leandraholmes: (Charles Eric Kiss)
[personal profile] leandraholmes
Title: Beneath the Surface (17/17), 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16
Fandom: X-Men: First Class, Charles/Erik
Genre: AU; Drama/Romance
Rating: R for language and mention of inhumane crimes.
Word Count: 6729
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. Sooo. This is it ^^ Well, not quite as there's an epilogue following (busy day at work yesterday so I couldn't finish it, and today is my friend's [livejournal.com profile] narya86's birthday, so I'll be at hers until tomorrow... but you probably won't have to wait very long.

Let me just say that it's been such an amazing journey, both while writing this fic and exploring the story and this world with the characters, and also with all of you who have given me so much amazing feedback. I'm quite sure I wouldn't have finished an over 100 k word fic in such a short time without you. You often were the right kick in the butt that I needed to continue ^^ So thank you all so, so much.

And now, without further ado...

They had all heard the noise of something rattling in the office. There was no way any of them could have missed it. Yet, the second guard seemed more unconcerned than was good for him when he had gotten up slowly, peeking around the corner and calling out for his colleague first before he went rushing in direction of the door. More unconcerned than was good for him because in the moment he passed the water basin where Hank and Alex were tied to a sign post, Alex suddenly sprang up and leaped for the guard, sending him flying to the ground.

Hank had no idea how Alex had managed to struggle free from the ropes that had been tied around his wrists, but it did not matter. When the guard struggled with Alex, trying to reach the pistol that had fallen from his hand, footsteps could be heard from around the corner, and a second later Hank spotted Moira and Sean running out of the surveillance office, Emma following them.

He could still not believe that Sean had actually made it. He had been so sure that they had shot him and that Sean had probably been eaten by the sharks swimming around in those waters or simply drowned and bled to death. When he had seen him crawl in earlier, he had hardly been able to suppress his gasp of relief. It seemed like Sean really had saved the day.

They must have somehow struck down the second guard; Moira had his pistol in hand as they reached Alex and the other one, still on the floor. And, when Moira pointed the gun at the man and shouted at him to stop moving, Alex sent a punch into his face for good measure, knocking him out.

"Where's the other one?" Hank asked when Sean got to his side and removed the restraints, and the freckled boy grinned and shrugged.

"Trapped in the closet."

"We gagged him and tied him up," Moira added, obviously having seen Hank's slightly quizzical look.

"Shaw's on his way up to Erik," Hank quickly told them. "Did you see Charles and Raven?"

"No," Sean replied. "Where were they?"

"I saw them on the fence before we were captured. They must have jumped into the water."

"Oh," Sean said. "There… I think I saw a bull shark in the water."

"What?" Moira shrieked.

Alex shrugged, seeming unconcerned. "If there are any sharks around, all they have to do is stay close to the fence, right? I mean the sharks won't come near the electricity."

"Yeah. About that…" Sean murmured, scratching his neck. "I just turned it off."

"Shit," Hank gasped. "But… okay, what do we do now? We can't go up there because Shaw's there, too. And we can't go outside because the other guards are looking for Charles and Raven there. And…"

"Erik is still trapped, he can't transform," Moira informed him. "We thought that when the fences were turned off, at least someone might manage to open the gate manually."

"Why can't he transform"? Alex asked, confused, and Hank felt as shocked as he.

Emma cleared her throat and stepped closer. "I think Sebastian must have given him something. I don't know. He had a doctor working for him those past few years, but he never told me what they were researching in detail."

"Do you think it's possible to develop some kind of serum that would prevent him from shifting?" Moira asked and looked from Emma to Hank.

Hank pondered this question for a moment. It was difficult to tell since he could not quite picture the mechanics of the transformation, how exactly it worked, biologically; the only thing that remotely came close to a 'shape shifter' that he had known so far were chameleons... or insects. "I don't know," he said. "There might be a possibility that whatever triggers the cellular metamorphosis can be suppressed. Maybe it's some kind of growth hormone that triggers the change, like when a caterpillar morphs into a butterfly. Theoretically, it would be possible to suppress the process."

"Then how do we reverse it?" Alex asked.

"I'm not sure we can," Hank replied, trying to think.

"Okay, I know for a fact that Sebastian needed Erik in his human or half transformed shape as well. So there are two options: either the effect wears off after some time…"

"Or there's an antidote," Moira finished. "Where would he keep it?"

"His lab, most likely," Emma replied.

"Then we need to –"

But Hank never got to finish his sentence. Hasty footsteps could be heard from the corridor leading towards the open sea tank, and they were approaching faster than any of them could have hid. They did manage to run behind the small water basin, but when the last ones of them had gotten down, a shot was already fired in their direction.

Suddenly, everything was one big commotion. Alex had taken the second gun from the other guard and was now aiming at Shaw and his two men. A bullet smashed into a plant pot beside them, causing it to burst and fall over.

"The door over there leads to a staircase, from there you get to the lab," Emma whispered quickly while more shots were fired. How the hell they were going to get from here over to the door without being shot was a mystery to Hank.

"We've got no time!" Shaw bellowed. "He's escaping. Janos, take care of them!"

And with that, he and his other man rushed for the door. The second one, Janos, was still shooting at them, however, though now it was one on one. Alex had only fired four shots so far, and Hank prayed that the magazine had been full. To his surprise, however, Moira now also leaned over the edge of the basin and started firing at the man, though she almost tumbled backwards from the recoil. That didn't stop her from firing another shot, alternating with Alex and giving Janos no chance but to squat down behind what should be, once construction was finished, a gift counter. Suddenly, he cursed loudly as the faint click of his empty pistol could be heard.

"Now!" Alex shouted at them as they all started to move in direction of the door, running as quickly as they could. They had just shoved it close when they heard another shot hit the wall beside it.

"You get the antidote, I'll stay here," Alex said, positioning himself next to the door. "If that guy dares coming in here I'm so shooting him in the face." His voice trembled with anger, but it was also not easy to miss the undertone of panic in it. Hank just hoped it wouldn't come that far when he and the others started running up the stairs.


Charles felt a laugh of pure relief and joy bubble from his chest, and he wasn't quite sure whether the moisture in his eyes was only from the sea water anymore. The bull sharks had fled like a swarm of fish when the much larger predator had done what for them must have looked like claiming his prey, and even though they were still close, possibly to see whether something might be left for them, they did not come close enough to pose any threat to Charles or Raven any more.

Erik had dived again to swim in a few rounds beneath them, chasing off whoever might dare to come closer, and suddenly Raven gave a very faint, rather unsure than thoroughly startled gasp. "Is that Erik?" she asked, pointing to a shadowy shape approaching them from below.

"Yes, yes that's him. The others are gone," Charles replied, the pressure of fear and terror lifted from his chest as he saw the slow, elegant but powerful movements of the great white. When he came closer, his head raised half above the surface, Charles let his hand run along the snout and over the back.

Shaw was gone as well; he had run off as soon as Erik had breached the fence, and even though Charles imagined in the back of his mind that Shaw would not leave them wait for him much longer, that he'd probably try to get Erik back, he felt so, so utterly relieved and overjoyed right now that he could not prevent another chuckle coming over his lips.

Raven let out a soft laugh as well as she gingerly reached for Erik, not quite daring to touch him, but Charles nodded at her when Erik swam another round and came up for them again. And finally, she seemed to get over her inhibitions and laid her hand on his dorsal fin, Charles doing the same on the other side. It was nearly impossible to keep up with Erik even when he swam slowly, at least with their wet clothing making it difficult to move, and so they just both held on to him and let him drag them along, though Raven gave a slightly surprised yelp when he made a slightly faster push forward.

"Well… fuck dolphins," she chuckled. "This is kinda awesome."

The relief didn't last very long, the smile fading from both their features after a few moments, and Charles was sure his sister was thinking the same as he.

"We can't just swim away now," she said, confirming his suspicions. What about the others?”

With a stab of regret and also guilt, Charles was reminded of the person he had seen falling from the boat. There had been no sign of him anywhere so far, and he began to doubt he had made it. Had it been Hank or Alex or Sean?

"No, we can't," he agreed, deciding to still keep that information to himself. There was no point in agitating Raven more than necessary.

"Then what do we do? We need to get the others out, somehow."

Charles considered this, tried to think of something they could do without any kinds of weapons, not even a functioning phone on them to call anyone. But before he could even so much as think up possibilities to get inside the aquarium unseen, he heard a noise in the distance, the motor of a boat being started.

Suddenly, Erik pushed forward so swiftly, that first Charles and then Raven almost lost grasp of his fin, and Charles just so managed to reach for Raven's hand before it slid off and guide it back to Erik. "Breathe in!" he called, and just a moment later they submerged.

The water was still dark, but the slowly increasing daylight made it a little easier to see under water now. From the island, the shore dropped into slightly deeper waters, and Erik seemed determined to get them out there, but there were reefs and sandbanks in the way as well. He suddenly realized that maybe that was where Erik was trying to get them because the boat would have difficulties following, though it could also mean that Erik would get stranded on the large sandbank, unable to swim back into the ocean and completely at Shaw's mercy. The thought sent a wave of shock through Charles.

They came back up for air, and Erik made a swift turn, swimming in a different direction now as fast as he could. Looking over his shoulder, Charles could see the boat approaching, but it had to change course as well, almost aiming for the edge of the sandbank and just so able to pass it. Damn.

As they were approaching shore again, Raven suddenly spluttered and gasped, and her hand finally slipped. In panic, Charles let go of Erik, too, immediately diving to reach his sister before she might drown. Erik had not noticed quickly enough, he was still keeping his course, but Charles had no time to look for him now. He had to find Raven. He could see her hair in the water and felt her hands reaching up for him, realizing in relief that she had not really been in the danger of drowning, only briefly having lost balance and being pushed under by the current of Erik's powerful movements.

When he grabbed her hand, however, she suddenly shrieked under water and pointed up, and Charles already thought that a bull shark might have chased them as well when he saw what she was pointing at. All he could do then was push her under with all his strength before the bottom of the boat came closer and closer and everything faded to black.


The noise of the motorboat hurt him. It vibrated in shrill pressure waves through the water, disturbing his senses. Tremors of a much too high pitch that made the blood in his veins pump with anger – not the low, deep kind of wrath that had lurked within him constantly but a roaring fury that made him thirst for vengeance and blood.

Erik made a turn, and he dived as deep as the still shallow water allowed. The boat above roared closer; the water all around him prickled with the harsh sound as did his skin when he sensed it.

He moved. His muscles tense, he pushed forward and gained as much speed as he could, as much force with every ounce of his body as he rushed up and up. He felt no pain, just that powerful fury in him as he hit the boat from below, and the roaring hum of the engine was paired with shrieks of surprise and fear. A loud splash, and the sound of a thundering heartbeat so close to him. A scent, carried through the molecules of blood the water, he would recognize everywhere and link with one feeling, and one feeling alone: hatred.

Something dull hit the water beside him, and again, and when the small metal objects were slowed by the density of the water, ripples of their numbed force radiating towards him, he knew what they were. Erik had to dive again, but he'd come back. Come back for Shaw, and he'd finally finish what should have ended a long time ago.

As deep as he could, he swam back. There were other sounds and sensations in the water now, somewhere still distant another boat and the calls of people – voices he could recognize and which posed no threat to him. A very faint smell of blood, Raven's, in the water. The sense of excitement mingled with fright in the other sharks around; they did not come closer.

He turned and moved slowly through the water, the faint light of the breaking day and the few seaweeds on the ground providing enough camouflage. He sped up as he sensed the direction of the boat and the splashing of the man in the water, moved, moved forward and closer and –

Erik stopped and turned as abruptly as he could as something suddenly made his own heart pace up. The voices above from the second boat called out one name over and over again, but that had not been the reason for him to pause and change his course. Somewhere, far and distant and so very faintly that only a minuscule change in the motion of the water could have carried it to him, he heard and felt another heartbeat, not fast and hard with excitement and fear but slowing, weakening... soon to cease.


The others could not see him, or could not get to him in the hail of bullets. Someone had pulled Raven onto the boat, and her calls only resounded very numbed from above the surface, but Erik was sure that the reason they were all shouting and screaming in pure despair was that Charles was drowning. There was not a moment's hesitation when Erik swam to him, following that faint and soft sound of his heartbeat until he could see him sinking lower and lower towards ground. And for the first time today, sheer panic struck him as he realized he didn't know what to do. He could not reach for Charles, could not grab him and prevent his descent or the fact that his unmoving body was pulled further towards the open sea by the undercurrent. He had no means to do so other than his jaws, and he could not trust himself to even attempt it lest he want to injure Charles fatally – preventing him from drowning but killing him in the process.

He knew he could not transform, he had tried to do it, tried to concentrate, tried so, so hard before, but he was simply unable to shift back to even his half human form, trapped in the body that he had been used to for one and a half decades, now beginning to curse it. Charles would die, and he could do nothing.

The cries above became louder now; the boat had sped in his direction, and he could hear them calling his name. Raven and Moira shouted desperately while he tried to push Charles upward, shake him awake by bumping into his side as gently as he could, but to no avail.

Then, Hank shouted something, and, muffled as it reached his ears, he felt his heart leap up with hope. As quickly as he could, he swam up, and through the rippled surface of the water he could see the outlines of Hank and Alex standing at the edge of the boat. A dart rifle was aimed at him by Alex, but this time Erik had no reason to fear the object. Swimming parallel to the boat, he finally felt the faint jab of an almost pleasant, relieving pain in his back. And then...

It just took a few seconds, and his body was on fire, on fire with an odd tingling that shot through his every fiber, unpleasant but warm, and it felt as if a part of him was coming back to life. His body trembled and vibrated with the change in his cells, a pull from within, muscles and tissue contracting, tightening. Changing.


His arms, human arms outstretched, he dived as fast as he could, back to where he had seen Charles' limp body in the water. Just a fraction of a moment later he wrapped them around the cool and slender body, holding him firmly as he propelled upwards and breached the surface.

He gasped as he took the first breath with his human lungs – a reflex once above the water, even though his gills had not faded yet. “Charles.”

The other man lay motionless in his arms, tousled wet strands of dark brown hair in his forehead, and Erik brushed them away. “Charles, breathe, please!” He slapped his cheek, shook him softly, held his chin in one hand, but still nothing. A deep dread filled his heart and mind, stronger and more earth-shattering than the violent sensation of hatred towards Shaw.

“Charles, please, come on,” he begged as he shook him again. A commotion of sound reached him from behind – voices calling for them, and somewhere farther away more shots – but he could not turn, could not draw his eyes from the man in front of him whose eyes were closed, lips slightly open, still rosy and warm as he brushed his thumb along the lower. He brought his own lips to them, closing firmly onto the soft mouth and breathing into it.

He still heard and felt the faint heartbeat, but as he breathed into Charles' lungs once more, it suddenly gave one single, strong jump, and Charles started to splutter and cough. Gasping for breath and spitting water, he came to in Erik's arms, moving instinctively, and Erik felt relief and joy wash away the feeling of dread and fear that had held him in a tight grip. He breathed deeply as well, a laugh coming over his open lips as he saw Charles blink and cough some more.

“You... was I drowning?” Charles asked dazedly, voice scratchy and hoarse. “You saved me.”

Erik released a soft chuckle as he followed instinct and brushed a gentle kiss against Charles' forehead. “Well, you saved me from drowning first.”

Another faint cough that was half a chuckle. “I suppose we're even then?”

Erik could not remember when he had ever been so relieved in his entire life. The feeling swelled inside his chest, too big to be contained as it forced its way outside in a bubbling, open-mouthed laugh.

Charles only smiled, though something sparkled in his deep blue eyes as he tilted his head and bit his lower lip for a second. “You know, you really do look like a shark when you smile,” he said, still sounding just a tiny bit muzzy.

Erik decided it was time to bring Charles to the boat where the voices of the others had calmed down, still calling out but also mixed with relieved smiles now. They weren't far away, unlike Shaw's boat which had stopped moving all together.

A horrible, hollering scream suddenly pierced his ears, and when Erik turned to listen, concentrating his senses, he knew what was happening.

“Oh my God!” Raven cried on the boat, her more elevated position allowing her to see what was happening, same as the others who stared in the same direction with wide eyes.

More shouts and screams resounded from the boat, and the shots that were fired now were not aimed in their direction any longer.

“The bull sharks!” Alex exclaimed. “They're attacking Shaw.”

Erik could sense it, sense their excitement and Shaw's fear and pain, smell the blood in the water, and he did not quite know what to think or feel or say.

Just a few moments ago it had been so easy to follow his more animalistic instincts, his survival instincts stronger than any doubts, and his thirst for vengeance so easy to justify to a mind that was detached from morals and ethics and considering consequences. Though he wasn't even sure whether these concepts had been planted in his conscience by Charles or just reawakened by the conversation they had had the morning before he had been taken. It didn't change that he still wished Shaw to be dead, but he wasn't sure what Charles thought about it.

Looking at him with a hesitating glance he found one that he could not quite comprehend. Forehead furrowed with what looked like regret and even horror, Charles winced at the sounds that could be heard in the distance. But his gaze was firmly resting on Erik's, a silent acceptance shining in his eyes before Charles wrapped his arms around Erik and pulled him close.

“I will not ask you to save the man that did all this to you,” Charles barely more than whispered, his voice trembling as he embraced Erik even more closely. In the distance, Shaw screamed again before he was being dragged under water. It was too late to save him either way.

All that could be heard now were the frantic calls by the other men still on the boat, but even they died down and turned to exclamations of frustration and capitulation. Shaw's heart had stopped beating, and his blood painted the ocean water around him red.

It was over. Shaw was dead, and Erik felt a weight lifted from his shoulders, as if the darkness that had accompanied him all those years faded like the dark skies in the morning sun. All those years he had thought he had to kill the man to achieve retribution, never peace, but here and now he had found it in the awareness that he had not needed to become a killer to be set free. Justice had found its way on its own.

The blood had also drawn the bull sharks into a frenzy, however, and as soon as they realized the prey was no suitable meal for them they started swimming around and looking for a substitute.

“Get out of the water already!” Moira called, though Erik doubted they would come to attack Charles and least of all him, but he swam closer anyway and helped Alex and Sean pull Charles up into the boat.

In order to get in himself, he needed to transform completely, but he was momentarily distracted from it with quite a different commotion of sound coming from the shore. Sirens and motors, gravel and stones crunching underneath the wheels. Metal doors being slammed open and shut and then an amplified voice shouting at the men on the other boat to drop their weapons.

“That's... Oh my God, that's Irene!” Raven cried, and she jumped up and down on the boat, waving her arms in direction of the cars surrounding one large truck, and the people having emerged from the vehicles with heavy guns of their own, among them one lone figure in what looked like a pyjama.

“Isn't she blind?” Sean asked and Raven laughed out.

“I'm waving so the police know we're the good guys.”


Moira and Alex had joined in, and Hank made the boat ready to steer it back towards the dock. The men on the other one had indeed surrendered.

Charles, however, leaned over the edge of the boat and looked back down at Erik, smiling but his expression clouded with regretful longing. Erik thought he knew why.

“The police can't see you,” Charles said as Erik moved around the boat a bit, out of their view. “Even transformed. You... you have no identity, Erik. They would raise questions.”

Erik nodded, though he found it difficult to imagine having to part with Charles for even just a while. Charles' hand reached out, and Erik lifted his, meeting it in the middle and squeezing it tightly right above the edge of the boat.

“I can make it back to Myrtle Beach in three days,” Erik said, not knowing where else they could quickly arrange a meeting point and time. Certainly not here again.

Charles bit his lower lip, and he looked at Erik with so much longing that it was hard to go. With one swift movement, Charles leaned forward and reached for Erik's neck with his other hand, bringing their lips together in a firm but brief kiss.

“I'll be waiting for you,” Charles smiled.

When the policemen ran onto the dock and Hank steered the boat toward them, Erik had long vanished between the waves of the ocean.


It was over. The whole nightmare they had all been trapped in finally overcome, and yet it wasn't easy for Charles or any of the group to fully rest and simply move on, forget about it all. That night and morning, they had all seen and experienced things they had only been able to hypothesize about, imagine them vaguely like thinking up a purely fictional adventure or putting one's self into the shoes of a character in a movie. Something that had become reality for all of them and left its impact.

When the police forces had rescued them after being alerted by Irene (how she had managed to run around the small town barefoot and unseeing to finally find someone that would lend her a phone was still a thing that astounded Charles), they had all been taken to the police station. Both Charles and Raven had also been examined by paramedics and a doctor, and the cut on Raven's leg had been treated, and later in the morning, after vehement insistence by mostly Raven and Moira, Charles had allowed them to take him to a hospital to get his head checked for possible injuries, but it turned out he had no more than a light concussion. Thanks to heavy pain killers he even survived the following day without puking his guts out.

It had been, once again, thanks to Emma and also Irene that they had all come up with a sufficient explanation for their presence at the aquarium, and in the end the police believed Emma had alerted her group of friends as soon as she had learned about the human trafficking and that she had been scared to go to the police without hard proof. As far as she knew, these women that had been brought to the facility moments before the police arrived, may have only been the first of a much bigger operation, and the aquarium where they should be working for a while only the cover-up for these illegal activities. That story had seemed to be convincing enough for the police.

Even if not, there was enough evidence that the men in Shaw's employ had been willing to attempt murder, enough weapons in their possession to get them behind bars at least for a while. But the driving force behind them had been Shaw, and he was dead now.

Charles could not quite forget the screams of the man as the bull sharks had attacked him, and he found himself often wondering what he should feel about Shaw's demise. Pity was the predominant emotion, but sometimes, in brief moments, he found a spark of satisfaction surface among it. He would not have wished death upon Shaw, but there was a taste of justice to the fact that it had been the animals Shaw had tortured and killed for so many years in such great numbers. It had not been man to play God and decide over life and death but nature that had simply taken its course.

He was glad Erik hadn't killed Shaw, so, so extremely glad. Though he knew he would have had no right to stop Erik, had he gone after him. Instead, which Charles had realized after the others had recaptured the events for him, Erik had decided to safe a life – a life that was more important to him than his need for retribution, and Charles yearned so much to pull Erik into his arms and thank him, tell him what he still had not had the time for.

When someone knocked at the front door of the house on Myrtle Beach on the morning of the third day after, he practically ran to it, his heart beating with excitement and hope, but once again like those few days ago, he looked into a different face when he opened the door.

“Emma, what are you doing here?” he asked in mild confusion, not really having expected to see her again unless in court when they had to make a testimony against Shaw's men who had been involved in the crimes.

“Good morning to you, too,” she said with a huffy undertone but that sugar-sweet smile of hers as she walked into the house. The others were all present, Raven and Irene – inseparable these days – sharing an armchair, Sean helping Moira doing the dishes and Hank and Alex on the couch. They all looked up with similar surprise as Emma greeted them.

“Wow, miss us already?” Alex asked with a slightly crooked grin.

“Oh don't flatter yourselves. I'm not here because we're all such great friends now,” Emma said. She briefly looked over to the second armchair but remained standing. “Actually, I have a request. And I think after I helped you get your friend out and survive it's only appropriate for me to ask. Where is he, by the way?”

Even though she tried to sound unconcerned there was a brief flicker in her eyes that made Charles wonder whether she really was as cold and opportunistic as she pretended to be.

“Not back yet,” he replied, shaking off the feeling of fear that something might have happened to Erik. Or – even worse – that he had decided to not come back and instead return to where he belonged. Charles simply had to trust that this was not going to happen.

“Oh, well, I suppose he will be sooner or later,” Emma replied nonchalantly.

Charles really couldn't shake off that feeling. “It was you, wasn't it?” he asked, as the idea suddenly hit him, and he saw Emma's eyes briefly widen before she looked at him with a quizzical glance.

“What was me?”

“The girl that helped Erik escape back when Shaw held him prisoner on his yacht. It all fits together, the age, the fact that he married your mother....” Charles said as the puzzle pieces fell into place. “It was you. This whole thing, you helping us, was not just the act of a woman scorned.”

Emma took a deep breath and looked at Charles with a hard stare, rolling her eyes then and finally sitting down on the armchair. “I don't see how that makes much of a difference, but yes, the girl was me.”

“Hm, not so frosty after all,” Alex said and grinned, and Sean smiled at Emma and handed her a plate with cookies which she rejected. He slumped down on the arm of the couch and stuffed one into his own mouth instead.

“Who would have thought, underneath your designer clothes you're actually a nice person,” Raven sniggered mischievously and only earned another glare from Emma in return.

“Can we get back to business now?” she asked, a little impatiently.

Charles couldn't help but smile as he leaned against the back of the armchair Raven and Irene were sitting on, and he nodded at Emma for her to continue.

“So,” she started. “It looks like I find myself in a slightly unfortunate situation. I've spoken to Sebastian's solicitors about his inheritance. Luckily for me, I'm still the sole heir of his real estate and most of his funds. But there's one thing he left me that would mean more effort than benefit for me.”

“Oh? This is going to be interesting,” Moira smirked. She had sat down on the other arm of the couch.

“You see,” Emma continued. “Sebastian has founded a company for the aquarium, and the funds he's put into it are bound in it. There are shareholders and statutes and all that legal business, and I can't sell it because as for now it has no value.”

“Why don't you employ someone to manage it then?” Hank asked before his eyes turned wide with realization. “Oh, is that what you want to ask us to do?”

“Not quite,” Emma replied. “Frankly, I want nothing to do with it. Without Erik it would be just another regular aquarium, and since the Florida Sea Aquarium is so nearby I don't see how it would ever make any profits.”

“Wait, you're not going to ask if Erik would go there again and pose as a tourist attraction, are you?” Raven asked and Emma rolled her eyes.

“No, of course not. I'm not stupid enough to think he'd do that, thank you.”

“So what exactly is it that you're asking of us?” Irene asked, but when Charles looked at Emma he already had a vague idea of what she might propose.

“I want you, any of you, to take over my shares and do with the facility whatever you want. You could turn it into a conservation center or shark hospital or whatever. Do what you fish friend activists like to do. And eventually you could – or would have to – turn it into a non-profit organization and fund it with donations. I don't care. Just take it off my hands because I have no use for it.”

Despite his suspicions, Charles could not help but feel surprised at the offer, and he wondered for a moment if what she proposed was manageable.

“You're just giving it to us?” Alex asked in equal surprise and laughed out in disbelief.

“That's what I just said, didn't I?”

“Why aren't you giving the shares to someone else, though? Someone that would turn it into a place that would leave a margin?” Hank wanted to know.

“Because, as I just said, I don't want to have to deal with it,” she replied defensively but a little unconvincing.

Charles decided not to agitate her further by accusing her of actually trying to do something good and honorable. “Well, I assume we'd need some numbers and information and discuss it all together, first,” he said and exchanged a glance with Moira whose face started to light up. He could imagine that her thoughts were already rotating around a hundred different possibilities – maybe a place like the Monterey Bay Aquarium which had no likeness anywhere on the east coast. And maybe it would really attract visitors and change people's awareness about sea creatures who would appreciate it for its attempts to treat animals in captivity properly instead of putting dolphins and whales in tiny tanks and forcing them to do tricks for the audience.

“Alright, I see I can't expect an immediate answer from you. The offer still stands and will do so for a while. I'll send you the required documents,” Emma said and made to get up from the arm chair. Suddenly, however, she blinked in direction of the open backdoor, and her brows rose.

Charles immediately turned to follow her gaze, and when he spotted what had made her squint and look, he truly thought his heart was going to explode in his chest with joy. He did not waste a moment to look or listen for anyone's reactions and was already on his way. And then, on the sundeck of the house, he wrapped his arms around the still damp and cool body, smelled the salty water and felt his heart do somersaults in his ribcage.

“Erik!” he half gasped, half laughed. “You're here. You're finally here.”

Erik smiled at him, a little surprised with his brow furrowed as his eyes took in the sight in front of him. “I told you I'd be here in three days.”

Charles laughed out again, his nose tingling slightly, and he had to blink. “Yes, you did. And you kept your promise,” he said, laughing again as he realized he had stated the obvious, but the joy and gratitude he was feeling in that moment made him light-headed.

Erik's hands were wrapped around his waist, and he pulled Charles even closer, leaning in. “Of course I did,” he replied softly with just the vaguest trace of smugness in his smirk before he brought their lips together. Charles could not remember when a kiss – even those they had shared before – had ever tasted so wonderful.

Everything bad lay behind them. They were together at last, and he felt relieved and exhilarated with the powerful thought that nothing could ever come in their way.

“You know, you should maybe put some clothes on.” Except for maybe his sister, just in that moment.

Charles laughed when he turned to look into her grinning, equally joyous face as she stood in the door and looked out to them. Behind her, the others had come closer as well, and it was impossible to miss that they all were immensely relieved and happy as well. Just Emma still sat in her chair, but Charles could have sworn she, too, looked pleased. He did not completely approve of her gaze traveling down Erik's naked body, barely concealed by Charles standing in front of him.

He chuckled and reached for a towel that lay on one of the recliners on the deck, handing it to Erik.

“I suppose the others want to say hi to you too,” he whispered close to Erik's ear as he wrapped the towel around his waist. “But there's one thing I needed to tell you.”

Erik's brows went upward for a fraction as he looked into Charles' eyes, the smile never leaving his lips, and even though Charles had thought such words may require a 'perfect' moment for them to be said for the first time there could not be a better one than now.

“I love you.”

The smile on Erik's lips became even wider before he placed them on Charles' once more, only briefly so while the others had retreated from the back door to patiently give them some space.

“I'd been hoping you did,” he said almost teasingly, one hand on Charles' neck, thumb brushing over his cheek. “Because, you know... I love you, too.”

Charles found that he had to take back his previous thought. The kiss that followed these words tasted even sweeter.

~ Not quite the end ~

Epilogue / 10 Months Later

Btw, anyone interested in what bull sharks look like...

that could be Shaw's blood on it, mwhahaha

Date: 2011-10-08 01:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] reppu.livejournal.com
Excellent! I've been waiting for this to finish so I could read it all in one go. 100k words is pretty amazing, congrats! Is this posted anywhere else like ff.net or Ao3 for Internet-to-Kindle downloading purposes?

Date: 2011-10-08 01:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leandralocke.livejournal.com
No, not yet. I might upload it to ao3 once the epilogue is also finished. But I actually wanted to look through the whole thing once more again, so that might take longer.
Would it help you if I sent you the word doc? You could convert it to a pdf then. If you'd like that send me a PM with your email address :)

Date: 2011-10-19 09:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] audient.livejournal.com
I AM ALSO DOING THE WHOLE KINDLE (well, ipad) READING THING AND yes, if it's not too much of a trouble, can i have the doc file :'))) Unless you're planning to post this to AO3 soon, in which case I can just epub the hell out of it. Thank youuuuuu.

(also, what is your AO3 username?)

Date: 2011-10-19 09:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leandralocke.livejournal.com
I don't have one yet, lol. Can you give me your email address then? Just PM it to me and I'll send you the doc file... though it's a little draft-ish. But I'll sort through it and see if I have all the right versions of the chapters in there.

Date: 2011-10-08 01:38 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] strider470.livejournal.com
This was absolutely amazing! I've enjoyed reading this story so much and this last chapter was so exciting! You should be extremely proud of yourself :D I'm sure I will be reading this story again and again and again ;D I can't wait for the sequel, I'm sure it's going to be fantastic!

Thank you so much for this <3

Date: 2011-10-08 02:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] leandralocke.livejournal.com
Thank you so much :)

I'm not sure when I'll start the sequel, though. I've another project with [livejournal.com profile] narya86 that we wanted to continue when I'm finished with BTS. And as it often is, I'm not quite sure the sequel will live up to your expactations. The biggest element of suspense is gone, and the sequel would also focus on a second (het) pairing. But I'd surely be happy to see you all come back and read.

And I might write a few little vignettes to this one. Already had an idea for a "5 times Erik hated his Christmas gift" or something of the sort ^^

Date: 2011-10-08 02:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] strider470.livejournal.com
Don't worry, I will definitely read the sequel ;D

Sounds great to me! <3

Date: 2011-10-08 01:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] notsafecomic.livejournal.com
OMG I haven't read this part yet, but I have to say HELL YEAH. I'm so excited. Thanks for the last part! *screams in glee*
*goes to read*

Date: 2011-10-08 02:29 pm (UTC)
avictoriangirl: (erik/charles closer)
From: [personal profile] avictoriangirl
Oh, this was so wonderful! *happy sigh*

Date: 2011-10-08 04:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cara-dee.livejournal.com
Oh man! I can't believe its over. :< Its been AMAZING! I'll probably go back and read it again from the first breath taking chapter! I will NEVER forget this amazing fic. Thank you for this, also can't wait to read any more of your work.

Date: 2011-10-08 04:28 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] groovyhornbill.livejournal.com
At last, I love a happy ending .. ^_^
The epilogue will be just as sweet, right?

Thanks so much for your wonderful story.

Date: 2011-10-08 05:01 pm (UTC)
ext_27141: (X Men ErikCharles)
From: [identity profile] telperion-15.livejournal.com
*big happy sigh* What a wonderful ending1 (although I'm looking forward to the epilogue!). I just loved Charles just running to Erik when he turned up after the free days - that completely satisfied all my romantic sensibilities!

And karma really got its teeth into Shaw there! ;)

Date: 2011-10-08 06:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] naihma mae elmidor casicas (from livejournal.com)
You know what?
for this, I will love you forever <3

Date: 2011-10-08 07:46 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] nathcoelho.livejournal.com
awesome fic
and lovely end!

Date: 2011-10-08 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caterina-m.livejournal.com
Aww, this was great, really great:) You manage with Shaw punishment very well, I didn't expect this but I'm glad bull sharks killed him (it was more exciting and dramatic). I thought: this is what you get when you piss off some sharks:D I'm so happy for the plot but I'll be missing the story (snob, snob). Anyway, thank you again for it and hope to read more from you soon:) Cheers.

Date: 2011-10-08 10:37 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] murf1307.livejournal.com

And it all ended happily. *warm and fuzzy*

Date: 2011-10-09 07:47 am (UTC)
ext_335097: (Default)
From: [identity profile] dare91.livejournal.com
That was to awesome for words, seriously lovely story. I'm saddened to see it end, but it was/is a great ending. <3

Date: 2011-10-10 12:22 am (UTC)

Date: 2011-10-10 05:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] disbelief11.livejournal.com
Thank you for the happy ending! I enjoyed the hell out of this.

Date: 2011-10-10 09:54 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] orion-nightbane.livejournal.com
This fic was really lovely and fantastic! :D I can't wait for the epilogue! ♥ amazing work!

Date: 2011-10-10 03:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kiriana16.livejournal.com

I am sorry the gifs ceased more or less but I run through so many emotions while re-reading all the parts at once today that I just cannot express myself anymore properly.

What I liked in this chapter:


Congratulations on finishing it, it was a really great journey to take us on. Great story :)

P.S.: In a few minutes on my lj should appear something that you may be interested in ;)

Date: 2011-10-12 02:59 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] tea-and-trifles.livejournal.com
Honestly, I don't know how you did it! It all worked out, when I thought all was lost. I loved Erik's rescue of Charles -- it was amazingly suspenseful, and also so moving, to see Shark!Erik so helpless even while in his element, the ocean. I was so happy that you had Shaw torn apart by sharks! Heeeeeeee.

And Emma! You surprised me again there. She is a nice person! That was sweet. I love the idea of Charles running the facility for marine animal welfare -- that gives me the warm fuzzes.

Congrats on pulling off a truly thrilling denouement. That was a lot of planning, and it all came together seamlessly. Can't wait for the epilogue.

Date: 2011-10-14 02:01 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sweetxrevenge3.livejournal.com
I loved this story. It was so freakin cute.

Date: 2011-10-16 03:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] shiny-starlight.livejournal.com
So much love for this amazing, amazing fic!! I'm sorry for the delay in ommentng, but I only had the chance to read it's epicness and awesmeness now. Loved the entire fic, and your take on Erik and Charles. They are so fricking adorable together!!! <3<3<3

Date: 2011-10-17 08:52 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] celectis.livejournal.com
;__; I'm so sad to see it finished but kind of happy for it too. Www. The not quite end was perfect and I'm so happy everything worked out and aww EMMA. I love how you wrote Emma. ♥ And just awwwww. I want more sharkmen!Eriks now. I've got quite the craving..

Date: 2011-10-31 05:37 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mardigrasmaven.livejournal.com
Shaw got a really fantastic karma comeuppance. I was very VERY smug about the way he met his end. Ol' Punk Ass!

Everything's getting squared and Erik is back, safe and sound and he and Charles said their "I Love You's" *screaming at the cute*

I LOVE THIS!! *saunters over to Epilogue*


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