The air was full of ash and dust, the broken building she was crawling out of coated in it, like her lungs. "Consultant," she muttered to herself in between coughs. Consultants weren’t supposed to be in the middle of alien 'incidents' – she was sure that was in her contract. Sometimes she hated Nick Fury for dragging her back into his world—today particularly. Watch Stark's back, he'd said. I need eyes there I can count on. This is just recon. "Recon, my ass," she spat out, along with a mouthful of dust. Charlotte felt as if the sky had fallen on her.
A hand appeared in front of her face, the manicured nails imbedded with grime. "I recommend a massage and several days lying on a beach." The voice sounded amused and very familiar.
A smile settled on her lips as she grasped the hand, letting him pull her to her feet. Her other hand took hold of his shoulder as she steadied herself. "I've always fancied Ibiza. Have you been?"
"I have. There was a woman—" he began.
"Isn't there always?" She laughed softly.
He ignored her interruption. "There was a woman, with raven hair, and timeless eyes. She made Ibiza very memorable."
"A girl likes to be memorable."
"And so we meet again." He looked around at the aftermath of the battle, SHIELD personnel and various Avengers securing the area. "You told me you'd never go back to this life."
She shrugged. "A woman's prerogative." She brushed his face with her fingers. "It's been a long time, James."
"Twelve years." His grip on her hand tightened. "It's good to see you again, Carlotta."
Shaking her head slightly, her eyes sparkled. "You're the only one who ever called me that."
"A man likes to be memorable," he shot back, grinning.
"I think you're well aware of just how memorable you are, James," she replied archly. Then she giggled. "Do you remember that little cantina?"
"With the one- eyed bartender."
"And the Ordoki he claimed was from his uncle's wife's brother's distillery."
"You drank far too much of it."
"In your opinion!" Then she cocked her head, searching his eyes. "How have you been, James?" she asked softly.
"I serve Queen and country." He wasn't looking at her anymore.
"That's not an answer."
"Isn't it?" His tone was clipped and cold.
She considered, and then she shrugged. "So you say."
Grimacing, he toyed with a strand of her hair. "I'm sorry, Charlotte."
"Oh, James; sorry isn't something you ever have to be with me."
"Then you'd be the only one." The words were said evenly, but his eyes held a profound grief, and she wondered what had happened to cause it. She would probably never know.
She reached up, kissing him on the cheek, not caring that every SHIELD agent in view was running an ID for her companion, and that answers would be demanded when this was all over. "That week in Spain…. It was perfect, you were perfect."
"In between the explosions, stabbings, and gunfire," he pointed out.
"The in between was very good," she whispered at his ear. "More than made up for it."
He stroked her hair. "I saw you a few years ago in Monte Carlo. You were playing baccarat with Stark."
"I wish you'd said hello."
"It was better not to."
Taking a breath, she nodded. "I understand."
"What do you think?" She shook her head. "We are who we are, you and I."
"Do you ever wish you weren’t?"
"Sometimes. But then the people who love me remind me of how blessed I am."
"And if you have no one to remind you?" he asked, that grief she'd seen in his eyes reaching his voice.
Her heart clenched. "I have no answers for you, James." She squeezed his hand. "But I care; I always shall."
"Always." He tasted the word. "When you say it, it takes on a great deal more significance."
"Are you making aspersions in regards to my age?" she asked with mock indignation.
He cracked a smile. "You are the most beautiful three-hundred year old woman I know."
"Flatterer." She winked up at him. "Let's not make it another twelve years before we see one another again, James."
"Maybe your people can contact my people and we could get together at the next alien invasion."
"It's a deal – I have pull, you know."
"I never doubted it."
Laughing, she said, "There has to be a bar around here somewhere that isn't a pile of rubble. Buy me a drink?"
"I'll buy you the bottle."
"See? Like I said, you're quite perfect, Mr. Bond."