A/N: Ok, so I couldn't wait until the end of FFH, mainly because I'm not entirely sure how long it's going to take to get there and you all seemed to be looking forward to this so much. So, here you go, the long-anticipated sequel to Pro Patria Mori. I just hope it lives up to expectations!
DISCLAIMER: I own nothing that you recognise.
"Jaguar!" screamed a voice and Alex swung around, staring desperately through the smoke.
"Bear!" he called, "Bear, where are you?"
The explosions were moving closer. He could hear rifle fire behind him. It was back up, but not for them. Every second brought the enemy soldiers closer. Alex had just a few moments to get them all out of there.
"Jag! Over here!"
Alex stumbled on towards the voice.
Suddenly, the smoke swirled away, and Alex jolted to a stop.
At the edge of his toes, the ground gave way to a sheer cliff, sinking quickly away into black nothingness.
"Jaguar!" called a voice and Alex's gaze was drawn away from the ever-hungry abyss at his feet to where his teammate lay, unable to move, leg trapped under fallen rocks.
There was a detonator in his hand. He knew without evidence that it would blow up the cliff where Bear was laying, helpless.
He pushed the button.
The cliff gave way and Alex screamed, Bear's own screams of betrayal and pain and hatred, echoing back across the chasm. But even that was better than the laughter, as Bear's face slowly morphed into another, twisted with a cruel smirk.
Alex sobbed helplessly as his uncle tumbled into darkness.
He awoke with a gasp. The room was still around him, the slow, even breathing of his slumbering roommate, Mark, completely at odds with the way his heart hammered. Outside, a fox barked.
He forced himself to remember that Bear was alive. He could remember that mission. Bear had been trapped after an earthquake had opened up the rift, but he'd still manage to secure a rope and throw it to Jaguar. It had been the other cliff, the one populated with men who were trying to kill them, that Alex had detonated. He had done what he had to. He had not killed his teammate. Bear was alive. He was.
Alex shuddered and clambered out of bed.
The bathroom wasn't far, just down the hall, and Alex wasted no time in snapping on the light and stumbling to the sink.
He splashed the frigid water on his face and slowly leant his forehead against the cold glass of the mirror. He knew, without looking, that he looked a state. His face would be pale and bloodless and his lips would be tense. Bags would be purple underneath his eyes and a frown would be creasing his forehead.
He looked the same every time he had a nightmare. True, it wasn't happening much anymore – this one was the first in about a month – but that didn't stop his hands from shaking where they clutched at the sink.
Slowly, he drew in a deep breath, held it, and then let it out. He repeated this twice more. After the third exhale he finally felt calm enough to return to his dimly lit room.
His roommate stirred slightly, as Alex let the door fall closed, but he quickly settled back into the deep sleep that only teenagers can achieve. Well, teenagers that weren't Alex, at any rate.
From the looks of the sky – being woken by the sun was a preference the boys shared, thankfully, and so the curtains were open – it was several hours until dawn, but Alex didn't want to root around and find his watch to confirm it, lest he wake Mark. Either way, he knew he wouldn't be getting back to sleep tonight.
Sighing, he pulled a small torch off his bedside table and the book he was meant to be reading for English.
Mark was woken up by the loud ringing of the first bell and promptly fell out of bed, landing on the hard floor with an 'oomph'.
He glared at the quietly sniggering Alex, before his gaze softened at the sight of the other boy sitting fully dressed on his bed, a worn copy of Animal Farm resting on his knee.
"Another nightmare?" asked the boy, softly.
Alex grimaced slightly but nodded. The two boys had come to an understanding within a month of Alex arriving. Mark wouldn't tell anyone anything that Alex told him, and in return, Alex wouldn't lie through his teeth about what kept him up at night.
"Come on, you need to hurry up," said Alex, briskly. "Mr Williams will have your head if you're late to registration again."
Mark shook himself and hurried out of the room.
Twenty minutes later saw Alex and Mark sitting with three other boys, crowded around a plate piled high with toast and various pots of Jam, butter and nutella scattered around. Connor, a short, blue-eyed, pale-skinned Irish boy with a shock of dark hair cursed as he stuck his elbow in a pool of honey, which made Josh burst out laughing, mainly at the 'why me?' look on Connor's face. Alex didn't blame him, but was glad he'd kept to sniggers when Connor retaliated by swiping at Josh's thick-framed glasses with one honey-ed finger.
Ben, a broad shouldered, good looking black boy, rolled his eyes and snagged a piece of toast, before proceeding to innocently load it with a liberal amount of jam.
Alex's eyes narrowed suspiciously – Ben looked just too innocent – and his eyes went to the plate. There was one piece left. His eyes darted to Mark, instinctively knowing his competition.
A hand darted forward, but Alex was already there, blocking it with the side of his knife. His other hand grabbed the toast, only to have Mark's spare hand grab his wrist in turn.
Alex glared and tugged, but Mark wasn't letting go. He twisted his wrist and pulled backwards and upwards, a basic wrist release he'd learnt years ago in karate. Unfortunately, the lack of space meant that Mark simply got tugged forward, his other hand grasping for the toast…
And the two of them crashed into Josh, sending all three of them to the floor, just as Mr Williams walked through the door.
"This is a school, not a zoo," commented the house master, flatly. "Please sit at the tables to eat, instead of rolling around like a bunch of animals."
The boys stilled momentarily, then began to scramble up, red-faced under the scrutiny of sixty amused pairs of eyes.
Halfway up, Alex snatched the toast from where it had fallen on Mark's chest and calmly began to butter it. There was most definitely not a smug smirk on his lips.
The first lesson of the day was French. Seeing as Alex had been fluent since he was about six, he found it ridiculously easy. The teacher had finally got the point when, in her third lesson with Alex, she had woken him up by slamming a dictionary down on the desk in front of him and asked him for his viewpoint on the death penalty – not something that would normally be covered on the GCSE syllabus, but she was convinced he would not know that the lesson hadn't been on that, seeing as how he had slept through the majority.
Needless to say, she was stunned when she received a carefully balanced, logical argument in flawless French, from the still mostly asleep teenager.
Five minutes later, she was scolding him for not telling her that he was fluent, and had passed him a copy of L'étranger by Albert Camus. As long as he completed the homework to her satisfaction, she would not demand his attention in lessons which, quite frankly, bored him.
A week after that, he'd accidentally answered the homework in Spanish, and she had called him in to ask exactly how many languages he was fluent in. Upon hearing the full extent of his capabilities, she had begun tutoring him in earnest, and every week there would be a new book in any of half a dozen languages for him to read and then write an essay on.
This week, he was reading Harry Potter in Russian, and he was glad of the familiar storyline while struggling with the unfamiliar language. In the end he gave up, and asked the teacher if she had any Russian worksheets to help him along. She smiled indulgently and handed him a sheaf of paper.
"Teacher's pet," teased Connor from where he was struggling with the French pluperfect beside him.
Alex elbowed him gently in the ribs and turned back to the worksheets.
"So, football at lunch, yeah?" whispered Mark from in front of him.
"What is it with you two and that bloody game," moaned Josh.
"Like you don't go on and on about tennis in the summer," retorted Alex, before turning back to Mark.
"Yeah. Captain would kill us if we weren't there – only two weeks before we go up against the champions, remember?"
"Bloody Sevenoaks," muttered Mark, before hastily whipping around and returning to work as the teacher passed close by.
They were watching a film in English – they're teacher was off sick and so they had apparently tried to avoid the sub having to do any real work. It was a cheap, badly acted and even more badly directed, version of Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Ben and Alex spent the majority of the time quietly mocking the bad Scottish accents that apparently only half the cast had decided to put on, mangling Shakespeare's play even more than second-rate actors normally would.
Half way through the first act, the TV screen flickered, once, then changed.
Instead of a gloomy castle somewhere in Scotland, a small concrete cell, illuminated with a harsh electric light, appeared on the screen.
Alex swallowed and briefly closed his eyes before he forced himself to study the man held captive on screen. Relief swept through him as he failed to recognise him and then guilt, for feeling relieved.
The sub turned white and quickly unplugged the TV.
For the last three months, TVs all over the world had been dropping their usual programmes to broadcast the execution of an agent, or soldier. So far, eleven agents had died. Today would have been the twelfth. Five weeks ago, it had been Tamara Knight, and Alex had spent the following days in a daze of grief and shock.
That hadn't been anything compared to seeing the entire of C-Unit executed three days later.
All the TVs in the school were now unplugged unless they were in use, but that didn't help when the headlines always proclaimed what had happened the following day, and when videos popped up online, no matter how one tried to block them.
Someone was determined to see these executions publicised, and no-one knew why.
Turning the TV off had been pointless; they all knew what would happen. Alex could well imagine, miles away in London and around the world, intelligence agencies refusing to succumb to despair as they failed to stop another execution, or pinpoint the broadcast.
"Class dismissed," muttered the Sub to the silent classroom, and the students quickly gathered their bags, chatter already starting up again.
It was amazing, thought Alex, bitterly, what humans could get accustomed to when they were given no choice.
Chemistry began in dispirited silence, on Alex's part, with Josh and Connor throwing him worried glances. Of course, with neither boy sharing Alex's English class, they didn't know about the execution yet. Slowly, though, Connor, in his own slightly geeky way, charmed Alex out of his bad mood, by drawing him into an argument about Starwars. It slightly fell apart on him when Alex confessed he hadn't watched any of them, and made Connor mutter under his breath and lose concentration until he somehow managed to explode a beaker and cover himself, Alex and Josh in, thankfully harmless, green gloop.
Given how good Connor was at Chemistry, Alex was half-convinced it had been deliberate, but Josh's shocked face as he wiped the stuff off his glasses, muttering about honey, and impossible Irish imbeciles, made him start laughing despite that.
Football practice went well, for about half an hour, before the clouds, that had been threatening a downpour all day, broke, and the team was forced inside out of the torrential rain. Covered in mud, they trooped into the gym, Mark wringing out his hair with forlorn looks at his sodden locks.
"Get a haircut," grinned Alex, before turning to the coach. Behind him, Mark stuck out his tongue.
"Alright," yelled the coach. "No, don't sit down, you lazy rats! Short sprints, from one end of the gym to the other!"
The team groaned, but quickly fell into the gruelling drill.
They'd barely been at it for five minutes when the door opened and two sets of footsteps entered the gym. As one, the boys turned, only to be waved back to drills.
Alex ignored the coach, walking slowly towards the headmistress and the soldier standing next to her.
"Jackal?" he asked, quietly. "Why are you here?"
"Jaguar," said the soldier, heavily. "Can we go somewhere a bit more private? I'm afraid I've got some bad news…"
A/N: So, what did you think? I'll try and have the next chapter up within the next two weeks, but things are a little hectic atm because I'm just starting uni again. Give me a few weeks to get back into the swing of things and I should be able to be more regular with updates.
And remember, reviews are love!