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To a Cat Owner's Heart (When He's Sick)

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Q wakes to the usual weight of a cat on his chest, yet his forehead felt hotter than the usual temperature due to another cat on the pillow. It should still be very early in the morning, for his two Cornish Rex are nestling at their favourite spots in bed. Even under the duvet, Q feels he’s freezing from his bones. He shifts uncomfortably to his side, trying to get more warmth.

In the darkness, Q hears Homer’s complaining meow at the sudden movement of his “bed”. He mumbles, “You warmed to 007 in just five seconds, traitor. I still haven’t had a word with you on that.” His throat hurts as he speaks and he decides he’s going to blame that agent for that too.

Q grumbles as he realises his thoughts turn to that certain Double-oh again. He massages his temple in a vain attempt of getting rid of dizzily heat, burying his head into the cooler part of his fluffy pillow which isn’t occupied by any feline warmer. During their Christmas Eve dinner four days ago, Q learnt that Bond became unattached. Since then, he’s been working extra hours even there’s nothing urgent to do. They’d still been gathering intelligence on the remaining of Spectre and no agents were sent out for mission. The cats were doing fine at his workplace- no, he’s not going to think of the person who got him something to keep them warm- and a bit of chill there actually helped Q focus at refining his latest design of an explosive tiepin- again, that’s not just for a certain agent. It was three nights at work later when he could not stand the sight of his cats in those beautiful feline sweaters from Bond. He decided to get some decent sleep in his own bed back in his flat.

And now he’s lying sick and feverish, yet still thinking about that agent who may or may not be completely responsible for his miserable state. He feels awfully drowsy but sleep doesn’t come back.

With a sigh, he reaches for his phone on the bedside table, his arm jelly-like but still feeling the soft cat sweaters underneath. Rolling his eyes is aching but still he does, in the hope of chasing someone from his mind. He quickly types a text to Eve, saying he can’t make it to the budget meeting in the morning due to illness, After texting R with some instructions, he tosses his phone next to the pillow. Wordsworth lets out a soft purr as he brushes past her back while adjusting his aching limbs. Q decides he should make her his favourite rather than Homer the traitor.

It’s nearly 4am and Q has precisely 80 minutes before his cats demand for breakfast. He hopes he’ll be capable of feeding them and himself, plus getting some medicine. Meanwhile, he’s trying to get some rest.

Q’s lost track of time as he suddenly wakes to the noises at the front door, which don’t go amiss even to a sick MI6 quartermaster.

He feels Wordsworth leaving his pillow and Homer stirring at his side. He imagines he’d swiftly check the CCTVs, activate relevant anti-break-in measures and shut his cats away just in case, if he wasn’t lying bonelessly in fever-induced chill. He gingerly put on his glasses, picking up his phone to check if there’s feed from the biometric identifying door lock system he installed half a year ago. He’s surprised to find there’s no security breach warning, as he watches four of his door locks sequentially unlocked by someone who clearly knows how they work.

Q frowns, wincing as his head hurts more. There’re just three other people who have access to the door of his flat. One of whom, that bloody Double-oh he’s been trying to shut out of his mind, shouldn’t even have known that. It was out of sentimentality Q added that agent’s info to the database and didn’t delete it after he left in that car. Q’s shaky thumb was hovering on the final button needed to activate the defence system at the doorway, as the door is opened with a squeak.

“Q? Whatever you’re up to, just don’t launch an attack on your own agent.” It’s exactly the voice of that particular agent who doesn’t care to hide the smirk in his tone. Q groans and wonders what he’s done to deserve another headache.

“I’m here only to make sure the occupants of this flat are looked after.” Q hears an honest statement from his kitchen and the soft click of the switch of his electronic kettle. He hates to admit that but the presence of Bond in his flat isn’t unnerving but feels… right. He tries not to doze off as he listens and pictures Bond opening and closing the cupboards to look for things he need… for making breakfast? Faintly he hears a chorus of meowing and exciting paws softly darting on the floor tiles. It’s disappointing that his cats didn’t greet the intruder with proper hisses. How can they accept this licensed killer this quickly?

“How’re you feeling?” Bond pokes his head into Q’s bedroom, leaning on the doorframe with two mugs of steaming tea.

Q clears his throat, popping himself up slowly to switch on the bedside lamp. Bond takes the cue and strides in, handing Q a mug. Q tries to ignore the fact that Bond picked the right mug.

Despite the sluggish senses, Q can tell the Earl Grey tea is exactly how he normally takes it, black and with the same degree of richness and sweetness.

“Good that I still remember how my quartermaster takes his tea,” Bond observes with a chuckle. “Do you hate porridge?”

The tea is welcoming but Q’s mind can yet to react to the situation where James Bond, of all people, with his shirt sleeves rolled back to his elbow, sipping tea while sitting on the edge of his own bed at 5am. Q shook his head as a reply.

Bond finishes his tea and stands up, stretching himself with the empty mug in his right hand. Q rolls his eyes. He’d have made an exasperated remark of “what a show-off” if it wasn’t Bond who just brought him a reviving mug of tea.

“Breakfast’s in 20 minutes,” Bond gently remarks.

“Wait… did Eve send you?” Q asks weakly, disregarding his sore throat.

“When did you add my number as Eve’s in your contact?” Bond replies amusedly, leaving Q to his tea.

It takes a while for Q to process the meaning. He unlocks his mobile, retrieving the sent texts. The last text to Eve Moneypenny was three days ago. As soon as he confirms the second last name in the receiver column, he throws away his phone with a painful groan, pulling his knees together with a huff. He placed the mug against his burning forehead, squeezing his eyes shut in the hope that the duvet would swallow him up.

*Meow* Q opened his itchy eyes to find Wordsworth head-butting his knees, purring happily. Q mindlessly runs his fingers through her bicoloured fine short curls. Soft clinking noises from the kitchen confirms Bond’s presence. Q doesn’t know what to make of his embarrassing mistake and its result. Wordsworth doesn’t comment on Q’s drama but stays with him till the noises from the kitchen ceases.

“I don’t mind having breakfast in bed if you allow me to share your bed with you,” Bond declares cheerfully as he reappears at Q’s bedroom door, balancing a tray singlehandedly.

“Better have it at the kitchen bar table,” Q brushes off Bond’s suggestion with a bit awkwardness. His quick wit clearly vanishes with sickness and embarrassment.

Bond scrutinised Q’s slow struggle out of the duvet, as if assessing his condition. Q is relieved when Bond finally takes away his gaze to leave him put on his dressing gown. Shakily Q joins Bond at the table, his stuffy nose picking up hints of cinnamon and some spices.

“I’m not giving you paracetamol until you finish this,” Bond sighs as he pushes a bowl in front of Q, “God knows how long you haven’t eaten something nutritious.”

“Right, but before that I need to text Eve…” Q suddenly remembers. Bond stopped him getting off the stool with a hand on his wrist.

“She’s been notified,” Bond reassures, his voice assuring and gentle. “Or else how did I know about those stupid locks on your door?”

Q blushes, but he thinks it’ll go unnoticed on his feverish face. Picking up the spoon, he hears Homer’s meowing and soft whoosh from the living room. Realisation strikes moments later.

“So you’ve fed my cats already,” Q looks at Bond wide-eyed, his soft voice can’t quite express his surprise. “How can you unlock that cupboard? I—”

“I just got those wet cat food pouches I saw at Q-Branch,” Bond interrupted, “Can you now just eat? I’m not here to make you cold breakfast.”

Q bites back a snark remark and has a mouthful of the sweet creamy porridge. It’s really good. Q isn’t a fan of gluey stuff but he tolerates those ready-to-eat porridge, because it’s what his minions often get him as late dinner. But Bond’s has perfect oat to liquid ratio and Q loves the combination of milk, honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and dried fruits. Furthermore he’s delighted by the addition of currants and apple bites. He hums his approval.

“It’s a family recipe,” Bond mentions casually between his mouthfuls. Even in such a state, Q can’t but think of Bond’s Scottish origin. There’re too much going on that needs later analysis.

A soft thud distracts Q’s thought. It’s Homer landing gracefully on the spot next to Bond’s bowl, meowing for the agent’s attention. Q shakes his head and mutters, “They can have those wet cat food only once or twice in a month. It’s too salty but they love it. You just became their favourite person.”

Bond looks smug as he rubs Homer’s chin and the brown cat purrs loudly, as if Q wasn’t sitting opposite him at all.

“To a cat’s heart is through his stupid stomach,” Q absentmindedly sighs.

“To their owner’s heart is also through his stomach,” Bond teases.

Q nearly chokes, well aware that Bond just repeated the proverb that resulted in their first proper dinner several days ago, with a slight variation this time.

“And I’m glad you enjoy the breakfast I cooked for you,” Bond continues triumphantly, “It’s not that easy to get up at 4am, gather all the stuff and drive here to cook in an unfamiliar kitchen.”

Q felt embarrassed again. “I don’t know why my text went to you. There’s actually no need for you to come.”

“Even if you don’t want to eat, your cats can’t starve.”

“Since when have you cared so much about my cats?” A well-fed Q functions a bit better even in illness.

Bond just shrugs, giving Q a small smile before putting the bowls to into the dishwasher. Q glares at his back, his thumb pressing his temple to relieve the pain. Watching Bond moving in his kitchen with such fitting ease worries Q. Bond retrieves a bottle of pills from a bag Q didn’t notice before, then he pours Q a glass of water.

“Paracetamol,” Bond explains. “Take two of them and go back to sleep.”

“Thanks,” Q murmurs, swallowing the pills. He gets hold also of his tablet from the table without a thought as he leaves his stool with caution. Bond stops him with his warm hand over Q’s slender one.

“No working, Q. Just rest.”

In the end Bond insists helping Q back to bed. Q lets him without much protest, watching Bond hang his dressing gown for him. His head is still ponding but he feels sleep can claim him in any second. 

“I’ll order takeaway for you in the afternoon,” Bond returns to place a glass of water on the bedside table, watching Q with a chuckle. “Don’t electrocute the delivery man, Q.”

Q feels Bond tuck away few strands of loose hair on his forehead and he's grateful Bond doesn't make a remark on why the neatly-folded cat sweaters are on the table. Without glasses, Q can’t see what those beautiful icy blue eyes say. On the other hand, he’s glad because he doesn’t know what he’d do in drugged and feverish state. There’s too much going on this early morning to ponder later, in a mix of emotions consisting of not only embarrassment and gratitude.

“Thank you, James,” Q manages to say, as Bond switches off the lamp and leaves.

“Just thank me over dinner when you’re well again.”

There’s just tenderness in the reply.  Q drifts off into unconsciousness with a mindful of anticipation he doesn’t want to admit.