- Work in Progress
- Violence - Canon-Level
His brain hurt. The throbbing at his temples was a lancing pain, a pain he’d had continuously for months. He’d become use to it, to an extent. The never-ending pulse in his head but it was worse now than it had ever been.
James didn’t want to open his eyes. He knew that doing so would make the pain worse but he didn’t know where the hell he was. He wasn’t in his new flat; the smell was all wrong, ancient stone, wood smoke, and earth. The low hum of technology was gone, or was it perhaps different to the continuous noise of the city? A technological hum was there the longer he lay on what he now knew was a bed. It was soft; clean smelling, with a downy undertone of goose feathers.
He was alone. James could tell there was no one around him at the moment. The awareness wasn’t like it had been before being wounded in Turkey and he didn’t know how he just knew.
The low light pierced his eyes. His vision was too sharp, whiting out with the sting of it for a second. Stone walls and wooden beams in the ceiling came into focus. He was in some sort of old stone cottage. It was only one room with small squat windows, aged wooden doors, and a massive fireplace at the far end of the space. The space was warm with the crackling fire. The scents of wood smoke and stone made sense now.
James sat up slowly on the side of the cast iron double bed and rubbed his temples to try to ease the ache. Beyond the bed there was an old warn rough wooden table and chairs against the middle of one wall and a small kitchen with rustic cupboards, stone sink, and small modern refrigerator opposite. Two plush burgundy armchairs with a small table between them sat in front of the fire, waiting it seem to him, beckoning comfort.
He stilled as a door near the fireplace squeaked open. Q came in with an armful of wood, dressed in a red and gray striped rolled collar jumper, jeans, and worn brown boots. The only things familiar about him were the spectacles he wore and the disheveled black locks atop his head.
Q set the wood down near the hearth and turned. “Oh, good, you’re awake.”
His tone was friendly and nonchalant but James wasn’t fooled for a moment. Q was trying very hard to keep his genuine fear at bay, his fear of James. He had a right to be afraid.
“What the hell is going on, Q?” James growled. Even the sound of his own voice hurt. His throat was dry with an aftertaste of a drug of some sort and he realized suddenly that Q had drugged him at the pub.
James surged off the bed and was across the room in seconds. The speed of his attack was dizzying, even to him, and in less then a second he had his hands around Q’s throat slamming the slighter man against the stone beside the fireplace with a loud crash of spilled wood and the whack of a body against the hard wall.
Q, his green eyes huge behind his spectacles, wrapped his slender hands around James’ wrist and fingers, trying to pry them away from his neck. Not that it would do him any good, there was no way Q could break James’ grip.
“Don’t kill me, 007!” he gasped, “I promise you, you’re not in any danger here.”
“You better start talking. What is this place? Where am I?” Squeezing a bit harder, James’ eyes raked Q’s sickly white face, the normal hue of creamy porcelain was gone from his cheeks.
“Please,” he croaked, and James let up the pressure along his throat slightly. “Just let me go and I’ll explain everything. I’m not here to hurt you, I’m here to help you.”
James had no weapons except his bare hands, which he was all he needed with such a skinny opponent. Q didn’t seem to be carrying either. James hadn’t seen nor could he feel the bulge of a weapon against him.
He ran a palm down Q’s back to the top of his jeans, and a leather belt was all that greeted his questing fingertips. James let Q’s neck go and spun him roughly around, kicking his legs apart to be frisked. Q didn’t struggle or protest the manhandling. The wiry form under his hands had no weapons, not even a knife or small gun hidden in an ankle holster. If Q had wanted to harm James physically, he was ill prepared to do so.
With one last push against the delicate bones of Q’s shoulders, James let him go.
He watched Q sort himself out tugging at the hem of his jumper with shaking fingers. Seeing Q straighten himself out like a schoolmarm would have been amusing if they’d been at Six.
But they weren’t at MI6 and there was nothing funny about his current situation.
“Please sit, James,” Q said waving a hand to the chairs. “I’ll make some tea and tell you everything.”
He didn’t want fucking tea but James sat regardless, waiting. There wasn’t much else he could do, since it wasn’t like he was going to physically torture Q. The thought of it, made his guts swirl with nausea. He’d only known the man for less than a month. How could the thought of torturing Q for information make him sick to his stomach? There had been only one other time in his life where the thought of another person’s torture had scared him.
James shook himself; it wasn’t the time to think about her.
The fire seemed too bright for his eyes but the longer he stared at it, listening to the stinging ring of tea making going on behind him, the ache of the flickering light eased a bit.
Q’s hands were still trembling when he handed James a mug of tea, earl gray if the scents of citrus and bergamot overwhelming his nose from the steaming brew was any indication. Sitting Q seemed to fortify himself with the first sip of his own tea before setting the still quivering mug down on the table beside him.
“The light is too bright,” Q said slowly, his voice was soft, soothing. “Sounds are too loud, smells are too strong, and you can taste them in the back of your throat if they are particularly bad. Food and drink doesn’t taste right and makes you sick to your stomach. Your skin feels like there are ants crawling all over you most of the time. The world around you causes pain.”
James set his own tea down, the mug shaking in his now trembling hands, as Q’s words washed over him. The tell, showing too much, James could feel his normal poker face was crumbling. James was used to people not knowing how he was feeling, able to hide his inner thoughts and self from those around him. Q… Q exposed him.
How did he know?
He was silent. James didn’t even trust his voice at the moment. He wanted to howl with rage. No one saw through him. No one.
“It’s alright, 007.”
James was glad the firelight reflected off Q’s spectacles. The less he could see of Q’s sharp gaze the better at this point. His intuition told him, he wasn’t in any danger here but his hindbrain was screaming at him to run.
“Q… tell me what’s going on.” Keeping himself still, James was never going to confess that Q was right about his current physical state.
Q turned his gaze toward the fire. “Did your mother or father ever mention the term, sentinel before they died?”
He hadn’t thought about his parents in so long, it took him a second to answer the question. “No, but I’m familiar with the word.”
“I’m sure you understand the meaning of the word that’s in the dictionary but that’s not the definition I’m talking about.”
“If there’s another meaning, Q. I don’t know it.”
“There is an ancient meaning to the term, φarjāno the Proto-Celtic word for Watchman. Watchmen were clan warriors who had special abilities that helped to protect their people. The term sentinelle replaced the old word during the late fifteen hundreds in France, though many of us still like to use the ancient word here or a variation depending upon our clan affiliations.”
“Affiliations?” Had Q really brought him here to teach him a history lesson? Impatience swirled in James’ chest. The sound of popping wood in the fire pierced a sharp ache through his ears adding to his irritation.
“Welsh, Irish, Scottish, or Briton.” With Q’s public school accent and precise diction, James did feel a bit like he was back in sixth form. “Watchman warriors were known for their enhanced senses. These hyper-senses manifested in various ways but all warriors had at least one enhanced sense, such as sight or hearing they used for protection and war.”
James snorted, “What’s your point, Q?”
“You.” Q pointed at him. “James Bond are a Watchman, a special descendant of your Scottish clan roots.”
Q’s pointing finger and humorless stare were stark in the firelight. James realized Q wasn’t taking the piss. MI6’s Quartermaster was entirely serious about the fairy tale he’d just told.
James surged out of his chair. He wanted to run but restricted himself to pacing instead. He needed to move to assure his dominance in the small space with this small man who’d he’d trusted on instinct not long before.
“That’s a ridiculous story,” James said, passing around behind Q’s chair. The stiffness in Q’s shoulders was the only indication of his discomfort at James behind his back. James could break Q’s neck and be out of this place in seconds if he needed to. “Where are we?”
“Caledonian Forest, Scotland,” Q murmured. “Close to Loch Affric near the village of Cannich.”
In the Highlands then. It was too soon, James hadn’t intended on visiting his home soil for a long time, if ever again. Q jumped when James’s hands gripped his shoulders.
Squeezing slightly, James asked, “Why are we here?”
Q was still and stiff. “I brought you here to help you control your Watchman abilities, control your senses so you can function.”
“The only thing wrong with me, Q is a bum shoulder and too much alcohol. Your little yarn is ridiculous and I intend to get the fuck out of here as soon as possible.”
Q bent his head forward and James though for a second he was going to try to break the hold James had on him. A swell of something, something invisible but definitely there surrounded him and the pain was gone so suddenly, James lurched forward into the back of the chair, almost falling to his knees. He caught himself on Q’s shoulders but his hands were slack enough that Q was able to break the hold and escape from under James’ hands.
The agony in his body, his eyes, his skin, his ears, was all gone as if it had never been there.
“It’s not a fairy tale, 007,” Q stated, standing with the fire at his back, facing him quietly. Smart man, keeping the chair between them. “You really are a Watchman or if you prefer the modern term, Sentinel. What you’ve been experiencing, the sensory overload is the hyper-senses of an online Sentinel. An untrained online Sentinel.”
It was impossible, what Q was saying. It was impossible, what James was feeling.
James stalked around the chair and Q backed up swiftly, but James kept coming until he had the smaller man against the stone again. His hands full of oversize jumper lifting Q up on his toes.
“What are you doing to me?” He snarled. “What have you done to me? Drugs?”
Q’s wide eyes blinked behind his spectacles, and pain rushed over James dropping him to the floor, screaming. It was agony, everything, sound, sight, smell, taste, touch, all at once surrounding him, burning through him. He was on fire and clutched his head trying to escape the sensations.
He felt like he was going to die, was sure he was going to die for the first time ever. There was no escape this time, he couldn’t move to save himself.
Q was going to kill him.
The pain receded as swiftly has it had come with Q’s hands on his, gentle against the skin and bone of his skull.
“I’m sorry 007, you need to believe me. I’m here to help you not hurt you.”
Supine on the floor was not a good place to be but James stayed still with Q’s bleary form crouched over him. The compassion on his face was stark in the firelight and James realized, if he trusted what his instincts were telling him, he wasn’t in any danger from Q.
“What are you?” he croaked, his voice harsh from the screaming that had ripped through his throat.
“I am your counterpart, Sentinel. A Guide, an empath, ari-lajā.” Their hands tangled together as James stopped clutching his head. “I am here to teach you to be a Sentinel, to control your abilities so you can function in the world again.”
“Are you reading my mind?”
“No,” Q smiled with soft amusement stroking James’s brow and he wished he didn’t find it soothing. He didn’t want to be soothed, controlled. “I can’t read your mind, I can only feel your distress. Have felt it since we first met.”