A/N: I tried my damnedest not to ship it, but I watched Skyfall and god hot damn I ship it. Sorry not sorry. So here. Have my creys. And my Bond/M feels.

Dirt had an uncanny ability to force itself into the most bizarre and tiniest of crevices, so she should not have been so surprised when grief at Bond's death crept into her daily life so effortlessly, it seemed as if it had been there all along. As if he had never been alive, a shadow on the wall that she only occasionally remembered had been there at all. During the particularly dull days at the office, it struck her, and often times the only way to get rid of it was to leave, to have some company driver ferry her around London for an hour or so until the words "take the bloody shot" stopped echoing around her head.

A jolt of hope ran through her every time she opened her front door and caught a shadow at the window. It was never Bond, of course, but it did not deter her from hesitating, pausing to look.

At the funeral - a small affair, with only a select few in attendance - the priest, or vicar, or whomever he was, had spoken of honour and dignity, of the worth of a man's soul. To M, who had never been very religious, it seemed exceedingly pitiless to guess at the worth of a dead man, and she could not imagine what value Bond would hold in the eyes of an unknown deity, but to her, standing there in the rain next to a bleak grey headstone, he took the top spot. Courage and loyalty made the man; dignity and honour were window dressing.

He had died trying to protect hundreds of operatives, and while his death could have been avoided, it could not be overlooked. Writing his obituary had been difficult, if only because she could not find a single suitable word to sum up what a great tragedy his loss had been - would be. There could be no doubt: he was the best, a true pinnacle of achievement, the epitome of what it meant to be a good man.

Several days after she sent the damned thing in were spent staring into the space between now and then, trying to pinpoint exactly when he started meaning something more to her than just a tool she could wield, a weapon with which she could build or destroy. When did he become a man, and, more importantly, when had a wry smile ghosted her lips when she thought about him? Theirs had never been an even remotely sexual relationship, but there did always seem to be a romantic undercurrent to matters, a kind of flirtation that edged at the boundaries between them. Well, she supposed, send someone into harms way - with the distinct possibility of death - often enough and you were bound to wind up with some sort of intimacy.

But was it more than that?

She cared about him, certainly. In her more private thoughts, she was unafraid to admit it. After the funeral, she had even said as much to Mallory. They had been in a company car, travelling back to HQ for some last minute paperwork.

"I rather liked him," she had said, unprompted. Silence followed, the two of them jostling in the back seat, staring out of the opposite windows. Mallory had not replied, had not even cast a glance in way of confirmation that he heard her, but once the words had come to her throat they could not be swallowed down again.

"He was a good agent - a damned good one. We should be proud to have had someone like him in our service." Her voice had quivered, just for a moment. Mallory turned his head in her direction, only slightly.

"Do you regret making the call?"

"No. I'd do it again." No hesitation. Later, she would question her fast answer, but in the moment she was certain. "I would simply hope for a better outcome." Mallory had smiled, attempting a sympathetic chuckle that fell flat. Nothing more was said after that.

But she had meant it. She would have done it again, and prayed a bit harder that Bond would be the one left standing. Would have prayed in the first place.

That was not love. Not of the likes she had felt for her husband. Reginald had been the shining knight of her life, the rock that weathered the storm, but was so unlike her in countenance. She and Bond… Well, theirs was a simpatico relationship. Mutually shared interests and beliefs. So perhaps she was in love with him. She was in love with the side of him that appealed to the too-similar sides of her.

In love with my own reflection - how very narcissistic of me. Christ, I'm getting old.

Old age, she cursed, old age and grief was turning her into a sentimental fool. Bureaucrats and backbiters were making her rigid, uncooperative, and time seemed to be taking its toll. Perhaps a change was in order. Bond's death seemed to have prematurely shaved a few years off of her career, if the looks and rumours were anything to go by, and a chill was in the air more often than not. Her bones could feel it, her heart could sense it.

It was a brave new world. One not meant for a grief-stricken old woman with a penchant for loving her operatives. She blamed Bond - well, not really, but it helped ease the sting of the inevitable enough that she could breathe in the darkness of her bedroom. The walls were closing in on her. Blood was in the water.

Perhaps, when the mission was over, when the leak had been taken care of and the operatives removed from danger, she would take time off. Not long enough to class as retirement, but enough to gain some perspective.

Scotland, maybe. Bond had always spoken fondly of the country. Yes, a change of scenery was in need and Scotland would do nicely.