Secret Agent Man

Dear Daniel,

Before I go anywhere else, it’s probably an idea to admit the following and then move on.

Considering you’re stupidly famous, it is possible you’re not aware that some husbands and wives often have conversations where it is implied that should circumstances allow, and the seemingly unattainable celebrity you lust/desire/dream about were ever available for a night of commitment-free passion, you’d be granted a free pass from your spouse with no questions asked. My List, such as it is, remains fairly short, and by now you’ve guessed what’s coming. For quite a while, you used to sit at the top. However, sometime between the filming of ‘Quantum of Solace’ and ‘Skyfall’ that all changed. On considered reflection I suspect the precise shift occurred about six to nine hours after I saw Bond 23 for the first time on DVD. I was unwell, and that afternoon was a turning point for a lot of personal expectation, including a half finished attempt at redefining the Bond genre in my own mind.

In summary? You were once an object of desire, but now have become something far more significant. With the embarrassing shit out of the way? Time to explain why I’m really writing.

skyfall_eve04

I’d wanted Julian McMahon as Bond when your predecessor was effectively removed from the frame at the start of the century. I’ll grant there were excessively selfish reasons for this choice, but when you look at who else was up for the job, I think giving it to an Australian would not have been too bad a shout. I’ve been a dedicated fan of Bond since ‘Goldfinger’, fell in love with Roger Moore in the 70’s and promptly concluded that Connery was never my type. There was, I’ll freely admit, a brief flirtation with Timothy Dalton, but like so many other people I considered Pierce Brosnan the logical and natural choice to bring everyone back to the right point, where men wanted to be 007 and women needed to sleep with him, no questions asked. The character, like it or not, remained the fictional owner of a guaranteed spot on the Spousal Pass card. That is until you came along, and changed Bond into something better.

It wasn’t just the reboot of the franchise that caused this to happen, or the change in narrative direction. What you gave the agent from ‘Casino Royale’ onwards was something that had not previously existed with any incarnation of the character: fallibility. I’ll grant you, I totally understand why Barbara Broccoli gave you the nod after ‘Layer Cake.’ When you emerged from the sea in Barbados as Ursula Andress did in ‘Dr No’… honestly, you’d have to be dead not to get that you were being presented as a Bond meant to attract both sexes, but for vastly different reasons, and it worked until this version of the plot arc was finally exhausted. Once you were seen to move past Vesper Lynd’s death in ‘SPECTRE’, there was nowhere else left to go, and shoving Bond off into the sunset with a woman half his age is probably the way a lot of men would ideally choose to retire.

In all the times between, you gave Bond a set of balls he’d never owned before.

bondandq

That’s no mean feat for a genre that made its name on a hero whose whole existence was inextricably bound with misogyny. It was a label I sense that never really sat well with your incarnation either, and that alone makes all the films you leave behind vastly superior to pretty much everything Moore did after ‘Live and Let Die’ and makes Connery’s efforts post ‘You only Live Twice’ look frankly a bit dodgy. It’s ironic therefore you have so much in common with the guy nobody ever remembers in the line-up: George Lazenby. There’s a 007 who gets the girl at the end and has her snatched from him in perhaps the cruellest way possible, and it is easy to see how echoes of Diana Rigg’s immensely strong and equal to Bond in all ways portrayal of the Contessa Teresa di Vicenzo appears in Lynd and later Camille Montes.

There’s flashes of that strength in the 90’s Bond girls, undoubtedly, but honestly it takes a very long time after ‘Goldfinger’ before there is anybody who is credibly written as a genuine counter to Bond. Wei Lin in ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’ is probably the only time for me that a sense of female equality in terms of both physical and mental prowess is presented, and that’s yet to be bettered even by Eve Moneypenny in the current iteration… mostly because of that decision to stick her behind a desk at the end of ‘Skyfall.’ What your Bond has done, undoubtedly, is re-establish the canon, but equality’s still at the stage it was in the late 1990’s. We know the Chinese have agents in service, but not the Brits. Where’s the believable, confident and physically capable equal? Yeah, I know: if we had that, as one of my friends pointed out recently I’d be watching ‘Mission Impossible.’ You work alone, and it’s been that way since the late 1950’s.

Perhaps everybody could do with moving that agenda on as a matter of urgency.

8702d-skyfall_drink

If I were a betting woman, having seen the roles you’ve lined up post ‘SPECTRE’, I’d wager you’re pretty fed up of 007, and I really can’t say I blame you one iota. The last two minutes of that movie will become the epitaph to a role that, however diverse and well-acted, is likely to haunt you for the rest of your professional career, and if this were me I’d go all out to amend that. The concept of Bond is going to be extremely hard to reboot regardless: then you’ll need the right person up front to head it, and looking at the raft of ‘young’ talent on offer, honestly, nobody will do it as well as you did, because they’ll be living a lie you were the last person to successfully dispel. Maybe, after 50 years, it is finally time to call it a day for the lone wolf. It’s no wonder Eon don’t want to announce Bond 25 for a while yet.

I should point out at this juncture that I think I’m also probably done with 007 for good. Nobody’s gonna do the character the justice you’ve left as the benchmark, or equal that sense of underlying discomfort given to a character who was willing to give up everything and never allowed a chance to be happy. He just went back to the job, in the end realising that Mallory was right in ‘Skyfall’ and he should have stayed dead. The best way to leave, undoubtedly, was when Bond was on top. I’m really looking forward to seeing how you shape up in ‘Purity’ by the way: the book has a great deal of potential and in the post-Obama, internet leak/Russian hacked world we now inhabit, it could make a lot of people think. I’m also wishing I’d been in New York to see you play Iago, because I’m also fairly confident you’d have imbued that character with the true understated menace he deserves.

However, there is one other thing I should thank you for before I go, and it has nothing to do with your professional career. Without you, I would never have given Radiohead the time of day, but to know they were a band you loved was a subtle poke to my own brain to expand horizons and listen to new things. Without doubt, ‘A Moon Shaped Pool’ is now one of my favourite albums of the last ten years. Then there’s the small matter of inspiring me to write two full-length fan fictions based around the best 007 that’s ever been stuck on celluloid… which in turn has opened a door to a much larger Universe. The confidence and abilities I’ve honed in those two pieces is serving me well as I produce a novel I’m both proud and pleased with. I’m well aware of how much both those things were influenced by a character I’m betting you’d rather I shut up about now, so I will.

Oh, and for what it’s worth, I get that whole ‘fuck off, leave me alone, I’d like my privacy’ stuff more than I suspect most will. It’s not a fault, but a strength in character. Bond is the job, and it’s not you. The sooner more people realise this in the World, the better life will be for everybody, and maybe you can go have a drink from time to time in peace.

Thank you for making me a better person, regardless of the role.

Alt.

PS: I’m still jealous you got to park your arse on a DB10. There, I said it.

DEFAULT :: Part Sixty-Two

Previous section is here


London positively rejoices in the understanding that not only has Summer arrived, but it intends to remain firmly in charge of the city for as long as possible. Ronni owns no qualms over sitting in traffic either, windows open in the DB5 which was her only concession to keep as the new Poster Girl. She could have ridden the bike in, or even free run, but had worked late last night pouring over paperwork and assessments in bed. Her flat’s due for redecoration early next month, changes she’d wanted to make but never gotten around to implement, and now with the hike in salary? She could move, but there’s no point. The original accommodation that came with the promotion’s got a squatter who refuses to leave, and who’ll own the deeds outright anyway come the Autumn. Once her tenure’s done, and assuming nothing changes? She’ll just move down the river a bit and spend extremely long weekends in Scotland. Ronni’s beginning to warm to the idea of holidays in the north, especially as she can be flown there and back with the minimum of fuss.

The future, as it stands, is packed with possibilities that make her vibrate with excitement.

It’s the first time she’s been back to the Barracks since the refit was completed, and the place looks particularly well packaged with fresh paint and understated signage. Ronni parks in her space and stands, looking at the rectangle of tarmac that remains the only external concession to what she has now become. Being the first woman to hold the 007 designation might sound like the amazing made real, but in truth there’s only a few people who’ll ever get the relevance. To everybody else, she’s just the female in the suit.

That’s all she’s ever wanted to be: anonymous, yet useful.

She signs in without ceremony, new receptionist giving her scant attention. He’s more interested in social media on his phone, until registering sign-in details illuminating on screen. Then Q’s now standard issue custom unit is almost dropped in surprise; Alistair Greer is staring at her, Ronni waiting for brain to catch up with understanding.

‘Good Morning Ms Flemmings. I’m sorry, we weren’t expecting you until 10am: I have internal mail and messages for you, one moment please.’

They’d offered her full name back, but Ronni’s not bothered. The question of using Bond’s had been raised, then dismissed, because as Tanner pointed out keeping that legacy associated with the number is not anything a sane person would get involved in. Instead this is just what it always was, except the designation’s increased by three. This morning’s schedule should include a Senior Staff meeting, routine small arms assessment and then lunch with Q, because they now make the time to go to expensive London restaurants to spend their Civil Service wages on things that matter to them both. He’s standing, looking at her with amusement, wearing a Spencer Hart suit that would have been off the radar a year ago. There’s gym time too, on the quiet, she knows because the man wants to be ready for her next mission, whatever and whenever that might be.

Any chance they have to work together from now on will be seized with customary thoroughness.

‘Good morning 007. I’m going to keep referring to you by designation because I think it really does suit you. I assume you don’t have an objection?’

‘Q, you’re still in charge, so who am I to ever contradict?’

He hugs her as the receptionist returns with a file and some envelopes, handing them over with what probably passes for starstruck awe in MI6. The Quartermaster accompanies her into the large open-plan reception area, all stripped chrome and live news feeds, world running its course as they pass. Emmanuel is at his station, smiling as she acknowledges his presence, watching the growing team in Data Encryption standing front and centre, defending the country electronically. The future however is him with a gun, because she’s seen his scores and is well aware that prestigious talent won’t ever go to waste here again, not while Andrew holds the reins. Rachel dominates the whole left side of the Facility now, Lizzie her ultra efficient PA, pretending to be in charge of one thing but instead owning so much more. Her demeanour and enthusiasm is brilliant, carried with the confidence of a woman who finally found, embraced and beat the hell out of her true calling in what many would consider the twilight of her career.

Finally, they turn the corner to where M now resides full time, as he maintained that you didn’t keep the man in charge away from where the action happened. He’d sensibly given up the 1950’s for good, but this area’s less chrome and more wood and warmth. The office is still obscured, but instead of fake padding and Whitehall veneer the dividing wall is a living, breathing representation of London itself, permed from the range of security footage the Department keeps tabs on across the capital. It is an ever-changing collage of the city, alive and vibrant in an early June morning, and Ronni is temporarily distracted by the beauty of montage.

‘This wall is beyond impressive, Q. I could stand and watch for hours.’

‘I’ll do the same with the view from here.’

Bond is staring from his desk, smile her immediate reward. She’s not seen him since Friday morning, as he’d insisted on spending time acquainting himself properly with Q’s new technology suite. The glasses are a surprise too: she knew he’d been never be truly comfortable with the contacts. If he wasn’t a field agent, then it didn’t matter, besides they make him look… distracting. There is the lightest of touches to her hand and Q is gone, leaving her to wait while he goes and gets M for the Staff Meeting, and Ronni approaches one of many new mission briefs. James looks oddly comfortable sitting with his effective demotion, and that’s a surprise that will take some getting used to.

‘Good morning, 007.’

‘Bond. I approve of the eye wear.’

‘I thought you might, I’m just grateful to not have to do contacts ever again.’

‘Who knew you’d be squeamish?’

‘You live and learn, as I have in the last three days. Been a long time since I pushed myself into something new. I’m looking forward to being the unchallenged geek in this relationship.’

‘You shouldn’t do labels, they’re divisive.’

‘Knowing what you are is useful, a label helps other people understand the context. That’s why when I call you 007, everyone knows that’s their benchmark. I approve that you finally became the metaphor. I feel that, more than anything else, makes all this worthwhile.’

He makes her blush, warming body in ways that are continuing to prove both surprising and fruitful. The long-term plan is that he becomes her handler, but requires a measure of training first. He’ll also keep the desk occupied that used to be Moneypenny’s because he thought the juxtaposition sent exactly the right message to anyone in the building who didn’t grasp exactly what had changed between Spectre’s unmasking and their eventual downfall. This is the new world order not just for the Secret Service, but beyond. It is no longer about an outdated methodology or ancient beliefs: anybody, regardless of their ethnic and sexual background, was capable of doing any job.

Bond stands on cue as M appears from his office, Q at his arm, smiling with a warmth Ronni’s not seen in him before, extending hand to shake hers.

‘Good morning 007, I trust you’re comfortable with your new working space?’

‘I am sir, Q’s done a fabulous job of integrating old and new, and I am looking forward to being an operational part of process as well as in the field. I’ve taken a look at the applications for Active Consideration you sent at the weekend, there’s a lot of good to be considered in the selections.’

‘Indeed, this is possibly the best group of individuals we’ve seen for close to a decade, present company excluded. Bond, I’d also appreciate your insight on this. You can redirect calls back to reception while we’re occupied.’

Ronni’s predecessor is already two steps ahead of the boss, tablet in hand, stenography skills surprisingly adept for a man who couldn’t type with more than two fingers a month ago. That had always been his problem, serially overachieving had become something of an advantage when it came to keeping up with organisational requirements. In fact, nobody did competence now quite as efficiently or stylishly as he did.

No-one understood the importance of Secret Service evolution quite like James Bond.


FIN


Previous section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Sixty-One

Previous section is here
Next section is here


Sitting alone, surrounded by construction chaos at the unfashionable end of the Barracks, Ronni still can’t reconcile what’s being asked of her, and knows why. In the end, it was never her decision to make: knowing how she now feels for Bond, taking away what he is would be not only unfair but cruel, and yet here she is about to do just that. She’d left him asleep without guilt that morning, for the first time since their return to London, not wanting to wake him before coming here. He’d finally begun to let go, switching off outside of pressure. To disturb that would have been selfish and thoughtless, yet it makes a potent point in itself. He’d left the number back in Paris, but that wasn’t the end of the story.

Her bosses had anticipated this, as so much else. She didn’t need a form or an interview, just him to let go. The fact it hadn’t happened at home, either hers or his, was part of a plan she is vaguely aware of, events being manipulated outside of her control. James is up to something, but what this means is still nebulous, uncertain, and she’s having too much fun to push.

‘Are you ready to render me obsolete?’

Bond stands in jeans, trainers and a t-shirt she’d bought, knowing his love of Thom Yorke. He could be any average guy in his forties, nothing in this disguise that separates from the best 00 the service had created since his predecessor. Except Ronni knows better, about so much of this. All had been willingly given when asked, he’d held nothing back at all. A part of her understands why this is so hard as a result, but has never told him.

This is probably the moment when that changes.

‘I don’t want you to leave.’

His face softens, smile unhindered as he comes to sit next to her, yet with intended distance between them.

‘Is that really the truth?’

‘I have an enormous affinity to Q, and I’ll work with him in a heartbeat, but I never really got to be with you at length in the field, and if you walk away from the number that’s it, there’s no chance to change your mind.’

‘It would matter to you if I did?’

‘I just wish… this hadn’t been so personal, all of it. I never began this journey to be the centre of attention. I just wanted to be something, without the need to be labelled or categorised, and in the end that’s all it was ever going to be. I’m just sad we never had the chance to be a true professional partnership.’

‘What if it had ruined what we are becoming now?’

‘You think it could have happened?’

‘After a while, it had to be a possibility. Q knew how much trouble Maddy could cause, they were already preparing to deal with it after Blofeld died. I was the one who ruined everything. I’m sorry I didn’t realise that sooner.’

‘So what happens if I take the number?’

When you take it I compensate. Same way I always have. Except this time, I show how much you matter to me.’

Then something happens to him, and Ronni is reminded of their first meeting at Carnagie. Back then, he’d been sent to make her stronger. Now this decision allows Bond the dignity to let go. For a man who thrived on symbolism and gesture, doing this here mattered far more than she’d ever really grasped. This could become an opportunity for him to make a difference in another fashion, that the job can be more than simply self destruction and despair. The fact he’ll wait for her is still something hard to believe, because if the right woman came along there’s a good chance he’d revert to type. Except since that week in Paris there’d been an undoubted change, desire sublimated into something else. This is still a need, yet with understanding that’s part of a larger picture.

‘You have a plan?’

‘Do you honestly think I just make this up as I go along?’

‘Sometimes, I have my doubts.’

‘Well, in this case, I have your back, and then some. Stop failing to fulfil your potential, Flemmings. Go tell M and Q you’re the senior 00 in the field.’

The last word is his; undoubted ego, suitably assuaged.

He doesn’t touch her, wandering away with a casual confidence that tells Ronni he knows how this goes down. If there is a plan for the future he’s not yet shared it, but it won’t be hard to illicit the truth, because when returning at the end of the day to his flat to share news of a promotion, he’ll insist on celebrating, and this time there’ll be no need to refuse the offer. She’ll want to lose herself inside calm, quiet confidence that won’t ever do anything but reassure a troubled mind.

Taking his number really is the best thing she’ll ever do for them both.


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Sixty

Previous section is here
Next section is here



EPILOGUE



The Barracks is in chaos, but this time
as part of a larger plan.

With the site of Milbank now scheduled for redevelopment as both park and outdoor theatre, celebrating the previous M’s love of Shakespeare, there is a need to upgrade a building that has remained largely untouched structurally since the late 1970’s. Money was approved without even a whimper from Westminster, mostly due to the French offering considerable assistance and long-term investment, including a permanent secondment of senior technical director Alex Dubois to a new European Security Taskforce. Q’s happy to share Sundays with someone other than his cats, and the improvement of his demeanour means everybody gets an easier ride. Life continues apace as construction moves forward, Ronni happy to lose herself in process and at Bond’s flat.

No-one presses the issue of promotion until the day after 004’s passed fit for active duty.

Up until that point she’d been assessed daily, passing everything thrown at her with a confidence that never existed before. The psyche scores remained as impeccable as range cards, and Andrew doesn’t ask why she stopped shooting 7’s and replaced them with Q’s. Lizzie maintains a constant narrative on Eve and Charlie’s progress as they mop up Spectre hotspots across Europe, and Emmanuel spends an hour with her at lunchtimes learning Yoga. She alternates sleeping between Docklands and Pimlico, and were it not for the fact this is treading water, everything would be perfect.

On Friday morning there’s another envelope, sticking up between the rows of her keyboard, and the decision becomes inescapable. With a heavy heart Ronni walks to Q’s temporary office and knocks, unsurprised to find M already there with a mug of coffee. He too has a Scrabble letter, gift from Moneypenny on her ‘retirement’ as his PA, and it is good to know the man has softened to his task as well as the Quartermaster. Tanner’s mug sits on a pile of files but the man himself is absent, and that’s all Ronni needs to know. The inevitable can no longer be avoided. Senior Staff has called her here for an answer she still isn’t comfortable giving.

‘Good morning Sir, Q.’

‘We still don’t have an application, Flemmings. Was Andrew wrong about you?’

‘No, Sir, he wasn’t. I knew you’d ask eventually, I just wasn’t sure when. Now you have, I can admit there’s one more problem left for me to solve.’

‘Which is?’

‘At no point since you asked me to apply have I spoken to the previous 007 about how he feels concerning my potential promotion. Whenever I try and broach it, something always comes up.’

M doesn’t break stride, Q the undisputed queen of impassivity. Ronni knows the banter remains part of her remit: however, should she accept the top job, that’s a situation which will require alteration going forward. On reflection, that’s the first thing that changes. No more innuendo, instead focus on compassion over sexuality. That she can keep for theatre as a last resort, where her first response will always remain a shot to the groin if threatened.

‘We had anticipated this might be the reason, and asked Bond to be here this morning as a result. I’d expected you to come together -‘

‘- until I reminded Gareth there was a good chance you were allowing the man to enjoy his retirement, away from both expectations and innuendo. Rest assured, 004, this will be the last time you’ll be assessed on your ability to out double-entendre your superior officer.’

‘Thank Christ for that, this I will agree is a bloody stupid metric. Who do we have to blame for it?’

‘One has to go back three M’s, if memory serves. The 1970’s were so very depressing, and not simply for the fashion choices. So you see, Gareth, we have a lot more to change than simply ordinance supervision and time management standards.’

Watching these two bicker over protocol is oddly reassuring, and as Tanner appears Ronni’s almost comfortable with the possibility of taking the number. Except there’s a regret that hasn’t yet been vocalised, that she’ll really need James here to discuss. As the younger and older man continue their exchange, Tanner comes to put a hand to her arm, quietly steering them both out of the office.

‘It’s been like this since Q opened Pandora’s Box and told Whitehall half their metric frameworks would have to be scrapped. Needless to say whatever happens, nothing gets to be the same any more now Andrew’s decided to drag everyone into the future. Bond’s on his way, take all the time you need. I think this senior staff meeting’s running all the way to lunchtime.’


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifty-Nine

Previous section is here
Next section is here


The Merlin’s going through the last of its pre-flight checks as Ronni emerges into the hanger, dressed in attire she hopes Tanner will consider low key yet smart enough to announce e-mail has been read, understanding this summons from M is to be taken seriously. No jacket, dark blue silk blouse, black trousers and high top trainers she’s pushed hard to get London to accept as better footwear than the Bally boots they’d given her after Stage Two of training. It was certainly easier to run in the Merrells, plus eight hours in these wouldn’t give blisters. The small things were changing the landscape, a step at a time, and that made this worth the trauma that came with the potential upgrade in number.

It would be that which pulled her here, quite apart from saying goodbye to LaCroix and Moneypenny. They were fit for duty: she wouldn’t get that stamp until Q emerged from his extended downtime with Alex, and the French doctor stopped shaking her head at Flemmings’ blood work. As for Bond…

‘Where’s 007?’

Tanner’s casual too this morning, suit trousers, shirt and no tie, and there’s a second to consider lying about her presence alone that Ronni decides is probably best ignored.

‘He’s asleep, Will. I think I may have worn him out.’

The Chief of Staff almost keeps a straight face: Ronni’s eyeroll is enough to tip them both over into laughter. M is by the helipad, talking to 003 and 009, obvious pep talk before they depart for Amsterdam. Nobody has asked what she’s been doing away from official business for three days because everybody accepts that an inter-agent relationship can be acceptable as part of this job.

‘Under the circumstances I may well tell the old man the truth. Knowing him I’ll get some comment on Bond’s fitness needing re-assessment and that we can’t have him failing on existing operational parameters.’

‘He’s off the books, Will.’

‘No, just no longer part of the Section. He may have resigned but you don’t leave this job, as you well know. Right now he’s languishing in administrative limbo.’

‘Well, wherever he is I think he deserves the sleep. As his turnaround times have dropped, I suggested he take the afternoon off.’

‘The man’s not getting any younger, after all.’

Something is being held in Tanner’s hand, cream envelope passed over without ceremony, and now it’s very much not about being called here to wish people goodbye and more around what happens next.

‘He was however asked to inform you that the senior field 00 position is officially open. I’m assuming this was overlooked, with good reason. You are expected to apply.’

‘I’m assuming I wouldn’t be required to take the name, because that could make things more confusing than they need to be.’

‘Thanks to LaCroix and Moneypenny, Whitehall is officially relaxing the requirement to inherit your predecessor’s name. You just get the senior officer’s number instead. There’s more to it than that, but we’re already planning details to be discussed on your return to London.’

Their conversation is interrupted as Moneypenny appears, all smiles, Charlie not far behind.

‘You’ve exhausted him, haven’t you?’

Ronni can’t help but blush, especially considering the last private conversation over coffee, when the details of Bangkok had been revealed. However now it’s more to do with M’s arrival, and his clear satisfaction that Tanner’s begun her recruitment process.

‘I’m not sure I should comment further on the inability to show with the Boss here.’

‘Do I need to reprimand the ex-007 for failing to consistently do his duty, 004?’

M’s comment isn’t embarrassment but more laughter, sense that somewhere between London and here everything changed forever, not simply for her and James. This is family, like it or not: a group of people who care about them both as a unit and alone above the need to be entirely professional. They are stronger together, as Moneypenny and Charlie are alone. The choices made do not need to be held or imposed any more: this isn’t about being right, rather more around getting the best from disparate individuals.

‘Bond’s made Ronni happier than at any point I’ve known her. I think maybe he’s earned some downtime. Perhaps after ten years of being the best there was, we should all cut the guy a break.’

Charlie’s wisdom, undoubtedly, wins the day and closes this discussion, and then it is hugs and smiles as 004 watches her compatriots walk back to the waiting Merlin, ready to complete a mission they’d begun several months previously. She’s expecting management to stay but both are already walking away, back to the Control Centre, no more comment to be made. Ronni stands and watches the chopper lift off under LaCroix’s control and vanish from view, camouflage dome opening and closing, and stands for some time in silence, before opening the envelope that signals her transition.

The paper inside is blank, and Veronica Flemmings understands why.


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifty-Eight

Previous section is here
Next section is here


It was Bond’s care that made the difference: how he touched, respect held between them which transcended everything else. Even after all that had happened, he’d not lost that depth. This wasn’t the same man she’d first met in Scotland either: edges were smoother, less painful to hold. He was more whole than at any point since they’d known each other, and it was all because she’d shown him compassion, travelled half the globe to complete a task once promised for her. This time there was conclusive, concrete proof of his redemption, body and soul, and in the most damning way possible.

May this debt never need repaying, let it form the foundation of a relationship that redefines every rule.

Between food, showers and sex they’re back on the bed; Bond is propped on an elbow, staring absent mindedly at the space where her hip ends and waist begins, and Ronni puts hand to his face, pulling him back to the moment. This smile is rarely seen outside of bedrooms and intimacy, and that’s a shame, because it is amazing when it happens.

‘This ought to be our default state. Pre and post coital.’

‘That use of a metaphor I don’t have a problem with.’

‘I never promised anything with this job, and neither should you. I can however guarantee at least one constant. You and I are indivisible as long as we’re both alive.’

‘Isn’t that the same as being married?’

‘No, this is far less legally binding and considerably more fun.’

When he kisses this time the taste is Venice, diesel in the water, reminder of how close she’d come to failing to cover that beautifully contoured back. The memory makes her shudder, sudden fear needing reassurance: his loss would matter, more than any other life cherished, because it would be losing a part of what she has become, and now Ronni sobs into skin that moves to enclose, surrounds to absorb her shaking. The tears keep coming, unaffected by anything except the need to release a permanent fear, leached away by the man who knows only too well what failure does to your mind. Finally he moves, face level with hers, thumb rubbing tears aside.

‘Tell me what you’re thinking.’

‘The next time you have sex with someone whilst working please try to fully consider the consequences before committing yourself.’

‘You think this is a possibility?’

‘That’s how you do this as well as you do, it isn’t acting. There’s always an upshot.’

‘If I could refrain from thinking with my prick and just enjoy myself alongside it?’

The expression is utterly not him, so long ago when she accused him in London that there’s laughter and amazingly Bond blushes, unable to hold her gaze. Then she makes him, hand back to his face, so there can be confirmation of what’s said next is truth.

‘If you carry on doing this job -‘

‘But I won’t. I meant what I said in Bangkok. I’m done. As of midnight yesterday the 007 position’s officially vacant, I’m off the books for good.’

‘This is what you want?’

‘I have no choice. My eyesight’s gone, Q had to get contacts prescribed after I returned from Venice, my distance vision’s deteriorated and I’m not having surgery. There is no choice, I’d fail the medical automatically.’

‘So, what does that mean for us?’

He doesn’t instantly answer: clear concern, uncertainly over what his decision will represent in the long term. Then there’s a softening, relaxation in arms around her before he pulls them closer still.

‘You have at least ten years ahead of you as a 00, possibly more. It would be a truly selfish man who’d come to try and pull you away from the ideal you’ve always aspired to, especially if his tenure as a 00 was at an end. I have to be honest, because of how much you’ve come to mean to me. I want you to achieve everything, be whatever you want for as long as you live. When life allows, all you’ll ever need to escape reality will be here.’

His mouth’s tenderness on tear-stained face kisses away concern, allowing him to enclose as the traditional takes over, as had been the case when he needed to feel in control. His weight on her, inside in a movement is reassurance, sanctity and there is no need to argue any point. He is hers, and that is all that is required. No words, instead demonstration is the key. Normally she’d let them leave rational behind but this time Ronni stops. Buried inside, this was the man only she saw, and had never questioned.

Until now.

‘Tell me what this is.’

He’s absolutely not expecting conversation during coitus, that much is obvious, and brain has to stop body, shifting away from her.

‘What do you think I’m doing?’

‘I don’t know, that’s why I’m asking, because at some point we have to have the conversation somewhere. This is probably the right moment.’

Ronni’s wondering if this will be a mistake, whether she should just enjoy the process and not worry about motivation, but suddenly this is part of a puzzle that needs completing, just as it was when the Swann family’s involvement became apparent. James takes weight fully onto elbows, looking down at the question, assessing a response with more care than expected.

‘This… is what we do best. This is the most pleasure I ever give or receive. It would be a fight until the last breath before anyone separated me from you.’

Ronni’s brain processes the statement, allowing inference to rise and fall. Then she reaches up and pulls him back, mouths joined as they were in Venice. As one needs, the other gives, until both are at peace. He remains buried, lost inside, suddenly no need to disturb the shift of emotion from either side of the scales. Yet then he is the one who withdraws, forcible separation, making her face the thought germinated between them. They both know what the problem is, and it is Ronni who breaks the silence.

‘You won’t say the word, will you?’

‘If I did, Veronica, this whole relationship becomes something else, and you know that. Definition is everything, right up to the point when it destroys what you own. I don’t need to say the word, and neither do you. We just are.’

‘The evolution of a traditional norm?’

‘No longer requiring words to specify what you can be. Simply the right number.’

‘Ultimately, all I need is myself?’

‘Indeed. You don’t require a man for pleasure, could orgasm perfectly satisfactorily without. I’ve seen the toys you bought on company time, more than grateful you’ll allow electronics in the bedroom. What I bring is an ability to stop thinking about what you are, if only for a while. Without that, neither of us would be nearly as powerful.’

‘They sent you to make me stronger, back at Carnangie. Is that still what this is?’

‘I’m here to finally dismiss your metaphors. Loyalty and devotion not as weapons, but foundation for something far better. To last until we die, however that happens.’

‘You were the ideal. That’s no longer the case?’

‘I know romance and happy endings aren’t the same now as they were half a century ago. You’re the new benchmark, I’m here to cover the arse you so enjoy watching and ride your success into obscurity.’

Then Ronni understands: he really is done, tenure packed and expedited. Once he retires for good it isn’t just the ethos that leaves the room, it’s the tropes, expectations that exit too. No longer does the 00 designation pull the early 1960’s along with it. That era truly is history, and life moves forward. Finally, the license to kill enters the 21st Century, and LaCroix is a dead man the next time she sees him.

Bond rolls onto his back, hands behind head, trying to look disinterested but not fooling anyone. Ronni knows he’s up for more, but trying not to crowd. Instead she shifts back to straddle, covering a groin already moving to readiness. You’d think for a man his age he’d need more downtime, but apparently that half of his body’s still happily enjoying itself somewhere in the 1990’s.

‘So why are we still talking, Mr Bond?’

‘You stopped me, I’d normally be done and desperate for a cigarette.’

‘Since when did you smoke?’

‘I give up about once a year but there’s always a packet somewhere. Q just looks the other way. A man’s gotta have some surprises, or how does this all stay interesting?’

Ronni never knew, and Bond’s file at no point had mentioned the fact. Suddenly, there’s a need to discover what else about 007 might come as a surprise, and with the opportunity to quiz him at leisure, there’s no time like the present.

If they stopped fucking like teenagers maybe she could even consider a list.


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifty-Six

Previous section is here
Next section is here


Everybody else is enjoying the moment, but Ronni just wants to run.

Changed into sweats, she’s on her second circuit around what the French call ‘La Grande Tour’: at night, this place has an almost unworldly quality, something most definitely out of a big budget science fiction spectacular. She wanted to climb up the structure but was quietly but firmly dissuaded by Alex, which said in her mind that there’s probably a way if there were time to do the homework. Everybody else is at the reception put on to officially celebrate the Tour’s fully operational status, despite large sections of the structure remaining a combination of bare girders and construction. The success in eliminating Spectre’s leadership from the landscape will be front page news for every newspaper, already trending worldwide across the Internet. Ronni doesn’t care she was the heroine, and just wants to imagine this is the run home to a warm flat and green tea. Even caffeine has lost its allure, because inside she’s dead.

This is how it feels to kill someone and relish achievement at the time.

Guilt begins to shift on the third lap, fatigue in legs ignored: endorphins rush, brain releasing the truths taught but only now accepted. Your license to kill is not carte blanche to become inhuman, judge and jury. Each fatality must be weighed and considered, their passing reasoned and reflected, relevant despite the action. She’d watched a man murder his own sister because of the threat sanity presented to his actions. Capturing him would simply have perpetuated the myth, that MI6 entertained this pursuit as acceptable. With his demise at her hands, again the board is cleared and pieces placed back.

Except there is no idea what game to play next.

Exhausted yet relaxed, sitting in the main hanger after a fourth circuit, Ronni listens to the night shift at work, maintenance and continued construction. These are soothing sounds far more acceptable than being forced into other people’s conversations. She doesn’t want to drink either, because losing control isn’t a state that holds any kind of interest. Mostly solitude beats everything and, with a stab of revelation, comes the understanding that this is how the job should work. If she’s going to deal with fallout for the rest of her career, then listening to a focussed mind is important in grasping how to cope with pressure.

Sitting crossed legged on a large pile of crates, the surroundings of La Grande Tour help soothe remaining stresses. Closing tired eyes, she breathes in calm and expels the drama. Bond had kept his promise. He’d protected Madeline until the end, and they’d ripped out the heart from an organisation which was dead in all but name. It was no surprise he’d consider leaving now, never returning to the number. Considering the toll it had taken on his life, 007 should have been more than done a long time ago.

As eyes open, James stands opposite, genie finally without a bottle for comfort. Staring with concern, approaching with distinct lack of theatrics, the inevitable can no longer be ignored.

‘You want to be disturbed?’

‘By anybody else? No. Always by you.’

Coming to sit beside her, still in mission gear, Bond appears far less comfortable than she remembers, as if the uniform suddenly stopped being appropriate or acceptable. He pauses to consider, taking in the space, obviously troubled for a lead in.

‘I did leave this job, once before, but the previous M never processed the paperwork. That was also because of a woman: I’m depressingly predictable if you do enough research.’

He turns to stare into her soul, memory of Vesper still as bright as ever, yet comfortable with the admission. Lynd’s significance has never dimmed in James’ heart, as it was with her and Scott. Their substance moulds both, in different ways; without this trauma they’d not exist as close as they do to the other. Then he can’t look at her any more and has to stare somewhere, anywhere else and Ronni grasps that there’s still work to do in setting all the demons to rest. For a long time he remains, no need for any more explanations. What matters most, at least now, is simply the presence.

‘Remember how I told you I struggle with conversation when I’m not working?’

‘You may have mentioned it, yes.’

‘I’m woeful when it comes to discussing emotional issues. Mostly because I just pretend they don’t exist and carry on regardless.’

‘There was that time in the Barracks when you told me about how you coped with the pressure.’

‘After which I almost ran out of the changing area.’

‘That’s happened to me too. I can sympathise.’

The silence that follows is beyond telling, and 004 knows why. To complete her transition, one act remains… except Bond’s not willing. That had been apparent since they returned from Paris, before she’d left the celebration reception… and now, unable to even meet her gaze, 007 knows what’s coming next. The juxtaposition of their roles in theatre was complete, but life afterwards appeared in flux. This was the moment she took charge here too, like it or not. The power was hers to wield as she saw fit.

With an almost theatrical deep breath, it is time to redefine two existences.

‘Correct me if I’m wrong, but when a mission is successfully completed, as the senior 00 in the field I’d be expected to celebrate with the individual that assisted me. I’m afraid that if I do, it could destroy the most important relationship I’ve ever had.’

Ronni exhales, unassuming acquiescence, comfortable grasping the significance of her statement. James’ shaking hand slips across her leg, resting without movement: fingers wrap around his and remain, reassurance in a simple action that’s needed. All the symbolism in the world didn’t matter one iota: this is what they have become.

‘Do you mean that, Veronica?’

‘I’ve never been more sure of anything since the day I decided I was born to be a spy.’

‘Doesn’t that cause something of a conflict of interests?’

‘Amongst other things, yes, but however far I run I’m never going to escape the inevitable, so I may as well accept it and see what happens.’

‘That sounds like an appropriately considered response. That’s very you.’

It is painfully awkward, two of them sitting together, that passion has effectively evaporated under the undoubted weight of vocational expectation. When she looks to him Bond is fixated on fingers, still won’t meet her gaze and only then is Ronni aware that she isn’t the problem. In the time before they’d slept together he’d kept distance through professionalism, but this is different. If she didn’t know better… and so it has to be his move.

‘What would you like to do tonight, James?’

‘Not screw this up.’

‘You think that’s a possibility?’

‘I have no idea. It is probably significant at least three people told me to come and find you, none of them considered it a test and not once were the words ‘assessment’ or ‘metrics’ used. I knew you’d want the time alone, the last thing you need now is to play the 00 endgame. After that, let’s be honest, I don’t have a fucking clue.’

Ronni has to smile because that’s what he generates inside, capacity to be so much more than possible alone. What happens now however is briefly beyond her understanding, as this is never a situation she’s experienced as an adult. She stares at the faded face of a Poster Boy who lost everything he was for an ideal still worth dying for, and wants to hold him, and so does. Both arms wrap around torso as head leans into his shoulder. Ronni closes eyes and tries to send him some of her calm, in the hope he’ll relax. The tension within his frame is inescapable, and then comes enlightenment. He doesn’t want to touch me.

He’s afraid he’ll ruin this too.

Ronni finally lets go, staring off into the Hanger, desperate for inspiration. Having someone else to consider is suddenly welcome distraction from everything else, surprise that then rocks brain with force. They’d used each other as physical relaxants in the main, and it had never occurred that the same could be considered for the emotional. He was lost, stuck and unable to feel confident that he could interact successfully. This was the job you promised to maintain for him before you became 004, one person who doesn’t destroy his emotional frailty.

This job now presents an unexpected bonus: you get to present terms going forward.

‘As this is unknown territory… perhaps I could resolve both our issues, whilst defining some new metrics as I go. That’s part of the remit as senior, 00, isn’t it?’

Bond’s head turns, interest obviously piqued as Ronni uses the job to solve their impasse.

‘You intend to make this complicated or can I do one word answers?’

‘Yes or no works just fine.’

There’s the first hint of a smile, that concerns are being assuaged. Before Ronni feels confident enough to vocalise thoughts previously kept very much private, Bond shifts suddenly, up and off the crates, standing next to where she remains sitting.

‘If I told you tonight I just wanted to sleep with you and nothing else, no sex, would you be able to accommodate that, 004?’

The smile this action creates inside Ronni causes stomach to flutter: having offered an easy route, simplicity of a one word answer, James took the responsibility instead. If the depth of his care wasn’t abundantly apparent already, this could be understood as the benchmark to end them all. They don’t need the job to define each other, just themselves.

‘Yes. A thousand times.’

Relief in his whole body is palpable, this was the desire all along. He’s not expected to perform or hit a target, not with her, never with her. The next question however is a little more problematic, because since Ronni’s been here she’s not existed anywhere except the Infirmary, this hanger or the control centre.

‘So, how do we make this happen?’


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifty-Five

Previous section is here
Next section is here


‘If I wanted to make sure the World was watching, this is where I’d pick for a final showdown.’

The rotors of the EC-135 come to a stop, next to the low brick building that is the most recent construction on this part of the site. Ronni nods at Bond’s comment, before looking up to Versailles, beautiful in early afternoon sunshine. Tourists are being evacuated away and back towards the French town that gave the palace its name, no attempt by MI6 or Gendamerie to cover this very public entrance. Joint British and French operations were in full swing: because Spectre never did anything by halves, this was the plain sight Swann had been hiding in for the last 36 hours, Marie Antoinette’s favourite Summer House buried away on one of the many adjuncts to the main estate. Beneath the modest 16th century building was a bunker, and intelligence was confident that’s where Christian remained, with only minimal staff as accompaniment. He‘d been expecting Ronni to arrive alone.

Except 004 wasn’t in the mood for games.

The French Government had only okayed the operation because London had promised there’d be no damage to any historical building. That’s why the chopper was parked here, and would be left open. Nobody was going anywhere near Christian either, and that was why the recently completed and opened Visitor’s Centre was their only destination. Ronni had suggested during the briefing that this wouldn’t just be about Swann’s final stand, he’d want to reinforce the point that was wasn’t sufficiently made back in Monte Carlo. The satellite footage taken the previous evening had backed this up, showing the building being ransacked after the public had left site, that something had been set for 004 to find. As the four man team step inside the now wrecked modern lobby, that piece of theatre is apparent: the entire wall of the building has been stripped bare so that Swann can create a new mural to greet his nemesis.

The montage this time, is of Bond.

The words are messy, almost an afterthought: just images are meant to disturb and Ronni shuts down emotion immediately. There are pictures taken by Christian at the London warehouse where it is apparent Bond is under a considerable amount of duress, then pain, mixed with footage from his flat. However there is a third location, which 004 assumes is the Monte Carlo safe house, and it is these that are the most brutal of all. She switches off at intimacy presented as torture, taking everything in with dispassionate strength. James was a Pawn, Fool, and perhaps even a Liar when all was said and done, but that was part of the job and accepted as such. The word Unprofessional however causes pause, print-out of an e-mail buried in pictures from his flat that piques curiosity. Bond had resigned from the 00 section, early in his career. This isn’t a flag on his file, because Ronni knows that even better than she can recite her own history. When all is done, the Ops people need to pick over this collage as they did with the others and ensure nothing has been compromised at London’s end.

Christian’s public violation of 007 is meant to make her angry, deflecting from the path. Intent is obvious: she’ll react, lose professionalism in the face of such abhorrent revilement, but it won’t happen. Instead, the spray can of paint she’d bought from the Tour is taken from her mission bag, anticipating such a scenario would play out in the field. Without thinking she goes across to the pictures, blocking out images with her own word written across the wall. This is not a game Swann will ever win, because Ronni is stronger; intimidation and abuse never acceptable as weapons.

‘Liberation, very apt. How totally European of you, 004.’

Swann’s voice echoes around the Visitor Centre but nobody is phased, especially Bond who remains staring at the wall with total relaxation. Vibration from Ronni’s wrist confirms Charlie’s now in position, point man to call incoming; only when he does will there then be need to move.

‘I’m disappointed the World has changed, Ms Flemmings. Progress is seldom a good thing. I had hoped you and I might be able to discuss our concerns in more intimate surroundings, but as you brought your friends? I suspect not.’

‘I didn’t come here to negotiate with terrorists.’

He’s expecting her to talk, she’s ready for him to die, and there need be no more words of acknowledgement, especially as that’s what’s expected. Instead the spray can is dropped and from the mission bag comes her Walther, which is pointed at each security camera in turn before destroying them with a bullet. She shoots the PA not simply for good measure, but to ensure he doesn’t get the last word, and that’s all the closure that is required.

‘We have inbound, 6 and 9 o’clock, be ready.’

Charlie’s in her ear, and the scenario is perfect. Intelligence from Rachel, watching from the French Security HQ, has played exactly as she’d read. Knowing this wasn’t a fight he could win, Christian would now attempt to escape using his goons as distraction, chopper conveniently provided by the British as his exit. What he wouldn’t be expecting or anticipating was that the 00 section had flown here in a massive bomb. Bond’s already slipped the detonator into her hand, weapons from the mission bag handed to Moneypenny and loaded himself. They’ll provide cover, all 004 has to do is make it back to the landing site.

‘You know we’ve got this.’

003’s smile is enough, no more confirmation needed, and Ronni is out of the Visitor Centre as two Spectre guards appear from the Summer House’s front doorway. Both have bullets in them before she reaches the large privet fence, gunfire behind easily recognisable by type. It was probably unhealthy she could recognise weaponry by sound, perhaps time to get some more interests apart from munitions and explosive types, but it’s a moot point. Focus is set, sprint back up to the storage building almost effortless, where their trap has captured not one, but two rodents. Christian’s already in the chopper, woman she recognises from the East London warehouse climbing into the pilot’s seat.

Then comes an unexpected moment of regret: not that Swann’s life is about to end but that this woman should know better. Ronni can never judge on sex or race, only via loyalty. The people that matter will be with you whatever happens, good or bad, strength and dedication until their last breath. That’s what this woman was for Swann, last person he could trust, and by eliminating them both the bonds of control and dominance would finally be destroyed for good. This time they’ve absolutely left Spectre with the back door, and there won’t be time for the soon to be ex-Number One to do anything other than get airborne, and by then it will be too late. The best theatre, after all, was that which was meticulously planned to the last detail, where audience thought they knew the plot but in the end, it was a lie. Now he’s inside, accomplice powering up his own death sentence, and nothing else matters because as soon as they’re airborne, it’s checkmate.

Swann looks across from his seat and their eyes meet, and that’s all Ronni needs.

There’s no need for a pithy one-liner or another blow to his face: detonator is depressed on instinct, no time for anyone to think. She however, has three seconds to take cover, and runs as the fireball consumes helicopter and passengers with utter destructive force. Everything is noise, heat and the smell of fuel plus burning flesh: nothing else matters except lying still until everything stops. As dust settles, the sirens begin; one after the other, pre-primed emergency services swinging into terrorism alert. Ronni carefully picks herself up, brushing dust off fatigues, realising that given a choice you should always eliminate the people in charge if all they ever do is sacrifice others to save themselves.

Staring at the inferno both chopper and building have become, 004 feels nothing at all.


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifty-Four

Previous section is here
Next section is here


It takes a moment before Moneypenny registers 004’s presence on the range, but it doesn’t stop her finishing the clip. Watching the woman shoot with confidence that’s been a long time coming, Ronni’s happy the scores on her file aren’t doing anything but improving with each assessment. However, guilt remains, and that’s why this needs to be addressed before they all go and eliminate Swann. M should have promoted her before me, by rights the senior 00 should be Eve. That’s the explosive in the room, requiring diffusion before 004 believes they can work together successfully.

The ear defenders are finally removed, SIG placed on the range wall. This isn’t Ronni’s opening move, but 003’s, because there is no idea how she restarts this relationship after everything else that has transpired. The younger woman stares, caution all too obvious.

‘How are you feeling, 004?’

‘I’m not tired any more, that much is certain. I’ve had enough downtime and am keen to finish the job you and Charlie started.’

‘I think James did the hard stuff with Felix-‘

‘No, he took the showy, theatrical mission. You two were responsible for the brunt of the effort in locating Swann. As usual, Bond simply turned up and blew stuff up.’

It’s not entirely the truth, but close enough, therefore placing her and LaCroix in their rightful position matters more than the hierarchy of the Section. Ronni is still all too aware of how little she knows about Eve, even though her file can almost be recited from memory. The one person she should be closest to, ally by sex, had never played this game the same way. It wasn’t just refusing to be pigeonholed either: she’d told Tanner in no uncertain terms there would never be involvement with anyone else in the Service again, however attractively they might be packaged. Q’s plan for Friendship Plus had been thrown back in his face, relationship with Charlie infinitely stronger as a result.

‘It occurs to me I’ve not been fair to you, since we first met. I always assumed that you and I could never be friends and that’s not true, if something matters enough you can make it happen regardless.’

Eve’s head tilts, and Ronni remembers that look, back at their first meeting in Millbank. She’d made her own mistakes, done more than enough penance for those sins. The least 004 could do was try and find the means by which they could work together better, because at some point this would be a requirement and not simply courtesy.

‘You did a brilliant job of destabilising me the first time we met. I can still remember that feeling, how you cut straight to my heart with a phrase. I’ve not met a man in service able to do that as well. I don’t blame you for being distant, especially with what Q did. For what it’s worth, it’s only made 007 stronger.’

‘You should know something, for the record. I was in love with 007 for a while, I’d be foolish to try and admit otherwise, until I realised it was a lie. The job always mattered more to him, however much he’d try his hand. He was empty, broken, and after Operation Skyfall I realised that I didn’t need his validation, or indeed anybody else’s. When that happened it was obvious we in fact had very little in common, and I’d simply become enamoured with James as an ideal. I have you to thank for that revelation, at least in part, so I’m grateful, but you have to want this, Ronni. I don’t need your friendship if it’s mistakenly placed.’

‘My problem is that, like it or not, I’m pretty much Bond without the dick.’

‘No, you’re really not, there’s warmth to you that he doesn’t possess, and far more foresight. He couldn’t do strength the way you can, trust me. That you only get to see from the outside. If you’re worried we’ll not get on? Trust me, a lot of that’s my issue to solve and not yours.’

‘I need to apologise for suggesting to Charlie that you two should -‘

‘It’s okay, you should know the truth about that too. I was the one who first suggested we could just do the sex and he turned me down. Charlie believed we’d be stronger as friends, and was absolutely right. I know how it would ruin the professionalism, and I’m rather pleased being with someone who just cares about me for what I am. I think this is the way it should be and not your way, because maybe the future isn’t people like you -‘

‘Absolutely, it is partnerships like yours and Charlie’s. I know, am more than happy to work towards that as a goal. Comparability should have nothing to do with gender or sexual assignment, and everything about actual merit. I think Q understands that once you take the traditional norms out of the equation, things have a surprising ability to just work.’

‘Maybe what you need is James outside of this equation to allow you both to find the level that works best. I don’t ever remember seeing him this happy at any point in his life. That’s a good future to aim towards.’

‘It is. Remind me to point this out on the way to Paris.’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Normally the final showdown would just be me, but I’ve asked for a break with protocol. I want a full team, including you and Charlie as backup. Christian’s expecting me alone, and I think it’s high time we tore up the rules and just got the job done.’

‘I’ll be more than happy to oblige, but only if you promise to tell me what happened over the Bangkok uplink. In detail.’

004’s blushing furiously as Eve laughs, final barrier broken between them. Now Ronni knows what’s expected in performance with this 00, things can only get easier, and if she decides to do recreation off the clock, there’s always the chance someone will find out. The trick now is to engineer means to stop everything being public property, or simply accept that maybe that’s just part of the senior field officer’s remit. If she can live with that, then possibly the desire in her heart could become reality.

Perhaps, if they let her, she could take Bond’s job if offered.


Six hours after Tanner’s green light, Ronni’s dressed and ready to leave. The hanger is humming, French support team professionalism personified, hastily-requisitioned chopper that formed an integral part of her plan in the final stage of refit. The speed at which everything had shifted since her strategy was suggested in briefing was truly staggering: LaCroix and Bond’s ability to work together on her request picked up, run with and summarily improved without even a quibble. She watches them both at the EC-135 and is grateful the French government’s representative is about to allow their hardware to be sacrificed for the greater good. She’d expected at least some fight from Alex: his immediate agreement to her plan made the confidence inside stronger, brighter. Everyone was impressed with the idea, backup plan also sound.

She was trusted now with all decision making, without question.

Staring at the holy ghost, last vestige of a past now finally vanishing from sight, Ronni waits for Bond to acknowledge her presence, noting it was time to leave. When they are an embrace apart he reaches down, relieving mission kit bag from a willing grasp, quietly releasing canvas straps from her hand before turning back towards the chopper. They’re back in his flat, fateful night this journey began, emotion reduced into a single point of connection, and this time it’s Ronni who stops him, free hand to arm. Bond’s looking back, gaze determined; quiet confidence as always, but pleasure at her action. They have no need for words, union enough, James interpreting how grateful she is for this thoughtfulness and all that it symbolises. He won’t continue until acknowledgement is removed, then 007 returns to task, towards the EC-135 and their journey ahead.

Watching him has become an obsession: how he moves, strength in gait yet languor through stride. He’s an effortless combination of capability and determination, inspiring simply with a touch that Ronni’s no longer afraid to reciprocate. Also, there is undeniable truth that Bond both fills and looks vastly superior in combat fatigues than anyone she’s ever met, even LaCroix, who’s appeared in her eyeline, evaluating with clear concern.

‘You’re staring, 004, if this was me doing that to Moneypenny I’d be in trouble.’

‘I’m sorry, Charlie, I can’t help it if I enjoy looking at beautiful things.’

‘That excuse ain’t gonna stick in the modern Secret Service, and you know it.’

The finger waggle is completely unnecessary, but enough to force Ronni to suppress a smile. Moneypenny is already at the chopper, hug to Bond as he returns both brief yet professional. They’ve moved past the issues and really are friends again, relaxed in each other’s company. That’s the way it should be for everybody.

‘If you could not report me in this case Charlie, I would be grateful.’

‘It’s all good. After all, you’re my boss now for real, and that’s not a thing I’m gonna stop loving for quite some time. Oh, and on that matter? I did my job. I remembered to tell Bond how lucky he was.’

‘What was his response?’

‘That he knows, and he’s never gonna forget that for as long as he lives. I think that allows you to stare at his ass without triggering a lawsuit, as long as you know how lucky that makes you.’

‘I know, Charlie. Trust me, and it’s not just the arse.’

‘Okay now I don’t wanna know and you can focus on me instead ‘coz I haven’t been fully briefed yet on the backup…’

He stands with hands on hips, shaking head with mock disapproval and this time a laugh’s allowed to escape, additional revelation she is capable of anything with these people as backup and support. It is time therefore to prove that this includes the execution of a madman in broad daylight, reasserting and demonstrating the 00 Section’s ownership of the task. The professionalism can be conducted in her sleep, now all that is needed is the job over with.


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.

DEFAULT :: Part Fifty-Three

Previous section is here
Next section is here



SEVEN



Bond wakes alone; ache within as this registers a pleasant surprise.

He’d returned to the Infirmary after a secondary debrief, checking on Veronica’s wellbeing, expecting the Base’s doctor to chase him away: instead she’d dimmed lights and shut down the unit. An hour had been spent simply revelling in Flemming’s calm before stripping, slipping back around a semi naked form he doubts will ever become boring or familiar. She fitted perfectly under the crook of a willing arm; shifting slightly, allowing body to be embraced. In sleep his name is whispered not in passion but simply as recognition, welcome reminder of the first morning they woke together in his flat. Pimlico seems a very long way away right now, place he’ll want them both to redecorate on their return, eradicating Madeline’s influence forever. She’ll suggest simple colours, nothing pastel or floral, understated yet comforting. Bond will be happy to let her make those decisions.

Staring at the Infirmary ceiling, 007 also acknowledges that sleeping in contact lenses is not something he wants to continue entertaining long term. Keeping up the deception is becoming as tiresome as having to ensure Gregory understands that his mental health is being addressed, with due diligence. It was unfortunate the revelation over issues with his learning curve was made in front of the entire Operations and Acquisitions department plus two members of senior management. In fairness, it had been a surprise to him too. Next time, James will make sure both place and time are suitably considered. For now, hunger is the most pressing concern, sudden urge for Eggs Benedict being distracted by the unmistakeable smell of fresh pastry…

Turning on this uncomfortable infirmary bed, there’s a simple wooden tray spied atop an instrument trolley. Coffee and cream are both fresh, patisserie recently made but most welcome of all is the note, written on what looks like the back of a temperature chart. For a moment he’s back in London, morning after they’d stopped being colleagues and became lovers. Again there’s chastisement, stupidity in forgetting everything important when adopting Mr White’s dying wish as a misguided mission brief. It takes a second for eyes to focus, even with lenses, allowing her words to settle in his heart and make sense. Veronica’s brilliance is undoubtedly reinvention, improvement plus refinement as the 00 section evolves around her.

‘To the final eradication of pointless metaphors.’

James laughs, knowing the last mission carrying his 00 designation had already begun.


Leaning back in the Command Centre chair, Flemmings waits for her immediate superior to consider the question. She’d woken in Bond’s arms, realising in a moment of full-blown revelation there was no time to sleep, recover or indeed indulge. 00 status was job and life: both had connected in a heartbeat to the single, intractable objective: complete your mission brief. Right now that meant as long as Christian Swann lived, she didn’t rest. The first thought after finding clothing to replace the hospital gown was inescapable: complete your task alone, but then had come another moment of consideration; plan scrubbed before it began.

This mission had never only been hers to begin with.

That meant locating the spaciously, awe-inspiring Central Control unit, before impressing the on-duty staff both of position and significance. Then this space was commandeering, trusted team called together. Q was with Alex, deserving all the downtime he could possibly be afforded, so this time she began with Will, who in turn had suggested that Frasier be included, followed closely by Curtis to act as note taker and impartial third party.

Four hours later that impromptu conversation had morphed into a full-blown debrief.

Tanner’s as casual as she’s ever seen him: jeans, trainers plus an England Rugby shirt. Rachel is still in blue silk PJ’s and dressing gown, Emmanuel wearing the sweats he’d been exercising in at one of the Tower’s gym suites when summoned. All three have sat and listened as everything has fallen out, 004 not afraid to be both vulnerable and brutal when required, and once the details of her exile were covered, focus had immediately shifted to present requirements. Everybody except her knew where Swann was hiding, or else the whole operation would already be moving back to London. What Ronni needed most of all was to be allowed an opportunity to finish the task her fellow 00’s had started, but Tanner would not give the okay until he believed her 100% capable. Convincing him was proving more difficult than expected.

‘This breaks pretty much every protocol we have, 004, but you know that.’

‘If this was Bond, Will, Flemmings wouldn’t even have asked. She’d be out there already, alone, and we’d be playing catch up.’

Frasier’s been quietly supporting her for the last hour and the comment is meant to do just that, but it irritates Ronni in a manner that is a surprise. Maybe because she knows Bond now, almost as well as herself, and that agent would not be working alone.

‘The old 007, perhaps, but not now. He’s changed, and is becoming more like 004, at least in my eyes. It proves Q’s point that everyone works better as a unit, Sir.’

Emmanuel’s said virtually nothing in the last thirty minutes, and to have him chip in at this point is significant. Will gets up from the desk he’s been sitting on, going over to the younger man who is using one of the Base’s terminals to make notes.

‘That’s undeniably true, Curtis. I’ll have to wake the old man for a final okay regardless, and I doubt he’d object considering the way you handled yourself yesterday, but I know you, Ron. All those years in Acquisitions counts for something, without needing Gregory here. Can you do this?’

Ronni knows the license to kill was part of the uniform, as much as the evening dress or sidearm. She has no fear in the kill, only around consequences, yet he was right. Part of her would always want a better way, but not with this man.

‘I need to eliminate him before there’s a chance for Spectre to regroup, Will. He has to be removed from the equation.’

‘You’re sure execution is the best way?’

‘We cannot show leniency, not with what we know he’s done. He needs to die in theatre, preferably with an audience. Swann lives in a world where everybody’s watching, but only sees what they want, including him. If we took this man into custody, nothing changes. He has to die as public a death as Bond, and the rest of his organisation need to grasp that the game is well and truly over.’

‘You didn’t answer the question.’

‘I don’t need to kill him, MI6 does, a full four person team charged with exactly that task. We remove Swann with precision, and Spectre become a memory.’

‘If you’re asked to perform the kill-‘

‘I’ll be happy to push the button, just don’t ask me to enjoy it.’

There’s an exhale, just enough honesty to swing the weight of argument finally to her hands, and Will walks over as she stands.

‘I have no doubt you’re capable -‘

‘You just want to make sure I’ll cope, the same way you always have. I am, and I will.’

Rachel’s already on her way to change, Emmanuel at her side: regardless of M’s final okay, the senior staff are already on board, which is all Ronni needs. She hadn’t known how Swann would meet his end until this moment, but thanks to her unintentionally incorrect idiom, that plan was now almost fully formed. To succeed however she’d need James awake and willing, with some help from LaCroix.

However, there’s a more pressing issue to address first.


Previous section is here
Next section is here

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.