The Spy Who Loved M
Disclaimers: Not mine, no money. Additionally, part of a chapter of this story takes place during a scene in Skyfall, which means that section of the dialogue perforce comes from the movie's script. The rest is mine. The story's title and chapter headings are (or are adapted) from the Bond canon itself: film titles, theme songs, memorable lines, and so on.
Notes: Thanks to Luthien for the terrific beta and support!
Summary: Immediately following the events of "Untouchable," James Bond has to learn—yet again—that everything has a consequence, and that trust can matter more than love.
Law III: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts. –Sir Isaac Newton, Principia Mathematica
Chapter One: I Need You Back
Bond has highs and lows like everyone else, but mostly he keeps on an even keel. Good old British phlegm. It can't be otherwise in his line of work. People with mercurial tempers don't last long. The twist, though, is that his highs tend to be stratospheric, and his lows abysmal.
The examples are few but indelible. Losing his parents led him into the misery of a dark tunnel. Decades later, becoming a double-oh brought the thrill of achievement. Waking up next to Vesper also woke him to the warmth of joy. Too soon after, trying to breathe life into her drowned lungs created an ache beyond failure or regret. For years, he thought that was the lowest of the low, the bottom of the pit.
But tonight, when he exercises the worst possible judgment, he learns that M believes he is capable of violating her.
To make matters worse, she doesn't put a bullet in his brain immediately.
He thinks he saves it, saves them, insofar as is possible. He grovels and pleads—as much as he is able—and at the end of the night, she says they're all right again. He's got no choice but to believe her.
He even suffers one secret indignity for her sake. It'd kill him to admit it. The best sex he's ever had in his entire life involved kneeling at the feet of a woman who accepted no pleasure from him in return. He'd nearly lost consciousness from something that wasn't even a fuck. He'd like to blame it on the aphrodisiac. That would only be partly true. What a bloody disaster.
Bond wants to put that night in a box, lock it, and throw it into the ocean. Let things be as they were before, bleak as they'd seemed at the time. Since that isn't possible, he decides he will punish whoever had the sick idea to drug them both. Nobody else is responsible for his actions, but somebody put him in a situation that nearly destroyed everything he's worked to earn. So somebody's got to pay.
In the meantime, he strives for normalcy as if it's a new Olympic sport. It takes some doing. For the first week after the drug, whenever he speaks to M, he looks her steadily in the eye, keeps his hands at his sides, calls her "ma'am" at the end of every sentence, and does, in short, everything but write a contract in blood swearing to behave himself.
But this isn't normal, of course. He gradually pulls it together enough to remember that. Normal, for him, means that he lounges in his chair or puts his hands in his pockets, gives her the once-over when they meet, and doesn't treat her with the deference normally accorded to a queen or a pope. Normal means that he reminds her he's at Six because he chooses to be—that he's got other options, he could pursue other paths, only he's too loyal to Queen and country to go.
So he does that instead. It's shockingly easy to return to. It's no doubt what she wants. For her part, she makes it look so simple that it's embarrassing: when they meet for the first time after not-quite-screwing in her place, she says, "007, have a seat," before sending him to Calais for 48 hours so he can shoot someone. She's not chilly or distant, or no more than usual. She's M. Thus, in spite of everything—
(in spite of his dreams, her mouth against his as he promises her release, spreading her legs and kissing her other lips until she screams, always on his knees, he fucking loves kneeling for her, it's his natural place and he never even suspected)
—Bond dares to be relieved.
He is not foolish enough to ask her for updates about the drug situation, but he knows she must have her feelers out. He expects to be packed off to China any day now, with the names of throats that need slitting.
Then he learns, after two weeks, that M's long since dispatched two agents who were already embedded near Chongqing; that nobody they interrogated knew a single fucking thing; that Lin Chun-Yao's body was found in an oil drum and the trail has gone cold. The book's been closed for days now.
Bond is incandescent. Throwing caution to the four winds, he storms into her office and slams the door shut in Tanner's face. "I could have done it," he snarls. "You know I'd have found him in time. Why didn't you send me?"
She purses her lips. "You know, 007, sometimes I think you believe you are capable of anything."
He's sure there are multiple levels to that statement, but he's in no mood to investigate them all. "Why, M?"
"You're too close to this. You can't be objective."
"And you can?"
He can't take the words back, and she gives him a cool glance in return. On her sofa, she'd perched on his hips and looked down at him like a falcon swooping in for dinner.
She says, "Agents Wu and Faircliffe have worked the area for years. They know everyone. They were more qualified than you, or anyone else, to handle the matter."
"Well, it hasn't been handled," he snaps.
"Lin is dead," she points out. "He seems to have chosen a target even more ill-advised than us. Than MI6," she adds too hastily. "Our sources indicate it was the work of a local warlord. Someone else who'd done him wrong. Very imprudent, to work mischief like that for petty vengeance." She shrugs and looks down at the briefing on her desk. "I can't say I'm sorry to see him go."
That's it? He stares at her without comprehension. He wants to chase these bastards to the end of the earth until they're pleading for mercy they'll never get. And that's all she has to say?
"You should have sent me," he says.
"I'm done with this," she replies, not looking up. "That is my final word on the subject. It's over. Let it go. Now leave my office."
He thinks about how in her room, that night, she had nearly struck him. He hadn't been able to see her clearly, but he'd felt the swift movement of air, heard the furious catch in her breath. She'd stopped herself, probably because she'd already thought of ways to hurt him worse.
Now he nods curtly and says, "Ma'am." Then he leaves her office. That's the easy part of her command. The other will be more difficult, but he's got no choice, so he's going to try. If he focusses, if he wills it, he can let it go. He can let her go. But then again, she wasn't his to start with, no matter what humiliating confessions he made in the darkness.
Strangely, though, after that, M is the one who makes it impossible for him to let go of anything. She does something that wrecks every illusion of business-as-usual. It is as abrupt as it is horrifying.
She changes her clothes.
Five days after their tiff, Bond comes home to report on his latest adventure in Reykjavik, and finds an old woman behind M's desk.
He tries not to stare, hoping it's a one-off, a single error in sartorial judgment. But it happens again the next day, and the day after that.
It's impossible not to notice. M has always dressed professionally, but with a touch of the provocatrix. Looking down her nose at age, she usually wears perfectly tailored pantsuits, or dresses that nip in at her waist and have a bit of flounce in the skirt. Plenty of her tops drop low enough to show the line of her cleavage, and anybody who looks can see that her bras must fit her perfectly. Petite, she compensates by wearing stilettos or heeled boots. She uses makeup judiciously, making the most of her lips and cheekbones, but letting her blue eyes speak for themselves. Her short hair sweeps out of her face as if it doesn't dare get in the way. And her perfume, whatever it is—he's never been able to find out, and suspects she has it specially made—lingers close to her skin, a dark accord of iris and smoke.
Taken all together, her appearance projects power, vigour, and pride. It is never inappropriate, but it's enough to intrigue. And if one were already intrigued, enough to fascinate.
But now she seems to have bought out the gran section of Harrods overnight. Bond watches with dismay as her necklines rise up to the clavicle. Her hemlines drop below her knees. Her blouses and blazers become boxy and shapeless. Her dresses have no waists. She swaps the stilettos for comfortable court shoes with sensible heels, and she starts wearing dark tights. All of a sudden, she only seems to own modest pearl jewellery.
She does a nude lip now. She no longer wears the perfume. Hell, she no longer has a shape. Bond knows that everything must be expensive and well made, but that makes no difference. She's trying to buy sexless respectability. It's a farce. He can't believe she's stooped to it, and so clumsily at that.
Whom is she trying to fool? She can't think he's that stupid. And what's the point? Her body aroused him to madness in the dark, and he didn't even see a square inch of it. Whether she shows a bit of skin or not, beneath the clothes she's still got the same shoulders and breasts and belly and thighs, everything he pressed up against, everything he was denied. And whether she's wearing French lace knickers or Marks & Sparks polyester, she'll still taste the same.
He supposes he's being childish. M's got the right to dress herself as she pleases. If she wants to walk around in couture potato sacks, that's her business. In the meantime, the world is full of women who love appearing to their best advantage, and are happy to demonstrate this to him as often as he asks them to.
These days, he insists on fucking them with all the lights on.