The trouble with marrying an MI6 operative was that while their wedding was to be, as Eagle fulsomely put it, an ‘intimate family affair’, it was made slightly less intimate by the sheer number of security guards stationed round the place. Wolf was effectively marrying MI6 royalty, Alex was being groomed to take over as Head in the nowhere-near-distant-enough future, and their wedding was being choreographed by people who weren’t even invited.
“It’s all over the grapevine,” Alex said gloomily, poking at his lasagne. “I was given a congratulations card this week, by Blunt’s secretary. His secretary, James.”
Wolf shrugged. “That was nice of her.”
“She shouldn’t even know!” Alex snapped, throwing down his fork, and glaring down at his food as though it had personally informed Blunt’s secretary just to spite him. “I try and get married, and suddenly MI6 springs a leak like the Titanic on Iceberg Day.”
“‘Try and get married’?” Wolf asked, raising an eyebrow. “I thought we were actually doing it.”
“Not at this rate,” Alex said, going back to poking his lasagne moodily. “You just wait. Smithers will give me a wedding present, ‘just a little something to make your special day memorable, my boy!’, and I’ll end up teleported to China halfway through the ceremony.”
“Don’t accept any gifts from him,” Wolf ordered, pointing his knife at him, mouth full.
Alex smiled unwillingly. “You disgust me,” he said half-heartedly, and Wolf swallowed, grinning as obnoxiously as he knew how.
“You’re marrying me,” he said, with no little smugness. “Are you eating that?”
“Why, do you want it?” Alex asked, shoving his plate away, and Wolf shook his head.
“No. But we could go upstairs and have sex instead of getting worked up about things beyond our control.”
Alex paused for a bare half-second. “That could work,” he admitted, and allowed himself to be tugged up to their bedroom.
The more depressing side of their arrangements was mostly dealt with by Alex, who had had Wolf made his emergency contact, and altered his Will so that Wolf was named as his primary beneficiary.
“I warn you, I’ll sell everything,” Wolf told him, when Alex showed him his newly updated Will. “I’m not living here on my own if I manage to live longer than you.”
“That’s a shame,” Alex said, mock-disappointed. “I thought you could keep the sitting room as a shrine to me.”
Wolf kissed him, because it was really the only answer to such foolery. “I’m serious, though,” he said, pulling back. “This is our home. I’m not keeping it on if it’s just me.”
“It probably won’t be,” Alex said, comfortably, shamelessly wriggling closer to Wolf and pulling Wolf’s arm around himself to cuddle up more easily. “I keep telling you, you’ll die first.”
“It warms me every time,” Wolf told him, yanking him in until Alex was all but in his lap on the sofa. “I like that I’m your emergency contact now, though.”
“I know you hated only finding out I was injured when someone comes round to pick up my stuff,” Alex said apologetically. “I kept meaning to do it, I just never got round to it.”
“I still won’t find out if you get injured in some godforsaken part of – Bolivia, or wherever,” Wolf pointed out.
“I don’t find out if you get wounded in combat, unless you get invalided home,” Alex returned, wriggling a little to find a comfortable spot. “It evens out. Hey, there’s a Chelsea game on in twenty minutes, can we...?”
“Heathen,” Wolf said comfortably, and reached for the remote.
Wolf’s promotion came through three weeks before their wedding. It was what he’d been hoping for – more desk work, more tactical planning than field work – because he was pushing forty now, and though he was still more than capable of field work, he was beginning to feel all the broken bones and old scars which had never bothered him in his twenties and early thirties. Alex’s reaction, however, was not what he’d been hoping for.
He’d frozen for fully a minute, before swearing, low and vicious under his breath, and stomping into the kitchen. A little confused but nothing daunted, Wolf followed him, and found him making tea with the worst possible grace.
“I thought this was good news,” he said pointedly, and Alex slammed the mug down on the counter.
“It would be,” he said, making a clear effort to calm himself. “It would be great news, if that arsehole had let things happen in their own time.”
“Is this is one of those times where you say things and assume I know what you’re talking about?” Wolf asked cautiously. “Because I don’t.”
“Blunt,” Alex spat, the name a curse. “He pulled me into his office to say congratulations, and – and I quote – that he ‘hoped I enjoyed his wedding present’.”
Wolf was by no means stupid, but he took a couple of seconds to connect the dots which had been so obvious to Alex. “Oh,” he said finally, deflating a little. “Oh, I see.”
“You see?” Alex turned back to the kettle, and shoved a teabag into the now-chipped mug. “He just has to meddle – he can’t let anything happen in its own time without getting his fingers sticky in someone else’s pie-”
“I’m going for a walk,” Wolf said abruptly, turning to go, but Alex was there before he reached the door.
“Oh, hey, no,” he said firmly, meeting Wolf’s eyes squarely. “I’m not saying what you think I’m saying. You earned this promotion, you’ve given them fifteen years of service, it’s all yours. We both know it would have been yours in a couple of months anyway.”
“Doesn’t feel quite like it anymore,” Wolf said quietly, and Alex took his face in his hands, leaning in to kiss him.
“I shouldn’t have told you,” he said, looking shamefaced as he pulled away. “You didn’t need to know.”
“Would it have bothered you, knowing?” Wolf asked him, letting one hand rest on Alex’s hip. Alex flicked his eyes away for half a second, which was more than answer enough. “I want to know when things bother you.”
“I love you,” Alex said simply, by way of a reply, letting his hands fall back down to his sides, and Wolf nodded.
“Yeah,” he said, managing a smile. “Back at you.”
“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to ruin anything for you,” Alex said, and Wolf paused for a moment.
“It hasn’t. I mean, I’m not saying I would have preferred to do things the normal way, but you’re right. I earned this promotion fair and square, whether I got it now or later.”
“I bet he knew,” Alex muttered, leaning forward for a proper hug, which Wolf obligingly gave. “I bet Blunt knew how this would feel, and he’s off somewhere cackling about it.”
“I don’t think your boss is actually Satan, Alex.”
“Nonsense, just you wait,” Alex said, and pulled back. “Are you upset about this?” he asked, eyes intent on Wolf’s.
“Not anymore,” Wolf said honestly. “I was. I would have been, if you’d told me and left it at that, but – no. I earned this. Blunt just hurried things along.”
“I feel bad,” Alex admitted, stepping away to finish making his tea. “If I hadn’t told you about Blunt, you wouldn’t have known that it was earlier than expected.”
“Well, I would,” Wolf objected, taking a mug of tea when Alex passed it to him, and leaning against the counter next to him. “I knew it was earlier than it was supposed to be, I just didn’t know why.” He shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. Contrary to popular belief, the SAS doesn’t actually dance on MI6’s strings. If I wasn’t good enough for the job, they wouldn’t have given it to me, no matter how much your boss threatened them. Anyway,” he added, talking himself out of his momentary disappointment, “it’s entirely possible he was trying to do something nice, you know.”
“Blunt hasn’t done anything nice in his entire life. He was born calculating,” Alex counteracted, taking a sip of tea with a deep, relieved sigh. “But you’re right. He probably was, trying to give you more time here, with me. I suppose I should feel sorry for him, really. It’s not his fault he hasn’t tried to be nice since 1973. He’s rusty.”
Wolf slipped an arm around Alex’s waist and squeezed gently. After nearly seven years together, he was just about comfortable with spontaneous displays of affection. “There you go, you see?”
“Well, now I feel stupid as well as bad,” Alex admitted, leaning into the touch just enough to bring a smile to Wolf’s face. “If I’d thought it through a little, you’d never have had to know anything other than my boss is terrible at being nice.”
“Which I already knew. Look, don’t worry, you can’t be super-humanly perceptive all the time, I forgive you,” Wolf told him, with a grin. “Anyway, I like knowing,” he added, and smiled when Alex gave him a sceptical look. “No, really. I like knowing your boss likes you enough to want to do this for your wedding. It means maybe he’ll look out for you when you’re off doing something reckless and poorly thought-out.”
“You say the sweetest things,” Alex said, fake-saccharine, pressing a quick kiss to his cheek and moving over to the table. Wolf followed, and enjoyed not having to say he meant every one of them – Alex already knew.
“By the way,” Alex said, popping up beside Wolf as he tried to write up one of the seemingly endless reports which came with his new responsibilities, “we’re not writing each other vows or anything, are we? Because I won’t lie, I’m really not keen on that.”
“God, no,” Wolf said, revolted, pushing away from the computer with a sigh. “Why the hell would we?”
“Oh, I was reading some of that ‘how to plan your civil partnership ceremony’ bollocks,” Alex said, shrugging, “and there was a great section on vows. Just wanted to make sure we were both on the same page.”
“After this lot,” Wolf said bluntly, gesturing at the screen, “I never want to write so much as a Christmas card again. As far as I’m concerned, we turn up, we sign the piece of paper, and get the hell out of dodge. Job done.” Alex grinned at him.
“Always good to get the job done as quickly and clinically as possible, eh?” he said, and Wolf gave him a quick, sharp look. “Hey, I didn’t say it didn’t work for me,” he added easily, one hand coming to rest, comfortable and familiar, on Wolf’s shoulder, a silent answer to an unasked question. “I’m pretty sure we’re honour-bound to take our guests out for dinner, though. All of these touchy-feeling emotion things hanging around, they’ll all be in shock.”
“Tom won’t be,” Wolf objected, and Alex grinned.
“Tom will want an opportunity to give his best-man speech, he’s been waiting since I did mine for him,” he said, and Wolf grinned back at him. Alex’s best-man speech at Tom Harris’s wedding had been a thing of absolute beauty, and Wolf could appreciate that Tom would want to get his revenge – particularly at a wedding where he knew that everyone there knew Alex’s profession.
“I’ve gotta say, I’m looking forward to it,” he said, and Alex squeezed his shoulder in punishment.
“You enjoy watching me suffer,” he accused, and Wolf shrugged.
“I cannot tell a lie,” he agreed, and Alex laughed.
“Well, that’s for damn sure,” he said, grinning. Wolf glanced up at him, and was surprised again by how much he loved this man – surprised, deep down, that he could love anyone as much as he loved Alex. It wasn’t a word they used often, but every so often, Wolf just took a couple of moments to himself to enjoy it.
They didn’t love like other people, Wolf was sure. Other people had safe, normal lives, or if they didn’t, one partner normally did. Love came with a certain amount of protectiveness, but Wolf knew he’d die for Alex, knew he’d kill for him if he had to. He’d prefer not to, but he knew he’d do it like he knew he’d take his next breath – and he knew Alex would do the same for him, probably even more ruthlessly. Alex had had less good in his life than Wolf, and Wolf would kill to make sure Alex got to keep the things which made him happy.
He’d paused a little too long, thinking, and Alex was looking down at him, one eyebrow raised. “We can’t all be spies,” he said belatedly, and Alex allowed him to pass the moment off.
“Just as well,” he said, and ruffled Wolf’s buzzed hair. “Look, now we’ve got that sorted-”
“-like it was ever an issue,” Wolf interjected, and Alex nodded, smiling.
“-I’ve got to go in to the office. I’ll see you later.”
“If Blunt tries to send you on some death-defying mission to Guatemala, tell him no,” Wolf said after him, as Alex left, and received a casual wave in response. He took it to mean ‘yes’. Alex normally tried to do what Wolf asked of him.
Their wedding was, by all accounts, an absolute disaster – which was impressive, since they’d only invited a handful of people, and there wasn’t really a proper ceremony of any kind. The people they’d invited were supposed to witness it and then come with them to the restaurant, and then they were supposed to go home, have sex, and go to sleep, married.
Wolf had even written an itinerary. Alex had mocked him for it, but Wolf liked things running to plan, it proved how simple things were supposed to have been, if nothing else.
Sadly for Wolf, exactly nothing went to plan.
Eagle had persuaded them to buy rings, though Wolf had protested – because Alex would have to have it off more than he could have it on – and Alex had protested because he knew it wasn’t Wolf’s thing. Despite all that, they’d gone for it, if only to shut Eagle up (and Wolf had a secret romantic streak which had rather liked the idea – and that was why Alex had gone for it in the end, because there was nothing Wolf couldn’t tell Alex, even if he had to take a little while to do it).
And then Eagle, who had been trusted with bringing the damn rings to the damn ceremony – “tradition!” – had forgotten the bloody things (“...tradition?”). It was an inauspicious start which, as it turned out, set the tone for the whole thing.
Eagle was dispatched to pick the damned things up again, and they waited patiently for him while Tom, Snake, Ben Daniels, Wolf’s sister (leaving directly after the ceremony), and Smithers arrived. Alex did most of the greeting – Wolf was examining his shoe laces with enormous interest.
It took Eagle nearly half an hour to return with the rings, by which point, they had twenty minutes to perform what there was of the ceremony – except that the security guards had intercepted a ‘threat’.
A threat who turned out to be a stripper, arriving too early, booked by Tom, and very indignant about being shoved against a wall and extremely thoroughly searched by MI6 security.
By the time Alex had calmed everyone down, Smithers had had to return to Liverpool Street, and their slot with the registrar was over. The registrar was actually almost as indignant as the stripper, though thankfully for different reasons – he didn’t know that he’d been as thoroughly (though less personally) searched by MI6.
The dinner they’d booked didn’t seem appropriate, since they hadn’t actually managed to get married, so while Alex cancelled the reservation at their restaurant, Wolf piled people into taxis and directed them to the nearest pub.
He waited while Alex finished on the phone, before hailing a taxi, climbing in while Alex gave the address – Alex had a bit of a thing about climbing into taxis without seeing the driver first, and Wolf had always respected that it was one of those things Alex didn’t like talking about. “Well,” he said, when they were both in the cab, leaning back into the uncomfortable grey-and-yellow cushions and letting out a sigh, “that didn’t go – well.”
Alex chuckled. “I still feel distinctly unmarried.”
“And I wore a suit and everything,” Wolf mourned, letting his hand rest on Alex’s knee, ignoring the surprised eyes of the taxi driver in the rearview mirror.
“You look good in it,” Alex said, honest, though there was heat in his eyes, and Wolf heaved a sigh.
“Thank you,” he said gravely. “So, what now?”
Alex checked the street, peering out of the window into the early-winter dark. “We’re supposed to be meeting up with the others, aren’t we?” he said simply, and Wolf shrugged.
“I don’t care. I’d rather go home,” he said honestly. “I think I’ve dealt with Eagle for long enough today.”
“And Tom,” Alex said, leaning into Wolf just a little. “Eagle and Tom in one room was just asking for a nightmare, I don’t know why we ever thought it would be anything else.”
Wolf squeezed his knee in silent sympathy, and they watched the dark London streets in companionable silence for the rest of the journey.
“That’ll be fourteen sixty, gents,” the taxi driver said, pulling out in a side-street. Alex got out and paid him, leaving Wolf standing on the street, frowning.
“Alex,” he said slowly, as the cab pulled off, “this isn’t home, and this isn’t the pub. What the-?”
“Well observed,” Alex said, and took his hand, damning the consequences for once in a way. “Follow me.” He led his way into King’s Cross, well-lit and half-empty, buying two return tickets for the next train out, and smiling at the look of confusion on Wolf’s face. “Still not got it?” he said, and Wolf shook his head. “It’s simple,” he said, “we’re eloping.”
“Eloping,” Alex said simply, leading the way to platform three, while Wolf followed, always content to follow where Alex led.
“I hadn’t realised one of us was a Regency heroine,” Wolf said dryly, still a little confused, while Alex fed his ticket into the barrier.
“I’d look darling in an empire waistline dress,” he said, handing Wolf his ticket and waiting on the other side for Wolf to come through, patient for him as ever.
“That is a mental image I could have lived without my whole life,” Wolf told him, joining him, and letting Alex pull him onto the train, getting them to their seats – in first class, no less – and sitting down with Wolf opposite him. Casually, Alex leant forward, and took Wolf’s hand.
“We’re eloping, because god knows every time we try to do it properly, we’re going to end up in the same situation. So, we’ll find a couple of witnesses from where-the-hell-ever, I don’t care, and get married without any of our friends trying to help, and we’ll just hope that Tom and Eagle don’t manage to take a chunk out of London while we’re gone.”
“That sounds like the absolute best time for them to take a chunk out of London,” Wolf said, then paused. “Hang on, though – Eagle has our rings.”
“I have our rings,” Alex corrected, fishing them out of his pocket. “Eagle should be less careless.”
“You’re a master pickpocket,” Wolf pointed out. “He never stood a chance.”
“Well, it’s all his fault anyway,” Alex said, and leant back. “He should have remembered them in the first place, then we wouldn’t be eloping, and he’d have got to come to our wedding.”
“We’re – we’re not coming back tonight, are we?” Wolf asked thoughtfully, watching Alex across the crappy plastic train table.
“Nope. Registry office will only open tomorrow,” Alex said. “Why?”
“No pyjamas. No spare clothes,” Wolf pointed out. “No tooth brushes, nothing.”
“Well, I don’t think we’ll be needed pyjamas,” Alex said, with a wicked grin, and Wolf almost forgot his other worries in the heady rush of anticipated sensation. “We’ll deal with the rest when we come to it. I wish,” he added thoughtfully, suddenly, “that I’d brought a book, though. We’re on this train for a while.”
They stumbled out at Durham, at gone eleven o’clock at night, the platform deserted, and Wolf shoved Alex into a darkened corner outside the station to kiss him properly, like he’d been wanting to do since all their wedding plans fell down around their ears.
Alex looped his arms around Wolf’s neck and kissed back, hard and fierce and reassuring, and it was with regret that Wolf pulled away to grab a taxi.
Their wedding, in the end, had none of the benefits of a carefully-planned itinerary, but all the heady joy of something illicit, rushed and sweet. Wolf enjoyed it immensely – the illusion of freedom from his work, and Alex’s, worked wonders on his mood, though Alex assured him that three of the men they’d seen outside the hotel, hanging around the University buildings, were MI6. They didn’t approach, though, and Alex didn’t talk to them, so the illusion remained unbroken all the way back to the hotel, where they ate in the restaurant, with its long white tablecloths, which allowed Alex to gently rest his foot just against Wolf’s while they swapped bits of their meals and drank too much wine.
Later that night, sprawled across the hotel sheets, Alex propped himself up on his elbows and looked at Wolf for a long second.
“Do you regret it?” he asked, softly, and Wolf trailed a hand lazily through Alex’s blond hair.
“What?” he asked, and Alex smiled.
“This. Is this how you would have done it?”
In later years, Wolf would blame the wine, relief, and temporary madness for his answer, but at the time it was totally sincere. “I don’t care how I married you,” he said, catching Alex’s left hand and pressing a kiss to his ring finger. “I’m just glad that I did it.” Catching himself on the sentiment, he grinned, a little awkwardly. “It took enough bloody effort, after all.”
Alex spoiled their kiss by laughing into it, and somehow it didn’t spoil it at all.
Sir Alex Rider, former Head of MI6, died peacefully today, aged 89, at St. Dominic’s Hospital. Sir Alex’s professional life was, of course, subject to much secrecy, but since his retirement from Special Operations, he and his husband, Major-General James San Luca, were tireless campaigners for gay rights, often working in conjunction with Stonewall and youth charities to foster greater acceptance of homosexuals in the military. A devoted public servant, and much loved father to Mark, Eleanor and Thomas, he will be sorely missed by his friends and family. Family flowers only at the funeral, but donations, if desired, to Stonewall, c/o Stryker Brothers Funeral Directors, 27 Helton Street, London, SE12 8TH.