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The Patriots Governments Fear: 3:00 a.m.

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Switzerland, March 1972

The wooden framed window glides upward easily along worn, waxed tracks. Cool, verdant odors from the backyard garden infuse night air with scents of lemon sage, mint, rosemary and rue.

Victoria sits on the edge of the bed and wonders who the owner of this beautiful Swiss cottage might be. She admires the eclectic mix of rustic and elegant furnishings, admires the gemstone colors -- lapis, carnelian, turquoise -- in the furniture's polished upholstery cottons and hand-loomed blankets on her feather bed.

It is 3:00 a.m.

Occasional noises filter down from the upstairs bedrooms. Victoria suspects most of her companions are as adrenalin charged as she is, although more experienced at alleviating the condition. The midnight raid on an international small time criminal, who is stupid enough to piss off three major world governments and the Unione Corse, is swift, efficient and successful. She finds it necessary to shoot only three guards, and spends most of her time rifling through office records. When Victoria considers the planning and caliber of firepower brought to the mission, the execution of that mission seems like ludicrous overkill.

The cottage is their temporary base, procured through the dubious connections of a fellow agent. As the lone female, she claims the ground floor bedroom near the cottage's single bathroom. Upstairs two of her Majesty's most lethal agents, and one wounded American CIA agent, occupy three of the four remaining rooms.

After six days of drugged confinement, and an active night of breaking, entering, and shooting, Bond is finally unconscious.

The third representative of MI6 on their team, a man who Victoria knows finds adrenalin no more energizing than decaffeinated coffee, most likely drinks and smokes as he reads through newly liberated documents. Although even Lamb eventually sleeps, his eyes never fully close.

In another room, Joe is stretched out on one of the cottage's odd-size feather beds. He is the only member of the team to catch a bullet, and while the flesh of his upper arm is gouged, the wound is easily cleaned and stitched. Lamb offers co-proxamol or some of the pot confiscated from an earlier point in their adventure, but Joe declines.

The rest of their impromptu team -- an American thief, two Russians, and representatives of the Unione Corse -- take their "split" from the raid, go their own directions.

And that is that. Their mission is over. Ivan is gone again.

And yet there is no doubt in her mind. Ivan has not gone too far to find this cottage, to find this open window.

To find her bed.

It is 3:11 a.m.

With each grudgingly assigned mission Victoria learns something new about herself. It isn't until objectives are met that she moves away from the cool, quiet, focused place she occupies when shooting, when fighting. Now, in the aftermath of action that seems less intense than many of her training exercises, Victoria's skin crawls with unexpended energy. She craves a tall glass of iced vodka, Russian rocket fuel for the body and soul. She reminds herself that Bond is the saturnine face on cautionary posters for post-action dependency, habits far too easy for an agent to acquire: alcohol, tobacco, sex . . .

"Victoria."

She's off the bed as he balances, chest on the window sill. His hands touch the floor. The rest of his body follows in a silent, practiced glide that somehow ends with him crouching on the floor.

"Ivan." She's in his arms, pushing him to the bed almost before he's fully on his feet. He tries to kiss her, but kissing only slows removal of clothing. "They're upstairs," she cautions. "I've shifted the bed away from the wall. No screaming."

He laughs, or perhaps groans. A quick shimmy and her legs are bare and free, her fingers already working at his boots. He's frustratingly difficult to keep hold of as he sheds guns, twists to push them beneath ample pillows. His rivet-front jeans require the patience and dexterity of their American safe-cracking partner, but Victoria's methods are more direct. With a wrench and yank she has the jeans down over his hips, around his knees. It will take too long to completely remove them so she turns her attention to his cock, which waves like a semaphore for her attention. Her tongue finds faint salt and musk on satiny, rigid flesh.

Ivan's fingers cup the base of her skull, work into her hair. His body flexes up against the action of her mouth. "I cannot move my legs freely." There is both amusement and frustration in his whispered complaint.

"Do you need to?" Victoria knows how pleasant it would be to linger, nipples rubbing against his legs, and listen to the noises he makes as her mouth works around his cock. This is not the moment for that particular pleasure, if only because she's still wearing a turtleneck and bra. She swings her leg across his body, traps his hips between her knees and thighs. There is no resistance between her body and his, no hesitation, only liquescent heat and swiftly growing pre-orgasmic pressure near her pubic bone as she pushes onto his cock.

Quiet confidence at the core of self returns; nervous energy transmutes to purpose. A target is acquired. A year of abstinence, baking, self-improvement martial arts classes, and she finally has him inside her again. For an entire fucking year she travels between range and HQ, trains male agents with more field experience than she has to shoot straight, files papers and reads classic sitreps and field observation analyses.

And now she has him inside her.

Victoria falls and rises, fixed at her center, fixed in orbit, tethered on invisible cable that stretches from his body to hers. It's been a year. Every previous act of sex between them might be considered antediluvian, particularly if the amount of lubrication her body is producing is taken into account.

Ivan tries to pull her turtleneck over her head, but she slaps his hands away, bumps her clit down against bone and feels a tremor of greed, pleasure and lust that trembles from her muscles to his cock. He's here. Now. Solid. Real. And she has him inside her.

His hips vainly try to escape the motion-deadening qualities of the feather mattress, to add to the rhythm between them.

"Don't move. Don't move." Hands find sculpted muscle of chest and arm, the points of his nipples, the softness of beard along his jaw. She slides forward, pulls back. His fingers close so tightly around her hips she wonders if he could shatter her bones, if he tried.

"You wish to kill me?" His quiet voice vibrates with humor and strain. His fingers relax.

She's so close, and anticipation of orgasm is nearly better than she knows the orgasm is going to be. Poised on a moment of razor-edged clarity: sight, sound and smell reconnect with staggering impact. Victoria stops moving. She stares down at the shadowed outline of Ivan's face and smells lingering smoke from his clothing and hair: tobacco and explosives residue. Under her palm his heart thunders, a Norton Manx accelerating on a 100 mile stretch of perfectly straight road. His breath comes in quick, ragged gasps.

"I've really missed you." Victoria ignores her body's frantic command to finish what she's worked so hard to achieve. Her lips find his mouth, the prickly edge of his mustache. "I've really, really missed you."

"Milaya moya." Ragged laughter tickles against her lips. One hand pushes under her shirt, settles at the small of her back; the other quests between her legs. "I must believe you."

She pushes his fingers to the exact spot she needs him to touch. Pleasure suspends her heartbeat, steals her breath, stops her conscious mind. As tremors ebb, she realizes he has managed to achieve a half-sitting position. Her head is pressed into his chest.

"You nearly broke no screaming rule." His breath is warm against her ear. "May I remove my pants now?"

She has him inside her, and he's still hard.

In her mind's eye Victoria replays select moments of the evening's assault, moments of stealth and destruction, intrusion and execution. Ivan is at the center of everything, swift, fearless, deadly; he's one step ahead of the blast radius, first to bring down an adversary. He protects his allies with marksmanship nearly as precise as her own. She loves everything he is. She loves everything she is when they are together.

"Take off your jeans. I'll take off my bra."

"Quickly. I would very much like to nearly break no screaming directive."

It is 3:43 a.m.

Even with the motion-deadening mattress, Victoria hears small noises from the bed frame as Ivan finishes. His head drops against her breasts. Silence settles between them, stretches upward and outward. No small noises from the upper rooms reach her ears. She wants to wrap around him and sleep with his weight against her skin, his cock between her legs.

The first trill of a drowsy bird hitchhikes on the wind, breaks the cottage silence with a message. Morning. In less than an hour light changes from cat black to mouse grey.

Ivan kisses each nipple, raises his face from her breasts. "I must go. May I kiss you now?"

There are times, Victoria thinks, when a kiss is as good as a shag, but those times are usually after she's shagged Ivan. Time herself stops breathing, dazed by the depth of communion achieved by tongue and lip.

"I do love you," she says as he finds his clothes and dresses quickly. She sees him clearly now.

All spies are grey in the morning, she thinks.

"My Victoria. Ya teybya lyublyu."

She waits until he clears the window sill, then wraps a blanket around her naked body. The air in the bathroom seems colder than her bedroom, even with the open window. Victoria returns to the feather bed, curls into a ball.

Adrenalin is exhausted. Thought is increasingly difficult and results in odd, half-formed ideas.

All spies are grey when in mourning.

Sleep hits like a percussion grenade.

It is 4:03 a.m. in Switzerland, March 1972. It will be 38 years before she has him inside her again.