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It wasn't supposed to be like this. This wasn’t supposed to happen to them. How the hell had everything gone so wrong? How had something that was supposed to be simple ended up with them in such hell? This wasn’t supposed to happen! Yet all the rage in the world would not change what was happening to them. The mission was supposed to have been routine. It was supposed to be simple. That was why they were the group they were; Charles had called it a kind of training exercise. New experiences for some older members and practice for others. All they had to do was perform a little surveillance, see if the rumors around this building might be true. It was rumored that there might be a black market set up there for mutant trafficking. A stop, so to speak, along the way to the actual sales. All they were to do was surveillance, gather information. So how had it ended this way?

One minute, the group of them had been in their hotel rooms, all of them sleeping. Betsy, Rogue and Jubilee in one room, Remy and Spencer in another, and Warren and Scott in the last. Seven of them to gather information and plan what needed to be done. Betsy, Rogue and Jubilee had never done this kind of intelligence gathering and Scott wanted them trained on what to do. Warren was there as a senior member to help just in case things went wrong. Spencer and Remy were there because, of them all, the two were best with electronics and Scott wanted them there to get past security and potentially hack into the man’s computers. Remy had the best skills there, but Spencer had control of electricity and he could easily manipulate the computers. So far, they’d managed to gather some information, working slowly to try not to tip the man off.

When had they gone wrong?

There had been some kind of concussive blast that not even their Psi’s had been alerted to before it hit. Then, they were all unconscious.

They’d woken up here. In hell.

Hell was a set of prison cells. Two, right across a wide hall from one another, facing each other. Warren, Scott, and Betsy were in one cell while Remy, Spencer, Rogue and Jubilee were in the other. Each one of them wore an inhibitor collar around their necks. They’d woken up terrified, yet strong. Strong because they had one another and they were confident someone would come for them. Someone would worry when they didn’t check in and they would come for them. They’d even stayed confident as the man they’d been researching came down the stairs into their little hell. While their rooms were metal, all around them the rest of this room was stone. Stone floor, stone wall to the one side, and on the other a single stone staircase leading up. Only one light hung from the center of the ceiling in the middle area between the two cells.

“Welcome, X-Men.” The man—they had found many names for him, but he seemed to be using the alias Alan Rice at the time—smiled from his spot directly between their cells. “So nice of you all to join me. It’s such a pleasure having you here! Allow me to welcome you to my home!”

“Pardon me if we’re not entirely ecstatic.” Scott said dryly. Ever the leader, he rose and made his way to the edge of the cell. To the world, Scott looked calm, almost casual. To those that knew him, they knew it was a cover. He was aiming for causal as he threaded his hands through the bars so he could rest his arms on one of the horizontal bars. “To what do we owe the honor of this, visit?”

The man turned toward him, motioning to his four guards by the stairs, keeping them still when they would have moved forward at Scott’s impertinence. Alan just cocked his head a little at Scott and grinned. “I think you know, my dear Cyclops. You and your little team here have been rooting around my business a little too much for comfort. I couldn’t just allow that to happen, now could I?”

“I don’t know. I wouldn’t have minded.” Scott returned.

Alan let out a long laugh before shaking his head. “You amuse me. When this is done, I might see if I can keep you with me. It is rather tempting. But, business is business, and I have someone on the line already who is very, very interested in buying the entire lot of you. So, here you will stay until your new master arrives to take you home. With your collars, I doubt you’ll cause much trouble.” And without another word, Alan turned to walk away, leaving them staring at him in shock.

Before Remy or Spencer could stop her, Rogue flung herself at the bars, her voice echoing as she shouted up at him. “Hey! I aint some property to be bought or sold, yah fucker! Let me the hell outta here before I..!” She cut off as Remy clamped a hand over her mouth and yanked her backwards.

It was too late.

As he went up the stairs, Alan paused, looking back at his guards. “Show them what happens when one disobeys here. But only one. We can’t afford to damage more than that.” He told them. Then he left. The four guards turned toward their cell and Spencer's stomach lurched when he saw the guns they pulled out. Horror gripped him. One of the guys held up a little remote. “Do anything stupid, we’ll zap you or we’ll shoot. Now, against the wall.” He snarled out. What else could they do? They backed to the wall, Spencer keeping Jubilee by him while Remy kept Rogue close.

The two men stepped in and looked at the four of them, eyes traveling over them. Spencer knew the feeling of that kind of look. He knew, deep in his gut, what was coming next. Just as he knew there was nothing he could do to stop it. He wanted to throw up. He wanted to scream. One of the guys stared at Spencer for a moment before finally looking at Jubilee. “You. Get out here.”

Spencer yanked Jubilee closer, trying to shelter her body behind his. The collar around his neck suddenly came to life and he felt a current dance over his body, dropping him down to the ground with a hoarse groan that he tried to hold in, the electricity he normally controlled now turned against him. What happened next he didn’t know, but he heard shouts and thuds. When the shock stopped and he looked up again, they were dragging Jubilee out of the cell and everyone was shouting, Jubilee was screaming and crying and the guards were laughing. They didn’t even have the door shut before they were yanking at her coat. Spencer didn’t think about what he was doing. He didn’t stop to think about anything but the girl he knew he had to protect. He flung himself off the floor, right at the bars, and he shouted at them, begged with them the same as everyone else was doing. None of it was working.

The profiler in Spencer came to life and he scanned them all, looking them over and trying to gauge them. Then, as always happened for him, his mind went to work, running better than ever under extreme stress. “Are you kidding me?” He shouted at the guards. “All of us here and you’re picking the little girl? Some men you are!”

That caught their attention. It also caught the attention of the others around him. Spencer didn’t care. He put a sneer on his face and looked them over as if the men were pathetic. “All the choices in the world and you’re going to rape a child? Wow, takes a real fucking man to do that. What fun is she gonna give you, huh?” Without realizing it, Spencer's language slipped, reverting to a different time in his life. “I bet the kid can’t even get a good scream. Some fucking men you guys are. Can you only get it up for kids, huh? Is that it? Only little girls make these big strong men get it up?”

Remy lunged toward him and Spencer had no qualms about shoving him off. With a glare at the man, Spencer turned away. “I bet that’s it. A little impotence problem. Things are getting soft enough you’ve gotta resort to stupid little girls. You can’t handle a real fighter.”

His profiling worked. Men like these, they weren’t hard to read, weren’t hard to manipulate through sex. Spencer had known the instant he’d opened his mouth exactly what his words were going to do if he succeeded and he’d prayed he was right.

He was.

They dragged Jubilee back in, throwing her to the others, and a fist wrapped in Spencer's hair as more shouts echoed around them. He heard Remy’s pained scream and he hated that his love had to see this. Hated that his brother was across the way, screaming just as loudly, begging and pleading, anything. Hated that they would see what was about to be done. But better him that Jubilee. Better he take another smudge on his soul than be forced to watch her innocence be ripped away from her in the worst way possible.

Hands dragged at him, pulled at his clothes, yanking on his hair. Spencer was thrown to the ground, the fist in his hair yanking his head back, and a voice hissed in his ear “I’ll show you who the fucking man is, you little bitch. We’ll see how pretty you scream.”

When they moved him, Spencer spat at them, right in one of their faces, making sure they stayed focused on him and not on the people screaming at them. “Go to hell.” The backhand to the face had his head spinning.

It all blurred together after that. Everything was a blur of pain and blood and fists. Shouts echoing in the air and screams that he didn’t know if they came from his friends or from him. Pain, ripping him in half, pummeling him, until he was as limp as a rag doll in their hands. When they threw him back into the cell, laughing before shutting it and leaving, he flopped to the ground the same as a rag doll. There he lay, bruised and beaten and bloody. They’d left him no clothes; those still lay out on the floor in pieces. Blood was all over him, smeared on his skin. Vaguely he wondered if bones were broken.

Across the hall it was taking the combined efforts of Warren and Betsy to keep Scott from hurting himself trying to get through the bars. Betsy had her arms around Scott, pinning his arms to his sides. They were kneeling on the ground and tears were pouring down Betsy’s cheeks. Warren was kneeling in front of them, trying to shelter them with his wings, trying to shield Scott’s eyes, but the man didn’t want to be blinded. He wanted to see. Had to see. Had to see his baby brother.

Through it all, Rogue and Jubilee had tried to hold Remy back as well. The Cajun had been screaming as badly as Scott, screaming and swearing until he was hoarse, his hands reaching through the bars to try to stop them. Now that they had thrown him back in, the girls let go and Remy rushed over to him, dropping down beside him. He didn’t have his coat, but he yanked his shirt off, gently laying it over his love’s abused frame. Tears poured in rivers down Remy’s cheeks. He kept his hands back, not wanting to touch him, and Spencer knew Remy was trying not to scare him. But Remy could never scare him. Not his sweet Cajun. It hurt, oh how it hurt, but Spencer moved one hand, sliding it over the cold ground, reaching out to Remy. He needed the contact between them. More than anything else, he needed to feel him. Needed that sense of safety that Remy’s presence always brought him.

When he felt Remy’s fingers hesitantly touch his, Spencer made a choked sound, his grip tightening. He tried to pull on their hands and hated how weak his tug was. Remy understood, though. He lay down on the ground and gently, hesitantly, reached out to Spencer. It was beyond simply painful to move, yet when Remy’s arms reached for him, Spencer made himself move toward them. Move until his head was pillowed on Remy’s arm and the man’s other arm curled over him protectively. Move until he could bury his face against Remy’s chest and breathe him in, breathe in the familiar spice that was his Cajun. Shudders ran up and down Spencer's whole frame from the cold and from the close contact, yet he didn’t care. Half of him wanted to turn into a screaming, jabbering mess. That half wanted to shove Remy away and get the man’s hands off of him, keep any hands off of him. The rest of him needed this more than he needed air. Needed to be held against Remy’s chest and reassured he still had one safe place in the world. That he still had this man.

Something touched him and he almost screamed, his whole body jerking painfully and he practically climbed into Remy’s arms to get away from that foreign touch. It took a long moment for Remy’s voice to break through his panic. “Sh, Cher, I’m here. I got y’, mon cœur. I’m right here and I got y’. Remy’s got y’.” He didn’t bother trying to tell him he was okay, that it was okay, when they both knew nothing was okay. Over and over he repeated that soothing litany until Spencer's heart rate finally calmed and he was breathing normally once more. He felt Remy’s head shift, didn’t know he was looking at Rogue, the woman who had tried to touch him. “Don’t worry bout cleaning him up f’ now, Roguie. Aint nothing here dat’s gonna make him feel clean and he can’t bear de touch.” Truer words had never been spoken. There was nothing here he could use to wash away the feel of their touch, the traces of themselves they’d left on him, in him. Wiping them away with a dirty shirt wouldn’t erase them.

Over in their cell, Warren surprised the others with him by reaching up and unbuttoning his shirt before pulling it off. The shirt had special marks in the back for his wings; it was his sleep shirt, the one he’d been wearing when they’d been taken from the hotel. He pulled it off now and bundled it up, tying it in a giant knot to make it a little more solid, before reaching through the bars. “Rogue!” he called out, drawing her eyes. “Try to catch.”

She caught on quickly and moved, stretching her arms out the bars as he threw the material as hard as he could. The knot gave it enough weight that it sailed right to her. She pulled the material inside and undid it before bringing it over and handing it to Remy. She didn’t bother trying to put it on Spencer. His reaction to her previous touch was still burned in her mind. As she watched Remy tuck the shirt around Spencer, covering the man’s back since Remy’s shirt already covered his waist, she felt tears slide down her cheeks once more. Off to the side she saw Jubilee curled up in the corner, arms around her knees. She couldn’t help Spencer but maybe she could help another friend. Going over to her, Rogue knelt down and gathered the trembling girl into her arms. Jubilee came easily, burying her face against Rogue’s shirt. With the collar on, there was no fear to touch, no fear at harming her friend. Rogue could focus on offering simple comfort.

As she held her, she was thankful that, though the horror of what might have been would stay with Jubilee for a while, she had been saved from a worse fate. Yet it had come with a hell of a cost. She rocked Jubilee and looked over to where Remy was still holding Spencer so close, whispering words no one could hear. This was her fault. If she hadn’t yelled at them, hadn’t screamed like that, they wouldn’t have come to hurt anyone. Jubilee never would’ve been taken and Spencer wouldn’t have had to provoke those men into hurting him instead. She knew that was what he had done; he had been deliberately provoking. Taunting them to take him instead of her. The look he’d worn when they came in for him had said he’d known what was coming for him. He had known and still he had done it.

Scott ached to kill someone. He ached to rip them apart, piece by piece. He didn’t need his powers to kill them. No, he would kill them by hand. He would make them suffer for every bit of suffering Spencer had gone through. For every drop of blood, every bruise, every cut off scream. They would pay for this. Oh, they would pay.

It hurt; it hurt so much. To know that Spencer had experienced pain like this before was one thing. To hear his brother whisper the broken words as he’d cried after a nightmare and confessed his pain to his brother…that had been painful enough. But to witness it? To be forced to sit here and watch what those monsters had done, it was too much. How the hell had Spencer survived this? How would he survive it now? How would any of them?

Seeing Remy had been almost as bad as looking at Spencer. With their cells across from one another, Scott had easily been able to see Remy. See the man doing the same thing as him. Clawing at the lock of the cage as if they could break free. Stretching, trying to reach to stop this somehow. Screaming. Raging. Pleading. They would both bear bruises from trying to break their way through the bars.

On his knees, Scott rocked slightly, still in Betsy’s arms. He rocked, his eyes trained through the bars to where his brother lay in Remy’s arms. Even from here he could see the way that Spencer shivered. He could see the blood that still dripped from him, pooling around him and Remy. He could see how Remy curled himself around Spencer as much as he could as if he could shelter the other man with his own body. Nothing could protect them, though. That point had been driven home very clearly. Nothing they could do could protect one another right now, except sacrificing themselves, just as Spencer had done. And in the end, that was not protection; that was simply trading one injury for another.

He couldn’t bring himself to look to the corner where Rogue and Jubilee were huddled together. As team leader, he should be trying to take care of his team right now. He should be making sure Jubilee hadn’t been hurt badly and that Rogue wasn’t beating herself up for the guilt he knew she would be feeling. He should be doing…something. Anything! Anything but kneeling here, waiting, watching the stuff of nightmares.

No one knew how much time went past. They lost track of everything around them until suddenly they heard the door by the stairs open. Never had anyone moved so fast. Warren was there, sheltering Scott and Betsy with his wings, his body braced as if for a fight. Jubilee gave a cry and tucked herself down with Rogue over her. Remy rolled himself just enough that he was sheltering over Spencer's body, an almost feral snarl on his lips. None of them expected what they saw next. It wasn’t Alan or his guards that came racing down the stairs.

It was Logan.

Everybody froze as Logan burst into view. They stared at him as if he were some mystery they couldn’t understand. Then behind him came Jean, Ororo, Bobby, and Kurt. For just a second, time stood still. Then, it was as if someone hit fast forward. Everything happened all at once. The two split into groups, Logan unlocking the cell Scott was in while Ororo was unlocking the other. Scott didn’t even register Logan’s touch. All he could see was that the way between here and there was free and he was scrambling forward, racing out of his cell.

Spencer heard all the movement and he felt Remy shift over him. Bile rose in his throat. Not again. He couldn’t do this again. Once had been bad enough. Please, please, not again! He clung tighter to Remy. A small, pathetic sound echoed around him and it took him a moment to realize that it was coming from him. He was whimpering. Even realizing it was him making that sound, he couldn’t make it stop. Remy shifted once more and Spencer went into a panic, terrified his safety was leaving him, that it was going to start all over again. With more strength than his body looked to have, he tightened his hold, moving his arms to wrap around Remy’s chest instead of gripping at his shirt, trying to pull them as close together as possible. He wanted to beg, to plead, but he knew it would do him no good. Nothing would stop them from what they wanted to do. Just as he knew that he would offer himself all over again if it kept those with him safe.

He felt Remy’s arms curl around him, holding him close without actually restraining him. That whiskey warm voice was in his ear again as it had been for a while now, whispering to him, warming him. “Spencer, mon cœur, listen to Remy. Need y’ to hear me. It aint dem, Cher. Oh, it aint dem. Help’s come. Y’ hear me? Help is here. Wolvie’s here and dere’s m’ Stormy and here comes y’r frère, coming to see y’, mon amour.”

Help? Help was here? Spencer felt air shudder out of him. Remy wouldn’t lie to him. He wouldn’t lie, especially about something like this. They were saved. They were saved. The strength Spencer had been clutching seemed to fade away and he sagged against Remy, the tears he’d kept at bay now slipping up to his eyes. Remy’s voice sounded strange, distant, and Spencer knew he was losing his battle with consciousness but he didn’t care. Secure in Remy’s arm, secure in the knowledge that help was here, Spencer gave in and let the darkness swallow him. They were safe.

They were safe.