Hullo, lovelies! I am still around, I promise. Just busy with start of term. Here, have some h/c fluff, with sick!Charles and caretaker!Erik.
Title: Have It All
Word Count: 1,331
Summary: road-trip fic in which Charles is a terrible sick person, Erik is a terrible nurse, and someone says I love you for the first time.
Disclaimers: characters belong to Marvel, not me! Title and opening lines from The Foo Fighters’ “Have It All.”
Notes: initially written—in one draft, in my chilly apartment, yesterday afternoon—as comment!fic for penguingal, who deserves nice things always.
you’re my size
I need to try you on
someone in between
the right and wrong
“You know that's not going to work.”
“It was worth a try…”
Charles, Erik thinks, is a terrible sick person. Not in the way that Erik himself is a terrible sick person, which involves the elaborate pretense that everything is fine and inventive threats of bodily harm to anyone who might suggest otherwise, but in a much more worrying fashion. Charles, when sick, retreats into an isolated little ball of pathetic silence and refuses to talk to Erik, on the grounds that he can take care of himself and doesn't want to make anyone else ill.
This, Erik has decided, is amazingly stupid for such an intelligent person. What if this isn't just a terrifyingly bad cold, and there's something seriously wrong? What if Charles needs help? They're in the middle of nowhere, in a dilapidated old hotel halfway between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, and he has no idea where the nearest hospital is, and he knows far too much about field bandages and tourniquets but not what to do if Charles starts coughing again and can't stop, this time.
He wishes, not for the first time, that the CIA had been a little more sparing with the money, and only paid for one room for tonight's sparsely furnished accommodations. At least then Charles wouldn't have an excuse to kick him out.
Charles sneezes, and disappears under all his blankets again, and repeats, not out loud, please go away. I'm hardly fit company at the moment.
No, Erik answers, equally silently, and with as much emphatic wordless stubbornness as he can project. You can barely breathe. I'm not leaving this room.
Charles tries to argue. Starts coughing, even though he’s just finished coughing, a few minutes earlier. I’m fine—
"You are not," Erik says, aloud just to make the point, because he knows that Charles can't answer. Which is probably not an approved nursing technique, but that's all right; if Charles is a terrible sick person, Erik is a terrible caretaker, too.
I don’t need to be taken care of!
Charles, shut up. “Do you need anything? Tea? Food? Medicine?”
No. Leave me alone.
I can make you tea. Or something else. Anything, really. He has to do something; he can’t stand to watch Charles look this wretched for much longer. “I can go buy you juice. You like pineapple juice.”
You can let me die in peace. Go away.
And he knows that Charles is joking, or mostly joking, not really about to expire in the depths of all the woolly blankets and every pillow that Erik could find in both their rooms, but the words make tiny stab wounds in the vicinity of his heart, regardless. Funny, that. He’d never realized anything could still reach his heart, through all that carefully assembled armor.
He finds himself, helplessly, wishing he was a better caretaker, after all.
“Charles,” he says, “I’m not going to leave you when you’re sick.” And thinks, not quite in words, please let me help, or try to help, or at least stay with you, why don’t you want me here?
Blue eyes, red-rimmed and exhausted, reappear from under the topmost blanket. I don’t want you to catch this, too. One of us should attempt to remain healthy. And I don’t want you to—That thought snaps off, abruptly; Erik has a feeling that Charles, tired and unfocused, hadn’t meant to project that one.
You don’t want me to what?
“Tell me!” He probably shouldn’t yell at the sick person, either, but frankly Charles is the most irritating man Erik’s ever met, as well as the most attractive, and the only one whose smiles have found their way through all the defenses, curling around his thoughts and twining through thick walls like ivy over stone, not breaking ancient rock apart but embracing it, finding new patterns and green vitality instead of empty greyness, and, oh god, he’s in love with Charles, with that arrogant and brilliant and enthusiastic man who right now can’t talk because he’s begun coughing again, into the blankets.
Charles doesn’t quite seem able to breathe; Erik, sitting on the edge of the bed, quietly panics. Charles, talk to me!
I’m fine, I’m fine…who really needs working lungs, anyway…
Should I take you to a hospital? Or call someone? I could call someone.
No, honestly, please don’t worry. I’m sorry I was making jokes about dying, earlier. I just hate being sick, and you—
“And I what?” You should try to sleep, at least. Also, please tell me what you were going to say, earlier. You don’t want me to…?
Charles breathes in, experimentally. Successfully, this time. Finally. And Erik feels some of the panic tiptoe away. It’s embarrassing. But that mental voice sounds weary enough to give in, in the face of Erik’s obvious determination to continue asking.
“Charles, I’ve watched you dispose of an entire box of tissues in one evening. You cannot possibly be embarrassed in front of me.” Also probably too tactless; apparently his resolution to be a better nurse only lasts exactly as long as one of Charles’s sentences.
He can feel Charles wince, at that. Yes, well…that’s more or less the problem.
I didn’t want you to, ah. To see me, like this. All…disgusting.
Charles actually sits up, hair standing up in every direction and lines on his face from the creases in the pillowcase, and shouts right back, I wanted you to think I was attractive, not pathetic, I’ve been hoping you might find me attractive ever since that first night we met, you’re extraordinary in every sense of the word and absolutely beautiful and so damn competent always, and I feel utterly repulsive right now and I told you this was embarrassing and I hate being sick and I think I love you! And then collapses back onto the bed, trying to find air through the next bout of coughing, and failing.
“You are not! And I love you too!”
Charles sits up again. You what?
“Stay put,” Erik says, and pushes him down into the embrace of the blankets. “I mean it.” I love you. Now. Always. Even when you’re sick and you think you’re disgusting. Which you are not. Well, perhaps a little—he pictures Charles and the tissues, and hears the despairing mental groan—but I love you even when you’re disgusting.
You can read my mind; you tell me.
…oh. Oh! Erik, you—
I love you. And you—you love me. He knows, without needing to ask, that that’s true. Can feel the warmth of it everywhere, in their shared thoughts, under his skin, in the air around them. Even the folds of all the blankets sing with it. Charles loves him. Charles loves him despite all of Erik’s own faults and flaws and disgusting spots, memories like bruises and darkness, and he can hear Charles’s unspoken worries that Erik can’t find him attractive, either, too young and too confident and too unserious because that’s the only response he’s ever found to protect himself from a childhood that’s left him with scars to match Erik’s own.
I love you, yes, Charles repeats, and Erik can hear him blushing, which is at least fifty different varieties of amazing. And I’m not—all those things you’re thinking. I’m not anything spectacular. Or particularly desirable. Especially not right now. I can sneeze on you if you’d like me to prove it.
“Charles,” Erik says, Charles, you’re everything. And then moves over onto the bed, inserting himself carefully into Charles’s nest of blankets, and wraps both arms around him, sheets and tissues and all. And Charles curls up against him, and doesn’t protest, after all. Just says, after a second, Erik?
I think you’re a wonderful nurse, you know.“Shut up, Charles,” Erik says, “and go to sleep,” and they both know what he really means are the words I love you.