Alex knew dangerous men. And Erik was one of them.

Fair warning, after a few hours of trying to write Alex/Havok's actual backstory into this, I gave it up as far too headache-inducing to be worth it. There are still comic book details mixed in here and there, but I've given up on the timeline entirely. And there are also several things that I've made up entirely.

General story warnings: Mentions of child abuse (later chapters) and some less-than-polite language (pretty much all chapters). And, like many others, I'm pretending that they spent more than a week training at the mansion.

Alex scowled at the unfamiliar door in front of him. Wherever he was, it was clearly not the kitchen. And he had no idea where he'd taken a wrong turn. Granted that his sense of direction had never been the greatest—he'd averaged getting lost three or four times per neighborhood way back when social services had actually bothered to try finding placements for him—but apparently after a couple years in a concrete cell it had dwindled to absolutely nothing. And the fact that this place was completely insane wasn't helping matters any. He was lucky that his room had a bathroom just across the hall, even if he did have to share it with Sean and Hank, or he'd probably have ended up pissing in random vases out of sheer desperation.

If he'd been using his brain, he would have stayed with Sean and the geek after their run this morning. Following the others was how he'd managed to get around thus far, and there was no reason that it wouldn't have kept working. Unfortunately, Hank had insisted on dragging Sean off to his lab, and although he was a little curious about how Hank had managed to acquire a lab in the thirty-six-ish hours since their arrival, Alex hadn't been interested in tagging along. But then Charles and Raven had left for town to do whatever else needed to be done to bring a place like this 'back up,' and Moira and Erik had scowled at each other and stalked off in opposite directions, and Alex had been left on his own.

He'd managed to get back to his room, mostly since the staircase by the front door led directly there—as long as he stopped on the right floor, anyway—but it appeared that the staircase at the other end of the hall that he'd thought would take him straight back down to the kitchen didn't. And…well, now here he was. Wherever here was.

He kicked the heavy door in front of him and then turned, glaring up at the smug bastard sneering down at him from a framed portrait on the opposite wall. "So where's the damn kitchen, then?" Maybe he should have gone left—

"You're off by several turns and a flight of stairs," a dry voice said from immediately behind him.

Oh, hell. And not just because his directional incompetence had, once again, been totally and utterly confirmed. "Sorry," Alex muttered as he turned back around. Of all the doors in the place to kick, he managed to find Erik's. If he'd been trying, he'd never have been able to manage that.

"Is it time for lunch?" Erik asked.

"Yeah. The, uh, the professor called on the intercom. I guess he and Raven just got back." He didn't bother to claim that he'd been coming to get Erik, not after Erik had already heard him wondering where the kitchen was.

"Mm. Stay there." Erik stepped back into his room, shutting the door again.

As opposed to what, sneaking into his room and making off with half his stuff? Alex almost asked, but then his sense of self-preservation kicked in and he bit back the words. Deliberately baiting the geek, sure, that was good fun, but harassing a man with 'I kill puppies, ask me how' all but stamped on his forehead? Not so much.

He shook his head and turned, leaning back against the wall beside the door. Alex was good at working the system. Working people. He'd never had much of a choice: once a kid was labeled an arsonist, no one bothered to ask questions when fires started around him, and not only had he been a scrawny little runt the first time they'd pitched him in juvie, he'd also had the unfortunate habit of torching things when he got upset. Building a reputation of too-tough-to-touch had been necessary. So he worked out daily and didn't hesitate to show off the results—he'd become an expert when it came to removing sleeves—talked big, and tried to keep it to himself when wasn't really as confident as he was acting. It was why he'd decked a guard in full view of the other inmates on his eighteenth birthday, right after he'd been transferred from juvie to the adult facility. Well, that and because everyone was better off with him in solitary, but even if he'd been left in the general population with only the bruises inflicted by the other guards as evidence of what had happened, it would still have been worth it.

Erik, though, he was the kind of guy that even Alex knew better than to touch, no matter how much he felt the need to prove himself. Because people like him, they didn't give a rat's ass if they had a reputation or not. They were tough enough to handle anyone and anything that might come after them. And from the way Erik acted, he probably enjoyed doing it, too. If it hadn't been for the professor, Alex would never have left the prison with him. Darwin—Alex forced down the twist of pain that came with that name; those memories was still too new, too raw for him to deal with them—had once described Erik as 'one messed up cat,' and Alex agreed wholeheartedly.

The door opened again, and Erik stepped out. "Follow me."

Alex stared for a moment and then shrugged and trailed him down the hall. It wasn't like he could get any more lost than he already was.

"Look at the statue," Erik ordered as they approached the staircase.

Alex glanced over at the plaster thing—he hoped it was plaster, anyway, although given the rest of the ridiculous crap in this place it was probably real marble—on the pedestal just off the stair rail. "Um…why?" He wasn't exactly an art connoisseur.

"This is the headless angel floor. Your room is several above this," he gestured at the stairs continuing upwards, "with the statue of an armless woman on the landing. Charles and Raven are one above this, on the floor marked by the statue of a woman missing the top of her skull. And the kitchen is one below this, on the floor with the one-handed gladiator. From what I've seen, there are identical statues on all of the staircases except the main one."

"Including being broken in the same way?" Alex had to ask as they started down the other side of the staircase.

"That's how they were made."

"That's twisted."

"They're famous works of art. Or at least small copies."

Alex thought he'd just stand by 'twisted,' all things considered—seriously, a headless angel? He was pretty sure that Charles had the money to buy a whole one—but he kept his mouth shut as they reached the one-handed gladiator floor.

"Left at the gentleman in a skirt," Erik gestured at the painting in front of them, "left again at the woman wandering around in the woods with no clothing on, and then right at the large vase with the very…active…goats on it.."

This definitely wasn't the same way that he'd followed Sean and Hank down to the kitchen this morning, but Alex nodded at the instructions anyway. Navigating by the art—despite the fact that his only thoughts about any of it before had been a combination of 'wow, that's hideous' and 'please, God, don't let me break anything important'—seemed like a better option than the hallway-and-floor counting he'd been trying and failing at thus far.

"Ah, there you are," the professor said with a smile as the two of them entered the kitchen. "There was a great deal of feedback over the intercom, and I was beginning to fear that I hadn't reached either of you."

"It was probably mine that was causing trouble," Erik said, stepping past him to the counter to assemble himself a sandwich without even acknowledging the others gathered around the table. "All I could hear was static."

"I'll be sure to get that checked," Charles said with a slight nod. "I suppose it's good that you ran into Alex."

Erik dipped his head slightly.

Alex stared at his back for a moment as Hank made a completely predictable offer to Charles to check the intercom himself—the guy was such a geek—and then stepped up beside him. "Thanks," Alex muttered.

Aside from a twitch of one shoulder, Erik gave no indication that he'd heard, but for a potential puppy-killer that had been...really decent. It would have been embarrassing as all hell if Erik had told the others that Alex couldn't even get from his room to the kitchen on his own.