You shift uncomfortably in your seat, sweeping the shadows of the cabin from beneath half-closed lids and then tugging the blanket back over your shoulder. There was a time when you could sleep anywhere, anytime—whether it was next to an enemy agent you'd just seduced, enduring a trip on camelback in the Sahara, or waiting for a contact in a freezing apartment with a leaky roof in old East Berlin. Now you're having trouble dozing off on a private plane heading back to London after a successful mission, in perfect safety. You are turning into a creaky old biddy, no doubt of it.
It is to be hoped, however, not a sentimental one.
Some might question that after the past few weeks, but you never do.
A footfall and a glimmer of metal near your head. Your muscles tense, though you remain still. Mitchell used to be just this quiet, and, like so many in your profession, your nerves are always worst after the mission. But it's only Bond, the only other passenger on the plane, with his glass. You hope to God he's not going to make a habit of drinking those bloody Vespers everywhere he goes.
"Can't sleep?" he asks as he settles into the seat opposite.
"It's none of your business whether I sleep or not," you snap, and immediately regret it. It was a perfectly civil question, but Bond can be so provoking. You'd feel worse about it if you didn't suspect he did it on purpose—perhaps he found the ritual comforting or some such nonsense.
"Yes, mum," he says, but he doesn't move from his chair.
You weren't going to sleep anyway. "...well?" you finally demand.
It's remarkable how little taste Bond has for indirection, considering that he is, after all, a spy. "You must have known that I could take those men."
"Which men?" you ask, though you'd suspected this was coming.
"In the lift, at the Andean Grand."
"Well, I certainly hoped you could."
"Then why do it?"
You sigh. "I thought you had something on Dominic Greene, but I needed deniability with the Americans. Even more than that, I needed to know that you at least had your wits about you enough to get away. If you couldn't do that, we might as well have kept you in custody for all the good you could do."
"Lucky that I could, then."
"Yes. However, in future, I must ask that you refrain from assaulting my men."
You think he's smiling, though in the diffuse glow of the cabin lighting it looks more like a death's-head grin. "Do you want me to promise?"
You snort. "Don't be silly."
He toys with his glass for a little while. You wait. Sometimes you suspect you have too little patience with agents, though God knows however much you give them, they'll want more, and you have better uses for it. "Bond," you say, "you did good work back there. We'll get enough out of Yusef to make Quantum's life rather unpleasant."
"You said you were surprised I didn't kill him."
"Given your recent record, can you blame me?"
"I found Yusef for Vesper," he says quietly, "but I spared his life for you."
There's a broken necklace chain in your pocket. If you touch it, you can imagine it's still cold from the snow. "I know."
He shifts abruptly. "You need your sleep. You've a meeting with the Minister in the morning."
"How did you—" You shrug. "Yes."
"Don't let me keep you up, then," he says, but rather than going back to his row, he leans back in his chair.
You open your mouth to send him away, but instead burrow your cheek into your pillow, feeling sleep creep closer than it has been. Letting Bond keep watch through the night is good agent-running, and you're old enough to appreciate the rest. If the voice of your predecessor scolds Sentimental in your head, you're also old enough to ignore him.