I'm back, with my standard Author's Note of Dooooom. I bring you the news that, although the people who work in it are lovely, the asset management sector is bone-numbingly boring; my internship so far consists of proof-reading through their literature and writing articles on - yep, you got it - small-cap funds giving top-decile returns.
No, I haven't got a clue what the hell that means. I think the fact that I really don't care should tell me something about myself. Like, oh, maybe I'm in the wrong internship?
On the other hand, I am now 'in print'. For I have done that which very few people before me have dared to do... I have an article in 'Investment Week'.
Oh, be still my beating heart.
Anyway! Moving on. This is the first chapter of my long-promised Yassen/Alex fic, though the actual slash won't appear for a couple of chapter. They get together pretty fast once the meet up again, but I want to make sure the set up is believable. I'm writing it for the slash, but that's no reason to skimp on the backstory.
OBLIGATORY SLASH WARNING: Weirdly enough, this story is SLASH. Yeah. Slash. Man-on-man schmexing. If this offends you, please put your issues on a leash and take them for a walk elsewhere, because I have enough of my own and I refuse to exercise yours as well. Are we all clear on that?
Basically, don't flame me, because I will have a massive sense-of-humour failure, probably in the middle of the office where I currently work, and then I will find a very large monkey wrench and come round to your house. I know where you live. By all means, flame me for the shit story. But if you flame me because of the man-sex, I will force you to watch that episode of 'Hollyoaks' where John-Paul and Craig get it on. Again. And again. And again. And again. By the time I let you stop watching, you'll be begging to be allowed my crappy little slash story.
Now I have the threats neatly out of the way, here goes with the DISCLAIMER: If I owned Alex Rider, I'd be a middle-aged man called 'Anthony'. (shudders)
Two years after the disastrous events of his battle with Scorpia, Alex Rider received the all-too familiar summons to the Royal and General Bank on Liverpool Street. It was a demand he'd become accustomed to, after nearly three years of MI6-orientated exploitation, and he didn't bother trying to get out of it; there was no point.
Jack wasn't quite as resigned as he was. "I really wish they'd stop doing this to you." she said, rather wistfully. "I hate it when you have to go."
He'd offered her a quick smile, but they both knew how fake it was. "It'll be fine." His mouth twisted wryly. "Maybe they just want to – chat."
Jack raised an eyebrow at him. "Alex, I don't know how you do it."
"I'm just that good."
Mrs. Jones met him in the foyer – they still hadn't issued him with any form of ID, despite the regularity of his missions, and he still needed to be properly escorted up through the bank – and took him up to Alan Blunt's office on the fourth floor.
In the three or so years Alex had been 'working' for them, Blunt's office had changed very little, and Blunt himself had changed even less. The same large oak desk, same black chair, same sofa, even the same plants. It was always eerily silent in here, the busy traffic along Liverpool Street totally muffled by the thick stone of the building, the bullet proof glass in the wide windows, the rigorous double glazing. Everything was soundproofed here.
"Alex." Blunt nodded at him. "Have a seat."
Alex returned the nod, taking a chair and waiting for whatever was going to come next. There was no point doing any of this with a bad grace, and he had learned long ago to take whatever MI6 gave him by way of privileges and not question it too closely.
Blunt looked down at the beige file in front of him on the desk for a few long minutes, before looking back up at Alex, interweaving his fingers in front of him. "We've got a situation we'd like you to look into." He said, voice as grey as ever. "In New York. An agent of ours has been killed, and we thought you'd be our next best option."
"I'm flattered." Alex muttered – just because he had accepted his situation as regarded MI6, didn't mean he had to be totally servile. "So, what's the situation? What's my cover?"
"We're sending you in as this man's son."
"The one who just died?"
"Isn't that a little – dangerous?" Alex frowned. "If a sixteen year old son suddenly appears?" Protest was pointless, but there was no point being sloppy in his preparation, or he would simply be asking to be killed.
"His cover involved a wife and child back home." Blunt said, quietly, and Alex frowned.
"You expected him to be killed, didn't you?" he replied, just as quietly. "So you wrote me into his cover."
Blunt met his eyes squarely. "We thought something might happen to him; but we're not in the habit of sending our agents into situations where we expect them to have to give their lives."
Alex debated continuing with his protest, but decided against it; there was simply no point. "Right. So, what's the situation?"
Blunt shut the manila folder and handed it over; Alex took it, and opened it onto the first page. His picture was there, with a man and a woman he didn't know. Somehow, they had managed to find a picture – probably a school photo which had been carefully adapted – of Alex when he was about ten or eleven, and although it sent a shiver down his spine to see it, he didn't comment on it.
"The man's real name was Mark Gruen." Mrs. Jones spoke up for the first time – apparently, she'd finished her peppermint by now. "We sent him in as Mark Brendon. He'd been born in America, had an American mother, American accent… as far as we were concerned, he was perfect for the job."
"And then he was killed." Alex surmised, bluntly, looking up from the file for the first time.
"What was the situation?"
"He was sent to the branch of a British law firm in New York, as a lawyer; their New York office had represented the defendant in several cases which suggested mafia links to us… and we wanted to look into it."
"I'd say those links have been pretty much confirmed now, wouldn't you?" Alex said, slowly.
"We're still not sure who killed him." Blunt hedged, carefully. "And we don't know who within that firm is connected to the mafia… we don't want to take any chances."
"Right. So, what can I do? It's not like I can work in this law firm."
"You will be travelling over with another agent to bring Gruen's body back to England; it will be expected, and the least we can do is give him a proper funeral."
"Ironic, that." Alex commented, under his breath, and though he knew both Blunt and Jones had heard him, neither of them called him on it. "So, I'm assuming this firm are putting his death down to an accident?"
"His cover hasn't been broken, no – though obviously someone saw through it." Jones nodded at him. "Which is why you need to bring him back."
"We'll only be there for a couple of days, at the most…"
"True. You'll go out, collect the body, attend the funeral-"
"I bet that will delight his real family." Alex muttered.
"He had no family." Blunt informed him, coolly. "And, as I said, you will attend the funeral, then you and your 'mother' will fly back to New York to tie up all his affairs."
"Why didn't we move out there with him?"
"It was supposed to be a temporary assignment. An exchange, if you will."
"Sounds spurious to me." Alex raised an eyebrow at him, and Blunt shrugged.
"I know you haven't always had the best experience with us, Alex, but we do our best to look after our agents… and this sort of thing does happen, within firms. If his cover story hadn't been watertight, we wouldn't have sent Gruen out there."
"Right." Alex nodded, far from completely convinced, but not willing to fight it.
"You'll be meeting your 'mother' today at twelve…"
"I have to get into school." Alex said, flatly. "I've already missed two classes coming here…"
"Ah, yes, about your schooling, Alex." Mrs. Jones spoke up, her black eyes meeting his squarely. "We've decided it would be more profitable for both of us for us to provide your schooling. After all, we can tailor your education to you personally; you won't miss anything because you're out of the country."
For a moment, it genuinely didn't sink in; Alex just sat there, totally still, waiting for it to go in. But, as it slowly hit him, he could feel the beginnings of anger, hot and tight round his chest. "You're taking me out of school?" he asked, very slowly.
"We think it's for the best, yes." Mrs. Jones told him, voice as calm as if she'd been discussing the weather.
"No, I'm sorry, you don't seem to have got it." Alex met her eyes again, his own bright and hard with fury. "You're taking me out of school?"
"Yes, Alex. We are."
"How dare you?!" he hissed, incandescent with fury. "How dare you?!"
"Alex, calm down." Blunt rapped out. "You're not being rational. Surely you can see-"
"I can see perfectly well, thank you." he looked at Blunt, standing and dropping the file back onto the desk in front of him, hands clenching into fists the moment they were free, trying to find some outlet for the fury he could feel inside, somehow too large to fit. "School is the one place that had nothing to do with you lot, and now-"
"Now we're making sure that you pass your GCSEs." Mrs. Jones tried to tell him, soothingly.
For the first time Alex could remember, Blunt stood to match his agent's position. "Alex. Sit down."
Alex met his eyes, and stayed on his feet.
"If you think that any part of your life isn't to do with us, you are gravely mistaken." Blunt told him, voice hard. "You still live in that house because of us, your guardian still lives in England because of us, you haven't been thrown out of that school of yours because of us. We are every part of your life, Alex, and it's about time you realised that."
Alex was white-faced by the time he finished, but his voice was steady, brown eyes burning anger-dark in a drained face. "I wouldn't need your assistance if it wasn't for the fact that you screwed my life over in the first place."
"Can you honestly imagine yourself as a normal child, Alex?" Jones asked very softly, looking between her superior and the sixteen year old the other side of the desk; and if Alex wasn't very much mistaken, there was a hint of censure in her face as she looked at Blunt.
"I managed it pretty well for several years." He pointed out, dryly, feeling drained as that strong, helpless anger left him. Mrs. Jones conceded the point with a reluctant little nod.
"But you're not now, Alex, and we all know you never could be. We can make sure that you pass your exams with decent marks this way. We're just trying to do what's best for you."
Alex held her gaze for a few long moments, "I don't think you've ever really wanted to do 'what's best for me'." He told her, his voice as bland and flat as hers, and for the first time in two years, he saw Mrs. Jones actually flinch. Strangely, he got no satisfaction whatsoever from it, and he sighed, before looking away. "OK." He took a deep breath and sat, picking up the manila file once more. "When does this – arrangement – start?"
"When you get back from New York." Blunt told him, sitting down, apparently totally dismissing what had just happened. "Now, as I was saying, you'll be meeting your 'mother' here at twelve, and you will spend a few hours making sure you get to know each other. You both fly out to New York tomorrow."
Alex just nodded. "Right." He said, flatly. "In the bank at twelve – and I needn't bother going to school."
"We've already withdrawn you, yes." Mrs. Jones nodded, but she wouldn't quite look at him.
"Great." He said, tightly. "Is that all?"
"You can go, yes." Blunt looked down at another of the endless files he seemed to have to consider, effectively ignoring Alex as he left.
Once the door shut on their youngest ever operative, Mrs. Jones looked at Blunt. "You know, Alan – I think you may have just made a mistake."
"I don't think so." He said, calmly. "It's about time that he knew."
"Everyone needs to think that they have some space – some freedom, Alan. No matter how false that thought may be. Only the strongest dictators try anything else, and we aren't in the strongest position as regards Alex Rider. If he decided to try and get away-"
"He's not going to try any time soon." Blunt dismissed her. "We have at least two or three years before he tries anything like that. After all – where would he go?"
Straight to Yassen's arms! Mwahahaha!
OK, so I've got about three pages of chapter 2 written, and I'm hoping to get to the good ol' slash bit - which I've already typed up, I just need to get to - in three, maybe four chapters. I can rush these things fine, but I wouldn't want to waste good set-up time.
Anyway, here it is. I've been promising the darn thing for approaching a year now, so it's about god-damn time I put my money where my mouth is.
I've been waiting for years to use that phrase.
So, the first chapter may not seem to inspiring, but things should start to heat up next time. Is everyone looking forward to it? Do tell.