While Eliot distracted Bond outside the pub, Parker, Alec, and Will exited the pub by the back door, walked half a block to their vehicle, and headed back home.
Parker had appreciated that element of the plan when Will mentioned it earlier that morning, “Good detail,” she’d said approvingly as Alec and Eliot ate their breakfasts.
Will shrugged. “It’s what I do. Did.”
“What do we need to know about this agent,” asked Eliot.
Will gave them a brief description of Bond’s skills and personality.
“And how far do you trust him?” asked Parker.
Will shrugged again. “As far as I’d trust any senior agent. We’ll be cautious, but I couldn’t leave Bond thinking I’m dead because of him. He’s infamously loyal and I just saved his life. He’d be unpredictably dangerous without reassurance.”
“More dangerous than Eliot?” asked Alec.
Will looked at Eliot, “Sorry, I don’t think you could take him in a fight.” He paused. “Though I wouldn’t lay money on him taking you in a fight either.”
Eliot gave Will a subtle smile and a nod.
“We haven’t had much interaction with MI6,” said Parker. “How would they compare with the CIA?”
“CIA is larger but there’s quite a bit of overlap in skillsets. We’re playing the same game, different teams,” said Will. Then he shook his head. “That’s not the best metaphor. We’re generally on the same side so it doesn’t usually work out that one loses in order for the other to win. But there’s still some friendly rivalry.
“There’s a joke we told at six when they messed something up for us: How do we know the CIA wasn’t behind the Kennedy assassination?” Eliot snorted and grinned at Will while Alec and Parker looked blank. “Heard that one, have you?” Will asked grinning back.
Alec and Parker turned to look at Eliot. “One of you going to explain?” asked Alec.
Will gestured be my guest to Eliot.
“We know the CIA wasn’t behind it,” explained Eliot, “because he’s actually dead.”
“Exploding cigars!” said Will. “Their idea of an assassination attempt, against a head of state, was exploding cigars.”
“Don’t forget the thallium salts in, what was it, his socks?” said Eliot.
“Shoes,” said Will. “To make his beard fall out 1. I had managed to forget. Damn you.” He shook his head as Eliot smirked at him. “I probably shouldn’t trivialize it, they’re formidable and we may hear from them soon. But they don’t always play well with MI6, and that could be to our advantage.”
Parker grinned. “Do you know anything else about the Kennedy assassination?”
“You’re just baiting me now,” said Will.
Parker blinked innocently.
“Did you set this up too?” Will asked Alec suspiciously.
“It’s a good rant,” said Alec. “Parker. Say ‘magic bullet’.”
Parker grinned as Eliot rolled his eyes. “Magic bullet.”
“Grassy knoll,” said Alec.
“Fuck you both,” said Will.
“Eliot has a rant too,” said Parker. “I want to hear yours to compare.”
Will and Eliot shared a look. Eliot shrugged and Will sighed.
“Right,” said Will. “Oswald was a US Army trained sniper who consistently scored above 95 percent accuracy at twice the range of the shots fired at your president. To suggest that it was somehow inconceivable that he could make the shot is ludicrous and frankly, insulting both to the US Military in general and to Army snipers in particular. His target was unfortunate, there’s nothing unbelievable about his success.”
Parker smirked. “Yep. That’s what Eliot says too,” she said.
Will rolled his eyes and shared another look with Eliot who shrugged again.
“Anyway. We good on the plan?” asked Alec. Everyone nodded. “Good. Then I’m taking Will hardware shopping.”
Once they got back from their meeting with Bond, Alec and Will had sprawled together on the couch. Will readily admitting to himself that he was seeking contact and comfort. Alec had been right the day before; he was hopelessly touch-starved.
“You know bokkie… I’m a bit jealous of your agent,” said Alec in his South African accent.
Will looked puzzled. “Oh? Oh—the fuel-air explosion noises?”
“No,” said Alec returning to his normal voice and suppressing a grin, “Though I do want to watch that video.”
Will rolled his eyes, “You want to watch me watch that video.”
“It could be both,” insisted Alec. “No, I’m jealous because he’s heard you DJ more recently than I have.”
“God, he looked so out of place,” said Will. “I used it as an excuse to play the Imperial March though, so there’s that.”
“You played Darth Vader’s theme for him? Now I’m really jealous.”
“I thought it would be funny.”
Parker leaned over the back of the couch and cocked her head at them, “What’s ‘bokkie’?” she asked.
“It’s an endearment,” said Will, “In Afrikaans.”
As Alec simultaneously said, “Little goat.”
Parker made an amused face and retreated.
Eliot returned and after greeting the three of them, reported that he’d be meeting Bond the next morning. He and Parker exchanged a look and retreated to another room.
Once they were gone, Will tapped Alec’s chest. “Something is bothering you, I can tell,” he said.
“Yeah,” said Alec. “I wasn’t sure how to bring it up.”
Will looked up at Alec, “You already knew everything I told Bond, so I’m at a bit of a loss as to what it might be. Was it when he told me what’s going on at MI6 and mentioned ‘collateral damage’?”
Alec shook his head, “He clearly scored a hit there and if you want to talk about that at some point, we should. But that wasn’t it.”
“That story about your coworker.”
“Moneypenny?” asked Will in mild surprise. Alec nodded. “What about it?”
“You thought it was funny,” said Alec.
“I thought it had—potential. You didn’t?”
Alec looked at Will levelly. “I know you’ve been sedated without your consent before,” said Alec. “I don’t expect you to laugh at that. And I didn’t expect you to think I would either.”
“But this was completely different…” Will began and then stopped. “Shit. It isn’t, is it?”
Alec shook his head. “Normal inside MI6 isn’t normal Will,” he said.
“Fuck,” said Will. “How can I even tell?”
“Would you have allowed her to do that to one of your people?” asked Alec.
“Absolutely not,” said Will. “Not as the first response. Maybe, maybe as a last resort if someone was actively endangering themselves or others.” He sighed. “We have protocols for that of course.”
“That might be a start at a rational standard,” said Alec.
Will stiffened. “Alec, by any rational standard I’m a mass murderer. And I don’t…”
Alec interrupted. “Will, that’s probably something we should talk about too, but I need to point out that you’re deflecting from the topic at hand by accusing yourself of war crimes.”
Will blinked. “You’re less distractible too,” he said.
“Wrangling obstreperous con artists will do that,” said Alec blandly, mimicking Will’s phrase from the previous day. “I know how much you needed to leave. How close she came to ruining your plan. I know you couldn’t show her you were angry. Or frightened. You had to appear rational, you had to appease her, after she violated your trust and while you feared for your life.”
“I wasn’t… Fear for my life is overstating...”
“How many times have you said you weren’t certain you’d leave MI6 alive?” asked Alec. “Just because you got used to the feeling doesn’t mean it wasn’t the case.” He sighed. “It was probably a defense mechanism.”
Will had been holding himself rigid and tense since the conversation started and he let himself relax and cling to Alec. “I wanted desperately to be angry with her. But I was terrified I’d ruin everything.”
“And that was an amusing anecdote to tell a mutual co-worker?” asked Alec, voice soft. He’d pulled Will closer and was watching him intently.
“Another defense mechanism?” said Will.
“That I’ll buy,” said Alec. “As long as we’re clear on how fucked up that was.”
“It seems, in the scheme of things, to be a very small fucked up thing in the midst of many much more fucked up things,” said Will. “A minor betrayal of trust among other much larger ones.”
“Your agent had a couple things to say when you excused yourself.”
“Always a joy to be psychoanalyzed in absentia,” muttered Will, stiffening again. “I suppose I ought to have predicted that.”
“It wasn’t like that,” Alec assured him.
Will just snorted.
“He said he couldn’t claim to be normal but that field agents do interact with normal people sometimes. That he didn’t recognize you here. That you reminded him of someone who’d been undercover too long.”
“The problem with spies is they’re observant,” said Will. He sighed. “He’s not exactly wrong. You mentioned yesterday the need to rest after carrying a burden. I’m not even sure where to begin.”
“Can I ask when the last time you talked to a therapist was?” asked Alec.
“Four, no, five weeks ago,” said Will. He felt Alec relax slightly and Will snorted. “You thought it had been months or longer didn’t you?”
Alec nodded. “I was afraid of that, yes.”
“I’m not completely incapable of taking care of myself,” said Will, poking Alec in the ribs. “Promise.”
Alec nodded. “We’ll talk about the other items another time. I’ll check-in every couple days and see if you’re ok to continue.”
“I trusted her,” said Will.
“I took the food she gave me because I trusted her good intentions. She was genuinely worried about me,” said Will. “I didn’t account for that being the thing that could ruin the plan. It made it much more troubling. We were friendly.”
“But not friends?”
“Not quite,” said Will. “Close enough that I let her tease me about not flying.”
“This is not endearing her to me,” said Alec. “I can’t imagine…”
“Because you know what it means, she didn’t,” said Will. “Which was its own sort of comforting in a way. Maybe that’s broken too. But you learned to accept my physical scars, I could pretend she’d done the same with the one you still hesitate to poke at.”
“I’m not sure I would ever be able to do that,” said Alec.
“Not asking you to. I’m aware it may not make sense.”
Eliot and Parker reappeared from wherever they’d gone to. Parker fixed herself a snack and she and Eliot curled up on the other end of the couch from where Alec and Will sat.
“You know you did a lot of good there, right?” asked Alec.
“For someone’s definition maybe,” said Will. “You realize that, if anything, I underestimated my body count when I was talking to Bond.”
“Did you ever count the lives you saved?” asked Alec. “Improved body armor, safer working conditions for your staff, reduced collateral damage, better equipment and intel in the field?”
Will shook his head. He glanced over at Eliot who gave him a sympathetic look.
“Those mean something too,” said Alec.
“Yeah,” said Will noncommittally.
Eliot began getting up, “I should start dinner soon,” he said with a meaningful look toward Will.
“Need some help?” asked Will. He disentangled himself from Alec. “I could use a simple, productive task about now.”
“Sure,” said Eliot. “Help with prep would be welcome.”
Parker and Alec shared glances of their own with Eliot and excused themselves. Will watched. He was still outside that channel of communication, but he thought, perhaps not for long.
Eliot got ingredients out and they both began the work of prepping the meal.
“I know he means well,” said Will eventually. “Alec has seen the data. I’m not convinced he’s thought through what it means. Who I am,” he said.
“He’s seen the data,” said Eliot. “But he’s still a civilian.”
“While we both know it isn’t a ledger where debits and credits cancel each other out,” said Eliot. Neither had looked up from their tasks.
“I suppose you know,” said Will after a long pause. “How many.”
“I do,” said Eliot. He put the garlic, ginger, and shallots he’d chopped into small dishes.
Will passed him a bowl of cut vegetables. “I don’t,” he said.
Eliot set down his knife and turned toward Will.
“There’s a definitely number,” said Will. “Then there’s a probably number and a maybe number. Any combination is too many.”
“Sophie asked me, what the last three years had cost me.”
“She’s observant,” said Eliot.
“She is,” Will agreed. “I’d made a decision that I’d do whatever it took to keep agents safe. Even after four years’ service, I didn’t quite realize what that would mean at MI6,” said Will. “Without ever leaving central London, I’m a ridiculously effective killer. But I can’t quite say I regret it. Because I somehow justified every one of them. It was all in service of protecting others. Or at least, that’s what I told myself so I could sleep at night.”
“I haven’t always had that to comfort myself with,” said Eliot. He started cutting meat into strips to be stir fried while Will measured rice and started the rice cooker.
“I know,” said Will. “I read your files, back when Alec met you.”
“Deciding whether I was a threat?”
“Something like that.”
“And if I had threatened or hurt him?” asked Eliot.
“I wouldn’t have hesitated to kill you,” said Will.
Eliot nodded. “And how much danger are you putting him in now?”
Will sighed and shifted his weight. “More than I would have chosen. I’d intended to disappear. He refused to help unless the plan ended with me here. And I couldn’t do this without his assistance.”
“Sounds like him,” said Eliot. “Your leg is hurting again.”
“Still,” Will admitted. “I got distracted and stopped hiding it.”
“Would you tell me why you really hide it?” asked Eliot. “Not the joke you told Bond.”
Will considered this for a moment, then nodded. “Most of the people I worked with are trained to identify and exploit weaknesses to the point that it’s instinctive. They can’t stop themselves. Add that to the typical ableist bullshit I catch when people know and the fact that the circumstances were classified? It would’ve made my job much harder for no good reason.”
“You have a plan for dealing with the pain?”
“Seeing a prosthetist next week. I contacted her a while ago. ‘Moving to the US, looking to replace an aging prosthesis, are you taking new patients?’ I should stop wearing this one, I can’t get a proper fit if I have sores or inflammation.”
“I’ve got things from here if you want to do that,” said Eliot.
Will nodded. “Thanks.”
“And if at some point, you want to ditch the other two for a night and get very drunk? Let me know.”
“I’ll almost certainly take you up on that,” said Will.
After supper, they lounged on the couch again, Will resting against Alec on one end. Parker and Eliot tangled together on the other. Parker had asked about their necklace and they’d agreed to explain.
“It started as a game,” said Alec.
“Alec named it, ‘Free will versus determinism’,” said Will.
“Then Will made the rules, one person attempts to make the decisions the other would make for themselves,” said Alec. Parker and Eliot looked—puzzled.
“For example,” said Will, “If we visit Nana and Alec is wearing the necklace, we have supper the first night at Jon’s Hamburgers and I order him a jumbo chili cheeseburger, fries, and a chocolate malt. Because that’s where we’d go and what he’d order if he had free will.”
“And if Will wants more tea this evening,” said Alec, “I make a pot of oolong because he’s more likely to drink that than black tea later in the day.”
Will turned to smile at Alec, “Spot on,” he said.
“And,” continued Alec. “He’s already decided he’ll happily sleep with both of you eventually. But it may be a while before that happens. He’s pretty touch starved right now and doesn’t want to come across as needy.”
“Oh we’re playing it that way, are we?” said Will. He glanced at Alec who made a ‘be my guest’ gesture. “Alec will be ambivalent about me sleeping with either or both of you. It might look like he’s being possessive, which isn’t it, we’ve never been particularly monogamous. It’s actually that he’s feeling very protective and is concerned I might be emotionally fragile right now.”
“Not might be,” said Alec softly. “Are.”
“Am,” conceded Will. He sighed and leaned back against Alec again.
Parker squinted at them suspiciously. “Do you two share a brain when you’re this close together? Is that what this is?”
Alec said ‘yes’ at the same moment Will said ‘no’. They exchanged a look and turned back toward her with identical smirks. “Maybe,” they said in unison.
Parker rolled her eyes. “You said it started as a game,” she said. “But it isn’t a game now.”
“There’s always a bit of the game left,” said Will. “But not only a game.”
Alec nodded in agreement. “It means… ‘Let me take care of things until you can cope again.’”
“Or ‘I’ll worry about that for you’,” said Will.
“I’ve got you,” said Alec.
“You can let go,” said Will.
As they’d spoken, they curled up more closely together. Will rested his head on Alec’s shoulder. And Alec pulled Will closer and rubbed his cheek against Will’s hair.
“So how long do you wear it?” asked Eliot.
“We don’t always know,” said Alec.
Will nodded. “The longest I’ve worn it was six—no—seven weeks.”
“After the plane crash?” asked Eliot.
“Yes,” said Will.
“And I once wore it for nearly three weeks,” said Alec.
“What happened?” asked Parker.
Will nodded toward Alec. “He broke his wrist while we were living together in London.”
“We were lucky you were mostly back on your feet by then,” said Alec.
“We were,” said Will. “The kittens thought his cast was the best scratch toy ever. They were both confused and devastated when he got it removed.”
“Is that the cats you left behind?” asked Parker.
“That’s them,” said Will. “Chimera and Gryphon. Alec got them for me. I picked two out of the litter on my birthday and adopted them after I got out of hospital.”
“Furry little monsters,” said Alec fondly.
“I miss them,” said Will. “But my co-worker’s twins have been posting pictures of their new ‘fuzzies’ on Instagram. They’re clearly well loved, but I think they’re slightly baffled by children. They haven’t encountered many small humans before.”
Parker nodded. “Do you want glitter on your popcorn again?” she asked in a blatant show of changing-the-subject-before-you-get-too-sad.
“No thank you,” said Will with a smirk. “I think Alec would prefer if I didn’t tonight.”
“All I said was there are places glitter doesn’t belong,” said Alec.
“No idea what you’re talking about,” said Will, grinning. “What are we watching?”
“Parker requested Maleficent,” said Eliot.
Will turned to Alec, “Do you have a list of movies I haven’t seen that you’re picking from?”
“We do,” said Alec.
“Do I get a turn at some point?”
“Sure, but only after Eliot’s.”
This time, the three men sat closer together to watch with Will in the middle. Parker started out draped along the back of the couch and across their shoulders. Eventually she migrated into their laps and lounged there for the rest of the movie.
“How much company would you like tonight?” asked Parker after the credits rolled.
Will hesitated again.
Parker patted Will’s leg. “Just cuddling is fine. But if you’re as touch starved as Hardison says, three could be better than one.”
“It could,” said Will. “I’d be willing try. Can’t promise I’ll be comfortable with that just yet.”
Parker looked meaningfully at their current cuddle pile.
“No promise required,” said Eliot. “Anything we need to know?”
Will and Alec exchanged a look and Will nodded. “I have—scars—you don’t need to avoid them when you touch me, but please don’t linger on them.”
Parker and Eliot nodded.
“Anything else?” asked Parker.
Will shook his head.
Alec cleared his throat, raising his eyebrows and blinking at Will. “And?” he prompted.
“I didn’t think that would be likely to come up tonight,” said Will.
Alec shrugged and Parker and Eliot waited.
Will sighed. “It’s a bad idea to try to pick me up off my feet with no warning,” he said eventually.
“Because he’ll attempt to punch you in the throat,” said Alec cheerfully.
“I remain very desperately sorry about that,” said Will.
“I know,” said Alec. “And warnings are good so no one has to repeat my error.”
“Cornflakes, peat bogs, and gas tanks,” Will mumbled. He was lying on his side, ‘little spoon’ to Alec’s big. Parker and Eliot were facing them and both looked—perplexed. Alec had mentioned to them that Will talked nonsense in his sleep sometimes, this was their first opportunity to witness it.
Alec grinned. “What was that Will?” he asked softly.
“Cornflakes, peat bogs, and gas tanks,” Will mumbled again.
“Sounds like a riddle,” said Alec. “Want me to guess the answer or should we let Parker and Eliot play too?”
“Parker will know,” said Will. “And Eliot understands both of you, so he’ll get it too.” He nodded sleepily, eyes closed, then snickered. “But he’ll roll his eyes.”
Parker was giggling silently and Eliot had, in fact, rolled his eyes.
“But you’re not quite right,” said Alec.
“Hmm?” asked Will.
“I have personally seen Parker put glitter on corn flakes,” said Eliot.
“That’s all wrong,” Will insisted. “Popcorn is a far superior glitter substrate than cornflakes.”
“I’ll agree that glitter doesn’t belong in peat bogs or gas tanks,” said Parker solemnly. “But we’ll have to agree to disagree with regard to the cornflakes.”
“If we must,” Will sighed in sleepy disgust. “Corn-flavored glitter milk.” He rolled over, buried his face in Alec’s shoulder and began to snore softly.
Alec grinned down at Will and then waved his hand toward Will and mouthed See? What did I tell you?
Eliot nodded and Parker mouthed, Yes, very cute.
Parker scooted closer to curl up around Will, and Eliot adjusted closer to her.
Alec smiled at them, warm and pleased. “Thank you,” he whispered. He reached over Will to rest his hand on Parker’s side and Eliot placed his hand on top of Alec’s.
“Of course,” said Parker.
“Get some sleep,” said Eliot.