James refused to go to the funeral. Then again, James refused to believe Eve when she called him up and told him what happened, laughing for a good five minutes before dread took over him when the possibility of the woman not playing an awful prank on him as punishment for missing the birthday of someone important the harder she sobbed and hiccupped in his ear.
He foolishly thought that things couldn’t get any worse and then he was greeted by Alec at the airport. “Q had a message for you,” he started and James wanted nothing more than to cover his ears and instantly become so drunk that nothing made sense anymore.
“It couldn’t be too important if he didn’t give it to me himself,” James tried, letting out a shaky breath when Alec’s rested his hand on his shoulder and gave it a tight squeeze.
“Respect him enough to listen to his dying words if you can’t be bothered to go to his bloody funeral,” he demanded, managing to hurt himself with his own words, James looking like he was going to beg him to keep quiet for a moment before his shoulders sagged in defeat. “His last wish was for you to find true happiness and for your heart to fill with love.”
“What utter bullshit,” James muttered, eyes filled pure hatred.
For whatever reason, everyone thought that he would volunteer to be a pallbearer after finding that out but since he couldn’t really understand why everyone was insisting on having a funeral, he just ignored his phone and everyone that came to his door until the farce was over and done with. It’s not like they found the body to actually have some closure, so this was not only stupid, but traumatizing for everyone who was forced to attend and a complete waste of time and forces that could be better spent on figuring out exactly what happened, who was the mastermind, tracking down and capturing said mastermind, and then making their last moments on earth as painful as possible.
“He would have liked it if you were there,” Alec murmured after giving James the only things they managed to find at the site of the explosion – Q’s glasses and a tie pin that had been an apology gift from James for taking something that he wasn’t supposed to do – his thick, Russian accent giving away the fact that he was in dire need of finding someone that deserved to be pummelled to death.
“He would have liked it even more if I had been in the bunker with him to save him,” James snapped, punching a wall to get control back over himself. “I’ll go do my job if anyone needs me and no one will unless it’s to break every bone in the body of whoever did this to Q.”
“You haven’t been reinstated yet,” Alec called out after him but the man already knew that James meant serious business and that nothing will get in his way of catching Q’s killer, even if it meant doing things unofficially and thus, illegally – but never alone because the entirety of MI6, MI5, and every other organization that Q helped in the past would band to help the former 007.
And that was exactly what happened because James flunked his tests with flying colours. He made the psychiatrist cry – and flipped the man’s table after a question that he deemed much too personal to have anything to do with his ability to kill or not kill people – almost fainted half-way through his physical because he was half-drunk and loudly announced that sleeping, eating, and drinking water instead of coffee, energizers, or vodka was for the weak, and he got so angry at target practice that after he stole the gun from a neighbouring agent and emptying in in the target, he threw it at the wall and then jumped at what was left of the target.
And between R – Q’s position had been forced on her, but she refused to call herself Quartermaster – having his back when it came to gadgets, M pretended not to know where he was when questioned by the PM’s cronies after small terrorist cells blew up in smoke, and Alec being the only person he accepted as his partner and backup, James finally managed to catch a soft of a lucky break in this case that everyone had officially given up on that lead him back in the MI6 bunker where Q died.
“I told you to start go easy on them,” Alec grumbled after looking around the destroyed room for 30 minutes and not finding anything new. “You know, maybe even stop when they throw their hands up and say that they’ll spill everything?”
Alec advocating for peaceful interrogations was a true sign of the fast approaching end of the world. “He seemed to be reaching for a hidden gun,” James muttered, tilting his head back and taking a deep breath, frowning as he did so. “That aside, considering how deep underground we are and what happened here a little over a month ago, don’t you find the air to be… fresh?”
More than a little reluctant, Alec took a deep breath and immediately glued himself to a wall, his lighter on. “We shouldn’t waste any time as I’m not sure how much gas I have left in either of them,” he told James as he tossed him his backup lighter.
Both men met in the middle, both looking confused and annoyed. There was a draft in the room and although it was a longshot combined with the fact that even two years after moving into the underground, the boffin branch still employed a team of people to map up the seemingly never ending tunnels, they hoped that the fresh air came from a hidden passageway that Q somehow found – or already knew about, given that they couldn’t fathom what the young genius was doing in this dead-end corridor that didn’t have a single thing in it – before the bomb went off.
Half an hour later, the floor was littered with empty lighters, R was off in the main branch trying to invent a flame that didn’t extinguish unless you wanted it to do so – she hadn’t had a proper night of rest ever since Q died and Eve planned on using this latest project as clear evidence that she had to be forced on a long medical leave – and Alec was ready to throw the towel.
“Maybe there’s a small crack in here somewhere and nothing more,” the man said with half a voice, flinching at the glare James threw his way. “This isn’t healthy—”
“Nor is talk like that,” James cut him off, sliding down the wall and running his fingers over the tie pin in his pocket – what was left of Q’s glasses was resting on the nightstand in his apartment as he was too afraid that caring it around might completely destroy them. “You understand that I can’t just let this go, especially after what Q had to say.”
Alec threw himself next to James and handed him a cigarette. “I’d ask you not to turn this into Quantum all over again, but we don’t even know who handled the bomb, let alone who hired them.”
“This will be much worse than Quantum,” James promised because Q and Vesper were two very different people – starting from their gender and ending with the fact that Q died for his love and his sake while Vesper died out of shame and to avoid both explaining why she hadn’t just asked him for help in the first place and maybe having to choose between him and her bastard of a fiancée. “Tell me, when is the last guy we saw scheduled to come out of his coma? We clearly need to have a longer talk with him.”
Alec hummed in agreement, glaring at his cigarette. “Third time this bloody thing goes out by itself.”
Something clicked in their minds – the way Q was slowly moving towards the centre of the room while looking at the camera, the way he seemed to drag his feet on the ground as if he was searching for something – and, after looking at each other like complete morons who just had their minds blown after finding out that they could breathe and chew bubble gum at the same time, started to crawl around the room, lighters back in their hands.
They bumped heads somewhere in the middle of the room, just three feet away from where the bomb went off, James pushing Alec away when his fingers brushed against something that didn’t feel like the rest of the floor.
“Have Medical prep a room,” James breathed out, fighting to hold back a face-splitting grin as his heart almost leaped out of his chest at the new prospect, shivering when the fresh air washed over him once the door was opened to reveal a dark, downward tunnel. “A private room, of course.”
Naturally, Alec feared the other outcome – the one in which James would find Q’s rotting body not too far away from this hidden door which was sure to push him over that very thin line between sanity and insanity – but he also couldn’t bring himself to burst the man’s bubble. “I’ll give you a thirty minutes start and if you’re not back by then or you didn’t contact me, I’ll drag a doctor down there with me with enough tranquilizers to knockout a horse,” he shouted down after James because of course the man had disappeared the second Alec stopped to breathe.
Although at this point there was no possible way of knowing if Q had gotten hurt in the initial blast, James still took in consideration serious wounds while sliding down, pleased when he reached the bottom with little to no jostling that, according to his vast experience of doing something dumb while at death’s door, wouldn’t have killed him or made his wounds wore than they already were.
Since he seemed to have fallen in the middle of a tunnel, James crouched down and carefully studied the ground with his phone’s flashlight for Q’s footprints to see in which direction he went – and if there were footprints, which, thankfully, there were, even if it seemed like Q was limping and tended to lean against the wall every five steps.
Half an hour passed and James was still playing the role of a hunger tracking down a wounded deer when his phone rang, the man angrily glaring at it for delaying his hopefully happy ending until he remembered his deal with Alec. “I’m still in the tunnel, following in Q’s footsteps, so hold back from coming down here,” he breathed out, making sure that he could lean against the wall without losing any important clues.
“London is still standing, so I figured as much,” Alec said, the sigh of relief giving away the fact that he was lying. “R has her team digging around through the old archives for—”
“I thought R was supposed to be on her way to a long vacation,” James interrupted, rubbing his face against his sleeve.
“Ditching that because of you is a nasty habit I picked up from Q,” the woman’s voice drifted in James’ ear, sounding dead on her feet. “I’d tell you to sit tight until we find at least some information about those tunnels you’re in if not a map, but that would be a waste of breath.”
James huffed, the corner of his lips twitching upwards. “I’ll try to remember to check in with you when I find Q.” He almost chucked the phone after ending the conversation by habit, chuckling when he remembered the last stern talking to he got from Q. “I can’t believe I actually miss a Quartermaster’s scolding.”
Not wanting to live in a world where he could only hear Q’s voice in recordings, James picked up the pace, but it still took him two hours to reach the exit, desperation finding its way back in his heart when he lost Q’s trail the second he exited the tunnel. His mood wasn’t helped at all by his phone going off for the 5th time in the last hour and, after growling that he’d reached a dead end, tossed it at the abandoned shack that was not too far away from him before unleashing his anger on the wall just outside of the tunnel.
“I don’t think they’d like you doing that to their walls,” a rough voice came from behind him, the old, unwashed man with the long white beard and dressed in shabby clothes not even flinching when James turned towards him and made to punch him. “I also don’t like you making all that ruckus, so leave.”
Though he hated showing any signs of weakness, James hate the way the other’s breath smelled even more so he took two steps back. “Pretty sure you’re the one who’s supposed to leave since you’re on their property.”
The old man snorted and James took a few more steps back, covering his nose. “See, I’m not the one causing a ruckus and drawing everyone’s attention to that huge, gaping hole in their wall, so I’m more welcomed here than you are anyway.” He put up his hands and got in a fighting position. “Now tell me your name so I can give it to the paramedics when they come to pick your unconscious ass off my property.”
“Look, I’m not going to fight—”
He got interrupted by a fist to the mouth. “That’s the strangest name I ever heard and it’s much too long for me to remember it.”
The man punched him again. “I’ll tell the paramedics to be on the lookout for a concoction when they get here.”
“Bond,” James snapped, this time actually dodging the man’s punch and gently kicking him to the side. “James Bond. Now stop it before you hurt yourself.”
Recognition flashed in the man’s eyes. “Oh, yes, well… That changes everything and I have to lead you there,” he muttered, turning his head to the side and spitting before grabbing his arm and starting to try and drag him.
“You are, by far, the strangest assassin that came after me,” James said and easily shrugged him off. “But this is more annoying than entertaining so just pull out your gun or knife or whatever hi-tech weapon you have on you and make my day.”
The man released him and quickly stepped back, holding his hands up. “I’m telling you this as one grand old ship to another,” he said quickly, shaking. “Every now and then a trigger has to not be pulled.”
James was instantly back in front of that bloody painting. “Take me to him right now.”
He was dragged to a dingy, overcrowded pub not too far away from the tunnel, forced to patiently wait until the man finished his cheap drink – which he bought as a pre-emptive show of gratitude – before he was instructed to leave through the back, go to the abandoned Piccadilly station, get in without being seen, jump on the tracks, and then make his way towards the Tower of London. What his final destination was didn’t actually get revealed, the now drunk old man uselessly shrugging his shoulders at that question before adding in a slurred voice that he wasn’t supposed to let them know where he was going – the veracity of his drunkenness was in question, but James had more important things to do.
With a quick lie to Alec about deciding to slum it in the pub for an undetermined amount of time – lie that Alec instantly picked up on, but pretended to fall for it anyway – James continued with his quest, almost getting electrocuted five times before someone took pity om him and started to send him texts about which tracks were truly dead and which were still active..
Finally, after one hour of failed conversation attempts, dodging hungry rats that were truly as big as cats, fighting his instinct to do the exact opposite of what he was being told to do and just jump to the track on either his left or right whenever he heard a train coming and a text told him to sit exactly where he was, he reached a seemingly abandoned train cart.
‘Wait,’ the latest text message said and James held his breath and rested his hand on his gun as the cart’s door hissed and started to open.
“I didn’t actually think that I’d get to see you face to face, Bond,” Q’s said in that sweet, and very missed posh voice of his as he slowly limped out of the cart. “True, I prepared for this situation because I knew that if anyone would find out how—”
“I didn’t go to your funeral,” James interrupted, surprising – and scaring – Q when he pulled him in a tight hug. “I knew you were too much of a pain in the arse to be killed by something as boring as a bomb,” he continued, now twirling around with the man in his arms, nose buried in his hair. “Why are you limping? You’re much too thin, so let’s go eat. And you smell good, but you should still come to my apartment. No, to let’s go to Skyfall; you’re clearly in hiding here. Why are you in hiding and who from MI6 knows about this?” He finally asked and stopped suddenly which caused Q to finally wrap his own hands around him and hold on until his dizziness disappeared.
“No one in MI6 knows about this, so don’t plan your revenge against anyone for not telling you anything; I feel bad enough as it is for the gag order I’m under,” Q muttered, awkwardly resting his forehead against James’ chest for a moment. “Let’s go inside and I’ll explain as much as I can after you take a nap. You – understandably – look like you’re dead on your feet and I think I’m to blame for that.” Q made to walk away, but James hugged him tighter, burying his nose in Q’s hair – he just found him and he wasn’t going to let him go for anything in the world.
“You let me steal a car, did not call me when shit hit the fan, and then died for two months, so I’ll carry you back inside, we’ll talk, I’ll kill whoever is making you live here with the rats and the smell and the danger, and then maybe I’ll take a nap.” Despite sounding like a growling demon giving out ultimatums, he still waited for Q’s approval before picking him up, knowing by the huff and the click of his tongue that the younger man didn’t appreciate him kicking the door in. “I missed you,” he whispered in a weak and sincere voice.
“I missed you too,” Q admitted after remembering how to form words, the tips of his ears turning red because his lips brushed against James’ neck, his heart beating so fast and hard that he worried it might jump out of his chest. This felt like what he always wanted, but this was not the time for that. “Although don’t mistake my words for an open invitation to trash everything I have here like you usually do and if you start complaining about the small living space, you are free to go back to the surface.”
As if he’d complain about the perfect excuse to sit glued to the man 24/7.