Chapter 1: Mission Day 31-32
Mission Day 31 Evening
Q tensed. The last thing he remembered, he’d been having a drink with Reynolds in an airport lounge. Now he was in a moving car that, after a moment’s disorientation, he recognized as Bond’s.
They were not far from his flat.
After another moment, he realized he was no longer wearing the clothing he’d had on earlier.
The clock on the center console told him it was nearly two hours since his last clear memory.
“Bond, what just happened?” he asked.
“He drugged you,” Bond turned into the parking lot. “Let’s get to the flat and I’ll tell you what I know.”
Q nodded, running his hands through his hair and trying to get his bearings. “Where’s my tracker?”
“On its way to Warsaw, attached to someone who resembles you rather closely.” Bond parked the car and looked over at Q.
Q met Bond’s eyes. “Fuck,” he said.
Bond nodded. “Are you dizzy? Nauseated?”
“No,” Q shook his head. “Let’s get inside.”
Bond brought Q’s carry-on in with them. “I’m going to make tea, then I’ll brief you.”
Q nodded. He pulled his bag into the bedroom and changed into clothes that belonged to him, or rather to Jack, but that was close enough for the moment. He checked the hidden pocket. His cash was all there. The tool for removing a tracker was gone. He returned the money to his dresser where he’d been stashing it for the last month.
When he emerged from the bedroom, Bond was pouring two mugs of tea.
“So,” said Q, picking up a mug. “He knows who I am.”
Bond nodded. “No reason to kidnap Jack. Every reason to abduct Q.”
“My mobile is missing. We’ll need to monitor its activity or shut it down.”
“Moneypenny is already on it, it’s being closely monitored,” said Bond and waved toward the living room. “Let’s sit down and I’ll tell you what I know about what’s happened.”
“I was worried that something was going to go wrong, so before heading to my flight, I convinced Heathrow security to let me watch their feeds of the lounge where Reynolds met you. I saw you have a drink with him, then a few minutes later go with him into the men’s room. A couple minutes after that, you came out again. Or rather, two men who looked rather similar to you and Reynolds came out, they’d swapped clothes with the two of you. They left the lounge, presumably headed for your flight to Warsaw.
“It’s only luck I noticed you and Reynolds exit a few minutes later, I’d been just about to head to my own flight. When I saw you, I could tell something wasn’t right. You weren’t acting like yourself, or like any of the personas I’ve seen you use.”
“How do you mean?”
Bond paused. “You looked… relaxed and happy, but in a vague sort of way.”
“You realized something was wrong because I looked content,” said Q. “Fuck my life.”
Bond shrugged and continued. “Reynolds led you over to a woman wearing clothes that implied ‘nurse’ or ‘health aid’ and he left the lounge. She talked to you for a while, then led you out into the airport. She brought you to a gate for a flight to Thailand and was about to give you a pill of some kind when I intervened. She’s in custody right now.
“The drug he gave you made you—” Bond paused, searching for a word, “—compliant. We had the same conversation a few times, and you didn’t remember swapping clothes, so you clearly weren’t retaining any long-term memories.”
“Compliant, how?” asked Q cautiously.
“You weren’t inclined to act on your own but followed simple instructions. You answered any question I asked.”
Q looked at Bond suspiciously.
“I had to test the theory,” said Bond. “I asked you if you were wearing matching socks and instead of asking why'd I'd ask you something so ludicrous, you answered quite sincerely that you were. I had a medic at the airport check you over and get a blood sample. That’s been sent to MI6 for analysis.”
Q sighed. “If he had an interrogation drug like that, he could’ve been using it on me any night I saw him, for however long he knew who I was. That would explain why we weren’t getting anywhere.”
Bond nodded. “I identified Reynolds on security footage and they’re tracking which flight he took. MI6, or at least local authorities, will be waiting for him wherever he lands. Same with the pair posing as you and him on the flight to Warsaw. We won’t need to investigate him anymore, he tried to abduct you. That’ll get him years in prison, at least.
“We’ll need to check-in at headquarters first thing tomorrow, but I got permission to bring you back here to get your bearings first.”
Q stared at his tea. “I wonder what he wanted from me.”
“Clearly nothing he was willing to ask you for,” said Bond.
“One cage to another,” muttered Q.
“I said, one cage to another,” said Q. “It would be nice to be offered a carrot rather than be threatened with a stick sometime.”
“This is about prison, isn’t it?” asked Bond sympathetically.
Q nodded. “I was going to leave. From Warsaw. It seemed like the only chance I was likely to get any time soon. I was confident I could ditch Reynolds and imagined I could probably convince you to let me go.”
“Ah,” said Bond. “I’m sorry.”
Q slumped back into the couch, holding his tea close to his chest. “I’m going to spend more time than I care to admit wondering, if he had managed to abduct me, whether I could’ve gotten away.”
Bond watched him carefully but didn’t say anything.
“It doesn’t make sense,” said Q, after several minutes of silence.
“Abducting me. He could already get any information he wanted from me without my knowledge. His best bet was to keep stringing us along until MI6 gave up and called us back in. No one the wiser how he’d beaten us. Why try to pull off a complicated kidnapping? An unnecessarily complicated kidnapping. He could’ve drugged me once we got to Warsaw and I would have apparently gone anywhere with him. No need for doubles and accomplices.”
“He needed you to do something bigger? Something he couldn’t hide in nightly interrogations?” Bond sighed. “I think it’s time for you to tell me what the two of you did together.”
Q grimaced. “He bought me a drink every night. That would be how he drugged me. God damn it. It was good tequila too.”
“You drink tequila?” asked Bond.
Q smirked. “Yes, he was buying. The good stuff is bloody expensive and I don’t indulge often. Anyway,” he said. “I sucked his cock and then he watched me jack off or fuck myself with a toy. Same thing every night. The drug must have taken effect while I was sucking him off. I would just think I’d zoned out for a moment if I noticed anything at all.” He nodded thoughtfully. “It’s rather elegant actually. That would be why he bound my wrists, fewer possible changes in position that I might notice. I would have no idea if I lost perhaps, 10 or 15 minutes over a couple of hours. More than that I probably would have spotted. An extra dose might explain a couple evenings early on where it felt as if the time went by unusually fast.”
“That was,” Bond hesitated, “More tame than I’d imagined.”
“I know,” said Q wryly. “I did say.”
“I thought… never mind. So, he wanted you for something he couldn’t get from you in short time periods. And he wanted us to look for you in Europe while he took you somewhere in Asia or the Pacific. Which suggests he had some long-term task he thought he could convince or coerce you into doing once he had you wherever he was taking you.”
“Useless to speculate. We’re not likely to determine more until someone interrogates him,” Q sighed.
“Are you all right?” asked Bond.
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
Q shrugged, looking around the flat. Then he straightened. “Yes. We’re going to headquarters. Now.” He stood and went to the bedroom.
After a moment, Bond followed. “Q. You don’t need to…”
When Bond entered, Q was closing a dresser drawer. He began packing up the laptop he’d been using for the past month. “Yes. I do. He’s still in flight, so is my double. They may not know they’re caught, but his people here may. They can scatter before we catch them. Someone else could take over from Reynolds and we might not know who it is for months. I’ve been playing this game with my hands bound behind my back the entire time and I don’t have to anymore. I have tools, and supercomputers, and a staff.”
He looked around and Bond saw him calculating whether there was anything he wished to bring with him. Clearly finding nothing, he looked at Bond. “Let’s go,” he said, his smile predatory.
Bond grinned. He’d missed that smile.
Mission Day 32 Late Evening
Q arrived back at his building exhausted, trailing his suitcase. His real home for the first time in over a month. He checked his mailbox out of habit, though the office would be holding all his mail for him and he’d have to get that tomorrow. There was, unexpectedly, a small padded envelope. He barely glanced at it and continued up to his flat.
He’d been at headquarters for over 24 hours, catching only a few hours of sleep while waiting for news from Reynolds’ flight, and it had been a continuous, unrelenting series of failures.
Heathrow security had identified the flight Reynolds had actually taken, to Jakarta. They knew diverting the flight would alert Reynolds that they were on to him and they weren’t willing to risk what he might do to avoid capture. With no MI6 personnel within range, they’d relied on local authorities to make an arrest when the plane landed. Local authorities who’d detained the wrong man.
The woman who’d been Reynolds’ accomplice was not in custody. The airport security guard who’d detained her for Bond had also disappeared.
The pair of men who’d exchanged clothes with Reynolds and Q had been taken into custody but steadfastly insisted they were actors who had been hired to help pull off an elaborate prank. They provided emails, a contract, and other documentation as proof. They’d eventually been released.
The blood sample Bond had asked the airport medic to take and send to MI6 had never arrived. No medic employed at Heathrow fit the description Bond gave.
Reynolds’ few known associates appeared to have quietly left the country over the previous two days.
When he reached his flat, there was a plastic bin outside his door: a grocery delivery. Moneypenny, bless her, had recognized he’d have little waiting for him at home and made sure that he had enough for a few meals. She’d assured him he needn’t return to the other flat. His personal items would be collected and delivered to him the following day.
He carried the groceries in and put them away feeling out of place. It was his home and it didn’t feel like he belonged and that was going to be an issue, wasn’t it?
He made himself a sandwich, opened a bottle of beer, and sat down to eat. Then he remembered the envelope and grabbed it from the counter. It contained a USB drive. He’d deal with that once he’d eaten.
After taking precautions to insure he didn’t infect a computer by plugging in a random data storage device, he checked its contents. There was a single, encrypted file. It wanted a password. He decided to try the most obvious option first and typed ‘silver’. The file decrypted.
It was an audio file dated the day before. He took a few more precautions, then opened the file. It was not quite two minutes long.
He heard Reynolds’ voice. “Are you looking forward to returning to Q-branch?”
Then his own reply: “Back in my cage.”
“What do you mean?” asked Reynolds gently.
“I’m on parole. Mess up and they send me back to prison. But MI6 is a cage too.” His voice sounded sleepy, as if drugged perhaps. And he must have been, he didn’t remember a word of this conversation.
“Ah. Do you want to leave?” asked Reynolds, and Q realized where this was headed. Why the complicated kidnapping plot existed. What Bond’s overprotective zeal had just cost him.
“Can’t leave London without permission. Not allowed to fly. They track me everywhere.” He heard the yearning in his own voice and paused the audio. He stared at the ceiling for a long moment, angry and frustrated and exhausted. He hit play again.
“I’m sorry. That sounds awful,” said Reynolds, voice full of quiet compassion.
“You said you’d help me. Leave him. Leave the country. I could leave them.” Q closed his eyes and forced himself not to turn off the audio again.
“I did say that,” said Reynolds.
“Would you? Please? I’m trapped and no one will help. No one even knows I’m a prisoner except my jailers. I’m not supposed to tell anyone.”
“I can keep your secret and I’ll find a way to help you.” Reynolds said with soft assurance.
There was a pause and a change in the background noise that suggested another audio recording had been spliced in. “Hello sweetheart,” said Reynolds. “I’m sorry. I tried. Perhaps I should have told you my plan, but this seemed the safest for everyone, including you. Don’t let them get away with treating you like this. I know you feel trapped, but I think you have more power than you realize. You’re brilliant, and they take you for granted, and there’s a space there where you can maneuver. When you get out, and I have no doubt you will, you’re welcome to find me. I have an offer I think you’ll find—intriguing. Or, if you ever need my help, for anything, send a message with your safe word and I’ll do what I can.”
Q sighed. He’d had a simple, elegant escape plan for Warsaw. And two men, who apparently both thought they were doing the right thing for him, had bollixed it up.
He set about methodically destroying the USB drive. His next move was going to take some thought.
One month later
“Hello pretty boy.”
Q turned to look at Bond in surprise, then back at the man he was having a drink with. “Won’t be a sec love,” he said flirtatiously. “Can you wait a bit James? This nice bloke just bought me a drink and then we’re going to be occupied for a little while.”
The man pointedly took out his wallet and counted out fifty pounds. Q turned back to the bar and made the money disappear.
“Just a few minutes of your time,” said Bond.
“He’ll be free in half an hour mate,” said the man impatiently.
Q turned to look at him with a pout. “Lies! I’m never free,” he said coquettishly. Then cocked his head and gave Bond a meaningful look. “James knows that.”
“I know,” said Bond. He nodded toward a booth. “When you’re done.”
“I’ll be there,” said Q with a playful smile and a go away now wave.
Twenty minutes later, Q slid into the booth across from Bond. “What’s this?” he asked, pointing at the shot glass filled with red-orange liquid.
“I didn’t know whether I should buy you gin or rum,” said Bond dryly. “Then I remembered you said Campari would do nicely.”
Q clenched his jaw before schooling his features to a bland smile. “Fuck you,” he said. He picked up the glass and took a large sip, swished it around like mouthwash and swallowed. He shook his head and winced at the bitter taste, then set the rest aside. “What are you doing here?”
“I might ask you the same question.”
“You’re one of the most observant people on the planet. I’m sure you can work out what my activities for the night entail.”
“All right then, why?” said Bond.
“They thought they could just remind me I’m a whore with no consequences. That I could do that every night for a month and turn around and be quartermaster again as if nothing had happened,” said Q. “At least here, everyone acknowledges the reality.”
“Am I allowed to defend your honor yet?”
Q ignored the question, waved a waiter over, and ordered a drink.
“What happened to ‘one hundred quid and it’s worth every penny love’?” asked Bond.
Q rolled his eyes. “A cheap piece of arse like me doesn’t charge one hundred quid for anything. I’m lucky to see fifty. And that’s me come up in the world. I’ve done that,” he nodded toward the bar where Bond had found him, “for half a beer and some chips.”
“How long have you been doing this, Q?”
“Call me Jack.”
“You hate being called Jack,” said Bond.
Q blinked. “Didn’t realize you’d noticed,” he said. The waiter returned with his drink and he sipped.
Bond sighed, “I’m supposed to be one of the most observant people on the planet. I figured it out eventually. Though I confess I was much slower on the uptake than I’d like on that one.”
“How long have you been doing this?”
Q gave him a direct look. “Since I was young enough that I wasn’t the one committing the crime.”
Bond flinched. “I meant now.”
“The agency was kind enough to deliver all of Jack’s things to my home the Friday after you ‘rescued’ me. I went out again that night,” said Q. “Couldn’t go three days without some time on my knees. Keeps me from being bored evenings I’m not stuck at the office saving the world.” Q’s voice had a bitter edge but he kept his face placid and friendly, the rent-boy negotiating with his next client.
“Have you seen Reynolds since?”
“Of course not. He may as well have disappeared from the face of the earth.”
“Were you looking for him?” asked Bond.
“This isn’t about him,” said Q testily. “You know that.”
Bond nodded. “Tell me?”
“They came so close to having me,” said Q. “If Mallory hadn’t assigned me to that mission… I’d nearly accepted it, clipped wings and all. Lulled to sleep in my comfortable cage, I grew soft, tame.”
“And then you thought you saw a way out,” said Bond quietly.
Q looked away. “And now all I can do is beat myself bloody against the side of a cage I’d almost forgotten was there. I adore Q-branch James. My people are brilliant. I like the work. No one would have had to force me to do it. But they did. So here we are.”
Bond leaned forward, drawing Q’s eyes to meet his. “If you push this too far,” he said with quiet intensity. “You’re going to end up in psych pumped full of interrogation drugs and they will absolutely figure out this is all a ploy.”
“Observant,” Q smiled with sly approval. Bond suspected it was the first sincere expression he had seen from him all evening.
“I’ve seen, rather intimately, what a good actor you are,” Bond pointed out.
Q looked Bond in the eye. “But this is part of the plan. They’ve been tracking me for years. They see a discrepancy in the pattern and they send you to see if something is wrong. You intervene. Take me home and fuck me until I realize the error of my ways and pour my heart out to you,” He raised an eyebrow and continued dryly. “Nothing new for you, that’s practically your job description.” Bond scowled but didn’t argue. “Along with shooting people in the head. Which you might also be called upon to do in our present circumstances.”
Now Bond looked away.
“Monday, you’ll report to whoever sent you, I’m guessing Moneypenny, and I will reluctantly confide in Tanner. I’ll admit that the mission was much more traumatic than I originally let on. He’ll send me to psych; they’ll assign me to a counselor and that poor sod gets an earful I should have unloaded years ago.” He smiled as if he’d told a joke. “Someone will eventually decide there’s no way I should have ever been put in a position of authority or responsibility. The chances I’d break are simply too high. What was Mallory’s predecessor thinking?
“They can’t demote me, there’s no cause, it will look suspicious. But ultimately, they’ll decide they have broken me. So, they’ll find a parole violation they can use to send me back to prison. This,” he waved at their surroundings, “Will do nicely. Or if I’m very lucky, they cut me loose with a pat on the back and a pension. If it’s prison, there will be an end date and it will fit the crimes I’ve already been convicted of. There’s no point drawing it out if they don’t want me back. I can endure that. And then I’ll be free. Or they’ll arrange an accident for me and I can’t do much about that.”
“What can I do to help?” asked Bond.
“It will be easy enough,” said Q with a coy smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. “Take me home with you and fuck me again.”
“Why do I think that’s a terrible idea?”
“I can’t imagine,” said Q dryly. “You didn’t hesitate even once the month before last.”
“Even when I clearly ought to have,” said Bond, looking away. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”
“Oh?” asked Bond. “You regularly hide in the bathroom for an hour after sex?”
Q blinked at him again. “Thought you’d fallen asleep.” Bond shook his head. “That’s why you were so gentle the next morning.”
“Even then, I didn’t realize what was going on. I thought you wanted—wanted me—that being with me would be a comfort after whatever Reynolds made you do. But I became just one more man you felt you had to please…” he trailed off. “I was a fool and I’m sorry.”
“I could have said something. I didn’t.”
“You shouldn’t have had to.” Bond scowled. “They should never have asked that of you.”
Q looked to the side and chuckled unexpectedly. “You still want to get me out of here.”
“We’ve been talking too long love.” Q dropped completely back into the flirtatious persona that now made Bond’s skin crawl. “There’s a man about to come offer me money because he thinks you’re wasting my time. He’s started trying to catch my eye to see if he should.” He took another sip of his drink and cocked his head expectantly. “You going to take me home with you? Or are we done here?” he fluttered his eyelashes flirtatiously.
Bond scowled, he hated both those options. “All right.” He pulled out his wallet and left a tip on the table.
Q gave him his cheerful rent-boy smile and got up. Bond tried not to flinch. It was just an act he told himself. One that Q had to maintain until they’d left. Q draped himself on Bond’s arm and they left together.
“Can I drop you at your place?” asked Bond as he started the car.
“No, I told you. You’re taking me home with you,” said Q. “And you’re fucking me.”
“Why should I go along with this?”
“Because I want you to James,” said Q. “Because I’m asking. Because if I’m not performing my quota of blowjobs for the evening, maybe I want someone to touch me who might actually fucking care.”
Bond sighed and headed toward his home. “Please tell me you’re joking about the quota,” he said, glancing over.
Q was staring out his window. “Just because it’s a ploy, doesn’t mean it’s an act love,” he said quietly.
When Bond unlocked his flat, Q headed straight for Bond’s bedroom, already beginning to shed his clothes.
Bond removed his suit jacket and put his gun in its safe, then followed reluctantly. “Q, please…” he began and then froze. Q was standing naked beside the bed holding his shirt. He bore multiple sets of fading bruises: the imprints of someone’s fingertips on his hips and a mark that might have been from a hand on his upper arm. Several bite marks of diverse vintage stood out from the pale skin of his shoulders and collarbone. When he turned to toss aside his shirt, Bond saw two large bruises across Q's back.
“What?” asked Q evenly.
“Is this why you insisted on coming home with me?” asked Bond. He approached Q cautiously and stopped just out of reach. “To make sure I saw these?”
“I need something to show psych to prove how traumatized I am.” Q looked at Bond speculatively and stepped close. He met Bond’s eyes and murmured seductively. “Want to add something? You liked making me cry, said I was beautiful. Debauched. I had those bruises for days.”
“Please don’t,” said Bond, he raised his hands to keep Q from getting closer. “I didn’t…”
“You thought we were playing a game but you never asked me the rules,” said Q. “And this rule is: I don’t like pain, but certain things can be negotiated for substantial reward. If it gets me out, I will endure anything,” said Q evenly.
“What can I do?” asked Bond. “To make this right? I swear I never wanted to hurt you.”
Q smiled at him. It was unexpectedly tender. “I know. I’m just too accustomed to being hurt, by men who don’t care, to know how to avoid it.”
“Did Reynolds hurt you?” Bond asked.
“No. He was quite considerate. He’s done sex work. He knew how to make me feel safe.”
“What do you want Q?” Bond lowered his hands, resting them gently on Q’s hips. “Is there something I can do, to make you feel safe?”
Q searched Bond’s face, looking for what, Bond wasn’t certain. “Like that morning again? Slow and gentle—touch me like I’m something precious—not just a cheap piece of arse you brought home from a bar.”
“I will,” said Bond and he pulled Q close.
“Is that what you wanted pretty boy?” asked Bond softly, after.
Q was draped over Bond. He nodded and nuzzled Bond’s neck with sleepy affection. “Just the thing. You really are brilliant in bed.”
“This is the last time, isn’t it,” said Bond, as he held Q close and caressed him gently. Q arched into the touch like he was starved for it. “You’re never going to let me touch you again.”
Q raised his head and looked Bond in the eye. “I can’t. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” said Bond. “I’m fairly certain I don’t deserve it.”
“That doesn’t mean I don’t regret how this played out,” said Q.
“Tell me what I should tell Moneypenny.”
Q smiled in approval. Told him.
“I’m glad they didn’t manage to tame you,” said Bond, petting Q again. “Please be careful.”
“Thank you, I will.”
“So?” asked Moneypenny.
“It’s not good Eve,” said Bond. “Does his psych profile include a self-destructive streak? Because it certainly looks like he has one, kilometers wide.”
Moneypenny arched an eyebrow. “Our quartermaster has been forging authorization to skip his psych evaluations for years. Apparently, Mallory’s predecessor was willing to overlook it. I found memos from her and Major Boothroyd about it.”
“Or she knew they’d find something worrying and preferred it stay undetected?” asked Bond. “She had to have known his history.”
Moneypenny tilted her head. “And what do you know about his history?”
“Only the very little he’s told me.”
“I think I convinced him to talk to someone. Our mission was clearly traumatic for him and I’m—I can’t believe I missed it.” He glared. “Someone should have briefed me.”
She acknowledged this with a scowl and a shrug that said it wasn’t my choice. “What exactly has he been doing?”
“He was dressed up like the cheap rent-boy he pretended to be for Reynolds. The quartermaster of MI6 is selling cut-rate blowjobs to anyone who will buy him a drink.”
Moneypenny winced. “Shit.”
“He wouldn’t have to play it like this. At the beginning of the mission, he showed up for dinner with me dressed like a high-end escort. The type that charges a thousand pounds a night and no one blinks an eye. And I think he’s deliberately seeking out men who are likely to mistreat him. He’s covered in bruises.”
“He was adamant, during the mission, that he didn’t like pain and he assured me that Reynolds respected that boundary. I believe it. Reynolds never left a mark on him. Something’s—broken.”
“And how did you see his bruises?” asked Moneypenny suspiciously.
“I tried to brush him off, I swear. He stripped and asked me to be gentle, to treat him like something precious. Given the circumstances, I couldn’t bring myself to say no to that.”
“Shit,” she said again. “He requested a meeting with Tanner later this morning. I’m hoping he’s sensible about this, otherwise…”
Bond nodded. “Let me know if there’s anything else I can do.”
Moneypenny nodded glumly.
“One more thing,” said Bond.
“Tell me why he thinks Mallory will send him to prison.”
Moneypenny froze. “What did he tell you?”
“That if he can’t be quartermaster, he’ll go to prison. He was a bit drunk. When I asked what he meant, he refused to say anything more. Actually looked alarmed. Told me to forget it. Moneypenny. What does that mean?”
Moneypenny explained, in slightly vague terms, the conditions Q had told Bond about early in their mission.
“You’re telling me he was coerced into joining MI6 and will be sent to prison if he doesn’t do everything he’s ordered to. Including whoring himself out to criminals if that’s what M decides he has to do.”
“No wonder he’s a mess. Please tell me you don’t approve of that,” he said.
She frowned but didn’t respond.
“I think,” said Bond after a moment. “That there are several agents in the organization, who would take a dim view of their quartermaster being sent to prison as punishment for following orders he knew might break him and that he couldn’t refuse.”
“Is that a threat, 007?” she asked, glancing toward M’s door.
“It needn’t be,” he said evenly. “But it has been ages since I had to pull off a proper prison break. And I’m sure I could find a few volunteers to help.”
“You’re going to get yourself shot in the head one day,” said Moneypenny.
“A fate I accepted a long time ago,” he said and left the office.
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.