Summary: Three times Charles and Erik saw each other cry. Three times they didn't. (Don't worry, this story is - I hope - not as sappy as it might sound.) Set during X-Men: First Class, there will be tags to scenes in the movie as well as original scenes.
Author's Note: This fic grew out of the Bible verse below. I read it in Torah study class at my temple one day, and it seemed like a perfect description of the scene in First Class where Charles and Erik meet for the first time.
In the Water
So they took up Jonah, and cast him forth into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. - The Book of Jonah, 1:15
Charles is hurrying down the stairs when he first senses him, and it stops him so suddenly that he almost falls over. It makes his head hurt worse than a migraine to feel the emotions radiating off the strange, intense presence in the water - the blind, obsessive rage, the hatred clawing at him like a knife...
A pained gasp slips through Charles's lips as he raises his fingers to his temple. Moira asks him what's wrong, but her voice seems to come from very far away. "There's someone else out there..." Charles gets out, and he tries to send a message to the man in the water, to tell him to relax, to please just calm down, but he can't get through to him. It makes no sense. He can usually communicate with people much further away than this. His anger flares, and he isn't sure if he's frustrated, or if the other man's all-consuming fury has spread to him.
Charles spins around, almost knocking Moira over on the narrow stairs, and runs full-speed back up to the deck.
The salty sea wind is fiercer now, blowing hard across the deck like it's angry at them. The man in the water... Erik. Charles suddenly knows that his name is Erik, and he's after Shaw - no, not Shaw... Schmidt, he knows him as Schmidt. Charles can sense him much more clearly out here on deck. It's almost as if the metal of the ship was a barrier between their minds.
"There's someone else in the water!" Charles says, practically shouting to Moira to make himself heard over the wind. He runs to the railing of the ship and leans over it, the metal of the top bar pressing uncomfortably into his stomach. He should've noticed Erik's presence sooner. He had never felt so much rage, so much devastation, in a single person. It seemed more than anyone could bear.
Charles's eyes scan the rough sea for Erik, but he's nowhere to be seen. So he closes his eyes and searches for him with his mind, his telepathy sweeping over the dark water like the beam of a lighthouse. His head pounds again when he finds Erik, who's moving deeper and deeper underwater, so obsessed with stopping Schmidt that he barely notices the burning in his own lungs. God, it really is too much to bear. The man's about to drown, and he doesn't even care. He's beneath their ship now, and soon he'll emerge from the other side. If Charles can just time this right...
Without pausing, without giving himself time to think Awfully long drop there or That water's bound to be cold or You've never been the best swimmer, Charles, he climbs the waist-high railing of the ship and flings himself overboard.
He couldn't stop to think, or else he would realize that this is the most foolish, most reckless thing he's ever done. He could hit his head on the ship, or get sucked down into the dark water, or drown in any number of ways - over a man he barely knows.
He leads me beside the still waters. He refreshes my soul. - The Book of Psalms, 23:2-3
They come up coughing and sputtering and spitting out water. The damn fool still has his arms wrapped around Erik, but Erik shoves him away. It's all he can do to keep from strangling him, or holding him underwater until he stops struggling. He doesn't know whether he's angrier at this strange man for stopping him, or at himself for letting Schmidt get away.
Schmidt got away. You let him get away. Again! His entire adult life has been working towards this moment, towards this one ultimate goal, and after coming this close, he'd failed again. He let Schmidt get away, just like he did in the camps, all those years ago.
I know what this means to you, Erik, the other man had said a moment ago when he dropped down on top of him, his body piercing through the raging sea like a spear, his quiet voice penetrating the angry fire burning inside Erik. But please, you have to let it go.
How could this stranger possibly know what killing Schmidt meant to Erik? And yet, the sound of his calm voice inside his head reminded him of a verse from the Torah. "And after the fire, a still, small voice..." The words came back to him easily, out of nowhere, catching him off-guard. Erik didn't know he still remembered that verse. He heard the rabbi read it in temple once, when he was a boy, before the Nazis set the temple on fire and burnt it to the ground.
Erik is so used to feeling angry constantly. When he gets dressed in the morning, he's angry. When he hails a taxi cab or changes his money over in a new country, he's angry. It's not strong and raging all the time, but every waking minute, it's there - a steady, low-burning fire inside him. His entire adult life, it's been there.
But now this strange man - Charles - is here in the water with him, telling him I'm like you and Calm your mind. And somehow, he seems to be inside Erik's head too, and even though Erik is up to his neck in water, his mind is what feels flooded the most. Charles's voice is water itself, cool and still, trickling inside Erik, and the fire of anger that's been burning for so long begins to flicker and die down.
"You're not alone, Erik," Charles tells him. "You're not alone." And Erik blinks hard as he says it, because his eyes are burning, and it's not from the saltwater in them.
Waves from the ship cut through the water around them like cold knives. Erik gasps and spits out another mouthful of the salty water, trying to catch his breath, trying to stop crying. His tears are silent, but he can feel them stinging his eyes, and it's a strange, long-forgotten sensation, like something from another life. He hasn't cried in a very long time. Not since he was a child.
At the time, he was grateful that Charles pretended he wasn't crying. Later, he realized that with all the water around them, and the sharp waves slapping their faces, Charles hadn't noticed.
Well, that was the first chapter. I hope you'll leave a review if you liked it. There will be more to come!