(and France was beautiful)
Title: Let It Be
Summary: Curiosity killed the cat.
Warnings: torture, cross-gen, Alex is under 18, slight dub-con, AU in that Yassen is alive and Scorpia Rising didn't happen.
Word Count: 5,800
Author's Notes: Love and gratitude to A and H for their help and great suggestions. And heaps of extra love to the mods for their extreme patience.
Disclaimer: All Alex Rider characters herein are the property of Anthony Horowitz and the Penguin Group. No copyright infringement is intended.
Let It Be
Alex floated. In a grey, tepid sea of nothing. His mind rolled, a liquid ebb and flow, in and out. Light and dark.
Alex squeezed his eyes shut against the invasive beam, but it cut through the muck in his head and forced him awake.
"Ungh." He flexed his fingers and tried to move his back, only to find that he couldn't. Attempts to lift his arms and legs were similarly unsuccessful. A flush of adrenaline chased away the dregs of whatever drug had been running through his system. He forced his eyes open and shouted. All that came out was a hoarse croak.
The light moved away from his face. Slowly, as he blinked, the spots in his vision cleared. He looked up into ice-blue eyes. As recognition set in, Alex began to struggle.
"You cannot escape, Alex," said Yassen. "It is pointless to struggle."
Yassen gazed down at him, expression unchanged.
"Am… I dead too?" Alex swallowed, willing his mind to clear.
"Not yet," responded Yassen.
Alex squeezed his eyes shut. He needed to figure out where he was and what was going on. He opened them again and scanned his surroundings -- a small box of a room, tiled white walls unmarred by even a single speck of dust, a heavy, metal door, no windows or furniture other than the table to which he felt himself strapped.
In the far corner stood a stocky man with a thick belly, small eyes and a round, shaved head. "Get on with it," he barked.
Yassen nodded, then leant down. He looked straight into Alex's eyes. "I am going to ask you some questions. You will answer, and you will tell me the truth. This will happen either immediately or after some time. It will be much less painful for you if you tell me the truth right away."
A flash of bright light tore Alex's gaze away from Yassen's disturbingly placid face. Yassen held up some kind of device; it looked a bit like a microphone crossed with an oversized thermometer with a small knob of glowing glass at the tip. As Alex watched, the light changed from white to yellow and finally to bright red.
He had no idea what the device was for and didn't want to find out. He looked back to Yassen. "I found a note under the floorboards of my uncle's office. It listed this address. I was curious. So I came here to check it out." Yassen remained silent. His eyes did something to Alex's insides. It made them tighten and heat. "You remember my uncle, don't you?" he snapped. "Ian Rider?" The corner of Yassen's mouth twitched. The outburst seemed to have pleased him. The pressure in Alex's abdomen grew.
"I remember Ian Rider very well."
"You murdered him." Alex couldn't help but glare and strain against his bonds.
"I did." Once again, Yassen looked as if he was about to smile. "It was not personal. I was paid to."
The bald man in the corner spoke up. "You know this kid?"
Without looking away, Yassen replied, "It will not be a problem."
"It'd better not be."
There was an electric pause. Alex finally broke the silence by saying, "I hate you."
Yassen responded. "That will not be a problem either." Then, with the hand that wasn't holding the strange, glowing device, he cupped Alex's cheek. Alex's eyelashes fluttered. Yassen's hand felt cool against his skin. "But now, we must continue."
He pulled his hand away and pointed the device so that its tip rested gently against Alex's right shoulder. There was a click, then a whine, and Alex's entire arm exploded in pain. His muscles jerked spasmodically; his nerves screamed, on fire. He shouted, shocked, but as quickly as it had arrived, the pain vanished as Yassen lifted the device away.
"That," said Yassen, "is the minimal amount of pain I can cause you. You will answer my questions truthfully, or it will get much, much worse."
Alex squirmed. The leather straps chafed at him. "I've told you everything."
"Who sent you?"
"No one! Or my uncle, I told you. He left me a--"
This time Yassen pressed the glowing end of the device in the centre of Alex's forehead. It felt warm, hard and smooth. A click. A whine. Alex inhaled sharply and then screamed as his skull erupted in agony. White light exploded behind his eyes and the world snapped away. There was nothing but pain.
Then it was gone, and Alex shivered, waiting for his vision to come back. "D-don't. Don't do that again."
"Who sent you here, Alex?"
Yassen lowered the device and set it right on Alex's breastbone. It was like being stabbed with an electrified spear. Alex's back arched off the table, his arms and legs shook in spasm. His screams tore through his throat and he couldn't do anything to stop them.
Yassen pulled the device away and once again the pain ended.
"No one sent me," Alex gasped, his voice broken. "I came on my own. I was curious."
"What did you hope to find?"
Alex didn't know what he'd been looking for. He only knew that there was something in the building his uncle had wanted him to see. He'd climbed in through a small, ground-level window and crept down a hallway lined with thick glass that looked into what appeared to be a laboratory. He'd seen men and women, all dressed in white coats, all wearing goggles, and a row of inert bodies strapped to tables similar to the one he was lying on himself. He'd had time to take in the wires and machines hooked up to the "patients". He noticed that several of them were missing vital body parts; one was even without a head. Then there'd been a prick of sharp pain at the back of his neck and he'd lost consciousness, only to wake up here on the table, with Yassen staring down at him.
"I didn't know what I'd find. I was just following his instructions."
"You will forgive me for thinking," continued Yassen, "that you intentionally seek out these kinds of situations."
"I don't forgive you for anything," said Alex, "and you're an idiot."
Yassen's eyes wandered over Alex's face, making his cheeks heat. While his eyes burned, he hadn't yet started to cry. He wouldn't, he swore to himself. He couldn't help screaming, but he wasn't going to give Yassen the satisfaction of his tears.
"How can you do this?" he asked.
"They are paying me a lot of money."
Alex searched his mind, desperate, and said the first thing that came up. "My father would hate you. He treated you like a son and now you're torturing me. And enjoying it."
"I take no pleasure in causing you pain."
"You're a fucking liar." Alex took a deep, shuddering breath. "You're loving this."
Yassen cocked his head to the side. "Perhaps. But not in the way you think I am." He leant down until his lips were an inch from Alex's ear. "You are a fine-looking boy, Alexi. So like your father. And you suffer quite beautifully."
A cold shiver ran the length of Alex's body. His mind stuttered. He couldn't take in Yassen's words; they overwhelmed him as much as the pain.
"What's this? What's going on here?" snapped the bald man.
Straightening his back, Yassen said, "We are finished. He's told me everything he knows. Which is very little."
The man's round, unshaven face appeared looming next to Yassen's. "You believe him? He came on his own?"
"I believe the man who sent him here has been dead for some time."
The bald man chewed at his lip. Alex could smell his rotten breath. "Do him a couple more times. Just to make sure."
"No…" Alex could barely whisper. He could move his mouth, but his body parts felt disconnected, as if they didn't belong to him. His muscles were one vague, solid, throbbing ache.
"When you're done, add his body to the others waiting for the incinerator." The man's voice was wet, as if his throat was coated in oil.
Alex gritted his teeth and squeezed his eyes shut. All this and they were just going to kill him in the end. He wondered if he could convince Yassen to do it now instead of torturing him further.
He opened his eyes and looked up. "Please."
"Think of it as a challenge, Alex. We will see what you are made of. You will learn things about yourself, see how strong you are."
"Before you kill me, you mean?"
"Yes. Before I kill you."
"Seems a bit pointless, then."
The corners of Yassen's eyes crinkled. Then he lowered the device to Alex's forehead.
When it was finally over, Alex could taste blood in his mouth. His chest rose and fell rapidly. He stretched his fingers, then squeezed them tight into fists, trying hard not to cry. Yassen reached towards his face and Alex flinched. To his bafflement, however, Yassen merely cupped his cheek again. Looking into Alex's eyes, he brushed his thumb along Alex's temple. It was a tender gesture, and something broke in Alex's resolve. Tears poured from his eyes. He dug his teeth deep into his bottom lip where the skin had split until hot blood trickled down his chin. At least that pain was of his own choosing.
"It is done. I won't get anything more from him."
"Fine, fine." The bald man rubbed at the stubble on the top of his head. "Go ahead and do it then."
Panting, Alex let his head fall back and closed his eyes. It was over.
"Dump his body in the usual place," muttered the bald man, handing Yassen a thick envelope. Yassen took it and slid it into his pocket. Then he turned back to Alex.
So this was it.
The room stank of blood and his own fear-tinged sweat. His body pulsed with remnants of pain. He heard and felt the buckles on his left arm being unfastened. His arm was lifted. He slit his eyes open and saw Yassen run his thumb over the thin, blue vein in the crux of his elbow. Yassen was holding a syringe in his other hand. He looked at Alex, expressionless.
Alex hoped it wouldn't hurt or that at least it would be quick. He didn't feel scared--he felt exhausted and resigned. Numb. When the needle pricked through his skin, however, his eyes filled and overflowed. The tears trickled down his face, tickling him, and Alex almost wanted to laugh at how ridiculous it was to be irritated by such a thing at a time like this. He wondered if Jack would ever learn what had happened to him. He hoped not.
Yassen pushed the plunger on the syringe. Whatever Alex was being injected with felt cold as it flooded through his vein. He looked up once more. Yassen stood still, studying Alex's face intently.
Alex blinked. His eyelids felt very heavy. At least it didn't hurt.
"Go to sleep," said Yassen.
A black cloud crept from the edges of his mind inwards. At the centre, he saw himself and Sabina, resting on the beach. His head was thrown back to better enjoy the breeze.
"That's right, Alexi."
The peaceful image was replaced by a flash of ice-blue eyes staring down at him.
Then the world faded away entirely.
It was the smell that woke him--something thick, ripe and nauseating. Alex gagged and tried to move. Currents of pain shot through his nerves, and he moaned.
His head throbbed and his muscles felt weak and acidic, but he was alive. His stomach roiled with nausea. He was still breathing.
Once again, he tried to stretch his limbs, but became aware that he was still trapped--not with leather straps this time, but with some kind of rough cloth wrapped around him from head to toe. With a grunt of desperation, Alex ignored the pain and kicked and stretched until the cloth began to give. Gradually, it loosened and he was able to free an arm. He yanked at the fabric. It wouldn't tear, but after a few seconds further struggle, he managed to pull his head free.
He was in a dim, dusty room. One small, filthy window allowed in just enough sunlight for Alex to see. Looking down, he realised that he was in some kind of burlap sack. He forced himself to sit up and pushed his way out like a caterpillar forcing its way out of a cocoon. The air was thick and putrid. He looked around. Several other human sized burlaps sacks lay lined up on the floor to the left of where he sat. They were entirely motionless. Alex couldn't even hear the sounds of breathing. Two of them were stained dark reddish-brown in spots. He shuddered and tried to get up, only to find that his legs were weak and wobbly.
Wrapping his arms tightly around his chest, Alex took several deep, disgusting breaths and tried to slow his pulse.
He was still alive. For some reason--Yassen. He did this on purpose. He just wanted the bald man to think he'd killed me--he still had a chance. He shook his head. It couldn't have been Yassen. Yassen didn't care if Alex lived or died. He didn't care about anything or anyone. Just the money he was paid after a job.
It was a fluke. A mistake. Once again, Alex had been lucky.
But he had to act fast or his luck would run out. He scanned the room. A huge metal incinerator stood in the corner.
Alex still wasn't sure exactly what was going on in the building or what sorts of experiments the scientists were running on other human beings, but it didn't take a genius to figure out that it wasn't doing the victims much good. His uncle had sent him here for a reason. To put an end to it. Next to the incinerator stood a large fuel drum. On the floor in the corner rested an industrial sized box of matches. A plan began to form in his mind.
He made himself squint and hold his breath as he pulled the sacks off the dead people, but once he'd finished he still had to lean against the wall, swallowing and gagging to keep from throwing up. Once his stomach had settled, he gingerly opened the door and peered out. The coast was clear. He lined the empty hall with the sodden sacks. Burlap, it turned out, was extremely combustible. Especially when it was coated in solid fuel. The walls caught fire so quickly that Alex wasn't sure he was going to make it out in time.
He ran, staggering on his weak legs and smacking against the walls like a pinball, until he found a familiar looking staircase and descended into the basement where the window through which he'd climbed in was located. The people in the building above him were just beginning to shout along with the fire alarm. Alex used a pipe and a filing cabinet to climb towards the window. He could see bright sunlight flooding in. As he drew closer, it hit his face, blinding him. He reached the sill, gripped it hard, and pulled himself up and out, wriggling hard to squeeze through the small frame. Once he hit the dirt outside, he ran. It wasn't until he'd made it through the hole in the chain link fence that he allowed himself to look back and see how much damage he'd caused.
A lot, apparently.
Alex stood, shocked, and watched thick, black smoke pour out of the building's windows. He could still hear the faint screams of the people trapped inside. The ground floor was completely engulfed in flames.
As sirens sounded in the distance, Alex forced himself to turn away and flee before anyone tried to stop him. He'd answered more than enough questions for one day.
Alex didn't know how they'd found out. He certainly hadn't said anything to anyone. Yet, here he was, once again, sitting in a chair across from Mr Blunt's desk at the "Royal and General Bank".
"I told you. There was a man with a shaved head. I didn't get his name. And a laboratory. And a room full of corpses. That's it."
Alan Blunt steepled his fingers beneath his chin and stared at Alex.
"Can I go now?" Alex continued.
Mr Blunt ignored the question. "You don't remember seeing anything else? Or anyone else?"
"No." Alex kept his gaze steady. "What reason would I have to lie?"
If he'd been forced at gunpoint to explain why he felt reluctant to give MI6 Yassen's name, Alex would have been at a dead loss. He didn't know why. Something--something deep in his gut that made him clench the armrests of his chair to keep from squirming--told him to keep his mouth shut about Yassen. If MI6 knew he was involved, it would be bad.
Because Alex needed to find Yassen himself. He had some questions of his own to ask. That was all.
"Right," said Mr Blunt, but he neither rose from his chair nor drew his gaze away from Alex's face.
There was a knock at the door. Alex turned and saw Mrs Jones enter the office. "You're needed next door," she said. Mr Blunt nodded, then straightened a file resting on the desk in front of him. He stood, glanced once more at Alex, and then followed Mrs Jones out of the room.
Alex let his shoulders fall. Mr Blunt knew he was holding back. It was obvious. Did MI6 know that Yassen was alive? Bored and irritated, Alex let his eyes wander around Mr Blunt's entirely unremarkable office. They came to rest on the file Mr Blunt had fiddled with just before he'd stepped out.
Alex would be quick.
He leapt from his chair and circled the desk. Upon opening the file, he was immediately confronted with the same ice-blue eyes that had stared down at him several days earlier. Yassen. There were more photographs and recently dated documents. There was a photograph of the bald man and several of the building where Alex had been tortured. MI6 knew everything. Far more than Alex knew. So why was Mr Blunt pressuring him?
Alex continued flipping through the file until he came across a list of addresses. Some were crossed out. Some had notes--times, dates, various other information--scribbled alongside them. The last address--somewhere in Kensington--listed the previous day's date. Alex stared at it until he'd committed it to memory.
Barely half a second after he'd come out from behind Mr Blunt's desk and sat down in his chair again, Mr Blunt re-entered his office. Alex looked at him steadily. He'd made sure the file looked exactly as Mr Blunt had left it.
"That will be all," said Mr Blunt.
Blinking in surprise, Alex said, "You're done with me? I can go?"
"You may go."
Alex stood. He didn't need to be told twice. Once he arrived back home, he brushed off Jack's concerned queries. He was sick of giving answers. It was time for him to be the one doing the asking.
It was about revenge. It was about his uncle. And the hour of heartless torture Yassen had put him through. Those were the only reasons Alex was in Kensington standing in front of the door to the address he'd seen in Yassen's file.
It was about his father.
"He saved my life, Yassen had said as Alex believed him to be dying in his arms. "In a way, I loved him. I love you too, Alex. You are so very much like him. I'm glad that you're here with me now."
Yassen must have injected Alex with something that gave him the appearance of death but which didn't actually kill him. He'd been paid, so he no longer felt any loyalty to his clients. He'd chosen to let Alex live, despite the order to kill him.
He'd chosen to let Alex live.
And yet he'd cold-bloodedly tortured Alex for over an hour without showing a bit of pity or remorse.
Alex remained motionless, staring at the black-painted door, his hands curled into fists. He hated this uncertainty, the way thinking about Yassen threw him off-kilter unlike anything else.
He should let it go. He should walk away. Why did he need to even try to figure it out? There was nothing to gain and everything to lose. He turned around and descended the steps.
Then he made a sharp left. It was an end of terrace flat, so he was able to walk around the corner and look up. He had several windows to choose from. Slowly, his face feeling hot and his heart beating hard in his chest, he pulled off his jacket and then removed one of his boots. No one was around, but he still needed to move quickly.
There was a metal pipe fastened to the brick wall. It ran upwards to the right of one of the windows. Alex shimmied up the pipe, using all his strength to keep hold of it as the weight of his body tried to pull him back down. Once he drew level with the window, he carefully balanced himself between it and the pipe with one foot pressing against the sill and the other providing counter-pressure. He flattened his jacket against the glass and with a movement that seemed to gain added power from the burning knot in his stomach, he smashed through it with his boot.
It made a louder sound than he'd anticipated, but he wasn't stupid enough to think that Yassen was unaware of what Alex was doing. The idea of simply knocking on the front door, however, would have been too… He wasn't going to be Yassen's guest. He wasn’t going to give him the option to turn him away.
After clearing away the remaining glass shards, Alex heaved himself over the sill and through the window. He landed in a small, empty room that looked like it hadn't been used for some time. A cloud of dust rose around him and when he stood, he saw that his hands and knees were coated with it too. He coughed. So much for stealth.
Halfway across the room, Alex stopped short. His heart pounded as hard as if he'd just run a marathon. What was he doing? He was mad. He crossed the remaining space and reached for the doorknob with a shaking hand.
The door opened out into a narrow hallway. The walls were clean, white and bare; the carpeting smelled new. The sound of classical music wafted from a room at the end. Alex walked toward it.
It was a spacious lounge with tall, curtained windows and a grand fireplace. A large couch and several chairs were arranged against the walls. Other than a built-in bookshelf that held a CD player, there was no other furniture. Despite all the empty space, Alex found the room airless; Yassen stood in the centre, his face a mask.
"Alexi," said Yassen, his voice relaxed as if they were old friends. "I hope you didn't cause too much damage finding your way in."
"Not as much as I caused getting out last time I saw you."
The corner of Yassen's mouth quirked upward. Alex's skin felt hot and he fought against a dizziness that felt equally like fear and elation. He tried to keep his face still. Yassen moved towards him with his usual feline grace. Alex crossed his arms and stood his ground.
"Have you come for revenge?" asked Yassen. He closed in and stood so near that Alex had to look up to meet his eyes. "Or for something else?"
Alex's throat was dry. What had he imagined? Yelling? Shouting accusations? Maybe hitting Yassen, hurting him, bruising and breaking that pale, perfect skin.
With his lips curved into the faintest smile, Yassen extended a finger and pressed it beneath Alex's chin, lifting his jaw even higher. Alex glared. "You don't even know why you are here, do you?"
"That man." His voice sounded wrong. Too high, too uncontrolled. "He wanted you to kill me. But you didn't."
"He did want me to kill you. And no," Yassen was no longer trying to hide his smile. "I didn't."
A hot shiver ran over Alex's skin and a needy itch began to grow in his stomach. No. He hated Yassen. He took a step back, breathing hard. "Why not? What am I to you? You hurt me like it's nothing, like you don't even care. And then…"
Yassen spoke softly, his expression maddeningly patient. "Pain is nothing. It comes and it passes. It is the nature of life." He moved forward, eliminating the space that Alex had created between them.
"Easy for you to say."
The smile slid off Yassen's face. "Why did you come here today, Alex?"
With his mind a frantic blank, Alex remained still. Yassen was shuttering himself; his muscles tensed as if he were about to move away. Without further thought Alex reached out, grabbed a handful of Yassen's shirt and twisted his fist in the material. Yassen's hand snapped up and grabbed Alex's wrist. His lips pressed together. Their eyes locked and Alex stopped breathing.
He wanted… He desperately wanted…
With one quick wrench, Yassen pulled Alex's hand free and stepped away.
Alex didn't know what he wanted. He only knew that Yassen was refusing to give it to him, and the bastard didn't have the right. He lunged forward, but before he could make contact Yassen's arms clenched his shoulders and their mouths met. Alex went stiff with shock. Yassen's hands tightened their grip. His lips--firm and dry. His teeth and then his tongue, sliding into Alex's mouth, sending waves of arousal and electricity down his spine. If Yassen hadn't been holding him up, his knees would have given out.
Then he was thrust abruptly backwards. He stumbled and fell, landing awkwardly on his hip with a bang. Yassen stood over him, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Bright, cold hatred tightened in Alex's chest.
Yassen's voice was gentle. "Your father saved my life."
Alex got swiftly to his feet. "My father would hate you for what you've done to me. I hate you for it." He took a deep breath. "You can't do anything to me that I won't be able to take."
Yassen didn't move. "You have a lion's heart, but in your mind you are still very young. Innocent."
"I'm not innocent." Alex stepped closer, glaring in defiance.
"No." Yassen's face changed subtly in a way that made the back of Alex's neck prickle. Then, in one smooth movement, never unlocking his gaze from Alex's, Yassen ran his thumb over the bulge in Alex's trousers. Alex jerked and gasped at the shock of it and for a moment was terrified that he'd horribly humiliate himself.
Yassen had… He'd…
His face stung. Yassen smirked and Alex wanted to smash his face in.
"Not entirely innocent, no," Yassen continued, his voice suddenly low, warm and feline. "But still," it returned to normal, "too young."
It was the glint in his eyes. It was the way he looked as if he knew everything Alex was thinking and feeling, and that it amused him.
"Not too young," Alex growled, and grabbed the front of Yassen's trousers with his free hand.
Yassen's only reaction was a slight stiffening of his muscles. Alex's heart pounded. He didn't care. He didn't care what rain of fire he was calling down upon himself. He was going to win this; he wasn't going to let Yassen dismiss him. He wasn't able to stop his breath hitching in his throat as he fumbled with the button of Yassen's trousers and yanked them open.
Yassen's grip tightened on his wrist. "Alex."
Alex set his jaw and tried to pull down Yassen's fly.
"No," said Yassen in a cold, sharp voice. Alex froze and pulled away, shaking with anger. Then he made a fist and swung as hard as he could. Yassen caught his fist with no effort; on instinct, Alex pivoted and kicked to the side, aiming for Yassen's stomach. Yassen spun, fast and smooth as a striking cat, and Alex found himself slammed hard against the wooden floor with Yassen on top of him. He writhed; the pressure and weight of Yassen's hard body on his sent him into a frenzy. He arched his back and twisted. Yassen shoved Alex's shoulder to the floor and held it there. With a whine, Alex ground his hips upward and then gasped as he felt Yassen's obvious excitement. "You! You're…" He gritted his teeth and then shouted in frustration.
Yassen didn't pull back and his expression didn't change.
"You can hurt me," Alex gasped. "You can do anything you want to me."
Above him, Yassen closed his eyes.
Alex took advantage of his momentary lack of sight to try and thrust his free hand down the front of Yassen's trousers, but Yassen grabbed his wrist and flipped him onto his stomach. Then he grabbed a fist full of Alex's hair. As Alex cried out, Yassen wrestled and dragged him over to the couch. The second Yassen released his grip, Alex spun around to face him. Yassen shoved him hard; Alex fell backward onto the couch.
He yanked Alex's jeans and pants down his hips and before Alex had time to feel either shock or shame, he curled his fingers around his cock. Alex made a horribly humiliating sound. With every muscle in his body taught, he stared helplessly upward and let Yassen fist him.
It wasn't anything like when he touched himself. It felt good, but the fact that it was Yassen touching him was almost unbearably exciting. Harsh, cold adrenaline streaked up his thighs and back. He couldn't breathe or think. Yassen's hand tugged at him brutally; Alex gasped and cried out.
Above him, Yassen hissed and said something unintelligible in Russian. Small beads of perspiration lined his temple. He looked as close to discomfited as Alex had ever seen him. It gave him an odd feeling of power, despite the situation. He forced himself to focus and looked straight into Yassen's eyes. He'd never seen the man looking so unshielded. Yassen's hand sped up and Alex let his head fall back, absorbed in pleasure. He bit down into the not yet healed cut on his bottom lip as he came and shuddered through the memory of bright, engulfing agony.
The air had turned thick and warm. His chest rose and fell as he struggled to catch his breath. When his heart finally began to slow, he opened his eyes and looked down at the mess he'd made on his t-shirt. He swallowed and looked at Yassen, who was staring at him intently.
Alex reached toward Yassen's jeans, but the man moved back and got to his feet. "Take off your shirt," he said. "I'll give you one of mine to wear home."
As Alex pulled the soiled shirt over his head, he allowed himself a grin at the idea of going home in Yassen's clothing.
It was starting to get dark. Jack would worry. Yassen stroked lightly down his chest and Alex shivered as he traced the ugly ridge on his chest with the side of his thumb. "You have many scars," said Yassen.
"You're one to talk."
"You have too many scars for a boy your age."
"You're right. I'll send some back." Alex squirmed against the couch. He felt awkward and embarrassed by what they'd just done. "Yassen?" The name felt strange on his lips. "My father… Were you and he…" Too worried about the answer, he let the question remain unfinished.
Yassen's eyes cleared and he turned his head to look at Alex with the ghost of a smile. "No. We were never lovers."
Blushing, Alex looked away. Lovers. "I still hardly know anything about him."
Yassen gently stroked Alex's jaw. Alex closed his eyes. "You have a very good life when you aren't looking for trouble. An easy life. It should stay that way."
"It's a lie."
"You have your school and your home. Where is the dishonesty in that?"
"I've got Jack," said Alex. "And there's no one else. My parents are dead. I've no other family."
Yassen went silent. He gazed up at the ceiling and said nothing for so long that Alex began to get angry again. He pushed himself up on his elbow. Yassen finally turned to him and said, "Shhh."
Alex ran his eyes over Yassen's face.
"Tomorrow I will leave London," said Yassen.
The room suddenly felt very cold. "For how long?"
Yassen shrugged one shoulder. "Until the job I've been hired to do has been completed. And then I will go someplace else."
To his horror, Alex felt his eyes begin to sting. "Fine," he said. "Good. I don't care."
"I am glad you see it that way." Yassen stood and left the room.
Alex straightened his pants and trousers. His head felt as if it was full of howling wind. When Yassen returned and handed Alex a plain, black t-shirt, Alex pulled it on over his head. It smelled of laundry detergent.
"Keep well, Alexi."
It felt right to leave the way he'd entered, so that's what Alex did.
He didn't make it two blocks before the big, black car pulled up alongside him. The window rolled down. "Alex," said Mr Blunt. "A word." The door swung open.
There was no point in resisting. With a sigh, Alex slid into the car and sat on the seat next to Mr Blunt.
"I won't play games. We know you met with Yassen Gregorovich. What we want to know, is what he told you."
Alex let out a hissing breath. The file on Mr Blunt's desk. He'd played right into their hands. He didn't answer. His head was still too full of chaos to trust himself.
"Alex? This is rather important. We have information regarding a terrorist attack planned to take place tomorrow in Dublin. It's likely that Greg--"
"Don't tell me. I don't want to know." He curled his hands into fists.
Mr Blunt cleared his throat. "You have a rather special relationship with Mr Gregorovich, do you not?"
"He killed my uncle. I hate him. I'll always hate him. That's as special as it gets."
"Why exactly did you go to see him? Did he mention his plans? Why is he here in London?"
"We didn't talk about any of that. I didn't… That's not why I was there."
"And why were you there?"
"I wanted… Revenge. I wanted revenge for what he did to me."
Mr Blunt pressed his lips together. "And did you get it?"
Alex stared at him. "Yeah," he said. "Yeah. I got it."
He dug his fingernails deep into the upholstery and refused to say another word.