The doctor has done her job and Ronni sits on the Infirmary trolley, too tired to move. The heat of a powerful shower had drained the last energy away and all she wants now is sleep, but knows they’ll want to begin debriefing as soon as is conceivably possible. Stubborn dirt remains under broken and cracked fingernails, scars on hands and arms from climbing; foraging injuries that will eventually fade but remain, irritating memories of the time away. After the reunions and hugs she’s uncomfortable, itching to be isolated and quiet but aware there’s a push to socialise, because of so long effectively alone. Except nobody comes, and Ronni begins to think maybe she’s dreaming the calm. The last few days are a broken mind’s deception: still out in the field, all this the result of sleep deprivation.
Bond’s genie trick therefore is welcome surprise: watching from the treatment room entrance whilst holding a large, wide mug in his hands. The flight suit is gone, replaced by what looks like indigo Burberry; designer change that suits his frame. The waistcoat accentuates chest and waist that are undoubtedly leaner and more toned beneath the layers than she’s ever seen, and even in the depths of fatigue an ache below her waist reminds he arouses in a manner no-one else has ever managed. The smell from the mug takes her back to the Barracks as kindness is presented, handing over milky sweetness before watching her drink. It’s perfect temperature too, beyond tempting to empty the thing in one, as it tastes so divine…
James watches, considering a thought it takes some time to finally vocalise.
‘I used to sleepwalk as a boy. Skyfall wasn’t exactly child friendly to begin with, my mother tried lots of ways to help me relax before bedtime. This was the one that worked best. My father bought the Vanilla pods back when he travelled. That smell’s always helped make things better.’
He’d never, ever mentioned parents in all their time together: Ronni stares with the understanding that somewhere between East London and here their relationship had fundamentally altered. With the last of the milk finished, Bond takes away mug before scooping her off the trolley, carrying a beyond exhausted frame to one of the private rooms. The low metal bed he then places her on is the most comfortable thing Ronni can remember for a very long time.
‘They can debrief after you’ve slept. If anyone wants you before then, they’ll have to come through me. Take all the time you need.’
‘Since when did you start making policy?’
‘When you became my personal responsibility and I determined you’re incapable of doing anything except this.’
‘Did I miss another briefing?’
‘No, I’m just making sure you understand just how grateful I am for you saving my life.’
‘Please, don’t leave.’
Ronni is suddenly, inescapably afraid: Bond stares straight into a weary soul, forehead pressed to hers: enough contact to reassure, knowing he’d never take advantage if she’s not in control of herself. Jacket comes off without a word, Bally Oxfords slipped from his feet before lying down, wrapping himself around the body in a flimsy blue gown. There James lies, breath warm on her neck, as Ronni settles into this most willing of embraces.
‘I’m not going anywhere, I promise.’
‘You any idea how amazing you smell?’
‘It’s a good thing you weren’t here last night, I ate garlic everything. I will admit however I made an effort, knowing you’d sleep better.’
‘Your application to task is laudable.’
‘As you and Eve are defining metrics for female agents in the field, I need to be alert. I’m guessing on their return not all of them would want to be held.’
‘I wouldn’t bet on that.’
‘I’m sorry I didn’t come sooner.’
‘Your timing has always been impeccable. Don’t ever change…’
His smell and touch are all that are needed, understanding that this is the safest she will ever be. Ronni gets that however much he may arouse, trust was what mattered more, in the end. When she woke, it would be the first time they’d just slept together without sex.
That thought alone is enough to send her to unconsciousness at peace.
Bond registers relaxation, snuggling as limbs finally soften, and is suddenly conscious of just how exhausted Ronni really is. All the training in the world never prepares for the moment when you realise the game is out of your hands, and for large periods of her time in Italy, Flemmings had run on empty. He understands now just how much that might have cost, and that even with their virtual tryst this is not the same woman he knew before. The memory of Monte Carlo surfaces, night he’d grasped that she had become for Christian the focus of an increasingly demented obsession. That time needs to be dealt with by them both, but only with lots of space and comfort, on their own terms. That was the side to espionage nobody glamorised or wrote about, focus that created mental damage that could often sit for decades without detection.
He’d never wanted to talk about his family with anyone, and yet situation drew the memory out. Bond listens to her sleep and wonders at the ethics of giving a sedative without permission, but knows only too well that at the first loud noise or sudden movement she’s awake, and the rest so badly craved just won’t happen. It’s not the first time he’s done this and it won’t be the last, yet this time as the micro hypodermic breaks skin there is no shake to his hands. A mental note however is made to tell Ronni what happened, and that if she decides in future this isn’t warranted, he won’t follow protocol.
When breathing softens further, confidence allows slow and measured extrication.
He’s lacing the second shoe when Q appears, in French army fatigues, staring with a fear Bond isn’t sure he’s ever seen from the Quartermaster. He’s lost weight too since the last time they met, and follows the man out to the Infirmary without a word.
‘Shouldn’t you be resting?’
‘I needed to check Veronica was alright before I had dinner with Alex.’
‘I just gave her a sedative. I’d suggest you take the same so at least you get uninterrupted sleep.’
‘Indeed, I am aware of the studies. I am also conscious of how attached we have both become to 004.’
Only now does Bond realise that the young man is shaking and without a thought is steering him to a trolley, helping him up to sit. Q has to hold his hands together, struggling to vocalise the concern.
‘It was my call. I knew I wouldn’t be safe without her on the ground, not with you immobilised. I had no idea of the consequences all this would cause.’
‘You did the right thing, genuinely, of all the people you could have picked to protect you Ronni was absolutely the best to have at your side. She’s a far more accomplished 00 than I’ve ever been because she actually cares. I realise now just how selfish I’ve been over the years, because it was simply easier than having to deal with the emotional fallout.’
‘But at what cost to her, 007? How does she survive?’
‘That’s what she has us for. That’s the job we do for each other. Being alone is no longer an acceptable way of living this life, because the consequences are simply too horrendous to consider. You taught me that, and she gives a chance to redeem a workable future from the gutted shell of my past. Thank you.’
Q stares, and Bond understands that this has stopped simply being about professionalism and has become something more significant. He’s never done male affection well and knows why: his father never showed any, foster father far too much. As he’ll have no son or heir to inherit Skyfall’s ashes, maybe he could move the path of destiny on his own, and so he goes and hugs Q, who promptly breaks down in his embrace. The young man cries uncontrollably into his shoulder, and then Bond truly understands just how much has been lost to Spectre’s ridiculous tirade of revenge.
It is time these theatrics finally were bought to an end.
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.