a/n: I've decided I'll type this whole thing out before posting it. I'll see how that goes and use it as a test run. It just means I'm going to need reminding to post, I think. When you type, you remember you have to post it, but I won't have that nice kick in the butt, so…

By the way, I feel bad. Reviewers are always complimenting me on how I always make this great humorous stories and have them laughing and stuff (and I'm shocked they think I'm funny. I try to be, I really do, but that I manage it is what amazes me). But then I write this fic and… it's not funny. I will try my best to go back through and insert as much humor as possible, because this is a storyline that needs some humor, but it won't be as funny compared to my other ones. Just a heads up. Also due to the story line, there will be less Castle in it than Alex Rider. I only had a clever plot for one side. Sorry, obsessed Castle fans.

Ben was dropped to the ground. He couldn't see anything out of the blindfold, and his hands were tied behind his back. No one had told him anything, of course, and he didn't know what was going on or where they had taken him. It wasn't like any of them were going to tell him if he asked, either. Without making a sound, he lay there for several minutes. Some of the people left the nearby area, if he judged their footsteps accurately, and the remaining ones paced a ways off. If he had to guess, they were waiting for someone. Why?

Footsteps quickly ran closer from the opposite direction of the group of people, and someone else dropped down behind him, but not as roughly as he had. Whoever it was had dropped down on to their knees, Ben guessed, and this theory only seemed more likely as hands suddenly gripped his in a friendly gesture, and started working on the knots on his wrists frantically. Several of the captors came closer as well, and it sounded like someone grabbed his "friend" 's arm and tried to pull him away from Ben. The "friend" slapped the man away and scrambled at the knots.

It suddenly struck Ben as to who the "friend" was. One of his hands came free even as the "friend" was dragged off and away. He yanked the gag out of his mouth, and yelled "Alex! Don't!" in the way of the retreating people as he rolled up onto his hands and knees. But Alex was done fighting. He had done what he'd meant to do. As Ben scrambled to his feet to follow the group, someone hit him over the head with something and he dropped.

Fox woke up in the familiar cabin of the K-Unit. His eyes were wide, and he was sweating. Both hands clenched the sheets, and his breathing was rough. He closed his eyes, trying to calm his heart rate, and soothing his frantic mind. The memories of that time kept coming back. The two months leading up to that one moment had been terrible, some of the most horrific of his life. He had scars from it that would never heal, and not all of them were physical. But he was positive by all accounts that that last moment when Alex was dragged away was the worst of it all. He could deal with all the physical pain and mind games, but…

When he had woken up, he had found his way out of the dark woods in the mountain he had been dumped in. A nearby town was below, and luckily some people in it spoke English. He could tell from signs above stores and restaurants that he was somewhere in Germany, and the suspicion was confirmed when a black car pulled up in the town and an MI6 agent picked him up and took him to the airport. He was debriefed in the hospital he was taken to. When he asked after his partner, he was alerted that news from Scorpia leaks had said Alex was gone. Ben begged release from the agency. It was granted, albeit reluctantly, and he had a message sent to the FFSAS. As he had already had training, they agreed to let him back in as long as he could pass the training again. The FFSAS sergeant broke in on the phone call, knowing Fox, and specifically said he had to actually wait to heal before trying. Ben gave a chagrined reply, as that had been exactly what he had NOT been thinking of doing, and agreed. A man named Coyote had been going from unit to unit, filling spots, and he was currently in his spot at K-Unit. Fox passed the training, and Coyote again slipped off to another unit while he regained his old spot.

Immediately, the other three knew something was wrong. He spoke less, and there were, of course, the scars. Snake had done a psychological evaluation, he assumed, and reported his findings to Wolf and Eagle. He probably came to the same conclusion as the other doctors had, that the ex-agent was suffering from PTSD. Ben knew they were worried and curious (as they had a right to be), but he couldn't bring himself to tell them what had happened, and how he had failed.

Now, he sat up in bed. They had training in an hour and a half, he judged by glancing at his watch. Wolf would be up soon, and Snake just a little bit after. Eagle would sleep in until the last minute, but would somehow manage to pass inspection. Fox's sleep pattern had been irregular, and he woke up before or after the others, depending on when his dreams woke him. He knew that once he had been so tired he hadn't even woken, and his unit had actually covered for him. The sergeant had let it pass, knowing that Fox was suffering.

Just yesterday he had called him in, telling him he had to do something about this. He couldn't keep it up, and it would put people in danger in the field. Fox told him this would be the only job he could do now, after the horror of his last mission in MI6 he didn't think he could do anything else, and said he was trying. The sergeant was adamant that he needed to do more, and when Fox admitted he was out of ideas, he said he need to tell the rest of his unit about whatever had happened. Fox had been stricken, but the sergeant said chances were it would work. The only person who knew as of right now was the person who had debriefed him, something that would not be helping the situation.

Unfortunately, Fox was pretty sure Eagle had been eavesdropping. This meant he was probably going to have to fess up unless he wanted his head talked off by Eagle. And Wolf was definitely going to push him into it soon. He was strict about no secrets that could be dangerous (although he had given Fox a bit of a break on this one, thank God), but Snake, being the medic, was going into more of the 'tough love' approach.

He sat up. At first he thought everyone was still asleep; until he glimpsed a flash of light reflect off Wolf's eyes as they opened slightly. He squinted in the light, catching sight of Fox. Neither acknowledged the other further, and Fox left the cabin for some fresh air.

At the same time in a different place, something Ben never would've guessed was happening.

Alex bolted out of the back door, and fell to his knees. He crawled away from the door as smoke billowed out of it. There were frantic yells coming from inside the compound, as people tried to scramble free of the fire. A mysterious occurrence had happened, and one of the ventilation fans near the boiler room exploded. When no one had immediately noticed this, as the fan exploded in a relatively uninhabited area that people weren't in because of the time, and the fact that the prisoners were kept there, the explosion had time to turn into flame and go untamed for some time, until the noise the prisoners was making reached the ears of their captors, who came too late to stop the flame. The fire burned away some of the walls and supports, and quite a few of the prisoners were able to escape. Scorpia would later be unable to determine how many exactly had managed it, but as he was closest, it was assumed that Alex Rider had met his death.

That was according to the plan. As soon as he had his breath back, Alex was off again, sprinting low over the grass. Other fleeing people could be seen running from the fire, and none of them paid attention to one another. The fire was out of control, and no one was staying around to see the result.

He reached the end of the compound, where the wire fences were already being ripped through and torn down in a scramble out. The fire had hit the grass, and was spreading quickly. 'Borrowed' trucks were run through the fence, and others running passed through the gaping holes they left. Those on that side were able to just take the front gate out, but that was a minority. The rest didn't care about how much it would cost to fix everything later.

Two days later, a plane would leave an airport sixty miles from the pile of ashes. There would be a teenager on board, who no one would take a second look at, and wouldn't even remember. The plane would land a few hours later in New York City, and the boy would disappear into the crowds of faces.

Alex was running free. And Scorpia wasn't getting him back.

Castle swept dramatically into the room as usual, and glanced at the three coworkers at their desks. Ryan was sleeping, his forehead flat against the desk. Esposito occasionally shot wistful glances at him, obviously wishing he could drop off too. As usual, Beckett looked to be the only one awake and doing what she was supposed to be doing. Castle, having no obligations to help with the paperwork, dropped both his and Beckett's coffees off at their desks. Then he departed again for a few more moments, and reappeared with a fresh mug for the other two.

"Thanks, man. You're a god," Esposito groaned, accepting the coffee with a reverent expression. Castle moved on, and set the second cup down a bit too loudly on Ryan's desk. He jerked up off it, and fell off his chair. "Well, maybe not to his beauty sleep," the first added to his previous assessment.

Ryan picked himself off the floor and back to his seat while Beckett rolled her eyes. Castle dropped into his own seat, picking up his coffee and savoring it in his hands. They had just finished off a long case that had ended in a car crash, and the paperwork had built up quite quickly. Now, they were dealing with the consequences of a 'fun case', as Castle had called it.

"What're you doing here?" Beckett asked, her expression and tone giving away her doubt that he was here for any sort of humor. How much excitement could come of watching three people do paperwork all day, after all?

"Just bored," Castle responded with a shrug. "Nothing to do at home, and I can't type, so I decided to come here."

"This is more interesting that your house?" Ryan said doubtfully, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. He still looked sleep deprived when he was done. "Dude, really, why are you here?"

"New school year started," Castle quietly moaned, covering his face in his hands.

Esposito pointed at him. "What's he talking about?" he asked Ryan and Beckett, who shrugged.

"Alexis started her new school year, which means the paperwork from the school comes in like you wouldn't believe. I don't know why, but they ask the same questions every year, because apparently they misplaced everything from last year."

"What's that got to do with here?" Ryan asked. He glanced down, and saw the coffee. He jumped in a mixture of surprise and excitement. Esposito shook his head with a small sigh.

When Castle didn't immediately answer, Beckett did it for him. "He's hoping that by staying here he can forget about all the paperwork they're going to send home at the beginning of the year. It'll still be waiting there when you get back," she pointed out, saying the last bit to him. He shrugged. "Anyway, hopefully we won't have anything else today so we can just get this done and over with."

"Ah, this is New York City. Land of the loud talkers, honking horns, and good hot dogs. Of course something's going to happen."