Bond picked up the file from Mallory’s desk, and wondered how long it would take him to get used to this new M. His
M had been with him from the start. She’d meant more to him than he’d care to admit, and it seemed a bit like cheating to take orders from the person who’d taken her place. But she’d always taught him that the job came first, so he focused on the pages in front of him, and listened to the current M telling him about an international summit he would be attending in two weeks time. They were concerned about a possible assassination attempt on one of the diplomats, and he was being sent to make sure the attempt never came to fruition.
Once he’d gotten the details, he took the file and left M’s office.
“Getting back into the field?” Moneypenny asked, gesturing to the file he was holding.
“I can’t seem to stay away.” He gave her a charming smile, and was about to ask her out for drinks, when M came out of his office, glaring at his cell phone.
“Have you been able to get in touch with Q yet?” he asked Moneypenny.
“No, sir. I’ve tried calling, texting, and emailing. He’s simply not responding.”
“Is there a problem?” James asked.
M sighed, and gave his agent an appraising glance before answering. “After Silva hacked our system, Q decided to move all of our computers to a new location. He’s been working day and night to set up a whole new system with so many safety features, that I’m not sure our own agents will be able to get into it without his assistance.”
Bond smirked at the mental image of Q fussing over his new computer system.
Shaking his head, M continued, “The new system is supposed to be online by the end of the day today, and most of Q’s staff told me that it was ready to be booted up yesterday, but Q keeps saying it’s not ready. This morning I arrived at five o’clock, and found him in yesterday’s clothes, practically asleep at his desk. When I asked if the system was online, he told me again that it wasn’t ready. I told him he should go home, have a shower, and get some sleep so he could start the system this afternoon with fresh eyes. He had the audacity to try and argue with me, so I ordered him to leave the office and told him he wasn’t allowed back until noon at the earliest.” He looked at the clock at the wall. “Now it’s almost four hours past, and he’s nowhere to be found. Some of the other staff have offered to start up the system, but without Q here, I’m afraid that might be disastrous.”
“He’s probably still asleep,” James said.
“No,” M disagreed. “Since the hack, Q has been…”
“A bit neurotic?” Moneypenny suggested.
“A bit,” M agreed.
Turning to James she said, “He’s so determined to foresee every possible breach in the computer’s security that he’s been practically living here. I don’t know when, or if, he’s found the time to eat or sleep. The fact that he wasn’t back in the office five minutes before noon to check over his system is cause for concern.”
“Do you want me to go fetch him?” James asked.
“Try him one more time,” M told Moneypenny.
While Moneypenny dialed the number, M took James aside and said, “Q isn’t a field agent, and he’s never seen combat, so I tried to be patient and understanding after the attack. But maybe that was the wrong approach. He is
a Millennial after all, and in my experience they’ve had entirely too much patience and understanding, and not enough structure or accountability. So if he’s not asleep or ill, then my guess is that he’s having a sulk over being sent home.”
“Still no answer,” Moneypenny said.
With a curt nod, M said to James, “Bring him in. Call me if something is genuinely wrong, but if not, bring him in, even if he’s kicking and screaming the whole way.”
“With pleasure,” James said with a grin.
“Give him the address,” M said to Moneypenny as he walked back to his office.
She scribbled it on a sticky note, but instead of handing it to James she said quietly, “Promise me you’ll at least try to reason with him before you take stronger measures.”
“Do you have a soft spot for our Quartermaster, Miss Moneypenny?” he asked with a smile.
“Well, he the youngest Quartermaster in MI6 history, and…” She lowered her voice and whispered, “The day after M died, I saw Q looking over the footage of the escape. He didn’t know I was there, but I overheard him muttering that he might as well have pulled the trigger himself.” She raised an eyebrow and added, “You’re the one who said some agents aren’t meant to be out in the field. It’s not his fault that the field came to him.”
He held out his hand for the note and said, “I promise not to be overly harsh with him.”
“Thank you, James.” She handed him the note.
# # #
Twenty minutes later James was knocking on the door to Q’s flat.
The surprise on Q’s face after he opened the door was almost comical. Disheveled was the word that came to Bond’s mind as he gave the younger man a critical once over. There were dark circles under his eyes, his hair wasn’t brushed, there was stubble on his face, and he was wearing pajamas.
“007?” Q asked with surprise as he pushed his glasses further up on his nose.
“May I come in?”
Still looking confused, Q opened the door wider. Once James stepped in, Q shut the door behind him.
“Are you ill?” James asked, as he took a look around. Two cats were curled up together on the couch lying on top of what looked like a pile of laundry. Take away containers littered the kitchen counters, and the kitchen table was entirely covered in computers, monitors, and wires.
“Yes, ill. Retching? Head cold? Some other ailment?”
“No,” Q answered, still clearly confused.
“Then why aren’t you at work?”
Q looked at his watch and muttered, “I didn’t realize what time it was.”
James walked over to look at the three computer screens on Q’s kitchen table. “Why not?” he asked, “What are you up to?”
“I thought it best to test my skills before we turn the system on.”
After taking a look at the screens, James glanced back over his shoulder, raised an eyebrow and said, “You’ve hacked the local police?”
Q nodded and gestured to his computers, “One of several hacks I’ve done today on both local and distant government agencies. I need to know how to get in their systems, so I can make sure our system doesn’t have the same flaws.”
“And you’re not doing this at the office because?”
Q’s eyes darted around nervously.
“This isn’t sanctioned is it?” James asked.
“Right.” James stood up, straightened his jacket, and said, “Shut it down and get dressed. We’re going into the office. “
James just stared at the younger man for a few seconds. “Why do you think I’m here?”
“Because you need a favor?”
“You need help with a mission?” he guessed.
“No, I’m here because you’re my mission today.”
“I’m your… what?”
“M sent me to fetch you. You need to stop worrying about what might happen, and get the new computer system up and running so you can deal with whatever actually does happen.”
Q blinked a few times, and then a glare of monumental proportions crossed his face. “Are you seriously telling me that you’ve been sent over here for the express purpose of rounding me up like some errant schoolboy? I’ve been working non-stop since the day we captured Silva, I’ve been running on less that four hours sleep a night, and now I’m not allowed to take four or five hours off to make certain nothing will go wrong before I start up the new system?”
“An errant schoolboy sounds about right,” James muttered. “I’m sure M wouldn’t object to you taking a few more hours off, as long as you told him what you were up to. But instead you’ve decided to have a fit of temper.”
Q crossed his arms, and if looks could kill, James would be dead. “A fit of temper?” he said between clenched teeth.
Bond gestured to the computers. “Unsanctioned hacking, not answering your phone or responding to emails, clearly not sleeping and showering as you were meant to be doing with your forced time off. What would you call it?”
“Get out,” Q said, shaking with anger as he pointed towards his door.
James shook his head. “I don’t think you fully understand the severity of your situation. I was ordered to bring you in. The term ‘even if he’s kicking and screaming’ was used.”
Q stopped pointing, and visibly swallowed as he re-crossed his arms.
“Now you’re getting it,” James said with a nod. “I personally don’t mind a little kicking and screaming while I’m doing my job, but I promised Moneypenny that I wouldn’t be harsh, so…” James pointed at the computers. “Shut it down, shower, get dressed, and come with me willingly, or I’ll have to get creative.”
Q lost all semblance of control and yelled, “I am your Quartermaster! I’m the Quartermaster for all the agents at MI6! You have no authority over me, and if M wants me to come in, he can bloody well fetch me himself!”
James sighed, and said, “Kicking and screaming it is.” He’d had plenty of time on the drive over to plan for this possibility. Everything that M and Moneypenny had told him about the situation only furthered his own natural inclination to treat Q as an overgrown child rather than the man he actually was. He grabbed Q by the upper arm, pulled him towards the kitchen table, and turned one of the chairs around to face away from the table.
“What the hell do you think you’re doing!” Q yelled as he tried yanking his arm away from James.
“You’ve decided to throw a paddy, so I’m responding in kind.” James sat and quickly tossed Q over his lap.
Q shrieked, and both of his cats darted to the back bedroom to hide.
Wrapping his arm around Q’s waist, James cinched him up against his torso to hold the younger man in place before starting to slap his backside with the flat of his hand.
Q started struggling immediately. “Ah! Have you gone mad? Stop! James, Stop!” He kicked, squirmed, and pushed on Bond’s thigh with his hands to get away, but nothing worked. “You can’t fucking do this to me! Ow! I’m not a child! You have no right! I’ll report you! Ow! Have you declared unfit for duty! James!” When none of his threats and demands even slowed James down, Q used his limited hand to hand combat training, slammed his elbow back into Bond’s ribcage as hard as he could, and heard the older man grunt in pain. “Fuck off!” he added for good measure.
James paused in his assault on Q’s backside long enough to yank the pajama pants down.
Gasping in shock, Q stilled for just a moment as the humiliation of the situation sank in. He was now bare-assed across another man’s lap for a smacking because he’d lost his temper.
Taking advantage of Q’s temporary calm, James readjusted his grip, and said calmly, “The longer you fight me, the longer this lasts. And if you dig your elbow into me again, I’ll cuff your hands behind your back with my belt.” He raised his arm again and started spanking the already pink rear end over his knee.
“Owww!” Q’s body involuntarily tried to squirm away from the increased pain, but he was smart enough to stop actively trying to fight. “Fine!” he said, hanging his head. “You win! I’ll go with you!” When the sharp slaps didn’t stop, Q yelled, “James! I said I’ll go with you!”
“Yes, I heard you.” James said, continuing the spanking.
“Then why are you still smacking me?!”
James heard Q’s voice crack, and realized that the younger man was close to tears. He was a bit surprised that it had happened so soon, but he knew the pending tears weren’t from the pain he was inflicting. They were from the guilt, the lack of sleep, and the self-imposed stress.
Speaking up to be heard over the smacks, James said, “Because someone needs to straighten you out, before you spiral any further down this self-destructive path.”
“I don’t need straightening out!” Q protested, and weakly renewed his struggles by kicking his legs a few times and pushing at the chair to get off James’ lap. In response Bond moved his hand down and focused all of his attention on Q’s sit spots.
“Oww!” After a few seconds of that Q couldn’t take it. He tossed his hand back to try and cover his ass, and during the pause in spanking he begged. “Please, James, please stop! I’m sorry, okay? I’m all straightened out. No more self-destructive behavior! I swear!”
James heard a few sniffles in between the begging, and saw Q wipe at his face with his free hand. Deciding Q was in the right frame of mind now to actually hear what he had to say, James loosened his grip marginally. He used his spanking hand to push Q’s hand away from his behind, as he said, “Put your hand down, we’re nearly done.”
When Q put his hand back on the kitchen floor and left it there, James said quietly, “No one expects you to be perfect.”
“What?” Q asked, looking back over his shoulder.
“Even the most highly trained agent isn’t perfect. We all make mistakes. Expecting perfection from yourself isn’t realistic. No one blames you for the hack. No one blames you for M’s death. And as long as you’re trying your best, no one is going to blame you if this new system has some flaws once it gets up and running.”
Q kept quiet while thinking that over and turned his eyes back to the floor in front of him.
James continued, “But I don’t consider staying up all hours, living off take away, hacking other agencies, and refusing to follow M’s direct orders as trying your best.”
“You’re right,” Q said softly. “I’m sorry.”
“In a minute I’m going to let you up, and you’re going to shut down the hack you’ve got going. Then you’re going to shower, get dressed, and let me take you to the office, where you will turn on your new system.”
“Yes, I will.” Q nodded in agreement.
“Then at exactly eight o’clock tonight, I’ll be back to pick you up.”
Q’s head whipped back around. “What? Why?”
“Because you’re not going to work all night long again. I’m going to bring you home, force a decent meal in you, and put you to bed no later than ten.”
“That’s completely unnecessary,” Q said, sounding almost argumentative again.
“I disagree.” James tightened his grip again. “And if you give me once ounce of trouble about it, I’m going to decide you need another trip over my knee before bed on top of the twenty more smacks you’ve still got coming.”
“Twenty more? But… Ow!” Q whined. “Why twenty more?”
“Punishment for your recent behavior, and if I don’t think you’re contrite, I might decide you need more than twenty.”
Over the next couple of minutes, James slowly dished out the last twenty, making each harsh whack count. He knew the slow pace would be torturous. But James wanted the younger man to be fully focused on the fact that he was being punished in this moment, so that he could get past all of his bottled up guilt.
The anticipation of each strike made Q squirm and whine. He yelped loudly as each blow landed, and apologized repeatedly while trying not to break down into noisy crying. The stray tears that he had to keep wiping off his face were embarrassing enough.
Once all twenty smacks had been given, James took his arm off Q’s waist, and tapped his back. “All done. Up you go.”
Q awkwardly stood up, and immediately pulled his pajama bottoms up over his very sore behind. James stood as well, and held a hand up in front of Q’s face. He ticked off a finger for each thing he said. “Stop the current hack. Shower. Get dressed. And be ready to leave in twenty minutes.”
Nodding rapidly, Q rushed to the computer to do as he’d been told.
James started tidying up the flat while Q was in the shower. When the younger man came out ready for work, he looked much more like himself. James nodded in approval and moved towards the front door.
“Wait,” Q said.
With his hand still on the doorknob, James paused and looked back at Q.
After fidgeting for a few seconds, Q said quietly, “You’re not going to tell M about… any of this, are you?”
“Are you worried that I’ll tell him you were hacking other agencies without permission, or that I had to smack your bum to get you to behave?”
Groaning in humiliation, Q hid his face in his hands, and muttered, “Both. Please don’t tell him.”
Taking pity on the younger man, James walked over, put a hand on his shoulder, and gave him a comforting squeeze. “This stays between us. No one else needs to know.”
Q looked up at him, with hope in his expression.
James patted his shoulder and let his hand drop. “Just remember that I have no qualms about doing this again should your behavior warrant it.”
Quickly shaking his head, Q said, “It won’t. Not ever.”
“Excellent.” James moved to the door and opened it. “Shall we? You have a lot to get done before eight o’clock.”
“Right,” Q said with a pout. The deadline James had given him seemed unreasonable, but he wasn’t about to disagree, especially with the threat of another possible spanking looming over his head. Instead he followed James out, locked the door to his flat, and tried not to wince at the thought of sitting in a car for the next twenty minutes.
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