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Finding Family

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“But they can’t force him back to the Mansion if he doesn’t want to go!”

 

Wade sat back with a sigh, slowly rubbing a hand down his scarred face. “Keep in mind that Rem’s underage now. He doesn’t have a legal guardian at the moment, and the X-Men could try using that to force him to return, whether he is willing or not. They’ve established themselves as a school specifically for underage mutants and seeing how Rem is both a teenager and a mutant, it would be a notch in their favor if this winds up getting to a trial…” The mercenary made a face as he spoke, knowing that it wouldn’t be in Rem’s best interest to return to a place where he had been openly mocked and despised for his past. “And at his current age, Rem’s features are superficially similar to both Scott Summers and Jean Grey-Summers. They could claim they’re distantly related to him- not immediate family, but cousins or something.”

 

Tony growled as he paced across the floor, the eyes of everyone tracking him as he did so. He didn’t like this; things weren’t adding up in his mind but Wade was adamant that Rem hadn’t heard the last of the X-Men and that if they found out that he was still alive, they’d try to get him back. “If he’s that important to the X-Men, then why was he left to die in near sub-zero temperatures? It makes no sense for them to do that if they would be willing to go so far to get him back. For what reason would they be so desperate to get their hands on him in his current state? Especially when most of them appear to have loathed him?”

 

The merc stilled as he watched Tony pace, feeling a little like he was betraying Rem’s confidence in him but knowing that they were a team now and the things he knew weren’t known by anyone else. Wade wasn’t doing this to hurt Rem but to protect him. “The reality, Tony, is that when his powers are unbound, Rem is an omega class mutant-- he’s on the same tier as Jean herself,” he explained, knowing he had caught the genius’ attention with the way Tony’s gaze focused directly on him. “Rem’s had his eyes since birth; his other powers didn’t manifest until he was a teenager. He told me all about it; everything he touched that wasn’t flesh or bone exploded, starting with little things like silverware and eventually growing to include larger and larger items. When he was banished from New Orleans, Rem was devastated because he lost the first place he thought of as home. At the same time, his kinetic power had increased dramatically and one night, he brushed a stone wall with his fingers and the entire warehouse charged and exploded. Rem couldn’t pull it back into himself to stop it from happening and he began getting desperate for a way to make it stop since his mutant powers seemingly had no limit and he didn’t want to hurt anyone. That was why when an unknown scientist approached him to offer help, Rem accepted because no one else had done so by that point. Unfortunately, that same scientist was the one who was really behind what happened to the Morlocks.” Wade paused, forcing his anger at that situation down before he continued. “That’s one reason Rem needs his charging powers dampened down; he can’t control them at full strength and if he doesn’t use them often enough it gives him severe headaches. The X-Men know all about it, of course, or at least the good Professor did. With him no longer there, Jean and Scott are the ones in charge of the school. The X-Men may disapprove of Rem’s past but they aren’t above using it or his misplaced guilt to manipulate him for their own ends. And they’d never let him willingly leave them when they honestly think the worst of him and that he would turn his powers on them… What happened in Antarctica- I’m certain that Jean and Scott weren’t behind it, though they won’t care unless it comes back to bite them in their asses. As in, they have to face the repercussions of the years of pain, isolation, and mental torture they put Rem through to make themselves feel better. For them, it’s all about controlling him for the ‘greater good’. Ren only ever spoke of one particular X-Men as being a friend to him in that whole damn team and it sure as hell wasn’t Iceman, Angel, Cyclops, Beast, Rogue, Jean, or even Storm herself. She cared about Rem in her own way but not enough to stand up for him against the rest of the team.” Wade shifted in his chair, wishing for the thousandth time that he’d been able to get through to Rem before the X-Men got such a tight grip on him. Of course, they’d done their best to keep him and Rem separated on the claim that he was a bad influence on the redhead but still… Maybe it wasn’t too late for him to go carve out some vengeance for Rem in the flesh of the ones who’d hurt him the most with his katanas?

 

“So the whole thing is about controlling him, and they’d be willing to fuck around in his head just to have it.” Zevrael hissed, his icy blue eyes flashing with anger at the very idea. The more he heard about the team that Rem had been on that had left him to die, the less he liked them. It was easy to see the simmering anger beneath the exterior of the normally composed mercenary and the elf couldn’t fault Wade for it. Dorian nodded with his assessment, his face stony but eyes filled with fury. “And they’d have no issue claiming that it’s for his own good, no doubt…”

 

Wade nodded and added, “Exactly right, Zevrael. Not just control of his powers but of him -- to make sure he can’t use those powers on them or in ways they would disapprove of.”

 

Tony made a wordless noise of anger and frustration as he flung himself into his seat beside Stephen, who immediately wrapped his arms around his agitated soulmate. “Then we must make sure they can’t get their hands on him in any kind of legal sense. Wade, did Rem agree with the plan we proposed?”

 

“To being adopted by one of us? Yeah, Rem actually seemed kind of happy with the idea, Tony. God knows he could use some decent parents who will actually give a damn about him and not some assholes only caring about what his powers can do for them… ” Wade muttered the last part under his breath.

 

Craig, sitting close by, gave the merc a quick smirk at the comment. “The question is who it should be. There are several candidates here and only two lines on the form.”

 

A few seconds of silence passed before Aria spoke up. “Wade, you’ve known Rem the longest. Would you be opposed to adopting him?” she questioned, looking at him inquiringly.

 

Wade winced and shook his head quickly in a negative response. “In any other alternate universe, I would do it in a heartbeat,” the scarred man stated seriously “The problem is that we’ve had sex and going from that to a father figure for Rem would be rather awkward for us both...”

 

Several people choked on air and Minowa had to smack Bridget’s back a few times to help dislodge the water she’d inhaled at the comment. “Excuse me, you did what ?!” The Restoration Master finally managed to screech, and every Reaper in the room immediately sat back in their chair away from the now irate mage. Wade looked confused but by that point, Bridget had launched into her own rant. “Have you taken leave of your senses completely?! He is 17 years old, and you are much older than he is! That would be considered statutory rape, and that doesn’t even begin to take into consideration the physical and emotional implications involved in engaging in such acts with a minor! Even if he asked for it, you should have known better than to indulge in such a thing, no matter how long you’ve known him for!” Wade was staring wide-eyed at the woman as she jumped from her seat and began to storm around the room, waving her hands wildly. “That doesn’t even take into consideration the environment he came from previously, nor any prior experiences he’s had in such acts! And those teammates that he was with! We’ve already established they weren’t the nicest group, so how do you know he isn’t just bending under the accumulated pressure of the emotional and physical trauma they put him through coupled with the sudden whiplash of coming to an environment as supportive as this one?! I ought to feed your male extremities to a fire atronach, you lecherous, idiotic twat!”

 

Wade’s hands instantly moved to cover his manly bits. “Whoa, hold on! I like my parts where they are, thanks!” he protested, the mercenary going to speak further before he was cut off.

 

“Maybe you should’ve considered that before even thinking about touching Rem, let alone actually touching him!” Tony snapped in response, his mind already flying through the possibilities of the X-Men finding out and using the information against them. It didn’t matter how long Wade had known the redhead, Rem was in no way ready to be in any kind of sexual relationship, not after the trauma he’d been through so recently. He could see that the others were giving the merc dark looks as well, none of it surprised him in the slightest considering his own outrage over Wade having sex with a teenager!

 

A huff of aggravation escaped the hazel-eyed man and he pulled his gun from his belt, firing it into the ceiling to quiet the room. “ He was 30 years old when it first happened-- the first time he and I slept together!! ” He hollered into the sudden silence that followed. “When Tony hit him with his glowstick powers of the fountain of youth, he was 34! I would never even consider having sex with a minor of any kind! I…  Rem… It’s complicated but Rem has enough going on right now that he doesn’t need to add to anything else to it...” There was another moment of absolute silence at that announcement before several apologies were immediately issued to the man. Wade let the corner of his mouth quirk into a small smile as he holstered his pistol again. “Hey, I’m just glad that you guys care so much. It’s good to not be the only one who gives a damn about Rem anymore. I’ve done my best to protect and take care of him but… As evidenced by what happened to Rem with the X-Men, it’s not always enough and I wasn’t always around when he needed me.” The merc grimaced, gripping the table in front of him tightly, anger and guilt swirling inside of him. “I let both Pete and Rem down this time; thank God Pete had you, Tony. I was so focused on trying to track down what the hell was going on with Rem that I didn’t check in on Peter and let him know that I was back in town so he’d know I was around if he needed help. I can’t afford to make that mistake again; Peter lost his Aunt forever and Rem damn near died.” Being basically unkillable meant nothing when those he cared for the most were hurting.

 

Tony’s eyes snapped to Wade, narrowing to slits. “Wade Wilson, don’t you fucking dare .” He barked, and the sharp words from the genius caused the merc to sit straight in his chair with a stunned look on his face. “I know who’s to blame for what happened to May, and unless you’re one of Fury’s roadies, that wouldn’t be you. And you weren’t the one to leave Rem for dead in a frozen wasteland, the fault for that is on the X-Men. You were being pulled in two different directions trying to help two different people. That things happened the way they did was just piss poor luck. And you’re a damn good mercenary, and an amazing friend, but you’re just one man , Wade. Speaking from personal experience, the solo act usually ends in things like this. You can trust that we’ll watch your back, and we’ll protect both Peter and Rem with our lives.” His voice had softened towards the end, and he was now gracing the scarred man with a reassuring smile that the merc returned, a sheepish look in his hazel eyes. “And we do care, trust me. But there has to be a better way of getting our attention than putting bullet holes in my ceiling!” Tony lamented even as he was waving his hand and repairing the damage.

 

Wade shot the genius a wide, toothy grin and relaxed into his seat again. “But it’s the quickest and most effective, so it’s what I’m sticking to.” This prompted a few chuckles, and the tension faded from the room. “Look, even if I could be considered as a candidate for this, I wouldn’t be the best choice.”

 

That caused several looks of confusion from everyone present. “But you know Rem the best,” Stephen pointed out, “and you’ve known him the longest?” The sorcerer trailed off at the end, a questioning tone in his voice.

 

“Yeah, that’s true,” Wade agreed with a wry smile, “but Rem already has two people that he regards as parental figures.” He turned and pointed with a flourish to Dorian and Zevrael, who blinked in stunned confusion. “Oh come on, really? Out of everyone in this room-- hell, even this building -- Rem listens to and respects you two the most. He holds you both in higher regard than a freaking Norse god . Even I can’t hold a candle to Loki-- smug bastard would just put it out anyway-- so if you two are currently the ones holding the highly coveted title of ‘people Rem would trust with his life and livelihood’, why the hell would I try and usurp that position when you’ve clearly earned it?” The Pavus men looked at each other, shocked realization on their faces even as Wade continued. “You two managed to convince him to stop smoking and drinking. Guys, I’ve been trying to get him to quit for years and have gotten nowhere. You two managed to accomplish something that I never could, and I can honestly say I wouldn’t trust anyone else as much as I would trust you two in terms of taking care of Rem, one of my best friends and more.”

 

Dorian and Zevrael took a moment to huddle together and speak in soft whispers, and the rest of the group waited on their response with eager anticipation. Finally, after a full three minutes, they turned back to Wade. “I won’t lie…” Zev began, looking almost hesitant. “We’ve both come to care for Rem very much. We would both be willing and beyond thrilled if we were allowed to adopt him.” Dorian nodded at his husband's words, unable to speak around the sudden lump in his throat.

 

The merc gave them a grin and nodded sharply. “Rem deserves the best in the world, and I think you two will fit the bill quite nicely.”

 

A soft cheer rose from the group, congratulations being called out by several people. “Alright!” Tony announced as the noise settled again. “Now all we need to do is make this official! Now, where in the world is--?” His question cut off with a hiss as his hand flew to the back of his head, prompting several alarmed noises. The genius suddenly paled dramatically, fear lancing through him. “FRIDAY,” He called up to the ceiling, “Where is Rem right now, and why is my ward on him going off?”

 

“I’m not sure-- Boss, Rem is no longer in the Compound!”

 

WHAT?!

 

Wade swore viciously as he surged to his feet with the rest of the Reapers. “Are you for fu--?! Okay, he and I are gonna have words when we get back, I swear. He was told not to leave the Compound, right?”

 

Tony was already calling his Reaper uniform to him, a mixture of anger, worry, and outright terror on his face. “Yes, he was. How the hell did he get past FRIDAY?!”

 

“Tony, remember that Rem is a Master Thief. He managed to sneak in and out of the Louvre completely undetected before.” Wade quickly made sure he had all of his weaponry securely attached as he continued to speak. “He wouldn’t have snuck out without a good reason, though. What I’m worried about right now is this-- what is he doing that would cause your wards to go off like that?”

 

--- Earlier, Rem’s POV ---

 

Sneaking out of the Compound had been even easier than Rem had thought it would be, especially with the adults having their meeting about him. As such, he had found himself outside far faster than anticipated, the redhead taking his time once he got far enough away to avoid being caught by any of the surveillance cameras. Even though he was friendly with everyone there, it was a bit nice to be on his own, though he felt just a tiny bit guilty. Rem shoved his hands into the pockets of the shirt he’d liberated from the Pavus’ dresser, enjoying the soft feel of the material and exhaling slowly. Yes, he knew he wasn’t supposed to leave on his own but… what harm could it do?

 

Just a quick trip to the nearby town and back and no harm done, plus he would have the surprise he wanted to get Dorian and Zevrael for helping him. If he timed it just right, he’d be back before anyone even realized that he’d left and, after all, he wasn’t really a kid. Two weeks of being with a new, caring team had reassured him that he was worthy of such caring, though a tiny part of him still held a sliver of doubt. Maybe that was the reason for his defiance today, to see if their words translated into actions. After all, Rem had known plenty of empty words and promises in his life.

 

It wasn’t until some time after he had hiked into the distant town and was browsing around doing some window shopping that the teenager realized something was amiss. Feeling a dark stirring within his empathy that was far too familiar, his eyes widened beneath the sunglasses he wore to conceal their unnatural hue. It couldn’t be… How ? Not here, not now… This was the first time he had even gone outside since arriving at the Compound, so how could he have known? It was too far for him to go back and not having a cell phone of his own, Rem had no way to call the Compound and alert them to this situation.

 

Scanning the area, he swallowed hard when he saw a familiar, looming figure, their eyes locking together momentarily before the larger male gave him a predatory smile. The redhead’s lips parted in fear before he turned and dashed off, hoping to find another way out of the town as quickly as possible. In the windows he passed, he could see that his stalker was still there, moving through the crowd with a clear mission in mind until the larger mutant suddenly disappeared, Rem swallowing hard, his eyes darting around as he looked to see where Sabertooth might have gone. There was no chance he’d given up, especially since he knew that Rem was here alone.

 

His reappearance came just seconds before Rem’s empathy warned him, the sick feeling of the feral’s dark lust suddenly penetrating through the mutant’s mental shields right after he was grabbed suddenly by the blue shirt he wore and dragged into the nearby dark, empty, and narrow alley. As a large hand with sharp nails smacked the sunglasses from his face, the teenager gasped and began fiercely kicking against Sabertooth and struggling in his grip, trying to find something he could charge and use as a weapon.

 

Of course, the redhead knew that it was in vain; they’d done this countless times before and the outcome had always been the same. Victor’s damn healing factor gave him the advantage and the bastard knew how to use his empathic abilities against him. Regardless, Rem wasn’t going to just give in without trying his best to get away from the obsessed feral, his glowing red eyes meeting Sabertooth’s as he glared openly at the man who’d brutalized him for years.

 

Not even given a moment to say anything, Rem yelped in pain as he was shoved against the brick wall of the nearest building, hissing in pain at the feel of it scraping against the back of his head, defiance in his gaze as Sabertooth adjusted his grip. Grabbing both of Gambit’s wrists easily and holding him in place with his arms now above his head, the blond, muscular feral smirked and licked his lips, no doubt enjoying his fear and pain as Rem felt his heart pounding faster.

 

Leaning in to inhale Gambit’s scent, Victor’s smirk grew when the redhead feebly tried to wriggle out of his hold. The larger mutant pushed him back into the wall again, Gambit’s head once again colliding with the wall hard, an unfeigned wince on the teen’s face as he sagged slightly within Sabertooth’s grasp. Rem cringed when a tongue trailed up the smooth column of his neck, sharp teeth nipping on his sensitive throat in several places and leaving visible marks. “S-Stop it!” he gasped, jerking again but having to stop as pain exploded in his head at the sudden movement.

 

“I knew the rumors of your death had to be an exaggeration, boy ,” Sabertooth drawled, bringing his face close to his captive’s with a smirk, running a single, sharp nail along his cheek and enjoying the hiss as blood began seeping from the wound. Licking at the blood, his smile deepened at the Cajun’s demand to let him go. Eying him knowingly, the feral male inhaled Gambit’s fear/pain/anger scent eagerly, nosing at his throat greedily, his eyes never leaving the younger mutant’s as he began trailing his thumb across the younger’s full, rosy lips. “Don’t know what happened to you, boy , but you’re just as pretty as you were the first time I laid eyes on you.”

 

Absently, almost tenderly, he raked his nails along the shirt that hid Gambit’s skin from view, enjoying the sound of his whimper as his lean chest was laid bare, Sabertooth studying the now teenager with slight fascination and exploring the newly bared, bleeding flesh greedily with the fingertips of his free hand. His warm skin was as smooth as it had been all those years ago, though the defiant look in Gambit’s eyes never changed. Blood now stained the remnants of the blue shirt that remained as Sabertooth brought his mouth in close to press their lips together, growling darkly when a sharp pair of teeth snapped at his lips.

 

Narrowing his eyes, the feral adjusted tactics immediately, releasing Gambit’s hands to grab hold of his throat, squeezing it tight until he saw the redhead’s gaze growing unfocused as he gasped for air helplessly. Relaxing his grip just enough to keep his prey conscious, Sabertooth smirked before deliberately placing the sharpest part of his thumbnail directly at the artery upon the teen’s neck. “You do something like that again and you die here, boy ,” he hissed into the teen’s ear, knowing that although Gambit hated this, the redhead did not want to die. Moving quickly, he brought their mouths together in a mockery of a kiss that Sabertooth dominated completely, the feral biting into his captive’s lower lip and swallowing the blood that trickled into his mouth with enjoyment. The Cajun tasted exquisite when the blond mutant pushed his tongue inside his mouth to explore it hungrily, a delicacy that Sabertooth couldn’t indulge in too often if he didn’t wish to inadvertently kill him. Ignoring the tears running down Gambit’s face silently as he reached down and ripped the belt that held his jeans up, Victor ran his fingers down the trim waist eagerly and greedily over his clothed hips, tearing his pants down slowly.

 

Squeezing his eyes shut as Sabertooth began messing with his jeans, Rem shivered helplessly, trapped within the hazy, overpowering need that the older mutant’s emotions had pushed into him, the nail on his throat pressing in further when he momentarily attempted to move. Right now, he wished he’d never left the Compound, a soft, helpless sob leaving the redhead when he was kissed against his will for a second time, Victor’s tongue forcing its way back into his mouth, the mental anguish just as painful as the physical. He hurt , his head was in agony, and Rem longed for Dorian, Zevrael, Wade, or Tony to be here, knowing deep inside that no matter how angry they were at him for sneaking out of the Compound, they wouldn’t allow this to happen to him. Rem would happily welcome help from anyone right now, even the Punisher.

 

The feral was so engrossed in what he was doing to the teenager that he had failed to notice the corridor that opened behind him, Gambit pinned in place between his body and the wall and seemingly resigned to what was coming. “I’m gonna enjoy breaking you in all over again, boy …” he growled in a husky promise, giving him yet another lustful kiss. Gambit was so beautiful when lost in the emotions that overwhelmed his empathy, the feral mused darkly, all dazed, flushed, and disoriented beneath his touch. Less than a moment after Victor spoke, there was a wordless cry of unbridled rage before a flash of blue arched through the air, severing the hand on Rem’s throat at the wrist. Sabertooth lurched back with a deep roar of pain, clutching the stump where his hand had been as Rem dropped to the ground painfully.

 

Dorian and Zevrael sprinted through the corridor before skidding to a complete stop for a moment at the sight that greeted them. A moment later they were next to Rem, gathering the trembling teenager into their arms protectively. The mutant clung tightly to them, alternately apologizing and incoherent whimpers with tears flowing down his pale face, his eyes unfocused as he gazed upon them. The husbands gently shushed him as they looked up to see what was going on with Tony; the sight they were greeted with was as awe-inspiring as it was terrifying.

 

They were familiar with Tony in the capacity of Iron Man, but the feral mutant in front of the genius wasn’t facing Iron Man. He was facing Anthony Stark, Right Hand of the Master of Death.

 

The instant Tony had stepped through the corridor and seen the situation-- the way the large man had Rem pressed against the wall and trapped in a clearly unwilling kiss, Rem’s ripped and bloody shirt with his belt ripped in two and his jeans being inched down slowly-- he’d seen red and had already been stalking forward to put an end to the vile scene playing out. Then he’d heard the disgusting words the blond male had said about breaking Rem in again. White hot rage flooded the man, and with a wordless cry Tony had called forth a weapon he had built during his time in the Nexus, one that rarely saw use unless under the most extreme of circumstances. The black gunmetal handle formed in his hand, the various joints and seams glowing a brilliant blue that was reminiscent of the glow from the arc reactor. The top sported a wicked curved blade, the black metal edged by glowing blue and the razor-sharp edge resonating with the Reaper’s magic, allowing Tony to channel spells through the blade. The entire weapon seemed to thrum with a mixture of both arcane magic and the nearly inaudible whirring and shifting of gears. Into the pommel of the handle, Tony had hand-etched the symbol of the Deathly Hallows.

 

As Tony turned to the snarling mutant who was now clutching the stump of his arm, he couldn’t help but feel a flash of vindictive pleasure at the look on the bastard’s face. He took a moment to glance towards the trio against the wall to ascertain their well being, making sure they were safe before moving onto the filth in front of him. As his eyes found Rem, something in him stood straight at attention at the dazed look in the teen’s eyes and the completely incoherent words coming from him. He felt a flicker of something in his mind, and it only took a second for him to speak. “Zevrael, Dorian, take Rem back to the Compound immediately . I don’t know what it is, but something’s wrong beyond what we’re seeing.”

 

The Pavus men nodded and Dorian scooped Rem into his arms and lifted the slight, still incoherent male as Zev opened a corridor back to the Compound. “Tony,” The cryomancer called back to the Right Hand before they stepped through, his voice as cold as his powers. “Bring him back alive. Dorian and I want a turn.”

 

Tony nodded sharply, a dark smirk twisting at his lips. “He’ll live. Whether he’ll be in one piece is a different story.” The elf nodded his agreement, knowing Tony would be able to handle the feral alone.

 

He rushed through the corridor with his husband, and they came out the other side to find the room full of the other Reapers along with Loki, Bruce, Holly, and Laura. Upon seeing the state the teen was in, Bridget rose to her feet to approach them.

 

Don’t.

 

The sudden sharp order stopped everyone dead, and the group turned to see that Minowa had also gotten to her feet, eyes locked unerringly on the trembling, dazed Rem. They remained still and silent as the Dragonborn swept towards the trio, her eyes sweeping over him as if seeing something they couldn’t. After a few seconds, she turned back to everyone. “Out, all of you.” She ordered, voice sharp and unyielding. The group hesitated a second too long, and the sclera of her eyes suddenly bled to pitch black, the irises flashing like fire. “ Did we stutter ? ” The voice that erupted from the woman resonated with at least a dozen others, and even though the words weren’t loud in volume the room still shook with the subtle Thu’um that had been used. The sudden change was enough to send most everyone in the room fleeing instantly. Bridget remained behind only for a moment to set her emergency medical kit close by on a couch before also making a tactical retreat. Dorian and Zevrael stared at the now androgynous figure in shock as he turned back to them. “ Sit there, on the couch.

 

They did so immediately-- that Minowa had so easily allowed for the switch in control of her body indicated there was something very wrong, just like Tony had sensed. “What are you sensing, Alduin?” Dorian asked, situating himself so that Rem’s back was pressed to his chest and the whimpering teen’s legs were draped across Zev’s lap.

 

His emotional psyche has been compromised. ” The dovah replied as he situated himself in front of the teen, gently reaching out to turn Rem’s head in his direction and assessing the trembling teenager carefully, noting his unfocused, unblinking eyes. “ He has empathic abilities and he’s been exposed to a tremendously strong amount of unbridled dark lust-- we can only guess as to the situation you and Zeymahu found him in. His mind and body have essentially been contaminated with emotions that have overwhelmed both his own feelings and created a deep urge to sate those sexual needs. We have no doubt that at this time, he would be unable to say ‘no’ to any sort of sexual advances made towards him in his current state.

 

Zevrael swallowed hard at what Alduin was implying. “So he’s basically been drugged?”

 

The ebon haired male nodded, studying the young man for another moment. “Essentially. However, like all drugs, they have to leave the body eventually. The problem comes from what happens if he were to drop his shields long enough to let the emotion drain away. In an unshielded environment, the feelings would leak out and infect others with the same feeling. The results would be typically be either the person to whom those dark emotions latched on to acting on them towards someone in the vicinity that they initially disliked, to begin with, or it would all center back on Rem himself being the central victim of those infected because he was the initial target of the feeling in the first place. The only exception would be if the person or persons infected had enough self-control to fight against it. The Reapers are all lucky in this regard-- we would be immune to such a thing. However, there are others in the Compound who would not be, and would thus run the risk of succumbing to it.

 

The Pavus men looked towards each other at the information, alarm in their eyes. “But it still needs to go somewhere. This isn’t something that can just… run its’ course.” Dorian’s voice was simultaneously fearful and frustrated.

 

A deep, rumbling chuckle escaped the being as he looked up briefly at the pyromancer. “Indeed not. And that is why Minowa gave me control. ” He shifted closer so the teen was face-to-face with him. “ The dov … we do not have a concept of gender. Even if we were not connected to the Dinokthur , an emotion like lust would not affect us in any way. The Dovahkiin is a dragon soul that was bound to a human body, so it is something that she knows and understands. She realized this, and so surrendered control to me to prevent any mistakes that could happen because of an oversight. As one who has never had such an understanding, I could direct the dark lust to myself, and it could be dispersed safely without the threat of it infecting us.

 

“Please do it, then. I don’t want Rem hurting any more than he already is.” Zev requested immediately, his husband nodding in agreement. Alduin nodded and took the hands of the flushed and dazed teen mutant, beginning to chant under his breath. After a few seconds, their joined hands began to glow, blue and yellow light flowing in a steady stream from Rem’s arms to Alduin’s before fading into the skin.

 

After a few minutes, Rem seemed to come back to himself a bit, blinking and looking confused at the environment around him as the haze within his mind began receding. His eyes found Alduin’s form and he gasped, but Dorian’s arms tightening around his waist caused him to still. “Easy Rem, it’s alright. You’re back at the Compound; you’re safe.” The pyromancer soothed him softly, relief flooding him at the fact that whatever Alduin was doing was working.

 

Rem trembled a little bit, his eyes locked on the slit-pupiled eyes with red-hot irises and black sclera that were currently watching their joined hands. “H-Her eyes--?” he questioned in bewilderment.

 

Zevrael reached over and rubbed the redhead’s knee, catching his attention. “That’s not Minowa, Rem. We’ll explain the logistics later, but that’s actually Alduin, one of the tenants residing in her head. He’s helping to filter the emotion from you so it doesn’t affect anyone else.”

 

A soft sigh escaped Dorian as he gave the teen a squeeze, missing the pained wince from the mutant the action earned. A moment later, something finally registered in the man’s head. “Rem, is this my shirt you’re wearing?”

 

Rem opened his mouth to reply before pausing, the words stuck in his throat. How was he supposed to explain that he took it because having the shirt was like carrying a piece of the two men close to him, that the simple garment had felt like safety and security simply because of who it belonged to? Not to mention it had been ruined because of him. The thought caused a surge of guilt and regret to sweep through him, and he choked as a fresh wave of tears began to form in his eyes again. He turned his head to press against Dorian as best he could, ignoring the pain it caused the cut upon his cheek and within his aching skull and began apologizing repeatedly again, the tears easily escaping him as the events of the day finally caught up with him.

 

Dorian didn’t hesitate to hold him close, Zevrael moving as best he could to join in on the hug. “We know, Rem. We’ll talk about it later. Let’s get you healed up first, alright?”

 

The mutant shook his head in protest at that and stopped when it made his headache worse. “But Rem… I disobeyed Tony and then had to be rescued. I’m not allowed to get healing,” he explained, reciting the rules he’d memorized from his training in his youth. “I caused this so… Rem has to be punished.”

 

We are unsure where you obtained such a notion, but I believe such a sentiment is foolish for many reasons. ” The sudden and unfamiliar, rumbling voice caused Rem to jump in shock, and he turned his attention to where Alduin was watching him, the light finally beginning to die down. “ There are ways to atone for one’s mistakes that do not continue to cause physical harm. Would you rather be in pain all the time?

 

The fact that Rem slightly nodded at the question was alarming to all three adults. “It’s better than being given a grounding.” He shifted a little in his seat, lowering his gaze and thus missing the confused looks passed between the group, his voice small as he bit his lower lip. “Then Rem would get no food or water and would be left completely alone in an empty room for days until Rem is forgiven finally.”

 

Dorian and Zevrael’s expressions were filled with righteous indignation at the thought of anyone doing such a thing to a child. Alduin remained calm as the light finally faded completely, though he didn’t pull away. “We assure you, none of those things would ever be considered as punishments. To leave a wound open is to invite infection, sickness, even death if bad enough. Denying someone food and water makes them physically weaker, unable to heal from injuries. It would prolong recovery time unnecessarily. Isolation would make you weak as well, emotionally and mentally. A fighter on the field of battle who is compromised in either area cannot make rational decisions and is liable to become injured physically.” Alduin tilted his head so his gaze was drilling into the teen. “These punishments would make you weak, and it is not our goal to make you weak. We would see you strong, able to stand on your own and fight as a grah-zeymahzin, shield brother, should.” Rem stared at the being in stunned shock, almost as if the dragon’s points were something he’d never considered. “Now, we will heal your injuries and an appropriate punishment will be discussed at a later time. Be still, this should not take long.” The teen remained silent and still as Alduin channeled restoration magic through him, the cuts, bruises, and other injuries soothed and healed within a few minutes. Finally, the Dovah pulled away, giving a long rumbling sigh. “Your injuries are healed, but you would do well to rest for a few days. Stay where you are for a moment.” He closed his eyes as he sat back on his heels, relaxing fully for a moment.

 

There was a shift in the energy of the room, as well as a barely noticeable ripple over the Dragonborn, and the eyes that opened had white sclera and no longer glowed brightly. “Alduin doesn’t know how to access the abilities involved with being a Reaper.” Minowa’s voice once again flowed over them, and she reached forward to take a bit of the fabric of the ruined shirt in her hand. A second later, the garment mended itself together so it was as if it had never been damaged in the first place. She quickly performed the same service for the teen’s jeans and belt before sitting back with a small smile. “There, much better.” She murmured with a nod before standing and stretching, working out the various kinks in her body. “What Alduin told you is absolutely true, Rem.” She told the redhead, her eyes catching his again. “The kinds of punishments you were subjected to weren’t productive and were outright cruel and abusive. Yes, you made a mistake, and there will be consequences for that, but they will not involve punishments of such a nature.”

 

Rem looked at the Dragonborn, a bit of doubt still present in his eyes. The silence was broken when a corridor opened in the middle of the room, admitting Tony. The man was splashed with a copious amount of blood, along with the scythe he still had firmly gripped in his hand. As the corridor closed the genius banished the weapon and his uniform, waving a hand errantly to cleanse the blood from his person. “Dorian, Zevrael, a moment please.” He called over to them, his eyes softening in relief upon seeing Rem looking much better than he had before, the dazed look gone as though it had never been there at all.

 

The Pavus husbands helped Rem sit against the couch before quickly joining the genius a few meters away. Tony quickly put up a privacy ward and began speaking. “I put him in one of the rooms in the basement. It’s warded so tight it would take a miracle of every deity out there to get through them by any other means than a Reaper escort. No one can get in or out without one of us. If you’re going to deal with him, wait until I give you the okay-- this bastard knew Rem and judging from what he said, he has clearly done... this to him before.”

 

Dorian and Zevrael looked at each other for a moment, having a conversation with their body language and facial expressions alone. Finally, Dorian turned back to Tony. “ Fratris ... We know who he is,” he softly admitted, pain in his hazel eyes. The genius motioned with his hand for the duo to continue, and they quietly relayed what Rem had confided in them not too long ago-- about the Morlock massacre, the vicious injury and initial rape that he had been subjected to by the mutant named Sabertooth along with the repeated rapes that followed over the years, and the callous way many had treated Rem’s resulting PTSD and his desperate need for physical comfort. It had ranged from some taking his need as a willingness to have sex when what he’d really wanted was just to be held while many, especially certain members of the X-Men, had only looked at the surface and never beneath it and openly labeled him as a slut who’d put out for anyone and anything.

 

A memory flashed to the front of Tony’s mind at the last bit, of Rem with his head bowed, eyes downcast as he murmured softly about not being a whore despite what he thought, the 'he' in question referring to a Warren. An unholy rage surged up within the genius, and it took every breathing exercise the brunette knew to not lose his shit right then and there. Finally, after a few minutes, he opened his eyes and turned his attention back to the Pavus duo. He looked at them for a moment before simply saying, “He’s all yours.”

 

The husbands nodded silently at his words, the order behind them clear-- “Make sure he doesn’t leave the room alive.” It was one they were more than happy to follow and if killing him meant that Rem was safe and happy, then it was well worth it.

 

Tony waved his hand to drop the privacy ward before leading them back to where Rem was silently sitting, Minowa having moved to the kitchen area to retrieve food for them all. The redhead looked up at their approach and upon seeing them immediately stood and stripped the shirt from his body, causing confusion to course through Tony. “Rem, what are you doing?”

 

“Rem has to be punished…” He stated as if it were the most obvious thing in the world before turning and sinking to his knees. Showing his back to them submissively, Rem bent over silently so his entire back was extended for his punishment and waited for it to begin without speaking another word. The sooner it started, the sooner it would be over, the redhead knew, waiting for the first lash so he wouldn’t be taken by surprise.

 

Before the trio could even begin to process what was happening, a sharp gasp caught their attention and they turned to see Minowa standing a few feet behind them, setting the tray she had been carrying down with her eyes locked firmly on the teen’s exposed back. She slowly approached him and studied the copious scars that littered his back, though she didn’t lay her hands on them. Finally she straightened and turned towards them, a stony, cold look on her face as she gestured to specific scars. “ Tony, these were made with a whip .” She hissed in Dovahzul, knowing he would understand the foreign tongue.

 

The revelation made the genius flinch hard as memories of his father flickered in his mind for a moment before he pushed them away hard. He felt Dori’ and Zev resting their hands upon his back to ground him-- they had been told what kind of man Howard was, and they knew Tony had been shaken by what had just been revealed. The fact that Rem’s conditioning towards punishment was still so strong when his training had taken place well over a decade ago did not sit well with the genius at all. Had no one in the redhead’s past showed him kindness or love aside from Wade? After taking a second to just breathe and organize his thoughts Tony spoke again, his voice soft and reassuring, giving no indication of his internal anger and pain.  “Rem, will you please stand and turn to face me?” The mutant did so without question or the slightest hesitation, even though he looked flummoxed by the request. “Rem, we will never, ever, use corporal punishment on you. My father, Howard, did that kind of shit to me, and I would never even consider it a proper method of reprimand.” He felt Dorian and Zevrael resting their hands upon his back again, and the genius belatedly realized he was shaking. “There will be consequences for sneaking out and disobeying, but I swear to you that I will never raise my hand against you in any way, okay?” The teen stared at him for a moment, searching Tony’s face before nodding and pulling Dorian’s shirt back on, enjoying how the soft garment was so large and loose upon his smaller frame. Tony waited until he had done so before holding his arms out to the teen in an invitation, and he was nearly bowled over as the redhead tackled him, a fresh wave of tears sliding down Rem’s face as he apologized again and again. Tony immediately returned the hug, trying and failing to force back his own tears as he held the weeping, overly thin redhead close for several moments. Finally, they pulled apart, and the genius noticed the exhausted look on the mutant’s face. “Rem, you’ve been through a huge ordeal tonight, and I think you should get some sleep before we discuss anything having to do with punishments, okay?” Getting a nod he continued. “Go to your room, take a relaxing shower, and get into bed. Once you’ve had a chance to recuperate, we’ll continue this discussion.”

 

“W-What if Rem has a nightmare?” the teen questioned in a small voice with a quiver in his lower lip, knowing the likelihood of such a thing right now was very high. Rem knew he was still in trouble for disobeying but the idea of being left alone if he had a nightmare was too much for the emotionally frail mutant who shivered once, a pleading look on his face.

 

That caused the genius to pause and turn his attention to the Pavus men. “How about Rem stays in our room for the night?” Zevrael suggested, eyeing the worn out teenager with concern. “That way, he’ll sleep well and we can keep an eye on him.”

 

Whiskey brown eyes turned back to Rem. “Does that sound okay with you?” He asked, a smile quirking at his lips at the rapid nod the teen gave them. “Alright, we’ll do that then. Dorian, Zevrael, take him to your suite and make sure he gets some TLC and sleep.”

 

The husbands nodded and led Rem away, and soon it was only himself and Minowa in the room. There was a moment of silence before the Dragonborn crossed her arms and gave the genius a knowing look. “They’re gone. You can stop pretending.” She said in a stern, yet soft voice.

 

The genius gave the woman a confused look. “What? I’m fine.”

 

Tony.”

 

The unyielding but compassionate tone from the woman made him pause as the facade started to crack. “I’ll manage. I just need to go down to my workshop and--”

 

“Don’t even try it, Zeymahi . You may have the others fooled, but you forget something important about me.” She dropped her crossed arms so she was simply gripping her elbows, her face softening entirely. “Anthony, I was your Center .” She strongly emphasized the last word, and the genius knew he had been found out. Tony stared at her for a moment before tears welled up in his eyes and his knees buckled as he collapsed into the seat behind him, feeling the emotional exhaustion hit him like a freight train. The meeting, what happened with Sabertooth and finding Rem as bloody and battered as the teenager had been, and that situation compounded by the teen then fully expecting to be whipped for his mistakes, baring his back immediately and offering it without a single protest… Tony felt himself hit the wall hard, and before he knew it he was crying full out. Minowa immediately swooped in, pulling her brother against her chest and running her fingers through his brown locks. “ Peace, Tony. You’re alright, everyone is safe. ” She murmured to him in the dragon tongue, feeling the grip the man had on her leather armor loosen just the tiniest bit. “ Would you like me to call Stephen ?” Feeling the nod against her collarbone, the ebony haired woman wrestled her phone out of her pocket and quickly dialed Stephen’s number, never loosening her embrace.

 

-

 

“Stephen, for Vishanti’s sake, sit down and stop pacing!”

 

The Sorcerer Supreme growled and spun back to Wong. “I can’t! Something is wrong, and I can’t figure out what! It’s like some sixth sense is screaming at me, but it won’t tell me what the problem is so I can fix it!” He spun back around and began pacing again.

 

Wong watched him for a moment before sighing and standing from his spot at the desk. He crossed the room in a few long strides and positioned himself so his friend would collide with him on his next pass. Sure enough, Stephen spun at the end of the cycle and, instead of continuing to move, ran straight into the man and ended up sprawled upon the floor on his butt. “Stephen, you need to stop and take a breath.” He ordered as the man sat back up. “Your emotions over this are causing a feedback loop. Whatever you’re feeling is putting you on edge, and not knowing what’s responsible is causing you anxiety.” He helped pull Stephen to his feet as he continued. “When was the last time you saw Tony?”

 

“He, Dorian, and Zevrael were trying to find out what happened to Rem. Do you think--?”

 

Whatever would have been said was cut off by Stephen’s ringtone blaring ‘Animal I Have Become’ from its’ place on a nearby table. The Sorcerer Supreme quickly summoned and answered it, recognizing the ringtone. “Minowa, hello. Is Rem safe?”

 

“He is now.” The woman’s voice rumbled from the other end. “There has been a great deal of emotional instability here, though. I would request you come as soon as possible-- Tony has reached his maximum emotional capacity and is currently curled against my chest and sobbing.”

 

Stephen shot a look at Wong at the news, the feeling intensifying for a moment. “I’ll be there soon. Thank you for telling me.” The sorcerer hung up the phone and pulled on his sling ring.

 

Wong’s brow furrowed as the Sorcerer Supreme opened a portal. “Is everything alright?”

 

“Considering my soulmate is currently distraught and crying uncontrollably, I’d say no .” The blue-green eyed man replied, turning back for a moment to look at his friend. “I’ll let you know when I’m coming back.” The librarian nodded, and Stephen wasted no further time stepping through and closing the portal behind him. He suddenly yelped as Levi tore himself away from his shoulders, zooming off down a hallway. “Levi, what the hell?!” He yelled after him, racing to catch up.

 

In the common room, Minowa looked up at the sudden yell, eyes narrowing in confusion. A few seconds later, a streak of red shot into the room, making a beeline for herself and Tony. Before the Dragonborn could react, the cloak had wrapped himself around the genius, prompting a wet laugh out of the genius. “Hi, Levi.” He croaked, and the relic tightened in response before lifting him into the air, prompting a surprised noise from him. “Hey, you enchanted snuggie! This ain’t a Disney movie! No magic carpet rides!” Levi ignored him entirely, and it became clear why a moment later. Stephen raced into the room, skidding to a stop when he saw what Levi was doing. Levi wasted no time in levitating Tony over to him and depositing him in front of his master. The genius staggered for a second before being steadied by his soulmate’s arms wrapping tightly around him. Tony wasted no time in burying his face in the sorcerer’s chest, clinging tight to his midnight blue robes. Yeah, he was getting tears and snot and all manner of other gross things on the shirt, but fuck it, he could magic the stains away later.

 

Stephen pulled the whiskey-eyed man close, feeling the nagging feeling that had been plaguing him flood away at the contact. The fact that Tony had been upset enough to make such a mess of his face, and his shirt by proxy, was enough to shove that fact to a back burner while he took care of and comforted his love. “I’ve got you, babe.” He murmured into the brunette locks, rubbing Tony’s back as he began to softly cry again. “Just let it go, it’s okay.” He looked up briefly when Minowa caught his attention, and she pointed to them, motioned upward, then made a sleeping motion. Stephen gave a small nod and looked back down as the ebony-haired woman slipped silently from the room. “Tony, I’m gonna portal us to our room, okay?”

 

The genius nodded against his chest, barely registering when Stephen did so. He vaguely heard the sorcerer saying something to FRIDAY, but he was busy trying to reign in his emotions and stem the tears that didn’t seem to want to stop. His soulmate’s physical presence was definitely helping, and the smell of sandalwood, incense, and faint hints of ozone was going a long way to help anchor him again. He came back to himself when he finally registered that they were in the bathroom, and as Stephen began to pull away he clung tighter for a second. “Stephen, what--?”

 

Stephen kissed the top of his head before gesturing to the side, where the jacuzzi style tub was filled with steaming hot water. Tony blinked at it before looking back up at him, slightly confused. The sorcerer placed another sweet kiss on his forehead before pressing his to it. “Let me take care of you.” For a second or two, Tony stared at his soulmate with a look that could only be described as awed reverence and gratitude. He swallowed and nodded, prompting a smile from the sorcerer. He pressed a soft kiss to his lips for a second before pulling away, reaching down to gently grip the hem of his shirt and lift the garment over his head. Tony lifted his arms to allow for the action, staying still as Stephen reached for his jeans and boxers, pulling them both down at the same time, kneeling for a moment to remove the sneakers and socks from his feet. Once Tony was bare in front of him the sorcerer guided him to the bath and helped him step in.

 

Tony sank into the bath with a sigh of relief. After a moment he realized the warm water splashing against him gently had the faint but relaxing scent of lavender and chamomile, and the genius smiled and settled further into the bath with a soft sigh, feeling the tension slowly beginning to drain from him. He barely reacted as water was gently poured over his head, but came back to himself when he felt shampoo being rubbed into his hair by slightly shaky hands. “Babe, your hands…” He murmured, reaching up blindly towards his soulmate.

 

A soapy hand gently caught his, and Stephen raised it to place a kiss to the top of it. “Let me take care of you.” He whispered for a second time in reply, giving Tony’s hand a tiny squeeze.

 

The genius let out a soft noise of consent and dropped his hand back to the water. Stephen continued to rub the shampoo into his brown locks, rinsing the soap with a gentle stream of the scented water once he was done. He repeated the process with the conditioner, casting a quick spell on the water to keep it warm and clear the soap away. By the time he got to rubbing the genius down with a washcloth and body wash, he was half asleep and completely relaxed. Stephen smiled lovingly at his soulmate as he rinsed him down one more time before asking FRIDAY to drain the bath. He cast a spell to make the genius weightless before slipping his arms around him and lifting him from the bathtub. Tony barely reacted beyond mumbling something incomprehensible and burying his head in Stephen’s shoulder. It was a matter of moments before Stephen had him dressed in a pair of soft pajamas, gently setting him down in the bed and pulling the covers over him. Tony let out a huff as he fully relaxed into the bed, settling into a deep, restful sleep. Knowing the genius would wake if he took too long, the sorcerer quickly changed into his own nightclothes before slipping into bed behind Tony, pulling the brunette close so his back was against the sorcerer’s chest. He kissed the top of his soulmate’s head and whispered a tender ‘goodnight, my love’ to him before settling down behind him, closing his eyes to slip into the land of Nod.

 

-

 

Daylight was finally beginning to show through the dark curtains of the windows within a bedroom where a dark-haired pyromancer was dozing, one arm holding his husband against him while the other kept a slight teenager close, all three resting beneath the warmth of a green and blue blanket. A soft sigh emerged from Zevrael as he nuzzled into Dorian, completely relaxed with a smile on his face.

 

Stirring slightly, Rem fussed a little, his long red hair sprawled across the warm, firm chest he had shifted onto, listening to the steady heartbeat as the teenager held onto Dorian’s sleeping shirt even while he continued to sleep somewhat fitfully. “No...” he whimpered slightly, though soothed when his hair was stroked tenderly, the redhead sinking back into a deeper sleep at the soothing touch and warm, affectionate emotion of genuine caring and platonic love.

 

Dorian’s eyes had flickered open groggily at the whimper, responding to it instinctively with a tender caress, his arm tightening around Rem when he saw him settle back into sleep, whatever nightmare that had been creeping up upon the teen gone now. “I’ve got you, little firefly,” he whispered, tilting his head to kiss Rem’s head paternally.

 

“Is he okay?” Zevrael questioned, his own voice soft as he opened his eyes as well, peering at his husband first, then the teenager that was clinging to Dorian as though his life depended upon it.

 

Nodding, Dorian smiled at Zev. “Just the start of a nightmare, though it’s no surprise,” he explained, giving the silverette a chaste kiss. “He’s back asleep again now…”

 

Zev’s lips curled in a smile of his own as he watched his husband, slight amusement in his eyes. “You’re really good with him, ma vhenan ,” he whispered, finding himself really enjoying this paternal side of Dorian that he had never been able to see before.

 

The Tevinter found himself blushing at the praise, his hazel eyes moving from the cryomancer to the teenager that they were planning to adopt as their own. “He makes it easy for me to care about him, Amatus ,” Dorian confessed softly. “And, of course… You know that I could never act the way my father did. It’s not the same, but Rem has gone through so much- and the more we learn, the more I want a full list of names of people to burn, Zevrael.” The mage winced, recalling how easily Rem had offered his back for corporal punishment. “He would have let Tony physically hurt him without any resistance. Who trains a child to do that to the extreme that the conditioning is still there after so much time has passed? And…”

 

Lethallin was just as shaken as we were at the offer, Dori’..” Zevrael shook his head sadly, his heart aching as he remembered the sight of all those scars on the teenager’s back, and the look of horror and heartbreak that had crossed Tony’s face at the sight. He knew that some belonged to the sadist awaiting them in the basement, but the others had come from a weapon- a whip. “Tony’s father was little better than your own, as was the person who raised Rem…”

 

Dorian inclined his head in agreement, part of him saddened and not a little pained that even though this was a different world than the one he and Zevrael hailed from, it seemed that there were some things that the two worlds unfortunately shared that would be far better if they didn’t. “We can’t undo what happened to them before but we can make sure that it never happens again,” he breathed fiercely, a protective hardness in his eyes as he turned his gaze back upon the teenager who clung to him, looking so young, innocent, and helpless like this.

 

“Indeed,” Zevrael agreed, his smile softening when he saw Rem stir slightly, the redhead’s eyes blinking open somewhat to peer up at them in sleepy confusion when he heard someone speaking.

 

“Mm… What?” Rem groggily asked, still tired as he yawned deeply, gazing at the Pavus husbands while raising his free hand to rub sleepily at his eyes for a moment. He wasn’t sure of what they had been talking about but considering that the pair were looking at him, he suspected that it was himself.

 

Smiling at the simply adorable sight before him, Dorian gently combed through Rem’s fiery locks again. “You should still be sleeping,” he gently chided.

 

The teen gave him a distinct pout in reply, not even realizing he was doing so. “It’s hard to sleep when someone’s talking right next to me,” Rem pointed out, instinctively sticking part of his tongue out at both men before he yawned for a second time, enjoying the touch to his hair and nuzzling into it slightly.

 

Zevrael had to press his lips together to keep himself from responding to what he just saw in a way that might possibly upset Rem, though the sight was undeniably adorable. The teenager didn’t even seem to realize that he’d done it and the elf was hard pressed to not actually cuddle him in response to the adorableness. “We didn’t mean to wake you,” he murmured softly instead, leaning over his husband more to join him in running his fingers through the mutant’s hair in a silent apology. “Shall we all go back to sleep?”

 

Rem blinked his red and black eyes at the question, still tired but having something he needed to say first. “I’m sorry,” he whispered, his eyes lowering a little as the teen sat up slowly, sniffing once as Dorian moved to a sitting position as well. “I… I was so happy to see you both when he tried to…” A few tears had escaped from the mutant as he spoke, his voice small but serious. “I was so frightened to see him because even though Rem is a good fighter, he can’t stop him from hurting Rem. Rem has tried and failed for years… though he never imagined that Sabertooth would be nearby when he went to town.”

 

Shifting closer, Zev wrapped an arm around the teen’s shoulders, kissing his head and wiping his tears away gently. “I’d be surprised if you had expected him to be there,” he stated seriously, “though I am sorry that you were hurt and terrified by him. I’m just glad that we realized you were gone in time to get there before he could do anything more…” The vivid memory of the revolting muscular blonde male forcibly kissing Rem while working to remove his pants was not one that would go away anytime soon.

 

“We’re both sorry he got a hold of you, Rem,” Dorian interjected, his own voice just as serious, though he didn’t relax his embrace of the shaken younger man. “Make no mistake about that-- if you’re missing or in danger, we will always come to help you. But… What happened is one of the reasons why you were told not to leave the Compound. It was for your own safety, little firefly, and there will be a punishment for you for disobeying. You won’t be hurt, I promise, but you do need to learn that when you are instructed to not do something, you need to listen to us. The rules we put in place aren’t to restrict you, they’re there to protect you from harm and danger. Everyone here at the Compound was worried about you, Rem. We all care about you very, very much.”

 

Blushing at the nickname, Rem settled further into the warm hugs, his head resting on Dorian’s shoulder. “Rem-- I-- will take the punishment,” he softly replied, knowing that he had truly earned it. “I just… I wanted to get something for you both, because you have been so nice to me and helped me... And you don’t get mad about the nightmares... Thought I’d go and be back before anyone knew I’d left.”

 

Dorian smiled softly, touched at the teenager’s words though the punishment would still stand and he knew that Rem was aware of that as well. “I appreciate the thought, though maybe next time you could take us with you? Or if you want it to be a surprise for us, perhaps Tony or Wade might accompany you?” he offered gently as a solution as opposed to disobeying, smoothing the brilliant red locks of Rem’s hair soothingly as his husband nodded in agreement.

 

“I won’t be leaving the Compound again without permission or unless I have someone else with me,” Rem promised, meaning it with all his heart. “Rem is just glad that he didn’t get hurt too badly and… that you cared enough to help me even when I made a mistake.”

 

Zevrael mentally shook his head, uncertain of whom to blame for Rem’s belief that they might not have helped him because he had made a mistake. He rose from his position in bed to rearrange their bodies so the teen was sandwiched between himself and Dorian. “Rem, no matter many mistakes you might make, we will always help you. We might be upset or even angry with you but we would never, ever not care enough to come to your aid if you need us. Vir lath ma, Da’len.” Seeing Rem’s confusion at his Elven words, he chuckled softly and translated, “We love you, little one…”

 

Dorian nodded in agreement to his Amatus’ words. “Indeed we do, Rem… Tony is going to get us what paperwork we need to officially adopt you as our son,” the pyromancer added, the way Rem’s face lit up into a wide, shy smile making him exceedingly happy. “Though… Rem, why did you take my shirt and wear it?” he asked, more bemused at the thought than anything. “I’m not angry, just a little confused…”

 

Rem’s smile remained even as he blushed at the question, the teenager still wearing the shirt in question. “...It made me feel safe,” he confessed, looking between the Pavus husbands somewhat shyly. “Like you both were with me even though you really weren’t… Sorry I took it without asking, Dorian.” Hearing that they wanted him as their son had elated the mutant, his eyes bright as he thought for a moment. “Can Rem… Can I have your last name, instead of LeBeau? Please?” he timidly asked, hope on his face and in his eyes.

 

Zevrael’s heart jumped at the request and he looked up to see his husband’s reaction. Dorian swallowed hard, tears welling up in his eyes before he pulled the teen against him in a tight hug. “Oh little firefly…” He choked, the tears beginning to roll down his face from the unbridled joy that surged within him. “I would be so, so honored if you took my name.” He finally managed to get out around the sudden lump in his throat.

 

The cryomancer immediately joined in on the hug, tears in his own eyes at both the request and the mage’s reaction. He knew Dorian had mixed feelings about his last name, and under a different set of circumstances would have taken the name ‘Lavellan’ instead. Because of his clan’s ultimatum though, they had been stuck on the problem, unsure how to proceed. The death of Halward Pavus finally brought a solution, especially when Zevrael brought up that Dorian now had a chance to re-establish the name as one to be proud of, powerful in magic and firm in their compassion and open-mindedness. Of course, Dorian was on board with the idea of bringing honor back to his family name without the backward ideas and cruelty of the Tevinter ideals tainting it. That Rem was hoping to take the ‘Pavus’ name no doubt was making Dorian feel overwhelmed with gratitude as if he had finally accomplished what he had set out to do.

 

In his own way, Rem had given Dorian what he had needed for such a long time-- absolution .  And as Zevrael Pavus held the duo, he couldn’t help the upwelling of pride and love he felt for them both, the two most important men in his life.

 

---

 

The mood in the room was slightly solemn as a select group sat around the meeting room table. They had decided to hold their discussion here, simply for the sake of privacy over the events the previous day and the nature of whatever punishment would be decided on. Tony, Dorian, and Zevrael sat at the head, being Rem’s soon-to-be fathers and the ‘Director’ of the Compound. Joining them were Holly, Laura, Loki, and Wade. As Rem’s best friend and the person who had known him the longest, Wade’s input would be invaluable. The other three were parents and would be able to shine some light on how to deal with the problem that they faced. Rem’s past made it difficult to punish him for what he’d done because whatever he’d done to break the rules then , the adult responses to it had gone way too far. The de-aged mutant had been trained to accept cruel punishments without complaining, submitting to them immediately as evidenced on how he had offered his back up to be lashed with no resistance or hesitation, no pleading for leniency, just a quiet resignation to what was coming.

 

“We have to figure out how to properly discipline Rem,” Tony began slowly, fixing the others around the table with a solemn look, “but before we begin, I want to make a few things clear. First, and most importantly, corporal punishment is not an option for Rem. It will not even be entertained as a possibility.” The group nodded in complete agreement with his rule. “Second, if we think about grounding, there will be very strict guidelines in place. Rem associates grounding with complete isolation and starvation, so it might be a good idea to sit down with him and make sure he understands what will and won’t occur during a grounding.” It had been nothing less than a kick to the gut when Minowa had pulled him aside before the meeting to let him know what she had learned. For all the shit that Howard had put him through, starvation had never been something he had been subjected to. Rem was much too thin for his age and height-- how could anyone have possibly thought that starving him for punishment was a good idea?

 

The others in the room nodded their agreement at the stipulations. “Why not take his phone away?” Holly suggested, drawing on her experience in wrangling her own children. It had certainly worked for Harley in the past.

 

It was Wade who responded to Holly’s suggestion with a shake of his head. “Rem doesn’t have a phone-- if he did , he would have called me the instant he realized that Sabertooth was stalking him. Trust me, he knows when to call for backup, and he knows he can’t fight against that fuckwad and win.”

 

“That’s something we’ll have to rectify. As for the problem at hand, I don’t think his punishment should be too severe.” Loki held his hand up as the others turned towards him with surprise and confusion. “What Rem went through yesterday was horrific,” the God pointed out quietly, “and it delivered a far more effective and excessive punishment than anything we could come up with. Based upon what Dorian and Zevrael have told us, he already feels a great deal of regret and guilt over sneaking out of the Compound and he already apologized repeatedly to Tony, Dorian and Zevrael.” Exhaling slowly, Loki inclined his head slightly. “Rem offered himself up immediately for what he was trained to view as ‘appropriate punishment’ without hesitation, even though it would only add further to the trauma induced by yesterday’s events. Rem has also demonstrated that he knows what he did was wrong and he is genuinely remorseful for his actions-- at this point, any consequences doled out should be a reflection of our willingness to keep our word on the nature of punishments received.”

 

A few moments passed in thoughtful silence before Dorian spoke. “I think he’s right. Right now, what Rem needs to learn is that there are consequences for his actions, but he won’t be hurt for making mistakes. How to go about implementing those consequences is the dilemma we’re facing right now.”

 

The group bounced ideas off of each other for a while, considering some while shooting others down right away. After thirty solid minutes of debate, they finally had a plan in place. “FRIDAY, is Rem still in the room we told him to wait in?” Tony called up to his AI.

 

“Yes, Boss. He’s been sitting quietly and reading.”

 

“Alright, can you tell him to join us?” A minute or two later, the door slid open and Rem slowly entered, eyes darting around nervously at the group. The genius gave him a small, reassuring smile and gestured to one of the free chairs around the table. “Hey Rem. Have a seat.” The redhead did so, and Tony continued in a calm, soothing voice. “We’ve had a chance to discuss an appropriate punishment, and we’ve come to an agreement.” Rem nodded slowly, a brief flicker of fear lighting in his eyes. “First, your access to TV, internet, and any video games have been revoked for three days. You wouldn’t get the chance to use them anyway, because the second part of your punishment involves working with me. On that end, you’re going to show me exactly how you managed to get out of the Compound without alerting the single most sophisticated learning AI in the world. After that, you’re going to spend three days with me in my lab doing a variety of different things. First and foremost, you’re going to be taking an aptitude test to determine where you are academically. We’ll help catch you up to where you should be, then we’ll discuss schooling options. After that, you’ll be playing gofer for me-- basically, you’ll be helping me around the lab doing various tasks that will include, but are not limited to, fetching coffee, handing me tools, holding things in place, and running things back and forth between people. I expect you to do your best, but if at any point in time you don’t feel safe with what I’m asking from you, please speak up. After three days, you’ll be free to go. Does that sound reasonable?” Rem looked completely floored for a moment, seemingly unable to comprehend that they were staying true to their word. Then his face softened into a look of profound relief, and he nodded in agreement. “Alright. Let’s you and I take a walk then, and you can show me how you managed your escape.”

 

---

 

“You’re shitting me.”

 

Rem shook his head, a flush of embarrassment staining his cheeks. “I swear I’m not lying--”

 

Tony’s eyes snapped to the mutant. “What? No, no! I’m just… explain it to me, one more time.”

 

It took a moment for Rem to figure out what the real problem was, and he did as the genius asked. “The bathrooms in the training area don’t have any cameras in them. I used that vent there,” He pointed to the grate in the ceiling a few feet up, “to get to a place where several vents intersect. There’s a space that can be dropped down into that’s between the walls. There are no cameras in the walls, so it was just a matter of staying quiet and avoiding the insulation. Not to mention that the walls are thick as it is. They have to be to withstand attacks from Minowa. I think I heard that her Shouting used to blow out walls on a weekly basis… anyway, I dropped to a lower level inside the Compound while in the walls, not as far down as the labs but still below the training area. Once I found the exit air vent I unscrewed the grate, set it inside the vent, and slid out into a low lying ditch outside. It’s low enough that the only camera in the area can’t see into it, and I crawled until I was out of sight.”

 

“I just… I… this is…” Tony was pacing back and forth, eyes flickering blue every once in a while as he checked the various cameras and systems. “ Wow . This is… a massive security flaw.”

 

Rem shrugged, blushing deeper. “Honestly, only a thief would look for an entrance like that, and only a suicidal one would even try to break into an SI building of any kind… although I don’t think people trying to break out was ever considered to be a possibility.” The thought made the teen giggle for a few seconds.

 

Even though the topic was serious, the sound of the mutant’s mirth caused Tony’s heart to swell with love and relief. Despite the circumstances of his arrival, of the near endless pain and betrayal and abandonment, and the events leading to this moment, the fact that Rem was smiling and laughing was music to the genius’ ears. Because Rem’s laughter sounded like healing. It sounded like hope. Without much thought, Tony reached for the redhead and pulled him in for a hug, and when Rem leaned into the hug and reciprocated, he felt a swell of pride and love for the teen that had so quickly found a place in his heart and the hearts and lives of the other residents of the Compound.

 

And if he thought the sight of Rem giggling was one of the cutest things he’d ever seen… well, no one needed to know.