"Do you have a name?" Bond asks into his commlink, fifteen minutes into what could possibly be an hour wait in a Mumbai hotel lobby. He's supposed to be keeping an eye out for his target, and he is. He can do that and ask questions of his quartermaster via his hidden earpiece.
Bond enjoys multitasking.
Q's sigh is both nasal and significant. "Of course I have a name. I'm a human being, not an android."
Bond inclines his head in acknowledgement and restrains himself from making some comment about turning Q off and on.
"The lift from Rousseau's floor is headed your way. Stay sharp, please." The light clicking of Q's keyboard floats through the comm.
Bond languidly tilts his head along the plush sofa back, feigning interest in the large ornate clock just above the check-in desk so he can catalogue the people filing out of said lift. "Negative on Rousseau. What is it, then?"
"What is what?"
There is only a short pause. "If these are the best interrogation techniques the most highly trained agents of MI6 can offer, I fear for the security of our country."
"I'm not interrogating. I'm merely asking."
"Why?" Q demands.
Bond makes direct eye contact with the black half-sphere embedded in the lobby ceiling and hopes that it's the camera Q is currently using on his end to monitor the situation. "Curiosity, I suppose."
A scoff gusts into Bond's ear. "There is a reason I was given a callsign to work under, Double-oh seven," he says, stressing Bond's own.
It's a good thing people all over the world have become inured to the use of Bluetooth headsets, because Bond can fiddle with his mobile and talk all he likes without looking as if he's gone mad. Something to be said for progress.
"Is it something like Frederick? Too many syllables to say over comms?" Bond gazes up at the lavishly painted mural on the hotel's ceiling and muses, "I suppose you could always go by Fred."
"My name is not Fred."
"Ah, see? One down, only a few thousand options to go. I'll get it by process of elimination if need be."
"Now you're just being silly."
"And you're being a stubborn ass." Bond looks over to the lifts as another arrives with a ding. No Rousseau. Not every mission is an explosive shoot-out, thank Christ, but Bond does sometimes chafe at the tedious bits. He's too dangerous when he's bored. Hence the Q needling.
A few names come to mind—Nicholas, Warren, Benjamin, Michael. They would fit, at least. They wouldn't lay across Q's thin shoulders like one of his ghastly cardigans.
Not for the first time, James wonders what Q might look like if he stopped dressing like a doddering pensioner.
"Surely your Christian name is not a state secret. What's the harm in sharing it with me?"
"You and the other three dozen support staff tapped into this line?"
"Three dozen, really? It takes that many people to monitor me whilst I sit on a sofa for an hour?"
"Yes, and a thankless task it is, too. You don't give them so much as a Christmas card."
"Well, I hardly knew they existed in the first place."
"They can hear you, you know."
Bond lets a sliver of his amusement show, lips quirking as he glances again at the security camera. "Right. Apologies to all on the line. Except for you, Q. You're still an ass." His eyes scan the room again as he looks for anything out of place. "Not getting a card from me this year, that's for certain."
"Would you please—"
"No name to address it to, for one thing."
"I will sever this link and leave you to handle Rosseau all on your lonesome if that's what you'd prefer."
Another lift arrives with a chime. Bond looks over and sees the target step out. At last. Bond rises from his seat, buttoning the middle button of his suit coat as he moves. A panther allowed out of his cage.
"No need," Bond says. "He's finally made an appearance. Exiting the lobby now."
"Then let's get to work." The keyboard clacking at Q's end ramps up to a veritable drumbeat. Ready to feed Bond whatever information he needs.
Bond slips into the milling crowd of people in front of the grand hotel and puts on his mirrored sunglasses, the better to see in the blinding glare. The fact that Q had fitted the glasses with biometric tracking tech is also quite helpful, of course.
"Lenses online. Are you receiving visual, Double-oh seven?" Q asks.
Bond watches as his sunglasses show him the red shape of Rousseau in the crowd, clearly outlined even in the thick of a hundred people. "As crystal," he says, tailing the man at a distance. "Very clever things, these. You must be proud," he smiles to himself, "Gerard."
"It's not Gerard," Q says in his ear, annoyed.
"Ah well. That's two down, then."
After returning to London and being debriefed (or just dressed down), Bond makes his way down to Q branch. He slips into the glass-enclosed aquarium that serves as the Quartermaster's command centre and drops his Walther and what's left of the sunglasses onto a table positioned in the middle of the room for just that purpose.
Across the room at his standing desk, flanked by three monitors, Q manages to portray deep mourning without making so much as a sound. He only has eyes for the items Bond's declared.
"You couldn't even salvage one of the lenses?" he asks.
Bond shrugs. He's learned by now that no excuse will be enough, so he doesn't bother explaining how, in three-on-one hand-to-hand combat, preserving Q's latest toy from being crushed underfoot hadn't been his highest priority.
Q abandons his usual post to pick through the wreckage. His long, thin fingers flutter over the remains of the frames, the few shards of glass clinging to them. "Well," he sighs, still not looking at Bond, "at least they worked. For one brief moment."
To Hell with the glasses. "M says you're rather cross with me," Bond says. "Her orders are to leave you be."
"Oh?" Q does look up then, and if Bond is reading his face correctly, there is a flash of irritation at M's well-meaning protective streak. Or it might be directed at Bond himself; it's difficult to say. "And yet here you are. Though I suppose you only follow orders when it suits you, most days."
Q gathers up the broken bits in his cupped hands and takes them back to his desk, where he places them on some sort of dynamic scanning pad. An exploded view flickers into the air above the thing, and Q spins it this way and that, humming dejectedly to himself at the results.
Bond leans his hip against the declarations table and crosses his arms over his chest, watching. He wants to do this gracefully, if possible.
Bond would never admit it, but of course he attempted to access Q's personnel file as soon as he returned from Mumbai. All such files for MI6 staff are kept on a secure server, open only to those with the highest of security clearances—which includes the double-ohs. It's a critical part of the program. The agents have to know they can trust the staff in charge of their secrets, their lives, their safety. And one never knows when a tidbit of information buried in those records could be useful. So-and-so in Finance went to school with what's-his-name who happens to be involved tangentially in some shady business, for example. Bond could look up the intimate, personal details of anyone in the building, if he cared to.
With one notable exception.
Q's file was out of reach. According to the system, it didn't even exist.
He had assumed it was Q's doing. The man can twist data into whatever shape he likes. If he didn't want his personnel file accessible, it wouldn't be. Naughty boy, mucking about in the MI6 servers. But when Bond had brought it up to M during their debrief, she'd waved it off.
"Find some other way to amuse yourself, Double-oh seven," she'd said.
Which means Q has some special dispensation approved by M herself. Which is unprecedented. Which raises questions. Which means Bond is not going to let this go, not in a hundred years.
"So you are cross with me," he finally says.
"Unlike some people in MI6's employ, I can remain professional no matter how I'm feeling," Q says. "If you'd like to give that a try, you will stop asking about my name."
"All right, no name." Bond pushes away from the table and moves forward, making a show of picking up some bits and bobs from one of the worktables and examining them with mild interest. "Where are you from?"
Q pauses in his typing, staring straight ahead at his screen. "What does it matter?"
"It doesn't. Only curious." Bond moves closer. He can see the tension ratcheting its way up Q's spine, into his shoulders, taking hold of his neck. The pulse in his throat is visible even at this distance. When Q doesn't respond, Bond tries another tack. "All right, then. How did M bring you into MI6?"
"The same way she brings in anyone, I imagine," Q says, jolting back to his work. "Now I really must crack on."
Bond steps in behind Q, watching the movements in his neck, the quick dips of his shoulders under that awful cardigan. He speaks in a low voice right into Q's ear. "You can't tell me one thing about yourself?"
Q spins around, nearly knocking over one of the two half-empty mugs of tea at his elbow. His eyes are startled; this close, Bond can see they're as pale as the rest of him, a light greenish something.
"Why do you care?"
Bond isn't above using his superior bulk to crowd close until Q's backed up against the edge of his desk, digging right into the small of his back, causing the slightest arch. "Is it so strange that I find you intriguing?" he asks, training his eyes on Q's parted lips.
Q's surprise is quickly overtaken by a careful return of composure, a straightening of the spine.
"Ah," he says, swallowing hard. "M told me this might happen."
Now it's Bond's turn to hide surprise. "Did she?"
"Oh, yes. The day I was brought in, actually." Q turns back to his set-up and continues typing, ignoring Bond's presence mere inches away. (Bond's not sure if this is a gesture of trust or of scorn.) "She said the double-ohs needed a firm hand. That they tend to be sexually manipulative when overt aggression fails. That it comes with the job." Bond blinks at this avalanche of words tossed out so carelessly, but Q just keeps talking. "That I shouldn't judge, obviously, but I should be prepared to put my foot down should any nonsense arise. You were mentioned specifically."
"Of course I was," Bond mutters into the fall of hair at the nape of Q's neck.
Q glances over his shoulder and adjusts his specs. "I'm afraid it won't work on me, Double-oh seven. I'm not some girl you can have over the railing of a balcony overlooking Cairo at dusk."
"I'm fairly sure that was Lisbon," Bond says. "Were you listening the whole time?"
"It was Cairo," Q asserts, "and yes, if only because that girl could have been armed with a bio-weapon, if you recall." Q's gaze falls, only for the briefest of moments, to Bond's mouth before he pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose and faces forward again. "I am your quartermaster," he says with a snit in his voice. "I give you what you need to complete the job. You do not need information regarding my personal affairs. So I shan't be giving it to you."
Bond knows what an opening looks like, the signs of weakening. He can see how dilated Q's pupils are in the reflection of his computer screen. Can smell the subtle tang of his sweat in the close space between them. He still has one more hand to play.
"How is it," he asks in a quiet rumble, "that you are permitted to know what I sound like when I come and I can't know the first thing about you?"
"Yes, it's all very unfair." Q's voice is striving for calm, but Bond can detect a faint tremor. "You'll just have to take my word for it: I am a very ordinary, uninteresting man, and you're not missing out on anything whatsoever."
"I can't believe that," Bond says. He steps back, letting cool air rush between them, noting Q's slight shiver. "Oh, I nearly forgot." He slips a hand into his inner suit coat pocket and extracts a small envelope done in a shimmery gold.
With a deft flick of his wrist, Bond tosses the thing onto Q's desk, right next to one of the mugs. The letter Q is written on the face of it in Bond's bold pen strokes. Q stares down at it for a moment, then glances at Bond over his shoulder as if expecting it to explode.
Bond just returns his look with a bored one of his own.
Q must decide it doesn't pose a danger after all, because he gives an impatient huff before picking up the envelope and tearing it open at the flap. He pulls out the harmless, generic Christmas card with a look of bafflement. The front of it shows doves sitting on snow-bedecked pine boughs, pecking at bright red berries.
"It's August, Double-oh seven," he points out.
"So I was a bit late this year," Bond says.
Q opens the card and runs his eyes over the message inside. It's just the pre-printed faff, best wishes for the season or what have you. His eyes fall to the bottom, and Bond knows he's looking at the signature there.
"Goodbye, Q," he says, and leaves before Q can get in the last word.
Bond wakes to find himself bound to a chair in a condemned office park. He's bleeding from a wound on his temple, which is how he knows this isn't one of the more amusing ways to wake up bound to a chair. He tests the rope at his wrists while his brain sluggishly provides him with the relevant pieces of information: the illegal arms trader. The tip that led MI6 to Leeds, of all places. The very simple task of recon. The way it had all turned to shit.
It's always the ones that seem simple.
Bond curses the bad intelligence that got him into this mess. He strains to hear Q in his ear, but his commlink must have been discovered and taken away, because there's nothing but a faint ringing from the blow he'd sustained in the fight.
The ropes hold. Bond considers his options.
He has no idea how many operatives are actually in the building. He has no sense of where the exits are. He's not sure how much time has elapsed since he was knocked out or if MI6 is planning to extract him.
He only knows he isn't going to die in fucking Leeds.
He's bracing himself to dislocate his shoulder and possibly his wrist when the lights in the building shut off completely, leaving him in pitch blackness. It's eerily silent. No HVAC hum, no generators kicking on. Bond relaxes in the chair and discards the plans for his shoulder. Best stay in one piece if he's going to be extracted.
Distant shouts. Two muffled gunshots on the other side of the building. A distraction.
His eyes adjust to the darkness just before a brilliant slice of light cuts into the wall opposite him. He recognizes the slight figure standing in the open doorway, but he thinks for a moment that perhaps the blow to his head did more damage than he imagined.
Because Q does not belong here.
"Sorry it took so long," Q says as he rushes forward, flick knife in hand. "The trains were horrendous."
"What the hell are you doing?" Bond asks. He twists in his seat to watch Q hack away at the ropes. "You're not a field agent."
"Yes, I know," Q says reasonably. "Long story. You know how it is when MI5 gets involved."
Pieces click together in Bond's mind. If Five has gotten wind of this mess and stepped in, that means there's a bigger problem than one bad tip. Which means there is something very embarrassing happening to very powerful people. Which means it would be much easier to cut Bond loose and take the loss of one agent over a national scandal.
Which means no one was going to come save him.
Except Q, apparently.
"How much time do we have?" Bond asks, tugging his wrists free and rubbing the circulation back into them. He gets to his feet and takes in Q. He's wearing his damn anorak. Dressed for his commute. Bond can't quite wrap his head around it.
Q hands him a .5mm, not branch issue. "Four minutes before the security cameras come back online. I could have disabled them entirely, of course, but best not leave any sign that someone with actual skill was involved."
Bond ignores the sting and checks the clip. Another thought occurs to him, and it seems too important to not ask aloud. "How did you know I wasn't dead or incapacitated?"
For the first time since he walked in, Q looks nervous. "I didn't," he says. "Not for certain."
Bond can't help the little smirk that appears on his face.
Q rolls his eyes. "Can we please—?" He taps the watch on his wrist.
The look on Bond's face does not fade. He slides the safety off. "Stay behind me. Keep close."
They're in a stolen van on the M1 by the time Bond notices Q is shaking. His hands are resting on his thighs as he sits in the passenger seat, long fingers trembling against the corduroy of his trousers. Q notices Bond's stare and fists his hands into the fabric.
"Adrenaline," he says unnecessarily.
Bond turns his attention back to the road. It's very late at night now, hardly any other cars. They aren't being followed. "That was a very ill-advised thing you've done," he muses. "Does M know?"
"Possibly." Q looks out the passenger window. "I requested permission to mount an extraction, a proper one. She denied it, but she made it sound like she wouldn't be particularly surprised if I found a way to do it anyway. So I did."
Bond doesn't bother hiding his smug expression.
"Oh please," Q says. He must be watching Bond in the reflection. "It wasn't for your benefit. If you were killed on my watch, I would never live it down. Some of the staff already think I'm too young and inexperienced to do the job—a view which, I might add, your inane chatter on the comms does nothing to mitigate."
The smugness only grows, blossoming into what might even be a smile to a man like Bond.
Q crosses his arms over his chest, hiding his still-shaking hands under the sleeves of his awful anorak. "I'm beginning to regret saving your life, honestly."
"But you did it so well," Bond says, and looks over to Q, hunched in the passenger seat. He watches him for a moment, then, with as much sincerity as he can do anything, says, "Thank you, Q."
Q relaxes a fraction. There's a shadow of a smile on his face as well. "Where are we going? Straight to headquarters?" he asks after a few minutes of companionable silence.
Bond shakes his head. "I should lay low. Wait to see how all affected parties play this." He winces, touching his fingertips to his right side, where a bullet had grazed him on their way out of the compound. "Should probably tend to this, wherever we end up."
Q cranes his neck, seeing the bloodstain on Bond's shirt for the first time. "Have you actually been shot?"
"Good Lord, it's just constant with you, isn't it?" Q bangs his head back against his headrest, breathing out through his nose. "I don't suppose you're willing to see an actual doctor about it?"
Bond just looks at him.
"Right," Q sighs. "Well. We could— Oh, hell."
Bond just waits. He's getting better at it, when it comes to Q.
Q finally crumbles. "We could go to mine."
"Yours?" Bond says brightly.
"My home, yes," Q snaps. "They'll be monitoring your flat, won't they?"
"But not yours?" Bond asks.
"I'm not the one they've lost. Besides." Q hesitates, then seems to come to some sort of decision. "My address isn't part of the official record. As I'm sure you've already gathered."
Bond is not ashamed to have been caught peeking. He merely hums in acknowledgement. Says, "Unusual, that." He slides his gaze over to Q. "Especially for such an ordinary man."
"Give it a rest, Bond," Q says, but there's no bite to it, just weariness. He opens the glove box and shuts it again. "Nothing in there. I'm no doctor, but I don't think you should let an open wound bleed for hours and hours, surely?"
Bond takes his hands off the wheel, using the tip of his kneecap to hold it steady in their place, and pulls his black shirt over his head, leaving his chest bare. "Can you tear some strips from that?" He shoves the thing in Q's lap.
"Just constant," Q mutters, and flicks his knife out.
Bond watches as Q slices through the fabric, alert for any clues. Q doesn't seem to be wielding the blade like an expert, but neither are his movements awkward. Has he done this before, thrown himself in harm's way? Walked from a bloody train station into the middle of a firefight? His hands are still shaking—he's either out of practice or doesn't make a habit of it.
One thing Bond can be sure of: the man doesn't drive. He hadn't blinked when Bond had taken the driver's seat of the hotwired van, despite the fact that Bond was also returning fire.
What else can be reasonably assumed? Posh upbringing, Bond guesses, although the affectations can be trained into the voice and mannerisms. If it is an act, it's an exceedingly good one, and Bond is willing to bet Q wouldn't bother putting it on if that were the case. It would also explain the man's skillset—access to technology at an early age, perhaps, and the means to study it thoroughly.
But why a man of means would be wearing a tie that horrid is beyond Bond. He shoots an uncharitable glance at the thing Q has inexplicably chosen to wrap around his neck.
Ah well. He returns his gaze to the road. Money cannot buy good taste, after all.
So: an engineering and computational genius who comes from money and came to MI6—how, exactly? It's a long drive back to London, so Bond indulges in a few daydreams—let's call them theories, he thinks sternly—on how this came about.
Q could have been working for any number of enemy organizations, either of his own free will or under some dire threat. It isn't uncommon for M to turn operatives—if they prove useful. And Q is clearly useful. But if he does have a shady past, that should be more reason to keep his file open to scrutiny, not less.
Or he could have been living an independent life of crime as a black hat prior to being captured by Six and given a choice: incarceration or working for them. He's obviously not squeamish about bending the rules. Perhaps at some point he eschewed them entirely. Bond tries to picture the man as a sort of underground hacker on the run from the authorities and finds the resulting image to be very pleasurable, however unlikely. Most criminals, in Bond's experience, can drive themselves to safety if need be.
Hadn't Q once mentioned he detested flying as well? Perhaps there had been some tragic accident—parents killed in a crash or something, a young genius left unprotected. A good opportunity for Her Majesty's Secret Service to swoop in. MI6 favours orphans, anyway. It simplifies things, having no familial ties.
Yes, Bond decides. Very likely, Q is alone in the world in the wake of some dramatic, horrific experience. Like Bond himself. It just makes sense.
Not that anything having to do with Q has ever made much sense.
"I don't want to hear any ridiculous comments from you," Q says as he stands with his key in his front door. "This is my personal space. I am only inviting you into it due to extreme circumstances. Please respect that."
Bond, now clothed in a battered builder's jacket they'd found in the back of the van, gives a pleasant nod. "I'll mind my manners," he promises.
Still, Q hesitates for another fraction of a second before unlocking the door and pushing it open.
It's painfully normal. There's a little hook by the door for Q to hang his keyring and a neat line of ugly shoes—brogues and trainers alike—against the wall of the foyer. There's a standard kitchen ahead, a comfortable-looking sitting room beyond that. It's not too messy, not too clean. A mug of tea left abandoned on the countertop, still half-full, a few piles of papers and books on the coffee table. A half-written list sits on the counter: eggs, milk, sugar, spool of solder. Bond paces through the flat, eyes keen to find something, anything, that would tell him more about Q.
A strangled meow captures his attention, and he looks down to find a sleek black cat rubbing its face along the side of his boot before batting at the laces. Bond looks up and notices another cat, this one a fluffy confection of browns and whites, gazing mistrustfully at him from the top of the fridge.
"Cats," he says, rather pointlessly. "You keep cats."
"'Keep' is a strong word. I prefer to think of it as more of a roommate relationship," Q says, brushing past him and hanging his anorak on the back of a kitchen chair. The cat continues to mewl pitiably up at Bond. "Ignore him. He acts like he's starving but I assure you, the auto-feeder has done its job."
Bond ignores Q instead and stoops to scratch the cat under its chin. It purrs like a jet engine. Q glares at the animal as if it's committed high treason and begins banging around in the cupboards, setting out tea-makings.
"Would you like a cup?" he asks Bond.
"Do you have anything stronger?" Bond straightens, wincing as his side pulls. He takes off the stolen workman's jacket and folds it over a spare bit of countertop for want of a proper coat rack. The blood isn't obvious through the black fabric of the shredded shirt, but when Bond presses his fingertips against it, they come away tacky and red.
Q watches all this as he fills a kettle at the sink. "There's half a bottle of middling chardonnay in the fridge, but I doubt that's what you're after." A small smile plays on his lips as he finds a clean mug on a shelf and sets the teabag in it. "If I'd known I'd be having company, I would have laid in some single malt and stocked the pantry with—Christ, what do rugged, strapping men like you eat? Protein bars and filet mignon?"
"A shower and some bandages would be fine," Bond says, amused by the adjectives Q has chosen for him. He nods in the direction of the sole hallway. "Through here?"
"Yes, on the left," Q says. He turns his back on Bond, fiddling with his tea things. "Please don't open any drawers or cupboards while you're in there. I'll fetch the first aid kit for you."
That gives Bond pause. It's an ingrained habit of his, opening strange medicine cabinets. He considers offering a false promise not to, but knowing what little he knows of Q, he's fairly sure there's some kind of surveillance in every room of his flat. Bond would rather not be thrown out into the street for the night because he couldn't tamp down the urge to snoop.
"I won't," Bond says, and goes to take an overdue shower.
There are two things that stick out to Bond: a nearly full cup of stone-cold tea sitting on the back of the loo tank and the bright yellow sharps bin on the floor under the pedestal sink. Bond considers it a moment. Diabetic, then. Bond files the information away in his mind before stripping off his remaining clothes. It does nothing to help unravel the mystery that is Q, but it's good to know. In case of an emergency.
"Must you parade around like that?" Q asks when Bond emerges from his shower with only a towel wrapped around his hips.
"Give me clean clothes and I won't have to," Bond retorts. He doesn't miss the way Q's eyes skate along the lines of his shoulders, the breadth of his chest. If they linger on the scars and still-healing marks of missions past, Bond wouldn't blame him. But they don't.
"Fine." Q picks up a first aid kit emblazoned with the Swiss cross and brushes past Bond's damp arm. "Let's see if I have anything that can contain you, Double-oh seven."
"Oh, I doubt that," Bond drawls, and follows him into the bedroom.
It's not what Bond would call tastefully decorated, but it is quite cozy. The bed is unmade, duvet bunched into a lump on the right side, pillows all askew. Not former military, then? Bond considers this hypothesis before discarding it. Some of the worst slobs he knows are ex-special forces. Still, he's having trouble picturing Q in uniform. He uses the kit to patch his side properly as he considers this.
Q opens the wardrobe that stands in the corner and rummages about in the back. "I think— Yes, these might do." He pulls out a pair of joggers and a badly wrinkled shirt, hands them over with a shrug.
Bond checks the labels and raises one eyebrow at Q. Designer. Expensive. And much too large for Q's lithe frame.
Q looks away quickly, busying himself with shutting up the wardrobe. That's all the proof Bond needs.
"Any danger of your boyfriend dropping by tonight?" he asks, tossing away the towel and stepping into the joggers while Q's back is turned. They fit perfectly.
"Ex-boyfriend. So...no," Q says.
"I'm sorry." Bond tugs the shirt on over his head. A bit snug across the chest, but it's better than nothing. "Didn't mean to pry."
"No, it was a valid concern." Q clears his throat and turns around. "Shall I make up the sofa for you? I imagine you're tired." He doesn't wait for a response, just moves carefully past Bond and leaves the room.
The sound of a linen closet opening in the hallway squeaks its way to Bond's ears. Bond takes one more look around the small, lived-in bedroom, breathing in the mingled scents of Q's laundry powder and stale tea, before following.
He finds Q staring down at the sofa, which is actually more like a loveseat. The man's chewing on his lip while clutching a bundle of sheets and pillows to his chest. A measuring glance is tossed over at Bond, then back at the offending piece of furniture.
"It's all right if my legs dangle off the end," Bond assures him. "I've had worse." He's also had better, but he doesn't want to be impolite.
"Are you sure?" Q's eyes fall to Bond's side, where the bandages are hidden beneath his ex-boyfriend's designer tee shirt. "I don't want anything—aggravated."
Bond gives him a small smile. He's not trying to look tougher than he is; he's just being honest. "I can sleep on the floor if it gets unmanageable."
"I haven't hoovered in weeks." Q's eyes dart along the area rug. "You'd be covered in cat hair. Though I suppose the sofa isn't much better…."
Bond does not make any suggestions. Logic will prevail; he has to believe that, at least when it comes to Q. One of the cats, the black one again, comes over and rubs his face along Bond's ankle with a loud mewl.
"Stop it, Cadbury," Q admonishes.
Bond blinks. The sofa issue is momentarily forgotten. "Cadbury?"
Q shrugs. "The other one's called Flump. It's not my doing; I don't even like sweets. They already had names when I got them from the shelter."
Of course Q got his cats from a shelter. "Most people would re-name the cats in that instance, I think," Bond points out.
"Well, I didn't. It's bad luck or something, isn't it?"
"Pardon my ignorance, Commander Bond." Q nudges the cat away with his toe. He's in his socks, having abandoned his ugly loafers in the foyer. "Cad, honestly, quit being such a nuisance."
"He's not hurting anything." Bond nods to Flump, still perched on top of the fridge, glaring in his direction. "That one doesn't care for me, though."
"Yes, she's always been the more sensible one," Q says. He runs a hand through his wild hair. "Look, we're both adults, aren't we?"
"I'm not sure," Bond says. "I've no idea how old you are. I know your bloody cats' names before yours."
Q looks about ready to scream, but reins it in with a deep breath. "What I am trying to say, Bond, is if you would prefer it, and if you promise not to do anything foolish, you could—" He stops and stares at the ceiling like the proper words will come down from heaven.
"Share your bed?" The note of amusement in Bond's voice is unmistakable. "Why, Q, I haven't even taken you to dinner yet."
Q doesn't dignify that with a response, just marches back to the hallway and starts shoving the linens back into the closet. "It's late. I'm exhausted. I have to be back at HQ tomorrow morning for my next shift as if nothing is wrong. Do what you like, but I'm going to sleep."
"Q," Bond says.
Q at last turns from the closet. "What?"
Bond crosses the room in two strides and retrieves a mug of tea from the kitchen table, where it's still steaming. It smells herbal, a grassy scent with hints of chamomile. He goes to Q and presses it into his hands. Q just stares at him.
"Don't leave this one to get cold," Bond says, his voice low and quiet in the relative dark of the hallway. "You have a habit of forgetting them around the house, don't you?"
"Oh. Yes." That earns a blush, finally. "Bit untidy, isn't it?"
"I'll never understand how you can remain focused on a dozen things at a time, but your teas always get abandoned after ten minutes." Bond lets go of the mug, leaving its warmth cradled in Q's hands. "Go get ready for bed," he says. "I'll join you shortly."
Q gives Bond a strange look and takes a monstrous gulp of tea before heading to the bedroom.
Bond waits for the door to shut before turning to Q's bookshelves. He wastes no time, running his gaze along book spines and silly collectible knick-knacks referencing things Bond has no familiarity with until he spots a framed photograph nestled between stacks of mechanical engineering texts. He picks up the thing and examines the picture.
Well. He's been wrong before. This time, though, it feels like a personal slight. And it's just been sitting quite obviously on a shelf this whole time.
"My sister's wedding." Q's voice is right behind him, and Bond turns to find him in flannel pajamas and a baggy jumper with a wide stripe across the chest. Q nods at the photo in Bond's hands. If he's angry about the discovery, he doesn't show it. "Can you believe she made me wear tails? She's lucky I love her."
Bond has no quarrel with morning coats, precisely, and it is refreshing to see Q in formalwear, but it's the other figures in the photo that are giving him pause. He traces the shape of the older couple beaming at Q's side. There's only a slight resemblance around the eyes and the chin, but Bond notices it. "And these are—?" He can barely say it.
Q gives a funny little shrug. "My parents, yes."
"This was taken last year," Bond says. "The shoes. I remember when you started wearing them at work."
"I could hardly forget. They cost more than the rest of your wardrobe put together." He looks closer. Q appears happy in the photo. Smiling widely. Squinting into the sun.
"Ah, yes. The famed double-oh eye for details," Q murmurs. He seems embarrassed all of a sudden, clasping his elbows in opposite hands and looking at the floor.
Bond is still stuck on the idea that Q's parents, against all odds, appear to be alive and well. There goes his tragic orphaned boy-genius theory. It's quite shocking, actually. A man as high up in MI6 as Q—with roots, with a family, a normal family who does normal things in normal wedding venues. He places the photograph back on the shelf carefully, like it's a very delicate mechanism and he's just realized he has no idea how to disarm it.
"They don't know," Q says, quiet. "About the work. They think I do IT for some obscure insurance agency. That was the deal I made with M when she brought me in. I compartmentalize. The job is the job. My life is my life."
"And never the twain shall meet?" Bond shakes his head in disbelief. It shouldn't surprise him that Q has once again done the impossible. "Your file has been purged to keep them safe." He nods at the picture.
"Exactly. And it's going to stay that way." Q's eyes flash with sudden fire. Bond admires it. Even if it means he remains firmly on the job side of the equation.
"Of course," he says. "I'll make sure of it." Q seems surprised to hear him be so serious. They stare at each other for a moment before Bond clears his throat and asks, "Right or left?"
Q blinks. "Pardon?"
"Which side of the bed do you prefer?"
"Oh! I— It makes no difference to me." Q pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose. "I suppose you'd like the left." Closer to the wall, furthest from the door. Easier to defend yourself if an intruder were to enter.
"I'll take the right, actually," Bond says, "if it's all the same to you." Shielding position. Bond is feeling more protective than is perhaps healthy. Q looks confused, so Bond adds, "You got me out when no one else would. It's the least I can do."
"Oh, no, you would have managed on your own," Q protests. "You always have."
The sentiment strikes Bond as uniquely sad for some reason. He's getting maudlin in his old age, he expects.
He follows Q to bed. They slide beneath the sheets, inches apart on the double mattress. Q folds his glasses on the nightstand and curls onto his side facing the wall while Bond stares up at the ceiling.
They exchange quiet goodnights, and Bond wonders if this is a glimpse into some bizarre alternate world where things like this happen, and then he remembers that it is actually happening so maybe his definition of bizarre needs updating. And with that, he drops immediately into an exhausted sleep.
A car alarm goes off in the street right outside Q's building around five in the morning and does not stop. Bond jolts awake at the first blare, going completely still as he listens to the noise drag on and on. Beside him, Q is pulled from sleep more slowly. And more vocally.
"Shit," he mumbles, still half-asleep, pulling a pillow over his head. "Fucking hell," muffled by the down filling.
Bond lets another full minute tick by before levering himself out of bed.
"Where are you going?" Q asks, still buried beneath the pillow.
"To fix that."
"It will stop on its own in a bit."
"I'll stop it faster." He leaves with the intent of disabling the alarm, although if he has to shoot the bloody car, he will.
When he comes back, having successfully stopped the horrible noise in under three minutes, Q is lying flopped on his back in bed, watching Bond's triumphant return.
"I could kiss you," he says through a sleep-addled grin.
Bond crawls into bed beside him. "No, you couldn't." He's tired and cold, and his feet hurt from being shoved in his boots without socks. "I'm not supposed to do anything foolish, remember?"
Bond doesn't wait for a response, just rolls onto his side, giving Q his back. There is a long stretch of silence—blissful, he supposes, after the alarm. He's in the middle of a breathing exercise designed to allow him to fall asleep as quickly as possible when he feels soft fingertips on his back, careful through the thin cotton of the borrowed shirt.
"You probably don't like being touched while sleeping," Q says, but it's a question.
Bond grunts. "It doesn't bother me. Why?"
"I just—" A long, thin arm winds over Bond, presses across his chest. Q scoots closer, molding himself along Bond's back. He's warm, slow with sleep, smells fantastic. "Would this be all right?"
Bond's hand is lifting to Q's, covering it on his chest even as he says, "It was your rule, Q."
"Yes, I know, it's only—" Q sighs against the back of his neck, hot and damp. Bond can feel his eyelashes beating against his skin. He speaks so softly Bond can barely hear him. "You're so very solid."
Bond's lips quirk upwards in the dark despite himself. "All right." He laces his fingers with Q's, keeping his arm in place. If this is a test, he intends to pass it with flying colours. In some ways, he can be a gentleman. "Go to sleep," he says.
He drifts pleasantly between sleep and wakefulness, letting Q hold him for the scant few hours before his mobile's alarm goes off. Q is not ashamed of his nocturnal cuddling in the cold light of day, doesn't spring away from Bond when he awakens. If anything, he nuzzles closer and gives a sweet sigh into Bond's shoulder before dragging himself out of bed.
Bond lays wrapped in Q's sheets and listens to the shower running. He rubs the spot on his chest where Q's hand had stayed all night and tries to get his thoughts in order, but ends up falling back to sleep before anything useful comes to mind.
He wakes to find a note directing him to eat whatever he'd like from the fridge, apologetic that there's not much. It's signed, quite simply, Q .
"Well," Q says when he returns to the flat late that evening, "they know you're alive but they have no idea how you've managed it or where you are. I looked into it, and the cock-up seems to be a legitimate case of bad intelligence. No foul play suspected internally. Whenever you'd like to make yourself known, I suppose you can show up at Six with a suitably dashing tale of escape."
Bond looks up from the novel he's pilfered from Q's bookshelves. It's in the original French, erotic enough to keep Bond distracted. There hadn't been much else to do while alone in the flat all day; touching the many laptops scattered about seemed a bad idea, and there's no TV as far as Bond can tell. Bond dog-ears the page he's on. It's one of the filthier passages, and he's left them all marked for Q to find later, should he ever revisit this particular story.
"I'll come in tomorrow, then," he says, and stretches his arms above his head. The black cat, Cadbury, gives a meow of protest from Bond's lap, where he's been lazing most of the afternoon. He springs to the floor and meanders off to investigate his food dish.
Q watches his progress, then notices the auto-feeder is filled to the brim. "Have you topped that off?" he asks Bond. His eyes dart to the dish drainer by the sink, which holds no less than seven sparkling mugs, all gathered from various improbable places around the flat. "Hold on. Did you...tidy up?"
"I like to stay busy," Bond says, a tad defensive. He's sure Q will raise an eyebrow when he sees the bed crisply made.
"Who knew you'd be so comfortable in the domestic realm, Double-oh seven," Q says, shrugging out of his anorak and folding it over the back of the kitchen chair.
Bond watches him do it. He weighs the likelihood of Q allowing him to install a coat hook in the foyer, but abandons the idea. "I'm a complicated sort, Quartermaster."
Q doesn't take it as the joke that it is; he considers Bond closely in a way that makes him feel more flayed open than any torture has. "You know," Q says, gripping the back of the kitchen chair, "I suppose you might be." He waits a beat, then turns abruptly to the kettle, switching it on before going through the motions of collecting his tins and mugs. "Tea?"
Bond rises from the armchair. "I shouldn't stay," he says. "It's safe enough. I'll go back to mine tonight." If he is the sole thing that has managed to cross the divide between Q's work and his private life, he knows it's only temporary. It's only a matter of time before Q shoos him back over the boundary line. Best to go gracefully of his own accord.
"Ah." Q doesn't sound disappointed, exactly. The best Bond can hope for is resigned. "Sensible."
"Thank you," Bond offers, "for Leeds. And for giving me a place to lay low."
"And those." Q uses his teaspoon to point at the borrowed clothes Bond still wears. "Yours to keep. I certainly don't want them back." He turns back to his tea.
That's an interesting detail to share, Bond thinks. He slips into the kitchen and stands a good two feet behind Q, hands in his pockets. "At this rate, how can I ever repay you?" he drawls.
"Oh, I'm sure you'll think of something," Q says breezily. "I'll see you later, Commander Bond."
It would be easy to step closer, to wind his arms around that trim waist and press his lips into that wild hair. To whisper, "Call me James." He's done it a thousand times with a thousand other willing participants.
Instead, Bond gives him a nod, a brush of his hand over Q's shoulder. More than camaraderie, less than seduction. It might even be called affection. "Good night, Q," he says, picks up his boots from the ugly line in the foyer, and leaves to find a taxicab.
It's not the first time Bond has waltzed back into MI6 after being MIA, so he's prepared for the tedious debriefs and examinations. It takes days to be cleared, and when he is, he makes his way down to Q-branch holding a small, circular device attached to a USB cord. He's wearing the dove grey suit with a navy tie to great effect. Several techs eye him as he enters. One actually blushes. Bond gives that one a charming smile before entering Q's glass-walled domain.
"Q," he says by way of greeting before plugging it into the slot of the machine that the man's working on.
"What in—? Double-oh seven!" Q rips the cord out and shakes it in his fist. "I am working on a secure system! You can't just go about plugging in any external drive you like without first getting approval from—"
"It's not a drive," Bond says. "It's a tea-warmer."
Q blinks. "A what?"
Bond carefully takes the cord from Q's slack fingers and plugs it back in. The disk lights up a cheery orange color. "I had security scan it for malware already." He takes one of the three half-full mugs at Q's elbow and places it atop the device. "It'll keep your drink from going cold."
"Oh," Q says, and can't seem to say anything else.
"Now all you need is a gadget that stops you from leaving your mugs scattered all over London." Bond curates a smirk, but Q does not return it. He's still fixated on the glowing orange disk. The smirk falls away. "It was only ten quid," Bond says. "No trouble at all, if that's what you're worried about."
"What?" Q's head snaps back up. He looks at Bond like he's only just noticed he's in the room. "It isn't— I'm not worried. Thank you."
Bond gives him a nod of acknowledgment and is about to move on—plenty to do today—but Q stops him with a light touch to his elbow. He waits for the last branch technician to leave the aquarium before saying in a low voice, "My place. Tonight. Make sure you're not followed."
An actual smile appears on Bond's face now. "If I'd known how far ten quid would go—"
"Don't," Q warns him, and Bond closes his mouth. The man is serious. "There's something I'd like you to see, but it needs to be kept secure."
"And your flat is more secure than MI6? What am I saying; of course it is," Bond mutters. "Shall I bring a bottle of something drinkable?"
"It's not a social call, Bond," Q snaps. Then, after a moment's hesitation: "I prefer whites. Reds give me a headache."
"Brilliant," Bond purrs, and shoots his cuffs in victory before making his exit.
"I've decided to trust you," Q says when he opens the door to Bond that night. "God knows why."
Bond holds up the bottle of extremely decent sauvignon blanc he's brought, pre-chilled.
"That doesn't hurt, I suppose." Q takes it and ushers Bond inside. "Please, make yourself comfortable," he says as he digs through the cupboard, apparently on a hunt for wine glasses.
Bond considers making himself comfortable in Q's doubtlessly unmade bed, but decides he shouldn't push his luck. He seats himself on the loveseat instead, allowing Cadbury to cuddle against his thigh while he scratches him under his chin.
At least one member of the household is on board, he thinks.
"What's this all about, Q?" he asks, accepting a glass of the wine that Q's poured.
"Well. You see." Q sits heavily in the armchair opposite, takes a nervous sip of his own drink. "It occurred to me last year, after that incident at the old HQ—and again the other day when I decided to assist you in the Leeds matter—that there are plenty of chances in the course of my work for things to go sideways."
Bond inclines his head in agreement, though he doesn't understand where Q could be going with this. If he's having a delayed reaction to his life being in danger, it's certainly taken its time.
"Not as many chances as you, of course," Q says. "I'm safely stationed behind my desk, most days. But even so—well, you know I appreciate contingency plans."
"Meaning?" Bond asks.
"Meaning…" Q places his wine glass on the coffee table with a click. "I would like you to handle my affairs if something were to happen to me."
Bond doesn't hide his surprise. "Surely you have protocols in place already? Some algorithm set to distribute your bank account's sums and delete certain files the moment your heart stops beating?"
Q laughs. "You have an outsized sense of what an algorithm can do, Double-oh seven." He leans forward, rubbing his hands together between his knees. "No, I—I was actually hoping you would help me with the more human aspects." He gives Bond another strange look. "You already know about my family's existence. Not many people from Six do."
"You want me to be the one to inform your next of kin?" Bond asks, just to make sure he's understanding correctly.
"Exactly," Q breathes out in relief. "I wouldn't want them to— That is, someone should be there. To explain everything."
"Of course," Bond says immediately. "If it's within my power, I'll see to it."
Q shoots him a sardonic smile. "I'm well aware that if something so dire has happened as to cause my death, the chances of you remaining alive are not good." He takes up his glass again. "On the other hand, your continued survival in the face of incredible odds makes me believe I've made the right choice."
Bond smiles, raises his glass. Q mimics him. They drink. Q's fingers play along the stem, his gaze going far away. His glance at Bond seems fraught.
"You'll need to memorize certain details," he says. "My parents' names. Their location. My sister's as well, should they pass."
The gravity of this does not escape Bond. He gives an appropriately solemn nod.
Q watches him closely, then downs the remainder of his wine. "I'll just get the file for you, then."
"Your personnel file?" Bond frowns and crosses one leg over the other, jarring the cat, who must then re-settle at his side. "You keep that here?"
"It's not technically a personnel file; I don't have one maintained by MI6. These are more my personal papers." He rises from his chair in a hurry. "Well, it'll go faster if I just have you read it. One moment."
Bond remains seated, sipping his wine, while the sounds of locks releasing and electronic pings come to him from the hallway. He wonders where, exactly, Q has built his hidden safe and decides it must be somewhere in the wall dividing the bedroom from the linen closet.
Q returns with a sheaf of papers in his hands bound by a length of kitchen twine. At Bond's questioning look, he says, "All right, yes, so it's not the most organized of systems. I hardly know what to do with papers when I can't digitize them." He lays the bundle on the coffee table and picks out the knot in the twine with his neat, blunt nails. "There you are. Some light reading." His tense voice is at odds with his words.
Bond eyes him carefully. "I don't need to see the entire thing. You could just show me the pieces relating to your family's identities."
"May as well do it all at once," Q says enigmatically. He sits back in his chair, fidgeting with his hands. "Like a plaster."
Cadbury bumps his head against Bond's hand and he scratches the cat between the ears idly. "If you're certain," he says, not wanting to appear too eager.
Q gives him a smile that is all bravado. "Nothing in life is certain, Double-oh seven, but in this case, I am as close to it as possible."
Bond begins sifting through the papers, alternating between sips of wine and scritching the cat when he cries for attention. Q watches him for a moment before leaving his seat and bustling about the kitchen.
"More wine?" he calls from where he's popped his head inside the fridge.
"You can top me off," Bond murmurs as he reads the first packet of documents. It's the living wills for both parents. Margaret and George Trant. They live in Kent. Both wish to be cremated. Upon their deaths, the property in Kent along with a cottage outside of Brighton and any remaining assets are to be divided among the two children.
The sister's name is Celine.
Q's is William.
William Trant. Bond rolls the name around in his mind. It's rather pleasing.
He flips ahead. There's an envelope bearing the address of Q's flat with Celine's return address printed neatly in the corner. She lives in Cornwall.
Bond continues reading through the papers, wondering when he'll find the arrest record or the police report, the thing that will explain how Q came to be Q. But there's nothing like that. There's only the mundane. Financial statements; the current flat's lease. Old birthday cards and ticket stubs. Absurdly high bills from the veterinarian—Flump is apparently experiencing liver trouble. He stops in the middle of Q's Cambridge transcripts.
"You weren't lying," Bond says. He looks up to find Q watching him, wine glass full and untouched on the table. "You've led a very boring life."
"It comes naturally to some of us," Q says without any heat.
"So how?" Bond demands. "Explain it to me. How did it happen?"
"How did I become your quartermaster?" Q sighs, looks away. "I'm afraid it's not a very exciting story."
"Tell me anyway," says Bond.
Q picks up his glass but doesn't drink. Needs something to do with his hands, Bond imagines. "I developed a unique skill set at an early age," he says. "Precocious, I suppose. I was lucky; my parents didn't understand, exactly, but they encouraged me to pursue it. There aren't many places where my talents can be put to use." Q smiles slightly over the rim of his glass. "Custom handguns and security hijacking aren't in high demand outside of the intelligence community, really."
"I applied for a position. I showed M what I was capable of. She hired me. Apparently I was impressive enough to warrant a few special considerations when it came to my privacy." Q does take a sip then, a small one. He clears his throat. "I wish I had a more entertaining tale for you, Double-oh seven. Are you very disappointed?"
Bond doesn't buy the light tone. He can see the tension building in the way Q holds himself. The worry in those pale eyes.
"Far from it," he says.
For there to be no precipitating event that led Q to this path, no awful thing that drove him into this life—for him to have chosen it of his own free will when he could have chosen anything else—to have found a way to do the job and keep his loved ones safe—to be brilliant enough to save Bond's life a dozen times over, and soft enough to let his cats keep their names.
He's the rarest thing there is, in Bond's experience.
"You're a good man, Q."
Q seems honestly taken aback. "Am I?" He recovers in an eyeblink. "M wouldn't agree, if she knew what I'd done in Leeds."
"So you only follow orders when it suits you." Bond smiles. "We have that in common. Some orders are shit." He shuffles Q's personal papers into a neat stack, prepared to hand them back.
"Wait." Q gently pushes the pages back into Bond's lap. "Why don't you keep reading?"
"I don't need to see any more."
"I'd like you to," Q says. "Go on."
With a sigh, Bond returns to the papers. He'll humor Q, though he doesn't understand the point of the exercise. The only stuff that's left are the oldest bits, the things from Q's adolescence. He can't help but smile at the thought of Q, even more gangly and awkward as a teen, fiddling with dangerous devices and making them even moreso.
Bond flips a page and frowns. He re-reads the record just to be sure. "These are from Roedean," he says.
"Yes," Q says.
Bond checks the name at the top of the paper again. It's not Celine's name. It's someone else.
"Roedean is a girls' school," Bond says.
"It certainly is," Q agrees.
Another sister? Did she die young? Bond flips through the remainder of the file. There's no school record for William Trant. Just this other name.
"Come on, Double-oh seven," Q murmurs. "You're nearly there. Any moment now." He drinks his wine, eyes trained on Bond.
Bond lifts his head to look at Q. "You're not diabetic."
Q shakes his head. "No, I'm not."
"You take hormones."
"Yes, I do."
"I'm an absolute pillock."
"Well, that depends on whatever you say next," Q says, and Bond notices his hands shaking faintly as he places his wine glass back on the coffee table. Adrenaline.
Bond chooses his words carefully. "Am I the only one from Six who knows?"
"That I'm transgender? No, M is aware." Q waves a hand. "And whoever else was involved in vetting me, I imagine."
"You said you compartmentalize," Bond says, and it's a question.
Q hums and tilts his head in thought. "I don't try to hide it, if that's what you mean. If anyone were to ask, I wouldn't lie. No one ever asks, is the thing."
"Well, no one would know it to look at you," Bond says.
"That's not the resounding compliment you think it is," Q says, clipped.
It's strange, feeling chastened after so many decades of thinking it impossible. Bond dips his head. "Sorry. My mistake."
"Yes. Well." Forgiveness seems to come easily to Q. He grins, his hands calm on the armrests, tension easing from his shoulders. "So, there you are. You know everything there is to know about me now, Commander Bond. Including the sole somewhat interesting personal detail. "
Bond can't help but give a snort. "I wouldn't say that."
Bond gestures to the Roedean papers in his lap. "This isn't even the ninth most interesting thing about you, Q."
"Really?" Q considers him. "What's the third?"
"The fact that your shampoo costs more than the entire outfit you've got on," Bond says without hesitation. "Either it was a gift or your priorities are very clear."
"Hm." Q smiles that small, impish smile. He doesn't tell Bond which it is, which drives Bond to distraction in the best possible way. "I don't dare ask what you've ranked as number one."
Bond returns his smile and drains his glass. He can withhold just as well as Q. It will do his mind some good, letting it wonder. "Also," he says, leaning forward to place his wineglass directly next to Q's on the coffee table, "I don't know everything." He flicks his eyes up at Q. "In at least one arena, you have me at a disadvantage, if you recall."
"Can you not switch it off?" Q asks. "Or does the charm continue oozing even in your sleep?"
"You're in a better position to answer that than I am," Bond points out. He places the packet of papers on the table as well and gently nudges the cat until he flows off the loveseat and stalks away.
"I find you more charming when you're unconscious, certainly." Q watches him, unsure as to why Bond is clearing a space at his side until realization dawns. "Oh my Lord, are you honestly going to invite me to sit next to you?"
"If you'd care to," Bond says.
"I've told you, I'm not the sort to be had over a balcony railing."
"That's just as well; you don't have a balcony."
Q doesn't laugh, just huffs. "What exactly do you think is going to happen here? We can't just fall into bed together and act like nothing's changed tomorrow morning when you report to Q-branch. We work well together, Double-oh seven. I'm not prepared to jeopardize that for a single instance of sexual gratification."
"A single instance?" Bond scratches his chin. "I was hoping for more than that."
Q rolls his eyes. "Oh yes, I've forgotten your legendary prowess. A single night, then."
"Again." Bond doesn't look away. "I was hoping for more."
There's a moment where they just stare at each other. "Are you serious?" Q says, his voice stricken. "Are you really going to sit there and say—what are you even saying?"
Bond shrugs. It's not his most eloquent bit of repartee, but he doesn't care.
"I have met you, you know," Q barrels on. "I'm well aware that you don't do more. There may be men and women scattered across the globe who wish you would, but those are naive, simpering—"
"If the idea doesn't interest you," Bond interrupts, "you can just say so."
"You're just telling me what you think I want to hear." Q leans forward, his elbows propped on his knees. "You must be."
Now it's Bond's turn to roll his eyes. "If that were true and I plan to never return your calls after tonight, you'd be well within your rights to lead me into a deathtrap the next time you're in my ear. Why would I risk it?"
Q scoffs, but his eyes take on a thoughtful look. "As if I would kill my best operative over something like that," he says.
Bond's eyes sparkle. He knows they do because Q looks thoroughly annoyed. "It's that spirit of generosity that I find myself so drawn to." He shifts, laying his arm along the back of the sofa, his face sobering. "I can't make many promises. I can't tell you I'll always come home to you in one piece, or at all. I can't swear there won't be others. The work I do—"
"I know what the work entails," Q says quietly. There's a moment where his gaze remains on the carpet and nothing is said, and Bond is fairly sure he'll be asked to leave. Instead, Q levers himself out of his chair and, with a sigh, falls into place next to Bond on the loveseat.
Bond's arm slots easily along his shoulders, and Q allows it. He rests his head in the crook of Bond's neck. Q's hand comes up to tangle in Bond's tie, upsetting the sleek line of it. Bond finds, for once, that he doesn't mind. He can bury his nose in Q's hair at this angle, so he does. It's soft, smells divine. The expensive shampoo is doing its job.
"This is yet another very ill-advised thing I'm about to do," Q says into the skin of Bond's throat.
"But you do them so well," Bond says, and kisses him.
"All right," Q gasps, pulling away from their latest kiss, "I think I understand now."
"Oh?" Bond's hands stroke along Q's hips, keeping him grounded in Bond's lap. They've been necking like teenagers on the sofa for nearly half an hour. It's luxurious. "What's that?"
"The draw of you." Q dips his head for another taste of Bond's lips, a languid press that Bond coaxes into something fiery and dangerous. His hand tangles in Q's hair, hoping to keep him in place, but Q pulls back again just as the kiss is approaching a breaking point. He's panting, flushed, his pupils as large and dark as rivets, but he's still talking . "I used to think it was your intensity. The rumors, you know, one hears them. I expected you to be skilled, but I imagined the bulk of that could be attributed to— Well, how often does someone find themselves the focus of something like this?"
He lays a hand along Bond's cheek, and Bond's own hand rises to cover it. He holds Q's gaze, kissing the vulnerable inside of his wrist, not breaking eye contact.
"You see?" Q breathes. "Rather primal. It's intoxicating, but it's not the real draw."
"Are you going to talk all night?" Bond asks, kissing the tips of his fingers now.
"The real draw," Q continues as if he hasn't heard him, "is that you are so attuned to reading a situation, to adapting to unspoken cues, that it seems like you're reading my mind. Like you know exactly what I want."
"Because I do," Bond says, and proves it by taking the edge of Q's ear between his teeth, correctly gauging the angle of his neck to be an offer.
"Ah," Q gasps, arching against Bond, grinding down against his steel-hard erection. He's trembling, his hands managing only to tug Bond's tie down a few inches. Buttons seem beyond him. Still he's talking. "But I don't have the same proficiency in body language. I don't suppose I could just ask you if there's anything in particular you want? "
"Pleasing you," Bond says against his throat. "That's all."
"I should have known." Q shivers in his grip. "A blunt instrument." He laughs as Bond tosses him bodily onto the sofa cushions and presses atop him. It's too small for one grown man let alone two, and their limbs tangle and splay in an effort to fit.
Bond's got both of Q's wrists caught up in a one-handed grip while the other works on the buttons of his cardigan and shirt. He senses that Q would not blame him if Bond lingered on the scars on his chest, two neat dashes punctuating his skin, the start of a message in Morse code—but he doesn't. Instead he laves at one flat nipple, and trails his fingertips along the coarse black hair that leads from Q's navel to the line of his corduroy trousers.
"Shouldn't we move to the bedroom?" Q asks, breathless.
Bond instead focuses on getting rid of Q's clothes, a task which pleases him on multiple levels. If something rips in his haste, so be it.
Of course his pants would be the most flattering thing Q owns. The one thing no one—or nearly no one—would ever see. Bond noses along the seam of the bottle green boxer briefs, smiling to himself at the tasteful bulge they contain. Q is proving to be quite the master of restraint in some areas. It makes this moment, where he's letting go entirely and moaning into one of the throw pillows, all the more sweet.
"Does it do anything?" Bond asks, curious fingers brushing along the front of Q's pants.
"What?" Dazed eyes wreathed in wild hair blink down at him. "Erm, it lets me use the urinals, if that's what you mean." Of course Q would be more concerned with efficiency than anything else.
"You haven't tinkered with it? No custom improvements?"
"For God's sake, Bond—"
"I'd just like to know if I should be expecting an oil slick if I press the wrong button."
Q bangs his knee against the side of Bond's head, but only lightly. "It hasn't got any buttons! Would you just get on with it?"
Bond peels away the underpants and the packer in one smooth movement. "You could call me James, you know," he suggests. "When we're like this."
Q stills, thinking. "Would you like me to?"
"Yes," Bond says, and dips his head to kiss the inside of one thigh. "I like the name William for you, by the way."
"Thank you. I picked it out myself," Q murmurs. His head tips back, baring his throat. He places one palm on his forehead as is staving off some kind of dizzy spell. "Are you ever going to take off that suit, James darling?"
But Bond is occupied with the cant of Q's hips, the subtle signs of desire. He places his mouth exactly where Q needs it, his hands pressing marks into the skin of his thighs.
"Right," Q barely says in a quaking voice. "Carry on, then."
Bond plants one foot on the floor and the other on the sofa cushion, looking for more leverage. Q gives a small whimper beneath him at the shift, one of approval. He's positioned just as he likes, in Bond's estimation, face down, arse high in the air.
He's not talking any longer, but he's certainly not silent.
Bond draws out another low moan with a stroke of his cock, thumb brushing along the engorged head of his clit. He watches Q's face closely—for signs and clues on where to touch and how to move, yes, but also because he's exquisite.
To see an intellect like Q's dissolve into senseless, animal wanting is a gorgeous thing. Here is a man that can bring down armies with a few keystrokes, panting open-mouthed, his tongue visible and pink, eyes rolling. He's still wearing his glasses, though they're knocked askew. Bond's done that to him, and he feels absurdly proud.
He tugs Q up by the hair, relishing the excitable yelp that produces, and sits him upright. That way he can go deeper, mouth along the line of that long neck. He can touch him everywhere.
"God, yes, James," Q groans without a trace of irony. His head falls back on Bond's shoulder. Eyes squeezed shut. Shaking apart.
So that's what he sounds like, Bond thinks to himself, all the while not giving him a moment's reprieve.
"You don't have to," Q says to him later. They've finally made it to the bed. Q's hand is curious in its exploration of Bond's chest, his abdomen, the meat of his thighs, the shape of his still-hard cock.
Bond kisses him, tasting the eagerness on his tongue. "I don't mind," he says. "Go ahead."
"Genuinely?" Q presses. "You're not just giving in because I've asked? I'd like to think you're more than a tool for my pleasure, you know."
Bond doesn't see the point of splitting hairs, but never mind. "I'm sure."
Q's eyes gleam. He scrambles away across the mattress, hanging over the edge of it to pull some container from under the bed and rummage through it. His lilly-white arse is in the air again, and Bond feels proprietary enough to give it a firm knead with one hand while he's waiting.
"Right." Q pops back onto the bed with his hands full. "Would you like to choose or shall I?"
Gadgets. Of course. Bond watches him fondly.
"You pick," he says. "Just be reasonable. I'm being brought in tomorrow and I'd like to be able to sit down."
Distress flickers across Q's face, gone in an instant, but Bond notices. "I'm not out to hurt you," Q says, picking through his arsenal, dropping all but one modest toy back into the box.
"Sometimes people get carried away," Bond says, trying for a light tone.
Q is having none of it. He crawls over Bond, skin on hot skin now that Bond's been undressed as well, kissing him ruthlessly. When he pulls away, his eyes are dark.
"If we're going to attempt to be more to each other," he says quietly, "I must insist you hold me to a slightly higher standard."
The look in his eyes gives no quarter. Bond meets it and nods.
"Lovely." Q kisses him on the cheek. "Now be a dear and spread your legs for me."
The device offers vibration, of course, and is shaped in such a way to reach the prostate. Bond isn't convinced it will do anything but feel strange—right up to the moment Q finishes stretching him on clever fingers and slides the slick toy inside. When he switches it on, Bond's cock drools a thin stream of fluid onto his stomach. Bond gives him a wild look.
"I promise you," Q says, hitching one of Bond's legs higher onto his thin shoulder, "it's factory-set. I haven't done a thing to it."
"Disappointing," Bond says, though it comes out a bit breathless. "No personal touch."
"I wouldn't say that…." Q presses at the base, watching Bond's body give a silent jolt.
"Christ," Bond bites out. It isn't often he finds himself slipping out of his own head while making love; even recreational forays involve a bit of theatre, a measure of playacting. In this moment, though, he allows himself to melt into Q's rumpled bed, tip his head back on the pillow that smells of overpriced shampoo and Q's sweat, and be expertly played with.
"May I—?" Q slots himself into the V of Bond's legs, pressing his crotch right against the base of the toy, grinding into it and fucking it into Bond in turn.
"Yes, keep—" Bond grips him by the hips, pulls him harder, closer. He can feel Q shaking already, close to coming apart from the sensations on his clit and Bond's rough touch.
"Oh," he says, and repeats himself a few times before surging forward, folding Bond nearly in half, kissing him like nothing else could ever matter.
Bond comes on his own chest, a dab of it on his cheek. Q licks it away with a contented hum. He makes a pillow out of a clean spot on Bond's shoulder, and they lay there for a long moment, breath evening out.
"Did you want to call me William?" Q asks. "When we're like this?"
"As if I can remember my own name after that," Bond says, and rolls him over to make a mess of him, kissing the delighted cries from his lips.
Bond wakes up gently just as the sun is beginning to glow through the bedroom curtains. Q is spooned up behind him again, holding him in the curve of his body.
His eyelashes lift and lower against Bond's neck.
Bond's hand covers Q's on his stomach. "Breakfast?" he asks.
A yawn flows over his shoulder. "Haven't been to the shop, I'm afraid. You can make me toast and tea."
"Oh, can I?" Bond drawls.
Q hums, crowding closer. "Do you know how I take it?"
"Of course." Bond turns and kisses him. "I know everything about you now, remember?"
"That's right." Q's eyes open, finding Bond's without any trouble. "You do."