A/N: Hey ya'll! Told you I would get the next chapter out sooner than last time! Yay for me, and I suppose, since you're the readers, yay for you too! I apologize for the cliffy, it happens. *shrugs* So, you'll remember where we left off, with Wolf walking around the corner and Alex spotting him.
NOTE: Be advised, this story's name: Wounds, will be changed by the next chapter to LiveWire, to better fit in with Alex Rider cannon. (it'll make sense soon enough)
"Wolf?" Alex asked, causing the man's attention to flicker over to Alex.
"Cub?" Wolf responded, disbelief written on his face.
"What the hell are you doing here?" Wolf asked him harshly, ignoring the others in the room.
"I live here." Alex stated. Then recognized his flub. "Not here, here. About fifteen minutes from here." he amended.
"Bloody hell." Wolf swore again.
"I'm guessing you two know each other?" Remy asked, raising an eyebrow, back from cleaning up in the kitchen.
"Yeah, you could say that." Alex said uneasily, unsure how to handle the situation.
"Hey, Andre, we only got Miller Light, is that…okay?" Matt asked, sentence trailing off when he walked back in from the garage, box in hand.
"Andre?" Alex asked, still smirking.
"No point in code names in real war." Wolf/Andre said with a shrug.
"How do you know Matt?" Alex said, gesturing to the still puzzled man standing slightly behind him.
"After Iraq, I shipped out to Afghanistan, we met there. I just got back a few days ago, came by to see him."
"We were in the same unit together, Andre is the reason I'm still alive, if it wasn't for him, I would have bled out." Matt said bluntly, walking by them and setting down the cardboard box on the counter.
"Yeah, well I've had experience with getting shot." Andre answered, pulling out a beer and twisting off the cap.
Alex snorted softly.
"All right, you know my name now, Double 'O Nothing."
"It's Alex, and you know it." Alex said pointed. Andre gave him an acquiescing side nod.
"I've got the Scrabble, we can head now if you want." Hannah said, unknowingly walking in the middle of the moment, holding the game, shattering the atmosphere.
"Okay." Sabina said walking slowly from her spot towards the door, eyes still glued to her phone, texting away, oblivious to what had been happening. Remy followed wordlessly, eyes watching Alex only for a moment before going over to stand beside Hannah who was glancing from person to person, trying to figure out what was going on.
Alex saw Andre looking down shaking his head, Alex paused, deciding whether or not to keep talking to him or not. After a halting moment of hesitation, Alex started walking towards the others at the door. They had already put their shoes back on and were walking outside. Alex bent down to slip into his own shoes when he felt a hand on his shoulder. He straightened to look directly into Wolf's dark, serious eyes. Alex looked to see Matt and Britney had went into the kitchen, leaving the two of them alone.
"Alex, a bunch of us are getting together Sunday night for drinks. If half the things I've heard about you are true, you deserve to be there with us. Besides, the whole K-Unit will be there, even Fox is off his leash long enough to swing by, you should be there with all of the boys."
"On a Sunday?" Alex asked, surprised.
"Yeah, it's the only time everybody could meet up, crazy schedules you know? Well, everyone except Matt, that's why a few of us are here with him today."
"Okay." Alex nodded.
"We actually tried to contact you before, MI6 told us you had…retired." He said.
"Yeah, something like that." Alex answered quietly.
"I can pick you up."
"No, I'll meet you at Chester Park, you know where that is?"
"I think so. I'll ask Matt to make sure." Andre said, nodding curtly. "And Alex?" He added as Alex slipped on his second shoe and started to head out the door. "I'm glad you're not dead."
Alex gave him a sad smirk over his shoulder. "Makes one of us then."
Andre 'Wolf' Johnson was momentarily taken aback at the young boy's words. He had only heard pieces of chatter about Alex over the years after they had seen each other during the operation at that creepy school in the mountains, and none of it was pretty. When MI6 told him Alex was no longer with them, he had assumed the boy had been killed. Dead. Andre had just seen him alive and moving right in front of him, but something told him that part of Alex had been killed. It made his lungs feel like the air had been knocked from them. Such a young kid. It wasn't right.
"Andre?" A voice called him back to reality, making him realizing he had been standing, staring at the glass door for a while. He turned, Matt watching him with concern.
"You all right?"
Andre flashed him a quick smile.
"Yeah, yeah. Sorry about that."
"No problem. So how you know that kid? I shouldn't warn Hannah, should I?"
"No, she couldn't be safer than with him, he can think on his feet in situations you couldn't believe, but it's not important, let's get back to that card game, okay?"
Matt knew Andre wouldn't say anything more on the subject, so just nodded and they walked back to the table set up in the kitchen, a few other soldiers sitting there, eyes curious. Andre sat down heavily and distinctly ignoring their interest, looking at his cards. Jeez, his hand was crappy.
Alex stared out the glass of his window. His mind had inevitably drifted back to training with Wolf and K-Unit. Which led his mind to his first mission, and then to the Point Blanc mission with Wolf again, which led to thoughts of his near-clone, Julius, and the fight where he had pushed him off the roof, thinking it was over, which led to how it had very much not been over. Which most definitely led to when it was very over. There was no coming back from a bullet in the brain, just like when Julius had reemerged in his dream this morning, the back of his head blown open, soaked in carnage.
When did such disturbing images cease to bother him?
Alex closed his eyes, forcing everything from his mind.
"So how to you know Andre?" Remy asked, startling Alex.
"Met him a long time ago, saved his ass once." Alex said, his tone clearly indicating he didn't want to discuss anything further.
Remy nodded, surprisingly understanding, only responding with a "Cool."
The car fell into silence, the only sound being the hum of tires against the road, each person in their respective thoughts.
Yet Alex couldn't seem to pull his mind from his missions, the death, the blood, the danger.
"Wanna play a game, Alex?" Hannah asked, spying him through the rearview.
"Sure." he said, his voice dry.
She smiled at him.
"It's a memory game. I say a word, any word at all that starts with A. Then Remy must say my letter A word, and then his own B word. Then you have to remember my A, Remy's B and say your own C."
"Okay, I think I get it," he said, coming out of his brooding a bit. "You playing Sabina?"
"Sure." she said, putting her phone away.
"All right, I'll start off easy for you guys. Apples." Hannah said, smiling as she kept her eyes on the road.
"Apples. Uh, button." Remy said.
"Apples, button, cape." Alex said smoothly, already knowing his word.
"Apples, button, ummmm." Sabina paused. "C…cape. Apples, button, cape…doorbell!"
"Nice." Hannah praised. "Apples. Button. Cape. Doorbell." She stopped, thinking of what to use for E. "Egomaniacal."
Remy laughed. "Oh, I see how you want to play it, very well Ms. Wordsmith." he started. "Apples, button, cape…doorbell. Egomaniacal." he said rolling his eyes. "Frankfurter."
Alex stifled a snort.
"Apples, button, cape, doorbell, egomaniacal, frankfurter." he said, laughing at the word. Alex wracked his brain for a good one and it popped into his mind. "Geomorphology." he said proudly.
"Oh jeez, you guys are doing this to me on purpose, aren't you?" Sabina mock-whined. "Okay, here we go. Apple, buttons, cape, doorbell, egomaniacal, frankfurter and…oh Alex, what did you say?"
"Geomorphology." he supplied.
"Ah! No helping, if you forget, you're out, but we'll let it slide since you're new." Hannah smiled.
"Okay, okay. Geomorphology. Aaaaaand. Hyperbole. Yeah!" Sabina shouted, pumped up about her choice.
"Ooh, very impressive Sabina. All right. Apples, button, capes, doorbell…egomaniacal, frankfurter, geomorphology, hyperbole." she stopped, making a turn and then said. "Ineffable. Incapable of being expressed with words."
Remy went through all the words at an even pace and added. "Jaguar." we all looked at him. "What? I couldn't think of anything else."
Alex nearly forgot Remy's J word for its simplicity, but tacked on "Kinkajou."
Sabina got through them all with a bit of pausing in between words to remember what letter was next but supplied. "Leonine, lion like…I think."
"…Jaguar, kinkajou, leonine, mendacious."
"What's that mean?" Remy asked Hannah about her word.
"Tendency to lie."
"Ah, you called her that didn't you?"
"Mhhmmm." Hannah hummed a response. "I might have. Can't remember everything I said that day."
Remy ran through the words quickly, saying the letter he was on before the word to help him remember what came next.
"Oooh, that's one of my favorite words." Hannah told him.
"I know." he replied, giving her a tender smile.
"What's it mean?" Sabina asked.
"It's the fear of darkness." She responded in a voice that sounded distant, like in that odd moment on the couch this morning. "And with that, we are here!" she announced, pulling up into Sabina's driveway and shutting the car off. As they all got out another car pulled up beside them, a silver sedan. Ashley popped out of it. Sabina and her squealed as they rushed into each others arms and bounced, "I'm so glad you could make it!"
The rest of the conversation was lost among the shrieks and OMG's. Hannah rolled her eyes and shut her door a little harder than necessary, Remy had walked over to her side and subtly slid his fingers gently down her arm and murmured something in her ear, making her smile despite herself. He moved on to head to the front door and Alex jogged to catch up with him, not wanting to intrude on their little moment. Sabina and Ashley followed behind Hannah, arm in arm and laughing.
They all took off their shoes at the door, Remy already ahead of them, padding towards the living room in his socks. Alex walked into the kitchen and grabbed a soda from the fridge.
"Anybody want anything to drink?" He stood and hollered out at them.
"Whatcha got?" Hannah asked coming to stand next to him.
"Um, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, Diet Coke, OJ, Pomegranate juice, milk and water." he said scanning the whole fridge.
"Pepsi, definitely. You sure know the way to a girl's heart Alex." She smirked as he reached in the fridge and procured a bottle for her. She cracked the top and gave a melodramatic exhale. "The sound of angels sighing." she said dreamily.
"Still addicted to Pepsi, I see." A voice carried through as Ashley sashayed in. "Diet Coke for me. Thanks."
Alex paused, debating whether or not to actually get it for her. After the slightest hesitation, he reached in and handed it to her, noting Hannah sliding the cool mask of cordiality on her face, giving Ashley a smile only Hannah's close friends would be able to tell was insincere. Had to give it to the girl, she had acting chops. The doorbell rang and Sabina sprang up to answer it. Brad came in, arms overloaded with stuff, struggled out of his shoes and trailed Sabina into the living room. Alex handed Ashley her can of Diet Coke a bit brusquely, and he knew he should probably feel bad for treating someone he really didn't know so inhospitably, but his loyalties lied with Hannah, and he saw the flicker of satisfaction cross Hannah's face at Ashley's astonished look, still standing there, holding her drink.
Alex headed to see what Brad had brought with him. Brad was pulling a handful of cords out of a dark bag, on his knees in front of the television.
"What's all this?" Alex asked, sitting down on the floor across from him.
"I brought a few videogame systems." He said.
"Yeah." he said looking up, blue eyes serious. "Just in case."
"Okay." Alex said, blinking away gruesome memories of Gameslayer.
"I got Wii, X-box, and Playstation. I can hook them all up, or we can figure out what we will actually play before hand, either way."
"We could play Smash Bros." Remy suggested, sprawled out on the couch.
"It's only four players." Brad said back.
"We could take turns." Alex suggested.
"I'm in." Hannah grinned, lifting Remy's legs from the couch and moving them so she could sit down. He stuck his toes underneath the edge of her leg.
"I want to play." Ashley announced, surprising them all. She ignored them, sitting in the recliner chair beside the couch a bit snootily.
"It's kinda a fighting game Ashley." Remy said, eyes still watching Brad connecting cords to the back of the TV, which he had twisted to give access to the jacks in the back.
"I know what the game is Jeremy." She sneered, and we all looked at him. Alex turned to look at Sabina and mouthed 'Jeremy?' with confusion. She just shrugged her shoulders, eyebrows furrowed.
"Jeremy is my father." Remy stated in a voice of ice, brittle and sharp. Not angry, not an emotion that abrupt, more like a bristling seethe. "And I am NOT my father." He continued, his words clipped, eyes flicking to hers and holding them. "Do you understand?" He enunciated.
She visibly swallowed, Remy's blindsiding personality change had shaken her. "Yes." She managed to say after a tense moment.
"Good." He retorted. Hannah put a hand out on his leg, murmured something soothing to him that wasn't audible to the others in the room, though they had unconsciously quieted to hopefully catch a word or two. He sat up and leaned forward, whispering to her and she cracked a grin. He laid back down and resumed watching Brad work. Sabina looked at Ashley, asking what had happened with just her eyes. Ashley turned away from her. Sabina seemed taken aback at the brush off and Alex could see she was a bit hurt. He reached over and squeezed her hand, just for a moment, before withdrawing back to his spot. She smiled at him and nodded.
This was the Alex she remembered, the one she loved. Attentive, warm and caring, far different from the calculating, cold and indifferent person she sometimes saw. She smiled openly back at him, not betraying her thoughts, she was glad that he was being more his old self. If this was all it took, she would have friends over more often, she had been reluctant because of him, not wanting to overwhelm him.
"All done. Are you playing Sabina?" Brad asked, eyes sparkling with success as the Wii home menu chimed on screen.
"Um, I don't know, I have never played this one before."
"It's not that hard, we can even customize the controls for whatever works best for you. Hannah and Remy have different controls than everyone else."
"B as Jump works better." Hannah asserted, Remy nodded with her.
"We'll just see about that." Brad taunted back.
"Why, Mr. Brad Davis, have you been practicing?" Hannah said with a fake southern accent.
"Maybe." he replied suspiciously.
"Like it will do him any good." Remy snorted. He and Hannah high-fived.
"Okay, so we will rotate a remote to the right, we will just change the little name thing at the bottom each time, okay?" Brad commanded, currently being first player, he could get away with calling the shots. Alex knew how to play, he had played it with Tom back in England before. He was handed a remote and a nun chuck, both identified with green electrical tape, a band wrapped around the nun chuck and around the remote's wrist strap. Each Remote was marked a color with it's corresponding nun chuck.
"Wow, OCD much, Brad?" Alex quipped at him.
"I like my things organized." He sniffed.
For the first round Hannah, Remy, Ashley and Alex played. Remy picked Ike, changing the color by hitting the A button on the character till his outfit was black and silver. Hannah picked Pit, also changing his color till he was black. Alex quickly selected Snake from Metal Gear Solid, but left the color alone. Ashley picked Princess Zelda/Sheik, clicking to the pink color scheme. The settings were set for a person to pick that stage and it was Hannah. She chose Pork City, and Brad groaned.
"How can you complain? You're not even playing." Hannah teased.
"Oh dudes, Remy and Hannah are going to wipe the floor with you." He said despondently.
"We'll see." Ashley provoked, earning a dark look form Hannah that spooked Sabina when she saw it, the look was…murderous.
But in the end, Brad had been right, with Hannah up in the wings, literally (she was an angel after all) ready to place a well aimed aerial kick or smash, only to flit away, while Remy as a heavy sword wielder pursued you from the ground, adding damage till you flew high enough for Hannah to land the final hit, and then you flew painfully off screen. Ashley didn't stand a chance, despite being a decent player. Alex winced again as Zelda twinkled into the background for the third time. From the start Remy and Hannah had went solely after her, eliminating her.
With extreme prejudice. Alex thought grimly to himself, as Remy and Hannah's tag team turned their sights on him. He had struggled valiantly, nearly killing them enough times to win, each with only a single life when Ike slashed him and he soared off-screen, a flash of light signaling his death. He sighed but watched the screen with interest, how would Hannah and Remy fair against one another? There characters weren't moving at all.
Alex glanced over at them, what were they doing? Were they playing rock, paper, scissors? Hannah lost and then picked her remote back off and walked off the edge, killing herself. Remy won, he bowed graciously to Hannah who bowed back. Alex rolled his eyes, they were so dramatic. Everyone passed their controllers to the right, so that it was Ashley, Remy, Hannah and Brad. Sabina scooted closer to Alex so they could watch the match, during which Alex explained the game a little better to her so she wouldn't be completely vulnerable on the field.
They played match after match and before anyone knew it a few hours had gone by. Besides Hannah the girls had quit playing, leaving the four others to play without switching. Eventually Brad noticed the fact that Ashley and Sabina were terribly bored and suggested they do something else. Ashley jumped at the chance.
"We should play 'I Have Never'." She exclaimed excitedly.
"What's that?" Alex asked, not seeing the daggers being glared at him.
"Okay." Ashley said, settling herself down on the floor next to Alex and Sabina. "We all start by putting ten fingers in the air, then let's say it is my turn, I will say something I have never done. An example being: I have never skinny dipped. So let's say Brad has." she said, nodding her head at him, keeping her fingers splayed. He looked affronted momentarily, then saw everyone else's skeptical looks. Out of all of them he probably would skinny dip, so then he nodded a maybe.
"So, he would put a finger down, hypothetically." Ashley continued. "Then we would just go in a circle, which would mean Remy would be next."
"Ooh, sounds like fun!" Sabina squealed happily, and Alex and Brad agreed, but Remy seemed irritated and Hannah looked angry.
"I'll go first!" Brad said quickly, making Ashley deflate slightly. She had wanted to go first, but she nodded and let him proceed.
"I have never owned a car." He said smugly.
"Oh, cheap!" Hannah exclaimed, leaning over the edge of the couch to smack the back of his head.
Both her and Remy tucked down a finger. Alex was next, he had to think, there wasn't much he hadn't done. He went with something easy.
"I have never done drugs." he stated and Brad sheepishly lowered a digit.
Everyone looked at him.
"It was only once, shortly after the whole thing with my parents."
Alex nodded understandingly. Then it was Sabina's turn.
"I have never…" she paused, eyes looking up at nothing, thinking. "I have never texted while driving." she stated, grinning.
Hannah, Brad and Ashley all put fingers down.
"Hannah!" Remy teased overdramatically.
"What? Only during stoplights!" she insisted. Remy tisked disapprovingly at her, fighting to keep the smile from his face.
"I have never seen anyone get shot." Ashley said, something malicious in her eyes, killing the light atmosphere with a singly sentence. Everyone stopped and looked at her.
"Why would you say something like that?" Alex asked, he knew he should keep his past a secret, he had only narrowly dodged a bullet with Wolf this morning, figuratively of course. It was almost laughable how such a simple game could be the potential undoing of his secrets.
Ashley turned her overly widened eyes, trying to portray innocence.
"What? I haven't. But you have, haven't you Hannah?" Ashley turned and grinned spitefully.
"Yes, I have." she said, words oddly calm, face wiped from expression.
"So have I." Sabina said, startling everyone.
"Me too." Alex nodded. If Sabina was being honest, he figured he might as well be truthful too.
"Same here." Brad added grimly.
"Wait. You've all seen people get shot?" Ashley asked with incredulity. "Even you Sab?" She asked, turning to her friend.
"Yes, I've seen a man get shot and die." Sabina replied, voice hollow.
"Well, technically we watch people get shot on TV all the time. I watched an episode of NCIS: LA on Tuesday and over six people were shot." Brad replied logically.
"Okay, fine." Ashley retorted bitingly. "I have never shot someone." She said, glaring at Hannah. Alex tucked a finger down, as did Hannah, and Remy.
Hannah and Remy looked at Alex with surprise, as he looked back at them, a no doubted stunned look on his face.
"You've shot someone before, Alex?" Hannah asked him.
Alex simply nodded. "More than once." he felt the need to add. Ashley was looking more and more freaked out by the second.
"What the hell is wrong with you people?" she said breathlessly.
"Did he die?" Remy asked him.
"Yes, I shot him in the head. Close range." Alex stated, somehow more at peace with his actions now that he had said them aloud.
"You know what? I just realized I have to go." Ashley said suddenly interrupting them.
"What?" Sabina asked, startled from her contemplation of everything. "Why? Does this mean you can't spend the night with the rest of us?" She tacked on a bit sadly.
"Yes. Yes, that is exactly what it means. I'll see you at school." Ashley said, standing and quickly gathering her things, and then she was gone, the door slamming shut behind her.
"Well…that was weird." Brad stated, making the others laugh.
"She was trying to make me the outcast of our group, again. Luckily I have much more in common than I thought with my new friends."
Isn't that what Hannah had said about Remy? That she realized they had much more in common? Perhaps learning they both had apparently shot someone was what she was referring to. Now Alex was included in that too. For some reason he felt warmed by this, at home. Which was probably not how a normal, mentally healthy human being would react, but Alex didn't care, he just returned the wolfish grin that Hannah sent him.
A/N: okay, going to cut it off here. Mainly because it's nearly two in the morning and I'm tired. Sorry. So, wow, learned a lot about Alex's buddies, Wolf included. I couldn't find Wolf's real name anywhere, so I assumed it was never revealed, so I named him myself. If this is incorrect and he does have a name, I apologize.
So, we also learned a bit why Alex's friends all get along so well with each other, but not the rest of humanity. Ashley failed in her attempt to alienate Hannah from her friends by revealing her secret backfired when she realized they were all damaged in similar ways. Sucks to be Ashley! Anyways, one, maybe two more chapters of this and then we will get to the action, I hate writing all this filler, I want to get to the good stuff too!
And here is my traditional New Year's Toast. To us: May this year suck less than the one before it. (can you tell I'm just a ray of sunshine?) Happy New Earth Year!