Their relationship was new. A-whole-week-and-they-were-too-shy-to-hold hands new. Eleven would be lying if he said he didn’t miss being just friends a little, because things were awkward. It was worth it, though. To see the way shock and then joy lit Erik’s face. The shy smiles just for him.
But that didn’t matter right now.
Mia had left for L’académie just that morning. Erik was proud; Eleven knew that at one point he wasn’t sure if he’d be able to see her grow up at all, and now she was getting the best possible education in Erdrea. That didn’t mean Erik wasn’t sad to see her go.
Eleven understood the hurt; when he left for Heliodor all those years ago, there wasn’t a night he didn’t think of his mother and Gemma. Far worse when he left to find the other pieces of his heart, leaving two behind.
When he left them all behind, to seek the one he’d lost forever.
So he understood, far better than most. He understood that it felt like mere hours since Erik properly reunited with Mia, and now she was off to hunt for treasure without him.
‘Are you okay?’ Eleven asked. Do you want to talk about it? - he meant.
To his credit, Erik managed to hold his fake smile for a whole two seconds. He’d never been very good at hiding his emotions, even before Eleven knew what to look for.
“I…” He’s been crying. “I know you don’t like hugs, but… I could really use one right now.”
It was the opposite, really: he was so desperate for contact that he held back. He couldn’t make people uncomfortable just because he was needy. He didn’t want them to feel forced. But he didn’t have the time to correct him, because that would be time spent not hugging him.
It was the sensation of sinking into a warm bed after two nonstop days of travel, but even more intense. He couldn’t stop the full body shudder that hit him. Sweet Spirits, he apparently needed this just as badly. Erik started to apologize, to pull away, but Eleven couldn’t bring himself to let him.
“I’m sorry,” Erik repeated, just a whisper, and started to cry.
Their first hug as boyfriends should have been a happier moment, but Eleven didn’t let himself mourn it. He held Erik tightly, drawing him in close. Erik gripped Eleven’s shirt and buried his face in it, shaking with silent sobs.
Eleven lost track of time standing there, rocking Erik, stroking his back and hair. Eventually he grew tired of standing and did what instinct led him to do; he scooped Erik up into his arms bridal style and moved to the nearest chair, holding Erik in his lap. The movement seemed to shake Erik’s heart into even finer pieces, and he wrapped around Eleven tightly as fresh cries shook his body.
Eleven was painfully tempted to kiss him. On the forehead, the hands, the cheeks to brush the tears away with his lips. But Erik had shown no sign of wanting that kind of touch, so he held back now. He brushed under Erik’s eyes with his thumb. More tears took their place in an instant.
He held him until the tears were gone. He’d hold him until the hurt was gone, until Mia was back for the summer, until the end of time, if Erik would only let him.
With the grief drained away onto Erik’s cheeks and Eleven’s duster, the only thing that had apparently been holding him awake after his all-nighter was gone. His sobs gave way into slow breaths, and he lost consciousness on Eleven’s shoulder.
With a trace of guilt, Eleven felt warmth thrum through his body. Falling asleep side by side, kept warm by a campfire, was always so pleasant. He’d missed that the most about their time on the road, and had always wished there wasn’t a polite distance between their bedrolls. And now he had the opportunity.
Eleven woke with empty arms. It was later than he expected it to be, and he could see the first stars dotting the darkening sky just outside the window. A page turn beside him - Erik was reading. Eleven already missed the embrace.
Erik looked up as Eleven started to move. ‘Is that my coat?’
“Yep,” Erik answered casually, shoving a strip of paper into the tome and closing it. “You aren’t getting it back.”
Despite his words, he looked nervous at the claim. He was testing boundaries, and it was probably scary for him. The coat was baggy on Eleven; it buried Erik alive. He looked adorable.
Erik took a bold move; it was Eleven’s turn. Heart pounding and without another word, Eleven shuffled closer on the chair and leaned his head against Erik’s shoulder. Erik stiffened under him, but made no move to shove him away.
“You don’t have to do this,” Erik said softly. “I know you don’t really like touch, and-”
‘You’re wrong,’ Eleven interrupted. ‘It’s… hard for me to initiate, but I don’t dislike it.' Eleven sat up and turned toward him, missing the contact in less than a second, but it was probably hard for Erik to see what he was saying from that angle. ‘I’ll move if you want me to.’
“No, no, stay please,” Erik stammered. “Sheesh, you’d have thought I’d learned my lesson about assuming how you feel.”
Eleven laughed and leaned back in. He watched Erik’s lips as he reminisced about all of the silly misunderstandings. He was… teaching himself lip reading. For reasons. Yeah.
“Uh, El?” the lips said. Eleven let out a puff of air to let him know he was listening. “You’re staring.”
And his mouth was a lot closer, wasn’t it? Fancy that. Better view for reading his words, that was all. But now Eleven’s eyes were closed, and he was moving closer too, and that would be inefficient for seeing them, right? But maybe if he felt the movement with his own-
Erik met him in the middle. What was he saying, with those soft lips of his?
He was saying “kiss me again.”