“I heard you’d been killed in action.”
“I heard that about me, too. Very disconcerting.”
Bond gave his trademark devilish smile and winked at John. John responded with a breathy laugh.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here. Your country missed you.” John took a swig of scotch and looked down at the glass before continuing. “I missed you, too.”
“You seeing anyone right now, John?”
“Ah. That’s, um, an interesting question.” He cleared his throat.
“You always were an interesting man. One of the most interesting men I’ve ever met.”
This time, John’s laugh was a short, self-deprecating burst. “Right. With the life you lead. I’m sure you meet twenty blokes more interesting than John Watson every day before breakfast.”
Bond took a sip of his martini without breaking eye contact. “Hardly. You could teach most of them a thing or two. Like you did with me.”
Neither man spoke for a moment.
John swallowed, then asked, “And you? You seeing anyone? There was a gorgeous woman out front. Smart, fiery. Eve, was it? Seems like your type.” He grinned. “One of your types, I should say.”
Bond smiled back. “I’ve been pursuing something along those lines. She’s not an easy target by any means. Definitely more than a passing fancy, too, if I’m honest.”
“So, you’re saying I can’t have her number, then? Because if you’re not interested, I’m definitely game to try my chances.”
A sly smile crept across Bond’s face. “Three Continents Watson moves in for the kill again. Well, you’re free to try, but I’d prefer it if you didn’t, just between friends. There’s something…special… there.”
John nodded. “Of course. Understood. Soldier’s honor, I’ll keep my distance.”
“From her or from me?” Bond moved his hand across the bar until his fingers were touching John’s.
“Oh, I never could keep my distance from you, could I, James? And your little quartermaster knows it already. Looks at me and reads everything. Just like his brother does.” John frowned a bit at the memory.
“No, John. He doesn’t look at you the way his brother does. I saw the way that Mr. Holmes looked at you. I take it he’s the ‘interesting’ situation?”
“Mmm. It’s just… his work is everything to him. And working with him, being with him, is almost everything to me. I don’t know if I want to risk losing what we have right now. Does that make any sense?”
Bond finished his drink and signaled the bartender for the check. “It makes perfect damned sense, John. I’m dealing with a bit of it myself.”
“The quartermaster kid? I wondered.” John straightened his back and squared his shoulders. “Do I need to defend my territory?” he asked jokingly.
Bond let his hand drop from the bar and fall onto John’s knee.
“Maybe not defend it, John, but I wouldn’t mind for you to visit it again. If you’re amenable to that, of course. I’m off duty tonight and tomorrow. Car’s just outside. I’ll even let you drive.”
“So to speak,” John quipped.
“So to speak,” Bond laughed in reply.
“Well, then.” John drained the last of the scotch. He slid down off the bar stool and extended a hand to his friend. “For Queen and Country?”
Bond smiled and shook on it, like the old friend he was.
“For Queen and Country, John.”
“Good. Only I get to be Country. Off we go, then.”
John’s mobile phone vibrated in his pocket.
A text. And he knew who would be the sender.
“You need to get that?” Bond asked.
John looked into the other man’s ice-blue eyes, and he remembered other nights, in other countries, fighting other enemies.
“Not tonight. I have a top secret debriefing to attend.”
“You do indeed. For your eyes only, in fact,” Bond laughed.
Prelude to this
“Shut up! The chicks were hot!”
“It’s about baby chickens?”