The first time Charles visits the prison, he notices the bruises. "Oh, Erik." His small exclamation seems trite, unhelpful, but Erik doesn't seem to mind. Seems, in fact, completely oblivious to the dark marring of his skin, yellowing around the edges. There's a certain glint in his eyes, though, one that may be missed by anyone but those who know him best which, in this case (and surely every other case) is Charles Xavier. "Erik, what happened?"
Erik gives him a sardonic half-smile, one that Charles can see right through. "I fell in the shower," he says, in a tone that indicates he doesn't want to talk about it. It would be easy enough, Charles knows, to probe his mind and find out exactly what has happened, but Charles is not naive. The evidence is clear; whether Erik says the words is immaterial.
He visits weekly, and Erik never does say the words. They play chess, or read together. Erik moves carefully, stiffly, lowering himself onto the plastic chairs in the cell gingerly. "Erik, what happened?" Charles asks again, on a day when Erik seems particularly stiff, when the bruises are more than just minor annoyances.
"Oh, Officer Laurio and I were visiting right before you arrived," Erik replies. "He's a fascinating human being." He practically spits the human being, as though it is the worst insult he can think of. For Erik, it probably is.
Charles is very quiet for a long moment, pretending to examine the chess board, but really probing outside of the cell, pinpointing the guard, sensing his boastful pride, his sadistic pleasure at bringing the mutant terrorist Magneto to his knees in a quite literal fashion. Charles sucks in a breath through his teeth, and he clatters a couple of chess pieces over.
"Really, Charles," Erik drawls, crossing one leg over the other, "it's rude to trespass like that. Be the better man." Erik is mocking him, as he tends to when he is feeling vulnerable (though he would never admit that, and Charles isn't even really sure when he became conscious of this fact of their relationship).
"Erik..." Charles wants to lash out. Wants to reach into Laurio's brain and squeeze until he is unable to hurt, to force himself on anyone else. But, because he is Charles Xavier, he keeps all of that locked deep inside. "Please. Talk to me."
Erik's lips quirk upwards. "I'm a terrorist," he says blithely. "And an old man. I'm lucky for whatever I get." His tone is mocking again, and Charles knows this is something he's been told in his time in captivity - not that Erik believes it for a moment, of course. "It could be worse. Though," and here he looks Charles in the eye, "You are much more gentle afterwards."
"Don't joke," Charles very nearly snaps. "This is serious. They can't do that to you."
"Can't they?" Erik counters, and moves one of his chess pieces to an empty space on the board. Charles has forgotten they'd been playing.
Charles hands clench and unclench on the arms of the plastic wheelchair. "I can make it stop," he says without even realizing he has spoken. And he can, too. He can use his powers, protect Erik. Because though Erik, Magneto, is a terrorist, and though he has done terrible things, those terrible things were in the name of mutant safety, and in the end, he is still Charles' greatest, dearest friend.
It is using his powers against another, something he actively resists, something he never enjoys, never wants to do. He does not want to see Erik hurt, does not want him to lose himself, or his life, in this God-forsaken prison cell. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knows Erik will escape sooner or later, and he wants to make sure Erik makes it that long.
"You don't mean that, Charles," Erik informs him. But he does, he really does, and he's tempted to just reach into Erik's mind, twist that part that wants revenge and for humanity to suffer, remove it, so they can escape and things might go back to how they were, so very long ago now. But Charles has long ago promised to never use his powers in such a manner, even if it is for the better, because free will is never something to take for granted. He knows Erik would never forgive him.
"Sometimes I wonder," Charles responds with a frown.
Erik looks disinterested, blandly considering their chess game. "He and those like him will be gone from this world eventually," he tells Charles, and Charles does not doubt his conviction, the truth of the statement in Erik's mind. To Erik, humans are vermin to be exterminated, and only Charles' interruption in his brain will keep him from thinking that. And Charles won't, so Erik will continue down that path.
Though Charles disagrees with every fiber of his being, and though he cannot bring himself to forcibly change Erik's mind, he cannot leave Erik here to suffer in the way he has. He decides his course of action as their conversation drifts to other things and their game commences.
Erik wins, as he often does. The man is, always has been, a consummate planner. Charles wonders if he has planned his own imprisonment as well, but dismisses the thought - it is too much to consider. "Take care, my friend," he says instead of addressing it, squeezing Erik's hand - frailer than it should be, a stark reminder that Magneto is mortal. "I will see you next week."
"Of course you will," Erik replies, still somewhat playful, glib. "And don't worry about me, I'm not going anywhere."
At the door, Charles encounters Laurio, strengthens his resolve, reaches in to the other man's psyche and twists, just a tiny bit, not enough for anyone to notice.
Just enough for Erik to gain some sort of peace when Charles cannot be there to ensure it himself. Soon, he knows, his friend will be free, and when that time comes, he wants as little animosity and bitterness to pile on top of what is already there. He is doing the world a service, but more importantly, he is doing right by Erik. He cannot free the man, but he can protect him. And he will, until the end of his days.