Disclaimer: Alex Rider does not belong to me, but I plan on changing that soon. Donations, anyone...?

Summary: Sometimes the past refuses to stay where it belongs, and it bleeds into the present.

Rating: T/PG

Word Count: 3870

Status: Complete

 MI6 hadn’t kept their promise. Farthest thing from it, actually. Alex hadn’t expected them to just let him waltz out after he’d proved himself more than capable as their secret weapon, but they hadn’t even made it a month before they’d called him back again after the whole Australia fiasco.

For a while there, Alex had actually enjoyed it. After he got over being manipulated and just did what he was asked to before the threats were pulled out of the figurative drawer.

But after another two years and sixteen missions, Alex was definitely starting to feel the strain of the life that had been forced on him. That was when it had all started going downhill. Alex was less efficient on his missions, and he was getting injured more. When he wasn’t off in foreign lands getting shot at, or lying unconscious in a hospital bed, he was desperately trying to catch up on his school work.

Then Tom’s father decided to move, and dragged Tom with him to the other side of the country, too far for more than the occasional talk on the phone when Alex had the time.

Alex was remembering this as he sat in a pew in the funeral home, listening to an old college friend of Jack’s droning on about how wonderful of a person Jack had been. While Alex agreed whole-heartedly with the sentiment, he realized that the lady mourning her friend had never met the Jack that was Alex’s honorary sister.

The woman talking, Samantha, Alex thought her name was, had known the cheerful, disorganized, totally honest, and earnest law school student that Jack had been. She’d never met the Jack that had bravely swallowed back the tears when Alex hugged her goodbye before he left on a mission. The lady had never met the Jack who had food and a comforting hug ready when Alex returned home from a mission, bruised and battered. Samantha had never really met the Jack who lied through her teeth about her young charge’s illnesses.

Alex swallowed back the tears that threatened to drown him. He’d seen a lot of people die in his line of work. Ash, Yassen, and many, many other people. He’d lost his parents and his uncle, but somehow, Jack’s death hit him harder than any before. Jack had always been there for him, even though she hadn’t died for him like Yassen had. She hadn’t needed to; she had lived for him.

Alex would probably never get used to the past tense there. Had. Jack had lived for him. She would never live for him again.

She had died in an automobile accident. Alex had already checked to make sure that that was really what had happened. There were no bullet holes on the remainders of the crushed, slightly charred car.

Alex looked around the room, just to get his thoughts off of Jack. His eyes landed on her parents who were sitting on the pew beside him. Alex had never met them before in all the years that Jack had looked after him, but he supposed they were nice enough. A little overbearing and emotional, but that was understandable, considering their daughter had just died.

Alex was pulled out of his thoughts by the tinny sound of his James Bond ring tone - a ring tone he would not have if Smithers didn’t have a wicked sense of humor. Most of the people in the room were staring at him, because, honestly, who doesn’t turn off their phone in a funeral? Or, at the very least, put it on vibrate?

Jack’s parents were staring at him, her mum’s tear-stained face questioning. Alex shrugged apologetically, and pulled his mobile out to silence it. He had intended to cancel the call, but he recognized the number.

MI6. The bastards couldn’t even leave him alone in a bloody funeral! Alex clenched his jaw. He would love to ignore the call anyway, but he was expected to answer when they called, jump when they whistled, do whatever the hell they wanted.

Alex stood up and quickly walked out of the room, ignoring all of the stares and the whispers of two elderly ladies who Alex had never met.

“Rude child,” one of the ladies sniffed.

The other elderly lady was kinder. “Leave him alone, Beatrice. Don’t you recognize him? She was practically his sister.”

Alex answered the moment he stepped out of the door. “Rider.”

“Your presence is required at the Bank, Mr. Rider,” the voice on the other end of the line said smoothly.

“Sorry, not happening,” Alex replied.

“Mr. Blunt specifically requested your presence,” the voice continued relentlessly.

“I’m at a funeral!” Alex exploded. “Tell Blunt I’ll come in tomorrow.” He punched the button to end the call, and stormed back into the funeral service, only to have the mobile begin ringing again.

Alex swore under his breath and escaped the glares from other funeral guests by stomping right back out the door he had just come in.

“What?” he demanded impatiently of the mysterious voice.

“Alex,” it was Mrs. Jones this time. “Please come in to the Bank immediately. It’s of the utmost importance.”

“I’m at a funeral,” Alex replied as patiently as he could. “I can’t leave.”

“We will expect you within the hour,” Mrs. Jones asserted, ignoring his protests.

Alex slammed the mobile shut, and took a deep breath. He didn’t have much of a choice - or, really, he didn’t have any choice in the matter. If he didn’t get to the Bank in an hour, he would find out what new plan they had to blackmail him into working for them if he didn’t cooperate.

He didn’t want to leave Jack’s funeral just to go get sent off to what might be his death by coldhearted bastards, but he turned and calmly walked to the door leading out to the parking lot.

He’d driven there with Jack’s parents, but he was certain that they could find a way back to the house if he took the car. If not, then that was their problem, not his. They were both fairly competent people.

At the Bank, he passed his security card over to a guard, and was waved through to the elevator. He reached Blunt’s office in record time, and walked in without bothering to knock. They might have the power to order him to come in at any time, but like hell just going to let them control him completely. He would be as rude as he pleased.

“Hello, Alex,” Mrs. Jones greeted him from her chair at Blunt’s desk. Blunt himself merely nodded in acknowledgement of his presence. Alex, however, went for the blunt approach.

“What do you want?” he demanded, walking over to sit down in a vacant chair.

Surprisingly, it was Blunt who replied. “It’s been a while since your last mission - ”

“Oh, yeah. Three weeks is way too long to go without being shot at,” Alex cut him off sarcastically.

Blunt continued like there had been no interruption. “We need you to go undercover in Scorpia.”

“You’re joking, right?” Alex asked, even though he knew that Blunt wasn’t joking. Alex wasn’t even sure that the man knew what “joking” even meant.

Blunt didn’t respond except to stare levelly at him with his cold grey eyes. The man’s lack of response just served to make Alex even more pissed off at him.

“You pulled me out of my best friend’s funeral to send me on a suicidal mission?” Alex demanded furiously.

“No,” Mrs. Jones disagreed. “It will not be a suicidal mission.”

“Really?” Alex raised an eyebrow. “And how do you expect to pull that off? I think it’s pretty safe to say that Scorpia knows what I look like by now.”

“You will be in disguise, of course,” Mrs. Jones replied smoothly. “Scorpia is under new management. No one will recognize you.”

“Lot of good a disguise is going to do,” Alex snorted. “Just because they have new bosses doesn’t mean that the little people won’t recognize me.”

“Why bother putting up a fight, Alex?” Blunt asked emotionlessly. “We both know that in the end, you will do what we ask.”

Alex leaped out of his chair. He couldn’t stand this anymore. He’d already lost everybody that he cared about, and now they wanted to send him back to the people who held the biggest grudge against him? Alex was beyond sick of MI6’s controlling behavior. And now? Now they didn’t have anything to use against him. Nothing at all.

Nothing to keep Alex from pulling his gun out of its shoulder holster and aiming it coolly at Blunt’s chest.

Blunt’s emotionless face actually registered a glint of surprise for the briefest second. Alex had yelled and screamed at the two agents plenty of times, but he had never pulled a gun on them before. Well, except for that incident when Alex had turned to Scorpia’s side and tried to kill Jones.

But now there was no protective glass. Blunt discreetly pushed a button under his desk. His calm façade was back now, as if it had never gone.

“Put the gun away, Alex,” he said in his emotionless voice.

“No,” Alex said, losing any remaining grasp on his temper. “I don’t think so. You see, if I shoot you, I can end all of this right now.”

“No,” Mrs. Jones said softly. “If you shoot him then someone else will take his place, and you will still be used. You are a very valuable agent.”

It sounded as if she was trying to reassure him that he though he was a slave, he was a valuable slave.

“I don’t care,” Alex said, but he did a little. He knew that if he killed Blunt, somebody else, possibly Mrs. Jones, would just continue to use him. But if he just shot Blunt, then he would at least feel a little better.

Alex quickly adjusted his aim and shot Blunt in the arm. He’d been slightly curious as to whether or not Blunt would even acknowledge pain. He was satisfied by the yell that issued from the mouth of the head of MI6. Even emotionless bricks felt pain, it seemed.

Alex’s morbid joy at seeing Blunt in pain was cut short in the form of two agents slamming through the door and shooting Alex with a dart as soon as they assessed the situation.

-------------------

When Alex woke up, he was overwhelmed by the huge amounts of white. For a moment, he had the insane thought that he had died and gone on to a world completely filled with fluffy white geese.

Later, he would probably realize that that made no sense, but at the time, it made perfect sense.

There was a slight rattle from his side, and he looked quickly over to see Mrs. Jones calmly unwrapping a peppermint, watching him carefully.

“Hello, Alex,” she said.

Alex didn’t reply. He was busy trying to figure out if the geese were nice or not.

“Mr. Blunt will be fine,” Mrs. Jones said after a moment of uncomfortable silence. “The doctors say that his arm will heal cleanly, and quickly.”

“Oh, because I was so worried that he would get hurt when I shot him,” Alex said sarcastically.

Mrs. Jones laughed slightly at that. “You wouldn’t believe how many agents have wanted to shoot Blunt at one point or another,” she said in a tone that suggested she was telling him a great secret.

Alex raised an eyebrow. “If the agents who have wanted to shoot Blunt are a minority, I’ll be surprised,” he replied.

There was another uncomfortable silence as Mrs. Jones couldn’t think of anything else to say, and Alex didn’t particularly wish to encourage her to stay.

Finally, it seemed that she would never leave, so he might as well ask her a question. “What am I doing here?” he asked. Then, looking around, he added, “And where is here, exactly?”

“You’re in St. Dominic’s,” Mrs. Jones seemed relieved to have something to talk about. Alex would have thought that she’d be used to silence since she worked with Blunt.

“Why?” Alex asked again when it seemed that she wasn’t going to answer. “And what is this?” he held up his left arm, which had a needle poking out of it. The needle was connected by a tube to a bag hanging from a metal stand next to him.

“That is an IV,” Mrs. Jones said.

“Believe me, I know that,” Alex said, rolling his eyes. He had been in the hospital enough to know that. “I meant, what’re they putting in me?”

“Ah,” Mrs. Jones nodded in understanding. “It’s a mild sedative to keep you calm.”

“And why do I need that?” Alex asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Alex,” Mrs. Jones leaned forward, looking at him urgently. “The doctors say that you’re in a very precarious situation, mentally. There has been a great deal of pressure on you.”

“I wonder whose fault the pressure is,” Alex said in a mock-curious tone, yawning.

“The point is,” Mrs. Jones blustered, “the doctors say that because of the pressure, and because of Miss Starbright’s death, you have” - she appeared to be searching for a delicate way to phrase it - “you have - ”

“Gone completely bonkers?” Alex suggested almost cheerfully, and holding back another yawn.

“I would not have phrased it quite like that,” Mrs. Jones said. She might have said something more, but Alex was asleep again by then.

----------------

When he woke up again, he was thankfully no longer living under the impression that he was in a strange world ruled by geese. This time he realized that he was in a hospital, and he wasn’t alone.

“Congratulations,” the strange fair haired man said from next to the door.

“For what?” Alex asked, blinking.

The man smirked. “For shooting Blunt. I always wanted to do that. Actually,” he continued thoughtfully, “I’m fairly sure that every agent has. Wanted to, that is. You’re the first agent to actually do so.”

Alex nodded distractedly. There was something very familiar about this man, he just couldn’t pin it down exactly…

“Ian!” he said, finally. “I thought you were dead!”

“How many times do I have to tell you, Alex?” Ian said. “Don’t believe everything you hear. Or see,” he added after a pause, smiling slightly.

Alex’s head was too hazy from what he supposed were the sedatives that Mrs. Jones had mentioned to figure out what exactly Ian meant. The man had always talked in riddles, so Alex was sure that his words had quite a different meaning that they seemed to.

So he shrugged instead of trying to figure it out. “More times than you’ve told me,” he grinned. Ian didn’t respond with anything more than a small smile, and they fell into an amicable silence.

“What are you doing here?” Alex asked his uncle finally.

Ian studied him closely before he answered Alex’s question with a question of his own. “How long do you plan to work for MI6?”

“I’m not sure,” Alex answered carefully.

Ian sighed, and moved from his position at the door to sit down next to Alex’s bed. “You have to be honest with me Alex,” he said, his blue eyes earnest. “I want to help you.”

Alex snorted. “D’you realize how many people have said that to me since you died - disappeared?” He watched interestedly as Ian winced.

“Sorry about that,” his uncle said. “I didn’t mean to disappear on you.”

Alex couldn’t tell if he meant that or not, but he hoped for the former. “I don’t,” Alex said suddenly.

Ian nodded, not needing Alex to clarify that he meant that he didn’t plan on working for MI6. “How long will you work for them?” he asked next.

“I already answered that.”

“Really?” Ian asked intently leaning forward slightly. “Then why are you still lying in a hospital room that they’re paying for?”

Alex opened his mouth to reply with something about being injured when he remembered that he wasn’t injured, so he closed his mouth with a snap. “I don’t know,” he admitted finally.

Ian nodded like he had expected that. Which, when Alex thought about it, he probably had expected it. Ian had always known Alex better than Alex himself.

“What are you going to do about it?” Ian continued his interrogation.

Alex thought hard about his answer. Or, at least he tried to do so. Whatever was in that IV, it sure wasn’t making thinking very easy. “I don’t know,” he admitted yet again. He was saying that entirely too frequently now. He didn’t really mind, though. It reminded him of happier times before Ian had died - no, before Ian had disappeared, he corrected himself - and before MI6 had gotten their claws into him.

“Yes you do,” Ian disagreed, shaking his head. “You’ve known for a while now.”

“I have to get away,” Alex nodded. “Hide.”

Ian smiled, satisfied with his answer. “Why haven’t you?”

Alex frowned, trying to remember. “Jack,” he said, finally.

Ian nodded understandingly. “She’s gone now, Alex,” he said quietly, sympathetically. “There’s nothing holding you back anymore.”

“I know,” Alex swallowed.

“Hurry up, then,” Ian said, getting up briskly and pulling the IV needle out of Alex’s arm.

“What are you doing that for?” Alex asked blankly.

“Did you or did you not just say that you’re going to get away from MI6?” Ian asked, trying to get Alex to sit up.

“Yeah I did, but I didn’t mean right now!”

Ian straightened up. “Then when?” he asked. “Get up,” he continued sternly when Alex didn’t answer.

Alex obeyed unthinkingly, like he had many times when he was small. He felt a draft around his ankles when he stood, and he looked down to see that he was only wearing a hospital gown. “I don’t have any clothes,” Alex said, looking up at his uncle.

Ian waved a hand impatiently at another chair in the corner, where Alex could see a pile of neatly-folded clothes, and a pair of trainers sitting under the chair.

Alex dressed as quickly as he could. Not that that was very quickly, given the current drugged state of his body.

“How are we going to get out of here?” Alex asked his uncle. “They’re not going to let me just walk out of here.”

“Then it’s a good thing that I wasn’t planning on walking past the front desk,” Ian grinned slightly.

“Then how are we getting out?” Alex demanded, frustrated that his uncle hadn’t answered his question.

“You’ll see,” was all that Ian said before he walked out of the room.

Alex followed him, but stopped at the doorway instead of continuing into the hallway.

“Are you coming?” Ian asked impatiently. “Casually,” he cautioned quickly as Alex hesitantly walked out of his room.

Alex followed as his uncle walked briskly down the hallway. “Slow down,” he panted.

“Speed up,” Ian returned without slowing in the slightest.

The hallway was empty except for them. Alex hadn’t even heard anybody. There was no nurse tapping at the computer when they passed the nurse’s station.

“It’s between shifts,” Ian explained when he saw where Alex was looking.

Alex nodded. “Where are we going?”

Ian sighed in exasperation. “You’ll see.”

They turned a corner, and it seemed that the hallway they were in now wasn’t as lucky. Mrs. Jones was walking straight towards them.

“Alex?” she called when she saw them. “What are you doing out of bed? You should be asleep still!”

Alex noticed that she ignored Ian, but he didn’t have any time to wonder why she did.

“Run?” he asked Ian.

“Run,” the older man agreed.

They heard Mrs. Jones calling someone on her mobile behind them, but they were gone before they could hear any of the conversation.

“We have to hurry,” Ian said.

“Thanks for stating the obvious,” Alex panted sarcastically. He was finding it hard to keep up with Ian, but the adrenaline coursing through his blood was clearing away a little of the haze in his mind, and he was able to move a little faster now.

Ian suddenly grabbed his arm and yanked him through a door. They found themselves outside, on the fire escape. Ian started running, his shoes clicking on the metal steps, and Alex close behind him.

By the time that they hit the pavement, Alex was breathing hard and tired.

“Hurry up.” Ian wasn’t running anymore, but he was walking very quickly, and Alex was falling behind again.

They were almost out of the hospital’s parking lot when two black cars screeched up and men in suits jumped out of them, holding guns in their hands.

Guns that were pointed at Alex.

That’s always fun, Alex thought sarcastically.

“Hold it!” one of the men yelled at Alex.

Alex looked at Ian. “Run,” Ian advised him.

They were off again, this time with an entourage.

Alex wondered briefly why they weren’t just shooting at them; they were still in range. But then he realized that Mrs. Jones had probably told them not to hurt him. He was, after all, a very valuable “agent”.

“There’s a shopping center up there,” Ian said, pointing further down the road. “There will probably be enough people to get lost in. Christmas sales and all.”

Alex blinked at that. He’d forgotten that it was nearing Christmas. He hadn’t really thought about holidays since Jack had died.

Alex realized that Ian was waiting for a reply. He nodded, and they both picked up speed.

They made it to the shopping center and melted into a huge crowd of shoppers. Alex tried to slow his breathing so that they wouldn’t stick out as much, but it wasn’t necessary. There were too many people, and they’d lost the agents a ways back.

He followed Ian as the man made his steady way down the road towards a bus station.

“I don’t have any money to give you,” Ian said almost apologetically.

Alex shrugged. “If they didn’t take my wallet, I should have enough for two tickets.” He dug around in his pocket, and triumphantly pulled out his wallet. He flicked it open and was satisfied with the amount of money.

“You’ll only need enough money for one,” Ian said, watching the crowd of people go past.

“Why? Aren’t you coming with me?” Alex asked, ignoring the woman walking by who gave him a strange look.

“No,” Ian replied, studiously avoiding his nephew’s gaze.

“Ian,” Alex started to argue, but then he stopped. If Ian had made up his mind, nothing Alex could say was going to change anything. He walked away and bought a ticket instead.

“Where were you?” he asked when he returned to his uncle.

Ian finally looked back at him. “Not here.”

“Well that wasn’t vague at all,” Alex said sarcastically. “I’m being serious here, Ian. Where were you? I thought you were dead.”

“I never said I wasn’t,” Ian smiled sadly. Alex blinked at that, and when he opened his eyes again, he was all alone in the middle of the crowded station.

A/N: So... That can be taken as Alex going crazy and his subconscious giving him the help he needed, or as Ian coming back to help his nephew. Whichever way you prefer.
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