He isn't even sure where they are. Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky; the fields are green and gold, vast on both sides of the road, met finally by a sky so blue it looks painted. “Christ, what a day,” he says. “Brought to you by the Tourism Bureau of wherever it is that we are.”
Beside him in the driver's seat, Erik smiles. “It is a beautiful country,” he agrees. “I am glad to have seen so much of it.”
His face, in Charles' peripheral vision, is tranquil, his profile softened in what is almost a smile. His hand is loose on the gear shift, so close Charles could almost touch it.
“It makes me think of Germany, when I was very young, before Hitler, before the war. If I die fighting Shaw,” Erik says, “and you live, bury me somewhere like this, Charles. Somewhere that is lovely as this is lovely.”
“You won't die,” Charles says, and it is more a promise than a prayer. “Why would you even say something like that? No one is going to die.”
“This is a battle,” Erik says, and his voice is as steady as ever. “People die in battles. If Shaw wins, he'll kill me-- he'll have to, because he'll never dare to turn his back on me again. If we win, if I die killing him, it will be all I have wanted out of life for a very long time. I never-- when I was in Belsen I never thought I'd live to be twenty. I never thought I'd see England, Tibet, Argentina, America. If I die and Shaw dies with me it will be worth it.”
“It wouldn't be,” Charles insists, angry, frantic. “If you die, I'll have you cremated and spread your ashes in the ugliest city I can find.”
It is a terrible thing to say to a Jew, to a man who has survived the camps, but Erik only laughs.
Later, after Cuba, when he has a bullet in his spine and more time to think than he'd like, Charles remembers. There is nothing of Erik Lensherr to bury or burn, and yet he is unquestionably dead. The thing that wears his skin and calls itself Magneto is something else entirely. It must be so, because otherwise Charles was wrong about everything.