Hello everyone! It's been a good two and almost-a-half years since updating this piece, and I felt horrible leaving you all on such a cliffhanger! So much has changed in two years- I'm in college now loving life to the fullest, but boy is it hectic. I doubt I'll ever be posting chapter while I'm at school, but it's summertime, so I have time on my hands! A concept! So: I'm sure many of you completely forgot the plot. Understandable. Let me give you a quick summary:

Alex is captured by a group of kidnappers for hire, hired by Scorpia. They get him in class and 7 of his classmates are captured as well. Alex pisses off an aggressive Scottish kidnapper his punishment is getting tortured by him. The first occurrence happens after they get their ransom pictured taken- he's brought into a room, tied to chair, and beat up brutally. They bring him back unconscious after the Scot chokes him until he passes out.

Without further ado, here is the newest chapter of the pain game!

Chapter 9- Unstoppable

Tom couldn't stop pacing. He hadn't rested since the kids returned to an empty, Alex-less cell after their pictures were taken, and he wouldn't rest until his friend had returned. He swore that he heard a scream that sounded like Alex not long ago, but it could've been his mind playing tricks on him. He asked the guard about his disappearance when they had gotten back to the cell. "He'll be back eventually" was his cryptic response. It didn't do much to ease his nerves.

Finally, the door opened, revealing a guard carrying Alex over his shoulder. They hadn't returned the boy in the condition they had taken him in. He was unconscious. His face was smeared with blood; it dripped down his cheeks from broken skin. He was shirtless, and the damage on his torso was even worse. The amount of bruises had increased tenfold from the last he'd seen- black and blue outweighed the tan. The bruises were swollen and lumpy in some places, and full-on open wounds in others. His mouth lolled open and his teeth were stained crimson.

"What did you do?" Tom gasped, looking up at the guard who had brought him in. The rest of the kids were equally horrified. They weren't sure what they expected Alex to be doing, but it wasn't that. The guard didn't respond; instead, he unceremoniously dropped Alex on the cement and left.

Tom raced to his side, checking for a pulse. He found it immediately; it was steady and even. "He's alive." He breathed. Amy ran over, bringing James along with her. They both kneeled next to Alex. They all exchanged nervous looks.

"I can't believe this." Amy shook her head. The other kids approached Alex and stood by him awkwardly, unsure of their place in the matter. They wanted to help, they all did, but no one knew how.

"When do you think he'll wake up?" James inquired, his brow furrowed with worry and fear.

"…I dunno." Tom could barely speak. At that moment, he took back all the jealousy he had ever had about Alex's job. He now saw that it wasn't the James Bond-esque, sleek lifestyle that he had imagined. It was real, it was brutal, and it could very well kill him.

It didn't take long for the kids to notice that the bruises and cuts weren't the only injuries that Alex sported. His whole body was coated in scars. Some were thick and jagged, some were thin and straight. They saw burn marks on his shoulder, a slice on his neck, and countless unidentifiable wounds all over his torso. But what stood out the most was the bullet wound scar. White, raised, circular, and near-fatal. Even now, six months after the incident, it was clear how vicious the attack was, and how serious the injury must've been.

Tom and Amy had caught split-second glimpses of the scars after he was shot by the rubber bullet, but they were too distracted by his more recent injuries to notice them at the time. Now, it was as if the scars were displayed for them, on an unconscious, unconsenting canvas.

Tom felt a boiling mixture of guilt and anger in his gut. Guilt for prying into something that Alex clearly didn't want anyone to know about. Anger at the people who caused it. A combination of both that he couldn't do a thing about it.

Alex's chest, which had been rising and falling steadily, suddenly hitched upwards. Immediately afterwards, Alex's eyes flew open, followed by a series of hacks and coughs. Once the coughing stopped, he laid there, staring at the ceiling, unmoving, save for the rise and fall of his chest.

"Oh thank God, you're awake!" Tom sat next to his friend and grabbed his hand. The rest of the kids stared down at him in silence. Alex still didn't move. Tom wasn't sure what to say. "Can you move?" Alex responded by rolling onto his stomach and pushing up from the ground with shaking hands into a sitting position, revealed his back. His back had no new injuries on it, which only made the scars more prominent. Some especially deep claw marks (from Scorpia's white tiger, Tom presumed) were the focal point, running diagonally down his back. No one mentioned them.

"What happened to you?" Tom whispered, looking up at Alex. He sat back down and turned to his friend, bringing the focus back to his current injuries.

"Remember the Scottish guy from Humphrey's class? Well, they've decided to let him get his revenge."

"His revenge, what do you mean?"

Alex took a big breath. "This. Daily, probably. There's… nothing I can do about it." Alex stared down at the floor.

"Every day?" Tom whispered. Alex nodded without looking back up. "No! that can't happen!"

"Yeah, it can."

"I won't let it!" Tom jumped to his feet and turned towards the door. Alex grabbed Tom's hand, pulling him back. "Come on, Tom. Pick your battles." He warned in a soft tone.

"Okay, so I'm picking this one." He shook off Alex's weak grip and marched towards the door. Alex stood with much difficulty and stopped him once more before he reached it.

"Hey-" Tom shouted at the door, but couldn't get anything else in before Alex clamped his hand over his mouth.

"What do you want?" The guard snapped as Tom struggled under Alex's hold.

"Nothing, he was talking to me." Alex dismissed. Tom glared at Alex while he removed his hand. "Tom, what were you even going to say? What was your plan?" Alex hissed in a hushed tone. Tom said nothing. "Come on, what did you think was going to happen if you mouth off to the guards like that? They have all the power."

"I don't care." Tom grumbled, still in a rage about Alex's treatment, but he had calmed enough to know that what Alex was saying was true. Alex could tell he was going to let it go.

"Just... be smart, ok? I don't want you making stupid choices like I did back at school and end up in my position." Alex warned. His position. He couldn't shake the thought of the hell he was in store for. Mike strangled him to the point of unconsciousness just minutes ago (or was it hours? He truly had no idea), and it could only get worse from there. Alex couldn't imagine what might happen to him. He didn't want to. He felt utterly and completely terrified. For his life, his sanity, and his friends. All he could do was sit around and watch everything unravel.

Alex plopped down where he stood and buried his head in his hands. He did everything he could to not make a sound- he didn't want Mike, who was most likely listening in, to hear any signs of weakness. He wouldn't give him the satisfaction.

Tom slowly sat down next to his friend, took off his coat and draped it around his shoulders. They sat there, side by side, for a long time before either said anything.

"I can't just wait here in this cell doing nothing while you get beaten up every day. I have to do something." Tom broke the silence.

"I wish there was something you could do Tom, but there's not. There's nothing anyone here can do. Some things are just out of our control." Alex put his arm around Tom's shoulder. "I'll get through it, alright? I always have. We'll all be okay." he tried to be reassuring, but it was hard to convince anyone when he wasn't even convincing himself. Tom responded with a slow nod.

Alex let him go.

"Where'd you get all those scars?" Drew asked out of the blue, shattering the silence and getting a handful of nasty looks from the students. He shrugged. "What? We were all thinking it. I'm just the only one brave enough to ask."

"Like I said," Alex glanced in his direction, "this isn't the first time this has happened to me." The other kids looked down. Alex had hoped that they'd be left unsure what to say so that the conversation would end, but Drew wouldn't know tact if it punched him in the nose.

"Oh come on, there's more to it than some vague, dramatic answer." Drew snorted, catching dirty looks left and right. "You've got giant claw marks on your back, some weird looking burn, and a big scar on your heart."

"I'm well aware, trust me." Alex said.

"Like, I mean, there's a story behind that stuff!" Drew exclaimed.

"I'm not a book. Now shut up." Alex shot back at him with a large dose of hostility. No one in the room was going to put up with Drew's antics, especially not now.

"I'll find out eventually." He vowed.

"Why do you even care so much? It's not exciting, or cool, or anything like that. I get captured, I get tortured. This isn't some silly little action movie; it sucks and that's all there is to it. Now stop acting like a child." Alex took a stab at Drew's pride, which worked as well as he hoped. He mumbled something about being 'just curious' and slunked off to the wall to sit down.

A minute later, a guard busted through the door. Alex whipped his head around and faced the man in fear, but he wouldn't let it show on his face. Would Mike really take him back to the torture room so quickly?

Luckily, that wasn't the case. The guard said nothing; he simply took the backpack he was wearing off his shoulders, dumped it on the floor, then left. The second he shut the door, Alex walked up the backpack and inspected it. It looked harmless, and he doubted they'd throw something seriously dangerous in there considering how they needed them all alive, so he unzipped the pack and took a peek inside.

To his surprise, it was filled with gauze, antiseptics, hydrogen peroxide, other medical supplies, and a large supply of food and water. Alex looked up from the bag and at the students in confusion.

"What is it?" James asked as he and Tom came over to look inside. They shared Alex's surprise. First they give the whole group just two water bottles after a whole day, and now they're going above and beyond?

"Why'd you give us all this stuff?" Amy asked the guard outside the door

"The kid's gonna die if he doesn't keep himself healthy. Relatively, that is." He offered. The explanation gave their new gift a bittersweet edge.

Uh... Thanks, I guess." Alex muttered before he began pulling supplies out of the bag. He started with the peroxide. "This is gonna hurt," he braced himself before applying it to his worst wound- a particularly deep gash from the brass knuckles. It stung as much as he had anticipated. He grit his teeth through the pain until it had finished foaming, then wrapped it over in gauze. He set to work on the rest of his injuries as Tom and James came over and sat beside him.

"Hey James, can you pass these sandwiches around?" Alex asked.

"Yeah, sure thing. Make sure you get a big portion first though okay? You need it most." James replied eagerly, happy to be doing something helpful. He reached into the bag and handed both Tom and Alex a sandwich, then took the rest to everyone else.

"It's funny to think about which scary armed guard sat down at a kitchen table and made these sandwiches for us." Tom mused as he took a bite. "How did he decide that," he chewed, "completely plain white bread and a single slice of ham was the perfect combo?"

"What are you talking about Tom..." Alex chuckled.

"I'm just picturing this buff dude in an apron making each individual sandwich and packing them up in this backpack, just for us. You don't find that funny?"

"You're so ridiculous..." Alex laughed, then winced at the pain from contracting his muscles.

"Hey, you all good?" Tom asked, dropping the joke.

"I'm fine Tom, don't worry." Alex responded.

"Look, I know you're tough, but this is really heavy stuff." Tom kept his voice low. "You don't have to put on this mask all the time- no one would be okay going through it. I get you don't want them all prying into your life but for the most part, they just want to help, and we all feel pretty helpless right now. You've always done this alone, and yeah, you're damn good at handling it that way, but you don't have to this time. None of us can imagine what you just went through and the only thing we want to do is help you, however you can. There may not be much we can do, but a little goes a long way."

James came back to sit with the two boys and caught the tail end of Tom's speech. "He's completely right, we all care about you." he affirmed. "Even if not all of us show it, you're still our friend and classmate and no one here wants you hurting like this." James shook his head. "I still can't believe how crazy your life is, and how all you got from Brooklands was hate whenever you'd get to go back. It's disgusting."

"Thank you guys, thank you so much." Alex gave a huge smile. "Knowing I have you both in my corner means the world. I'll try to be less... mysterious I guess." He gave a half laugh.

"I know it's hard, being an international man of mystery and all." Tom laughed, James along with him. Alex smirked. Never before had he been surrounded by support while captured. It was very refreshing to say the least. He felt stronger just thinking about it. No matter what, they had his back, and Alex knew, somehow, as he finished off his pathetic ham sandwich, everything just might be alright.

There you have it! I'm hoping to update Crashing Down soon if you are following that story, so there's a bit of good news! For those of you that figured I abandoned both stories, don't worry, I never could, I love them too much and have them planned out to the bitter end. if I ever did that for some reason I would let everyone know and not keep you all wondering.

Signing off for now,

-Archer