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Watching the sun rise has become her daily routine, as Ronni waits for a bite on the field-built fishing line. This is absolutely the best time to be working the river, highlighting just how beautiful surroundings are to be lost in, especially in the quiet calm before dawn. On cue, water ripples and there’s carp being harvested, grateful supplement to the hare snared overnight. This means protein in their diets as well as fruit and vegetables quietly liberated from various spots, and no real concern of hunger for another few days. By her own admission 004 is not the greatest of cooks, but Q’s been quietly offering pointers without making criticism appear too overt. He’ll be awake already and working, leaving her trying to keep busy in his efficient, unstoppable wake. Adopting role of protector while he decrypts Beam’s files, providing an ear to his frustrations, whilst keeping occupied with exercise and drills is what 004 does best, and with Northern Italy as their backdrop, this could almost be a summer vacation, were their circumstances not so obviously extreme.

Time has become oddly fluid, without normal routine as distraction the nature of existence stretches and alters unimpeded. In reality, this morning marks ten days since they died, which means today is important: a coffin will be cremated later and her ashes handed to Bond, now named as her executor by mutual consent. Thinking whilst cleaning fish at the river’s edge, cutting still warm flesh, Ronni knows how deeply he’ll hate both ceremony and attention, much prefering to lose himself in mission work. It’s best too he’s at a distance: 007 remains an internal observer, reassurance from afar. That removal is helpful, on reflection: no emotion to distract, allowing her to be vulnerable alone when required.

However much she rationalises however, a part of this equation is flawed. The Barracks taunt her, sitting shaking on a bathroom floor, not incapable of her mission but instead disabled by desire. Reminded of how she’d been initially unable to grasp how Bond was capable of reducing Moneypenny and Madeline to mush, the understanding is now all too apparent. For them he had no need to do anything except be what he was: the women ended up succumbing to a particularly brutal combination of charm, personality and physical fitness. Except for Ronni, charm and personality were irrelevant, because she knew what lay beneath. Vulnerability plus brutal honesty combined as the most potent of mirrors to herself, then the sex had finally scuppered everything, including her resolve. There’d never been such a strong pull to anyone like this in her life, arousing each other to a point where they’d spontaneously combust, and it wasn’t enough.

Distance doesn’t dampen that issue either, simply serving to make things worse. This morning she’d let the river’s coldness strip desire from a grateful body, but without something sizeable as distraction it would only be a matter of time before the inevitable attempted to derail, again. Walking back to their camp, Ronni hopes that Q might have something she can do that will allow a focus back to reality. They’d been forced to shift two days ago, when spotted by a couple walking a dog: Q thought Ronni overreacted, but with total anonymity as their aim? Absolutely not. Their home, such as it was, is built down a bank, by a coppice, and with camouflage remains virtually undetectable. It’s a good piece of work, Ronni proud of the skills learnt finally having a practical application in the real world.

Given a choice between hotel bed and campbed roll, of course luxury would win, but for now this is acceptable. As she heads back a fire is already burning for cookery and Q’s dressing after his wash in the tributary that runs along the sharp drop to the south. Still naked, Ronni wonders if she should concern herself with privacy: if positions were reversed he’d wait and had on previous days, and this is what should be adopted as benchmark. Instead of Bond, she thinks of Eve, ans whether LaCroix ever talked to her about their relationship in theatre…

‘Good morning Ronni.’

Q stands dressed and 004 understands she’s not as awake as is needed, and that’s a problem to solve as priority.

‘Did you sleep well?’

‘You were right, a run before bed is becoming very helpful in wearing out body as well as mind. I made excellent progress on decryption yesterday, there’s real meat to package and dispatch to Washington once our satellite arrives. I think today you could do with finding something to occupy apart from pretending to babysit me.’

‘It’s okay, I’m not thinking about the funeral.’

‘No, but having been passed fit for active duty today’s very public events will be an inconvenience Bond won’t want. Yesterday evening there was an assassination of a high-ranking UN official in Bangkok that has Christian Swann’s fingerprints all over it. 007 will desire to be back in theatre as soon as is humanly possible.’

‘Are there any issues I should know about?’

‘Apart from the fact he’s lying through his teeth to everyone except the 00 section? I hear that’s being done with more style and determination than at any point in his career.’

‘I remember how I felt when I thought he’d died in Alaska. Don’t want that ever again if I can help it… and hang on, aren’t you supposed to be incommunicado with London generally?’

‘You will be amazed how much one can learn by electronic eavesdropping, Flemmings. This is also a good exercise to expose which areas of our system can be routinely hacked by a professional. You know, should one be stuck in the arse end of nowhere waiting for tasks to process. Go explore Cremona, liberate something sweet for dinner. I’m sure you can charm something from someone with your conversational Italian.’

‘You know I shouldn’t leave you unattended for too long.’

‘I don’t need protection but you could use distraction. Go do something useful after breakfast and don’t be here. If I’m in any way threatened, I’ll contact you, but having done such a good job of killing us both, Spectre have bigger fish to fry, as indeed do I by the looks of your catch. I think there’s some rice left, we can pretend its kedgeree for breakfast.’

Ronni’s amazed at Q’s continued resilience, and won’t argue if he wants to play mother with the catering. He’s a better cook anyway, managing to adapt to their routine with ease. He’s also read her mood without the need for a prompt: it is her who is beginning to struggle with their rules and restrictions presented by circumstance.

Something meaty as distraction would help everyone in the long run.

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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.

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