Author's Notes: Just 'cause. Also—I'm operating under the assumption that the new Casino Royale takes place before all the other Bond movies in the timeline, so all technology that was in Casino Royale applies, even if (obviously) they didn't have them at the time of filming.

Poor Vesper. I liked her.

lest you be consumed

Like always, he wakes to the sound of Vesper singing. He's forgotten the last time he rose from a new woman's bed and didn't hear her echo.

This time she's in the bathroom, still in that red dress, perched on the counter and swinging her legs. Miss Mary Goodnight sleeps on in the bedroom, the sheets pooled around her ankles. Bond reaches for the soap.

"She rates about a five," Vesper says casually, leaning back against the mirror. "She's stupid, but funny. If I thought you were going for a long-term commitment I'd say you could do better; but as it is, you could do worse."

He ignores her. He usually does, partly because if the miss in his bed wakes up to hear him talking a dead girlfriend it will bring only bad things, and partly because to speak with her is to acknowledge her existence, and is isn't ever going to be ready for that.

"My favorite so far has been the Japanese girl you had to marry," she muses, following him back into the bedroom and then to the closet for fresh clothes. "You remember. She had all those shells? She was sweet. Again, not the sharpest knife in your boot, but certainly made some mean sushi."

He pulls a clean shirt over his head and ties his shoe with one hand, using the other to reach for a jacket.

It's tailored. Vesper reaches out and runs a hand along his shoulder as he puts it on, and he can't feel the actual touch but he gets a chill anyway.

"James," she murmurs. "Look at me."

He doesn't. She betrayed him, and he is 007. He doesn't need ghosts reminding him of the only time he ever thought he would be something else.

"If you're going to be mad at me forever, that's fine," she snaps at last, her voice lowering the way it always does when she's annoyed, "but I'm not the one who wakes up from every conquest to see my dead ex-lover, so I'm not the one with the problem."

He faces her then, angry, wanting more than anything for her to just disappear. "What do you want from me?" He hisses. "What do you want, Vesper?"

"Nothing," she whispers, stepping closer. She is still wearing that red dress. That red dress. "I don't want anything, James. I'm not the one who can't let go."

He breathes through his nose to stay calm. His Dad taught him that, four days before he died. "And what is it you think I'm holding onto? The memory of some dead bitch that betrayed me for a couple million dollars?"

Vesper looks pained, and then angry, but no color flushes to her cheeks as she pokes her finger at him. "I didn't betray you, I saved you! They were going to kill us both. I never cared about the money, James. I made a deal to save your life and mine. You knew that. You know that." She folds her arms across her chest, challenging him, the only woman in his life that ever really challenged him. "What would you have preferred? That we both die, alone, in some God-forsaken basement?"

"You could have told me, after."

"What would you have done? Taken my place? Gone on one of your … crusades? You'd have gotten yourself killed. I did what I thought was best, because I love you, and—forgive me—I didn't want you hurt, or worse, dead. I paid for that with my life, and you think I didn't know that's what it would cost?"

There's pain where his heart used to be, but he's used to compartmentalizing. Everything is relative—emotion, desire, pain, longing. It can all be boxed and stored, packed away for moments when he is too tired or unconscious to keep the door locked. He looks away. Searches for the anger that he clings to, the anger that keeps him floating, these days.

When he turns back to her, Vesper's eyes are ringed with red, and she is wet, dripping, looking for all the world like she had in that elevator. That goddamn red dress.

"I'm sorry," she murmurs at last, voice breaking. "James. You have to forgive me or this is never going to stop."

He looks at the sleeping form in the bed, Mary's chest rising and falling as she sleeps. He'll stay with her until the job's done, then—after the celebration—he'll be gone. That's how it is, now, that's how he likes it. Short, sweet, unemotional. It keeps things simple. It keeps things painless.

Vesper says, "You have to forgive me if you want to stop waking up with my face reminding you of everything you almost had."

His cell phone is ringing. Vesper says, "Don't you want to forget how much I hurt you? Don't you want to move on?"

The caller ID just reads M. He hasn't heard from her in a few days, which means this is probably not a social call. Unsurprising, considering, well, M.

Vesper takes his hand as she says, "You have to let me go, James, or I am going to keep hurting you with memories and I don't want to hurt you anymore."

He flips the phone open. "Sorry," he tells Vesper, not sorry at all, "I have to take this call."

Six months later, he wakes in Anya Amasova's bed. Vesper's laid his clothes out and she sighs as she says, "Now this one, I like."