Erik’s hair is thick and coarse, the texture just on the gentle side of straw rough, and Eleven finds his fingers drawn to it habitually the way they’d been drawn to bales of hay and the thick stalks of wheat Gemma’s grandfather always kept in a decorative bowl by their front door. Sturdy, he thinks, his fingers catching on the stiff ends, the pads of them scraping against sword-worn battle-won callouses, so much unlike his own waif-like hair, quick to float aimlessly at even the softest breath. Sturdy. Stubborn.
Erik lets out a contented sigh from where he lays, head laid on the meat of his shoulder, ear squished firm to the soft bit between shoulder and chest. ‘I can hear your heartbeat,’ he’d said, and Eleven had scoffed and poked his cheek and said, ‘in my armpit?’ and Erik’s sharp false anger had been enough to distract them both, their laughing and roughhousing sending a nearby flock of birds to flap nervously away. He knew he was telling the truth before, and knows just as much now, the lazy smile on his face and steady tap-tap-tap of his finger fuelling and matching the thumping of his heart.
Doing Mia’s hair was calming, the rhythmic pull of the brush through her long, thick hair, the way she’d hum contentedly—so much like her brother in the smallest of ways—and the way the long strands would feel as he worked his hands through them, parting the sea of her untangled locks into enough sections to braid. It was like that, sitting on the ground with her cross-legged in front of him, that he thought he understood properly the urge that had come over his grandfather when he’d pulled him out of that river. She was no giggling baby, but her proud smile when she jumped to her feet, braid bobbing in time with the eager bounce of her legs was just as radiant, and Eleven felt fit to burst with happiness, with hope, with love.
He couldn’t do Erik’s hair. Too short, too stiff, too determinedly spiky. His hands gravitated towards it anyway, ruffling it when he walked by, running his fingers through it when they kissed, tugging it when he wanted Erik to give him something a little rougher. Now, he settles for digging his fingers into the roots of it, nails scratching light against his scalp, pulling pleased little shivers from the body of his husband where he lays on him. Occasionally, a shorter hair will escape his movements, catching on his finger and scraping lightly against it, and Eleven will shiver right back, a full-bodied thing that starts in his hand and carries all the way to his head and his toes, tingling the whole way. If Erik notices, he doesn’t comment, too busy melting under the steady beat of Eleven’s heart and the slow, focused movement of his hands.
“What’re you thinking about?” One of Erik’s hands settled on his cheek, the line between leather and skin dragging against the flush there. The touch guided him out of the peaceful trance he’d fallen into, and Eleven nuzzled into it, turning to press a kiss to his covered palm.
“Nothing, really,” he replied, voice muffled against his hand. Erik’s tongue clicked disapprovingly, and before he could chastise Eleven for holding his thoughts heavy behind his tongue he continued, scratching at his scalp the whole while, “just thinking about how I wish I could braid your hair, like Mia’s. It’s nice. It feels nice.”
“…You want me to grow it out?”
‘No,’ was halfway out of his mouth before he could stop it, his tongue catching on the end of the word, a strangled, “nnn,” all he managed before he bit it down entirely. Erik huffed in response, a bitten off laugh in the same vein, and moved to tilt his head back against his shoulder, their eyes meeting. Eleven’s fingers splayed out at the back of his neck, stroking the peach fuzz there, imagining it long enough to settle between his fingers. He sighed. “If you wanted to,” he admitted, “I think you’d look good. I’d like it. I’d like it a lot.”
“Yeah?” He felt Erik hum against his chest, a lazy reverberation that passed between their bodies. “Maybe I’ll let it grow out. Like you. You’d braid it for me?”
Eleven imagined it, having Erik settled in front of him, imagined brushing his hair back and combing his fingers through it, the smell of his shampoo lingering on Eleven’s fingers after, the way he’d sigh contentedly at his every touch. “Mmhm,” he said, and tried not to think of how clear the strain in his voice was, even when he caught Erik grinning knowingly at him.
“Everyone’s gonna try and chop it off before it grows out properly,” Erik said, kissing Eleven’s jaw, “Amber and Gemma will sic Mia on me. And someone,” he jabbed a finger into Eleven’s side at that, “thought it was a good idea for her to have knives. As if we didn’t save the world so she wouldn’t have to.” Guilty as charged, Eleven could only smile at him, ignoring the long-suffering expression on his husband’s face as he continued, “But my sister has knives, and so,” he paused, voice taking on a magnificently inflated grandiosity, “the duty falls upon you, my dear, great hero. Can you protect my precious locks?”
Shamelessly fast, Eleven nodded his head like it was a serious quest, as important as any number of countless tasks he’d been assigned as the Luminary. Erik scoffed, good natured, and shifted to kiss him just once, just briefly. “I’ll hold you to it then.”
“You always do,” Eleven replied, the words whispered against Erik’s lips. The hand still in his hair shifted, laid flat against the back of his head, and as he guided Erik closer once more he imagined the way his hair would spill out from between his fingers, and how he could card his fingers indulgently through the full length, and he sighed, the sound mirrored by Erik, his eyes falling peacefully shut.