“Who are you?”
Three words … Q never realised they could hurt as much as they did, but it wasn’t every day that an agent lost their memory. It wasn’t from a concussion, wasn’t from trauma, but from trepanation. Q stood safely behind a double-sided mirror, watching the scene unfold before him. He clutched his tablet close to his chest, his heart hammering against it.
The words echoed in his mind, despite the fact that they weren’t even said to him. Lying on a hospital bed in medical, safe inside of MI-6 was James Bond, 007, one of the best agents in the field. He currently couldn’t remember the face of M, Gareth Mallory, his boss.
“This isn’t good,” Eve Moneypenny said beside Q. “Maybe I should go in there, maybe--”
“Don’t bombard him; the doctor said M should go in first,” Tanner said beside them, his face set in an impassive frown. Q blinked, his lips pursed as he watched M.
“Do you know your name?” M asked him.
“Of course. I’m James Bond.”
“Well, there’s that,” Q murmured, tapping at his tablet in an attempt to seem nonchalant. Inside he was screaming, shaking even, with the news. It had been a miracle that they’d gotten Bond out, that he and Eve had disobeyed M’s orders and gone after Bond despite the fact that C, that Max, could possibly track them.
Now Bond had no facial recognition.
“Do you know what you do, James?” M asked, as Bond tugged at his restraints.
“Perhaps restraining him wasn’t in our best interests,” Q said, watching Bond grow more and more frustrated. “He won’t trust us.”
“At least he’s alive,” Tanner said before Q walked out of the room. He couldn’t watch any longer.
The telltale sound of Eve’s heels echoed down the hallway as she caught up with Q.
“Maybe we should all go in, to check.”
“If he didn’t remember Dr. Swann, or M, Moneypenny, then he won’t remember us.”
“What makes you so sure of that?” she asked, like she had hope. Q sighed as he opened the door that led down to Q Branch for her, in case she wanted to follow him down.
“Trepanation, when done right, is irreversible. Whatever Blofeld did to 007, it worked. He’s -- he’s not Bond anymore.”
Instead of stopping and checking with his technicians and assistants, Q went directly to his desk, putting on a pair of noise-cancelling headphones so they knew to leave him alone. He worked until he couldn’t see straight. The lights were dimmed, as they always were after hours, when he looked up to find Tanner standing at the doorway as if waiting for Q to look up.
“Were you planning on working through the night?” Tanner asked him.
“Not entirely,” Q said as he stood up, stretching after he signed off his computer. He wasn’t alone in his department, with a few stragglers, but his watch told him that the hour was late.
“Care to take a walk with me?” Tanner asked, indicating for Q to follow him. He did, after grabbing his jacket and scarf, along with his messenger bag.
Q noted that they were headed towards Medical, exactly the last place he wanted to visit.
“No,” Q said, digging his heels by stopping in the middle of the hallway. “I don’t think it’s wise.”
“Q,” Tanner said, giving him a look.
“He won’t know me,” Q said, shrugging. “It’s futile, Tanner, I won’t do it. I won’t subject him to another faceless person he’s told he should know. What he needs is rest, to -- to--”
“Alright,” Tanner said. “I just thought that you, of all people, he’d remember.”
“What makes you say that?” Q asked.
“Because you were his handler.”
“One of them. I’m the Quartermaster, I only handle high risk missions,” Q pointed out. “Honestly, he’d more likely recognise Eve.” Q bit his lip, shaking his head. “Maybe in the morning, but not tonight, Tanner. At least he’s back, he’s here.”
“I’m worried about Blofeld,” Tanner said as he walked with Q to the car park. Q took the tube, but he had no issues with walking with Tanner to his own vehicle. “I don’t trust him even though we have him in custody.”
“You and I both,” Q mumbled.
Q barely slept, coding at home with his cats in his lap and multiple cups of tea to help him through the night.
He was back in the office just after dawn. He gave the doctor a speaker with a built-in microphone to place on Bond’s bedside table, the only solution he had come up with during the night. Q sat on a stool in the room attached to the hospital room. Bond picked up the speaker, examining it.
“Hello, Bond,” Q said, his voice calm. If Bond had been startled by Q’s voice, he didn’t show it.
“Hello,” Bond said, looking around the room.
“I thought this would be best,” Q said, unsure of how to proceed. Eve walked into the room, shutting the door quietly behind her. Q didn’t really want an audience, but he supposed it would be rude to ask her to leave.
“Can you tell them to untie me?” Bond asked, showing Q that he was still bound to the bed. Q looked at Eve, who shook her head no.
“I’m afraid not, Bond. We need to be sure you won’t attack us if we do, first.”
Bond laughed, rolling his eyes towards the ceiling.
“Do you understand what’s happened?”
“The doctor explained everything.”
“But do you understand it?” Q asked.
“Why don’t you come in here, Q?” Q held his breath as James said his name. Just as he’d hoped, James recognised the sound of his voice. James heard Q’s voice in his ear so many times that Q hoped that if he heard it one more time before seeing him that perhaps he’d believe it was Q when he saw him.
“Perhaps later,” Q said, allowing himself a small smile. “I’ve got things to do, you see.”
“I’ll come back later, Bond.”
“I look forward to it, Q.”
“You can tell him to trust us,” Moneypenny suggested once the microphones were turned off. Tanner and M had been summoned, the four of them huddled in the small room. Q looked back at Bond, who looked bored. A bored Bond was never a good thing; it always tended to end badly for all parties involved.
“I’m not sure if it will work like that,” Q said, playing with his bottom lip, tugging it with his fingers. “I want to work with him like this, if you’ll allow me, M?”
“If you think it’s best,” M said as he looked at Bond through the double-sided mirror. “I’m afraid it’ll be for naught, though.” With that, M walked out, leaving them in the small room in silence.
Moneypenny placed a hand on Q’s shoulder, patting it before she, too, left him there. Q sat down in the chair, running his fingers through his hair. He watched Bond try to finagle out of the bindings to no avail. Eventually, Q left to do actual work.
Q returned within a few hours time, startling Bond by speaking up.
“Fuck, Q,” Bond said, glaring at the double-sided mirror where he knew Q was hiding. “You could have warned me.”
“How, exactly?” Q asked, smirking. “I’m terribly sorry, Bond. Next time I’ll knock.”
“I’m not bloody fragile,” Bond said, sitting up straighter, clearly put off by the mere assumption. “With these monitors and the coddling, you’d think I was, was--”
“I know you’re not fragile,” Q assured him. “Quite the opposite, in fact. But Bond, you have to realise the risk here.”
“You didn’t recognise M, or Moneypenny. Do you know who they are?” Q asked.
“I can-- I know who M is, the bloody head of MI-6’s double-oh programme. But I can’t, faces, everything is blank.”
“Precisely,” Q said. “Now, together we’ll get through this, Bond, but in order for that to work we need to set some ground rules.”
“Such as?” Bond asked.
Q had no idea what he was doing, but one of the doctors walked into the small room he was in, seemingly to observe him. Q tried not to let Bond know of that fact.
“Well, I think, for now, that we should merely speak through here.”
“Alright,” Bond said. “What about these?” He asked, tugging at his restraints. “I can’t bloody eat on my own.”
“I think we can arrange for those to come off as long as you promise not to make a scene.”
“Q, of all the people-- you’re the first person here that I trust.”
Q swallowed, looking away from Bond, down at his tablet as he clutched it tight in his hands. Bond trusted him above anyone else, above Moneypenny or M. It made his stomach turn.
“What are you saying?” Q asked.
“That I know that I’m really in MI-6 because you’re here,” Bond said, staring directly at Q, though there was no way he knew exactly where in the room Q was. “If they let me out, I promise not to take them down.”
“Was that going to-- I don’t want to know,” Q said, sighing. “You heard him, he’s given his word. Release him. Let him bathe, for god’s sakes.”
Q didn’t turn off the microphone, because he wanted Bond to know that he meant what he said. They were going to figure this out, and he needed to keep Bond’s trust in order to do so.
Almost immediately, two nurses entered Bond’s room. Q watched as Bond smiled at them in his usual way, even flirting as they undid his restraints. Q didn’t move a muscle, his face remaining impartial as Bond threw off his bed sheets, standing slowly as he moved his arms, swinging them to get his blood flowing. He was in a hospital gown, turning around and showing Q his arse. Q rolled his eyes to himself.
“Are you quite through?” Q asked as James walked forward, looking into the mirror, admiring his growing beard, his blue eyes looking straight at Q without seeing him.
“No,” Bond said, lifting an eyebrow. “I want to see you.”
“Not yet,” Q whispered, almost inaudibly. He didn’t know if he could handle James seeing him and not recognising his face. “How about you shower, clean yourself up before supper.”
“As you wish,” Bond said.
Q left then, going back to Q Branch where he could attempt to get more work done. He lasted barely an hour before he was interrupted. An assistant barged in as if they’d been running.
“What is it?” Q asked, standing, forgetting about what he’d been working on.
Q didn’t need to hear anything else, following the assistant back towards the medical ward. He entered the room just off of Bond’s to find that Bond had upended everything in the room that he could. Inside was Moneypenny with him, her arms crossed as he panted, his hands clenched into fists.
“I don’t know you,” Bond said.
“Yes, you do,” Moneypenny said.
“Moneypenny,” Q said, grabbing both of their attention. James looked towards the mirror, inching towards it as if for comfort. “Leave us, please.”
Moneypenny looked hurt, but nodded warily. As she left, Q shoved a chair against the door so no one could barge in on him as he talked with Bond. As if on cue, the handle jiggled, then there was a knock at the door.
“Q, let me in,” Moneypenny said.
“Just give me five minutes,” Q said with the speaker off. “Then I’ll let you in.” He turned back to Bond, who was pacing around the room. “Alright, Bond, do you want to tell me why you’ve thrown a tantrum? Last I checked you were a double-oh agent and not a child.” At least James looked ashamed.
“I asked them to fetch you and Moneypenny came in.”
“So you know she’s Moneypenny,” Q stated.
“Only because you told me,” Bond said.
“Well,” Q said. “I’m not a ball to be fetched. As you know, I’m the Quartermaster and I’m not at your beck and call, last I checked.”
“I want out of this room, Q,” Bond said.
“I know,” Q said, tapping his fingers against the glass. “Do you think they’ll be more inclined to let you out, perhaps, if you don’t destroy your room? You could do a fair bit of damage if you got out and decided to do the same to our new facilities here.”
“We wouldn’t want that,” Bond sneered.
“No, we wouldn’t.”
That night, Q couldn’t sleep. He thought about Bond the entire night, from his shower to lying in bed checking his emails on his tablet while his cats cuddled against him. He thought about Bond being alone, about knowing no one, trusting no one, except for someone’s voice. He wondered for a bit, what that must be like. For Bond, someone who always was so sure of himself, confident in his mind and body... it must be driving him mad.
So, that’s why Q found himself getting dressed in the middle of the night, making his way back to MI-6 via cab because it was fastest. He was given an odd look by security as he swiped himself in, heading directly to the medical ward. He went into the mirrored room to find that James was, in fact, not asleep like he’d hoped. It seemed like James was as much of an insomniac as Q was.
Like he told James he would do, Q knocked lightly on the mirror. James heard it, his head turning towards the mirror.
“Q?” James asked.
“I’m here,” Q said.
“It’s three in the morning.”
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you,” Q said, not caring for formalities at the late hour. He became rather blunt the later it got.
“Oh?” James said, showing Q a small smirk, like the ones he used to give so freely. “Do tell.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, Bond,” Q said as he bit his lip, adjusting his specs. “But I think I’ve got a solution, or a temporary one.”
“What’s that?” James asked.
“Blindfolds,” Q stated.
“I didn’t realise you were into that sort of thing,” Bond said wryly. Q tried not to laugh, but found it difficult because of the hour. He covered his hand with his mouth, rolling his eyes.
“Was that a laugh, Q?”
“Perhaps,” Q said, stifling it. “What do you say to my idea, James?”
“You called me James,” Bond said, stepping closer to the mirror.
“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Q asked.
“Yes, but you usually call me Bond or more formally, 007.”
“True,” Q said, putting his hand up to the glass.
“Alright, Q. Blindfold it is. As long as that gets you in here.”
“Impatient, are you?” Q asked him.
“You’ve no idea,” Bond said, smirking once more. Q took a deep breath, watching as Bond looked towards the door, as if Q would walk through it.
“Let me go find a nurse, and a blindfold.”
“Are you wearing a tie?” Bond asked. Q looked down: he wasn’t.
“No, not tonight,” Q said. “I’m in a jumper.”
“Of course you are,” Bond said fondly. “You and those jumpers.”
Q had his hand on the door handle when he paused, his eyebrows drawn. “Bond,” Q said, looking at him through the mirror. “Can you picture my jumpers?”
“Yes,” Bond said.
“Clearly?” Q asked him. “Describe one.”
“Your striped one,” Bond said, his own brow furrowed as he thought. “With the buttons on the shoulders, which didn’t make sense to me. You also had that brown with the navy stripe, v-neck. Why?”
“Does that-- can you describe what I look like, then?” Q asked, hopeful. Bond frowned, shaking his head. Q held his breath in vain.
“No,” Bond whispered. “I can’t. But I know you’re Q.”
Q watched Bond’s eyes water before he turned away so Q couldn’t see.
“Hold on, James,” Q said before he walked out the door to find a nurse.
It took a moment to track someone down, another for him to convince them to give James a blindfold, then another to find someone who would bring it into him.
Q reentered the side room, watching as Bond put the blindfold on, tying it expertly.
“Alright, Bond, no peeking.”
“I’d never,” Bond said as Q rushed into the room. Bond sat on the bed, his hands in his lap, waiting for Q to walk over.
“James,” Q said, sitting down beside him. James reached out, hand on Q’s arm for a moment before it moved upwards.
“May I?” James asked as he moved to touch Q’s face.
“Alright,” Q said just as James’ fingers trailed over his lips. Q tried to remember to breathe, his lips parted as James took his time feeling his face slowly, pausing at Q’s glasses, fingers running through his hair. Q closed his eyes, because he’d thought about this, in a way, of Bond touching him, but never like this.
He let James touch his ears, his nose, his hair, again.
“I remember conversations,” James said after some time. “I remember the gallery, your smugness.”
“You’re one to talk,” Q said, unable to stop from smiling. James’ fingers, though, caught the movement.
“You have green eyes,” Bond said, and Q swallowed.
“No,” Bond said, taking off Q’s glasses.
“Alright,” Q whispered, putting his hands on Bond’s wrists, feeling as his hands moved, cupping Q’s face with his hands.
“Your hair is brown, always a mess.”
“Spot on,” Q said, barely audible.
“I can picture your face,” Bond said. “I can see it, your lips, your nose,” he said as he ran his fingers over them. Q swallowed again and Bond’s fingers traced the movement. Q closed his eyes, trying to control his breathing because it was too much to think that Bond remembered him when he couldn’t remember anyone else. “I need to know if I’m right, Q.”
He really shouldn’t let him take the blindfold off, but now he wanted to know, too, if Bond would recognise him or not.
“Alright,” Q said, his voice shaking.
“Can you take it off for me?”
Q slid his hand from Bond’s wrist up his arm, to tug on the blindfold’s knot on the back of Bond’s head. As it fell, Q locked eyes with Bond, though he could barely see. He wished he had his glasses on. As if Bond knew, he looked beside him, where he’d put them down, retrieving them and putting them back on Q’s face.
“There you are,” Bond said, cupping his face again. Q’s eyes watered, his head shaking ever so slightly as he tried to reign in his emotions. “I recognise you.”
“You can’t have,” Q said, his lip quivering. “It’s not possible.”
“But I saw you in my mind, I saw your mole just here,” Bond said as he turned Q’s head to the side, running his thumb across his jaw. “I saw your nose,” he said, his eyes darting from his nose to his eyes, then his lips as he leaned inwards. “I saw your lips.”
Bond kissed him, then, and Q didn’t know what to do except kiss him back, his grip on Bond’s wrists tightening.
“I remember you.” Q laughed, pressing his forehead against Bond’s as James ran his fingers through his hair, hooking a hand around the back of his neck. “And this is a pleasant surprise.” He kissed Q again. “I could get used to this.”
“Get used to what?”
“To kissing you, having you in my arms.”
“I would be okay with that,” Q said, and he wasn’t lying.