Vesper Lynd sat at her kitchen table, her son now slumbering peacefully in her arms. M handed her a mug of tea, and she took it begrudgingly, setting it on the table in front of her.
She slipped her left hand around the cup as M sat down opposite her. Her son was a warm, solid weight on her shoulder; a shield, almost, a talisman between her and M, keeping away what she represented.
"I've forgotten how small they can be," M said after some time. Vesper looked up at her, her fingers lightly stroking her son's back. "How old is he?"
"Not quite three weeks," Vesper replied, trying to keep the resentment out of her voice. The woman's presence was testing her already fragile patience.
M nodded, taking a sip of her tea. "You weren't aware of your condition when you left the hospital," she said, looking up at Vesper. It was more a statement than a question.
"No," she said, "it was too early."
M nodded. "I see," she said, cradling the mug in her hands. "It must have been quite a shock for you."
"Yes," Vesper stated, warily, frowning at the woman across from her. She nuzzled her son's blond hair, which had lightened considerably in the weeks since his birth.
"Well, I'm very sorry you had to go through it alone," M said matter-of-factly, and Vesper looked away. "It must have been difficult."
"I suppose," Vesper replied defiantly. "Am I supposed to believe you actually care?" She was not ready to submit to her sympathy, not yet.
M smiled genuinely at the younger woman, taking a sip from her tea. "I'm glad to see your spirit has returned, Miss Lynd. I daresay I was quite worried about you there for a while."
Vesper tried very hard not to roll her eyes. "Thank you," she said. The baby began to stir, fussing quietly for a few seconds before quieting again. Vesper rubbed his back, stroking the soft green cotton of the suit she'd dressed him in today as M watched.
"What did you call him?" the woman asked softly once the baby had fallen still again.
"Henry," Vesper replied, her voice barely above a whisper. "Henry James."
M nodded. "Henry James Bond?" she asked, mildly amused.
"Lynd," Vesper replied quickly, her eyes bold. "I hope you don't mind. I know it's not supposed to be my name anymore."
"Henry Lynd," M recited. "It's lovely." Vesper looked up at her in surprise. It was not a word she'd heard the woman use in kind before, and it was unsettling.
"Thank you," she replied earnestly, "it was my father's name."
"Ah," the older woman replied, setting down her tea on the table. Vesper watched her, the silence that bloomed between them bringing home the reality of the situation. She hugged her son closer as dread began to creep in.
"What's going to happen to us?" Vesper asked after some time, and M seemed almost to be expecting the question.
"Well, I'm not going to take him away. You don't have to worry," she stated. "It's not my place."
"But you're going to make us leave London," Vesper finished. She knew it as surely as she knew her own name.
"Yes," M said, after a pause. "It's the best option for all involved."
Vesper sighed, anger budding in her breast. "And you're going to continue to keep me a secret from James."
"Yes," the woman replied, no trace of apology in her tone. "Actually, I couldn't tell him even if I wanted to. He's on a mission right now, deep undercover."
Vesper looked up at her, surprised by this admission. "Is he alright?"
"I believe so," M said. "You know Bond," she continued, with a twinkle in her eye, "he's quite adept at getting himself out of sticky situations."
"Yes," Vesper said, giving M a small, reminiscent smile in spite of herself. She could see she was telling the truth, and that she was not going to elaborate on the situation. And she knew James. He was a brilliant agent, and a very intelligent man. He would be fine.
As her smile faded, the futility of her current circumstances began to take hold in her mind. She stroked her son's back idly, looking around the flat, her son's birthplace. It was the home she'd made for the two of them.
And suddenly sadness filled her. She had come to love this quiet little corner of Greater London, had wanted to raise her son in it, take him out into the nearby park, walk him to the nursery school down the street when he was old enough. But it was not to be. They would be moving to a new home, and with it the last possibility of her child's father discovering his son's existence would slip away.
She realised now that she had been entertaining a fantasy that as long as she remained close to James, he would somehow eventually find them. She knew it was stupid, that it was weak, that MI6 had likely taken precautions against exactly that, but it had sustained her nonetheless.
"Where are you sending us?" Vesper asked. Her reverie ended as she now suddenly very much wanted the answer to the question.
M turned the now-empty teacup in her hands for a few seconds before looking up at Vesper.
"Have you ever been to New York?"
Vesper could only laugh incredulously.
"New York?" she asked, looking at the woman with wide eyes. "You're sending us to America?"
"Yes," M said, unapologetic as ever.
New York? She'd been hoping she'd be able to stay in England. The thought of moving so far away, away from everything she'd ever known—suddenly Vesper found herself nearly unable to breathe. She stood in one fluid motion, striding over to the window. She stood there, holding her son against her, taking big, deep breaths as she looked out at the grey city.
She loved this city, she loved this country. She wanted her son to be English, like his parents, not raised an ocean away in a city she'd only visited.
After some time she sensed a presence, and she caught sight of M standing at her right, her green-blue eyes gazing out at the city dispassionately.
"You'll have more freedom there," she said softly. "I'll find you a bigger flat, and there will be plenty of opportunities for employment when the time comes." Vesper could not look at her, could not respond to her.
"Although," M said, her voice now soft, "I suggest you wait a little white before going back to work. Five or six months at the very least. I never did, and I regret it terribly." Vesper looked over at the woman, over her son's head, surprised by her candour. Then she looked back out at the quiet street.
Vesper took a big, sad breath and kissed her son's soft head, mentally apologising to him for the circumstances that kept him from the life she wanted for him. There was nothing she could do about them, she could only submit to the wishes of the woman in front of her. She hated it, hated being so powerless and weak, under the thumb of this organisation that cared only about itself.
But the anger and hopelessness faded as acceptance stubbornly began to take hold. She knew M was right. New York would offer her the freedom that London could not, would allow her to finally step out from under the shroud she'd been living.
She would be able to go out with impunity, would be able to work and live in obscurity. She would be able to concentrate exclusively on raising Henry, to focus her attention on him and off the proximity of his father. She sighed deeply, breathing in her son's scent, and glanced at the woman standing beside her.
"Alright," she said.