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Waking with a start, Q knows to be alert immediately as he emerges from the car.

The man knew this moment would arise: today was Ronni’s birthday, and that made this entire change of circumstances considerably more delicate. There was a very good reason 00’s were told to complete their missions as quickly as possible, because the long-term consequences of keeping agents in the field was not only well known, but dangerous in the extreme. 007’s predecessor was forced into what many considered early retirement after his detention in North Korea, psychological effects of undercover work well documented on men. For women however, there was no research. Nobody knew what happened, because there simply weren’t any metrics.

He goes to find his protector: sitting alone on the steps of the abandoned farmhouse they’ve arrived at, steeling himself to a task that he’d rather never have to undertake. Body language screams, leave me alone, but Q knows enough to understand that with the right stimulus, that can be changed.

‘Ronni? Would you like to talk?’

‘Is this how it’s supposed to feel?’

She’s been crying for some time, and the man finds himself wishing to be made of harder stuff than he knows is the case.

‘You did the right thing, 004.’

‘Like fuck I did. It doesn’t matter how bad the person may end up being: I still slept with someone so I could drug them, steal their car, money and equipment and keep us safe. Explain to me exactly how that is acceptable conduct for anyone, let alone a member of MI6.’

This is the moment to squat down, to not tower over a woman who’s struggling, and to try and make a point, and so Q does just that.

‘Sometimes… an agent is forced to make different decisions in order to expedite their mission.’

‘I joked about it with him over dinner. He didn’t believe me, I told him what was going to happen and he refused to grasp I was serious and when I did it it was like someone had punched me in the stomach. How does Bond live with this? How on Earth is he capable of using seduction as a means of helping himself when the results are just so horrendously awful?’

‘He makes the women want to help -‘

‘- by lying and stealing? By providing pleasure and then abandoning them to get the job done?’ How ON EARTH is that justifiable for anybody?’

‘Because this is the true reality of that existence. It only works if you start thinking rationally.’

Now is the moment to come sit beside her, grasping his own depth of fatigue after weeks on the run, grateful for protection in a manner there will never be means to adequately thank for. Without persistence and sacrifice they would not have turned the current tide in the fight against Spectre. She’s done so much and because of it, in the next twenty four hours they’re finally off the back foot and back in the game.

‘I never realised how strong Bond really was, Q. When we trained, it was always this arrogant swagger, confidence never grasped. He could just tune it out, forget bad and focus on good. He never cared about planning or considering the consequences, he just wanted the pleasure. That’s all that’s ever mattered.’

‘You know that’s not true. Trust me from someone who’s read every report, digested all the files. All he has, in the end, is the job. There was nobody else, until Ms Lynd, and when that turned out to be a lie… he just stopped caring. About himself, the ideal… everything. Moneypenny was placed to instigate a change, but she wasn’t what was needed. He required a very specific mirror, held up to himself. To make him realise. So he understood what he could do if he cared about someone else and not just himself.’

Ronni stares, taking in the truth Q wonders whether she actually ever considered. It had not just been her training he’d engineered, but Bond’s redemption as an agent. By giving him a reason not to be what he had always been, 007’s outlook had finally changed.

‘Q, are you saying if it wasn’t for me, he wouldn’t have fallen in love with Madeline?’

‘Yes, I am very sorry to say that I am. You gave Bond back his humanity, and the moment he grasped that? It simply found the nearest convenient truth to latch onto. He promised a man he’d protect his daughter, without finding anything else out about the mission he’d been presented. That’s always been 007’s failing. The job is everything. It always has been. What you did was save him from himself, but before he was able to actually understand how he could find true deliverance? He got distracted.’

‘Why are you sorry, Q?’

‘Because this was never just about Bond’s redemption. I’d never truly grasped what the consequences might be for you in all of this, and for that, I am so terribly, dreadfully sorry. I know how much you care about him now, and if I’d known the upshot of my actions -‘

‘Q, you didn’t make this happen. I did. I only have myself to blame.’

Ronni stares, tears streaming unhindered down a face that now screams for reassurance and despite himself Q reaches across, pulling body close, so he can hold 004 while she cries. Once upon a time this would have been awkward but now he knows only too well how much he needs strength and focus, to keep them both alive. He cannot lie, not today of all days. The truth remains that, like it or not, she is less than her best in the field without Bond as balance. How they have emotionally altered the other is abundantly apparent. Now he has forced her to confront that truth, it will be time to deal with the consequences.

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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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