WARNING: This passage contains adult and sexual situations.
That night, Ronni dreams she’s on the back of the Bonneville: it’s not Scott driving but Bond, waking her suddenly in a sweat.
Lying in the dark she remembers Redgrave’s warmth, breathless intimacy between them, only time she’d ever felt special or truly wanted. That’s never going to happen again, and certainly not with somebody she works with.
Aware from conversations with the trio of ex-Field Agents that all of them had succumbed over time, Grace to at least two 007’s, she finds herself wondering in the dark how these men manage to charm as they do. Is it simply a notion of power? Does the job generate excessive sexuality making a designation attractive to anyone and everyone? The latter might have some mileage: considering how the Barracks had reacted to her the previous lunchtime suggested that this would be a way forward.
The problem is that Ronni still can’t reconcile the appearance of power and control with what her body would then be forced to do. She wonders if perhaps this is because it’s been so long since she actually had sex: it might be an idea to start trying to change that and see if this was the problem. After all, she only kept her shooting skills at peak with daily practice. However, on reflection, this really shouldn’t be necessary. Other 00 designations however might think differently.
It’s 3.25am and there’s no point trying to get back to sleep: maybe it is wiser to prepare for the first day of mission work proper and have done with it. She dresses in the dark and sits on the edge of her bed, going over personal details, cover story she has to be capable of recounting as well as her own life history to ensure the undercover position is secure. Make-up is completed, longer skirt with a slit the better choice, and she’s out of the door as the sun comes up, walking ten minutes from this Hotel to the one that now employs her, bastion of British gentility that will be base of operations for the foreseeable future.
She is introduced at the early staff meeting as Julie Fisher and uses nerves as an excuse but can’t be completely hopeless at convincing because by 9.30 she’s on first name terms with everyone in the kitchen. Sam, Emilio and Marco invite her to share the remains of the morning’s leftovers; progress is made when by lunchtime she’s being asked for a drink after shift. Sam’s interest in her is immediate and intoxicating: whip thin, tattoos everywhere, he is the perfect example of the kind of man Ronni never normally crossed paths with yet found incredibly attractive. She allows herself to flirt, and is amazed when, at the end of the evening, he kisses the inside of her wrist with a delicacy that sets every nerve on fire.
Moving into staff accommodation the following week, Emilio carries her bags out of the service lift. There is brief paranoia that cases could open and the Walther could spill out, but that’s probably healthy. He’s married, kid on the way, and is perennially helpful: Ronni decides to use him as her point man. Trusted with a lot of information as his brother works on the Reception desk, this is an easy choice. It’s not hard to get the man to open up either, relationship with a heavily pregnant wife difficult because of the extra hours he’s working. Ronni is grateful for the lessons learnt, to manipulate without it being obvious: people simply end up wanting to confide what needs to be known. She ID’s a woman at breakfast at the end of her first week who the Metropolitan Police pick up the same day before lunch, wanted for multiple counts of passport fraud, and finally there is a glimmer of hope, to begin to start making a difference with the training.
Two days later, a flashpoint comes in the loading area behind the kitchens: she discovers Sam in an alcove, forcing one of the Chinese maids to fellate him, clearly under considerable duress. When he pulls a knife the training takes over and he’s unconscious before there’s a chance for resistance. The woman isn’t interested in pressing charges, already illegally working three jobs, but Emilio has Sam’s room cleared in under an hour as the police take him into custody. It transpires that the man’s part of a gang the Met has been targeting for drug distribution, and so Ronni’s again congratulated: knowing Sam’s employers will not be best pleased, she is conscious of being on guard.
Walking back to the Barracks the next afternoon, Ronni instinctively knows she is being followed. The Walther is in her room because she doesn’t want to use it, aware that all these weeks worth of hard work could be for nothing: in training there’d never been more than two guys at once and because the three shadowing aren’t going to expect resistance, that’s already an advantage. When there’s a hand on her mouth before being bundled down an alley she decides on minimal struggle, reminder that not fighting is sometimes the best way to gain an advantage. Their tattoos confirm the suspicion: Sam’s ‘friends’ have arrived to exact their version of revenge for her actions.
Only when two assailants are restraining her and the other begins to unzip his jeans comes the concession in Ronni’s mind that sex is pretty much what motivates everything, and that’s not how to operate if there’s ever an opportunity to avoid it. None of her attackers remain conscious long enough to register anything, anger at these men’s notion of punishment enough to ensure nobody comes up once she has them on the ground. When the Police vehicle arrives thirty seconds after the last one’s head has been slammed into the alleyway wall, Ronni realises her back had been covered all along.
Returned to Barracks, Frasier is the Medic on call who sits and stitches the wound on her neck: two of the three were carrying knives and Ronni hadn’t even noticed. There were Tetanus shots to have and a police report to be filed, but Q insisted she did one and not concern herself with the other. Apparently he had the whole incident on CCTV anyway. Maybe Ronni should worry every waking moment was under surveillance, but not today.
She drinks tea from Q’s mug as concession he cares, thinking about Sam’s lips on the inside of her wrist, when 007 does the genie trick in a tuxedo that’s impressive even by his standards.
‘I hear you beat up some more bad guys. That’s four now?’
‘I’m not keeping count, but clearly you are. Let me guess, you were just passing?’
‘The English National Opera is just over there, so as a matter of fact I was.’
‘Ah yes, tonight is the Royal Gala. You taking someone from the Department?’
‘I asked Moneypenny, she declined my invitation. Apparently it’s finals night for some reality TV show.’
‘She can’t record it?’
‘I think I know by now when I’m being intentionally friend-zoned, Ashby. Don’t rub it in.’
Despite herself she laughs at him, because suddenly here’s the field agent who needs cheering up, that this was ironic considering Bond’s normally the boy all the good girls want. Except here he is again, at her door, standing close enough to allow appreciation of the hint of Issey Miyaki. This isn’t his usual scent, but her favourite and suddenly Ronni feels the power in the room shift into her hands.
‘It’s a good thing for you that Q’s got your back.’
‘They were all unconscious before the Police arrived. I had it covered. What, you’re going to warn me now that undercover work is dangerous?’
Waiting for the comeback he’s frozen, staring in a manner that isn’t so much odd as surprising. His hand goes to her head, tracing scar that remains, injury sustained in the last bout of sparring that he had finally conceded had been on truly equal terms. The touch is so light, delicacy that makes her shiver at the care, understanding why body should never control your actions.
‘Everything’s dangerous, especially you.’
‘Should I take that as a compliment?’
‘Absolutely you should. You’re the most competent and accomplished field agent I’ve ever had the privilege to work with.’
‘You know, that’s the sort of opening that could be construed as an overture to something else.’
‘From anybody else, but absolutely not from me. You deserve far more respect than that.’
Now the room’s oppressive, and Ronni’s aware of a tension created that Bond is fighting to control. I know what you want: this is how it would have begun for Moneypenny and all those other women. A moment of conflict, diffused with first hand, then mouth… watching him handsomely torn, unable to cross the line. She could let him in, would be the easiest thing in the World, but then everything she stood for would be shattered, destroyed by a moment of weakness he’s fighting to contain and she has totally under control.
Well, that’s almost true.
‘I don’t know anyone else with your strength, and it frightens me.’
‘No it doesn’t. This isn’t fear. I just don’t understand why you choose to treat me differently. What’s the problem?’
‘What you want, what I could provide… it’s not my job to. You have to ask.’
‘I don’t understand.’
‘Trust me, it won’t be long now. Then you may end up hating everything you stand for.’
He almost runs from the room, leaving Ronni alone and empty, wondering what horrors Q has yet to make her face.
She stands hours later in the hotel room’s shower, pushing face to tile, trying to leech some of the heat from her body, but failing. Today she realised that with all the training in the world, there was a part of Veronica Ashby that wasn’t ready for the 00 designation. She could use sexuality as a weapon, and there would come a point where this was the only option, possibly to save her own life, but not now. Bond can switch gears without a thought, slip effortlessly between personas. She however, has a lot to learn. In the end she’d rather kill someone than sleep with them, and ultimately that would be bad for business.
It takes forever to get comfortable in bed, desire refusing to leave but finally sleep takes her. It is impossible to escape his influence, however hard she tries.
Bond has worked his way inside her body despite the belief he could be resisted.
She’s back in the Barracks, before the interview, and 007 is inches from her face, staring at her mouth, rendering body incapable. Suddenly his hand is on her hip, stuff of the dress being pulled up, fingers travelling down under g-string and over pubis, thumb beginning to stimulate an already swollen clitoris. The wave washes up her back, shudder of pleasure as lower body ignites, trying so hard not to break eye contact as legs begin to shake. Ronnie’s hand suddenly moves to his face and pulls them together, kissing so hard that mouth hurts…
The alarm won’t go away, insistent beeping, and Ronni can’t separate anything accurately, missing clock and instead sweeping phone off the cabinet to her right. Eventually the alarm is silenced and she lies, feeling the knot of unreleased pressure below the waist, sexuality demanding attention in a way she can’t remember for a long time… until her brain is conscious enough to grasp the problem.
It doesn’t have to be Bond: he really is a metaphor, simply the nearest convenient truth.
She’s forgotten how to enjoy herself: on this journey losing an understanding of how that equated to her own body. Crucially, Ronni’s not controlled by the same forces a male agent would be to begin with, pure biology their weakness and her overriding strength. Up until now there has been a concession, there is no need to assert power: concerned only with her task, with little thought for personal reward. That’s what sex ends up being in this game: a way to define control, means to an end, which you may as well enjoy along the way. Bond can do his job and indulge in fringe benefits without either derailing the task in hand. Ronni however has ignored one to the benefit of the other, but would need the ability trained just as much as her surveillance or small arms skills.
Looking at the clock she doesn’t have time to deal with her arousal or this revelation, already late, and has to be at the Lab in an hour. At some point she should take a trip into Soho on a pretence and do something constructive about the female frustration. If Ronni were to believe Q’s assertions the night before she really wasn’t under permanent surveillance, so finding a shop to buy a suitable item would be far easier than attempting to order anything to help her over the Internet.
Lying in the rapidly lightening room, the revelation hits of planning to purchase sex toys for field practice on government time. At least if caught doing it, she can claim it as a legitimate expense.
Ronni doesn’t stop laughing for quite some time.