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When the old Q retired, James Bond was both sad and happy to see him go. Not many retire from a life in MI6, and even fewer do so alive. But the old Quartermaster was a dear friend, one of few that he had. Seeing him go made finding reasons to stay that much harder.

James continues to go on missions though. At first, after the Quartermaster left, he would take the debriefing from M, and then be on his merry way, with no comms or back up to be seen. After a couple sticky situations, though (and threats of desk work from M) he starts to use the ear pieces they give him. It’s hard at first, having a voice that is not weathered with age and ripe with knowledge in his ear, so he mostly ignores the directions given to him and barely speaks into the device. His patience is thin enough with the people he knows; dealing with the naïve interns they have leading him around has him destroying all of his equipment in retaliation.

However, six months after his Quartermaster retired, a new voice pops into his ear, directions sharp and quick and with a wit that is reminiscent of the old man. It startles James, and throws him off balance during the mission—enough so that he doesn’t even have to blow up a building to complete his assignment. When he returns to London, he walks straight up to M’s office, shirt still bloodied from the unfortunate fist fight he did have. She is sitting at her desk, and looks up at him with a raised eyebrow.

“Last time I checked, 007, my office is not Medical,” she states, looking him up and down in amusement, “does you concussion impair your memory and sense of direction as well?”

Bond smirks and raises his chin up in defiance, “Have we acquired a new Quartermaster?”

M shakes her head and goes back to her paperwork, “Yes, 007. We have.”

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His next mission is to extract information from a warehouse in Siberia. Unfortunately, it is a warehouse full of paper files, and not computers. It can’t be hacked and blowing it up would be counterproductive, so James is on his own for this mission. He takes an ear piece, of course, but in the middle of nowhere, contact is every 22 minutes for 2 and a half minutes. The facility is old school—no security cameras, armed guards, triple bolted doors, the real deal.

Thankfully, just as he gets spotted by two guards deep in the stacks of records, he hears the crackling of the voice in his ear. He quickly shoots the two guards, but not before they sound the alarm on the complex.

“Hey, kid, do you know the layout of this place?” Bond asks, running for the closest stairwell he finds, and sprinting up the crumbling structure.

“I’m not a child, 007. Top floor, third door on the left. Somewhere in that room is the file you need,” the voice crackles in his ear, sounding displeased, “That’s as much as we know.”

Bond grunts in acknowledgement and exits the stair well, immediately shooting the guards down the hallway. He races to the door, and forces his body weight to heave it open.

“Okay, I’m there no—Shit!” Bond exclaims, as the comms go silent again and he sees the size of the room. It was the length of the entire building, and about half its width. Finding what he needs, one lousy file, will take too long.

Bond starts darting down rows of shelves, reading the boxes and labels around him. The room seems to be alphabetized, thankfully, but in Russian. He knows some, but translating secure information that is most likely in code will be a nightmare. There’s no noise in the hallway outside, so he gets to work, finding the section mostly likely to hold the file he is looking for.

It takes time, but he manages to locate the correct file as an army of guards storm into the room. He ducks down as they begin to search the room, shoving the file he needs in the back of his pants. It limits his mobility but Bond is passed caring.

He begins to approach the door when the first gun spots him. He shoots on instinct, and begins to run for the exit, diving through the open door as all hell breaks loose. A bullet catches him in the side, grazing his shoulder, but his adrenaline rush propels him straight down the hallway and straight out of a window. The glass shatters around him as he falls into the snowbank below the building, cushioning his fall enough he only feels a couple ribs break as his comms crackle back to life.

“—eport? Status! Christ 007, just answer the damn question!” the voice shouts, although it is drowned out by the drumming of blood in his ears and the sound of gunfire raining down on him.

“Where is the extraction point?” Bond growls, rolling over onto his back to shoot back at the guards. They fall, one by one, but he’s running out of bullets quickly.

“Two kilometers to the west, 007,” the voice starts, “What is your status, agen—”

An explosion roars as Bond lobs a grenade up into the broken window, “Fantastic, kid. Any chance there’ll be scotch?”

“You pompous son of a—” his earpiece goes static again as the connection breaks. Bond smiles.

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His next two missions are better. Slightly. They’re not in remote outposts, which is a plus, but the increase in communication and surveillance make it harder to ignore the smug voice as it opens all the doors before he can even pick their locks. Even after he’s thrown his ear piece in the closest body of water he could find.

From then on, he makes sure to watch for CCTV cameras following him as he roams the streets of Venice and Cairo. Along with looking behind him to check for tails, Bond now looks skyward for sights of monitoring surveillance equipment, something he never though he would have to do. Begrudgingly, he has to admit, it makes him a better agent, something he will never let the cocky kid know.

However, it does surprise him, the next time he walks into Headquarters, how many cameras he spots around the building. Bond avoids them with practice now, and easily enters the building in a crowd, head down. Somehow, he manages to make it to M’s office unseen by the cameras, using every secret passage that he knows exists in MI6, and even some he didn’t.

When he enters the office, M looks startled. It’s not a good look on her.

“Bond? Q didn’t tell me you were back. How did you get in?” M questions, placing her pen down on her desk and standing.

“I took a couple shortcuts, M. How else am I to keep you on your toes?” Bond smirks, placing his mission debriefs on her desk and leaving the office.

The next time he goes to Headquarters, he notices many more cameras than before.

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The next mission gets him killed. Not technically, but enough that James drops off the radar to heal. Not many get the chance to escape his life as easily as he does. The mysterious kid had been absent from his ear that mission and his new-found balance was thrown off. It made him careless and brash. More so than usual.

M had made the call. Objectively, he knows it was the right one. That doesn’t make it any easier to swallow. He reads the obituary she writes about him, sees images of the funeral, and retires on a quite beach far away from MI6.

He enjoys his retirement for six months. His shoulder has been acting up. He doesn’t have the medical prowess his fellow agents have to get the shrapnel out. He rarely sleeps more than 5 hours a night. Years of late night missions and extracurricular activities have thrown off his sleep cycle. And the voice in his ear in his bed sounds wrong. Too sweet, too gentle. Too feminine.

So it makes sense, when he is at the bar a mile down from his cottage at god knows when at night, and sees the image of Headquarters burst in flame in front of his eyes, that he voluntarily leaves his retirement. Thankfully, he already knows how to avoid the cameras as he breaks into M’s apartment to officially return to work.