Bond woke up suddenly. The dream had been so real, so vivid… He swallowed a few times and staggered over to the sink, washing his face off and looking up into the mirror.
Thank God that garbage about mirrors and cameras wasn’t true–wasn’t ALWAYS true, anyway. He had to admit it was… useful… being able to fade from the security cameras sometimes, but if he never showed up at all? Life in the modern world would be impossible.
He scrubbed his face with the washcloth and sighed. The biggest drawback to living this long was losing all your friends, true–of course, with the life he tended to lead, he lost people pretty frequently anyway–but there were also so many more memories.
So many more.
Not all of them pleasant.
He took a quick shower and contemplated breakfast–nothing he really wanted. He considered carefully: Yes, it HAD been too long since I’d fed, probably why the lack of interest in ordinary food and the nightmares. Well, the sure cure for that was an assignment. Bond hated hunting in London: vampires were territorial, and he wasn’t here often enough to try to defend a claim.
He walked into MI6; people scattered out of his way, mostly; a few stared at him in surprise–word must not have gotten around yet.
“Hullo, Eve.” Bond tried to stay back a bit: Eve was one of the most beautiful women he knew, and right now he had far too much of the predator running close to the surface.
“James?” She stared at him. “But you… you quit?”
He frowned. “Didn’t M tell you?! I know we had to play it close, but…”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about, James,” she shook her head. “As far as anyone knew, you were gone and not coming back.”
Bond clenched a fist hard and forced his mouth closed. When he could speak without losing control, he simply said, “I will speak to M… now.”
Eve opened and closed her mouth a few times and then just nodded and called into the office, “Sir? Commander Bond is here; I’m sending him in.” She just nodded shakily at the door. He heard her breathe and fall into her chair when he left.
“Mallory.” Bond stood an arm’s length from the desk and frowned at him.
“Commander Bond?” Mallory was frowning and looking confused. “I… don’t understand what you are doing here?”
“What the hell do you mean? This is the day I was scheduled to report in! I’m not even late!”
Mallory stared at him and finally said, “Can you please sit down, Commander Bond? I think there has been some sort of misunderstanding, because I was under the impression you had resigned… understandable, given the injuries you had sustained…” he frowned, “although you seem much better…”
“Of COURSE I’m much better,” Bond gritted out through clenched jaws. “I needed the time off to heal. I got back into London four days ago and reported in as scheduled.”
Mallory waved at him to take a seat and called out, “Ms. Moneypenny? Please fetch Commander Bond’s file?”
“Why are you asking for THAT?” Bond frowned. “It won’t have the…” He stared at the man. “You DO know you have a lot of files that are Eyes Only, right? The ones only M can access? Including my secured file?”
Mallory frowned, “Well, yes, but why wouldn’t I just… are you saying there is current information in them? I had understood that to be an archaic system with no computer access?”
“No outside computer access at all,” Bond nodded, and then went cold as he began to understand, “which is why it’s used for the highest level of security… You never looked, did you?”
“I saw no reason to go through archaic files,” Mallory cleared his throat. “I was briefed that the files existed… but…”
Bond sat back in his chair. “So everyone thinks I ACTUALLY just ran out on them? Ran off with that girl and a bunch of MI6 equipment?” He looked horrified at him. “Do you mean to tell me Q… you didn’t brief tell him… he just handed me that car…?!”
“Since as far as I knew you resigned, and left with Doctor Swann…” Mallory sighed, “Very well, can you inform me of what was actually going on?”
“No, I bloody well WON’T! Not until you read my secured file… None of it will make sense…” Bond stood up. “I have to go try to salvage a working relationship and a friendship. Go read your damn files and do your JOB Mallory.”
Bond stormed out, furious. People didn’t just scatter out of his way: they fled. He pulled himself back together and took several deep breaths to calm himself before walking into Q branch.
Q was facing away, directing some project: standing there in… well, one of the more subdued ensembles, Bond supposed. At least it wasn’t garish, just… he shook his head and walked forward.
Q noticed the usual noises being replaced with the kind of hushed buzzing that indicated a problem. Out of the corner of his eye he saw at least one minion go white, and then the people working on his project one by one went silent and stopped working.
“You would think you lot were seeing a ghost!” Q snapped. He turned expecting to see some visiting politician, perhaps, but he never, ever, expected Bond to be standing there.
“Q,” Bond said in that whiskey-over-peat voice that made his knees go weak even now, “I’ve just been told that you weren’t informed to expect me back today.”
That snapped him out of it. He forced himself to stand still, keep his hands by his side and speak levelly. “I didn’t expect you back at all, actually–not after… what are you doing here?”
Bond sighed, “Well, first of all, I actually managed to bring the car back–more or less intact–but as to the rest? Can we speak in your office?”
Q looked at him. He looked… far better than he had, actually–the rest must have done him well–and he was standing there looking almost apologetic… Q nodded and walked into his office.
As always, he jumped when he turned around and found Bond right behind him. “Can’t you learn to… I don’t know, scuff your feet?”
Bond smirked, “After all the years I spent learning NOT to?”
Q just muttered and started turning on baffles and signal blockers. “There. If anyone can hear us in here…” He stepped away from Bond and crossed his arms over his chest. “Why would I expect you back today… or ever?”
Bond sighed, “I should have checked that… I got used to M… I…” Bond sighed again. “There is a separate Eyes Only set of files that M, and ONLY M or a handful of others, are supposed to have access to–no outside computer contact, mostly paper files…”
“I am aware of it,” Q nodded. “It’s archaic… but we had orders not to digitize those files: security.”
“It’s not archaic… it’s how I sent word back to M when a mission was too hot to let anyone else hear it–too high a security risk…” He sat down on the rather battered sofa Q kept in his office for naps. “It’s also where the missing information in my files is, of course… well, probably in a lot of people’s files.”
Q frowned. “And this has to do with…” His eyes widened. “You… sent word back to M… that this was a MISSION?!”
“Yes. When you just gave me the keys, I assumed he’d briefed you–or at least told you something.”
Q slowly walked over. “You didn’t quit? You didn’t…”
“Run off with someone who has been hip deep in Spectre since before she was born?” Bond looked at him thoughtfully. “When there was obviously a lot of power games going on, and someone had already tried to damage my memories?”
“Oh…” Q looked him over again: really, he looked quite well. “So… what happened?”
Bond smiled tiredly, “I MAY be able to tell you, but… I need to have rather a lot of words with Mallory first… after he reads my unredacted file.”
“So you’re back then… You…”
“I wouldn’t have treated you that way, Q. If I was actually quitting, I would have at least come in properly to say thank you and wish you luck with the new double oh seven… at least.”
“Oh… You’re staying, though?” Q hated how desperate he sounded.
Bond blinked and looked at him, and then Bond carefully considered the scent: he’d been angry and hurt… mostly hurt… and now hopeful…
Oh… Oh, no… That was a VERY bad idea… “Q…” Bond had the overwhelming urge to throw him on the sofa and let him find out just how disastrous an idea it was, but with an effort he pulled himself together. “First, let me find out what Mallory’s reaction will be… and then…” He hesitated and said cautiously, “Do I get the idea that you might want to get together out of the office?”
Q tried for studied nonchalance and failed, “I had rather thought we were… friends at least… until…”
“At least that, Q.” Bond smiled tiredly. “I don’t actually have many friends. I was furious when I found out you hadn’t known… I may have snarled at a few people.”
“Oh… um…” Q grinned suddenly. “I’ll have to go look at the cameras.”
“Do that,” Bond grinned. “People were throwing themselves against the wall.”
“You do have that effect sometimes.”
“Yes, well… there’s a lot about me you don’t know–far more than you can be thinking–and… to be fair, even being friends with me outside of work would mean having a long chat about some of it.”
Q looked puzzled, “I don’t see how–”
“I know,” Bond nodded. “That’s the problem: it’s nothing you could know about, and it’s not the usual kind of problem–so let me go talk to Mallory and get that dealt with.” Q nodded.
“If…” Bond considered carefully. “Its possible Mallory will… not react well. If that happens, I’ll have to lay low for a while…”
“I’ll give you my non-work email.”
“Dear God, Bond, you DO have email?”
“No wonder you wreck all of my equipment, you…” Q pressed his lips together and looked furious for a moment. “If you don’t even have email how can I get in touch?”
“I was trying to think of that, actually.” Bond shrugged, “You could try coming by my flat? But I might not be there…”
“Here…” Q scribbled an address. “It’s a club I go to once in a while. If anything goes wrong, meet me there Friday night.”
A club… Well, likely it was a neutral hunting zone… “Alright. But hopefully I’ll just be back down here tomorrow.”
“It… it is good to see you… and you look a lot better.”
“It’s good to see you too, and I feel a lot better.”
Q let them both out of the office and Bond slowly made his way back up to Mallory.