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trust no one: a lesson not only learned, but earned

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They trace the leak to their section chief in Prague.

Despite Bond assuring M that he’s ready for this, she’s not convinced.

She knows the risks of putting him on this assignment -- she’s worried he’ll get emotionally involved, and let his anger get the best of him.

But she has no other option.

(He'd been an agent for years, working his way up the ladder after he'd left the SAS, and she could tell he was getting bored with his current assignments. She knew what it was like, of course -- she'd had to fight tooth and nail to get to where she is behind this desk, and every slow and frustrating rung conquered during the climb was just that. Frustrating.)

She doesn’t want to lose him to resignation or to carelessness, not after grooming him to be where he is now. They need him too much, in this day and age, despite how the game has changed.

He's on the ground in the Czech Republic, four hours into the operation, when the message on her computer confirms that Fisher has been taken care of.

**

She signs off on the 'promotion' thirty-six hours after Dryden's body has been released to his family; for their sake, they cover it up with a story involving a member of the local crime syndicate and a dark back alley. Someone makes certain to wipe the blood splatter off of the framed photograph that had been knocked from Dryden's desk with the impact of his body hitting the floor and they box it up with the rest of his few personal effects and deliver it to the house on Sunday afternoon.

She doesn't bother to call him or congratulate him; simply sends an email out confirming the status change.


007

Despite the second kill being much less of a mess than the first, she's still not convinced.

**

The after-action report hits her desk two hours before she'd intended on going home for the afternoon; she's midway through the report from double-oh-two when Villiers raps lightly on the door and pops his head through the doorframe.

"Word out of Madagascar," he says, and she narrows her eyes because the look on his face can only mean that despite whatever comes out of his mouth, she's likely to be displeased. "They've had to fly Carter to Johannesburg. Cobra bite, apparently."

She stares at him a moment, wondering if she's heard him correctly.

"And also, there's news coming across the wire now that we may have a problem on our hands."

"With who?"

"Bond. Something about a hostage situation." The phone on his desk begins to ring, an impatient buzz that grates on her teeth. "I'm waiting on an update from intel, they should have something in just a few minutes."

"Keep me posted," she orders.

"Yes, ma'am."

He shuts the door and M leans back in her chair -- there's not even enough time for her to close her eyes and contemplate just how in the world Carter ended up being attacked by a snake before her phone rings again.

"M?" Her voice filters across the speaker, and she already knows that she's not leaving on time tonight. "It's the Prime Minister on the line. He's...upset."

**

She comes home to find him sitting in the chair beside the fireplace -- Bond, not her husband -- and for a split second, she's tempted to activate the alert function on her mobile. Not out of fear, of course, but to teach him a lesson for being an arrogant bastard as well as a complete moron.

(He'd just shot up a bloody embassy, and now he's dealing cards in her living room. If she hadn't been convinced he was reckless before, she's certain of it now.)

M places her briefcase on the small table beside the sofa, crossing to the chair nearest where Bond is sitting. The latest copy of the newspaper is tucked under her arm, though there's no hiding the glaring headline with the thick wool.


MI-6 KILLS UNARMED PRISONER

She should have him stripped of his double-oh status for this. She could have him shot, or perhaps she'd settle for reassigning him to the Siberia bureau's mail room. -- though left alone, even in the desolate reaches of the former Soviet 'paradise', she's certain he'd still manage to find trouble in some way, shape, or form.

The way he sits and deals those cards is infuriating, because while she knows that he's listening to her, she's not quite positive that he's really hearing what she's saying.

(At least when she speaks to Villiers, he listens -- Bond, not so much.)

**

She has to put a call in to the authorities in Florida to assure them that while he might have appeared to be hellbent on destroying the Skyfleet prototype, James Bond is not a terrorist and in fact, just prevented the officers of the Miami-Dade Airport Police Department from having a rather large and expensive mess to clean up.

(She'll chastise him later for committing another kill in the midst of the public eye, this one at the Bodyworlds exhibit, but for now she focuses on trying to get him on a plane back to London; he refuses the moment he hears about what has happened in Nassau.)

At home as she's packing a bag to head for the airfield (and then on to the Bahamas), her husband makes a joke about how she always seems going on holiday without him. M has to promise him that she won't be doing any sunbathing on the beaches without him present before he'll let the subject drop long enough for her to fold a few skirts into her suitcase and grab her toothbrush off the counter in their bathroom.

She is grateful, however, when she steps off the plane in Nassau. Bond hadn't tracked this lead to Alaska or someplace in Finland, and if she didn't know him better, she'd think he was trying to be nice to her for once.

**

The buy-in for the poker game is an easy $10 million; hardly simple pocket change. But not impossible -- especially for MI6 these days -- when the grand prize is the chance to apprehend one of the world's top financiers of global terrorism, as well as net over $150 million for the Treasury. She has to pull a few strings to get things in order before she arrives but by the time she meets Bond at the Ocean Club, the chips have fallen into place.

(Part of her cannot believe that they're going to entrust him with so much money and allow him to use it to play a game of poker, but he is the best man in the service for the job. It's fitting, she thinks, that for all the hell she's given him in the past about his reckless habits, this time she'll be asking him to do what he does best -- gamble his life away for Queen and country.)

He looks tired behind his sunglasses but makes no mention of the fact that he's not slept in almost thirty-six hours; she says nothing about the bruises on his jaw or the cuts from the broken windshield of the fuel tanker on his face.

She knows he's upset when he doesn't bother to question the man who puts the microchip transmitter into his forearm; his eyes are focused beyond her and her debriefing to the hammock near the water's edge. She talks to him about the game anyway and won't repeat herself -- she knows she doesn't have to. He knows what he has to do.

(He always does, somehow. It's one of the reasons she's beginning to tolerate his presence on her staff.)

**

The package will be waiting at the hotel, waiting for him and Ms. Lynd to arrive before the poker game -- and while it's not full of cookies and a coloring book, she figures that the silenced Walther P99 and the set of car keys will have to do for now.

(As she composes a brief note to this effect, she's smirking to herself, enjoying the thought of his reaction when he reads her commentary.)

**

Three and a half hours into the poker game, he's lost nearly half their money.

Four and a half hours into the poker game, during a break in play, he kills two men in the stairwell.

She's eating dinner in her office (again, much to her husband's dismay) while she does paperwork unrelated to the current events happening in Montenegro; occasionally Villiers will phone with a brief update about one of their men in the field, but she hasn't heard a word about Bond in the last six hours. She figures no news is good news -- maybe she'll even get a chance to leave the building as soon as the mountain of dead trees on her desk has been slashed down to a manageable level.

She's lost in thought, reading a rather in-depth analysis of the risk levels for one of their operations ongoing in Colombia, when Villiers abruptly opens the door to her office.

"Bond's been poisoned. He's going into cardiac arrest."

Her pen clatters to her desk as she abandons the forest of documents to join Villiers at his desk; the boys down in research are desperately trying to figure out just what in the bloody hell he's been poisoned with, and all she can do is watch his vitals as they race out of control onscreen.

(The rapid beeping of his heart rate echoes in the back of her head as they urgently order him to press the button on the defibrillator, but there's no response. They're losing him and he's not even on another continent or under deep cover; he's slumped in the passenger seat of his car, likely in public view. As his heart rate slows, she feels a knot build in her stomach and brings a hand to cover her mouth.

He flatlines.

 

She feels very ill.)

 

Villiers says nothing. There is nothing to say. Shock shifts to anger, and she briefly flashes on the thought that she is going to go down to R&D in the morning -- or perhaps in twenty minutes -- and tear them all a new one for failing to include a remote trigger for the defibrillator package in the latest update.

And then the charge fires.

M glances at the screen as his heart rate surges and then begins to beat normally; a few seconds later, she hears his voice come across the connection and she closes her eyes, fighting back a smile. It wouldn't do to show favoritism in front of her assistant, after all.

But she is privately very, very relieved.

**

Later on, in her apartment, she stands in the bathroom and watches the tub fill with steaming-hot water. She barely hears her husband enter the room and only truly registers his presence when he places his hands on her too-tense shoulders.

M leans back into his touch as he presses his lips to her temple.

"Rough day?"

"Mmm," she replies, and he laughs beneath his breath.

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"Can't."

(It's the same answer every night, but he always asks, just in case.)

"Want me to put the kettle on, then?"

"Not tonight," she says. "Tonight I just want to turn in."

His hands on her neck are like gifts from heaven as she closes her eyes.

"You have to be in tomorrow?"

"Yes."

(Unbeknownst to M, she'll get a phone call in an hour informing her that 007 has been involved in a rather serious rollover accident. The car is a total loss -- they're on the way to recover the sensitive equipment -- and there's no word from their Bond as to his condition.

Unbeknownst to everyone at Mi6, he's been abducted by LeChiffre, along with Vesper.)

"Shame," her husband says. "But at least tonight you can relax a bit."

"True," she replies, and when she looks up at him she offers him a genuine smile -- likely the first one she's had all day -- and then moves to turn off the tap. "Maybe I will take a cup of tea after all, dear."

"It will help you sleep," he agrees, moving to leave her to the bath and put the kettle on for tea. "I'll bring in a cup once it's had time to steep."

"Thank you," she says, turning towards the tub to loosen the ties of her dressing gown. She's looking forward to a few moments of quiet. After today, she's earned them.

**

They send him to the private hospital on Lake Como at Villa Del Belbianello to recover from his injuries; M insists on getting daily updates on his condition despite the fact that he's unconscious for almost a week and a half before waking up. Once Bond phones her to tell her of Mathis's betrayal, she has Mathis picked up by two of their Italian agents and brought back to headquarters for questioning.

(Despite all the jokes Bond makes about wanting M to send him flowers while he's bedridden, she refuses. She sends him paperwork to fill out instead.)

Three weeks after he wakes up, she gets word from the staff at the hospital that Mr. Bond has checked himself out of the facility and left for the coast with Ms. Lynd. She technically should order him back to London for debriefing and to help with the ongoing investigation of Mathis's involvement with LeChiffre, but she doesn't.

He's earned the break.

(And if she was to be quite frank, she enjoys the quiet that comes with him off on holiday and out of her hair. It's practically refreshing.)

**

When the email comes across her inbox, she can't say she's surprised he's resigning.

She is, however, disappointed.

 

Moreso, she's confused, especially a few hours later when the representative from the Treasury arrives in her office. He wants to know the reasons for the delay regarding the deposit that was supposed to be made of the winnings from the poker game -- and given the tone of voice she gets from Bond when she phones him, 007 is just as confused as she is.

Until he's suddenly not, and it clicks in M's mind as to why the $150 million hasn't been deposited yet the same moment that Bond tells her he has to go and hangs up the phone.

She makes apologies to the man from the Treasury and promises him that everything will be sorted out by the end of the day tomorrow, as soon as they wrap up a few loose ends.

Once the man leaves her office, she's on the phone to Villiers and ordering him to pull every bit of information he can find about Vesper Lynd and have it on her desk within the hour.

**

He calls her back a few hours later; she's already seen the news reports from The Guardian and The Telegraph online about the destruction of the historic building on Venice's Grand Canal. The wire is reporting at least four people killed; one woman and three men. No identification has been released but she knows that Bond isn't one of them before her phone even rings with his call.

(She's not certain how she knows, other than the fact that if he's managed to survive everything from poisoning to a rollover and worse in the last month, he's not going to drown in a dusty old building.)

M keeps the sympathy out of her voice.

Because while she does feel sorry for him, it's not what he needs right now. He's gone cold and distant, like so many of the others before him. His tone depresses her a bit, though in some ways she's grateful that he's learned his lesson: trust no one.

She offers him more time off to collect himself but he refuses. She knows he'll be back in the office come Monday morning, suit and tie in perfect order, with nothing but three day-old bruises on his skin to and shadows in his eyes to offer any sort of explanation for what he's been up to on his 'holiday'.

After hanging up the phone, she glances to the framed photograph of she and her husband that she keeps beside her computer monitor, then reaches for it. She studies the frozen smiles on each of their faces, remembering when it was taken -- shortly after their wedding on a holiday to Greece for the New Year -- and remembering the moments that surrounded the one captured on film.

She's lucky to have him, because he understands the job and what it means, and she's grateful for the moments they're able to share now in which no words need to be spoken about work or the office -- they're simply able to enjoy the company of one another without worrying about anything all that complicated.

M places the photograph back in its place and lifts the phone again to phone her husband, wanting to hear his voice for just a moment before continuing on with her paperwork and meetings for the rest of the afternoon.

**

Bond doesn't show up in her office on Monday morning; instead M finds herself in Italy.

Mr. White has a gunshot wound to the back of the calf and a rather impressive headache for his troubles (though traveling in the boot of an automobile the entire drive from the shores of Lake Como all the way to Sienna will do that to any man or woman, she suspects) but she doesn't question Bond's methods or reasoning.

She doesn't need to anymore.

Not when she sees the look in his eyes as he opens the hatch and pulls White out into the dimly-lit underground room; his demeanor and attitude have changed completely since she last saw him in Nassau what seems like ages ago.

He's grown up.

(He's jaded and bitter and angry and grieving and a million other things as well, but the important thing is that he's grown up and she can trust him now.)

M watches as Mitchell carries White off into the room next door and then turns her attention to Bond. She offers him a tight smile and a few words.

"Good work, 007."

He doesn't respond verbally, but she catches the movement at the corners of his mouth, his lips lifting into the barest hint of a grin before he turns and heads in to follow Mitchell.

(It's a showing of pride, and that's what she knows he's needed to regain since Vesper betrayed them all. He's back on board and she allows herself a fleeting moment of pleasure at the thought before heading in to begin questioning Mr. White.)

He's back.

 

(Later, he'll tell her that he'd never left.)