Michelle Perry

With a shaking hand, Bond closed the eyes of his closest friend. He thought he would die, too, with that single, final motion. His head bowed, and he fought against nausea, thinking about the dead man behind him that had caused this to happen. How could it be? He saved her. But she was gone anyway, despite all his efforts.

A shudder shook him, but only seconds later, he heard the distinctive sound of a propeller. Helicopter. Of course, Tanner and Q must have sent rescue. Bond looked up at Kincade and jerked his head toward the door. "Let's go."

He stood, lifting M's body and hastening out of the chapel. He waited, heart pounding, breaths quickening in his urgency, until the helicopter landed. The side door opened, and Tanner's head poked out. "Double Oh Seven, I-" He froze, looking at the limp body in Bond's hand. His face paled. "Oh, dear God."

"Do you have medics?" Bond yelled over the sound of the blades.

"Yes, yes, hurry," Tanner called, stepping back. Bond rushed into the helicopter and laid M's body down in front of the medical team.

"It's been about twenty seconds, do you think-"

"We'll do our best, sir. Do you need medical-"

"Help HER," he shouted, his voice harsh and rasping.

They didn't respond, but got to work immediately. Bond forced himself away from them, and took a seat on one of the benches. He leaned forward, pressing his hands to his face, forcing himself not to stare at the medical team. Someone sat beside him, and he heard straps being moved. "Bond." Tanner's voice, sounding choked and strained. "Bond, strap in."

He sat up, attaching the straps automatically. He glanced at Tanner - the younger man's face was sheet-white, and he'd broken into a sweat, despite the chill. Kincade looked equally upset, looking over at the medics with worried eyes. Bond turned his eyes away from them, and gritted his teeth. He could feel himself rocking back and forth slightly, but couldn't care enough to try to stop himself. Several agonizing moments later, one of the medics let out a triumphant shout. "We've got a heartbeat!"

Bond looked over at them, heaving out a shuddering breath. The tiny portable EKG meter was, indeed, winking and beeping with what appeared to be a shallow heartbeat. There was a laugh from Kincade, a triumphant whoop from Tanner, and suddenly Bond was grabbed by the shoulders, and squeezed in a powerful embrace. The sudden action shocked him, and he jerked back, grasping Tanner's arm. The young man looked stunned, and mildly apologetic. Bond shook his head slightly, forced a smile and released his vice-grip, patting Tanner's arm. "Sorry, I just..."

"I understand," he said.

Bond turned away from him. He was not willing to get his hopes up. He'd made it in time to kill Silva before Silva killed her, but she'd still died in his arms. She'd lost a lot of blood and hadn't been breathing possibly for half a minute or more. No. He wasn't getting his hopes up yet, only to have them dashed again.

"James." Bond looked up at Kincade. "You can make it, boy."

Bond felt his brows turn down, and he looked down into his hands again. Those were the words he'd said to Bond just before Bond had gone into the priest's tunnel as a child to hide from the painful reality of his parents' death. He felt damned well like going to that place again, or a place like it within his own mind. And he would have, if, like the real tunnel, the hiding places within his soul hadn't been burned and charred and collapsed to useless rubble.

A moment later, a hand touched his arm - slowly this time, and gently. It was Tanner again. Bond looked at him, but the young man didn't speak. Just sat beside him with his hand on Bond's arm. Bond shut his eyes and waited for the worst.

She opened her eyes slowly, feeling groggy, nauseous, and otherwise completely unwell. What the hell had happened? Was this hell - feeling an ungodly amount of discomfort? Didn't seem like what one would expect, but then, she wouldn't expect to experience any pain at all if she'd gone the other direction.

Soon, her vision began to resolve itself, and she realized there was a person standing over her. She tensed, suddenly terrified without remembering why she should be. "It's alright, ma'am."

She relaxed immediately. "Bond?" Her voice didn't sound right to her own ears.

"Yes, ma'am, it's me." His voice didn't sound right, either. It sounded shaky, almost... tearful. He hadn't sounded like that... ever. She tried to focus her eyes on him, and finally, she could see him more clearly. He was smiling - a broad grin, not the usual sardonic smirk she was used to. "Good to see you, M."

"Good to see you," she said. Speaking was difficult, but she managed it. She owed him a gratitude, though at the moment she couldn't honestly remember why she felt it so strongly just then.

He put his hand on her head. She wanted to close her eyes - the feeling of comfort was almost astonishing - but she was afraid to close her eyes at the moment, so she kept watching Bond's face. "You're stable now," Bond told her. "They're moving you in an hour or so, somewhere safe."

"Wha... where?"

"On holiday, ma'am," he answered. "Even I don't know where. But this... thing that Silva did-" She shuddered at the name, and Bond paused. She felt the warmth of his hand on hers. "This will never happen to you again."

She gave him a smile. "You damn well better make sure of that, Bond."

"Trust me, ma'am. I will."

She reached for him, or tried. Her arm felt weak, and she wasn't sure if she did it herself, or if it was his hand that helped her to touch his face. She wanted to pull him nearer, though she didn't have the strength. He must have felt her trying, for he leaned closer to her. She kissed his head. "I knew you were ready."

Bond kissed her forehead, and smiled - this time, his classic little cocky grin. "Enjoy being dead, ma'am."

M laughed aloud, and Kincade, whom she'd recently learned was named Michael, looked over at her. "You alright, Emma?"

She smiled at him, still tittering to herself. One day she might tell him her real name. No. Probably not, actually. She fanned herself with the sturdy straw fan, and took in a long, deep breath of the warm sea air. "I'm fine," she said. "I was just thinking about a gift I left for James." It was almost strange using his first name in conversation, but she'd get used to it.

"Oh?" He grinned and topped off her drink, setting the pitcher down on the small wicker table between them, its legs burrowed slightly into the sand to keep it sturdy. He'd been sent here to keep her company, and to keep her comfortable no doubt. That, and to take what he referred to as a "damned long overdue holiday". He was doing a wonderful job of it - he was quiet when she wanted quiet, and when she wanted someone to talk to, he told her tales of Bond's family, and of keeping the house free of vagrants and thieves after Bond left. He listened well, too, and thought her stories of her exploits were quite amazing, despite what he'd already seen. He was the perfect gift - Bond's surrogate father, keeping company with his surrogate mother. That was part of why she was so amused.

"I was just thinking of the face he'll be making right now. My will's been read by now, no doubt. I wish I could take a picture of him opening the box." She giggled again. She hadn't felt so carefree enough as to laugh aloud in quite some time. That was Bond's other gift to her, and she would always be grateful for it.

He chuckled with her. "Well, Emma, it still hasn't quite sunk in for me that we're 'dead', so I'm glad you're able to find some amusement in it."

"Oh, you'll get used to it soon enough," she said. "Old utility models like us deserve a rest. I dare say you could have taken that long overdue holiday of yours years ago if you'd really wanted. There was no one to stop you. But you're as stubborn a mule as I am, and you couldn't leave until you knew for sure your job had been done."

He smiled at her, shaking his head. "You are an amazing lady, Emm," he said. He leaned back into his reclining chair and looked back out at the shining, bright blue sea.

M did the same, taking a sip of her drink, and thinking about her operative... her son... hard at work on that other shore.

"Her will was read today."

Bond looked down at the box in Eve's hands. "Thank you." He took the box from her and opened it slowly. A smile spread across his face when he saw the ridiculous, and truly hideous little dog wrapped in his British flag. She would.

"Hm. Maybe that was her way of telling you it was time for a desk job."

He shook his head, holding the damned indomitable porcelain horror closer to him. "Just the opposite."


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