Ronni knows what it is now, undoubted feeling of terror hadn’t been at the situation, but firmly around Bond. Having to leave, even knowing how competent the man was, caused an ache in a manner she could only recall having felt when far, far younger. Despite all the best intentions, he’d not just gotten under her skin. This was something far more concerning and absolutely the wrong moment for all of it to surface, at the time when 004 needs to be at the most professional and focused. The fear that grips a disbelieving heart, sudden and unavoidable, isn’t around ability, or 007’s situation. With abrupt and inescapable amazement, Veronica registers it is not agent that matters here, but person.
James is funny, almost achingly so, and clever beyond words. A perpetual observer, yet seldom boring. The addictive personality understands danger in both alcohol and drugs, often unable to avoid their allure when pressured. Fools are never suffered, honesty welcomed and ultimately, desire embraced with enthusiasm never found the like of with anyone else… Ronni lets everything fall away until the basic truth remained: complete the mission. Locate Beam, save Bond, then worry about everything else. If you let emotion cloud even one step, the end may never be reached. Never forget what he is, however, under the 00 veneer. This man lives and breathes, makes you hurt with absence…
There is then, perhaps unsurprisingly, a knock at the bathroom door.
With no idea of how long she’s been lost in thought, Ronni’s professionalism snaps instantly back into place before getting up, opening the door and expecting Eve, certainly not anticipating Q. He holds a large mug in his hand plus an inescapably concerned look.
‘Moneypenny thought you might find it easier talking to me, so I’ve left her with Curtis now his clearances are organised. You should give Eve credit, she understands you have a lot to learn about each other. I also think 003 may have embarrassed herself by second guessing your professionalism.’
Ronni takes the drink as offered: hot milk, with a delicate, vanilla smell. There are dark spots she’ll guess are real seeds in the liquid: staring at the man with amazement, confusion is not only expected but immediately assuaged.
‘The last thing you need now is more caffeine. I’m here to help you relax, and this is not my proven method… but 007’s. Thanks to him I have vanilla pods in my bottom drawer. Tell me how you feel.’
‘Honestly, it’s like somebody’s kicked me in the chest.’
‘I can only imagine how hard it is to watch someone you care about be attacked and have to stand by helpless. Bond however is more than capable of the task Felix has asked of him, and this entire operation will hinge around all three of you being able not only to fulfil but exceed potential.’
Leading them both out of the bathroom and back to the cot, Q sits and talks whilst Ronni does the same and drinks, amazed at how much better this combination is making her feel. It isn’t just that, on reflection, but the implication behind it that is soothing a troubled soul. James’ care is beyond reproach, when everything else is stripped away. Quiet concern and genuine compassion, if you know how to expose it. As the milk works its magic, their plan moving forward is explained.
‘Let us assume for the sake of argument that the Swanns are expecting you to be sent as rescue, so if we’re going to show our hand, there will be the requirement to strike first and with force. Also, as Bond’s life is undoubtedly part of this equation? We’ll need to at least attempt inserting you to theatre with some measure of subtlety. If Monaco is where they’re heading, it will presumably co-incide with some kind of meeting, as these people also seem to like to celebrate their success in committee. I’ll set up a video link with the French as a matter of urgency. I also need to issue you with suitable field equipment, and as I’m not entirely sure I can trust our contact on the ground under current circumstances? I have a friend inside the Gendamerie. That kind of friend. I think it may be the right moment to call in a favour.’
Ronni stares as Q goes a quite delicate shade of pink. Of everyone she’d worked with, he just never mentioned any personal life out of turn. In fact, the only time there was memory of doing so was in the last days of her training. The Quartermaster’s life outside of the Barracks was subject to tighter security than most Eyes Only assignments, and 004’s curious to know more.
‘Q, I’m genuinely impressed. I always thought you were the type who never discussed their conquests.’
‘Alex was hardly a conquest. In fact, if truth be told, I was very much the submissive partner. However, I must have done something right with him, as we still talk at least once a week.’
‘Please tell me you don’t have a network of friends stretched across Europe for just such emergencies?’
‘I’ll have you know I’m the model of professionalism and decorum, but only about 90 per cent of the time. Nobody ever used to talk about sex in this place until you turned up, it was all just reward for the 00’s and then quickly forgotten. Considering my particular desires, I rather like the revolution you’ve wrought in that regard, and long may it continue. I know your professionalism is assured, trust me when I say the same for myself.’
‘The boss knew about Bond and I being intimate. Was it discussed in committee?’
Q’s not expecting this question, and spends a moment composing a response.
‘I made a call, Flemmings. As it transpires it may well have saved Bond’s life, because your influence on him has seen a marked improvement in communications. He’s the only agent currently not actively tracked too, thanks to Spectre. I was forced to deactivate his system at M’s request, and we never got around to reversing the situation. If you’d not have positively impacted his outlook-‘
‘He’d not have had the foresight to call me.’
‘I will gather further intelligence, 004, and we will hold a briefing at 1500 hours. I would suggest as you’re likely to be in the field sooner rather than later that you attempt some more sleep in the meantime. You may not have Bond here in body, but you can be most assured he remains very much in spirit.’
The man is gone and Ronni stares into the mug, suddenly aware of the depth of her task.