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WARNING: If you haven't read the warning on the index page, go back and read it. If you don't, and you don't like what you find here, don't come crying to me.
Title: Close

Author: Eleanor K.

Fandom: James Bond

Pairing: James Bond/Charles Robinson

Rating: NC-17

Posted: 2 Dec 2002

Spoilers: for Die Another Day

Email: emungere@gmail.com

Disclaimer: They're not mine. I wouldn't want 007 anyway, but I'd take Charles in a second.

..___..


"You leave tomorrow, James."

"Have a heart, M." He leaned against her desk, giving her his best smile-- the one that never seemed to work on her. "I just got back."

"You just got back after two weeks unauthorized leave in the hinterlands of South Korea. I was beginning to think you'd decided to go over to the Americans."

"I do have some taste."

"Moneypenny will give you the file on your way out."

The 'out' was emphasized ever so slightly, and she opened the folder lying in front of her. If he spoke now she would give him that look that said, Oh, are you still here, cluttering up my office?

He walked out, wishing he had just had a two week holiday. In fact what he'd had was two days of sexual bliss followed by two days convincing Jinx that they shouldn't run away together and keep the diamonds. The remainder of the time had been spent working.

The world had changed; that's what everyone kept telling him. But it hadn't, not all that much. Contacts were where he'd left them. His retirement fund was still collecting interest in Grand Cayman. One or two of his bolt holes were no longer secure, but that was the worst of it. Even the political climate wasn't all that different. The Americans had elected that idiot, of course, but that was Americans for you.

On the whole, he felt, the world was much the same. It was just that he didn't fit into it so well any more. Everything was a little harder than it had been. Maybe he was just getting old.

He paused in the hall, rubbing at his hip. It had been dislocated a few months into his stay with the North Koreans and had never quite healed. You're lucky to be noticing, he told himself. Means everything doesn't hurt all the time now.

Pain had been a constant in his life for so long that it was a surprise to wake up in the morning without it-- although the days when he did were rare. There was the hip, some kind of nerve damage in his shoulder, and occasional sharp twinges from his neck. The doctors told him one of his vertebrae had been chipped.

At a sound behind him, he straightened up quickly, turning.

Charles stepped out of his office and nodded to him. "James. Back at last, I see."

"There's no place like home."

Charles gave him a long look. "Try not to do it again, will you?" he said, turning away.

Try not to do it again? Fourteen months, fourteen bloody months, and--

"What? Save the world? Well, perhaps you're right. It is getting a bit old."

Charles turned back to face him. "It's not the only thing that's getting a bit old."

He smiled tightly, not happy at the echo of his own thoughts. "Now that's just offensive."

"I was talking about her." Charles nodded toward M's office.

"Excuse me?"

"She aged ten years while you were gone. We all thought you'd get out, of course. At least for the first few weeks."

"I tried my best, believe me."

"She wouldn't have anyone talking about you. Bad for moral, she said. But the first report she looked at every morning was North Korea. They haven't had that much attention from MI-6 since the war ended."

"If you're trying to convince me that woman gives a damn about me or anything else, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed."

"If you'd pay attention to something other than your disposable Barbie dolls for two seconds, maybe you'd see--"

"Oh, come on. You're not trying to tell me M has a thing for me, are you? Please say you're not."

Charles stepped closer and put his hands on James' shoulders, pushing until he had him backed up against the wall. He leaned forward, and James saw what was coming, but couldn't quite believe it. He stayed stock still as Charles kissed his lips, a whisper of a touch.

"As I was saying," Charles continued in the space left by James' stunned silence, "If you'd keep your face out of some blonde's snatch for more than a minute at a time, perhaps you'd see that there are people around here who care for you."

James stared in silence as broad hands smoothed down the lapels of his jacket.

"M wasn't the only one who was worried," Charles said.

And he walked away, just like that.

James stared after him for a few seconds before straightening his tie and continuing on his way. As he was waiting for the elevator, he found his hand straying up to touch his lips.

***

"Well done, James. And without blowing up any major buildings, too. Quite satisfactory."

It occurred to him that this was about the nicest thing M had ever said to him. She was almost smiling.

"There was the opera house," he said.

"Not a very large opera house, as these things go. I've come to expect a certain amount of mass destruction when I send you out."

Isn't this chummy, he thought to himself. All very much as if nothing happened, as if she never said... what she said.

Useless.

He'd never asked to be traded. He'd expected to die. She should have had faith that he'd keep his mouth shut, or sent someone to...

He looked at her sharply. "Why didn't you send someone to kill me?"

"Over the opera house?" she asked mildly. "That hardly seemed necessary."

"In North Korea. Instead of trading me. You could have sent someone."

She sighed. "Whom would I have sent, James? We wanted to stop the flow of information, not double it. Whom could I have trusted not to get caught?"

"All the double-O agents are younger than I am, faster than I am most people would say. Why not one of them?"

"Younger is the same as saying less experienced. I had to be sure."

"You're saying I'm the best you have," he said, trying not to sound smug.

"You're certainly the luckiest. If your luck had run out, I wasn't about to test anyone else's."

"Did you really believe I was feeding them information?" He heard himself say the words and almost winced. He wasn't planning to ask. It didn't matter what she thought, anyway. But he found himself leaning forward to catch her answer.

"I had to assume--"

"No!" It just slipped out. Well, fine. If he was going to do this, he may as well see if he could get a straight answer. "I don't want to hear what you had to assume. I want to know what you believed."

She was silent a long time before she spoke. "The drugs they have these days can confuse anyone... I thought it was possible, yes." She smiled slightly. "If you want blind faith, look to Charles. He never said anything, but the reproachful glances were coming fast and thick towards the end. He asked to be the one to go and fetch you."

James had a quick flash of the man's hands on his shoulders, warm, soft lips on his. He shifted, suddenly eager to go.

The phone rang, and M glanced at the number on the display. "I'll need to take this. Get some rest, James. You look like hell."

He left, walking quickly for the elevators, paranoid that Charles was going to pop out of nowhere and... Not that it was *bad*. Just... strange.

He'd been kissed by men before, in bars and clubs, at parties and so on. Men tended to go for the grab-and-kiss method of introduction far more often than women. He took it as a compliment and declined politely. This was different. He knew Charles. And it wasn't just the kiss.

Charles had said he was worried about him.

He had been thinking about that, and it just didn't track. No one worried about him. He was a double-O agent, already long past his life expectancy. Every mission was a gamble. Sex for dinner, death for breakfast. No family, no steady girlfriend, no real friends to speak of-- he had contacts, not friends. People who can be useful to him. It was the way he liked it. People didn't worry about him when he went away.

He didn't *want* people to worry about him.

The elevator dinged, and he stepped inside. As the doors closed, a hand was inserted between them, and they opened again, letting Charles through.

"Good to see you back, James. How was La Paz?"

"Hot," he said shortly.

"Now, now," Charles said, smiling. "Where is that vaunted James Bond charm? No need to be nervous, I'm not going to assault you. I was merely trying to make a point."

"Which was?"

"You want to hear it again? That's fine. I don't imagine it's something you hear very often. I was worried about you, James," he said softly. "And I missed you."

James pulled the emergency stop. He turned to face Charles, his jaw set. Time to put a stop to this nonsense.

"That's about enough of that," he said quietly. "You didn't miss me. You don't even know me."

"And whose fault is that?" Charles was smiling again, an unnerving smile. "No one knows the great James Bond. A legend in his own time, a hero, a story to tell young spies at bedtime. The assassin's assassin. The man who never gets caught-- until just recently anyway. No one lasts forever, James, and heroes tend to go out in a blaze of glory. Is that what you want? To go out with a bang, with no one to mourn you? Not one single solitary soul who will remember the man instead of the myth?"

"I'm not a hero."

"Well, that's what all heroes say, isn't it? I was just doing my job, ma'am. Except of course, in your case, it's true." He stepped forward and James found himself giving ground until he was backed against the wall. "You're no hero. You like your job. You like the toys and the women and the danger. Right?"

"I love my country."

"I've no doubt. But your country doesn't love you, James. You're famous in the community, but your country is full of people who have never heard of you."

"That's the way it should be. They only hear about us when something goes wrong."

"And yet you go out and risk your life for them, time and time again. Is that why you do it, James? For them, for the faceless masses?"

"Of course."

"Is it? Or is it because you don't have anything else?"

James opened his mouth, but could find no words to answer. Charles pushed the emergency stop back in, and the rest of the ride was spent in thick silence.

***

"Sir?" A hand shook his shoulder. "Sir, we're starting our descent into Heathrow. You need to put your seat up now."

Eyes still closed, he pressed the button that returned his seat to its upright and locked position. He rubbed his hands over his face, feeling sweat and grime.

"Thank you," he mumbled. He hadn't even gotten a look at the flight attendant. He'd been asleep as soon as he sat down, and hadn't stirred until now. She sounded pretty, too. Oh, well. He was in no shape for that sort of thing.

He needed a shower, and food, and sleep-- not in that order. The flight from Paris had been too short, and the little sleep he'd gotten had just made his eyes ache from having to open them again so soon.

Ten minutes later he was off the plane, trying to walk straight, trying not to stagger. Just find a taxi, he told himself. A short ride, then home, then bed. Another mission under his belt. God, but his hip ached.

"I feel like an old man," he muttered to himself.

"Not old, James," said a voice behind him. "Just sorely in need of a rest." Charles took his bag in one hand and put the other on James' back, guiding him. "Come along. I've got a car waiting."

They were already in the waiting limo before James even thought of objecting.

"Did M send you?" he asked.

"No. I'm technically on vacation, and so are you."

"Does she know--"

"That I'm picking you up? No again. Or at least I didn't tell her. What M knows is anyone's guess."

"True."

Charles smiled at him, looking amused. "Again, James, I'm not going to assault you. You needn't look so worried."

"I'm not."

Not worried at all, actually. He was perfectly comfortable in this dark, warm cavern of a car, with this man's company. He felt almost... relaxed. Almost safe, and he wasn't used to feeling safe. If he was more awake it might have worried him.

"Where are we going?" he asked after a while.

"Your flat."

"I generally stay at the Connaught when I'm in town. I haven't done much with my flat."

"You certainly haven't. I got a cleaning crew in, and they said some of the things in your fridge were practically sentient."

"You went there?" He wasn't sure whether to be offended or embarrassed. The place was in pretty bad shape.

"I brought in some groceries and things. And took the dust sheets off your furniture."

"I told you I don't stay there often. And the Connaught has room service."

"Man cannot live by broiled lobster tails and chocolate souffle alone. There's soup in the fridge. If you can't manage to heat up soup, I shall tell M you're senile and she'd best start looking for a replacement."

James looked at him through the shadows, feeling bewildered, exhausted, and lost. "Why are you doing this?"

The limo pulled up to the curb, and Charles looked out the window. "This is your stop, I believe. Here." He held out a key and waited until James realized that he actually didn't have the key to his own flat with him and took it. "Sleep well."

Shaking his head, James slid over to the door. About to climb out, he was stopped by a hand on his cheek.

Charles brushed his hair away from his face and kissed him lightly. "I missed you, James," he said.

James swallowed hard, staring into dark eyes. He found himself leaning forward and jerked away, getting out quickly and slamming the door behind him.

***

Covered in mud and soaked to the skin, James staggered the last few steps to the edge of the cliff and jumped. Air rushed by his face, making his eyes tear up. He shut them just before he hit the water.

The scuba gear and SDV were in the cave where he had left them, and he strapped the gear in place, hoping the sub would be where it was supposed to be.

He did his best to stop the bleeding from the gunshot wound in his shoulder and then launched the SDV, sinking to twenty meters below the rough surf before heading out to sea.

He checked his GPS after a few minutes and switched on his lights. The submarine was right there. Thank god.

On board minutes later with a blanket around his shoulders, he gave his report to Charles, who listened carefully and asked no questions until the end.

"Was there any collateral damage?" His voice was cool and professional.

"None. It was a clean job," James told him.

"Glad to hear it." Charles closed the file and gestured the medics forward. "He's all yours."

James watched as the other man walked away. Cool and professional. There hadn't been a hint of warmth in his voice. James found himself wondering what he'd done wrong.

Which was stupid of course. So Charles had finally given up on his... crush... or whatever. That was for the best. If the man was mad at him, well, that wasn't his problem. He could hardly be expected to return his feelings. He liked women, and they liked him, and that's the way it had always been.

He smiled at the woman cleaning his shoulder, a pretty red head who looked quite good in her uniform. She smiled back and then blushed and looked away. Yes, very nice.

Later that night as she writhed under him, small hands gripping his shoulders, he found himself remembering the weight of Charles' hands on him, pressing him back against the wall.

The next morning he woke, stiff and sore, but warm. The last few days had been a nightmare of mud and rain, and cold that made his bones ache. He pulled the blankets up to his chin and kept his eyes closed.

"Awake at last, James? I've been waiting some time."

He blinked his eyes open, peering at the man sitting next to the bed.

"Charles?"

"If you were expecting Lt. Randy, I believe she's gone off duty."

"Randall. Marsha Randall." He thought it was Marsha anyway.

"I really couldn't care less."

James hauled himself up to a sitting position. "Look, Charles, this is going too far. You've got no right to be..." He wanted to say 'jealous', but that would be an acknowledgement of this thing between them, and he didn't want that. "She's a perfectly nice girl," he finished weakly.

"They're all perfectly nice girls, James, all ten thousand of them, except for the one or two who try to stab you in the back. That's really not the point."

"All right. So what is the point?" he asked, finally giving up on trying to avoid it.

Charles just shook his head. "You know what the point is, James."

When he walked out, James had to smother the impulse to call him back.

***

"Where's Charles?" James asked Moneypenny, trying to sound casual. "I haven't seen him since I got back."

"Oh, he's out of town."

"Where?"

She smiled. "Need to know, James."

Which meant he was on a mission. "Charles isn't a field agent."

"He runs errands for M from time to time."

"What kind of errands?"

She gave him an odd look. "Well, I don't think he's picking up her dry cleaning."

He managed a smile and extricated himself as quickly as possible, but the next day found him back at MI-6 headquarters, haunting the hallways and pretending to catch up on paper work.

Damn Charles, anyway.

The next day was more of the same. The day after that, he ran out of paper work.

In retrospect, he probably should have knocked before barging into M's office.

She stared at him for a moment and then spoke into the phone. "I'll have to call you back." She set it down. "Is there something I can do for you, James?"

He hadn't had anything in mind when he walked in here. He was just tired of waiting, tired of worrying, tired of wondering why he should be doing either one.

"Where's Charles?" he asked finally.

"He's away. I'm sure Moneypenny can help you with... whatever you need." M was frowning, regarding him as if she was having sudden doubts about his sanity.

"No. I just... just want to know where he is, all right? He's not a field agent, you know. He hasn't had the training. You can't just send him out--"

She held up a hand, cutting him off. "Just like you, James, he goes where I tell him to go. I'm perfectly aware he's not a field agent. For heaven's sake, what's gotten into you?"

He wanted to go then, wanted never to have come in the first place. He could feel heat rising to his face. He didn't think he'd ever made such a complete fool of himself in his life.

But since the damage was already done... "When is he coming back?"

"Today, if you must know. Flight 502 at Heathrow." She smiled faintly. "If he calls, shall I tell him you'll pick him up?"

He stared at her a moment, appalled at the knowledge in her eyes. He didn't run when he left, but it was a close thing.

***

Flight 502 originated in Munich. James waited at the gate, trying to distract himself by thinking of what Charles could have been doing in Munich or its environs.

It wasn't working. He still felt like a fool.

He felt even more like one as people poured off the flight, Charles conspicuous by his absence. Still, he waited, and at last caught sight of him, standing head and shoulders above most of the others.

James lifted his hand in a half-hearted wave and watched Charles' face light up when he saw him.

"How was Munich?"

Charles smiled at him. "Cold."

I'm not going to ask, James told himself as they walked through the concourse and out to the car park. I'm not going to ask. But once they were on the M-4 he asked anyway.

"Are you all right?"

A hand settled on his thigh, warm and solid. "I'm fine, James. Just fine."

He didn't protest, and the hand stayed where it was all the way back to London. He was terribly aware of every slightest movement, expecting it to move upwards at any moment. It never did.

"I don't know where you live," he said as they entered the city.

"Belsize Lane. It's near the Swissvale tube stop. You know it?"

"Yes, of course."

Belsize Lane turned out to be full of converted carriage houses with postage-stamp sized gardens. James pulled over.

"Do you want to come in?" Charles asked him.

No, he told himself. No, of course I don't. Why would I?

"Yes," he said.

Charles kissed him in the kitchen, pinning him against the counter and teasing his lips apart, only stopping when the kettle began to whistle.

He poured tea as James watched, clinging to the counter behind him to support suddenly weak legs.

"Milk and two sugars, yes?"

"I think I'd rather have a martini," James said shakily.

Charles smiled at him, looking almost predatory. "No. I want you sober tonight."

He took the tea and burned his mouth with it. He turned to set it on the counter and felt Charles behind him, large hands on his hips, warm breath on his neck.

He caught his breath and tried to turn. He was held still and felt lips trail across his neck.

"Charles..."

"James?"

His own name murmured in his ear made him shiver.

"I..."

"Shall I give you the chance to back out? Is that what you want?"

He shook his head, not trusting himself to speak, and pressed himself against the solid body behind him. Charles kissed his throat, sucked briefly, making him gasp.

"Then I'll give you a warning instead. You're mine now, James. No more blondes or brunettes or red heads. No more of your whores. No more screwing around. Understood?"

There was the faintest scrape of teeth against his throat, and James shut his eyes tight, feeling himself grow hard.

"I understand," he said.

"Good," Charles purred. "Let's go upstairs then, shall we?"

Upstairs James allowed himself to be undressed, slowly, clothes folded and set on a chair. He stood naked, feeling his age, feeling every sag of his body, every place that was soft where it used to be hard.

Charles smiled at him. "Beautiful," he said.

James felt himself blush, berating himself all the while for being such a fool, for being here in the first place, but Charles drew him into his arms and kissed his forehead, his temple, his jaw, down his neck. His cock rubbed against the wool of Charles' pants, and it suddenly became terribly important to get Charles out of his clothes as well.

They lay together on the bed, naked, just touching each other. James was trying to get used to the hard planes where there should be softness, the hard heat that rubbed against his own. So strange, so unexpectedly right. Charles' mouth became an addiction.

He kissed hard, leaving James' lips swollen and tingling and wanting more. Their tongues rubbed against each other as Charles caught their cocks in his hand, pumping them both together. James thrust forward, panting through the kiss, hands clutching helplessly at Charles' back. He came in seconds with a choked cry and shivered at the feeling of Charles' hard cock sliding against his, now spent. Then Charles was coming, too, spraying warmth over James' stomach. He saw Charles' expression in that instant and licked his lips, wanting to see it again.

Sometime later he awoke, his head pillowed on Charles' chest. He shifted, propping himself up. He could see little in the dim light that filtered through the curtains. His hand traced Charles' sleeping face, memorizing its features.

"I missed you," he said. It was barely a whisper. Even if Charles had been awake he might not have heard it.

-------
..end..
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