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Distraction Tactic Number 4

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It first happened about a month into his incarceration. James was beginning to lose count of the days, which he shouldn't have been doing. That was one of the first things they were taught in training - if captured, keep track of time, it might keep you sane. If only he could remember how long he’d been in this prison. But it was difficult to do; they carefully gave him no chance to work out what day it was, what week, what month. He wasn't used to it, normally when someone captured him; it was to kill him, not to interrogate him. The last person to play these sorts of games was Blofeld but even he didn't have quite the same knack. He would have to tell R about the scorpion poison, it was most effective.

By this stage he was quite accustomed to seeing things that were there but were snatched away from him at the last moment, like the long-promised martini from one of the interrogators, but to see a whole person who just couldn't be there, that was new. Especially when the person, who was dead and couldn't, couldn't be here, was Alec.

"What in hell's name are you doing here?"

"That's a fine way to greet a friend, James."

"Alec, you're dead."

"And it's very poor form of you to mention it."

"That doesn't change the fact of it."

"No, it doesn't."

There was silence.

"Well aren't you going to say something, I haven't seen you for six years, James, you must have been doing something in that time."

"Oh, I have. Just not things I'm allowed to talk about,"

"Classified things. I understand."

"Do you? I wouldn't put it past you to be working for them."

"What, the North Koreans, hardly, James, they're communists and you know that even at my worst I was the ultimate venture capitalist." James didn't laugh. "No, as you put it so nicely, I'm dead, I'm not working for the Koreans, I'm not even working for me anymore. I choose to blame your subconscious for this. I don't know what the Koreans did to you, but it's better, or worse rather, than what SPECTRE ever managed. You're quaking in your boots, James; I would have thought her Majesty's best was better than that."

"Her Majesty's best shouldn't have got captured."

"No, you shouldn't have. But you have been. Now snap out of it and get out of here."

"There's nowhere to go, Alec. I'm in the middle of Korea, nearly quite literally the middle of Korea, and surrounded by thick concrete walls. The Koreans stripped me of anything I could use to escape when I arrived. Even if I do escape, I think my face might well stand out."

"Then start holding out better under torture."

"I haven't cracked yet," shouted James, angry that Alec would doubt him, hiding the fact that he also feared he might.

"You don't even know how long you've been here."

"I'm not going to crack."

"No?"

"No."

"That's good to hear."

"Thank you." There was a brief pause, Bond was remembering something. "Oh God, you're distraction tactic number 4." 'If captured and held in solitary, agents may find it beneficial to believe that someone is in the cell with them to keep them company'. "But why on Earth did I think of you?"

"I don't know. But I always prided myself on being good company."

"That you were, Alec, that you were." That was why 007, a loner by nature, training and often circumstance, had liked working with 006. Alec wasn't just good at his job, his licence to kill showed that well enough, no, it was that Alec had the same kind of sour wit that he had. It helped. It helped like the martinis. "I want a martini."

"What, around here? You used to tell me that you couldn't get a decent martini anywhere in Korea outside of Seoul."

"It's true, but that doesn't mean that I don't want one, even a bad one right now."

"So, where can you get the best martinis in Korea?" Alec settled in to hear the story.

Bond was suitably distracted, remembering the details of those most excellent martinis. It was down-town Seoul, in the red light district, a shabby little whorehouse run by a very aged madam who claimed to be called Sally, not that Bond believed that but even MI5's most brilliant researchers couldn't find out her real name, so Madam Sally she remained and her whorehouse was the home of the best martinis in Korea.

~~~~

General Moon crushed the report before him. The British agent who had killed his son had been so close to breaking one week ago, but now, he was, if not back to the strength of the man they'd captured, at least not nearly as pliable as he had been.

"Does he say anything?"

"Only to make demands for a martini, shaken not stirred from somewhere in Seoul."

"Keep working on him."

~~~~

Alec did make things better, the torture still hurt, but James could have a break from it all. While he returned from unconsciousness to conscious agony, he'd have company; someone who'd been there, someone who could make jokes about the times they'd each survived this kind of thing. His brain must have been recycling things that Alec had told him but right now he didn't care, it was nice to have something normal in his life.

But even that had to shatter eventually. It happened the day they let him go. James didn't know why they'd done that; the North Koreans weren’t a forgiving sort and M didn’t make trades.

James had barely made it over on to "friendly" territory when he was tranquilised.

He came to and heard the disturbing news. There was a traitor in the service, and worse than that, they thought he was it. If Bond knew nothing else, for all he’d been lost in his own world due to his treatment while captured, he knew he hadn't betrayed anybody. Or at least, no one who wasn't already dead.

He waited for his chance and made good his escape. He knew that if he tracked down Zao he would lead him to the mole.

~~~~

It had all been going so well, or as well as anything that featured him and Cuba could. It was a beautiful island, beautiful girls, but he hated what it had become. Jinx was high on his list of beautiful girls he'd seen, and so ... inventive too. He was making use of a short break in their activities to freshen up in the bathroom.

"You always did like them tougher than I did," Alec appeared next to him in the mirror.

"You're still dead." He hadn't heard a peep from Alec since he'd been returned to British hands. James thought the voice he'd heard was gone for good, hoped it had. It had been useful while he was imprisoned, it kept him stable, but out here it would be a liability. He couldn't crack up, not while his job, his honour and his life were at stake, and he knew hearing dead people came under the heading of cracking up.

"That doesn't stop me appreciating a fine figure."

"You died in '86." Janus wasn't Alec Trevelyan, any more than Hyde was Jekyll, just because they had the same body, came from the same root, it didn't make them the same person. "Go away."

"And just when you'd got her warmed up for us." Alec faded from view, as though he'd walked through a door in the wall.

They hadn't split a girl that often, but Alec was right, it did always seem to be James who talked them into it and got them interested. He thinks that Jinx would have liked Alec, is almost certain that anyone as good with a knife as she is would have enjoyed his company.

"James," that was Jinx calling from the bedroom.

"I'll be right back." He threw some cold water over his face and went back into the bedroom, into Jinx's waiting and willing arms. When he was focused on her or on the mission, Alec didn't appear, so he would have to throw himself into it, which was a most appealing plan at the moment.

~~~~

The remainder of his time in Cuba had gone, quite literally, with a bang. He knew he was hot on Zao's trail and he would kill the terrorist the next time they crossed paths. The link to Gustav Graves was interesting. Bond's time in Korea meant that he had no idea who the man was. If what Raoul said was true, and he had no reason to doubt the sleeper agent's honesty, then Graves's life story was totally unbelievable. In today's world, with its paper trails and electronic webs tying everyone together, it was impossible to truly come from nowhere the way Graves had.

It was this interest in Graves that led Bond to read the in-flight magazine for the first time in his many international journeys. The magazine seemed to be practically dedicated to Graves. He was so engrossed in his research that he didn't notice Alec coming into the cabin. Despite the number of empty seats in the first-class cabin, Alec chose to sit next to him. Bond moved up to accommodate the way Alec's legs always sprawled outwards.

It was some time before he realised that his mouth was dry because his drink hadn't been refilled. He hadn't attracted the stewardess's attention because he'd expected Alec to do it. James was about to turn around and ask Alec what he thought he was doing, he was in the aisle seat, so he was on drinks duty, when he stopped and realised what he had been about to do. He'd never convince M to let him back into the service once he'd exposed the real traitor if he had a hallucination that he treated like a real person.

As Alec now had his attention, he decided to talk. "Now, he's more my type." Alec pointed at the photo of Graves, flushed and out of breath after skiing down a mountain. This ghost of Alec spoke the truth, there was a terrible disconnect between the women Alec found attractive, and the men he found attractive. Alec liked his women pliant and his men dangerous. Graves's strong features and athletic body - the next photo was an excerpt from Graves's Playgirl photoshoot - and the way his eyes glittered with barely suppressed aggression would have meant Alec would have made a bee-line for him if the circumstances had been right.

Whatever the official rules were at any given time, Alec flouted them. He enjoyed living dangerously, there were a few times when he would have been kicked out of the service if he hadn't been so good at his job. But those sorts of things happened to everyone, Bond's list of official reprimands was almost as long as his list of commendations, and a disturbing number were for the same actions. The double-O agents were held on a much looser rein that most operatives, the license meant they were worth however much trouble they caused.

It didn't stop people talking. MI6 agents were supposed to be cleaner than clean, and doing things that people could blackmail you for was a dangerous business. Alec's general response was that there were other agents he could name who were sleeping with the enemy, quite literally, and that blackmailers couldn't touch him because he had no family to upset and his employers already knew his vices. Bond felt Alec had a point.

That satisfied M, the previous M Bond meant, but it didn't satisfy everyone. One of the more annoying hours Bond had ever spent in England was taken up by one old duffer warning him off Alec. He'd done the duffer a favour once, got him out of a spot of bother, only because it would have caused an international incident otherwise. Of course, the duffer wasn't to know that and had taken a shine to Bond, casting his paternal eye over everything and trying to repay James. He'd called the minister, who'd called M, who'd told him to go and have dinner with the duffer.

The duffer told Bond, confidentially of course, that Alec Trevelyan was caught up in things worse than Communism, and that if Bond wanted to make anything of himself, he should avoid Trevelyan. Trevelyan wasn't quite one of us, the duffer had said. It took every part of Bond's iron self-control not to tell the duffer that Alec Trevelyan was a better man that four of him could ever hope to be and that he was probably out risking his neck for Queen and Country as they were sitting safely in a London club.

The duffer's last words to Bond on the matter were that Trevelyan would come to a bad end, mark his words. At the time Bond was outraged, now, now he's not so sure. Alec Trevelyan died a hero, was reborn a monster and died again a dyed-black traitor. How did a foolish old man know what James hadn't, even if the duffer was wrong about the reason.

Bond hoped the stewardess didn't hear the 'go away' he said under his breath. It escaped before he could stop himself. He hoped it would work, because he had to steel himself for the landing and couldn't do that if his attention was being taken by something, someone, else.

~~~~

Once Bond was in London, his array of secondary, but infinitely useful, contacts came to the fore. His tailor mentioned that Graves fenced, his barber that one of his other customers belonged to the same club, and a barman at one of his favourite establishments pointed out a fellow drinker who had lost far too much to Graves when betting on the outcome of a match. It all added up to a pattern, and if Bond could get into St. James's he felt that he could engineer a meeting with Graves. After that, who knew, but he felt sure that he could gain some information if he could get close enough to Graves. What he would do with it he didn't know.

What he got was an invite to Iceland and an invite to somewhere colder from MI6.

Alec's voice chimed in as Bond walked down the spiral stairs into the ghost station. "I always suspected this place was real. The ultimate dead drop for agents. But I thought I was more likely to be the one that ended up here." Alec leaned in close. "Where did I end up?" Alec's eyes flashed, like a wild animal. "What happened to my body?"

It had been left in Cuba. Traitors don't get to be brought back home at public expense. Let the Cubans deal with him and the wreckage from the rest of the Goldeneye plan.

Bond may have been shorter with M than was strictly called for, but goddamn it, she was the one who believed that he had gone over to the other side, he didn't need her disdain on top of Alec's.

But maybe she was right to feel as though Bond wasn't up to it. As he waited for whatever test R had rigged up, and it would be a test, he was worried. Bond had never been worried before an assessment before, he had known he would pass them with flying colours. He wasn't even sure he could pass this one. While his adventures since his release had kept him in fighting fettle, it hadn't been under these conditions. That, and it wasn't like some preening diamond king and a couple of South African thugs counted as proper competition, not like the kind of people he was likely to encounter here.

And hadn't Jinx got the drop on him in Cuba? He'd worked with enough women to know they could be deadly, but it still rankled.

He had no idea what would happen if he failed the test. What happened to used-up double-0 agents? He'd never met a retired agent of his rank, none of them ever reached an age at which they could retire, which would have shocked him, given that the retirement age for active agents was fifty, but he'd never been able to imagine himself achieving that milestone either. He'd always assumed it would be an enemy bullet that did for him, now he wasn't so sure.

Thankfully the test that R had designed was nothing to worry about. If it had been Q setting the test, then it would, no doubt, have been something more difficult than a simple hostage situation, where the hostage taker didn't know how to hold his victim properly.

Once he'd proved himself to be mission-worthy again, he was allowed to go on his way to Iceland. Alec was with him on the plane, as unavoidable as stewardesses’s lipstick. "I don't remember going there before."

James knew that he didn't need to answer out loud; Alec was all in his head, so he could answer in there. 'You should. You were there in '82 for a handover, one of ours for one of theirs. I mean, I assume you were there and not off being Janus.' James himself had been to Iceland twice, it was out of his usual hunting grounds, and far too cold for his liking. He was only going now to prove that he was right, there was something wrong, something false about Graves.

~~~~

As Bond was not feeling himself at all, even if he chose to blame Iceland rather than everything that had happened to him recently, it was utterly fitting that Jinx was there. She continued to make him feel off-balance. It was interesting that she was here under an assumed name, and a cover. He wondered was she CIA, NSA or freelance, and what was she working on? She had to be an operative of some sort.

He didn't have time to chase after her, not if he wanted to keep an eye on Graves. He had no interest in the presentation when it started, he'd expected it all to be PR-puffery, as almost everything Graves touched was, but if Graves was distracted, it might give Bond a chance to sneak into his inner sanctum. The answers to Bond's nebulous questions and general ill-feeling about Graves would be found in there if they were going to be found anywhere.

Bond followed Kil and Graves's pet scientist, as staff they would have access to areas forbidden to the public. If they let their guards down for just one moment, he'd be in.

He continued to follow them, but was too caught up in making sure they didn't see him to properly guard against someone sneaking up to his rear. The guard was easily dealt with, but he'd probably contacted base with reports of an intruder, that faint sound he could hear was probably the footfall of more guards. Bond had to escape, but how. Getting to the Vanquish was impossible.

Then he remembered the piping next to him. He closed the valve which allowed the steam to circulate. Yes, that would make a good cover in a few seconds.

He had almost made his escape when Miranda Frost appeared, pointing a gun at him and demanding he strip. She explained herself, as they got into the pool and tried to make it look like they'd been there a long time.

"It was the simplest way," she said, clutching his body to hers. They whispered to each other, she finished identifying herself as MI6 and explaining that her job had been to keep a close eye on Graves. Typical M, to make a secret two-pronged attack on someone, and not telling him that the other one existed. He was all for operational security, but this was a bit much.

Miranda didn't need to let him enter her for this ruse to work, but he was glad she had, it made everything so much simpler. In these matters, it was the little details that made the lie. It certainly worked on Kil and on Graves when he came past later. As he hadn't seen Graves come in, he didn't know how much Graves had seen or how much he believed that Bond had spent the entire time in this pool with Miranda. Any doubts were dangerous and he had to insist on spending the night in her room.

The sex was an added benefit.

He dreamt that night, which was unusual. He never dreamt, or at least he didn't remember his dreams afterwards. That was standard amongst agents.

Even more unusual was who he dreamt about. Dear deadly Xenia. He had no idea why her; she was nothing like Miranda. He couldn't imagine Xenia playing hard to get.

It was a pleasant idea to leave Miranda on. She was so worried for him; Bond wondered if she knew how often he'd done this sort of thing. Her horror at the idea of 'sex for dinner and death for breakfast' was so sweetly naive; she really couldn't have been an agent for long. She must have been recruited while he was in a North Korean prison.

Bond continued to investigate when he saw strange blue lights flashing in another dome. Something so out of place - no-one else should have been awake this early - had to be due to Jinx. She wouldn't have wished him good luck, but then again, with her, his gun would have had a partner under the pillow. He decided he ought to rescue her. It was no sentimental plan, if Jinx was CIA then he could use her help to convince the rest of the world that Graves was Moon.

~~~~

Miranda's treachery came as a total surprise to him, and yet, it didn't hurt as much as she and Graves appeared to hope it would. Only a demented fanatic would believe that there were no traitors in their service. Frost's betrayal wasn't even high on his list of most painful events of this kind, not after Alec and Electra. Frost barely ranked at the same level as Rosie, and Rosie at least put up more of a fight. Bond's only thought was of escape, his own and Jinx's.

There was a purity to being hunted. It focussed the mind wonderfully.

It was nothing like auto-pilot, it was all your senses and the connections between them working at full efficiency, noting every sound and movement and filing it as enemy or not.

The Vanquish was a superb car, with responsive steering, and smooth acceleration to its top speed. On ice, that smoothness was vital. Bond's senses were at such a pitch that he could feel the grains of snow being crunched underneath the tyres, and he used that knowledge to out-drive Zao.
~~~~

Zao was dead, but Graves had escaped them.

Planning Graves's defeat kept Bond's mind busy. It wasn't at the same pitch as the escape, no-one could maintain that, but he was focussed. Utterly. Graves had to be stopped, Icarus couldn't be left in the control of a madman.

There were, of course, moments of terror when they enacted the plan, you cannot truly plan for every eventuality, but you can prepare yourself. And Bond was prepared. It’s what Bond was. He was more than thirty years of training, his recent travails might have meant he was not as effective as he could be, but he was more effective than most, and it meant he could cope with whatever Graves threw at them.

He is a weapon for Queen and country; however much Alec might have mocked that, it's what he is, it's what he does, and it what he'll do until it kills him.

Bond killed Graves. Stopping the crash from killing him and Jinx was the most difficult part of the mission, but between them, they managed it.

After they were rescued, the gems Graves was carrying in the plane were shared between the British and American governments. Bond left that sort of wrangling to M and her American counterpart. He chose not to ask where the diamonds Jinx threatened to use in a stomach-piercing came from, not that she would pierce her navel, even ignoring the recovery time, there was no way an agent could have the risk of jewellery that would catch on clothing.

Jinx was given time off to recover from her wound, it wasn't deep, it wasn't serious, but abdomen wounds were tricky. MI6 also gave agents recovery time as standard, and well, if Jinx left a few clues as to where she would be recuperating and Bond followed them, neither of them were disobeying orders. He suspected the money for the villa came from an account of Graves' that hadn't yet been closed.

It was restful, more so that this sort of thing normally was. Jinx knew who he was and what he was, there was no cover that needed to be maintained or questions about what it was like, to be a spy, to kill. They kept themselves entertained without the usual questions. Even without them, Bond learnt a lot about Jinx. She was ex-army, not navy like him, but she was an orphan, like so many of them. There are so many similarities amidst their differences. Too smart for the infantry, not the right sort of person to be a leader of men, their talents best exploited by military intelligence. They relax, they recuperate, they spar, and when a call comes that there's a mission, Bond wasn't surprised to find that the call was for Jinx.

There's none of the usual, "will you come back for me?" awkwardness. They'll meet again, or they won't, but they both understand the rules of spy game.

It was time for Bond to go back to London.

~~~~

It was autumn when he arrived, the air filled with that crisp, smoky smell and the pavements covered in fallen leaves.

He'd not been avoiding this, exactly, he wanted to come back. But he needed to steel himself. Every time you entered or left MI6's headquarters by the front door, you passed the memorial wall. Alec's name was still on there. There was, briefly, some discussion as to whether to remove it after the Goldeneye incident. The Minister asked Bond his opinion and James was too dumb-founded to answer. Bill Tanner came to the rescue, because Bill, no matter how many foot-in-mouth evil-queen-of-numbers incidents, was very good understanding a situation at a glance. Bill pointed out that removing Alec's name would raise more questions than leaving it be, especially as the only people who knew the full story were in the room. So it stayed.

James looked at it now. Alec Trevelyan died a hero. A martyr for Queen and country. And that would remain as much as people needed to know. Miranda Frost's name would not feature. Had Bond died in Iceland, his name wouldn't be on here. He'd be another traitor, unworthy. He stood there, arms crossed. How many good men had died at the wrong moment, and been forgotten; how many undiscovered Soviet moles were on the roll of honour?

He'd come for his medical, both physical and psychological. Apparently defeating Graves in mid-air did not count as proof of fitness.

He passed both without difficulty. The doctor enjoyed criticising Bond for his lifestyle, and Bond amused himself by flirting with the nurse. Finally, the doctor trapped the pen back on his clipboard. "I see I will have to hire nurses who are less susceptible to your charms. Go away, I'll sign you off for missions if you stop distracting the nurses." The doctor was smiling as he waved Bond out of his examining room and Bond believed the flirting probably convinced the doctor more than his answers to the psychologist's questions.

He was mostly all right again. The wounds from the fight against Graves had healed, and he only saw Alec out of the corner of his eye occasionally. Occasionally was still too often for field work, but Bond thought he had the answer for that too. But it would involve waiting.

He waited, because he knew he was being watched. Oh, he couldn't see whoever was tracking him or whatever devices that they'd planted, but he knew, because if he had been M, he would have had himself followed. They reported back on his activities, leading to a very amused M ticking him off for visiting quite so many casinos.

He gave it a few months.

They didn't assign him much fieldwork to begin with, a few courier jobs and one unfortunately messy assassination in Rize, mostly he was catching up on the intricacies of what he missed while he was imprisoned by the North Koreans. He made sure to have the Chinese department write him a polite note to the hotel in Hong Kong indicating that Mr. Zao's bill had been paid in full. They boggled but did as they were told.

It was good to put Graves completely behind him.

But he still had other ghosts to settle.

The rest of the cemetery in Berkshire was well-maintained, but there was something lonely and desolate about this corner. Hidden away among the trees lay a long-neglected grave.

Mr. and Mrs. Trevelyan had been old when they adopted Alec (Aleksander, such a common name in so many places) and left him an orphan before he reached his majority. He'd been taken in by Mrs. Trevelyan's not-much-younger spinster sister. She and Alec had come to an agreement, he would make sure she didn't find out about whatever trouble he insisted on getting into, and she would stay out of his business in so far as she could. The hands-off attitude worked, Alec's schoolwork improved and he'd sailed into university and then the army. The maiden aunt had died before Alec ever joined MI6.

The memorial service at the Service had been terrible. Alec had never made friends, so it was mostly people standing around awkwardly, grateful it was someone else, not themselves, who had died. The civilian church service had been worse. Bond had been the only mourner at the ceremony at this graveyard. It wasn't much of one, there was no body to bury, Bond and the vicar resolutely not shuffling their feet in the cold. Alec Trevelyan's name on a gravestone was all that was left of him.

All that was left of the entire family really, an absence that had allowed the tree that stood behind the grave to grow so entwined with it, moss-covered roots encircling it, pincer style. Maybe it was for the best, in a more-visited corner of the graveyard, Bond's appearance might have caused comment. Not the way he was dressed, a dark suit was always suitable, but the bottle of vodka he was carrying. Years of working against, and occasionally with, the Soviets had taught Bond about vodka, what was good, what was expensive, what was a sign that a man had more money than sense. He'd developed a taste for it. Alec on the other, his taste ran to what one contact referred to as 'peasant vodka', near-moonshine that was all half-quenched fire. Nowadays, it was a lot easier to come by in London, and harder, because the British public now had expectations of vodka they'd never had before.

It was a startlingly vivid memory, Alec peeved about something, half-cut on the gut rot, kissing Bond, all mouth, stubble, cigarettes and vodka. At the time Bond had thought Alec was angry at a mission gone sour, now he doesn't know. Had the cause been some enterprise of Janus's that hadn't worked the way Alec wanted it? All Bond's memories were tainted that way.

Opening the bottle, thinking of him, had brought Alec out, some mental aberration, standing large as life next to him.

"It wasn't supposed to end like this." Alec looked down at his grave.

No, it wasn't. Bond wanted to shout, to explain, anything to try to understand. He'd mourned Alec for longer than he'd had him and then hated him for almost as long. Hated his memory, hated the way he occasionally forgot and thought of the good times, the missions that went well and then remembered. The memory wasn't always the way it ended, in blood in Cuba, or that terrible moment where he found out - the knowledge that Janus could only have been one man and if that were true then a great many other things were lies - no, sometimes it was the memory of the mission gone wrong, the nauseating, wrenching guilt that he'd survived and Alec hadn't, and the anger he covered it up with.

There'd been a mission, maybe eighteen months after Arkhangelsk, that Bond hadn't been given, and he created quite a fuss because he knew that he was the best man for the job. 005 was an excellent agent, but Bond knew the area better. Then he'd found out Ourmorov was tangentially involved and he'd nearly charged at M to demand he be given the job. Bill put him into an armlock till he calmed down, and while he could have taken Bill in a fight, quite easily, he knew that Tanner knew that and would have stationed several men with tasers around the room with orders to taser Bond and then ship him off to medical to be put in an induced coma until it had all blown over.

Bill had let him go once he'd stopped struggling. "There's a standing order, James. If the job's got even the slightest hint of Ourmorov, you're not to be assigned it." Because M was afraid he'd go off, half-cocked, blind to the mission with his need for revenge on Ourmorov. And M was right, it wouldn't have been Queen or country that drove him, it would have been his own personal revenge. Even nine years later, he'd be lying if he said revenge wasn't the largest part of why he'd been so glad to be assigned the Goldeneye mission. He was only assigned to it because he had stumbled on to its beginnings. If anyone else had been available, they'd probably have given the mission to them.

Of course, by the time he got his revenge on Ourmorov, everything had changed, making it feel somewhat worthless.

Bond knows what he looks like, drinking his way through the bottle by the graveside, tipping the occasional shot's worth on to the plot, but he couldn't think of another way of exorcising Alec's ghost.

Alec stood there, silent for once. Which might be all the evidence needed that this was not the real one. It wasn't that Alex was never silent, but even his presence tended to speak for him. This was the silence of thought, and sorrow, and other things James didn't associate with Alec. The resemblance was close; Bond has an agent's eye for detail so this is not some idolised portrait, all of Alec's positive features, with none of his negative. No, this Alec would do all the things that annoyed Bond about the original. All of Alec's jagged edges had caught James as much as his virtues. In the secret service, it was easier to come by people with Alec's virtues than that combination of virtues and vices that made James like him so much.

Except the vice he’d never reveal to James. Alec never told him, because Bond would have turned him in if he'd found out about the Janus scheme. "You're not him. You're a figment of my imagination."

"I'm all you have of him."

"Maybe. But I don't need you anymore."

"I won't leave." Alec, even an imaginary version, would be stubborn.

"Yes, you will." Bond believed that, even if this imaginary Alec had Bond's own subconscious on his side. James had come to accept that the reason Alec hadn't gone was that he was still clinging on to Alec. One of the service's psychologists, who Bond had so stringently avoided, might be able to help, but in his position, Bond couldn't ask.

"I can't do this with you here." Bond didn't like to admit his weakness, but it was the truth.

"You couldn't do it without me in Korea." Which was true. It wasn't the whole truth, but Bond wouldn't have expected that from Alec. It had been an excellent deployment of distraction tactic number four, but a distraction was exactly what it was.

"Would you go away if you knew you win either way? If you stay, you're here, if you go, you're lurking in my mind until I need the distraction again." Bond had to ward away the thought of himself rattling around as an old man, haunted by Alec.

"I'll think about it," was Alec's only answer. Bond waited in the silence, not even drinking.

Alec broke the silence. "Did you ever love me?" The real Alec would never have asked that question, would never have needed to know, wouldn’t have cared. Attachments were Bond's problem; one he'd never entirely overcome. Not just attachment to lovers, unlike Alec, he had friends. What happened to Felix cut at his heart, beyond the horrid echo of Portugal, because it was Felix it happened to, and a nicer, better, kinder man had never lived, at least not in their field.

Love was a terrible problem for a spy.

"I don't know," was James's answer. It was the truth. Alec before, would Bond have been able to admit it to himself? He'd been younger then, still in mourning for Tracy and bound to her memory. A self-confident young fool, rushing headlong into danger, and happy to have Alec, a man of much the same type, right there beside him.

Alec in the mourning after, then Bond probably would have said yes. Might have said yes in his cups, past the warming of the martinis and in the emptiness of this flat or that flat.

Alec, once he knew, no, never, maybe. In all James's hurt and betrayal, maybe.

"I don't know." Bond repeated. "I think I might have loved the man you pretended to be. But I never knew you."

"No, I don't suppose you did." There was the shadow of a kiss, smoky-fog and vodka, and that was the end of it, the bottle and Alec's ghost.

~~~~

The end