Disclaimer: I do not own Alex Rider, or any other characters that appear in the books. Obviously.
A/N: This one is set after Houseguests and before Fallout. In case you haven't noticed yet, Alex has an alcohol problem.
"Wanna hear what I did at school today daddy?"
James smiled at the adorable look on Emily's little face.
"We made volcanoes!" the eight year old squealed.
"In science class?"
"That's great Em." James said, laughing a bit on the inside. His little girl was shaping up to be a bit of a pyromaniac, and she'd been particularly interested in volcanoes recently.
"It was soooooo awesome! They exploded! It wasn't real fire, but it was so cool, dad!" James shared a look of amusement with Ellie at their daughter's antics as she went on. And on.
"Uhhhh! Shut up about the volcano already!" Liam said frustratedly, banging his hand on the table for emphasis.
"Stop being so mean, Liam! You're always so mean!" Em almost-yelled at her brother.
"Calm down, both of you." Ellie entered into the fray. "Liam, you could have asked Emily to stop talking about the volcano nicely. Emily, you didn't need to raise your voice." Emily humphed and Liam rolled his eyes.
James just smiled. He was sure that he would find the two little rascals annoying if he was around them all the time like El was, but he had a hard time finding them anything other than adorable.
The argument had started up again while James wasn't paying attention, but it fell silent all at once. There was a moment where James didn't realize why they had stopped talking, just that they had. And then he heard his phone ring. Oops. He patted down his pockets and pulled out his phone. Ellie humphed.
"Who would call at 6:45, for goodness sake! Is there no decency left in the world? I swear if it's Landon again, I will-" James answered the phone, mouthing 'sorry' to his wife.
"Heyyyyy..." James frowned.
"Who is this?"
"Hey, Wolf, don't flip out... you-you gave-yawn-me this number."
"Cub?" Wolf asked incredulously, standing up.
"Why are you calling me at dinner time, Cub?" James whispered furiously, glancing at his wife.
"Ooh, dinner. I was just callin' cause I was wonderin' if there're any SAS guys with the name Cricket? Cause I's like, how funny would tha' be? Or like Mouse or somethin'" Cub slurred.
"Are you drunk?!"
"Prolly. Don't really know."
"This isn't even your number, where are you calling from?" Wolf asked, glancing apologetically at Ellie and shrugged on his coat.
"Uhh... Halden street? I think. I dunno."
"Are you outside? It's freezing!" Wolf asked. "Wait- never mind. Just stay put. I'm coming to get you."
"Naw, Wolf, 'm fine."
"Sure you are, kid. Hold tight." Wolf hung up.
"James?" Ellie questioned, her face scrunched up in that adorable way-
"I have to go. I might be a while, don't wait up. Sorry about dinner?"
El just shook her head and rolled her eyes. James smiled and ducked through the door shouting a 'bye kids, love you' as he closed it behind him.
James walked along the dingy street in one of the seedier areas of London. It was cold and it was raining and he was really, really done with this weather. The street was deserted, the few lampposts that worked barely cutting through the fog. Almost deserted, he corrected, spotting someone sitting on the curb, back against an unlit lamp post.
James walked towards the figure, head down and shoulders hunched against the chill. It was nights like this one that made him maybe, just maybe, miss Iraq. Well, not really. But at least it wasn't so damn wet all the time.
The always on the look out corner of his brain started sending him clues as he drew closer to the unlit lamp post. No coat. Soaked through. Young. Not grubby enough to be homeless. Bottle of vodka. Almost empty. As he watched the bottle was brought up to pale lips by shaking hands. Teenager. Possibly hypothermic. Highly intoxicated. He hadn't seemed that drunk.
James headed for him. The kid was wearing only a pair of jeans and a tee, the idiot. Once blond hair had been turned dark by the rain.
"Cub." The boy didn't look up. Wolf started towards him again. Cub coughed, sounding hoarse and not at all good. He stood over him. "Cub?"
The kid jumped a little, like he'd been asleep, and glanced up at James.
"Oh, wonderful. It's Wolf," he said bitterly, words slurring. "Can this day get any better?" He took another swig from the bottle.
"What the hell are you doing, kid?!"
"Getting drunk, o great leader, what does it look like I'm doing?" The harshness of his voice took Wolf by surprise. Apparently, the kid had mood swings when he was drunk.
"It looks like you're being a bloody idiot."
"'Bout sums it up." James stood over him, staring, for a few moments. Cub took another gulp of liqueur. It's all James can do to not wrench the bottle out of the kid's hand. All he can think about is that Cub looks an awful lot like Liam, sitting there in the fog. He sits down next to him.
"What're you doing, Wolf?" Cub said tiredly.
"Sitting." There was silence for a few minutes, but apparently alcohol made the kid talkative.
"You know what's funny? People say I have good luck." he slurred. "The luck of the devil. But can I get drunk in peace?" He shook his head. "Normal kids do this sort of thing all the time, why can't I?" James held out a hand for the bottle and Cub handed it over with a sigh. Cub obviously didn't remember calling him. James stood up and pulled the kid to his feet.
"Hell." James gave him a look, and Cub sighed. "I don't know. I'd rather not go home, it's being watched by several parties at the moment, and I'd rather not one of them take advantage of my current mental capacity."
"I'm really fine, Wolf. I can just stay here." His eyelids were drooping.
"Here? As in your lamp post?" James said incredulously. Cub just shrugged.
"'Don't have anywhere else to go." He went to sit against the post again, but fell down instead, unconscious. James sighed and lifted the kid over his shoulder.
"James! I was worried, you're la-" Ellie stopped when he walked into the room, Cub slung over his shoulder.
"Sorry." he hefted the kid over his shoulder and onto the couch. It would have to do. He and Ellie didn't have a spare bedroom, and they hadn't thought they'd ever need a pull-out couch.
"Is that vodka?" James froze. Ellie was glaring daggers at him. He held up his hands in surrender.
"Him! Not me!"
"Don't be ridiculous, he can't even be eighteen yet!" It was true, Cub asleep looked a lot younger than Cub awake. "If you've been drinking again, James Carter-"
"Listen, honey, he- he's- Ughh, I don't even know how to explain it. When we first met I was an ass to him, so I kind of owe him one, and then we stayed with him for a while-" Ellie paled a bit.
"That's your soldier voice. He-?" James nodded.
"I don't know much, and I can tell even less. I met him at work. There are stories about him, rumors. He's practically a legend."
"He's a child."
"I know." James said, voice gruff, glancing down at him. "He was on Halden street with an almost empty bottle of Smirnoff."
"I think he's waking up." The kid shifted, once, twice. Then his eyes flew open and he was on his feet, gun aimed.
"Whoa, Cub, you're okay!" James exclaimed.
"Wolf?" he questioned. James nodded. "What- where- Vodka. Dammit. Where am I?"
"Still in London then?"
"Yes." James confirmed. Cub swung the gun to cover Ellie.
"Whoa there, hands where I can see 'em." She had been reaching for the door handle going into the hall.
"Cub." James' voice was low and dangerous. "Point that away from her." He doesn't take his gun or his eyes off her.
"Who is she?"
"Haha, real funny, Wolf." Silence. Cub glanced at James' face. "She's- Holy crap, seriously?" He lowered the gun. "Since when are you married?"
"Since you were a toddler. Sit down before you fall down. And give me that damn gun if you're going to be pointing it all over the place."
"I'd forgotten how much I hate you." Cub said, scowling. He leaned over to tuck the gun into his boot and just about fell over. Would have, if James hadn't grabbed him by his collar and pushed him back onto the couch.
"Stay." Cub was turning slightly green. "Never mind! First door on the left through that one." He gestured towards the door Ellie was standing next to. Cub ran past her and she jumped out of the way, hands still up.
Wolf sighed. What have I done?
"Oh God," Cub groaned, leaning over the toilet bowl.
"And this is why you should never drink, Liam." James said, standing in the doorway with his wife and wide-eyed thirteen-year-old son.
"I hate you, Wolf. I really, really hate you."
"How exactly is this my fault?"
"I don't know, but I'll figure it out." James looked away as he retched again.
"You're a moron, kid."
"A moron that hates you." He sounded miserable.
"What exactly possessed you to drink half a bottle of vodka in one go?" James asked. Cub shrugged.
"Seemed like a good idea at the time."
"Hear that, Liam? Cub, I need you to answer a few questions for Liam here. One: is it worth it?" Cub growled. "You know, I"m still technically you're team leader..." Cub huffed.
"No, it's not worth it." He retched again and groaned. "Definitely not worth it."
"Two: Is it fun?"
"Three: In one word, describe how this feels."
"There. Now do you see why I don't want you to drink?"
"Uh-huh." Liam said, still staring at Cub.
"I still can't wrap my head around this, well, anything at the moment, but you have a kid?"
"Two, actually, Emily's sleeping."
"My God," he said, looking up at Liam. "I am so sorry."
"Haha, you're hilarious. I could still call the others you know." James said lightly. Cub groaned.
"All of them?" James nodded. "Daniels?"
"Oh yeah, he only lives a few blocks down."
"Shoot me now. Maybe I'll get some sympathy votes." James rolled his eyes.
"I think you're done. You can take a shower and borrow some hand-me-down pajamas that don't fit Liam yet." Cub stood shakily, washed his hands and splashed some water on his face. "Do you need to call anyone?" Cub shook his head.
"Nah, I've got a few days before anyone will start looking."
The next morning saw Cub up before anyone else, making bacon and eggs for everyone.
"Where'd you get the bacon?" James asked. "We didn't have any bacon."
"Went for a run, stopped at the store on the way back." he answered, sipping his orange juice.
"You're still in Liam's pajamas."
"Back in them actually, I took a shower when I got back. Is that enough detail for you, o great leader?"
"How did you manage to do all that without waking anyone up?!" Cub shrugged, a smile playing over his lips. Liam's knife slipped out of his hand and hit his plate with a clatter. Cub winced visibly at the noise.
"Aww... Poor little Cub's got a hangover," Landon Taylor aka Eagle said, waltzing into the room.
"Shut it Eagle, not in the mood." Cub growled.
"I'm hurt, man, I haven't seen you in weeks. You could at least say hello. Oooh, bacon!" Cub was glaring daggers at James.
"Food! I smell breakfast!"
"Shit, is that Snake?" Cub asked furiously. "I need to hide."
"Watch your mouth, kid." James said as Mac walked in.
"Hey Cub! No new injuries I hope?"
"Hi Snake." Cub said dully. "Course not."
"You know, alcohol is really bad for your liver."
"Yeah Snake, I know."
"Hey! Cub! Good to see you kid. If you ever do that again, so help me God I will hunt you down and stab you through the heart."
"Nice to see you, too, Fox." Cub said, hitting his head on the table.
A/N: Let me know what you think?