A Gift For: afrocurl
Summary: Erik’s taste in art surprises Charles. Erik is hurt by Charles’s surprise. And then they have an art and telepathy talk.
“You…your favorite painting here is really ‘A Girl With a Watering Can,’ Erik?
Charles is so shocked that he forgets that he’s slipped, that Erik hasn’t come out and said something like “Charles, you know, I’d really love a poster of ‘A Girl With a Watering Can’ to hang in the living room.”
But of course he can tell, can sense Erik’s pleasure as his eyes pick out all the points of color, the reds, whites, and blues of the flowers and the delighted recognition when he notices that the colors have also been used to paint the girl holding her watering can.
The painting appears simple, really, nothing especially visually interesting. It’s not like Renoir’s wilder landscapes, with their blurrier brushstrokes and lakes that appear to have the texture of a golf ball.
To Charles, this painting says “move along, nothing more to see here.” And yet Erik’s stood stock-still in front of it, trying to gauge how the painting’s representation of depth is working, how the girl is clearly behind a flower while the grass and the path blend seamlessly, as though they’re made of water.
Erik’s also trying to read her mind. Well. Maybe not quite that. He wouldn’t want to if he knew precisely what mind reading entailed. And its repercussions.
But he is definitely trying to understand whether or not she’s smiling, and, if so, at what? He isn’t quite filling out a backstory or name for her; he would have, though, had Charles not interrupted him.
Erik bristles, both at Charles’s calling attention to the invasion of his mind and at the perceived derision of what he’s found there.
Charles has never used what he’s found in Erik’s mind to mock him, exactly. Grins both disbelieving and wry when Erik’s flashed thoughts of another go at him moments after they’ve finally allowed themselves to collapse into the sheets? Yes.
However, Erik has thus far been safe from having his small mistakes and more ridiculous thoughts hurled back in his face. He knows he’s likely provided Charles with enough material to keep him from ever needing to watch a comedy again, but hasn’t had so much as a giggle out of him, even after all the song lyrics he’s misunderstood.
This, though. This is Dr. Charles Xavier questioning his taste. Out loud. Those lips he’s felt on more parts of his body than he can name are probably twisted in something like a sneer on account of Erik’s appreciation of this painting.
Erik knows Charles’s doctorate is about as far away from the arts as it can get, but there’s still something about someone with that amount of education looking down on him for enjoying the art that he enjoys that makes him feel hurt and defensive at the same time, all thoughts of brush strokes and the play of colors gone.
When he turns to face Charles, he sees that Charles isn’t looking down on him, but is instead peering worriedly at him, brows drawn in, forehead creased, eyes wide. It’s strange, he thinks, distracted for a moment. There isn’t a shade of blue in any of the paintings in this building that match Charles’s eyes.
The eyes grow even more worried. Of course. Charles didn’t mean it. He probably just didn’t think that Erik “Nazi Hunter” Lehnsherr would find a Renoir portrait of a girl standing around with a watering can very interesting. That idea hurts a little too, but at least he wasn’t thinking that Erik was Deficient in Taste.
“And what did you think my favorite piece here, would be, Charles?” Erik asks, pinning him with a stare that strongly hints Charles’s answer had better make him happy.
Charles blushes a shade of red to match his lips. Erik can’t help but notice that he’s reading Charles like a painting now, examining shades and observing that Charles is at this moment attempting to blend back into his surroundings.
Erik continues to hold Charles’s gaze, but his pupils have widened, and he knows that Charles knows the cause isn’t anger.
Charles bites his lip, looks down at the swirls in the marble floor, then straightens up and decides to just say it; nothing could be worse than this standoff in front of “A Girl With a Watering Can.”
“The sculptures, Erik. I thought you would like the modern sculptures best. You know, the ones with the twist…” Charles trails off. Erik’s still staring at him. This time, though, it’s in amused disbelief.
“Charles, I could actually have made some of those sculptures you’re thinking of. I appreciated them, but they’d never be among my favorites. It’s just, with this one, well, you know, I want to know more about it.”
Erik turns back to the painting, getting closer to it and only now noticing that he and Charles have been effectively blocking it from view. He wonders whether Charles has been suggesting that the other patrons move on. Probably not. They’re probably just not anxious to disturb what looks like an argument.
Erik takes the opportunity to explain what he finds interesting. “The colors, the brush strokes that look more realistic but aren’t, what the expression on the girl’s face means, what kind of childhood she’s had--”
“What she’s thinking,” Charles adds softly.
Erik nods, slightly, then studies him for a moment. “Is that why you like the less representational work better, Charles? Because you’re not entirely supposed to know what’s going on there? Something like this, though, a picture of a person who looks like a person might frustrate you for a minute, make you wonder why you can’t read her mind.”
Charles smiles. “I know the difference between art and reality, Erik.”
“But not, apparently, between thought and speech, or what’s happening in the mind as opposed to the outside world,” Erik reproves him. “And you haven’t denied it.”
“No, I haven’t confirmed or denied it.” Charles’s eyes are sparkling. They’re playing a game now. “And the boundary between the world of the mind and what you’re calling the ‘outside’ world isn’t as clear as you might think. In the nineteenth century, they thought that fully formed thoughts and emotions could be transmitted as vapors from one person to the other, you, know, and--”
Erik smiles, shakes his head and gestures in the direction of the nearest staircase.
“This is a conversation to have over drinks, Charles.”
It’s not until they’re having a quick brandy that evening that Erik realizes he never found out what Charles’s favorite painting was. He attempts to find out.
“That’s another conversation, Erik” Charles says with a careful smile.
Thinking back, Erik suspects it was the one of three arms and a hankie that he may have made a disparaging comment or five about earlier.
Notes: Just in case you’d like to see the art:
Girl With a Watering Can The National Gallery site provided lots of interesting information on the piece, including brush info.
And Charles’s favorite painting is:
Perilous Night OK, it wasn’t around during their time, but I thought it would work. ;)