When Charles' alarm goes off, Erik's arms are still curled around him. It takes a moment for that to sink in, but once it does, he rolls onto his side until he can look at Erik, who is still mostly asleep.
"You're still here," he says quietly. He can't hide his smile. He wouldn't want to.
"I am," Erik says. He doesn't open his eyes and his voice is still rough from sleep.
"It's Monday, and you're still here," Charles says. Generally, in the past, when Erik stayed over, he needed to leave before Charles' alarm if he wanted to stop home before work.
"I am," Erik repeats. "I live here now."
Charles sighs happily and inches forward to hug Erik. That's what he wanted to hear. He wants to hear it over and over again. He wants to keep hearing it until he becomes so used to it, he takes it for granted.
"Also," Erik adds, "I took today off. So."
"Yes, well," Charles says from the vicinity of Erik's collarbone, "that's less momentous."
They'd moved most of Erik's things over on Saturday and finished up on Sunday and, yes, Erik had slept here on Friday night and Saturday too, but Erik spent most weekends at Charles' apartment. It was easy to forget that Erik was no longer a guest but a resident. But Monday morning--Monday morning was a different animal altogether.
Charles pushes himself up and swings around so he's straddling Erik's lap and sitting on his thighs. Erik groans and covers his face with one hand.
"No work," Erik says. "Early. Et cetera."
"You live here now," Charles says. Erik tries to roll over, but Charles' weight keeps him pinned.
"I do," he mutters. "And if every morning is going to start like this, I'll be tempted to reconsider. It's early."
"I'm celebrating," Charles insists. He pulls Erik's hand away and takes Erik's face between his hands, leaning down until their noses are touching. Erik sighs, but he's smiling. "I'm glad you're here."
"I'm glad I'm here too," Erik says, and allows a good morning kiss before Charles reluctantly pulls away.
"I have to get ready for work," Charles says. "Shouldn't you start unpacking?"
"I will," Erik says. He rolls over and pulls the blankets over his shoulder.
"You only have the one day off," Charles reminds him as he pulls open drawers to collect clothes for the day.
"And I'll get it done in one day," Erik says. "Go to work, baby."
Charles wrinkles his nose. "What have I said about that?" he asks.
"To only call you that when I want to be especially irritating," Erik replies. He cracks open one eye and smirks at Charles, who huffs in response. "Don't look at me like that. You're the one who decided you'd like to be stuck with this for the rest of your life."
Charles' prepared witty rejoinder dies on his lips. He swallows against the sudden swell of emotion in his chest.
They've not talked about the future, not beyond adding Erik to the lease, at least. But. Well. The idea of having Erik for the rest of his life, irritating pet names and all, might just be the most perfect thing Charles can imagine.
He sits back on the edge of the bed, clothes clutched in his hands, and leans down for another kiss.
"I did," he says.
Erik is still smiling when Charles finally manages to leave the bedroom to take his shower.
"How goes domestic life?" Moira asks him when she gets into work, dropping down into the chair in front of what is ostensibly his desk. They're supposed to be using this time to do some paperwork before the children arrive, but Charles' thoughts are still at home in bed, and although Moira is incredibly organized and scrupulous with her filing and administrative tasks, she hates actually doing them and will latch on to any excuse to procrastinate.
"It's perfect," Charles says on a happy sigh.
"Yeah, well, it's been two days," Moira says. "I'm sure you'll change your tune once he starts rearranging your kitchen cabinets."
"I don't care about the kitchen cabinets," Charles says dismissively. "I actually prefer the way Erik organizes his kitchen."
"The kitchen cabinets are a metaphor for the larger issues with cohabitation," Moira says, and Charles rolls his eyes. "I mean it, Charles. The fact that I'm pretty sure your boyfriend probably has a collection of human organs aside, living with someone is about compromising and...I mean this with a lot of love as your best and only friend, but you're kind of shit at compromise."
"I am not," Charles says, ignoring the jab at Erik's attitude and demeanor.
"It's cute that you think that," Moira says. "You're used to getting what you want. And, I'd imagine, after living alone for, like, ever, you're really used to doing what you want in your own apartment. But you're going to have to keep in mind that it's not just yours anymore and that by inviting Erik to live with you, you're inviting him to make that space his too. He has just as much right to do what he wants there as you do."
"Stop playing therapist, Moira," Charles says. "I was in the same psychology class as you--I know all your tricks."
"Yeah, but you're terrible with people over the age of fifteen," Moira says. "Whereas I actually learned something and understand how to apply it."
Charles scowls at her and turns his attention to the papers sitting on his desk. He loves Moira, he does, but she's always pestering him about Erik, like she doesn't want him to be happy.
No, that's not fair. He knows that's not fair. She does want him to be happy and she's just being practical and he knows that, but she also obviously doesn't know Erik. She doesn't understand their relationship. She's just working off assumptions and it's not her fault the assumptions are wrong.
"We should be working," he says, and Moira sighs.
"Charles, I'm not trying to ruin your fun," she says. "I'm happy for you. I really am. I think it's great that you met this guy whom you obviously love, who obviously loves you. As much as I hate to admit it, because I'm sure he pulls the wings off of flies for fun, you guys are a great couple. But you've never lived with a guy before and I know you and I'm just warning you that you need to be prepared for finding out that he organizes his dvds by genre and not title."
"No one organizes their dvds by genre, that's ridiculous," Charles says. "It's far too subjective--and what about films that are multi-genre, hm?"
"I'm just saying," Moira says. "Keep that in mind and try to be flexible if you really want this to work."
He chances a glance up from the paperwork. She's peering at him sincerely. He doesn't even have to read her mind to know she really does want him to be happy. He offers a small smile.
"I will," he says. "But, honestly, I've known him for months now. We're going to be fine."
"Sure thing," Moira says, and he doesn't care if she doesn't believe it--he knows it's the truth and that's all that matters.
Out in the hallway, the jingle bells on the door clatter cheerfully, announcing the arrival of the first of the children.
"Charles? Moira?" Chris Summers calls out. "I will pay you to take these kids off my hands."
Moira and Charles exchange a look, grinning. They can already hear Alex babbling nonsense words happily and loudly while Scott sings "The Princess Pat"--both the call and the repeat verses. Moira gets to her feet.
"You already do," she calls back, "but bonuses are always nice." To Charles, she adds, "Just think about what I've said."
"I will," Charles says, and he doesn't mean for it to be a lie, but by the time he joins her out in the playroom, he's already put it out of his mind. He and Erik will be fine.
It's not a hard day at daycare, exactly, but it's a long one. Charles is exhausted by the time he's done, though he can't stop smiling. He's going to go home to his boyfriend. They're going to eat dinner together and then maybe watch last week's Project Runway, which is still sitting on the DVR, and then they'll go to bed together because it's their bed, now. Their shared bed in their shared apartment.
It still hasn't lost its charm.
Erik had claimed, when they first went about getting everything in order for the move, that he was going to take one day off from work to unpack and settle in. Charles was skeptical--while Erik lived rather spartanly, he certainly had his share of belongings and Charles couldn't imagine him slotting them into the space left open by Charles' things in just one afternoon. He's surprised, then, when he pulls into the parking lot of his--their--apartment building and sees a pile of what's quite possibly all of Erik's moving boxes flattened and left next to the recycle bin.
He enters the building and climbs the stairs quickly. He's never come home to someone else before. Not like this, at least. He knows he shouldn't get used to it--Erik's work gets out at roughly the same time that Charles heads back from the daycare, so they'll probably be getting home at about the same time--but he's going to enjoy it, at least for today. He sends a mental nudge to Erik to announce his presence, then fishes out his keys and unlocks the door.
He's not expecting--well. He's not expecting what he sees. To put it lightly.
Everything is different. The bookshelves have been moved around. One of the ones that was in the office is now on the far wall, along with the one that was already there and one of Erik's. There's a box full of duplicate kitchen supplies on the counter. The couch has been shifted slightly and another end table has been put on the other side. Charles' old coffee table is gone and replaced with Erik's newer, sleeker (and, granted, cleaner and less likely to fall apart under too much weight) model. A new dvd shelf stands against the wall next to his own. There's art on the walls that wasn't there before he left. There are things in the room that he swears are missing, but he can't put his finger on what.
"Hey," Erik says.
And, in the midst of it all, Erik is sitting on the floor, surrounded by pieces of an entertainment center--Erik's, not his, which, granted, it's bigger, but still--and cleaning supplies. Charles' television, his dvd player, his Wii, and all the other various things that had been plugged into the wall are similarly spread out across the floor.
"Hi," Charles says slowly. "You've...moved in."
"Yes," Erik says without looking up. He's scrubbing at something on the floor. "I live here now, as we established this morning." He does look up then, and flashes Charles a smile. Charles smiles back uncertainly and leans over to kiss Erik in greeting.
"Where's my..." Charles starts to ask, but he doesn't know how to finish the question. There are a lot of options.
"I took apart your coffee table and brought it to my storage unit, but that Ikea piece of crap is on its way out," Erik says. "Same thing with that table that was in the corner.”
That's what was missing--that stupid table he'd kept the children's photos on. He'd liked that table, even though it didn't really go with the decor. And he inherited it from the previous tenant of the apartment.
"I took apart your entertainment center, too, and, shit," Erik continues. "Have you ever cleaned that thing before?"
"I don't know," Charles says. He doesn't mean to sound defensive. "I mean, it's not like anyone sees underneath it. Or behind it. Or on the shelves. Not really."
Erik sighs and shakes his head and goes back to scrubbing the floor.
Charles isn't uneasy. This is fine. It's all fine. His coffee table was old. The photo table can be replaced by something less dodgy. Erik's entertainment center is larger. Erik's taste in art is...well, it's a bit questionable, but he supposes it is slightly more adult than the preschool doodles that he normally puts up. He's just tired, that's all.
He crosses the room to his office to unload his bag, but he freezes when he hits the light.
"Oh, yeah, I moved some stuff around to fit my desk," Erik says. "I figure it's fair to split the room in half? So I just sort of...piled your stuff over there. I didn't want to mess with what you try and pass off as an organizational system."
It's almost embarrassing. The side Erik has claimed as his own is sleek and spare, just a desk, a chair, and a filing cabinet. His drafting supplies are neatly in a portfolio against the wall. His laptop hums quietly on the desk. Charles' side, by contrast, is now mostly taken up by cardboard boxes full of the things that Charles has saved over the years. He can't even see his desk.
"Uh," he says. He turns around and returns to the living room. He's tired. He wants to eat dinner and watch his stupid show and go to sleep. He doesn't want...things, everywhere. "How long until you're done with that?"
"Not long," Erik says. He's satisfied with the floor, it seems, and he's begun to put the entertainment center together. There are a lot of pieces. Charles doesn't think he'll be watching Project Runway tonight. He glances over at the second dvd stand and freezes.
"I'll be right back," he says vaguely, and goes back into the office and closes the door. His chair is blocked by boxes and he doesn't feel comfortable ruining Erik's very precise set-up, so when he pulls his phone out of his pocket, he settles for sitting on the floor as he dials Moira's number.
"Hey, what's up?" she says when she picks up.
"He organizes his dvds by genre," Charles says quietly and breathlessly. "Oh god, Moira, you were right, this is a disaster. This things are just...everywhere. He just...he just put things places. He put things all over the apartment! He hung things on the walls and moved things around and--I was at work! He should have asked! What if I wanted things there? He's cleaning and being snotty about it, like I don't keep a clean house and it's just...you were right. You were absolutely right. This was a mistake."
"Whoa," Moira says as Charles hangs his head forward and rubs between his eyes. "First off, I never said it was a mistake. Okay? I think, in fact, I said that I was glad you were happy and that you clearly love each other. What I said was that you're gonna need to learn to give up some ground if you're going to be sharing a house with someone and, wow, I was right. Gee, that never happens."
"Oh, be quiet," Charles moans. He rests his head on one of the stacks of boxes. God, since when has he had so much stuff?
"I'm serious," Moira says. "Honey, I love you so much. You know that. But, to put it bluntly, you're a rich only child. You have to learn about sharing some time, and it looks like it's going to be now."
"That's hardly fair," Charles says.
"Maybe not, but that doesn't make it untrue," Moira says. "Look, Charles, I said it before. This is his space now, too. You invited him to make it his. You can't get mad because he wants to make it feel like home. He's not your tenant, he's your boyfriend. If you really want to make a home with him, he gets to call some of the shots." She pauses. "And, you're not a slovenly pig or anything, don't get me wrong, but have you ever dusted anything ever?"
"Oh shut up," Charles says. "Just shut up. This is awful."
"It's really not," Moira says. "Charles. Breathe, okay? Close your eyes."
"Seriously," Moira says. "Close your damn eyes."
Feeling foolish, he does as she asks. He has to peek after a moment, suddenly nervous that someone is creeping around, just waiting to make fun of him, even though he can feel Erik still hard at work in the living room. He closes them again.
"Okay," he says.
"Take a couple deep breaths." He does so. "Now, think about the rest of your life. The whole stretch of it. Getting married and having kids and retiring to a little cottage in the woods--or, I guess your giant ancestral home in the woods--and grandkids and all of that. Really think about it."
"Okay," Charles says slowly. He tries. He imagines marrying Erik--or, well, as close as they can get at the moment. He imagines raising children with Erik, who may seem like he'll fall into the role of disciplinarian, but will probably be a giant softie when it comes to taking charge. He imagines expanding, maybe, working to make the daycare better and more advanced. That part's a little harder--he's not as good at the business end of running a preschool as he is at the actual "school" portion. It's easy to follow the meandering path of his personal life. It's slightly harder to unearth the direction his professional life will take.
"Are you thinking about it?" Moira asks.
"Yes," Charles says. "That part's easy--getting married and having children and all of that. I can't say I have any idea about my future professionally."
"Open your eyes, you dipshit," Moira says. "In your super-easy-to-imagine future, was Erik there?"
Charles scoffs. "Of course he was," he says. Moira says nothing, and it takes Charles a moment to see her point. "Oh. Oh."
"Talk to him about the changes you can't live with and suck it up and deal with the rest," Moira says. "As annoying as he is, you're clearly in this for the long haul. It's not a mistake, you're just having a totally natural freak out. Now go talk to him, sort your shit out, and leave me alone to finish my pizza before it gets cold."
"Yes, ma'am," Charles says. "I'll see you tomorrow. Thank you for enduring this--I'm sure you think I'm terribly silly."
"You're not silly, you're scared, which is perfectly okay," she says. "I love you. This is what I'm here for."
"I love you too, darling," Charles says. "Have a good night."
He hangs up his phone and sits for a moment, just breathing and absorbing the information.
Compromise, Moira said this morning. He can do that. He can. He's not a spoiled child. He teaches the children every day about sharing and about creating an environment where everyone feels welcome. This is Erik's home now, too. He should feel welcome.
He gets up off the floor and returns to the living room. The entertainment center, sleek, shining metal, is fully put together and the television and all the various accoutrements are back on it. Erik is leaning over to peer behind it as various wires dip up and out of Charles' sight at various moments.
"I don't think the landlord approves of this sort of thing," Charles says lightly. He drops onto the couch and swings his feet up onto the coffee table, partly because he's tired from a full day of work and a fraught few moments of personal revelation, but mostly because he's not about to pass up a chance to watch Erik lean over with his ass in the air, even if he lives with that ass now.
Oh god, he lives with Erik. He covers his mouth with one hand to hide his truly ludicrous smile.
"I'm doing our landlord a favor," Erik says from behind the television. "Some of this wiring is shit. You're lucky nothing caught fire and killed you in your sleep." Erik pulls at something and wiggles. Charles hums appreciatively. "Give me five more minutes and I'll have everything hooked up in a way that probably won't kill you."
"Probably?" Charles asks.
Erik stands and rolls his shoulders. He shoots Charles a wry smile.
"I haven't ruled out the chance that you'll drive me crazy and I'll strangle you with the wires," he says, and Charles rolls his eyes and grabs a throw pillow, hugging it to his chest as Erik stands back and all of the wires from behind the television rise into the air and begin to wind and unwind too quickly for Charles to follow. Erik's hardly paying attention, it's so natural to him. Charles may have a bit of a thing for men with interesting mutations.
Well, for one man, now.
In the grand scheme of his life so far, Erik is little more than a blip on Charles' radar. But looking forward? He hadn't even paused to consider it. Of course he sees Erik in every version of every possibility of his future. There had been no question. If he's made that much room for Erik in his life, he can stand to make a little room in the apartment.
"Come here," he says. He tosses the throw pillow aside and holds out his arms. Erik comes over without question, the wires still directing themselves as Erik hugs him tightly.
"I didn't even get a chance to ask you about your day," Erik says. He kisses Charles' forehead. "How was it?"
"Interesting," Charles says. "Long. Tiring. I really want to watch Project Runway."
Erik snorts. "I'll be done in just a second and I'll leave you to it," he says, but Charles doesn't let him up.
"Nope," Charles says. "You're going to sit here and watch it with me. And we're going to order pizza and discuss where we're going to put some of these things and where we're going to go from here and it's going to be lovely."
"Is it really?" Erik asks, his tone skeptical.
"Yes," Charles says. "I think you'll find that it is."
Erik makes another vague, doubtful noise, but his grip on Charles is steady and he doesn't move again for a long time.