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Crash and Burn

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September 2008

“Having a good day, Danny?” 

006 didn’t bother hiding his grin as the youngest and newest member of Q-Branch, Daniel Drake (who was currently using the alias Robert Frobisher), looked up from his computer screen and glared at him. In fact, Alec Trevelyan only grinned wider and leaned a casual shoulder against the flimsy wall of the cubicle surrounding the boffin’s desk. The poor man in the cubicle next to Danny’s looked increasingly pale and skittish the longer the agent stood there. 

Alec, like all of the other double-ohs, very much enjoyed making Q-Branch techs nervous. In fact, the quartermaster and Danny Drake were the only members of Q-Branch who were consistently unafraid of being alone with double-oh agents, and the latter even seemed to thoroughly enjoy their company, trading witty jabs and jokes with them as though they weren’t professional assassins. 

This made Danny Drake a very special person indeed. As a rule, no one liked spending extended amounts of time with double-oh agents except for other secret agents and the women and men they seduced, and even then, there was a certain thrill associated with being so close to a very dangerous person that soon turned into actual unease.

Danny, though, lit up with delight every time Alec came into the room, even if he tried (not very successfully) to hide it behind a thin veneer of professionalism, maturity, and often annoyance. 

Alec put it down to the kid being raised by a former double-oh agent; he was likely used to the ‘fear me, mere mortal’ aura that highly-trained assassins exuded and maybe even found comfort in it.

“For goodness’ sake, 006!” Danny Drake, alias ‘Robert’ hissed, “Don’t call me that where people can hear. And you call yourself a spy?” 

Oh, and yes. There were very few people in MI6 who had the balls to scold a double-oh agent. 

Alec rolled his eyes. The kid was taking this alias business much too seriously. Not even Q went around insisting on being called ‘Q’ all the time. He still responded to ‘Monty’ and ‘Dr. Montgomery’ from time to time. And the Q before that had been well-known across the board as ‘Major Boothroyd.’ Alec had the feeling that when Danny Drake became Q upon Monty’s retirement in a decade or two (because that was exactly where the boy genius was headed), he would insist upon being known as only ‘Q’ and ‘Quartermaster.’ The kid had a dramatic flair a mile wide. 

Alec chuckled. “You seem excited, Robert.” He made sure to exaggerate the false name. “What happened?” 

The kid (he would always be ‘the kid’ to Alec) shook off his annoyance rather more quickly than usual, due to the aforementioned excitement. “They’re sending me out on a mission,” he grinned, practically bouncing in his seat.

“Oh yeah? Someone need technical support? Did you ask if they plugged their machine in?” 

Alec often liked to tease his young friend (and they were friends now, five months after their first meeting) that he was nothing more than the IT help desk for double-oh agents, which annoyed him to no end, and often resulted in hilarious tirades about the exact nature of the work he did, thank you very much, Alec, and enjoy the virus I just installed on your computer.

The kid sniffed disdainfully, but the corner of his lip twitched with amusement. “It seems that asking if they tried turning it off and on won’t work in this case.”

“Ah, so they need a computer genius on site instead of in their ear. Must be serious. Who are they sending you out with?” There was something about this that bothered Alec, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on it. Maybe it was the fact that the kid was venturing out of the safety of Q-Branch into the more dangerous part of espionage.

“002.”

Clive Woodslow. Woodslow was alright. He’d look after his young friend, especially if Alec had a word with him before they left. “Well, Robert, congratulations and have fun on your first field mission. Don’t forget to see the sights.”

“You mean, desert, desert, and oh, even more desert? Sounds lovely.” Robert couldn’t manage to hide his excitement under the cover of a blasé attitude. 

Alec couldn’t help it. “Robert,” he said seriously, “Be careful out there. It’s not like it is down here in Q-Branch. You could get seriously hurt.”

The kid had the audacity to look affronted. “I can look after myself, 006,” he said curtly, then turned back to his work with his trademark stroppy huff.

Alec held his hands up and backed off. “Alright, alright. Don’t get your nappies in a twist, kid.” 

There weren’t many people who could get away with growling at a double-oh agent unscathed, but Danny Drake (aka Robert Frobisher, aka Freddie Lyon, aka the man who would become the youngest quartermaster in the history of MI6 within a few years) certainly could.

“Anyway, congrats and good luck.”

The kid shot him a brilliant grin that lit up his green eyes behind the coke-bottle glasses.

“Thanks, Alec.”

. . . . .

Clive Woodslow, Agent 002 of Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was annoyed. 

Not only had he been assigned a partner on his latest mission, said partner was a pimply teenaged intern from Q-Branch. Couldn't they spare someone better? Or at least older? The kid was eighteen, for chrissakes!

On top of that, he had been told by no less than three people to look after the kid. First, there was Q, which was to be expected, since the kid was from his branch. Fine. 

M, while briefing him, had told him that the boy was a very valuable asset, which basically translated to ‘This is a babysitting job, agent. I want him back in one piece.’ Clive supposed that child geniuses weren’t easy to find, since other government agencies, private companies, and criminal organizations tended to snatch them up early. On top of that, finding a mentally stable one was probably even rarer. Fine. 

Then there was Alec Trevelyan. When 006 had cornered him in the double-oh offices, Clive had mentally gone through the past few days to see if he had done anything to anger the volatile agent. When he’d come up blank, he’d gone back a few weeks. Still nothing. By this time, the other agent had started talking, so Clive had given up and listened. 

Really? Bring the little boy back without a scratch or 006 would rain hell down upon him? 

“What, are you sleeping with the kid or something?”

002 would have flinched back at the force of the glare if not for his training.

006 had leant in close. “He’s my friend. Do not let him get hurt.”

Well. Clive had taken a moment to examine his colleague further. Huh. Did he actually care about the kid? “Alright,” he had found himself agreeing seriously. “I’ll try to keep him as safe as I can. I’ll promise that much. No more than that.”

Alec had pursed his lips and nodded. That was the best that anyone could do, and there was no use pushing for a more concrete promise. 

He had stepped back out of Clive’s space. “Thank you,” he’d said brusquely, turning to leave.

“Alec,” Clive had said, and that had been all. 

Alec had known what he’d meant. He’d nodded shortly, eyes averted. “I know.” 

It wasn’t good to let anyone get that close. It wasn’t good to let people in like that. It only resulted in people (either party or both) getting hurt or even killed.

Clive looked at the kid standing next to him now and suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. He looked even younger up close, and he was practically vibrating with excitement, despite the serious expression pasted on his face.

Oh, boy, he thought. This is going to be a long job.

 . . . . .

Three days later, Clive was reevaluating his opinion of the kid. Or rather, ‘Robert’ or ‘Frobisher,’ and not ‘kid’ (and definitely not an intern, as interns generally don’t have six doctorates), as the younger man had informed him crisply and with a stern glare that reminded Clive of a disapproving elderly aunt he’d had as a boy.

Alright. Well, Clive supposed that Robert had earned that, at the very least. The young Q-Branch tech was proving to be competent, quick, and efficient at his work. The mission was going smoothly and according to plan, which was almost never the case, in 002’s experience. 

So far, so good. In addition, Robert was a pleasant conversationalist in their off-time, of which there was quite a lot, since missions tended to be long periods of waiting punctuated by short bursts of adrenaline. He seemed to know a considerable amount about practically everything that they discussed, even subjects such as wines and skiing. Yes, Clive had checked, if only to entertain himself and see just how clever his companion really was. 

Robert had caught on immediately, as he deftly moved the conversation on from chardonnay vintages to cheesemaking practices in eastern France, whereupon it was discovered that it was the double-oh agent who didn’t know quite as much about medieval-era cheese-ripening customs in obscure French villages. It had soon become a game to bring up topics that the other knew nothing or very little about. Clive soon found himself admitting defeat, but he didn’t mind at all; the conversation was so damned interesting.

There were certain subjects that interested the younger man immensely and made his bright green eyes sparkle with energy, such as engineering and computers, which was to be expected out of anyone from the tech department of Q-Branch. However, he also knew a considerable amount about weapons. Clive admitted, if only to himself, that Robert knew much more about weapons than he did, at least the building of them. Explosives, too. Robert got very excited when talking about explosives. He knew a great deal about them, and had fondly reminisced that he had made his first bomb at the age of two out of a toaster. 

Good god. 

Clive actually believed him, too. He was starting to understand why Alec was so fond of the kid. (Yes, he continued to address him as ‘the kid’ in the privacy of his own head simply because the boy was...endearing and charming, too, in an odd kind of way.) He liked weapons and explosives, was fun to talk to, and was perfectly comfortable in Clive’s presence, despite the fact that he killed and tortured people for a living. 

Clive had wondered at first if Robert actually knew that he was working so closely with a professional assassin. He had never met anyone who knew the truth who would have been so comfortable with Clive standing close to him and leaning over his shoulder to get a better look at the computer screen (and yes, Clive had tested those boundaries, too, and had gotten a sharp elbow to the ribs accompanied by an annoyed “Do you understand the concept of ‘personal space,’ agent? Also, you had Italian for lunch, so I’d appreciate it if you popped a breath mint or something” when he’d gotten a bit too close). 

However, that doubt had been put to rest when Clive had come back from killing a dozen men and the kid had beamed at him and told him “Well done, especially the one in the hallway!” with an excited grin.

Clive had taken a moment to make adjustments to the ‘how sane is this person?’ meter in his head, as well as the ‘how dangerous is this person?’ meter.

. . . . .