Author: Thoughts of a Shadow
Summary: When MI6 wants you to work for them, you do until you die. Whether it's your choice or not.
Warnings: Vague character Death.
He gets the call an hour after coming home from school. He's just finished up his Maths homework and Jack is calling him downstairs when the phone rings and they both freeze at the kitchen counter. Jack makes a noise as he slowly stalks over to the phone.
He picks it up with a sort of resigned sigh, dropping on the couch and listening. He hears the command to come to the bank [that's what it is, a command] and then drops his head in despair. He jumps when Jack appears in front of him and gently takes his chin in her hand. Brown eyes flicker up and he freezes, because Jack usually doesn't interfere and that's how they both like it. [He's always made a point not to look at her when he gets a call; today, it's unavoidable] He stares at her long and hard, taking in the limp red curls and shadow rimmed eyes. He takes in the slumped shoulders and coffee stained sweatshirt that isn't just stained with coffee.
There's tear tracks embedded in the light grey fabric so deeply that no amount of washing will take it out. There's a ketchup stain from the time Alex accidentally flipped a plate of eggs smothered in the red condiment on her stretched across the large front pocket. Below that red stain is another red stain from the time Alex tripped down the stairs and split the skin on his forehead open in a three inch gash and there hadn't been anything else to stop the bleeding. There's also an ink stain on the sleeve from the time her pen exploded while she was signing a permission slip.
But those are just the stains on the outside.
On the inside, there's the stain from Ian's death; the shock and the heartbreak and the sudden feeling of What-am-I-supposed-to-do-with-a-fourteen-year-old-boy Alex is sure swept her. There's the stain from the rush of anger she displayed very thoroughly when he came back from his first mission. There's the stain from the time she'd had to rush to the hospital, heart in pieces at the top of her throat as she chanted not him, not him, nothim. There's the stain from the time he came home with a scraped up wrist because he'd finally gotten in a fight at school; it's a stain of disappointment and pity as she slowly wrapped gauze around the sandy haired boy's bleeding appendage.
And as he takes all this in for the first time in a long time, he realizes that he can't do it anymore. Not anymore. Not after he's seen her.
So he speaks slowly into the phone, hangs it up and turns to embrace his housekeeper-sister-best friend as tightly as he can. She grips him around the shoulders tightly and whispers for him to come home safe.
Then, he's out the door, thumbs tucked into his pockets while a street light flickers awkwardly above him and cars speed by in the before-rush-hour time of no-traffic. He passes a couple holding hands in the park and a blonde woman running with her dog down the street. A business man pushes by him in a hurry, briefcase swinging wildly behind him.
And every time one of these people pushes past him, he tenses and then curses the world for making him like this.
Number 10 Downing Street is a bank, and this particular bank is a large, gleaming sheen of bulletproof glass and steel. Alex pauses on the sidewalk in front of the sturdy glass doors and takes a moment to stare at the rooftop of the building opposite the bank in the afternoon light. Nothing glints at the top and when he looks down he can barely see the outline of a faded blood stain on the pavement. Smirking coldly at the red splotch on society, he turns heel and slinks into the bank, completely ignoring the secretary at the front and jamming a finger in the up button of the elevator. He waits for a few minutes as the small box slowly makes its way down from whatever floor it was on and watches as the gold gilded metal doors glide open for him to enter. The smudged outline for "16" lights up when he presses it, and then it's just a matter of waiting for the doors to close and the lift to lift.
Alex finds the soprano 'ding' the elevator made whenever it passed a floor highly irritating and he's hard pressed not to cover his ears. But he isn't a kid anymore, despite his fifteen years of age, and he lets the annoying 'ding' continue for thirteen more floors.
Finally, he steps out of the tiny compartment and strides past Mr. Blunts personal receptionist, disregarding the way she calls after him so that he can knock once on the door labeled 1605 and shoulder it open without waiting for an answer. The grey man sitting at the desk doesn't show a hint of the surprise Alex knows he's feeling when he enters but Alex doesn't show any of the hate he's feeling, so they're evenly matched. A wrapper crinkles to the right of him and he barely acknowledges the dark skinned woman sitting down comfortable before he turns from the peppermint smell and fixes his unofficial boss with a stare.
He listens as the man who ruined his life asks about school, home, the usual needless small talk that only happens because courtesy demands it of everyone. Alex answers when he needs to and remains silent when he wants and then listens as Blunt lays it all out for him. Two weeks away from Jack, survival possible, danger probable. He's likely to be shot at this time [like he hasn't been the other times] and Alex realizes he was right in coming here today.
He listens politely as Blunt wraps it up with a neat little bow and a Hallmark card and takes a moment to pretend to consider.
"No." [He's tired of being shot at.]
The two heads of intelligence share looks and he's pretty sure the woman gives him a look of modified pity before they pull out thinly veiled threats of relocation and boarding school, candy-coated with a cherry on top.
"No." [School's screwing him over almost more than these two.]
They move from his school to his guardian, mentioning with casual stress the fragile state of her Visa. He shrugs.
"No." [Jack would be better off in America.]
They talk about all the trouble he's been into and wouldn't have gotten out of without their help and how he owes them.
"No." [Jail wouldn't be so bad.]
He smiles inwardly at the frustration on their faces and he's proud that he's finally sticking up for himself. The woman pops another red and white striped candy into her mouth and she sucks on it loudly before they move onto how they're really his guardians and that he has to do what they says.
"No." [He could probably report them to Child Services if he wanted. Not that it would get him anywhere.]
They stare open mouthed at him, because he's never refused it so confidently. He watches as they share a look and then decide a few hours in a holding cell might help.
"Yes." [Because he's been in their holding cells before and there are plenty of people here who will help him out.]
They give him odd looks as an agent leads him out of the room and down the hall. Alex is positive they're watching on a video feed from all the surveillance cameras littering the hallways. He waits until they're getting out of the elevators on the ground floor where the receptionist waits at her shining marble desk and a few customers lounge around in the square leather sofas until he acts.
The agent dragging him off to his supposed doom is new and Alex wonders if the heads of the MI6 were really planning on having him go to the cells or not. He slams a fist into the guard's nose and then uses a trick he picked up from some not-so-nice people to knock the guard flat on his back. He sprints across the floor and dodges guards while scrambling for the cell phone bouncing around in his pocket. The glass door cracks slightly with the impact he hits it with as he careens out onto the street.
Several bystanders freeze in shock as he shoves past them and presses the number 4 on speed dial and pressed the small cell to his ear. Several shouts follow him down the busy street [busy street, busy mountain, busy beach; same difference] and he takes the chance to look back at the nine agents following him and the three large black SUVs screaming down the street. He ducks down an alley and turns to look where he's going as the incessant ringing in his ear cuts off abruptly and a man's voice replaces it.
"Hey Ben." He pants into the small phone, blinking in the sun as he tumbles out of the alleyway and runs into a fast food restaurant and mingles with the over-harried mothers and screaming children, hoping to lose the cars in here. An exclamation of surprise comes through the cell phone and Alex listens to the ex-SAS now-MI6 soldier greet him in reply and ask him what's up.
"I'm in a bit of a iam. Could you get me a safe ride to the States?" There's a silence on the other end of the line and Alex jogs out of the restaurant and takes a quick pace down the sidewalk. Again, he's glad for his youth as he eats up the yards and meters in an easy lope and listens to Ben ramble on the other end of the line.
"Listen mate." [Shouts still echo behind him.] "I just need this one favor, please? It's…beyond important. Just meet me at Heathrow with a plane in an hour."
He snaps the phone closed on the older man and suddenly picks up the speed, rounding two corners in a row and then sprinting across the street to turn down another corner. He makes a few more careful moves before opening up the cell and pressing number 2 on speed dial.
It rings three times before Jack picks up, strain evident in her voice. He doesn't waste time with pleasantries before he barks out instructions to get into the car and meet him at Heathrow. He only waits for the red head to shakily confirm his orders before ending the call and throwing the phone in the nearest drain he passes. Yes, Smithers had made the signal untraceable by anyone, but paranoia sent the electronic device into sewage water. He runs for a while longer [just a bit more, just a bit more, he only had to run a few more yards and disappear for eternity] and every few moments he twists his head to check for a tail [make sure no one's after him, no one's following him home].
The next thing he sees is a gift sent from God, and even if he doesn't believe in him anymore, Alex sends a prayer up in thanks. He slows down drastically, risking the agents catching up again so that he can straddle the gleaming silver motorcycle without stares. He pries off the fiberglass casing and hotwires the engine in less than a minute. Ian surfaces to the front of his mind as a loud bellow comes from the small vehicle [damn the man for always teaching him to be something else, never giving him the time to be himself].
He realizes driving without a helmet could kill him right now, but if he chuckles morbidly and thinks it could be better that way, no one knows it. Traffic is easy to slip into and he pulls out in front of a black Alfa Romeo. A horn screams balefully at him from behind as he weaves the bike expertly through lanes of traffic [those dirt bike lessons had paid off] and suddenly he's on the motorway headed towards Heathrow.
He's been out of class so many times that it's no wonder that he missed the lesson on Murphy's Law, because everything that can go wrong goes wrong.
He hits every single stop light he sees and the gas tank is running on empty when he putters into the airport. He stops just outside of the chain link fence lining the airfield because there are several large black SUVs parked out front. He can only hope Jack found Ben or vice versa. Shouting interrupts his worrying and he doesn't have to look to know several airport security officers are jogging over to him. He leaps off the bike and scales the fence.
For all their upgrades to security after 9/11, he's shocked how easy it is to scale the fence. He's dropping down the side before the uniformed officers can grab him by the ankles and he runs across the thin strip of grass and onto the tarmac.
It takes him ten minutes to spot Ben's plane and he's relieved to see a mass of red hair bobbing around the military man. He pauses for the first time in his run for his life and finally begins to wonder whether he wasn't too rash to just defy the British government this way. But then he remembers Jack's tear-stained face and the hurt look Tom sent him yesterday and he starts running again.
He doesn't get three yards before a sharp crack splits the otherwise calm air and he stumbles.
He doesn't hear Jack scream when he drops.
He doesn't feel any of the pain [just like the first time].
He doesn't realizes he can never escape this pit he's been trapped in.
When MI6 wants you to work for them, you do until you die.
Whether it's your choice or not.
A/N. This one-shot is dedicated to maxmab13, who's been asking me on and off to write and Alex Rider fanfic. This probably isn't what she was looking for and it's definitely a bit confusing. If I write more Alex, it should be better than this. Constructive criticism is welcomed with open arms and I hope you'll review. Thanks!