From the moment they meet, the tension crackles between them. He comes back from his first mission in a state. Bruised, beaten, bloody, but he has the goods. Q section take the tiny device and won't be seen for days, medical have cleaned him up as best they can and she sends him home for the weekend. He asks her if she wants to accompany him. Alone in her office, the memory of his battered face makes her throb.
He makes no bones about his ambition. She dismisses him, telling him he isn't ready for 00 status. He starts to show off, taking bigger risks, reaping bigger rewards. Eventually, she runs out of excuses not to promote him and his new status is formally assigned in her office late one night. There is polite applause from Tanner and Q and a few of the higher-ups, then they drift out one by one to protect the country, leaving her alone with Bond. She sees him lick his lips and pours him another drink. She has to fight to stop herself from licking hers.
Some agents get complacent when they get promoted. Not Bond. He throws himself into his work. Like the best agents - and she knows, since she used to be one of them - he has little life outside the office. Since she doesn't only keep tabs on him when he's in the field, she's perfectly aware of the fact that he's virtually celibate when he's not on a mission. It's sad, since he clearly only sees sex as business. It's tempting, because she'd like to remind him that it can be pleasure, too.
M sits at her desk, the fate of the Western world in her hands. She's cool, calm, competent. Not for her anymore the thrill of the chase, the rush of adrenaline. When she arrives home to find Bond waiting for her, she feels her heart pound, her palms grow clammy in a way they haven't in years. After he leaves, she sinks into the seat he's just vacated and slips her hand between her legs. She comes so quickly that the scent of his aftershave is still hanging in the air.
He dies, she carries on and tries not to regret the road not taken. When she finds him in her darkened living room, she wants to ask him to stay. There's no reason why she shouldn't. He's technically no longer an employee, her bed has been empty for the past three years. Instead, she sends him away. She doesn't know where he goes, and she doesn't ask.
He never asks about Silva, not once in the day-long drive to the Highlands. She could tell him about the time Silva was young and beautiful and loyal, the time when she was reckless and revelled in his admiration. In the end, it's simpler not to say anything at all, and they conduct their journey in companionable silence. They each pretend not to watch the other.
If there's ever a time for regret, it's now. He touches her in a way he never did before, and she relishes the calloused, cool hands on her skin. If there was time, if she could stand, if the world wasn't starting to fade away, she might have pulled him into a kiss. The cold night air starts to lose its bite, and James' hands tighten against her. In his eyes is every kiss they never had, every night they never shared.
It's not much, but it's theirs.