Odd little oneshot that bugged me so bad I couldn't resist. It's an odd story, and I'm warning you now. It's okay if you hate it, I'm not really sure what to think of it either. I would love reviews and constructive criticism, or just criticism overall, but just keep in mind it's supposed to be weird.

T for brief language.


The Firm's Prompt Challenge

January '10


It's an old flame, Alex thought.

By the phrase "old flame" Alex did not mean a former lover, because he really did not care about anything silly like that. When he said "old flame", he literally meant the little lick of fire in front of him looked like it had been burning for a long time.

It looks tired and weary. Like me.

He snorted at the thought. Despite being a kid, he did not like to sink down into the depths of despair that could easily swallow him whole. Honestly, he liked saving the world. He liked being a hero. And when his bullet wound pained him or when someone knifed him open, he only had to think about the people that he would spare from death to give him another burst of energy. If he did not save them, who would?

Alex smiled softly and stared at the small fire. His head would get to big to fit through the doorways if he kept on that line of thinking.

But there were no doorways around here. He was in a building with no doors, no windows and no way out. He was simply here with large stacks of freshly cut lumber on his right and to his left. It was odd, but it was calming.

He took a deep breath and realized that the scent that wafted into his nostrils was his favorite. Wood was natural and pure. It did not lie, it did not try to kill, and it was just nice. This place was nice. Even though he should have been trying to find a way out, he did not. Even though somewhere in the back of his mind, an alarm should have been going off, it did not. He was at peace for maybe the first time in his life.

Footsteps approached from behind him but Alex made no move. If he died, at least he would have died happy. They came closer and closer until the source of the steps circled around Alex and the man sat down on the other side of the fire.

"A fire in a concrete building with wood all around?"

Alex shrugged, unable to wipe the smile off of his face. "It's an old flame. Leave it be. It's the only source of light."

The man slowly nodded. His face was shadowed, but his confusion was evident. He did not pursue it however, and they sat in compatible silence for a while as the flame slowly turned blue.

"I'm sorry, you know. I didn't mean to leave you like that," the man said suddenly.

"I know." Alex shrugged. "What can you do when you face a world-class assassin like that?"

Ian shrugged. "I'm still sorry. If I wasn't dead, I would try to do something about the situation you're in now."

"I know."

Ian stared at the flame. "You're not mad?" He sounded slightly surprised.

Alex snorted. "It's too nice here for me to be mad. If it makes you feel any better, when that flame goes out and I wake up, I surely will be."

"Alright. That's better."

They fell silent once again and Ian looked around.

"Damn kid. Your imagination sucks. Why the heck didn't you imagine something nicer? Or at least some girls?"

Huh. Why didn't Alex imagine some girls? He was a teenage boy after all.

"I guess I got hit harder on the head than I thought..."

"What about your parents? Why does your crappy uncle show up?"

Alex's forehead creased in consternation as he realized that his subconscious had not chosen the people he'd rather have here. A brief feeling of panicked confusion burst into his heart, but he was too lethargic to pursue or even ignore it.

"I-I don't know…"


It was the most honest conversation that Alex and Ian had ever had in a long time. It was amusing. Ian had to be dead and Alex had to be dying for this to come about. They seemed to come to the realization at the same time and they exchanged a brief smile.

"Well." Ian said with what seemed was a badly hidden laugh in his voice, "I guess I better cut to the chase before you die and you never get to hear me say this in time… When you can; leave. But while you're stuck with MI6, you better do the bloody excellent job I trained you to do, because if you don't, the mission will kill you, or Blunt will with training… You hear me, Rider?"

Alex nodded, not fazed at all by the harshness and determination that suddenly took over Ian's voice. He tended to do that, especially in hallucinations like these. "Yes, Ian."

Ian grunted and brought himself to stand up. "Good. Now I've got to go before I get trapped here forever."

"Good-bye, Ian…"

"Good-bye." Alex's uncle took a few steps before he stopped with a sudden realization. "Alex?" His voice was now as close to panic as Ian was physically capable of. "Alex, do you realize you're letting your flame die? Alex!"

It was getting darker and darker and the boy was just getting so tired. So what if the stupid flame died? It was nice while it lasted and now he just wanted to sleep. He deserved it, didn't he? He had completed every task to the best of his ability. Now his flame was dying and it was too hard to reach up and get that other piece of wood.

"Alex! Alex! Ugh…" Ian approached Alex and propped the sagging boy up. "You idiot! I didn't teach you to be a spy! I taught you how to live! Living is your bloody mission, you stupid, stupid boy!"

Alex smiled at Ian's harsh words and looked him straight in the eyes. "You… You don't have to be so mushy… I know you're just yelling at me… because… because you love me…" He chuckled and closed his eyes on that hallucination for good.



"Alex Rider!"


"He's responding! Get the doctor! Alex!"

"…Well hullo, sleepy head. Can you hear me, Rider? Blink once if you can… Good, good. I'm going to shine a light in your eyes… Good, good… very good. Are you tired? Ooh a nod… Excellent. Well it was close, but you hung on longer than anyone expected. You did well, Kid. You did well. That effort would have made anyone proud."

Alex nodded and closed his eyes, too tired to even smile. He had done his duty. He had trained for this. He had survived… Maybe now he would finally dream something about girls.

Sorry if the last part is OOC, but I think that if Alex wasn't so darn busy he would be such a little player. I mean, c'mon... :D

Thanks for reading.