The really ironic thing about how few friends one has, as a field agent, is that spies were notoriously great in social situations. "Put a hundred government employees in a room together," M—the late M, the one she still thinks of as M—grumbled to her once, in anticipation of some long and dreadfully boring evening trying to coax a number of Treasury people out from behind their calculators, "and you'll be able to pick out ours, because they're the ones who actually know how to talk to people while everyone else is huddled in a corner making cow eyes at one another. We've got enough for everyone else a hundred times over, that's the problem."
Of course, the only time one had the chance to use one's socializing abilities was on the job—and one was always on the job. Between the hours and rarely being within five hundred miles of them, Eve was down to only a handful of her closest girlfriends, as far as her non-MI6 social life went.
But it had been nearly eight months out of the field, nearly five months since she'd made the transition permanent, and Commander Eve Moneypenny, who'd been trained to adapt to any situation, to charm and seduce and enchant anyone, had absolutely no idea what she was supposed to do with herself, or quite how one went about this "making friends" thing. So when one of those girlfriends, confused and sweetly cautious, as if she still expected Eve to have to run at any moment, asked if she'd be interested in going out with "a handful of us"—who "us" was, Eve no longer knew, but it seemed like a good place to start, especially when Jess mentioned the guy she wanted Eve to meet—she jumped at the chance.
Which was how she ended up here, having left work at an entirely normal hour, in brand-new shoes, with an expensive cocktail, surrounded by a number of very nice people who all worked in the City and who, she suspected, couldn't have told the difference between a Walther PPK and Walt Disney, and one very nice man in particular. And it took every neuron of her finely-tuned instrument of a mind not to start tearing her hair out, she was so damned bored.
When her mobile started beeping, she could have cried with relief. "I'm so sorry," she said, particularly when she saw the false number with the 007 embedded in the middle of it. "I work for the MoD, and…"
"Oh, yeah, Jess mentioned something about that," said—oh, God, what was his name? Adam? Alan?—with his very nice smile. "Don't worry about it.“
And something about the little wave of his hand, like he was shooing her, left her feeling aimlessly mulish, spiteful, ready to hang up on Bond regardless of the fact that thirty seconds ago she'd been ready to peel her own skin off if it would get her out of there. "Yes?" she said, stalking away from the table.
"I'm busy," she said simply. She knew for a fact he wasn't on assignment at the moment, because she was the one he asked to pass on the message to M when he got back two days ago. "A friend invited me out. There's someone she wanted me to meet," she added, pettily pleased to add this last.
"It's not going well, though."
"How would you know that? He's very nice. They all are."
"I'm sure they are," he said, all too agreeably, "but if it were going well, you wouldn't have answered." He didn’t add what that must mean about her; twisting the knife wasn't generally an indulgence a 00 could afford, and anyway, he didn't have to say it.
There was a routine to these calls. It might have been serious, like she didn't already know, you might have been dying—and you wouldn't want that without doing it yourself, the usual dance.
"My feet hurt," Eve told him instead. "These are new shoes, and they're absolutely killing me."
"That sounds dreadful. Let's get you out of them as soon as possible."
He recited the address for her, and added, "I'm four blocks away, so make your excuses quickly." She couldn't even be properly annoyed with him for knowing exactly where she was.
All of them, especially the guy Jess wanted her to meet, were deeply concerned, though of course not deeply enough for her to be suspicious. "That would be too interesting," she commented to Bond, telling him this. Then, suddenly ashamed of herself, she added, "God, what an awful thing to say."
"You could never," he said, and she rolled her eyes.
"As they say, Mr. Bond, don't play a player."
He laughed. His little finger just reached her thigh in most gears. He was spelling out a Turkish nursery rhyme, she realized, after she found herself completing it in her mind with no real attention. In all, it was only some twenty minutes before she was on his couch, another drink in hand, while he traced the straps on her shoes.
"It was really very rude of you, making me do that to poor…whatever his name was," she mused. Bond's chuckle skipped over her stockinged calf, and his mouth was warm and wet as he slid kisses down over the arch of her foot.
"You're already going to have nasty blisters," he said, looking back up at her as he rubbed her foot gently. "Just imagine if you'd had to walk up all those stairs at your flat."
"Still," she said, as he went to the other foot. "You're going to have to make it up to me."
"Isn't that what I'm doing?" he asked, and gave her a hurt look.
"It's a start," she allowed.
He dropped the other shoe unceremoniously and slid her legs apart, moving forward just enough to rest his chin on her thigh. She stroked his hair with her free hand, the one that wasn't holding the drink, and he grinned up at her again.
"Do you think further punishment is in order?" he asked her, his eyes dark.
Eve set her drink down, and pulled him up, pulled him atop her, made him kiss her. "Yes, I do," she said, when she'd drunk deep enough of his mouth for the moment.
He actually cried out, on the eighth stroke, when she'd got a feel for it, for him, and she'd taken a little more of a chance, swung a little harder.
"Are you mocking me?" Eve asked, and found that she was shaking. She was angry at the thought of it, or something inside of her was, something with the ravening jaws and the warm gold eyes of a wolf.
"No," he said, and she realized he was trembling, too, his muscles taut with the work of keeping still. She pressed a kiss to his shoulder, and after seven more strokes, he was gasping, and his cock was iron-hard.
"Don't pretend you don't know how many that was," she murmured, and that was all it took.
James straightened long enough to turn to her and pull her down on top of him, hissing with pain as he kissed her. "Oh, God," he rasped against her mouth, and she got, if it was possible, even wetter. She guided him into her, and when she told him to be still, to let her move just for a few moments, he obeyed. She could feel him tense as a bear trap, and his breath was ragged, loud and rasping with low moans, but he obeyed.
She stilled, leaned down to kiss him, and whispered, against his mouth, "good boy". He grinned at that, and sprang, flipping them so that she was underneath him, his warm, solid weight surrounding her. In retaliation, she squeezed his arse, just a little, just enough to make him cry out again, though his voice was choppy with laughter. So, for that matter, was hers, and though the both of them were breathless, somehow, they managed to find the air to go on, their shrieks of laughter melting like snow into summery cries of delight.
The thing about this job, the new perspective it gave her, was that it was humbling in the strangest ways. When she was one of them, Eve hadn't understood why everyone seemed to insist on making things so bloody difficult for field agents. Just let me do my damned job, she wanted to scream on more occasions than she could count.
It was only now, outside the cave, that she started to see just how much leeway they were given. Just let me do my damned job, she wanted to scream now, at times like these, when Bond—who'd ignored her emails about his paperwork on Montevideo, thanks so much—saw fit to go storming into M's office, and came storming back out again five minutes later.
She really shouldn't have been surprised, she supposed, that he was the source of her worst headaches. And yet…
When she caught up with him at the lift, she was pleased to see that he showed no sign of hearing her—even in heels, she could move silently, and she fully intended to keep that promise she'd made to make him learn the same one day. He was tense, stewing, his hands stuffed in his pockets and his shoulders tight. Eve remembered that feeling well.
"Your report's late."
His head snapped round before it sank in that she wasn't actually threatening to bench him; she could see his face change, see him smoothing his frustration out more, though it happened in all of a heartbeat. He allowed a smile. "Is it?"
"Don't think you're going to get off by playing ignorant," she said, stepping in beside him. The lift was smooth, but fast; her stomach dropped with it, and the way Bond slid closer to her didn't help.
"Then perhaps you'd give me some idea how I can get off?" he murmured. For a moment it was summer, the world narrowed down, just for a heartbeat, to his hot damp breath and the blood rushing in her ears like waves.
The elevator jerked to a halt, and he put a hand on her waist to catch her, though she never toppled to begin with. She smiled, but pushed past him anyway, and her smile widened when she heard him following. "Well," she said, over her shoulder, "it's, oh, fifteen days late at this point?"
"Feels like twice that, though," she added.
"Thirty? Oh, I have been remiss," he answered, and held the door open for her.
He went down on her, first, pulled her to the bed and put the cane in her hand and then just kept on kissing her. She prodded him with it, gently, and they both grinned as he kissed his way down her stomach. She felt light after she came, giggly and rubber-limbed as a lamb, though she wasn't giddy enough to miss when he lost count.
"Did you miss your count on purpose, James?" she asks.
"Of course not, ma'am," he said, and the honorific would give him away if nothing else did. Eve swished the cane through the air thoughtfully, then sat down on the bed he was crouching over and looked at him.
"Really?" she asked, and he literally fluttered his eyelashes at her, damn him, and she had to work through another fit of the giggles before she could get back to it. "You know, 007, you should thank your lucky stars I've seen you undercover, because if I had this performance to go on, I'd recommend pulling you from the field immediately."
He was smiling now, too, and she kept her own smile on as she rose up on her knees, slid the tip of the cane beneath his chin and drew his gaze up to hers. "James."
"Did you miss a count on purpose?" Just a little bit of pressure, right there on his windpipe—nothing dangerous, yet, but irritating, and a warning of worse.
He lowered his eyelids this time, looked up at her through his lashes, and even knowing this was still an act, it served to stoke the hungry fire inside her to a roar again. "Yes, ma'am," he purred. His muscles went just the littlest bit looser, every inch of him whispering submission.
Considering him, Eve slid the cane's tip further down, tracing his chest, his stomach, his hips.
"Well," she said, finally, "we'll have to make it thirty-five, then, at least, don't you think?"
"Oh, yes, at least," James agreed, and dutifully helped her to her feet again.
July, and he'd been gone for three weeks, Seoul to Perth to Seoul again, and the reports she'd seen left her unprepared to find him waiting in the car park for her. He was in black, but she saw the blood on his clothes anyway, somehow, patches of black that were darker or stiffer or differently-textured, something only another field agent could possibly pick up, especially in the buzzing fluorescents.
"Bond," she said, stupidly, and he gave her a perfunctory smile.
"I'm going to skip the debriefing until tomorrow," he said, and for all that it was well lit, as car parks went, she felt like there was something she was missing, something important that she couldn't see. "What do you say to that?"
"I'd say you look like you need sleep even more than I do," she told him.
"I suppose I'll need sleep eventually," he said, in a voice as harsh as the wind this morning. From his stubble, she guessed that it had been at least two days since he last shaved.
She stared at him a little longer, and he gazed back at her, and finally, she shrugged. "I suppose you've destroyed another car?"
Another curl of skin about skull that she guessed was meant to be a smile.
"I'm definitely driving, then," she said. The curve of his body, as he bent to open her door for her, was like tempered metal.
Eve learned to trust her instincts long ago, the voice inside her that told her something was wrong, and she trusted it now, when it made her look over at the bedside table. The cane was there, the cuffs were there, and he was shoving her against the wall and kissing her until her head spun and it took her far too long to put together what was wrong.
"Something's missing," she said to him, and he shook his head and kissed her again. He'd undone half the buttons on her blouse, and his thumbs were tracing the top of her bra, his palms hot even through the fabric of the cups.
"James," she snapped. He stilled, at last, and as he looked at her, his eyes were just a little brighter than they should have been.
He'd hidden the salve in the laundry, underneath a bone-dry towel that still smelled of laundry detergent. She weighed the tube in her hand as he lounged in the doorway, his gaze boring into her and every fiber of him—she could hear it now—screaming for her to take this out on his back.
"Nice trick," she told him, her mind racing.
"You know we don't really need it," he said, with a carelessness that would have been believable were they not half-naked in his bedroom, were there nothing they wanted from one another.
"Then why didn't you just bin it?" she asked, straightening and slipping it into her pocket.
"Oh, it just seemed a bit obvious," he said, putting his hands on her waist and letting her guide him back toward the bed. "Or maybe I was just trying to annoy you."
"I wonder which," she murmured. He finished stripping as smoothly as rain, and bent to the bed. She crawled past him to get the cane from the other side of the bed, and honestly she was giving him a chance to take this out of her hands, to just decide he'd rather have the easy fuck.
But of course he didn't, just kept watching her, and she'd hit twenty without more than a hiss of breath from him when she saw blood oozing from one of the welts, and stopped then and there. She grabbed hold of his chin, and made him look at her. His pupils were dilated, but not blown, nothing that suggested drugs. Still—
"You've had enough," she said, finally.
"No," he answered, and she lifted the cane over her knee, ready to break it. "Christ, fine," he snapped, and she nearly slapped him, except that she knew that was what he was aiming for.
He was quiet as she tended to the welts—sucking down his drink in sullen silence, and for all that she knew perfectly well that he was trying to goad her into more, it still nearly worked, damn him.
"You were right," he said, finally, and offered the scotch to her.
"It happens, more often than not," Eve answered, accepting the glass from him and taking a slow draught.
He smiled at that, the first real smile she'd seen from him all night, and of course weeks before that, really, and he let her hold the glass to his lips. When he'd drained it, he picked her up and carried her to the bed, and it was slow and gentle as the rain. She woke once in the night, and found that they'd fallen asleep with his head against her chest, her arms about his shoulders.
James stirred when she did, and blinked up at her, briefly, shifting a little to lie alongside her, no longer hunched defensively against her. "You were right," he mumbled, and if she didn't know him, she'd've guessed he was too sleepy still to know what he said.
"You said that already," she said, closing her eyes again.
"Yes, well, I suppose it seemed worth saying again," he said, and she hummed a laugh as sleep stole over them once more.