A Deserved Day Off
Eve Moneypenny loves her job, even on the worst of days. This week, for example, the first of December, when terrorist organizations and budget committees apparently decide to collude on their timing and unleash their wrath upon the agents and the various department heads simultaneously. By the time they’ve extracted the last double-oh and calmed down Simmons in Accounting, she and Tanner have been in the office for 50 hours straight. Eve’s been diligent with naps and showers and food from the cafeteria, but one look at Tanner’s beyond haggard appearance tells her that her own state isn’t that much better. Her feet, for instance, are killing her, arguably worse than when she was in the field and running away from gunfire in four-inch stilettos down a gravel path.
“Great work, Ms. Moneypenny,” Mallory says to her once she’s finally back at her desk. “Now go home. Sign out a driver from the garage. I don’t want to see you back here until at least Tuesday.”
“Thank you, sir,” Eve says.
Mallory gives her a nod and retreats back to his office. He’s been here even longer than her and probably will still have to stay for another few hours. So she appreciates this kind gesture, and decides to get him something extra fancy for the holidays.
But all that planning will have to wait, because she almost falls asleep in the lift down, while holding the last remains of a large cup of coffee.
She goes home, takes a brisk shower, and sleeps for fourteen hours straight. When she wakes up she draws herself a hot bath and soaks her aching calves in the lavender-scented water. It’s rare she gets three days off in a row, and truth be told, she expects it to be cut short anyway – something always goes wrong in the middle of it. But right now nothing of the sort has happened. Her flat is cozy and warm and her fridge is filled with greasy fried food (frozen in perfectly proportioned packages) and large cartons of ice cream (chocolate, one with cherries). In a moment she’ll get out of the bath, fix herself some tasty unhealthy breakfast, and settle onto the couch to binge watch TV until she, most likely, falls back asleep.
The phone rings.
She glances at the caller ID – unknown, which means it’s either spam or one of the double-oh agents. Considering that most of them are back in England, it’s not implausible. Sometimes they need her to forward a file or two, sometimes they just want to chat, because secret agents are lonely and bored people especially on their downtime. Eve considers it a small perk rather than a nuisance.
“Hello,” she answers, hoping it’s not a telemarketer.
“Eve, I need your help. You’re home, yes?”
Bond. Of course. And what a very odd question. Eve sits up in the bath. This could actually be trouble.
“Yes, I am. What do you need?”
“I need you to let me in.”
“Let you – wait, where are you?”
“Your living room window. And please do hurry; I’m not quite dressed for the weather.”
It takes her a moment to take in what Bond said, another to quash down her sense of disbelief before getting out of the bath. Still skeptical, she rubs a towel in her hair and slips into a robe before making her way to the living room. And lo and behold – just outside her closed double window stands Bond, dressed only in a white tank and a pair of blue boxers and balancing precariously on the slip of the windowsill.
Eve blinks until she’s sure she’s not hallucinating before moving toward the agent. She unlatches the lock, questions piling up on her lips as Bond hops inside. He lets out a huff in relief as the warm air hits his body. “Thank you, darling,” Bond says, stamping his feet, which Eve notices are only clad in socks. “Lesson for the day: merino wool is not the most ideal footwear for scaling across a building in winter. Have you got tea?”
“Bond, what the hell are you doing out there? Why are you not dressed? How did you –?”
“Ah ah, one question at a time,” he wags a finger at her face, and Eve has to refrain from reflexively breaking it in two. “I’ll put a kettle on while you figure out which.”
He promptly disappears into the kitchenette without waiting for a retort. Eve closes her eyes and takes a deep breath. It’s supposed to be her day off, but of course 007 always likes to throw a wrench in, well, everyone’s plans, really. Though judging from his attitude it doesn’t seem mission-related. Hopefully. With Bond sometimes it’s very hard to tell.
She takes in another calming breath and thinks of lavender and chocolate before following. Bond has dug out some English Breakfast from her cupboard and is currently filling the kettle in her sink. He puts it on the stove, then turns around and gives her a thousand-watt smile. Eve just glares back in response.
“Why aren’t you dressed?” she decides that asking the very obvious might be the best place to start.
“I was at a very lovely young woman’s flat last night,” Bond explains. “Was going to spend most of the day there, too, until her, uh, boyfriend, came back home. Terrible timing on his part, really. Didn’t want to cause a scene, so I left. Granted, I was a bit worried about where to go at first, but imagine my surprise,” he waves the phone in his hand, “when I learned that your flat is only a few floors up from hers.”
“And you couldn’t hide in the closet like most normal people?”
“It was too full. Plus it’s across the room; the window’s closer.”
Eve narrows her eyes. Something doesn’t add up. She knows Bond and his affinity for attached women, but never once has he gone running from the significant other outside mission parameters. It, inevitably, causes a lot of scandals that she or Tanner has to cleverly smooth over. Mallory has more or less forbidden him from sleeping with anyone on English soil with the threat of treason.
“And who, exactly, is this boyfriend of hers?” she asks, as Bond pointedly looks at the ceiling.
“Well, ‘boyfriend’ may not be the most precise description,” he carefully says. “This young lady – did I mention just how lovely she was? – may or may not be the mistress of a certain dignitary currently visiting the Palace…”
Eve’s mouth drops open. “You were sleeping with the French ambassador’s –”
The phone rings, cutting her off mid-scold with its cheerful jingle. A rapid knock at her front door follows, and Eve, startled, slams her right arm straight into a counter corner. She shoots Bond a dirty look as she rubs at her sore elbow, to which the agent only raises his hands in mock surrender and mouths, ‘no one saw me.’
“Don’t think we’re done talking,” she warns him as she picks up the phone. But she doesn’t really need to answer to know the caller, for a muffled voice comes from behind the front door at the same time as the speaker, followed by another set of knocks.
“Eve? Eve, it’s Q! Please I know you’re in. Please open up.”
Q had gone home yesterday around noon, still bitter about drastic cuts from the budget meeting. She remembers him talking about picking up someone to blow off steam (among other things) and had wished him luck. Contrary to popular impressions, the Quartermaster dallies in almost as many liaisons as Bond does. Except his partners are all (secretly) vetted and (strictly) single, so he’s free to spend his time within UK borders as he sees fit. Eve has to give him props, because Q has kept everything effortlessly compartmentalized so that even the Q-branch minions think of him as a sexless robot only interested in his job and tinkering. If only they knew what he does on his off days, which, in truth, aren't that abundant in number.
The Q standing in her doorway now, however, is a frazzled mess. His hair is more unruly than she’s ever seen it, sticking out every which way under the muted green winter hat. His coat is barely buttoned, revealing a rumpled shirt underneath. In one hand he has a scarf and his phone while the other holds a familiar beige cat carrier. There are very noticeable scratches on both of his hands, which are bare and reddened from the cold outside.
“Oh thank god you’re actually awake. I was terribly afraid you took a sleeping pill – not that I’d blame you, not after this shite of a week.” Q breezes inside, dropping the cat carrier gently onto the wood floor. “I am so sorry for barging in like this but, oh, you wouldn’t believe the morning I had. That fucker kicked her. Kicked her! It has taken me ages to even calm her d…”
Q trails off mid-tirade as Eve turns to re-lock the door. Bond has sauntered in from the kitchenette, a mug of steaming liquid in hand. He gives Q a wink, who has now stopped gaping at the agent and is looking back and forth between Eve and Bond while obviously taking in their relative state of undress.
Oh no, Eve blanches. He is totally making the assumption…
“Uh…sorry,” Q stutters. “I’m not interrupting something, am I?”
“No!” she cries, while Bond smirks with a “Perhaps” halfway out of his mouth until he sees that Eve is moving toward her gun box, and switches to “No, absolutely not, Q” before she opens the lid.
“Right…so you two are just…having a lazy morning in?”
“I was in the middle of my bath when he decides to show up,” Eve quickly explains. “Uninvited, at my window, and dressed exactly like so. Long story, not really worth getting into. Um, you were saying?”
“Ah, right, that fucker.” Properly distracted again, Q hangs up his coat and scarf before bending down to open the cat carrier. “Picked him up at a bar last night. Handsome enough fellow, a bit lacking in the brains department, but so are most of them. And it was all fine and good until I wake up, thinking of actually making breakfast, when this old dear walks in and he freaks out, screams something about being allergic – funny, both of my cats were around last night and he didn’t complain a lick – and then kicks her out of his way!”
“Oh you poor dear,” Eve crouches down alongside Q and coos at the still visibly traumatized Persian. Q hugs the cat tightly as it tries to claw its way out of his embrace. His shirt gets dragged down, and Eve notices more claw marks alongside his neck and a bit on his exposed shoulder.
“Those scratches need to be dressed,” she tuts at the Quartermaster. “Here, give her to me. Plasters and rubbing alcohol are in the kit in the en suite. Please tell me you did properly get rid of that man at least.”
“Yes and no.” Q hands her the cat, Felicia, who immediately clings to her robe and tears into the soft terrycloth. “I kicked him out, obviously, but I am far from done. You don’t happen to have a spare laptop I could borrow, do you?”
“You didn’t bring yours?”
“I was in such a hurry to get here that I didn’t think of taking anything else. Look, she’s calming down already. I don’t know what kind of magic you have, Eve, but I dare say they love it here more than at home.”
Eve makes a face. “They just like that I give them better treats.”
“Would you two like some tea?” Bond asks, startling them both as frankly, they have nearly forgotten he’s still around.
“That would be lovely, thank you,” Q answers, standing up. Eve does not miss the fact that his eyes are scanning Bond and lingering on the agent’s more exposed assets. She hides a groan into the soft cat fur. If she didn’t currently have her arms full, she’d be giving Q’s head a good solid knock right about now.
“I can arrange more things to be done to the bastard than just kicked out,” Bond says on the way into the kitchenette. Eve starts to yell out a warning about not giving her more paperwork but then hears Q’s laughter, genuinely surprised with a hint of infatuation, and bites her tongue.
“No, Bond, I don’t want him dead, just credit score-less and locked out of his bank account. Maybe also added to a low-tier wanted criminals list. Is that a bit much?”
“Depends on the list.”
They reemerge a moment later, bringing a fresh mug for her. Eve accepts it gratefully as Felicia, bored of ripping at her robe, slips down and dives under the coffee table. Q watches the cat settle itself with a small affectionate smile. Bond, however, is watching Q as if he’s reassessing their entire relationship. Eve belatedly realizes that, up until this moment, Bond was also one of those people who thinks the Quartermaster is an asexual boffin interested only in gadgets.
“Your hands are bleeding,” Bond nods toward Q’s knuckles, which indeed looks quite raw with scratches. War wounds from trying to put Felicia into the carrier, no doubt. “Didn’t Eve say something about a kit in the back?”
“I may need some help dressing them,” Q says, a bit too casually.
“I’ll go get those,” Eve cuts in. They are not going into her bedroom – especially not together. “You two stay here and play –”
The doorbell rings. Eve checks her phone on reflex and finds out, this time, it's really only the door.
“Expecting more company?” Bond quips.
“Shut it,” She says, throwing him another icy glare before answering the door. She would check the surveillance first, but she’s got a double-oh and an almost feral cat in here. What’s the worst an unknown assailant can do?
She opens it to find the haggard form of Bill Tanner, rubbing his temples with one hand and looking like he hasn’t slept a wink since he left the office. At least he’s bundled up properly for the weather. Eve raises her eyebrow, “Well, don’t you look horrid.”
“Tell me about it.” Tanner sighs. “Mary’s parents are staying with us for the holidays and I just can’t take any more of their…complaining. They haven’t stopped talking since dinner last night! I told her that I needed a bit of peace and quiet and got out as soon as I possibly could. I’m sorry about coming here unannounced, but it’s the first place I thought of and I just, drove until I stopped.”
“I would’ve gone to a nice bar instead,” chirps Bond, earning a smack from Q on the shoulder and Tanner snapping his eyes open in shock. To Tanner’s credit, he doesn’t react in any other especially dramatic manner, only takes in fully the state of the occupants in the room before turning his attention back to Eve.
“Having an early weekend party?” he says, nonplussed. Eve can only offer a shrug in return. “Bond, heaven knows a beer sounds nice right now but I kind of promised Mary that I wouldn’t go drinking. Plus, the guys all know me down there, and this headache is not exactly helping matters.”
“I’ll get you some paracetamol,” Eve offers as she heads toward the back. “And the first aid kit for Q. Bill, just, make sure these two don’t touch anything while I’m gone - including each other.”
She ignores Bond’s retort of “Eve, would I ever?” and Q’s indignant sputtering and makes her way to the bathroom. She finally drains the bath – the water has now turned into an unappealing mix of purple and brown – and fixes her hair. The set of pajamas she has set out for a relaxing lounge on the sofa has to go back into the wardrobe. Can’t look too comfortable with this many men stuffed in her flat now, can she? Briefly she thinks about finding something for Bond to wear, but promptly decides, no, he can bloody well fix his own wardrobe malfunctions. Her flat is plenty warm.
She changes into a simple black pantsuit and grabs the medical supplies. When she comes back out Q has moved to the living room sofa with a purring Felicia in his lap. Bond is spread out on the lounge chair, unashamedly thrusting out his barely covered hip. Tanner is perched on a kitchen stool with his head in his hands. He looks up with a grateful "thank you!" when she puts the bottle of paracetamol on the counter.
“I can take care of that,” Bond comes over and holds out a hand for the first aid kit. Eve briefly considers not giving him the opportunity, but in the end she gives in, mostly because she just wants to sit down for a goddamn minute without worrying about anything else. Her stomach growls as if on cue, and Bond, with a small smirk, adds, “And I’ll cook all of you breakfast after this.”
“And what, exactly, will that be?” Eve asks, suspicious. “You don’t even know what I have.”
“Enough for a fry-up, I imagine.”
“Did you snoop in my fridge?”
“No, but you didn’t look like you were planning to leave any time soon when I got here.”
“Yes, and that was exactly the plan, Bond! I was going to have a perfectly relaxing day indoors, alone, until you lot all decided that Eve Moneypenny’s flat is just the place to be at-” she glances at the clock, “-9:30 on a Saturday morning. Bravo. At this point I wouldn’t be surprised if M decides to drop by too for whatever convenient reason.”
“My reason is perfectly legitimate,” Q pipes up. “It would’ve taken days for Felicia to calm down otherwise. Plus, now I think about it, I can’t really use my own computer to wreck his online presence, can I? It’ll be too suspicious even for someone with my skills.”
“You sure you don’t want anything more done to him?” Bond asks, to which Q shakes his head, but he does give the agent a wide, appreciative smile.
“Er…should I, as the Chief of Staff, be hearing any of this?” Tanner asks quietly. Eve lets out a laugh. She looks over at the couch, where Bond is carefully cleaning the dried blood from Q’s knuckles. Felicia is a white fluffy bundle tucked into a sofa cushion, and although Q is making cooing noises at her direction, his eyes never leave Bond’s face. Well, she thinks, at least incidents like this make her deskjob infinitely more interesting.
“Probably not,” she answers Tanner, and smiles into her teacup.