"I really don't know why I couldn't have just been called Bond, at least. Seriously. It didn't have to be James or anything, just… Bond!" Will shook his head.
"Please… William Bond? Bill Bond? It's ridiculous." Scoffed Magnus.
"Or on the topic of nicknames, how about Bill-Bo?"
"Oh come on. Bilbo!? I'm way too tall to be a hobbit."
"Ah yes, but if you grew it out, you'd have the proper hair." Magnus grinned as she reached up and ruffled said hair. Will glanced around and was very disgruntled to see that no one in the room was going to stand up for him. This might, of course, have something to do with the fact that he'd never met any of them before this night. The young psychologist sighed as he remembered the chain of events that had got him into this.
It all started a few days earlier, when Magnus had discovered that a Senator in New City was rumored to have secret information on a new weapon being designed for what he thought was the Government. Magnus suspected the weapson was in reality for an up and coming rogue organization similar to the Cabal. The Sanctuary team unanimously agreed that they needed to find out exactly what information he had, but Henry was currently off the continent dealing with a crisis at the Moscow Sanctuary that was taking up all his time, so he couldn't help with hacking the Senator's well protected systems. He'd managed to send them instructions on how to do it themselves, but unfortunately they would need to do it directly at the Senator's main system, which happened to be the computers at his personal home, just outside of New City.
Will had been sitting in the library trying to look up the Senator's contacts to see if they had an "in", while Kate had been eagerly detailing an invasion plan, when Magnus had strolled in, with a small smile on her face.
"Magnus! I've been looking up this Senator Miller's political history, seeing if there's something we can use as a ploy to get in, and-"
"Thank you very much for your initiative," she interrupted.
"Oh, want to hear my invasion plan!?" piped up Kate.
Magnus smiled, "Thank you both, but there's really no need."
Kate and Will looked at each other, then back at Magnus, silently waiting for her solution.
She'd grinned, and held up two tickets.
"Will and I have been invited to a party!"
Next thing Will knew, it was a few hours later, and he was in a tuxedo, riding a limosuine. During the ride, Magnus hurridly tried to tell him the details of his fake identity, but the information had extended only so far as his name. The time was mainly spent poring over the hacking instructions, and the layout of the house, trying to route their way to the computer office. Will had never got the chance to inquire after her identity, or how she'd magically gotten them tickets to a very formal and inclusive fundraiser soiree the Senator was gallantly holding. It only took a minute inside the grand entrance lobby of the sprawling mansion to get his answers.
"My god! Helen of Devonshire!? I can't believe you really came"
A short, but very wide man of at least 60 came bumbling up to them. His cheeks were already pink, and Will could tell that the glass of brandy in his hand had not been his first.
"My darling Geoffrey, of course I did!" Magnus replied with a smile so wide Will almost cringed. Geoffrey seemed to swell.
"You look just as radiant as ever! How do you stay looking so young!? I couldn't believe when you called me and asked if I would be here tonight!"
"Well my dear, it's been so long – I've been wanting to see you again and I knew that everyone who's anyone would be here," Magnus countered, winking. Will blinked. Was she flirting with this guy?
Geoffrey chortled, and waved his hand in dismissal. "Helen, you flatter me too much!"
"Never!" she admonished. "But my dear Geoffrey, I must introduce you to my friend, William Baker."
Magnus slid her arm through his own, pulling him close. Geoffrey gave a start. He'd been so focused on the vision Magnus presented in her floor length, deep purple evening gown that he hadn't realized there was another person with her. He quickly took in Will's tuxedo'd form, and started chuckling again.
"Oooh Helen. Another young 'friend' eh!? Alas, if only I was a few years younger and a few pounds less," he said, shaking Will's hand and chuckling once again.
"Oh no, Geoffrey, you would ruin me for all other men, then break my heart! It would be simply too tragic," said Magnus in a dramatic voice, while pouting her bottom lip out. "Now if you'll please excuse us, I see someone I must catch up with!" She took the man's hand, squeezing it gently, before gliding away with Will still attached to her arm.
It took several more introductions and several more winks before Magnus let Will drag her off to a quiet corner in the dining hall, just off of the main lobby and party area. He got straight down to the point.
"Ok, seriously Magnus, this was not in the mission briefing. What the hell is all this!?"
Magnus had the good graces to look slightly abashed.
"I'm sorry Will, I know this mission came up very suddenly, but I knew Geoffrey would be able to get me in here, and I had to take the opportunity."
"That's fine, but for this brief moment that we're not being accosted by cries of "My dear Helen" can you please give me a little backstory here?"
She sighed, and sat down on a nearby chair.
"I met Geoffrey, or Ambassador Hess, as he's known to most, a few years ago when I attended an opera in town. He was… very doting with his attentions, shall we say, but through our conversation I learned that he had a surprising amount of political connections. I kept in touch, and have on a few occasions been able to gain entry to such events as these because of my friendship with him."
Will nodded as he saw the potential use of such a relationship, then frowned as he thought about it more.
"Has he ever tried to…you know..." he waved his hands about, uncomfortably. Why was he even asking this?
"Take the relationship further? No. You see, everyone here knows me as Helen of Devonshire, the poor widow of an English Duke."
"Ah, ok, that makes some more sense then." Will sat down on his own chair while he digested the new information on Helen's apparent secret other life. He knew that throughout her life, Magnus had been connected with people very high up in governments. He knew for a fact that she had an open invitation to the White House, but as her real self. He supposed that with this middle-echelon group, who seemed more interested in the pretense of power than actually doing anything useful with it, that an alter-ego would be useful.
"When we first arrived… Geoffrey called me "Another young friend." Will mimicked quotation marks on the word "friend"
Helen pursed her lips together, and turned her face away.
"And while you've been introducing me to people I've got a lot of funny looks from people. Men seem... I don't know, but some of the women shot some pretty mean daggers your way."
Will didn't even need his acute visual skills to recognize that Helen looked a trace embarassed. It was not something he was used to seeing on her.
"Well, as a desperately lonely widow, Helen of Devonshire is often seen at parties with, shall we say escorts of a very handsome and very young range?"
It took an extra minute for Will to really wrap his head around that.
"And who, exactly, are the guys that come with you? Where do you find them?"
At this, Magnus raised a delicate eyebrow. Will frowned, but then realized what she was saying. He suddenly noticed the fact that her hair was especially long and curly this evening. It seemed to shine even in the low light of the room. The way her make up was done accented the intense blue of her eyes, but also shadowed them in a way that made her seem mysterious. A very expensive necklace rested in the midst of a plunging neckline. Her perfect posture allowed the shimmering gown to cascade down her body, even while sitting, and he realized there was a slit in the right side of the dress that ran all the way up to mid thigh. The hands she now had draped over the top of the chair were perfectly manicured, long, and elegent. To cap it off, even the toes within the usual killer shoes she wore were a deep luminescent purple.
Will gulped. He had just intensely checked out his boss.
He sheepishly raised his head to meet her amused gaze.
"Ok. That question's answered. Moving on…"
The side of her mouth quirked ever so slightly upward.
The psychologist pondered some more on this new side of Magnus, when he realized something else - Magnus had deemed him worthy of being her next escort, composed of "Very young and very handsome" men. He was pretty sure there was a complement in there, and he smothered a smile. They were rare, coming from her, and usually based more on his intelligence and work, rather than looks.
"So just to clarify then… I'm purely the man candy here?"
"So you've got some crazy reverse James Bond thing going on here."
She smiled and nodded again.
"You'd be amazed, Will, how much more willing to talk people are when dealing with a woman who's well known for being a harmless, hopeless, even pitiable…how would you call it.. cougar? Instead of a… well, anyone else."
Will noticed a brief shadow flit across her eyes as she said this. He got a sudden urge to reach out and touch her hand, but didn't.
"I think you're great to talk to, as the real you." he said softly. She gave him a half smile, not really believing what he said. She knew she could be rather uptight, but it just came with the territory… if she could afford the time to have frivolous conversations, and do fun things with her friends, she probably would. But she didn't have the time, and tried not to dwell.
Will sensed it was time to lighten the mood.
"So not only do I not get to be the suave lady charmer, but I get a name like "Baker"? I mean, I like bread and pastries, but…"
Magnus' grin was wry this time.
"Sorry, Will, but my reputation is well established with this group of people. I thought I was doing you a favour by letting you keep your first name. Makes things much easier."
"Well then thank you ever so much for your kindness."
"My pleasure. Now, I think it's time to return to the party, or people will think we've been up to something." She stood up and extended her hand towards him. He gulped as he took her arm and led her back to the din.
"So… how close, exactly, are we supposed to be pretending to be?"