Rating: PG-ish?

Disclaimer: I don't think it really surprises anyone for me to say not mine. ^_^

Summary: Just because he wanted to, it didn't mean that he could.

Word Count: 1685

Status: Complete

---

He heard the quiet sobbing dimly, as if from a great distance. He tried to reach her, blindly swimming through the darkness.

He hadn’t meant to hurt her. He’d never meant to hurt her.

But it seemed that he couldn’t not hurt her, just because of who he was.

He knew that she had been so hopefully, happy even. And she hadn’t been happy in so long… but he couldn’t help it. He hadn’t meant for this to happen. He hadn’t meant for anything like this to happen again. Ever.

He still didn’t mean it to, wished that it hadn’t.

That didn’t change the fact that it had happened, that he had hurt her again.

He’d gone out on the thinnest, most fragile proverbial fucking branch ever to ensure that this would never happen. Well, it looked like that branch had finally broken. It had held up for two months, though.

Two whole months where she was her normal self again. Dancing, singing, smiling, laughing. The works. Normal…

He snorted at his own thoughts What the fuck did “normal” even mean? He’d looked it up once.

“Usual. Not abnormal. Regular. Natural.”

The thing was that, by that definition, this sort of thing was normal. For him, anyway. This sort of thing happened to him all the time. That made it normal.

Meaning that the life he used to have was no longer normal for him.

Meaning that this was him, no matter how much he fought and scrambled to keep at least one foot firmly placed in the normal, no other world. The world where teenagers didn’t get randomly asked to take the weight of the lives of millions of people thrown onto their shoulders.

Both of them were clinging too tightly to this old definition of normal. But if they let go, if they started to embrace the new definition, there would be nothing to keep them from falling completely into the darkness.

Where they were now, at least they could see the sun. It might be far, far away, unattainable, but at least it was there. At least they could see it.

But any further down, and it would disappear forever.

So, he realized, they could cling forever, live in this nightmare, this limbo between two worlds, or they could let go, and not feel anything.

Chained to two worlds, being torn apart, or surrendering to the pull and surviving.

Constant pain, or nothing at all.

Corrupted, destroyed goodness, or evil, because nothing that could kill without feeling pain, or even just regret, could possibly be good.

Human, or a monster.

That was what it all came down to, really.

There was one other choice, but it would mean him facing the darkness alone. It would save her, but it might end up killing him. No, it would end up killing him. Soon, or far down the road, he didn’t know. But happen it would.

But, really, the effect on himself didn’t matter to him. Not if it meant that she could survive.

Not if it meant that she could be happy again.

---

When he finally clawed his way up to the surface, and found her, he’d made his decision.

He made her promises, false promises, his face carefully schooled to show emotion.

She believed them, accepted them with a smile. An actual, nothing held back smile.

He felt the faint tingling, the slight niggling of guilt, but he paid no mind to it. This was what he wanted, this was what he was doing this for. To see her happy and relaxed.

She was happy, chattering on about something that had happened when she was getting a cup of coffee.

He didn’t know what she was saying, just nodded and smiled when it seemed appropriate. He was just drinking in the sight of her animated face. She hadn’t looked like this in so long, not even the two months after he’d convinced MI6 that he really wasn’t worth the trouble.

Even then, she hadn’t truly believed him. He wasn’t sure why she would believe him now. Maybe he’d gotten even better at lying.


Or maybe she’d gotten even better at deluding herself.

But the reasons didn’t really matter. What mattered was that whether or not she was really happy, she believed that she was. It was definitely worth it, he decided. Definitely.

He took one last look at her smiling face, and then he let go.

It wasn’t as world-shattering or melodramatic as he’d thought that it would be. He didn’t suddenly not feel anything when he looked at her. He still cared for her, maybe even loved her still.

The bright white of the hospital room didn’t suddenly seem darker.

And she didn’t stop talking and stare at him like what would have happened in a film. No, she just continued talking, not even realizing that anything had just happened.

Well, that just proved to him that he’d only been holding on by a thread.

Really, the only difference that he felt was that he was no longer pretending to himself that there was any future, or any hope left for him in the whole world.

---

Two months later, Jack had gone to the store, leaving Alex the incredibly random task of sorting through an old box of photos.

He’d found a picture of himself a few years ago. It had taken him a few moments to realize that it even was him.

He remembered it distantly, as if he was recalling someone else’s life. Which, really, he almost was. The young boy in this photo was named Alex Rider, the same as him, but he’d changed too much to be at all related to the young, innocent boy in the photo.

The Alex in the photo was naïve. He believed in good things, in happy endings. Happiness.

Alex no longer believed in any of that. It was beyond impossible after everything that he’d witnessed.

The Alex in the photo wasn’t shunned in school. His friends didn’t think that he was  a druggy. He wasn’t failing all of his classes. Of course he wasn’t. He always passed everything easily.

Now Alex would never even consider the possibility of simply raising his hand in class without being worried about someone seeing through his mask, or worrying about making himself a target.

The Alex in the photo did that automatically, excited to know something that the other kids didn’t.

But photo Alex really didn’t know anything. And that was fine with Alex, because if photo Alex had known what Alex knew, neither of them would be alive. They’d have died long ago.

But photo Alex lives on in Jack’s hopeful memory, replacing the image of Alex whenever she looks at him. Alex knows that because when Jack looks at him, at first she looks like she’s eating a lemon, and her face is tense. Then she relaxes, like she were eating a piece of chocolate cake.

For photo Alex, life was good. He was happy, loved, and could love in return. Life was a gift that he automatically reached out and grasped, eager to see what each new day would bring.

For Alex, life was anything but automatic. Sometimes he had to work to make himself breathe, because wouldn’t it be easier, better even if he were to just stop? Stop breathing, stop pretending that it wasn’t all pointless, stop existing in a cruel world.

But he didn’t. He kept breathing, kept pretending, kept existing. And why? Because the one that that was easy, that happened without him having to even think about it, was something that could help others, so that they wouldn’t have to be like him.

The one thing that came to him easily was killing.

Alex can remember the time between being young, naïve Alex and hard, cold Alex.

The only time that he  had ever been truly happy after Ian died, after everything started, was when he was at Malagosto.

At the time, that had terrified him, but now he wished that he could go back.

Go back to not acting all the time, holding up an impossible façade for the world to see. He wanted to go back to when things had made sense. To when there were good guys and bad guys, even if he had never been entirely sure who was which.

Most of all, he wanted to go back to training. The training had felt good, liberating, even. It was challenging, but not constantly life-threatening. He’d loved being tired every night from something that he’d chosen, something that he liked, not hated.

Alex always felt an acute yearning when he thought back to Malagosto. He wanted everything to be easy again. But at the same time, he knew that that was impossible. He’d made his own choices in regards to Scorpia, and even if he believed them to be wrong now, it was too late. He couldn’t change what had happened, what he’d done. Scorpia never forgives, Scorpia never forgets.

Now, all he could do was keep pretending, for Jack. Always for Jack.

For Jack, he stopped doing the one thing that he was comfortable doing now He didn’t work for anybody. Not for Scorpia, not for MI6. He didn’t save anyone anymore, and he didn’t kill anyone anymore.

If Jack had thought that simply staying away from that world would heal him, she was wrong. It was making it worse, making him worse.

He had meant to let go of Jack’s world and fall completely, but she wouldn’t let him. She didn’t even realize that he was trying to let go, but she clung on to him anyway. He tried many times to get to MI6, to do something again, but she called him on his mobile constantly, keeping tabs on him and never letting him disappear again.

Now he was stuck again, somewhere between himself and normal.

Jack would never let him go, he realized that. The longer she clung to him, the more footholds he found to inch back up to normal, photo Alex. For Jack.

Always for Jack.

---

A/N:
Raise your hand if you think that this was pointless, pathetic, disjointed, and horribly written. *raises hand*


Regardless, I decided to torture everyone else. :D

If anyone sees any mistakes, please point them out, as it is rather difficult to proofread when one can't concentrate on the screen due to a trip to the eye doctor's, and their nasty eyedrops.


 
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