Title: You Can Run
but You Can't Hide
Author: Anne Phoenix
Summary: Following the events of Never Say Never, Alex tries his best to forget his terrible ordeal and stay out of trouble. But when he finds a letter written by his uncle, he can't help but investigate. Before long, Alex finds himself on the run with nowhere left to turn. Part two in the Blood & Fire arc.
Warnings: Violence, m/m (blink and you'll miss it)
Disclaimer: Alex Rider fanfictions are based on characters and situations created and owned by Anthony Horowitz, various publishers including but not limited to Walker Books, Puffin Books, Entertainment Film Distributors (UK), and MGM/The Weinstein Company (USA). No money is being made, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended. All non-original characters and locations are used in a non-commercial, transformative manner and fall squarely within the Fair Use exception to the exclusive rights of the copyright owner.
Author's notes: Many thanks to hpstrangelove for beta reading!
Right, this is how it's going to be. Nine chapters posted over 14 days – I post, you review … and Alex runs for his life.
YOU CAN RUN BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE
MI6 wouldn't let Alex leave the hospital for over a week after they'd picked him up from the Brecon Beacons. After being thrown from the Scorpia helicopter, he'd managed to control his parachute, enabling him to land well enough. But then the strain of the impact had been too much for his injured knee, and it had given way with a terrible popping sound.
A week in hospital with doctors, nurses and an MI6 psychologist prodding and poking at his body and soul, and Alex had been just about ready to bury himself in a deep hole and never resurface. Then at last, he'd been allowed to go home.
Sadly, it turned out that home wasn't much better.
It was now four weeks after Alex's injury, and Jack still wouldn't let him leave the sofa. She continued tending to his every need with a suffocating enthusiasm that was absolutely stifling.
Alex felt trapped inside his mind. Every time he closed his eyes, he could see the sheer metal walls of the Scorpia cell closing in on him, tighter and tighter until the air was crushed from his lungs. The Australian's words drummed through his dreams and his nightmares. Ian … working for Scorpia.
Alex knew, rationally, that it was not possible …
… just as he knew, rationally, that Yassen Gregorovich could not be alive.
So why then had Scorpia invested so much time and planning into kidnapping him and setting him up for this fact finding mission?
He hadn't told MI6 anything of what the Australian had said. Nor had he mentioned the Scorpia device implanted in his belly. The wound from the injection site was negligible, but Alex imagined he could feel the thing inside of him, sending out its signal to Scorpia, harbouring its deadly nanotoxins …
"Do you want another sandwich?"
Alex snapped out of his reverie and tried to smile at Jack. "I'm fine. I feel like a beached whale lying here like this. I swear my leg is better now. Why can't I go out for a bit?"
He knew he sounded like a petulant child, but the urge for movement was almost more than he could bear.
"Give it until the weekend, Alex," Jack answered sympathetically. "You know what ligaments are like. Give yourself the right time and you'll be good as new."
"I'm weight bearing without any pain. Doesn't that mean it's healed?" Alex sulked.
"No argument, Alex!"
Jack collected his tea mug from the low glass table and disappeared back into the kitchen. Alex sighed. Jack looked after him well. Too well. He didn't deserve it.
Scowling slightly, Alex swung round to get to his feet. "I'm just going to the loo!" he called out defensively before Jack even noticed that he'd stood up.
He climbed the stairs carefully. A few days ago he'd become overconfident; encouraged by the lack of pain in his knee, he'd put his foot down at a funny angle. The resulting pain had made him dizzy for a split second. Thankfully, the pain had passed as quickly as it had struck, but Alex had learnt his lesson. Now he put each foot ahead of the other as squarely as possible.
It would be his birthday in a few days. He could hardly believe it had come round already – the past twelve months had been both the longest and the shortest of his whole life. He was not the same person as the carefree boy that had celebrated his fourteenth birthday with Ian and Jack one year ago.
And the changes were not for the better.
Alex hardly recognised himself. It had been bad since the Snakehead mission already – Christmas with Sabina had been awkward – but after this last encounter with Scorpia, he often felt like he was outside his body, watching himself go about life. The shadows under his eyes wouldn't fade and he also looked gaunter than before. He was finding it hard to smile.
Every time he closed his eyes, he was trapped in the cell again, pinned to the spot by the striking blue eyes of the Australian. And then the images of Eagle's beaten corpse would assault his mind, following by unstoppable nightmares of the resounding shot that had killed Spider.
Alan Blunt had once, right after they rescued Alex, casually pointed out that Alex couldn't be blamed for the deaths of Eagle and Spider, but after that no one from MI6 had ever mentioned them again. Collateral damage.
And then there was Ian … Ian … and John … and Yassen. What the hell had gone on between those three men? Had they all known each other? Worked together?
Alex shook his head. Stop thinking about it, he ordered himself. He did his business quickly, avoiding the sight of his own reflection in the bathroom mirror. Then he made his way downstairs and settled back down on the sofa.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Jack wanted to know.
Alex wished for a moment that he could tell her about the gnawing fear of being stuck in that Scorpia cell, the terror of fighting with the Australian, knowing with certitude that he was going to die …
"Nothing much," he said instead. "I was just thinking that my knee is doing really well. I reckon I can go out for my birthday … Just to the park or something," he hastily added when he saw Jack's concerned expression.
She nodded indulgently. "Sure, we'll go to the park. And then we should also consider getting you back to school. Don't look at me like that, Alex! You can't avoid school for the rest of your life. You're only fourteen!"
"Too young to be missing out on valuable education."
Alex pretended to smile at her words, but deep down he already knew he wouldn't be going back to school.
Luckily, the next few days passed quickly, and soon it was the morning of Alex's birthday. He came down the stairs to find Jack in the kitchen. The wonderful smell of chocolate cake wafted from the oven. Jack looked at him with an almost accusatory expression. "You're too early! You should sleep in for your birthday!"
"When do I ever sleep in?" Alex muttered, peeking through the dark tempered glass of the oven door and feeling a glint of satisfaction at the circular mould within.
"Well then you should sleep more overall," Jack said sternly. She handed Alex a mug of weak coffee – milky, sugary, just how he liked it. "You still feel like going to the park today?"
Alex grinned, giving the oven a pointed stare. "Absolutely! I imagine after all that chocolate cake I'll be needing a digestive walk!"
He ducked the oven glove that Jack threw at him and sat down to savour his coffee. He felt surprisingly light, almost happy. He was really looking forward to getting out of the house and stretching his legs a bit.
He was determined that nothing would ruin his birthday, and both he and Jack concentrated on making it a good day. His knee gave him no trouble in the park, and Alex could almost pretend he was a normal boy. He even managed to pretend he hadn't seen the MI6 operative lurking in the shadows of the park, watching his every move.
"Why can't they leave me alone?" he asked Jack, aware that he was sounding petulant. But Jack just shrugged and laughed it off. "We shouldn't complain that they're looking out for you, for once! Maybe they're here to stop those scorpion guys from snatching you again?"
Alex smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry about Scorpia. They're finished with me," he lied smoothly.
He hated that MI6 was watching him … and he hated that Scorpia knew where he was at all times. It was like they had collectively stolen the only thing he still possessed – his stealth.
Nevertheless, Alex managed to let go of his fears for the rest of the day and allowed Jack to spoil him rotten with ice creams and chocolates. He felt thoroughly stuffed by the time they returned to the house, but happier than he had in weeks.
"And tomorrow," Jack was saying sternly, "You're going back to schoo—"
She stopped still, taking in the open door of the house.
Alex felt his heart lurch into his throat. "Stay here," he whispered. He was about to enter the house, when Jack caught his arm. "Wait. What if there's someone inside?"
Alex shook her off. "Just stay here. Please," he insisted. His senses had tuned out the background noise from the Embankment, and he could almost hear the thudding beat of his own heart. Pulse racing, he crept into the house.
Once inside, Alex instinctively felt that he was alone, but he still checked every room to make sure before turning on the hallway light and calling in Jack.
Together they double checked for missing items, but everything seemed to be in the right place. Nothing had been touched or moved; nothing left behind. Still, Alex felt very uneasy at the thought that someone had been sneaking around his house while he was out. What had the intruder been looking for?
The more he tried to make sense of it– of it all – the more weary he felt, and it wasn't long before he excused himself and went to his room. He picked up the new Simon Kernick book that Jack had bought him. He used to enjoy reading thrillers, but lately they made him feel sick inside. He'd started this particular book earlier on, before going to the park.
It was about a met officer, who also happened to be a hitman* … It was well written, exciting; but Alex couldn't get into the story. The moral ambiguity and corruption of the police officer felt too real, and it made Alex feel very uneasy.
He had just put down the book for the night, when he heard the distinct creak of a loose floorboard in the hallway. Alex froze – Jack never came up here, as only Alex's bedroom and Ian's old office were this far along the landing. The intruder must have come back! He watched as a shadow appeared in the light cast by the gap under his door and readied himself for a confrontation.
But then the intruder moved on silently and made his way toward Ian's old office.
Not wasting a moment, Alex slid out of bed and crept to the door. He steadied his breathing and listened carefully. A faint click echoed down the landing as the door to Ian's office was unlocked, and then the shadow disappeared.
Taking care not to tread on the creaky floorboard, Alex entered the landing. The door to Ian's study was faintly ajar and Alex tip-toed up to it. He had not been inside this room for almost a year, not since the day MI6 had come and removed all of Ian's documents and files. They had added a deadbolt to the door then and secured the lock.
Alex peered into the room now, unsure of what he was expecting, but was shocked to the core by what he saw.
The intruder was standing in the semi-darkness with his back to the door, and although his body shielded whatever it was he was holding, Alex could see that the painting behind Ian's desk had been removed to reveal a wall safe … which now stood wide open.
Chapter End Notes:
TO BE CONTINUED …
*The book in question is "The Business of Dying" by Simon Kernick, a thoroughly enjoyable read if you like stories of ambiguous morality and excessive violence!