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Wet Ink

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Q was going to murder whoever set off the sprinklers in Q-branch. Not only were they likely to have a lot of damaged equipment, but the water was freezing cold and not particularly sanitary. It flowed cleaner once the pipes were flushed out, but Q's favourite wool cardigan was already soaked through. He stripped off the sodden mess and hoped there would be enough towels to dry it flat.

His tie was next, since wet silk was even less comfortable than dry, leaving him shivering in nothing but a transparent white button-down and his clinging brown check trousers. At least those would probably survive the deluge. Which cut off as abruptly as it had begun, thanks to someone finally getting into the system from another, drier room.

"Is that a tattoo?" asked a voice behind him.

Q whirled and glared, aware that he was just revealing the ones on his front by doing so. "I don't believe that's any of your business, 007."

"Did you get a new one?" asked Divya, coming over to peer curiously at his back. Her clothes were likewise soaked, but she'd worn burgundy today so it wasn't nearly as much of a spectacle.

"We are not discussing my body art," said Q firmly. "We are discussing the soon-to-be-fired person that set off the sprinklers."

"Burnt popcorn in the microwave," said Rayan, poking his head out of their little kitchenette. "Really burnt."

Q's eyes narrowed. "Anderson?" he said dangerously.

There was silence, punctuated by the drip of water off various surfaces.

"He stepped out for a sec," said Colin, sighing over the ruined cup of tea he'd just made for Q. "Right before the... Oh."

"Oh is right," said Q darkly. "All right, people, everyone assess their own equipment first, let's see what's salvageable."

Q turned to his own workstation, hoping that ignoring Bond would make him go away.

No such luck. "These are fascinating," said Bond, leaning in to peer at Q's tattoos through the shirt. "I wish I could see them properly," he added, flirting as easily as breathing.

"I wish you'd return your equipment in one piece," said Q. "It seems we are both doomed to disappointment."

"Speaking of equipment," said Bond.

Q sighed. "Fine, yes, Divya, please take care of my things once you've done your own. Colin, tea when you have the chance?"

"Yes, sir," they said in a ragged chorus.

"And send Anderson to find me the moment he returns," said Q. "No one spoil his unpleasant surprise, please."

An 'oooh' ran through the minions, looks ranging from vindictive to sympathetic on their faces.

"Will do," said Rayan. "Your office should be dry, yeah?"

"Should be," said Q. "Also, if someone could procure some towels from the gym?"

"On it," said one of the more bedraggled-looking minions, pushing away from her desk to scamper down the corridor. Q hoped her vintage dress wasn't completely ruined.

"All right, this way," said Q, gesturing to his office.

Bond led the way, sauntering like he owned the place despite having to splash through a couple of puddles. Q's office was dry, but quite cold, and he headed for his spare clothes with another shiver.

"So," said Bond, leaning against one of the work tables casually, "if I bring it all back, do I get a show?"

Q rolled his eyes. "What equipment do you need, Bond?" asked Q. He had a fresh shirt, thankfully, and trousers, but he'd not replenished his pants or socks, so he'd have an uncomfortable commute home.

He was slipping out of his shoes when Bond came over, looking surprised and curious. "Will I get a show now?"

Q huffed. "I'm hardly going to spend all day in wet clothes," he pointed out, stripping out of his sodden socks. "And I'm not your type, so it's not sexual harassment."

"I just need the usual, unless M sent you special instructions," said Bond, licking his lips. "You're not not my type."

Q rolled his eyes. "If you're going to be missish, you can turn around, then," he said, and then he sighed and attempted to squeeze more water out of his hair. He really wanted to dry off, which meant waiting for a towel or three.

Bond snorted. "As if HR would even accept a harassment complaint from me," he said. "Besides, I want to see."

"So you're saying I should file one against you instead," said Q.

Colin came in bearing tea and towels. "I'll do your cardigan in a minute," he promised, handing them off to Q. "D'you need me to hold up a cloth or anything?"

Q laughed and shook his head, taking the cup and getting one long, hot sip of tea. "Mmm, no, Bond will survive the site of my pale arse," said Q. "Thanks."

"You're welcome," said Colin cheerfully. He was still quite damp himself, but Q had no doubt that something would be worked out for the lot of them, if only by raiding Medical for scrubs. "The damage seems like mostly monitors and phones so far, someone's gone down to the cafeteria to see if we can get a big bag of rice to salvage the phones with."

"Clever minions," said Q with a grin. He gave in to the urge to get dry and warm, and started stripping off while they talked, trying to ignore Bond's very focused attention. "Personally, I'm just glad they didn't short out the kettle."

Colin laughed and shook his head. "Nah, I've got that good one in there now, nothing shy of a bomb will damage it."

Q stripped to his skin and started drying off, grateful for even the rough towels from the MI6 gym as a shiver ran through him. He knew Bond was staring now, having seen that Q was tattooed not just on his torso but all down his limbs as well, nothing below the elbow but otherwise even one slender foot held a work of art.

Colin handed him trousers first, then a shirt, and finally another towel to finish getting his mop of hair as dry as he could.

"No socks?" asked Bond, staring at Q's foot as if it held some kind of secret.

"Afraid not," said Q with a sigh. He took his wet clothes and hung them, hoping they'd dry enough to not be completely disgusting to carry home later. "I haven't replenished my clothing stash here in too long."

"I've got some," said Bond. "I mean, if you want. In my gym locker." His expression was closed off, hidden.

"Oh, I can get them," said Colin. "Number and combination?"

Bond rattled them off without blinking; Colin might be just the tea boy to a lot of agents, but Bond was smart enough to see that he was one of Q's most trusted and valued minions. Colin dashed off, likely grateful for the chance to raid his own locker for something dry.

"Thank you," said Q, quite sincerely.

Bond took off his suit jacket and draped it over Q, the heat from his body too welcome for Q to refuse. "You're still freezing, drink your tea."

Q didn't resist that, either, though he did pause to get his arms in Bond's jacket. The sleeves were a pretty good length, though the shoulders were ridiculously broad on him. "So, is it a fetish?" he asked.

"What?" said Bond, his blank expression falling into surprise.

Q laughed. "Well, it's not as if my body held any surprises besides the art. So I was wondering if it was a tattoo fetish, or what?"

Bond chuckled wryly. "Or what," he said. "Let's call it a change in perspective."

"No longer worried about my complexion?" asked Q sardonically. He spoiled it a little by taking another sip of tea and making a sound of pure pleasure at the mix of sugar, bergamot, and heat.

"No longer thinking of having me ignominiously hauled away for scrap?" Bond shot back.

"Hm," said Q, looking him up and down. Bond's suit was close-tailored enough that Q could see his muscles through his shirt, the strength in his thighs and chest and arms that was, Q had to admit, right up his alley. "I suppose we'll keep you, though I do still have to send you off to..."

"Marrakesh," said Bond. "You should have email about it."

"I'll get my tablet when I'm done with my tea," said Q. He was standing on the one scrap of rug in the chilly room, and had no intention of going anywhere barefoot if he didn't have to.

"You should get someone from the car service to drive you home," said Bond, looking him up and down. "You'll catch your death on the Tube."

Q cocked his head. "That's actually a good idea," he said, padding over to his desk phone, which was within reach of the rug.

Colin arrived in his own dry clothes with Bond's socks in hand just as Q finished making the arrangements, and Q thanked him and sat to pull them on. "Oh, these are quite nice," he said, surprised.

Bond chuckled. "I hate the treadmill, so I make every effort to be as comfortable as possible while on it," he said.

Q was just getting ready to find his tablet when a familiar head peeked in the door. "Oh, erm, Divya said you wanted to see me?" said Anderson, the look on his face saying that he had an idea of what this was about and was worried Bond was there to execute him on Q's orders.

"Yes, do come in," said Q. "Have a seat there, I'll be done with 007 soon." Q pointed, not to the cosy little reading nook he used for pleasant meetings, but a hard metal stool next to one of his work tables. He retrieved his tablet, very pleased with the insulation provided by Bond's socks and already planning to steal them. He did indeed have an email about Bond going to Marrakesh, and he could see how a few things he'd been working on might be useful.

When he looked up, Bond was glaring at Anderson as if it was his own clothing that had been ruined. Not that Bond didn't treat his bespoke suits the same way he treated Q's equipment, but there was definitely a look of personal affront rather than the general disdain Q had expected.

"I think I might have a little something for you besides the usual," said Q.

Bond perked right up. "Might you?" he asked, joining Q by his work table. His attention never quite left Anderson, who was looking quite pale at this point.

"Well, you have helped get me warm, dry, and shod," said Q. "That deserves a little something."

"If I bring it all back, perhaps I'll earn a little something else," Bond said, voice full of hope as much as innuendo.

Q took it in stride, filing the change in attitude away with the rest. "Perhaps," said Q lightly. He went over to one of his many projects in progress and closed up the back of device sitting there. He let himself enjoy the process of telling Bond about it, watching the delight on the agent's face and sharing his own excitement about the prototype and its possibilities. He got Bond entirely outfitted from items in his own office -- he ought to have put Bond's gun in the armoury, but he'd only finished rebuilding it yesterday, so the timing at least was convenient.

Bond kept a distrustful eye on Anderson the whole time, and Q didn't even pretend not to enjoy the man's squirming.

"All right, you're set," said Q, handing him his gun case. "Thank you again for the socks."

Bond grinned. "You needn't pretend you're going to return them," he said. "I'll send the link to Colin, they're from this mail order place. You can get a subscription."

Q laughed delightedly. "Subscription socks. That sounds perfect for a man who keeps losing his luggage."

"You have no idea," said Bond with great feeling. He looked like he was about to say something else when his phone sounded, and he sighed. "Right, off to get my tickets. Thanks for the goodies."

"Do try to bring me back something in one piece?" said Q, a smile under his long-suffering tone.

Bond winked. "Will do," he said, giving Anderson one last death glare on the way out.

Q sighed and lamented the lack of his phone, then emailed Colin for more tea before turning on Anderson. "So," he said, "I hear you're a fan of popcorn."

Anderson cringed.