Nickel Content

For all the time they spent in bars while on the road, Charles has never seen Erik drunk. Unlike Charles, who has to admit even to himself that he comes off as a bit of a lush at times, Erik always stops after two drinks or three at the most, just enough to relax some of the tension that clings to him but not enough for any further effect.

On their second night back at the mansion - home, he has to remind himself, new beginnings and all - Charles can't sleep despite being utterly exhausted from the intensity of the day's activities, so finally he gets out of bred and heads back to his study for a nightcap.

He's not expecting anyone else to still be up, so it's a surprise in more ways than one when he stumbles into what he expects to be an empty room to find that Erik is already - or is it still? - there, with a mostly empty tumbler in his hand and several rather large and decidedly empty bottles on the end table next to him.

There's something dangerous in the atmosphere here, and Charles has just decided to leave Erik to it when he's spotted.

"Oh, there you are, Charles," Erik says in a slurred voice. Then, "Do you know what this is, Charles?"

It's then that Charles notices the coin that is orbiting Erik's outstretched fingers one by one.

Charles knows exactly what that is, and what Erik means to do with it, and finds it all considerably distasteful - but he has a sense that saying so might not be the wisest move at this juncture, and keeps the thought to himself.

"This, Charles," Erik says, "is a 5 Reichsmark. It is com - compr - made out of ninety percent silver."

"Is it?" Charles says weakly, when it becomes evident from Erik's bleary gaze that an answer is indeed expected at this point.

"Yes, Charles," Erik says. "Ninety percent." There's another pause, as Erik gathers his thoughts with an exaggerated concentration that leaves little doubt as to how smashed he really is. "And did you know, Charles, that silver is not magnetic?"

"I did know that," Charles says softly, having some idea now of where this is going, having no idea of how to make Erik stop talking - because Erik needs to stop talking, he needs to stop talking right now, before Charles hears something he's not supposed to, because he knows none of this is anything Erik would ever tell him sober, and Erik is already so wary of Charles' gift, and the trust he has given so far is such a dubious, grudging thing -

And here's the terrible thing, the thing that's going to get Charles into so much trouble; despite acknowledging all of the above, he still wants to hear what Erik has to say. And so he doesn't say 'Erik, you're drunk' or 'Erik, I think you've said enough' or 'Erik, you really should stop now.'

"Now, Charles," Erik continues, "did you know that the other ten percent is comp - fuck! - made of other metals, cheap ones, fillers. Did you know that, Charles?"

"I did not," Charles says.

"Fillers like nickel," Erik says. "Nickel is magnetic. I suppose you know that, Charles. In this case an infi - intite - small amount of nickel." He closes his eyes a moment and Charles can feel his anger even through the drink, which is actually quite frightening since the only time he can usually read drunken people at all is when he himself is in the same state. "Do you know, Charles - do you have any idea, how many years it took before I had the power to move silver, or the finesse to move - to move -" and he's struggling with it now; quite suddenly, Charles is certain, very close to weeping.

"It's not your fault," Charles says, and the moment the words are out of his mouth he knows he has somehow, once again, demonstrated an inarguable knack for saying the perfectly wrong thing at the perfectly wrong time. He's not sure why that should be, but he's sure that it is.

"I know that," Erik snaps. "It's Shaw's fault." He lapses into silence then, contemplating what remains of his drink. Charles has just decided Erik is done when he adds, "Should have gone for the gun. Not the bullet - 'm shit with bullets - but the gun, yes." And he raises the tumbler to his lips, finishes what remains in it with one great swallow, then sets it aside and stands up.

Or wobbles up, rather, and drops his precious coin on the floor, and Erik nearly topples right over when he peers down at it confusedly, like he's not sure why gravity should apply to small metal things.

Charles rushes across the room to steady him, and nearly falls over with Erik several times as Erik makes various jerky hand gestures at the coin, which remains unmoving on the rug except for once rising up about an inch before plunging right back down.

Finally, Charles takes Erik by both arms, forcibly sits him back in the chair, then leans down himself to retrieve the damnable coin.

It's cold to the touch; somehow he'd expected it to be searing, hot enough to burn his skin.

"That's mine," Erik says, leveling a suspicious look at him.

"Don't I know it," Charles says with a sigh. "Alright, back up you go."

Once he's fairly certain they're set, Erik leaning onto him with an arm around his shoulders, Charles tucks the coin into Erik's opposite pocket, gives it what he hopes is a reassuring sort of pat, and they make the perilous journey down the hallways to Erik's room, and thank God there aren't any stairs involved.

Helping Erik to bed consists of walking him over to it and letting him drop; and now Charles is done, he's going to go right back to the study and get himself pissed, but when he's halfway to the door Erik says "Stay," in the most broken sort of way, and Charles will always be helpless before him when Erik's defenses are down, too, and so he climbs into Erik's bed, huddles up next close next to him, and when he still can't sleep he listens to Erik's breathing and tries not to listen to Erik's dreams.

In the morning Erik is vicious, downright nasty even, but he doesn't remember any of it, it's all from vomiting and headache and the sour taste in his mouth, and Charles is just so very relieved.

Later in the week, when Erik asks him to shoot at him point-blank, Charles knows better.

Erik's manic grin is more than chilling.

Several weeks after that, when Charles can think through the drugs they're giving him, even he has to admit that there may have been no way to win that particular one.