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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.

. . . . .

Chapter Text

Missions never go completely smoothly. There’s no way to predict every detail that could happen and no way to prepare for every eventuality, no matter how hard they tried and how diligently they planned. 

Clive had taken Robert to the secure server room where the tech was to do his magic on the system, the last step of their mission. They had been discovered (luckily, after Robert had completely corrupted the system and sent out viruses to infect the rest of the criminal network) and escorted by armed men to a dimly-lit, windowless room with concrete walls. Typical.

Clive had expected the kid to react as any civilian would: trembling, nervous, terrified glances all around the place, uneven breathing, maybe even some tears and begging -- it was normal and expected, especially for someone so young and untested. 

The kid had obliged, at least to the extent of showing his nerves and fear at being captured. His eyes had widened at the sight of the handcuffs; he had likely never even seen a real set. He’d still put up a brave front, though, which made Clive slide his mental approval scale half a notch higher. 

There was one chair in the middle of the cold dungeon-like room where their captors tossed them. The men secured Clive with heavy metal chains and a large padlock after they’d confiscated his weapons and even the watch with the tracker built in, which they crushed. 

The boy, however, was merely handcuffed and thrown into the corner after being given a quick pat-down. They did make sure to bounce him off of the wall hard enough to knock his glasses off and onto the floor. 

The kid crumpled to the cold concrete floor with a cry of pain and lay on his side breathing raggedly with blood running into his frightened eyes. He looked younger than ever, and the guilt tugged at Clive’s heart at the sight of him. 

The metal door slammed shut with a bang and the kid flinched and curled into a ball with a whimper. 

“Hey,” Clive said calmly, reassuringly, “it’s going to be okay. I’m going to get you out of here, okay?”

Myopic green eyes blinked up at him. 

The boy licked his dry lips. “Do- Do you think they’re watching us?” he said in a wavering voice. 

Clive glanced around the room, looking for cameras. “No,” he replied. “No one’s watching. It’s okay, kid.”

“You’re sure?” This time, there was something in the kid’s expression that made the agent in Clive sit up and pay attention. 

Clive checked again, more thoroughly this time. “Yes,” he said firmly. “No surveillance.”

“Thank you,” Robert said, sitting up easily, “That’s good. It makes this easier.” There was no trace of the shivering, scared boy left as he squinted at the floor around him, looking for something. 

As Clive watched in amazement, the younger man scooted himself over to his glasses and grabbed them with his hands, which were cuffed behind his back. Then he untwisted one of the plastic arms to reveal something small hidden inside it. 

What it was soon became apparent when Robert stood up with his handcuffs dangling from only one wrist, which he soon freed. 

“Lockpicks in your glasses?” And the kid’s acting skills weren’t bad either. Clive moved his approval meter up to nearly the top.

Robert shrugged with a small, proud smile as he made his way over to let Clive out of his bindings. “I took this opportunity to try them out in the field. I thought they might be useful to agents in the future.”

“You’re just full of surprises, aren’t you, kid?”

“Not a kid,” Robert replied with a prim, pleased look. 

. . . . .

Long story short, they got caught again, and this time, their captors separated them and took Robert back to the server to make him fix the mess he had made of it at gunpoint. When the young man continued to prove stubborn after four days, they brought Clive in and began to torture him while they made Robert watch. 

Clive fixed Robert with a glare that said, ‘Don’t you dare give in, kid,’ and so Robert didn’t.

Instead he began making comments as to the effectiveness of their technique: “Did you know that a recent study found that rapport- and relationship-building interrogation techniques consistently prove to be more effective in achieving goals over confrontation techniques and torture? For example--”

Clive growled under his breath as one of the men, the leader, hit Robert across the face, splitting his lip. 

“Shut up! Get to work or your friend dies,” the man said, pointing at Clive, who made sure to bare his teeth at them all.

The boy shook it off and continued his lecture, for that was what it essentially was. “You’re not listening to me,” he huffed impatiently, “As evidenced, you are less likely to get a positive response out of me if you persist in antagonistic behavior. Furthermore--”

Robert got another fist to the face.

“There will be no ‘furthermore,’” the man said, looming over the slim young man, who leaned back in his chair and insolently made eye contact with Clive, who was sitting tied up behind the man with two henchmen guarding him. 

“Furthermore,” the boy continued in a contemptuous tone of voice, “You should really pay attention to what’s going on behind you.” The smug smile was enough to make the leader turn quickly around to look at Clive, who grinned sharklike at him from his chair, where he was still very much tied up.

The man turned back to the boy, or rather, where the boy had been sitting (not tied up or secured in any way, the idiots), and instead had his legs swiped out from under him and got a fist to his face in quick succession. The gun he had been holding instantly found its way to the hands of his young attacker, who finished the job by knocking the butt of the gun against his skull.

In the meantime, Clive had made quick work of his two guards using the distraction provided by his young friend.

“Nicely done, Frobisher,” Clive said admiringly. “Have you been trained for field work?”

All he got was a self-satisfied smile and a snarky “Not past the normal mandatory training they make everyone do. I’m not a field agent, after all.”

Clive snorted as he led the way out. “There is nothing normal about you, kid.”

“Not a kid.”

A few minutes later, Clive turned back again when the kid stopped following him. “What are you doing now?”

Robert was examining some car and airplane parts that had been left in the warehouse they were passing through. “I’m going to need salt and sugar. Can you get me some? I’ll go look for the weed killer.”

Clive stared.

“I was promised explosions,” the kid explained, hands on his hips like a schoolmarm scolding a misbehaving student. “We’ve been in the field for over a week and I haven’t gotten to blow anything up. Besides, it’s the best way to destroy the server, now that my virus has done its work. It will also tell HQ where we are, at the very least, since we’ve lost contact with them.”

Clive sighed and rubbed his head. He had the feeling that he wasn’t in charge of this mission anymore. “How much salt and sugar?”

The kid beamed and told him.

. . . . .

They set the homemade dynamite to blow up the villain du jour’s headquarters in a most spectacular fashion with the help of airplane fuel as an accelerant and stole a small plane to get out of there before it blew. 

“It’s a Dassault NGF F20!” Robert enthused with admiring eyes. “How did they get their hands on one of these? I didn’t even know that they were fully developed!”

Clive rolled his eyes as he bundled his young friend into the aircraft. He couldn’t blame him; it was a beautiful piece of aeronautical engineering. “Doesn’t matter. Get in. Let’s go.” 

Robert chattered nonstop as they started out with Clive in the pilot’s seat. “It’s supposed to be equipped for UCAV and ATGMs and can fly at altitudes of-- Whoa! Do you even know how to fly this?”

Clive had made a wide swerve to avoid the gunfire from the plane behind them. “Yes, I do. Please shut up.”

“They’re shooting at us.”

“Yes, they are.”

Robert pushed his nose up against the window, looking worriedly at the side of the plane. “They’ll ruin her! She’s so beautiful. I can’t believe I’m in a Dassault NGF F20. I’m so lucky. Wait ‘til the guys at work hear this! Oh no, am I allowed to tell them? This isn’t classified, is it?”

Clive spared a look of disbelief at the little nerd, who was actually beaming with a manic look in his bright eyes. “They’re shooting at us, kid.”

. . . . .

They’d nearly made it. 

Their pursuers had followed them out into the middle of the desert before Clive had managed to down both of the enemy planes with the various missiles and weapons their Dassault NGF F20 had been equipped with. 

However, they too had taken too many hits to remain airborne, so Clive sent Robert to the back to get the parachutes out while he guided the plane on a course that wouldn’t result in a fast and fiery death on the rocks. 

“Clive. Problem.”

The kid’s voice sounded calm, but there was an undercurrent of strain that put Clive’s teeth on edge. 

“What is it?”

“I can’t find the parachutes.”

Clive swore. “Did you look under the--?”

“I looked everywhere,” was the tense response. “They’re not here. We must have taken the plane before it was ready to fly.”

That did make some sense, since some of the buttons on the dashboard, including communications, had not worked when Clive had tried to use them. Still…

“Let me take a look.”

The kid gave him a look that plainly said,  ‘I told you so’ when Clive also came up with nothing. 

Clive went back to the pilot’s seat. At least the way in front of them was clear of any life-threatening rock formations. It was sand -- white, uninterrupted sand -- all around them. 

Right then. 

He returned to the back, where the kid was suddenly looking a little green, and popped open the back door after warning Robert to “hold on.” 

“What are you doing?” 

Clive fixed the kid -- damn, he was just a kid -- with a steady look. “We’re getting close to the ground,” he shouted over the noise of the rushing air around them. “That means we can either crash while in the plane or risk a freefall landing. We might have a better chance with jumping out if we’re far enough from the plane when it hits the ground and explodes.”

“Clive,” Robert said, his lips set in a hard line, “I hate to break it to you, but humans can’t fly unassisted.”

“Roll,” Clive replied, watching the ground get closer. “It’s sand. Should be soft enough to give us a chance.”

“Clive,” the kid said again, narrowing his eyes against the eyewatering wind. “Physics doesn’t work like that. We’re going to die.”

Which was really what Clive was thinking, but he had wanted to give the kid a bit of hope.

He sighed and gave his companion a sad smile. “I’m sorry, kid.”

Clive watched the young man -- eighteen, just eighteen -- swallow hard and look straight down at the white sand rushing up towards them, the wind whipping his unruly dark curls into a frenzy. He drew a deep breath, then said calmly, “Jump and roll?”

“Jump and roll,” Clive replied, nodding at his partner. “On my mark.”

Robert Frobisher went up in Clive’s estimation again when he held out a steady hand to Clive and said, “It’s been an honor working with you, 002.”

Clive took the proffered hand with the respect the young man was due. “It’s been an honor working with you, too, Robert Frobisher. Truly.”

They watched their death fly up towards them in silence. Then…

“3...2...1. Jump!”

. . . . .

Chapter Text

He came to with a groan. At first, he didn’t know where he was. 

It was hot all around him, and there was sand and dust in his face and in his eyes -- where had his glasses gone? -- and his leg. God, his leg. His right arm and leg were both throbbing with agony. 

He brushed the sand out of his eyes and looked around, squinting to make out the bright world around him. He looked down at his leg, which was burning like it was on fire, and grimaced. 

Oh yes. The plane. They had taken the plane and it had crashed. 

He was lying on his back, with his legs pinned and possibly crushed under part of a wing of the Dassault NGF F20. 

Catching his breath, he remembered how it had felt to jump out of the rapidly falling plane straight into the air, arms outstretched, with no parachute or any sort of protective gear. It had been incredibly freeing...and terrifying. 

He had tucked up into a roll midair and mentally crossed his fingers that if he was destined to die out here in the desert that he would die quickly on impact. 

That wish had not been granted.

He had plummeted into the soft sand -- pain had exploded in his right arm -- then bounced and rolled until he had come to a bruising stop.

As he had lain coughing and gasping for breath, he had heard and felt the plane impact the ground not far from him with a roar like a small earthquake. After a moment, there was a loud BANG and hunks of metal flew rapidly out in all directions, hitting the sand around him like oddly-shaped meteors or very large pieces of shrapnel. 

He had seen a dark shadow coming rapidly towards him and instinctively raised his arms, or rather, arm , since his right arm was useless now--

--and the world had gone dark.

Now, he gazed blankly at the large aircraft wing covering the lower half of his body and wondered vaguely if he had been crushed by the heavy piece of metal or if he still had functioning legs left. 

He tried to move his legs and--

His left leg seemed to be alright, but there was definitely something very wrong with his right leg. The impromptu self-assessment drew a strangled scream out of his dry throat and left him blinking away tears of agony from his eyes. 

And then he remembered that he had not been alone.

“Clive? Clive! 002? Can you hear me? Clive!” 

“Robert.” He heard a weak cough from some distance away and the panic fluttering in his chest subsided a little. “You alright, kid?”

“I- I’m trapped,” Robert responded with a shaky breath, “I can’t move. You?” 

“Okay, kid. Robert,” the agent said, and he must have heard the agitation in Robert’s voice because he said soothingly, “Calm down for me, alright? Just breathe.”

Robert closed his eyes and pushed the back of his head down against the hot sand. He breathed deeply. 

In. Out. In. Out. 

“Okay.” 

In. Out. 

The blisteringly hot rays of the sun beat down on his face, and he had the hysterical thought that he hadn’t had the chance to put on another layer of sunblock. His fair skin burned so easily.

Clive’s voice came again. It sounded a little weak, a little strained. “Are you hurt anywhere, Robert?”

“Arm. My- my leg.” Oh, god, it hurt so much.

“Okay,” Clive said calmly, “Can you move the other leg? Can you move your other arm?”

Robert continued his breathing exercise, realizing belatedly that the agent was assessing his condition. “Y-yes. I can move them. Left arm is free. Right’s broken. My leg. My leg’s pinned.” Robert couldn’t help it; his voice wavered and tears sprung into his eyes. It hurt so much.

“Okay.” The other man’s soothing voice trickled into his ear through the rushing of the blood in his veins. “It’s okay, Robert. You’re okay. How far are you trapped? Legs only? Chest?”

Robert took another moment to breathe. “Legs.”

“Okay, that’s good.”

“I’m bleeding,” Robert said, thinking he should probably let the agent know. “There’s blood. I think it’s a lot.” He wasn’t able to see it, but he felt the wetness soaking through his trouser leg.

The concern in Clive’s voice went up a notch. “From the leg? Is there anything you can use to tie it off? Can you get your belt or tie off?” There was urgency in the man’s voice now. A demand to move, to act. 

Robert fumbled at his neck. There, yes, the navy blue necktie he’d treated himself to two months ago. “Yes.” 

Then he painfully levered himself up to a sitting position so he could get the ends of the tie around his right leg. He tied a loose knot, then put one end of the tie between his teeth so he could pull it tight with his uninjured hand. 

“Tight as you can, alright? Right above the bleeding.”

“I tied it,” Robert finally said through gritted teeth, dropping the end of the ruined silk tie from his lips. He rocked in pain, cradling his broken arm. The tears streamed unchecked down his face, since there was no one to see. 

“You’re doing just fine, Robert,” he heard Clive’s comforting voice say through the haze of pain. 

“Say,” the man went on in a lighter tone of voice that was incongruous with their setting and this situation, “is that your real name? Robert Frobisher? Clive Woodslow actually is my name. No family to speak of, so they let me keep it. Bit of a silly name, isn’t it? Maybe I should have asked to change it.”

Robert -- Robert-Danny-Freddie-so many other names -- felt his mind stutter to a stop. No, he couldn’t tell, could he? But Alec was always teasing him about being too serious about rules that no one followed anyway. And it wasn’t like he always followed the rules either, being a world-class hacker and explosives expert by the time he was thirteen. But names were secret, personal things, weren’t they? 

God, his head hurt so much. And his leg. His leg was on fire, throbbing, stabbing agony, and his arm wasn’t far behind. His pale skin was starting to burn, too. He could see the skin on his bare hands turning lobster-red, and he knew that his face and neck were in the same state.

He wanted to go home. He wanted to be back in his cubicle in Q-Branch with a steaming cup of tea in his hands. He wanted to be home in his safe little flat and the new potted plant he had just bought himself. He wanted to go home to his dad’s, where he had never felt unsafe in his life. 

He wanted his dad.

. . . . .

The kid didn’t respond, but he was conscious. Clive could hear him crying with rough, hitching breaths. Well, he’d certainly earned a good cry.

After a couple of minutes, Clive said, “It’s alright if you don’t want to tell me. It’s not important. I was only trying to get you to calm down. That’s all. It’s okay, kid. It’s going to be okay.”

“Danny,” the kid nearly sobbed, “My name’s Danny.”

“Okay, Danny,” Clive said, trying to make his voice as reassuring as he could. 

First objective: Calm the kid down. Get him to stop crying because that was a waste of precious water.

Second objective: Get him out safely. 

“Okay. Do you think you can get out from under the thing trapping you? Maybe dig in the sand a little? Take your time.”

A hitching breath and a couple of sniffles. “Yes. Okay.” 

A scuffling sound followed, like sand being dug up and thrown aside. Then a grunt and a muffled scream.

“Kid? Danny?” 

Clive jerked his head up instinctively, trying to see past the large chunk of metal that had landed near him. He stifled a groan as white-hot stars of pain exploded behind his eyes. “Shit,” he whispered softly when he’d caught his breath. He cursed a little more.

“I’m okay,” he heard Robert-Danny say shakily after a few moments. “My leg’s broken.” Then it seemed that the kid had taken a deep breath and gathered a bit of courage because he said firmly, “And I’m not a kid. Stop treating me like a goddamned child.” 

There was that spirit that had been missing for the last half hour.

Clive grinned in relief. The kid was fine. “Okay, okay, not a kid,” he lied. “Don’t bite my head off.”

There was a dragging sound and another pained groan.

“Danny? What are you doing?”

“Finding you,” the kid huffed, sounding strained. “To help you.”

Clive cursed in his head. “There’s no need for that. I’m fine.”

“Bullshit. If you were fine, you’d have come to help me. You’re not fine.”

Well, shit. The kid was a genius, after all.

“Don’t move, Danny,” he tried again. “It’s not safe.”

The dragging sound continued. It was slow going, but the kid’s dark head soon came into view, his determined face bright red with sunburn under the streaks of smoke and dirt. His lips were bitten bloody, and he dragged himself along using only his left leg and arm. 

Clive watched the realization hit his young partner. 

“Oh, no,” the kid whispered.

“It’s okay,” Clive said softly. 

The large piece of metal lodged in his gut moved as he spoke, and he clenched his teeth against the pain, tasting the blood coating his throat and mouth. Red continued to leak out into the ever-thirsty sand of the dry desert, drop by drop. 

He was thankful, however, that he couldn’t feel anything below his waist; he could see from his position that his legs were mangled beyond repair. 

Danny carefully dragged himself closer, soon coming within reach of him. He stretched out a shaking hand to Clive’s, tears spilling down his cheeks in despair. His green eyes appeared more vibrant without his glasses.

Their hands were sticky and slick with drying blood that belonged to the both of them, but they clasped them anyway, clinging tightly to the other as to a lifeline. 

Perhaps, to the boy, he was. Clive had been through too much to need one. 

No, that was a lie. As much as his heart ached for the innocence lost to the kid, he was glad that he wasn’t dying alone.

. . . . .

“I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Clive asked. It was getting harder to speak, to stay awake, to think

His sluggish brain finally caught on to what the kid meant. “It’s not your fault.” 

Silence. 

“Danny.”

The kid was shaking his head and trembling, a miserable look on his sunburnt face. “I’m sorry.”

Clive gritted his teeth. He had to distract the kid. He had to do his best to make sure the kid would survive this. “I need you to do something for me.”

The dust-covered head of dark hair came up. “Anything.” 

Eager. So eager, and so damned young.

Clive gestured weakly at the horizon, which was going dark from both the setting sun and an approaching cloud of sand. “There’s a sandstorm coming. You need to find shelter.” 

He pointed at the torn-off fuselage some distance away, part of which had stuck in the sand, creating a protective dome. “There. Keep your face covered when the storm hits.”

Danny grabbed Clive’s arm to drag them both towards the fuselage with a determined set to his mouth, but Clive put his hand on the skinny wrist to stop him. “Danny, you need to leave me here. I’m not going to make it.”

Wide green eyes looked at him, uncomprehending. “No! I-I’m not leaving you behind!”

“Danny,” Clive’s serious grey eyes forced the other to listen. “I’m a dead man. You still have a chance. Get inside there until the storm passes.”

“No. Not without you.” Stubborn kid.

Clive switched tactics, desperate now. He knew from the changing color of the sky that the storm was getting closer. “Please, Danny. I made a promise. I intend to keep it.”

Danny blinked at him, his eyebrows scrunching together in the middle. “A promise?”

“I promised Alec...I’d keep you safe.” Clive watched the boy’s dry lips part in surprise. “Go on. It’s okay.” 

The kid’s hand on his shoulder loosened. Good. But there was one more thing…

“Wait,” he slurred. “Take my jacket. Cover your head with it...protection...from the sand. You’ll need it. Gets cold at night too.” 

It wasn’t enough to make sure that the kid would survive the storm. It would likely last only a few minutes. But temperatures in the desert at night were low enough to cause hypothermia, and the kid was so skinny, and he was injured on top of everything .

Danny shrank back in revulsion. “No! I’m not going to take your clothes. No.”

Alright, Clive thought grimly, and got ready to pull out all the stops. “Not gonna make...breaking a promise...the last thing I do, are you?” he said with wet, shuddering breaths. “Take it. I don’t need it. You do. Got your whole life...ahead of you. 

“Please,” he whispered, and he was no longer sure if he was acting or if he really couldn’t speak any louder. A tear rolled down his cheek and dropped down into the dry sand. “Do it for me, kid.”

Danny sobbed as he slowly worked the blood-soaked suit jacket off of his companion with tight-lipped resolve.

Clive Woodslow passed out halfway through the painful process. He never woke up.

. . . . .

The dust storm roared in from the west, pounding fine sand into everything it touched. Rough grains found their way into every crack and crevice, and wore down at every surface. 

Danny curled up inside the creaking dark hollow dome of the broken fuselage and hoped that it wouldn’t fly away with the strength of the wind and leave him defenseless. 

Miserable, angry tears leaked out of his sun-sore eyes into the grey suit jacket that smelled faintly of cologne and sweat and blood. He had followed Clive’s instructions and wrapped it around his head to shield his eyes, mouth, nose, and ears from the merciless blasting of the stinging sand.

He sobbed into the stifling fabric of the jacket and mourned his companion, who was doubtless dead now, suffocated by the whirling desert sand. Or perhaps...Perhaps he’d died from his injuries while Danny had been dragging himself to shelter.

Either way, the double-oh agent, who had done everything he could to keep him safe, was dead.

He wished that he could have done something -- Wasn’t there anything he could have done? If there was...If there had been...If he could have...

He shuddered and pulled himself as much into a miserable ball as he could with his broken arm and leg. 

He wished...He wished that he could wake up from this sodding nightmare.

. . . . .

Forty-seven miles away, at the site of another plane crash, Alec Trevelyan hunched down in the tightly-closed helicopter and waited impatiently for the storm to pass. He had already torn apart the remains of two plane crashes that day, looking for survivors, and he was itching to get to the third. 

He needed to find his friends.

He needed to find Danny.

. . . . .

Chapter Text

Alec had been called in after he’d finished his own mission, a quick sniper job. He had nothing against that fast and distant sort of wetwork, but it was a little boring. He preferred jobs with a bit more of a...personal touch. And maybe with more fire and explosions involved. 

Regardless, he had called in to HQ to report after his target had been eliminated. He had been told that communication with 002 and his Q-Branch partner had been lost. They had been working on bringing down the central intelligence hub of a criminal organization in Niger, which was why they had needed the tech on site. 

However, things had somehow gone wrong and there had been radio silence from the pair for the last four days. 

Alec, as the closest operative, had been ordered to board a flight from where he was in Medina to the airport in Niamey to find out what had happened to the team. 

Four days!

Alec had fought the urge to curse at Tanner, who had relayed the information. There was no use berating the messenger for the higher-ups waiting so long to send someone in. 

Besides, if it had been only 002, four days wouldn’t have been considered long at all. It was only the fact that he had a tech who had no experience in the field (who was also Alec’s friend) with him that made Alec see red.

It was all very well and good to treat field agents like equipment to be discarded when no longer useful and immediately replace them with newer versions as needed, like parts of a machine. They knew what they were getting themselves into. They knew that the life expectancy of a double-oh agent wasn’t very long and that their chances of dying were something like 70% in the first year, with the number decreasing marginally with every successive year as they became more experienced.

But to treat that amazing, brilliant kid like that? No, Alec wouldn’t have it.

He’d seethed as he’d sat on that flight to Niger, the anger masking his worry for his young friend. 

Danny was...Well, he was tougher than he looked, but he was still young, and he wasn’t trained to handle field emergencies. Alec had wondered if the pair had gotten captured or if they had been killed instead. MI6 knew that the boffin had been able to complete his mission of installing the virus in the server at the hub of the organization that spread throughout the chain to all of the lesser groups associated with the main syndicate, but beyond that, they knew nothing.

That had been four days ago. There had been no word and no movement from the criminal group to suggest that the two men were alive.

Then, five hours ago, there had been a large explosion at the warehouse in the middle of the Sahara desert where intel said that the criminal organization had its central server. Three small aircraft had been spotted escaping from the building.

According to satellite imagery, the planes had attacked and damaged each other enough to cause all three planes to crash in succession. 

However, the aircraft had all been experimental high-speed machines, so they had been able to travel a fair distance away from the initial site and then quite a distance from each other when they had crashed. 

Alec had boarded the medevac helicopter (of which there were two) with determination and trepidation warring with each other in his stomach -- something that hadn’t happened to him since he was a trainee. 

What was this kid doing to him? He wasn’t the kind of person to form attachments like this to anyone, except maybe Bond. But the other agent was different, and, as far as returning Alec’s sentiments went, was very low-maintenance.

This relationship, whatever it was, with Danny, however, was completely different from anything he’d had with anyone before. It was almost like...like he had adopted a kid brother or something. Or a kitten. Something small and cute and unable to fend for itself. 

Not that Danny Drake couldn’t defend himself. The first thing Alec had done after Danny had started working at MI6 (after feeding him, the scrawny little bugger) was to take him to the gym to put him through his paces and make sure that he could at least dodge a hit. 

Danny had proven that he could do much more than that. In fact, he had rolled his eyes and thrown Alec on his ass twice in twelve minutes. The first time had been as a result of Alec’s surprise. The second time had been due to real skill, combined with a small amount of surprise. The kid was fast , and instinctively knew exactly how much force to apply to unbalance his opponent with the minimum amount of effort on his part. 

Of course, Alec had then shown the kid what was what, but he’d been able to leave the mat with confidence that the scrappy little pipsqueak wouldn’t end up mugged or something.

Still, a controlled environment like the gym was different than fighting in the real world. It was really life or death then, and one’s opponents wouldn’t be holding back on their punches. 

And there was nothing that could save a man from dying in a plane crash if he was destined to do so. 

Alec had arrived at the site of the first crash while it was still smoking. The two...passengers (it had been impossible to tell if they were men or women from the blackened remains) had died on impact and burnt to a crisp inside of their metal coffins. 

“No survivors,” the medic had reported with a wooden voice.

‘No shit,’ Alec had wanted to say. 

He couldn’t tell if they were Woodslow and Danny or just random henchmen. They wouldn’t be able to tell for certain until experts looked at the remains and the DNA analysis was completed. 

Until then, Alec had to hope that the next crash site would have, at the very least, recognizable remains. Alec had to hope that his friends were still alive. 

The second aircraft had burst apart in midair from what looked like a small missile. 

They had found one man, or what had once been a man, gobs of pink flesh scattered kilometers apart. There had been just enough to tell that the man had been blond -- not 002 or Danny, who were both brunets. 

There had been no trace of other passengers. That wasn’t a guarantee, of course, that there hadn’t been someone else on board the aircraft, but still, there was that third site, the one furthest out from the destroyed warehouse. 

Maybe at the third crash site, they’d find Woodslow and Danny. 

They were about to take off again when they were radioed a report of an incoming sandstorm. 

Alec swore. 

For one thing, they wouldn’t be able to take off until it passed. For another, more urgent reason, the sandstorm had the potential to kill any survivors of that third plane crash. They’d be vulnerable, perhaps even unconscious, and there was no cover for miles, except for the remains of the plane. Even if they’d survived the initial crash, they could very well die from the storm. And even if they’d survived all that, the cold of the desert night could take them out, if Alec and his rescue team couldn’t get there in time. 

They sat in the safety of the enclosed helicopter, watching the sand swirl around them. The force of the storm slammed sheets of dust against the side of the aircraft like a wrathful god screeching with rage.

The seconds ticked away, each long minute joining the others, one after another, in slow succession. 

When the wild winds finally subsided, the helicopter was half-buried in sand. The men got out to shovel the sand away from the landing skids so that the craft could take off. 

As the rotor blades powered up, flinging sand off in all directions like a sandstorm in miniature, Alec sent up a silent prayer to a god he no longer believed in. 

Please. 

Please.

. . . . .

It was dark by the time they got there. 

The temperature was dropping quickly, and the men knew without speaking of it that it was imperative that they find any survivors before hypothermia set in. 

Their searchlights scanned the sands below them, looking for the crash site in the murky half-light.

The bulk of the aircraft wasn’t difficult to find. Alec descended from the helicopter to search the torn husk of the cockpit to see if there was anyone in there, dead or alive. 

“Clear!” he shouted with both relief and apprehension as he climbed out. 

The searchlights continued to sweep the storm-smoothed landscape for signs of life. 

“There!”

Someone had spotted the odd-shaped lump in the sand. With all of the lights trained on it, they could see that it was two people lying huddled together. One figure was stretched out on top of the sand, but the other was half-buried beneath it. 

Alec ran over, slipping and sliding in the loose sand in his hurry to reach them. 

As he got closer, his heart hammering in his chest, he began to be able to make out the dark mop of unruly curls that was so covered in dust and sand that it looked gray in the harsh artificial light. 

Danny. 

Each step took him closer, but it wasn’t fast enough. 

Every second-- Every moment was crucial. 

He skidded to a stop on his knees, throwing up sand in his rush to reach the too-still (please don’t be dead) body of the young man. 

Danny was lying on his front with one arm stretched out towards the other man, evidently having dragged himself to this place from somewhere else after the storm had passed. The scuffed line of disturbed sand led away into the dark.

A dark, blood-stained suit jacket was wrapped around him. Alec’s heart skipped a beat as he recognized it as something 002 would wear. 

The collar of the jacket obscured Danny’s face, so Alec couldn’t see if the boy was alive. He had evidently survived the storm and had even crawled out here to dig his companion out of the sand, but he wasn’t moving now. There was a tourniquet tied around his right leg, which was bent at an odd angle and caked with sand and dried blood.

Alec paused and looked at the man submerged in the sand, in case there was a chance that he was alive. His nose was half-covered and his slack mouth was filled with sand. It was plain that the agent was dead. 

Whether Danny was, however, was yet to be discovered. 

The kid was still and unresponsive, and looked entirely too much like the corpse whose shoulder was grasped tightly in his left hand. 

The hand that reached out to check Danny’s pulse was steady, but Alec felt the world spinning around him as he fumbled for the heartbeat. He felt a small sense of relief come over him as he felt the feverish heat of the dry skin under his fingers, but even then the worry did not ease. 

A man only minutes dead would feel nearly as warm to the touch as a one living. If he was alive, dry skin and a fever were sure signs that he had stopped sweating and was suffering from dehydration, especially having been in the desert heat for hours injured and without water. 

There. A pulse, weak and thready, but there. 

“He’s alive. He’s alive!” he shouted, prompting the men with the stretchers to pick up their pace. 

“Come on, kid,” he muttered, “Don’t you die on me.” 

Alec carefully rolled Danny over onto his back to see what injuries were hidden under the jacket. The leg, obviously. Bloody and definitely broken in more than one place. 

Danny had been clutching his right arm to his chest. Probably broken as well, judging by the way it bent unnaturally.

“Sir,” a medic said, gesturing to the stretcher. 

Alec got out of the way so they could do their job. 

Another medic reached into the shallow hole and checked Woodslow’s pulse. He shook his head after a few moments. 

Dead. Dead some time too, from the looks of it.

As Danny was loaded onto the stretcher, the jostling of his broken limbs woke him. 

“Danny?” Alec darted forward at the first cry and leaned over him to try to make eye contact if the kid’s eyes were open. He’d be disoriented and a familiar face or voice would help...hopefully. “Danny, it’s okay, kiddo. You’re safe now. It’s okay.”

The kid shuddered and cracked open swollen eyelids. His face was beginning to swell from the sunburn. 

“‘Lec?”

Alec winced at how hoarse his voice sounded. The dry lips cracked and bled again. 

“I’m here, kiddo. You’re safe. I’m gonna get you out of here, okay?”

“Clive. He needs-- help him. Please.” Danny’s left hand was still clenched around Clive’s shoulder in his futile efforts to get him out of the hole. “Please, Alec.”

Alec bit his tongue before he could tell the kid that Clive was dead and he was the one who needed help, but he looked at the young pleading face and said as gently as he could, “Alright, but you’re going to have to let go of him first, okay? Let go of him, so they can take care of him, okay? That’s it.” 

He motioned for a medic to start digging 002 out of his shallow impromptu grave. Alec winced at the large chunk of bloody metal that the man pulled out of Woodslow’s gut.

“Okay,” Alec said once Danny had relaxed at the knowledge that his companion was being taken care of. “You’re gonna let them put you on this stretcher now, okay? We’re going to get you to a hospital as soon as we can. You’re going to be okay. Danny? Hey, Danny, kiddo, it’s okay.”

The kid’s eyes had opened wide, looking almost black in the harsh light of the flashlights. “No,” he whimpered, nearly gagging on the sand in his throat, choking him as he shook his head feverishly and shuddered, “No, oh god, no. No fly. No fly. Not. Can’t.”

‘Oh no,’ thought Alec upon hearing the hysterical babbling. Brilliant Danny, who could rattle on for hours on end about specialized aircraft, was terrified of flying now.

The medic reached into his bag and uncapped a syringe. They needed to get their sole living patient onto the helicopter to transport him to the nearest hospital, and sedating him was their only option now.

Alec looked away as the sedative took hold and swore. 

  . . . . .

Chapter Text

Alec sat by the bedside of the scrawny young man he’d befriended and rubbed his face. The air smelled like every hospital he had ever been in: antiseptics and cleaning chemicals. 

Danny’s open fracture on his shattered leg had required hours of surgery and the insertion of a dozen metal plates, wires, and screws to keep it all in place. Then had come the strict regimen of antibiotics to counter the infection that was sure to result from hours of the open wound being dragged around in the desert sand. 

The two broken bones in his forearm had been easier to take care of, only requiring a cast and painkillers to dull the pain. 

The dehydration was being countered by the IV drip in his arm. It had put a strain on his kidneys, but he should be fine in a few days. 

Then there were all the cuts and bruises that littered his body, as though some divine artist hadn’t known whether they wanted their canvas to be black and blue or red with severe sunburn. The burns on his face were especially serious; large, painful-looking blisters had formed on his cheeks, forehead, ears, lips, and the tip of his nose, and his whole face was red and inflamed. The blisters that covered the back of his hands and wrists had popped and bled.

The result was that Danny’s face and hands had been covered in medicated bandages to help cool and heal the damaged skin, making him look like a half-finished mummy.

He had yet to wake from the healing sleep the doctors had induced following his surgery, though they had said that he should begin stirring soon.

The heart monitors and other machines began to show signs of Danny’s return to consciousness. Sure enough, the bandages covering his left hand twitched. 

“Danny,” Alec said softly, when the mechanical beeping echoing the younger man’s heartbeat sped up. “Danny, you’re safe. You’re in hospital. Everything’s alright.”

Danny’s bandage-swathed face turned towards his voice, his breaths coming short and fast. Alec cursed internally that he couldn’t see the younger man’s face at all, so he had no idea what he was thinking. He could take a guess, however. 

“Danny, the skin on your eyelids was sunburnt, so they’ve put bandages over your eyes. It’s okay. You’ve not gone blind.” Alec wished that he could reach out to touch Danny’s arm or hand, but any contact would likely cause pain, so he held back. 

“Alec?”

Alec could barely hear the pained whisper, but he knew from experience that the kid’s throat must be parched, so he grabbed the cup of ice chips by the bedside table and carefully picked up a small spoonful of them. 

“I’m going to give you some ice chips, okay? It should help with your throat.”

After the first painful, tentative spoonfuls, the rest of the cup was accepted eagerly.

“Feeling better?”

“Y’s.” Danny cleared his sore throat. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome, kid.”

“Alec?” The mask of bandages seemed almost hesitant to continue. “My leg?”

“Surgery. You’ll be back to normal, more or less, after about six months or so and the proper PT. It was a bad break, and there’s still a risk of infection. Your arm will be alright, too.”

Alec could sense that there was still something else that the kid wanted to know. 

“Do you want your dad here?” he asked, trying to figure it out. “He’s been making a fuss back at HQ since they told him you’d gone missing. It seems even telling him that you’ve been found and that you're okay isn’t working to calm him down. He wants details so he can come here and see you for himself.”

Danny snorted and sighed. “He knows the policy.”

MI6 policy was to inform whatever next-of-kin was on the injured employee’s paperwork what had happened in vague terms or even white lies if the family wasn’t cleared to know (or no longer cleared to know, as in Danny’s father’s case). If the employee was injured out of the country, the family usually had to wait for them to be transported back to London to visit. 

“Do you want him to come?” Alec asked. “If you want him, I’ll get him here.” Even if he had to go around MI6 policy. Besides, based on what he was hearing from HQ, M would be willing to turn a blind eye if it would get an aggrieved former double-oh out of her hair. 

Danny had been quiet for long enough that Alec thought that he might be drifting back to sleep when he spoke again. “No,” he said carefully. “No. It wouldn’t be very grown up of me to have my dad come and pick me up from the school infirmary, would it?”

Alec chuckled softly. “No one would blame you if you wanted him here.”

“Is he driving M mad?” Danny said dryly. 

“Yes. Q, too, for that matter.” In fact, Alec was very certain that Drake was close to getting the answer out of the quartermaster, who was a bit neurotic on the best of days. It was likely that the reason he hadn’t already was because he had been warned off from scaring him due to the older man’s bad heart, so he had to go about it in other ways without giving him the fright of his life. 

Danny sighed again. “Can you send a message? Tell him that I’m fine and can he please look in on my plant? I installed a watering mechanism but I haven’t actually tested it yet. That is, the mechanism is fine, but I’m not entirely sure how much water the plant needs. The instructions seem so arbitrary. Exactly how much water per cubic centimeter is ‘until the soil is moist to the touch,’ I mean, honestly?”

Alec couldn’t help smiling. His father was terrorizing MI6 and all the kid could think of to say to him was about his plant?

“Oh,” Danny added, as if he’d heard Alec’s thought, “And tell him to please stop bothering M and Q. I’m an adult now, thanks.”

Alec was glad that he didn’t have to school his expression due his friend being essentially blind right now. Under normal circumstances, Danny would already be huffing in his uniquely stroppy manner at the big grin Alec was exhibiting at the message Danny wanted him to relay to his father. 

“Okay. Anything else?”

“You’re laughing at me,” Danny concluded accurately. “That’s not fair; I’m a bit drugged up right now, and I’m in a considerable amount of pain.”

Alec leaned his forearms on the bed, careful to not actually touch the kid. “I’m only laughing a little. We should get you high more often. Once you’re off of pain meds, we’re getting you drunk.”

“You are incorrigible,” Danny said primly. Then the playfulness dropped from his posture, leaving a tension that had Alec frowning. 

“What is it, Danny?”

The bandages on Danny’s throat convulsed, as though he had swallowed. “Clive. He- he’s dead, isn’t he?” He sounded small, almost childlike.

Oh, kid. 

Alec sighed and decided not to soften the blow. Despite how he looked and sounded, the younger man wouldn’t appreciate a lie or coddling. 

“Yes.”

“Was it the sandstorm or the blood loss?”

Alec could almost see the flat line the expressive mouth would be forming under the gauze. 

“Is that important to you?” he asked.

“Yes.”

“I’ll find out.” Woodslow’s body should have reached London by now. They’d be conducting an autopsy, as they always did with double-ohs (when there was a body). 

“Thank you.” The bandages on the sunburned throat moved again. “He told me to go,” Danny said hoarsely, “He said to- to take his jacket. Didn’t need it anymore, and I did.”

Alec nodded, even though the boy wouldn't be able to see it. “He was right. You’re not feeling guilty about that, are you?”

“You made him promise.” It sounded accusatory.

Alec turned the words over in his mind before he uttered them. He knew that he would have to be careful with what he told this brilliant, perceptive mind. 

“He would have sent you off with his jacket regardless. He knew better than to have you stay with him out in the open in the middle of a sandstorm, and you wouldn’t have been able to drag him to the shelter, with the state you were both in. Telling you to take the jacket was practical.”

The skinny, bruised chest heaved under the thin sheets. “I don’t think…I don’t think I can accept that.”

Alec let out a long breath. “Yeah. I suppose that someone who isn’t used to...all this wouldn’t be able to understand that a dead agent wouldn’t mind a friend or an ally making use of his body or belongings if that would help them to survive a little longer or win the battle.”

“But he wasn’t dead yet.”

“He was dying,” Alec said firmly. “Even if he’d been able to get to shelter, rescue would have been too late to save him.” The injured lad was silent. “Danny.”

“It’s not the same.” 

Oh, how fragile he sounded. Not at all like the scrappy, snarky young man who spoke to professional assassins with such insolence. Alec was suddenly glad that he couldn’t see Danny’s face. It was likely screwed up in a pained grimace, and there were likely tears soaking into the bandages now. The narrow shoulders and thin chest shook with suppressed sobs.

Danny continued tearfully, “It’s not the same when it’s...My dad told me about situations like this. Friends dying and such. But it’s different when it’s right there. When you live it.”

Alec scrubbed a hand across his face. He wasn’t equipped to handle situations like this. He wasn’t a psychologist, dammit, nor was he a comforting sort of man. “Yeah. It is. But you survived it. And soon it’ll be just another story.”

“So I’ll just get used to friends dying.” Danny’s voice was flat. “I can’t-- I won’t . I’ll do whatever it takes to keep that from happening.”

Alec just sighed.

“I won’t let you die, Alec.”

“Death’s always around the corner in my profession, Danny,” he said softly, “Clive knew that too.”

“Won’t let you die like him.”

Alec ran his hand through his hair then down his face. He looked down at the bandaged face, which he just knew was set in a determined expression under the gauze and sighed. “Go to sleep, Danny.”

Danny reached out blindly towards him with his bandaged hand. “Alec?”

Alec touched the bandages, but gently, since he didn’t want to hurt the kid. “I’m here.”

“Stay?”

“Of course.”

“Only until I fall asleep,” the boy said, as though he didn’t want to seem childish.

“I’ll be here when you wake up,” Alec promised.

  . . . . .

He called HQ once the kid was asleep. 

He dutifully relayed Danny’s morphine-influenced message to Villiers, who promised to communicate it to Damien Drake ASAP. M’s secretary sounded rather...harried. Alec assumed that Drake had been leaning heavily on him to share his son’s condition and location with him. 

Then M came on the line. 

“Bring him home, Trevelyan. You’ve already been there far too long. I’ll have Q send you the details for your flight home.”

Alec straightened unconsciously. The order rubbed him the wrong way. 

“No,” he said, and waited for M’s incredulous response.

“What?”

Alec breathed deeply, knowing that he needed to remain calm and not blow up at his superior. “With all due respect, ma’am, I’m not putting him on another plane. He’s terrified of flying.”

“Then drug him!”

Alec pressed his lips together tightly to keep the vitriol in. “I will not, ma’am. We’ll take the train.”

Then he hung up, not wanting to give her a chance to argue. He tightened his hand around the phone to the extent that the plastic case started to crack. 

He respected the woman, but god, she infuriated him sometimes, especially with how she treated agents.

. . . . .

Q sent him their travel itinerary an hour later. Cars, trains, and ferries. No planes. 

He also sent a string of ones and zeros that Alec assumed was meant for the boffin.

. . . . .

“Danny?”

The kid was stirring again. Alec saw him stiffen the exact moment the pain registered. 

“Alec?”

“How are you feeling?” Alec asked softly.

“Like I fell out of a pl-- “ The kid cut off, unable to say the word. The heart monitor sped up a little.

Alec decided to ignore the slip. “The doctors are letting you go tomorrow afternoon, granted you don’t spike a fever tonight.”

Danny was silent for some time. “When’s the f-flight back?” he asked, his voice wavering. The machines reflected the hammering of his heart.

“We’re not flying back,” Alec said firmly. “We’re going by land and sea.”

“W-What?”

“I said,” Alec repeated determinedly, “We are taking the scenic route home. Car, train, ferry.”

The words sank into the sudden silence between them. 

“That- That doesn’t sound very efficient,” the kid finally said. 

Alec swore, loudly. “I don’t care about that. I care about-- “ He broke off.

“You care about me?” Danny finished softly.

Alec cursed again. “Yes,” he ground out. “I care about you, kid. We’re not getting on a bloody plane. I’m never letting you get on a sodding plane ever again if I can help it. Not unless you want to.”

Danny let out a shaky breath laden with relief. 

“Thank you, Alec.”

Alec crossed his arms, uncomfortable at the amount of sentiment he’d shown.

“Go to sleep, kid.”

“Not a kid,” the kid sighed sleepily.

“You just keep telling yourself that,” Alec muttered. “Someday it’ll come true.”

. . . . .

Chapter Text

The bandages came off of Danny’s eyelids the next morning, enabling him to see. Alec had had a pair of glasses made up in his prescription to replace the ones that had been lost. Figuring out how they’d put them on the bandaged head and face without causing the wearer pain took a bit of maneuvering, but they finally sorted it out. 

Alec was relieved to be able to roll his young friend out of the hospital that afternoon, with his leg in its cast propped up in the wheelchair and a large bag of his medications and replacement bandages perched on his lap. 

The bandages on Danny’s head and face had been reduced from fully wrapped around his head to a band across his forehead and another around his nose and cheeks over the worst of the burns. The ones on his hands now resembled fingerless gloves rather than mittens. The red, peeling skin on his fingers looked painful. 

Alec wasn’t sure if the lack of bandages covering the raw, red skin and obvious cuts and bruises made it better or worse. It did mean that Danny was healing, so he took it as a win, unpleasant as it was to look at. 

They got horrified and curious stares when they reached the hotel where they would spend the night. Alec made sure to give anyone who looked a scowl they’d never forget. 

Danny huffed softly. “Are you glaring at them, Alec? Or are they really that terrified of me?”

Alec grunted. “They should keep their eyes to themselves.”

“How can they,” Danny said mildly, though his uninjured hand shook on the armrest of the wheelchair. “when I look like the invisible man? Or a mummy. Pity it’s not closer to Halloween. I’d have a smashing costume this year.”

“What do you need a costume for, when you dress like an old man every day?” Alec snarked. Danny’s many wooly jumpers, which he wore regardless of the season, were a common source of teasing by Alec. 

“I like my cardigans, thank you,” Danny responded with excessive priggishness, his spine still stiff with strain. “They’re very comfortable.”

“You look like a kid dressing up in his grandfather’s clothes.”

“This hypothetical grandfather must have wonderful taste, in that case.”

“Good god.”

. . . . .

Their train was to leave the station at 9:00 AM, so they had the rest of the day and night to rest before their trip. 

That night, Alec dutifully measured out the correct dosages of Danny’s medications and changed the bandages, smearing the healing ointment all over the leg wound and burns to prevent infection and scarring. 

He had handed his phone to Danny so he could read Q’s message (all ones and zeros, which Alec recognized was binary code, though he was unable to read it).

Whatever the message was had the boffin smiling, so naturally, Alec asked what it said. 

“Oh, it’s...it’s a tech joke. You wouldn't get it. It would take too much time to explain, and then the joke wouldn’t be funny anymore.”

Alec supposed that that was fair, but Danny must have sensed that he was pouting internally, because he sighed softly and started to explain it. As predicted, the joke was not funny once it had been thoroughly explained. 

“That’s ridiculous.”

“It’s a joke.”

“Still, it doesn’t make any sense,” Alec insisted. 

“It’s a joke!”

. . . . .

The plan was to take the train from Niamey in Niger to Oran in Algeria, a journey which would take almost an entire day and night. 

Q had booked them a room on the train that was thankfully big enough for Alec to wheel Danny’s chair in. Danny had crutches, but the cast on his arm and bruised ribs made them awkward to use.

Alec settled Danny on the lower bunk bed, eliciting a relieved sigh from the younger man. He was still in considerable pain, and the constant nightmares whenever he closed his eyes left him exhausted.

His charge taken care of, Alec tossed his bag onto the top bunk and climbed up. 

“Alec,” Danny said drowsily, “Are you going to take a nap, too? It’s nine in the morning.” Then he said, apologetically, “I kept you up last night, didn’t I? Maybe you should just put me on a pl--” He choked on the word again. 

“I’m going to catch up on my reading,” Alec said, pulling a paperback out of his bag and settling down into a comfortable position. “I slept well enough,” he reassured his friend. “No need to change our plans. Go to sleep, Danny.”

He finally relaxed enough to crack open his book when Danny’s soft breaths slowed, indicating that he had fallen asleep. Hopefully the kid would be able to get some actual rest before the nightmares started. 

Sure enough, Alec was a third of the way through the book when Danny began shifting and tossing in his sleep, accompanied by small, distressed sounds. Alec clambered down and gently shook his shoulder. 

“Hey,” he said softly, “Hey, kiddo. Wake up.”

The green eyes snapped open, looking around wildly, disoriented. The skinny chest gasped for breath. 

“Hey, it’s okay. You’re safe,” Alec said, resisting the urge to ruffle the messy hair; the skin on the sunburnt scalp was still sensitive. “Hey, there you are,” he said when Danny finally focused on him, blinking rapidly to make out who he was without the help of his glasses. “Time to wake up.”

“Alec?”

“Who else? Are you hungry? It’s past lunch. I’ll order something.” One normally couldn’t order food to eat in the individual rooms, but Alec could be very persuasive if he put his mind to it. He wasn’t going to subject Danny to more stares than necessary by making him go to the dining car. 

Danny stared up at the underside of the top bunk. “Not really,” he said, sounding too tired for someone who had just woken from a nap. “You go ahead.”

Alec sat down on the bed, gently so he wouldn’t jostle any injuries. “That wasn’t a request, Danny,” he said seriously. “You have to eat something or the meds will upset your stomach.”

Danny turned his head away towards the wall. 

Alec sighed. “Toast and soup it is.”

The younger man said nothing, and continued to lie on the bed, staring blindly at the wall while Alec ordered their late lunch.

“Danny.” Alec sat on the edge of the bed again. “I know it’s hard, but--”

“But he gave his life for me, so I’d better appreciate it?” Danny said tersely through thinned lips. 

Alec sighed. “No. He would have died regardless of whether you were there or not. But you’re alive. You survived. You can’t dwell on what happened.”

Danny squeezed his eyes shut and his breaths grew shaky. 

“I’ve had comrades die, too. It’s not easy, dealing with it. But you can’t keep feeling guilty about it. It’ll eat you up inside.”

Alec watched the tears roll down the sunburnt cheeks. 

“Is this the first time you’ve seen someone die?” he asked softly. 

The thin shoulders rose and lowered in a short shrug. “My godfather.”

Ah, Major Boothroyd, who had been Q before the current one. “Your godfather was in his eighties and died in hospital after a good, long life happily blowing things up in his labs.”

“He was nice,” Danny said in a soft, broken voice, and Alec knew that he wasn’t speaking of the old man, but of Woodslow. “He was funny, too.”

Alec sighed and reached out to touch the casted arm. “He was. I’m glad he opened up enough to you to show that side of himself.” He smiled softly. “Seems you have a way with us double-ohs, eh?”

Danny shuddered. 

“I’m not planning on dying anytime soon, Danny,” Alec said, correctly interpreting the cause of the trembling. “I might die, but it’s the job. He knew that. We all know that. It doesn’t make it any easier for those of us left behind, but it’s not unexpected.”

Danny sniffed. 

“I know that you weren’t expecting it, and I’m sorry that it had to happen on your first mission, and that you got hurt like this. I’m sorry that you had to make the kinds of choices that no one wants to make.” Alec sighed and prepared to strike. He didn’t want to, but the kid needed it, if he was going to continue working at MI6, especially in the position that he was being primed for. 

“But that’s how it is with this job. I know-- I know that you’ve wanted to work for Q-Branch for a long time, maybe to the point that you might have idealized it. But it’s part of a bigger organization, and it deals with death all the time. We kill and we get killed. If you can’t deal with it…”

Alec got a heated glare, cutting him off without a word. 

“I can deal with it.”

He smiled inwardly. There. There was the fiery attitude that the little spitfire hid under all those hideous jumpers. 

He stood to answer the knock at the door. “Then you’re going to eat?” he asked lightly.

“Yes.” Danny struggled to sit up on his own. Alec let him. 

He was a strong kid. He’d survived the crash, and he’d survive the aftermath. Alec would make sure of that.

. . . . .

The long train ride from Niamey to Oran in Algeria took until midmorning the next day. Even though Danny had slept for most of the journey, he collapsed into the hotel bed in Oran with an exhausted sigh.

Q had been thoughtful enough to allow them a few hours to rest in a hotel in Oran before their seven-hour ferry ride across the Alboran Sea to Alicante in Spain. Then they would spend the rest of the day and night at the hotel there. 

Alec watched his young friend carefully for signs that he was about to have a meltdown of some kind, but he seemed to be adjusting to his grief and dealing with his pain and trauma well enough on his own. 

Of course, there were the nightmares, which Alec knew from experience was something near impossible to prevent. Time and closure were the only salve for them. Time they had plenty of, but closure would have to come later. 

From Alicante, they would take the train through France to Calais, where they would stay overnight at a hotel, taking them to the end of their third day of travel. The ferry ride from Calais to Dover was a short one, then a couple of hours on the train would have them home in London around noon. 

Tanner had messaged that Woodslow’s funeral would be the morning after their arrival in London. Alec debated on whether to tell Danny or not; on one hand, it might provide the closure he needed, but on the other, the funeral might be too much for him to handle right now. 

In the end, he had told him. The younger man had sat silently, staring at his fingers, which were picking at the bandages on his hands. 

“Did you find out?” he asked presently. “How he died?”

“There was no sand in his lungs,” Alec said gently. “He died before the storm.”

Danny’s lower lip quivered before he gained control of it. “That’s-- that’s better, isn’t it?”

Alec thought about it for a moment and nodded. “Yes, I’d prefer it that way. Suffocating isn’t a nice way to die.”

The younger man let out a gusty sigh and his shoulders sagged in relief. “Thanks, Alec.”

. . . . .

Alec felt the tension in his shoulders loosen a little as he pushed Danny’s wheelchair out into Vauxhall Station in London. Commuters bustled past them, hurrying to get to their destinations. 

There were still curious glances at the bandages on Danny’s face, of course, but Alec was in a good enough mood to let them pass. 

“Alec. Alec, stop.”

“What’s wrong?” Alec scanned the area, looking for threats and seeing none that stood out from the ordinary. His hand went to his weapon.

Danny pointed at a dark corner. “There’s a kitten.”

“What?”

The insistent finger pointed more vigorously. “There. A kitten.”

Sure enough, there was a shivering, grey lump of fur in the corner. 

“We’re not-- No, no, stay in that chair,” Alec said, and pushed Danny’s shoulders to press him back into the chair. “We’ll go get it. Sit your skinny arse back down.”

Stifling an aggrieved sigh, Alec maneuvered the wheelchair towards the corner and to the miserable-looking kitten who froze and looked ready to bolt.

“Don’t scare it,” Danny scolded softly.

Alec paused for a moment, unsure as to how to approach the terrified kitten. Then he shook his head, realizing the ridiculousness of an assassin being afraid to approach a damned kitten.

“Alright,” he murmured, “Are you going to make this difficult for us?”

The kitten stared at him with glowing yellow eyes. Alec could see its rapid, nervous breaths, but it didn’t move.

“Okay,” he said gently, moving forward in a crouch to make himself seem smaller and less intimidating (imagine that, an inner voice scoffed, an assassin trying to seem less intimidating?).  

Finally, he managed to get his hands around the small creature, which immediately began squirming in his hands. 

A soft cardigan was held out to him. “Here,” Danny said, with an intent expression on his face, “In here. It’s warm.”

Danny, now in only his shirtsleeves, accepted the shivering bundle with a soft coo. “It’s alright, little one,” he said softly, cuddling it to his chest. “I’ve got you. You’re safe now.”

The pitiful creature opened its tiny mouth and let out a forlorn mewl.

“Yes, I know,” Danny sighed, “But it’s going to be okay.”

. . . . .

Tanner was waiting for them when they arrived at MI6. He raised a curious eyebrow at the bedraggled kitten bundled in Danny’s cardigan, but otherwise said nothing. 

“006,” he said, looking at Alec, “She’s waiting for your report.” He paused. “She’s not happy with you.”

Alec sighed. “I know.” He looked down at Danny, who returned his gaze steadily.

“I’ll be okay, Alec,” he said quietly. “You shouldn’t keep her waiting.”

Alec relinquished control of the wheelchair to Tanner, who maneuvered it towards the medical wing, and made his way up to his meeting with M.

. . . . .

Growling angrily under his breath, Alec stormed towards Q-Branch, where he had been ordered to go (“Straight there, Trevelyan, and no side trips”). MI6 employees flattened themselves against the wall as he passed, their eyes wide open in terror at the sight of a murderously irate double-oh. 

He barged into Q-Branch, causing one tech to fumble and drop a tray of test tubes and another to set his eyebrows on fire.

“Ah, 006,” the quartermaster said, approaching him with some trepidation. “I don’t suppose you’ve brought back any of your equipment?”

Alec stared at him with furious eyes. 

“No, of course not,” Q muttered. “Silly of me. Ah, I’ve got your equipment ready for your next mission,” he continued, leading the way to his desk. 

Alec’s next mission was to be a four-month job in Siberia. It was partly punishment for disobeying M’s orders, and likely partly to prevent Alec and Danny from solidifying their emotional ties to each other, courtesy of the Psych department.

He would be leaving immediately. He wouldn't even have time to attend Woodslow's funeral.

Alec waited impatiently as Q explained all of the gadgets and how they worked. When he finally, finally had his plane ticket in his hand and was about to turn to leave, the old man cleared his throat nervously. 

“How is he?” he asked, somewhat timidly. “Is he alright?”

Alec softened. The old man was very fond of his protégé, after all. He was bound to be worried sick about him.

“He’s…” Alec noticed the rest of the Q-Branch techs in the vicinity very obviously trying to listen in. “He’ll be alright.”

The techs exchanged worried glances, as though debating amongst each other whether to believe Alec or not. Now no one was pretending to do anything other than listening to Alec’s news.

“He’s not right now, but he will be,” Alec clarified. 

Everyone down here liked their young colleague, whom they treated as a sort of cute, ridiculously intelligent mascot. Alec had made it a point to watch each tech’s interactions with Danny to make sure that there were no bad feelings or jealousy towards his friend. He had only detected genuine admiration for the genius’ brilliance and creativity.

“Don’t mention planes around him, at least for a while,” he added. The boffins were supposed to be smart, but there were different kinds of intelligence in the world. The denizens of Q-Branch tended to not be very good at figuring out appropriate responses to personal situations. 

Serious, understanding nods all around.

A small man, balding and very nervous -- the head of Danny’s department, Michaels or Michaelson or some such name -- approached Alec. 

“Thank you,” he said anxiously, “For looking after him. He’s-- That is, we-- We like him,” he stammered, worrying his sleeve. “He’s so gifted and easy to get along with, and well, he’s a nice lad. So thanks for taking care of him.”

Alec stared at the fidgeting man, then glanced around the room. They all had the same grateful look on their faces. 

Damn the kid, Alec thought. He’d have to work on rebuilding his reputation after this. 

. . . . .

Alec had just enough time before his flight to go see Danny. 

He met Tanner rushing out of the hospital wing as though hellhounds were nipping at his heels. 

“What happened?” he demanded. 

Tanner loosened his tie and mopped his sweaty brow. Alec had never seen him so...on edge. Tanner was usually unflappable in times of crisis, which was why he made a good Chief of Staff. There was always a crisis going on somewhere. 

Tanner eyed Alec warily, as though he thought he might bite, then sighed. 

“I debriefed Frobisher,” he said, using Danny’s alias. 

Alec didn’t like it, but he understood that it needed to be done, since Danny was the only one who had survived the mission and could report on what had happened on the ground.

“He was...upset. Quite understandably, of course,” Tanner continued. “By the time we finished, his father was there outside and well…” He gestured helplessly.

“Ah,” Alec said. 

He had never met Danny’s father, but he could well guess what had happened. Damien Drake had retired at the height of his double-oh career to raise his infant son, so it was very likely that he felt quite strongly about his son’s well-being.

“Yes,” Tanner sighed, looking relieved that his ordeal was over. “Erm,” he said, collecting himself. “Good luck on your next mission.” 

He looked rather sorry for Alec, nearly as sorry as Alec felt for himself. Four months in Siberia in the middle of winter!

Alec thanked him quickly and rushed to see if he could catch Danny before he had to fly out. 

He found his room, then cracked open the door to check on father and son. 

Danny was curled up against his father, sobbing brokenly into his chest. 

The ex-agent’s eyes snapped to Alec’s through the crack, and his arms wrapped even more protectively around his son. 

Alec nodded and closed the door. He regretted not being able to talk to his friend before his long mission, but there was no time to wait, and this was a private moment that he could not intrude upon.

. . . . .

Chapter Text

January 2009

Alec had finally made it back home after four long months of Siberian winter. 

The cold, rainy London weather felt practically like springtime to Alec as he made his way down to Q-Branch and to the cubicle of his favorite boffin. 

“Hey, kid.”

Danny pushed his wheelchair away from his desk and looked up at Alec. His smile was not as ebullient as before, but he still seemed glad to see him.

“006.”

His arm and leg were still in casts (decorated now, with a variety of colorful nerdy drawings and well-wishes, along with a few formulas and what looked like blueprints on his arm cast), but the severe sunburns had healed, leaving unevenly-tanned skin, with scars that showed only if one looked closely. 

Alec grinned and leaned on the cubicle wall. He noted that Danny’s neighbor didn’t quiver like he usually did, but only eavesdropped in an interested manner. Alec made a note to remedy that. 

“Miss me?”

The corner of Danny’s mouth quirked up. “Not a whit.” 

There was a shadow in his eyes that Alec didn’t like, but he seemed well enough. The snark was still intact, at least.

Alec chuckled. “How’s the kitten?”

Danny’s eyes brightened. Good. “He’s doing wonderfully. His name’s Alan Turing.”

“That’s a mouthful,” Alec groaned. “What about your plant?”

Danny wrinkled his nose and sighed. “Dead. It seems that I’m a better cat parent than a plant parent.”

“Bit young to be a father, aren’t you?” Alec joked. He wanted to do a bit of poking to see how his friend really was. 

Danny rolled his eyes and huffed. “I’m responsible.”

This made Alec raise a skeptical eyebrow at him. “Are you? Because I heard something down the grapevine about...the Lehman Brothers? And that stock market crash in September?”

Danny turned red. “I didn’t cause it. I only... helped it along. It was going to happen anyway. I didn’t mean to-- Oh, never mind,” he said, getting flustered. 

Alec tilted his head, amused. “How did someone like you cause an international crisis? Or rather, help it along?”

Danny’s mouth twisted. “I got bored.”

“Of course you did,” Alec snorted.  “Very responsible of you.”

Danny groaned and turned back to his desk. “Please shut up, Alec.”

Alec grinned at the back of his friend’s head. “Dinner to catch up?” Danny should be getting off of work soon. 

“Yes,” the kid said, his fingers flying on the keyboard. “Just give me a few minutes.”

Alec had no trouble waiting; it was almost a magical experience, watching the code streaming out from the nimble fingers. It seemed that the cast on his arm didn’t impede him at all. 

When the kid rolled out of the cubicle, Alec narrowed his eyes suspiciously at his wheelchair, which looked a little different. 

“What did you do to your chair?”

Danny shrugged, and ducked his head, hiding a proud smile. “I didn’t do anything to the original. I designed a better version and Q had it built. Technically, I’m testing it out for use in the field.”

“Does it...do anything?” Alec asked carefully.

“It transports me from one place to another, Alec,” the kid said dryly, pushing the joystick forward to move himself along at a walking pace next to Alec.

“And?” Something designed by Q-Branch couldn’t just do the one thing.

There. A smug smile had appeared on the boffin’s face. “And it shoots lasers out of one armrest and bullets out of the other. It can also go from zero to fifty in five point three seconds. Obviously, it grips slippery surfaces, which is great in the winter, and there’s a mechanism for going up and down stairs.” 

He opened a compartment in the armrest and pulled out a small canister. “Very strong pepper spray. New formula. It quite literally burns. They were concerned that I might get mugged on the tube.”

Alec snorted. “I feel sorry for the poor bugger who decides that you’re an easy target.”

Danny smiled that small, self-satisfied smile that told Alec that he was really alright. “So do I. I have rockets, too. We haven't tested them in the field yet, but hypothetically, the chair should be able to fly short distances. At the very least, the rockets will set fire to whoever is standing behind the chair.”

“Bloody hell.”

Alec couldn’t stop grinning. He was glad to be home.

. . . . .