TITLE: Aquaria
SERIES: Shifter 'verse
DISCLAIMER: None of the characters belongs to me, sadly. They are owned by people with a lot more money :)

The last scene came to life because The Singing Duck asked for it

Charles Xavier was a man of his word. He never made empty promises and he did everything in his power to help those he had promised his help to. That Erik was his lover and bonded partner didn't make this a special case either. He had given his word to look into the possibilities to help the Shark through those hard winter months when he couldn't access the ocean, and he was standing by that.

Hank McCoy, their resident genius, had agreed to help and together they had turned a crazy idea into reality: the manor now features a giant salt water pool. It was more of an aquarium. Driven deep into the rock it spanned three basement levels. The acrylic glass panel was twenty-four inches thick and the whole tank held 150.000 gallons of water. There was a direct ocean access where the water came from and Hank was thinking about constructing a shark-friendly airlock.

Erik had only shaken his head in fond exasperation at his partner's exploits, but secretly he was more than tickled.

The whole execution of the crazy idea had been a team effort. Without many of the students at the manor or the Cursed of Westchester who had the appropriate abilities, as well as many towns people who had no Curses, this would have remained nothing but ideas on paper. Now it was more than a dream; it was a way for Erik to give in to his need to be in his element without facing impossible odds. The waters in winter were treacherously deadly, even for a waterbound Cursed like him.

Two other Cursed had been happy about it. One was a young man called Darwin who could adapt to any given situation, which meant he could breathe underwater. He also grew membranes between his fingers and if he stayed very long, he could shift his legs into a fish tail. That trick required for him to will his abilities to do that, and actively working his Curse had never been his strong point. He rather let his body decide when to use which adaptation. Now he could train.

Another was a girl who had scaly skin, not unlike a fish's, gills and webbed feet and hands. She was very much adapted to the ocean and rather wouldn't leave it, but she couldn't stay in it forever either. Her body was stuck halfway between both elements and while she had no problems with prolonged times on land, she enjoyed a good swim.

The whole undertaking needed almost all summer to be completed.

With the arrival of the autumn storms the pool was ready.

x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x

Erik was reluctant to try out the tank at first, but when Charles, dressed in his diving suit, jumped in, the Shark threw caution to the wind and followed. He rather enjoyed the experience and explored the large tank at his leisure. Charles waited for him to surface and grinned widely as he easily picked up on his lover's pleasure.

::I take it you like it::

::It's like a luxurious hotel where a Bed&Breakfast would have been enough::

The gray-black shark swam lazy circles around the landbound Shifter who was treading water. Charles was an experienced diver and swimmer, thanks to his Shark. He was wearing his tank, but he had put on flippers, his goggles pushed up onto his head.

::You think I'd fill a tub with water and call that a tank?::

::I didn't expect you to tunnel halfway under the manor and make this an aquarium::

::It's a training facility, Erik. All of it::

Including a specially paneled room for those with mutations like blasting energy, controlling fire or creating plasma bubbles.

The shark brushed by him, bumping his nose softly against one hand. ::Thank you, Charles::

Charles smiled, warm and loving and filled with understanding. His hand brushed over the blackish back as the shark swam past him.

:You're very welcome. Are you enjoying yourself?::

Again the shark bumped gently into him. ::Very much. Come::

Charles slipped the goggles onto his face and placed the snorkel between his lips. The offered dorsal fin was grabbed and then his Shark pulled him into the depth. Training with Erik had meant that he had learned to hold his breath longer than he had been able to before. And Erik would never let him drown.

Exploring the tank was fun and while he had to surface from time to time, the swimming and diving was a good work out nevertheless. In the back of the tank, which was surrounded by rock, was an airlock to enter the 'training facility'. Erik didn't plan to use it to get out of the tank since he could simply hoist himself up on one of the catwalks that ran across the tank.

x x x x x x x x

Darwin, who had been born Armando Munoz, had come to Westchester about three months ago. His mother had hated him from birth. He had demonstrated his exceptional Curse right from the start: to be able to adapt to any kind of threat or environment. Charles had called it 'adaptive evolution' and they had yet to find a limit to his powers. Charles was convinced that if Darwin set his mind to it, he would be able to survive anything anywhere. Nothing would be able to pierce his skin if he could gain active control over what it changed into. He would be able to survive without air, breathe gases that would kiss any other human being, even walk through an active volcano without getting so much as a blister.

Darwin was skeptical, but he had stayed at the manor and he had trained with the others. Since water-breathing was one of those abilities of his and Charles was certain he could even shift his body into a fish form to move faster, they had taken over the salt-water pool to try it out.

"I'm not a Shifter, professor," Darwin argued as he slipped into the water. His skin was almost immediately taking on a scaly sheen.

"I know, Darwin. This isn't about discovering your Shifter side. I know you're not able to shape-change like me."

"Or get stuck halfway like Hank," Darwin quipped.

Charles smiled. Hank's Curse set him apart from many because it was physical. He was extremely intelligent, a genius with an IQ that had sky-rocketed throughout childhood, but his physical appearance had led the telepath to classify him as a half-Shifter who couldn't complete the change and couldn't go back either. The Shift had happened suddenly, without warning, and the young man had been hit hard by it. Especially since it had been accompanied by a temper and sudden mood changes if he was challenged. Hank had that under control, but he had a wild side.

Raven found that immensely attractive. She and Hank had been a couple for years now and she had taught him to be proud of his differences.

"What I want you to do is try and get your body to adapt to what you want it to be. Webbed hands are an automatic reaction, as are the gills, but if you could develop flippers or a fish tail, it would give you an even better edge. That would be more than just survival."

"Adaptation. I get it, professor. But I can't trigger it."

"Try, Darwin. It's what this is for."

Charles sat down on the metal catwalk that allowed him to look into the pool. The light from outside the thick acrylic glass lit up a good size of the forward area, but the back was in the dark. Of course, there were lamps, too, but right now they didn't need them.

Darwin dove, gills immediately forming along his jaw-line. Charles monitored the younger man's efforts telepathically, trying to see if there was a trigger in his mind he could help find. Darwin tried very hard to will himself to change, but nothing happened.

::Imagine a dolphin:: Charles suggested. ::How it swims. Imagine yourself with its tail::

Nothing happened.

Frustration rose in the other mutant's mind, but Charles calmed him.

::No one is born perfect::

Before Darwin could reply something rose from the dark. Large and fast and streamlined, the perfect predator. Charles had barely a second to be surprised, then twenty feet of gray-black shark shot toward Darwin.

The young man gave a cry of surprise, which was silent underwater, but very loud in his mind, and Charles nearly jumped into the water to stop the 'attack'. His mind reached out to rein in the predator, but then he pulled back, eyes wide.

Darwin shot past him underneath the catwalk and jumped! He jumped right out of the water, instinct telling him to catapult himself out of the immediately line of sight of his hunter, and then he dove back into the pool, several feet away from where the large dorsal fin broke through the surface.

::Erik!:: Charles exclaimed.

Smugness echoed through his mind. Satisfaction and smugness. A lot of both.

Darwin felt skittish, but he was calming down, and Charles had clearly seen the tail. A strong, mottled brown dolphin tail.

::Darwin, it's okay:: he sent.

"Holy shit!" echoed through the room when the other mutant broke the surface. "What the fuck, man?"

The Shark was still cruising lazily. And still very much pleased with the results of his little stunt.

Fear had led to the trigger. Whether Darwin could copy this the next time remained to be seen.

::Let's end this for today:: Charles told him.

Darwin cast a wary look at the shark, which was now circling under the catwalk where Charles stood. Then he dove and headed for the airlock. His dolphin fluke briefly broke through the surface, then there was nothing anymore – except for Erik.

::You can stop being smug now:: Charles sent.

::It worked::

::You scared him::

::And it worked::

::Fear is not the motivator or trigger I was looking for, Erik::

The shark's tail moved sharply, splashing water, then the large body disappeared briefly, only to come back out of the water like a bullet. Charles watched the display with exasperation and finally did what Erik was suggesting he should: jump into the water with him.

The powerful form touched his neoprene covered body and he let both hands slide over the rough skin. Erik circled him once more, then carefully pushed against his back and Charles smiled.

::I'm not wearing my tank. Let's keep this near the surface::

Erik agreed, pulling him along. It was a playful encounter, Erik's mind close to his lover's, and Charles enjoyed the physical sensation as well as the telepathic one. Erik suddenly Shifted in the water, wrapping his arms around the other man, and they broke through the surface together.

Charles smiled, feeling incredibly happy, like it was just them, no one else, no worries, no problems, nothing at all. Looking into the intense gray eyes he knew his emotions were mirrored, and the kiss was soft and gentle, tasting of salt water and Erik.

"Now I know why Darwin ran scared."

Charles looked up the catwalk and gave his sister a bright smile. "Hello, Raven."

"Anywhere else I'd call this indecent exposure." She was looking at Erik. "What the hell did you do to Darwin?"

"Gave him the incentive to change."

She scowled, then transferred the scowl to her brother. "Making out in the tank? Really, Charles?" And she sounded very much like Charles right now, too. Scolding big sister type.

"I am fully dressed, Raven," he pointed out.

"For how much longer?"

"Why don't you go and play with your furry boytoy?" Erik growled.

"Children," Charles broke into whatever Raven wanted to retort. "Stop it. Now."

He swam over to the metal rungs and climbed out. Erik followed, his style so fluid and easy, no landbound human could emulate this.

Raven openly ran her gaze over the slim, naked form, smiling with full womanly appreciation.

Charles rolled his eyes and walked past her. "Really," he muttered.

"A girl's entitled to check out her brother's lover," she only said and fell in step beside him. "Wouldn't you? You can't say he isn't eye candy."


"He is. And he's yours, so chill. You're worse than the Shark is when Logan does his little teasy-taunty dance around him."

And she was off down the other side of the corridor. Charles scowled after her, then continued to the changing room. Erik was only one step behind him and pushed the telepath against the wall, capturing his mouth in a hard kiss. Charles slide his palms over the still damp skin and the friction the neoprene created sent eddies through their bond. Erik was enjoying himself very much.

"Since when is your sister such a nanny?" the Shark murmured, gently biting the soft skin at Charles' neck.

The other Shifter shivered. "She's just pissed off. Hank's been spending a lot of time designing this."

"Huh. She only needs to get laid?"

Charles laughed. "Yes, probably, though that's nothing I really want to think about right now."

Another bite. "Agreed."

The zipper moved down under its own accord; well, Erik's control.

"Not here," Charles breathed. "We have a perfectly comfortable bed upstairs."

"Is anyone here?"

The telepath briefly cast out and found not a single blip. ::No::



But the other Shifter was one determined man and he peeled Charles out of the suit with a single-minded determination that made the landbound shiver. The intensity of that sharp mind, those deep gray eyes… Charles knew there was no stopping this unless he resorted to telepathic interference.

But he wouldn't. He was already hard and the callused fingers stroking his length didn't help. His head fell against the wall, exposing his throat, and he groaned when Erik's deft fingers moved justrightyesthereharderplease! Blunt teeth latched onto his pulse point, sucking, nibbling, then sliding to the mark that was faintly visible against Charles' pale skin, worrying it gently. Charles felt things he only felt with Erik, the sensation of need and lust and love and want and so much more. His nails scraped over the sunburned skin and he sucked in a sharp breath of air when Erik twisted his hand just right.

He wanted so much. He wanted Erik's mouth on his dick, he wanted that hand to continue, he wanted to feel Erik inside him, he wanted to suck him off, he wanted to run his hands all over this beautiful man…

Erik bit down and he came with a muffled, choked cry, hip pushing forward and into that maddening hand. The Shark claimed his mouth, kissing him passionately, claiming him in more ways than one.

Blue and gray eyes met, Charles breathing hard, heart hammering in his chest. He felt the lust, felt it overpower Erik's logic, but he also knew that he didn't want this to be a hard fuck against a cold wall. So he slid down his lover's lithe form and swallowed him, sucking hard and rough, taking an edge off and satisfying a primal need for a moment.

::Bedroom: he sent again. ::Yours::

Accompanied by images that had Erik push harder into his mouth, his hands resting flat against the wall, supporting him as his hips pumped forward, taking, needing, wanting. Charles' finger toyed and manipulated, squeezed, fondled and explored, and when he pushed into Erik with two slicked fingers, the Shark came with a rough cry, nearly choking him.
Charles grinned up at the other man as he released the softening member, smug himself now.

"You little rat," Erik managed, almost breathless.

"You forgot the 'adorable'."

A suggestion floated between them, one that had Erik tremble, torn between want and apprehension. Charles leaned forward, kissing him, soothing the apprehension as he stroked over the warm skin, up the muscular back.

::I love you:: he murmured, fingers carding into the damp hair.

Erik kissed him softly. "I love you, too," he whispered.

x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x

The morning began with fog hanging thickly over the grounds, the bare trees were shrouded between the mist. More leaves had fallen down and the manor grounds looked mystical and silent. Between the curtains of fog, shadows moved. Erik watched them from the terrace. He was dressed in black jeans, a thick, black woolen sweater and had a colorful scarf wrapped around his neck. It stood out against the dark clothes and Charles had mercilessly teased him about it before. It was actually a gift from a child in Westchester. The girl had wordlessly handed him the hand-knit scarf, without an explanation as to why, but she had smiled brilliantly when he had thanked her and worn it from then on when it got colder.

The shadows moved closer and Erik smiled a little when two of the Nocturnals who stayed at the manor came from their nightly runs. He raised his mug of steaming coffee at them in a greeting and they nodded at him, then retreated into their rooms for the day.

Erik leaned against the stone banister, watching the sun rise through the fog. It was a cool morning. The day would be a wonderfully warm autumn day, but winter was fast approaching now. Ororo had mentioned an approaching storm and two weather Cursed in Westchester had agreed with her. While they weren't as finely tuned to nature as the weather witch, they felt the changes. Boats had already been hauled in and the homes near the coast line prepared for the onslaught of wind and waves.

Just another typical occurrence this time of the year. Soon the snow would come in, blanketing the land in soft whiteness; harsh and cold and the harbinger of bad news for waterbound like the Shark.

He had a way out of the moods now.

Because of Charles and the people who lived and worked and trained their abilities here. Because of so many who had wanted to help Erik…

Sometimes it went far beyond what he was able to comprehend. Unlike Charles he only helped out occasionally. He taught a few classes, though only as a substitute teacher. He knew many feared him; he was a predatory. A waterbound Shifter. An Omega Cursed. He incorporated a lot of fear for them. Charles, who was Omega as well, was landbound and a forest rat in his Shifted form. He wasn't a predator, but he instilled respect.

Now all had come together to help him. To help Charles help Erik. Maybe it was Charles.

It probably was Charles, he mused. His adorable little rat Shifter compelled people to help him, to follow him, to trust him. Erik had felt it firsthand. He had never once thought about forcefully removing Charles from his home so many years ago. That smile, those open eyes, this apparent naivety…

He shook himself out of his thoughts and empty his coffee. It was time for a refill, then take to the grounds for his run.

x x x x x x x x

When he came back, Charles was already done with breakfast and had started to attack a large stack of journals and whatnot. Erik watched him for a moment, then smiled to himself and left his lover to work. They settled into an easy daily rhythm, with Charles doing school stuff and Erik keeping an eye on the younger Cursed who usually went a little overboard with their abilities. Erik drove into Westchester after lunch and picked up a few things. Raven had made a long list. He was waylaid by some of the townspeople and by the time he was done helping here or there, it was dark.

Charles was still hard at work and Erik didn't disturb him. Instead he walked into the basement and stood in front of the tank, looking into the dark salt-water depths. It was quiet and cool down here, most of the lights turned off, and the low lighting from above gave it all a very natural calmness.

His pool.


He turned and smiled at the silently approaching man. Charles had his hands stuffed into his pockets and was dressed in his usual professor outfit: tan pants, t-shirt, rumpled looking shirt, vest and knit cardigan. Erik hid his smile at the choice of clothes.

Charles joined him in front of the tank and bumped his shoulder gently against the lean frame.

::Mine:: Erik murmured.

It felt surreal. Nothing like this had ever happened to him before.

Before Charles.

The telepath slipped an arm around Erik's waist, hugging him a little closer.

"They did it for you, Erik. I had nothing to do with it."

He gazed at the pool.

For him. It was truly surreal.

Hank was still working on a safe underwater ocean access. Drilling a tunnel through rock was one thing; making sure the whole thing didn't turn into a death trap, would open for a shark who had no hands to program an access code, and add an airlock for human divers was a challenge.

"You have everything to do with this."

"I never asked for anyone to do this. Hank came up with the plans all on his own. The others simply asked if there was anything they could do to help. You are part of this, Erik Lensherr. All of it. You're not alone."

The Shark pressed a kiss against one temple, emotions welling up inside him. He had always been alone; then Charles had happened. He had overrun him, turned his life around, made him aware of a world outside his own that had been filled with revenge and cold hatred for Shaw.


Not that he believed in it, but somehow…

"Let's go," Charles said softly.

"Bathing?" Erik teased.

"I was thinking of a different environment for what I had planned for tonight."

The smile was wide and very shark-like, the hunger in the gray eyes real. Charles smiled back, then walked upstairs ahead of his lover, who was appreciating the stretch of tan material over a very nice ass.

x x x x x x x x

And yes, it turned out what Charles had planned was a lot better than a late night bath. A whole lot better.

x x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x xx x x x x x x x

Charles was in the middle of going through some papers when he caught a flash of anger, almost rage. He frowned and cast himself along the anchor to Erik, where the anger had come from.

And he almost laughed out loud.

The telepath stifled his chuckle and decided to stay put.

::It's not funny!:: Erik snarled when he took notice of Charles' sneak-peeking presence.

::Oh, but it is, my friend::

::I'm going to kill him!:: the Shark promised darkly. ::Next time he comes back around here, he's dead!::

He was, of course, talking about Logan. The mutant had left the grounds this morning on his motorbike, heading who knew where. Charles hadn't asked because he knew he wouldn't get a straight answer. Sometimes Logan was rather intense when it came to his 'missions' and he wouldn't lose a single word about them. Just like this time.

But before he had driven off, he had lift a little something for Erik.

In the Shark Pool, as the tank was now known.

Charles couldn't hold back and laughed. Anyone who might have seen him would call him insane since there was nothing to laugh at.

Unless you were a telepath linked to your bonded, who was glaring at a large treasure chest at the bottom of the Shark Pool. A treasure chest that opened with an almost hypnotic rhythm, air bubbles escaping toward the surface.

Like in a fish tank.

Erik hissed something rather uncomplimentary and rather-rated, then stalked out of the basement where he had been asked to come by a message delivered to him. Students scattered and made wide beelines around the enraged Shifter.

Charles wiped tears of laughter from his eyes, enjoying himself very much. He didn't stop grinning even when Erik stormed into his office, still glowering.

"Oh, Erik," he soothed the ruffled feathers. "It's a joke."

"He's an ass."


The gray eyes sparked briefly. "And I'll make him pay."

"Do as you want, just leave me out of it."

Erik smiled darkly. "I'll find something."

"I sometimes wonder about your age," the telepath muttered. "Yours and Logan's. You're more like children than those young ones we teach here."

"He made the first move!"

"And you strike back. Logan finds something else. You react."

But it kept Erik on an even keel and Logan did enjoy himself, too. Neither man got hurt, aside from a few bruises when they started mock-fighting or sparring.

"Fun," Erik only commented, scowling. "No one asks you to join in."

"Hm, unless you broadcast over the bond."

Erik's scowl deepened. "You're the telepath. You can switch me off."

Charles knew he was caught and Erik knew that Charles didn't really want to separate them completely. There was always a connection, even when both were apart, working, or Erik was in the ocean and Charles still on dry land.

The Shark's features softened. He closed the distance and reached out, caressing Charles' face.

"I don't want to intentionally hurt you. But he gets to me, Charles. He knows which buttons to push."

"You let him push those buttons." Blue eyes sparkled with humor. "You love the challenge. You love the fighting."

"No. I like them. I love you."

"Sweet talker."

"Adorable little rat." And then he kissed him, a brush of lips against lips, a gentle, loving, reassuring caress.

Charles felt the tense muscles under his hands relax, felt the Shark ease up. He kissed his partner again, smiling when he felt the warmth lap against his mind. Erik buried his nose in the longish strands, sighing softly.

::Yours:: he thought.

The Shark held him tighter. ::Mine::

Logan stood no chance to get between them and both knew it. Erik was instinctively aware of it, just like he instinctively reacted to the other alpha male aggression Logan let out so well.

Charles smiled at that and lightly bit his neck, making the Shifter shiver.

"Don't play," Erik whispered harshly.

"I'm not."

Because he knew what he had gotten himself into the day he had slept with Erik Lensherr, Shifter, predator, Omega Cursed. And Charles Xavier had no problem handling that in any situation.

x x x x x x x x

He proved it throughout the next hours.