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Double Life

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Strange was not the best word to describe the way James was acting. He was a double oh after all and acting strange was their own normalcy, so Alec took no issue with the fact that his friend’s eyes subtly drifted towards the door no matter where they were when it was opened or that his hand automatically went to his side whenever they were in a situation outside of a mission in which it looked like things would get deadly because he himself did that. No, because all agents did that. But the way James was acting was… disconcerting to say the least.

 

“Want to come with me to the pub to unwind?” Alec offered for the 43rd time in the past three months, hoping to lose the bet he had with himself about how he was going to get shot down once again with an obvious lie.

 

But he knew that wouldn’t be the case by the tell-tale wristwatch check followed by the same small smile James flashed him right before rejecting. “Wish I could, Alec,” the well-rehearsed lie started as usual, “but I really got a thing I need to deal with first.”

 

“Of course you do,” Alec muttered, face hurting from the fake smile he had on. “We’ll see each other for lunch as usual, right?” He said louder when James threw him a questioning look. “Do you want to mix it up a little and I pick you up from—?”

 

“No, just text me where you want to meet and I’ll come there directly,” James interrupted him, missing the disappointed look he received due to the fact that he was busy checking the duffle bag always seemed to appear out of nowhere – and disappear just as magically. “Let’s shoot for four this time; I’m pretty sure I won’t be late this time.”

 

He always picked that hour and he always sort of promised not to be late, and he always showed up at least 15 minutes late, wearing the same suit as the night before. “How about we make a fifty quid bet on that? Or, if you’re really confident, your shiny new Aston?” Yes, he was beyond annoyed with the man and yes, he now officially sucked at hiding it, but this was him trying to motivate his friend into not making him think that he had sold them out.

 

James gently bumped his shoulder, chuckling. “So my internal clock is off by a bit during our downtime, but you can’t really complain about it as I haven’t yet been late to saving your ass in the nick of time.”

 

That ‘yet’ was what gave Alec nightmares from which he woke up screaming and in cold sweat, his entire body shaking for ten good minutes before he managed to anchor himself back in reality and convince himself that James really wasn’t there, holding a smoking gun and grinning down at his bleeding form. “You pointing that out only means that you don’t want to risk this beauty,” he ran his hand down the grey car’s hood, finally allowing himself to wonder for the first time just how many MI6 secrets he had sold to buy this, “since deep down inside, you know you’ll be late again.”

 

“I’ll honestly do my best, Alec,” James promised again, already giving him an apologetic look.  “Enjoy your night.”

 

Alec flipped him off in his usual manner, but the second the car disappeared up the parking lot’s ramp, he jumped on his motorcycle and gave chase. Okay, so since he had clearly been prepared to stalk his best friend, he had technically stopped giving him the benefit of a doubt the second he convinced R to unofficially and without the knowledge of anyone upgrade his bike to make it as silently as humanly possible – he paid for everything, of course; he wasn’t as stuck up as some people thought him to be and ask the poor woman to also invest her own money alongside her free time.

 

It went without saying that he had hoped for R to be completely right when she called him a paranoid wreck that needed lots of therapy sessions, but since James was going in the exact opposite direction of his apartment, well… Then again, James hadn’t said that he had something that he needed to deal with at home, so maybe he just had an overactive imagination.

 

Yes, yes, that definitely had to be it. Even though James had just pulled in a private parking lot and seemed to disappear into thin air because four hours later, R called him and informed him that it would in his best interest if he left the area as the cops were on their way to apprehend a ‘suspicious person on a motorcycle that looked like he was up to no good’.

 

“Isn’t that kind of redundant?” He asked the sleepy woman, fiddling with his GPS to find the fastest route home. “A suspicious person has to be up to no-good in order to be considered that in the first place. Which is why I think that something is wrong with James, because he was the only one I never considered suspicious, and that includes you, R.”

 

I don’t care,” the woman whined, the sheets rustling. “Just stop looking shifty the next time you stalk Bond because this was the first and the last time I am helping you with this.

 

She hanged up before Alec could thank her, but he did get a boffin to present him with a list of things she’d consider as suitable gifts the following day. That idea resulted in him getting all sorts of threats from R during his lunch with James because it seemed that now everybody thought they had slept together.

 

“Everything okay there, Alec?” James asked when it finally became impossible for him to ignore the buzzing phone. “We can do this tomorrow if you need to be somewhere, you know.”

 

“No, no, everything is fine,” Alec quickly reassured him, shutting his phone off. “In fact, I was thinking that we should maybe turn this lunch into a little alcohol-tasting trip around, let’s say, Europe?”

 

And there was that blasted smile again followed by a half-assed apology which led to Alec giving a cabbie two hundred quid on top of the fare in order to follow James as inconspicuously as possible. He wasn’t surprised when the trip ended at the same private parking lot and, on the following day, he bribed and growled enough to get R to hack the security system so he could see how his sneaky friend managed to get out of there unnoticed.

 

“God, he has no quarrels about being naked in front of cameras, does he?” R exclaimed as they witnessed James ditching his expensive suit for an obvious knockoff.

 

Alec took note of the few wounds the other hand and how they had clearly been tended to by a doctor – another clear sign that something was off with his friend. “If we were prudes, we wouldn’t be able to do honeypot missions, now would we?”

 

“Well, given that 007 took himself out of the sex roster 11 months ago…” She trailed off, ignoring Alec demanding to know more about that in favour of replaying footage off of a different camera. “I can’t trust my eyes right now, so can you confirm that we are indeed watching the suave 007 riding a bicycle out of the parking lot?”

 

Out of all the dumb—wait, she wasn’t pulling his leg. “What the bloody hell is he playing at?” He muttered, easily pushing R away from her own desk to re-watch the scene. “How do you access the CCTV cameras on this thing? I want to see where he is going.”

 

“By filing in an official request with MI5 first,” she hissed at him, face turning red as she struggled to push the chair with Alec still in it away.

 

“But James—”

 

“But nothing,” she snapped at him, turning the chair around to face him. “Look, Alec, you’re clearly bored and jealous of Bond having something else to do in his off time other than bar and bed hopping with you.” Now that was complete bullshit and she knew it! He had so many other things to do, such as training and cleaning his weapons and get out writing useless mission reports. “How about, instead of making me your enabler, you let me sign you up for a few things that I think you might enjoy? Such as daily group therapy and a few special classes about how to act in society when you aren’t getting ready to kill someone or trying to stop some convoluted ‘taking over the world’ plot?”

 

Alec stomped out of the room and made damn sure that everyone on the floor heard him slam the door shut. He didn’t really need her help as he could easily intimidate another boffin into getting him the CCTV footage, but he’d be damned if he was going to waste any more time with the geek squad when it was imperative for him to drag James back from the dark side before he did something so stupid and wrong that he was forced to kill him.

 

Admittedly, since he now knew what he needed to be on the lookout for, it made things easier for him, but not by a lot. He could place a tracker on the bike – he had swiped so many from the Major’s branch just to prove his point about how lax the security was that he had shoebox filled with them stuffed under his bed – but it looked like James spent quite a lot of time meticulously inspecting his bicycle before riding away, so that was out of the question. 

 

He couldn’t place a tracking device in or on the duffle bag he carried with him because the bloody bastard was great at hiding it and, now that he thought about it, he also seemed to inspect that for anything suspicious before leaving the building.

 

No, no, he’d definitely have to stick to the classical methods of spying in this case.

 

He started off the unofficial mission with his usual offer. “A new private bar in Kensington comes with great recommendations from 004.”

 

Offer which was shot down in a heartbeat. “Still waiting for my ribs to fully heal, so I’ll have to pass. How about you…” He trailed off, looked like he was in deep thought for about a minute and then shook his head. “Never mind; it’s still not a good idea,” he muttered, sighing and looking defeated for a moment before returning to his pleasant self. “We’ll see each other tomorrow, Alec. Take care not to become a father by accident.”

 

“You’re my first choice for a godfather if that happens,” he shouted after the speeding man, more than happy to return the flipped bird that James showed him in thanks for being so thoughtful and loyal.

 

This time, since he knew the exit that James took, how he looked, and what mode of transportation he used, Alec had no problems following him. Or almost no problems as just before reaching the poor part of London - Alec still had a hard time believing that such a part existed, but whatever - the bloody bastard started to go in all sorts of busy hypermarkets or stores and come out with his upper body hidden behind paper bags that looked to be filled with fresh food, clothes, and even books.

 

But the ultimate surprised he got was when James disappeared inside a completely normal looking apartment building. Now, if he had gone into one that looked like it was a sneeze away from falling apart, he could have suspected the man of doing drugs or of underground fighting if he had gone into the basement of one that was shabby. But in a boring old building that was considered unworthy by the London citizens because it was on the city’s outskirts and because the pain was coming off? What the bloody hell was he supposed to do with that?

 

He didn’t even try to get into the building that night because someone had to buzz him in and he had no idea on what floor James was, but he thought he could use the knowledge he had stolen from hovering near R for so long to find the correct apartment. Logic dictated that if he focused on the identity used by James to rent the space in the parking lot - Oliver Jones, a 35 year old who worked in banking - he would also find the address, but his friend did own a brain and the name led to a different address entirely.

 

Since he had the names of all the shops James had visited alongside the timeframe, he thought that the credit cards would lead him to the truth. That had ended up being such a horrible idea that his apartment got rushed by a low tire MI5 team led by a 004 who was wearing a face-splitting grin.

 

“006, what a surprise to see you here!” She said in obvious fake shock. “I thought this address seemed familiar, but I did not put two and two together until now.” She tapped the MI5 agents on their shoulders, silently ordering them out of the apartment. “Would you care to tell me why a certain agency thinks that our national security has been compromised? Or rather, what gave you the idea to access the MI5 servers from your own laptop that has an unregistered IP with us instead of presenting them with a formal request for one of our boffins to—?”

 

“Two minutes later and you are still explaining the procedure to me, so you tell me why I took the shortcut,” he interrupted the woman, slamming his laptop shut before presenting it to 004. “Can you somehow get the Quartermaster to convince M to have my hearing sometime after 3 in the afternoon?”

 

M was a very vengeful person for someone who was supposed to be on the side of good. She had no quarrels about employing almost child-like tactic revenge schemes when it came to certain agents and Alec was unlucky enough to find himself on her special list, so he wasn’t really surprised when he was informed at 3 in the morning via text message that he was expected in her office at 6 AM sharp.

 

He was tempted to show up at 6.01 just to spite her, but the last time someone on her list acted that childishly, they ended up being the bodyguard of the most spoiled and annoying oil prince in the world and they were not allow to so much snap at them – though the unfortunate 005 argued that since he wanted to snap his neck with a pleasant smile on his lips, he should have been allowed to do so.

 

“Dare I ask what you were doing?” M asked, her cold voice echoing around the much too large room for this sort of meeting.

 

“Sleeping and nothing else if you are referring to one hour ago,” Alec joked, his smile dying on his lips when he saw how hard his boss was glaring at him. “Ah, that; getting caught, evidently.”

 

If you strained your eyes just a little, you could see hers twitching. “006, do I really have to ask you at what you were caught doing?” She said slowly, her lips twisting into a terrifying smile as she pushed a cup of steaming, hot coffee right under his nose as if she was proposing an exchange – the liquid of life for information.

 

An insult to Alec, of course, as he pried himself at being able to keep his mouth shuts and his secrets secret no matter the extent of the torture or the magnitude of the temptation. “At proving that the security of both agencies is way too lax and that it is so easy to hack into the servers and do whatever I want before the boffins realize what’s happening.”

 

She didn’t look like she believed even one word he had said. “Are you sure that’s what you were doing, 006?”

 

“Yes, I was simply proving a point,” Alec answered without missing a beat and meeting M’s glare head-on. 

 

He expected for all of this to end in a heavy punishment for him, not necessarily because what he had done was a grave insult to both agencies – or whatever – but because he was constantly doing something to piss off M. But the woman just waved him away after sharing a look with the good old Major, an MI5 boffin intercepting him outside and thanking him with half a voice and no gall to look him in the eyes for pointing out the flaws in their system.

 

The MI6 boffins, not so much. In particular R who was lying in wait for him at the nearest coffee machine, hands on hips, tapping her foot, and close to having smoke coming out of her ears. “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing?” She hissed at him and he couldn’t help but find her endearing and ballsy.

 

R was petite and looked way younger than she was. In fact, Alec had heard her many times grumbling to her fellow boffins that she often found herself stopped by parents in front of high-schools and asked what she thought about the exams or if she found the questions to be easy, medium, or hard enough to lawyer up the second their children fail and he even knew of an instance in which a normal field agent tried to make fun of her and presented her with a backpack full of school supplies - that prank ended with the man crying in a corner and many say that R actually uses his balls as Christmas tree decorations.

 

“I need to find where James is going and what he is doing before it’s too late.” he said before R could repeat herself, imagining her biting his arm off if he actually gave in and patted her head. “And things would be so much easier for everyone if—”

 

“Fine, fine, I’ll help you with this, you obsessed twat,” she groaned, shoving her own mug in the man’s hands. “But keep in mind that this is the last time I will ever help you outside of a mission and if I ever get dragged out of my bed at such an unholy hour and England isn’t falling or the world isn’t ending, your balls will join Mark’s in this year’s Christmas tree.”

 

It couldn’t be healthy to want to throw someone up against the wall and shove your tongue down their throat after such a threat, but Alec didn’t worry about that since R was the only one who made him feel that. “How about we discuss my findings over breakfast? My treat at the best restaurant that’s open at this hour, of course.”

 

Much to his embarrassment, R figured out in what apartment he was supposed to break in with just her phone even before Alec was done ordering for them and since it turned out to be under the most ridiculous name he had ever heard, he wanted to smash his head up against a wall for not just checking the tenant names right from the start.

 

“He probably has the place under surveillance or he’s there right now,” R pointed out and Alec sat right back down. “He’s scheduled for a mission in two days, so you can commit the breaking and entering then.” He could kiss her. “If your lips so much as come within an inch of my cheek, you’ll lose them.” But he wouldn’t because he respected her personal space.

 

In the past, Alec and James spent the days leading up to a mission having as much fun as they could because there was always the very real possibility of one of them getting killed, but lately James had wormed his way out of doing that. Adding insult to injury was the fact that James didn’t even bother coming up with good or convoluted lies; he always said that he has something to do, promising that they’ll go out partying when he returned – which, as proven earlier that month and all the other ones before this one in the past year, never happened.

 

“Well, time to see what you were really doing,” Alec muttered as he kneeled in front of the obviously reinforced apartment door, taking out a few gadgets that he had swiped from the boffin branch when R wasn’t looking.

 

***

 

His life hadn’t been exactly easy. His family was a big one and while he had been loved and protected by his siblings and parents, the fact that there were 5 kids that needed to be taken care of in that house meant that some things had to be overlooked – such as toys and school trips – while others had to be shared – rooms, clothes, school supplies.

 

But he never resented his family for that and while he was a little jealous of some kids in school, he was smart enough to use all of his free time studying and that landed him a scholarship in one of the best colleges in the country which resulted in him getting a very decent job that could land him doing back-end development after he was done taking some classes and gathering enough experience – the classes were useless since he already knew what needed to be done and he technically had experience, but he couldn’t really admit that because he might have acquired that while working under the table.

 

However, even though he had what one would consider a low tire IT position, he still managed to start paying for a decent studio apartment that would be able to call his in 10 years and what made him even happier than he already was, he could also send a decent sum to his parents each month without having to starve himself.

 

He felt like he was on top of the world when he finally got himself a one week vacation outside UK, even if he was chewing his nails the more he thought about all the horrible things that could happen while he was on the plane or in a country where he didn’t know anyone and whose language was completely unknown to him beyond greeting someone. And then James Bond entered his life and things got even better.

 

Things started in the most cliché way possible: he bumped into the man while his eyes were glued to his ticket because he was afraid he’d end up at the wrong gate and miss his flight. “I am so sorry, I didn’t mean to,” he muttered under his breath, struggling to grab his glasses from the floor before anyone stepped on them and hoping that his laptop was still in one piece.

 

“I hardly felt everything, so it’s quite alright,” the wall of muscles said as his arms sneaked under his armpits and easily pulled him to his feet. “Anything broken or bruised on your end?”

 

“Just my self-esteem,” he joked and instantly regretted when he looked up and saw how the man looked like and he kind of had to give it to his karma because he could have bumped into less pleasing looking people – he was a horrible person, he knew that, but in his defence, he had skipped over sleeping on the previous night because he had worried a bit too much about missing the plane or forgetting his tickets or getting a serial killer as a cabbie.

 

A blond eyebrow arched as a bit of worry flashed in the man’s beautiful blue eyes. “Do you need to sit down for a bit? Do you want me to get you a glass of water?”

 

“I’m fine, I’m fine,” he stammered, aggressively cleaning his glasses just so he’d have a reason not to look at the man in the eyes, jumping back to his feet and taking a few steps away from him as soon as he was put in a chair. “I actually have to go so I don’t lose the plane,” he called over his shoulder, maybe giving the impression that he had bumped into him on purpose by how easily he was avoiding others without really looking at them.

 

And that should have been the end of that. Nothing more than a few seconds of shared body heat and innocent touches that he was going to going to think about every now and then and regret that his preferences when it came to partners could often result in bodily harm and even death if he assumed.

 

But fate had something else planned for him and that was revealed when he was close to tears because he couldn’t find his tickets or his passport. “I couldn’t have gotten this far in the airport without them, so I definitely had them a few minutes ago,” he was excusing himself to the half-asleep and unimpressed border guard.

 

“Sir, you’re going to have to step out of the line—”

 

“But they were right in my hand,” he insisted a little louder now, hands shaking. “I know this for sure because I was looking at the ticket to make sure that I’d go in the right direction!”

 

“Sir, if you’re refusing to step out of the line, I will have to call security,” the border guard drawled, finally moving his hand away from his chin to reach for his phone.

 

“Excuse me, but I believe these belong to the gentleman so you can put the phone back down,” the man from earlier spoke out of nowhere, placing the missing passport and ticket on the small table in front of him. “You must have dropped them when we bumped into each other earlier.”

 

“Yes,” he said maybe a bit too close to the stranger’s face before turning to push his face right up against the glass panel. “Yes, I dropped them when I bumped into him, but they are mine so can I go on the plane now?”

 

The guard held the passport up to his face and after a few more minutes of narrowing his eyes, humming, and just being a jackass because it was clear as daylight that it was him in there and that the papers weren’t fake, he finally allowed him to enter line into no man’s land, his saviour right behind him.

 

“Thank you so much for all the help back there,” he breathed out and stopped to lean against a pillar. He was pretty sure that vacations overseas were meant to be even more relaxing and pleasant than the ones within the borders of your own country, but his experience so far had been horrible and he wanted nothing more than to go back to his apartment and sleep. “I’m normally not this scattered, but this is my first time doing this and I can’t seem to get anything right. For example, I almost left my apartment without my luggage and the cabbie got a tip for asking me about it and, oh god, I am rambling.”

 

The man was kind enough to look at him with sympathy and not like he some kind of crazy person. “I puked all over the flight attendant the first time I had to fly on my own, so you’re more than okay.” He would late reveal that he had been ten years old that had made chocolate his breakfast earlier that day, but for now he was presented with a thankful smile. “Bond. James Bond.”

 

“You can call me Q,” he said after a moment, grasping the offered hand. “Again, thank you for earlier, Mister Bond.”

 

“You can call me James,” he said, giving his hand a light squeeze before releasing him. “I couldn’t help but take a peek at your ticket and I noticed that not only we’re going in the same direction on the same plane, but that we’re also seated next to each other.”

 

As the flight was a turbulent one, James appeared to be more than happy to distract him with various funny little stories of his job even if Q didn’t quite understand what it was that he was doing. And when the actual storm started, after outright asking him if he was into men, James encouraged to slap him if he was going too far or too fast then gently cupped his face and kissed him.

 

“I don’t normally do this,” Q breathed out as he licked his lips. “Kissing strangers on planes, I mean,” he thought he needed to clear up, face burning when he caught the eye of the couple sitting in the seats on the other side of the corridor.

 

Chuckling, James cupped his chin, running his thumb against his lower lip. “How about with people named James Bond that you met 68 minutes ago? Do you lock lips with one of those, or do you want me to continue showing you why it would be such a good idea?”

 

Lightning struck again and Q used that as an excuse to jump closer to James. “It would be a shame to let such good lips go to waste.” Even as he said those words, he felt his face burning with embarrassment. Normally, he was very shy and kept to himself, shooting down possible one-night stands with no hesitation no matter how hot or cute the would-be partners were.

 

But he figured that since he was flying for the first time as well as going out of the country, why shouldn’t he do other things he normal wouldn’t do? Especially if those things happened to come in such an appetizing package that was James Bond. Maybe he could even join that mile high club that meant so much for so many and if the way his hands had made his entire body their home was any indication, James was a long-time member of the club in question.

 

“A crazy idea just crossed my mind,” Q panted out when they finally broke away because they needed air. “How about we…” He trailed off because reality caught up with him and he realized what a horrible idea that was. The space was too small, the walls were too thin, they were still going through turbulences – cue him digging his nails so deep in the armrest that he was going to pick sponge bits from his nails for the next three days – and it looked like a lot of people actually wanted to use the single bathroom that existed to serve the lowly cattle class.

 

James nipped at his lower lip to get his attention. “You can’t really tell because of how tight the space is in here, but you have me on the edge of my seat.”

 

“I forgot the crazy idea,” Q said quickly, his awkward laugh ending in a yelp because he registered just then how hard the airplane was shaking. “Please tell me we’re getting ready to land.”

 

“A pity about the loss of an idea that must have been wonderful mixed together with the sadness that I can’t do as you asked results in the two of us kissing some more,” James muttered against his lips and they were back to making out.

 

Q did end up joining that mile high club about an hour later when the seatbelt sign turned off and they made their way into the spacious bathroom that came with first class tickets. And the sex was so mind-blowingly good that he did not think to wonder why there was lube and condoms in there or why they were so nicely welcomed in the better part of the plane, but he did lazily pointed out that he felt as if they were on an entirely different flight.

 

“You shouldn’t linger all that much in here after I’m gone,” James warned him just as he was about to open the door, his suit looking like he just had it pressed.

 

And just like that, the pleasant haze that Q was in was lifted from his brain and he it dawned on him just how awkward the rest of the flight was going to be even if he didn’t take into the consideration the fact that both of them would be returning to their seats 20 minutes after furiously making out for close to two hours.

 

He tried to walk out of there with his head held high just in case he could still somehow save face, but the second his eyes connected to the smiling stewardess that seemed to be waiting for him just outside the bathroom acted like a spine breaker and his chin was almost touching his chest.

 

“Everything in order, sir?” The woman asked, hand hovering above his shoulder. “Do you need assistance with anything? Or would you like me to get you something for your stomach or your head? Some tea or coffee? Maybe something to eat?”

 

“No, I am fine, thank you,” Q said with half a voice, straightening up long enough to give her what was supposed to be a reassuring and thankful smile.

 

“Don’t hesitate to call one of the crew if you need anything,” she added after a moment of what Q considered to be uncomfortable silence and then hunched a little so she could be seen pointing with her hands towards first class. “Now I will have to ask you to return to your seat and buckle up as we are still flying through the storm.”

 

Q tried to explain to her that she was leaning him in the wrong direction, but the woman constantly interrupted him to assure him that everything would be okay and disappearing from his side the instant he sat down in the comfortable leather chair. 

 

“Champagne?” James’ voice came from the window seat, winking when Q turned to look at him in amazement. “I lied that the food they offered in coach made you terribly sick and, fearing that we might sue, they suddenly decided to upgrade our tickets,” he explained in a whisper, stealing a kiss before pushing the crystal glass in Q’s hand.

 

Excitement ran through Q’s entire body once more and if the plane wasn’t shaking violently, he would have dragged James back in the bathroom by his silk tie. “We’ll get in trouble if we’re caught.” But he kind of had a hard time really caring because the champagne was the best he ever had and he could finally stretch his legs without getting a death threat via glare from the person in the front seat.

 

“Then let’s enjoy ourselves until that happens,” James purred in his ear, pressing a button that brought out a thick drape around their seats. “Not soundproof, but at least you won’t get distracted from our French lesson by voyeur neighbours.”

 

The flight ended all too soon, but phone numbers were exchanged and Q was content hoping that he’d hook up with James at least one more time before his vacation ended – but he wasn’t going to hold his breath for that to happen, especially since they were greeted by living Greek sculptures that pretty much glued themselves to James when they saw him.

 

After that, his vacation started going south. The hotel he checked in looked like he was a medium earthquake from falling down, the sheets had some questionable stains on them, the manager that responded to his complaint smelled like tequila, and the ocean view that he was promised turned out to be a billboard advertising a drink called that.

 

His luck was so horrible that the museum he wanted to visit on his second day got closed because someone broke in it, the world-renowned restaurant he had been dying to eat in was closed due to someone getting killed earlier that morning, and the jumpy cops made it really hard to enjoy the walks in the old town.

 

He gave up on all of his plans on the third day because to beach he wanted to go to also got closed down because someone crashed a bloody helicopter on it. And on the fourth day, it started to rain because of course the Monsoon season was just around the corner. “I think I’ll just spend the next four days in here,” he answered his neighbour because of course the walls were that thin.

 

Bummer, man,” the 21 year old shot back. “I’m leaving today, so do you want me to leave you my cards to play solitaire and special brownies to be less depressed about that?

 

Since he grew up doing everything with four other siblings, he knew how to take advantage of something he could do on his own. However, he had to admit that playing that on one’s first holiday was quite depressing, but not enough to get high. “I’ll take the cards, but I’ll pass on the brownies. Very kind of you to offer though.”

 

Hey, it’s the least I can do for the man who fixed my laptop for free and made it so that I can borrow the Four Season’s Wi-Fi!”

 

Dear Lord, he was working on his vacation. “Is it okay if I grab the cards now? Before the other five people in this hotel ask me to fix anything digital they own?”

 

Thankfully his bleak vacation was saved by James calling him and even though his eldest sister always told him to play hard to get and not to sound overly excited when he was talking with someone that he was interested in, the man had saved him from absolute boredom. And he planned on thanking James thoroughly for this, but the man wasn’t exactly in a sex mood.

 

“How was your vacation so far? Because mine was miserable,” James said as a way of greeting him, the deep bags under his eyes that accentuated the cuts on his face making it clear that he wasn’t using a pickup line.

 

Pushing himself up on his toes a little, he pecked James’ nose before accepting the offered arm. “The start was loads of fun, but then the middle happened and I am hoping that things will pick up a little now.”

 

They slowly walked arm in arm around town, Q feeling like he was giving a very detailed historical report on the place since all James did was listen and smile occasionally at him while pushing his unruly hair out of his eyes.

 

When James started to visibly limp, Q forced him to sit down. “It doesn’t seem like your vacation is picking up, so would you like to go back to the hotel and try this tomorrow or never?”

 

“I’d like to go back to your hotel room,” James said after a few moments, entwining their fingers together. “That is, if you still want to take me anywhere after seeing me like this.”

 

Q thought for a moment, seriously taking into consideration the fact that James might be a killer, but there was something in the man’s eyes that made him scoff at that idea. “You do remember me telling you that my vacation improved when you showed up, right? Or are you older than you look and your memory is not as good as it used to be?” He was hoping that he wasn’t crossing a boundary or making things even worse than they already were, but the half smile he got out of the man had to be a good sign.

 

“Yes, but you didn’t have your glasses on back then, so I just assumed that you didn’t see how I really looked.” The smile grew as he ran his knuckles down Q’s face, surprised a little when the younger man gently grabbed his hand and brushed his lips against it. “Let’s go make your vacation better and my – so far – failed business trip worth it.”

 

The following two days were the best vacation Q ever had and they went by faster than he wanted them to. He actually groaned when he opened his eyes on the third day and caught a glance of all the clothes he needed to pack.

 

“I believe a doctor would prescribe bed rest for back pains,” James muttered in his ear and threw his leg over his middle, trapping him so he could better nuzzle his neck. “Maybe even a very special massage that I would more than love to give to you.”

 

Q managed to turn in the man’s arms with ease, barely touching the man’s chest as he drew little circles above it, smiling sadly “And I would love for that to happen, James, but I’m leaving today.”

 

It was as if a fog had lifted from James’ mind and the man was wide awake “And you wasted what little was left with me?”

 

James had a flair for the dramatic, that’s for sure. “Are you fishing for a compliment after having me as nothing more than a shivering and whimpering mess under you?” Q challenged, catching his nipple between his thumb and the side of his index finger, slowly starting to apply pressure. “Because the only way you’ll get your ego stroked at this point is if that’s the ridiculous name you chose for your junior. And keep in mind that it will be just one stroke as I really do need to pack.”

 

He had intended to make the man smile again, having decided that sadness and mourning – whatever for, he did not dare to ask lest it brought even more emotion and hurt to him – were not suited for him. But his joke resulted in James looking even more serious as he untangled himself from the latest sheets they’d be asked to burn and pay for, and Q watched in silence and regret how the best part of his vacation was leaving.

 

“What you call a mess, I consider a work of art,” James finally chased away the heavy silence of the room, helping Q sit up in the bed – and he realized just then that the bed was too high and the ceiling too low as James was one straight back from bumping his head on the kitschy candelabra. “How long until your plane takes off?”

 

“Four hours,” Q answered, curious – and a bit afraid – of what James was planning to do.

 

“Then we have time for one more,” James whispered right against his lips before tilting his head a little and giving him a deep kiss, swaying their bodies to a slow song that only he was hearing.

 

It was the first time they made love and Q wanted to hate him for making it infinitely harder for him to leave. Maybe that was James’ plan; show him how caring and loving he could be and have him quit his life to stay forever in the room and maybe, if Q was a bit younger and still believed in  fairy tales, he would have done just that. But as things were, James helped him pack and even tricked the hotel owner into personally giving them a ride to the airport.

 

James grabbed his hand and tugged him back in his arms when he almost went through the security doors. “One last thing before you go,” he whispered so close to his face that their lips were brushing.

 

Add that to what was poking him in just slightly above his pelvic area and he had a pretty good idea what the man wanted. “I don’t think we have the time,” Q half-joked, starting to wonder just how long would the plane be grounded if he had finished checking in online. Or would they care if he popped by their desk really quick and let them know that he needed about 10 – okay, 20 – minutes to deal with something personal.

 

“As much as I’d want to and as hard it is for me to turn you down, my insatiable temptation, that is not what I had in mind.” Q could do without the cheeky smile, but James knew just what to do with his hands hips to get himself forgiven – although since it was clear now that he would be returning home with a severe case of blue balls, maybe he could find it in himself to hold a tiny bit of grudge until the next time they met, if that ever happened. “No, what I wanted to give you was a simple tip of how you could take your mind off of any turbulence that the plane might experience during the flight.”

 

Oh, that’s right; he had forgotten about that horrible part of the experience. “My mind wasn’t even on that until you reminded me of their existence,” he grumbled, frowning and turning his head away, what little anger he could muster up – annoyance, really – melting away when James’ lips found their way on his neck. Thank God they weren’t in a country inclined towards either stoning gay people or locking them up in camps. “I would have preferred the unpleasant surprise over the unfortunate heads up.”

 

James chuckled and traced little kisses down his chin, moving Q a little so they would be facing each other again. “But that will make the trick I want to teach you all the sweeter,” he purred and first gave him a chase kiss before running his tongue over Q’s lower lip and then finally giving him a deep kiss.

 

Although he hated to admit it – and himself even more – he would miss the man’s slightly bitter taste, kisses that were kind, demanding, and possessive all at the same time, as well as his touches and just how it felt to be next to him in bed. But what they had was nothing more than a vacation fling and he was far from starting to have deep feelings for the man and he knew better than to ask for an actual relationship and ruin the possibility of meeting like this back in London as well.  

 

“You’re lucky that you’re a good kisser because your lines are horrible,” Q breathed out, already missing the man’s body heat, taste, smell, everything. “I think, should I get scared, I’ll remember this chat-up of yours.”

 

“And should I get bored, I’ll remember your moans and begs,” James shot back, the two of them sharing a glare and then a chaste peck on the lips before Q really had to go. “You’re gate 42, so as soon as you get passed the security check, make a left and keep going straight and don’t be careful not to bump into anyone.”

 

“I didn’t hear you complaining when I bumped into you,” Q teased, over his shoulder, reluctant to look away from James.

 

“Yes, but I am not on this flight, so this won’t be as pleasant for me as it was before,” James called out, clearing uncaring about some of the looks they were getting. “Remember: a left, then straight ahead!”

 

Q reached the gate without any trouble, but things still didn’t go exactly as planned when he was informed that there was a mistake with his tickets. More than a little giddy about the possibility of either spending a few more hours or a few more days with James – his boss would understand this little mishap and even if he didn’t, he was the best at his job and the man wasn’t stupid to fire him over something that wasn’t his fault – he was half-way through his text towards the man when the flight attendant’s words finally registered.

 

“Excuse me, what?”

 

“I said that we had to upgrade you to first class, sir,” she repeated herself as she held out his revised ticket, her smile becoming even sweeter and kinder than before. “We will start boarding the second class as soon as you are seated, sir. Would you like to use this entrance or would you like for me to have someone show you to the VIP lounge and board from there?”

 

“That would be a waste of time,” Q blurted out, starting to feel holes being burned into the back of his head by the glares his would be companions. “If I can board right away, that would be more than perfect.”

 

He was treated like royalty, even more so than the other’s. He did not have anyone standing beside him and all he had to do was sigh and a flight attended practically teleported next to him, asking if he needed his pillow fluffed – which was stuffed with goose feathers as he was not allergic and which he could take home after they landed – or if he wanted another glass of champagne or wine or tea or another portion of the Stroganoff beef he had had enjoyed earlier.

 

Not that it mattered that he turned everything extra down as he found himself caring an extra free official carry-on that was stuffed full of everything that one would find on the menu – on the house, of course, as it was an apology for the ticket mix up.

 

The first thing Q did when he got home was check to see who had tampered with his return ticket and why because although he was young, he wasn’t dumb enough to believe that gifts fell into one’s lap without the help of anyone. He found a few ‘fingerprints’, but since he had nothing to compare them to nor the time to trace them, he let the matter drop and begrudgingly adjusted to a life without James, promising his older sister – who had no problem finding out what had happened without trying – that he would not be the be the one to make the first move.

 

He kept that promise for two weeks, but the number was no longer in use. That crushed him, but he was respectful and sane enough not to cyber stalk James, instead choosing the very healthy option of throwing himself into his work and rejecting every person that anyone tried to either hook him up with or get him to date because James had been more than a simple fuck to him.

 

It was funny that he thought he could really leave his true self back in the UK and not be affected by the decisions he made during his vacation. No, it was stupid. He was stupid when it came to feelings and relationships, just like most of his siblings had hinted at, and he would do best to learn from this painful experience – still, he considered himself somewhat lucky as he didn’t get a venereal disease as a bonus to the heartache.

 

“I know I’ll get over him, don’t waste your breaths telling me that,” he told his friends after he had turned down what felt like possible bed candidate number 45. “And things would go much faster if you people would stop throwing me at every person you know or see that you think is gay, interested, and not a twat,” he added and grabbed onto the arm of one of his friends before they could waive over the man at the bar that had been sending him drinks all night long.

 

He should have been cued in that something was happening because he saw with the corner of his eyes two of his friends elbowing each other and the one that was a chemistry major pushed the glow in the dark menu in his face, asking him how that was possible – he would excuse his great lapse in judgement on the fact that he was more than a little tipsy.

 

The friends on his right side shifted and a familiar arm wrapped itself around his shoulders, Q’s breath hitching in his throat. “You’re still a sight for sore eyes even if you yourself look down,” James’ all but forgotten voice drifted in his ears, not even having the decency to flinch when Q turned to glare at him. “They took my work phone when I got fired and they were so crossed with me due to circumstances beyond my control that they didn’t even let me save a single number from it.”

 

It was impossible for his friends not to notice the clear familiarity between the two of them and some even put two and two together, but Q held his hand up before they could pounce on him. “You presume too much if you think that I’ve noticed that. Or that I’m in the mood to share a bed or a bathroom or anything else with you tonight.”

 

James’ chest rumbled under him and Q assumed that he was chuckling. “As tantalising as you look under this light, I do have to agree with you on the ‘no sex’ policy you have for tonight since I do have to be at my new job in six hours and it would be beyond hard to pull myself from you after thinking that I had lost a great chance forever. How about I give you my new number instead and I wait for you to call me?”

 

He held out until the weekend – two days – and when James came to his work on Monday to give him his keys back and to surprise him with the middle class version of a picnic which consisted of his favourite tea, a muffin, and a sandwich on the bench in front of his building, some of his friends were waiting for him to give him the third degree – after all, since it was obvious that Q cared for him, they wanted to be sure that it was a mutual thing.

 

It didn’t take them long to have a conversation about moving in together and for all Q fretted and worry, wrote down a whole speech that could put many Oscar winners to shame and even rehearsed it in front of a mirror when a code proved to be boring for him, James didn’t even need a second before agreeing.

 

His friends were mostly happy for him, if a bit jealous that they had emotionally evolved so fast, but his family was more than a little worried. Did he really know this man well enough to make this step? Did he forget how they started? Wouldn’t it be better if he first introduced his lover to his parents first and let them give him an interview before anything else?

 

Sure, he was hot, courteous, kind, apparently made him happy and seemed to return Q’s feelings, but his job sounded strange, Q had never been to his house, and he seemed to always have a bruise or some sort of a wound that he was trying to hide but that they all caught glimpse of – mostly because they were looking for them, but that was beside the point.

 

Admittedly, out of all of James’ little quirks, Q was most worried about the fresh wounds he always returned home with. At one point, he even thought that James might be in trouble and offered to pay whatever debt he might have had, but James turned him down and the following day, presented him with his bank statements.

 

“I didn’t—”

 

James silenced him with a kiss and Q did not mind it at all that he was late for work that day and he was sure that no one bought the fact that he overslept when he caught sight of his neck in a mirror, finally understanding why his lover had been so focused on nibbling it.

 

“Bloody bastard,” he muttered, face turning red as he reached for his phone. “You’ll bring me a scarf on your lunch or I swear that you’ll sleep on the sofa until these things heal, you bloody vampire wannabe!”

 

With that thought pushed out of his mind, Q was free to worry every now and then about it wouldn’t exactly be that farfetched for James be working as the muscle of a crime boss or something because one, the man’s muscles were a shame to be wasted behind a desk and two, it was impossible for a simple secretary to get hurt so much and so often. Then again, he also pictured James as a superhero – something he shared with his lover and even got to experience – and as a spy, only for the latter fantasy to be proven impossible when James tripped over a chair while trying to act like one.

 

Q didn’t fare any better because in his rush to get to James and make sure he didn’t crack his skull on his laptop, he tripped on the sheets and unceremoniously landed on his face, managing to break his glasses in the process.

 

“Are you hurt?” James asked and he was instantly next to him, carefully removing his glasses and checking to see if he was bleeding. “Do you need to go to the hospital?”

 

“No, no,” Q sighed, caressing the back of James’ neck to calm him down. “An optometrist, maybe, since these were my last pair.”

 

“My boss mentioned something about a large bonus and even a little raise after I get back from this little trip I forgot to tell you about,” James whispered in his ear, probably hoping that his wandering hands would distract Q from the news. “We’ll be able to spring for more of those expensive and resistant frames that you like or get whatever material you want so you can make those yourself.”

 

James wasn’t a big fan of leaving – that much was obvious even to a blind stranger – and although Q was good at hiding his sadness, he still picked up on it and did his best to take his mind off of it. “Since I’m not afraid that the apartment might catch on fire from the hundreds of lit candles—”

 

“I only used the twenty candles once and then I stopped because every time I tried to be romantic, you thought—”

 

Q covered his mouth and shushed him. “And every time you do that, it’s still a fire hazard, especially if you take into consideration the many books and useless blueprints I have lying around.” James frowned and mumbled something before signing, his shoulders sagging. “I understand when you have to and do your job, James.” He wanted to call him ‘love’ as they had been together for almost a year, but he had a feeling that if he were the one who said it first, James would run. “I might not be fully happy about it since I do miss you and you do come back so exhausted and done with everything,” to put it mildly,” but you do not have to tiptoe around it.”

 

James smiled softly at him, tangling his fingers in his hair as he pulled him on top. “I like to avoid thinking about leaving you alone.”

 

Q hummed, slowly dragging his hands down James’ chest and under his shirt, trailing little kisses down his chin. “Then let’s do something that will distract us from reality for… how long will you be away and when are you leaving again?”

 

“I thought that I was playing the spy.” He tried to get the upper hand, but Q subdued him by pressing his opened palm on his hardened member and then slowly moving up. “Now that’s playing dirty.”

 

Trying to look as innocent as he could in this situation, Q batted his eyelashes up at him as he wrapped his hand around member. “I thought that all spies did that.” He squeezed once and ran his thumb over the head, a sparkle of mischief appearing in his eyes. “Now, how about some answers?”

 

James left two days later, but promised that he would be back in three. Q would have loved to see him off, but since his boss had this crazy notion that flights leaving at 3 in the morning – in the middle of the week, no less – automatically translated to cheaper tickets, he was often convinced to remain in bed so he wouldn’t miss any work days.

 

Not that he had an easy time going to sleep after the door closed and he often looked like a zombie the following day at work. The first time his team leader saw him, he had ordered him to go home, fearing that he was sick but after finding out what was happening, he simply sent their department secretary to get the strongest tea he could find.

 

What was worse, Q also started to have a hard time going to sleep, always jumping at the smallest of sounds and foolishly hoping that James had returned earlier, only to have his expectations crushed when he realized it was either just the strong wind making the overgrown branches scratch his windows or the furniture in the house settling.

 

However, this time when he was jolted out of his light sleep, it wasn’t because of the tree. At first, he thought that an animal had gotten into the building and for whatever reason, it had picked his door to beg for food at, but quickly realized what was happening when the scratching got a bit louder and the actual plug on the door started to move.

 

Careful as little noise as possible, Q called the police as he dug in his bedside table and fished out a small Taser that he had toyed with a little in his free time, ending up giving it an extra kick while also making it look like a completely innocent ring.

 

“Someone’s breaking into my apartment,” he whispered, then quickly gave his address and made his way to the bathroom as that was the perfect blind spot for every stranger that entered the apartment – and he hoped that was the case, not really because he would be overly upset with his friends or James if they were trying to surprise him, but because the use only had one use and the electricity traveling through the body isn’t the nicest feeling in the universe. “I’m leaving the phone in the bathroom as it is so you can track me, but don’t call after me or else you’ll give me away,” he hastily warned, shushing the operator before they could plead with them to stay hidden.

 

It did not go as planned as the intruder suddenly turned around, grabbed his arm, and slammed the kitchen door over his hand until his weapon was dropped after which he tossed him as if he was nothing but an empty bag with so much force that he hit his back against the foot of the bed.

 

Q grabbed the first thing that his hand brushed up against and threw it with so much force that the game controller broke and, for a moment, he really thought that he had gotten the upper hand. The tall blond man with cold green eyes and a big scar on the right side of the face staggered and was close enough for Q to apply the kick to his nether region that was sure to bring him down. But even in pain, the man was faster than him and he jumped to the right and grabbed his leg, squeezing it painfully.

 

What the hell did he want? Was he a serial killer? Because if he was a thief, he was a damned horrible one if he just randomly decided to break into apartments in the middle of the night instead of having the decency to stalk the place out for a few days and find out when no one was home. “The police are on their way,” Q warned, continuing to try to kick the man in the face.

 

However, the man didn’t seem interested in him and just squeezed his leg harder, making it go numb a little as he continued to stare incredulously at something. “You’re bleeding,” he hissed when Q started to struggle again and that did explain the warmth he felt dripping out of his leg and the stinging pain. “Why are you and Bond hugging in that picture?”

 

How he knew James was the better question.

 

***

 

Out of all the things James thought he needed in his life in order to stop being so destructive, it never crossed his mind that what he really needed was having someone he loved and who loved him back to return home to. Friends were all good and rare and he hadn’t reached that state of inhumanity that most old, hardened double oh agents did when human interaction was kept to a minimum outside of missions and everyone else but themselves was considered a disposable commodity that they dared not reach for, but at the end of the day, he was still empty on the inside.

 

Q wasn’t supposed to be anything more than a shag. Admittedly, that shag quickly turned from one with little to no effort to one that he had to work for – bumping into the man on purpose, buying an extra ticket, bribing the original person who sat next to him to switch tickets, bribing the flight attendants into playing along with him – and maybe that was the reason why he hadn’t chucked out the number the second they landed. Well, that and the fact that Q was interesting, smarter than any boffin he knew outside of the Major, adorable in the way he jumped every time the plane moved in a way he found unsettling, and made the most delicious noises when he was trying to be silent. The fact that he was gorgeous went beyond saying or else he wouldn’t have stood out in the sea of people that was the airport.

 

Even so, when James set up that first meeting on the island, his plan was just to use him as a quick picker up for his recently wounded ego and while the Major heavily implied that he was a right bastard for that, he pointed out that his new friend was also using him so didn’t that make them just perfect for each other?

 

Try not to drag a civilian into all of this just because you have an itch, 007,” the Major said with a sigh, much too old and used to his antics to question them. “Wouldn’t you rather prefer to wait for the name of your new target in a bar somewhere? Be enough of a human being and have your usual cocktail keep you company instead of an actual cock that’s attached to someone who can’t defend themselves if assassins show up.

 

That wasn’t an impossible outcome, but James had planted enough of the Major’s special little virtual bugs in enough security systems to know of such plans even before they were fully formed, so this was nothing short of an insult. As if he would ever be that careless as to endanger not only himself but also someone who he was meant to indirectly protect just because they were a good shag.

 

“How long have I been a double oh agent, Major?” He asked seriously, looking at himself in the mirror and counting all the scars that he had been left with even when he had followed a mission plan down to the letter.

 

007, I am not questioning your—

 

“For more than fifteen years,” he answered himself. “And in these long, hard years, I haven’t directly caused the death of a single civilian even if we crossed paths while I was in the middle of a fire exchange, so do not lose any sleep over me being the death of this man and focus on doing your job.”

 

His words had a bite to them and he would probably end up feeling bad for saying them when he saw the tension leaving the man’s back as he sighed in relief that he had returned home alive. But until then, he planned on enjoying Q’s warm touch and adorably bad little jokes, and he couldn’t wait to start nibbling on his pale neck and getting drunk on his sweet taste as he withered in pleasure under him and begged for more.

 

And he would have done all of that if only Q hadn’t really looked at him and noticed how down he was, prompting him to spend the rest of his short vacation to make sure that both of them had fun and that he was somewhat healed. He feared that Q would start asking him what had happened and try to talk to him much like the annoying - although well-meaning - MI6 psychiatrists, but Q simply let him know that he was there if he was needed beyond a shag.

 

In the end, that was what broke the last defensive wall James had built for himself and he accepted that he felt something for Q. Not that he was going to accept that too easily and even though he broke a promise he had made himself a long time ago and made love to the man he didn’t really know and spent his own money to make sure he had a nice trip home, he still cut all ties with him.

 

He willingly gave the Major the phone back, refusing the man’s kind offer to get whatever numbers he needed before it was ‘recycled’ and set about trying to forget once again what it was like to feel for someone else.

 

It was also for Q’s own good, he insisted to himself. It was highly unlikely that he would always be there when the other needed and he was sure that one day, he would return form a mission wounded so badly that he would ended up being a burden and Q didn’t deserve to be stuck pushing around an invalid’s chair or wiping the drool from a vegetable’s mouth or, worse still, struggling to keep him rooted in reality for long enough to shove god knew what pills down his throat to ensure that he wouldn’t suddenly snap and attack him, thinking that he was an enemy.

 

Feeling that something was wrong, Alec did everything he could to get his oldest friend ‘fixed’ which meant acting like the best wingman in the universe as they went bar hopping around Europe. It was fun for the first two weeks and Q actually slipped James’ mind for maybe about a month, but when he finally sobered up, he slipped right back into regret-land, population him.

 

Now he wanted to get that phone back because he needed that phone number just to see if what he was feeling was real or if it was just an impression he ended up with after being cared for, but it was too late.

 

“The phone has already been wiped clean and recommissioned, 007,” the Major explained and tried to walk around the agent, only to sigh in frustration at having his path constantly blocked. “007, whatever you are thinking of asking of me, the answer is a loud and definitive no.”

 

“This will be the first and only time I ask you—”

 

The Major’s started laughing even before James finished the lie. “Now you’re just insulting me, 007, and that’s not very nice to do to someone who keeps putting their job on the line for you,” the old man gently chided him, shaking his head. “Now off you go, 007, and do not bother me outside of a mission unless it is to let me know that you finally grew up.”

 

He was tempted for a moment to enlist the help of R or another technician, but just thinking of that made his skin crawl. No, he wasn’t that deranged yet and even if he did find Q, the lies that hung above them much like a certain king’s sword were heavy enough without adding ‘stalking’ and ‘doing unnecessary background checks’ to them.

 

And he was very happy that he let everything to chance because lo and behold, he found Q yet again, obviously sulking in a decent bar, surrounded by his friends who weren’t exactly subtle in trying to fix him up with anyone.

 

Disappointed that his drinks were turned away without as much as a glance in his direction but also happy that other suitors were turned down left and right, James decided to finally make his presence known when it became clear that Q was getting ready to storm out of there.  

 

Although welcomed with open arms by Q’s friends, when it became clear who he was, he was amazed that they didn’t pull pitchforks and torches out on him. Q’s siblings were even more terrifying, especially the eldest sister, and while he was getting a detailed explanation of how exactly he was going to get stringed by his dick to the ceiling and live long enough to write a novel of an apology to Q for hurting him if he ever did that, he easily imagined a few double oh agents falling on their knees in front of her and begging her to be their partner both inside and outside of a mission.

 

Devoted family and friends aside, what really terrified James was the fact that what he had felt on the island for Q only intensified since the second he saw him again. Like a teenager, he got butterflies in his stomach as he waited to see if his flimsy excuse was going to fly – and adding one more lie he needed to worry about – and he sighed in relief when his phone rang not two days later at he saw that it was Q who was calling him.

 

But while he feared the future, Q was more than happy to throw himself in this relationship as all innocent civilians who had no idea what really lurked behind scary news headlines and James followed him down the pleasant rabbit hole because how could he not? How could he not enjoy the simple hugs and surprisingly pleasant small talks? How could he not want to keep waking up with the warm octopus spread all over himself? The one thing he did not want anymore was to hear the worry in Q’s voice and see the pain in his eyes whenever he caught sight of his new wounds, so he started to do his best to finish his missions as a spy and not as an assassin or mercenary.

 

Whenever he was about to act carelessly on a mission, he thought of Q and stayed his hand, forcing himself to follow the plan even if it was taking longer to get everything over with than he would have liked. He even started to go to Medical after he was done with a mission after he’d seen the way Q looked at a particularly nasty cut and offered to give him all of the savings he had in order to help him out of whatever trouble he was in.

 

“We’ve known each other for three months,” James had said incredulously, quickly moving his towel to better hide his wound. “You really shouldn’t offer someone so much after such a short period of time.”

 

Q just shrugged and made his offer again which only reminded James of yet another big lie he had fed his lover and namely, what his new job was. He really shouldn’t have had any trouble with coming up with a lie that would have permitted the both of them to enjoy a comfortable life, but Q sprung the question on him when he wasn’t ready and he realized only then that he needed a decent amount of time before coming up with anything that made sense.

 

“Assistant to the junior marketing representative for Transworld Consortium,” was the job title he came up with and then managed to subtly send the Major a text in which he asked him to set that up for him because he knew how curious his lover was and how worried he could get and although Q was going to find out what he really did eventually, he wanted to find out from him, not from hacking. “At one point, the words ‘in training’ were there, believe it or not, and the contract I signed back then was enormous.”

 

Q had snorted before rolling on him and covering his face with kisses. “I had no idea that secretaries had secretaries but even me, someone who hates coffee from the bottom of my heart… Even I have to admit that the coffee you make smells good.”

 

Without being prompted by anyone and even though Q was none the wiser about the missions in which he had to seduce someone and pretty much fuck them until they either joined their side or were satisfied enough to part with some important information that would aid MI6 in their constant battle against those who wanted to sink the country, James officially presented M with his request to never be sent out on such a mission again unless there was no other possibility to complete it.

 

Naturally, M worried that their most promiscuous agent had caught and after seeing his up-to-date medical records, he tasked his Chief of Staff to find out what was happening. And that was an easy task, Bill Tanner wrongly thought to himself as he plopped down in front of the third person that had to know everything about 007 – option one was Alec Trevelyan, the man’s best friend, who would obviously not tell him a single thing and option two was the Quartermaster who would be as silent as Alec as his curiosity extended to the agent’s private life.

 

“Was he rejected on his last run?” It wasn’t a secret that 007 had a huge ego to go with his status as ‘the best that MI6 had’ and since he wasn’t sick, Bill was afraid that being shut down while on a honeypot mission would be that one thing that would start the double oh’s version of midlife crises.

 

“No, he was welcomed in the mole’s bed with open arms and legs,” Eve joked, her smile strained. “If I may speak freely, sir?” She asked and M nodded without hesitation, even scooting a bit closer to her as if they were two teenagers about to share the biggest secret in the universe. “I think that James is in a serious relationship with a civilian.”

 

Before he could stop himself or remember who he was, Bill snorted. He had an easier time accepting the fact that Bond has matured to the point of realizing that they had his best interest in mind when Medical and Psychiatry was involved rather than the fact that he could be serious with someone.

 

“No, no, Bill, listen to me,” Eve insisted, frowning and moving closer still to him, their shoulders touching as she surveyed the area in a move left over from when she used to be an active agent herself. “He’s been going to Medical on his own before and after every mission and his doctor told me that he almost freaked once when he was told that the small graze he got from a bullet narrowly avoiding his shoulder was going to take more than a day and a few hours to completely heal. I am sure the Major knows more, but if he was one for sharing information, you wouldn’t be having this conversation with me.”

 

Her suspicion was correct as James had went directly to the man to ask for security measures after his 4th date with Q when it became obvious without a doubt that they were indeed in a relationship that could last if he put his back into it even a bit and while the old man was reluctant at first - ‘You do fall in love every other week, 007’ - he did not need more than a few seconds to agree to help.

 

In the end, after Bill had struggled for three months to find out what was happening and M tried to casually and in an uncaring manner ask Bond what exactly had happened to make him act in such a professional way while on missions, the man presented them with an official request for a physical security detail for Q.

 

“He’s unaware of what my job is,” he said even before greeting his superior, also sitting down without being invited. “And I would very much like it to keep it like that for now, but I also want him to be safe in case anyone somehow finds out about him and tries to get to me through him.”

 

In that second, everything made sense even if he needed a few moments to accept the fact that, yes, James Bond started to settle down with someone that might not be trying to kill him for once. “Are you sure that he’s not a security risk?” He asked carefully, James’ eyes managing to turn even colder than they already were. “Miss Lynd easily comes to mind as the first reason for me asking that.”

 

“I’m sure the Major has confirmed that he’s safe behind my back,” James said in a clipped voice, flexing his hand. “You did not strike me as the kind of person who likes to dance around an issue, so why not tell me directly if my partner will get the bodyguard or not?”

 

“I cannot put 006 on it—”

 

“Good, because I don’t want Alec to do this,” James interrupted him, irritated by the inquisitive look he was getting.  “But I would like to either personally pick the agents or meet them beforehand to make sure that they can actually know how to do their job.”

 

With the Vesper incident in mind, M agreed and after spending an entire day grilling every agent that he was introduced to, James settled on two men that looked normal enough to pass as simple strangers minding their own business but that could easily disarm an enemy and had only just a bit of trouble with throwing a sand bag weighing roughly as much as Q over their shoulder and running and while he would have felt 100% better if Alec was indeed the one to watch over his lover, he wasn’t quite ready to introduce the two.

 

It took him almost an entire year to finally decide to come clean with everything and have the two most important people in his life meet, but he could be excused for needing that embarrassingly long amount of time to be sure that yes, he more than liked Q and that their relationship was truly a thing that could last – well, the latter was going to be tested soon and he will be coaching Alec on what parts of their job he had to forget even when he was piss drunk.

 

Though, should he really tell Q what he was doing? His lover worried enough for him as it was so he could only imagine the mop of white hair he’d return home to after he gained that piece of knowledge. Granted, if Q and Alec hit it off and his best friend assumed the older brother role, the man might find a way of playfully aggravating Q enough to distract him from his nail biting and the overthinking habit that he was sure to suddenly develop.

 

The Major and his army of boffins were sure to also serve as a constructive distraction and having just realized that Q was tech savvy enough to at least land himself an internship of sorts within the Quartermaster’s branch, swallowing the delicious food that was always served in first class became even harder than before, his need to talk with the younger man bigger, and the fact that he wasn’t answering even though he was calling him at an hour in which he was normally cursing a cookbook in his attempt to be a functioning adult not eating the same meal for dinner every night even more nerve wrecking.

 

But it was okay; everything was okay, he mentally chanted to himself as the annoying monotone female voice informed him for the fifth time in an hour that the person he was trying reach was unavailable. Q was probably caught up with a big project from work and couldn’t answer his phone. Or maybe he got into an accident or he got kidnapped and MI6 wasn’t contacting him because they were afraid he’d go AWOL – which he totally would, but he’d prefer to check with someone first and ask them to do a bit of the field work until he got a flight back.

 

“Took you long enough to answer,” he snapped at Alec without meaning to.

 

Two rings, you bloody git. And hello to you too,” Alec responded in kind, waiting for James to take a deep breath to calm himself down and rethink his grovelling tactic before continuing. “To what do I owe this rude call, James?

 

This was not going to be an easy conversation. “I need a favour.”

 

And that was your best opening for this situation?” Alec teased and James hated the fact that he still let people get the best of him when he felt like he was at the end of his rope – even though he was just exaggerating right now, but his heart dropped in his stomach when he pictured Q tied up in a basement somewhere, bleeding and in pain. “Are you still there, or did you faint because you admitted you needed help with something?”

 

“I do not need your help—” He stopped suddenly, sighing again. Yes, he needed Alec’s help even though that made him feel helpless and useless and he might as well admit it. “Fine, I do need your help with something. Something very important, so please don’t interrupt me or mock me, okay?”

 

Well, if you insist on being this serious then by all means, continue,” Alec muttered and James took a deep breath, braced himself, and told him everything.

 

He told him that he had met Q on a plane – not how, but Alec knew him enough to imagine that part – about how he stole the covers and loved to push his cold feet against his backside in the middle of winter – Q said he did that because he was figuratively hot, because physically he was only slightly warmer than him – and about how full of love he was.

 

Bottom line was that he didn’t want Q to be just another Vesper or another Countess and form his experience, everything ended the way it did just because they were involved in his real life from the start. “You are more than welcome to gang up with him and give me grief later, but please check up on him and let tell me if he’s okay because right now he’s not answering his phone and the family security protocol dictates that the agent’s aren’t informed of any issues while they are on a mission.”

 

The silence that greeted the end of his confession lasted for so long that James had to check the phone to make sure it didn’t die mid-meltdown. But the phone was working just fine and the call was still ongoing, so Alec was probably just mulling over the newly received information.

 

He must be really something if he got you to fall in love with him,” Alec eventually muttered, chuckling. “Sure, I’ll check up on the light of your eyes. Just tell me where he lives and—

 

“I don’t want him to see you,” James quickly interrupted, “or for him to think that he’s being stalked for any reason,” he added after giving everything a moment’s thought. “And don’t take that as an insult, Alec. I just want him to find out everything from me, like you did.”

 

Did I detect a hint of pleading in your voice?” Alec teased, accepting the whole secret thing a bit too fast for James’ liking. “Never mind; I’ll ask a boffin to give me the recording later and I’ll decide for myself. As for your little… What was his name again? Oh?”

 

“Q, but not really. Though he’ll rarely answer his actual name and when he does, he usually throws something at—”

 

Okay, I get it, I get it. I’ll address him as Q and I will call you the second I find out why he’s not answering your calls,” Alec said, sounding exasperated. “By the way, you’re introducing us the second you land, you twat.”

 

Alec got back to him in less than one hour which James considered to be a record time and a bit suspicious – even if he did say that he got help from R and that, coincidentally, he was near the neighbourhood in which Q was working. Still, he forced himself to believe Alec that his lover suddenly found himself in the middle of an emergency at work – mainly because this wouldn’t be the first time and Q really did forget about the world when he had to clean up after the ‘philistines’ he had to call colleagues – and decided fully concentrated on his mission.

 

He texted Q to remind him to eat and to wish him a good night, more than disappointed when he didn’t get anything back. It was in his humble opinion even before this radio silence that Q definitely needed a vacation and he hoped that he would have an easier time convincing him to agree to it after revealing that they could buy five castles and still have enough money to live the rest of their lives in opulent luxury.

 

They’ll start their vacation with a little trip to Scotland so Q could visit Skyfall, of course. Then they’ll go to Canton de Vaud in Switzerland to stay for a bit at his late mother’s family estate and then hop over in Austria to dust off the not so little winter holiday cottage. His planned last stop was where they first met, although he wasn’t quite sure if they should spend a night in Q’s hotel and then surprise him with his five star one for the rest of their stay there or just go there directly.

 

The mission ended up being a breeze even if his mind was otherwise occupied with ‘what if’ scenarios, James starting to feel a bit anxious as the plane got closer to London. That feeling turned into nausea when he saw Alec waiting for him on the airport, his smile a bit too strained and his demeanour too joyful.

 

“I did mean it when I said that I want to meet Q the second you land,” Alec said in lieu of greeting, linking their arms together. “Now show me how it is to go to Medical the second you get back in here so I can tell M that you already did it the next time he monotonously berates me about proper dress down etiquette.”

 

Alec seemed to be much too happy to be going to Medical and the grip he had on him was iron-like. The four agents that started following them the second they walked inside the main MI6 building and stopped every time they stopped, either aggressively texting or playing pretty much said that something was wrong and the second they all stepped into the elevator, James knocked two of them out by bashing their heads against the door, and the other two by hitting them in their necks with his elbow, dodging Alec’s kicks and punches just in time and immobilizing him in a painful headlock.

 

“What happened?” He demanded, stopping the elevator between floors. “For once in your life, be as serious as you can, Alec,” he said when he saw the corner of his friend’s lips twitch upward.

 

“I’m not in a talking manner when I can’t breathe, old friend,” Alec gasped, tapping James’ arms until he was released. “Can I also ask that you do not kick my teeth in after I am done talking or while I am talking?”

 

James grinned, fisting his hand in an attempt to silence the terrified and already burned beast within that was close to taking control. “Alec, did something happen to Q?”

 

“There was some glass near the bed that he was unaware of and…” James would have sighed in relief if only hadn’t trailed off and only he wasn’t currently being forcefully escorted to Medical. “Now, before we continue, you have to understand that he attacked first.”

 

Realization struck James. “You managed to follow me home.”

 

Alec had the decency not to look smug as he smiled. “It really is a home, James, and I am happy you actually managed to make one. Although you might have to fight for it even more because of me since he found out what your real job is.” He finally pulled himself up on his feet and placed his hand on James’ shoulder, squeezing it. “I am also to blame for that lone shard finding its way in Q’s foot, but he did want to fry me when I broke in. and I kind of just slipped into agent mode.”

 

“You broke in! What did you expect him to do? Offer you a cuppa?” James snapped, punching the elevator back into working. “Alec, I’ll hurt you trice as much as you hurt him and I won’t do it by accident.”

 

James was out of the elevator even before the doors fully opened and he zipped passed all the nurses and security that were trying to stop him long enough to calm him. Granted he would have had a harder time getting to Q’s room if they all piled on top of him, but Alec was finally being useful by informing everyone that no one would get hurt and that James would calm down the second his eyes landed on his lover.

 

That got a few of the youngers nurses and doctors to come to a halt, but the more experience ones started to threaten that they’ll bring in other double oh agents and even M to put a stop to the circus before it began. And really, even James snorted at that because if there was one thing they all understood, then that was the need to make sure that their loved ones are okay of one of theirs. M was another story, but James was already walking into the only occupied room so that man was the least of his worries.

 

Q’s face lit of for a second, relief washing over him before anger and betrayal settled in. “We need to talk.”

 

“That we do, darling,” James agreed, plotting to break Alec’s arms at seeing the bandages wrapped around Q’s wrists. “My soon to be dead friend said that you stepped in some—”

 

“Were you ever planning on telling me what you really were?” Q interrupted him instead, fixing him with a hard stare. “Were we ever… No, the right question is if I was the only one who truly felt something or if I was just some cover for an elaborate mission? Do I even know you or was everything just a role?”

 

“You were never a mission and you do know the real me in my downtime,” James exclaimed, grabbing Q’s hand. “Look, I’ve had some really bad experiences in the past with people who knew who and what I know that’s not a good excuse when you feel betrayed, but I just wanted to keep you safe for as long as possible.”

 

He leaned close with the intention of kissing his cheek, but Q turned his head away and pulled his hand free from his grasp. “Wouldn’t have I been safer if you’d just told me about everything? I mean at least I wouldn’t have tried to fight someone who could break me in half without trying too hard if I knew he was an associate of yours.”

 

“You’re right, you’re right, of course.” Q was always right. “I should have told you sooner, but I couldn’t.” Because then you would have gotten hurt and the fact that you’re in Medical right now is proof that this isn’t just my supposed paranoia acting up.

 

“And I don’t know you at all,” Q whispered, fisting his hands in his lap. “But I understand why you tell me the truth,” he admitted, sounding defeated and tired. “Do you have any new bruises?”

 

“No,” James said quickly and because he was sure that Q wouldn’t believe him, he started to strip. “This was a simple mission.” He threw his jacket and tie on the chair, Q’s brows knitting in confusion not a second later. “It was more like meeting an old acquaintance and exchanging family photos.” He flexed his muscles and slowly turned around to show Q that there were no new marks on his skin.

 

Q lunged forward and grabbed James’ hands the second he heard the pants’ zipper starting to get pulled down. “I don’t think you’re supposed to be telling me this unless you plan on killing me later.” That was when his nails started to dig in James’ hands and his eyes filled with anger and hate.

 

“No, he’s just horrible at his job,” Alec chimed in as he slid in the room, holding Q’s laptop in front of his face. “No matter where or how hard you hit me this time, I will drop it and be in so much pain that I will step on it until it turns to dust.”

 

James did not take it as an insult when Q’s entire focus moved from him to the laptop and he was inclined to almost be thankful to Alec for distracting him from a huge misunderstanding, but he hadn’t forgotten that he was to blame for everything in the first place – well, maybe for the part in which Q was glaring daggers at him from a hospital bed instead of his apartment.

 

“You better have a good reason for having his laptop,” James said slowly, elbowing Alec in the stomach and catching the precious piece of technology before it hit the ground.

 

“Other than making sure he didn’t have anything to contact you with?” Alec asked and grinned, dangling Q’s phone in front of him for a few seconds before he got punched in the stomach. “What’s your excuse for being naked while in your lover’s private hospital room?”

 

Q snorted, cradling his two precious gadgets. “I think he screwed me enough, so he’s probably getting ready for that rectal exam that Miss R promised she’d get someone to do to him.”

 

He started to slide out of bed when Alec snapped out of whatever daydream he had slipped in the second R was mentioned and stopped him, pulling his hands back when James growled at him. “Hey, you know how much I hate following doctors’ instructions, but I believe them when they said that he’s not supposed to be on those toothpicks of his for at least one more week after I witnessed first-hand how deep that cut was.”

 

“You’re exaggerating,” Q snapped at him, rolling his eyes when James started to try to tuck him in. “It wasn’t that bad—”

 

“He has to get a shot in the stomach every day for that entire week in which he’s bedridden,” Alec interrupted him, patting Q’s head before drumming his fingers on the laptop-turned-shield. “Don’t think that James won’t let me use your laptop against you because he totally will. In fact, he’ll probably give me even more blackmail material now that you won’t let him be your blanket.”

 

Great, now his supposed best friend was making him sound like a complete jackass that didn’t even deserve to breathe the same air as the rest of the world, let alone be in the same room with someone like Q. “I won’t,” he quickly promised, shoving Alec away. “But if the doctor told you to stay in bed, you should.” Just saying that left a foul taste in his mouth and Alec’s shocked and overly dramatic gasp did not help. “You can do this home, since I take it that you’ve been detained here to make sure that you didn’t find a way to contact me?”

 

Q clicked his tongue and looked away while Alec chuckled in his hand. “Well, that and the fact that in the ten minutes it took us to realize that he had somehow taken his laptop with him, he hacked our servers. The Major almost ended up being his roommate when he realized that someone was casually reading files and no alarms were going off.”

 

“Everything your boss told me sounded like bullshit so I decided to check things out for myself,” Q said in his defence and James mentally praised him for not believing everything and especially something as ridiculous as this. “Had I known this Quartermaster was a respectable old man with heart problems, I would have been more covert in my fact checking.”

 

The reason why Q was in Medical instead of jail was because he had only searched for and accessed James’ personal files. Still, not that he wasn’t more than grateful that yes, normally that would still land him behind bars – and apparently that was the original intention, but after some technobabble exchange that went between him and the Major, he got the supposed adult version of a time out – he would have preferred it if it didn’t take him half an hour of glaring at M and the help of the entire boffin branch to get his lover – former lover, Q painfully underlined from his wheelchair – out of there.

 

Q couldn’t go back to his home because a much sturdier door alongside various, improved security measures were still being put into place – and everything was going to come out of James’ pay, M informed him, not that the agent had any quarrel with that; in fact, he insisted they take everything down and get the most expensive things they could find, much to Q’s annoyance – nor did he want to set foot in his apartment even if his life depended on it, so James had to drop him off at his eldest sister’s house.

 

“I’ll call you tomorrow so we can work out the details?” James tried, Alec saving him from having his fingers crushed by how hard Q slammed the car’s door.

 

“Best to let him call you,” Alec whispered after giving Q his crutches and picking up his two duffle bags after which he turned his full attention to the worried woman who was bombarding Q with questions. “Hello, Mrs Q’s sister! My name is Alec and I am partially—”

 

“Fully,” Q corrected him.

 

Alec rolled his eyes, but his smile was still firmly in place. “Fine, I am fully to blame for your brother’s current condition, so feel free to focus all of your anger solely on me.” He made sure to block her view of James when she turned her questioning look to him, holding his hand out towards the door. “Do you mind if we first set your brother up in your apartment? I am afraid that he’ll need constant attention for a few days and I think it’s safe to say that a certain someone is dead to him.”

 

James thanked his lucky stars that the woman didn’t have a shovel nearby and that Q faked suddenly being in pain, distracting her from her hatred. Still, he thought that those stars could put a little effort in being extra lucky so Q would call him later that night and they’d mend things.

 

Q didn’t call him for three months.

 

***

 

His sister wasn’t happy about how tight lipped her brother was. “It’s sufficed to say that Mister Bond and I are no longer together.” No, saying something like that in such a defeated voice was anything but sufficient. Even so, she found herself unable to push whenever Q had reached that point and she just presumed that James had cheated on him and her baby brother caught him in the act.

 

Not that Q wasn’t sure of the same thing. He might not have read James’ mission files, but he knew what spies did. He knew they seduced people and he had no doubt that the man had someone like him in every part of the word. Kudos to him for never coming home smelling like another woman and for managing to avoid getting lipstick, or glitter, or whatever on his clothes. It was probably that attention to detail that kept him from coming back in a body bag.

 

He was well aware that it was going to take a long time to get over him, especially since he had gone and done the stupid thing and fell in love James, but the temporary live-in nurse that MI6 insisted he had and that they were paying for did little to help the beginning of the forgetting process.

 

The woman was also of respectable enough age to still be working and still be trusted with sharp objects, needles, and medication, and her kind voice and warm touch made him feel safe and reminded his mother of her mother. She was also a no-bullshit kind of woman and as much as she found him endearing and liked to dot on him, she did not hesitate to tug on his ears and march him right back to bed or to the sofa. And it was because of that that she was the only nurse who could handle James.

 

“He’s been a lot careful in the past year,” she suddenly said the day before her job was complete. “Bond, I mean,” she cleared up when Q looked at her with confusion. “Normally, by the end of the after mission medical check-up, I’d feel at least twenty years older and we’d have two doctors on calming pills.”

 

Thinking back to their time together, Q remembered how James had taken care of him when he was sick and what an almost pleasant sick man he himself was. He always took whatever Q was giving him, only asking for a bit of sugar if the medicine was too bitter – and the first time, Q actually brought him sugar only from James to chuckle and tug him closer, telling him that he was the sugar after giving him a small peck on the lips – and moderately complained.

 

“He’s a great actor,” Q bitterly concluded. “Perhaps he’s wasted as a spy.”

 

The old nurse sighed, shaking her head. “That may very well be the case, but he stopped being such a petulant child almost a year ago.” She took a side glance at Q, barely holding back a smirk when she noticed that he had stopped his typing, his lips parting a bit as he took a sharp breath. “He came to us out of his own free will, he made sure not to be too careless while out, and he even insisted on fretting over every little scratch he had.”

 

There were little things in his own mannerisms that set her off talking about other agents, but mostly James. Worst of all was that every two weeks or so, she’d have a recent story of the man and every time she’d mention a new wound on him, Q’s heart would jump and his stomach would be full of knots until he was assured that the other was perfectly fine.

 

Two weeks later, Q was had fully recovered but he did not feel like he could go back just yet and his sister was more than happy to keep him by her side. The old nurse still popped in every now and then to check up on him and even the lovely R took him out to lunch once per week.

 

Three months passed before Q felt ready to fully face the world again and even though he met a bit of resistance from his family and friends – who were still under the impression that James cheated on him – they didn’t really have a word in this decision. His apartment was secure enough to be lived in – he was still considered a high risk for James – it was fifteen minutes closer to his workplace, and not living in his own home because of a bloody broken heart was a complete waste of money and, not to mention, utterly stupid and pathetic.

 

Alec showed up to help him move back at the same time as his friends and because his tongue was covered in much more silver than anyone thought, somehow tricked them into going on ahead without Q. And if that wasn’t a headache big enough, while driving so slow that Q was sure a cop was going to give them a ticket, Alec prattled about whatever crossed his mind – until he found the perfect random moment to segue into the James topic. “He misses you like mad, you know.”

 

“I don’t care,” Q grumbled, arms automatically crossing over his chest.

 

“I know, I know,” Alec assured him, drumming his fingers against the driving wheel as he came to a full stop while the light was still yellow. “But you’re the only one that I can complain about my best friend as even R took to carrying around muffins to shove in my mouth whenever I start doing that.” Q remained silent and sulking, so Alec took that as an invitation to continue. “It’s like he has this own personal gloom cloud following him and I really thought that he’d jump into honeypot missions—”

 

“Why are secret agents so talkative about what and who they do with civilians?” Q snapped, eye twitching. “Really, the last thing I want to hear about is how someone that I love continued to sleep with other people! And if you say that I am the one who broke off everything, so I have no right to complain, I will kick you out of the car,” Q warned. “No; if you continue to yap about that bastard, I’ll kick you out.”

 

Alec fell silent and much to Q’s shame he only realized that they weren’t going to his apartment only when they pulled up in front of a restaurant. Not to meet ‘the bastard’, Alec quickly assured him, but so he could properly apologize to him by treating him to whatever he wanted off the menu and, the cherry on top was going to be that he wouldn’t say a single word unless Q wanted him to.

 

Sadly, Q never knew how to properly enjoy a gift so twenty minutes into their brunch, he opened his mouth without consulting his brain. “Has he actually said that he misses me?”

 

“Many times,” Alec was quick to reply, face lighting up. “In fact, he’s either bored to tears the psychiatrist he’s willingly started seeing about seven months ago or made them fall in love with you. 009 already has a crush on you from what he heard from Eve and let me tell you, James hates his guts even more than before because he says that he’s just the type you’d fall for.”

 

A chuckle left Q without meaning to and he hid his face behind his menu, much too embarrassed that he found the other’s jealousy endearing. “You said that he’s seeing a psychiatrist?”

 

“Ah, that’s normal for people in our line of work,” Alec assured him, leaning over the table to squeeze his hand. “How come you forgave me so fast?”

 

Q grinned. “I haven’t.” He then proceeded to order ‘to go’ the most expensive things that he saw on the menu. Alec was indecent enough not to be affected in the least by that.

 

In fact, the bastard grinned smugly at him and asked the waiter to put two of every dessert they had also to go, throwing his arm around Q’s shoulder and winking in his direction, saying that he looked like had one heck of a bloody sweet tooth and a metabolism that everybody hated him for – he did, but that was not of his business. However, he seemed to be rather against the crab soup which tasted divine to Q, so he had one more bowl right then and there and asked for another one to go.

 

“It smells somewhat off,” Alec muttered with his nose stuck in the little food container, glaring daggers at the waiter. “This the soup du jour?” The waiter hesitated for a moment before nodding. “What was yesterday’s soup du jour?”

 

“The… crab soup, sir,” the waiter said slowly, starting to sweat. “But that is our new cook’s specialty, so I assure you that this is fresh.”

 

“I highly doubted,” Alec muttered under his breath, but sighed and allowed the man to give Q the soup. “But tell your manager, owner, and new chef with a love for crabs that should this one here get sick, your fancy doors will never open again no matter how much I like this restaurant.”

 

Q pretty much dragged Alec out of there, really not wanting to see the man actually start threatening the waiter. Alec tried a few more times to convince him to dump the crab soup, offering to stop at another restaurant that he promised had the best soup in the world, but despite all of that and despite Q starting to feel a little bit queasy, he refused since he was way too tired for this and he had to go to work in two hours.

 

When he walked through the door of his apartment, despite being greeted by his friends’ and family’s kind smiles, he felt alone and for a fracture of a moment, he felt like he was in the world’s darkest and coldest place. It must have shown or he must have staggered because the next thing he knew, he was sitting on James’ favourite armchair while someone pushing a glass of water to his lips, another person was slapping his hand, a couple were fanning him, and he was pretty sure that yet another friend was calling the nurse over.

 

“I’m fine,” he said but that just caused everyone to move closer and for him to suddenly feel sicker. “Or not,” he whispered when he felt his stomach lurch. “Out of my way!”

 

It was definitely the crab soup, but hell would have to freeze over and the devil had to win an Olympic gold medal in ice skating before he admitted to Alec that he was right. He wasn’t going to try and stop him from ripping the chef a new one if he wanted to, but he got the feeling that if he backed the man’s claim, then he was inadvertently singing someone’s death sentence – though two hours into everyone fussing over him, including two MI6 doctors, he was tempted to ask Alec to hold the chef while he poured all the soup he found in the kitchen down his throat.

 

He was finally left to suffer alone as per his wishes three hours later, after he was stuffed full of pills and fed a solution that was guaranteed to help him avoid suffering from dehydration via IV bag. Of course, he had to promise that if he suffered another bout of toilet hugging, he’d call one of them.

 

Q was sure that everyone was exaggerating, especially since his fever had all but gone and he could concentrate enough to follow the simple plot of his sickness novel – James had tried three times to read it and every time he ended up falling asleep on Q – but of course his body insisted on proving him wrong because he couldn’t get simple food poisoning. No, he had to have one where chills suddenly hit his body despite the beads of sweat that were rolling down his temples, his stomach felt like it was boiling, and everything hurt.

 

He couldn’t even stand the light from his phone, so it was a miracle that he didn’t end up calling for takeout. “I got sick again,” he whined, trying to turn himself into an even tighter ball. “I’m too cold to move,” he muttered again although since he heard the front door opening and someone tripping as they ran to his bed, he was pretty sure that he had fallen asleep between ideas. “I’m not lazy, just cold,” he said again in his defence, frowning.

 

“Best that you don’t move anyway,” the nice old nurse told him softly as the blanket above him got heavier still and man’s hand wiped his forehead. “His fever is starting to break and he is awake now, but do not panic if he goes right back to sleep. However, if his fever goes up again with 0.5 degrees, call the doctor right away and we’ll take him to the hospital.”

 

“If that happens, I’ll call you while I’m on my way to the hospital with him,” James growled, fingers gently massaging the frown that had appeared on Q’s forehead. “I’ll be out of your hair as soon as you are well enough to kick me out, I promise.”

 

At that moment, Q did not remember why he’d kick James out. He knew that his lover had been away for a long time, so he felt bad for getting sick as this was a horrible way of welcoming him back – he couldn’t remember how he wanted to greet him, but he was sure as hell that it wasn’t by needing the man to help him reach the bathroom before he covered the bed in puke, or by making him change his clothes every hour because he had sweated another kilo off.

 

Sex had to be part of that plan, Q was sure. But since he was the posterchild for sick people that you wouldn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole—

 

“Worryingly paler than usual and your hair is sticking out in all the directions, but still as breathtakingly beautiful as ever, darling,” James assured him before kissing his temple and wrapping his arms around him, holding him righter to his chest. “Your fever is almost down enough for you to be coherent, so sweat through as many shirts you want as long as you get better.”

 

He woke up a few more times, a few more shirts were ruined, he attempted cuddling with James maybe three or four times despite him insisting that he needed to , and then the fog finally lifted off his brain and he felt a cocktail of conflicting emotions – happiness, anger, exhilaration, embarrassment –  when he was greeted by the sight of his supposedly ex-lover. But Q wasn’t the only one who was at a loss as even the great spy was shifting his weight from one foot to another, outright glaring at the mug of steaming tea in his hands.

 

“I’ll just—“

 

“Take a sit,” Q finished for him, scooting back on what used to be his side so James wouldn’t sit on the armchair. “You came,” he said after a minute of tense silence.

 

“You were sick,” James pointed out, leaning forward with the clear intent of brushing his hair out of his eyes, stopping mere millimetres from touching him and pulling back as if he had been burned. “A habit.”

 

Q thought for a moment. Should he, or shouldn’t he? What was his problem with James in the end anyway? Up until now, he was sure that he had been nothing more than a cover and he overthought himself into a corner with how many times the man had to sleep with others while they were supposedly a thing but if that was 100% real, then all James had to do was redirect his call to their doctors and save himself a lot of trouble.

 

“One that I like,” Q finally said, closing his eyes and leaning forward, smiling when he felt the man’s lips on his forehead while his arms wrapped around him. “Tell me, Mister Bond… Would you be interested in an information exchange? I show you what other habits of yours I like while I find out who the real you is?”