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Persistence of Memory

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Breaking down crying in M's arms was not, James Bond decided, the most elegant or sophisticated entrance he could have made. A proper 007 entrance would have been coolly composed, immaculately dressed, with a witty remark on his lips.

Instead, he had stumble through the portal, bloody, exhausted, reeking of smoke, and absolutely heartbroken at the prospect of losing her - again. Hearing her voice - older, roughened by another forty years of life, but unmistakably her - was enough to wipe away the last of his reserves and leave him a blubbering, sobbing mess on the floor of Q branch that wouldn't do his reputation any good, if word of it ever got out.

Reputation be damned. He had earned that cry.

As exhaustion began to overtake the need for release, and he felt his breath evening out, he also felt M shift under him.

"I'm afraid my knees aren't what they used to be, darling," M said in a voice just barely loud enough for him to hear.

His responding laugh was still half sob, but it didn't set him off into another bout of hysterics, so he counted that as a victory. He moved so that he was sitting on his own, and became aware of Q and Eve hovering protectively above them.

M accepted Q's extended hand and gracefully stood, elegant and self-composed as ever.

"Oh, James, you're bleeding," Eve said and grabbed something off of the desk next to them. She then took M's place on the floor and Bond felt the familiar sting of alcohol wipes on his myriad of cuts.

M nodded, although Bond was unsure if it was in thanks to Q, or in approval of Eve's actions.

"Q, I want a full report on my desk as soon as you possibly can," said M. "We'll be sorting out the ramifications of the success of Project Wells for years to come, but I want as much written down while it is still fresh as I can. Moneypenny, get him cleaned up and in my office in half an hour. I'm afraid we have a ways to go yet. 007." She paused and Bond looked up at her fully for the first time. "Well done."

Bond gave her a slight smile and then winced as Eve hit a particularly tender spot. He closed his eyes so that he wouldn't have to watch M walk out of the room, and ruthlessly clamped down on the panic that tried to overtake him. He would see her again shortly, he sternly reminded himself. He had broken the laws of time and space to ensure that. He could -

Eve's hand on his cheek caused him to open his eyes again.

"She'll be fine," she said quietly. "You've seen to that."

"What do you know?" Bond asked, hoping to distract himself.

"I know many things, some of which you don't have clearance for," Eve teased.

Bond tried to glare at her, but it must have come out more pleading, because Eve relented and answered the actual question.

"I have - I can't really call it a dual set of memories. It's more like, I know what happened. But then I also kind of half remember things happening differently. Like a dream you can mostly remember when you wake up. It's starting to fade now, though."

"Which is why M wants us to get everything documented as soon as possible," Q added. "I don't know how much longer I'm going to have these dream-like memories. It could be hours or maybe days. But I suspect that, in time, none of us will remember what might have happened."

"I will," Bond said firmly. "Three months ago she died in my arms. Half an hour ago, I went back in time forty years, and spent two weeks working with her to prevent the theft of a nuclear warhead. Those aren't the sorts of things I'm likely to forget."

Q opened his mouth, but Eve shook her head sharply and he subsided. Eve stood and gathered up the first aid detritus.

"Let's go, James," she said, holding out her hand. "I've got to get you upstairs, and I'm not going to let you meet her wearing that." The wrinkle of her nose proclaimed loudly that the only thing his outfit was good for was the rag-bin.

He ignored her hand and hauled himself to standing, only swaying slightly. He nodded to Q and began making his way to the elevator that would take up him to M's office. Eve hovered protectively behind him.

"I won't break, you know," he snapped.

"Orders, luv," Eve replied placidly, as she guided him off the elevator and into her office. She rummaged in a closet for a bit and came out with a full set of clothing. She dropped it in his arms and gave him a gentle shove in the direction of the full bath. "Go get cleaned up, I'll have coffee waiting when you're done."

Ten minutes later, a much cleaner James Bond reappeared.

"Do I want to know how you happened to get ahold of a set of my own clothing?" he asked mildly. Eve was currently in control of the coffee, so he didn't want to risk angering her.

"Secret agent, remember?" she replied, handing over a mug.

Bond decided the coffee was worth more than any comment he could make, and simply grunted in response. Eve let him get about halfway through the mug before she took it away.

"I'll send in a light meal," she said, nudging him toward the door that connected Eve's office with M's. "Ready?" she asked. Her tone was light, but there was concern underneath it.

Bond took a deep breath and squared his shoulders. "For her? Always," he replied firmly, and stepped through the opening door.