DEFAULT :: Part Forty-Five

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SIX


Life has become a series of random moments with transportation as the constant: Bond likes to imagine them set to music, as if this were some sweeping drama in which he is simply an extra and never the lead. Today that means Ride of the Valkyries as this RAF Merlin helicopter skirts a still sleeping Thai coastline, heading to a hastily-rescheduled debriefing on HMS Ocean. Felix looks decidedly queasy opposite, holding far too tightly to the support straps, while 007 is the undisputed owner of controlled yet dismissive languor. He hates flying with a passion, mostly because in 90% of cases he’s not the one behind the stick. If he pushes the point and can sit up front, it becomes a tolerable distraction. The desire to do so has slowly begun to rise, as that allows total control and no-one else in the equation. Next time, he’ll pull rank and do just that.

Things get considerably more bearable when he spies Moneypenny in McQueen on the deck of the carrier, Charlie LaCroix’s nondescript khaki shorts plus Hawaiian shirt amazingly not an utter fashion disaster. Bond is smiling despite himself, as realisation dawns there’s pleasure seeing them both, that this means after refuelling and meetings there’ll be conversation and catchup on the way to their final rendezvous. Travelling with both will be good for everyone.

Stepping out of the Merlin, Moneypenny salutes as is correct, because he outranks her. It’s become something of a standing joke between them, and Bond can’t help but grin as formal becomes a hug that’s been sorely missed.

‘At ease, Moneypenny and who told Charlie that shirt was a good idea?’

‘I did. I bought it for him because he could do with expanding his horizons. He’s not the only one.’

Eve stares at Bond with a look he’s fairly certain isn’t genuine contempt, sudden wish there was something other than the uniform to fall back on in such situations.

‘Don’t let women dress you, 009, it’ll undoubtedly end in tears.’

‘You’re better attired than anyone I know, 007, I think maybe you’re setting the standard too high for the rest of us.’

Charlie’s handshake gets more confident with each meeting and Bond’s watching Felix reacquainting himself with solid ground and 003, more pleasure at both than he’d expect from an ex CIA operative. These people were far more emotional and distinct than 007 had ever realised: had it always been this way? At what point had this job stopped being simply a means to an end? Perhaps they weren’t the problem: maybe he’d never taken the time to notice their frailties before. When he thinks about how pale and tense Ronni had seemed even over a camera the night before…

‘James?’

Eve is staring, head tipped, and this is the moment to share specifically edited news of his conversation over the uplink with the group.

‘I spoke to Veronica last night.’

At the use of her name Charlie is immediately alert: Bond understands that he’ll be quizzed by various people on what took place. It is effortless to remove emotion from the situation, but her fragility bothers him, even in the heat of early morning. Waking alone never used to be an issue, but now there’s a preferable alternative, that ought to be the default.

‘How’s 004 doing?’

‘Not well. She’s struggling mentally, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about her welfare. Now we know where Christian is heading, I’m going to suggest to London they let her and Q come home.’

‘I’ll happily second that, we really need them both back with us, assuming the plan now is to go for Spectre’s throat. Oh, and for the record? You’re really lucky to have Ronni here to save your ass. I promised her I’d tell you that and I have, and now I need more caffeine to get through Tanner’s debrief than I suspect this boat’s currently carrying.’

Taking the luggage without a word, Leiter’s already steering LaCroix away, smile reminding that payment remains due for standing ‘guard’ the night before. The noise of the Carrier’s only brief distraction: Eve takes his hand, pulling 007 away from activity plus the previous evening’s concerns, back to their moment.

‘She’s going to be fine, and we’ll all support the move to push for her return. You said it yourself, she’s stronger than all of us. Ronni will cope, and be back before you know it.’

‘I never really considered the consequences of this life before until it got taken out of my hands. I hate not being able to help her.’

‘But you do, without even realising. Without you, she’s just not complete. That’s why this relationship works so well.’

Bond wants to ask at what point his life became public property, but already knows the answer. What is required now is free time and privacy, and neither will be forthcoming in the immediate future. However he is an expert at patience, and will wait, doing his utmost to get Ronni in from the field as soon as is conceivably possible.


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OBLIGATORY DISCLAIMER:

Everything related to James Bond (007) belongs to Eon Productions and Danjaq LLC, except the bits in here that are mine and I made up. I get how this works.

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