Intelligence agencies liked to think that they were prepared for everything and capable to do anything. A few lives might be lost here and there, buildings might get blown all over the place, and traitors galore trying to take over the world from the inside of the very thing that’s supposed to stop that from happening but at the end of the day, the status quo remained the same.
Then 2020 happened.
They were powerless when Australia caught on fire – or when it started to flood – they couldn’t do a thing when Iran and America almost went to waw because of how 'in the open' the inciting incident was and just when the spy world let out a collective sigh of relief, the plague was unleashed.
Despite what all the intelligence agencies and the World Health Organization said, the powers of the world decided to drag their feet. At first, it because it was only China that was suffering, then because this new thing had flu-like symptoms so they reasoned that the same medicine would work, then because the flu killed more people per year than the new virus had – somehow forgetting that the year was just beginning and the plague victims were growing in number a lot faster than the flu ones – and then everyone kind of just panicked.
MI6 acted fast. In the first week that the virus was reported in the UK, the agents that weren’t on critical missions were ordered back home where they were tested and quarantined. They couldn’t do anything for the agents that were in deep undercover but they could ensure that their handlers wouldn’t get sick so they had them work from home.
One week later, when the joke of a Prime Minister was doing his best to keep from the public that he was sick instead of getting the country ready, MI6 continued to follow the plans that UK’s intelligence agencies came up with. All medical staff was redirected to the hospitals that would soon be swamped. Their R&D personnel got reassigned to a project meant to further aid the future patients and everyone else got sent to work from home.
The Quartermaster chose to temporarily abandon his newly acquired duplex apartment in the middle of London in favour of quarantining with his elderly father – Major Geoffrey Boothroyd. And that was well and good, Geoffrey more than happy to have his raison d'etre move back in for the moment so he could help him around the house and with the shopping but he wasn’t quite thrilled to see him show up on his doorstep with the bane of his existence during his service as the MI6 Quartermaster.
“We’re still trying to get his apartment back,” Q explained, smiling awkwardly while James bloody Bond, the scourge of every piece of equipment, continued to sit there without breaking a sweat while holding two heavy duffle bags and one large cat cage.
Geoffrey’s frown deepened. “Hotels are still a thing.”
“Now I know you love your jokes, but dad—”
“He couldn’t tell one if he had it written on a piece of paper,” James muttered under his breath, flinching when Q stepped on his foot to shut him up – though the look Q shot him might have been all that was needed and Geoffrey was quite proud of that since he learned the original hard glare from him.
“Bond, stop antagonizing your former Quartermaster,” Q hissed to James before turning back to his father, a tired and pleading expression on his face – that he got from his mother, although it was no less powerful. “We need help and he needs help, so would you really mind if he quarantines with us?”
Now, even if Q wasn’t cheating by asking his father for something – for Geoffrey could never really tell him no and the only reason why he wasn’t rotten spoiled was because Q’s mother had been able to resist his pouts and big eyes when it was really needed – he would still have relented in letting Bond stay.
The man might have been horrible to every piece of technology that he was given – and to a boat that most definitely hadn’t been his as it was Boothroyd’s private propriety – but he still had done everything in his power to keep the country and MI6 safe. Plus, he had some wood that needed to be cut in the back and neither he nor Q could do it.
“Of course I wouldn’t,” Geoffrey relented in a huff, making James crack a smile and his son to beam at him. That was strange and Geoffrey wasn’t sure he liked that. He suspected that his son might be gay and that he might be crushing on the worst man in history to have genuine feelings given everything Q did for the man and the many times he almost lost his job and life so seeing him this happy to be locked down with him didn't bode well at all. “But, Bond, you will be out in the cold if you sneak a woman in—why are you laughing? I’m serious!”
“He was choking,” Q jumped in as he pushed a glass of water in James’ hands and made him sit down on the sofa. “You drove all the way here so rest while I grab the rest of our luggage.”
James was quick to grab on to Q’s arm and switch places with him. “And who stayed up working until we had to leave at 6 AM even though there was no active mission or immediate project?” He chuckled at Q’s guilty face. “You rest while I stretch my muscles and I promise that I won’t lift a finger to help during our next shopping trip.”
Q kicked his shoes off and got more comfortable on the sofa, failing to hide his smile even though he pressed his face against the back of his purring cats. “I will be kind and let you help me with the water bottles and the potatoes.”
“What a merciful lord I serve,” James murmured, obviously amused.
The more Geoffrey watched them interact, the more red flags he started to see.
The unusual relationship between Q and James was highlighted the very next day during breakfast.
He knew that James had military training so he assumed that it was embedded in his DNA to wake up before dawn but he was still startled when he walked into the kitchen and found him finishing up setting the table for the delicious smelling food that was cooling down on the counter.
“Good morning, Major Boothroyd,” James said stiffly, almost saluting. “I hope you don’t mind that I made breakfast without checking with you.”
“Morning, Bond,” Geoffrey replied after he was done processing that James was dressed in a faded T-shirt that had a pun worthy of Q on the front and sweatpants as he had genuinely assumed that James had a suit-like pair of pyjamas. “You wasted time setting the table up for Q. He doesn’t do mornings or breakfast unless he has no choice.”
He was instantly proven wrong by Q sleepily shuffling into the kitchen and slumping in a chair, his groan getting lost in a yawn. “Mornings are the Devil’s creation.” He opened one eye when he felt a mug being pushed in his hand and he instantly perked up when he caught a whiff of his favourite tea. “I was sure there was none left back at the apartment and dad isn’t allowed anything with caffeine in it.”
Geoffrey’s mug of coffee disappeared just as he was about to grab it, James ignoring his cold glare. “The third gas station had two tins which I bought to make you hate mornings a little less.”
“You didn’t have to bother,” Q said softly with a strange look in his eyes. “Thank you.”
“It was a pleasure, not a bother,” James assured him and Geoffrey realized that he had the same look in his eyes which made him feel like he was intruding on something intimate.
“He never bothered trying to bribe me with tea or coffee when he wanted something,” Geoffrey muttered under his breath and just like that, the unusual looks instantly disappeared.
“Still, I wouldn’t be averse to you remembering this the next time you put my kit together,” James said offhandedly, typing something on his phone before placing it in front of Q. “And keep in mind that my favourite car colour is silver.”
Q huffed and pushed the phone away with his elbow. “That won’t matter since you’ll get a bicycle if you are lucky. And it will be chartreuse so it can match the squirt gun I’ll give you instead of an actual gun!”
Ever the joker, James continued to poke the dragon. “Get me those things in a colour that matches mine or your eyes and you won’t hear a single peep out of me.”
“Glow in the dark chartreuse, you hear me?
Geoffrey rolled his eyes and started eating, amused that he was acting similarly to Q’s cats that were ignoring everything around them in favour of emptying their food bowls. In his defence, the joke of an argument wasn’t going to stop anytime soon and he had heard wondrous things about James’ cooking for his various mission conquests so he didn’t want it to go to waste.
Jenna was a nice young woman who was his next-door neighbour. She dropped in on him now and then, usually with a good pie and some nice words but ever since he had James cut up wood in the back yard, she was on his doorstep in her best clothes and with a face full of makeup – even though she wore a mask – every day.
She wasn’t what Geoffrey would consider James’ type since she wasn’t trying to kill him after a long day of being on the cover of some fashion magazine but she was pretty enough to have half the neighbourhood buzzing around her which meant that in a period where missions were non-existent and James was stuck away from London and his usual bedroom friends, she was just right.
He made his worries known to Q but they were ignored. “He’s not that horny and even if he were, he has enough decency not to do that with your neighbour,” Q assured him in that voice you would use when trying to convince your scared seven-year-old that there was no monster in the basement.
Geoffrey harrumphed. If it wasn’t for his bad back because of the storm that would be over them in a day’s time, he would pull Q over his knee. “Sooner or later, I will walk in on him doing unspeakable things under my roof.”
Q made to continue with his argument but was interrupted by the doorbell. “That’s probably Jenna with another pie.”
“Which is how Bond will get poisoned after the one night stand ends,” Geoffrey added under his breath, doing his best to ignore the way Q was glaring at him.
Q was once again interrupted before he could start by James calling for him. “Don’t think I won’t remember what we were talking about when I come back.”
How mad had the world truly gone if Q was preaching James’ chastity? Then again, Jenna had been feeding them delicious pies for the past two weeks and James had yet to make his move so maybe Q was right? No, that couldn’t be right. He was dealing with James ‘I will stop in the middle of a shootout to work my charms on the woman dating the guy currently trying to kill me’ Bond so Q had to be wrong.
Clearly this was taking so long because James was more bored than horny and he was probably waiting for some papers on whatever new house he bought to be delivered—
“—again, I’m so sorry,” Jenna’s high pitched voice interrupted Geoffrey’s conspiracy theory as she entered the kitchen, pie in hand, a slightly dishevelled Q and a proud James right behind her. “Oh, Mister Boothroyd! I wanted to be sure that you won’t be offended if I’ll keep to myself for the rest of the quarantine?”
Bloody Bond. Who knows what Q caught him doing - why James had called him remained a mystery, but he was definitely doing something naughty when Q entered the room. “Of course not, my dear. I’d hate to think that coming here is an obligation for you or that someone,” he made sure to glare in James' direction when saying that, “is making you uncomfortable. I also hope that if there is such a someone present here, he at least had the decency of apologizing—”
“No, no, it’s definitely me who needs to do the apologizing,” Jenna insisted, face managing to turn redder when she turned around and caught a glimpse of James and Q. “I really need to go now. Sorry again.”
James started to explain the second she disappeared through the front door. “I simply made it clear in a polite manner that I wasn’t interested in her. Didn’t I, Q?”
“Polite for him.” The tips of Q’s ears were as red as Jenna’s face.
James also didn’t fare as expected around Wallace, the young man that Q grew up with from across the street. He had also moved back in with his parents when the quarantine officially started for the UK and looked more than happy to see Q. Geoffrey suspected that he had a crush on Q since the second grade what with how easy it was for Q to get him to do things for him – such as dumpster diving – but his willingness to follow Q around might have also had something to do with the array of things Q did from things that didn’t work.
He wasn’t suspecting anything like that now. He knew what with how Wallace’s eyes lit up when he saw Q and how fast he’d broken into a sprint to pull him into a tight hug – that was instantly blocked by a very angry James who had entered into ‘deadly agent' mode the second his eyes landed on the overly-enthusiastic Wallace.
“Social distancing,” James growled, forcing Q to back away with him while also spraying disinfecting gel on both of their hands.
Not bothered in the least about the blond man that was at least two heads taller than him, Wallace just smiled awkwardly. “Right, right. A miracle I don’t have it yet with how forgetful I am sometimes.” Further proving his point, he held his hand stretched out for a moment, pulling it back only when he saw Q shake his head disapprovingly. “There I go being daft again, sorry. I’m Wallace, and you are?”
“Bond. James Bond.” That sort of greeting was only reserved for two kinds of people: those he wanted to impress or those he wanted to intimidate. Wallace did not fit any of those categories. “You’re the guy who got his head stuck in a tree hollow when you were fifteen, correct?” Why did James know about that? And how? What reason did Q have to share something like that with him?
“James, take the rest of the bags in the house and help father disinfect them,” Q commanded and James’ shoulders slumped as he started to very slowly make his way towards Geoffrey. “I'll join you in a moment, but it's been ages since I saw Wallace face to face and I do want to catch up with him. ”
“Pepper-spray him if he forgets about social distancing for a third time,” James said loudly while making a show out of putting a small can of spray in Q’s hands and how easy it was for him to carry five bags in one hand and a pack of 6 bottles of 2 litres of water in the other.
Him needing more than a moment to catch his breath was hidden by Geoffrey taking pity on him and closing the front door the instant he stepped into the house. James quickly expressed his thankfulness for the assist as well as for the cold glass of water but made sure to instantly start talking about what he planned to make for dinner to keep from being asked him why he cared about how he was seen by Q or someone like Wallace and Geoffrey felt magnanimous enough not to force the conversation back so he could satisfy his curiosity.
They made small chat while washing everything for the following half an hour which was strangely pleasant since James wasn’t trying to land himself better equipment or to talk his way out of a good scolding for some incredibly dumb stunt he had pulled. Still, it was clear that James was extremely worried about having left Q with an airhead like Wallace since he almost used detergent on meat twice.
“Why don’t we enjoy a cool beer and save something for Q to do?” Geoffrey offered, finding out just how hard it was to move James when he was reluctant.
They barely sat down with their beers when Q returned and James pretty much teleported next to him, holding on to him while he took his shoes off, talking in a low murmur. Q rolled his eyes and shook his head at something and James looked embarrassed. Q almost touched James’ face but it was at this point that Geoffrey made his presence known.
“You have two minutes to make it to the bathroom and wash your hands and arms before I turn the hose on the both of you,” Geoffrey warned, not missing how far apart the two jumped.
With the way he paced up and down the hallway, James resembled a caged lion. Geoffrey very much felt the same, though he opted to sit slouched in the chair that James had been kind enough to bring from the kitchen without being asked. None said anything, lost in their minds as they went over everything that Q had done while trying to figure out how he could have a high fever.
“James,” Q’s weak scratchy voice came through the toy walkie-talkie that was strapped to James’ hip.
“Do you need another pillow? Soup? Water? Your chargers? A new laptop? A massage? I know how your muscles ache when you have a fever,” James bombarded Q, clutching the walkie-talkie so hard that his knuckles had turned white and that made Geoffrey cringe because that was the first toy that Q had improved on his own.
Q was embarrassed by Geoffrey’s insistence of proudly displaying it on the mantle alongside part of his trophies, but how could he not do that? He had watched Q working his fingers to the bone for two weeks, replacing every plastic part in it with things he’d put together from other electric devices that were no longer useful – in some cases because Q took out the part he needed which exasperated his mother but reminded Geoffrey of himself when he was his age. And that triumphant and somewhat smug smile when he tested them and they worked even better than expected was something that Geoffrey would never forget.
Nor how devastated Q looked when he saw the thermometer’s display.
“Let’s go enjoy some tea in the living room while we wait for the test results.”
It took Geoffrey a moment to realize that it had been James talking to him and that his hand was on his shoulder. “I’m not quite in the mood for tea. Can I help you get Q what he wanted?”
James smiled softly and squeezed Geoffrey’s shoulder. “He asked me to make sure we both bugger off and let him sleep because our sullenness is keeping him awake and not the high temperature—”
Static interrupted James’ not-quite subtle complaint and he was cringing even before Q started to admonish. “I also told you to at least calm down father since you insisted on remaining a worrywart.”
“If memory serves, I also ask you not to worry when I go out on a mission—”
“The fact that I have to remind you that I have a very good reason for worrying while you are away on a mission is sold proof that your memory doesn’t serve you at all.” Q somehow managed to sound mad even though his voice was nothing more than a weak whisper and he had struggled to suppress at least two yawns during his tirade.
James just tried to make himself look smaller. “Not quite the tongue lashing I like but for the sake of your health, I won’t push the subject.” His shoulders slumped even more when a low grumble came through the static but the careful way he caressed the side of the walkie-talkie was more interesting to Geoffrey than trying to make out whatever it was that Q was saying to humble the eternally smug James Bond. “So, about that tea, Major?”
“Since it’s obvious that our presence here will only further aggravate Q, I can’t exactly turn you down. Provided you don’t find a way to blow my kitchen up instead of making tea.”
That got a chuckle from James. “You know that I’ve been cooking unsupervised ever since I came here, right? Q is the bloody menace when the kitchen is concerned.” As soon as he had said that, James let out a little strangled noise and Geoffrey faltered in his steps.
James Bond never made noises like that when he wasn’t tortured and he had no business knowing Q’s efficiency in the kitchen or anywhere else that wasn’t work even if they were friends because… Well, he couldn’t quite think of a reason for that but it couldn’t be a good thing especially since James made that distressed noise and everything just raised his blood pressure while also making his headache stronger than before.
The awkward silence stretched between them until the tea was ready and James did not make eye contact while serving him his cup. “Q made a few stipulations before inviting me to stay here and one of them was that I would do the cooking. The others were that I had to keep out of trouble and that I made sure to social distance myself from your boat.”
Geoffrey almost choked on his tea at the mention of his boat. With all the madness going around, he had completely forgotten that he had sworn to never forgive James for ruining his retirement plans. Sure, MI6 paid him back for the lost boat since it did end up being marked as an integral piece of equipment needed to foil the evil plan du jour but it was still the principle of the thing!
“More chamomile tea?” James offered, no doubt sensing how Geoffrey got more annoyed with each second that passed as more and more memories of the many things James had destroyed started to return to him. “It’s extra strong.”
“Well, it bloody well should be given that you are a menace,” Geoffrey all but exploding, huffing before taking a sip of the newly poured tea. “I shudder at the thought of just how outraged the taxpayers would be if they knew just how much of their money you tended to burn away for a simple mission.”
“True but I wasn’t the one using their money to invent flamethrower bagpipes that doubled as a machine gun,” James reminded him, both of them sharing a chuckle after a tense moment of silence. “I must admit that I was disappointed to never have been given the chance to test out some of your more extravagant inventions. And jealous that my predecessor got to fly around in a jetpack.”
A yes, another menace who also found ways of making everything blow up. “The 007 moniker must be cursed. Heaven knows what’s in store for the next generation but do me a solid for old time’s sakes and ensure that my Q doesn’t miss his retirement party as dear old John did.” And just like that, the present smacked him in the face and he was drowning in worry once again.
James also became tense once again, the little smile he had on replace with a grimace. “I don’t suppose any Quartermaster invented something that killed biological viruses?”
Geoffrey grimly shook his head. “That would be Medical’s field of expertise, but the good guys prefer investing in technological weapons.” Still, he tended to do whatever he wanted in his branch – much like Q – so if only he would have focused on things that didn’t explode or melt things for once then maybe he wouldn’t have to experience the start of a bloody panic attack at the possibility of being forced to pick out a funeral wreath for his son.
“If you give me a minute, I can pull up a file of all the things I destroyed while you were my Quartermaster and your blood pressure could rise because of that.” James’ hand was on his shoulder again, acting as an anchor to the present.
The shrill noise of James’ phone interrupted him and both men jumped to their feet as James answered. “Bond.” Each second that passed, Geoffrey found it harder to breathe and the sound of his blood coursing through his veins completely drowned out any other voice that wasn’t James’. “For God’s sake, man, keep it short and simple!” James exploded, actually punching the sofa hard enough to scare away the cats. “I see.”
The second James uttered those two words, time slowed down and when he closed the phone, Geoffrey was sure that he was holding his heart that had jumped out of his chest. “So?”
“Just a cold,” James breathed out, collapsing on the sofa as he started to laugh. “You’re the healthiest one in the house since I too have Q’s cold. Normal pills for the night but they will send someone over with stronger ones tomorrow morning.”
Geoffrey tried for exactly one second to retain his composure before erupting in thunderous laughter while also feeling the need to cry. “You two are grounded until this whole madness is over and we’re having all our necessity shopping delivered.”
“Grounded? Major, both Q and I are too old—”
“My house, my rules,” Geoffrey interrupted James, moving to the liquor cabinet to pour himself a glass of whatever was the strongest. “I’m much too old to live through another scare so you will do the incredible thing of actually listening to me for once, got it?” James quickly nodded, visibly holding himself back from reaching out to squeeze Geoffrey’s arm again. “Now go give Q the good news, take the same concoction he had and go get sleep.”
If today never happened again, it would still be too soon.
On some days, Geoffrey found himself waking up before dawn. On those days he found it impossible to go right back to sleep no matter how much tired he was so usually walked around the house to make sure everything was in order before making himself some chamomile tea. His unusual routine got updated so that he could go back to sleep as soon as he was done checking to make sure that both Bond and Q had taken their medicine but right now, as he stood frozen near Q’s room, he didn’t he’d manage to go back to sleep without the aid of a sleeping pill.
He didn’t go out of his way to lurk around doors since he was never interested in gossip and he was much too tired of the spy world to try to find out hidden things but ever since Bond joined their household it just so happened that every time he was near them, he felt like he was seeing something that he wasn’t meant to.
Things weren’t any different now and he felt bad for intruding on an obvious intimate moment but he still couldn’t force himself to walk away from seeing the way James had Q cocooned around him as he lovingly caressed the side of his face.
“It was just a bad dream, love,” James was assuring Q in a scratchy voice while pressing kisses to his forehead.
Q looked to be clinging harder to him and it sounded like he was still half-asleep. “But it felt so real.”
“I understand that darling, but I’m right here without a single scratch aren’t I?” James insisted, sitting up and pulling his shirt up to let Q inspect his chest. “Well without any new one at least.”
The care Q had when touching James was impossible to miss even though James was partially obscuring him by nuzzling his right ear. “I hate it how easily I forget nice dreams but can’t shake off the nightmares,” Q whined, happy to let James push his head against his chest, right over his heart. “It was all my fault for being too sick to save you.”
“It might just be my age,” James started softly, drawing small circles down Q’s back, “but I am unable to remember a single instance in which I got hurt because of you.” He chuckled as Q muttered something under his breath as sleep was claiming him once more and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “Don’t worry, I won’t go anywhere and I promise I’ll be here when you wake up without the Major knowing.”
Geoffrey slowly backed away from the heart-warming scene and silently retreated to his room, feeling hurt. What had he done to make Q think that he needed to keep his sexuality and his lover hidden from him? He never cared who did what as long as all parties were on the same page – and mentally capable of being on the same page – but maybe because he didn’t express his opinion when it came to that Q just assumed the worst of him? Or was it because he’d been too vocal about his exasperation with Bond and Q thought he’d be angry with him? Or, worst of all, a combination of both?
Then again, that wasn’t something he needed to focus on. He’d done fucked up somehow and now he needed to find a way to let Q know that he was okay with whatever he chose – even James bloody Bond as his lover, though he will skin him if he ends up hurting Q – without giving away the fact that he accidentally eavesdropped on them multiple times.
But before he did anything else, one thing needed to be set right: James had to be moved in Q’s room. He’ll worry about avoiding walking in on them doing something later after he came up with a natural way of letting them know that he was fine with them as a couple.
Maybe Eve might be of help…