I know that the meaning of advocate was wrong but I tried to explain it in a way a five year old would understand. A person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. Does not really fit that bill.
Ben woke slowly smiling as he felt the warm body curled up against his side breathing deeply, he glanced down and felt a smile growing. After having three nights of straight nightmares Ben found he couldn't let Alex suffer and now slept with him. Out of six more nights only five had had nightmares, last night had been quiet. Gently, trying not to wake him, Ben started running a hand through his sons hair chuckling as, even in sleep, he leant into the touch.
"Morning little one." Ben smiled as Alex woke up, blinking blearily like an owl. He yawned then snuggled back into his dad not deigning the elder man with a response. Suddenly Alex sat bolt upright eyes wide, then he turned to Ben awe on his face, next thing the spy knew he had thin arms wrapped around his neck and a wet patch slowly growing on his shoulder.
"Hey, hey, what's wrong?" Ben asked alarmed, "Why are you upset?"
"Not- upset-." Alex choked out, words muffled from speaking into Ben's shoulder. "Happy." He sat up wiping his eyes a huge grin on his face.
"No nightmares?" Ben guessed a grin soon spreading. Alex nodded his blonde hair flapping as he nodded, Ben chuckled and ruffled his hair. "You need a haircut." Alex crossed his arms and shook his head.
"No I don't." Alex replied.
"I think you do." Ben rolled his eyes amused, only his four year old would complain about a hair cut.
"Breakfast!" Alex cut in grinning. Ben frowned and lifted Alex's top up, his ribs were still countable he was so thin, Ben nodded mock seriously.
"Yes I do believe you are still a scrawny little waif." Ben teased.
"Daddy!" Alex exclaimed affronted. Then confusion crossed his face. "Waif?"
"Street child, youngster, nipper." Ben grinned eyes flashing with mirth thinking he had come up with a new word he didn't know. He was sorely disappointed.
"Nipper; minor, youngster, child." Alex grinned reading his dads face like a book. Ben pouted then slipped off the bed pulling Alex with him and perching him on his hip. He was still much too light.
"Remember what is happening today?" Ben asked sitting Alex on the counter as he rummaged for cereal.
"Grandma is coming." Alex's brow furrowed in worry. "What if she doesn't like me?" He sounded on the verge of tears. It was times like these that Ben remembered that despite his mind and intelligence Alex was still a four year old boy. And an abused and neglected one at that. Ben picked him up again and hugged him.
"Then my mother is a fool." Ben stated.
"Really am I?" A new, amused voice said from the doorway, Ben winced making Alex laugh shyly.
"Well if you don't like your grandson, then yes, you are." Ben grinned at his mum then hugged her lightly and kissed her on the cheek. "Hello mama." Alex was still in his arms and clearly scared of a new person. She was medium height with kind blue eyes like her son and curly, grey hair.
"Hello, I do believe myself a fool as well if I don't like you, will you let this wrinkly old woman love you?" Tilly Daniels asked softly, eyes wide Alex turned to Ben and whispered something in his ear that made him laugh.
"Do you want to tell her?" Ben coaxed, Alex shook his head, "Are you sure, she would love to hear from you."
"Please darling, I don't bite." Tilly smiled, slowly Alex opened his mouth and spoke softly.
"Wrinkles are the remnants of smiles." Tilly's hands flew to her mouth tears forming at the kind words.
"You are full of surprises aren't you squirt." She said smiling.
"Thank you." Alex replied full volume beaming.
"The magic words." Ben laughed,
"Come mama, I'll take your bags up in a minute, was the journey bad? I was going to collect you but... we were sleeping." Ben blushed.
"That's fine dear. You eat up. The flight wasn't too bad, and the taxi driver was lovely, talked non stop, but it was nice to hear words. Now I hear you are a very smart young man. I also hear you rendered your dad speechless. What did you do to him, I have been trying to do that for years." Tilly asked, Alex glanced at Ben who nodded. Alex came to the conclusion that if Ben trusted her, she must be trustworthy so he would try.
"I read his book title." Alex whispered, back to being shy.
"That's impressive for one so young." Tilly was surprised, he hadn't been to school yet.
"That's not all." Ben prompted, Alex frowned then turned to Ben confused.
"What language was the book in?" Ben asked,
"Oh, French." Alex replied as though it was normal.
"You speak French." Tilly gaped shocked.
"Yes. I have always spoken it. I was going to move to France so learnt it at the same time. I used to get the words muddled between the two languages, but not as much any more, now only my French and Spanish get muddled, then my German and Russian." He pouted.
"Do you speak anything else?" Ben asked shocked for two reasons; one of them being the amount he had said, and the other the number of languages he spoke.
"A little Italian. I have only lived in England for six weeks until Ian died." He frowned upset.
"Hey, come here." Ben sat him on his lap then continued eating. "What do you want to do today?" Alex leant up and whispered something in Ben's ear, back to being shy,
"He says whatever you want to." Ben related to his mother.
"What about you two go down to the pool. Can you swim?" Tilly asked, Alex turned white and shook his head.
"Hey, hey, no need to be afraid, I've got you." Ben soothed as his son began to shake he looked at his mother who was confused, "His nanny tried to drown him." Ben mouthed to her, Tilly's eyes widened then she turned white with anger,
"I'm sorry." Alex gasped out feeling her anger, the anger dissipated as fast as it had grown, now replaced with shock.
"No honey, I'm not angry with you, don't you ever think that, I couldn't be." Tilly quickly backtracked.
"I can teach you if you want." Ben asked delighted he had found something Alex didn't know and he could teach, slowly Alex nodded then looked at his dad and whispered something else in his ear. "Then we will just have to buy you some swimming shorts silly." Ben chuckled ruffling his hair affectionately.
"Shall we go?" Tilly asked wanting to be active for once and try and bond with her grandson.
"Of course, go upstairs, I'll be there in a few." Ben ushered Alex towards the door and then turned to his mum. "Thank you."
"I'm sorry love, I didn't know about his past." Tilly apologised,
"You couldn't have been expected to. What do you think of him?" Ben asked,
"He is amazing and I wouldn't change him for the world. When is your unit finding out?" She frowned.
"I don't know, I need to tell them but I don't know how. I want to tell Snake – Derek – first so he can make a friend his age, I am sure Lizzie and Alex will get on well, they are both clever but I don't want to overwhelm him. He is signed up for the September intake at Brooklands primary and I don't want him to be friendless." Ben ran a hand through his hair and sighed,
"Don't worry yourself, he is smart and will make friends like that." Tilly clicked her fingers, "We just need to make him less shy and more talkative. Now go, he'll be waiting." She shooed her son away smiling at the care and love he displayed for a boy he had only known a few weeks.
"Yeah, that's it! You're doing it!" Alex was paddling in the toddler pool at the local outdoor swimming pool grinning like a fiend.
"Daddy! I'm swimming!" It had been three weeks since his first swimming lesson and this was the first time without floats, the blonde boy slowly swam into his dads open arms giggling as he tickled him, Ben picked him up and then clambered over the divide into the deeper pool, he sat on the ledge around the edge and watched as Alex tried to swim, making sure he didn't stray too far. He had put on enough weight since he arrived that he now resembled a small four year old but had enough intelligence to still render Ben speechless at times. He was fluent in almost four languages and competent at a third, he could read fluently in all three.
The only area he was still lacking in was self confidence. He was still shy but had met both Ben's two brothers and his sister, but not their respective partners, he still hadn't told K unit but was waiting until Alex had stopped whispering in his ear when he was overwhelmed, he pulled himself back into his head and saw Alex standing on the ledge near him talking with another four year old. One he knew well, she had red hair and startlingly green eyes like Alex. Ben knew her birthday and favourite colours. It was only a matter of time before-
"Ben?" A familiar Scottish accent broke into his panic.
"Hey Derek." Ben smiled at his former medic,
"What are you doing here? Out door pool is not normally your thing." The Scotsman smiled, "Can we talk while I dry off Lizzie, we need to be home before my wife gets worried about us." He smiled wryly.
"Sure, Alex." Ben called, Alex and Lizzie paddled over,
"Daddy I made a friend!" Alex announced at the same time as Lizzie, the medic cocked an eyebrow at Ben.
"A friend, would you like to introduce us?" He asked,
"This is Alex, Alex, this is my daddy, is he yours?" Lizzie asked, Ben stiffened, worried about the answer.
"Yes." Alex nodded,
"Come on, out you get, or you'll get all wrinkly." Derek helped his daughter out the pool and Ben helped Alex. As they too climbed out Snake grabbed Ben's arm,
"You have a hell of a lot of explaining to do." He hissed, Ben could tell his friend was put out but hoped, soon, he would be forgiven.
"Come on." Ben picked up Alex and led the way to their locker, he grabbed their belongings, waited for Derek and Lizzie then led them into a family changing room, Ben perched Alex on the bench, he tugged off his top that he had worn due to feeling self conscious about his scars and fear of sun burn, the rare sun that shone in England never failed to burn all those who dared exploited it. As Ben had expected he heard an intake of breath and shot Derek and imploring look that clearly said, 'later'.
They finished changing in silence,
"Al, how would you feel about going around to Lizzie's for tea?" Ben asked cautiously, Alex paused as Ben knew he would,
"Would you still be there?" He asked quietly, still not fully trusting the red headed Scotsman yet.
"Course squirt. Couldn't get rid of me for the world." He promised. There was a squeal as Lizzie hugged Alex and grabbing his hand dragged him towards the door, Alex shot a wide eyes slightly scared look at Ben who nodded at him encouragingly. He then turned to Snake who was pale in the corner.
"Tell me I am misinterpreting those symptoms." He whispered.
"No. I'll explain at yours, I hope you don't mind me inviting myself over, Grace would we grumpy if you came to mine and I want him to find a friend before school. Derek, I swear I will explain, there is a reason I didn't tell you, had you seen him when we first did-" He broke off as the two four year olds appeared again, Alex now looking slightly less worried.
"Coming." Ben grinned grabbing his bags, "You walked I guess?" Their house was only a five minute walk away.
"Yeah, I take it you drove." Snake smiled, his house was the about twenty minutes driving away.
"Yep. Come on squirt. Lizzie." Ben led the way to the car seeing Derek giving him curious looks out the corner of his eye. When Alex managed to strap himself in by himself the red heads were rendered speechless.
"Oh, just you wait, that's nothing." Ben chuckled. "He is full of surprises." Ben ruffled his sons hair fondly. "I only have to one car seat."
"It's only three minutes, if that, I think we'll survive." Derek laughed as Ben pulled out the car park, the medic took the few free minutes to examine his friend. He seemed happier, tired, but a different tired, he also seemed younger, and the way he kept glancing in the mirror at Alex made Snake laugh.
"Like you don't do it." Ben muttered.
"I am laughing because I do, not because you do it. You act like a parent." Derek smiled and glanced at Lizzie, just to check she was still there, the two were in the back and dancing to the music on the radio, as much as they could with being strapped in,
"We're here!" Lizzie exclaimed, Alex clambered out his seat and released Lizzie's seatbelt as she struggled,
"You're clever." She smiled, Alex blushed and mumbled that he wasn't really.
"Hi mummy! This is my friend Alex! Come up see my room!" Lizzie walked straight past her mother and up the stairs,
"Derek honey, can you explain?" She asked as her husband came through the door.
"Hey Grace, sorry to intrude." Ben appeared.
"Ben!" Grace hugged him and pulled him into the kitchen. "Here for dinner?"
"If possible, I need to do some explaining." Ben grimaced.
"Damn right. 'Daddy'?" Snake tried to keep his calm, he was the best at it in his unit but finding out one of his best friends had been hiding an abused child from him almost made him loose it.
"I'll start from the beginning. Alex Rider was abused by his parents until his uncle rescued him, while his uncle was away on business trips there was a nanny, who also abused him. Nearly two months ago his uncle was shot by a sniper in their living room. The bullet passed through Ian Rider's heart killing him instantly and then into Alex. It entered him a centimetre above his heart and nicked his aorta. It then ricocheted off a rib and out his shoulder blade, shattering it. He is admitted to hospital with a fear of adult. My boss tells me to look after him and adopt him, and I did. During the week in the hospital he called me daddy. Then we got out, settled in, introduced him to my mum and brothers and sister, not their partners, just them and am still working off that." Ben ran a hand through his hair.
"Derek, he barely has enough confidence around adults to whisper something in my ear, every adult in charge of him either abused him or left him for long stretches of time. I don't want him overloaded. I didn't tell you because I didn't know how, I don't want to jeopardise the progress we have made, hell we have only had three consecutive nights with no nightmares so far, he is walking patchwork quilt and broken, I love him and want to fix the pieces back together again, that is the only reason I didn't tell you. Please forgive me." Ben finished, Derek was red and gripping the worktop so hard his fingers were white, Grace wasn't much better, both were shaking in the effort of holding their anger in.
"Someone did that to a child." She hissed. "Is he OK? Has be been checked up on? Does he need any treatment? Does he hurt? Does-"
"Grace." Ben stood in front of the Children's nurse and put a hand on her shoulder, "He is fine. Now, anyway." Putting a hand in the small of her back he led her to her husband who wrapped his arms around her.
"Daddy!" Small arms wrapped around Ben's leg, he picked Alex up with a smile, "Come look!" Ben put him down and let himself be led into Lizzie's bedroom.
"Hello." Lizzie smiled and grabbed Ben's other hand to pull him towards the small table in the middle of the room and he knelt, Alex sitting on his lap, Lizzie handed him a pen.
"Write your name daddy, Lizzie can write hers." Alex grinned, Ben complied and wrote his name, then wrote Alex's.
"Can you copy that?" Ben asked giving the pen to Alex, then positioning his hand correctly, tongue out between his lips Alex slowly copied his name, his writing wobbly, Ben frowned then took the pen from Alex and put it on the table, he stood Alex up, pulled up a chair, made sure the paper and pen were dead straight and centre,
"Pick it up and try again." Ben coaxed, frowning Alex reached for the pen and tried again, this time was much neater, a huge beam lit up his face, Ben chuckled and grinned back,
"Why is that one so much neater?" Lizzie asked pointing at the second one, "I had to repeat my name so much to get it that much different.
"Left hand, he is left handed, his naturally reached for the pen with his left hand. I am right so instinctively gave the pen to his right." Ben replied,
"In- Inst- in.." Lizzie frowned confused.
"Instinctively." Alex beat Ben to the explanation, Ben had forgotten Alex was unique. "Naturally, spontaneously."
"Spontaneously." Lizzie sounded out slowly.
"Yeah." Alex nodded encouragingly, Ben smiled and watched the pair. He saw a figure in the doorway and grinned at a shocked Derek.
"Spontaneously and Instinctively." He mouthed, Ben stood and joined his friend after ruffling Alex hair warning him he was going.
"You should wait until he gets going." Ben grinned as they headed back downstairs. "Oh, I forgot, he is also shockingly bright and lingual. Wait until you have a conversation with him."
"How so?" Grace asked finishing off dinner.
"I was reading with him in hospital and out of no where he reads my book title." Ben replied. There was a low whistle,
"What was it?" Snake asked curious,
"The time travellers wife." Ben replied, then grinned as he dropped the last bombshell on them, "And it was in French." Grace let out a little squeak in surprise.
"He is fluent in English, French, Russian and German, but get the latter two a little muddled at times, and coherent in Italian. He can also read all five. I think it was a distraction mechanism, he wanted to forget that he was being abused and that his only living family member was gone so threw himself into learning. He was left alone in all five countries for days, if not weeks. All courtesy of '6." Ben growled.
"When are you going to tell the others?" Grace asked deciding to get over her shock and go back to that later.
"Christ!" Derek exclaimed glancing at the clock. "I have to meet them at James'."
"Wolf tidied up this time?" Ben smirked.
"Probably not, yeah, we're going back to train in a few days and want to get all the details sorted. I'd say you could come but with Alex I know you'll say no." Snake smiled sadly,
"Well about that, don't tell the others, I want to leave '6 and go back to the SAS. I may have to be a slight liaison but I don't want to stay in this business, I didn't before but now I have a reason to leave, I'll pull on Jones' mothering instincts." Ben admitted.
"Really!" Snake was gob-smacked.
"Yeah." Ben laughed sheepishly,
"Thank you." Derek grabbed Ben in a huge manly hug. "We didn't want to replace you but the brief substitutes have been awful. I won't tell." He promised then clattered upstairs to say bye to Lizzie, kissed his wife and was out the door. Grace was silent.
"Ben." She finally broke the silence.
"Yeah?" He was worried,
"Were you serious?" She asked quietly.
"Deathly." She relaxed then smiled at him.
"Thank you. Call the kids would you."
"Certainly darling." Ben teased.
"Piss off Benjamin, you should be glad you're not my husband" She threatened, Ben held up his hands went to grab them, he crept in the door holding a finger to him lips so Lizzie would give anything away then grabbed Alex under the arms and swung him into the air laughing at the delighted shriek it garnered. He held his son upside down and then frowned,
"Elizabeth, there seems to be something wrong with your friends head." He said mock seriously,
"You're holding me upside down daddy." Alex giggled,
"Did you head something?" Ben put and ear to Alex's feet frowning,
"He's upside down." Lizzie giggled,
"Upside down you say?" Ben put on a posh accent and held his arms out,
"Alex you silly boy, what are you doing upside down?" He gasped 'shocked'.
"Benjamin!" Grace called, "I said get the kids, not become one!"
"Right! I shall get the kids. Boss calls." He grinned and repositioned Alex under one arm and grabbed Lizzie under the other, he trudged down the stairs,
"Reporting for duty ma'am with requested parcels." Ben announced.
"You," Grace started brandishing a wooden spoon, "Are worse than Neil on a sugar high."
"That is an insult, comparing me to Eagle." Ben grimaced as he put down the pair of four year olds who were still giggling.
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