Disclaimer: Totally don't own. And is anyone else as excited as me that we have character lists!
When Wolf came home that day it was to a sight he never wanted to see again. Ever. He was on his way back from the gym having thoroughly kicked Eagle's arse in an impromptu boxing match and feeling quite pleased with himself. They were on leave for a little bit which Wolf still found to be a little odd.
None of them were injured. They'd all done fine on their last psych evaluations and there was certainly nothing on any of their records. It was all rather strange. There was no reason to keep them in town. He wondered how long this forced inaction would be. His teammates had been telling him that he should just take the little extra vacation time for what it was worth but Wolf was ready to be back out in the field again. He loved his job, he was ready to do it.
The SAS soldier froze the second he reached the landing of the floor that housed his flat. He could see his front door from the stairs and it was a mere second before his training kicked in and his duffel bag was set lightly on the floor, the strap in his hand being replaced by his gun. He was positive, certain, that he had not left that door cracked. Now it was. The only person he'd ever given a key to was Eagle- for reasons still to be explained even to himself- and he had left that particular nuisance at the pub they'd stopped in for lunch.
He slowly but surely inched his way forward pausing just before entering to try and hear the intruders. The telly was on, something even odder than all of it put together. Why would someone break in to watch the telly? That didn't make any sense at all unless it was some sort of strange ambush by a pathetic amateur. Wolf knew he should be able to hear the person from where they were likely sitting on the couch. His flat was small with the living room, dining area, and kitchen not being separated by any walls. There was a small master and an even smaller spare bedroom. He could hear the intruder on the couch, watching what sounded like Scooby-Doo.
Feeling more than a little confused, Wolf burst into the flat gun pointed straight at the couch. He froze again. This time in shock rather than caution. The person turned and smiled at him, not in the least bit concerned about the gun pointed at him. Not that Wolf was thinking of shooting. No, his mind was a little too blank for that. His brain was having some problems catching up to what his eyes were telling him.
"'Sup, Wolf?" the person said, taking a sip of the Redbull in his right hand, his left being occupied by the remote. Wolf's eyes darted around trying to make sense of the situation. The duffel bag and backpack on one of the chairs at the table gave him a bad feeling.
"Cub?" he finally managed. The blond haired brat gave him a cheeky grin.
"If you're not going to shoot me you might as well put that away soldier," he said, and Wolf hastily re-holstered his gun before momentarily leaving to collect his dropped things in the hall. When he returned he slammed the door shut.
"What the hell are you doing in my flat?!" he shouted. This was beyond anything the kid had done at Brecon Beacons. Stealing from the other soldiers was one thing, breaking into his flat was another. "How the hell do you know where I even live?"
"MI6, duh," Cub replied in that teenage tone that made every adult frustrated. Wolf responded by kicking his leg causing his feet to leave the coffee table. "Ow! Dude! Chill out will you?"
"No," Wolf growled. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"You probably don't want to know," Cub replied with a smirk and Wolf narrowed his eyes. Yes, he really did want to know.
"Talk before I start breaking bones," he growled. It might be a bit harsh but Cub was annoying and it wasn't like the kid was taking him seriously anyway.
"I picked you," he said.
"Yeah," the kid said with a bright little nod. "You should be happy, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity and all that crap." Wolf looked at him like he was nuts.
"What are you talking about?" he asked. He hadn't seen this kid since he came tearing down a mountain on an ironing board being shot at and then stupidly jumping onto a moving train only to be thrown off and landing on a barbed wire fence. He'd then been forced to escort the kid back to the school he'd just escaped from in a raid only to have the brat disappear on him. He'd practically had a heart attack when he saw the snowmobile fly into the helicopter. Had Cub never heard of subtlety?
"You're my new guardian," Cub informed him as if he'd just won something on a game show. Wolf very nearly choked on air.
"Excuse me?" he asked instead, an eyebrow raised.
"Yup," the teen replied. "I need a temporary guardian and you're the perfect guy for the job."
"What happened to your old guardian? Finally had enough?" he asked a tad meanly. Cub wasn't fazed.
"Naw, she had to go do something in America for six weeks," he said. "So I get to live with you." Good god, he made it sound as if that would be a good thing.
"So why me?" he asked in a long suffering voice. He didn't want to be the kid's anything but he wasn't about to throw him out into the streets of London. Even he wasn't that bastardly. "Don't you have someone else?" Cub shook his head.
"No one I'm allowed to go to," he responded. "MI6 said they would assign me someone or I could pick a pre-approved person. I chose you." Wolf wasn't quite sure how to respond to that. He'd made it pretty clear at training that he in no way liked this child. He'd even been a part of the group that tried to hunt him down when it was discovered he was stealing from the other trainees. Cub probably would have been beaten up for that, just like any soldier, and Wolf more than likely wouldn't have stopped it from happening.
"Why?" he asked again, this time warily.
"Oh, because I know you," he said. "You I can handle."
"What 's that supposed to mean?" Wolf returned.
"Well, Rey," the kid responded and Wolf scowled at the emphasis on his real name. "You're really the only dude on the list that lived near me to begin with and you might get on my nerves but you won't kill me."
"Don't be so sure," he said, arms crossed. "And how did you even get inside?"
"Picked the lock," Cub said nonchalantly. Wolf raised an eyebrow.
"Don't do it again," he growled for lack of anything else to say.
"You got it Daddy." Wolf choked on air.
"Stop laughing." The command went ignored for the most part and his Unit continued to laugh. It was most annoying. "I'm serious."
"Oh c'mon Rey," Eagle said, finally getting himself under control enough to speak in gasping spurts. "It's funny."
"No, it's not," he snapped. "The kid's a fucking nightmare."
"How so?" Snake asked, taking another bite of his fish and chips. They were back at the pub, this time for dinner. Wolf had left an empty flat. It was Friday and Cub had been back only long enough to change out of his school uniform, drop his backpack, and steal another Redbull.
"He's just a nightmare," Wolf responded vaguely. "You thought he was bad at camp, that's nothing compared to what he is now."
"Are you sure he's not doing it just to rile you up?" Fox asked. "It sounds like something he'd do."
"Who knows?" Wolf shrugged. "Either way, he's a nightmare."
"What'd he do?" Eagle asked, curious about the exploits of 'Little Cub', as he called him.
"Well, Wednesday night he was escorted back by the police at three in the morning," Wolf growled, remembering the utter surrealism of having Cub handed back to him by a scowling police officer. "He steals all my Redbull and I'm pretty sure he took fifty Euros out of my wallet."
"Wow," Snake said a little blankly, eyebrows raised.
"Well, it's not like we didn't know he was a thief," Eagle responded. "Remember camp? Wasp is still pissed." Wolf snorted in agreement and glanced away. There was something about it all that just seemed off. He had yet to confront the kid over the money but he planned on making the brat pay him back. It had only been a week and already the kid was stressing Wolf out in ways no one ever had before.
"What are you going to do?" Fox asked.
"Confront him," he said. "I want my money back."
Cub came back that night before curfew. The city's curfew, not his. Wolf hadn't given the kid many rules beyond 'stay out of my room' which the kid had ignored at first opportunity. Wolf was on the couch when he came in at eleven. The teen paused for a moment.
"Sit down," Wolf ordered not taking his eyes off the screen. Cub did as he was told. "Where's my money?" He expected Cub to deny taking it, claiming that Wolf had simply spent it without knowing or misplaced it. He expected Cub to not take any sort of responsibility. He didn't get what he expected.
"I needed some money," he said. "I'll pay you back."
"That's not what this is about Cub," he snarled, even though it technically was. "You shouldn't steal from people. You know the others found out about your little thieving problem at camp? They were planning on beating the shit out of you Cub, and nobody would have stopped 'em. Do you understand that?"
"Yeah," Cub sneered. "I get it."
"Do you?" Wolf snapped, not believing that he did fully understand it at all. Cub crossed his arms and shook his head, clearly uncomfortable.
"I have my reasons," he said.
"And what would those be?" Wolf asked, taking a drink from his beer. "What did you need that money for?"
"I owed a guy some cash," Cub responded and Wolf very nearly laughed at the absurdity of it all.
"Seriously Cub? You got mixed up with a shark?" he asked incredulously. And this was the kid MI6 guarded so furiously? "What the hell? I thought you were smarter than that."
"It wasn't all me!" Cub shouted, upset. "We all borrowed a thousand from him and I had to pay back my piece. I already had the hundred but I needed a fifty and you happened to have it. I'll pay you back!"
"What the hell would you need a thousand pounds for?" Wolf snapped, picking out what he thought to be the most important bit in that jumble. Cub's face closed and his arms crossed again. They'd fallen to his sides earlier in his indignation. "I swear to God Cub if you don't tell me you'll be sleeping on a park bench for the next five weeks." Cub scowled darkly at the threat. Wolf probably wouldn't do it but answers would be good right about now. The teen shook his head again and looked away. It was clear he wasn't planning on talking.
"I can't tell you." Wolf snorted and shook his head at the blond. Ridiculous.
"Fine," he said. "But your paying back double what you took."
"What?!" Cub shouted, his head snapping back towards Wolf. "That's not fair!"
"Tough," Wolf replied. "That's what you get for stealing from me. If you ever do it again, I'll kick you out." This time the threat was real. Cub responded by getting up and going to the spare bedroom, slamming the door. Wolf didn't have any sympathy for him.
He wondered about the boy. He was obviously mixed up in a bunch of things no kid should be mixed up in. Wolf could understand that the whole MI6 thing wasn't his fault but this felt like a deliberate act. The soldier had seen kids like him before during his time in London high schools in the not so greatest neighborhoods. Cub had said he lived near by, and this certainly wasn't the best side of town.
It wouldn't surprise him if Cub was some street thug. He'd seen some evidence of it at training despite the obvious training Cub had been given before Brecon Beacons. He was uncouth and rough. He was sarcastic and rebellious. And he was a thief. Wolf wished now more than ever that he had the boy's file. It would clear up so much.
K-Unit stopped by every now and then. They were curious about Cub just as much as Wolf was. The boy never seemed overly annoyed with them and despite him being at least ten years younger than them it was surprisingly easy to include him. Cub could easily talk circles around them and his jokes were hilarious if a little dirty.
Wolf even brought the kid to the gym one day where he almost won a boxing match against Fox. He managed to give the other man a black eye but was ultimately defeated. Wolf knew Cub was talented in martial arts from combat training but he was clearly more comfortable with boxing. The soldier vaguely connected it to Cub's street nature. Turns out Cub was very much a street rat, a fact Wolf didn't like but didn't talk about either.
Over the next two weeks Wolf managed not to fight with the kid once, strange in and of itself. He even managed to have a few cordial conversations with the boy, learning his name and hearing more stories about Brookland than he ever wanted to hear. Eagle rather enjoyed the stories. Cub and his friends raised a lot of hell in those halls and the memories were funny.
The soldier was more than a little surprised when two weeks after he confronted Cub about the money the boy handed him an envelope. Curious, Wolf opened it to find one hundred Euros.
"How'd you get it so fast?" he asked, trying to cover up the real question. He wanted to know if Cub had stolen it. If Cub caught it, he didn't show it.
"I worked some odd jobs for the really rich people across town," he said. "I got fifty for two hours of dog walking."
"Why didn't you just do that in the first place?" Wolf asked. Cub shrugged.
"The shark doesn't care where the money comes from as long as he gets paid," Cub explained. "You care where it comes from. It's clean money." Wolf nodded his head. So Cub didn't have a thieving problem. He had a cheating problem. The boy would do whatever was easiest and fastest for the situation. Paying Wolf back with dirty money was far more trouble than it was worth.
"Well, thank you for paying me back," he said, not having anything else to say to the kid. He tossed the envelope on the breakfast counter and turned back to his cereal bowl. A few moments later he noted that the boy had yet to leave. "Shouldn't you be in school?" he asked.
"I need lunch money," Cub replied holding out his hand like a little kid asking for ice cream money. He had a slight smirk on his face as if he though this was hilarious.
"So?" Wolf asked gruffly.
"You're my guardian," Cub replied. "And I need lunch money." Wolf rolled his eyes and sighed, taking a fiver out of the envelope.
"Get out." He was annoyed by Cub's chuckle as he left.
Later that afternoon, the Unit came by again. They all gathered in the living room to watch the telly but there wasn't really anything good on. At one point Cub's mobile started blaring some rap song Wolf had never heard of and the kid had a short conversation.
"Who was that?" Eagle asked as Cub hung up his mobile. Wolf couldn't honestly say why the man felt the need to ask. Who bloody well cared who Cub talked to? Although Wolf had strong suspicions that it was the devil and that Cub was being called back to hell.
"My friend," Cub replied disinterestedly.
"Just have the one Cub?" Wolf asked sympathetically while trying to hide the smirk threatening to break out. Cub glared at him.
"Hey, out of everyone here I'm the most likely to get laid, so don't diss me," he responded. Snake started laughing even though he was technically included in that insult. Wolf glared at the teen who merely smirked at him.
"What makes you think you have any chance with any woman?" Eagle shot back. "All you've got going for you is the cute puppy dog look and that hardly gets you anywhere in the bedroom. Although it might get you an ice cream cone."
"Please Eagle, like you've ever seen me in action," he responded with a scoff. "I could get some faster than you ever could." Wolf was desperately trying to block out this conversation.
"That a challenge Cub?" Eagle asked trying to contain what sounded suspiciously like giggles. "Cause you're on."
"Unfortunately no," Cub said sounding disappointed. "I would prove to you I have more skills than you but I don't think Wolf wants me to have sex in his flat."
"No, I don't!" he responded loudly, absurdly grateful he'd managed to avoid spluttering.
"Aw, c'mon, Rey, lighten up!" Eagle told him. Thankfully Snake intervened before Eagle could be killed.
"Andy, he's fifteen," the soldier reminded his teammate who deflated.
"Oh yeah, I keep forgetting."
"How?" Snake asked.
"Yeah, it's so obvious, I mean, he's short," Fox cut in.
"I am not short!" Cub cried indignantly. "I'm almost as tall as Wolf!" Said soldier sent a sharp glare at the still indignant teen.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Wolf asked hotly.
"You're short," Cub said bluntly and Eagle tried to hide his silent laughter. Wolf responded by throwing a couch pillow at Cub in the armchair. "Hey!" Cub threw the pillow as well, but he aimed for Eagle and the unsuspecting man spluttered as it hit him dead in the face. And before Wolf could diffuse the situation Cub and Eagle were in a full out pillow fight. The teen tackled the soldier when his pillow was ripped from his hands and the pillow fight turned into a wrestling match. Cub lost spectacularly if for no other reason than he was smaller than Eagle and the man managed to find the kid's tickle spot rendering him a giggling mess. The others couldn't help but laugh at the scene. It was just so normal and if Wolf hadn't known better he'd have sworn Cub and Eagle were brothers. A disturbing thought in and of itself.
By the fifth week everything had more or less calmed down. Wolf couldn't really say he liked Cub anymore than he did when the boy first turned up but he could say that he could handle him better. The kid didn't take well to authority and Wolf found that direct orders were ignored. He believed it to be an off-duty thing as he certainly hadn't had this much trouble with the kid at Point Blanc, even if he had disappeared on him. Wolf also found that Cub was expensive.
Feeding a teenager took a lot of money and food and Wolf found that the kid was a bottomless pit.
"I'm growing," Cub had said after Wolf had commented on it. "I'm hungry." Wolf had rolled his eyes and grumbled about expensive children who didn't earn their share. He'd then smacked the kid on the head when he saw the smirk. Somewhere along the way Wolf found himself paying for things he normally wouldn't pay for. He wasn't sure how but Cub had managed to turn his guardian status into an official pay for everything status. He didn't really become aware of it until Cub asked him for a twenty for the movies. He'd already handed it over and the teen was out the door when the thought hit him like a ton of bricks.
"That little fucking freeloader," he snarled at the screen. Thankfully, the Unit had yet to notice this but Wolf had a feeling Cub wouldn't pull it when they were around. It only worked as long as Wolf wasn't aware of it and the teen knew they'd bring it to his attention in the form of ridiculing. Wolf swept a hand through his short hair feeling stupid and duped.
He didn't get much time to dwell on it though because that was when the doorbell rang. He got up and answered it coming face to face with a young woman he didn't know wearing a business suit and carrying a file.
"Mr. Alvarez?" she asked.
"I'm Charlotte Marthin from Child Services," she introduced. "I'm here to talk to Alex Rider."
"Oh, he just went out," he said wondering what she could possibly have to talk to Cub about. She scowled slightly at the fact that he was out. Wolf raised an eyebrow at that.
"Oh, well, would you mind if I have a moment of your time?" she asked pleasantly. "I have some things to discuss with you as well."
"Uh, sure, come on in," he stepped aside feeling distinctly nervous. The woman entered, glanced around and then made herself comfortable at the table. Wolf sat across from her. She opened the file and Wolf caught a glimpse of a mugshot. It was Cub. Shit.
"We were uninformed that Alex was with a temporary guardian for six weeks," she said a bit coldly. Wolf wasn't surprised. Why would MI6 care about child services?
"Oh, sorry," he said blankly. He had no idea how to respond to that. She glanced up from the file to peer closely at him, making him even more uncomfortable.
"Yes, well, now that I'm here I just have a few questions," she said. "Don't worry, our report has you as a trustworthy guardian." What report? He just nodded.
"How is Alex adjusting?" she asked. Wolf shrugged.
"Okay I guess," he said.
"No problems? He hasn't acted up in anyway?"
"What do you mean?" he asked.
"No stealing, sneaking out, fights?"
"He stole some money from me the first week," he said truthfully. She raised her eyebrows but didn't seem overly surprised.
"How did you respond?"
"Made him pay back double what he took," Wolf told her. Although he'd basically given it all back. Damn freeloader.
"And did he pay you back?" she asked, making a few notes in the kid's file.
"He did," Wolf said and noted the surprise in her eyes.
"Well, there's got to be a first time for everything," she said lowly, making another note.
"Does this happen often?" he asked. She looked up and sighed.
"Alex is what we refer to as a 'Problem-child'," she said. "Placing someone like him is always difficult."
"I thought he had a permanent guardian?" he asked, recalling what Cub had told him about his pseudo-sister.
"Miss Starbright has lost custody of him twice now," she told him. "Once right after his Uncle passed and then another time when the police found cocaine in their home." Wolf's eyebrows shot up at that.
"Cocaine?" he asked shocked. He knew Cub had some problems but cocaine?
"Yes, it belonged to the woman's boyfriend but since she owned the house she was brought up on charges as well. She was able to petition for custody later but the boy was in the system for six months." Well, at least Cub wasn't using.
"So he has problems?" he asked, hoping to change the line of conversation.
"Yes, stealing seems to be his biggest one," she said. "He's also quite disrespectful. His attitude daunts perspective foster parents more than anything." Wolf could believe it.
"Yeah, he's a little bratty," he said and she gave a soft smile.
"That's nicest way I've heard it described." Wolf could believe that as well. The only reason Cub's attitude hadn't completely sent him over the edge was because unlike most of these people Wolf was SAS. He could handle the kid's sass. The lady asked a few more questions, like if he was actually going to school or bunking off. Wolf didn't know. She also asked about how they were getting along. Wolf said fine. Ten minutes later, she was gone.
A few hours after that Cub was back.
"Ms. Marthin came by today," he said and saw Cub freeze by the fridge.
"Yeah?" he asked, trying to sound nonchalant but Wolf caught the uneasiness.
"Yeah, nice lady," he said. "Wanted to know how you were doing." Cub looked over his shoulder at him.
"That it?" he asked, sounding a bit hopeful. Wolf considered telling him about what she'd told him. He was curious about what had happened with the cocaine. If nothing he'd finally get some answers.
"Yeah, that's it." The kid just looked too scared that he would continue. He couldn't do it.
At the end of the six weeks, Cub simply disappeared. Wolf had told him he'd give him a lift home but on coming back from the gym he found the flat empty and Cub gone. The boy didn't leave any note. Just packed his two bags and left. Wolf didn't know where he lived per se but he did know where the kid's school was. If he needed to find him, he could.
But in the six weeks the kid had been there he knew enough about the boy to know that he probably hated good byes. It was easier on the kid's soul to just disappear quietly. Wolf let it be. He got a call that night. They were leaving the next day for Iraq. They'd been put on leave simply because the kid was staying with him. He shouldn't have been surprised.
And if he happened to get a call seven months later from the police station three blocks over to go bail the stupid little idiot out of jail, he shouldn't have been surprised. And if Cub happened to never pay him back, he shouldn't have been surprised. It wasn't like he hadn't known the kid was a freeloader.
Because that's exactly what Cub was.
A jaded little freeloader.
Okay, before anyone gets titchy about Jack let me explain my reasoning. Alex isn't like he is just because I think it makes him cooler. Something had to have happened to him in order to make him like this. I'm thinking a less happy childhood. Ian still disappeared all the time, but they were poorer and in a different neighborhood, a rougher one. Both Jack and Alex act accordingly. My thought process is that if the childhood and Jack were different Alex would be different. I think I explained this a little in my first one-shot but I thought I should do it more thoroughly here. Alex isn't the well traveled, polite spy in the Jaded universe. He's more of a well trained street kid. He still has all the same skills, just a completely different attitude. If anybody wants these things to continue, let me know.