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serious koala business

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Erik has no particular fondness for animals, so he isn't entirely sure what to think when Charles is turned into a stuffed bear.

I’m alive, not stuffed, Charles points out, and a koala, for your information, which isn’t technically a bear. At least, Erik thinks, Charles’ telepathy hasn't been impeded by his apparently-a-koala sized brain. The correct response is to be duly horrified.

"But you're fine," Erik says. It's not a question, but he wants confirmation.

One of Charles' ears twitches in what might be irritation. Or what might be an itch. Erik has no idea how to read the body language of a koala, even if it is still Charles. As much as I can be in this predicament.

It's a fair point. "Can I get you anything?" Erik asks, though he hasn't any idea what.

Charles’ head tilts to one side, then the other. Erik belatedly realizes it’s supposed to be a head shake. Hank is taking care of the eucalyptus problem.

"All right," Erik says. He isn’t sure what the eucalyptus problem is, but it doesn’t seem worth questioning further. Charles, meanwhile, stares up at Erik from where he is seated. His expression is intent, bordering on expectant, so Erik asks, "Do you want something else?"

I'd like to sleep, I think.

Charles doesn’t normally take naps in the middle of the afternoon; he’s claimed before that they make falling asleep at night impossible. "Then you should," Erik says.

Could you help me to my bedroom? Charles asks. I'd rather not make a spectacle of myself going upstairs.

"I think anything you do like this will be a spectacle," Erik says.

Charles projects his petulance directly into Erik’s mind, since he can’t pout the way he does whenever he’s exhausted and the world conspires to keep him awake. His eyes, however, are still just as blue and can be just as imploring. Exactly. So, if you would?

Erik isn’t sure if picking Charles up would be a further indignity. Even though Charles is always ready to look after everyone else, he’s disinclined to accept help. Erik doesn’t fully understand why, but Charles puts up with Erik’s own boundaries; he can do the same for Charles.

It would help, of course, if Erik understood those boundaries. They’ve shared beds on the road and even, on occasion, at the mansion, but he’s unsure whether Charles will welcome his touch now.

Maybe it will be easier if he just floats Charles upstairs on something. He concentrates a moment to catalogue all of the metal objects in the room, dismissing the ones that are obviously unsuitable. There’s a bucket that might work. He’s about to suggest it but stops short when he looks back at Charles, who has averted his gaze.

Can’t you just carry me without the bucket? Charles asks, still avoiding eye contact. This is something Charles does when embarrassed, though it’s usually accompanied by his ears and cheeks flushing.

“Of course,” Erik says.

Charles sighs, a mixture of relief and gratitude skating across Erik's mind.

It's an awkward process. Erik hasn’t spent much time carrying around animals—or anything small and living, for that matter. He places his hands firmly around Charles' sides, since that seems easiest, and lifts him; while he’s held midair, Charles’ short arms and legs flail a little, as though he isn't sure what to do with them—I'm not, he provides helpfully—, and he ends up hooking his claws in the front of Erik’s shirt. They look pretty innocuous, but they’re sharp enough to tear through the fabric. Still, better his polo than his skin any day.

Sorry, Charles says sheepishly.

"Don't worry about it," Erik says, adjusting Charles in his arms to support Charles from the bottom, which seems easiest, given the way Charles clutches at him.

You're being very accommodating about all this.

Erik doesn’t fully understand the flicker of curiosity that accompanies Charles’ words. “Why wouldn’t I be? It isn’t as though any of this is your fault.”

I know. Charles takes a slow, deep breath. I still feel as though it’s an imposition.

"It’s not," Erik says.

I appreciate it nonetheless, Charles says, quiet and suddenly drowsy.

"You're welcome," Erik says. He finds the metal of the doorknob and twists, using his shoulder to push the door open.

The fluffy hair coming out of Charles' koala ears tickles Erik's throat as Charles ducks his head beneath Erik’s chin. Charles says nothing else, and his grip doesn’t slacken, but he exudes a warm feeling of contentment as Erik carries him upstairs. It’s the calmest feeling he’s projected all day.

Erik opens the door to Charles' bedroom the same way as the door to the study, then closes it once they’re inside. He sits down on Charles' bed, unsure whether to attempt to pry Charles off.

Will you stay? Charles, half-asleep, murmurs before Erik’s made a decision. Despite his words, Charles doesn’t budge, and instead—for lack of a better word—snuggles closer. It’s a koala thing. How they hold onto trees. I suppose you could mistake it for snuggling, he mumbles as a barely coherent explanation.

It’s also a Charles thing, if the way he drapes himself all over Erik, on the rare occasions they’ve shared a bed the whole night, is any indication.

“I’m sure it is,” Erik says, shifting further onto the bed so he can lie down and let Charles rest more easily upon his chest. There’s a book on Charles’ bedside table, so Erik reaches for it and turns on the lamp. He can’t stand to leave his mind unoccupied, and he’s not sleepy at all.

So, staying? Charles asks again.

"I haven’t got any other plans," Erik says. He doesn’t move from his spot until Hank returns with the eucalyptus and Charles wakes to eat.

~

Charles wakes the next morning feeling sore and more than a little embarrassed and, layered over that, like a warm blanket, extremely mellow.

“Mmmpht,” Erik mutters and turns over. Despite his terrifying Nazi-hunting skills, he’s never seemed to be a morning person, which Charles finds rather more endearing than perhaps he ought to.

("So," Charles said the first time they spent the night together. "You're not a morning person."

Erik dragged the pillow further over his head to block out the sunlight. "Am too."

"Really?" Charles said. He tried to pull the pillow off Erik's head, but Erik thrashed and managed a firm kick to his shin. "Ow."

"You deserve it," Erik mumbled into the mattress. "Besides, I am. When I need to be."

"Oh," Charles said and worked on not projecting his pleasure everywhere.)

Charles stretches his limbs out languidly, smacking his lips together.

Erik pries one eye open when Charles accidentally knees him in the thigh. “Wha—?”

“Nothing,” Charles says. “Go back to sleep.”

Erik snorts in acquiescence and sinks back into the pillows. Then he sits up again suddenly. “Oh. Hey. You’re back to—” he waves his hand about, “—you again.”

“I am,” Charles says. He sits up in bed to work out the kinks in his back. It feels glorious. He revels in being back in his own body, no longer disorientated by loud sounds and the bewildering sensation of being smaller than expected. From the way Erik glares at him, he supposes that he’s not quite as successful at keeping the smugness out of his voice as could be desired. “And with substantially less fur than before.”

“Particularly around the ears,” Erik points out.

“You loved my ears,” Charles says. “You kept thinking about them.”

Erik sniffs. “They were floppy.”

“They were adorable.”

“Hmm,” Erik says. Charles leans back against Erik’s chest; he’s not snuggling, he tells himself, just resting. “You’re snuggling,” Erik corrects dryly. “And projecting.”

Charles murmurs his agreement. “I feel...” He searches for the right word. “Stoned, almost?”

“From the eucalyptus?” Erik asks.

“Oh god,” Charles says involuntarily, thinking of Hank’s long lecture over the lunch table on how eucalyptus didn’t actually make koalas high—and Sean’s subsequent disappointment.

“It would explain so much about yesterday,” Erik says, amused. He mentally flips through, in rather more specific detail than Charles thinks is warranted, the events of last night: Charles demanding that Erik feed him the leaves, Charles wailing when Hank tried to examine him, Charles asking him to stay the night.

“That last one,” Charles says. He concentrates on the tips of his fingers, stubby and short-nailed and wonderfully human.

Erik’s silence is expectant.

“It wasn’t because of—that’s usually what—.” He takes a breath and composes himself. “I always want you to stay,” he says finally.

“Well,” Erik says. His face is as expressionless as usual, but there’s a curious mixture of amusement and excitement and what might, very possibly, be joy emanating from him. “Here I am.”

Charles turns so that he’s sprawled more firmly across Erik’s chest. “Here you are,” he agrees, wriggling against Erik to press their lips together.

“You still reek of those stupid leaves,” Erik says, but he doesn’t seem to mind, just slants their mouths together again.

“Mmm,” Charles says into the kiss.

Definitely stoned, Erik thinks.