I'm back! Miss me?
And no, I did not desert you, though it did take me two weeks for this chapter. Mostly because I made my high school swim team:cue excitement: For me this cause for extreme happydancing and celebration, but for you all it means slower updates.
Right, I was really touched by the overwhelming vote for Option A; I really only got one B. Just want to make it clear that that doesn't mean I'm going to drag this story out – I'm really only looking at 4 more chapters...I think. We'll see. I never meant for it to get this long anways!
But if it had been B, pretty much this entire chapter wouldn't be here. :shrug: My gameplan at the moment (though it may change) is to have one to two more chapters of K-Unit fun (including more Wolf Tom interaction!) with lots of 'time passed' segments, and then get on with the climax, which will probably take two chapters. I'm excited. :D
I'm also quite amused by how many people can't see Milo as being Eagle-esque (though most amused by amitai's confusing response about some kids TV show..? lollll that review made my day) because for some reason it really fits for me – that was the easiest name to pick! Haha I'm outnumbered. Maybe I should've picked Walfred.
…that was a joke. You can laugh now. :disappears:
Alex put his head on his desk for a moment, resting his forehead against the cool surface and letting his maths ((haha Word thinks that's a typo (and I am inclined to agree) :P)) teacher's voice drone on over his head. He knew he should really listen, but he was tired – sleep had not been a motif of the previous night.
As he shifted his weight, he suddenly froze – the cool metal of Snake's gun was pressing against his side, an unpleasant reminder of his situation. He'd left the weapon sitting at the bottom of his backpack over the weekend, but this morning he'd stuck it in his belt, taking care to rearrange his clothes to hide the lump again. It had been reassuring to have it at first, but the knowledge of having it and its capabilities were beginning to creep him out.
The squeaking of the chair in front of him made Alex blearily open an eye in time to see Tom's hand sneak back to his side, leaving a note on Alex's desk. The teen picked it up and slowly unfolded it his lap, totally unconcerned about being caught – Ms. Prindle had probably never caught a note-passer in her entire career.
He read the words twice, quickly, frowning as he did so. In Tom's scribbled, messy handwriting, the note read: What's up with you? Don't tell me it's nothing – there's something going on. Who was the man you rode to school with this morning? Was he one of them
Alex glanced at his friend's back in front of him, noting the tenseness in Tom's slim frame. With an inward sigh, he scribbled back, I'll tell you at lunch, kay? and tossed the small piece of paper into Tom's lap.
He should really be learning about the quadratic formula before he didn't have the chance to.
Tom was waiting for Alex the moment the blonde teen got out of the lunch line. The two walked to a corner of the cafeteria together, away from their usual spot among football friends, and sat down across from each other.
Alex began to eat his pasta, chewing slowly and looking at Tom. The smaller boy hadn't even opened his bagged lunch. Alex correctly judged that he wouldn't until he got some answers, so he swallowed and began. "The people I was looking into in Venice are…rather pissed that I messed up their plans." He took another bite of pasta before continuing, apparently at ease. "They told the people I work for that I'd be disposed of soon. So right now I'm staying with some people who can protect me."
Tom slowly opened his lunch, taking out his sandwich. "That sounds pretty serious, Al. Is there anyone protecting you here?"
Alex nodded at Wolf, who was standing near the doorway to the cafeteria. "That new janitor isn't really a janitor."
Tom's eyes widened and he lowered his voice, glancing at Wolf. "Who is he then?"
"SAS," Alex muttered back.
Tom gazed at Wolf in awe. Wolf, who was inconspicuously glancing at Alex, noted the small boy's look with bewilderment. Tom jumped visibly at the eye contact, quickly diverting his gaze. "Holy crap," he breathed to Alex. "That is so cool."
Alex, suppressing a grin, took a drink from his water, and shrugged. "Yeah…" He glanced at his friend, a wonderful idea coming to him. Carefully he hedged, "He's pretty bad-ass."
"…he looks like he could snap me in half." Tom shot Wolf another quick look.
"I bet he could," Alex mused, trying not to laugh.
Throughout the day, as Wolf surreptitiously followed Alex, Tom not-so-surreptitiously followed Wolf. Wolf shot Alex suspicious glances, only made more suspicious when he caught the teen's shoulders shaking in silent laughter.
Alex was enjoying himself immensely. He'd have to layer it on Tom a little more. As Alex had expected, Wolf was growing impressively awkward and uncomfortable around his admiring shadow: revenge was sweet.
As Alex was getting books from his locker at the end of the school day, Wolf appeared over his shoulder. In a low voice, he growled, "Cub. Explanations." Tom's head shot out of a nearby locker. Wolf started. "Why are you following me?" He asked Tom, voice slightly higher than normal in his discomfort.
Alex's grin slid off his face and a worried look replaced it as he quickly turned around, opening his mouth, but Tom beat him to it. "It's alright," the other boy whispered, eyes wide. He managed to miss Alex frantically shaking his head at his friend behind Wolf's back. "I know."
Alex slapped his hand across his face, wincing. "You know," Wolf repeated, his voice disbelieving. "What d'you mean –" He stopped, looking at Alex, then snapped at the blonde, "Wait, he knows?"
Alex removed his hand, watching Wolf carefully, and then nodded.
Wolf looked peeved. "Do the words Official Secrets Act mean anything to you?!" He hissed.
Alex glared. "That's not fair. Blunt never made me sign it – no one would believe me."
"Apparently someone would!"
"Tom helped me out when they wouldn't!" Alex was highly annoyed now – what did Wolf know about anything? And how had a little joke turned into something so serious? Tom watched the two have the harsh, whispered argument in shocked silence.
"Are trying to make your life harder for yourself?"
"Of course not!"
"Then why don't you stop doing god-damned stupid things like that that could get you killed?" Wolf looked dangerous, and Tom rather involuntarily took a step back, glad no one could hear the argument over the general raucous hubbub in the hallway.
"I'm still alive, aren't I?"
Wolf's eyes narrowed. "Sometimes I forgot how much of a child you really are."
Alex stood in shock, reeling from the attack – he couldn't ever remember being accused of immaturity. He hadn't felt his age ever since his uncle had died, and the gun that pressed against his side did nothing to make him feel any younger. Meeting Wolf's eyes with a cold, scathing look, he slammed his locker closed and left.
Tom was left standing next to a highly agitated SAS agent who actually used a hand-sign to tell the boy 'I'm watching you' (1) before stalking off in Alex's direction. Tom was too busy being frightened, shocked and a little amused all at once to respond.
"That's it!" Snake burst out that night around the take-out burritos Eagle had picked up. "Cub, Wolf: spit it out and stop sulking." The two he'd addressed both scowled in nearly identical expressions at being told they were 'sulking'.
"Come on," Fox said exasperatedly. "Suck it up."
"Cub here has told one of his friends about his work," Wolf replied sourly.
"You sure that's a good idea, Cub?" Eagle asked carefully.
"I needed help one time and there was no one else," Alex said tersely. "And I know I can trust him."
Fox nodded slowly. "It's a dangerous secret," he reminded Alex. "Though I'm sure you're well aware of that."
"You think?" Alex asked sarcastically, adding dryly, "I got the memo on the dangerous aspect pretty early on, actually."
"So what's the problem?" Eagle asked, confused.
Wolf opened his mouth, but Alex answered faster. "Apparently Wolf doesn't think I'm mature enough to make decisions like that," he said bitterly.
Wolf frowned. "I never said that."
"You implied it, Wolf."
"Implications are different than stated truths, Cub."
"Whoa, whoa," Snake said quickly, holding up his hands to stop the glaring duo. "Enough already."
Wolf made a noise of frustration. "Why can't anyone realize that he's fourteen? That isn't old enough to gamble with things like this!"
Alex ground his teeth, fighting to keep his voice as level as possible. "I didn't ask for this responsibility; I didn't want it. I just ended up with it and dealt with it how I saw fit."
"But you should be worrying about…tests and football and girls!" Wolf shot back, frustration creeping into his voice. "Not bombs and clones and MI6."
"I'm sick of people telling me what I should be!" Alex said exasperatedly. He actually winced when he realized how 'teen' that sounded. "What I'm trying to say," he continued, almost calm, "Is that I'm stuck with how my life is for now." Meeting Wolf's eyes, he added, "And I wish other people could just accept that and move on."
The three men were silent. Then, very slowly, and much to all fives' shock, Wolf's hard expression softened slightly. "Okay," he said quietly.
Alex blinked, looking at Wolf in surprise. He opened his mouth, promptly shut it, and nodded at Wolf. After a moment, with quiet sincerity, the teen said, "Thank you."
Eagle whistled. "Damn," he said, drawing out the word as he stared at Alex. "What happened to you kid? You never said a word at Brecon but now you can make Wolf back down?" Before anyone replied, he added thoughtfully, "I can definitely count on my fingers the number of times that's happened…and still have plenty left…."
Wolf, getting up to grab a soda, cuffed him on the back of the head with the ease of long practice.
Later that week, Alex jogged steadily down the football field, eyes glued to the ball. The play seemed to be progressing fine without him.
He glanced at his watch. In exactly 1 minute and 49 seconds Snake should walk by on the sidewalk.
How had the other guys not noticed that the same man strolled down the sidewalk at exact fifteen minute intervals? Yes, he changed his walking speed and attitude, even alternated wearing his hat, but if Alex hadn't known Snake he would've been suspicious ages ago.
Bored, Alex glanced at his watch again as the team jogged in to the center of the field. 29 seconds. The SAS were very punctual about everything. Had Wolf ever been late to anything?
9 seconds. Police sirens sounded in the distance, and the teen idly wondered what had happened. Alex looked up the street exactly fifteen minutes since Snake had last walked by.
No one came. The sirens grew louder.
Alex's heart began to beat faster. The coach dismissed the team and his friends moved around him, chatting and wiping their brows. Their voices sounded dim to his ears as Alex pulled on his sweatshirt.
Wolf and Snake were nowhere to be seen – they should've been right there when Alex's practice let out. Alex ran to the locker room and carefully slipped the gun into his the waistline of his shorts underneath his sweatshirt. He walked back to the field warily.
"You alright, Rider?" His coach asked gruffly, noticing the paleness in the teen's face. Alex didn't answer. The coach watched in growing concern as a serious-looking man suddenly ran onto the field and made a beeline for Rider.
"Alex!" The man yelled. Alex whipped around, relief washing over his face at the sight of Snake. He hurried over.
"What happened?" Alex asked tersely, keeping his voice lowered so his coach couldn't hear the conversation. "Where's Wolf?"
"He got arrested," Snake answered. "For fighting."
"Nope. They didn't want to pull 'em out and Wolf was rather preoccupied." The two were walking speedily side by side, headed for the car. "Someone called the police, who got there before I did, they scattered, and the cops scooped up Wolf."
"Rider?" Alex's coach asked, blocking their path. "What's going on?"
"It's fine, Coach Smith," Alex answered instantly, trying to get the coach out of their way quickly. "Family problem." The lie was said without pause or hesitation. The coach missed the quick, appreciative look Snake shot the teen as he nodded and moved out of their way.
Alex felt his heart rate returning to normal as they got into the car. The immediate issues at hand had been dealt with: no one was dead, no one was in the hospital, Scorpia had left the scene and he was on his way back to the apartment. Time to address the not-as-worrying issues. "What happens to Wolf now?"
Snake glanced at him as he started the car. "Don't worry, Cub – on-duty SAS have a way of slipping out of jail." He took out a portable radio and flipped a switch. "Eagle."
"Yes?" Eagle's voice was strangely professional.
"Wolf's at home base. He had a bar with our friends." Alex blinked, trying to understand what Snake was talking about, before realizing it must be a code.
"And Cub?" Eagle was still business-like.
"Present," Alex said dryly before Snake could answer. Eagle chuckled before terminating the connection.
"'Home base'?" Alex asked, lips twitching, as Snake began a very roundabout route back to the apartment. "I'm shocked, Snake; never would've put you down for one to be at home in jail."
Snake rolled his eyes without turning from the road. "I didn't make up SAS code."
Wolf walked calmly into the kitchen of the apartment at 8:30, sporting an impressive black eye. Eagle looked up from their game of deuces (2) and whistled. "Someone hit you hard, Wolf-man."
Wolf met his eyes coolly, holding his gaze for a moment, before replying casually, "You should see the other guy."
Fox groaned. "You did not just say that." Wolf tried to look apathetic, but some of his confusion showed on his bruised face. "That's got to be the most clichéd line out there," Fox explained. Comprehending, Wolf ignored him easily.
Alex frowned at the cards on the table. "A straight doesn't beat a full house. C'mon Snake, haven't you ever played poker?"
Eagle let out a bark of laughter, slinging an arm over Snake's shoulders. "Our Snake's a gambler, for sure," he said jokingly. Snake grumbled something under his breath that Alex was positive had something to do with Eagle, and equally positive that he wouldn't want to repeat it in front of Jack.
"Hypocrite," Wolf deadpanned as he sat down. "You couldn't keep a poker face if your life depended on it." He paused, and then admitted grudgingly, "Actually, you could. But only then; not in a game of poker."
"Touché," Eagle replied, lips quirking.
"Ha," Fox said, triumphantly laying down the trump card in the game. "Take that, bas-" He stopped, looking at Alex, then revised sheepishly, "Er, brat."
Alex snorted, privately amused at Fox's attempt to tone down his language. Eagle laughed as well. "I think we're already enough of a bad influence on 'im," he said impishly. "At least, Jack seems to think so."
Alex chuckled. Eagle looked at him suspiciously as he stood to pick up his glass on the other side of the room, saying slowly, "By the way, Cub, what did she say about m- us?"
Alex shrugged, shuffling the cards expertly as he privately filed away Eagle's slip-up: he'd almost said 'me'. "Oh, she talked about meeting you at the coffee shop." He paused, glancing at Eagle over his shoulder and childishly savoring his power over the man. "I told her she'd been fraternizing with the enemy."
Snake and Fox burst into laughter, and Wolf cracked a smile – something Alex had come to take for 'highly amused'. A dark arm slipped around Alex's neck, pulling him into a headlock while Eagle's other hand delivered an expert noogie (3) and Eagle's voice growled out, "You little twerp!" Alex yelped and attempted to push him off, but the man was far stronger than him, and it only stopped when Eagle drew back.
Alex whirled to face him, now standing. There was a wicked glint in Eagle's eyes. Alex blew his bangs out of his eyes and shoved his hair back down, shaking his head disdainfully at the man's childish antics and attempting to regain his mature composure.
Eagle grinned at the look of indignation on the teen's face and patted him affectionately on the shoulder. "Never forget I'm twice your size, Cub."
You know…you take two fingers, point them at your eyes and then at the person you're talking to.
One of my favorite card games. It involves poker hands and stuff. You should go learn it. :)
Do you all know what a noogie is? curious It's when someone rubs their knuckles on the other person's head…ohmygosh hahahaaa this'll be really funny if it's not as widely used as I think it is….
CMT1992: Thanks for the suggestions, but I'm kinda bored with the plotline where Alex runs off and tries to fight the bad guys on his own. shrug I just feel like it's been done.
Rose-Aislin: Ahhhh Shoebox. :reminiscences: I want to put more lines in here, but I couldn't quite imagine Fox calling Eagle 'Offensive Pie'. xD
Thanks for the heads-up, but because I haven't received any complaints I think I'm going to keep doing this…it's just way easier for me to reply all at once. I mean, if it really starts to bother people I'll stop, but I just prefer answering here.
Smelly Cat710: Thanks for being understanding. I know it might bother some people to have Fox be gay (especially because he was actually developed in the last book – as previously mentioned, I'd already planned this out before I read Snakehead), but it's just how it worked in my head.
I most certainly read HP and AR:D In fact, I stayed up all night to finish Deathly Hallows…xD :smug:HP nerd:
PsychoWing: Er…I haven't seen Atlantis since it was in theaters…I vaguely remember it…(read: don't remember it at all).
American Pie IS the ultimate sing along. I think I used to know all the verses. Maybe. I'm bad at the 'generation lost in space' one. ;)
Hahaheeheehaha: Life is like that; it's a funny, fickle thing, that life. I'm sorry you can't talk to your friends, though; hope it gets better!
CunningMascara: I'm glad you think slugs can be fun. Personally, I agree, but I thought that was just me. :)
digiMist: Eagle/Jack might just be on the agenda for this story…;)
Hakumele: Not to be arrogant, but I wouldn't actually call myself a noob writer…I've been writing for years. I'm just a noob at fanfic – like putting my works online for random people to read? As WIPs? About Alex Rider? Very new to me. ;)
MadzCheesyfied: Ahhhh fellow shoeboxer:glomp:
Amitai: Oh wow, I hope you review sleep-deprived next time, too. ;) Just kidding! You sounded like you really needed to sleep lol.
I can see what you mean about the convenience of them going back for training. :shrug: It is a bit too convenient. But…I was thinking…now don't hold me to this, it's just running around in my head right now, but I was thinking my next fic would be about Alex's training through Wolf's POV and I couldn't let go of the idea that they'd been there before and were just pissed at having a kid in their unit. And I'd get to make up a lot, because there's not much in the book…anyways, that fic is in very early stages right now, but in case it ever does happen, that was a little set-up there last chapter.
Sorry about the forced thing. Hope this ones better!
Next review….I like your idea about option A/B, and I was kinda already planning to do that. Thanks. :)
Lol there's more cabin fever in this one, for sure! ;)