, pushing his hands into Charles's hair as the other squirmed and protested beneath him. He bent to silence him with a kiss, only to have the complaints continue in his head. He sighed. Charles, shut up.
Charles nipped at Erik's lip and pushed his hips up, pressing flesh to suddenly eager flesh as his thoughts turned sly, hungry. Make me. A hand slipped between them, stroking and teasing and whatever retort Erik might have made was lost as he groaned, his grip on Charles's hair tightening as –
Let go. A whisper of thought and then Erik was on his back with Charles straddling his thighs, the satisfied smirk hilariously out of place beneath the scarecrow mop of hair. There was no time to laugh or protest though, not with a spit-coated palm closing around him, heat against hardness against heat, the trickle of echoed sensation burning through his nerves as Charles ruthlessly drove the pair of them on, on, taking and projecting and reflecting and pushing them both to the edge, almost, almost, now, ah, now, now, NOW....
Charles gave a panting laugh from where he lay slumped bonelessly over Erik's chest and nodded towards the windows and the pale streaks of light edging the curtains. "Now the sun's up," he said smugly. "Good morning, Erik."
And then he ruined whatever effect he had been trying for by unthinkingly running a sticky hand back through his hair. Erik stared at him, at the now-glistening clumps of hair making him look like an unkempt spider-webbed hedge, and howled. "Oh, oh god...."
"Erik!" Charles punched his arm. "Shut up! What, you'd rather I was bald?"
He couldn't help it – the thought made him laugh even harder. Charles hit him again, then stomped off to the bathroom. There was a pause.
Then there was a shriek.
Erik pulled the covers over his head and laughed until it hurt.