M’s hushed voice sounds grim, Moneypenny thinks. Sober. Scandalized, almost. The hall outside is silent, as is the room in which they stand. All of MI6 is quiet today, for that matter, from Q branch all the way up to the double-0 offices, where silence reigns supreme. It’s like some kind of hideous manifestation of that Simon and Garfunkel song, she thinks, and then has to wonder what strange sense of humor she’s developed from working here.
“It’s been two days,” she answers, and M grimaces.
“Damn,” he mutters, and then looks at Moneypenny. “Apologies,” he mutters, and she shakes her head.
“My sentiments precisely, sir,” she says, and looks back to the agent currently sitting on a bed in the medical suite, staring blankly at the floor.
James Bond looks, she thinks, like he might just be one of the damned. His hair is disheveled, his coat is torn, and no one is quite certain if he’s injured or not. He won’t let them look - won’t let them close, for that matter.
All in all, he’s a far cry from the cocky, charming young man who’d left MI6 three days ago with a grin on his face and a promise to bring his partner home in time for wine and a film on Friday. He sits alone - and that, Moneypenny knows, is the problem. James Bond should not be alone - not this one, not ever. There should be a tall blond idiot with green eyes sitting on the next bed, cracking terrible jokes and taking the mickey out of Bond and lightening the mood with his presence. 006 and 007 should be flirting outrageously with the nurses - and with each other when they think no one’s looking or listening. Alec Trevelyan should be here, not -
“He’s dead,” Bond had managed to get out over the telephone. “They shot Alec. Need extraction. Plane’s down - coordinates are -”
He hasn’t said a word since giving them his location, and, looking at him, Moneypenny’s not quite sure he ever will.
“Has anyone informed the next of kin?” Moneypenny asks.
“Bond is Trevelyan’s next of kin,” he says quietly, and Moneypenny closes her eyes. Oh. That’s… well. If she’d had any doubt about the nature of their relationship, those are gone now. Too little, too late, she thinks.
“What about Bond’s family?” Tanner asks, and M turns toward him sharply.
“What?” he asks. Tanner sighs.
“007 is out of action,” he says, gesturing toward the man on the hospital bed. “All the others are out on mission, and there is that matter in Vienna -”
“How on Earth does notifying Bond’s immediate family solve our troubles in Vienna?” M asks irritably. He is still looking at Bond, who sits, motionless, for all the world as if the ground has just fallen away before his eyes and he is contemplating the hole, wondering whether or not to jump.
“Bond has a half-brother,” Tanner reminds. “Both of them were considered for the double-0 position but the younger seemed… better suited. The thing is - they’re both named James.”
M raises an eyebrow, as does Moneypenny.
“It seems the mothers didn’t know each other,” Tanner says, waving a hand. “Not important. What is important is that we could substitute one in for the other without much fuss. We’ll give our current 007 a chance to recover-”
“And then if he does, we can shuffle the brother to MI5 or to another number and if the younger doesn’t bounce back -” M says, beginning to get the gist of Tanner’s suggestion.
“”Then we still have 007 ready for duty and Bond the younger can mourn Alec in peace,” Moneypenny says. “It’s a bit cold, don’t you think?”
“Better than retiring him altogether over this, or making him go back out into the field,” Tanner points out. “He’d be dead within a fortnight if we did either of those.”
“He might be anyway,” M observes darkly. “Will the older brother still take the job?”
“Only one way to find out, sir,” Tanner says. “I can make the call and we can test him during the training exercise with the MoD next week.”
M looks to Bond again. He looks at the misery on the man’s face, and the hunch of his shoulders, and M sighs.
“Yes, alright,” he says, waving a hand. “Make the calls. Tell our new agent to report for duty as soon as may be, and see to it that Trevelyan’s flat is swept for -”
“No need, sir,” Tanner says, nodding toward Bond. M passes a hand over his eyes.
“No, I suppose not. God, what a day. Very well. Thank you, Mr. Tanner. Moneypenny -”
“Yes, sir?” she asks.
“Call in Q, would you? He’s always been something of an uncle to the boy. Maybe he can talk him round enough to leave Medical.”
The rest of 1986 and 1987 pass in a blur for James.
He is vaguely conscious that time is passing for the first couple of days. He is aware that his half-brother has been called in to replace him. In later years, he remembers Q’s worry, and Moneypenny’s gentle concern, and Jamie’s all too brief presence, there and gone again with a squeeze of his brother’s hand on his shoulder. He remembers the terrible day they tell Alec’s parents the news. He remembers Mrs. Trevelyan’s anguish and Mr. Trevelyan’s quiet, horrible resignation that is so unlike Alec despite their familial resemblance. He remembers -
He remembers the first drink, and the last, and very little of what passes between until the day he’s informed Felix Leiter and his wife have been attacked - that Felix has been maimed and Jamie and Della have gone rogue to avenge Felix.
“The man’s gone completely off the rails!” M fumes over the phone. “Attacked an agent in my presence, given us the slip, and now I’m getting reports that he and Mrs. Leiter are involved in some sort of deranged campaign to take on Franz bloody Sanchez of all idiot crusades-”
“Are you angry because he’s gone rogue, or because he’s succeeding?” Bond asks, phone cradled between his head and shoulder as he attempts to finish dressing. M huffs.
“ Both, ” he responds. “It won’t do , 007. We need you back and we need you now. The situation in Istanbul is-”
“Growing more desperate by the hour,” Bond agrees. “Yes - Q told me. He had a feeling you might call me and he had a flight to catch.”
He finishes doing up his cufflink, and shifts his grip on the phone before it can fall away from his ear as he straightens up. He looks fairly neat and tidy, he thinks, for the first time in over a year. He’s shaved, combed his hair, changed his clothing; he might even go so far as to wear a tie.
“When do I leave?” he asks.
“In one hour,” M answers, and does not bother to hide the relief in his voice. “I’ll send a car round. We can brief you on the way, and we’ll save the evaluation for when the world isn’t about to explode.”
Sixteen hours and a severe headache later, Bond is ready to retire to a well-earned rest when the phone rings in his hotel room.
“Call for you,” the hostess at the main desk informs him, and then James Bond the older - Jamie to his younger sibling - is on the line.
“Hello, little brother,” he greets, and Bond rolls his eyes.
“We’re the same height. You don’t really want to get out the measuring tape again, do you?” he asks, and to his surprise his brother laughs.
“Not this time,” he admits. “Q tells me you’re back on your feet.”
“Just,” Bond answers. “Have you dealt with Sanchez?”
“I have,” Jamie confirms. “His syndicate’s been dismantled and I set the bastard on fire.”
Bond sinks back against the pillows on the hotel bed. “Is Felix alright?” he asks.
Jamie’s laughter fades.
“He’ll survive,” he answers. “Della and I are on our way back to him now.”
“How bad is it?” Bond asks, and the long silence is his answer. He closes his eyes. “I’m sure he’ll recover,” he says, and Jamie lets out a sigh.
“He lost half a leg,” he says quietly. “I don’t think I’ll be coming home any time soon, James. In fact, I rather think -”
“You rather think you might be moving in with them,” Bond finishes for him. “Yes. I thought you might after this.”
“They need me,” Jamie says, “Della and Felix - they need me. They’re like you were two years ago and if I leave them -”
There is apology in his voice. If he leaves them, he says, and what he means is that he would have liked to be around for James more than he’s been afforded the opportunity for in the past two years. It’s not his fault. In some ways, it had been his way of being a good brother. It still hurts - but that doesn’t mean that Della and Felix should suffer. It doesn’t give Bond leave to be selfish.
“I understand,” Bond says. “I do. Will you work for the Americans?”
“I suppose I’ll have to,” Jamie says. “James - if you still need time, you could come here. We could-”
“No,” Bond interrupts, and then curses himself for the abrupt interjection. “I need work,” he says at last. “Can’t bear the sight of my own four walls anymore. I’ll be fine.”
There is silence at the other end of the line, and for a moment, Bond thinks they’ve been cut off. It wouldn’t be out of the question - Jamie seems to be calling from somewhere in the Americas, and Bond is in Istanbul.
“Call me if you change your mind,” Jamie says finally. From somewhere in the background, a woman’s voice sounds - clear, with an American accent, and Bond thinks he remembers Della’s voice well enough to recognize it.
“James,” she calls. “The flight’s boarding. Tell your brother hello for me.”
“I’ll be right there,” Jamie responds. “Time to go. James -”
“I’ll be fine,” Bond says again. “Safe travels.” He hangs up, and curls in on himself for a moment, and then reaches for the phone again. He calls the front desk. “I’d like a bottle of Bollinger 61,” he says. “Chilled, please. Yes - for one.”
Cuba, Seven years later:
The gunshot in the stairwell sounds like an explosion. Bond’s head is ringing, and there is sweat falling into his eyes -
And Alec, he realizes, is lying at his feet, hand bleeding where James had winged him earlier, no longer unconscious but groaning and not attempting to get up from where he’s slipped on his own blood and fallen.
It’s - over, he thinks, or at least he suspects it might be. Alec is down, and the satellite is disabled. Natalya is safe, or at least so he hopes. Goldeneye is no more.
Alec has come back from the dead and James cannot fathom how he could have come back so very wrong.
“Fuck,” Alec chokes. “Fuck. Ow -”
Alec is alive, James thinks again dazedly. He looks like absolute hell, and James would like nothing more than to punch him for the past nine years and then hold him tight. Instead he prods at his onetime lover with his foot.
“I told you,” he starts. “This was never going to -”
Alec rolls over, vomits, and then curls in on himself while James swears. There is vomit on his boot now.
“Fuck,” Alec moans again, and then, much to James’ surprise, he looks up at James.
“James - kill me,” he pleads. “Don’t let them take me to Siberia again.”
That’s not what Bond expected to hear.
“Why the hell would I let anyone take you to Siberia?” he asks, crouching down, and Alec shudders.
“Not the knives again,” he pleads. “Not the fire. Not Ourumov, please- ”
He does not move toward James to tackle him again. He is not, Bond realizes, in his right mind - not at the moment. There’s a bloody spot on the back of his head, and the things he’s saying -
“Alec,” he questions, and he’s surprised at the level, gentle tone of his own voice. “What happened at Arkangel? Where did you go from there?”
Alec looks at him through the disheveled, sweat-soaked strands of his hair, and there is something haunted in his eyes.
“You left,” he accuses. “I was kneeling on the floor and you left. The facility blew and I waited for weeks in their fucking prison but you never came. Why didn’t you come for me?”
Bond attempts to keep breathing, but the air is hot, and there is something in his throat. He thinks it might just be horror.
“What do you mean about the knives and the fire?” James presses, and Alec curls in tighter.
“I can’t go through it again, James - please,” he pleads. “Shoot me - don’t let them hurt me again, don’t let it happen -”
Oh God, James thinks. Oh God - oh no, no, no, this cannot be, Alec cannot be telling him these things -
He’s gotten everything very, very wrong and he would think this is a trick but tricks don’t come with panic and tears and seeming memory loss about a day that has haunted James for nearly a decade. Alec thinks he left. Alec thinks he was abandoned, and the two bastards who did this to him - the ones who seem to have scrambled his brain -
“Ourumov’s dead,” he says gently. “I shot him in the head the same way I watched him shoot you at Arkangel. You told me to blow the place and he pulled the trigger. You don’t remember?”
Alec stares at him, and Bond closes his eyes. No, he thinks - Alec does not remember, and that brainwashing is what’s led them here. Fuck .
The floor groans beneath them, and James also knows that they are running out of time. He looks to the staircase, and then at Alec.
“We’ve got to get out of here,” he says. “Can you walk?”
He extends a hand, and Alec stares at it for a moment. He seems to be coming round now - his gaze is less confused, and he’s stopped shaking.
“You’re meant to be killing me,” he breathes, and then the floor shakes.
“I did what I came here to do, and I’m not leaving without you,” Bond answers. “Not again. Come on!”
Alec does not hesitate any longer. Whatever else he may be, he is not truly interested in dying, and thank God for that, Bond thinks. Alec takes Bond’s hand, and lets himself be pulled to his feet. He staggers, weaving as he takes a step, and Bond catches him before he can fall over again.
“Lean on me,” he orders. “One step at a time. That’s it.”
They barely make it out of the satellite tower before it falls, and Bond has never, ever been so glad to hear the whup whup whup of a helicopter’s propeller in his life as he is when he sees Natalya in the cockpit, holding the pilot at gunpoint. He adjusts his grip on Alec’s shoulder, gripping the fabric of his combat fatigues, and waves to Natalya.
“Down here!” he yells, and sees her nod.
“What’s her name?” Alec asks as he looks toward the helicopter, away from his ruined base.
“Natalya,” Bond answers. “Why?”
“So that I remember not to underestimate her in future,” Alec answers. He does not speak again until the helicopter has landed and they’ve scrambled inside.
“Where to from here?” Alec asks once they’ve taken off again, and Bond looks to Natalya.
“Is Florida alright?” he asks. Natalya looks between him and Alec, and then locks her gaze on Bond.
“I take it you decided to listen to me,” she says, and James gives her a sheepish expression.
“You made your point rather eloquently,” he answers, and Natalya rolls her eyes. She looks at Alec.
“No funny business,” she cautions, “or I’ll do worse than slap you.”
The helicopter lands again, and abruptly there is no more need to yell as the blades cease their whirring. He does not release his grip on Alec’s clothing - not yet. They’re not nearly out of the woods yet.
“You slapped him?” Bond asks, surprised, and Alec winces.
“The lady’s got an impressive right hook,” he confesses. “I… probably deserved it. Apologies.”
Natalya does not comment - she just gestures to the pilot again with her gun, motioning for him to get out of the helicopter, and the man looks to Alec.
“Go,” Alec orders, and the man nods, relief in his eyes. He hurries away, and Bond gives his former lover a frank once-over.
“If I take my hands off you, can I trust you to behave yourself?” he asks, and Alec snorts.
“No,” he answers. “You’ve just deprived me of the only purpose I’ve had for the past nine years. You’ve blown up my base, killed my associates -”
Something in Bond just snaps. He can’t stand it - not this. Not again.
“Do you remember what you told me about those associates half an hour ago?” Bond asks, and Alec stops abruptly. He looks suddenly uncomfortable- his gaze flicks away from Bond, focusing straight ahead, as if he’s being interrogated. The thought makes something in Bond’s stomach twist.
“I’d hit my head,” Alec answers. His tone is curt. “It was nonsense. There was no truth in it -”
“I think there was,” Bond interrupts again. “I don’t know what bullshit they’ve been feeding you, but I intend to find out. If I have to tie you up to get at the truth -”
“Restraining me won’t do you any good -” Alec starts.
“I’ll do it but I’d rather not because you’re not fooling anyone by pretending the thought doesn’t scare you!” Bond finishes, and he can see the moment that Alec’s eyes widen. He tries to hide it - tries to keep his breath light and even, tries to keep his hands from shaking, but Bond knows him too well. He takes a deep breath, and then, slowly, the way he would do to a frightened, cornered cat, he reaches out to take Alec’s hand. “When did you start being afraid of having your hands held down?” he asks, and -
Well, really, he should have known that wasn’t going to go over well. Alec lunges, Bond dodges, and within a minute, they are rolling around on the ground outside the helicopter, attempting to land punches on each other. It takes them fully a minute to come to a stalemate, and when they do, Alec’s face is awash with tears, and James thinks his nose might just possibly be broken.
“I want to take you to Florida,” he says through the blood that is streaming out of his nose. “Jamie and Felix and Della can help get you out of the country, and the clinic in Switzerland can help us figure out what the hell they’ve done to your head. Let me help.”
He’s lying on top of Alec, pinning him, and he doesn’t want to be doing that - not knowing what he now does about the last nine years of Alec’s life. He rolls off, and is not surprised when Alec doesn’t move save to roll onto his side. He is crying, still, and Bond realizes that he is doing so as well. He swipes at the tears furiously, and looks around them.
They are sitting in a field, and he is not exactly sure when Jack Wade and his team arrived. He doesn’t care. He reaches over and shakes Alec’s shoulder lightly, and then gestures to the approaching marines at Alec’s confused, inquiring expression.
“Let me help,” he says again, quieter this time, and Alec nods.
“Alright,” he says, and Bond breathes a sigh of relief. He stands up, and then reaches out to help Alec to his feet for the second time that day.
“Wade,” he greets, and Wade raises his eyebrows.
“James,” he answers. “You alright?”
“Mission accomplished,” he confirms. “Wade - I’d like you to meet Alec. He was being held by Janus. Alec - Wade’s with the CIA.”
Wade, Bond thinks, does not buy it. He may be loud and American but he’s far from being as ineffectual as he likes to appear, and he can spot a lie when he sees one. Still - the American doesn’t comment, and Bond takes a moment to be grateful as Wade and Alec shake hands.
“Nice to meet you,” Wade says. “Am I gonna have to do any cleanup?”
“The whole thing’s under a lake,” Bond answers wearily. “I’d be grateful if you could find Alec some clothes - he’s been here a long time. And we’ll need help getting him home - his paperwork’s gone missing. He got captured in Russia a few years ago.”
“Alright,” he answers. “We can do that. Do me a favor though - tell your friend Leiter we’re square when you see him.”
They’ll figure things out, James thinks dimly as they all follow Wade back to base. It’s messy, but things are better than they were, and for now, that’s all that matters. He moves closer to Alec, and lets himself sling his arm over his friend’s shoulders. Alec doesn’t protest, and Natalya doesn’t comment, and just for once - for this one moment -
Things are better.
“James - James, we’re going to have company!”
Felix hangs up the phone, and James Bond the elder looks up from his book.
“Company?” he asks, and puts the book down. “What sort of company?”
“Your brother’s on his way here,” Felix answers. “He says Jack Wade’s flying him into the country tonight, and they’ve got someone with them who’s going to need looking after until they can figure out a way to get him to Switzerland. Not sure I like the sound of that.”
James frowns, and sits up straighter. He’s been lounging on the couch up until this point like the hedonist he occasionally is, but now he looks concerned. Felix takes a minute to mourn the change. He’d quite liked the sight of his husband in his loose white linen shirt and grey slacks sitting comfortably and looking relaxed. He’d been looking forward to sitting down on his lap and kissing him thoroughly, but it’s not to be - not today, anyway.
“Who the hell is he bringing here?” James asks, and Felix shakes his head.
“He wouldn’t say the name over the phone. Sounds like someone important, though. I’d better tell Della we’ll have more people for dinner than we thought.”
“I’ll get the guest rooms ready,” James says. He stands up, and kisses Felix on his way past him to the stairs. “He’d better not come trailing enemies this time,” James grumbles as he leaves, “Or I’ll make him clean the house from top to bottom and we can skip the housekeeper’s fee this month.”
“You told him he could come!” he reminds, and laughs again when James makes a face. “Della - honey, we’re going to have company!” he calls.
As far back as the elder of the Bond brothers can recall, they’ve referred to his younger brother as James Junior and him as Jamie.
It started, most probably, because their father had only known about one of his boys until Jamie had turned twelve. Until that point, his mother had raised him, and she’d had no idea that his father had gone on to have another family, with another James to carry on the family tradition. He’d been her little Jamie, and a good thing too, because if he’d arrived in James Senior’s house bearing the same exact name as his brother without a nickname to differentiate them, he thinks they might just possibly have had to fight over it.
It’s not the exact same name of course - their middle names differ wildly - and yet for some reason no one had thought to call one of them James and one of them Douglas, or one James and the other Anthony. Most likely, he thinks, it’s to do with the fact that they’d both hated their middle names, and agreed between them that they wouldn’t admit to having any name other than James when they’d gotten old enough to have such agreements. It had satisfied something in their mischievous teenage souls - and it had certainly been helpful when they’d gotten to their adult lives and both gone into espionage for their line of work. If more than one organization thought that James Bond was some sort of code name, so much the better - they could run rings around the KGB or anyone else and still manage to keep their private lives safe.
Right now, Jamie thinks, Junior looks as though he could do with a stiff drink and a warm bed and perhaps something to punch.
“Jamie,” James greets. His voice is hoarse, and behind him -
Jamie stiffens, and reaches toward his little brother, intending to draw him closer and out of harm’s way, because what’s standing behind him is an impossibility.
“James -” he starts, and James waves him off.
“I know,” he says. “It’s Alec, Jamie - really. I - We need somewhere to lie low. Can you help us?”
Alec Trevelyan, who should be dead, holds up both hands slowly but does not raise them above the level of his chest.
“I’m not armed,” he reassures. “James found me in Russia, or rather I found him. Can we come in?”
“If this is some trick - if you so much as look at Della or Felix the wrong way -” Jamie warns, and James steps in front of Alec protectively.
“I just got him back,” he says, tone warning in return, and for a moment, they stand, stock still, at an impasse.
“I suppose you know what kind of paperwork nightmare you’re creating for me?” Felix’s voice asks mildly from behind Jamie. He turns, and finds his husband giving them all a disapproving expression. “I’m glad you don’t greet guests like this often,” Felix reproves, and Jamie can’t help but wince a bit. Felix’s disappointed voice is far, far worse than any argument they’ve ever had.
“The dead are supposed to stay dead!” he protests, and Felix rolls his eyes.
“I’m sure Alec’s real pleased to hear that,” he says, and, with a gentle tug on his husband’s shirt, he moves Jamie aside. “Junior - Alec - come on inside, Della’s got dinner ready and it sounds like you’re going to need a while to explain just what the hell is happening. James, go on - get out of the doorway, you can do your tree impression some other time.”
“Della would agree with me,” Jamie observes quietly into Felix’s ear as his brother and Alec enter the house.
“Go and let her know who’s in the house and I’ll see if I can’t get the story out of them,” Felix answers equally quietly.
“I don’t like leaving you alone with -” Jamie starts, and Felix gives him a look.
“Your brother’s never been any threat to any of us,” he admonishes. “I trust him, and so do you. And besides - Alec looks like someone drug him through a hedge backwards. No threat there that I can see.”
“You’ll forgive me if I don’t relax until I know exactly where Trevelyan’s been for the last decade,” Jamie grumbles. He turns, and that’s the moment that Della comes through the door from the kitchen.
“Do I hear your brother out here, James?” she asks, and then stops dead in her tracks.
Felix and Della had met Alec, some years ago now, and it seems that Della has a good memory, because she looks at the current 007, looks at Alec, and then reaches behind her for the carving knife she keeps to hand just inside the kitchen door.
“James Anthony Bond, what the hell do you think you’re doing bringing trouble into my house?” she asks.
James the younger winces. Alec freezes, and James the elder can’t help but smile. Felix rolls his eyes but does not protest. He can’t rightfully complain about Della’s fear of strangers in their home given he shares it at least in part.
“Della,” James Junior greets, blue eyes focusing on his sister-in-law. “Lovely to see you. If you could put the knife down, that would -”
“You’ve got a broken nose, you told me Alec was dead nine years ago, and you both look like you’ve been fighting. Exactly what is going on here?” Della demands, knife still in hand, and James winces again.
“It’s over now, I hope,” he says, and this time it’s Jamie’s turn to grimace. The “I hope” has not helped his younger brother’s case in the slightest.
“You hope?” he asks, and James turns.
“No one should come looking for us here,” he clarifies. “It’s part of the reason I came.”
“Have you been fighting each other or somebody else?” Felix asks. Della moves toward him, clearly meaning to stand protectively at his side. He reaches out and takes the hand that isn’t holding a knife, and allows her to do so. He’s gotten better at that over the last few years, Jamie thinks, and then refocuses on his brother and Alec.
They do, in fact, look as though they’ve been having a brawl, he thinks. Perhaps his first instinct wasn’t so off after all, but for all that, James and Alec are both giving him a look he can best describe as haunted. And while James looks done in with two black eyes and a bandage over his nose, Alec looks -
Well. Felix said it best. Alec’s got a scar on his face that looks like an electrical burn made 3d, and his hand is bandaged, as is his shoulder if Jamie is any judge of the way he’s moving the arm. And he’s been missing for nine years - he musn’t forget that bit. Whatever has brought them here is serious, and they’re both frightened. He clears his throat, and with a certain amount of regret, he realizes that he’s going to need to agree with Felix about this one. His brother needs help, not an interrogation.
“Della, put the knife away,” he requests, and she gives him a sharp look.
“There is a dead man in my house,” she says, and James the younger takes a step forward.
“He’s not dead,” he says, tone just as sharp as Della’s. “He’s been taken prisoner. I think someone’s tampered with his memory after they tortured him, and threatening him is not going to help.”
Della hesitates. She lowers the knife, and looks to Alec.
“They tortured you?” she asks, and Alec looks away, hiding, perhaps unconsciously, the scar on his face.
“If someone had done that to Felix, we’d want justice,” Jamie murmurs in his wife’s ear, and Della sighs, as he knew she would.
“That’s dirty pool,” she points out, and then motions to the table with her chin. “Alright,” she concedes. “You can come sit down. James, dinner will be ready in ten minutes. If you could plate it up since I cooked it, that would be nice.”
“Anything for a woman with a knife,” he answers with a smile, and is relieved when Della returns it. She hands him the carving knife.
“You can put that back while you’re out there,” she says, and Felix wraps an arm around her waist.
“You look like you could both use a stiff drink,” he says. “Junior - you still a vodka man?”
“I thought you couldn’t drink with the pain medication,” James says, and Felix waves him off.
“It’s been a good day,” he says. “Didn’t need it. Come and have a drink and we’ll talk it over.”
It takes all of an hour for Alec to decide that he needs some air.
The Leiter-Bond household is spacious; there’s plenty of room even with the addition of two more people, and yet Alec finds that what he wants most at the moment is the breeze and the quiet broken only by the sound of what seems to be frogs somewhere in the distance. It is evening already, he realizes - the day has flown by, aided by the simple fact that he’s spent large parts of it attempting to find his balance again.
He hasn’t succeeded. His face hurts more than it has done in years, as if to spite him or prove some kind of point in James’ favor, and his shoulder is doing the same, and above all else there is the growing understanding that something has happened to him and he does not remember what it was.
Not that he’d tell James that. He’s not willing to admit it yet, but -
Well. He’s also not in there trying to kill the bastard again and that says something for itself, doesn’t it? Why is he faffing about if not because something is wrong with the notion? Why the helicopter, and the train, and the farcical arguing in Cuba before it had all gone to hell?
He has no answers, and so he sits at the edge of the pool, fingers tracing over the edge of a scar that he’s always assumed came from hitting his head. It’s a band of slightly-indented tissue, smooth and long. It starts at the left-most edge of his hairline and travels backwards and -
He could run. He could go, right now, disappear into the Florida night and -
“I wouldn’t take off from here - too many alligators,” Felix’s voice says from behind him, and Alec jumps. Felix just gives him a knowing grin, and walks closer. He has a glass in one hand and pills in the other and Alec suddenly wonders if his discomfort has been that transparent.
“Here,” Felix offers. “It’s water. You’ll want to swallow those whole, and don’t worry about the alcohol - it’s just plain aspirin with a little caffeine. Should take the edge off until you can get something from a doctor.”
“I’m fine,” Alec claims, and Felix raises an eyebrow.
“Uh huh,” he says, but doesn’t push it. He lays the glass and the pills down on the table beside Alec and sits down himself with a groan. He reaches down to his left leg, unbuckles something and then, with a rustle of clothing, takes off the lower half of the limb. Alec blinks. Alec stares, and then looks to Felix.
“When the hell did that happen?” he asks, and Felix grimaces.
“First half of ‘88,” he answers. “I figured I’d come out here and give it a little rest and we could chat.”
Alec turns his attention to the prosthetic. It’s… nice, as they go, he supposes. It’s not as if he’s ever spent much thought on the matter, but something in the design -
“Did Q branch have a hand in that?” he asks, and Felix smiles.
“There are times when knowing people pays off,” he answers. “Good old Uncle Q.”
“You’re lucky it hasn’t blown up by accident yet,” he says, and Felix shrugs.
“Well I told him not to put any explosives in it, but the rocket launcher is a little tricky,” he answers.
Alec can’t help it. He snorts. He snickers. He starts to giggle, and once he’s started, he can’t stop. It’s the mental image, really - quiet, unassuming Felix aiming his leg and -
He lets himself laugh until he can’t bear it anymore, and finally he reaches for the glass of water, and, without another word of protest, he downs the painkillers. Felix watches, and then sits back when Alec has finished.
“Thank you,” Alec says finally. “I needed a good laugh. You are joking, right?”
“Maybe,” Felix allows. He turns his attention to the yard beyond the pool, and sighs.
“I can’t say I know what you’re dealing with but I can tell you that after I lost my leg, I wanted to run more than anything in the whole world,” Felix says finally. “I didn’t want them to see it, or deal with the recovery, or deal with it myself. I yelled and I argued and I’m pretty sure by the end of three months Della and James wanted to tie me down and gag me. And if there’s one thing I’m glad I didn’t do, it’s leave.”
There’s silence between them for a moment, and Alec wonders if Felix is done speaking. He wonders if he’s going to sit still and listen if he’s not.
Alec wonders exactly what he’s going to do if he stays, and he thinks he might just possibly need to, because the scar on his skull doesn’t feel like it came from hitting the ground and cracking his skull open, and maybe James is right.
“Junior missed you,” Felix says at last, and he reaches for his prosthetic. “If you don’t take anything else into account - the man damn near fell apart when he thought you’d died. If you’re going to leave, don’t make him think you died again. That’s all I ask.”
He pulls the prosthetic back on, and buckles it in place with a sort of efficient motion.
“See you inside,” he says, and Alec watches as he gets up and leaves. He’s not surprised in the slightest when his James - the one who’d pulled him out of Cuba, the one who’s trying to save his stupid life again - passes Felix’s retreating shadow a moment later, and comes to sit next to Alec.
“Well, Alec?” he asks, and Alec takes a deep breath. He can do this. He’s going to do this, because -
Because a man with a rocket launcher in his prosthetic seems to think it’s worth it and because Alec wants his life back, and because maybe the truth is not what he thinks it is.
“Will you come and see me in Switzerland?” he asks. He does not look at James, but he doesn’t flinch away, either, when James moves a little closer, and places a hand on his shoulder.
“I’ll come,” he promises.
A year and a half later:
It’s… going to be very, very odd to be on his own in Zurich, Alec thinks as he leaves the clinic for the last time.
The oddness is going to be good, and yet he realizes that on some level, he has not been left to his own devices for over a decade. It’s a sobering realization, even while he knows that he is not, strictly speaking, going to be going it alone - at least not for long.
“It’ll only be a few days,” James promises once again. “Just until I can get this mess in the south China Sea sorted and then we’ll sit down and talk things over.”
“I take it I’m still dead on paper, then,” Alec observes as he hefts his bag over his shoulder. James has kindly agreed to help him move into the temporary flat where he’ll be staying for the present, and while he appreciates the help -
No. He appreciates the help, full stop. He is tired and stressed but James is helping and Alec is going to be grateful for that, damn it. He is not - absolutely not - going to indulge his demons on this matter. He sends a smile James’ way to dull the blow of his last statement, and helps lift the heavy suitcase that James is attempting to lug up the stairs.
“I thought it might be better if we could let Six believe you’d just hit your head, had a lucky escape from Russia, forgotten you worked for them and moved to Switzerland,” James admits. “Any faster after Cuba and they’d be a lot less likely to overlook the timing of your return.”
“And how have I been supporting myself all this time?” Alec asks, and this time he can’t help the sarcasm in his tone. It’s a ridiculous plan, and James knows it, or at least he should.
“You’ve taken up gardening. You’ve got a passport that states you’re an expat and you’ve got a nice little sideline teaching gun safety courses. Your permit for ownership is with the rest of your paperwork - credit card, bank account, that sort of thing.” Bond doesn’t look at Alec as he answers, just concentrates on getting the door to his new flat open.
It’s… a surprisingly thorough cover, really, Alec thinks, slightly stunned. He’s good at gardening - his father, he thinks, used to garden, and the classes will explain his need to own a weapon. He steps inside the flat just behind Bond, and looks around in a sort of daze.
“Well, here you are,” Bond says uncomfortably, putting the suitcases down on the floor. “Home sweet home.”
It’s nice, Alec thinks, still a little shocked. The flat is airy, well-lit, clean - and if he’s not mistaken, there is an actual living room instead of just a kitchen and bedroom. He raises his eyebrows, and looks at Bond.
“I’d ask who you had to kill to get it if I didn’t know better,” he admits, and, just for an instant, James smiles.
“Don’t look in the closet,” he jokes, and Alec feels the corner of his own mouth curl upward.
“It’s lovely,” he says. “I’d ask you in for a cup of tea, but -”
“Have to go,” James finishes, making a vague motion. “Will you be alright, getting unpacked?”
“Might need to find the plates and hit the shops first thing,” Alec admits. “Have I got plates?”
“Top cupboard on the right,” Bond admits. “Thought it might help.”
The air fills with an awkward silence, and for just a moment, Alec wants more than anything to sit down and have that talk right now, this moment.
“James -” he starts.
It hasn’t been easy between them, this past year and a half. It’s been -
Well. It’s been fucking awful, if Alec’s being honest. He’s been so very wrong, and now he’s got the proof. He was not betrayed. He did not defect of his own free will. He’s been lied to and manipulated and hurt so very badly and he knows it now. They lied. They lied about James, they lied about Arkangel. They lied about everything, and it’s been a year and a half of learning to unpick the bullshit that his captors had programmed into him - the rage, and the hurt, and the fear. At the end of it, he still doesn’t know how in the hell he’s supposed to start apologizing to James for what he’s done, or how he’s supposed to fill the silences that have grown up between them. He’s only seen James a handful of times and while they might almost be friends again, he thinks -
He thinks he might have to start saying what he means now, or it might not start at all.
“I’m sorry,” he says finally, and Bond frowns.
“Sorry for what?” he asks, and -
No, no, no, Alec repeats to himself as the rage swells. No. James’ voice is not going to be a trigger - not anymore. James’ presence is not going to make him quake inside and he is not going to let the fear make him snappish. He takes a deep breath.
“I’m sorry that I thought you’d left me behind,” he says finally. “I’m sorry about Goldeneye. I didn’t -”
“You weren’t in control,” James interrupts, and Alec does glare at him now.
“Stop interrupting,” he snaps. “I’m probably going to say this again, but for the moment, I wanted to say -”
He stops, fishing for words, and then looks Bond in the eye.
“I’m grateful,” he says at last, “that you didn’t shoot me in Cuba. Thank you for that. Stay safe in China.”
It’s less than he wanted to say. It’s more than he’d ever thought he might get the chance to say at first when he’d just come to Switzerland, still hurt and furious and confused. He turns away from Bond, and is startled when the other man’s hand touches his shoulder.
“Any time, Alec,” he answers, and then releases him. He holds out a hand. “Your keys,” he says, and Alec takes them.
“Going to need those,” he jokes, and Bond smiles.
“You could always try seducing the landlord,” he says, and Alec rolls his eyes.
“Please,” he answers. “I’m not letting some octogenarian -” He stops. “You own the flat,” he says slowly, and James grins.
“See you in three days,” he says, and Alec scowls.
“James you bastard -!” he starts, and then Bond is leaving, heading down the hall with a jaunty whistle while Alec swears. “You’re going to make good on that when you get back!” Alec shouts down the hall, and then closes the door. He breathes deep, takes a moment -
He can’t help but smile.
“Crafty bastard,” he mutters, and it doesn’t hit him for another quarter of an hour that for once, he is genuinely looking forward to seeing James again.