Hello, loyal, faithful readers.

OK, kinda.

This story is totally finished, and was originally intended to be a very long one-shot... but then it hit over 50 pages, and I thought, hmm, maybe not. So it is now a multi-chapter fic, but I should be able to update it nice and regularly.

Oh, and the first person to leave a review saying something along the lines of: "Yeah, fine, but where's chapter 5 of Hell Is Other People" will be surreptitiously lynched. It is coming. Badgering me to do it just makes me feel pressurised, and I don't enjoy what I'm writing, therefore what I'm writing is no good. Is that understood?

I hate being all stern and nasty, so please, don't make me be. I'd much rather be sweetness and light all the time.

Well, most of the time. Sometimes, I just like snarling and throwing things at innocent passers-by, but that's another story. Oh, and a quick plug? A good friend of mine, xaritomene, has uploaded an AR fic, which I've read and enjoyed, so if you have a moment, go check that out, yeah?

Right. Onwards.

DISCLAIMER: Yes, of course I own Alex Rider. Duh.

Except maybe kind of not.

It all started on the 23rd of August.

If Alex was being honest, it had actually started way before that, a few days after his uncle's funeral, when he was roped into working for MI6. But things started to go really, seriously downhill after the 23rd of August, when he got his GCSE results from Brooklands, along with a letter, saying that 'due to his poor results, they regrettably could not allow him back into the school'; things started getting even more difficult after that. MI6 didn't seem to feel that his appalling GCSE results – three Es and the rest U's – were a problem. In fact, Blunt had gone so far as to say that it added to his cover – no one would suspect a "drop out", as he oh-so-tactfully put it, of working for them.

Alex knew he was right, but that didn't make him feel any better. He was totally, utterly trapped. As Mrs. Jones had pointed out, it was "just as well he worked for them, or he would be completely destitute".

That little observation made him want to scream, because, after all, if he hadn't been working for them, his GCSE results would have been excellent. Before he got involved with MI6, he'd never had a mark below an A; but there was nothing he could do to change things now. He was stuck, working for MI6. They had complete control over his life, and, for the moment, he just had to accept that.

Blunt and Jones had done little to help him – immediately after he got his results back, they'd called him in to discuss them, making it very clear that they intended to use his lack of educational prospects – and, therefore, his supposed stupidity – to their own advantage. For a few wild moments, Alex had wondered whether they could possibly have engineered his results… before he realised. Of course they had. Not by suppressing his real results, or anything like that, not by falsifying the grades – but by sending him on mission after mission during his GCSE year. He'd never had a chance to learn the syllabus, let alone revise it! He only got back from Beirut two days before his first exam, with an amazing suntan and some horrific bruises, neither of which he could explain, and no revision done for anything. He'd been too busy dodging bullets to revise for exams.

He didn't even have the familiar, friendly comfort of Jack to soothe him. She had started to irritate MI6 about his "job" just over a year ago, and they – Mrs. Jones, specifically, in this instance – had claimed that she was an "unacceptable weakness" in Alex's life. She had been deported three days after his fifteenth birthday, and Alex hadn't heard from her since – not, he suspected, for lack of trying on Jack's part.

Alex sighed as he let himself in to the big empty townhouse. Most of his year mates were on holiday now – on holiday, or at least relaxing, after a long, tough summer term. Alex would have loved to be able to relax, but had had no chance to do so – Blunt had explained that they would take Alex's house bills out of the fund his uncle had left him, and that they would deposit fifty pounds a month into an account for his food. Alex had worked out that, at the rate he was growing, he wasn't going to be able to live on fifty a month – not with decent clothes and enough for food, at any rate – and he was intelligent enough to realise that the fifty pounds a month was the nearest he was going to get to a salary from MI6. So, he had a job; it wasn't much, just working at a local Tescos, but it gave him a relatively steady source of income.

He knew, though, that he would lose it the moment he got his next assignment.

There was, he remembered, dully, as he half-heartedly poked at the pasta he'd cooked for himself, a week left until school restarted – just a week. A week, and then his future was set in stone – no chance of going back. He'd be a drop out for the rest of his life – useless and totally at the mercy of MI6. What little there was of it.

It was not a cheering prospect.

Over the next couple of weeks, he used various methods to take his mind off it – cleaning the house and weeding the garden were useful, two tasks which never seemed to be over, and which always took it out of him – or practicing karate, or one of the various languages he was supposed to be learning. Despite being happy to exploit his "stupidity", MI6 were also keen to take advantage of what they called his "raw intelligence", and now that he was totally their property, he was being coached in three new languages, as well as his "old" ones, along with the ins and outs of politics and diplomacy – even a little law, as well as the history of various important countries, and their customs. In a lot of ways he was better educated than most, if not all, of his peer group – but Alex knew, all too well, that it was the results, not the intelligence, which mattered. His "lessons" served as an adequate means of distraction, however, from his new, joyless life. For about ten days, Alex had an assignment in Venezuela, which required his full attention; and the nightmares it left him with – it had been a particularly brutal situation – also kept him occupied for a while.

But nothing really worked. MI6 could, and did, interfere in his life whenever they wanted; he lost his job at Tescos, after the Venezuelan assignment, and found another, in Sainsbury's, which he promptly lost, after MI6 insisted that he do a residential course on Arabic.

In desperation, he signed on as a cleaner at the local primary school, though it meant working late. He couldn't afford not to have an extra job, or he wouldn't be able to afford to buy food for a month. He was sent on another assignment, this time to Saudi Arabia, and when he collapsed through the front door of his house, still aching from the beatings he'd received, once he'd been found out, and mentally drained at having to give his report to his "superiors" at ten o'clock at night, with no medical support, he found the notification, shoved through the letterbox, that he'd lost that job, too.

The next morning, he'd attempted to find another one, but, bruised up as he was, and looking like a delinquent – he hadn't had the money to spare for new clothes, and he hadn't had anything new for nearly a year now; and in his line of work, clothes tended to get battered and torn easily – he wasn't entirely surprised that no one would have him, no matter how willing he was to work.

MI6 forced the issue, forcing him to spend more and more time working on his "lessons", and adding shooting to his already practically-unbearable "extra" workload. It was worse than Scorpia, and far more brutal; Scorpia had at least pretended to look after him, which was more than MI6 was doing. Without a job, Alex managed to eke two and a half weeks worth of plain, ordinary food out of the fifty pounds MI6 allotted him, but was soon left with next to nothing.

Alex was damned if he was going to go and ask them for money – they already owned enough of him as it was. He made one last attempt to find a job, searching desperately, but it was as if people had been warned off him, and no one would take him on.

Finally, he gave up on all of it – MI6, finding a job, everything. It wasn't worth it any more; it wasn't worth trying to juggle all of this for a life he was enjoying less and less. He woke up each morning with dread a physical pain in his stomach – it wasn't worth living that sort of a life.

It wasn't a decision he came to lightly – he had thought about it, on and off, for a while, and seriously contemplated it for nearly a week, before he came to a full resolve. He observed, with black humour, that it was hardly something to be rushed into. Finally, though, he came to a decision. After all, with no power whatsoever over his own life, there was only one thing left that he could do to get rid of it all.

MI6 had taught him the value of planning ahead, so he did – he planned exactly where, when and how he was going to kill himself. One problem he did stumble over was his funeral. There was no way he wanted MI6 organising it, but then, he had limited options: Tom couldn't do anything, and he'd been pushing him away anyway – a friend as close as Tom, who knew as much as Tom did, was too much of a worry, after what had happened to Jack. As for Jack herself – well, he was willing to bet that she would be banned from even coming to it, let alone organising it. And that was pretty much and exhaustive list of everyone he could ask.

Except… Alex paused, doodling idly on a sheet of scrap paper. There was just one person. He was loath to ask them for help, even after he'd died, but there wasn't anyone else he could turn to, and, after all, it wasn't like he'd have to face the reaction, hopefully.

So, casually, after one of his "diplomacy" lessons, Alex slipped into one of the small offices, which an employee had left, presumably for a coffee or loo break, and hacked into one of the "personal details" files on the SAS. He stared at the screen, memorizing the details as they came up.

"What the hell d'you think you're doing?!" a shocked, rather belligerent voice said, behind him. He slipped out of the desk chair, turning to face the irate employee.

"Random security check." Alex said, quietly, quickly closing the window he'd brought up. "You need to be more careful." The man's expression went from belligerent to slightly worried; Alex couldn't bring himself to feel bad. "Try encrypting your data next time." He added, for good measure, then left the man stuttering his agreement.

Alex wrote the name and address he'd learned from the computer on an envelope first, to make sure that he didn't forget them before writing the actual letter.

He drafted the actual note several times, less because he was worried about what Wolf would think of him and more because – well, because, even now, he was reluctant to show Wolf any more of his weaknesses than he was already displaying. Finally, though, he managed it.

'Wolf', he wrote, 'I'm sorry to bother you with this, but there's no one else I can ask. Can you organise my funeral? I don't want MI6 doing it, and you're the only other option I've got. Sorry. If everything's gone to plan, you should find my body at St. Thomas's Hospital.

Alex Rider (Cub).

As far as a suicide note went, it was a little clinical and detached, but that was what he wanted – he was hardly going to pour out his soul to anyone at this point, least of all Wolf. The note did what he wanted it to, and it gave all the information he wanted to share.

Alex knew, from his little venture into computer hacking, that Wolf was on active service at the moment, but should be back in a little over a week. In terms of timing, that would be just about fine.

Alex sent the letter on his way to Westminster Bridge Road, early the next morning. St. Thomas's Hospital loomed opposite the Houses of Parliament, and Alex stood on the bridge for a few moments, looking across at the seat of the democracy he had given up so much for, and had worked so hard so may times to save. Then, he turned away, and walked, slowly and deliberately, to the busiest part of the road, then stood there, waiting on the pavement. It was seven thirty in the morning – the traffic was starting to get busy, without being jammed to a standstill. Alex took a couple of deep breaths, and picked out one of the oncoming cars – a black cab. Then he stepped out into the road.

Short prologue, but it speeds up from here on in.

Hope you enjoyed - tell me, yeah? This is going to be my last new story for a while, until I've managed to finish another of my stories, but at least this one should be over and done with quickly. I'm working on an AR oneshot, Alex/Wolf, and a multi-chaptered Alex/Yassen, so... that should be fun.

-ami xxx