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A Study in Domesticity

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The problem with working for MI6 is that there are hardly any vacation days. Well, of course, there are supposed to be vacation days, but crime doesn’t stop for a week-long trip out of the country or even just a day tour at a beach resort.

Mostly, what happens is Q spends too many hours at Six until R says enough’s enough. Meanwhile James spends half the year almost killing himself on missions and the other half hiding out in his and Q’s flat, avoiding Medical. They don’t even make plans anymore, just because it’s a waste of money to prebook hotel rooms or flights only to cancel them at the last minute.

So when Mallory calls them both to his office two years into his authority saying that the both of them are going to take it easy the week before Christmas, well, they don’t really know what to do.

“If I may, sir, is this really necessary?” Q says. “I can’t leave my branch at such a busy time.”

“And I’m set to be released from house arrest by the end of November. You can’t just pull me out when I could be going on another mission,” James protests.

“You can go on your next mission after Christmas, Bond,” Mallory says, his tone leaving no room for arguments. “And, honestly, Q, your branch can handle a week without you. They’re not entirely helpless.”

“But Mallory—”

“Q, do you know that this past year, you’ve put in the most work hours in the entirety of the British government?” Mallory says, cutting Q off. “Yes, you heard me. Not just in Six, but in all the government agencies.”

James shrugs. “Well, he’s not wrong, Q.”

“You’re one to talk, Bond. You’ve completed the most missions out of all the 00s, which while very good for Six's reputation, also makes me wonder if you're just about to drop dead at any minute from sheer exhaustion.” Mallory sighs, his hand massaging his temples. “You’re both taking a week off, and that’s final.”

Both Q and James make to protest, but Eve comes in and makes them shrink back with a severe look. Honestly, Mallory might be M, but Eve’s the one everyone should be scared of, and Q and James are smart enough to see that.

“If you would follow me out, boys,” she says, a smug smile playing on her lips as she turns away with just a nod to Mallory.

Q sighs. This is happening. He’s taking time off work. Maybe he can hack into Six and work from home. R would understand, right?

“Oh, and by the way, I’ve also told R about this. She’s agreed to help keep you out of the system,” Mallory says. “And she may have hidden the files for that poison-loaded pen you’ve been working on.”

“We’ve been betrayed by R, of all people,” Q says as soon as they’re out the door.

“Stop being so dramatic, sweetie,” Eve says. “She’s just looking out for you.”

“Well, she’s not getting a Christmas present from me anymore,” Q says, indignant.

“You had her present finished two months ago,” James says. “What else are we going to do with that thing?”

“We could get a cat,” Q suggests innocently, sneaking a glance at James to gauge his reaction. A roll of his eyes—not so bad, Q thinks.

“We’re not going to get a cat only to dress it in a weird costume. Have mercy on the poor thing,” James says.

“What’s this costume, if you don’t mind me asking?” Eve says. She’s behind her desk now, typing up some report on her computer.

“It’s just a little something—”

“It’s a Frodo costume,” James says, cutting Q off. “Complete with a tiny sword and everything. He designed the chainmail material himself.”

“That’s cute,” Eve says.

“It is,” James agrees, wrapping an arm around Q’s waist so he could pull him close.

“I worked so hard for that costume,” Q laments, his lips pursing.

“You did,” James says, “and that’s why you’re still going to give it to R.”

Q sighs. “Damn her.”

“We could,” James says, his voice low, “get revenge.”

Q’s lips turn up into a fond smile. “This is why I love you.”

“If you need any insider help, I’m up for the job,” Eve quips. “But right now, you two need to go home and pretend you’re relaxing.”

“We’ll send you photos of us getting a massage or something,’’ James promises, and they probably are going to do just that because they love Eve and Eve loves to collect pictures for, possibly, blackmail. They aren’t going to send her a photo just to make sure she keeps them updated about the goings-on at Six, of course not.

When they get home, the first thing Q does is to bury himself in organizing a roster for the skeleton crew. James decides it’s time to stock the flat with a lot more wine and maybe some food to last them the whole week. They can’t order takeout like they usually do the whole time they’re at home; it’d be unacceptable.

So he drives to the store and gets more than enough for a week at home. He indulges—quite a lot, actually—because he has Mallory’s card which he’s going to put back in its place right away, after, of course, abusing it as much as he can. He buys scented candles and bath bombs and plenty of boxes of tea. He buys books and materials for crafts, because Q’s bound to find something to make on the internet.

James comes home with his arms full of bags, and Q welcomes him with microwaved pasta from last night.

“James, why did you buy all these pumpkins?” Q asks as they unpack the groceries.

“They were on sale,” James says, as if that actually explains things.

“And what do you plan we do with them?”

James shrugs. “Pumpkin pie? Jack-o-lanterns?”

“James,” Q says with a long-suffering sigh. "There are five whole pumpkins here. I don't even know how you managed to carry all these."

“I also bought party hats,” James says, raising his eyebrows.

“What? Why?”

“I was joking.” James rolls his eyes. “But I did buy ingredients for cake.”

“Ingredients for cake? James, neither of us can bake,” Q says, his nose scrunching up in his confusion.

James grin is sharp. “Well, I might have put everything on Mallory’s card.”

Q’s expression shifts from muddled to impressed to, finally, delighted in a matter of seconds.

“What else did you buy?”

 

 

When Q said neither of them can bake, he really meant it. Sure, Bond can cook, and Q can sort of cook, but baking is beyond them.

He’s only tried a three times, and as far as he knows, James is stubborn enough to have tried more times than he has. Still, the point is neither of them have ever succeeded, and Q has doubts that they ever will.

So why they’re dressed in aprons and poring over a recipe for a layer cake—yes, a layer cake, because they’re not going to take it easy—Q doesn’t know. It’s a challenge, though, and he and James have always liked challenges.

“Seems simple enough,” James remarks.

“It always seems simple. It always seems like it going to go smoothly, but does it ever? No,” Q mutters, sighing.

“It’s going to be fine,” James says, wrapping an arm around Q’s shoulders comfortingly.

It decidedly does not go well. They don’t mess up the mix, which is a miracle in itself. It seems just as the recipe said it should be, and for a while, they actually feel excited about the finished product.

“It’s been there too long, hasn’t it?” Q says, worried. He has his arms crossed and his head tilted sideways as he stares into the oven.

“It’s only been there half the time,” James says, shaking his head. Then his jaw sets and, “Maybe we should check.”

“We should,” Q agrees, nodding sharply.

So, maybe a bit too excited. They end up checking too many times and, well, the cake doesn’t turn out like the picture on the website.

“At least it tastes delicious,” Q says, sighing.

“It almost came out well,” Bond says as he slices off another portion of the failed cake. His smile is affable, innocent. “You know, we do have enough ingredients for another one.”

“Oh?” Q raises his eyebrows. “I suppose we could have another go at it.”

And they do. They last twenty minutes watching a movie about some kids with superpowers before they finally scramble into the kitchen and bring out everything they need.

The actual cake turns out pretty well this time, but then they have trouble with the icing.

“James? Icing’s supposed to be thick, right?” Q calls out, though he doesn’t look away from the bowl in his hands. “Because this is definitely not thick.”

Bond saunters over and peers into the bowl. “Huh,” he says, entirely unhelpful. “That does not look like icing.”

Q sighs. “Did I miss something?”

“Happens to the best of us,” Bond says easily, wrapping an arm around Q’s shoulders and pressing a kiss onto his temple. “You’ll get it next time.”

Q nods, leaning into Bond’s touch. “Did you have any luck with yours?”

“No, sorry,” Bond says, giving him another peck as an apology.

“That’s okay.” Q hums contentedly, rubbing the tip of his nose against Bond’s neck. Then, with a small smile, “We’ll get it next time.”

“In the meantime,” Bond says, looking around at their now messy kitchen, “what should we try to cook next?”

 

 

Turkey, as it happens.

They make an attempt at it the next day, because after eating all the lovely cake and not as lovely icing while having some tea at two in the morning, they decide that maybe they’re just not ready for baking yet. They should stick to their (relative) strengths—for now, at least.

Bond’s fairly good with cooking Italian, works miracles with a grill, and cooks the best English breakfast Q’s ever had. After all, being a good spy doesn’t involve just proficiency with killing or with sneaking around. Knowing how to get bloodstains off a linoleum floor or how to set a table for a formal dinner is just as beneficial for a spy as knowing at least twenty ways how to kill a man using only a handkerchief.

So Q sits this one out and opts to fiddle with some codes he’s been working on outside of work while Bond goes around the kitchen like he actually belongs there.

“Do you think we should have mashed potatoes with the turkey?” Bond asks as he

Spies, Q muses, can be very useful, especially if one of them is your boyfriend.

“That sounds lovely, James.”

 

 

Q manages to ruin dinner by accidentally sitting on their food. It’s also partly Bond’s fault since he was the one who went and gave Q a kiss while the mashed potatoes were cooling on the counter. However, he’s claiming innocence just because his arse wasn’t the one that came in contact with the food.

Q swears he’ll never set foot in the kitchen again. He also swears he’ll send Bond out with just a toothpick and a salt shaker next time he’s on a mission, and he tells Bond just that.

So Bond makes it up to Q by taking out their stash of chocolates. It’s reserved for days when just the caffeine from tea just won’t be enough for Q, or when Bond’s having a particularly glum day post-mission. However, an exception can be made when the need is dire. For example, a sulking Q is quite dangerous, whether for Queen and country or for Bond. Also, perhaps, the world.

“I love you,” Q all but moans when he Bond walks into their bedroom later, chocolates in hand.

“Love you too,” Bond murmurs, affection and amusement coloring his tone. He smiles and finds that he doesn’t mind that Q’s talking more to the chocolates than him. So he hands Q his usual mix of white and milk chocolate and lets himself be content with watching Q munch on them while he types away on his laptop. Bond doesn’t really know what Q’s working on, and he’s not quite sure he wants to, considering he’d have to tell Mallory all about it after their forced break.

“This isn’t so bad,” Bond remarks, and it isn’t. Q’s relaxed, not as twitchy as he usually is when he’s running on caffeine and frazzled because of all the stubborn agents he has to watch over. His shoulders are still hunched over, but there’s no sign of tension, no sign of nerves or worry or fear. He might be a little irritated—probably a bug in his code—but this is the most serene that Bond’s ever seen him.

“I’d still like to be at Six to make sure Trevelyan gets his arse out of Tokyo so he lives to buy me my tea,” he says, humming agreeably, “but, yes. I suppose it’s not so bad.”

Bond snorts. “As if he wouldn’t. I’d beat him to a pulp.”

Q pauses. For a moment, he looks at Bond fondly before he leans in to press a kiss against Bond’s cheek. “I’m sure you would, James, and then I’d ruin his credit score.”

“We could destroy him,” Bond says gleefully.

“With your fists and with debt,” Q agrees.

“Now I’m not so sure I want him to come back with the things you asked for,” Bond says, his eyes sparkling with mischief. “It might be fun to mess with Alec.”

Q barks out a laugh. “You’re unbelievable.”

“You’re amazing,” Bond counters.

Q rolls his eyes.

“Come here and kiss me, James.”

And Bond does.