It happened on a Tuesday, but when he thought about it, he supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised. Strange things always did tend to happen on Tuesdays, either by coincidence or not.
To be fair, Tanner had told him to be careful, so it wasn’t really on the other man at all, especially when Bond had ignored the caution completely. And why wouldn’t he?
Death had yet caught up to him, and he would rather spend every minute of his time alive doing whatever that pleased him, within a stretched, affordable range, until the time came.
And so it went.
“Miss Swann,” he greeted, smiling in a charming manner, per usual.
The woman barely spared him a glance, her eyes gliding over the gems, diamonds, and metals alike that glimmered prettily on display behind the protective glass. She frequented the jewelry shop, and while it seemed that she didn’t particularly appreciate Bond’s presence, the impeccable craftsmanship in every piece of work had her coming back at least once every two months—one if she was in a good mood.
Sometimes, Bond saw her wear a few of the jewelries she bought, donned in set and matching perfectly with her clothes, but where the rest of them went, he would never know.
A sort of curiosity that crept whenever she entered his store.
Some said what she didn’t use went to witchcraft, but since magic and wizardry had never been topics that interested him, Bond had never quite paid such whispers any mind.
Besides, she wasn’t one of the targets.
“We have a new set of yellow sapphire...”—Bond began, and already, her previous negligence of him was replaced by intense interest—“if you’d like to have a look at it.”
“Show me,” she demanded, a trickle of impatience behind her cool demeanor.
He obliged and showed her the earrings and necklace, white gold hugging around the contours of their perfectly cut and polished yellow sapphire.
The woman was practically humming with want, but there was also something soft in her eyes at the same time, and Bond wondered, not the for the first time, considering how many times she had mercilessly rebuffed his advances, if Miss Swann did have a lover whom she wished to impress after all, despite everything that was known about her, including rumors, indicated otherwise.
“I’ll take them,” she said, seeming satisfied with the purchase once she had had a good look at the merchandise, examining the pieces with her gloved hands.
“Of course.” Bond smiled.
The jewelries were clean when he boxed them and sent her off.
There was magic in this world, that much was for certain. Even in the technological day and age where robots and androids roamed the streets and everything important kept safe behind layers and layers of firewalls, there was no denying the existence of such a thing. Not when Bond’s own boss was among one of the certified witches herself, working one of the most important jobs in the government.
(The reality of the situation, Bond suspected, was that either you were friends, or you were enemies. And when it came down to it, no humans with the capacity of intelligence would want to gamble their chances with magic, of all things.)
There were schools specialized in teaching and apprenticing individuals with magic, training them to use their skills and powers effectively. Once these people graduated, they would take a test proctored and scored by a qualified group of witches and wizards before receiving a certificate themselves, if they passed.
Some went on to working in governments, or private organizations; some branched off on their own.
(Bond was sure that all these magically-gifted individuals were being watched, much like how an insurance policy would work. But then again, with how paranoid the world was right then, regular humans could hardly escape this fate either. However, Bond supposed in this regard the ones with sorcery would have that slight bit more of an advantage, for obvious reasons, even if humans did have fewer code of ethics to learn and swear by.)
Contrary to the predictions made by a few theorists, who had probably been trying to promote either themselves or propaganda, dating back to the twentieth century, magic and technology coexisted just fine, no clashing, no scientific advancements will wipe out the need for magic or vice versa bullshit.
In fact, the coexistence came to that of assisting one another, and Bond saw this every day in his line of work. Magic tracked and followed targets where surveillance system failed to, and when the magic itself was rebounded, technology would become the backup plan—so on and so forth.
Jewelries, for instance, were great objects to turn into bugs, to rig off remote explosions, or to be infused with magic, charmed... or, quite frankly, both. Hence, the existence of this shop, secretly organized, funded, and run by MI6.
And not Bond’s station.
Perhaps M had been more pissed at him with what happened in Sri Lanka than she let on, but surely she had to understand that the embassy blowing up to smokes had mostly not been his doing? How was Bond to know that the bastard would be mad enough to set off a 60-second time bomb when he himself had still been in the vicinity of the building?
At least Bond had evacuated as many people as he could.
Bond frowned. Or was it because he had lost a particularly good pair of cufflinks?
“Look!” a woman gasped. It was lunchtime, and Bond was at MI6 for a short debrief with Tanner. “Oh my God, look! It’s Q’s castle!”
“What? The floating castle?”
Immediately, most of everyone nearby gathered to the windows for a look, awe and curiosity mingled with a fair buzz of excitement in the air.
And indeed, on a particularly clear day such as this, past the smog that swaddled London, was the telltale shape of Q’s floating castle in all of its mismatched, odd, mangled glory of a bricolage.
Q: one of the great cybernetic wizards of their time. A cyber network genius, and a prodigy in magic as well—some said his magic lay in the control and manipulation of technology, others said he ate beautiful people’s hearts to sustain his own power and intelligence.
And Bond? Bond quietly snorted to himself whenever such things came up. Honestly, he considered all those whispers as they were: tales. There was no evidence to support any of those wild claims about him, even the one where Q was reportedly the youngest person to ever graduate and become a certified wizard. Most of the occupants in this room hadn’t even seen Q’s face anyway, didn’t even know whether this pronoun ‘he’ was a truthful part of the urban tales or not. The only consistency about this whole farce was that this Q character always remained in a shroud of mystery and exaggerated, hushed gossips.
The most obscure feature about Q, to Bond, should have been about how in the world had he managed to gain permission to fly that travesty of a castle in British airspace.
“Someone is finally competing with you for popularity,” Tanner muttered in amusement from where he stood on Bond’s right.
Bond scoffed softly with a smirk as he slid his hands in his pockets. “Hardly.”
Tanner hummed a noncommittal voice in the back of his throat. If Bond didn’t know better, he would have thought the chief-of-staff seemed a little pleased that Bond was no longer the sole attention of the room.
“Do be careful on your way back,” the man continued, his tone switching to serious now, a grave note in his expression. “There’s been a rise in unsavory businesses, non-magic and magic alike, recently.”
“I’m always careful, Tanner,” Bond pointed out.
“As long as you don’t bring any back to the shop.”
“Of course. What do you take me for?” He raised an eyebrow in mock defensiveness. However, this eased back quickly as he turned to look at Tanner. “Is something happening?”
The other man sighed. “Not much... Not yet. Everything is still vague and inconclusive right now. But don’t worry, you won’t be out of the loop should anything do occur.”
Bond was nothing but dying to get back out in the field.
In the end, no lethal tool should be left to gather dust in the shed for too long.
The streets were busy with somewhat agitated pedestrians, and patrolling policemen with their volunteered help, enlisted as temporary foot patrols. With the ever increasing levels of friction between countries, it was no surprise that security was on high alert. If such tension wasn’t sufficiently diffused this time around, then the lurking war was definitely coming.
Bond, for all his eagerness to return to active service, did not desire to do so via the means of a raging war that would benefit no one.
He took to an alleyway for a shortcut, not wanting to bask in that excited energy that rang in the air any longer.
“Hello, there,” a male voice spoke up, smug and rather invasive, dripping with saccharine falseness. Bond paused upon noticing two men, foot patrols with no badges, stopping someone just a few paces ahead. “What are you doing wandering in these dark alleys? It may be dangerous.”
Bond frowned. The only reason why it would be dangerous at all was because of scums like these who thought they could finally find their moment of honored importance by participating in jobs that would give them uniforms and a little bit of power to abuse, thus sullying the reputation for others who actually took their tasks seriously.
This was why androids should be allowed in police forces: at least, with their logic-based ways of conduct, they wouldn’t be perpetuated with preconceived ideas and biased beliefs.
“We can escort you to wherever you want?” the second man offered, advancing one step forward.
Bond considered that as his cue to intervene and swept forward, one arm around the unfortunate sufferer of this whole charade, only to find that it was a young man with an interesting, peculiar way of dress.
Not that it came as a surprise, or that this shouldn’t be happening. It usually did happen, and that was the cruel reality of it all. With all the painful efforts it had taken to legitimize and normalize the LGBTA+ community, it had taken goons like these less than a few years to turn it to their advantage by exercising this sort of harassment. Because expressing free love was not yet globally okay, but fetishizing aspects of it was.
No. Bond was slightly taken aback by how green the depths of those eyes gazing at him were, hidden behind long, dark eyelashes on a pretty, pretty face.
“There you are, honey,” Bond said, smiling and gently disengaging them from the nonplussed foot patrols. “I have been looking everywhere for you.” He made himself incline his head to the two wankers then departed before anyone could react.
Once they were a couple of alleys away, the young man turned to him, his smile cryptic with a tinge of amusement.
“I could have gotten away myself,” he began, words silky smooth with a strangely poetic lilt to every syllable—as though he had spent his entire schooling days practicing Shakespearean proses. “But thank you, nonetheless, for your kind chivalry.”
On his right ear visible to Bond’s gaze, there was a chain ear cuff, the metal seemingly pure silver, and the emerald dangling from his earlobe gleamed when a ray of sunlight glided off of it.
Or did it?
“Now.” The table turned in a split second, and Bond suddenly found himself the one being led away, one of the young man’s arms sliding across the small of his back and eventually resting on Bond’s hip, squeezing almost in a reassuring manner. “I believe it’s high time we made haste.”
Their walk turned into a near run, and Bond could hear a distinct sound of oozing slime in the background, approaching at an increasingly fast speed.
“Don’t look back now,” said the young man, the hum of his voice as calm as ever. They were of the same relative height, and close enough that Bond could feel the brush of soft curls against his cheek, accompanied by a whiff of something akin to Earl Grey and... machine oil.
And just like that, he was up, up in the literal air with wind rushing past his face and body, whistling in his ears. The young man was holding onto Bond’s hand now, his other arm still closed securely around the man’s waist.
“Step like you would be stepping down the stairs for me now.”
Whether Bond actually listened to that or not was an entirely different matter because right then, they were high above the ground enough that he could see the rooftop of the tiny jewelry shop of his punishment.
This? This was something else completely.
“One. Two. Three. That’s right.”
The young man’s chuckle tingled his senses, and Bond came back to himself.
“You’re quite a natural at this.”
Bond turned to him, catching a flash of red, red lips smiling under the grey, overcast sky.
“Here we are.”
The soles of Bond’s shoes landed inexplicably on the very rooftop he needed to be without trouble or guidance or even a question of where his supposed destination was.
As for himself, the young man balanced perilously on the handrail, and with a flourish, he bowed; his over-the-shoulders jacket fluttered but never once slipping free.
“Thank you for accompanying me,” he said, eyes bright, the already tousled curls looking more windswept. “It was a pleasure.”
With that, he jumped down and disappeared out of sight, leaving Bond stunned and frozen where he stood.