A/N: Because when I first read about Gregorovich in Stormbreaker, I thought he was the world's biggest bitch, if you'll pardon my language. And then while reading Eagle Strike, Scorpia, and Snakehead, I was like "OH MY GOSH!" every time I read about Yassen and John's [platonic] relationship. I'm insanely proud of this one-shot.
It just hit me like a ton of bricks right now. The Alex Rider series will be over in April! (With the exception of Yassen but that's not directly part of the series) OVER! And just as I was truly enjoying it. T.T
Title: Not John
Summary: Three times, Yassen didn't kill Alex because of his father. It's hard to remember that blood is not everything. Alex is not John Rider. He is not his father, no matter how much Yassen wishes that was true. Set during Eagle Strike.
Characters/Pairing(s): Alex, Yassen, Cray
Warning(s): Character death. Not slash, though I was tempted. You technically could interpret it as slash if you like…
Disclaimer: Horowitz and I are still waging war over who owns this blond beauty and co…I will have to give the man his credit in writing almost all the dialogue here though.
"The past is not dead, it is not even past." –William Faulkner
"Yassen had heard the alarms and known instinctively that Alex Rider had escaped. He had turned off the tape recorder. And he had smiled." –Anthony Horowitz, Eagle Strike
The first time Yassen didn't kill Alex, the teenage spy had actually been trying to kill him.
"Good evening, Alex."
He could see the boy start a bit when he opened his eyes and saw the Grach pointed straight at his head. Inside, his heartbeat quickened minutely, but outwards, he showed no surprise, only acceptance. So this is what it came to. Him, Rider, and the gun.
Alex's right hand shook a bit and he laid his left hand over the ribbed stock to steady it. And yet, he said nothing. He only stared at Yassen with those damnable eyes, shaped like John's but as dark as Helen's. The boy looked just like his father. His face even harboured the same hard, haunted expression. There was John written all over him.
"You have my gun." It took surprisingly little energy to sound cool and unemotional, detached. He knew that Alex wouldn't shoot him. His father refused to kill for anything other than money – why should Alex?
Then a tiny voice in his head served as a reminder: Alex wasn't John. For all he knew, the boy could be a cold-blooded murderer intent on revenge. Somehow, he knew he wasn't. But that didn't change the facts: Alex was not John.
"Do you intend to use it?"
Still, Rider refused to speak. He was tense and held himself rigidly, his finger on the trigger. Idly, Yassen wondered if the Grach MP-443 was about to drop.
"Do you really have it in you, Alex? Can you make your finger obey you? Can you kill me?"
Alex's lips parted. He took a deep breath, his brow furrowed in thought as he seemed to debate whether or not to murder in cold blood right then and there. Yassen stared at him, still vulnerable and lying on the bed, calmly speaking about his own death. Alex wouldn't kill him. Alex couldn't kill him.
"Why did you do it?" The boy's voice cracked halfway through the sentence. He did nothing to hide the distorted sound. "You blew up the house. Why?"
"Because I was paid."
"Paid to kill me?"
"No, Alex. It had nothing to do with you." Yassen was almost amused. Why would he kill his mentor's son? Granted, said son was trying to put a bullet through his brain, but Alex didn't have the ruthlessness in him. John never had the ruthlessness in him.
He's not John.
From the bed, Yassen could see Raoul creep into the cabin, his hands curled into claws. Alex was too confused to notice. "Then who – "
Now! Alex looked into the Russian's eyes and recoiled, spinning around to confront the French deckhand. But Yassen had done his job well; Raoul's hands were already clamping around the skinny neck, throwing the child off balance. With a startled gasp, Alex crashed into the wall and inadvertently pulled the trigger. In the closed cabin, the bang was deafening, and the sound of the bullet smashing its way through the wooden planking under their feet was even worse.
Yassen could barely hold back a wince as he darted sideways to avoid Rider's feeble retaliation. He really did love the Fer de Lance.
But he only said "Tie him tightly" and scooped up his fallen gun before sweeping from the room.
He found Franco still tied up in the net. There was a livid bruise blooming on his forehead, and though he looked the worse for wear, the rugged man was not permanently damaged.
Yassen didn't spare any words for the disgruntled Frenchman, and Franco didn't meet his eyes as he untangled him. Gregorovich managed to look disapproving, disappointed, and scathing at the same time. The contempt on his face was clear.
They made their way onto the yacht, entering the main saloon to find Raoul guarding a bottle of whiskey and a fairly beaten-up Alex. The teen spy was slumped in a leather armchair, his arms tied behind his back and his ankles trussed together.
Franco was looking murderous. It didn't take a genius to figure out why, judging from the way he pinned that burning gaze on Alex and rubbed angrily at the bruises on his face.
"Let me kill the little brat," he was saying, spitting out his words.
Alex ignored them, silent throughout the entire exchange. Either he didn't understand Franco's gutter language and violent intentions, or he was truly good at masking his fear.
Yassen could feel the boy's eyes on him. Occasionally, he turned to meet that brown-eyed gaze, though the child turned away every time he was caught. Yassen didn't mind. Strangely, though the stare was hostile and defiant, it reminded him of his teacher, and the thought sent a wave of affection through him.
Finally, unable to take the rising tension in the main saloon anymore, he strode over to the bound boy. "How did you know you would find us here?" he asked.
Alex shrugged dismissively, cocking his head to the side. "I was on vacation," he said. His voice was curiously husky from not speaking for so many hours. "I was on the beach. I saw you on the yacht when it came in."
For a moment, Yassen wasn't sure if he was lying. Surely Rider wouldn't try something this risky if he didn't have the aid of the British government. "You were not working with MI6?"
"But you followed me to the restaurant."
He nodded. "That's right."
Through his slightly wounded pride, Yassen smiled and felt a surge of affection. Alex deserved to be called the son of Hunter. He did the name justice.
But he's not Hunter. He's not John.
"It's bad luck that you were staying with him, Alex. I've already told you. It was nothing personal."
"Sure. With you, it never is," Alex shot back sarcastically.
Yassen had to resist the urge to give that sardonic little half-smile again. Alex was right. When it came to the Riders, he made it a point to make it his business.
The second time Yassen didn't kill Alex, he was debating throwing everything away for the boy.
"You should have killed him in the south of France when you had the chance. Why didn't you?"
Damian Cray looked aside, disgusted, his green eyes hard with the madness that was all too obvious. "That nonsense in the bullring! That was stupid. I think you knew he'd escape."
Yassen agreed amiably. What was there to hide? He'd played his hand and got what he wanted. Alex Rider had not died.
He really did. But standing there on the yacht, the familiar weight of metal against his thigh, he'd been unable to take out the gun and pull the trigger. How could he betray his mentor like that?
He's not John.
Yet he hadn't taken out the gun, hadn't put a 9mm calibre bullet between the boy's eyes. It was impossible. Yassen knew that forming attachments in his world was more than dangerous, but he couldn't take the life of someone whose father had saved his.
"I knew him. The moment I saw him, I knew who he was and what he was. The image of his father…"
Of course Yassen had known who Alex Rider was in Cornwall. He hadn't even needed to hear the child's name to know – his face was proof enough. The same slightly hard, narrow mouth, the same slim, athletic build. And most of all, he had had John's haunted look in his eyes, the look of one who had been forced to become used to hiding behind lies. Yes, Yassen knew who Alex Rider was, all right
Fifteen years ago, Yassen had allowed himself to become attached. He's believed that John was his best friend, that John cared about him. When John had died, Yassen had been heartbroken.
Cray began to moan about the lost flash drive. "It's all over!" he howled. "Eagle Strike! All the planning. Years and years of it. Millions of dollars. And it's all your fault!"
Yassen wanted to slap him. Better yet, he wanted to kill him.
Instead, he reassured the sick bastard.
"Next time I get my hands on him, I'll make sure he doesn't walk away. Next time I'll deal with him myself," Cray announced.
Yassen left the room, feeling slightly sickened. He didn't know why. It had nothing to do with him, of course. Alex knew how to take care of himself; the Riders all seemed to have the luck of the devil. Until the devil catches up with them, he reminded himself, thinking bitterly of MI6 and Albert Bridge, and even of Ian Rider and himself.
Alex Rider was not his priority.
He's not John.
The third time Yassen didn't kill Alex, it had cost him his life.
That stupid Cray. He knew he was trouble; why hadn't he killed the man when he had the chance? Stupid, really. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. Too often, they were dangerous. This time, his mistake was lethal.
He could've killed the girl. It would've been easy, even. But when he'd been told to train the mouth of the gun on Alex Rider, his baser instincts had balked. He hadn't been able to. Alex was his weakness, and he knew it. Just looking at him was like looking at the past, fifteen years ago.
But he's not John.
Hearing his plea, Alex slowly crawled over to him, wincing at his broken rib. Yassen cursed himself for not having the foresight to wear a bulletproof vest like the boy had. A little Kevlar never hurt anyone, did it? And if he had, he wouldn't be here, on Air Force One, bleeding all over his mentor's son.
Summoning his courage and pushing back the overwhelming pain, he whispered, "There is something I have to tell you, Alex."
Alex simply stared at him, his eyes exhausted. There was a shallow cut on his face extending from his temple to his jaw. Yassen almost trembled. Could he do it? Could he shatter Alex's world by thrusting this information upon him? The boy looked tired enough; could Yassen tell him what he knew and possibly break the boy?
Yes, he realised belatedly. Someone needed to tell him the truth. It was about time Alex found out about his heritage.
"I couldn't kill you. I would never have killed you."
There. He'd said it, something he had always known and yet had never acknowledged. He couldn't kill Alex Rider, because it would have been like murdering John. And then he told him the rest.
Alex recoiled. "No!" he shouted, his voice anguished. "I don't believe you! My father wasn't a killer. He couldn't have been!" Tears glistened in his eyes. For a moment, Yassen felt like crying along with him.
He wanted to close his iron fists around the neck of his stupid conscience and shake it until he rattled some sense into it. Now was not the time to be sentimental!
He could feel the life seeping out of him. Quickly, he thought. He had only minutes left. Strangely, Yassen wanted to tell his tale. He wanted someone, anyone, to know who he truly was before he died and became just a name, just another lost soul.
He wanted to tell Alex that he was sorry for killing Ian. He wasn't sorry that the man had died; Ian Rider knew the risks of the business. He was sorry that Alex had to be put through the pain of losing someone he loved. He was sorry for hurting John like that.
Gathering his last physical strength, he weakly grasped Alex's arm. "Your father…he did this," he whispered, brushing a hand along his scar. It was almost a caress. He saved me. He saved me. I loved him. Please, Alex, understand. I could never hurt you.
"I'm glad you're here with me now."
Indeed, Yassen was glad that Alex was here. But, selfishly, he didn't want Alex. He wanted someone else, someone Alex wasn't, no matter how much blood they shared.
The words pounded along with his erratic pulse. Not John. Not John. Not John.
Yassen could feel his lips trembling with the effort to speak. He just wanted to lie down and sleep, forever, to give in to the pain blossoming over his chest. Thankfully, he was already growing numb. He was barely aware of Alex's arm in his grasp.
Alex looked close to tears. "I – " he tried to choke out, but the word never made it past his lips. With his free hand, he squeezed Yassen's fingers. Yassen wanted to see John. He wanted to see John, who was kneeling by him at this very moment –
Not John. Not John. Not John. He's not John.
"Alex…Find your destiny…"
Yassen was finding it harder to breathe. His entire torso was constricted, unfeeling; he couldn't tell if his body was connected to his neck or if he was just a head floating in the air. Where was he? He was vaguely aware of a shattered mess littering the floor – was it the floor? – and a darkness hovering close by.
He turned his head, slowly, the movement unbelievably painful and slow.
John was kneeling next to him. He was different. His eyes were darker, his hair a light wheat-blond instead of his normal golden-brown. His posture was rigid and every muscle in his body seemed to be locked in place. Physically, he looked so much younger, but Yassen knew that deep inside, he was still the same-old jaded veteran. One look into his eyes proved that. His eyes were clouded with grief, tears glistening in the brown orbs and spilling over his hollow cheeks. Yassen didn't understand. Why was John crying?
Don't cry. Don't cry, please, John. I'm coming for you. Don't cry.
And John, younger than Yassen had ever seen him, was shaking his shoulder and sobbing something in his ear. Yassen couldn't hear. He tried to open his mouth, to call out to his teacher and best friend. He wasn't sure if John could hear though.
"Don't leave me, Yassen," Alex pleaded. But the light in the Russian's eyes was fading fast.
Yassen wasn't even aware that he was dying. He simply clung to the slim arm held in his own large hand, and he was happily swept away by the darkness.
The last thing he ever saw was the blond – man or boy, he couldn't tell – kneeling by his side.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
A/N: So in the end, instead of Yassen telling himself that Alex isn't John, he finally succumbs to the loneliness and allows himself to believe that he is. There. The end. Might've been a bit slashy. Oh, one more thing: gets on knees and grovels for reviews. You know you want to!