Taronga Zoo was first opened on 7 October 1916. Located upon the shores of Sydney Harbour, tourists flocked from all around the world to visit the assortment of cute critters they had on offer. There were daily talks and shows that showcased the zookeeper’s love for their charges, from seals and giraffes to more iconic Australian animals like the koala and their even lesser known cousin, the drop bear.
The drop bear wasn’t as villainous as the media painted them out to be, all the biting off the faces of foreign visitors be damned. Perhaps these sensationalized stories that spread lies and slander about the drop bear were exactly what had driven them to near extinction.
Raven, one of Taronga Zoo’s koala zookeepers, worked up close and personal with the only drop bear in captivity and she was eager to showcase how wonderfully sweet the koala’s lesser cousins could actually be.
“No, Hank, listen. It’s a great idea,” Raven said earnestly to the lanky veterinarian walking quickly ahead of her.
“That’s what you said last time,” he called without looking over his shoulder. Raven’s eyes narrowed. If she didn’t know better, she’d swear Hank was trying to avoid her. Sure, her last idea hadn’t exactly flown and poor Emma still hasn’t fully recuperated, but it had been a solid plan; at the time anyway.
“Yeah, but the one before that was great. Remember? Everyone wants to hug Charles.” It was true. The Hug-A-Koala program had been a runaway success, and tourists were happy to pay through the nose in order to take a photo and get a cuddle from the friendliest resident male koala. Who would have thought that it would be Charles and not one of the girls that would take to the program?
Hank slowed enough for Raven to catch up and peered over glasses held together by glue, tape, and willpower. “Ok. I’ll grant you that one. But what about the time before that? Or the time before that?”
“It was a solid plan, Hank! Koala numbers are dwindling because of urbanisation of their natural habitats and a breeding program would see tourist numbers at Taronga soar to see the babies. How was I supposed to know that Charles and Erik had a big gay romance? Introducing females was logical. You love logic. Don’t you, like, want to make out with logic?”
Hank’s glare would have turned lesser zookeepers to ash. “Do I have to remind you that you weren’t the one who had to file a workers compensation claim for Lesbian Koala Orgy related injury.”
Raven just barely suppressed an eye roll. Like anyone could have foreseen that after friendly Charles and slightly-less-friendly Drop Bear Erik politely greeted Emma, the new female koala, they’d go back to whatever urgent marsupial business was at hand. Yes, perhaps she could have surmised that Charles and Erik would have an identical reaction to the introduction of Betsy, Kitty, Moira, and Ororo, but that was not the point.
However, seeing as how Taronga Zoo’s lesbian polyamorous koalas were heralded as an unprecedented zoological breakthrough, she felt Hank’s insistence on blaming her for their...demonstrations of affection - was misplaced. And as head veterinarian, it was his job to look after the welfare of the animals. It was completely logical that she would send him in to discourage the demonstrative affections during family friendly showcases. Raven wasn’t a koala bender, she clearly had no way of knowing how distasteful Emma would find Hank’s intrusion, and how forcefully she would make her displeasure known.
“Don’t live in the past, Hank—”
“Past? It was a week ago. I still have stitches!”
“—besides,” she continued blithely, “there is no way the Hug-a-Drop Bear initiative could go wrong.”
Hank stopped short and turned to gawk at her. “You can’t be serious,” he finally said after a long moment. “Have you even met Erik?
“Of course I have. Come on, everyone already loves Erik. He and Charles are like the marsupial Brangelina, only, you know, minus the tabloid gossip and the soccer team of children.”
There was that one stint with Women’s Weekly who had wanted to do a quick koala marriage article; they might have been shooting for a happy, healthy heterosexual koala relationship now that Raven thought about it in retrospect. Raven and Hank had, of course, been interviewed and they had commented about the relationships between all the koalas. Photos had been taken of a protective drop bear and his fuzzy wuzzy koala husband and all in all it had been successful.
Except when Women’s Weekly had printed the name ‘Erika’ instead of ‘Erik’. Raven hadn’t had the heart to tell Erik about the article.
Hank pinched the bridge of his nose. “This is going to end in tears, Raven. Tears.”
“Oh Hank,” she said as she slung an arm around the vet’s neck, “What would I do without your constant optimism.”
“I don’t know,” Hank replied wryly. “Probably pimp out Charles. Oh wait. You already are.”
Raven merely laughed loudly. “Oh the things you say, Hank.”
As the two walked away, Erik turned to Charles. The koala busied himself with gathering eucalyptus leaves, and Erik let himself gaze in mute adoration for a moment before breaking his reverie.
“Charles, the humans are planning something.”
“Oh?” Charles blinked his large, preternaturally blue eyes. “Well, they do that sometimes. I wouldn’t let it bother you, dear.”
Erik turned and watched as the humans walked out the doorway, his fur ruffling a little in pride at being called dear. His eyes were narrowed though, and he vowed that whatever infernal machinations their captors devised would come to naught. It was a great shame that he had been unable to defend Charles from the last ordeal, when his love had been ripped from his side and subjected to strange crushing motions from the humans. Surely it was meant as psychological warfare, but Charles was too strong for their tricks. Erik’s chest burst with pride for his love as the koala in question looked at him from the corner of his eyes and flitted his ears in botheration.
“If you’re thinking about the hugging again, Erik, for the last time it wasn’t so bad. I’d rather cuddle you, of course,” Charles added hastily as Erik opened his mouth to argue.
“Of course, my love,” Erik murmured, placated. Hugging. Hah! Erik saw through all of those human motions. He was the smartest drop bear in the history of drop bears — the fact that Erik was the only drop bear at Taronga Zoo must account for something — and Erik was onto those humans like a red glowing sunburn after a day walking through a zoo. Those humans wanted to take Charles away from him. Use him as bait. For ransom. Or something completely nefarious, Erik knew it deep in his drop bear bones.
Well. Erik was having none of that!
“Honestly, Erik,” Charles said, a little exasperated as if he knew exactly where Erik’s line of thought was taking him. “The humans aren’t going to kidnap me because they want your precious eucalyptus treasure pile. I don’t even know why you’re still coveting that pile...”
“It’s because you gave it to me,” Erik informs Charles gruffly.
The Precious Eucalyptus Treasure Pile in question was Erik’s pride and joy. His crowning glory. Sure, Charles might have offered it to him as a friendly koala gesture, but Erik had never been given anything in his life, not since he had been taken away from his Mama. It was special and even if Raven and Hank knew just how important it was to him, those humans knew nothing. Nothing!
Charles’s eyes took on a fond, melting quality that Erik loved so, especially when he was its cause.
“For the love of Moira’s fuzzy white ass,” Emma called, ruining their moment. “Could you two knock it off with the eye fucking already? You’re making us sick.”
Moira, Betsy, Ororo, and Kitty called out in agreement from their koala love pile. Erik bristled. How dare they defile his and Charles’s pure love!
Before he could point out the sacrilegious error of their ways, Charles began nuzzling his soft, perfect cheek against Erik’s, mingling breath and scent.
“Darling, do let it go, just this once, please?” Charles cooed, blue eyes luminous. Erik harumphed, but let his husband cuddle him into a more agreeable mood. The things he did for love.
* * *
Heathens! Erik seethed on his shared eucalyptus branch with Charles snuggled in at his side. How dare they use that little box contraption with the flashy light thing on him? Didn’t they know that the flashy light thing distressed Charles? What if Erik’s superior drop bear seed finally took root inside of Charles? What if Charles was pregnant with their children, little joeys that had Charles’ beautiful blue eyes and Erik’s snappy drop bear jaws? Erik would not stand for it. He would rather bite the faces off those tourists than stand for his mate being disturbed. His mate who was like the perfect eucalyptus leaf that tasted best when covered in the morning dew of his life.
Charles murmured sleepily from where he had been using Erik’s hind leg as a pillow. That was fine. That was totally more than fine. Charles required his beauty sleep if he was going to carry their beautiful joeys and bring them into this world. Erik would do all that was necessary in order to provide the best comforts for his mate. Including snarling at the menage a cinq who were already rutting so early in the morning.
Before he could even get one syllable out, Raven was walking in looking awfully chipper. She was possibly the only human that Erik could stand for, a fact that Raven seemed to have picked up on.
“Good morning, Erik! How is my favourite drop bear on this fine morning?” Raven asked with a grin on her face.
Erik refrained from jumping on her face from his perch.
“Is my favourite drop bear ready for his early morning photo shoot?”
Erik blinked at her.
“We even have Logan Howlett waiting in our midst. He’s super excited to do a photoshoot with you,” Raven said, gently moving Charles off Erik. “There you go, Charles. We’re going to borrow Erik here for an hour or two, but I promise to have him returned to your side swiftly. Possibly without any blood, it’s hard to tell these days what mood Erik’s in.”
“Charles, my love! Raven plans to take me away from your side! Wake up, my perfect eucalyptus leaf that tastes best when covered in the morning dew!”
Charles mumbled something unintelligible about leaves, but otherwise remained fast asleep. The only other sign that he had even been aware of Erik’s words was an ear twitch.
She struck before he had a chance to react, grasping him and pulling him gently off the tree before he could mount a defense.
“I demand you unhand me at once!” he cried as she carried him away from Charles. He swung his head around wildly, catching a last glimpse at his love clung to the tree, unaware of the cruel hand that cold, bitter fate had dealt them. It was no comfort that he had been proven right, that the humans showed their true colors at long last. His stalwart drop bear heart clenched when he thought of Charles - his poor, naive Charles - waking up alone and unprotected.
“Australian GQ is super excited you know. Taronga’s only drop bear coupled with Logan Howlett, Canada’s sexiest lumberjack. Those issues are going to fly off the shelves, I just know it,” Raven said, making casual conversation as they ducked in through the doors. “I think Hank’s got a crush on Logan actually. Though I don’t blame him. Quite the looker, y’know, if you’re into the whole lumberjack and flannel thing.”
Her grasp was such that he was unable to gain freedom no matter how valiantly he struggled.
“Oh, quit being a drama queen,” she chided. “Now behave. No biting the sexy lumberjack movie star, ok? The more pain-free this is, the sooner you can return to Charles.”
Erik was dubious at first. However, returning to Charles’ side was a very strong incentive and Raven more often than not used it to her advantage when she wanted anything from him. Erik sulked. Just a little bit.
“For you, Charles my love, I will suffer these indignities a thousandfold,” Erik mumbled into Raven’s collarbone as they passed through a doorway into a brightly lit room. It wasn’t like any other room that Erik had been in. But he had heard stories.
It took a moment to regain his unrivaled drop bear eyesight. When his vision returned, the first thing he saw was a strange human with spiky fur covering its head and arms. It smelled unlike any other human Erik had ever encountered; smokey and sweaty and not unlike those inferior marsupials, the kangaroos.
“This a drop bear?” the human growled. Erik had no idea humans could be so feral. He felt something like respect bloom in his intrepid drop bear heart.
“This is Erik,” Raven corrected. “He just happens to be a drop bear, yes. Isn’t he gorgeous?”
The growling human grunted and thrust his face close to Erik’s, bearing his teeth. How delightful, Erik mused before responding in kind. Finally, a human who knows the polite greetings. Clearly this was a man well versed in the ways of the drop bear. About time someone treated Erik with the respect that he deserved and none of that pussy-footing about that the bespectacled veterinarian fellow often employed.
“What the hell,” Raven cried. “Celebrity or not, Mr. Howlett, I will kick your ass if you upset Erik.”
“Nah,” the human - Howlett - replied. “He’s pretty okay. We doin’ this?”
What followed was one of the more surreal afternoons of Erik’s life. Stranger, even, than the time one of the platypi escaped its enclosure and broke into his and Charles’s home. He had wisely wanted to launch an attack, but Charles, beautiful wonderful Charles, had insisted on talking to it, and Erik had watched on as Charles and the platypus exchanged ideas on biophysics and the benefits of poison spurs. That was until the platypus’s zookeeper came charging in along with Raven, taking away Charles’ new friend. Erik had to dedicate much of his time in comforting his sulking koala husband.
Erik perched on Howlett’s back as they both stood before a team of humans all equipped with flashing boxes. All of it made Erik’s hackles rise.
“Could you try hugging him?” a particularly stupid human called. Erik was ready to defend himself against the human’s treason, at least until Howlett grunted his refusal. Erik made a note to allow Howlett to live when the drop bear uprising finally arrived.
Soon (although not soon enough for Erik’s liking) the humans with the boxes packed up. Raven jogged over, and Erik allowed her to pull him into her arms. Certainly this trial was at an end. His heart swelled when he thought of his triumphant return to his husband. Howlett grunted a farewell and Erik responded in kind, but nothing could break his focus from his imminent reunion with Charles. Oh, poor Charles, he was certain to be devastated by Erik’s absence.
* * *
“Charles! Oh Charles, I’ve returned. Dry your eyes, my sweet.” Charles blinked drowsily, ears twitching.
“Mmmmm? Erik? Sorry,” he mumbled adorably with a yawn. “Did you go somewhere?” It was worse than Erik thought! Clearly the shock of separation had caused Charles to repress the memory. Erik clung to Charles, vowing to never leave his husband’s side again.
Charles merely burrowed his face into Erik’s shaggy fur and resumed sleeping.
* * *
“Hmmm?” Hank replied. “Did you think that Mr. Howlett looked at me? I think he might have, but I’m not sure.” He let out a soft dreamy sigh as he hastily cleaned the lenses of his glasses with a microfiber cloth.
“Erik really seemed to like it! Or, not hate it. Which is the same thing, really.” She’d frankly been surprised by how well Erik had behaved. And people said drop bears were homicidal fur-covered monsters! Raven was super proud of how Erik had shown everyone wrong.
“He’s much better looking in person, don’t you think? I mean, he’s certainly handsome in his photographs but…” Hank mumbled.
“This will be excellent publicity for Hug-a-Drop Bear, don’t you think? It might be more popular than Hug-a-Koala, even!”
“I wonder if he’d want to get coff—wait, what? Raven, are you really still on about the Hug-a-Drop Bear thing?” Raven stopped short and gaped at Hank. Hadn’t he been listening at all?
“Of course I am. Erik was a prince today, you saw him. Or maybe you didn’t, Mr. Oh-look-at-me-Mr.-Howlett-save-me-from-the-big-scary-drop-bear.” Hank flushed bright red at that.
“Well. Yes. Ahem. Perhaps, ah. Point.” Hank took a fortifying breath. “Oh, it’s not like you’re any better around Irene from the platypus enclosure.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Raven lied as she walked to the exit. Hank called after her, something about how it will all end in tears, but really. What’s the worst that could happen?
* * *
Erik’s carefully cultivated drowned koala look was carefully combed and trimmed.
“Look at me, Charles. Look at what they’ve done to my fine fur. I struck fear into the hearts of all and sundry, once.” Erik sighed despondently. It would take months before it would be the same length again.
“Really, Erik. I think you look very handsome,” Charles consoled as he pushed over the choicest of the eucalyptus Raven had provided. Erik squared his shoulders and ate. It was important to keep his strength up. There was no telling what underhanded scheme the humans might be planning, and it was up to him to protect his husband. He would prove to them that his strength wasn’t held in his fur alone! Their foolish trick was destined for failure.
“How’s our rising superstar doing? Have you worked your miracles on him?” Raven asked as she entered the room. She gave a quick scratch behind Charles’ ear and gave a low whistle. Erik growled at her, trying not to sulk for all of his beautiful fur that was shorn off. Charles rolled his eyes as Erik was being melodramatic about the whole thing again.
“Did you say the koala was his husband?” the stylist asked. “Having him here helped. I can’t imagine what Erik would have been like without Charles there. I think they’re both ready to go. Just give me a moment to wash my hands and then I’ll work my magic on you and your colleague.”
Erik glowered malevolently at a human with a strange box. It didn’t flash like the other boxes he’d seen, but it had a weird light and the human kept it pointed at him and Charles. Clearly it was some form of human trickery. Erik made sure to keep it in his sights as Raven talked to it in the background. He shuffled closer to Charles to protect him from any coming attack, and ignored the strange ‘awwwww’ sounds coming from the humans. Not for the first time, he wished they could act with some degree of rationality.
Charles, however, was lapping it all up. His ears twitching happily as he pressed his furry self into Erik’s hold. And Erik was powerless against it, he always was.
The director stood up behind the camera and loudly proclaimed, “We’ll give it a dry run through and then see if we can get it all on tape. If we can’t then we’ll obviously have to do more takes, but let’s hope the koala gods are with us today!” That attracted some laughter from his crew.
“This can only end in tears,” Hank said as soon as the stylist had powdered his face and made him acceptable for the camera.
Raven would have rolled her eyes at him had it not been the stylist powdering her face. “Stop being so cranky. It’s only been like a few days since you’ve last saw Mr. Howlett.”
“Eighty-three hours and forty-seven minutes,” Hank corrected her quietly. His heart ached already and there was nothing that could fill the gap, not even scrolling through his endless dashboard on Tumblr filled with that Canadian lumberjack’s face.
“Yes that, whatever. Get your head in the game! I’ve promised to meet up with Irene for lunch, remember? And since you’re free, you’re on koala talk and feed duty.”
“What? Since when?” Hank exclaimed. It wasn’t that he disliked talking about koalas or feeding them, but there were still scars left that had yet to be completely healed.
“Since now. And you know how Erik gets if he can’t offer Charles the best of the very best.”
“I trust everyone’s read the scripts? Raven and Hank? If you can please step up to the mark and then we’ll get the show on the road.”
“Come, Erik. Come to Raven,” Raven cooed as she plucked him easily from where he had been cosying it up with Charles. Erik made a loud bark of protest but quickly quietened down when he saw that Charles wasn’t going to be left behind, but had settled happily in Hank’s arms.
Raven and Hank stepped in front of the cameras, drop bear and koala in hand respectively. Excitement buzzed in the air and they quickly rolled through their first dry run. A few adjustments here and there, an affectionate scratch behind the ears and then it was for real.
“Hello! I’m Hank. This is Charles. Some of you may have met him before. Say hello, Charles!”
Charles blinked his big blue eyes and gave a hearty wave at the camera that made the crew smile fondly.
“Hi! I’m Raven and this here is Erik. Say hello, Erik!”
Erik, under the insistence of Charles, gave a low bark.
“If you haven’t come to visit Erik and Charles yet at Taronga Zoo,” Raven said, grinning at the camera, “Now would be the best time to come up close and personal with Australia’s one and only drop bear in captivity!.”
“Taronga Zoo is just twelve minutes away from the Sydney CBD and is home to over three thousand charismatic animals. In fact, why don’t you make your trip extra special and making an everlasting memory by having your picture taken by one of our professionals.” Hank smiled charmingly, if a little awkwardly, into the camera.
Raven continued, “Whether it be feeding a giraffe or—our personal favourite—cuddling up to these little guys. And since there’s only one drop bear in captivity that we know of, and we know you guys adore getting up close and personal with koalas, we’ve launched our hug-a-drop bear campaign!”
“See for yourself why Taronga is regarded as one of the most beautiful zoos in the world. Make it a fun day out with your family,” Hank concluded.
Hank and Raven moved out of the limelight and the stylist came up to them to retouch their make-up. This went on for several hours and Erik was getting annoyed and hungry. He hadn’t touched Charles in over two hours! That was virtually unheard of and it was making Erik far more cranky than normal.
After what felt like an eon, the director finally yelled: “That’s a wrap!”
And the first thing Erik does when Raven and Hank set them back into their tree was to climb over and rub his chest all over Charles and making sure that he was unhurt. As all good drop bear husbands should.
* * *
“It’s distasteful,” Emma had drawled when Erik brought it up. Not that he cared, mind you.
“It’s creepy.” Kitty agreed from her perch high in a tree.
“Why are they so interested in you all of a sudden,” Betsy asked from where she suddenly appeared behind him. Not that he jumped or anything. Drop bears do not startle.
“Yeah, you’re an asshole. At least we’re cute.” Moira added unhelpfully.
“They have plans for you, Erik.” Ororo watched the humans in the background. “Be careful. They may try to hug you.”
Erik had suppressed a shudder, but just barely. He had been on high alert ever since, and never let Charles out of his sight. Which wasn’t actually different from usual, all things considered.
Erik let his gaze travel back to his husband, who was napping in a tree. Not just any tree - the best of trees. Erik had made sure of that. A clanging in the background distracted him from his reverie.
“Where’s my favorite drop bear?” Raven called as she made her way into the enclosure, zeroing in on him with a grin. He allowed her to pull him off his branch and into her arms. Sometimes she would give him special treats. Charles loved the special treats. “Are you excited for your big public debut?” she asked as she turned to walk them out of the cage.
“What? What treachery is this?” Erik bellowed.
“Oh, are you leaving, Erik? Have fun!” Charles called, seemingly heedless of his cries. Poor Charles, clearly he was in denial of the danger that had befallen them.
“You’re antsy today,” Raven muttered as they walked down a long, strange hall towards a large crowd of people. “Relax, it’s just a little bit, then we’ll get you back to Charles as good as new. You won’t even have a chance to miss him, I bet.” Against his better judgment he clung to her tightly as they made their way to the front of the room.
“Good morning, and welcome to Taronga Zoo’s inaugural Hug-a-Drop Bear Day!” The crowd cheered and flashed their boxes at him. Charles had gone through this several times before. If only he’d known the depth of suffering his husband had endured. One perfect tear dropped from his eye, but the humans didn’t notice.
“Now as I’m sure you’re all aware, this is Erik! Say hello, Erik.” Erik bellowed at the assembled crowd, but they simply snapped pictures and applauded. Fools!
“As I’m sure you can understand, Erik gets a little antsy when he’s separated from his husband, Charles, so let’s get this underway! Hank has already gone over the drop bear do’s and don’ts, so please keep those in mind for Erik’s safety and your own. After the session, feel free to make your way to our koala sanctuary and take a peek at the lovebirds. And be sure to stop by the platypus exhibit, too!”
“Oh, he’s so cranky,” a blonde man exclaimed near the head of the line. He had his arm around a tall man who looked at him fondly.
“Sure is, Alex. Reminds me of you,” the other man said.
“Shut up, Darwin,” Alex muttered as he trained his camera on Erik. The man in front of them leaned forward in excitement as the young boy he was with looked at Erik in wonder. As well the child should. It was time the humans learned who was in charge.
“Uncle Sebastian, he looks just like Charles!” the boy said, and Erik’s attention was riveted at the mention of his husband. So these were the same humans to torture Charles!
“Well, they’re related species, Kurt,” the man said to the boy. “Although this one seems to be in much better shape. That koala was on the pudgy side.”
Raven opened her mouth to respond, but before she could get a word in Erik launched himself at the man.
“How dare you! You aren’t worthy of even mentioning Charles’s name,” Erik barked as Sebastian screamed. “And he is perfect and fuzzy wuzzy! You will pay for this malfeasance!” The human’s legs buckled at the force of Erik’s impact and the two went tumbling to the floor.
“Holy shit!” Alex shouted. Raven and Hank were there in a flash. The people lining up behind them all had their iPhones and Samsungs out recording, no doubt uploading to that Youtube site about Erik’s heroic feat in defending his husband’s honour. Raven gathered Erik to her and refused to let him renew his assault.
“Oh my god your drop bear is a monster,” the man said.
“You shouldn’t have insulted his husband, you jerk!” Raven shouted back. Erik puffed his fur out in vindication.
“It doesn’t look like he broke the skin,” Hank muttered as he examined the man.
“Who cares about that! Do you have any idea who I am? I’m Sebastian Shaw! I’ll ruin this shitty little zoo.”
“Well, I don’t know what you being Sebastian Shaw has to do with anything,” a new, yet familiar voice drawled. “But you certainly are an idiot. The lovely Mr. McCoy made it clear as day that drop bears don’t react well to human aggression.” Logan Howlett stepped into the room, holding a bundle carefully in his arms. The crowd chattered at the sight, and swung their telephones to capture the famous Canadian.
“They especially don’t like it when something threatens or insults their mate.” Hank added, red, but keeping Logan Howlett’s gaze.
“Quite right, too.” Logan answered as he made his way up front, taking care to shield his bundle from the fawning public. “So, I was filming a new outdoor special in the outback, and what should I find but these lil’ critters all alone?” He gently pushed the bundle into Hank’s arms, remaining close even after the transfer was complete.
“Logan! Are, are these drop bears?” Erik almost succeeded in breaking from Raven’s grasp at that, and craned his head to see what Hank was looking at. There, in his arms, lay two tiny forms cuddled about each other, fluff sticking up in every direction.
“I thought Erik and Charles might be willing to look after them,” Howlett muttered, rubbing the back of his neck. Raven brought Erik closer to get a better look. His sturdy bear heart missed a beat as he took in the two tiny drop bears.
“Oh, my children,” Erik breathed. “Your father and I will love you so. But stay away from your new aunts. They are not to be trusted.”
“Let’s introduce these fellers to Charles,” Raven cooed as she, Hank, and Logan made their way back to the koala enclosure.
“Okay, what the actual fuck.” Alex said after everyone involved with the animals left the room.
“I was attacked by a psychotic Drop Bear,” Shaw shouted.
Kurt sighed with frustration. “Uncle Sebastian, this is why we can’t have nice things.”
* * *
“Hello there Erik! That was quick. Did you see that hugging isn’t so bad after all?”
“No, it’s far worse than I ever anticipated, my poor tortured darling. But there’s something more important at hand!”
Raven swung open the door and made her way to Charles, resplendent as usual, but before Erik could share the news, the feral human spoke.
“Hey there fella? Wanna meet your joeys?” Erik smothered his rage at having Howlett so callously ruin his moment with Charles when his husband gasped and looked Erik in the eyes, lovely cerulean orbs glimmering with unshed tears.
“Oh, Erik. Erik, is it true?”
“Charles, my great love, indeed it is.” Erik pulled himself from Raven’s grasp to the branch holding Charles, and stared proudly at the humans as his husband nuzzled his fur, shorn and unmatted though it may be.
Howlett stood close to Hank as the veterinarian slowly unwrapped the two tiny babies. They were clearly the fluffiest and fuzzy wuzziest of babies. Charles gasped again as the tiny drop bear nearest him blinked up at him.
“Hello darling,” Charles cooed, “don’t be afraid. We’ll take good care of you, if you want.” That was clearly all the wee bear needed to feel comfortable enough to let Charles clutch her to him. The second bear followed his sister’s lead, and snuggled with his sister in Charles’s arms. Erik wished he had a fraction of the talent of the great drop bear artists of lore, so that he could capture the sight of his husband with their joey.
He couldn’t let his family distract them from his sacred mission to protect them, however. With his lightning drop bear reflexes, he reached and grabbed the tea-towel that had been used to swaddle their babies. It would make a glorious cape to aid him in watching over his most precious of eucalyptus leaves of the soul.
* * *
Charles and Erik become famous overnight. Facebook groups popped up all in support of Charles and Erik’s love and the new additions to the koala and drop bear community at Taronga Zoo. Twitter was trending #koalahusbands and #dropbearwedding, which provided endless amusement to Raven as she read out the more raunchy tweets to a red-faced Hank. And then there was Tumblr where there were endless posts and Photoshop manips and fanfiction and — was that NSFW FANART? — all of it dedicated to Charles and Erik. It was rather overwhelming actually at the outpouring of support and love that the world was showing.
But more importantly, it was the beginning of a wonderful family. A family that Erik had thought that he would never have until now. The two babies were old enough to be weaned from wherever their wayward mother went, but still young enough to want to be carried about from tree to tree.
The two drop bear joeys were still as of yet unnamed and Raven had a new brain wave wherein she started a naming competition on Taronga Zoo’s Twitter. There were endless suggestions, all of which Hank had to tabulate as the more responsible one between the two koala zookeepers. Hank was certain that had Raven been in charge of the naming process, suggestions such as ‘Buttface’ and ‘Fartboner’ would have made it onto the considerations list.
Of course, Hank would have volunteered to do that job regardless. But somehow through methods unknown, Raven had wound up with Logan Howlett’s private number. Hank had been dubious at first, of course, but the handwriting was undeniably very close to that one scene in that one movie where Howlett had been writing a long love letter (a letter that was not at all addressed to Hank, but to his co-star, that Hank firmly pretended to have been called Henry, if one put on a fake French accent, but was in fact named Kate).
Raven must have realised how desperately Hank wanted the number, and had merrily spent all of her lunch times at the platypus exhibition, until she was guilt-tripped by Irene into handing it over before Hank could file another worker’s compensation claim.
The names that they eventually settled upon was Wanda for the girl and Pietro for the boy. Both fine, strong names for the next generation of Erik’s new family.
* * *
Raven was going strong with Irene, although it was now she that had to sacrifice some of her lunch breaks in order to feed her charges now that Hank was inseparable from his phone and by extension Mr. Howlett. Hank was often found with his fingers flying over the built in keyboard and prone to turning red a scant few seconds after he receives a new message. Their relationship must be going strong. Raven could only guess as to what kind of naughty things the resident koala veterinarian and his Canadian lumberjack boyfriend got up to during business hours (Didn’t Logan have to work? Surely Canadian lumberjacks were often required to do Canadian lumberjack things).
Life at Taronga Zoo, like most things, had to go on. And tourists were fickle beasts who hardly donated their money to their koala sanctuary in lieu of the tigers or the giraffes. Did they not realize just how much money went into maintaining and keeping their drop bears and koalas happy? There was only so much achievable on blood, sweat and tears alone.
Which was where Raven, as always, stepped up to the plate with her cunning plans.
“Hank. Hank! Stop sexting your lumberjack boyfriend for two seconds. You’re acting worse than Emma and Moira—”
Hank shook his head. “No way! Not even a gallon of brain bleach will ever—”
“—during the worst of their love-making. Have you noticed the dwindling numbers of our tourist friends?”
“What?” Hank pushed his glasses up and thankfully set his phone onto the table. He looked instantaneously wary. “I.. don’t like where this is going.”
“You never do!” Raven chirped, reaching over to take Hank’s phone as hostage. Just in case. “But no, this is going to be a great plan—Oh god! Your boyfriend is filthy.”
Hank launched himself over the table that separated them and they tussled on the floor for a good minute or two for the phone. “You should never have read—!”
“Well, I guess there’s a reason he’s the Canadian Sexting Champion of 2010 - 2012 right?” Raven said with a waggle of her eyebrows, righting the chair she had been sitting in and plonking herself down.
“Please. Please stop,” Hank mumbled, face as red as a tomato as he buried it into his arms on the table. “Just tell me your idea.”
“I knew you’d see it my way, Hank. You always do!” Raven gave Hank’s shoulder enthusiastic pats. Hank was the bestest co-worker a girl could ask for, or occasionally boss around and sound ideas against. It was a very fine line. “So I was thinking… what Charles and Erik really need is a Big Gay Koala Wedding. The biggest one that history will ever witness!”
“I knew it. Nope. I’m going to need to write my resignation letter.”
Raven waved off Hank’s threat of quitting his job. There was no way he would do that and leave behind his koalas, not unless his Canadian Sexting Champion was offering him a place to stay.
“No, Hank, hear me out! It’ll be great! We could customize Erik’s tea-towel into a tux. I’m sure Charles wouldn’t mind, in fact, I’m sure Erik would be the one to go along with it after catching one look at Charles.”
“How do you even come up with these ideas? Are you high? Sometimes I only wish you were so I could blame it on something.”
“The world moves in great and mysterious ways, my young Padawan,” Raven said sagely, nodding with emphasis. “So, I was thinking that the girls will obviously all be Charles’ bridesmaids... or Erik’s bridesmaids, whichever.”
“If you can get them to stop, y’know.”
“Yes. But even if we didn’t, a lesbian koala orgy would make for a very interesting wedding. And since we don’t really have a Best Man — Best Koala? Best Drop Bear? Whatever — it will negate the point that everyone gets together with the Best Whatever. Especially if all the bridesmaids are shagging it up—”
“Stop. Have I told you that this is a bad idea? I think I probably should tell you now.”
Raven plowed on, as if she hadn’t heard Hank’s opinion. “Wanda would make a wonderful flower joey, and Pietro of course would be the ring bearer. It will be great! Loads of people would come back and take pictures of them. Think about it, how many Big Gay Koala Weddings have you ever attended?”
“About none, because normal zookeepers don’t hold weddings like that for the animals they look after.”
“Think of the prestige then, the honour, the food! Everyone will love it. I’m sure Charles and Erik would love it! Hey, lets go discuss the rest of the details over coffee. I’ll even buy! Because I have Big Plans for this.”
Hank sighed and allowed himself to be dragged out of the clinic, resigned to at least half an hour of an elaborately planned wedding. Raven missed her calling as a wedding planner. At least he had his phone with him.
* * *
“They’re plotting again, Charles. I can feel it in my drop bear bones.”
Charles sighed and made a point of telling Wanda and Pietro that their drop bear daddy could be very silly indeed.