Still WIP. Now with title. Now with Q. Eventually with an AO3 link.
Here have Daniel Craig’s butt. What a majestic creature.
on shore remain
→ 5,483 words (and counting)
→ 00Q Mermaid!AU. Prompt.
→ 007 can think of ten better ways to spend his leave. Sitting on a cold beach in Russia, chucking rocks and speaking to sassy men with fish tails is not on the list.
AKA: I put Bond in a jumper and released him into the wild.
He remembers drowning.
The velvet-soft sinking of a body into water dark as pitch. How easy it is, if you don’t struggle.
He doesn’t struggle. That had been 30 seconds ago, before a scrap of obliterated boat had struck him in the head and forced him beneath the surface.
You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying there.
Someone had said that once. A brief, pointless flicker of annoyance flares at the forefront of his throat at the fact that he can’t remember who.
There’s bursts of orange and white above him, a receding, flickering light that could be a candle flame or a volcano eruption or a star exploding. There’s no sense of heat from it, but his lungs burn with instinct. Every impulse to flail and swim and reach for life being pushed back by a darkness settling around the corners of his vision, leaving him weak and helpless.
He can’t ignore the frail bubbles sneaking out of his nose and mouth, nor can he pretend that he doesn’t notice the thick, oily streaks of blood he leaves behind, leaking out of his body as fast as his adrenaline, energy, and will to live. Small droplets of his life, spilling out of his body like stuffing from a toy. It would have been a blessing to be numb, but instead, the freeze of ocean water is felt ever so acutely, its fangs sinking past his suit, skin, muscle, caught in the jaws of a force that can tear him apart.
And ever constant, he sinks, he sinks.
He’s tired and sore. It digs into his very limbs until he’s heavier than stone, than steel, than the world on Atlas’s shoulders. There’s salt on his tongue and his eyes sting from being kept open, exposed.
James Bond is dying. Light as an anchor, suspended in the gloomy murk of nightmares to an audience of emptiness. Staying in the water until he drowns.
Not with a bang, but with a gurgle. Hah.
If it wasn’t all so very repetitive, it would be sad, but Bond’s been here before and he tires of the dramatics. Quick and painful deaths are never in the cards.
It’s silent, except in his brain. Trapped in water, caged in darkness, caught up in his own head, the 00 agent does not spare energy to think on his past, his future, or the present. He doesn’t consider saving himself. No thought drifts towards M or Moneypenny, who would probably be better off. On his country, that he served, that he lived for, that he ultimately will die for. On Vesper, dead, gone, and nothing but bitterness in the back of his throat. On-… well, the list’s run a bit short.
Instead, his mind begins to play. If he had breath, he would have laughed at his own stupidity.
A soft piano piece, perhaps something he had heard before.
Beethoven settles in like sand. Sonata 25 in G. Op.79. II, Andante. Calm for the water. Cheery staccato for the irony.
His fingers shift idly in an unseen current, perfectly in time. His eyes close, whatever air remaining in him being released in a pathetic rush that escapes to heaven.
Drowning isn’t like going to sleep. It is ugly agony. A cheap death, but no worse than any other. Bond can’t admit that he would prefer to be lying with bullets for buttons in a hotel room right now, or falling from 100 floors up, body whipped about like a puppet for a horrified public. Or being pinned to the floor as a panting, shaking man presses his fingers into your jugular until you see stars.
Bond’s gracefully shifted to Presto Alla Tedesca, choking with strangled grunts now as the lack of oxygen finally stabs into his brain, when a pale hand reaches out from the darkness to grab his lapels like a ghost, to aggressively tug upwards. Beethoven stutters to a halt. 007 only stares. Realistic hallucinations; his nightmares come to the physical realm. Must be. What else could explain what was reaching for him from shadows of flotsam? This sudden burst of color, the brief glimpse of shark-like teeth, the flare of seaweed green eyes that are so close to his, impossibly huge, something emerged from the deep depths of ocean dreams.
It was altogether, Bond’s water-logged brain notes, very reminiscent of a woman he had seduced in Mumbai. She had possessed fantastic bottle-green irises, ones he gladly lost himself in. A kissable mouth. Smooth thighs. She had giggled when he struggled to undo the buttons on her blouse. Bond only just begins to recall the knife that had split her beautiful pale throat when he feels himself gain speed, when the hands become arms tucked around his waist and the memory woman from Mumbai is replaced with a strong body, a rush of water against his ears as he’s dragged back to the surface from the bottom of wet, soggy Hell.
Helpless and limp, Bond can only hold on to this unreal force for moments before his brain shuts down to a stuttering black halt, unhappy with the world and generally blasé about the whole thing.
He’s had better deaths.
It’s classified as a minor explosion. A tourist yacht, blown to pieces, unexplained and written off as the typical follies of men who could afford frivolity and luxurious sailing off the coast of Turkey. The official report had said ‘Fatal, 10 casualties. No survivors.’
They don’t mention that most of the victims had died from precise bullet wounds. Two had their necks broken.
Or that the tell-tale remainders of a bomb had been found floating amongst the wreckage.
Surprising, really, how many incidents could fit under the umbrella term of ‘explosion.’
His own injuries are bothersome, at best, barring the close shave with sinking to the bottom of the Black Sea
“I want a full report, 007.”
007 calls in a complete success for the mission. M doesn’t sound pleased, probably for propriety’s sake, which was just as well, because Bond didn’t like the idea of actually ever pleasing the man. Despite his automatic tendency for rebellion, the agent resigns to staring up at the hospital room ceiling and admitting to three cracked ribs, two broken fingers, a few surface wounds that he neglected to identify as lacerations and refused to admit that there were stitches, and something oddly peculiar with his right leg that allowed him to pick up the gentlemanly habit of walking around with a cane.
He’s assigned to a month of recuperation for his trouble with no plane ticket home until then.
“As of this moment, consider yourself on leave.”
MI6’s version of a slap to the wrist and a stern scolding, along with a threat to keep his broken body in Gelendzhik if he knew what was good for him.
The problem was that the agent hadn’t known what was good for him since he had learned how to shoot a gun, and it was frightfully difficult to learn now, trapped in a small resort town off the coast of Russia with winter on his heels and nothing but his wounded ego to keep him warm at night.
The hospital declares him a miracle from God. A fisherman found him washed up on the beach, near death and barely breathing. Hours later, Bond had found himself surrounded by grannies in a hospital bed that could be considered sanitary only by the lightest of measures. In quick and hurried Russian, Bond managed to chalk up an identity and an explanation as to why he had been out in the damn ocean in the middle of November in the first place. It was easier, then, to tolerate the sympathetic looks that Mr. Dima Ovechkin, on a pleasure trip from St. Petersburg, received for being the poor idiot who had lost his friends and family in a yacht explosion, rather than suspicious glances of why he is the only survivor with no identification but enough rubles to rent himself a flat for four weeks.
Being left alone to grieve also meant considerably less questions and more time to himself.
Two days later, discharged from the hospital and disgruntled, Bond finds that the idea of a month of nothing is terribly monotonous with little to do but gripe, hobble about on a cane, and recover. Never before has he felt like an old man, asked to rest for a bit while the children go take care of things.
When he calls Moneypenny to complain, she only laughs.
“How about you do what the rest of society does on a vacation?”
“What? Relax? Enjoy myself?” Bond grouses, pacing in his new living space, walking stick thudding every other step. Fingers clutch at the phone that MI6 had bothered to send as a precaution, clumsy with bandages. “Read a book, perhaps.”
Admittedly, describing the 3 room flat as ‘new’ would be a compliment it did not deserve, but the sheets were clean, the running water clear and drinkable, and neighbors who only argued loudly in Russian every other day, their voices leaking through the thin walls like smoke.
“War and Peace would be appropriate.” Eve suggests. Of course. “Or perhaps Crime and Punishment would suit your mood a little better. ‘Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and-‘”
”’-a deep heart.’ I didn’t realize you thought so highly of me, Moneypenny.” 007 settles on the windowsill to glower at the ocean view. The beauty of the town is lost in winter monotony, making the sight significantly more depressing than anything else.
Eve’s smile melts through the phone, as if she knows exactly what the man is up to. She probably does. She always does.
“Don’t assume, James.”
They share a quiet silence for a moment, enjoying each others’ wit. Bond imagines she’s at home. Hair done up in ringlet curls, warm and comfortable. Mug of tea in her lap. Her humble apartment with home-knit bed covers and bookshelf full of fairytale novels that she doesn’t want anyone to know about. Strangely sentimental, Moneypenny. But perhaps that’s why he likes her; she complements his complete lack of love and attachment for the past.
Her sigh sounds like ocean waves on sand when Bond doesn’t say anything more. “I meant pick up a hobby, dear.”
For anyone else, this would surely be an poor attempt at humor, but there’s a distinct tone of sincerity that only makes the agent’s frown deepen. Bond’s brow hurts from being furrowed permanently in frustration for the past 48 hours, “I don’t have hobbies, Moneypenny.” He hardly needs to explain himself. Moneypenny knows this just as well as he does.
“Then find some. Surely, a man like you is capable of more than drinking, killing, and sex. You might even find something about yourself you never knew.”
“Yes. Maybe I’ll take up knitting.”
“Or flower arranging!”
Bond knows there’s more than his lifestyle choices to indulge in, he’s just never found them all that alluring compared to his current career. He could take up sport. Adopt a pet. Learn to cook properly. Any other man would have taken advantage of a month to do nothing. But James Bond is not any other man and his fingers constantly itch for a gun and an assignment. He had tried before. Had lain out on a beach with a beautiful woman, a drink, and a sunset, and he still went back to England, loyal fool that he was, searching for more ways to throw himself into danger.
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.
M has given him a sleepy resort town and a copious amount of time to lick his wounds and think on his sins. Bond is aware that his performance had not considerably improved since Silva and the loss of the previous M, but he refuses to give Mallory the satisfaction of agreeing with him. Leaving him stranded with little entertainment is not a viable remedy. Not for the way his body grows cold each time he thinks of rats eating themselves a live. Not for the way that he refuses to look in the mirror in the morning, knowing he’ll see a man nearing the point that he should never have reached in the first place.
No one ever talks about MI6’s retirement program.
But the fact still stands. Bond has gone from sprinting headlong over a cliff to sitting in the mud with his only excitement coming from checking the temperature every morning to decide how many layers to wear that day.
It would have been simple enough to hire a car and head to the nearest airport and go home. Escape this potential cage. To hide away from M’s thin-lipped scowl until his month was up. Until he could return to the normality of a life that only a fierce patriot of Queen and Country could have. Which is sad, because he never considered his style of living to qualify under the standard definition of ‘normal’ up to now.
The only problem is that London doesn’t have the answers he needs. Being home won’t bring him any closer to finding out why he is still alive at all.
Why he dreamt every night of hands clutching at his torso and pulling him towards a surface he can never break.
The 00 agent hadn’t been inclined to inform anyone of his mysterious rescue. Most had logically assumed that somehow, the tide had carried him in. MI6 certainly hadn’t bothered asking any questions; Bond demonstrated a constant knack for surviving things he shouldn’t, and why ask questions now when answers were cheap and flimsy?
But the idea sits with him like a bad cold. The curiosity. The slow, solidifying certainty that those green eyes had not been imagined. The realization that his fingers had brushed against something that wasn’t skin, but harder. Like scales.
Someone had pulled him from the water, of that Bond was sure.
The idea is not particularly reassuring. Bond isn’t fond of myths and monsters and creatures like Moneypenny is. It defies his character; the second 00 agents started believing in fantasy was the second they lost momentum and ended up in a body bag. Or clutching at bars in a Venetian canal, watching a woman smile as she dies. All the same, 007 is hard-pressed to find an explanation, and he know he will not be at peace until he discovers one that makes sense.
Resigned, but now with a self-appointed goal, Bond settles in to the small city of Gelendzhik like a dog being given over to a new master. He hangs up his suit and his 00 status to collect dust and opens the package that had been sent from London along with the phone. The agent is certain that Moneypenny packed it. Not only is it full of appropriate winter clothes, but a Russian For Dummies guidebook, as well as a pamphlet on how to knit. Cheeky girl.
Dressed up on sweaters and knitted hats, James Bond decides to try civilian life. Again.
Moping, of course, isn’t a long-term option. But neither is the lack of a routine. Running every morning, for one, painful as it is with an injured leg, is essential. Simple but hearty Russian meals with tea and the optional vodka for colder days. Small slots in an otherwise dishearteningly free schedule. No phone calls or post.
Just a view of the ocean and a question.
Rehabilitation at Gelendzhik has been in motion for little over a week with marginal progress, aside from finding a few quaint shops, a tea kettle, and a library that could potentially be helpful, despite its computers being hooked up to what Bond could only guess is dial-up internet. Beggars, especially beggars in the form of grounded 00 agents, certainly can’t be choosers. At least there is alcohol aplenty, which proves useful, as it is prone to do. Bond breathes easier simply from organization and repetition, but is no closer to finding an answer to set his mind at ease.
Lacking options, he resorts to the only method of investigation he has left:
He skips rocks on the beach in hopes of drawing out a mermaid.
And tells himself that this is not the first sign that he’s losing his mind.
Current score: 11
Bond hadn’t skipped stones since he was a child, and it took an hour for him to get back into the swing of things. The sharp flick of the wrist, the perfect stones he needed to get the right amount of bounce over the water. Thankfully, the small outcrop of rock he finds tucked away, quite a distance away from the main stretch of sandy beach, has flat, smooth rocks in abundance, as well as privacy, making his task all the easier.
The initial plan hadn’t been rock skipping. At first, Bond was content with roosting and staring out at the ocean. The feeling of contentment lasted all of ten minutes before he became predictably impatient and started chucking pebbles in hopes of drawing out whatever ridiculous beast the sea held. A weak attempt at best; the chances of drawing out a figment of his imagination were woefully slim. But swimming out is even less feasible and the very idea of being stranded in the middle of the ocean again is nauseating.
Unfortunately, dull thuds and splashes of chucking things provided temporary satisfaction and became purposeful throws, nine, ten, eleven skips and growing. Pretending that he still has some sort of purpose to the matter crumbles and eventually, the agent looked at the small pile of stones in his hand and realized that this was exactly what he had dreaded:
Picking up a bloody bad habit. Which turned into a amusing past-time. Which turned into a damn hobby. He could almost imagine Moneypenny’s pleased little grin at this new development.
James Bond. Agent for Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Done up in a thick jumper and wool scarf, tossing rocks about and waiting for fairytales to come to life whilst trying to beat his personal score.
What a relief that dignity was worth nothing these days.
Currently, he was up to eleven successful skips. The twelfth was proving elusive, though he was inclined to blame the rougher waves that came in to this part of the beach. Not that he can say that of all the activities he chose to occupy his time with, rock skipping is one he was particularly talented at. If at all. Truth be told, he’s rubbish, but no one else has to know.
The first day of playing the role of the hermit by the sea had been cold and uneventful. The second and third even more so, with the addition of light rain that seeped into his clothes and hair and left him smelling like fish. It was dull and quiet, and more than once, the man considered disregarding M’s orders with his usual aplomb and burying his obsession with the imaginary for the sake of his sanity.
Stubbornness is a tremendously useless character trait.
The fourth day, mid-afternoon, finds him under a dark grey sky that promises more showers and no progress.
He sends a stone flying. Ten soft plonks against water before sinking and disappearing.
The raised portion of stony land he had found as his post is comfortable and quiet, but not high enough to escape the tide or ocean mist. He has yet to leave without soaked boots and a salty wetness to his developing scruff. Not to mention that smell of ocean that never truly leaves his skin, even after the brisk hot showers he takes at his flat.
His leg still aches; pulled hamstring, apparently. Everything else is fairly inconsequential, though the cuts across the back of his head and along his shoulder blades make sleeping a bit of a painful adventure. The gauze around the broken fingers only provides him with better traction for throwing, which counts as an advantage of sorts.
His nightmares remain shadowy as ink, persistent as a stain. They leave him floating in murk night after night, and drenched in sweat in the morning.
Unshakable dreams. Waiting for the pale figure whose face he can never see. Only slender, pale fingers the color of sea foam that pull at him, drag him like a puppet on strings. Wide, luminescent eyes that don’t blink, don’t look away, and stay on his mind even during the day. And the scales that glisten with their own light, tough as steel, ingrained in a body that starts smooth, human, then transitions smoothly to that of a powerful, beating fish tail.
James doesn’t have the strength to lie to himself; he is chasing delusions. Seeking impossibilities and fantasy.
He releases the stone with a grunt, sending it flying over the surface of the calm waves.
Wasting his bloody time.
You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water. Don’t let yourself indulge in vain wishes.
Someone had said that, too. Nameless words, unspoken quotes. Bond wonders where he’s amassed this collection of useless literary knowledge on the sea. He wonders what there is to this environment and this disconnection from his home that shapes his thoughts into ocean-themed rubbish.
He wonders if he’s indulging in vain wishes. Knowing that in a month’s time, he’ll be rather talented at rock skipping and not any closer to finding an answer to what had pulled him from the sea.
Another topic to his regular schedule of haunting dreams.
Another rock skips away merrily, leaving behind little sign of its impact against the surface of the water like it would in a still pond or lake. Bond’s eyes follow its movement with practiced motion, the long arches that deteriorate to small hops. That was the trick; the small hops. Making them count and multiply with each throw.
The rock is almost lost in the waves as it does the impossible and catches another bounce, and another. Twelve, thirteen, four-
The rock proceeds to enter completely unthinkable territory as a pale hand abruptly pops up in the water and snatches his stone in mid-air, holds it. It stands as a silent, eerie sentinel. Then it jerks forward.
Bond frowns a fraction more as he finds himself watching his own stone being thrown back to him, skipping along the water, then landing in a clatter at his feet. When the agent looks back, the limb is gone, leaving nothing but the stone to convince him that he’s not imagining things. No amount of rock throwing that day repeats the event; no other body parts decide to rise from the ocean ominously to toss things at him.
He tells himself that this is absolutely not the second sign that he’s losing his mind.
The ocean calls him back the following morning, thermos of tea under one arm and a loaf of broad with cheese shoved into it in the other. Prepared to sit there all day if he has to, the man ignores the surprisingly bright sunshine that warms his back and his hands, making the usually dull grey ocean water a dusky blue.
The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper; I cannot quite make it out.
Pretty words press soft lips to his neck and look coy, twisting fingers into his thoughts until they run salty and gray. With a sharp, annoyed exhale, Bond picks up a rock and lets loose.
He disregards the nagging buzz at the back of his skull that assures him that he’s suffering from trauma and full-on idiocy.
Quick flick, feet planted.
Over and over. Over and over.
He pays no mind to the rapidly cooling tea he had poured himself only moments before.
The stone doesn’t make it to 14 skips. It doesn’t even make it to four.
I cannot quite make it out.
Ultimately, Bond finds it difficult to pay much attention to any portion of his surroundings.
Distracted as he is by the man sliding out of the water, sleek as silk, to drape himself on the edge of Bond’s rocky outcrop.
Unfathomable eyes, green as algae, kale, seaweed, regard him curiously a moment, intelligent and bright. A thick slap and a splash makes Bond look away to see the long scaled monstrosity still suspended in the water, very much attached to the stranger’s waist as naturally as legs.
“Fuck.” 007’s breath escapes him in a stuttered sigh. The ineloquence would have been appalling on his part, were he not at a pathetic loss for any words aside from surprised expletives.
Clearly at ease with lazing about a beach with a naked chest and a fish tail, the creature slants his head in the agent’s direction, mouth twisting into an amused smile. “Доброе утро.”
And now the thing was speaking Russian, of all things. Bond’s mind attempts to churn out an appropriate response, piecing his Russian skills into a semblance of a greeting. It’s a keen opportunity, as introductions go, to sway his partner, to make his confidence and charm known. But his hands are white-knuckled fists and all he can hear is the ocean in his ears like seashells on repeat.
Like any other individual presented with a mythical, grinning being on an average day in Western Russia, he fumbles his posh exterior and manages only a bemused noise.
Which is apparently not the right thing to say. The tailed being’s expression collapses, cloudy. It leans back to consider Bond, arms now caked in white sand, dorsal fins by his hips scraping along the ground. Its lips, red and thin, press together in thought, distracting from the fact that the creature is so very strange and directing 007 to the idea that the thing is actually so very beautiful. At least, for something that had just crawled out of the sea lacking proper body parts to quality as human.
“English, then?” It tries again, speaking as smoothly and comfortably as a lifetime resident of the British Isles.
In a hoarse whisper, the sea pronounces something.
Better. The sound of his own language makes Bond relax, if only from finding miniscule common ground, and it seemingly shows, because the strange human hybrid is angling itself closer again. Only a lifetime of training keeps the agent from taking an appropriate step back to keep a comfortable distance between the two of them. He keeps his ground to keep himself feeling like he’s the one who caught the merman, and not the other way around.
“I’ve quashed your quotidian quest, human.” To his credit, Bond doesn’t flinch as his stone is flicked into his lap. “What a quandary we have fallen into now.”
Over and over.
It’s not difficult to hear the laughter in the other’s voice. He can’t rightly blame him; Bond’s more than aware of how he resembles a spooked animal.
He takes a deep breath.
He tells himself that he has absolutely lost his mind. Utterly and completely.
The sea pronounces something, over and over, in a hoarse whisper. And I think I’ve begun to make it out.
I whisper back.
“What are you?” Bond rasps out. He thinks illegal experimenting. He thinks mutation from radiation. He thinks hallucination, eyeing the tail that is a mosaic of gemstone fragments; hues of green and white and palest blue, scales interlocked like sinewy chainmail, ending in a long, fragile tail fin, translucent like frosted glass.
“An excellent query.” The being props its chin into the palm of its hand, gazing steadily at the 00 agent. “Though I harbor questions myself that need answering, my dear, queer biped.”
Its voice carries none of the mystic qualities that one would think would come from a storybook creation. On the contrary, it’s positively posh, articulate, with such a crisp emphasis on k consonants that the creature sounds more like an Oxford schoolboy than a monster from the deep.
“So what do you suggest? An exchange of information?”
“Rather appropriate. Very quid pro quo. Though I cannot vouch in the quality of my responses.” It’s smiling again, thick strands of brown hair on his head being whipped about in the light wind, falling into his eyes. Then clears its throat.
“We call ourselves shilgyo. There are other names, of course. Pусалка. Deniz kızı. Sirenă. Mорска сирена. To you, I am a mermaid. Or merman, if it makes you more comfortable.”
Various languages fall from the being’s- merman’s - lips easily as it draws breath. Intelligent, then, yes. Linguistically superior, absolutely.
“Which would you prefer?”
“Do you know, I’ve always liked being called a ‘bringer of storms.’ Complete rubbish, but it has a keen ring to it. Now. I become the querier.” Chattering away, it stretches out its hand, choosing to ignore Bond’s torn expression of confusion and disbelief. There’s a small USB drive in its palm.
“What is this?”
Bond recognizes it immediately, jaw tightening at the sight, at the memory of his two fingers being snapped when it was wrenched from his grasp.
“A way to store information. I assume you found it with the wreckage.” When the merman doesn’t react, he continues. One would think that handing out vital facts of classified material would be a poor idea, but the way 007 sees it, he’s hardly in danger of being compromised by a man with a fish tail for legs. There’s little harm in it, and the reciprocated answers would be more than payment enough.
“It contains various codes that would allow access to lethal weapons. Bombs. I had been given a task to destroy it, though keeping it at the bottom of the Black Sea was just as well off.”
“How quaint. Then you would prefer that I return this queer device to you.”
“Keep it.” With the way the previous assignment had ended, Bond wants little else to do with it. “I think it will be safe in your keeping.”
“I could very well attempt to get at those bombs of yours.”
Bond feels his lips involuntarily twitching. Smiling. “Doubt that the Black Sea has wireless internet.”
It’s not that he trusts him-it-whatever it is. It’s that-
“You don’t believe i’m real.” The merman points out quietly, looking delighted at the idea.
“I don’t.” Bond admits with a shrug, “As far as i’m concerned, I’ve lost my mind and you don’t exist.” He watches long fingers that look familiar, look like those that closed around him in darkness, in the sea, fold over the USB drive. “Though it was you, wasn’t it? You pulled me from the sea.”
“You saved my life.”
“You are very welcome.” The merman is toying with him. It’s unnerving. Some of his control slips.
“Why? Who are you?”
“Why were you throwing rocks about? Who are you, with your talk of bombs and lethal weapons?” The merman returns quickly, eyebrows raised in challenge, chin jutting out in defiance. “Can’t ask two questions in a row, human, that’s cheating.”
Bond re-assess. The other re-assess back, looking all too ready to lay there whilst the agent shivers and gets increasingly frustrated with the situation.
Something has to give, and despite appearances, it seemed that Bond had the losing hand.
“My name is Bond. James Bond. I go by the alias of 007 under Her Majesty’s Government for SIS.” If the majority of that sounds like gibberish to the merman, he makes no sign of it.
Instead, it says, “Oh, a man of the Queen. How very proper.”
Bond tries not to look ruffled. He had been expecting a fish man, not a young pup with sass who used every single entry in the dictionary under the letter ‘q’.
“I was hoping to get your attention. With the-” He motions vaguely at the pebbles they’re surrounded by, “I daresay I was successful.”
“Only because I allowed you to be.”
It’s Bond’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Indeed?”
“I would deviate here and introduce myself, but I think I won’t.” Without warning, the mop-haired man is slipping backwards, easily falling back into the ocean with a flick of his tail. 007 just barely rises from his position to see the merman grin up at him from the surface.
“You’ll be back.” Bond says. It takes effort to keep the sentence from becoming a hopeful question.
The other actually laughs, “That’s amusing, James Bond, alias 007. I was going to say the same thing to you.”
Then the merman is gone in a flash of scales and a circle of foam, leaving the agent alone once more with nothing but the tide for company. Quiet, quizzical, and without his quarry.
The waves whisper in their hoarse ways, over and over, and Bond turns for home, smelling of salt and sea.