The latch on the trailer creaked as it was unlocked, and a moment of tense anticipation followed. [i "Now!"] yelled a voice from outside.
The doors were thrown open but before they could react, an object was chucked into the trailer and began filling it with smoke. It wasn't a knock-out gas but it choked them enough for the guards to start hauling them out without any fights.
Alex's eyes watered as he tried to cough out the lungfuls of smoke he'd inhaled. [b "Ari,"] he looked around, blinking away the tears to try and find her among the crowd.
Ari woke slightly and watched the door of the trailer.
Mystique squeezed Erik's hand gently and hoped they wouldn't be separated.
All of them were groggy and sore from the rough trip, and it was hard to tell how long they'd been traveling. The barred windows were too small to let more than slivers of light in, leading Alex to believe the trailer was mostly used for cattle. The godawful smell was also a strong indicator.
He could feel the movement slowing, and his body tensed. [b "I think they're stopping,"] he broke the silence that had fallen over them. [b "Everyone be ready."]
Ari shivered heavily against the cold of wall behind and was a bit grateful to sabertooth who had been nice enough to tuck his coat around her as best he could.
The trailer rattled as it moved, jostling everyone against each other. It was suffocating, really, even without having claustrophobia. The longer they traveled, the chill from outside started to seep in and soon enough, there were puffs of breath visible. [b "Huddle together to keep warm,"] Alex advised. [b "We're going to have to rely on body heat to keep from freezing."]
Mystique smiled at him and hugged him. "It'll be okay, Erik. I promise."
Whatever Mystique had said to him seemed to work as intended. Erik opened his eyes and looked across the cart to Ari, scanning her face as though committing it to memory. [i "Protect her..."] he repeated quietly. [i "I will do everything I can."]
[b "And you won't be alone to do it,"] Alex assured him. [b "We're all going to protect her, and save each other while doing so."]
"And we're not dealing with Hitler himself, just... A cheap knock off, okay? We'll be okay." She said trying to reassure him and thought for a moment. "Du hast mir früher gesagt, dass Ari dich an deine Tochter erinnerte, versuche dir vorzustellen, was du für sie tun würdest ... Es könnte euch beiden helfen." She whispered to him in German. It was a habit they had when they wanted to tell each other things in private, or well kind of.
Ari listened and watched them. She had taken advanced German and understood what they had said.
The older man nodded quietly, grasping his companion's hand tightly to stay calm. [i "This is not Germany,"] he repeated to himself.
It was touching, really, that a man viewed as a cruel villain had a bond with his teammates. It almost reminded Alex of Charles' place as their own mentor.
She nodded smiling softly and whispered. "There were other things too but yes...."
Erik's eyes opened slightly to lock on hers. [i "Mutant...and proud,"] his deep timber voice was shaky.
Alex watched, slightly amazed by the comfort Mystique was apparently capable of offering. He didn't know much about their history, but as long as it worked to keep Magneto calm, he wasn't going to ask questions.
Mystique sighed and looked up at him. "Remember when we first met? You were the first person besides Charles that actually liked the real me... Do you remember what you used to tell me?"
Alex could see the man's fists clenching tightly at his sides, and knew that had they not all been wearing the power-neutralizing collars, the metal of the trailer would likely be collapsing on itself. [b "Erik, listen to them, alright? Don't disappear into your head,"] his voice quivered with anxiety that the mind-games were working on their most experienced teammate.
[i "Mystique, keep talking to him,"] Michael encouraged. [i "Keep him grounded."]
Ari looked at him with sad eyes and whined softly towards him. She knew where his mind was and knew almost exactly how it felt.
"Erik, I know you're having PTSD right now... I understand, but as a friend, remember that I'm here for you, so is Ari and her family... Just try to take some deep breaths, okay? Focus on... Oh, what did Charles always say?" The blue skinned woman paused to think and hugged him tightly hoping it would help. "You know what, just focus on me, okay?"
The elder mutant's eyes were tightly shut, his skin taking on a pale pallor. For the first time since being taken hostage, Alex's heart sank at the realization of what must be going through Magneto's head. [b "Erik, talk to us. Let us help,"] he added.
Magneto shook his head. [i "I cannot do this again."]
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