DEFAULT :: Part Thirty-Seven

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Dinner is palatable, far more so than Ronni expects: as tiramisu is finished Marc returns from the kitchen with coffee that’s enough to make her aroused simply by smell. She’s sitting opposite his empty space in a dress shirt, faint whiff of the man’s scent distracting: oddly erotic considering circumstances. It transpires that Bulgari is both smart and funny, but everything falls down when it becomes apparent the only real interest is himself. That’s all that’s been discussed since arriving downstairs after an extended shower: his life, projects recorded, how he came back from the US to claim a brilliant legacy and never went back. There’s also subjects off the books: both parents and life before their demise have been obviously and often forcibly ignored. 004 may crave the caffeine, but wants this deception done. However caution still overrides all else: mindful of pushing, because of what might happen if control is even caressed out of this man’s hands.

Two espresso cups are placed on the table; instead of drinking she stands, seductive stare at her host generating more confidence than is currently either possessed or felt.

‘I think you’re the only stimulant I need right now.’

His desire is almost luminous in semi-darkness, candles casting unreal shadows across them both: yet moving closer there is still no attempt to touch or introduce intimacy.

‘I like to take my time with everything, enjoy the moment, extend stimulation. You should feel free to control, use me as you wish.’

This contradiction makes her want to laugh but suddenly there’s uncertainty in the man’s frame, shaking hand placed on the table to steady himself, allowing a chance to recompose. A small smile forms, Bulgari’s sudden revelation at her refusal to take the bait.

‘I like you far more than the other girls. They just want to fuck and leave, don’t care about my needs. You’re quiet and respectful, let me talk without interrupting. I don’t like it when people do that.’

Discomfort won’t budge, awareness of hunting knife next to the place setting: the SIG may have left his leg but is still within arm’s reach. He looks incongruous in casual slacks and shirt, but there are too many unanswered questions that Ronni never wants to resolve. Pushing the pace she looks away, feigning compliance to support the position of submission. His soft, uncalloused hand comes to her face, almost frustratingly gentle as head is shifted back.

‘Don’t be afraid, Veronica. If you spend the night, I’ll make sure you’re very well rewarded in the morning.’

The other hand is offered which she takes, pulled gently to his chest, and without ceremony there is a nuzzle to neck, before being guided upstairs. His bedroom is small and cramped, and Ronni wonders why they’re here and not using one of the larger rooms and then sparks the memory of his parents: perhaps this was always his place in the house and Marc can’t bear to leave. There’s a stab of guilt swallowed without remorse: now is just the time where everything else is forgotten and deed is done.

He’s a fantastic kisser, it transpires: Ronni detaches from reality in this small restrictive space, allowing him to undress first her, then himself. Marc’s body is incredibly lean but surprisingly strong, erection more than acceptable under the circumstances, and so this becomes the dance she knew could be done but had never needed to perform. They move from vertical to horizontal, yet there is no rush to Marco’s need. He’s happy to trace patterns with tongue across breasts and stomach, feel the points where scars were made as she reacts, and after a while there is the demand to be fucked and have it over with, except he won’t. On reflection this is no surprise, from actions earlier it should have been obvious this was a man who worked to his own timetable and nobody else’s. There is a final understanding that if this is going to be done, a measure of control is demanded.

Once it’s apparent he’s only interested in extending foreplay, she pushes to see how he reacts, and blissfully is allowed to roll them over, before producing a condom from the side of the bed. This may have been the intent all along, Ronni decides: happy for her to set the pace, and once protected there’s a moment of lucidity. Once this is over, the last wall is broken. There is no desire for this man at all, but arousal is inescapable; how the two will finally combine never had to be performed in the field. As she takes him inside it isn’t Marc beneath but James, fantasy required to complete this transformation.

In the candlelight it is easy to blur lines, trick a sleep deprived brain: another under and inside and so it is, wondering if Bond does the same. Everything’s a game, in the end; falsehood, deceit and death wrapped around a job that was too often glamorised and never really understood. For every time he had done this, 007 rationalised and moved on, but already Ronni feels the world crumbling, slipping sand beneath foundations that had appeared far more solid. As Bulgari orgasms she fakes a spasm but not tears; no pleasure, simply pain. Then the final acceptance hits: she never truly learnt to do this properly and should have failed her final assignment.

Next time, she kills or disables her target before they make it to the bedroom.

He doesn’t talk post coitally as she lifts off, going to the bathroom for a drink, pre-mixed sedative that Q had provided beforehand. The actions are reflex: pretending to drink, passing it over, watching the shift up onto one elbow as cup is drained, condom still on. In fifteen seconds he’s out cold yet the erection remains, testament to the moment that eventually is covered with a blanket. Showering again, nausea rises and she’s sick against the tile, defiled despite the fact it was utterly consensual. Once she’s dressed, toiletries are also stolen, because if she’s going to act to type, then that’s how this works.

He’s washed all her clothes, still warm from the tumble dryer, and 004’s compelled to go across the landing to check the other rooms. Both are empty shells, spotlessly clean: understanding how other people deal with grief is none of her business, Q’s profiling remains beyond reproach. Then there is the desire to return to Marc from compulsion; removing his condom, cleaning genitalia before returning the almost dead weight to bed. Somehow it seems only fair that she creates an illusion of care, before taking what’s needed there will be an understanding.

Veronica was human, even if now the woman is a shell.

Q waits quietly outside, getaway vehicle already stocked and ready. He’ll have known the coast was clear because, like it or not, he’ll have worked out there was a camera installed in the bedroom. That’s how Marc filmed all his conquests for later viewing, admitting as much himself over dinner. He’d even offered to use it as foreplay but Ronni had politely refused. She expects the Quartermaster to get in automatically, surprised when the young man just stands, staring at her with wet hair. There’s none of the embarrassment or discomfort expected, instead professionalism that is both welcome and comforting.

‘I didn’t watch. I need you to know that. As soon as you went into the bedroom I took it as a sign it was safe and began removing what we needed. Whatever you may think of this job, not everyone is damaged goods or a voyeur.’

As if to reinforce the sorrow building inside 004, rain begins to fall, light shower that is suddenly torrential, thunder rolling up in the mountains, and there’s no more chance to talk as both scramble into the vehicle. This impressive, generically Asian four wheel drive will give them enough of a head start to make it north to the mountains west of Turin, long before the man wakes and probably goes on a destructive rampage. After that, there will be no video to place them at the house as Q explains he’s wiped everything in Marc’s studio clean, including the CCTV feed from the bedroom. Ronni’s glad for the condom regardless of its actual requirement, tuning out as her handler explains what he found in Bulgari’s recording complex. When the bigger picture becomes clear, his care and attention’s simply the front for a deeply flawed personality. Money buys a lifestyle, stream of escorts from Milan, and nobody asking any questions because no-one ever got hurt. In the end, he’ll probably consider the loss of property less significant than the removal of the movie collection.

Rationalising makes the job easier, but won’t hold together the damage the incident has caused within her. As they drive away, heading towards the French border, there is a numbness to heart that Ronni has never experienced before, frightening yet strangely comforting as the sun begins to come up.

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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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