Summary: Jack hears a song on the radio that reminds her just a little of Alex. She, of course, acts on this.

Rating: T/PG-13 for character death.

Word Count: 1284

Status: Complete


--

The moment Jack saw Alex walk through the door to the kitchen, she put her lunch down, dashed over and threw her arms around him.

“Ow,” came the muffled voice from somewhere around her shoulder.

“Oh! Sorry!” Jack let go quickly, and stepped back to take a good look at her young charge.

Two weeks earlier, Jack had gotten a call from him at school, saying that some people from “Uncle Ian’s bank” were there and needed to see him.

Now Alex was standing there, supporting his weight on his left leg to relieve his obviously injured right leg. His left arm was in a sling, and judging by how stiff he had been when she’d hugged him, he had at least a few broken ribs.

What she could see of his arms held a rather impressive array of purple bruises, and a deep purple shadow on his cheekbone.

He looked immensely weary and sore, but Jack still breathed a nearly silent sigh of relief. The tight feeling that was always in her chest when Alex was gone relaxed slightly. Alex was a wreck, but it could definitely have been worse.

He could have come home with a knife wound, or a bullet wound. Or, hell, he could’ve come home in a pine box.

Smiling, Jack reached for Alex’s hand and pulled him toward the stairs.

Alex collapsed onto his bed without even removing his shoes. He was asleep as soon as, or possibly before, his head hit the pillow.

Jack fondly smiled down at him, and pulled his shoes off for him. Then she pulled a blanket up over the sleeping teen.

--

Alex woke up at about seven that evening. Only seven hours of sleep. Alex frowned. Normally he slept much longer than that after the stress and exertion of a mission.

Then his stomach growled and the mystery of the lack of sleep was solved.

He stumbled down the stairs, trying to not stress his current injures or add any new injuries.

In the kitchen, he stopped dead, and sniffed the air cautiously.

Jack was standing at counter with her back to him, putting some kind of food onto two plates.

“Come on in and sit down,” she said without looking around.

“How’d you know I was here?” Alex asked. She was usually surprised when someone walked into a room without announcing their presence with trumpets and fanfare.

Jack finally turned around. “Well, for one thing, you weren’t exactly being stealthy.”

Alex conceded to that point with a shrug. He’d just gotten back from two weeks of being stealthy. That was quite enough sneaking around for a while, at least.

“For another, my adoptive Rider sense was tingling.”

Alex burst out laughing, wincing slightly when his ribs twinged painfully.

He knew that Jack had noticed the wince because of the worried frown on her face.  “What’s for dinner?” he asked quickly to distract her.

She gave him a Look to let him know that he wasn’t fooling her, but answered anyway. “Spaghetti,” she said, then added, “With meat sauce.”

Alex stared at her. “Jack!”

“What?” she replied, raising an eyebrow. “It’s still your favorite, isn’t it?”

“It must have taken at least twenty minutes to make that,” Alex said, staring at her. “Who are you, and what have you done with Jack?”

Jack mock-glared at him. “Well, if you don’t want any of it…” she said, moving to dump the plates in the trash.

“Oh, I want to eat it!” Alex said quickly. “Just surprised me, is all.”

Jack grinned and sat down at the table with the two plates.

“Are we eating caveman style?” Alex asked, amused.

“What?” Jack asked bemusedly.

Alex nodded down at the table. “No silverware.”

He moved to stand up, but Jack stood up first. “Sit,” she ordered.

“I’m not a bloody dog,” Alex protested as Jack collected silverware from the drawer.

“You’re an injured teenager. I don’t really see a difference,” Jack replied, smirking.

Alex stuck his tongue out at her, but didn’t say anything.

“What, no stunning retort? No stinging insult?” Jack gasped dramatically, returning to the table. “That’s pathetic, Alex.”

“Shut up and eat,” Alex said lazily, smiling into his plate.

--

Later that night, Jack and Alex were sitting in the living room in front of the television.

Jack flipped the channel to House, Alex’s favorite show.

Alex looked over at her in surprise. “What’re you doing?”

Jack stared blankly at him. “Watching TV,” she said slowly.

“That’s not what I meant,” Alex rolled his eyes. “Isn’t Supernatural on tonight?” he asked, naming Jack’s favorite show.

Jack shrugged. “I figured we’d watch your show tonight.”

Alex reached over and grabbed the remote out of her hand, and turned the telly off.

“What was that for?” Jack squawked indignantly. She reached over to grab the remote back, but Alex held it out of her reach.

“Why are you doing all of this?” he asked her seriously, his brown eyes focused intently on her face.

“Doing what?” Jack asked innocently.

“Don’t act dumb, Jack. The dinner, the show…”

Jack sighed. “I’m not allowed to be nice?”

“Last time I got back, it was the same routine.”

“I repeat, I’m not allowed to be nice?” Jack turned away slightly, looking almost sad.

“Not that I don’t appreciate it or anything,” Alex said quickly. “I do. I just want to know why.”

Jack turned back, and Alex was alarmed to see her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “I never know if you’re going to come back, Alex. It’s killing me.”

Alex opened his mouth to apologize, but Jack held up a hand. “Don’t you dare say you’re sorry,” she threatened. She paused a moment, then continued. “I, uh - I heard a song on the radio a few months back. It was called Live Like You Were Dying.” Jack paused again. “It had some good advice, Alex,” she said quietly. “So I’m going to treat you like this all the time. Get used to it, bud.”

Alex nodded silently, and pretended that he didn’t see the tears that Jack tried to surreptitiously wipe away.

He turned the telly back on and put his uninjured arm around Jack when she leaned over towards him.

--

Each time he returned from a mission, Jack made another of his favorite meals, and watched his favorite shows instead of her own. They once had a water balloon fight in their backyard, and Alex discovered that Jack had a mean throwing arm. They went to the cinema together to make fun of the horrible films, and Jack finally allowed Alex to teach her how to play British football.He had been horrified when he’d found out that the only football Jack had ever played had been American football, so he of course rectified that immediately.
 

They formed almost a ritual of giving Alex a semblance of a normal life, giving him a major reality check after each mission until, finally, Alex faced the one situation that he couldn’t get out of.

And even while he felt the life slipping out of him in the form of glistening, sticky red blood, Alex found that it didn’t bother him as much as he’d thought it would. He might not have lived very long, but he’d accomplished things that most people don’t even dream of, and he’d lived a fuller life than he’d believed possible since Ian had died.

He didn’t want to leave Jack alone now, but she was strong, and she’d been preparing herself for this ever since MI6 had started blackmailing him

All in all, he didn’t regret anything. After all, he’d spent the last year living like he was dying.
 

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