WARNING: This passage contains adult and sexual situations.
Bond goes to town on Room Service, explaining to Marco when he delivers that they are friends from college, together for the weekend to catch up on old times. She keeps out of sight and watches him tip far more generously than anyone in her entire time at the Hotel, finally emerging from the bathroom having changed out of uniform into jeans and a t-shirt. He’s laid out the table as if they were downstairs, clearly au fait with place settings. There is something undeniably disturbing about watching Bond be domestic but she’s compelled to stand and observe, making sure knives and forks are all in the right places.
‘What’s for dinner, James?’
She’s doing her very best to relax, barefoot and in one of the few shirts she’s actually been able to buy since being undercover, and Bond stares with what she thinks is appreciation.
‘I took the most expensive items on the menu. If we’re going to enjoy the evening, we may as well do it properly. If I had the chance I think I’d prefer jeans and a t-shirt, but it’s such a rarity. I miss normal clothes.’
‘It’s odd, because actually I’m beginning to appreciate the uniform. Maybe we’re not as alike as you keep telling me.’
‘You could look amazing in anything you wore, without even trying. This is a case in point.’
She’s not expecting Bond to compliment and there is a blush, sudden need to examine dinner in order to not look at him. The situation feels reassuringly normal in the late evening sunshine, and Ronni can feel herself reconciling what is here with what could be: he looks and smells unbelievably good, possesses decent table manners and holds a top tier Civil Service expense account. You’ve slept with him countless times in your dreams, mutual attraction clearly obvious. It could be far, far worse: as tests go, there are more painful ways to pass. Champagne chills on the table but she goes to the mini bar, pulling out a bottle of water, which makes Bond almost pout.
‘You’re not even going to try and pretend you’re getting drunk on my behalf?’
‘Why would I need a stimulant to do this?’
‘Because that’s the only way I got through this part of the Training successfully.’
‘Correct me if I’m wrong, but the plan in situations like this is to dictate your own terms as much as possible, yes?’
‘You’re stronger than I thought, I just didn’t want to think at all.’
‘Well I hate to break it to you but I’ve spent too many nights where drunken sex was the only thing I was lucky to get, and it was beyond woeful. Frankly, I think I deserve better.’
‘And you do, I’m sorry. I just thought you might find it easier if-‘
‘The only way this gets easier is if you lie about sleeping with me and then you leave, which I know won’t happen, because we both understand what’s at stake here.’
Ronni decides to focus on the starters: Lobster Thermidor, plus caviar and blinis. There are most definitely more painful ways to spend an evening than with a man who does a job you’ve always wanted. A chance to pick his brains, to learn all you can from the undisputed top dog. There were far worse paths to casual sex too, especially if that meant in the morning you’d finally achieved your objective after just over six months of preparation.
‘It occurs to me I at least need to try and spend some time in control. I should be sober so I remember everything if required to recount details, however painfully embarrassing that might be. But, I am hungry. In that regard this evening might not end up as a total disaster.’
He is watching her closely, eyes following to the table: picking up a blini and nibbling, hand hovering underneath should any stray eggs escape. The combination isn’t something she’s ever tried and the taste is a surprise, far more palatable than expected. She could get used to eating like this.
‘My predecessors used to smuggle caviar out of the Soviet Union, selling it to hotels like this at a premium. Then Whitehall got wind of the practice and cornered the market. That how the Barracks got converted at the end of the 70’s, all thanks to the Government conceding that sometimes you play both sides against the other and reap the benefits.’
Ronni smiles, imagining the Home Office with sidelines in contraband, as Bond comes to stand next to her and picks up another hors d’oeuvre. She expects him to eat but instead offers it to her, hand hovering tantalisingly close to mouth as she takes it in a single bite. There is absolutely no doubt in her mind that as partners go for a night of commitment-free sex, this is as good as it gets.
Perhaps if she just relaxed, everything would work out brilliantly regardless.
The bottle of champagne remains largely undrunk, last bottle of water from the minibar emptied and binned as Ronni puts down her spoon, poached pears sitting very comfortably on the rest of the meal. The atmosphere had gone from guarded to careful, breaking down to convivial as the duck with cranberry jus reminded her of a particularly good night at the Embassy in Washington. She found herself willingly telling 007 the story of how, whilst drunk, she’d stumbled into the men’s bathroom and found the assistant attaché in flagrante with a male colleague. Ronni then admitted she wished for far more sexual experimentation in her youth, but the job had got its claws into her rather comprehensively first.
Bond countered with the story of how he’d been tortured after the incident at Casino Royale, that his antagonist had found a very personal and male way of trying to get what he wanted, and Ronni winces as she is grateful for having vital equipment on the inside, that being a woman could still end up as an advantage. He’s more relaxed now than she’s ever seen before, task becoming considerably less challenging with every passing moment.
‘I should point out I’ve not actually tested my equipment since you punched me in the balls. This evening could end up backfiring regardless of your efforts.’
‘You mean your CIA assistant-?’
‘Completely cold shouldered me. Made it clear in no uncertain terms she had absolutely no interest in my body, or indeed my mind. She also threatened to shoot me if I tried, and I believe she would have done so without a second thought. She’s the reason I’m still not back on the Roster.’
Bond’s suddenly up and heading for the minibar and Ronni grasps he’s finally hankering for harder alcohol than the champagne, which he’s had a glass of but no more. There’s vodka inside, but no vermouth. She wonders if he’ll drink it neat until he returns with a tumbler filled with ice, pouring the last two small bottles in one efficient motion.
‘You’re slacking, Ashby, that fridge is empty. You need to be covered for far more eventualities than you are.’
‘Am I likely to get shot in a Central London hotel any time soon?’
‘No, but there’s a good chance you’re going to be asked to kill the man in 426 and as a result you should be prepared for anything.’
‘I’m not supposed to discuss active assignments, 007. You know the rules.’
‘So remind me why we are both here again?’
‘To bury my final demon: intimacy. That’s what all this is about. That’s why they sent you.’
Bond sinks the vodka in one mouthful, standing between her and the future, staring as she gets up: considering how it should go down, because the sooner this is beaten the easier it will be for them both. He doesn’t move, glass hanging in hand, and Ronni understands that there is no point in waiting around. She is kissing him before there is a chance to either move or react, long and slow, enjoying the feel of alcohol in his mouth and wishing there had been a glass of something to take the edge off the nerves. She doesn’t pull away either, instead extending the kiss as the arm with the glass wraps around her waist, shudder as cold from the ice hits exposed skin on her back.
He keeps her there, pinned, tumbler moving across and up her backbone before she panics, digging nails into his forearm in retaliation, breaking them apart.
His eyes are wide, clearly shocked at the response.
‘As I said on several occasions, I’ve never enjoyed pain.’
‘I’m not a great lover of cold. For the record.’
‘I think we’ve both learnt something, then.’
She takes the glass, hands shaking, placing it on the table: about to respond with a longer apology his hand is at her face pulling mouths together, rendering her breathless. She doesn’t try and release herself, letting him explore with tongue for as long as he wants, enjoying how it feels when the other hand again seeks out her back. Warm acceptance fuses them closer, until eventually he has to surface. Face inches from hers, eyes brightest of blues, he won’t stop staring so she chooses to focus on his mouth, and understands that of all the things Q could have asked, this really will be the least painful assignment of all.
‘What do you enjoy, Mr Bond?’
‘An equal partner. A willing combatant. The chance to learn.’
‘Aren’t you supposed to teach me?’
‘Only if I know what you enjoy to begin with.’
Ronni can feel body beginning to react to proximity, surprise that she’s able to become aroused in a high-pressure situation, understanding that this is a way to make things work. Without thinking his shirt is pulled from trousers, need to explore bare skin for herself. He reacts, moving closer, eyes widening with what can’t be deception but relaxation. She can do this, make it work, and maybe retain sanity to boot.
‘Show me what you crave.’
His whispered request then completely takes the wind from her, moving power tantalisingly out of her grasp, breaking the embrace. Hands cover eyes and Ronni tries to rein in sudden panic, desperate attempt to remain capable. His lips brush her ear, gentlest of whispers never a threat, calm incarnate.
‘Ronni, just let me help you, because that’s all I want to do.’
Before she can turn his body is wrapped around her shaking form, face pressed into hair, hands resting on her stomach, and there Bond stops. Ronni waits, suddenly expectant, and understands this isn’t enough: fear is being eaten by need at a rapid rate. His hands have to touch not rest, desire demanding ministration as she pushes lower body into his, feeling an erection all too obvious. That settles it, she can at least make him hard, that has to count for a mark somewhere and the second her brain reconciles this situation as an assessment, everything changes.
Bond must register this too as he moves away, before there is the lightest of touches, mouth on small of back, same place where the ice made her shudder, as hands shift and caress lower body. His lips travel up her vertebrae and she can’t move, rooted to the spot. The line is traced from tail to neck, until she gives up and lets his hands remove bra and shirt, touch everywhere and not enough before his breath moves across cheek and into her brain.
‘There is no easy way to do this, and there never will be. Use me.’
James makes this seem so horribly simple, because it is, the easiest thing in the world. Her jeans have gone, underwear too, and he lifts her off the floor in one efficient motion before depositing her almost too delicately on the bed’s edge. Ronni is shaking, watching the man closing curtains and sending the room into darkness, before returning still worryingly clothed, and then she dimly registers he has no intention at all of dominating and that intentions truly are genuine.
He wants to help, but in the end I have to do this myself.
‘Show me how I make you happy.’
As he kneels Bond’s words eats away at rationality, that control is the key to everything: who wins, who loses, who survives. This is not a request to secede; simply an agent requiring an objective. She thinks about the last time anything in a bedroom was enjoyable, and is forced into dreams for the prompt: his hand placed on her sex, points where there needs to be friction. He won’t break eye contact and it’s incredible, slowest of movements until three fingers move inside and his thumb begins to massage her clitoris. Only then does it stop being business, nothing matters now except the pleasure.
Her hands go unconsciously to breasts, replaced moments later by his mouth: first he sucks, then gently nips with teeth. Pain is something she could live with: as he switches sides, the lower half of her body shudders, and everything awakens at once, sharp brilliance at the movements and sensations combined. It could be anybody, it doesn’t matter. All that concerns is the final result. Suddenly there needs to be pressure: he registers the shift, pushing her back onto the bed as mouth replaces thumb and there’s no way Ronni can stop the gasps escaping. Once she cries there are others in its place, slow stream of reactions that is building to the inevitable, if only she can get him to move just a little… and he does, licking changes to a hum and pleasure hits with beautiful force, reducing body to a shuddering mass of nerve endings as the wave finally recedes.
She lies in shock, not sure of the last time an orgasm occurred with a man. Grasping the extent of what’s been sacrificed to come this far she quickly registers he’s gone, grabbing jacket and about to leave. That’s not how this works, and now she understands why.
Ronni lets him get as far as the door before making the next move.
‘This doesn’t have to be over.’
He stares, body language clearly uncertain: something has changed. Not in her, but him. She did as told, used him, but that suddenly isn’t enough. Bond’s part in proceedings would never have been simply passive. She’s got to show her capability, not just acquiesce to his.
‘You’ve passed. I’ve done what I was sent to do.’
Ronni doesn’t believe him, for the first time since they’ve met, understands without question that she’s being lied to for a reason. It isn’t just what he wants, now about what she has to do to keep control. There are rules: learn them, be ready to play any situation that arose.
‘You were the one who wanted an equal partner. I still owe you.’
Bond doesn’t move as she gets up and locks the door, before pushing him gently against the wall: undoing each shirt button with deliberate care, instilled with the confidence his hand and mouth have provided. She sucks each nipple in turn, watching his eyes close: he can’t watch as belt is undone and trousers and underwear drop to the floor. Ronni suppresses a smile as hand caresses a more than generous set of genitalia: unsurprising when there’s this level of comfort with his sexuality. The last time she’d done this there’d been far too much alcohol and not enough care, so Ronni makes sure that mouth and tongue move slowly and purposefully on glans until finally there’s a sound, lowest of moans, and she tries to repeat the movement to elicit more. His crotch begins to push against her mouth and Ronni knows the orgasm is coming before it happens, shudder in his body continuing long after she gets up and walks back into the room.
The champagne has lost a measure of fizz as she drinks from the bottle, alcohol washing taste away. She stands and breathes, anticipation almost painful: aware this will now go one of two ways. He’ll leave or this ends up as everything. For a while there is nothing but her own body’s expectation until the unmistakable sound of clothes being removed confirms her desire: thrill in lower body rapidly overtakes everything, becomes all that matters in the moment. What scared so much in her dreams is exactly what is needed right now, and she’ll get it from him. A desperate mouth is on hers before she can speak, naked limbs binding, undiminished erection brushing her sex. The need inside, so much and so fast almost blinds, radiating pleasure inescapably acute. Ronni pulls them to the edge of the bed and almost pushes him back before James makes her wait: breathing so hard her chest hurts, looking at him finally as a stranger, simply means to the end.
You and he are the same. This is every moment lived well, and as if it is your last. It is the true reward for giving your life to keep others safe. You will learn what he teaches and wield it as the most potent and damning of weapons.
‘You understand now?’
‘Let’s see if I do.’
She plays him well: only one stroke is required to fill her completely, riding as he pushes beneath, pinned to the bed. She squeezes internally making eyes widen, mouth soundlessly reacting as she uses his body to hit the spot inside that tickles and itches, until that repetition too becomes all-consuming. She’s close to something far more powerful than the outside of her body can ever supply: desperation is simply met with more persistence, muscles flexing too, sighs becoming cries and the orgasm hits her with such force that her whole body shudders around him, power of friction making her lose rhythm and focus. Suddenly he moves beneath, reversing their positions, thrusting as she continues to shake, his climax hitting just as hers begins to recede.
In a world where timing is everything, he knows instinctively when to make the last move, and their performance is complete. Then he kisses with a thoroughness that she knows will be missed when it’s gone, still buried inside, making no effort to withdraw. There is a union that extends beyond their flesh, cementing of a connection that’s been coalescing for months. Two halves of the same whole, solid and immutable, combined power unshakeably secure.
Finally, they are both at rest, and it is done.
‘That was unbelievable. How are you feeling?’
‘Come on James, you know the rules: never discuss active assignments with anybody, however intimate you are with them.’
She can’t stop the smile and squeezes with internal muscles she’s been working hard to improve, enough to make him gasp, as he rolls them onto their sides. All the lessons learned will always be remembered, and she never stops, not until the day they prize the gun from her cold, dead hands. Though, if she had the choice, this is how she’d choose to die, in flagrante preferably with someone she’d just worn out after a particularly amazing evening.
‘Well, technically we’re between assignments. I’m wondering if I’ll need to reschedule anything to cover what I suspect will be some additional workload. Because I’m thinking now you’ve got the hang of this, you’ll want to keep practising.’
‘I’ll be honest, I’m wondering how long I have to do this to ensure I pass. I’m happy to spend as long as is needed.’
‘This isn’t just your test to fail, it’s mine too. The Service think I’m unable to do my duty for Queen and Country after my brush with the CIA, deliberately unwilling to combine business and pleasure. I’m just proving I can lie better than you can.’
‘I wasn’t lying, I’d just forgotten the importance of rewards for progress. That won’t happen again.’
‘It won’t if you make sure I’m continually aware of what’s required to keep you happy.’
‘The real truth in all of this is that Q’s watching the whole thing at home on his laptop, right?’
‘If that’s true, then maybe we ought to give him a good evening’s worth of footage to enjoy.’
They kiss, still joined: Ronni feels him hardening, stamina impressive. Always an overachiever, never willing to relinquish the last word. She doesn’t care, all that matters is his mouth and hands and the care with which she is lifted into his lap, eyes wide as she rides him again, knowing that this way the strongest wills make the best combatants. James wants this, as does she: everything else is irrelevance, except their mutual pleasure.
If she fails the assignment, it will not be for the want of trying.