Train Up A Child
By Simply Shelby
'Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.'
On Emergencies and Everyday Codes
Another normal, dreary day in London, concluded Jack as she worked on finishing up her coursework. Alex should be home from school soon and she should probably put out some midday snack. The boy ate an amazing amount of food for his size, but from what Jack had read that seemed to be normal enough.
A key scraped in the lock and the door slammed. Hard. Jack jumped. The sound of a rucksack being thrown against the floor and full-on crying reached her ears. Alex burst into the kitchen, his face drenched with tears and breathing angrily.
"Alex!" she stood and immediately made her way towards him, unconsciously checking for any signs of bruises or scrapes. Perhaps he'd crashed his bike? Had a run-in with a bully? "What's wrong?" She reached out to hug him.
He wrenched away violently, wet, harsh coughing sounds coming from his throat. "I want Ian!" he demanded, his eyes flashing.
Jack backed off a bit. "Ian's away, Alex. You know that." She crouched down to his level. "What happened?"
He shook his head, long blonde hair whipping around his face. "I want Ian." He was firm on that point. His body was shaking with sobs and a fierce anger. His face was rapidly turning a dark red from the lack of oxygen.
"Alex, you need to calm down," she insisted, "Take a deep breath."
"No!" he yelled and stomped his foot in a fit of annoyance. "I want Ian!"
Jack was grasping at straws, but she didn't care. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do? We could go for an ice cream. Do you want some soda pop? I know you're not allowed, but I think I can make an exception…"
His watery brown eyes were desperate. "I need Ian! It's an emergency!" he declared, fists clenched and breathing shallow.
Jack froze and swallowed. "An… an emergency, Alex?" She glanced over towards the 'phone. "Urgent enough to call?"
Alex nodded his head vigorously. "Mmmhmm."
"Alright…" picking up the 'phone, she dialled the number that Ian had made her memorise, said the right words to the person on the other end, and waited to be connected.
A breathless, slightly terrified Ian answers, "Jack? What's wrong?"
She hesitated. "I have no idea. Alex—"
But, he interrupted. "Oh God! Is he hurt? Is he alright?" When she didn't answer right away, "Jack!"
"Yes, he's fine Ian. Physically okay, from what I can see. But he came home crying and demanding to talk to you. He won't tell me what's wrong." She struggled for words, verging on the edge of panic. "Ian, I've never seen him so upset before."
"Let me talk with him."
She handed the 'phone to Alex, who held it tightly in both hands and pressed his face against it as though it was Ian himself. He was still crying steadily, though his cries had subsided to hiccup-sobs.
"Alex?" Jack could hear Ian's gentle voice, the tension and he anxiety hidden. "Alex? What's gone wrong?"
Alex took a shaky breath before speaking. "Ian?"
"Are you alright, Alex?"
"Do—do you love me?" the words were blurted.
Jack stared in disbelief and tried not to wince at the stunned silence that followed. This was definitely not an emergency. She braced herself for Ian's anger and Alex's reaction.
"Alex Rider." The man's voice was harsh and reprimanding. "This number is for emergencies only. Do you remember what we defined as an emergency?"
The boy held on tighter, his face sinking and his lips trembling. "Y-yes sir."
"Then you know ringing me with something other than an emergency is against the rules. I thought you were seriously in trouble, Alex. You scared me." The words seemed to sting Alex, for he jerked back, holding the 'phone away from his face before reluctantly putting his ear back to it.
"Do you remember what the rules are for, Alex?"
Almost immediately, Alex seemed to straighten up, a small smile lighting up his face and he answered warmly, "Yes, Ian."
Jack breathed a sigh of short-lived relief.
"Good." Ian's voice was frigid. "Instead of free time, you can spend the weekend writing out what we defined as an emergency. In French. Have Jack check your grammar and spelling." His voice hardened, "Do you understand?"
"Good. Now hang up the 'phone."
Carefully, Alex set it back in its cradle. He turned to Jack slowly, his head downcast, hair covering his eyes. "I have to write a paper," he explained, wiping his face across his sleeve, "because I broke the rules."
Jack had never felt sorrier for the boy. He'd actually broken Ian's tyrannical laws and had been hoping for some loving words from his uncle, but had been given a lecture and a punishment. "I heard. Do you want to tell me what that was all about, Alex?"
The boy shuffled his feet and sighed. She could see a bit of the normal Alex returning. Well, as normal as Alex Rider could be. "Nate and Janie told me that their dad is always away on business trips because he doesn't love them anymore." He shifted uncomfortably. "And Ian's always away on business trips, too…"
"Oh, Alex." She reached out and he willingly returned her hug, burrowing his face into her shoulder. "That doesn't mean he doesn't love you."
He looked up and smiled. "Oh. I know. That's what Ian said."
Jack didn't remember the man saying anything close to that. "When did he say that?" she demanded, bewildered.
The boy shot her an odd look. "Well… he didn't say it, say it."
She pulled back and stood up a bit. "Alex, I don't understand. All I heard was an angry Ian giving you a lecture."
His smile brightened. "It's a sort of code, I think. The rules are there to keep me safe and from getting hurt," he explained.
Jack was still a bit lost.
"Because he loves me."
AN: Just curious and well aware of the conflict this could raise... how many of you out there are Chelsea fans? I'd like to admit that I happen to be one of those. I'm pretty jazzed that Alex is, too. Also, if anyone can direct me to Part Two of Horowitz's 'Christmas at Gunpoint', I'd love you forever.