Perhaps, James thinks as he steps foot on land he hasn’t so much as brushed for two years, it was, as a certain man would say, inevitable.
They’re too different after all that is said and done. James has lived half his life running towards death and fire and the thrill of the chase, always dancing on the razor-edge, sometimes being the razor edge, and lifting the finger off the trigger once cannot undo the countless bloodstained suits, cannot soothe the itch of his feet and the restlessness in his veins.
Madeleine...she runs, as so many of the women James finds himself meeting and loving, but not towards the crash and burn like he does. No, she runs away, and she, too, has spent half of her life running. But she fears the arterial spray of a cut throat and the heat of the blaze, wishes for the lingering silence after the storm.
Neither of them is stupid by any means. It’s something of a miracle that it took them six months to realise they’re hurting each other more than they’re healing each other. But then, James is a master at denial, and Madeleine has wanted for so long that letting go almost seems more painful than staying.
The wind whistles sharply past his face when James takes a step towards the crumbled ruins of his old family home. He takes it as the greeting and welcome home it was surely meant to be. Good old Skyfall, where the corridors could always be counted on to be cold and empty and the walls devoid of a mother’s touch and a father’s care.
He thought he said goodbye when he exploded the damn place, but some things there’s simply no escaping from. His flat in London must be long ago gone, his few belongings once again put into storage, and a predator like him can’t resist going to ground to lick his wounds.
This is the only place left for him.
Inevitable, James thinks again and chuckles bitterly.
He doesn’t have the slightest clue where Kincade is at the moment, but James suspects he’s in the nearby town, where he has a job as a bartender and a girlfriend to dote on. He runs a hand along the jagged rock that was his ancestral home and smirks tiredly when it almost cuts his skin open.
Madeleine would have had something to say about that. He should have seen it right from their dinner together, beautiful silver dress or not. She’s a shrink, and doesn’t he know better than to mess with shrinks by now?
Even after she got a job at an expensive clinic after one too many arguments about their lack of settling down, there was always that carefully-disapproving frown when he did something too reminiscent of the life she wanted to leave behind, whether it was keeping a loaded gun in their bedside drawer or patrolling the house before falling asleep.
And then, not long after that, came the oh-so-casual questions about his coping methods and his previous missions and his scars, and ‘have-you-thought-about-this-treatment-James?’, and that quickly devolved into psychoanalysis at the dinner table and the therapist tone in the middle of the night after James thrashes awake once more, gasping and cold to the bone.
James despises coddling, was all but suffocating under her behaviour, and that was before their conversations turned into something suspiciously like interrogation. Training dies hard, and James started to snipe back. Their arguments only continued to grow in volume and in viciousness after that.
Blowing out a breath, James walks around the ruins. There’s nothing for him here. He can’t even identify where his old bedroom used to be. Silently, he turns and walks towards that terrible little chapel and finds himself standing before the stained stone. Even without it, he’d know the spot.
“If you could only see me now, M,” he says on a soft sigh, smiling ruefully with a hint of the impishness that made him the agent she berated in her office the most often. He can hear her stringent voice now. “You’d laugh at me, I’m sure. And then you’d tell me to get over myself and get back to work.”
Bond sinks slowly to the ground and rests his elbows on his knees. It’s quiet here, with not even the whistle of the wind to break the silence. He expected to feel anger or sorrow or the caustic mixture of both that culminated in Madeleine shouting for him to leave and Bond going up to pack his things.
Instead, he just feels numb. Numb and tired.
It would have been better if that was the way everything ended, but no. Madeleine made a point of coming after him before he could actually step out of the door and looked at him with those solemn, intent, perfectly blue eyes.
“James,” she said, “you mustn’t blame yourself. It’s not you, nor me. We tried, and it didn’t work, and sometimes, things...are just like this. This will be the last time I say this to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less true: you deserve all the happiness in the world. I can’t give that to you but find someone who can.”
Bond sits there for a long time, measuring the passage of time by the journey of the ray of light that peeks through the gap between the doors. When he stands up at last, his joints creak and groan in protest, and it’s dark out. The stars are bright and beautiful without city lights to obscure him, and Bond could stay here.
He gets in the Aston Martin instead and starts driving. Dawn is smiling near the horizon when he finally reaches his destination. Bond’s never been invited here, never been told the address, but he walks up the stairs nonetheless and only hesitates a minute or two before knocking.
There’s a beat of silence. And then he hears a shuffle and then the door is pulled open and -
“...Bond?” Q blinks at him, still rubbing sleep out of his eyes. He’s shirtless, wearing only the most adorable blue pyjama trousers with little cat faces on them.
Bond smiles. “Q.”