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Saoghal Tinn

Chapter Text

Second of September 2012

BBC News – The Hour

Hello and good evening. A startling medical incident occurred in a meat packaging plant several miles outside of London where an employee suddenly went on a mad rampage. The man, whose name is being withheld by the police until the investigation is complete, was able to attack several of his coworkers before officials arrived. Witnesses say that the man attacked as if rabid, snarling, tearing and biting everyone in sight. The rampage only ended when he had been shot down by the police who had also been attacked on arrival. No fatalities were reported besides that of the attacker, but numerous injuries were sustained by those in proximity to him. Those injured are being treated at a nearby hospital and are all expected to be released back home by tonight.

Witnesses also noted that the man had seemed in poor health the last couple days, which brought up the concern that this may be the first case of human rabies that has been seen in decades. The medical examiner on site could not offer anything conclusive but seemed baffled that all evidence he collected from the body indicated that the man had died before his rampage had even begun.

When asked if he was concerned with a sick man handling food items at the packaging plant, the manager of seemed unconcerned and did not see any reason to dispose of any of the meat handled by the employee…

Q sighed as he clicked off the telly, tossing the remote across the couch in mild disgust as he made a mental note to avoid eating fresh meat for the near future. He liked to think he had a strong stomach after witnessing all that he had overseeing many a bloody mission, but it was the little enemies, the ones he couldn’t kill with a well-aimed bullet that made his skin crawl. Biological sciences, bacteria and viruses were not his area of expertise for a reason.

Getting covered in grease and engine oil after a day’s hard work had a certain vocationally romantic feel to it. The grimy feel reminded Q of just how hard he worked, like sore muscles after a rewarding workout. Now, one couldn’t get that same feeling with petri dishes and hormonal growth media. Not without risking some very exotic illnesses anyway.

Speaking of such dirtiness…

“Darling, you don’t want any scratches from me right now. I haven’t been able to get all the grime out from my nails yet, you know how it is with grease. You’ll just end up having to take another bath before your pre-bedtime bath, and you’ve only just finished your post suppertime bath,” he said softly to his skinny little Siamese cat, Cookie. She ignored him, seemingly purring louder to cover up his protests as she bumped her wedge-shaped head against his own.

It was perhaps time for a shower anyway. He just needed to work up the energy to roll himself off his couch that was so plush that it practically absorbed whoever sat on it into the cushions. Truly it did take the will of God to pull anyone’s arse from the deep maroon pillows once settled there, and Q was already existing purely off of the dwindling fumes of his cup of tea he had just before lunch. It had been a long day in R&D fixing up Bond’s latest victim, a poor sports car that deserved better than to be rammed into several innocent fruit carts before being slammed through some drug lords front gate. As much as that was par for the course for Q, his day had gotten even more draining when he had received a call up to M’s office.

There was a technological conference coming up quickly that Q had been adamant about attending to gather inspiration for further R&D projects. Not to mention Q’s own aching desire to catch glimpses of all the new shiny innovations that had yet to hit the general market, but he didn’t put that down in the reason for attendance field of the request for he’d filled out.

He had an image to keep up after all. Enough people looked at him and assumed he was still clinging to the edges of childhood, there was no need to exacerbate that assumption by tugging at M’s coattails while screaming pretty please like he wanted to do when his Boss had begun to tell him the security risk was too much to allow “one of England’s greatest assets to go traipsing about Europe without protection.”

Oh, but Moneypenny. Blessed, beautiful, brilliant Moneypenny had of course stepped in with the quick and ruthless suggestion that Q have a high-level agent attend the conference as well, as his bodyguard. Q wasn’t proud about it, but he may have turned very pleading eyes back towards M.

Q refused to admit to himself that some lip may have been pouted as well. Image still needed to be maintained, even if was just in his own mind.

The sigh that escaped from M seemed to deflate at least forty percent of his body. It could have possibly been more, but the vast percentage of his body was behind a desk, so Q was making an educational guess.

“And just who, Ms. Moneypenny, is available to take on such a mission,” M asked warily, as if he sensed what was coming next.

Eve smile was small, probably hiding the mischief that was waiting behind the smirk she was suppressing. It was at this point that Q should have known what was coming next.

“I believe Bond is back in town and that medical just cleared him this afternoon after that ankle sprain he got on his last mission. This will be perfect to ease him back in, and he does love his gadgets too,” she offered almost too helpfully.  

Q’s eyes widened in distress, “Loves to destroy them you mean. It would be irresponsible of me as a part of the scientific community to expose such a plague upon top of the line technology. Sir, I- “

“If you want to go then this is the only way I’ll allow it. Do you trust Bond with your safety?” M asked, eyebrow raised.

Without even hesitating Q nodded, “Of course,” he said fervently, “It’s just not my own safety I worry about.”

The Skyfall mission had been 6 months ago, but despite the tragic end to that incident, Q had never even doubted for a moment that Bond did everything possible to save Mansfield. Even as the agent phoned in to report to himself and Tanner that she was gone, the only thing that Q had thought was that he hoped Bond was being taken care of for his no doubt numerous injuries sustained protecting her.

“Then it’s settled. Ms. Moneypenny, if you wouldn’t mind informing Bond of his mission,” M had said with a finality before shooing Q back to his cavernous Q Branch.

And here he was now, two days away from a week and a half long trip with the notorious 007 across Europe. The conference itself was being held in Rome of all places, but R had been merciful in scheduling them for trains instead of planes, and while it meant an even longer trip in close proximity to Bond, it was nothing compared to the torturous eternity that a flight would have been.

Q didn’t mind Bond, not at all. He even thought that the two of them made a good team in the months since their meeting at the National Gallery. Pulverized electronics aside, they had a good working respect for one another despite their initial uttered words. The word friendship danced on the tip of his mental tongue in describing their relationship, but Q held it back behind his teeth in fear of assuming too much of their developing interactions recently.

Bond had been kept rather busy since his return to MI6, but even between the exhaustive missions he had still found some time after dropping off mere scraps of gadgets to spend some time in Q Branch. At first it was just checking in on the new advances that R&D were implementing, aka shiny new toys. Q was gracious enough to allow Bond to explore on his own for the first few visits. How much harm could he really do if he wasn’t allowed to touch anything, his minions practically hissing like alley cats if the agent’s fingers drifted too close to any project they were working on.

This went on for a while. Seemingly innocent visits that never resulted in anything damaging beyond the hearts of the more easily startled minions with how quietly Bond prowled around. Eventually though, Bond broke his silence. He had questions about the new advances, and he chose to ask Q rather than the techs who were working on said devices for whatever 00 agent logic he ran by. Of course, Q would answer the questions, and if he got a little animated in his explanations it was only to do with the truly fascinating technology, and nothing to do with the sudden jump in heart rate at Bonds habit of standing just a hair too close.

As the visits continued over the months, Q’s respect for the agent only rose as it became truly apparent how much intelligence was hidden behind the ultra-suave aura. Seemingly having absorbed every bit of information Q had shared, Bond was able to start offering suggestions on designs. Actually helpful, insightful even, advice. Q had to hold back a swoon after hearing the words “ferritic nitrocarburizing” come out of the agents mouth in a complete and intelligible sentence.  

It was almost a shame that he was being sent out on so many missions. Q would have loved to continue their drafting sessions that they had only done once or twice as it became apparent that a new type of sniper rifle needed to be designed.

They did have their nightly comm check-ins though, the quiet moments between the explosions and frantic escapes from gun fights. The small moments when Q would communicate the data changed for the day, and updates on his targets movements, and then they would slowly segue in to Bond asking how the designs were coming.

They had yet to talk about anything outside of work, but that was for the best. Some professional distance kept Q objective. He just didn’t know if he could manage 10 days straight of avoiding all things personal in conversation. For all Bond’s charisma and charm, it almost felt like an invasion to ask even menial questions like what his favorite ice cream flavor was.

There was some sort of invisible barrier that Q felt himself constantly running in to if they ever so much as drifted away from work talk, but that barrier had gone from a dense wall to what felt more like a possibly permeable surface. Still, Q didn’t want to push just to be rejected and lose what progress they’d made.

Barriers aside, Q trusted Bond implicitly to keep them safe. It wasn’t that he was upset about having to spend the next ten days with Bond, no.

Bond was just…a lot to take in.

A lot of personality. A lot of charisma. A lot of charm. A lot of secrets. A lot of history. A lot of muscle…

Damn it all, there was just a lot to take in.

Q sighed again, the rise and fall of his thin chest disturbing his second cat into cracking open to bleary half lidded eyes in his general direction. The monstrously massive Norwegian, his beloved boulder of a cat, let out a halfhearted m-raow as if scolding him for his obviously distressingly loud thoughts.

“I apologize for breathing, Pi. Please go back to your nap,” he said sarcastically, running his fingers through Pi’s thick long grey fur soothing both the spoiled beast as well as it’s master.

Ten days…ten days of shared train cars, hotel rooms, conversations, personal bubbles.

“Fuck, I still need to pack.”

Chapter Text

Sixth of September 2012

BBC News – The Hour

“Our program continues to monitor the story of the attack at the meat packaging plant earlier this week. New developments in regard to the original attacker, coroners are identifying a new virus as the cause of the mad rampage. Scientists are utterly baffled at how this virus compelled the man to attack his coworkers, and even more alarming, there have been several emergency calls made from the families of the victims of the attack. At least 10 more deaths reported from the victims being shot down after attacking, even killing family and neighbors.

Authorities are working quickly now to isolate any and all who came in contact with those from the initial attack, in fears that this virus may be spreading. Several politicians have made announcements assuring the general public that the threat is contained and there is no cause for alarm—Hold on ladies and gentlemen, I’m getting word now that there have been more reports coming in from several different cities where attacks are also being reported. Many dead. We’ll bring you more information as it comes in. However, for now the authorities are strongly cautioning against buying and eating undercooked meat, in fear it may have originated from that meat plant—”

 

James wrinkled his nose as he glanced over Q’s shoulder, both watching the news clip through his small tablet. The train car they were in was decently sized, but James had maneuvered himself to sit next to his Quartermaster, firmly seated between him and the door as a human wall. Or at least that’s what he told Q when he was questioned as to his proximity.

The gentle rocking of the train made it just so that every once in a while, on a slight turn their shoulders brushed, but neither seemed overly bothered, so no words were said in that regard. They were both content to simply be near each other as they tried to pass the time. Besides the somewhat disturbing news that was being shown, it was a good start to what James was hoping would be a relaxing get away for the both of them.

They had known each other for months now, and James found that he truly enjoyed the company of the younger man. At first it was a mild fascination and the very human drive of curiosity that brought him back again and again to Q Branch. It wasn’t often that anyone was able to see true genius in action, and it really was fascinating to watch the seeds of Q’s designs bear physical fruit in the form of fun little gadgets.

Not wanting to sound unintelligent, or heaven forbid old in front of the young boffin, James had kept his thousands of questions to himself. He waited until after several weeks of observation, he noted that Q’s particular brand of arrogance was not one that would scoff at those asking genuine questions. Watching the interactions he had with his minions, James noted the somewhat soft but firm way in that Q would comment or correct when it came to his minions work. Never degrading, and never rude. Questions were never seen as a nuisance, even if they were asked to come back later if Q was particularly busy at that moment.

So, James had eventually worked up the courage to approach the Quartermaster after he spotted the blueprints for what looked like a sniper rifle on his table and he simply could not contain his curiosity a moment longer.

The late visits couldn’t be every night though, not when there were missions waiting for both of them. It did add a new sort of dynamic however when the late night comm checks went beyond the rushed updates and such. James felt that it wouldn’t due to just hang up after confirming he understood everything. It felt too callous by that point. So, he would ask about Q’s in process projects or their sniper design.

James could listen to him for hours go on about angles and mind numbing calculations. It was as fascinating as it was incredibly soothing. Alec had once had the somewhat disturbing observation that Q had the voice for both poetry and to make millions on a phone sex hotline, the comment made over drinks one night at a bar. Needless to say, James wasted a good sip of scotch across the table after hearing that, but he couldn’t find the words to deny it.

Q’s alluring tenor aside, James truly did enjoy hearing whatever the boffin was excited about that night.

And so began a sort of camaraderie that James had not been expecting given the scores of differences between the two. It was nice though. Perhaps even comforting to know that even though the old faces from MI6 were slowly beginning to disappear as new younger ones moved in, he still had friends there.

If they could be called friends, that is.

Despite their time together and months they had now known each other, James still had very little knowledge on the subject of who his Quartermaster was outside of work, or even before MI6.

There were some things he knew. Like how Q liked his tea, something he had learned from watching him prepare it many times during their late-night design sessions. He knew that Q got cold easily and wore many layers under his colorful cardigans. He knew that Q liked Indian food, as it was the most common genre of food brought to his elbow by concerned mother henning minions who clucked over how thin he was. He knew that when Q was stressed or nervous, he would tap his fingers on any available surface. Like a pant leg, or a tabletop. As if the motion of clicking at a keyboard was enough to comfort him.

All this was more “spy” brand of knowledge, things one would learn from watching a target. What James was truly curious about were the things that only could be learned from the person opening up.

The closest he’d gotten so far without having to break out his more subtle interrogation techniques, was in knowing that Q has 2 cats. He’d only gotten that information though by Q’s phone making a beeping noise one late night that James had heard through the comms. At first James had thought an alarm was going off in Q branch, his adrenaline already spiking from his hotel room in Japan as he thought of a thousand different reasons Q branch may be under attack, only for Q to mutter embarrassed over the comms that it was his automatic cat feeder telling him his cats were out of food.

He’d resisted the urge to ask a follow-up, like what their names were. What their favorite brand of catnip was so that James could buy them some. James often found that pets were treated with the same proud fondness that he saw in parents with young children. He could imagine Q having thousands of cat pictures on his phone, and an equal number of stories involving their antics, and James would have liked to see and hear them all, but that was perhaps too familiar.

James wasn’t surprised that Q kept himself somewhat closed off between the two of them. It wasn’t as if James was offering up his own meager supply of non-MI6 personal information. Professional felt safe. Q felt safe. Given his own recent history, James liked to think he was happy just keeping everything safe.

Still, they had almost two weeks together, and while James had a job to do, he didn’t see how they would get by without at least going over the basic mundanities in conversation. Especially since any MI6 talk would be off limits in such public places. Perhaps by the end of this, James would at least know Q’s favorite color or something.

Q never avoided answering any of his questions before, but as of now, James had been looking at a living, talking, absolutely adorable version of Wikipedia, and it almost seemed a waste to ask something that simple and personal. Now though…James found his questions wanting to run less along the lines of modified bullet casings and more along the lines of favorite book to read.

It was toeing a line, but James truly didn’t know what the other side of that line even led to.

James sighed and glanced up from the tablet screen and up at Q’s face, noting the line deepening between the green eyes as he frowned.

“Something bothering you, Q?” James asked gently.

Q bit at his bottom lip, deepening the red color that already was there before flicking his eyes to meet James’, “Yes and no? This whole virus business seems a bit disturbing. I’m a little worried about quarantines going up in the infected cities and us getting stuck somewhere until the bans are lifted. But I suppose there are worse places to get stuck than Rome, and I can always work remotely.”

James hummed thoughtfully. It wouldn’t be ideal if London found itself locked up, leaving the two of them stranded on the continent, but he’d dealt with poorer hands in the past. This whole virus thing was not an enemy that James was used to dealing with, so he’d at least be glad to keep Q inland, safe and away from whatever chaos England brought upon itself.

“At least the company is decent.”

James nearly missed the quietly muttered words, the young man’s words half muffled by the scarf that Q insisted on keeping wrapped around his neck indoors. They’d already had that discussion when Bond watched Q practically waddle down the station deck in his winter wear, despite it being early September, a discussion that James was loath to bring up again. He remembered bits and flashes, like some traumatic war memory, but he did recall some words about getting sick every time he traveled and how the provided blankets were always too thin.

Despite having addressed James, Q already had his face buried back into his tablet where he studiously was swiping through several news articles in at least 3 languages that James saw.

It was possible that the slight reddening of his ears was just because Q was bundled up like he had an overbearing Nan dress him for walking to school in a blizzard, but James played with the thought it may be for another reason.

“Yes. Yes, it is,” James replied just as softly before settling back against the bench to leave Q to his data mining.

He knew that Q had a habit of getting sucked in to the cyber world, leaving his corporeal concerns behind, however James had decided that this mission would have slightly more parameters involved than his usual body guarding ones. Q was not just to survive while in James protection, Q would hopefully thrive if he had anything to do with it.

Something about the lithe lines of his body, and the young features of his face made every mother out there want to feed him up. It left James wondering when the hell he had become a mother, because he was getting the same urges.

For the next week and a half, James was going to see to it that Q ate three full meals a day and had a proper break for tea and a snack too. And not just because Moneypenny threatened to castrate him if the Quartermaster came back in anything less than perfect mint condition.

Despite the somewhat alarming threats being thrown his way, at least James agreed with all points.

He would keep Q safe and cared for.

Freakish virus be damned.

Chapter Text

Fourteenth of September, 2012

BBC News – The Hour

Tonight we report that cases of the virus have now appeared in 14 countries across the world. Death tolls have been marked in the thousands. The effort to contain the virus has been almost useless as the spread rapidly makes it’s way across borders. World leaders are turning to more drastic measures to try and protect the healthy population while larger health organizations are trying to communicate as much information about the contagion as possible.

Dr. Samantha Rougier

“After initial infection, by blood or saliva entering the blood stream of a host, the patient will have about 24-72 hours before symptoms appear. Usually starting with a low-grade fever, aches, and headache. Within 24 hours of initial onset of symptoms the patient’s heart will stop and the virus takes over the host. As of now there is no cure, no treatment, and no way to slow the virus. After the patient’s heart has stopped, they are for all intents and purposes, legally dead. They will not recognize or acknowledge anyone or anything from their previous life. They are no longer your loved one once the change has happened.”

Prime Minister of the UK

“With the knowledge that the victims of the virus are dead, we are in review of releasing a temporary kill at will law that will allow any and all citizens of the UK to kill those infected if they feel their life is in danger. If levels of the virus continue to rise, this new law will be put in place to protect the living population. Until then, the military are being called back from stations around the world to help eradicate the disease that has taken over our beloved country…”

 

There was a cold sense of dread building in his belly as he watched the news with Q in their hotel room. This had escalated faster and further than he could have ever imagined, playing out like some horror movie that he’d laughed at as a boy. Reality was truly a heartless bitch sometimes. He'd seen some crazy and horrific things before, but this was a whole new park he'd yet to walk through.

James was standing over by the window, moving the sheet curtains away to glance out the glass every few minutes waiting for something as chaotic as what he was seeing on screen to come down the street outside their hotel. Nothing yet, but it was only a matter of time by this point.

The infected victims led a rampage through the streets of New York City this evening, hundreds more being injured or killed. Authorities are trying to collect any suspected of being infected from the attack, but many are running and hiding in fears they will be shot on sight. This understandable fear is leading to even more attacks from those very victims later…

Q let out a soft breath that sounded like it wanted to be the start of a moan, drawing James’ attention away from his window vigil. In the middle of the still freshly made bed of stiff sheets and far too many pillows, Q sat with his arms hugged around his legs, chin resting on his knees. It made him look terribly young and small, making James feel every minute of his long life just looking at him.

It was the afternoon of their sixth day at the conference. They had two more full days of seminars and trade hall visits, but they had decided to take a small break for the afternoon as the tension of the conference goers was getting bleaker as rumors from around the world were whispered in every corner of every room.

Shame though, really. It had all been rather enjoyable up until that morning when the world only just suddenly decided to collectively agree that this was not going to just fix itself. For the last 5 days James had gotten the joy of seeing Q marinate in what was most definitely his version of a candy shop. Gadgets and gizmos of all shapes and sizes were everywhere, each more fascinating than the last. Even James found himself in awe of what humans had become capable of in regard to technology.

They had both practically drooled over a newly developed drone system that was the size of a small bird that made almost no noise and could be used in the air as well as under water. After seeing the covetous look on Q’s face, James was about half tempted to steal it for him…maybe a little more than half tempted. It was an incredible little thing after all.

The safe conversation well of topics did not dry up, not with all that they got to see during the day. Of course they would need to discuss the pros and cons of bullet proof trousers, both eventually agreeing after several heated hours that perhaps limiting it to Kevlar pants was more than sufficient for men.

The enjoyable part of their trip of course had to reach some sort of dramatic if not traumatic end. It wouldn’t be James’ life it was any other way.

James drew in a deep breath before slowly making his way to the edge of Q’s bed, sitting down gently in case the Quartermaster had not seen him coming. James did not think that he would take a startling very well right now with how pale his face had become.

“Q,” he called gently.

He didn’t look at James, but he grunted some sort of acknowledgement that he’d heard him. His eyes were still glued to the screen.

James sighed, “Q, why don’t you turn that off for a bit and let’s order some lunch. You’ve been doing so well. We haven’t missed a single meal yet.”

Q’s nose scrunched up in distaste, probably lacking any appetite after seeing what was on the news. James was honestly feeling the same but starving oneself would do nothing to help the situation.

“Q—”

“How can you think of food when it looks like the PM is about to put you out of a job? Can you imagine the mad chaos that would occur if a whole country was given the go ahead to shoot up the place? We can hardly trust our own highly trained agents to not take down entire countries at a time, how on earth can we let innocent civilians take on that kind of burden?” Q asked, finally lifting his chin from where it was perched, looking at James with the fierce fire that made Q a force to be reckoned with. His fluffy appearance be damned.

Uncurling from his ball of large wool sweater on the bed, Q turned on his hip to face James, “I can’t even begin to fathom just how we’ll ever be able to establish peace and normalcy after allowing people to just…kill their friends, family, and neighbors.”

James shrugged and bumped his shoulder against Q’s, “Depends how loudly their neighbors played terrible music late at night I suppose? Or how dramatic the last Christmas dinner was? And perhaps this is all a very round about way of the PM finally managing to force me into retirement. After all, if everyone has a license to kill, what good am I? My resume gets reduced to that of a glorified gigolo with a propensity towards explosions. How garish.”

The soft chuckle that escaped Q’s nerve bitten lips was enough to erupt a smile on his own. Perhaps he should take a moment to evaluate why making Q happy brought him such joy, but that was something he could visit later when perhaps he’d have a few drinks to make him more honest.

 Their eyes met for a moment, crinkled in the remnants of mirth. It held for perhaps a few seconds longer than what one would call casual, Q being the first to drop his gaze down to the sheets they sat on together.

“You know we should probably go home as soon as possible; the conference be damned. London may only be hours away from quarantine. Hell, the whole world could be hours away from shutting down. They may need us,” he glanced at James with a smirk, “Well, they’ll need me at least. I suppose you can just go home and retire. I'm sure all the nice Grans at the elderly homes would just love to have you to play strip poker with.”

“Cheeky brat.”

“Grumpy old man.”

This time their gazes lingered a moment even longer. Still it was Q who turned first, crawling across the bed to grab for his tablet charging on the bedside table. James did his best not to stare too openly at the shapely arse that wiggled in front of him.

Q flopped back on the bed, already tapping rapidly on the screen and calling up airline sites.

James gave him a pointed look after seeing the mode of willingly chosen transportation, noting the way Q’s shoulders sank in defeat.

“It’s not like I want to get on a plane, but I doubt a several days long train ride will be the smarter choice here to get us home before things start to shut down. Just…let me drink myself in to oblivion at the airport bar before we board. Worst that will happen is I’ll puke in someone’s lap and lose all sense of voice volume control. And honestly I may do that even without the alcohol, so may as well just let me put myself out of my misery for a few hours,” Q muttered darkly, tapping perhaps a little too hard against his tablet as he searched for available flights.

James patted him on the shoulder in sympathy before getting up to begin packing up their belongings. It was only ten minutes later that the agent heard Q curse under his breath. Somewhat concerned, James wandered back over to the bed.

“Tomorrow morning?”

Q sighed and rubbed his hands over his eyes, “More flights are either booked up or cancelled. This is the best we can do at last minute. Even with MI6 clearance. Too many other intelligence and military organizations across the world are using the special reserved flights. Hmm, I suppose I could always hack—”

James pulled the tablet from Q’s hands and quickly finished up purchasing the tickets for the next morning, “Nope. No. Stop. M made me promise to keep you out of trouble, and that constitutes making sure you don’t do anything illegal outside of a mission. Play some angry birds while I order us some food. We’re not leaving this room until our flight. No telling what sort of crazies are out on the streets now.”

James had to truly work to hold back his smirk at seeing the pout that Q wore up until the moment the authentic Italian pizza arrived at the door.

Chapter Text

Fifteenth of September, 2012

BBC News – The Hour

Dr. Samantha Rougier

“…at time of death, the body begins the process of decay. This means that eventually the skin, muscles, and organs of the body will rot away and the infected will be unable to move, let alone attack. This process could take several months, perhaps longer with colder weather coming in. But there is hope that eventually we can wait out this virus.

That being said, if you suspect you are infected, there is no way to treat you. The best thing you can do to protect your loved ones is to end your own life, or to lock yourself away in a room with strong doors and no windows. Mark the door carefully so no one will enter by mistake. No hospitals will take you. You will be sent away or shot by authorities…”

 

James didn’t let go of Q’s arm for even a second as he practically dragged the distracted boffin through the lobby of the airport. The area was packed, people standing shoulder to shoulder with various things tied around their faces in mockery of medical face masks. The volume was enough that James had to shout for Q to hear from only an arms length away that he needed to keep up.

Q was trying his damn hardest to get a hold of Moneypenny over his phone, but the phone lines were overwrought with panicked people trying to get answers just as he was. Only they didn’t have the capability to hack into satellites to get a direct line. Unfortunately, that was taking time and half his concentration, leaving James to navigate the two of them through the crowd.

The world had gone mad overnight, almost every country with regular tourism was reporting in hot spots where the virus had begun popping up. Scientists were projecting a pandemic upon the level of death that which had not been seen since the black plague. And weren’t those words just enough to get every person in Europe in a tizzy.

Their flight hadn't even been due to take off for another several hours, but James was not going to waste a moment more as he saw the announcements of borders closing. He pulled a still half asleep Quartermaster from his bed, hardly even waiting enough for him to finish buttoning up his shirt before grabbing the bags and sleepily protesting man and running out the hotel door. A taxi was already waiting for them courtesy of James' planning ahead.

Q was awake enough about halfway through their car ride to begin the process of trying to get a hold of MI6 to get them a faster way home.

Or any way home perhaps, James thought to himself as he glanced up at the flights listed on the screens above. Nothing but red lines of cancelled flights. They were shutting down airlines.

“Shit,” Q said softly by his side, taking note of what James was still staring at open mouthed. James couldn’t help but agree with Q’s astute description of this situation.

James knew he needed to adapt quickly if he was to keep them both safe. He gently started to guide Q away from the boards and towards an emergency exit, “We need to get you out of here now. Too many people and we don’t know if any of them are infected.”

Q blanched at the thought, the phone he held to his ear dipping a little as the weight of the moment started to hit home. This time he actively moved in sync with James as they maneuvered through the crowds, doing their best to avoid contact with anyone else. James firm grip never released Q’s arm though.

“Have you gotten hold of anyone yet?” James called over his shoulder.

“Not yet, but I just need one moment more to finish out the connection to make the call. Think you can find a safe spot?”

“I’ll do my best,” James replied, slamming his way through the exit door and pulling them down the nearest street. There were cars and people moving every direction, like an agitated beehive of activity. The way James kept dodging around people like they were angry bees seemed to fit the analogy.

The streets of Rome were always crowded around the tourist areas, but now it seemed like everyone was taking to the streets to try and run away from some unseen monster. Families were stuffing cars full of belongings and young children, probably trying to escape the crowded cities for the safer solitude of the countryside. This was probably exactly what the government did not want their people to do, but James couldn’t blame them for wanting to protect their families.

James darted them down away from the residential streets, knowing they would be the most crowded right now. Instead he started to move them down towards the stores meant for the locals, not the tents that attracted all the tourists.

As they ran along, James could hear Q breathing hard, but thankfully he wasn’t wheezing like the agent would expect from one of Q branches more sedentary residents. He spared a glance behind him to get a visual of the younger man, taking in the slight flush of exertion on his cheeks and determined eyes taking in everything around them without slowing down.

James nodded to himself, pleased as he pulled them both along.

After a few more streets James finally caught sight of a narrow alley way that contained nothing but a few trash bins and cardboard boxes. Ducking into it, James pulled them down behind a trash bin.

Q didn’t even pause to catch his breath, already pulling out his satellite phone and dialing up a secure connection. They both leaned their down, close enough that James could feel a few of Q’s stray curls brushing against his temple as they waited for the phone to be answered.

After 2 rings, they heard a click.

“Hello?”

“Eve? It’s Q and Bond. We’re in trouble out here.”

“Q? Thank God, we’ve been trying to get a hold of you for hours. Let me get M and Tanner. Are you both alright?”

James chuckled wryly, “We’ve been better, but no injuries.”

“Well that’s something I suppose. Here’s M.”

There was the sound of a headset being handed over, Q and Bond taking the brief pause to glance at each other. If M was being pulled in without them asking first, things must be bad.

“Bond? Quartermaster? Are either of you infected?” he asked without a hint of hesitation.

Q shook his head as he answered, “No, sir. We haven’t even seen anyone infected yet. We just left the airport, all flights had been cancelled, including ours.”

They both heard M sigh in to the phone, “Yes, the orders for that only went through in the last hour. We’d been trying to get a hold of you to get you on a private plane before that, but lines are flooded and nobody has ever been able to hack into your phone, Quartermaster.”

Q winced in apology.

“As it is now, we have no way to get you back to London. If you were to say somehow make your way past the blockades into the city, I could perhaps keep you from being shot on sight, but as for actively transporting either of you here, that I can’t do unfortunately. So, 007, your mission parameters are as such. By any means necessary, bring the Quartermaster, the asset, back to HQ alive and well. The asset will be pivotal in reestablishing order once all this mess has passed. In other words, the world is going quickly become a pile of shit and we’re going to need Q to help dig us out. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” James said without a scrap of his usual snark.

“Good. I don’t know how you two are going to do it though. Roads are being blockaded. The military has already been sent out to stop any and all who attempt to leave the city.”

“I might have an idea for that, sir. One of Bond’s past missions is serving as reluctant inspiration. Can you have R send ma a detailed map of the Rome sewer pipe network?” Q said, his mind already thinking of several ways to get out of the city.

“Consider it done, Quartermaster. Be safe, both of you.”

“To you as well.”

Q hung up the phone and turned back to face James, his eyes grave but determined, “I assume you have a vague idea of where I’m going with this plan?”

James nodded. He remembered not too fondly the mission that Q was referring to. It had been Several months prior, somewhere in Greece, he had what seemed like the entire police force in the country on his tail mistaking him for one of the terrorists he was targeting. Said terrorist had already been taken care of by James, which left him with perhaps more attention that he was comfortable with. To avoid being detected by one particularly ambitious squad of men, James had ducked into a half open manhole. While James had been trying his best not to think about what was squishing under his Brogues, Q had dryly informed the agent that he had already pulled up some maps and would be able to guide him out of the city from under there. That is if he didn’t mind sacrificing his shoes and possibly his nose hair to the cause.

James swore that his skin carried the smell even after several deep scrub showers. Q was kind enough to not mention anything about the stench when James had dropped off his questionably moist Walther, but he did dismiss James rather quickly, forgoing the usual scolding following a less than perfect equipment deposit.

“So, escaping through foul tunnels. Fabulous. And after that? Are we stealing a helicopter from the military sitting at the city limits?”

Q rolled his eyes, brushing some of the curls aside that had fallen in front of his eyes while running. James almost reached out to help when he saw the stubborn strands fall right back.

“Unfortunately, that won’t work out well for us. Even if flying wasn’t a crime against physics. Any helicopter that is seen trying to cross any country border would be shot down on sight. No matter what we said over the radio. I was rather hoping you may have an idea after that?” Q asked, his eyes glancing up at James before darting back down to his tablet where he had just pulled up the map schematics.

It looked like a nonsensical maze that James had seen printed in those travel puzzle books, the squiggles making his eyes water if he tried to follow them too closely, “Maybe…show me the North-West section of the map and where the tunnels let out there.”

Q tapped the tablet a few times, and the picture shrunk down to about ¼ the original size. From there James could make out at least ten different tunnel exits. Almost all of them let out into water. There were two that didn’t.

Q’s eyes darted back and forth over the screen, not seemingly able to focus on any one spot. James had seen him do this before, when meeting new people, when presented with new documents and information. At first, he thought it was an odd little quirk, perhaps some sort of medical condition. Later Q had mentioned his eidetic memory and James had realized it was just him scanning anything new, taking in every last detail and storing it away to pull up when the information was needed.

Damn handy trick is what it was.

“Damn, looks like our best hope is to head out into the wilderness. Avoid all civilization until we can sneak over the border. Don’t suppose you’ve ever been camping?” James asked lightly, seeing Q’s slight shoulders drop.

“Only once during a school trip. I dropped my bag in a stream. And I got blisters. And an uncountable amount of bug bites,” Q said miserably.

James couldn’t help but chuckle, “Well, it is September at least. Less bugs to worry about.”

“Oh goodie. I’ll just worry about freezing to death at night then.”

“It’s not that bad once you go numb from the cold. Now, can you see if there are any sports or camping stores around here? Preferably ones with bug spray I suppose.”


“I haven’t a clue what I’m looking for,” Q muttered to himself as he started rummaging through the store.

The growing chaos outside had started to increase as he and Bond had started making their way towards the camping supply shop Q had pulled up. There was no discernable flow of traffic, everyone going one way or another. At first, Q had been terrified that one of the infected victims had begun a rampage through the streets, but Bond had gripped his wrist lightly as if sensing his growing panic and told him that there would be a lot smore screaming if that were the case.

Somehow Q wasn’t completely comforted by that, but it got him to focus back on his feet and less on those running around them.

They had ducked into the store that was locked, but Bond had fixed that issue rather quickly. Q wasn’t one for becoming one of the mad looters that were taking advantage of the chaos, so he left a large pile of money on the counter to cover whatever Bond was piling up in the center of the shop.

Bond had told him to grab only what he thought was absolutely necessary before darting off towards the sleeping bags and hiking backpacks hanging in the back. Of course, Q had little experience with real camping, already biting his lip nervously as he started exploring a bit.

Maybe just think of it as a mission you’re reviewing for relevant and necessary equipment?

Q nodded to himself and decided to do just that. Quickly pulling two crank torches off the rack along with a box of waterproof matches. Further delving in to the store had him pulling two large water bottles and purification tablets.

He was looking through a display of multi-tools and swiss army knives when he heard Bond come up behind him.

“Go for the ones with large knives. The small ones may look clever, but only the larger ones have the tools that actually hold up to being used. And find a hunting knife too while you’re at it,” he said before stalking off again, this time towards the clothing.

Bond was in 007 mode, Q recognized. Completely focused on the mission and the survival of himself and his asset. It was best to defer to his experience in this case, as Q’s only experience with virus’ was limited to those that appeared in code, not people.

He pulled the knives that best fit Bond’s suggestions and tucked them in his pockets as his eyes caught a colorful display to his left. There were dozens of small colorful bags that apparently would open up to reveal functional hammocks. Perhaps Q should have explored camping stores much sooner than this. There were all sorts of ingenious little gadgets fit in to small packages. Without pondering it too much, Q grabbed two little bags. One black and one navy blue before bringing his finds over to the pile of equipment in the center of the shop.

Mostly it was all things Q was familiar with. Sleeping bags, tarps, rope, an excessive number of socks…and a lot of foil packets.

“Is this food?”

Bond glanced up from where he was pulling boots off a shelf, “Depends on your definition. Military would have you believing it is. To the rest of the world, it’s just packaged calories. Most prefer to not acknowledge the flavor.”

“Lovely.”

Bond came over, somehow already completely changed out of his suit and into hunters gear with his arms full of clothes like a particularly drab olive colored laundry day, tossing half his load at Q, “Put these on. I have two more sets of the same to go in your sack. If the boots don’t fit, find a pair that does. Two layers of socks. Quickly. I’ll start packing these up.”

Grabbing the clothes, Q stood and looked around for a changing room before realizing that he would have to start getting used to doing such things around Bond anyway and wandering off probably wasn’t the best choice at the moment.

So, with minimal pause, Q started to pull off his jumper and shirt. Not bothering to undo buttons, because he wasn’t about to pack a dress shirt for their trip. He could already see how efficiently Bond was stuffing their sacks, there wouldn’t be space for anything extra. He mentally said his goodbyes to anything he had packed in his original luggage for Rome.

Q tossed his trousers aside, as well as his oxfords and thin dress socks, pausing only a moment more before taking off his pants as he noted that Bond had also pulled new black thermal briefs for him to wear. In the guise of dressing as quickly as possible, Q practically tripped over himself trying to pull the briefs on.

If Bond noticed, he didn’t give any indication. Still seemingly very focused on packing things up for them.

Once that was done, he went to start on the rest of the clothes, noting that they were quite similar to what Bond was wearing.

“Oh, how sweet, we’ll match. Now this truly feels like a family camping trip,” he said dryly.

Bond grunted out something that sounded like a laugh before stopping his packing for a moment to glance up at Q as he pulled on the green thermal shirt, “Q, is there…anyone you need to call? We don’t know how long phone service will be available even with your little satellite phone and well…” he trailed off awkwardly, “I know I’d be comforted to know that you were at least safe and trying to get home.”

It was a kind offer, especially coming from Bond who sometimes acted like he had developed an acute allergy to talking about families. Q shook his head though, “I’m sure my cats would love to hear from me, but they have yet to master the art of picking up the phone,” he said shortly, hinting to Bond that there was no one waiting for him back in London besides an eager M and perhaps Moneypenny.

General hunting camouflage cargo pants, thick socks, sturdy boots, a t-shirt over his thermal, and Bond had even pulled a beanie winter hat for him, but Q put it in his own pack, not thinking he’d need it just yet.

“Is this a ski jacket?” Q asked, pulling at the black coat that was at the bottom of his pile.

Bond nodded taking it from him, stuffing it in Q’s pack along with the hat, “Waterproof outer shell, detachable fleece inner shell. They’re warm and versatile. Now, anything else you need?”

“Do we have any weapons and ammunitions beyond knives?”

Bond pulled his standard Walther from his holster, “Just this and two refills from my suitcase.”

It wasn’t a lot, but they would just have to make do. Q knew for a fact that Bond had dealt with worse. With a feeling of growing dread, Q glanced out the shop window at the frantic movements of the people of Rome. They would be joining them soon enough.

“Let’s get this over with.”

Bond tossed him his pack.

Chapter Text

Life before for Q had always be settled in a sharp and steady reality. Calculations, patterns, statistical probabilities, and the predictabilities of humanity were all a means of understanding the world that Q grew up in. Of course, reality was quite cruel sometimes, stealing away parents at early ages, killing off of longtime mentors in bombings, or having truly dreadful eyesight. Reality may not have been a teddy bear for Q, but it was in it’s own way a comfort that he could know his statistical chances of needing an umbrella for the day or how likely he was to get hit by a car biking to work. He could write out code after code and implement it into a program, digitalizing his life so that even human error was becoming a thing of the past, stabilizing life’s predictability even further.

It was wonderfully calming to feel like you had a semblance of control over one’s life.

Q missed that already.

For all his numbers, algorithms, statistical matrices and plans, he could never have predicted all this.

Running through the streets among the terrified masses, Q truly felt for the first time in his life a sense of surrealism take over. It was a truly strange sensation. It was only a slight alteration in his perception of life, but somehow it was seemingly having an almost physical effect on him. Everything seemed slowed down and sped up at the same time. Noises were overwhelming, but muffled and muted. He felt exhausted but knew that even if given the moment to rest, he wouldn’t be able to stay still. Even Bond’s strong grip in his own somehow felt different. Hot and cold.

It was fascinating. It was vexing. It was frightening.

Q’s gaze had been flickering around at the crowds, his feet hitting the ground, street signs, and Bond. Never settling for more than a second or two at the most. The streets were becoming more and more full as the panic reached the rest of the city’s occupants.

There was looting, fighting, running, screaming…

“Q, you need to focus,” Bond called back over his shoulder, his hand tightening over Q’s fingers in his crushing grip.

Q stumbled for a moment over a basket left in the middle of the road but didn’t falter much as he was caught in a pair of strong arms that steadied him. It was hard to hold back the blush of embarrassment, but it was easy to fool himself in to thinking it was just from the running.

Q flicked his eyes up to meet Bond’s, “Focus, yes, I got it. Thanks,” he said breathlessly.

Bond offered a comforting smirk, if such a thing existed, “I’m sure you do. You’ve said it enough times to me over mission comms.”

Q snorted at the irony, straightening up again as Bond urged him to get moving again, this time his hand lingering on the small of his back rather than holding his hand. Somehow that felt even warmer.

They picked up the pace again, Q doing his best to put mental blinders in place as they dodged forward down the damp streets. Perhaps it was better this way. Q doubted that he would want the mental images of scared families and fighting neighbors to follow him through life in perfect clarity.

Sometimes he truly hated his brain’s capabilities.

Loud and frantic honking was heard from a side street next to them, Bond and Q both turning to the noise instinctively. Coming up on them like a raging bull, a large truck was skidding its way across the slick cobblestone roads, the back filled with people holding bats and guns and screaming.

Q grabbed at Bond at the same time the agent grabbed for him, pulling each other away from the incoming danger and up on to the recessed doorstep of one of the homes lining the streets.

The truck missed them only by seconds, the speed at which it was moving blowing a breeze at them as it passed that was enough to ruffle their clothes. Q felt like his heart was about to hammer out of his chest.

“What the hell was all that?” Bond said amongst several muttered curses and he glanced over Q looking for injury or upset, moving aside fabric to see better.

Q brushed him and his wandering hands off, “I’d bet they’re going to try and fight their way past the military blockades. Idiots. They’ll be shot dead in seconds. The world’s governments aren’t fooling around anymore.”

He heard Bond grunt in agreement.

“How much closer do you want to try and get before going under?” Q asked, peaking his head out of their temporary shelter to check for whatever chaos was coming for them next.

Bond’s keen eyes also took a moment to take in the situation, “We’re about two miles out from where we want to exit the tunnels. As much as I’d like to make as much progress towards the edge of the city up top where we can see where we’re going, it’s started to become a bit too exciting up here for my tastes.”

Q snorted inelegantly, “Somehow I doubt that, 007. You seem to thrive off too much excitement.”

Bond seemed to ponder that. His sharp eyes taking on a mischievous glint, “Hmm, suppose you’re right. There’s something to be said for lazy nights at home with a book and a hot chocolate though, cats curled up in your lap…”

“Have you been asking Moneypenny about what I do in my personal time?” Q said incredulously.

Bond’s grin was annoyingly vague, “Worry not, Quartermaster. I’ll get you home to your precious balls of fluff and whatever else your personal time encompasses. I do hope their automatic feeder is in full working order,” he said in what sounded like a sincere tone, startling Q enough that he finally woke up enough to realize how close they were standing.

The doorstep they were ducked into was not meant for two full grown men to stand in at the same time, no matter how lean one of them was. Q couldn’t even back up without his backpack smashing up against the stone.

Shuffling his feet in an effort to physically shake off his nerves at being so close to the agent, Q dropped his gaze back on to his feet.

“They’ve been with R in Q Branch since we left. We’ve been having a bit of a rat problem, and figured they wouldn’t mind a hunting holiday,” he muttered.

He heard Bond chuckle above him, “Then I’m sure they are safe, well over-fed and happy for now. Still, I think it best if I bring their father home to them as soon as possible. Are you ready to move, Q? I think it’s time for us to head downstairs if you’re ready.”

Q drew in a long breath, steeling himself for what was to come next.

“Okay, I think there was a manhole cover in the alley we just past. We can enter there I think?”

“Let’s go then.”

Bond’s hand settled on Q’s back again as they moved back on to the street together. It wasn’t overly difficult to double back one block and duck into the alley, getting the manhole cover proved to be a bit more of a challenge though.

Several improvised levers found amongst the various rubbish strewn about the alley were just effective enough to eventually pry open the heavy lid. It did take both of them hauling on their less than ideal tools though, Q already feeling grateful for the callouses on his hands from years of mechanics work.

The din of pandemonium mere meters away from them thankfully covered the sounds of their activities as they pushed back the lid, exposing the shadowed ladder leading down.

They both stared down into the darkness before raising their heads to look at each other at the same time.

“Age before beauty?” Q offered cheekily.

Bond rolled his eyes fondly, “You know, some may say that I would be first in both cases.”

“Only if it’s in reference to your backside. Some of Her Majesty’s greatest assets right there, as Eve has said before.”

Bond laughed as he started down the ladder, Q following closely after trying his best not to step on the agent’s fingers.

Slowly they began their descent into the darkness.

“You know, it’s rather odd. For all the anarchy going on around us, I figured that the streets would be crawling with infected by now,” Q said softly, his voice echoing gently off of the cement walls.

“That’s mass panic for you, Q. We may never get to actually see anyone infected if the country’s military gets everything under control before we get home. If we’re lucky that is.”

Q frowned as his hand slipped a bit on a damp rung.

“When have we ever been lucky?” he muttered to himself. He didn’t think Bond heard him. Probably best.

Chapter Text

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“Attention citizens. This is an automated message. As of today, it is legal to kill anyone suspected of carrying the virus. Any of the infected you kill will be an honorable assist for Her Majesty’s Government. If you are not in possession of a weapon, please find a secure area and shelter in place. An announcement will be made when the threat of the virus has passed. Thank you all, God save us all….Attention Citizens. This is—”

 

“Well, if we don’t end up getting the virus, perhaps we’ll die instead of bacterial infection. May even be a more merciful death than the alternative, honestly.”

Q didn’t bother hiding his wince as his boots squished something else unidentifiable beneath his foot. He was doing his best to not think to much about it, but unfortunately his imagination had other more urgent plans for the unused parts of his brain.

It smelled. Bond had given him a lecture once about how flavor included the sensation of smell as well as taste, and how the aroma sometimes had as many layers to it as taste. At the time Q thought Bond was just full of privileged shit, but he was starting to believe him now. There were layers here too that somehow permeated deep enough that taste was also a factor. Waste on top of algae, with a hint of ammonia. Q wished he’d thought to grab mints. It was also humid, which meant it felt like it was soaking into his clothes, and everything was coated with a slimy substance he hoped was nothing more than algae.

Q wasn’t even sure which of his senses was the most offended at the moment.

“Step where I step, Q. Best to avoid any hidden surprises down here I think,” Bond said from a few feet in front of him.

Q was perhaps missing the contact that they had been sharing earlier, but there was far more room to move around down here than up above. Still, Q didn’t drift far. It would be easy for them to get lost if separated down here. He fell in line with Bond though, squinting into the darkness to see if he could match his path while glancing up occasionally to make sure they were on the right path.

Q took a moment as they walked along to thank Moneypenny and any and all deities responsible for setting him up with an agent on what was supposed to be a simple and mundane technology convention. He couldn’t imagine where he’d be now if not for Bond’s help getting them out of the city.  Probably trampled in a street somewhere. Maybe already infected as he waited in the airport crowd for M to pull a miracle flight out of his arse. Or perhaps Q would have made it to the sewers eventually, but he would more than likely still be wearing his loafers and he would be far more uncomfortable than he was already. Also, perhaps Q was just grateful that it was Bond in particular, the reason for that being something he was not entirely ready to touch upon, especially given the circumstances. But then again, Q wasn't sure that he could picture the immensely large and stoic 009 holding his hand through the streets like a father guiding his wandering toddler. And god forbid it had been Trevelyan. Q would have probably ended up tossed over the impatient agents shoulder at some point as an explosion occurred behind them.

At least hand holding has slightly more dignity to it, Q thought wryly, trying to ignore the part of his brain that wanted to remind him how much he had enjoyed said hand holding. He viciously shook his head, clearing it off all non-professional thoughts. 

“Take the left up ahead, 007,” he said, his voice softer than usual. The eerie echoes of the tunnels seemed to make anything beyond their footsteps sound almost like an interruption of carefully orchestrated silence. Their feet were already making enough noise the reverberate all around them.

He heard Bond chuckle lowly, also seeming sensitive to the lack of noises around them, “It almost feels like a normal mission now. You giving me directions and all. Just add in some snark and it’ll truly feel like home.”

“Home," Q snorted, "I wish I could say the same. Usually for missions I’m in more comfortable clothes and the only smell I need to concern myself with is if one of the minions set something on fire again. Cup of tea at my elbow. Environmental controls. Indoor plumbing, rather than immersive. Not to mention the room is better lit. Only mercy I have here is that I remembered to pack my spare glasses in my bag. I don’t think I’ll ever get this pair clean again,” Q groused.

“Ah, now it really feels like home. Much obliged, Quartermaster.”

“I live to serve, Bond. Now turn left.”

The tunnels were completely dark except for the small amount of light that Bond was allowing to escape from the torch he had clenched his hand over. Q objectively knew that it was to make it so their eyes would remain adjusted to the darkness in case the torch went out, but the boffin couldn’t help but wish that he could have just a little more light around them. As it was, he couldn’t see more than a few feet in front of them clearly, and anything further out from that was distorted by shadows. He felt like a small child all over again, shrinking away from the menacing shadow made monsters under his bed.

Q paused for a moment, feeling the strap of his bag cutting into his shoulder uncomfortably. Bond didn’t stop completely, but he did slow down a bit as Q adjusted the strap until it was in a slightly more bearable position.

Once he was settled again, Q looked up for where Bond was and started forward, not looking at his feet.

The loud squeal and unexpected press of something half solid under his boot almost sent him in to cardiac arrest for how it startled him. He couldn’t even stop the startled shout that erupted from his lips as he flung himself back from whatever he had just stepped on.

“Shit!” he cried, jumping back far enough for him to hit the wall behind him, his hands slipping on the slime there unpleasantly.

Bond seemed to appear by magic by his side, letting out his own cry of Q’s name as he darted forward, arms covering him protectively.

His heart hammering away in his chest, Q bravely lifted his head to peer around Bond’s formidable form to where he sensed the threat had moved. Swallowing hard against the dryness that his throat had just taken on. He felt Bond shift to look as well, his hands not moving away from Q though.

Clearly, they were both expecting something more threatening than the rat that scurried away from under Q’s boot, squeaking as it did, but that didn’t stop the initial panic that had set in from taking over them.

Q could feel Bond’s arms around his shoulders, and his muscled chest pressed against his own. Bond’s heart was beating just as erratically. He had been just as startled, and it almost made Q feel better about his silliness, if he wasn’t still feeling like he was about to descend into a full-blown panic attack.

“Shit, shit, shit, shit,” Q gasped out between fast breaths, still hearing the loud echoes of their shouts through the tunnels around them.

“Shhh, just breath. Slowly, in and out. That’s it,” he heard Bond whisper. He felt strong hands rubbing up and down his spine.

Q did as he was told, Bond’s voice sounding far too reasonable to not follow his directions. It took a minute or so, but it worked, and Q began to feel like his heart was back within a healthier range.

“Fuck, I miss my cats,” Q said with a choked off laugh that probably sounded rather wet and pathetic, “They would already have taken care of that furry little bastard before I could have stepped on him.”

He felt Bond’s chest move as he stifled a laugh that might have been hysterical if it hadn’t been stopped in it’s infancy, “Christ, I haven’t even met them and I’m missing them too. They’d come in handy down here I bet.”

Q hummed in agreement, before pausing to truly consider it, “Well, perhaps no. Pi wouldn’t be able to get far without having to pause to lick gunk off his feet, and Cookie can’t stand being wet. They’d be just as miserable as us.” Q tried not to think too hard on how much comfort he was getting from being held like this. It may just be the situation making Q far clingier than his pride would have ever allowed before. It may just be Bond, but that was even more vexing than the alternative. When this was all over, he’d have to get with Moneypenny over many strong and colorful drinks to figure everything out. Now was not the time though to worry over potential crushes, or whatever this was. They were in the sewers, for pity’s sake.

“Ah, oh well. Perhaps next time we find ourselves stuck in a maze of rat-infested tunnels we should check moisture content first, before—”

Bond paused, his whole body tensing against Q’s like he suddenly became a marble statue. He was about to ask what was wrong when he heard it.

A rhythmic scraping sound, almost like a petulant teenager dragging their feet, was echoing around them, making it damned difficult to discern from which direction it was coming from.

“That…that sounds too big to be a rat,” Q whispered, trying to not sound as scared as he felt. He found himself actually wishing it was just a rather large rat. Rodents of unusual size seemed far less threatening than whatever his imagination was creating from the sounds around them.

He felt Bond’s arm move from his spine back around to pull his gun from it’s holster, clicking off the safety, “Agreed. This may not have been as original of an idea as we thought. Sounds like human footsteps, but something is off about them. Possibly injured leg,” he whispered, leaning close against Q to speak directly into his ear to avoid any excess sound. Q shivered, unsure if it was from fear or the closeness.

“What do we do?” Q whispered back, leaning forward as Bond had done, almost letting his lips touch the shell of Bond’s ear.

Instead of answering, Bond completely covered the torch light with his hand. Covering them in complete darkness like a protective cloak. They both stood as still as posts. Their chests still touching between them so Q could feel Bond’s breathing rate pick up along with his heart as the scraping sounds got closer.

Q had never been a fan of suspense films; his heart truly did not need to extra excitement added to his already far too exciting life. This moment was reminding him exactly why he avoided them. It was a visceral feeling, one that he didn’t appreciate. Knowing something was about to happen, but it was taking long enough for him imagination to come up with hundreds of different scenarios, it was its own kind of torture.

He flinched slightly when he finally felt Bond begin to move very slowly, turning his body to face what Q assumed was the direction the noise was coming from. He kept Q placed behind him, something that Q appreciated just as much as he was annoyed by.

He saw the shadow of Bond’s arm raise, the one that held the torch, and Q braced himself for the lights to come back on.

He wasn’t prepared for what that light revealed.

Every monster his childhood imagination had conjured up did not prepare him from what staggered in to view before them.

Bloated, grey skin that sagged on the angles of bones, one leg dragging at an unnatural angle behind it, what was before them was truly horrifying. Whatever smell Q had been annoyed by previously was nothing compared to the sickly-sweet stench of death that clung to the creature before them. Q had seen death in many ways over cctv and in photos. While never particularly pleasant images, he was able to compartmentalize the symptoms of death and move on. This though…

He recognized the key features of a body that had been dead for at least two days, but those features on something animated, something still moving, added a level of terror that Q was not prepared for. Every instinctual thing about seeing death was thrown for a loop at the sight of that thing. Its swollen tongue lolling from its skull, eyes sunken and frosted over with the cloudy veil of death. It was wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

And then it started screaming.

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“Attention citizens. This is an automated message that has been updated with crucial information. As of today, it is legal to kill anyone suspected of carrying the virus. Any of the infected you kill will be an honorable assist for Her Majesty’s Government. As of now, the only proven ways to dispose of the infected is extreme cranial damage, cranial dismemberment, or through incineration. They are drawn by sounds and the smell of blood. If you are not in possession of a weapon or a way to kill infected, please find a secure area and shelter in place. An announcement will be made when the threat of the virus has passed. Thank you all, God save us all…Attention Citizens. This is an automated message—”

 

“Shit shit shit shit!”

“Keep moving! Don’t stop to look back.”

Q was almost certain that his heart was going to jump out of his throat, or at least that’s what it felt like. They had a literal monster coming after them, hobbling behind making echoing screams and moans as it chased them. Q was fairly certain that the creature wasn’t moving very fast, but the sounds it was making were loud enough to make it sound like it was right on their heels thanks to the reverberations of the tunnel walls.

Despite that bit of logic, Q couldn’t bring himself to relax in the slightest. Not after four well aimed shots to the chest, courtesy of Bond, failed to even slow it down. Adrenaline was pumping through him like he’d drunk all the coffee from every mug littered around Q branch on a busy day, his hands shaking in a mix of buzzing terror.

Out of the corner of his eye he could tell that Bond was just as shaken as he was. The agents face taking on the sweaty pallor of one who wasn’t sure how much longer he’d stay breathing. He was, after all, used to killing things and them staying dead.

Their feet slapped along the wet ground beneath them, the musky offensive smell all but forgotten under the smell of decaying flesh that had seemed to sink into their pores. After so long in silence underground, the sudden surround sound of screaming, panting, running, and sporadic gun shots around them, it was practically deafening.

Q’s body flinched, nearly sending him to the ground as another gun shot came out from next to him.

“Would you stop that! It clearly doesn’t work and you’re wasting bullets!” he yelled at Bond, still keeping pace with the agent.

“Well, I’m sorry, I thought you’d prefer it if it wasn’t following us,” Bond snarled back as they ran around another corner.

Another corner. Was that the third turn? Fourth?

“Wait, stop! Bond, hold up,” Q said, skidding to a stop at the next fork in the tunnels.

Bond turned back to him, already looking livid that his charge had chosen to slow down.

“This is not the time for sightseeing, Q. I don’t care if that thing is slow, I’m not giving it the chance to catch up. Let’s move,” he said, already reaching out to tug at the Quatermaster’s arm, but Q dug his feet in to resist moving.

“No! I’ve lost track of where we are. I need—I need to think about it for a moment or we’ll get lost. Or more lost than we already are,” Q panted out, already spinning his head around as if it would help him get his bearings. Already he could hear the shuffling footsteps and moaning coming up quickly behind them.

Bod tensed next to him, the thick muscles of his body pulling taut like springs ready to uncoil violently at a moments notice. Wisely, he kept quiet so that Q could attempt to concentrate.

Q tried to mentally picture their run to this spot, the turns taken, the length of the tunnels, anything that could be of use. It was like the pieces from three different puzzles mixed together in the same box and he had to sort out all the other useless squares before being able to complete the one puzzle he wanted. His mind was working as fast as it would allow, but the shuffling and moaning was getting louder and more distracting.

Q slapped his hands over his ears, trying to drown it out, but it still felt like it was all getting louder. He let out a frustrated whimper when it only served to slightly drown out the echoes, but not the noise itself.

“Q?” Bond’s almost steady voice asked.

He shook his head, “I’m trying, it’s just…it’s getting so loud.”

He pulled his hands down in defeat, letting the noises swim over him again in full detail. Then he froze, turning wide frantic eyes towards the agent. The sound had changed. It was only a slight difference but having taken the moment to block out the worst of it, he had wiped the palate clean enough to pick up something new.

“Bond…I think there’s more.”

He saw the agents eyes widen, gun pulled out again in a swift reflex adopted after years of surviving in the field. Three tunnel openings surrounded them. The one they came from, and two in front of them. They knew they had company coming in from the rear, but now even Bond was starting to pick up of further shuffling. It was too distorted by the echoes to reliably know where it was originating from.

“Fuck, which tunnel is it coming from,” Bond cursed, squinting into the darkness of each tunnel.

Q glanced behind them, noting that their first stalker was gaining ground quickly, it’s horrid form already starting to move close enough to see, “Bond…we might have to chance using the torch to look. We can’t just wait for them to appear, and I’m hoping we aren’t stupid enough to just charge on ahead down one and hope for the best.”

The muscles in Bond’s jaw clenched hard enough for Q to hear his teeth gnash together, clearly not liking any of their options. Slowly he handed the torch over to Q, obviously preferring to keep his hands open for his Walther.

With a shaking hand, Q took it from the agent, already knowing that his fear would show blatantly once the light was turned on. He drew in a quick breath, and put the light up towards the right tunnel, and clicked it on.

Q nearly sobbed out his relief to see that it was empty.

Then he heard a muffled scream, and instinctively he flashed the torch down the left tunnel, nearly dropping the light when it lit up the darkness.

Down at the end of the tunnel were at least six pale bloated snarling faces staring back at them. As soon as the light lit up their grotesque features, it was like a swarm of hungry sharks scenting blood in the water in the way all their heads turned to where Q and Bond stood. They screeched and groaned like wolves finding the moon, the sound cutting sharply at Q in a way that made it feel like his stomach had just dropped to the floor.

“Th—they must have been drawn by the gunshots and yelling,” Q said, his voice quivering, “Just like the first one.”

The already cold and damp atmosphere of the tunnels seemed to have dropped several more degrees the way that Q felt. Here they were literally staring death in the face, at it was damned terrifying.

“What the fuck are they all doing down here? They look like they’ve all been dead for at least a day or two,” Bond said as he slowly let his hand curl around Q’s arm again. His movements were small and slow, like a cat’s who was trying to be stealthy. Q couldn’t help but reach out himself to grab on to whatever fabric of Bond’s coat he managed to find in his dark fumble.

Q swallowed roughly, the cloying smell of decay getting worse, “They must have come down here to hide when they learned they were infected. Didn’t want to be shot by anyone.”

Bond opened his mouth to reply, but whatever he was going to attempt saying was covered by the sudden war cry of the dead, the group acting as if in a hive mind, as they all at once started a lopped cantering stumble towards them.

Q’s feet were moving before he even registered the thought that it was time to run. They tore down the right tunnel, the bricks and algae patches on the wall becoming a dark blur as they sprinted forward in the dark. The torch in Q’s hand only half lit as before, but bouncing around the ground as it was, it wasn’t doing much good for visibility. Rats scattered around their feet, startled by the pair of intruders in their territory. Q hardly paid them any notice now that they had a real threat following behind them.

Even now, they could still hear the cries behind them. It brought to mind the vestiges of several quotes on running from death, but for the life of him, Q couldn’t seem to call them to mind while running like a terrorized rabbit. The distance between them physically only a mild comfort since Q was all but completely lost as they continued on.

If they survived this, Q knew for certain that those screams would be an ongoing soundtrack to his nightmares for however long he lived. Even in his waking moments, Q wondered if it would still ring in his ears like a particularly morbid case of tinnitus.

They came upon several more turns up ahead, the sight of more darkened tunnels bringing a new kind of dread to blanket the two men. The unknown had always been a common theme of man’s fear, and this was no different.

“Use the light, find us a clear path!” Bond ground out.

Q did as he was told, starting from the left most of the three paths before them. He nearly dropped the torch upon seeing two more infected coming their way and far too fast. The second tunnel didn’t show any monsters lurking, but it did have a rapidly moving stream of water bisecting the pathway as far down as Q could see. Checking the third, he saw nothing clearly, but there were some moving shadows he thought he saw.

“The middle one, go!” he cried, already seeing that the herd from the first tunnel were rapidly moving closer.

Q and Bond sprinted forward, legs pumping beneath them with renewed adrenaline pulsing through their veins. Every instinct that Q had was fighting against the direction they were running, only because it looked like they were running straight for the enemy. He could feel Bond’s hand grip his arm even tighter than before, almost assuring a 007 shaped handprint in bruises later. The slight pain from the grip was far more comforting that Q was willing to analyze currently as it served to remind him that he wasn’t alone. That he had one of the world’s most dangerous men trying to keep him safe.

They both neared the mouth of the tunnel, just as the mass of dead emerged from their own. With one great last push, they dove forward, feeling the hands and rancid breath of the creatures clawing at them as they passed. One had even caught a corner of Bond’s bag, only to have it’s arm viciously slammed with the butt of his Walther. It didn’t seem phased by the harsh blow, but it at least lost its grip. Q tried to ignore the brief moment that he swore he felt blunt fingertips brush his side, after all, if he thought about it too much, he may have just been sick on the floor right then.

As they ran on, trying to get some distance between themselves and the growing mob behind them, it was becoming more and more clear that neither he nor Bond had any fucking clue where the hell they were going. Every new turn brought on another second of hesitance it seemed. The agent beside him was starting to growl louder at each new seemingly random turn they chose.

It didn’t help at all that they had been running for what felt like years by now. Bond may have had impressive stamina to make any world-famous marathon runner envious, but Q only had an impressive enough stamina to maybe make his fellow boffins envious, and it was starting to slow them down.

What was even worse, the small river that ran in the center of this tunnel was taking up far too much room to maneuver easily. They could no longer run side by side, instead having Bond watch their back, gently urging Q to go faster when they began to fall behind. Every time he glanced to his left, he’d feel a sense of vertigo hit him as he realized just how easy it would be to fall into the water.

As if to prove his thought, he heard a few loud splashed a distance behind him. No doubt the infected were accidentally falling into the fast moving water as they all bottlenecked down the tunnel.

He only had time to glimpse it, but the water was perhaps some of the most unwelcoming dredge he’d ever seen. And that was coming from someone who had grown up living near the Thames. Still though…

“Bond, the water is flowing in the same direction we’re running,” he said, the realization making his heart skip a beat.

“And?” Bond practically growled.

“And it’s bloody well got to go somewhere,” Q yelled back. It meant that they may be coming up on an exit soon. Somehow in this rat and dead infested labyrinth, they may have accidentally found their way after all. Outside they’d have much more maneuverability, not to mention bloody light. Bond’s was silent, but it was a pleased sort of silence Q was sure. Otherwise it would have been filled with cursing. He knew the difference from partnering with Bond over many comm missions before. Now they just had to follow the stream…

Q yelped as his world suddenly lost any and all balance it had left as something wet and grotesquely fleshy clamped around his ankle. The torch flew in the air, barely giving Q the brief and agonizing visual of one of the infected floating in the water and having one hell of a grip on his leg, before Q’s body over tipped and splashed into the frigid water.

Fast moving water was deafening, but it didn’t completely drown out the shout from above that no doubt came from a distraught 00 agent. Q would have loved to be able to call back, but he had already swallowed some of the foul water upon entry and was just trying to find where the surface was so he could hack it all up. Twisting and turning in the water, pulled down by his wet clothes and pack, he barely could wave his arms to attempt a sorry excuse for doggy paddle.

Is this what drowning feels like?

With the dark now fully engulfing him, the torch probably long gone, he couldn’t discern which direction was up. He still felt the firm grip on his ankle, the water buffeting them along too roughly for the thing to grab on to anything else.

Q tried to cry out in fear, wondering how many seconds he had left before he either drowned or the thing found purchase enough to bite him, ending it all in the worst way possible, but he only sucked in more water. Panic began to set in, seizing his heart as well as his lungs. A rabbit caught in a snare, willing to break its own leg rather than stay to see what fate brought it.

Then he felt what seemed like an underwater explosion next to him. It was too dark to tell, but Q somehow instinctively knew that it was Bond joining his watery fray. He could feel a new firm grip appear on his arm, now very familiar and very welcome, with a pull strong enough that it moved both Q and the infected attached to him.

Finally, Q was able to break his head above the surface, choking and gagging before he could even think to draw in breath.

“Kick it, Q! Kick,” Bond shouted in his ear over the roar of the water around them. His arms had found their way around Q’s chest from behind, a rescue technique he no doubt picked up in the Navy, and he was keeping all three of them afloat as they were tossed about.

Q still couldn’t see anything in the dark, but he had the wherewithal to at least know where his legs were, and which still had something immensely undesirable attached to it. Immediately, Q began to thrash, trusting Bond to keep a tight enough grip on him to not let go with the frantic movements. The resistance of the water made it hard, but Q did his best to slam his heel down on to the creature’s hand as hard as he was able given the circumstances.

It wasn’t budging, giving Q a whole new appreciation for the term ‘death grip’ as the thing seemed to have a vice in place of flesh and bone. Bond seemed to sense his struggle, and his own legs joined in, trying to scrape the hand off with his own feet bracketing Q’s ankle and pushing downwards.

Finally, with about a few layers of skin sacrificed, Bond was able to dislodge the hand, adding in one last brutal kick to the infected’s chest to push it further away for good measure.

If Q had the extra breath available, he would have sighed in relief.

Glancing over his shoulder, he turned to thank Bond, only to realize that he could see the agents face. There was light. Bond seemed to realize this the same time as him, because his sharp eyes flicked ahead, squinting as he took in the next leg of their river run.

“Shit, brace yourself, Q!” he said, arms already tightening around his middle.

Q didn’t even have time to ask why before the light in front of them became blinding and it felt like the world around them was tipping once again as they both were shot out from the tunnel in a jarring spray of water. They both fell, ass over teakettle, into the waiting lake below.

Bond took the greater hit, his back hitting the water first and cushioning Q’s own fall, but he recovered quickly, his powerful legs kicking them back to the surface within mere moments. The agent held them there, treading water for a minute or two while they both caught their breath.

Q could feel the agent rest his forehead against the exposed flesh between Q’s hairline and where his shoulders met neck, the contact a comfort for both of them. He could feel the warm puffs of breath against his skin, making him shiver in something other than cold or dread for the first time in what felt like days.

Over the sounds of his own gasping, he heard Bond muttering something against his neck, lips barely brushing against the short hairs on the edge of his hairline.

“Q, are you alright? Please tell me you’re alright. Q? You weren’t bit?” he heard asked almost desperately.

Q shook his head, droplets of water falling around them as he did, “I’m fine. I don’t think any skin was broken. No bites.”

The tension in Bond seemed to be washed off by the water around them, the almost too tight grip around his middle loosening enough to allow Q to be released and start treating water beside the agent. Q was finally able to look at Bond’s face, noting the stark pallor that stood out on the normally tan features.

Perhaps he’s as shaken by those things as I am, Q thought to himself as he glanced around. The lake around them seemed almost eerily quiet now that they were no longer in those abominable echoing tunnels of hell.

“Come on, we need to get out of the water and figure out where the hell we ended up.”

Together they swam closer to the shore, Bond urging Q to swim ahead of him so he could make sure the Quartermaster didn’t drown from exhaustion. The water was less cold now that it was still and out in the setting sunlight, but Q still wanted out as soon as possible, already feeling like a half-drowned cat.

He felt the lake floor touch his kicking legs about 3 meters from shore, choosing to stand and wade through the water the rest of the way. He saw out of the corner of his eye Bond attempt to do the same, only to suddenly have the agents whole body dragged beneath the surface in a large frantic splash.

“Bond!” he shouted, but he didn’t come back up.

Q’s eyes widened, his body already moving over to where Bond had disappeared before he even could think. One of Bond’s hands shot above the surface, looking for purchase on anything. Q didn’t even hesitate to reach out and grab for it, pulling with every ounce of muscle he had.

Grunting with exertion, he was able to pull hard enough for Bond’s upper torso to break the surface, the agent already yelling at Q to pull them to shore. Happy to oblige, Q tried another back-breaking heave, only to pull Bond closer to him and to pull the same infected creature from before above the water.

It had its waterlogged arms wrapped around Bond’s hips, the only thing stopping it from biting down on the flesh there was the agents other hand gripping the lanky strands of hair on it’s head. Q could see the skin slowly starting to peel away from the scalp with the force of Bond’s grip. He prayed it didn’t pull completely off.

He had to get them all to shore. Thrashing around in the water wouldn’t help things at all if they couldn’t even stand to fight back properly. Q heaved again, adjusting his grip to under Bond’s arms, freeing the agents other hand to fight.

With the combined weight of the infected and the agent, Q was nearly bent over backwards with the effort of pulling them along. He could feel his feet sink into the wet earth beneath him, hindering his progress, but he kept pulling knowing if he gave up then he’d lose Bond. He couldn’t allow that.

The agent was fighting back as best he could, growling back at the snarling thing attached to him as he fought to keep its teeth away from him. It was almost like living one of those cheesy shark attack movies, but for them it was far too real.

Absently, Q began to register the water level going down around them until he pulled one more time, his hands finally giving out and sending him sprawling backwards in to dry sand. Clumsily, he righted himself again to see Bond still wrestling with the infected man on top of him.

Q could see the Walther sticking out of Bond’s jacket, but the chances of it being waterlogged were too high, not to mention that it didn’t do anything to the ones Bond had shot earlier. He searched around himself frantically, but all he saw were rocks and sticks, literally primitive weapons at best.

I have to save him, he can’t die like this. I can’t let him die like this. James…

Q heard Bond groan loudly as the agent seemed to finally begin to lose the battle, his arms shaking as the muscles weakened.

Q wasn’t entirely sure what ran through his head at that point, if anything did even, but somehow he found himself grabbing the nearest large rock and racing forward to tackle the thing off of Bond, swinging his arm up at the same time, not even waiting for him and the thing to touch the ground before he started to bash it on the head with every ounce of strength he still possessed.

He was at least ten bashes in by his own count before he registered Bond gripping his wrist and pulling him back gently.

The haze in Q’s mind seemed to fade a bit, leaving them both staring at the now completely still corpse a few feet in front of them now, it’s skull completely caved in. It was finally done. Not even a twitch left it in. Q ducked his face against Bond’s chest, unable to look at the sight a moment longer.

“Fuck, I wish we’d tried the head sooner,” Bond said in the silence.

Q let out a bark of near hysterical laughter against the wet material of Bond’s jacket, only belatedly realizing that he had his fist clenched in the fabric as well.

“You…you weren’t, I mean…it didn’t—”

“I wasn’t bitten,” Bond said, making his chest rumble soothingly against Q’s face.

Letting out a relieved sigh, Q started to mentally catalog his plan for extricating himself from Bond with as much dignity intact as he could manage after being held like a child. He felt even more like a heartsick teenager when he knew for certain he didn’t want to leave his arms at all.

“Are you alright, Q?”

“…Oliver. Oliver Brooks.”

“What?”

Q frowned, wondering himself why he just revealed his own name, but he repeated it again, with a bit more confidence a second time, lifting his head to look up at Bond, “I suppose, if this is the end of the world and all, and I don’t make it home, which is looking like a distinct possibility at this point…it would be nice that my real name isn’t forgotten. I don’t think there’s anyone left who knows it. Mansfield was the last one, I think. And I am. Alright, I mean.”

Bond nodded slowly, no trace of a smirk or humor as he absorbed the new knowledge, “Oliver…” he said as if trying it out on his tongue.

“You don’t have to use it,” Q said in a rush, “I just want to be remembered as more than just a title I guess.”

“I’ll remember,” Bond said with a sincerity that Q couldn’t help but believe, “I’ll remember. Oliver.”

Chapter Text

James led Q away from the edge of the water and the gruesome sight it held, gripping the young man’s arm perhaps a tad too tight, but he was hardly protesting the treatment. If anything, Q seemed to lean in to it. James couldn’t blame him though. There was more than enough nightmare material to last several lifetimes without Q having to observe if more of those things came pouring out the end of the tunnel where they had just emerged from. James knew that the mission really only entailed protecting his Quartermaster from physical harm, but he couldn’t bring himself to just let any mental damage occur if he could help it. If he knew how he’d do whatever it took to rid Q of the memories from the last few hours.

It had only been a day since they fled the hotel room, the sun only just starting its decent behind the horizon, but damn it if it didn't feel like longer. If his phone hadn’t met a watery death, he’d have already pulled out his phone to check the date and make sure that they hadn’t spent an extra day or two running in those tunnels that he hadn’t noticed. Time flew like that when adrenaline pumped around enough, its own special kind of drug.

There would be a lot of adrenaline from here on though. James knew that they wouldn’t be able to drive any vehicle, not with the military of every country arresting all traffic. No, they’d have to go on foot from here. At least four weeks of travel by his mental calculations. It would be difficult, even for those used to roughing it. Looking at his companion, James worried about how he would fair. He knew that underneath the seemingly delicate façade of his body, Q was a force to be reckoned with, but nerves of steel and a brain to make all feel inadequate didn’t necessarily mean this would be a cake walk for him. There was the journey itself being quite the trek. Then natural elements always had their say in how easy an outdoor adventure would be.

Oh, and then there are the walking corpses that chase after noises and are not an easy kill. Can’t forget those, James thought bitterly, pulling Q closer to his side as the ducked further into the woods around the pond. He’d almost lost Q in there. James had felt his breath stolen from his lungs as he heard the yelp and splash as Q had been dragged into the water. It had been so dark, James couldn’t even see how fast the water was moving, how far Q had been dragged along, or how deep…James didn’t even know that one of those things had their claws dug in him until he’d already dove in the water searching for a familiar form.

It had been so close. Too close. The cold that had taken seat in his bones surpassed any chill that the water and his wet clothes had when he had thought for just a few seconds that maybe Q had been bitten.

James wasn’t sure exactly where was safest at this point, but every instinct he had online was telling him to first get away from the tunnel. The forest they entered wasn’t overly thick thankfully, allowing for just enough visibility to see if anything was coming. If his memory served correctly, if they traveled northwest, they’d stay in the woods for at least a few days. That sounded a damned lot better than going anywhere near a city or town after seeing what a crowd of those things could do.

They had walked a couple miles into the trees, an hour or so passing. Just enough time for James to feel slightly less on edge, and apparently long enough for Q to move from terrified and mute to pissed off and ranting. Honestly, James enjoyed the change.

“What the bloody hell happened to good old vomiting and diarrhea? When the fuck did viruses decide to…do whatever the hell they’ve done? I swear, when we get back, I’m buying every disinfectant possible. Wait, no. I’ll make my own. It’ll be far more efficient than any of that watered-down baby safe shite they have on the market. Then I’m just going to build a plastic bubble and live in it the rest of my life.”

“And that bubble will pop after the first time you approach yours cats,” James told him, earning a snort from the irate young man.

“As if I haven’t already accounted for that in my mental design. Really Bond, it’s as if you don’t know me. Besides, who says I wasn’t going to make something for them. Think bloody large hamster balls.”

James tried to picture it but shook off the image as soon as it moved from cats and on to all of MI6 trying to conduct business while moving around like a living pinball machine. It was far too absurd, but he wasn’t about to tell Q that, not when he was in this kind of mood. He knew from experience that people reacted to near death events differently. Bond drank himself into a stupor. Alec liked to blow things up and Q apparently liked to snark and curse like a seasoned sailor. James loved it.

The air around them started to take on the telltale golden glow of a day almost finished, making a pool of apprehension form in his gut when he knew that dark would soon follow. They only had about two hours of functional light left, and he knew that there would not be enough time to build a shelter strong enough to reliably protect them. Not one that he could think of anyway.

“Q, we need to stop and find a safe place for the night. Or as safe as we can make it. May have to take shifts listening for footsteps. I also need to check you over for any open wounds. Even small ones can get infected out here,” James said, pulling Q to a halt in the center of a copse of trees.

Q’s ranting stopped abruptly, his eyes becoming wide as if just noticing the change in the light around them.

“I do hope you aren’t afraid of the dark. A fire is not going to be safe tonight,” James said, a small apology in his expression.

Q’s eyes were darting around the clearing, as if already looking for an oncoming hoard, “Uh, I didn’t have one before, but who knows what mental trauma may come of our little sewer adventure today. Night’s still young and all,” he tried to joke, but it lacked its normal fire due to the slight wavering in his voice.

James sighed and took his own moment to survey the area around them for any threat before motioning to Q to sit down on a nearby boulder. They both gratefully slid their packs off their backs as Q settled on the rock and James knelt down in front of him.

He did his best to ignore the sweet blush that painted the highest points of Q’s cheekbones as he dug out the small first aid kid from his pack. He was hoping he didn’t have to use it. Even the smallest nick in Q’s skin James would take as a personal failure.

Gently, James propped the foot the infected thing had clung to up on to his bent leg, gently rolling the now damp fabric up to get a clear look. Trailing his fingers along all sides of the slender ankle, he carefully searched every centimetre of skin he could find. He let his shoulders drop in relief when all he saw were some raw looking spots where some skin was now flaking off, but nothing had drawn blood or left open wounds. It wasn’t even swollen.

He didn’t notice how long he sat there holding Q’s leg, he only looked up when he felt small tremors shake the limb.

“Q?”

The boffin looked paler than normal, perhaps one small break away from another meltdown, but he was doing a valiant job of holding it all back.

“This is all a bit ridiculous, isn’t it? The world literally going to hell around of us and we’re stuck in the middle of nowhere trying to just stroll our way back home hoping we don’t get killed along the way, and I feel absolutely useless to you. If I wasn’t here being a burden to you, you’d have probably already popped back into London with a smile and a broken radio,” he said, shaking his head sadly.

James reached up his hand, cupping the side of Q’s face tenderly, “No, don’t think like that. You’re the one who killed that thing back there and saved me, remember?”

“Only because you had to fight it off me in the first place.”

“A kill is a kill, Q. How long do you think it would have taken me to figure out a noisy gun is bad and smashing it’s head is good?”

“Pure luck. I didn’t figure out anything, I’m pretty sure I just lost my mind for a moment there. I just don’t see why you have to put yourself in danger for me,” Q said with a small crease forming between his eyes as he thought of it. James smoothed it out with his thumb.

“Q, you heard M. He needs you. England needs you.”

I need you.

Q snorted, “I deal in computer viruses, not biological ones. What good will I be?”

James smirked, ruffling Q’s curls with his fingers, “Well, someone has to design those bloody hamster balls.”

Q laughed, his smile warming James up as if he was standing next to open fire, but it was merely sparks compared to the blaze when Q reached out and started to run his long fingers over his arms and chest. James had to calm himself down as soon as he realized the trailing digits were looking for injury, and not any interested organs. Q pushed fabric aside, checking for any red stains there, completely missing the red stains appearing on James’s cheeks as the clever hands drifted a little lower than was strictly necessary.

Perhaps his own mode of dealing with near death was drinking in to a stupor or being far too eager to find a warm body, James admitted to himself as Q finished up his innocent probing.

James cleared his throat as soon as Q sat back, “Uh, we need to set up some sort of camp for the night. You’ll need rest for tomorrow.”

“Can’t we just sleep in the trees? Those things could barely walk, I highly doubt they have the coordination to climb.”

James squinted up into the treetops above them, assessing the thickness of the branches above as well as the ease of which they could climb.

“I suppose we can, may have to tie ourselves to the trunks so we don’t fall though,” he said slowly, already thinking on how badly his back would hurt the next morning.

“Or we could just use these,” Q said, pulling two pouch hammocks from his pack proudly.

James smiled.


“I imagine this is what it feels like to be a banana.”

Q’s whispered ponderings brought a smile to James’ face as they settled into their hammocks for the night. Somehow, they had managed with little to no physical damage to themselves and their pride. It wasn’t every day that two full grown men attempted to climb trees, and it had been at least several decades since James himself had last tried, but in the end they both now hung suspended in the trees as safe as they could possibly be.

Unless they were very wrong about the climbing theory, but James couldn’t see the clumsy half rotted away corpses even being able to jump to the first branch. At least the infected had the courtesy to be noisy whenever they moved, be it dragged footsteps or that continuous groaning.

“Just be glad you had the sense enough to not grab a yellow one.”

Q snorted, “I’m glad I had sense enough to grab them in the first place, I don’t think I gave color any real thought. Suppose we’re lucky I didn’t grab the pink or lime green ones. I usually prefer a splash of color.”

“Those wouldn’t have been a splash. More like a deluge.”

“Depends on one’s perspective.”

“Or severity level of color blindness.”

Q didn’t respond, but James could still hear his soft breathing only half a meter away from himself. James wasn’t sure if it was a conscious decision to put their hammocks so close to each other, but it did bring some level of comfort to know if he simply placed out his hand he’d be able to find Q in a mere second. Even so, this high up, he didn’t think he’d like to have to blindly wave his arms around trying to find him in an emergency. Thankfully, neither had any fear of heights beyond mere common sense.

Together they shared their meager meal while the sky turned from gold to grey and then finally to black. It wasn’t much, one protein bar split between the two of them and a few swallows of a sports drink James had grabbed at the store. Their packs could only carry so much weight, so they only had about 3 days of food if rationed properly. Their meal had felt more like an unsatisfying snack, but it was better than starvation.

Now it was pitch dark, not even the shadow of a hand visible with the tree cover above blocking out the moon. They had rolled out their sleep sacks in their beds as carefully as they could, still very much not used to the motion of them. At least several heart attacks were had upon first climbing in, like entering a rocking canoe on a river. Only their fall would have resulted in at least several broken bones, rather than an unplanned dunking in the water. The breeze was nice though, almost like nature trying to rock them to sleep. Almost felt like being back in the barracks in the Navy.

A rustling beside him broke him of his thoughts.

“Having trouble getting comfortable, Q?”

There was a small pause before the rustling stopped followed by a world-weary sigh, “I’m as comfortable as I can be I suppose.”

“Then you should get some rest while you can. We’ll be up with the sun and we have a very long way to go,” James reminded him gently.

“I know, I just—I’m not sure I can sleep after all that. Maybe I should take watch or something. Be useful for once. I’ve gone days without rest before, I’ll be fine. I—”

His rambling cut off the moment that James’ hand settled on his lean chest. James could feel the rabbit fast heartbeat under his fingers, even with layers of clothes and blanket between them. The air hung heavy and silent for a moment while both men gathered themselves. He didn’t know if Q was taking comfort from the touch, but James knew that he was drawing comfort from it. Heartbeats were always a comfort for James. They meant life. They could reveal truths. They meant he wasn’t alone.

“You’re scared.”

“I think I have a right to be slightly alarmed. Not all of us are cut out to be big strong brave agents. Or Gryffindor’s for that matter,” Q pointed out, his words vibrating pleasantly against James’ palm. He sounded depreciating, almost angry at himself for admitting it, “I’m just…processing. There was a lot to take in today, and I’m trying to rationalize it all so that I’m not haunted in my sleep and wake up screaming. The subconscious is an unforgiving bitch of a thing, and I don’t think I can relive today again this soon. I’m sorry, I wish I was braver, but I just…I can’t.”

James hummed in thought, not disagreeing with what Q said, not taking his hand away.

“I saw a lot of death before MI6, military and all. And I remember thinking that way, thinking of the faces I’d see when I closed my eyes. I can still recall some of them with perfect clarity,” he said softly, his voice barely above the rustling leaves and gentle breeze around them.

“What did you do?”

“Well, I fell asleep eventually. Gryffindor or not, I was still human. I had nightmares some nights. Some nights I dreamt of softer things. Some of nothing at all. It still felt like an open wound at first. Raw, sudden pain when you touched it. Ache when you tried to ignore it. It felt like it would never go away. I’d live on, see more bodies, more death, even causing a few myself. But it started to feel different. Not as startling when I came upon it. Not as harrowing, but still ached occasionally when lingered on. Like a half-healed wound. And then…I’d see death, and it was always as gruesome and terrible as it was the first time, but it didn’t nearly cut as deep. They say time heals all wounds, which I’m sure you know is complete bullshit, but what they forget to mention is that scar tissue has less sensation than normal skin. You can still be cut there again, and again, but over time it hurts less and less.”

“So, you’re telling me that I’m just going to have to get used to it?” Q asked, a bitterness on his tongue.

“I’m saying that death still scares me as much as it always has. I’m not immune, I’m desensitized, and there is nothing wrong with being scared. As for the screaming, I’ll be able to wake you before you get there, I promise,” James replied, letting his thumb rub back and forth over Q’s chest. He could feel it deflate with the soft breath that Q blew out as he forced himself to relax. His body still felt tense under James’ hand, but it was a start.

Slowly James moved his hand to grip at the fabric of Q’s hammock, slowly beginning to push gently against it rhythmically.

“Are you trying to rock me to sleep?” Q asked, a touch of humor back in his voice.

James shrugged in the darkness, “Perhaps. Is it working?”

There was a small pause.

“Not yet, but keep trying.”

James smiled and continued.

“…If word of this gets back to anyone back at HQ I’ll hide an explosive in one of your gadgets but I won’t tell you which one or how it detonates.”


A few hours later…

James startled awake suddenly, his heart beating a fast and hard staccato in his chest as he tried to discern what it was that woke him in the first place. It was too dark to see, so he focused his hearing on everything around him, picking out the sound of leaves in the trees, crickets in the bush, Q’s soft breathing beside him. Then he found it.

Those dragging footsteps, now horrifically familiar, were right below them. He strained his ears, but only could pick up the sounds of one set. Just one infected then. Oddly enough, after today that didn’t make him feel any less alarmed.

He dared not move. Only his training kept him from holding his breath, knowing it only served as a distraction and led to louder breathing when he let it go. Instead he kept his breathing light and slow, even though every instinct wanted him to such in as much oxygen as possible before needing to flee. He didn’t move a finger, not even towards his Walther that was stored in the hammock pocket by his side. Logic told him that he was safe where he was, that if he stayed quiet and didn’t spontaneously start bleeding then he should be fine.

Somehow, he still didn’t feel better.

The footsteps continued. James could hear its wet and crackling breathing, as if its lungs were beginning to decompose. The very thought made the bile rise in his throat. At least it wasn’t screaming. He didn’t think he could stay sane if he heard that ghastly noise suddenly erupt from the silence.

He swore he could hear his own heartbeat and feared that the infected below may have developed super hearing to the point of finding them up above, but it continued its slow stagger below them.

At least Q remained blissfully asleep beside him, thankfully completely silent. Thank God neither of them snored. Had it been even two hours earlier they may have been already spotted due to Q’s soft whimpers as he fought through a nightmare, but for now he was settled in what James hoped was a very deep and dreamless sleep.

The lumbering footsteps had finally passed under them and seemed to be going off in the opposite direction. The relief that fell over James was sudden and heavy as he heard the footsteps fade in to the distance.

Fuck, he thought to himself loudly, in place of shouting it out like he’d truly wanted. That was too close. His heart was still beating fast and he knew for certain that he would be finding no more sleep that night.

Desperately, he risked pulling his arm out from his sleep sack and reached out his hand to rest against Q’s hammock, feeling the body heat of a very alive man cradled inside. He sighed deeply, letting his fingers soak in the warmth in the cool night air.

He lay there with his hand on Q, feeling like a scared child sitting in the dark waiting for the sun to rise and scare the monsters back in to the closet.

Only he knew that when the sun rose this time, the monsters would still be there waiting.

Chapter Text

All radio channels

*---static---*

 

Morning the Next Day

The first morning as they woke in the trees had been like waking from a particularly brutal night on the town, with aches and pains everywhere and that distinct nauseated feel in their bellies. It took Q almost a half hour before he felt coordinated enough to attempt climbing out of his little nest, but at least he managed it without a broken neck and at least half his dignity still intact.

Perhaps more of his dignity would have remained had Bond not twisted out of his like a trained gymnast as he climbed down and landed solidly on the ground. Even Q would reluctantly give him at least a nine for the landing, and that was conservative on his part. So, with a bit of grumbling, Q followed down after him. He gave his own landing a five, but only because he didn’t fall completely on his arse.

At the base of the trees, Bond was already packing up his things, and even had their meager breakfast rationed doled out on a boulder nearby. The agent seemed tense this morning, his eyes carrying heavy bags below and his shoulders stooped low. He looked exhausted, but he moved like he was ready to take on a marathon.

Q opened his mouth to ask about how he slept when his eyes caught something out the corner of his eye.

Footprints.

Those were not there the night before; Q knew that for sure thanks to his overactive memory bank. He was no master at reading footprints, but even he could make out the awkward gate and drag marks. His stomach dropped to his feet when he realized that one of those…things…had walked right through their camp last night and he had slept right through it. Fuck, if that was not one of the most unsettling thoughts he’d ever had. Bond’s sleepy aura made sense now.

“Why didn’t you wake me?” Q asked softly, still nervous about making any loud noises.

Bond sighed as he zipped the top of his pack closed, “You needed sleep, and we were as safe as we possibly could be. No sense risking you startling awake either.”

“Oh,” Q said, his eyes falling to his feet as he thought to himself, you needed the sleep too.

“Breakfast is on the rock, even if you aren’t hungry you need to eat it all. We don’t know what we’ll run in to later and if you’ll be able to eat when you do feel hungry. And if we need to run, you need to have fuel in you,” he said, already pulling Q’s pack from his hands and setting it aside for him.

Q would rather not run in to anything at all, but he knew that was wishful thinking on his part. The footprints were proof enough that they weren’t even close to alone out here. Q shivered in the cool morning air, looking around him in a sweeping circle to assure himself that at least they had somewhat of a clearing to work with.

He couldn’t help but feel a bit like he was going back to his roots. Not his family’s background, but more of his caveman ancient cousin type thing. He felt enough like prey now, feeling more rabbit than human. After spending his life as the top of the food chain, never worrying about becoming somethings lunch holed up in his big city, it was humbling to suddenly have to worry about primitive survival as opposed to societal. He just hoped food was easier to come by out here than decently paying jobs were back in the city. Everything he did now gave him an animalistic awareness that had him tense all over.

Just simply by surveying the area before eating was something he’d only seen before in stray cats…and perhaps some agents. He’d never focused so much on his hearing before either, never caring what came up behind him unless it was on some darkened street in the less savory parts of London. Nesting in trees. Stopping in his tracks at every branch snap.

“Oh god, I’m a squirrel.”

“What?”

Q’s eyes widened as he realized he’d muttered the last part out loud; he shoved his portioned protein bar in his mouth just to avoid responding as embarrassment made him flush. He thought he heard Bond chuckle, but he pretended that he heard nothing. His dignity was still in recovery from his tree adventures that morning.

“Dry socks and pack away your top layer. You’ll warm up fast enough and we need to avoid stopping often, even if it’s just to put away a jacket,” Bond said once Q finished his food. Already handing his pack over. His shoulders still ached from carrying it all day yesterday, but he took it without complaint.

“So, we’re just…walking?”

Bond nodded, “We’ll keep to the trees as much as we can. Avoiding all towns will be hard, but we’ll do what we can. Come on. Let’s get you home,” he said, already walking off away from where the sun was rising.

“Us,” Q corrected, startling Bond in to turning back to face him, “Let’s get us home.”

Bond nodded and gave him a soft smile that released a hoard of butterflies in Q’s belly.


“At this rate it will take us months to make it across the continent. We really need silent projectiles, or a spear. Machete may work, but we run the risk of arterial spray reaching us. Perhaps a long axe?”

James listened to Q’s soft ramblings, allowing them only when he was sure that they were far enough away to safely make some noise. This was the fourth redirection that they had been forced to take so far. The woods were not crawling with infected per se. The only seemed to encounter one at a time, and vastly spread out. They’d been walking for over half the day and this was only the fourth they’d spotted. James was starting to get a bit annoyed with all the path changes himself.

They’d been lucky in hearing or spotting the walking corpses from a decent distance away so far. It helped that they seemed to walk aimlessly when they were without a target, bumping in to tree branches, even tripping over roots that James saw at one point. Plenty of noises to pick out from the normal rustling of leaves they heard when a breeze rolled through.

“Can you make me a bow and arrows?” Bond asked, liking the idea of having a weapon that would actually be useful again. His fingers itched without having proper protection on him. Reminded him of far too many times he’d been caught unaware by his enemies.

He heard Q hum behind him in thought, “Umm, yes and no. I can make you a rudimentary bow and a set of somewhat functional arrows, but with the materials I have on hand it would hardly be strong enough to pierce through a skull from great distances. You’d need to be at least ten yards away, and at that point you’re probably far too close at any rate. For that I’d suggest a crossbow, but even so that may not work without metal bits. And I’d need animal gut, chemicals to work the gut, and then time to dry and stretch it out. Talking about three weeks wait for a suitable weapon.”

James sighed dramatically, “Ah, shame. It would have been rather intriguing to watch you work on something so archaic. Like watching a computer get uploaded with an abacus program.”

He heard Q laugh gently, and James couldn’t stop himself from glancing over his shoulder to see if he could catch a glimpse at his smile. There wasn’t a whole lot left in this world that could warm James, tip of his nose to his toes, but Q’s smile was one of them. At warm him it did.

“The abacus was a marvelous tool for all its simplicity. I’m sure the computer processor would appreciate the break from difficult high RAM level programs for once,” Q kidded back.

“Why, Q, it almost sounds as if you’d enjoy fiddling around with medieval weapons.”

Q’s smile grew broader, with a hint of mischief sparking in the corners of his green eyes, “Why James, it almost sounds like you assume I haven’t already. How else would I know how to treat cat gut?”

James tried to ignore the leap in his heart at hearing his first name out of Q’s lips and wrinkled his nose, “I honestly was trying to not assume anything regarding the cat gut. I know you adore all things feline; I just didn’t think how thoroughly that was…”

Now Q wrinkled his nose, “Ew, no. I read about the treatment, but I bought some from a violin shop pre-made. And I think it came from a goat or something, not an actual cat. Good lord. And I will admit to making several historically accurate medieval weapon replicas when I was young--”

James snorted.

Q huffed, “Younger”, he emphasized sarcastically, “so I have some idea what I’d be doing. But I hold to my assessment. Without the proper tools, anything I’d make wouldn’t be strong enough for our needs. Piercing skin is one thing. Bone is another beast all together.”

Yes. This was another beast all together.

Finally, James had encountered an enemy that truly sent shivers down his spine and made him feel like a frightened child. Nothing in his training had ever prepared him for this. And here he was not only fighting an enemy like this, but he had been charged with the protection of the one person he wasn’t sure he’d ever recover from losing. He’d lost assets before in unavoidable violence, but something about the idea of losing Q was unthinkable.

Perhaps he’d let himself get too attached, too addicted, to the high and light feeling of being around the young bright thing. He knew this feeling, he’d felt it before with a few others, this desire. But it felt slightly different now. Maybe it was because everyone he’d desired like this before had died or left. Maybe it was because the world had officially gone to shit, and Q was the only good thing left. Maybe Q was just different. But the desire, the want, was slowly forming into an all-encompassing need.

He needed to protect Q. No, he needed to protect Oliver. His status as Quartermaster meant nothing to James at this point. He would have kept him safe and returned him home no matter what Mallory had ordered.

“Bond? James?”

James schooled his features before calmly looking back at his companion who was staring a ways off to the left and towards the ground. Instinctively, James threw out his arm in front of Q, pushing him behind his own body as before he even had time to assess whatever it was that his companion had spotted.

It didn’t take him long to figure out what drew his attention. The half-decimated deer carcass at the foot of a medium sized tree was enough of a beacon. It looked as if its ribs had been ripped apart like something had tried to open it like a set of curtains. Organs and blood were pooled on the ground by its belly. James may have grown up in a hunting lodge, but this sight was even a bit much for him. He proudly congratulated Q in his head for not even gagging out loud at the sight.

“That’s a good thing, right? That it ate an animal? Maybe it would be too full to come after us,” Q said, with queasy hopefulness in his voice.

James shook his head though, “This wasn’t eaten though. All the meat is still there. They just…tore it apart.”

He heard Q groan behind him, “Killing randomly then? Maybe it was just some other predator.”

“Unlikely. Animals don’t kill like this and leave behind the meat. Those things must have just either heard it moving around or smelled blood from a small wound. It is a bit odd though. Those things aren’t particularly fast. I wonder how they managed to catch it.”

Q groaned again, pressing his forehead against James’ shoulder, “Fuck, that’s a bit disconcerting. I do hope that the virus isn’t transmittable between humans and animals…”

James couldn’t help but agree. All they needed now was half rotten animal corpses chasing after them. It was unlikely though. The news would have at least caught word of rabid domestic dogs long before now if that were the case.

Then he heard the moans.

His heart lurched in his chest as he spun around trying to locate the source of the noise. Q was standing near his side, but James yanked him closer by joining their hands, unwilling to tolerate more than a scant measure between them with danger near.

The boffin clearly picked up on James’ alarm, and had enough common sense to keep quiet instead of demanding James tell him what was happening. He stood silently in James’ grasp, his own head swiveling around like an owls, eyes wide and assessing.

The moaning was getting louder, and with a sickening drop in his stomach, he realized it was coming from at least three directions around them. The bushes started to rustle as James caught his first glimpse of movement off to their left. From what he saw there were at least two infected stumbling forward. Then he heard another rustle to their right, and another behind them. More.

His muscles were all tensed and ready to run, but as he took in the moving shadows the chances at running were looking bleak. Even if they darted around the tree, James was almost certain that they would have incoming from that direction as well. And who knew how many more were slowly creeping closer in the distance. They could just run in to more any direction they went.

“Fuck, they must have smelled the blood,” Q said, his voice low but with carefully concealed panic, “If they had heard us, they’d be moving faster by now.”

James was beginning to feel the slight sting of panic rising in his blood as well when he realized just how difficult it would be to run past the incoming hoard without risking Q. They’d been walking all day, they were both already exhausted. They may not be strong enough for another long sprint away from the madness.

He gripped Q’s hand tighter.

“James, the tree,” Q whispered urgently, “If we climb up, we can maybe wait them out.”

“And if they decide to wait us out?”

“Then at least we’ll have time to plan, now hurry!”

Trusting his Quartermaster had become second nature to him now when he heard an actual order like that from the soft tenor, so without pause he let go of Q’s hand to lace his own fingers together to make a leg up for Q.

Q nearly overshot himself when James used his strength to boost him up further, but he managed to latch on to one of the lower hanging branches, forever grateful that it was strong enough to support his weight. With a great heave, James watched Q kick in the air for a brief moment before he was able to swing his legs up to wrap around the branch. Dropping and arm to look below him like a particularly nerdy sloth, his eyes widened upon looking beyond James’ shoulder.

“James! They’re moving faster, they see us!”

By the mounting volume in the moans and footsteps, Q was most definitely correct. Fuck. “Pull yourself up, don’t worry about me!” James shouted back, already moving to where he saw the lowest hanging branch. It wasn’t as sturdy looking as the branch he’d tossed Q on, but it would half to do. He squatted down as he bunched the muscles in his legs and then shot himself up with arms outstretched. His fingers only grazed the branch about halfway.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw that Q had been successful in pulling the rest of his body up the branch and was now inching his way over to the branch where James was trying to ascend. James could hear the infected getting closer now, the first pitched scream ripping through the air like a sharp knife.

“Try to run up the trunk a bit and grab the branch then,” Q shouted down at him.

He’d need a running start for that, but he didn’t exactly have a lot of wiggle room between himself, the tree and the fucking animated corpses coming up behind him. Well, he’d only lose more room the longer he waited.

He chanced getting within three yards of the incoming hoard, gagging slightly at the smells that emanated from them, and then he sprinted for all his worth straight at the tree trunk. As he reached the base, he leaped up, digging the soles of his boots in to the rough bark as he pushed himself up as far as gravity would allow.

His fingers closed over the top of the branch just as he started to fall back to the ground.

Then he heard a loud crack.

He swung his head around to the sound, seeing a large splinter in the wood half a meter away from where he hung like a vulnerable piece of fruit. He glanced up, seeing Q at the very end of the branch by the trunk where it was thankfully more stable, also looking at the break with something akin to horror on his face. He looked like he was trying to inch forward to James.

“James…”

“No, Q. Stay where you are,” he warned as he very carefully started to pull his feet up under him. It was a vicious strain on his abs, but that’s what they were there for. He had to be slow or risk the branch snapping, but obviously he didn’t have forever to do this. It would hardly be the first time he’d had to pull himself up on a ledge like this. Just usually the ledges were not about to snap out from under him.

“James, they’re almost by your legs!” he heard Q cry out, sounding near tears.

His feet were just about level with his hips when he felt the first swing of an arm right under his back, the air moving enough to inform him that their little bloated decaying friends had arrived. Carefully he twisted his lower back so that he could wrap his legs around the branch, his feet just scraping the area where the break was. Righting his hands to loop around the branch, he started to creep backwards towards the trunk.

The moaning had turned to shrill shrieks under them, making James’ hands sweaty with anxiety. He knew if he fell now, he’d look worse than the deer corpse within seconds. He couldn’t let Q see something like that.

His knees just passed the break. He was almost there.

And then he felt a sharp tug on his back that nearly had his fingers slip off the branch, his legs not having enough of a hold to rely on.

“James, they have your pack! Take it off!”

He didn’t need to be told twice, but the strap across his chest was difficult to work with only one hand and he was still being pulled down from behind by whatever had its claws in him. With a bit more struggle, he managed to undo the clip and had worked his first arm out of the pack strap when he felt an unexpected yank against the pack.

He lost his grip and his torso started to fall back, and all James could think was that he hoped Q survived this.

And then he felt something snag the front of his shirt, stopping him mid fall.

He opened his eyes, wondering when he had closed them in defeat, to see Q nearly bent over in half on the branch, trying his hardest to pull James up by his jacket. His face was red with exertion, sweat already beading on his forehead and running down his nose.

“Move, you great oaf! I can’t hold you long,” he ground out.

James let the last strap of his pack slide off his arm and down into the morbid fray below them, laying mostly ignored in the dirt. Together with both of them working, they managed to pull James on to the sturdier end of the branch, James nearly pinning Q to the trunk, chest to chest, as they tried to catch their breath. Below them the stench and screams grew, but James hardly paid them any mind as he tried to recover from his latest near-death experience.

He didn’t know how long had passed before his mind and body had recovered enough to pull fully back to the present, but when he did, he focused fully on the man he was currently draped over and maybe squishing a bit.

“You absolute wanker,” he heard Q mutter wetly.

“Sorry, give me a moment and I’ll move.”

Q’s head shook against his shoulder, “Not that, you idiot. You nearly died, again. You need to stop doing that, I can’t stand it.”

Q was trembling beneath him. It wasn’t surprising, even James’ hands were shaking a bit after that one, but he still didn’t like it. He didn’t like that he’d been the one to cause it.

“Then I’m sorry for that too,” he said, and he meant it. He could feel the retreating anguish rolling off the boffin and hated that he had cause him pain.

“I can’t lose you.”

James barely heard the whisper, but the words were clear enough. What was less clear to James though was the reason. His more selfish side wanted it to mean that Q couldn’t live without him, but his traitorous more logical side said it meant that Q couldn’t survive without him. Whatever the reason behind Q’s words though, James would do everything it took to keep Q alive and as happy as he could manage. Anything to stop the trembling of the man in his arms.

Gently enough that he doubted that he felt anything, James placed a kiss to the side of Q’s head before he whispered back into his ear.

“I’m not going anywhere, I promise, Oliver.”

Chapter Text

They were now down a pack, meaning they only held half their normal supplies, but circumstances could be worse. As they had eventually collected themselves and awkwardly untangled from each other, they’d moved up the tree to create a more tolerable distance from the writhing mosh pit of death below them. For a while they’d sat on a very sturdy branch together watching the display below in morbid fascination.

They were pleased to see that their lost pack was remaining largely ignored on the ground, only occasionally kicked around by stumbling feet. If they ever got out of this tree, it was possible they’d be able to reclaim their items intact. A blessing, really, considering how easily James had lost equipment in the past. This would have been the excuse of all excuses. Even beating out "eaten by a dragon". Q had never dreamed of ever hearing the words "dead people ate my stuff", and he'd really like to never have such an experience.

It was far less pleasing to observe the infected though. Up until now, they’d never really gotten the chance to focus on them for more than a few moments at a time as they were far too busy trying to run away to assess their enemy. Not having them jumping out from dark corners did nothing to make them any less horrifying, but it did give their over startled hearts a break in lieu of churning nauseated stomachs. Their viewpoint made this all seem like a particularly gruesome nature documentary, but James and Q were taking the opportunity to gather as much information on their enemy as possible. Even if watching them turned the stomach sour.

The deer carcass from before was further torn to shreds between the mob, the sounds of ripping flesh and snapping bones turning Q’s complexion an alarming shade of green for a while. It was far too realistic demonstration as to what would have happened to James should he have fallen, and even the seasoned agent was feeling a bit alarmed at the display.

The dead were now stumbling around the base of their tree like a group of drunk frat boys around the keg at a party. Only it wasn’t just boys. This hoard contained corpses of men, a few women, and horrifically what appeared to be a child of maybe fifteen.

Q noted one of the female ones was missing an entire arm, the limb having appeared rotted off. She did appear to be one of the more progressed in her decomposition, perhaps being dead at least a week by now. She must have been one of the first wave of ill. Q was glad for the distance they sat above the sight; he wasn’t sure how much more detail he’d want to take in of each of the faces below. Already he was becoming far too familiar with the differences between fresh infected and decidedly not fresh infected. He wasn’t even sure which was worse.

The fresher ones were bloated and gray, but still had just enough of their original features to appear barely human at first glance. They also were the loudest and most mobile, their muscles and organs having not started breaking down yet. They were the most dangerous, Q noted.

The older corpses were by far the more visually disturbing. Some were walking around with only half their skin still managing to cling to their bones, the rest having slipped off somewhere else leaving muscle, sinew and bones visible where their dirty clothes did not cover. Others were dried out like jerky, having spent more time in the sun, Q supposed. Those ones seemed to be slower, but sturdier than the others.

It was hard to stare at these…things, while being objective. Q wanted nothing more than to turn his head and toss up everything he’d ever eaten ever, but he still watched just as Bond did. Assessing. Learning.

Although now as he was beginning to notice maggots crawling out of several of the infected’s orifices, Q was very close to changing his mind and removing his glasses just to escape for a moment.

“Do you think they…think?” James asked suddenly.

Q startled for a moment before pondering the idea, glancing down again at the writhing mass beneath them.

“If you’re wondering if they’re smart enough to plan a human-ish ladder, then I don’t believe so. They would have tried something by now, they obviously know where we are,” Q reasoned slowly, frown forming on his features, “I don’t even think they consciously have a plan to wait us out. I honestly think they just are drawn here like vultures to the corpse of the deer and only remain because they know there is a fresh target nearby.”

James sighed next to him, their shoulders rubbing together slightly with the rise and fall, “That doesn’t bode well for us. As long as they know we’re up here, they won’t leave. And I don’t think we have enough supplies to last us until they rot out enough that they can’t move.”

Q’s whole body recoiled at the idea of watching them all slowly rot, like a very macabre version of watching the grass grow. “Then we’ll just have to think of something then,” Q said with more confidence than he felt, already looking around them for something that may give him inspiration. All he saw were a lot of leaves and branches. They had the one pack, but even that only held limited helpful items. Only two knives. No explosives, but that would be too noisy anyway. Gun, same issue…

“Shame about the cat gut,” James remarked, his eyes still firmly fixed on the threat below even as he spoke.

Q couldn’t help but agree. This would probably be the only scenario where a basic bow and arrow would have worked beautifully, but their meager supplies would never render anything up to the level they would need.

“It’s such a damn nuisance, not being able to make noise. It would literally be like shooting fish in a barrel if I could use my gun. They’re all just standing at the base, hardly a difficult target,” James said with ire, slapping his fist on to his knee as the frustration built. Q could see how tense Bond was becoming, and he felt awful that the agent was trapped up here, probably feeling impotent with their situation.

Q himself was frustrated with his own failings. He was the Quartermaster. He was supposed to supply his agent with whatever he needed to complete the mission, and here he was utterly vexed on how to approach this as cleanly and soundlessly as possible. Bond was right, it should be as simple as shooting fish in a barrel. Just a very barbaric and gruesome version of fishing.

The leaves rustled above him, pushing a small twig to bash against his face.

Agitated, Q slapped it away only to have to fly back in his face a moment later.

Then it hit him. Literally.

“Bond, Bond, Bond,” he said, slapping the agent in the arm with each repeat of his name as his sudden excitement grew.

“What” Bond asked, slightly annoyed at the rough treatment.

Q’s eyes sparkled with hope and mischief, “Tell me, have you ever tried spear fishing?”


At last count, they had about thirteen of the nasty little buggers around them. Q and Bond and quickly pulled out the two knives from the pack and hastily chopped down a branch about as thick as Q’s arm, and about two meters in length. Then Bond got to work whittling down one end in to a thin and deadly looking point.

It was taking a while to cut away at the wood with the knife, only because they needed to be careful not to make the tip too weak by cutting away too much, and by the time James was nearly done the sun was just beginning to set.

Q heard Bond growl in frustration as he looked at the skyline.

“We’ve only an hour of light left. We won’t be able to finish and get rid of them all before dark, let alone run far enough away to find a new camp for the night,” he said bitterly.

“Nothing to be done then. We’ll have to bunk down here.”

The agent nodded, eyes focusing back on his work, “Pull out your rope. I’ll lash myself to the trunk to sleep tonight. I’d rather not roll over in the night by accident and end up…like that.”

Q didn’t need to glance down to know what Bond was referring to. The deer corpse was enough of a constant reminder of their fate if they fucked this up, and Q was doing his best not to focus on it too hard. The idea of tying Bond up to a tree to sleep didn’t sit well with him though. He wouldn’t get any decent rest that way, and it would be terribly uncomfortable. Possibly even give him back pain the next morning, and what if they needed to run tomorrow and Bond was too sore to do it. No. Q wouldn’t allow it.

“Nonsense, we both need a good night’s sleep. The tag on the hammock said it could hold enough weight for the two of us to fit, we’ll just, um, share,” Q said, averting his eyes as he ruffled through his pack absently, not wanting to see Bond’s expression as he would politely refuse.

But he didn’t.

“Are you sure, Q? It’ll be a tight fit, practically on top of each other. Actually on top of each other, now that I think about it.”

He sounded more concerned than off put, or even worse, disgusted. Q chanced a glance in the agents’ direction and saw Bond looking at him calmly. No hint of displeasure at the idea. The butterflies in his stomach started to emerge again.

“Yeah, I thought as much, but it’s better than tying you up,” he said reasonably.

In this scenario anyway, his traitorous mind supplied.

Bond’s sly smile made Q wonder if he had heard his thoughts, but quickly dismissed the idea. He probably just had as clean a mind as a rubbish bin and was just thinking along the same lines.

“I’ll just, um, get this hung up then,” he said and started to climb up to where he spotted two nice and sturdy looking branches. He ignored the heavy weight of Bond’s gaze on his back as he climbed. If the man wanted to stare at his arse as he wiggled up the tree, then so be it. It wasn’t as if Q was innocent of doing the same thing.


It had been less than graceful, but they had both managed to climb into the slung fabric together, Bond first, and then with Q climbing on top once it was decided that he was far less likely to squish the agent than the other way around. It was rather silly of him to have climbed in so cautiously, trying to avoid touching Bond as much as possible as he crawled in, even when he knew that he’d be basically spooning from the top once he was in. He’d almost overbalanced them at one point, only for Bond to reach up and grab him around the waist and pulling him down hard against his hips and chest while the hammock rocked violently back and forth.

Thankfully the finished spear had been tied carefully to some branches further down, far away and protected from the rocking. It would be just their luck to accidentally knock it down and have to start again.

Bond’s grip around him only loosened when the rocking finally stopped, but Q didn’t dare move after that. The last thing he wanted was to set them off again by making the wrong move. Hopefully Bond didn’t mind too much where he’d ended up plastered against him. Q certainly didn’t mind beyond the general embarrassment of holding on to his agent like a very large and muscled teddy bear.

During his little panic as they had started to rock, he’d tucked his head in the lee of Bond’s shoulder and neck, the rest of him laying half on and half off of the length of the agents body, legs tangled at the end. He had been slightly horrified to see that he’d fisted his hand in the fabric above Bond’s chest, but only managed to get as far as unclenching his fingers so far in the process to pull his hand back to a more appropriate place. Only Q wasn’t sure if such a thing existed in this moment.

He was also mortified at first a bit at where his groin had ended up flushed against Bond’s hip, but eventually gave up trying to pull back when he realized just how tightly the fabric around them was squishing them together.

“Alright, then?” Bond asked gently.

“Fine if you are,” Q replied, cursing the higher pitch to his voice.

He felt Bond’s chuckle vibrate all the way down to his toes, “Good. This is rather comfortable, actually. Perhaps we should have done this last night,” he mused.

Q felt himself grin despite his ravaged nerves, “Never on the first night, Bond. I’m not that easy.”

“Ah, yes. Because second night is so much classier.”

“Well, you did make me breakfast. And a spear,” Q chuckled back before lifting his head to grin up at the agent, “You really know how to woo a man, Bond.”

“I aim to please, and Q, it’s James when we’re sharing a bed,” he rumbled back, pulling quiet giggles from Q that he regretted the moment they passed his lips. He couldn’t help himself though, his nerves combined with Bond’s charm were already wreaking havoc on his normal iron control. Perhaps he’d just blame it on hysteria brought on by the fact that they were merely yards away from a hoard of walking death.

It was far easier to admit to than giving in to the idea that he may just be crushing a bit on his current protector. Of course, almost everyone at MI6 had some sort of crush on the man. Q had never before been completely immune to his charms, but he’d always been able to keep things professional he thought.

However, it was damned hard to remain professional when he could feel every breath the agent took against his own chest. They were packed like sardines in their little sling, and Q was just about ready to offer himself up to be lashed to the tree in fear that his traitorous body may give away his feelings come morning.

But then Bond’s arm slithered up along his spine and settled his hand on the small dip of Q’s waist and all thoughts of moving away suddenly felt all but impossible to achieve. This was the safest that Q had felt since…well, for a long time.

“What’s got you all worked up? I can feel your heart racing.”

“I, um, sorry, Bond. I remembered the infected below us. Just rather alarming to think that they’re so close and we’re just sitting here,” Q fumbled out. It wasn’t as if it was a total lie.

James hummed in agreement, and Q thought he felt a slight tightening of the arm wrapped around him.

“James, please. I think formality may be out the proverbial window by this point, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Perhaps,” Q conceded, “But it will only make being professional with each other again more difficult.”

He felt James shift against him, the silence around them growing thick and heavy. The only sounds that Q could make out were their combined breathing and that of some errant moaning from their dead friends below. He wondered if he had upset Bond or offended him. Was this the agent’s attempt at friendship? Q had spent so long telling himself that Bond wasn’t interested in any sort of non-professional relationship, but maybe he’d missed the signs? Or maybe he was overthinking things again?

“Is that such a bad thing?”

He was so caught up in this mental puzzling that he almost missed Bond’s words, so softly spoken that if his lips weren’t right near Q’s ear, he would have completely missed them.

Q swallowed hard, his mind’s acrobatic over-analysis screeching to a halt as he ignored everything in his brain except the question he was being asked.

“I suppose not…James” he finally whispered back, tasting the name on his tongue. He could have sworn it tasted sweet, and again, he thought he felt the arm tighten around him again for a brief moment.

The world didn’t end in that exact moment, even if the world did seem to be taking on some apocalyptic themes presently, so Q decided that he could let his mind rest on the subject of him and James. For now. He felt safe, and warm, and as happy as he could be stuck in a tree with literal death nipping at their heels.

A gentle breeze blew through the trees, setting their little nest rocking slowly back and forth. Exhausted beyond all reason, that was just enough to set Q off into a deep sleep. Barely even registering a soft, warm press in his hair before he faded out from reality.


Come morning, it appeared that three of their mob had wandered off, leaving a manageable group behind. Q was quite relieved that he woke up completely unaroused, probably due to the stench around them wafting up from below, the only small mercy being he didn’t embarrass himself by rutting up his hips into James. Still, the smell nearly put him from food, but James was very insistent that he eat at least a few bites. They ate their rations, and very carefully extracted themselves from the hammock before packing up and moving further down the tree.

Carefully, Q unlashed the spear from the branch they tied it to while James began to assess how to begin. Their movements seemed to have re-animated those below them, their pained moans becoming louder. Thankfully there were no screams yet. It was far too early for all that nonsense.

“I think it best if we tie some rope around your waist, and then lash the end to the tree. You’ll need enough strength to break through the skull, but we don’t want you falling over if the end glances off instead,” Q suggested, already passing the rope over an above-head branch.

James nodded, taking the other end and tying around himself, “We’ll kill them all off as quickly as possible, then we make for the ground if we don’t hear any more coming through the trees. The deer’s blood is all dried up by now, so it shouldn’t attract anything new.”

Q nodded, and handed over the spear, “Good hunting then, I guess.”

James smirked and took the sharpened branch, holding it up to Q’s face, “Kiss it for luck?”

Q stared back at him, deadpan, “I honestly don’t even know if you’re joking or not.”

“Do you want to risk not blessing your knight’s joust?”

"Is that what you old folk are calling it these days, or are you truly medieval, James?"

"Indulge an old man, Q?" James asked, smirking.

Q wrinkled his nose, giving James the most dour glare he could muster up before dropping a very chaste kiss to the wood, “If you tell anyone—”

“I know, I know. You’ll cancel Christmas for years to come,” James sighed dramatically, swinging himself on to a lower branch and readying the tip pointing downwards before glancing back up at Q, “You may want to turn away, Q. This may look a bit gruesome.”

Q was about to turn away, agreeing that this was definitely something he did not wish to witness, but he stopped himself. This was his reality now. He had to learn how to stomach it, to be ready in case he needed to do something similar to save himself or James. He didn’t want to be a burden to James if he could help it. So, he firmly shook his head to James’ questioning look.

The agent gave him an understanding nod before taking aim at the first infected, a taller male standing closest to the tree. James angled the spear point down, then raised his arm just as quickly as he ripped it back down, jamming the tip right back into the skull below. The crack of the bone breaking, echoed in Q’s ears sickeningly, but his joy at seeing the creature fall to the ground unmoving out shadowed the disgusting spray of blackened blood and gore that followed the path of the spear point.

“Perfect,” James said, already taking aim at the next one.

The infected didn’t seem to notice or care that their kind was being slaughtered right in front of them. Q thought for certain that it would have sent them in to a frenzy, but they just moved forward taking the place of their most recent fallen brethren. The pickings were almost too easy, save for a few that wandered around the base of the tree, away from where James could get at them easily. Q took to handling that, using himself as a lure by climbing around and whistling to draw their attention back to their death trap.

After the fifth one fell, Q no longer felt the need to empty his stomach at the crunch and squelching sounds at each new target. It became easy to push it to the back of his mind when he solely focused on his and James’ survival. The only other time he felt any sort of remorse was when it came time for the child to come up to the trunk. Q did turn away from that one. Perhaps he wasn’t that strong yet.

Soon the dirt below was littered in non-animated corpses, and the two men sighed in relief before quickly packing up their supplies and jumping down a good distance away from the bloody mess.

“Did the pack make it out?” Q called over as James picked through the gore.

“Two small spots of blood. I’ll burn those away in a moment now that we have matches again.”

Small mercies.

The two wasted no more time milling about. They didn’t know if putrefied blood would summon others yet, and they didn’t really want to find out by sticking around. They threw on their packs and James picked a direction, the bloody spear still held in his hand as he led his Quartermaster deeper into the woods.

Chapter Text

News

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Four long days had passed like cement through a straw. James had not known weariness like this before. Every mission he’d had before had some bits of “down time”, be it nights at hotels, sitting in wait for a target to arrive, or even naps during plane rides. Small moments where he could risk slightly dropping his guard enough to let his muscles un-bunch and his heart to calm. Out here though, there was no such peace to find and it was wearing on him and Q. He could see the exhaustion clear even with his dirty glasses hiding half his face, and he wished he could just find one safe place for them to rest for just a day or two.

Their feet ached almost as much as their hearts. As much as they had tried to avoid towns and cities the last few days, this was still a modern world and it was impossible to do so. They had stuck as much as they could to the trees, using their cover during the day and their height on the long nights, but all good things must come to an end eventually. The towns were almost as disturbing to see as the infected, even from a distance.

They’d seen large clouds of black smoke from their hilltop views, always at the center of the towns they passed. James knew right away that they were burning their dead, or infected as it were. Even in twilight hours, when lights would normally start winking on, he and Q never spotted a single glowing window or lamp. On top of that, they’d still yet to bump into any living being. They had only encountered sparse wanderings of infected in the last few days, making their lives marginally easier now that there wasn’t a hoard of the nipping at their heels. They had to wonder though, where were the living? They couldn’t possibly all be gone. It had only been a few days since the shutdown. James did not voice his concerns out loud, but he knew Q had been thinking along the same lines, wondering if they’d ever encounter anyone besides the infected on their travels. The obviously had plenty of time to think things like this over multiple times. Besides the constant looming threat of death, all the walking had been rather tedious.

They’d gotten a few good cardio sessions in though, dodging a few here and there, but thankfully their only ventures in to trees at this point were purely intentional on their parts when the time had come where they were too weary to continue walking any further for the day. The nights were steadily getting colder, so they had mutually agreed that sharing a hammock would be the smarter course of action. At least that’s what James told himself and Q when he’d suggested it, feeling rather sleazy for enjoying it as much as he did.

They had reached a point however, that meant that they wouldn’t be able to hide in the woods much longer. Rations were almost run out, and while they could survive a day or two without, they still had a long way to go and hunger could severely reduce their ability to run when the time called for it. Not to mention, James was loathed to feel Q’s lean frame become smaller each night they lay cradled together.

They had a spear for hunting, and James had plenty of knowledge on the matter having grown up for a time in a hunting lodge. However, with the bloodlust that summoned the infected like locusts, there was too much risk involved slaying an animal, let alone taking to time to cook it over a fire. Now as they began to pass another town, it’s rooftops and smoke making it just barely visible from their path, James was resigned to what was to come next, but he be damned if he was going to force Q to be involved in it.

“We’re going to make camp here tonight,” James said with a finality that startled Q into pausing in his weary steps.

He blinked owlishly behind his glasses as he looked around the copse of trees they stood in, “Here? Is there something special about it I’m unaware of? It’s not even midday yet.”

James was already checking the sturdiness of a nearby tree, looking for a good place to set up a nest for Q to stay in. He could feel the gaze of his companion on his back, already hating his own idea but knowing there was little other choice. This place would be as safe as any, so he may as well get this over with.

“I’m aware, but I need to make a quick run in to town for some errands. You stay here and mind the homestead,” he said, already pulling himself up into the tree to set up the hammock and sleep sacks for Q. He could practically feel the glare burning into the back of his skull and he was sure that if he looked down he’d see Q standing there with his arms crossed angrily over his narrow chest.

“And just why do you think it’s okay to go alone? It’s dangerous down there,” Q said angrily.

“Exactly why you are staying put,” he snapped back down at him, “I can’t focus on what needs to be done while worrying about where you have wandered off to.”

Q flinched like he’d been slapped and fell silent. Probably because James was chastising him like he would an unruly child when Q was anything but. James sighed, bumping his forehead against the rough bark of the tree a few times as he regretted his harsh words.

He finished tying off the hammock and tucking the sleep sack from his bag into the fabric, making it as comfortable as he could as a sort of apology before he started making his way down the tree. Solemnly he walked up to Q, placing his hands on each of his sharp shoulders and shaking him a little to draw his gaze up to James’ face.

“I’m sorry, Oliver. I don’t mean to imply you’re a burden. I just don’t feel confident in my ability to get the job done when I’m worried about you too. It would be better if all my focus was on the task of finding us supplies,” he said, more gently this time.

He felt Q sag in his hands, “Don’t you want me to watch you back?” he asked.

James squeezed his shoulders, “I always want you watching my back, but here and now…I can’t risk you getting hurt if I’m distracted. Please, stay here and stay safe. It’ll put my mind at ease at least for a bit.”

Q looked upset still, but he nodded. He was logical like that, and James felt his heart untwist a bit knowing that he wouldn’t have to worry as much now.

Carefully he helped Q up into the tree, even knowing the Quartermaster was very spry and could have easily done it himself. He just felt better keeping a hand on his back to steady Q’s climb up, helping him ease down into the hammock without too much rocking. Q even let him fuss a bit with the blankets, seemingly feeling the need to tuck him in to bed even though it was still rather early for that.

James felt a bit like a mother bird, settling her chick in its nest before venturing out for food, wincing at his own analogy. It didn’t help that he had to actually worry about predators coming for his ward while he was off hunting, not to mention Q was looking about as flustered and adorable as any baby animal might.

“Do I get a kiss and a bedtime story too?” Q groused good naturedly, amused by James’ fussing.

James chuckled, wondering if it would be welcome if he gave Q a quick kiss in that moment, he’d snuck a few in the last few nights already, but he chose to play dumb instead, “No books, I’m afraid.”

Q wrinkled his nose, “This is going to be a very boring wait then.”

“Take a nap then,” James said, ruffling Q’s curls before pulling back, “I’ll be gone for at least a few hours. I won’t be gone past dark as long as I don’t run in to trouble and get stuck on a roof somewhere. No matter what, do not come looking for me. If I don’t come back by midday tomorrow, leave without me and find a more deserted town to get supplies. Promise me.”

Q looked like he was about to argue, but nodded sadly, “I promise.”

And with that, James climbed down the tree, shouldered his half-emptied pack, and started his walk into town.


James had only just stepped into the town and already he felt completely justified in leaving Q behind. The smell alone was enough that James wasn’t sure even he would be able to keep him stomach from turning inside out on the ground. Ignoring his more visceral reactions, he knew that the strong scent of death meant that this town had been hit hard by the virus. He only hoped that he could avoid many encounters, if any at all. He had a mission. He needed to keep himself and Q fed, and he wouldn’t, couldn’t, fail.

Carefully and slowly, he made his way into the town through the backyard of some villa, climbing over the wall around the garden. From there he got a decent enough vantage point to peek into the street ahead, looking for any movement or danger. So far nothing, but he’d check again before venturing in further.

While unlikely to hold much, the villa looking more like a vacation home instead of a real residence, it was worth a shot. The villa itself seemed deserted enough, so he took a moment to duck into an open window for his first place to explore. The room he ended up crawling in was nothing more than a small bedroom, sheets immaculately tucked in and room kept sparsely clean. If it weren’t for the fine layering of dust over every surface, James would assume he jumped into a perfectly normal room. The light switch didn’t work, power was probably down for the entire town and had been that way for days. There was nothing of real use in there. It appeared at least one person was staying at the villa at some point, as there were clothes tucked away in the closet. Woman’s clothing, useless to him. He moved on until his eyes fell on an antique bone comb on the dresser. It was small and flat, wouldn’t break easily and wouldn’t take up much room. He snatched it up, thinking of that chaotic mess of curls that Q had. Next chance they came up to a river, he’d help him clean and brush it out. Blankets were too bulky to use, so he felt the room exhausted of resources. Time to move on.

The door leading to the rest of the house was shut, so James lightly pressed his ear to the surface to listen for anything. No moaning, no shuffling feet, nothing. With skills he perfected over many years, he silently opened the door and stepped down the hallway. There were three more bedrooms lining the hall, none of which held anything special, but held a mix of men’s and children’s clothing. Q and James already had the best attire they could ask for, so he moved on. The sizes were wrong anyhow, and the spare change on the dresser meant nothing right now. He left it without another thought.

He made his way downstairs, once again finding little of use in the villa. Everything there was for decoration or luxury. In the kitchen, he ignored the refrigerator, knowing that with the power out, nothing in there would be edible. The table in the center of the room held a bowl of molded and rather squishy looking fruit, flies circling above. James moved on to the pantry, ignoring all perishable items and looking at anything canned.

There were several different things to chose from. Vegetables, fruit, soup, beans. Cans were heavy though, and they needed to make up for lost calories, so he chose all the heartier soups and the two cans of beans, and one veggie and one fruit. They’d get their vitamins in, but not at the cost of calories.

It was a good start.

He placed his finds in the pack, noting the space he had left inside, and readied himself to move on to the next place. Houses were bound to have some items, but James wanted quick and done. He needed something with heavier resources, so he’d try to find a shop next.

Carefully, he stepped outside, noting the empty driveway. The family must have driven off without stopping to grab their belongings. James wasn’t one for sentiment usually, but he did hope that they found a safe place away from all this.

He ducked from yard to yard, avoiding the open expanse of the road and sidewalk, as he made his way further into town. The streets were mostly empty, save for some abandoned cars and some emboldened wildlife that were sniffing around. He saw less wildlife as he moved deeper though. He knew most shops would be closer to the center, but he was hoping to catch a few before then. There were a few houses along the way where he felt the tingle of eyes on his back, and he’d turn to see curtains swinging shut and the barrel of a gun slowly pulled back. It was early yet since the decree of open kill went out, but James did not doubt that he’d be shot on sight if he ducked into the wrong house.

He avoided the ones with signs of life, and the ones next to there, knowing they’d probably already be picked clean of anything useful. He found a few more houses that looked moderately promising, mostly because of overgrown gardens that remained untouched despite the herbs and fresh veg laying in open view. He ducked into those, looking around and thanking the powers that be for little old ladies who loved to keep a full inventory in their pantries.

He felt little tugs of guilt with each home he entered, unable to stop himself from wondering where the occupants were. He did take the time though to take a full review of the house, just in case there was someone alive and trying to survive there, but he did not encounter anything like that.

No, instead he found even more reasons that he would avoid taking Q into any town. Not everyone had someplace to run, and on top of that, not everyone was able to run when the virus hit their town. Already James had run into several of the choices that some people had when their homes were hit, and each he knew logically made a sick sort of sense, but it still made his insides churn in grief.

One of the cottages that he knew must have belonged to an elderly couple, he ventured into their silent house only to find them both laying in bed, bodies at least a few days old, a gun between them with two spent bullets. James couldn’t even bring himself to collect the gun, knowing what it had been used for. He left it there as he slowly closed the door to the room behind him. He found another few houses like that, the same scenario for several souls who had little other choice of surviving in this mess. In other yards, he found bodies laying face down in the grass, the signs of many people charging into the house. Gangs possibly. Like those that had driven by him and Q back in Rome. Looting. Desperation must have hit quickly here, driving those with little to do whatever they could to survive.

As he got closer to town, there were no houses that he could see that remained untouched, and he moved on quickly, taking every effort to remain out of sight. He began to hear noises again, filling the empty and echoing streets around him. They weren’t the sounds of the living though. He could spy the same stilted movement through some of the house windows that he’d come to know intimately the last few days. Infected trapped in their own homes, probably having died there and not having the dexterity to open a damned door. It wouldn’t be long until James would start to see the infected prowling the open streets, he knew. So, he kept himself silent and hidden, spear held tightly in his grip.

He’d smelled the burning bodies before even making it into town, had spotted the smoke long before then too, but catching his first glimpse of the mass of infected bodies burning in the middle of a small park was something he could never had prepared himself for. Large fires like that could burn for days with enough fuel. He couldn’t help but wonder how long this one had been going. He grimaces and turned away from the blackened bodies, moving on before the image could take any more time to get branded in his brain.

He was approaching store fronts soon though, seeing the hanging wooden signs peppering the walls. None of them were stores that he was overly hopeful for. A florist, a bookshop, a toy store, and a bakery. All with doors and windows smashed. He only made it one block further before he heard the sound of slow shuffling just ahead of him, about to round the corner. Without pause, he ducked into the first store front he saw, careful of the glass shattered on the floor by the door.

He ducked behind the check out counter, waiting with measured breaths until he was certain that the shuffling didn’t pick up pace. He stayed crouched low until the sounds faded down the street before he slowly stood, taking in his surroundings.

He had ducked into the bookstore it seemed. Q would have been devastated to see the place ransacked as it was, shelves all knocked to the ground, books bent and scattered about. There would be nothing here to aid their survival, so James turned away to leave, only for his boot to hit something.

Of course, it would be a book, an old copy of some Jules Verne novel. It was in decent condition, and small. James slid it into the pocket of his cargo pants. Q looked like the type to enjoy Verne. He could spare a pocket for the book if it put even the barest of smiles on to the Quartermasters face.

He stepped back out on to the street, no longer having yards to jump into. Cars parked along the sides were all the cover he really had, and several times he found himself flattened underneath while waiting for infected to move along oblivious to his presence. Once he even found himself ducked down in the passenger’s seat, having found an unlocked car, as a group of three ambled on.

James had taken a moment to explore the contents of the glove compartment while tucked there, finding a nothing overly useful. He did spot a half-melted chocolate bar that he ended up sticking into his other pocket, thinking Q could use the extra calories.

Eventually he spotted a chemist and a little food shop. Both places were already wiped almost entirely clean. The only things he found still edible in the food shop were spices and jarred sauerkraut. James decided to forgo the items, claiming one more chocolate bar on his way out, disappointed that he hadn’t found more. The chemist for the most part was empty. There were many prescription medications left in the back room, but they were for more specific disease treatments. He wouldn’t touch those. They didn’t need them and he would take what others may actually need. He found one lost bottle of acetaminophen, children’s dose, but not useless. Three more sports drink bottles were left on the ground by an overturned vending machine, a flavor that few enjoyed, but James was hardly about to complain. No water in sight, but they still had their purification tablets for once they found running water. The last thing he grabbed was a few wrapped tampons he spotted on the ground. Eve had once very graphically explained to him how tampons were originally field dressings for stopping bleeding from gunshot wounds, and while James was confident that gunshot wounds would not be an issue on their trip back to London and that neither he or Q would spontaneously start menstruating, he felt it was better safe than sorry. It wasn’t as if they took up much room.

When he emerged back outside, he noted that the sun had perhaps two hours left until sunset. He had time to look more, but that also meant more time to find trouble. He’d gotten what he needed, being greedy may not actually help him in this case, being weighted down by too much on his return trip. So, with all limbs intact and his spear clean of any blood, he started on his way back out of town.

He didn’t want to admit it, but he had been getting rather eager to check on Q. The long period of time spent apart only made his anxiety over the boffin’s safety grow. Once he had passed the edge of the town’s border, he had picked up his pace, finally free to make noise with his footsteps in the open fields where he saw no danger approaching.

It still took him nearly a half hour to make his ways back, just enough time for everything he just saw to start flashing through his mind like billboards for some of the most disturbing things he’d ever witnessed. His mission was over, and with that his focus could finally drift away from set determination and survival instincts to settle back on something more human. Every step had him flashing back to one horrific sight over the next, the most common one being the elderly couple in bed together. He’d told Q before that he was desensitized to death, but he was finding that he was in no way desensitized to what this virus had done to their world. This was new, it was unknown to any suffering that James had witnessed up until this point, and it was wrecking him all over again. He felt like a fresh recruit, still naïve to the suffering in the world.


He made his way back to the clearing in the forest in a bit of a haze, his senses alert for danger, but his focus trapped in a fog of misery and suffering. It was probably the only reason that he hardly noticed Q scampering down the tree and running up to him, large eyes wide and concerned as he ran his hands all of James as he searched for injury.

James knew that Q was more than likely sputtering off questions to him, but James hardly heard any words over the buzzing in his skull. The only thing he could truly focus on was Q’s face and his touch, both serving as the slight string that kept him from drifting off like a kite in a storm.

His body then moved without his permission, grabbing on to Q and crushing his slight body against his own. He breathed in the soft and sweet scent of the younger man, ridding himself of the putrid odor that had been poisoning his air for hours. He felt the vivid heartbeat against his own, assuring him that there was yet some life in the world beyond his own. Eventually he felt Q’s arms wrap themselves around James’ neck, holding him tight. For a moment, James felt safe again.

They had stayed like that for a while before Q had begun to gently pull James back to their nest for the night. Wisely, Q did not press for any details as to why James had a mini breakdown upon his return, and James was forever grateful. Eventually he’d tell Q all that he’d learned, saw, but he needed time to process first. No need to relive any of that tonight.

They wordlessly climbed into the hammock, James first with Q sliding in on top, for once not hesitant about doing so. As the heat between their bodies grew, James slowly relaxed again, coming back to himself enough to ask Q if he’d already eaten his dinner.

“Not yet, I was waiting for you,” he said, already reaching over to grab for one of their protein bars, but James pulled his hand back, instead reaching for his pack and pulling out one of the soup cans.

“It’s not warm, but I think we deserve a heartier meal, don’t you?” he asked, flipping open his knife to start cutting away at the lid. Even in the setting sun, he could see Q’s eyes light up at the suggestion of something more substantial.

Together they took turns drinking from the can, passing it back and forth, fingers touching slightly each time. It was cold, and at times a little difficult to swallow back the chunks of veg and meat, but it was by far one of the better things they’d eaten in almost a week. It was filling, now that their stomachs had grown accustomed to small meals, but even so when James produced the two chocolate bars from his pocket, Q had nearly pounced forward in his excitement.

James chuckled, giving Q the less deformed bar and keeping the half melted one for himself as they both settled back to enjoy their small treat. While James ate his methodically, Q savored his as much as he could, his fingers slick with melted sweet by the time he actually finished. James did his best to ignore Q licking obscenely at his fingers as he finished off the last bits, but damned it was rather distracting. And a little arousing.

James shifted his hips to the side in an effort to assure Q didn’t notice anything amiss with the shape of the front of his pants. It did mean that one of the larger pockets on his hip rubbed against Q as he moved, making the Quartermaster pause as he cleaned off the final digit and turn his attention downwards.

“What’s that lump?”

James whole body tensed, “What lump?” he asked casually.

“This one here,” Q said, patting the side of James’ thigh while the agent let out a breath of relief that Q hadn’t patted a different lump further up.

James shifted his hand down, pulling the Verne book from his pocket and handed it over to Q, “Picked this up for you from a bookshop. It’s too dark to read now, but I’m sure you’ll get your chance to read after we make camp next.”

Q marveled over the paperback, smiling enough that even in the dark James could make out the glint of white teeth, “Thank you! This would have been wonderful to have today. I’ll admit, waiting for you to come back was truly an effort. Couldn’t even bring myself to sleep, even if I was exhausted. I just wanted to be here for your return in case you needed me for something.”

James didn’t reply, but they both knew that Q had indeed been needed for something. It just wasn’t gadgets or medical treatment this time. The air hung awkward for a moment before Q shifted to place his new treasure in a safe place. He then settled back down against James side with a sigh.

“What’s the plan for tomorrow,” Q asked, like he did every night.

Normally James would say something like ‘walk southwest for ten kilometers’ or ‘find water’, but he paused. After what he saw today, he knew his plan had to change. It would make this journey longer than anticipated, but James had made a promise a long time ago and he wasn’t about to break it, even if he truly never believed this day would come.

“I’d like to head to Spain,” he said, feeling Q startle in his arms.

“What?” Q asked. Up until now, their plan had been to take the more direct route home, by passing through France.

James cleared his throat, “It’s Alec. I need to meet him there,” he said.

“006? Why would he be there, I thought he was on long-term mission to Serbia.”

James nodded his agreement, “He would have been, but we made a pact a long time ago that if the world ended and we were separated, that we would meet up in a little town in central Spain. We were quite drunk at the time, and we’ve joked about it many times since, but it was still an agreement. I’m sure once he saw how fucked up things have become, he’d have already started to make his way over. He’ll probably beat us by stealing a helicopter or something.”

“Oh.”

“You can order me not to, Q. We can go straight to France, and I’ll go back for him later,” he offered, knowing that logically the detour would add at least another week or two on to their travels, therefore more chances of dying themselves. Q wasn’t made for this kind of mission though, and James would understand if he wanted to instead go straight home.

Q surprised him though, snorting from where his head was pillowed on James’ shoulder, “Don’t even start with that, 007. If Alec is waiting for us, then we best not keep him,” he said, pausing a moment. James felt his nimble fingers start to fiddle with the edge of their shared blanket, “That’s it then? Is it really the end of the world out there?” he whispered.

James sighed, “It certainly looked like it today,” he confessed.

He felt Q shiver in his arms despite the warm evening.

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 04

“Can anyone hear me? Is anyone still out there? Please, we need help. My family, there are seven of us, we’ve been trapped in our attic for two weeks. We’re running out of food and water. Our house is filled with infected; we can’t escape. We have no weapons. Please…someone, please help us. Hello? Hello? Help!

 

He was running as fast as his legs would allow, the appendages feeling heavier than he could ever recall, almost as if the muscles had seized up like his heart was threatening to do. His breath escaped him in labored pants, creating clouds of mist in front of his face. He turned his head to see Oliver darting along next him, his face pale and drawn as they ran together. The infected were close on their heels, faster than James ever recalled them being.

His legs were so heavy.

Up ahead he spotted a tree. Their haven. Their only hope.

He threw his hand back to snag a hold of Oliver’s jacket, the fabric rough in his hands, and yanked him in the direction of the tree.

They ran for it with all they had, but it seemed like ages before they started to feel like they were getting close. His legs still felt so heavy, like he was running through sand, about to lose his balance at any moment.

He tugged Oliver closer.

All at once the tree appeared miles away until it was right there in his face. He scrambled up on the first low branch, turning to give Oliver his hand. It was cold and clammy in his palm when he had only ever remembered it being warm and comforting. It felt odd, but he didn’t dare let go.

Oliver was just moment away from catching his grip on the branch when suddenly he was jerked back harshly, losing his grip on James and the tree.

James shot his hand out, snapping it shut around one of his slim wrists, feeling the straining tendons under his fingers. His eyes widened when he saw several pairs of cloudy, dead eyes starting back at him from over Oliver’s shoulder.

“No! You can’t have him!” James shouted, pulling with all his strength, but they were stronger, and Oliver was slipping from his fingers.

He turned his gaze away from the ghoulish white eyes and saw Oliver’s panicked expression of raw terror as he felt himself being torn away.

“James, please. Don’t let them take me. James. Please. James!” he pleaded. James had never heard him beg like that before. It tore his heart in two and he redoubled his efforts to pull Oliver back to him, but he only felt him be pulled further away.

The screeching around them was so loud, but it did nothing to lessen the pleading sounds and terrified yells coming from Oliver as he felt more decaying hands latch on to his body. James could see the foul fingers, bones half exposed where skin had rotted off already, bloody and clinging to clothing and tearing at his skin.

They both knew that Oliver was a lost cause at this point. Blood had been drawn by those rancid, virus laced fingers. There was no doubt that he’d been infected, but James couldn’t let go. He could never give up on Oliver.

But Oliver…he had given up on himself. His once vibrant gaze turned cloudy and dead before James eyes, as if just accepting his death was enough to render it.

“I’m sorry, James”

“No, Oliver, please—”

“Goodbye.”

“No!”

Oliver’s wrist slipped from his grasp.


James woke with a start, his whole body jolting enough to send their shared bed into a hazardous swing. Q woke with the sudden motion, his eyes widening at the precarious waking. His arms had been wrapped around Q as they had been every night since they had started to share their bed, but now they were like a vice around Q’s slim frame hard enough that James was surprised that Q wasn’t hissing in pain.

It had been twenty days since the first outbreak of the virus, and a week since he and Q had set out on their own. Each night had been an exercise in suppressing one’s demons, and this night had been the first one that James fell prey to his own mind. He thought he had quite enough of that during waking hours, but his brain decidedly did not. Q had a few of his own nightmares, but James had been able to quell most before they got too bad.

This one, his own, had been bad.

He was wet and cold all over from the sweat that had broken out over his body. Both his heart and lungs were still working as if he had truly been running that whole time. His soul still felt as hollow as it had when he had dreamed of losing Q to them…

“James? Are you alright?”

James didn’t look at him, but he nodded absently as he ran his hand over his face to rub away the last bits of sleep from his eyes.

Q looked at him sadly, “Bad dream then?”

James sighed, finally letting his arm around Q relax a bit, “Yeah.”

“Want to talk about it?” Q asked.

“Fuck no.”

Q chuckled as he rubbed his face against James’ chest, something he had done every morning in an odd habit that James was coming to expect and adore. Even the dark growing stubble on his cheeks was something he was beginning to cherish as it scraped against his shirt.

“Thought I’d ask,” he said with humor, “Any source of modern media would suggest that I’m obligated to at least inquire. Even if one is reluctant to elucidate.”

“It is far too early for words like elucidate, Q.”

“It’s never too early to exercise one’s vocabulary, 007,” Q said, even though his own voice was still thick and heavy with sleep, a yawn chasing his words.

The morning air was crisp and cold, more so now that they were officially in autumn. Leaves in the tree they hung in were already turning color, a few falling with each new breeze. A glance down at the forest floor would show the first heavy frost of the season, a sign that James did not have long to get them back to London before they could possibly be facing the threat of snow and ice. Not to mention, the cold weather would slow down the decay of the infected, making them sturdier and more numerous. Winter was an incoming threat that he did not want to have to deal with.

The cold nights at least were not as worrisome yet. Sharing their hammock had become the only thing that James looked forward to these days. A moment where he could feel every inch of Q next to him, warm, alive and almost always talking unless he was asleep. The mornings were the best though. He always woke first and was able to spend precious quiet moments holding Q close, eyes playing over the lovely panes of his face, steeping himself in the shared warmth, pretending that they were waking after a night of love making. It wasn’t that difficult to pretend, not with them both almost always waking with arousals pressed against each other.

James had thus far managed to calm himself by the time Q woke, just to avoid making the younger man uncomfortable or nervous. Q though would pull back his hips slightly before opening his eyes, as if James hadn’t been feeling it pressed against his hip for the last hour. It was rather endearing. He never commented on it, knowing Q would think he was being teased. He’d rather have Q wake up slowly as he tended to do, his eyes remaining half lidded until actual activities for the day were to begin.

“Where are we headed today,” Q asked, even as he snuggled back down into their shared cocoon as he registered the chill of the morning around them.

“We’re running low on supplies again, so we’ll need to find a place to stock up. But we’re nearing the border, should pass at least two more towns and there is supposed to be a military base around here somewhere. I doubt they’re allowed to offer us anything, but they may be willing to send a message to MI6 for us. After that, it should take us about a week and a half to get through France on foot, then another week to reach Spain.”

Q nodded sleepily, “I do hope Alec has a large chocolate sundae waiting for us when we arrive.”

James chuckled, “I’m sure if anyone could manage that, it would be him.”

“We do need to find a way to reach out to MI6. I’m sure they would want to hear from us,” Q said.

James couldn’t help but agree. He’d rather like to get an update on what the hell had come of the rest of the world while they had been running through the woods for the last week. Every town they had passed looked the same, abandoned, forgotten, dead. Was Italy just hit harder than other countries, or was this what everywhere looked like?

He shuddered to think that was the case.


It was late afternoon when the first raindrops were felt atop of Q’s head. He groaned as loudly as he would ever let himself these days and yanked up the hood of his jacket. He hated getting wet outside of warm showers. He didn’t care if people teased him for being like a cat in that regard, he knew that it was a justified and perfectly natural feeling. Their species were not aquatic; therefore, he did not have to enjoy water like he was some poorly sighted amphibian. He muttered darkly to himself as they trudged along further, clouds becoming darker above them.

He heard James snort beside him, no doubt overhearing his angered mumblings, the nosy git.

“Oh yes, it’s very funny. I’m sure you’ll be just as pissed off as me once we have to bunk down in a soggy bed, in sodden clothes, and have no handkerchiefs to deal with our runny noses,” Q groused, turning his head so that James could see his glare in full force.

“Do people your age still use those? I thought you more of a tissue man.”

Q blinked, “Well, yes, but that’s besides the point. We aren’t very well equipped to deal with weather right now,” he pointed out just as a clap of thunder boomed above them.

Both of them stopped in their tracks to look up at the sky, noting how it had turned menacingly dark in the last few minutes. The smile on James’ face fell as they saw the flickering of light in the sky miles away. Lightning.

He heard Q swallow hard next to him, “I don’t think the trees will be very safe tonight, James.”

He wasn’t wrong. Already he could feel the winds picking up around them, hinting at the tremendous strength they’d be blowing with once the storm hit in full force. They’d be knocked right out of their nest before the lightning ever got a chance to turn them to a crisp. Storms this close to the sea were not to be taken lightly.

It was already late in the afternoon; around the time they’d normally be scouting out a new home for the night. They hadn’t passed any towns yet that day. No caves. No large rock formations. With the dark clouds above, they’d be losing light at least an hour sooner as well.

The wind blew a loud gust through the trees right where they stood, as if taunting the two men that violence was to come. Then the leaves rattled in the trees above them, like snakes warning not to come near.

James felt Q shiver next to him and he unconsciously placed an arm around his shoulders and drew him in close as he weighed their options. There weren’t many. The weight of his dread far outweighed their meager amount of options.

Fat raindrops started to pelt the ground around them.

“We need to keep going, don’t we?” Q asked suddenly.

James nodded warily as he eyed the woods around them, “There’s nothing here that can help us. Our only chance at finding something better would be by moving on.”

“It’ll be dark soon,” Q pointed out, “If we don’t find anything we may have to risk moving in the dark.”

“Unfortunately. The only good thing is the noise from the storm will cover our movement well enough. Sitting still will do little more than let the chill sink in.”

Q’s earlier annoyance at the rain had evaporated to leave him leery of the night ahead, his eyes darting around the trees as he pulled his jacket tighter around himself.

Gently, James reached up to pull at his hood a bit to cover his head better, tucking away a few stray curls that popped out the sides.

“How bad is your eyesight?” he asked.

Q grimaced, “It’s not great, but I can see shapes well enough at a distance, just not faces or letters.”

James tapped a finger on the frames, “These may be more hindrance than a help if the rain gets on them. Do you trust me to be our eyes for the next few hours?”

It was a question that James thought needed to be asked. If he had a known weakness like that he would hardly want to rely on anyone else to account for said weakness while he was left vulnerable, but Q didn’t even hesitate to pull of his glasses and tucking them in the hard case in his pack. It astounded James the trust that Q put in him. He only prayed he deserved it.

His mind sprang violently back to his nightmare that morning before he viciously pulled himself back to the present.

The rain began to fall steadily around them, another clap of thunder rolling through the air. The two men set off.


Mud splattered around his leg as he lost his footing once again, falling to one knee in the middle of god knows where as they desperately thrashed through the woods. The ground grew slicker and more treacherous as the storm went on, causing even James Sure Footed Bond to stumble several times. It had only been about three hours since it had started raining and only one hour since the sky seemingly opened up to drain a fucking tub, and the two of them were already soaked to the bone and unrecognizable as they were covered head to toe in mud.

Q could never recall ever feeling so miserable or uncomfortable in his life. He was so cold that his whole body, even his voice shook as he called out to James to check on him after the agent stumbled yet again. Everything felt dirty and slimy, and chafed in places he really preferred not to chafe in. Having grown up in London, he was hardly a stranger to rain, but there was at least the promise of someplace warm that he could venture towards. Out here they were blind rats running in an unknown maze, not knowing what corner held cheese and which held the electric shock.

Q stumbled again, this time on an exposed root and he was too exhausted to do much to stop his fall beyond bracing himself for impact. He slammed on the ground, more mud splashing on his face and trickling down his neck. He barely even registered the pain of new bruises forming. Too much effort to think about it. Too much to process.

“Perhaps I’ll just lie here and get some sleep. What are the chances of an infected stumbling across me anyway?” he thought miserably.

“Q? Oliver, are you alright?”

James voice broke through his hazy fog enough for him to belatedly feel the discomfort from his latest fall. He was shouting, but they had to shout everything right now. The rain in the trees was deafening, not to mention the thunder that nearly scared him out of his own skin each time it echoed through.

He groaned loudly into his filthy sleeve, “Can’t we just stay right here? I’m sure by this point we’re camouflaged by all this muck.”

“If we stop then we’ll freeze to death, please don’t give up yet.”

“Well if James is saying please then this must be important,” he thought and started to struggle back to his feet. He felt James grip his bicep to help steady him. Q could feel a tremor in his strong fingers. Could be the cold. Could be that James was just as exhausted as he was. Despite the rain obscuring everything, and the lack of glasses, Q could still make out James drawn features. They probably looked quite the pair right now.

As soon as he was vertical, they moved on. James didn’t release his grip though, and Q was grateful. It would be far too easy to lose one another at this point, and Q didn’t even want to fathom what would happen if he lost sight of his agent now.

The sun had set a while ago, something he hardly noticed since the clouds had blotted it out hours before. He’d never honestly experienced true dark before. London night skies had always had streetlights, cars, light pollution, and on those few miraculously clear nights there was the moon. Even the few times he’d ventured out to the country there had been the moon and stars, perhaps a glowing house in the distance. Here though, with the clouds covering all, and the trees casting everything in deeper shadow, it was a kind of darkness he’d never had known. It was consuming in its terror. The infected may not hear them coming with all this noise, but they wouldn’t hear them coming either.

The brief flashes of lighting that broke through the canopy of the trees were even more startling. The sudden brightness lighting up the woods like it were day, but only for a mere second. Each time it occurred Q found himself whipping around frantically to see if he could catch a glance of anything useful, but with his limited eyesight he saw more taunting shadows than anything else. James froze up during those small moments of sight, his gaze taking in every detail he could before the lights winked out again and he was tugging Q along behind him.

Without James guiding him, Q was sure that he would have run into several trees at least by now. While James may have had strong grip on Q’s arm, Q had an even stronger death grip on James’ jacket, like a child’s security blanket. An embarrassing but apt metaphor, but it was one that Q came up with in his own mind and he wasn’t about to share it out loud. It was comforting to be tugged along like that. He could pretend that James knew exactly where they were going and he could let himself be led without a care.

That is until he stumbled once again, tripping hard enough to pull James down with him.

“Shit, sorry,” Q said miserably, already trying to gather his frozen stiff limbs into some sort of upwards movement. The world flashed around them for a moment as lightning erupted somewhere above them, but both men were too busy untangling themselves to bother glancing up.

“It’s fine,” James said back, as softly as the rain would let him, “Just be careful not to hurt yourself.”

Q nodded, not even sure if James could see that, but he was too tired to speak more than necessary. He continued the arduous task of pulling his legs under himself, ignoring the way the mud hindered the movements as it soaked into his clothes even more. He was half standing when he lost his footing again as it slid through the slick.

James arms wrapped around his torso, as another round of thunder broke through the heavy rain, “Steady, steady. I’ve got you. Slowly now,” he said, and Q felt him begin to lift him up, so he scrambled to pull his feet under himself again.

Then another flash of lightning came, and when both James and Q looked up ahead to orient themselves in the light…they saw them.

It had been too quick to count, but there was at least two dozen sodden infected standing scattered about mere yards away from them. Q’s perfect recall at least gave him enough to register that all he saw there were men, all wearing military uniforms. And that they were all spectacularly dead.

Adrenaline zinged through his veins so fast that he felt dizzy and both he and James surged to their feet.

“Did they see us?” Q asked as quietly as he could manage, still clinging to James like a life rope.

James’ body next to his was a tense as a live wire, “I—I don’t know. I don’t hear moaning, but it may just be too loud to tell. Shit, we must have accidentally walked right into a whole nest of them. They were everywhere,” he hissed.

“Th—the uniforms. Why were they all in uniform?”

“Italian army, I saw the insignia.”

Q’s eyes widened, “The base! It must be nearby.”

The amount of dead soldiers roaming through the woods unchecked did not bode well for the condition of the Italian military, but it was the first time that Q let himself be at least a bit hopeful that there were perhaps real living people nearby. Even if it was people who were very likely to shoot them on sight.

It didn’t do them much good now. They were mere rabbits hidden by nothing more than shadows in the middle of a ravenous pack of wolves.

He felt James shift against him, his face brushing up against the side of his head, nose and lips pushing back his hood until they brushed against his ear. Q shivered from something other than cold as he felt James’ warm breath cascade over his chilled skin, “Q…do you remember where they were standing when the light flashed?” James whispered.

Q nodded, knowing from this close that James would feel the movement.

“You need to lead us through a clear path then. Can you do that for me?” James asked.

Q drew in a shaky breath but nodded again, pushing his sodden hair back from his eyes. He pulled up the image in his mind, zoning in on the clearest path he could recall, and prayed that their uniformed specters had not shifted too much in the last minute.

For the first time that night, Q took the lead as he found James’ hand in the dark and pulling him along behind. He kept their steps cautious, but not too slow. If they lingered too long, then the infected would shift more as the dark covered them. For once he was glad for the rain pelting hard all around them, the sound easily covering the sounds of their footsteps and the pounding of their hearts. He could almost pretend that he wasn’t walking through a metaphorical lion’s den.

He felt James squeeze his hand, a comforting gesture assuring Q that he was doing well. As much as Q wanted to feel good about it, he was far too distracted with each new step that threatened a very dangerous foe.

Then the sky shook above them, scattered flickers of light, and Q froze in his steps all too aware of what would follow in mere seconds.

The crack of lightning tore through the night, lighting up the trees as bright as daylight.

That’s when Q noticed the infected that stood not even a meter away, the one pale grey face that started screaming the moment it caught sight of them.

“SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEECH”

If there was anything that could ever cause a healthy not-yet-thirty-year-old to have an instant heart attack, that would have been it. Q’s heart all but leapt from his chest at the sight and sound. He was sure he had managed to break if not bruise James’ hand, but the agent was already yanking them both off in the opposite direction.

All around them screams erupted like particularly terrifying daisies in the spring, Q lost all sense of direction by then, the sounds so loud and coming from so many directions he was unable to discern an open path without light. That didn’t seem to deter James much, as the agent was dragging him along like a rag doll, apparently with some sort of plan. Even if that plan was just keep moving and hope not to bump into anything slimy and human shaped, Q was glad at least one of them had a better idea than to simply drop dead of an arrhythmia right then and there.

It was too dark for Q to even guess at how far they had run, but it couldn’t have been that far seeing as both of them were still dealing with precarious footing in the mud combined with general spread of paraphernalia on the forest floor. Roots were Q’s worst enemy by now, his toes all but black and blue from the abuse, despite his hiker’s boots. Even as he cursed out loud as he stumbled once more, he knew he’d forgive the trees if they were as effective at slowing down the infected as it was slowing down the living.

“Stay close! Don’t you dare let go of my hand,” James called over his shoulder, his voice oddly panicked for the usually collected agent. It settled like ice in his belly.

Thunder roared around them again, and Q counted the seconds until the area lit up once again. The flash came after 4 counts, flickering just enough for Q to make out at least twenty if not thirty uniformed infected scattered around. At least half took note of the two living men crashing through their territory, and began their slow stilted walk towards them, but the lights winked out again leaving them all in darkness once more. James tugged harshly once more to get them going again, not wanting to stick around for when that group reached where they once stood.

Q did a few mental calculations, wondering just how many of those things could be wandering around here. The sheer density of them meant that they hadn’t had much chance to spread out. They weren’t herd creatures after all, they just all happened to be drawn by the same things. Otherwise they held little to no regard for one another. That meant—

“James! We must be very close to the base! It’s a slim chance we’ll be let in, but we have to try!” Q called out, grunting as James yanked him in a different direction, running them along what looked like a very steep slope down into nothingness off to their right. He could see nothing beyond the incline, not even trees. Just the vague impression of uninterrupted sky.

“I don’t exactly have a built-in radar. How the hell am I supposed to find it?” James yelled back.

Q honestly didn’t have a damn clue at the moment, but he never got to say as much as he suddenly slammed into James’ back, both of them falling backwards on to the ground. Going by the frantic scrambling backwards that James was doing while sitting in his Quartermasters’ lap, Q had to assume they had literally bumped into one of the infected.

Q grabbed at whatever his hands fell on and hauled James back on to his feet, his momentum already sending them back in the other direction, away from the now howling monster in front of them.

“Shit!” James cursed, swinging around to push Q along only for Q to dig his feet in to push back.

Another one had appeared at their backs while they were on the ground, it’s heavy moaning and outstretched arms already nearly brushing against Q’s jacket.

“Not this way, not this way!” he screamed back at James who was already changing direction of his pull to take them to the left, but another set of bloody and bloated fingers seemingly grew from the darkness there. Q felt James fling both of their bodies to the ground and to the right. As Q’s brain helpfully recalled from before, there was no ground down that way, just a steep chasm into darkness.

Q felt James wrap his arms and legs around Q’s frame as they flew through the air for a moment, only to crash back down to the earth, barreling violently down the slope. Even with James buffering him as they rolled down, Q couldn’t hold back his yelps of pain as they hit rocks, and branches, and god knows what else. He heard James grunt painfully a few times, and he ached to think of the damage that the agent was taking for the both of them.

Their rolling fall seemed to last for ages, to the point that Q was near certain he was about to vomit from disorientation, hardly slowing down at all until they hit a large bump that tore Q away from James’ arms.

Q continued to fall ass over kettle for a few moments more before coming to a sudden stop just as pain exploded from his ankle. Q cried out as all the force of his weight along with his momentum was yanked to a stop by his leg that had gotten stuck in a root. Agony ran up the entire length of his leg, causing his vision to white out briefly.

Stunned and vulnerable, Q lay there as he tried to calm his heart and lungs enough to take stock of his condition. He didn’t recall hearing anything crack, so he may not have actually broken his leg, even if it felt like it, but shock could sometimes make humans believe all sorts of stupid things.

Slowly, Q pushed himself into a sitting position, hissing as all his new bruises alerted him to their presence. It was still far too dark to see anything clearly, especially without his glasses and the rain still pouring down into his eyes, so with trembling fingers he began to run his hands down his trapped leg.

He moved agonizingly slow, half convinced that his fingers would hit exposed bone or a horrifically unnatural bend, but his fingers ran smoothly down to where his ankle still lay trapped in the root. He cautiously tried to wiggle his toes, noting that while it hurt like a bitch, he could still do it. His leg was very stuck though, and he knew it would take a bit of maneuvering to pull out.

“Fuck, I wish James were here,” he thought miserably to himself. His heart clenched as he thought about where the agent might be now and how badly injured he may be. He needed to get to him fast.

“What if he’s bleeding out somewhere? What if he’s unconscious and an infected is sneaking up on him?”

Q shook his head, bracing himself for the pain to come. He needed to get out of this thing if he was to be any help to James. Using his fingers as eyes, his felt around the root, noting the angle he’d need to pull free with minimal twisting of his leg as possible. It didn’t take him long to realize that he would have to adjust far more than he wanted to in order to get out, and that he would be in agony while doing so. But he couldn’t stop worrying about James more. Quickly he pulled up the collar of his soaked shirt and shoved as much of the fabric in his mouth as he could manage, hoping to at least muffle some of the noise he was bound to make.

Q sucked in a breath, tensed all over, and pulled.

He was screaming before he could even fully register the pain as he wrenched himself free. Even with the cloth in his teeth, he was sure that the sound carried, but he could hardly bring himself to care when it felt like his leg was on fire.

“Oliver?!”

Q’s eyes shot open wide as he panted through his clenched teeth. He spat out the fabric as he whipped his head around looking for the voice. It had to be James. No one else in the world knew his name.

“James?” he called back, hating how desperate he sounded.

He felt a little better when James called out to him again, blatant relief evident in his own voice.

“Stay where you are, I’m coming to you!”

Q let out a hysterical laugh, knowing that there was little chance of him moving on his own any time soon.

There were a few concerning sounds of James stumbling towards him before the agents’ face came into view. Even with multiple visual impairments, there was nothing to hide the red staining the side of his face as he dropped to Q’s side, his large hands frantically patting him down for injury.

Q’s hand shot up to cradle that strong jaw before he even knew what he was doing. James paused as if frozen by his tentative touch. “Your head,” Q said, sounding horrified even to his own ears. There was no way that James could have sustained such an injury without a matching concussion. It was a wonder that he wasn’t still unconscious somewhere.

“I’m fine,” James muttered, breaking from his still as he resumed his full body pat down of Q.

While Q knew he was most certainly not fine, he did not argue it further. They did not have time, nor was this the place to begin a little domestic. He hissed sharply as James hands ran along his injured ankle, his hurried motions turning shockingly gentle as he moved to cradle the limb.

“Christ, this already feels swollen twice its size,” he said, sounding repentant, as if it were him who stuck his foot out and tripped Q.

“It’s not broken though, I think,” Q said between clenched teeth as James ran his fingers along the fine bones of his leg.

James nodded eventually, still looking distraught as he lowered Q’s foot on to his lap as he pulled his pack from his back. It was a wonder that either of them still had their bags after all that. They were absolutely filthy, soaked through and rather flat though. Q winced as he thought about the state of the book that James got him.

Pulling out the dwindling first aid kit, James quickly pulled out an ace bandage before shoving the kit back in his bag. Both of them were covered head to toe in bruises and scrapes, but they wouldn’t have time to lick their wounds much now, not with the threat of what appeared to be several platoons of dead soldiers patrolling the woods around them.

James wrapped his ankle with practiced motions, the result being a very stable and almost professional looking wrap. Q testing rolling his foot, finding it still very painful, but manageable now that the movement was more restricted. He nodded gratefully at James questioning look.

“What do we do now?” Q asked miserably. It was still raining hard, thunder and lightning erupting still making their situation seem all the more pathetic, “I doubt either of us are capable of running around the woods anymore tonight, let alone the next few days and the only trees I see are up the hill you just threw us down.”

He shivered and wrapped his arms around himself. James noticed and started rubbing his hands up and down Q’s back and shoulders to try and help warm him up. Too cold and hurt to be embarrassed, Q leaned into those hands and rested his forehead on James shoulder as he took a moment to collect himself.

“I…I don’t know.”

Q could hear the regret and shame in James voice as he said those words and felt awful that so much of their survival rested solely on the agents shoulders. Q would have been dead twenty times over if not for him, and he wished James knew just how grateful he was for that.

The sudden urge to cry enveloped him, and he swallowed hard around the lump that formed in his throat. He would never be ashamed to cry given the night they’d just had, but didn’t want to make James feel worse than he already did. After all, they both were wet, freezing, hurt, and so very tired. They had literally hit rock bottom, and all Q wanted to do was curl up with James in a nice tall sturdy tree, in their swinging hammock and eat chocolate bars.

Q sniffed, his breath hitching obvious enough that James was already murmuring soothing nothings in his ear while one of his hands roamed away from his arm and into his greasy, wet and grainy hair. Q pulled his head back, horrified at how weak he must seem to James.

“Q…Oliver, it’s okay. You’re allowed to be upset, we’ve had quite a nasty few weeks. I think we’re both overdue for a bit of a breakdown if I’m being honest,” he said, but Q kept his head turned away.

Q opened his eyes as he stared out into the blurry darkness, refusing to look at James until he’d collected himself again. He blinked hard as he tried to focus on anything besides James finger wiping away a stray tear that should have been indiscernible among all the raindrops that were falling on them.

He blinked again, harder, squinting his eyes into the distance.

“James? What’s that large blocky thing in the distance?”

He felt James turn his head.

James let out a sharp bark of laughter, “Shit. It’s the military base. We found it.”

Chapter Text

French Military Radio, All Channels

Allo? Est-ce que quelqu'un m'entend? Tous les membres de mon escadron sont morts. Tous contaminés ou éventrés. Nous...nous avons tenté de les arrêter mais ils étaient trop nombreux. Notre base est vide. Est-ce qu'il y'a quelqu'un? S'il vous plaît, Je suis seul et presque sans munitions. S'il vous plaît. Allo? 

 

James was sure that the pair of them looked rather ridiculous and perhaps pathetic enough that maybe they wouldn’t be shot on sight as they hobbled their way over to the wire fence that surrounded the large facility. They looked like swamp monsters at best, or very lively and dirty Infected at worst. He hoped at least that with Q leaning half his weight on James would be enough evidence at least that they were still alive for the moment. No other infected interacted with each other as far as they’d seen.

James hitched up Q higher against his hip, the mud and rain making it difficult for either of them to stay upright. Their progress had been slow, but at least the base was becoming sharper in his vision despite the rain. His head was pounding horribly thanks to the rock he’d slammed it into on his own tumble down the hill. He wasn’t seeing double and he was sure he hadn’t lost consciousness for more than a few seconds, so he was banking on the damage not being all that bad. Didn’t stop it from hurting though.

Q slipped again in his arms, hissing as his injured foot hit the ground before James could help. He winced in sympathy. That ankle injury was bad enough that his leg would be all black and blue the next morning and looking about as thick as a tree limb. He wouldn’t be able to do any running for weeks at least. It was possibly one of the worst ways he could have been hurt besides actually breaking a bone, and James cursed himself for being partially responsible.

When that bump had knocked Q from his grasp he had almost started screaming out in frustration. He had flung out his arms and legs, trying to slow his fall so that he could go back for Q, but his head found a damn rock before he could manage a complete stop on his own. He may have only been out for several seconds, but when James shook off the fog from his shaken brain, he was already thinking about every disaster that could have befallen Q in that short time. He had surged to his feet, falling back to the ground only once, and started stumbling off in the direction of where he had lost Q in the first place.

His relief at finding him had been short-lived as it became obvious that Q had been hurt. Why else had he not gotten up when James approached? Now here they both were, in no condition to take on any Infected, let alone outrun them. James wasn’t even sure if they would even be able to climb a tree right now if there was one and the storm finally moved on. The base was their only hope.

“Are they even going to want to help non-Italians?” Q asked, grunting as he stumbled again.

“Even if they don’t want to, I’ll find a way to convince them. I promise,” James replied fiercely. He didn’t care what they said. They were going to at least let Q in, even if he had to take the whole damn base hostage to do it.

Q hummed thoughtfully to himself, “Seems a bit odd though…”

“What does?” James couldn’t see him, but he knew that Q was probably biting his lip as he thought over his words.

“Why let their dead comrades wander about like that? Surely they have enough weaponry and protection to lay them all to rest,” Q said.

That had been bugging James as well, but he was a bit too tired to put much effort into the mystery. He just wanted to get Q somewhere safe and dry.

“Risk too high perhaps?”

Q grunted in the negative, “It would be more of a risk to have them wandering about I’d think. And besides that—”

James pulled them both up short, his eyes sharp and focused ahead where they had almost reached the fencing, “Q…can you think of any good reason for a military installment to leave their front gate open?”

Q frowned, “No…”

“Fuck,” James cursed as he took in the wide-open gates ahead looking far too welcoming for something that rarely even let in its own citizens.

Q groaned next to him, “I also can’t think of any good reason that all their lights would be off. I can’t hear any electrical hum. They haven’t even turned on their back-up generator. Damnit, the base has been abandoned, hasn’t it?”

Then James spotted movement inside the fence, before his eyes focused on several more uniformed corpses wandered about, “Not abandoned, no. Just…infected.”

Q sighed, his whole body sagging into James’, “Well, shit.”


“This. Is. A. Stupid plan.

“Always appreciative of my Quartermaster’s opinions, Q.”

Q growled as he shuffled along next to the agent, James smirking as he kept the younger man held tight to his side. The grumbling continued, “I’d prefer it if you took my opinions more to heart, 007. This plan of yours has a big blocky red lettered DUMB stamped on top of it. This is the kind of plan that has M constantly sending you off to Psych for re-evaluations.”

James chuckled, “I was wondering why those kept popping up so frequently.”

“James!” Q scolded, but they had already reached the fence and there was little time for arguing it further. Especially since Q was more than likely far too tired to come up with anything better. James knew that in order for them to find shelter, they needed to empty the facility of as many Infected as possible before going in. All at once. Otherwise they’d be overwhelmed far too quickly upon trying to clear it out upon entry. Q was in no shape to be taking on a hoard of Infected. They only had the one gun with a few rounds left, and a spear. Hardly enough for the two of them to make it longer than ten minutes.

At the very least, James bleeding head was congealing enough that he was reasonably sure the smell wouldn’t carry as well through the storm.

The fence was standard for a basic military installment. Three meters tall, the top capped with barbed wire, and the entire length primed for electric shock at whoever was dumb enough to try and climb. Only, if the power was off, and the generator wasn’t triggered yet, then it should be safe to touch. Theoretically.

James at least could claim a modicum of self-preservation and common sense, so he appeased himself as well as Q by tossing a stick at the fence to test.

It bounced off harmlessly.

James glanced down at Q with a smug grin that Q rewarded with a exasperated glare.

“You know they don’t spark and crackle like in the movies, right? At most you’d see someone twitching or their muscles seizing up,” Q said, deadpan.

“Of course, I knew,” James said smoothly, trying to hide his surprise, but Q must have picked up on something because he was rolling his eyes and scanning the grounds inside the fenced area.

Q chin jerked a bit off to the right, “There, try and get the attention of that one. Quietly.”

James glanced over and saw the single infected wandering along the edges of the compound, just a few steps away from the fence. It hadn’t noticed them yet, and James would prefer not to have to hear anymore screaming than he had to. Instead he picked up a small rock and chucked it expertly down the way until it landed close enough to the walking corpse to nab its attention from the other side of the fence.

The thing ambled those few steps forward to inspect the noise, not even registering as it walked face first right into the fence…only to bounce right back gently. No twitches or spasms.

They stared a few moments more as the thing stared down at the stone before continuing on its way, aimlessly.

Q wrinkled his nose, “They really aren’t that bright, are they? Incredible that mindless creatures with the astounding IQ of an animated potato have upturned the world so completely.”

James sighed and gently pulled Q’s arm down from around his shoulders.

“Do you think you’ll be able to climb the fence yourself?” he asked Q seriously, “We’ll need to be ready to jump to the other side when the time calls for it, and until then I want you safe and elevated away from all the mess I’m about to create.”

Q looked hesitant, but he nodded as he bit his blue lips, “I’ll hold on as long as necessary to avoid becoming corpse chow.”

James stepped closer, resting his hands on Q’s hips as he helped boost him up against the fence, holding him steady until he got a firm grip. Climbing a few feet higher and folding his legs tighter under himself, Q eventually seemed to settle enough that James reluctantly let go and stepped back.

Q hung tightly to the fence, looking horrifically vulnerable and small, his injured ankle dangling uselessly under him. It made his chest ache to see Q like this. Such a frail and beautiful thing should be safe and warm back home, not cold, wet, and bordering on complete exhaustion. There were not enough words to describe how much he hated leaving Q on his own in such volatile conditions. James warily pulled the two sleeping sacks out and handed them up to Q.

“Lay those over the barbed wire. You’ll need to get yourself over it without getting caught,” he said tonelessly.

Q nodded and carefully took the sacks, “And you?”

“Don’t worry about me. I’ve got my job, and you’ve got your job of staying alive, and not climbing down from there until I give the signal, two gun shots. Understood?”

Q frowned, “I’ll worry about you whether you like it or not. And I’m very well aware I’m supposed to stay alive, Captain Obvious.”

“It’s Commander Obvious to you, now do as I say. Under no circumstances are you to climb down to help me or I’ll come back to life and haunt your laptop,” James warned as he pulled out his gun. He glanced Q over once more, assuring himself that he would be fine on his own for the next few minutes, and then started to walk towards the open gate.

“James?”

The agent turned his head back.

Q looked scared, even under the mud splotches all over his face he looked terrified. James thought that he was about to ask James to stay with him, something he would have greatly struggled with ignoring, but instead he offered a weak, but encouraging smile.

“Please come back in one piece,” he said wryly.

James winked back at him and turned back to the gate.


He knew there were at least twenty infected roaming around the outer grounds of the compound, with no doubt dozens more inside. They hadn’t seen or heard their live prey yet, thanks to the storm still raging around them, but James was about to change that.

Q was right that this was a dumb idea. It did indeed make him bait, and it also would deplete their pitiful ammunition's store, but James was reasonably sure he could find more weapons inside the facility. As for the bait thing, it would hardly be the first time. It would just be the first time that he ran the risk of being eaten or turned into a flesh raving corpse. Still, he was trained for the unexpected.

James centered himself outside of the opened gate, pulling his gun out and applauding Q for designing it to be usable in the rain. Slowly he raised the gun up, pointing it into the air, and pulled the trigger.

The loud bang was near deafening and pulled the attention of a few of the infected that heard the noise, but obviously didn’t see much as they only slowly turned to investigate the sound. James frowned, knowing that he would need a much bigger response than that to empty out the facility. Perhaps if they hadn’t all been listening to thunder booms this whole night they’d react a bit more. He needed a more unique sound…

“HEY! HEY YOU DEAD PIECES OF SHIT! LOOK AT ME! I’M ALL FRESH, JUICY AND VULNERABLE.”

He chuckled to himself imagining the look that must be on Q’s face after hearing that.

It was working though, the infected were perking up and moving a bit faster in his direction. He needed more though. He needed something that would draw them all out at once.

He flicked the knife off of his belt loop and nicked his arm so that fresh blood started to flow.

“SMELL THAT YOU UGLY BASTARDS? YOU KNOW YOU WANT A PIECE OF THIS!” he bellowed.

Finally, the three closest to him did exactly what he was counting on. They screamed.

The shrill shrieks carried better through the rain than any of his own yelling would have, and within moments it was if the herd of them were belting out their own calls like a wolf pack summoning the rest for the hunt. James only stood rooted to the spot until he saw the few open doors around the facility slowly trickle out more dead, all of them heading towards him and the gate.

“Come on, come on…” he whispered to himself, body poised at the ready for the next phase of his plan. He glanced over to where a shadowed and small figure still hung against the fence further down and away from the trouble to come.

As the closest ones made it to only several meters away and James noted that the doorway trickles had slowed to a stop, he bolted to the right, away from where Q hung.

“FOLLOW ME IF YOU PLEASE! DON’T GIVE UP YET,” he yelled, the herd of dead all beginning to file out of the fence and to the right. Perfect.

He jogged down the length of the fence until he reached the first corner, turning back to see the progress. It looked like almost all the ones he could see on the grounds were headed for the gate, for him. He grinned ferally, all his teeth bared as he readied himself to lead his predators on a futile hunt. Away from Oliver.

“LET’S GO! I HAVEN’T GOT ALL DAY!”

He waited until the hoard was only a few meters away before turning the corner and continuing his run. They were clearly able to see where he was headed, and they followed like loyal dogs, albeit about as fast as an aged basset hound. James could see through the wired fence that the grounds looked clear, not a single Infected left inside as far as he could tell. That meant it was time for Q.

He paused at the second corner, plenty of space between himself and the dead behind him, and shot two rounds into the sky. Now it was Q’s turn. James worried that he would struggle to get over the fence with only one functioning foot, but he couldn’t dwell too long. Worst case, he’d double round for him.

The Infected had almost reached him again, so he crouched low and started his final sprint back to the gate. Mud and water flew under his heels as he raced on, no longer waiting for the death to catch up. This time he needed them as far behind himself as possible. His breath came out in harsh pants as he rounded the third corner, finally able to catch sight of Q up ahead. It looked like he had just managed to make it to the other side of the fence and was slowly lowering himself to the ground.

James glanced to his left, inside the compound, to make sure there were no little lingering surprises for them.

Still nothing, he thought to himself. Oddly pleased and very surprised.

Not about to look a gift horse in the mouth, he dashed past the spot where Q had just touched the ground. Or, landed rather solidly on his arse, but James wasn’t about to tease him about that given how much it probably hurt. James rounded on the gate, quickly swinging himself inside the little shack to where he hoped the keys for the lock were.

”Fuck!”

The gate was electric. He cursed at the buttons that were seemingly mocking him with their presence. He flew back out of the shack and over to where the metal gate door was located. It was massive and heavy, as it should be in any respectable military installment, but that didn’t stop him from cursing loudly again. He could hear the approach of the dead getting closer. They were probably round the third corner by now. He had mere minutes left at best.

Gritting his teeth, the braced his already tired and trembling legs against the slick ground and started to push the gate. He couldn’t believe how heavy it was for something that was literally on wheels. He growled as he pushed his exhausted body harder than it should be capable for that night.

He spared a thought for Q, wondering if he was staying put like he had been told. He was far away enough from the gate that he could make it inside where it was hopefully safe while James worked on closing this behemoth of a door.

The Infected were getting closer now. He could hear their feet squelching in the mud. He didn’t have much longer and he’d only managed to move the gate a yard at best.

Can’t stop now. Q needs me, can’t live without me. He said so himself.

James heart nearly stopped in his chest when a loud mechanical rumbling suddenly rocked through the compound as lights and motors suddenly came to life around him. He whipped his head around to find the source only to see Q propped up against a large generator midway into the compound, the marks of someone crawling through the dirt plain for all to see as it led there.

“Try the controls now! Hurry!” Q cried out.

James flung himself away from the gate and back towards the shack, noting out of the corner of his eye that the infected were almost back at the gate opening.

“Like hell I’m letting you back in here,” he growled as he leaped inside the shack and slammed his hand down on the button. Immediately there was a loud cranking noise of the gate beginning to move. Only it was very slow.

“Shit, Q! How do I make it go faster?” he yelled out the door.

“You can’t!” Q called back.

“Shit,” James said again, his finger not leaving the button as the gate continued to close about as fast as molasses.

The dead were actually faster than the gate, which both surprised and angered him.

“Come on, come on…” he urged, the opening just mere feet away from the dead.

Arms held out in front of their soaked corpses were just about to pass through the gate when finally it closed before them. The groans got louder, but James didn’t care because they were outside, and he and Q were inside.

He blew out a relieved breath, his shoulders falling heavily before he swung back out into the rain to find Q.

He found him sitting in the mud, looking far too smug for someone who’s pants were probably soaked through with water and dirt.

“You were supposed to stay at the fence,” James pointed out darkly.

Q raised a pointed brow, “And where would we be now if I hadn’t seen the generator and got it up again?”

“Now, Quartermaster, are you’re saying going off script for a mission is perfectly fine sometimes?”

Q’s mouth gaped open before he snapped it shut with a grimace, “Touché,” he muttered.

James grinned as he leaned down to slide an arm under Q’s bent knees and the other behind his shoulders. Ignoring Q’s protests as he was lifted, he began to move them to the nearest entrance that’s door stood open.

“Is this really necessary? You need your gun arm available. We don’t know what’s inside,” Q said while wriggling pleasantly in James’ grasp.

“But Q, this is our new home. Old folk’s tradition states I need to carry you across the threshold for luck,” he said as he clicked his tongue.

Q groaned dramatically, pawing his hands through James jacket until they fell on the gun, “Fine. Do whatever makes you happy. I’m keeping the gun out. We still have three rounds left, and I’d like to use them if we find any squatters inside.”

James didn’t argue, knowing it would be best for at least one of them to be armed as the entered the building. As much as he wanted to hold his gun in his hand, right now the thought of letting go of Q seemed far more foreboding than being unarmed. His Quartermaster was injured and lame, and if they needed to move fast this was their best hope at getting away.

“Where should we go first,” James asked.

Q hummed lightly as they approached the door, “Find me a control room or security room. Best place to get the lay of the land. And I miss cameras more than I thought I ever would.”

“Voyeuristic withdrawal?  

Q tutted him, “Justified situational paranoia, ta,” he replied far too primly for someone being carried around like a muddied bride.

They were both exhausted beyond comprehension, it having been the longest night of James life. The thought of not just finding a corner inside to curl up in and sleep for a week was enough to make any grown man cry at that moment, but logic and survival won out the last dredges of their remaining adrenaline and James heavily trudged them inside the facility.

“Love what they’ve done with the place,” Q said, his voice barely above a whisper.

James chuckled darkly, knowing that humor may be the only way to accept what they saw without choking on their own bile.

The walls were splashed with dark streaks and dots, something that James immediately recognized as old and dried blood. Clearly the Infected had quite the buffet lined up in here at least a few days ago. Whoever had been the source of the blood must have eventually turned and joined the dead hoards outside. Or…perhaps they hadn’t.

“Shit, is that moaning I hear up ahead?” Q whined.

“Just keep your voice down, they’re at least a few hallways away. Any idea where control rooms would be located?” James said, quickly walking them down the hall while glancing left and right at the small plaques outside each room. Archives, archives officers office, bathroom, janitors closet…

“There!” Q whispered excitedly, bouncing a bit in James arms as he spotted “security office’ up ahead. Dutifully, James quickly stepped up door, noting that the moaning hadn’t gotten any closer yet. Their first real break of the evening.

“Should we knock?”

“Really, James?”

“I’m just saying, it’s possible some poor sod may be stuck in there for all we know.”

“Open the damn door, 007.”

The door clicked open easily, sliding aside to reveal a room mercifully devoid of anything dead or non-dead. More than that, it was a fully stocked security room as far as he could tell. Screens, monitors, computers, even weapons lined the room. James sighed wistfully as he took in the multiple rifles while Q nearly wept at seeing a keyboard on the table.

“You know, for a security office it has abysmal security. Wasn’t even locked,” James quipped as he stepped inside, cheerfully ignoring Q’s glare as he placed him gently in the rolling chair by the array of computers and screens.

Q wasted no time in turning his attention to the computers before him, booting them all up one by one in quick succession. By the time James crossed the room again to shut and lock the door, the room was lit up in a familiar and eerie blue light that he’d gotten used to in Q Branch.

Hearing the click-clack of keys being pushed, James started to snoop around the room, knowing he’d be useless to Q until the boffin had gotten the lay of the land for them. First thing he did was select a rifle from the wall, and found the matching ammo in the firearms cabinet in the corner. Once he had it loaded, he let himself breath a little easier, knowing he had at least something between the monsters and them. Next, he turned his attention back to his lean companion. They’d been going all night, and he could tell that Q was running on fumes by now, just as James was. Neither had eaten since breakfast, and while they were both soaked to the bone, they were probably a tad dehydrated as well.

James head pounded at the thought of eating something, but he knew he’d feel worse if he didn’t.

Security offices, in his own experience, were some of the most boring places to be stationed. Hours a day spent watching nothing in the hopes that something interesting occurred, but rarely did. And what did people do when bored? Eat.

He started digging through various drawers, ignoring those filled with paper or office supplies. It wasn’t long until he found the previous occupants stash.

“Eat up, Olive. Can’t have you wasting away on my watch. Eve would eviscerate me,” James said while placing a sleeve of shortbread biscuits and a can of soda in front of Q.

Q glanced up at him with a frown as he slowly took one of the cookies out from the bag, “Olive?” he asked, “How hard did you hit your head?”

James rolled his eyes, “Olive, you know? Those things they put in martinis. Oliver sounds too formal for anyone who looks like a swamp creature emerged from the depths of hell.”

Q sputtered, “As if you look any better! And I’m your Quartermaster, not a garnish. Come over here, I want to check you pupil dilation to see how bent your brain has become. Clearly you’ve become even more damaged than I thought possible.”

James laughed and took the seat a good few feet away from Q, munching on some of the old crisps he’d found in the drawer, “Don’t worry about me, dear Olive. Just find us a safe nest for the night and you can stare into my eyes as long as you desire.”

Q started and ended at least several incomplete sentences before turning back to the screen, muttering darkly about addle brained Double-O’s. James continued to crunch away at his crisps, smirking at the back of his head when Q angrily started shoving more biscuits in his mouth.

James kept his ears peeled for the sounds of any approaching noises, but the hallway remained calm and quiet. Cautiously, James let himself close his eyes and dropped is chin to his chest to fall into a half sleep that he could easily wake from withing seconds. The sounds of typing and occasional bites of food lulled him along until twenty minutes later, the sound of typing slowed to a stop. James eyes shot open while the rest of him remained completely still.

He saw Q sigh and lean back in his chair while rubbing at his soiled face.

“How’s it look?” James asked softly.

Q jerked his chin over at James, beckoning him closer to the computer. James rolled his chair over as all the screens suddenly lit up before him, each showing a live feed of every room and hallway in the facility. At least half the feeds showed movement of some sort. He didn’t need to look too closely to know that none of them were caused by a living human.

“Not a single person left alive in here, James. An entire base wiped out. What are we even dealing with? Is there anyone left anywhere?” Q asked in horrified awe.

James reached out a hand to place on Q’s shoulder, squeezing it gently, “Close living quarters like a base would be a virus’ dream home. It may not be this bad everywhere.”

Q nodded, but didn’t look the least bit convinced. He cleared his throat and began typing again, pulling up new windows on the computer monitor, “Besides locating our squatters, I also did a quick assessment of this base’s capabilities. They are no more than a border patrol, unfortunately, so they aren’t heavily equipped with more than the basics for any military installment, but that’s better than nothing. They also have satellite capabilities, at least remotely. It’ll take me a few hours to align everything, but once I do that we should be able to contact MI6…if anyone is there to pick up the phone as it were—”

“Don’t talk like that. They’ll be there,” James said firmly.

Q nodded again absently, “Of course. I’ve located several areas that will be of interest for us. The canteen and kitchen, the armory, a warehouse full of various army supplies, and an officers’ wing I can close off that has actual beds and showers that I’ve already started the water heaters up in. I even found a bedroom or two that seem untouched by the flatmate that mothers always warn you about. Besides that, I have control from here to open, close, and lock any doors we like,” he said proudly.

James smiled in approval, squeezing Q’s shoulder once again, “Excellent. Do we have a clear path to the officer’s wing?”

Q grimaced, “Um, no.”

Now James grimaced. Of course, their luck would run out eventually.

“Um, I may have an idea to take care of that though. If you’re up for another run that is.”

James rubbed a weary hand over his face. He wanted nothing more than to drag Q from his chair and tuck them in a corner to sleep, but they were both filthy and covered in cuts and bruises, and the meager snacks he’d found were hardly going to be enough to keep them going much longer. He wanted to find them a truly safe place where he could let Q sleep, and he could check on his ankle more thoroughly. They needed a real haven. Not a security office.

“What did you have in mind?” James asked.

“Ah, yes, well, I may have gotten the idea from a video game…”

“Fuck me.”

 

 

Chapter Text

MI6 Secure Channels

“This is base seeking 007. 007, do you read us? Come in. 007? Is the Asset secure? 007, do you read us? Report location. 007?”

 

“You know, this would have actually made for a best seller video game once upon a time.”

” Concentrate, Q. I’d really prefer if you didn’t run me into a hoard of infected just because you were busy fantasizing about your life as a gaming developer.”

Q snorted to himself, his eyes steadily fixed on the screens before him. He clicked the button on his radio idly, “You say this like we haven’t done this a thousand times before on missions. I think at this point I know what I’m doing. Take your next left, by the way. Should be two about halfway down the hall that should be easy targets. And don’t forget—”

“I know, I know. Three meters away minimum to avoid blood spatter,” James grunted back, his panting breaths coming out staticky over the low grade radios that they had found lying about in the security room, “And I’m reasonably sure that this is something completely new, unless the other 00’s have been holding out on some spectacular stories of man-eating creatures.”

Q chuckled, knowing it would carry over his radio just so he could rib James a bit more, “Well, maybe nothing like that. This does feel vaguely familiar however, nostalgic even.”

Two cracks sounded through the speaker and Q watched as the two infected fell to the ground limply, two matching holes in the center of their foreheads.

“How the blood fuck is this nostalgic?”

“This is like the resulting unholy spawn of Pac Man and Call of Duty if they had a romantic encounter. Also, there’s a closet to your left. Kick them in there would you? Best not to leave bodies lying around our new house. Just think of the pests it would attract,” Q said dryly, watching as James threw his head back in exasperation before he dutifully kicked at the bodies until the squished into the confined room. So far James had been able to run a merry chase of the inside hallways like he had outside, guiding the dead out of doors where James would then dispose of them if he could, or just let them roam free. They’d take care of the rest later. The dead again corpses outside hardly bothering either of them anymore beyond smell. It took a bit more careful maneuvering, since there were multiple hallways and dead in all directions, hence the Pac Man feel, but Q was able to use his eyes in the sky as it were to keep James safe and avoid him getting cornered.

James huffed out something that might have been annoyance or amusement, “Well, never let it be said that your high score on the bar pac man machine was anything but well-earned and not entirely a waste of time.”

“How did you know it was me on the high score chart?”

“Q, it’s a well-known government bar just outside of HQ, and your username was EarlofGrey.”

There was a pause.

“Could have been anyone, now, follow down the hallway and take a right. Only five more to go.”

“Fuck.”

James had rarely, if ever, felt this kind of exhaustion before. The edges of his vision had taken on a grey hue over half hour ago. His legs felt like someone had tied cinder blocks to them, and he was just tired enough that he wouldn’t even fight it if someone dumped him in the ocean at this point. He just wanted to sleep, but he could not let himself. Not yet. He still had to find a safe place for himself and Q for the night. Well, it was morning now.

And bloody damn if the rain hadn’t let up for the last group he herded outside, just in time for him to see the sun peaking over the horizon.

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” he swore as he dispatched the last infected.

“James?”

“Everything is fine, Q. I’ve just never been so pissed off to see the bloody sun before.”

“…you’re shitting me.”

“Wish I was.”

He could hear Q groaning loudly over the radio, and he spared a small twitch of his lips at their own shared misery. It didn’t matter though if the sun was shining and the weather was perfect for the rest of the day. They weren’t going anywhere. Not until they had rested and took stock of what they had lost or destroyed in the rain. And not until James was sure that Q was fully healed up and rested up.

With that thought, he turned back to the facility and started on the way back to the security room. He closed the door behind him, letting his muscles slowly relax as soon as he heard the clunk of a lock engaging, knowing that Q must be locking down the entire building for them. Just them. Finally, safe and alone.

Walking down the hallway, dragging his feet under him, he was able to finally take stock of his own condition beyond vague cognizant awareness that he was uncomfortable and tired. He knew he had a concussion, but at this point it was proven to be minor. He’d have a headache for a few days, but the dizziness was gone and he felt stable enough that he should be able to go to sleep without interruption. His body ached over every inch of himself, most due to that tumble down the hill and his rendezvous with a rock. There were scratches, but he would tend to that soon enough.

The worst of it all though, was how absolutely foul he felt. He’d felt retched the last week already, not being able to bathe, shave, or change clothes, but it was nothing compared to having every crevasse on his being filled with mud, paired with the still damp to soaked clothing that clung in all the wrong places, and the chaffing. The chaffing was unreal.

As he approached the security room, not even bothering to keep his footsteps light, he tried to make a list of what was still needed before they could bunk down. Finding a bunk seemed to be as far as he got before the door creaked open and Q peeked his tousled and horrendously filthy head around the frame.

“Oh good, you’re back. By the sound of your dragging feet I was a bit worried we missed one,” he said.

James grunted, “Let’s just move on to what’s next.”

Q brightened visibly at that, a true feat seeing as his face was nearly covered chin to brow in dirt, “Yes, like I said, I’ve already located a few open rooms and showers should be ready for use. Although, as exhausted as we are, I’m half tempted to just ruin a few blankets in the name of sleep.”

Wearily James shook his head, “No. Shower first. We’re both covered in dirt and scratches and we need to take care of those to avoid infection. No arguments.”

Q quirked a brow, “The great and mighty 007 admitting that First Aid is not actually When I Get a Second Aid?”

James glared at him before stepping forward, ready to help lift Q off his chair and carry him down to the officer’s ward, nearly tripping on his own unresponsive feet in the process.

As the agent ungracefully caught his balance against the doorframe, Q slowly rolled himself back in his chair, eying Bond warily.

“You know what…let’s skip the bridal carry. I think it best we just roll me down there.”

“Agreed.”

Q had all but fallen asleep in their short walk down to the officer’s ward, his head lolling heavily, chin almost resting against his muddied jacket. He would have likely fallen out of it if not for the armrests caging him in place, and if James was being honest, he would have fallen over a few times himself if not for the support he was getting from pushing along the chair like an old man’s walker. Their soaked and soiled packs were hooked over the chairs back, making it slightly heavier, but it at least gave their shoulders a much needed break.

He knew they looked ridiculous, but a numbing sort of peace had fallen over the two men after their exhaustive induced sillies had dried up to leave them both empty husks on the verge of welcomed comas. Even opening doors at this point seemed far too tiring a task, so James was eternally grateful for the military and all their organized wonder to have labelled all the doors. It only took him a few extra seconds to fumble with the handle that lead to the showers rather than a few minutes trying to locate the damn place.

The room on the other side was dark, so James fumbled his hand on the wall like a drunk until it hit the switch that filled the area with an almost blinding light.

“Why would anyone want a communal shower to have such intense lighting?” Q mumbled. James glanced down at him to see he had his eyes squeezed shut against the unwelcome brightness.

James ignored the question as he stalked forward, his whole mind set on the singular goal of getting them clean. Fiddling with the knobs on the wall, he started up the first two shower heads to as high a setting as possible without boiling themselves like particularly unappealing lobsters. As much as James had hated communal showers as a novice in the Navy, he’d grown accustomed to them. Q would probably not be as open to the whole ‘no stalls, all balls’ approach, James preferred it this way so that he could keep an eye on the asset.

And perhaps his asset’s assets, but he was far too tired to even bat an eyelid let alone perv on his charge.

When the water reached temperature after what seemed like an eternity, James turned back to where Q was now almost fully asleep in the chair, and almost about ready to slip out to the floor. His dirty face making him look like an exhausted little boy who had just come indoors from playing in the rain. James spared enough energy to smirk fondly before gently tapping at Q’s shoulder to rouse him.

“Fuck, just toss me under the spray and leave me there. It’ll wash me and my clothes clean eventually.”

James grunted out what could have been a laugh, “Sorry, these clothes are a lost cause. Best get rid of them now. And I need to look for any hidden injuries we may have missed.”

Q groaned, his eyes still shut as he let James guide him to the floor, “Fine, but you have to get naked too. If any more Infected show up unexpectedly I refuse to be the only one running around with my bits hanging out.”

This time James was able to choke out a real laugh, “Of course, Quartermaster. If you ever want me naked, all you have to do is ask.”

“…If that’s true it explains so many of the rumors I’ve heard at Six regarding your proclivities.”

“I believe that is the most polite way anyone has implied that I’m a slut.”

Q snorted and began to pull at his sodden clothes, movement slow and floppy as his last remaining bits of energy began to be sapped away by the growing warmth and steam in the room, “If you’re a slut, then I’m a bloody monk by comparison.”

James noticed Q struggling with pealing his soaked shirt off and reached forward to help without even thinking about what he was doing, “Don’t get out much then, Q?”

“Out? Hardly. I spend most nights kipped out at Six unless, hence the automatic cat feeder you’ve been made aware of,” Q grumbled as he let James gently pull his arms out from his shirt, finally leaving him bare chested between them. Even with the steam distorting their views in the room, there was no missing the map of red, purples and blues that were erupting over Q’s skin. James knew he’d be lucky to even move tomorrow morning after the soreness set it, knowing from experience what deep bruising like that would feel like.

“You should get out more then,” James suggested softly, trying to distract himself from counting the numerous scratches he noted as they removed more pieces of Q’s clothing until there was nothing left but skin and dirt. The shadows of ribs could be clearly seen shifting under his skin, and James cursed softly that he’d let all this happen to his charge, to Oliver. While Q had been very lean to begin with being built like a whippet , something James had guiltily noted and admired when watching Q undress back at the outdoor shop, it had crossed the border from naturally lithe into unhealthy and was moving quickly into malnourished country. He’d make it a priority to rustle up some food for him the moment they were physically capable again.

“Get out more…are you daft? Look at what happened the first time I chose to go out in years! The bloody apocalypse is what happened. That’s what happens when I go out. I’ve upset the cosmos by attempting to have some fun, and now I’ve had about as much out as I could ever handle. I want in. Indoors, Inside, or I’m about to go insane.”

Q’s rambling rant was doing a fine job of averting his attentions away from the fact he sat fully nude before an equally nude James who was scooping him up in his arms and moving them towards the spray. He was only alerted back to awareness when his skin was suddenly hit with the warm water, stopping his words mid-sentence as he looked up wondrously at the rusted shower head like it held all the answers to the universe.

James watched as Q’s eyes fluttered shut as water rivulets started to stream down from his hair that was already matted down against his head, his whole face going slack with pleasure as the dirt and grime slowly washed away to reveal pale, but flawless skin that was half covered by a healthy smattering of facial hair that had been growing in. They’d shave that at a later time. Swallowing hard against the need to lick at some stray droplets rolling down his swan-like neck, James began to lower Q to the ground directly under the spray. Neither of them had the energy to stand for long, so sitting seemed the next best option they had.

As soon as he’d settled the now silent Quartermaster with his back against the wall, James did a quick, as quick as he could manage, raid of the showers. He found some cheap soap and a half empty shampoo bottle in one locker. In others he found some track pants and sweatshirts that smelled clean, and even came across two ragged but unstained towels. Last, he grabbed the bone comb from his pack. With his prizes claimed, he left the clothing and towels on a nearby bench before walking back over to where Q looked about a second away from full slumber under the spray. James slowly slid down next to him.

“Here, start scrubbing down while I wash my hair. Then we’ll trade back. Go easy on any scratches and bruises you have,” he said, placing the soap into Q’s limp hand.

Small slits of green appeared as Q forced his eyes half open, and he reluctantly got a firmer grip on the soap before getting to work. James could hear him attempt to muffle his occasional grunts of pain as he ran the bar over an injury, and each unpleasant sound made his soul crumple a bit more.

Quickly and efficiently, James scrubbed away at his own short hair. Less short now, but not needing to be untangled at all. Q would be a different story, hence the comb. He finished up around the same time that Q finished his scrub down. As he turned to do the trade, he noticed that Q was looking down at his hands with a frown.

“I can’t get them to stop shaking,” he mumbled, sounding both tired and terrified.

“Adrenaline crash. May be a few hours before it stops,” James said, laying a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Q nodded and attempted to hand over the soap only to have it fall from his grasp, “Sorry,” he groaned.

“It’s fine, Oliver,” James said, handing over the bottle only for that too to fall out from his shaking fingers.

Q cursed, sounding moments away from exhausted tears.

“Shh, shh. Just let me, Olive. Close your eyes,” James crooned, hating the sound of Q in such distress.

He looked like he was going to argue but could not find the energy to do so. He couldn’t even seem to muster the ire to complain about the pet name. In reluctant obedience, he shut his eyes as James tilted his head back slightly and squeezed out some shampoo into his hand.

James worked it into the mop of hair, creating a rich lather within moments. Slowly he began to let his fingers caress their way through the sudsy locks, loosening any knots and knocking free all the bits of dirt. As tired as he was, he took his time making sure that every little strand was clean. He could tell that Q liked being touched this way by the relaxed shoulders and the occasional hitched breath and he did his best not to read too much into that. They were both too exhausted for this to be anything other than comradery and James shouldn’t let himself indulge any more than he already had.

Perhaps it was a bit of a blessing then that James was also far too tired for anything to wake his cock from the dead as it were. He would have felt awful if Q noticed just how much the agent was enjoying this simple contact and made him feel uncomfortable. When he finished rinsing out the shampoo, he guiltily reached for the comb knowing that he was going to enjoy this just as much as sitting here naked with the man who he longed for. Never before had James cared much about hair. He appreciated it on his partners, noticed when it was done up nicely, noticed when it smelled good, but he had to admit to himself that he had become a bit more taken with Q’s peculiar locks than anyone else’s. Damned if he knew why though. Perhaps because there was just so much of it? Because it held as much personality as the eccentric Quartermaster himself?

Maybe because it’s attached to someone you actually give a damn about, he thought to himself bitterly as he gently worked the comb through the fine wisps that normally fell over Q’s forehead.

Eventually, when he knew the silky stands were as clean and orderly as they could be, he reluctantly pulled back his tingling hands before they could wander any further then they already had, “Just sit there a bit while I finish up, yeah?” he said when Q’s groggy eyes opened questioningly when he no longer felt James working at his hair.

Sleepily, the Quartermaster nodded, not awake enough to respond verbally.

James moved his focus back on his own skin, scrubbing the bar of soap a bit too roughly to feel good but it was efficient and kept him alert while sleep clung to his body like boulders hanging from his shoulders. He had a few scrapes himself, nothing life threatening, and his own fair share of bruising that would become a spectacular array of colors in the coming days. The worst of it was his head, but he could already tell that the crack on his skull was small enough to not need stitches, perhaps just a swipe with alcohol and nothing more. He glanced over to Q’s leg, noting that the swelling was really starting to set in now, his skin looking shiny, sore and puffed against the field bandage he’d placed on it earlier. He’d have to give him some paracetamol and re-wrap it in something loose and dry for the night. Bitter once more that he let Q get injured in such a way, he angrily went back to scrubbing the soap against his skin only stopping when he felt eyes on him and turned to see Q staring at him, a faint blush all the more vibrant against ghost pale skin.

The younger man didn’t seem fully aware of anything, his eyes only half focused as they traveled up and down James’ body. The agent recognized it as Q’s assessing gaze, if not a sleepier version of it, and wondered if it was more clinical or lustful in its nature. He couldn’t help but flex a bit under the scrutiny, his instinctual peacocking coming out despite not knowing why Q was staring so openly.

But then he saw the tip of Q’s tongue peak out from his cracked lips, and James had to stamp down on the wave of desire that flooded him. James knew this was not the time, nor the place to contemplate his growing desire for his Quartermaster or if such desire was reciprocated.  

He tossed aside the soap, “Alright, let’s dry off and take care of these cuts,” he said, gruffly, keeping his face neutral and voice low as he bent down to scoop up Q in his arms, thankful that there wasn’t any arguing about it this time. Q simply sighed once he was taken out from the warm spray and settled silently on the bench that James placed him on.

He handed Q a towel with which he slowly dried himself off before lazily draping it over his lap as if he was too tired to care about modesty anymore. It did not help James in any way not to glance at the glorious display of skin before him, but he didn’t pause as he pulled out their dwindling first aid kit and set about cleaning their cuts.

The stinging pain from the alcohol must have roused Q to a point enough to where he picked up a second cotton gauze swap and started to clean at the cuts on James’ chest as the agent bent over him to work on the small scrapes on Q’s face. Quietly, the two worked as quickly as their hands would allow. Q’s hand still shook a bit, but he seemed quite determined to remove any and all evidence of blood from James’ body despite them.

Only a few bandages were needed in the end for the scrape, and Q dutifully palmed out measured doses of pain killers for the two of them while James carefully re-wrapped his ankle. While he was so focused on Q, he nearly startled when tentative fingers started to prod around the gash on his head. The Quartermaster had seemingly roused just enough to treat that wound for him, far more gently than James would have done for himself. The last thing they did was don the procured clothing that James had found earlier. The track pants and t-shirt that James had found for himself fit well enough, perhaps a bit tight in the chest, but they would do until they explored the base more. As for Q, the track pants were far too big, only barely being held up by the modest swell of his arse even with the ties tightened. They were warm though, so he didn’t complain. The sweatshirt though was even larger, hanging off of him like colorful elephant skin to the point that James debated trying to find something smaller, but one look at the relaxed and blissed out look of the Quartermaster when wrapped his sleeved covered hands around himself, James forgot anything about looking for something else.

“Let’s find us a bedroom, yeah?” he said, tucking his Walther into his pants.

Q nodded, reaching up his floppy cloth covered hands to wrap around James neck as he lifted Q up once more. James walked them out of the showers and started down the hall, reveling in the feel of Q’s damp head resting against his shoulder as they moved. There were about ten different bedrooms as far as he could tell, but he didn’t think now was the time to explore them all, not with Q already half asleep in his arms.

“They’re all clear, I checked,” Q murmured softly against the skin of James neck.

Trusting his word, James didn’t hesitate to open the first door closest to them and walked right in. It was indeed clear of anything bloody, dead, or not dead, and James sighed in relief until he noted that this room only held one bed. It made sense after he thought about it for a moment. The officer’s quarters he recalled during his military days had also been singles, sparsely decorated like this one. This room held only the one bed folded with ridiculous precision, side table that also served as a dresser, and a closet. Military efficiency at its most droll.

Gently he lowered Q down onto the bed, taking one of the pillows from the head to place under his swollen ankle. Drowsily, Q gazed up at him as the agent fussed over the blankets, making sure every inch of Q was covered. Happy enough with his work, James turned to leave the room.

Q nearly sprang out of the bed as he heard the door open, startling the agent enough that he almost reached for his gun.

“Where are you going?” Q demanded, sounding both terrified and annoyed, and more awake than he had been for the last hour, “Are you staying in a different room?”

James looked back at him, his eyes softening at Q’s obvious alarm, “No, I wouldn’t be able to sleep in another room without knowing you were safe. We’ll be still sharing for a while yet I’m afraid. I was just going to grab some extra blankets and pillows,” he said slowly.

Q relaxed a bit, but still held tension in his spine, “Oh? Are there not enough on the bed?” he asked, eyeing the second pillow and the already warm blanket spread over him.

“Um, I was going to sleep on the floor actually.”

“You will most certainly not!” Q scolded haughtily, “Let’s just get another bed in here. I’m not going to allow you to sleep on the floor.”

James chuckled, “I don’t think either of us is up for moving a bed right now, Q,” he said pointedly looking at the lump of blanket where Q’s ankle rested.

“Well then, we’ll just keep sharing. This bed is at least three times as wide as the hammock we’ve been sharing,” Q offered, his eyes falling back to the blankets shyly, “If you want to that is. I’d understand if you’ve been craving a bit of personal space. Can’t be fun to wake every morning with someone draped all over you.”

James felt a bit like a lecher in the way heat pooled when he thought about how he really felt each morning that he woke with Q’s body pressed against his, both of them sleepily aroused by the comfort of another human nearby. While James had been trained to read the minutia of body language, and while he suspected that Q held at least a physical attraction to him, the agent did not want to assume that meant Q wanted the same things as he did. Q was probably not slowly suffering from the growing press of desire and admiration that James was succumbing to, even if James wished it with all his being.

He wasn’t lying to Q, not really. He truly did not think he would be able to sleep a wink if he were in a different room from the younger man, not while worrying constantly for his safety. However, he also did not think he could stand the distance after having him so close the last two weeks. Not after getting that small taste of closeness he craved from Oliver. But here was Q offering to share again, and for all his mental and physical strength, James was weak to deny himself what he needed more than oxygen.

“All right,” James said softy, turning back around to make his way to the bed where all his desires lay bruised and increasingly drowsy under the sheets. “Scoot over, then,” he said, placing himself between Q and the door, ready to be the first line of defense against any threat that came for them.

It was less of a scoot and more of an uncoordinated flop, but Q managed to move closer to the wall, his foot carefully lifted to avoid aggravating his ankle. The bed was big enough for both of them to lay flat on their backs with their shoulders rubbing against each other. It wasn’t as intimate as James had come to appreciate from the hammock, but at least he could feel the warmth coming from Q next to him.

He forced himself to stay awake until he heard Q’s breathing even out and grow deep, which thankfully did not take long at all. Then finally, James allowed himself to rest.

Chapter Text

All Radio Channels

*This is MI6 HQ. 007, do you read us? 007? Is the asset secure? We repeat, is the asset secure? *

 

 

Q awoke slowly to the puzzling dichotomy of feeling amazing and also amazingly terrible at the same time. His body ached in ways he never knew were possible after having lived a moderately sedentary life up until now. Even breathing hurt a bit when his bruised torso would expand with each inhale. He wasn’t even horrifically maimed in any way. His injuries were minor at best, but he felt ready to curse out loud at every twitch and jolt upon his waking. Everything felt stiff and uncomfortable…including his cock that brought him back to why he felt both amazing and amazingly terrible.

The only saving grace for the morning, besides being in an actual bed for once, was that somehow in the night his bed partner had migrated across the sparse distance of the sheets to ensnare Q in remarkably warm and strong arms, held fast against an equally warm and strong chest. And with a very stiff and perhaps not so uncomfortable cock pressed up against Q’s backside. To distract himself from his various pains, he found himself mentally cataloging the shape and size that he could discern of what was gloriously pressed up against him. For research purposes only, of course.

He had no idea what time it was, since the room they occupied had no windows. He could only assume it had been many hours since they passed out going off of how hungry and thirsty, he was. Despite the calling of his more basic needs, Q didn’t even bother trying to get up. Of all the mornings that he and James had spent tangled up together, this was the first time that he woke first. Every other time it had been James, and while they would lay together for a bit before getting up for the day, Q never got to truly enjoy the contact. He was always far too busy being embarrassed about his physical state, and slightly overwhelmed being the sole focus of James’ attention. Now though, Q could bask in the warmth without too much shame.

Before the outbreak of the damned virus, Q had perhaps let himself fantasize a bit about those arms and what they would feel like wrapped around him. It was hard not to when James would come visit him in the caves of Q Branch, leaning over his desk in a way that would make his arms bulge and fill out the fabric of his suit jackets. It certainly didn’t help that they were walking about proper sniper scope leveling at the time, James wit and intelligence causing just as much mental anguish to Q as his biceps. James had always seemed out of reach though, despite being mere inches away across the desk. Out of Q’s league. Untouchable in ways that made Q’s heart ache for both of them.

Now though, he couldn’t remember the last time he was held like this, or if he ever was. Protected. Warm. Cared for. James was naturally a protector, perhaps even a nurturer. Q wondered if that was why the most damaged people were the ones who fell for James the hardest, and why he fell right back. The damaged people just want to feel loved and protected for once, while James felt obligated to provide that for them. It was a sad balance, Q thought. James deserved to be loved for more than what he could give. Did those people who loved him in the past truly love him? Scars and all? Because James was damaged too. He also needed to be protected. Cared for. At least that’s what Q thought.

Q never really thought of himself as damaged. Lonely, perhaps, but not damaged. And he may not have much to offer in the way of brawn, but he knew that deep down he would die to keep James safe by whatever means he had. He deserved that much. Q only wished he could offer more, anything to let James know that he was valued as more than just an agent assigned to the mission. He wished for so many things. He knew now that he longed for James for more than just what he could offer in the ways of survival. He longed to hear him laugh at his poor jokes. To see him smile a real smile at something they shared. To let him live long enough to make it back to the only place James allowed to be called home. Q wanted to be the one to provide that. Anything to make James happy at the end of the world.

“You are thinking far too hard for someone who just woke up.”

If Q was anything besides a glob of bruised and exhausted goo, he may have startled at James sudden voice by his ear, but he managed to keep himself still to avoid another round of aches.

“Apologies, I didn’t wake you, did I?” he asked over his shoulder.

He heard the agent grunt as he slowly tried out moving his various muscles that no doubt ached as much as Q’s, “Not really. Your body went tense though. Thought you maybe were uncomfortable,” he murmured, sounding a little apologetic himself.

Q frowned wondering why until he felt James hips slowly pull back away from him. Q blushed as he realized that James knew he was fully aware of his hardness. He chose not the speak on it, taking the route that James no doubt had been doing for Q all the other mornings that he had woken last. While he wanted to say that he didn’t mind in the slightest, he kept his mouth shut by biting his lip.

“How’s the ankle?”

It almost seemed to throb in response to the question, having up until now been indiscernible from all the other pains. Q dutifully bared the pain though as he twitched it side to side and made a gentle turn, testing his range of motion. Each minor twitch was like an electric shock up to his knee, and the circle was enough to nearly bring tears to his eyes. Q’s breathing must have betrayed his pain because James’ hand came around to gently cup the side of his face.

“Alright, shhh, stop stop stop. Clearly, it’s still pretty bad. Let’s avoid moving it too much today, shall we?” he said, his thumb rubbing small comforting circles over his cheek.

Q groaned, “I’m guessing that means we’ll be moving it at least a bit anyway?”

James chuckled, the sound sending sparks down Q’s spine, “I’m afraid so. As much as I’d love to spend all day cuddled up with you in a real bed, we’ve got a few things to take care of.”

“Such as?”

Q’s stomach chose that moment to speak out in protest.

James laughed, dropping his hand down to rub at Q’s rumbling belly, “We need to find food for one. Water would be nice too. Perhaps take stock of what the base has in inventory. And I believe you were making noise about finding a radio to contact MI6? May even indulge ourselves in shaving off these itchy beards if we’re feeling particularly adventurous.”

Q pouted out his bottom lip, “Aww, and here I was starting to like your face sweater. Very distinguished, what with the bits of gray here and there,” he replied playfully, scratching his fingers against the rough stubble on James’ cheek.

“Watch it boy, or I’ll start in on those patchy kitten whiskers of yours.”


“Now that I think about it, I’m honestly not sure if this is actually more or less dignified than the bridal carry from before.”

James huffed loudly, pausing to hike Q up on his back again as he started to slip down. Piggyback had been Q’s own suggestion after he balked at James carrying him around like “some low blood pressured damsel”, and James had rolled his eyes while begrudgingly going along with it. Unfortunately, the chair they had used before was now soiled to the point of no return, and James flatly refused to let Q sit in it after they had just gotten themselves clean again.

“Would you prefer fireman’s carry?” he offered cheerily. He could feel Q’s sigh against his shoulder blades.

“No,” he intoned darkly, “That is just a nice way of saying that you’ll carry me around like a caveman claiming his mate. I’ll pass, ta.”

“Suit yourself,” James snarked back, but he was doing his best to quietly enjoy the feel of having Q wrapped around him like a spindly legged octopus. Normally, having someone behind him with their arms wrapped around his neck was a less than pleasant experience, but with Q it was gentle and sweet. The sleeves of the overlarge sweatshirt he insisted on wearing still covered far beyond his long fingers, flapping along as Q occasionally adjusted his grip. His face lingered somewhere to the left of James’ ear, his warm breaths puffing out against his neck pleasingly.

James didn’t want to focus too much on the feeling of those long, and coltish legs wrapped around his middle. Mostly because he didn’t want a repeat of this morning if he had made Q uncomfortable. It was a damned difficult task though. Especially since his own hands were gripped tightly on his lean thighs, feeling the tightly coiled muscles there.

Piggyback are not supposed to be arousing, James scolded himself mentally. It didn’t seem to stop him from enjoying the feel of warmth against his back however.

“There should be a communications room up ahead on the left,” Q said, his gentle voice caressing James’ ear as he spoke.

The room was to be one of their final stops for the day, already having covered most of the rest of the base. Their first stop after waking had been the showers, where James and Q showered again just to enjoy the novelty of being able to do it, and also to shave. It was thankfully less charged since Q was able to prop himself up against one of the sinks and could use his now steadied hands to take care of his own ablutions. James wasn’t sure how much more tension he could take before snapping and slamming his charge up against the wall and doing things that would certainly send HR into a tizzy if they knew.

After their shower and their brief argument on Q’s mode of transportation, they had hunted down the mess, going off of Q’s memory map of the facility that he’d memorized from the video cameras. Entering the kitchen and flicking on the lights, it was quickly determined that they would not be finding a battalion’s amount of food. Not with the rats that scurried away from all corners of the room. They would have eaten most, if not all of the fresh food laying about, Q had bemoaned.

“I honestly didn’t have much opinion on rats before the tunnels, but now I think it’s safe to say that I hate the little buggers,” he said as he eyed the obviously chewed upon packages around the room.

They also knew that, even though the refrigerators hummed happily now that their power had been restored, the contents would be beyond any condition that even the rats would consider. They had decided to not even bother opening the doors, sparing themselves the expected stench. There were still ingredients left around in the pantry that if cooked thoroughly, James would feel safe feeding to Q. Not many, but enough for pasta and canned sauce. Still, if there was anything bound to survive the plague of rats, it would be MRE’s. And they did find shelves of the things lining a nearby storage room.

As much as James loathed the things from his days in the Navy, they were nutritious, filling and plentiful. If one could choke them down. At least James knew which meals were less offensive than others and could prevent them from turning their stomachs off of food completely.

He pulled several pouches down from the shelves and handed them to Q who looked at them with a bland expression.

“Mac and cheese. Chili. Spaghetti and meatballs…this is our breakfast?”

“If you don’t want to taste actual death, yes, it is. Also, we slept through the day and it’s almost sundown. Technically, this is dinner,” James snarked back, pulling down a lasagna for himself and a couple water bottles.

Q had wrinkled his nose but kept the mac and cheese pouch in hand as they went back into the mess to eat.

After their shared and begrudgingly consumed meal, Q had hopped up on James back again as they set off to continue their exploration. They had found the barracks, taking note to raid the lockers and clothing chests at a later time for useful items and better fitting clothes, before they moved on to the small infirmary.

They were both pleased to find it decently stocked and seemingly untouched by any Infected. They paused there for a bit while Q pulled out some antibiotics for the two of them to knock back with the remnants of their water from the morning. He placed the meds into a small med bag he found tucked away in a drawer for them to take over the next few days to hopefully avoid any infections from their wounds or from being out in the cold so long. While he had been gathering those, James had already pulled out pain killers and a new roll of bandages, ready to corner his impatient Quartermaster before he walked off.

Carefully, James had lifted Q onto the exam table before slowly unwrapping the ankle. It looked more awful the more fabric he lifted away. It was terribly swollen still and had a large purple streak along the tendon of his leg. Still, James agreed with his fist assessment. Nothing broken, just a very bad sprain. From his experience, injuries like this could take a few weeks to heal even with rest. And it would need to be kept supported for a while after to rebuild strength.

He said as much to Q as he applied a soothing lotion and re-wrapped his leg, noting the way that his sharp shoulders dropped when he was told that he would be off his feet for a while yet.

“I’m sorry, James,” he had said sadly, “I know you wanted to hurry to Spain, and now we’ll be delayed.”

James looked back up at him upset, “This is hardly your fault, Oliver. I should have taken better care of you. Alec can wait, he can take care of himself a while longer. I need you to just rest now and get better.”

“You shouldn’t have to take better care of me. I want to be able to care for myself, like Alec or you. You shouldn’t have to bear everything yourself,” Q snapped back bitterly, although it was obvious that the bitterness lay inward rather than at James.

James sighed, reaching out to gently rub his knuckles up and down the skin of Q’s cheek, smooth after having shaved earlier, “For you, Q. I’d gladly bear everything if it means you’re safe and unharmed.”

He had expected his words to comfort Q at least a little, but instead he looked even more disgusted with himself. James decided to let it drop for now, filing away a note to himself to figure out later why Q was so distraught.

They’d found many more rooms after that. Offices with nothing useful. They found an armory that while plentiful with weapons and ammunition, left a sort of bitter taste in his mouth when he realized that they were simple standard issue and held none of the personal touches that he’d come to rely on in his weapons from Q Branch.

Q had seemed to notice his grimace though and made a soft promise to do what he could to ‘make something nice and pretty for you’. James knew that he could make good on his promise. Especially when the Quartermaster enthusiastically lifted up a crossbow that he’d like a young boy getting exactly what he wanted for his Christmas present. Oh yes, James knew he’d have a Q-approved weapon back in his hands soon enough.

They didn’t expect to encounter any Infected anywhere in the base, but they still pulled out a handgun and holster for both of them to wear. Better safe than very sorry.

The armory had perhaps been James favorite find of the day, but for Q it had been the warehouse. All modes of vehicle, short of a plane or helicopter, were present and accounted for in there. All sorts of tools and bolts lined the walls that had Q practically salivating. As close to a tinkerer’s dream as he could get outside of his own Branch.

“This will do quite nicely. I’ll be able to craft you whatever you need in here,” he said, a bright smile forming on his cherry lips that hit James like a punch to the gut.

If it weren’t for Q already being plastered to his back, he probably would have had to drag him out of the warehouse. They still had at least one more stop for the day before James would insist one getting Q back to bed to rest his ankle.

And now, here they were.

James stood outside of the door marked “Communications Office”, Q still clinging to his back, as he stared ahead. It had been weeks since they had last talked to Mallory and MI6. So much had changed since then. So much had happened since then. Flashes of the town he’d raided streaked across his brain, reminding him of just how much destruction had already happened in such a short time. Hell, even the base that they now stood in was its own testimony as to how bad things had gotten.

Desolate. Empty. Lifeless.

Dead.

Like he’d told Q before, he and Alec had chosen to meet up if the world ended. In James’ heart, he knew it to be true. This was as close to the end of the world as they had ever seen before. What made James think that London would be untouched? That they even had a home to go to after this?

“Are you worried that no one will answer?”

Q’s voice in his ear pulled him from his thoughts like a hand pulling him out of a raging river.

James sucked in a sharp breath, “That. And if someone does, I fear what they will have to say,” he admits softly.

Q’s arms around his shoulders tighten their hold, “Me too,” he whispers as if in a confessional.

The silence hung heavy around them like a cold blanket. The only thing that made James feel even a bit of comfort was the warmth pressed against him. It gave him the strength to eventually, after minutes had passed, to move forward to open the door.

The room may have been rather anticlimactic in its appearance. It held all the normal things a comm room would hold, computer, microphone, a few headsets, and a dashboard of all sorts of blinking lights that James knew nothing about. He didn’t need to worry himself over those buttons though. As he carefully slid Q off of his shoulders and into the waiting chair, the Quartermaster was already flipping switches and typing things like he’d worked in this room every day of his life before this.

James smirked to himself as he stepped back to let Q work his magic, marveling at how lucky he was to have the younger man with him. Q was a force of his own, a comforting and reliable feel to his presence as James’ beloved Walther. Whatever brawn that Q lacked, James still felt safe in his presence. Like having Q in his ear during missions having made him feel watched over. A guardian angel of sorts, if angels wore colorful cardigans and sported hair that would make a poodle jealous. He still got that same feeling of protection even now, with Q doing amazing things to arm them and get them to whatever home may be still there.

He was a comfort for his frazzled senses as well. Something soft and sweet among a world that had become hard and bleak. If James were honest with himself, he knew that Q was like that even before the Infected took over the world. Terrorists, bombs, betrayal, arms dealers, bio weapons. James’ world had been plenty bleak before all this. All except for those few hours spent underground talking with an enthusiastic and brilliant young man who’s smile made it all seem worth it.

“Okay, I’ve got us set up on the right radio channel. Lines are open both ways…all that’s left is calling out,” Q said, turning his head to look up at James. His green eyes were large, worried and far too young in that moment. James too felt like a child then, scared of learning truths about the world.

James moved back over to where Q sat, a laid a steady hand on his shoulder, “Do it,” he said softly, speaking with more confidence than he felt.

Q shivered under his touch as he nodded sharply, pulling the mic closer to his face, “Okay. Just a warning though, it may take a while to hear a response. You know if…if they’re too busy to be sitting there next to a radio.”

James nodded, but didn’t say anything. They both knew that if enough people had survived and were still at HQ, there would always be someone to answer at any time. For the life of him though, James wasn’t sure if his words were because Q was being a realist, pessimist, or an optimist.

He felt Q square his shoulders under his touch as he pressed down on the little red button at the base, “Hello, this is 007 and Quartermaster, reaching out to HQ. Are you there, HQ? Please come in. Over.”

Both of them held their breath as they waited, only the quiet sounds of static coming back to them. Despite the chill of the facility, James felt beads of sweat starting to make their way down his spine as the silence went on. He strained his ears to pick up any sounds from the radio, but all he heard in the room were their breaths, the sound of static, and the worrying of Q’s thumb as it rubbed against the metal of the mic frantically.

Q cleared his throat, “Hello, this is 007 and Quartermaster, reaching out to HQ. Are you there, HQ? Please come in. This is 007 and the Quartermaster. Over.”

Nothing.

James could feel the dread growing between the two of them, like a toxic fume that was slowly filling the room, choking them, removing the life from their bodies and souls. Each passing moment of radio silence felt like another whole level of aloneness that the two of them had felt since passing by the first abandoned town.

Q let out a shaky breath, pressing down harshly against the red button again, “Hello, this is 007 and Quartermaster, reaching out to HQ. Are you there, HQ? Please come in. Please---” he said, his voice cracking on the last word as the emotion broke through.

James was feeling like his world was narrowing down to a tiny pinprick of life left, the young man trembling under his hand next to him. His knees felt more tired and weak than they ever had before, and he let himself slowly lower himself down to the floor. Kneeling at Q’s side, he began to rub one hand up and down Q’s back, gentling both of them as he rest his head against one shaking arm.

The static continued.

He heard a soft, wet sounding sniff from above him and knew that Q was trying to hold back tears.

James didn’t bother asking if Q was sure it was the right channel, or that nothing was broken. They both knew that Q had already considered all possibilities for error before even placing his first message. It would do nothing but annoy him if he was questioned now.

“Hello, this is 007 and Quartermaster, reaching out to HQ. Are---are you there? We—”

“Quartermaster, is that you?”

Q cried out in relief, one hand shooting out to grab the mic back up while the other snagged onto James hand like a lifeline, “Yes! Yes, we’re here! R, is that you?”

“Bloody fuck, Q! We were worried you both were dead, it’s been weeks! Are you alright? We—”

Another voice broke in, “Sitrep, now,” came M’s stern voice, but James could clearly hear the relief mixed in there.

James leaned in closer, “Location on Italian border, holed up in a secure place after an encounter with…hostiles. Q sustained an injury to his ankle that will take some time to heal before we can set out again. For now, though, we are safe and have all that we could possibly need.”

“Glad to hear it.”

“Sir, what has happened? Every town we’ve passed is nearly or completely wiped out. Is that just Italy?” Q asked.

“No, it’s every country. Governments, military, society…it’s all falling apart everywhere. Everything we put in place to combat the spread has crumbled. We’re doing our best here to save as many civilians as possible, but London became a hotspot quickly, as did most large cities. MI5 has been tasked with helping those who have survived find safe housing. We have been given the task of protecting what’s left until someone finds a cure, or a vaccine, or this finally flames out. If you’re in Italy, we should expect you here within three weeks at the outside. Perhaps two if you can avoid trouble. France can be easy to get through if you know where the population is thin.”

James grunted, not wanting to get into their travel plans just then. Not with Alec to think of. “How much of ‘6 is left?”

M’s voice was grim, “Not as much as we’d hoped. Too many wanted to go home to find their families, and they never came back. We’re down to several dozen, but all agents have been called home, so we’re holding out hope they’ll beat the odds and make it back. So far, we’ve heard from at least ten of them, all making slow progress, but headed home. Still, that leaves about fifty more unaccounted for.”

James tensed up, “What about 006? Any word from him?”

“Trevelyan? He was on mission in Serbia and had quite the distance to travel. He was one of the ones who managed to reach out, however. Said he had a pit stop to make on the way home, whatever that means.”

James barked out a laugh. Alec was already headed to their rendezvous. He was making good on a drunken promise, just like him. Good old Alec.

“007, your mission has not changed. We still need the Quartermaster back here desperately. Keep him safe and see him home. Both of you.”

“Of course, sir,” James said.

“Is there anything else we can help you with right now? We’d love to have you stay on the channel for longer, but we need to keep it open for any other agents who need to check in,” came R’s quiet voice.

“Um, sir?” Q said, speaking up for the first time in a few minutes. He looked nervous, shooting guilty looks over at the agent as he readied himself to speak again. James thought he may have been about to inform M that they would not be taking the expeditious route back to London, no doubt sending their boss into an angered frenzy, but instead Q pushed his glasses up his nose and asked, “I know this isn’t entirely important, but can I ask how my cats are?”

There was a momentary silence after his question that had him tensing up in James arms before R’s voice crackled through again, “Oh, don’t you worry, Q! They miss you terribly, but they are having a marvelous time down here in the Branch. Completely spoiled by all of us left, and perhaps a bit too well fed on all the mice they’ve been catching for us. If they are a bit too round by the time you get home, we may have to put them on a diet. They spend most nights sleeping in your office. I think it must still smell a bit like you. Hurry back so they can have the real thing, yeah?”

Q nodded, the tears from before making another attempt to fall from his shimmering eyes, “Yeah. Yeah, we’ll do that. We’ll try to check in a few more times while we’re here recovering. Fight the good fight and keep the candles burning until we’re back.”

“Of course, Quartermaster. God speed.”

The radio let out one last click, and Q reached forward to start shutting down the systems. The room silent once more. As the last switch was flicked, Q fell back heavily in his chair, staring blankly ahead as the wells continued to fill in his eyes. James looked down to where their hands were still clenched tightly to each other. The slight hand that he held shook and James didn’t even have time to process that before Q launched himself off the chair and into his chest, a loud sob erupting from him.

James didn’t hesitate to wrap his arms around him, whispering soft and comforting words that he didn’t even realize were coming from his mouth as he spoke them into Q’s ears. The soft curls of his hair tickling at his nose. Q’s cries were coming out in gasping keens that tore at James’ heart.

“Fuck, I thought they were gone for a moment there,” Q choked out, his hands fisting into James’ coat. He sounded so heartbroken, that James couldn’t stop himself from pressing his lips against the cool skin of Q’s forehead in shared empathy. It wasn’t until he tasted the salt on his lips that James realized that he too was crying. The brief moment when home felt like it could have been truly lost had been too much for both of them it seemed. Seemingly comforted by the small kiss, Q started to burrow in closer until he was almost completely seated in James lap, head tucked down low against his folded knees as if becoming a human ball was all he desired at that moment. It made James pull him in tighter, whispering words in between more soft and chaste kisses wherever his lips touched.

“Shh, shh. It’s alright now. Home is still there. It’s still there, Olive. I’m going to get you home. I promise.”


No one’s stomach was ever up for food after emotional outbursts such as their own, but James had insisted that he eat something before they prepared for sleep that night.

Q wasn’t entirely sure what it was in the foil packet that James had set in front of him, but he couldn’t really taste much anyway as he slowly picked away at the unappetizing mush. The gears in his mind were in full steam, even if on the outside he was sure he looked like an exhausted, red eyed and empty husk after their comms ordeal.

Truthfully, now that Q had been able to hear from HQ and process the call, he felt better than he had since this all began. Hope born anew, and all that. He was perhaps a little embarrassed at his loss of control back there in the comm room, flinging himself at James like a scared child, but after they had pulled apart Q had seen the tear streaks on the agents face and knew that they had both been affected by the call more deeply than they had anticipated.

And now here he was in full process mode. If he were truly a computer, his cooling fan would have been working overtime by now as it vainly tried to keep himself from melting away. He was allowing %25 of his processing abilities to focus on how it felt wrapped in James’ arms, to feel his soft kisses on his skin and hair, but only because he was sure if he tried to ignore it completely he’d combust.

The other %75 though…

“What’s got you distracted enough that you keep missing the plate with your fork?”

Q snapped back to momentary reality and realize that he had indeed been poking at the bare mess hall table with his fork, a good five inches away from his scarcely consumed meal.

“Ah…”he muttered embarrassed, “I suppose I’m thinking on a lot of things,” he admitted.

“About the call?” James asked.

Q nodded, “Yes. Um, I think you might have noticed that I didn’t mention our planned detour, right?”

James stopped eating, and looked over at him, “I did. Was wondering if you planned to tell them on one of our later check ins instead.”

Q snorted, “Hardly. I don’t think either of our hearing would survive the thrashing M would give us if we told him.”

“He’s bound to realize something when it takes us several weeks longer to get home.”

“Ah, but I think I may have a way around that.”

James raised his brow in pleased surprise, “Q. I didn’t know you had it in you to go off script.”

Q preened under James smile, “Well, it’s my job to see that you have every tool you need to get the job done efficiently. And in this case, I think a car may be just what you need.”

“But, we we’ve been on foot this whole time because—”

“Because the countries were putting up roadblocks and military barriers. Didn’t you hear M? Those have fallen apart. We can drive!”

James looked doubtful, “Somehow I don’t think a basic car will be enough to protect us on open roads, Q. There will be more infected, looters, gangs…”

Q smirked, “Well, then it’s a good thing I don’t plan on us taking a basic car.”

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 04

*Static*

 

 

The remainder of that night had been spent with James pestering Q up and down about what his “plans” were. Everything from whether or not the car would have fire cannons to a heated steering wheel. No amount of prodding or begging from James was able to pull any information from Q besides that it would in fact have four wheels. The agent had been less than amused at Q’s dry confession.

In all honesty, Q was still working out the details himself as he only had the basics worked out so far. But even those basics may change a bit once he got his hands on the actual vehicle. He’d only had a few minutes in the warehouse before James had pulled him away, so he was going off of only a cursory visual inspection. He’d tell James this, but…it was far to entertaining to watch him beg like that. Like an innocent child asking what the surprise is. And while perhaps Q was a little bit of a bastard for holding back, this may have been his own petty revenge for all the times that James had stolen or broken equipment in the past.

It was endearing to see him so focused on something other than survival for a few hours, even pausing with his mouth still full of toothpaste foam to ask if it would at least have four-wheel drive. Q merely hummed in thought before asking James to pass him his sweatshirt, completely ignoring his pouted face.

The friendly needling continued through their shower, and right up until they made their way back to their bedroom, Q this time being carried back in the bridal style. He put up a bit of a fuss at that, as he was expected to, all the while secretly enjoying the feel of being held like this by someone who he was almost certain he was falling for, if he hadn’t already months ago the first time he had come to talk blueprints back in his lab.

Entering the room, James gently placed Q down on the bed and stepped back looking thoughtfully around the room.

Is he thinking about moving to another room now? Perhaps where to move the new bed?

“Q, I’m—I’m not sure I’m quite comfortable leaving you alone at night, despite the base being cleared out,” he said, scratching the back of his skull while still gazing around the room.

Q felt himself go giddy, but kept his face as neutral as he could manage, “Oh? Well, that’s fine.”

“And I don’t think bringing a second bed into this room is a good idea. Too crowded, would make it hard to maneuver if anyone tried to break in,” he said, eyes still looking anywhere but at Q.

“Ah, can’t be helped then,” Q replied, biting his cheek to keep from smiling. The room looked plenty big to Q, and they could easily rearrange the furniture to make it work, but he wouldn’t point that out. Not when he was loath to be left alone in a bed after all this time, "We're used to sharing at this point I believe."

James nodded, finally letting his eyes fall back on Q, namely his ankle.

“I should take a look at that before we go to bed,” he said, already kneeling down on the floor and motioning for Q to lift up his leg. Q sighed, but obeyed, knowing that James wouldn’t let either of them relax until the deed had been done. He let those thick and calloused fingers begin their inspection as he tried his best to ignore the warmth pooling in his belly that he got every time that James got so close to him.

It was getting a bit late, but they had both slept the day away and had only really been awake for about six hours. James insisted they get back onto their normal sleep schedule though, saying that it would serve them best when they got back out on the road. And that the more Q slept, the faster he would heal. Q was perhaps a bit tired, but not sleepy. The kind of tired where one found themselves lazily watching telly for several hours on the couch. Still James wanted them to sleep, and he wasn’t about to turn down a warm and occupied bed, no matter how much his hands itched to get dirtied up in his new car plans.

“As much as I am thrilled to have a real bed again, I can’t help but miss seeing the stars,” Q said suddenly, surprising even himself, “Having lived in the city, I thought I’d be sick of seeing them after roughing it the last few weeks, but of all the things we’ve had to adjust to, those were a welcomed sight.”

James probing fingers stilled for a moment, the agents eyes suddenly glossing over like they had traveled miles away, “I missed them when I first moved to London,” he muttered, almost seeming like he wasn’t trying to say it out loud.

Q’s mind thought back to Skyfall and the large expanse of gorgeous and haunted lands. The stars had probably been stunning there. A cherished childhood memory among so many tarnished ones. He wondered if seeing the stars each night since they’d been on their shared journey were a rare bright spot for him as well. He didn’t get a chance to ask before James was carefully lowering his ankle down and shifting away.

“Still quite swollen, but that’s to be expected for another day at least. Just don’t try to walk around on your own. Wake me if you have to get up for anything.”

Q sighed, but nodded, “How’s your head?”

The agent shrugged, sitting down on the bed as Q scooted over to his own side, “Pain killers are taking care of the worst. Otherwise I’m fine.”

“Is that the agent definition of fine, or the normal human one? Asking for clarity's sake.”

A deep chuckle erupted from James’ chest as he flopped down against the pillows, “Let’s say it’s between an agent’s ‘it’s just a scratch’ and a normal human’s ‘where’s the good stuff’.”

“I see.”

As the light clicked off, they both lay back on the bed and let their breathing begin to soften. Q could never manage to sleep on his back comfortably, so he had carefully turned on his side, having to face James’ side of the bed so he didn’t aggravate his ankle. Even through the dark, Q could make out the ripples and ridges of the agent’s perfectly carved body, idly listing off the scientific names of the muscles in his head as he let his eyes travel down from neck to waist where the blankets obscured his view of anything else. James was staring up at the ceiling, his profile shadowed completely except for the occasional glint of his blue eyes as they moved. Q couldn’t help but wonder if James was comfortable with sharing a bed with Q, or if he was simply doing it out of obligation to keep him safe.

He did feel safe at least. And cared for.

He just hoped that James felt that way too. His eyes staring at the ceiling made Q wonder if he was wrong though. After all, what could Q possibly provide for someone as incredible as James?


At least a few hours must have passed since he began his attempt to fall asleep, and Q had gotten nowhere close to falling back into oblivion. He tried staying as still as possible, knowing even the smallest movement was likely to wake the man sleeping next to him, but it was becoming damned difficult. If he were alone, he’d already have tossed and turned a hundred times, the blanket probably tangled or pushed to the floor until he finally gave in to what he knew he needed.

Fuck.

Literally.

Now that they were in a relatively safe place, and Q had the freedom to think on things beyond ‘is there something behind that bush that might kill me’, he had gone and turned his thoughts to the man who was like a walking wet dream. Only Q wasn’t asleep. But he was as hard as steel though.

Q was horrified to think that facing James like this, he’d fall asleep and probably end up humping the confused agent sometime in the night. They had become so close, Q would hate to ruin that by making him uncomfortable. Or worse, making it so James decided to no longer share a room with him, let alone a bed.

Shit.

Resigned, Q began the slow and careful process of turning onto his other side, his ankle be damned. Slowly he began to turn, cautious that no part of him accidentally bumped into James as he moved to face the wall. He was almost there, his shoulder tucked down, his torso facing the other way, all that was left was moving his damned legs and feet.

“Ah!” he cried out, his bad ankle getting caught in the folds of the blankets as he turned, causing a sharp pain to shoot through his leg.

“Oliver? Are you alright?” came the sudden and worried voice.

Q groaned, but not necessarily in pain, just because he had failed in avoiding detection.

“Sorry, I’m fine. Just caught my leg while trying to turn over.”

“Sleeping on that side will put too much pressure on your ankle,” James pointed out. Q could feel him move in the sheet beside him, turning until they were almost spooning. It made him feel even more aroused, despite his now throbbing ankle. He cursed himself mentally in several languages.

“It’s fine. I’m fine.”

“Is that stubborn Quartermaster ‘fine’, or normal human fine?”

Q didn’t answer, the frustration building at James’ honest concern for him. Did he have to be so perfect and doting? It was doing nothing to help him calm down. At this rate he’d never sleep again unless he was able to perhaps find some alone time to shower. Even then, sharing a bed with James had become some sort of sweet torture he wasn’t sure he could give up.

“Oliver?”

“I told you, I’m fine. Go back to sleep, I’m sorry I woke you.”

He felt as much as heard James sigh against his back where the agent was slowly moving closer. Q was at a loss to whether he wanted him to move those last inches over to finally touch him, or for James to just turn over and fall asleep to leave Q alone with his misery.

“Oliver…I would have hoped that after all this time, and everything we’ve been through, we’d be comfortable telling one another when something was bothering us.”

Q huffed in disbelief, “Aren’t all British men allergic to talks about emotion? I’m sure Moneypenny has given you that lecture at least once. Usually she ends it with, ‘I carry around an Epi pen with me at all times in case one of you testosterone ridden morons decides to admit you cry when watching the animal adoption commercials’.”

“So, it is something emotional?”

Q turned his head sharply to glare over his shoulder, “Don’t you use your double speak spy interrogation tricks on me.”

He saw James raise one shadowed hand in surrender, “Apologies, I’ve just been here listening to you struggle to sleep for hours and thought that maybe you needed help with something.”

Q swallowed hard, “You…you’ve been awake this whole time?”

“Unfortunately. And not just because of you. I’m just more tense than I realized.”

“Are you worried we’re not safe?” Q asked, eyes going wide in the dark as he searched the shadows for any looming threat.

James shushed him, one of his hands falling onto the dip between Q’s hip and torso, “We’re safe. I promise.”

Q shivered under the touch. There was no doubt that James felt that.

“Oliver?”

Q growled, burying his face into the pillow in shame, “I’m fine, I’m just really fucking horny right now, so please just go back to sleep,” he cried out.

It may have been a bit muffled by the pillow, but there was no doubt that James had heard him. Especially when the agent started to chuckle behind him. Q’s head shot up from his pillow as he huffed in indignation.

“Well, fuck you very much! Not all of us were getting laid regularly before all this, and it’s not like I’ve had a moment to myself since this mess started to…take care of things. It’s not like my libido is aware that there is a fucking apocalypse going on,” he spat out, his face aflame with embarrassment.

James’ hand started to rub up and down his side in a soothing manner, “I’m not laughing at you, Olive. I’m just…well, I’m suffering from the same condition let’s say. Having a lovely young thing such as yourself in my bed the last few weeks and not having been able to touch…well, it’s done a number on me it seems.”

Q froze, “Oh? Oh!” he choked out, “Sorry! Do you need a minute alone then? I can, um, go shower for a bit. Or I can guard the door while you, um, shower.”

James hand paused its motions as he seemed to think it over. The brief moment of silence was enough time for Q to turn several new shades of red he was sure, as he thought about what it would be like to stand outside a door knowing what James was doing on the other side.

“Olive…”

“Must you call me that?” Q sighed.

“I must. Now, Olive…you trust me with your life, right?”

Q’s brows shot up, “Of course I do,” he answered without hesitation, “What does that have to do with anything?”

James paused again, as if searching the dark for the words he needed. The longer he took, the more Q’s heart seemed to race. Q was no idiot, he had an inkling, paired with a bit of a wish, as to what James was trying to ask, Q just couldn’t dare to speak it out loud himself in fear of being devastatingly wrong. The hand on his waist felt like it was burning a hole in his skin with the way the heat was building between them. As much as Q wanted to turn over to see James face, to read any minutia of expression, he stayed firmly in place facing the wall where his own face remained hidden.

“We don’t have to, you can say no and we’ll never speak of it again if you wish, but I’m just…If you trust me with your life, then surely you can trust me with something like this?” he said as his fingers began to gradually trace their way down from his waist and down further to where a bit of skin was exposed between the elastic of his pants and the top of his shirt, stopping right before they threatened to move aside the fabric.

Q let out a shaky breath, “You mean, if I can trust you with my life, I can surely trust you with my cock?”

He felt James body shiver behind him with delight at the words. It made Q nearly breathless with desire, incredulous that the great James Bond wanted him in such a way.

“Exactly,” James purred in his ear.

The answer was yes, of course. Q didn’t think he was physically capable of answering anything else.

But can I trust you with my heart…

That, Q was unsure of, but James wasn’t proposing a relationship right now. This was tension release, and Q would be a fool to think of it as anything but that. His mind was made up though.

Q shifted his hips back, rolling them slowly against James, “Please,” he whispered, feeling James’ length, hard and hot against his arse. Christ, had James been hard this whole time as well?

He heard James make a noise that was halfway between a groan and a growl in response. It was all the consent either of them needed before they started to let themselves go.

It felt like James hands had suddenly taken on a life of their own, moving about enthusiastically over his body like two dogs that had been finally let off their lead. The room was cold, so rather than remove is shirt, James simply slipped his hand beneath, his fingers roaming over the soft and smooth skin there and driving Q mad when they brushed over a nipple.

James other hand that had been teasing along the elastic of his pants was now cupping the fabric over his straining cock, making Q cry out in pleasure that had been denied him far too long. He could feel James everywhere, his lips on his neck, his chest pressed against his back, their hips joined between them. Q couldn’t believe how good it felt as they rocked together.

There were no condoms or lube in the room, so they both knew without saying that this would have some limits to their intimacy. Perhaps that was for the best though, as Q was unsure if his heart could have handled being joined to James like that if it was for one time only.

James was rutting freely against his arse now, sending waves of need through Q as he wondered just what it would feel like to enjoy the real thing. As it was, this was already so perfect that Q found himself unable to hold back his moans that quickly turned into desperate whimpers as James’ hand finally delved past his pants and took hold of his naked cock.

“Ah, fuck, James!” he cried as he felt his thumb swirl over the tip. He knew he must already be leaking precum based on how smooth it felt as James hand became lubricated with it.

Q was near panting as he threw one hand back behind him to cup the back of James’ head from where it was tucked against Q’s neck, seemingly unwilling to move his clever lips away from the skin there.

“That’s it, Olive. You’re so beautiful like this.”

The unexpected words made Q keen loudly as the pace started to pick up between them. He knew somewhere in the back of his mind that James was still fully clothed behind him, and that his own pants were still in place. Rutting against so much fabric must have been starting to hurt a bit from the friction, Q thought. His hand momentarily dropped from where it was on James’ head down to where he could start pushing down against the clothing on them until both of them were bare down to their knees.

“Fuck,” James growled out as his cock finally was able to freely move between Q’s arse, the pace of his hips and hand picking up even more.

Q threw his hand back up to where it clung to James’ head, partly for stability, and partly because he just needed to touch James too. He was getting close, he was feeling that desperate pressure building. He was loath for it to already almost be over, but it felt too good to stop.

“Shit, James. I’m close,” he said breathlessly.

“It’s alright, I’ve got you,” he heard James whisper back.

James hand felt enormous on his cock, his thick fingers working wonderfully tight around him. Q couldn’t believe how good it felt. He was so distracted by his own pleasure that he didn’t even notice when James other hand had stopped toying with his chest until suddenly his balls were being cupped and rolled by it.

Q wailed at the sudden sensation, the pleasure finally reaching its crest as he came hard on the sheets in front of him. Still floating in his hazy sea of ecstasy, he felt James begin to wildly buck against him, panting harshly against his neck enough to make the curls there flutter about against his ear.

Q’s mind was still deeply muffled, floating happily in his pool of endorphins and oxytocin, loving the feel of James using him for his own pleasure. He didn’t even realize when his lips parted, and he moaned out the agent’s name. That was seemingly all it took for James to reach completion, his seed splashing in warm spurts against Q’s arse and back.

Together they lay for a moment as they caught their breath and their hearts slowed down as contentment set in. The chaos that had plagued Q’s mind earlier was silent, beaten down into submission by one sucker punch of an orgasm. Eventually he felt James moving around behind him, wiping Q down with a spare shirt they had lying around. Q hardly paid it any mind, pleased to begin finally drifting off a bit.

“Oliver, you still need to turn over. Your ankle…”

There was a vague haze of negative thought of having to face James in all his post-sex perfection, and getting too attached to the man, but it faded away quickly when he felt those strong hands on him once more, helping him to carefully turn around again to face the other way.

Half asleep as he was, Q didn’t even notice that his head was pillowed on a warm and sturdy chest, rather than his cool and squishy pillow. He felt safe, and warm, and…loved.

Now isn’t that a dangerous thought.

He’d worry about it in the morning.

Chapter Text

Radio Channels

*static*

 

Things could have been more awkward. That’s what Q kept telling himself anyway. Things could have been a lot worse too, and at least Q didn’t have to convince himself of that truth. They could have easily woken up the next morning, James bitter and disgusted, wondering what kind of sleep deprivational influence had befallen him to do such things with Q of all people. He could have woken up to an empty bed, abandoned with his own torturous thoughts. He could have even woken up to find it all a very realistic dream, something that Q was beginning to wonder if that was the worst scenario of all.

All things considered, waking up to James gently shaking his shoulder telling him it was time for breakfast wasn’t the worst that could have happened. It could have even been pleasant, if not for James being unable to look him in the eye as they ate their dehydrated and rehydrated scrambled eggs across the table from one another.

There was no awkward silence at least.

There was some awkward conversation though. If Q were being honest with himself, he was the one who started it by asking what James’ plans were for the day. In his own defense, he’d asked that question almost every morning since they began this journey together. Now it just sounded like he was prodding for a date almost, or at least that’s what it sounded like to Q once he’d asked.

At least James hadn’t seemed put off by the question, mumbling something about loading up at the armory and then shooting the remaining Infected outside with a sniper rifle.

“That sounds vaguely therapeutic and mentally damaging at the same time,” Q mused.

James shrugged, taking another bite, “Some say sanity is in part a matter of balance. I prefer just not to have them wandering about our new yard. What will the neighbors think? And where will you be?” he asked, still not looking up at Q.

“Ah, I’ll be in the warehouse trying to sort out our transportation. I want to take a look at what I’ve got to work with and start on some blueprints as soon as possible. I’m hoping there won’t need to be many major modifications, but if there are, I want to identify them now.”

James finally looked up at his face for the first time that morning, “You’ll take it easy in there, right? I’ll find you a crutch or a wheeled office chair, but you aren’t to be using that foot for two weeks at least.”

Q rolled his eyes, ignoring the flutter in his belly as James expression almost looked like one of genuine concern, “Yes, mummy.”

“And you will stop and eat the lunch I’ve put aside for you.”

“Mhm.”

“And I will come and get you before dinner and then you will rest. There will be no pulling all-nighters when we are in a safe place for once. And—”

“And what?” Q growled, tossing down his fork, “I promise to eat all my veg and not talk to strangers on the tube. Is that all?”

“And I want you to tell me if you need help. You can’t lift heavy things right now, Q.”

It was logical, and he almost felt bad for snapping, but he couldn’t seem to focus on much beyond James calling him Q, when last night it had been Oliver. He’d never been much of a fan of his name, but hearing it whispered so intimately after so long had been more jarring that he initially thought.

Then silence fell between them, and somehow that felt even worse than the conversation. After all this time, things had never been strained or difficult between the two of them. Ever since they met in the gallery it had been that way. Talking with James had been easy, the topics and words flowing smoothly between them. Laughs were always real and frequent. Smiles even more so. Even facing death at every corner had been easy with James beside him. Well, not easy, but if he had to choose anyone to be at his side during the end of the world, he would have chosen James every time. And not just because of his talents, but because he couldn’t imagine being as comfortable with anyone else.

Had Q ruined things between them by giving in to his own weaknesses?


After they had finished their meal, James had tenderly picked him up again, cradling him against his chest as he walked them towards the warehouse. It felt so lovely to be held by him again, as if last night had meant something to both of them.

As promised, he found Q an office chair that he could roll around in and gently placed him down in it, before he turned and began surveying the large room for threats. It could have easily hidden a body or two, so Q appreciated James dedication to his mission of keeping him safe. It was only after James had left to begin his hunt on the roof that Q let his mind fall upon the worried realization that he may have ruined their friendship by taking advantage of James’ dedication.

Q solemnly rolled his way over to the wall that had several vehicles lines up, choosing the one that had caught his eye the day before, and lifted the hood as he started to dig around the engine. It looked to have the power that they would need, but not the efficiency. After all, they had a long way to go. He’d have to do something about that. Slowly, he began to remove the bits that he’d have to work on, his mind moving far faster than his hands.

Perhaps Q had taken advantage of James, despite the agent being the one to offer. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time that James had offered to do such things in the name of Queen and Country. Maybe he was going above and beyond in his duty to keep Q happy and healthy. He couldn’t sleep after all, and that was a health thing if all the lectures medical had given him were true. He felt mildly nauseated at the thought of using James in such a way. Despite what MI6 thought of him, Q felt he was a friend, not a tool. If it was Q’s fault then, how did he go about fixing this?

He’d have to apologize, of course. Explain that he never intended to force James into such an awkward position, that he never wanted to use him for his own needs. But then, if Q admitted he hadn’t been using James, wouldn’t that imply that he was doing it for more emotional reasons? That he’d been so damned happy that James was showing interest in him that he never stopped to think that sharing that moment had been anything other than mutual lust.

“Fuck. I’m going to make it worse, aren’t I?”

If the storied he heard were true, then James Bond did not do love anymore. Not after being so brutally betrayed so long ago back in Venice. He wouldn’t want to hear that Q had feelings for him but was that any worse than letting James think that Q was capable of using the agent like…like that.

With a loud groan, Q shook his head and dug his hands back into the engine where they had paused. No matter what, Q owed James an apology if only so that they may be able to get back to where they were before. They had a long way to go before they reached home, and Q would be damned if they spent it dancing around the subject.


Oliver was right. This was a bit therapeutic in its own way.

He pulled the trigger, and another of the Infected fell to the ground, like a puppet with its strings cut.

It was mid-morning, the sun pleasantly coming out over the tops of the trees on the hill that he and Q had fallen down a few nights ago. The chill had finally lifted enough that he no longer saw wisps of his own breath as he breathed slowly between shots. With the dip in temperature, the rise of odor followed as the Infected continue to rot away around them. So much death around him. Felt like old times.

That may have been the only reason that this wasn’t as mentally disturbing a chore as Q had thought it might have been. He wasn’t killing, per se. These things were dead, and there was no hope of revival. They melted away like any other body before, they just did it in a much more lively and disturbing way. They all had about a few weeks of life in them before their remnants of their bodies could no longer support movement. If anything, ending their unlife early was a mercy, the dead finally at rest where they should be. And with the cold coming in more bitter and longer than before as they moved into autumn, they may last longer as decay would slow down. Preserving them like mammoths in the ice.

Yes, winter would be dangerous indeed. They would have Infected coming out of the snow alongside daisies if they weren’t careful in picking them all off now.

There were about twenty of them slouching about the perimeter, and another half dozen inside the fence from where James had chased them out that first night. It was easy pickings from there. And it may have been helping him with the frustration that had been building in him since he woke that morning with Oliver tucked sweetly against his side, nose pressed against James’ neck.

Another Infected fell.

James regretted nothing and everything about last night. It was all so perfect. But it shouldn’t have happened. He had desired Oliver for so long now, but had never acted upon it. Oliver was far too kind and delicate for the likes of him. Oliver was a creator, and James was a destroyer. One might say opposites attract, and that may be so, but James brand of destruction often held no bounds, and Oliver may pay the price for that. Oliver would never want someone like him.

And yet, when James heard Oliver confess that he was suffering as badly as he was from their proximity, he couldn’t stop himself from reaching out. Not quite taking, as it was only an offer, but perhaps it was him talking selfishly. He knew that Oliver desired him on at least a basic level of attraction. Had he used that knowledge? He could try to convince himself it was only so that they might both get some sleep, not to mention finally letting off some tension. He could say it was all for the mission. He could let himself believe his own lies. He’d done it before plenty of times.

But when that haze of lust lifted the next morning, all James could think was that he’d taken too much. He held Oliver tightly to him, as if scared to let go in his sleep, as if scared he would leave. He had tricked himself into taking what could never have. Oliver would never want him like that.

James had taken advantage of a vulnerable moment and had ruined everything. Q had looked so uncertain that morning, no longer sure where they stood. Hell if James knew where they stood anymore. He was so ashamed of his actions that he couldn’t even look Q in the eyes over breakfast. He was worried that with Q as brilliant and observant as he was would have come to the realization that James had reached out with more than just a helping hand. Perhaps by now he would have seen that it was James’ heart that he had reached out with.

He would be right to be angry, to turn away.

James would have to apologize somehow. He was a bit out of practice in that particular art, but for Q…for Oliver, he’d get down on his knees if he had to.


James was a being a bit of a coward, he’d admit it. It was a new sensation for him to be afraid of something enough that his heart would beat loudly in his chest where there was no threat of death lingering close. The thought of having to face Q again though was nerve wracking to say the least.

Still, he wasn’t about to forget his primary mission, he still checked in on Q every few hours. He did it stealthily, but he still did it. Every time he peaked into he warehouse he would see Q hunched over an engine or desk, working steadily just like he did back at Q-Branch. It was soothing to see him back in his own element, back in his natural territory as it were.

Out on their little journey, Q had looked like a housecat that had wandered off into the woods. Too small and soft for the environment. Now though, back in his natural home, he was prowling around his cave of a warehouse with all the confidence and grace of a lynx. James wondered what he looked like to Q when he was stalking around Q-Branch. Did he fit into his world, or was he the lion in the parlor?

He was pleased to see Q eventually eat the lunch he’d left on the desk that morning and was even more pleased to see that Q kept off of his bad foot too. It was less pleasing though to see that rather than look of intense concentration that Q normally had while working, he looked troubled, his brows pinched together like his was sad. James had watched him enough while he was unaware in Q-Branch before, he knew the different expressions by heart and he usually knew what brought them on. This time he knew that sad look was because of him.

It wasn’t until it was time to find him for dinner that James had braced himself enough to enter the room and face Q.

Q was lowering the hood on an armored hummer as James walked up.

“So, this is the grand plan? Armored vehicle to drive our way through Spain?”

Q turned to him and sighed dramatically, ‘You say that as if it isn’t brilliant,” he said, patting the hood almost affectionately, “When I’m done with it, it will be bullet proof all over, including the windows, and should protect us from both the Infected and any trigger happy people we meet along the way. Elevated chassis in case we come across large road bumps or bodies. On and off-road capabilities. Roof hatch with a machine gun up top, good for targets as well as stargazing. I’ll be adding some modifications there, of course, as well as a crossbow attachment choice if we don’t want to attract attention with gunfire. Large interior for supplies and sleeping. Efficiency leaves something to be desired, but I have plans for that too. And…” he paused to gesture over to the opposite wall where various large things sat, “I plan to attach a plow to it in case we come across any large hoards again.”

“Or snow,” James added with a pleased grin.

“Or snow,” Q replied dutifully.

It wasn’t as elegant as most of Q’s designs, but it hardly needed to be in this case to show off his cleverness. James was already thrilled to get behind the wheel, and also get his hands on that crossbow. He’d only fired them before once or twice in his life, and he’d need some practice before heading out.

Almost as if he’d spoken out loud, Q’s voice cut into his daydreams, “I can have a practice crossbow assembled in the next three days to try out at the range,” Q added, pulling out a sheet of paper that already held a detailed design ready to go for the attachment on the roof.

“Oh, Q. You must be fantastic at getting people birthday gifts.”

Q shrugged, pushing his chair back to the Humvee so he could pull himself up to stand. He didn’t seem to be in much pain, but James made a mental note to give him more pain meds over dinner once he had food in his stomach again.

A silence fell between them again, Q leaning against the car with James standing mere feet in front of him, though it felt like a canyon. Both sets of their feet underwent an inspection as the two men stared down at them, unable to look up at the other. It felt wrong, this uncertainty. James had treasured how easy it had always been to speak with Q. The last few weeks James had been more open with Q than he had been with anyone he could remember. Even Alec. He hated this distance between them.

He had to fix this. He had to apologize before it festered and was too late.

Only Q opened his mouth first.

“James, I…I think we need to talk about last night.”

James swallowed hard and nodded.

Q licked his lips, eyes darting around his face like he was one of those puzzles to solve, “Last night was wonderful, and while I thank you for being willing to help me, I don’t think we can ever do that again.”

It was exactly what James was about to say, but still, hearing it coming from Q’s mouth instead was like a kick to the bollocks.

Q ran a shaking hand through his hair, “It just, it wouldn’t be fair to take advantage of you like that, and I apologize for putting you in that position in the first place. I should have--”

“Wait, what do you mean you were taking advantage?” James cut in, taking a step closer to Q. His heart lurching in his chest at the words. Daring to hope.

Q’s face twisted in regret, “I mean that, you don’t have to treat me like a mission. It was kind of you to indulge me, but I can’t do that to you again. I shouldn’t have allowed it in the first place given my emotional conflicts.”

“Emotional conflicts? Q, what are you talking about?” he asked, heart beating faster beneath his ribcage. He took a step closer, their toes almost touching.

“Oh, come on, Bond. You’re a trained agent, surely you’ve noticed that I’ve become attached to you as more than just a friend? I’m just saying that I don’t want you to feel obligated to do anything for me beyond what you’re comfortable with. If you want to be just friends then we can do that,” he said in a rush, his face lighting up with the heat of embarrassment,” Just...make me stop talking before I say anything else damning.”

James held up a finger to his lips, “Wait. Just let me get this all straightened out before we have to call MI6 back to get Moneypenny involved. And I apologize for how juvenile this will sound, but...Do you like me as more than a friend, Oliver?”

“Well, yes, but—”

“Ah ah,” James said, pressing his finger harder against those red lips, “Just needed the yes. And, you think that I only did what I did because I was trying to keep my asset happy?”

Q’s shoulders fell, ‘Yes, but—”

James tutted again, effectively keeping Q quiet, scarcely believing that this was happening, “So what if I was to tell you that I believed that I was the one taking advantage of a beautiful, young, and willing thing in my bed who just wanted some comfort when I was the one who had been dreaming of him for months.”

James finally let his finger fall as he stared at Q before him, his green eyes wide and surprised.

Q wet his lips as James stepped closer, “You’ve liked me this whole time? Months?”

“Since that first time you smiled after I started talking about ferritic nitrocarburizing techniques. It was the first time I felt a spark of life since M had died.”

Q’s knees trembled, and James slotted himself between them, leaning them both back onto the hood of the Humvee.

“Does this mean that, you want to continue being more? With me?” Q asked, sounding out of breath as James’ lips ghosted over his own.

“Only you, yes,” James replied, his voice raw, “If you’ll have someone like me," he said, pausing as he waited on Q's answer, heart in his throat.

Q lifted a hand to trail it down the side of James’ face, taking in every small detail, “Only you.”

James let out one shaky breath before crashing his lips down onto Oliver’s, devouring his mouth like he had been starved for years. He could taste the equated desperation on Oliver’s tongue, wondering why it took them so long to get here. Why did it have to take the end of the world for James to find out that all he’d ever wanted, wanted him back.

Oliver moaned into the kiss, his clever hands clawing into James’ back hard enough that if there hadn’t been a shirt between them, he would have drawn welts. It felt glorious, and James wished he already taken it off, wanting those marks of possession to mar his skin. He pulled away just so he could drag his teeth tantalizingly along the tender skin of Oliver’s neck, feeling him tremble beneath him, moaning for more.

He couldn’t believe it. After all this time, he finally had Oliver in his arms like how he’d dreamt. So many nights sharing that blasted hammock, touching but not possessing that man beside him had been near torture. Now, here he was, eager and willing and oh so sweet on his tongue. James wanted more. He wanted everything that Oliver offered. He wouldn’t have believed that Oliver wanted the same if it weren’t for the hands that were now all but ripping his shirt off of him while those honeyed lips were sucking along James’ jaw.

James took mercy on both Oliver and his shirt and pulled back just so that he could yank it off. Oliver was latched back on before the shirt even hit the ground.

“How do you want to do this, Olive?” he asked, groaning in pleasure as Oliver found that one damned sensitive spot on his collarbone. They once again found themselves without condoms or lube on hand, and James wasn’t about to do anything dangerous or painful, no matter how desperate he was to claim every inch of the man before him. And then later, he would raid every locker and drawer in this entire base looking for what he needed for the next time. Because there would be many next times if James had his way.

“Just, touch me. Don’t let go, please,” came Oliver’s plea.

“Shh, shh. I’m not going anywhere. I’m going to take care of us.” He would do everything to make Oliver happy and to keep him safe. Gently, he lifted Oliver up onto the hood, laying him back so that his hips settled right on the edge, leaving his legs to wrap around James’ waist.

Reverently, James began to pull off bits of his clothes, spending time adoring each inch of skin that appeared with each subtracted garb. It had been so dark in the room the night before, that James had only caught tantalizing glimpses of an aroused and naked Oliver. Sure, he’d seen him naked before in the last few weeks, but there was always something different about seeing someone naked casually, and when you were about to become intimate. Skin would look like it was glowing, cheeks would flush, eyes would dilate, all translating to a picture of lust.

James moaned low in his throat as he pulled Oliver’s pants away, revealing his long and lean cock at last. He’d felt it in his hand last night, but that was nothing compared to seeing it in the light, pretty thing that it was. James spared a moment to lean over Oliver and hungrily kiss him again, reveling in the sweet whimper that fell off of Oliver’s tongue as he palmed his cock.

“James, please.”

“Please, what, love?” James asked, trailing his lips across that thin chest.

He heard him whimper again, “More, please, more,” he begged, the sound of his voice sending all of the blood in James’ body down to his own cock. James felt Oliver’s hips begin to jut up against him, seeking out any friction between them. James knew of something better than just friction though.

Slowly he began to trail his way down Oliver’s fluttering chest, sucking and nipping along the way, listening to each and every sound that he dragged out of his partner. Eventually he reached his goal, his chin bumping against the bobbing head there. He glanced up at Oliver’s face, taking in the heavy desire he saw there, thrilling him that this was happening and that he wanted James as much as he wanted Oliver.

James swallowed him down all at once, hearing Oliver scream above him as his body thrashed with the sudden onslaught of pleasure. With strong hands, James pushed his hips back against the hood, holding him steady as Oliver tried to buck up into James’ mouth. He had to stop himself from smiling against the cock in his mouth as he felt hands land on his head, gripping at the short strands there as is threatening to push down if James didn’t get back to work.

Ever obliging, James rolled his tongue against his head, smirking when he heard Oliver begin to curse loudly. The cursing got louder the deeper he took him and James had to reach down to grab himself just to keep from coming off of the noises alone.

“Fuck, James. Oh, you feel so good. Ah! Shit, faster please!”

James pulled out all of his tricks then, pleasuring Oliver to the point where the hands suddenly disappeared from his hair and he glanced up to see that his partner had fallen back onto the hood, back arched and his hands grabbing at the edge like he’d fly away if he didn’t.

“James, James. I’m close,” he whimpered out between clenched teeth.

James didn’t need the warning though; he could sense how close Oliver was just by his rapid breaths and the desperate keens escaping his lips. He didn’t pull back in any case. He wanted Oliver in every way.

James swallowed down everything, memorizing the taste as it was the first time he and Oliver would do this and he wanted to remember. He could hear Oliver gasping for breath above him, and one hand, more gentle this time, returned to his hair to begin carding through it. James let him rest for a moment, keeping his hands on his hips so that he wouldn’t have to worry about slipping down. Eventually, Oliver’s breathing evened out.

“James.”

“Yes, dear Olive?”

Oliver chuckled as he rolled his eyes, “If you could be bothered to get up here, I believe it’s your turn. We must christen this Humvee thoroughly after all. Trust me, I’m a professional.”

“Professional, you say? Just what do you little boffins do to all those cars before giving them to us agents?” he said, already moving them both further up the hood, James bracing his knees on either side of Oliver’s head.

Oliver spared him one dirty glare before digging into James’ pants like he had a treasure hidden inside. His eyes twinkled mischievously as he finally managed to pull out James cock, taking in the impressive size and girth that he no doubt felt rubbed against him last night.

“Shame on you, 007. Carrying around a weapon like that without having me inspect it first,” he tutted, “Someone could have gotten hurt.”

James laughed, trying to remember the last time he remembered just joking around with someone during sex, “By all means, Quartermaster. Inspect away.”

“Damn right I will,” he muttered and then started to dart his tongue out in little kitten licks along the head and edges, looking far too innocent as he did so. As if he were holding an ice cream rather than a cock.

And fuck all if it didn’t feel agonizingly good being teased like that. Oliver must have known that after being so aroused while pleasuring him, James would have shot off like a cannon mere seconds in. This would drag it on longer. Oh, what a brilliant boy he had under him.  

Clever fingers started to explore as well, tickling, fondling, squeezing in all the right places. James growled low and long when he finally felt Oliver’s mouth envelop him fully. He glanced down to watch as Oliver slowly dragged his lips up and down the length as far as he could, his lips red, swollen and stretched around him. The sight alone would have been enough to get him off if it weren’t for the tight grip that Oliver had at the base of his cock.

“Christ, Olive,” he bit out, gasping as he felt Oliver dip impossibly deeper.

It took all of his self-control not to start thrusting, and Oliver must have sensed that as he finally took pity on his victim, loosening his grip and stroking in time with the bobs of his head as he sped up. It only took moments more before James was grunting and shooting down Oliver’s throat.

Utterly wrung out and blissed beyond hope, James let himself fall on his side next to Oliver with a cum dumb grin on his face. Even the feel of cold and hard metal beneath him did nothing to take away from this moment as he pulled Oliver close, nosing into those ridiculous curls and breathing deep. He never wanted to let go of this man.

Dinner could wait a while longer.

Chapter Text

MI6 Private Radio Channel

“Agent 006, are you there? Agent 006? This is 007 reporting that I am headed for the rendezvous with the Quartermaster. Requesting your assistance in returning asset to HQ safely. Do you copy? ...Alec?”

 

Q was struggling to keep the stupid grin off his face the next day after James had dropped him off at the warehouse before darting off on some task or another. Not before making Q promise to eat the lunch he brought along though. Q hadn’t argued, happy to just see James smile brightly when he promised to do so. He almost felt guilty, feeling so giddy while the world had gone to shit outside, but he couldn’t help the warmth that threatened to consume him every time he thought about James.

It was absolutely ruining his concentration as he got back to work on his designs though. He couldn’t even glance over at the Humvee without a thrill running through his groin as he recalled their previous activities on the hood. Even after said activities were completed, they’d laid there for almost an hour, just enjoying the feel of having someone close. Fingers and lips wandering lazily as they got to know one another on a far more intimate level than before. Eventually they had both grown too hungry to ignore and had quickly swallowed down their less than pleasant dinners and James had carefully carried him back to their room to tuck them into bed. They’d sleepily kissed goodnight before falling into a sweet and dreamless oblivion.

Waking that morning, wrapped in arms that he now knew were not there by mistake and with a cock pressed up against him that was also not a mistake, Q had let out a sleepily content sigh as he felt calloused fingers wrap around his own morning arousal. Lazily they had brought each other to completion before James even entertained the idea of either of them getting out of bed.

Q had been reluctant to part from James after their shared shower and breakfast, but both of them knew that little work would get done if the agent continued to hang around his busy Quartermaster. There was a car to be built after all.

Well, perhaps more than just a car. Calling it a car would be insulting to his blossoming design. Today would be another blueprints day, and perhaps he’d make James stay a bit tomorrow for material gathering. There was an obscene amount of welding to be done after all, and he was loath to try and drag around all that metal on one foot. Unfortunately, he did not have his minions here to delegate to. Q brushed aside the darkened thoughts of just how many of his minions would even be left once he returned home. M had said their numbers were reduced. How badly was Q-Branch affected?

Mentally he added the question to his growing list of things to ask on their next radio check-in.


He knew it was growing late in the day when his stomach growled loudly in protest mid sketch. Lunch had been hours ago, carefully consumed while trying not to spill anything on his drawings, and he was only just now realizing he’d spent the whole day hunched over the desk. With a loud groan, he sat back while stretching out his spine.

He didn’t even had time to wonder what James had gotten up to all day when the blond suddenly appeared at his side, warm hands slinking down Q’s shoulders and back while kneading at the sore muscles beneath.

“Ooh, you’re devilishly good at that,” Q moaned, going limp in his grasp. It was a marvel how new and yet strangely familiar James touch was after only two days of being open and free with one another, “They teach you that in training, or are you just naturally gifted?” he asked with a smirk.

James hummed thoughtfully as he bent over to place a soft and sweet peck to Q’s cheek, “I like to just think that I’m a gift in general.”

Q snorted, “A gift?”

“Indeed. Would you like to unwrap me?”

Sweet peels of laughter erupted from Q as James continued to let his hands wander freely, softening the tense muscles beneath. It felt wonderful to not have to hide how much the proximity to his agent affected him, no longer worried that his affections would not be returned. Not when he could see that tender look in James’ stunning eyes as their gazes met.

“That’s an awful line, James,” Q scolded when he could finally stop laughing.

“Of course it is, but it got you to smile,” James retorted smugly.

Q rolled his eyes, “Fine, yes it did. Ninety percent of it was out of pity though.”

“And the other ten percent?”

“Nine percent avoiding awkward silence, and one percent actual amusement.”

James placed a hand over his chest with a pained gasp, “Why, Q, you wound me with your words.”

“Well now you know how those awful lines feel to the rest of the world.”

With a barking laugh, the agent gracefully moved around to Q’s desk, propping his hip against the edge like he used to do all those weeks ago when they were back in London talking sniper specs. Q watched as his gaze hungrily took in the blueprints spread about the table. Now that most of the design work was done, Q wouldn’t hide his plans anymore. It would be far more useful to have James input as well. After all, neither of them could claim to be experts in Infected-proof vehicles. Pride and the drama of a new gadget reveal could be put aside in this case if it meant just a little more insight. The crossbow though, Q would keep to himself. Or rather, he’d keep it tucked away in the desk drawer.

“It’s not as sleek as most of my designs, but I think functional is going to be priority this time around. I doubt the Infected will mind if the paint carries a hint of gloss versus looking like it just rolled out of a WWII history book,” he said mildly, watching as James flicked through the different papers.

James nodded, smirk playing at his lips, “Eye candy of a different sort is all. Is that solar paneling?”

Q nodded, “Yes. There are some panels on the roof of the base that I’ll try to incorporate if time permits. It would take far too long to make the whole car solar powered, but it may be useful for things like a radio or cooking. That’s low on the priority list though. There is a lot of body work to be done and we don’t know how long we can be here for. Were you able to get Alec on the radio?”

By the way James shoulders sagged, Q knew the answer even before James mumbled out a negative.

“I’m sure he’s alright, James,” Q said softly, resting his hand on the agent’s knee, “He’s even more stubborn than you, and just as loyal. He’ll meet us there if he hasn’t already gotten to Spain.”

James nodded, but didn’t say anything. James was always a realist when it came to death. He knew it intimately after all, and no amount of comforting words would be enough to convince him that death was always a possibility. It was probably floating around in the back of his mind, the fact that they may be going through all this trouble to meet up with someone who may not even be there. Q didn’t like thinking about it, choosing instead to just think of no other scenario than Alec greeting them both with a breath stealing Siberian bear hug upon reaching the rendezvous. He knew that James would still go no matter what logic said otherwise. Loyalty won out over logic any day for him, and it was something Q admired deeply.

It was hard not to feel awed by the two agents and their history together. Q had devoured each and every mission report that the two agents had happened to be paired together for like they were thrilling spy novels. The things that the two of them got up to were awesome, terrifying, electrifying, and sometimes absolutely ridiculous. Even before seeing the two agents interact together for the first time, Q knew that they were very close. He may have even wondered if the two of them were lovers once, but upon the two of them appearing in his labs together one day, Q saw a shared bond of brotherhood more than anything. Found family. Something orphans like themselves could treasure, something Q himself had always hoped to find.

No matter what logic told Q, whatever the statistics would say about the probability of Alec being there to meet them, Q would do everything he could to help James get to Alec.

“We’ll try the radio again tomorrow,” Q said with finality as he rolled his chair in closer to James, propping his elbows up on the muscled leg there, “Is it time for the gruesome gruel?” Q asked with false brightness. The food was truly awful, but it was at least better than starvation.

A hint of sparkle came back to James’ eyes as he reached a hand down to card it through Q’s wild curls that were getting wilder by the day.

“I suppose it is, but what do you say to spicing things up a bit?” he asked with a feral grin.

Q raised a single brow, “You found some salt or something?”

James chuckled, “Yes, or something. I’m going to take you on a date.”


It was a point of pride with himself that he knew how to woo properly. Fancy dining, fancy clothes, fancier hotels, all of it he knew the best places to make his date feel special. And no one deserved to feel special more than Oliver, which was why James had let himself agonize for an hour at least that morning over not being able to provide anything of the sort for Oliver. It was at least a welcome distraction after a disappointing session on the radio in search of Alec. Even if the distraction was a bit frustrating and disappointing in its own right. It’s not like the base had a gourmet kitchen tucked away somewhere that he could walk Q into on his arm, watching as his eyes sparkled taking in the rich décor and decadent smells. No. He had a rat-infested kitchen, stocked with the most tasteless, or in some cases far too tasteful, meals wrapped in unappetizing foil packets. He also highly doubted that the nearest Hilton was open, let alone that the sheets had been recently washed.

Whatever commanding officer had run this place had probably been quite the hard ass too, going off of how difficult it was to find anything non-reg in even the men’s private lockers. In the end, it was only after hours of digging that James found enough items that he was at least someone less ashamed of what he could offer his young lover. After all, Q was making them a car.

Perhaps it was a bit primal, almost animalistic in nature to be thinking that he had to provide something in order to please a mate, but James found he could not help himself when it came to potentially putting a smile of Q’s lips. It had taken a good bit of the day to gather what he needed, a good lot of testing the limits of his back strength, and a lot of back and forth in his own brain before finalizing on everything.

By the time he had finished putting everything into place, it was just about time to drag Q away from his work.

Perfect.


“Tell me again why we couldn’t just roll me wherever it is that you’re taking me? You’re bound to put your back out carrying me around like this so often,” Q muttered into James ear as he carried the protesting Quartermaster on his back through the halls.

“If I didn’t throw out my back earlier today, having all of seven stone on my back will hardly be what does it in,” James tossed back with a grin.

“I’m not that small!” came the indignant reply, “And what’s that supposed to mean anyway?”

“Hush, it’s a surprise. Now hang on tight, we’re going to go outside. I don’t think anything will be there to greet us, but best be ready to move fast just in case.”

James could hear Q mumbling some more even as his grip tightened obediently.

“I’m not sure I like surprises much anymore, having suffered from far too many in the last few weeks. Likely die of a heart attack right there in the doorway if anyone ever throws me a surprise party again,” Q sighed dramatically, bumping his nose against the skin of James’ neck as the agent stepped outside, just because he could touch him freely now.

James chuckled as he cautiously walked them around the edge of the building. He held Q’s legs tightly to his sides, glancing left and right as he walked. There should be no danger, he’d done several patrols earlier after all, but he could never be too careful when he had Q with him. He didn’t turn his head as he eyed the corner of the fencing. The pile of discarded bodies he’d burned the previous day had died down completely, leaving a dark pile of ashes, but thankfully nothing graphic and obvious enough that would draw Q’s attention. The young man with a memory far too good did not need any more gruesome images immortalized in his tragic brilliance.

Eventually, James brought them both up to the ladder that was fastened to the side of the largest building that they had housed themselves in. James didn’t need to look over his shoulder to know that Q was probably looking at him with curiosity as he hefted the two of them up the rungs of the ladder.

He knew that Q had caught sight of his surprise when he heard the sharp gasp in his ear as they just started to come up level with the roof of the building.

“Oh, James! How ever did you manage all this?” he asked in awe as the agent walked them over to their spot for the night, carefully lowering Q onto the many piled blankets and pillows and any other such softness he could find in his search.

Before them was a nest to end all nests. James had become quite fond of their little hammock set up in the last few weeks. Being so closely nestled against Q, cradled gently from all sides rather than just flopped on a big open mattress. James wasn’t honestly sure that he would ever be able to go back to a king size mattress after this. The novelty of having his own space had worn off completely, and by the looks of it, the same went for Q.

It had taken a few hours and two or more almost tumbles down the ladder as he hoisted so many blankets and several thinner mattresses up to the roof, but it had been worth it to get to see Q snuggle in contently with a happy moan before peering up at James with a quirked brow.

“Am I to have this whole thing to myself, or do you plan on joining me down here?” he asked coyly.

James gave him a salacious grin, “One moment, darling,” he replied before kneeling down next to Q, rummaging around behind a larger stack of pillows before producing two small plain glasses from the mess and a silver flask with a smug look.

Q’s eyes lit up, “Where did you find that? Christ, if there was ever a time to get blasted it would be the bloody apocalypse,” he said, making grabby hands at the glass James had gracefully filled for him.

James chuckled, filling his own glass moderately, “We’ll hardly get blasted on this flask. It was only half full to start. I found it tucked into the pillowcase in one of the other officer’s rooms. The rest of the base was bone dry.”

“Ah, well, at least enough to toast with. What shall we drink to?”

James swirled his drink as he thought about it. There was little left in the world to be grateful for, with most of what they ever knew dead or dying before their eyes. Then again, even before all this James had struggled sometimes to find something to be grateful for. Now though, he dared to hope that he may finally have something good in his life again. Something he could treasure. Something he would die protecting if he had to.

“To us,” he finally said, his voice as raw as the emotion behind it.

Q’s eyes softened as he gently clinked his glass against James’, “To us,” he whispered back.

Together they tossed back their meager drinks in silence, watching as the golden glow of the sun started to drop behind the hill that they had tumbled down mere days before.

“From a distance, it doesn’t look like the world’s ending, does it?” Q asked softly, his gaze not leaving the sunset as it began to turn to delicate pinks and purples.

James let out a grunt, “I suppose not.” It was rather pretty.

“I imagine the dinosaurs thought the same thing as the skies turned to a smokey plume that would slowly cause them all to die,” Q said just as wistfully, “Always knew you were a fossil. I just didn’t realize how prophetic that term would become.”

“Well, if we do end up dying in a swamp, let’s at least try to position ourselves as indecently as possible so if our sorry arses are ever dug up then we can give them something to talk about.”

Both of them busted out in laughter, reveling in the dark humor that only seasoned MI6 personnel would appreciate. When the sun was just about to wink out behind the hill, James pulled out a plastic tray that was filled with an assortment of different colored piles of mush, toothpicks sticking out of each one.

Q raised a brow in question and he glanced over the offering, “Dare I ask what it is you plan on feeding us?”

“I pulled a few samples from each kind of MRE packet they kitchen had to offer. Figured it may be useful for us to determine which ones are palatable enough to bother taking with us when we leave,” he said with a shrug.

Q hummed thoughtfully, poking at a few of the gelatinous blobs, “I see, how very practical.”

“Don’t worry. I brought some plain crackers and water up here to so we can wash our mouths of the worst of them.”

“Thank fuck.”


For the next hour the two of them took turns trying the next new sampling, all the while trying to think up new words to describe the foulness of each one. They did manage to find a few that’s taste was not as disgusting as the texture, and some that’s texture made up for the acid reflux, and some that they agreed should be burned to save anyone else the misery. By the end of the tray, they were both sated, mildly nauseous but that was fading quickly, and had a few that they felt they could tolerate going forward.

Above them the stars had winked into existence, not a cloud in sight and with the moon glowing brilliantly over the trees. It was still getting colder the further into autumn they got, but not to the point where it was too cold to enjoy the sky above. Especially when one was holding onto their lover, tucked under several blankets.

“You did this because I said I missed the stars,” Q stated after a shared silence. His voice carried as gentle as a feather in the cold air with no sounds of city life around them. Or any life for that matter.

James nosed at the top of Q’s head, going deeper until he was finally able to work his way through the hair to place a gentle kiss, “Perhaps,” he replied teasingly, “And perhaps because I may have been fantasizing about doing all sorts of naughty things to you under the stars while we were all cocooned in that thing.”

Q giggled, rolling over until he was laying down on top of James, “How wonderful to hear I wasn’t the only one thinking of such things. I was beginning to feel a bit like a pervert.”

“If anyone is the pervert here—”

Q laughed again, a delightful sound that make James’ heart swell and cutting his words off with a deep kiss that all but stole his very breath away. Instinct took over from there. His arms wrapped around Q’s back, holding him close so he could never slip away, their mouths meeting in a lustful dance, their legs entangling with each other. James never wanted to let Q pull away when this felt so damn good.  

James only broke away their mouths long enough to begin a new journey of exploration along any skin he could find within reach. Finally, he was able to nibble his way along those sharp features that he’d admired since they first met. He was finally able to taste without rushing the tight skin along his collarbone that jutted out so tantalizingly. And best of all, with each new spot, he earned a new noise from his lover. Tight and long moans when he slowly drew his tongue against the long expanse of his neck. Sharp and quiet gasps when he bit at the tender spot under his ear. And dear god, a sweet little whimper when he sucked a possessive mark deep into the skin where his neck met shoulder.

“James…James, please…ah—” Q gasped out as the agent’s hands started to drift down his back.

“Please what. Love?” James asked, voice muffled from where he had buried it as he continued to explore his new lover.

Q groaned loudly when two large hands cupped his arse and squeezed, “Please…tell me you have another surprise hidden up here,” he whined, “I want more than your hand or your mouth tonight, please.”

James smiled tenderly up at him as he kissed Q firmly on the lips, “But of course, dear Olive. I was only holding out in case you wanted to move this back to a real bed,” he said as he pulled away a bit to reach behind the pillows, bringing back a long string of condoms and a bottle of lube. No doubt the items were pulled from some abandoned locker.

Q barely glanced at the items before throwing himself back against the agent fervently, “No, under the stars, please! It was all I could think about for weeks,” he said in between peppered little kisses along James face, his hands already tugging roughly at the clothing that lay between himself and James’ skin.  

Reveling in the thrill knowing that Q had thought about this many times before, James began to help Q pull away their clothing. Q immediately shivered as his shirt was taken away, revealing smooth and pale skin only lighted by the glow of the moon. James drank in the sight once he had lifted his own shirt away. With lust heated skin, the sudden brisk air on their skin was enough to send them both crashing back together to rekindle the warmth they had found between them.

His Olive was hardly a passive lover, positioning himself on top of James’ hips as he took control of their foreplay with the same confidence he did when taking over ops for missions. While James loved to be the one to pull pleasure from his partner, it was equally as wonderful to lay back and have the same done to him.

Q was as thorough and methodical in his approach, not missing a damn inch of James as he licked, sucked and bit at everything he bumped into. Each reaction he pulled from the agent was logged away in that brilliant mind, in case the information became useful later on. By the time that both of them were panting, glistening with sweat and aroused beyond belief, Q had mentally documented everyone of James’ erogenous zones that he wasn’t even sure he himself knew about. He was playing his body as surely with his tongue and lips as he was with his fingers on a keyboard.

“And here I had you pegged for a shy little thing in bed,” James gasped out between pants as Q finally started to tug at the button of his trousers.

Q snorted, “Hardly.”

He had James completely naked before he even let the agent remove anything else of his. By the quirk of his lips, that was probably meant to be a challenge of sorts. James did love a challenge.

Unable to hold back any longer, James surged up, grabbing onto his lover and rolling over in the sheets until the lithe body was trapped under his own. With a deep growl that pulled from his chest, James firmly held Q in place as he ground their hips down against each other, frowning when he felt fabric still between them.

“Off,” he said gruffly, pulling at the loose track pants that Q had taken up wearing. They hardly stayed on his hips normally, so they almost flew off as James all but ripped them away, pants flying off with them. Narrow hips were a hidden blessing it seemed when James wanted his lover naked in that exact second.

The body beneath him shivered as the night air hit him completely, or at least it could have been that. It may have also been from the way that his sharp green eyes were roaming greedily over the agent before him. James hardly minded, preening a bit under the intense gaze. Especially if it allowed him time to drink in the sight beneath him.

Long lines of smooth, lovely, milky skin all laid bare before him. That lean and flat chest rapidly rising and falling as his Olive fought to catch the breath that had been stolen through lips and visual means. One proud and lovely lean cock stretched heavily against his hairless belly. James marveled at how easily Q’s hips fit into the cups of his hands as he let them roam over the gentle curve they held. Q’s high waist almost making the dip appear feminine in some way, despite the treasures held below his navel.

“What a stunning little thing you are,” James murmured as he leaned down to slot their bodies together.

Q’s cheeks burned with the complement, his teeth nipping at James lips rebelliously when the agent pointed out his blush, making James smirk as he once again turned his attentions back to the physical demands of their bodies.

“How do you want me?” James whispered in the dark, gently running his hands along the outer part of Q’s trembling thighs.

He watched as Q bit at his swollen and cherry stained lips, “I want you,” he said softly, the blush coming back despite the chill of the air around them.

“You have me. Now and always, but I need specifics, darling.”

Q looked like he was about to roll his eyes, but thought better of it, recognizing the query for consent for what it was, and not just a way to force dirty words out of him. His eyes drifted up until they met James’, “I’d like you to make love to me,” he said without a pause or stutter, meaning every word in their actuality. Perhaps a bit of a challenge there, to see if James was truly as committed to a greater depth of emotion between them. It was hardly a challenge though, to want to love Q in all ways, physical and emotional. Which was why James own gaze softened at the request, taking the time to kiss his partner slowly and with deep passion, not with rambunctious lust, because for James, action spoke louder than words sometimes.

Tenderly, James took Q’s cock in hand, slowly stroking it as he led a trail kisses down from those tantalizing lips, along the smooth sternum, dipping in to the softness of his belly, and then along the baby soft skin of his inner thighs as he worked his way down. All the while he felt Q’s clever fingers clenching into James’ short blond hair, tugging in time with every sound that was pulled out of him as another wave of pleasure shot through his body.

James reveled in it, but he didn’t lose sight of his current goal. There was still work to be done before he could truly make Q scream. With gusto, he delved his mouth down, sucking and licking with all the tricks he knew. The feel of Q’s cock on his tongue was growing familiar now, and he felt confident that he could play his victim like a concert violinist while preparing them both for the grand finale. He even used Q’s little kitten licks trick in revenge, keeping him on the edge as he got his fingers to work.

He knew he had thick fingers, so even with just the first digit he was sure to slick it up heavily, not wanting even the briefest amount of pain when it was unnecessary. Gently, he ran his liberally coated finger over the delicate skin a bit, just so that Q wasn’t surprised when he slowly began to sink it in. He was rewarded for his efforts with a low moan that fell from Q’s lips as it slid smoothly inside. It didn’t take long before he felt all resistance dissipate, and he gently began to work in a second finger.

A little resistance came back, but it only took a minute or so before Q’s hips began to rock down against his hand, his moans turning into something a bit more impatient than impassioned. James chuckled at the eagerness of youth but didn’t speed up his progress. He’d done this enough to know when the body was ready, even if the mind thought differently. Still, he let his tongue distract Q as much as he could in the meantime, thoroughly enjoying the sharp tugs he still felt in his hair occasionally where Q’s hands still were firmly placed, like he refused to let James head go anywhere beyond where his cock was.

Still though, his attentions couldn’t distract him forever, not after expertly keeping him on the edge for so long. It looked like Q was just about to start protesting when James finally began to ease in a third, James placed a comforting kiss on his belly, just below his navel in comfort when he felt Q tense up, his hips almost pulling away from the intrusion before stilling themselves and pushing back.

“Easy, easy,” James whispered, rubbing his nose along the inside of Q’s tight as it began to tremble.

“I’m alright,” Q breathed back, “Please. Please, more. I’m ready. We’ve waited long enough.”

James grinned, slowly curling his fingers in until Q gasped out sharply, “Darling Olive, I would wait an eternity for you if I had to.”

“Well you don’t have to, I’m right here and very much ready,” Q tried to snark back, but the effect was probably not what he intended since it was cut off by a long and pitched moan as James continued to twist and pump his fingers at a faster pace. Despite his eagerness, James knew that it had been a damned long while for Q, and that James himself was not exactly standard size. He would take his time. Especially if Q kept making those noises, and letting his face slacken with pleasure like that.

Eternity would have to wait at least, because the longer James was able to play with Q, the more he felt his own needs begin to roar in his ears and down to his own increasingly neglected cock. Pulling away, taking his fingers with him, he quickly grabbed for the condom and started to get ready, listening to Q’s whine of loss as it made his cock twitch in his grip.

Finally, James moved to kneel between Q’s legs that were already beautifully spread wide for him, taking a moment to memorize the view and to run his hands up and down Q’s thighs that bracketed him. One could only stare for so long though, not with the promise of what was to come. With all the careful grace of a cat, James guided his cock until he felt Q’s yield to him, letting him slip inside that blissful tight heat for the first time.

“Ah!” Q gasped out at the intrusion, taking deep breaths as he began to adjust to the feel of James inside him. He felt like a gloriously tight vice around his cock, making James moan at the feel of it. As Q’s breath just began to even out a bit, James rolled his hips again, moving in deeper and deeper, all the while whispering soft words into the dark curls of his hair, gentling Q along as he adjusted.

“That’s it, love. Deep breaths. You’re gorgeous like this. You feel incredible,” he whispered, feeling the body beneath him shiver at the words.

Soon, James felt himself bottom out and it wasn’t long after that he felt as Q tentatively began to rock his hips, urging James to begin to move.

‘James, please,” Q whimpered out, desperation taking place of any impatience he had left.

This time, James obeyed, beginning slowly to rock his hips back and forth, enjoying the smooth and slow drag between them. In the back of his mind though, he knew that he was already too far lost to make this last, and knew that Q wouldn’t be in the same state. Carefully, he started to move faster, keeping a close eye on Q’s face, one to simply take in his stunning beauty, but also for any signs of discomfort as he picked up the pace.

Hardly deterred by the change, Q seemed to eagerly join in, wrapping his coltish legs around James’ middle as he practically forced James to pound down into him with each new stroke. The soft loving had turned passionate and fevered, and the little mewls that Q had been making were turning into loud gasps and moans. James was sure that with another few sessions he’d be able to pull screams from his lover, and he felt the fire in his gut grow at the thought.

“Harder, James,” Q called out loudly, his hands moving down to grip at James arms hard enough to bruise, “Oh please, harder.”

James happily complied, slamming home each time, knowing that he was hitting Q’s prostate dead on each time as he felt him clench desperately around him. They were both so close. James quickly dropped his hand down between them, grabbing at Q’s achingly hard cock and stroking him in time with his thrusts.

“Ah, ah, ah! James!” Q cried out, coming hard between them, his spend coating James hand.

James only managed three more thrusts before he reached his own crest of pleasure, coming hard into Q.

“Oliver!” he growled possessively, holding the smaller body tight against his own until the last aftershocks passed and left the two sweat covered bodies cradled closely together.

They didn’t need to exchange any words, not when their feelings were more easily shared through sleepy and slow kissed that they traded as they burrowed deeper beneath their blankets, settling down for the night, held tightly in each other’s arms.


Hour later, James startled awake, his eyes shooting open as a shrill sound erupted from a distance. The sound was all to hauntingly familiar now, queuing his brain into pulling up the image of walking corpses clawing at his Oliver.

Somewhere, up on the hill they fell from, there were Infected screeching into the night. James knew it was most likely just them finding a deer or rabbit to hunt, but the thought was no comfort for the strike of fear in his heart as he recalled why he and Oliver were even there, huddled together on a roof in a country that wasn’t their own, swaddled in blankets that once belonged to now dead soldiers. This wasn’t a honeymoon, but it wasn’t a mission anymore either. This was the two of them fighting to survive and make it home together.

Another shrill screech erupted in the night, thankfully far enough away that Oliver continued to sleep undisturbed in his arms, nuzzling closer as if he felt the change in James’ heart rate.

Whatever peace they had found on this base, it wouldn’t last forever. They still had a long way to go before making it home, and death stood as a grander obstacle than it had ever been before in James’ life.

He tightened his arms around the small body that he held, bringing his Oliver impossibly closer, breathing in the scent of his lover as he buried his face into that ridiculous mess of hair, and tried to go back to sleep.

Chapter Text

Radio – MI6 Channel

“This is 007 calling out for 006. Are you there 006? Please, I need to know you’re safe and planning to meet at the rendezvous. We’re still coming, I promise. 006? 006? Contact MI6 with any news if you don’t hear an answer. They’ll let me know you checked in. Alec, please. We will be leaving soon. I can’t—we won’t be able to contact you after that. Please…”


The next few weeks passed by in a blur.

Q could only just barely keep track of the days as they all seemed to become muddled in a flurry of work, kisses, radio check ins, mind blowing sex, tasteless meals, and soft gazes across the room. Quite an accomplishment for one with a photographic memory. He couldn’t even recall a single moment that could be categorized under ‘that time it was dreadfully boring’.

Mornings were probably the slowest part of the day, Q having to all but wrestle his way out of bed, and James’ arms, if he wanted to avoid yet another session that would leave him boneless for a half hour at least. Well, he had yet to actually try and wrestle his way out, after all, who would say no to being ravished by someone like James every time they woke?

Eventually they would make their way to the showers and then the mess, shoveling down some gelatinous mush before making their way to their respective duties of the day. Some days James would leave him in the warehouse, placing a soft peck on his cheek before darting off to the radio, or to do some perimeter checks, or to see if there were any animals nearby that would make for a more appetizing dinner. It varied, but after some time, James would wander back into the warehouse and offer his help with the more strenuous parts of making a fully custom car.

These were perhaps Q’s not so secretly favorite moments, when the two of them could talk shop and Q could feel like he was contributing at least something to their prolonged survival. Both of them leaned over the opened hood of the vehicle, shoulders rubbing together as the two of them reviewed the engine specs, or checked a line, those got Q’s blood boiling nearly as hot as when the two of them tumbled into bed by the end of the night, hands and lips already making work of each other.

Being as much into classic cars as James was, he had to have a good understanding of car repairs and such, seeing as keeping old cars like that on the road meant a lot of upkeep, and he was very helpful having that background understanding. Q’s ankle was still healing after all and struggled to keep his balance while trying to loosen or tighten bolts and such. Having James there, oh so very competent James, was a blessing that Q was more than happy to keep on counting. If the world ever got back to normal, Q was all but ready to hire him on as a minion.

Two weeks into his recovery, he found that he was able to move it with only slight twinges here and there, and it only ached at the end of the day rather than all the time. That was when James had declared it was time to exercise it a bit. Not to start using it willy-nilly, he had scolded a few times after finding Q limping around the warehouse. Q couldn’t help but point out the irony of James being the one to force medical protocol in this situation. Still, progress was moving along steadily with the car, but Q knew that James would never let them even near the gate until he was all healed up. No twinges. No weakness. No exceptions.

While Q would outwardly agree, inwardly he couldn’t help but feel a gnawing impatience tearing away at his gut each time James would come back from a radio check-in, crestfallen at having not found Alec yet. Each time it happened, Q’s heart couldn’t help but ache in sympathy. Q wasn’t by no means as close to 006 as James was, but he still liked the agent genuinely, and was also very worried that they hadn’t made contact yet. Not even MI6 had gotten hold of him since his last check-in when the world just started to resemble some Halloween binge flick. Q hated that he may be the limiting factor when it came to the promptness of their departure. The car was coming along well enough, but would they finish before Q was healed up?

Q knew that any offered platitudes would not help James, so he threw himself into his work or onto James as the moment called for it. Anything to move things along faster, or to distract his new lover from their prolonged delay. He suspected James knew what he was up to, but Q had yet to hear any complaints, so he kept at it. Besides, the exercise was probably good for the both of them.

The thought of leaving was…daunting in many ways. They had a long way to go before they could turn in the direction of home, but Q was ready to be at James’ side for the journey, no matter how long it took. They were in this together now. There was a friend of their out there, waiting for them, and they would find him no matter what it took. Q may not have a lot in the ways of strength, or bravery, but he was quite clever, and he would provide everything he could to see that James stayed safe enough to return home.

He only prayed that Alec was able to stay safe long enough for them to reach him. He didn’t want to think of any alternative.


Another week passes…

James knew that the time was getting closer. The car was looking like something out of an action film, and less like some monstrosity in some junk yard. They had already gathered most of the items they’d need to bring along. Q’s weapons project, he was told, was going well even though Q refused to let him see before it was finished. His ankle was starting to look normal again, all swelling, and bruises gone. It was all coming together it seemed.

The temperature outside was swiftly dropping, sending a shiver down his spine that may have half been in anticipation as it was from the chill. The trees that they had stumbled through weeks ago were quickly turning from vibrant oranges into dull browns. In the following weeks they would fall to the frosted ground. Idly he noted that it would be good for visibility, but whether that was good for them as well as the Infected remained to be seen.

They had been holed up here for almost four weeks, sending them deep into the month of October. A primal part of James started to rumble at the thought of the encroaching season, like some deeply buried part of his natural instincts were coming out of hibernation since he and Q were thrown into a desolate world of survival. The only thing that was keeping him from feeling practically feral was the fact that they were at least living indoors for the time being, with showers, packaged food, and thanks to Q, electricity.

Still, there wasn’t much longer until traveling would become deadly. James had been carefully watching the Infected that wandered in and out of the general area of the base, studying their enemy for hours to better understand how to kill them, and to avoid being killed by them. The bodies had been decomposing at a steady rate for the first two weeks or so here, but once the cold settled in for more than the smaller hours of the day, the progress seemed to halt. Half frozen, they seemed to keep like meat in a freezer, progress even more slowed now that it was too cold for insects to assist in their natural role in decomposition. Limbs stopped falling off, muscles seemed to hold them steadier, and skin wrinkled rather than liquified. It meant they were lasting longer. It meant they were getting more deadly.

This weather was strengthening the enemy, while weakening the chances of survival of those few humans left.

The only good thing he could gather from all this was that at least the smell wasn’t nearly as horrific.

With each passing day, he knew his anxiety would grow. Not being able to get hold of Alec was only making things worse. He had hoped for many reasons to get hold of Alec. He wanted, no, needed to know he was alive. He needed to know that Alec was still out there, waiting for him, loyal as he had always been. He needed to know that Alec hadn’t lost his life trying to make it to where they had drunkenly promised each other to meet instead of going straight home like a sensible person would do. He wanted some sort of reassurance that he was taking Q deeper into the belly of the beast in order to hold a promise to his dearest friend, and not just taking him on the scenic route that upped their chances at being killed exponentially. Other reasons, seemingly fettered in his mind, were along the lines of having Alec by his side again. Together they had been unstoppable on missions, his presence always making James feel invisible. He wanted that feeling again, because the closer they got to their inevitable departure from this place, the more he felt like he was about to lose everything again.

These weeks with Q had only cemented for James what he’d already suspected. That he loved the little boffin, in all his brilliance, all his awkwardness, and all of that beautiful spark that made up his Olive. As elating and wonderful as that was, acid churned each time he remembered that he had even more to lose now if he failed in bringing Q home.

Q was doing his best to distract James from his darkened thoughts, even succeeding a few times in completely drawing his attention to their work, or even better, their bodies. It only made him love him more, which of course, made his anxiety worse each time they ran through the physical therapy only to have Q gleefully note that he improved even more, or when he would check off another mark on the list of optimizations they had planned. They would have to leave eventually. James would not break his promise to Alec, no matter the emotional turmoil that ate away at him.

Soon though. He knew it would be soon.

In the meantime, all he could do was hold Q as close as he could each night, drinking in the warmth and comfort at having him so close and safe, enjoying their shared moments of camaraderie over engine oil and gaskets, reveling in the shared moments of passion that they stole together, and memorizing each and every thing that he loved about his Olive so that he could think on them when their lives turned dark once again.


Two days later…

“James?”

“Hmm?”

“I finished.”

“…”

“It’s time to leave.”

Chapter Text

As eager as he had been to head out to find Alec, once the actual day had come for the two of them to pack up and head out, James found himself reluctant to leave the small haven that they had built together. Here, they were as safe as they could be. Q was behind solid walls that were surrounded by solid gates. They had food, fresh water, and a warm bed. Everything he needed to keep Q well and happy was here, and they were leaving it behind for monsters and uncertainty. 

Still, the morning had come. 

The makeshift alarm that Q had tossed together to wake them a few hours before dawn had buzzed them both into alertness after a restless night. Both of them struggling to find peace when they knew what was ahead of them mere hours away. Q had slept fitfully at best, turning and whimpering occasionally tucked there in James arms, his brilliant mind already plaguing him with the horrors to come, no doubt. James had not needed dreams to show him as much, he could play that out with his waking mind late into the night. Eventually he managed a few hours, more than what he got on some more stressful missions in the past, but it did not help his mood in the morning when Q slipped reluctantly from his arms and started to dress. Not in the overlarge and comfortably sweatshirt he had come to love, but into the found army fatigues that they had pulled out of abandoned lockers to replenish their soiled clothing. 

James felt the absence of his warmth like he was staring down the face of an eternal winter. It was that coldness that eventually pulled him from the bed as well, pulling on his own borrowed uniform with practiced motions. 

Things were silent between them as they shouldered their packs and started to walk their way down the halls that led to the warehouse. Everything that needed to be planned or reminded had been said the night before as they both had stripped from their civilian clothes for the last time, falling into each other’s arms for a slow and passionate night as the prepared to leave their haven. 

Even now, as James walked down the hallway, he could recall each and every sweet moment that they shared that night. Every whimpered moan, every gentle touch, every sweet gasp that he tore from Q’s throat as he moved deeply inside of him was engrained in his memory. The tender moment all that kept the darkness of the morning from entering complete bleakness. 

As they reached the bay doors of the warehouse, Q paused a moment to reach out and grasp James hand, startling him from his thoughts as he glanced up to meet concerned green eyes that seemed to read his very soul. 

“Are you ready?” Q asked softly, squeezing his hand once.

James heaved a sigh, squeezing back, “I’m always ready, Q,” he said with a smirk that he didn’t really feel. 

Q must have seen right trough it though, because his eyes turned sad, “James…I know neither of us can promise anything in regards to survival, or retrieval either I suppose, but this…what we’re doing, it’s the right thing. If Alec is there waiting for us, then we need to find him so we can all go home.”

James face twisted, “I know that, I do. I just—Olive, I’m taking you deeper into a world that I’m not sure I can protect you from. I shouldn’t ask this of you. I should be following the mission, taking you home first and then I can go back for Alec. This isn’t your journey to make.”

Q scoffed, stepping closer until their chests touched, reaching his arms up and around James’ neck, pressing their foreheads together until their noses bumped, “My place is by your side now, James. Alec is important to you, ergo, he’s important to me. Although, I considered him a dear friend even before all this. He brought me that cute little cat figurine, remember?”

James chuckled, closing his eyes as he held Q close, “If I’d know that to be the way to your heart, I’d have gotten you a dozen ages ago.”

Q rolled his eyes, “Far better than a dozen roses, mind you. But I’m serious. Remember why MI6 is so empty right now? All those people went back to find their families despite knowing they may not ever make it back. That wasn’t out of stupidity, despite what most people would assume. That was out of love. And sometimes love beats out logic, and that’s good, because the world has recently seemed to have lost all sense of logic, hasn’t it? All that’s left now that makes sense now is love it seems.”

James raised his brow at Q’s words, seemingly out of character for one who’s entire career was based off of logical functions and algorithms, but the earnestness in his voice made the agent pause and consider that maybe he was right, “No more logic, is there?” he asked after a moment, still holding Q tightly against his chest.

Q shook his head, curls bouncing around his face now that his hair had grown even longer in their stay here, “None at all. We’d have better luck predicting things from a handful of fortune cookies at this point.”

James laughed, the feeling almost foreign to him after dwelling in dark thoughts so long.

“Now, are you ready to see your new toys?” Q asked coyly. 

“Toys are they now? What happened to ‘expensive and irreplaceable tech’?”

Q scoffed, “Either destroyed by yours or Alec’s hands. These new shiny bits did not come out of any budget of mine, therefore, they are toys at worst, the fruits of our combined labor at best,” he said, pulling away and moving to open the bay doors with a bit of flare thrown in because who else was there to tease them about it.

Slowly the doors opened to reveal Q’s newest creation parked proudly in the center of the room. James hadn’t been allowed in the warehouse for the last few days of construction, having mostly just small fabrications and fussy work left, Q had sent him off to pack the bags as it were. At least James had thought it had been just small fabrications. When he’d left it, it was still just a hummer with a few optimizations thrown into the mechanics. Now though, it appeared to be a whole new beast.

“My, my, my….Q, you’ve once again outdone yourself,” James said, stepping into the room to begin a slow circuit around their…”What are we calling this thing?”

“It’s still a hummer, James. Hummer, will do fine.”

“Looks like quite a bit more than that. I feel like we need to name it something out of pure respect for the sheer statement it gives off.”

“Turtle-mobile?”

James turned back to give Q a disgusted look, “That hardly seems befitting this beast.”

Q rolled his eyes as he followed after him, “It’s what it looks like, if a turtle had a mounted turret station plastered to the top if its shell. I think there's a pokemon name that would do nicely. Now, do you want a run-down of all the features I’ve added in the last few days or not?”

“I’m not calling it the turtle-mobile.”

“The hummer it is then, now pay attention 007,” Q said, falling back into his well versed Quartermaster role, “Unless you are blind, you would have noticed the modified snow plow that has been attached to the front of the vehicle. It had been molded to push any, uh, obstacles, that we may encounter away and off to the sides if we find ourselves in a swarm. If a decent amount of speed is maintained, it should prevent anything from getting on top of the hood and within our line of sight.”

He had not missed the plow upon first glance, seeing as it was massive and mounted right on the front of the vehicle where he and Q had blessed it multiple times in the last few weeks. 

“Reinforced windows, enhanced locks, added insulation for cold nights where we can’t keep the engine on…You may also have noted the paint job. Meant to blend with autumn colors and covering all of the hummer’s body, as well as the plow. Matte coating has been applied to anything that could reflect light, windows included. It won’t disrupt our view from inside, but it will make sure the sun doesn’t give away our position when glinting off of the surface. You already know about the engine and fuel efficiency, sadly I did not have the items necessary for solar panels, but we will have to make due. Even so, they would have been far too delicate to leave mounted on the outside,” Q said with noted regret, probably thinking about how he could have done a better job with all his tools and resources back in London. 

“This is incredible, Q,” James said with genuine appreciation and awe.

A small and shy smile fell on his lips at the praise before he quickly glanced away from James’ heavy gaze, “You say that before I’ve even told you the weapons capability.”

James let out a pleasured rumble, “Oh please, talk dirty to me Olive,” he purred, hopping up onto the back of the truck and stepping into the turret station. 

Once again Q rolled his eyes, but the spark in his eyes gave away his own poorly hidden enthusiasm for the fruits of his labor, “I’ve mentioned them before, but we’ve got the standard gun and ammo attachment if we find ourselves not giving a damn about noise, and the other attachment we’ve got is the large crossbow that will be relatively silent and extremely deadly,” Q said grimly, “I’ve already seen that the laser scope is calibrated, and I may have tested a few shots myself. Punctured through metal drums, so I do believe it’ll be more than effective. Mind you, I was only able to fabricate a limited amount of arrows of that size, so please use them sparingly.”

James nodded, glancing down to the stored quiver of bolts, noting several things quickly. One, they were wicked looking, sharp and no doubt packing the punch that Q promised. Two, there were in fact several dozen, a good amount and hopefully enough to get them through the journey. Three, they were about as long as his arm, so it would be entirely possible to eliminate multiple Infected with one shot. And four…”Why are they all painted neon pink?”

“Ah, yes, you’ll find that any and all bolts will be painted in an obnoxiously bright color so that if we ever find ourselves able to retrieve the arrows, they will be very easy to find. Hot pink is by far the least likely color to be found naturally in the wilderness, after all. I won’t be able to fabricate more once we leave, so best we give ourselves a fighting chance to recover a few shots when possible,” he explained.

James grunted in amusement, “Perfect. You can sell the design to hello kitty once this is all done.”

Q scoffed, “Hardly. Hasbro would pay double for the rights for a Barbie line up I’ll have you know,” he said proudly, folding his arms across his chest as he puffed out the small bit of it he had.

“And what is this?” James asked, running his hand over the large silver disc mounted on the outside of the turret.

“Oh, for a theory I have. Even with their eyes glazed over, the Infected seem to still have some level of visibility. If I’m right, this may help us with that problem.”

 James couldn’t help but stare down fondly at him, chuckling as he climbed out and down to the ground again.

“The bags?” he asked once he’d walked back over to where Q was dusting off invisible dirt from his creation fondly. 

“The emergency bags you packed have been placed in the front and back seats, and the rest of the supplies have been placed in the boot. Extra supplies and clothes, all in Alec’s sizes and preferences, are also packed in the back. Weapons distributed by each window,” he said with a rush, sighing heavily as he finished, “We’re good to go after one more order of business.”

James cocked a brow in curiosity, “We’ve already got the hummer of the century over here. There’s more? Is it Christmas already?”

“Just about,” Q said, moving over to the desk where he had a lump hidden beneath a cloth, pulling it back with a flourish to reveal James new favorite toy.

“It isn’t palm coded, but it is as close to your Walther that I could make it, given that it is a handheld crossbow and all,” he said self-depreciatingly, “And it is waterproof should we find ourselves in the sewers again. Didn’t want to make it too big and bulky. It is truly meant to be the medieval equivalent to a handgun. Quick, deadly and efficient in a pinch, just like you.”

Placed in the center of the desk was a sleek black crossbow, no longer than his forearm, but just as wicked looking as the one mounted on top of the car. Knowing that Q had limited resources and was still able to produce something that looked like it came off of a factory line was simply incredible, and James told him as much, only to get a modest shrug in reply. The trigger felt as natural as any weapon that Q had given him in the past, the weight balanced rather than too heavy in the front, and even had a scope placement that didn’t make it seem too busy, or take away from the sleekness of the build. It was a lovely thing to hold, just like it’s creator. 

“Ah, and here’s your ammo,” Q said with an apologetic grimace as he pulled out a quiver that was packed with dozens of very bold pink bolts. 

James laughed, taking the bag from his hands, “I hardly mind the color, Q. I’m sure Eve and I will be fighting over who gets to keep them once we get back to London though.”

“Seeing as her favorite color is yellow, you may be in luck and get to keep them then,” Q replied with a smile. 


After that, Q let James test a few shots out on his new crossbow while he finished up his own last fretting checks around their ride, and opening up the large doors that would lead them outside. They both knew that the chances of him missing something were all but negligible, but at this point James would never point it out. In this world, the fretters and the anxious would have the advantage over the rushed and relaxed. Any careless mistake now could truly become a life or death situation very quickly. 

It wasn’t just the Infected they had to worry about now either. During his last check-ins with MI6 in the week before their departure, R had mentioned how rough the outside world had become. Diseased monsters aside, the survivors were becoming just as deadly now that society had all but fallen apart in most countries. Abandoned cities were being taken over by gangs of people who either survived by luck, or by shooting everything in sight, no matter if it was their neighbors or kin. There were a few communities that had formed that were in the business of saving lives, rather than taking them, but they were nowhere near as common as the threat of angry mobs. 

Not to mention in encroaching cold.

Q’s hummer would serve them as well as it could, but it was like relying on a well-built balloon as a floatation device in a turbulent ocean. They both knew as much, but there was something to be said for positive thinking. After all, Q didn’t need any more nightmare material to work with than he already had. He wanted to keep the faith in humanity going for as long as he could, despite James warnings that nobody could be considered a friend until they got back to MI6. Well, except perhaps Alec. If they even found him.

His last shot may have missed the mark a bit that time, hitting the outer circle of the target, making James think far too metaphorically for his own tastes, and he decided he’d tested the weapon enough. It was as perfect as anything Q had ever given him before. 

He turned to see that Q was waiting patiently beside their…vehicle, face solemn but determined. He looked painfully young, swamped in army fatigues that were clearly too big on his slight frame. James felt his heart lurch at the sight, wishing for one last time that Q could just be tucked away safely until this was all over, like a precious jewel hidden away in the vault of a bank. 

They did not have that luxury in this world anymore, possibly ever again. The safest place for them may just be when they were together.

Which is why they would find Alec. Logic be damned and forgotten. Q was right, it had no place in this world anymore. 

Shouldering his crossbow, James walked up to his Olive, pulling him in tightly for a searing kiss, savoring the feeling of it just being the two of them, not having to watch each other’s backs at any given moment. They would have little to no chance to indulge for a while. 

When they finally pulled apart, Q was slightly winded, but his smile was bright as he playfully punched James in the arm, “Haven’t even had to run from any Infected yet, and you’ve already got me out of breath,” he teased.

“Only fair when you steal my breath away by simply existing,” James replied with a smirk.

“Oh god, that was terrible. Let’s get out of here before you say anything else sappy,” Q groaned, but his smile never faded. And neither did the blush that had blossomed on his cheeks at James’ words. 

Placing his hand at the small of Q’s back, James opened the door, letting his partner slide in first, over to the passengers’ seat before jumping into the drivers spot with a confidence he did not feel. In front of them the sun was just starting to peak over the trees on top of the hill, signaling that it was time for them to leave. 

James drew in a breath and blew it out before starting up the engine, taking a moment to marvel at how quiet Q had gotten the machine. Normally he loved a good rumble at start up, but not anymore. Not out here where noise drew monsters like flies to rubbish. 

He placed his hands on the wheel, turning once to glance over at Q.

Q looked alert and cautious, eyes narrowed ahead like he was already on the lookout for Infected before they had even left the gate. It was a damned sight different from the wide and terrified eyes he wore as James had pulled him through a frantic city, away from all that they had ever know. This experience had changed him, made him stronger, a survivor, not just an observer. As much as James missed the wide-eyed innocence, he knew that that Q would never survive what lay ahead. This was better. This gave him hope.

Q glanced over at him, “Are you ready?”

James nodded and turned his gaze back to the open door ahead, “We’re ready.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

MI6 Radio Channel Frequency

”This is HQ reaching out to any remaining agents. Is anyone there? Is anyone left?....Come home. We’re still here. We'll keep the candles burning for you. Always."

 

The military base had maps. Perhaps too many maps, but without phone signal or a GPS it wasn’t as if they’d be able to roll down the window and as any Infected for directions. They had to travel the old fashioned way, which meant frequent arguments with flailing gestures and frustrated growls as they encountered the reason why paper maps were things of the past.

“What year are these even from?” Q hissed as he ruffled through the large pile in his lap, wondering why in the hell they even bothered bringing the topography maps again, “There are no road names, and all of them are missing at least one major highway that we’ve noted, if not more. This is bloody ridiculous. I swear, I don’t even know which country we’re in anymore.”

James hummed thoughtfully, glancing around them as they slowly drove on, “Well, I’d say from the language on the signs, we’re still in France.”

“Brilliant.”

The sarcasm was nothing new. It was by far the least offensive or alarming coping technique that Q could have adopted over the last few days. Sometimes it was even funny, lightening James dour moods as well. They knew that the next leg of their journey wouldn’t be a calming drive through the sunny hillsides, but that didn’t stop them from absorbing some more mental trauma along the way. 

Keeping to the woods had given them a shelter from the real damage to society, a veil that James had been all too happy to keep Q bundled in like a security blanket as they had fumbled their way out of Rome. His solo journey into the towns had been his burden to bear alone until now. His misery did not enjoy company in this case though, not after exposing Q to their new world. That veil had been lifted not even an hour into their trek, like taking Q to the world’s worst surprise party. 

Driving meant keeping to the roads. Roads meant society. Society once meant life, sustenance, and shelter, but now it was more like death, famine and danger. It meant driving Q through abandoned towns, seeing the bodies and blood, piles of ash where families burned their own loved ones, seeing broken glass and destroyed homes. After seeing Q’s expression fall as they entered the first town, James felt about as ashamed as if he’d just slapped Q across the face himself. 

And that was before they had to run down their first pack of Infected. 

Even James had to carefully control his breathing as to not vomit as the sounds of crunching bones and splattered blackened blood rapped against the plow. Q had remained green for at least an hour afterwards, not even reacting when James timidly complimented his design and passing its first field test. 

They were passing through some suburb at the time, the white picket fence look marred by overgrown grass and the occasional piles of bone and ash in some of the yards. The silence around them was the most haunting. There were no children laughing, or the sound of bells on bikes, no other cars, no dogs barking, no sounds of planes in the sky. Even the birds that they could spot taking up vigils on the no longer humming power lines were still and quiet as if they were also scared to draw attention to themselves.

He saw a few stray cats about, the only domestic animal that would have a chance at survival it seemed since few of their species enjoyed approaching humans that weren’t their own and never seemed to entirely let go of their survival skills. Dogs were just too loyal and friendly to humans, Infected or not, it seemed, their presence sadly lacking in the streets. 

James could sense the way Q’s eyes lingered on the felines, probably feeling the absence of his own furry companions like a physical ache in his heart. 

The sight of a small group of figures moving down the sidewalk looked almost normal until they drove a bit closer and the unhealthy pallor and slackened faces came into focus. It was only a small pack of four, but as they rushed forwards, screaming in their hungered shrieks, James and Q both tensed up like they would if they were still vulnerable and alone in the woods. It wasn’t until the first one slammed up against the side of their hummer that James remembered that he didn’t need to fight, as he slowly pulled his hand away from the gun strapped to his hip and moved it back to the wheel. 

After that, it was just a matter of driving forward with purpose, the bodies crunching beneath the plow of falling off the sides. It was easy enough, but James couldn’t help but wish they had the time and resources to insulate against the outside sounds.  

The world had become a moment frozen in time in some places, which were more eerie than bodies strewn about depending on how you looked at it. Cars were left in the middle of the street in a mockery of the worst traffic James had ever encountered, literally unmoving. Laundry still swung on clotheslines, despite the contents long being bleached of color by the sun. Some homes looked completely untouched, children’s bicycles left in driveways, a ball resting in overgrown grass, a soggy newspaper forgotten on the doorstep. It was like at any moment someone could press play on a remote and the whole world could start up again just where it had left off. But James knew it never would. 

“Our progress is not exactly meeting expectations,” Q said, breaking James from his brooding thoughts. 

James sighed, “No, it’s not, but we would never have been able to factor in how congested everyone left the roads. Maybe it’ll get clearer once we move out of the populated areas.” It was bad. Highways that had been blocked off by the military were full of abandoned cars, not to mention countless blockades mounted at nearly every exit and entrance to each major town. It added hours onto their trip as they had to circle back when there was no hope of getting through, or worse, they had to ram through in some cases. It was safer to stay inside their moving haven but lingering in any town for too long was a risk in itself. They would eventually encounter one of the survivors gangs that R had warned them about, and James didn’t want it to be any sooner than necessary. 

Q shrugged, tossing aside the nearly useless maps into the back to be sorted out later. Sunset was approaching in the next two hours, which was about time for them to start looking for a place to shelter for the night. The maps would be of no help until tomorrow. 

“Perhaps, but we’re still behind schedule. Would have been faster to walk through some of those towns back there,” he said sadly, hating their limitations. What would normally be a one-day trip at most had already become almost a week, and they weren’t even in Spain yet. Their nights had been spent huddled up in the back of their truck, both of them too wired and alert for anything that could be really called sleep. It was draining on both of them. At least they were still well stocked in MREs and water, not having to stop in the towns for anything other than bathroom breaks that they limited themselves to a scant number of. 

James offered Q a sympathetic grimace as he reached over to hold his hand, squeezing it to comfort Q, and to remind himself that he still had Oliver at his side. It was a novelty that had yet to wear off, being able to touch freely with loving intent. He only wished that the early days of their relationship wasn’t tainted by them driving through actual hell with diseased demons nipping at their heels. 

Q squeezed back, his thumb stroking absently against the back of James hands as he reluctantly stared out of the window, keeping watch for Infected and potential spots to tuck away their hummer for the night. Some nights it was behind bushes in an empty park. Another was in someone’s garage that had been left open. Anywhere they could hide was better than just parking and calling it a night. It wasn’t as if their vehicle could blend in with its surroundings, despite the camouflage paint job. It would look rather conspicuous to settle in the middle of a car park, a rhinoceros hiding among flamingoes, so they had to come up with other options. 

Nothing popped out at safe as they began to pull out of the most recent town, moving onto a road that held fields on either side. 

“That may do for tonight. If it’s empty that is,” Q said, gesturing to a farm in the distance. A house stood dark next to an equally dark barn, looking blessedly abandoned. The fields around them were empty too, not even the shadow of a cow or sheep could be seen. No animal noises to draw Infected, definitely a plus.

“Looks promising,” James agreed, turning onto the dirt road that led up to the barn. It was a decent ways away from the main road, which meant if anyone else came up here tonight they’d see them coming a ways before. 

They pulled up to a large wooden barn, the doors open only a few inches from what they could tell. No lights anywhere. It was hard to get much more detail from inside their hummer though, and James reluctantly knew that they would have to get out an explore. There were no cars or trucks in sight either, which was a good indicator that the home’s occupants had already left. 

“Gun loaded and ready?” he asked Q, who nodded eagerly despite his face draining of color. Leaving the car had become a new phobia for him it seemed.

James nodded shortly, pulling his own crossbow out from the doors side pocket and loading it with a bolt, “You stay two feet behind be and one step to the left. If you see something behind us, say my name and wait for me to take care of it if there is time. We want to avoid making noise if we can. Are you ready?”

Q looked nervous, but he nodded as he bit his lip to try and hide the quiver there. 

James felt his heart clench at the sight, “Hey, it’ll be fine. We’re smarter than they are. We are armed and we have the upper hand, alright? I’ll keep you safe, I promise.”

“And you’ll keep yourself safe too, right?”

James blinked in surprise before letting a small smile cross his lips, marveling at having someone care so much about him, “Of course. Now, are you ready?”

Q nodded again, looking a little less scared, and opened his door quietly and hopped out while James did the same on the other side. 

There was little wind for once, continuing the theme of earie silence around them as they circled around the barn together, Q obediently in place behind him. James wasn’t much of a farmer, but he could tell that once this place had been well cared for, the equipment old but maintained up until everything was abandoned. The paddocks around them in the fields looked like they would have been a happy place for any cow or horse to call home but were starkly empty. 

James preferred to think that the animals ran away after their master didn’t return for days to feed them, but the occasional sun-bleached bones that peaked out here and there told a different story. It gave off the feel of a graveyard to James. Even if one entered a graveyard alone, it never truly felt empty. There was always a heavy presence that lingered like a fog around places like that. Almost as if being a pile of bones beneath the dirt still gave one presence enough in the real world to be felt. The base had felt like that sometimes, when James was wandering about on his own. A lot of the world was taking on that feel. Death had a presence now it seemed, above and below the dirt.

“May be wolves around if there aren’t any Infected,” he whispered over his shoulder, keeping his eyes ahead as the rounded the next corner. 

He heard Q sigh wearily, “I was never much of a canine person.”

“Well, let’s hope that they’ve moved on now that the buffet is closed.”

They finished their circuit around the barn, thankfully the only thing dangerous they came across were some rusted nails that they kicked away. Tetanus was the last thing James wanted to deal with right now. They already had too much to worry about as it was. 

“Time to take a look inside,” James said with more cheer than he felt. 

Slowly they swung open the wooden doors, letting the light from the setting sun fill up the inside in increments. No movement or sound was heard after the first few inches, giving James some comfort as he opened it the rest of the way. 

The first thing the light touched was an old red truck, paint cracked and edges rusted in a charming way. James dropped his gaze to the floor next, looking for fresh prints in the hay dusted ground. That was when Q gasped behind him in horror.

James gaze whipped up to where Q’s eyes were fixed, only needing to take note of the dangling pair of boots in the rafters before rounding back on his companion, placing his hand over tear shined eyes far too late.

“Shh, shh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you saw that, I’ll take care of it, just go back to the hummer until I come find you,” he said in a rush, bile rising in his throat as he listened to Q’s frantic breathing as he held the slight and trembling form in his arms. There would be no taking back the image of what used to be the farmer here, hanging from the loft, not with Q’s memory as it was. Somehow, even after seeing so many deaths at the hands of monsters, death at their own hands would always sting in a painfully different way. 

“We’re going to stay here still?” Q cried out, horrified.

James winced, “Darling, the sun is setting, and we don’t know if there will be anything up ahead that will be safe. There are no Infected here, the body and truck are untouched, which means this place is truly empty.”

“Except for him!”

“I know, I know. I’ll take care of it, I promise, but we can’t leave tonight. I’m sorry, but I need to keep you safe and this is our best bet right now,” he said softly, dragging his hand through Q’s curls in a soothing manner for both of them. 

“Fuck. Fine. Just…take care of him. Respectfully,” Q finally bit out, without any real acid in his voice. He looked shocked and saddened at their discovery, another rude awakening from a nightmare into another nightmare. James now wished that he had left Q in the vehicle while he looked alone, if only to spare him another piece of innocence that was now irretrievably gone. 

He could practically feel the reluctance in Q’s questioning eyes as he slowly pulled away, walking back to their mobile haven with his arms wrapped tightly around his frame. James longed to follow him, not wanting to leave him alone when he was clearly upset, but survival would always take priority, and James was running out of light.


Carefully climbing into the loft, James was able to lower the body gently down into the back of the red truck. He was glad it had been so cold lately, the body not horrifically decomposed yet, as it made things easier on the senses. There would be no time to dig a grave, and he didn’t want to draw attention to the farm by making a fire, so he tried to think of the next most respectful place he could place the body. 

James ran up to the house, thanking any and all deities on duty when it was mercifully empty too, and grabbed several sheets. He used those to carefully wrap up the remains, and then drive the truck and body closer to the house so he could carry it in and lay it on a bed. In here, no wolves would get to him and he could rest in peace in his own home, and not in a cold and empty barn. 

It wasn’t perfect, and a part of James’ heart lurched at the thought of what would happen to their bodies if they died on this journey, but he quickly pushed the thoughts aside as he moved back outside to where Q was waiting.

It was almost completely dark by the time James was able to drive them inside the barn, taking the place of the red truck. Just in time to settle in for the night.

Of course, it wasn’t an easy and relaxing night to start. 

For the first time, Q actively refused to eat anything, not even caving in when James begged him. He was sullen and withdrawn and uttered few words beyond his refusals. It was hardly surprising, this would be testing the mental limits of any sane person and James was only just barely able to manage it himself, but only from years of seeing traumatic deaths. Not to mention they were camping out in the setting of what could have been a teen sensation horror flick. Half the script had practically written itself so far. 

James sighed in defeat after a few hours, leaning back against the wall in the living space of their hummer. 

Living space was a generous term for it, seeing as how a good portion of it was taken up by weapons and bags of supplies, but Q had done the best he could in setting aside space for them to sleep each night. It was a strip of bare floor that was piled thick with blankets and a few pillows, but it was the most comfortable James had ever felt sleeping in a car. 

The last few nights they had spent curled tightly together in the little nook, just like it had been when they were squished together in those hammocks, only this time James was free to hold as tightly as he wanted, letting his hands wander as they wished while Q would sigh happily and snuggle in closer with each breath. 

Now though, Q was curled up on his side, facing the wall while James sat in the back seat looking down at his back with concern. 

“Q?”

No response.

“Olive? Please talk to me. Tell me what I can do to help,” he pleaded, reaching down to grasp at a pointed shoulder that twitched under his grip.

There was silence for a few moments as James let his hand stay there, feeling the rise and fall of Q’s gentle breathing.

“I’m sorry. I just…I wasn’t expecting…that,” Q said, his voice hitching. 

James’ shoulders sagged in relief as Q finally spoke, and he lowered himself to the floor beside his young lover, “I know, I’m sorry you had to see that. You’ve seen far too many deaths, I wish I could have spared you another,” he said as he rubbed his hand up and down those slender arms. 

He felt Q sigh deeply, sniffling a bit as he spoke, “It wasn’t just seeing a body, it was more than that. This one…he was alone. All alone in this fucked up world, and it just scared me. To think about what I would have done if I was alone. If you weren’t here. I just couldn’t help but feel his loneliness, his fear, and it terrified me,” he confessed in a whisper.

James had felt his heart break many times in his life. Be it by death, by betrayal, or by negligence. This was the first time it broke for someone else’s pain. 

Q turned to grab on to him the same time that James swooped in to gather him up in his arms, the both of them meeting in a desperate tangle as Q cried into the crook of his neck. 

“I so scared to lose you, James,” he said, clawing at his back to draw him in impossibly closer, “Everywhere we’ve been, everywhere we go, there’s no one. How much longer will be stay lucky when everyone else is gone?”

He didn’t know what to say to that when he had been thinking the same damn thing. Dying didn’t bother him much, it never had, but leaving Q alone to face what the world had become on his own was a fear he never dreamed of having. Swallowing hard against the lump in his throat, he buried his face in that tangle of hair, breathing in the now hauntingly familiar scent of his lover, and he tried to frantically thing of something he could say to comfort him. But words were now as fleeting as bird in fall. 

Then he remembered something that Kincaid had favored saying back when James was a boy. The old man’s gruff delivery always bringing a smile to his face, even during the hardest times of his life.

He huffed out a breath into Q’s hair, “Life has handed us a fork while we are drowning in soup.”

Q pulled his head back and stared at him in confusion, “ What ?”

“It means we have to make the best of what we’re given. I think. I never did hear the second half of the saying, if there even is one.”

“So, does that mean we pick out the noodles with the fork, or that we just shouldn’t lament over the absence of a spoon?” Q asked, his nose adorably scrunched as he muddled over an old man’s words. 

Shit. Now James was a bit confused as well, “Both maybe?”

Q sunk back into the sheets, his eyes flickering back and forth over the ceiling as he processed the words like they held some secret answer to everything. Even if they were randomly plucked from James brain in a fit of panic. Q didn’t need to know that though, seeing as he wasn’t crying anymore. 

“James?”

“Mm?”

“I think I want to pick out the noodles.”

James blinked, “Is that a euphemism, or—”

Suddenly Q was straddling him, lean thighs pressed tightly against either side of James hips, “Could be in this case I suppose. I want to take what I can from this life while I still have it, while I still have you. I’m so bloody terrified of everything now, and you’re the only good thing left. So, please, I want to feel you as long as I can,” he said as he leaned down and slammed their lips together in a wet, sloppy and desperate kiss, that James was only too eager to return. 

“You have me, Olive. I’m right here,” he gasped out as they both finally pulled away for air. Even in the darkness of their little nest, he could see the brightness in Q’s eyes as they held back fresh tears. James had always known his life to be temporary, having learned at age eleven the true reality of a mortal human life. It was why his job never bothered him, the threat of death had been by his side since childhood, a reality that he had learned to live with. Now though, he had something to leave behind, something so precious and fragile, even the thought of making him sad was enough to bring James to his knees in surrender. 

He stopped them both, taking the moment to tenderly run his hand along Q’s soft cheek in a long caress, “I can’t lose you either. I won’t. It would mean the end of us both,” he said, his voice thick with emotions he was terrified to give name to. 

It was a rush from there, the two of them unable to keep their hands off of each other, tearing away the clothes that stood in the way of skin meeting skin. Desperation fueled every movement as Q roughly shoved off his own trousers and boots, and James all but tore his shirt over his head before diving back at each other, reveling in being able to touch everything. After over a month of seeing nothing but death everywhere they went, the feel of life under their fingertips was like breathing in oxygen. 

Q began to thrust his hips down frantically, his erection digging deep into the recess of James hip. The soft whimpers that fell from his lips were enough to confirm that it was not enough, that they both needed more than the quick and efficient hand jobs they had enjoyed since their departure from the base. 

“Olive, did you—”

“Brown bag to your left, side pocket” came the quick response, muffled by the skin of his neck that Q was sucking on greedily, seemingly very determined to mark James up as best he could, as if to remind the universe that James was his and would fight to keep him.

A bottle of lube and a bunch of condoms were neatly packed inside, in true Quartermasterly fashion, and James hastily pulled out what they would need to settle the ache that had taken up in their hearts. 

“How do you—”

“Fuck me, please James. I want to feel you tonight,” he whined, placing a sloppy sucking kiss to his shoulder, “And tomorrow,” he finished, his eyes flashing with meaning. Hard and fast, to match the desperation that fueled them both. 

“On your knees then,” James ordered, helping Q to flip places with him. 

Q was all too eager, moaning in almost a pained fashion as he lowered his chest to the floor, dipping his spine low while canting his hips up high. 

James cock twitched violently at the sight, unable to keep his hands to himself as he rubbed them up and down those long flanks, fingers tracing over the subtle shift of ribs as Q’s breathing picked up. 

“Fuck, look at you. Presenting yourself like the gift you are,” he purred, enjoying the shiver he felt run through the body beneath him. He let one hand curl up under Q's body, resting his hand on the lean chest there. A heartbeat. Strong and fast. Indisputable evidence that Q was alive and there.

There was no way that this would last long, not when it felt like time and death were nipping at their heels at every damned moment now. He only spared a short second more to take in the painfully arousing sight below him before he hastily poured lube onto his fingers. 

His first finger sank in easily, aided by Q’s hips canting backwards to help speed things along. James allowed it for the first one, but used his other hand to tightly grip a sharp hipbone to hold Q steady as he started to work in a second. 

He ignored Q’s long and drawn out whine at the delay it caused, but James held firm, “Don’t worry, love. It doesn’t have to hurt for you to still feel it tomorrow,” he promised, a low pleased rumble falling from his chest as Q’s squirming seemed to lessen, taking James promise to heart. 

By the time he was easily working a third finger in and out of his lover, James’ cock was steadily leaking just from the sight and sounds of Q.

“I’m ready, please. Now. I want to feel you, now. James!” he cried, his hips wriggling once again under James’ grip. 

Under any other circumstance, James would be preening a bit at how eager his Olive sounded for him. Not now though. Not when this was about more than just pleasure. Comfort in it's most intimate way. He pulled his fingers out, and quickly prepared himself, hushing Q’s frantic sounds. He mounted Q, roughly pulling those tiny hips back against him until he heard the sharp slap of skin meeting skin. 

“Ready?”

“I’ve been ready, you great brute!” 

James chuckled and lined himself up, pushing in slowly, but unrelentingly as he completely sheathed himself in on long motion.

“Ah!” Q cried out in pleasure, his hands fisting in the blankets under them.

He only waited until he could feel Q relaxing around him before setting up a brutal pace as he pounded into him, savoring the tightness he felt. He kept his grip firm on Q’s hips, holding him in place as he kept up the thrusting, changing angles until the soft gasps became choked off pleasured moans. 

“Oh, right there. Yes! Harder, please!”

“Fuck, the voice on you,” James groaned, obediently increasing the force of his thrusts, “Alec was right about the phone sex line.”

Either Q didn’t hear him over his own cries, or he didn’t care enough as James continued to strike his prostate over and over until it was on the precipice of being too much. He could see the white knuckles clenched tightly around the blankets, the graceful curve of Q’s spine as he arched back, seeking out more of what James was giving him. The half of his face that wasn’t shoved into the pillow was slack with pleasure, his bright, inquisitive eyes closed in bliss, a soft red flush on his cheeks as he panted. This was definitely topping the list of best car sex that the had so far, or for James maybe ever. 

He wasn’t being gentle at all, the both of them needing to feel something physical, strong and present. Not soft and fleeting. They would both end up feeling this tomorrow, but that was the point wasn’t it? Any reminder that they weren’t alone was something to treasure now.  

The sounds of skin slapping and both of their eager voices filled the car, the close quarters making it feel like the very air around them vibrated with their lovemaking. James could smell the musk of them combining in an erotic aroma only made more prominent by the heat building too. 

“Oh, I’m close. Fuck, I’m close James,” Q all but whimpered out. Until now, he had kept his hands up by his head, fingers still curled tight into fists, but James saw him begin to tentatively bring his hand down, no doubt to take matters into his own hand.

James slapped it away, “No. You only can come from me tonight,” he said forcefully. This is what they needed, what Oliver needed. 

James pulled those hips roughly back against his thighs, slamming into Q’s arse with as much finesse as he could muster under the force, hearing the pleasured sobs that fell from cherried lips following. He was close too. It was honestly a miracle that he hadn’t busted at the first sounds of Q begging, but he couldn’t drag this on much longer. 

He reluctantly pulled one hand off of Q’s hips, reaching around to grab at his neglected cock that was leaking profusely onto the blankets beneath them. 

“Fuck, James!” Q cried out as he came after only two quick pulls. 

The sound of his name being called out like that on top of the crushing pressure as Q clenched around him was all it took to send James into his own climax. 

They gathered their breath for a few beats, before Q all but flopped down in exhaustion, James carefully curling down on top of him, shifting his weight so that he didn’t squish his lover. They laid together in silence, still joined for a bit while the arousal faded and the full force of their fatigue hit them. 

At some point James must have cleaned them up, but he was too tired to remember anything but pulling Q’s body flush against his own and covering them with a spare blanket. That was the only thing he needed to remember anyway. Q was there. And so was James.

James fell asleep to the sound of two hearts beating together.

Chapter Text

Radio All Channels

*static* 

 

Q burrowed into James chest further, not caring how it made breathing difficult. He was exhausted, he was scared, and he just wanted to hide in James’ warmth as a hopeless attempt to pull some comfort from the situation they found themselves in. 

The hummer shook around them once again, followed by achingly close moans that echoed chillingly against the metal walls. Q couldn’t hold back the soft whimper that fell past his lips as he clung against James, his fingers clenched into the fabric of his jacket. 

“Shh, shh,” he heard James whisper, his lips buried somewhere on top of Q’s head.

“Tell them that!” he muttered back.

He felt James sigh, his chest rising and falling in shared exasperation at their less that fortunate predicament. He knew that James was scared too though, going by the way the agent tensed up at every movement and sound around them. He had probably gotten even less sleep than Q, being so alert.

It had been almost two days since they drove across the border, a sense of triumph and hope lighting up their senses as they felt like the finish line was in sight. That feeling had dissipated rather quickly after they hit a larger town half a day in, a town that it seemed had shared the virus like breadsticks at dinner. 

It wasn’t that they let their guard down as they neared their goal. It was more that their supposed well of ”luck” had finally run dry. Every town before they had hit a herd or two of infected, their numbers just few enough that they could plow through or move around. This time though, the number of dead in the town created a herd so dense that they had run out of fuel while trying to drive through steadily. 

For two days they had been stuck here, in the middle of a damned intersection, hundreds of Infected swarming around them like bees with poor sense of direction. Well, hundreds to start with anyhow.

They made use of the turret gun up top in short bursts, but the sounds of the gun firing had drawn even more out. They would try again an hour later only for even more to appear like locusts. They had only given up when Q warned James that ammo was already a quarter used up. 

They chose then to hunker down in their little turtle shell, a term that James greatly despised, and admitted that they would either have to wait for a break in the crowds, or come up with a plan that would no doubt go wrong. 

The first night was dreadful. Q was sure that he didn’t even sleep, instead passing the hours staring blankly up at the ceiling, forcing himself to work through hundreds of formulae just to keep his mind off of the fact that they were a bucket of chum with a hoard of sharks circling around them, with only one thin metal barrier between them. Granted, it was a bullet proof barrier, but somehow that did little to assuage his fears. 

Bleary eyed, the next morning James had looked about as awful as Q felt. One quick peek from the turret station on the roof showed that the number of Infected had not changed over night by much if anything. They had food and water at least, and could stand to take a few days as they worked out what to do, but the looming sense of dread was enough to make Q all but ready to make up some bombs and toss them about in the hopes of destroying the hoards and not themselves in the process. 

James had not been a fan of that plan at all, surprising considering the promise of some spectacular explosions. James usually adored those.

It was now getting dark on their second night, nothing changed much beyond the gradual shredding of their nerves as the anxiety drew on and on. Q could see the stress building in James’ shoulders and in how he clenched his jaw tightly enough it had to have been aching. They wouldn’t be able to last much longer here without losing their minds.

Not to mention, every minute they spent holed up here was another minute that they still had no idea what had come of Alec.

Bloody Infected.


“I don’t know why we’re even bothering trying to sleep. We both know we’ll never manage it with them shaking us like boxes at Christmas.”

“I was rather hoping that sheer exhaustion would be enough, but I’m starting to agree that it may be a lost cause at this point,” James replied, sounding more sad than annoyed.

Q felt as one of James’ thumb started to stroke up and down his side, a movement that may have been meant to comfort Q, but one that James was probably getting something from as well going by the way his hands became more gentle over the minutes that passed. 

Q wanted to pull comfort from it, but instead it just fueled his frustration. They couldn’t continue on like this. Soon they would be too exhausted to attempt any sort of half-arsed escape. They needed to do something. Q couldn’t believe that James was fine just sitting here over the alternative. He was supposed to be the man of action, but he was hiding. Voluntarily. It was just unnatural, and that too frustrated Q because he knew it was his fault. His fault for being so vulnerable and weak that James went against his own nature just to keep him safe. He hated it.

He steeled himself, enjoying what was probably the last few seconds of relative peace before he stirred up things inside of their bubble.

“I think it may be time to reconsider my suggestion—”

“No.”

“But if you’d just—”

“No. I’m not letting you risk yourself like that.”

“But—”

“No, Oliver!”

Q pulled out of James arms roughly, leaving their gathering of blankets in tangles around them, “We can’t just sit here forever. Alec is waiting for us, and the longer we sit here the greater the danger we put ourselves in. We’ll make ourselves sick with fatigue before you pull your head out of your arse long enough to see the light and smell the fucking daisies.”

The blond growled, pushing himself into a sitting position as well, “We’ll leave as soon as we come up with a plan that isn’t suicidal.”

“It’s not suicidal, you’re just being overdramatic because logic dictates for once that you aren’t the one who gets to play hero!”

“There are no heroes anymore, just idiots who think they are above the statistics!”

“Don’t you dare spout statistics at me when you still need your phone to calculate tips!” Q spat back. He could feel his face turn red as the quell of built up frustration came to its precipice. He was tired and he was scared, and despite all this Q knew without a doubt, his plan would be the best on they had, “Do you really believe that just sitting around here waiting is going to out favor the outcome of us getting off of our arses and doing something? Or are you just hoping that a particularly strong wind comes by and just blows all the Infected away?”

 James shifted to his knees, probably in some instinctual need to assert dominance with size or whatever other testosterone induced posturing he felt necessary at the moment. It fell flat though, mostly because he all effect was lost since they couldn’t stand to full height inside a damn car anyway. 

“Q, what you are suggesting is too dangerous. You could be overwhelmed in seconds, or have you forgotten how fast those things can move?”

Q fought to urge to cross his arms over his chest, knowing that it would just serve to make him look like a pouting child, “That is why you would be there to watch my back. I don’t understand why you’re so against this. You’ve always watched my back before. Is it because you don’t trust me to get my part done? Is that it?” he asked, hating how hurt his words sounded, despite the pain being a real and true thing.

Q watched stunned as James all but reeled back, his face shocked. He looked as pained and surprised as if Q had just managed to slap him across the cheek. He was already shaking his head in denial as he shot forward, grabbing hold of Q and pulling him in close again in a tight embrace. 

Immediately, all the fight left Q when he felt James’ shuddering breath against his neck, “Of course I trust you. I always have, even before I got to know you, I always knew I could trust you with my life. Never doubt that, please. I—I don’t trust easily, so for you to have gotten past that barrier so fast and so completely is something I treasure and respect. You are one of the most capable people I’ve ever met.”

Q shuddered, the weight of the words settling heavily on his heart, making unexpected tears well in his eyes, “Then…why?” he asked wetly, “I want to help, why won’t you let me?”

“Because I don’t trust myself to keep you safe,” he whispered heartbreakingly, shame vibrating through every bone in his body, “I can’t lose you. Not by my hand.”

Q sighed and closed his eyes, pulling back from his agent far enough to allow him to reach up and cup the side of his weathered yet painfully handsome face, “James. Darling, I have been and always will be safest in your hands. I know that if I die—” James hissed and tried to pull away only for Q to grab his chin and force his gaze back to meet his own, “—If I die, James, that you will have done everything you possibly could have to protect me. I will rest easy knowing that it must have truly been my time if even the great 007 couldn’t save me. And it would not be your fault. And don’t forget, it’s my job to keep you safe too, and right now, I can help get us out of this shit show if you let me.”

James pulled him in tight again, guiding them down until they lay in the blankets once more.

“Tomorrow then. First light,” came the quiet, but determined words as the older man accepted whatever fate awaited them.

Q could still feel his fear as real as if it were a chill in the air but knew that no words would held ease it. Instead, he burrowed once again against the strong and broad chest before him and wrapped his arms around his lover too this time. He thought that maybe this time around, James needed to be held too.


Bile rose in his throat in time with the sunrise as the time drew closer to go along with Q’s plan. Angrily, he tied his crossbow to his hip.

It wasn’t a good plan, but they didn’t have enough resources to make a good plan at this point. They had to settle for chance . One chance, to be specific. Never before had James hated chance so much. 

Normally chance was something he played with. Like life was a poker game, even with a terrible hand there was always a chance that James could still come out on top using his other skills. The adrenaline rush he’d get from such plays was like a drug, addictive and mesmerizing. 

Now though, he didn’t feel that same rush. He felt terrified, sick, and ready to fold.  

Q was right though. They’d either try now with the chance of surviving, or sit around until it was too late and they died anyway. 

Funny how that didn’t make him feel the slightest bit better about seeing Q preparing for the run of their lives.

“Wrap that ankle up,” he said shortly, hating that he couldn’t manage anything with more warmth in his voice.

Q, blessed and beautiful Q, didn’t point it out and wordlessly grabbed the first aid kit by his side and dutifully wrapped up his recently healed ankle in a thick bandage. It had shown no signs of weakness or prolonged pain, but James wasn’t about to let them chance it during a full-on sprint. 

Q carefully slipped his boots on, taking care that each lace was tight and the knot held firm, “Do you want to review the plan again?” he asked as he stood, brushing off non-existent dust from his pants.

James grunted darkly, loading up the rifle with a bit more force than necessary, “Not much to go over. You’re just going to run over to that line of parked cars and syphon fuel while I try to kill everything that dares get within a four-meter radius of you. Hardly need a map for that.”

“Yes, it is rather simple I suppose. We just have to hope we don’t use up all the ammo before I get back.”

“Or before the sound of gunfire draws every last Infected in the city to where we are.”

“…yes that too. Shall we get started then?”

Any anger at their situation evaporated in that moment as it hit James that this could possibly be the last time that he and Q were ever together in this lifetime. It was wretched to think about, but James couldn’t help but wonder if this was it. Death by running out of petrol. Q deserved better.

James reached out, sliding his hand around the back of Q’s slender neck and pulling him close. He leaned down to capture his lips for a crushing kiss that conveyed his desperation and love as best he could manage. When he was finally able to pull away, he could see Q’s similar emotions returned.

He looked scared. He also looked bloody determined. 

“After you, Quartermaster.”

The pair of them quietly lifted the lid of their turret station, breathing in the fresh and crisp morning air as the took in the streets around them. The number had not decreased overnight, but it hadn’t increased either. Around seventy of them were aimlessly milling about the area, some close, some at more of a distance but still within visual range. James would have to single handedly keep them back, creating a clear path for Q. It would be damned difficult, but they had little choice.

They’d already chosen the string of cars on the street North of them, noting an older modeled car that would be easiest to syphon without modern designs blocking the technique. James only hoped that it was bloated with fuel and not almost empty. Fucking chance .

They kept their movement and sounds to a minimum as James helped Q climb onto the outer roof, handing him the jug and hose he’d need once he’d found his feet. Q wore just his pants and a thermal shirt, no jacket to keep it as difficult as possible for anything to grab hold of him. It was cold though, making Q shiver lightly as he pulled away from James who ached to pull him back inside and wrap him up in a blanket, pretending this never happened.

He never got the chance though. Not before one of the monsters finally caught sight of them and let out a wail that echoed painfully off of the buildings around them. 

Q’s eyes widened, but he didn’t freeze up like most would at becoming a single hors d’oeuvre placed out on a platter among a hoard of starving creatures. He all but flew off the roof, jumping over the heads of several Infected, running as soon as his gangly legs hit the ground. 

The sound of bullets ripping through the air followed simultaneously as James opened fire on the masses. He first had to clear the way ahead for Q, and then focus on keeping the radius around him empty. It was hard to prioritize when there were so bloody many of them!

James grit his teeth as he forced himself to focus on the goal rather than firing wildly at anything that so much as turned in Q’s direction. In order for this to work, Q had to make it to the car. He needed that car to be clear and only James could do that for him now.

It would have been so much easier to lay waste to these creatures if they went down by normal wounded means, but the fucking bastards needed a head shot before they would finally stop moving.

There was one on the left of Q that swung it’s arms out, only missing its target due to a carefully aimed shot by James, but he saw Q’s momentary stumble of surprise before he righted himself and tore onwards.

James felt sweat start to bead on his forehead despite it being cold enough to see his own breath. He didn’t dare wipe it away though, not a second could be wasted to distraction when Q’s life was at stake. 

He couldn’t focus much on his lover beyond assuring that he was still moving towards the goal, but he was proud of him for being able to make it this far already without screaming in terror. He could name at least five junior agents back at MI6 that would have been screeching like banshees after the first one made a grab.

Q was doing it though, darting along like a rabbit, arms and legs pumping as he made his way forward.

The path was clear though, the target in sight.

It was probably less than forty-five seconds, but it felt painfully long before Q was using the side of the car to slam himself to a stop, not wasting any time in slowing down first. 

James rolled his shoulders, quickly reloading the ammo belt into the turret gun, one eye on Q as he tore open the gas lid and shoved the hose down.

It was only five seconds later that the first Infected made it within the radius. 

A shot rang out.

Officially dead.

Four seconds later…

Another shot.

Disposed of.

Two seconds later…

Another shot.

Threat removed.

The pauses were getting smaller and smaller in between as the hoards finally started to close in on where Q was crouched next to the car, casting anxious glances over his shoulder as he waited for the jug to fill. James began to feel a slight tremor in his hand as he was forced to swivel back and forth between the groups closing in from all sides. 

It was getting too tight.

James growled, his heart hammering against his chest as the four-meter radius became a three-meter radius. 

They were getting too close.

He could see Q growing more nervous, but he stayed at his post, trusting James to keep him safe, only James was terrified that he would fail. 

He continued to send out shot after shot, begging the deity of the day to just let him hold out a while longer. He nearly wept with joy when he saw Q yank out the hose and place the cap back on the jug.

But then the next shot didn’t come as he pulled the trigger. He had reached the end of the ammo belt. He had to take precious seconds to reload, seconds Q didn’t have.

James swore his heart stopped beating in that moment, as he looked up to see at least ten Infected all circling Q like vultures.

“Duck under the car!” he screamed desperately.

Q dove down at the ground just as a decaying hand swiped at his face, rolling under the car with the jug held tightly to his chest.

He let out an almost hysterical laugh at how Q’s skinniness was probably the only reason he was able to fit under there so easily where James would have had to squeeze himself uncomfortably. 

It only took him less than ten seconds to change out the belt, their last one, and begin to rapid fire again, but he didn’t stop to think about the agony that would come with the realization that he could not see Q.

He couldn’t see anything beyond the Infected that were clumsily pawing at the car’s undersides. He couldn’t hear anything beyond their infernal screeching. He had no idea if they were able to reach Q under there or not. It was hell on earth, but James would be damned if he didn’t keep shooting until the path was clear again.

Please be safe. Please be safe. Come back to me. Don’t leave me alone. Not like this.

James held his breath as the continued to take out each of them one by one with deadly precision, desperately looking for any sign of life below the car.

When the path was once again clear, James began to scream again, “Run! Run, Q! Go! Run!”

Several agonizing seconds passed before he spotted movement, and finally Q’s head emerging out from under the rear of the car.

He scrambled out and upright to begin the charge home, jug still tucked protectively under his arm. 

James didn’t stop to check for blood, knowing that he was all that could get Q back to safety now. 

Bang. Thud. Bang. Thud. Bang. Thud.

Bodies fell around Q like was a reaper come to claim the earth. 

James heart only started to beat again when Q slammed back into the hummer, already ripping open their fuel cap to begin pouring in the foul smelling liquid.

He couldn’t stop to ask if Q was alright, not with what seemed like a hundred more Infected pouring from the very woodwork of the town. However many James seemed to kill, ten more seemed to pop up out of nowhere like some sick Hydra incarnate. 

“Done!” came Q’s cry.

James didn’t even hesitate before jumping out from the turret hole, laying down on the roof as he reached down for Q’s hand.

Slender fingers wrapped around his wrist and he clasped tightly to the delicate arm before hauling Q upwards.

He had almost gotten him up when he felt Q jerk in his hands, a startled yelp escaping his lips.

“James!”

He saw it, one gnarly and putrid Infected had hold of Q’s ankle, and was pulling him backwards.

“No,” James snarled, adjusting his grip under Q’s arms to pull back more.

He could hear Q’s pained groans as he was pulled in two directions, but he didn’t dare let up on his grip. Distantly he could feel Q’s fingers digging into his legs enough to leave bruises.

All around them more Infected were closing in, and James couldn’t let go to take a shot at them with the crossbow tethered to his hip.

“Take the shot, James!”

“I can’t let go!”

“Yes, you can, I’ve got you. Take the bloody shot!”

The painful zing of past memories shot through him, startling him enough to let go of one hand and grab at his crossbow. It was already loaded with a bolt, and he aimed it for the center of the grey skinned skull.

He didn’t get his shot off until its mouth had already closed down over Q’s ankle, black stained teeth tearing pas the fabric. Q screamed.

It fell back with the bolt firmly between its' eyes, but James didn’t hear the thud over the ringing in his ears as he finally yanked Q back up on the roof and dragged him inside. He slammed the lid over them and fell down at Q’s side, tears already blurring his vision as he looked over his lover.

There were road burns over his face and hands from where he’d been crawling around on the pavement, but they were nothing. Nothing. Negligible compared to a bite.

“No, no, no, no…” James moaned, his hands hovering over Q, but not quite touching as his lover fought for breath, gasping pitifully on the floor. 

He couldn’t see his ankle where the pant leg covered it, but James didn’t really want to see it. Didn’t want to acknowledge his failure any more than he wanted to see Q’s cause of death before it even happened.

He was beginning to think of amputation vaguely before roughly beating down the idea. Infection and blood loss would kill him just as surely as the bite, and in a more prolonged and painful way. This was it, he had failed and now he had to watch another lover die in front of him.

Q kept trying to sit up, James forcibly pushing him back down each time as he was still gasping for air enough that he couldn’t even form any words yet. 

“Just stay down, let me—” he broke off, not knowing what Q was supposed to let him do. James felt his vision tunnel and his throat close up as he sat there. He didn’t even hear the sounds of the Infected beating on the sides of their vehicle. It was all white noise by now anyhow. 

“James,” he gasped, “Let me look, please—”

“No!” he snapped back, his voice cracking with emotion. 

Q tried to sit up once more, grabbing for his ankle until James hand snapped out and firmly gripped his wrist.

“James, please. Just let me check. I need to see,” Q pleaded, his eyes wide and desperate.

One look into those green pools and James knew he couldn’t tell Q no. As much as James didn’t want to see the damage done to his lover, the source of his death, Q needed to see it for whatever reason. 

“Fine, just…let me,” he said, once again pushing Q back into the blankets and moving down his body until he was beside Q’s feet. 

If only the boots had been just a bit higher on his leg, James thought mournfully as he moved to start tugging away at the torn trouser legs. The jagged rips where teeth had clung were daunting, and James carefully avoided touching where the poisoned saliva could still be sticking to the fabric. 

Slowly and carefully he pulled back the cloth until it bunched right under Q’s knobby knees. He held his breath, heart hammering away at his chest like it was all but ready to explode from the pressure. He looked down.

His eyes suddenly blurred with tears as he stared down at a slightly scuffed but still fully intact bandage wrapped around Q’s ankle where he had expected torn skin and blood. 

“Thank fuck,” Q breathed out, this time willingly laying back on the blankets and rubbing at his face. 

James was speechless, not quite believing his eyes. Already his hands were ripping off the boot and unwrapping the bandage until a pale, skinny and completely unblemished ankle was exposed. The bite hadn’t gone through the multiple layers of fabric. 

“Looks like you saved my life once again,” Q said with a tired grin, wriggling his foot that James still held cupped in his hands, “Your over-protective insistence on wrapping it up was all that kept me from becoming an Infected’s chew toy.”

He could see that Q was visibly shaking, the near bite no doubt terrifying him as much as it had James. There would be nightmares to come for both of them after this, but those were later, and this was now. 

“We did it,” Q whispered in awe a few moments later, his voice sounding a little wet as his emotions caught up with him.

James was too overcome with relief and joy to even let the words fully register. All that mattered to him in that moment was that his Olive was still alive, and they would continue to be so now that they had fuel again.

Crawling back up the length of his body, James pulled Q up into his lap, cradling the smaller body against his own. He rocked them both back and forth in a comforting motion as they both came down from their latest near death high. All the while James pressed small kisses on any part of Q his lips happened to touch, whispering soft and sweet words in his ear for as long as it took for the tremors to go away.

“My brave Olive. My brave, clever, and beautiful Olive. You did it, you clever thing you. I love you so much. Stay with me always. My Olive.”

Q stayed mostly silent, choosing instead to bury his face in the dark lee of James neck. Rubbing his cheek against his chest occasionally as his heart and lungs got back in order.

It may have been an hour later, the sounds of Infected still banging at their doors, but no amount of ruckus from them would prevent James from hearing the quiet words that Q muttered against the fabric of his shirt.

“I love you too.”

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 43

“Viste el Jeep? Dos hombres. Yo quiero.”



It took them another week and a half, nearly dying several more times, but...they had made it.

The city that had once been familiar to him lay almost unrecognizable beyond the general skyline of it. Even in the afternoon light it looked dim, muted. Spain was always full of life, bright colors, and joyous sounds, but what he saw now was nothing of the sort. 

He wouldn’t call it dead though, not when he could see signs of “life” in the streets as they drove in slowly, this time with a very full tank of petrol. These signs were less than the comfort they would have been weeks ago. Freshly raided store fronts. Broken glass shattered to the ground that hadn’t been washed away by the most recent rain storm only two days before. Fresh tire burns in the pavement…not yet decomposed bodies that showed more bullet wounds than bites...

The relief he expected to feel upon crossing into the city limits was almost completely quelled by the unease that had set in seeing the obvious signs of violent human life. R’s warning about survivor gangs rang clear in his head as he eased the hummer along the narrow streets that appeared to be empty. 

The startling lack of hoards of Infected was another alarming sign that there may be some other kind of predator in their midst. There were a few scattered about, some fresher than others, but they were easily taken out quietly by James’ crossbow before any screeching could start. It made for faster movement through the city, but it felt more alarming than anything after the last two months. 

Sure, if Alec were here he’d no doubt be responsible for a large chunk of the Infected population’s absence, but surely even he couldn’t have eliminated a whole city’s worth of them. 

There would be far more evidence of explosions if that were the case.

Q was subdued sitting next to him in the front seat, a rifle with a home-made silencer laid across his lap as he stared out the windows. He didn’t smile upon seeing the name for the city begin to show on the street signs, and he didn’t smile now. As eager as they were to truly begin the search for Alec, they were both all too aware of just how dangerous and possibly heartbreakingly disappointing this trip could end up. 

It was getting later in the day, and James did not feel confident about staying out in the open for long. Not with a living and dead threat looming potentially around every next corner they turned. As much as he was near gnawing on his own arm to begin looking for signs of Alec, he wouldn’t put them in unnecessary danger. Not with Q by his side.

He began to search for a place to hold up for the night. 

Keeping in mind that this time he couldn’t be picky, he tried to drive slowly, keeping to back streets. The prickling sense of eyes on them was too much to bear, and he didn’t want them any more exposed than they already were. 

Up ahead he spotted a decrepit looking car shop, the kind that saw far more motorcycles than minivans, and drew in the start of a heavy sigh. From what he saw, there were no signs of anyone inside or out of it for a long time, even with a bay door left open. Not even the skeletons of other cars were in there, clearly having been abandoned. Possibly even before the bloody apocalypse. It would have to do. At least their hummer would fit in the doors and they could close themselves in. 

He pulled them up into the driveway and parked inside.

They waited a minute for someone to come out either guns blazing or dead and snarling, but there was silence.

They both fell back into their seats, weary shoulders stooping low.


They did their perimeter checks before closing and locking all the doors they could find. The place was picked clean of anything useful, but they had all they needed really. Anything else squished into the car would just make it difficult to sleep. Especially once they added a third body to their sleeping arrangements. 

“Why here?” Q asked after they had begun to settle in, James tucking away the remains of their dinner while Q set up their bedding.

“Don’t you like mechanic shops?”

Q leveled him with an unimpressed glare, “No, not the shop. Why here. Why choose to meet in this city rather than London. Or even your old home in Scotland. Neither of you are from here. You obviously don’t own property, otherwise we’d already be all cozied up there. It just seems...odd.”

Thinking on it, Q had a point. This was in no way a safe haven. No hidden military armory. No underground lair. Not even a safehouse. Q was no doubt very confused as to the logic of coming to a city at the end of the world that didn’t even offer anything in the way of true safety.

Then again, there was a pretty good reason for that. Pretty embarrassing as well.

“Ah, you see. We were both spectacularly drunk at the time, and we were playing darts, and there was a map on the wall you see…”

Q’s mouth dropped open, “You chose your end of the world destination on chance !” he all but shouted, “What if it had landed in the middle of the ocean? What if it was in the blood Antarctic?” We could have had to hike our arses across continents and oceans!”

“Hey, you’re the one who said that we were all better off running our lives off of fortune cookies now,” James pointed out, but in truth he was rather embarrassed over the whole thing, “Let’s just call it fate that it landed on something relatively nearby to home.”

“But, you-- James,” he stressed, clearly not able to comprehend how anyone could come to the conclusion they had over drunken darts of all things.

James lifted his hands in surrender, “In our defense, we truly didn’t ever think the apocalypse would really happen. This promise was made years ago.”

Q gaped a few more times, not seeming able to find words to execute whatever scolding he had for James, and then he fell back wearily against the blankets with both his hands covering his face.

“Bloody double-oh’s…”

James chuckled, sitting down on the floor by Q’s side, carding his fingers through the too-long hair. Normally James would already be curling against Q’s side, pulling him close and forcing himself to relax into the arms of sleep, but he was too wired for that now.

They were so close

After months of worry and suffering, Alec could be just down the bloody street.

It was as thrilling as it was terrifying. 

He didn’t want to think about what they might not find. He didn’t want to think about how long they would search before giving up. Even worse, he didn’t even want to contemplate getting here only to find Alec out among the streets, skin grey and peeling…

They had almost died too many times getting here to even entertain the idea that it would all be in vain. It was just too painful to think about.

The knowledge that Alec was safe would be more than enough for James. His heart ached with the not knowing. Alec had been his only consistent family for so long, he wasn’t sure how he could handle it if that was suddenly gone for real. Of course he had Q, but there was only so much damage a soul could take and he didn’t want to think about Q being tied to a broken man. He deserved better. 

There was hope though. They were here. They made it. That was at least something positive to think about. 

It was much more fun to think about what it would be like to have Alec and Q stuck in the same vehicle for an extended period though. Like housing a remarkably tolerant cat with an overly friendly dog. He smiled even now thinking about it. 

While Q and Alec had already met multiple times before, it had only been in a professional sense. From what he’d seen of their interactions, James was sure that they would form an unbreakable bond now, given time and maybe a near death experience or two. Alec was already doting towards Q, returning cat figurines in lieu of lost gadgets, always genuinely apologetic even if his shit eating grin didn’t show it. Q, on the other hand, always greeted Alec warmly and with inquiries as to his health. Physical and mental. And then inquiries after his tech. James knew that Q truly cared for his agents, but even he could tell that the normally stoic Quartermaster held a soft spot for his most fire-happy agent. It was in the way he would pause his work in order to listen to Alec’s humorous stories, giggling uncontrollably as his latest antics.

More than all that, he knew that Alec would work himself to his last drop of blood if it meant keeping James and Q safe. And that Q would do the same for both of them. Surely the three of them together would be unstoppable, making the trip back to London a breeze.

Or so his fantasy went in that scenario.

“We’ll try to find Alec, tomorrow. Unfortunately, even with Alec’s penchant for explosions and all things arson, finding signs of him now will be very difficult. He will be doing his best to be invisible if he’s here. And he’s damned good at that when he wants to be.”

Q snorted gently, turning on his side to rub his chin on James’ knee, “As much as I am aware through reports that he is exceptionally skilled in stealth, I still struggle to picture him as being subtle in any case. Not when Q-Branch all but explodes when he comes in.”

James peered down at him, smiling warmly “Ah yes, his grand entrances. You know why he does that, right?”

“Because he enjoys seeing all of us boffins jump half a foot in the air in unison?”

James huffed out a laugh, “Well, possibly that too, but really he does it because there aren’t many places he feels safe making noise coming into a room. Even in his own flat he enters silently. Q-Branch though...he feels safe in there. So, he takes a bit of liberty in being as loud as possible coming in I suppose.”

“That have to do with the immense amounts of weapons and explosives on hand?”

“And the hands on the weapons and explosives. He trusts you.”

Q fell quiet, but there was a small and content tug on his lips that told James that he was touched that Alec felt that way. 

A short amount of time passed, and even without windows to the outside, James knew instinctively that it was fully dark out now. Their sleep schedules were in time with the sun, but James still couldn’t bring himself to settle down, not even with Q’s eyelids falling lower and lower in time with his body relaxing back into the blankets. 

His socked feet were tucked in close, the night running much colder now that they were on their way into winter soon enough. The over-large sweatshirt from the base was a staple at night for him now, not even James’ body heat was enough to keep his lean frame from shivering under the covers. James for one hardly minded. He loved how soft it made Q look, almost like he could pretend that they were back in his own flat, Q bundled in one of his old Navy sweatshirts rather than some Italian army one in the middle of a mechanics shop. 

The sight should have warmed him. Or even made him sleepy at seeing his lover almost fully asleep in his lap, but the restlessness stayed.

Eventually, his legs started to tingle as they fell asleep without him, and he adjusted carefully, but he still woke Q up from his light doze. He cursed under his breath.

“Wassit? James?” he asked, eyes barely open.

“Shh, love. Just got to move around a bit. You go back to sleep,” he said softly, upset that he managed to wake up Q from sleep he dearly needed. He started to fluff up the blankets and pillows around the thin body, guiding him back down on the floor, “Just sleep. I’m going to do a perimeter check. I’ll be back,” he soothed.

His eyes didn’t open much more, but a crease formed between his eyes, “Did you hear something? Infected?”

“No, just restless legs. Go back to sleep.”

The frown didn’t go away, but Q lay back obediently, “Be safe.”

James looked down at him fondly, bending down to kiss him gently on the lips before pulling away, “I’ll be back. I love you.”

“Hmm, ‘ove you,” came the muffled reply as Q burrowed back under the blankets like some sort of woodland creature. He wouldn't be nearly as warm as if James were under there with him, but he wouldn’t be gone long. He grabbed his small crossbow and stepped out.


Cold nights were eerily quiet anywhere you went in the world. That’s just how it went. The bugs would go silent. Nobody ventured out on foot. Errands were left for the next day when the sun made the day more bearable. It was even more quiet now that there was no hum of electricity, or generators. 

In a sense it could be useful, in that his ears could pick up on more disturbances without them being masked by the normal cadences of nighttime. In another sense, it made masking his own sounds far more difficult. 

For Q, it made it difficult to sleep, seeing that he was a through and through city brat. The utter silence was soothing until one small innocuous noise came about, startling him back to alertness. For James, it sometimes made it near impossible.

James did one circuit around the interior of the shop, not really expecting to find anything, but enjoying the exercise for what it was. After weeks stuck in a driver’s seat, the movement was truly a gift. He was going to head back to the hummer and the waiting semi-warm body when he felt the trickle of unsease come back.

He glanced over to the doors, straining his ears for anything out of the ordinary. 

A soft shuffling noise outside.

James raised his crossbow, stepping closer to the door. He spared only half a second thought for Q, who was still nestled away snugly in their nest, before he started to stalk forward. There wouldn’t be time to get to him now.

*BANG*

Without warning, James was thrown back as the door went sailing off its hinges. He landed painfully several feet away, his crossbow knocked out of his grip as he tried to get his bearings. The air was completely punched from his lungs, leaving him gasping as the world spun around him. Before he could even discern which way was up, a flood of armed men came storming into the shop, all of them shouting in Spanish and waving their guns around at every corner until their eyes fell on him. 

“Quédate abajo!”

Absently his mind translated the familiar language and he weakly put his hands up. The men looked agitated, shouting back and forth at each other to check this room or that. Their weapons were all mismatched, some looking like military or police standard issued while others looked like those that were found more among the civilian enthusiasts. No uniforms on any of them. Gang.

“No estoy mordido,” he gasped out, air only just started to fill his lungs again. He didn’t even have to try to appear non-threatening, flopping on the floor like a landed fish. He eyed his crossbow only a meter away.

“Cállate!” one yelled at him, turning the barrel of his rifle towards James’ head. 

He didn’t flinch as someone came up behind him, roughly pulling his arms behind his back and forcing him to his knees. He’d had this done far too many times before. Even so, it still annoyed the shit out of him. 

“Dónde está tu amigo?” the rifle man screamed, his face turning red.

James bit back a growl at the mention of Q, instead thinning his lips in the universal sign of ‘as if I’ll tell you shit’. The fact they knew that there was someone else with him meant that they must have spotted them earlier in the day, while they were driving around. He cursed himself for letting his guard down. 

He heard voices behind him, and the sound of the hummer door being pulled open, followed by the sharp cry of an all too familiar voice.

Q!

“Leave him the fuck alone!” he screamed, forgetting to use Spanish in his momentary fury. Not like they were undercover anyhow.

James’ blood ran ice cold in fear as he all but threw himself off his knees and started to fight tooth and nail against the hands holding him, rifles be damned! The man with the rifle held to his head was too shocked to get an accurate shot off, the bullet pinging uselessly off of the cement floor. The two men holding him were sent flying in either direction as James spun wildly, diving for his crossbow just a few steps away.

He snatched it up, spinning around ready to kill anyone that dared even look at Q, but stopped short, eyes wide as he looked at the mountain of a man that held Q’s trembling form against him. Gun held to his head. He was still dressed in nothing more than his socks, combat cargo pants, and sweatshirt, looking painfully young and small held in tree trunk sized arms of the man behind him.

The room fell silent around them, all guns in the room trained on James save for the one that held Q. The only gun that James currently cared about.

The man was big in a way that James rarely saw, tall and muscled and sporting a sharp jaw. Nothing about him looked soft, not even the spikes of his short hair looked unforgiving. He was peppered in old scars, speaking of a life of violence much in the way that James’ did. His eyes held a coldness in their brown depths that James had seen reflected the same in the eyes of the evil men he’d taken down in the past. Whatever this man had been before the apocalypse, it had translated all too well into the current world.

“I would stop if I were you,” he said with a thick accent, “Unless you want me to blow his brains out of his pretty little head. We’ve gotten very good recently. I can promise we won’t miss.”

James froze as he took in the room around him. There were at least two dozen armed men now scattered about, all with their weapons trained on him. All he had was his crossbow. And Q was in the hands of one of theirs. These were the kinds of odds that trended in his worst nightmares. If it were just him, he’d play the hand he was dealt and maybe come out on top. But he wasn’t alone. Someone literally held his heart in their hands, gun pressed bruisingly against it. 

Swallowing hard, he steadied his feet under him, taking in a deep breath and praying to whoever was the deity on duty that this wasn’t the end. Not when they had come this far. 

“James--” Q tried to call out, choking off when that beefy arm tightened around his neck, all but strangling him.

“Stay still, Q. Stay calm,” he called back before turning his attention back to the large man who appeared to be the leader of the men, “What the fuck do you want from us? Just spit it out so we can move on.”

The man laughed loudly, shaking Q roughly in his arms, “You hear that, boy? Your friend is so generous. As if driving around my city in your shiny todoterreno wasn’t enough of a gift. You brought that thing all the way here just for us? How kind of you.”

Q flinched away as he man’s face got too close to his own, his whole face going pale as he tried to keep silent.

James eyed him warily, trying not to look too closely at Q’s terrified expression. “Don’t hurt him. Just take what you want and we’ll move out of your territory. No harm done.”

The man’s grin turned feral and he began to run the barrel of his gun almost tenderly along the lines of Q’s neck, “Hmm...what if we want him? Pretty things trade well these days. Maybe even some of my boys would appreciate his...company.”

“If that’s the case then there will be a great deal of harm done. By my hands,” James growled back, his arm still raised holding the crossbow at the leader, “You can take the car, but you will leave the boy with me, unharmed. And then I may consider letting you live.”

The laugh that followed was tinged in the slight madness of one who was too used to delivering pain and death. His whole body shook, jostling Q in his arms and making him shudder in revulsion. None of the other armed men in the room laughed with him, each carefully keeping their faces blank of emotion save for the younger ones who couldn’t help a brief flicker of uncertainty cloud their rounded features. 

The man shook his head still smiling as his laughter faded, "I do not think so, mi amigo. You see, friends these days are better hostages than they ever were before. Everyone is so desperate to keep what little they have left, they will do anything for them. Even die just to avoid the pain of being alone,” he jerked his chin at James, “You can’t do anything to save him. He is mine now, you see. Too many guns against you. All you can do is get on your knees and beg us to take you with us, rather than shoot you here and now, and maybe I will be the one who will consider letting you live. Maybe there is a market for un hombre, like you.”

He was right, even if he didn’t want to admit it. There was no way James could come out of this anything better than mortally wounded. But if there was a chance to pull Q from that man’s arms...James felt his body tense up in anticipation, his old habits of fight now and hope for the best were priming him for something stupid, but he froze completely when Q caught his eye.

He looked so sad and defeated, his head hung heavy, “James…” he called softly, shaking his head like his heart was currently breaking into a thousand pieces, “Don’t. Don’t make me watch them--” he choked off, unable to finish his sentence.

That horrible laugh filled the room again.

“Ah, the boy has brains at least! Now, will you get on your knees or do we get to see him cry?”

 

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 43

“Los tenemos. Nostras regresamos ahora.”

 

They were loaded up into cars quickly while a number of the men kept their weapons raised at James as well as the shadows around the building, never forgetting that they were prey to more than just humans now. 

Watching as Q was escorted by the leader into a different car, James all but lost it then, screaming into the night not caring what kind of monsters he drew his way. He hardly even cared when he was unceremoniously shoved in the trunk of another car, the discomfort only serving to keep him enraged as he called out for Q, even if he knew that he would get no answer.  

When the engines started up, he finally fell silent as he tried to focus on any details he could make out as to where they were going. It was a habit more than anything, having been kidnapped like this numerous times before, but James knew that any small detail he picked up on may be the difference between life and death later. 

They were driving slowly, probably keeping an eye out for Infected. They kept to the main roads going by the infrequent turns they took. He heard several familiar and sharp screeches as they encountered a few Infected along the way, but they were quickly silenced by the pop of gunfire before long.

This gang must have been responsible for the reduced population of dead in their city, picking them off while traveling in large groups of fifty or more men, all armed. It wasn’t a big surprise to James that they had managed to survive here. They all had the look of those who were not new to guns, and who hardly blinked at fucking over two fellow humans who had something shiny they wanted. Probably a small criminal empire even before the Infected came to be. Every big city had them, sometimes multiple groups, and this one just so happened to come out on top of the food chain out here. They would have happily taken out any and all human competition once the law was passed that civilians could shoot at will at Infected. No repercussions. An easy way to get supplies and arms to ride out the apocalypse. 

People like that were all the more dangerous having long given up on human morals. 

Then again, the same could be said for James. He hardly claimed to not be dangerous though. 

He spared a moment of agonized distress as he thought about what could have happened to Alec here. Clearly this city was overrun by this gang who say anyone else as a trespasser, and all it would take was one lucky shot to--

James cursed loudly and punched the roof of the trunk, cutting off the thought violently. 

And they had Q. 

While death had not been promised for his lover, James hardly could think that the suggested alternative of selling him off was any better. There were things worse than death, and that was one of them. Even thinking about it made him feel like being sick, his gut churning uneasily. He couldn’t let that happen to Oliver, never. If it took his last breath or drop of blood, he’d be sure that Q was not left to such a fate. 


They were taken into some sort of gated campus, from what James could guess by the sounds of metal being moved as the caravan slowed down. More voices could be heard outside of the car, probably other members coming to unload them.

It only took a few minutes before James was looking up at no less than six rifles pointed at him, gesturing to him to climb out, his bound hands not any of their concern it seemed. 

Uneasily but somewhat gracefully landing on the ground, he took in the area around him. It looked to have once been a factory, an old one made of red brick and smokestacks. There was a metal fence that ran around the entire building, along with what appeared to be regular armed patrols. Several corpses littered the ground outside of the gate, whether they were once the living or Infected before falling, James could not tell from that distance, but he would guess it was a mix of the two. 

His gaze sought out the car that held Q, his heart lurching in his chest as he saw him emerge with the large man’s hand still firmly in place on his arm. He looked to be no worse for wear, but he was pale and shaky, carefully glancing around himself and taking it all in like James had. Fear painted his features until he caught sight of James, his shoulders sagging in relief. 

There was an aborted movement of his feet towards James, but he was stopped up short as he was roughly pulled back against a hard chest.

“Welcome back, Jefe.”

A few words were exchanged in their native language, revealing little beyond confirmation that “El Jefe” from before was indeed the leader of this group and that his men were equally scared and loyal to him. It didn’t bode well for charming his way out of this one, not that he really thought he had a chance anyway. 

Q’s eyes remained alert and focused, not glazing over in a way that would suggest he didn’t understand what was being said. James hadn’t ever asked him what languages he knew, but he was now reasonably certain that Q had at least a basic understanding of Spanish. That would serve them both well.

It was still very cold and dark out, the men around him starting to fidget and squirm as their extremities started to numb. James felt the cold, but he was hardly about to complain, especially when Q only had his socks on against the frozen ground. Wisely, Q didn’t complain either. He was silent, his head down and body limply compliant. Just like MI6 had taught him to act if he was ever taken captive. Assets like him were meant to survive until they could be rescued. Not antagonize their captors until they were finally shot. That technique was reserved by the agents.

El Jefe abruptly started towards the building after checking in with his men, Q still held firmly in his grasp. Soon, James and his escorts followed, keeping enough of a distance away that James felt every centimeter like a physical pain. 

The building was only just bearably warmer, enough that few would get sick, but not enough to feel comfortable without a jacket. They must have been reserving the fuel for the upcoming winter. The long halls they passed through were dirty and empty. Their footfalls echoed as they moved along. They passed several small rooms that had once been offices, their interiors once covered in faxes and maps were now full of weapons, boxes of cans, and wooden crates. Hoarding. They must have dozens of rooms full of stolen supplies around the factory. 

They eventually came to a large set of doors that opened to reveal what was once the factory floor. The large machines had been removed, leaving room for lines of tables where men were digging through bags and boxes, all full of various things. James caught sight of clothing, small items, canned foods, and tools. Younger boys and some young women were there too, sorting the finds into various crates. They were all horribly skinny with haunted eyes, flinching and ducking away as some of the men walked past. On the upper catwalk there were more armed men, looking down at the activity.

James surmised that they were tasked with sorting through the scavenged items of the day, but being watched carefully so they didn’t steal what was no doubt Jefe’s loot. He wondered if they were more “traded” people, or if they were the unfortunate survivors that Jefe deemed worthy to live so long as they worked for their shelter. They certainly weren’t part of the gang, not with the way they were being watched. Like animals. 

That sick feeling came back as he watched a few men hover menacingly around one of the young women. 

Jefe came to a stop at the far end of the room, snapping his fingers at a few men and calling them over. 

Even from this distance, James could tell that Q was still shaking. 

There were a few words exchanged, and then another finger snap. This time it was James and his escorts that came forward. Stopping only a few feet away from where Q was held.

His eyes were wide and locked onto James’ immediately. He didn’t make a sound, but it still felt like he was screaming at James. 

“Tomorrow I want three teams set out to the northeast part of the city, each hitting one of the apartment buildings. I want them wiped clean by sundown,” Jefe ordered to a small gathering of his men.

All of them looked nervously at each other until one somewhat braver man stepped forward, “But, Jefe, those buildings usually take two days to clear out. Especially if there are people or los muertos inside,” he said, eyes focused on the floor.

“I said one day and I fucking mean it!” Jefe bellowed, making everyone around him cower in on themselves, necks disappearing behind shirt collars. 

“Of course. We’ll increase the team sizes,” one of them stammered out, darting off to go do that most likely. 

Jefe’s eyes were narrowed dangerously, “The jeep I want stripped of all supplies. A full inventory of what’s inside by tomorrow morning. I want to know everything about that thing, and then I want it armed and set up as my new transport going forward.”

“Yes, Jefe.”

A slimy sort of smile eased over his rough features, a glimpse of yellow teeth emerging as he glanced down at Q, “And now we need to do something with our two newest acquisitions.”

One bookish looking man eyed Q and James head to toe, tutting as he finished whatever assessment he made of the agent with a twist of his lips, “The skinny one could trade well, possibly to Jefe Dante of the Southern territory. They may have a generator or some fuel to make the winter more manageable. He seems to have no reservations about gender. The boy could also do well as a morale body if you don’t mind another mouth to feed this winter.”

Jefe turned his own assessing gaze over Q, thinking it over as he followed the lean lines of his body, “He doesn’t look like he needs a whole lot to eat anyway,” he said contemplatively, “Let’s keep him a few days, maybe try him out and then I’ll make my decision.”

Q blanched as James gnashed his teeth together so hard they threatened to crack under the pressure. A few days would give him time to get them out, but that also gave them time to hurt Q. 

“And what of the blond one?”

The man shrugged, eyeing James with distaste, “He could possibly be traded as well, depending on the tastes of the other bosses, but he looks too dangerous in my honest opinion. If he acts out after being traded it could lead to more trouble than we want. I’d say keep him as bait for los muertos. Live bodies serve for decent distractions when necessary.”

“We could use him for the northeast raid tomorrow morning. Dump him in the street let him run and clear the street of los muertos,” another man added. 

Jefe nodded, “Do that then.”

Q gasped in horror, finally starting to struggle against the beefy arms that held him, “No! No, you can’t, please!” he cried out in only slightly accented Spanish. 

Jefe laughed, jerking Q back roughly, “I think you will find I can do whatever the fuck I want.”

“No, please don’t hurt him. I’ll do anything you want,” Q pleaded desperately.

James growled low in his throat at that, “Q…” he said with warning. Q should know better than to offer anything.

Q only spared him half a glance before turning back to Jefe, “I can build you a generator! One that will require only a third of the fuel than any other model out there. I can fix anything you want. I can be useful to you as long as he is alive and unharmed. I swear! You’ve seen the car. I built that. Imagine what else I am capable of.”

It was a good deal, as far as James was concerned. It would give him even more time to find a way to get them out of this. 

There was a dangerous glint in Jefe’s eyes as Q spoke, his face taking on a darkened shadow as he looked Q over again. The contemplative leer was enough to make James’ entire body tense up and his blood boil.

“I think that you will find that you will do anything for me anyway. Even once your friend here is long gone,” he finally said with a sneer, and gestured to two of his men, “Take this one to a room. Two guards. I’ll come by later. The other one...throw him in a cell and use him on your run tomorrow. Make sure there is nothing left of him.”

Q sputtered as two men came over to grab him from both sides, his complacent relaxed posture turning rigid and then frantic in less than a heartbeat. His wide eyes searched out James, already half filled with terrified tears.

“No! James! No!”

His screams echoed horribly off of the walls, enough that James could feel his very bones vibrate from the sound. It could also have been his heart breaking, but he was too busy trying to break free of his escorts to give it much thought.

He jerked and snarled and tossed his weight around as he watched them drag Q down some other hallway, still screaming for him. 

“James! JAMES!”

“Q! Keep your fucking hands off of him or I’ll cut them off and shove them up your arse. Don’t you touch him you bloody bastards! I’ll kill you all. Don’t touch him!”


As soon as the door of his cell slammed, James was already there pounding his fists against the cold metal, not caring that it tore at his skin.

How had things gotten so bad so fast? Why was it the living humans and not the Infected that were about to be the ones who brought them to answer to fate? Did something like this happen to Alec too? Had James led the two most important people in his life to this place that would see them all suffer so greatly?

He could possibly get away the next morning, surviving whatever hoard of Infected that he was tossed into, but the odds were not good seeing as he would no doubt be unarmed. And in the meantime...what would become of Oliver? Would he be sold out to some unknown location before James could get him? Would they hurt him…

James swallowed back the bile that rose in his throat at the thought. 

“Don’t touch him! I’ll fucking kill you all. I swear it! Don’t you touch him!”

Olive!

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 25

“Viste eso? Los muertos?.... Estas ahi?…….Oi!”

*static*

 

James had no idea how much time passed as he sat crumpled on the floor by the door. The cold metal dug painfully at his back, but he didn’t shift to try and make it better. The pain was what was keeping his mind alert and ready as he waited for his best chance to get out of there and back to Q. 

His fists were still raw and bloodied from where he had spent most of the night banging on the door, screaming until he was hoarse. It went against all his MI6 captivity training, wasting all the energy, but his captivity training did not cover the threats made against Q while they were separated from each other. It also never covered apocalyptic scenarios, so forgive him if he was a little irrational for a few hours.

It had to have been hours at least, and the sun would be coming up soon. Having woken by the sun for the last two months, it was written into his biology when it was time to start the day. He could feel the blood pump faster through his veins, his fuzzy brain running on no sleep was attempting to grind back to full capacity. 

He’d spent the whole night fighting with his brain to focus on escape plans, even though his mind was doing its damned best to do a video marathon of all the heinous things that could be happening to Q in that moment. It was hardly efficient, but in the end James had a few plans tucked away in the back of his head, just waiting for the right variants to fall into place first.

First and foremost though, he needed them to come and open the damn door. 

And then it would be rather helpful if one of them was holding a gun loosely in their grip near James as they would no doubt approach to tie him up again. Yes. That would do quite nicely.

James threw his head back against the wall a few times, hoping to knock his whole body back into full alertness. It couldn’t be much longer.

He flexed each muscle group individually, making sure that he was ready to leap in any direction when the time came. There could be no mistakes. Not if he wanted to make it to Q alive and healthy enough to break them out of this fortress.

He felt ready.

Now where the fuck were they?

That was when James heard the first sounds of commotion from down the hall.

At first, he assumed they were just a particularly loud and uncoordinated group coming to get him, not caring that it was the asscrack of the morning, but when the first sound of a gunshot cracked through the walls, James was on his feet and standing at the ready by the door.

“What the hell is going on?” he wondered out loud to himself as he heard the rough slaps of fists against skin and bone, the slide of a knife through the air, and another loud crack of another gun going off and echoing through the halls. Could it have been one of the rival gangs that El Jefe had mentioned come to raid their supplies? 

That didn’t necessarily bode well for James and Q, but the chaos it could cause could provide the opening that James needed. Door first though. Someone needed to open the goddamn door!

The sounds of fighting died down out in the hallway, the last noise being the muffled gurgle of someone drowning in their own blood, throat cut open. James knew that sound far too well.

There was a brief silence before a voice called out.

A voice that James also knew far too well.

“James?”

Unable to believe it, James stood stock still for a beat before throwing himself at the door and yelling through the metal, “Alec?!”

“James! There you are, fuck! Do you have any idea how much ammo I’ve wasted trying to find your sorry arse in this rat maze?” came the boisterous reply, moving closer to where James was held.

Choking back the hysterical laugh that threatened to fall from his lips, James let his forehead fall onto the metal, “You can piss a moan about it later, open the fucking door! Hurry!”

“Yeah, yeah, hold your balls, I’m coming…”

He hadn’t even seen Alec’s face yet, but just hearing him was enough for two month worth of anxiety to evaporate. Alec was not only alive, but he was here. All his wretchedly hopeless plans to save Q went out the window because with Alec by his side, they were all but invincible. 

He could hear Alec tinkering with the door, each passing second making James feel like an eternity had passed.

“Alec, we have to hurry. The Quartermaster is here. They’re holding him somewhere else. He--” James paused to prevent his voice from cracking, “He may be hurt, Alec.”

“Like I said, hold your balls. Give us a minute and you’ll be out,” Alec said. 

Less than ten seconds later, the door swung open and there he was. Solid and real and...rather filthy.

James didn’t care, he threw himself at his friend, gathering him in tight as Alec did the same.

“All right, James? Took you long enough to get here,” Alec said as he pulled back, his teeth gleaming in the dark hallway.

James huffed out an incredulous laugh, “I could say the same thing about you. I’ve been in that room all night.”

“Well, excuse me if it took me a bit to arm up, sneak past the bloody gates, kill myself through three layers of armed security, making a few wrong turns, picking up a few things along the way, and then having to track down your perky arse,” he pointed out, gesturing to the pile of bodies that lay heaped down the hall.

James rolled his eyes and held out his hand. Without words, Alec slapped a gun into his palm, knowing exactly what James wanted. 

“I’m always having to pull you out of trouble, it seems,” Alec intoned sadly, also handing over a spare knife, “You rode in here on what amounted to a sparkly pink pony the size of a small elephant and expected no one to want to steal it away? Always looking to showboat aren’t you?”

“Later, Alec. We need to find Q. Did you pass anywhere that looked like living quarters?”

Alec raised a brow, “Sure did. Found something too while I was stumbling along,” he turned back to look down the empty half of the hallway that he had come from, calling out in a gentle voice that James rarely heard from him, “Come on out, kotenok. It’s safe.”

Timid sounding footsteps were heard before a head of tousled black curls popped out from around the corner.

“Q,” James let the name fall from his lips as he stared in shock at his lover blinking widely at them from down the hall where he was still mostly hiding behind the corner, looking like a deer deciding if it was safe to come out from the trees.

“Found him alone in one of the rooms where they kept the other workers. He was just as surprised to see me as I was to see him,” Alec chuckled as he peeled off to go back to check on the bodies, leaving the two of them to have their own reunion.

“James!” he called back with a shy smile, finally emerging from his hiding place.

Any relief James felt at seeing Q alive went away the moment he saw that his lover was wearing nothing but his pants. Horror and dread began to fill his senses as he thought of the implications.

Something must have shown on his face because Q’s eyes widened for a moment as he glanced down at his own lack of dress, bare legs covered in nothing but goosebumps from the cold, and his chest tinged pink where blood was trying vainly to keep him warm.

“Oh! Oh, no, James, I’m fine. Nothing happened,” he rushed to assure, quickly moving up to where James was frozen to the spot. Gently, Q cupped the sides of James’ face, pulling it down so their gazes met, “I’m not hurt, I swear! They just were checking for bites and always take the clothes to burn in case of lice. They probably would have done the same to you if they didn’t plan on tossing you to the Infected anyway.”

James felt his heart slowly start beating again as he took in his lover, noting that the only bruises he saw were the ones from his wrists where he had been tied up. He was truly unhurt. Circling his arms around Q, alive and healthy, he pulled him against his chest and just breathed him in for a moment. He could hear Alec still rustling around behind them, and knew that he would watch their backs while the two lovers had their moments.

Alec probably had no idea the relationship that had developed between the two of them, but he kept quiet, observing from a distance no doubt. He and Alec would have to talk about it later. Now, they had to get out of here.

“Fuck, you’re freezing,” James muttered, feeling Q’s icy skin leeching the heat through James’ shirt.

“I’m fine. Are you alright? Did they hurt you?” he asked, looking James over with a practiced eye.

James waved him off, “Just rather pissed off. Christ, I could chill drinks just by dipping you in them,” he muttered darkly.

Q did a full body shudder, as if reminded of just how cold he was. James was already gripping the hem of his own shirt to give to Q when Alec appeared at their side again, grinning ear to ear as he held up a pile of clothes.

“Here you are, Quartermaster. Found the least bloody and most likely not to fall off clothes off of the not so dearly departed back there. Pants will be a bit loose, but the gun belt we can tie off in a knot to hold everything up,” he said, handing over each piece to Q. The last thing was a pair of boots that were also a bit on the loose end, but with the laces pulled tight they would at least stay on.

“Why does it always feel like I just raided some dad’s closet whenever we have to steal clothes for me?” Q groused as he folded back the sleeves enough for his fingers to become visible. 

“I’ve got some more that may fit better back at my place,” Alec said, eyeing the shirt that all but billowed around Q’s lean frame with amusement, “But first, we need to get out of here. I’ve got a general layout of the place now. There’s about twenty dead bodies lying about that someone is going to notice soon if they didn’t hear the gunshots, so we’ll need to move fast. This gang is armed to the teeth and shows no mercy.”

Q frowned, “What about the hummer?”

Alec turned back, hands on his hips, “The hummer? You want us to go deeper into this hornets nest to get back some tech?”

Q’s mouth gaped open in horror as he placed his hands on his hips, making his baggy ensemble look even more ridiculous, “You would want us to leave a high class weapon laden vehicle stocked with all our survival provisions in the hand of a criminal lunatic? What if he uses it against other survivors?”

James winced, knowing that both of them had a point and was already feeling the pull on both sides. Mouth set in a grim line, he glanced over at Alec, “We may need to at least try to get it back. That hummer is what got us across France and all the way here in about one quarter of the time it would have on foot.” He didn’t mention that it was the only thing that felt safe anymore, seeing as Alec would have no such emotional attachment as they did. 

He could see the agent in Alec warring with his inner chaotic core, and James waited for which part of his old friend would win out this time. 

Down the hall, the echoes of panicked yelling started to erupt from all directions as Alec’s trail of bodies must have been finally discovered. Alec sighed and checked the gun in his hand, “Fine. We’ll swing by the warehouse, but I’ll make no promises on collecting your pink pony. And I’ll be telling Mallory, when we deliver his Quartermaster back full of holes, that it was his idea.”

James batted away the mental image, knowing that Alec meant nothing by it, and checked his own weapon. The footsteps were coming closer, at least four men by James’ count. This wouldn’t be easy, but James and Alec had dealt with far worse before. 

Gently he pushed Q along, hand at the small of his back, “Go on, stay between Alec and myself. Duck if we say duck. Hide if we say hide. When we reach the warehouse, go directly for the hummer and get inside, start it up. We’ll handle the rest,” he said quickly, feeling his heart unclench a little in his chest when Q nodded eagerly and moved as directed. 

No, this would not be easy, but Alec was here now. As familiar and as deadly as a Walther in his palm.


Q had observed many missions in his time as Quartermaster and as a no-name tech prior to his untimely promotion. He’d seen explosions, gun fights, deaths, building collapsing...he’d even been witness to torture done both by and to his agents, and watched as the people under his direction and their own incredible instincts pull off what should have been unsurmountable obstacles. 

Nothing, however, could have possibly prepared him for being literally sandwiched between two of Her Majesty’s finest as they stormed through the halls of a criminal compound. It was like standing in the middle of an inferno while not getting burned. 

He hardly had time to even register the bodies dropping all around them as they made their way back to the warehouse, he was too busy trying to keep up with his agent while also making sure he kept out of the way. Perhaps seeing his lover so efficiently taking down dozens of men in barely a quarter hour should have been a bit more startling, but Q hardly felt touched by such things even before the world ended.

Sometimes a trigger had to be pulled. 

Especially now when they were all trying to escape an organization that would have gladly tossed James to a herd of monsters and sold Q off into some form of slavery. Truth be told, Q had little sympathy at that point. 

Seeing Alec there, actually there, was awe inspiring in itself. He knew James held Alec to a higher standard of loyalty and strength but this was something far beyond what Q had envisioned. The two of them worked seamlessly, even with their backs turned to one another they seemed completely confident that their partner would keep them safe. Q had an all new respect for their skills together, but also for the fact that even through the bloody apocalypse, they sought each other out and eventually managed to find each other.

Sure, James and Q had made their way to the city, blood sweat and tears all left in their wake, but it wasn’t one sided. Not when Alec risked everything to break into the compound to save their sorry hides. Alec didn’t even wait to come save them. It was incredible. 

He maybe felt a little bad for insisting on the hummer, but damn it, it was a very useful hummer and quite dangerous in the wrong hands!

They quickly came up on the warehouse, Q’s ears ringing from the constant slew of bullets on either side of him, and Q braced himself for when he would have a moment to be useful in their escape. It was as close to manning the getaway car as he’d probably ever get again. Ms. Moneypenny would be so proud of him. 

Alec pulled up at the door frame that led into the warehouse, James and Q stepping in close behind him. He glanced back at the two of them with a raised brow. Even not having any field experience himself, Q could recognize the “ready for this shit show to begin?” look thrown at them and he returned a grim nod that he felt echoed behind him by James. 

Together they rounded the corner.

Q half expected a wall of gun toting gang members to greet them, but the large turret gun pointed at them by none other than El Jefe had approximately the same effect on his heart as they skidded to a stop mere meters away from their goal.

Simultaneously, James and Alec held their arms out in front of Q, gently pushing him back a few inches so that they could step in front of him like a double sized human shield. His view was almost completely cut off, his sightline disrupted by two large sets of shoulders. At most he could see the top of the hummer, where El Jefe was standing. Nobody could see Q though, which was probably the point.

El Jefe stared down at them, his face aglow with the essence of gloat and superiority as he caressed the large rifle mounted in front of him.

Q’s shoulders dropped in exasperation, “This is why I wanted everything palm coded,” he lamented quietly, watching his tech be manhandled by unfriendly hands. In front of him, he saw Alec grin and wink in his direction, no doubt thinking the same thing. 

“I did not think you would be stupid enough to come back for this, but I suppose I give the British far too much credit when it comes to intelligence these days,” he said while grinning, “My men are out hunting for you in the outer halls, but eventually they’ll come back this way.” 

“Ah, sorry to disappoint. Intelligence doesn’t always win out, possessive bastards we all are these days,” Alec replied cheerily. It was two armed agents against one very armed criminal, a scenario Q had observed a few times before. James and Alec would be stalling to come up with a plan, no doubt. That’s how it usually went.

His agents started up some no doubt witty and equally cringeworthy conversation with their enemy, all of which was in Spanish and therefore somewhat easy for Q to tune out as he scanned around the room for any ideas.

Nothing was really within grasp, from what Q could see. The closest unused weapons were the knives tucked in James’ and Alec’s boots, and the second handgun tucked in the waistband of Alec’s trousers. 

Q tutted mentally at the blatant disregard for personal safety having weapons in anything other than a holster. It was even fully loaded going off of how heavy it looked, pulling at the fabric like that. The safety wasn’t even on, for heaven’s sake.  


“Seeing as how there are two of us and only one sad sack of you, I think it best if you just step down from the vehicle and we’ll be on our merry British way.”

El Jefe laughed loudly, his grip tightening on the gun, “I know how friendship runs these days. You’re too scared of losing one another to risk missing me. So how about you leave, and I’ll think about not shooting you in the back as you leave. Consider it thanks for killing off a quarter of my men, a lot less mouths to feed this winter, yes?”

“Oh, should we go back and make it half in exchange for the car then? Seems a fair deal to me. Right, Alec?”

Alec nodded, “Very fair. Very fair.”

James knew this could go on for at least a few more minutes. Playing verbal chicken with villains was an art that he and Alec had perfected in their Navy days, but it had to end eventually with guns going off. It was just a matter of who shot first that told who would come out victorious. 

The presence of Q behind him was a new factor that made this a lot less fun than it usually was. Knowing the firepower of the weapon that El Jefe was carelessly brandishing, it could easily rip through Alec and James and hit Q without any real effort. They needed a distraction. Anything that would take El Jefe’s eyes off of them for a microsecond. In the past it had been anything from a well placed explosion to a lucky seagull making an appearance. 

James’ mind whirled furiously as he tried to keep up the banter a bit longer. Just needed to bloody think of something.

BANG.

BANG.

In between the span of one blink, a shot had rung out, followed directly by another. James wasn’t sure what he was expecting next. To feel the hot trickle of blood dripping down his chest. To hear Q’s body fall to the ground behind them. To see Alec crumple in a heap to his left.

He hoped more than expected to see El Jefe with a hole between his eyes, so James was pleasantly startled to see his body limply fall over the edge of the turret mount. 

He was equally startled to turn and see Q holding a smoking gun in his hand that was pointed aimlessly and harmlessly off to the left of the warehouse, blinking widely as he glanced between his own hand and the body of El Jefe bleeding out slowly from the hole in his head.

Alec laughed loudly, slapping Q on the back, “Well done, Quartermaster! We should have brought you on missions long before this.” Q beamed back at him proudly.

James was confused and it definitely showed on his face enough that Alec took pity on him.

“I felt my spare gun being pulled out by our little friend here, and knew he may have been working on a distraction for us. All I had to do was wait for him to make some noise and get my shot off while El Jefe was looking away. Bloody brilliant thinking of him, if I do say so myself,” Alec announced, grinning slyly at Q’s blush.

A rush of air escaped James’ lips that could have been a sigh or a laugh, but it didn’t matter much. He pulled Q in tight again, smiling into his curls, “Bloody brilliant,” he repeated softly before pulling away.

There would be time to shower his Olive with praise later. It was time to get out of here.

Alec was already bounding up to the hummer, rubbing his hands together gleefully, “Time to go, my friends. Don’t suppose I can drive?”

Q rushed after him, “I should think not! I haven’t forgotten what you did to the last car I gave you. Do you have any idea how many hours were spent building that engine? You will let James drive while I give you a lecture on proper safety handling of weapons on your person!”

James let the sounds of their bickering wash over him like a spring shower. Refreshing inside and out. He had his family back together, and he planned to keep it that way.

Chapter Text

Once housed again in the hummer, they were able to make a quick and easy escape from there, seeing as how none of the remaining men were willing to go up against a bullet proof tank as it crashed through their compound, taking gates down in its wake.

Alec was quick to hop into the passenger seat, letting James take the wheel this time and focusing on directing his friend through the city streets to where he had been holed up all this time. Meanwhile, Q was content to crawl into the back space where he could slip into more fitting clothes and take a moment to process all that had just happened.

He hadn’t lied, they really had done nothing to him while he was alone in captivity, but sitting there all but naked for hours in a chilly room, all the while wondering what would be done to him, what would be done to James...well, safe to say he hadn’t been enjoying the quiet then. 

From where he sat in the back, rearranging their things back in order and taking stock of everything to see if things had already been pilfered, he could also see the sharp profiles of his two agents as they talked softly to one another. The last time Q had seen them together it was a remarkably similar, yet still starkly different look. 

They had both lost weight, though it only really put more definition in the muscles they had rather than making them appear gaunt. There were tense lines held in their cheeks, like they couldn’t unclench their jaws even while trading relieved smiles at each other. The ease that the two held when in the other's presence was still there, but not to the same degree, their new world taking a bit of the wind out of their sails. 

Q wondered what he and James looked like to Alec.

Not that any of that mattered. Not when they had succeeded in the first part of their personal mission. Find Alec. Check. Big fat, bloody check. Q smirked smugly, thinking of how he had helped make it happen for James. Now they could all go home.

Home.

---------------------------------------------------------------

Alec was taking them down several circuitous routes in order to throw off any tails that may have come after them. It was highly unlikely that they would once they had found the body of their boss in the warehouse, but one could never be too careful these days. It was only because of Alec’s paranoia upon his solo arrival to the city that kept him alive and hidden from the gang that had already taken over.

“Those buggers were all over the streets, like locusts, taking up anything useful in sight and leaving the rest of the world to starve in their wake. I had enough to survive on for a few days once I got here, so I found a shelter they would never think to check, and I’ve been picking off of their scraps ever since.”

James eyed Alec, “Any sign of other survivors?”

Alec shook his head, “Possibly a few scattered ones, but most fled the city once El Jefe and his lot started trucking through the streets shooting anything they saw. They wiped out a lot of the sick, but they wiped out nearly everything else too.”

“How awful,” Q commented from the back, mouth slack in horror.

“Aye, it was, but karma is coming for them like a freight train,” Alec said mirthfully over his shoulder, shooting Q a wide grin.

Q quirked a brow, “Oh?”

“Winter’s comin’,” Alec said, the weight of his words as cold and hard as the season itself, “As soon as word gets out that their boss is dead and at least a quarter of the men gone, the surrounding city gangs will come for them and their supplies. Any survivors of that will either be welcomed into the gangs, disposed of, or left to fend for themselves with no stocks for winter.”

It sounded cold, but James had to agree with Alec. It was karma in a way. He knew Q was probably only worried about the workers he’d seen in there, but there was little to be done. They were more likely to be absorbed by the other bosses anyhow.

Q shivered lightly, but nodded. He had been exposed to his agent’s grey areas of just and unjust before. It was nothing new. 

“Left up ahead, James. Almost there,” he said, pointing to the sharp turn that was almost completely hidden by overgrown trees, “Anyway, we’ve got the winter to worry about too. I’m sure M wants Q back yesterday and not a second later, so we won’t even be able to think about holding up like squirrels for the next couple months. I’m honestly surprised he let you come get me first.”

James’ face twisted into a grimace as Alec spoke, glancing at Q through the rear mirror. He was wearing a matching expression, one that Alec noted immediately. The agent’s eyes widened comically as his head whipped back and forth between them.

His mouth gaped, “Oh, you didn’t! Bond, you brought the Quartermaster down here to get me against orders? M is going to toss you to the dead the moment you step foot in the building. I could have bloody waited, you bastard!”

“In that city with a gang of hoarders? We could never do that!” Q protested. 

James gave Alec an apologetic look, “It didn’t sit right with us leaving you there over a drunken promise. We made a deal, and Q and I decided early on that we needed to see it through.”

“All of us are going home,” Q intoned seriously. 

A stunned silence fell over the hummer, Alec falling back in his seat heavily as he absorbed it all. James knew that his friend thought very little of himself when it came to people caring about him. The very dangerous and somewhat foolish decision to come find him was almost unthinkable...almost, because he knew James was as loyal to Alec as Alec was to him. 

The hummer continued to bump along the narrow street they had entered, the area looking much more suburban than urban the further they went. Simple, separated houses lined the streets, all dark and empty, but echoing of a pleasant neighborhood from what felt like a lifetime ago. 

“Second right ahead, then turn into the driveway with the detached garage. This hunk of metal should fit in there nicely,” Alec said after a few more minutes past. He was a bit more subdued than before as the reality of what James and Q had done sunk in.

Even James had to admit it was a foolish choice, but one he’d make a thousand times more now that he had his best friend and his lover still with him and unharmed.

James snuck a peak behind him again, taking in Q’s wan but undamaged appearance. The last day would have been a nightmare for most, and Q would be no exception. He would be exhausted, unused to long wakeful nights in cells alone, wondering what would happen at any given moment.

“We’ll get him tucked in quickly,” Alec said to him softly, as if reading his thoughts and then pointed to the aforementioned yellow house. James pulled in.

----------------------------------------------

Leaving the hummer after all that effort to get it back was a little like leaving your child at school after they had just been sick, James imagined. He could see how Q’s gaze lingered on the closed door as they walked away, his fingers fidgeting nervously as Alec led them down a path worn through the grass. 

They needed to regroup though, and get real rest before starting the second leg of their journey. If it was anything like the first, this would be no walk through the park, even with another Double 0 agent along.

The path they walked down was shrouded on all sides by bush and trees, completely hidden from the streets they came from. James wondered if Alec had taken to the trees for shelter as well, up until they came upon a wire fence in their direct path.

“Is that a playground?” Q asked, squinting ahead into the orange glow just barely lighting up what lay beyond the fence. The sun was only just starting to rise, bringing with it only a hint of warmth.

“It is!” Alec boasted proudly, swinging his pack over the top, “And on the other side is my personal little den.”

Q peered around Alec’s large frame, staring at the building that lay beyond the playground, “You live in a daycare center?”

James burst out a huff of laughter, “That’s awfully fitting,” he said, not bothering to hide his mirth at the discovery.

“Laugh all you want, this has been one of the best shelters I’ve ever invaded,” Alec shot back, not sounding the least bit embarrassed. He flapped his hand at James, “You go over first. I’ll hand Q over to you.”

James was up and over the fence in seconds.

Alec turned back to Q who stepped back with his arms crossed over his chest, “I’m not luggage!” Q protested, “I have climbed fences before.”

“You sure? I’ve had carry-on bags that weighed more than you.”

Q huffed loudly and stepped up to the fence and continued to grumble under his breath as he slowly scaled the fence, but managed to scale the top and jump down with a semblance of grace.

James smirked proudly at his Quartermaster, slipping his hand over a bony shoulder and giving it an encouraging squeeze. A beat later, Alec landed with a thud next to them.

He held out his arms widely, “Welcome to Sunny Side Up Daycare! Came with fencing already set up to keep children in, and conveniently, the dead out.”

Q raised a single brow as he slowly looked around, taking in the rusty swings and frost covered slides and bars around them. From what James had gathered from their conversations regarding childhoods, Q probably didn’t have the best memories of playgrounds in general, but James could see the potential at least. Who would think to raid a daycare?

Alec continued to chatter enthusiastically as he led them through the heavy double-doored entrance, pointing out several rooms he’d made use of as he led them down the empty hallway, “They had the best snacks stowed away in each room. All the biscuits and crackers a man could want. Oh, and blankets. So many blankets and sleep mats. I’ve been sleeping like a princess for the last month. Reading material is a bit stale, but one can’t be too picky. I’ve almost finished the magic treehouse series, but I was trying to pace myself in case I was looking at a longer stay here. Ah, here we are! The blue room,” he said, pushing open a door and walking in.

James smiled, taking in the signs of his friend settling into what appeared to be an ocean themed room with sharks and fish painted on the walls. The most telling part of this room belonging to Alec was probably the weapons laid lovingly along the tiny tables.

Q elbowed him in the side, jerking his head in the direction of a mountain of sleep mats and blankets all lumped in what was probably a meeting circle at one point. A few tiny chapter books were scattered around it. But Q was pulling his attention to something else. The two other stacks of bedding that were on either side of his set up. All neatly folded and ready for someone to move in.

They turned to Alec, who had noticed their attention had drifted away from his tour and was awkwardly rubbing the back of his head.

“You were waiting for us. Both of us,” Q said softly.

Alec shrugged, seeming to have difficulty meeting their eyes, “I hoped, I suppose. I didn’t expect you to come here first, let alone draggin’ the Quartermaster along with you. I knew you both were in Italy and thought maybe, and I like to be prepared. Don’t think too much into it,” he finished in a rush,

Had it not been the end of the world, James would have probably begun to tease him. But it was the end of the world, otherwise they wouldn’t have met up here. Wouldn’t have expected to find each other here. So he didn’t tease him, instead he met him in a fierce embrace that knocked the wind out of both of them. 

They were never huggers by nature in their youth, nor their early days at MI6, but their nature had shifted in the last two months and they both needed this contact. Assurance that this was real.

“Thanks for waiting for us,” James said.

“Thanks for coming,” was the grunted reply. 

Eventually they pulled away, and James felt a tug in his chest that made him walk over to where Q was trying to give them a moment of privacy by perusing the bookshelves like he was at an adult library and not an eight year old’s collection. He felt Alec’s gaze on him the whole way.

He stepped up next to Q, lightly running a knuckle down his arm to draw his attention away.

“Alright?” he asked. The words were few, but Q by now knew that he wanted, needed, to know how Q was doing as a whole. 

He could still feel the tense way that Q held himself, even when it was only James close to him. He could see the tightness in his lips, holding back the scream he was suppressing valiantly. Even in the way that Q looked at him, well, more like looked past him, was a sign of fear that had not quite left him even since escaping. 

“I’m...very tired. And very much ready to go home now,” he said after a beat. 

James nodded. Behind him he could hear Alec moving in slowly, as if he were trying not to spook a frightened cat.

“We’ll get you home, Q,” the Russian said with a deep and warm sincerity that stole all the tension from Q, his stiff posture turning loose and sleepy, as if all he needed to know was that their compass finally pointed in a friendly direction, “Now, how about you take the stack on the left. We’ll move Jamesy’s stack on the other side later, so we can make a snuggly Quartermaster sandwich. As effective as having walls on either side of you, I’d say.”

Q smiled, letting himself be guided over to the stacks. Alec all but tucked him under the blankets, gently coaxing the younger man to lay back and let the big scary agents handle everything else.

Q’s eyes finally fluttered shut as Alec assured him once again that they would be on their way home soon enough. He was asleep before Alec even got up from the floor.

As much as James wanted to join his lover in sleep, exhausted beyond all reason after the last half a day, he knew the look in Alec’s eye when his oldest friend stood up and jerked his head over to the opposite end of the room. He held a finger up to his lips, giving a meaningful glance over to their slumbering companion, no doubt a subtle threat to keep his voice down.

 It made James feel a warmth in his chest when he saw the effect that Alec had on his young lover. Sure, they bickered as much as they ever had before all this, but hearing Alec offer genuine comforting words, and treating him gently, just made James all the more glad that he had come to get his friend back. 

He didn’t like to think of it, of what would happen to Q if James were to perish in this new and unforgiving world, but it still haunted him nightly since they had first seen the news back in their hotel room. That had felt like years ago, but it still felt as raw in that moment as it did back then. However, a small weight of that nightmare was lifted in knowing that Alec could care for Q, and would get him home, if anything were to happen to James.  

When the two of them were far enough away, both keeping their gazes glued to the pile of blankets across the room, James braced himself for the questions to come. He knew they would eventually.

“I’m guessing we aren’t racing him home to his W and lower case q’s,” Alec said softly, a trace of judgement teasing the edge of his tongue. 

James shook his head, eyes still fixed on the small bundle, “No. We’re taking him home to help save what’s left of the world, but he...we belong to each other.”

Alec blew out a breath, shaking his head slightly as he leaned back against the brightly painted walls, an image of a goldfish next to his head, “I can’t say I didn’t see that coming, but this is hardly a good time to start a relationship.”

He wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either.

“Q has been the best reason to keep on living, even when death has begun to linger around every corner. He gives me purpose. Not the mission M assigned me to, but just knowing that there is one person left in the world who cares is a damned lot more than what most people have now. He also is the first person in a long time who wants to protect me as much as I want to protect them. I couldn’t have made it this far without him, Alec,” James said, pouring every ounce of the truth in his voice so that Alec could understand.  

“You love him then?” Alec asked, face carefully neutral.

“I do. He’s the best reason I’ve ever had to keep breathing,” James admitted, feeling the truthfulness in the statement. 

Alec’s gaze still had not moved from the topic of their discussion, as if watching Q sleep he could see evidence of what James was telling them. At first his eyes were narrowed, like a predator analyzing a threat, but eventually the edges of his eyes softened and he relaxed further against the wall.

“I was going to advocate for you two to hook up before all this, so I suppose I had already given my stamp of approval. I just don’t want to see you lose anything else, James. After last time...I’m still not sure all of you ever came back. We’re basically carrying a porcelain teapot balanced on top of our heads up an uncharted mountain and hoping it doesn’t break on the way. He’s not built for this kind of environment.”

James sagged against the wall next to the other man, relieved that he at least was on board with the two of them. He followed Alec’s gaze across the room, smiling softly to himself as he watched the steady breathing of his lover, “I think you may find that he comes from sturier stock than porcelain. There’s steel in more than just his spine. We wouldn’t have made it this far if he wasn’t.” 

Finally, Alec turned his neck to give his friend a surprised look, “Sounds like you will have some good stories to share. Let me go get some crackers.”

James chuckled, pushing his elbow into Alec’s ribs playfully, “Later. Let’s get some sleep first. Besides, Q is the better storyteller.”

Alec nodded sagely, “Ah, yes… that voice of his.”

If Q weren’t still trying to sleep, James might have slapped the side of his head. He’d let the comment go for now though. Alec was right after all.

Chapter Text

One day was spent recovering from their latest ordeal, the three men catching up on sleep in between catching up with their newly found companions. It was a miracle that none of them held any real injuries after their daring escape, and the agents were hoping to capitalize on that by not lingering for long in Alec’s temporary haven. 

The seasons were shifting around them into what could become an unmerciful winter very quickly. The leaves had already lost the lustrous colors of autumn and were turning a bleak and dreary brown that was only made all the more bleak by the daily morning frosts that nipped at the air for hours after sunrise. 

The urgency of the incoming cold was not something that they ever thought would be a major factor in their lives, having lived with electricity and modern luxuries their whole lives. It put them in a mindset that felt archaic and stimulated the very core of survival instinct that the agents held. For Q, it just set off every mental warning bell he had. But the ongoing claxon sounds in Q's head were more of a white noise these days. 

Alec had already mentally and physically prepared himself for waiting out the winter for James to come, but that didn’t mean that he wasn’t equally as prepared to bug out at a moment’s notice. Their very survival could depend on the next steps they took, something that Alec was not about to take unnecessary chances with.

“Waiting out the winter would mean months of trying to keep up with food and fuel demands. Even though there is a whole city out there, it was mostly ransacked by the daily raids done by the local gangs,” Alec pointed out, tapping the center of the map he had spread out on the table, “And that’s if we don’t get spotted before then. This place isn’t as defensible as I’d prefer.”

Said table only came up to about Q’s knees, the chairs even shorter, no doubt creating a rather comical image with three full grown men hunkered down over it, open packets of biscuits and juice boxes scattered around. 

James nodded, tracing his finger along the country until it reached the blue of the sea, “We probably have four weeks before things get too bad to travel. It’s possible for us to make it to the sea within two weeks, allowing for several pauses along the way if necessary.”

“And by pauses, you mean inevitable disastrous encounters?” Q piped up dryly. 

“Semantics,” Alec chuckled, elbowing the smaller man beside him.

“Of course, we need to take into account how rough the waters get this time of year. They can turn just as nasty as the winter without much prompting,” James added, leaning back in the small chair, making it squeak horribly with the strain.

Alec shrugged, “We know how to fight the water, mate. An enemy I’d gladly take on over the coming tempest of ice and snow.”

Q glanced back and forth between the two agents, biting at his bottom lip as they stared down at the map with such intensity he wouldn’t have been surprised if it busted out in flames before them, “So it’s decided then? We’re going home?”

James blew out a harsh breath, “We’re going home,” he confirmed. 

Q would probably have felt better about the decision if the two agents didn’t look like they’d just swallowed something bitter.


Alec had gathered up some excellent stock while he had been waiting for James and Q to arrive it seemed. Q even found himself quite impressed with the thorough and well thought out acquirements as they dug through the well stocked rooms. There were clothes and boots in both his and James’ sizes, alarmingly accurate sizing if he was being honest. Canned food of a pleasing variety. Water bottles and sports drinks to hydrate an army. Survival gear that one usually saw used by avid hikers and the lot. There were even a few luxuries that nearly had Q salivating as he sorted everything for their departure. The small bottles of alcohol were perhaps another thing that Q didn’t even realize he needed in his life.

“Oh, you even found shelf stable tea!” Q cooed happily as he all but snuggled the box to his chest.

James gave him a fond glance as he and Alec sorted through the impressive collection of weapons laid out on the shelves. Obviously they couldn’t take everything, not even with the packing space in the hummer, so they were fighting over the relevancy of each and every item as if it were a weapons cache in a video game.

“What possible use could we have for nunchucks against Infected? You aren’t even that good with them. You’re more likely to bean yourself in the head with them than cause any real damage to some virus riddled monster.”

Alec gasped, placing a hand on his chest in mock offense as he reared back dramatically, “I’m perfectly capable at using them! And I’ll have you know that if you wrap them around a neck and pull tightly enough, the pressure alone is enough too--”

“Thank you, 006, I think we get it! As your Quartermaster I must insist that nunchucks are not a requirement for this journey. Put them in the staying pile, if you please,” Q called out as haughtily as he could while holding several boxes of condoms in his hands.

Alec smirked and raised a questioning brow, “And are those in the ‘coming with’ pile? You and James planning on putting on a show for me, because I can assure you now that I will not be sex-iled in the middle of Infected country. Only fair that if you two are getting some action I at least get to watch.”

Q sputtered, dropping the boxes like they burned his hands before shoving them into the staying pile. His cheeks burned red as he glared up at the two laughing agents, “I was just about to sort them,” he growled out, careful not to mention the collection of condoms he already had in the hummer from when he and James had left the base. It never hurt to be prepared in that sense. 

He turned back to the boxes in front of him, noting that this next one seemed to be filled with nothing but sweets packed with sugar and preservatives. Under normal circumstances, these would have been an affront to Q’s spoiled palate, but right now it was about as stunning as a gourmet mousse.

Q smiled to himself as he plucked out a packet of chocolate cupcakes. He recalled in perfect detail the night that James had come back from that first town, his expression of one who had just seen the end of the world played out before him. That was the night that James had told Q that he wanted to go back to get Alec to make good on their promise. Of course Q had agreed, while also wishing that when they did find Alec that it would be with a chocolate sundae in his hand. Q still remembers the way that James’ chest rumbled against Q’s cheek as he laughed, muttering that if anyone could do that, it would be Alec.

These obviously were not a chocolate sundae, but Q still felt like his wish had been fulfilled. Maybe he’d sneak in the nunchucks later on. It wasn’t like they would take up much room…

“What about these?”

“Hmm...yes, I think these would do quite nicely.”

Q glanced up curiously, his face morphing into horror at the items his agents held.

“No! No, you absolutely do not need swords! Put them down this instant, I know for a fact that neither of you are formally trained with Toledo swords, and I’ll not have you swinging them around like five year old’s with sticks. Where the bloody fuck did you even get those from? They look ancient.”

Alec grinned over at him, “From the local history museum. Got a bunch of cool stuff from there. Want to take a look?”

“...Yes, but none of it is coming unless it’s from this century!”

----------------------------------------------------

The hummer was once again fully stocked and fueled up. The weapons were cleaned and loaded, carefully placed around the interior. Every inch of the vehicle had been inspected for breaks, leaks, flaws, or even small scratches. They were finally about to begin the final leg of their long journey home, and Q couldn’t let something as small as an overlooked nick be their downfall. Not when they were so close. 

They would be heading out at dawn, something that seemed too close and far at the same time as Q lay awake, staring into the darkness of the room, his agents on either side of him. 

Although, Q wasn’t sure he could call them his agents anymore. Q wasn’t even sure if he could be called Q. Did titles mean anything anymore? It wasn’t like he was getting paid, at least he didn’t think he was. And even if they were, James was far more than just an agent to him now. Perhaps even before all this he was more than just that. 

Even Alec held a special place in his heart where it felt cold to refer to him as anything less than a good friend. Family even. He had been family to James longer than Q had known them, and it was hard not to feel kinship with someone his lover held so dear. 

It was difficult for Q to determine where he fell on Alec’s friendship spectrum, if such a thing even existed. The older man was even more guarded than James, which was truly a feat. While he would joke and smile freely, there was always a guardedness to his nature. Like if someone stepped into a swimming pool with a full wetsuit on. Sure, he could swim and have fun like anyone else, but there was always an extra layer of protection that they all could see.

It was silly, perhaps, but Q hoped that Alec would be able to feel as comfortable with Q and he was with James as they made their way home. He didn’t want Alec to feel like he needed that extra layer around him, not when he was surrounded by those who loved him like family. 

Q sighed as he carefully rolled over on his stack of mats, still unable to quiet his mind enough to get sleep. It was a good thing that James and Alec were taking the front seats the next morning, because Q isn’t sure he’d be awake enough to be any use keeping an eye out. He felt James’ warmth behind him, adjusting in his sleep as Q moved, burying his face into the back of Q’s neck and nuzzling at the shorter hairs there.

“Can’t sleep, Q?”

Alec softly whispered words didn’t startle him surprisingly, and Q squinted into the darkness trying to make out the subtle shadows of the other agent who was only a foot away from him at most. 

“Loud thoughts. I’ll try to keep them down,” Q whispered back. 

“Don’t worry on that. I’ve got my own to keep me up as well,” Alec replied, “Nervous about tomorrow?”

Q sighed, thinking about it while he felt James shift behind him, “Perhaps. Eager to get home, but not quite looking forward to the execution of that.”

He couldn’t see Alec’s expression at all with the darkness of the room paired with his less than stellar eyesight, but his voice was soft and gentle like James’ when the nightmares of the world got too much. 

“You’re going to get home again, Quartermaster,” he said like a promise. 

Q frowned, “You too.”

“What?”

“You’re going to come home too, with us. Despite what M says, I don’t think this is a mission, I’m not an asset and you aren’t my agents. If it was a mission then we’d have gone straight to London and HR would be waiting for James and myself with an hour long lecture on inter office relations. James and I came here to bring home a friend, and the goal is for the three of us to make it back. Alive. So, it is probably best that you stop thinking of this as such and focus on your life as much as mine and James’. All we have is each other now, right?”

Alec fell silent, his body so still that Q honestly wasn’t sure what was body and what was blankets. He tried to squint into the shadows but all he could make out was the faint glow of the moon through the windows behind them. The sound of howling wind and clacking branches crested against the outer walls, making Q shiver with the memory of the sound of hundreds of deadened fingers on the outside of their vehicle, their moans as ominous as the wind. 

He felt James’ arm tighten around his middle, almost like he sensed the same memory in his sleep. Q hated that memory and wished he could bleach it from his mind. How he longed for the sounds of cars and the ever constant electrical hum of technology around him. Silence was too much to bear when it only served to heighten his imagination of what lay beyond the shadows.

“I’m Oliver, by the way. Don’t want you to get confused if James starts talking about some other mystery man tomorrow,” Q said in a hushed rush, anything to fill the silence. 

Alec remained silent for a beat before trying to name out on his tongue, coming out rather clunky, like it didn’t quite fit on his tongue. Q understood. It was hard for him to go from 007 to James, breaking that last line of formality that held Q in his past life. Q had only ever been the Quartermaster, and separating the professional young techno geek away from the battle hardened young man before him was hard. But they wouldn’t really get to go back to their lives as they were before. Not really. Not ever. It would take generations before the stain of this virus was lifted from the world. 

“You should get some sleep. Dream of home. Not as it is, but as it was,” Alec said finally.

Q nodded, his eyelids feeling heavier at last as he fell back against James’ chest. He thought of home. Thought of his little flat. Thought of his cats. Thought of his thick wool socks he’d wear on cold nights like this. And he thought of what it would be like if James was there on his couch with him.

He thought a lot, until it eventually turned to dreams.

Chapter Text

When Alec had pictured heading back to London with James, it always played out like one of their dual missions they had in the past. There would be the shared jokes, some blood, some sex, and in between all that would be the actual mission. After several days from leaving the daycare though, Alec had decided this felt nothing like a mission. Just like Q had said that night. 

They weren’t travelling as agents with their asset. There were still jokes, blood, and possibly sex when Alec was out scouting alone, but the in between moments were nothing like missions with James. For a Double 0 agent, missions were more often than not a life or death scenario and when it was over they would get to go back to “reality” and enjoy a normal life. 

This new world still held the life or death moments, but there was no longer a “reality” to return to. This was it. Returning home wouldn’t mean what it did before. There would no longer be an off-mode for any of them when it came to survival. 

It added a bit of gravity to everything Alec did, and everything he observed. The three of them had time to acclimate to this new world over the last few months, but this was their first time with another person involved. Their little bubbles of solitude had been broken, and with it came another dynamic to their new lives.

At first, Alec had been apprehensive about James and Q starting up a relationship in the midst of all the chaos. Relationships were risky to start with, and these two had chosen to do it in the middle of an apocalypse when nothing was certain. Not your life and not even your next meal. What Alec saw was two wolves and one house cat set loose into the wild, and he logically assumed the house cat would not stand a chance. He’d seen James broken enough times that he never wanted to witness it again...but Alec had forgotten one very important thing.

He would never forget what James was like when he was in love and when it ended up in tragedy. 

However, he had forgotten what James was like when he was loved. Perhaps he had forgotten because he may not have ever seen the real thing in person. But seeing how Q could bring a smile so easily to James’ face with nothing more than a touch, easing his nerves with no more than a grin...it took away Alec’s fears in a single breath. 

Alec and James lived uncertain lives before all this. They knew what it meant to grab happiness where they could because who knew what the next day would bring. And now James had found happiness. Alec could see it in the way his eyes softened at the corners and in the weightless way he held his shoulders as they sat around the tank telling stories of their adventures. 

And Alec would gladly use his last breath to see James stay that way if he could. 

And living in close quarters with Q and James was rather fun in it’s own sort of cramped and stifling way. Mornings spent crawling over one another while trying to get ready for the day. It was their first day out on the road that Alec discovered for himself that Q’s elbows were a deadly weapon when he was distracted while getting dressed. It was the second day that Q discovered how long Alec’s legs were, and how well they blended in with the fabric of their blankets on the floor. It was the third night that they all learned that nightmares were something they all had in common. 

The rest of their days would be reserved for travel. Most of it was driving, interspersed with occasional run ins with Infected. The pink pony vehicle of Q’s made that part easier than Alec ever thought possible, but he would never admit out loud that he was glad that they went back for the giant hunk of metal. Had to keep Q humble, after all. 

They all took turns at the wheel, another on look out, and the third in the back either cleaning weapons or providing some sort of entertainment. Alec and James had their stories, which were funny and all, but for the most part the two of them already knew each other’s stories by heart. They already shared inside stories and jokes, many of which would go over the Quartermasters' head. Alec wasn't even sure what to even talk to Q about outside of their normal work conversations. James already seemed to know this, and he had a knowing smirk on his face when Q was put in charge of entertainment for the first time. 

Alec had been prepared for either a lecture in coding or some such, maybe some embarrassing uni stories as Q get settled in behind them. Perhaps that’s what Q would have done given the chance, but James seemed to have something else in mind. He winked over at Alec as Q shuffled about getting comfortable behind them in the belly of the tank. 

“Wait for it,” he mouthed at his friend and then glanced casually over his shoulder.

“Darling,” he called out innocently, “Did you know that Alec loves spy movies?”

That was a complete lie, and James damn well knew that. Alec hated them for the inaccuracies as well as the often low budget explosions that ‘didn’t capture the essence of boom’. He wondered what the hell James was getting at, taking a peak behind them at Q only to see their little Quartermaster all but puffed up like an angry cat. His mouth gaped open in horror as he stared between the two of them as he turned red.

“Are you shitting me? Spy movies? Have you no respect for your own bloody job?” he spat like a hissing stray. 

Alec bit back a grin, keeping his face carefully neutral, “What can I say? The gadgets are genius and their infiltration methods are spot on.”

“WHAT?!”

It was on that third morning that Alec learned that Q could rant about almost any subject that bothered him four hours, providing an endless source of comedic entertainment for the two agents and an outlet for the raging boffin in the back. Oddly named baby animals, the way the French counted, the plight of Pluto, certain flavors of crisps. It was like their own private podcast on all the inadequacies of the world as told by Q. It was far better entertainment than the books back at Sunny Side Up Daycare. 

James called it Q’s “don’t get me started” mode, and it was apparently one of his favorite things about his new lover. Alec was also quickly finding it one of his new favorite things about his Quartermaster and eagerly tried to think up more topics that were sure to set him off on another tangent and make James laugh. 

It was on the third night that Alec found himself falling asleep with a smile on his face for the first time in months. Possibly longer. 

It was on the fourth morning that they all discovered that three men, unable to bath properly all stuck together in a single vehicle, would start to smell.

It was on the fourth afternoon that they discovered a small lake and decided to do something about that.


“Swim trunks. We’ve got bloody nunchucks stowed away in our inventory, but we didn’t think to pack swim trunks…”

Q continued to mutter his grievances as he reluctantly peeled away his clothing, eyeing the two agents already splashing around in the water completely at ease with nudity around each other. Still, no amount of shyness on his part would prevent him from eagerly ridding himself of the sweat and dirt that had built up on his skin the last few days on the road. He dearly missed the showers back at their base. 

The air was chilly, but the bright sun overhead at least made it somewhat bearable as he exposed more and more skin to the elements. He didn’t have such positive thoughts about the temperature of the water however.

“Come on, Q! It’s refreshing after the first dunk, I swear.”

“Refreshing is a term best used for cold beverages, not bathing temperatures,” Q pointed out to Alec haughtily as he dipped his toe daintily into the edges of the lake. It certainly wasn’t a comfortable feeling, but it wasn’t repulsively cold either. The promise of being completely clean would beat out the momentary discomfort though, so Q slowly began to wade into the shallows, arms crossed over his chest as he tried to suppress the shivers.

When he made it up to his waist, the water rippled around him as James swam over to his side.

Crystal clear water droplets clung to every inch of the bronzed skin, glistening in the bright sun, tantalizing Q’s every sense as he looked over the naked form of his lover. 

“Thank fuck the water is too cold to get even remotely aroused, otherwise Alec would be getting his wish of watching us,” Q whispered to him, splashing at him playfully. 

James laughed, splashing back and smirking when Q squealed as his still dry skin got hit, “The surface of the water could hide many things though. Just think of all the things one could get up to when everything below the shoulders is submerged. Just wait until I get you in a warm lake sometime.”

Q started to smile only to have it drop from his face when his unhelpfully photographic memory reminded him of the last time that he and James were together in a lake. Flashes of James being pulled beneath the surface, a bloated face being smashed in by a rock, and the frantic thought that James could have been bit all came up at once. The memories must have shown on his face because James’ smile faded as well and he carefully pulled Q down into the water to pull him against his chest.

“Shh...don’t think of that, Darling. Only think of here and now. I’ve got you.”

Q let himself relax against the solid presence of his lover, slowly letting his muscles loosen until he was only suspended by James’ arms and the water. It almost felt like flying. 

“That seemed so long ago, and yet I know that in reality it wasn’t long at all,” Q mumbled against the wet and warm skin, gently placing a kiss against it just because he could, “I still thought you would never glance at me more than a colleague. Maybe a friend.”

He felt James’ arms tighten around him slightly, “We’ve come a long way since then, but I knew even back then that I would have died for the chance to be something more to you.”

Q’s head shot up in surprise, “I would never have guessed.”

James shrugged, “I wasn’t exactly advertising it. I’ve been a bit trigger shy about real relationships for a while. Wasn’t going to drag you into my mess of a life when you possibly had your own life going on elsewhere.”

Q knew that James’ “a while” could have been in reference to a number of losses he’d suffered in the last ten years. He felt bad knowing that James was more inclined to spare Q his own drama than to pursue someone he genuinely liked. Sacrifice seemed to be James’ gut instinct when it came to anyone besides himself. It was sad to think about it, but Q already knew that James loved with everything he had, saving nothing for himself. That’s why Q wanted to give him everything in return. Just so that James would have something for himself for once. 

“I would have gladly been dragged into your life before all this just so that we would have had more time together, but even so...I’ve been told that I should think of the here and now, and I’ll be happy just to have this moment,” he said with a grin.

James’ answering smile was small, but warm and genuine and it warmed Q down to his core despite the cold water around them.

“Oi! Starting to feel a bit like a third wheel over here!”

Alec had apparently finished his washing and had already waded into boredom as the two lovers casually floated together a few meters away.

Q rolled his eyes and pulled back from James a bit, “I’ll have you know that tricycles are actually a very stable and practical mode of transportation,” he shouted back.

“Yeah, if you’re a toddler!”

“So then a tricycle should suit you just fine!” Q laughed, sending a splash over in the agent’s direction. 

While Q sort of expected some kind of retaliation, he was not exactly prepared for the massive wave of water that would come his way as Alec expertly seemed to take on the mass of a whale and flop his body into near drowning them all. 

Q choked on as much water as he did laughter as the three of them played in the water like children. Several times the two agents had picked up Q just to toss him back into the lake like a too small fish, and several more times Q was able to latch onto their backs like a particularly aggressive koala and pull them backwards into the lake. 

The only sounds around them were of happy laughter, splashing water, and the breeze through the trees. 

For the first time in months, the three men were able to forget about everything outside of that exact moment. MI6, the Infected, the rest of the world...none of it existed. 

A while later, when their lips were blue and their teeth started to chatter, they emerged from the lake soaked through, bellies rumbling, and utterly exhausted in the best way possible. 

Q pointed out that they didn’t have towels to dry off, and pointed over to a large boulder that they could sun dry on.

“That’ll warm the outside well enough, but how about we warm the insides as well,” Alec said, pulling out their lunch rations along with the sack that all of them knew held the much coveted little bottles of alcohol.

His eyes widened. Q had never been much of a drinker before, but the idea of keeping the loose and happy feeling going was impossible to refuse. A blanket, handgun and single rifle were plucked from their stores and added to their little picnic pile and they made their way over to the boulder a little ways along the side of the lake. 

The air around them felt even colder since they were still wet and still very much nude, but touching the boulder felt like the outside of a warm oven.

It was glorious. Q felt like one of those pet lizards that lived on the electric warming rocks as he sprawled over the hot surface, almost purring as the warmth sunk into his bones. He heard the agent chuckling at him, but he hardly cared when he was getting pleasantly toasty all over. 

“At least eat something before you fall asleep and we have to peel you off later,” Alec said, smirking as he waved an MRE packet in front of his face. 

Q grunted but didn’t move. The promise of another bag of instant food was hardly something to tempt him with.

The packet was moved out of his eyeline, but then a small bottle was dangled and Q shot up to snatch it out of the agent’s hands.

Q had already drunk half of it before he took a moment to look at the label to see what the hell he’d just burnt his throat with.

“This is the most precious bottle of vodka I’ve ever seen,” Q commented mildly, twirling the tiny glass between his fingers as the light caught on the curves. It was hardly longer than his thumb. 

Both James and Alec knocked back the entire contents of their own bottles, sighing blissfully when they finished and leaning back on the boulder beside Q. Their packets of food lay forgotten to the side in favor of the more welcomed ingestion of alcohol. 

If Q squinted, he could pretend that he was on a vacation with his lover and his best mate. An odd sort of vacation perhaps to normal people, but Q found it a perfectly acceptable fantasy to live in for a moment. Sunbathing on a beach with a tropical drink in hand. It was the kind of vacation he always pictured James taking, and now Q was along for the ride.

He smiled to himself, enjoying his small moment where he felt like a normal person in a normal relationship on a normal vacation. And all it took was the bloody apocalypse to make it happen.

“How many of these little nips do reckon it would take to get drunk?” James asked idly, picking up a second whiskey for inspection. 

Q hummed thoughtfully, “Well, considering these are little more than just samplers or mixers, the alcohol content is the same...empty stomachs...little to no alcohol consumption in the last two months…”

Alec belched loudly, dropping his third emptied bottle in the growing pile between them, “Sounds like the boffin is setting up the parameters for an experiment.”

If Q wasn’t as relaxed as his little vacation fantasy allowed, then maybe he would have slammed on the breaks right then and there. But as he had already finished his own vodka in record time already at that point, well….

“Excellent idea, 006.”


In the end it took only two thirds the amount predicted for the three of them to reach a pleasantly inebriated state, all giggling together on their boulder trying to remember who reached the top first and should therefore be named king. 

Q, having a photographic memory, knew exactly who was first. He also, however, was a little shit and was enjoying himself immensely as he watched the two agents bicker sloppily over who deserved the crown made from the foil encasing their food. 

“Well we know it wasn’t Q, cause you’d ‘ave been starin’ at his arse as he climbed up and would remember that.”

“A memorable sight, yes,” James nodded eagerly in agreement, “But I would have had to stare at your arse instead if you were in front.”

“You sayin’ my arse ain’t memorable?”

“I’m sayin’ it wasn’t there.”

“Bollocks.”

Q snickered, taking another sip of James’ last bottle of whiskey. The stuff burned like window cleaner, but he felt nice and toasty all over. The sun was getting lower in the sky, just about ready to tuck itself in behind the line of trees around the lake, and the sky was still a brilliant blue with no clouds in sight.

While they may have wasted an entire day of travel, Q couldn’t find it in himself to be anxious over the loss of progress. They were a day or two away from reaching the high population areas closer to the ocean, and with that would come more stress and danger. This was just one last day to enjoy peace before the chaos. 

Or so he thought.

Q squinted off into the distance, wondering why there was a small line of trees that seemed to be moving closer. Or perhaps he should have wondered more about how trees would be moving closer. 

“James, be a dear and hand me my glasses please. I want to see what those trees are up to,” he said, flapping his hand over at his lover. 

Dutifully, James started to look around for his glasses while Alec peered off into the distance, eyes squinted against the setting sun.

“Suspicious trees?” he asked Q, trying to find the source of his Quartermaster’s curiosity. 

Q hummed, flapping his hand lazily in the other direction now, “Yes, those ones to the north of us. The staggering ones.”

James handed over his glasses, scrunching up his face in confusion, “Staggering trees?”

“Suspiciously staggering trees,” Q said while nodding sagely, glasses finally perched on his nose. He blinked as his eyesight came back into focus and turned to get a better look at his trees, only to see a small hoard of Infected moving closer along the edges of the lake.

Between them and the hummer.

“Your trees are Infected,” Alec commented, only sounding slightly bothered. 

Q also found himself a bit slow to react, his eyes only widening a fraction in alarm as he clumsily got to his feet, “I’m no mathematician, but there are more of them then we have bullets here,” he slurred as he toed the guns at his foot and then paused, “Wait, no...I am a mathematician.”

The agents both picked up the guns, turning them around in their hands as they did their own mental calculations, if not a bit slower than Q. 

“Ah, well that’s a shame,” Alec muttered, his fellow drunk companions nodded their agreement. 

James carefully walked over to the edge of the boulder, his balance only slightly off in his inebriated state, but Q still reached out to steady him. 

“No spears…not enough ammo, no crossbow...do we fight them?”

“No!” Q scolded, “Unless you’ve found a way to rip off their heads with your bare hand, while maintaining sanitary conditions, then no hand to hand combat with the Infected,” he said holding his finger in the air as if giving a proclamation to an unruly toddler.

“Fire!” Alec piped up enthusiastically.

Q rounded on him, hands placed on his slim hips, “No! What use could fire possibly have in this instance?”

Alec frowned at him, arms crossed defensively over his chest, “Fire kills them too.”

Q’s eyes widened, “Good lord, does it really?”

It made sense in a way, and if anyone in the world was going to discover if something could be killed with fire, it would be 006.

James merely blinked over at his partner once before throwing his head back with a loud groan, “Fuck, that would have been useful to know before now.”


While most people would assume that city rat born boffins would stand no chance surviving in the wilderness, Q would very gladly now point out that at the very least, his people would be able to come up with five different ways to produce fire even while intoxicated and stranded buck naked on a rock. 

Even better yet, he would take it another step further and make a real weapon out of it.

He slurred out some orders to his companions to rip up small strips of the blanket while he set about taking apart one of the guns to create a makeshift lighter of sorts. It wasn’t pretty, but all they really needed was a small spark anyhow. 

By then the hoard had come around the boulder, but were thankfully unable to climb up it or get even within arms reach of the three men. 

“You’ll never be king of the rock with that attitude,” Alec shouted down to one particularly vocal Infected that had already circled the rock three times trying to get to them. 

The sun was only a half hour from setting, but they were just about ready.

“Alright, now it’s time for the alcohol,” Q announced once his lighter was completed.

Alec’s mouth dropped open in horror, “No!”

“Yes!”


They had twelve little bottles left that hadn’t been drunk yet, more than enough when added to their remaining bullets to kill or distract the Infected long enough for them to run back to the hummer and safety.

It was decided that James had the steadiest hands while drunk, so he was allowed to use the gun while Q and Alec were put on molotov duty. Now, Q did not think himself very athletically inclined, but it wasn’t as if they were spread out across a field. They were all conveniently crowded at the base of the boulder. No matter how tipsy he might still be, it would be hard to miss at this distance.

Standing above them as Q and Alec finished up plugging the tiny bottles, James squinted at the new weapons in fascination and perhaps a bit of confusion. “I never thought it would be possible to think of molotov cocktails as cute, but then again, I also never thought it would be possible for corpses to become such a nuisance.”

“Pocket molotovs. Brilliant. I should have thought of these years ago,” Q cooed as he inspected them all for quality purposes, “I should make these standard kit items.”

Alec continued to stuff the fabric down the tiny bottle necks while muttering to himself, “Pocketovs. Minitovs. Smallotovs…Damn wastes of good booze.”

Maybe they should have waited until they were more sober before attempting their strike, but nobody liked to be cornered any longer than they needed to. Especially two cornered Double O agents. Q had been nervous about attempting to run across the beach while dodging flaming Infected, but James had put a somewhat steady foot down and said Q was to wait on the boulder for them while they drove the hummer over. 

It was for the best, because all humor in the situation dissipated the moment the first molotov hit home and the shrieks of the burning Infected filled the air one after the other. The bullets from James’ gun almost seemed like a mercy in the end, and Q was reminded just how deadly his two companions were as the bodies fell efficiently around them. 

The loud sounds of the guns backfire and the screeching led to shadows moving about on the edges of the forest around them as more Infected were summoned to the fray. 

Once their initial hoard had all been taken care off, James spared one moment to press his lips to Q’s forehead, with the order to stay put, before he launched off of the boulder with Alec by his side. 

There was still plenty of space between them and the incoming Infected from the woods, but Q still crouched low on the rock with his heart in his throat as he squinted into the growing darkness, waiting for signs that James was safe and that Alec was still with him. 

It wasn’t until the hummer pulled up next to the boulder that Q let out the breath he had been holding, and he eagerly leapt into James’ waiting arms in the turret station on the roof. 

“I’ve got you, love. You’re safe,” came the soothing words spoken into Q’s hair. 

“I know I am,” he replied, and buried his face deeper into the warm chest under his cheek. 

Chapter Text

After what seemed like an eternity, the fact that they were actually finally making progress towards their goal seemed almost surreal. But there it was. The map didn’t lie. At least it didn’t unless someone in a post-apocalyptic humor decided to prank the world by moving around town signs, but that was statistically unlikely. 

Even so, Q found himself in awe as he traced his finger along the black marked line of their route, looking at how far they had come and how little there was to go. Two to four days left before they reached the sea, depending on any unseen obstacles waiting for them ahead. It was incredible. He felt like a marathon runner who just caught a glimpse of the finish line on the horizon. He was sweaty, exhausted, and was panting like an overheated dog, but damn if he didn’t feel that one last jolt of motivation now that he was so close.

It seemed almost wrong to do it, but Q couldn’t help but look around the interior of their mobile haven with a sense of impending nostalgia, if there were such a thing. In a week or less, they could possibly be back within the halls of MI6. Sheltered and safe. Food and running water. Actual live humans that he knew and cared for around them. It would be paradise compared to the conditions they’d lived with the last two months. Even so...Q couldn’t help but think about how much he’d miss certain aspects of this journey.

It was James’ and Alec’s turn in the front. Alec driving, much to Q’s dismay, and James keeping watch. It was still early enough in the morning that no one was bored out of their wits yet, but there was a soft conversation going on between the two. It was pleasant and calm. Soothing almost, hearing the sounds of life outside of just him and James. 

He had grown up in the city, completely at ease with the never ending noises that came with that kind of life, and suddenly that was ripped away from him. Silence had become more daunting than he ever thought possible. It was like it was the audial equivalent to shadows. Shadows could be completely harmless, until something dangerous decided to lurk there. And now silence has become the same kind of exercise in anxiety. It’s silent until it’s not, but you’ll never know when it’ll end. 

It was wreaking havoc on his nerves, that was for sure. He made a mental note to design bells to put on his cat’s collars upon his return. There was no need for his poor nerves or cats to suffer at his own jumpiness after surviving this ordeal. 

He did like having Alec around for that reason. While the agent could easily become as silent as a butterfly when necessary, he made it a point to fill up the silences when he could. Starting up a conversation. Drumming his fingers on the dashboard. Humming incredibly off-tune while fiddling with something he shouldn’t in the back. It served to pull Q out of whatever dark place that he felt himself falling into whenever James was busy doing something else. 

And it wasn’t just Q that this helped. 

James had known about silences and shadows long before all this. Most of the agents had experienced that all hundreds of times over, but they never completely became immune to it. They eventually found vices to distract them from those kinds of thoughts, or took up the hobby of running circles around the MI6 therapists, and no doubt Alec had taken up some sort of strategy like the others...but he had taken it a step further than that it seems when it comes to James Bond. 

Q was still learning all of James’ moods, ticks, and habits, just like anyone would in the early stages of a relationship. Alec though had been his best friend for longer than Q had known both of them combined. James could do no more than twitch his left eyebrow and Alec would know that was a sign he was thinking about that time in Shanghai back in the summer of ‘93 and then know exactly how to steer his friend out of the memory.

It was incredible to observe, and Q found himself in awe of their relationship. And he also found himself taking notes. He didn’t see the world getting much better anytime soon, in fact he had calculated it taking at least another two years before any sort of improvements would be noticed across the globe, so there would be even more shadows for all their thoughts to lurk in. They would all need to learn how to keep each other sane until then. Q could never allow himself to be jealous of how well Alec could watch out for James, because now was not the time to be selfish in any way. 

They were only going to get through this together after all.


“I can’t feel my arse.”

“Want me to feel it for you?”

Q sighed, leaning heavily against the window as he watched the nondescript landscape go by, “Makes no difference to me, seeing as I won’t feel anything, but James may have something to say on the matter.”

Alec turned in his seat with a hopeful look to where James was lounging in the back.

“We’ve already discussed the circumstances, Alec. Only if he is in immediate danger and rear contact is necessary or if he is in need of medical treatment and I am not available,” James said drolly, not even bothering to open his eyes.  

Q wrinkled up his nose at the two of them, “You discussed under what conditions my bum becomes fair game?”

Alec shrugged, “To be fair, I believe the conditions were part of a lecture HR gave us a while  back. We’ve used them on multiple occasions.”

Q’s arse was completely numb from sitting still for the last five hours, and he was beginning to wonder if he would remember how to walk after all this, so really the thought of HR having that kind of rule set was something he decided belonged on his ‘consider later’ list. They seemed reasonable enough to him anyway. 

“I suppose you are under the same rules,” he kidded over at Alec who was still insisting on driving. 

“I prefer to keep mine under an open door policy.”

Q snorted while he heard a faint chuckle from James in the back. 

They’d been on the move all day. It had been slow, but thankfully uneventful. However, it made for a very boring day for the three of them. There was no radio to play for entertainment. Well, there was a radio, but no songs played, just a very unnerving series of channels full of haunting static. Conversation hadn’t run dry, but their throats had. 

They had at least another hour or so of good light before they would need to park somewhere for the night. Q had to suppress a long groan at the thought of another hour like this and frantically tried to think of something to entertain himself, and perhaps the others too. He wondered what Alec would do to fill up the void and glanced over at the older man to his right. 

His face was blank, staring ahead at the road in front of them as he navigated around another collection of abandoned vehicles. To anyone else he would appear perfectly calm and collected, only Q was not anyone else anymore after spending months trying to learn the ticks of the Double-O agents.

There was a twitch in his left cheek. Q squinted, wondering if that was one of those micro signs he’d been trying to catalog. It got him to thinking though. How was Alec holding up during all of this? He’d been alone for months while the world went to shit around him, not sure if anyone was coming for him, not sure if anyone else was even alive. How did anyone survive that, Double O or otherwise. 

Truly, James and Alec were a pair. They wore their steel exteriors that were about as welcoming as a porcupine’s pelt, and gave off an air of impenetrability to their hearts. Like any assassin, they kept their distance from society, radiating danger no matter how much they tried to blend in. But underneath it all were two men who were more concerned with keeping others safe while ignoring their own needs.

Utterly hopeless, the lot of them. Q rolled his eyes as he sat back up in his seat, the movement causing two sets of eyes to shoot over to him.

“Can we call it an early night?” he asked.

He could practically feel James’ frown from the back.

“Alright, Q?” he asked, the question mirrored in Alec’s face. 

“Well enough, I just saw that brush up ahead and thought it would be a good place to hide for the night. We’re ahead of schedule today,” he said, sounding as innocent as he could manage. 

The two agents peered out ahead, taking in the collection of trees and bushes along the road in the distance. There was no town in sight, no houses, no lights, and most importantly, no Infected. There was really no reason not to stop, so Alec steered them off road and into the brush as far as they could manage. 

Q climbed in the back, scrambling over James’ lap as he began to dig around in the bags.

“Woah, what’s the rush?” James asked, placing his hands on Q’s hips to steady him.

“I’m bored and hungry, and sore. I want out of this vehicle for at least an hour, so help me find the green bag and pull out the mac and cheese foils.”

“Green bag? I think I saw one near the rear left wheel,” Alec offered, still sounding rather confused.

Q grinned, seeing it tucked there and grabbed it, “Excellent! Now, gentlemen. How do you feel about a game of cards?”


Cards with two very highly skilled agents and one literal genius with a photographic memory was quite the experience it turned out.

Q had never really played poker much before, but he knew how to strategize with the best of them. He knew for a fact that he had no poker face though, and was absolutely ready to be demolished by the two agents. And he was. At first

He was still a master with numbers and statistics, and eventually found enough of a rhythm to win a few hands here and there. Still though, he felt like a toddler sitting at the adults table when he watched the two agents battle it out for who would raise and who would fold. 

He had started to regret his decision to start up a game in the hopes of cheering up Alec, after seeing the glares the two men were throwing at each other. He wondered if he should intervene before friendships were ruined. He thought that only happened in rounds of Monopoly, but here they are...

Unfortunately, Q did not have alcohol to blame for his next suggestion. 

So any embarrassment he felt sitting outside in nothing but his pants and glasses was what he deserved he supposed. Besides, it had the minor reward of getting to see James shirtless for an extended period of time without the distraction of sex.

“Hmm, raise.”

James casually tossed in another hard candy to the pot. Q had already lost most of his own collection, sacrificing a lolly to suck on since he was unlikely to survive another round with these two card demons. 

Alec studied him like a set of notes right before an exam, squinting his eyes as he looked for any tells. The intense look of concentration was startlingly offset from his undressed state. The agent still had his shirt, but was also reduced down to his pants like Q was. Q had all but forgotten his own participation in the game, too busy swiveling his head between the two of them.

He wished he had some popcorn. 

“I’ll raise as well,” he challenged, tossing in more candy bits, “With the agreement that whoever wins gets to choose the next garment lost.” Q had to suppress a gasp of awe at the ballsy move.

“Deal.”

This was more suspenseful than a great deal of the missions he’d monitored in the past.

Two hands of cards were slapped down on the rock they were using as a table, and there was a clear winner.

Alec jumped up with a loud hoot, pumping his fist in the air in triumph, “Yes! I knew you were bluffing. Not enough smirking for you to actually have a good hand.”

James rolled his eyes playfully, waving off the enthusiasm with minimal annoyance, “You only won because I can’t see your tells behind that ridiculous caveman beard you’ve got going on.”

“You mean my chin warmer? You’re just jealous cause your beard comes out looking like a hedgehog.”

“Hardly. Q would get lost in there if he tried to kiss me with a beard that bushy.”

Q chuckled at them, swirling the lollipop around his tongue as they argued.

Alec stood up straight with his hands on his hips, looking far too proud for someone whose legs were bare for all to see, “This beard won me the round, and all the goodies that it comes with. Now, what item are we to lose next…”

There wasn’t much left to lose. James wore only his pants, a beanie cap, and a single sock at this point. 

“Off with the pants, Jamesy,” he said, his smile was wide enough that Q could count every tooth. 

“Pervert,” James grumbled, but easily kicked them off.

Q quirked a brow, “Rather cold, is it, love?”

“Hush up, you. Your nose has been red for the last thirty minutes, so I doubt you’ve got much to display either,” he said. Q snickered, and got up from his seat so he could climb easily into his lover’s lap. Instantly he was ten times warmer, with the added bit of excitement knowing that James was all but completely naked. 

Alec stretched out his spine, groaning loudly as he stumbled around them, “As lovely as this has been, I think it’s time for you to take Q to bed to warm up and get some rest. I’ll scout out the area and be back in a bit.”

He was already swinging a rifle over his shoulder and picking up a hatchet resting against the rock, a smile still present on his handsome features. He looked more relaxed than Q could ever remember seeing him in the past. Had it worked then?

Alec was about ten paces away from them when James cleared his throat loudly, making the other agent turn back to them with a raised brow.

“You want some trousers before you set out on your grand mission?” James asked, chest rumbling with suppressed laughter that Q could feel vibrate through him.

Alec smirked back, flipping the hatchet and catching it smoothly in his hand again, “Cavemen don’t wear trousers, didn’t you know? I rather like this. Almost freeing. Maybe I’ll go full apocalypse and start sporting a loincloth,” he added, sounding honestly contemplative as he turned and walked off. 

“You know, I would pay good candy to see M’s face if Alec showed up in a loincloth upon our return,” Q mused, resting his head against James’ shoulder.

James chuckled, burying his nose into the curls, “You know, I probably would too.”


They both threw on a set of comfortable sweats and nestled into their collection of blankets. Without their presence in the hummer for the last couple hours, the air inside was fresh, but also chilled. It wasn’t until he felt James slip in along his back that Q started to feel warm again. Strong arms wrapped around his middle, pulling him closer against that solid chest that he’d admired all evening. Q sighed happily, reaching down to rest his hand on top of James’. 

They lay there together for a moment in silence, just feeling the other alive and present and loving. He could feel James’ warm puffs of breath against the back of his neck, and the steady rhythm of his chest rising and falling with each breath. It was wonderfully soothing. 

He felt James bump his nose against his neck, placing a quick and chaste kiss there before beginning to speak softly into his ear, “I know what you did tonight. To help Alec.”

Q’s eyes that had drifted shut, fluttered open at his words. He didn’t really know how to respond to that.

James didn’t seem to really be looking for a response though, because he instead squeezed Q tighter in a hug that he felt down to his toes, “Thank you. He…he isn’t always receptive to comfort in the traditional ways, and you...you clever little thing, you knew that, didn’t you?”

Q blushed, “I just guessed what he would like, that’s all.”

“Guesses and instincts can often be the same thing. Don’t sell yourself short. He needed that time to loosen up, and I now know that you two can take care of each other.”

“I’m not the one who lost on purpose on that last hand to make him feel better,” Q pointed out cheekily.

He felt James stiffen for a moment behind him, “You knew I threw that hand?”

“You cleared your throat twice on the second draw.”

James chuckled again, “Clever little thing, indeed.”

As tired as they both were, neither would let themselves fall asleep just yet, not until about twenty minutes later they heard Alec’s footsteps coming back, whistling the familiar tune he used to confirm his identity. 

The door opened and Alec climbed in, shutting and locking it behind him.

“Temperature is dropping out there like a lead balloon. May actually start seeing some ice in the coming mornings,” he said as he climbed into his spot on the other side of Q.

“As long as it doesn’t slow us down, the cold can go stuff itself,” James replied sleepily, grunting when they all had to adjust to Alec climbing in. 

There wasn’t much spare room for sleeping, meaning that Alec was a hand width away from Q at most. It was a bit cramped, but it made sure that no one woke up cold once they were all under the blankets. It also made Q feel about as safe as one could ever feel in this world. 

It made him wonder if he would ever feel truly safe again in his lifetime. 

The very thought made him a bit melancholy. Returning home just didn’t have that same ring to it like it would if he was just coming back from an extended holiday. Because he knew that home was no longer the home he remembered. 

He tried to think back, to remember the feeling he used to have leaving MI6 late in the evening and heading back to his flat where the only friends and family he really had were his cats. He felt safe back then, but also felt very lonely. It made him wonder if he would ever want to go back to his life before. If he would truly prefer the security of his little flat and routine lonely life over the feeling of James’ arms wrapped around him and having Alec ready with a joke or a knife mere inches from him. He could do without the Infected in his life, but what was life without a few trade offs?

Thinking of his life as it once was didn’t bring as much joy or relief as he thought it would. But he did find the fluttering of butterflies in his belly when he thought of what they could go back to.

He and James would find some place in MI6 to call their own. The cats would be snuggled into their sides each lazy morning. Alec would become their neighbor no doubt, complaining when they were too loud the night before and then sneaking extra rations onto Q’s plate when he thought he wasn’t looking. They would still have work to do during the day, but they had been saving the world for years now, so it hardly made much difference. What mattered would be that by the end of the day, Q would be able to go back to ‘their place’ and know that he was loved.

It startled him to realize he was grinning as he thought about what they could be doing possibly as soon as a week from then. The eagerness to get back to London bloomed in his chest once more.

Life had given them a fork while they were drowning in soup, but that was just fine by him. He had picked out the noodles, and that was more than enough to sustain him.

Chapter Text

All Radio Channels 

*Static*



The worst twenty-four hours of their lives started with a moment of peace.




Half a day earlier...

Q woke up warm and content. He could feel James breathing steadily against his back, arms still wrapped possessively around Q’s middle and tightened whenever he shifted too far. He could tell it was still very early, the light coming through the windshield of the hummer was dull and carrying gray in its wake. 

Beside them, Alec was already sitting up and doing his best to stretch out without kicking his companions. Even so, a knee came dangerously close to Q’s face a few times. 

Outside their walls it was quiet. No shuffling footsteps. No screeches. And no voices. Q almost wished for the sounds of London to wake up to, but he’d settle for peaceful for now. 

James began to shift behind him, growling under his breath when he realized that the others were also awake, “Can’t even sleep in at the end of the world,” he groused. 

Twisting around in his arms, Q smiled as he came face to face with his lover, bumping their noses together with a bright smile that James was far too tired to appreciate properly, “Sorry, love. You said it yourself yesterday that we needed the extra time to make it through the next town.”

“Well fuck, why are we listening to me?”

“Quit your whining, you big baby. The sooner we get past the town, the quicker we can get to the coast and off this bloody continent. It’s the last big town we have to deal with before we reach London,” Alec said, tossing a couple protein bars at the pair of them, smirking when they landed on their heads. 

Q felt his stomach do a little flip in anticipation of the day ahead. One last big hurdle before it was all downhill it seemed. The town they were headed for was decently sized, and was once well populated as well. Since the apocalypse, none of them knew what would be left of it, or the people there, but they’d gone through larger cities before and they were fully gassed up in their hummer with weapons to spare. Neither agent seemed overly concerned, and Q was also inclined to believe it would be alright. 

“Can’t wait to be out of this thing and steal us a nice big boat. The Infected don’t float, so I’m expecting a relaxing cruise across the water. Hell, if London looks too occupied, I’ll gladly stay onboard as long as I’ve got food,” Alec said, munching away at his own breakfast. 

Q smiled as he pictured the three of them laying out in the fresh air, not any Infected near them for miles. He’d be glad to get out of the hummer as well. As much as he was proud of his work, he’d be glad to have a bit more fresh air. Not to mention some space for him and the two men he was living with he seemed to be allergic to shirts, “If we can fish then we’ll have even more food to last us,” he added, moaning loudly as he flopped back into James’ lap, “I would kill to have some fresh food.”

“Well, you’ll have to kill it in order to eat it anyway,” Alec chuckled fondly.

Frowning, Q turned his head to look up at James, “I don’t know how to fish,” he told him sadly.

James smiled at him and placed a chaste kiss on his forehead, “Don’t worry, I’ll teach you how.”

Alec groaned loudly from the back, “You both are as soft as horse shit. It’s absolutely disgusting. Nauseating, really. Q, tell me you packed bags for me to vomit in.”


“Doesn’t look too bad from what I can see. A decent number Infected roaming around freely, but we should be able to drive through easily enough,” James said as he handed the binoculars over for Q to take a look. 

Q took off his glasses and peered down the hill into the town. He could see a few Infected like James had said. Perhaps a few dozen within view. All other cars around the streets looked dirty and abandoned. From what he could tell, there were no signs of living humans there. At least not for a while.

“Are those military barriers I see down there?” he asked, handing the binoculars over to Alec next, “I think I saw a few jeeps down there as well. And Infected in uniform.”

James nodded, “Looks like they tried to barricade the town early on to prevent travelers from entering. A saw a few that looked like someone tried to drive a truck through them. There are a few more still standing, but if we go by way of the wooden ones, we should be able to break through without much trouble.”

Alec whistled low, “They must have put up quite a fight down there. I see some nasty looking scorch marks along some of the roads. Some pavement shattered in places. Even a few craters.”

From where Q stood, it truly looked empty now. He felt a wave of sorrow flow through him, making him shiver under his jacket. Whoever those soldiers had been, they had tried so hard to protect the town and its people from falling victim to the virus. Now all that was left of their efforts was a town crawling with Infected and the scars of their battles left behind. It was tragic to think they had been overcome so easily by something microscopic in size. 

He felt James squeeze his shoulder, pulling him gently back into their hummer, “Come on, darling. Best we get this over with.”

Alec grimaced as he slid into the driver's seat, revving up the engine, “Pretty sure driving this thing through charging Infected is my least favorite thing to do now.”

Q groaned, already dreading having to listen to the bumps and shrieks of the bodies they would encounter, “I hate it when people say ‘least favorite part’. It’s too positive. Makes it sound like everything is part of the favorites category, when clearly they mean it’s the absolute worst.”

Behind him James chuckled a bit, and Q let himself be pushed inside, “Up you get. Move on to the far back, would you? Alec and I will take the front. You don’t need to see anymore of that, not when we’re so close to getting home.”

As much as Q wanted to argue that he would be fine, they would both know it was a lie. Q could pull up each and every face they’d seen before they had run them over, thanks to his memory. They may have been dead already, but his nightmares didn’t always remember that part. Memory was funny that way. So, he crawled towards the back to where he was pressed up against the rear hatch, their various packs and bags all neatly tucked on either side of him. 

He pulled a handgun off the wall and held it loosely at his thigh. He doubted he’d need it, but always best to be prepared, wasn’t it?


They rumbled down the hill, Alec driving with James at his side, rifle and crossbow within easy reach. 

Q had done his best to make their engine as quiet and efficient as possible before they had left the military base weeks ago, but it still would be noticeable on a peaceful day like this. No wind, no voices, and no traffic obviously. As they got closer to town, the sounds of their approach seemed to awaken the town.

“They’re literally coming out of the woodwork,” James grumbled as he watched through the binoculars again, “They must have been lurking inside the buildings.”

“If they were inside the buildings, that means there is unlikely to be anyone living in there at all,” Q said, wondering if anyone from that town had managed to get out before it was consumed by the virus. It was awful to think about, but he wasn’t overly alarmed by the unexpected volume of Infected. They’d already traveled through much larger cities than this one before and come out the other end unscathed. Still though, he felt a little better checking the handgun over. Just in case.

He couldn’t see much through the front windshield from where he sat, just the tops of buildings getting closer and James’ and Alec’s shoulders. The buildings were hardly scary, but the tense forms of his companions were a little more worrying. 

“Looks like they're sending a welcoming committee to meet us at the gates,” Alec said, his voice lacking its usual humor. 

James grunted, pulling his crossbow into his lap, “Best not be rude and ignore them then.”

Q could feel his heart begin to pound against his chest and despite the chill of the day, he could feel sweat begin to trickle down his spine. 

“Coming up on the first barrier. Looks like it’s still intact,” Alec said, “Don’t see any other street wide enough for us though.”

He could see James’ muscles tense up even more, making him look about as pliant as a plastic mannequin, “We’ll have to bust through it then. You’ll need to pick up speed a bit if we want to beat the Infected to it. They’ll slow us down too much if we have to drive through them too.”

Q could see Alec’s jaw clench as he pressed down on the gas, lurching their hummer forward as fast as something that heavy could go. The horizon that he could see through the windshield bounced and jumped in and out of view, and Q had to grab onto the floor to keep from flying around.

“Almost there, brace yourself, Q!” James hollered back at him.

Q had expected a loud crash and maybe a slight jolt to the hummer. What happened instead was far more violent, he couldn’t even fully process what was happening until his body had crashed hard against the side of the hummer walls. Stars sprung up in front of his eyes as his head cracked against the metal panels. He felt his whole body throb from where he was laying among bags and weapons, his whole world seemingly turned on its side. 

Probably because it was on its side. Their hummer was almost belly up on the road now. Fuck.

Was that an explosion?

He coughed, smelling smoke and gasoline around him. he tried to blink past the crack in his glasses, trying to figure out what the fuck had just happened.

“James? Alec?” he called out. He couldn’t see much ahead of him. All their gear had shifted and fallen all around the back, blocking his path up front.

“Q? Fuck, are you alright?

“Alec? I’m okay, I think. What happened?” he called back, still trying to locate where the voice was coming from. 

“Landmines. Leftover military ones, no doubt. Took out the bottom of the pink pony.”

“Shit,” Q breathed, “Are you hurt? Where’s James? James?!”

“He took a blow to the head, but he’s coming round. Listen, I’ve got to pull him out of the door here. We’ve got Infected closing in. You have to get yourself out, you hear me? Grab a pack and weapon, and run! I’ll find you, I promise.”

“I can’t just leave you, I--”

“Get the fuck out now! I can’t protect you both, they’re almost here. Run, run!”

Q forced himself to obey, gripping the handgun still clutched in his fingers and grabbing the closest backpack, he pushed himself towards the back hatch door. It stuck at first, the frame bent from the impact, but it finally came loose as he threw his entire weight at it. His whole body was probably one giant bruise, but he hardly felt it as the adrenaline crashed through his veins like a herd of spooked horses. 

He didn’t want to leave them, not with James hurt, but he knew he’d only slow Alec down. He had to believe Alec could get them both out. He had to. It was impossible to think otherwise.

It felt like he was leaving behind his heart as he scrambled out the back, but he didn’t have time to mourn over it as he stumbled out to find himself facing down an oncoming hoard of Infected. There must have been nearly fifty of them bearing down on them. 

He pushed himself to his feet, trying to ignore the way his vision swam in front of him, and began to look for a place to go.

“Fucking run! They’re almost on you!”

Alec’s voice made him finally sprint off from where he was standing like a scared deer. He didn’t even know where he was going. He just let his legs and instincts take control while he let his overactive brain take a back seat for once. 

He darted down the side street, the only one that looked empty, and tore his way down it. He could hear his heart pounding in his ears, even louder than his feet hitting the pavement below him. Shrieks began to erupt behind him, and he let out a desperate sob when he realized that the sound had come from where the hummer was. Where James and Alec still were. 

He screeched to a halt, turning his body to run back to them, but it was too late. Behind him were at least a dozen Infected staggering down towards him. There was no way around them. He could only go forward now.

“Don’t be dead, don’t be dead, don’t be dead,” he gasped out as he ran down the rest of the street. He shot out the other side, turning to go right but backpedalling quickly when he came face to face with another herd  that all began to scream at seeing fresh prey come into view.

“Fuck!” he said between clenched teeth, scrambling to turn and run the other way.

But he could see movement up ahead there too. 

And more behind him.

He was surrounded. He couldn't even go into the buildings for shelter, not when he could see the broken doors and glass, shadows moving around on the inside.

All he could see were the cars lining the street, and dove into the first one that had a door unlocked.

Q crammed himself under the steering wheel of the front seat, tucking his whole body into a small ball around the pack he held. He squeezed it against his chest like a child would a stuffed bear during a storm. 

He only had to wait another minute before he felt the first shove of a body against the outside of the car. Then the moans and screams filled his ears until it felt like they would burst. All around him the car rocked from side to side, meaty fists slamming on all surfaces around him. He slammed his hands over his ears to try and block out the sound, but it was hopeless. 

All around him the rocking and banging and screaming and wailing continued, and he couldn’t escape it. 

He felt like they were there for hours. It must have been some period of time anyway because his body was beginning to ache from being crammed in there for so long, and the sun was getting lower in the sky. 

The Infected hadn’t let up at all, and Q was still completely terrified inside. He could feel himself begin to hyperventilate as he heard the first crack of glass, his temporary sanctuary finally failing after hours of attacks. 

He’s spent the last few hours thinking of nothing but what could have happened to James and Alec. If they were alive or dead. If they were going to look for him, or assume he’d been killed already in this wasteland of a town. He’d wished that they had stayed where they were that morning. Wished he’d stayed wrapped in James’ arms, the two of them listening to Alec joke about something or other. He’d wished he took a moment to kiss James one last time before they began to drive into the town. He’d wished they’d never come here. 

The glass above his head shattered, sending hundreds of small shards falling into his hair. A few cut his face, but he hardly noticed over his own sounds of terror. He screamed out for James. For Alec. 

But all he heard were the Infected snarling and glass being smashed away.

Q’s hands clenched around the handgun. It only held a few bullets, but he’d be damned if he went down without a fight. He couldn’t give up, not until he knew what had happened to James. 

Arms began to slap around the interior of the car, fingers curled into a claw like appearance, the bloated skin making them appear almost inhumanly large and menacing. 

Q drew in a shaky breath and sat up on the floor. Taking aim, he shot through the skull of the first one whose arm was stretching out to brush against Q’s jacket. It fell to the ground. Another took its place. Q shot that one too. More came, and more fell. But there were only so many bullets in a little handgun.

His ears were ringing to the point he couldn’t even hear their screams anymore. It was almost a relief to hear nothing after hours of horror.

As the last bullet left the barrel, Q gasped out a sob and scrambled back under the steering wheel, ducking his head down as he tried to put off what seemed inevitable by now. 

This was it.

They had come so close, only to fail.

An arm snaked down and Q felt it grip the collar of his jacket. He braced himself for the end.

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 57

"Hello? Is anyone there? Please, answer! I'm alive. How am I alive? Hello? Hello, please! Am I really alive?"

 

Oddly enough, rather than go limp as a caught rabbit, Q’s fight instinct kicked in one last time as he was hauled upwards. The roar in his ears hitting a crescendo as he snarled and lashed out with all his limbs, kicking and thrashing violently against the hands that held him. His eyes were clenched shut, completely unwilling to bear witness to his own impending demise. He didn’t want his last view of the world to be those creatures biting into his flesh. 

There must have been at least four hands. Lord only knew how many mutilated Infected that meant.

It felt like they were trying to hold him down, which only made him fight harder, screaming obscenities all the while. They were screaming in his ears. Oddly enough above the roaring it almost sounded like words. 

Then his cheek lit up with a sharp sting, shocking him into silence and stillness for a moment. He’d never actually been slapped before, but he imagined it felt a lot like what just happened. Since when did the Infected have the coordination to slap a victim? 

“Holy fuck, will you calm down now? You’re like trying to strong arm a python. Where the hell did that muscle strength come from?”

That was Alec’s voice.

“Olive, it’s us. Please, come back to me.”

That was James’ voice!

The world came back into focus so fast that it made Q breathless as he finally managed to open his eyes and see two very concerned faces looking down at him from where he was pinned to the ground. They were alive. He was alive. When the fuck did that happen?

“It happened when we just spent the last ten minutes shooting down your paparazzi crowd while dodging the bullets you kept flinging out the window. Nice shots, by the way,” James said, helping Q to sit up from the ground.

Did I say something out loud?

Two sets of strong arms helped him back onto his feet, steadying him between them when he swayed dangerously. Even with his vision swimming before his cracked lenses, he could see the blood covering the side of James’ face. No doubt suffering from another concussion.

“Alright, love? We need to get going. Now. This whole town is booby trapped and there are more hoards coming our way. Can you walk?” James urged, already guiding Q down the street and away from the piles of bodies they were leaving behind. 

He must have been walking a bit, seeing as they were moving forward. Fancy that.

James kept whispering words of encouragement as they moved along, promising that they would find a safe place after they got out of town. Promising to never let Q out of his sight again. Even Alec was apologetic and supportive, in his own special way.

It was all very sweet, only there was one thing that Q couldn’t quite brush aside. Something that was nagging at his still shocky brain. 

“Which one of you arseholes slapped me?”


Q’s world finally snapped back into place the moment he was faced with a fire escape ladder in front of his face. He didn’t even pause to think before wrapping his hands around the rungs and lifting himself up. Behind him he could feel James’ presence like a warm blanket, helped even further by the hand he felt holding his hip as he climbed up to the roof. 

“Up you get, Olive. We should be safe for a bit up there.”

It was early afternoon as far as Q could tell, hours somehow passing between the crash and his rescue. He shuddered to think of how long the Infected would have waited him out in that car. 

The three of them collapsed in a heap on the graveled roof, ignoring the way the rocks dug painfully into their skin and the sun blinded their eyes. Q didn’t want to move, he wasn’t actually sure he could at this point, but his mind was still running like it was still being chased by another hoard. 

He hadn’t had time to think much on it before, but now it was sinking in. Everything they had lost.

The hummer wouldn’t be salvageable. Not without a real shop and another month's worth of work. Going back for their supplies would be suicide at best. The town was rigged, and they needed to get out quickly before they set off another trap accidentally, not even safe to gather new supplies here. All they had was the small pack he’d grabbed on his way out and whatever weapons and ammo were still in their hands.

All their carefully thought out plans were destroyed by one landmine left behind by dead soldiers. 

“Ammunition status?” he asked finally, dreading the answer.

Alec grunted, and a few clicks were heard as he checked some clips, “Grabbed a rifle and handgun on our way out. Had two knives on me already and a garrote wire. Half clip left on the rifle. One and a half clips on the handgun.”

“One clip left on my rifle, and one quiver of bolts for the crossbow. Plus one knife,” James reported dutifully.

Q hummed absently. It was better than nothing, but getting them to the coast without the hummer for protection would be near impossible on limited arms. He’d already assumed as much though.

“I’m out completely. I’ve got the one pack, but it’s mostly provisions and gear. Hammock, canned food, half a first aid kit, change of clothes for each of us, and two water bottles,” he said, trying not to sound like their world had ended. Again. 

The three of them lay there for only a few more minutes, just enough time to catch their breath and swallow back their dread before getting up and peering out over the town below.

They were only about three stories up, but it gave enough of a view to see the edges of the denser parts of town and a few natural landmarks. Below they could even see Infected continuing to try and find them, gathering around the base of the building. 

Q sighed, “We can’t stay up here, can we?” He already knew the answer. He felt James squeeze his shoulder gently, offering whatever sympathy he could. It felt good to feel him close after thinking he’d lost him. 

Alec shook his head, all humor gone from his face as he looked around, “Sooner we get out of here the better. Who knows how many of those things are still around. James and I saw dozens of black marks through the streets when we were looking for you. Literal minefield.”

“Not to mention we just got set back at least another week and a half due to the loss of the hummer,” Q added bitterly. They were on foot again. Lovely. They were cutting it even closer to their winter weather deadline now, and they all knew it. Any hope that Q had begun to feel in the last few days suddenly felt as distant as the moon. 

He felt so cold, just thinking about it.

“We’ll use tonight to regroup and plan. Sleeping will be rough, but what else is new. We head out at sunrise,” James said, and they all finally turned away from the sights below. 

Even with hope becoming microscopic, they wouldn’t give up. It wasn’t in their nature.


As many of their plans were, theirs was terrible.

There would be no assurance, no intel, and hardly any real plan beyond ‘winging it’. The first half of the ‘plan’ was to run fast and don’t get bit. Not particularly grand in any way. Not to mention, at any point they could just take a simple step forward and be blown to bits by a mine. 

Alec at least knew enough about them to give them a lesson in identifying possible locations and maybe even noticing them by sight. The ones on the pavement would be easy to spot since they couldn’t be buried. Just camouflaged so that they wouldn’t be noticed by drivers or the bumbling Infected. It was the dirt that they had to be careful of, which didn’t bode particularly well for the second half of their non-plan. 

The fastest route out of the town was to the north and across a bridge that led into a wooded area. It was the route they were going  to take using the hummer before all that got literally blown up, because it would directly lead them closer to the coast through less populated areas. 

The bridge seemed harmless enough from a distance, perhaps even charming in its small size and stonework facade. It must have been built over a century ago for people to cross over the gently rolling river below. Only one or two small cabins could be seen on the other side, with no movement suggesting occupants. It was getting there that would be the biggest problem. And then there was the worry of the whole town following them.

“Don’t worry about that part, I’ve got it handled,” Alec assured, and James didn’t even bother to get him to clarify, trusting his friend knew exactly what he was doing. And if Q were being honest with himself, he didn’t feel the need either.

Their non-plan in place, they settled down for an early bedtime. 

Something about it seemed so final, and haunting. Months now he’d gone to sleep thinking that it was entirely possible he’d die the next day, but somehow it felt even more foreboding that night. Perhaps it was the blood red sunset that colored the sky while they ate a tasteless meal. Perhaps it was just paranoia. 

It was the first time that James’ presence at his back wasn’t enough to chase away the chill in his bones. Q could feel the entire length of his body pressed up behind him, alive and vibrant, but he couldn’t shake the feeling that it was all just...momentary.

“You’re tense.”

Q sighed, “Astute observation, James. Rather long day, you know.”

He heard James grunt some sort of agreement from where his lips were lingering along Q’s hairline. They ghosted along the skin there, not quite making contact, but leaving behind a tingling trail. 

“I almost lost you today,” he said suddenly, his voice coming out hoarse, like he’d been screaming for hours. The ever present arms around Q’s middle tightened. Q rested his hand on top of them.

“And I almost lost you. Only fair we keep an even tally I suppose.”

Neither of them laughed. 

A chill breeze gusted over the roof, breaking through their clothes and skin like knives. 

“After we got away from the Infected, and we couldn’t see you anywhere...I almost lost sense of myself. Like you were my compass all along, and without you I am eternally lost. I knew we still had hope of finding you, but that emptiness I felt...I never want to feel that again.”

James’ whispered words spoke the same depths of Q’s own soul just then. Those few hours, not knowing if James was still alive or not, were a kind of loneliness that seeped into one’s entire being. A sticky substance with little hope of washing off quickly. Or ever. 

“I didn’t want to think of what it would be like. To live in this awful world without you.”

Turning carefully around, Q brought them face to face, his eyes seeing the truth reflected in the other man’s gaze. It near broke his heart to see the earnest expression there, directed at Q of all people.

“You would go on though. Wouldn’t you?” Q asked, almost begged, “You’re too bright a soul for the world to lose now over just me. Surely the darkness would be everlasting if you gave up.”

He heard James drag in a stuttering breath, “I don’t want to think about it.”

Leaning forward, Q brushed their lips together, “Then don’t think about it. Just promise that you’ll live for me. I can’t bear the thought of you ever giving up. It is part of why I love you so much. Like Death itself can’t even catch you because there is just too much life left.”

It was too dark to see his face, but Q felt his warm breath ghost over his lips as James promised Q that he would live for him. 

“Let’s think of something else, something to picture in our dreams tonight,” Q said quietly, bumping his nose against James’, “We’re already back in London, housed up at MI6. We finally see familiar faces. Moneypenny, M, R, and Tanner. They all gave us a royal bollocking over our travel detour.”

“Regular meals that don’t taste like plastic.”

“Real showers again, and more than three changes of clothes. I had a few cardigans tucked away in my office.”

“How ostentatious of you.”

“Only for you,” Q teased back.

James hummed long and low, “We’ll be home. We’ll make one of our nests in your office. It’ll be just like before since you practically lived there before the world went to shit. Only difference would be the cats taking up most of the couch. We’ll be happy. We’ll be safe. And the silence won’t be so loud anymore.”

Q dropped his head onto James’ arm, “Sounds as perfect as an apocalypse could be.”

He felt James relax next to him, “It does, doesn’t it?”

They lay together like that for a while, staring into the darkness and listening to Alec’s soft snores beside them. 

Q still didn’t know what the next morning would bring, but he felt a little better by thinking of what could be if they survived it all. They were still so close…


The three of them were perched on the fire escape, their meager belongings split between them all so no one was weighed down as they ran for their lives. The hoards had dispersed overnight it seemed, only a few scattered around in view. They knew that would change the moment they were spotted and one of them summoned the rest with that horrible screeching. 

Alec was crouched low, his keen eyes searching down every street and turn, “Alright, I will need three minimum for enough firepower to take out the bridge. Once we get on the other side, I’ll need four minutes to place and arm them. We need just enough ammo to hold them all off from crossing while I work. I’d rather not have the whole town follow us into the woods, if we can help it.”

“You’ll need a few from the streets then. Not hidden and easier to disarm,” Q added, “If you let me watch the first one then I can help collect the others. I have working knowledge in all types of bombs.” 

Alec glanced up at James who nodded. As much as neither of them wanted Q to handle active explosives, they both knew he was probably better adept with disarming them than the two agents combined. Not to mention it would get them those three faster.

“There’s a good chance there will be one on the bridge already,” James said, warily swiveling his head back and forth. His body was coiled and tensed, like a cat ready to pounce. 

Alec nodded, “That’ll be the spare just in case then. Best not rely on it. Everyone ready?”

Drawing in a breath, Q did a mental check of everything on his person. He’d been gifted a wicked looking knife by Alec, and had the two handguns strapped around his waist. A few of the clips were stuffed in his pockets, along with some food, but he didn’t feel weighed down by it all. James had taken on the pack with the water and kit, and Alec had fashioned a sling for the canned foods. 

He kept one hand empty, the other holding the loaded gun. He didn’t feel ready, but he didn’t think anything short of a helicopter out of there would make him feel ready. Then he paused, eyes widening.

“Wait, I forgot something,” he said, turning back to James and crashing their lips together in a long and drawn out and tender moment. When he pulled back he could see James’ emotions warring behind his eyes, “Sorry, I didn’t do it yesterday, and I didn’t want to regret not taking the chance again.”

James’ face softened for a moment, and he brushed some of Q’s long hair back behind his ear, “I love you, Olive,” he said.

“I love you too,” Q replied, feeling the truth in those words warm him. 

Alec cleared his throat loudly, bringing the two other men back to the present, “Alright then lads, best not linger any longer. Won’t be long before we’re spotted.”


They all leapt off the ladder and began a slow jog down the first street. Alec took point, his eyes best for finding the mines and leading the others around them. James took the rear, letting Q be sandwiched in the middle. 

Despite having two immeasurably talented agents on either side of him, Q still felt very exposed as they moved down several narrow alleys. It was almost like his brain expected the Infected to literally pop up from the ground like daisies, grabbing for his ankles. 

Alec and James only communicated by hand signals, none of them daring to speak or make any noise beyond their footsteps as they made their way deeper into the town. It was a mercy that the town was rather old, their initial set up accommodating more sizes like horses than trucks and cars. There were less open areas that would make them easier to spot. 

A few times as they moved along, Alec had been able to garrote a few of them, severing their heads almost completely before they could alert any more. It had been brutal to watch, but Q could hardly feel bad for the creatures by now. The people they had been were long gone, these were just the monsters that inhabited their corpses. 

The first mine they found was in pristine condition, and Alec had it disarmed within a minute.

He carefully tucked it into his sling.

“Let’s hope I don’t trip,” he joked, whispering at them.

Q grimaced, “Yes, let’s hope not.”

They ducked and dove, and hid and ran their way through the streets. Q felt like a scurrying mouse trying to sneak out of the kitchen undetected while the house cat lingered nearby. They encountered a few more fired explosives in the streets, and noted even more that had gone off in the small patches of land between buildings. Bones usually were littered around the craters. Q hoped they had all been Infected.

They were nearing the bridge before they finally spotted another undetonated one within easy grasp. Well, perhaps too easy of grasp. 

“How unfortunate,” Q muttered, pursing his lips in distaste as they all eyed the “innocent” bomb lying in the middle of an intersection. The area was suspiciously empty of Infected presence. They were carefully tucked inside of a recessed doorway, peering out and down the street to where they saw their prize. The street directly across from them showed nothing, but there was no way to safely look down the other adjacent streets to be sure. 

“It’s too open, can’t risk it,” Alec said, frustration clear in every line of his body.

“May have to. We’re almost at the bridge already and we only have one bomb,” James shot back, “The sooner we get out of here the better. We’re facing down traveling on foot while winter chomps at our arses from behind. We have almost no supplies and no way to stay warm. Every hour wasted here is another we have to spend out in the elements.”

They both had a point, and wasn’t that a marvel. Agents assessing before acting. Would wonders never cease.

Q was about to open his mouth to offer his own opinion when the decision was abruptly made for them. 

A shriek rang out, bouncing off the buildings and filling up the entire block with their call. Even through all the echoes, the three of them knew it came from behind and were darting out of their doorway before the scream even cut off.

The two adjacent streets were soon joining the choir, making Q’s ears ache as they ran towards the center of the four roads.

“Q! Take care of the bomb, we’ll cover you!” James shouted, he and Alec  bracketing the boffin with their bodies tense and ready, guns held high in their hands.

Dropping to his knees beside the landmine, Q got to work quickly. This one wasn’t in as pristine condition, having been out in the open so long, and there were some rusted bits on it. A bit more finesse would be needed for this one.

“Ninety seconds! Rusted!” he called out to the others, his hands already working the parts slowly against the degrading metal. He heard several pops go off above his head, and he began a mental tally of bullet expenditure against their pitiful inventory. 

He didn’t even spare a second to look up to see what they were facing down. His job was to get the bomb and to do it fast. Another pop went off. 

One pin was being a particular bitch about shifting loose, and Q nearly bit through his lip in frustration as two more pops went off. 

“Hurry up!” Alec shouted.

“Almost there!” Q yelled back, fingers carefully guiding the pin through now that he’d worked through the worst of the friction.

“Little too close to comfort, Olive,” he heard James call out. 

The pin finally shifted into the locked position, and Q grabbed it up off the ground, “Got it! Let’s go!”

He only caught a glimpse of what was coming down their way before James and Alec grabbed his arms and pulled him away. And a glimpse was more than enough for him. 

It was possibly the largest hoard they had seen yet. Hundreds coming down from the three streets. If he had time to squint through his cracked lenses, he could liken it to a crowded London street at rush hour. So many of them...and they were staggering their way towards the only three living things in that town. 

“Make for the bridge!” 

“We’ve only got two bombs,” Q cried out, his legs pumping underneath him as they sprinted down the only empty street left. 

James was in view out of the corner of his left eye. No doubt that the agent could have easily run faster, and was only holding back his speed to keep close to Q. He had that look about him that Q saw on his more harrowing missions in the past, and only in dire circumstances. A grim sort of calm. Q swallowed back his panic. 

“We’ll just hope there’s one left intact on the bridge,” James called out, glancing behind himself to see where their predators were lurking.

Q glanced back too, and wished he hadn’t. By his estimation, with their staggered walk versus the humans energetic run, they may only have four minutes once at the bridge to blow it all up before the hoard overwhelmed them.

And that was if they didn’t pick up any more fans along the way.

We’re fucked , he thought hysterically to himself, but he didn’t slow down. He would see this out to the end if he had to. 

Then the bridge came in sight. 

“I see one!” Alec cried out, already rushing up ahead of them to collect it.

Q wasn’t as enthusiastic, seeing as there were a handful of Infected lingering on the edges of the river and had already noticed the incoming meal. Those ones would certainly make things a bit more difficult to set up. Alec ran right across the bridge before they could get much closer, and the agent slid to the ground near the other end and started to disarm the last piece they needed.

On the other end, James stopped short, his feet skidding in the dirt as he rounded back to where the Infected were just starting to come back into sight. James pushed Q back, “Go help Alec with the bombs. I’ll hold them off as long as I can.”

Q didn’t argue, and he hated himself for running from James’ side so easily, but he knew that without the bombs, fighting would be useless.

“Three minutes and ten seconds until the hoard makes it to us,” Q said to Alec as he dropped to the ground next to him.

Alec grunted, sweat dripping down his forehead, “And what about the river watch ones?”

Q grimaced, “Twenty seconds until the first ones reach James. He’s just started to pick them off with his rifle.”

It wasn’t good, and both of them knew it and hated it. At that point, all they could do to help James was to hurry the fuck up with the bombs. They both worked frantically, getting all of the mines on the same trigger, a simple mechanism thankfully, but still took up precious seconds that James may not have. 

He looked up from their work again as Alec took charge of the next step, and his mouth dropped open in horror.

It looked like James was out of gun ammo, having used it all on the chase there and on the river Infected, and was now trying to take care of the few single ones left with his knives and bare hands. The crossbow was latched firmly to his back, unused and rather difficult to fire at close range. 

Q watched as James kicked one of them in the belly, sending it crashing to the ground like a wet sack. Before it could roll back onto it’s rotten feet, James sliced his arm down in an arc, knife slamming down through the neck of the creature until it poked out the other side.

It fell still, but James was already turning to take on the next one to even catch his breath. He moved to face it, crouched low and ready, knife covered in black blood. A movement caught Q’s eye, where another figure began to stagger out from the bushes and move up behind James’ vulnerable back,

His feet were moving before he could even think about what he was doing. Somehow his fingers found the hilt of his own knife, drawing it out and holding it as steadily as he could with trembling fingers. All he could see was the Infected moving closer to James, and he was filled with an immeasurable amount of rage at the sight. 

He saw that thing reach out it’s putrid hands to grab at James. Q willed his feet to move faster, and screamed out a warning that went unheard over the sound of hundreds of screaming Infected. Dead fingers wrapped around James’ neck, and the blond fell to his knees, hands coming up to vainly pull at the thing that was attacking him. 

Q snarled, and he leapt the final few feet until he handed square on it’s back. It let go of James immediately, but Q didn’t see much beyond that as he was whipped around by the furious Infected.

His nose began to burn with the smell of it, but he paid it little mind as it reared back, arms flailing at the attack it hadn’t been expecting. Q held with every ounce of his meager strength, hands fisting into dirty clothes. Just like that moment back at the lake, when Q held that rock up above another Infected, he didn’t pause before he struck. 

He jammed his knife down to the hilt into the creature's neck, aiming directly for the spinal cord and severing it completely with the one blow. It crumpled under him, sending him sprawling to the ground.

When his world stopped spinning the first thing he saw was James’ pissed off face, but as far as Q knew he felt just fine beyond his heart pounding hard enough against his chest to hurt. He would have to cuss Q out later, because the hoard was almost at their feet, a dozen or so stray ones even closer than the others. 

Q only then remembered his own guns. Quickly he pulled them from their holsters and tossed one over to James who caught it swiftly. 

Moving together, they moved side by side as they faced down the Infected that were so painfully close now.  

“Take the left, I’ll take the right. Don’t waste a single bullet,” James said, raising his arm to take aim.

Q did the same, “Eight bullets in each,” he reminded him. 

Q had all eight bullets gone in the next few seconds, each hitting their target. He heard seven leave James’ gun. Only one left.

“It’s done! Get your arses back over here!” came Alec’s voice over the wails. 

He felt James’ hand clench around his arm and tore them both away from the incoming monsters. Q couldn’t ever remember running this fast before. It almost felt like he could feel the air move behind him as the Infected started to claw at their retreating backs. 

Up ahead Alec stood only a few feet from the edge of the bridge, his jaw clenching so tight that Q was almost certain his teeth would have cracks in them. 

The end of the bridge came up so slowly and fast at the same time. Endlessly far away, but then suddenly they were diving across it as James yelled out, “Now!”.

The two of them rolled in the dirt, James’ body covering his own as the explosion erupted mere feet away from them. The following sound of rocks cracking and splashing in the water below was near music to his damaged eardrums. While his face was pressed into the wet grass by James, Q let himself breathe out slowly and start to try and calm his racing heart. Carefully he turned his head to look back from where they had just come, blinking away the dust in his eyes.

The bridge crumbled easily, preventing any more Infected from crossing, and the ones unfortunate enough to have made it halfway were now buried in the rubble below. Turning his head the other way he could see that there were no others in the immediate vicinity of the woods, but that wouldn’t not last long after a blast that loud. 

He felt James shift above him, rolling off and into the dirt beside him. Q got to his feet, wiping his pants down as he stood, “We best be on our way before every beasty in the woods comes to investigate the explosion,” he said, turning to help James back on his feet.

Alec groaned loudly as he got up a few feet away, stretching out his back and neck, “I normally try not to be so close when those things go off. Forgot how brutal those shockwaves can be. Got nothing on whiplash, I’ll tell you that though.”

Q offered him a quick grin before lopping his arm under James’ and hauling him up. James was being awfully quiet, he noted.

“Everything alright, James?” he asked. His smile faded when James didn’t reply, his back facing towards them, unmoving.

Alec frowned, walking cautiously closer, “Alright, mate? You catch some shrapnel?”

Reaching out, Q went to lay his hand on James’ arm only to have it violently pulled away from his grasp. Q startled backwards, falling against Alec’s chest as they both stared at their companion with growing unease.

“James?” Q whispered, now scared and not knowing why. His lover was just standing there, unmoving and unspeaking, not even showing them his face so they could possibly see what he was feeling. He felt a coldness begin to clog his veins the longer that James stood there.

Finally, they heard James breath in a ragged breath, loud and unsteady. And then he reached up to carefully pull the collar of his jacket aside, revealing the skin where his neck met his shoulder.

Q felt like his whole world ended for the second time as he looked at the mess of torn flesh on James’ neck, where a stark and bloody bite mark could be seen. He forgot how to breathe in that moment, the only thing he could feel was Alec’s whole body stiffen behind him.

“No,” Q murmured, at first faintly as the shock was still settling in. Then he gasped in a deeper pull of air before tearing up his throat as he screamed, “No!”

James finally turned around to them, his face pale and drawn. He looked utterly destroyed, just like how Q felt just then. He lifted shaking hands up to his neck, barely touching the deep teeth marks there, as if testing to see if it was real. His trembling fingers came back red. 

He turned terrified blue eyes back to him and Alec.

Q was shaking his head, tears already streaming down his face. All he wanted to do was run up to James, hold him, keep him, love him, but as soon as he tried to pull away from Alec he was wrenched back at the same time that James stumbled backwards.

He held up his bloodied hands at them, “No! Stay away from me, we don’t know how quickly I can pass it on. Don’t touch me. Stay back!” he shouted, even though he looked like his heart broke to say it. 

Alec’s arms were wrapped tightly around Q. He could feel the way they shook around him.

“Just stay here, Q. Just...Fuck, James, there’s got to be something we--”

James shook his head, taking another step back, “There’s nothing anyone can do for me now. You need to take Q and leave, now!”

Q cursed as he wrenched himself violently against Alec’s grip, “If you think for one goddamn minute that I’m leaving you in this state, I--”

“You have to! Forget about me and complete the mission. Get home, Q,” James said through gritted teeth.

Q was still shaking his head so hard that it was making him dizzy, his emotions swirling in his chest like a violent hurricane, “Fuck you and fuck the mission. Is that all the last few months have been? Am I just a mission to you?”

James’ jaw clenched, and his eyes becoming glassy, “You were never just a mission, Q. But there is nothing you can do for me now, and there’s a whole world waiting for you to get home so you can help save it.”

“Save what? Is there even anything left to fix? I fix computers and weapons, not societies! I can't...I--” Q swallowed back the sob that was trying to tear itself out of his throat, “I can be here. Make sure you’re not alone.”

He felt Alec’s arms shift again, now feeling like they were a tender embrace rather than restraints, “James, we can stay until it’s over,” he offered his oldest friend, but James was shaking his head.

“That explosion will summon every Infected in the woods to us any minute. There’s no time to argue, and no time to say goodbye. Please, get yourself and Q away from here as quickly as possible, for my sake. I’m already dead at this point, no point wasting time.”

“James,” Q cried, not wanting to accept it, not willing to accept it. It was too soon, too quick, “I don’t want to say goodbye,” he sobbed, and felt Alec’s breathing stutter against his back like he was close to breaking down.

“Then don’t say goodbye, just go and...promise that you’ll live for me,” he said, repeating the same words that Q had made James swear to the night before. Their last night. His beautiful blue eyes were gleaming with unshed tears as he looked at the two most important people in his life. 

“Promise me,” he urged again.

It wasn’t fair, using his own words against him. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. It was Q who was supposed to fall out of the two of them. They all knew he was the least likely to survive all this. It wasn’t fair! Q let out another choked sob, “I promise.”

James looked over Q’s shoulder to where Alec was trying his best to hold back the screams that were raging in his chest, “You take care of each other. I want both of you to make it home.”

Alec nodded sharply, “For England, James?”

He shook his head, “No, just for me,” and he pulled the crossbow and quiver from his back to lay it gently in the grass before stepping further back, “Take this with you. You’ll need the fire power more than I will.”

Q saw that he kept the gun with the single bullet and had to swallow back the bile that rose in his throat. He honestly couldn’t even begin to know which end would be more tragic for one James Bond. Alec loosened his grip only long enough for Q to reach down and pick up the crossbow.

A shriek was heard off in the distance, and Q felt his heart begin to pound painfully as he felt himself being pulled further away from James and deeper into the woods.

“I’m sorry, kitten, but we have to go now,” Alec said, his voice hoarse and broken, “I’ll come find you on the other side, Jamesy!” he called out.

Q tried to fight it, but his whole body was weakened with shock and despair. He didn’t even know why his feet were moving when they felt like cement blocks had been tied to them. He felt like he was choking around the lump in his throat. The roaring in his ears had gone completely, only a high pitched wail remaining as he tried to process everything that was happening at once. 

“James!” he called out once more, wondering if it was true that this would be the last time that James would ever hear him call out for him again. 

“I love you, Olive,” he heard called back with faltering words. 

“I love you, too,” he said, the words falling from his lips easily, loosened by the truth there.

None of them could say goodbye, because they didn’t want to. Like it wouldn’t be goodbye until they said the words. 

The distance grew between them as Alec led him down the road and away from their dying friend and lover. Q blinked back his tears only to make sure he could see James standing there as long as he could. Before the trees covered him completely.

Another shriek echoed through the canopy of trees.

Q whimpered like a wounded animal and leaned heavily against Alec as they quickened their pace.

He only glanced back once more after that, because James was gone. Disappeared into the woods.

It felt like he took Q’s heart with him.

Chapter Text

All Radio Channels

*Static*

 

Everything passed in a blur in the hours after Alec dragged Q away from the bridge. His feet were a blur under him as they tried to out run all the Infected that had honed in on them. The trees around him were a blur, they were moving too fast and his eyes were still too cloudy with tears to see clearly. Even his hearing seemed distorted, but that could have either been from the explosions earlier or the roaring in his ears that hadn’t stopped since he saw James’ neck become a bloodied mess.  

If it weren’t for Alec guiding him along by his arm, he would have never even made it ten feet away from the bridge. 

In the back part of his overwrought brain, Q reasoned that there was probably a bit of shock that he was still working through, but the Infected were hardly going to care about that, and there were no small medical blankets around to help either. 

Every few feet they ran, he had to fight off the urge to rip away from Alec and turn back, but he kept pushing forward knowing that if they turned back now they’d be no better off than James. 

James.

Fuck, Q felt sick every time he thought of what his lover must be going through at that point. Did another swarm come for him? Would he be strong enough to escape? Was he finding shelter to wait for the inevitable? Would he even  wait for the inevitable to come?

He swallowed back the bile that threatened to come up his throat at the thought. He bit back the whimper that tried to come up too, knowing that it would only stress out Alec even more. 

Q was not so selfish to think that he was the only one suffering between the two of them. James had been Alec’s best friend for almost as long as Q had been alive. They were more loyal to each other than most married couples, and the two of them had just had to abandon James to save themselves. It went against everything they’d ever believed in. He had no doubts that Alec was as heartbroken as he was, and yet he was managing to keep them both alive and moving forward despite that. 

He stuck close to the agent’s side as he let them through the trees, keeping the road in sight, but using the woods as cover for them as they tried to move past the hoards that were still making their way towards the noise from earlier.

He had told Q gruffly that if they could make it past the incoming line of Infected, they would stand a chance to survive another day. A chance. Statistically a chance could be anything from less than one percent to almost a hundred percent, but he didn’t ask for specifics because he already knew it was dismally low. 

Q didn’t feel much like living in that moment, but he’d made a promise. The last promise he’d ever made to James and he would at least try for his sake. It was the least he could do. 

Q stumbled over a rock, and almost fell to the ground if it weren’t for Alec’s quick reflexes pulling him back up and pulling the boffin closer to his side.

“Careful, Q. Easy does it,” he said hoarsely. His eyes were empty.

Q wondered if his own looked any better.

Off to the west they heard another set of screams, and they both froze in place there until it passed by them, still moving in the direction of the bridge.

When the sounds faded, he felt Alec gently pulling him along, “Let’s go. We’re almost past them. Just keep going.”

Just keep going…


So this is what it feels like to be a dead man walking.

Well, dead man running anyhow. He’d turned tail and ran away from the sight of Q and Alec leaving, too much of a coward to watch the best thing that he’d ever found go off without him. Even though he was already bitten, already with one foot in the grave, he couldn’t seem to get himself to stop running. 

He knew that Infected would soon be coming his way, and he wasn’t too keen on letting the bastards take another chunk out of his flesh, so he began to seek out some of the border houses they had spotted peppered through the woods. The bite on his neck burned as if someone was holding a flame to it, throbbing and screaming, but he didn’t let his feet falter as he tore through the brush.

He’d already checked two of the potential shelters, but they were weak and wouldn’t withstand the weight of more than a few Infected pounding on the doors. 

He was already dead though, wasn’t he? So why was he bothering at all to find a place to hide when death had already given him a waiting list number?

It made no sense, but James had lost all control of himself it seemed. Maybe it was the first stage of the virus? Or he just couldn’t turn off that switch in him, the survival above all else instinct that he thrived off of as an agent. 

He was so tired. And his heart felt empty, like it had already stopped beating. Every time he thought of Oliver and what he was going through then without James by his side he wanted to scream. Distantly he knew Alec would do everything he could to protect them both, but it was supposed to be James doing that, damn it! 

He hated that he could feel frustrated tears in the corners of his eyes. He felt like a child bemoaning the unfairness of life, but he couldn’t seem to get it to stop. In between the branches and rocks he dodged, he kept picturing Q’s face in that last moment. There was an agony there that James had experience far too many times in his life, and wished that he could have spared Q from ever having felt it. 

But it was too late now. 

Courtesy of one fucking Infected that got in a lucky nip. 

As he ran deeper into the woods, he tried to recall all the news reels he’d seen on the virus before the programmes had all stopped airing and the world fell silent. How long did he have? What would happen first? What would happen last? When would he no longer be himself?

He didn’t want to become one of them. 

Fuck.


Q’s vision was starting to grey out at the edges when Alec finally called the all clear and let them trot to a stop. All around them they were still covered by trees, but Q could see the lines of the road and a few dark houses off in the distance. 

He blinked a few times as he looked around the area they stopped in. It was a small clearing. Hardly a clearing at all, more just an absence of a tree or two, but there was enough space for Q to finally pull away more than a few inches from the agent’s side. 

The sky above them was a stain of oranges and pinks, sunset falling quickly around them. 

Q shivered, thinking about the dark that was coming in soon.

“We can try a few of the houses and hope for the best. I’ll take watch tonight,” Alec said swiftly.

The houses were so dark and unwelcoming from where Q stood and he recoiled at the thought of getting stuck inside if they got surrounded. Somehow, the idea of being closed in right then made him feel sick. Too many times they had been surrounded in the last week and he just couldn’t stand it again! He was already suffocating as it was.

He was shaking his head before he knew what he was doing, “I’ve got a hammock in my pack. We can both fit. I don’t...I don’t want to stay in the homes of any more dead people. Please,” he begged, hating how pathetic he sounded. 

Alec’s eyes softened and he nodded, “Okay. There’s a good tree up there, let’s go get set up. We’ll get you settled and then I’ll check them for supplies before coming up.”

“Thank you.”

“Not a problem, Q. Now, up you get.”


He’d found an empty shack further down the river. From the window he could see clean across to the town that they had just escaped. It looked so quiet and peaceful now, but it felt haunted.

The shack he was in wasn’t particularly fortified structurally, but it held an impressive array of farming equipment that looked practically medieval. There was even a wicked looking scythe pinned up on the wall, and James tried not to think too metaphorically about it as he arranged some bundles of moldy straw into a bed for the night. He managed to unearth an old black hoodie from a hook on the wall. After shaking out the spiders, he was able to pull it on, just to feel something soft against his itchy skin. 

He’d dodged his way around the Infected and couldn’t hear any in the area as he inspected his shelter for the night. He wondered if it would even matter come morning. He was somewhat sure that he at least had another day or two before he would completely succumb to his fate, but what did he know. He didn’t even know what he was doing at that point.

He could feel the weight on his hip from where the gun and single bullet were hooked. He could end all the questioning now if he wanted, save himself the suffering, but something inside him told him not yet. Could have been his inner chicken balking at the thought of ending it all himself, or the inner agent never willing to give up until the job was done or he was dead, or a mix of the two. Either way, he kept it with him but didn’t even place a finger on it in doubt.

As he lay down in his scratchy bed, an image of Oliver popped up in his head. He tried to make the image smile for him, or laugh, but all he could see was the soul deep sorrow that he felt and imagined Q feeling too. 

He didn’t let himself think that they hadn’t made it. He was suffering plenty as it already stood. 

He was exhausted. Bone tired. 

The straw was hardly comfortable, but as weary as he was he didn’t expect his body to put up much of a fight when the sun set and he lay down.

But he couldn’t sleep. 

For hours he stared straight ahead, the only visible thing in the shack was the gleam of the scythe on the wall, lit up by the glow of the moon through the dingy window. 

He wished he had chosen a different place to sleep, but he was too tired to move now.

He missed Oliver. Missed holding him. Missed breathing him in. 

Without him, James already felt dead inside.


Q was cold. Inside and out. 

Even squashed against Alec’s side inside the hammock, he felt frozen from his lips to his toes.

Swallowing hard against the sob that wanted to escape, Q tried to carefully shift himself away from the agent at his side. As much as he wanted to feel warm again, it felt wrong to be this close to anyone besides James. 

The urge to cry rose up in him again and he bit his lip so hard he tasted blood.

Alec moved.

“It’s alright. Let it out if you need to,” Q heard whispered.

Q shook his head, trying to ignore the burning behind his eyelids, “Can’t. What if they hear?”

“I know the saying goes ‘shoulder to cry on’, but I promise you that mine is fully capable of being cried into as well. Built-in muffler. Give it a go,” Alec whispered back, reaching a hand up behind Q’s head and guiding it down to his shoulder.

As soon as Q’s mouth hit the fabric, he began to wail.

It was hard to tell beyond his own agony, but he thought he felt Alec’s shoulder shaking under him.

He may have even heard the occasional sound of a wet breath being sucked in.

And if there were dried tear tracks on both their faces in the light of the morning, neither of them commented on them.


When James woke next, he didn’t know how much time had passed. It was lighter outside, but from his angle from the floor he couldn’t tell how high in the sky the sun was. Normally he would have stood up to go bloody check, but he couldn’t move.

He was melting.

He must have been because it felt like he had fallen asleep on a skillet only to be dunked into a bucket of ice every few seconds. He’d never felt anything like it before. Of course he’d had his fair share of fevers in the past, but this was a heat that dulled out all sense of being. 

Panting like a dog, he could only lay in the sweat soaked straw and try to keep himself from falling asleep again. Whenever he tried to shift, he could feel the way his clothes stuck to his skin, soaked through as the fever raged through him. The black hoodie he wore was too hot and not enough at the same time, but he was too weak to pull it off either way.

But he was still himself.

He was floating on fire, but he knew who he was and had no desire to bite anyone besides Oliver. Just a nibble, he swore. 

Everything aches under the searing heat. 

If he could put his feet under him he would run to the river and throw himself in if just to escape it for a moment.

Every shift of his leg, he could feel the gun there, but his fingers never drifted towards it. 

He had promised Q he would live.

He still wanted to live.

He still wanted to fight.

The fire within him raged.


 The next day passed in much the same blurred existence that had Q wondering if he had only dreamed them waking up and climbing out of the tree.

He recalled the news reports on the initial discoveries involving the virus. He hated that he knew that by this time James could already be experiencing symptoms. Fever. Aches. Chills. Twenty-four to Seventy-two hours the symptoms usually started. After symptoms arose...twenty-four hours later the heart would stop. 

James could be dead by this time tomorrow.

Q bit his lip hard and felt Alec rest his arm over his shoulders, pulling him in close.

“Sorry,” Q gasped out, trying to force himself from crying again, “I’m over here blubbering like a fool when you’ve also lost someone you loved. I’m trying, I swear. I’m sorry.”

Alec shushed him, “I’m crying inside, I promise you. Don’t feel bad for still having enough life left in you to feel. To show it even. World’s filled with enough dead things masquerading as alive, don’t think you have to join us.”

Q didn’t know how to respond to that, because he had never thought of Alec as anything but vibrant. But the agent had been on his own for quite a while after the virus broke out, and who knows how that could break a man down. If it weren’t for having James by his side as long as he did, Q couldn’t be sure he’d have much left to feel either. 

Each step he took that day felt heavier and heavier, as if the greater the distance they went from the bridge, the more he felt pulled backwards. If it weren’t for Alec leading him on, Q may have turned back several times by now, society be damned.

It didn’t mean he didn’t feel guilty about everything. Guilty about leaving James, and guilty for not caring much about what happens to the rest of the world. There was no escaping the feeling of failure that coated his very being. Still, while the tug to turn back to the bridge was strong, there was still the tug forward, towards home, that was still there. Only because he knew he needed to be strong like Alec and James, and save the world if he could. It’s what James would have done if their positions were reversed. 

He’d do it for James, if not for the world then.


Hot.

Melting.

Sweating.

Panting.

Was this the end?

Was he ready to end his suffering?

Was Oliver safe?

He needed to know. He had to know.

I promised.

I made a promise.

Panting.

Sweating.

Melting.

Hot.

Oliver…


Q didn’t want to get up the next day, but somehow his body managed to crawl out of the hammock and make his way down the tree. 

There were some footprints on the ground, but even he could tell that that were at least a few hours old. The chilled breeze gusted through the woods, ruffling his hair and carrying the scent of grass and salt.

He pinched his brow in confusion, glancing over at Alec.

The agent had his chin raised in the air, like a hound catching a scent.

“Salt on the air. We’re getting closer to the coast. May reach it in the next day or two depending on who we encounter along the way,” he said softly. 

Q nodded, finding it difficult to swallow past the lump that had taken residence in his throat the last three days.

Alec shouldered their pack and held out his hand to Q who took it and let himself be led on.

“Once we find a port city, we can start looking for a suitable boat to take. May take a day or two to gather fuel and supplies after that, but we can sleep on the water at night in the meantime. We’ll be safe there,” he said as they trudged through the brush. 

“We can, um, use the boat radio to contact MI6. Let them know we’re coming,” Q croaked, his vocal cords still raw from all the tears shed recently. 

Alec seemed startled for a moment, as if he had forgotten that there would be people they knew waiting for them. He looked thoughtful as they continued on.

Perhaps Q wasn’t the only one unsure about returning home.


Heat.

Burning.

I promised. I promised….

Oliver…


As the sun began to set again, Q found himself reluctant to stop and rest, because once he was still his mind would wander again. He knew exactly where it would wander to.

Another twenty-four hours had passed half a day ago. That meant…

It could be over. 

The brightest flame in his sorry life may have finally gone out. 

He didn’t want to think of it. 

If he slept surely he would dream of nothing but James’ handsome face, distorted by decay and death. He didn’t want to see it. He didn’t want to imagine it, but his torturous mind kept painting the image for him unwillingly. 

He was still so cold.

He must have shivered, because he felt Alec pull him in tighter.

They didn’t speak. They both knew what each other was thinking. 

The words were just too painful to say.

Because James Bond couldn’t be gone...he couldn’t.

Please don’t be gone.


It was cold.

Frigid even.

The cold had never felt so welcoming before.

James blinked into the darkness, and wondered if it all had finally ended before he got a chance to settle things himself. Was this death? It was awfully blurry.

He blinked again and the image cleared up a bit. He saw the bloody scythe still pegged up on the wall. It was so dark though…

He glanced up where the window was, and saw the moon peeking through. Night then.

His tongue felt dry and clumsy, and his clothes were still damp against his cooling skin. With the cold air of an autumn night, they felt like ice.

Carefully, he raised to shaking hands up in front of his face. Those were his hands. They obeyed him when he willed them to clench into fists. Would they still obey him after he had died? 

James didn’t know what the fuck was going on and he felt himself panicking as he felt a flicker of incredulous hope blossom in his chest that still moved when he breathed. He was breathing!

He took two of his fingers and held them up to his neck, searching out a pulse. He choked out a sob when he felt the steady throb against his fingertips. 

He literally felt like death warmed over, but he was alive!

Alive!

The sob turned into a laugh as he fell back into his stack of straw, not caring that it itched because it only meant that he could still feel!

He was alive.

He had kept his promise.

Oliver.

He needed to find his Oliver.

 

Chapter Text

Radio Channel 47

“Hello? Is anyone there? We’re in a survivor's cell in Boston. We’ve heard rumors that there are people who have been bitten and not turned. Is this true? Can anyone confirm? Please, come forward if you are one of them! We have scientists and doctors here. There could be a cure. Please! Is this true? Hello?”

 

The first thing James did once he got his feet under himself was to stumble over to the river and drink half his weight in the cold water. He didn’t give a fuck if it made him sick. If he could survive the bite, he could damn well survive a bit of diarrhea. 

The last time he’d felt this weak was after he’d been shot off the side of a train and dumped into a raging river. It had taken him months to recover from that. But back then...he believed he had no real reason to get better. No one to get back to. 

He knew he had to get back to Q. Back to Alec too. His place was by their side, and he’d be damned if he got trapped on the continent through the winter before he could tell them he had lived. It was bad enough that they thought he was gone, but to let something like that fester over the winter would be cruel.

Not to mention, James didn’t fancy his chances of survival on his own without any supplies gathered to last through the cold. He’d travel day and night if it meant catching up to them. Already there was a heavy frost on the ground under his feet and his breath came out visible in the air in front of his face. 

The cold would become his worst enemy. Infected that lasted longer. Cold and snow he wasn’t prepared for. He’d be damned if he survived an Infected’s bite only to die by frostbite instead.

And right now all he had was a gun with a single bullet, and a river of possibly suspicious water.

He sighed and sat back on his haunches, and turned back to the shack he’d sheltered in. Off to the far left was a dirty tarp, leaves and pine needles gathering in the wrinkles over the large lumpy shape it covered.

Some sort of vehicle. It must be.

Once he felt strong enough he walked over to the tarp and ripped it away to reveal….

A row of fucking bicycles.


Q hopped down from the lowest branch, his feet hitting the dirt hard enough to make him sway, but Alec was there to steady him well enough. He was getting better at this whole tree business now. Even more of a climbing pro than he ever was as a child. Even Alec had to admit he was good at it after watching him play look out several times. The agent had only allowed it in the first place because Q was a great deal lighter than he was and less likely to break a branch underfoot.

It felt good to be able to do something useful after being in a sorrow induced fog the last few days. Not that Q really felt good at all, but at least it was a decent distraction and helpful to boot. 

“See anything?” Alec asked as he helped brush the pine needles from Q’s hair.

“Saw some concentrated collections of rooftops about a mile east of here. Northwest I saw a tower I think. Sandstone brick perhaps. Possibly a lighthouse, mile and a half” Q replied, letting Alec fuss a bit over him. He knew it helped calm the agent to see for himself Q was perfectly fine and wasn’t about to push him away. Not when they both needed each other more than ever. 

Alec hummed thoughtfully, “No water yet?”

Q shook his head, dislodging a few more pine needles in the process, “None that I saw, but the trees are still in the way.” 

They were both thirsty and hungry. They still had spare amounts of rations left from the pack, but those would be gone by the next morning if they wanted to continue eating and drinking regularly. Q would have gladly drunk from the brown sludge he’d seen in a puddle earlier that morning if Alec hadn’t scolded him like a mum finding her baby eating worms. 

His tongue felt swollen and clumsy in his mouth and swallowing was becoming painful. 

“What I wouldn’t give for a cup of tea right now,” Q moaned as he and Alec turned Northwest and continued to walk. 

Alec chuckled, the first time he’d heard anything resembling a laugh since...the bridge. It got Q’s lips to twitch in response, but he couldn’t manage much more than that.

Alec slapped his hand onto Q’s back, resting his hand on the nape of his neck, “Q, if we make it back to London, I will be sure to find you some tea. Fuck, I’ll even make you your first cuppa.”

It was on the tip of Q’s tongue to make Alec promise to do that, but he bit down on it before he could say it out loud. The last time he’d made someone promise something, it only ended in tragedy. He couldn’t believe in promises anymore. Not when the most important ones were broken. It only made it hurt more.


He would have felt utterly ridiculous if it weren’t for the fire of determination burning at his backside as he rode through the woods along the road. He didn’t think he’d been on a bike since he was a child in Scotland. But like the saying went, his body seemed to remember what to do, even if it was still very reluctant to do anything at the moment.

The fever had taken everything out of him, and he could feel his muscles shaking under his skin, threatening to give in. The scythe that he had strapped to his back felt awkward and heavy, making his neck ache as he peddled on, but he wasn’t about to drop it now. Not after he had practiced a bit and thought he found a good angle for decapitations. Better than nothing.

Vaguely, he recalled that biking was about three times as fast as walking. Where he had gotten that fact from was beyond him. Sounded like something Q might have mentioned over one of their late night comm discussions, possibly the night he learned that Q had his own street bike kept in his flat. It didn’t really matter where he learned it from though, because he only needed to know if he could catch up to them this way.

He’d lost some time to the fever, but to his best estimate, and by going off the stubble on his face, about three days had passed. They would be getting very close to the coast by now, if not already there. Even if he rode through the night, he’d need about a day and a half to reach them. And that was without pause. 

His whole body throbbed at the thought of going that hard, but he ignored it. He could rest once he found them.


The ocean was beautiful.

It was the first thing that Q could say that looked to be completely unaffected by the virus. 

The waves still crashed against the stonewall shore. The seagulls still squawked and flew above in white plumes. The horizon was clear and empty as the tides still moved in and out.

Not a soul or ship in sight. It was the first large expanse that he’d seen in months that showed no sign of Infected. Alec had helpfully pointed out that it was because they sank, but Q just like to think it was because they weren’t there at all.

Looking out over the cliff’s edge, he could understand why James liked the sea so much.

The very air carried a cleansing feel to it, filling his lungs and making him feel awake for the first time in weeks. The cooler air made him shiver, but made him feel more alive than cold.

It was shocking to think that just a ways over the water from where he stood was home. Like if he squinted enough he could see it. The sting of salt on the wind cut into his eyes, making them well up, but he didn’t blink back the moisture gathering there. He’d become used to wet eyes. They wouldn’t be drying up for a long time yet.

Behind him he heard Alec approach, probably done inspecting the lighthouse by now. There would be beds inside for them to use for the night. His footsteps were light for someone of his size, but easily identifiable to Q by now. He continued to look out onto the water as Alec closed in at his back, resting his large hands onto Q’s bony shoulders. 

The sky was turning a wispy sort of blue as the sun got closer to the horizon. Another day was almost gone. Together they stood and watched it turn from blue, to yellow, to pink, to purple...and then finally a dark and deep blue that almost matched the sea below it. 

“We’d best get some rest. Need to start early tomorrow picking out a boat and start getting supplies ready,” he said, gently tugging Q back towards their temporary shelter.

Q didn’t resist.


Something strange was happening.

Riding down the road, completely in the open and exposed visually, James had already spotted a few dozen sporadic Infected roaming around. Where he got confused was whether or not they had seen him

He was moving fast, but no faster than a normal jog, and they had never had trouble spotting running humans in the past. At best, it looked like they would sniff over in his direction before losing interest and shuffling on past. Like James was invisible. Like he was dead.

He hurt too damn much to be a ghost, so James was thrown off a bit at the odd behavior. 

Not that he wasn’t grateful though. Not with how quickly he moved over the pavement, miles left behind him in a blink of an eye. It only meant that he stood an even better chance of catching up to Q and Alec before they left the main land. 

He just had to keep on moving.

Fuck he was tired.


“Keep your head up, Q. Your feet aren’t going to warn you of Infected coming close,” Alec warned as they stepped into the harbor.

Q moved his gaze from the wet sand and up ahead, knowing that Alec was right, no matter how sullen he felt that morning. Squinting off into the distance, he looked over the array of boats off in the distance, all different sizes and shapes.

“What kind of boat are we looking for?” he asked. The sand under his feet shifted, getting muckier the closer they got to the shallow bay. He grimaced at the mess it was making on his now well worn boots.

Alec sighed, pausing to run his gaze across the rows of boats tied to the docks in the distance, “Sail boat with motor capabilities. Cabin. Storage space. Maybe some fishing gear on board if we’re feeling fancy.”

Q’s stomach lurched when he thought about a different promise that James had made about teaching him to fish. Somehow the thought of eating them now made him feel sick. Alec didn’t look too excited either, but they were getting better at pretending they were fine during the day. It was at night they both allowed themselves to break down and seek comfort with their one remaining companion. 

They continued on, sticking to the beach as close to the water’s edge as they could without getting wet. It would be an easy getaway for them to swim away if any Infected tried to approach them. Easy, but also quite cold. Q didn’t really relish the thought of wading into the icy waves, but he’d take it over the Infected any day. 

“Should only take us a couple days to make it across to London, depending on the weather and if we find fuel. Won’t need much in the way of supplies, but I’d rather take too much than too little if we get stranded and only have the sails and currents to work with. Water will be the most critical thing,” Alec said softly as they continued on, getting close enough to the harbor to make out a few names on the boats if one squinted hard enough.

Alec was probably just trying to fill the deafening silence around them. Making up for the third voice that was missing. His voice was hoarse from it, the Russian never really being much of a talker in the first place. He was trying so hard, Q could tell how the absence was eating away at him too. Like corrosion on metal.

Q pressed in against his side, bumping into Alec’s arm until the agent lifted it and let Q squeeze in under it. Q knew he liked the contact, knowing Q was close and safe. James had liked it too before they had taken the next step in their relationship. Q could understand their need for assurance. And if he was honest with himself, Q liked knowing he wasn’t as alone as he felt.

“There are so many still left tied to the docks. I thought that most people would have gone out to sea to avoid all this,” Q said in hushed tones. Something about the lifeless docks felt almost haunted. 

“If the virus had blown over in a week or so then they might have. My guess is a lot of them did cast out, but fresh water isn’t a readily available resource out there, and if they took their whole family then they would only last a few weeks before having to come back in for supplies. And we both know that supplies runs don’t often go smoothly these days. They would have been horribly unprepared for what was waiting for them in the town,” Alec said as they started to come up to the first rows of boats, “There may be a few of them still out there if they have been getting lucky on their supply runs.”

Q fell silent and stuck close to the agents side as he began to walk up and down the docks. While he didn’t know much about boats beyond the physics of them, he could recognize the different kinds that lined the bay. Casual boats for day trips. Larger vessels for fishing tradesmen. Tour boats. Row boats. There were plenty of sailboats there too, some in better repair than others from what he could tell.

“We want one that looks broken in, but not broken. A bit of color on the bottom, but clean decks,” he heard Alec mutter as they continued along. Q found himself glad for the commentary, mostly because it broke up the eeriness of the harbor.

As the boats rocked in time with the current, there was a constant beating heard from ropes swinging onto the sides of their ships, and the sound of splashes against the wooden piers. It almost sounded like a deep drumming coming from all around them. Not particularly loud, but it was constant and reverberated through his feet. It was the noisiest place he’d been in ages. He wished he could tell the boats to hush, his heart beating faster as his newly found survival instincts told him that the amount of noise would draw attention. 

“Ah, now that’s a beauty. Look at that one anchored four rows over at the end. Sea worn, but steady and broken in,” he said, pointing over to the large red and black fishing boat. Q squinted past his still cracked lenses, and frowned.

“Would hardly call it a beauty. Nothing like the yachts that James favored,” he replied, almost biting his tongue as he thought of James again. 

Alec rolled his eyes, “Fine, brawns then. Yachts are built for luxury, not survival. We’re going with brawns over beauty. Rather not risk toppling over at the first sign of a ripple coming our way.”

Q was inclined to agree. Somehow he didn’t think a bar and jacuzzi on the deck would help them get home any faster, or safer. He sighed and waved his arm dismissively, “Well, you’re the expert. Let’s go inspect it.”

They only made it two docks closer when they heard the first gunshot.

It rang out loud, echoing across the town and sending the gulls into an alarmed frenzy above them. Alec immediately pulled Q behind him and pulled out his own weapon as he scanned the town for the source.

It wasn’t hard to spot. Not when the shrieks began to erupt from the eastern side. Even with his poor vision, Q could see three human figures making their way towards the harbor, followed very closely by at least a score of Infected coming in from all streets around them. 

Alec cursed under his breath as he watched them, “Male and female adults supporting a wounded one between them. Two rifles, but they’ll have trouble using them and taking care of the guy in the middle. Chances are bad for them.”

Q swallowed hard, “Bitten you think?”

Alec shook his head, “He could run on a bite. Messed up leg more likely,” he turned to grab onto Q’s arm and started to pull him away, “Let’s get onto the nearest sailboat. I don’t want to be apart of the welcoming committee for those Infected. We can circle the coast and resupply somewhere else.”

They made it two feet before another scream was heard, this time coming from behind them in the harbor.

Q whipped around, eyes wide, “That sounded like a child!” His eyes searched around frantically, only zeroing on the source when another scream tore through the air.

“Papi, no! Papi!”

It was coming from the red and black boat, and Q could see a little head of black hair peeking over the edge. A little girl. Alive.

Another head popped up, but it was only of a slightly older boy. Both of them were pale and thin, but there was no doubt that they were alive and uninfected. Q didn’t think he’d ever see children again. The adults must have been their family, the ones keeping them safe all this time...

He felt Alec tug again at his arm, but Q ripped it out of his grasp and was running before his brain could catch up with the rest of him. He’d be damned before he let anyone lose a loved one when he could still do something about it. Those children didn’t stand a chance without their family. 

“Oliver, get back here!” he heard Alec yell, but he ignored him. While Alec’s priority was keeping Q safe, he wasn’t about to just let a tragedy happen before his eyes. He’d seen enough loss. He’d seen enough death. He was bloody sick of all of it. He didn’t think his tattered soul would survive letting something happen. 

“Tell the children to lower the ladder and start untying the boat!” he shouted back at Alec, but he didn’t turn back to see if the agent obeyed. He had to trust that Alec would.

He ran down the docks and towards the town, pulling the crossbow from his back and loading the first pink bolt into the shoot and taking aim. He’d had plenty of practice with guns, but his proficiency with a handheld crossbow was limited to the few times he’d tested it back at the base. This had been his first real gift to James and he had wanted it to be perfect, had wanted it to keep him safe.

Now Q was going to use it to try and save the three staggering people who had loved ones counting on them. 

“Keep going! I’ll try to hold the closer ones off!” he shouted as he got closer to the three of them.

They all looked exhausted and frightened, the middle man’s face scrunched up in agony as he limped along between them. Q could see a haphazard splint bracketing his ankle, and guessed he’d been injured while they were scrounging. He had the same black hair as the children on board.

He heard the woman gasp out her thanks as they passed by him, and Q nodded, not knowing what else to say. He instead lifted the crossbow and took aim at the first Infected that drew closer.

It was missing an eye and an arm, his decaying corpse covered in a green algae seen in sea towns like this. Mostly on buildings and such, but it covered him like moss on a tree, peppered with a few barnacles around his feet. Like he had been walking through the bay for the last few months. Q had never given seamonsters much thought as a child, but as an adult he knew that this would be the image his mind supplies the next time one was mentioned. 

Q let the bolt fly.

It went right into the hole where the missing eye would have been. The Infected collapsed in a heap on the ground. Quickly, Q ran up to pull the bolt loose and shove it back into the shoot in time for a second one to get close enough.

It fell, this time with the bolt hitting it dead between the eyes. 

Two more were coming up fast, followed by another four closely behind them. He spared a moment to glance behind him to where the survivors were. He saw them just make it to the edge of the docks, still a minute or two from reaching the ship. But he could also see Alec, his blond hair blowing in the sea breeze as he helped the kids lower the rope ladder down.

He turned his attention back to the Infected, and quickly set loose two more bolts. There wasn’t time to grab them before the next ones came in. He could feel them closing in around him and Q whined under his breath as the panic tried to overcome him.

He started to walk backwards as he kept shooting out bolt after bolt. Just trying to put more distance between him and the incoming Infected. He was starting to realize how dumb he was running up to them in the first place, but a quick glance of Alec helping the injured man back onto the ship at least made him feel good inside. Apart from the fear that was trying to choke him. 

They were getting too close, moving in from all sides. 

And he was almost out of bolts.

At least I’ll die knowing I actually helped, he thought sadly to himself, wondering if James would be disappointed in him. Perhaps James would be there waiting for him…

“On your left!”

Q’s head whipped around at the shout, turning to see Alec coming up from behind with his rifle held high. There were only a few shots left, Q knew. Not enough to get them out of this mess. 

At least he thought until he heard more shots erupting around them as Infected fell one after the other. 

Alec once again grabbed onto Q’s arm and began to pull him back towards the docks as bullets continued to fly around them. He finally was able to look up around him to see the three people from before leaning over the side of their boat as they shot at the Infected as their ship slowly pulled away from the docks. Two children clinging to the dark haired man’s waist. 

“Keep going for the blue boat! They’ll cover us on their way out!”

The only blue boat that Q could see was the little dingy tied to a half rotted post. It was the closest one that wouldn’t require a ladder to jump into, so he was hardly about to argue the obvious parts that the boat lacked. He was too busy trying to keep his feet under him as he scrambled beside Alec, bullets whizzing over their heads.

As they reached the boat, Q readied himself to leap in, but before he could his feet were leaving the ground as Alec swept him up over his broad shoulders and made the jump for them, easily clearing the few feet of water between the dock and boat.

Q’s stomach leapt up into his throat as he was manhandled, but didn’t have the breath or wits to argue as he saw just how close the Infected still were to them. All he could do was try to hold on as best he could as Alec dumped them into the tiny boat.

Q lost all sense of direction at that point, the boat rocking dangerously under them and the two men tumbling onto the floor. The wind got knocked out of him as either an elbow, knee, or shoulder dug into his belly, but it was better than the alternative of being eaten alive by the frothing Infected howling at the docks. A few of the less stable ones falling into the water, far too close to their little boat.

There was a glint of metal against the sun and then Alec was cutting them loose from the dock with his knife. By then Q still hadn’t caught his breath, but he at least knew which way was up and was able to spot a pair or oars cradled in the belly of the boat and fumbled to pull one loose.

He’d never rowed a boat even for a second in his life, but he at least knew which end went in the water and furiously started to dig at the waves under them, just trying to get some space between them and the floundering Infected looking for a meal and purchase on their boat.

Quickly, Alec found the second oar and used it to bash in the ones lucky enough to grab onto the hull, all the while cursing and spitting on them.

“Fucking ankle biters. Teach you to try and eat us! That one was for James, you ugly bastard!”

Even with Q’s less than efficient paddling, they eventually got far enough away from the docks to be safe for the moment, all the other Infected left in the bay were slowly sinking to the bottom as their empty bodies filled with up water.

Q fell back into the damp belly of the boat, gasping for air and trying to get his racing heart to calm. He felt Alec crouch down beside him, hands drifting over Q’s limbs as he searched for any injuries.

“I’m fine,” Q said between heaving breaths, “They didn’t touch me.”

Alec grunted, “You’re fucking lucky that they had loaded weapons on that boat, or you’d have been dead by now,” he said. He sounded angry, and worried, Q opened his eyes and sat up.

Alec not only sounded angry, but he looked it too. 

“Alec? Are you alright?”

“No, I’m bloody not! You almost got yourself killed! If it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be sitting here looking confused!” he shouted, gesturing wildly to the boat that was quickly disappearing into the distance.

Q gaped, “I’m sorry? I just saw the children, and I couldn’t just stand by and let them be orphaned.”

“And what about me? I had to just stand by and watch while you went to face down a wall of Infected while all I did was find a fucking ladder,” he yelled louder, his face paler than Q could ever remember seeing as he paced as best he could on their little boat, “I’m supposed to keep you safe, remember? I’m supposed to jump in front of the hoard if it means getting you home. What--” he broke off, his voice cracking, “What would James think if I let the last good thing he’d ever had die on my watch?”

Q didn’t know what to say, he was at a complete loss for how to fix what he’d done. He could see Alec become overwhelmed by everything he’d been keeping bottled up for so long, and Q wasn’t sure how to bring him back down. 

“I’m sorry, Alec, I didn’t think, I just...acted. I’m sorry, I really am,” he said, reaching out to tug on the fabric of Alec’s trousers, egging him into sitting down. The agent let it happen, and wearily let himself fall onto the single bench of their boat.

It truly was a pitiful boat. Dingy and old, it’s only source of mobility lay in the two cracked wooden paddles now carelessly tossed to the floor that held at least two inches of water inside. Q could feel his clothes wick it all up, clinging to his skin up to his waist. There was no way they could travel on this, not even to another port city nearby. They’d have to wait until the Infected cleared the docks to go back and try scavenging again. They’d be sitting here a while.

He didn’t know what else to say to Alec, so he just sat there uselessly, only moving enough to lay his hand on Alec’s knee as the man processed whatever he was going through. He hoped the little bit of contact helped.

It was quiet for a time, the two of them just sitting there watching the waves swell under them as the tide came in. Q saw the anger start to fall away from Alec’s face after a while, but he wasn’t sure he preferred the replaced expression of a deep sorrow that painted over his strong features.

Q scooted in closer to Alec, until he was flush against his side. Trying to offer warmth if nothing else.

Eventually, he felt Alec draw in a stuttering breath as he sat up from his slouch. And then a strong arm fell over Q’s shoulders, pulling him in tighter against his side. Q kept his gaze on the waves, not sure if saying anything would make Alec angry again. 

He didn’t need to say anything though, because within a few heartbeats, Alec finally spoke.

“Don’t be sorry,” he said, only just loud enough to be heard over the waves.

Q froze, not daring to take in another breath.

Alec sighed, and gave Q a gentle squeeze, “He’d be proud of you.”

Another moment passed, and Q let himself breathe out.

Chapter Text

James had pushed himself until his weakened body couldn’t bear another moment more. He had no clue how close he was to the port city they had all planned to go to, had no clue if Alec had altered his course at any point, and had no clue if he was chasing dead bodies.

He had collapsed in a heap on the side of the road, gasping as his body tried to recover from the day long sprint he’d taken on after just coming out of death’s doorway. 

The Infected still didn’t go anywhere near him, and he was too tired to give the phenomenon much thought. They just parted like the red sea when he hit a group of them, and James was hardly going to complain. He’d let Q figure it out when he found him. Q always had an answer for shit like that. He missed him so much.

His muscles screamed at him, throbbing all over his body, begging for water, or rest. Perhaps both. His appetite still hadn’t returned at least, a small mercy. 

He was scared to sleep though. There was no place to find shelter. No place to hide from any scavengers or animals. And worst of all...he didn’t know if he’d wake up with enough time to still catch up to them. 

He had to make it to them. He knew he was running out of time. 

It was getting colder. The only thing that kept him warm now was the fucking black hoodie he had never managed to take off.

But he felt so heavy. It was getting harder to hold his eyes open between blinks.

He tried to sit up, but his body wasn’t listening to him anymore.

He crashed into oblivion before he could stop it.


The wind had turned icy in the last day, blowing his hair violently around his head, pricking his eyes when strands made it past the rims of his glasses. He was in no way attuned to nature as a seasoned navy veteran like Alec, but even he knew that there was no more time to waste. With the change in the temperatures, would come the stirring of the warmer sea. They couldn’t wait any longer, not with storms threatening to descend on this part of the hemisphere far too soon. 

It was time to go.

Q looked around himself, at the docks and the boat's rocking with the waves, at the town in the distance, and at the large expanse of sea that waited for them to embark on the last leg of the longest journey he’d ever been on. He fell back into the now familiar sense of surreality, not entirely sure if he was playing a part in his own dream, or if this was all happening while he stood there, oddly detached. 

He could recall the last day. Remembered paddling back to shore when the Infected wandered off. He could remember Alec finding another boat, this one actually suitable for taking them across the sea to London. He could even remember them tirelessly making their way into the outer rim of the town trying to find supplies to last them for the few days it would take to get them home. 

It was easy enough to find fresh water once Q found tools that could open up the water heater tanks in the homes they entered. Tucked inside of each one was water that only required a quick boil before they’d be safe to drink. Food was a bit more difficult, but Alec had found decent fishing gear tucked into some of the fancier day travel boats lining the docks. They had some canned meals that Q would rather not resort to eating, but it would tie them over.

They couldn’t find much in the way of weapons. Only a few more knives that all boats carried, and an ancient looking rifle on display in an old fishing ship. Q was reasonably sure he could get it in working order, but there was no ammunition to be found for it. They left it there. It must have meant something to the one who took the time to hang it up there. 

Q was able to collect a few bolts back from his kills, but not all of them were salvageable. In the end, they didn’t really need much in that sense. At least not once Q got the ship’s radio working. They’d be able to reach out to MI6 and ask for a group to meet them at the ports, no doubt armed to the teeth with Q-Branch supplies. 

He probably could have fixed it in a moment, but he had told Alec he’d work on it once they were out on the water. Oddly enough, Q didn’t feel eager at all to call them. They would ask questions. Ones that Q wasn’t ready to answer. Not yet. Not until he and Alec had more time to mourn on their own. Q didn’t think he could handle anyone else’s sorrow on top of his own just then. 

They had spent the night in the small cabin of their boat, not wanting to head out in the dark and still hoping to gather up some fuel from the other ships in the morning. It was dark and lonely, but Q had managed to sleep a little, rocked by the movements of the boat under them, tricking himself into thinking he was being rocked by James again in his hammock.

Morning came too soon, and it was far too easy to siphon fuel from a few of the other boats. They had enough supplies to last them the short trip. No matter how much Q tried to reason that they needed more. He knew better than most they had everything they really needed to survive.

But he wouldn’t be able to delay much longer.

Not with Alec putting the last of their supplies in the small cabin below. Not with it being time at last.

He heard some thumps from below deck, and Q turned his head to see Alec crawling out of the cabin. Q tried to smile for him, but could only manage a brief twitch of his lips for his friend. Thankfully, Alec seemed to understand, his face turning soft for a moment as he came up beside Q to look out onto the water.

“Everything is tucked in. Boat’s as fueled up as it can be. Current is in our favor at the moment too. It’s time to head out, kitten,” he said, his voice painfully gentle, like he was afraid Q would shatter at his words. In all honesty, Q couldn’t be sure he wouldn’t.

He sucked in a sharp breath, wrapping his arms around himself, “Doesn’t feel right. Feels like we’ve forgotten something,” he admitted, though they both already knew what it was that was missing. They just couldn’t do a damned thing about it. 

It was a true blessing that it was Alec by his side in all this. No one else would understand the kind of loss the two of them were going through. Neither of them had to try and hide their pain from the other, and Q didn’t feel like an arse for being on the brink of a meltdown at any given moment. If he had milk to spill, he’d no doubt fall into hysterics in doing so. There would be no getting over the loss of James Bond in their lives. 

“Tide waits for no one, Q. I don’t feel right either, but England’s waiting for you.”

Q’s face twisted up in disgust, knowing that Alec was right and hating the truth of it all. He wished he was a nobody, with a normal brain and normal skills, a person nobody would turn to in times of disaster, a person who could mourn the way he bloody well wanted to. A person who could have stayed by his lover’s side until the end. 

If he’d been a nobody though...would he have ever met someone as incredible as James?

“Let’s give those gears in your head a break, yeah? A few days on the water battling nothing but seasickness will do you some good. I’ve even made one of those blanket nest things below that you seem to enjoy. Come on. Let me take you home.”

Alec’s words were soft and inviting, and Q let himself be turned away from the water. 

He let his eyes drift over the docks once more, and glance into the distance at the town, squinting when he saw some Infected milling about in the streets. They looked somewhat stirred up, even from this distance he could tell they were aroused by something. 

Q pulled away from Alec and leaned over the railing to try and get a better look. He felt Alec follow.

“What’s got them all worked up?” Q asked over the sound of the wind.

Alec peered out, before huffing in annoyance and walking over to the wheel where a pair of binoculars sat, “Fuck if I know. Maybe spooked by a squirrel or some gulls.” He lifted them to his eyes and looked out again.

“It looks like they see something coming from the other side of town. They’re all shuffling in that direction,” Q muttered, leaning further over the rails to get a look. He didn’t feel very alarmed, not with them moving away from the docks, but he was curious and hoped it wasn’t another unsuspecting group of travelers. 

“Huh,” Alec grunted, “They aren’t screaming from what I can tell.”

Q moved his hands in front of the lenses, making grabby motions at Alec until the agent finally handed them over. Q took off his own glasses and peered out, “How strange…” he said absently, squinting harder when he noticed a small dark figure moving along the streets, “It almost looks like they’re moving out of the way for whatever it is.”

“Infected? Spooked by something? I’ve seen them walk straight into fire because they saw a cat dart across the way,” Alec said, crossing his arms over his chest.

Q shrugged, still peering out as the figure seemed to get closer. There was no doubt now that whatever it was, the Infected were either walking away from it, or ignoring it completely, despite how quickly it was moving. 

It was moving very fast. Too fast for a human to run…

The dark shrouded figure got closer, and Q’s mouth gaped open, “It looks like something wrapped in black, I can’t really...Is that...is that a bloody scythe?” he turned to Alec, eyes wide and alarmed, “Did we die and not realize it?” He shoved the lenses back up against his eyes until it felt like they would bruise.

He heard Alec curse and lean over the railing to see better as well, “Fuck me, it is a scythe. Is it...is that a bicycle?”

Q felt a bit dazed, mouth hanging open, “Since when does the bloody fucking reaper ride a bicylce?”

Alec scoffed, “We’re not dead. At least not physically,” but he didn’t sound so sure as the figure tore down the streets and got closer to the docks. He sighed and snapped his fingers, “Give it here, lemme see.”

Q handed them back, blinking wildly as he tried to focus on the figure again with just his glasses. As it got closer he could see a human shape bent over the handlebars of an antiquated looking bike, an old and rusted scythe strapped to its back. The person peddled like the world depended on their speed, not caring at all for the Infected around them. 

“If it is Death himself, it would explain why the Infected seem disinclined to approach, seeing how they’ve evaded him thus far,” Q commented mildly, despite the growing sense of excitement burning behind his sternum, “Rather poetic.” Despite his musings, Q knew it was not Death, but perhaps the opposite. Because there was only one person he ever knew who had a hobby of resurrection and would ever manage to find his way here.  His heart was thudding hard and fast within him, daring to hold out hope. 

His fingers were wrapped too tightly around the railing of the boat that they were bone white against the weather worn metal. There was an immediate urge to leap off the boat and run towards the figure, and he probably would have if he hadn’t felt Alec’s hand fall onto the nape of his neck, clinging to the collar of his jacket.

“Steady, Q. Not yet, not until…” he trailed off, still looking out with the binoculars. Q could see his pulse fluttering rapidly in the vein on his neck, and knew he was as hopeful as Q was. Their hearts racing in tandem for one last miracle.

“Please, please, please…” Q heard himself whisper, not sure when he had let himself speak. 

Alec’s hand then suddenly clenched even harder and he shook Q while crying out, “It is! It’s him!”

Q didn’t even wait to ask for the lenses to check for himself, he was already launching himself over the railings and landing hard on the deck, feet somehow managing to stay under him and he started to run. 

The figure had just reached the edges of the docks, and Q began to wildly wave his arms and started to cry out, “We’re here! James! James, we’re here!”

There was a loud thud behind him and he knew Alec was following close behind.

There were already tears streaming down his face, and he choked on his laughter as he saw the figure drop the bicycle, nearly tripping over it, in his own haste to run down the planks to where Q was calling out like a maniac. 

He saw the figure toss back the hood as he ran forward, and Q got his first glimpse of hope in a flash of sweaty blond hair. He ran faster than he ever had before. Even having run for his life from Infected, he’d never felt like he’d moved so swiftly before. 

It was only mere moments before James’ face came into focus, his familiar gruff voice calling out to him.

“Olive!” he called out, grinning more widely than Q ever remembered seeing.

Q had never been so happy to hear that stupid pet name. 

He and James collided on the docks, wrapping their arms around each other, crying and laughing simultaneously as James lifted Q up and twirled him around. 

It was like all at once his world turned brighter again, the looming grey sky somehow cleared up in moments and he could almost feel the sun itself. Q was overwhelmed with joy and happiness, emotions he had thought he’d forgotten how to feel. He didn’t think anyone else had felt this kind of elation since the world had ended, and he refused to take it for granted. This was a miracle.

James felt real. The same strong and solid chest was pressed hard against his own. His hands were warm where they touched Q’s chilled skin. His eyes were bright and shiny with tears as he stared down at him. 

“You kept your promise,” Q sighed, letting his head fall onto his lover’s shoulder, “You lived for me,” he said, and didn’t care that his face was split by a ridiculously silly grin. 

He felt James smile against his cheek, the rough patches of his beard scraping against the softer one, “Something I plan to keep for a long time,” he cupped one hand over Q’s face, tilting him up until their eyes met. He looked so happy and tired, but no less stunningly handsome, and Q couldn’t believe how lucky he was.

“You took your time,” Alec’s voice interrupted, sounding rather peeved, but one look at his face Q knew that he was melting in his own pool of joy and relief.

James chuckled, saluting at Alec, “You know how I like to make an entrance.”

Alec rolled his eyes.

“But, how?” Q finally managed to ask, “And what’s with the scythe and bicycle?”

“You think I’d have done better running here on foot? And I needed some sort of weapon to protect myself with. Or so I thought,” he trailed off, looking back at the Infected that he’d passed to get there, still milling about the town like they had nothing better to do, “After I woke up from the fever, they just stopped trying to come after me. Almost like I was invisible.”

“So you were infected? It wasn’t just a fluke bite?” Alec asked, stunned.

James shrugged, “I was sick as a dog for a bit there, lost some time, but the fever cleared up and I was still me.”

Q’s eyes widened and his mouth dropped open, “They think you’re one of them!”

The two men turned to look at him, both confused.

Q laughed though, “You managed to fight it off, like those people who were genetically inclined to survive the plague. You still got sick, but you fought it off but the virus wouldn’t have worked its way completely out of you yet. It may take a few days for the antibodies to completely eradicate it. Haven’t you ever wondered how they knew not to attack one another? They must have sensed you were infected already. Clearly they aren’t into whatever the Infected version of cannibalism is. No offense,” he added. 

“None taken. I knew you would have an explanation for this,” James said, tugging Q close to his side again and ducking in to snatch a kiss, only Q pulled away suddenly and placed his sleeved arm up to block it.

“Sorry, as much as I want to snog you silly, it’ll have to wait until we’re sure you’re no longer contagious,” he said, and he truly did feel sorry. If it were any other scenario, he’d already be dragging James back to the little cabin on their boat.

James sagged dejectedly, but they needed to be careful still. For now.

Alec grinned, slapping the two of them on the back, “No bodily fluids then? Excellent! No feeling like a third wheel for me,” he said and started to drag them all back down the docks towards the boat, “Time to pack up then, seeing as we have everything we need now. Best be off before your kind see you chatting it up with their dinner,” he said, jerking his chin back at the town’s Infected.

All hesitation from earlier left Q as he darted ahead, now full of excitement and anticipation for the rest of their journey home. Leaping onto the deck, he felt alive again and happily started to power up the boat, just like Alec had taught him.

Down on the deck, James grabbed onto Alec’s arm, pulling him to a stop before they could follow.

“I wanted to thank you, for keeping him safe for me,” James said softly, “And for being safe yourself,” he added wryly. 

Alec’s face softened as he nodded, both of them reaching out to grab the other’s forearm in a shake, “Gladly done. And glad to have you back, brother.”

“Will you two get on board already? I’ve got a call to make to MI6, so someone will have to steer this bloody boat while I get the radio working,” Q called out to them. His voice was crisp and impatient, much like the Quartermaster they all knew and loved dearly. 

James groaned as he pulled himself in. With the adrenaline wearing off from his morning sprint, he was starting to feel every last bit of abuse he’d put his body through, “What’s your hurry? It’s going to take at least two days to sail there,” he groused.

He heard Q scoff loudly, “Because they will have a lot more to prepare before we get there than just an armed welcoming committee. There’s no time to waste now! So much to do.”

Alec and James exchanged confused glances.

“What do you mean?”

Q turned to look at them over his shoulder, his eyes alight with happy tears and what looked like hope, “We’re finally bringing them the asset they needed to save the world, only it’s no longer me,” he looked over at James, “I don’t know much about biology, as I’ve said many times before, but I do know what antibodies are, and what they can be used to make. James...you’re bringing home the cure.”

“What?” James asked, voice hoarse and disbelieving.

Q smiled at him in awe, “If we can find enough support, we can make a vaccine. We can end this, save what’s left of humanity. Eradicate the virus from existence. We just have to get home and begin.”

A moment passed as they all absorbed what it all meant, what would have to come next. Q was right. There was so much to do, they just had to get started.

James stepped in behind Q, placing his hands on the wheel and pulling them out from the docks, and away from the continent that they had finally managed to escape after all this time.

James looked down at Q and smiled, “Well then, what are we waiting for?”

And they set out onto the water, finally going home.

Chapter Text

Radio All Channels

“This is another call for survivors of the virus. Please head to the nearest international airport to receive shelter, sustenance and assistance in relocation. A vaccine is underway now and you will receive a dose if you are housed at one of our facilities. If you know of any surviving pods without radio access, please notify them of these instructions. An international network had been established to provide resources to all--”

 

Nine Months Later

Juggling several satellites had once been child’s play for him, but these days Q felt more like one of those switchboard operators from the 40’s as he tried to coordinate correspondence across the world. It was unbelievable how many countries they’d made contact with at this point, all of them having some number of resources that the rest of the surviving human population needed. All together, they were just about managing to act like civil neighbors to one another, like a millennia of wars, politics, and borders had never even happened. 

Although, it seemed like losing seventy-nine percent of the world’s population could have that effect. 

It was staggering to think about what was lost in the last year. How quickly everything fell apart because of something scant nanometers in size. Even with the most optimistic projections, they all showed it would be at least a few decades before any sort of normalcy was found again. 

Every day around the world they were still finding small, or sometimes even large cells of survivors. All drawn in by the promise of hope that Q had been broadcasting over the radio channel frequencies for months now. 

Upon their return to London, they learned all about the military and government entities that had managed to not fall apart, a long list of cities from Boston to Shanghai that had already made contact and were begging for aid. It took some clever coordination and leadership on M’s part, and a lot of communications work by Q, but they had managed to come up with a world wide plan to organize and unite themselves in order to save whatever was left. 

It was quickly determined that large airports were the most secure and well known locations that could support the influx of survivors, and would allow for supplies to be delivered easily by using the runways and all the dormant planes sitting there. They became the way stations around the world to process, count, and document whoever was left before sending the people off to bases, or other established communities in their home country. 

It hardly took more than a day for Q to create a registry so that anyone could check for family or friends that may have registered somewhere else. Reuniting families across borders became one of Q’s favorite things to coordinate, knowing personally how it felt to learn a loved one survived the impossible. And yes, it also served to find anyone with a needed occupation or skill, but Q preferred it for its original purpose. Bringing families back together. 

Once airports had been secured and stocked by the locals, samples of James’ blood had been shipped out to Boston where a large community of doctors and scientists had survived and were ready and capable of isolating the antibodies. Within a few weeks, several more cases of bite survivors were reported and their blood added to the studies. 

Creating a vaccine in such large doses took a lot more planning, but shuffling around registered survivors with relevant skills was all it took in the end to have enough people to man the manufacturing plants. It was not pretty, and the FDA would have probably had a rabid cow if they were alive to see it, but some semblance of a working vaccine was well on its way to being completed. 

It wouldn’t be long now before they could inoculate people. Q could scarcely believe it was really happening after all they had been through. 

There had been plenty of work for Q in the meantime. Despite his protests at being needed to bring society back to order, he felt pulled in eighty directions at once as soon as they were led into the dusty tunnels of MI6’s bunkers. He never seemed to run out of things to do, calculations to perform, satellites to shift...And even though he was exhausted almost every minute he wasn’t sleeping, it felt good to be doing something constructive.

It also helped to have James by his side for all of it.

Well, almost always by his side anyway.

Q sighed, glancing up at the wall where the clock showed it would probably be getting dark soon. From the ache he felt in his neck, it was getting close to when he would need to call it quits for the day. Staying up late was almost unheard of now, everyone rising and falling with the sun. Dark was still the most dangerous time to venture out, despite the Infected population dwindling now that humans had adapted to this new way of life and knew all the tricks for killing the monsters. It only made sense that everyone shut down for the night as soon as the sun hid behind the horizon. 

Which is why Q was getting rather annoyed that James and Alec had not returned with the others yet. 

Pi mewled pitifully from the floor, winding around Q’s legs and looking up at his daddy with wide unblinking eyes. Q sighed, reaching down to haul up his still massively large cat, only grown fatter thanks to all the rats in the tunnels, and began to stroke his fur.

“Oh, calm down you great beast. You’ll get fed when we all go to bed, you know how it works. Besides, what if your father brings home a special treat and you’ve already had your supper?” he cooed, his gentle tones seeming to summon Cookie over from wherever she had been napping that day. Probably on the generator again. She did love a warm bed. 

He heard R snicker from the other side of the room, but Q ignored her. Nobody could judge him for talking to his cats when he knew damned well they had been spoiled worse by the remaining staff here while he was away. He was still trying to break Pi of the habit of sleeping on his unfinished blueprints.

“He’ll be back soon enough, he’s just doing another hunt with the other agents. You want to eat more than fish sometime this month, right?” he said, hoping that they did manage to find anything new to add to their bland rations. Unlike most other survivor cells, it was damned difficult to grow a large garden on the roofs, seeing as they usually got shite for sunlight here. Mostly they lived off of dried meats flown in from other places, and some veg when available. Fruit was a luxury they didn’t get often, but they managed to keep some nutritional balance off of the fishing boats work. 

But most importantly, Q had a healthy stock of tea thanks to James and sometimes even Alec. It seemed to be the one thing they never struggled to find in London during their scavenging hunts. 

A few voices echoed from down one of the tunnels, and Q immediately recognized the most important one in the bunch. He let himself relax a bit, knowing that James had come back again. They had to send people out at least twice a week for hunts, and James always went with them, as he was the only one who had the natural immunity tried and proven in their cell. Q of course worried something terrible would happen, but he knew James wanted to do his part to help too. 

Finally, he saw his lover strut into the Q-Branch cavern, his head swiveling back and forth until it fell on Q. A shiver went down his spine, that blue gaze still sending butterflies swirling in his gut when he looked at Q like that. Like nothing else mattered.

Q quickly gave him a searching glance, frowning when he noticed James’ belt.

“Your holster is empty,” he stated blandly.

James stopped and placed a hand over his chest with a wounded look, “But my heart is full,” he replied before grinning and pulling his pack off his shoulders to start unloading his finds. 

Q rolled his eyes, “Guns didn’t grow on trees before the apocalypse, James, and they certainly don’t now,” he scolded.

“And I will gladly get it back for you the moment Russell Square clears out. I doubt the Infected will bother moving it before then,” he said, smirking as he handed over a small wooden box to Q, “For you, Olive.”

It was filled with dozens of colorful cellophane wrapped candies, and Q felt his mouth water at the sight of them, “Thank you! We’ll have to hide these ones better, or else Alec will eat them all again.”

“He won’t touch them until we can have a dentist flow in to check that cavity of his,” James assured him, taking one and unwrapping it before popping it in Q’s mouth.

Flavor exploded on his tongue, anything sweet being almost overwhelming after all the repetitive foods they had to live with. Q made a mental promise to savor each and every candy. In his lap, Pi tried to paw at whatever was in his daddy’s hands, but was distracted by James scratching at that spot just under Pi’s chin that made him melt. 

Cookie was weaving in and out of their father’s legs, purring loudly enough to be heard across the room.

“We also found some more bandages and medical supplies at a vet clinic down there. A few books to add to the MI6 library, and a new pair of shoes as requested by Tanner after his last pair kicked it. Literally,” James added, moving in behind Q and wrapping his arms around the slender middle, no longer concave and emaciated now that they were eating regular meals again and not running for their lives daily. “Alec found a package of gummy bears, and I warned him they would be more like hard candies by now and to not try biting them. I do hope he listened.”

“And where is Alec now?”

James smirked, “Taking his little treats to whoever he’s trying to woo into bed tonight.”

Q snorted, “Of course.”

“Speaking of wooing people into bed,” James said, his voice rumbling in his chest, “What say we make our way there too so we can properly enjoy our respective treats.”

Q raised a brow, “You found something for yourself on the run?”

“Nope, I found a treat right here,” he said smugly as he began to nibble along the lines of Q’s neck. 

“Ugh, fine. Just hold off until we get back to our room. If the others see you trying to eat me they’ll think you’ve gone and relapsed or something,” he said and tugged his lover over to the Quartermaster’s office. The cats perked up and trotted over to join them, knowing that it was time to go home for the night.

Just like James had predicted, Q’s old office had been transformed into their shared nest as soon as they arrived. The desk and computers were long gone, leaving behind the couch, a small table and two chairs in the corner, a handmade cat tree, and a mattress piled high with blankets and pillows. The shelves that once held prototypes, models, and a stapler now held the small amount of personal belongings that the two of them claimed. Like books that they read on lazy nights, or the tea kettle that Q had made energy efficient enough to not draw almost nothing from the generators. In places of honor, were the hammock that had made it all the way from Rome to London on their backs, the crossbow and pink bolts, and the set of broken glasses that had long since been replaced. Just to remind them both of how far they had come. 

It was small and cramped, but it was theirs. 

Q didn’t realize he was still standing in the doorway, staring in on the little corner he happily called home, until he felt James ghost up behind him and lay his large hands over his shoulders.

“Alright, Olive?” he asked softly. 

Q sucked in a breath and nodded, “Just thinking about how I feel impossibly happy for someone who is still in the arse end of an apocalypse.”

“We take joy where we can find it, love,” he whispered, placing a lingering kiss onto Q’s cheek. 

Q looked over his shoulder at the man he defied death for him so many times, “You mean pick out the noodles?”

The laugh from James warmed him more than any fire could.

“Exactly.”



The End...