The food was just as bad as I remembered.

It was brown-grey slop that made a distinctly wet sucking noise as it plopped on the (questionably clean) tray. The menu said that it was casserole, but I had a hard time believing it.

Lion made me sit with them. Tiger picked at his food and wasn't overly impressed with anything I said, but I didn't really expect anything more. I didn't care much if he liked me—if any of them liked me, really—I just needed a place to hide until I turned eighteen.

Then, I'd disappear, and I'd be nothing more than a bad memory.

The three of them talked mostly among themselves—well, Tiger listened more than anything—but Lion and Bear tried to include me in the conversation. I answered when asked something and nodded and laughed at the appropriate times, feeling myself easily slip back into the role of actor and observer. If I was being honest, it scared me how easy it was.

When we finished, Lion led us to a familiar part of camp—the assault course. I remembered this monster, and I had no interest in running it again.

"Alright, Jaguar," Lion said, arms crossed. "This is the assault course. It's ¾ of a kilometer long and includes a mud pit, 4-foot hurdles, a climbing wall, and a few other bells and whistles. You have five minutes to examine the course, then you're starting."

I nodded and got to work, walking slowly along the length of the course, picking out the spots that had given me trouble before. My time had been almost 25 minutes when I'd first run it. All in all, that wasn't a very good time, but I'd been two years younger and inexperienced.

I made my way back to the starting line. Five minutes hadn't been near enough time to examine the whole course, but I remembered enough.

Tiger and Bear stood off to the side, watching silently as I shook out my arms, readying myself for the course. Lion held a timer in his hand, his affable persona replaced with a leader evaluating his newest recruit.

A half-smile formed at the thought. If only they knew.

"Go," Lion said suddenly, and before he'd finished the word, I was off. With a quick burst of speed, I used my start to run up the sloped wall (like half of a skateboard pipe) about ten-feet tall. Instead of hoisting myself over the top and climbing, I propelled myself forward with the momentum I already had, feeling the familiar burst of adrenaline and anticipation burning through my veins.

I slid down the opposite side and continued running, climbing the bare rope with ease and swinging myself across the monkey bars. I landed running and continued down the course, my senses working overtime to keep me balanced and to keep my momentum moving.

My chest ached over my heart, but the familiar pain was in the skin of the scar tissue and not the heart muscle, so I paid it no mind.

Time lost meaning to me; it was just one obstacle after the next, and before I really knew it, I was done.

I panted, hands on my knees, exhilaration bringing the smallest smile to my face. That had been a rush.

Someone whistled in appreciation, and I looked up through my sweat soaked bangs to see the three SAS men standing by the finish line. Lion had been the one to whistle, and he waved the timer. "Damn, kid, that's a great time for your first run. What're they feeding you?"

I huffed a laugh, out of breath from the break-neck pace I'd kept. "Trade secret."

I glanced over at Bear and Tiger. Bear was grinning and shaking his head in what I assumed was disbelief, muttering to himself and scanning the course in surprise. Tiger…looked reluctantly impressed. He caught my eye and scoffed, looking away.

Well. There goes that, then.

"Well, if the rest of the day is anything like that, I think you'll fit in just fine," Lion said, swinging an arm around my shoulders. "Let's get you to the infirmary, hm? We'll evaluate your field medicine experience."

Despite still being out of breath, feeling Tiger's eyes drill holes in the back of my skull, I couldn't help but feel a twinge of pride.

I didn't think Tiger's opinion of me was improving.

Not that it made much of a difference. I could work perfectly well with people who didn't like me, but it made it much easier when they did.

I'd had to patch myself up so many times that field medicine was just a more refined version of what I'd already learned. I didn't know what to do with much of what was in the standard kit, but once I figured it out, the actual patching-up was easy.

"You sure you haven't done this before?" The instructor asked, observing the neat row of stitches I'd just sewn into the dummy. "You forgot to sterilize the needle first, but the stitches themselves are quite good. I'm having a hard time believing they're from a beginner."

I shrugged and let a smirk slip. "What can I say? Did a lot of sewing as a kid. Typically cloth doesn't need sterilized needles." Or kids patching themselves up in their bathtub forgot to sterilize them.

That earned a couple chuckles.

"Well, just brush up on the process for disinfecting and sterilizing everything, and you'll be fine," the instructor said as she packed up her supplies, handing me a pamphlet. "There's an optional lecture in the mess next Tuesday on the basics, if you'd like to come."

I put the pamphlet in my pants pocket, nodding in thanks. "I'll try to. Thank you."

Next was hand-to-hand. The training facility was a large warehouse with metal walls that reverberated every sound you made. There were mats laid out over the left half of the floor, while the right half of the warehouse held several weight machines, pullup bars, medicine balls, and other strength training equipment.

Lion started taking off his outerwear, shedding his jacket, shoes, and socks. I did the same. "I don't want to have an all-out fight," Lion said, swinging himself into what looked like a boxing ring, about two feet off the ground. "I just want to do some light sparring to assess what you're capable of."

I nodded, sharpening my mind, focusing in on the world around me. I had a bad habit of slipping into survival mode because—well, in most of my hand to hand fights, I was trying to stay alive.

But this was friendly competition. A small matchup between the two of us, and neither of us had any intention of hurting the other beyond maybe a couple light bruises.

I swung myself into the ring and waited.

Lion smirked. "Smart kid, not making the first move."

I grinned, zeroing in on the slight shift of his stance. "I've been told I've got a knack for reading my opponent, and you don't look like the kind of guy to strike first, either."

"Well," he said, adjusting his weight, leaning back on his heels, "I'll make an exception."

He lunged, his right fist coming towards my left shoulder. I swiveled on one foot, out of the way of his strike, and pivoted my body completely around, my left leg coming towards his left temple as my body dipped low to the ground and I spun. Lion ducked low and grabbed my thigh, using it to twist my body so my back was parallel to the ground.

I overcompensated for his spin and turned completely around, my other heel striking his temple. He let me go and backed up, stunned, and I hit the mat on my back, already swinging myself around and onto my feet, my eyes never leaving him.

My hands were shaking.

Just a practice. Just a practice.

Lion lunged again, his expression neutral, professional. I ducked under his swing and grabbed him around his chest, just under his arms. I was a good bit smaller than him, so the move wasn't perfect, but it worked well enough, and I threw him onto the mat. He expected it, though, and hooked his feet around one of my ankles.

I went down and already started to somersault to my feet, but he lunged and grabbed my wrist, hooking a leg over my chest in line with my collarbone, and he locked my arm against him, the joint pulling uncomfortably. In a real fight, he would've gone for my neck, and I would be suffocating.

Just a practice.

"You wanna yield?" Lion panted, and I could feel the sweat beading on my face. Maybe yielding would be a good idea. I didn't know how much longer I could keep my composure.

"Hell no," I said despite myself, exhilaration burning in my lungs. He was definitely strong and well-built, but I'd learned too many field tricks for a move like that to keep me down long.

Grabbing the ankle just beside my shoulder, I pushed his leg out and twisted simultaneously. My arm wasn't nearly as strong as his leg, but his joint must have pulled uncomfortably (which was the whole idea) and his grip lessened enough for me to shove his leg up and over my head, and I rolled towards him. The arm in his grip bent at the elbow (the right way, thankfully) and I used my momentum to push myself up, flipping over him and wrenching my arm out of his grasp.

He rolled away from me and started to roll onto his feet, but I was quicker. I jumped onto his back, wrapping my legs around his hips and an arm around his throat, tightening just enough to cause him discomfort.

Normally, I would've just stayed on the ground and performed the move, but this gave me more leverage, and he had a harder time pushing me off.

Also. I was too short. Not that it mattered or anything.

"I could've choked you out by now," I said, hearing his slight wheeze as he backed me into the ring's siding, tugging on my arm. My free hand held my wrist, though, and I had too much leverage for him to pry it off. "Yield?"

After a moment more of struggling, he tapped my shoulder, and I immediately released him, jumping down.

See? Just a practice. Stop freaking out.

Matthew was exhilarated. Proud of his accomplishment. Happy with himself.

I was shaking. I'd barely kept it together.

Lightly massaging his throat, Lion let out a breathy laugh. "Damn, kid," he said, clearing his throat and sticking out a hand. "You've got some good moves."

I took it, reluctantly. As soon as he took my hand, he glanced down. "You alright?"

My hand was trembling.

"Yeah, fine," I said, tucking it into my pocket, looking around. "What's next?"

He tilted his head, but said nothing as Tiger responded, "Shooting. Let's see where you rank in your concentration, kid."

I sighed. I was getting really sick of being called kid.

I was glad my hands had steadied by the time we reached the arsenal.

On the wall, behind a locked glass sliding door, were dozens and dozens of weapons. Hand guns, assault rifles, regular rifles, shotguns…the list went on. I was pretty impressed with the assortment.

"Okay," Lion said, Bear and Tiger talking quietly on the other side of the range. Bear was putting on some earmuffs, and Tiger was handing him a handgun, safety on. I guessed they were going to practice while Lion evaluated me. I saw Bear say something, and Tiger laughed.

Hm. That was a first. He could express a positive emotion.

"Oi," Lion said, and I snapped back to him, heat creeping into my cheeks. "You listening?"


He sighed, rubbing the back of his neck and glancing behind him. "Listen. I'm gonna level with you, yeah?" He took a deep breath, his expression drawn. "Don't take it too personally, about Tiger. We lost…a good friend, about a year ago. Nobody our unit has gotten so far has filled that gap. Tiger took it especially hard, okay? It's not you personally."

I shoved my hands in my pockets. "Sorry to hear that." I felt like a bit of an ass trying to worm my way into their lives with lies and deceit, only to find out that they weren't accepting me because they'd lost someone.

I knew all about loss.

Every day, I was regretting this decision more and more.

Lion clapped me on the shoulder, smiling. "It's nothing you need to worry about, hm? Choose a gun."

I nodded, turning to the case behind me, walking the length of it, looking for one I was familiar with…

I smiled, stopping. There's my gun.

It was a sleek black handgun, 8 millimeters. Sliding the case open, which Lion had unlocked, I took it off the rack. It slipped into my hand nicely, the ergonomic grip easy in the palm of my hand. I checked the clip; it was full. I slipped it back into place and checked the gage.

"This is a nice freaking gun," I muttered, because it really was. This was the same model as the first gun I'd ever bought myself (from Smithers, of course). MI6 wouldn't let me have my own weapon, but that doesn't mean I didn't buy one under their noses.

Lion barked a laugh. "Well, it just looks like a gun to me, so I guess it's a good sign that you can differentiate."

I made my way over to one of the windows, slipping some earmuffs on and cocking the gun. I zeroed in on the target at the end of the range, lifting my arms. I glanced back at Lion. Out of my periphery, I saw Bear and Tiger watching casually.

Lion nodded, leaning back, his arms crossed. He had put on earmuffs of his own.

I turned back to target and emptied the clip in ten seconds flat.

I'd reached for the extra clip on the table in front of me before the last bullet had even left the chamber. As soon as the trigger recoiled, I popped the empty clip out and jammed the other into place, emptying the second clip in a similar time. The whole reloading process had taken about a second and a half.

It was all over in about twenty seconds.

My heart was pounding. The sound of gunshots brought it all back for a moment, and I had to grip the edge of the counter to steady myself.

None of the others noticed, though, not with how they were all staring at my target.

Lion fumbled for the recall button, and the belt brought us the target in a matter of seconds. Tiger was the one to take it down, laying it flat on the table behind me.

"Holy freaking shit," Bear breathed, standing behind Tiger. Lion ambled over as well, all of them slack-jawed and staring.

In the very center of the center circle was a single hole.

"Okay," Bear breathed, putting his hands up and walking away. "I'm out. I'm done. I'm quitting. If there are people who can shoot like that, I'm—wow, we're all screwed."

I tilted my head, considering, but didn't turn around. I was still trying to calm my pulse.

Shaking my head, sliding off the earmuffs with shaking hands, I turned around and joined them. "I'm not an expert for nothing, you know. I know how to shoot."

"How did you do that?" Tiger asked, disbelief in his voice. He eyed me suspiciously, his hands gripping the counter. "How—that isn't possible, Jaguar. I've met some of the best shots in the country, and they can't make a perfect freaking circle."

I pursed my lips. "It's not perfect. Look." I pointed to a chip on the right side where one of the bullets had jerked to the right a bit.

I shuddered. In Malagosto, Scorpia would've—I didn't want to think about what they'd have done to a trainee for such an obvious mistake.

No one said anything to that.

Lion ran a hand through his hair. "So, I mean—what is that? That's not a shooting style I've ever seen before. It's like you didn't even aim."

I flinched. If they noticed, they didn't mention it. "It's called instinctive shooting."

"Never heard of it," Bear said, and Lion looked confused, as well.

"I have," Tiger said, cold eyes boring into mine. Wow, this day was beginning to suck. "I didn't think they taught that anymore. Especially not to kids as young as you."

I shrugged, feeling my shoulders tense. "I had an old-fashioned teacher. Do you need to see anything else?" My tone warned them off of anymore questions, but I knew it was only for the moment.

"Uh—I mean, I guess it's unnecessary, but yeah, just go back to your window and I'll replace the targets," Lion said, folding up the paper and whispering something to Tiger and Bear about the Sergeant.

I grabbed two more clips and loaded the gun, setting the other on the counter in front of me. I was busy making sure the gun was still good, that the trigger hadn't jammed and the slide was still functioning, so when I looked back up, raising my gun, I wasn't prepared for what I saw.

I faltered, the gun sagging in front of me, and clenched my hands harder to steady them.

Human targets.

Faceless, thank God, but human targets all the same. Involuntarily, snippets of my training in SCORPIA whipped across my vision, of targets with faces and blood and emotion who each got a bullet straight through the forehead. I knew, I knew, they were just cardboard, just paper, but…

"Whenever you're ready," Lion said, and I brought my gun back up, trying to force my arms steady.

I heard new footsteps enter behind me and glanced back to see the Sergeant enter with Bear on his heels, folding his arms and watching carefully. Dammit. I shouldn't have even looked.

I could feel the gun shaking in my hands and grit my teeth, adjusting my aim. I couldn't do it. I wouldn't be able to make a kill-shot at this rate, but I could do other things.

I memorized the figure and closed my eyes.

I emptied the clip, adjusting my aim every couple shots, and reloaded just as quickly as I had the last time. I emptied the second one, too; the whole process took a bit longer, but when I opened my eyes, I sighed in relief.

There was silence as the target was brought back, before I distinctly heard Tiger's, "What the hell?"

I turned, setting the empty gun on the window ledge and taking off the earmuffs, joining the others crowded around the target on the table. Tiger turned angry eyes to me. "Where the hell's your circle? It looks you played pin the tail on the donkey with vertigo."

I pursed my lips, watching the Sergeant's face out of the corner of my eye. He looked pensive, his eyes taking in every bullet hole on the paper, straying to the bullseye every moment or so.

"He's not going anywhere, anyways," I said, tapping the leg. "That's the femoral vein." I moved my hand to the shoulder. "That's the brachial artery, and that," I continued, moving to the left side, "is the exterior oblique muscle. They're shots to incapacitate for extended periods of time. Any one of these will cause enough bleeding to put them out of commission."

There was more silence. I shifted uncomfortably, finally retreating to the solace of the window, sliding the gun back into the palm of my hand. "Am I done, or do you want to see anything else?"

Lion rubbed the back of his neck, his facial expression conflicted, and opened his mouth to reply. Before he could, however, the Sergeant said, "Lion, replace the target. Jaguar, grab a clip. I'm going to give you a scenario."

A jolt traveled down my spine, but I hid it, doing what I was told as Tiger and Bear observed quietly, Tiger still fuming. Lion replaced the target—human again—and the Sergeant started talking.

"You're on active duty, undercover deep in enemy territory, and you've been made. Backup is twenty clicks out. Two of your unit-mates are unconscious, and the other one is two inches away from joining them. There's someone in front of you; he's found where you've hunkered down. There's more where he came from. He's got a gun on you, and he's not afraid to use it on you or your defenseless teammates. You have one bullet left." To illustrate, he plucked the clip from my hands and emptied it, sliding one bullet into the top chamber, handing it back to me. His eyes were hard, and from the way he looked at me, I could tell he knew exactly what he was doing. "What do you do?"

I looked down at the gun in my hand and avoided his eyes, turning back towards the target now at the end of the range. I slipped the earmuffs on, taking my time. I slid the gun into my hand again, testing the grip, checking the slide, checking the clip, and finally raising my arms. I stared down the length of the gun, eyes zeroing in on the human target down the range, finding the precise spot in the center of the forehead. I internalized it, I memorized it.

I shot.

After a few seconds, there was a scoff of disbelief and an angry mutter, then heated footsteps marching out of the range, a slew of whispered expletives in his wake. There were softer, more tentative footsteps following. I lowered the gun, my hands in tight fists.

The target was recalled, and Lion took it down, his face creased in disappointment.

There was a single hole two inches to the right of the target's head, in the white space that would have signified utterly useless air in a real situation.

"So we've got a weapons expert and sharpshooter that either refuses to or just can't shoot real targets," the Sergeant said, his voice almost expressionless, "but can make a single hole with barely any overlay in anything else."

I didn't know if I was supposed to respond. I put the gun down and slid the earmuffs off once again, turning around, standing at attention. "Yes, sir."

"Pathetic." I flinched. The Sergeant walked up to me, his impressive frame moving slowly, deliberately. He got right in my face and poked me in the chest, his expression hardly short of murderous. "I refuse to send your unit out on a real mission until you have your act together, Jaguar. You give me another show like that and you're binned. Do you understand?"

I grit my teeth, my hands fisted beside me, and bit out, "Yes, sir."

With one more shove, he turned and stalked away from me, out the door. The shove had caused me to stumble back into the counter, and I leaned against it, rubbing my sternum. My chest ached where I'd been shoved, just to the right of my scar tissue.

"So…what the hell, Jaguar?" Lion asked, still looking at the targets. "What's up with you?"

I checked the slide before setting the gun back onto the wall on its handle, sliding the glass door closed. "I'll work on it."

"That's not what I asked," Lion said, grabbing my bicep when I tried to leave. I flinched at his touch, but if he noticed, he didn't say anything. "What happened? Why is it that you can shoot so well on regular targets, but the second it's a person you freak out?"

I jerked my arm out of his grip, and he stumbled back in surprise. "I said I'd work on it. By the time we're on active duty I'll be able to do it."

I walked away from him, not interested in a response. I should've gone to the mess, but the thought of the slop made my stomach churn even more than it already was, and I headed to the lake. Checking my surroundings, making sure I was alone, I hoisted myself up into one of the thickest trees, settling myself against the firm trunk, hidden from sight.

I dragged a hand down my face, trying to get my bearings, and clutched at my hair, my face turned down. My forehead rested on my knees.

Get a grip. I chided myself, knowing that this was a horribly childish position, that I should take the criticism like a man and fix what needed to be fixed, but I wasn't a man. I was just a kid, and I was starting to feel it. I wanted to go home.

You don't have a home, said a voice in the very back of my mind, whispering softly, surely. There's nowhere to go.

I shouldn't have come here.

I didn't know if I'd ever be able to make a kill-shot on a human target. In the field, it wouldn't be a problem, which almost scared me more…but I couldn't very well tell them that and expect everything to be okay, could I?

If Jack was here, it would be alright.

I flinched at the thought of her, shutting my eyes tightly against the swell of emotion rising in my chest. I buried my face in my knees and crossed my arms over my head, muffling sound and shutting out the light from the setting sun, hoping to find some piece in the stillness.

It helped. It calmed my breathing, but I couldn't stop the tears.

I stayed there for the better part of that night, unable to face L-unit. Unwilling.

It was a long night.

A/N: Hey! Sorry for the long wait. Hope this was worth it! For those of you worried that I'm going to torture Alex for thirty chapters and call it a day, never fear, his unit comes around :) it just takes some time. And K-Unit will appear!

Shoutout to all my reviewers from Chapter 2: bethrwilson04, otterpineapple06, GuestyGuest, ghostinthewrongcoat, teacrumpets9, Kc, EmoWolf, DymphiStiles, Guest, UsedToBeHuman, guest, and Oriande Moonshadow!

GuestyGuest: Aw, thank you so much! I really appreciate it!

Kc: Thanks so much! Hope you enjoyed this chapter!

EmoWolf: Wow, thank you so much! I can't tell you how much that means to me! And trust me, so am I! They're coming ;)

Guest: Thanks so much! Yeah, I wanted to play with Matthew a bit :) hehe they're coming

guest: Thanks so much! Hope this didn't disappoint!

Thanks so much for sticking with this story!