(waves) It's been a long time since this was updated! And I did have this on hiatus, but I suddenly got a burst of inspiration for it, so I took it off again. :D
It's a short chapter, as chapters go, but it's up nonetheless and I hope that everyone enjoys it.
DISCLAIMER: Strangely enough, it's still not mine.
The next morning, Alex woke early – as he always did – and headed down to the kitchen, taking with him his brief on their 'family' and the task they had been given, intending to grab some breakfast while familiarising himself with the assignment.
He had thought the kitchen would be empty, but Armitage was there when he arrived. Apparently, she'd had the same idea – a cup of tea, still hot enough to give off a gentle, but constant, swirl of steam, was clasped in one hand, and her file was open on the table in front of her.
"Alex!" she looked a little surprised to see him, but smiled all the same. "I didn't think either you or Matt would be up this early. I thought all teenagers slept late."
Alex shrugged, rather awkwardly. "I used to." He said, slowly. "But – it's easier not to now." He didn't need to say that it was also safer; they both knew that.
"Of course. What d'you want for breakfast?" the question was genuine enough, Alex decided after a second or two. Armitage shrugged, rather helplessly. "There's not much – we're supposed to be moving, after all – but… there's some cereal, and the toaster hasn't been packed yet, so…"
"I'll have cereal, thanks." Alex said, with a small smile.
They ate in silence for a few moments, both of them reading through the basics of their assignment without finding it necessary to speak. After maybe fifteen or twenty minutes, it was Armitage who finally broke the silence.
"Do you remember what we talked about last night?"
"About how Matthew and I should play this? Yes." Alex nodded. "How about you?" The return question was very deliberate – if she could question him, there was no reason he couldn't return the favour.
Armitage gave him a rather wry smile; apparently, she knew, or had guessed, his reasoning. "I remember. I've been thinking, though – it's all very well for me to play the workaholic career woman, but now that everyone has mobile phones, there's no reason for someone to actually come and fetch me, is there? So I'm the only person who'll be actually in the factory."
Alex shrugged, rather impressed, in spite of himself, that she was discussing this with him like he was a rational adult, rather than simply dismissing him as a child. "Bring your work home with you." he said, quietly. "Or, photocopy anything you think might be useful." He paused. "Also, you know, if I'm going to play a kid who's unhappy at being uprooted, there's no reason why you wouldn't take my mobile phone away as a punishment for my bad behaviour, then send me to fetch you as a further punishment."
Armitage considered his point in silence. "I can deal with bringing the files I work on home with me – that's easy enough to do. But it's going to take a while before we're can be confident enough to send you to fetch me, you know? It's not like this is a little local company we're talking about here; it's a major international steelworks. People don't just send their kids wandering in to fetch their relatives."
Alex nodded. "But then again, we're going to have to wait at least a couple of weeks before any of us try anything, aren't we?" he pointed out, and Armitage acknowledged the point with a nod. "I mean, all of us have to get ourselves accepted, and make sure that our 'characters' are believed in before we can begin on our proper assignment, and no one trusts that quickly."
She smiled at him. "You know, when they told us – me and Luc – that we were going to be working with two teenagers, I thought this assignment was going to be hell. You know, never work with children or animals, and all that. But… it might not be so bad."
Alex blushed a little in spite of himself; he might have been a hardened spy, but he still had a teenager's shyness when it came to compliments. "Thanks." He replied, quietly, "But Matt's new to this, so…"
"We'll baby-sit him a bit if we need to." Armitage nodded. "At least we know now that we're not going to have to baby-sit both of you, as well as finishing the job we've been set."
Alex opened his mouth to reply – he didn't exactly know what he was planning on saying, though – when the kitchen door opened to reveal Moreau, fully dressed, dark eyes aware and faintly mischievous.
"Good morning, family of mine." He grinned. "Joanna, my sweet, you look stunning. Alex, I didn't expect to see you up anything like this early."
"I said something like that." Joanna grinned at him from where she sat in her decidedly un-stunning, very practical pyjamas and her equally un-stunning, ratty old towelling dressing gown.
"Obviously, Alex here is full of surprises." Moreau said, as he filled the kettle and dumped some coffee granules in one of the few mugs still left out.
"Obviously." Armitage agreed, straight-faced.
"Just how many times have you two worked together before?" Alex demanded. "You never actually answered me when I asked."
Moreau grinned that same mischievous, rather worrying grin at him again. "I didn't know whether you'd noticed that." He told him.
"Yet you still haven't answered." Alex pointed out.
"Foiled again!" Moreau exclaimed, dramatically.
Alex let his head drop into his hands. "I hate morning people."
That day was spent 'packing up' the last few bits and pieces; the removal men – from a genuine firm, Alex noticed, absently – arrived to pick up their few last bits and pieces of furniture, and 'their' car was piled high with the last few odds and ends. Armitage had told him and Matt – when the other boy finally got up, at about ten thirty – that they'd be leaving early the next morning, and heading down to Folkestone to catch the EuroStar across to France.
Matt hadn't got any better at acting since the day before, shockingly enough, and Alex overheard Armitage confide, rather worriedly, in Moreau, that she 'hoped an outsider would just take it for normal teenage behaviour'. For his part, Alex just hoped Matt didn't act on any of the delusions he seemed to have about being a spy, and try anything extravagant. So long as he kept his mouth shut, they'd probably all be fine.
The next day, Armitage woke them both early, and hustled them into the car, switching into her 'mother' mode the moment they left the front door of the house, and staying in it all day from then on. Since Alex had raised the idea that their new house might be bugged, they had decided, the night before, to stay 'in character' all the time, unless they were completely sure that they were in a safe place.
After a couple of hours driving, Alex fell asleep, just to alleviate the boredom of it all. They weren't going to be leaving the car when they got to the EuroStar – they had booked a ticket which allowed them to take the car on and simply sit in it during the short journey across the Channel – so they were going to be there for a while. Sleep was the best way to spend the all-too-long journey.
Matt had apparently had the same idea, and Moreau woke both of them several hours later, for a quick meal and a chance to stretch their legs at one of the service stations which lined the motorway.
"How much longer?" Alex asked, in English, unsure as to whether he should speak English or French now.
Moreau raised an eyebrow. "That sounded far too much like 'are we there yet'." He told Alex, gravely.
Alex resisted the surprisingly strong urge to hit the man – apparently, Moreau was one of those people who just had that effect on you. "Well? How much longer until we get there?" he asked, impatiently.
"I think another three hours." Armitage broke in, shooting her adult partner a warning look not unlike that of a put-upon wife. "You and Matt should spend the time trying to get to know each other. You know, build up that brotherly animosity." She ended with a smile which Alex only half returned.
"I think Matt provides enough animosity for both of us." He sighed.
They arrived at their new 'home' much later than any of them had expected, due to a couple of unfortunate crashes and a blocked junction on the motorways they had been following, and all of them were exhausted.
"Just take in whatever you need for tonight," Armitage ordered them, in French, "We'll unload properly tomorrow night."
Moreau stretched. "D'you want me to head out, and see if I can find us all something to eat?" he offered.
"I'm not hungry." Alex half-whined.
"It'll be our first meal here!" Armitage told him, encouragingly, passing Matt a couple of bags to take in. "Come on, we should all at least have something. It's been a long day…" she held out a bag to him, which he took with a show of reluctance.
"I don't know why I have to have anything. It's not like I want to be here." He grumbled, heading inside. "I don't even like this house."
Moreau called through to him, "Alex, we've talked about this." He followed him in, flicking the lights on. "You'll be perfectly happy once you've settled down."
"I don't want to settle down." Alex snapped.
"Alex…" Armitage reproached him.
"What? It's not like you didn't know that already."
Matt gave him a long, faintly incredulous glance, but his contribution was realistic enough. "Alex. Just shut up."
Alex managed not to stick his tongue out at him, but it was a near run thing. He was tired and cramped – he'd always hated long car journeys – and he felt that a little bit of childishness was acceptable. It was only the desire not to look like a complete idiot in front of the two adults which kept him from actually doing it.
They ate a quick, rather distracted meal, before heading up to bed. All of them were tired, and though Armitage made a show of coming to check that Matt and Alex were settled in their respective bedrooms, it was nothing more than a quick, cursory check. They might be on assignment, but right now, all any of them wanted to do was sleep.
The next day, Alex and Matt stayed home from the school they were supposed to be attending – the 'Ecole de St. Joseph', near the centre of the little town – and helped Moreau sort out their little house. Joanna hadn't dared miss a day of her new 'job', not when their whole assignment hinged on her keeping it, and had left at eight, to make sure that she was there on time.
The day passed easily enough, and it was certainly useful, if nothing else – all three of them had a chance to cement the way their relationship with each other was going to be played out, which could only be beneficial. No matter how useful it was, however, it was a boring day. The only real interest occurred towards the end, when Armitage got home.
Moreau led the questioning, asking her the practical things, like whether she had an office, and whether she liked it – she told them how to find it – and whether she liked the people she was working with – she told them how difficult she thought each of them would be to win over 'as friends' – and whether her work was difficult – she mentioned that she'd probably be able to bring some of it home with her each night. They were innocent questions with innocent answers, should anyone be listening in, but the answers contained things all of them needed to know.
Finally, though, Armitage gave all of them a grin. "I did find out one very useful thing, though…" she said, slowly.
And there you have it. Enjoy?