|Sole Physical Custody
Author: DreamsInBlackAndWhite PM
Oh, Wolf. You never thought you'd get saddled with a five year old, did you? Well, I'm sure it will all work out. Somehow. Maybe.Rated: Fiction T - English - Family - Wolf - Chapters: 3 - Words: 21,728 - Reviews: 41 - Favs: 29 - Follows: 47 - Updated: 08-28-10 - Published: 01-20-10 - id: 5682074
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
New Year, new story. This particular 'fic was the product of one extremely strange conversation with a friend. I mentioned that I love giving AR characters children to look after and she suggested Wolf. It kind of germinated from there.
Please, do read. Oh, and if you're reading any of my other stories, long overdue updates are on the way! I'm so very sorry about the delay.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own the Alex Rider series. Chapter title comes from 'Let the Reigns Loose- Get Up Kids'
There are very few moments in life that you can pinpoint and examine and know, deep down, that they have just changed your life. Usually, it's foggy, clouded in a haze and you can't quite tell the exact hour, never mind moment, that the world shifted and you just... knew.
Lieutenant Lucas 'Wolf' Santos was, as per usual, the exception to this rarity. For him, it was crystal clear. With his usual blunt, tactless, graceless lack of charm he could unerringly pick out the precise second his entire world on pivoted on its axis and reversed its gravitational pull. To him, it was feasible, tangible even, that the entire cosmos was just sharing another joke at his expense. And this one was so deliciously hilarious, so marvellously droll that he was almost tempted to laugh.
Well... tempted to chuckle manically.
And of course, in Lucas' mind, it wasn't his fault in the slightest. To a certain extent. He knew, obviously, that it wasn't entirely Mel's fault that she'd fallen pregnant. After all, it did take two to horizontally tango. But still. He'd sent her two hundred pounds to 'take care' of it after she'd phoned him.
Apparently, they'd had different definitions of the term. Apparently, abortion money was a phrase Mel was unfamiliar with. Apparently, to her, it had meant 'Go right ahead, I might change my mind later. I didn't really mean it when I said I had absolutely no intention of ever seeing you again.'
Go through with it she had.
Sleeping with Mel multiple times hadn't been Wolf's only poor decision over the years. In fact, it probably wouldn't have even been an issue if Mel hadn't spontaneously decided to get caught in the middle of a ten car pile up on the motorway five years later.
So, in all honesty, it was actually Mel's decision to drive without a seat belt that had landed Wolf in his current predicament.
His current predicament?
Being 'instructed' by some snotty social services woman to care for his five year old biological son whom he'd never met before. Apparently, almost getting his head blown off in Iraq didn't mean that the government was willing to pull strings for him. Legally, he was obliged to shoulder the burden that had been dumped on social services' doorstep. Even if he'd never been aware of the boy's existence. That ignorance had been bliss.
That bliss was far from our hero's mind as he pushed the speed limit, one hand on the steering wheel, one hand frantically trying to mute the radio with his mobile phone clenched between his shoulder and ear, neck craned precariously to sustain this feat of gravity defying science.
'Yes, I understand the severity of the situation. For Christ's sake, I'm driving to some bloody boghole council estate on the other side of the stupid island on my weekend off, aren't I!' He growled.
The car was on loan from Wolf's collegue and friend, Mark 'Snake' Ward and appeared to have a mind of its own when it came to small, insignificant things like windshield wipers and gear shifting. It's owner winced from the passenger seat as Wolf ground his way into fifth, more than a little concerned for his Volkswagen 1986 Rabbit. Mark was there partly for moral support but mostly because his car was his baby and Wolf was neither a slow or forgiving driver. In fact, Mark had only given him the keys because Wolf's own vehicle was a shitheap piece of muck maintained merely for sentimental value.
'Here Mark!' Lucas glowered, thrusting the phone at his friend. 'I can't talk to her, she's making me want to strangle myself.'
Snake took the phone with quiet confidence, nearly positive he could sort the whole thing out with a few words. Eleven, actually.
'I'm sorry, my friend is a moron. We'll be there soon,' he said, hanging up. Frankly, Snake-or Mark, was a little worried. Wolf wasn't exactly behaving normally. Normally he was surly and curt. Normally he scowled a lot but drew the line at outward tantrums. Normally, he wouldn't accept help from his own mother. It made Snake nervous, the lack of character distinction.
The car was silent as Wolf drove on, occasionally spewing short streams of profanity at what he was driving. Snake resolved to broach the topic of Wolf's newly discovered parenthood delicately.
'So. Do you... want to talk about how this happened?' He asked, tentatively probing.
'The usual bloody way, I presume. If I'd known I was going to wind up stuck with some kid I'd have knocked a bit more fun out of it, suffice it to say,' Wolf barked through clenched teeth. The wipers gave a feeble sweep across the windscreen, accompanied by a sporadic blast of the radio.
'Right. But seriously mate, how could you not have known? I mean-'
'Stupid thud piece thud of thud German thud crap!' Wolf bashed the radio, which had taken to autologizing obnoxious techno music at leisure, with unnecessary force.
'Lucas?' Snake pushed gently.
'Christ almighty! I don't know. She rang me, told me she was knocked up. I told her I wasn't going to get back with her and she said that she'd 'take care of it.' I sent her two hundred quid to pay for it and that was that,' Wolf replied, scowling out the windscreen.
'Was Mel the one who looked like Angelina Jolie's twin?' Snake enquired thoughtfully.
'No, that was Megan. Mel was the one who did Politics in Cambridge,' Wolf answered, impatient, as he merged lanes without signalling. The radio died abruptly which was a real relief.
'Ah! The one who though feudalism was an STD?' Snake queried.
'No, that was Michelle. She was on Mel's course. Mel was the one with black hair. Nice tan. Pretty. Was actually a lot smarter than most of my... lady friends. Had that tattoo on her-'
'The one who binned all your porn?' Snake raised an eyebrow.
'No! Jesus. She was the one who I nabbed off Eagle. Remember? Told her he had crabs the size of lobsters so she'd get shot of him,' Wolf divulged guiltily.
'Right. I remember her now. So who got in touch to let you know?'
'Social services spent months trying to contact me while we were touring in Iraq. They got me last week. Apparently, I was named on his birth certificate as the father,' Wolf said distractedly, rolling his window down a crack to let some fresh air in.
'What about Mel's parents? Didn't she move to be closer to them?' Snake asked, rummaging in the glove compartment for a car magazine he thumbed through.
'Yeah. Her mum was in the car with her and the dad's been dead a few years,' Wolf eyebrows knotted.
'So where had the kid been living these past few months? Five years old is a little young to be in a residential home with other kids. Surely. Was he staying with an aunt or uncle or something?' Snake asked, genuinely concerned. Wolf glanced over at him as he moved to overtake the slowest Volvo in the history of the world.
'He spent a month in some childrens' home and two more in a temporary foster placement. For God's sake, Mark, people see me trying to overtake in this piece of crap car and they're actually insulted! You need a new car. Badly,' Wolf grumbled as the Volvo accelerated away from his reach easily. Stupid Volvo.
'This was my first car, Lucas. Show some respect. We have a lot of memories. My first girlfriend. My first date. My first... you know,' Snake replied, grinning a little sheepishly.
'Jesus. I'm never driving this thing again. Mark, what am I going to do? What the hell am I going to do? He's just a kid. He needs a parent. Instead, he's got me. I'm going to be a crap dad,' Wolf lamented, glancing across at his friend pleadingly.
'Well,' Snake inhaled, switching into lecture mode, 'Y'kno, my dad and I used to cook together, just as something for us to do. I was never happier than when we were in that tiny kitchen together, making fairy cakes.'
'Really?' Wolf said incredulously, foregoing the obvious insults.
'No. My dad used to knock seven shades out of me if a teacher wrote home. Not because he cared, but to act like he did. And I was happy the first time I dropped him; delighted. It's just about finding some balance between drop kicking him when he does something wrong and being a total bender dad who talks about feelings. You'll be fine,' Snake insisted dryly.
'Very funny. You're a real comedian. Shit,' Wolf swerved wildly across the road to the soundtrack of some well deserved horns of complaint but he made it back into his lane which was all that really mattered to him right then.
'I do try. C'mon Luke, this is going to be fun, raising your own little mini-Wolf,' Snake taunted smugly, determined to be as irritating as he could to make up for Eagle's absence. Both Fox and Eagle had wanted to come but Wolf hadn't been too gone on the idea. He'd only managed to shake them off with the assertions that there were only five seats and he didn't want to overwhelm the kid straight off the bat.
'Oh fuck off, will you! I only agreed to let you come as moral fucking support because I didn't want to be alone with the damn kid,' Wolf glared, partly pissed at Snake, partly pissed at the traffic and partly pissed about the fact that he didn't have a clue about how things were going to play out.
'Sorry. I'm not exactly being supportive. I'm just happy for you,' Mark replied, apparently remorseful.
'Happy for me?' Wolf queried, staring across at Mark as if he had three heads.
'Yes, happy. For you. I mean, it may have slipped your notice, Lucas, but you're a tad irresponsible. At times. I think this kid might be good for you,' Mark elaborated.
'Good? this kid is a lot of things for me, Snake. And good isn't one of them. I mean, I was just getting ahead at work, just starting to tread water financially. I was doing okay again for the first time since university. And now, with this kid cropping up. It's just... Shit, I don't even know anymore. I mean, he needs someone to look after him. And I can barely look after myself,' Wolf responded despondently.
'It'll be fine. It's all instinctual anyway, isn't it?' Snake soothed.
There were a few moments of silence before strange muffled hiccups started being emitted at random intervals from Snake's seat.
Wolf glanced over, worried a little. Snake's face was contorted. Then, his face relaxed and he exploded into loud, hysterical laughter. He didn't stop. Wolf was mentally going through the steps of first aid for choking, wondering if would work. Snake started to turn purple.
'What's so goddamn funny?' He inquired impatiently.
Strange strangled noises started coming from deep in Snake's throat and Wolf strained to interpret them. It sounded like... 'S jus dya thin no howt grol ye?
Wolf translated in his brain. It's just, d'you think he knows how to growl yet?
'Oh just fuck off,' Wolf steamed brusquely.
'D'you reckon... he can... pull of the... glare?' Snake seemed to be recovering.
'When we drive to highlands to pick up your love child, I'll remember this, you haggis eating bastard,' Wolf threatened.
Snake collapsed once again.
Two fast food stops, six coffee runs and three filling station trips later, they'd arrived at the address.
The house looked sad.
It was grey pebble dash, grim, with a flaking yellow front door. It looked like a thousand other council homes, dilapidated and cramped, its derelict appearance only added to with cheap net curtains and ancient rotting wooden window frames. The neighbourhood was full of rusting cars and scowling teenagers and pitbulls. Oh, and horses. Everywhere.
'Are you sure this is it?' Wolf asked sceptically, raising his eyebrows. He felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle. A group of ten or eleven teenagers were perched on the wall opposite, staring stubbornly at him, daring him to even so much as look at them the wrong way. If it had been adults, Wolf might have said something. But kids? Even Lucas 'Wolf' Santos drew the line at threatening children.
'Number eleven, Watery Lane. I'm sure. This is definitely it,' Snake answered calmly, settling back into his seat, as if he was about to take an impromptu snooze.
'I'd better knock,' Wolf said hesitantly.
'Right,' Snake nodded.
'Right? That's it? Aren't you going to wish me luck?' Wolf glowered.
'Don't fuck up.'
With that reassuring sentiment ringing in his ears, Wolf shrugged his way out of the car and into the front garden of the house. It wasn't so much a garden as it was a patch of overgrown grass split in two by a cracked concrete path that was covered in weeds.
He got to the door much too soon. His palms were sweaty, his throat bone dry as he gripped the cold brass knocker and banged it twice. It actually sounded like he had much more resolve than he did.
He had time for one uncertain glance back at Snake, who offered a hasty thumbs up, before the door swung open to reveal a rake thin woman with wispy ginger hair. She wore a nightdress with a worn, filthy bathrobe on top and eyed Wolf suspiciously, puffing smoke in his face. Good god, he was too nervous to glare.
'You a pig?' She demanded.
'What? No. I'm Lucas Santos. Ì'm-'
'You for pick up or visiting? I don't have time to listen to your whole life story,' she asked, her face caught in a stupid, blank expression.
'Pick up.' Wolf answered tentatively, swallowing.
The woman reached into her bra and pulled out a grubby paper, one corner wet. Wolf watched, transfixed with horror. It was like a magic trick.
'You say your name was Smith?' She asked, scrutinizing the paper.
'Santos,' Wolf corrected, disgusted, as she delved back into her cleavage. She rummaged around for a minute or two, her face still stupidly blank. He shifted awkwardly outside, resisting the urge to recoil in disgust as she withdrew a brown envelope triumphantly. He was starting to feel nauseated.
'Oh yeah. Social called. Jake's dad?' She inquired smugly, like it was a big achievement for her to remember. Wolf racked his brain. Was the kid called Jake? It was definitely a 'J' name. Hmmm. John? James? Jacob? Joseph? No. Shit. It was... Jack. Jack. He was almost certain of it.
'Jack. I'm here for Jack.'
'Right, right. Jack. That's what I said. Jack! Jack! You dad's here! C'mon, I gotta get that bed ready for another one!' She yelled up through the house before turning to Wolf conspiratorally. 'I've another one coming this afternoon. I'm only licensed for six at a time. It's a pain in my arse.'
Wolf nodded mutely, like he understood. All he could think of was how he was going to introduce himself to his son.
'Yeah. You look just like him,' she mumbled, moving to one side. A tiny little human, barely taller than Wolf's waist peered curiously from halfway down the hall.
Wolf stared and stared. He was a little taken aback by the size. The boy was tiny. Were five year olds meant to be that small? Wolf pushed that aside though because for one second he was completely vulnerable. His kid was the spitting image of him.
Well, of him when he'd been four or five. The kid had dark brown curly hair, the same kind Wolf's mother had said looked like an angel's. Or a girl's. But of course, the kid's doting mother had probably refused to have it cut. He even had the same numerous cow licks that made the curls stand up in a regimented way. That was why Wolf had been keeping his hair short and tidy since his sixteenth birthday. Stupid girly curls. The kid didn't seem to mind.
His skin was the same colour as Wolf's, kind of trapped in the limbo between olive and pale. Enough to not really fit in to a line up of typical English kids. He had a little mouth and nose and tiny fingers that clasped the hem of his plain yellow t-shirt as he eyed Wolf with giant eyes. They were deep, dark brown, chocolate coloured and they stared at Wolf unabashedly. They were like hawk eyes. Determined and intense and unflinching. Just like his father's.
'Hello,' Wolf growled, cursing himself internally for his rough voice and lack of consideration. Why hadn't he brought a damn toy? Would have kept the kid busy in the back seat.
Jack just watched him closely.
'Here's his stuff,' the woman at the door who hadn't introduced herself said, thumbing at a small suitcase and an even smaller backpack on the floor. Wolf blinked.
'That's it?' He asked. The woman shrugged, handing him the ragged piece of paper she'd pulled out of her... place. Wolf took it gingerly, stuffing it in his left pocket. The one he never used.
'There's an address in there for some storage place in Wales that has the rest of the stuff. Guess you'll have to get it shipped to you,' she said.
'Thanks,' Wolf said. Jack stole one last glance at Wolf before he leaned over to pick up his backpack, struggling into the straps. He tried to lift his suitcase too, determinedly, but it tugged his little arm with so much weight that he had to set it down again. Wolf took it absently and lugged it out to the car, throwing it in the boot.
'You got a booster seat?' The woman asked sharply, frowning. Wolf shrugged and shook his head.
'That's illegal. Guess I've given you your warning now,' she twittered, laughing a kind of wheezy coughing smoker's laugh.
Jack tugged open the rusted car door that whined loudly in protest and clambered up onto the back seat. He couldn't quite buckle himself in but he tried doggedly and eventually persevered, little tongue poking out in concentration. Wolf almost smiled as he closed the back door. He got that same expression when he was concentrating.
He said an awkward goodbye to the woman, running a hand over his short hair nervously before he climbed back into the driver's seat. He glanced at Snake, who said nothing, and then used the rear view mirror to very conspicuously look at his kid. His offspring, perched somberly on the back seat with a little backpack resting beside him.
The little hands, clutching the seat belt anxiously. The feet dangling in mid air, not long enough to reach the floor. The determined set to the smooth jaw. And the eyes. When they were staring out the window, watching the council estate drift passed as Wolf pulled back out onto the national road, they looked sad. Like the kid was sad in his soul. A sadness so deep and desperate that no tears would come.
And then the eyes were on Wolf and they were watching him again, giving away nothing. They were piercing as he and Wolf stared at each other in the mirror.
And then Jack finally spoke.
Quick question: Which AR character would you like to go on a road trip with?