‘Glad you could join us, double-0 seven.’
The sarcasm behind M’s gruff voice was unmistakable.
James Bond was late for his scheduled appointment with his boss. Upon entering M’s office, the inner sanctum he knew so well, musty and bathed in a fog of pipe smoke, he detected an extra air of tetchiness in the old man’s demeanour. He was fastidious about punctuality, especially in his agents, and Bond’s late arrival, though marginal, clearly piqued his cranky impatience.
‘Sit down,’ he said, gesturing to two chairs facing him opposite his desk. One was already occupied by Gil Tannin, the chief of staff and one of the few people in the service Bond considered a real friend. He was leaning attentively across the desk, poring over a jumble of papers and documents.
Bond settled himself into the chair beside him and and addressed his boss.
‘Sorry to keep you waiting sir, there was some trouble on the roads. Morning Gil.’
He acknowledged Tannin who gave him a curt but genuine smile.
‘Nice shirt, by the way.’ Bond added.
He admired his colleague’s dress sense, Tannin was by far one of the most fashion conscious members of the department, taking as much care in his appearance, it seemed, as many of the women who overpowered and face-painted themselves ferociously to fantastical levels of assumed desirability.
Half of these young women, many of whom were still girls really, didn’t need all this uniform disguise, thought Bond.
He was of the view that makeup only served to cover one’s perceived minor flaws, the very imperfections an admirer would regard as idiosyncratic natural beauty.
It would, of course, be unfair to deny those with lower self-esteem the right to make superficial improvements, if for no other reason than improving their confidence and sense of worth.
But on the whole he wished people could be more comfortable and content with their own unique distinguishing qualities, in character as well as appearance. Diversity was a word he had been hearing used in this context more and more these days, as the youthful counterculture expanded into normal society, and he was all for it.
Bond had, on occasion, felt pangs of jealousy towards the women Tannin often entertained, those whose passion was not restricted to outside the workplace, and with whom he often became romantically involved. There was no denying his handsome good looks and charm, attractive qualities which could be appreciated as much by men as women.
The best he could do was to accept the impossibility of any reciprocal emotions and to appreciate that the friendship transcended their professional relationship. This he did, he was grateful for that at least, and relished any extracurricular time they had together. A casual dinner, an evening spent at their respective gambling haunts, long afternoons on the golf course.
It was the closest he could get to experiencing a personal intimacy, it was fanciful to think these moments of friendship could ever stray past the platonic. Still, there were times when he had allowed his mind to wander.
There was a pause while Tannin waited for a response.
M shuffled in his chair, bringing Bond abruptly out of his whimsical reverie of office romance and setting his mind back to the matter at hand.
‘Well, now you’re here, have a look through these would you?’ He shuffled the photos towards Bond.
‘It seems a crisis has occurred, within the service. In one of the international stations, obviously, else the double-0 section wouldn’t be involved with home affairs.’
M looked serious and slightly put out, as if whatever this event might be was a personal attack on him, the head of the service. It was no secret that he held an infinite amount of respect and felt great pride for the service, as well as a great deal of responsibility which came with the job.
‘Tannin will fill you in on the story so far. It concerns a breach of top secret security on an international scale. Tannin will fill you in on the story so far, as he’s been involved in this since we first came to learn about it.’ He motioned to him to take over the briefing, ‘Over to you, chief of staff.’
‘Thank you, sir.’ Tannin turned and gave his full attention now to Bond.
‘As you know, we have a strong functioning network around the world, leasing and communicating with each other. Our headquarters may be here, on an island of modest size, with the amount of resources to match.’
Here he gave M a quick, conspiratorial glance.
‘But there are many other sections, of all different proportions, all working constantly, with any amount of crises and operations happening at any given time. As you are aware, there have been an almost incalculable number of attempts to disrupt the intricate chain of operations, the web connecting all the dots.’
Bond nodded encouragingly, urging him to continue. Tannin did like to labour a point.
‘Well, it’s happened again. Our Canadian section, Section C, has been unreachable from midnight yesterday at noon. There is currently a large scale operation ongoing and so we have been in constant contact for a number of months now. And then suddenly we had nothing, now word of warning, no suggestion as to why the might have to cut communications, it naturally set us worrying about security issues. Highly unusual for something like that to occur out of the blue, especially with the operation being so far underway. Indeed, it was reaching it’s most critical stage.’
There was a pause while Tannin waited for a response. Bond nodded gravely, not wishing to seem bored or unengaged. But the fact was that Tannin’s infatuating presence was a distraction, making it difficult to concentrate on the situation both he and M were trying to express.
Bond, as casually as he could, studied the handsome man’s smart-casual outfit. His eyes ran across his dark pastel blue shirt, the collar of which protruded stylishly underneath a tastefully coordinated navy blazer. The combination accentuated his naturally slender, almost feminine neckline.
The resulting look was one of splendour whilst remaining gracefully understated, the colours matching Tannin’s blue eyes, two glinting pools of watery lagoon, the kind one could quite contentedly be drawn into and drown in.
The combination accentuated his naturally slender, almost feminine neckline.
He was young for his position as chief of staff, he still had an athletic build and maintained a well toned physique from an life enjoying sports and other such active pursuits. Bond was in total admiration of him.
He would never admit as much to Tannin, he was hardly the sort of man to embrace such intimate feelings of platonic, even brotherly love. It was clear in his repressed body language, a reactionary uptightness of deportment whenever he was in his company of other men. Bond was used to reading and understanding these symbols, regularly imposed upon him from many of his other male colleagues. It was a behavioural attitude born from societal conditioning, repression and deep insecurity.
Being so comfortable in his own feelings he would have liked to express them without fear of confused or insecure defensive retaliation.
What he would really liked to have done was to have greeted him with a big hug, a warm affectionate embrace. But he dared not risk that, even with Tannin. Who could guess how he might react, how far it might push him into confusion, such a demonstrative physical outburst of close friendship.
Who could guess how he might have reacted? It would also certainly have shocked M, such a demonstrative public display of affection sending them both into a state of confusion and panic. Bond had to reign in his feelings and, when the meeting was over, settle for a bland handshake.
On his way out he made a mental note to swing by his tailors at the next possible opportunity.