When we left off, Bond was on his knees praying for M... little does he know that his prayers have been answered. She is alive, thinking about all that's happened between the two of them... and praying for him to come wake her up. Inspired by "Come Wake Me Up" by Rascal Flatts.

I'm dreaming, I've got to be dreaming…

The last thing M remembered before unconsciousness claimed her was James Bond's arms holding her close… holding her tight, holding on for dear life. He'd never held her like that before – touched her on the arm now and then, certainly; that was proper etiquette and deference coming from an MI6 agent who respected his boss. But held her; actually taken her in his arms and pulled her close to him? Never. And even though she was injured and the pain in her hip was burning like a wildfire out of control, M had felt nothing but tenderness in Bond's arms. It had amazed her. The same arms that could snap a man's neck were cradling her as gently as if she were a baby, strength and protection radiating from the muscle and sinew within.

Nobody had ever held her like that since her husband passed away four years ago… shortly after the mess with Quantum. Malcolm had been the love of her life, the man whom she could always come home to after a stressful day at the office, whom she could just be herself around. With him, she had always been Barbara. Not M, the "evil queen of numbers" who bore the safety of the United Kingdom (and to a slightly greater extent, the world) on her shoulders every single day, who took no crap from anybody. Just Barbara. She'd never shared her Christian name with anybody else, never given anybody a chance to call her by it… but one man had figured it out.

Cheeky bugger, he always knew. Bond, enigma that he was, had somehow found out her full name and had nearly addressed her by it once, until she shut him up with the promise of death if he uttered one more syllable. Ironic now that she was the one at death's door and she'd give anything to hear Bond say her name. James… where are you?

No sooner had she thought this than Gareth Mallory's words reverberated through her brain: You're sentimental about him. The way he said it had rankled in her chest, because there weren't very many people she was sentimental about. Malcolm and her children, Judith and Brendan, were always first and foremost in her heart, and curse her, she was even fond of her longtime assistant, Bill Tanner, pencil pusher that he was. But Bond… Bond was different. When they first met, her feelings toward him had been far from sentimental – she had told him straight up what she thought about him, calling him a "sexist, misogynist dinosaur" and that his charm was completely wasted on her.

I should have known he'd take that as a challenge. He hadn't tried any of his usual funny business, but they had carried on a never-ending battle of words and wits that they both, in actual fact, enjoyed enormously, although they'd never admit it to anyone or to each other. And sure enough, by the time she promoted him to double-0 status, Bond had worked his way into M's heart completely – and blast it if Tanner hadn't noticed. Just at last year's Christmas party, she and Bond had danced together and Tanner joked to her afterward, "Bond's stolen your heart, hasn't he?" M had given him a glare that would have frozen water in July, but looking back now, she realized that he was right – in more ways than one.

Like the thief in the night he was, James Bond had stolen her heart. Stolen it away so fiercely that two little words from Eve Moneypenny had broken it: "Agent down." M had endured three weeks of solid hell after that, bitterly regretting her order to Moneypenny ("Take the bloody shot!") and trying to drown her sorrow over Bond's apparent death in the occasional glass of bourbon – double shots one at a time; she wasn't a bloody alcoholic, for goodness' sake. But it was never enough. Every time she closed her eyes, she could still see his face… and that night when she'd returned home to find him standing at her window, drinking her scotch as though he owned the place, she had thought she was either dreaming or seeing a ghost. Upon realizing it was really Bond, she wanted to weep with happiness – but she was his boss, after all, so she'd composed her face into her famous icy stare and barked at him. And so their relationship had resumed, the two of them keeping their professional distance… until that fateful moment at Skyfall.

Lying here now, in limbo for all she knew, M was trying her hardest to fight her love for James Bond, but she was this was one battle she was finally tired of fighting. She'd been trying to deny her feelings for him for the longest time, but now… she let them sink deep into her very soul. And with them came pain – the pain of knowing she'd never see him again if she was, in fact, dead. God, what she wouldn't give for one more look at him – his close-cropped blond hair, the lips that made every woman wish he would kiss her, and those eyes… Lord, those beautiful eyes, as blue as the Cornish sea…

The pain's just getting worse… I need to give him up, but I can't. The memories were burning like everlasting fire in her mind, so much that she realized that she couldn't extinguish them… couldn't put out the love she felt for Bond. James… James, save me. I know you can't hear me, but save me. Please, James… come wake me up.

M hadn't even realized she'd been talking in her sleep when she felt a gentle hand brush her cheek, a familiar voice whisper, "With pleasure, Sleeping Beauty," and the softest lips capture her own in a tender kiss.

Well, what a way to be woken up! And another cliffhanger, no less. For this chapter, I really wanted to explore M's feelings about her relationship with Bond, as well as highlight a little bit of her family life. What's going to happen now that she's awake and alive? Stay tuned, and keep the reviews coming!