The impact jarred every bone in his body

A/N: Sorry for the immensely long wait! But, it's the final, yes FINAL, chapter! (Yes, a quite corny chapter name!)

DISCLAIMER: If it's taken you twelve chapters of reading these "disclaimers" and not realizing that I don't own Alex Rider, I pray for you. Really, I do.

NEVER THE SAME

Chapter Twelve: An Ending

The impact jarred every bone in his body.

The void surrounded him; time slipped through his fingers. Everything was warped, muddled.

He heard screams, pounding footsteps, a siren screaming.

Then, voices.

He could hear their presence, but could not feel their practiced hands examining his body.

"Pulse…definite craniocerebral trauma…lift him carefully, now…"

It was difficult for the words to travel up to his brain. Everything was confusing to him, chaos.

His world lurched suddenly, and there was no more.

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White.

That's all there was; all that existed.

Heaven.

Alex Rider smiled, peaceful. Finally, he was relaxed, content in this state of bliss.

Forever.

Then, the harmony drifted away, disarray taking its imminent place.

The white slowly began to disintegrate; whispered words filled the comforting silence.

"Is he smiling?" A gruff voice stood out from the rest.

Alex inwardly groaned, despite his fogged brain. Disgruntled, he thought. Wolf has to follow me even to heaven? That just didn't seem fair.

He blinked a few times; the blurred room stopped its swaying and came into focus. Surrounding him were the familiar faces of Wolf, Snake, Phoenix, and Eagle.

Eagle was the first to notice Alex conscious form. His face crumpled under a toothy grin.

"Back here again, Cub? Missed it too much, eh?"

The rest of the bystanders turned quickly to Alex's bed.

"Geez, Cub," Snake commented, failing at his small effort attempts at sounding angry. "Warn us next time you decide to fall out of fourth-story windows, okay?"

"Will do," Alex croaked. He looked down. Tubes and needles were connected to his body. It somewhat disgusted him. He adverted his eyes from the grotesque sight.

"So," Alex continued, licking his dry lips. "What happened?"

A sticky silence fell over the room. It seemed no one wanted to be reminded of that close call.

"Well," Snake began, his words measured. "As you know, J-Unit and the Sergeant arrested Lottswich. Man, was that a close call," he commented, shaking his head in disbelief. "He'd almost gotten away. In fact," he looked up at Alex, "he would've if you hadn't been there. How did you know where he'd be?"

"I knew Lottswich would escape, the coward, as soon as he would get the chance. And, I sort of guessed he'd leave from his office. But, never mind that. Go on," Alex urged.

"Well, Wolf, Snake, Phoenix, and I were all busy outside, er, taking care of Lottswich's men. Then, Wolf saw you run inside the building."

"You did?"

"Yeah," Wolf answered curtly. "So, I signaled J-Unit and the Sergeant to go after ya'."

"Why?"

K-Unit exchanged nervous glances. "Well, you see, Cub," Snake looked a bit sheepish. "You weren't supposed to go anywhere. Actually, we had strict orders not to let you get in the fight either."

"Really?"

"Yea, M16 didn't want you involved. They just wanted you to get there, help us the best you could information-wise, then they were going to pull you out. Things got a bit messed up, I suppose," Eagle piped up.

Now, Alex was angry. "And why are you telling me this now?"

"You deserve it," was Phoenix's quiet response. Alex looked to the corner where Phoenix awkwardly stood, and Alex nodded acknowledging in his direction. Because of Phoenix's late addition to K-Unit, the two didn't know each other too much.

"And, anyway," Snake continued on. "J-Unit and the Sergeant followed you. Actually," he added as an after-thought, "I remember Badger telling me that you gave them a bit of, er, challenge."

Alex smiled. Mental images of grown men lumbering through small vents were almost too much.

"They almost got there too late. From what I heard, Lottswich was about to shoot you." Alex nodded again, he obviously knew this.

"So, while J-Unit was cuffing Lottswich up and the Sergeant was yelling orders all over the place, it seems they made a mistake-"

"A mistake?!" Wolf exploded. "They bloody nearly killed Cub because of their foolish, amateur mistakes."

"It was pretty mad of them to not fully bind Lottswich, seeing how he was an international high-level threat and all.

"So, after that, everything got a little chaotic. Me and the rest of K-Unit busted in about the time when you, er, fell. Lottswich tried to use the distraction to his benefit and started thrashing around the place, trying to get loose. It took like four of us, but we finally got him under control. Once he was all locked up and in the squad car, medics were already down there with you. Geez, we all thought you died, or at least broke all the bones in your body. Only the Lord knows how you got out of that one with only a broken leg and a few ribs."

Alex grinned; his luck was back.

The group talked for seemingly hours, the awkwardness that once guarded them gone.

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"'Ello?" Alex Rider nearly shouted into the telephone. Silence answered him.

"Hello?" Alex repeated, annoyed. "Hello? Is anyone th-"

"Alex?" Alex cringed at the all too familiar voice.

"Yes, Blunt?" Alex responded, terse.

"Alex, I request your presence at a meeting five o'clock this evening at the bank. Are you able to attend?" Even though he still held his controlling tone, Alan Blunt spoke in a more soft, respective tone.

Alex pondered his choices. He knew going to that meeting meant another mission, another villain, another close call. On the other hand, if he didn't go, it still wouldn't be the end. There would be more calls, more persistent calls; others would still plot his next move. But, one refusal, this act of defiance, would make Alex feel a bit better. For once, he could be the one making his decisions, sketching his own path. Besides, who was Alan Blunt's, Mrs. Jones', or really anybody's place to make the choices that could determine his own future? He was the captain of his own life ship, and he was going to finally handle the wheel.

Alex nodded to himself. He had made his decision.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Blunt," though he truly was sorry at all. "But my schedule's full. There is simply no way I can fit you in." With that, he forcefully hung up the phone, pleased by the resounding bang.

After thinking for a moment, Alex once again retrieved the phone and immediately started dial a number that would be forever engraved in his memory.

Now feeling quite self-assured, Alex spoke into the receiver, confidence enveloping his words. "Tom? Yes, hey, this is Alex. Yea, I was wondering if you could give me, like, the past month's maths homework?"

THE END

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EPILOGUE

"Today, tranquilizers are widely used by law officials when in pursuit of criminals. Though they do not physically harm the victim-"

A slight rapping on the door interrupted Mr. White's health class. Everyone – students and teacher alike – turned to face the interrupter. A well-built boy stood in the doorway, supported by a pair of crutches. A large plaster cast encased one of his legs.

Mr. White spoke up, irritation darkening his voice. "You're late."

"My immense apologies, sir." It was hard to say if these words were of sarcastic manner or not. Nevertheless, the boy hobbled up to the front of the room. He handed Mr. White a note, and stood by patiently as he read it.

Mr. White looked up, sighing. "Please take your seat. I suggest you listen intently. My lecture on uses of sedatives will certainly be on the next exam."

"Yes, sir," his solemn voice answered. He shuffled towards his seat.

"Alex," Mr. White called after him. He turned and looked at him, questionably. "Good to see you back, Alex. Did those snipers do that to your leg, there?"

"Yes," Alex grimaced as he told the lie. If only Mr. White knew…

"Funny," Mr. White muttered, mainly to himself. "I could've sworn they said it had been chest injuries…"

Alex took his seat; the only empty one in the room. Mr. White had just resumed his speech when a folded piece of paper fluttered onto Alex's desk.

He picked it up, unfolding the tattered binder paper.

So, Alex how was it? Tom's handwriting was cramped and resembled chicken scratch, just as Alex had always remembered it.

With one eye on Mr. White, Alex slowly retrieved a pen and scribbled down a response: It's a long story. I'll tell you after school. He refolded it and tossed it Tom, who was waiting anxiously.

Alex looked around the classroom. Sure enough, at least seventy-five percent of the class was glaring, whispering, or held a questioning look in their eyes. Alex smiled self-assuredly. Oh, the irony of it all! He left one lunatic to get only a replacement of twenty more. With the murderous looks he was getting, he wasn't quite sure if he would make it through the class alive.

This is going to be one long day, Alex thought. I wonder if I can ward them with my crutches and a chemistry book…

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Phew, Never the Same is finally complete! Can you believe it took me the better part of four months to complete twelve chapters? Sorry for the extremely long wait for this chapter (it was twenty days!); I've had some quite annoyingly unfortunate computer issues lately. If anyone knows how to get rid of this thing called "spyware" for free, please tell me!

If the whole hospital-room conversation sounded forced and monotonous, I'm sorry. I don't know, it was hard to get all the information I thought you might want to know across in a grammatically correct, flow-y way! (Personally, I'm a bit pleased with the last bit of the chapter :smiles:).

So, anyway, please tell me, as always, your thoughts on this chapter, plot, or story as a whole!

Oh, and, if the epilogue was just unneeded, sorry again. A reviewer once inquired if I was going to add something more about Alex's class. I hope this sustained them! It was really short, and not much of an epilogue, but what the hay! :D

Now, (drum roll please), a thanks to ALL of my devoted reviewers! (Readers, sorry, I don't know who you are!)

Jake Caldefore

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Thanks again!