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Water.  

Dirt.  

Rocks. 

Dark.

This was so not the floor of his flat.

 

And god ... he hurt. 

His head, arm, face.

It hurt to breathe. 

When he tried to move, the world flipped upside down and so did his stomach.  He managed to roll over enough to not vomit all over himself. 

Barely.

 

Glasses … where were his glasses? 

Struggling to his feet … 

This …. bank of the Thames

And that … across the way … other bank.

The shadowy outline of MI5

Low tide.  Need to move. 

 

Lambeth Bridge…

Wrong… 

Something…

He was wrong…

 

He clutched his left arm to his chest, wavering on his feet.  

They ached.  Throbbed.

 

Low tide.  Need to move. 

 

Need… 

He needed…

Thinking hurt…

 

Six.

Needed to get to Six. 

 

Lambeth … he reminded himself 

Below Lambeth

Steps.  Needed to find. 

 

Six.  

He could make it to Six. 

Chapter Text

Head throbbing in time to the rapid beat of his heart, he stumbled up to the employee night entrance.  Only his good hand catching the door handle kept him from collapsing against the front of the vestibule.  Wiping at the blood that had continued to drip down his face the long mile from Lambeth to Vauxhall, he blinked thrice to clear his eyes enough to focus on the security access pad embedded in the brick surface of the Secret Intelligence Service Building. 

Still the keys swam before him.

Code.  

What was his code?  He couldn’t remember.  

Scan his ID.

Keeping his injured arm pressed close to his chest, he again searched his pockets for his credentials, hoping he’d overlooked it in his trousers or the interior pockets of his tattered cardi.  He wore no shirt. His shoes were missing. His right big toe poked out from the torn seam of a TARDIS sock he didn’t remember buying. It was on backwards: the heel ruched up along the top of his foot.

Cold.  So cold.

He pressed his forehead to the pale stone.

Think.

Countless sequences passed through his mind’s eye.  None made sense. None were --

There.  That one.

He pulled back from the wall and bent over the pad -- practically nose to keys, his myopic eyes refusing to focus even at that short distance -- and entered the sequence.

:: ACCESS DENIED::

The fuck?!  No.  

Please no!

It was the right code.  He was sure of it. It had to be the right code.  

Trembling fingers entered it again.

:: ACCESS DENIED ::

No. No. No. No!!

He entered it again.  And again.

:: ACCESS DENIED ::

A sudden wave of nausea brought him to his knees before the cold, silent edifice of the SIS.

He couldn’t …

He summoned the last of his energy and raised his head to look up into the CCTV camera above the vestibule door.  His appeal was one word long.

“Please!”

Chapter Text

Inside the security office on the east side of the building, Intelligence Officer Daniel Carson sat at his post, assessing the CCTVs feeds from the cameras along this side of the building.  It was his third night on duty having finally completed his training the week before, and it had been slow.  

Extremely slow.    

“Be glad of that,” his partner IO Kelsie Simpson told him before popping off to the canteen to grab a snack.  “Never know when all Hell is going to break loose. Silva proved that.”

Though many years in the past, Silva’s attack on Six had figured heavily in Carson’s training:  the betrayal, the explosion, the deaths. There were other stories, too … rumours among the recruits had taken on the life of tall tales.   Those of a Double-O’s vengeance and the aid given him by a wet-behind-the-ears Quartermaster not yet a week into his role. People he’d never met and likely never would.

Exciting doings.

Unlike this.  Should’ve brought a book.  

He cycled through the feed again looking for --

Wait.  There. Right outside the night entry vestibule.

The hell?

Christ.  Bloody homeless bloke.  Happened on occasion, or so he’d been told.  Came up to the building looking to get out of the weather or for a handout or to cause trouble.  Probably bladdered out of his mind. Most of them were. And from the looks of him on the feed, he’d had a bit of a rough go of it, too.  

Carson was reaching for the phone to ring up the Met for a couple of PCs to escort the man to the shelter at St. Mungo’s when Simpson returned with two steaming cuppas and a bag he hoped contained something more than a dried-out sandwich from the night canteen.

“What’s he doing?” she asked gesturing at the monitor with her cardboard cup.

Carson scoffed in amazement.  “Trying to get in.” The man had started plugging in numbers to the keypad.  Denied of course. He watched the man fall to his knees before looking up at the camera with a look that could only be described as pleading.

“Fuck me!” Simpson breathed.  Her cuppa fell to the floor as she pushed Carson’s hand aside to grab the phone.  She dialled a number and pointed at the other phone on the worktop across the room.  “Contact Medical,” she ordered Carson just as her call connected.   

“Mr Tanner, sir,” she said, leaning over to look closely at the monitor.  “We have a situation with the Quartermaster.” 

Chapter Text

“Gloves!”  Simpson tore open a desk drawer and tossed a pair at Carson before triggering the door’s security to ‘Disengaged.’  “Mark to memory every place you touch him and keep contact to a minimum. Need to secure him for chain of evidence.”

They were outside in a trice.  “Quartermaster. I’m IO Simpson.   Medical and the Chief of Staff are on the way.  You’re in safe hands now.” Simpson knelt beside him on the tarmac as his level. Carson stood back waiting at the entrance for Medical to arrive.

“Need to see the Major, Boothroyd. Please...”  Eyes trying to search the entry doors for a familiar face. “Need... Quartermaster... ‘m on his staff.   I don’t know what...”

“Quartermaster, we’re getting you assistance. Can you tell me..”

“I’m ... R !   My name is Ifan.  Ifan Kingsley. My ID is gone.  The Major will confirm.”

“Major Boothroyd?” Carson questioned cautiously.  Simpson quickly shook her head at him to stop just as Medical staff came bursting through the entryway. 

“It’s okay.  We know who you are … Ifan R , ” Simpson said cautiously, stressing both the name and the designation for the doctor who sank to her knees at their side, kit in hand. 

“And you know me, don’t you, R ,” Doctor Haldar said as she, with Simpson’s assistance, eased him from his knees onto his back on the tarmac.  

“Amara,” he mumbled with a nod as she took stock of his injuries, grateful for a familiar face.  “Dunno … what happened. Woke up next to the river … ‘s why I’m muddy. ‘M sorry. Got you muddy, too.”  He swiped weakly at the mud he’d tracked on the leg of her clean scrubs.  

Haldar caught his hand and gently pressed it back to his chest, wrapping his fingers around his clearly broken left hand and wrist and wincing sympathetically at his whimper of pain.  “You help me by keeping that there, R. Keep it stable until I can get you treated, yeah?” She spoke in the soothing tones one would use for a frightened child for the Quartermaster appeared ready to jump out of his own skin.  “You tell IO Simpson and Carson what you remember, and I’ll have you downstairs in a trice.”

Whilst the Quartermaster -- still R, he believed himself to be -- spoke brokenly to the IOs it became clear to Haldar that his injuries would tell a far more comprehensive tale than he would be able to do.  She wrapped up her assessment quickly, far longer than Q’s report, and it was as two medical technicians were wheeling him inside Six toward the elevator that Tanner arrived.

“Bill!”  Q would have reached out for his friend as he passed, but he had been strapped securely to the gurney.

“He’ll be with you shortly, R ,” Haldar said, eyeing Tanner purposefully.

“Soon as you’re settled, R,” Bill agreed, sliding into the unexpected narrative with the expertise born from years as a field agent and as Chief of Staff, but soon as the lift doors were shut, he turned to the Chief Medical Officer.  “R?!”

“Given the skull fracture I felt underneath that mop of hair of his, we count ourselves lucky he’s alive and coherent first and worry about who he thinks he is second.”

“Sitrep,” Tanner demanded, keeping in step with her to catch the second lift.

“Details of what happened are sketchy, but your security IOs have them.  I’ll give you the specifics on his physical condition once they’re a bit more clear, but he was beaten, Bill.  Severely. Along with the skull fracture, his left hand is a broken mess, his feet are in tatters, and there are cracked, possibly broken ribs.  He was kicked, repeatedly.”

“Christ!”

“Some prayers wouldn’t go amiss, I think,” Haldar said gravely.  “For him, and maybe for the bastards who did this to him because when Bond and Trevelyan find out ...” She nodded at the mobile he held in his hand.  “When do they get back, anyway?”

The mobile buzzed with a message lighting up the dark screen.  Tanner sighed. He didn’t even have to look at it to know. “Just landed at Heathrow.”

“They’ll want to know why he’s not responding to their texts.  Primed before they even get here. Keep them out of Medical until I tell you otherwise, Bill.”  The elevator doors opened and Haldar stepped inside. “I don’t need them mucking about until I know what’s going on with his head.”

“Oh shite!”  The realisation of what Amara was really telling him sunk in.  “If Q thinks he’s still R …”

“Then Ifan Kingsley has no idea he’s romantically involved with not just one but two Double-Os,” she completed as the doors slid shut.  “Your problem. And Mallory’s. Not mine.”  

Tanner’s sigh echoed through the small elevator lobby.  “Bugger me.”

 

Chapter Text

“He said Mallory was making him take the weekend.  So why the bloody hell has he not answered a text since Friday?”  Trevelyan strode through Heathrow next to Bond.

“Maybe he didn’t get to take the time.”  Bond tried to ignore his partner’s rantings, focusing on just getting through Heathrow and back to the safe haven of their flat.  It had been a stressful mission that could have easily become a fiasco and at the moment he was just done .  “Shite happens, Alec”

“Not answering at the flat either!” Alec cursed Q’s automated voice mail system with a few choice words about the robotic voice with no personality.

“When did you become his mother?

“Not like him and you know it. Nothing for two days!” Trevelyan stopped dead in his tracks looking back through his attempted calls and unanswered text messages, forcing Bond to backtrack to where he was, annoying fellow travelers by disrupting the flow of foot traffic.

“Alec!  He’s fine.  Probably a mission cock up he needed to deal with. Who was still out in the field?”  James took Alec by the elbow, urging him along the concourse and trying to keep him from running into other passengers as his mission focus was now attempting to contact Q. 

“Don’t know...” Trevelyan was texting again.  “So help me if the little shite’s ignoring me on purpose...”

“Call his office.  Probably taken up residence on the sofa there.”

“Don’t you think I already thought of that, you wanker!”

“Call R.  She’ll know.”

“You call R.  It’s your idea. I’m yelling at him.”  Trevelyan was pounding the keys on his phone in anger.

Bond sighed, pulled out his phone, calling R’s extension in Q-Branch. 

“Tanner,” came the unexpected answer when the mobile connected.

“Busy doings in Q-Branch this evening, Bill?  Playing at being R’s PA?”

“Not as such, no.”  Though Tanner sighed, there was an undercurrent of tension in his voice that triggered James’ warning bells.  “All external phone traffic in and out of Q-Branch is currently being routed through my office. They’re in a Level Three Lockdown, Bond.”

James pulled Alec’s sleeve, halting the ranting message he’d been leaving on Q’s mobile, and dragged him to the side of the corridor, out of the way of the dozens of weary late-night travellers.  “What put Q-Branch on a Level Three?” he demanded, angling the phone so Alec could listen in.

“I can’t get into that on the phone, and you know it, 007.  Face to face only. There’s a car waiting for you and Trevelyan outside the terminal.  Report to Mallory’s office upon arrival.”

“Is Q alright?” insisted Alec.  

“The Quartermaster is on site.”  Both agents picked up on the slight hesitation in Tanner’s reply, but before they could demand clarification, MI6’s Chief of Staff finished up with a quick, “Directly to Mallory’s office, gentlemen,” before disconnecting the call.

Alec looked pointedly at James.

“No.  No , Alec!” James poked Trevelyan’s chest with the tip of his finger.  “Do not say it!”

“Say what? What could I possibly have to say after getting a half-arsed confirmation that what I’ve been telling you for the last, oh, half-day, is true?  Something. Is. Wrong. With. Q!”

James rolled his eyes and grabbed Alec by the shoulder, pushing him toward Customs.  “Let’s get out of here.”

“Why would I ever say something like ‘I told you so,’” Alec muttered, not remotely under his breath.

“Bugger me.” 

 

Chapter Text

As Tanner had said, there was a car waiting for them just outside the terminal.   Though neither spoke on the drive back to Six, each agent thought through every worst-case scenario as to what had set Q Branch into a Level Three Lockdown, and why their Quartermaster was out of contact. 

Into the carpark and through to building security, pockets were reluctantly emptied and contents reviewed with much impatience and many curses. “We don’t have time for this buggering shite!   If there’s a lockdown ...”

“Shut it, Alec! The faster we let them ...” the IO officers were accustomed to dealing with almost any situation thrown at them and carried on about their business, ignoring the disgruntled agents.

Finally through security, the Double-Os turned the opposite way from the lifts that would take them to the Admin suite and headed for ones that would get them to Q Branch.  At least until a familiar voice brought them to a halt.

“Gentlemen.  Have you forgotten the way to M’s office?  You weren’t in the field that long.ds  I’d be happy to escort you there.”

“Of course Tanner would be lying in wait for us,” Trevelyan muttered. “Sneaky bastard.”

“We were just going to return our equipment.” Bond half-turned and took another step in the direction of the lifts to Q Branch. 

“Your orders were to report directly to M, 007.   I am sure he would frown on this open disobedience,” Tanner flared at both of them, noticeable weariness showing in his face that both agents made note of.  

“Why Level Three Lockdown, Tanner?”  Trevelyan demanded, hand running through his shaggy hair, his one tell of frustration he had never quite managed to control. 

“M’s office please, 006… 007.”

The journey in the lift to the administration level was a short one, and Bond and Trevelyan quickly found themselves escorted past a dour-faced Moneypenny into M’s richly appointed office.

“Welcome back, gentlem--”

Bond strode straight to Mallory’s desk, Alec on his heels.  “Save the pleasantries, M. What’s going on in Q-Branch, and where is Q?” 

“At least have a seat, Bond,” M replied as Tanner handed each agent a glass containing two fingers of whisky.  

“Answers first.”  Trevelyan set the glass down on the table between the two chairs M had indicated.  Now was not the time for pleasantries.

“Very well.”  Mallory dropped the file he’d been holding on top of his desk.  “At 0147 this morning, the Quartermaster attempted entry into the building via the Employee Night Entrance.  I say attempted .  He was unsuccessful because the code he used was over eight years old.”

“Eight years?”

Mallory continued through Alec’s interjection.  “Upon further investigation, the IOs on duty discovered the Quartermaster seriously injured.  He had been severely beaten and there is physical evidence suggesting torture. Q-Branch is on a Level Three Lockdown until we know the extent to which the Quartermaster has been compromised.  Q himself currently resides in Medical.”

As one, the two agents turned on their heels to make their way to Medical but found their path blocked by Dr. Haldar who had slipped into the office whilst Mallory spoke.

“You can’t see him.  Not yet. Not like this,” Haldar said.  Her arms were crossed over her chest and each agent recognized all too well the look of grim determination that was on her face.  

They ignored it.

“And why the hell not?” Though his voice was cool, Bond’s frustration, which had been at a low simmer since leaving Heathrow, was starting to boil.  “We’re next of kin. Paperwork’s been on file for four years. You can’t keep us from seeing him.”  

“I can if I feel it’s a detriment to my patient’s health and well-being.”

“We’re not going to bloody hurt him!” Trevelyan snarled.

“You very well could under the circumstances.”

“Enough with the evasions and the half-answers!” Tanner shouted from his spot near the window.  All eyes turned toward him in shock as Tanner rarely, if ever raised his voice, and certainly had not been known to shout.  With everyone’s attention on him, he approached the two anxious Double-Os, his voice gentling to its customary soothing, unflappable tone as he did so.  “He won’t know you, Alec. Nor you, James. Something happened in the attack … to his memory. Q thinks it’s 2011. He’s R, not the Quartermaster.  Silva hasn’t attacked Six.  Boothroyd and Mansfield are alive.  He has yet to meet James Bond or Alec Treveylan in person and certainly hasn’t been living with them as their partner for the last five years.”

“The fuck?!” James and Alec breathed.

“It’s some sort of amnesia,” Haldar added.  “Whether from the stress of his experience or the skull fracture and concussion he sustained … I don’t know yet.  All I do know is he’s scared and confused and traumatised --”

James picked up the narrative.  “And most of the people he thinks he can trust and would turn to have either left the service or …” 

“Are dead.”  Tanner finished for him.  “All save R and me.”

 

Chapter Text

 

Alec took a deep breath, exhaling it slowly onto the back of the hand he had pressed against his mouth.  He and James stood outside a dimly lit med bay watching from the other side of the window as staff moved around Q’s prone form.  He was hooked up to monitors. Someone would ask him a question and patiently wait for a response before moving on to check another reading.

“We’re lucky he woke when he did and remembered enough to make his way to us.” Haldar stepped up next to them.  “I’d hate to imagine what would have happened if he had still been unconscious when high tide rolled in.”

“We’ve a team at the site now but by the time we made sense of what he was telling us... well the water has done its damage,”  Tanner interjected. “We’re still trying to assess how compromised he is, which is hard considering his mental state.”

Haldar passed Alec a folder containing the details of Q’s medical condition which James immediately snagged from his hand.  “What?” he scoffed. “Like you have the patience to read it right now.” Whilst James skimmed through the file -- he’d been broken into a thousand pieces so many times he knew the jargon without needing the medical degree --  Haldar gave a verbal rundown of its contents.

“You know about the skull fracture, and Tanner told you about the broken ribs.  I’m going to call in an orthopaedic surgeon, a specialist I know, to consult on Q’s hand.  There might be too many unstable fractures for it to heal easily on its own. He also has some pretty nasty lacerations on his legs that have been stitched up, and we spent a good hour picking shards of glass out of the soles of his feet. He doesn’t remember how they got there, but the shards are the colour of beer bottles.  The socks he was wearing when he was found weren’t cut, they were put on after the injuries were sustained, so we … we think he was forced to walk barefoot over the glass.”

The fuck?!

James looked up from the file.  “It’s over a mile from Lambeth Bridge to Six.  How in the hell did walk all that way without-”

Alec cut him off.  “Adrenaline. Fight or flight, James.  You know how it is. Probably never even felt the glass digging deeper with each step.”  James recognised the shift in Alec’s tone, and it wasn’t a good one. He was getting angry.  


“He won’t remember us?”  James asked as Alec turned his attention back toward Q on the other side of the glass.

“Maybe by name and reputation from 2011 probably, but he didn’t even recognise Moneypenny,” Tanner said.  
“Thought she was just another IO gleaning facts from him.”

Alec glanced at Bond over Tanner, grim and concerned.  Bond knew it was all that Alec could do to not push his way into the room to Q’s bedside.  

Haldar slumped into one of the vacant chairs.  She looked as worn as James had seen her except in those dark days after Silva blew up Headquarters.  “He keeps insisting he needs to speak with The Major. I considered telling him that Boothroyd was gone, Mansfield also, but all things considered...”

“I’ll tell him,” Alec interrupted. “James and I will tell him.  He’s our responsibility.”

“No.”  James shook his head.  “He doesn’t know us, Alec,” he said at the look of incredulity on his lover’s face.  “It would be like a stranger coming up to you in the middle of the street to tell you I had died followed up with a ‘Hey, so tell me how you feel about being alone in the world.’”

“But he’s not alone in the world.  He has us!” Alec’s anger, frustration, and fear flared.  He slammed his fist into the casement of the one-way window, causing the occupants within to look around, startled.

Q, however, shrank back against the pillows at the sound.  Eyes wide and fearful, he was immediately soothed by one of the nurses who had been with Six longer than any of them.

Alec’s jaw dropped.  In all the years they’d known him, he’d never seen Q shy away from anything .  That he would do so at an unexpected noise ... 

What had the bastards done to him?!  

James saw the inner war between rage and worry play out on Alec’s face.  His own was barely contained, but they would none of them do Q any good if they let their emotions take control.  Alec gripped the casement, knuckles growing white under the force. He closed his eyes and took three deep breaths.  When he opened them again the green that looked back at James was hard and determined.

“So who do you suggest?” 

“R.  They started at the same time. Been thick as thieves for over a decade.  She’s the best choice to break the news and … catch him up on the last eight years of his life.”  James looked at Q through the window.  

Though not nearly as visceral in his emotions as his long-time lover, James had felt Q’s pull the moment they met in the Gallery.  A pull that became an undeniable, insistent, life-altering tug when the cheeky shite had the bollocks to tell him to ‘put your back into it!’  Seeing his love so broken and battered … well, it took all of James’ control to stay on this side of the glass, but it was necessary.  They had to step carefully lest, in their zeal to protect him, they drove Q from them.  

“Once that’s done … once R has talked to him, and he’s a bit more settled, then we can introduce ourselves to Ifan .” 

Alec sighed and nodded in agreement.  He wasn’t happy with it, but James was right.  Q’s blue-haired second was probably the best option given the circumstances.

“And what are you two going to do in the meantime?” Tanner asked, at least ten different nightmare scenarios flashing past his mind’s eye.

Whilst it was James who looked back at the Chief of Staff and gestured with the file he’d been given, it was Alec who answered.  “Find the bastards that did this to him, of course.”




 

“They left him to fucking die!”  A waiting room chair went skidding across the room, the victim of Alec’s swift kick of aggression.   He inwardly wished he could focus his aggression on whoever had hurt Q instead.  

R had been deep in writing code for a progamme to help expedite Q-Branch’s search of CCTV footage to determine when and where Q had been taken and insisted upon finishing it before moving on to any other task, so James and Alec had made a quick trip to the flat to check the security logs and discovered Q had never made it home after he left Q-Branch three nights ago.  


Nothing was uncovered at riverside.  The Thames had taken whatever had been there to its watery depths.  The only tangible clues they had at the moment were Q himself and the few articles of clothing he’d been wearing when he managed to stumble his way back to Six. 

What they needed now was for Q to remember even just a few minor details to give them a starting point which was why Tanner was escorting R -- code written, tested, and implemented -- into the waiting room with M and Dr. Haldar following close behind.  

“I still don’t understand why you want me to talk to him.” R was arguing with Tanner.  “You know I’d do anything for Q, but I should be reviewing footage to...”

“Because he doesn’t fucking remember.  Anyone. Else!” Alec snapped in frustration. 

“Arse in chair Alec.” James glared at him pointing at a nearby chair he hadn’t kicked. 

“I’m not an infant!”

“Then stop acting like one.  If you can tell me how growling at everybody does Q a bit of good, by all means, continue.”

The men -- two of the most formidable in the world -- stared each other down across the small room, neither giving an inch until James’ eyes softened somewhat and Alec saw in them a reflection of his own tangled emotions.

I know, Alec.  I know.   They said.

Whilst Trevelyan didn’t take the chair, he did retreat to the door, somewhat calmer than before, but no less vigilant.

“I know Dr. Haldar explained to you Q’s situation.”  M took the chair across from R. “Of the three people in this room that Q remembers, you are the closest to him.  If we have a hope of finding out what happened to him, the degree to which he -- and we -- are compromised, he needs to understand the full scope of his situation, but that can’t come from just anyone.”

“It doesn’t matter what year it is.  Q trusts you, Amelia,” Tanner said.

“He won’t believe any of it, at first.”  James crouched in front of R. One less person to loom over her.  R was a sturdy woman -- had to be in this line of work -- but this was as much a personal situation as it was professional, and he could see she was a tad jumpy.  “It’ll seem impossible to him, but Q’s ultimately a pragmatic man. A logical one, he’ll--”

“He’ll look at the evidence around him,” R interrupted seeing the path of Bond’s argument.  “All the people he doesn’t know scattered among the few he does, the upgrades we’ve done in Medical. Hell, even the renovation to the Night Entrance lobby …”

“He’ll believe you , Amelia.”  James smile was sad.

“He doesn’t know us.”  Alec didn’t even attempt a smile.  It just wasn’t in him. “Won’t trust a word we say.”

“I’ll do what I can.”  R looked from Bond to Trevelyan and back again.  “But Q knows you. Trusts you. Both of you. Implicitly.  He just doesn’t remember.” James stood as she did, and she took his arm as she passed, keeping her words low enough for just him and Alec  “It’ll be his heart that remembers. Q doesn’t know how not to love you two idiots.”

James and Alec’s joint barks of laughter followed R into the hospital room.



Chapter Text

Alec and James stood outside the med room watching things progress through the one-way window.  Alec’s hands grasped the frame so tightly he’d have left perfect print impressions if it was possible. M stood close by, face expressionless. 

Inside the dimly lit room, R sat next to Q on the edge of his bed talking to him. Tanner and Haldar hovered nearby. Tanner interjecting occasionally.  Haldar closely monitoring Q’s heart rate and blood pressure. James could see the readings were elevated. Whatever they were discussing at the moment was obviously upsetting Q.  R reached for his good hand. Haldar stepped closer to the bed and spoke with Q.

The conversation continued for some minutes, Q more obviously upset at certain points than at others.  Then Tanner stood and opened the door. Alec immediately stepped towards the opening wanting to, needing to be near Q.   Hand to his arm, James held him back.   “Alec. We can’t overwhelm him.”

“Sir,” Tanner turned to M, “I think it would be wise for you to step inside, please.”  He shook his head at the two Double-Os. “Not yet.”

James and Alec returned to their vigil at the window, but now even James’ fingers began to tap at the frame.  M spoke at length, seeming to deftly field the countless questions Q was asking. The longer the two spoke, the faster Bond’s fingers began to tap until finally, Alec reached out, twining his fingers with James’ and squeezing once before letting go to rest his hand adjacent on the casement.  A silent, private show of solidarity and support.  

In this together, it said.  For Q. For all of us.     

Neither man turned their gaze from the scene playing out before them.

Mallory’s final response had Q mulling over what had been said -- James recognized that particular look on his love’s face -- before he nodded once and extended his hand in greeting, apparently introducing himself to his ‘new’ boss for the first time.

Things wrapped up quickly after that.  Q settled back against the pillows, continuing his conversation with R and Tanner whilst M returned to the waiting room.   Mallory pointedly shut the door behind him and gestured to the corridor. “With me, gentlemen. For once in your life, do not argue, Trevelyan.  I’m so not in the mood,” he said -- his epic patience clearly near to an end -- when Alec appeared ready to do just that.  At James’ subtle nod, Alec shut his mouth and led the way outside.

“It appears Q is something of a blank slate beyond mid-2011.”  Mallory pressed his fingers to the bridge of his nose in an attempt to force back the headache that started the moment Tanner called him at home with this news, then looked back at the two tense agents before him.  “He’s traumatised and confused, but bearing up remarkably well, considering. He understands what has happened to him. He’s accepted the fact he’s Quartermaster but not how he came to be in that role.  Boothroyd’s death … and Mansfield’s ...”

“The Major was a father to Q.  Never knew his own,” James explained.  “And he was dedicated to Herself.”

“As many were,” Mallory said, tacitly acknowledging the subtext in Bond’s statement.  “R is going to work with him to parse out anything he might remember from the last three days. The smallest snippet may be critical.”  M then squared his shoulders and cocked his head. “And then there’s the two of you.”

“What did he say?”  Alec practically pounced on Mallory’s words.  “What did R tell him?”

“That I’ll leave to R to relay to you, but he’s a tad … bewildered, I suppose is the best word.  Knows of you, of course, by reputation --”

“Lovely.  Like that didn’t take months to overcome,” James muttered.

“-- but he does want to meet you.  Not just yet , Trevelyan.”  Mallory blocked the door back into the waiting room.  “The man’s exhausted but won’t rest until he’s provided some bread crumbs for us to follow, much to Haldar’s vocal disapproval.  Twelve hours. You’ll be permitted access to the Quartermaster in 12 hours. Not a minute before. Your word, gentlemen. If you break it, I’ll deny any further access until he’s released into your care, and that wouldn’t be good for anyone.”

“You have it.  We’ll let him rest.”  James nudged Alec sharply in the ribs when he didn’t respond.

“Fine.  Twelve hours.”

“Then I’m off.  I have a Level Three Lockdown to address.”

“M,”  Bond’s voice followed his boss down the corridor.  “Just one thing.” M stopped and turned to face not James nor Bond but 007. “Don’t think for one moment anyone would be able to keep us from Q if we felt differently on the matter.”

“Safer for everyone that way,” 006 affirmed.

“Then we all understand one another,” Mallory said enigmatically before pivoting on his heel and continuing on his way.  “I bid you good day, gentlemen.”

 

Chapter Text

Warnings exchanged and understood between the agents and their boss, Alec and James returned to the waiting room and watched Q and R continue to talk until Haldar stepped in.  Though they couldn’t hear the words, it was obvious she wasn’t pleased with some of the monitor readings. In fact, even before R left the room, Q appeared to dose off whilst Haldar hovered.

Alec was lying in wait to interrogate R as soon as she stepped out of the med bay.

“What did he say?  Are you sure he doesn’t remember?”

“Alec!  Back off.  Give her some space.”  James barked. He needed to calm Alec down somehow.  If he was like this when they were finally allowed to see Q, it would overwhelm him.  They couldn’t afford to make this entire fiasco worse than it already was.

“I have a branch to run,” R pushed past Alec. “If you want to follow me down there, fine.  We can chat about the Quartermaster on the way, but then find something to occupy yourselves for the next 12 hours.  Hovering and staring at him in there is just creepy.”

The two agents followed quickly along either side of the petite, blue-haired boffin, hanging on her every word as she explained everything she and Q had talked about down to the most minute detail.   She responded to their detailed questions with epic patience, but her forbearance ended when they arrived at the doors of Q-Branch.

“Go.  Away.”  R turned and looked up at the intimidating men who scared her about as much as watching Zombieland .  They could be tedious and annoying at times, like trying to find an error in code or making a sorting algorithm work, and she oft wondered how Q put up with one let alone both of them, but their deep regard and obvious care for her Quartermaster had long since earned each man a place in her heart.  So it was with that in mind -- ‘they’re spare with worry, so don’t kill them’ -- she now blocked their path.

“The fuck?!”

“Turn off the glower, 006.  It doesn’t work with me.” She crossed her arms and planted her feet on the ground so squarely it seemed they grew there.  “You’ll neither of you set foot in the Branch until I call for you. Until I have answers .  The minions and I can’t do our jobs if we’re tripping over you or taking time to answer countless questions.  I saw that eye roll, Bond. Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about.” R pointed further down the corridor toward the shooting range.  “Go shoot the shite out of something. Or, better still, beat each other up in the gym for an hour or two. Both! I don’t care. Just go away .  I’ll let you know when I have something.”

She activated the door and stepped backward through it.  As it slid shut again she said, “We’ll make this happen.  Find who did this. I promise you.”

It was said with such resolve that the two Double-Os almost believed her.