leandraholmes: (Charles Eric Kiss)
[personal profile] leandraholmes
Title: Beneath the Surface (16/17), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15
Fandom: X-Men: First Class, Charles/Erik
Genre: AU; Drama/Romance
Rating: R for language and mention of inhumane crimes.
Word Count: 8533
Summary: Charles is a young marine biologist and activist that, one day, makes the find of his lifetime. Inspired by this fanart
Author's Note: Still un-beta'ed. Penultimate of the three showdown installments. And I'm almost done writing it ^^ Just three more scenes. I hope you're still enjoying it (and that the suspense isn't killing you). If all goes well I'll have the whole thing, including epilogue, finished by Saturday.


(image made by my lovely alpha reader [livejournal.com profile] narya86)


„Who the hell are you?“

Moira's heart was racing in her chest, hard, fast beats that made her think her chest might explode as she looked up at the three men in the entrance of the surveillance room. After Raven had left, she had only had about thirty seconds to come up with and prepare a plan, although she still doubted she'd get away with her final solution.

She got up from where she had been kneeling in front of the unconscious Antonio, back on his chair – something she was not quite sure how she had even achieved it. Moira swayed deliberately and gave a startled giggle. “Oh hiiiii,” she said. As long as she'd pretend she had a two-digit IQ she should pull it off convincingly. “I'm Martha. And you?” she asked innocently, curling a strand of her hair around her index finger as she looked straight at Shaw – a man she had never met in person but knew his face from publications and news articles.

Shaw gave no sign of believing or mistrusting her. Instead, he just nodded his chin in direction of the unconscious night guard. One of the two men accompanying him – by description looking a lot like the one that had taken Erik the day on the beach – walked over to Antonio, checking his head for possible injuries and feeling his pulse.

“Too much booze,” Moira said with another innocent chuckle while inside her heart was still racing and she felt her knees tremble. At least that was not completely useless for her act.

“Who are you?” the other man in Shaw's company asked with a heavy Eastern European, possibly Russian accent, a grim looking fellow with a big scar on one side of his face and a black goatee.

“Oh, I'm just a friend of... what was his name again?” she asked with mock drunkenness, hoping that this supported the image she was trying to paint, although Moira would have never guessed before in her life that she'd ever hope someone would take her for a prostitute.

It had been the only scenario she had thought somewhat convincing in those few seconds she had had to contemplate it. If they believed her, the worst thing that could happen – she hoped – was them kicking her out and possibly firing Antonio as soon as he came to, though she'd be long gone by then. Just how the hell Raven, Charles and Erik were supposed to get out remained a questionable factor. The only option they really had was jumping into the ocean from the border of the enclosure, hopefully being collected by the other guys on the boat. Unless they somehow thought she was in trouble and decided to come back for her.

“Oh, that's wonderful,” Shaw said and smiled at her, though the tone of his voice and the cold look in his eyes sent shivers down Moira's spine that she could not quite suppress. She chuckled again to camouflage it.

“He's completely out of it, boss,” the first man with the shoulder-length hair said.

Shaw gave him a brief nod and turned back to Moira. “And I guess, Martha, you had something to do with him passing out. Five minutes after I spoke to him on the phone and he sounded perfectly sober.”

“Tequila kicks in quickly,” she said and shrugged, that moronic smirk still on her lips. “And... I'm that good.”

“Of course.... Martha,” Shaw said, and the way he emphasized her name let a frightening suspicion rise in her. “There's just one thing that interests me,” he said conversationally, letting his fingers run along the edge of the sideboard by the door and dangerously close to a letter opener that lay there.

“Oh, and what is that?” she asked, not allowing herself to let her fear surface.

“Where's Xavier?”

She could not help her eyes widening for a fraction of a second. Shaw knew. He knew who she was and that she hadn't come alone, and there was no way she could weasel out of this and support her story, yet she was not going to give up so easily.

“Who?” She asked, letting her brows rise further to make her caught look seem merely quizzical.

“Please, don't play me for an amateur, Miss MacTaggert. Surely you must have realized that after I knew where Erik was staying I'd find out who you are,” he replied evenly.

Moira's breath was coming out faster and harsher now, and she looked from him to the open doorway, trying to calculate her chances of running and slipping through, but with the other man – the Russian – directly in her path that chance was pretty much non-existent.

Suddenly, the sound of high-heeled shoes on the hard granite floor echoed through the hall, heading their way, and Shaw gave the Russian another nod. He pulled a pistol from inside his black jacket and stood behind Moira, pointing it almost painfully against her back.

“Don't say a word,” he whispered into her ear and Moira could do nothing but nod in sheer panic when Emma walked purposefully through the hall and into the room, a radiant smile on her face as she saw Shaw. For a second, Moira wasn't sure if it was still an act or a smile of triumph at having fooled them all.

“Oh there you are, Sebastian,” she said sweetly as she walked up to him as if nothing bothered her at all, laying a hand on his chest and leaning in for a peck on the cheek. “I see you've met Martha. Oh... what happened to Antonio?”

Still an act, Moira realized with relief, and she tried to find the other woman's gaze, make her understand with a brief widening of her eyes that they were in trouble.

“Hm, yes,” Shaw smiled. “Seems like Antonio had a little accident. Emma,” he tutted. “Distracting my security personnel now? Really?”

She shrugged and smiled at him, sitting down on the sideboard next to him and crossing her long legs. “Everyone deserves some fun once in a while,” she said simply. “I met Martha here at the club and thought why not get poor Antonio a late birthday present?”

“Ah, you're too kind,” Shaw replied and laid an arm around her waist, reaching for the wrist of her hand and caressing it with his fingers.

Moira felt like her heart had stopped beating, though she knew the weird twitching feeling in her stomach must be the echo of it while she held her breath. If Shaw believed Emma, if she could somehow convince him she had no idea who Moira was then this could at least still end well for Emma. They could come up with the explanation that Moira had approached her, had pretended to be an escort to get access to the facility, and maybe they'd buy enough time for Charles, Raven and Erik to escape and even find a way for herself to get away, too.

Those hopes were shattered quite abruptly when Shaw grabbed Emma's fist with sudden force and hurled her around, pushing her against the iron lockers on the opposite wall with his hand around her throat.

“Do you think I'm an idiot, Emma? Do you not realize that I know exactly what is going on here? A shopping trip in Myrtle Beach, really? Emma, Emma, you disappoint me.” His voice was soft, even gentle as he spoke, in stark contrast to the violent grasp around Emma's throat that made her choke and struggle, her free hand reaching up and feebly trying to remove Shaw's fingers. He let go off her quite suddenly.

“You have betrayed my trust, Emma. I have given you everything you ever wanted. I've been good to you, and you repay me by leading the enemy here?”

Emma did not reply, coughing faintly and rubbing her throat, though her chin was raised almost defiantly. She seemed to know the time for games and stories was over.

“Now, you're going to tell me exactly what is going on here and where the others are. I expect you and Miss MacTaggert didn't come here alone, am I right?”

Emma looked him straight in the eyes. “Relax, they couldn't get him out,” she said. “You still have your precious shark.”

“I didn't think they would. After all, I've taken the needed precautions. But now answer my question, please.”

“I don't know,” she replied and shrugged, letting out a breathy chuckle. “Probably jumped into the ocean.”

“Who?”

“Just Xavier and his sister,” Emma replied.

She was stalling, as good as she could, and despite her dislike for the woman, Moira could not help but feel a wave of gratitude towards her.

“Janos,” Shaw said in direction of the man with the shoulder-length hair. “Wake the other men. I want every one of them to go looking for Xavier. Bring him to me, but don't kill him. Yet.”

“Yes, boss,” Janos replied and took out his cellphone, already leaving the room and walking back to the front door.

Moira was still shivering inside, and she realized then that her eyes were getting moist, burning slightly as panic and anger rose inside her chest. “You can't kill them. Please... you... Oh my god,” she gasped as she realized what this meant by extension. If Shaw was indeed going to kill Charles and Raven then there was no way he was letting her go either, nor Emma, possibly, and it hit Moira with such force that she felt like someone pulled the floor from under her feet. “No. You can't do this. You won't get away with it. People know we're here. They'll come looking for us. They – “

“Oh, you mean your friend back at the guesthouse? Hm,” he chuckled breathily and turned back to Emma. “That was a very careless move, Emma, darling. The owner's nephew called me earlier. You see, you may have your allies in some places, but I have at least one everywhere.”

“Oh God,” Moira gasped, thinking of Irene and the horrible things that could happen to her.

“Azazel, please gag our guest and tie her up. I don't want her to get away. And Emma too,” Shaw said to the Russian, and the first thing Moira could think was what an odd name that was before she realized with even more panic that there would be no way for her to get out or help anyone if she was being restrained. There was nothing she could do.


~*~

The open water tank was surrounded by a round walk attached to the fence, some three feet above water level. Charles was pulling Raven by her hand, further away from the roofed area and the main building. The shore of the island was framed with sharp rocks at this end, no soft and shallow beach, and he did not want to jump straight into them, not able to see anything in the darkness. He looked further out onto the water, trying to spot the boat but unable to make anything out against the blackness of water and sky. He could vaguely see the outlines of the handrail, or the barbed wire on top of it that would make it difficult to get on top and jump down. Shaw had probably added it so Erik would not attempt to jump over it either.

He stopped and turned to look back towards the tank, seeing the faint glow of the safety lights within the roofed area next to the exit door – still not enough to illuminate the darkness from where he stood, but he did spot the vaguest outline of movement on the surface, coming closer, closer, and then making a very sudden turn some six feet away from then. Under water, Erik must have felt the electricity in the fence quite strongly, and Charles wondered whether it would even be safe to jump at all.

“Fuck, fuck,” Raven cursed faintly. “Barbed wire, really? How are we supposed to get over?”

Charles wished he could come up with a solution that would make him answer 'not at all'. He didn't want to leave, didn't want to just run like a coward and leave Erik here, but the sad truth was that he wasn't only responsible for his own life and safety but for Raven's as well. If Shaw was really coming to the facility and would make it up here before they were in the water, he'd risk her life more than Erik's had ever been in danger since he'd gotten captured.

“We'll climb onto the balustrade carefully,” he replied then, as calmly as he could.

“Is the electricity turned off?” Raven asked quizzically, gingerly reaching for the wires.

“There must be an isolation layer just below the surface. The current probably starts further down. Okay, take my hand and try to kick the wire down a bit,” he said, trying to help her get on top of the balustrade which proved really difficult without anything above it to hold on to. Raven firmly grasped Charles' hand as she stomped onto the wires with her high-heeled boots, flattening them a bit which should make it easier for Charles to get onto the only ten-inch wide border as well.

He was just about to pull himself up, one hand carefully between the thorny ends of the wire, one foot on top of the balustrade as a sudden light in the distance blinded his eyes. It was a flood light being lit directly on shore, its cone hovering above the water, searching and –

“My god.”

“Is that our boat?” Raven asked, her voice shaky as they both stared out onto the water, the small white motor boat in clear view. Then, several things happened in very quick succession:

Shots were fired, two, three, four. The engine of the boat roared up and it turned, its nose pointing towards the open sea. Another shot was fired, louder and of lower frequency, and a huge splash of water shot up around the rear of the boat.

A shout resounded, the voice too far away for Charles to make out every word, but it was clear it was a command for them to return and not attempt to escape lest they wanted to end up dead.

Another shot was fired, and one of the figures on the boat swayed and lost balance. Raven shrieked. And then – Charles didn't know who had lost footing first – he felt his upper body being pulled forward by gravity he could no longer control. All he could do, as he saw the figure on the boat fall into the water, was hold on to Raven's hand with all his might and kick off from the balustrade as far as he could as they both fell forward into the cool, black water.

A shuddering sense of a myriad of painful stings made him want to scream in pain.


~*~

“Sean?? SEAN?!”

Alex was leaning over the edge of the boat as another shot was fired in their direction, by the sound of it missing him by only a few inches. The boat moved beneath him, and he momentarily los balance as he tried looking for Sean. He turned around.

“What the hell are you doing? We can't leave him here?” he shouted at Hank, eyes wide in shock as he realized the other man was intending to simply obey Shaw's command.

“I'm... I don't know!” Hank called back, clearly panicked. “Shit.... Shit! My phone fell into the water.”

“We've lost Sean and you're worried about your fucking phone??”

“Irene was still on the other line. She could have helped us. Called the police, I don't know!”

This was all too much, and not nearly as they had planned it to go. Shaw wasn't supposed to have caught them, and clearly none of them were supposed to be shot at.

“Sean?! Sean!!” Alex kept calling, and to his relief Hank joined in, leaning over the other side of the boat and abandoning his attempts to drive back to the dock.

But Sean was nowhere in sight.

Somewhere not too far away, the sound of another motorboat approached them, and Alex turned around to look in its direction, seeing three men on it, two of which were pointing guns at them, one pistol and a rifle.

“Stop right there! Hands up where we can see them!” one of the men shouted, and Alex and Hank had no other choice than to obey.

They were taken into the other boat, their own towed behind towards the dock where the men pushed them towards the entrance of the facility, not all too gently, but Alex could hardly feel the pain of his shoulder straining against the vice-like grip. One moment everything was fine, everything had gone according to the plan, and they had even had some fun, and now... Sean had been shot, though Alex had not seen him get hit. Everything had happened so fast since Hank had been on the phone and only informed them that Irene had called. There had not been time for anything else, and now Alex could hardly ask what that had been about. Not that it mattered. They were fucked anyway.

The man whose face Alex only knew from pictures waited for them in the lobby of the aquarium, and even though his features seemed mostly calm there was something threatening about the way he looked at them, radiating power and ruthlessness that was almost more frightening than the shots that had been fired at them. With him, there were four men, one of them with a black goatee and a scar through the left side of his face who was dressed a little more elegantly than the other three that had been on the boat. Two of them now stood positioned on either side of Hank and Alex, pointing their guns at them, should they try anything.

Yes, they really were fucked.

Shaw let out a cold, low chuckle as he took a step closer toward them. “Well, well, look what the tide brought in. I assume you were here to collect your friends?”

“You already seem to know the answer,” Alex retorted with narrowed eyes. There was no reason to tell this man more than necessary if they wanted to leave open the tiniest option for Charles, Raven, Erik and Moira to get away at least.

Before Shaw could reply anything, another man came hurrying towards them from the other end of the hall, and Alex recognized him as the guy that looked like the suspect Patricia had described.

“They're gone, boss,” he said, also holding a gun in his right hand. “The shark's still there.”

Shaw's eyes narrowed slightly and he turned back towards Hank and Alex.

“Now... what should I do with you two? I could just have you killed, you know? Like your friend,” he said calmly. “Cut you into little pieces and throw you into the ocean. Just tell me, why am I not doing that?” He smiled at them as if he was a teacher prompting a student to give the right answer to a question.

Alex felt a cold shiver creep down his spine, but he did not show it.

“Because we can tell you where Charles and Raven are,” Hank suddenly said beside him, unexpectedly, and Alex felt his eyes widen and his heart beat faster with shock and anger.

“Are you fucking stupid?” he gasped, thinking that even if they cooperated, Shaw would kill them in the end anyway. Would kill them all, probably. He already had killed Sean, and it hit Alex then to full extent that the geeky, weird but utterly likeable poor guy had never stood a chance, that he'd gotten himself into something he had nothing to do with, innocently and benignly just following them and trying to help.

Hank continued, and despite the slight trembling in his voice his tone was determined and full of contempt as Alex had not quite thought it possible. “That's what you're thinking, right? That we'll just give you what you want. Well, Mr. Shaw, you can forget about that. We're not telling you a single thing,” Hank said quite firmly, and Alex found himself breathe out in relief.

“Hm, is that so?” Shaw asked and came yet another step closer, so close that Alex could reach out and punch him if he saw any promising prospect in that, which would not get him or both of them killed instantly.

“Well, then, let me try this,” Shaw said, his voice still disgustingly polite as he suddenly reached out and grabbed Alex by one arm, hurtling him towards a small basin in the center of the lobby. The basin was elevated, on a platform that allowed access at waist height, and before Alex could process what was happening, he felt his head being pushed under water, feeling salt sting in his eyes and all air pressed out of his lungs as he screamed instinctively. He struggled and tried to push himself up, but another hand had come to Shaw's aid and held him down. Down until there was no air left in him, and water started to come in through his nose, burning in his throat.

He was pulled upward again and gasped for air, spluttering and coughing.

“Now let's try this again. Where are Xavier and his sister?”

Alex couldn't see enough for the moment, his eyes stinging with moisture and salt while he was being restrained by the other man.

“As they're clearly not here they must have left already,” Hank replied, and Alex could not help to feel a small sense of admiration for the otherwise so shy and calm guy that had seemed to him like he might be the first of them to crack under the strain.

“Don't be smart with me, Mr. McCoy. You must have had a plan and know where they might be going. And you're going to tell me where or else this will continue the entire night.”

And again, Alex was being pushed under water until he thought he'd drown. He wondered, while the pressure in his lungs with held in breath became so strong that he was about to breathe water, why exactly Shaw was doing this to him and not Hank, but maybe he guessed compassion for someone else would get him to cooperate sooner than fear for his own life.

“If you kill us you won't get away with this.” Slight panic seemed to surface underneath the determined tone in Hank's voice as Alex was being pulled up for air again.

Shaw chuckled faintly. “Won't I?”

“No,” Hank said, and he hesitated just a moment. “We've left a letter explaining what we're doing and where we are. If we never return, the police will investigate, and even you can't cover up all your tracks so convincingly that they wouldn't suspect anything after reading our account.”

“Ah, you see, there's just one flaw in your plan,” Shaw said, completely unimpressed. “The guesthouse Emma selected for you is already being searched by a good friend of mine. And he hasn't mentioned any letters.”

There went their hopes, Alex realized as he began to understand why Irene must have called them.

“That's interesting, just that it doesn't change a single thing,” Hank replied quite firmly and convinced of what he was saying, to Alex' surprise. “Because we didn't leave the letter in the guesthouse. And if you kill us now, you'll never know where.”

For the first time since Alex had seen him, the facade of polite calm seemed to crack on Shaw's features and he glared at both Hank and Alex angrily.

“Tie 'em up,” he said towards one of his men then, not paying them any more attention. “You stay with them, and you two get back on that boat and search the waters. We'll go up to the tank,” Shaw ordered and then turned towards the other end of the main hall with the man with the scar and the guy with the shoulder-length hair in his tow.

Alex hoped Charles and Raven had gotten away already, but he could not ask Hank what he knew, not until they were both tied to an information board and their two guards had gone to sit on a bench on the other side of the basin.

“Great story,” Alex whispered as quietly as he could, seeing Hank smile ever so faintly though the concern and fear never fully vanished from his features. “We really should've done that though. Leaving a letter somewhere.”

“Yeah,” Hank replied. “I think he bought it though.”

“Yeah. Did you see the others?” Alex asked still as faintly as he could, remembering that while on the phone with Irene, Hank had also taken up the binoculars again to look towards the fence of the open water tank.

“They were about to jump. Charles and Raven. I have no idea where Moira or Erik are, though. Something must have gone really wrong.”

“You're telling me.” Alex replied.

One of the two men had gotten up again and walked over to them, kicking Alex against the thigh. “Shut up! No whispering, okay? And no funny business. You won't get anywhere anyway,” he said and leered down at them.

Alex suppressed a sign and rolled his eyes. At least there was still the chance that Charles and Raven had gotten away and would somehow put an end to this – one that hopefully meant there'd be no further casualties.

In the silence, he realized painfully that he could not quite keep his thoughts from Sean.


~*~

The sun was starting to come up somewhere in the distance, a very faint glow of purplish light blue penetrating the darkness of the sky, but Charles was anything but relieved for it.

He and Raven were okay, the electricity that had shocked them when they had fallen into the water had thankfully not been strong enough to make them pass out, though it had been painful, and it was starting to become exhausting to swim on one spot. The current of the sea wasn't very strong, but there was movement in the waves, pushing them toward the iron fence of the open sea enclosure which they had to avoid at all costs.

"Think we can go now?" Raven asked and looked back in direction of the dock. The men that had come with a second boat and captured theirs were gone, though Charles had no idea if it was safe to swim to shore and attempt to get out. They had no weapons, not even knifes, and their cell phones obviously hadn't survived the fall into water either.

But that was far from his only worry, though he could not allow himself to think about it now, not when Raven's and his lives were still at stake.

He had seen someone fall, though, and it nearly killed Charles to think that one of them had been shot, bleeding to death in the water or drowning. He was just glad that Raven obviously hadn't noticed it.

"Yes," he said, realizing that it was probably the best chance they had while it was still mostly dark.

Charles swam first, looking back for Raven to follow as he moved through the soft waves with strong breast strokes, trying to cause as little noise as possible, and he had to fight the urge to turn and look back for Erik, thinking he would not bear looking at him and leaving him behind.

"What was that?" Raven suddenly asked, her voice startled though still slightly hoarse from the earlier efforts of spitting out water and coughing.

"What?" Charles asked and stopped, turning back toward her.

"There… there was something in the water."

"Where?" His heart beat faster with excitement and hope. Maybe whoever of the three on the boat had fallen earlier was swimming to them, had survived after all. But when Raven slapped his upper arm and pointed to a spot some five, six feet away from them, Charles felt quite a different sensation creeping through his veins.

"Oh my God, Charles, is that a shark? Please tell me that's a dolphin."

And there, in the dark blue waves, clear for them to spot, was the dorsal fin and the tip of the caudal fin of what most certainly was not a dolphin.

"What is that? What… Is that a nurse shark? Charles, answer me, god damn it!"

Moving his body in front of Raven's to protect her, instinctively, Charles held himself upright, stretching out his legs without moving too much, and he tried to get a closer look. The fin had submerged again, but there was an ever so slight parting of waves drawing the animal's circling movement into the water surface. It was still too dark to dive and look at it from under water, but as the tip of the tail fin poked through the water, he could see its slightly convex shape and the distinct caudal lobe.

"It's… I don't know. It's too small for a tiger shark," he said, pretty certain he could at least rule that out since the shape of the caudal fin didn't match either. Suddenly, there was a second movement on their other side and another dorsal fin sticking out of the water. Both sharks were clearly circling them with swift movements.

"It's alright. We'll just stay close to the fence, they won't come near," Charles said as calmly as he could. An encounter with sharks was not something he usually feared, though it had always been during the day and deliberate encounters while diving or snorkeling. When he had been able to see what species he was facing. And at times when they were more idle than during dusk or dawn – their main hunting times.

"Charles?" Raven asked, holding on to his shoulder as they slowly let themselves be washed backward by the tide. Her voice trembled in fear.

"Huh?" he just asked, keeping his eyes on the sharks. A third one appeared and he slowly got an idea what type of shark this could be.

"I'm bleeding."

"What?"

"I… I cut myself on the wire earlier. My leg. I think I'm bleeding."

This was not good. Not good at all. The sharks should sense the electricity, even sooner than Charles or Raven would be able to feel it, but that also meant they were trapped here until somebody came for them, and that somebody might very well be Shaw.

"Just… just don't make any sudden movements and stay close. You'll be fine," he reassured his sister. He hoped he was right.

~*~

It was quiet around him, just the faint whooshing of the tide as he swam through the five feet deep water. He could not see the entrance of the building from here, but getting out and walking over to it might not be the smartest idea he'd ever had. At least not while that Shaw dude and his minions were still running around in front of it.

He had been lucky that the shot had missed him, though a little unlucky that he had lost balance and fallen into the water, diving as deep and far as he could while the shots had still been fired all around him. When he had come back up for air, he had already seen Hank and Alex being taken by the others, and there had been no way for him to return to the boat. He probably was the only one able to help them now.

And so Sean waited, watching as two of the men were just heading toward the dock with flashlights, his head just barely hovering above the surface for him to breathe while the rest of his body was completely submerged.

"I'm a shark, I'm a shark," he started humming faintly, and it calmed him down a little while he waited. Not that he was overly freaked out or anything – in fact, he did feel a little like James Bond. A ginger, freckled James Bond, which would be cool, considering there had been blond and dark-haired Bonds before but never a ginger. Which Bond movie was it again where James and his antagonist fell into a pool of sharks? Sean couldn't remember. He'd check it out on Wikipedia later.

As he watched the men walk up and down the brush along the shore, he suddenly caught movement to his left and turned to take a closer look. It was still pretty dark out, the sun hardly touching the horizon, but Sean was quite sure of what he saw then, almost an arm's length away from him.

"You're a shark, you're a shark, suck my… no, that's a crappy idea. Your teeth are much too sharp," he whispered. "Shit. Bullshit. Bull shark, aren't you?"

Sean had swam with sharks before, though they had been nurse sharks and once the sand tigers back at the aquarium when he had gone in to clean it. He knew they were pretty tame, but this one…

"Oookay, don't be a bully, bull shark. I taste crappy anyway," he said quietly and slowly started to move, his toe tips scuttling over the sandy ground. "Go find some nice big fish, okay?" he kept talking, though he already saw the dorsal fin move in a different direction. "Sean is friend, and not food. There, good buddy, see ya."

He might have felt just a little ridiculous talking to a shark (a real one and not one that actually understood English like Erik did), but then again he had never really given a crap about anybody thinking how weird he was. And it wasn't like this shark would swim to its buddies and tell them about him. Or maybe it would, who knew.

The water didn't get much more shallow even as he reached shore, the boulders and rocks providing some kind of obstacle and making it a little difficult to climb out of the water without causing any sound, but Sean managed – and he was quite glad he had changed into his black Limp Bizkit t-shirt instead of wearing the white one he had initially put on before he had poured cocoa on it. At least the daylight was still faint enough so that he could creep along the low bushes toward the wall of the building. Pressing his back against it, he peeked around the corner. Nobody was in sight.

He leaned back again, though, thinking for a moment. The whole front of the building was made of glass windows; should anyone be inside of one of the rooms and look out they'd see him instantly. The wall beneath the windows was no more than twenty inches high, ending in a bed with white gravel. From the corner to the door it was maybe twenty yards, quite the distance to crawl on hands and feet but he had no other choice. Getting onto his stomach, he did just that, ignoring the slightly painful scratching and poking from the gravel beneath him. It could have been worse though, like… a flower bed with cacti. Somehow that Show guy didn't seem like the daisies and violets type.

When he finally reached the door, Sean peeked inside, not able to see anything within but vague outlines. He crept closer and put one hand onto the window and above his eyes, his nose touching the cool glass. Nobody. Just a kind of desk a few yards away and behind it a door ajar, faint light streaming out. And to the right… oh. Hank and Alex, tied up against some kind of board post and two guys further behind them, sitting with their backs toward the door. Amateurs.

The only question that remained to be answered now was if the door was open.


~*~

Tears streamed down her face, and it was difficult to breathe with the wide stripe of duct-tape over her mouth. She heard an annoyed sigh from her left and blinked, wishing she could yell at Emma that she fucking well had a right to cry when she had just heard that Sean was dead. Anger rose up among the grief, and she had to fight it lest she want to start sobbing.

Alex and Hank had no idea they were here, though Moira did wonder why Shaw hadn't simply put them into the same room as the already restrained hostages. Maybe he didn't want them to exchange information, to come up with stories and cover ups in case he still wanted to blackmail them to helping him catch Charles and Raven. But that hardly mattered now. Sean was dead.

Poor, strange but sweet and kind Sean. Moira felt horrible for every time she had snapped at him, even though he had often deserved it for being so disorganized, for infuriating her with his carelessness and clumsiness. But the truth was, she had really liked him, kind of like the annoying but lovable little brother she'd never had. He'd never make her yell at him for being late again, never bring her a box of candy as apology (or brownies spiked with pot like one time on her birthday), and she simply could not imagine what that would be like, could not grasp that he should really be gone. That all of this had happened so quickly and had gone so, so horribly wrong.

The thought that she might not get out of this alive, herself, suddenly seemed a lot less threatening; she was too numb and saddened to fully care and too helpless right now to prevent it anyway.

She tried to take a deep breath, pulling up her nose as more tears threatened to fall from her eyes, and she blinked them away, remembering Sean's goofy smile, his freckles, gray eyes and –

She gave a muffled gasp when she opened her eyes again and saw him crawl through the door, and for a split-second she thought she must be hallucinating before he laid a finger on his mouth and ordered both her and Emma to be quiet.

He crawled in and pushed the door back into its initial slightly ajar position very slowly and carefully before he finally got up and walked over to her, and Moira wanted to sob out in relief and joy, suppressing the sound just barely.

He reached for the corner of the duct-tape, swiftly but carefully removing it from her mouth before he started removing the tape that had been wrapped around her wrists behind her back. He was just about to reach for her feet and remove the last pieces of duct-tape around her ankles when Moira stopped him and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him into a tight, bone-crushing hug as she fought hard not to cry.

"Sean! I thought you were dead," she whispered and heard him chuckle faintly against her ear.

"Nah, I'm fine," he said as she let him go and they untied her feet together.

Beside them, Emma gave a faint mumble, equally muted and restrained.

Sean started freeing her as well.

"What's happening?" Moira asked. "I mean, outside. Shaw got Hank and Alex, they're somewhere in…"

"I saw them," Sean replied, whispering while he spoke. "They're okay. What's going on in here? Where are the others?"

And so Moira and Emma told him what they knew; that Erik hadn't been able to transform and that Shaw must have done something to him to prevent it, that the electrical fences were still on and that the last thing Emma knew was that Charles and Raven wanted to jump into the water to get away.

"If they're in the water those guys are gonna find them soon," Sean said.

"Damn," Moira cursed, trying to come up with a solution. They couldn't really go and try to free Hank and Alex; there were still two men guarding them, though they were probably doing their job poorly since they hadn't seen Sean come in. They couldn't get out either, at least not through the front door, especially with the light coming up now, and going to the open sea tank where Shaw and two of his other men were was a bad idea too.

"Okay, how do we get Erik out?" Sean asked, and it occurred to Moira with a slight stab of guilt that this had been the last thing on her mind at the moment. But at least they knew Shaw did not plan to kill Erik.

"I'm not sure we can, not from here at least," Emma said. "The electricity of the fence is still up."

"Then how do we turn it off?"

"With the computer, I suppose," Emma shrugged to Sean's question.

"A little more effort here, okay?" Moira reminded her but Emma only rolled her eyes.

"Honey, I said I knew what this place looks like and where everything is, and I know the part with the gate and how it can be opened from under water because I was present when Sebastian discussed it with the architect. But I'm not a computer geek. I just know how to use Twitter and Facebook, but I doubt that's going to help us."

"So what do you say? We just give up then?" Moira whispered angrily, barely able to keep her voice down. "We've got to do something! We – Um, Sean, what are you doing?"

But Sean didn't reply; he had already sat down at the computer, clicking around. An affectionate smile formed on her lips as she watched him, but it was paired with regret because surely the attempt would not prove fruitful.

"Okay, password," he said, confirming her suspicion.

"How should I know the password? Try shark or whatever, good luck with that," Emma huffed and Moira really felt like slapping her. That would be too loud, though.

"Yeah, no," Sean chuckled. "I've got a better idea. I just… Shit, I've got no internet access here. I thought I could download a password recovery tool, but I'd need – "

"Your phone!" Moira exclaimed. "Do you still have your phone?"

Emma frowned at Moira but then reached for her handbag, searching its contents until she produced her smart phone. "You don't want to call the police with it though, do you?" she asked, suspiciously.

Moira felt like smacking her forehead. She had thought about a possibility for Sean to download the program but not about the most obvious solution. Snatching it from Emma's hands before she could protest, Moira was about to dial with trembling fingers when Sean suddenly spoke up.

"Erm, Moira? I wouldn't do that."

"What?" Moira stared at him in disbelief. "Why not?"

"Yeah well, um… I'm not sure they can help us. And Erik's still trapped and a shark, they wouldn't believe us. Right now we look like a bunch of hippie Greenpeace morons that try to sabotage Shaw's aquarium. They'd end up arresting us instead," he shrugged apologetically, but Moira stared at him, open-mouthed.

"When the hell did you get that smart?"

Sean grinned and scratched his neck, and Moira realized that he was right.

"We can't call the police unless Sebastian really does something illegal. Which we'll have proof for as soon as those women arrive," Emma explained to Moira a little slowly as if she thought Moira was stupid.

Finally, Sean took the phone from Moira's hands and started working on it, and Moira crossed her arms in front of her chest as she leaned against the locker next to the desk, looking over his shoulder. Suddenly, Sean frowned. "Do you have the cord with you? Otherwise I don't know how to get the tool onto the computer."

"Luckily, I have," Emma replied and reached into her bag again, letting Moira breathe out in relief.

They both watched Sean work, type and click and sigh and frown while the program was running, and finally, he chuckled in triumph, almost a little too loudly, obviously forgetting for a moment that they had to remain as quiet as possible.

"Oops," he added in a whisper. Moira was already at the door, peeking out and listening closely if she could hear anything from the main hall, and her heart almost gave out when she did, indeed, hear footsteps.

"Quick, Sean, hurry up, someone's coming!"

"One second. I've almost got it. I just need to… "

The footsteps were coming closer, and Moira turned around to look at Emma in panic. If they were caught, if that man coming closer toward them had a gun…

Suddenly, Emma smiled the same second Sean said, "Got it. Electricity is off."

"Quick, into the locker," Moira said, having understood Emma's nod in its direction correctly. And she had just enough time to shove Sean into the locker, its door barely held shut from him on the inside; just enough time to sit back on the floor with her hands behind her back, same as Emma, and pretend they were still restrained before the guard came in.

He looked at them darkly, brows drawn together in skepticism and his gun loosely in his right hand. He was just about to open his mouth, maybe noticing that something was off when suddenly the locker door sprang open and hit him square in the face. He staggered and stumbled, and the pistol fell from his hand as he tried to get a hold of something so he wouldn't fall. The second it took him to regain his balance and realize his weapon was gone was enough for Moira to leap forward and grab it, holding it in both hands and aiming it straight at him.

"Bazinga, bitch!" Sean said and grinned.


~*~

It was getting lighter, the faint pink glow on the horizon announcing rising sun. The sharks, five or six of them that Charles could count, were getting more restless. He was absolutely sure that they were indeed bull sharks, their shape and behavior most characteristic of this species, and Charles hoped desperately that whatever wound Raven had on her leg was not enough to make them become more aggressive and careless.

"Oh my God, Charles!" Raven suddenly squealed beside him, and he saw her move and kick in the water, trying to get away from one of the sharks that looked like it was directly approaching her, coming closer towards the fence. But that was impossible.

He backed off as well, and other than earlier when the tide had made them drift into reach of the faint electrical current radiating off the fence he felt… nothing. No tingling, no twitching in his muscles. Nothing.

Someone must have turned off the fence, and even though that was what he had been hoping for before he could not have imagined the feeling of ice cold dread that washed over him upon the realization.

"Get to the fence!" he shouted at Raven, trying to force his own heart rate to calm down. They would sense it, smell the blood and –

Suddenly, something smashed into the iron web of the fence; he could feel the pressure it caused even from the distance of around still five or six feet. At the same moment he could hear footsteps and yelling from above, still some distance away and further towards the building but coming closer.

The dull thud, echoing with higher pitched tremors in the fence above the water, resounded again, and Charles knew what was happening.

"Get to the fence and try to climb up," he shouted again as he heard Raven release another gasp of panic. If she was injured and there was nothing protecting her from the bull sharks coming closer; Shaw probably was the lesser evil in this case.

He didn't wait for her to reply, though. Taking a deep breath, he dived and opened his eyes under water despite the salt stinging in them. It was still dark underneath, the little daylight hardly enough to make him see more than vague outlines. Somewhere to his right was a shape that moved quickly, having come in his direction but turning immediately again, and a second later he saw a much larger shape right in front of him, a faint glow of white in the dark water. Another wave of pressure and dull clank of iron being bent. Erik was trying to break open the fence.

His outline vanished from sight, only to come rushing back a moment later, but Charles had to come up for air. His fingers grasped the thick iron bars that formed a tight web of cells five times five inches wide. Had they been only vertical bars, he thought Erik might be able to break them, but not this kind of structure.

There had to be a gate somewhere. Emma had mentioned it before, and Charles vaguely remembered that when he and Raven had walked along the border of the enclosure, he had noticed a gap in the handrail.

Above him, the footsteps were coming closer and beside him Raven struggled to get a hold of the fence and climb, kicking wildly at what looked like an attacking bull shark. Charles' heart almost stood still. Then, the fence trembled so violently that the shark fled from the pressure and noise, but Raven also lost hold and slid back into the water. He had to do something. Now.

Diving again, he felt the edges of the fence, swam further up towards where they had come from and finally, after what could have been no more than ten seconds but felt like an eternity, he felt something: a bolt. He reached for it and began to pull, but temperature changes and particles from the ocean water had made it stick, and he needed more force than he thought he could muster.

Erik pushed against the fence again, and Charles lost hold, feeling an echo of the despair Erik was displaying in his vigorous attempts to get out.

Stop, just stop for a second, please, he thought, also starting to worry that Erik might hurt himself fatally if he didn't cease his attempts. Charles' lungs were already aching for breath, but he stayed submerged, putting his feet into the cells of the fence for leverage as he pulled again with all his might.

Finally, the bolt slid from its clamp.

Relieved, he pushed himself up for air, breathing hard, but to his great shock the gate had not opened. Something still seemed to hold it firmly shut, and Charles realized with dread that there must be a second bolt further down below. A shot was fired above him, whooshing into the water inside of the tank, and two more were fired, a different, higher sound as the first one. Raven screeched and water splashed up beside him. He didn't know whether she had been shot, bitten or just startled as he tried to see something in the commotion around him.

Then, another smash could be heard and felt before him, and it was stronger this time, and the metal gave way with an ear-splitting noise against the force it could not measure up to any longer.

Finally, Erik swam out.

~ TBC ~

Chapter 17

A/N: Ah, right, questions ^^
So... who of you were thinking Sean was actually dead? Just asking out of curiosity. And who thought Emma had indeed betrayed them?
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