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The inventor and the wolf

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There were all sorts of rumours regarding the particular lord that was currently crossing through their land. Dark rumours, rumours that claimed he was a beast that fed on the minds of those who owned them and the bodies and love of the fairest in the land. It was whispered that if he was insulted, he made the one who insulted him watched as he devoured their family, leaving only their heads which he would use as decoration for his estate. They also claimed that he would take the one who insulted him and tie him to the back of his caravan and made him walk all the way to his estate on which - if the man in question survived the journey - he was impaled and left to feed the crows.

 

Those rumours were probably born from the fact that the lord never allowed anyone but his servants to gaze upon his face, always sitting hidden in a jeweled box that was carried around with ease by four silent slaves who bore the crest of a stag with a crown between its antlers on their silken clothes or in a large golden carriage from which he watched the world pass by. He thought that must be extremely lonely, but he kept that thought to himself.

 

The lord’s caravan was rumoured to be made of carriages of silver and was said to appear suddenly after the first moon of summer had disappeared from the sky, countless servants dressed in the finest of silks walking alongside a large army of soldiers dressed in gold armours with silver shields and swords. Q found that completely ridiculous as silver was much too soft to be an effective weapon and the golden armours surely tired the soldiers quite fast due to how heavy they were.

 

But lo and behold, the world proved him wrong when he caught a glimpse of the rumoured caravan and army while he was out gathering wood one day. He crouched down low and slowly backed away, hoping against all hope that no one else would notice the caravan and that it will move away before anyone else noticed it. But of course, he saw someone run back towards the village, screaming with joy that the Goddess of Luck had finally saw it fit to hug them all to her generous bosoms.

 

The idiot was happy because the same rumours that painted the lord like a beast stated that if he was impressed, he showered the person in gold, jewels and beautiful women while the village that the person came from got the lord’s protection and best cattle. And that was why the town elder begged and pleaded the lord to accept the party that was thrown in his honour, promising him that he would be marveled by at least one thing he saw that night.

 

“The man couldn’t be any more desperate for gold if he tried,” Q mumbled from his seat on the cold and quite uncomfortable rock at the back of the crowd.

 

How he hated crowds - or rather, this crowd. Was necessary for everyone to be summoned in the middle of town so that its leader could inform every one of the ‘wonderful’ news and of what they were supposed to do to make sure they’d be shown just how generous the lord could be when pleased? Couldn't the ancient piece of stupidity just send them all a letter? Oh, that's right; no one but him really knew how to read or write.

 

Of course he had tried to hide in his little house at the edge of the forest because he wanted nothing to do with any idea anyone from the town came up with, but they had dragged him kicking and screaming out of it. He didn’t understand why they insisted that he be present since they called him a freak and a witch and their favourite pastime was throwing rocks at him. Did they really expect him to do something for the town that hated him and he hated in return? Their stupidity truly knew no limits if that was the case

 

Why they called him a freak and a witch? Because he loved to read, wash himself more than once a year and invent things, of course. Things that were so complex, no one really understood how they could possibly work without the aid of a magic spell. Then again, Q was sure that everybody in that damned town found the concept of fire to be complex. He would be amazed if he didn’t find out they called a priest every time they needed to cook or heat up water. And when they caught wind that he actually used hot water to bathe himself, they dragged him in a church because it was Satan’s invention, that hot water.

 

“…and that person will be the freak.” The town’s leader finished saying and everyone turned to look at him, horrible smiles on their faces.

 

“I’m sorry; I was too busy trying to not hear your moronic idea in fear of my own intellect being damaged at the sound of it to get what you were saying.” The boy spoke, arms crossed over his chest. “Would you mind repeating the part were you said what you have the gulls to think the freak will do to help your imbecilic asses land in crates of golden coins?” That got him a slap over the back of his head from the nearest person and he managed not to flinch, although his glasses were sent flying into the ground. He dived after them, afraid that someone might trample them just to cause him more pain.

 

The town’s elder, a fat little thing that Q was sure was dropped on his head and lost his brain the instant he came out of his mother started stuttering, looking like he was having a seizure of some sort as his pudgy little hands hit the table. “Why can’t you be bothered to at least listen to what is good for this town, boy?”

 

“Why can’t you be bothered to refrain from being a complete dim-witted fat pig?” That earned him another smack over his head, one so hard that made the world around him spin and sent him on his knees to the ground, glasses falling once again.

 

He saw a boot heading for his face and he curled in on himself, holding his eyes shut tightly and hoping that he wouldn’t lose his teeth. But the boot never connected with his mouth and before he knew what was happening, someone had pulled him to his feet. “Now, now everyone. We mustn’t treat the poor boy in such a horrible manner.”

 

Great, he had been saved by Silva out of people. “Excuse me can I go back to getting my teeth kicked in? I’d rather have to go through that than know that you’ll expect me to pay you back in any way for your unwanted help.”

 

The blond hand man turned and offered Q his disgustingly sweet and obvious only to him smile. “Poor boy must have hit his head very hard if he is willing to be punished. Maybe now his strange ideas of witchcraft will finally let his mind be,” he said laughing, the whole town joining him in his amusement after which he proceeded to wrap his arms around him and pull him in a hug. “Don’t think I’ll let anyone put their marks on you but me, you freak,” he whispered in his ear and Q felt sick to his stomach. “Most respected elder, would you kindly repeat what task you had for our strange fairy here?”

 

It annoyed Q that no matter how much he kicked and struggled, the man acted as if the weakest insect in the world repeatedly flew against him. He also hated the angry looks he was getting from every woman in town, even the married ones. They all looked like they wanted to lick their beloved muscle-bound log to wash Q’s unworthy touch. However, as far as Q was concerned, he was the one in desperate need of a bath to get the stupid off of him.

 

“Ah, Mister Rodriguez, you are much too kind to the freak,” the old pig said and Q was ready to swear on his best invention that he blushed. Was there anyone in this Godforsaken town not in love with the disgusting waste of space? “And well, I said that we will have present someone who swore up and down that he could impress Lord Bond and that will be the freak.”

 

Q went limp in Silva’s hands and by some luck of the Gods he managed to slide out from the disgusting hug. “I really don’t like that idea.” Not that he actually believed the rumours about the lord eating people, but he was inclined to believe that the man might be crazy enough to kill whoever disappointed him.

 

“Oh, are you saying that your inventions are not actually that great?” The town’s elder asked, face made even uglier by his attempt at looking smug. He looked like someone had repeatedly bashed him with a log in the mug.

 

Of course that got right under Q’s skin and he jumped on a chair. “I will have this lord of yours gasp in shock and crawl out of that fancy box of his to see my creation,” he announced loud enough for the whole world to hear him. “He will kiss my feet and you will all realize that I am not a freak or a witch and that I am indeed a genius.” It was extremely childish of him to react like that, but it was how he felt.

 

Half the village started to laugh while the other half started to throw mud and rocks at him, their leader red in the face as he yelled at him on top of his lungs. “You foolish boy, shut your mouth before you get us all killed with your insanity!” He then grabbed Q by his hair and threw him back in the ground, kicking him in the ribs.

 

He was getting ready to receive more, but before anyone else could join in on a game they probably named ‘kick the one who’s smarter than us’, an animalistic shout ordered everyone to stop. Q peeked up and saw that everyone was looking somewhere behind them and when he pushed his cracked glasses back up his nose, he realized why. They were all staring at a massive golden carriage that was pulled by six black horses.

 

He realized who owned the expensive thing and that he might have been heard, but when he tried to bolt away before the lord could order his execution, someone grabbed him by the hair and forced him to remain where he was.

 

Everyone was silent and almost completely unmoving as the carriage door opened and out came a tall man with short blond hair and green eyes dressed in a dark blue uniform with a white sash across his chest and a heavily jeweled sword on his left, his face bearing a rather large scar on right cheek. As he started to walk, the crowd parted and by the time he reached the village elder, Q had almost managed to slip out of the grip without losing his scalp or too much hair.

 

“My lord has heard your claims,” the man said in a strong voice and rested his gloved hand on Q’s shoulder, smacking the hand that was tugging on his hair away.

 

“No, no, ignore him!” The village elder said, actually falling on his knees and starting to dust the man’s boots. “He’s the village idiot. Damaged in the head, really. He does not know what he says.” Everyone in the crowd started to agree, nodding their heads and adding more insults.

 

Q felt his body freeze up on him when the well-dressed man touched his shoulder, surprised at how kindly he looked down at him. No pity or disgust was to be found in those green eyes and the young man felt ashamed that the man’s glove was getting dirty because Q was bleeding from his forehead. It would seem that some villagers had managed to improve their aim; then again he had been their moving target since he was old enough to walk.

 

“And you wanted to present him to my lord and claim that he could amaze him?” His voice boomed and a few women yelped, even Silva taking a step back. “You would sentence your weakest to death in hopes that, by comparison, my lord would be amazed by something else and show you the bottom of one of his medium sized chests?”

 

Of course he’d also insult him, Q thought bitterly. “You give them too much credit, kind knight,” Q started saying with disgust. He tapped the man’s gloves, silently asking him to let him go before he started limping away. “They were hoping that your lord will simply due away with me.” He stopped and laughed, flinching when the pain of his split lip caught up with him. “They are dead sure that your lord is simple minded enough to be amazed by the dances of one of these floozy women.”

 

The town elder started laughing nervously, trying to get the well-dressed man to look at him and ignore Q. But that was kind of hard when even the birds of the sky had fallen silent, as if they too were curious of how much deeper Q could make his grave with his sharp tongue and lack of filters and any sense of self preservation. But the young man simply couldn’t help himself from pointing out just how dumb everyone in the village was since that was his favourite pastime. 

 

“Well, ta for that because I will get your reclusive lord to kiss my muddy feet if it is the last thing I do,” Q announced, stopping right next to the golden carriage’s door, kicking the golden stag emblem that was on it. “And then no one will tremble before him or force people out of their homes in the middle of a very sensitive experiment that might actually blow up the entire village,” he was shouting at the village now and he knew the only reason why no one was throwing rocks and insults at him was because the rich lord’s knight was sitting by his side and that they did not want to dirty the loaded lord’s transportation.

 

“Is that so, little one?” A horrible scratchy voice came from behind the heavy curtain that blocked the view of whomever – or if the voice was any indication, whatever – sat in it and Q jumped back and tripped and fell to the ground before the knight could catch him, the entire village erupting into deafening laughter. Truth be told, he didn't think the lord was there if the knight spoke on his behalf and in hindsight, assuming that had been a really stupid thing to do.

 

“The little witch is scared of a carriage,” someone shouted and he turned to shout that they were all fools who needed to clean their ears if they missed the inhuman voice that came from within. But he once again fell silent when two arms carefully lifted him from the mud and he once again felt ashamed that the silken white gloves were now caked with mud.

 

“I am sorry, but I thought you were a boy,” his helper muttered and Q suddenly found himself wishing to push the man in the ground and cover his lovely suit in all the mud, dirty and animal droppings that he could find.

 

“I am,” he seethed out, hands fisted by his side. “They just think me too skinny for one and they are also dumb enough not to know that they should call me a warlock since that is the male equivalent of a witch.” He turned his angry glare on the villagers who continued to mock him. “Even though I am not! I am a man of science, you buffoons!”

 

He was guided to the carriage’s other side, where he was hidden from the crowd that mocked him so. He actually felt his eyes start to sting from those treacherous tears that trailed down his cheeks whenever the teasing got too much or the pain too hard. Well, he wasn’t going to let anyone see him cry and he tried to shrug the careful hands that were resting on his shoulders, only for the soft grip to turn hard, but not painfully so.

 

“My lord still wishes to speak with you, boy of science.” He was surprised yet again by the lack of mockery in the words. “Do not take my words as ridicule. They come after I compared your age to mine; I am a man of war and you are a boy of science.” He said carefully, distracting Q as they got closer to his lord’s vehicle since he knew the boy had heard his lord’s terrifying voice.

 

“More like an unwashed kitten,” the low growl came again and Q started to struggle with more might and determination. He did not like the vibe from the lord and he was slowly starting to believe that the rumours were not just rumours. “Do you want them dead?”

 

That question stopped his struggles and he tilted his head, narrowing his eyes as he tried to catch a glimpse of the one talking to him. “Excuse me?”

 

“Are you really soft in the head as your village leader claimed or are you deaf?” the voice asked annoyed.

 

“I am no softer in the head than you are, my lord.” Q grumbled, actually attempting not to sound like his usual condescending self. “But I would not wish death on any of them. Why should they be released from their stupidity while I get to drown in their blood? Let them live their lives in ignorance, cut off from the miracles of owning a fully functional brain while I bask in knowledge.” He would also feel bad if he was the cause of their deaths, another disadvantage of being capable of higher thinking.

 

Something that could be called laughing came from the hidden man and Q took a step back, looking up and expecting to be met by furious lightning since the noise reminded him of a furious storm. “I think you are a fool if you allow them to torment you still when you could scare them away with a few fire shows and threats of a permanent visit to the afterlife,” the horrid voice continued to say, Q’s attempts at running away being blocked by his back coming into contact with a well-toned chest.

 

“The man who brings death to those less fortunate than himself is the real fool,” Q replied, actually covering his mouth with his hands. This was one of the times where he wished he was born a mute.

 

“Such a brave and foolish dirty kitten you are, little boy.” A few golden of the golden clad guards with their faces hidden behind golden helmets stepped down from the carriage and flanked Q. “I will give you whatever you ask of me if you truly amaze me tonight. I will even crawl from my carriage on my knees and kiss your dirty feet which then I will cover in the finest of shoes.”

 

It really felt like he was striking a deal with the devil himself, Q though, although it was a strange thing to feel since the young inventor had reached the conclusion that no God or Devil could exist – just men with money, power and looks. Yet, because he was an inventor, he was curious by nature and the idea of his intellect being recognized by a lord of legends sounded too good to turn down.

 

“I’d like to know what would happen if, by some strange occurrence, I fail to amaze you?”

 

The unseen man took a moment to think. “I will burn down each and every one of their houses then tie you to a tree and leave you to them, promising the one who does most damage to you without killing you or touching you in a sexual way a vast estate and a low nobility title.”

 

“You can get them to beat me up without promising all of that,” Q said, gulping and shaking a little. “I refuse.”

 

“You cannot refuse this because I am ordering you to build me something!” The lord thundered, hitting the inside of the carriage door so hard that it split in two. And that really shouldn’t happen since gold was hard and heavy and not easy to break. The faceless guards were holding him in place and the man in the nice clothes held his head bowed low. “They will see that you cannot run away. And do not think you can kill them easily via poison or explosion or normal weapon. They are sturdy soldiers and you are nothing to them but a fly.”

 

“My lord, perhaps you are-” A soft female voice came from the carriage, only to be quickly silenced by a terrifying growl and something shattering, Q suddenly afraid that the woman had been hurt by whatever animal hid behind the golden walls of the carriage.

 

“Do not dare finish that sentence unless you wish to say that I am kind, woman!” He clearly took a couple of breaths to calm his nerves before the spoke again. “As for you, you filthy kitten… I will come to you when the fair is over. Do not disappoint me.” The commanding voice cut through him like steel and Q supposed he was lucky that the soldiers had a hold on him or else he would have fallen again.

 

He was dragged away after that by the soldiers, the carriage disappearing as fast as it had appeared and he tried and succeeded to keep his tears in check until he got home, no matter how many new scrapes and cuts he got on his feet by how he was dragged through just about anything, the men not caring when he flinched or when he yelped.

 

After they manhandled him into his house – how they knew where he lived was a mystery for him to ponder another time, he supposed – he limped over to the chest he kept by the foot of his bed and opened it, starting to search through his notes. He was sure he was going to impress the beast of a lord. He just needed to find the right contraption and make sure he didn’t smudge the schematics too much with his tears so that he could finish building it in time.

 

Chapter Text

It was harder for Q to work since his glasses were broken, but he did his best to ignore how foggy his notes looked, cussing his own hand writing every few words. He should have really followed his mother’s advice and worked harder on his calligraphy, but he had always said that no one but himself needed to understand his words and surely nothing would happen that would make him so desperate to build something that he wouldn’t have time to fix his secondary eyes.

 

Except it did and after he managed to truly get out of the deep state of shock that settled thirty minutes after the golden sentinels had locked him in his house, complete with shaking, tears and the making of impossible escape plans, he focused on apologizing to the dead woman who gave birth to him for not heeding her words. Maybe that was something every human did at one point in his life after realizing that their mothers did indeed know what they were talking about and had premonitions of the far away future.

 

And on top of him being almost blind and his handwriting working against him exactly when it shouldn’t, he had no idea when his deadline was. Sure, the terrifying lord had said that he would come to him when the festivities would be over, but Q had no way of knowing when that was. He could hazard a guess since he knew that the town elder wasn’t really able to understand the concept of investing money to get money - he probably got sick only when he thought about giving money.

 

“Hm, so then he will probably have all the pretty women parade their hips and breasts in front of the carriage, convulsing while pretending to dance,” he said to himself, resting his head against the table. “Then he’ll get that oh so great poet to do his best not to make the lord go deaf with his instrument or horrid poetry.” No, no, everything was wrong because, according to his calculations, everything would be over by midnight at most and he had yet to pick a project to start on. Not that he had anything that could be done in such a short period of time.

 

“Are you ill, boy of science?” Q actually jumped up when he heard the knight’s voice invading his house, hitting both his knees on the table. “I am sorry, I did not mean to scare you more than you already were,” the man said softly as he kneeled next to him and carefully helped him up.

 

“I am not ill or scared and call me Q.” He said weakly, face going slightly pink as he came face to face with the other man’s chest. He took a deep breath and slowly turned his head to look at the door, heart skipping more than a beat at the thought that the lord was actually already there.

 

The man lightly tugged on his ear to get Q to look back at him, taking out a napkin out of his pocket and carefully starting to clean his face. “I am Sir Alec Trevelyan, general to my lord’s army and his temporary messenger. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, young Q.” His warm breath brushed against Q’s face as he carefully tilted his head up so he could wipe the blood trailing from a small cut right under his eye.

 

It was strange that when this Sir Alec person did this, Q did not feel repulsed to his core like he did when it was Silva who breathed in his face. Maybe it was part due to the fact that the knight’s breath did not smell like a cocktail of every alcoholic beverage served in the town’s pub and that his eyes held a certain kindness and softness to them that was not to be found at all in Silva’s.

 

Maybe he was sick since he felt his inside growing a bit hot and his stomach contracting since he refused to think that he felt the way he felt at the first person other than his parents that showed him kindness. That would be extremely stupid of him and he prided himself to be the only person who did not suffer from that mind disease in the town - unless stupidity was indeed contagious and he finally caught it from Silva constantly insisting on touching him.

 

His rapid descent into a panic attack at the possibility of him suddenly turning into an idiot was brought to an end by Sir Alec softly tapping his nose. “I am afraid I just might be a horrible messenger, young Q. Did you not hear me when I said that my kind lord graced you with three days in which you can build a machine to get him to kiss your feet?”

 

Q blinked slowly a couple of times before the information actually got to his brain and then pushed Alec away, going back to squinting over his papers. Well, three days were a lot better than a few hours that were for sure. And after realizing just how dirty he was, he had the perfect idea what to build for the lord. All he needed to do now was find the schematics for his idea and actually try to convince the silent guards to help him with the wood.

 

He yelped when his broken glasses were suddenly taken away from his face and he tried to grab them back from Alec, only for the other man to easily avoid his weak attempts. This annoyed Q a lot because that was what Silva did whenever he wanted the younger man to pay attention to him, often pushing him down in the mud and holding him there with his foot while demanding a kiss in exchange for his spectacles.

 

“Are you actually here as a temporary saboteur, Sir Alec?” Q asked as he continued his attempts at recovering his glasses, ending up bumping against the man’s back when he turned around to pocket the broken thing.

 

“I was actually thinking of helping you,” he said simply, amused at the glare he was receiving. Unfocused and squinty eyes didn’t really scare anyone nor did they get across the point of pure annoyance. “I’ll be back shortly with a new pair of glasses since I assume by what your eyes are currently doing to focus on my face that you need them in order to see properly.” He chuckled and patted Q’s head, taking his hand and carefully sitting him down on a chair after he took great care to remove every object that was on it. “Sit tight and I will be right back with new ones.”

 

And in less than fifteen minutes, the man had returned like he promised. The rims were very delicate although made out of gold and the temple tips were carved out of ivory. The pads also felt as if they were made using the lightest wood around and then covered in the softest of silks and Q was surprised at how light the glasses felt on his face. He was also surprised at just how good he could see with them. In fact he saw much better than before.

 

“My lord did not want you to have any more disadvantages than already so he had those made for you.” Alec explained, smiling kindly at the surprised Q. “The soldiers stationed at your house will also do anything you tell them to, minus allowing you to escape,” he added, chuckling when the young man looked beyond offended.

 

“I do not back away from anything,” he said and ignored the voice in his head that sounded like his dead mother scolding him for deciding to ignore that he had thought about means to escape his current predicament not too long ago. “And thank your lord for the glasses,” he added softly, hand shaking a bit when he brushed his fingers against the golden rims. “They are a master piece.”

 

“I will leave you to your work now and believe me when I wish you the best of luck on this foolish and mad task you had set upon yourself,” Alec said, leaving behind a silk handkerchief so Q could clean his new eyewear.

 

That sounded extremely ominous, but Q decided to ignore it and set about working. The silent soldiers indeed helped him by chopping wood and carrying the pieces where he told them, although they were horrible conversational partners as they never replied. But the golden clad men never said anything although Q was sure they spoke the same language since they followed his instructions without him having to repeat himself at all. Maybe they had their tongues cut out? He could easily imagine the owner of that terrifying voice he heard do that if he thought his men would be better without one. It certainly made them creeper, the way they did as they were told and sat in one place unmoving as if they were nothing more than statues.

 

But at least they were not mocking him when he was talking to them or actively trying to stuff dirt in his mouth because they did not understand what he was going on about. After a while, the silent men even started to nod whenever he stopped talking and looked at them, as if Q was expecting them to acknowledge his words.

 

“Woe onto me for finding pleasure in the company of my jailers over that of my own villagers,” he said dramatically, crawling out from under the large contraption that was slowly starting to take shape in the middle of his garden. He turned around and looked at them, head tilted and the two sentinels brought their hands up and started to clap slowly, as if he were an actor and he started laughing.

 

The more he thought about the soldiers, the stranger they seemed. He hadn’t seen them falling asleep once, drink water, eat or go relieve themselves although he sometimes got so lost in his work that he was only vaguely aware of the world around him. There was a possibility that the two weren’t even the same ones that had dragged him back to his house anymore, not like he could tell the difference.

 

The only thing he was aware of during his little trips in the world of cogs and screws was that someone was watching it. At first, he thought it was just the creatures of the forest, but he soon realized that the stare had human feeling to it somehow. He tried to walk to the place where he thought his stalker was hiding, but the soldiers were in front of him instantly, hands against his chest as they pushed him away from the edge of the forest.

 

“I was not trying to escape,” he said sullenly, sitting down on the ground and crossing his feet on his lap. “There is someone there, I swear.” He insisted while pointing towards a bush, but neither man turned his head in that direction. “Fine, if it turns out to be a huge beast, please keep in mind that I tried warning you as you enter the afterlife.” He grumbled and went back to work, turning his head fast every now and then in hopes of catching exactly who or what was studying him so intently.

 

After two days and a half of nonstop working, eating only the stale bread he had around his house and drowning himself in the soup that resulted from the leaves he left in boiled water to help him keep awake, he finally succumbed to the land of sleep right curled up right in the middle of his invention. He didn’t care if he was going to get a cold. He’ll ask the lord to give him some money for medicine after his legs were kissed. How would the lips of a lord feel on his feet? Surely they were softer than that of a common man, although they might burn if the acid that the man seemed to carry on his tongue spilled on them.

 

He felt something soft and furry touch his forehead at one point and he tried to get closer to it, deciding that he simply had to be closer to the heat it emanated. He rolled over and tried to wrap his arms around the object, but it moved so fast away from him that Q thought for a moment he had broken it, only for his fears to be crushed by the strange softness to envelop his entire body. He rubbed his head against it slowly and smiled, frowning for a moment when he thought he heard a heart beating right in his ear. What an odd pillow. Or rather, how odd that he had a pillow.

 

“Poor dear,” a woman muttered softly right about him and he felt a delicate hand caress the side of his face as his glasses was removed. For a moment, he thought that he was young again and that his mother had found him asleep in the barn for the umpteenth time so he called out to her only to hear something deep rumble under him, his bed moving softly up and down while the woman let out a huff. “Not that old, sweetie,” the silken voice whispered and the world moved around him in such a way that he was sure he was floating.

 

He was carefully lowered onto his bed and something very soft that smelled like lavender was placed over him and he instantly snuggled into it, smiling. His mile dropped and he shivered when he felt thick and sharp claws run over his face and when he heard a warning growl he tried to scoop away from the scary feelings and into safety. He calmed down when he bump into the warmness from earlier and started smiling again, rubbing his face against it.

 

He tried to open his eyes and see just what was making him feel so good and safe, but sleep had clung just too hard and the hand that was running through his hair was just too caring for him to truly want to return to the real world. So he gave and continued to sleep, jolting awake only when he heard hard knocks against his door.

 

“Come on freak, time to make a fool of yourself in front of the most esteemed man in all the land,” the cruel voice taunted him and he reluctantly opened his eyes.

 

The first thing he noticed was just how strong the smell of lavender was in the room and that he was, in fact, in his room and not outside. He assumed that one of the soldiers had brought him in until he realized he was covered with a golden blanket that was very much not his. He carefully put his new pair of glasses on and ran his hand over the beautiful cover, getting lost in its intricate design.

 

“Boy if you do not come out this instant,” the voice of the village elder suddenly thundered and made Q give a start. “I will have someone knock down the door and drag you out by your hair. How dare you make someone of the lord’s calibre wait?” He continued to shout and the target of his abuse opened the door suddenly, causing him to take a few steps back and splutter. “You could have taken one of you baths, boy! Look at how messy you look!”

 

Rolling his eyes, Q pushed past him and headed towards the middle of his garden, noticing that someone had covered up his invention in a very nice red tarp. Resting the little cage filled with rats next to it, he stated tracing the tarp’s pattern with his finger when the sounds of horses neighing brought his attention to the carriage parked not too far from him. He saw ten soldiers around it, all of them carrying spears on top of their fancy swords, the townspeople not too far from them, holding torches instead of spears.

 

The sight made him shiver and he closed his eyes, trying to control his imagination. There was no need for him to doubt himself. He would show everyone and they will all chant his name as he left this horridly stupid down behind him, bemoaning their idiocy for mocking the muddy genius.

 

“I am waiting, little Q,” the lord’s deep voice came from within the safety and comfort of his carriage, Alec stepping out, looking extremely pale. “Kindly stop wasting my time and hurry to your own punishment.”

 

But Q opted to ignore the sweetly voiced order and stepped closer to the pale knight, resting his hands on his arm. “Sir Alec, are you alright?”

 

“No need to wo—“

 

“Stop talking to the help, boy! I am losing my patience, you unwashed mongrel! Get on with it!” The lord bellowed and Alec instantly stepped out of Q’s reach, head bowed.

 

“I don’t think you had any to lose, your lordship,” he huffed and stomped to the tarp, pulling it back to reveal a large tub filled with water rested on logs above a pit. He ignored the roaring laughter and set about starting the fire, starting to explain what it was. “Surely a lord such as you values a good wash, unlike the scums that live in here.” He tried not to flinch at the mud ball that hit him the back of his neck.

 

“Quiet! The lord wishes to hear what the boy has to say,” Alec intervened, tiring one finger in the air which made the soldiers suddenly face the crowd with one hand resting on their swords while the other pointed the spears at the villagers who went dead silent.

 

“Heated water is the best way to avoid catching a cold,” Q continued to say and poured the rats over a wheel that had been set up next to the tub. “But I thought about what a vain lord such as you would enjoy, so I thought why not make a hot bath with bubbles?”

 

“You plan on boiling the lord alive, you witch?” Someone asked from the crowd, yelping when the soldiers pointed their spears towards him.

 

“No, you imbecilic buffoon. And the logs are soaked, so they will not catch fire.” This time the lord laughed and that got under Q’s skin so he quickly undressed to his undergarments and climbed next to the tub. “I’ll show you how everything works.” He climbed into the tub and sat right in the middle of it, glaring at nothing in particular. “See? I am not being boiled alive and if it gets too hot then he can order his

 

“Witches don’t burn,” someone argued and that was so stupid that Q felt he got a headache.

 

“You threatened to burn me just last week for glancing your way!” He shouted, sitting up with the intent of stomping down to the man and hitting him in the head just to see if he would hear an echo.

 

“That is interesting.” The lord’s words silenced the crowd and Q held his head up high, hands resting on his hips and grinning. “Eve, would you be a dear and test this contraption for yourself?”

 

“Yes, my lord.” A soft voice answered and the carriage door opened to reveal a beautiful woman with curly dark hair dressed in a green dress was helped by Alec to climb down, Q’s mouth falling open as he tripped over his own feet to get out of the tub.

 

He bowed his head and covered his front with his hands, face red to the tips of his ears as she gracefully walked over to his tub, head tilted. “If my lady allows me, I can bring out a screen so that no one may disturb you with their prying eyes,” Q offered with in a meek voice, daring to glance up at her face.

 

She looked sadly at him and shook her head. “I am sorry, darling boy,” she whispered to him and then turned her attention to the tub, crossing her hands over her chest. “Does this tub empty and refills by itself?” She asked loudly, clicking her tongue when Q slowly shook his head. “So I need servants to do it for me. Can I push it off the fire by myself?” Another shake of head and she snorted. “Then I see nothing here to amaze.” She announced and the crowd started to laugh, missing the tall figure dressed in black from head to toe that climbed out of the carriage.

 

“You heard my companion, filthy kitten,” The lord spoke from behind a mask that represented a dog with sharp ears and a lean snout which reminded Q of a picture from one of his mother’s many books. It was supposed to represent a god from a faraway land that had something to do with death and that froze Q’s blood.

 

He took a deep breath and tried to get his legs to move, the figure drawing closer to him. “I can make what she asked for, but I will require more than three days,” he said, upset with how scared he sounded.

 

“Three days was more than enough and I fed and entertained your whole village.” The lord said and walked past Q, stopping in front of his invention.

 

“Not by my request, that is for sure.”

 

“And yet, to your advantage. I think I’ve been quite gracious, don’t you think my darling Eve?” He ran his hand over the rim of the tub and then lifted the woman’s head. “I even allowed my soldiers to help you and gave you glasses. And you show me a tub with bubbly water.” He waved his hand and the woman stepped back, Sir Alec’s hands coming down on Q’s shoulders to keep him from running.

 

“I did not ask for any help, human or otherwise,” Q insisted and turned his head to look at Alec with a pleading look in his eyes.

 

“You did not deliver what you promised and for that, you will pay.”

 

The crowd went insane and they would have ripped Q apart if not for the row of soldiers that had somehow tripled in number. Rocks and rotten vegetables and fruits started flying towards Q, Alec moving to shield him with his body, grunting every time a projectile hit him. A piece of rotten almost hit Eve and Q tried to move out of Alec’s protection to intercept it, but the masked lord was faster and caught it in his hand, action which brought the crowd’s madness to a complete end.

 

They all watched and he easily flipped the tub over with one hand and put out the fire, kicking the contraption once and destroying it. Q let out a strangled nose and elbowed Alec hard in the stomach, managing to run and grab hold of the lord’s leg. “Please, don’t destroy my creation! Just because you do not like something you shouldn’t destroy it! I worked so hard on it, please.” He begged on his knees.

 

The man leaned down a bit and took a strand of Q’s hair in his gloved hands. “I am a lord, I do as I please,” he whispered and pointed with his head to Q’s house, some of the guards stepping away from the townsfolk and starting to trash what was in it.

 

“What? No, please!” Q continued to beg and tried to run in and save what he could, but the man held him on his knees by his feet.

 

“My lord, if I may?” Silva’s voice rang from within the crowd of shocked people and they stepped aside as he walked. “Give him to me so that I may punish him accordingly,” He grinned at Q and the young inventor shook his head before resting it against the lord’s feet.

 

“If there is a speck of humanity in you, kill me instead,” Q pleaded.

 

The man stared between Silva and Q, growling low in his throat, but still allowed the other man to come closer. “I don’t think I shall.” He moved his arm and covered the kneeling man with the folds of his cloak. “And despite the fact that you have all shown me great disrespect by ruining the clothes of one of my best men with your filthy food I shall be kind and I will not destroy your pathetic little houses.”

 

Many people fell on their knees and raised their hands above their heads, proclaiming the lord to be the kindest one to ever exist, some going as far as calling him a god of mercy that deeded their land worthy to walk upon. But Silva’s face was twisted in hatred and his hands shot out and grabbed Q’s exposed leg.

 

“We are grateful for the kindness you are showing us and please allow me to be kind myself and save this poor boy from their anger.” His words were dripping with poisoned sweets and Q was starting to feel sick to the stomach and he struggled to get his leg back all the while begging to be killed.

 

“Really, if you fancy yourself kind, you will wring my neck this instant and save me from him.” He insisted, tears running down his cheeks and tugging on the lord’s cloak. “You’re destroying everything I hold dear. But please, do not give me as a slave to him.”

 

The lord easily pushed Silva back and Q was quick to pull his limb under the cloak, pulling it down to completely hide himself. “You will come live with me in my castle and build me things. Understand?”

 

Q peeked up at the scary mask and shivered. “A bed warmer for him or your moving mockery target until the day I die?” Eyes narrowed, he decided he’d go for the lord’s neck at the first chance he got and take his life, because it was more than clear that he wouldn’t even get near it.

 

His nose was tapped softly and Q swore he felt something sharp coming from the man’s fingers. “I must be in a very giving mood because I will offer you a chance to win back your freedom without the use of a knife. All you have to do is amaze me and you become a free and very rich man. Do not dare to let your mind wander to murdering me again or I will personally put you in that man’s bed.” He ordered and after Q nodded in agreement, he pulled him to his feet.

 

“My lord, I insist,” Silva tried again, grabbing the back of Q’s neck and pulled him roughly to his side. “I will not be able to sleep at night knowing that this boy will plague with his presence.”

 

Alec walked up behind Silva and unsheathed his sword. “My lord has made his decision and you will respect it, worm.”

 

But Silva was fast to pull his own sword out and kicked dust in the knight’s eyes, quickly bringing his foot up to kick him in the face. He attempted to run by using the other villagers once again screaming and clawing at the soldiers as a distraction, his hold so brutal on Q’s neck that the young man was starting seeing spots in front of his eyes.

 

“You are the lowest of the low,” the lord growled and suddenly appeared in front of Silva, backhanding him so hard that the man flew face first into a tree, Q himself getting hit in the head and passing out. “If he is too damaged, I will let the beasts of the forest feed on you while I watch,” the masked lord continued to say, watching Eve run to his newest servant and checking his wound.

 

“He’s still alive,” she muttered over her shoulder and bowed her head as her lord gathered the passed out man in his arms.

 

Silva tried to get up, but Alec kicked him in the face to keep him down. “Young Q was right when he said that everyone in this town is stupid. And you, sir, are the stupidest of them all if you try to get up now. Gather up your teeth and leave before I desecrate my blade with your unworthy blood, scum.”

 

For the first time in his life, Silva did as instructed, the other villagers following his example and quickly made themselves scarce. The man however ducked behind a tree and watched as the lord placed Q in another compartment of his carriage and tying a tick golden chain around his foot. The woman came out from the house and draped a blanket over the man, getting inside with him while her lord walked back inside his compartment and his knight going in after him and closing the door, the horses neighing as the carriage was instantly put into motion.

Chapter Text

Q woke up to someone carefully wiping his forehead with a damp cloth and for a moment, he was sure that everything had been nothing more than a fever induced dream and that his mother was taking care of him. He felt really dizzy and he did not understand why the world was moving so fast if he was lying on his back. Just how sick was he?

 

“Mom, I had a real scary dream that a really mean man destroyed our house and my beloved toys,” he muttered and tried to tuck his legs under himself and turn into a ball so he could roll closer to her. But when he realized that there was something very heavy around his right ankle, his eyes snapped opened and he instantly started to struggle, panic taking over his mind.

 

He couldn’t remember where he was and how he’d gotten there and why he had a chain around his leg. Someone had sold him? Did he eat food with something strange in it and Silva was behind all of this? “Where am I? Why am I in just my undergarments” He shouted, pushing himself away from the other person so fast and so hard that when his back hit the solid wall, he heard something crack. “I am a warlock, a powerful one!” He threatened and started waving his arms around, muttering mathematical equations and mashed up Latin words, hoping to scare his captors enough for him to bolt out of there before they tied him up to a pyre.

 

Of course, there was the very small possibility that his kidnappers owned a tiny bit of brain and they knew what he was saying. That would actually be in his best interest, Q thought, since it meant he wouldn’t be sold to a brothel or something disgusting and horrible like that because he was ready to keep the books for a shady man and bankrupt him any day.

 

“Child, you are safe. I am safe, this is safe,” the soft voice finally broke through his erratic thinking and he went limp long enough for the woman to wrap his arms around him and hug him tight to her chest. “Take deep breaths and try to remember what happened.” She whispered in his ear, hitting the wall with her hand and bringing the carriage to a halt.

 

The door opened and when Q felt the fresh air, he just bolted. He ran until the chain couldn’t be stretched anymore and he fell on the ground and rolled on his back, looking at the sky and taking deep breaths. He didn’t care that the cold was like a whip against his exposed skin. In fact, he was grateful for that because he was feeling like he was suffocating a few seconds ago. His hands were over his eyes and he was trying to calm his entire being down and follow the familiar woman’s instructions and remember why he was tied with a chain in a carriage that was taking him God knew were.

 

“Young Q?” That voice he knew and when he felt Alec’s arms around him, he jumped in his chest and curled in a ball, sobbing. He was Sir Alec, the woman was a Lady named Eve and the cloaked man with the dog mask that was looking at him from the golden carriage was the lord of all those dark rumours and his new master. “You passed out when you hit your head against a rock,” Sir Alec softly murmured in his ear and moved him to look him in the eyes, putting the pair of glasses on his nose.

 

A heart wrenching scream erupted from him when he remembered that he was held down and more or less forced to watch soldiers destroy his life’s work although for the life of him, he couldn’t exactly remember how things had ended up like that. Q tried to tug on his hair, but Alec held on to him tightly and started rocking them back and forth slowly, muttering calming words in his ear. And that horrible man just watched everything from inside the carriage and Q was sure he had a smile under his mask, enjoying the pain he caused him.

 

“Why am I chained?” Was the first intelligible thing that left Q’s lips after he had no more tears left to spill. He could now remember losing - and then he turned to look at the silent and worried woman behind Alec, glaring at her because her words robbed him of the work he was very proud of - and he remembered the lord hiding him from Silva in his cloak. “I don’t remember anything past Silva’s hand on my leg and being held back as everything I slaved over was erased from existence,” he shivered when he said that and rubbed his limb against the ground as if he was trying to get the memory of it off of him.

 

“That chain is there so that I don’t have to send half of my soldiers looking for a little unwashed kitten in this large and dangerous forest, ” the lord spoke up and was suddenly looking down at Q, fingers hovering over the head wound the young man had while Alec stepped away from them with his hands behind his back and his head held down. ‘You are proving to be quite a lot of trouble, but also entertaining. I should make you my jester after you give up trying to impress me.“ He tilted Q’s head back and stared deep in the green eyes even though the man couldn’t see his own because of the mask.

 

But that move suddenly made Q’s head hurt badly, the world around him spinning so fast that he had completely missed the last part and he simply leaned on the nearest solid object which turned out to be his captor’s legs. "I’m not feeling well enough to start telling you just how wrong you think of me right now…” He said and held on tight to the man’s legs without realizing, trying to concentrate on holding in his stomach’s contents.

 

The man’s gloved hand rested on Q’s forehead as he stepped out from his hold, kneeling next to him. Eve was touching Q again, looking in his eyes and asking him things he really did not understand. “I’ve caught stupid,” Q announced right before the felt a bottle being pushed against his lips. The smell was horrible so he tried to turn his head away, but the man kept his head in place and tilted it back, forcing him to swallow the liquid which ended up tasting worse than it smelled.

 

His throat burned, warmness spreading through his body and he was sure his head was going to explode and he would die. He just wondered why the man had not killed him in his garden and insisted on dragging him god knows where to do it. Not like anyone would care he died or would dare to speak against a lord with an entourage made out of pure gold. Well, he’ll do his best to come back as a spirit - although Q knew it was impossible for those things to exist - and kick everything off the lord ’s table and talk his ears off whenever the man tried to sleep.

 

Though, if he was honest, him turning into a ghost would be very interesting. Would he actually be able to move things around and made himself if he concentrated enough? Or would he simply be stuck as nothing more than cold air? Would he see other ghosts if he himself was one? And was he going to be stuck to the place he died or to a person? He would actually want to go as a ghost to the village priest and scare him as payback for all the times he threw buckets of holly water on him and demanded that he be burned.

 

“Your mind if a very strange place, filthy kitten.” Q blinked a few times and realized that he was staring at the dog mask and that he was sitting in the man’s lap, only the two of them in the moving vehicle.. He tried to jump away, but the hands around him tightened, keeping him in place. “Sit still or you will get sick again.”

 

“But I am getting your good, scaring clothes dirty because I am filthy and how would I be able to sleep at night knowing that? ” Q asked with clear hate in his voice, taking a sharp breath when he was pushed off the man’s lap.

 

“Undisturbed and without a single problem, I am sure. Now please, go on about how you plan on haunting me after you die because I it quite entertaining to hear a man of your genius who is far above everyone else to believe in such silly things as ghosts daydream of punishing the one who plucked him out of a place that did not know how to cherish him.” He chuckled and tapped Q’s nose, something he instantly regretted since the other man grew bold and grabbed his hand, intrigued by the sharp nails he kept feeling behind the gloves. “Do not,” the lord warned, but made no attempt to pull his hand out of Q’s weak grip.

 

Q’s heart sped up as he carefully pulled off the soft glove, freezing when he saw the clawed hand that it was hiding. He started to shake even more when he continued to pull the clothes back to reveal golden fur. He whimpered when he felt the creature’s crooked take his hand and place it under his cloak, silently encouraging him to explore. “Why are you hiding your face?” Q’s mouth was dry and working completely separately from his brain.

 

The man used his other hand to remove the intricate mask and Q was sure his heart completely stopped beating. The lord was definitely not a man, face covered in the same golden fur he saw on his hands and felt on his scarred chest, sharp teeth peeking out from his lips, a nose that reminded him more of a dog’s snout than anything else and pointy ears. The only things that looked remotely human were the clear blue eyes that stared back at him, though even those were tainted by something animalistic about them.

 

When the beast’s face moved closer to his Q was instantly on the other side of the carriage, clawing at the walls in a desperate attempt to get out. The rumours were true, his mind yelled at him. He actually ate people and he was next on the menu. “Despite what you think and say, you are quite stupid. You sing praises to yourself and blind yourself of the obvious danger that’s around you.” The creature muttered and put back his mask and glove.

 

The carriage stopped once again and Alec held on tightly to him as he was led to the other compartment and the chain was locked around his leg once again. The knight sat with him and watched as Q curled on himself against the forest away side of the carriage and tried to make himself as small as possible. He jumped when he felt Alec cover him and the man was quick to bright up his hands in a non-threatening manner and moved away from the man.

 

Q couldn’t even think that’s how shocked he was. His mind was completely blank as he stared at nothing in particular and ignored every word that was addressed to him. He refused to eat or drink, drifting between dreams filled with monsters that cooked him in giant tubs and the reality that he was sure was not that different.

 

“Young Q, you have to eat. We’re worried about you and so is our lord,” Alec pleaded, shaking him while Eve pulled the covers off and showed him a plate covered in the best looking food the young man ever saw.

 

“Not hungry and I find it very hard to believe that a so called man who offered to let others beat me up within an inch of my life and then made me chose between being more or less his jester slash dinner or become that disgusting man’s bed warmer and after which he destroyed the things I spent my life creating while making me watch and finally chained me up in the back of his carriage would really be capable of being worried.” He said it everything in one go and he felt very dizzy, his stomach burning so much that he wrapped his arms tightly around it, hoping that if he squeezed hard enough, the sensation would go away. “I’ll make sure he’s still hungry after eating me and that he chokes on one of my bones.”

 

Eve would chuckle and ruffle his hair, bringing a piece of bread dipped in whatever sauce close to his lips. “Our lord is quite nice, despite his bad temper and I guarantee you that he does not eat people. Well, not in the conventional way, at least.” That went over poor Q’s head since he knew no other way of eating people other than with his very sharp fangs.

 

“I am still not hungry. Please let me sleep, I’m very tired. Must be whatever he gave me back then.”

 

“Young man, our lord would never give you anything to hurt you,” she chided him in that voice that made him think of his mother. “Sometimes, when people bump their heads hard enough to pass out and sleep, bad things happen and they do not wake up. Our lord gave you something that saved your life,” Eve tried to explain and then huffed and let him be when Q covered his ears. He eventually got so weak that he couldn’t even find enough strength to answer Alec or open his eyes and he’d simply move his head slightly away from the delicious smelling food.

 

If Q’s internal clock was still properly working, the whole caravan came to a full stop once again after three days which was odd because when Alec and Eve tried to get him to eat, it only slowed down. The moment he felt the crooked hand that knew hid sharp talons under the glove on his shoulder, he used all the strength left in him to shriek and slap it away, hiding deeper under the cover and trying to put as many pillows between him and the monstrous lord as possible.

 

“You’re going to eat if I have to shove the bloody food down your throat.” He growled and went under the covers after the young man, not even flinching when the Q’s foot kept connecting with his face “If you want to hurt me, you’ll need to eat first and gain more strength.”

 

“Maybe I plan on hurting you by ruining your sense of smell,” Q said between gritted teeth, trying to hold on tight to the carpet that was under the covered floor when the creature finally managed to get a good grip on him.

 

“You’ll eat, wash and put some damned clothes on before you get sick and then build me things and like it!”

 

Q pushed his hand in front of him, slapping the other over the face so hard that the mask snapped in half. “I don’t think I will, so feel free to drop me off right here. I’d rather the forest’s creatures eat me than you!” Still, he tried to put the mask back together and ended up feeling depressed again when he remembered that he had found a gooey liquid that allowed for things to be fixed without the use of nails.

 

“Eat or I will chew you so slowly that I’ll be half done with you before you die!” The creature threatened, pushing a piece of bread against Q’s mouth and then growled at him until the he started to chew, too scared to . He kept on doing that until the plate was empty and then lifted him in his arms and walked outside, yanking the chains out of their hinges without stopping. "Time for a bath, you dirty kitten. “

 

Q was unceremoniously dumped in a strange river that had hot water and for a moment he panicked, thinking that the chains would pull him down and drown him. Of course he’d forget that not thirty minutes ago he was dead set on starving himself to death and started to wave his arms frantically around, kicking the water and yelling until he was pulled up by Alec.

 

Red in the face, Q mumbled this thanks. He liked Sir Alec the most, more than Eve whose words damned him and definitely more than the creature and Silva. Before he could decide if there was a difference between the last two, the creature appeared completely undressed and without a mask and got in the water next to him, catching him into a headlock.

 

“Washing you and nothing more,” the large thing mumbled right before a cold liquid that smelled strongly like lavender was poured on his head by Eve.

 

Q suddenly realized that the creature was horribly tall – he reached just under his shoulders - and deformed – when compared to a simple human since he had a large back, powerful and well-muscled tights and arms. And it was quite noticeable and not easily hidden with a simple cloak. Was it a magical one? But he had learned from his father from a very young age that magic did not exist and that what some people called witchcraft could easily be explained if you just used your mind. So the clothing must be something special, Q decided and decided to take a closer look at it.

               

“Sit still and keep your eyes closed; this thing stings horribly if it gets in your eyes and I think you cried enough for five lifetimes in this past five days.” He warned and sighed as he carefully rubbed Q’s scalp and back.

 

“I hate you less than Silva, but I still hate you,” he announced after the cleaning was over and he was sitting with his feet in the hot water, a cloth around his shoulders to keep him for shivering.

 

The creature snorted and leaned against the rocks, closing his eyes. “I saved you, you are aware of that, yes? I took away from the people who threw rocks and mud at you and who mocked your ideas.” He ran his claws around the chain as he spoke, playing with it as if it was no more than a thread.

 

“Yes, well you also destroyed my ideas,” Q countered in a cold voice.

 

“Alec saved your papers, you can rebuild them and make them better and more resistant in my castle.” He tugged on the chain and pulled Q back in the water. “I made sure from a legal point of view the man that scared you and disgusted you more than anything in the world could never reach you by making you my property --”

 

“That is not right! I am not an object to be owned!”

 

“—while at the same time offering you a chance to regain your freedom and status as a human.” He tugged on the chain and pulled Q into the water next to him, towering over him and showing off just how sharp his fangs were. “Do not interrupt me when I am speaking!”

 

“You could have offered this to me without terrifying me!” Q shouted back, pushing against the creature’s chest with the intent of making it fall back into the water. He realized how amusing the whole thing must have looked, a tiny, twig-like man trying to tilt a huge, muscle bound creature, but he couldn’t help himself.

 

The creature sure looked like it had fun, its lips pushed back in what might be considered a smile. He suddenly wrapped his powerful arms around Q and fell on his back, keeping him close to his chest, protecting his eyes from the hot water. “I like this result more. I have a very smart kitten within my grasp.”

 

“I am not a kitten or an object, you beast. I am a human named Q.” He wanted to hit his chest, but he realized that had somehow drifted away from the edge and the end of his chain was no longer dragging on the floor of the river anymore. And strangely enough he felt as if he had been close like this to the creature before, the heartbeat under his ear reminding him of a dream.

 

A castle was rising off in the distance and Q tried to get a better look at it without actually moving for fear of falling into the strange water. The creature moved his head a bit and caught sight of what distracted his young companion from his anger and decided to give him a better view by making him straddle him. He chuckled when he heard the yelp, but placed his clawed hands on Q’s hip just to give the man a sense of stability. As if he’d allow the precious thing to sink or disappear in a place where he could not reach.

 

“You’ll live there from now own.” He explained and Q frowned.

 

“Locked in a dungeon and chained to a worktable, I suppose. Or perhaps I’ll be nothing more than a head mounted on a wall after you are done using the best parts of me to make a soup. I hope you get indigestion.”

 

He growled, tired of the man’s really dumb idea that he would eat him or kill him. Really, that was a really stupid rumour, started by the few who caught sight of him and the fools who tried to raid his castle as revenge for him having a temper which he could control and that usually resulted in villages getting destroyed. But Alec and Eve always made sure that no human was killed or hurt too much.

 

The two were also to blame for the whole idea that he paid handsomely for whoever amazed him, because they threw money at the village elders that treated their lord kindly. It was almost cute that they thought he didn’t know the strings they pulled in their attempt to get his humanity back for him.

 

He thought everything was a waste of time until he caught sight of Q. At first, he thought him to be a fairy, but he smelled quite human – the most clean one he’d caught whiff in a long time, so that was a plus. He had Alec sneak around and gather information on the boy and was pleased to hear that he was smart, liked books, liked to build things and was hated by almost the whole village. He wasn’t so pleased when Alec informed him that there were rumours in town that a man named Silva Rodriguez so he decided to act fast and snag the fairy before his wings were clipped.

 

“You keep disproving that you are smart. Why go through all this trouble just to kill you on my land?”

 

Q hummed and moved his legs in the water a bit. “You take pleasure in tormenting your victims? You seem like the type of creature that would do that.”

 

“I have a name, you know. I am not just a creature or a beast or a vain lord as you keep referring to me.”

 

This time Q got a bit bolder in his moves and while holding tightly to the clawed hands, careful not to cut himself, he lifted the leg with the chain out of the water. “You could have fooled me. And I am not interested in your name since you’ll probably expect me to add ‘lord’ or ‘master’ before it.”

 

He suddenly kicked the water and the man on top of him yelped, pushing his head against his furry chest and wrapping his legs around his waist, holding on to him for dear life. He couldn’t be blamed for doing things that scared his new servant if this was how the man reacted. When he first held him in his arms, Eve practically begged he put him down, explain over and over that Q would find it beyond creepy if he woke up with to a masked stranger holding him.

 

“You don’t have to use my tittle,” he offered, trying his best to be nice. “You can call me whatever you want.”

 

“Then I do not need your name, do I?”

 

“You accepted Alec’s!” He snapped and got out from under Q, easily stepping out of the water where Eve quickly covered him in a robe. He glared at Alec who was trying to help the other man up, growling and grabbing Q’s leg to rip the chain off. “Dress him up since he likes you and make sure he reaches the castle without any incident.”

 

Q watched the creature bolt away, snuggling in the robe Alec draped around him and trying to cover his red face. “Your lord is very temperamental and confusing.” He said, glancing down at the abandoned chain.

 

Eve walked up to him and started to use another cloth to dry Q’s hair. “He is just misguided, but he means well. You just need to get him better.” She smiled down at him, although there was something uneasy about it. “Ask him for his name the next time you see him and try to spend a bit of time with him and you will see that he kind and generous.”

 

Q thought back to when the woman had whispered an apology and suddenly some pieces of a puzzle he didn’t know he had in his mind connected. “He cheated. He made you demand for things that were impossible and he knew it. He was the thing I felt watching me and he was why I woke up in bed.” He didn’t need to actually hear her confirming it, the shame was easily read on her face. “No, I don’t think I will ask for his name or spend more time than I have to because right now, I am not sure that there is any difference between him and Silva.”

Chapter Text

To say that Silva was fuming wasn’t doing him justice. Ever since he’d been nursed back to health and informed that there wasn’t anything they could do about the teeth that had been lost due to how hard he’d been struck, he had turned into a devil. He no longer had the ability to keep the impression of him being nice and sweet for too long, hissing and snapping at whoever dared to look at his face for more than he thought it appropriate. And sometimes, if he was drunk enough and someone brought the subject of Q no longer living in the village, he’d lose it and start a fight.

“My dear boy, we should all rejoice that the freak is no longer with us,” the village said three days after the whole thing had happened and twelve hours after the man had sent a man to the village healer for doing the exact same thing, although he was doing it from the apparent safety of behind one of the many large chairs in the man’s house. “I do understand that you feel yourself wronged with how the lord treated you because of that rotten and deranged boy, but he was within his right to lay claim on that pest. And good riddance I say! Let him deal with that ungrateful little witch.”

Silva hit the table in front of him with his fist so hard that it split right in the middle and the older man instantly started to pray for his life. “That wild child is mine even if he and the law say otherwise! The lord had no right in striking a deal with my property without first asking me if I agreed to the terms or not.” His eyes suddenly filled with tears and he allowed himself to fall back on his chair, covering his face. “And who will look upon my face now? I will not be surprised if all the reflective surfaces would break when I gave upon them?”

It was at that moment that the village elder’s daughter made her presence known, running into the room and throwing herself on her knees in front of Silva. “I would be the luckiest woman who God created if you’d allow me to wake up and see your face by mine until the day I did,” she declared, tightly wrapping her arms around his legs.

“Philomène, my darling child that is more than enough! Do not embarrass our family in such a way in front of our dear Mister Silva.” The poor elder explained, grabbing her sides and trying to hoist her up and away from Silva. “Please excuse my daughter; she’s been under the weather ever since she saw you get wounded.”

But Silva brought his hand under the brown haired woman’s chin and tilted her head back, softly caressing her cheek. “How rude of me for making you worry so much that you got sick, my dear.“ He brought her hands to his lips and kissed them, the woman blushing despite the how deformed the man looked when he smiled at her. “Would you really marry me though I look like this?”

Philomène threw her arms around Silva and hugged him tightly, ignoring how desperate her father sounded. “I see nothing wrong with your face, my love.” She suddenly started to pout, jumping in the man’s lap so she could rest her head in the crook of his neck. “It’s that freak’s fault you got hurt anyway.”

Her father huffed and made to take her off of the man’s lap only for Silva to stop him. “I do intend to make an honest woman of her.” He turned to look at her and winked. “That is, if your father agrees to it, of course.”

The elder knew that his daughter would never let him say no and he nodded, the woman squealing in joy and pulling Silva in for a kiss, completely unbothered by how strange his mouth felt and at the shocked noises that were coming from her father. “You have made me the happiest woman on this earth and the most hated one in town for giving me this, my love.” She said and looked at Silva with pure love and admiration.

“My dear, it is the other way around, I assure you. For me to find love and understanding in a woman such as yourself, it is truly a miracle.” He said and then sighed, looking away. “If only…. No, it does not matter. ”

Philomène, poor woman blinded by her love for the man instantly grabbed one of his hands and brought it to her bosoms. “No, no, you can tell me anything. We are to be wed after all and a husband and wife share everything between them.”

She played right in his trap, but Silva managed to hold back his grin and continue to play his role of an ashamed and shy man. “If only the man responsible for this could be brought to justice, I would truly feel like my life was complete. What if our children are affected by this? He pointed at his face and turned away from the woman, acting as if he refused to believe her when she told him there was nothing truly wrong with him. “I do not feel like it would be right for me to wed you until I punish Q for what he did to me.”

“Then father will bring the little freak back, right father?” She glared at the man over her shoulder, eyes so cold that the man was ready to accuse her of being a demon if she hadn’t been his own flesh and blood. “Father you will, won’t you? Or do you want your only daughter to cry until her heart gives out?” She had tears running down her face and Silva’s shirt and the man had a really hard time to hold himself from pushing her away.

The clothes on his back were worth more than the elder’s house but he needed the man to give him his blessings in going to recover Q. He also needed the man to falsify papers and make it look like the young man was in so much debt to him that he was indeed his servant if the lord did not want to let him go. And he was sure the lord realized upon what treasure he had stumbled and that he wasn’t going to let him get away from him without a fight. Still, Silva thought himself smarter than the masked man and he was sure he wouldn’t have a problem to pluck Q right from under his nose.

He was, after all, the greatest con man that ever existed. He inherited his father’s brain and cunning mind and his mother’s looks and sweet words, so he had absolutely no trouble for him to play the villagers and make them do anything he wanted. Ever since he learned to talk, he was given presents and praised and kissed and loved by all except one - Q.

He still remembered when the boy had stared at him with his huge green eyes and called him a moronic womanizer. Just like that, without even a word being exchanged between them. One of the kids around him that thought himself to be his best friend had thrown a rock at Q’s head and broke his glasses, demanding that Q apologized for daring to talk like that about Silva.

“I shan’t because I spoke the truth and you are all idiots to follow him so blindly.” Q had said, trying to sound brave despite the tears that were running down his cheeks. “You’d jump off a bridge of he asks you too and trust me when I tell you that he would if that meant he got something ostentatious and expensive out of it.”

“You fancy yourself a clever boy for knowing big words, don’t you?” A different kid from the group asked right before throwing another rock at him.

After that, Silva had tried to fool the man, but he never succeeded. Q didn’t care for his sweet words and charming smiles, nor for the gifts he promised him. At first, he had tried to treat him like a girl with flowers and sweets, but Q only stared at him and asked him if he still got headaches from time to time from when he’d been dropped on the head. And as time advanced, there was nothing more Silva wanted to do than to have Q look at him with the same adoration in his eyes he had when he was looking at a book or at something mechanical.

He tried to remove the objects he thought distracted Q from his face and charm so whenever he saw the man with a book, he’d take it from him. He tried a couple of times to get him to kiss him, promising Q that he’d get his precious book back if he did, but the man never fell for that either. So then he just started to get the others to steal his books and throw them in the mud or rip them in front of him after which he’d appear by magic from behind a house and offer his apologies and try to get him to come home with him.

"I think you're too stupid to understand that I am an idiot." Q said each time, ignoring Silva and trying to save his books. At one point, Silva had enough of Q and hit him hard in the ribs that the boy doubled over and then continued to kick him until he was pulled away by his followers.

“My love, are you okay? Your mind seemed to be in another place,” Philomène asked worriedly and caressed the side of his face that wasn’t wounded. Poor woman was really, madly in love with him.

“My beautiful future wife, I was just imagining how you would look on our wedding day and I lost the ability to speak.”

Those words made it clear for Philomène’s father that he had no other option but to get the freak back if he wanted Silva to marry his daughter. So he started to check through the old records, trying to see if Q’s family had debts and came up empty-handed. Yet when he went to tell Silva that, the man presented him with some papers that said Q had been sold to him by his family.

They looked strange, but the man didn’t really want to look too much into them. Who would care if they were fake anyway? All they needed to do now was find out just what lord had visited him so they could go and present them with the evidence that Q had no right making a deal with him without Silva’s consent.

“I must go and bring him back myself,” Silva said and Philomène started to cry. This woman cried too much, way too much. And not silently or gracefully either, which annoyed him the most. Her face got red and her eyes so puffy that the first time Silva had thought she had taken poison and she was dying. And the way she hiccuped made him think of those foxes he loved shooting so much.

“You would leave your future bride to bring back garbage?” She dug her nails in his arm and he pulled her closer to him, kissing the side of her temple, even though he wanted nothing more than to slap her away.

“It is because I can barely control myself around you that I must do this.” To prove his point he pulled the woman in his lap and kissed her deeply, his hands going up her legs and under her dress. As she moaned in his mouth, he pushed her away and took a few steps back, covering his face. “I want you to walk down the aisle of the church a pure and untainted woman and I fear that you are too much for me.”

She nodded her head and ran out of Silva’s house, sobbing and good riddance. He knew she would not bother him anymore since she was desperate to get married to him so he could continue his quest in peace. All that was left now was to find out exactly what lord had whisked Q away and deformed his face, which turned out to be a pretty difficult task.

He had no patience to go through books, but luckily enough, people offered to do that for him and one week later, the village elder came to his house to tell him the good news. “Although I am afraid that they are not that great news, my son.” He loved calling Silva that, face lighting up every time he said it and if there was company around he made sure to say the word as loud and as many times possible.

“Sir, if you found the lord we are searching for, then how can they be bad?” He poured the man a glass of ale and sat him down, patting his knee. “Now come and share with me a drink as you tell me just who he is and where I might find him. I do not wish for Q to bring more shame to our village than he already has.”

The man threw his head back and drank the whole thing in one go. “There are many family crests of lords with stags,” he started in a shaky, accepting a second drink from his future son-in-law. “But only one has a stag with a crown between its antlers and that one belongs to the family who is set to inherit the throne after out king dies.” He emptied the glass. “May our beloved king live for many more years to come in a land full of prosperity and peace,” and then made a cross, Silva following his example.

“Then all the more reasons for me to go and bring back Q myself,” Silva announced, getting up from the chair and walking to the window. “I would not be able to live with myself if my slave brought destruction upon our beloved village with his words.”

“But what if the esteemed lord doesn’t wish to part with the boy and decides to punish you for coming after him?” The elder muttered, shaking. “We must keep in mind the dark rumours we heard.” He glanced around nervously and then raised his voice a bit. “Not that I really would believe those horrible words about our future king, may his rule be long and prosperous and peaceful.” Another quick cross and a nervous laugh and Silva rolled his eyes when the man wasn’t looking at him.

If the man got paranoid now and thought there was a chance that his precious Philomène would remain husbandless, he would do anything and everything in his power to keep him in the village and Silva couldn’t stand by and allow that to happen. So he resorted to his usual dirty tricks, using the word he knew the other man craved to hear from him more than anything else. “Father, do you not trust me? If I am to become the next village leader after your passing and may many more summers pass until then, then wouldn’t you feel better knowing that I brought the future king’s favour upon us?”

He could see actual tears in the other man’s eyes as he grabbed his hands – so the daughter got the predisposition for that annoying habit from the father, not the mother, joy. “To hear you call me that… For the first time ever…” He managed to swallow back a few sobs, thanking Silva for being so understanding and rubbing his back. “I am old and tears have always come so easily to me, you see. You cannot believe how hard it has been for me to run this village while being so emotional.”

“That only made you a better leader for us, father. One that I hope will teach me everything he knows.” Q had been well within his rights to refer to him as the village idiot because he easily believed whatever sweet words Silva whispered in his ear. “So, what do you say, father? Will you allow me to spend a few coins and hire men to help me bring the wayward and soft in the head villager back to where he belongs?” This was where the real test was, since his future father-in-law was renowned for being a huge cheapskate.

“Money is not something that it is easy to come by in our village, but for you my son, anything. I will spare no expense to keep you safe even though I still think you should let the lord deal with that pest. ” Easier than getting a nun to give him the church’s donations.

"I am most grateful. And where might I find out future king and Q?"

The elder pulled a face and this time drank directly from the bottle. "We heard that he lives at Skyfall which is a month's ride away from us using the fastest horses." He looked around the house, Silva getting more annoyed with each second that passed. Curse him for being so paranoid, if only his nerves would kill him already and get him out of his hair. "But there are rumours about that place, really bad rumours. Rumours about people going there and never being seen again."

"Then I will hire only the best men to be my guard. Father, you worry too much." He laughed and hit the man hard on his back, almost sending him face first into the floor. "I will be back in one month and I guarantee you that I will bring Q as well as treasures." He winked as he started to push the man outside.

"Treasures?" Of course that word would cause the fat little man's entire face to lighten up, beady little eyes sparkling with his never-ending greed. Sure, mention the possibility of getting lots of money out of something and he suddenly didn't care about the possibility of his daughter remaining unmarried due to the fact that the groom died a horrible death.

"As thanks for saving him from the pest. And maybe even a nobility title," Silva whispered in the man's ear. "Imagine how good it will sound to introduce both your daughter and I as Lord and Lady Silva. How many village elders can say that their married their daughters off to nobility?"

The man left his house with a skip in his step and a smile on his lips and it was only partially due to the alcohol he had ingested. Silva sat back down on his chair in front of the fireplace after he made sure the old man had left and continued to drink, eyes burning with rage. He'll make sure that Q paid for everything that was done to his face. Maybe even return the favour somehow.

Chapter Text

After being dressed in the finest of green silks, Q was left to his own devices for the first night. He carefully poked the bed before jumping in it, allowing himself to laugh at how soft it was and he was sure that, despite how creepy the castle looked with its dark paint and creatures twisted in what appeared to be eternal agony that lined its outer walls, he would have no problem falling asleep.

 

But as soon as his head hit the soft pillow, Q felt like he was being watched. The storm that had started as soon as they reached the castle did not help at all and every time lighting struck, the shadows of the deformed statues reflect on the wall. At one point, he was sure he saw something move right outside his window, but it was impossible, he told himself as he got out of bed to pull the curtains close.

 

And then he saw them. His blood froze in his veins and his heart ceased beating when he caught sight of two red eyes staring right at him from just outside the window. Lighting stuck again and in that short flash, he saw the outlines of a large, blond wolf, large red tongue running over the sharpest fangs Q had ever seen.

 

He stared and the creature stared back, red eyes unblinking, clawing carefully at the large, ornate window of his room as if it was begging to be let in. Q blinked once then twice, his brain finally starting to work again and he turned around and ran out the room, ignoring all the way every armoured soldier that lined the walls turned their heads and watched him run by.

 

He didn’t scream, he didn’t whimper. He just ran, trying his best not to fall down the long flights of steps, taking two or three at a time, target set on the large doors that led outside of the castle. And just as he was about to reach the finish line, arm held in front of him, fingers twitching to wrap themselves around the handles shaped like stags, something shot from his left and tackled him to the ground.

 

Q screamed and tried to kick off whatever had him pinned down, sure that the giant wolf had gotten inside the castle and had seen him as pray that he did not realize that it was Sir Alec who was trying to calm him down.

 

“Young Q, cease this immediately!” The knight shouted right in his ear, using his entire weight to keep the panicking man from slipping right from under him and continue his mad dash towards the door. “It’s me, Sir Alec.”

 

Upon hearing the name, Q’s eyes snapped open and recognition flashed in them and he stilled for a moment before throwing his arms around the powerful man and clinging to him with all of his might, trying to take deep breaths.

 

Alec slowly got up from the ground, carefully pulling Q with him, rubbing his back. “Young Q, is everything in order? What has scared so much?” The knight asked softly, guiding the Q back to his room.

 

“A wolf,” Q said and looked extremely pale as he said that, digging his fingers in Alec’s cloak in an attempt to keep himself from starting to shake. “It was as tall as the window, fangs as big as my hand and eyes redder than blood.” He desperately explained, sure that he sounded like a madman.

 

Alec had a strange look in his eyes and pulled him in a hug, pushing his head in the crook of his neck. “Young Q, you are tired and your mind is playing tricks on you. You must get some rest,” he muttered in the young man’s ear.

 

“No, I saw it!” Q insisted, struggling once more. “Just outside my window, I swear! That’s why I was trying to…Oh.” He blinked a couple of times, realizing that he was trying to get outside, where that thing was. “That’s quite a stupid idea, now that I think about it,” he said to himself, rubbing his eyes while Sir Alec continued to guide him towards his room.

 

They stopped right by his door, the older man letting go of him. “I will check the window and the room and I will call you if it is clear, okay?” He explained as if he was talking to a small child and for once, Q did not mind that treatment. “No sight of this monstrous wolf you spoke of,” Alec assured him after five minutes and carefully led the scared man in, sitting back as he checked the room.

 

“But I was sure…” Q started and glued his face to the window, narrowing his eyes and finally realizing that he did not have his glasses on.

 

Alec placed a cup in Q’s hands and encouraged him to drink it, watching him carefully as he did so. “You must have had a nightmare and woke up to the lightning reflecting off of a gargoyle.” He waited for Q to get into bed and tucked him in, running a hand through his hair. “Our lord suffers from a condition that makes him deformed,” he said suddenly. “You might have…” He sighed and looked extremely tired for a moment.

 

“Perhaps you are right,” Q concluded, turning on his side and closing his eyes. It was impossible for a wolf that big to exist or to get reach the window to his room because of how high about the ground it was. Everything must have been the result of his fear of what awaited him in the future along with how unsettling, creepy and unstable the lord of the castle was which culminated in his mind confusing a nightmare with reality.

 

There was something else that nibbled at the edges of his mind which he only became aware of when Alec mentioned the way his lord looked. It was so strange that he was only able to process that it had something to do with how the man looked, but Q could not focus on anything beyond that idea. Actually, he suddenly realized that he could not remember anything about the man other than that he was incredibly tall, blond, had blue eyes and that there was something wrong with his hands and face.

 

“Young Q, did you hear what I said?” Sir Alec called from the door frame, worry clear in his eyes.

 

“I am sorry, Sir Alec. I seem to have a very hard time focusing on anything right now,” Q apologized, rubbing his forehead.

 

“I said that we will not be seeing each other for a week,” the man said in a soft voice, looking away from Q. “I am afraid that I have some urgent business to attend to outside of our Lord’s domain. If you get lonely, please accept my lord’s company. He can be quite pleasant,” he pleaded, bowing his head and bidding Q a good night before he could be bombarded with questions or before he could allow those pleading green eyes to get him to say everything he knew.

 

As soon as he turned a corner, he bumped into a woman with short grey hair, lips in a straight line, her dark blue eyes looking disapprovingly at him. “I am doing my best, Lady M,” he whispered, hanging his head. “But everything depends on how our Lord Bond acts around him.”

 

Both turned to look at the creature that sat on the edge of the opened window, small growling noises coming from it as he pinned Alec down with his red eyes. It stared accusingly at him and flashed its sharp fangs, getting distracted by the Eve placing her hand on the back of its neck, scratching it lightly.

 

***

 

Q woke up to the sound of thunder rolling somewhere in the distance, confused as to why he was staring at high ceiling on which a hunting scene was painted. He groaned and rolled over, hiding his head under one of the many pillows when he remembered where he was, only to jump back when his room’s door was kicked open.

 

“You will eat with me tonight,” was the way the lord greeted him as he walked inside the room and pulled open the doors to the dresser Q had yet to notice, throwing clothes all over the floor. “I hate to dine alone and my servants are away, so you will take their place and wear something nice and entertain me.” The man continued to say, the order getting under Q’s skin and his need to revolt flared inside of him once more.

 

“I think I shan’t,” he said and pulled the covers better around himself, trying to glare on the unfocused yellow spot that suddenly appeared at the foot of his bed, a green and blue piece of cloth held tightly in front of it.

 

“You will remember that I am of noble birth and you will dine with me tonight or else you will starve!” The man growled again, throwing the clothes at Q’s head.

 

“Yesterday you were shoving food down my throat,” Q argued as he threw the clothes back at the man, reaching for his glasses only for his hands to be grabbed.

 

“Then you will only eat stale bread and water, then.” He threatened and Q laughed because it was funny that the man seemed to forget exactly where he had taken him from. Was he so disconnected from the real world that he really didn’t know that most lower class citizens ate that and considered it a treat? “Do you really think I won’t do it?” He demanded, grabbing Q’s chin and forcing him to look in his eyes.

 

“I have no doubt you’ll do it,” Q explained, trying to get the man to release his face. “But I think your memory is playing tricks on you and you forget where I came from is you really think that promises of stale bread will get me to dine with you.” He continued to laugh even as the door was slammed behind the angry lord, locks clicking into place.

 

He ended up spending his first week there locked in his room, the man always demanding that he dressed up and eat with him, only to storm away kicking at whatever was in his path and cussing left and right.

 

Close to the middle of the second week, feeling bored out of his mind, he started to ask the lord to give him back his notes. “You said you saved them, or did you lie?”

 

“Eat with me and I will give you everything you want,” the man promised through the door with a sweet voice.

 

“I quite like stale bread and I do not think my peasant stomach is worthy of your food,” Q replied, crossing his hands over his chest and glaring at the door, sure that he man felt it through the thick wood.

 

“Fine, then you’ll eat only your beloved stale bread and nothing more! And for each day you refuse to eat with me, I will burn one of your precious papers!” The lord promised, hitting the door so hard with his fists that small cracks appeared on Q’s side.

 

After that, along with the bread and pitcher of water, Q got a small pile of ashes delivered to him on a silver plate, a bit of unburned paper that carried his handwriting right next to it just so he knew that he lord was really serious. He had cried the first time he saw it and threw the pitcher at the door, cussing the man and yelling on top of his lungs that he was no different than Silva because he couldn’t understand that he wanted to be treated like a person and because the concept of him refusing something he demanded in the rudest way possible was strange to him.

 

“I wouldn’t have to do this if you just come and eat with me,” the man explained through the door, sure that Q was at fault for his own sadness.

 

“You are missing the point!” The young man shouted and kicked the door as hard as he could and grunting in pain. “I will not eat with you. Not now, not ever, not even if my life depended on it!” Q promised and those were the last words he spoke.

 

For the next few days, the man knocked on the door and asked Q to join him for diner only to be greeted with silence and each time he opened the door and checked to be sure that his prisoner was still there and still alive. He’d stalk inside the room and poke the side of Q’s face, laughing at the glares he received, before going to the dresser and pulling out elaborate and overly accessorized –in Q’s opinion, at least – clothes.

 

It wasn’t that they were ugly or anything like that; they were actually the pretties things Q had ever seen in his entire life. But he just preferred simple things, light clothes, something that didn’t restrict his movements and just when he looked at how heavy they looked, he felt like he couldn’t breathe. He would have explained it to the man, but he was sure he wouldn’t listen to him, even laugh at him.

 

“You’ll look so nice in this,” the lord said, holding it up for Q to see. “It is quite soft, softer than that green tunic,” and he would brush the sleeve against Q’s face. “Someone like you couldn’t even dream to set his eyes on things like this.” He insisted as if insulting Q’s humble originals would actually get the man to give in. “They’ll bring out your eyes even more than what you have on and if anyone was allowed to see you dressed like this, they would eat their hearts out of jealousy at how good you look,” he insisted, eventually losing the little temper he had and stomping out of the room, locking the door again.

 

The man reached the end of his wits on the fourth day and he simply dragged Q out of the room, the young man’s feet barely touching the ground. He kicked two large doors opened and revealed a huge room that was filled with lit candles, a table filled with all sort of foods Q never saw in his life and put him on a chair next to one that looked like a throne.

 

“Stay in those rags your precious Alec picked for you, but you will keep me company,” the lord growled out and proceeded to shove food in his face, eating for ten minutes straight without stopping to take a breath. Q was afraid that the man would actually choke on a bone or something and die right next to him and the idea of being left alone in that castle did not sound good to him at all.

 

“Eat something,” the man said, pushing a plate full of meat close to Q, growling when the man didn’t move at all. “I said eat, you petulant and ungrateful kitten!” He yelled again and hit the table with his fists, pushing his chair back and storming out of the room.

 

A little while later, just as Q got up and made to return to his room, the man returned, holding tightly a stack of papers which he quickly threw at his diner guest’s head. “There, happy? I didn’t destroy your precious papers at all!” He roared, pushing Q’s face into one.

 

“But, I recognized my handwriting…” Q muttered in a shaky and scratchy voice which resulted from the lack of use.

 

“Your handwriting is that of a child, so I had no problems in copying it.” The man explained and pushed the plate full of food closer to Q. His lips twitched and formed something that looked like a smile, Q getting the impression that he should be terrified by what he was seeing.

 

He carefully placed the papers in his tunic and started to nibble of the food, the lord returning to his animalistic way of devouring everything that was in front of him, grunting and growling and even getting some sauce on Q’s face.

 

After a few minutes of nothing but chewing noises and satisfied grunts, the lord turned his attention to the young man again, grabbing his hand to make him look at him. “How are you enjoying your stay in my home so far?” He asked awkwardly, frowning when the other snorted and shook his hand off.

 

“Are you seriously asking your prisoner how he’s enjoying his stay? Must you constantly mock me?”

 

“I am only trying to make polite conversation.” He poked his plate and pushed it away so hard that it flew off the table, knocking a few candle holders down, Q quickly jumping up and grabbing a pitcher to put the candles out. “The servants would see to that, leave it and answer my question,” he instructed, getting up after him.

 

Q took a step back and dodged the long limbs that tried to grab him, holding the empty pitcher in front of him as if it were a shield. “There is nothing polite about this. I am your captive and you are my jailor, no matter how much food I cannot even pronounce you shove down my throat or how many silk clothes you rub in my face and order me to wear.” He sighed and looked at the window, counting the seconds between thunder rolls.

 

It was strange that the storm hadn’t let out once since he had gotten there, but then again the damp and grim atmosphere it created suited the lord just fine since Q couldn’t really imagine the man living in a place that had constant sun and birds chirping in happiness on branches.

 

“You sleep in a beautiful and warm room, dressed in fine silks,” the lord said between clenched teeth, obvious that he was trying his best not to start shouting at Q again. “A captive would find himself rotting away in the furthest and darkest corner of my dungeon in nothing but the dirtiest rags out there.”

 

“Can I go home?” Q asked instead and was quite proud of himself for not flinching when the other slapped the pitcher out of his hands.

 

“This is your home now and you are my guest until you amaze me or I say otherwise, so you better get used to it!” This time he raised his voice, clenching his hands into fists. “What do you have against living here? Do I really have to make Eve come up with a list about why you should be thankful to live here and why this place is better than that shabby and disgusting hovel of yours?"

 

“I feel like the walls are closing in on me, can you understand that?” Q turned to glare at the man, reeling back when he realized how he looked. Had the man always been that tall and covered in fur from head to toe? Had his teeth always been that sharp and had his hands always had those claws that looked like they could easily cut up a man in half?

 

This time he flinched when the lord rested his hands on his shoulders, eyes wide. He had been closer than this to the man, even made to sit on his chest and he vaguely remembered being shocked, but not scared. Something had changed from then to now, he was sure of it even though all he could remember of that day was that the lord had seemed slightly threatening and odd.

 

“Are you repulsed by how I look? Do you want to lock yourself in a church and pray to a God that does not exist to save you from this beast when your brain is released from the cursed spell that has been placed on the water you drink?” The voice was so low and so full of pain and disgust that, for a moment, Q wanted to hug the peculiar man.

 

Instead he focused on the last things he said and his blood started to boil in his veins, shaking with anger. “Have you been poisoning me?” He shouted on top of his lungs, suddenly finding himself pushed in the hairy chest, the lord wrapping his arms around him and rubbing his large head against Q’s.

 

“No, no, you got it wrong. You got it all wrong,” He hurried to say, Q hearing him sound desperate and scared for the first time. He didn’t think that the other was capable of that and yet there he was, being cuddled as the lord shook from every muscle, little whining noises that reminded Q of kicked puppies coming from his throat. “You can say whatever you want about me, but I would never poison anyone. Not on purpose, at least and the water isn’t poisoned, not in the normal sense anyway.”

 

Maybe it was because he couldn’t really breathe combined with the fact that he seemed like the type of man who would want to feel his enemy’s beating heart coming to a stop while the blood spilled for him, but Q believed him. That and he was still sure the man wanted to eat him after fattening him up and eating something that had died because of poison wasn’t the smartest thing to do.

 

“What do you mean? What’s the normal sense for poison to act anyway?” Q asked, patting the creature on the back slowly, until it - or rather he - took a few steps back and grabbed a pitcher of water which he drank in one gulp.

 

“It doesn’t kill or hurt; it just makes it impossible for outsiders to focus on me or remember how I look and nothing more. The doctors I called in the past, at first they were terrified, but then they started to say that there’s nothing wrong with me.”

 

“Is there nothing anyone can do to help you with your condition? Q asked, but the man ignored him and grabbed a dark green cloak with gold patterns sewn into it brought by one of the silent soldiers and draped it around Q. “What are you doing?” He asked, quickly brining his hands up and covering his mouth to stop himself from laughing at the man who had stuck his tongue out and pulled all sorts of faces while he attempted to button the cloak up.

 

“It’s not funny,” he growled, but looked up and winked at Q. “These hands are not good to handle fragile things and you need to bundle up because outside is cold and wet and the wind is so strong that it might blow my stubborn kitty away.”

 

When Q felt like the man was about to explode, he decided to take pity on him and gently placed his hands on top of the claws. “Let me do it, please. And I am not a cat, I am Q.” He was surprised to realize that he was not annoyed with the man for calling him that and at the smile that spread so easily on his lips.

 

It might have been the strange water he had been drinking talking, but Q felt that the man wasn’t evil in the Silva sense of talking. Just petulant, stubborn, set on his ways and proud, expecting everyone to do his bidding no matter how rude he was just because he was of noble birth - kind of like a giant spoiled child. Q realized that if Silva had been in the lord’s place as his jailor, he would have snapped his bones a long time ago as well as done other things to him that made his skin crawl.

 

The other man noticed the shiver and started rubbing Q’s arms instantly, lowering his head to look at his eyes. “Are you cold?” He started to check the cloak, to see if it was thick enough and then pulled it away to look at the tunic, frowning when he saw the younger man’s bare feet. “Why aren’t you wearing any shoes?” He asked, his temper flaring up for a moment before he seemed to remember something and took a few deep breaths. “You’ll get sick because of this and it is hard to get a doctor up here.”

 

Q looked at his feet and wiggled his toes. “I just thought of something, I am not cold. And the only way you’ll get shoes on my feet is if you put them on yourself, then kiss them and then let me go.” He avoided the other man’s attempt to grab him, jumping away and quickly turned to face the door intending to make a run for it.

 

But the lord simply placed his foot on the part of the cloak that was on the ground and with a yelp, Q tripped and fell down. He wrapped his arms around the man’s leg and tried to get him to step off, face turning red and glasses slipping off. “You’ll have to amaze me before I let you go, little kitten.”

 

“You locked me in a room with nothing to do. How could I amaze you from there?” He thought about biting the offending leg, but decided against and instead leaned on his back and looked up at the lord who watched him with a spark of amusement in his eyes. “I don’t like this cloak,” he almost whined and started to tug at it until the man pulled him up and trapped his hands in his.

 

“Green and yellow suit you, little kitten. And it’s soft and warm, fit for a prince.” He pulled the cloak over Q’s head and guided him through the large hallways, torches coming to life just as they passed by them.

 

The corridors were long, twisted and cold and full of those silent soldiers whose eyes followed the two men’s every move, heads slowly turning as they passed and Q inched closer to the other man. He was starting to think that they were not quite human because their stance was just too perfect and he had never heard them talk with each other or armour clanking in front of his room when the guard changed - if it changed; it should change, shouldn’t it? How long could a man sit without moving a single muscle in front of a door before he got hungry, thirsty or needed to heed nature’s call?

 

“Are you taking me to the dungeon?” Q asked suddenly, causing the man to stop for a moment and turn to look at him confusedly.

 

“What gave you that idea?”

 

Q shrugged his shoulders and wiggled his toes again, regretting that he did not have shoes on since the floor seemed to grow colder with each step they took. Not that he would admit that to the man by his side ever. “Then are you taking me to the kitchens to cook me?”

 

“I do not eat people. Who put that bloody idea in your head anyway?” He pulled the cloak off and pushed Q’s head back so he could glare at him from above, shocked that the man was smiling and biting his lower lip to keep from laughing out loud. “Oh, you are joking, I see. Not many do that around me, not even when…” He trailed off and looked away and Q got the feeling that it was better for him not to prompt him to continue.

 

“Or they do and you do not catch on.” Q offered instead, snorting the cloak was pushed over his eyes again. “Still, where are you taking me?”

 

The main said nothing, just winked at him and continued to guide him through the silent hallways, taking so many twists and turns that Q was sure he was going to get dizzy. They stopped suddenly in front of two large ornate doors and the man easily pushed them open, pulling Q in front of him as soldiers spilled from behind them and laid on the ground, creating a path that led somewhere between twisted, dead trees and bushes of nothing but thick and sharp thorns.

 

Before Q could ask anything, his companion effortlessly picked him up and placed him on the back of a soldier, confused as to why the younger man lifted his legs away from the body and refused to sit still. “You will get your feet dirty or cut because you refuse to put a bloody pair of shoes on and because I actually want to show this to you without going through our usual screaming matches, you’re going to walk on this path.”

 

“I’ll be extra careful not to bleed all over your floors and I’ll clean up after myself, but I am not stepping on anyone to go who knows where.”

 

The lord took a deep breath and opened his mouth, getting ready to argue and force Q to do as he was told before sighing in defeat for the first time he could remember and signalled the soldiers to get up and move away. “Keep up,” he growled because he still wanted it to look like he had his way.

 

And Q actually struggled to keep, raindrops coming down so hard and fast that he had to stop every couple of steps to wipe his glasses off. After the fifth time he did that, he realized that the other man was no longer in his sight and when he tried to call out after him, he remembered that he had refused to know his name. He could try to call him by his title, but that was also unknown to him and he sure as hell wasn’t going to start calling out for his lord.

 

Looking for tracks was useless because of the harsh rain, so instead he started to aimlessly walk around the garden, trying his best no to get his cloak caught in anything or his limbs scratched by the strange thorns. He got so lost that he didn’t even know in which direction the castle was, something that should have been impossible since he thought he would be able to see it in the distance every time lighting struck.

 

Instead, all he saw were giant twisted trees and horrible statues that seemed to move closer to him every time he blinked and when he rounded a corner and walked straight into something that resembled a cross between a man and spider, he closed his eyes and broke into a mad dash, stopping only when he felt wood under his hands.

 

It never was a good idea to sit under a tree during a lighting storm, but then again it also wasn’t a good idea to be out in an opened field. Still, he felt a tiny bit safer under the tree that looked only partially terrifying so he crouched down and his in his cloak, wrapping his arms around his legs to keep himself warm.

 

“Why am I not surprised that you ended up getting lost in the labyrinth?” Q actually smiled when he heard that and easily accepted the hand that was offered to him, keeping close to the other man as physically possible – not that the lord was upset by that, walking extremely slow to keep the contact lasting longer.

 

They continued to hold hands even after they entered a greenhouse full of the most colourful flowers Q had even seen in his entire life. However he didn’t let Q look at the flowers as much as he wanted and instead dragged him to a little cabin that was built next to the artificial lake in the middle of the greenhouse and pushed him inside.

 

“This place belonged to my inventor before he lost his mind,” he started to explain, letting go of Q’s hand and allowing him to run around the building, picking up the various dusty tools and carefully brushing his hands over them to clean them. “It’s yours now, so you can build whatever your little heart wants and not accuse me of keeping you from trying to amaze your way out of my clutches.”

 

But Q wasn’t paying attention to him anymore, flying from one corner of the room to another, pulling out the papers he had in his tunic and sticking them to the walls. He was like a child in that moment, almost jumping for joy whenever he found something that he then showed to the lord and explained what it did and why it was rare and that he never thought he would get to borrow one in his life.

 

“It’s yours,” the lord said each time, ruffling Q’s hair. “You’re like a kitten with a brand new ball of yarn,” he spoke up after watching the other for about two hours.

 

“I am not a kitten, I am Q,” he half-heartedly mumbled, suddenly looking up from what he was doing and whipping his hand on a cloth. “I am not going to say that I was rude or apologize for the way I acted because you started it…”

 

“Very mature thing to say, little kitten,” the man interrupted him and carefully flicked his nose. “And you started it by saying that I would bow down in front of you and kiss your feet while the villagers watched, little kitten.”

 

Q turned around suddenly and help up a little device which let out an powerful flash right in the lord’s eyes, disorientating him long enough for the young man to actually use all of his strength and push him down. “If I am a kitten, it means you see me as a child,” Q said between laughs and the lord stopped himself before he could smack him, realizing that the young man wasn’t really attacking him. “But you are acting like one yourself, even though you must be older than the village elder.”

 

“If that is the case, then you need to respect your elders, especially if they are of a higher birth than you.” He pinched Q’s nose and poked his sides, eyes filling with mischief when he realized that he man was ticklish. They rolled around for a good thirty minutes until Q curled up in a ball and begged the other to stop between howls of laughter.

 

“What’s your name?” Q asked suddenly and turned to look at the man, jumping back a bit when he saw how he looked. He would have to find a way to remember that, or at least to control himself. “I’m sorry, it’s just…”

 

“I’m Lord James Bond of the Skyfall manor,” he interrupted Q and patted his head. “I have also tasked Alec with bringing you water, but I will not hold it against you if you decide you would rather forget how I look like.”

 

Not knowing what to do or say, Q awkwardly shook James’ hand. “If we had met under different circumstances, it might have been a real pleasure to make your acquaintance.” He tried to blind the man again and distract him, but James was quick to turn his head and shield his face, taking it away from Q and holding it just above his head.

 

“You’ll have to do better than this to impress me, little Q.”

 

James ended up sort of growing on Q in the following week, the lord sitting quietly right behind Q and listening to whatever the young man was explaining while occasionally getting his hand slapped away from whatever shiny thing he wanted to poke. “It’s not done yet so don’t touch it. You’ll break it,” he’d scold and then continue with his tinkering while humming.

 

But the young man turned out to be quite a handful, not really understanding James’ need to have at least three whole meals a day, jokingly accusing the other of trying to keep him from finishing anything or think of good ideas since he found that food made him sleepy – he didn’t dare joke that the food was laced with anything, especially since they usually ended up sharing the same piece of meat and James always made sure to take the first to drink of the water.

 

He also had a habit of falling asleep on his work and James ended up carrying back to his room each and every time. Not that the Lord minded since he quite enjoyed the young man rubbed his head against his chest and cuddled against him, smiling and mumbling in name in his sleep.

 

That didn’t mean the two had completely stopped fighting, James starting their matches whenever he felt Q had paid enough attention to his inventions and it was time to turn his green eyes filled with life on him by touching something and accidentally making it fall – he might have also been secretly sabotaging Q just to be sure he didn’t leave his side that fast, but the young man didn’t appear to catch on to that, so all was good.

 

And it was during one of those moments that Sir Alec entered the greenhouse followed by Lady Eve, both of their hearts dropping in their stomachs when they heard Q yelling something which was followed by a large noise. The rushed to open the door only to see their Lord walk out of the cabin with Q pressed against his front, both coughing as red smoke spilled out from behind them.

 

Eve pulled Alec back and they both ducked behind a thick bush, the woman signalling the knight to remain quiet and just not intervene, getting a feeling that nothing bad was actually happening.

 

“You said to light it,” James whined between coughs, guiding Q to the little lake and carefully starting to clean his soot covered face.

 

“I said not to light it! Whatever you do, do not light it James – those were my exact words and I am pretty sure that I literally couldn’t be more specific than that,” Q argued back and grabbed James’ hands to look them over. “Are you hurt?”

 

“Never mind me, Q. What was that supposed to be anyway?” James returned to cleaning Q’s face, fighting really hard not to pull the young man in for a kiss. Not that he was sure he could actually do it, since his mouth had been twisted into resembling a snout and he was afraid he would end up scratching Q’s face with his fangs.

 

“When lighted outside, it was meant to shoot towards the sky and pop into a colourful smoke flower. Now I have to start from scratch again.”

 

“You will do no such thing. It is much too dangerous and I do not want to have to scrape pieces of you from the floor the next time your invention backfires on you. And don’t say it was my fault.”

 

“It clearly was!” Q threw his hands in the air and walked away, James following him. “All because you couldn’t follow a simple instruction like ‘keep it away from fire until I say it is okay’,” the young man continued to scold the lord, walking right past the hidden Alec and Eve.

 

Their lord noticed them and frowned, shaking his head and mouthing an order for them to not move at all. “I am a Lord; I was born to give instructions, not follow them so you will excuse me if I do not know how to do that.”

 

“What? You just have to do as you are told, it's that simple." Q said exasperatedly, lightly slapping James' chest. "And if that's the case, then don’t insist on acting as my assistant if that is the case and let me work alone. I promise I won’t try to dig my way out of your castle, especially since I do not even know how to get here without you holding my hand every time.”

 

“All right, fine. Next time I’ll keep my paws to myself and let you bring me here,” James snorted. “Maybe you’ll find it in less than five years.”

 

Their rather childish argument continued, but they had walked out of Alec’s and Eve’s hearing range, the two occasionally hearing their lord’s loud laughter and Q’s frustrated shouts. Alec was worried, but Eve smiled and patted the man’s back, trying to get him to calm down.

 

“I think they are getting along despite the loud volume,” she whispered and walked inside the cabin, opening every window to let the smoke out. “Q’s still in one piece, he’s not locked in his room or the dungeon, I don’t think his eyes are red because he cried and didn’t jump when our lord touched his face.”

 

Alec hesitated for a moment and looked like he was about to walk after the two, but he changed his mind when the old woman with cold blue eyes blocked his path, silently staring him down.

 

“You can’t blame me for being worried about the young boy, M. After all, we're all in this mess because of how ever changing our Lord's mood is and who is to say that he won't suddenly decide that young Q went too far and order him thrown into a dungeon or something else?” He instantly regretted saying that and he lowered his head in shame, hearing M's cold voice and cutting words in his mind despite the woman not moving her lips.

 

"Alec, that's too harsh. What happened then with her wasn't..."Eve sighed and pulled Alec in the cabin with her, shoving a few burned pieces of wood in his arms, more or less ordering him to help her clean up the place.

Chapter Text

Le Chiffre was as ruthless as they came, easily offering money and his help to whoever could afford him and he was well-known in the underworld as the lord to go to when you needed to raise money to raise an army large enough to secure you a throne.

 

Assassins charged fortunes just to sit to hear the name and turn down the offer and thieves feared him, since it was said that all the people who walked the country’s streets without their eyes were the ones who had been foolish enough to look at Le Chiffre with the intent of robbing him more than clear in their eyes.

 

The man was also known for living in a fortress that was no less than a labyrinth filled with all sorts of death traps for those who did not carry the Chiffre’s emblem - although no remains were found of people who had broken into that place and because of that some claimed that the man feasted on the flesh of his own kind or that his deep cellars housed dragons and demons.

 

Now Le Chiffre normally wouldn’t get involved with Silva’s plans since he considered the man unable to think beyond gaining the full control of his village and a scrawny little boy in his bed and he constantly chastised him for wasting his potential on those petty little obsessions. However, when the blond man came in the middle of the night to him, on his knees, begging for help to get something back from the lord who was rumoured to bathe in gold and have his servants feed birds with golden coins, he couldn’t turn his back to him - he may had also been swayed by the ripped piece of paper that Silva showed him which looked like it was part of a great invention that would make Le Chiffre even more rich.

 

Yet, the man was slowly starting to lose his patience and when Silva called on him to join him in a shady little inn at the edge of his Le Chiffre’s unofficial estate to play poker instead of to present him with proper results, he was moments away from cutting the man’s tongue and forcing him to eat it

 

“Mister Silva, I am beginning to regret agreeing to help you with this quest of yours.” He narrowed his eyes and inspected the chair before a large man moved out from the shadows and put a velvet pillow on it for his master to sit. “I feel as if you are a certain mad man who chases after non-existent maidens and fighting windmills and let me assure you that I refuse to be the ass who follows you down that clear path to madness.”

 

Silva flashed his companion a crooked grin and snapped his fingers, two scantily dressed women appearing with glasses filled with the best ale the tavern had and a deck of cards. “I will not be offended by your words, my friend. I simply wanted to inform you myself that I am about to set on my journey and to show you the men I picked to act as my private guards in case the lord refuses to give me my Q back.”

 

The cards were shuffled and dealt, both women sitting on Silva’s lap since Le Chiffre sent them a disgusted look when they tried to go near him. Really, his female servants were much pleasant to the eye, although not very bright which bothered him the most. “I would have not been offended if you simply sent me a letter.” He tilted his head to look behind Silva, nothing that he had been the employer of more than half of the men present there and realizing. “Do you have anything left to bet against me after hiring them?”

 

“I am confident enough that even if I lose everything tonight, Q will bring me back every little coin and more.” Silva said and changed three cards while Le Chiffre seemed satisfied with the hand he had been dealt.

 

“I have seen this Q of yours and I doubt people will line up to roll around with the scrawny little thing.”

 

Silva lost his temper for a moment and hit the table with his fist, startling the women, before he took a deep breath to calm himself down. “I’ll be the only one to get his body. I was referring to that mind of his which he holds in such high regards.” He smiled when he saw that his hand was better than his companion’s. “I figure there has to be something in there since you so easily agreed to help me after only showing you a piece of what he could do.”

 

Le Chiffre stared at Silva with surprise evident in his face and he leaned black, slowly clapping and laughing. “Could it be that you are slowly learning how to think beyond that little village of yours? Mister Silva, I do think that I should keep a closer eye on you.” He waited for the hand to end again, allowing the blond man to win before he spoke again. “And I think I’ll start doing that by personally accompanying you on this quest.”

 

That bothered Silva a bit, afraid that the man was planning on keeping Q for himself. “I thought you didn’t want to be the ass that follows me into a battle against some windmills?”

 

“When you are in my business, sometimes you need to weight the risk against the winnings and there is something in my mind that tells me the pay-out will be grand.” He lost three more games, the pile of gold steadily growing on Silva’s side. “How about we make this round more interesting, Mister Silva?”

 

“I am offended that you think I’d gamble Q away before even tasting him in the privacy of my own home.” Le Chiffre chuckled and raised his hands in a defeated manner. “However, I am more than willing to add my future wife to the table since I have a feeling the woman suits your tastes.”

 

***

Despite Q drinking exclusively the water that Sir Alec and Lady Eve brought for him and eating food washed and boiled in it as well as bathing himself in it, he still couldn’t properly focus on the lord or remember how the man looked like. That frustrated James to no end since, in the past, the doctors that were kept away from the estate’s water were able to see him for what he really was.

 

“Maybe there is something in the air?” Q mused and James swore up and down on everything he owed that the air there did not smell too different from the one in Q’s village. Well, maybe more clean since it was the castle of a lord, but it most definitely didn’t smell like something that would control your mind. And it didn’t make sense how something that you ingested or drank or breathe in could only keep you from observing a single person while having no problem in describing everyone and everything else.

 

James paced back and forth Q’s little laboratory, careful not to break the little vials that were filled with water and all sorts of substances or move the books that the younger man had surrounded himself with in an attempt to find if there was anything really wrong with what he was drinking or eating. “Yet, you’ve been here for three months already while no doctor had managed to stay for more than a week.”

 

Q made a little noise in the back of his throat, but didn’t turn away. Of course, there was a little voice in his mind that he constantly tried to shut out which asked if perhaps he was being affected by a magical spell. A ridiculous idea, he insisted. Magic didn’t really exist and it was simply used as an excuse by people who had dull minds.

 

“You should go to bed already.” James spoke up and leaned his head against Q’s shoulder, trying to grab the vials from his hands.

 

The young man clicked his tongue and tried to elbow the man away from him. “Five more minutes, ten if you don’t stop it this instant. Your fur is quite ticklish and you remember the last explosion that happened because of you, right?”

 

James looked offended, but kept his mouth shut and sat back waiting for Q to lose the fight with exhaustion so he could carry the bullheaded man back to his room – that was one of his favourite things he did on an almost daily basis.

 

Q woke up after only an hour and sleep and ten minutes after James had brought him back to his room to the feeling of being watched that was completely different from the usual one and that sent tiny shivers up his spine. He tried to act like he was still asleep as he turned on his other side to check the room. His hand shot up from under the covers and went straight for his glasses when he noticed an outline he had never seen before at the food of his bed, the stranger lunging for him, two clammy and rough hands resting over his mouth.

 

“Shh, the master hates to wake up to your screams,” the strangers whispered in Q’s ear, moving a hand away from the younger man’s mouth to pet his hair.

 

Q started to struggle even more, filled with dread and panic, kicking his legs and waving his hands around until he finally managed to land two hard blows that sent the man off of him and he quickly scrambled out of bed and dashed out the door. He took so many twists and turns that he somehow ended in a part of the castle he hadn’t seen yet, but he was too busy feeling relieved about getting away from the terrifying man to worry about the fact that he had just gotten lost.

 

“Oh, you came here out of your own free will, good.” The stranger said right in Q’s ear and Q shouted and tried to bolt again, but the stranger easily tripped him and sat on his back. “I told you that the master hates to hear you scream and I don’t want him to punish me.” He sat on Q’s back without doing anything else until the young man stopped moving after which he rolled off and rested next to him, facing him and giving him a slightly deranged smile. “I’m Boothroyd, by the way. Or Roydbooth, I am not sure. And you’re master’s precious Q.”

 

“What do you want from me?” Q asked, sitting still.

 

“To talk. To watch. To show you things.” Boothroyd jumped up and grabbed Q’s arm, pulling him up as well and keeping him from running away. “I used to be like you,” The man said as he started to skip down the hallway, Q noticing just now that this part of the castle was completely devoid of the silent soldiers.

 

Q tried to get the man to let go of his arm, digging his feet into the floor with no success. The man was surprisingly strong despite how old and fragile he looked, so Q sighed and allowed himself to be dragged, the feeling of dread being replaced by that of unease. “What do you mean by that?”

 

“Smart, bright, able to create everything from nothing.” The man stopped in front of two large doors that had all sorts of gears carved in it and he started to sway to a tune only he heard, forcing Q to do the same. “And Alec was rude and cocky, Eve was strong, M ruled and everyone could call master by his name and many women and men littered these hallways and warmed his bed on the cold nights even when they were hot. But now it’s just us and the shadows and the puppets and our regrets.”

 

The man released Q and hit the doors with his fists, falling to his knees in tears as they opened and letting out inhuman wails and noises. Q thought about using this opportunity to run away, but his heart wouldn’t let him leave the obviously deranged man alone so he gathered him up in an awkward hug, patting his back.

 

“You said that you didn’t want your master to wake up and if you keep crying, he might come here to scold us.” Q said softly, the old man shaking head furiously against his chest, clasping his hands around Q’s back, holding on tightly to him.

 

“If you cry and yell, maybe.” He moved his hands to cover Q’s mouth again, looking around the hallway. “But don’t, please. That’s what angers the master the most these days. He didn’t even threaten to rip my arms off and hit me over the head with them when I accidentally made vile Vesper’s painting fall.”

 

“Vile Vesper? Who is that?” Q muttered against the man’s palms, finding himself suddenly pulled against a hairy chest he recognized as James, the man’s animalistic growl filling his ears.

 

Boothroyd instantly covered his face and made himself into a tiny ball, whimpering. “Please master, don’t be mad. I speak only the truth because she made it that I cannot lie and I was simply playing a game of tag and see with your cutie kitten,” he explained quickly, latching on to Q’s leg and tugging on it, begging him with his eyes to confirm what he was saying.

 

James caressed the side of Q’s face, turning both of them away from the mad old man. “Do not be worried about his words, strange as they sound. His mind was taken from him a long time ago.” He carefully lowered Q to the ground, patting his head.

 

Q thought for a moment, turning his attention to the man who seemed to have forgotten about how scared he was a couple of moments ago and he was busy dragging a soldier out from a room, humming something. “By whom? And who is –?” The question died on his lips when he saw the old man pull the golden armour away from the soldier to reveal an intricate mechanism and not the skin of a man as he had expected.

 

“Major!” James shouted and Q was sure the earth shook, although that might have been his legs giving out from under him. At least he now knew why he never saw them eat or go to relieve themselves. “Q? Kitten? Kitten, look at me and breathe.” James sounded desperate and very far away and the world continued to shake and spin so hard and so fast that Q clung to the nearest thing he could find, afraid that he would fall off of the planet.

 

All he could think was that the soldiers weren’t human and really, why was he so surprised to find that out? No matter how many things he considered wonderful he showed James, the man was never impressed. And who would be impressed by a colourful explosion in the sky or by a warm tub that produced bubbles or by a flashing light that could imprint the outlines of what was right in front of it when they had mechanical men working for them.

 

And really, now that he had all this darkness and silence around him, he realized that the mechanical men were the least of his problem. Maybe he should question the deformed lord and the water that did nothing else but make it hard for him to remember how the man looked more than anything else. And the fact that they reached the castle incredibly fast, despite Q needing more than a week to reach anything no matter in what direction he went to from his village.

 

Maybe he should take this little breather to think of a way to escape the place since it was clear that making things to amaze James was not the way - he had soldiers that were mechanical men that moved like actual people and that had to be cheating because it would take him at least a year to think of something better than that and three times as much to actually make it.

 

But running away would be admitting that he wasn’t as good as he thought, Q explained to the part of his brain that demanded he ran away while he still had the chance, and he wasn’t going to do it. He also kind of liked to be around the strange lord, even though the man was a complete klutz around the things he built for him and tended to throw temper tantrums when Q refused to do things in a certain way - yet he never struck him or forced him and the only time he had been punished was when he had been locked up in his room, which was still not okay, but at least he didn’t strike him or lock him on in the dungeon or something worse.

 

“Q? Come on let me see those green eyes of yours.” No, go away. He still needed to think and the castle was strange and everything was so interesting that it distracted him from thinking straight and James drove him mad with wanting to build things for him that he wouldn’t break.

 

“Young Q? Can you hear me? Will you open your eyes for me?” Sir Alec’s kind voice broke through his mind, but Q still shook his head and refused to let the light return. He wasn’t done yet and everyone should be respectful of his wish to be left to his own thoughts.

 

“Why would he open them for you if he didn’t let me see them? Go check on the Major and leave us be.” James demanded in a childish whine and Q’s mind was suddenly filled with images of the puppies that used to whine at him when he ate something that had a little bit of mean and he giggled. “I think he’s coming to. Everyone, step back,” James ordered and Q found himself being shaken back into the real world.

 

“I want to see how they work. Can I take them apart? Do they feel anything?“ Were the first things that came out of Q before he shook his head and shoved his hands in James’ fur and began tugging on it with all of his might. “I knew you were a cheater and that you were only toying with me! Do you find that much entertainment in tormenting a peasant?” He continued to accuse and the lord took a deep breath to keep himself from doing anything he might regret and turned in the direction of an old woman with short white hair and cold blue eyes.

 

“I order you to explain things to him this instant, M.” He turned his attention back to Q and bumped his snout against the younger man’s nose, rubbing them together. “I am many things, but cheater isn’t one of them, kitten. And I’ll let you take all the soldiers apart and put them back together if that is what you desire.”

 

The woman let out a heavy sigh and looked as if she wanted to smack the noble into the nearest wall, grinding her teeth. “My esteemed and most beloved Lord,” She stopped and took a deep breath, looking pained to refer to James like that, her eyes promising the most painful death in existence. “Those are things that I cannot explain even if I am ordered to, as you are more than aware, my lord.” The last two words hissed and Q was sure she was moments away from turning her head to the side to spit or empty her stomach's contents.

 

Boothroyd suddenly appeared from behind James and started pinching Q’s cheeks despite the warning noises his lord let out. “I created them from my marbles when Vesper took them all from me. Well, all but one.” He tilted his head and started to munch on his finger. “But I used that one to make them, so I guess they are my thoughts and logic.” He suddenly clapped his hands in front of himself, causing Q to flinch. “Wait, this makes them my children, right? Master, I am a father, congratulate me!”

 

Sir Alec moved to him and put an arm around his shoulders, guiding him to the room that had the door with the gears carved in it, trying to keep the man from talking. “Major, it is way past your bedtime. And if you are now a father, you’re supposed to set a good example for your children, right?”

 

The man quickly shook his head and quickly disappeared inside the room, the knight walking in after him to make sure the man didn’t get distracted by anything shiny and that he really went to bed.

 

James watched everything with a cold stare, letting the slightly shaking and very shocked man lean against his body as he carefully ran his claws through the soft, brown hair, moving his head slightly so that his lips were right up against Q’s ear. “There are certain things that we cannot speak as we are now, things that hurt us physically and psychically if we try to break the rules.”

 

But Q still felt himself filled with cold fury which he and weakly hit James’ chest a couple of times before hiding his face in the soft fur, allowing his mind and body to be engulfed by the feeling of safety lord seemed to give off despite his disturbing appearance. “Would it hurt you if you told me who Vesper is?”

 

He heart the lord’s heart start beating faster and everyone around them fell silent, catching with the corner of his eye Sir Alec’s pale face and terrified expression, the man looking like he wanted to drag him out of the creature’s arms by the hair. “Only my heart,” James admitted in a whispered voice as he slowly started to walk, Q quietly following him. “Vesper was the only woman I truly loved.” His hand shot out and he cupped Q’s chin, the man flinching at the unusually bruising grip. “We shared cruel smiles and dark curses as she died.”

 

Q wanted to reach out to the man and hug him, but he got the clear feeling that he would end up being pushed away. Instead, he rested his hands on the one James had on his chin and moved his fingers in small circles until the grip loosened. He said nothing and the lord seemed to be thankful for the silence, Q rubbing his face against the large hand.

 

“You’re acting so much like a kitten right now that I am starting to wonder if you didn’t start your life as one and then a witch turned you human.”

 

Q clicked his tongue and pinched the back of James’ hand, huffing. “Why must you constantly compare me to a cat?” Though, as things were currently going, he wasn’t as quick to deny the existence of someone who could actually turn animals into people and vice versa.

 

“Because you act like a kitten.” He poked his nose and laughed. “Just now you bristled like one. Are you going to start hissing and clawing at me any time soon?” He tugged on a few strands of Q’s hair, sticking his large tongue out when the man slapped his hand away.

 

“If you insist that I am acting like a cat, then you’re like a dog! A giant, lummox and untrained despite your high pedigree.” Q stomped away from James, trying to keep himself from flinching when he heard bones cracking.

 

However, he did yelp when a James that resembled a dog more than before jumped in front of him, jaw almost hitting the floor when he noticed the wagging tail which definitely hadn’t been there before. “You can change your appearance?” Q muttered, but was distracted by the animal jumping behind him and nudging him down the hallway. “You’re supposed to feel insulted, not have fun with this!” But the man just continued to hop around Q, wagging his tail and whining while making sure the young man got to his room.

 

James waited for Q to arrange the blankets around himself before he jumped on the man’s bed, licking his face. “Stop it! Your breath stinks! You’re getting drool all over me! I promise I already washed today.” Q managed to wrap his fingers around James’ snot and the lord simply tilted his head to the side and let out a little whine. “If you’re going to give me puppy eyes next, I will laugh in your face and ask Sir Alec to make sure he takes you out for a walk before he goes to sleep.”

 

James growled, bristling at the mention of Alec and pushed Q down with his head and rested it on the man’s chest, freezing when the younger man wrapped his arms around his neck and slowly started to massage it. He didn’t fully understand why Q was acting like this, but it made the aching in his heart – which only increased after mentioning Vesper – lessen a bit.

 

Actually, it was the first time in years he felt this relaxed and felt like sleep could easily come to him, Q’s arms around him promising to keep the visage of the woman who haunted him out of his mind – something that he more than welcomed.

 

“On the first night here,” Q sleepy voice broke the silence of the room and he tried to lift James’ head to look him in the eyes. “I saw a giant wolf looking at me from outside my window. That was you, wasn’t it?” James tried to turn his head away, but Q tugged on his ears to keep the blue eyes trained on it. “If you continue to stare at me while I sleep, I will open the window and kick you off its ledge, understand?”

 

James decided that Q had been serious for too long for one night so he stuck his tongue out of his mouth and grinned. Q instantly knew what the man had planned for him and began to struggle, trying to crawl out from under the man or at least get the covers over his head. But James was stronger and faster than the exhausted Q and the younger man ended up making disgusted noises and shivering while receiving a through and inopportune bath.

 

They rolled around the huge bed for many minutes, Q laughing and yelling so loud that Alec barged into the room, leaning against the door to try to catch his breath. The knight had thought that the young man had done or said something about Vesper to his lord that made the noble lose his temper so bad that he ended up shredding Q.

 

“Mercy for the young man…My lord…Please…” Sir Alec wheezed out and his lord was instantly in front of him, back in his more human form, glaring daggers at him. “He meant no harm…” Alec continued, still unable to see James in front of him from all the white spots that danced in his eyes from how fast he had run to Q’s room.

 

“I more than meant it,” Q announced as he washed his face and neck, attempting to get all the slobber off of him. “Actually, I will invent something that will kick him off the ledge as soon as it detects him out there.” He started to rummage through a drawer and then crawled under the bed, searching for a clean piece of paper and whatever pen he could still use to draw a basic plan, James rolling his eyes at him and trying to drag him out.

 

“You need to go to sleep.” James growled, Q helplessly dangling upside down from his hand and glaring at him with unfocused eyes.

 

“I feel as if we had this conversation before, James.” He grabbed his tunic with his hands to keep it from rolling over his head. “I won’t sleep until I finish sketching the ideas that come to me or finish the experiment I am working on.”

 

“I won’t let you take the mechanical soldiers apart if you don’t go to sleep.” Q threw the paper and pen at James’ head and started to wiggle until the other carefully lowered him on the bed, quickly diving under the covers. “Oh, it seems that I learned a little magic spell that makes the kitten listen to me.”

 

Q narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips, crossing his hands over his chest. “Works only one time, I assure you.”

 

Alec watched dumbfounded as his lord sat on the covers next to Q, nudging the younger man a couple of times to make him scoot over before giving up and flopping over him. He sneaked out of the room and soundlessly closed the door behind him, a little smile on his lips.

 

“Go sleep in your own bed,” the knight heard Q order James and he chuckled at the whine his lord let out. He assumed the older man rubbed his head against Q’s side, move that for some reason always made the man give in fast. And sure enough, after straining his hearing a bit, he heard Q murmur a fine and the sheets rustling as he scooted over to make room for the other man.

 

A petite hand rested on his shoulder and he almost jumped into the door, turning to glare at the amused Eve. “It’s not polite or knight-like to listen in on, Sir Alec.” She mock chastised him, shaking her head disapprovingly. “What if I were to let Lady M know what you were up to once we all get better?”

 

“My dear Lady Eve, I am unable to act in any manner that isn’t fit for a knight.” He brought his hand over his stomach and he bowed low in front of her, his other hand extending in front of him. “As such, I was simply making sure that everything was in order and not eavesdropping.”

Her hand rested on top of his automatically and she curtsied, these little movements encoded in their minds so deeply by their predicament that they did them without a second thought or without waiting for that cold pain that shot through their brains when they tried to act any other way. “Of course you would find a way around everything, Sir Alec.”

Chapter Text

Q was beyond fascinated by the mechanical soldiers, which was great for the first few days. It meant that he was too distracted by them to focus on his own projects meant to win his freedom and that was just how James wanted things to be. But when he realized that the young man paid more attention to them than him, his jealousy started to win over.

 

He tried to get him to notice him by taking him into the vault room and literally showering him in jewels, gold and pearls, putting all sorts of crowns on his head and heavy rings on his fingers. But Q carefully placed each item back and asked if he could leave.

 

“I think I figured out how the legs move and I want to see if I can build a small model that does the same,” he said excitedly, leaving James alone.

 

Eve said that, perhaps, he shouldn’t have used his secret weapons so fast. “Q is a man that came from nothing and that values knowledge more than gold. So you kind of used your trump card a bit early.” She tried to cover her laughter with a cough.

 

“Is the cold of the palace not agreeing with you, Lady Eve?” James grumbled as he paced around his room.

 

She faked another cough and tried to sound weak. “The heating might be faulty in my rooms, my lord.”

 

“Then imagine how much your body would disagree with the one outside.” He threw himself in an already destroyed chair, tapping his talons against the scratched floor. “You are here to help me, not mock me for forgetting how innocently simple my kitten is.”

 

“You keep comparing him to a kitten, why not get him one?” She said simply and this time she was not mocking him. She really thought that Q would enjoy the company of a little animal since she assumed those were his only friends when he was living in the village.

 

Not that James was happy to hear that. He was trying to get Q’s attention back on him, not have to share it with anyone or anything else. “If you’re not going to be helpful, kindly leave my room before I really do kick you out of the bloody castle via the rooftop.”

 

His next plan involved clothes, somehow hoping that seeing them get made for him would make him like them more or be impressed by them. The fact that he actually had to pick Q up and walk him over to the room where everything was done should have been a huge indication that it would not go right.

 

“I already have more clothes than I will ever wear, James,” Q argued, trying to hop off the chair he had been put on.

 

James patted Q’s head, chuckling when the young man grabbed his large paw and tried to push him away. “Little kitten, the weather changed again. You need warmer clothes unless you want to freeze.”

 

“But I have you to keep me warm when we go through the garden and more than enough blankets to cover myself with during the few nights you don’t sleep in my room.” And really, he didn’t think there was anything warmer than James in the entire world, except the sun and fire itself. Did he not like holding him close anymore?

 

James noticed the way Q’s mood suddenly went downhill, but pegged it on the fact that he wasn’t a big fan of sitting still. However, he had planned just for that and knew exactly what to do – no matter how long Lady Eve tried to convince him that the whole thing was a horrible idea. He snapped his fingers and Sir Alec appeared, gritting his teeth when he saw how Q’s eyes lighted up almost instantly when he saw him.

 

“Sir Alec, I am happy to tell you that I have finished reading the book you told me about and it was every bit as captivating as you told me it would.” His green eyes widened and his lips twitched a bit like they usually did when he got an idea. “I’ll just go put it in the library right now.” James was faster than Q, of course, and caught him even before his feet touched the ground, putting him back on the chair.

 

“He is here to take your measurements, so don’t make him waste his time.” He nuzzled his cheek and stepped away, growling low when he passed by Alec.

 

The knight looked apologetically at Q, smiling a bit when the younger man sighed and sat up as straight as he could. They started to talk about the book, the creature tapping his talons against the table as he watched the whole thing. He noticed the way Q’s face turned a bit red when the other man wrapped the measuring tape around his chest, the way he jumped a bit when the hands and tape measure moved lover, nervous laughter filling the room.

 

“You’ll have to take your pants off if I am to measure this part right,” the knight said in a horrified way, Q turning pale and shaking his head as fast as he could while James decided that he had more than enough. If there anyone was going to make him shiver and blush when he was touched, then it was going to be him. Somehow. Maybe. If he found a treatment for his condition.

 

“Alright fine, I’ll be your bloody winter coat. But if you so much as sneeze, I will move you next to a furnace and when you get better, I’ll personally make your clothes. And they will be the most horrible things you saw in your life.” He liked that Q pulled him in a hug, ignoring the noise Alec let out that suspiciously sounded like a laugh.

 

He did get to spend a bit more time with Q that day when he asked what book Alec had given him, then faked a sudden headache and asked the young man to read some to him. “You’re just really old and you can’t see anymore, admit it.” Q teased, sitting next to the fire place and starting the story which James wouldn’t be able to remember because he was too distracted by everything related to his kitten.

 

But as time went on, James was getting more consumed by his jealousy and even contemplated crushing every soldier at one point. Boothroyd heard him and ran from the room in tears, tracking down Alec and asking him to keep their lord from killing his beloved children.

 

Sir Alec tried to the best of his abilities to calm his lord down and keep him from trashing the two toys that Q was currently fawning over, talking with them as if they were real people and jumping for joy whenever he got a nod or a shake. “Please keep in mind that he is an inventor that has lived all of his life in poverty and in a town that called him a witch for showing interest in things like that. Of course he’s going to be fascinated with every new thing he sees that’s even remotely mechanic.”

 

James hit the wall so hard that he put a dent in it and caused a few paintings to fall off, Sir Alec flinching and lowering his head. “He should be fascinated by me, not some toys! I own those bloody things so he should gush over me!” His bones cracked as he continued to turn even more into a monster, his blue eyes giving way to bloody red ones.

 

“My lord, try to calm down. Young Q is bound to hear the noise and since he is a very curious man with absolutely no sense of self-preservation, he might come to see what is wrong. And I think that he will be more scared of you now than when you dragged him out of the only home he ever knew. ” Alec saw his lord stop suddenly and for a moment, he thought that he had managed to talk sense into him, only to suddenly have to doge a chair thrown at his head.

 

“He’s too busy trying to see if those things can think from themselves or such nonsense to notice or hear anything!” James roared, flopping in the middle of the room and letting out a pathetic whine - the knight really didn’t know if it was okay for him to find his lord’s childish behaviour as cute as he did, this being the first time the man had ever acted this badly. “Do you know I actually found him asleep on one and that I almost had to rip that thing’s arm off to get it to let go of him? I ordered it to unhand my Q and his grip only became tighter!”

 

That was really strange since those things existed only to serve his lord and do his bidding, listening and protecting others only if they were told. “Perhaps Q touched their gripping mechanism by accident and fell asleep like that because no one was there to help–“

 

Alec was thrown up against the wall, staring down at a sharp pair of teeth, claws digging in his neck. “Are you implying that I would let anything bad happen to him? Do you trust me so little around him?” He stopped squeezing when he saw the man’s face turn white, but did not lower him back on the ground.

 

“The thought never crossed my mind, my lord. I am simply trying to say that it’s impossible for them to act out on their own and hugging is not something that they would do. Nor would they refuse to do what you said since they exist only to serve you. ” The knight coughed out as the creature rested his forehead against his, apologizing in his own way. Alec was sure he was going to find all sorts of swords and knives by his door in the morning.

 

“JAMES!” Q’s voice rang through the halls and Alec was suddenly on the ground, staring at opened doors and pieces of tile that had been ripped from the ground due to the force his lord had used to push himself forward.

 

The door to the room Q was in was thrown off of its hinges and through the window, the young man yelling and covering his head just as James landed on the mechanical soldier that was behind him. The creature bared its teeth at it, digging its claws deep in the moving cogs and pulling a handful out, turning his head around to see if Q had any sort of visible or deep wounds.

 

Scared green eyes that were almost filled with tears stared back at him, almost breaking his heart. “J-James is that you?” Q whimpered, shaky hands slowly reaching out. The creature that stood before him looked too feral form him to be sure that it was truly James, scarier and larger than what he had seen at his window.

 

James glanced over his shoulder at the terrified man and let out a little whine before removing his claws from the now completely useless soldier. He carefully moved closer to Q, letting him get used to the way he looked, sighing in relief when the skinny and warm hands rested against his face. “Yes kitten, it’s me. When I heard you yell my name like that, I thought something bad had happened.” He said as soon as his vocal cords permitted it.

 

Q’s face turned completely red, resting his head against James’. “Nothing happened. I screamed because…Oh!” He suddenly jumped back and clapped his hands in front of him, smiling with all of his teeth. “He did a simple mathematical equation, James. Do you know how hard it is to build something that does that faster than a human? I tried to build one so many times, but I never succeeded.” The smile dropped when he saw how mangled the mechanical soldier was. “What if they can actually feel pain? James, you hurt poor Bill.”

 

“You named it?” James turned Q around, running his claws through his hair, managing not to listen to that sweet, poisonous voice in his head that whispered that the man before him had more place in his heart for toys than him. “They can’t feel anything Q, I promise. They’re complex, deadly toys and nothing more. You shouldn’t name them.” He groaned and rolled his eyes when he saw how hurt the young man looked, covering his head in an attempt to get rid of those green eyes. “Stop looking like that at me. I didn’t do anything bad to any living thing, so don’t expect me to feel bad.”

 

“Sorry.” The sad voice wasn’t better either. When was the last time he felt this bad about anything he had done? He must have been a child, barely reaching his mother’s knees and it was probably when he broke one of the many little statues she collected and cared for like they were little pieces of his soul. Except now he was feeling even worse.

 

“Don’t apologize when it’s not your fault.” He walked around Q and started to stuff the cogs back in the mechanical soldier, trying to get them to fit and make it work again, hoping that that would make the young man feel better and not look or sound sad anymore. “These blasted things are too small,” he said in an exasperated voice, turning to look at Q with pleading eyes.

 

Q moved to sit next to him and started to sort the cogs. “Let’s put them in piles by their size first. I drew how his inside looked so we do have a map.” He stopped to pat the motionless soldier’s head, smiling. “Don’t worry, Bill. I think we can make you work again.”

 

“Why did you map out his insides? Aren’t they all built in the same manner?” James asked, holding two picking up two pieces that Q put in separate piles to try and see why the man considered them to be different when they looked the same to him.

 

Q looked like he had received the biggest insult in his life and James’ ears actually flattened against his head in shame. “They are all different.” He lifted his hand and wiggled his fingers, a soldier stepping away from the wall and coming over.

 

That more than surprised James because he hadn’t bothered to order them to follow Q’s orders beyond sitting still and letting him do whatever he wanted to them. “They’re not supposed to do that,” James muttered under his breath, frowning and getting ready to push Q behind him just in case the soldier was dangerous. “I didn’t tell them to come to you when you called them unless you were in danger or hurt.”

 

“That’s why I am afraid Bill might have felt everything,” Q scolded him, tugging on his left ear lightly. “Please open up for me?” The soldier stood still for a second before did as he was told, kneeling close to Q. The young man smiled up at him and thanked him, pulling a piece of paper from his tunic and giving it to him to hold it. “See? Even the shapes and materials of the cogs are completely different. I didn’t have time to check all of them, but I think I might come across materials I have never seen or read about before.”

 

James moved closer to the piece of paper, narrowing his eyes. He never bothered to check them after they were created thanks to Boothroyd, simply starting to use them. “I still think you shouldn’t get too attached to them by giving them names, Q. They might eventually break down and your tears and whimpers bother me.”

 

The young man hummed, fully focused on the task at hand. He wanted to be very careful and thorough, be sure that he put everything back where it was supposed to be just to be sure that the Bill that came back was the Bill he named. It didn’t matter to him what James – or Sir Alec, for that matter – said because as far as he was concerned, every one of the silent soldiers was alive and capable of thoughts. They just needed to be made aware of that, to be shown how to produce a thought for themselves.

 

He was one piece away from getting Bill’s insides back to the way they were before, but when he picked it up, he was disappointed to see it bent. “Can you help me with—? “He started, looking back at James and falling silent when he noticed that he was asleep cuddled against him.

 

A grandfather clock chimed in the distance, announcing midnight and Q realized that he had sat hunched over the soldier for at least five hours. The empty plates around them and the sweet taste that still lingered in his mouth meant that James had, yet again, personally fed him his dinner since he had been to lost to the world to do so himself.

 

“Can you please bring us a blanket?” He asked as quietly as he could one of the working soldiers, placing the armour back on Bill and the bended piece on top of it. He’d take care of it tomorrow, after he ate and talked with James, realizing how much he had missed the other’s company.

 

The man had acted very strange in the last few weeks and Q was worried. He had asked Sir Alec if there was anything wrong with James, but the knight has avoided giving him a straight answer. Lady Eve was even more cryptic and Lady M stared at him until he hurriedly got out of her way.

 

He wrapped the blanket around James as best as he could, stopping to look as his face and trying his best to remember it. But every time he blinked, much to his eternal frustration, he forgot how the man was supposed to look. He didn’t instantly give up and even ended up asking one of the mechanical soldiers if he could draw the man for him, but all the machine could put down on paper were geometrical shapes - which was amazing in itself and Q had a really hard time keeping himself from shaking James awake to share it with him.

 

It was even more amazing when the mechanical soldier tried to draw again without being prompted to do that and pushed the piece of paper closer to Q’s face, this time actually managing to draw what appeared to be a large dog as drawing by a five year old.

Q laughed and clapped his head, patting the soldier’s head when it lowered it. “You did a really good job.” He glanced back at James and a little smile appeared on his lips. According to him, his servants remembered what he looked like and that meant that Q only needed to find the one who could draw and ask for help.

 

Happy with his brand new plan, he patted Bill, and with the help of the other machine, managed to snuggle up against James’ chest. He thanked it as he large creature buried his nose in his hair and inhaled deeply, moving around a bit to make both of them more comfortable when he recognized his smell.

 

James was usually the first one to wake up. He had made a habit out of playing with Q’s hair and simply listening to him breathing, counting the number of times his heart beat per minute no matter how many times Alec pointed out that they weren’t exactly normal things to do and that some people might find odd and slightly disturbing. But he didn’t care.

 

“You know how long it has been since someone slept next to me like this out of their own free will, so completely relaxed and with their guard down.” He’d roll on his back and pull Q to sit on his chest, softly scratching his lower back because that caused the young man to stretch and smile. “And he says he’s not a kitten. If only he could see himself when he’s asleep.”

 

But this time, Q had been the first to wake up and James could vaguely hear him and Alec whispering hurriedly not too far away from where he was supposedly asleep. They stopped when he moved and he could smell the fear radiating off of his knight, but nothing from his kitten. Curious to see what they were up to, he tried to pretend that he was still asleep, but Alec had always been cautious so when he saw James move, he grabbed Q and pulled him out of the room, closing the door behind them.

 

That did not bode well with him and he got up and went after them, but he only found Q sitting alone in the middle of the corridor with a strange look in his eyes. “Did anything happen?” He tried to sound like his usual self, but by the way Q flinched, it was clear that he had failed.

 

A piece of distorted metal was pushed in his face, Q looking sheepishly at him. “I was trying to straighten Bill’s last cog.”

 

Eyes narrowed, James did as he was indirectly asked only for his good mood to return the moment Q wrapped his arms around him, thanking him before grabbing his arm and tugging him back to the room, talking about what other wonders he discovered the machines could do.

 

But things did not return to normal despite the young man paying a tad more attention to him. Q started to lock his laboratory and everyone around James made sure to keep him away from that place and distract him if Q wasn’t there to do that himself. There was also the fact that James kept catching glimpses of Alec and Q whispering in corners and the young man’s smell was much stronger on the knight than it had been before.

 

However, the biggest betrayal was when he caught sight of Q wrapping his arms around Alec and placing a kiss on his check a few weeks after his strange behaviour had started. He felt his heart start to hurt and he run back to his room, smashing everything in front of him. Of course the young man would fall for someone who looked human! It didn’t matter that he tried to keep them apart and show Q that he was a human. That bloody organ did whatever it wanted.

 

But he had expected and hoped more from Alec. The man kneeled in front of him and kissed his deformed hands on the day the curse was cast, swearing that he would do anything and everything in his power to make things okay. And it wasn’t just him. Everyone else was no better, hiding the two from him! No wonder Q was working so hard, trying to win his freedom.

 

“James! James, I want to show you something,” the young man entered his room with his usually bright smile in place, hiding something behind his back.

 

It hurt to look at him now. “Of course you do,” James grumbled, destroying what little was left of the table with his claws. “That’s the only reason you look for me anyway; to show me something, but never to simply spend some time with me.”

 

Q looked at him confused for a moment, smile almost dropping, but shook his head. “Well, someone is in a horrible mood today. But I guarantee you that these things will cheer you up and maybe they will even help you get your head out of your own ass.” He moved his hands out from behind his back and pushed something in James’ chest, but the creature smacked them away.

 

“But they’re not just supposed to simply cheer me up, right?” He demanded, grabbing the back of Q’s shirt, shaking him as he lifted him from the ground. “They are also supposed to amaze me so much that I would agree to let you leave me alone while you also ask of me to let Alec go with you, right?” If the other man was in his sight, he would rip him to shreds. “I don’t like traitors or schemers!” He bellowed, tossing Q against the destroyed armchair.

 

Q had tears running down his face, shaking. “I don’t understand what you’re on about. I just wanted to-”

 

“I saw the two of you talking in corners, whispering when you thought I wasn’t there and hugging in the shadows.” He ran his claws down Q’s face, turning away from him. “Get out of my sight and out of my castle.”

 

Q didn’t understand what James was going on about, but he was more scared of how calmly he had said the last part. He took off running, going down two stairs at a time, ignoring Alec who was shouting after him, asking what was wrong. He almost bumped into Lady Eve and into his Bill, moving out of the way just in time, shouting to be left alone.

 

And just when he was so close to the door that let him out of this place of pure madness. Lady M stepped in front of him, catching him in a tight hug. She held on to him without saying a single word, ignoring his pleas and struggle. Q almost gave up, but when he heard Sir Alec and Lady M calling his name, James roaring over them, his strength and need to flee returned to him.

 

“I order you to let me go and step away!” He shouted, pushing through the doors, the harsh wind and cold snow instantly starting to bite at his exposed skin.

 

He wrapped his arms around himself and continued to run, teeth starting to clatter by the time he reached the gates, lips blue. He didn’t understand what he had done wrong that made James react in such a horrible way, especially since he had simply wanted to surprise him with the help of Sir Alec and everyone else. Now he was alone, cold and with no place to go, but he would be damned if he tried to deal with the horrible creature again.

 

A toy, that’s what he had been. The creature made him think they were friends and that he could be kind and then tossed him out in the cold, insulting him and spewing lies as an excuse. “You’re a monster!” He shouted behind him, tripping over a root and falling face first into the snow, getting his thin clothes wet.

 

He kept himself from starting to cry again by telling himself that at least his feet had stopped hurting, ignoring the voice that pointed out that it wasn’t a good thing because he couldn’t really feel them anymore. He would simply have to toughen up and make it to the hot waters from where he would figure a way to reach a city or a town without dying.

 

***

 

He glared at the powerful snowstorm that raged outside, refusing to allow himself to feel worry for the young man. Q was smart and surely, he had run straight into Alec’s arms to bemoan the fact that they had been caught and that his plan failed. And even if Q tried to bold for the door, his brave knight would be able to catch him and drag him to his room to keep him safe and sheltered.

 

“My Lord, what did you do to young Q?” Alec demanded, bursting in his room, causing the doors that were already loosely hanging by their hinds to crash on the ground. “Have you really lost your heart? He’s barefooted and dressed in nothing but a summer tunic!”

 

For a second, James thought that the curse had been broken when it came to Alec since he dared to raise his voice at him and demand things in a rude manner, but a quick glance behind him revealed that the man was leaning against a wall, clutching his chest as he struggled to ignore the horrible pain that ravaged his body.

 

“I am sure your room is as warm as the rest of the castle and if he’s still cold, I am sure you can come up with very interesting ways of warming him up,” James said in a neutral tone, although the rage and desperation that filled him when he thought of his kitten in Alec’s arms or bed made him want to scream until his vocal cords broke.

 

He did realize that it was wrong of him and that he should be happy for both of them, but he simply couldn’t. He liked Q and Alec knew that. The knight didn’t deserve him anymore than he did since, before the curse had happened, he was known to sleep with anything that walked on two legs and had a pulse – he was more picky about his bed partners and when Vesper appeared, he had stopped all together.

 

“I don’t know why you think there’s anything going on between us. All of our private conversations involved you, my lord.” James tried to shrug the shaky hands that rested on his hunched shoulders, but Alec wouldn’t allow him. His lord needed to stop seeing those around him as his toys and also realize that Q was in grave danger. “And even if we were having a relationship, killing someone because they don’t love you back is beyond wrong.”

 

“I didn’t kill him! I gave him his freedom,” James insisted, growling as he moved away from Alec to stomp again on the things the young man had tried to use to get him to let him leave him and take someone else away from him. “I will not be left alone, do you understand?” He tried stomping again, but Alec had thrown himself over the toys, protecting them with his body.”

 

“He wanted to ask you to let him stay with you! These toys were supposed to represent his thanks!” He picked a figurine up and pushed in the man’s face, shaking with anger. “Young Q cannot remember how you look as you know. But, he figured he wouldn’t have that problem if he had a drawing of you which I provided from him with the help of Lady Eve – who is outside together with the soldier Q named Bill, trying to find him.”

 

James pulled Alec up, moving to kneel next to the other broken figurine, carefully trying to piece if back together. “It does look like me. And the other is him…” He muttered, pushing the two together, head snapping up when the windows were opened by a powerful gust of wind.

 

Of course Q would run right into the cold weather. He mocked the villagers when the people threw rocks at them; he completely lacked a normal sense of self-preservation and any sort of survival instincts. But, he would probably run as fast as he could if he had been threatened or treaded to so horribly by a creature such as him.

 

“Q’s going to die and I killed him.” He threw the figurines at Alec and ran out of the room, jumping down flight of stairs and over mechanical soldiers that were behaving strangely, feeling M’s judging glare in the back of his neck when he ran past her and out the castle’s main doors.

 

Him mad dash ended when he saw Eve kneeling in the snow and for a moment, he was afraid that the woman was looking down at Q’s frozen body. But when the woman turned to look at him, holding up a piece of the man’s tunic, he noticed the horse tracks that were already being covered by the snow.

 

He glued himself to the ground, willing himself to turn into even more of an animal, taking deep whiffs so he could pick up the scent of the animals. He didn’t know why someone was on his estate, but he knew that they had grabbed Q after a short struggle and that was more than enough to drive him mad.

 

“Get the guards,” he ordered as he started to follow the scent of horses mixed with dried blood, alcohol and pure fear. The animals where fast and strong and he was sure they could give his own prized horses a run for their money.

 

He finally found the intruders close to the hot springs and with a single leap he landed on a horse, crushing it under his weight, smacking its rider off of it with the back of his hand. The other riders lost control of their horses and got thrown off of them, Q almost getting trampled to death.

 

“What in God name is that?” One man asked with obvious fear in his voice which sent shivers of pleasure down James’ huge, deformed body. “Creature of hell!” The man shouted again, unsheathing his sword and pointing it at the growling beast.

 

A thin body jumped from the snow and threw itself at James, the man stopping himself from biting him just in time because he recognized Q’s scent. “Leave him alone and I’ll willingly come with you,” he offered, arms tightly wrapped around himself, teeth chattering.

 

The riders’ leader snorted, signalling the others to pull out their weapons as well, forming a circle around the two. “I have a better idea: we’ll bring you as well as that thing’s dead body and get paid its weight in gold for all the trouble.”

 

James turned to look at Q, whining when he saw the man flinch when he raised his hand. He didn’t want to hurt him, just check to see if he was okay. “I’ll deal with them quickly and then you can fix those toys and show me how they work, okay?”

 

Q shook his head, but before he could say anything, a man moved forward and stuck his sword in the beast’s back, causing James to howl in pain. The creature pushed Q down and turned, grabbing the attacker and ripped his arm clean off, grabbing his body and throwing it against another attacker.

 

They all charged at the same time, trying to cut James apart. Their leader started to laugh when he saw that their strikes reached their target, but he was quickly silenced when James’ tore his neck open with his claws. One more man needed to die before the attackers lost their courage and ran, invoking the name of their god and begging him for their lives.

 

James intended to follow them, but all he managed to do was take a single step before he fell forwards, blood freely flowing from his body. Q stepped in his line of sight, lips blue, body shivering, green eyes filled with fear and James tried to reach for him, but the young man started to back away.

 

He bolted and James closed his eyes, whining and crying. Some of the men were still out there and if he died, there would be no one to protect Q. Eve and Alec were a good half an hour away from this place and he wasn’t sure that the mechanical soldiers would still move if he died.

 

Alec and Eve would still try to find Q since it was obvious that they cared for him enough to put up with intense pain just to get James to see the error of his ways when it came to the young man. They would not give up until they found him, even if their freedom was given to them.

 

The sword that was stuck in his back was suddenly pulled out and James let out a horrible roar of pain, spooking the horse that Q had managed to bring back and tie to a tree. But it didn’t scare Q, the man simply tearing a dead man’s shirt into pieces and using the cloth to try to stop the bleeding.

 

James tried to caress his face, whining when Q shook his head and glared at him. He wanted to apologize, to tell him that he had been stupid yet again and beg him to still want to live with him until the end of time, but no words left his mouth.

 

“Move, you horrible thing!” Q shouted after he had wrapped himself in a cape, pulling James up.

 

Q was almost crushed by James’ weight and with a lot of struggle, he managed to get him to one of the horses he had managed to find and which he had tied to a tree. The animal got spooked when he sensed the creature and buckled, trying to stomp them with his front hooves a few times before Q’s sweet voice got him to calm down.

 

“He won’t hurt you, I promise,” he was saying, grabbing the reigns and forcing the animal to kneel so he could dump James’ on its back. “Don’t die on me, okay? You’re horrible, but I don’t want you to die and…” Q trailed off and tugged on the horse’s reins to get him to move forwards.

 

The walk was slow, James drifting in and out of consciousness while Q fell down a couple of times, the horse stopping each time and pushing his snout against the young man’s head, as if he was asking if he was dead yet and if he could throw the creature off of his back and run away to safety.

 

“Not yet, boy, not yet. Please stay with me until we bring this one back to his castle.” Q pleaded with the animal, rubbing his face against him.

 

He was starting to feel sleepy more than cold, but he knew very well that dropping in the snow and curling on himself would mean certain death, so Q simple kept moving. He wasn’t sure that he would actually reach the castle and when he read Alec shouting their names in the distance, he feel on his knees and cried in happiness, giving up and closing his eyes. It didn’t matter now that James was safe, he told himself and the soft arms that wrapped around him only made it much easier for him to pass out.

Chapter Text

He didn’t know exactly how he’d gotten in the middle of such a wonderfully decorated ball room, the back of his neck actually hurting from how long he’d stared up at the huge, golden chandelier that had little rubies and diamonds hanging from it, making the light cast by the candles look a lot more beautiful.

 

The music was more a low murmur than and Q found himself gently swaying to it, humming along with it while couples with complex masks and stunningly intricate costumes twirled around him as if he was also part of the décor. Not that he minded that, since he had a feeling they would all mock him and throw things at him if they really looked his way and noticed his lack of shoes and plain looking clothes, probably even demanding that the stone-faced guards drag him out by his messy hair.

 

The giant doors were pulled open, an elderly hitting the ground with a large staff as he announced whoever just arrived, although Q couldn’t quite catch the names because of how loud the women gasped and men clapped their hands. But they had to be very important, the crowd instantly parting to give them room, makes heads turning after them in a rather disturbing manner.

 

Q couldn’t help but admire how stunning the woman was, her dark hair a stunning contrast against her pale skin, the heavy, dark green dress with emeralds on sewed in its edge making her green eyes even more intense. But what made his mouth fall open and a blush spread on his face was the man by her side.

 

He was a just a bit taller than Q with blond hair and blue eyes that seemed extremely familiar to the young man. He was wearing a sort of a dark blue uniform as far as Q could tell, with a purple sash with a golden stag sewn in it over his left shoulder and a sword hidden in a jewelled hilt.

 

Q tried to move when he realized they were coming his way, but a horrible cold pain shut up his legs and he fell to the ground. He looked around desperately, trying to catch the attention of anyone that could help him, but everyone had eyes only for the mask-less couple, women fanning themselves after the man walked by them while their dates looked on in pure jealousy.

 

“They’d all thrust their swords in your back right now if they could avoid getting hanged and their titles taken away from them,” Q heard the woman mutter as the two stopped right in front of him.

 

The man grinned and the simple act made Q think of a large hound, although the reason completely escaped him because there was nothing animalistic about the lord. “My Lady, I do so hate to inform you that they’d want to do that even if you weren’t by my side. They all love being jealous of me a lot more than their own little jewels.” Shivers travelled down Q’s back when the lord chuckled, quickly turning his head away and covering his eyes when he gave the woman a deep kiss.

 

I shouldn’t be here, Q thought to himself as he tried to crawl away, jumping and ice cold hands shot up from the ground and grasped him tightly, the world around him thrown into complete darkness and silence. He couldn’t even hear his own voice, but his throat was hurting as if he was shouting on top of his lungs, begging whatever held him down to let him go because he wasn’t allowed to be there.

 

“You’re wrong. You own this place and everything in it,” a deep voice whispered in his ear, sharp claws running down his face. “Please, drink and stay.”

 

He shook his head and continued to struggle, hot tears running down his face when his mouth was forced open and a hot liquid was poured down his throat. It tasted horribly sweet and he tried to spit it out, but a strong hand kept his mouth shut while a softer one rubbed his Adam’s apple until he swallowed the liquid, his body going numb instantly after that, the hands that held him down shattering and disappearing.

 

But he was still pinned to the ground and every time he blinked, he saw the two hold hands and dance and laugh as the seasons changed around them, both of them getting older as the seasons changed. He saw them on a ship and then in a beautiful golden carriage, lost in each other’s eyes as the wind hollered and large packs of wolves snarled and barked around them.

 

He tried to warn them, opened his mouth to shout, but the he felt like he was drowning in the sweet liquid and when some unseen force turned him to his side, the soft pats on his back pushing him away from danger and into a painting.

 

This had to be the strangest thing yet, Q thought. He was the only thing that had a definitive outline. Everything else was blurred, the colours blending into one another to form a beautiful picture that represented maidens spinning around a blooming tree.

 

He tried to walk away, but he slammed against a window through which he could see the couple lounging on bear furs in a small room, plates of strange foods surrounding them. The atmosphere was clearly much more intimate than before, the woman running her hand through the lord’s hair while covering his face in butterfly kisses.

 

“I am not feeling well, my lady,” and while Q’s heart skipped a beat when he heard that, the woman needed a second to arrange her face in a fitting manner.

 

Her nails seemed to cut through reality – or what passed for reality in this dream – as she picked up something that suddenly came to love from the golden plate. “Perhaps my lord needs something to eat? These are the best things that my land had to offer.”

 

The lord didn’t notice anything wrong with what he was being fed, even though Q could clearly see the colour draining from his face. “I beg to differ, my lady. And while they might be sweet, your lips are sweeter yet.”

 

The food disappeared in a blink of an eye and the lord was barely keeping his eyes open, yet his hands still roamed down the woman’s back, nimble fingers slipping through the thin dress. “My lord is so strong,” she whispered lowly as she opened his shirt and Q was terrified when he thought he was going to see them become intimate because he felt something inside him shatter and then darkness engulfed everything again.

 

Q thought he died. Everything was dark, silent and he couldn’t move. And then white cracks appeared in the nothingness and he was in the middle of a clearing, surrounded by beautifully coloured flowers. He could move again and he got up and took a few steps, red eyes curiously peeking at him from within the forest with no ill intent in them whatsoever.

 

“Could you tell me how I got here and if there is a way out?” Q tried, tapping lightly the invisible wall that seemed to keep him away from the forest.

 

The eyes turned sad and disappeared, but Q could still feel someone’s presence near him. “I brought you here after you ran your mouth, don’t you remember? And there is a way out, but I would like it if you’d change your mind and stay here with me.”

 

Q jumped when he felt something wet on the back of his head and he turned around expecting to see a huge creature towering over him, but instead he found the man from earlier sitting with his head on the woman’s lap, smiling up at her as he was being fed grapes. Yeah, he looked like the lazy, pretty type who had everyone wait on hand and foot for him.

 

“My lady, you are spoiling me,” he was saying, grabbing her hand and covering it in kisses, licking the tips of her fingers.

 

She didn’t blush like Q had read in a book, but still ducked her head, hiding a devious smile behind her other hand. “I am not the first, nor will I be the last, my lord.” She quickly stuffed a grape in the man’s mouth to keep him for interrupting her. “And do not think your sweet words can work on me for I am not so happy to delude myself with hopes of being the only one to catch your eye.”

 

Her voice was also off, the mere sound of it drowning out the birds’ songs as well as the wind and Q could hear his own heart beating. It wasn’t necessarily an evil sounding voice, certainly no clear ill intent in it, but it still unsettled the world and everyone who was around to hear it.

 

Well, all except for the young lord, who continued to look at her as if she was the a goddess among mortals – and no, he really did not understand why he felt a tiny bit jealous when he thought about those blue eyes not even noticing him.

 

“No, you are not the first to do this. But I feel as if you’ll be the last.” And his words sounded honest to Q that it hurt his heart again and he turned his head, not wanting to see the two kiss again. He wasn't supposed to be here. Why was he here? Who was showing him this, why were they doing this and again, why was he forced to see this? He didn't know any of these people.

 

But those awfully cold hands were back on his face, forcing his head to keep still, sharp nails pinching his eyelids and prying them open. "You will watch this! You will see everything! See what he didn't!" A woman screeched in his ear and he was so happy that he couldn't turn his head around to see how she looked because he was sure his heart would stop at the sight of her.

 

He was dragged closer to the couple and that was when he saw how the woman's shadow was much larger and hid all sort of horrible creatures in it, with red eyes and sharp fangs, foaming at their grotesque moths as they played with the rusty knives and chains, the sounds they all made drowning out the sweet nothings the two were exchanging.

 

At first, he thought she was controlling them, calling her a witch despite his better judgement - and again, that deep voice in his head that was soothed him and, at the same time, angered him, told him that witches were real even if he had been raised as a man of science. But a closer look at her neck revealed that she had a chain around it disguised as a necklace and Q followed the thick, silver links that were somehow missed by the man to a horrible creature.

 

Now that Q saw it, it was so obvious the shadow was not the woman's, but the creature and that everything which existed around it revered it and feared it as if it were a benevolent god who pulled them into creation. Had he created the woman as well? Or was he forcing her to do something bad to the lord.

 

Well, in case she was not really evil, Q wasn't just going to stand by and let anything happen to the blond Lord. He pulled himself free from the cold hands and touched the chain with his fingers, hissing as it burned with cold. He glanced at the couple and saw that they were frozen in mid-kiss as was the world around them, the only things that kept moving being the creatures in the shadow.

 

His legs and feet burned as he stepped into the shadow, playing a tug of war with the main creature - who looked more and more like a giant, black octopus the closer he got to it - until he was suddenly pulled out of there and thrown into a bright room, the hands back on his face again, forcing the sweet liquid down his throat again.

 

"I promise this is for you own good. You need to drink it and open your eyes," Q heard someone mutter in his ear and felt someone caress his face, the feeling of needing to be upset, annoyed and repulsed back in his mind.

 

He slapped away the hand and turned away from the voice, this time coming face to face with a giant wall that had some carvings in it. Okay, so he knew by now that he was dreaming and he was aware that this sort of thing had happened in the past, but he was curious where everything led and just who those two people were - not that he could remember anyone else besides himself at this point, but maybe something would trigger his memory.

 

His attention was caught by the little carvings starting to glow and he focused on them even before the entity he sensed behind him could smash his face against the rock. At first, there were two children who walked side by side. Those radiated happiness and Q couldn't help but brush his fingers over them, smiling. And then the octopus appeared again, seemingly attracted to the powerful glow of a golden stag with a crown hovering above its head and covered in jewels.

 

It tried to wrap its tentacles around it and, although it stole some of its glow, it couldn't consume it. So it focused on the two children who were now big, snatching the man and threatening the woman, showing her various torture devices. So the woman ran to the stag, wrapped her arms around it and turned it away from its flock, the octopus stealing the stag's sapphire eyes.

 

Q started to understand what was going on and whose story this was and wept for them, trying to scratch the evil creature out of existence. But it just grew bigger and scarier, consuming everything on the wall, causing cracks to appear in it. Q backed away fast when he realized that it was trying to come out, afraid that it was going to grab him.

 

When the first tentacle managed to get through, Q turned with his back to it and crouched down, shaking his head. "I don't like this. I don't like this at all. I don't belong here and I don't want to be here so why can't I leave?"

 

Shaky hands cupped his chin and something warm and humid rubbed against his nose, Q conjuring the image of a giant dog in front of him. "Please stop saying that. I am sorry, okay? I am sorry for what I said and what I did. But I promise that your place is here, by my side. I dress you in jewels from head to toe, I'll take you to places filled of books and inventions that weep for your magic touch if you so wish when you wake up."

 

"What did you do that you apologize to me in such a way? I don't think you are the type to easily let those words slip your tongue. I feel as if you'd be drop down dead at the mere thought of uttering them to someone that's not your own reflection," Q muttered, but he must have done it in such a weal voice that he wasn't heard because no answer came.

 

Instead, he was on top of a castle, next to the woman. She was staring with pure hatred at the man, clutching something at her chest, little golden sparks dancing around her fingers. "I begged you to trust me and you said you did. And now you killed him and yourself with your stupidity and ego. Why couldn’t you have trusted me until the end?" Her voice was calm, but Q shivered. It was the calm before the storm and he really didn't want to be stuck in its path.

 

"And yet, I am not who is bleeding at the front games of my castle." She recoiled as if the words struck her and she rushed to slap him, but the man caught her hands. "And you dare ask me why I didn’t offer you my full trust? When you whispered in corners worse than all of them? You who kept me sick for weeks on end just so you could run around with him?" He turned his head to the side and spat, throwing gold coins at the woman's feet. "I think this is more than enough to cover all of your services, my Lady."

 

Her entire body shook. "I curse you.” The world around her froze and lost its colour. “Your outward appearance will be as ugly as your soul. All those who lay eyes on you forget how you look the moment they turn away from you." He tried to get her to stop, but this time she managed to slap him, drawing blood. "Those who truly consider themselves your friends be nothing more than their titles. One will speak only when ordered and the other constantly and should any of them dream to go against my word, may all their insides turn to mush."

 

She jumped after that, a bitter smile on her face and for a moment, Q was afraid that the lord would jump as well. Instead he fell on his knees and screamed to the heavens in pain, his bones starting to crack as a powerful storm broke out of nowhere, the powerful wind pushing Q off.

 

He hit the ground sooner than expected, but he was not at the bottom of a ravine. Instead he found himself at the foot of a bed, on a soft carpet, drenched in sweat and tangled up in sheets. He tried to keep focused on the dream, sure that it was been very important, but a he was startled by dark blur.

 

It appeared from out of nowhere and when it picked him up, Q was sure that it was going to crush his bones. Instead, he was placed back on a bed, unsteady hands gently parting his hair to check that he hadn’t cracked his skull and his fear and dream was completely forgotten.

 

Q swatted at the hands, flinching when he tried to use his feet to push himself away. “I had rocks thrown at my head for the vast majority of my life so I assure you that I am fine and you can stop it.” Fur-covered hands moved from his head to his feet, gently lifting them up and in that moment, everything came back to Q. With great effort and just managing not to cry out in pain, he hit the grotesque lord in the snout, pushing himself against the headboard.

 

James let out a little whine, holding up the destroyed toys for Q to see. “They look wonderful like this and I am sure they would have been beyond amazing if I…I didn’t mean to, but sometimes the creature takes over and I see red in front of my eyes, so I accidentally—“

 

“Accidentally?” Q’s cold voice cut through James’ heart like a steel sword. “Did you also accidentally throw me out when I wanted to do something nice?” He kicked the creature again when it moved to get closer to him, the pain actually bringing tears to his eyes. “No, it was on purpose. You acted just like them. You destroyed the things I put my soul into, mocking me!”

 

Growling, James moved faster this time, managing to pin the younger man down before he could further hurt himself. “Stop that because you are only making everything worse. And I saved you; doesn’t that count as an apology or something?”

 

“You wouldn’t have had to save me if you hadn’t thrown me out in the first place!” Q started to struggle more when he was pulled up against James, hitting his chest with his fists. “You are nothing but an overgrown child I am just the newest pet that you grew tired of; a discarded toy that an adult shouted for throwing out.”

 

James waited for the man to tire himself out, taking every cuss and every hit and slap without as much as growling. He deserved every insult Q threw at him, but it made his insides burn when he heard the man call himself stupid and insane for actually thinking about living with him. He truly was no better than the villagers and he might as well have thrown rocks at him. It would have probably hurt the young man less.

 

“I call you my kitten, but I know you are not my pet and you are definitely not my toy,” he started to say carefully. “You are my Q; my precious, wonderful Q who builds so many interesting things and who speaks his mind even when something like me looms over him. I am sorry. I am deeply, truly sorry.”

 

It seemed like things were going okay and James was just thinking of how the two of them could kiss when Q slapped him hard. “I am not your Q. And because of that, it shouldn’t matter if I was interested in Sir Alec or not. You had no right to act the way you did!” He took a deep breath to calm himself down. “You said you got rid of my fever? I thank you for that as well as well as for saving me from those men, but I will remind you again that it was your fault I was there to begin with.”

 

James flinched, turning his head away from the man as he slowly lowered him back on the bed, more knives finding their home in his heart as Q moved to sit on the window still despite the pain he felt. This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go. He apologized from his heart and in a world where he hadn’t almost killed someone he cared about with his utter stupidity and animalistic brutality, it would have brought him forgiveness.

 

He realized that a title meant nothing and that Q was a far better person that he ever had been despite being born at the edge of a small village. He kept his kindness despite the world around him treating him like he was dirty and he hoped that he hadn’t been the one to take that away from him.

 

And if they were to part – which, at this point, it was inevitable – he would do his best to do so on pleasant terms. He will be damned a second time if he let Q go thinking that he had been just a simple jester in his eyes or seeing himself as the toy he had destroyed.

 

“I do not regret bringing you here. You have been the sun to light up my world and I have made you feel less than what you’re really worth.” He pulled something from under the bed which he put on Q’s before gently picking up his feet and touching them with his nose. “I cannot kiss because I have no real lips and I will put them on your feet only after your wounds are healed. Ask me anything and I will give it to you.”

 

Q pulled out a pair of shoes, looking at them without hiding his amazement. “You would give me anything? Would you even allow the knight you are so jealous of to leave with me?”

 

The words hurt a lot, but if that was what made Q happy again then James would do it. “If that is what you wish, I will order Alec leave with you. I will even give you Bill and fill a carriage to the brim with jewels and gold.” He jumped up and looked around the room, rubbing his head. “I’ll write a letter, parsing your genius so you’d find a place worthy of your talents.”

 

Coldness made its home in his heart at the thought of losing both Q and Alec, but did he really deserve any of the wonderful people that had stuck with him for so many years? Well, not like he had really given them another option. Maybe he should ask the rest if they still wanted to stay in the castle. They had been cursed to act like their titles, so if he released them from their servitude to him, they’d be free from the curse as well.

 

He was startled when he felt a hand on his back, quickly picking Q up in his arms. “You need to stay off your feet to allow them time to heal. I will put ointment on—No, I will ask Alec to help you with that.” He put Q back in bed, bundled him up and allowed himself to brush his face again before leaving the room.

 

Alec was by his side in an instant, nervously looking back at the door. “How is young Q faring?”

 

“He hates me and wants nothing to do with me, so I guess he is healthy.” Had the hallways always been this cold? “Did you find the men who dared to hurt my—guest?”

 

“I am afraid that the soldiers have returned empty handed. You should allow me to ride out with them—“

 

“No, no. Just send out double the numbers we did this time and relocate some of them around the front of the gates. Not the ones that Q interacted with. Keep those around his quarters and please see that he has everything he needs.”

 

“My lord? Are you in order?” The knight asked as he tried to remember the last time James had been sick. Maybe one of the swords had been washed in a slow acting poison that was now eating away at his lord’s mind, because that could be the only reason why the man had said ‘please’ to in in a non-mocking tone.

 

“Hm? Yes, yes just fine. Go see to Q’s needs already. And Alec?” The creature clutched the little toys to his chest, looking like he was in great pain. Alec really wanted to walk over to him and help him back to his room, but he stood still when he heard the warning growl. “I hope you will treat him better than I did or I will hunt you down and skin you alive.”

 

He disappeared before Alec could ask what he was on about and when he talked with Q, he was even more confused. The young man apologized to him, saying that his mouth went ahead of his brain again and that he hadn’t meant his request to James.

 

“If I may ask, young Q, what was this vain request?”

 

Q turned red and started to rub the back of his neck, looking at the ground. “I asked that he’d let you leave with me. But I didn’t really mean it. Ah, not that I wouldn’t like your company, but I simply do not really feel…I just wanted to… I was being overly mean and hurtful because…” he trailed off, moving his hands around in the air as if he was trying to draw.

 

Was there any trace of sense left in this castle? “Do you want me to summon Lord James for you?”

 

Q’s head snapped up and he grabbed Alec’s hands with so much force that the knight actually worried he’d get one of his fingers broken. “No! No, I have a slightly better idea. Or maybe worse, I am not quite sure,” he muttered, biting his lips, fisting his hands in his hair.

 

“Young Q, most of your ideas have been wonderful. And even the last one would have been great if not for my Lord’s disposition towards extreme fits of jealousy.” He patted the man’s head, offering him a reassuring smile even though he felt as if he needed one himself. “And Lord James said that I should see to your every need so I will do whatever you ask of me, short of ending his life in your name.”

 

“Nothing like that. I just want you to bring me the toys I made for him. Without him finding out. Can you please do that, Sir Alec?”

 

He really hoped he lived to regret it. Well, not because he wanted to regret it; he was more interested in the living part. James was sure to instantly notice the disappearance of the two things he seemed to currently hold second to Q – which seemed to also be the only things that kept him sane, especially if Q was going to leave soon.

 

“I will do my best.”

 

***

 

Eve was lingering in the doorway, looking as the giant beast destroyed what little he had left of his room. He didn’t seem to notice that she was there and in the long run, she assumed that was for the better. He had never rushed her like he did to Alec, the fact that she was easily crushed by his brute force still managing to register in his anger clouded mind, but she wasn’t so sure that would happen now.

 

“Where are they? Where are they?” He growled, outright clawing at the ground. “EVE! I can smell you! I know you are there! I need your help! Come now!”

 

Well, so much for her ability to blend in the shadows. M was so much better at this. “What is wrong, my lord? The whole castle is shaking with your anger.”

 

That, surprisingly enough, calmed him down instantly, reverting back to the most humane look he had in the past years. “I lost Q’s toys. I can’t find them. Eve, please help me find them.”

 

“My lord, unless you left them in the dining hall last night and they truly were in this room, I am afraid that we will find them even more broken than they already were.” She moved closer to the wall to give the man space to bolt past her to the hall, subtly trying to cover her ears as she prepared for him to let out a howl.

 

But all James did was plop in the middle of the room, sighing. “I see. Thank you. Please send someone to clean this mess and send my apologies to Q if my fit woke him up. Actually, see if the kitchen has those sweet things he seems to love eating the most.”

 

Eve made to walk to him, worried about how things were playing out, but M’s suddenly appeared out of nowhere and blocked her path, her eyes clearing instructing the younger woman to do as she had been asked – and again, ask instead of ordering was not something James knew how to do.

 

It took her a bit to reach where Q really was, the harsh winds making it harder than usual to navigate the inner gardens. She looked apologetically at him when he jumped up and tried to hide what he was working on before turning her attention to Alec who sat hovered behind him, ready to catch him if his legs gave him any trouble.

 

“The lord has noticed that they are missing, but his rage did not go beyond his room,” she announced and the knight sighed in relief.

 

Q pulled the covers back, showing her the toys. “Well, I am almost done with them. They just need a fresh coat of paint and I can give this whole thing another shot.”

 

She carefully ran her fingers over them, brows knitted in worry. “They are quite amazing. But are you sure you want to do this? He might take his offer back and refuse to ever let you go, should you change your mind in the future.”

 

“In the past, I would have been sure you spoke the truth, Lady Eve. But now…” He trailed off, picking up the little James. “Just make sure he actually comes down for supper.”

 

It took a bit of nagging on everyone’s part to get James to leave his room and by the time he entered the dining hall, he was more animal than human once again. But not once did he growl at them and bared his teeth. His bones simply cracked and shifted, revealing the silent storm that was going in his mind.

 

“The food was starting to get cold,” Q said, amused by the way James’ mouth fell open. “If you don’t sit down, I’ll start eating without you. That dreadful, sweet taste is finally gone from my mouth and I plan on enjoying this food.”

 

James almost collapsed in his chair, speechless. He even poked Q’s head to make sure he was there, the younger man happily poking him back with a fork that confirmed everything was real and not a dream.

 

And then the thought that this might be their last meal together crossed his mind and the little joy that was building inside of him disappeared. “Thank you for eating one last time with me, Q.”

 

Q signalled Alec over, the knight putting a little box in front of James before excusing himself, closing the doors behind him and giving the two their privacy. “You know, between the two of us, you run your mouth before thinking way more than I do.” Q teased.

 

The lord tried being careful when opening the box, he really did. But his excitement and curiosity got the better of him and tore through the wrapping paper, ripping the lid off the box – Q happy that he had taken Eve’s suggestion over Alec’s and went with a simple one – his entire face lighting up when he saw the miniature version of them.

 

“You fixed them. For me.” He put them carefully down and Q pulled out a little key, winding both of them up and letting them lose on the table. “Am I forgiven?” James asked, covering Q’s small hand with his.

 

“Not fully, no. But enough to want to give living with you another chance. Not that I have anywhere to go,” Q tried to lighten the mood by making a little joke which completely backfired as James pulled his hand away.

 

“I can buy a house. No, a whole village. They won’t dare to mock you if you own the village, especially if I give you a few more soldiers alongside Bill. You don’t have to live with me if you don’t want to.”

 

“No, you got it wrong,” Q said hurriedly, grabbing James’ arm. “I also don’t want to go anywhere.” He groaned and rested his head against the table. “I will never make a joke around you ever again.”

 

James pulled Q in his lap, nuzzling the back of his neck as he watched the little toys walk around the table, the miniature version of himself managing to break a glass of wine. “Not my fault that my tiny brain can’t understand your superior sense of humour. But please don’t stop and one day, I might understand tonight’s joke and I will laugh.”

 

Eve moved the glass she was using to hear what they were talking away from the door, holding back her laughter. “Well, think they’re okay now,” she told Alec since the man had completely failed at understanding how the glass thing was supposed to work. “They’re back to teasing each other. That or they’re really fighting over whose brain is bigger. Funny, I thought you men fought about the size of something else.”

 

Alec glared at her from a moment, opening and closing his mouth. How was a stab at that lady like? “Maybe now the lord can focus on the intruders which our soldiers still haven’t found. And I have this really bad feeling about them.”

 

Eve clicked her tongue, resting her hands on her hips. They had enough to deal with already without Alec thinking that someone was targeting their domain. “Every year we get all sorts of thrill seekers trying to find the castle to rob us. These ones simply bumped into Q and thought they could ransom him back to our lord.”

 

“They were mercenaries, Eve. The bodies had the exact sum of money on them and papers that seemed to come from the same place.” He sighed in frustration. “Sadly, the blood seeped into them and I couldn’t make out what was on them.”

 

“Maybe they were instructions for how to find the castle?” Yet even she started to feel less certain of her own words, a sense of apprehension settling about her own heart. “Or maybe not, but let’s not bother our lord with this until we are sure.”

 

Alec nodded. “I will discuss this with M. If she thinks I should ride out and look for them on my own, then I will.”

 

 

Chapter Text

The weather had changed instantly and not in the ’when we went to bed, it was slightly chilly and we when we woke up, we were covered in snow’ way. No, they actually came across a physical line that separated the green, lush and slightly unsettling in its silence part of the forest from the one covered in snow. The horses instantly buckled and refused to budge while the mercenaries clung tighter to their shields and huddled behind their leader, whispering among each other.

 

It wasn’t just the obvious magical barrier that they were expected to cross that had gotten them nervous. They were tired because of the long march they had been forced on by their ruthless employers, hungry and in desperate need of ale to soothe their nerves. The castle seemed to move further and further away from them and no one could wrap their head around why they hadn’t dumped into the caravan.

 

Something that large and heavy – because gold looked pretty, it shone very nice under the sun and it showed just how rich the nobleman was, but it slowed everything down – shouldn’t have been able to make such a long trip so fast. Thought Silva suspected that there had to be shortcut or something that wasn’t on the map, despite the fact that they had been walking in a pretty straight line.

 

“You ain’t paying us enough to go through there,” the largest man grumbled, shaking his head and crossing his arms over his chest, managing to look like a woman who was rejecting a poor fool who had proposed to her. “We want double—no, triple what we talked about of we’re turning on around.” He had thought about threatening them with bodily harm, but he knew Le Chiffre didn’t react well when that happened.

 

He started to get the feeling that being threatened with abandonment didn’t do any good for the man’s nerve when his good eye twitched. “I’m sorry to hear that, especially since you were one of my favourite.” His sword was in the man’s stomach in the blink of an eye, Silva tying his feet up and tossing the rope over a tree branch.

 

A few reached for their swords, but when Le Chiffre turned to glare at them, they shivered and stilled their movements. They weren’t crazy enough to further anger the man, just in case he proved capable to take them all, so they watched in shame as Silva calmed down his horse enough to tie the other end of the rope to it and hang their former leader upside down in the tree.

 

“It wounds me to see you speak against us,” Silva was saying with an overly dramatic voice tone, one hand over his heart. “To think that the people I am paying with my hard earned money would actually consider abandoning me and my dear, esteemed partner in this place…” He trailed off, letting out one long, suffering sigh.

 

Le Chiffre pulled out a golden chalice from his satchel and held it under the wounded man, training his eyes on the rest of the men. “Theatre representation aside, I am not saying that this exact same fate is what awaits anyone else who will make me lose precious time and try to extort me out of money, but it is a given that they will not get to see tomorrow.” He sniffed the chalice and dipped his tongue in the warm liquid, making a disgusted face. “Huh, I do not know why I thought a coward’s blood would taste good.”

 

Silva shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets. “If you are all done soiling your pants, feel free to go calm down the horses; you have five minutes. If you are not done by then, either put down the animal and continue on foot, or take your own life and spare us the energy.” He took a step and stopped suddenly, getting an idea. “Oh, and whoever stabs him gets an extra fifty gold coins. And do hurry up, because you will not get extra time to do this.”

 

After the man was killed, his once companions ignoring his please for mercy, they all focused on getting the horses to calm down. And the animals must have sensed the certain death that awaited them because they instantly settled down and slowly started to carry their respective riders in the snow covered land. A few buckled when their hooves touched the frozen ground and almost threw the men off, but a side glance from Le Chiffre and they all calmed down, just occasionally neighing to show their discomfort and uneasiness.

 

They pushed through the storm that seemed to constantly be going on around them, making the men dig in the snow to put up camps so they wouldn’t freeze to death. The trees were all frozen and the little wood they did managed to find were too wet to be used as fire logs.

 

“We’re eventually going to freeze to death and I can’t stand the way the horses smell,” Silva complained the second time they ended up sleeping in the ground. “I hope we either find a cave or reach the castle already. I am sick of eating frozen mushrooms.”

 

He couldn’t be angry with Silva, because those were his exact feelings. He wanted to sink his teeth in some meat and, although they’d seen dears bolt around them, they were carrying too many things to properly give chase. “We are moving towards a rather large cave, a few minutes away from some hot springs, if this map is right.”

 

Silva’s entire face light up at that. “Hot springs, you say? That is the perfect place for all sort of delicious forest critters to camp out during the winter. You hear that, men? We’re close to a little piece of heaven!”

 

The morale was still non-existent, but fearing that they would be cut down, the men still cheered to please Silva. Running away was out of the question at this point, afraid that they’d get lost in the snowstorm without a map and they had heard large wolfs howling in the distance. They were smart enough to know that during winter, the wolves were hungry and a large enough pack would have no problem tearing them apart.

 

They reached the cave in three days and Le Chiffre immediately ordered them to set up a proper camp, sending the three largest men deeper into the cave to seek out materials to make a fire and due away with whatever bears they found.

 

They found three large bears sleeping soundly, so soundly that they did not wake up at all while being stabbed. They all ate like kings that night because Silva and le Chiffre weren’t stupid enough to starve their troops when they were getting ready for a battle, even if they planned on storming the castle by surprise; they didn’t really care if the men survived until they end as long as they lasted enough for Le Chiffre to kill the noble and Silva to drag Q by his hair from whatever dungeon – or the noble’s bed, if his hunch was right – by the scruff of his neck.

 

That night was the best sleep Silva had in months and they were filled of Q, of course and the life he imagined himself having with the other man and his wife. He’d give the woman five children, but Q would be tasked with raising them and in his mind, his wife wouldn’t mind the fact that their best servant would sleep in the same bed with them.

 

Everyone was going to love him and the king and queen of the land would bestow upon better titles after this whole thing was over. And if nothing intervened, he’d ditch the simple daughter of the town’s elder for a countess or even a princess in five years, give the woman two more children and then use the seven fruits of his loins to ensure an easy life.

 

His sweat dreams were ended when a boot connected with his ribs and he woke to the amused face of Le Chiffre. “You talk in your sleep, of all things, future count Silva.”

 

Silva huffed and rolled on his side, instantly noticing the missing horses and men. “What happened? Did more of them get bright ideas about abandoning us?”

 

“No, I sent a few out as scouts. Last night, for a brief moment, the snow storm stopped and I caught a glimpse of the castle.” He ran his hand through the bear skins, checking to see if they were drying properly. “Hmm, we’re going to lose the third one.”

 

It was disturbing to think why he was so good at skinning, so Silva decided to push that thought somewhere in the back of his mind and try his best not to get on his bad side. “I’m sure there are better skins in the castle, maybe even golden ones if that man is as obsessed with gold as I think he his.”

 

“A pure, golden skin is impossible if magic isn’t involved. I have an acquaintance—“

 

“Monster! We were attacked by a huge monster!” A man shouted on top of his lungs as he rode inside the cave, followed by a few others. He threw himself at Le Chiffre’s feet, rubbing his head against his shoes. “Please, please, let us leave this place! I will give you all the money I have saved if you do!”

 

“We all will!” The others joined in, also falling to their knees. “Just, don’t make us go back out there! He easily crushed a horse! And don’t make me tell you how easily he ripped the humans to shreds, despite the swords that were sticking in him.”

 

Le Chiffre kicked the man off, dusting his shoes. “I believe you’ve met our dear lord Bond, but I have to ask what you were doing to bring out the beast in him.” He pulled out an animal skin that was filled with wine and gave it to the man, smiling reassuringly at him as he patted the rock next to him, Silva getting the point and draping one of their extra thick blankets around him.

 

It was clear they weren’t really concerned and were faking for the sake of getting the information out of him faster, but the man didn’t mind. He was cold, he was scared and he was pretty sure he had started death right in the face and lived to tell about it, so a good gulp of expensive wine was more than welcomed. “We found the kid Mister Silva is after. And-”

 

“Wait, what?” Where is he?” Silva asked, looking around the cave before walking over to the horses and starting to pull of their blankets, expecting to find Q under one. "Where is he? Did you drop the scrawny thing?” He would have reached for his sword to cut the man for taking far too long to reply, but the man was saved by a swift head shake from Le Chiffre.

 

“Last we saw him, he was looking at the creature,” another man said slowly, rubbing his hands together to try and get some blood flowing through them. “He was bawling his eyes out when we grabbed him, so I think that horrible beast was chasing him before we found him. He might be dead.”

 

The other men who had witnessed the whole thing nodded furiously, glancing between them. “So maybe it would be a good idea to leave? Since one of the reasons why we came here is dead and we might be the next to follow if that thing is still hungry?” Another piped in, very hopeful.

 

Le Chiffre clicked his tongue and Silva barely hid the fact that he was shaking with anger, not liking the prospect of Q getting killed. “I doubt that,” Le Chiffre said slowly, brushing his hand briefly against Silva’s back in what might have been seen as a calming gesture by the other man when, in fact, he was trying to get some mud off of his gloves. “In fact, I will go as far as to say that the only reason you got attacked was because you were trying to abscond with the precious Q.”

 

So the deformed lord had fallen for the other man which meant that they couldn’t avoid a fight. A pity, but in all honestly, Le Chiffre was hoping for that, dreaming of having the creature’s head mounted on his wall above the fireplace ever since he had found out for three doctors that the man might not be entirely human.

 

At least that little rumour was confirmed for him and the inventor was still alive, so nothing could be considered a waste of time and therefore, he didn’t need to think of a very unpleasant and painful method of killing Silva and the rest of the mercenaries. They simply had to be a bit more careful just in case and try to find a way to sneak inside the castle without altering him or his supposedly invincible and dangerous soldiers.

 

And just to test out and see just how dangerous they were or if they were competent, Le Chiffre himself and with the aid of Silva used an entire day to track them, finally managing to separate one from the very uniform group they were walking in and trap him. Their surprise wasn’t small when the pulled the armour off of him and found nothing but gears.

 

Everyone but Silva and Le Chiffre fell on their knees and started saying their prayers, pulling out crosses from under their armours, kissing them. Silva just kicked the mechanical doll, thrusting his sword in its arm as hard as he could when it grabbed his leg, cutting the limb off.

 

“This looks like the kind of witchcraft Q does,” Silva muttered, frowning.

 

Le Chiffre snorted, slowly shaking his head. He was cursed to forever be surrounded by idiots who weren’t able to look past the teachings given to them by some old fool in robes with a thick cross handing from their necks. Simply pathetic. However, if this was the type of thing Q usually did then he’d have to make sure he’d get his hands on his brain for more than a week – and seeing that Silva now dreamed of being a count instead of a simple town elder, it shouldn’t be too hard to do. “My dear friend, it is not witchcraft what your young man is doing. He has a brilliant mind which I would hate to see be wasted just between your sheets.”

 

He carefully touched the machine, surprised that it was still moving. He had the men tie it up to a stalagmite after which he continued to rip it apart, licking his lips. A pity it didn’t have a face, he thought. At how advanced it was he was sure that pain would be etched in its features, maybe even something similar to tears coming out of its eyes. Oh, how satisfied he’d be if he could see that.

 

“It is as if it can feel pain, Silva. Just look at this wondrous thing,” he whispered, signalling the man to come closer. “I wonder what makes it tick.”

 

“Magic,” came a grumbled answer from somewhere behind them, the mercenaries all sitting huddled in the f corner that still go heat, watching them with narrowed eyes.

 

“A primitive answer from primitive people,” was Le Chiffre’s swift reply, a small knife embedding between the eyes of the one who looked at them with the most hate. “Just a little reminder to you all in case you’re having second thoughts about sticking with us until the end.”

 

Ignoring the pang of insult that ran through him, Silva cleared his throat. “We should wait for Q to wander out of the castle and snag him. I am sure we won’t have any trouble if we’re all there.”

 

“Something tells me that his little trip outside the walls was a onetime thing. You said he was alone and crying when you found him?” He chuckled when the men nodded, taking out a little box out of a satchel. “They might have had a fight and Q ran away. But, now that our companions acted so carelessly—“

 

“We were only trying to get this thing done with faster!”

 

“—Lord Bond will make sure that he’s being constantly watched,” Le Chiffre continued, letting the fact that he’d been so rudely interrupted slip. They really couldn’t afford to lose any more soldiers at this point, but after he was done stuffing the beast and mounting him in his trophy room, he’d deal with the man.

 

“So, what do you suggest we do? Sit here and wait for spring? Hope that the creature dies all of a sudden?” Silva ask, clearly having lost all of his patience all of a sudden. Sentiments and attachments were really a hassle and they will surely be his downfall.

 

Still, he had to admit to himself that he was also a bit on the edge, fingers twitching even as he started to do what he loved the most after numbers. “We’ll move out in two weeks. If my hunch is right, the weather will calm down enough for us not to get lost in the wild while we sneak in.”

 

***

 

Alec would have liked to get his Lord’s attention long enough to present the many obvious tracks that someone which should be considered dangerous was camping out somewhere in their vast estate – deer carcases, bear carcases, partial footprints that belonged to no one from the house, a bloody dead body of someone who was definitely part of bad who had attempted to kidnap Q – but there was no such luck.

 

“He’ll forever be a distracted child,” Alec grumbled, counting the soldiers again just to be sure that they were really missing one.

 

The good thing was that he had ordered M to see to this little pest problem which gave James all the time in the world to be a mix between happy that Q would stay with him until they both returned to the earth or worried that he seemed to have caught a rather stubborn cold that refused to go away no matter how much of that magical potion Q was giving.

 

The cold wasn’t that serious and Q had speculated that was the reason why the medicine wasn’t working. It was only supposed to be taken in worst case scenarios and ‘the sniffles’ obviously didn’t qualify for that. Not that it stopped James from ordering ‘the cook’ to sneak the liquid in everything and anything that Q might ingest, which the young man detected immediately.

 

“I do still own taste buds, you know. And you may be feeding me things that I have never even heard of in my entire life, but I know that they are not supposed to taste like this,” Q said, pushing the plate away. “So, you can give me the stale bread and jug of water now. And don’t think I won’t pour the water over your head if I even smell the thing in it.”

 

James tried to act innocent, claiming that he had no idea that the food had been tampered with, shaking his fist in the air as dramatically as he could. Who dared to do such a thing? He will personally seek them and stuff the food down their throats to see if they liked the taste to avenge Q.

 

You could actually see Q’s eye twitch as he picked up the piece of meat and shoved it in James’ mouth, drumming his fingers on the table. “There, I am now avenged. Now, can you stop trying to be sneaky and let the cold go away by its self?”

 

Alec and Eve managed to hide their laughter, but M had snorted, hands crossed over her chest as she stared at James who was overacting and drinking milk jug after milk jug. Q had his arms wrapped around his stomach, laughing as loudly as he could, hitting the ground with his feet until pain shot up through them – he was still recovering from the serious frostbites he had suffered.

 

“I will stop putting it in your food, but you are not getting out of taking it, little kitten.” James was saying from under the table, busying himself with slowly massaging Q’s feet. “You don’t take medicine because you like it; you take it because it makes you feel better.”

 

That was a surprisingly mature thing of the man to say and Alec just stared in wonder at the two, James with his head in Q’s lap and Q softly scratching the top of his head with a look in his eyes that spoke volumes. It was only in that moment that Alec realized how much his master had evolved, despite the fact that he clearly had to work on his temperament quite a lot.

 

James hadn’t left Q’s side at all when the young man had been unconscious diligently spreading the salve on the wounded feet, wiping away his sweat and helping Eve change him whenever he sweated too much. Alec even listening in on James ordering M speak her mind, the woman pretty much ripping him a new one for the next five hours and stopping only because Q suddenly jumped up in the bed, eyes wide in terror, reaching for something.

 

Alec had never seen James more scared then he was in that moment in his entire life. He wrapped his arms around Q and held him to his chest, gently rubbing his back and whispering reassuring things in his ear while he young man started to cry, saying that he had no right to be there and asking to be allowed to leave.

 

“Hm, you are cheating over here because I can’t quite run properly, so you will have no trouble chasing me down and stuffing this horrible thing down my throat.” Q’s low murmur snapped Alec back to reality and he watched as he rested his head on top of James’, closing his eyes and sighing in content. That was when M grabbed both Eve and Alec’s ears and tugged on them until the two left the room with her, closing the door behind her.

 

Eve groaned and Alec pouted, but neither said anything. It was intimate, what the two had between them, despite the more than obvious reasons while neither acted on their feelings – and also because neither was really ready to openly admit the existence of them, James walking away whenever Alec even brushed the subject and Q simply blocking Eve out and focusing as much as he could on whatever he was tinkering with.

 

Again, cute and adorable, but Alec just wished that James would shift his worry from Q’s health to Q’s security. “Major Boothroyd is worried and he keeps mumbling something about one of his children missing,” Alec said the instant James was done tucking a sleeping Q in the bed, averting his eyes when his Lord started to gently pat Q’s head. “And I can confirm that one of the soldiers is indeed missing.”

 

James pushed his hand against Alec’s mouth, gently picking him up and carrying him outside of the room, softly closing the doors and listening in for a minute to be sure that Q was indeed sleeping. “If Q hears that, he’ll want to go out and look for him. Do you want his cold to worsen of him to be captured again? Because you know he’ll sneak out even if I fall asleep on him,” he whispered, pushing Alec to his room.

 

“And I am so happy to see that you’re agreeing with my hunch that the ones who attempted to kidnap Q are the same ones who are killing on your land. This is why I think that it would be for the best if we focused a bit on that and actually come up with a defence plan,” Alec insisted, trying to ignore how amusing it was that such a large creature was doing his best to be silent for once in his entire life and failing miserably - knocked over three vases, walked into an opened window when he was looking behind him at Q’s room and the doors to his own room fell apart when he simply touched them.

 

Alec was sure that James was going to have another one of his well know fits, but he simply stopped and took a deep breath. “This whole place is starting to fall apart.” He grabbed Alec’s arm before the knight go out to call for someone to fix the doors, holding him tight, but not enough to hurt him. “Alec, you’ve been my friend for far longer than you’ve been my servant.”

 

He didn’t like this. This was never the way a happy conversation started. “I also see myself as your babysitter, Lord James. But we should really focus on the armed trespassers–”

 

James placed a hand over Alec’s mouth again, pushing him in his chest, hugging him. It was very strange and worrisome, especially since the last time they had hugged they were just ten years old. “I am doing just that, stop interrupting me.” He squeezed him a bit tighter, ruffling his hair before letting him go. “At the first sign of me getting wounded, grab Q and everyone else and go to the back entrance. There are two large carriages there, filled with enough gold and jewels for everyone to live a life without any hardships.”

 

Alec pinched himself then, ignoring the flash of hot, scorching pain that travelled through his entire body, pinched his lord’s nose as hard as he could. “Are you insane? Are you giving up? I thought that young Q’s presence here was giving you hope, especially after he asked to stay by your side.” His vision was covered in white spots, darkness nibbling away at its edges, but at least he was starting to get used to the pain.

 

“I’m being realistic, Alec. For once in my entire life, I pulled my head out of my own ass and I am taking all possibilities into consideration. I might get killed and…” He threw his head back and let out a bitter laugh. “There is no way to break this curse while I am alive, Vesper made sure of that. And Q will grow tired of this place and will want to visit the world and fall for someone who is more…human. He will leave my side one way or another.” He helped Alec sit down in a chair, patting his back.

 

“There is no possible way for you to know that for sure. She didn’t say it was unbreakable; she simply didn’t really leave a clue as to how to do that,” Alec growled out. “Will all the respect that I can muster, you are an idiot of the highest order, my lord.” He spat blood after this and when James realized that he wanted to carry on talking, he covered his mouth again.

 

“Stop talking and do what I tell you, Alec. I know who is here; and his rotten smell is mixed with that of a hundred dead people. I will not let him get near my Q, even if I die, do you understand?”

 

Alec nodded slowly, sighing when the pain finally subsided. “After all that’s happened, do you still not know how to trust those around you? Do you not trust us to defend you? Or young Q to come up with something so amazing that no swords could penetrate, no matter how sharp they are?”

 

It was obvious that James was struggling to keep his calm, bones constantly cracking as he shifted between his more humane look to the animalistic ones. “Again, I am being realistic and nothing more. Send out smaller numbers, to not tip off our enemies that we know what they are up to and prepare the others for a battle.” He pushed the windows open, closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, growling. “That man’s stench has started to become stronger which means that they are getting closer and I will not have him lay a single finger on my kitten.”

 

“Your will is my command no matter what I think of it, my lord,” Alec grumbled, pushing himself up from the chair to bow low.

 

“And Alec, I never did this to you, but…” He took a deep breath, closing his eyes. “I order you not to tell anything about this to Q.” James voice actually shook when he did that and Alec felt as if he had been struck. The perfect knight always follows his lord’s order.

 

After that conversation, Alec started to see the way James interacted with Q as something sad instead of cute. He was trying to be around Q as much as possible, just in case things did not go right during the impeding battle - and Alec was sure that James was preparing to roll on his back if it meant that they’d be free from the curse and Q would be rid of that dreadful Silva, even if he was going to cry buckets and buckets after his death.

 

Q assumed James was that clingy because that was the only way James knew how to show others that he was sorry for what he had done. Not that he minded, hugging him tightly and burying his face in his fur, looking at him with so much love that Alec was sure he would shatter and turn into something cold and world hating if James was ripped from him.

 

Well, his lord had ordered him not to say anything to Q. He didn’t mention anything about anyone else, so naturally Eve was the first to find out. The woman was livid with anger, her entire body shaking and Alec was sure that if she voiced her thoughts, she would cough out blood for days.

 

The only moment when James wasn’t by Q’s side was when the young man was taking a bath - although he had tried to sneak in the room with him at one point, only to end up with the door slammed over his snout and banished to the foot of the bed for that entire night and given the silent treatment all throughout breakfast. But he was still guarding the door so Bill, without Eve as much as uttering a word, distracted him by ripping his arm.

 

James, of course, panicked because it was Bill. “Put your arm back this instant,” he hissed.

 

“Hm? Did you say anything, James?” Q called from the bathroom and James instantly hid the robotic arm behind him just in case the young man chose that exact moment to come out.

 

“I said that I am going to send someone with more hot water! Don’t you dare to get out of there or so help me, I will drown you in that medicine you hate!” He picked Bill up and bolted towards Boothroyd’s room, hoping the man would somehow fix the machine that Q loved so much despite his madness.

 

Eve instantly entered the bathroom, locking the door behind her and throwing herself at Q, covering his mouth. Because really, everyone knew that James would be by the young man’s side even if he as much hiccupped in distress, so yelling was definitely not allowed.

 

“Lady Eve, what are you doing here?” Q asked after he realized that he really wasn’t in danger the woman couldn’t stand the pain and she released his mouth in favour of clutching her sides, crouching next to the large tub.

 

“I am sorry to intrude like this, Q, but I really need to discuss something important,” she wheezed out.

 

By the time she was done, Q was fuming with anger – although, compared to the way her lord usually reacted when that happened, Q was more a kitten whose favourite ball of yarn had been ripped from his tiny, adorable kitty paws. In all honesty, if this wasn’t important, she would have pinched his cheeks.

 

“Thank you for telling me about the latest stupid thing that he is planning on doing.” He sighed, sinking a bit into the water. “I think I am more disappointed than angry. I mean, I am sure that between Sir Alec, Lady M and himself, they’d come up with a better plan. And don’t get me started on the many things I could create that would be more than helpful to repel the attackers. Can’t he trust us at least a little?”

 

Eve moved to pat the sulking man, looking up at the ceiling to give him as much privacy as she could. “Lord Bond has trouble with that and I am sure it has something more to do with his fear that Silva might somehow manage to snatch you up and use you as a shield. This is the first time he actually thinks of someone who is not him, you know.” She leaned closer to him and placed a soft kiss on his wet hair just in time for James to walk in, Bill easily pushing past the stunned man to start waving his arms in front of Q.

 

“Oh, Bill, are you okay? Your hand is moving strangely; come here, let me look at it.” He seemed to forget that he was naked, standing up and out of the tub. “You poor thing; did you try to lift something very heavy with just a hand again?”

 

Eve excused herself when James glanced in her direction, the woman’s amazing ability to make herself disappear almost instantly tipping the man that she had done something she wasn’t supposed to do. He got an idea what it was by the deep frown that appeared on Q’s forehead when he glanced at him and James had to give Alec credit for being a lot more resourceful than he had thought.

 

James placed Q’s glasses back on his nose, the man’s squint disappearing instantly. “Your cold will worsen and you don’t have your tools here.” He wrapped him up in a large cloth, dumping a smaller one on top of his head and gently starting to rub his hair. “Did she—“

 

“Yes,” Q cut him off, tilting his head back to glare at him. “And we really need to talk about it, James, because I am not happy with it at all.”

 

James sighed, resting his head on Q’s, wrapping his arms around him. “Not happy with me trying to keep you and everyone else safe?”

 

Q clicked his tongue and shook his head, managing to cross his arms over his chest without losing the things he was wrapped in. “No, I am not happy because you seem to have lost your brain and instead of working with the rest of us to deal with this, you are okay with doing something extremely stupid. Trust them to be able to protect you, if you don’t trust me.”

 

The words stuck a cord in James, the creature scratching his head. Everyone was going on and on about trust as if Vesper had wrapped her ghost around them and whispered words in their ears, but no one really bothered to show that they trusted him. Yes, he was aware that it was looking as if he was about to roll over and die, but he was planning on fighting until his last breath.

 

Granted, his strategy included devoting more than half of the soldiers to run with the carriages that were meant to carry everyone to safety, strict orders to break away only if anyone attacked them. He’d even pulled Bill aside and shook him as he growled in his ear that he wasn’t to move from Q’s side unless the man was in danger – he wasn’t sure the thing understood, but he hope he did.

 

Still, why was everyone obsessed with gaining his trust? He’d never trusted anyone and the one time he almost did, he got poisoned and then cursed. Could Q really do anything to him if he’d lie to him and then stuff him in the carriage? Nothing more than shout mean things, that was for sure. He couldn’t get any more cursed than he already was and if the worst thing happened and he was somehow killed, then it didn’t matter of somehow, Q turned out to have similar abilities to Vesper.

 

Well, unless he cursed his spirit to never leave the castle, but he supposed that as long as it only applied to his, he didn’t care. Not that he’d really be able to find it within himself to do anything to stop Q from cursing the others. Maybe, just to be sure, he should order some of his toys to forcefully push everyone that was human in the carriages. That way, Q would only feel betrayed by James and not anyone else – he also had a hunch that they’d all refuse to run away.

 

“James, calm down!” Q shouted suddenly and when James turned to look in his direction, he realized that he had never seen him so small. He was sitting on his knees, hands covering his ears, green eyes glaring daggers at him. “This can’t be healthy and you can’t tell me that your bones cracking so loudly aren’t hurting you.”

 

It really wasn’t. He was too busy upsetting himself to notice anything and by now, he had gotten used to the changed his body went through when his mood dictated it. Still, Q was in discomfort when he assumed James was, so he would do his best not to let his mind wander in such dark places until his full beast self was needed.

 

Q patted James’ stomach, chuckling when the large tail started to wag. “Now, if you want to give me a helping hand in the laboratory, try to revert back to your normal self. And don’t even think about licking me,” Q added quickly when he saw the large tongue lulling out of the creature’s mouth. “If I end up having to take another bath because of you, I will lock you out of my room again.”

Chapter Text

Q had pretty much moved in his laboratory. He ate there, he slept there, and he slaved over whatever inventions he thought would be of use in the impending battle, going to the castle only when he started to look like a rainbow due to the various powders he was working with. James managed to keep his mouth shut and just sulk while helping the young for a whooping two days.

 

“You are to blame for me working this much,” Q sneered as he struggled to either roll out from under James or push him off. “And you are not helping our situation and the schedule I made for myself by acting like an immovable object right now.”

 

“I know I can’t stop you from doing whatever you want,” the creature growled more than grumbled, scratching lightly at the floor with his talons, “So I propose a deal. You take tonight off in order to eat and sleep like the normal human being you are supposed to be and I will roll off of you.”

 

It wasn’t that James disliked it when Q got comfortable on top of him, promoting him from assistant who didn’t really know what he was doing to giant, fluffy, and warm mattress or that he found feeding the young man with a spoon annoying. He loved being used by Q in such a manner, trusting him not to roll on him in his sleep or not to poke his eye out with the silverware - although he had almost done that once and another time he pushed soup in Q’s ear by accident.

 

But the work was getting to be too much for Q. He was paler, his bones cracked when he stretched and he wasn’t eating as much as he was supposed to eat.

 

“Just for this one night, little kitten.” He started to rub Q’s back gently, rubbing his face against his. “I am not asking for much; just to see you in a proper bed and at a proper table, eating the food while it is hot.”

 

Q, almost a puddle from the much needed massage, groaned and nodded. “But as soon as the sun comes up, I’ll resume my work.” He turned and pushed his finger in James’ chest. “And yes, what I said applies even if the sun is covered by clouds.”

 

Of course Q would see through James’ lame plan. “I am hurt that you think I’d stoop so low as to claim the sun wasn’t out if it was cloudy.” He moved off of Q, having a little tug-of-war of sorts with Bill over who got to help the inventor up.

 

Bill won, but only because Q hissed James’ name and clicked his tongue. And if James didn’t know any better, he would swear that the automatic soldier beamed at him as he tried to push Q’s glasses back on his face without hurting his new master - it was clear by that point that the thing would only listen to Q and do Q’s bidding and James was nothing more to it than the strange creature that kept trying to lock him in a room without Q.

 

No one was surprised when they were ordered to prepare the ballroom as if an actual ball was about to take place. His infatuation with Q and supreme admiration and adoration of the young man and his mind was obvious to everyone but Q himself - which was both good and bad at the same time. Good because, as things currently were, there was no way for either one of them to actually act on it and bad because it said so much about how little Q was used to people courting him without being outright violent towards him.

 

They cleaned the floors until you could see your reflection in them, dusted off the curtains only to change all of them because James spotted a tiny hole in one, and put in use the best silverware.

 

“Everything has to be perfect,” James was muttering as he walked along the large table, straightening out a fork or tossing away a spoon that didn’t shine bright enough. “I want that mischievous mouth of his to open and close at least three times before he says something.”

 

Alec had the hardest time to keep a straight face because he had been unofficially tasked with following James around and making sure that his instructions were being followed to the letter, so he was the one most exposed to the lord’s ridiculousness. Such as if the green table cloth was too green? Did it perfectly match Q’s eyes? Or were they overdoing it with the candelabras? What if they were too shiny and the light that would reflect off of them hurt Q’s eyes?

 

“No, no, take them all back and build a fire,” James said after having glared at candelabra for ten minutes straight.

 

“The only way a simple fire would offer enough light to this room is if we build it right in the middle and we cannot do that in such a short amount of time, unless you want the castle to catch fire and traumatize your young Q,” Alec explained as if talking with a child, knowing the instant James’ ears flattened against his head that he had won. “The candelabras will do just fine; put that one back on the table and let’s decide on what my Lord will wear tonight.”

 

Truth be told, no one but James thought it took a lot to impress Q. The man seemed happy to just be in a place where he could build things without being called a witch and if he had someone to talk with that didn’t think him insane. Everything else as an added bonus that made his life even better but for which he wouldn’t spill tears if he was suddenly without.

 

Still, this was the first time in his life that Alec had seen his Lord and friend invest this much time and effort in wooing someone. Would this have happened if his Lord hadn’t been turned into the creature who was currently throwing his best clothes all over his room, desperately searching for that one perfect suit? Probably not; back then, his head was too far up his ass to notice someone like Q was the first time they met.

 

“Alec, which one do you think Q would like more?” James asked, holding up what appeared to be two identical suits.

 

It was going to hurt because of the curse, but Alec just had to say it. “Whichever doesn’t break when you lose your temper when you think the soup is either too hot or too cold?” He clutched his chest tightly and the air was knocked out of him, James surprising him by helping him sit down in a chair, squeezing his shoulder until the spasms stopped.

 

Meanwhile, Q was trying to get rid of the blue smoke that filled his laboratory when he mixed two things he shouldn’t have had, Eve covering her mouth with her hands to keep herself from laughing. She had no idea what he had done, but it changed his hair colour from brown to a dark blue and he was completely unaware of it.

 

“Don’t tell James about this little mishap,” he asked sheepishly, waving his arms around to get the smoke out faster. “It really wasn’t anything dangerous in the real sense of the word,” they had to put out a fire before they started to worry about the smoke, but Eve wasn’t going to point that out, “and I really want to do everything in my power to protect him.”

 

It was a tad amusing that a willow of a man who was actually affected by a strong gust of wound was saying that about a man who could grow in size and had sharp fangs and teeth that could also change their size. But it was touching more than anything and Eve let out a little noise before she could stop herself that had Q blushing to the tips of his ears.

 

“I mean, it is the least I can do for him,” he added quickly. “I might have been dragged here and he has a bit of a temper, but his bark is worse than his bite,” he continued, smiling softly as he hugged a singed notebook to his chest. “But don’t tell him that either because I am sure it will go to his big head and his ego is already so huge that we can barely fit him and it in a room.”

 

Eve arched an eyebrow, but said nothing. If Q wanted to use the excuse of her lord’s ego as the reason why he was always glued to him, then it was his prerogative to do so. “You can trust me to not say anything about your opinions regarding my Lord, young Q,” she assured him, unable to hold back from running her fingers through his hair, curious to see if the blue would wash away. “But I am afraid that my lord would know something didn’t go the way it was supposed to go with your tinkering just by looking at your hair.”

 

Q’s eyes widened, hands flying to his head. “Please tell me that it simply changed colours and that it didn’t fall out or got turned into something else.” Eve nodded mutely and Q sighed in relief. “A long soak in water should get it out.” He glanced at the still smoking cabin and his shoulder slumped. “There’s not much I can do in there until the inside is cleared anyway.

 

Eve spent the next three hours talking to Q through the bathroom’s door, managing to convince him to wear something nice for that night’s dinner. It wasn’t anything special, she insisted without sounding like she was; she was simply curious how the fancier clothes looked on him, ignoring the little stab of pain that travelled through her body brought on by what she was doing.

 

"Are you sure James didn’t ask you to convince me to wear them?” Q asked with uncertainty.

 

She chuckled, already picking out the perfect outfit for Q. “Not to speak ill of my Lord, but in the period you spent with him have you know him to be subtle about anything?”

 

“My lady has a point,” Q muttered, poking his head out of the bathroom. “Well, since he is not forcing me, I think I will. I will even wear those shoes he obsesses over.”

 

He looked like royalty and Eve did not hold back from bowing low in front of him. “One should treat a lord as he deserves,” she explained and Q only turned redder. “These clothes suit you even more and they make it seem like you are missing a crown. Do you find them comfortable? Or is the material that has been used for them irritating?”

 

Q looked afraid to move. “It feels like I am wearing nothing, my Lady,” he admitted. “And my lady also confused me for her lord. I am nothing by a teacher’s son who lives in a little cottage by the side of the forest.”

 

Eve walked around him and placed her hands on his shoulders, gently pushing him towards the ballroom. “As I said: you are only missing the crown, Q. And it seems you’re forgetting that you now live in a castle and have hundreds of willing servants, the lord of the castle included.” She gave him a little push just as the doors opened and Q froze when he saw how the room looked.

 

James looked at up him surprised, a huge smile spreading on his lips when he saw the way he was dressed. He signalled Q to come down next to him, but when he saw that the young man was hesitating, he was in front of him in a flash, eyes sparkling with happiness.

 

“You look better than I thought you would with these clothes on,” James whispered, turning to face the room and offering Q his arm. “Nobles of both genders would duel each other for a chance to be seen in your company.”

 

“Oh, so you’re saying that they’d normally ask me to feed the pigs?” Q said, pretending to be offended.

 

He did not expect James to let out a little whine or to look like he had been kicked in the face. “I did not mean it like that,” he started to say, patting Q’s head and dusting his dark green jacket. “There is more to you than just looks that would make crown heads start wars in your name and to be honest, there had been a handful of times when I had no idea what you were talking about, but now you look even more…” he trailed off, gesturing vaguely with his large hands before growling and turning to glare at the dark corner from which the chuckle escaped. “That is a very interesting way of serving our food, Alec!”

 

The knight stepped out and bowed, still smiling. “I am merely following the orders of my Lord and those are not to bring the food until both of you are seated at the table and done with the first glass of wine.”

 

Q tugged on James’ sleeve and the beat’s full attention was on him. “What are we celebrating?” He frowned, lips turning into a thing line that made James’ ears flatten against his head again. “Is it your birthday?”

 

“It’s not my birthday,” he said, but Q looked anything but convinced. “M! M I order you to come here and tell Q if we’re celebrating my birthday.”

 

The woman seemed to appear out of thin air as she usually did, eyes narrowed and looking more than annoyed. “This pest came to being on the 13th of April.” Her voice echoed around the room, a few candles flickering off. “Though time moves differently within the boundaries of his own territory, I can assure our young guest that today is not, in fact, the pest’s birthday.”

 

“Thank you, M. Helpful and kind as always,” James growled, tugging Q towards the large table that had been filled with food the young man hadn’t even dreamed of. “I do admit that we are celebrating something.” He let go of Q to pull back the chair for him, flashing him a toothy smile as he placed a silk napkin in his lap before pushing the chair back close to the table.

 

James sat in his usual place, next to Q. The thought of placing Q at the other head of the table had been in his mind only for a second before he realized that they would be too far apart, unable to have a conversation or see each other. They could have used a smaller table to avoid that, but then the dinner wouldn’t have looked as grand and James really wanted to impress Q – Alec would simply have to present each dish to Q and let him have a taste to see if he really liked it before serving it to him.

 

“What are we celebrating?” Q asked, silently counting the cutlery and trying to understand why they all had different shapes and sizes. He understood why cogs and nails were like that – you fixed and build things with them – but not why there were ten forks that didn’t look anything like each other. There were never so many before, why now? “

 

Of course James noticed that something didn’t sit right with Q instantly and he was sitting hunched over his shoulder, inspecting everything. “Is the plate chipped? Are the cutlery not polished right?” He picked up one of the spoon and looked closely at it, Alec right behind him.

 

“I personally cleaned the ones my lord selected for young Q,” Alec was explaining to no avail because Q could already hear James’ bones starting to pop.

 

“James, if you are having a fit, I am going back to work,” Q warned and the popping instantly stopped. “You still haven’t told me what we are celebrating and if I have to make a fool of myself by not knowing what fork to use, I’d like to know for what.”

 

All the extra utensils disappeared in a flash and James was back on his chair, gently holding Q’s hand. “You can make a fool of someone who knows the difference between the salad and the fruit fork just by saying three words.” He squeezed Q’s hand, looking more human when Q pushed his chest in front and smiled. “And I wanted to celebrate with you the fact that you are agreed out of your own free will to be my guest as well as my kitten, my Q, and my friend.”

 

In James’ opinion, the smile that Q gave him in that second was brighter than three suns locked in the same space. It made his heart skip a bit and fill with nothing but pure joy, something he hadn’t felt in years.

 

“You’re my first friend,” Q admitted after the first glass of wine, cheeks a little red. “But I am still not a kitten.” He stuck his tongue out, giggling.

 

Alec made to pour him another glass, but James shook his head. Of course it wouldn’t take Q too long to get tipsy; poor man probably never saw wine in his life, let alone taste one as fine such as what he had in his barrels in the wine cellar.

 

The redness of Q’s cheeks made it impossible for James to keep his hands to himself and he leaned close to him, cupping his face, careful not to cut or scratch him. “I am happy that you could look past my temper and our very rough start, but I am also thankful that you came back even after I…” He trailed off, focusing on emptying his glass of wine.

 

“I have been accused of being a witch, a demon set to destroy the peace of my village, and a goblin. But never, since the day I learned how to talk and read, has anyone ever accused me of being sane.” He placed his hands on James’ arm, smiling at him. “And yet, deciding to stay here with you is the sanest thing I’ve ever done.”

 

A lot of people would have said otherwise. Heck, James himself was seriously thinking about saying something, but Alec quickly put down the plates in front of them and Q was distracted by the smell and colour of the food being served. For the best, of course, since James really did not want to say anything wrong that would end with Q storming off back to his laboratory and him trashing the whole ballroom – he had become very aware of how short his temper was and promised himself to do everything in his power to change.

 

Alec continued to serve them food and they talked about their childhoods, Q avoiding sharing the tales that ended with him with his face in the mud or his parents cleaning his bruises while trying to keep their tears hidden from him. It was amazing that they still hadn’t ran out of subjects to discuss or had yet to find themselves forced to touch those that made either one of them sad, but James still wanted to pull Q in his lap and hug him, assure him that he was the biggest treasure in the world – like Q said his parents called him – and promise him to kill every single villager that made him so much as sigh in sadness.

 

They ended up talking about their plans to protect the castle from the impending attack – the weather had calmed down so much so that they felt like this was their last calm night – James using the fork to show Q how he had placed the soldiers in key points around and in the castle while Q explained what the things he created could be used as weapons.

 

When Q said that he couldn’t fit a single thing in his mouth and leaned back in the chair, lightly tapping his stomach, James decided that it was time for them to dance. He pulled Q to his feet and tugged him in the middle of the room, smirking as he clapped his hands and a soft tune started to play.

 

“I don’t know how to dance,” Q said when he realized what James wanted. “Mother and father tried to teach me, but I saw no reason to learn. I was already aware that I was the town’s freak and that no one would want to do something like this with me.”

 

Clasping Q’s right hand in his left, James nuzzled Q’s ear. “Well, I want to dance with you and I am willing to teach you.” Q still looked unsure and kept glancing back at the table, James’ shoulders slumping a bit. In the past, he would have forced Q to do this. He would have started to twirl around the room, ignoring his protests while growling what he was supposed to do. But this wasn’t the case anymore. “We can just listen to the music if you don’t want to dance.”

 

“No, no. I want to and if you’re willing to…” He trailed off, coughing. “So, what do I have to do?”

 

James twirled with Q in his arms before he could stop himself, carefully putting the man back down and hunching. “We won’t really be standing correctly since I am way too talk right now,” he turned and glared when he heard Alec take a step towards them until he completely disappeared from his sight, “but it will be more than enough. I will be the lead so I will put my right hand to cup your shoulder blade and you try to place your left hand with your fingertips at my shoulder seam.”

 

Of course Q wanted to be in the perfect position so he tired standing on the tip of his toes and when he realized that he wouldn’t be able to move, James hunched down as much as he could and pushed against Q as much as he could, but to no avail.

 

On his end, James tried to look as human as it was possible, but he was feeling nervous and his stomach was doing flips, which angered him and kept him looking more like an upright-walking wolf than human. At least he didn’t keep growing or shrinking in size which meant that his clothes stayed intact.

 

Q huffed and compromised – James sad that he no longer had him plastered against his chest and that he no longer had an excuse to keep his head cradled shoulder. “I hope that part of the position wasn’t too important,” Q mumbled.

 

James chuckled and ruffled Q’s hair, stopping suddenly and when saw a few strands that weren’t the natural brown. “What happened to your hair?” He pushed his nose in Q’s hair, frowning. “And what do I smell a faint scent of explosive?”

 

Q hands shot to his head, letting out a small meep – how was it that he still claimed not to be a kitten when half of the sounds he made were the type you’d hear such creature let out? “I may have had a tiny accident in the laboratory that resulted in my hair being blue for a few hours.”

 

The music came to a sudden stop and Q sighed as James started to check every little inch of him to be sure that nothing was really wrong. It felt nice and wired for someone alive to care so much that they needed to be sure for themselves he was okay, but when James started to unbutton his pants and shirt, he smacked him in the head and pushed him away.

 

“Really, I said I am fine. I was at a distance when it exploded, so I only got affected by the smoke,” he uttered, sticking his tongue out as he tried to make the ribbon around his neck look as good as when Lady Eve had tied it for him. “Please do not worry so much and don’t even think about taking away everything that might be dangerous from the laboratory because I need them to keep you safe.”

 

James sighed and pulled Q to his chest, resting his head on top of his. “What a coincidence, because I want to lock you up in your room and keep you safe forever and ever.” He easily tied Q’s ribbon with just his pinkies, patting his chest. “But if I do that, I might as well toss you in the dungeon, right?”

 

Q turned around to face him, looking anything but amused. “If we work together and if you trust me to know what I am doing, we can keep each other safe. But we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it” He reassumed the dancing position, eyebrow raised. “I believe you were trying to teach me how to dance?”

 

James cleared his throat and the music resumed. “Right, we’ll start with my left foot and your right foot. I’ll step forward with my left and you step back with your right.” They did that perfectly and Q smiled, looking up at James excited. “Perfect; now I am going to step diagonally with my right foot and you will move your left foot back accordingly. Afterwards, we’ll bring our feet together and start that again.”

 

Since they did it slowly, it went perfect the first few times, but when they tried to pick up the beat, they started to step on each other’s feet. James felt nothing because Q weighted like a single feather compared to him, but when James stepped on Q’s feet, the man shirked in pain and crumbled to the floor.

 

The music came to a halt again and James was pulling Q’s shoes off, M, Eve and Alec right by their sides, cotton bags filled with ice to make the pain more bearable. His feet weren’t broken, they weren’t swelling, just a bit sore and red and James sighed in relief, picking Q up in his arms and starting to walk back to the chairs.

 

“I still want to dance,” Q said stubbornly. “Can we try again in a few minutes?”

 

James really wanted to say no, but it was impossible for him to actually connect those two letters and say them out loud to Q. What the young man wanted, he got it. “We’ll go slowly again and we’ll keep our heads low so we can see our feet.”

 

The music resumed again as did their dancing. But again, their difference in size made it impossible for them to look at their feet at the same time so they kept bumping their heads together and Q was stepping on James’ feet like mad despite saying what they were doing out loud and moving as slow as it was possible.

 

In the end, James simply picked Q up and placed him on his feet. “I’ll dance for the both of us, okay?” Q nodded and James started to sway and twirl around the ballroom, feeling like all was right in the world.

 

Q pulled his hands free from James’ and wrapped them around him, pushing his face against his chest. “If you’re doing all the work, might as well get more comfortable, right?”

 

James pushed him closer still, hugging him as tight as he could without breaking any of his bones. “Get as comfortable as you want, love—ly kitten.” The word had slipped without him realizing, but he hoped he had covered it up before the pause registered in Q’s brain.

 

It was funny that, up until that word slipped, he hadn’t been able to name the thing he was feeling. But the second he uttered it, everything connected. His need to constantly be around Q and for the young man to pay only attention to him, the happiness he felt when he saw him smile or heard him laugh, his necessity to give Q everything in the world to make him happy… Everything was because he loved him.

 

But it was a different kind of love than he had felt for Vesper. Not smaller, definitely not smaller. Bigger, stronger, more addicting and he wanted to weep for the state he was in because how could Q feel the same for such a creature?

 

“I can hear your bones start to pop again,” Q whispered, tilting his head back and moving his hands to cup his large head. “What’s wrong? If you don’t want me to hold you like this, tell me and I will stop.”

 

James ran the back of his hand down Q’s face, sighing. “No; hold me anyway you like, Q. I am actually thinking of asking you to never let me go.”

 

His heart jumped in his throat when Q pecked his nose and he hated the way he looked and what he was even more. If he hadn’t been stupid that time, if Vesper hadn’t wanted to teach him a lesson then… He would have never met Q. So this was good; this was okay. His friendship, his peck on the nose was just right.

 

“I wish I could—” Q started to say, but was interrupted by the doors being kicked open, a large number of soldiers pouring in with Boothroyd in the lead, Bill stepping aside them to run up to Q and make sure he was okay.

 

The music stopped for a third time and by the noises James was hearing coming from the outside of the castle, he knew it will not resume again. “The ones who hurt my child are here and they’re hurting more,” Boothroyd wept, M running her hand down his back. “Please make them stop,” he pleaded, clutching his heart. “They hurt and I hurt.”

 

Before Q could even step off of James, the creature threw him over his shoulder, shifting in a larger form. “M, I order you to take care of this as best you can until I return,” he growled, ignoring how hard Q was struggling to free himself. “Alec, go with her. Eve, bring Boothroyd to the escape carriage.”

 

He left through the servant entrance, jumped down the three flights of steps, Bill right behind them. Q was, of course, still throwing a fit, demanding to be put down and asking James over and over again what he thought he was doing.

 

“Saving you,” he breathed out, throwing Q in one of the golden carriages, locking the door behind him. “You have enough gold in here for at least five generations of all of your families to never work a single day in their lives and still lead a more than comfy life.”

 

Q managed to grab one of James’ arms though the golden bars that had been recently added, using all of his force to keep him in place. “This is not how we work together, James! Damn you, you said that we’d work together!” Q shouted, tears rolling down his cheeks. “You said you trusted me!”

 

James moved closer to Q, sneaking his arms around him through the bars. He was going to miss everything about him: his smell, his voice, his heat, his attitude, his brain. “I trust that you will do something stupid that will get you killed and that is the only thing that must never happen,” he whispered, waiting for Q to tire himself out so he could nuzzle his ear for one last time. “Bill and everyone else will be in the carriages right behind yours.”

 

“Will you be in one?”

 

Of course Q already knew the answer and James wasn’t going to further hurt or insult him by claiming otherwise. “Since you’re keeping Bill, I am keeping your toys.” He easily pulled away from Q even though the man was trying to wrap his legs around him, walking out of the room just as Eve was coming in with Boothroyd in tow.

 

***

 

Le Chiffre was really tempted to run a sword through Silva himself. The man was more busy stripping the gold from the fallen soldiers and shouting after Q like a maniac than actually doing what he was supposed to do – namely, pushing his sword right where the head of the mechanical dolls met their chests to incapacitate them until either one of them spotted an unguarded door or window through which they could sneak in while what was left of their forces continued to attract attention.

 

“I never thought these feared soldiers were so easy to dispatch,” exclaimed Silva, using his sword to pry apart the breastplate of the one Le Chiffre had just destroyed.

 

It wasn’t easy. If they got the angle wrong, they lost their sword and got swarmed by more soldiers, ending up ripped to shreds just like a quarter of their own forces. Thankfully, it seemed that whoever was controlling them focused more on having them do defensive manoeuvres than offensive ones. Something important must have been happening inside the castle.

 

“They are more like expensive and cockroaches at this point,” Silva continued, kicking a soldier’s head out of his way. “They are perfect for making m—us rich, but must they be so many? How long until the lord gets bored and just kicks Q out to save himself the trouble?”

 

If he didn’t need him, he could rid himself of this headache right now. Just cut his throat and then let him bleed to death in the snow. But now, Silva had actually turned into an important pawn in his plan; he had to keep his cool and keep him alive for the time being.

 

“Things would move along a lot faster if all of us did our parts,” Le Chiffre hissed, digging his fingers in Silva’s hair and giving it a good tug. “Stop standing out, you bloody idiot before my carefully crafted plan gets ruined and we both end up nailed to the castle’s walls as examples of what happens to those who dare to even dream of disturbing Bond’s treasure.”

 

That was enough to snap Silva back to his senses and soon, the two of them were sneaking around in the castle, looking in every room for either Bond or Q. It was a long shot to find the two so fast, but Le Chiffre didn’t want to risk anything.

 

“I order you to report,” they heard an inhuman growl just as they had moved on to the first floor, both of them hiding as best as they could in the shadows.

 

“We’ve suffered more losses than expected,” a woman said coldly. “Our own forces are weakened by the low temperature and the attackers seem to know one of their weak spots.” It was good to know that there were more; he knew he should have continued his probing. If only Silva and the rest of the mercenaries actually knew what patience meant.

 

“Some also managed to infiltrate the castle,” the woman continued, a low growl following her words. “Also, if this sudden snowstorm doesn’t die down—”

 

“I am trying! But it isn’t easy!”

 

They silently moved closer, Silva’s jaw dropping at the sight of the large creature that towered over the old woman, sharp fangs and claws glistering in the pale light of the few candles that were still lit.

 

Le Chiffre was more enamoured with what he was seeing than scared, shivering when he realized that every time he blinked, the creature surprised him. If whatever spell was cast on it continued even after its death, the king himself might kneel before him and proclaim him the best knight and hunter in the entire world. He might even get the foolish man to relinquish the crown out of his own free will.

 

It was then the front door finally gave in and mercenaries started pouring in, the creature outright howling. “I order you to keep them from moving beyond this point,” it growled right before leaping down, the room drowning in animalistic sounds and terrified screams.

 

The woman barked out her own set of orders, the living dolls rushing to do what they were told before she turned on her heel and glanced in the direction of the stairs. She seemed like she wanted to do something, her body starting to shake as she took a step towards it, blood spilling from her nose.

 

“Damn you,” Silva read on her lips, narrowing his eyes. “Couldn’t you have ordered to make sure the boy is okay?”

 

Something clicked in Silva’s mind and a wonderfully devious plan followed, the man biting down hard on his lower lip to keep himself from cackling in delight. Everything was now so easy and so clear that he wanted to kick himself for seeing that earlier.

 

He tapped Silva’s shoulder to get his attention, motioning him to remain silent as they started to silently sneak around after the woman – the battle was loud and the way the creature was growling, shouting and outright howling made it pretty much impossible to hear anything else, but he still feared she might have supernatural hearing and detect them before he could put his new plan into motion.

 

They followed her into another corridor where they waited for her to murmur whatever orders she had for the dangerous toys before Le Chiffre stepped out of the shadows, leaning over her shoulder and bringing his lips right against her ear, sending disgusted shivers down her spine as he whispered something.

 

Things were about to get so much more interesting after this and he couldn’t wait to see the blood and tears.

 

***

 

Something was horribly wrong and James felt it in the pit of his stomach. The intruders had gotten too deep within his castle and his guards were nowhere to be seen. He was starting to get tired and his body hurt, blood flowing freely from his wounds that weren’t allowed to heal before they were cut again. He guessed that he didn’t have much time until he finally fell and he really hope his death would be felt by Alec and the rest, so they would knew that it was time to hightail out of there and take Q to safety.

 

But he wasn’t going to go without a good fight and he was going to take as many of these pests that were dangerous in high number with him as he could. “The taste of your blood only makes me crave more,” he growled, satisfied at how much more terrified the attackers seemed to be. Some even hesitated in their strikes, their hearts unable to take the constant shock at seeing a huge, biped wolf, blood and drool dripping from his fang filled mouth, which came with each blink of their eyes.

 

“I will feast on your flesh in hell,” he growled again as he picked up a man and ripped him in half, howling in pain and falling to the ground when a sword was thrust fully into his stomach.

 

“Cut his head off!” One of the men shouted and James closed his eyes, bracing himself.

 

But the blade never came. In its place, a foul smell filled the room and something hot shot by his face, his would be executioner shouting as the strange object blew up in his face. The room quickly filled with blue smoke and James recognized the contraption to be one of the things Q had been working on, the man’s small faint under the striking smell of sulphur.

 

“James!” Q’s voice came from somewhere, putting to rest any doubt James might have had about his whereabouts. “James, come towards my voice right now,” Q called again, a clear order this time and although James was not compelled by magic to follow it, he was more than happy to do so.

 

He ignored his wound and ran towards Q, throwing him over his shoulder as he jumped over four of his own soldiers and up two floors, Q shouting something at them before screams came out of the room where he had almost met Death.

 

“What do you think you are doing? Why are you alone?” He demanded as he put Q down in front of him and immediately started to check him for wounds, snarling when he saw his bleeding feet and legs and the thin scratch on his face. His Q, his light, his life, his love had been wounded and he needed to find the scum that dared to do that and rip him to shred. “You were safe!” He shouted, hitting the wall next to him so hard that it cracked.

 

“Saving you, you bloody idiot,” Q hissed at him, slapping his hands away. “You made a special effort today to be stupid, I’ll tell you that much. And I am alone because they had to hold back those bastards so I can get to you and slap you for your idiocy.” He pushed his glasses up his head and rubbed his face, James realizing that he was wiping tears from his eyes.

 

“But you were safe,” James said again, this time soft, carefully cupping Q’s face and running his tongue over his cut, hoping it would heal. “I don’t matter, Q. But you do; I want you safe, I want you happy.”

 

Something was thrown against the door, but Q ignored the noise and placed his hand over James’ to keep his attention on him. “I am happy when I am with you, James. If I go, I want you right next to me, in place of the gold coins or jewels or those sharp small, knives with diamonds embedded in their hilt.” He grinned smugly up at James, pulling out one of the previously mentioned knives, and showing him how bent it was.

 

“I’ll know better next time than to lock you in a place with anything that can be used to open a door.” Not the right thing to say as it earned him a flick over the nose and a strong tug on his ears, Q looking beyond displeased.

 

“There won’t be a next time, you buffoon,” Q announced and now the pounding on the door had a rhythm, James realizing that the men were trying to break them down by using a makeshift ram. “Can’t you get it through that thick head of yours that you are stuck with me now? Forever and ever and a day beyond that?” Hands still on James’ ears, Q forced him to lower his head even more, kissing his nose. “And I will fight for that, you know. I will fight to stay by your side and show you that trusting me is the right thing to do.”

 

The door was probably to hits away from falling off its hinges, but James’ words were not influenced by that. “All right; I’ll trust you not to die and not to get more wounded during this fight.” Q looked heavenly when he smiled.

 

Their attackers got a full taste of Q’s interesting and pretty exploding things before James could even turn to growl at them, rolling on the ground in pain. James bent his knees and helped Q get on his back, charging out of the room. He cut down some men, stepped on them and Q threw all sorts of things around which either caused a big explosion and a smoke screen or for the person it hit to suddenly catch fire.

 

They reached the next floor and found themselves facing three rows of James’ own soldiers, their swords pointed at him. James filled with dread when he realized that something bad must have happened to M if this was happening and he leaped over them, grunting in pain because of his stomach wound but also too scared to stop and give orders – what if they were ordered to throw their swords at Q the second he opened his mouth? What if the others were killing M right now?

 

“Something is wrong,” Q said when they ran into another wall of soldiers, jumping off of James’ shoulder and forcing him down just in time to avoid two swords. “Stand down and let us pass!” Q shouted on top of his lungs, but only some listened.

 

And James saw red in front of his eyes, offended on behalf of Q. He grabbed the closest that was to them and had his sword pointed at him and threw him across the room. “He ordered you something to do something so do it!” He roared and the soldiers listened.

 

“They got to Lady M,” Q realized and ran ahead of James, stopping just as he put his hands on the library doors. “James, what do we do? Where are we going? Why are we going up when they entered through the main doors, at ground level? James,” Q said slowly, eyes narrowed.

 

“I wasn’t actually thinking,” he admitted, picking Q up and putting him on his shoulder before he could open his mouth again. “But I am all here right now and I’ll just focus on her…” He trailed off, his nostrils filled with M’s scent, which was worrying because it was her blood mixed with the smell of old books, rotten corpses and Silva.

 

“James?” Q asked, pulling things out of his shirt that strongly smelled of gunpowder when James’ hold on him tightened and he heard bones cracking, the floor getting further away from him.

“M library. Silva. Corpses. Silva. My Q.” He was more animal than man now and his instinct was to protect his mate for the one who scared him and wanted to take him away.

 

Q rubbed the back of his neck and nuzzled his ear and that kept his rage in check, but that was the exact opposite of what James wanted. He wanted to hug his mate to his chest as he charged in and ripped the worm to shreds and worry about Q’s trauma later.

 

“Calm down, James,” Q whispered softly in his ear. “You have me, I am yours. I am safe and sound on your shoulder and Silva won’t get to take another breath if he gets near us. But we need to focus on Lady M, James. We need to use our brains, James, not just our weapons and brawns.”

 

What Q wanted, Q got, so James carefully put him down as he forced himself to turn human enough so he could process more than emotions and needs on their most basic level. “I want you to stay behind me until I rip his eyes out.”

 

“But I want you to keep Q in front of you, just out of reach,” Silva’s disgusting voice drifted from inside the library, Q pressing closer to James without realizing it. “Don’t do that, sweets, because if you anger me, I have no choice but to take it out on this bitch.”

 

Q took a step forward and James growled, wrapping his arms around him. “Q, don’t; it’s a trap.”

 

“Of course it’s a trap, you flea-ridden mongrel,” Silva spoke again, walking into their view with a barely conscious M in tow, her mouth gagged, and her ears covered. “But have the decency to let Q fall in it or else this woman’s death will be on his head. And, Q… Could you really live with yourself if that happened?”

 

Of course he couldn’t and even James, twisted as he was, would have a really hard time getting over the woman’s death. She had done her best to take care of him after his parents had died and he knew she blamed herself for how things turned out.

 

“I trust you,” he whispered in Q’s ear when he felt the man pull away, rubbing their heads together before letting him walk away.

 

Silva grinned. “That’s right, come to your new master’s side.” He started to tut when he saw James take a step forward, pushing his blade up against M’s neck, drawing a bit of blood. “I was talking to Q, not you. You take two large steps back or she starts bleeding.”

 

James did as he was told, trying his best to sit still and silence the animal in him that was going berserk as Q got closer and closer to Silva. The weather outside was going insane, mirroring the storm that was going on inside of his mind and when he saw the bastard pushing M in front of him and kicking her back to force her to start moving towards him and grabbing a fist full of Q’s hair, he snapped.

 

He charged in and pushed M behind him, silently apologizing to her and promising that he would treat her like a queen after everything was over, and tried to bite Silva’s head off. But he man just snapped his fingers and then threw himself to the ground, pulling Q after him as half of a bookcase came towards him.

 

It caught James dead on and pushed him right out of the room, blocking the exit. He blacked out for a moment and woke up struggling to get air in his lungs, unable to do anything more than dig his fingers into the ground, some of his talons snapping off.

 

“Q,” he gasped out, mouth instantly feeling with blood. “Q,” he tried again, finally managing to roll to the side and sighing in relief. He heard his bones snap as his body rushed to heal itself, although the stabbing wound refused to fully close up and James was afraid he would end up bleeding out before he rid the world of Silva and the one that smelled like corpses.

 

M had freed herself and, ignoring her own pain, she struggled to help James stand up. “Focus, Bond, focus,” she whispered, more blood coming out of her nose as her face contorted in pain, James realizing that she had been ordered to keep silent.

 

“I order you to talk and to ignore all orders received from anyone that’s not on our side.” He leaned against the wall, waiting for the world to come back into focus and for the thin, high pitched ringing to finally stop so he could start thinking clearly.

 

The smell of corpses became stronger and he realized that M was trying to shield him with her body, someone looming over them. “I have to admit that I find your current predicament most intriguing.” The man grinned as he easily grabbed M and pulled her out of his way, hitting her head with the hilt of his sword, knocking her out. “The famous Lord Bond, loved by all a long time ago and a favourite of the crown is now nothing more than a mindless beast, a creature that’s obsessed with terrorizing innocent villagers, keeping some of them as prisoners until they lose their mind after which he eats them.”

 

James pushed away from the wall and tried to tower over him, but he had reverted back to a more humane form. “I am not mindless; careless, yes, but not mindless. Still deciding on you.” The man hissed at him and James got an idea. “I do not understand why people always assume that it is the monstrous looking creatures that eat them and not the one who looks just like them.” He made a show out of sniffing him, his face contorting in disgust.

 

He man chuckled, looking really proud of himself. “The world around us rarely knows anything, Lord Bond, and just by knowing that I am above it.”

 

James snorted, walking around the man to subtly check on M – a small weight lifted off his heart when he picked up the sound of her heart. “You know nothing; you just think you do and that makes you even more of a fool than the rest.”

 

“I knew that the castle was filled with hidden hallways and I know that the weather around this castle is controlled by your emotions.” He pointed his swords towards M, grinning. “I know she can’t do anything unless ordered, whatever faery you pissed off making it so that whoever tries to resist their curse suffer.”

 

“So you have eyes, ears, and you are capable of making a logical deduction; congratulations, you are slightly smarter than a scared peasant,” James mocked.

 

“I am a Lord and thus, superior to peasants by simply being born.” Good, good. The man was getting annoyed and lose focus which was perfect because he wanted him to attack first, blinded by his rage so he could easily avoid his blade. And once he had the man with his back turned to him if he moved fast enough it wouldn’t matter how weak he was.

 

“You claim to be a lord? I know all the lords from this land and the one around us and yet you are completely unfamiliar to me. Maybe you are a bastard?” He sniffed the air around him again, smirking. “Yes, you do smell like one.”

 

The man almost charged, but held his ground, hands fisted by his side. “But a lord nonetheless, which is more than I can say for your little Q.” He grinned when he heard James start to growl. “An anomaly and a treasure at the same time. Such a wonderful brain stuck in the body of the town’s freak.” He chuckled and James was finding it harder and harder to keep still. “I do so want to weep for him because Silva is fixated on him, but I will pluck him from the man’s bad just before he is fully broken.”

 

James roared and charged.

 

***

 

Q thought he was going to faint when he saw James get hit. He ignored how hard Silva was tugging on his hair, elbowing him in the stomach and kicking him in the groin to free himself, throwing himself up against the now blocked entrance. “James!” He called out, scratching at the bookcase. “James!”

 

Of course Silva didn’t like that and he ran up behind Q, grabbed him by his hair again and smashed his head against the bookcase twice, breaking his glasses. “You do not do that to your master,” he chastised Q in a sweet voice as he turned him around and forced his head in his chest, setting off all of the man’s alarm bells. “I will need to teach you how to behave, but we have time.”

 

“You are not my master, Silva. You aren’t anyone’s master,” Q hissed, scratching Silva’s face and hitting him in the groin again.

 

Once free, he ran to the other side of the room and started to throw books at the man’s head, fully aware that he wouldn’t stand a chance even if this turned to be a fair fight. He did still have two things in his pockets, both of them bringing pain and smoke once they hit against someone, but he needed to find the second exist first.

 

Silva took his gloves off and started rubbing at his eyes, blinking until everything became clear once more. “I won’t pretend to hate it when I end up tying you down, little witch.” He pushed himself back up and took a step towards Q, but it was too late by then. Q had already found the door he was looking and making a beeline for it, tossing the little contraption at his head as he pulled it open and ran into the hallway.

 

There was no way to reach James, at least not on this side of the castle – a horrible flaw in its design, Q thought – but if he went to the roof, crossed from this tower to the other one, he should be by James’ side in less than twenty minutes, provided that he ran.

 

And ran he did. He tripped on the stairs and bumped into things, the lack of glasses and his urgency making everything much harder for him, but he didn’t allow himself to roll around in pain for too long, jumping back up on his feet as soon as the little white spots disappeared from his eyes.

 

He ran cross two mechanical soldiers, all pointing their weapons at him and Q feared that a repeat of earlier would happen, but they stood down when they were ordered and waited for him to move in front of them before starting to follow.

 

They helped with the two locked doors Q found and when he finally stepped out on the roof, the harsh and cold wind almost freezing him instantly, he couldn’t help but sigh in relief. It was much easier going down than up and all he had to do now was be just a bit careful so he wouldn’t slip on the patches of ice that had formed.

 

The soldiers stood still for a moment and Q worried that the cold might have affected them, but then they both lifted him up and started to walk on the roof for him. This was the first time Q interacted with these two, so he was surprised at how fast they showed the ability to think and make decisions on their own and frankly, that worried him. Something must be wrong with—

 

“James!” He shouted when he saw him jumping on the roof from the side, running backwards into the rail to get a man off of his back. “Put me down and help James.”

 

He was dropped on his ass and the two soldiers rushed to help James, managing to pry off the other man off of him and to pull out the sword that had been embedded in his back. They tried to throw the attacker off the roof, but one slipped and fell into James which created a small domino effect, freeing the man.

 

“If I am going down, I am taking your Q with me,” the man announced and rushed towards him, but Q threw his last invention at the man’s head, rendering him blind and in pain.

 

James used that momentum to simply pick him up and throw him off the roof, running towards Q and falling on his knees in front of him, rubbing their heads together as he wrapped his arms around him.

 

“You’re full of bruises and as cold as a statue,” he murmured.

 

“But I am safe and you’re safe and Silva is somewhere behind me,” Q said quickly, hugging James tightly. “He broke my glasses and pulled on my hair as if he was a five year old, but nothing else,” he said quickly, answering James’ questions before he could ask them. “I hope I blinded him and burned half of his face.”

 

James picked him up and turned to the door that Q was going in the first place. “You wait for me inside and I’ll—UGH!” He suddenly chocked and staggered, eyes wide. “Q... “ He dropped him and actually used his foot to push him away, Q too shocked to register the thin rivulet of blood that was coming out of his blood or the piece of the sword that poked out of his chest.

 

“See, I don’t like it when filthy mongrels touch what’s mind and Q is mine,” Silva’s voice came from behind James, kicking the back of his knees to make him kneel. “Now, Q, if you are quite done with this—”

 

Q threw himself at him, managing to make him fall and then proceeded to punch him in the face, clawing it and grabbing a fistful of his hair so he could smash his head against the ground. “How dare you? How dare you?” He asked over and over again, his arms growing tired.

 

The second he no longer could lift Silva’s head, the man struck him across the face hard and kicked him off. “I’ll start teaching you manners this instant, witch,” he hissed and kicked Q in the face. “Your dog is bleeding to death, so no one will stop me this time.”

 

He tried to kick Q in the face again, but the man grabbed his leg and used his own to trip him, the two mechanical soldiers that had followed suddenly appearing above Silva. One brought his foot down on Silva’s knee, shattering it and the other grabbed his arm, starting to drag him to the edge of the roof. Q looked away when the bastard was flung over, quickly crawling towards James.

 

“Q? Q? Q?” James asked over and over again, growing when his face was touched only to start nuzzling Q’s hand when he realized that is was him. “Q, roll me over; I want to see your face. I want to make sure you don’t have any more wounds.”

 

“James, you have a sword sticking out of you,” Q explained softly, resting his forehead against his temple. “If I pull it out, you will start bleeding and you can’t lose—”

 

“Please? It hurts so bad and I really want to see your face,” James pleaded. “The sword has to be pulled out anyway and the others are really close.”

 

Q thought for a moment and sighed, hands shaking as he grabbed the hilt. “It will hurt.”

 

“Nothing you do really hurts me, love, unless you’re showing me your back as you walk out of my cursed world.” James pushed his head against Q’s stomach, placing one hand on his leg. “Please pull it out and roll me over so I can see your face.”

 

Q pulled the sword out in one clean move and James hollowed in pain. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I told you it would hurt,” he whispered, rolling him on his back and hugging his face for a moment, taking off his shirt to make at least one of the wounds stop bleeding.

 

James lifted one shaky hand and cupped Q’s face, smiling. “You are the most beautiful creature I have ever seen and I am so happy that you allowed me to be this close to you. I was the luckiest man on earth when that happened.”

 

Q felt tears starting to spill from his eyes, not liking the way James was talking. “Stop talking, James. You sound ridiculous; I’ve heard drunk men say better lines.” His voice was shaking as did the rest of his body.

 

“Don’t cry, love. I am not worth it...I…” he trailed off and licked his lips – lips, Q realized, shocked – narrowing his eyes as he forced himself to focus on a thought. “I am glad I trusted you. I think I would have given up the second you were out of here.”

 

“And that would have been a monumentally stupid thing to do.” Q was tempted to jokingly flick his nose and act like he wasn’t bleeding to death in his arms, but he wasn’t that good of an actor.

 

“I am truly in love with you, kitten…” His hand went limp and fell from Q’s face, his eyes losing their twinkle.

 

And Q felt like he lost his soul. He started to shake James, called out his name as he tugged on his hair, crying. He pushed his face against his neck, searching for a pulse, screaming in pain when he couldn’t find one. No heartbeat, rapidly cooling body, no sound of breathing…

 

“Please, please, please don’t do this to me, James. You can’t tell me that and then do this to me, it’s so not what a lord is supposed to do.” He looked down at him and kissed his nose, eyes widening. “James, I can remember how you look,” he whispered, surprised. “James, James, I can remember on my own how you look! Isn’t it wonderful? I can make countless toys of us now.”

 

“Q! Q, get out of there!” Alec shouted and Q looked up, seeing nothing more than vague silhouettes moving near one of the doors.

 

“I am only coming if James carries me!” He moved to lie on top of the motionless man, putting one of his arms around his middle, uncaring about how violent the storm had become and how close the lightning stroke.

 

“Child, James is dead,” a voice that he recognized as belonging to M – and thank God that she was still alive – came from next to Alec.

 

Q shook his head, holding on tighter to James. “What a horrible thing to say, Lady M! I order you to never say it again!”

 

“Child, the spell on us is broken—”

 

“I love him! He can’t die! He said he loves me and I love him back and every fairy tale ends with the people in love living happily ever after,” he said stubbornly, ignoring the fact that he had read multiple ones that ended horribly. “You hear me, you bloody moron? I love you and I remember the way you look and why can’t you open your eyes and call me your kitten again?” He weakly hit his chest before covering his own face. “Please…”

 

He dissolved into sobs and prayed to anyone who was listening to kill him as well, blaming himself for this outcome. Maybe things would have been different if he had made more and deadlier things. But no; he just had to be himself and he had to get stupid and chose to make a fool of himself dancing instead of locking himself up in the little cottage.

 

“I’m sorry, Q, but I can’t risk you getting stuck by lighting,” Alec said from right behind him and effortlessly picked him up, squeezing him when he started to struggle.

 

“No! Put me down! I said James had to carry me and I will wait right here until he gets enough strength to do so!” He tried to free himself, grabbing on to James’ limp hand. “Put me down and get out of here before you get struck by lightning, Sir Alec.”

 

The knight refused to listen and turned around fast, Q losing his grip on James which only made him scream and cry harder. “I am so sorry, Young Q, but James can no longer hold you.”

 

“Because he’s tired, I am sure he’ll…” It really hurt so Q stopped and hid his face in his hands. “Sir Alec, can you please have someone bring him in before this storm gets worse?”

 

Before Alec could answer lightning came down and struck James’ body, also knocking them down. Q screamed and tried to crawl over and pull James away, but Alec held him down, covering his head. Then everything stopped. The storm, the rain, the wind, everything. All that could be heard were the echoes of Q’s sobs and Alec’s failed attempts at calming him down, still on top of him.

 

“Alec, if you don’t get off of him this second, I will kick you in the head.” Q didn’t recognize the voice, but he heard everyone gasp. “I died not five minutes ago and you’re already putting the moves on him?”

 

Alec silently moved away and Q looked up, shocked to see a fully naked man standing in front of him. “Let me help you up, kitten.” The man leaned over and tried to touch him, but Q dodged him, pushing himself back.

 

“Don’t touch me.” He hissed. “Who the hell…” He trailed off when he saw the man’s eyes, heart filling with hope. “J-James? Is that you? Are you…alive?”

 

“And fully healed, as you can see.” He did a little twirl for him and Q completely forgot the naked part as he threw himself in his arms, crying again which confused James. “Q, kitten, love, why are you crying?”

 

“Because I am happy, you moron.” He pushed James back, cupping his face. “If you ever scare me—you look different and I know you do because I remember how you looked.” And then he remembered that James was naked and took a step back, covering his eyes. “And you’re naked.” He felt embarrassed that he liked what he saw.

 

“Am I not pleasing to the eye?” James patted his chest and one of the soldiers stepped closer to him, offering his armour as a mirror.

 

“No, no, you are very pleasing to the eye.” Q was quick to assure him, peeking for a second from behind his fingers, turning around when James winked at him. “Sorry. It’s the first time I see someone naked that’s not me.”

 

James carefully turned him around and pulled him close, ignoring the way both Eve and M were ordering him to get dressed and stop traumatizing Q with his body – which was ridiculous because Q wanted to touch every bit of him and stare at him with glasses on so everything wouldn’t be foggy anymore.

 

“You have no idea how happy that makes me,” he whispered, cupping Q’s face. “Would I also be the first on who kisses you?” Q nodded shyly and instantly closed his eyes, puckering his lips. “I am glad to see you’re excited about that. If you lower your head a little and open one eye, you’ll see that I too am—”

 

“Stop trying to be endearing and kiss me before I change my mind about Sir Alec,” Q demanded, frowning.

 

James didn’t have to be told twice and although he tried to growl just before kissing Q, since he was no longer a monster, it came out sounding more like a burp than anything threatening – Alec was actually laughing, stopping only when M hit him upside the head.

 

“You would never,” James whispered, brushing his lips against Q’s. “I heard you say that you love me. You can’t say that and then change your mind.” He gave Q a few pecks and just loved the happy little wiggle Q did.

 

However, when James tried to peck him a third time, Q pulled back and opened one eye, frowning. “Well, you can’t say you love someone and then die and that is exactly what you did. Is this your best kiss?”

 

“Not in your life, love,” he tilted Q’s head back, basking in his warmth for a second before bringing their lips together again.

 

The kiss was messy. They bumped their teeth against each other, James no longer hand any idea what to do with a tongue that didn’t hang out of his mouth most of the time while Q kept pulling back his, thinking that the one who initiated the kiss had to have as much space as he needed.

 

“Are they kissing or is James trying to eat Q’s face?” Eve whispered, Alec snorting and M slowly shaking her head, pinching the bridge of her nose.

Chapter Text

Everyone dreaded when they had to go in search for their lord. Not because he had reverted back to his anger fits despite recovering his human looks, but because it meant that they might accidentally stumble on him and Q snogging if they were lucky. Sadly, most of the times they weren’t, or rather their two lords were too interested in each other’s bodies and touches to hold back until they were in their actual room or remember that there was a world outside of their own.

 

That’s why when the grand ball James threw in Q’s honour and in celebration of him becoming a human again was missing its two guest of honour, all the agents shuddered and pretended that their tasks were much too important to be left unattended in favour of accidentally seeing a sight that their lord was very protective about – and mainly Q in any state of undress or level of pleasure.

 

“You’re their friend, you go look for them,” Eve hissed at Alec, huge fake smile in place as she looked back at the guest who were all confused as to why they weren’t blessed with Lord Bond’s and his genius’ presence.

 

Alec snorted in his glass of wine because even if they were friends, James was especially jealous if he was the one to see Q in any state of undress, slightly flushed, or hear him make even the smallest noise of pleasure caused by him and not food. “One: the last time I went to look for them, they were in the library and the book they were studying would instantly kill five covenants. Two: you’re also their friend and James was never under the impression that Q might be interested in you. And three: I went searching for them the last time so—are you even listening to me?”

 

Eve hummed, winking at someone in the crowd. “Unless you just said that you’re going to look for them, not really.” She pushed her empty glass in his hand just as a gentleman walked up to her and bowed, kissing her hand before introducing himself to her, whisking her away and leaving Alec all alone and with no real choice.

 

 “You’re all a bunch of kids,” M said from right behind him, startling Alec so much that he ended up pouring his glass of wine on his white uniform.

 

“But M, even though James is human now, he growls and then Q pulls his face and hides behind him and avoids everyone for an entire day which irritates James even more and he starts to panic because he thinks he’ll lose him which ends with him sulking in Q’s laboratory and poking his nose around until something explodes,” Alec started to explain really fast, getting dizzy from the lack of air.

 

Eyes narrowed, M looked like she wanted nothing more than to grab hold of his ears and tug them right off. “I’ll go get them. But if I find you snogging some servant girl instead of actually taking care of the guests...” She trailed off, cracking her knuckles. “And tell Lady Eve that she’s supposed to entertain all the guests, not just her future fiancée.”

 

It was a good thing that Alec no longer had any wine to choke on. “Excuse me, but what?” He sputtered, focusing on Eve. Now that M said that, it was clear to him that the woman was doing more than simply flirting and being overly nice to the man. She was carefully arranging the man’s sash, eyes sparkling with mirth as she laughed at whatever the man had told her while the man looked nervous and his hand disappeared inside his pocket whenever Eve looked away.

 

“He plans to ask Lord Bond to part with her and give them his blessing tonight,” M offered, sounding smug. “But that still doesn’t excuse the fact that until Lord Bond gets here to actually declare this ball opened and invite everyone to sit and eat by his side in his and Lord Q’s honour, both she and you have to keep all the guests entertained.”

 

It was going to be hard to get Eve out of the bubble that had been created around herself and her future husband, but he’d rather face her than a blushing Q and a growling James.

 

***

 

James never thought that he would ever get to feel anything other than loneliness and anger and there he was currently swimming in an ocean of love and happiness. And Q was to thank for all of this, sweet, adorable, full of love and compassion, purring Q that was spent and humming happily by his side, naked as the day he was born.

 

It took them a while to actually get to this point, stumbling like two visually challenged people in the dark, but they eventually mastered the art of kissing and then the rest came naturally. Not easily because James was afraid that the curse would return at the drop of a hat and Q was tensed under him and digging his nails in the bed sheets, afraid that it would hurt beyond all reason and that he would be so bad at it that he was going to be dumped in favour of someone who had done that in the past, but naturally.

 

They kissed long and hard, their clothes disappearing without either one of them realizing and just as the sun was starting to rise, Q was moaning and asking James for more ad he shook in pure pleasure and James’ mind was focused on how good Q felt under him and how warm and perfect he was.

 

They didn’t leave the bed for three days, although the last one was spent like that because Q swore that his legs were jelly and he admitted to feeling a stinging sensation in his backside when he tried sitting up – James used that excuse for the entire week that followed to carry Q around everywhere they went, instructing the servants to place the softest pillows they had on whatever seat Q even glanced at.

 

“James, we’re not going to do that ever again if you act like this every time,” Q warned after exchanging a few words with the servants who were exhausted from carrying around giant pillows. “And before that brain of yours could go there,” he added quickly, hands over his mouth, “I loved what we did and I can’t wait to do it again, but if you’re going to force your servants to—”

 

“I won’t, promise,” James breathed out, placing little hands on Q’s palms and then moving up his arm, giving the man goose bumps and making him giggle. “And you said that you can’t wait to do that again?” He asked, kissing and licking Q’s neck and pulling the man in his lap.

 

Q smiled and pulled him into a kiss and before they knew it, they were both naked and rubbing against each other, moaning and whimpering, blind to the traumatized Alec that ran out of the room, shouting something about placing a warning on the door when they did this.

 

They never did because really, who had time to do that when they craved so much for kisses and touches? And people should really learn how to bloody knock or listen, because Q turned out to be quite vocal when James pleased him and James himself growled and grunted like the animal he used to be.  

 

“What are you thinking about?” James asked softly as he turned to kiss Q’s exposed and covered in love bites shoulder, running his hand down his back. “I’ve never seen you so distracted when I am right next to you.”

 

Q rolled over him and softly caressed his face, giving him a quick peck. “I was just wondering how I ended up in this stress of undress when I was simply missing my shoes which you so kindly offered to put on for me.”

 

There was no easier answer in the world, as far as James was concerned. “You ran you hands through my hair when I kneeled in front of you and tugged me closer. How did you expect to still have clothes after doing that?” He happily gave Q control over the kiss, chuckling when he felt the man slowly grind against him. It seemed that he had been wrong in assuming that Q was spent, but he was more than happy and eager to get him like that.

 

“It would seem that I need to remind you two why James was doing that in the first place,” M’s unamused voice intruded in their private world and Q froze, James quickly pushing him under him to protect him from the woman’s eyes, lest her glare turned his love into a statue.  “And namely because of that party where all of the crowned heads of the world are waiting to greet a genius and applaud the recovering of this land’s lord?”

 

Q wiggled out from under James – a glint of mischief in his eyes as he did that, knowing and feeling what his movement was doing to his lover – and started to pick up their clothes, James moving around after him to block his nakedness from M.

 

“That’s hours away,” James said in a dismissing manner. “Q and I have enough time to—”

 

“Your guests have been waiting for you for an hour now and they’re growing impatient and hungry,” M interrupted him and tugged on his ear as if he was a child. “You will wait out here while Lord Q gets dressed because I don’t trust that mind of yours to focus on anything but him and your need.”

 

They almost proved her point because their quick kiss turned into a deep and hungry one and M groaned and rolled her eyes before having one of the servants that was trailing behind her with a bucket of lukewarm water for the two men to clean themselves, pour it directly on their heads.

 

“I promise you that the next bucket will be ice cold.” M never kid – because she was allergic to jokes and laughter, in James’ opinion – so James kept his hands to himself and waited for Q to dress himself, happy that the man walked out in his bare feet.

 

“Truth be told, I can’t put these on by myself,” Q lied and sat down on the ground, James kissing his foot before covering it in the soft shoes.

 

“I’ll put them on for you for as long as you’ll let me,” James promised and they shared a simple kiss. “Now let’s make the world jealous of my luck and your genius together and then sent them packing.”

 

They heard M sighing and turned to see the woman hiding her face in the palms of her hands, shaking her head. “You need to get dressed first, Bond,” she growled. “Or did it slip your mind that you are naked?” It honestly did, since he felt only warmth when Q was next to him. “And Lord Q, come next to me before you offer to help him dress because everyone here knows that there’s a bigger chance of him helping you undress and it is not proper to make the Ladies and Lords wait even more than they already had.”

 

James was dressed and introducing Q to his world in under five minutes, Tanner – who was still learning to talk just like all the other mechanical dolls who were now human – reading the Lord’s mind and pushing Q’s chair right next to James’ at the head of the table.

 

The murmuring got even louder when James took Q’s hand in his while the food was served, a few women instantly starting to cry. Q noticed that and shyly glanced at James, squeezing his hand. “Are you sure you want me to sit here?”

 

“There isn’t a single doubt in my mind, darling.” James kissed his knuckles, much to the shock of everyone present there because while it was know that some preferred the company of their own gender, no one was so open about it, especially not someone of royal blood. But James couldn’t care less if he tried. Q was his saviour, his heart, his soul, his everything and he refused to turn him in his hidden mistress, even if they couldn’t be united in the way a man and a woman were. “And if anyone has a problem with this,” he said loud enough for everyone in the room to hear him, “or if a single poisoned word slips their lips and it’s directed at you, there will be hell to pay.”

 

The shocked splutters were drowned by Q’s smile and James pulled him in a slow and deep kiss, the world around them melting until M pinched the back of their necks. “Ball first, everything else later,” the woman hissed, her eyes kind and warm despite the ice on her voice.   

 

Eve and her would-be husband made their way to them after dinner and the man stuttered through his proposal, Eve herself a little flushed and that honestly made James happy and he gave them their blessing, the room applauding.

 

The dancing came after that and Q kicked his shoes off and sat on James’ feet, letting him do all the work as he nestled his head in the crook of his neck. No one bothered to ask the Lord for a dance and M alongside Boothroyd – his mind fully his now – were left with showing the guests Q’s invention, the young man thinking far enough to leave little cards with easy explanations.

 

M could have poured cold water over them and embarrass them in front of their guest, but she couldn’t bring herself to do that. After all, both men deserved the pure happiness they felt. And she hoped that the feeling would never diminish but as she snuck in back at the room close to dawn and heard low murmurs interrupted by what sounded like little kisses coming from the terrace and after peeking out and seeing them glued to each other, Q holding something up and explaining how it worked while James caressed his face and honestly doing his best to follow what his lower was saying, she knew their love would never know an end.