“Bond, do you read me?” Q asked. He heard the slightest inhale of breath, then there was only silence. “Bond?”
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” came 007’s reply, casual as t-shirts, but Q knew the inflections in all his agents’ tones well enough by now to detect the slightest hint of something resembling either alarm or concern in Bond’s.
Q pursed his lips into a tightly-controlled line for a moment. 007 had been on mission in Malaysia for the past two weeks. He couldn’t possibly know about his Quartermaster’s infliction, could he? Yes, of course he could. This was James-bloody-Bond, a spy who worked for MI6, an organization known for keeping even the most violently sought-after secrets safe against everyone except the people working within its own walls. Nothing was sacred within the halls of the intelligence agency; nor, apparently, to certain nosey double-oh’s who were countries away from it.
“Not that it’s any of your business, but I’ve received a full clearance from Medical, and as such, M has declared me perfectly fit to retain my duties,” Q swiftly informed him just to waylay any concerns the agent might have about his Quartermaster not being up for the task of guiding him through the remainder of his mission. “Now, I don’t have eyes on you, Bond, but your tracker is showing you-”
“-I know exactly where I am, Q, thank you,” 007 huffed before his red blip continued to move down the street that Q had located him on. “Did you hack into their records?” he abruptly asked.
Q furled his brow for a moment. “You’ll have to be more specific, 007. I’ve only just returned to duty, so if you’re referring to anything pertaining to your current mission, I’m afraid I haven’t had the opportunity to-”
“-Medical, Q.” The slight smile was evident in the agent's hushed voice. “I’m assuming you hacked into Medical to get your clearance.”
“I did nothing of the sort,” Q answered without rising to the bait of either the interruptions or the accusation. “Take the alley up ahead on the left. According to the electrical grid, there are several lamps out in the area. The darkness should provide you better cover.” He watched for several seconds as the red blip that was Bond did as instructed. “Good. Continue forward and take the second right, then you should see the fence at the back of the compound. Enter at the far left corner, and I should be able to catch you on camera from there.”
Another moment passed when the agent stood still and silent, as if weighing his options. “You’re certain you’re up for this, Q?” It came out more of a statement than a question, the slight edge to it something that Q chose to ignore on account of 007's concern being perfectly legitimate. Well, maybe it was legitimate. One never knew when it came to the gossip of MI6.
The Quartermaster let out a long-suffering sigh. “What, exactly, did you hear, Bond? And I needn’t remind you that exaggerations are the favorite and only genre of story told around here.”
“No, you don't,” Bond concurred, “so let me give you the toned-down version. Your appendix ruptured and you collapsed in your office three days ago. In my experience, that should’ve put you down for at least two weeks after surgery.”
That…was actually a very accurate depiction of events, but that didn’t make the accounts entirely true. Q wouldn’t give Bond the satisfaction of saying so.
“I didn’t fully collapse,” he argued first and foremost. That, to him, implied he fainted like some sort of princess, which he absolutely did not. “I caught myself at the edge of my desk. It was a very controlled fall.”
“It was. I have it on camera if you’d like to see it.” Wait, what? No, Bond did not need to see it! Q blamed that last slip of his tongue on the slight fever he was still riding out, one that wouldn’t hamper his abilities any more than suffering an average cold would. It only fogged his brain-to-mouth filters. Just a touch. He’d have to remind himself to keep that in better check. “But regardless of whether or not I actually ‘collapsed,’ I only suffered a small rupture. I’ve abscessed, so they’ve gotten me on antibiotics until the infection has faded, after which they’ll be able to safely perform the appendectomy via laparoscope. My recovery time beyond that should be quite swift given that procedure.”
“And how long before the surgery?” Bond pressed, again with that most subtle touch of worry in his voice that only Q could read.
“About a month,” Q answered. It could’ve been more like six weeks, but the details of that weren’t important at the moment. Bond would be on English soil well before then, after which he wouldn’t have to dwell on whether or not his Quartermaster would be fit to direct his missions or not. That would be some other agent’s problem, as well as R’s while Q underwent the rather non-invasive procedure.
“A month,” Bond repeated, then seemed to take a moment to mull over this information. However he came to justify his decision to accept the explanation and move on, it was completely fine by Q. At least 007 was moving on. “Second right, you said?”
“Yes, Bond, second right.”
Miracle of miracles, Bond actually made the rest of the evening rather easy on Q. He had put himself into full and complete “stealth mode,” weaving his way into and out of the compound without so much as setting off a single alarm. Part of that rankled the Quartermaster a bit, because now he knew that 007 was, in fact, perfectly capable of completing a task without drawing gunfire to his person or blowing anything up, but another part of him was simply grateful that the agent hadn’t drawn things out longer than they needed to be. He hadn’t lied when he’d said he was fit for duty, but it didn’t mean he wouldn’t tire a bit faster than he had before. He did, after all, still have that slight fever from infection.
“Well done, Bond,” Q had praised once 007 was safely back in his hotel for the night, USB drive tucked securely away after he’d uploaded its contents to Headquarters. “I’ll analyze the data you’ve sent in time for your flight to Bangkok tomorrow. Keep your line open in case I should find anything that may compromise the next leg of your mission.”
“Do it in the morning, Q,” Bond ordered gently, if “gentle” was a term one could even use to described the actions of a double-oh. “I have an evening flight, which gives you plenty of time. Get some rest.”
Q, for once, didn’t argue. He would have all the time in the world to play the “I get the last word” game once he was back to full health. Or at least once the antibiotics ran their course to eradicate the infection from his system. His banter skills wouldn’t be up to par until that happened, anyway.
Q said his goodnights and accepted a ride to his flat from Tanner, offering assurances all the while that he was doing just fine and people need not fuss over him. It was almost funny, how entertainment media still led people to believe that a ruptured appendix meant instant death without immediate emergency surgery, but medical science had come a long way over the past two decades. In severe cases, yes, appendicitis was still very much a deadly affliction, but Q would hardly consider his case to be serious. He hadn’t even suffered the obvious symptoms that would’ve had him checking himself into medical before things had gotten out of hand. There had merely been a bit of cramping centered in his lower abdomen, one instance of vomiting, and an elevated temperature that had him fully convinced he was suffering from a touch of the flu or perhaps a mild form of food poisoning.
After a couple days of rest and determining he wasn't going to get any worse, Q had gone to the office, but had kept his duties light so he wouldn’t strain himself and therefore make himself worse, catching up mostly on paperwork while he allowed R and his minions to run missions unless he was urgently needed. And he’d been fine, well and truly fine outside of those mild symptoms, right up until he stood to fetch himself a fresh mug of tea only to take two steps before it felt like somebody had suddenly twisted a hand inside his bowels. He’d gasped, still wondering if it were no more than a severe stomach cramp, then quickly realized it had to be something a bit more serious than that as the pain continued to increase until it was too much for him to stand. His knees slowly buckled below him, and when he was only inches off the floor, that's when he’d dropped his hold on the desk in favor of wrapping both arms around his stomach, crumbling the rest of the way down. It had all been a rather quiet affair, which was unfortunate because he couldn’t do much outside of pant through the pain for about a half hour until it finally began to recede enough for him to call out for assistance. His voice didn’t exactly carry, though, and it was only by sheer luck that one of his minions found him, looking for him to sign off on a new design. Then it was a scramble to get him over to Medical where by the time all the proper tests had been done, the pain had already mostly subsided and the small rupture he'd experienced had already abscessed. He was admitted for the evening and put on in IV drip of immediate antibiotics, then discharged to go home and rest off more of his fever while his oral antibiotics continued to battle the infection, after which he was allowed to return to work under strict instructions that if he felt any further pain or experienced any returning symptoms of illness that he would immediately check himself back into Medical.
All a rather boring affair, really, aside from that half hour spent on his office floor in agony. At this point, though, within a mere three days, life had already returned to normal and he would be in practically perfect health again come time for his appendectomy (which really only needed to be done to ensure he wouldn’t suffer a second bout of appendicitis, a common occurrence once a person had already experienced a rupture). With the laparoscopic procedure, he could get the useless organ out of his body in under an hour and leave the following day with very little scarring to speak of. He’d be back at work on light duty by the end of the first week, and resume his full responsibilities after only two. Honestly, he was far better off right now with a ruptured appendix than any of the times he’d contracted bronchitis. At least he was only slightly foggy around the edges at the moment instead of doubling over in pain from wracking coughs, which lasted for days on end before any sort of relief was in sight. Appendicitis (at the level he was experiencing it, anyway) was a cakewalk next to that.
In fact, with everyone so worried that he was worse off than he actually was and merely playing at being stoic (which he really, truly wasn’t), this next month was probably going to be one of the most stress-free periods of his entire career. Yes...perhaps we would follow doctor’s orders almost too close to the letter and just let other people fuss over him for a change. Maybe, if he were lucky, he might even see some of his equipment brought back to him (if 007’s obedient and careful behavior tonight could be any sort of indicator). It was amazing what a double-oh agent could be capable of when faced with any sort of real human emotion, and expressing actual concern for the health of a sick colleague was as real as it got.
Q smiled to himself as he prepared a simple meal of warm soup for the evening. Right, then. Easy missions, easy workload, free rides home, and a bit of peace around the office for the remainder of his time fighting off the infection before his procedure, after which he’d have at least a full week to enjoy some solitude in his flat with only the company of his cats. Yes, appendicitis could be a very good deal for him, indeed.
Appendicitis was not a very good deal.
It had been for almost a week. He did get coddled and he got his free rides and a bit of that quiet time in the office and sometimes people would even bring him comfort foods to ease his stomach (which really wasn’t even hurting anymore, but food was always good when on antibiotics, so he wasn’t going to turn it down). Bond was an absolute joy to work with for the remainder of his mission, going through the motions of exchanging his usual banter, but there was a softness to it that was usually wasn’t present when Q was in good health, and the agent always tampered down the foolishness whenever it was time to focus again. He kept things quiet and relatively calm (for 007), finishing his mission without hardly a scratch on him and with (almost) all of his equipment (mostly) intact. Despite how well it had all been going, Q actually found himself reassuring Bond out of the blue here and there that he really was fine, somehow feeling guilty about the fact that 007 was clearly worried about him and was trying his best to make his Quartermaster’s job easy for once.
That will be the end of my peace and quiet, though, Q thought to himself as he stepped into his usual cafe for a quick breakfast of honeyed tea and a raspberry scone. Bond would be home by late afternoon and would most likely smother Q with well intentions. He’d done it once before when the Quartermaster had suffered his last onslaught of bronchitis, but honestly Q had taken it as the agent just trying to be obnoxious while Q’s defenses were down. That had been ages ago, though, and now Q knew Bond at least a little better than that. Based on how he’d just conducted himself on his mission, the concern was very, very real, but the trained assassin didn’t have a lick of sense in expressing said concern like a normal human being. For a man who could be so very subtle at times, he also had a knack for blowing things well out of proportion. Literally, in many instances. Bond was just like that - an all or nothing sort of individual. With an ill Quartermaster and a 007 just off mission with nothing better to do than to fuss over said ill Quartermaster, it was going to be an “all” sort of ordeal.
Still, Q would have preferred that to the situation he’d found himself stuck in now.
He’d lost track of the time ages ago, but knew that hours must have passed based on how truly miserably he felt now - chilled, feverish, his breaths coming in a bit too rapidly to be healthy, his abdomen far more sensitive to touch than the two swift, hard punches he’d received there truly warranted. It was very clear that the blunt trauma had ruptured the protective walls of his abscess, allowing the previously-contained infection to spread freely into his abdominal cavity. At the moment, he knew he must have been suffering the beginning phases of peritonitis. If left too long, he would eventually go into septic shock, and wouldn’t that be a fun way to die?
A soft whimper escaped his lips, and someone (one of the cafe baristas, he suspected, but didn’t care enough to confirm) wiped his face down with a cool cloth, adjusting his coat over him again in the process. The girl shushed him quietly, but even that much vocalization was too much as it earned a bark from the man holding all of them hostage to shut her mouth. The last person who had tried to suggest at least allowing Q to go free so he could get proper medical attention wound up with a nasty bruise covering a possibly-broken cheek courtesy of a crack across the face with the butt of the man’s rifle.
This whole situation was stupid, really, man’s idiocy at its finest. Who really got this bent out of shape about not getting hired at a corner cafe, for god’s sake? Clearly the cafe manager was in her right mind not to hire this unstable man who was obviously high on possibly every drug on the market. For him to return later to take it out all on the employees and their few early-morning customers - it was completely ridiculous.
Q, of course, had very calmly tried to talk the man down from his ire as he pointed his rifle in the face of the poor barista who’d been taking Q’s order, but all his words had earned him was the brutal assault on his midsection that sent him straight to the floor in even more agony than he’d experienced with the first rupture. The man had spouted off at him some insult or other about him being a sissy-boy who couldn’t take a hit, which wasn’t exactly true despite Q’s smaller stature and general appearance of weakness. He’d had training much like the rest of MI6’s employees and could actually handle himself decently well in a fight (at least well enough to get himself out of it safely), but it was rather difficult to remember one’s training when taking a hit directly to an area of the body that was already damaged. If Bond were to describe this recent fall as a "collapse" in the retelling of this particular bit of legendary office gossip, Q would have no choice but to absolutely back that observation. He'd hit the ground rather like a sack of rotten grain, and he’d stayed down ever since. How, exactly, he’d somehow found himself on the other side of the counter near the kitchen was beyond him; all he knew was that somewhere in the timetable of this hostage situation, he’d been put under care of the cafe staff with some towels propping his head up off the floor and his own coat billowed over him in a pathetic attempt to keep out the cold.
Why was it so damn cold?
Oh. Right. Ruptured organs. Infection. Fever. Things that generally made a body feel cold when it was, in fact, rather burning up. The body's fickle inability to make up its mind was dumb.
Q blinked his eyes shut in irritation only to realize time had jumped ahead again when opened them, far enough ahead for their captor to be agreeing to some sort of deal on somebody’s cell phone. It was something about letting one of the hostages go. That was good, he supposed. Maybe the man would let the nice barista go who’d been taking care of him. She deserved that much.
No, no, he was mentioning a sick man. Their captor was talking about him. Oh. Well. It seemed somebody had finally talked some modicum of sense into their captor, after all. Probably the local authorities. The man had to be desperate now and was at the point of just trying to make deals for his life. Every sniper in the city was probably outside that door waiting to make a move.
“Just you,” the man was saying. Ah, he was speaking to the hostage negotiator, then. What a horrible job that had to be, always the one forced to butter up the perpetrators, to gain their trust only to be put in the line of fire. Although Q supposed that really wasn’t much different from what his double-oh’s did...except the part where his agents were allowed to kill the perps. Regular hostage negotiators, as a rule, didn’t tend to do that. They really ought to be able to, though, considering they were the ones who were most at risk to be shoved into situations like these where dangerous gunmen would see no one but them. It was all about trust, and trust could be a very deadly weapon in its own right. If Bond, for example, was playing the role of negotiator, all he had to do was gain the man’s trust, then waltz right in here and snap the gunman’s ne-
“Hello, Rupert,” a familiar voice greeted amicably from the door.
Q smiled. Oh.
He didn’t hear the sound of someone’s neck snapping, but there was the distinct sound of the fastest “scuffle” of all time, if it could even be called that, followed immediately by the sound of a body hitting the floor. Someone screamed obnoxiously - why the hell would anybody scream when rescue had just arrived? - but thankfully the kind barista had more sense and immediately called their savior over behind the counter.
“He’s in a bad way,” she said, her voice still hushed as it had been trained to be for the past several hours. Definitely had to be hours, if Bond had had the time to get back home, discover Q’s whereabouts, and then play hostage negotiator for long enough to trick...Rupert?...into trusting him. In fact, it was probably nearly evening by then. No wonder Q felt like death warmed over.
“What took you so long?” he had just enough strength to breathe out once he felt his agent kneel down beside him.
Bond smirked and placed a gentle hand on Q’s sweat-slicked forehead, brushing some of the hair away that had plastered there. “I couldn’t exactly shoot my way in. You had to choose the one cafe in all of London to dine in that’s walled off like a fort for vampires, didn’t you? This is why you computer types never tan, you know.”
“It’s cozy,” Q simply murmured in defense, losing the will to keep his eyes open.
“Not cozy enough to get a proper night’s sleep in,” Bond kindly informed him. “Stay awake for me long enough to get you to a real bed, alright?”
“Hmm...promiscuous,” Q stated with neither smile nor frown, simply making an observation. Possibly a joke. He wasn’t even sure at this point.
James chuckled at that before taking a moment to spout off orders to someone...somewhere. Q didn’t really care the details of it. He just wanted to be warm. And preferably not dying.
“I can be promiscuous later when you’re not dying,” the agent replied. Huh. When did 007 become a mind-reader? Probably always. That had to be the secret to how he was always so damn good at his job.
“Okay,” Q agreed, and he didn’t care about that, either. He was too busy losing all sense of time again to care about agreeing to the concept of having James hit on him or not. He could sort it out later. Later was good, once he he'd gotten his sense of time back.
Time was something that Q found himself having far too much of lately, and he was frankly getting rather sick of it.
Sadly, under the circumstances, he did not get his easy laparoscopic surgery. The surgeons had to go in and thoroughly clean all the bacteria from his system, removing his appendix in the process and leaving a catheter hanging out of his side in its place to drain any further infection. He was stuck in Medical for nearly two weeks before the disgusting thing was removed, then discharged to recover at home for another two full weeks before he’d be allowed to return for even light duty. It was infuriating, especially since he hadn’t done anything to aggravate his infection in the first place. He had been so damn careful with himself in the days following his initial rupture, a perfect model patient, and yet there he was, being punished for it simply because he’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time and had dared try to defuse a dangerous situation before it could get ugly. Except it did get ugly. It had gotten ugly all over him.
“Your face is going to freeze that way, Q,” Bond warned from the kitchen where he was making supper. “Stop being so bitter. Your detainment is almost over.”
“I’m not-” he cut himself off with a slight wince as he tried to sit up straighter on the couch a little too quickly, “-bitter.”
“Alright?” Bond questioned softly, ignoring the argument in favor of zeroing in on his self-appointed charge’s pain.
“....Yes,” Q breathed out slowly.
He stayed quiet as he moved himself more cautiously into the position he was aiming for, and sat politely as James finished cooking and served him up. Really it hadn’t been all bad, having 007 keeping him company. He hadn’t mentioned anything about that whole agreeing to be seduced thing (oh, no, Q unfortunately had not forgotten about that in any sort of blessed fever haze), and had, in fact, been nothing but helpful and rather cordial despite his Quartermaster’s growing agitation. Maybe Q would make him an exploding...something in return for this. Not a pen. Q was far too stubborn to give the man the satisfaction of a pen. Perhaps the steering wheel of his next car. Yes, that way when Bond inevitably destroyed everything but the steering wheel, he could still use that as a last line of defense. Might as well let him go in for that all he enjoyed so much.
“That’s a far better look for you,” Bond grinned, catching the humored smile on Q’s lips. “If not a little disturbing…”
“I’m building you an exploding steering wheel,” Q flatly said out.
Bond stared at him for a moment, not certain whether to laugh or be concerned. The look on his face made Q pull a pillow against his stomach so he could actually laugh, even though he really wasn’t supposed to. The pillow only did so much to protect him against the pain, but still, it had been worth it.
“Alright?” Bond asked again when Q was finished, settling on a bemused expression.
“Yes,” Q chuckled. “Please turn on the tele before I drive the both of us insane with my boredom.”
Bond did as asked, and they both ate and watched in companionable silence for at least an hour before Q grew tired of sitting up again. He began to lean away towards his side of the couch when, feeling a little bold (and, frankly, more than a bit cold), he suddenly changed his mind. Slowly, tentatively, he leaned towards Bond, instead, settling stiffly on his shoulder for a moment while he waited to see what might happen. When there was no immediate rejection, Q allowed himself to relax into the heat radiating from Bond's body, the cold from the cafe floor and that insufferable room in Medical still all too fresh in his mind.
“Alright?” Bond murmured against Q’s head.
Q sighed. “Just shut up, Bond, and cuddle me before I start thinking this through,” he demanded, because screw it, he could be an all sort of person, too, if he wanted to be.
Bond happily complied. “Yes, Quartermaster.”
And as muscled arms wrapped around him to fold him into their warm, safe embrace, Q decided that, no, appendicitis really hadn’t been that bad, after all.