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James Bond fic: The Choices We Make (1/1)

December 22nd, 2017 (08:54 pm)
satisfied

feeling: satisfied

Title: The Choices We Make

Disclaimer: Not mine.

A/N: My other offering for sendintheklowns. Here’s to days off from work, right? No beta, fills my scars square for hc_bingo.

Summary: Q is gifted at many things. But he’s not good at being undercover. Not good at all.



-o-

They say that, for spies, scars are an untenable risk. Indeed, Bond understands this to be true. He spends his whole life trying to be anonymous, so the thought of anything to distinguish him from a crowd is less than desirable.

That said, it’s also a rather impractical saying, at least for spies like Bond. To do what he does, to take the risks he takes, it’s impossible to come out unscathed. If Bond is being honest, which he very rarely is, physical scars are the least dangerous risk there is. Those wounds, at least, heal with time.

It’s the rest of the wounds, however. It’s the doubts, it’s the losses, it’s the compromises. Those are the things he can’t cover with a jacket or hide beneath his slacks.

Still, Bond knows and measures all his scars. He can almost feel them, the unnatural ridges in his skin. Most of them don’t bother him, this is true. But there are some that seem to still be mending, months, years, decades after they’ve closed up.

He knows how they were made.

More importantly, he knows why.

He knows the ones from his exploits with Vesper. He knows the ones he’s endured under M’s orders. He’s all but memorized the ones he’s endured on behalf of Madeleine, and he can point to the one that Moneypenny left on his chest, almost right through the heart.

He also knows, therefore, that this one will linger longer, more strongly than the others.

Because this one, unlike any of the ones before, comes in defense of Q.

-o-

It’s a little ironic, when Bond thinks about it detachedly. Bond, a man of action, sitting and doing nothing.

This is not a part he normally plays. This, after all, is aftermath. Bond makes a point of never being around for the aftermath. This is his policy on the job; it is also his policy in relationships.

At least, it had been.

A lot has changed; Bond might say he’s trying to come full circle. Because he would have left for Vesper.

But who is it that will always draw him back?

Sighing, Bond bows his head. He knows he must look a fright. His shirt is stained, and the sleeve is shredded where he’s been sliced with a knife more than once. It’s been cleaned and dabbed until dry -- his own doing, in a nearby hospital bathroom -- but Bond hasn’t bothered to let a doctor look at him. Stitches are pragmatic, but this time, Bond wants to bleed a little.

It’s been hard to figure out how to balance these things. It’s been hard to be in love and realize his duty’s not done yet. He tries to separate the two, his personal life and his professional one, which is why he shouldn’t be here. For Madeleine, maybe. But this isn’t how it is when he’s on the job.

But then, is this still the job?

Bond’s never been one to have the answers; he’s just the vessel by which said answers are acquired. What happens to that information has never been of Bond’s explicit concern.

That’s the theory, anyway.

Bond’s just not sure sometimes.

“Mr. Bond, I assume,” someone says.

Looking up, Bond is a little surprised. He has an alias; he has a cover. Surely, there are security measures in place, security procedures that keep him safe.

Not that he’s worried about his own safety.

The doctor is a woman with streaks of steely gray in her hair. Her smile is perfunctory. “I have been assigned to this case due to my contacts at MI6. I have certain security clearances, and I have been thoroughly briefed that you are not actually here at all and that your friend Q has suffered from an unfortunate mugging gone awry.”

The way she says this gives him no reason to doubt her. The fact that she knows who he is and who Q is would probably be enough.

Then, Bond asks the important question. “How is he?”

“Alive,” she says with something of a small huff. “Now are you coming?”

Bond, however, is already on his feet.

She’s told him the only fact that matters.

And Bond, by his nature, will always be a man of action when given the choice.

-o-

The thing is, Q had saved his life.

Bond doesn’t usually fancy things in that way. To be a spy, to do what he does, he has to rely on his own skills and ingenuity. The idea of being attached to someone else, on counting on them to keep him alive -- it’s never been something he’s been totally at ease with.

Moreso, now, he supposes. Madeleine has not asked him to give up anything for her, but he cannot deny that the idea of leaving her alone and vulnerable makes him skittish. It makes him cautious.

Maybe that’s why he never realized that his tech had been compromised. Q had explained from the start that this was possible, that his tracking signal could be detected with the right technology, and that it could even be hijacked and used against him. Q had told him that the entire mission could be compromised at any given point and that Bond would never know until there was a bullet between his eyes.

Bond had deemed it an acceptable risk.

After all, this was a terrorist network with imminent plans to attack the heart of downtown London. If he didn’t take this chance, the death toll could be catastrophic.

Madeleine had told him he had no choice. He had to be the man she married, the man he was meant to be.

Officially, there was to be no intervention from MI6. A compromised link would be easily detected from HQ, but there would be no way contact Bond to let him know something was amiss without risking another agent’s life and exposing the whole of the underground spy network that technically wasn’t supposed to operate in London.

The only option was someone who wasn’t a field agent.

The only option was someone who was unimposing and brave and smart.

And, most importantly, someone very, very stupid.

Because Q is gifted at many things.

But he’s not good at being undercover.

Not good at all.

-o-

She takes him away from the hustle and bustle of the waiting room, through a few secure doors. She flashes her ID at some point before pushing her way past a pair of armed guards. None of this seems to phase her, and Bond only a little curious as to what provisions M has already managed to put into place. He’s grateful that the director has mostly left him alone.

He’s more grateful that he’s provided the support that Q needs.

And Q needs more support than Bond is prepared to admit.

“The damage, in some cases, looks worse than it is,” the doctor explains as she lets him into the secluded room. “Bruises are starting to form, and some the most garish cuts are actually rather superficial.”

Bond is nodding along, but he stops himself short when he actually gets his first look at Q.

The younger man had been bleeding and limp when Bond dragged him in.

Somehow, it’s more distressing to see him now. Hooked up to machines and monitors, a tube down his throat. All the support suddenly reminds Bond just how vulnerable Q is.

How vulnerable they both are now.

“The most serious problem was that a few of his ribs were broken so badly that they actually splintered, piercing several other organs. His left lung collapsed, but we’ve managed to re-inflate it. Fixing the hole in his spleen was a messy business. We finally just took it out.”

Part of Bond can relate to her practical delineation.

The fact that it strikes him as emotionally cold shows just how much the last few years have changed him.

“Anyway, as I’ve already informed your superiors, it’s going to be a bit touch and go for a while here, but he’s holding his own for now,” she explains. She pauses, giving him a critical look. “Have you had that cut looked at on your arm?”

Bond looks down; in truth, he’d almost forgotten it by now. “It’s not that bad.”

She gives it a look, wrinkling her nose. “I can get a cosmetic surgeon down here, stitch it up nice,” she says. “Minimize the scarring.”

Bond smiles politely, and crosses his arm behind his back. “Maybe later.”

Indifferent, she shrugs. “Suit yourself,” she says. “Is there someone else we should call for him?”

Bond looks back at Q, taking in his bruised and battered visage again. When he looks back at her, he’s a little dumbfounded by the question. She’s looking at him, expectant, and Bond realizes that, for once in his life, he’s frozen with complete inaction.

She shrugs. “Friends, family, loved ones,” she rattles off.

He swallows, and he thinks of Madeleine at her practice, Moneypenny at her desk, ?? writing memos. There has to be a file, somewhere in M’s office, with all Q’s personal information. Q himself has probably digitized it for the so-called modern era.

This is a man he’d die for.

More importantly, this is a man who would die for him.

And Bond doesn’t have any clue.

“I don’t know,” he finally admits, the words falling woodenly from his lips.

She doesn’t seem phased by this. “So it is, I suppose,” she says. “All people like us need to know is the mission and each other’s security clearance. I’ll get the information from HQ, if you’d like to sit with him.”

Bond stands, dumber still, while she makes her way to the door. There, she turns back around, and for a second, Bond wonder if she’ll show some compassion this time.

Instead, she looks curious. “How did this happen, anyway?” she asks. “I mean, if you’re at liberty to say.”

Bond’s not, he’s sure.

He’s not sure what he’d say anyway.

He swallows. “He saved my life.”

She gives Q another look, a little surprised. “Doesn’t look it, does it?” she asks. Then she shrugs again. “That’s probably the point.”

The door closes behind her, and Bond is left to face Q alone for the first time since this began.

Standing there, feet almost anchored to the ground, all he can think is that it’s not really the point at all.

-o-

To Q’s credit, he tries to get in and out without being noticed. Surely he knows, after days of monitoring Bond’s progress on the last-minute undercover save, that the only opportunity to intervene is at Bond’s money coffee run. He’s living out of a converted safehouse for this one, with Madeleine tucked away at their common flat on the north end. He’s trying to pass himself off as an arms dealer, with access to high grade explosive at the last minute. His cover is slipshod, and this case relies on Bond’s ability to sell a cover and Q’s impeccable electronic aids.

Therefore, slipping in at the cafe is the only place Q could possibly intervene without automatically tipping off anyone regarding Bond’s cover.

It’s a smart, calculated choice.

Bond just isn’t sure why Q’s made it.

Bond, to his credit, doesn’t even blink. He sips his coffee at the counter, eating his apple fritter. “You shouldn’t be here,” he says, turning the page of his paper.

Q smiles at the waitress, waiting for his latte. “Just happened to be in the area,” he says.

That’s an utter and total lie, and there’s no reason for anyone to doubt it except for that it’s so audaciously simplistic that it has to be fabricated. His mind races as he tries to make sense of it. It’s possible there’s new intel. It’s possible that there’s a new development Bond needs to know about. Maybe Bond has a new directive; maybe the target has changed.

Or, Bond realizes, as Q turns to look him in the eye, maybe everything’s gone completely and horribly wrong.

“Anyway,” Q says, gathering up his latte to leave. “I can’t stay, I’m afraid. You know how it is with my boss. Always checking up at me; no such thing as privacy. I’ve had to learn to stop talking to keep my job safe.”

He winks once, but he’s not smiling.

Putting the pieces together, Bond watches Q as he makes his way out the door. He’s still coming up with the possible conclusions as Q pushes the door open and steps outside.

To Q’s credit, he tries to get in and out without being noticed. And Bond knows, better than most, that Q’s not the type who’s any more accustomed to failure than Bond is.

It’s a lesson they’re both going to have to learn the hard way.

-o-

Alone, now, Bond struggles with something to do or say. His instincts tell him to do something, but in practical application, he’s just not sure what.

Of course, Q’s not exactly helping matters.

But seeing as he’s heavily sedated and recovering from major surgery, Bond supposes the buck probably stops with him instead.

Standing there, he takes a moment to really assess the situation. This is, after all, what he does. He’s generally good on his feet, and he relies on quick and fast mental processing to make the right decision to keep him alive. One might say that’s why Q’s still breathing at all.

On the other hand, it’s also why Q is very nearly dead.

Because Bond had an idea of stopping the explosion before it started. Because Bond thought he could do it. Because Bond had willingly taken the risk with little regard to his own safety.

He wasn’t used to people giving such a damn about whether he lived or died.

Funny, he wasn’t used to feeling that way about others, either.

Yet, here he is.

Holding vigil over Q’s battered and broken body.

The doctor had delineated the major injuries, but Bond can trace the others. He can see the cuts on his face from where the brass knuckles bit into his tender skin. He can see the raised cuts, stapled together on his chest, where he was flayed like a cooked turkey. Two of Q’s fingers are splinted, an injury Bond knows came from blunt force trauma during what could be called aggressive questioning.

That’s what Bond called it when he used it.

Seeing it so graphically portrayed in his favorite tech genius made him see it for what it really was: torture.

Now, Bond understands that Q made a choice. He’s been pushing the younger man for years, asking him to trust him, to take more risks. It’s why Q’s been in the field at all, and it’s all Bond’s doing for his own personal benefit. In that light, it’s not surprising that Q saw it fit to take another risk. Bond knows well enough that it was probably Q’s idea; that he felt personally responsible that his tech had been compromised.

Bond wants to tell the younger man that it’s not his fault.

He can’t find the words, though.

In his head, he can hear Q telling him that this isn’t his fault either. Call it bad luck; call it part of the job; call it the fickle fashions of fate.

It’s just one of those things, a situation where no one is explicitly to blame.

That doesn’t help, though. Not standing there, watching a machine breathe for Q.

It’s these situations, after all, that are the hardest to absolve.

-o-

It only takes Bond five seconds to realize what Q is trying to tell him: that the tech is compromised, that Bond’s cover is blown, that he has to get out now or they’ll be sending him home in a box to Madeleine.

Five seconds isn’t that long, given how little Bond has to go on.

It’s five seconds too long, however.

Because when he gets up to follow Q out the door, he steps out into a busy street. Scanning up and down, he searches for the familiar mop of brain hair and slight frame wearing a jumper.

There’s no sign of him.

Bond turns north, tracing the direction he’d seen Q turn on his way out. Discretely, he moves through the crowd, stopping instinctively at the closest alleyway. He’s not sure what he’s looking for, if he’s honest, but when he sees the coffee cup lying in the center, a puddle of latte still wet on the ground, he knows.

Bond stands, heart starting to pound in his chest as his breathing hitches.

Q’s gone.

-o-

After some time, Bond finally takes a seat. When about an hour passes, he takes out his phone and sends an anonymous text to Madeleine using a code they’d developed together. She knows not to expect him back any time soon, and she’ll have no reason to worry about him, but Bond is pretty sure he’s not sending the texts for her benefit.

Madeleine would be the first to tell him that he’s trying to find strength in his newfound vulnerability. She’d remind him that it’s okay to hurt, that fear is healthy. Maybe she’s right; at this point, Bond has no idea.

He considers talking to Q, but he’s not convinced that people in comas can hear anything. He’s also pretty sure that Q’s not technically in a coma, and with the number of drugs probably coursing through his system, the talking would be like his empty texting: for his benefit alone.

Not to mention it just makes him feel ridiculous. He clears his throat a few times experimentally, for all the good it does. It just accentuates that he’s alive and well.

And that Q is not.

Bond’s made a career out of saving people.

He hates to think that the ones he fails are consistently the ones that matter most.

But then, Bond hates everything about this.

-o-

On the street, in the deserted alley, Bond knows he has a choice to make. It’s an important choice, and he has to make it soon or forfeit it altogether. This, in and of itself, seems wrong. Q risked everything to give him an out, and if Bond’s going to live up to that, he has to leave. Now.

That is, by extension, also why he can’t take it. The fact that Q risked everything means that Bond has to return the favor. Granted, Q will probably be mad at him for wasting the hard-earned chance, but Bond can endure his wrath.

As long as Q’s alive to give it, Bond can endure anything.

It’s no choice at all, really.

In a split second, Bond has turned down the back way out of the alley, snaking through between the buildings to the protected side street route he’s been using for the last week. He’s memorized the way, roundabout as it is, straight to the terrorist headquarters where he’s been establishing himself.

Given that his cover is blown, any kind of approach is foolhardy. Since they’ve probably deduced that Bond knows his cover is blown, his approach is nothing short of suicide.

Suicide Bond can tolerate.

Murder, however, is something he struggles with. True, Bond has killed more than his share of people, but Q isn’t a field operative. To think of him captured, detained, tortured and executed --

Well, that’s untenable.

The interrogation process can be extended, Bond knows, but they’re working against a deadline here. If they suspect Q has any MI6 connections, it’ll be shorter still. With all such considerations, it is only a matter of hours before Q’s eliminated.

A matter of hours is all Bond needs to get him back.

Duty is a choice, Bond has found.

He’s beginning to realize, however, that emotion isn’t.

-o-

In a sequestered room in the hospital, there isn’t much in the way of visitors. Bond smiles politely at the nurses when they come in, and while he’s grateful for the overall security considering the circumstances, he finds the isolation all very awkward.

Being a hero can be difficult; Bond knows this better than most.

Being an ordinary man, by contrast, is damn near impossible.

When the door opens, he assumes it’s just another nurse. To his surprise, M is there instead.

With a sympathetic smile, the director makes his way to the bed. Rightly, he looks at Q first, shaking his head. “The doctor’s been briefing me,” he says. “But I wanted to come down in person.”

“That’s rather sentimental of you, sir,” Bond says.

M turns to him, a small, rueful smile pulling at his lips. “This whole situation is a security fiasco,” he says. “I’m under a great deal of pressure to assure the higher ups that I’ve got the situation well in hand.”

There’s another side to the aftermath, one with terrorists and weapons and plans for mass destruction. Most of the time, Bond is relieved to be separated from such things.

His gaze flickers to Q.

Not all alternatives are better.

He manages his own smile back at M. “Still, for you to make a personal call.”

“Well,” M says, shrugging one shoulder. “His doctor makes it sound so dire. I would have hacked directly into the hospital feed to get a better look, but the only person capable of that is…”

He trails off, and they both look at Q.

Bond nods his head. “It was a stupid risk,” he says.

M nods in commiseration. “And a violation of a direct order,” he says. “I’ve already had to draw up a disciplinary note to go into his file.”

This makes Bond incredulous. “A disciplinary note? When he’s still on life support?”

M’s look is more sympathetic than his words. “I prefer to think of that as optimism,” he admits. “And if it makes you feel any better, the note will be filed right alongside a commendation.”

He’d accused M of sentimentality, but the fact that Bond finds this immensely reassuring is telling.

For a moment, they reside in silence, the sound of the machines filling the void between them.

Finally, M collects another breath. “I was also thinking about making a strongly worded recommendation for additional field training for Q,” he says, and he casts his gaze knowingly back to Bond. “From one of our most experienced operatives.”

It’s not subtle, to be sure. But the instant M says it, Bond feels like it should be a given. “You can be sure of that,” he promises with a bob of his head as he looks back at Q. “As soon as he wakes up.”

M pats him on the arm. “You did well, 007.”

“The plot was foiled, then?” he asks.

“Yes, it was,” he says. “But that’s not what I’m talking about.”


Bond’s chest feels tight; he steadies himself. “You didn’t have to come all the way down here to tell me that.”

“Maybe not,” M concedes, but then he tipped his head toward Q. “But I’m following his example.”

Bond dips his head in concession. “You could take worse cues.”

“That cut on your arm, you should get it looked at,” M comments.

“It’s not that deep,” Bond says.

“But if you don’t take care of it, it will scar,” M warns. “You know what they say about scars and operatives.”

Bond knows, it’s just that right now, he doesn’t care.

He covers his arm, scooting his chair closer to Q.

After all, Bond has always been a man who knows his priorities.

-o-

The mission had almost been denied from the start, with many people arguing that there was no way Bond could adequately infiltrate an organization like this with so little time.

As Bond easily slips in through a broken window on the side of the building, he kills the nearby guard without as much as a sound, and he takes some satisfaction in proving that much wrong. Bond’s thoroughly infiltrated the facility; he knows everything and everyone.

Of course, they also know everything about him, so it’s not like he can afford being cocky.

Not with Q’s life on the line.

There are only a few areas of the inner city compound that would be effective as a holding cell. There’s no way the leadership here would risk a captive in a room with outside access, and the interior rooms would have to be fully fortified. More than that, there’s a question of convenience. Even terrorists have busy schedules. They don’t have time to traipse all over, not even for an interrogation.

Outside the office of the leader, Bond kills the last of the security detail before they have a chance to sound the alarm. He leaves the bodies; it’s not ideal, but this is no time to clean up after himself. The goal is to get in, to get out -- with Q in tow.

Inside, he’s ready for a fight, but the leader isn’t in his office. For a moment, Bond wonders if maybe he got it wrong. Carefully, he makes his way through the office to the private rooms in the back. One is a bathroom -- it’s empty. The other’s a closet.

It’s not empty.

Hanging from the ceiling, Q is gagged and shackled. His shirt is gone, and his torso is covered with cuts, welts and growing bruises. Bond had made good time getting here -- it’s been no more than 30 minutes.

Standing on numb legs before Q, it seems like 30 minutes too late.

This cell is noted for its efficiency, and Bond’s seen it first hand. Still, he’d counted on hours.

Shakily, he crosses toward Q, lifting his fingers to the younger man’s throat.

When he feels a pulse, he lets out a breath.

Not quite too late, then.

“Hey,” he says, nudging Q again. He’s reaching up, looking for the lock on the shackles. “Q.”

Q mumbles something, his head tipping toward Bond, but the younger man settles back into stillness.

Bond does his best to tell himself that it doesn’t matter. Quickly, he picks the lock on the shackles, releasing one arm and then two as Q slumps into his arms. He catches him neatly, shifting his weight to cradle the younger man’s head, easing him to the ground to better assess their current predicament.

Heart fluttering, he allows himself a moment of doubt. A moment where he looks at the cuts and bruises; the burns and abrasions. The deformed area of Q’s chest where the ribs have been forcibly caved in. It’s not good.

Looking up, Bond sees two armed guards and the leader, smiling in the doorway.

“This was always a game of, what do you call it? Chicken?”

Bond stiffens, but he doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t move. He can feel his gun at his side, and his entire fist tenses at the ready.

The man smiles. “We both told each other all the truths we could, holding back one important lie to see who would flinch first,” he says, far too conversational. “I was most displeased with your friend, giving you the chance to get away. It would have been easy just to kill him, I suppose, but he is not the one I wanted.”

“Then you could have let him go,” Bond offers, getting staunchly to his feet.

“And let you get away?” the leader asks. He chuckles, shaking his head. “I have no use for your friends except for this: he is, as I predicted from our time this past week, the best bait possible.”

“This isn’t a game of chicken at all,” Bond says, positioning himself purposefully between himself and Q. “It’s cat and mouse.”

“Ah, perhaps,” the man rejoins. “But tell me. Which one of us is the cat, then?”

Bond tilts his head, calculating just how many men he’ll have to defeat to get them out of here alive. More than he wants, maybe.

But Bond has something that his opponent does not.

Desperation.

“Well, then,” Bond says, hand ready to get his gun. “I suppose we’ll have to find out.”

-o-

M leaves, as M must, and Bond wonders what he’s going to do. He’s not a doctor, but he knows how to read between the lines. Q won’t be going anywhere for a while; he probably won’t even be conscious. Practically speaking, Bond has no need to stay.

He’s learned, though, about the times when it’s okay to be impractical.

The times when it’s necessary.

He texts Madeleine and tells her he’ll be home, he hopes, tomorrow. By now, she surely knows the mission’s public face has largely been resolved, but he has some personal business to attend to. He’ll tell her more, eventually.

Staying here, at the very least, will give him time to figure out how.

With that done, Bond’s still faced with the inevitable question: what now?

What now, that Q has saved his life.

What now, that Bond has saved all of England again.

What now, that they’ve taken risks and won and lost in equal measures.

What now.

On the bed, Q is still fighting for his life. Here, in this hospital room, it’s simple and plain that the mission isn’t over yet. The job’s not done. It’s a new sort of way to live, as far as Bond knows. This notion of leaving no man behind doesn’t really fit with what MI6 does. Bond, after all, is not a soldier, he’s a spy, and he’s acutely aware of the difference.

He had reconciled it years ago, in fact. He’d buried it, along with Vesper and the rest of his dreams.

Madeleine has helped him find it again, in his personal life.

On the job, though.

Well, that’s what Bond needs to face, because he’s still reading between the lines here. Q rushed into that coffee shop to give him an out, but the bigger message was -- the real takeaway from this whole mess is -- that people care about Bond beyond being an asset in the field.

That’s more than a supportive coworker. It’s more than a partner or even a team.

That’s a friend.

After all this, Bond wishes he had more to offer Q.

Supportive words; profuse apologies; copious encouragements. Maybe some flowers or a card, a public pledge of support, if you will.

Naturally, Bond will do none of those things.

That’s just not who he is.

All he can think of, in his vast resources, is simply his presence. He’ll stay. He’ll be here. He’ll stand watch as long as necessary, and he won’t leave Q alone.

To most, that won’t seem like much.

He stays steady, crossing his fingers in his lap as he watches the rise and fall of Q’s chest upon the hospital bed.

Q, knowing the kind of man Bond is, will see it as the sacrifice that it is.

-o-

Bond isn’t scared of combat, no matter how badly stacked the odds may be against him. This isn’t some type of overestimation on his own part. To the contrary, he’s keenly aware of his own personal limitations. They have been made clear to him, clearer still by the losses he’s endured throughout the years.

Rather, he understands the risk so acutely that it does not function as a deficit, but as a source of his strength. He knows, better than just about anyone, that there are some things worse than death.

It’s a little different when it’s not his life on the line, however.

Every punch he throws, every kick he lands -- he does it in defense of someone who cannot fight for himself. And every blow that he endures, every inch of ground that he gives -- he knows that it’s not just his life that he risks.

This is why spies try to limit their personal attachments. The emotion is a fraught and powerful thing. It can paralyze you, if you’re not careful.

But this is Bond.

He’s more than careful.

And the sentiment is the strength he needs to keep on fighting through blow after blow after blow.

He downs the guards first, one through crushing his nose, and the other by snagging the first’s gun and planting him with a bullet. Two more guards stream in, and Bond dispels them both before another shoots, forcing him to retreat hastily. He hits the ground, rolling away, and he manages to get an accurate shot off first, leaving him alone with--

The blow hits him across the face, and he realizes he’s lost track of all the moving parts. The guards are subdued, but the boss himself has no qualms getting his hands dirty. In fact, through Bond’s momentarily doubled vision, he can see the smirk as he hits Bond again.

The second punch makes his ears ring, but it’s enough to ground him back into the conflict at hand. For several seconds, he has to play defense, and he absorbs more blows than he’d prefer as he tries to get his bearings.

The guards had been very content to use their guns.

His former boss, however, seems to take this a bit more personally.

Whereas Bond has learned how to channel that emotion calmly.

This man appears to use it ruthlessly.

Not that this is a surprise; this is a man who has planned mass murder in the heart of London against innocent civilians.

Still, Bond is mildly surprised by how good he is at it.

There’s a kick to his ribs that sends him sprawling, but he manages to duck away before the large boot connects with his head and makes all this speculation rather moot. He scrambles, pulling himself purposefully away from where Q is still slumped in the corner of the interrogation cell. When he gets his feet, ready to fight, he’s met with the glint of metal.

Not a gun, at least -- Bond has lost his own weapon a few punches ago -- but the way this man wields a knife makes Bond realize that this is still a less than desirable turn of developments.

“I’m going to carve you up,” the man seethes, advancing again. “And then I will cut you both into pieces until no one will be identify whose body parts are pulled up when they dredge the Thames.”

That’s wonderfully graphic, and Bond doesn’t doubt that he means it.

But Bond knows the difference between intent and actuality better than most.

With a twist of his lips, he smiles as he lunges.

He feels the slice of the knife as it digs into his arm, but he doesn’t let it stop him. Instead, he pushes in further, tackling the man to the ground and using the force of impact to mount onto his chest. With one arm rendered mostly useless, Bond settles for his other to pound down on the other man’s face with blow after blow.

It’s too fast, too furious, too stupid to stop. The man drops the knife, but Bond keeps punching until his eyes close and blood stains his face. He keeps punching until the form beneath him is hardly recognizable as a man at all.

Even then, he doesn’t stop. He doesn’t stop until he’s too exhausted to keep going, and then he sits back, panting, sweating and bleeding.

Rolling off the man, he looks for the first time at his arm. The sleeve of his shirt is clearly ruined, and through the shredded fabric, the wound looks garish. Wincing, he looks closer, examining the slice in his skin with some practical curiosity. Long and messy, it’s not all that deep. Undoubtedly, some well intentioned doctor will want to stitch it, but Bond’s had worse before.

Either way, the thing will scar.

At the moment, however, Bond has bigger issues.

Grunting, he makes his way to his feet. He stumbles only slightly, biting back the pain as he struggles his way back to Q. Worriedly, he gathers the younger man up, feeling once again for a pulse before spreading his injured hand over his battered chest, feeling for the weak thump of his heart.

Thus satisfied, Bond gritted his teeth, getting to his feet with Q in tow. His arm screams in protest, but Bond doesn’t let it stop him. Some wounds would never heal, but others did.

Stepping over the bodies, he carries Q out of the room and toward the exit.

Bond’s had his share of both kinds of wounds to know the difference.

-o-

Patience is a virtue, and Bond is not a virtuous man, but he is a determined one. He waits through the day, through the night, and is duly rewarded when Q is extubated the next morning. It’s a matter of hours before he starts to wake up, and Bond takes some pleasure in being the only one there when he first opens his eyes.

Of course, it’s not as if it’s not an awkward situation. As injured as Q still is, he’s more than a little muddled, and it’s no small thing to see the most brilliant person he knows struggling to make sense of where he is or what happened.

In many respects, Bond would prefer to face down a villain with a machine gun.

He knows, however, that it’s not the scope of the task.

It’s the inherent value.

Poised, he scoots forward, and positions himself clearly into Q’s line of sight. Even then, it takes the younger man several long minutes before his eyes begin to focus. Longer still until his brow furrows and he wets his lips, swallowing hard with a wince before he finally tries to speak. “Bond?”

Bond can’t help but smile. Madeleine says he needs to practice it more; that it looks like a grimace most of the time.

Fortunately, Q’s still too out of it to notice.

“I’m here,” he says plainly, as if that should be self evident in its comfort.

Q, for his part, appears even more vexed than before. He takes a shaky breath, eyes flitting anxiously around him as he takes in the hospital room. When his eyes settle back on Bond, he looks more unnerved than before; it has the effect of making him look younger than he should for an operative at MI6. “But…,” Q starts, and he falters. With a shuddering breath, he forces himself to continue. “Why?”

Bond shrugs. “You saved my life,” he says. “I had to make sure I adequately repaid the favor.”

In other circumstances, it might have been amusing to see the gears work in Q’s head. His logical reasoning is usually much faster, and to see it slowed down makes Q’s genius seem much more human. “But your cover…”

It’s reassuring to know that Q remembers; that means that there is not any brain damage or significant impairment. “Was blown anyway,” he says. “I had no bridges left to burn when I went in after you.”

“But I gave you an out,” Q says, appearing slightly distressed.

Bond forces himself to be calmer and even steadier, inching his way closer and composing his expression. “And I used it to save you,” he says. “You refused to leave me behind. Did you really think I’d leave you behind? After you saved my life at great risk to your own?”

Q considers this, blinking his eyes heavily on the hospital bed. The monitors are beeping more steadily than before, and the color is starting to return to his pallid cheeks. “That’s not exactly how I remember it,” he admits haltingly.

“The truth is funny like that,” Bond tells him with a gentle pat on his wrist. “It’s far more relative than we’d like.”

Q nods, somewhat absently. “But you’re alright?”

Something twists in Bond’s gut, and he refuses to acknowledge it any more than this: a tight smile, a squeeze of his fingers. “We both are,” he promises. “Or, at the very least, we will be.”

-o-

Six weeks later, the cut on Bond’s arm is all but healed. By this point, the wound has closed, but the gnarled scar is still raised and slightly red on the skin of his forearm. It’s a particularly telling wound, one that he’ll have to make sure he compensates for.

Easily enough, he pulls on a crisp white button up shirt, securing the cuffs before he grabs his keys and heads out, leaving a note for Madeleine that promises he’ll be back for dinner this time.

It’s the truth, probably.

Some things you can’t control, Bond knows.

Some things you can.

All he knows for sure is that he’ll be there to pick Q up from the hospital, getting the paperwork from the doctors and asking about the continuing schedule for rehabilitation over the coming weeks. He’ll deliver Q back home, and make sure that he’s safe, secure and ready for what comes next.

True, his scar may never heal, but that’s not the real security risk he’s developed on this mission. Because now there’s a glaring reality that he’ll risk his life for a frumpy, too smart kid in the IT division. It’s probably going to cause him trouble someday.

He throws on a jacket over his shirt, just in case the scar is visible through the linen.

Somehow, he doesn’t regret any of it for a moment.

Comments

Posted by: sendintheclowns (sendintheklowns)
Posted at: December 24th, 2017 09:22 pm (UTC)
Q & 007

James and Q do both have ridiculously high standards...bless them both for that.

Protective James really hits my buttons. You rocked this.

Thank you for my holiday gifts...I treasure them both.

<3

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