He had no idea why his brain immediately went to making logical assessments of his injuries as he regained consciousness again. Data.. he dealt with data. Easier to make an assessment of the mission than to face the reality of it.
Of course it would.
Broken bones. Burns. Stab wound that was still oozing. Possible internal injuries. Yes… No... yes, definitely internal injuries. His thought processes were sluggish also.
Not at all sure what day of the week it was at this point. How long he had been held here. Was it Tuesday... Wednesday. When had Alec left on his mission on... was that Sunday or had it been Thursday?
He had been kept in total darkness. A deprivation room. Only seen the light of day or rather fluorescent lighting when they wanted to “nicely ask”... batter him again for information. Access to MI6’s servers. Same questions. Same answers. Followed by the same creative torturous abuse attempting to ‘convince’ him to tell them what they ‘needed’ to know.
At this stage though, he was convinced they just enjoyed beating him... just because.
His own body had begun to fail him, injuries pulling him into a dark unconscious state more often than awake. It brought him to the point where he couldn’t help but hope that he wouldn’t wake from the next round of darkness. He had no illusions that he would survive this kidnapping. Knowing that the life expectancy of a ‘valued’ MI6 employee was not long.
His fought his thoughts to not jump to sentimentality, but lost that battle altogether. He didn’t want to think about the things he regretted in life, who would care for his cats, who he would miss, and who he hoped would miss him.
But, pain pushed at his emotions, making him weepy. He cursed as tears escaped from him. Thoughts turned to those closest to him in life. His family, Moneypenny, James... Alec.
He tried to swallow back emotions, tears turned into wet gurgling coughing that tasted of blood. Sending his brain into analysis of injuries… again. Broken ribs. Punctured lung.
And it hurt to breathe.
His eyes drifted shut again, pain and darkness consuming him.
Needed to see Alec just…
just one more time.
Things he needed so say.
Sunday night, well it was actually Monday morning since it was 2:30 am, Q successfully managed to head home for a few hours, much needed sleep. He had been on since Friday evening when 003’s mission had gone cock up., guiding said agent through a tangled exit to a flight waiting for home soil.
Alec had been scheduled to go out on his mission midday Sunday. Unfortunately 003’s fiasco and other scheduled missions had not given them time for goodbyes. At least they managed to squeeze in a few moments of time whilst Q took a much needed cat nap on the sofa in his office.
So as he finally left the depths of MI6, in his ‘I’m exhausted’ fog... his ‘I don’t want someone hovering’ emotional side sneak ambushed his logical analytic side.
Consequently, his emotional side convinced his analytical side into having the agency driver drop him off a few blocks away from his flat. Wanting the silence of the walk alone for a few blocks to clear the noise from his head. Hoping he could unwind a little and to drift off to sleep easily. As it stood, he needed to be back at the helm of Q Branch in a few hours.
Emotional versus analytical never worked for him. And just where was that little voice that should have been shouting at him ‘This is a stupid fucking idea?" Because... in the long run, it had been.
He hadn’t even realised they were on him until the sharp jab to the nap of his neck happened and he was roughly thrown into the boot of the waiting car.
He could hear what she wasn’t saying as loudly as if she had screamed it. Evasive at first. “The Quartermaster is not here. You can turn your intel over to me, 006.” Then when he continued to insist that Q wanted the data given to him personally “the Quartermaster is unavailable.”
R was rarely anything but direct with him, which meant if she was lying to him - and she definitely was - there was something someone really didn’t want him to know. An itch started between his shoulder blades. His sixth sense telling him something was amiss.
When he pushed again, “The Quartermaster is unavailable… no ETA at this time.”
“Fine,” he switched tack, pretending to grudgingly accept what Q’s second had told him. “I’ll transmit it to you instead, but he needs to analyse it and get back to me. Our target is preparing to move out.”
“I’ll see it’s done.” They chatted while the data transferred. Alec listened closely, finding the nuances in her tone that gave away her anxiety. R was solid as a rock, unshakeable in even the worst crisis. Alec twice managed to switch the conversation topic tripping her up, unsettling her further until...
“Tell me how long he’s been missing.”
“I... what...? How did you...?”
“You just confirmed it. Details, now!”
He was already tossing things into his flight bag, methodically emptying his hotel suite of the few items he ever bothered to unpack. He retrieved his weapon, checked it over while R gave him answers on a low tone. Clearly she was under orders not to alert him.
“Get me on the next flight, R.”
Finally, he slammed the door behind him and began to make his own way.
“006!” A new voice in his ear… calm, authoritative, very unimpressed by his rant. “As I suspect your mission has now gone to hell, R is to assist you with whatever you need for your new assignment. Report to my office immediately upon your return.”
He wasn’t bothered with M’s office but he was headed for London. R’s text had him switching flights, jogging from one terminal to the other, swearing at the slow moving holiday makers he had to dodge. R updated him in his ear while he plastered on a smile and tried not to throttle the bimbo at the check in desk.
“On the flight” he told her once he’d claimed his seat. “Have a car waiting for me. And my usual preference of unregistered weapon.”
“006? M has sanctioned this, however-“
“I don’t give a shite!” He drew the attention of the other passengers who had already boarded. Dropping his voice “You know why I’m asking. M will thank you for not giving him a circus he has to parade in front of the PM. No link back to any service weapon.”
It was now a quiet Thursday lunchtime on a North London street, his issued piece holstered and an illicit gun in his hand. The house where Q was being held was up ahead. Two young Asians lounged on the front steps, laughing and smoking. Give them a chance to run? Or put them on the floor, announcing his presence?
“We’re on,” He murmured quietly, before walking confidently towards the house.
Alec slowly approached the two, walking as if he was at home in the neighborhood. Silenced weapon held close to his side away from their view. One of them glanced his way but turned back to his conversation with his companion, not giving a second thought to him. People came and went on this street frequently. An unfamiliar face meant nothing to them.
He was just in line with the steps when he whipped around taking one of them out with a bullet between the eyes, shoving him over the edging into the stairwell below. At the same time grabbing the other by the throat, tightening his grip. “You and I are going inside now if you don’t want to end up down their with your friend,” he snarled in his face bringing the gun around to point directly at the man’s heart.
Alec slowly backed them towards and through the front door. “Where are they keeping him and how many others are in the building?”
“I don’t know what you're talking about,” the other man started.
“Wrong answer.” Alec delivered another bullet to the head of this one also dropping him quietly to the corridor floor .
“Suppose I’ll just have to find out for myself.”
Stairs up or stairs down? The staircase climbed steeply to Alec’s left but ahead the door to the cellar stood ajar. In the room to Alec’s right voices bantered in heavily accented English, slipping often into another tongue.
Alec had a reasonable level of skill with languages, but he could only pick out every 3rd word. The need to press on made him pushed at him but he hesitated stopping at the cellar door to listen. From where he stood he could see three men reflected in the window.
“He’s got to break. We can’t stay here any longer. Can’t take him with us.”
“Told you how to break the little slut. You want me to do it?” The stocky man gripped himself through his trousers, making a lewd gesture with his other hand.
The bearded man aimed a punch at his shoulder. “Take your perversion elsewhere. We need info, not him shutting down. And bloody fast!”
“You’re just too scared, little chicken turd.” The man moved towards the door but Alec was waiting. Two shots and the man was down. Another three felled a bearded man and halted the final occupant in his tracks with Alec’s silenced pressed under his chin.
“Now if you want to live a little longer than your friends here,”. Alec pressed a little harder with the muzzle of the barrel to his chin forcing it to tip upwards awkwardly. “You should probably take me wherever you’ve stashed the person you’ve trying to extract info from.”
The man hesitated for a moment trying not to decide his next move.
“I wouldn’t wait much longer. I’ve been told often that patience isn’t one of my better qualities especially when you’ve taken something that belongs to me,”
“Down the corridor. Second door on the left.”
“Show me.” Alec snarled.
“You won’t get out of here. There’s more of us upstairs.” Stopping in front of a locked door.
“Open it. Now.” Alec’s gun was now pressed to the back of his head. Pulling out a set of keys from his pocket, the lock clicked open letting the door swing wide. There was a crumbled figure, visible in the shadowed light from the open door, curled on the floor next to the far wall. Keys jingled as they dropped to the floor along with the man as Alec put a single bullet into the back of his skull.
Alec rushed to the side of the still figure, tugging him over onto his back. Q rolled limp as a rag doll and Alec hissed when he saw the damage his captors had inflicted. His face was black and blue, both eyes swollen shut. Old black blood crusted his nose and lips. Alec pulled Q’s ripped shirt aside to see his torso was also bruised from numerous vicious beatings.
Q whimpered at the movement and tried to curl in on himself. A groan that might have been words split the skin of his lip and fresh blood welled. He struggled to breathe, mouth filling with blood until he gasped and choked, coughing in agony. Alec immediately rolled him so he wouldn’t choke.
“Shit!” Alec ran his hands as gently as he could over Q’s ribs. “I’m sorry, love. Fuck, broken ribs. Are you listening, R?”
“Here, 006. Medivac on their way. Can you move him?”
“Daren’t. Breathing is shallow, noisy. Collapsed lung maybe.” A shout from the floor above and boots thundering down the stairs drew the agent’s attention back to the issue of hostile approaching. “Fuck! Gotta deal. Tell them to wait till I give the all clear.”
With a last worried glance at the unconscious Quartermaster, Alec darted to the door and pulled it shut, hoping no one would think to try it before he returned. He was barely clear before a half dozen shots rang out, pinging the wall and door behind him.
Alec cursed out loud in Russian that came so naturally as he fired off a quick succession of 4 rounds emptying his magazine. Ejecting it, he slammed another into place in one fluid well honed movement.
Silently creeping up the stairs, plastered against the far wall, he searched the building confronting two more. After an exchange of gunfire, Alec continued to stay through the building, gun at the ready even though a trickle of blood crept down his left forearm.
“R. You’ll need to intercept calls to NSY about gunshots. Don’t need interference.” Alec whispered just loud enough to be heard by those listening in Q Branch.
“On it 006.”
Mallory’s voice then came over the comms replacing Q’s second. “I want you to maintain one for questioning, 006. We need to get to the bottom of this incident.”
“What you ‘want’ and what you ‘get’ are two different things.” Alec cursed under his breath.
“Need I remind you that you are already walking a thin line 006.” Mallory snarled back at him as a figure appeared at the end of the hallway.
The taller man, Q’s laptop bag slung over his shoulder, had an arm tight around the limp form of the Quartermaster pulled back to chest using him as a shield. Alec cursed himself for leaving Q alone unguarded.
“I am going to walk out of here and you are going to let me,” the muzzle of his gun pressed harder to Q’s temple. Q hung ragdoll limp in his arms, face hidden by matted hair, feet not even touching the floor. Alec automatically closed the distance between them, gun held steady ready to take the shot when needed.
“I don’t think so.” He couldn’t be sure Q was conscious, or that he could hear and recognise Alec’s voice, but Alec made the split second decision to invoke a protocol they had practiced a few times. “He’s no use to either of us dead, but that laptop… it holds the keys to the world.”
The movement Q made was weak and would have been totally ineffective had it not been a complete surprise to his captor. Q swung a leg weakly, his heel connecting with the man’s patella, and shifted his weight to unbalance the man.
Alec took the shot, one to the man’s shoulder, further disrupting his balance, with a fast follow up to the side of his head. It was a high risk move. His opponent got one shot off and Alec’s stomach dropped faster than the falling pair.
He hauled the dead weight off the Quartermaster, throwing the body aside so he could crouch by Q’s still form. Fresh blood seeped into his hair, panicking Alec further.
“Medics in now!” He yelled to R. “Building secure.” Thick fingers shaking he probed Q’s head searching for the new wound.
Q was shaking, a hideous noise issuing from his cracked lips. “Keeee” He screeched. “Keeee.”
“Hush! Getting you out of here. Don’t try to speak.”
“Keeee,” Q wailed again and began to cough. “....’lec.... keeee.”
“Oh my fucking god, you understood!?” Alec didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was a code word that they had practices over and over again in escape training. One which they had hoped they would never have to use.
“Oh god Q. I didn’t know you were missing. Didn’t fucking tell me,” Alec as gently as he could brushed the back of his knuckles across Q’s bruised cheek.
Q struggled to breathe.
A fresh trickle of blood began to creep down his forehead.
“I need medivac now! Where the fuck are they?” Alec growled afraid to move his Quartermaster any further.
“Two minutes out.” Was the response he got from Tanner who was now on the comms.
“Too fucking long.” Alec interrupted him.
“Retrieval and clean up teams are enroute also. Status of your package 006?”
Alec tried to curtail his emotions, but this was Q... his Q. “Package is damaged. In need of immediate repair.” He finally responded.
“Noted. Relaying.” Tanner responded. “Team on site, 006. Stand down to allow arrival.”
“Fuck that.” Alec snarled but his attention was quickly drawn to Q who was now fighting for air.
“Stay with me Q. Fuck, hurry up!” Alec glanced repeatedly at the doors, while trying to arrange Q into an easier position, but every movement seemed to cause Q agony. His lips were turning blue with each fought for breath.
“Agent! Stand down!” A voice called from beyond the door. “Medics reporting. No accidents needed please.”
It took Alec a moment to realise his weapon was trained on the door. He lowered it, but didn’t make it safe until the two medics entered and he confirmed their identity.
“Leave it to us now. Give us room.”
Alec backed off but only a couple of feet. He couldn’t bear to let Q’s hand go, rubbing his thumb repeatedly over Q’s grazed knuckles.
“Right side pneumothorax, query rib fractures and right clavicle. Possible internal injuries. Patient given oxygen. Heart rate and BP dropping.”
The words buzzed in Alec’s head, many of them familiar and none of them good. The oxygen mask hid Q’s face from him.
“Significant blood loss from recent head wound. Agent? Agent! What happened?”
Alec refocused on the med tech that was yelling at him. “The last mark used him as a shield. He got off a shot as I took him out. No choice. Couldn’t let him leave with the Quartermaster or his tech.” Alec didn’t give a fuck about Q’s tech, but there was no way he would have let him to walk out of there with Q in tow.
“You need to let go,” another tech ordered him quietly but directly, avoiding getting in the agent’s personal space. They had all been trained on how to deal with agents out in the field. “We need to load him.”
“Not leaving his side.” Alec still clung to Q’s hand thinking... hoping... he felt Q’s fingers twitch in his grasp. Out of nowhere another tech appeared with a gurney to load up the Quartermaster. Alec’s attention has been solely focused on the Quartermaster.
“We need to be able to treat him in the bus, agent.”
“Not leaving his side. This is the Quartermaster. Protection detail.” Alec lied but he wasn’t about to leave Q. No one argued with him, not wanting to provoke him, as they had already pushed their luck getting through the front door without him shooting one of them.
“006.” Tanner voice broke through the worried thoughts churning in his head. “M would like you to stay onsite to assist the retrieval team with a walk through of the scene.
“Not happening Tanner. Not leaving his side.” Alec quickly ripped out his comms throwing it to the floor, stomping on it. Carefully they loaded Q on the gurney as gently but as efficiently as possible. Q didn’t even whimper as they did so which worried Alec even more.
Someone was calling out Q’s vitals to another listening on the other end of their comms and they, in turn, were taking orders as they wheeled Q out the door. Alec waited to crawl in behind him as the gurney was secured. Just as he seated himself in a cramped corner, the words spilled out into the bus that later he would replay over and over again in his head. “BP dropping rapidly. We’re losing him.”
“Do something!” Alec tried to scramble from his corner but there was no room between the gurney and the two medics leaning over Q. The oxygen mask was dislodged and fell near to Alec’s hand. He scrabbled for it and managed to cover Q’s mouth and nose again.
“Hold it there, but be ready to clear. Need to shock him.”
“Four minutes out” the voice from the cab called, “need me to pull over?”
“No! Radio ahead. Ok. Clear!”
Q’s body jerked once, shocking his heart back into a slow rhythm, but the other medic was already preparing a large syringe. “Need to relieve the pressure in his chest. Hold him.”
The needle slid between Q’s ribs but instead of the expected air, the syringe filled with blood. “Ok, not good. Need a chest drain. Need to be at that bloody hospital now!”
“Where the fuck are you going?” Alec snarled as the bus pulled up to University College Hospital. “This isn’t MI6!”
“Which is an hour away from here. Orders to get him to the closest facility.” one of the tech responded. Staff can rushing out to meet the bus as it pulled into the nearest entryway.
Alec’s mobile began to ring in his pocket. Stopped and immediately started again as the doors of the bus were thrown open and Q was hauled out and rushed inside with Alec following.
“What?” Alec jerked the mobile out answering it rudely.
“Since you decided to abruptly cut off your comm communications I’ve had to call you,” R’s voice scolded hm. “Tanner is on the way with a security team. O’Reilly and Sankara are on their way from Medical also. Since you left the scene, M is ordering you to stay with the Quartermaster. Do not leave him unguarded. M wants you in his office as soon as possible.”
“As if that is even an option.”
“I am going to patch you through to Tanner now, 006. Please inform him of your current status.”
“Tanner…. going into theatre. Sticking close. I’ll update when you get here.”
“We have doctors on the way,” Alec informed the staff that swarmed around Q, calling stats and making their own observations before the gurney had even halted in the resuscitation bay. “ they’ll want to examine him.”
“We can’t wait for your medics. We have a theatre prepped and we’re taking him straight there. He’s bleeding into his chest cavity and we need to find that bleed ASAP.”
“I’m coming too. He’s under my protection.” Alec laid a hand on his gun making sure the practitioner in charge saw it. The man looked around for security but Alec stepped close.
“Don’t argue. Clearance will be sorted out presently. In the meantime you have a patient and I’m not letting him out of my sight. Work with it because if you lose him I will tear this hospital apart with my bare hands.”
“Ok...”. The doctor motioned to another colleague. “When the medics arrive please direct them up to theatre. They’ll be expected.”
Alec followed them into theatre a highly unprecedented action but he was not going to leave Q. That was until they actually started working on him. For a man who had lived the vast majority of his life through blood and death, it suddenly struck him that it was someone who belonged to him.
That the medical team were slicing open.
Their hands shoved inside.
Attempting to stop the bleeding.
And he couldn’t watch. Bile rose in him threatening its way out.
Alec quickly shoved his way outside the surgical theatre entryway, panting heavily trying to catch his breath.
Things had suddenly become all too real for him.
However, he continued to hover outside the doorway daring a glance inside every so often only to be confronted by barked orders, rushing staff, and the battered prone body lying on the surgery table between them all.
It seemed like an eternity before O’Reilly and Sankara came rushing down the corridor, pushing past him into the surgery. A few moments later Tanner followed with a security detail, taking command and ordering them to clear and secure the floor around them.
“Trevelyan. What’s the word? M wants a status report on the Quartermaster’s status.”
Alec drew on all his mission training to regain some poise, and deliver a report. “Not good. There’s some internal bleeding…” Alec took a deep breath and tried not to see the blood up to the elbows of the medical team. “A lot. Trying to locate the source now. A rib punctured a lung, they think.”
“Unknown at present. Feel it's better now they’re here.” He nodded at the door the two Six doctors had disappeared through. “They deal with this shite far more often in a year than this hospital ever will.”
Tanner nodded, and squeezed Alec’s shoulder as he passed. “I’ll inform M to arrange transportation to Six as soon as they stabilise him enough to travel. I don’t think we can sustain this level of security without impeding the hospital’s own service. And thank you, 006. You can stand down. Go home, rest.” Tanner gave him a small smile that was meant to be reassuring, but the worry lines at the corners of his eyes and on his brow gave him away. “That’s an order from M and report first thing in the morning.”
“I’m fine. Not going anywhere. I’ll kip in a chair if I need to.”
“Alright.” Tanner sighed shaking his head. I tried… M won’t be pleased but… Just don’t get under their feet and don’t cause any trouble.”
True to his word, Alec found a hard plastic chair and positioned it against the wall, managing to find a corner that he could slump into and close his eyes. Exhaustion must have dulled his sharp senses, because at some point someone laid a scratchy hospital blanket over him without him stirring. It was more than three hours later when his full bladder and stiff neck woke him just as Tanner appeared with O’Reilly.
“Where is he? What’s happened? Is he…?”
“Relax, 006. He’s in recovery. By no means out of the woods yet. They’ll take him to Intensive Care once he starts to come around from the anaesthetic, but it went as well as can be expected.”
“What the fuck does that mean? Don’t give me the shite you reserve for relatives.”
“It means that he’s lucky to be alive. I think he owes that to you. If he can keep infections at bay then I give him a 50/50 chance of recovering in time.”
“We were lucky also. The stray bullet just creased his skull. Lots of blood and a little dent but it didn’t break the bone structure. We’ll be keeping a close watch for any swelling or any sign of damage. Any time there is a blow such at that to the head there could be consequences later.” O’Reilly continued but Alec was only hearing half of what he was saying. He need to see Q now. See for himself that he was still with him.
“I need to see him. Now.” Alec demanded.
“As soon as he is settled, you’ll be able to see him briefly.” Tanner attempted to reassure the agent.
“We need to move him. It’s not secure here.” Alec slipped back into agent mode thinking on his feet, mission mode. It was easier to deal with everything that was happening that way.
“Not until he stabilizes more.” O’Reilly insisted. “The risk is too great at the moment. And once we get him moved, is more stable, he’ll need another surgery.”
“I thought you’d pieced him back together.” Alec insisted. Tanner’s mobile rang and he stepped off to the side to take the call.
“We did what we could for now. He will still need an orthopedic surgeon to deal with his left femur and broken hip. From the look of the bruising I would say someone stomped him rather violently.” Alec cursed, glancing to the ceiling with a deep sign before pulling his attention back to what was being said. “We couldn’t keep him under aanaesthetic any longer right now. Patch what was needed. The rest later.”
Tanner returned to their conversation “M will be here shortly. He’s updating the PM on the situation and the recovery of the Quartermaster.
Alec paced anxiously for another forty minutes before Q was wheeled from recovery to a specially secured side ward of intensive care. Arms folded across his chest he waited tensely in a corner as the nurses carried out their basic checks and made Q as comfortable as possible.
Q was semiconscious and heavily medicated so his responses to their questions was little more than confused mumbling. “Can’t this wait? Christ!”
“They’re using it to assess his head injury. They’ll let him rest soon.” O’Reilly has followed them into the room but stood off to the side by Alec, not interfering with the hospital staff’s work.
“He should have been found earlier. What the fuck was M thinking by delaying?”
“M was following protocol, which is more than can be said for you agent.” Mallory stood in the doorway holding a hospital coffee to Alec. “I’ll have Miss Moneypenny come to you tomorrow to take your report. As you are still here I assume it’s pointless to ask for it on my desk by noon. And we will speak about your actions of disobeying orders.”
Alec took the offered coffee from M but ignored his comments. “Truth be told, we didn’t have any inkling of his location until right before you ‘wrapped up’ your mission. R was vague by my directives. We were in the process of planning a retrieval.”
“Shouldn’t have happened in the first place.” Alec snapped, his patience growing thin watching Q struggle with the fog of the anaesthetic.
“Point taken and noted. It will be investigated.” M quietly sipped his coffee. “I am just glad it didn’t get to the point where I had to declare him compromised and we lost our Quartermaster.”
“You may still even yet,” Alec pushed away from the wall making his way to Q’s bedside now that the hospital staff seems to be done pushing Q to attempt to answer their questioning. Alec’s hand drifted towards Q’s face but stopped from touching within an inch, not wanting to cause him any further pain by merely brushing his fingers against the darkly bruised flesh.
“....‘lec….” Q’s eyes fluttered half open once more.
“Here.” Alec leaned over him so he wouldn’t have to move his head to see. It was wrapped in a thick bandage, tufts of dark hair curling from the top. His glasses were long gone, lost somewhere in Q’s prison, but he seemed able to recognise the man above him wasn’t a threat.
“Heard you... thought...” Q’s eyes were moist and his throat dry. Alec had to lean closer to hear him. “...dying hurts...”
“You’re not dying” Alec gently took Q’s hand, mindful of the cannula taped in place. “Not your time yet. But the bastards made a job of it, Q. You’re in a bad way.”
Q made a noise that Alec took to be agreement. The agent had suffered plenty of injuries in his time and Q had sat on hard plastic chairs for many hours in rooms just like this. Alec had never imagined their roles to be one day reversed.
“Want the damage report? You might have beaten my record.” But Q had already drifted back to sleep.
“006, M and I are leaving now.” Tanner appeared in the doorway. “Moneypenny will be here in a couple of hours. I am to let her know if you require anything.”
Alec shook his head. “Nothing. Just get him moved Tanner. Being here makes me uneasy, even with our guys outside.”
Moneypenny appeared at the door of the secured sideward a few hours later, takeaway bag in hand. Alec was still seated in the hard plastic hospital room chair pushed as close to Q’s bed as he could get it without disturbing the monitor leads and IV lines.
“I didn’t think you would have considered thinking about yourself and took the liberty.” She waved the bag at him.
Alec shook his head, “Not leaving him for a moment until I know he is back in secured space.”
“You’ll need to eventually Alec. Get some rest yourself. He’d going to need us to help him for a while until he gets back on his feet.” Q whimpered, still heavily sedated, but Alec was immediately on his feet checking to see if he happened to be rousing at all.
Q had muttered something earlier that he was glad Alec had come. Something about wanted to talk one more time. Things to say. Obviously still in a state where he thought he was still captive. Alec needed him to wake. Needed to reassure him that he was safe and not held any longer. He knew from experience it was an important factor in Q’s healing process. To know that he was safe. To not just give up and sink into the darkness.
“O’Reilly said as soon as his blood pressure and heart rate are a little more stable, they will try to move him. Too risky right now.” Moneypenny stepped up to the other side of the bed.
“He has a number more surgeries to come. Will be out of action for months, assuming he makes it back at all.”
Moneypenny gave him a sharp look. “You don’t know that. You can’t give up on him. If you do...”
“I know, I know. Not giving up, but... those bastards almost took him from me.” Alec pulled his chair away from the bed and indicated Moneypenny should do the same. “I can’t lose him now. Not after everything...”
“You won’t. Even if I didn’t believe in the doctors, I believe Q is too stubborn to give up.”
“What if he already thinks all is lost? How do I keep him from slipping away? It’s one of the reasons I’m not leaving, because when he comes around he needs to know that there’s still a fight to be won.”
After a few touch and go moments, two days later the Quartermaster was finally moved to a more secure medical facility of the agency. Another two days and he was back in surgery to repair his broken bones with multiple surgical steel screws and plates.
On the fifth day, Moneypenny managed to finally convince Alec to go home to shower and sleep in an actual bed, promising to call and wake him if Q stirred at all.
On the seventh day, Alec spent quality time in M’s office being repeated reprimanded for blatantly disobeying direct orders and being put on extended leave pending further review of his actions and a drastic change in attitude
On the eighth day Q’s bruising had began to fade a tad. The swelling was going down in his face and he became more recognisable. There was beginning concern that they had missed something with the head injury since he still had yet to awaken. But the dark hours of the morn, Q finally began to stir after the pain medication had been backed off a little.
He couldn't move, that was the first thing he vaguely registered. A soft weight pinned him down, not restraining him, but definitely restricting his movement. He tried to call out but his mouth was dry and sore. Throat scratchy. Panic fought its way up from deep inside and was emitted in a long distressed wail.
Footsteps. The doors to his room pushed open. No grate of locks. No brutal attack on his abused body. Instead, a soft voice called his name. "Q? Can you hear me, dear? Try not to struggle, you're safe now. No one is going to hurt you."
"No one will hurt you if you just tell us what we want to know." A swift kick to the abdomen, a stamp on his thigh that had him screaming in agony. But he wouldn't tell them. He'd die before that happened. He just wished he could see Alec one last time...
"I've sent for him, dear. He'll be here soon."
"Noooo" he groaned. Alec mustn't come. He was walking into a trap.
"Hush, don't struggle love. I'm going to try to sit you up a little. Tell me if it puts too much strain on your thigh and hip."
Q’s bed slowly moved upwards until he whimpered and then it was lowered back down into a more comfortable position for him. “Alec. Can’t come.” Q stammered again trying to push at whoever was talking to him but found his arms were restrained. He was still bound. Alec shouldn’t be here. It wasn't real. Trying to make him talk.
The door to Q’s room was flung open banging against the wall as Alec rushed into the room. Dressed in jeans and a button down, his loaded shoulder holster still strapped across his shoulders from being at the firing range “killing things” to relieve some aggressive tension. Alec was immediately at his side.
“There you are. Fucking finally.” The relief obviously in his voice as he tried to hold back a few tears that threatened to take over.
“Alec... no...”. Q began to whimper. “Shouldn’t.”
“Shush... it’s fine. You’re safe, Malyutka.”
“No... just... ‘et me go...”.
"You're in Medical, you arse. You're safe. Stop bloody fighting the blankets. You're fine!"
Alec's voice and a gentle but firm hand in the centre of his chest. It was a dream for sure. Or maybe he was already dying. Q reached out a shaking hand and found it enveloped in a large, sturdy strong one. "I'm here. Not going anywhere."
"Stay," he whispered, then more strongly, "stay please. Don't leave me here to die."
Alec looked to the nurse who was still recording observations. "Relax, he's just a bit disoriented.
“It may not concern the Doctor but Psych will be in once he's fully conscious. He'll need to talk to someone."
"He can talk to me," Alec insisted. "I won't put him in their hands."
"Not your decision agent, sorry. Talk to the doctor."
“Where are your fucking glasses...” Alec muttered.
“Try the top drawer. Next to the bed. I believe Ms. Moneypenny...” the staffer started. Alec glared at her and reached to get them himself. His patience of the Medical staff was growing thin. She began to make some more notes in the chart she was holding as she moved towards the door.
“He’s fine.” Alec stopped, glasses in hand, threatening her. “Do not go running to Psyche about him. I. Will. Know.” And then his focus was all on Q again.
“Here you go, Malyutka. Maybe seeing the world around you a little more clearly will help.” He slowly very gently place Q’s glasses in his face. “Let me know if these are uncomfortable. Your nose and cheek took some good blows.” His finger drifted to push a stray curl back from Q’s forward.
“Now tell me where you are Q.”
“Alec...” Q muttered trying to bring the world around him back into focus more. His head still swirled. Out of sync. Slow and not processing well. He searched for his words struggling.
“You’re in Medical, Malyutka.”
“Medical... you.. found me...”
“Yes. You’re safe. A little worse for wear, but safe. You did well Q. I’m just so sorry I didn’t get to you sooner.” Alec leaned in pressing a soft kiss to his forehead.
"My fault... careless..."
"No. They were watching you. Would have taken you from your outside your building within a few days. You just presented them with an earlier opportunity."
Q tried to turn his head to look at Alec who had pulled a chair close to the bed, but the pull on the stitched wound beneath his bandage was too much. "Head sore."
"Sorry. That was me. A shot grazed you when I took out the final man. They stitched it."
"Bastard" Q whispered but he squeezed Alec's fingertips and tried to smile. Even the tiny motion of his face was painful and felt uneven. He tried to raise his hand to touch his face but his examination was prevented by an IV tube taped to his arm.
"For fluids and pain relief and a shit load of other drugs to fight infection" Alec explained. "You lost a lot of blood and needed a significant top up. There are probably 3 or 4 other people swimming around inside you right now."
"Arse" Q's chuckle ended in a wail of pain that had Alec jumping out of his seat.
"What? What do you need? Fuck! Sorry, I am an arse."
"S'ok, Alec." Q grasped for his hand again. "Stay... please."
Over the next few days Q drifted in and out of consciousness and sleep as the staff slowly attempted to decrease his pain medications, only managing to bring it to a minimal level for now. Real sleep was punctuated by horrific nightmares.
Alec was never far from Q’s side. And if he had to leave him, he made sure Moneypenny or Bond stood guard.
The more staff made notes on Q’s condition as time went on, the more Alec’s attitude towards them became hostile. It was too the breaking point when a representative from Psyche showed up at Q’s Medical room doorway. The agent immensely barred the doorway. He would protect Q from any and all, especially Psyche.
“No! No fucking way!” Alec physically barred the doorway refusing entrance. “He doesn’t need you. I’ll deal with this.”
“I’m here under direct orders from M, 006.” Dr. Andrews was the toughest member of the Psyche team, a veteran at dealing double oh agents who took no shite from any of them. “You can file a formal complaint with him if you would like. “
“I will. In the meantime you enter this room over my dead body.”
“006, we want the same thing, do we not?” Andrews smiled his ‘not impressed by your bluster’ smile. “Our Quartermaster back at the helm as soon as possible. That will not happen until he is judged both physically and mentally fit. Only I can judge the latter.”
“Even a head doctor like you can see it will be a long time before he’s back on his feet. Poking him with questions now won’t do you any good.”
“But it will undoubtedly do him some, 006. He’s suffering nightmares and flashbacks. He needs to speak with someone trained to listen to such things.”
“And fill his head with shite about what he’s thinking, or make him relive it. No. Absolutely not!”
Andrews smiled. “Perhaps we should consult the patient. He has always been mindful of our processes no matter how much he might dislike them.” He glanced at Q who was in one of his rare waking phases, though not able to follow the hissed conversation at the door. “May we speak, Quartermaster?”
Q waved his hand vaguely gesturing to Alec’s chair. Alec took up a threatening position at the opposite side of Q’s bed. “Fine. But I’m staying.”
“I don’t think that is possible 006. You know the routine.” Andrews entered the room ignoring the death stares he was getting from Alec. “Are you up to speaking for a few moments, Quartermaster?”
Q nodded to the doctor, wincing at the movement, feeling like it rattled his brain. “Alec... ‘ok.. I can do this.”
“You positive? Just say the word and I’ll throw him out.”
“Yes. Routine.” Q sighed. “Don’t go to far...”
“Right outside the door. Not going anywhere.” It was all Alec could do to make himself step outside the room. One last raised eyebrow look at Q who waved him off with a hand before he closed the door behind himself.
“A little overprotective isn’t he?” Andrews stated pulling a small notebook from his pocket. “Shall we begin, Quartermaster.”
The physician sat across the dark mahogany desk from the agency head, thick folder in hand. “And your assessment is that he’ll be ready to go back to work as soon as he is physically able, Dr. Andrews?”
Andrews open the file once more staring at the assessment inside before laying it open on the desk in front of M.
“From every assessment tool I have in my arsenal to use, my answer to that question would be ‘yes’. But you and I both know that the Quartermaster is extremely skilled at knowing how to manipulate the system. Even under duress and situation that are highly stressful. Much better than some of our agents.”
“I’m not sure at times myself why Q was never out in the field,” Mallory huffed leaning back in his chair.
Andrews hesitated for a moment before continuing. “All my sessions with him so far indicate he will be ready, even with 006’s constant meddling. But if truth be told, my gut instinct tells me there is a lot buried inside him that may surface when we least suspect it.”
Andrews pushed the folder across the desk towards Mallory. “You might want to glance through some of our sessions yourself. As M, you are authorised access.”
M scanned a number of reports silently before he asked a question. "He claims to have limited memory of much of the torture. Do you believe that?"
"Not at all. I have spent years with double oh agents, some of whom are more forthcoming than others. In my experience I am told the torture, pain, trauma... all of it is seared into their memories, not something that can be easily forgotten or blanked out. At least not for long. Sooner or later it will surface. And knowing the memory capabilities of our Quartermaster..."
"So on your recommendation I should refuse his application to return?"
"On my recommendation, yes, however if he asks to see his file, which undoubtedly he will, there is nothing in his test scores to back me up."
"You have the final say, of course, but I think we have to let him return to work, once his current course of intensive therapy is concluded. He will need continued sessions of physio, and I highly recommend he stays on Psyche's list for the time being. I suspect he will find many reasons to reschedule and ultimately not attend his appointments."
"Agreed." M pressed a button on his intercom. "Miss Moneypenny, would you send the Quartermaster in please?"
"Sir, 006 is with him and insists on accompanying him."
"Is there any point at all in my denying that request?" M sighed.
"He is shaking his head, Sir."
"Fine. Send them both in." To the doctor, "My apologies. This meeting will progress much more quickly if I just agree to some things we have discussed."
The outer office door opened being held there by Alec. Q made his way inside slowly supported by a cane for assistance and one of Alec’s hands grasping his other elbow.
“Please have a seat Quartermaster,”. Mallory motioned to the chair at the other end of his desk.
“If this is going to be brief, I prefer to stand. The up and down can still be difficult at times.” Q remained standing. Whatever pain he was in at the time, was superbly masked by a calm cool exterior.
“As you prefer Quartermaster. Let’s get to the point. You’ve put in a request to return to active duty.” Mallory slowly flipped through the files in front of him. “Dr. Andrews recommendations seem to give approval but with some hesitations. I tend to agree with him.”
“I differ with that opinion, Sir. If you...” Q was prepared to argue with him and Alec tensed behind him.
“I haven’t said no yet, Q.” Mallory glared at him.
“Apologies Sir...” Q nodded briefly but both Quartermaster and agent remained tense.
“Assuming that your visit with Medical this week goes well, you continue with your physio and sessions with Dr Andrews for the time being, I will put you back on the active duty roster beginning next Monday. Those conditions are not negotiable Quartermaster.”
“Thank you Sir.” Some is the tension visibly drained out of the Quartermaster stance.
“There is one other stipulation though however,” Mallory continued. “You need to lose your shadow. Understood 006. Back to active duty status for you also. As much as I would rather keep you on suspension for your disregard of orders 006, you are needed in the field ”
"No!" Alec drew Q behind him slightly without even realising his action. Both Mallory and Q noted it though. "He's not ready to..."
"If you are about to tell me that the Quartermaster is not ready to resume duty, 006, I would consider your case before you voice it. From his expression, Q is more than determined to get back to work. Unless you are implying that his safety within these walls is in question?"
"Alec, it's ok..." The agent felt a tug on his arm and Q awkwardly stepped forward leaning more heavily on his cane than he would like. "It won't be a problem, M. 006 has performed an excellent service, but I'm positive he is as eager to get back to work as I am."
Alec scowled at Q but the look he received in return was challenging. He backed down. This Q didn't accept Alec's forceful suggestions or outright instructions.
"Excellent. Expect an assignment early next week, 006. Dismissed."
The agent and the Quartermaster moved slowly along the corridor. Alec let Q determine the pace, his cane setting a irregular rhythm, until they reached the lift. "I'm not happy about this Q. What if something happens while I'm out?"
"Nothing will happen Alec. Now take me home please. I'm exhausted and not going to let anyone see how much."
Q dosed off in the car on the way back to their flat, exhausted from the trip to MI6. And he had stiffened up sitting in the car during the ride there to where Alec had to help him inside for another painful ride.
“I think you’re rushing going back Q.” Alec sighed as they slowly made their way to the entryway.
“I need to try Alec. If I don’t go back now...” Q’s Weiss drifted off as he stared at the window watching London go by.
“And they still haven’t decided if they’ve followed the complete trail back on this kidnapping. You could still be a target. Not going to let...”
Q leaned heavily against the wall just inside the door as Alec put their coats away, weariness showing in his face. “You can’t stay with me 24/7 Alec, as much as you want. We both have a job to do.” He looked at the concern in his partner’s eyes and couldn’t bring himself to be angry with him.
If it hadn’t been for Alec, he knew he wouldn’t have come this far. He still had a way to go, but...
“I could just retire, Q. Be your bodyguard.”
“As if you’d be satisfied doing that. Don’t be ridiculous Alec.” Q couldn’t help but smirk at him. Q reached his free hand out to the taller man. “Just help me to the sofa for a quick nap and I’ll try to help you cook dinner later.”
Alec settled Q on the sofa with the promise of a cup of tea and his tablet so he could begin to familiarise himself with the current workload of Q Branch. But he wasn’t surprised to find Q softly snoring in his nest of cushions on his return. Alec set the mug of tea in the side table fairly sure it would be stone cold by the time Q woke. He removed Q’s tablet from the sleeping man’s relaxed fingers, bending to brush a light kiss on his brow.
Grinning to himself and humming softly Alec settled in the chair opposite and sipped his coffee, flipping through a magazine while he waited for Q to wake. Half an hour later though, Q was still sound asleep. Alec covered him with a blanket and headed to the kitchen to start dinner prep without him.
The mouthwatering scent of crispy bacon was what finally roused the sleeping Quartermaster. His nostrils twitched when Alec waved the bowl of pasta under his nose. Cubes of pancetta nestled amongst the pasta, generously smothered in rich tomato sauce. Alec had cracked an egg in a well in the pasta and popped it in the oven to set, and the crisped bacon was crumbled over the top.
By the time Alec had Q maneuvered to sit upright his mouth was watering. “I said I’d help” Q grumbled around a mouthful.
“You also said you’d nap, not sleep like the dead. Shut up and eat. Then maybe I’ll give you your tablet back instead of making you watch tv.”
After dinner Q helped Alec clear the dishes carefully balancing a few of them in one hand whilst he slowly maneuvered the kitchen, cane clutched in his other hand. As he sat the last of what he was carrying into the sink, he turned around to find Alec standing right next to him, smirking.
“What?” Q couldn’t help but wonder what he was planning. Alec reached up to the top of the refrigerator where he had hidden Q’s tablet.
“Since you were a good boy and finished your dinner.”
“You are such an arse, Alec.” Q couldn’t help but lean into Alec.
The last few months had been hard on them both and finally things were moving towards some sort of normalcy, as least as much as possible. “Could we sit out in the garden for a tad this evening?”
And of course, Alec couldn’t resist him, helping him settle into the sofa out in the garden with his tablet. Alec wandered back in the flat but soon returned having poured himself a drink to join Q out in the cooling night air. They sat in silence for quite a long time while Q totally immersed himself in wandering through the latest missions and reporting from Q Branch.
Alec eventually broke the silence. “You know, I’d do it for you. I was serious about what I offered earlier.”
Q tilted his head back onto Alec’s shoulder and closed his eyes, giving s small sigh. “I know. But I couldn’t allow you to do that. You’d hate it after a month or two. You know how you are when you have to do protection duty for M.” Q turned his head so he could nuzzle into Alec’s neck. “And... don’t take this the wrong way but... I need to find a way to function on my own again. Having your hulking great arse looming over my shoulder catering to my every whim won't encourage me to do that.”
“You like my arse!” Alec smirked and took Q’s tablet from him so the younger man could curl against his side, one skinny arm flung over Alec’s stomach and his head tucked under Alec’s chin. He pressed a kiss to Q’s dark curls.
Q was silent for a long time listening to Alec’s heart beating beneath his ear. Finally, “Alec...? I know things haven’t been great but... maybe we could try tonight?”
It took Alec a few moments to catch on to what Q was suggesting, so deep in thought was he about his impending assignment and leaving Q alone. “You’re sure?”
Q chuckled at the sudden eagerness in Alec’s tone and the slide of a large hand gently down his spine to cup his arse. He tweaked Alec’s nipple through his shirt. “I’m sure. But if you think you can’t handle a bloody invalid...?”
“Watch me. Here, grab this?”
Q sat up and waggled his eyebrows comically. Inside his stomach was churning with anxiety, recalling the several times previously they had tried to resume some kind of sex life. He took his cane from Alec allowing him to help him to his feet and guide him to the house. When they reached the bedroom he said a silent prayer that this time the horrors in his head wouldn’t paralyse him with fear.
Alec pulled off his shirt as they entered their bedroom leaving him standing there is just his trousers. Q watched the reflection of him in the mirror on the wall, hesitating before he finally turned around to face his partner.
Alec recognised that sad bewildered look on his face. That he was trying so hard to maintain control and not let the demons that haunted to take over.
“Come here, Malyutka. Talk to me. We can take this at any place you’d like.” Alec slowly closed the distance between them, reaching carefully out to him.
“I just... I...” Q tentative reached for the buttons of his shirt.
“Q, look at me. You know every scar on my body. A few new ones on yours does not make me want you any less. It’s part of our life.”
“It’s not just that. Every time I close my eyes it’s like I’m falling back into that room...”
“Hush, it’s ok.” Alec stepped close but didn’t crowd him. Instead he nudged Q’s chin upward slightly so he could press the tenderest of kisses on his mouth. “Let’s just take this slow. If we fall asleep before anything happens, then at least we’re together and in a safe place.”
Q nodded, still toying with his shirt buttons until Alec moved his hands to his waist. “Let me. Please.”
Alec had seen Q naked dozens of times since he returned home, helping him shower, bathe or dress, but this was the first time Q had willingly let Alec undress him slowly. His leisurely progression was punctuated with reassuring kisses, gentle fingertips ghosting across scars that still seemed red and angry. When Q relaxed, Alec kissed his neck, collarbones. When he tensed, Alec simply held him, whispering reassurance and stroking calloused fingertips over Q’s pale skin.
“I’ll take care of you. Let me, please.”
Q allowed Alec to settle him against the pillows, arranging them so he was comfortable and supported. “Tell me if you need to stop, Malyutka. Or if it feels good. I want to make you feel good.”
“You want you to feel good,” Q joked weakly. Alec chuckled, ridding himself of his remaining clothes and sliding into the bed next to him.
Their kisses grew more intense the longer Alec could keep Q focused on him. He didn’t let up the pleasurable assault on Q’s mouth and before too long Q was returning fervent kisses, while Alec’s hands explored Q’s body like it was the first time.
Alec deliberately avoided Q’s cock. O’Reilly had warned them of the consequences of Q’s pelvic injury. ‘Sexual dysfunction’ were two words Alec knew haunted Q’s thoughts and were the reason they had put off and kind of intimacy for so long. In the end, however, the dysfunction was far more emotional than physical, fear seizing the Quartermaster whenever they reached any kind of intensity.
This time Alec was determined to reclaim Q from the bastards who still held him mentally in spite of his rescue.
Q needed this. Needed Alec. Needed for this to happen to prove to himself that he was not as broken as all his visits to Psyche and Medical were making him feel.
Alec’s gentle caresses and kisses were reaching the intense level. Q whimpered as Alec nipped at pulse point in the curve of his neck. “Please Alec...” Q needed to feel whole again, to take control of his world.
“Shhh Malyutka. Let me make you feel.” Alec smirked against the pale skin that he has been worrying at with his teeth, one hand slowly making its way down Q’s chest to the thin trail of darkness that started just below his navel.
Q arched into Alec’s hand as soon as his palm skimmed Q’s cock. Alec’s fingers curled reflexively around Q’s shaft, chuckling softly at Q’s gasp when his thumb smoothed over the head, swiping up the bead of precum that welled at the tip.
“Alec...” Q gripped Alec’s wrist and for a moment Alec thought he’d pushed him too far, but Q’s vice like grip held Alec in place, allowing Q to awkwardly nudge his hips, thrusting into Alec’s hand.
“Relax love. Let me.” Alec kissed Q’s neck, nibbling at the tender skin just below Q’s earlobe. Alec tensed his fingers forming a snug hold, quickening his pace as Q’s breaths came heavier, quicker.
Q whimpered trying to push upwards into Alec’s hand. Lube or not, it felt too good to have Alex stop.
“Not going to...” But Alec cut off his words ceasing his lips once more intensely. All it took was a few more strokes of Alec’s fingers gripped tightly around his cock and Q was coming.
“Feel it Malyutka. Let it surge through you.” Alec chuckled marveling at just how beautiful his partner was lost in his pleasure.
“Couldn’t last...” Q muttered gasping for control. “Been too long,”
“See. Everything is fine. Just needed time to heal more. I know you were worried.” Alec gently placed a kiss to his forehead. “I suppose you can tell me how long it has been, my Quartermaster.” Alex carefully unwound himself from Q to get up to get a damp warm flannel to clean him up with.
“If you really want to know how many days...”
“Only you Q. Only you...” Alex couldn’t help but laugh at him. It was one more hurdle they had crossed in Q’s recovery.
Alec pulled Q close and stacked pillows around him until he was cocooned between Alec’s warm body and the cool cotton bedding. Sighing deeply, content, Q allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
Alec woke to an unholy groaning and the sting of nails pressing into his bicep. Q thrashed trying to push Alec away, fighting the perceived threat with nails, teeth and flailing legs.
“Q... Q, stop! Wake up, you’re ok. Safe. You’re safe here with me.”
Alec passed a hand over Q’s brow to find him clammy with sweat, and in the dim light of early morning he could just about make out Q’s wide, panicked eyes.
“Get off me. Off. No, no. Please no...” Q’s incoherent mumbling resolved into words, and his fight to be free of Alec’s embrace became more frantic. When Alec touched his cheek trying to rouse him, his fingertips came away wet with Q’s tears.
Alec gathered Q up, pulling the half-conscious man into his lap, trapping his arms but rocking him soothingly, speaking in a calm, low tone. “Q, wake up. It’s Alec, I’ve got you. You’re having a nightmare but you’re fine. Wake up, love.”
“Alec...?” Q sobbed, battling to escape the night terrors that tried to drag him back down into sleep. “Alec, please...”
The next morning Alec was already in the kitchen fixing breakfast and tea when Q slowly wandered in. Alec was immediately at his side, hand at his elbow, helping him sit at the counter. Not wanting to bring up the nightmare that had followed their returned intimacy, Alec gave him a quizzical look hoping Q would open up and broach the subject.
“I’m fine... it’s alright Alec.” Q shook his head. They’ll go away eventually.”
“Are you positive you’re ready to go back?” He asked setting a steaming cuppa down for Q. “It’s just... Mallory is sending me back out. Who will...”
“I’ll just need to manage. “ Q interrupted him. “I’ll have a driver take me. Sleep when I’m tired. Moneypenny will babysit me.”
“You and I both know that you’ll jump right in full force regardless.” Alec fussed at him.
“If I don’t go back now, Alec, they’ll either deem me unfit to return to work or I’ll never go back myself.” Q forced himself up from his chair, grabbing up his cane, starting to head back out of the kitchen away from this building confrontation.
"And what about Psych? They are going to be breathing down your neck. Who will protect you from them?" Alec had followed, of course he had to.
Q engrossed in his work could block out the worst of his fears, but alone in a room, across a desk from a shrink... Andrews poking, slapping out words for association, scribbling notes on a pad that would be used on a weekly basis to assess Q's likelihood to break.
"Me, Alec!" Q whirled and successfully disguised his wobble by setting the tip of his cane aggressively in the space between them. He counted to ten, reigning in his anger.
It wasn't at Alec.
It was the doubts he had that his return would be as smooth as he had reassured M it would be. He softens his tone to appease his prowling protector. "You know better than anyone that anything I don't wish to revisit won't come out in those sessions, Alec. I can box it up. Compartmentalize. But I need you to do something for me, Alec."
"Anything." Alec was quick to agree. Since the early days of his recovery, when Q had begged Alec not to leave him, Q had rarely asked anything of him. It had strained Alec's protective instincts tremendously at times.
"Don't think of me when you're out there. I can't sit at my workstation day after day worried that you're so focused on what might be going on with me that you fail to exercise the required caution in your work."
"No, Alec. If you can't do this for me then I will have to hand over all communication with you to R. We can't afford for personal feelings to interfere with what we do."
Alec sighed and guided Q back to the counter with a firm but gently guiding hand on his elbow. "I think I crossed that line when I pulled you out of that fucking house and put a bullet or several in every last one of the bastards in there." Q's glare managed to be both icy and hot. Alec held up his hands. "Ok, ok... I'll try. That's all I'm promising."
“Alec...” Q sighed as he guided him back to sit at the counter once more. “You’ve put yourself on the line too much already for me, your entire career with MI6.”
“I’d do it again if needed.”
“I know... I know. But right now, you need back out in the field no matter what happens here. Tanner, Moneypenny, even Mallory himself has been gracious enough to back you during this investigation. It could have gone so much worse.”
Alec had gone back to cooking whilst Q rambled at him and now stood with his back to his partner. Q was right it what he was saying, but there he also knew in his heart he had done the right thing. And would do it again if the situation called for, without question.
He would not loose Q, even if it meant giving up everything else.
“Alec... Alec...” Q’s voice pulled him back from his thoughts. “Please try to be on your best behaviour with Mallory... at least for a tad until you’re reinstated.”
“I’ll do my best Q.” Sliding a plate in front of eggs, bacon and toast his partner. “Maybe eventually Mallory will let of out of the bad chair in the naughty corner.” Q snorted as Alec placed a kiss to the top of his head.
“We can do this Alec.” Q sounded confident but underneath it Alec could hear him trying to convince himself and hoping Alec was believing his shite.
“How are you feeling about being alone again?”
The question snapped Q back to the room and he glared at the doctor across the desk. So far he had managed to offer fairly non-committal answers to all of Andrews questions, but they had been focused on his physical improvements, his ability to concentrate, and the adjustments he had been forced to make to his working environment to accommodate his recovering body. General enquiries, all expected.
This one though…
The answer to this one had been preying on his mind ever since Alec had received confirmation from M a few days ago that there would be a formal reprimand on his record, but he was to be reinstated to active duty immediately.
And now the reality was that Alec was going out.
Leaving in a matter of hours.
And here was Q… trapped in a fucking bland, offensive room with a smug doctor, quizzing him about his feelings about it. It had been too much to hope for that Andrews hadn’t been informed of Alec’s departure.
“I never get an opportunity to be alone, as I’m sure you’re well aware!” Q scoffed. “Solitude is a thing of the past. To be honest, I crave it.”
“Uh-huh,” Andrews made a note, probably nothing but a squiggle whose day nly purpose was to poke Q into revealing more.
Q bit his tongue instead. Allowed the Quartermaster mask to slide into place. Control of his fears was everything if he was going to manage this.
“Well, you seem to have had quite a lot of attention of 006 since your incident.” Andrews commented offhandedly.
“One would expect such ‘attention’ from one’s partner after an ‘incident’ as you call it.” Q knew Andrews was attempting to bait him. He refused to let him get the better of him and screwed down tightly on his emotions. Andrews may have been able to beat double oh agents but he was the Quartermaster.
“Have you considered how this will affect you at home... Trevelyan returning to the field?”
“As in?” Q shot back quickly with a question himself.
“Managing your daily routine.”
“You act as if I am a complete invalid, Dr. Andrews. I’ll manage. It’s not as if I’ve never been in my own before. “ Q stared across the desk at him not giving an inch.
“And Trevelyan? How will he handle leaving you alone?”
“That is his concern. Not mine.” Q reached for his cane, resting against Andrews desk, slowly pulling himself to his feet, bracing against it and his chair. “I have a department to run.”
Andrews leaned back in his chair and smiled, letting the Quartermaster make his slow progress to the door. Q's reluctance to cooperate was telling in itself. But rather than noting it as obstruction, Andrews noted on Q's file that he had an unusual command of his emotions. He underlined it twice and nibbled the end of his pencil thoughtfully, a bad habit he tried to avoid.
"Same time on Thursday, Quartermaster. Perhaps once Trevelyan has been gone a few days you'll feel more like opening up. In the meantime, if you need to see me just call my secretary."
Q let the office door swing shut, got his balance with the cane and then gave the door an obscene finger gesture that lightened his spirit slightly. True, he needed to prove he could manage, but why did everyone seem so convinced talking about it would make it easier.
In his opinion, just getting on with it would be far more convincing.
He hurried back to his department as fast as his tapping cane and uneven gait allowed. R signalled towards his office as he entered the main doors. With a nod of thanks, Q headed straight there, locking the door behind him and sinking into his chair.
"Rough session?" Alec's strong fingers kneaded Q's shoulders, working on loosening the tension that was already knotting Q's muscles. "We have 10 minutes before..."
"Don't say it." Q rolled his shoulders under Alec's ministrations and took a deep breath. When he exhaled, he settled the mantle of Quartermaster around himself allowing Alec to help him to his feet. "Time to go, Agent. Check in once you land. There will be a vehicle waiting for you."
Q had waited until Alec had landed in Novosibirsk, in and out of his office. He had managed to close his eyes for a few moments on the sofa in his office only to find that afterwards he was uncomfortable... in pain, stiff... much more than before he had slept. And an over 10 hour day was not how he should be starting his back to duty.
However he wouldn’t allow himself to not be available when Alec checked in. Refusing to leave before contact had been made with the agent.
A knock on his open office door drew his attention. “There will be a driver waiting to take you home in 15, Quartermaster. “ R stood just inside his office door giving him that ‘you should have gone a long time ago’ look.
Q sighed, reaching for his cane, not having the wherewithal to fight with her about it.
“Long day?” R stepped forward offering him her arm in assistance.
“Immensely long day.” Q smiled tiredly at her. “Don’t tattle on me please. “
“Never, Q.” as they stepped out into the open team room. “Williams, will you assist the Quartermaster to his waiting car please.”
Q started to argue with her this time but the look on R’s face told him he wouldn’t win as she added. “Moneypenny’s orders sir.” And with that comment he knew he definitely wouldn’t win.
“I give up. Ganging up on me.” Williams offered his arm to the Quartermaster that he started to refuse but reluctantly accepted halfway through Q Branch realising just how exhausted he truly felt.
“Call me if you need me.” R just smiled knowing she wouldn’t consider it unless it was an absolute necessity and a fiasco that only Q could handle.
Q fought to keep his eyes open on the drive home but by the time they reached the flat he was dozing. His driver gently roused him and escorted him right to the door, waiting for Q to secure it before leaving with a cheery “7am sharp, Sir.”
Q leaned heavily against the wall, toeing off his shoes, making a half-arsed attempt at hanging up his coat. His bag was dragged along behind him as he made aching progress deeper into the flat.
Alec wouldn’t contact him again this evening. There was no reason to wait up. He should eat and sleep, recover enough to face the next day. But faced with the mundane tasks of meal preparation Q almost abandoned any thought of food. He should have picked up takeout. Something he could fork from the container one handed, sitting at the counter. Instead he was faced with attempting to cook, balanced on painful legs that moved clumsily and hands that seemed numb and slow.
20 minutes later he had what could only be described as a mess of egg and cheese tumbled sloppily onto a plate. He poked some shell to the side and sighed, almost too exhausted to eat but he could hear his promise to Alec that he’d feed himself.
The kitchen cleanup could fucking wait.
For once Q was glad of the shower stool and hand grips they had installed in the shower. He sat under the stream of hot water and tried to recall Alec’s fingers working the tension from his shoulders, but he daren’t close his eyes in case he fell asleep.
“Fuck,” he muttered to himself as he soaped his sore legs. “Will it ever get easier?”
Alec managed four days into the mission before it became a shite show.
Q was in his office when the uproar began, R issuing requests for data, maps, access to CCTV. Techs rushed around in a controlled but frantic need to comply. Q hobbled out of his office to the central workstation just in time to hear that 006 was under attack.
"Move over!" He commanded R attempting to take over the console. He snatched up a headset and clamped it over his ears. Heart hammering in his chest, leaning heavily on his cane. "006. Quartermaster. Status report?"
"Not now, Q."
Alec sounded breathless. Pounding footfall indicated he was running, possibly for his life. R's hand fell on Q's shoulder gently but firmly guided him to a stool positioned before the supporting workstation.
"Sit and don't get in my way. I've got this. 006, you have hostiles incoming from the west. Up ahead the gate is closing. You HAVE to get to that vehicle."
"I can see it, R. No cover. Diversion would be good."
"Give me a sec, I can..."
A huge explosion rocked the complex that Alec was trying to escape. Several minions whooped but R remained focused, guiding Alec towards his salvation. Q anxiously followed his progress, tracker blinking across the map on screen.
Six feet short of the Land Rover that was going to get Alec out of there, the agent gave an exclamation of pain. The blinking stopped moving forwards. Stats trackers that monitored Alec's vitals stuttered.
R made the loud declaration "Agent down! Agent down! Extraction team, mobilise NOW!"
“006?! Answer me, damn you!”
“Two… One to upper left… arm. One to... right thigh. Q, I can’t… I… Sorry…”
“No!” Q snapped. “Extraction Team is on the way.”
“Q...” Alec voice was strained. He cursed in Russian under his breath.
“Give me everything on this complex now!” Q demanded. Minions jumped and scurried as he yanked a keyboard towards him.
“Q, I’ve got this.” R protested in one breath and in the next was demanding a sitrep from the Extraction Team.
“Do.not.make.me.pull.rank.on.you!” Q snarled at her. “Get the Extraction Team there and let me get him out of the fucking fiasco!”
“006. You need to get to that Land Rover.” Q’s focus turned back to Alec.
“Not happening Q.” Alec’s words were strained, breathy, staggered
“You listen to me and listen good, 006. I did not go through what I just did to come back for you to give up on me like this, you bastard. “
"Bullet hit bone, Q. Weight-bearing not an option." Alec panted trying to control the pain to leave something of his faculties able to cope with the incoming threat. "Can't drive the... fucking thing... even if I could get there."
"Weapon status!" Q demanded. "Can you hold them off?"
Q could hear R relaying data to the extraction team but tried to tune her out. He trusted her. If anyone could guide them to Alec in time... He was on his feet ignoring the screaming pain in his leg and back, totally focused on Alec's rapid breathing.
"Negative," Alec gasped and then gave a muffled scream in amongst a hail of gunfire.
It was a long minute before Alec was able to respond. Shots were fired and returned. Q watched Alec's vitals waver and dip, matching them to his desperate fight for survival.
"One down. Maybe two" Alec finally stuttered. "All out... I'm sorry, Q..."
"You do not fucking dare say you're sorry. Don't even think that this is it!" Q gripped the edge of the desk until his knuckles turned white. His cane had toppled to the floor and lay abandoned by his feet.
"Extraction two minutes out, Q. Keep him talking. I'm going to make a risky move on those gas tanks. Hope it doesn't become even more of a cock up."
"Do it," and then back to Alec, "006, find whatever cover you can reach. Things are going to get loud."
The silence on the radio was ominous. No sound of hampered breathing. No acknowledgement of Q's instruction. Only the faint, irregular flicker on the screen gave Q hope that somehow Alec had heard and understood.
The explosion was deafening.
Q stood in front of the workstation staring at the array of multiple monitors, focused on the erratic blip that faintly remained active. Cane at his feet, he gripped the edge of the workstation attempting to steady himself through the pain.
“Not now..” he muttered to himself. He was not going to allow this mission to become a complete fiasco. He was not going to lose Alec now.
“Status on Extraction Team?” Q called out.
“One minute out”
“Not soon enough! 006? Status?” Still no response from Alec as the green blip on his monitor flickered faintly and then didn’t flicker again for what felt like an eternity to him. Q turned to ask R for details of the Extraction Teams approach and pain flared through his still healing hip and leg. Grimacing he ignored his need to sit as R responded that the team was on the ground.
“I need a visual on that complex to me now! Use the Chinese satellite and I’ll apologise for it later. Infrared on remaining targets.”
Somewhere behind him, Q heard M’s voice conferring with Tanner and the sound of Moneypenny’s heels crossing the room. His cane was shoved into the palm of his hand.
“Alright, Q? What do you need?” Moneypenny murmured, trying not to draw attention from her boss.
“I can’t look away,” Q willed the monitor to blink once more. “In case it... I refuse to let it.” He drew in a long shuddering breath. “Why the hell don’t I have confirmation that the team have made contact yet?”
“Here, Quartermaster.” The unknown voice broke through. “Give us five minutes and we’ll have a report on the agent’s condition for you.”
“Make it two. You need to move out or prepare to defend your position. Visual coming in shows you’re caught between the fire and...”.
Shots fired and shouting in the background had Q searching the satellite images for a safe route out.
“Quartermaster? We need the agent out of here ASAP. Medical assistance being given but we need blood. Lots of blood.”
“Is he conscious?”
“No. And time is against us. I don’t think he’s going to make it.”
“He will. He must.”
Moneypenny had moved up behind him and touched his elbow discreetly. “Don’t want to add more pressure but Andrews just arrived. M requested medical presence.”
“Of course he did.” Q snapped. Braced against the workstation, cane hooked over the edge, he pulled the keyboard back to him. Taking a deep breath, he surrounded himself with his Quartermaster outer armour. If he was going to lose Alec to this world that they lived in, he would not give M or Andrews the satisfaction of seeing him fall apart. That would come later when he could be Zaquary in the privacy of their flat.
“Cooper! I need to see the satellite feed of the western side of this complex!” He turned his focus back to the Extraction Team as R called out stats to him. “You need to head south now! Not a minute from now. Not 30 seconds from now. Targets closing in on you from North and East.”
Moneypenny gave Andrews a glare, shaking her head at him to stop. He completely ignored her, moved from where he had been standing next to M to get a clearer view of the Quartermaster’s face as he worked.
“Dr. Andrews.” Q spoken calmly but with clipped pointed words never turning away from his monitors to acknowledge the doctor’s presence. “This is still my branch and you will stay out of the fray. You are a distraction to my team. If you fail to do so, I will not hesitate to have security remove you.” And within a heartbeat his focus returned back to the matters at hand.
“Head south. Sending you West then. Targets seem to be concentrated away from that direction. Nearest medical assistance is that direction also,” Q listened as the Extraction Team gather up the injured Agent quickly, efficiently, monitored his vitals the entire time. He knew from the chatter amongst the team that Alec’s chances of making it back alive were grim.
“R, I need a distraction for them to cover their exit. Let’s get this Team out of there people without any more casualties. Cooper! My Satellite feed!
"Ready now, Quartermaster." Cooper switched the feed to Q's workstation. "If the team could reach this defensible position here..." he pointed to one of Q's many screens, "I think that R could do something that might draw them out into the open and then..."
"Good thinking. Sharp, well done. R, work with this."
"On it, Q. Tell them they need to relocate, but not to stop, keep moving. I'm taking down the rear perimeter gates. Medics will meet them beyond and get 006 out of there. Backup team will be there to support in five."
"Agent status?" Q barked at the team leader over comms, fearing the reply.
The comment back was breathless indicating some exertion. "If you're going to help, do it now! The bastard is a dead weight but hanging on."
The pain coursing through Q's body was becoming impossible to ignore. An obvious tremor had started up in his thigh. He would not leave his station. Would not sit, even though Moneypenny silently positioned a tall stool close by. To do so, to admit even the slightest of weakness, would be admitting that Alec's situation was hopeless.
As if reading his thoughts, M stepped up behind him, having made an assessment of the situation's likely outcome. "If the asset cannot be recovered without loss of further life then..."
Andrews moved into Q's peripheral vision, notepad in hand. Somehow the look of concern on the doctor's face was far worse than his normal bland smile. Made Q wonder just how dreadful he must look. Something snapped in his head.
"So help me God, ALL who are not directly involved in this recovery, clear my floor NOW! Allow my teams to do their jobs, and bring this agent home!"
Moneypenny loitered like a bodyguard. Wherever Andrews positioned himself, she deliberately moved to position herself between him and Q. Conjuring from god knows where, she handed Q a bottle of water and some pills. “Take them,” she whispered so only he could hear. “If you want to still be standing when Alec is brought out, you need them.”
Q swallowed them gratefully. His body was screaming in protest, but he would ignore it. He was glad Moneypenny had his back. He resolved to buy her flowers, a car, or possibly a boyfriend.
The explosion at the far side of the complex rocked the team watching in Q Branch almost as badly as those on the ground. R glanced at Q and mouthed “Bit more than I was anticipating…” but Q gave her a tight smile and reassuring nod.
“Set up the same this side, as soon as I confirm the team is clear.”
“Quartermaster, I don’t think…” M moved up to his elbow.
“Q, are you sure…?” R’s eyes flicked from her immediate boss to the Head of All Things.
“Absolutely. If you want me to take over…?”
“No. No need.” R was already setting up the code that would overload the systems and trigger a second explosion even bigger than the last.
Q switched back to comms just in time to hear “Whatever the fuck just happened, it’s given us an opening. We’re out. Rendezvous confirmed. Getting the fuck away from here, and then we’ll sort out some bloods for the agent.”
“Move fast. You have less than 60 seconds to clear the blast radius.”
Q stepped up to R’s console. “Let me,” he said in a low voice, with a light squeeze of her forearm.
R moved aside to allow Q to issue the final instructions that would level the complex.
Andrews had made his way over to where Mallory stood at the side of the room observing. Both we deeply engrossed in conversation together whilst Q Branch worked their miracle of agent retrieval around them.
“Excuse me, Sir,” Moneypenny interrupted them. Both turned her way. M regarded her with a questioning look. Andrews just looked annoyed.
“I may be out of turn speaking up here, but I believe every member of Q Branch and agents also would tell you that Q’s actions today have nothing to do with the agent in trouble being his partner.“ Moneypenny spoke frankly and firmly,
“Q would go out of his way, use everything at his disposal to bring any agent back. He leaves no one behind. Ever. Even if, god forbid, it is an agent down situation. He is devoted to their safety.”
Moneypenny paused for a moment, her tone changing taking on a darker note, warning, “and you should know they are devoted to his safety and him remaining as Quartermaster. Agents and Q Branch. Just so you know.” Moneypenny turned and strode away, heels clicking on the tiled floor. Once again she took up her “bodyguard” position lingering near the Quartermaster’s side.
The final orders fell into place and the remainder of the compound ceased to exist in a cloud of rumble.
“You need some rest before Alec drops back here.” Hand at his elbow she spoke quietly so only he and R could hear. “Home or office?”
“Office. I can’t walk away now.”
R retrieved his cane from the floor where it had been abandoned, handing it to him. “I’ll finish up here and arrange for some food to be delivered. The team has earned it and you especially, need it.”
Q nodded. “Charge it to Mallory’s cost code. I’m pissy.”
She grinned and turned back to her workstation. Moneypenny guided him towards the office, not quite supporting him, but there to offer an arm if he should need it. “I think I may have accidentally threatened M and Andrews with agent reprisals if they didn’t let today’s actions go,” Moneypenny chuckled as they crossed the boundary into Q’s sanctuary.
Q’s smile was weary as he allowed her to help him settle on the sofa in the corner of the office. He didn’t even complain when she fussed with pillows and blankets, tucking it around him. “It often amazes me that I’ve earned their loyalty. Out there,” Q waved a tired hand towards the outer team room, “Alec was one of my agents. I can’t allow myself to think of him as more than that or I would lose my vital focus. But here… Fuck, Eve… what is this fucking life we are living? We could lose each other so easily - the last few months have proved that - yet we’re trying for a happy relationship like normal people?”
She smiled and ruffled his hair affectionately, handing him a bottle of water and his medication. “No one I know has a stronger relationship than you and Alec. You’re forged in the same fire. Have a unique understanding of what it’s like to live with that fear, yet never let it to the forefront of your mind.”
“Days like these…”
“Days like these are a test. One you passed with flying colours and neither M nor Andrews can claim otherwise. Now sleep. I promise to wake you if you’re needed, or when Alec arrives.”
“Ta, Evie.” He snuggled down into the makeshift bed, one hand clutching his mobile, the other gripping the blanket. Before she had left the room there was the soft clunk of a mobile hitting the rug.
"Ambrosia for the Quartermaster," Moneypenny smiled fondly as she placed a mug and a plate on the table near to Q's head. The heavenly twin scents of coffee and bacon roused him from his dozing. He stretched and was shocked into full wakefulness by the screaming pain in his body.
"Ok, Q? Here, take these first," dropping a couple of pills into his open palm. He swallowed them dry and snatched up the sandwich, vanishing half of it in 2 bites.
"Shouldn't have lain down. My muscles have cramped. What news of Alec?"
"Uh-uh. Eat first. Drink your coffee. Then I'll update you."
Q noted that at some point she had changed clothing and was groomed for her day. He, on the other hand, must look a wreck. Knowing he'd get nothing from her until he'd satisfied her orders, he demolished the rest of the sandwich, gulped most of the coffee, finally scooping up his mobile from the floor.
"I've been out for hours! Shite! Why didn't you wake me? Alec should be back by now. What's gone wrong? Tell me!"
"Do you seriously think I'd calmly feed you breakfast if you needed to be elsewhere? Alec is back, but still in surgery. Medical will call as soon as you can see him. I'm under orders to keep you down here until then. Give you the message that he's ‘critical, but stable'."
Q was already struggling to his feet. "I need to go up there. Don't try to stop me!" Searching around for his cane, and not finding it. "Where the...?"
"Sit! And stay! You won't make 3 steps across this room right now. Alec is in the best of hands. You making a nuisance of yourself up there won't make the surgery go any faster. Besides, Tanner tells me Andrews is lurking up there. No doubt waiting to catalogue every move you make. I'm doing this for you!"
"I'll bloody shoot the bastard! Now, give me my cane or I'll crawl on hands and knees, so help me god!" He took a tentative step, grabbed the arm of the sofa when his leg threatened to topple him. Moneypenny looked unimpressed.
Q defiantly made himself stand straight, breathing harder as he attempted to find his balance. "Cow!" he muttered under his breath. He prepared to spit more, but the brewing argument was halted with the ringing of Moneypenny's phone.
“Yes. Alright,” Moneypenny listened to whoever was on the other end of the line. “Ta Bill. I’ll tell Q.”
“Tell me what?!” Q demanded.
“Alec is out of surgery, Bill said. Still critical but they managed to stop the bleeding. Still a long way to go though.” That was all Q needed to hear and he was attempting to make his way out the door.
“And just where do you think you are going? Moneypenny quickly blocked his way.
“To see Alec! Out of my way, Moneypenny.” He tried to push around here but his footing and strength were so off that he almost toppled himself to the floor. Luckily his workstation was without a hands grab and saved him from disaster.
“I said he was out of surgery, but that doesn’t mean he is where you can see him yet. They have to get him settled,” Moneypenny ignored the numerous hand gestures that Q was throwing her way as she moved him into a more stable position. “Beside, you can’t go up there looking like you do.”
“Why the hell not?!” He was already plotting his revenge on her for keeping him in his office this long and away from seeing Alec.
“Because you look like death warmed over, that’s why. If Andrews see you like this, you know exactly what is going to happen. And you need to get our emotions under control a little better or he will assume it is from the stress and strain. He’d jump on the chance to tell Mallory you're unfit for duty. Besides Bill said he would let us know when they have Alec settled and you can see him.”
Q sighed knowing Moneypenny was right but he didn’t have to be happy about it. “What do you propose? I can see a plot forming in your head already.”
“You have clean clothing stashed here. You can shower in the men’s locker room off the gym. I’ll help. Make yourself at least look like you don’t belong in a med bed next to Alec. Give Andrews less to bitch and moan about.”
“You are not going to help me! I can manage on my own.”
“Oh Q… its not like I haven’t seen you starkers before. That time you spent half the next day but the floor of the loo at mine after we’d been out the night before…”
“You promised me we’d never bring that up again….”
“BFFs and promises about night’s out stories never seen to stand up. Besides its too good of a story to forget” Moneypenny smirked grabbing him by the elbow as he started to waver again. “And you think you don’t need help. Let’s find you something a little less homeless looking to wear, shall we love.”
Q lost the battle, as they both knew he would, and grudgingly allowed Moneypenny to accompany him to the shower stalls off the gym. Several occupants of the locker room beat a hasty retreat when she stalked in like she had every right to be there. Few would challenge her on it, and the remaining brave two ducked their heads when she raked them with her disdainful gaze.
"You are such a bitch, Moneypenny," Q smirked as he rinsed off, smoothing back his sopping wet curls into a sleek pelt.
"You say that like it's a surprise," she held out a towel for him, steadying him with her other hand when the step up from the stall challenged his aching legs. "I need to be to look after you."
Finally Q was dressed, hair looking reasonably tamed, and more colour in his cheeks than Moneypenny had seen in days. He allowed her to support his elbow as far as the lift, but as soon as the doors opened on the Medical floor he stepped out with slow determination. M and Tanner looked up from their discussion of a mission report. Andrews was nowhere to be seen, to Q's relief.
"Take a seat, Quartermaster," Mallory smiled. There was almost sympathy there. "The surgeon reported all went excellently, all things considered. 006 is receiving blood and is being made comfortable, though it may be some hours before he is conscious enough to converse."
"I'll wait right here," Q stated before his superior could direct him back to his department, the canteen, or worst of all, his flat.
"As you wish. I have a number of meetings to attend but will return later. Miss Moneypenny will assist with anything you require?" He phrased it as a question to her, and she immediately nodded. "Good. Let Tanner know if there is any significant change in Trevelyan's condition. He will relay it to me." He paused by Q's chair, awkwardly squeezed his shoulder, and retreated to conduct the business of his day.
Q sat for a while. Became uncomfortable... restless. Rose and slowly wandered the medical hallway attempting to keep himself from stiffening up. Legs ached. Back ached. But still he refused to leave.
At some point Moneypenny appeared with a wingback chair for him that was much more comfortable than anything in medical. God knows whose office she stole it from.
Then came food and drink.
Next was his laptop and a headset. “003 is coming online in Caracas in 10.” was all she said.
Time seemed to pass slowly in his wait for Alec to wake. Twice during that time Moneypenny silently slipped his pain medication into the palm of his hand with a soft smile.
Tanner brought him files to review. Nothing that seemed important or urgent, but more something to occupy his time.
Q dosed off twice in the chair. An action he regretted when he woke stiff and in pain.
Mallory even appeared just outside the doorway. Never entered or spoke. Just seemed to be checking on him.
Andrews never appeared. His absence duly noted by the Quartermaster.
Finally 8 hours and 13 minutes after he had been wheeled out of surgery, a nurse appeared at his side letting him know that Alec was stirring.
"I waited until your nannies had left you alone," she winked at him and offered her hand to help him to his feet. "I thought you'd want some time alone with him. He's been asking for you. Well, mumbling about you..."
Q checked her name tag. "Thank you, Vima. It's appreciated. How is he?"
"The doctor will be along presently to give you the full report, but in brief, he's been patched up, bullets removed, repairs made. He underwent a transfusion before surgery, and I've just set a top-up away, so don't be alarmed when you see the bag. I'll swap it out for fluids later."
Q nodded along, absorbing the extent of Alec's injuries as she walked him to the door. She stopped him just outside with a hand on his elbow. "You need to know that he was extremely lucky. I wasn't in surgery myself, but I heard they expected to lose him. Twice. I know you've been through significant physical trauma in the past, so you'll understand that his road to recovery will be challenging."
"I understand. Thanks again."
Alec's room was quiet, only the soft hush of the CPAP machine and the regular beeping of monitors disturbing the peace. A chair had been thoughtfully placed for him - more thanks due to Vima. Q sank into it gratefully, leaning his elbows on the pristine tucked sheets covering Alec from the waist down. Alec's chest was bandaged, as was his arm. Beneath the sheets, his thigh would also be.
"Never... seen … ‘attered ‘gent… before, Quartermaster?" Alec slurred, making Q jump.
"Oh my god, you're awake!"
"Glad you… said 'awake'... ‘ot alive'. Can't look… ‘hat ….shite then."
Within moments there were medical staff bustling around him checking the stats on monitors hooked up the waking agent. Q did his best to stay out of their way as they maneuvered around him checking Alec’s vital, his wounds and bandages.
“You… ‘ook ‘ike shite, Q,” Alec mumbled, blinking slowly fighting to stay awake.
“You do… go ‘ome, Q.” Alec tried to wave a hand at him to urge him to go but couldn’t muster the strength.
“Needed to stay. Had to know.” Q said quietly, trying to maintain his emotional extremes within these walls. He couldn’t afford for anyone to know just how this had all affected him. Fearful that the word would get back to M or Andrews.
His emotions went the gamut from fear to anger. Anger that Alec had basically given up out there in the field. Convinced he wasn’t going to return. Q had been just the opposite. Refusing to allow anything but Alec’s return.
An issue that they would need to talk about at some point. Not today though. Later during Alec’s recovery.
“Home Q” Alec paused, cringed and gasped. Pain obviously flaring. Q reached out and held his hand that was free of IV lines and leads. “Have ‘penny take.” He managed to order him through gritted teeth just as Vima appeared at his bedside.
He managed to get Vima’s attention, gesturing at Q with another “Home.”
Vima grinned at Q’s protests. “Save your breath, Quartermaster. I know this one well, and he’s much more amenable to staying put if he thinks he’s getting his own way. Besides,” she laid a hand on Q’s forearm and said in a low voice so Alec couldn’t hear, “Eve asked me to give you a heads up if Andrews came back into the department. Something about him poking you at times of stress...?”
Anger flared again in Q. Would the fucking psych not give him a moment to reconnect with his partner without turning it into some kind of assessment?
“Ta, Vima. I’ll just hide out in here.”
But she shook her head. “No, he’s right. You need to take a few hours to get home, shower, eat and sleep. Rest while Alec is occupied. Now he’s awake there’ll be a barrage more tests we need to do and you’ll be back in the waiting room at the mercy of Doctor Andrews.”
“Wha’ whisper’n ‘bout?” Alec demanded, “‘m ‘posed to be centre of ‘tention.”
“Arse,” Q murmured. “Bloody clumsy toddlers, all of you agents.”
A soft knock on the door announced Moneypenny’s arrival. The strain was evident around her eyes - she and Alec had become fond of each other due to her close friendship with Q - but in all other ways she was efficient and in control.
Alec waved a feeble greeting and she blew him a kiss. “Pleased to see that ugly mug of yours back with us.”
“‘ove you too, ‘penny. Look after ‘im. Bugger off an’ sleep, Q.”
Recovery had been a long and difficult process for Alec. There had been some setbacks in the first few weeks of another surgery from more repair of some internal damage that had happened. Not to mention surgery on his left leg where the bullet had struck bone doing major damage that required pins, plates, and the prospect of rehabilitation with no guarantees of how my ability he would recover.
Q had spent as much time as he could with Alec and his roller coaster moods from being stuck in medical and his slow recovery. His appointments with Andrews had turned into an ongoing conflict where Andrews is his passive aggressive way would do everything he could to poke at the Quartermaster. And Q… he did everything in his power to not give an inch to Andrews whatsoever.
Somehow, he managed to fend for himself at home with the occasional help of mother hen Moneypenny. It wasn’t easy but he struggled through it. There were days though that managing Q Branch, babysitting agents, worrying about Alec, and dealing with his own issues took their toll on him. Those days it was all he could do to get himself back to flat at night.
Today they had started Alec’s rehab, he had an appointment with Andrews, M had called him in to “chat” about how he was, and it was just one of “those days” in general, so at the end of the say when he went to visit Alec…. He was already walking a thin line.
So when the words “we need to talk about our future” came out of Alec’s mouth, it pushed him…. No abruptly shoved him across that oh so very thin line.
“Future? The future you were so ready to give up on? It didn’t end out there in the dirt, Alec. It didn’t end with your blood on the ground, and me trying to keep you with me by force of will alone. If you think for one bloody second I am going to listen now to your shite about how this will never work, you’ve lost your bloody mind!”
Q threw his tablet and stick onto the foot of Alec’s bed and awkwardly paced the room, hands waving to emphasise his fury. Now that it had bubbled up past all of the tension of the last few weeks, Q couldn’t contain it. It poured like lava over the landscape of their relationship.
“I was fucking dying, Q! I thought I was never coming home. I wanted... needed, to say-“
“Don’t fucking say it now!” Q snapped, clamping his hands over his ears in dramatic fashion. “I won’t listen to it, just like I wouldn’t accept it then. I knew you’d make it back, but you’d already given up!”
“Did you not hear what the doctors said? Did you not listen?” Alec was angry now too. Q’s outburst was accusatory. “Are you really implying I wanted to just lie down and give up? Let them kill me? Why? To what end?”
“Not wanted, no, that’s not- I don’t- fuck it, it was too real, too soon. I needed you to not say the words that meant goodbye!”
Q had run out of steam. He gripped the rail of the bed, breathing heavily, glaring at his lover, eyes shiny and wet.
“One day, Q. If not then... there will be a day to come,” Alec said wearily. He knew this conversation would be challenging but it needed to happen. He had had many hours to think on it, lying in his bed. “That’s what we need to talk about. I’m done with it.”
This was something they didn’t do. Talk about life. Talk about what was between them. Talk about future.
They lived day to day... in the moment. They didn’t plan, put things on the calendar. Life just happened. That’s how it was in the service.
You never knew what the next day would bring. Sometimes even the next hour.
“No Alec... just no...” Q stared up at the sterile white ceiling, taking a deep breath, trying to gather himself. He couldn’t allow himself to let things overflow here. Not now.
“Alec... this was me a few months ago.” He waved a shaky hand in the direction of Alec’s medical bed. “And we... we took things as then went. If someone had taken a photo of me then, no one would have ever expected me to be at work as I am now.”
“That’s because you probably shouldn’t be, you little shite. You’re so bullheaded you don’t know what's good for you.” Alec shot back at him. “We’re not invincible, Q!”
Q started to growl back at him but Alec interrupted him.
“Q! I know my limits. O’Reilly has been nothing but up front with me. We need to talk about this. I need to talk about this.”
“If you put the hard work in you can be back in the field in 2 months, maybe less.”
“And if I don’t want to? if I accept O’Reilly’s assessment, a return to active fieldwork is unlikely.”
“Of course you want to. You’re an agent. What else would you do?”
Alec shrugged and held out his hand to Q. “I have other talents. Other things I might want to accomplish.” Q allowed himself to be tugged towards the bed, scowling at Alec. “I can’t take any more knocks like this, Q, not now I have you. The risks are just too great.”
“No. Oh no. No way! You are not doing this for me, you bloody arse!”
Q tried to rise again but Alec kept him in place with a firm hand on Q’s forearm. “Not just for you. For me. For us. I’m getting too old for this shite, Q. Older and slower. Have to work twice as hard to get match fit, and never feel fully recovered between missions. I can overcome the injuries to my arm, even my chest, but my leg... we both need to face hard facts. I’m not likely to be cleared in my next physical. Or the one after that.”
Q remained silent but his expression morphed slowly into stubborn disbelief as he realised Alec may actually be serious. Alec ploughed on regardless. “This is one of those points in life where a change in direction is forced on you. I’ve had hours to think it through. I was already half considering it during your recovery, but this has hardened my resolve. It’s time to retire, Q. Time to put us first.”
He couldn’t imagine Alec seemed to be so resolved that this was his only option now. To no longer be an agent. To completely step back.
“Are you positive?”
“Q… it’s time. I thought it through. Nothing else to do lying here.” Alec reaches out a hand towards him. “I know exactly what I am doing. Might consider training young upstarts, but… I’m not made for the field anymore.”
“What if I’m not ready to step back he?” Q asked hesitantly because he knew he wasn’t. He couldn’t. He had to prove that he was still capable of being Quartermaster, it just to himself alone.
“Then we’ll figure it out.” Alec started then paused. “That is if that’s still what you want… being with me, broken body and all?”
“Oh don’t be such a drama queen, you idiot. Of course it is!” Q swatted at him.
“Hope there’s no regrets. How’s the saying go…,” Alec smirked at him, the first half smile he had seen on his face since the team had brought him back. “The couple that does physical therapy together, stays together.”
“I so hate you, Alec,” Q smirked. “What on Earth did you tell Andrews in your last session? He quizzed me for 15 minutes on the psychological impact of major injury on libido. Why are head doctors so hung up on their patients’ sex lives?”
“Probably because they are so focused on trying to find loose screws in our heads they don’t have time to get screwed themselves. Besides, I like fucking with him, and opportunities to do so are far less when you are no longer an agent.”
Alec shouldered Q’s messenger bag and waited for him to adjust his walking stick so the pair of them could limp from the doctor’s office back to Q branch.
“Fair enough. I have no love for the man.” Now stabilised, Q gestured for Alec to return his bag. “Hand it over, old man. Two months of intensive therapy and I’m still fitter than you.”
“Cheeky shite,” but Alec did so, rubbing at the ache in his shoulder. He caught Q’s concerned look and grinned. “You carry half a ton of tech crap in there. If you want to break your back, be my guest.”
Q let the subject drop. Discussion of their medical and psych appointments was limited by mutual agreement. They had to live through them, didn’t need to rehash them.
“So, first day in your new role. Ready to whip those newbies into shape?”
Alec grinned evilly as he pushed the door to Q’s office open. “Oh yes… finally I get to use my talents for good. Prepping the next team of recruits in the most effective way to cause Mallory maximum grief. Oh… sh-“
“Trevelyan. Quartermaster.” Mallory stood from behind Q’s desk. “R said you were delayed and invited me to wait here.”
“Of course, M. I apologise for my tardiness. Not as fast on my feet as I would like.”
“I suggested rocket-powered roller skates but he pooh-poohed the idea, sir.” Alec chuckled. Mallory hummed, unimpressed. “Anyway, I have somewhere I need to be, so I’ll leave you to it, Q. Sir.”
“Good luck with the new intake, Trevelyan.” Mallory gave a thin smile. “Make sure you remind them of the importance of following orders. You seemed to keep forgetting that lesson. Good to have you still on the team.”
Mallory moves out from behind Q’s desk to give him access to it. Q, as he pulled his things out of his messenger bag, recognized the look on Mallory’s face. It was the one where he was weighing his next words to sound M like but not too controversial.
“Quartermaster, should I anticipate any issues with having 00..,” he began to call him 006 but Alec was not longer an active double oh. Still extremely competent and lethal, just a tad bartered. “Trevelyan being in such close proximity on a daily basis?”
R appeared at his outer door. Alec had left it open when he had left, an indication to his team that he was fair game to interrupt.
“What?” to her and to Mallory, “No sir. Not at all.”
“Prianya is ready for you, Q.” Q turned to follow R out into the team room. Mallory followed.
“Apologies Sir. Never a quiet moment.” Q commented taking a tablet from R that she offered him. “We’ve discussed this. In depth. Repeatedly. There won’t be an issues.”
“I expect professionalism from you two within these walls.”
“Well, I assume Sir, that Alec is going to have his hands full harassing the newbies.”
“Well that seems to be a successful beginning already.” Tanner appeared out of nowhere, the ever present shadow that he was. “Off to a brilliant start with the new recruits.” Tanner chuckled, shaking his head.
“Within the first five minutes, Trevelyan had threatened them with the Quartermaster, Moneypenny, and had moved onto “Let’s talk about explosives… Be forewarned Q. He’s taking them on a tour so the herd will appear here soon.”
And true to Tanner’s uncanny predictably 45 minutes later Alec appeared at the doors with a group of 10 prospective agents in tow. Q was occupied on the comms with 003 who has just checked in from New York. R stepped in to give them an overview of the workings of Q Branch.
Half listening to the tour guide’s rambling, Q overhears Alec telling them at one point, “No, the skinny shaggy haired boffin over there is the Quartermaster. Don’t let his appearance fool you…I made the mistake of...”
“Which you won’t make again, Agent Trevelyan.” Q comments loud enough to be heard by the room before turning his attention back to 003 who is overly chatty about his airport adventure.
“Yes Quartermaster,” Alec smirks beginning to herd the new upstarts along to their next destination. He pauses for a moment though, “Don't ever forget youngsters that while you are out in the field this Branch is working behind the scenes just as hard… to bring you home... for Queen and Country…”
And catching Q’s eye just briefly before the door closes behind them as the leave “and for who belong to them.”