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Welcome to Wherever You Are

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Alex wakes up to pain which, in and of itself, isn’t that unusual. But this pain is. An unfamiliar sharp burn in his chest to go with the familiar pulsing ache in his head that says ‘concussion’.

He doesn’t move, doesn’t even let his eyelids flicker as he tries to assess both his condition and his surroundings. Hard surface under him, some kind of low end cot, he thinks, and dim light burning into his brain even through his closed eyelids. The sound of someone else breathing nearby, steady but shallow. Footsteps somewhere in the distance, and a low murmur of voices. Subdued sounding, and too far away for him to make out the words. A sharp metallic noise that nearly startles him into motion, and echoes hollowly for three slow breaths before it fades away. Not the mansion infirmary. It sounds more like the concrete and steel of prison, and the thought makes him tense in a way that spikes pain through his chest and shoulder. He doesn’t move, though. Doesn’t gasp or sigh or do anything to give away that he’s awake now.

He doesn’t have a fucking clue where he is and, better still, he doesn’t remember how the fuck he got here either. Doesn’t remember anything after shushing Sean as he picked the lock on the warehouse door and then the three of them crept into the darkness beyond. Darkness that was supposed to hide...what had it been?

His thoughts are swimming in and out of focus, elusive as the fish one of his foster mothers used to keep in a small pond in the back yard. They’d drift there, suspended in the blue-green water, bright and enticing, until he moved that half step too close and they darted into the dimness beneath the lily pads. His head feels like the water looked then, murky and churning, with a fine layer of scum floating on the surface.

He’s almost decided to dare cracking one eye open when something - someone - shifts nearby, and a hand settles lightly on his side then works its way carefully up to his chest. The side that doesn’t hurt like burning, thank fuck. The breathing he’d noticed is closer now, he can feel soft exhalations brushing his cheek as whoever it is hovers over him.

“You’re awake.” The voice is quiet, slightly hoarse as if with disuse, and it’s a statement not a question. “I was starting to worry, you’ve been asleep so long.”

Alex can’t quite assign an age to the voice, other than he’d guarantee it’s a boy and not a man, and he turns his head almost infinitesimally towards it, though he doesn’t open his eyes yet.

“It’s okay, the guards won’t be back until the morning,” the voice continues, growing slightly less rusty. “I saved your share of dinner for you.” It sounds both forlorn and hopeful, and Alex finally slits his eyes open. He catches sight of a face hovering over him--young, dingy bandages wrapped over its eyes--before he squeezes them shut again with a quiet moan he can’t quite suppress.

“Are you okay?” The voice is sharp now, worried, and he reaches his own hand--oh good, he can move, he’d been almost afraid to try--up to touch the hand on his shoulder. It’s meant to be reassuring, because he’s not sure he can find his voice just yet, and the boy seems to take it that way. He turns his hand slightly and squeezes Alex’s fingers.

“Okay,” the voice--he says--accepting the gesture as the reassurance it was meant to be.

Alex knew the light was going to hurt, and he takes a few slow, steady breaths before he opens his eyes again. He squints against the glare, no matter how dim the light is, and draws another shaky, pained breath, but this time his eyes stay open.

The boy is ‘looking’ down at him, for some value of looking. One that doesn’t require he actually be able to see past the bandages that Alex now confirms are wrapped thickly over his eyes. Alex can see the concern etched on his face despite the way his eyes are covered, though, and he licks his lips--oh god, so fucking dry--and tries to decide if he can find his voice.

“Wh-” He starts, and has to stop and try again, as the boy cocks his head inquiringly at him and waits. “Where am I?” he finally manages to ask.

There's a long silence and Alex has to struggle to keep his eyes open as he waits for an answer. He's actually starting to think there won't be one and he starts to move his hand - and how had he not noticed he was still basically holding the kid's? - when the answer finally comes, along with a renewed grip on his fingers.

"This...it's a lab. I'm not sure where, none of us are. But it's on an island, we think." It's a whisper, almost as if the kid's ashamed to admit it, and Alex squeezes his hand slightly, reassuring. The admission, at least, brings more memories to light, drifting, lethargic and disjointed, from the jumble of his thoughts. It was what they were looking for. Or something like it. Rumor of a place where mutants were being rounded up and held, maybe experimented on. They hadn't expected to find the facility, but they'd been told they could find records, information that would lead them closer to their goal.

"...who?" he manages to rasp, voice coming out sandpaper rough, and he has to close his eyes finally or he's going to puke, and he doesn't want to think about how much that would hurt right now.

"Scott," is the immediate answer. It wasn't actually the question Alex had meant to ask, but it's useful information just the same. "We're not supposed to use names, but-" Alex can feel the shrug in the way the boy - Scott's - hand moves.

"Scott," he repeats, then swallows hard against the dryness of his mouth. He wants to lick his lips but he knows that will just make it worse. Feels like there's nothing he can do right now that won't make something worse. The burning ache in his chest, the throb in his head that's gone from dull to pulsating in the last few minutes, the rasping pain in his throat-

Scott moving, carefully extricating his fingers from Alex's, jerks him - almost literally and painfully - from his thoughts, and he curls his hand, suddenly cold, against his own chest, fingers pressing gingerly along the lines of pain, feeling the unfamiliar folds of what he realizes must be bandaging over broken ribs and, he thinks, burned flesh. He's startled yet again when Scott's touch returns, and this time he does jerk, the motion accompanied by a choked off cry of pain and a ragged moan, which is immediately followed by Scott's almost frantic apologies.

It takes a couple of minutes, longer than it should, for Alex to convince himself that he's not actually going to puke or pass out from the pain, but he finally manages to raise a hand and wave it vaguely in Scott's direction until he gets the idea and quiets again.

"'S'fine," he manages to choke out, even if it isn't. No reason to freak the kid out anymore than he already is, which would be sort of hilarious if he were coherent enough to really process. Because he's locked in a cell, in a lab and he's worried about not freaking out his cell-mate? He'll be up for plenty of freaking out of his own once he has the energy for it.

He's focusing on breathing--in and out, slow and steady and not too deep, because fuck do his ribs hurt--when Scott's hand settles delicately on his wrist. "I brought water."

That gets his attention again and then some, and Alex opens his eyes without really meaning to...and closes them immediately with another groan. Water sounds fucking amazing, though, and when Scott slides his hand behind Alex's head and urges him, gently and so very carefully, to lift it enough to drink he ignores the renewed swirl of nausea and levers himself up fractionally. Scott's fingers find his cheek and then his lips next, and Alex is slightly taken aback, wonders what the fuck the kid is doing, until he remembers the bandaging over his eyes and realizes Scott's just trying to find his mouth. The fingers pull away, then, and a moment later are replaced by...not glass, but the smooth metal neck of a canteen, he thinks, and he gulps greedily as it's tipped and tepid, metallic tasting water spills out.

He has so many more questions he needs to ask, now that the dry ache in his throat has eased somewhat. So much he needs to know. Unfortunately, his throat may have eased but his head's gotten worse and everything seems to be fading into a disjointed muddle, the sound of Scott saying something else registering as nothing more than so much noise as darkness takes him again.

Chapter Text

The second time Alex wakes up it’s to a searing, agonizing pain in his left forearm, and he’s screaming before his eyes are even open, lurching futilely against bonds strapped across his chest and waist as well as at each wrist and ankle. He can’t make out anything past the glare of the light in his eyes, bright and direct unlike the muted light in the cell with...Scott. For some reason he clings to the boy’s name as the the stench of burning flesh registers, and he realizes that the pain is something being burned into his flesh.

He blinks rapidly, trying to focus past the brightness and the tears blurring his vision, tries to turn his head to see who is doing this to him. Doesn’t even realize that he’d still been screaming until he stops, heaves in a deep, stuttering breath despite the renewed pain in his chest, and bites down hard on his lower lip to keep from giving in to the broken whimpers trying to escape from his throat.

When he finally manages to get his eyes to do something like focus there are two men looming over him, backlit by a ceiling mounted light shining directly down on him and faces concealed by surgical masks. One of them’s turning away, putting something down with a clattering noise on a surface he can’t see, while the other is...peeling away the bandaging on his chest that he’d only vaguely registered before. It pulls at abused flesh, and he’s opening his mouth to...protest? Demand answers? Maybe it’s only to scream again as the pain mounts. He’s not actually sure.

“Good afternoon, X-19.” It’s not either of the men standing over him and his mouth closes with an audible click of teeth as he tries--and fails, his head and stomach rebelling at the effot--to turn his head enough to see whoever’s speaking. “So nice of you to join us, I’ve been looking forward to the opportunity to...chat with you.”

The voice is oily and grating, accompanied by the hollow ring of footsteps on a concrete floor as it comes closer. Just as Alex catches sight of its owner in his peripheral vision, though, his attention is very emphatically diverted, and he jerks against his restraints again with a barked curse, looks down to see blood welling up from the reddened, blistered skin on the left side of his chest and the sight of it makes his stomach twist even more intensely than the pain and he has to look away. And directly into a pair of flat, dark eyes regarding him like something found hiding under a rock...or maybe on the bottom of a shoe.

“It’s unfortunate, really, that you appear to be immune to the effects of your own power-” The man reaches out and taps sharply on Alex’s sternum, just to the side of the worst of the burns...and directly over where his power breaks free of his body. “But not to its effects on your surroundings. Being pinned by a super-heated metal beam burns you just as badly as it does a human being.” The man’s voice is almost inflectionless, and yet it somehow manages to imply that Alex is very far from being a human being. Is, in fact, something so far beneath a human being as to be laughable.

“Fuck...you,” he manages to grind out, only then tasting the coppery tang of blood from where he bit through his own lip. A sharp pain in his chest turns his defiance into another choked off howl of pain, though, and as he blinks the world back into focus he realizes that the sick fuck had dug his finger into the worst of his burns. He’s looking at the bloody ooze on his fingers with distaste when Alex manages to focus on his face again, and he reaches down to wipe it off on Alex’s pant leg before looking back to his face.

“Language, X-19,” he chides sharply. “You’ll speak to your betters with respect,” and Alex’s stomach does a slow roll. Even in prison he had a name, he was a person, however reviled, but this man makes it more than obvious that he’s nothing. Alex doesn’t even realize that the men in masks--doctors?--have finished whatever they were doing until the other man makes a sharp motion with one hand.

“Leave it,” he commands, and the way he says it Alex isn’t sure if the ‘it’ refers to the dressings they were just starting to reapply or to...him. “Now, I have a few questions for you, X-19,” the man begins, and Alex shivers in fear he doesn’t want to acknowledge as he realizes the man is pulling on a pair of surgical gloves. “And I very strongly suggest that you answer them to my satisfaction.”

“Fuck y-” He doesn’t even manage to finish before gloved fingers are being pressed viciously into burned flesh, but he manages to clench his teeth tight against the scream that wants to escape.

“Wrong answer,” he voice tells him, cold and utterly disinterested in his pain. Some part of Alex’s mind thinks that it would be better, easier somehow, if the man seemed to be taking any pleasure in what he’s doing to him, but if he’s not completely indifferent to it then he’s doing an amazing job of pretending to be.

“Where are Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr?” The question actually catches him by surprise, more for the way the man’s strung the two names together like he believes he’s asking a question with one answer, and Alex wonders if he--they? He doesn’t even know how the fucker is, or who he’s working for--actually think that Erik is still with them.

“Where are Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr?” the man repeats, when Alex has apparently been silent too long. He blinks a couple of times, clearing his vision, and looks directly into the man’s eyes.

“Fu-” He doesn’t manage not to scream this time, even though he’s expecting the pain, and he suddenly can’t find the man’s face past the humiliating blur of tears.

“Let’s try this again.” The voice is level, toneless. Relentless. “Where are Charles Xavier and Erik Lensherr?”

“Go to he-” This time the pain only lasts for a moment before everything falls away into merciful darkness.