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"Was it your idea to have me dragged back to MI6?" Alec drops gracelessly into one of the comfortable chairs Pandora's husband has in their sitting room.

"No, but I did think M's idea was a good one. You need something to keep you from loose ends, Trevelyan." Pandora watches him over her tea cup, blinking once as he rolls his eyes.

"How did she know I was even alive?"

Taking a sip of her tea, Pandora shrugs. "I didn't tell her, if that's what you're asking. And I doubt, for all the trouble you've been causing her, Severus's dear protege did either."

"She couldn't have, not then." Alec uses his wand to direct the tea pot and a cup in a dance to give him his own tea, not actually looking at Pandora. "M says she didn't report me dead twelve years ago."

"After Cuba? Hmm." Pandora shakes her head. "I didn't tell her then, either."

Alec catches the tea cup out of the air with his left hand, settling back in the chair, watching Pandora for a long moment. "Did you tell her I was alive after you sent that bloody Howler in '86?"

"How would I explain that I knew you were alive when MI6's top agent came home bearing tales of your death at the hands of a Muggle?" Pandora snorts, lowering her cup to rest it on the saucer on her knee. "I'm still not best pleased you decided to stay in sodding Russia for nearly a decade. Luna missed her godfather."

"She told me. I still hadn't had the bandages off my eyes yet." Alec remembers wondering how Luna had gotten into Severus's quarters when she'd first sat down next to him on the couch, and told him he had missed nine birthdays too many. "I promised not to disappear on her again."

"Have you kept that promise?" Pandora pours herself more tea, watching him with a sharp gaze.

"More or less." Alec looks away, out the window at the rosebush that's obscuring the view entirely. "I've made sure I'm there for her birthday every year since, at least."

"Good." Pandora doesn't look entirely happy, but at least she's not asking him how often he has vanished for weeks or months at a time in the last twelve years.

Silence surrounds them for a while, tea drank and cups neatly set on the tray. Alec can hear the quiet sounds of someone crossing the floor upstairs, and wonders that Xenophilius hasn't come to say hello, at least.

"Medical won't clear me for field missions yet." He doesn't know why that annoys him, when he doesn't have any desire to go on missions for MI6 again in the first place.

"Physical, or the psych eval?" Pandora sends the tea tray floating to a side table next to the door to be out of the way.

"Both." Alec snorts. "They don't like my range of movement on the right side, or the lingering weakness from nerve damage. And I think they're worried I want to take over the world."

"Or just set it on fire." Pandora shakes her head. "How badly restricted was your access to proper medical potions after Arkangel, Trevelyan? You never have said."

"I put it in the report to M. I don't want to talk about it."

"Twenty-one years is a long time to let nerve damage go, even in our world, Trevelyan." Pandora leans forward, and Alec refuses to look at her. "Have you even been to a healer since you came home? And Severus doesn't count."

"Madame Pomfrey."

"Is good for immediate care of fresh wounds, but isn't equipped for long-term recovery, especially when you didn't get proper medical care in the first place." Pandora reaches across the low table between her couch and the chair, gripping his right knee a moment, and Alec hisses. "How long did it take you to get help after Cuba?"

"Severus pulled me from the wreckage. I don't actually remember much of the first two months after." Alec reaches down to take Pandora's hand before she can dig fingers in to prove her point. "I didn't have any contact with the wizarding world in '86 until your howler, and nothing after. Is that enough for you, Pandora?"

"No, but it will do for now, so long as you actually do something about it. I know you're stubborn, Trevelyan, but you don't have to be Gryffindor levels of foolish about this."

"Why? It's not going to change their mind about sending me out on field missions."

"Talk to someone about it. Preferably someone who isn't going to run screaming for the moors after listening to two decades worth of lack of self-care." Pandora turns her hand in his, wrapping her fingers around his wrist. "And for what it's worth, I think they're right to be worried about your coping methods. Spending most of a decade building a criminal empire isn't the sanest means of coping with betrayal."

"But I was so good at it." Alec grins at her, even as Pandora rolls her eyes in return.

"Until it came back to bite you on the arse." Pandora squeezes his wrist a moment before letting go, and straightening in her seat. "You also went and subverted an MI6 agent for fun. That's not exactly the definition of sane and stable enough to trust in the field."

Alec sighs, slumping back against the chair again. "I'm not going to let James go again just to make them happy. He's mine, and he chose that."

"Did he? Or did you find yourself a new minion?"

"He's not a minion!" Alec glares at her, tensing up. "He's just James."

"What happens if he wants to go?" Pandora doesn't flinch from his growl, watching him steadily. "Do you know how to let him go if that's what he asks for?" She pauses, her face calm even though Alec can see hints of the tension she tries to hide. "Or if he dies on a mission?"

Even the idea of that makes the room feel airless, and Alec sucks in as deep a breath as he can get. He's vaguely aware when someone else comes into the room, enough that he doesn't pull either his wand or the pistol tucked into a holster at the small of his back. "James is mine, Pandora."

"And you need to be able to let him go." Pandora's voice sounds like it's coming from far away. "Not today, not tomorrow, but eventually."

"Over my dead body," Alec snarls, glaring at her as he tries to make the world come back into focus, even as he reaches for the now-familiar connection buried at the back of his mind. Making sure that everything is fine, that nothing has happened, and never mind that he should be able to let it lie.

There's a sense of startled confusion, and warmth, and knowledge that there's nothing pressing right now to worry Alec. Safe. It still takes a long moment to let the connection fade back into the background, and drag his focus back to the world around him.

"Alec." Pandora still sounds like she's at a distance, but he frowns at her words. She never calls him by his first name. "Alec! Wake up, damn you!"

Alec blinks, the world still fuzzy. And at an odd angle that it takes a moment to realize is the top of a wall where it meets the ceiling.

"Alec. There you are." Pandora is right next to him, and he sees her as he turns his head. Watching him with something that looks to be almost panic. He blinks in surprise, and she lets out an exasperated huff. "I didn't think you'd pass out just because I suggested you need to know how to let go of Bond if something happens."

"Don't." His voice is rough, thick with fear he doesn't want to name. "Not now."

"If not me, than someone else. Preferably someone who is equipped to handle you." Pandora is watching him still, refusing to look away. He wonders what else he did besides pass. "And that you can tell whatever you've bloody done to yourself with this obsession with Bond."

Alec lets out a bark of laughter, hearing the bleakness in it as the sound hits his ears. "You're the only one left who might fit those criteria, Pandora."

"No, I'm not. You need someone who's actually trained for this, Alec." Pandora looks up past him, and Alec turns his head to see Xenophilius coming into the room with a steaming teapot and a mug. "Thank you, Xeno."

"Of course." Xenophilius smiles at Pandora, before meeting Alec's gaze easily. "Do you need help to sit up, Trevelyan?"

"No." Alec doesn't move to get up yet, though. The floor is comfortable enough, and he suspects if he tries, he'll be back down on the floor quickly enough. "I didn't pass out."

"Then what would you call a sudden loss of consciouness that resulted in you sliding out of your chair to the floor?" Pandora holds the mug while Xenophilius fills it and sets the tea pot out of the way. "And you'll need to sit up at least a little, and drink this."

"I wasn't unconscious." Alec rolls onto his left side, hissing at the nerve endings that announce their objection to his movement, and levers himself into a semi-reclining position. Close enough to sitting to be able to drink whatever tea Pandora is feeding him.

"You weren't aware of the outside world, certainly." Pandora keeps one hand on the mug even after she hands it to him, fingers lightly keeping it steady as he drinks. He can taste a calming draught under the flavor of the tea, and he suspects there's a compatable restorative in there as well.

"No. I was checking on James." He doesn't even let himself think about the words as he speaks, looking down at the floor rather than meeting Pandora's gaze.

"Alec Dmitriev Trevelyan, what the fuck have you done?"

"Nothing that wasn't asked for." Alec sets the mug down in front of him when it's empty, easing back to lay on the floor again. He'll get up when he feels capable.

"Just because something is asked for doesn't make it a good idea." He can hear Pandora picking up the mug again, and the sound of liquid pouring. Filling it for herself, maybe.

"I don't regret it." Alec closes his eyes, letting himself drift with the lassitude the calming draught brings with it. "He chose it, Pandora. He chose me."

"Chose you, and chose what, Alec?"

"He asked me to mark him. Not the sort of thing Severus wore, not a mark of bondage, I wouldn't do that." Alec hadn't liked seeing that on his friend, not when it was fresh, and not in the last years before his death, either. "Remember the book my grandmother sent me in our seventh year?"

"Oh, Alec. You didn't."

"Of course I did. James asked."

"Did he even know what he was asking for?"

Alec draws a deep breath, feeling the smile tugging at his face. "Not until I explained it."

And still this James had asked him to mark him. To give him that thread of safety, as slim a safety line as it might be. Asked for a way to reassure Alec in a way that words could not, about everything they spoke of in that night.

There's the quiet sounds of someone drinking, and Alec waits for Pandora to decide what she needs to say. It can't change the past, and he refuses to let himself be shamed for this, or be convinced to release the bond that had been sealed in ink and magic and blood.

"Did you really know what you were promising when you told him yes?" Pandora's voice is steady and calm, but Alec had expected nothing else. "Not just what the book told you about how that magic worked, but what making that sort of connection would mean, legally?"

Alec opens his eyes, frowning as he turns his head to look at her. "I can't be sent to Azkaban for doing this, Pandora. There's no law on the books that forbids this."

"Of course there isn't, Alec." Pandora is watching him with an artificial calm, and somewhere behind that lurks a panic she isn't letting out. "That sort of bond can constitute a wedding bond, if it's mutually consensual."

"Oh." Alec blinks, looking at the ceiling again. "Isn't there paperwork involved?"

"Not necessarily, though since Bond is a Muggle, I would expect there to be."

He can hear the mug being filled again, and footsteps retreating out of the room. Xenophilius going to take the teapot back to the kitchen.

"I have to update my will." Alec smiles slowly, laughter bubbling up inside. "And I need to tell mother I'm not dead."

Absolute silence greets that, and he can all but feel the surprise radiating from Pandora.

"Alec. Dmitriev. Trevelyan. WHY does your mother still think you're dead?"

"Because I didn't tell her otherwise. I didn't want her to come looking for me. She was safer that way."

Pandora sighs, and he can hear her pick up the mug again. "You're an ass, did you know that?"

"I wouldn't have been as good at my job - at any of them - if I weren't."

Pandora makes a strangled noise, and a moment later, a pillow hits him squarely on the chest. "You deserve every piece of paperwork M makes you fill out, and every test Medical puts you through, Trevelyan."

"Don't I always?" Alec laughs, carefully rolling onto his side before getting up onto his knees, and from there, to his feet. The world tries to wobble a bit in between, but he only staggers a half-step to the side, where he can grab a chair. Holding on until he's steady on his feet, and can turn to grin down at Pandora. "And I need to go to Gringotts. Get James a proper ring."

The kind that has magic worked into it that lets it vanish to anyone's sight but his and James, even with James being a Muggle. That keeps anyone in the field from knowing that James Bond is no longer single.

"First, you are going to let Xeno side-along Apparate you to London, and have your James meet you somewhere you're comfortable with letting Xeno escort you to and wait with you for James to pick you up. And you are getting some rest." Pandora uses the couch behind her to lever herself to her feet. "I don't trust you to get through the Floo safely, or to Apparate yourself. The rest can wait until tomorrow, can't it?"

"Perhaps." It's been most of a year since James asked, and Alec had granted him the sigil inked into the small of his back. Another day won't hurt, and he can take James with him to Gringotts, and to their jeweler. Let James help to choose design and metal and stone.

"At least tell your James the little nicities you skipped over in getting married, though. I'm sure you'd rather he didn't stand shock-still in the middle of whatever you're planning."

Alec grins, tilting his head to Pandora. There is that. Perhaps telling James this evening will be a good idea after all.