DEFAULT :: Part Twenty-Six

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Twenty six seconds into heart massage comes a spasm, water spurting from lungs mixed with vomit and the all-pervading stench of medical alcohol: Bond’s alive, gasping air and looking around in terror. Ronni falls back, shoulders hitting solid stone, staring as he readjusts; another one of nine lives summarily consumed. There’ll be an insistence Felix travels back to Como with him because that remains a safe haven, and this time James can get better without falling in love with anyone. Only now does it register: he’s staring, fully conscious and wide-eyed, yet completely incapable of speech. Bond’s expecting a comeback from the dead, and all Ronni can be grateful for is survival.

‘You’re welcome.’

007’s trying to move; shifting body, staring with what Ronni’s fairly confident is amazement. His tears are a surprise before there’s retching again: blood with the vomit prompts the immediate need to move him to the Recovery position. If this wasn’t SPECTRE there’d be another acronym to deal with, different bunch of random nutters with no discernible agenda except chaos. You never eliminated bad guys, they just evolved into something more insidious and the only conclusive manner of eradicating evil was with the good in the hearts of people like 007, because that’s what he was, a fucking hero.

Ronni might often disagree with methods, but the heart’s purity she just restarted was without question. James cared about what was right, stopping bad from becoming the norm, and that alone was worth saving. A shaking hand reaches out, slipping around hers: pulling them together yet conscious of crowding as a pulse is taken. He’s built like an ox, resting heart rate almost stupidly unaffected by the fact he just died. Only now does the Spectre chopper register, climbing above the water, that Christian’s escape is only being allowed because that way MI6 has time to destroy everything he stands for in front of the world.

There’s movement behind her eyeline: Leiter’s arrived, dropping down the set of stairs that lead back up to the main quayside. Because they’ve forced Swann into retreat, it is absolutely the moment to press an advantage.

‘Q has the data, everything’s set, leave Jim with me.’

Bond is clearly capable of understanding Leiter’s presence but not intent, and as 007 remains her partner, Ronni knows this plan needs explanation. Leaning into a shaking body, her own shudders in response, amazement that instinct pushes to lay down and protect until he recovers. Yet again, time has run out. All that is left now is the mission, compulsion to complete this game-changing objective.

‘You’re never going to believe this, but I was the one just passing. I need to be somewhere else so that we can wipe these guys off the map for good. I’ll leave you with Felix: I promise to find you when I’m done.’

Bond understands, despite being incapable of response, nodding assent. Felix stares with what only now registers is awe: truly understanding she means business, very much in charge of the fight back. Spectre had been given notice, already condemned to destruction in the most damning way possible, and if anyone got in the way? She would destroy them, because now was summarily grasped the true value of revenge. It was no use to you on the back foot: the only way forward was to own the concept from first breath until your last.

‘You said you wanted to get Swann…’

‘I must be prepared to go all the way. Because they’re not gonna give up the fight, until one of you is dead.’

She can’t help herself, knowing how they both loved quoting classics. Leiter stares at the mess her body undoubtedly resembles with smile already forming, nodding at the use of the classic movie scene with approval.

‘They pull a knife… ‘

‘- you pull a gun.’

‘He sends one of yours to the hospital… ‘

‘- you send one of his to the morgue.’

Their hug is instant and solid, allowing opportunity to pass him the smartwatch, ensuring both will remain in the loop. As Felix pulls away his smile is the widest she’s ever seen: 004 really hopes in future to watch movies and drink beer with this guy whilst concluding that real life is not nearly as dramatic as the big screen would have you believe. In many ways, this will be the more solid relationship than with Charlie, because Ronni has so much more in common with Leiter than first realised.

‘You got this, Ron. Go make Spectre bleed.’

Leaving Bond is almost impossible, however; there has to be closure of sorts. Planting a kiss to his forehead with all the emotion within, willing into an addled brain to stay safe until the medical team arrived, they are both again forced to work alone. Above come shrill sirens, emergency services arriving in response to their actions and if Ronni didn’t know already it is the cue to complete this mission. The taste of blood in won’t vanish as she sprints up the canal wall stairs, two at a time, trying to erase memory of James as a wreck, literally dead in the water.

Now she understands how 007 must have felt when Vesper died.

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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.

DUET: Chapter Eight, Part Four

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WARNING: This passage contains adult and sexual situations.

Stretching out a hand, he’s more than happy to have woken alone.

If Ronni had been here Bond would have been disappointed, knowing she has learnt her lessons well. Leave before he wakes, make sure your target’s left wanting more, that their need to help is always tempered against the importance of completing your mission. All the things they had said, that she’d asked and he’d answered with the brutal honesty needed had been the reward craved since he first took the number. The fact the sex had been fantastic was very much a bonus, and that remains a surprise he’s forgotten could be appreciated. He knew finally why Q had started this, never just about Veronica, because there was always another side to the story.

My problem is arrogance, continually assuming what the Service decides to record as success.

Ronni had become the focus away from 004 and 002’s demise, from his M, Sévérine, Vesper and everyone else, rapidly evolving into something altogether more fascinating. Her smell is everywhere, on tongue and in nostrils simultaneously, remains of a night that would never have marked the end of her potential, regardless of the final outcome. She’s also left her mark: rubbing discomfort on his forearm, four thin scratches from her nails. Bond closes eyes and returns to the memory: riding his hand, feeling the contraction of pleasure when she first climaxed around him, genuinely grateful that he was asked to stay. Here was an agent who understood the value of giving a target exactly what they desired, and more.

Veronica is perfectly capable of interpreting what is expected by her Country. I have no hesitation in recommending Special Agent Ashby for promotion to the final stage of Active Consideration at the earliest possible opportunity.

He knows the report can be written with a dispassionate tone, and yet every word loaded with his own meaning. Q, I should never have doubted you.

Walking to shower the room is surprisingly tidy: she cleared away the previous night’s detritus without waking him, ability to stealth impressive. Ronni will be serving breakfast now, impeccable in the outfit that he has often recalled is more than enough to make him aroused just by its memory, doing well to store that image away for the next time he’s forced to make love to a not totally desirable woman in the name of Queen and Country. Only then does the cafetière become apparent on the table, flask of hot water beside it, two fresh croissants that are still warm to the touch. There’s a note too, in beautifully elegant longhand, written on one of the hotel’s napkins:

‘For my favourite metaphor.’

007 laughs, and knows he’ll be back on the Active Roster by the end of the week.

Moneypenny looks up from the monitor with a smile as Veronica enters M’s office. She’d taken the visitor’s lift, because this would be the last time it would be necessary, if everything went to plan. That had been the way Eve had chosen too, in the days when a woman was in charge, and there is a moment of yearning for a time where there would be more of her sex around her, and not less. Maybe if they could be as determined as Ronni was, it might happen. She had sacrificed everything to get here: Eve hadn’t had much of a life to lose when she joined the Service.

Bond had said it himself: field work wasn’t for everybody. It fitted Ronni like a glove.

What bothered Eve most was how good Ashby was, even though it shouldn’t. There ought to be no hint of jealousy because of personal circumstances but watching how Bond reacted made her more uncomfortable than it really should. This was an occupational hazard: Eve understood the principle of costs and consequences, yet was still unable to completely grasp the results. This desk job therefore was the best that could reasonably be expected until that situation was resolved.

She really wanted to like Ronni, but she was almost a 00, and there was little doubt the woman would get to the finish. She wasn’t sure being friends would ever be an option that would work for either of them as a result, especially after what had happened with 002. Eve however was an expert in deception, and with her mask in place she is ready to play the role of dutiful assistant.

‘I hope you’ve forgiven me for the last time we met?’

Ronni stops at her desk and eyes Eve with caution, before placing a takeaway travel mug with perhaps a little too much force than was necessary. She’d finally done the homework on this woman, knowing that Bond has worked with her during Skyfall before accepting demotion. She was also well aware that those actions in Istanbul before Silva’s final elimination should have promoted her to 00 status but instead condemned her Service future completely. Were it not for the fact this progress had been associated at least in part with Active Consideration, she’d not still be here, and that could be a bitter pill to ever swallow successfully.

Yet here Eve remained, fronting one of the most significant jobs in the building. There was something else missing from the younger woman’s file that Ronni suspected she’d need to be 00 to access, but that was a rabbit-hole for another day.

She should be more impressed by this woman’s strength in adversity as a result.

‘I thought I’d play it safe and I bought my own refreshments this time. Just to be sure.’

M appears at the door of his office, jacket off, and Ronni unconsciously reacts, straightening as Eve moves the mug to one side, off the desk. The man was not a fan of clutter, and the coffee might smack of the fact Ashby’s working on ninety minutes’ sleep. She is impressed at Eve’s foresight.

‘Good afternoon, Special Agent Ashby. Please come in.’

The two women exchange a glance, neither of them grasping just how much they have in common with the other.

M’s office is exactly as it should be, Ronni decides, back in the days when 00 agents smoked forty a day and drank like fish because that was what the job entailed. She suspects that women had an even harder time: Moneypenny had been through four incarnations after all, while Bond was on his sixth. Ironically the only deaths had been to the women: every 007 who’d held the title was still alive, living out their retirements scattered across the globe. She knows her Bond would make it to pass on his baton, but would she be given the same courtesy?

She’s not stopped thinking about him since dropping off breakfast, knowing this is not healthy, but doesn’t actually care. She’s never loved him, or required him as a role model. This isn’t about forgetting anything, or using their night together for any kind of distraction. She now understands that they truly represent both sides of the same coin, and it has been a long time since there’s been empathy with anyone on the scale she currently possesses with James. He told her to try and hold onto her Christian name, missing having anything that is truly his any more. She responded that everything else was willingly sacrificed, so a name wouldn’t matter, but he thinks otherwise. Ronni understands the importance of knowing who you really are, without the need for labels or signposts. Playing this game to the required standard is all well and good, but sometimes that’s just not enough.

What is needed then is someone that defies the rules.

‘I thought I’d call you in specially this afternoon, as I know you’re between shifts on your current undercover assignment, which I hear has been very fruitful thus far.’

Don’t discuss your assignments with anyone when prompted, not even the boss. Ronni doesn’t need the reminder any more but imagines Q on her shoulder: he’d wear white, and Bond would be in red. That’s how she’d visualise most quandaries from now on.

‘I’ve been looking at your final assessments, and I have to say I am genuinely pleased at what I’ve read. We had some initial concerns at Carnegie, and briefly it appears while you were at the Barracks but you appear to have made strong and steady progress ever since. I think the defining moment for both of us was the American incident. I’m still impressed at your industry and I hope this is repeated throughout your career.’

Ronni allows herself a moment to bask, but keeps it brief, instead deferring her best smile until such time as she felt the New Guy’s comments deemed a response.

‘I wanted to ask you how you felt you’d performed in your final assessment with 007.’

M looks at her impassively, and Ronni holds the expression, neutrality assured. Does the boss know we had sex on company time? Did Q record it all, or were we finally allowed some R&R off the books? At least it would be a good session to archive, they’d both made sure that the time was used productively… if she concentrates there is the memory of his hands on her waist, moving down to anchor hips in place as he penetrated from behind, gasps of pleasure as she’d used internal muscles to squeeze on each inward stroke.

It had been best however face to face, so she could watch him react, no more games or pretending to be someone else. When he refused to break eye contact as he slipped inside her the last time, making her wish that she’d not wasted so many years running away from what her body was capable of. If they’d have met before all of this, away from the world of deceit and death: would have ever connected at all?

She doesn’t let the mask slip, or even falter, answer emerging without thinking.

‘I feel he’s helped me discover my strengths, and assisted considerably with suggestions where I can improve. I don’t think I could have had a more generous assessor. I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked under him. I look forward to doing so again as an equal.’

Ronni knows now she is capable of anything.

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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.