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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.

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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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