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24 Years of Christmases

Chapter Text

December 23, 2017


 

James was comfortable.  He was bundled in blankets on Q’s wide sofa, surgically repaired leg and knee carefully cushioned on pillows Q had brought from the spare room.  He was still a tad feverish and achy and felt like he could sleep for a month, but he was no longer burning with fever, coughing up his lungs to breathlessness every five minutes, and generally wishing for death.  

It was a quiet afternoon.  He dosed. Q -- who after a week of tending a sick and broken 007 still showed no signs of contracting the flu himself but was nevertheless still  on ‘compassionate leave’ with orders from Mallory and Dr Y’da not to darken Six’s door for another four days -- was reading in the chair across from James, steaming cuppa on the table at his side.  There were rumours that the late-December drizzle that dribbled down the panes of the windows could turn to snow later. It might be a white(ish) Christmas

James was as comfortable as he could ever remember being.  He was just falling back into sleep when Q’s personal mobile rang.  James recognised the ringtone as that for the concierge -- armed, MI6-trained guard -- downstairs.

“Already?  She’s bloody early,” Q groused, clearly displeased with whatever it was Coraline had told him.  “Fine, send them up.”

Q snapped his book closed, rose, and pocketed his mobile.  He looked pointedly at James for a moment as if trying to decide what to do with him.  

“Q?”  James started to rise.

“No.  Just stay put.  Look. Whatever happens in the next ten minutes, it’s probably best if you just lie there and say nothing.  I’ll explain everything when they’re gone, but trying to do so whilst they’re here will just extend their presence in my flat.  They’re not a threat … well, not in the way you’re used to dealing with.  Just let them go about their business so we can go about ours.”

The doorbell chimed.  Q sighed and rolled his eyes heavenward before disappearing down the corridor.  James heard Q’s complex security system disengage followed by Q’s gentle tenor filled with strained politeness.  

“Good afternoon, Anthea.  Won’t you and your horde please come in?”

A low, posh, “Quartermaster,” followed by the click of stilettos on hardwood announced the gorgeous brunette’s arrival as she strode into the sitting room.  This “Anthea” wore a dark charcoal knee-length woollen coat over a stylish black frock. Her red Vara bow Ferragamos would surely have Eve rushing to Harrods for a pair.  She took a quick survey of the sitting room and moved off to the side nearest the kitchen as pair after pair of workmen and women, all dressed in black, followed her into the flat.  Each carried at least one box of some sort and at her direction moved off into various parts of the flat.

“Simmons and Chadha, the master bedroom and bath.  Jackson and Janovich, the guest bed, bath, and the loo off the hallway, if you please.  Lindsay and McGovern tend to the kitchen. Sanders, Yu, Parker, and Kessler, you have the sitting room, but be sure not to disturb Commander Bond.  He’s not contagious anymore but still recovering from surgery.”

“And my office?” Q asked wearily.  He was leaning against the wall of the entry hall looking as cross as James had ever seen him.

“Not this year.  Your brother thought you might like to tend to that yourself,” Anthea replied with a tick on the form on the clipboard she carried.  

“How kind of him,” he muttered.

“All right, people,” Anthea called out.  “We’ve got eight minutes remaining. Let’s get this done in seven if we can.”

What followed that command was unlike anything James had ever seen before.  

From out the boxes came every possible Christmas decoration or trinket.  The workers, armed with nail guns -- though a pointed shake of Q’s head kept James from jumping off the sofa at that moment, his fingers still itched for his weapon which was carefully concealed against the back of the headboard in Q’s bedroom -- quickly edged the windows and the mantle with fairy lights and garlands made of real pine boughs.  A small tree was being erected and decorated in the corner of the small dining nook where it would be visible from the street below. Nutcrackers and a small nativity were tucked in amidst the various bits of Doctor Who, Star Wars, and Babylon 5 memorabilia Q had atop the mantle, and yes … sure enough, two stockings being hung with care: one had an embroidered Q at the cuff, the other bore a J.  

Lifting his head, James could see Lindsay and McGovern through the pass-through, bustling about the kitchen, stocking cupboards and filling the fridge.  He heard the beep of the oven being preheated and something sliding across the wire racks inside.

Workers bustled to and fro, some returning to the corridor outside the flat for still more boxes before disappearing again into the depths of the bedrooms.  Q had decided that his chair was the best place to keep out of everyone’s way, but his hands gripped the armrests so tightly that the skin of his knuckles was white from the effort.   James knew that Q saw his flat as his sanctuary. His one opportunity to escape the pressures that work and just interacting with people put on him. That Q had welcomed him into haven -- insisted upon it, in fact -- was a kindness James did not take lightly.  Especially seeing how unwelcome interlopers seemed to cause him almost physical pain.

Why then, did he allow it?

“Two minutes,” Anthea called out from her corner.  She ignored Q and his obvious discomfort completely but continued to tick off boxes on her form, consulting with workers as they passed by.

“Q,” James said.  Then said it again until he caught his Quartermaster’s attention.  Q’s green eyes met his across the distance, and James began to count, or rather, he counted down.

“120 ... 119 … 118 … 117 … do it with me, Q.”

Q blinked.  Surprised. Then he nodded.  His eyes dropped to Bond’s lips, and he mouthed the words along with him.

“112 … 111 … 110 …”

The workers and their tasks melted into the background.  All there was for Q was the sound of Bond’s raspy baritone, the shape of his lips as he spoke the numbers, the glint of impossibly blue eyes from the depths of the blankets wrapped about him, and the heartbreaking knowledge that if he hadn’t fallen in love with the agent years ago, he most certainly would have done so now.

“5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1 …”

“Your brother asks that you remember to call your parents two days hence,” Anthea said as the workers whisked past her down the hall.  “He wishes both you and Commander Bond a Happy Christmas.”

A moment later, they heard the door to the flat shut and the security measures engage automatically.

It was over.

Q took a deep cleansing breath and shut his eyes.  When he opened them again, James thought he looked exhausted but no longer on the verge of flying apart.

“You have a brother.”

“I have two, actually,” Q said with sad chuckle.  He gestured at the holiday decorations. “This one …”

“Is a bloody prick!”  The anger in James’ tone was only slightly diminished by his still croaking voice.

“You’ve no idea the truth of that statement.”

“He knew about me.”

“He knows about everything!” Q said with such passion that James didn’t quite know how to respond, but Q continued.  “He’s in government. Powerful. Dangerous in his own way, I suppose. This is one of the concessions I make each year to keep him from meddling in my life in far more … tangible ways.  He has an unholy love of the holidays -- family Christmas dinners, in particular -- but on the whole, I can’t be arsed. I permit the decorations so I don’t have to attend.”

“You don’t like your family.”

“Quite the contrary.   I love my parents dearly.  My elder brother and I have a … unique relationship, but I do rather like him.  My eldest brother, however … let’s just say that it’s better he and I spend as little time in the same room as possible.”

“Safer for family harmony?”

“Safer for the country, actually.”

And from the way Q said it, James knew he wasn’t exaggerating.

“Thank you, Bond,” Q said quietly.  “It was harder this year for some reason.  I’m usually able to carry on in spite of the fact that strangers are invading my space, pawing over everything, but … you made it easier.”

“I'm glad I was here to help.”  And he was. The circumstances were shite, but he’d known when he’d come back from that disastrous, misguided time with Madeleine that he’d do whatever was necessary to rebuild his relationship with Q, and if this helped that, then so much the better.

Q stood.  “The one positive is the food, though.  My brother stocks only the best. I believe there’s a roast chicken warming in the oven.  Think you’ve the appetite for it?”

The unexpected gurgle from James’ stomach was answer for them both.  

“I’ll just get that dished up then,” Q chuckled.  “You stay where you are.”

“When do they come down?” James asked, gesturing at the holiday decor.  

“After Twelfth Night.”

“I’ll be here for that, then, too,”  James said. I’ll be here for you, he wanted to say.

Q heard it anyway.






Chapter Text

December 24, 2018


 

“C’mon, J’mes, p- put y’r back into it.”

James snorted his laugh into the crook of Q’s neck.  “Little shite! You did not just say that.”  He picked up the pace anyway.

“Oh, Chris’!  Yesss. Jus' like tha’”  Q wrapped a leg around James’ hip, braced his hands against the headboard behind him, and pushed up against the thrusts.  “Fuck … good at this.”

We’re good at this,” James corrected.  And it was true. James Bond had had countless sexual encounters during his tenure with MI6, almost all had been for the job.  Soulless, meaningless liaisons designed to manipulate, influence, or control a mark or a situation. The sex satisfied insofar as he had come -- sometimes -- but it had never touched him in ways that he needed.  In ways that he hadn’t known he’d needed until Q.

“I … I … need …”

“What do you need, love?”  They were getting close.

Q, always so in command and eloquent in every other aspect of his life tended to grow increasingly inarticulate the closer he was to orgasm.  James found it adorable.

“M’re … more …”

“More what, Remy?”

“Skin!” Q begged through his moan.

“As sir, commands,” and James leant back, pulling his husband into his arms, pressing him against his chest, their arms wrapped tightly around one another as James fucked up into Q’s warm body.

It was their first Christmas since the wedding.  Barely even a couple, they’d married eight months ago, only three weeks after Q had nearly drowned in one of his labs that had been breached by the Thames.  James’ retirement from the SIS had come shortly thereafter, his leg and knee too damaged for him to serve in the field in the way that he would want to. Things were different.  Uncertain in some ways. Their professional futures changing with the times, but they’d figure things out together.

James felt Q’s low, keening moan reverberate through his chest before the sound of it reached his ears, and he let the sensation permeate his skin and mind.   This had happened only twice before in their coupling, and it was as thrilling for James as it was sexually shattering for Q. It meant that Remy had given himself fully to the sensations overwhelming his body.   He had managed to shut off his mind.

Conscious thought had fled.

He could only feel.

“Hold on, love,” James growled, and he set about making sure that Q felt everything .  

He changed the angle of his hips so that each thrust of his cock brushed against Q’s prostate.  He tangled one hand into Remy’s curls, pulled his head back sharply and ravaged Q’s neck with his teeth and lips, taking more than a bit of animalistic pleasure in the knowledge that Q would bear his marks for days to come.  He encircled Q’s cock with just enough pressure to create friction, but not enough to fully satisfy.

Q’s sustained moan grew louder, wrapped around them like a sonorous blanket of need, driving them to madness.  He rode James’ cock viciously, clenching and releasing his husband in a rhythm that would shatter them both. Stars filled James’ vision, reflecting the green of Q’s eyes as his gaze bore into James’ own.

The keening stopped so abruptly that James nearly lost his pace, but after a heartbeat of sudden silence, Remy’s pleasure liberated itself with an unrestrained shout of bliss that sent James tumbling along with him.

They felt everything.

“How long was I out?” James asked later.

“Dunno.  Don’ care.  Time’s stupid,” Q muttered from beneath him.  His pale skin shone in the glow of the fairy lights that had been strung above the window two days earlier.  They provided the only light in the room.

James started to get up, but Q’s hand on his arse gripped him hard in protest.

“I’m crushing you.”

“Don’ care.  Need this. Need you li’ this.”

“We’ll be glued together in the morning,” James argued, but he settled back down atop Q anyway, pulling a blanket over them in the process.

“‘M smart.   Ish .  Figure something out.”  Remy pressed his face into the crook of James’ neck and sighed happily.

“Happy Christmas, Q,” James whispered against his husband’s damp, matted curls.

“Mmmm … a very Happy Christmas, James.”







Chapter Text

December 23, 2019


 

James pulled open the door to Q-Branch, but the festive mood he had left behind five hours ago to attend his final training session with the current class of recruits before the holiday break was gone.  It had been replaced with the tense worry of a mission gone to shite where an agent’s life was on the line.

Mission ops techs bustled about the well-lit cavern or worked at their desks, each religiously focussed on whatever task they needed to complete for their Quartermaster who stood at his workstation in front of the massive computer screen, back to the room, typing rapidly on his keyboard and relaying what sounded like complex code to the agent on the other end of comms.

Mallory and Tanner stood next to one of the large stone pillars near Q’s station, out of the way, but closely observing everything as it happened.  

“Bond,” Mallory acknowledged with a nod as James approached but turned his attention back to the situation.

“Double-O Eight’s mission on Crete,” Tanner explained with a nod at the screen.  “The initial infiltration went smoothly enough, but there’s some sort of bio-mimetic lock on the enclosure housing the missiles.  Intel never even hinted at it. Q can’t hack it remotely. Has to be done on site, so he’s talking Shepard through it, but he’s not the most computer savvy of you lot.  Something’s also wreaking havoc on Q’s ability to access their CCTV cameras. They’re working blind.”

“Bugger me,” James breathed.  

Eight years younger than James, Thomas Shepard was something of an accidental Luddite.  It wasn’t that he didn’t like technology, but it seemed he was all thumbs when it came to anything more complicated than his mobile.  In all other regards, he was a brilliant and competent agent -- bit of an odd sense of humour at times -- but he was usually dispatched on what Q liked to call ‘analogue’ missions where Shepard’s technological ineptitude would not be a hindrance.  The Crete mission was supposed to be a quick in and out. Destroy the missiles, neutralise the biological payload, and get the hell out. Clearly, mission parameters had changed.

“And Plan B?” James asked.

“Thermite,” Mallory replied without taking his eyes from the screen.  “Q has a drone en route with two bombs. It’ll burn hot enough to render the payload to ash.”

“Along with everything in the immediate vicinity,” James noted.   

“Yes.”  Mallory nodded.

The map on in the corner of the massive screen had Eight’s position as being near the centre of a moderately sized village on the west side of the island.  There would be civilian casualties.

The low murmur of Q’s voice was interrupted by a crash of gunfire that echoed over the speakers set in the ceiling of Q-Branch.

“Shite!” snapped Eight.  “I’ve got hostiles, Q. Snipers at two and ten o’clock.”

“Get out, 008,” Q barked.  “I’m sending in the drone. Two minutes, 15 seconds.”

“Roger that,” Eight said.  “Best route?”

“Not the way you came in, that’s for sure,” Q replied.  He pulled up a set of blueprints on the screen next to the useless CCTV feed.  “Doing this your way, with parchment and an abacus, but the blueprints indicate an exit 200 metres to your northwest.  Feeds outside the building indicate things are largely clear, so get to the exit, and I’ll get you the rest of the way.”

“Understood.”

In the corner of the screen in Q-Branch, a timer counted down the arrival of the drone and the thermite bombs.  It would be close under the best of conditions.

2:09

2:08

2:07

They knew Shepard had made his move based on the scatter of sniper fire followed by the retort of Tommy’s Sig on the speakers, but then another sound came through the feed.  One that created an odd and unexpectedly light counterpoint to the incredibly dire situation. Running for his life, pursued by hostiles, bullets pinging around him, 008 was humming.

Though the feed was directly in his ear, Q’s gaze nevertheless drifted up to the speakers that fed the audio to the room at large.  The look on his face was incredulous. “Is that ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town?’”

“Own version of it:  MI6 is Coming to Town,” breathed Eight.  “Shite! That one was close … Always … seem to be .... in the field during ... the holidays.  Fuck! Nicked me. Bastard! I’m okay. Song … seemed appropriate, though. Share … lyrics when I ... get back,” joked Eight.

“Yes, well, as I don’t have eyes on you until you’re outside the building, less humming, more running, if you please,” Q commented drily as he returned focus to the information streaming on his laptop’s monitor.

“Yessir.  One hundred metres to go.”

1:45

1:44

1:43

More gunfire.

1:22

1:21

1;20

“Fifty met-”  A grunt. The thump of a body hitting the ground.  

Q’s head snapped up, and he looked at the screen as though it would reveal something it hadn’t just moments before.  He cocked his head to the side, straining to hear something similar in the audio feed in his ear.

“Tom?”

“Fuck Q … I’m hit,” breathed Eight, clearly in pain.  “Bastards got my knee. It’s … completely blown.”

1:00

:59

:58

“Get out, 008.”

“Not this time, I’m afraid.  Never get clear” Eight’s voice was strong in spite of the pain.  In spite of what he knew was coming.

Gunfire continued to echo through the Branch.

“Tom …”

“Whatever happens, you make bloody sure those birds don’t fly.”

“They won’t,” Q assured.

“Was the holiday party as dull as last year’s?” Shepard asked.  

“Rather good, in fact,” Q replied without pause and as congenially as if 008 was in the room with them instead of facing his imminent death on an island in the middle of the Mediterranean.  If this is the distraction Shepard needed, Q would provide it. “The pantomime was surprisingly entertaining. Though Tanner’s portrayal of a female elf was a bit disconcerting.”

:40

:39

:38

“I’d have loved to have seen that.”  

“You really wouldn’t.  Took ages for me to get that image out of my head.”

The gunfire was closer than before.  They could hear the individual ping of bullets clearly.

“Tell me what you got Bond for Christmas.”

“Well …” Q hesitated.  James saw his shoulders hunch as they always did when he was wrestling with a complex personal problem, but he shook it off quickly and stood tall. James thought he saw a slight smile pull at the corner of his husband’s lips.  “If you must know, a rubber dummy, a tube of nappy cream, and a pushchair.”

“I really didn’t need insights into your bedroom kinks, Q,” Shepard groaned, though how much was from Q’s answer and how much was from pain was debatable.

“No, you tit,” Q growled.  “April’s at fifteen weeks. We’re having a baby.”

A collective gasp nearly pulled the air from the room.  James’ was among them. He felt Tanner’s hand clap his shoulder.  James gripped it in return.

:25

:24

:23

:22

Shepard’s sigh filled the branch.  “That is truly gratifying news to hear, my friend.  Give her a kiss from me. You’ll make an excellent father.  Bond, too, I think. He’s ready for it now.” A pause. “Thank you for staying with me, Q.”

“I’d be nowhere else, Tom.”  Q pulled a key from the pocket of his trousers and inserted it in a lock on the surface of his workstation next to his laptop.  He did not turn it.

Another series of shots.  Shepard’s Sig returned fire twice before they heard the metallic snick of an empty clip.

:15

:14

:13

“Quartermaster, it has been a true pleasure.”

“The honour has been mine, 008.”  Q turned the key and a clear glass cover, usually flush with the top of the station, flipped up exposing a red button beneath.

:09

:08

:07

Q pushed the button.

“Thank you for your service, 008.”

“For Queen and Country.  Goodbye, Q.”

The viewscreen switched to an infrared satellite image of the village.  It was half one in the morning on the island, and stationary blobs of red and orange indicated sleeping townspeople in the homes closest to the target.  In the small warehouse itself, three red figures approached a fourth stationary image at the farthest end of the room.

:03

:02

:01

The image flared.  Red and orange filled the screen, spilling out from the warehouse until the entire feed was awash with the conflagration that scorched that small piece of earth just two days before Christmas.  When the initial flare faded and only the fire continued to burn, Q cancelled the feed.

The MI6 Logo filled the screen in its stead.  The heraldic lion and unicorn rearing proudly in defiance of their enemies.

“Agent down.”  Q’s voice filled the room though he spoke barely above a whisper.  He turned off his comm link and tossed the ‘wig to the worktop. He walked past sum and sundry without a glance for even Bond and disappeared into his office, shutting the door behind him.

Later, the statistics in the After Action Report would indicate that along with Special Agent Thomas Shepard (008) and three hostiles, approximately 22 villagers lost their lives when a ‘chemical explosion caused by drug runners working in the warehouse levelled the surrounding area.’  The blast was so powerful and the resultant fire burned so hotly that bodies had been turned to ash by the event.

Now, however …

James gripped Tanner’s hand on his shoulder tightly once more before letting go.  There would be things to celebrate in the days to come, but anger and grief and mourning would come first.  Tommy was a friend. He’d been there to help pull Remy and April from the flooded lab, had breathed life back into April’s body whilst James had tried the same for Q.  

Without Shepard, James’ life would be quite different from what it was.

His hand was on the doorknob of Q’s office when Mallory’s voice reached him.

“Bond, ask the Quartermaster-”

“Not tonight, M.  Nor tomorrow.” His words were biting.  Cutting. Final.

M consider the response for a moment, then nodded.

James slipped into the small office, shutting the door quietly behind him.

Q stood at his desk, back to the room.  He was still save for the rhythmic tapping of his fingertips on the smokey glass.

He didn’t speak for some time.

James waited patiently against the door.

“We’re going to be fathers,” Q finally said.

“We are.”

“We can’t make it a perfect world, can we?”

“There’s no such thing.”

Q turned.  His face was drawn.  Green eyes haunted behind the glass of his spectacles.

“All this …” he gestured between them and out at the Branch beyond his now opaque office window.  “Does it … do we make a difference?”

James considered the question.  The events of the night. The results of his career.  Of Remy’s. James shook his head, then reached out for Q’s hand and pulled Remy to him.  “I don’t know if we’ll ever really have the upper hand, but, yes. We make a difference.”

Q let himself be folded into James’ embrace.  He pressed his face into his husband’s neck and breathed in the familiar smell of him.

“That will have to be enough, then.”


Chapter Text

December 25, 2020


 

 

The mission was as simple a one as 006’d had in years.  His target was directly in front of him. For once, he had all the resources and supplies he could possibly need.  He’d even volunteered for the task. Believed himself more than capable to achieve the objective and return promptly, asset in tow.

So why in the bloody fuck couldn’t Alec figure out how to fasten the nappy so that it didn’t fall off every time he picked Miranda up from the table?  

“It’s changing a nappy for Chrissake, not scaling a cliff face to snipe an Eastern European dictator.”   

He’d watched Q and James do it countless times before and believed himself more than capable of following the process he’d witnessed.  It’s why he’d offered to do it in the first place. Fuck, he’d even helped Grey set up the impromptu nursery when James and Q agreed to come out to his husband’s Sussex estate for Christmas dinner with the entire Holmes clan (minus one): Mycroft had called to say he’d be out of the country for the holidays this year.

He was a sodding Double-O!  He should be able to do this!

Alec’d stripped his niece of her soiled onesie, dropped the dirty cloth nappy in the bin for laundering, and disposed of the, quite frankly, rank nappy liner.  He absolutely did not gag; no he did not; he’d once crawled through burnt human remains to escape captivity, fuck you very much.  

He’d cleaned Mir’s … girly parts and then her bottom, wiping in the proper directions.  Then he tackled the goo caught in her chubby thigh creases. “The fuck, Lisichka! ” he muttered.  “Really?!” Mir had burbled in response, slimy bubbles popping on her perfect bow lips, causing her to giggle.

“Don’t look at me like that,” Alec grumbled.  “I know those eyes. Your Da’s been using them on me for decades now, so just -- No, no, no, don’t smile like that.  You know what you did.” He pointed at the onesie at her side. “That was nasty, myshka .”

Mir waved her arms in the air whilst Alec had applied the cream then placed the fresh cloth nappy and its liner under her.  He folded and wrapped as he’d seen, attached the bright fasteners, picked her up …

And watched it all fall apart.

Three times.

“Bloody buggering fuck,” he growled the third time.

Mir squealed in response.  All four limbs flailing with appreciation.

“Double-O Six brought low by a nappy.”  

Alec turned, a naked -- the nappy had fallen to the floor -- wiggling, giggling Mir pressed to his button down to see Grey leaning against the doorway, grinning that stupid grin Alec had fallen in love with.  “You really are a bit shite at that, aren’t you, love? Here,” Grey held his hands out for Mir. “Rosie’s arrival brought my skills out of mothballs and into the 21st Century. Let me show you.”

It took a few minutes, far longer than Q or James had ever needed, but Grey’s purpose was to instruct, not merely to get the job done quickly.  He stepped Alec through each move, showed how to make any necessary adjustments, and explained the best placement for the bloody fasteners that had caused so much frustration.  When all was done, he picked up Miranda to show that the nappy held firm, gave her a kiss on the nose, set her back on the table, and flicked the fasteners off the nappy, causing it all to fall apart again.

Alec’s jaw fell with it. “The fu--”

Grey held up his index finger.  “You know I find your cursing sexy as hell and would never want you to change, Alec, but do consider the fact that Remy is your Quartermaster and handler.  Do you really want to deal with the consequences that will befall you in the field should his daughter’s first words be that particular phrase?”

Alec felt his blood go cold.  “Good point.” He gestured at the open nappy.  “But why did you do that?”  He couldn’t keep the growl from his voice.

“Your turn.”  Grey tugged the grumpy agent in front of him so that he stood between Grey and the changing table.  “It does you no good to just observe. You must practice.” Grey took Alec’s hands in his and guided him through the process.  Taller than his husband, Grey had no problem looking over his shoulder, though it seemed he took a bit of delight in whispering the instructions in Alec’s ear.

Foul nappies.  Burnt bodies. Clowns.  Mycroft laughing. Alec thought of all the appalling things he could manage to keep from reacting to the brush of Grey’s lips against his ear.

“You are a right bastard, you know that?  Warn me about corrupting The Bond Crown Jewel, what about you ?”

Grey chuckled lowly.  “They’d never believe it.  They’ve no idea how thoroughly you’ve corrupted me .” He nipped at Alec’s ear but saw that they’d managed to finish in spite of his attempts at distraction.  “Now undo it,” he said.

“The fu-- Bugger that!”  

“You’ll thank me later.”

“She’s getting fussy,” Alec said, pointing at Mir, hoping to use her as an excuse to just get on with it already.  She’d put up with things reasonably well, but he recognised that pout. “The Quartermaster’s Frown” was well-known at Six and must be avoided at all costs.  Nurture was clearly trumping nature in this regard.

“I’ll keep Lisichka occupied,” Grey said.  He stepped away from Alec and pulled a plush snowman from the row of toys on the shelf above the changing table.  “Three more and we’ll join the others. Cook should have nibbles ready by then.”

“I’m not going to change your mind, am I?”  Alec’s green eyes narrowed with irritation.

“You know the answer to that.”

If there was one thing that James Bond, Alec Trevelyan, and John Watson all agreed on, it was that there were few things in this world more stubborn than a Holmes.  Alec issued a few choice words -- very much under his breath -- and turned back to his niece.

Over the course of the next ten minutes -- no longer all thumbs, but it still took time -- Alec folded and refolded, fastened and unfastened Mir’s nappy whilst Grey babbled with and entertained their niece with the ancient snowman that had been one of his twin daughters favourite toy when she was but a babe.  

Dressed again in a clean blue onesie decorated with reindeer and snowflakes, Alec hefted Mir to his shoulder.  She grabbed at one of Greyson’s salt and pepper curls before making her play for the snowman and pulled it to her when Grey let go.  “Alyce will be pleased to know Mr Chilly is well loved again, dear girl. Happy Christmas, poppet.” He bent and dropped a kiss to the top of Mir’s short, golden curls.

Grey turned his attention to Alec and wrapped an arm around his husband and niece.  “And a Happy Christmas to us,” he whispered before twining the fingers of his large hand in Alec’s hair and pulling him in for a kiss.  It was languid and thorough and just a bit needy and punctuated by Mir babbling and beating them about their heads with Mr Chilly. They’d have gone on a bit more, in spite of that, but then precisely what Mir was babbling sunk in, and it drew them both up short.

“Fuk! Fuk! Fuk! Fuk!”

Alec dropped his head to Grey’s chest.  “Bugger me!”











Chapter Text

December 24, 2021

 


 

James opened his eyes to a dark room lit only with the fairy lights that lined the window behind him.   A mass of blonde curls with matching lashes that brushed the plump curve of a silken cheek and a button nose filled his vision.  Miranda rested on his chest, huffing gently in her sleep. His hand was wrapped ‘round her bottom to keep her in place.

He lifted his eyes from his angel to see Q sitting at the bottom of the bed, arms wrapped around his legs, chin on his knees watching him. Studying. Evaluating. Probably had done the entire time James slept. Remy wore plaid pyjama bottoms, an ancient, threadbare jumper, and an expression on his face James had never seen before.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

“I should be asking you that.”  Barely a whisper, Remy’s voice sounded rough to James’ ears.

“Well, I knew where I was the whole time. You didn’t.”

“Not the first time that’s happened.”

“No. But it’s different now.”

“It is.”

Silence hung in the room between them.  Not awkward or uncomfortable. Sober. Contemplative.

Mir sighed and wiggled in her sleep, settling herself more firmly on her Da’s chest.

“I don’t ever want to lose you,” Q said once their daughter was comfortable.  “But I know it’s a possibility, always have, even with you largely inactive in the field, and I’m as … prepared for it as I can be.”

“Q …”

“No, James.  Let me finish.”  Remy scratched at the four day’s worth of stubble on his face then rested his hand on James’ ankle where his heavily wrapped foot poked out from under the duvet.  

Twelve MI6 personnel had gone to Sweden for cold weather survival training in the Scandinavian Mountains near the Kebnekaise massif: six trainees, three active field agents on a refresher, two cold-weather survival experts, and Bond as the trainer of record.  Things had gone smoothly until the morning before their planned return when a rare earthquake in the Norwegian Sea triggered an avalanche on the slopes of Kebnekaise. Since it was a survival course rather than a mission, there was no Q-Branch support and the remote location meant news was slow getting out of the region.  It wasn’t until Bond failed to make the final check-in via sat phone that anyone back at Six knew there was a problem. A rescue team was dispatched from Östersund, but a fierce winter storm kept them from reaching the group until two days after the avalanche struck.

Three of the trainees, one senior field agent, and a survival expert had been killed in the slide.  The others suffered injuries running the gamut from a broken toe to a punctured lung. Bond had been left with a severely sprained ankle, a broken wrist, two black eyes, and a mild concussion, but along with the remaining survival expert had managed to dig in once they had dug everyone out, tend to their injured as best they could, and ride out the storm until help arrived.

The fifty-two hours until word reached Six about the condition of the group were among the longest of Remy’s life and career.

I’m prepared,” Q repeated, stalwartly. “But what I couldn’t countenance was the thought Mir might grow up not knowing her Da.  That she’d never have a chance to experience first hand just how bloody amazing you are, to learn from you, to thrive under the fierce love you have for her.”

James didn’t much care for the idea himself, but … “It could be either one of us at any time.”

“We’re pragmatic men,” Q agreed.   He unfurled and stretched out alongside his husband, resting his hand alongside James’ atop Mir’s back.  “Seen and done too much to be anything else.”

“Not just us anymore.”

“No.”

“So what do we do?” James wanted to know.  There would always be threats. Q was right: they’d both done and seen too much to ever not be at risk.  James’ retirement meant nothing to those who might seek revenge for his actions when he was a Double-O, and Q was continually at risk for kidnapping or assassination.  After the Trafalgar incident, at Mallory’s insistence, Remy rarely went anywhere without a guard unless he was with James or Alec.

“Thought about that long and hard while you were turning into an icicle on that mountain.”

James turned his head on the pillow to look at Q and those eyes that had always seen directly into his soul.  Rather than flee from the darkness he found there, Remy shared with James his own, and together they had worked to focus on the light.

“Any conclusions?”

“Just one.”  Remy twined his fingers with James’ where they poked out of the cast on the arm that rested between them.  He surveyed James’ face in the glow of the fairy lights: the two black eyes, the cuts and lacerations, the five stitches at his hairline.

Q pressed his lips to James’: chaste, loving, grateful.

And pulled away with that same enigmatic smile James had first seen in the National Gallery.

“We do what we’ve always done.  We do our best to always come home.”

 

Chapter Text

December 25, 2022


 

“He’s a good man, yer Q.”

“He is.”

A burning log settles in the fireplace causing others to snap and crackle in return; sparks shoot upward, their fleeting existence snuffed out by draughts of cooler air.   

The two men sit side by side in comfortable armchairs, legs outstretched before the fire, whiskies in hand, darkness surrounding them.  The tranquil hush of the room augmented by that which has settled outside; an arcadian stillness has fallen with the heavy snow these last days.

An illusion of peace.

Temporary.  Fleeting.

Each man embraces it.

For now.

“Yer mum would’ve spoiled tha’ wee lass something fierce.”

“Worse than you have?”

A deep chuckle.  “Probably not.”

The creak of floorboards above.  Old wood for a new home. A reconstructed past.

“And Da?”

“Him?  Och. Never ha’ let her go back with ye to London.  Would’ve kept her here.”

“Be safer.”

“No, lad.  I’ve seen what you can do.  Imagine her Papa’s just as deadly in hi’ own way.”

“More than you know.”

A pause.  A sip.

“I don’t deserve them.”

“Bullshite.”

“I’m not a nice man.”

“A good man.  Men with a purpose greater than themselves canna afford to be nice.”

“Perhaps.”

The scent of pine from the garlands on the mantle and the tree in the corner bring memories of Christmases long past, but what once haunted, reborn, heals.

“They only ever wanted one thing for ye, m’boy.”

“And that was?”

“For ye to be happy.”

A lullaby sung in a gentle tenor drifts down from above stairs.

He smiles into his glass.

“I am.”












Chapter Text

December 22, 2023


 

“That’s it then,” James said, entering the flat.  He brushed the snow from his hair and shook still more from the collar of his black leather coat. “Lorry’s full and off to the new digs.  Alec’s with the minions ready to start unpacking when it gets there. Said Anthea and her lot have already been and gone, so you don’t have to worry about that nightmare this year.  John rang. He’ll bring Mir ‘round after supper tomorrow.  Says we shouldn’t rush--” He stopped short. “Remy?”

Q stood in the centre of their empty sitting room, staring at the vacant corner that had always housed the tree Mycroft’s assistant and her horde of evil Christmas elves decorated.  He turned slowly, taking in the windows bare of fairy lights, the mantle missing its garland, and the blank wall above it where an evergreen wreath always hung this time of year.

“Seven Christmases together,” Q said, levelling his eyes on James.

“That first one was a bit shite.”  He couldn’t remember a time he’d been so ill.  “Rest have been mostly pleasant.”

“Mostly pleasant?”  Q furrowed his brow.  “That’s the best you can come up with?”

“There’ve been a few bumps along the way.”   Tommy. Sweden.

Pleasant .”  

“Well, maybe more than,”  James conceded with a rakish twitch of his eyebrow.  He reached around Remy’s back, drawing him close. He nosed at Q’s temple and dropped a kiss there.  “We hardly left the bed the Christmas after we got married.”

Q hummed at the memory. That had been an excellent holiday. He shut his eyes and pressed closer, slipping his hand beneath James’ coat and jumper and under the waistband of his jeans to tease the top of his arse with his fingers.  

“And last year …”  James looped the other arm around Q to help him keep his legs when he started to nibble on that particular spot behind his right ear.  “Didn’t tell you I sent Kincade a bottle of McCallan 18 as a thank you.”

“For what?” Q breathed.  

“Taking Mir shopping in the village so I could have you wherever I wanted you that afternoon.”  

“Fuck.  That day was worth the 35,” Q said around a groan. James had him pressed up against the wall between the windows now.  It was but the work of a few zips and tugs before their flies were undone, and James had them both in hand. Once Q would have questioned where the slick had come from, but he-who-once-was-007 was ever prepared.  Instead, he gave himself up to his husband as James worked their cocks together.

“Oh, Christ!”  Remy felt this orgasm build in his very bones.  From the marrow itself and into his muscles to dance tantalizingly along his nerve endings and back again. , What had started as slow and teasing had become fast and hard and pushing the edge of too much.  It was exactly what he needed. He brought their mouths together in a bruising kiss. They bit and nipped as they rutted and when they came, it was messy and loud and bloody perfect.

Only James’ solid body pressing him to the wall kept Q on his feet.  As they came down from their high, panting into each other’s necks, Q found the breath to say, “Quite … pleasant indeed.”

James chuckled.  “Cheeky shite!” He stumbled back a step and pulled a handkerchief from his coat to set about cleaning them up as best he could.

Once they were tucked away and set to rights, Remy took James’ lips in a deep, unhurried kiss that was as tender as their coupling had been rough.  “Yes,” he said when it ended. His answer to a question James had asked him to think about a week before.

“Yes?”  James’ brow furrowed.  He searched Remy’s eyes in his confusion.

Q used his fingers to smooth those lines away and then the ones at the corners of James’ eyes.  Creases that were just a bit deeper than they had been that first Christmas when they were still trying to find their way back to one another.  He cupped his husband’s face in his hands.

“I want to have another child, too,” he said.

James’ smile was instantaneous and blinding.  He pressed a rough, chaste kiss to Remy’s mouth, another to his forehead, and wrapped him in a crushing hug.

Remy laughed and let himself be squeezed until his ribs ached.  “James,” he finally squeaked into his coat collar, “contrary to … what my brother … believes, breathing … is not boring.”

“Sorry!”  The crush ended, but James kept his arms wrapped loosely around Q.  “I love you. So bloody much. Not just because of this. I don’t say it often, don’t say half the things I probably should, but -”  

His mobile rang.

Great Balls of Fire.

“Alec’s wondering where we are,” Q said of the familiar ringtone that James — the cheeky bastard that he was — had set for their friend, much to Alec’s annoyance. Slipping out of James’ arms so he could mute the phone in his pocket, Remy picked up his winter coat and scarf from the top of the kitchen pass-through and bundled up against the frigid air outside.  “Come on.” He reached out a glove-clad hand to his husband. “We’ll talk more about it on the way home.”

The front door locked automatically when Q pulled it shut.  The curious light of December’s early dusk filled the vacant flat left behind, its empty rooms waiting for the new memories -- Christmas and otherwise -- made by the next occupant, just as The Bonds’ new home awaited the memories that would be made within its walls.

It really had no idea what was coming.

 

Chapter Text

 

December 20, 2024

0014 hours


 

“April never made it home.”

There are moments in life when time slows to a crawl and each of the senses riotously rebel as the heart and soul try to absorb something so impossible that even the brightest intellect can’t make sense of it.  

Q set his steaming Scrabble mug very carefully on top of his workstation.  Fourteen years of working for the SIS under every stressor imaginable kept his hand from shaking, though his stomach had dropped to his navy brogues.   “Say that again,” he said in a tone as slow and steady as his hand.

It was her day off, and April had made plans to meet up with her brother at his flat for a late dinner once she’d done some shopping at the Christmas by the River Market at London Bridge City, R explained.  “Kit called me when he exhausted all other options. He’s not been able to reach her on her mobile and none of her friends has had any contact with her today. Hoped we'd seen her. ”

He took hold of the details -- what few there were -- as R explained the situation, and an odd calm settled his senses as he pushed Remy, and even Q, to the back of his mind and became the Quartermaster.

“Your attention, if you please.  We have a new situation!” he shouted to the room at large when she was done, and heads popped up from every task at every desk and workstation, but as it was the night shift, those heads were few.  “April Witkowski is missing.” He ignored the horrified gasps that echoed through the room. Recently promoted to “S” -- Q’s third-in-command -- not only was April a long-serving and beloved member of the Q-Branch staff, but she was five months pregnant with twins.  Twins she was carrying for her Quartermaster and his husband.

“We don’t know if this is a kidnapping, if she has fallen ill somewhere, or has been hurt.  Nor do we have a precise timeline for her disappearance. Dev and Randall, I want all CCTV footage in and around the Christmas market at London Bridge City outward in a one-kilometre radius and going back to 45 minutes before the market opened this morning.  Hattie, Maurice get the feeds from outside her flat in Soho. Track her movements. Those of you working support for our current missions in Dubai and Austin, stick to those tasks. R, you’re still with 005 in,” he glanced at the two active mission clocks on the wall, “52 minutes, but ring up Della.  I’ll need her to take over for 003 at 0240. I’ll contact M. Okay people, let’s get to it!”

“And Bond?” R asked as Q picked up the phone with the direct line to Mallory.

Q’s hand tightened on the receiver, but he shook his head.  “Not until we know more.”

They knew more 43 minutes later.  Q pulled his mobile from his trouser pocket.  When the call connected, he spoke in hushed tones and relayed in precise terms to the man on the other end what he saw looping on the screen in front of him:  April and their unborn sons being pulled off the street, into a black van in the middle of the morning, and no one doing anything to stop or even report it.

“One hour, then,” Q agreed before ringing off.  He thanked Hattie for her hard work and asked her to start recalling the day shift.  An MI6 supervisor had been abducted.

“Bond’s coming in,” she said, nodding at the mobile still in his hand.

“No,” the Quartermaster said, pocketing the phone and heading for his workstation. “ Double-O Seven is.”

 

December 21 - December 23, 2024

 

In any kidnapping, the first 24 to 36 hours are the most critical to finding the victim alive.  The addition of complicating factors such as chronic illness, advanced age, or, in this case, pregnancy, cut that window of opportunity in half.  April’s kidnappers already had a 15-hour head start on them.

Q-Branch became a beehive of activity.  While not officially recalled beyond that first morning, those minions not assigned to active missions voluntarily worked extended shifts in an attempt to find their colleague and bring her and their nephews safely home.

Given the resources available to them, the leads were shockingly few.  CCTV cameras lost sight of the van in Canning Town but agents dispatched to Newham eventually found it abandoned in an alleyway off Fords Park Road.   A further search of the area by senior agents found no sign of April or her abductors, and without knowing what kind of vehicle they were using, that line of investigation was all but dead.

No ransom demand had been made, and -- almost worse in a way -- no evidence that it was a revenge plot against James Bond or the Quartermaster for past offenses and misdeeds in the eyes of their enemies.

Over the course of the first 48 hours, the Quartermaster ran on sugar, caffeine, determination, and infrequent cat naps forced on him by Eve or R.   When he wasn’t following a lead in the field with Alec and the handful of Double-Os not currently on assignment, 007 -- Mallory retired the number along with Bond -- stood silently and stalwartly at the back of the branch, waiting for his real mission.  He was out of the way of Q and his team as they worked and analysed every possible bit of data, but still close enough that his mere presence created a life-saving tether each man desperately needed. For though they functioned now as agent and Quartermaster -- something they’d not done together for nearly six years -- they were still James and Remy, two fathers desperate to get their family back.  

It wasn’t until the 54th hour that they finally got the break they were looking for.  It was Sherlock who gave it to them. Gregory Lestrade had come to Sherlock that morning with a new case:  eight seemingly random abductions of women across the boroughs over the course of the last five months. No ransom demands made, no trace of the victims had been found.  The only thing linking the kidnappings? Each woman was pregnant.

“April’s the ninth,” Sherlock said of the woman he thought of as a sister, gesturing at the evidence spread out over the table in Q’s office.  

It was a human trafficking ring.  Within three hours, the Quartermaster and his data analysts uncovered the next commonality:  the previous eight victims all used one of three NHS obstetrician offices scattered about the city.  April, however, was seeing a private doctor in Harley Street. The same one she, James, and Q had used when she was expecting Mir, but all the new staff had been vetted just as had been done five years previously.

“Not April, too,” Dr Puri said when visited in her office that afternoon by two very tense Double-Os.  

“What do you mean, too ?” demanded James Bond whilst Alec glared at the assembled staff.

A tenth woman, another of Dr Puri’s patients, the details for whom had somehow not made their way into Lestrade’s case file, had gone missing the month before.

Things moved rather quickly after that.

It was but the matter of a few interrogations before they pinned it down to the office manager, or rather, her new boyfriend.  Further investigation revealed that the same man was dating or ‘engaged’ to a member of the front desk staff in each of the other surgeries and had been using information gleaned from the three women and one man to abduct, single expectant mothers in order to sell their babies on the black market.

The skullfuck wasn’t brought back to Six for questioning, however.  Bond and Trevelyan decided a more intimate interrogation was in order.  “Just don’t kill him. We may need him later,” was all the Quartermaster had to say on the matter.

 

December 24, 2024

 

With the exception of the complex security system and the CCTV cameras in the gables and in the surrounding trees that monitored all possible points of entry, the large house on the outskirts of Bruges was as nondescript as they came.  

All, of course, had already been dealt with remotely and were no longer a concern for the agents about to infiltrate the facility now that the sun had gone down.

“Comm check,” said the Quartermaster into the feed.

“Four here.” Scarlet’s soft alto sounded through the Branch.

“Six.  Let’s get this done,” replied Alec.  Though still technically an active Double-O, Trevelyan largely worked as a liaison between Q-Branch and field agents.  There had been no doubt about his involvement in this mission, however.

“Seven.  Ready.” Bond had been uncharacteristically silent throughout the day, but no one questioned his focus.

“Nine, ready to do this,” said Rand.  

M stood with Tanner and Moneypenny next to one of the massive stone pillars near Q’s workstation as he always did for particularly critical missions or ones that had taken a personal turn.  This was both. Whilst he had harboured some initial reservations about Q’s active participation in this rescue effort, keeping him on the sidelines generated only more risk for the agents on site as it would deprive them of the best handler Six had to offer.  Mallory believed Q when he said he could stay impartial. He always had done before.

And as far as keeping Bond out of it, M stood a better chance at putting out a raging brushfire with a water gun.  

“Check complete,” confirmed the Quartermaster.  “All agents, set for infiltration in three, two, one. Go go go!”

With R and Della manning the stations on either side of the Quartermaster for ancillary support, the next fifteen minutes took on almost a surreal quality as the trio of handlers and the four agents on the ground in Belgium worked in concert to systematically decimate the organisation foolish enough to abduct the mother of James and Rembrandt Bond’s children.  At the centre of it all was the Quartermaster, conducting his magnum opus -- the most important mission of his life -- with a skill and focus that was nothing short of masterful.

“I have her, Q,” Bond said at long last.  “She seems okay.”

The Quartermaster ignored the collective sigh of relief that sounded around him.

“Understood, 007.  And the others?” he asked as the retrieval of April Witkowski was not their only objective.

“Bit of a mess,” said 009, “but I’ve got Simmons, Devin, and Cole.

“Quartermaster, we’re going to need that medevac and then some,” Scarlet said with a sigh.  “We’ve got a lot more going on here than just our missing ten.”

“Understood, 004.”  Q turned to R who was already relaying the request for the medevac personnel.  “Get in contact with our people at Station G. They may want assistance from authorities in Bruges and Ghent, but let them make that determination.”

It took hours, but as Christmas Day dawned, they finally had a handle on the situation.  In the end, 22 women in various stages of pregnancy, five of whom were postpartum, and 13 infants were rescued from the house on the outskirts of Bruges.  Eleven hostiles had been killed with two more in custody for further questioning. Sadly, six bodies were also discovered, among them was Raji McMahon, the first Londoner to go missing.  She had been eight months pregnant when she was taken.

“Hard to know which, if any, of these babies is hers, maybe we’ll find something in the records on the hard drives Scarlet pulled, but they likely killed the mums once they were no longer needed to nurse the babes,” Alec said once all the women and children had been evacuated.

“Do you have everything you need, then?” asked the Quartermaster, not really wanting to linger on that thought just now.

“Affirmative.  There’s nothing left for us here,” Trevelyan confirmed.

“Then do one thing for me , please, 006.”

“What’s that?”

“Burn it to the ground.”

“With pleasure, Q.”

 

December 25, 2024

 

Whilst Mallory didn’t look all that pleased at Trevelyan’s slightly maniacal chuckle of pleasure at that request, Q couldn’t be arsed to care.  He shut off his comm link and transferred control of the remainder of the operation to R who would oversee the logistics and ensure final transport of everyone home.  

Bond and April were already en route.

Visiting his office just long enough to grab his coat, scarf, and gloves -- he didn’t even bother with his laptop or messenger bag -- he called for a driver and within minutes of leaving his Branch was on his way home to Westminster where Mummy and Papa had been caring for Miranda.  James had left Mir in the care of Sherlock and John that first night, but his parents had come up on the first train the next morning.

He arrived home just as his daughter was beginning to tear into the first of her presents with his parents looking on.  The reunion of father and daughter after nearly five days absence was happy and enthusiastic, and Mummy pressed a restorative cuppa into her son’s hand once he had reassured his child that, “Yes, Da will be home soon, and you'll see Mummy in a few days.”  He caught his parents up on the news as best he could once Mir was focussed back on her gifts.

Q showered on autopilot whilst the others tucked into breakfast below stairs and had just finished changing into his first set of fresh clothes in days when the emotional, personal reality he had managed to keep at bay since R had told him, “April never made it home,” finally breached his Quartermaster armour.

His legs buckled, and he collapsed to the floor next to the bed he shared with James, the sobs so relentless he could not catch his breath.  It was when the edges of his vision began to darken that he felt arms encircle him from behind, cradling him in a way he’d not been in over three decades.  Strong, solid hands rubbed soothing circles into his chest, loosening the tension there so he could breathe again.

“It’s okay, Remy,” his father whispered in his ear, holding his son close.  “Let it out. They’re safe. They’re safe.” Siger repeated those words -- a soothing mantra -- until the tears subsided.  Remy then let himself be pulled to his feet and tucked into bed. He had not the strength to protest that he had to get back to Six.  Needed to be there when James arrived with April in Medical. The last thing he saw before utter exhaustion took hold was his father pulling a chair to his bedside as he had always done when Remy was sick as a child.  Q knew Siger would still be there when he woke.

It was dark again when Q arrived back at Six, still exhausted but a tad more himself than he had been in days.  Dr Y’da briefed him on April’s condition when he arrived in Medical. She had been dehydrated and a tad undernourished but other than some minor lacerations, bumps, and bruises, she was in good health.  Dr Puri had been on hand too, and all exams indicated that the twins had not suffered from the experience. They’d given April a mild sedative to help her sleep -- nothing that would harm the twins -- and whilst she would be kept for observation, April should be able to go home in a few days.

In his mind, Q decided that that ‘home’ would be the guest room at the house in Westminster.  He wasn’t going to let her and the babes out of his sight anytime soon.

Nor apparently was his husband, for the sight that greeted Q when he pushed open the door to the observation room was of James Bond asleep in the bed with April curled up next to him.  Though his boots were on the floor next to the hospital bed and the bullet-proof vest discarded in the corner, James still wore the rest of his black tactical gear. Q noted that no one had foolishly insisted he surrender his Walther for it sat within easy reach on top of the table next to the bed.  As for April, she wore the standard medical gown, and her long ginger hair was tied up in a plait that allowed Q to clearly see the lightly medicated scrapes that marred her cheek and the bruises around her neck. She was bundled up beneath the blankets save for the arm that she had cradled protectively around her belly.  

“Welcome home,” Q whispered to James when he noted his husband’s eyes on him.

James wordlessly held out his hand and pulled his husband to him when he took it.  Remy pressed the side of his face to James’ and kissed the bruised temple. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you,” Q whispered into his short, greying hair.  Each ‘Thank you” more choked up than the one before.

“Took all of us,” James said, turning his head to look into his husband’s eyes before mouthing against Q’s lips, “Happy Christmas, love.”

Q nodded.  “It is now.”

 

Chapter Text

December 24, 2025


 

 

It would be a gross understatement to say the last year had been filled with gut-dropping lows and euphoric highs.

A pregnant April’s kidnapping the previous Christmas by human traffickers followed by the joyous birth of Andrew and William in early May was enough of an emotional rollercoaster for anyone, but then three months later came the devastating car wreck on the M4 that nearly killed Q.  

Remy had been on his way to Heathrow to attend a tech conference in Belgium -- James was really starting to loathe that country -- as the keynote speaker when the car he had been riding in was struck by a drunk driver.  The MI6 driver and the two agents assigned to the Quartermaster were killed instantly. Remy had been air-ambulanced to University College Hospital where he languished in a coma for three weeks. And whilst his cognitive abilities had not suffered long-term effects from the incident -- thank Christ! -- the physical damage to his body had been extensive and slow to heal.

But now after months of rehabilitation where he regained his strength, worked with speech therapists to overcome the aphasia that lingered from his coma, and basically learned to walk again, Q was finally home.

Just in time for the twin’s first Christmas.  

The entire townhouse, all three levels, had been decorated by Anthea’s horde before Q’s return three days ago, and the tall tree in the corner by the window of the back sitting room glowed with fairy lights that set the clear and coloured glass ornaments to sparkling.  Nestled in amongst the fancier baubles sat the scant handful that really mattered: the handmade ornaments crafted by Mir. Lopsided, off-colour, and always looking a bit squished, they were the only things Q took off the tree before The Evil Elves returned on the afternoon of Twelfth Night to pack the holiday decor for another year.  Remy stored them in a fireproof box he kept in the wardrobe in the master bedroom: safe and close should he ever have to grab them in an emergency.

But the celebration with the children would come tomorrow.  Tonight, the twins, Mir, and their mum were celebrating Christmas Eve at Baker Street with the bulk of the Holmes clan.  Mummy and Papa would return with the Bond Brood later, to give Remy and James a quiet night together.

There was, of course, another reason for the solitude.  One that Remy had asked James and Sherlock to arrange but that he wanted to keep from his parents lest things go poorly.

Q sat on the sofa nearest the fire, his bad leg propped up on pillows, walking stick close to hand, with a blanket Mummy had knitted thrown over him.  The damp and bitter cold that swept into London the day before had set a deep ache into all of Remy’s injuries that eased somewhat if he kept warm.

He held a glass of McCallan 18 in his hand, so, too, did the man who sat in the chair opposite.

Other than a bit of grey at his temples and a few lines at the corners of his eyes, Mycroft looked exactly as he did the last time Q saw him in person that disastrous afternoon when he’d informed his brother he’d accepted an offer to work in R&D at MI6.  

That he intended to work for what the eldest Holmes considered the ‘lesser Service’ was bad enough, that Remy had let himself be wooed by Mycroft’s professional nemesis -- M, herself -- was nigh on unforgivable.  Mycroft’s plan to rectify the situation had been to have Remy arrested on a drugs possession charge -- clearly forgetting which brother he was dealing with -- thinking that some time behind bars might help Remy see the error of his choice.

It, of course, had the exact opposite effect.

Complete bollocks, M ensured the charges were dismissed in a trice, but whilst the 11 year age difference had always made the connection between the brothers strained at best, Mycroft’s high-handed betrayal effectively killed their relationship.

Saloon car kidnappings off the street, surveillance cameras hidden in his flat, and other such intrusions in his life in an attempt at reconciliation had received an even poorer reception from Remy than they had done from Sherlock, but unlike his elder brother whose, quite real, addictions left him with little room to negotiate until John came along, Remy had had no such limitations.  With the support of M behind him and a young Anthea serving as an intermediary, the future Quartermaster brokered an agreement that kept Mycroft largely out of his life.

And then Remy died.  Twice. Once on the table during the endless surgery immediately following the accident and again three days later when he’d coded in the High Dependency Unit.  The next morning Mycroft approached their mother with a request she passed along to James, and so it was that Mycroft -- with both Bond’s consent and even Sherlock’s approval -- joined the rest of the Holmes clan in reading to Q to draw him out of his coma.

Remy hadn’t really known how to respond to that news when he woke up. All the time he’d had to think during his time in rehabilitation hadn’t made things any clearer, but he’d felt oddly compelled to do … something.

So here they were.

James was in the kitchen to give the men privacy but near enough should Q need anything.  

For two men known for their comprehensive vocabularies -- in multiple languages -- and overly articulate natures, that they did not speak was not so much a matter of lacking the words but in knowing which ones to use.

It had been 22 years since they’d said anything at all to one another, after all.

“You look well,” Mycroft finally said to the fire.  “When last I saw you …”

“Frankenstein-eque,” Q acknowledged, also speaking to the flames.  “At least that’s how James described it.”

His hair was finally back to the length it had been before the accident and largely covered the notable scars on his scalp.  Those on his left arm and across his abdomen had taken some getting used to, but he’d never been a vain man. The scars on his left leg, along with the damage that lay beneath, however, would always cause him pain.  

“Your husband is a direct man.”

“We’ve agreed to always be so with one another.”

It was another ten minutes and another finger each of whisky before anything more was said, but when he spoke, Mycroft turned to face Q.

“Your survival is a gift, Rembra-” he stopped, for the first time taking into account his brother’s preference, “ Remy .  One for which I will ever be grateful.”

Again, Q didn’t know what to think of that.  Or how to respond. So he fell back on the lesson Mummy had taught him decades ago when faced with a compliment he didn’t know what to do with.

“Thank you, Mycroft,” he said with a nod before finishing his drink.

“Q,” James said from the open doorway at the back of the room.  “Siger just rang. They’re on their way back.”

“I’ll be going, then,” Mycroft said, rising from his chair.

He was nearly to the door when Q said over his shoulder, “Mycroft.  If you’re available … perhaps you would join us for luncheon on New Year’s Day.  Mummy and Father will be back in Sussex, but if you’d care to meet the children ...”

This time it was Mycroft who was at a momentary loss for words.  “I’ll clear my schedule,” he said at last. “A Happy Christmas to you, brother, Commander Bond.  No. Stay, please. I’ll see myself out.”

James waited to hear the chime of the security system engaging before he sat down on the sofa next to Q who had turned his attention back to whatever it was he saw in the fire.  James linked their fingers together and squeezed and waited.

“Am I insane or a fool?” Q eventually asked.

“Neither,” said James into Remy’s curls.  “You’ve done it before. Forgave me for breaking your heart.”

“Turned out rather well, I suppose.”

“Just a tad,” James agreed.

“Time will tell, I guess.”

“It will.”   Careful of Remy’s leg, James slid behind his husband.  Mycroft was right about one thing. Remy’s life was a gift; one that James would never forsake.  He wrapped his arms around the only gift he wanted for Christmas.

The only gift he wanted for the rest of his life.    

Chapter Text

December 22, 2026

 


 

 

“Alright, love, off you pop.”  James gave Mir a quick kiss on the nose, spun her around, and gave her a gentle push toward Miss Marianne who was responsible for organising all the Year 1 and Year 2 littles. “Papa and I will see you after.”

“Love you, Da!” she said with a wave before grabbing Miss Marianne’s hand and skipping off ‘round the corner, her plush, fluffy white tail wagging behind her with each little jump.

When James entered the auditorium, he was almost surprised to find Q right where he said he’d be.  For all he didn’t tend to like ‘real world’ people in general -- “There are just so many idiots out there, James!” -- Remy understood the importance of at least appearing to play nicely with others when it came to the parents at Mir’s school, and James often had to pull him out of those conversations, sometimes literally.

“The boys okay?” James asked, nodding at the mobile Q was tucking away in his jacket pocket.  Each having caught something of a cold, Will and Andrew were at home. Their mum had come over to care for them so James and Q could both attend the pantomime.  “I’ll catch it on the Live Feed,” April had said, happy to spend some time with the twins, grumpy though they were.

“Snotty and gooey but otherwise fine.  Our little sheep all set, then? Q asked as James scooted past him in his seat on the aisle to take the one adjacent. They were sat in the back row in part to make it easier for Q’s guard, Aislinn, and James to watch their backs but primarily so that Q could stand and stretch his leg when it began to cramp, as it usually did.  

“A lamb , if you please, Papa,” James corrected in the exact tone their six-year-old daughter had used to correct Remy each time he referred to her costume as a ‘sheep.’  “But yes, she’s with the rest of the assembled. The roles they came up with for this thing. Saw a boy dressed as a Christmas pudding, complete with a holly leaf bobble hat.”

And James wasn’t quite exaggerating his amazement either, for though he had seen all manner of things fair and foul, benevolent and villainous during his years as a Double-O, the casting choices of the St Thomas’ Battersea Christmas Pantomime had left him truly baffled.  

Q chuckled and leaned on his cane a bit to settle himself more comfortably.  “Can only have so many sheep and donkeys and Father Christmases and dancing candy canes.  With so many children participating, they have to start getting overly creative, I suppose.”

James hummed his scepticism.  “Did you see ‘The Cousins’?”

“Mmm, yes.  Mostly just long enough to wish them Happy Christmas and to confirm luncheon after they return from Sandringham.”

“What are the kids cast as this year?”  James’ eyes scanned the rapidly filling auditorium, looking for potential dangers as he always did.  

“Georgie was finally promoted to a shepherd for the creche scene:  quite proud his papa was about that bit of news. Lottie’s a snowflake.”

“And Lou?”

“Haven’t the slightest,” Q said with a shrug and a nod at where Lou’s parents sat near the stage.  “His Da was surprisingly tight-lipped about that, but Kate looked fit to burst with giggles.”

The lights dimmed around them and Mr O’Malley, the headmaster, and Ms Gordon-Smythe, the director of the show, scooted out from behind the billowing curtain to address the audience.

“Guess we’ll find out soon enough,” James said.  With a nod to Aislinn who would take things from here, he settled in to enjoy the show.

Over the course of the next hour, all manner of carol was sung by children dressed up as every Christmas and holiday-themed person, food, or object imaginable.  Some of the performances went off without a hitch, others were fraught with all manner of issues from overly tired littles sobbing their way through their song, to missed cues and wardrobe malfunctions, to toppling scenery.  

For all that, however, it was one of the most precious things James had ever seen.  Lottie had made an adorable snowflake in “Frosty the Snowman.” Georgie wouldn’t make an appearance until the final scene; they still hadn’t spotted Lou.  

But when Mir the Lamb made her entrance for “Little Drummer Boy,” it was all James could do to keep his heart from bursting with pride.  There had been a time in his life when he never thought he’d want this. Never thought to even hope for this.  A home. A family.  A life that didn’t involve death and destruction at every turn.  He gripped Q’s hand in his when his husband leaned over to whisper in his ear, “You deserve this, James.  This bit of peace.”

Though his eyes did not tear up, they both knew they were there anyway.

It was in the penultimate song of the night “Sleigh Ride” that they finally spotted Lou, and Remy’s earlier comment about the director having to get ‘overly creative’ was driven home.  The lad was with a host of children dressed as mince tarts, Christmas biscuits, and slices of pumpkin pie. Each held a set of jingling bells in their mittened hands to accompany the song.   

Q leaned in close.   “Do you see what I see?”  he whispered.

“I see it, but I’m not sure I understand it.”  

Lou stood on stage, belting out the carol with his characteristic enthusiasm that everyone agreed he got from his Uncle Harry.  He was dressed in what amounted to an oversized red, paper takeaway cup decorated with snowflakes and reindeer.

“On his head.  Is that supposed to be whipped cream?”  Q sounded incredulous but James heard the charmed laughter beneath.

“I think so.”

‘Overly creative’.  That was the only way to put it for there on stage was eight-year-old Prince Louis Arthur Charles of Cambridge  -- fourth in line to the British Throne -- dancing and gambolling and clearly having the time of his life, costumed as a Christmas latte.

 

Chapter Text

December 21, 2027


 

Gone to Hell!

Pear-shaped!

Tits up!

Gone to shite!

Pick whatever bloody, buggering, fuck of a term you like, it was only one- tenth potent enough to describe Q’s life at this precise moment.

Let him deal with Blofeld and Silva and Carver and White and Le Chiffre and even that pompous git, Auric Goldfinger whilst attending a budgetary meeting where Mycroft reigned as PM rather than deal with this shite one minute more.

He just couldn’t do it.

He’d met his match.

What was worse?  So had James.

Nearly forty years combined experience taking out some of the worst criminals and terrorists the world had never known about, and 007 (retired) and the Quartermaster of His Majesty’s Secret Service were ready to ask -- nay, beg! -- for mercy or clemency or sanctuary or … something !  

They had been undone not by a megalomaniacal North Korean general bent on reigniting a war or a pain-immune KGB agent turned terrorist planning to help his girlfriend corner the world petroleum market by blowing up a nuclear weapon.

No.  They were not so lucky as that.

The secret agent and his quartermaster husband had been brought to their knees by three littles under the age of eight.

Well, ‘brought to their knees’ was a bit imprecise.  

Q was currently flat on his back.  And quite possibly bleeding.

“Christ!  Q!” James shouted when he saw his husband hit the kitchen floor next to the island worktop.

James sat one squirming, syrup covered two-year-old back into his booster chair so he could snag the second who had taken out his Papa by knocking his walking stick out from under him whilst running laps around said island worktop, wearing nothing but his nappy, screaming with unbridled glee.  

Bleeding might not be all that bad, thought Q.  Lose enough of it, and at least he wouldn’t have to worry about the full blown temper tantrum Mir was carrying on with at the table.  

Who gave a fuck about hair ties, anyway?

“Remy?”  James knelt at Q’s side, Will tucked under his arm like a Christmas parcel.  

Q didn’t really care to move.  Nor to open his eyes.

James cupped Q’s cheek in his hand.  “Remy?”

Will squealed.  Andrew shouted.

Mir continued to caterwaul.  Something about a hole in her tights now.  

At least it wasn’t bloody hair ties.

“Am I bleeding?” Q asked.

James ran his hand along the back of Q’s neck and up through his curls, fingertips skimming the scars hidden beneath his thick hair.  His hand came out -- thankfully -- clean.

“No.”

“Bugger.”  So much for that escape.  Maybe a chasm would open up beneath him.  Swallow him whole. Happened to El Colmillo in Curacao.  Even 009 had been impressed by that. The bad guys never seemed to suffer anymore.  Why should he have to?

“Are you hurt?  Do you feel broken anywhere?”

What a stupid question.  Of course he hurt. He hurt all the time, to varying degrees, since the accident.  Didn’t help that he’d just got off a 36-hour shift running two missions with three different agents.  “No more than usual,” Q sighed.

He heard Mir take a deep breath in preparation for her next volley of shrieks.  Remy’s eyes popped open. He tilted back his head and glared at his eldest child upside down from behind his spectacles.  

“Miranda Ceit Bond!” he snapped.  It was The Quartermaster who spoke.  “If that breath fuels any words other than ‘I’m sorry, Papa,’ you will find yourself in your room which will be stripped of anything and everything remotely entertaining, and there you shall stay until you can articulate for me why you have lost your mind over a swath of textile.  If you continue your strop, I will ring your Uncle John to inform him that you will be unable to attend the outing to Hamley’s with Rosie and Hamish tomorrow afternoon. Is that clear?!”

“But-”  Mir huffed.  Twice.

“Miranda,” James warned -- not quite 007, but close enough to reinforce -- resting one hand on Q’s chest whilst Will wriggled and giggled in his other arm.

“I … I’m s-sorry, Papa,” she snuffled.

“Apology accepted.  Now help your Da by getting Andrew cleaned up, please.”

Whilst I lie here and contemplate the terms of my surrender.

“Yes, Papa.”  Mir slid off her chair, blonde plaits unravelling, broken hair ties abandoned on the table top.  Sure enough, there was a hole in her tights. Shite. He was pretty sure those were her last pair.  Never any time to get to the shops anymore. He really needed to spend some time developing a ladder and hole-proof weave for tights.

“Here, let me help you up,” James said once Mir and Andrew were off to the loo.

Q shifted on the ground, groaning at how every muscle and joint in his body screamed its displeasure.  “No. Just hand me my walking stick. Better if I take it in stages. Besides, set Will loose, and it’ll be another 30 minutes before you catch him again, and we’ll have sticky handprints all over the house,” he said, nodding at their still wiggling and giggling youngest son.

James was just about to protest when the doorbell rang.

Q’s looked at the clock on the wall over the sink.

“Christ, she’s early.”  This time Q’s groan had nothing to do with his pain.

“Six hours early.”  At least James sounded as peeved as Remy felt.

“Stupid cow and her bloody horde of evil elves,” Q muttered under his breath. He grasped the walking stick James handed him and swivelled onto his hip, scooting around until his back was against the cupboard.

“Stupid cow,” echoed Will with another giggle.  

Apparently not under his breath enough .  Lovely.

“Anyone else, and I’d bother to correct him,” James said, getting to his feet with his own groan, which Q absolutely did not take any perverse pleasure in. Most certainly not.

“Anthea’s not human. Pretty sure Mycroft conjured her in that crypt of an office of his.”

The bell rang again.

“Go,” Q insisted. “Before Mir beats you to it and triggers the safety protocols again.”  How that girl had managed to get around seven levels of encryption …

“Shite.”  James, with Will, was off like a shot down the stairs.

Q had only just managed to get to his feet when James called out a few minutes later.

“Remy, you’d better come down here.”

“Just tell her to get on with it.  Doesn’t bloody well need my presence to disrupt my life,” he shouted in reply, forehead pressed to the worktop in exhausted resignation that oblivion was not forthcoming, and he’d have to find a way to carry on with raising his children.

He so hated Anthea.

“Rembrandt!  Get down here!”  

Q’s head popped up from the granite with such speed his lower back twinged in response.  The fuck? He loathed his given name. James only used it when …

The woman he found with James in his reception room when he finished hobbling down the stairs was most certainly not Anthea.    “Maria? What on earth are you doing here?”  His eyes darted to the tall, dark-skinned man with the shaved head dressed in brown tweed standing behind her next to the hearth.  

“I’m sorry to disrupt you so early on your day off, Mr Bond,” Maria said in her Spanish-accented English, “but I’ve come on a particular errand for my employers.”  She handed Q an elegant, ecru envelope embossed with the seal of the Prince of Wales.

Mir with Andrew in tow came bounding down the last steps as Q sliced into the envelope with a blade from the utility tool he always kept in his pocket.  “Miss Maria!” she shouted happily, running to give the woman a hug.

“Good morning, Miranda,” Maria said, lightly fingering Mir’s messy braids with a slight frown that Q deliberately ignored.  He unfolded the letter and passed the enclosure to James who had set Will down on the floor.

He read aloud:

 

 



Dear Remy and James,

I’ll get right to the point.  Whilst it was a rare treat to catch up with you over luncheon last weekend, from what Kate and I were able to glean reading between the lines of our conversation that afternoon, you’re struggling, and we are concerned.  To put it bluntly: you both look like shite.

Work demands are ever increasing for you both, and you’re not home together with the children often as you’d like without making serious compromises.  Something that’s not always possible given the world we live in. Because of their ages, you’re unwilling, and rightfully so, to rely too much on Violet and Siger’s help, and Remy, your chronic condition complicates factors even further-- I’m sorry, mate, but it’s true -- and I’m certain that when you finally do collapse into bed at the end of the day, it’s likely to sleep like the dead.

When’s the last time you had energy enough to connect as husbands on even the most basic level, my friends?

Unfortunately, your unique situation also makes it impossible to use childcare options typically available to parents.  You’ve soldiered on as best you can for years. You’ve relied on friends and family who have all done a brilliant job, but you are now trying to do it all on your own.  An impossibility given your current circumstances. Something needs to change. It’s okay to need outside help, but since you’re each of you more stubborn than a goat, you won’t ask for it.

So Kate and I have done so for you.  

The gentleman with Maria is a friend and colleague of hers from the Norland College, Osborne Pearce.  Mr Pearce has recently returned to Britain after several years abroad caring for the children of the American ambassador to Paraguay, and I think you will find from his enclosed CV that Pearce has both the skill set -- and from his prior service in The British Army, the security clearances -- necessary to be a great asset to your family.  He has been vetted through appropriate channels and interviewed personally by Kate and myself. With your permission, he will begin a two-week trial period as your children’s nanny. If at the end of that time, you do not feel that Pearce is the right fit, we will find someone who is. If, however, he proves to be just what you need … well, you know my favourite whisky.

Trust me on this, my friends.  You need him.

As ever, Kate and I look forward to seeing you on Twelfth Night.  I’ll expect the whisky then.

Best Regards and Best of Luck,

Wills

 

Q looked up from the letter to the man at his hearth.   “You’re a nanny?”

“Yes sir,” he said, coming forward.  There was still a touch of the military in his tone and bearing.  “Eleven years now. Osborne Pearce, Mr Bond. Commander Bond.” He shook their hands.  

“Q,” Remy corrected absently for he noticed how each of the children had gathered at Pearce’s feet and stared up at him with open admiration.

“You’re like Miss Maria?” asked Mir.  She had taken her brothers by the hand.  The smile on her face was blinding. She and the boys had known the Windsor’s nanny their entire lives and were fans of the disciplined but loving woman.  

Pearce knelt.  “That I am, poppet.”  He shook with them, too.  Each of theirs so tiny in his bear-like paw of a hand.

“Let’s all have a seat.  I think we need to go over this a bit,” James said, guiding Q to his favourite chair in the room.  Just as well since Q was stiff and sore and still feeling a bit unbalanced, but how much of that was from his earlier fall or from the insanity of the morning as a whole he wasn’t entirely sure  -- running missions was child’s play compared to … well, child’s play -- but during the course of the next 30 minutes, he managed to get at least his metaphorical feet back under him again.

Whilst Maria kept the children occupied down the corridor, Pearce answered all questions posed to him and bore up well under the interrogation by two men uniquely skilled and suited to such a task.

When James returned after seeing Pearce to the children for a chance to interact with them under Maria’s practised eye -- something he wouldn’t have done if he felt the least bit uncertain about the situation -- he found Q sitting in his chair, Pearce’s CV loose in his grasp, with a look on his face James had never seen before.

Poleaxed.  

That really was the only word for it.

“He’s bloody brilliant,” Q said gesturing absently with the papers.

James chuckled.  “Certainly seems to be.”  He sat down on the ottoman in front of Remy, forearms loose on his thighs.  “So what do you think? Do we keep him?”

“Keep him, he’s --”

As it had off and on the entire morning, a sudden, violent gust of wind outside sent bits of rubbish and handbills sailing past the window, rattling the glass panes in their frames.  Then the sound of giggling from down the corridor reached the two fathers. A comforting and joyous sound Remy realised he’d not heard in far too long. As he turned to say as much to James, however, his attention was caught by the sight of a long, black umbrella in the stand by the door.  It was not one of theirs.

The giggling.

The wind.

The umbrella.

“Bloody hell!”

Q leapt to his feet.  “Where is it?” he demanded, hobbling about the room without his walking stick, searching the corners and behind the furniture.  “ Has to have one.”

“Where’s what?  Q? Remy ?!”  James demanded, himself seeking out the nameless threat that had caused such a reaction.  He was opening the gun safe embedded in the wall behind the Turner print when Q yanked open the front door.

“Oh!” Q said, but it wasn’t so much an exclamation as it was an exhalation of surprise and satisfaction blended with childlike wonder.

“Remy?”  James came to his side, Walther in hand, though the grip went somewhat slack when he saw what Q did sitting on the ground in the secure vestibule beyond.

A large, tapestry carpet bag.

Remy’s hand found James’.  He twined their fingers together and squeezed.  

“Keep him?  Of course, we keep him,” Q said a bit weakly.  

“He’s bloody Mary Poppins,” they said together.

 

Chapter Text

December 24, 2028


 

Q rubbed behind the ears of the purring, ginger kitten -- barely much more than a tennis ball of fluff and fuzz -- who was curled up tightly on the flat of his shoulder against his neck with the sofa cushion behind.  She was sound asleep.

Not surprising given the busy night she’d had, James thought.

As had become something of an odd tradition the last few years, for an hour each Christmas Eve, Mycroft Holmes came and sat with his youngest brother in the back sitting room, each with a whisky in hand, staring at the fire or at the Christmas tree, largely not saying anything to one another save for occasional, awkward, stilted pleasantries.  Granted, there were a few more of those awkward and stilted pleasantries each year, which James considered progress, of a kind -- he was optimistic they might even manage half a conversation before the turn of the decade -- and whilst things went a bit more smoothly during their now annual New Year’s Day luncheon, the adults in the room all knew it was the children’s presence that helped things along, for on their own, Remy and Mycroft Holmes were something of a train wreck.

At least they were trying.  Mostly.

Though after tonight ...

Tonight’s tête-à-tête had been cut short by Gingerbread.  The kit, who had taken to nestling unseen in the upper boughs of the Christmas tree when she wasn’t curled up somewhere on or near Remy -- Moneypenny’s Christmas gift for the children had immediately claimed Q as her human, instead -- leapt from the tree, wee claws extended to latch herself onto the top of Mycroft’s head.  Something she tended to do whenever anyone wandered too close.

Such as when one was pouring another finger of whisky from the drinks trolley.

Whilst in all other regards, the kitten was a calm and almost overly affectionate thing, she seemed to take an unholy glee in the sneak attacks, and the rest of the household had quickly learned to give the tree a wide berth.

Curious that Q had failed to warn Mycroft about that little fact.   James also wondered when, or if, the trolley would make its way back to its typical spot across the room beneath the window.  

Though left with only minor scratches, Mycroft beat a rather hasty retreat with half-hearted promises to see them for luncheon one week hence.

“You’re a good kitty, Gingerbread, so you are.  Well done, you,” Q said nuzzling the kit before nestling a bit deeper himself into the old leather sofa and propping his bare feet up on James’ lap.  He rubbed them suggestively against the front of his husband’s trousers.

“Subtle.”  James grinned.  

“Never been my strong suit.  Nor yours, for that matter,” Q said.  He scooped up the kitten, set her on the ground, and climbed carefully into James’ lap, grimacing only slightly at the pain it caused his leg. “But the children won’t be back until morning.  Pearce and Moneypenny are gone until Boxing Day. We have the entire house to ourselves. All. Night. Long.”

James curled his fingers into Remy’s hair and kissed him tenderly, but Q would have nothing of that.  He bade James bid him enter with lips and tongue, and soon they were both fighting for control of the kiss, breaking free only long enough to strip hastily out of jumpers and trousers and pants.   

It was rushed and rough and soon they were on the floor in front of the fire, the tree and its glittering fairy lights behind them.  James clasped Q to him as they rutted against one another, and if he could have crawled inside Remy’s skin, he would have done just that, so desperate was he to keep his husband close.  It had been quite some time since Q had shown such a visceral need. Their lovemaking since the accident had been largely, by necessity, careful and tender, and whilst James never once felt unfulfilled, this … this passion … this fire … Christ, he needed it.  Not only for himself but maybe as just a bit of proof that Q was okay.  That he was himself.  

Nearly five years on, James wasn’t entirely convinced Remy had ever fully recovered from the accident.  Though Q never spoke of it and did his best to hide how he was feeling, James knew he was in physical pain.  The stress of chronic pain combined with that of being a parent and the ever-increasing demands on him at work  … James could see it was wearing Remy down, and he was worried.

“Thinking too much.  C’mere,” Q complained. He grasped James by the hips, pulling him upward until he straddled Q’s upper chest, and suddenly, James wasn’t thinking at all.

Q’s mouth was hot and wet around him, all around him, as he had sucked James deep from the first pull.  His tongue teased at the underside of his cock whilst the suction of his mouth dragged along the sensitive flesh with each bob of his head, but it wasn’t long before Q had James’ arse cradled in his arms, hands splayed across his back, urging James to thrust against the pull and fuck into his mouth.  

“Christ, Q!”  James took more pressure on his knees, raising up off Remy’s chest so he could angle his thrusts in a way he knew would not completely choke his lover.

So good.  So, so good!  

He tangled his hands into Remy’s hair, twisting the curls between his fingers just enough to pull a groan of pleasure from Q.  A groan that James himself echoed as the vibrations of Q’s buzzed along his skin. James pulled out an instant later and gripped the base of his cock to keep from spending.  It was a near thing.

“The fuck?” Remy protested, reaching again for his lover, but James would not be lured back and had settled himself so that the crease of his arse rubbed against Q’s cock which felt so thick and long and firm against his flesh.

“Where’s the slick?  You stashed it somewhere,” James growled as he ground against his husband.

Q reached behind his head, fumbling blindly beneath the Christmas tree skirt for a moment before his fingers found what he sought.  He passed the tube to James, but instead of coating his own cock, he coated Remy’s. James’ own preparation was quick and horribly insufficient considering it had been ages since he’d been in this position, but before Q could protest the risk, James had Remy inside him and was slowly … oh so fucking slowly sliding down his length.

“Do.  Not. Move.  Not even an inch,” James growled with a warning grasp of his thighs about Q’s hips.  For even here, even like this, he intended to bring his husband pleasure first.

“Bloody hell!”  Q groaned. He gripped James’ hands tightly when they sought his for leverage and pressed them into the carpet above his head.   The room echoed with their moans and panting breath, sounds that would have surely drawn the attention of others had there been any others about.   

Finally, with a sigh that was as much satisfaction and gratification as sexual pleasure, James settled fully atop Q, and for a moment neither of them could breathe.

The torrid heat that wrapped around Q.  The uncompromising strength that filled James.

Just this.

And then, James began to move.

He was slow.  Deliberate. Each slide was purposeful, designed to pull every last ounce of pleasure from his husband.

His love.

Everything that had made his life right.  

Here.  Beneath him.

Everything he would fight to keep.  It started with Q.

“Please, James!”

Remy’s eyes on his were wide and dark and desperate.

He bent down but didn’t speed the pace or alter the rhythmic way he flexed about his husband.  “Please what ?” James husked against Remy’s lips.

“Please, let me fuck you,”

James eased his grip on Q’s hips.  “With pleasure.”

When their body heat and the dying fire were no longer enough to keep the chill of the room from intruding upon their post-coital haze, James kissed Remy and slid out of his arms to find something to clean them up with.  He got to his feet with a groan, his own bad knee twinging from his exertions.

“Not one word,” he said, pointing at a grinning Q who had rolled over on his side toward the tree watching as James searched the drinks trolley for a bar towel.

Unfortunately, Remy’s sex-sated brain had forgotten one key aspect of the night, and the initial rustling of pine boughs simply didn’t register … until it did.

“James!  Wait! No!” Q shouted, raising his hand in warning just as an orange ball of fluff launched itself from the depths of the Christmas tree.

“GINGERBREAD!”









Chapter Text

December 22, 2029


 

“I’ve just come from Medical.”

Q looked up from his laptop, brow furrowed as he assessed his husband. “What happened?”  Nothing appeared broken or bruised. “Are you ill?”

I’m fine,” James said, shutting the door to Q’s office behind him.   

“Then what --”

“We were going to meet for lunch after your therapy appointment.   You didn’t go.” His jaw tightened at the sight of Q rubbing absently at his chest.  A gesture that had become all too common of late.

“Oh, that,” Q brushed the comment away with that hand and turned his attention back to the computer virus he was rewriting.   “Sorry. No time. Meant to text. Too much to do before Two is out for Misrata. Half the bloody mission criteria changed. Still need to finish the modifications on his body armour and rifle.”

“Have R do it.  Or Hattie or Maurice or Dev.  You have a staff for a reason, Q.  Use them!” James braced his hands on the top of Remy’s desk.

Don’t start on that again,”  Q warned, not pulling his eyes off the screen, fingers dancing on the keyboard.

“Don’t start on- why you little shite. This is your health we’re talking about.”

“That you’re talking about.  Please leave, now Bond.  I’m a bit swamped as I’m sure you can see.  As Quartermaster, it’s my responsibility to --”

“Bugger that! You have a responsibility to yourself , damn it!” James shouted, thoroughly sick of Q’s rote ‘As Quartermaster’ response, and Q barely managed to pull his fingers free when James slammed the lid of his laptop shut.  

“Have you taken leave of your senses?!”  Q shot from his chair but only just managed to keep his feet. Of course, his bloody walking stick was halfway across the room.  

“No, but you clearly have.  You’ve not been to therapy in three months.  It’s meant to help you, Remy, so you’re not in so much bloody pain all the time.”

“I’ll always be in pain,” Q snapped, glaring at James as he limped past to get his stick.  “Therapy or not. You know that as well as I do.”

“What I know is that you are not yourself.  You’re working more hours with fewer days off between major missions, and you struggle to get out of bed on those days you are home.  You’ve lost at least a stone since summer; I can get Will to eat his veg easier than I can get you to eat anything. And don’t think I haven’t noticed how you can’t even climb a flight of stairs without having to stop to catch your breath at the top.  You don’t just stop taking care of yourself, damn it! I’m taking you to see Y’da, and then you’re taking some leave.”

“You fucking hypocrite!” huffed Q.  “You’re one to talk, Bond. How many times did you go out on a new mission only halfway healed from the one that came before?  Broken ribs, concussions, bullet wounds, knife lacerations, second and third-degree burns, terminal exhaustion. Christ, your skin is a crazed map of scars, most of which you stitched up yourself with fucking dental floss!  This. Is. The. Job.” He punctuated each word with a pointed finger out the window of his office to the branch beyond, ignoring how their row had started to generate an audience. “We work when we’re not always at our best because the country needs us.  We sacrifice so they don’t have to!”

“No.  Not like this.  We agreed before Mir was born that--”

“We also agreed never to talk about family issues in this office,” Q said coldly.  “Keep them separate, you said! Or did I imagine that part of the agreement?”

“Oh, now who’s the fucking hypocrite?!”  James demanded, thinking back on the countless conversations they’d had about Mir, and later Andrew and William, within these walls.  But now that the worry was about Q ...  It was all James could do not to throttle the man, but he would no longer argue his point.  

Words were useless.  

It was time to act.  

“Fine.  You won’t worry about yourself or your family, let’s focus on the job, then.”

“What do you mean?”  Q’s eyes followed the mobile Bond had pulled from his trouser pocket.

James brandished the phone like it was a weapon.  It was the most powerful one he had in the face of such extreme bloody-mindedness.  “Twenty-four hours, Quartermaster. Get seen by Y’da, or I call her myself and have you hauled in under duress.  You are unfit for duty in your current condition and, as such, a threat to the security of this nation.”

“You wouldn’t dare!”  Q breathed, he felt the blood drain from his face in shock only to resurge a moment later in rage.  “You don’t have the authority!”

“Do not test my resolve in this matter, Rembrandt.”  He loomed over Q. His voice was cold and as deadly as if he was confronting an enemy instead of the man he loved.  “You’ll find I have substantially more pull in this organisation than you believe, Quartermaster .”

“Get the fuck out of my office, 007!”  Q snarled, pushing James away from him.  “Get out !”

“With pleasure, Quartermaster,” James said disdainfully.  “With pleasure.”

He turned on his heel and marched from the room.  “Twenty-four hours, Q,” he warned, voice loud and angry enough to carry through the Branch.  “Then it’s in my hands!”

The quiet snick of the door shutting behind Bond was lost to the shatter of an empty coffee mug exploding against it.  

“Bloody, sodding prick!” Q shouted.

He slumped against the top of his desk, enraged and exhausted by the exchange.  The muscles in his chest and arms vibrated with his anger. He drove his fingers into his hair, easing their tension only when he felt strands begin to tear from his scalp.  

He was so sodding over this!  This sniping between them. Weeks now.  He was tired, yes. Never quite bounced back from that upper respiratory infection the kids shared with him last month, but this sure as shite didn’t help anything.  Why the fuck James just didn’t understand - Christ!

“I’m fine !  Who the fuck does he think he is to-”  his rant was cut short by the alarm he’d set on his own mobile.  Three hours before Two arrived to pick up his kit.

Shite!  Back to it, then.  

Once his breathing was mostly steady, Q took his seat behind his desk.  He opened his laptop and within moments was lost to the single-minded focus that coding always afforded him.  His anger and his hurt fell to the wayside.

He didn’t even notice when the irritating, racing flutter in his chest started to tighten just a bit.

There was work to do, after all.  

 

December 23, 2029

 

“Bugger off!” Q said to the visitor whose footfalls he heard on the stair.  It was late, after midnight, and he was sat in his favourite spot on the ancient leather sofa in the back sitting room, a half-eaten tub of Ben and Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream in hand.  Gingerbread was curled up at his side, sound asleep and purring.

“I see Anthea and her horde have been here.”

“Hardly an observation in keeping of your powers of deduction.  A lemur from the zoo could determine the same. Be chewing on the pine boughs or some such,”  Q replied, gesturing with his spoon at the seasonal decor. “No. Leave it. Just want the fairy lights.”

Sherlock’s hand dropped from the light switch.  Instead, he unwound his scarf and took off his coat, tossing both on the arm of the sofa before taking the chair opposite Q.   Even in the half-light, he was bombarded by data as he studied his brother who, to his credit, did not try to hide from the appraisal.

“And what do those keen eyes and hard drive brain tell you, brother,” Remy asked when he noticed Sherlock’s focus shift: deduction complete.

“You don’t need me to tell you,” Sherlock said, at last, pulling his leather gloves from his hands.

Remy laughed.  “Oh, that’s brilliant!  Tact? You?”

“Hardly,” Sherlock sniffed.  “But telling you something you already know is tedious and hardly worth my time.   Always has been.”

“Of course it is.”  Q turned his attention back to his ice cream, refusing to bite.  Sooner or later Sherlock would be compelled to share. Though he’d mellowed -- somewhat -- with age and John, Sherlock’s need for an audience still demanded satisfaction.

“However,” Sherlock said after 97 seconds -- a record to Q’s knowledge -- “seeing as your uncompromising stubbornness has clearly set in, I will say this:  Bond is right.”

Q snorted.  It was short.  Painful to Sherlock’s ears.  “Seen him have you?”

“He’s been in Baker Street since 9:43 pm where he has been consulting with both John and me regarding your health.  When I left them 27 minutes ago, they had finally sat down to some Pad Thai and duck spring rolls to absorb some of the whisky they’d been consuming the two hours prior.”

“They’ve always got on well,” Q acknowledged of the soldier and the spy, though slightly peeved to know they were talking about him.  Bastard couldn’t be bothered to come home to have it out. “And how are the kids?” He scraped up another spoonful, picking around the chocolate chips for the brownie bits.

“Fine.  With yours at the Harrington sleepover, as you well know.  Stop avoiding the issue.”

“Christ!  Not you, too!  I’m fine , Sherlock.”

“You’re not fine.”  He slapped his gloves against his thigh.  “You’ve not been fine since the attack at Legoland.”

“That was over a decade ago,” Remy said of the destruction of MI6 Headquarters.

Not what I mean,” Sherlock snapped.  “Do stop being so willfully bothersome and obtuse. You’ve not done that since you were four.  Lie to Bond if you must, but do not lie to me.”

“What are you talking about, Sherlock?   

“Oh!”  

The truth suddenly struck Sherlock like a bitter cup of over-steeped Earl Grey.  “You really don’t see it, do you? You don’t know.  How is it that-”  It was obvious to him , but perhaps being so close to the situation could impair-

In May, the Legoland Windsor Resort had been the site of an unexpected domestic attack when a disgruntled former employee had driven his car into the tickets queue just minutes before the theme park opened for the day.  Fourteen people, most of them children, had been killed in the incident. Another 22 wounded.

If not for an unexpected delay for their long-planned outing -- Gingerbread escaped out the front door as they were leaving -- the Bond family, Osborne Pearce, and Eve Moneypenny would have been stood in that very queue.  Instead, they arrived just ahead of the first responders, the adults rendering aid where they could yet still shielding their brood from the sights and sounds of the injured and the dead.

Whilst they had been successful in protecting the children, the horrors of that morning had a lingering impact in other ways, apparently particularly for Remy, for it was shortly thereafter that Q started throwing himself into his work with a heretofore unknown zeal.  Sherlock attempted to explain as much to his brother now.

“Please. I’m not seeking retribution or attempting to prevent all potential dangers --  just no. Sherlock. I’m doing my job as I’ve always done.  Someone needs to,” Q insisted.

Sherlock sighed.  Logic wasn’t working, so something different was in order.  Something that whilst uncomfortable and awkward to him could be a more effective route to reasoning with Remy, or so their father had oft indicated.  ‘He’s more like me than your, Mum, Sherlock,’ Siger had said on more than one occasion.

Sentiment.

And truth be told, maybe it wasn’t as impossible an idea for him as it would have been a decade ago. For once Bond had finished describing the long-term and more immediate effects this hyper-focus was having on Remy, John had made the grave, yet apt, observation that if James didn’t force Q to the doctor as he’d threatened, he’d likely find himself raising his children alone.

Sherlock had left for the house on Barton Street immediately thereafter.  In looking at and listening to his brother, he now understood the full force of Bond’s frustration and worry.

“I will say this only once, Rembrandt, and I’ll likely never even allude to it in future conversations.”

“Say what you want, Sherlock. You always do,”

“Whilst you and I were always close in our understanding of one another growing up, would you feel it’s fair to say we’ve … grown closer in the years since the accident?”

“I would,” Q asserted. He now spent enough time with his brother to know he genuinely liked Sherlock. “You’re an important part of my life.”

“Neither of us ever thought to marry, certainly never to have children, yet we have.  Furthermore, we have chosen for our children to grow up together. They will have a closeness we never will, and are better for it, I believe. I care for your three as much as my own, but I am their uncle , Remy. I have no desire to be a replacement father in your stead which is what I fear will happen if you continue thusly. Nearly losing you to that accident was hard enough. I do not like to consider what impact your loss would have on me now.”

To say that Q was stunned by such a speech from his deeply feeling, but often emotionally stunted, brother was an understatement.

“Nothing has changed in the world, Remy,” Sherlock continued. “It’s just as dangerous as it was that morning.  You working yourself into the ground now isn’t going to change what happened then. And it won’t make your family or mine any safer if you kill yourself trying to do the impossible.  It will only leave us lost and heartbroken.”

Sherlock stood and gathered his things.  “Think on what I’ve said. Take a good, long , look in the mirror.  Impartially. Use your brain instead of reacting with your emotions, and you’ll see what we do.”

“Wisdom, Sherlock? Not exactly your strong suit,” Remy said as Sherlock walked past.

The middle Holmes scoffed.  “It’s not mine. That’s John speaking.”

“He’s a good man.”

“More than I deserve.  And yours is far from an idiot.  You might consider listening to him in this instance.  He’s got the right of it. Oh, and given the coating of gunpowder on the cuffs of his jumper, Bond went through at least ten clips at the firing range in an attempt to vent his anger and worry.  Whilst I’m quite convinced he wouldn’t murder you in your sleep, it’s rather foolish to anger a man with a license to kill. No need to tempt him further. He’ll stay the night at Baker Street. Cooler heads.”

“Sherlock?”

Sherlock paused at the door. “Yes?”

“I --.”  

Love you, too.

For a moment, a sad ghost of a smile crossed Sherlock’s lips.  “Indeed,” he said. And with that, he swept from the room.

Remy waited until he heard the security system engage behind his brother before sighing in frustration.  He supposed Sherlock’s argument made some sense. He didn’t like to dwell on the memories of that day overly much.  On how only a 15-minute delay had been the difference between his family remaining whole when so many others had been torn apart.  As Quartermaster he knew all to well the difference even a split second could make in a life and death situation. He had made a career of using and manipulating those brief moments to his and his agents’ advantage.

As a father, however ...

Perhaps he had been driven by guilt or fear or … Oh, bugger it all!

“Come on, love.” He nudged Gingerbread with his hip.  “Let’s go up to bed.”

Q groaned to his feet with his walking stick.  Tossing the empty ice cream tub in the bin in the kitchen, he made his way slowly up the stairs, ignoring how Gingerbread dashed past him to wait at the top with seemingly epic patience.  He tried also to ignore the breathlessness he was left with at the end of the climb and push on for the bedroom, but a sudden surge of lightheadedness and an increase of that damn flutter had him leaning against the wall until it passed.

“Merow?”

“Not you, too,” Q complained at the cat who looked up at him curiously.  “I’m fine .  Come on.  Get in there.”  He nodded at the doorway to the master bedroom.

His reflection in the mirror in the en suite told another story.

Impartiality. ‘Use your brain instead of reacting with your emotions,’ Sherlock had said.  

Impartially?  

Impartially, he’d nearly jumped at the sight of himself in the mirror.

Subterranean-dwelling boffin that he was, his complexion had always been pale, but this was something more.  Sallow. Ashen. The shadows under his eyes looked like the eye black agents applied before a tactical mission, but it was the almost skeletal look to the contours of his face that truly shocked.

How had he -

Before he could come to terms with his surprise, Q was swamped with another emotion:  guilt. For it was then that he was flooded with images, memories, of every bit of worry and fear etched on James’ and Miranda’s face each time they looked at him.  

Fear he had put there.

The flutter.  The exhaustion.  The breathlessness.

Bugger.  He really was an idiot.

Remy tended to his needs in the loo as quickly as he could manage and took up his mobile once he was in bed.  He looked at the cold, empty space next to him.

They’d never spend a night apart in anger.  Q never wanted to spend another one again.

He sent the text quickly before he could put too much thought into it.

Q:  I’ll see Y’da in the morning.

The response was immediate.

J:  Meet you at 8 am.

Q:  Nine, please.  Want to be here when the kids get home.

J:  Nine.  Don’t stand me up.

Q:  I’ll be there.

He waited for a response, but when none came, Q typed what was at once the easiest and the hardest text he’d ever sent.

Q:  I’m sorry, James.

Still no reply.  Not even the interminable ellipsis that would indicate … something.

Not but what you deserve , he thought, setting the phone on the nightstand to charge.

He was nearly asleep -- Gingerbread curled up against his neck -- when it pinged.

J:  We’ll talk in the morning.

Q:  Thank you.

Remy’s sleep was restless.  The ice cream had made him nauseous, and the flutter wouldn’t settle.  And when he finally woke to his alarm, after, at most, an hour of uninterrupted sleep, it was to a heavy Gingerbread camped out on his chest.

“Get off, you,” he grumbled.  “Kids’ll be home soon.” She leapt from his chest with a yowl of protest but though Gingerbread left, the pressure hadn’t.  

Remy rolled to the edge of the bed and snagged his walking stick from its hook on the nightstand.  His leg was stiffer than usual this morning, and every step to the loo was agony. His head was floaty and the nausea seemed to increase with each step, but it was when he felt the pressure in his chest shift to a lance of pain down his arm that he knew he was fucked.  

Q tried to make it back to the side of the bed … to his mobile …

He heard the security system disengage.  

Tried to call for help.  He couldn’t force the words out.

No.   Please .

Q never felt it when he cracked his head on the floor of the loo.  

 

December 24, 2029

 

Q opened his eyes to the stark walls and subdued lighting of an MI6 Medical critical care room.  He was more exhausted than he could ever remember being and he hurt. Every part of him hurt.

“Click the button in your hand.  It’ll help with the pain.”

Remy followed the order before it registered just who had given it, but the flow of the painkillers through his system initially tangled the name on his tongue.

“M?”  He took his spectacles from his boss’ outstretched hand and settled them on his face.

“It wasn’t the big one, if that’s worrying you. I’m sure it felt like it, but you didn’t have a heart attack.”  Mallory was sat, legs crossed, in the chair at Q’s bedside, book in his lap.  He was dressed down in jeans and a navy jumper over a white button down. Q had never seen him so casual.   “You’ve a decent concussion, though, from the knock you took to your head when you fell. Emmaline will go over it all with you:  pericarditis induced angina and an anxiety attack complicated by your drive in recent months and the poor way you’ve been caring for yourself.  Something I did little to curb and in some ways perhaps even encouraged, much to my chagrin. That ends today, Quartermaster.”

“James?”  Q couldn’t help the hurt he felt at his husband’s absence.

“But for a brief jaunt home, during which Mycroft kept watch, Bond’s been at your side since you were brought in yesterday morning.  Trevelyan dragged him to the canteen after you woke up earlier, though you probably don’t remember that.”

Q frowned.  “Just remember the pain.”

Mallory turned at the sound of the door opening behind him.  James entered. Remy caught sight of a dour-faced, angry Alec in the corridor beyond.  “Well, I’ll let Bond catch you up on events,” M said, rising from the chair. He tucked his book beneath his arm and took up his overcoat from the back of the chair.

“Thank you, sir,” James said with a nod as Mallory passed.

“I’ll have everything arranged for tomorrow,  Bond, and I’ll see you both for our meeting on the 10th.  Not a moment before. Focus on your family. Y’da will keep me apprised in the meantime.  Happy Christmas, gentlemen.”

The door shut behind him with an ominous click.

Silence filled the space between the two men who remained.  It was not a comfortable one.

“Not a heart attack,” Q said at last because one of them had to say something.

“It very nearly was,” James replied after a moment.  Remy did not flinch at the hollowness he heard in that beloved voice.  

“A rather pointed warning?”

“They had to syphon off fluid from around your heart.”  The reply was still toneless. “You still could have died.  If you’d not been found-”

“James, I -”

“No.  You don’t get to talk now.  You will finally listen.” Bond approached the bed, and it was Bond who did so.  Every millimetre of him screamed agent, not husband nor lover.  Remy, however, did not cower. He was still who he was, too. Though weak, he squared his shoulders against the mattress, ready for whatever was to come.

“In some ways, the last 36 hours have been the worst of my life,” Bond admitted.  “Watching you lie in that bed, unable to do anything but wait.” It was then that Remy noticed James’ eyes.  They were rimmed in red and ever so slightly swollen. “The car crash was horrible, a nightmare, but it was an accident .  This.   This ,”  Bond gestured at Q’s form in the bed, “was entirely preventable, but you wouldn’t listen to me when I tried to draw you back.  When I tried to get you to see what you were doing to yourself!”

Q opened his mouth to speak -- to own all of it -- but James’ next words stole his breath.

“Our daughter found you!” James snapped.  “Unconscious and in a pool of blood from that crack on your head.”  Q fingered the bandaged lump at his hairline he hadn’t noticed until his attention was drawn to it.  “And since Pearce did as he’d been instructed and contacted Six for emergency transport, you were brought to Medical for treatment where she can’t visit you.  According to John, Mir’s been inconsolable since last I saw her, and the boys are so bloody confused.”  Bond swiped at his hair in frustration and anger. “It’s what I was trying to get you to understand in your office.  It’s not just us anymore.  There’s too much of the unknown in what we do, so anything that can be prevented ...  You don’t get to do that to them, Rembrandt.  Neither of us does.”

Bond sighed and paused in his philippic, and though Q knew James to be the most articulate of men, emotions like this … well, they were still Englishmen, after all.  James’ next words, however, were the rawest and most honest of those he’d said.  They were all the more potent for it.

“I never thought there’d be anything that would cause me to leave you, Remy.  We’ve fought too long and hard for what we have, and I love you completely. That will never change.  But if you do something like this again, if you tear at the fabric of what we’ve built together for our children, know I will do just that, and I will take them with me.”

Q closed his eyes against the pain that filled him with those words.  Pain that was far worse than what had brought him to his knees. Pain that was right and proper and fitting in the face of his foolishness and his hubris.  When he opened them again, he saw with fresh eyes a grim-faced man who in this moment looked far older than he should, who had experienced more misery and anguish in his 56 years than was right.  Heartache and sadness that Remy had taken vows to ease, not create.

He felt ashamed.

“You’ll never have to,” Q said to James’ decree.

“Remy, I can’t risk-”

“James,” Remy reached for his husband’s hand which he was -- thankfully -- granted.  He gripped it hard. “I promise you, it will never come to that.”

And James believed him.

Later, after Emmaline Y’da had briefed Q on his pericarditis induced angina and the long-term course of treatment that would see him back to health -- which included, among other things, a nutrition plan, a rigorous physical therapy programme for his leg, exploration of appropriate pain medications (at Q’s insistence) and mandatory weekly physicals -- and they FaceTimed the children to alleviate at least some of their worries, the husbands lay on the hospital bed together, quiet and contemplative.

“What did Mallory mean when he said he’d have everything arranged for tomorrow?” Q asked.  He was drowsy from the pain medication and felt like he could sleep for a month, but it felt so good being in James’ arms that he was loathe to miss a moment of it.

“Told him this was first Christmas either of us would spend apart from the children.  M was rather appalled at the notion, so he’s working on some sort of scheme since you can’t leave Medical for another three days.”

“What is he planning?”

“I’ve no idea,” James chuckled against Q’s curls, “but he’s enlisted Moneypenny, Alec, and Tanner, so whatever it is, they’ll make it happen.  You’ll be with the children for Christmas.”

“I’m so, so sorry, James,”  Remy said into his husband’s chest.

“I know.  Thank you for saying it.  I’m still angry, will be for a while yet, but …” the words were harder to come by now, though no less important.

“You were scared,” Q finished for him.

“Yes.”

Though he could, there was no need for Q to repeat his promise.  It was a sealed vow between them.

“Come on, budge up a bit.  Let’s get some sleep,” James nudged Q with his hip.  “Tomorrow will be a busy day.” He held the IV lines out of the way whilst Remy rolled over onto his left side.  James dimmed the light above then curled around his husband.

Q clasped James’ hand to his chest above his heart.  “Happy Christmas, James. I love you,” he whispered into the darkness.

“And I love you.”

So bloody much.

Chapter Text

December 25, 2030


 

The air was fresh and crisp on this cloudless night.  It burned the lungs if breathed in too quickly, leaving in its wake wispy exhalations that melted into the darkness.  The storm had finally moved out. A thick fall of snow remained, covering the red cottage and all the land beyond.

Q turned his face to the stars -- each of them a Christmas star -- toward the glitter and shine never seen in London, and not always here, either.  But the lights in the village had yet to come on, and the cottage behind was dark as well, save for the candles and lanterns that burned in the windows and the fires laid in the various hearths for warmth.

A heavy stillness had settled in behind the storm, creating a clarity of consciousness that thrives only in moments of perfect silence.  Remy closed his eyes and listened to it, the silence. To the secrets of the universe whispered too quietly for him to quite grab hold of, but he breathed in their echo with the cold, bitter air and held it in his lungs, seeking a moment of illumination.

There it was.

Q cocked his head so the shell of his ear might capture and embrace and nurture the sound which held the answers he sought.  The smile came unbidden, spreading across his face as understanding took hold.

Yes.

It should be as simple as that, shouldn’t it?

Perfect.

Then the sound that had started simply, with one note, grew in complexity as others joined it: loud and light and joyful.

The melody of his life.  The only song that mattered.

His children’s laughter.

The most precious music of all.









Chapter Text

December 24, 2031


 

 

It was not a Happy Christmas.

Two junior and a senior agent were dead.  Double-O Five was seriously wounded. They’d nearly lost both assets and the intel along with half a city block -- and the civilians who lived there -- on the outskirts of Shanghai, but Q had managed to hack his way into the baddie’s computer servers and halt the countdown.

Barely.

James had been called in to assist 12 hours after things started to go pear-shaped.  His knowledge of the region was still by far the best of anyone at HQ -- he’d been sent on countless missions to the Far East during his years in the field and still conducted training missions there with recruits since retiring from active duty -- and he was deemed a critical liaison to the potential success of what Q had privately started calling the ‘Yongfeng Clusterfuck.’

Q knew how lucky he was to come home to Mir, Andrew, and Will with James at his side.   Edmonds’ young son would never see his father again. Kelso and O’Keefe had parents and siblings who would mourn.  None of them would ever know the truth of how and why their loved ones died.

There was no guilt.  He’d done everything he could to prevent those deaths.

The sadness on the other hand …

“Almost there,” James said in his ear.  Q nodded. Said nothing. Squeezed the hand that had held his since leaving Six.   He really needed to hug his children. Sleep in his husband’s arms. Wake up in the morning to screams that Father Christmas had come.

The wet roads were relatively free of traffic this late on Christmas Eve, and Q sighed with relief when the car finally turned the corner and pulled up in front of the house on Barton Street.  He shifted in his seat next to James, readying himself to move and the sigh turned to a groan.

The other issue.

Fuck, but he hurt.  

It had been a long time since things were this bad.  

After nearly killing himself and risking his family with overwork a few years ago, Remy committed to paying as much attention to the needs of his physical body as he always had done his conscious mind.  He focused on his diet, ate regularly -- small meals often brought to him by James or one of his minions -- religiously attended physical therapy, and even participated in modified fitness training alongside Bond’s recruits.   As a result, he was as strong and fit as he had ever been. Whilst far from having the physique of a Double-O -- active or retired; he was still a boffin, after all -- Q nevertheless had muscles where he never imagined it possible for him to have muscles, particularly given he was pushing 50 years old.

None of it miraculously cured his leg.  Nothing would do that. He’d known that going in, but on the whole, his pain was no longer debilitating, manageable with a combination of paracetamol and ibuprofen and a couple of fingers of whisky when he finally got home.  On days like today, however, when the pain grew close to unbearable after countless hours on his feet during an emergency … well, he no longer feared taking the stronger medications to mitigate it, but since they fogged his brain and impaired the speed at which he could think and process, he never used them whilst at work.

So James -- after the hell of the last two days and watching his husband grow increasingly stiff and hunched with pain but carrying on, nonetheless -- had pressed the pills into Remy’s palm the moment Q handed things over to R and left the Q-Branch floor.  

Q took James’ proffered hand and eased out of the back seat of the large, black 4X4 M had sent them home in rather than risk them driving after what had been an exhausting and nightmarish 36 hours at Six.  

His walking stick caught the edge of the kerb, and he would have fallen if not for the support of that hand and the man who offered it.  

Remy lost track of how many times he would have fallen without that support through the years.

James nodded goodnight to both their driver and the Quartermaster’s guard and helped his husband into the house.  It was only when they were stood side by side on the garland and fairy light-festooned landing of the first floor that they noticed the almost preternatural quiet.  It wasn’t unsettling. Nothing to cause alarm.

But after the circus of noise and frenzied activity of the last three dozen hours ...

It was late, after all.  Nearly Christmas morning.  

“Alec must be in the back,” James said. “Go on through.  Let him know we’re alive. I’ll put the kettle on, and then we’ll go check on the kids.  I’ll take care of getting the presents under the tree after, so you can get to bed.”

“Please, pull out the --”

“-- hot water bottles for your hip and knee.”  James nodded.

“Know me so well, do you?”   Q chuckled, leaning into his husband’s side.

“Working on it,” James kissed into Remy’s increasingly salt and pepper curls.  “Fifteen years is hardly enough time, but give me another 30 or 40, and I might make a dent.  Go on. Off you pop.” He nudged Q gently in the direction of the back sitting room before turning for the kitchen.

Leaning heavily on his walking stick, Q made his way slowly down the decorated corridor.  The mission had meant he’d been absent for Anthea’s annual Christmas assault on the house, and whilst he continued to loathe her physical presence in his home, he’d long since learned to appreciate the effect the frills and flourishes had on his psyche.  The pine and the fairy lights and the bows and the glitter and -- Remy ghosted his fingertips along the edge of a wing of an angel that stood in the centre of a circle of pine atop a table halfway down the hall as he passed it -- well … it soothed him, he supposed.  

Set a warmth within him that -

Oh!

Oh my!

The tableau that greeted Remy as he entered the sitting room at the back of the house was one that quite stole his breath away.  The need to laugh uproariously fought with the sudden impulse to burst into tears, so Q settled for both and caught his laugh behind his hand whilst tears welled unbidden to his eyes.   He could blame it on the loopiness of the medication, he supposed, but it wasn’t the pills that had pulled these feelings out of him.

Father Christmas had come.  The presents were already under the tree.  The stockings were full as well. Too heavy with their riches to hang from the mantle, they sat against the wall next to the tree, waiting to be torn into sometime in the hours to come.

Alec was in the sitting room as James had predicted, but rather than enjoying a drink whilst watching late night telly as was his norm on those occasions when he helped tend his niece and nephews when their fathers were trapped at work and Pearce was away, he was curled up on the rug in front of the fire.  Though it was askew, a Santa hat hid most of his now silver hair from view, and he wore what Q considered the most hideous Christmas jumper in Alec’s extensive collection of hideous Christmas jumpers.

But it was the children …

Mir was first, pressed up closest in her uncle’s half-embrace with Andrew wrapped in hers.  Not surprisingly, Will had draped himself over Alec’s hip from behind -- he liked to use his uncle as a climbing frame --  head pillowed on the retired assassin’s knee with Alec’s paw of a hand caught in the dark curls of his youngest nephew’s head, cradling it protectively.

They were all sound asleep.

And Q’s heart was fit to burst with joy at the sight of it all.

“Won’t need to check on the children then, will we,” James whispered next to him.  He wrapped an arm around Remy’s shoulder and pulled him close, enjoying the sight of his oldest friend, brother, and fellow warrior rest peacefully, wrapped around bairnes he considered his own.

“I dare say we won’t,” Remy agreed, reaching for the handkerchief in his trouser pocket to wipe his eyes.

They watched silently for several long moments, taking in the sight of a treasure that at one point in each of their lives, neither man ever thought they’d have.

“The only thing we can do for them, I think -- the ones we lose -- is live the best life we can as testament to their sacrifice.  It’s what they gave their lives for. It’s what we would give our lives for,” James said, nodding at their family.

Q didn’t ask when James had grown so wise.  He’d always been the better of the two of them in that regard.  Once he’d pulled his head out of his arse, that is.

“Come on. Let’s get you settled in a hot bath.  Better than the water bottles, I think.” James guided Remy back down the corridor.  There was one flight of stairs left to climb. “Then I’ll come wake Father Christmas there and get the kids to bed.  Alec’s back will not thank him for that come morning.”

“No, but we will.”

“Do we have to?”

“James …”

 

Chapter Text

December 24, 2032


 

 

The house was full of family.  Every last bed above stairs was filled with adults, and five children were camped out on sofas and lilos downstairs in the back sitting room in front of the Christmas tree and the fire.

A lingering power outage north of Oxford Street had sent the Baker Street denizens along with Alec and Greyson to James and Q’s home in Westminster seeking warmth and comfort in the face of a bitter cold snap that had descended on Britain.  With Mummy and Papa already in residence for Christmas -- even Pearce and Eve had chosen to stay in town for his holiday this year -- ‘cozy’ was the most politic way to describe the close living quarters this Christmas Eve.

Thank Christ Mycroft had been called out of the country this year.  Q couldn’t imagine …

No.

Just. No.

Besides which, his imagination had taken a far more … carnal path this night.

James had only just returned from Valencia that morning.  The training mission hadn’t gone completely tits up, but enough had gone wrong that Bond had been forced to intervene to see the mission completed and ensure his trainee didn’t get her fool head blown off.  

He was whole.  Intact. Just a few cuts and bruises.  Not one single stitch. Knee was a bit pissed off at him, but that was to be expected.

But James was as tense as Q had seen him in years.  Remy had had plans to ease that tension and though the whole of the Holmes clan had descended on Barton Street, he saw no reason to cancel them.  In fact, he was using it to his advantage to make things more …

More.

Q double checked the restraints that secured each wrist to the sturdy headboard and trailed the edge of a fingernail down the inside of James’ right arm and across his chest where he circled the nipple twice before twisting it between his thumb and forefinger.

“Fuck!” James’ bark of surprise turned to a groan when Q soothed the flesh with his tongue before licking kisses down the still fit planes of James’ stomach.

“Oh, there will be fucking,” Remy promised with a smile James could not see for the blindfold he wore.  He licked a stripe up the underside of his love’s cock and kissed the tip in such a way that it pulled another groan from James’ throat.   “All in good time. You know how this works, pet.  You know how to get what you need.”

Rare were these time when James gave himself up completely to Q, when he needed to submit and surrender control to regain his control.  

James had originally shared this all but top secret aspect of himself with Q years ago, before they were married.  When they were still finding their way back to one another after Bond’s year away with Dr Swann, and even at the time, Remy knew the priceless nature of the admission, for only one other -- Alec -- knew about this submissive side.   Whilst the timing was far from ideal, denying James’ need, even postponing it, was something Remy would not do.

“Alec and Grey are to the right of us; Sherlock and John are to the left.  And whilst I’m sure my brother will deduce our activities simply by looking at us in our pyjamas come the morning, only you can keep those suppositions from becoming surety.”

“How … sir?”  James husked. Q couldn’t help the thrill that honorific always set in his veins.

“Through silence, my love.”  

James twitched.

“Though the door is locked, I’ve not engaged the soundproofing protocols,” Q said against his husband’s hip. “Well, not in the way we usually do.  There’s a decibel metre set in the programming, and if you make a sound above that of a whisper one would hear in a library, it will alert me on my mobile, and I. Will. Stop. Everything.”  

Q brushed his tongue across the tip of James’ cock again and dipped it beneath the foreskin, swirling again and again until he dragged a strangled whimper from the man beneath him.  Fuck. James always tasted phenomenal but when he was like this, laid out before him like a Christmas feast, he was addictive.

“Do you consent?” Remy asked when he finally pulled away.

“I consent, sir.”

“If you hope to be allowed to come -- eventually -- don’t trigger the metre above 35 decibels.  Do you understand, pet?” Q had raised James’ legs so his feet were flat on the mattress, knees bent, exposing him completely to Remy’s appreciative eye.

“I understand, sir,” James said with a sharp nod.

The app on Q’s phone flashed yellow.  

“That was 30 decibels, love.  Almost over before we even got started.”  

James sucked in a surprised breath, and Q knew exactly what he was thinking.  Whilst far from a screamer, James had learned to be vocal after years of the restraint he had needed to use in the field -- it was why Q invented the soundproofing technology; that it had various work-based applications outside their bedroom was simply a fortunate happenstance -- and if he’d nearly pushed past Q’s set limits with that softly spoken response, James was going to have to practice a level of restraint he hadn’t needed to in nearly ten years.

Q decided to test his pet’s ability to adapt, and slid a well-lubricated finger slowly into James’ arse.  Remy’s own cock filled at the sound of the low whimper he pulled out of his husband in doing so.

“Twenty decibels.  Like the gentle rustling of leaves in autumn.  Much better, pet. I think we have our baseline,” Q said seriously.  “I’m going to do everything I can to make you scream, but I know you’re going to be brilliant and not let me, aren’t you pet.”

“Yes, sir,” James whispered.  “I want to please, sir.”

The key to James finding subspace was in restraint, moderate application of pain, but above all, praise and denial.  The closer Q brought James to the edge before forbidding him completion, and the more he praised James’ discipline in not doing so, the more James found his way back to himself.  

It was highly erotic for them both, and the first time they’d done this, Q was shocked by the intensity of both their orgasms.  Neither of which occurred until Remy’s cock was buried deep inside James’ arse.

However, it would be some time before they reached that point tonight.  If James was very good and very restrained, he might be granted his release in an hour or two.  

Maybe.

Moving his finger in and out of James’ arse as he used his other hand to slowly jerk him off, Q set about milking his pet dry.  

Eventually, soft gasps, groans, whimpers, and -- most beautiful of all -- pleas filled the air between them.  

It was the most erotic and satisfying Christmas carol Q had ever heard.


Chapter Text

December 24, 2033

 

With its rugged cliffs and crystal blue waters, Martinique was always more beautiful than James remembered.  

Four days ago he and Q had been kicked out of Q-Branch and their home in Barton Street by well-meaning colleagues, friends, and family who had noted it had been over three years since Remy and Bond had taken any kind of holiday and even longer since they’d gone away without the family in tow.   A belated gift to celebrate James’ 60th birthday, the couple had been given the choice of tickets to Gstaad or Martinique; they’d chosen the warmer climate as the cold was increasingly problematic for Q’s hands and leg.

“Do they need another sex holiday?” Sherlock had asked John when they’d dropped James and Q off at Heathrow.

“I’d say they’re past due.  Married 15 years and only the one.  We’ve had four,” John had countered then rolled his eyes when he saw Sherlock’s mouth start to curve at the memories.  “Yes. Well, that’s him sorted in his Mind Palace for the next half hour.” John shook Q’s hand and gave James a warm pat on the shoulder.  “Enjoy yourselves. Kids will be fine. Come on, you,” he’d said, taking Sherlock by the elbow and steering him to the passenger seat. “Back to town we go.  You promised Hamish and Will some time at St. Bart’s later today.”

Though their visits through the years had been far fewer than they’d liked, he and Q often spent their first days back just reacquainting themselves with the island, the Holmes’ family estate -- well-tended now by the Gaillards’ grown children, Adèle and René -- and Fort-de-France itself.

James and Q had left the house early enough that morning to get to the market before things got too crazy.  Their mission: to hunt down the corossol Adèle forgot to purchase for the Christmas Day sorbet her mother, Olivia, so loved.  They had spent the rest of the day wandering through the narrow streets, in and out of the shops, each man finding last minute gifts for each other, for their hosts, and for the children for when they returned to England.

Waiting for Q to finish up in a nearby shop before joining him for a late lunch, James was sat at a table beneath a large, white umbrella on the patio at Lili’s Restaurant:  one of their favourites as it afforded excellent views and simple, but delicious local cuisine.

Though it was the first time they’d been apart from their children for Christmas, it had taken the men only a one day on the island to realise how desperately they’d needed this respite.  

2033 had been challenging.  An uptick in worldwide terror threats early in the year had meant strings of days when Q was unable to leave his branch, swamped as he was with missions and kits and tech and the day-to-day management of his branch.  James, too, had found himself increasingly tied to Six when Mallory insisted on running training classes of recruits back to back, citing the need for more agents in the field.

Home life hadn’t been much easier.  Mir had turned 13, and ‘The Parent’s Curse’ that he and Q had thus far managed to largely avoid descended upon their life in full force.

“This wasn’t me. You’re the one expelled from school for seducing a chambermaid.  I was a model child growing up,” Remy insisted the night they’d received a call from Lestrade who’d intervened after a pair of PCs picked up Mir and group of her schoolmates outside a club in the West End after she’d managed to bypass the security protocols -- again -- and sneak out of the house.

Along with those from her fathers and Pearce, the lectures she’d earned from the stream of visitors the next day -- Sherlock, John, Eve, and Alec had each given her rather detailed warnings specific to their viewpoints and experiences -- had efficiently curtailed Mir’s overt rebellion, but the next six months became an exercise in patience for James and Q in dealing with an extremely passive-aggressive teenager.  It might have gone on for months or years more until Master Cha -- the hand-to-hand combat instructor at Six -- suggested Aikido as a way for her to channel her teenage angst.

James and Q had spared no expense in sending Master Cha and his wife on a long, weekend holiday to Edinburgh as a thank you for saving their sanity.

Andrew and Will were eight.  And, well, eight-year-old twin boys with Qs intellect and James’ penchant for finding trouble around every street corner ...   

So, yeah.  Difficult year.

James took a sip of the Ti punch he had ordered and hummed appreciatively.  Tasty, though not as potent as Olivia’s recipe of which only two glasses were necessary before Q started stripping off his to dance -- awkwardly -- on the balcony of their room.

Life’s simple pleasures.

Pushing aside the numerous shopping parcels he’d sat on the ground when he’d arrived, James was about to lean back in his seat and stretch out his legs when the chair opposite him was pulled from the table and sat upon by someone who was most certainly not his husband.

“James Bond,” his guest said, sculpted eyebrow climbing high on the relatively unlined forehead.  “How is it you’re not long-since dead?”

“Clean living,” he replied amiably, though he felt not the least bit friendly.  James shifted his weight and scooted forward slightly in his seat. Whilst he didn’t think he’d need his weapon, one never knew about these things.  Easier to grab at the Walther holstered at the small of his back this way.

The snort was light and delicate and wholly derisive.  “Hardly that, I should think. You were a drunken, emotional wasteland when last I saw you.  Thought you’d throw yourself in front of the first bullet to be fired your way and have done with it.”

“And when last I saw you, you were fucking someone new every night before returning to share rooms with the man you claimed to love.  So now that we’ve caught up on the past, to what do I owe the distinct dis pleasure of sharing this table with you, Madeleine?”  

James looked about him, surreptitiously seeking out other potential threats -- Christ knew who Madeleine had thrown her lot in with -- but more to seek out Q.  He’d much rather get her on her way before Remy returned from the shops.

“Even more charming than before.”  Madeleine placed her mobile on the table and signalled the waiter, gesturing at James’ drink, clearly planning to linger.  Lovely. “Truly, I did think you’d be dead by now, so when I walked in just now and saw you sitting here very much alive, I simply had to know how you’d managed it, or at the very least find out what you’ve been up to all this time.  I can’t imagine your former employer accepted you back. Not after the way you abandoned them. But then that’s rather your default setting.”

James refused to rise to take the bait as she clearly wanted him to do.  Rather he let his eyes take stock of the woman who represented the biggest mistake of his life.  Other than to wonder what happened to her, James had rarely given Madeleine a passing thought. Certainly not once Remy had forgiven him for his transgression.  

Still trim, she was beautifully turned out in a tasteful, floral sundress and a wide-brimmed hat.  However, though she wouldn’t be much past 40, Madeleine looked older than Q who had turned 51 a few months ago.   It was the faint lines at the corners of her eyes and mouth that aged her. James knew them to be the kind caused by years of defeats, disappointments, and the bitterness that resulted.   

“They did take me back, as a matter of fact,” he finally replied, “but I’m afraid you’re not cleared to know anything more than that.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that, 007.  I think there might be a few other details Dr Swann might like to know.”

James closed his eyes briefly but managed to contain his sigh.  So much for getting Madeleine out of here before Remy arrived.

“This is a private conversation,” Madeleine snapped, “and you are intruding.”  

James stiffened at her tone, the dismissive wave, and its accompanying glare.  He was rising from his chair to physically remove her from the table, but Q’s laugh and the firm hand on his shoulder stayed him.  

“Well, someone’s certainly intruding, but it isn’t me,” Remy agreed.

“Wait.  I know you,” Madeleine said.  “You’re that boffin from the resort.  The Quartermaster .”  Her tone had not improved.  

A tightening of Q’s hand on his shoulder kept James from reaching for his weapon and shooting the snide bitch right there at the table and to hell with the consequences, but then, he’d always been able to read James well.

“It would only annoy the police municipale, James , and you know how much Auguste loves Christmas.  They’d know the chief of police for years, and he was always so disappointed when his Christmas celebrations were interrupted by violence, justified though James felt this would be.

“Oh, thank you Gaétan.”  Remy plucked Madeleine’s drink off the tray of the waiter who’d just arrived and took a sip of the punch.  “Perrine still hasn’t managed to convince Liv to give up her recipe, I see.”

Non, Monsieur Remy.   Au grand chagrin de Perrine .”

“Let Perrine know I’ll message Liv before we leave.  See what manner of deal I can broker on her behalf.” Q gestured with his mobile.

Je vous remercie .”   Gaétan indicated the drink in Q’s other hand.   Dois-je apporter un autre pour la dame?”

“No.  The lady won’t be staying be staying long enough to get thirsty,” Q said with a hard look for Madeleine.  

James laughed aloud, his humour increasing when Madeleine turned her glare from Remy to him.  Why had he even been worried? Q was Q. An expert at putting misbehaving toddlers -- be they children or Double-Os -- right where they belonged.  Madeleine would be no different. James sat back and crossed his legs, settling in to enjoy the show.

Restez-vous avec votre mari pour le dîner ?”  the waiter asked, tucking the tray beneath his arm.

“Yes, but give us fifteen minutes, if you would, Gaétan.  We’ll order then.”  Once he was gone, Q hooked the chair to the left of James with his walking stick and sat down close to him, placing his hand atop his husband’s where it rested on his thigh.  

V otre mari, ” Madeleine repeated the waiter’s words.  “ You two … are married?!” she scoffed.

Okay, maybe one little bullet to the brain , James thought.

“Fifteen years now,” Q replied, twining his fingers with James’ and squeezing lightly.

Behave, love.  I’ve got this , that pressure said.

“Fifteen years …” Madeleine echoed.  Her blatant sarcasm and disbelief had cooled somewhat at Q’s declaration.  She twisted -- somewhat uncomfortably -- in her seat.

“I’ll save you from having to do the maths,” Remy said, his tone similar to the one Sherlock used when he was about to eviscerate a suspect.  “We married a little over a year after he returned from Aspen. He hardly abandoned you, however, no matter how you like to twist history to serve your purposes.  Oh,” Q perked up as if suddenly realising something, “but then that is why you lost your medical licence four years ago isn’t it?”

Madeleine gasped.

“You did?” James’ surprise was as notable as her alarm.  Though he really shouldn’t be … surprised, that is. The benefit of such long hindsight is that it had granted him the ability to see the truth of the adage about apples and trees.  

Like her father before her, Madeleine had been -- likely still was -- a master manipulator.  Using her intellect, education, and skills she had worked to shape James into what she wanted him to be by playing on his grief and guilt over M’s death, his worry about his own uncertain future, and his need for something stable and tangible in his life to give him purpose beyond the job.  James wouldn’t call it brainwashing -- he had made his own choices, stupid ones though they were -- but for a time, she had convinced him that to become the man he wanted to be, he could not do it anywhere other than at her side.  

Nothing had been further from the truth, and James tightened his hold on the hand of the man who had made James the man he was today through his love, patience, and infinite capacity for forgiveness.  Traits Madeleine didn’t have and certainly would never understand.

“She did,” Q confirmed.  One handed, Remy entered something into a program on his mobile that looked new to James before exchanging it for his drink on the table.  “Granted, falsifying records -- manipulating history -- was the least of your transgressions, isn’t that correct Dr Swann? Criminally negligent malpractice is a much more serious situation. You improper diagnosis along with prescribing psychotropic medications without going through the informed consent process with your patient beforehand turned a depressed man manic and psychotic, and when he decided that -- prior to committing suicide by slitting his throat -- he’d first use that knife to stab to death nine innocent concert goers whom he felt were out to get him, you falsified his medical records so you wouldn’t be held accountable for your mistakes which lead to his actions.”

There weren’t many things that surprised James anymore.  Not after all he had seen and done. Not after all he’d seen his children do, but this was … wow.  “You never did do things by half measures, did you, Madeleine,” James said.

“She has paid for it.  A tad. She’s spent the last three years in a correctional facility in Florence, Arizona, and the bulk of her family inheritance has gone to compensate the victims’ families.”

“How do you know all these things?  The records were sealed.” Though her voice still had bite to it, Madeline had gone noticeably pale beneath her wide-brimmed hat.

Q sighed and took a sip from his punch.  “How quickly people forget. There is no server or database I cannot hack, no digital door I cannot open to see what is on the other side, and I have been looking, Dr Swann, at you. For some time now.  Ever since James returned as a matter of fact. I have monitored your every movement for 17 years, at first because I felt you were a potential danger to the United Kingdom and needed to be watched, but the true threat you posed has always been to James and to our children.”

James stiffened.  “Q?”

“The dear doctor’s appearance here today is not happenstance, James.  She’s been following you since we arrived on the island and for quite longer than that, in fact.”

Madeleine had been busy in the two months since she was released from prison.  Remy went on to detail a complicated plot that culminated in Madeleine planning to blackmail James with photos of him having sex with his male lover.  Photos she would send to James’ wife if he did not pay her one million pounds.

James laughed.  “What wife?!”

“She thought you’re married to April,” Q said of their dear friend and co-worker who was the Bond children’s biological mother.  “Digital school records can be terribly misleading at times.” Especially when purposefully manipulated by the Quartermaster of MI6 to shield his identity so as to reduce the kidnapping threat otherwise posed to his children.

“The children were never in danger,” he assured James who was starting to look murderous.  “If I’d thought for a moment-”

“You’d have told me,” James said with a warm smile for his husband that turned icy again when he switched his attention back to Madeleine, “so I could kill her myself.”

Remy was of the same opinion.  “For a reasonably intelligent woman, it is quite the height of stupidity to attempt to blackmail a Double-O, but then you are a bit skint right now and have no hope of ever practising again.  Desperation tends to cloud judgement.”

“You have no proof of any of this,” Madeleine insisted.  She straightened in her seat, regaining some of her confidence.  “If I had planned to blackmail James, you stopped me before it ever took place.  No crime has been committed.”

“Oh, I have all the evidence I need for this and more.”  

James recognised the smile on Q’s face.  It was the one James worked hard to never have turned on him.  It was the smile Q used with people who were doomed but just didn’t realise it yet.  It was the smile of a man who had worked with licensed serial killers for 25 years. It was the smile of a man who was himself the deadliest of those serial killers.  

“Again, Ms Swann -- ‘Doctor’ really isn’t quite accurate anymore, is it? -- no door remains locked to me for long, but my 8 year-old sons have better security on their laptops than you have on yours.  I will admit, however, your record keeping is quite impeccable. Every last detail clearly laid out. Even the draft of the email you planned to send to James’ ‘wife’ if he refused your demands. The only thing missing were the photos you planned to use.”  

Q retrieved his mobile from the table and entered a few more commands to the application that was running when he unlocked it.  “Which we now have.” He turned to show James the first photo in the album he’d apparently just finished copying from Madeleine’s phone.  It had been taken two nights ago at dusk and was of the two of them, naked on the private beach of the Holmes estate, James balls-deep in his husband’s arse.  

Both men wore expressions of absolute ecstasy.  

It would have been the perfect blackmail photo.  Alas ...

“That was a good night,” James said.  And it had been. “Sand was a bit scratchy afterwards, but you were incredible, love.”  James kissed Q’s cheek, rubbing his scruff against the smooth flesh.

Remy leaned into the kiss.  “You look beautiful in this.  I’m keeping it, I think.”

Madeleine’s whimper of dismay pulled their attention from each other.

Q eyed her in a way that suggested he was annoyed by her interruption of their moment.  

“There is a cab outside with your belongings in it ready to take you to the airport,” he said.  “In your luggage, you will find a one-way ticket back to Phoenix. Leave. Now. Do so, and I won’t turn you over to the local constabulary.  The gendarmes take an even dimmer view of blackmail and coercion than they do of violence.” Q gestured with his mobile. “But know this.  I will continue to watch, and if you even think about coming near my family -- James, our children, any of my family -- with so much as a greeting card, you’ll wish I had turned you over to them.  At least then you’d be safe from me.”   

Madeleine had grown increasingly pale with each threat and promise Q issued, but to her credit was surprisingly steady when she rose to her feet, compromised mobile in hand, and took her leave.  James had seen more than one seasoned agent tuck tail between their legs after a dressing down from their Quartermaster.

Neither man turned to watch her go.  Remy because he was typing something into his mobile.  James because he was absolutely riveted by the man at his side.  Nearly twenty years they’d known each other, and known each other, and still, the man found ways to surprise and impress him.

“You weren’t lingering in the shops, were you?”

“No.  Tending to this,” Q answered, not taking his eyes from the small screen in his hands.

“Christ but you’re amazing,” James breathed.  Remy turned and smiled then, green eyes bright with the compliment.  James brushed back a silver-burnished dark curl from Q’s forehead and cupped his cheek lovingly for a moment before bringing their lips together in a tender, appreciative kiss that left them each a tad breathless at the end.  Had they been alone …

“I am surprised you didn’t turn her in, however,” James said with a nibble to his husband’s earlobe.

Remy’s laugh was dark.  “Only to the Martinique police.  Federal marshals will be there to escort Madeleine off the plane and back to prison when she arrives in Phoenix.  Rather spectacularly violated her parole with this stunt, I dare say. Besides, no one hurts what’s mine and gets away with it.”

James' bark of laughter echoed through the patio, drawing the attention of several other diners.  “God I love you!”  

“So bloody much,” Q grinned, adding the long-standing appendix to James’ declaration before he, too, ran appreciate fingers down the contours of James’ face; he’d been lax in his shaving since their arrival and now had a rather appealing amount of silver stubble matching the hair on his head.  He looked so fucking sexy. Maybe this time Remy would finally convince his James to at least grow a goatee.

“Come on, my silver fox.  Let’s go home and celebrate,” Q husked in James’ ear.  “I think I know of a few places I’d like you to rub this scruff.”

James did not have to be told twice.

  

Chapter Text

December 23, 2034

 


 

 

“Any change?”

“Finally ate something.  Eggs and soldiers for tea.”

“It’s a start. His appetite will return, but keep an eye that he’s getting enough fluids.  That man of yours dehydrates faster than an orchid in the Sahara.”

“I will.  John … I’ve never seen him like this.  Hasn’t said anything since the funeral.  Yes, there were bouts of depression after the car crash and again when he let himself get so ill a few years ago, but he’s never just … stopped.  It’s like someone flipped a switch.”

“Grief’s a funny thing, James.  Never know how we’ll react when it hits us.  When Sherlock died … well, I don’t remember much of the first month.  Mrs Hudson had to threaten me with my own gun to get me out of my chair to even shower.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Yeah, well, I try not to think back too much on that time myself.  Dark doesn’t begin to cover it, and I didn’t even realise I was in love with the nutter at that point.  But this … the way Siger died.  It’s affecting each of them, but …”

“Not like it is Q.”

“Not like it is Q, no.  

"The way he threw himself into planning the funeral, I thought …”

“He was fine?”  

“Yeah.”

“Gave him something to focus on so he didn’t have to deal with the reality of his da’s death, but once that was over …”

“Too much time to think.  He seems to find comfort in the children.  One of them is usually around, trying to draw him out -- I sent them out with Pearce a bit ago to blow the stink off -- and Q crawls into my arms at night, but ...”

“But even though he’s there, Remy’s not really there , is he?”

“No.  He’s with Siger.  Memories. Closer to him than to Mummy.”

“Much more.  Sherlock never fully understood their father.  Too sentimental, I suppose. Remy’s more like Siger than his brothers are.”

“I guess … I never expected this, fool that I am.  We deal with death all the time, lose colleagues and friends.”

“This isn’t work, though.  It’s family.”

“I think I expected the Quartermaster’s response, and I’m ashamed of that.  I know Remy better than that.  Siger is at the core of who Q is as a person, and I …”

“It’s the same with Sherlock.  Too bloody stoic and controlled when it comes to the negative things in life that I sometimes forget he has an emotional core made of marshmallow fluff.”

“Should I take comfort in that idea?  It’s a tad disturbing.”

“Welcome to my life.”

“So what you’re telling me is just wait it out?  Be there for him. Sooner or later he’ll come back to me?”

“Pretty much, yeah.”

“Patience is not my strong suit.”

“Is this supposed to be news?  I’ve met you, remember.”

“Fine.  Patience.  Keep him fed and watered and comforted.  Got it. Oh, speaking of, I’ve not heard from Grey or Alec today.  How’s Violet?”

“As well as can be expected.  Good idea, I think, for her to spend time with them rather than try to navigate the insanity of all the children, but I know she’s looking forward to Christmas Ev-.”  

“Fuck!”

“James?”

During his conversation with his brother-in-law, James had been pottering about in the kitchen, making a fresh, hot cuppa for Q, but Q was not in the back sitting room amidst the fairy lights and other holiday decorations that Anthea’s horde had put up the day before Siger died.  Nor was he in their bedroom, any of the children’s rooms, Pearce’s, or anywhere up or downstairs.

“He’s gone.”

“Q?”

James checked the security panel in the entryway.  Sure enough. Q had accessed it seven minutes ago and left the house, altering the protocols so as not to trigger the door chime when he left to keep James in the dark that he had done so.  He dashed outside -- exhalations rising up like ghosts in the frigid darkness -- looking up and down their short street, but Q’s limping form was nowhere to be seen on the lamp-illuminated pavement.  He explained as much to John.

“Sherlock’s calling Mycroft,” John said a moment later. “See what he has on CCTV.  We’ll find him, James.”

“John.”  James struggled with the words, fear for what it might mean clouding his mind.  “He left his coat behind.”

“Bugger.”

They didn’t manage track down Remy until after midnight.  Mycroft’s network worked perfectly but unlike Sherlock who tended to flaunt his presence on the cameras to annoy his elder brother, Q knew exactly where the gaps in the system were to keep out of sight.

In retrospect, they all should have known where he was heading.  James was the closest when the notification finally came through, but when he finally spotted Q, he knew he’d have to try something different to pull his husband from the malaise his grief had caused.

He rung Alec who had been out searching with Eve.  “Need you to stop by the house.”

“Bring his coat?”

“Yes, but there’s something else, too.”

“Christ.  You’re really pulling out the heavy artillery, aren’t you,” Alec said when James was done explaining his plan.

“If you have a better idea …”

“Be there in twenty.”

The heavy ordnance arrived 18 minutes later.

“Papa?”  

Though Q’s eyes shifted slightly in her direction, Mir couldn’t say he truly saw her.  “It’s cold out here.  You need this.” She wrapped Remy’s heavy, aubergine wool coat about his shoulders and with a bit of tugging and twisting, manoeuvred her father’s arms into the sleeves.  She linked his green scarf about his neck and pulled the matching knit cap over his salt and pepper curls before doing up the buttons.

“Hands,” she insisted, standing in front of him with hers extended.  “Hands, Papa,” she repeated when he didn’t move, but finally he provided her with first one, then the other.  His movements were sluggish, so it was up to her. More tugging. And when his hands were finally clad in black insulated leather, Miranda pulled a thermos from her satchel on the pavement and poured him a hot cuppa.

“Drink.”  She wrapped his fingers around the thermos cup.

Q drank.

Whilst he did, Mir pulled on her own mittens and tugged her knit cap snugly over her ears. Adjusting her blond plaits until they sat ‘just so’ on her shoulders, she sat down next to Remy on the cold, concrete ledge outside The Bridge Theatre and linked her arm with his.

It wasn’t until he had finished his tea that she spoke again.  “It really is beautiful, isn’t it?”

Tower Bridge stood tall and stalwart and silent before them; its already grand countenance illuminated in the colours of the season.  “I mean, it’s always pretty, but this time of year with the trees and the fairy lights … I can see why you liked coming here with Gramps.”

Q said nothing, though his eyes turned back to the bridge.  It was what had focussed his attention before Mir arrived.

“You sure this is a good idea?” Alec asked, pulling up his coat collar against the chill.  He stood next to James near the corner of the theatre, far behind the two figures sat on the ledge.

James shrugged and rubbed at his goatee as he’d taken to doing when posed with a problem he wasn’t entirely certain how to solve.  “No idea, but Mir’s always been his. Like he was Siger’s. So maybe …”

Alec nodded.  He knew the power of Miranda Bond first hand.  He was hers, after all. Had been since James put her in his arms not even an hour after she’d been born.

Maybe.

“Here, Papa, use this.  You probably don’t have one on you, leaving the house as you did.”  Miranda pulled a handkerchief from her coat pocket and exchanged it for the cup in his hand.  His nose had started to drip in the cold.

Absently, Remy pressed it to his nose.  More of an instinctual move than one made as a conscious choice.  

Miranda sat the cup on the ledge beside her and linked both arms with his again.  “That’s my favourite, you know. It was the first one. I was, what? Five, maybe?  So ten Christmases ago. Yes. It would be. Just made the tenth. It’ll be in your stocking like always tomorrow morning.”

Remy blinked and actually looked at the handkerchief in his hand.  Unfolding it on his palm, he saw old needlework on an even older square of cloth.  ‘Kisses for your pocket’ was awkwardly embroidered in pink thread -- the skills of a novice; of a little girl not yet used to manipulating a small needle to embellish fine linen -- and beneath it were three hearts sitting atop a row of Xs meant to represent the hugs that accompanied the kisses.

Miranda had given it to him years ago.  As she said, the first of many. “So you don’t forget me when you’re at work, Papa,” she had told him at only five years old.  Mir’s handkerchiefs were the only ones he ever used. He always had one in his pocket. Even now.

He turned and looked at her.

“It wasn’t Gran who taught me to do that,” she said of the embroidery, Bond blue eyes fixed on his.  “Gramps did. He taught me a lot of things. He’s like you. Always knows how to answer my questions or make me feel better or make me laugh when I don’t want to.  I miss him. It’s only been eight days, but I miss his voice. I don’t want to forget what it sounds like.”

She sighed and rested her head on Q’s shoulder.

“I miss your voice more.”

A sudden sob rent the cold night air, and Remy pulled his daughter to him, wrapping his arms about her, weeping into her cap.  Miranda clung to him, her own tears dampening the front of his coat.

“I’m sorry.  I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” Q insisted between his tears.  He pulled back, took her precious face in his hands, and kissed her cheeks.  “I love you, poppet. I … I just miss him so much.”

“Then don’t stay silent about it.  About him. Tell me! Talk to me!” Mir insisted.

“What do you want to hear?” Q asked, puzzled.

“Everything I don’t already know about him.  Like why you two always came here together the night before Christmas Eve but never brought the rest of us?  I’m sure it’s a good story and telling it will make you feel better.”

Remy searched her face for a moment.  “How did you get so wise?”

“Auntie Eve.”

Though Q’s laugh was broken, it was genuine.  “Sounds about right. Christ knows it wasn’t from your Dad or me.”  He hugged her to him again, pulled her hat from her head, and pressed a kiss there.  “Thank you.”

Though his grief was still heavy upon him, it was somewhat lighter than before, thanks to this darling, impossible girl in his arms.  

“I love you, Mir,” he said again.  “So bloody much.”



 


Chapter inspired by this photo courtesy of Boffin1710.

Chapter Text

December 23, 2035


 

Frightened, tearful, ice blue eyes met his as he slowly advanced.  His focus never left his mark though. Neither did his aimed weapon, ready to take the shot as he assessed the situation in detail.   Green lights flickered on the Walther gripped tightly in his hands reminding him of who had made the weapon for him.

Who he was avenging.

Dressed all in black, Uncle Alec stood before her, but this was an Uncle Alec Mir didn’t recognize.  Cold, dark... something... an avenging angel?

Or demon wearing a familiar face?  

“Finally something brings the elusive Alec Trevelyan out into the open,” his mark sneered, tightening his forearm around the blonde teenager’s neck, using her as a shield.  He pressed the muzzle of the Sig tightly to her temple. The threat was clear.

“Close your eyes, Mir...” were the only words 006 spoke as he advanced a few more steps.

He took the shot.

 


 

 

Walking stick abandoned, Remy was out the door and limping down the few stairs into the gated front garden before the black 4x4 pulled to a full stop outside the house on Barton Street.  James was not far behind, his crutches hindering him far more than he would have liked.

One of Mycroft’s men kitted out in black tactical gear, got out from behind the wheel and opened the door just behind.  John Watson was the first out. He carried a small med kit in his hand and quickly moved to the side so Alec could slide out behind him.

Though not nearly as petite as her mum, Mir was still on the slight side and in spite of his own 59 years, Alec seemed to have no difficulty in carrying the 16-year-old.  The look on his face was grave -- an unsettling blend of Alec and 006 Q had never seen before -- but then Mir turned her bruised and bloodied face toward him, a mouthed “Papa!” on her lips, and Q lost sight of all else save his child.  

As if by some tacit agreement, the small army -- Bonds, Holmeses, retired and current MI-6 personnel, and even a DCI from the Met -- which had spilt into the garden silently parted like the Red Sea as Alec Trevelyan carried his god-daughter into the house and up to her bedroom on the second floor.  Once he had her sat on the bed, Alec stepped away and Mir was descended upon by her fathers and mother.

“Tell them I’m sorry,” Alec said to Sherlock and Greyson who stood in the corridor.  “I’m so, so sorry.”

And before his husband could stay him, Alec was down the stairs and out the door, disappearing into the cold night.

Alec walked through the darkness and rain. That it soaked him to the skin didn’t even register.  A vehicle would be traceable, and the last thing he wanted at the moment was to be found, not even by Greyson.  Eventually, he hailed a cab; it dropped him off at one of the still open off license shops. He stocked up on the magical liquid that would successfully drown the events of the last few days before continuing his purposeful walk to his intended destination.

Alec shouldered open the door to a hidey-hole safe house known only to Bond and himself, lost deep in a warehouse district north of London.   As far as he knew, it hadn’t been used by either of them in at least five years or more, and he doubted Bond even remembered it existed.

Somewhere no one would ever think to look for him.  

He didn’t bother to strip off his rain-drenched clothes before opening up the first bottle and stood at the window staring out into the rain over the never sleeping city of London.  

Not bothering with a glass, the burn of the first swallow brought hopes of forgetting that he had been the cause of almost losing one of the most precious things in his life:  Mir.

Not Q’s past. Not Bond’s past.  But someone from his past had taken her.  Fucking Aleksandr Kostyra Trevelyan’s past come back to bite him in the proverbial arse.  Alec didn’t move from the windows and before he realised it, half the bottle had disappeared.   

How the bloody fuck would he ever be able to face Q and Bond again?  

And Mir ... she had finally seen the truth of just who ‘lovable Uncle Alec’ really was.

She had been taken because they thought she was his daughter.  They had been ready to kill her because in all ways save biology, she and her brothers were the children he’d never had.

Mir had nearly died because of him.  Even if Q and Bond did manage to forgive him, he wasn’t sure he’d ever forgive himself.


 

The sun was just starting to rise when Miranda woke in her own bed.  She was cradled in her Papa’s arms with Da propped against the headboard behind her.  

She breathed in the soothing scent of her fathers and opened her ears and heart to the familiar sights and sounds of home, letting them push away the nightmare that had startled her awake.  

Uncle John had taken care of the bulk of her injuries last night after she’d showered off the grime, the tears, the blood, and -- yes -- the brains with Auntie Eve’s help.  Though grateful he hadn’t felt she needed to go to A&E once she’d reassured him and her fathers she hadn’t been raped, Mir still knew a trip to her GP was in her immediate future nonetheless.  Which was fine. She was stiff and sore and still more than a little bit scared, but just being here in her room with her family pushed away the most immediate of the remembered horrors of the last several days.

“Poppet?”  Papa hadn’t called her that in a long time.  “What do you need?” He must have woken when she did.

Though still in his early 50s, her father had aged noticeably in the three days she’d been missing.  He looked haggard and wan, the laugh lines at the corners of his eyes and mouth appeared deeper, and his hair seemed shot through with more silver than it had been before.  The look on his face was one Mir had never seen. One of relief and residual fear, but it was the guilt she read there that she hoped to never see again. It confused her. What reason could he possibly have to feel guilty?

“I need answers,” she said in reply to his question.  “I need to know why I was taken. And ... I need to know who Uncle Alec really is.”  

Your daughter.  Pragmatic even now.”  The resultant sigh came from behind her.  “Come on then. It’s well past time you to know the truth, I suppose,” her Da said.  He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and twined his fingers affectionately in Papa’s curls.  “Let’s do this before Baker Street descends on us and Eve and Oz arrive with your brothers in tow, but I’m not having this conversation on an empty stomach.”

Fifteen minutes later, James was leaning against the kitchen counter, letting it support most of his weight while he cooked eggs and fried up sausages and tomatoes.  His crutches were within reach next to him. Q was busy buttering multiple pieces of toast and dishing up the sauteed mushrooms.

“Papa, turn around,” Mir demanded from the other side of the island worktop.  “Papa, look at me!” Q sighed and laid down the butter knife to face the judgement of his eldest child.  

“So it was all a lie.  Everything you’ve ever said about where you worked, what you do, what Da and Uncle Alec did?”  Mir stood staring at him with that oh-so-familiar cocked eyebrow, icy glare, and hands braced on her hips.  Save the blonde hair, it was like dealing with an angered mirror image of himself.

“It wasn’t meant as a lie, sweetheart,” James clarified. “It was protection.  The less you and the boys know...”

“The less prepared we are to deal with things.”  Mir chided him and his reasoning. “I can’t believe you two!  You really thought this was a good idea?!”   Mir stormed across the kitchen dropping into a chair at the kitchen table.  

“Worked well enough for 16 years.  We’re hardly blood amateurs,” Q muttered under his breath so petulantly that James had to suppress his grin.  Father and daughter not alike at all.

“So let me get this straight.  You,” Mir pointed a finger at James, “and Uncle Alec are ‘spies’ or some bloody such thing.”  The waving of her hands in the air so very reminiscent of her Papa again.

“Language Mir, and it’s a tad more complicated than that,” Q started but was interrupted by his daughter again.  

“Then uncomplicate it for me, Papa.  I deserve to hear it all.”

 


 

 

By the time the explanations were largely done, they were on their second pot of tea.  Breakfast was done to dust, plates and cutlery pushed to the side.

“I was the first Operations Officer in MI6 history to live to see retirement.  Your Uncle Alec was the second. It’s more common now, but wasn’t at the time,” James said.

“Because of Papa,” Mir said with a nod at Remy.

“No, Mir.  I’m just one of a team who--”

“Oh knock it off, Q,” James growled.  “It’s a team and a programme that wouldn’t have existed at all, if not for you.  Revolutionised things so we stood a better chance of coming home alive. Stop playing down your contributions.  You know what would have happened to me without your voice and skill on the other end of things. Christ!”

“Oh my God!  Q!” Mir shouted.

“What?!” asked Remy as startled by her shout as he was embarrassed by James’ praise.

“Q! …” hands flapped again, “ Quartermaster !  All this time I thought it was short for Cutie or Quince… you know, a term of endearment.”

“That’s absolutely horrid,” Q breathed, a touch offended.  He turned to James. “Don’t you think that’s horrid?”

“I think it’s charming, actually,” but James’ smile sobered when he again took in the bandages around his daughter’s wrists, the cuts and bruises on her face … her neck.  He only just managed to tamp down his rage.

He’d not slept in four days.  

The first three for worry: his recently replaced knee had made it impossible for him to go with Alec and the team of MI5 and MI6 agents Mycroft and Mallory had assembled to hunt down the skullfucks who’d stolen his child.  Instead, he’d focussed his restless energy on keeping Q distracted and as calm as possible for the Quartermaster had been barred by R and the two Ms from any involvement whatsoever as being too close to the situation.

The fourth night James held his darling girl close again, but still, he had not slept.

He suppressed the cold shudder that filled him.  It could all have gone so terribly wrong. Even now, it still could.  Though animated and engaged this morning, he feared what the long-term impact the kidnapping and its associated horrors would have on Mir’s brilliant mind and fierce spirit.  Would he could kill the bastards thrice over for that alone.

“James?”

“What?”  Remy’s voice had brought him back to the conversation.  His husband’s nod at their daughter turned his attention back to her.

“Why did Uncle Alec leave?” Mir asked.  The animation was gone from her now, and her eyes -- so much like his own -- were sad, worried.

James sighed and rubbed his face, fingers lingering a bit in his goatee.  “I’ve a good idea why, but I’ll want to talk to him first before I say anything.”

“He gone.”  Greyson Holmes strode into the kitchen with Sherlock and John close behind.  MI6 guards still kept the door, so there’d been no chime of the security protocols to announce his arrival.  “He disappeared right after Mir was retrieved. Didn’t come home last night.”

“You don’t think he went off hunting on his own?” John asked.  Over the years he had grown more familiar with the thinking processes of his extended family of Double-O agents and knew once poked just how unpredictable their actions could be.  “Any idea where he could be, James?”

Q didn’t join in their questioning.  He was instantly in Quartermaster mode.  He had an agent who had not reported in and concluded his mission.  As the others talked, Q rounded up his messenger bag with his laptop, headset, and logged into Six’s system.  

“R, is the earwig issued to Trevelyan still active?” He returned to the kitchen carrying his laptop.  

“Affirmative.  Equipment has not been returned either.”

“Remotely switch it to private channel 9, and I’ll take over monitoring for now.” The laptop found it’s preferred home on an out of the way, protected corner of the counter as Q wandered the now crowded kitchen.  Mir watched in fascination as her Papa transformed in front of her eyes into who she assumed was the Quartermaster of MI6.

“006. Sitrep.”

“006.  Sitrep.”   The earwig was still active and he knew it was connecting by the background sounds.  Minutes passed as the calls to the agent continued unanswered.

An hour passed with Q pacing the kitchen, his leg growing increasingly painful when John finally forced him into a chair and handed him a pain pill.  Q downed it dry before John could hand him a glass of water.

“006!  Respond now!  Do not make me kick your sorry old arse when I find you, Trevelyan.”  Q was rapidly running out of patience.

And then finally, there came a mumbled, drunken reply.  “Fuck off.... Quartermaster.”

Q tossed a ‘we’ve got him!’ thumbs-up to the room at large and the tense, distressed looks on the assembled faces --  especially Greyson’s -- eased notably. To his wayward agent, Q said, “‘Bout bloody time. Since when do you ignore your Quartermaster’s sitrep checks, agent?”  He made grabby hands in the direction of his laptop and John passed it to him.

“Not my Quartermaster … retired.  So Fuck … Off!”

Q accessed the wig’s tracking programme on his laptop.  Unlike the upgraded SmartBlood trackers which were always on, always keeping track of an agent’s location when they were off home-soil, the earwig’s voice recognition software needed an active voice on the other end to complete the GPS connection.  Normally it wasn’t a problem, a redundancy, but Alec had never been given the nextgen SmartBlood nanites, and so there had been no way to track him until the ‘wig’s connection was complete.

Idiot programming!  With the part of his mind not focused on finding his friend and bringing him home safely, Q noted to pull this generation earwig from use.  Complete GPS tracking on all earwigs. Full stop.

“Bit of a hangover, have we?” Q asked mildly, pulling a notepad from his bag and scribbling a location on it, he held it up so James, who was balanced on his crutches across the room from Q, could see it.  No sense in letting Alec know they were on to him, and he was too experienced with comm channels not to know if Q muted the connection to speak freely to those in the kitchen.

Harlesden??

For a moment James’ looked at it blankly, then his eyes opened wide. “Christ.  Yes,” he said softly to avoid being picked up by the feed. “Established a safe house there … what? … 25 years ago, at least.  Forgot all about the bloody place.”

“Still drunk … why’ve you not … fucked off …” Alec finally responded.

“I’ve always been drawn to your scintillating personality, 006,” Q quipped.  As he continued to distract his errant retired Double-O, he scribbled the rest of the address on the pad -- lest Bond had forgotten that, too -- and slid it across the table.  

‘Take Eve’, it also read and below that …

‘Bring him home!’

Q motioned John and Sherlock closer to him as he scribbled another quick note.  “Eve, Osbourne.. on way with boys. Two minutes out from last text. Head off outside. Explain”

John nodded briskly shoving Sherlock out of the kitchen just as Alec drunkenly began to rant at Q.  “You little shite... told... fuck off. Leave me the fuck alone... Q.”

“You know that is an impossibility, 006.   Standard mission parameters. You could begin your debrief now by telling me just how many bottles have you consumed.”  Q continued his banter as James hobbled his way out of the kitchen to get ready to retrieve Alec. He sighed knowing it was not going to be an easy task.  Upset, on-edge Alec was bad enough to reason with but a drunk Alec on top of that... almost impossible.

“I’m going with you,” Mir stated behind him just as James reached the upper level of their home to get retrieve some gear.

“I don’t think so, young lady.  This is not...” but he didn’t get to finish his sentence before she interrupted him.

“Uncle Alec left because of me.  Worry about me. Worry about if I was alright.” Mir gave him the simple facts with the authoritative voice that should have been her Papa’s.  “I have to see him. Talk to him. I’m going, and you can’t stop me.”

“You don’t,” James started to argue with her but hesitated and stopped.  She was right. He stared at his daughter standing in front of him, blonde hair and blue eyes but so very much her stubborn Papa.

“Alright.  But you stay in the car.” James huffed.  “Your Papa is so going to kill me.”

 


 

 

Eve looked at James stood in the corridor next to her in the mostly abandoned building.  He’d forsaken his crutches in favour of one of Q’s spare walking sticks. He was slightly more ambulatory this way, but far from fighting fit should Alec try to bolt.  

“Alec knows we’re here and coming in, right, Q?” Eve asked.  “I don’t want to have to shoot him, even if it is with a tranq gun.  You know what he’s like when he wakes up after that.”

A pissed off at the world and at himself Russian with enough vodka in him to sate half of St. Petersburg, Eve couldn’t help but wonder if they shouldn’t have loaded the tranqs with ketamine instead of midazolam.

“Not happy about it, but he knows you’re there,” Q confirmed from his ‘headquarters’ in Barton Street, seven miles away from the dingy flat that served as a long-forgotten bolt hole for two MI6 agents in their younger years.  “He promises he’s unarmed, but he’s completely off his tit. As bladdered as I’ve ever heard him, and decidedly stroppy, so anything is possible.”

“This’ll be fun,” James quipped, pulling his weapon -- also a tranq.  “Ladies first.” He gestured at the door.

Eve stuck out her tongue and saluted Bond with two-fingers before turning the doorknob to the flat.  It was unlocked as has been promised, and though the door groaned on ancient hinges, Moneypenny slid on soundless feet through the entryway and into the main room, James behind her, as silent as was possible given his tripled gait.   

She quickly cleared the sitting room and the postage-stamp of a kitchen.  Most everything was covered with yellowed sheets and the floor was coated with dust save for the size 12 footprints scuffed into the grime leading toward the bedrooms.

She gestured to Bond and they made their way down the short corridor.

“Alec,” Eve poked her head into the first open doorway.  Clear. James took the second.

Loo.  Also clear.

One room left.

“Alec, love,” Eve called out again.  “It’s us. Eve and James.”

“Of course it’s … you ,” came the drunken growl from the back bedroom.  “Who the fuck else would it be … Father Fucking Christmas?!  I told that … sodding Quartermaster … Go. The. Fuck. Away!”

“Thanks a lot.  You owe me,” Eve mouthed to James as he nodded towards the door with his tranq gun ready in hand.  

And then it happened, and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect -- or perhaps more terrible -- if it had been mission planned.   

Alec appeared in the doorway of the bedroom, physically supporting his drunken self with both hands gripping the doorframe.  At the exact same time, Mir, who had decided she wasn’t going to be left out of the action, appeared at the opposite end of the sitting room.

Of course, it was chaos and everyone started shouting at the same time.  

“Bloody. Fuck. No...” stammered Alec.

“Mir, go back to the car!” James demanded.  

“Sweetheart, you need to stay back,” Eve urged.

“Uncle Alec!  You need to come home.  Everyone is worried. And... I am too.” His goddaughter chided him.  “Papa told me everything... MI6, spies, all of it. But I need to hear it from you, too...”

More than once in the nearly three years since she’d taken up Aikido, her fathers had joked that one day Mir’s increasing mastery of the martial art would likely come back to bite them in the arse.

Today was that day.

Dodging her Da’s grasp -- he really was too slow with the walking stick -- Mir ran down the short hall toward her uncle.  Diving low when Eve went high to snag her, she rolled and popped to her feet sliding to a halt on the dust-coated floor right in front of Alec.  

Alec blinked once at the display but recovered as quickly as one so completely soused could.  “You shouldn’t be here,” he growled at her. “Don’t you know? I’m dangerous !” He gestured behind her at James and Eve -- who were holstering their weapons in light of the fact they’d been outmanoeuvred by a determined sixth-former -- and slammed the door in Mir’s face.

It had no lock.

So Mir followed him.

Alec had made his way to the window and stood with his shoulder propped against the casement in the dark room, a bottle of vodka loose in his grasp.   The temperature had dropped in the last half hour, and the rain had become snow. Heavy as it was coming down, it was likely to stick. A rare white Christmas in London.  

“Go the fu- Go away , Miranda,” Alec sighed as she approached.  Drunk though he was, he would never turn his ire on her.  He didn’t look at her, though, instead keeping his eyes trained on the street of the largely abandoned neighbourhood below.  He took a draw from the bottle. “You shouldn’t be here,” he added after the swallow. The bottle was a third gone. An empty one sat on the ground between the window and the lone piece of furniture in the room: a lumpy mattress with no frame that looked as old as the building itself.  

“Neither should you.”  She leaned against the other side of the casement, putting her bandaged and cut and bruised self in his line of sight.  “Should be home with Uncle Grey.”

Alec huffed, continuing to stare silently out the window.  None of this was Mir’s doing and he wouldn’t allow her to be the object of his anger at the world... and himself.  

“There’s been enough upset the past couple of days Uncle Alec.  We should be home with family. Not here.“

Alec turned to face her taking another drag from his bottle. “Since when did you grow so wise, little one.”

“Good handlers,” Mir commented matter a factly before a small smile appeared on her face.   “Don’t make Dad and Auntie Eve come in here and taser you. How embarrassing would that be?”

When he didn’t smile in return, Mir chose a different tactic.  One set around emotions she’d been trying to ignore since she woke up that morning.  

“I’m scared, and I need you,” she admitted.  And she was. “I know it’s impossible, but … I keep thinking they’re going to come back.”

Alec saw the fear in her eyes.  “They won’t,” he swore, pulling her into his arms.  The bottle fell from his grasp, dribbling vodka as it rolled along the uneven floor until it bumped to a stop against the mattress. “They’ll never hurt you again.”

“You killed them,” Mir mumbled into his shoulder, tightening her arms around his back when she felt him stiffen and try to draw away at her reply.  “That man was going to shoot me, so you shot him. And the others. You killed them all to save me.”

Alec felt her tears soak into the weave of the black t-shirt he still wore from his tactical gear, but she was not sobbing in his arms.  Strong little thing, she was.

He’d seen grown men fall to pieces under one third the pressure and life-threatening danger she’d experienced this week.  Even with the muzzle of a gun pressed painfully to her temple, Mir had not struggled in her captor’s arms. The tears in her eyes had been the only sign of her fear and anxiety.  She had followed Alec’s orders, taken cover when the immediate threat to her life lay dead at her feet so he could lay waste to the rest, and walked out of the house in Luton under her own power, collapsing against Alec only once they were safely inside the black 4x4 and John had started his initial check on her injuries.

“I don’t understand why you think that’s a bad thing,” she said.  “I don’t understand why you left. I don’t understand why you think you’re dangerous to me.”

“They came after you because of who... what I am.”  Alec stepped back looking down at her.  “Something you were never to see. Not experience.  Ever. And yet....”

“Uncle Alec ...”

“It will happen again.”  He was adamant. And that was something he refused to let happen, to her or the boys.  “Everything done to protect you. Keep this life from you … not enough.”


“Then come home.  Show me how to protect myself.”  She was just as adamant as he.

“You are your fathers’ daughter.”  He huffed at her, sounding more bitter and cyclical than anything.

“Mir ... alright?”  Their bittersweet moment was interrupted by Bond from just outside the doorway.  “Coming in, Alec. Please don’t do something stupid we’ll both regret later.”

“I think we’re all rather past the point of that particular return,” Q muttered through the comm channel that fed again to Alec as well.  

Decades of experience running missions had let Q know when to assist and when to shut the hell up and just listen, and the bulk of this op had definitely fallen into the second category.  That it was his family at the centre of it hadn’t changed that, only made it a hundred times harder to actually do, but as he had listened to Mir through the microphone of Alec’s ‘wig, he had come to the realisation that had not Mir disobeyed James’ order to stay in the car, things with Alec would have likely ended with one or more of them visiting Medical.  She had been the key to keeping flammable things from actually igniting.

“Shut up you little shite,” Alec groused at Q but he nodded his head at James, indicating it was safe to enter.  

Alec was still tense, more than a little bit pissed, but he had started to feel the fight drain out of him the moment Mir wrapped herself around him like a limpet.  He’d never been able to mount a decent defence against the preternatural way she had of getting past his otherwise solid emotional barricades, even Grey -- patient in a way quite atypical for Holmeses -- had to work for it.  Such had been the case since James first placed Mir in Alec’s arms, not an hour after she’d been born.

James tucked his weapon away and limped into the room on his borrowed walking stick.  He pressed a lingering kiss to Mir’s temple and grasped his friend’s arm.

Four decades as friends and brothers meant that often only a look was necessary for James and Alec to understand one another completely, especially when emotions came into play, but this time there would be words, too.

“We may have gone about this the wrong way,” James admitted.  “Thinking to best protect them by hiding who and what we are. Each of us has a past that might come back to haunt us.  Enemies seeking retribution. That this one was yours doesn’t change the bigger issue. The kids need to know the truth and how to protect themselves.”

Alec tightened his arms around Mir who looked up at the two men from within his embrace.  

“Fucking mistaken identity.”  Alec’s sigh was angry and he was too tired to much care anymore what language he used in front of Mir.  She’d likely heard and used far worse at school.

“No, Alec.  Not in the way you think.  They targeted Mir’s father, and it was her father who went after them.”  James slid his hand up Alec’s arm and into his shaggy, mostly silver hair, gripping the back of his head firmly so he could not look away.   “ You , Alec.  You’re as much the children’s father as Q or I.  Always have been.” James choked back the emotion that wanted to settle in his throat.  “I’m so bloody grateful you got her back, Sasha.”

“And I thought my brothers -- well the entire Holmes family really -- were as dysfunctional as they come but sometimes...” Q interrupted their ‘moment’ muttering over the comms.  

“As Alec said ... shut it you little shite.” James couldn’t help but chuckle at the ever-present, ever needed, sass of their Quartermaster.  

“Time to come home children,” Q said.  “You too, Moneypenny. Who seems to be the only sensible one of all of you.  And Alec ... May I suggest you call Greyson. Calm his nerves.”

Though only James and Mir saw it, Alec nodded, chagrined.  There would be much to explain. Hurt to soothe there, too.

“Q... best start some coffee.  Order takeaway. I think we all have a lot to talk about when we get home,” Moneypenny commented, giving James, Alec, and Mir all that look children get when a time-out is on the horizon.

That things could have ended up so much worse was what each of them knew but none wanted to acknowledge at that moment.  Moneypenny was right. There was much to talk about. Plans to be made likely involving each branch of the family.

If they could prevent this from happening again, they would.  Whatever it took.

“Christ we were naive,” Remy said to James, the feed for his husband’s ears alone now.  

“What do you mean?”  James slid into the back of the 4x4 and sighed, grateful to be off his leg. Mir curled into his side as Alec took the passenger seat next to Eve who drove off before his door was completely shut.  

“We wanted to raise the kids in as normal an environment as possible, but look at the family they were born into,” Q clarified.

“If you mean licensed serial killers, a mass murderer with tech skills that intimidate governments around the world, and Holmeses … I suppose you’re right.”

There was a long pause at the other end.  James knew Q was weighing his next words carefully.

“Would you change any of it?”

James thought for a minute.  “Your accident. April’s kidnapping.  The last four days,” James admitted. He looked down at Mir who had fallen asleep against him.  “But if changing any of that means not having had you or the children in my life … then no. I’d keep it the same.”

“I’ll put the kettle on,” James knew from the smile he heard in Remy’s voice that Q wouldn’t change anything either, “and dinner will be here by the time you get back.”

“I love you, too.”


Chapter Text

December 27, 2036


 

 

“William, I’m … I don’t know what to say.”  James flipped through the digital photo album his youngest son -- by all of two minutes -- had shared with him on his tablet.

“You don’t like them.”  The boy’s face, filled with cautious optimism, fell.

“No.  Christ!  Will, I love them!”  James gripped his son’s shoulder and pulled him in for a quick hug, dropping a kiss onto the top of his dark curls, as permanently dishevelled as his Papa’s were, and was again taken aback at how much he was growing.  Though not yet 12 years old, the boys nearly reached his shoulder. The Holmes genes ran true in many ways, but it was readily apparent in their increasing height and breadth that the twins would be built more like Greyson than Remy.  

Where were the years going?

Shaking his head, James returned his attention to the photo currently on the screen.  “These are bloody brilliant.”

And they were, too.  It wasn’t just parental affection and bias speaking.   A series of still shots taken in and around Salzburg over the last two days, the photographs were breathtaking, capturing familiar sights and situations in unique ways that caught not only the eye but the heart, as well.

Snow falling upon the iconic Festung Hohensalzburg , the final rays sunset on Christmas Day lacing the severing clouds to cap the castle with heavenly fingers of light.

A father knelt before his daughter, the knees of his trousers growing damp with snow, desperation clear on his face as he tried to untangle her long, dark hair from the sticky peppermint stick she resolutely continued to lick.  The lights of the Christmas Market in Cathedral Square illuminating them from behind in a golden glow.

A trio of snowflakes frozen in time against the glass of the window in the bedroom Will shared with Andrew, snow-flocked pine trees in the background a blurry, indistinct contrast to the sharp, precise uniqueness of the frozen flakes.

It was the first time they’d taken the children away from London for Christmas, choosing to forgo the Holmes Estate in Martinique in favour of skiing in Salzburg.  Though Will had never shown an interest or aptitude for the sport the way Miranda and Andrew had, the tropics -- palm trees, trade winds, the electric blue of the Caribbean -- just hadn’t felt like what they needed as a family holiday after the horrors surrounding Mir’s abduction last year.  

James and Remy had given Will the digital camera before they’d left London.  An early Christmas present so he might make full use of it during their time away.  The only thing he had asked for, Will had spent countless hours researching various cameras and accessories, presenting his fathers with a detailed prospectus for his top three choices in early December.  

Will had taken a photography class in school this last term, and though his teacher had been effusive in her praise of Will’s work, the boy had steadfastly refused to share any of it with his parents.

Until now.

“Will … these aren’t just photographs,” James said, spreading his thumb and forefinger across the tablet’s surface to zoom in on a patch of snow Andrew had kicked up on his snowboard, an action shot Will had captured as his twin ground to a halt at the base of the slope earlier that day.  “They’re art.”

Q’s smile spread across Will’s face, his green eyes bright with quiet pleasure.  Eyes that, from the day of his birth, had looked at James with a depth he still didn’t fully understand.

Will hadn’t always been the most reserved and introspective of their children, however.  In fact, he’d been a right terror as a toddler, embodying the essence of the phrase ‘terrible twos’ ... and threes, and fours; James still shuddered when he thought about years five and six.

But Will had changed much in the last few years.   Long before his sister’s abduction, and James’ and Remy’s decision to come clean about their lives to better protect their children, James had started to suspect his boy was starting to settle into his ageless soul -- yes, James Bond believed in such things -- and see what was in store for it in this lifetime.

Physically identical to Andrew in every way -- right down to the amber freckle in their left eyes -- he had none of his brother’s flair for the dramatic, but he did have a wickedly sharp sense of humour he’d honed by observing Alec and John and Remy.   His notebooks were not filled with schematics and blueprints as Q’s were. Rather they teemed with sketches of people, their parts, landscapes, and still life. James thought he had caught glimpses of poetry in his books, too, though his son had always quickly thumbed past those pages on the rare occasions he intentionally shared his sketches with anyone.  

But as good as those sketches were, these photographs were something altogether different.  This was Will’s true gift.  And as James looked down at his son he could see the passion for it staring back at him.

Save for Mir’s Aikido -- which had been an intervention more than anything -- he and Q were very careful to not pressure any of their children into any one particular diversion or career path, instead insisting only that they commit a full year to any hobbies, activities, or unique courses of study they took an interest in.  

They had relented only once:  Andrew’s violin. When after three months of agonising screeching, scratching, and hacking at the strings -- which left James almost longing for the quieter torture of Blofeld’s pernicious drill -- Sherlock declared Andrew terminally tone-deaf and refused to allow him entry into Baker Street whilst in possession of any musical instrument, and Q quietly packed up the violin and donated it to a local music academy whilst James drove their oldest son to his first day of rugby practise.  

“This is it for you, isn’t it?”  James gestured with the tablet toward the camera on the kitchen worktop in front of them.   “Not just a hobby.”

“No, Da.  Not just a hobby.”  Will picked up the camera and ran his fingers over its contours almost reverently.  “I can’t explain it, but the minute I picked up the camera Ms Monroe gave me, it just …”

“Felt right,” father and son said together as their eyes met, and James knew precisely the feeling Will was attempting to describe.  He’d experienced it himself.  

How different his life would have been had that ‘rightness’ come holding a surgical scalpel or whilst following Kincade across the moors on his rounds instead of in picking up a 9mm pistol.  Would he have been satisfied with a life working the land or by saving lives instead of taking them?

In looking at his son, however, James knew he’d never sacrifice what his years as Double-O, and all of the horrible but necessary things he’d done for Queen and Country, ultimately brought him:  Remy, Mir, Andrew, and Will.  

Until Q, James never considered he would reap the benefits of his years in the field.  That he would ever share in the safety and prosperity he had worked to secure, yet long before he conceived the idea of a family, before he even knew it was what he wanted, this family is what he had fought for.  

James cupped William’s face, so like his Papa’s, in his hand.  “Then we’ll make it happen.” 

Will’s smile was incandescent.  Far brighter than the fairy lights with which Anthea’s horde had festooned the cabin prior to their arrival.

“Are there any more? I’ve reached the end of the album.”

His son held out his hand, and James passed him the tablet.  “How many do you want to see?”  

“Whatever you want to share.”

Will nodded decisively.  “All of them.”

Two nights later, their last in Saltzburg, after the children were abed, and even Q was nestled in securely at his side and snoring lightly, James flicked through new photos on his mobile.  A series of candid shots William had taken their family. Among his favourites: Mir curled up in a chair near the Christmas tree with the scarf she was knitting, a new hobby she had picked up that year from Alec; Andrew, splayed out on the rug in front of the fire, deep in the latest edition of Rugby World, completely oblivious to the fact the hot cuppa he had asked for was growing cold at his side; and a selfie of Will against the backdrop of a pine trees with a stack of snowballs on the ground at his feet and a cheeky grin spread wide on his face.  Snowballs James knew soon decimated his sister’s defenses. 

It was the last photo in the album that had earned Will his first bit of coin as a photographer.  And earned it he had for James had not paid him as a father attempting to encourage his son’s new venture but as a patron paying for a commission.

It was of Remy caught mid-laugh, green eyes crinkled with delight at something happening just outside of the shot.  Bundled up against the chill, his salt and pepper curls were dusted with snowflakes. He was as at ease as James had seen him in a long, long time.

Along with Q’s contented mien, Will had managed to capture the all wit and wisdom and intellect and love within Remy that in their 20 years together had become so essential to James’ life and happiness. 

A few taps on the screen had the image set as his new wallpaper.  James would ask for a printed copy when they returned home to put in a frame at his bedside.  Grumpy shite that he was, Q would be horrified that he’d been caught out, which would only add to James’ enjoyment of the photograph.  

Smile on his face at that notion, he set the mobile to charge on its mat and nestled down into the mattress to sleep.

“James?”  Q looked at him with bleary eyes in the moonlit room.  “Wha’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Q.  Go back to sleep.”  James wrapped an arm around his husband and pulled him closer.  Beneath the covers, Remy’s bad leg found its customary spot nestled comfortably between James’.  “For once, everything is exactly as it should be.”

Q hummed, trusting completely in his husband’s assessment.  “‘Kay … love you.”

James dropped a kiss to the top of Remy’s hair and closed his eyes.

And I love you -- all of you -- so bloody much.