Disclaimer I do not own Alex Rider (I'm not witty enough) and I do not own Dulce et Decorum est (I'm not old enough).
A/N I was just re-reading the poem for a reason that I will not go into, and I started thinking: what would Alex Rider think? I then decided to go completely against my normal writing style (ie, this is in the present tense and first person) and write from an onlooker's point of view. I hope you enjoy. Please leave a review.
"Good Morning Year 10. Today we shall be looking at poetry." I listen to the groans that erupt. I don't understand why so few people seem to like studying poetry. "We shall be studying a very famous poem by Wilfred Owen. It is called 'Dulce et Decorum est'. Could I have a volunteer to read it, please." I choose a girl who is usually quite sensible; the boys at this age tend to treat everything as a joke.
Finally, we get to the end of the poem having evaluated every line. Honestly, these children. How can they not know what a similie is? They should have learnt that last year, at least.
"Dulce et Decorum est, pro Patria Mori is the final line to the poem. Does anyone know what it means." There are head shakes. Not entirely unexpected, practically illiterate buffoons that they are. "It means 'How Sweet and Right it is to Die for one's Country'. Now, we have looked at the poem which was written about the First World War. Do you think that current governments still promote the same maxim?" I see the blank looks and sigh. "Do they still say the same thing to their current soldiers?"
Bizarrely, I hear the sound of laughter. I look to its source, annoyed. A fair-haired boy who I don't really recognise is shaking. The boy next to him, Tom Harris, keeps darting looks at me and trying to get the other boy's attention.
The blonde boy seems to get himself under control, but by this time, the whole class is staring at him. He raises his head. I recognise him now; it is Alex Rider. I am new this term, filling in for Mrs Saunders who is taking maternity leave, but I've heard the talk in the staff-room about this boy. They say he's barely ever here and the excuses that are given for his absences are flimsy at best. Many of the teachers believe him to be involved with the police; maybe an addict, maybe a criminal, maybe both at once. Others protest this; apparently, before this year he had a practically blemish-less record. It seems we have our own little mystery here at Brookland. This does not, however, constitute a good reason for his current little laughing fit about such a serious matter.
"Now that we have got your attention, Alex, perhaps you could tell us what is so funny?" My tone is icy; I do hate people who don't take English seriously. Unfortunately, that is more than half the population of the school, including the teachers. Rider seems mute. "Come on boy, speak up. Let us in on the joke." He shakes his head jerkily. "Are you perhaps planning on joining the army once you have left school and feel that this poem purports a ridiculous opinion?" His reaction takes me aback. He starts laughing again, this time much more loudly. It isn't normal laughter; there is an edge of hysteria there, of desperation and sadness. He makes me more worried when he stands up abruptly, his chair falling backwards onto the ground from the force. He leaves the classroom at a run, a hand over his mouth.
"Do the assignments on the board," I say hurriedly before moving swiftly after my student. I know I shouldn't leave the class alone, but surely a few minutes won't hurt?
I follow the sound of footsteps: they end in a bathroom. I hear the sound of retching and I find Alex bent over a toilet bowl, emptying his stomach. I crouch down next to him and rub his back. When he has finished vomiting, I help him over to one of the sinks so he can wash his mouth out: there aren't any cups out of fear they may be used as weapons against other students.
"Do you want to go to the Health Centre?" I ask softly. The boy shakes his head. If his excuses are the truth, I can see why he wouldn't want to; with the amount of illnesses he has had over the last few months, he must have got tired of hospital-like surroundings. "Do you want to come back to class then?" He nods and we walk back to the classroom slowly. I pause halfway along the corridor and he pauses with me.
"Alex," I hesitate. Is this really my place? "If you… if you ever want to talk to someone, I'm here." I feel relieved now it has been said. I look at him and see, to my bewilderment, a strange, ironic smile curling his lips.
"Thanks for the offer, Miss. You're the only one who has made it. I'll think about it." With that, he walks into the classroom and takes his place.
I follow him, my mind confused. I continue teaching the lesson, but my heart isn't in it. My attention, no matter how much I try to keep it on the class as a whole, keeps getting drawn to the back bench where a blonde-haired boy sits, that ironic half-smile twisting his lips.