Chapter 9

"I just want you to know, that you guys really shouldn't make a habit of waking me up via morning shower."

Alex stood up from his sopping bed sheets and sighed. He was actually having a pleasant sleep, for once. He had a nightmare, something with water again, but it was hazy, though for most of the night he had slept in peace. He was not going to question the gods why, lest he jinx himself and wake up screaming tonight.

"Come on, Cub, wakey-wakey. Time for us to get going."

Alex glanced at the clock, still bleary eyed. He squinted, trying to make sure he read the blinking numbers right, before his eyes popped open as large as the biggest coin available in England.

"Is this some kind of mindfuck? It's five thirty in the God damn morning. School doesn't start until seven forty!" Alex gaped at Ben with a crazed expression, his bedhead helping with the look.

"Watch your language, Alex!" Ben pulled the boy up from bed, who tried to pry away from his grip. "We're going for a morning jog."

Alex groaned at the announcement. "I've got footy today! What more do you want?"

Forced as he was, Alex still got up and started – very slowly – changing. He picked up a sweatshirt from one of the cabinets and changed his boxers to jersey shorts. He grabbed his socks and shoes on the way back to his bed so he can wear them.

"If I fall asleep during your double period, you'd better cut me some slack."

The stop watch flashed 26:30.47.

"Not bad, Cub, but you can do better for only seven kilometers. You should be running that time on the nine-k at least."

Alex turned to Wolf, an incredulous look on his face. He was stull huffing and puffing, but trying to look like he wasn't tired. God, he couldn't freakin' breath, and his chest wound was burning.

"How old are you again?"


"Fourteen," Ben corrected, shooting Alex a strange look.

Wolf mumbled something under his breath, but Alex's ears were ringing and his head was throbbing along with his pumping heart. Dug dug dug dug dug...

"We'll cut that to under twenty in less than a month!" Eagle said it like it was nothing. He clapped Snake on the back, who brought up the rear just for security purposes.

"Come on, it's almost six. Let's hit the showers and grabe some breakfast on the way to school." Snake turned to the front door of Alex's Chelsea home.

"We're all going to school together?" Alex let out a breath.

"Well, yeah, since we're all here, might as well go together." Eagle shrugged and entered the house after Wolf.

"But what happened to your cover? Or being, you know, inconspicuous!"

Ben laughed and tried to push Alex into the door. "We're not trying to pretend from Scorpia or any other threat that we're normal citizens. They know we're not. We're just putting up the act for the rest of the civilians - and for you, so that people won't start more rumors about Alex Rider and his four new bouncers."

Alex knew he had no say in it and just groaned. Great way to start a day.

"Besides, it's perfectly normal for teachers to go to class together. You can just say you had the best of luck and ended up in our company." Snake wiggled his eyebrows at Alex and Eagle nudged him on his shoulder, giving him smug looks on his way to the kitchen.

"Whatever." Alex said in resignation. "I get first dibs on the shower upstairs." Alex started climbing the stairs, leaving the other rest of the unit staring at his sweaty back from the island counter.

Slowly, they looked at each other before scrambling off their seats and trying to push each other out of the way.

Jack blinked in the middle of the hallway as the smelly men stampeded and missed her by barely an inch, racing for the first-floor bathroom. She nursed the warm cup of coffee between her hands.

"Good morning to you, too."

The bell ringing jolted Alex from his half-sleep. Double period English was over. It was done and nothing happened. Minus the morning jog, the beginning of his day could not have been better.

Of course, he was not looking forward to explaining everything to Tom. He was late today so he didn't have a chance to grill Alex about anything.

The whole walk to the courtyard was silent as they walked side by side, Tom coming from his double Maths period.

"So you okay now?"

Alex knew the silence would not last forever.

"What makes you think I'm not?" Alex asked with a raised eyebrow. They took their usual spots underneath the shade of the trees.

"Well, you were acting like some girl on an epic crash diet."

Alex sighed. He're we go again.

"I wasn't on a crash diet, Tom. Can you just stop? I just try to eat more during breakfast since Jack insists it is the most important meal of the day. And you know how Jack insists. And stop being such a sexist. Girls don't all go on diets."

Tom grinned and produced an apple from one of his pockets. "So no more of this diet business?"

"There never was one, Tom."

"Okay, cool." Tom said nonchalantly, polishing the fruit on his pants and taking a bite out of it.

"Want some?" He offered Alex.

"No thank you, Tom." The boy gave him a suspicious look. "I'm reserving my stomach for lunch. They have roast beef for the special today." Tom, satisfied with Alex's answer, went back to squinting at him.

Alex knew Tom was itching to ask him about his getaway from class yesterday. He just did not know how to bring it up. Tom was usually straight to the point, so Alex stared at the shorter boy. He wasn't expecting for Tom to beat around the bush.

"So what happened to you yesterday? Did you go to class?"

Twelve seconds. It was a record. His best time was only eight seconds before the teen cracked.

"I cut last period. Didn't feel like going."

"Didn't feel like going? Who died and made you a rebel? Is this a new experiment on picking up chicks, by going badass? With your rep, Alex, girls think you breathing is sexy."

Alex rolled his eyes and lied down on the grass. The flora was lush this time of the year, spring bringing in more sun than the usual dreary days, but no one could really predict the London weather.

"If they made you attend one-on-one lessons, you wouldn't want to go either."

"One-on-one? Oh come on, Alex. You're not that far behind, and even if you are, your grades are still better than mine." Tom bit down the last chunk of his apple and threw the core in the trash can at least fifteen meters away. It went in, like it usually does ever since he and Alex had practiced it for three weeks in Year Five.

"I've managed to catch up with a few of my classes, but the principal still thinks my head is not straight, or at least not where it should be." Alex yawned but sat up again. He rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck. The morning jog wore him out more than it should have.

Tom scoffed. "Oh yeah, and he thinks giving your head to a bunch of men you call your unit is a good idea?"

"They're not that bad," Alex reasoned out, not that he would admit this to any of K-Unit's members, "I guess when you get used to them they just sit there at the back of your mind. Easy to ignore if you can block out most of the noise they're making."

"And to think you're the kid."

Alex looked at Tom meaningfully. "Ha! Tell that to someone else who knows it. So, how are they?"

Tom was fine with the sudden topic switch. "Same old, same old. Thank God Jerry's back from one of his trips." Tom said as he rolled his eyes and stretched.

"Come stay at my place when he's not here."

"And what about when you're not here?" Tom questioned, as he helped Alex up. "I think you're beating Jerry's record of escaping from the reality that is divorce."

"Well, I'm back for a semi-permanent period of time, at least until the school year is over."

They started heading for their lockers. "So it's not for good then?" Tom was looking straight, refusing to meet Alex's eyes. He wasn't any good at hiding his disappointment.

"I don't think so, but I've got a good half year of, well, studying, but it beats out all the other things I'd rather miss out on."

Tom sighed, as if simply accepting it. "Whachu got next period?"

"Maths. You?"

"English. Meet you after? Science, right?"

"Yeah. See you, Tom."

"Just remember Alex, I'll be watching your diet later."

Alex rolled his eyes and turned to walk to the direction Tom came from earlier. "Whatever, Tom. No need to pretend about your hidden desires." Alex waved his hand in goodbye, knowing Tom was staring at his retreating back, shocked and aghast at Alex's suggestion.

Tom slammed his head on his tray. "It's only the third day and I'm already so fucking bored, man."

Alex smiled. It was the third day, and nothing out of the ordinary has happened. He slid past Tom and went straight to the yard, his lunch bag clutched tightly in his hands.

He sat down beside the same tree he and Tom always stayed at. Opening his lunchbag he found a small tupperware with pie in it. Leftover from yesterday, Alex guessed.

"Wanna trade?" Tom shrugged and passed his lunch to Alex. He was happy to hand over his turkey sandwich for some pie anytime.

For Alex, this could not have been anymore better. It was like the good old days. Once in a while he'd wave his hand at classmate or acquaintance passing by, while have random conversations with Tom that ranged from the hot new nurse to the types of different bananas. His favorite was banana chips, and how this became a type of banana, Alex didn't know. In fact it didn't matter.

All was nice and good except for the fact that he could feel his stomach bloating, like he was some kind of pregnant girl. And damn, if this wasn't even half of what pregnant women did feel, he's pretty sure he won't be knocking up anyone any time soon. Thank the Lord he wasn't a girl then.

"You okay, Alex?"

Alex tried to stop swaying where he stood. He felt like he was going to be sick.

"Yeah. M'fine. Been a long time since I had strength training like this."

Emmet grinned. "Better build-up again, Al. Come on, try and catch up with Tom up front."

Back in the days (or at least before MI6) Alex was the only one who could possibly beat Tom in an endurance race, beating the much shorter boy with his longer strides, but right now Alex was struggling, to put it lightly. Endurance was not the problem, nor was it the speed, but God, did he feel like he was about to blow. He could still feel the turkey sandwhich rolling in his stomach.

"Just pump your arms faster, Rider!"

Alex didn't know whether to feel thankful for Emmet's support or feel embarassed. This was humiliating for him. He couldn't even blame his morning jog with the unit; he wasn't that unfit. All Alex could think about was the damn food in my damn stomach. He tried not to think about what the sandwhich probably looked like right about now and how the turkey was probably prepared. A sight of a random man skinning a bird and eating it sushi-style came into his mind.

And after thinking of the mother of all bad ideas, Alex jerked to a soundless stop, Emmet at least ten meters ahead of him, and hurled his guts out.

"RIDER! Hey, mate! You okay?"

Emmet fell back and didn't even think about the jog anymore. He looked back to make sure no one else was looking. It was probably bad enough for Alex that he had already seen what happened.

"What is up with you?"

Alex wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. It was disgusting, but he couldn't really do much about it. "Probably a bug. You know me and my epic bad timing."

Alex was convinced it was just something bad he ate. He felt alot better now that he can see some of his turkey bits in his puke. Now that he thought about, seeing it just made him want to throw up again. He looked up at Emmet instead.

"Just get going, Emmet. I'm fine now, We can probably catch up."

"I don't think that's such a good idea. Maybe we should..."

Alex broke into a jog again, leaving Emmet hanging behind him. They still had a long way ahead.

"Come on! Fiver says I'll get to Tom before you!"

Emmet, always up to a challenge, sprang into action.

"So how was football practice, Alex?"

"Fine. Me and Emmet had a race. Of course, I beat him."

Alex looked up from his plate, a smug look on his face.

"Someone's head is getting too big for the kitchen." Jack rolled her eyes, as did Alex.

Ben smiled as he ate. He was right that he did not bring the whole of K-Unit over again. He explained why it was not such a good idea. Let them warm up to Alex first, one by one with Wolf preferrably the last. Eventually Alex would get used to them, though Ben knew they shouldn't be so comfortable around each other either.

"Chelsea's playing Arsenal this weekend. Excited?"

Jack grinned. "Excited for what? Excited to beat you, if that's what you mean!"

"You cheer for Arsenal, Jack?"

Both head turned to Ben. "Yeah, never really got football before but after living with Alex and Ian for a few years they got me really hooked. I mean, have you seen Cesc Fabregas? I think there's a reason his name sounds like sex, you know."

The agent choked on his sushi roll and coughed out a few bits. "Oh well, that's nice."

Alex huffed. "Not worth watching a game with Jack if her favorites are playing. And she has at least one in each team. So who you for?"

"Liverpool," Ben said indulgently. He loved football, probably just like any other Englishman out there, and to top it off, Alex was engaging him in conversation. "From birth till death, I'm a Red through and through."

"True Blue Chelsea, all the way." Alex picked up his plate and headed for the sink, but not before throwing his leftovers in the trash bin. "Besides, need I remind you who's top of the table right now?"

Jack laughed. "We can all watch this weekend. Don't have tickets though. Maybe you can invite Tom over, Alex."

Alex grinned. "Hell yeah I will. Besides, I'm not buying ticket for a reason. I'm saving up for the Barça – Chelsea game at Stamford Bridge in a few weeks."


Alex almost dropped his plate. Jack is going to be the death of him one day.

"Casillas is in Real Madrid, Jack. Not Barcelona." Alex placed all the clean plates and utensil in the rack and stretched. "Gerard Piqué is going to be there though."

"Who... ?"

"Remember that 'hot piece of Spanish ass'? That guy. The one who you apparently want to lick the –"

Ben's eyes shot up. Did he really want to hear this?

"Yes, Alex, I remember him now."

Alex grinned at his caretaker. "Of course you do, what with all the things you planned on doing with – oh wait, I take that back. Things you planned doing to him, I mean." Alex dodged the dish towel aimed at him and made a dash to the safety of his room.

I'm still alive, if you guys were wondering... And I really have no excuses for my very long absence. And yeah, this chapter drags like a bitch, but at least I posted something, right? (Back me up here, come on...) And yes, I like football. Like, a lot. And not just because of the men. Although there are some other merits... Heh.

Also, this chapter is dedicated to Talionyzero who gave me a super long review for my other story, The Life and Times of One Alex Rider. I died after I read his/her review, but I never got to reply :( Anyway, whether he/she is reading this, this chapter is for you :)

Also, again, I want to tell you guys that this story is angsty-ish. My amusement feeds on the pain and misery of other (sometimes fictional) people.

Unbeta'd and haven't reread it yet so there's bound to be tons of mistakes.