Just a brief interlude in the Phoenix and Fire Universe, set about 6 months before the beginning of that story. Thankfully Casino Royale and a wonderful ficlet called Undercover by Nightmarish has reawakened the muse! So I might actually get the next chapter of Phoenix up sooner rather than later. Thanks to everyone who reviewed. Thanks also to Daniel Craig for being a seriously hot Bond...
Disclaimer: I must apologise for forgetting this in the first place, it's been a while since I last posted. I own nothing. The characters of BTVS belong to Mutant Enemy and Joss Whedon, the character of Bond belongs to the Ian Fleming estate and Eon productions. This is a humble work of fanfiction.
Licence to Kill
For some reason Bond kept thinking of the movie Casablanca. Maybe it was because he had just returned from yet another North African hellhole, where there hadn't been a Ricks for a thousand miles, or maybe it was because he was just feeling a little melancholy and that eternal theme, of love found and lost, was going around in his head.
“Bond. With me.”
Pulling himself out of his introspection he slipped into his usual place beside her, the only sound in the marble floored corridor the soft pad of his footfalls and the decisive click clack of her heels. M walked just like she did everything else, sharp, hard, with little extraneous energy, focused and to the point. Next to her he sometimes felt overbearingly lanky, all long limbs with no grace, despite decades of martial arts and combat training. But then, he thought wryly M's composure frequently made the leaders of nations self conscious, so it was hardly surprising that it had that effect on one lowly 00.
“Hopefully Villiers should have briefed you. But this is one of our rarer and more delicate relationships so reassure me Bond. Tell me what you know.”
He slowed infinitesimally, the rhythm of his footsteps just slightly off to her ears as he collected his thoughts. It was one of his few tells that she knew of, the way he either needed to explode into full action or slow slightly as he brought the formidable power of his intellect to bear onto a issue. His ability to physically react as he focused on a problem made him superlative at his job in the field and she doubted that anyone but herself still knew him well enough to recognise the momentary changes in pace for what they were. But still it never ceased to amuse her slightly. Like all men Bond had a somewhat one track mind. A thing that she regularly thanked god for, for at least then she didn't have to worry about him wanting to take over her job. The number of different issues that she had to deal with on an hourly basis would have driven him insane and well he knew it. And anyway having Bond in an office based environment – inwardly she shuddered. It wouldn't be so much a bull in a china shop as a tiger in a cage. No, he belonged in the field. And on that issue at least, they consistently agreed.
“W.C.I. A rather mysterious international non governmental organisation, with whom the British government has had rather strong historical ties with, going back as far as I was able to find records for. In fact the earliest record on file was around 1805 when a Mr Edward Travers was acting to assist a Mr George Scovell, Wellington's cryptographer during the peninsular campaign. Since then the records are fairly comprehensive, although somewhat cryptic, as whatever the W.C.I or just the “Watchers” as they previously called themselves, do is never actually referred to.”
“No. It wouldn't be.” M uncharacteristically hesitated, for once unsure of how her best field agent would react. But the quality of his silence was receptive and so she continued, despite her misgivings.
“What the W.C.I actually does is one of international diplomacy's best kept secrets. In fact I doubt more than a handful of individuals in each government are ever given full disclosure. We, that is Britain, have always had a slightly closer relationship with them than most, due to the fact that until very recently 90% of their personnel were based here. But that changed a few years ago.”
“Someone blew their building up.”
The slight change in the tempo of Bond's footsteps was the only sign of his surprise and M's lips twitched in acknowledgement. He always had been difficult to discompose and his armour had only got thicker since the girl had died.
“Since then they have rather understandably decentralised a bit, but they still have their main administration and research centres here. Somewhere in the Home Counties I believe.”
“So they are an international research organisation?” He sounded faintly bored now, obviously having dismissed the whole lot of them as a bunch of scientists and historians. She smiled a tight little smile.
“Not exactly.” She marched on a few more steps. Beside her she could feel him thinking, trying to match his presence at this meet and her demeanour with the threat level that a bunch of historians could pose. Two and two were distinctly making five in his world view. She could almost feel the moment when he gave in and asked what she knew he would ask.
“So I'm here because....”
“Because, 007, I ordered you to be here.” She turned her head and gave him a patented raised eyebrow glare, coupled with a thin lipped smile. Bond inwardly twitched at that look. The last time he had seen it he had just blown up an Embassy. “Unless of course you have somewhere more important to be?”
He looked back at her as blandly as possible. “At your service, Ma'am.”
Her gaze snapped forward again. “Yes. You are. And don't you forget it.”
“Ma'am.” She snorted slightly at the undertones prevalent in his oh so respectful acknowledgement and Bond permitted himself a quirk of the lips in response.
“Basically Bond, with these people it is best not to appear....weak. While our relations with them in the last few years have been somewhat less overbearing than they used to be, history has taught us that they sometimes have a tendency to be a little high handed when the ...matters... that they deal with expand over their normal limits and into our sphere of influence.”
“So you've brought me along to play the muscle, then?”
She snorted even louder, an element of amusement in her tone that he couldn't quite read. “No, they have plenty of that of their own. I brought you along to be exactly who you are. A 00. Licence to kill. Our..attack dog.. so to speak.”
Bond raised an eyebrow. “Your rottweiler? Then I shall try very hard not to pee on the carpet Ma'am.”
She rounded on him so abruptly that he was forced to take a step back not to tread on her feet.
“For god's sake Bond, don't you take anything seriously? These people, this organisation have been allies of this country for a very, very long time and I have no intention of having that change during my tenure just because one agent couldn't keep his mouth shut!”
Caught by surprise, all he could do was narrow his eyes at her. “Then why bring me along at all?”
She spun and strode off down the hall again, the click clack of her heels beating a distinctly angry tempo as he lengthened his stride to catch up.
“We bring all the 00's to meet them. We have since SIS was first formed. It is possible that, due to the specialised nature of your jobs , you may meet their agent, sorry, agents in the field and as a matter of professional courtesy we like to keep them informed so our 00's don't fall on the wayside as collateral damage. As I mentioned before, 00's have relatively short lifespans and it would be foolish if we didn't at least attempt to prevent friendly fire.”
He frowned. “Don't you mean that they would be collateral damage?” He was obviously attempting to work out how an organisation of historians and scientists could cause the collateral damage to the highly trained 00's that M was obviously referring to. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
“No Bond, I do not.”
She stopped abruptly again and looked him up and down, obviously considering something. Whatever she saw obviously wasn't what she was looking for, for she shook her head, overtly changing tack.
“Bond, do you know Hamlet?”
He regarded her warily. Sometimes M was a very confusing woman. “Some of it.”
“Act 1, Scene five.”
“Hamlet's speech to Horatio, I believe.”
“Yes. But specifically, “there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in our philosophy.” Try to keep that in mind Bond, when dealing with the people you are about to meet.”
Although still confused, Bond raised an eyebrow in acknowledgement. “Yes, Ma'am, I will.” She favoured him with one of her all encompassing looks again and this time she seemed to be better pleased with what she saw. “At least you have always been a bit more... flexible than some of your compatriots. Poor Johnston had to be sectioned after working with them for just one operation. He's never really recovered since.”
Bond took that information in as he did all things, outwardly unruffled and inwardly trying to work out what the hell it all meant. So that's what had happened to Johnston. He had wondered why 005 had dropped off the radar but had assumed it had just been one more nameless death somewhere nameless, rather than the indignity of losing his mind. He mentally shuddered. Give him a bullet any day, although he privately admitted to himself that within the profession he led it was unlikely that he would have time to worry about losing his mind, as he was far more likely to have his brains scrambled physically before someone scrambled them psychologically.
They moved on ever deeper into the bowels of 85 Albert Embankment, moving on past the areas where visitors were normally received without stopping, slipping down emergency staircases and through back corridors, M clearly not wanting to be the subject of too much internal scrutiny. Bond followed along behind, increasingly puzzled as to both the nature and the whereabouts of the meeting they were attending. Visitors were never invited down to this level. In fact if he was correct they should almost be down at the river level, near to the entrance to the sewers and the water treatment plant that guaranteed SIS’s water supply remained free from unfriendly toxins. This was the domain of the research labs, the armoury, home of Q and his battalion of techno geeks. Certainly not where you would expect to meet to hold a high level meeting. His attention sharpened even further when M stopped in front of a heavy steel clad door clearly marked “No Admittance” and rapidly typed in a series of numbers into the alphanumeric data pad beside the door frame. The door lock disengaged with an audible click and M pulled it open, the sheer weight of it apparent from the fact that she had to use two hands to do so. She slipped through first and motioned him to follow her, the shortness of the gesture betraying something Bond had never thought that he would see. M was nervous. And anything that could make M nervous…. He surreptitiously checked his gun and loosened it in its holster. Anything that could make his unflappable boss twitchy rated very high on Bond’s threat monitor and he stepped through the door on high alert, every muscle tensed.
There was no one there – just an old service access tunnel dimly lit by emergency bulbs and a faint smell of the Thames. From somewhere he could feel cool air blowing and he realised that they had travelled all the way through the bowels of the building and come out the other side. In fact if he was correct they were now somewhere actually underneath the foundations, in the very depths of the Embankment. Turning to his boss he raised an inquisitive eyebrow.
She twitched in return. “They prefer to meet on more neutral territory, 007. Just as well really, I’m not sure I’d be too happy having them in the building. This way.”
They moved along the dimly lit tunnel for another few minutes and then stopped as they came to yet another steel reinforced door.
“Now remember Bond. Other things than your philosophy.”
She fixed him with a look and he nodded, accepting, although what he had no idea what he was agreeing to. If M wanted him dead there were a myriad of easier ways that she could have used, and as he didn’t know any secrets that she didn’t already have full access to he couldn’t see betrayal as the goal of this meeting. Apart from those issues there were very few other things in his world view that bothered him, so he was quite prepared to roll with the punches in whatever M had planned.
Satisfied she typed in yet another code and pulled the door open impatiently.
As soon as he followed her through the door he was aware of the presence of two others in the room, the dimness of the emergency lighting removing identifying features so they were only silhouettes, one small and slight, leaning against a wall and picking its nails with what looked like a stiletto and the other taller and older, obviously a man, dressed in a suit, the dim glow picking up the strands of silver in the brown of his hair.
M strode straight up to the man waiting in the middle of the room and shook his outstretched hand, any sign of her previous bout of nerves carefully concealed.
“M. A pleasure to see you again as always.”
As they moved into the pool of light produced by the brightest of the bulbs, Bond was able to make out the features of the man M was now carrying on an animated low voiced conversation with. Automatically he catalogued the other man’s face, filing away the details in his carefully trained mind under the heading of ‘Mr Giles’. But he was a lot more interested in the small silent figure leaning against the wall in the shadows, still so casually picking its nails with that stiletto. There was a sense of leashed power and threat there that he couldn’t quite put his finger on but it was enough for his combat trained reflexes to have his hand itching to be closer to his gun, and for every muscle to be tensed and ready. There was something just a little too casual about the way the figure was leaning, something deceptive in the languid relaxation and Bond didn’t trust either the pose or its holder. He was aware that he was perhaps a little bit unhealthily focused for a diplomatic meeting between purported allies but there was just something about the shape in the shadows…..
His head snapped around to meet M’s eagle eyed stare and he noticed that she was gesturing for him to join them. With a last stare at the shadowed figure he snapped his attention back to his boss and strode over, nodding politely in greeting to the man M has identified as “Mr Giles”.
“Mr Giles, this is 007, our latest promotion into the ranks of the 00’s. As always I considered it expedient to introduce him now, rather than having one of your people bump into him in the middle of some godforsaken hell hole and both parties getting their wires crossed.”
Bond’s lips twitched at M’s characteristic bluntness and across from him he saw Mr Giles suddenly find the floor fascinating for a few moments before he raised his gaze to meet M’s again.
“Yes, indeed. I’ve always considered the introductions to be one of the more, shall we say, sensible aspects of our relationship with SIS. Especially with the change in numbers we have had in the last few years.”
“With regard to that Mr Giles, as always I’ve been tasked by the Prime Minister to ask if you would consider the possibility of lending some of your….”
Mr Giles cut her off in mid sentence, his tone of voice suddenly distinctly ice edged. “No. As you know very well, M, we do not lend out our people. Ever.”
M shrugged slightly, her face completely unsurprised. Bond had the distinct impression that she had never expected Giles to answer in any other manner, rather that it was a ritualistic exchange.
“I know. But you also know that I am obliged to ask.”
They exchanged brief rueful smiles and Bond could tell that this issue was one that had been debated many times, but without any significant rancor between the two of them.
“We don’t lend out our people, M. And especially not to governments. Even enhanced cooperation has been shown to have its dangers. For instance that fiasco with the Initiative a few years ago.”
M actually shuddered, muttering something that sounded like “Ignorant fools,” under her breath.
Mr Giles smiled a wintry little smile, seemingly in complete agreement with M on that issue and transferred his attention to Bond who returned his gaze, unperturbed.
“007 is it? I think I met one or two of your predecessors.”
“Yes, M frequently informs me about the short life spans of 00’s. Usually when she is about to send me somewhere where the odds of survival are statistically short.”
Bond was aware of his boss levelling a laser edged glare at the side of his head but he ignored her and locked eyes with the man opposite him. Mr Giles eyes were brown and cool, with the calm dispassion of a man who had seen many things and Bond found himself having to re evaluate both the man and the organisation he was supposed to represent. This wasn’t just a historian or a scholar, but rather a veteran of his own form of conflict and if he was a representative of his organisation it was unlikely that whatever they did was purely research based. Unless it was some kind of Indian Jones style archaeology. The other man was obviously evaluating him as well and he could almost see the moment when he came to some kind of decision and held out his hand for Bond to shake.
“Giles. Rupert Giles.”
Bond nodded again and shook his hand. “Bond. James Bond.”
“Well hopefully Mr Bond you will have a longer lifespan than your predecessors. You have our sympathy on the statistics.” Mr Giles lips quirked up in a wry smile that Bond couldn’t quite read. “We know all about short life spans in our kind of business.”
With that cryptic statement he broke the handshake and turned his attention back to M. “Yes, I’ve always thought that these little recognition sessions were a wise idea, so I’ve decided that with the change in our circumstances it’s about time we reciprocated. Especially if we are going to be more…shall we say visible… than before?”
“I see.” M’s voice was faintly surprised but Bond could hear a note of actual anticipation in her tone. Whatever this was it wasn’t something that she had expected, but it was a pleasant rather than an unpleasant surprise.
“So I decided I should introduce you to the most ‘roving’ of our agents. And after all she might serve as an example to Mr Bond, being as Buffy always has been one to make a mockery of statistics.”
Bond actually heard M make a quickly smothered gasp of shock and when he glanced her way he could see that she had turned her head to stare at the figure in the corner with the covetous look of a collector seeing the perfect specimen. Giles raised an eyebrow at her in amusement but Bond could tell that M’s reaction was one that he was used to.
“Buffy. If you would like to join us?”
For a moment all Bond could think of was, so it’s a girl, and then who would be so cruel as to call their child Buffy? And then she slipped into the light and his mind ground to a halt.
She walked like a leopard, or some other great cat, smooth and sinuous and flowing, with the calm grace of someone in total control of her surroundings. The casual jeans and hoodie ensemble did nothing to disguise feminine curves and the edge of muscle, the elegant planed features of someone who had long since had any softness worn away. Only the light glistening off her blond hair and the full curves of her lips allowed Bond to realise that she was must be quite young, maybe in her mid twenties. But the absolute and total self possession that radiated off her made her seem much older.
She gave him one searing glance out of cool green eyes and then slipped past him to stand beside her older companion, politely inclining her head to M who was staring at her as though she had suddenly found Elvis sitting down at breakfast.
“M, I would like to introduce you to Buffy Summers. She, as you probably know is the original… agent…,” he paused and glanced briefly at Bond who was watching the proceedings with hooded eyes.
He now knew why she had made him so uneasy and why that lethal balletic feline grace was so familiar. He hardly even heard the rest of Mr Giles’ introduction, caught as he was in a memory of that darkened cave in Kuwait 13 years ago, as the members of his patrol fell one by one around him, throats torn out by a ravaging horde of creatures that bullets couldn’t touch. And then there had been the girl; slim, tall, young, Asiatic who had some how moved through the animals without them touching her, leaving only dust in her wake.
He had thought that he had been hallucinating at the time, blood loss and shock from the loss of his mates combining to create a horrific nightmare of ravaging monsters who couldn’t be killed and who tore out throats. But when she had thrust a wooden stake in his hand and showed him where to strike he had realised that revenge was indeed the best medicine and that thanks to her he might actually survive this. She had killed the few of the creatures that were left, Bond staring numbly as they exploded into dust in defiance of all probability and then reached out to pat him gently on the cheek and smiled, before slipping out of the cave as silently as she had arrived, ignoring his belated attempts to thank her, leaving him bleeding and surrounded by the corpses of his friends and the dust of his enemies.
In the aftermath he had done his research using some less than official channels, absorbed what he had learned and then stored it away in some dusty recess of his mind, not to be thought of again in the rational light of day. But there were still some places he went on his missions where he always took a wooden stake as well as his gun, and where the occasional ampoule of holy water was almost as reassuring as a gas grenade. But it wasn’t something he discussed with anyone else in the rational, daylight world, not wanting to appear either mad or chronically eccentric.
So yes, Horatio, or rather M, his grasp of philosophy was somewhat wider than might be expected of the average 00. He rocked back on his heels and thrust his hands into his pockets, relaxed now. Slayers seldom killed humans and only for the most extreme provocation. M wasn’t likely to face any danger from this quarter. He knew that like the muscle he was meant to be, that he should stay silent, but the devil had his tongue and he couldn’t resist just winding up M one more time.
She was shaking the young woman’s hand, doing something that for M was the equivalent of girly gushing, saying something in clipped tones about what a genuine pleasure it was to meet her and how she had followed the girl’s career over the years. Mr Giles was watching with almost paternal approval and the girl was muttering some polite deflections, obviously not comfortable with the praise.
“Agent, Mr Giles? Don’t you mean Slayer?”
Three heads turned like one to look at him, his boss staring at him in outright astonishment, the looks of the other two coolly assessing as they absorbed this new wrinkle in the plot. He shrugged and smiled a little, watching again the process of re-evaluation as all three of them took in the fact that he wasn’t just the muscle after all. Sometimes he did so enjoy getting one over M.
“Someday Bond, you are going to explain to me how you know the things that you know.” M threatened, her eyes narrowed as she took in this new facet of her ever surprising agent. He just inclined his head towards her, never once breaking eye contact with the petite blond who had moved to stand in front of him. Ice blue eyes met ice green and two sets of superbly trained muscles tensed, instincts at war with more civilised veneers. Some part of Bond was screaming threat, while the other was screaming predator, and the third was on its knees in lustful worship.
She was stunning, raw animal grace and strength combined with the kind of tactical intuitiveness that won wars and bound together with a talent for battle that was genuinely supernatural. He was in lust, it was official. But then he looked closer at her eyes and it was like looking into a mirror and finding a little piece of his own soul that he hadn't noticed that was missing looking back, except this piece was housed in a small, lethal, female body. The same desolation under layers of ice, the same emptiness at the core and it was like some part of him just reached out to her and to his immense surprise found her reaching back. Maybe it was just a recognition of shared pain and similar loneliness, or a simple fellow feeling but suddenly Bond found himself biting back a smile, one who's fellow was slowly blossoming on the lips of the woman in front of him, as ice green eyes thawed imperceptibly. Not a lover, oh no, but something rarer and more precious. A brother, or in this case, a sister in arms, a fellow warrior and more to the point someone he knew, with a deep down soul certainty, that he could trust, all the way to death, and perhaps beyond.
Hand reached out to clasp hand, matching the meeting of minds and Bond found himself smiling wryly down into an upturned young face, the veneer of the warrior slipping just a little, to show just a little of the girl underneath.
M's caustic tones broke into their preoccupation with each other and they half turned to look at her, hands still clasped. Mr Giles was looking surprised and rather thoughtful, but not displeased, while M was obviously going to drag him over some hot coals later if the look in her eyes was any inclination.
“Well,” she remarked in her driest tones. “I suppose formal introductions are in order. Ms Summers this is James Bond, 007. Bond, this is your counterpart in the supernatural world, Ms Buffy Summers, the Slayer, licence to kill.”
And Bond, looking down at that upturned elegant face, could only think that it looked like it was going to be the beginning of a beautiful friendship after all.