Title: The Beat of Disillusion
Characters/Pairing(s): Alex Rider, Jack Starbright, Mr. Blunt, Mrs. Jones, Zeljan Kurst, Yassen Gregorovich, Roelof Pieters (OC), Yassen/Alex
Summary: At MI6's insistence Alex goes back to Scorpia once again. He ends up in a situation he never thought he'd find himself in, with people he couldn't trust.
Warning(s): Asphyxiation, slight profanities once or twice.
Word Count: ~19,000
Author's Notes: I hope you will enjoy the story! Thank you to M for beta, hand holding and exclaiming "WHAT" and "f*ck you" in all the right moments.
THE BEAT OF DISILLUSION, PART 1
Alex spent the next five days with only Yassen around. Pieters had to leave in a hurry and took Kurst with him before Alex even had the chance to see the man. He was getting restless and bored out of his mind. He had to get some information and soon. He had absolutely no idea how he was supposed to deliver it to Blunt, though.
"So. Planned any terrorist attacks lately?"
Yassen looked up from his book to glare at him. Alex grinned back, unrepentantly. He discovered it annoyed the older man and while he usually avoided doing that he felt like he wanted to see how far he could get.
"Is that a no? That’s why you are in such a bad mood?"
Yassen closed his book and turned his full attention on Alex.
"I believe I told you something about respect the first day you got here. I do not like repeating myself."
Alex kept the grin on and stretched lazily.
"Yes well. It seems you haven’t left that much of an impression on me."
There was a glint of something dangerous in Yassen’s eyes as he stood up from the armchair and crossed the short distance to sit down besides Alex on the couch.
"It seems another night in handcuffs should help you remember. I believe the floor will be quite uncomfortable."
"Really? You’re trying to scare me by telling me I will sleep on the floor?"
Yassen’s hands shot to wrap themselves around Alex’s neck. He applied a slight pressure as he leaned in.
"I am not trying to scare you, little Alex. I am telling you what is going to happen. If you are too stupid to be afraid of me then it is your problem, not mine."
Alex gasped, his fingers clawing at Yassen’s hands, trying to pry them off his neck. Yassen applied a little more pressure and Alex struggled to take in a breath.
"Do not test me, little one. My patience has its limits even when it comes to you."
He squeezed his hands around Alex’s neck for the last time and suddenly let the boy go. He got up from the couch and walked back to his armchair, sat down, took up reading his book as if nothing happened. Alex was gasping loudly, the air whooshing in and out his tortured throat. He looked at Yassen as if he saw him for the first time.
Alex knew he was playing a dangerous game. This was Yassen Gegorovich in front of him, the world’s deadliest assassin, the man who killed his uncle. And yet Alex seemed to have forgotten that. He knew why that was. He allowed himself to get comfortable around the man for the past day or so. He got too relaxed with the knowledge that Yassen was helping him. He trailed his fingers around the bruises that were sure to show up on his neck. Just because Yassen opened up to him in what he thought to be his last moments didn’t mean the man wouldn’t kill him if he decided it was in his best interest.
Alex had no doubt that Yassen only did what was of benefit for him.
Alex was surprised to see that Yassen wasn’t on the other side of the door when he came out of the bathroom after his shower. He shrugged his shoulders and headed into their room. He opened the door and found himself being spun around and pressed against the wall.
"Mr. Blunt sends his regards," a man’s voice breathed in his ear.
Alex struggled to throw the man off him and he managed to kick out and hit the man’s knee. He twisted and threw the clothes he had in his hands into the man’s face. He took off from the room and down the stairs, frantic to find Yassen. In his urgency he slipped on one of the stairs, his foot loosing the balance and he tumbled down the stairs on his side, hitting his head painfully as it bounced on the steps. Tears immediately came to his eyes and he tried to get up as the pain numbed his senses. He forgot which side is up and which side is down up for a second and when he looked up the man who attacked him was coming down the stairs, long knife in his hand. Alex hauled himself up with the help of the column at the side of the stairs and he nearly threw up as dizziness swept through him. He knew he had to get away.
The man reached for his arm and Alex yelled. Before the man could swing his knife at Alex he was hauled off the boy. Alex saw Yassen stand over the man and grab the knife from his hand. The man tried to get up, one of his hands coming up to punch Yassen in the knee. The Russian kneeled down quickly and drove the knife through the man’s hand, nailing it to the floor. Alex could hear the sickening crunch of bone as as it tore straight through. He howled in pain and Yassen silenced him with a quick kick to the head.
Alex gave in and slid down to sit at the floor, the tears blurring his vision.
"Are you hurt?"
He opened his mouth to answer but only managed to throw up all over the carpet. Yassen sighed and helped him to his feet. The door burst open and the gate boy ran in, his gun at ready.
"What the hell is going on?!"
Yassen barely spared him a glance.
"Take care of this," he nodded at the unconscious man. "I want to talk to him later, so keep him alive."
"And get someone to clean this up," he pointed at the mess Alex made as he started walking up the stairs.
Alex grimaced at the loudness of the young guy.
"He will be fine. Concussion, maybe bruised ribs. Nothing too serious."
Alex begged to differ but he was too afraid to open his mouth again. Yassen helped him into the bathroom and propped him by the toilet seat.
"I will get you some fresh clothes. Do not move too much, it makes the nausea worse."
The boy rested his head against the toilet seat. Jack would have his hide is she saw him do that. But Jack wasn’t here. She was in the States, away from him, safe. Safe, like Sabina and Tom. Alex closed his eyes as his vision swam. They were safe and he was here, in the house of the enemy, getting attacked by an agent sent by the same man who sent him on this mission. Things really didn’t add up, he though. Like Smithers buying him ice cream. That really didn’t add up. Why would he do that?
He heard Yassen sigh and come closer to him.
"I need to take your shirt off and check out your ribs."
Alex grimaced. That was going to hurt like hell. Worse than the pins and needles he had after Yassen had cuffed him to the bed. But not as bad as getting shot, he decided. No, this was somewhere in the middle.
He felt Yassen hike his shirt up his torso and he made to move his hands up but another wave of nausea came over him. He heard Yassen mumble something to himself in what he thought was Russian.
The toilet seat felt wonderfully cool against Alex’s skin. He sighed as the nausea passed away. He heard a ripping sound and tried to move his head to see what was happening.
"Do not move. I just cut through your shirt, could not take it off otherwise."
Alex furrowed his brows, trying to make sense of the words.
Cool fingers probed at this side and he hissed in pain at the tenderness. The fingers pressed more firmly and swept along his side.
"No breakage or fracture, that is good."
He tried to take in a deep breath and groaned in pain.
"You got banged up pretty badly. Come, you need to sleep."
Alex felt himself being picked up slowly. Even that made his head spin and he groaned. A while later he was being placed down on a soft bed that smelt like a safe place. Alex sighed and let his mind drift off.
Someone was gently shaking his arm. He opened his eyes slowly to see Bridget stand above him with a concerned expression.
"How are you feeling, dear?"
"Dizzy," he croaked. "Thirsty."
She brought a glass up to his lips and helped him take a few sips. His head was spinning still.
"D’ya remember what happened?"
Alex closed his eyes.
"Someone attacked me and I fell down the stairs. I vomited on the carpet. Sorry."
"Don’t worry about that. Go back to sleep."
Alex obediently closed his eyes.
He remembered being woken up a few more times before he finally woke up on his own. He was laying in the bed, his back pressed to the wall. Alex opened his eyes to see that Yassen was in bed with him, deeply asleep. The room was dark, so he guessed it was night. He wasn’t sure how long he was out.
He watched Yassen as he thought back to the message delivered by his attacker. It seemed Blunt wanted information. But why would he send someone to kill Alex if that was the case? Unless he did it to keep Alex’s cover, in which case he sacrificed his agent and knew fully well what would happen. Or maybe Blunt thought Alex was turning away from him and sent someone to get rid of Alex before he could become a liability to the MI6...
His eyes mapped Yassen’s face. The long red eyelashes framing the closed eyes. Full pink lips that were slightly parted as Yassen breather in and out. Alex was transfixed by the sight.
Alex was startled by Yassen’s voice. His eyes darted to look at Yassen’s eyes and sure enough, they were open now and looking at him.
"How do you feel? The truth, Alex," Yassen brushed his apology away without a word.
"Better. No longer dizzy. My ribs still hurt though."
"That was to be expected."
Alex licked his lips before asking the next question.
"Who was he?"
Yassen’s gaze was fixed on his lips and he didn’t reply. Alex bit his lip.
The man looked up in his eyes quickly and Alex remembered how he looked at him with such intensity before, when he was talking with Pieters.
"MI6. Seems that was the mole you told us about. Blunt sent him to kill you."
"He said Blunt sent his regards."
Yassen reached out to trace the fading cruises around Alex’s neck. Alex shivered at the touch, his skin erupting with goose bumps. Yassen’s fingers stroked Alex’s skin and the boy couldn’t help but let out a breathy whimper.
Yassen’s hand stilled and Alex blushed.
"So – "
"It is okay. Only natural," Yassen cut him off and took his hand away but not before last caress.
"Pieters and Kurst are back. They want to talk to you tomorrow."
"Okay. How long was I out?"
"Just a day. Today is the tenth."
"You said that man said Blunt sent you his regards?"
"Well, it seems he decided your mission was not a success, then."
Alex tensed at Yassen’s words. He looked the man in the eye and hoped he could pull the bluff off.
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
It was Yassen’s turn to nod.
"Of course not."
"Listen, Gregorovich, if you think I’m here on Blunt’s orders then you are wrong."
"Am I, little Alex?"
Alex cursed him in his mind.
Yassen propped himself up on his arm and leaned in close to Alex. They were so close Alex could taste the breath from Yassen’s mouth. He was enveloped in the man’s scent and he knew he would have a rather embarrassing reaction in a moment.
"So Blunt did not offer you full emancipation and the chance to join your guardian in the States after you bring him the information he desires?"
Alex went rigid. They knew. He wouldn’t be able to walk out of this one. He didn’t mind failing the mission before he took it. But now, he minded very much. He felt alive and he didn’t want to die. He had to find a way to get out of this situation and he acted on instinct, leaning in closer to Yassen and pressing his lips against the older man’s.
He hoped he would catch Yassen off guard but the man reacted quickly. His hand came up to cradle Alex’s head, his hand fisted in Alex’s hair. He opened his mouth, his tongue licking at Alex’s lips. Alex opened his mouth wider and felt Yassen’s tongue push in. He moaned, his embarrassing reaction now fully embarrassing. Yassen swiped his tongue around Alex’s mouth, licking his palate and making Alex whine at the feeling. Alex never thought kissing could be like this, like he was being devoured, like Yassen wanted to kiss him until the kingdom’s rise.
His own hand moved to clutch at Yassen’s shoulder, his fingers tightening around the material of his T-shirt. He needed to be closer to the older man and tried pressing himself closer but a pain filled groan ripped through him.
Yassen released his mouth and breathed heavily through his mouth. Alex stared at his lips, red and wet and he leaned in again but Yassen tugged at his hair painfully to stop him.
"You have not answered my question, little Alex."
Alex’s eyes darted back up to Yassen’s. He looked confused for a second before stiffening again.
"Yassen, I – "
"Do not lie."
Alex nodded and Yassen’s hand relaxed his grip on his hair. He splayed his fingers over Alex’s skull.
"He did offer all that. But so did Pieters. One way or another, I am going to get what I want."
Yassen laughed mirthlessly.
"What did I tell you about trusting people?"
"To not do it. And not to trust you especially."
"Do you know why I told you that, Alex?"
Alex shook his head.
Yassen moved Alex to lie on his back and he propped himself over the boy. Both of his hands came to rest at Alex’s throat, his fingers fitting the bruises they left a few days ago.
"Because I only do what is in my best interest."
Alex nodded and swallowed nervously. Yassen’s eyes darted to his neck, his thumbs coming to rest over Alex’s Adam’s apple. His thumbs pressed slightly and Alex took in a startled breath. Yassen seemed to be admiring the way his hands fit over Alex’s neck.
"So from now on you will listen to me. Without a question."
Alex’s eyes widened as he understood what Yassen meant. He swallowed again, Yassen’s thumbs following the motion of his Adam’s apple, before he replied.
Alex came down the stairs with Yassen behind him and turned towards the sitting room. He entered and saw that Roelof already occupied the armchair. Kurst sat on the couch, leaving a space for Alex to sit down. He swallowed nervously and sat down, nodding at the two men in greeting. He felt Yassen stand behind him, Yassen’s hands coming to rest at the top of the couch just a little space away from Alex’s neck.
"So good of you to join us, Alex."
"Sorry it took us so long to meet again, Mr. Kurst," Alex offered.
Kurst curled his lip in disgust.
Roelof waved his hand distractedly.
"Don’t mind Zeljan, he’s in a bad mood lately. Now, it seems your information about the mole was quite accurate. Your friend at MI6 was indeed right."
Alex inclined his head and waited for the man to continue.
"Now, I believe we can help each other. We can supply you with a new identity and a ticket to States, as I previously said. In return, we need you to do something for us."
"We have been dropping hints about the corruption in the government all over the media. Did you know your Prime Minister used our services once to get rid of a political opponent?"
Alex shook his head.
"Mmm, yes. Well, we want to destroy the current government. And what better than a live broadcast of a teenage boy who was sent to spy on terrorists in Cairo... but who was caught and was made to spill all his secrets over live TV."
Alex took in a shuddering breath. That sounded eerily like what that journalist wanted to do, not long ago.
"Ah, I believe it reminds you of a Mr. Harry Bullman? Yes, the journalist."
"We make it our business to be interested in what happens to you, Alex."
Kurst snorted at that but quieted under Roelof’s gaze.
"He had the right ideas... But the wrong methods. It was quite sad to see how your government nearly drove him mad," Pieters said with badly concerned humour.
"What do you mean?"
"They stole his identity. Gave him another one. Made him real one disappear, claiming he was dead. They matched his fingerprints to those of a serial killer and sicked the police on him. Poor man nearly lost his mind in that interrogation room before a MI6 agent showed up to talk him into leaving you alone."
Alex sat there, his mind pacing furiously. If they did that to a publicly known man like Bullman then how easy would it be for them to negate his emancipation...? He felt Yassen’s hand settle on his neck and he was brought back to the conversation.
"I... I had no idea they would do that."
"I know, Alex, I know. But you see, Mr. Bullman was on the right track. I believe that a broadcast of you spilling your secrets before you are shot dead... well, that would have quite an impact on the British audience."
Roelof waved his hand again. Make it seem like you’re dead and we’d end the broadcast. After that, you’re free to go."
Alex looked from Pieters to Kurst, his eyes narrowing in suspicion.
"How can I know you are telling the truth? That you won’t shoot me in the end?"
Roelof shrugged his thin shoulders. He smiled and his eyes looked terrifying.
"You will have to trust us, won’t you?"
"So it seems."
Roelof nodded his head.
"Take a few days to think it through, Alex. We have time. But not too much, yes?"
Alex saw the dismissal for what it was and got up. He nodded at the men and left the room, Yassen following him closely. They climbed up the stairs and entered their room. Yassen closed the door and watched Alex pace for a while. Alex stood by the window and looked out, deep in thought. Yassen came up to him and placed his hand on the back of Alex’s neck.
Alex relaxed immediately and leant back into Yassen’s hand.
"We both know what the decision is. Tell him in two days."
The next two days went by too quickly for Alex. Too soon he was back in front of Pieters and Kurst, agreeing to their terms. They seemed satisfied enough – at least Roelof did. Kurst still looked at Alex as if he wanted to squish him underneath his shoe. Alex shuddered at that thought.
"Very well. The transmission will go live on the twenty-sixth of this month. So that gives us thirteen days to prepare."
"Anything I should know?"
Roelof smiled slightly and waved his hand.
"Nothing for you to worry about. We have it under control."
Alex came out of the shower and cursed under his breath. He forgot to take a change of clothes with him, too preoccupied thinking about Pieters’ plan. He looked at the sweaty clothes he peeled off before stepping into the shower and wrinkled his nose. He ran the towel through his hair and decided it would have to do. He tied it around his waist and gathered the dirty clothes in his arms. He walked out of the bathroom and took a deep breath before entering their bedroom.
Yassen looked up from the book he was reading. He raised an eyebrow and Alex could feel himself blush.
"Forgot my clothes," he mumbled and tossed the dirty ones into his bag. He crouched and rummaged through the laundered clothes. He found a T-shirt and a pair of underwear, along with a pair of jeans.
He looked up and saw that Yassen was still observing him, a smirk playing on his lips. Alex could feel his blush spread down his neck and his chest and he sprinted back to the bathroom. He cursed himself under his breath as he put his clothes on. He wouldn’t be embarrassed about that, he decided and walked out of the bathroom with his head held high. He entered the bedroom to see that Yassen moved from his spot on the bed to stand beside the table.
Alex sat down on the bed and noticed the vodka bottle standing on the table. Yassen looked at him and smirked. He sat down on the chair by the table and poured himself a shot glass of vodka.
"Na tavoje zdravjie, Alex!"
He threw the shot back in one gulp and Alex was impressed. His eyes followed the graceful line of Yassen’s neck as it bowed back. Alex swallowed and licked at his lips. Yassen caught that and his gaze became more predatory.
"Have you ever drank vodka, Alex?"
Alex shook his head. He felt so young, inexperienced... childish.
"It is quite strong. Leaves the most awful aftertaste in your mouth."
"Then why do you drink it?"
Yassen smirked and put down the shot glass. It clinked as it collided with the table. Yassen stood up and stalked up to Alex. Alex’s breath sped up and he craned his neck to look up at Yassen. Th older man leaned in, his lips brushing Alex’s earlobe as he laughed.
"Because I can, my scorpling, because I can."
The days both dragged on and sped by. Alex found himself thinking more and more about Roelof’s goal. He chanced a meeting with the man one evening to ask the question that was bothering him for a while.
"If you are going to destroy this government... Who will be in power in the country?"
Roelof laughed as if Alex asked the funniest thing on Earth.
"I don’t know, and don’t really care. I was paid to take it down, not to put a new government in."
"So that’s why you do it? Because you were paid?"
Roelof inclined his head.
"Gold. It’s what makes the world go ‘round, Alex."
Too soon the morning of the twenty-sixth came. Yassen shook Alex awake, his hand moving to cradle Alex’s head as he watched Alex wake.
"Get ready, we have to leave soon."
Alex sat up in the bed and stretched. He could feel Yassen’s gaze follow his movement and smirked to himself on the inside. He got out of the bed and grabbed a T-shirt and his jeans and moved towards the bathroom to change.
"We do not have time for that. Just change here."
Alex nodded and took off the shirt he slept in and threw it in the bedding. He pulled on his jeans and moved to put his shirt on when he moved too quickly and grimaced in pain. His ribs still acted up from time to time if he moved too quickly. He repeated the moves, slower this time, and managed to put his T-shirt on. Yassen nodded at him, already at the door.
Alex followed him down the stairs and into the dining room. Bridget smiled at him and motioned for him to sit down and eat. Alex did so gladly, happy that neither Pieters nor Kurst were present.
"They went ahead. We will follow them as soon as we are done with breakfast."
Once they were done Yassen ushered him straight outside and into a car. Alex sat in front and looked back to see his backpack already there.
Alex shut up and nodded. He still pushed the man’s patience from time to time but he felt now was not the time. He looked outside his window and noticed the cityscape pass by them.
Yassen motioned towards Alex’s backpack.
Alex wondered how Yassen had known about his mission and it seemed he finally got some answers. He took the phone out and dialled Smithers’ number. Once he got the first signal he put it on loud speaker.
"How are you, my boy?"
"Been better, but I live."
"So I hear. Alan is quite upset about that, I have to tell you."
Alex looked at Yassen sharply. The older man nodded.
"I was a decoy then?"
"Afraid so. He hoped, quite foolishly, that giving you to Scorpia would make them, ah, back down. Didn’t happen as he planned though, did it?"
"No, it didn’t."
Alex closed his eyes. So that was it. He was played once again. He should have known better.
"Thank you for your help, Smithers."
"A pleasure. Say hello to your friend and tell him my debt is repaid in full now."
The boy looked at Yassen quizzically.
"That it is, Mr. Smithers," the Russian said, his eyes on the road.
"Take care, then. Ta!"
The phone call disconnected and Alex kept looking at Yassen questioningly.
"Long story, for some other time. We are nearly there."
Alex shut the phone off and put it back in his backpack which he threw at the back seat. Yassen entered through an open gate and headed towards what looked like an abandoned building.
"Do not wander too far from me. I will not hear you bitch about the electricity zap again."
The boy rolled his eyes. The car slowed down and came to a stop in front of the entrance to the building. Yassen and Alex got out of the car and walked in.
"You’re on time. Fantastic. Now, Alex, please follow Felicia, she will work on your look. Yassen, a word if you please."
Roelof took Yassen in the opposite direction of where Alex was supposed to be heading. He started moving to follow Yassen when Felicia grabbed at his arm.
"This way," she pointed to the other side of the building.
"Ah, I can’t." Alex pointed to his ankle. "I must be within ten meters of Yassen or I get shocked. That won’t help you, I’m sure."
Felicia rolled her eyes.
"Fine. You got near them, I’ll grab my kit and get to you."
Alex nodded and followed Yassen and Roelof. He sat a few meters away from them and looked around the building. It was run down and the walls were cracked in places. He guessed it could be mistaken for Cairo after some work. He looked to see if Felicia was on her way when he heard a snippet of Yassen’s and Roelof’s chat.
"Once he is done filming the scene, shoot him."
Alex looked to see Pieters hand Yassen a gun. Why would Pieter’s remind Yassen of that? It was a part of the plan since the beginning...
"Aim for the head. I want him to be a good example of what happens to those that cooperate with the British government."
Alex’s blood ran cold. A shot in the head when he was told it was a shot to the chest. He was supposed to be wearing a packet of fake blood that would be released once the bullet impacted with Alex’s Kevlar vest. He was startled by Felicia who grabbed him and turned him around to face her. She made a tutting noise and started working on his makeup. He was supposed to look as if he was starved and kept in bad conditions for the past three weeks.
He felt Yassen come up behind him.
"What was that about?"
"Your ticket to States," the man replied easily and Alex’s heart stopped.
Yassen had told him he wasn’t to be trusted and yet Alex trusted the man. It was his own bloody fault.
"We will have to break your nose naturally, I’m afraid," he heard Felicia said and he nodded numbly.
She motioned for one of the guards milling around and asked him to break Alex’s nose. The man didn’t think twice about the request and simply swung his fist at Alex’s face. It impacted with a crunch and Alex was blinded with pain. He could feel Yassen catch him and steady him from behind and he cursed out loud.
He wanted to fight for his life but he knew there was no longer any reason to do so. He only felt alive when he was on a mission and he knew that he could no longer work for Blunt. He could not join Scorpia, either. Jack would move on, he knew. She was strong like that.
"C’mon," he heard the guard.
He looked up and saw he was being motioned to move to sit in an old wooden chair. He did as asked and the guard did a quick job of duct taping his hands together behind him. Alex looked at Roelof who looked at him coldly. Gone was the pleasing exterior and all Alex could see was a man with eyes that didn’t suit his face.
They didn’t bother putting the Kevlar vest on him. He didn’t bother asking for it. They all knew he finally figured it out. He had been played by both MI6 and Scorpia. If he was to go out, he would go out with a bang, not a whimper. He closed his eyes against the brutal truth.
He had been played by Yassen all along.
Alex sat in the chair, blood dripping slowly from his broken nose down his lips and chin. His hands were bound by the duct tape, his arms resting over the back of the chair, crossed at his wrists. He looked straight at the camera, at the people behind it. He knew what he had to do and he didn’t want to take any more time. He opened his mouth, a little hoarse cough escaping him.
"My name is Alex Rider. I’m fifteen years old. For the past sixteen months I have been spying for the British government against my will," his voice was steady and dead.
He spoke about all the missions he was sent on, all the people who died in the process. He gave up the names of the people he came in contact with during his MI6 times without hesitation. He was of no use to them now anyway and he knew what that meant. He knew what he needed to do. So he kept on describing these past sixteen months in a detached voice.
"I want this to be a warning to you all. Your government isn’t as innocent as you think. Stealing from other countries, negotiating with terrorists, being involved in human trafficking, illegal arms trade. That and much more, those are only the things I have learned on my own. Ever since my guardian’s death I have been blackmailed into working for MI6. My family was threatened, my objections were ignored, as were my concerns. They sent me into dangerous situations without any backup or arms. I was left on my own because I’m a teenager and no-one would suspect me to be a spy."
He took in a deep breath and looked away from the camera and into the blue eyes of his soon to be executioner.
"I was cautioned to stay away and I wanted to but it was not my decision. I was forced into it. Who knows when the MI6 will come for your children?"
The man started back emotionlessly. Alex tore his eyes away from him and looked back at the camera.
"Don’t let them win. Don’t let my death be for nothing."
He could imagine the gasps of understanding as it came to people. He was sure they were staring at their screens in horrified fascination, transfixed by his tale and what was to come. Alex took in a shuddering breath, his throat working frantically to swallow the saliva that didn’t come. He was starting to shake in fear. The duct tape pulled on his forearms, tearing the hair away. He could feel sweat gather under it, stinging unmercifully. He licked his lips and decided he would go out with dignity. It was the last thing he had, for this brief moment. They took that away from him before but he found it when he was speaking.
The blue eyed man moved closer and aimed his gun at Alex’s head. Alex looked in the man’s eyes for the last times and he remembered his words from what seemed a lifetime ago.
"I do not kill children."
Alex smiled shakily at the irony and closed his eyes, waiting for the bullet to impact with his head. He was no longer a child. And didn't they keep on telling him that you're never too young to die?
Yassen Gregorovich took in the boy in front of him and did something he has never done before. He closed his eyes as he pulled the trigger of his gun.
The camera was switched off after it filmed Alex’s bleeding body for a few more seconds.
"And that’s a wrap!"
Pieters looked at Yassen with distaste.
"It seems you got attached to the boy after all. Pity. I clearly told you to aim for the head. But either way he is of no concern anymore."
Yassen nodded his head.
"I believe that means we are even, Roelof?"
The man nodded and waved his hand.
"Even, all debts cleared and forgotten."
Yassen holstered the gun. He looked at Alex’s body for a while.
"I will get rid of his body. After all, I owed his father."
Pieters nodded as he walked away.
"Do whatever you want."
Yassen was planning on that. He stalked up to Alex’s body and scooped him up from the chair. The boy felt like he weighed nothing in his arms. The blood was seeping through, staining Yassen’s green T-shirt black. He paid no attention to the people he passed on his way out. He managed to open the back door to his car with Alex’s body still in his arms. He laid the boy down and smoothed his hair away from his forehead.
"I hope you will forgive me, little one," he murmured as he closed the back door and got into the car. He made a U-turn and drove out of the property. He headed north towards the airport.
Yassen walked up to the gravestone, the flowers in his hand too bright for this place. Bright like the boy – young man – whose grave he was visiting. He noticed other bouquets laid in front of the simple gray stone.
13.02.1987 – 26.07.2002
Son, Nephew, Friend, Hero. You Will Be Missed.
He laid the flowers down and stared at the stone in front of him. He was waiting for someone to show up.
"Thank you for coming," he heard a woman’s voice say in an American accent.
Yassen turned around and nodded. Jack Starbright looked beyond sad. Her eyes and nose were red and puffed up, her hair matted, her skin dull.
"What can I do for you, Miss Starbright?"
She took in a deep breath and looked him in the eye. It obviously took some courage from her to look into the eyes of the man who killed her Alex.
"Tell him I understand. I will miss him but it’s for the best. For all of us."
No emotion crossed his face, his hands didn’t tremble as he replied,
"I have no idea what you are talking about."
Jack cleared her throat awkwardly and looked at the ground. She shuffled her feet and looked around her. He noticed she was picking at the skin around her thumb nail nervously.
"Right. Of course, sorry. I... I’m sorry, this was a mistake."
Yassen nodded yet again.
"Indeed, it was."
Jack nodded jerkily and turned around to leave. Yassen let her walk away a few steps before calling out to her in a steady voice. She tensed her shoulders, her posture screaming grief and confusion.
"Take care of yourself, Miss Starbright. I was told it will be better for us all if you do."
She didn’t turn around like he expected her to. Instead she straightened her posture and walked away from him.
It was better that way. Indeed, it was.