The funeral for M was a strange affair as Q observed it from a little ways back. Naturally he recognized many agents and office workers from MI6, but there was very little noticeable recognition between everyone else. Such was the way of life when it came to covert affairs and espionage. He counted the agents as he looked around, and all were present save for 007. It wasn’t really a surprise that he had chosen not to come, so Q didn’t really think much of his absence. It was expected at this point.
Given that M had died in his arms, Bond was the last person to see her alive and those last moments were far from pleasant. Their relationship has been more than complicated, and – if he was being honest – Q never quite grasped its true form. Regardless, the ordeal had left Bond grieving in a way he was far from accustomed to. Bond had actually been quite distant over the last several days, which was worrisome to all that knew him well enough to take note, and Q’s concern was growing more and more with every closed off moment. The crowd before him began to disperse, and Q took a moment to clear his thoughts of everything but his silent goodbye to M and her legacy. The moment passed, and Q slipped away on his own to leave the unsettling quiet of the graveyard.
The wake was in full swing although no one outside of MI6 would even know it was happening. “Spy salutes” were made from across the room in silent acknowledgement of M’s great loss, and the alcohol flowed ceaselessly for a three solid hours. Sitting in the corner of the bar, Q nursed a beer of his own, occasionally raising the pint to nearby or passing Double-Oh agents. They all flashed sympathetic looks that Q did his best to return. It truly was a sad day for all of them.
“How you holding up?”
Q turned his head to see Eve Moneypenny leaning on the bar next to him. He smiled at her softly before returning his gaze to the beer in his glass. “As best I can,” he said. “It’s James you really should be asking.”
“I did,” she replied and Q’s brow furrowed as he looked back at her.
“When did you see him?”
“An half-hour ago? His favourite little dog was left from him in the will.”
“Oh… How did he look?”
“Like he hasn’t slept in days, but –“
“He hasn’t slept in days,” Q snapped.
Eve frowned, “Bond’s grieving, Q. He needs his time to heal.”
“By shutting me out? Me?”
“For now, yes.” There was something about the way Eve looked at him that gave the impression she wasn’t telling him the whole story. It unsettled Q and he wanted to protest it, but Eve spoke over him, “He doesn’t want you wasting time worrying about him, Q. Really. He’ll come round, and when he does you’ll see it was all worth it. James love you, Q. Really, he does.”
“If only he’d go back to showing me that he does instead of having a friend deliver a cryptic message on his behalf.”
A sigh sounded and Q knew that Moneypenny thought he was being selfish. He was being selfish. But wasn’t mutual support a part of a healthy relationship? Or mutual trust at that matter? It bothered him that Eve seemed to know more about what was going on in Bond’s head than he did…
Q threw back the remainder of his beer and waved over the bartender. “I’ll have a –“
“Scotch. Neat. Best one you’ve got. And a vodka martini, shaken not stirred.” The bartender and went to fetch the drinks. “Q.”
“007,” Q replied, turning all the way around on the bar stool to face Bond. Eve was right, Bond looked a dreadful mess. The dark rings around his bloodshot eyes would put any raccoon or basset hound to shame. “You look terrible.”
“Why, thank you, darling,” James rolled his eyes and took his martini from the bar the moment the bartender set the drinks down. “Eve, might I have a moment alone?”
Eve smirked, “Of course.”
Q watched as she left before returning to look at Bond with pure exasperation. “James, wh–“
Once again, Q was cut off as Bond cupped his cheek and kissed him sweetly. Q’s eyes fluttered shut and his hand moved to rest against the lapels of Bond’s suit jacket. There was something lumpy beneath his right palm, like there was something inside the breast pocket. He shifted to pull away from the kiss, but James held him in place a moment longer.
“James,” Q started again, but Bond raised a hand to stop him.
“Geoffrey, we need to have a talk,” he said and Q felt his face drain of colour. The tone of Bond’s voice, the fact he called him Geoffrey with so many of their coworkers around, the strange look in his tired eyes… Something was very much afoot and it certainly didn’t feel like a good something. “Let’s sit somewhere a little more comfortable.”
Q nodded, only half-present as his mind ran through all the possible scenarios of what was to be discussed, picked up his drink from the bar, and nervously followed Bond to a table. They sat down and James was fidgety, ignoring his martini and toying with the buttons on his sleeve. Fidgeting had become normal since James had gone back into the field after being shot, but ignoring liquor? Not a good sign at all. Q bounced his foot beneath the table and held tightly onto the scotch with both hands.
“I haven’t been around much since Skyfall,” Bond started, looking at his hands. “And I’m sorry for that.”
“Okay… It doesn’t take a spy to notice something’s wrong, James.”
James laughed, “Geoff, it’s not the first time I’ve lost a friend. Give me more credit than that.” Q wasn’t following and the smile that was on James’s face wasn’t making sense with how ragged he looked. “You want to say something.”
“I… James you look dreadful. Even Moneypenny agrees you look like you haven’t slept in days. Besides that, you’ve barely come round since you got back to London and you never stay… I was starting to get the sense that…” His voice died in his throat as he looked down in his hands.
“Geoffrey, what in the hell could you have done wrong?” James leaned forward, crossing his arms as he rested them on the table. “Darling, look at me.”
Q looked up, eyes large and watery, and Bond reached over to cup his face, running a thumb over his cheekbone.
“Everything is fine. More than fine.”
“Then why are –“
“I had my mourning period, Geoff. Still waiting to bounce back from that. But none of that is important. What I have to tell you is what’s important.”
“Well?” Q demanded, a hint of desperation in his voice. “Get on with it.”
James laughed again and sat back in his chair. He reached a hand into his breast pocket – where Q thought he had felt something – but as careful to keep whatever he removed hidden. “Q, this line of work will be the death of me, quite literally. It’s been the death of my friends and those I even considered family, so it’s only fitting that it be the reason for my imminent demise.”
“Not exactly what I was expecting,” Q said, rolling his eyes. His anxiety was still very much present, but his annoyance was beginning to grow with it.
“I’m not finished.” Beneath the table James way playing with something in his hands. “Q, Geoffrey, you’ve come to mean more to me than I ever thought you would, and I’ll be damned if I died in the field without you understanding that.”
Under Q’s cautious scrutiny, James came to place his hands on the table and Q felt his breathing hitch and his eyes burn anew with tears. The ring in his strong fingers was simple; a black band with dark titanium edges and three simply and small diamonds embedded in the top to keep the lines of the ring smooth. It was very “Bond”. No box. Just a bared soul.
“Geoffrey Boothroyd,” James Bond said, “will you do me the honour of marrying me?”
Geoffrey had no words. His brain had effectively shut down for the first time in what was probably years. He mechanically reached forward and carefully took the ring out of James’s hands. It was cold and smooth and so beautiful… His eyes danced over every square millimetre of the thing until his poor, already teary, eyes were begging him to blink.
“Darling, please say something,” James chuckled, barely concealed anxiety hidden in his mocking tone.
“Yes,” Geoffrey choked out, tears now rolling down his cheeks as he nodded with a trembling, crooked smile on his face, “Yes, James.”
Not taking his eyes off of James, he slipped the ring onto his finger and Bond was up in an instant. He rounded the table and pulled Geoffrey to his feet by his shirtfront so he could kiss him. Geoffrey couldn’t stop saying yes and James couldn’t stop kissing him. No one around them seemed to notice, and if they did, no one cared. But Geoffrey cared. Bond cared.
“I take it that he said yes,” she smirked, standing just to the side of them. “Told you it’d sort itself out, Q.”
“What are you talking about,” James smirked back at her. “He’s given me a scathing rejection.”
Q tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a squeaked giggle.
“Bond, you broke him,” Eve laughed, and Q flushed as he brushed away his tears.
“Looks like.” Bond returned his attention to his now-fiancé, “Shall we get out of here? You made it very clear you wanted me over for the night.”
Both Eve and James laughed as Geoffrey’s face turned as scarlet as humanly possible, but he managed a quiet, “Let’s go home.”
“Anything you want, darling.”
The helicopter crashed into the bridge, a ball of screeching metal and flames, and Q looked on helplessly from the other side of the wreckage. In the middle of the madness, James Bond brandished his faithful Walther PPK, aiming it in the dead center of Ernst Blofeld’s mutilated face.
Words were shared between them went unheard by Q, the only sound was the pounding of his heart. Anxiety rippled through him as the scene unfolded, as the clip fell from the base of Bond’s gun and the barrel was cocked to remove the final bullet from the chamber. As always, Q wanted to run to him, to wrap his arms around James and hold him close. But as Bond started to walk away from Blofeld… he walked in the wrong direction.
Q screamed out his name as he sank to the ground, hearing Bond’s words so clearly in his ear it was as if the agent was standing right behind him.
“Did you really think it’d last?” His voice was low and cold and so unlike the James Q had come to love. “Did you really believe I’d had the end of the Bond Girls? Pathetic.”
The words felt like gunshots in his back as Q’s heart was ripped out the front. The love of his life was across the flaming, crumbling bridge with Madeleine Swann in his arms. He felt himself scream again and then –
Three Months Later
Geoffrey awoke with a start, his heart pounding and his throat painfully raw. His whole body was shaking as his eyes were clamped shut. It was only a dream. A hellish, painful dream…
Instinctively, he looked to the other side of the bed, hoping to be wrong about what he knew was coming. His stomach dropped all the same at the site of empty place James Bond used to occupy. Geoff was too upset and anxious to go back to sleep, so he got up and took his pack of smokes to the window seat in the living room.
The clock on his ever-running laptop read 03:41 and he shut it disdainfully. He didn’t need to be reminded of how little sleep he’d been getting. Ever since the Spectre debacle, he wanted nothing to do with the nastiness inside his head. His phone buzzed then, but Geoffrey already knew who it was who would be calling at this hour.
“M has no shame,” he muttered to himself and lit the first of what would probably be many cigarettes that day.
One Week Later
“Q? Q, I know you’re home.”
This had been going on for a solid ten minutes and yet Geoffrey remained in his ball on the couch, doing his best to ignore the incessant knocking of Eve Moneypenny on the other side of the door. She’d been pursuing him ever since M – thankfully – gave up trying to get in contact and it was beginning to get on his nerves. Even the cats, from their perch at the window seat, kept glaring between Geoff and the door, not enjoying the noise while they tried to nap in the afternoon sun.
“We get that this has been hard for you, but you can’t just abandon us. The other agents still need you.”
Although her words were simple, they hit Geoffrey entirely the wrong way. Bad enough to cause a flair in his anger. Getting to his feet, he stormed to the door and yanked it open in a rage. “Shocker that that’s your reason for coming. The agents need me. Give me a bloody break. If they cared at all about my feelings then they wouldn’t have gone making bets about my personal life.”
“Save it,” he spat. “You’re only here because M told you to, and you did it because you’re just another one of his well-trained lap dogs. Have some damn self-respect.”
Eve rolled her eyes, ready to bite back against his attitude, but then she actually took the moment to process the state of the man before her and all venom disappeared. He hadn’t come to work for weeks now, and by the looks of it he’d hardly showered since she’d last seen him. He looked exhausted, smelled like liquor and stale cigarettes, and a dark beard had grown across his face. She sighed, “Can I come in, Q?”
Q shrugged, still clearly angry, but didn’t say anything as he moved back into the flat. It was even worse inside. Empty liquor bottles were crowded on the coffee table along with a half dozen glasses, with more of both in the kitchen. Empty cigarettes packages were scattered about and, from the smell of things, Q seemed to be slacking on changing the cat box litter as well… It was definitely going to take more than a shower and a shave to bring the snarky computer genius back to life.
Meanwhile, Q didn’t return to his place on the couch, instead he stood by the window seat and lit a cigarette. It burned his throat, but he was not in the mood for guests, no matter who they were. However, he knew that turning Moneypenny away in a rage would probably result in M black-bagging him and forcing him to return to MI6 regardless of any of the circumstances that had led to this self-destructive leave of absence (otherwise known as cashing in all of his stockpiled vacation time at once and shutting himself away from the world).
“Can I offer you a drink?” he asked, trying to keep his annoyance mostly out of his tone.
“I’m not one for having booze in the morning.”
“I’m fairly sure it’s closer to two in the afternoon. Hardly ‘in the morning’.”
“You need to come back to work.”
“I don’t need to do anything, Moneypenny.”
“Save it, Eve. I’m not going back. My own people had a hundred quid down in the pool of my romantic demise. That’s each by the way.” Eve didn’t have a response for that. All she could manage was a sad look that Q didn’t meet as he angrily pulled on the cigarette between his lips. Eve noticed how chapped they had become. “Regardless, I’m still technically on vacation.”
He ran a hand through his filthy hair, and a glimmer of black around his finger caught Eve’s eye. The engagement ring. He was still wearing it.
“Coming back might not be so bad,” Eve tried. “It would certainly give you something to do. That DB5 won’t be going anywhere without you, nor will your precious DB10. Are you really willing to let them rot in the pits under MI6?”
Q breathed a chuckle as he tossed the butt out the window. “My labs are hardly pits. And M would never let more than eight million pounds of Aston Martin rot. I’m actually quite certain he would prefer to be thrown out his office window.”
“At least let me help you tidy up. We can go for a late lunch afterwards. You really look like you haven’t eaten in days.” The look in Q’s eyes made Eve frown. “Please?”
“Ugh,” he groaned, finally fed up with all of it. “Fine. But that doesn’t mean I’m coming back.”
The two of them exchanged very little conversation over the next two hours while they cleaned up the flat. They’d filled an entire bin with empties to be recycled, and Eve had taken care of the dishes in the sink while Q changed the kitty litter – to much rejoicing from the cats – and then he took a shower. When he emerged from the bathroom, dressed in clean jeans and a clean grey jumper, Eve smiled at him from the sofa.
“There’s the quartermaster I remember.”
“Where are we going for lunch?” He ignored the quip about him being a quartermaster and ran a hand through his hair again.
“It’s closer to dinner by now. Pub ‘round the corner?”
Q simply nodded as he slipped on his runners. “Shall we?”
“Of course.” Eve got to her feet and Q held the door for her as they left the flat to head downstairs.
“Have you found him yet?”
“Huh?” The question had caught Eve off guard as she picked at the last few pieces of her salad. The area of conversation had remained mostly on the weather and the atmosphere of the pub. For Q to bring up Bond on his own was a surprise, and Eve didn’t miss the way he played with his ring as he asked.
“I said, have you found him yet.”
Eve looked down at her plate, “No, not yet. M’s been working on it, but to no avail. We think an EMP of some kind may have taken out the smart blood tracking system.”
Q laughed, “It would take more than that to take out my nanochips, Eve.”
“Oh really?” Eve smirked, “Care to elaborate?”
“The tracking program was carefully encrypted so that it can be accessed by MI6 staff alone. It glitches too badly to be of use unless they know what they’re doing to prevent the technology falling into the hands of our enemies. It would seem I forgot to mention that to the lab rats.”
“Define ‘forgot’, Q.”
“So you can turn tracking him down into leverage?” Q snapped. “I already know where he is, so you’re going to have to change up your tactics.”
“This isn’t about, Bond, Q,” Eve replied.
“That’s enough. Thanks for dinner.” He stood up sharply, glare fiery.
“Q, we need you!” Eve was pleading now, genuine and desperate. “The branch is falling apart. The labs are a mess, the agents are scrambling all over the place… Q, Mallory is at the end of his rope. We can’t even begin to bring it all back together without you.” He stayed silent so eve sighed and went on, “I won’t tell M about the intentional glitch. You won’t have to worry about him at all. Just… Q, I can’t let you drink yourself to death over any of this. You’re my friend and I care about you. I promise I’m not the only one who feels this way. We need you.”
A long moment passed between them before Q sat back down, brow furrowed as he glared at the table. His hand was shaking and he clenched his eyes tight, trying to will his body to keep still. “I’ll… I’ll think about it.”
If Eve whined at him one more time… “Fine!” he yelled, drawing attention to their table. He flushed as he sighed, “Fine, I’ll come back. Just… Christ, Eve…”
Eve reached over and placed a hand on his shoulder, trying to find the man’s eyes beneath his dark curls. “You’ll feel better once you’re busy again.”
“I have a request. Well, more like a condition.”
“Name it,” she smiled. “Anything you want.”
“An office with a window, unlimited access to my cars, minimal agent work, and I’m not tracking him. Development only.”
“Absolutely. I’ll tell M right away.”
Q nodded, rising from his seat once more. “Eve, one more thing.”
“It’s Geoffrey. Not Q. I’ll see you next week. I still have some vacation left.”
Eve smiled as she watched him leave the pub. Mission complete.
Geoffrey entered the empty lab with an anxiousness in his movements. It was the first time he had been in here since everything had happened and it felt like he was trespassing in his own domain. Taking a deep, steadying breath, Q walked over to his old desk – clean for once do to his absence – and started to set down his things. The office with the windows overlooking the Thames hadn’t been as nice as he had hoped, and the scorch marks that still stained the bridge were too painful to look at all day. His basement office was enough. It was safe.
In silence, he sat down and got to work on the blueprints M had requested for the redesigned sniper rifles that were meant to work as the Walther PPKs did. It was a simple enough task, and soon Q was engrossed in his calculations and codes. He was so deeply focused that he hadn’t even noticed the rest of Q-Branch file in just outside his door.
Geoff assumed that his minions had been briefed on exactly how they should tread, as everyone left him alone – save for one or two that made sure his signature mug remained topped up with coffee. He would have preferred tea, but the coffee kept him wired enough to stay focused on his own work. The tension in the lab was high, and part of him was desperate for someone to ask how he was doing so he’d have the chance to clear it. At the same time, Geoffrey had already done enough lashing out at Eve and M…
As if she had heard his thoughts, Moneypenny appeared seemingly out of nowhere and rapped her knuckle on his lab bench to get his attention. Geoffrey jumped at the sudden interruption.
“Nice of you to join us,” she smiled. “It’s also nice to see you so engrossed in your work again.”
Geoff pushed his glasses up his nose, flustered, “Sorry. I hope you haven’t been staring at me for too long.”
“Long enough to make up several random stories to get your attention.”
Eve straightened, the smile still on her face, “M wants to see you back upstairs.” At his groan she went on, “Current business only, I promise. Although it took some convincing to make his drop the subject of why you changed your mind about the office.”
“Turned out to not be me and all that. Simple enough.” He sighed as he stood up, grabbing his phone and tablet as he did so. “I didn’t think M would want me on mission work just yet. I only just got back.”
“And yet you’ve already completely redesigned three different kinds of long-range weapons.”
“If it makes you feel any better, he wouldn’t tell me what is was that he wanted to talk about. Seems like a letters-only meeting.”
“That’s a terrible joke.”
“You’re smiling all the same.” She had him there. “How are you doing? Being back I mean. Everything still to your liking?”
“Someone tidied my desk, but that was the only thing out of place. The rest of me people have been keeping to themselves out of what I would like to think is respect.” Q saw Eve frown and sighed, “I’m as fine as I can be for the time being, Eve. I’d like to leave it at that.”
The woman nodded, but the smile didn’t return to her face as they made their way up to M’s office.
Gareth Mallory hadn’t changed much in the previous M’s office, although Q had to admit that he missed the English bulldog figurines that had previously decorated the large desk as which the spymaster sat. There had been something relaxing about the little dogs that was lost in the changeover. It made the office feel more serious, more severe, than before.
“Q,” Mallory smiled, “good to see you looking so well.”
“Don’t call me Q. I’d rather just have my name on things.”
M nodded, though he appeared taken aback, “Right. Thank you, Miss Moneypenny, that will be all.”
Eve nodded and left the office to return to her desk in the next room. Geoff wished she had stayed. It would have made things much less tense as he knew the only reason M would want to talk to him in price would be to cuss him out over his attempted resignation.
“Please, sit down.”
“If this is what I suspect it is, I think I’ll stand, sir.” Geoffrey shifted defiantly on his feet as he spoke.
M sighed, “Geoffrey, please sit down.”
Despite having what he asked for, it felt strange hearing Mallory use his name. What caught him the post off guard, though, was the tone with which he had said it. Grudgingly, Geoffrey found himself sitting down in one of the leathery armchairs across from the desk.
“We lost a good agent,” M started, and Geoffrey immediately cut him off.
“I’m going to stop you right there, Mallory,” he snapped. “Eve promised that we would not be discussing past events.”
“And if you’d listen and let me finish rather than jumping to conclusions, you’d know that we’re not,” M said back, tone harsh but not angry. “There is a point to this and you can make a fuss once I’m finished making it. May I continue?”
Geoff flushed in embarrassment and nodded.
“Thank you. As I was saying, we lost a good agent a few weeks back, and MI6 is taking the loss far harder than expected. We need to consider looking into possible new recruits to fill the gap left in the Double-Oh Project and fill the gap.” Geoffrey opened his mouth, but M continued, “I would like you to be on the recruitment team to help us select a new double-oh-sev-“
“Absolutely not,” Q said with such a fury that the shock was evident on M’s face. “If you want new recruits, then fine. But there will never be anyone who can accurately take over the mantle of 007. This isn’t a comic book. We aren’t looking for the new Batman. If you have any respect for the work that James bloody Bond has done for Queen and Country, then you will retire the number like a bloody sports player and move the hell along.”
“That’s not how this works, Q!” M said, failing to remain calm and diffuse the quartermaster’s anger. “When Alec Trevelyan died we got a new 006. We held off until it was necessary, and everyone who knew Alec understood. Including James Bond, who I will remind you, blamed himself for Alec’s death for years. It’s a codename, not a title, and the sooner you let go the easier it will be to move on. We aren’t looking for a new Bond. We’re looking for a new field agent.”
“Then you can do it without me. There is one 007 and no one else will get my respect for living off of a reputation they were never a part of. The intelligence the opposition had on Bond worked to his advantage the way it can’t with anyone else. End of bloody discussion.”
M sighed and stood to pour himself a glass of scotch from the decanter behind his desk.
Geoffrey remained where he was in his seat. He was seething but still knew his place enough to stay seated until he was formally dismissed. Q also knew that by waiting, M was trapped in a lose-lose situation. To drop him as quartermaster would be to lose the biggest asset of the Double-Oh Project, and to dismiss him without an agreement would be to admit defeat in picking a new 007. Geoff wondered if this would be easier if James had died instead of simply deserting. May he was so angry about the suggestion because, if Bond was dead, there would be no chance of him returning at some point in the future. What did that hope really say about him? Was it just pathetic?
Several long, quiet moments passed and M finished his drink before he spoke again. “Geoffrey, we’re scrambling here these days, as I’m sure Eve has told you. Q-Branch has been on fire more times since you left than it have ever been in a year. Out agents are stretched to their limits and are getting sloppy with their exhaustion. He may have been an ass, but Bond pulled a lot of weight around here. I never truly realized that until he was gone.”
Geoff shut his eyes and tried to clear his throughts, he was getting a headache. He just wanted to go back downstairs to his dark, little office and get back to work. Maybe he could fiddle with exploding pens or try again at his idea of flame resistant suit fabric.
“I have a lot of work to do,” he said.
“I told you not-“
“If I give you the list of internal people I’m considering for the position will you at least look it over? You’re input matters whether you want it to or not. A quartermaster needs to have a knowledgeable connection with the agents to appropriately supply them with what they need.”
Silence wasn’t going to win this one. “Fine. Send it downstairs. I’ll be here late for the DB10.”
M smiled, his face softening with mild gratitude. “Thank you, Q. That will be all.”
With a sharp nod, Geoff rose to his feet, “Call me Q one more time, and I’m not coming back. Remember that, Mallory.” His words were curt and would probably earn him a stern talking to once the tension died down a bit, but Geoffrey didn’t care as he headed past Eve and directly downstairs. He felt that if he said anything to her about selected a new 007, he would lose what little hold he had on his very fragile stability. He couldn’t afford to break down on MI6 property.
Just as he was the first person to arrive that morning, Geoffrey ended up being the last person in the lab. He had turned on the overhead speakers to blast some classical piano sonatas and drown out the dark thoughts that kept swirling around in his head. The music was helping him focus on his work in the far corner of the lab were the horribly disfigured body of the DB5 had been left after it’s sad death at Skyfall. The smell of grease and the buzz of the palm sander that he was currently using to remove the burnt silver paint from the hood of the car were relaxing and hypnotic familiarities. For the first time in weeks, Geoffrey felt close to himself. He even noticed he had begun to absently hum along to the Beethoven that currently played.
Suddenly everything was interrupted as the music stopped. He looked around, startled, and saw Eve standing at his desk.
“M said he spoke to you about the recruiting mission ahead of us.”
Geoffrey pursed his lips and went back to work, “It’s rude to just barge in on someone while they’re working. Did you need something?”
“He told me to bring down the list of those up for considering.”
“You can leave it on my desk. And I’d appreciate it if you put the music back on before you go. I don’t really want to get my computer dirty.”
“Stop calling me that,” he snapped, before turning around again and sighing. “Eve, I’m very much on edge at the moment so if we can wrap this up quickly I’d prefer to do so.”
“There’s only one name on the list.”
“If you mean me, I’m not sad to inform you I’m not interested.”
“No,” Eve was starting to giggle. “No, it’s not you.”
“Get on with it then.”
Eve made a swooping gesture with her arm like a woman asking how she looked, and it slowly began to click.
“You can’t be serious,” Geoff said.
“Have you even worked in the field before?”
“I’m the last person to ‘kill’ Bond,” Moneypenny smirked, making air quotes around the word “kill”.
Geoffrey didn’t enjoy the overwhelming sense of being left out of the loop, and crossed his arms. “You’re going to need to give me more details than that.” Sure, he knew that Eve was trained at the beginner levels as she had assisted some with the Spectre ordeal, but even when she went to Hong Kong to chase Silva not long before that, it had only been for simple briefing and surveillance.
“Do you recall the stolen list that Silva leaked?”
“Before Silva actually got it, Bond and I were sent to recover it. M – the old M – told me to take a short that was guaranteed to be clean. I ended up hitting Bond instead of the target and he wound up in the Bahamas, blitzed off his arrogant ass for three months.”
“And then M sold his flat. I remember that part. James told me about it later on, but never that you were the one to shoot him. Regardless of who was shot, it’s impressive to have made contact with anything given the speed of the moving target alongside the distance.”
Eve seemed pleased with the compliment.
Geoffrey took a moment to regard her carefully. She was certainly built as if she had been trained, but all the staff got pushed through basic combat. He grabbed a rag off of the floor and cleaned his hands as best he could while moving towards Eve at his desk. “How fast can you draw a sidearm?”
“Never actually timed it but let’s go with as fast as I need to.”
“And how fast can you disarm one?”
“Same answer.” Eve grinned, “I can fire off a few rounds at the range if that satisfies your professional opinion.”
Geoff raised an eyebrow, “Dressed in that?”
Eve was dressed for her office job still, sleeveless pencil dress and reasonable high heels that weren’t exactly spiked, but very much a fashion-over-function design. She looked lovely, Geoffrey always thought she did, but it was hardly what a field agent might wear.
“It’s no worse than how Swann was dressed when-“
Geoff raised a hand to cut her off, “I get it. This way.”
It wasn’t far from the lab to the range – just down the hall really – and Geoffrey lead the way to the locker of blank firearms that hadn’t yet been coded to anyone’s palm prints. “Just because we call them blank models doesn’t mean they don’t fire real bullets,” he said. “Take your pick.”
Eve was close behind him and took up one of the standard Walthers along with a pair of earmuffs. As she moved downrange, Geoffrey put of a pair of his own and took out his phone to take notes. He knew Eve. He liked Eve. Notes were just a formality to prove no bias in her favour. Then again, maybe M was counting on his bias to get Eve into the field. She was very clearly capable of handling herself.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Three textbook shots to the chest.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Three more shots to the head.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Eve emptied the clip into a smiley face on the target. At nearly fifty metres out, the accuracy of her shots – and her sense of humour – had put a small smile on Geoffrey’s face.
“Well?” Moneypenny asked, lowering the weapon as she turned to face the quartermaster.
“Have you taken the psych evaluation?”
Geoffrey nodded and crossed his arms, leaning against the wall.
“Geoff,” she said softly, “I know this isn’t ideal, but it has to be done, wouldn’t you prefer someone who knew him personally enough to live up to the number? You aren’t the only one who recognizes the deeper responsibilities it comes along with.”
“You’re a good friend, Eve,” he said after a moment, his throat was tight as hell. His eyes burned as he locked his gaze on his feet, “This is far more than I was ready to take on today…”
“I know, Geoff.”
“I’ll talk with Mallory in the morning. For now I’d like to get back to the DB5. If you could put the gun back and see to it that the lights are off when you go, it would be appreciated.”
Eve nodded and he left the room. He put his music back on – starting the concerto over again – and went back to the car. He shook slightly as he waited for the gentle clicking of Eve’s heels to go by, and then Geoffrey sunk to his knees next to the car and let himself cry. The metal was cold again his skin as he rested his forehead against it. He cried for the full duration of the movement before packing up his things and heading home.
Despite being so utterly overwhelmed, Geoffrey actually felt better. For the first time since he tried to quit MI6, there was actually a glimmer of hope that he could move forward at last.
Geoffrey showed up in the lab bright and early the following morning, and stood with his tablet on the observation side of the one-way mirror set in the wall of the interview room. Eve sat on the other side, talking with a staff psychologist to complete her psychological evaluation and get cleared for active field duty. He was silent as he made notes of his own on his tablet regarding her answers, but if he was being honest, he was already running scenarios in his head about working together. He liked Eve. The banter they shared would be amusing, and there were few people who would deny their professional chemistry.
“I’m surprised to see you here,” M said, breaking the silence of the small room. The plan had been to ignore his superior in a petty act of defiance, but now Geoffrey had no choice but to answer.
“It’s important for a quartermaster to be away of possible weak points or deficiencies in a potential charge, especially in terms of mental capacity and capabilities. Agent turnover has spiked across the board, especially in the Double-Oh program. That needs to change if you hope to return to proper MI6 standards.”
“Too right,” M replied. Geoffrey hoped that that was it, but after a brief moment of uncomfortable hesitation, M cleared his throat. “Geoffrey, look –“
“Let me stop you there, sir,” Geoff turned to face him, false smile on his face, “Miss Moneypenny has sufficient training and skills for the position and, as far as I can tell, she is also psychologically sound. To go into recruitment lists and train from scratch would be a waste of time and money that we do not have.”
M nodded, lips pursed in a tight line, “Right.”
It was clear that he wanted to go on, to explain the entire situation more clearly, but Geoff was not in the mood for apologies and excuses, and was pleased when M didn’t continue. He turned his attention back to Eve on the other side of the glass. She sat at the table, the image of calm collectedness, yet still very much herself. She was no less snarky than usual, and there was no sign of the typical disconnectedness see in other agents. Geoffrey wondered if she knew he was watching. She probably did.
The interview concluded and the psychologist shook Eve’s hand as he told her to stay seated a moment as he left the room. The door to the side of the one-way mirror opened and he popped his head in.
Geoffrey approached him before he could full enter the room and raised a hand. “Leave the door open. We have our decision, but just need a confirmation on your part.”
The doctor nodded, “Well, this is only the preliminary test, but I’d say she’s clear.”
M smiled, “Wonderful.”
Geoffrey moved passed the psychologist and into the interview room and saw Eve smiling at him from the table. “You catch all that?”
“Absolutely,” she said.
“Wonderful,” M chimed in with a grin. “Do you want to get started right away, or can I get the paperwork done first?”
“I have some things to prepare first. Completing the paperwork will give me the time that I need.”
“Even better. Welcome to the team, 007.”
Geoffrey tried his best to mask his wince that the codename before making his leave. He caught Eve’s eyes light up as M shook her hand in celebration of the good news, and Geoffrey breathed a laugh at her happiness. Unconsciously, Geoff started to fiddling with his engagement ring, the weight of it on his finger distracting him. This was not going to be an easy transition…
The next few days were a hassle with the whole of Q-Branch running around to get all the tech sorted for Eve’s first upcoming mission. There were also the countless adjustments that Geoffrey insisted upon to make the gear more durable and comfortable for his new agent and simultaneously trying to redesign surveillance equipment to fit dresses rather than suits. However, none of it was going at all smoothly.
“That’s it!” Geoffrey slammed his hands down on the table and silence fell in the lab. “It’s as if none of you have ever seen a bloody woman before! How in the hell is this concealable in a gown?! Get out! All of you, out! Now!”
The lab rats fled the area as Geoffrey threw what looked to be a men’s Oxford shoe. One the room was clear, Geoff sat, putting his elbows on the desk and his head in his hands. MI6 had plenty of female agents in the past, so why couldn’t these damn idiots handle a female Double-Oh?
“You need to take a moment to breathe, Geoff,” Eve said, her voice accompanied by the sound of ceramic on the hard desktop.
Geoff looked up at the teacup, breathing in the soothing scent of Ear Grey. “What on Earth could have given you that impression?”
"That radio shoe you just threw across the room was a pretty clear indication.”
“How many times do I need to give these morons clear instructions over and over again? We’re redesigning tech so simple that-“
“Geoff, breathe. Drink your tea.”
The quartermaster huffed but did as he was told and – confirming the truth of every English stereotype there was – felt better.
“There you go,” Eve smirked, watching the tension slip from Geoff’s shoulders. “Now, where are we at with getting me back in the field.”
“Well, we have coded the gun, tracking chips are operational, several sets of IDs are printed and ready.”
Eve raised an eyebrow, “But?
Geoff sighed and took his glasses off, “MI6 isn’t the most progressive when it comes to my staff down here. I’ve been trying to put together the camera and secondary mics to hide when you’re undercover. Dresses are more complicated to rig that the tuxedos everyone is accustomed to.”
“Who ever said that a woman couldn’t wear a tux?”
That got Geoff’s attention, and several ideas instantly popped into his head. “I… I never thought about that,” he admitted. “I’ve only ever seen you dolled up in dressed before, and-“
“And you didn’t think about anything else,” Eve teased. “Relax, mate. I know you’re on edge.”
“First of all, you need to stop interrupting me like that. Secondly, if you wore a suit, there’s a better chance we can add out new bullet resistant weave to the jacket. More suitable shoes, too. Yes, this will work out for the better in the long run while also giving us more time to wire dresses as well should the need arise.”
“Care to explain how bullet resistant is different than bulletproof?”
“It isn’t as strong as the standard bulletproof vests we have, but it will still prevent the majority of small caliber handgun ammunition. Still experimental but using it for your mission would be a great chance for a field test.”
“See? Cup of tea and a brilliant woman is all you needed to solve it.” Geoff managed a tired smile, but Eve still frowned, “Geoffrey, are you getting any kind of sleep?”
“Not really,” he said. “It’s been a long week of preparations. I’ve spent most of my nights in my office. The collapsible cot I kept in the closet was still there.”
Eve cast an accusatory glare at him.
“The cats are fine, Eve. I run home on lunch to feed them.” When that didn’t remove the look from her face, he added, “The flat is too empty these days.”
Geoffrey looked down at his lap, feeling more exposed than he preferred to be. Sure, it was Eve asking, but it still didn’t feel quiet right to be talking about this.
“You don’t need to elaborate if you don’t want to. Just know that our professional relationship doesn't change out friendship, alright? You watch my back in the field, and I’ll have yours after office hours.”
That made a more genuine smile tug at the corner of Geoff’s mouth, “Thank you, Eve.”
“Any time. Now go home and get some rest. You can get back to everything else in the morning. The mission isn’t until the end of the month. You have plenty of time to tinker.”
With a nod, Geoffrey rose from his seat, “You’re right… I’m working too hard.”
“The fact you’re actually admitting it goes to show just how tired you are.”
The two of them laughed as Geoff gathered up his bag.
“Goodnight, Q,” Eve smiled, testing out the old codename.
The air was chilly as Geoffrey made his way home, but the night was refreshing after being locked away in the London underground for the better part of thirty-six hours. He looked up at the glittering stars and took a deep breath. The crisp atmosphere and the warm light of the street lamps were relaxing, and after actually admitting to even the slightest of hardships to Eve, an unsuspected amount of weight felt as though it had been lifted from his chest.
“Why did you need to leave, though?” Geoff’s words drifted on the wind and, suddenly, the ring on his finger felt incredibly heavy. “I thought you loved me, James. So why did you leave?”
The quartermaster wanted to cry, he missed Bond so much no matter how much he fought against his feelings. He still wore his bloody engagement ring, even after having his heart broken. Proof of the hope that was still in him that said James would come back. That things could return to how they were. His thoughts of pain were then interrupted by a soft rumbling down by his feet and a warmth moving about his ankles.
“Oh, hello,” he muttered, looking down at a black and white cat winding around his feet. “What are you doing out and about so late?”
The cat meowed sadly cat him, starting to purr as Geoffrey bent down to pet it’s head. It licked the tips of his fingers and nuzzled against his hand. Geoff didn’t see a collar, nor did he feel the scarring of a microchip between it’s little shoulders. The poor thing was shaking, and there was no way it would survive on it’s own in the cold.
“Well I can’t just leave you like this,” he said. “If you can promise me you’ll play nice with others, I’ll bring you home with me.”
It meowed again, and Geoff smiled. That was good enough for him. He picked up the cat and tucked it between the lapels of his coat. The cat purred all the way back to the flat and promptly curled up on the bed when Geoff put him down. Hawthorne and Jules were curious about the newest addition to their feline family, but Geoffrey thought it best to shoo them into the other room for now. The little cat was asleep by the time he had changed into pyjamas, and Geoff smiled against as he stroked its soft tuxedo-patterned fur. Gentle vibrations travelled up his arm as the little thing purred.
“Goodnight,” he whispered and got into bed on the other side so as not to disturb it. He felt significantly better as he drifted off to sleep for the first time since Bond had left…