Three weeks later
“My apologies, but you’ve picked up something that belongs to me.”
Q turned to look at Reynolds in surprise, then back at the man he was having a drink with. “Sorry love,” he said to him and looked at Reynolds warily.
“Come here sweetheart,” said Reynolds and he held out his arm, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.” Q paused for a moment and they made eye contact; he saw a hint of challenge in Reynolds’ eyes. “Please?” Reynolds asked. The unspoken message was, we both know you don’t want to be doing this.
Q’s decided to play along, privately cataloging his new role as ‘disobedient rich man’s toy’. He took a step forward into Reynolds’ embrace and pretended to be chastened.
Reynolds caressed his cheek gently and looked him in the eye. “What’s this about? Hmm?”
“I got lonely,” said Q with a pout that was only fractionally an act.
“Has your new friend paid you anything?” asked Reynolds. Q nodded. “Please give it back to him.”
Q reached into his pocket and pulled out a few crumpled bills.
“And did he also pay for your drink?” Q nodded a second time and reached into his pocket again but Reynolds stopped him. “That isn’t necessary lovely, I’ll take care of it.”
Reynolds pulled out a £50 note and put it on the bar next to the man’s drink. “I’m sorry for any inconvenience,” he said and began to lead Q away.
But the other man put up a hand, “Oi, Jack. You don’t have to go with him if you don’t want. I’ve some mates here, we can…”
Q and Reynolds exchanged a look and Reynolds gave a minute chin tilt that meant go ahead then loosened his hold on Q’s waist.
Q smiled a soft smile and went back to the man, “Thank you Ned, but that isn’t necessary. He’s good to me, I just get restless sometimes. I’m sorry it—didn’t work out.” He kissed the man’s cheek then turned back to return to Reynolds’ arms.
“I appreciate you looking out for him,” Reynolds said. He was speaking to Ned but his eyes didn’t leave Q’s face. “I worry, the sort of men he’ll encounter when he gets like this.” Q held his face still but refused to meet Reynolds’ eyes. Reynolds caressed Q’s cheek again and kissed his forehead gently.
Ned looked between them for another moment, then nodded. “Right then,” he said. He picked up his drink and the money Reynolds had placed beside it and excused himself.
They waited until he’d left. “Will you look at me?” asked Reynolds and then he waited until Q met his eyes. “Dare I ask how much you’ve had to drink?”
Q shrugged listlessly. “Three, maybe four. I’m not counting.”
“Right,” said Reynolds. He guided Q closer to the bar where he ordered a beer for himself and a large glass of water for Q then led him to the rooms at the back of the nightclub. They entered a different room than the one they’d frequented weeks before.
“Not your usual,” said Q. He refused to ask a question.
“The other room has—associations—for both of us. This seemed more neutral ground.”
Q sipped his water but said nothing. He’d seated himself as far from Reynolds as he could manage on the couch that took up much of the small room.
“I’m not sure I approve of your plan,” said Reynolds.
“This was the easiest,” said Q.
“Self-harm by proxy until your employer tosses you out like rubbish was the easy way?”
“Expedient then,” said Q crossly. “And it would just figure that you interrupt the one time I apparently caught a nice bloke.”
“I might grant expedient if you didn’t have the option to text ‘silver’ to a friend.”
“You drugged and attempted to abduct me,” said Q, “I have every reason to question your motives.”
Reynolds gave him a hint of a smile, “It was expedient. It’s good to see you again sweetheart.”
“I’d prefer you not call me that just now,” said Q.
“Is there something I should use instead?” asked Reynolds.
“I don’t think that’s necessary.”
“As you will,” said Reynolds. “I’d hoped, the next time I saw you that you’d be better rested. That doesn’t seem to be the case.”
Q looked away. “Please don’t pretend to care.”
“I’ve never pretended and I never will,” said Reynolds.
Q raised an eyebrow in disbelief but didn’t comment. “What was your plan? At Heathrow?”
“You asked for my help. I have a home in the tropics. You’d have woken there and I’d have given you three days to decide what you wanted. I would help you leave MI6 to start fresh, return to MI6, or stay with me. It’s a quiet, beautiful place. I’d have fed you some proper meals, let you think and rest.”
“In your bed.”
“God no. Your own room, with a lock you controlled. I know you couldn’t truly consent to what we’ve done. I didn’t intend to continue that there.”
Q stared into the distance. “I was following orders I couldn’t refuse, but I won’t claim I didn’t enjoy our time together. You treated me far better than they led me to expect.”
“I’m guessing they led you to expect something horrible,” said Reynolds.
Q nodded. “I did truly want you to kiss me, that night. That was consent.”
“I know. But you also didn’t think you could say no to that pill I offered. I frightened you, but you clearly thought your safe word was meaningless. Either you didn’t trust me to respect it or you were more afraid of what MI6 might do to you if your saying no disrupted your mission. Either way… you were never in a position to consent.”
“What did the pill do?”
Reynolds nodded. “Harmless supplement, I think it’s supposed to be good for joints.”
“I thought Bond might kill you if he found me unconscious,” said Q. “But you’re right, I worried about the consequences of saying no too. Didn’t know what to do; I was grateful you didn’t make me choose. And now you tell me the whole thing was an elaborate manipulation. Like everything else you did or said to me.”
“I admit I was trying to play too many games at once. I needed to thwart your investigation and keep Bond occupied, then decided to try to seduce you while not letting on that I knew who you were and rescue you from an impossible situation once I found out your circumstances.”
“How did you know who I was?”
Reynolds smiled. “The summer I turned twenty, I—resided—with a gentleman. You spent a summer with him a few years later. Lord Giles and I kept in touch. He’s proud of what you’ve achieved, showed me your picture.”
“Don’t know that I’ve met anyone else who had that experience,” said Q.
“There are only a couple dozen of us. I’d be happy to compare notes sometime,” Reynolds smiled.
“We’ve gotten wildly off topic I think,” said Q. “Why not tell me your plan?”
“Surely that’s obvious. If you were to return to MI6, I couldn’t risk you knowing where my property is, thus the drugs. But if something went wrong—as it did—you’d be in MI6 custody, incapable of lying and unable to remember a word you said. You think Bond didn’t interrogate you thoroughly when he had the chance?”
Q frowned but said nothing.
“Of course he did. It’s his job. He had any number of concerns about you and the mission and my intentions. He’d be neglecting his duty not to take advantage of the opportunity the drug afforded him.”
Q sighed heavily. “I had a perfectly good plan to leave from Warsaw and neither of you could leave well enough alone and now I’m in this mess.”
“I did my best to get what consent I could. I asked you in different ways several times after our initial conversation: did you still want my help to leave? You always said yes.”
“I’m sure I did,” Q sighed again. “It bothers me, not being able to remember. Coming back to myself after Heathrow… That was so striking, like I crashed from one memory into another. That a gap exists is obvious. I’ve thought through every evening we were together, even knowing when and how you must have drugged me, I can’t find a discrepancy. The memories feel seamless. I can’t reconcile those experiences. I just remember kneeling for you, sucking you off while you caressed me and told me lovely lies.”
“No lies. I think you’re breathtaking and I meant every word,” Reynolds looked pointedly at Q, taking in the flush of his cheeks and how his breathing had changed. Turned on? He mouthed.
Q flushed darker and rolled his eyes. So are you, he mouthed back.
Reynolds nodded with just a hint of heat in his eyes. “Did you tell Bond what we did?”
Q snorted. “I told him it was laughably tame. He didn’t really believe me.”
Reynolds smiled. “We—may have different definitions of that—than he does.”
Q snorted again. “Almost certainly.”
“Have you ever slept with another harlot? Pulled out all the stops?” asked Reynolds, lowering his voice to a more sultry register. “It can be a remarkable experience.”
“Not often,” said Q. “But I’m aware. Is that what you want from me?”
“I want to take you away from all this.”
Q rolled his eyes. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I want to take you. Not the rent-boy you were pretending to be. Not the quartermaster you were pretending not to be. You,” said Reynolds. “And, I’m greedy. I want to touch you and know unequivocally that you want me touching you. I want to see your abandon. I want to exhaust you and watch you fall asleep in my arms. I want to cook you breakfast and feed it to you a morsel at a time. I want to take you to my island and sit with you on the beach on a moonless night and show you the southern stars. I want everything sweetheart. And if I can’t have that, I’ll take anything you’re willing to give.”
Q stared at Reynolds, “I honestly expected you to offer me a job,” he said.
“I can find you work. Your skills are unique and highly valuable. But it’s you I want. I’ll treat you well, like you deserve, and you’ll never want for anything.”
“I’m even less interested in being someone’s toy than in being a prisoner.”
“I want a partner sweetheart. And you should accept nothing less than that from anyone.”
“Why are you here?” asked Q.
“Bond reached out to me,” said Reynolds. “He’s worried, thought I might be able to help you where he couldn’t.”
“Is he generically or specifically worried?”
“Specifically. But he’s concerned that if he approaches you, your mutual employers will get suspicious.”
“What exactly did he say?”
“That he’s afraid you’ll break before they do.”
Q hunched in on himself, sullen and defensive, but didn’t argue.
“He wants to protect you but knows that would put you at even more risk.” Reynolds looked Q over, “He told me about your—injuries. They bothered him a great deal.”
Q sat up and began untucking his shirt, “Do you want to see them?” he challenged.
“No,” said Reynolds. “I never want to see you hurt. But if you need me to see them, I will look.”
Q stopped, deflated, the frenetic moment passed and he collapsed back onto the couch. “No,” he said. “That’s not necessary.”
“May I touch you?” asked Reynolds. Q nodded and Reynolds shifted closer, put an arm around Q and held him. “I’m sorry that so many men have chosen to hurt you,” he said.
“Even James,” said Q quietly. “He was supposed to protect me, but when he decided hurting me would advance our mission, he didn’t hesitate.”
“You’re quite resilient, to have gotten through all this.”
Q shook his head. “Just already broken. That night you came to my flat? I was just another tool issued to him from Q-branch, to be used or not as he saw fit, in the pursuit of his mission. And what did I do?” Self-loathing had crept into Q’s voice and Reynolds tightened his grip on his shoulders but said nothing. “I got off on it; on being his prop. Then I rewarded him by sucking his cock and letting him fuck me. Again.” Q laughed, a harsh choked sound. “Even better, that night I closed my eyes and pretended he was you. The criminal who drugged me every night while I serviced him like the cheap...”
“Sweetheart. Stop,” Reynolds interrupted. “Anyone would be a mess if they had to do what you have the past few months. I honestly don’t know if I would survive it,” said Reynolds. “Please, let me get you out of this. No strings attached. I swear I just want to help.”
“But why?” asked Q. “Why would you care?”
“Because I hate seeing you trapped and used. Because I respect you. Because someone needs to.”
“No ulterior motives. Right,” said Q.
“Well, if Lord Giles were to find out what you’ve been doing and I told him I hadn’t at least offered my assistance, he’d never speak to me again.”
Q blinked. “No,” he said thoughtfully, “First, there would be a verbal evisceration. Then he’d never speak to you again.”
“Hmm,” Reynolds agreed. “Even worse. See? I can’t risk it.”
Q smiled faintly and relaxed in Reynolds embrace. “What’s your plan this time?” he asked.
“If you’re willing to trust me, I can get you out tonight. Private plane to the continent. Somewhere safe where you can decide your next step.”
“Ned can identify you if I disappear tonight,” said Q.
Reynolds pursed his lips, “I think they’ll find that Ned can identify you quite accurately but will be uncertain about me. ‘Was more worried about Jack really, sorry mate. Suppose I should have taken a better look at the bloke if I was worried about that. It happened so fast? Hate to think I was right, he seemed so sure he’d be fine’.”
“So, I didn’t actually manage to be picked up by a nice one. Fuck my life.”
“Bond will want some reassurance.”
“He will. He’s in the next room and will want to discuss a communication plan with you to assure your safety.”
“Yes. Anyone watching your tracker will just assume you’re on to another man after me. If you accept my offer, send me a text at this number,” he handed Q a strip of paper, “in the next thirty minutes. I’ll reply with directions. He’ll transport you.”
“And what if I don’t accept?”
“I’ll have tried. I’ll be disappointed. But at least Lord Giles won’t yell at me.”
“If I decided to stay, I could identify Ned.”
“Could you? He was your third or fourth of the night while drinking heavily. I remember nights like that. All the blokes look the same after a while, yeah?” Q shrugged. “If he changed clothes, are you sure you could pick him out of a lineup?”
“You’re right,” said Q. “Fuck, I can barely remember what color his hair was.”
“You can stop now sweetheart. Let us help.”
“You ratted me out,” said Q as he entered the next room.
“I did. You can ruin my credit or take a swing at me if you like,” said Bond.
Q shook his head. “You weren’t wrong,” he said, very quietly. “I’m afraid I’ll break before they do too. Please tell me this isn’t a ploy to use me to catch Reynolds.”
“No ploy Q. Just still trying to protect you,” said Bond. “Do you trust him?”
“I did. Then he tried to kidnap me. Then I second guessed everything,” said Q. “Now? Maybe. I think I have to. I don’t see an alternative.”
“I want to be able to communicate with you, in a way that he can’t thwart with that drug,” said Bond.
They discussed options and settled on a plan. Q texted a message to Reynolds and received an address in return.
“Do you have a go bag?” asked Bond. “At your flat?”
“It’s for an extended stay at headquarters. I have the real one in a storage space I rent. We can pick it up on the way.”
Bond nodded and handed Q the tool for removing his tracker. Q pulled the tiny device out of his hair. “Wish I could flush this,” he said. “But I’ll just leave it here for MI6 to find. Will this cause you any trouble?”
Bond shook his head. “I can cover my tracks.”
They drove first to get Q’s bag. Q stood in the middle of the space and changed into clothes from the bag. Nondescript trousers and shirt, a different pair of glasses. He gave the bundle of discarded clothes to Bond. “Dump these somewhere?”
Bond took it from him and nodded. Then they drove to the small airfield where they would meet Reynolds.
They pulled up to the private jet Reynolds had directed them to. Reynolds was waiting outside when they arrived.
“Ready?” asked Reynolds. The three of them stood next to the plane. Q could see the pilot in the cockpit completing her pre-flight checks.
“As we discussed…” said Bond.
“Yes,” said Reynolds. “If I harm him, you’ll hunt me down and kill me slowly. I expect no less.”
“I’m serious about that,” said Bond.
“I’m aware,” said Reynolds.
“I’m right here,” said Q testily.
“We’ll be in flight for about two hours,” said Reynolds to Bond. “I’ll get settled inside and you can say your farewells. Five minutes,” he said to Q. Q nodded.
“I’ll have a word with the other agents,” said Bond. “Management will have trouble finding anyone inclined to put much effort into tracking you down.”
“Thank you, James,” said Q. “Have a word with R, she’ll pass the word to the folk in Q-branch that you can trust. I’ll be in touch in as soon as I can after we land. If you haven’t heard from me in three hours or more…”
Bond nodded. “I wish this could have worked out differently,” he said.
“Me too,” said Q.
Q boarded the plane; the pilot closed the door and after a few minutes taxied to the runway. Bond watched until the plane became just another speck in the night sky.