Chapter 10

It doesn't last, of course.

He lasts exactly 27 days before he goes crawling back to England, back to MI6, back home.

Alec gives him a non-too-gentle slap on the shoulder, Not-Sure-M just sighs and removes his MIA status, and both Eve and Q lecture him and then welcome him back in turn. Only Bill doesn't look surprised.

He returns to work immediately, and decides to embrace the new technology side of the job, decides to move on and join the future. And for once, he feels… settled. At ease with him, at peace, if he wanted to be dramatic. He's not just a new body and personality this time, he's more like a conglomerate of all of his past selves, like they all merged to form this latest life. He's James and James Bond and 007 all at once, and for the first time ever, there's no distinction.

He's had a lot of different lives over the years, eight and a half to be precise, but he prefers this one. He loves the 21st century and London. He loves his friends, his real friends, and even his job that's based more on numbers than instinct now, which, yea, he may squabble and groan about, but it does make his life easier and it does save his ass a few times.

He misses M, all M's; Original-M, New-M, and most of all, She-M. And he misses Q; First-Q and R-Q. He misses all the various Moneypenny's, Old and Cute and Fiery. He even misses his past selves, all eight point five of them. He misses just James, he misses James Bond, he misses Scottish-7 and Australian-7 and English-7 and even Welsh-7 and obviously he misses Irish-7 and he sort of misses Blonde7.1 too, but he thinks of him like an older version of the same model, like when keyboards took over from typewriters or electric bulbs replaced gas lights.

He looks around at his not-friends friends, looks at how young and bright and brilliant they all are. He's becoming more and more sure of Not-Sure-M every second, and secretly admires the man for stepping up and at least sort of filling the hole that She-M left behind her. And Q, Young-Q, wise beyond his years, twice as smart as First and R and at least three times as young and that boy is gonna rule the world someday. Eve, who he calls by her first name and not Something-Moneypenny, Eve who shot him off of a bridge and laughs about it, Eve who's going to replace Mallory in a few short years, Eve who's smart enough to bide her time and learn from the best before smashing their records thoroughly and apologetically, Eve.

He's lived to see the rise and fall of World War 2, watched as Vietnam was invaded and the Berlin Wall fell, has seen man land on the moon and JFK assassinated. He's watched the company go from the Civil Service to the Secret Intelligence Service to MI6 to the recently appointed title of Joint Intelligence Service that threatens the continuation of the double-0 section but, well, maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's time for him to retire. Alec's getting old now, smart enough to get out when he could, but so is he, in a way. He is, after all, approaching his 100th birthday.

He glances over at the mirror, runs a hand over a roughly stubbled jaw, smirks.

He doesn't look half-bad for a 98-year-old.

Maybe he's got a few more years in him yet…

It is, after all, a Brand New World.