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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.

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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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