Title: Late Last Night
Characters: future Helena Bertinelli/Eve Moneypenny with mentions of Dick Grayson, James Bond, Q, and The Tiger King of Kandahar
Contains: Flirting, subtle but significant spoilers for Spectre, Grayson #4, and Batman and Robin Eternal #2.
Summary: There are few secrets among spies.
Notes: Instead of writing the Spectre review I took 12 pages of notes for this morning while I was in the theater, I just sat down and wrote a story about two of the most powerful Black women in the spy genre (James Bond‘s Eve Moneypenny and Grayson‘s Helena Bertinelli) having a friendship and maybe (eventually) a little something more. If you squint, there are definite allusions to Moneypenny/Q/Bond and Helena/Dick too. Because that’s how I roll.
There are no secrets in SPYRAL.
Not even for its current director.
No – especially for its current director.
That’s why Helena Bertinelli doesn’t bother to hide what’s she’s doing or who she’s meeting. She has it penciled in her calendar for the second Tuesday of every month – barring international incidents of course:
Lunch. MI6. Miss Eve Moneypenny.
The only thing that changes are the actual time and the location.
Sometimes their lunch is actually brunch, eaten slowly amidst crowds of Manhattan mothers who eye them askance for not being blonde or white or on their third martini in a half hour. Occasionally, Eve marches into Helena’s public office with breakfast in a greasy paper bag – a true testament to their friendship and Eve’s resolve to lure Helena away from the rigidity of her usual diet.
Once, when Eve was a new field agent and Helena a newly minted Matron, Helena had even brought her into the heart of the web at St. Hadrian’s for a home-cooked meal like the kind her Nona had surprised her with whenever she did well. Sometimes, they grab curry from a family-run restaurant just a short walk from MI6’s new headquarters as the sun sets overhead.
That last one happens more often than not.
For Helena, it’s nice to have a friend that recognizes the value in stocking up on secrets. It’s nice to have a friend whose job drops her into the deep end of international espionage. Eve, aside from being brilliant and beautiful, is as dedicated to doing the right thing as Helena is. Certainly, their moral codes often veer wildly apart in certain circumstances, but there’s a reason why Helena’s friendship with Eve is one of her longest lasting ones.
They understand one another.
Possibly a bit more than either one of them suspects.
Helena is late.
She glances down at her watch and then swears in every single language that she can think of, the words sharp enough to blister the ears of anyone that might happen to walk past her. But then, Helena is fifteen minutes late and her “lunch” with Eve is scheduled in the middle of the night.
No one walks past her.
Gritting her teeth, Helena lengthens her strides. She’s almost there, so close that she can almost taste the tiramisu she wants for dessert on her tongue. With their schedules and how busy their respective charges keep them, it’s a miracle that they’ve even managed to meet up for this short period of time.
When Helena reaches the restaurant, she isn’t surprised to see Eve standing out of earshot of the man at the door with her cellphone tucked against one ear. Such is the nature of their respective jobs. Even on their nights off, they’re not truly off the clock.
Absently, Helena finds herself checking out Eve’s lovely form.
In the light from the restaurant, Eve’s dark hair gleams like a halo against her face and the unbroken brown of her slender but strong shoulders. She’s smirking more than smiling, the red curve of her lipsticked mouth quirking up at one side as she talks to what Helena assumes is one of her operatives.
As Helena walks towards her, Eve murmurs her goodbyes and tucks her phone away in a microscopic purse that looks too small to hold half of what Eve is actually carrying in it.
“You look lovely,” Helena says with a smile settling on her lips. It’s the truth of course. Eve always looks beautiful. Whether she’s covered in someone else’s blood or dressed to distract in skimpy silks, Eve is one of the most attractive women that Helena has ever known.
Eve smiles back at Helena, her eyes crinkling at the corners.
“So do you,” she murmurs, leaning in to brush a kiss over the curve of Helena’s right cheek, one hand pressing lightly against her left side where there’s a cutout in the blue fabric that reveals Helena’s dark skin. The touch lingers perhaps longer than it should with them in public at night, but eventually, Eve pulls back. “And you’re late.”
Helena shakes her head.
“It isn’t my fault,” Helena says and she knows that Eve understands. “I had to smooth things over with our Spanish contacts. Number Thirteen’s occasional inability to remember what ‘subtlety’ means caught up with us. I’ve been in meetings all day.”
“I don’t envy you that responsibility,” Eve says with a wrinkle of her nose. “Thankfully, I’m only responsible for a handful of operatives.” ‘A handful of operatives she says as if MI6 itself wouldn’t collapse into the ground without her presence. And of course, she means it.
Laughter trembles on Helena’s tongue.
She bites it back mercilessly, settling for a smile and a gentle squeeze of her hand.
“Yes,” Helena says instead of the words that she wants to say (about how she and M both need to recognize what she does for MI6, how Moneypenny is essential to the operation). “But one of those operatives is an expert at causing international incidents. How is it that he’s still allowed to run around the world?”
Helena is… curious.
All that Helena knows about James Bond is what she’s gleaned from his MI6 files and infrequent conversations with Eve. He isn’t a secret, or at least if he is, he’s a poorly kept one, but Helena doesn’t know enough about him. She knows what he looks like on paper, what he eats and drinks. She even knows that he has a weakness for women and finds them all terribly beautiful – but who doesn’t.
But she doesn’t know much of anything else.
Eve’s bare shoulders rise and fall in a seemingly careless shrug.
“Honestly,” she says, pausing as she chooses her words. “He’s the best at what he does. Despite his little… incidents, all of the higher ups can’t deny that he gets results.”
Helena shakes her head. “He’s the reason why we have a modified and extremely waterlogged Aston Martin DB10 in our garage,” she points out. “Shouldn’t he be a bit more careful about where he leaves his toys?”
As always, Eve matches her point for point.
“And your man is why Q was able to speed up his work on the SmartBlood,” she fires back. “Pesky things, those nano-mites your organization is so fond of. They’re so small and so easy to lose track of.” The smile on Eve’s face is sharp. Coming from anyone else, that sort of smile would be cutting. On Eve, it’s –
Helena inclines her head in a shallow nod, tacitly conceding defeat.
“We should go in,” Helena says after a barely noticeable pause. “I assume that someone from your organization will be stealing you away before dawn?” Her mouth purses with a faint frown. “That doesn’t give me much time to try and convince you to come work with me.”
Eve shakes her head, exasperated. “When will you give up?”
“When you admit that I’d treat you better than your current boss does.”
“He does have a nice butt,” Eve says, eyes widening with wonder as she takes in the photographs that Helena has splayed across the table in the space where their breadbasket had been only minutes before. She reaches out, fingers tapping across an image of Dick sitting on the windowsill to his sparsely decorated room. “And you’re saying that he looks even better than this in person?”
After three glasses of a sweet Moscato and not enough food to fill her belly, Helena is well on her way to tipsy. She smiles at Eve a little wider than usual and then reaches out to touch the photo herself. Their fingers brush, the touch electrifying.
“He does,” Helena confesses eventually. “I suspect that my predecessor hired both for looks and capability. We seem to have operatives with an excess of both.” Leaning over the table, Helena tries for a conspiratorial tone. “The next time that we have lunch, I’ll have to bring you better photographs.”
Eve laughs, waving away Helena’s words.
“You say that every time your people hire someone new,” Eve says. “Why don’t we just make our operatives tag along next time? It could be fun.”
Helena frowns. It could be. Or, most likely, it could end in a disaster. Helena knows Dick and Tiger. One is too chatty and clever for his own good and the other hides his emotions behind a stoic mask that has yet to crack for her. From what she knows of Bond and the mysterious Q, their personalities could either clash or worse –
They could all get along.
Instead of answering, Helena changes the subject. Thankfully, Eve either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care enough to call her on it.
“So you’re finally ready for me to meet your biggest secret then,” Helena murmurs. She’d known the old Quartermaster. Some of SPYRAL’s toys were originally his prototypes. After his death, it’d taken Eve the better part of a year to even mention that he’d been replaced. Moneypenny still isn’t sure that the new Q isn’t just a robot in a dark room somewhere.
Eve is drunk enough that she doesn’t bother to hide the exaggerated roll of her brown eyes.
“He decided that all on his own,” Eve parries. “He’s noticed some… discrepancies between the data we recovered from Oberhauser’s servers and when he mentioned them, I mentioned you.” Before Helena can respond, Eve gestures with the fork in her hand. “It’s only fair. The troublemaker had a run in with your man from Kandahar and barely got out in one piece. That was your fault.”
“True,” Helena murmurs with a little smile sneaking onto her lips. “But you’re not really telling me that lunch with a little extra company is enough to make up for that – are you?”
Despite the liquor induced haze that slips a slurring note into Helena’s voice, she’s fine.
Fine enough to focus on what Eve is saying rather than how the smile on her face draws attention to the deep-set dimple in her left cheek.
“We can do it on your turf,” Eve says, the offer ever so magnanimous. “You’re only a short drive away from the office and Q could use some time out of his hole. You know, I think the last time that he left London was when he went to Austria earlier this year.”
Helena frowns. “Didn’t that nearly end with him being taken hostage?”
She listens. If not to Eve (as unlikely as that may be), then to her network of spies within the world’s network of spies. She knows things that she probably shouldn’t, but it rarely ends poorly for her.
Eve sighs. “Yes,” she says, dragging out the word until it sounds as if it contains multiple syllables. “And he’s stayed close to home since then. A little change won’t hurt him.”
“My girls might,” Helena replies. “Your troublemaker is much too old for them but you said that this Q is young and relatively attractive?” At Eve’s slow nod, Helena pushes on. “They’re going to eat him alive.”
Halfway through sharing a thick slice of tiramisu, Eve’s phone rings.
Over the plate, they share a look.
“I should take this,” Eve says, frowning down at her phone as if a look alone can silence it. “I’m probably due to be collected.” She sighs. “I wish I didn’t have to leave. I don’t see you half as much as I want to.”
“I know,” she murmurs. “It’s sad that we live in the same country and yet it’s so damn difficult to meet up.” Her phone rings next. A glance down at it shows the image she uses for Dick’s alias. Probably letting her know that he’s gotten stuck in front of the Vatican or something else that will make her give Dick extra duties on campus. Helena doesn’t answer.
Eve’s frown only deepens. “Your man?”
“Unfortunately,” Helena says, rising to her feet. She only wobbles once on her spindly stiletto heels and quickly catches herself. “Let’s just pay and I’ll walk you out.”
This time, it’s Eve’s turn to pay but Helena’s to tip. Between the two of them, they put down enough money to make up for keeping the restaurant’s owner up so late past closing and inspire him to do so again in the future.
Outside is darker and colder than before. Helena frowns, fingers sliding over her skin as she attempts to rub warmth back into her arms.
There are two cars idling outside the restaurant. One is a silver Aston Martin, a newer model than the car that Helena’s people are still busily trying to return to good shape. Despite the tint to the windows, Helena swears that she sees a silhouette that belongs to Eve’s troublemaker. The other is a black Jaguar that Helena has never seen in her life. One thing is for certain, Helena thinks to herself when she notices the now familiar blur of Dick’s features under Hypnos, it’s not the car that Dick was assigned.
Helena turns to Eve. “Same time next month?”
Eve’s lips curve up into an absolutely tempting smile. “Of course,” she says. “Now, is this the part where we hug and thoroughly scandalize the boys?”
“Oh, I hope so,” Helena says, her voice perhaps too eager for the situation. She’s expecting a hug. Perhaps a kiss on the cheek. They do that often enough that it isn’t weird to them anymore. Helena isn’t expecting for Eve to sweep her into a tight hug and then a kiss that seems to sear her very skin. It’s not a long kiss or a very deep one, but at the end, all Helena can do is stand there and stare at her friend.
Eve smiles, one hand reaching up to brush at Helena’s mouth with her thumb before she pulls back. The around them feels thick, the silence unshakeable.
“I didn’t know that we were that kind of friends,” Helena says, thankful for the darkness of the night around them as well as that of her complexion. “May I ask –” Helena pauses, unsure of how to phrase what she wants to say next.
Eve’s smile is light and so very open as she stands with her body half-turned towards their captive audience. “We promised to have no secrets, remember? I’ve wanted to do that for a while.”
Helena smiles, her pulse pounding in her throat. “I’ll see you next month,” she calls out, unable – or perhaps undesiring — to say anything else as she watches Eve get into Bond’s gleaming midlife crisis of a car.
Helena nearly forgets that she’s supposed to be leaving.
Dick has to call her name twice to get her attention.
“Are you coming or what?” Dick asks, more impatient than usual.
That shakes Helena out of some of the positive emotions that have her feeling like she’s floating. She shakes her head, frowning as she stalks over to the passenger side “Keep this up and you won’t survive to explain where you got the car from.”