AN: Not new, not really any editing. I'm just correcting a mistake I made by making this a one shot when it should have been broken into chapters. This was my first story in fanfiction (dot)net, and so I assumed the rules were the same as where I had come from. This was not the case. Since then, I've learned my way around here, and decided it was time to fix this.
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Alex closed his eyes against the sound of the phone ringing. At three am, it could only be one person- or rather, one company- that would dare.
It was MI6.
He refused to answer it, and buried himself into his pillows, wishing he could hide in denial forever. It had been, of course, inevitable. He just hadn't expected it so soon. Time off to heal from his latest mission was apparently too much to ask. He wasn't ready, not yet.
He heard Jack's elevated voice coming from her room. He'd known she would answer it. He knew she would fight for him, for time, but also knew without a doubt that she would lose.
The phone slammed down and he counted the seconds before she could force herself out of bed, listening as she padded gently down the hall. He knew the instant she arrived at his door, but refused to acknowledge her.
Equally, his housekeeper and long time caretaker knew he was awake, knew he had heard.
"Alex, they're sending a car for you now," she stated, fury in her voice. "They said it was an emergency."
Alex snorted. "It's always an emergency, Jack."
"You could always just say no," she pointed out.
"Oh yeah? How'd you make out with that one?"
Jack's silence served his point. Not for the first time in the last year, he desperately wished Ian Rider really had been a banker.
Alex sighed his defeat and threw back the covers. "Alright, I'm getting up."
Without looking, he understood that Jack had gone back to bed without another word. It was their way, now. The closeness he had once shared with her had been shattered. Coming home at all hours of the night in all states of disarray and a walking mass of injuries had done that.
She didn't asked. She couldn't. She never knew what to say. Alex forgave her easily for it, and purely out of empathy. He never knew what to say to her either. The roles of protector and charge had changed drastically between them, and neither truly understood how to approach the other in their new roles.
He dressed as slowly as he could, but still the recent bullet wound tugged and hurt. He was beginning to think the pain would never go away. He looked longingly at the bottle of painkillers sitting on his bedside table, but quickly decided against them. While they did the trick, and at least took the edge off, they also left him tired and a little foggy. He needed a clear head to deal with MI6.
He closed the house and sat on the steps, waiting. He was going to miss more school, he felt certain, and thought of the History report he had left sitting on his desk. He'd made the mistake of thinking he could finish it on the morrow. He should have known better.
The black car pulled up, as sleek as ever. Alex grinned to himself as he entered, wondering why an organization that was swathed in secrecy would use such obvious vehicles.
The driver was, as always, silent. The trip seemed far too short, and before he knew it, Alex was standing in front of what he knew to be MI6 HQ, watching the car drive away. Silly as it was, he was forced to push down a sudden flare of abandonment.
Inside, he was wordlessly escorted to Alan Blunts office, where Mrs. Jones was also waiting. He rarely saw the two apart. If he had thought they were capable of emotion, he would have thought they were more than colleagues. Fortunately for his already tortured psyche, he knew better.
He stood silently, waiting for one of them to start the game. Mr. Blunt seemed preoccupied with a file, while Mrs. Jones was busy with a peppermint. Neither seemed inclined to acknowledge him. This was standard procedure, but tonight he had no patience for it.
"Right then, if you don't need me, I'll be going," Alex announced, turning on his heel to leave.
"Alex, we need to talk to you," Mrs. Jones piped up, moving in step with him to block his exit.
"Obviously. So talk."
"Please don't rush this Alex, we have a serious situation here," Blunt responded flatly. He had never enjoyed the youths attitude, which had only grown more biting over time. Blunt considered perhaps always arranging their meetings so late into the night because it seemed to have taken the edge off of Alex's remarks.
"Let me guess, fate of the world and all that?"
"Two days ago we sent a SAS team to recover a mole, who, by the way, had already managed to gather a significant amount of information from us before he fled. That team has not been heard from or seen since," Mrs. Jones informed Alex.
"So send in another SAS team to get them." He hated playing these games. He wished they would simply tell him what they wanted from him so he could say no, and return to bed.
"It's not quite that simple. The mole fled to Canada, of all places. We don't have any jurisdiction or even sway power there. The Canadian Prime Minister had been kind enough to allow us to retrieve the threat, but strictly limited our activities. We have been told," the word sounded sour on Blunt's tongue, "that we have no further access since the team obviously failed. The Canadian Security Intelligence Services has assured us that they would look into it, in due time. However, for the moment, no threat is posed directly to Canada, therefore it does not carry priority status."
"At least someone knows to mind their own business," Alex quipped.
"I'm afraid they've banded us together with the likes of the American CIA, and want nothing to do with our, 'unusually destructive' methods," Jones continued. "In the meantime, we need to secure that mole, as well as retrieve the missing SAS team, before the mole has the opportunity to sell the data."
Alex frowned. While the two MI6 heads were often wordy, it wasn't often they supplied him with irrelevant details. Most frequently, it was go here, do this, and if you can manage it, do come back. Politics between the two intelligence agencies had nothing specifically to do with a simple S&R.
There was something they were avoiding. He was quite used to them lying to him, manipulating him, and working with perhaps a quarter of the information he really needed, but this stall tactic was completely new. And very suspicious.
"Why do you need me?" Alex asked. He was too sore and too tired to fish for scraps of information he would have to sort out later. "And no bullshit."
"Alex!" Mrs. Jones exclaimed harshly around her peppermint. He offered no apology, however, and glared at her for an answer. "The mole seems to have accessed a great deal of information, as we mentioned, but the majority of it was about you. We had already assigned K Unit to do the retrieval before we discovered what the mole was really after."
That was when Alex put it all together, and his face drained of color as his hand went automatically to the tender scar on his chest. "SCORPIA."
"We believe the mole has intentions to sell the information to them, yes, and without knowing so, we then handed SCORPIA a piece of your past," Blunt explained.
Mrs. Jones watched the boy carefully. She hadn't missed his reaction to his discovery. The mere mention of the word seemed to absolutely terrify him, and she didn't have a wonder why.
"The mole, a former agent here, had also gathered information on a very serious intelligence project. This project has been in the making for several years, and we do not think it is merely coincidence that the mole fled just one month before the project would be complete. If SCORPIA were to gain any knowledge of it, they could deal MI6 as well as the British Government a serious blow," Blunt added sternly.
Ah, now this Alex felt comfortable with. He was being manipulated again, made to think it was him they were concerned with, and the Project Files merely an afterthought.
"You want me to go to Canada as bait," Alex guessed.
Mrs. Jones firmly shook her head. "No Alex, we need you to retrieve, or destroy, the data that was stolen. The Project file has not been accessed yet, as we would be immediately notified by code. Unfortunately, it will only be a matter of time before they manage to bypass or corrupt the security on the file. By same way, we also know that they have already accessed your file, which places you in grave danger."
"Cut the crap. You don't give a fig about me or my file," Alex replied bitterly. "You need that Project file back, and don't even try to tell me that's not your priority."
"That's not true. You seem to have a knack for getting out of impossible situations, Alex, and this situation is quite impossible. We realize, of course, that you're still recovering, and we wouldn't ask if it wasn't terribly important to national security, as well as for your own safety," Jones bled out, as though performing lines from a script. She even managed to look quite concerned about his so called safety.
Alex knew what was coming next. Every person he had ever spoken to was probably in that file, and that was what they were going to use on him. Every name in that file was now at risk from being targeted by SCORPIA. Especially Jack. He swore under his breath.
He had no choice, he realized. As usual, he was trapped. If he ignored it, then a great many people he cared about would die long before he did. Eventually, SCORPIA was going to force his hand and make him come after them. They never forget, never forgive, and he had killed enough of their 'agents' to seriously piss them off.
Julia Rothman had told him, not long ago, that SCORPIA was a very, very large family, and that they looked after their own. Julia, Nile, Yassen. All three were large players, and he had taken out all of them, as well as having cost them a client who also did not forgive, or forget, failure easily.
The Sniper that had so nearly killed him just weeks ago would not be their last attempt. Could he do it? Would it be better for him to go to them, to play the game by his rules? He knew K Unit would have been kept alive, too, if the mole had managed to sell the files before they arrived. SCORPIA did not dispose of potential holds easily.
Despite his distrust for K Unit, they had come through for him at Point Blanc. Having been around the block a few times since, he knew that the razzing he had received at the SAS training camp had been almost friendly in comparison.
Had it been anyone other than SCORPIA, he might have considered refusing to go. But it wasn't, and each person mentioned in that file, however vaguely, was one life snuffed out because of him. He didn't think he could live with that.
His shoulders slumped in defeat. "When do I leave?" he asked.
Blunt nodded promptly, as though he had been expecting the answer. Of course he had. He'd known all along that Alex had been expertly backed into a corner. "This afternoon at 1500. You'll be flown to the Vancouver Airport in British Columbia. From there, we've arranged transportation to Ringrose Peak, in the Rockies, where we believe SCORPIA have a chapter house. We don't have an exact location, but the Yoho National Park suddenly closed up for no reason approximately three months ago," Mrs. Jones explained patiently.
Alex nodded numbly. "Lake O'Hara." He wracked his brain for his geography lessons. "But the Yoho National Park is only accessible by bus, and if they've closed it up, then how am I supposed to get in by plane?"
"I assure you, Alex, that after crashing into the roof of the Science Museum, and then BASE jumping from a cliff, that part of the journey will be a walk in the park," Blunt expressed.
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It was nearly dawn by the time Alex was letting himself back into his house in Chelsea. Jack was, of course, waiting for him at the kitchen table. He moved around her to get at the coffee pot, but her words turned out to be sharper than her glare anyway.
"You're doing it again, aren't you?" she demanded.
"I don't have a choice."
"You always have a choice, Alex! Always!"
Alex nodded calmly, and turned cold, hard, brown eyes on her. "You're right, Jack. I could sit back, do nothing, and watch you die. Then I can watch Tom Harris and his brother, Jerry, die. Then I can make a list of everyone I've talked to in the last year, and sit back to watch them die too."
Jack shook her head, trying desperately to squeeze back the tears that were trying to fall. It wasn't fair. What had happened to the boy she had known? Had helped raise? To her friend? The youth standing across from her was someone she didn't know anymore.
Worse, she knew it was partly her fault. Alex had gotten wrapped up in all of this to begin with by trying to protect her. She knew what MI6 had originally blackmailed him with the moment Mrs. Jones passed her the temporarily renewed visa.
She knew in her heart that these missions were destroying her charge, piece by piece. There was a wisdom in those eyes that his physical youth couldn't change, a wisdom brought on by cold experience, and hard lessons learned. Those eyes had seen too much evil in this world, and his heart was too big to let it pass over. She felt Ian Rider would have been proud of the young man his nephew had become. And, perhaps too, Ian would have understood the cost of it.
But she was helpless. She tried, she really did, but there was nothing more she could do but lay awake at night listening as Alex relived each of those horrifying moments in his nightmares. She could care for him as best as he would let her when he came home injured, sometimes try to force him to eat and sleep, and she could even listen on the rare times he explained what his mission had been about. But she could never truly understand him. Which is why she had lost him.
Alex watched Jack's thoughts flicker across her expressive face, and nodded to himself, making a decision. He sat across from her, and gently reached for her hand.
"Jack, go see your parents. Go visit with them while I'm gone. I'll ring you as soon as I get back, I promise."
She shook her head. "What about your injury, Alex? I have no problem believing MI6 has forgotten about it, but I know you haven't. Do you really think you're up for this?"
Alex wondered what to tell her. He'd had a long time to think about his plan of attack while Mrs. Jones and Mr. Blunt briefed him. They had taken immaculate care on getting him as close to where they believed the SCORPIA compound was as they could. But after three hours of instructions, he'd been dismissed. Despite what Jones and Blunt thought, it hadn't escaped his notice that there had been no mention of getting back.
They didn't expect K Unit to still be alive, and they certainly didn't expect him to survive this latest round with SCORPIA. He knew finding the compound wouldn't be that difficult. Getting IN to the compound alive was going to be a different story.
His wound had twinged in that meeting, and had reminded him of his future. This wasn't the first time MI6 had sent him out on what very well could have been a suicide mission. And, if he succeeded, it probably wouldn't be the last. This was his life now. The people he cared about would always be in danger from one thing or another. He would always be at MI6's not so tender mercies. There was no escaping it.
Except there was, and instantly he had known how to get into the SCORPIA compound.
He could feel Jack waiting for his answer, and decided to tell her the basic truth.
He smiled gently. "I'm more ready for it then anyone might think."
Jack looked up sharply, something in his voice alarming her. But his face was unreadable, showing only his concern for her.
"Please, Jack. Go home. I would be able to concentrate better on the mission if I didn't have to worry about you being here alone."
He didn't need a moment to wonder why Jack's face suddenly went cold as he realized what he'd done.
"You're almost as good as they are, Alex. So this is the life you want? Manipulating people? Preying on their weaknesses? Maybe I was wrong. Maybe this IS what you're meant to do," she threw at him, immediately removing her hand from his and disappearing upstairs.
Alex watched her go, and waited to feel shame, regret, something, anything, but nothing came. All he could feel was the relief that came with knowing she would leave here, that she would be safe. He had got what he wanted, and in the end, the means really didn't matter so much as the result.
He began to suspect she had been right.