Life's a Beach
Alex was staring across at Jack, trying to keep his gaze steady. Despite being older than him, her expression was more childish in the way that her mouth was pressed into a firm pout and her arms were crossed over her chest angrily. He was trying to look at her innocently, but Jack was having have none of it. She'd practically taught him that look.
"What the hell is this?" she demanded, pointing at something behind Alex. He turned, slowly and deliberately, as though he didn't already know what was there. Armed with semi-automatic guns and dark shades, the six or so men were dressed from head to toe in black, faces devoid of any emotion. One stepped forward, saluting briefly and stating in a low voice,
"Ma'am. We have been instructed to keep a close watch on Agent Rider. Please excuse the intrusion."
He then seamlessly moved back into the formation. Jack was sure that if they all stood directly in a straight line, she wouldn't have been able to tell there was more than one. His choice of words missed her in the moment of anger, but in truth, Alex had been officially employed by MI6 two days after he turned sixteen, and was now valued for something other than his youth. He worked as a spy, having accepted that going back to how things used to be was just wishful thinking, and at seventeen years old, his eleventh year in secondary school and just a year away from being able to live on his own, he completed mission after mission with something developed since birth – pure, unadulterated skill. Alex Rider was still a secret weapon – in the sense that, well… he'd never failed a mission. Ever.
"I will not," she responded, stamping her foot on the pavement. Alex was rubbing the bridge of his nose, willing the headache he felt beginning in his temples back. It was a not much more than a dull throb at the moment, but he was sure that if it continued he'd be forced to give up and leave the bodyguards to deal with her fury.
"Jack," he started slowly, taking the hand away from his face to stare pleadingly into her eyes, "please don't make this difficult. I've already tried multiple times to convince them to leave, and they're set in their ways. Please just let me – us – into the house."
"No," Jack said stubbornly, taking a step back and pulling the open door closed for effect. She raised her chin, American instincts jumping out in her overreaction. She couldn't understand why his last mission had had this kind of effect – Alex had been making enemies since the age of fourteen, and he'd been fine with the minimal watch MI6 kept on him ever since. All of a sudden things were too much to handle for him? She'd been informed that Alex was at least one of their top agents. He was fit, agile, intelligent, and experienced. He didn't need to be "babied" by these wannabes in black. As far as Jack was concerned, Alex could probably take every single one of them down using a different method without leaving permanent injury in about… oh, seven point two seconds?
"Alex! This is not what we decided. 'Normal' does not include having six clones following you around day-to-day. If they won't leave, you're sleeping outside."
Immediately, the six men turned around and began pulling things from the trunk of the dark car they'd pulled up in. One started to unfold a tent as the next began turning on a portable barbecue. The one beside him moved to pull out a large chunk of meat from a cooler, but he was stopped by Jack's frustrated cry.
"No! This is not happening! All of you leave, or I'm calling the cops!" The men turned to look at her blankly.
"With all due respect, ma'am, there is no point. We outrank the police stationed in this area."
Jack stared at him for a moment before giving up, throwing her hands into the air. "Forget it, I'm not arguing with you people. Alex, get in the car – our car," she growled as the two pairs of smartly-dressed triplets moved to put away the camping gear.
"Where are we going?" Alex asked, even though he had a good idea of what she was thinking.
"To see Alan Blunt," she replied easily, flipping her long red hair over her shoulder and moving toward the small silver car parked in the driveway. At least the drones had had the sense to park on the street rather than behind her car and block her escape route – although it was a given that they would follow.
Ten minutes later, Jack, Alex, and the six overdressed James Bond look-alikes entered the Royal and General Bank. Alex nodded at the touchy-looking security guard, and a flicker of recognition flashed in his hidden eyes before he nodded back, indicating his approval. They stepped into the elevator, but Jack jammed her finger into the close-door button enough times to close off contact before they could throw themselves into the confined space. Benign music blared behind them, completely contradicting Jack Starbright's furious mood. She was little less than fuming, and Alex found himself picturing her with steam coming out of her ears, face red as a tomato. About a second after the mental image, he was shaking his head.
I really have to stop watching Bugs Bunny in the mornings. It's messing with my head.
They stepped out onto the floor of their destination, Jack's heals clicking quickly on the granite floors. Alex followed behind her calmly, running a hand through his sandy hair as his only telltale sign of distress. He'd just left this place a half an hour ago, and wasn't exactly eager to be back. Predictably, Alan Blunt was exactly where he'd been when Alex had last seen him, although there was onedifference – Tulip Jones now stood on the left side of his desk, rather than the right. So they move? Alex thought sarcastically. That's amazing. Almost like real people.
Alan Blunt didn't look up when they walked in – he'd probably heard the heals approaching minutes ago and worked out what had happened in his head. Even after Jack snapped her fingers impatiently, he didn't say a word or acknowledge their presence otherwise. It was Alex who finally broke the silence, turning towards the door.
"Well, I'm glad we had this little chat, but I really must be going–"
"Sit down, Alex," Jack and Mrs. Jones said at the same time. He reluctantly took a seat in one of the chairs facing Blunt's desk, Jack following suite. Finally, Alan Blunt let out a long-suffering sigh and looked up, his tired eyes betraying nothing more than just that – exhaustion. Somehow, Alex decided, he seemed more tired than usual.
"May I help you, Alex, Miss Starbright?" he deadpanned. Jack immediately broke out into screeching, making Alex wince and sink into the chair, humming the Bugs Bunny theme song under his breath to try and drown out the yelling.
"You may, yes!" she huffed. "Alex just pulled up to the house in a dark car, and now six men in black won't stop following him around! Alex says they're there for his protection, but I think it's completely stupid – with all due respect, Mr. Blunt, I think we both know Alex can take care of himself. However, if you really feel its necessary, the least you could do is ask them to keep inconspicuous!"
On this word, Jack pointed behind her at the door, not bothering to look where she was even pointing. True to her words, the six men were vigilantly standing outside the door. Upon being discovered, they began to drift away from the frame so they were out of site. Alex resisted the urge to throw his face into his hands. Moving out of our line of site isn't the same as not being there, guys, but nice try.
Alan Blunt's heavily-lidded eyes stayed the same. It was unnerving how he managed to stare that long without blinking, but after a moment he spoke, breaking Alex away from his fascination at the man's freakish ability.
"As you know, Miss Starbright, Alex has just returned from a rather complicated mission involving an uprising in Berlin and plans to resurrect the Prussian army, all organized by a rather amateur terrorist organization with a lot of big friends. Although we had supposedly sealed them after the mission was finished, the Rhumesstune has a lot of allies they'd set up for their plan's succession out for blood. It's just a precaution – of course, we just don't want to take any chances–"
"I won't have it," Jack interrupted him. "Make your men invisible or get them the hell away from Alex. He just wants to live a normal life, and you – you – cretins are making it far more difficult than it has to be! Assassination attempts and terrorist organizations – Scorpia and all of that–" Alex couldn't help the wince that followed the name, "–if you people were even slightly competent at your jobs, Alex wouldn't have almost d-died–"
To everyone's horror, Jack's eyes had welled up with tears, and Alex was on his feet in an instant, pulling the woman into his arms and desperately offering reassurances. "It's okay Jack, please don't cry. I'm alright, see?"
She looked up to see him staring across at her encouragingly, face reflecting concern. Alex was worried about her – after he was nearly killed. Again. It seemed like she was the only one affected by his missions. Just the thought of what had almost happened outside the Royal and General Bank three years ago had opened old wounds, and Jack found that having unleashed the emotions, they were hard to rebury.
"Alex, it's so h-horrible," she whimpered, leaning into him, and Alex was grateful he was about the same size as her now, or else he might've fallen over. Jack was having a nervous breakdown at the worstpossible time. He looked over to where Mrs. Jones and Blunt were for help, but they were both carefully avoiding looking at the pair, earning a scowl from the teenager at their obvious message. You're on your own, buddy.
After a few more minutes of soft words from Alex, Jack had composed herself enough to sit down for a second time, sniffling. Alex did the same – although it was more accurate to say he simply collapsed into the piece of furniture, looking at the heads of MI6 with an expression somewhere between exasperation and bewilderment.
"Jack is right," Alex accounced, earning a wide-eyed mewl of surprise from Jack as she turned to face him.
"Not only is this compromising my chances at a normal life, but it's also compromising hers. She deserves better than that," Alex said sternly, his disappointment evident. Neither of the two looked cowed at the speech, although Jack was regarding him with shock. He sounded like the parent.
"I only have about a year of school left before I can start working full time. One of the reasons I've agreed to take this job was thinking about how much the world could've suffered if we'd failed once, and I want to do my part the only way I can. I took an oath when I agreed to work for you guys – officially – and I intend to uphold it. All I ask is that you put up with one more year of my sad attempts at normalcy and then I'm yours for good."
Jack swallowed hard at the implications of Alex's words.
"Look," he continued without a hitch, "I understand where you guys are coming from – don't go thinking you have me fooled, you don't care about me," he snapped after watching the muscles in Blunt's face relaxed, thinking he'd won.
"Both the CIA and the ASIS know you've been employing me since I was fourteen. If I were to die now, how would that look for you guys?Besides," he said coolly, fixing them with a frosty look, "I'm one of the best, right?"
He didn't say it smugly. He didn't even sound proud of the title. Having matured over the past few years, Alex was able to see that the world really did need him to keep peace when it was in his power to – whether he liked it or not. It wasn't something he did because it was particularly fun. He hadn't even played spies as a child – he'd preferred firefighter or doctor. It was sort of ironic, really.
Mrs. Jones' hand twitched – near imperceptibly, but there all the same. Blunt didn't slip up quite as easily, although Alex thought he might have seen a glint of respect momentarily pass through the man's eyes. Blunt nodded.
"Alright Alex, it seems you've got things figured out." He didn't bother to hide the fact that Alex had nailed their intentions spot-on. "So you can see why we're reluctant to let you out of our sights. In truth, we already have a large amount of guards watching you, but we thought the extra protection couldn't hurt."
Jack Starbright snorted.
Blunt plowed on like he hadn't even heard her. "Here's what I can offer you: in the next few weeks, Mrs. Jones as I will neutralize any threats to you one by one, until the security on you can lessen without putting you in any danger. In the meantime, this is what I propose: Miss Starbright can spend some time with her family back in Washington–" no one was surprised to see Blunt knew this particular fact, "–but while we're doing all this, Alex, I was you to stay with one of our contacts."
Alex looked to Jack, who'd slammed her mouth shut, teeth grating in frustration. On one hand, she had been meaning to pay her parents a visit, but she felt like she was abandoning Alex. The boy was able to gauge this, and assured her smoothly, "It's only for a little while, Jack, and I'm sure your parents will be really happy to see you. Besides, it's either this or the clones."
Jack reluctantly giggled at the grave expression on her surrogate brother's face, despite her anger. This seemed fair enough – and it was like Alex said. Only for a little while.
Grudgingly, Jack grumbled out an agreement. Mrs. Jones looked pleased.
"Alright, that's that then. Mrs. Starbright, I can assure you that MI6 will take care of any and all of your needs there and back, including airfare. First class," she added, hoping to keep on Alex Rider's guardian's good side.
"But what about Alex?" Jack fussed. "Who will he be staying with?"
Blunt met her gaze evenly, answering with cool dispassion, "I have someone who I'm sure wouldn't mind taking him in."
"But – wait. Someone on such short notice wouldn't just… you… you predicted this entire conversation, didn't you?" Jack's eyes nearly fell out of her head at the realization. She stared at Alex as if he'd grown a third arm.
"You can't be serious?" she asked, glancing between Blunt and Alex. The latter's expression carried a resentful frustration and a resigned acceptance, but he didn't have time to say another word before Mrs. Jones cut in, clearing her throat as she pressed another mint between her lips.
"Don't worry Alex, the man we have in mind isn't a complete stranger. And we can assure you you'll be perfectly protected in his custody." She didn't seem at all surprised that Alex had taken apart both their plans and their intentions with him all in the course of one minute.
With an acquiescent sigh, Alex stood up to face Mrs. Jones. "Alright. Give us a day to pack, and you can give us a ring when you want to send a car around."
Mrs. Jones nodded, face calculative. She'd always found Alex to be fairly reasonable – not to say MI6's idea of reason was anything close to fair. In fact, looking back, it wasn't really his negotiation skills – he just made it look that way by agreeing when he realized he was cornered. Well, she shouldn't be over thinking it – Alex Rider had always been mature for his age, after all.
"Until next time, you two. Play nice now."
And then they were gone.
Jack's plane was due to leave London's airport in less than an hour, and she'd been inches away from picking up the telephone to call a taxi when it rang, causing her to jump and call upon a particularly colorful swear word. It had been Jill from the Royal and General Bank – a "secretary" that often made the calls directed at his house – calling to alert him that a car would be arriving at their home in less than an hour. Alex had gone upstairs for a shower just a minute ago, having said goodbye to Jack in advance, so when he got back downstairs, a towel wrapped loosely around his waist and another drying his hair, he wasn't too surprised to find a note tacked onto the door. Alex read it once over before crumpling it up and tossing it into a trash can, moving back upstairs to get dressed. Forty-five minutes later a sleek black car drove up in front of the house.
He had realized only after getting into the car that he didn't have a clue where he was going, or even who he was going to be staying with. A half hour's drive revealed his new home to be in a rather nice, two-story house, but his "guardian" was still a mystery.
"You're looking for one-seven-eight-seven. Good luck, kid," the driver said as the car pulled to a stop. He had graying hair and brown eyes, and probably no idea who Alex was.
The blonde thanked him and after a minute found himself standing outside a red door. He hesitantly reached out and knocked twice, feeling out of place – he should be at home, flipping through channels like he usually did at eight p.m., or hanging out with friends. Tom's parents had finally filed for divorce, so he lived with his mom on the weekdays and saw his dad for Fridays and Saturdays. Luckily for Tom, the two of them lived rather close together, and were much more accommodating of Alex's presence when they weren't chucking lamps at each other.
There was a rustle behind the door, the sound of the TV being switched off, and then footsteps. Locks clicked as they were deactivated one after the other, until the door swung forward, revealing a muscular man with short, dark hair and equally dark eyes. They clouded with suspicion for a few seconds, until recognition dawned and Wolf's voice called out in mild disbelief,
"…Cub? What the hell are you doing here, kid? Don't tell me you're…"
"No," Alex replied dryly, "I'm not staying. Just thought I'd stop by to catch up, you know – do a little show and tell with all these things I've brought in my suitcase."
Alex's face relaxed into cheeky grin. "Kidding. Long time no see, Wolf."
"Yeah, no kidding… Oh shit, sorry, come in."
Wolf hastily pulled the door open, allowing Alex entrance into the space. It was slightly disorganized, but not enough to look particularly lived in, with a kitchen, a bathroom, a living room and, assumedly, two bedrooms on the upper level. Alex looked around, judging what could be used as a weapon, windows and doors available for quick escapes, and where everything was placed should he be forced to navigate through the house in the dark.
"It's not much, but it's home," Wolf offered half-heartedly, moving towards the living room while Alex followed him, dropping his bags at the front door. There was a half-eaten styrofoam container of Chinese food on the coffee table accompanied by a beer, and the TV was on mute as silent sports competitors raced across the screen. Alex raised an eyebrow; Wolf just shrugged.
"That's the living room," he gestured vaguely in the direction of the couch before turning to the kitchen area. "And that's… yeah. There's a bathroom behind that door, and two more upstairs. That's also where your room is."
Alex hadn't seen the man in a while, but it seemed like he had become friendlier. Maybe he'd heard from MI6 that the teenager was a fully qualified agent now – or perhaps he was just more comfortable at home than he was at the SAS training camp or on a mission. Alex decided he didn't know him well enough to make the judgment.
"Listen, Cub. First let's just lay down some ground rules – how old are you, anyway?"
"Seventeen," Alex responded detachedly. He got the question a lot, but it seemed everyone seemed to say something different. He'd gotten 'you look younger' just as many times as he'd gotten 'you look older', so he didn't have much of an idea how he looked other than the fact that he was supposedly the school heartthrob, or something along those lines. Tom had explained the dynamics of his reputation to him a few months earlier, but he still didn't understand the celebrity obsession some of the other students seemed to hold for him (and Tom, for that matter – he'd always be the short kid Alex had rescued from bullies when they were little).
Wolf continued after a beat of predictable shock before he put together the amount of time that had passed since he'd first met Cub back at the Beacons. "Okay then. I'm not gonna give you a curfew or any dumb shit like that. I'm your guardian, if that – not your mom or dad or whoever. Oh, and if you feel like calling either of them, you can use my phone. I don't really care, but try to keep away from long distance calls, okay? I don't need that on my bill."
So Wolf didn't know about him – or at least not as much as Alex might have guess. That was good, he decided. It made things simpler. Rather than correcting the man on his current living situation, he just nodded and listened as the man rattled off the next rule.
"I won't change anything around here to accommodate you – if you want more food in the fridge, you can buy some yourself, and I'll give you some cash. As far as school and friends go, whatever, just keep out of my way." Scratch that, Wolf hadn't really gotten friendlier – he'd just been dazed by Alex's sudden reappearance in his life. That made a lot more sense.
"Other than that, just try not to get too rowdy and you can sleep here till whenever you've got to go. You remember K-unit?" Alex nodded again.
"They come over every now and then. Anyone else tries to get into the house, there's a gun in the bottom drawer of the kitchen, another in the bathroom under the sink, one in the freezer – just in case – and, uh… well, they're around, so watch your step." He wasn't sure what to say to this, so he settled for a light smirk.
"Wow. That's a lot of precautions, Wolf. Losing your touch?" Wolf scowled and turned towards the stairs, heading up. Alex followed naturally, and they stopped at the top while Wolf pointed at the various doors.
"That's my room. Don't go in there – ever. The one on the left over there is yours – it's the guest bedroom, so don't go putting up posters or any other teenage shit. If you find Eagle passed out in your bed, well… get used to it. There's a bathroom leading off my bedroom, so you can use the one at the end of the hall. Are we clear?"
"Sure thing, Wolf. What's your name, anyway?"
"You don't need to know. What's yours?" he returned, narrowing his eyes with a simple conveyed message of nosy brat. Alex feigned disappointment at the display of distrust.
"If you won't tell me, I'm not gonna tell you."
"Tch, like I care."
The two glared at each other, measuring whether or not the other would give in until finally they came to an agreement. Information wasn't free – it would be an eye for an eye. Alex sighed, resigned to taking the high road.
And that was that.
It was a typical Sunday morning – both men slept in. Eleven o' clock brought Alex back into the world of the living, and he sluggishly moved to turn on the lamp on his bedside table. Of course, having forgotten he was in a bedroom other than his own, his hand flew out expecting to catch on the table as it always did before working its way over to the light switch. Unfortunately, the bedside table in Wolf's guest bedroom was on the other side of the bed, and Alex was sent careening down to the floor, landing on his face. With a muffled groan, he pushed himself up before rubbing his head, confused by his surroundings. Instincts kicked in and suddenly he was completely alert to everything around him…
Until Alex remembered where he was. He looked over to the bed longingly, but once he'd switched himself on, it was difficult to get back to sleep. Slowly the burst of adrenaline burned out of his system, and Alex stood up, picking up the blankets and tossing them haphazardly onto the bed before opening the door, rubbing his face. He wasn't wearing anything other than a pair of red plaid pajama pants and a white shirt, but it was warmer outside than usual, and Wolf thankfully kept the heat on in the house.
Yawning widely, he moved into the kitchen, eyes half lidded and tired. Upon inspecting the fridge he found nothing more than an empty milk container (typical), one cracked egg in a carton marked expired, some cheese that looked like rocks, and a piece and a half of pizza marked "SNAKES. DON'T EAT – that means you Eagle. And you too, Fox. And Wolf's gonna feel left out, so him too."
Alex grinned. It looked like the SAS soldiers used their codenames outside work – like nicknames. They aren't so tough, he thought, chuckling. He wondered what the rest of K-unit's reactions to seeing him again would be.
Alex decided to explore a bit more thoroughly.
He made it his mission to find every gun hidden in the house. There was one sitting atop the microwave, covered in a layer of dust – Alex wondered how long it had been there for. A semi-automatic was hidden under a couch cushion – fallen out of a holster, maybe? Who knew – and a third in the freezer, just as Wolf had said. Alex had stood with one hand holding the freezer open for a few minutes, struck by a WTF moment.
In the end, he decided to just go out and grab something. His stomach was growling loudly, complaining about the lack of nutrition. Just as he was about to make his way back to his bedroom to change, Alex's shirt caught on one of the drawer's handle's, pulling it open. Alex pulled the fabric away from where it had caught, but he also saw something in the draw.
It was a goldmine. Dozens of pamphlets, brochures, coupons and papers lay stuffed into the compartment, advertizing food from every end of the earth. There were some for Capucci's Pizza near his school, stapled to a coupon with a dollar off any large pizza he might buy in the next month. This one had to be fairly recent to have not expired, and although it wasn't much, he decided to cram it into the back so he might be able to use it later.
There – that's what he was looking for. A small, rectangular sheet advertising a store called Green Eggs Breakfast in Bed delivery service. He pulled it out, checked for the number, and waited until someone picked up the phone. It sounded like a girl.
"Hello, Green Eggs! What can I help you with?"
"Hi, I was wondering if you still ran that breakfast in bed thing this late into the morning? I just don't have any food in the house, and my… roommate's sleeping in so I can't – don't want to wake him up and ask for the keys to his car."
"Well, you could take the bus here," the girl suggested brightly.
"I would, but I just moved in and don't know my way around this part of town yet." He checked the paper for the name again and then continued, "Green Eggs is just so good in the mornings and I don't want to have to settle for worse if I don't have to."
"Well, technically we stop running at ten thirty and it's already eleven thirty…"
"I can tip!" he supplied. She paused before asking,
"How old are you?"
"Um–" He seemed to be getting that question a lot lately, "–seventeen, why?"
"Oh, twelve?" she said casually. "Well, we run until noon for children twelve and under since we know how they like to sleep in." Alex took the phone away from his face, looked at it blankly, and then said into it again,
"Address and order please?"
Alex caught on. Most likely her manager was right behind her. She needed a valid excuse to be making runs this late into the day. Smiling, he gave her his order (times two for Wolf, since he was just that generous) and the address outside before sitting back on the couch and turning on the TV, throwing his feet onto the coffee table comfortably.
An alarm suddenly exploded behind him, shrieking shrilly and causing him to jump six feet in the air, slamming his hand down on the gun he'd left on the couch beside him. He briefly paused before moving slowly into the kitchen, peering over the countertop to see if the door had been opened. Everything looked normal…
There was a thud from upstairs, and seconds later Wolf was flying down the stairs, a gun in his mouth as he struggled to put an arm through the wrong sleeve. He paused when he saw Alex with the gun, and Alex stared at him as Wolf slowed, eventually stopping all together. Wolf's shocked look soon turned to rage as he stomped down the last two steps, pushing away a potted plant at the front door to reveal a small switch. When he flicked it, all the noise cut off abruptly, and the two were left there in complete silence, processing what had just happened.
He checked the locks, opening the door experimentally, but soon after his thoughts seemed to return to him at once. All of a sudden Wolf was pointing the gun at him, snarling,
"What the fuck, Cub? Why are you up so damn early?"
"Wolf… it's almost noon."
Wolf stopped, finger on the trigger twitching ominously. Cub wasn't intimidated – Wolf wouldn't shoot him, he was probably just one of those people who could concentrate better and take things in more logically when they were in the workplace. For Wolf, the workplace was just a gun, and if holding it up threateningly let him process things easier right after waking up, who was Cub to refuse him?
"Did you touch my door?" Wolf asked. Alex shook his head. "Try to open a window? Touch anything?"
Alex looked perplexed, but replied anyway, "The alarm went off when I turned on the TV."
It seemed to finally dawn on Wolf what had happened. "You put your feet up on the table," he accused, waving the gun at him. Alex nodded quickly.
"Yes. What's up with the crazy alarm system, Wolf?"
Wolf sighed, rubbing his face. "I guess I should've explained it to you yesterday. I turn it on every night and then turn it off every morning. It has a bunch of alarms that activate even if you just brush by something. When I wake up, I turn on the light in my bedroom, and that automatically turns them off. It's the same with the one in the guest bedroom – why didn't you turn that on?"
Alex just shook his head, annoyed with his luck. Wolf seemed to have completely forgotten that he had a gun aimed at Alex's chest. "Well, the alarms also automatically send a text to all of K-unit, so they'll be here in a minute. For the moment let's just sit tight and–"
Wolf didn't have time to finish before a vicious weight hit him in the back, throwing him to the ground. A girl wearing a green t-shirt was beating him senseless with a tin box, and Alex took action immediately. She'd begun to reach for Wolf's gun, failing to notice he was already out cold, but Alex was faster – he caught her wrist and pulled her to her feet, grabbing the other hand before pinning them behind her back. Then he asked calmly,
"Who are you and why are you in my house?" Or… Wolf's, I suppose, he reminded himself passively.
To his surprise, the girl sniffled and hiccupped before it was revealed that she'd started to cry.
"M-My name is Brooke," she whimpered. "I was just d-delivering an order to this address when I saw that guy pointing a g-gun at you and – and –!"
Alex let her go on the spot, allowing her to spin away from him rubbing her wrists and holding back tears with willpower that had him impressed. Wolf was still unconscious on the floor, and the Green Eggs bag had been dropped at the door before explanations could be made.
Alex massaged his temples. A headache this early in the day would do nothing for him. Glancing up, he saw the girl staring at him and said,
"I'm sorry about all this. I promise I'll double your tip. My roommate is a – a cop, and our alarm went off when I hit this thing so he thought I was an intruder and pulled a gun on me. He wouldn't have shot me…" Alex paused. "Well, not at that moment, anyway."
The delivery girl was looking down at Wolf's prone form guiltily, hiccupping again before pointing at him.
"I hit him really hard over the head with the change box… do you think he's okay?" she inqured, concerned now that she realized she'd just beaten up an innocent man. Then her eyes widened – enough so that Alex found it almost comical.
"Shit – you said he was a cop? Am I gonna be fined, or – or put in prison? Shitshitshit, why did I agree to take this order? Holy mother–"
"Hey – hey! Calm down," Alex stopped her, leaning down and picking up the gun lying on the floor before opening the drawer on one of the cupboards lining the walls and unceremoniously dropping it inside. The girl winced when it hit the bottom, and then eyed the other one in his hand – the one from the couch. Quickly, he repeated the action until there were no dangerous weapons left between them.
"You're not going to jail," he assured her, crouching next to Wolf. "And he's fine."
He smacked Wolf upside the head, enjoying the moment since it was probably the only chance he would ever get to do so. "Hey. Wake up."
Wolf's brown eyes began to blink open, focusing on Alex's face and its close proximity. Alex grinned cheekily.
"You just got owned by a teenage girl, Wolf."
"You heard me. Get up, breakfast is here."
Just then, their guests arrived, with Eagle cheerfully bouncing in through the doorway first. Snake followed more calmly, and lastly came Fox – or Ben Daniels, who was tucking something away as he entered (probably a gun, Alex thought). The girl seemed even more overwhelmed after seeing Wolf had houseguests, if possible, K-unit looked to mirror the expression.
"What the hell is this?" Eagle wondered out loud, ignoring the room's other two occupants in favor of helping Wolf to his feet. Said SAS soldier was currently rubbing the side of his head painfully, glaring at Alex from across the room. Eagle, Fox and Snake all followed his gaze, staring at Alex. To top it off, the delivery girl had decided to play along too, until all eyes were on him.
His headache gave an unfavorable throb.
"Well, this is a complete disaster," he muttered, looking up to meet them.
Quick and painless, like a band-aid.
"Hi! My name's Alex. I like to hang out with my friends and play football. Back at camp, you might've known me as Cub. Seventeen and single," he winked at K-unit, leading Eagle's jaw to drop. He then crossed his arms over his chest, straightening as his expression sobered.
"Introductions out of the way, we can skip all the shocked, 'hey, is that Cub? What's he doing here?' needlessness. Allow me to explain, yeah? I'm staying with Wolf for the next few weeks while my employers clear my name."
He hadn't forgotten about the poor delivery girl with the bad luck, making sure to hedge around the details. "I made a few too many enemies last time, so for now I'm sleeping here. Yep, I remember all of you guys from camp and Ben from Australia, so we can skip that too. Wolf, you want an ice pack?" He briefly remembered finding a gun sitting atop one.
Wolf nodded grudgingly, shooting him one final glare before leaning back against the wall. Alex disappeared around the corner while the rest of K-unit and the girl went over what Alex had just told them. So he was Cub, he'd been officially employed by MI6, they were taking down any threats and in the meantime he was staying with Wolf. Other than that it was just sarcasm and jabs, so there really wasn't any need to go over it again. Truthfully, the group was mildly impressed with his tact.
Silence reigned until the only female voice in the room (disregarding what Eagle sounded like on helium) quipped,
"So, he's single?"
She was met with four identical dead looks.
The delivery girl had told Alex she wouldn't tell anyone what had happened in return for a large tip and his phone number. She was gone a few minutes later, clutching a well-earned fifty for her troubles, while K-unit plus Alex sat down at the kitchen table, passing around information. Eagle was sipping at a miniature carton of milk that had come with the meal, while Wolf held an ice pack to his head. Snake was mostly quiet, and it was Fox who was doing the talking.
"Well, I worked with MI6 for another six months after Australia–" neither Alex nor Fox were giving away anything about their mission other than the location, much to the annoyance of the other three, "–but I ended up going back to the SAS and rejoining K-unit. Espionage was never my high point," he admitted sheepishly. "I failed two missions in a row and when they offered me a chance to rejoin the SAS, I took it. There's just too much sabotage and deception in the spying world for me."
Alex nodded. He knew exactly what Fox was talking about – the blonde had yet to encounter some mastermind who hadn't poured out his life story to him, somehow explaining how he was justified for blowing up the world because he was beat up by his neighbors when he was little. Alex had never bought it – plenty of children went their whole life without ever getting revenge on the school bully. Why couldn't they?
"Yeah, I get that," Alex indulged, taking a bite of the poached egg he'd ordered. "This one guy was bullied in school, so he decided he'd get his revenge on the world by killing a bunch of children. I still don't know what the hell he was thinking…"
Alex shook his head, swallowing a mouthful of bacon. "He got what was coming to him, that was for sure."
When he looked back up, all of K-unit was staring right at him. Alex looked taken aback. "What?"
"That's the closest we've ever come to learning something about you other than your name and whether or not you were single," Snake explained. Eagle made the call me sign with his hand from his spot at the end of the table, while Alex rolled his eyes at him. He then turned to Wolf, asking purposefully,
"So, any other booby traps I should know about? Jesus, Wolf, you've got this place wired. You know he keeps a gun in the freezer?"
Eagle suddenly brought his fist down into his palm. "So that's where that went…"
The group ignored him. Instead, Fox piped up with a sly look at Wolf, "Well, Cub, let's just say you're not the only one that's made some powerful enemies."
The implications of what Fox had just told them set in and Eagle burst out laughing just as Wolf turned red. Snake was smiling knowingly.
"Shut up!" he ordered them, crossing his arms childishly. "He doesn't need to know!"
"He's gonna find out, if he's gonna be staying here for the next few weeks."
"Let him find out on his own then!" Wolf barked.
"Aw, but that's not as much fun!" Eagle replied, resting his chin in his hands and pouting while Snake snorted a laugh. Alex turned to the only person he thought he might be able to get information out of: Fox.
"Who are you talking about?" he asked. Fox's cheshire cat grin grew.
"It's Tammy," he stage-whispered, sending Wolf into a sputtering rage.
And before Wolf could stop them, all three K-unit members howled,
"WOLF'S EX GIRLFRIEND!"
The only disclaimer I plan on giving: Alex Rider, K-unit, Blunt, Mrs. Jones, Jack, Sabina, Tom, and James Hale all belong to Anthony Horowitz, as do the story plots from the Alex Rider series referenced in this work. OC's and general plot scheming can be blamed on me and my crackpot mind. This is a work of fiction. That is all!
In this story there will be swearing and mature themes (aka drinking, partying, references to sex), since it's concentrating on a confident, sarcastic, flirtatious teenage Alex (although be warned, it gets heavier later in the story - mature themes also include violence, blood, and a torture warning for chapter 24). Also a heads up: I'm Canadian, and our British English doesn't extend much further past adding u's to words like favourite and colour (Microsoft Word, ditch the red underline! Stupid American programs…) Also, we like to party and watch mock everything around us, so... Alex will too. I hope this is okay with everyone.
Hmm... What else can I tell you? There will be romance in the story, but it won't be AlexOC and it won't be slash. So who do you think I'm thinking of? However, I don't want Alex to be tied down right away, so there will still plenty of room for stupid situations he's gonna get himself into (and overall, this story is eighty percent Alex/K-unit interaction). Sit tight to hear more about Tammy, and… other pairings will be Eagle/OC and later, Fox/Jack. Just if you were wondering.
That's basically all the info I can give you on the story right now. Once again: -begs pathetically- please review for me? It is inspiration on paper, I swear.
Next chapter: Grand theft auto, screaming matches, Brookland Comprehensive School and as usual, the joke is on Wolf.
Edit 05/08/12: So I'm beginning the slow an arduous process of going through my writing from two years ago and fixing it up, starting with this chapter. The grammar and sentence structure has been tweaked, some Americanisms corrected, but all in all nothing too noticeable has been changed!