He wakes up in Medical.
He feels faint, groggy, like he’s been sedated. He doesn’t know why they sedated him; he’s mentioned before that he doesn’t function well on drugs and would rather not be given any unless it’s absolutely necessary. He shifts his limbs, checks for serious injuries, but he’s fine, ergo it wasn’t necessary.
He doesn’t have his phone with him. It’s not on the table by the bed when he checks, and he frowns, because they always let him keep his phone. Well, “let him” is kind of a stretch; he had to persuade them. Menacingly. But politely. He’s good at that.
There are people surrounding him — doctors, nurses, agents. They look worried, sad, and for a moment, he almost doesn’t remember why.
He doesn’t recognise the cry that leaves his lips. He’s never made that sound in his life before.
He’s never had to.
He’s never lost Bond before.
It’s always James when it’s just them alone.
“You shouldn’t be back at work so soon,” someone says to him. He doesn’t bother turning to check who. “M has authorised your bereavement leave. You should take time to grieve.”
His fingers fly across the keypad. He brings up photos of the scene in its aftermath and satellite feed of the explosion. Zooms in, rewinds, replays. Repeats the process.
“I am not grieving,” he says, voice even.
He’s shaken all the trembles out of himself already, lying awake in Medical, humming softly to himself, not daring to stop because if he does, he’ll hear Q, please, please turn the comms off, I don’t want you to-, and he’ll hear the explosion, and he’ll hear the quiet static of white noise after, and he doesn’t think he can bear it again.
He is not grieving.
There is nothing to grieve about. 007 has been presumed dead before, and he’s returned from that before. He isn’t going to mourn or grieve or cry or give up until he knows for sure.
But until then, he has an unfinished operation and a missing agent, and he can fix that. He’s always been good at fixing things.
He rewinds the video, plays it back again.
He is not grieving.
“If you ever pull your disappearing act on me again, I swear I will kill you myself,” Q says, and it’s meant to be a threat, meant to scare James, but he’s got his face pressed to the crook of James’ neck, a handful of James’ shirt bunched in his hand, and he’s shaking, trembling like a leaf in James’ arms.
“No, you won’t,” James says, voice purposefully light in an attempt to ease the tension between them.
He is still gripping tightly at Q’s hip with one hand, though, and rubbing circles into Q’s back with the other. His lips are soft, and he murmurs soothing words into Q’s ear.
“I’m back,” he says.
“I’m okay,” he says.
“I’m sorry I made you worry,” he says.
Q thinks for the first time that maybe he wasn’t the only one who was scared.
“You need to sleep,” they say.
“You need to eat,” they say.
“You need to rest,” they say.
I need to find him, he doesn’t snap. Instead, he listens and nods. He sleeps just enough. He eats just enough. He rests just enough. He doesn’t want anyone to pull him off the case just because they think he’s not competent enough for it, or because they question his state of mind.
“I’m surprised no-one’s physically dragged you out yet,” James says, hooking his chin over Q’s shoulder.
He doesn’t startle, even though he hadn’t heard James come in; no-one else bothers him when he is this deep in work, no-one else dares.
“I have a customised taser and I’m not afraid to use it,” Q says absently.
“You’ve been working for 47 hours straight, Q,” James tells him, voice gentle, arms curling around him. “I’ve been tasked with bringing you home and making you rest.”
At this Q quirks his lips. “A waste of your considerable talent. I’m sure you protested.”
“I don’t know,” James says. “Having the ability to bend the Quartermaster’s will is something to be proud of in my circle.” He is quiet for a moment as Q codes. “If I carried you out, would you use your taser on me?”
Q huffs a laugh, and starts to wrap his work up. “I don’t know, 007, do you want to try?”
“They say it’s the first time he lost an agent.”
“They say M blames him for losing prized MI6 asset and he’s working to redeem himself.”
“They say he knew 007.”
Knows, he corrects mentally.
He knows 007.
007 has twenty-eight MI6 safe houses around the globe, and another four that he keeps off records. He’s resilient, he won’t crack under questioning or torture, he’s resourceful, he always finds a way out.
He loops the words through his mind, keeps doing it until he feels his grip loosen on the pencil in his hand. He is shaking. He stills the tremors, resumes typing.
Q has to give him time.
“James,” Q says, just before he reaches the door.
“Hmm?” James hums, turning back to look at him. His tie hangs around his neck, where Q’d put it, and he makes no move to knot it.
“Come back safe,” Q says.
James cracks a smile, one of the genuine ones he saves for Q. “You’ll have to talk to my Quartermaster about that, I’m afraid. He’s the one overseeing my extraction should things go wrong,” he tells Q, and walks away from the door, back to the bed, where he sits down on the edge and runs his fingers through Q’s already messy hair. “But just between us,” he continues, and leans down to press his lips to Q’s temple, “I think he has the most reason to bring me home safe. You shouldn’t have anything to worry about.”
Q rolls his eyes at him, but he’s smiling when he cups the back of James’ neck to pull him in for a kiss.
He is at home. He has his phone in hand. He is dialling a number.
I’m not shopping for groceries, Q, buy your own bloody tea, is still James’ voicemail greeting. He’d laughed at it the first time he heard it, and came home to his tea cupboard restocked anyway.
He isn’t laughing now.
He takes a breath, says, “James.”
Sinks to the couch, says, “I need you to come home to me.”
Closes his eyes, says, “Please, I don’t know how long I can do this for.”
Cries, says, “James.”
He rummages through the cupboard. “For God’s sake, James.”
“What have I done now?”
“You’re not freeloading at my place, James,” Q tells him. “If you’re going to keep staying here, at least grab some groceries on your way back every once in awhile. You keep stealing my tea.” He is acutely aware of his heart rate picking up. He ignores it in favour of opening more cupboards.
“Is that all I have to do for me to be declared an official cohabitant of this place?” James asks, and he’s closer now than he was before.
“Yes,” Q says, turning over to look at him. He hopes he’s keeping his cool. “Are you going to do it?”
James is smiling, but he says, “No.”
M comes to him.
He starts shaking his head the moment he sees M, balls his hands up into fists, says, “No.” If he says it enough times, maybe it’ll be true.
M looks at him, sighs, and says, “They found a body.”
Q points to a thin scar on James’ sternum.
“Moscow,” James says. “2004. Pocket-knife.”
Q arches an eyebrow at that, but leans down to press his lips to the scar gently.
“She was ferocious,” James tells him solemnly. “Very terrifying.”
Q trails his fingers up James’ chest, until they come to rest right above the bullet scar on his shoulder. “This one looks like it hurt,” he says softly, and kisses the puffed up skin there.
“Shanghai,” James tells him quietly. “2007. Sniper on the roof, never even saw it coming.”
He presses his fingers to the side of James’ neck. “Mumbai, 2003,” he says thickly. Moves lower, to an adjacent bullet wound. “Russia, 2002.” Trails down, runs his fingers over the scar under James’ collarbone. “London, 2014. We went fishing, I tripped him. We didn’t catch anything that day.”
Except a cold, he remembers grumbling.
“I’m sorry,” M says.
He nods, presses his fingers down hard on James’ body, like it would wake him up, like it would bring him back.
“The DNA test came back positive,” M continues, hesitant in a way Q’s never heard before, “but I have to ask.”
He nods again, brings his hand back up to cup James’ cheek, runs his thumb over Bangkok, 2010, and chokes when he says, “Yes.”