Author's Note: Riffing on something hinted at in the original version of Casino Royale, and some of my own ruminations about the man who is 007. Slight spoilers for the new Casino Royale.

DISCLAIMER: Bond and Co. are borrowed with all humility (read: without intent to make money) from Ian Fleming and Albert Broccoli.

Ebb and Flow

By The Lady Razorsharp

M poured herself a single bourbon on the rocks and sat back in her chair at her desk, contemplating the door that 007 had just closed behind him.

Breaking into her flat, of all the nerve--! His predecessor never would have--

She stopped herself and sighed, lowering her gaze to the ice in her glass. His predecessor...

Dark hair, impossibly blue eyes, cruelty behind the veneer of mischief as he turned away from teasing Moneypenny and entered the den of the Evil Queen of Numbers for the first time.

"Your predecessor kept a very fine cognac--"

She cut him off. "I prefer bourbon." It took considerable restraint not to smile in triumph at the line between his brows.

The man was dead; he had been dead for two years, and the order had been handed down: There must be a new Bond.

M grimaced as the liquor seared her throat. How many had there been? She was only a junior clerk at MI6 when the first Bond, the original--suave, dark haired, dark-eyed, smooth voice edged with a Scottish brogue--had been on the roster. He had retired to Argentina with a beautiful former Russian spy, and of course had never been heard from again.

By that time--the mid-1970's--Bond was a legend for surviving his tour as much as for what he had done during his years of service. Another decision had been handed down then--'James Bond' was a name that the Russians understood and respected, and so it was decreed that 'James Bond' be kept on the roster. The Cold War made it necessary to pluck a man from the ranks of MI6, ask him to sign away his life and name, and assume the identity of one James Bond.

It was either a great honor, or a cruel joke. Either way, many were tried and found wanting, but a few--a very special few--had been granted both the name and the number. The 00 designation wasn't automatic, which was, in M's opinion, one of MI6's wiser caveats. Any would-be 007 had to prove his mettle. Several had died before becoming 007, and gone gently into the good night of anonymity--or at least into a file that M had inherited in the bottom drawer of her filing cabinet.

The keys to the flat in Chelsea, the Aston Martin, the Walther PPK--it all came with the territory, even the flirtation with Miss Moneypenny. Oddly enough, it was Bond who brought the latter forward when Moneypenny herself had retired. "Why, Moneypenny, you've changed," said Bond upon meeting her beautiful young replacement, and so the name—like his own—became both homage and jest. To M's recollection, no one had ever called the girl anything else. What was more, the girl had never seemed to mind.

M snorted into her glass; she wondered if the original Moneypenny had felt odd, trading coy innuendos with that succession of glib, hat-tossing 007's, but as always, training won out over mere curiosity. One simply did not ask questions like that, not in MI6. Besides, M felt she knew the answer: Silently mourn the old while welcoming the new.

That was how M felt tonight. This new Bond--also newly crowned with the 00 designation, though M had snarled her reluctance about that decision a few moments earlier, and meant it--was indeed nothing like the previous.

She had trained herself long ago to stop thinking of the new Bond's predecessor as her Bond, but the designation had lingered in the back of her mind. Her Bond, the 007 that had been in place when she took up the mantle handed down from that shadowy figure in her own line of succession. She let a wry smile curl one edge of her mouth; Bond had thought to teach her, but he had learned his lesson quickly, and well.

Her Bond, she thought, leaning her head back against the chair. The one who saved her life. The one who avenged a friend.

Bond...come back alive.

And so he had, for nearly a decade. Quite a long life for a 00, really. He had fulfilled his mission, and now his name, number, and life had been handed down in honor once more.

M sighed. She had read their dossiers, knew the breadth of their differences and their eerie similarities. There was the aforementioned original, followed by his successor--debonair, ice-pale eyes, flashing smile. The next had dared to want a normal life, had turned his back on MI6 and gotten married, only to see his bride cut down before his eyes. The one following him was short lived; MI6 would never admit to a mistake, but reading between the lines revealed a sort of mea culpa.

And then...her Bond. One of the best, it had been whispered of him in the halls. Moneypenny had handed her the notice personally, and M supposed it could have been tears that glimmered at the edges of Moneypenny's eyes.

M rose and refilled her glass, then raised it in a one-sided toast.

"To James Bond," she murmured. "Whoever you are."