Disclaimer: I do not own X-Men. Marvel does.

A/N: What was supposed to be a simple little 5+1, now evolved into an 9-section, 3-part story.


Schmerz

It was spinning through the air the first time Charles saw it, and admittedly, he had not known of its significance at the time.

A small silver coin. No bigger than a quarter, but at least twice as thick, done in a taboo design that would make most viewers either freeze in shock or scream in outrage. Though aged and well-worn, the coin glinted as it sailed effortlessly through the man's - through Erik's - fingers. Their boat was heading back to harbor, where a CIA car would be waiting, and both he and Erik had been shoved below, dressed in borrowed dry clothing and still covered in blankets to block the chill. Charles' companion was silent, staring off into what was physically nothing, the use of his power as natural as Charles' own.

And Charles had never seen anything like it - never imagined such a mutation could possibly exist. Though he had known about the nature of Erik's mutation from the flashes of his mind, seeing it used so easily, so obviously, had his eyes glued to the coin. Whirling in between one nimble finger after another, almost in some dance that rang of growing impatience, moving as if of its own accord.

But the other man, however, was naturally suspicious, and that was something Charles had known from the brief encounter with his mind. Only a few seconds of staring had snagged Erik's rapt attention, and he caught sight of Charles' attraction before the telepath could pull it back. With a small glare that held more pain than anger, the coin was pocketed instantly, gone from sight.

"Don't read my mind," Erik ordered softly. But the tone, instead of commanding, held such the same vulnerability as it had when they had first met, that Charles pulled his attention away and offered a small, trust-me quirk of his lips.

"I will not, my friend," he swore.

'Never about that,' was left unsaid by them both.

Erik simply snorted in response, and returned to his inward turmoil.

And Charles, closing his eyes, smiled grimly, an image of the glinting coin playing vividly in his mind.

-X-

The second time he saw it was not much later, though far enough away that Charles had almost forgotten about it.

They were sitting side by side in sleek blue car the facility had graciously provided for their mutant recruitment, pressed against finely tailored, sand-colored leather that covered their seats. Charles' hands clutched the steering wheel a little more tightly than normal as they drove under the cover of night, nothing but stars and random street lights to show the road.

In the back seat, curled up in the corner and unknowingly draped under Erik's heavy brown jacket, Alex Summers slept with a frown, body readily defensive even in sleep. Their newest recruit, pulled from the safe torture of solitary confinement he had purposefully fought to get himself into. It pained Charles that someone so young could already be so wary of the world, so ready to just give up, because he thought he had no other options. Because he thought he had been alone.

"I used to be like him, once." Erik's voice was quiet, and Charles almost jerked from the surprise of hearing it - the drive had been silent since Alex had fallen asleep. He glanced over quickly to see Erik staring in the rearview mirror at their slumbering charge with an unreadable expression. "Wanted to lock myself away, so that I could keep everyone else safe."

As his chest contracted painfully, Charles listened.

"When you have such an extraordinary gift that you can't understand, that only seems to bring pain to you and everyone around you, no matter what, the only thing you can think about is getting rid of it. And when you realize you can't get rid of it for your sake, the next thing to do is get rid of it for everyone else's." He could hear as Erik swallowed thickly, even as voice became a faint hum of eerie music. "It's a form of torture all on its own. And you always hope it's worth the price."

From the corner of his eye, he once again saw it. Almost like the tear drop of a moon beam, shinning in delight as it floated directly in front of Erik's eyes.

"I have seen people just give up and die." It was said so quietly that he wasn't sure he was meant to hear it. "I have seen them alive, but dead, walking without life and doing the bidding of others simply because. I wanted to be like that."

"He will not have to pay that price again, Erik," Charles promised softly, gently, cutting into the monologue, because now he was certain it wasn't something for his ears. Not just yet. "No one will. Never again." And he tried to put it in his voice, since by oath he could not by his mind, that his words applied to his friend as well. To assure and comfort all at once.

"Such an optimist, Charles."

But the coin stayed in place, and the conversation stayed silent, for the rest of the trip. And in the shadow of the coin, of the words still echoing in the car, optimism was not what was singing for Charles tonight.

-X-

The third time he saw it, its image was still firmly implanted in his mind.

After Russia. After the loss of Armando and Angel and their safe haven within the CIA facility. He knew, of course, it had been out several times between then and now - had caught small glimpses he could only assume were of it, once again flying around pale calloused fingers in a hypnotizing pattern.

But now, in the army truck on the way to Westchester, it was out in the open again. Spinning madly with the fury of a murderous rage, rather than its normal impatient tone. Like the ride before, this one was also silent - the children secured in the back, still in shock over the death of one companion and the betrayal of another.

Charles would be lying if he said he didn't feel the same anger Erik's power was currently radiating. At the CIA for not defending the children more, at Shaw for threatening them at all. But, as usual, he held his thoughts, and did not comment on the coin.

Unfortunately, Moira did.

"Those coins are illegal to possess, you know." She had said it in such an off-handed way, as though it were some dangerous secret that was she was kind enough to keep for Erik, with an implication that he should feel grateful that she was keeping quiet. Charles knew she was still annoyed about the disobedience in Russia, but before he could move to quiet her, she continued. "Silver crafted in the blood of innocent people, and with that mark ... I know you revel in your dark nature, Mr. Lensherr, but surely even you can't condone the acts of the Nazi and Hitler's empire-."

"Moira!" Charles protested sharply, but the coin had already fallen to Erik's hand, and the air had suddenly grown thick.

"I am surprised, Agent MacTaggert," the German whispered, keeping his gaze on the coin. "Did you not read my file?"

"Of course I did," Moira replied, confused. "It was sparse on details until you were twenty-five, at which time your ... quest started making it into the records." Charles watched as his friend nodded slowly at the words as though they made perfect sense.

"That would be the case. The world is only now beginning to realize what the people in the Camps went through, aren't they? And who was there."

He shifted just enough to that the sleeve of his sweater inched up, revealing the first three of the series of numbers permanently marking his forearm. Charles could feel when Moira finally caught on, his own mind almost going numb from her shock as the coin slithered up Erik's arm to lazily caress the numbers.

"The only blood that crafts this coin, Agent MacTaggert, would be my mother's," he concluded, and finally allowed his eyes to raise and fall on her.

The woman, unable to form words, stayed silent. And for the first time, Charles could not bring himself to play mediator - could not ask for forgiveness and understanding. Instead, he watched the coin with its swastika symbol, and felt something inside of him break. To see it in flashes was one thing, but to actually hear it...

Erik. He reached out timidly to the man's mind, forming a connection for the first time since Miami. My friend. Erik.

The coin slowed as a tendril of pure grief traced along the connection.

...Charles.


A/N:

About Alex/Eric. I love protective Magneto, and Alex wasn't awake when he was covered with the jacket. Anyway. At the moment, the next section is written (rating will go up), but the last part is not - I have yet to know if it will completely follow the original ending, or if it will follow most of it, and break into AU. Guess you'll find out when I do. :)

Please don't be shy to review. I like knowing what people think after they read my writing. :)