Hey guys! I'm really sorry (yup, you're all bored with all apologising, but it's only polite for me to do so) for not updating in weeks. The dreaded writer's block hit me again and I was, well, for the lack of a better word, blocked. I've written at least seven different versions of this chapter and chucked them all aside the next day. Puzzling over a chapter was getting rather strenuous on my noggin, so I left the computer, only to forget about the entire existence of fanfiction, and was only reminded of it after reading an epic saga on the world of Maple Story. In case you don't know what that is, it's a 2D MMORPG created to distract all primary school (or in some countries, middle school) students from jumping out of the window to see if they could fly (this is an actual composition/essay topic in my country, much to my horror a few years back). So, it may come as a surprise that I've been slogging my days away on that game (I think another apology's in order here). I did say that I was hoping to finish this story before the year ended, and since there's about a month left, I can definitely feel the sense of urgency. So before any of the below actually miraculously materialised in my head and subsequently on my phone, I was obliged to read every single one of my reviews so far to hopefully gather some inspiration, as well as to figuratively kick myself in the gut for ever thinking of deserting this story. I'm ashamed to admit that I did think about it, but it would be an absolute abomination on my part. I've spent so much time on this story, and I'm not going to throw it away. (Cue a simultaneous, collected sigh of relief from all my wonderful readers.) I must say, my earliest chapters left me more than a little horrified. I knew this plot had tremendous potential, but I wasn't exactly stretching it to the limit. There are so many things that need changing and editing, but after I'm done, the story would be hard to recognise, so I'm just going to try to make up for it by working with whatever I have left. And yes, my critics, I can see where you're coming from. I've neglected to do some research (as seen with the complications of the idea that Alex blacked out immediately after slashing himself, which is pretty improbable) and the inconsistencies in Alex's behaviour. I might get around to edit the irregularities, but not after I finish this story. (I'm not sure if suicide-induced comas are possible, but I'm just going to stick with yes.) As this story nears its end, I'd like to thank you for sticking with me throughout the course of this story, and providing me with small encouragements, praises and criticisms that never failed to lighten my day, or strike me with epiphanies. I won't make any promises about the end, but I do want to ask you to decide if I should let Alex live, or kill him off. After reading this chapter, you may decide, and leave your response in the form of a review. It's suicide (Heh, see what I did there? No? Oh well) to ask readers how they want the story to turn out, but hey, I'm doing this for you, so I might as well ask for a little audience participation. There, my little soliloquy's done, so on with the story!
He was tired of being independent and alone. He had dwelled on the past, and didn't look towards the future, when he could have found new people to care about, new people to fight for, and could have been with the old ones who never left his side.
And so, for the first time in his life, he regretted killing himself.
Wolf never thought that someday, he would be sitting by Cub's hospital bed, praying for everything to be alright. It was shocking, to say the least. The great leader of K Unit, who had once hated Cub with every fibre of his being, was now regretting (almost) every single mean act that he had done to the latter. Cub didn't deserve it. With Cub unconscious on the bed, his secrets were out. A blatant disrespect of Cub's privacy, but then again...what privacy did Cub have? Based on what he had heard, Cub was stripped down of every ounce of dignity and pride left. He was not even able to shower without a faceless female agent staring at him. This confession from Mrs Jones to K-unit and Ben had sent all of them reeling. It was no wonder that Alex had increased his efforts in attempting suicide. Then again, it was of utmost importance that Alex did not kill himself.
"At what cost?" he muttered to himself, gazing at Alex's peaceful face. "Wake up, Cub. You still haven't finished the wilderness exercise. Because of you, it's being postponed."
He felt pretty ridiculous, but soldiered on anyway, determined to wake him up. "The rest of the units are pissed off. They haven't been told about this yet, but they are sure as hell going to ask for an answer when we get back," he said, in his old blunt and vulgar style that everyone had heard too often. The 'if we get back' went unspoken, but Wolf knew that it was a likely possibility. Cub did not stir.
They were all really relieved when the doctor said that Cub was alive. It was a miracle, really. Very few people survived fatal shots at point-blank. It had to be Cub's doing, but then why did he do it if he was so bent on dying? It was really confusing. The whole unit was at the hospital, but Wolf didn't know where they went (frankly, all he cared right now was that Cub woke up, for some strange reason). Ben was nowhere to be found, that bastard. It was all his fault that a kid committed suicide in front of him. He grudgingly admitted that the kid was good, and that it wasn't his fault that he was forced into service and subsequently into the camp to train. He was an innocent teenager under all that spy nonsense, and he felt ashamed. Wasn't he one of the reasons why he joined the SAS? He joined to protect the women and children of his country, after all.
"Damn it, Cub, why the hell did you have to kill yourself?" Wolf raised his voice, glaring at the body. "Suicide is a show of cowardice, and you aren't a coward!"
"Wolf," a calm voice resonated throughout the room. "I'd advise you not to resort to any drastic actions while you're in here."
"Snake," Wolf nodded. He hadn't even heard the door open.
"Suicide is not a show of cowardice," Snake said softly, glancing at Cub with undisguised sadness. "It has never been."
"What makes you say that?" Wolf ground out. "They choose death over facing their own problems. What's so courageous about that?"
"You need courage and determination to take a life, especially your own. Would you dare to fling yourself off a twenty-storey building with nothing but the clothes on your person and a wish for everything to end? Or what about a gun to your head, or a knife in your heart? Would you dare do that?"
There was a deathly silence. "Since when did you become so philosophical?" was Wolf's final utterance before descending into his brooding mode again. Snake sighed, but he knew that he had gotten his message through. Cub was brave, and he didn't want him to be misunderstood even further. He just hoped that Cub could hear them.
"Don't do anything stupid," Snake said, before walking out.
"Where're you going?"
"The Sergeant wants to know about Cub's situation. Unless you'd like to speak with him, I have to go."
"No thanks," Wolf muttered, "not now. Where's Eagle and Cheetah?"
"Outside. They figured that you'd need some alone time. To apologise," Snake added, as an afterthought. Wolf scowled and shooed him away, but deep down, he knew Snake and the rest were right. An apology was long overdue.
Alex heard every word of Wolf's monologue. The sadness, anger and regret that was poured into the half-an-hour long speech after Snake left was moving. Alex felt the inexplicable urge to get up and tell Wolf that he was fine, that he had forgiven him, and that he need not have to go soft on him just because he was comatose. (He was glad that Wolf apologised, though, and it wasn't just because he wanted the honour of being one of the only people on Earth whom Wolf had apologised to.) Sadly, he could not. It was shocking that Wolf had actually sounded genuine in his apology. Alex had never knew that this side of Wolf existed. It was heartwarming to know that under all that toughness, Wolf was actually a great person.
His thoughts shifted to himself again. He certainly had the luck of the devil, being able to survive after so many attempts, and once again, he was grateful for it. However, having cheated death yet again, being comatose wasn't exactly a very good position for him to be in. Fate seemed to love taunting him, he thought, laughing bitterly in his head. Allowing him to live, yet sending all those that he cared for to their graves, never to return. And now, when he truly realised his mistake, it seemed that he could never return to the world of the living. It was like he was trapped between life and death. He could hear what people were saying, and yet he could not see them, much less respond to them. He wanted to slam his fist into something, to release all his pent-up emotions, but his limbs just lay lifeless, a part of him, yet refusing to obey.
It was torture.
A lone figure sat on a stool facing the bar, his hair a messy mop and his clothes rumpled. The bartender eyed him warily. He recognised him as the one in his usual group of four, sometimes five, who liked to patronise the bar. What was his name? Derek? Dan? Daniels. Yes. He was usually the sensible one among the group, and always the designated driver. He overheard once that he didn't like drinking, for some reason. And yet, here he was now, drunk as hell, hand swiping the air wildly, trying to feel for his half-filled sixth bottle of beer. The bartender knew that he was in no position to meddle, and that Daniels was generating money for him, but he could not help but feel sorry for the man. He vaguely remembered him sitting at the exact same spot drinking the day before too.
"Drinking, huh?" another man came up, grabbing the bottle that Daniels was reaching out for. Deciding that Daniels was going to be saved from himself after all, the bartender moved away.
"Give the goddamned bottle back," Ben swore at the newcomer, lunging for it, but it was held high above his reach. He recognised the voice vaguely as someone from his ex-unit.
"No can do."
Ah. Eagle. He should've known.
"Why are you here anyway?" Ben slurred, slumping against the bar.
"Cheetah told me to get out of the hospital for my disruptive behaviour," Eagle whined. Ben could have sworn that he saw a pout on his face. Even in his drunken stupor, he was still pretty observant.
"Eagle? Are you pouting?"
"You heard me," Ben said, rolling his eyes. His mind was in a haze as he tried to get his bearings.
"So...have you forgotten your actual purpose of finding me?" Ben asked Eagle, sounding almost lazy.
"No, I haven't. I might act like a child at times"-at this, Ben had snorted, but Eagle continued anyway- "but this is serious. You are not going to drink your ass off while the rest of us are at the hospital worrying about Alex. Wolf's gone completely-"
"Don't you ever dare think for a second that I don't care about Alex," Ben snarled. Eagle looked at Ben with a look that could only be described as sadness. Of course Eagle knew Ben cared about Alex; he just needed a wake-up call.
"Since when did you people care about Alex anyway?" Ben's words were harsh, grating against Eagle's ears.
"Okay, so we didn't start out on the right foot," Eagle winced, "but we know that we've been real bastards to the lad. And after Jones told us about him...hell, even Brecon Beacons feels like a holiday resort."
Ben nodded solemnly. He probably understood Alex better than anyone else, being an agent and all, but even he had not gone through what Alex had. Sure, he had gone on more missions than Alex (Alex was never used again after he went suicidal, apparently), but the missions he went on were more sane, in a sense.
Sliding off the bar stool, he nodded towards Eagle, who was patiently waiting for some form of reaction. "You're...you're right. I shouldn't be drinking while the rest of you are at the hospital. It's not right. Alex would've been disappointed." Guilt gnawed at his heart. He hasn't even had a chance to formally apologise.
Eagle grinned, clapping Ben on the back.
"Alright then! Now that that's out of the way, let's go back to your place to freshen up. You look like a dump. And like I was trying to say, Wolf's gone emotional all over that poor boy. We stuck out ears to the door...yeah, let me just say that we were in for quite a surprise. Wolf sounded like Alex had already died."
That drew a smile out of Ben. "Really? That doesn't sound like our heartless leader." He stumbled for a moment, but Eagle had caught him before he kissed the ground.
A hearty laugh. "Guess he found his heart back, huh?"
"Yeah...I guess he did."
There was a pregnant pause as Eagle led Ben to the car. Closing the car door for Ben and getting into the driver's seat, Eagle spun around and asked Ben with a straight face, "You think Wolf's gone soft enough to allow me near his sugar stash?"
After spending a couple of hours resting and freshening up, Eagle deemed Ben okay to visit Alex. Ben was grateful that he was a heavyweight, and thus didn't feel as drunk as one normally would feel after six bottles of beer. He would have a huge hangover the next day, but he didn't care. Alex was his top priority.
"Stop fidgeting, Ben. I can't concentrate if you keep doing that. It's distracting."
"Sorry...it's just that, I haven't actually seen him yet."
Eagle raised an eyebrow as he made a right turn. "And here I was thinking that you would be the first one to."
Ben sighed, rubbing the back of his neck. "I didn't know how I would react if I saw him unconscious on the hospital bed. I didn't think I could handle it."
"So, you headed straight for the bar?"
There was a tense silence before Ben spoke again.
"How did K-unit escape Beacons anyway?"
Eagle's original frown turned upside down. "You know...a little acting here, a little glaring there," he said airily, waving a hand. Ben grinned. "Of course."
"Well, even if we didn't, we could've gotten out anyway. The Sergeant was pretty keen on us leaving. Probably because he himself wants to know about Alex. Snake's been reporting to him."
"Snake? What about Wolf?"
"You know how he is...every time one of us gets hospitalised, he never leaves the hospital room."
"Really? I never knew."
"Because you're the one who's always hospitalised. I swear to god, sometimes you're more reckless than Wolf."
Eagle only got a cheeky grin in return.
In his hazy mind, Alex vaguely heard the door creak open. Curious, he strained to listen to his visitor. Earlier, Cheetah had physically forced Wolf out of the room, judging from the sounds of the little scuffle he had heard. Wolf had muttered, "I'll be back, kid." Was that Wolf?
No. The footsteps were much lighter; he could barely hear them. The floor of the room was wood, so it was easy to tell what kind of shoes his visitors were wearing. The footsteps definitely belonged to a spy. Footsteps this light belonging to any other person would be unusual. Mrs Jones' heels clicked on the floor, while the sound that he heard was a dull, tapping sound. He heard shuffling next. It was like his mystery visitor was nervous, but whatever for? Who was he?
Alex's breath hitched for a second. No...he couldn't be here. He just couldn't.
"I'm not sure if you can hear me, but I think it's better if I speak to you like this."
I want Wolf back I want Wolf back-I can't believe I'm saying this- I want Wolf back...
"After all, if you regained consciousness, you'll probably refuse to listen to me, so..."
Shut up shut up shut up!
"If you haven't already noticed, I'm Ben, and uh...I came to apologise."
Alex felt like screaming. Ben was here! Ben deserted him! No! No! No!
"Look, Alex, I'm sorry. I'm really really sorry. What you said out there, in the forest? You were right. I...I shouldn't have deserted you."
Alex felt oddly calm at that, but he was still cautious. What was Ben trying to get at?
"I know how much I've hurt you. I was the only one you could trust, but I made an empty promise and left when you needed me the most. I hate myself for that...you have to believe me, Alex."
I...I believe you.
"I'm not asking you to forgive me. I just wanted to clear things up. I hope you get better," Ben said firmly. Alex felt something wet make contact with his skin. A tear?
A couple of rustling sounds signalled the end of Ben's speech. Alex wanted to say something, to tell Ben that he was forgiven, and that he was sorry too.
Cheetah stared at the bed, or more specifically, its occupant. Cub-he still preferred calling him that- was still in a coma. It had been six days since the incident at Beacons. K-unit had been given indefinite leave until Alex woke up. Such things were rare in the SAS-usually they were given a specified leave period. He suspected ulterior motives, but then again it was all speculation. Throughout the six days, he and Eagle had been in the hospital for four days, Ben five, while Snake and Wolf had been there every day. They had decided on shifts, and it was his turn now. The rest were downstairs having lunch, including Ben. Even though Ben was not in the unit anymore, he was still considered a part of their family, just like Alex (which Wolf had grudgingly admitted on his own accord, surprising everyone.) K-unit didn't just have four members-they had six; two of them were just inactive. They were a close-knit community of battle (and mission) hardened soldiers and spies, and would always stick together. He was proud to belong.
"C'mon Cub," he murmured, pushing a few strands of hair away from Alex's face in a rare gesture of fatherly affection. "You've got to wake up. Not that I'm complaining about the indefinite leave thing, but if I had to choose between rest and you, I'd choose you." There was no hesitation; just plain honesty.
"We're family, after all."
"So...the weather's been good," Eagle said between mouthfuls, receiving three stony glares in return.
"We have better things to worry about than the weather," Snake uncharacteristically snapped.
"Like Cub!" Wolf growled.
Eagle smacked his forehead. "Look...worrying about Cub isn't going to wake him up. Stopping things that we normally do isn't going to help him at all. Why don't you three just calm down?"
Ben took a deep breath and restrained himself from socking Eagle in the eye. "It's unfair if we go on with our normal lives and not care about Alex."
"Just shut up and eat your lunch. Cheetah's waiting," Wolf snapped. The rest of them nodded and continued their lunch in uncomfortable silence.
Smithers glared at the contraption in his hands. He had just received the news of Alex's situation. He never even knew about his suicidal tendencies-he just thought that the reason for Alex being missing from the Bank was that he had finally been from their grasp, but it was not the case.
He had been informed by Mrs Jones herself. In a rare gesture of concern, she had notified him as she knew that Alex liked Smithers and his gadgets, and knew that the feeling was reciprocated.
It was rare for Smithers to feel angry, much less furious, but right now it was as if Mrs Jones had personally assassinated his entire family. The jovial man gripped his prototype tightly. It was a microchip that could download gigabytes in nanoseconds, and was to be installed in a bow tie for a mission to China, where a supercomputer with information on an organisation that produced counterfeit money resided. The organisation supposedly had contacts around the world, as well as a few moles in secret service organisations, thus requiring the investigation.
Hurriedly, he finished the design, and gave it to one of his subordinates to install in the tie. Mrs Jones had given him permission to visit Alex (it was a miracle that she herself had suggested it), and so he was on his way to the hospital. He had a gadget in his right pocket, a secret project that he had been working on for Alex.
He hoped it worked.
Taking a taxi to the hospital (he couldn't be bothered with MI6-issued vehicles), he paid the driver and walked up the steps, excitement and anticipation flowing through his veins. He had never formally been on a mission before, being only the genius behind the gadgets that had saved agents time and again. Without him, agents wouldn't survive, or be able to contact MI6 in any way. Thus, it was vital that he was not put in any life-threatening situations, and so his chances of going on a mission was zero, so this was as good as any. Granted, he was doing this on his own accord, but who cared about the nitty gritty details? As long as Alex woke up, nobody would question him.
He found the hospital room, and looked in. Visiting hours were ending, but to his dismay, there were two men in there with Alex. At first he thought that they were there to attack him, but the men just sat around him. Sharp-eyed Smithers spotted something shiny around their necks. Using his glasses with built-in telescopes, he realised that they were SAS dog tags. Alex's old unit perhaps? He never realised that they were close. Thankfully, his suit had a prototype camouflage function. He waited until the visiting hours ended, when the two men left. Switching to camouflage mode, he crept in silently. He wasn't totally invisible, but if he moved quick enough, one would think that it was a trick of the light.
As soon as Smithers laid his eyes on Alex, he somehow lost most of his adrenaline. To see the poor teenager lying, comatose, on the bed was heartbreaking. Walking slowly to the bed, as if afraid that he might wake Alex up (the irony!). It was horrible to think that he had indirectly contributed to this. He might have kept him alive, but just barely.
Filled with new resolve to make amends, he slowly but surely drew out a contraption from his right pocket. It was a mess of wires and circuit boards, held together by tape, insulators and pieces of plastic. Messy, but then again, all prototypes looked like that before they were nicely packaged. Not being a very neat person, and with Alex's consciousness at stake, Smithers didn't bother to tidy it up. Carefully, he attached two wires to either side of Alex's head. His finger hovered above the switch.
"Here goes nothing."
The contraption was turned on, and Smithers prayed for a miracle.
So...did you like it? Sorry if my beginning author's note was a little snarky, but I was in a pretty foul mood when starting off (possibly due to the frustration of the writer's block.) Thankfully, this chapter's been written, and I hope you guys will review and tell me what you think! Sorry if the chapter's a little short, and if it comes across as a bit rushed. I wrote this on the plane to China on my phone (I'm currently in the hotel), and I only had two hours to. (The rest was spent sleeping, considering that it was a midnight flight.)
Till next time,
(P.S. You don't have to worry about me forgetting about the entire existence of fanfiction again. Chapter Fifteen's almost done. Hurrah!)
(P.P.S. Another important thing. This chapter is most likely going to be the second last chapter of this story, so brace yourselves for the ending!)