A/N: Finally! The last chapter, I can feel the responsibility lifting from my shoulders . . . Hope you all enjoyed the story because this is it; it's status has become "complete".
This was a bad idea. A very, very, very bad idea. And Alex should know, considering all the crazy schemes he was forced to go along with on his missions (not to mention the ones he came up with himself). He was an expert on them! But, somehow, all those experiences didn't seem to equal what he was about to be faced with that evening.
A dinner party. At his home, with himself, Jack and all four members of K-Unit. Together in the same room for an extended period of time, within arm's reach of knives and other such sharp objects.
God help him.
It had all started some weeks ago with that silly little twit of a man Eagle loudly announcing one evening, as the four SAS men and he dined in Wolf's apartment, that he wanted to know what Alex's home was like, to see for himself how Alex Rider "teenage spy extraordinaire", as Eagle had daubed him, lived when he "resisted the call to save the world that would surely perish without him and his genius".
Naturally, Alex had dismissed it as Eagle being Eagle and banished the foolish notion from his mind forthwith. So he nearly had a heart attack when Wolf brought it up a few days later.
"What?" Alex yelled, eyes popping open almost impossibly wide.
Wolf winced slightly at the not altogether unexpected reaction from his young lover (it was one of Eagle's ideas, after all). He forged ahead, anyway. "As loathe as I am to take advice from Eagle, of all people, I do think it's a good idea. I need to find a way of convincing that paranoid guardian of yours that I care about you at least as much as she does and that, in the foreseeable future, I'm not going anywhere." He paused before adding under his breath, "No matter how many household items she assaults me with."
An affectionate smile caused Alex to involuntarily curl the corner of his lips as he looked at the still-scowling soldier. The uncharacteristic speech the man issued almost caused Alex to cave there and then. Almost.
"And you need the other three to be there, why?"
"I'm hoping she'll be less inclined to attack me in front of other people."
"Don't count on it."
"I'm not, trust me. Still, it's worth a try."
"I suppose so," Alex responded dubiously.
"Okay, so we're doing it, then?"
Alex had believed that that was the end of it and had quite cheerfully pushed the terrifying concept out of his mind. What he hadn't counted on was Fox going round to his house while he was at school and asking Jack about it. Curse the sneaky bastard. Tom had had to catch him before he hit the floor when he found out that she had agreed to it.
"What time did you say they were coming again?" Jack asked as she bustled into the room to lay the dining room table, breaking him out of his reverie.
"Fox said about seven-thirty," Alex replied as he studied the woman out of the corner of his eye. She was entirely too happy about the whole affair, he decided. It was making him nervous.
As he turned to leave the room, he glanced down at the table and stopped short in surprise. "Jack," he began, his stomach beginning to squirm from some unidentified instinct, "Why have you laid the table for seven? There's only going to be six of us."
"Oh, did I forget to mention . . . ? I invited someone else to join us tonight." She answered nonchalantly as before leaving the room quickly as he opened his mouth to ask her some more questions.
Now Alex knew what the squirming in his gut was: dread.
The evening had gone surprisingly well so far, apart from a brief and rather disgusting incident at the beginning involving Eagle's nose, Snake's arm and the salt and pepper shakers. To Alex's very great surprise and equally great suspicion, Jack had acted welcoming and cordially to all the soldiers, even Wolf, since they arrived. The only thing that spoiled her sudden jovial manner towards the men was the fact that she kept glancing at her watch or at the wall clock opposite them . It was eight-thirty already and her mysterious guest was a no-show. Alex couldn't help but feel a sense of relief about that.
The doorbell rang. Jack all but leapt out of her seat, saying loudly, "Better late than never!" in a cheerful tone of voice that sounded false to Alex's ears.
Spoke too soon then.
"Oh hi! I'm so sorry I'm late, Jack, but it's murder trying to work your way around London traffic after so long in America – well, that's my dad's excuse at any rate!"
Alex stiffened in shock as the familiar, feminine voice floated to his ears after so many months without hearing it. Wolf, noticing the abrupt change in his manner, frowned at the blonde boy before turning in his seat to stare in confusion at the doorway. A minute later Jack reappeared, a rather secretive smirk adorning her face as she guided a dark-haired teenage girl to the seat at the table besides Alex which had, conveniently, been left vacant.
"Sabina," he croaked in shock when he finally found his voice again.
She smiled at him, showing all her pearly white teeth as she sat down besides him. "Alex! It's so great to see you again; it's been way too long!" A faint American accent laced her voice after many months of living there.
As Alex roused himself from his stunned stupor, introductions were made, glances were exchanged between the four men and information shared as Alex and Sabina took turns telling the stories of their time together before Sabina began filling Alex in on her new life in America and enquiring about his own. As they did this, Sabina seemed to be incapable of restraining her wandering limbs from touching Alex as she frequently put an arm around his shoulders in a half-hug, or squeezed his arm or brushed her fingers over the back of his hand . . .
All the while this was going on, the knuckles on Wolf's right hand, the one clenching his knife, were becoming whiter and whiter as he tightened his grip. When Sabina unexpectedly leant forward and kissed Alex's cheek, he exploded.
"Oh, for God's sake!" he bellowed, standing up so suddenly his chair crashed to the floor, startling Sabina and Alex into jumping a foot apart and causing Eagle to fall off of his chair with a high-pitched yelp in surprise. "Will you just back off!"
The girl gawped at him in complete astonishment while Alex glared in shock and anger, Jack smirked behind her hand, Fox and Snake shared a concerned look and Eagle clambered back into his chair clumsily.
Alex found his voice, his brown eyes glinting with repressed fury, growling, "What are you doing?"
Wolf turned to the boy, aghast, "Don't tell me that you don't see it!"
Narrowing his eyes and crossing his arms across his chest, Alex's voice took on a steely, dangerous quality, "What, exactly, am I supposed to be seeing?"
"She," Wolf snarled, pointing violently at Jack, "invited her round here tonight," he made the same gesture to the still extremely confused Sabina, "so that she would – would . . . seduce you away from me!"
A hint of doubt crossed Alex's face as he thought back towards Jack's strange behaviour earlier and Sabina's unexpected arrival and affectionate gestures. Alex knew that Jack had never approved of his relationship with Wolf and she wasn't shy about voicing it either, but surely she wouldn't do something like this in an attempt to separate them . . . ?
As he opened his mouth once more to confront Jack about the theory, Sabina cut in, with the voice of one who is slowly coming to a momentous conclusion, "Wait a minute! You . . . " she turned her head to stare at her friend, "and he . . ." her gaze switched to Wolf, "are . . . together? Like, together together?"
Alex gulped slightly, shooting a vaguely panicked look at Wolf, who now looked a little guilty at the awkward position his outburst had pushed Alex into. "Yes, Sabina," Alex eventually said, very deliberately, "Wolf and I are a . . . a couple."
There was a deafening silence that lasted for several long, tense minutes as this new information was being digested. Then Sabina squealed, "Oh my God! That is so hot!"
"WHAT?" Jack erupted, looking horror-struck at this entirely unexpected reaction while all the males in the room were unable to do anything but stare in stunned silence, heads swivelling between the two females.
"Oh, come on, Jack! You've got to admit that it is pretty sweet – they make such an awesome couple!" Sabina exclaimed delightedly, grinning widely.
"Yes! Yes, we do!" Wolf jumped in, beaming at the girl he had been snarling at only moment before. "So stop trying to break us up, because I'm here to stay, lady!"
Alex blushed at the emotional declaration while next to him Sabina squealed again, even more loudly than before (if that was possible). Jack stared defiantly into Wolf's dark grey eyes for several long moments before her shoulders sagged and she turned her eyes away, seeming to admit defeat.
"Fine," she muttered sulkily, propping her elbow onto the table and resting her chin in her palm, "I give up. I'll stop meddling from now on."
Wolf and Alex broke into simultaneous grins as Sabina and Eagle began to loudly cheer and applaud for no apparent reason. Wolf leant down across the table to give Alex a kiss – and then yelped and bolted upright, one hand automatically going to his rear.
They all looked in askance at Jack, who was lazily twirling the spatula they had been using to serve the slices of meatloaf that she had just slapped Wolf's rear with. With a look of injured innocence to counter their stares, she said, "What? I said I would stop meddling, I didn't say I would stop doing that!"
She grinned at the look of horror on the man's face and added, "You didn't think you were getting off that easy, did you?"
"Oh, give me a break!" Wolf yelled as they all laughed.
A/N: Special thanks to The Lexicon of Zexion for the idea about the spatula and iyfanatic for the inspiration to include Sabina; you're both awesome guys! Everyone else, thank you for all the wonderful reviews!