Title: Stockholm Syndrome
Disclaimer: I don't own Alex Rider or anything of the AR Universe that Anthony Horowitz invented. This is purely for fun and no money is being made.
Rating: T/ PG-13
Warnings: some violence, mentions of torture, imprisonment, (potentially) child abuse, Note: Alex is 14 in this story!
Pairing/Characters: Alex Rider, Yassen Gregorovich, Ian Rider (no slash... yet :P)
Author's note: This will be a stand-alone consisting of two parts. I will name the chapters, so you know to which part they belong to. The story's events happen outside the "Drowning-Moscow" universe.
Also: The story is so far unbetaed. I read it through a couple of times and hope I found all the glaring mistakes, but should you find any mistakes at all: please PM me with them and I'll correct it!
italic writing - Alex' thoughts
/writing between slashes/ - memories or other person on the phone
The first thing Alex noticed as he regained his conscience was that he couldn't move, couldn't see, his mouth was awfully dry and hurt just like his head. A second later, his brain sluggishly catching up, working to find reasons for what has happened to him, he realized that his wrists and feet were tied together, he was gagged and blindfolded.
Immediate panic kicked in and he struggled against the manacles, tried to open his mouth a little wider to shout, call for help, but all he managed were a few muted grunts as the fabric stretched against the corners of his mouth.
He couldn't say how long he kept yanking at the tightly knotted strings around his wrists, shifting left and right in his sitting position, something hard digging into his back, maybe the edge of a heater? Or a piece of furniture? But at some point he gave up, exhausted and short of breath, his nostrils flaring as he inhaled through his nose, hardly able to get enough air into his lungs.
Wherever he was, he seemed to be alone. The only thing he could hear was the traffic outside, cars and occasionally the sound of the tram. So he still had to be in Prague, Alex reasoned, willing his mind to recall the events before he'd woken up... here.
He thought of the crowded ball room that was somewhere in downtown Prague. All the pompously dressed, pretentious people whose only reason to give to charity was a sop to their bad conscience.
A charity ball by some German guy whose name he'd forgotten. His uncle, Ian, had taken him to Prague. They were on holiday, but he couldn't say why Ian had to go to such a boring event or why he'd insisted on taking him. He thought that there had been an explanation only that he hadn't really listened when his uncle had told him because he'd been annoyed to waste an evening smiling and shaking hands, while his uncle seemed to know all those people that he'd never seen before.
The light had gone out. Only too well could he remember the startled shouts, the hurried footsteps, people pushing past him. Ian's hand reaching for his shoulder as he pulled him close and told him to stay where he was, which was harder to comply with than he'd thought in the suddenly pitch black room. 'Do not go outside or into any of the halls! You understand?' Ian had said and he'd nodded, realising a moment too late that his uncle couldn't see him and then he was gone.
The seconds ticked by and the light wouldn't come back on, people started panicking, running, some had taken their mobiles out to see. And then everybody went hysteric. There were hands in his face, elbows digging into his ribs and back and at one point he'd almost landed on the ground. Scared that the situation would escalate even more, he'd fought his way through the crowd, hurrying into the direction where he could remember last seeing the exit before the whole house had gone dark.
It had felt like ages until he finally reached a hallway or the next room, but there'd been considerably less people. The smell of sweat and the sickening mix of countless perfumes was gone and he'd been very grateful for that.
Until somebody had stepped up behind him.
A creaking sound made Alex jump and return to his current situation. A key turned and he could hear a door being opened and closed. Footsteps. He pressed back against the cold metallic surface behind him. Definitely a heater, he thought as his breathing sped up.
The steps ceased and he raised his head, albeit it was futile, there wasn't even so much as a ray of light that came through the blindfold.
He flinched. A man's voice. Somebody who knew his name.
"I see you are finally awake."
There was a hint of an accent, but it was too faint for Alex to be able to place it. Clothes rustled and it sounded as if a jacket or something was thrown onto, what? A bed or couch? It couldn't be a wooden surface, the sound had been too quiet for that.
He flinched again, trying to pull free as his chin was gripped and his head tilted up a little. His heart was beating furiously and he breathed heavily through his nose, fear coursing through his veins. What was going to happen to him? He'd been kidnapped? But why?
Alex picked up on a subtle scent, some aftershave or perfume he didn't know but that wasn't entirely unpleasant. Definitely a man. And so far he seemed to be the only person.
His chin was released.
"Do you know why you are here?"
There was something cold about the man's voice, despite the fact that he was speaking calmly and slowly, Alex had the feeling that there was an underlying threat, a harsh edge to every word. He shook his head in answer.
A second later, a hand clamped over his mouth, fingers and thumb pressing into his face before his head was forced back and slammed against the heater. Alex cried out in shock and pain, but muffled by the gag not more than a low grunt came out. The back of his head was throbbing and from how sticky his eyelashes felt, he knew he was crying.
"Let me ask again: do you know why you are here?"
He started to tremble and shook his head again, this time more vehemently, hoping it was enough to convince his captor. Why couldn't he remember what Ian had said about that charity party? But that wouldn't help him. If only his gag would be removed.
Please, believe me.
Alex heard movement and receding footsteps. What was going to happen to him?
"Would you like to speak to your uncle?"
He froze. What? Slowly, he turned his head into the direction from which he thought the voice came. Whoever this guy was he knew about Ian too. What was going on? Why was this happening?
The footsteps came closer again and this time he noticed how quiet they were, that he could probably only hear them because the room was so silent. The floor had to be parquet. With carpet somewhere that would explain why the steps sometimes faded altogether.
Something was held against his ear and he cringed instinctively. Then he heard the dial tone. Once. Twice. Somebody picked up.
Ian! His heart started beating faster again and he tried to say something, anything. But not a word would go past the gag, except for a few muffled and unintelligible sounds.
The phone was taken away.
"Hello Ian. I thought you might like to talk to your nephew before I kill him."
Alex tried to move away from the voice, terrified as he began to struggle against the ropes again. No, no, no. Why was this happening?
"He looks very scared, the poor boy."
The man seemed to listen before he spoke again and Alex wished he knew what his uncle had said. "Oh no, I am afraid I cannot do that. You will have to take my word for it."
There was a low chuckle. "You know what I want."
Alex listened intently, hoping to make some sense of the situation and find out why he was here.
"Well, given the circumstances, I do not feel very patient." The stranger's voice held no feeling, no emotional inflection of any sort. It could have been a machine speaking. One word after the other. Alex had no idea what the man might look like, what his expression could be right this moment. For all he knew, the man was unpredictable enough to slam him against the heater in a second's notice again.
"Oh please. Let's not go there. We both know whose life you are gambling with."
Alex felt cold all over. What was going on? Did Ian know that guy? They seemed to be bargaining. This couldn't be right. What could his uncle possibly do to get him out of here? Was this about money? But they weren't rich. It made no sense.
"I will be generous. You have 24 hours to make your decision. How about..." The man contemplated, sounding amused all of a sudden and yet there was a cruel undertone to his words. "I send you a finger of him? No? But I thought you needed proof?"
Alex bristled at his captor's low laugh.
"You should make up your mind. And fast." The call was ended with a small click and Alex could hear the man getting up. Footsteps on the parquet, then nothing. The carpet again? A loud clatter of things falling to the ground followed by a crack of something breaking.
For a while, all Alex could do was sit and listen while the question of what was going to happen to him repeated itself over and over again in his mind. He seemed hyperaware of any sound in the room and he tried to place everything he heard: a laptop being opened and powered on, the clacking of keys as the stranger typed something and a chair being drawn it, its legs scrapping over the wooden floor.
He didn't know how long he sat there, not daring to move in fear his captor would take notice of him and come back to hurt him. How long had he been unconscious? Was it already morning? Or even later? Ian had been given 24 hours to comply with what the man had demanded. But Alex didn't know what that was. Nothing came to mind, no matter how often he went through last night's events that would make any sense for somebody to kidnap Alex. If his captor was really after money, he pretty much could've taken anybody else in that ballroom hostage and would've gotten more ransom.
At some point, Alex nodded off, too exhausted to put up any resistance as sleep took over and with his eyes covered his body seemed to be in a constant state of telling him that it was night time.
When he came to, woken by the clapping of the door and the sound of high-heeled shoes on the parquet, he didn't know how long he'd been asleep. But judging from how his limbs protested as he wriggled into a more upright position, he knew that he'd been tied to the heater for already way too long. His neck felt stiff and his left leg had fallen asleep. Given his limited range of movement there was little he could do against any of that.
The hard floor was uncomfortable to say the least. He stopped his wriggling as the footsteps halted in front of him. The impact on the parquet had been strong enough for him to actually feel the vibration every time the stranger had taken another step.
Alex tried to swallow but his throat was parched.
There was a small giggle and he knew immediately that this time he had a woman standing over him. Fingers with long nails touched his cheek and he turned away, a waft of perfume entering his nose and the urge to cough surfaced. It was a sweet, light scent, not as bad as it could have been but all in all too much.
Alex didn't even know why he noticed all these minute details though with him having been deprived of half his senses, his hearing and smelling seemed to be twice as strong.
"What a cute boy," the woman murmured and this time Alex could tell that she was Czech. Her accent was a lot more pronounced than that of the man and since he'd spent the last few days in Prague hearing Czech women speak English now and again, there was no way he could've been mistaken.
"You poor thing." She must've turned away because when she spoke the next time, it wasn't into Alex' direction. "You're too cruel. I almost feel sorry for him." Her tone belied her words, Alex thought. It was aloof and uncaring, almost mocking and then she got up, her high heels clacking loudly on the floor.
It was also then that Alex realized that somebody else had to be in the room with her.
"I am sure you do." The man that had talked to him before answered.
Were they working together? They had to be. Why else would the woman just let this happen? Surely, nobody in their right mind would play along if they'd discover their lover or husband, he really didn't know what the connection between those two was, had a 14-year-old boy tied to the heater.
And where were they anyways? A hotel room? A flat?
He heard clothes rustling and-
Alex tensed, straining his ears. It sounded like they were kissing. The hair on his nape stood up and he turned away, despite not being able to see in any case.
The next half hour (Or was it longer? He couldn't tell but it definitely felt much longer.) was like an ordeal. There had been footsteps on the floor at first, both this time, the man and the woman and the sound of clothes falling to the ground. A door clapped but didn't fall entirely shut. And then... moaning, high-pitched, clearly the woman and the creak of a mattress now and again.
Alex felt nauseas. He wished they'd put something over his ears too. Pressing as close to the heater as possible, he tried to somehow make himself smaller, afraid that they'd come back into the room and wanted him to participate. Just the thought made him break out in cold sweat.
Throughout the whole time it was only the woman's voice he could hear. Mainly in Czech now and from the few words of the language that Alex knew, he could make out "Please" and "Yes", but it was already far too much.
The moment he heard footsteps again and the door being pulled open, Alex huddled even closer together. Despite the average temperature in the room, he suddenly felt cold with fear. It were the man's steps on the parquet that came closer, much quieter and softer than the woman's. Alex' breathing sped up and he tried to swallow once more, his dry throat protesting. It was the nervousness of waiting when nothing happened that made him fumble with the ropes around his wrists, his fingers trembling.
His captor moved so silently that Alex jumped, startled when he felt a touch on his jaw. He could smell the man's aftershave again, though this time it was mixed with something heavier, almost musky and Alex refused to follow down the path of connections his brain was making.
At the moment, he imagined some petty criminal. Short, black, unwashed hair and a pockmarked face; thin lips that twisted into a cruel smirk and small, beady eyes, maybe brown or black. He felt sick at the pictures his mind conjured up, involuntarily recoiling from the touch on his face.
"Are you thirsty?"
Surprised by the question, Alex raised his head a little. He didn't want to react, afraid that the stranger would hurt him if he asked for anything, but his mouth was terribly dry. Now that the topic was brought up, he noticed how badly he wanted something to drink and nodded eventually, slowly, the move of his head almost imperceptible.
"I will remove the gag. If you make any sound at all, you will regret it."
Alex nodded again, this time a little more, to reassure the man that he wouldn't try anything. And he wouldn't. He was far too afraid; the dull pain at the back of his head reminded him of what could happen if he did something his captor would not approve of. What was worse, last time he hadn't even done anything that could've warranted his being pushed against the heater. What would the stranger do to him if he actually tried to escape or call for help?
The thought horrified him and he pushed it away.
Alex stilled as his captor reached around his head and undid the knot of the gag. The fabric slid down to his neck and he closed his mouth, feeling how chapped his lips were. A small voice in the back of his mind whispered that he should disregard the punishment and scream. What if somebody would hear him? He could be saved in the next minutes. The temptation was unbearable. He didn't know where he was, what if there was somebody very close by?
The opening of a bottle was held against his mouth and he drank awkwardly, relishing the cold, soothing water running down his throat. Some of it was dripping down his chin but his captor wiped it away. Alex licked his dry lips as the bottle was taken away.
And then he screamed.
For less than a split-second his voice echoed through the room. He didn't even manage to form a proper word before a hand clamped over his mouth and he was pressed back against the heater. In his blind fear, Alex thrashed back and forth, suddenly frustrated and angry with himself and the situation. He just wanted to be free again!
The touch was gone but before he could scream once more he was backhanded hard. His head snapping to the side and the side of his face collided with the heater. The impact made him feel dizzy, his cheek was smarting and a small, pained sound left his lips.
There was nothing he could do as the gag was put into place again. His chance to escape had passed and he'd accomplished absolutely nothing. The realization was bitter. What was worse was the dread of the consequences his action would no doubt have. And suddenly he berated himself for being foolish enough to assume that anybody could've heard him.
Alex bristled when he heard the man sigh.
"Oh Alex, you should not have done that."
A dull, pounding pain started in the left side of his face and he whimpered, wishing he could plead for mercy, apologise and promise he would never do that again. This is my fault.
"I do not want to do this, but you brought it upon yourself." His captor seemed to mirror his thoughts.
I should have listened to him.
Alex shook his head, trying to somehow convey that he was sorry, that he wouldn't do it again.
"What are you going to do to him?" It was the woman this time and the worry in her voice did nothing to ease Alex' anxiety.
"You should go outside."
The clacking of high heels on the floor and a door being pulled shut was the last thing he heard before the room fell into deadly silence again. Sweat was trickling down Alex' nape and he was trembling. Fear was churning in the pit of his stomach.
His blindfold felt wet from tears.
Please don't hurt me.
Alex lay on the floor after his captor had left, leaving him behind. Alone.
His sobs were muffled by the gag, his cheek resting against the hard parquet and half his body weight was on his left arm as he lay there, uncomfortably twisted to the side. Everything hurt. He could smell blood and knew it was his own.
With every shaky breath he took, his midriff gave a painful twinge, reminding him of the one too many kicks he had received. The upside of it? None of his limbs were missing.
Alex tasted the blood on his tongue; his gag was wet with it from coughing and screaming. His eyes felt puffy from all the crying and still he couldn't stop. He'd never been so terrified in his whole life. Would he ever get out of this alive? Why wasn't Ian helping him? What did he need 24 hours for? Was the police already looking for him?
The door opened and Alex recognized the steps as the ones of his captor. He didn't move, couldn't have even if he'd wanted to.
Alex was hoisted up and propped against the heater. He let it happen, dimly registering as the man pulled him to his feet. His knees gave out immediately, not used to standing after all this time on the ground and he fell against his captor's chest.
The fabric of his shirt was warm, one of the buttons pressing against his cheek and he picked up on the man's scent again. In every other situation he would've been embarrassed, would've pushed away, but there was no strength in his body, the only thing that happened was his face growing hot in humiliation of being handled like that.
The stranger steadied him before leading him to the left. Alex had to make small steps, stumbling more often than not as the ropes around his ankles wouldn't give him enough leeway to take proper steps. He was sat down on what felt like a couch and winced as a sharp pain shot through his chest, his ribs aching.
A hand was placed on his left knee and the man sighed again. "Why did you have to disobey my orders, Alex?" He actually sounded regretful.
"Promise me you will not do that again, okay?"
Alex nodded, his eyes stinging with new tears and his throat felt tight.
The next seconds stretched into minutes in a comforting blur. His captor checked on his injuries, cleaned cuts and put bandages on any open wounds. He was gentle and careful, talking to him in a soothing voice, saying how he regretted what he had to do but that, surely, Alex understood why it had to be done. That it had hurt him as much as it had hurt Alex.
Nothing made sense anymore. Alex didn't know what to think, the man's unexpected care confused him. None of his injuries had felt as if they'd be lethal and still the stranger looked after him.
Maybe he really didn't want to hurt me.
The man's hands on his skin were warm, comforting and suddenly he didn't mind to be touched by him anymore. This wasn't so bad. Maybe things would get better now.
The couch was much more comfortable than the ground and Alex was getting drowsy. Exhausted from everything that had happened. Would he be allowed to sleep?
His captor seemed to have finished taking care of his injuries. There were quiet footsteps again and the sound of a drawer being pulled open and closed. His arm was touched and when the man spoke, his tone was warm and understanding. "Are you tired?"
"You can stay on the couch for now if you promise not to try anything."
He nodded again. I promise. And this time he meant it. If he did what the man wanted he wouldn't have to hurt Alex. He believed that now. It wasn't his fault. I just shouldn't have...
Alex drifted off to sleep.
When he woke the third time, he'd felt hope for a brief moment. His brain hadn't quite caught up to his situation yet and for just a few, bliss seconds Alex thought he was back home, in his bed. That nothing had ever happened. That he'd not gone to Prague with Ian or to this charity ball. Maybe it had been nothing more than a bad dream.
But when he came to his senses, Alex had to realize that everything had been real.
He wanted to cry. The feeling of frustration and petulance so strong, he wished he could shout at somebody, blame the sick lunatic who had kidnapped him and beaten him up; even accusing his uncle for taking him to that damn ball.
However, exhaustion and hopelessness took over soon enough and he slumped back against the couch, grateful that he'd at least been allowed a more comfortable place to sleep in. Though he still felt the effects of having his arms tied behind his back for so long or not being able to move, stretch, anything. And his injuries felt worse than before too.
It wasn't until his stomach complained loudly that he took notice how hungry he was and once again he tried to figure out how long he was already tied up like that.
24 hours. How much longer was there to go?
Alex listened into the silence, wondering if he was alone. Maybe his captor was asleep in the next room. I could try standing up. Maybe I can make it to the door and-
He remembered the man's disappointed voice. The regret in his words.
/Do not make me hurt you again, Alex./
Suddenly there was anger bubbling up inside of him. What the hell was he even thinking? That stranger was a crazy criminal! He'd kidnapped and tied him up for god's sake! How could he believe a word of what the man said?
Any attempt to escape was momentarily thwarted when a door creaked and he heard several short beeps as if somebody was dialling a number. In the background was the sound of the tram again, the wheels rattling and screeching as they always did when the tram turned a corner. Were they close to an intersection? He'd only seen a map of the Metro but not of the tram lines.
"Time to call your uncle again, Alex."
He flinched at his captor's voice, his heart picking up in speed and he resisted instinctively when his upper arm was grabbed and he was pulled to his feet. His legs wobbled under his weight but this time he managed to stay upright.
The man kept holding onto his arm, making it easier for him to lower himself down without his hands free to brace himself. Alex noticed that he was shaking slightly in trepidation. A lump was caught in his throat. Ian would get him out now, wouldn't he? He'd give his kidnapper what he wanted, wouldn't he?
But why hadn't his uncle done so the first time? And why had the man said that Ian knew what he wanted? There were too many unanswered questions, too many things he didn't know to make sense of why he was where he was.
"Hello Ian." His captor said, so close to Alex' ear that he jumped involuntarily. His hands were being tied back against the heater and he bit the inside of his cheek. The man was so close he could hear his deep, calm breathing, even feel some of the warmth radiating from his arm that nearly brushed against Alex'. He wanted to cringe away but was afraid that any move would trigger a harsh reaction from his captor right now.
"I hope for your nephew's sake that you have good news."
There was a short pause. Then a curt, sharp answer: "No."
Alex' stomach dropped. What was going on? If only he could hear what his uncle was saying.
"24 hours was a very generous offer. You know, I am starting to think that you are not very concerned about Alex' wellbeing." The man's voice was clipped. "I do not think he will take too well to hearing that I have to hurt him again."
A stale, awful taste was suddenly on his tongue, his stomach turning in apprehension. Ian couldn't do this. He couldn't leave him here any longer. Why? Why was he doing this to him?
The stranger laughed without humour. "Oh well. He might have acted up a bit earlier." For a moment he listened. The parquet gave a small creak, maybe he was crouching down because a moment later, the man touched Alex' cheek. Gently again as if reassuring him.
Alex didn't know how to feel about that. The confusion from earlier resurfaced. Part of him was wondering if his captor was preparing him for what was to come and the thought scared him.
"I am very disappointed." A thumb brushed over Alex' cheek. "This is all you, Ian. Not me. You know that. I would never hurt the poor boy if you would not make me."
All colour must've drained from Alex' face so cold did he feel. The terror of another punishment was creeping up on him, making him shake from head to toe.
God, no. Please. Don't hurt me again. Please.
"I have no interest to discuss the matter. You will hear from me."
That sounded final and from the familiar clatter of plastic on the ground and a dull crack, that now Alex recognized of maybe the parts of a mobile being stepped on, he knew his captor had ended the call.
A frightening realisation sunk in.
Ian hadn't helped him. Whatever the stranger wanted, Ian didn't want to or couldn't give it to him. He was alone in this. There was nobody who would get him out.
"I am so sorry, Alex."
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