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Touch Wood

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Q pressed the warm lip of his ceramic mug to his mouth, his left hand flying over the black keys of his portable laptop, while the right firmly gripped the handle of his favorite drinking cup. The aromatic fragrance caressed his nostrils with notes of bitter orange as he inhaled slowly, resisting the urge to close his tired eyes under the comforting smell of a cup of deliciously hot tea.

With a final flurry of movement, solely emanating from his left hand, he stabbed at the ENTER button once more and sat back with a self-satisfied sigh of relief. He brought his now free hand up to cradle the bottom of the still-hot mug, uncaring of the slight sting of pain it caused. Finally, he risked a glance across the expansive wooden table that currently sat agents OO4, OO7, and American agent Jack Smith – a man whose lackluster physical appearance matched his bland (most likely) pseudonym.

OO4 cut a svelte figure in a blood-red power suit. Her long, dark tresses were carefully pulled up into a bouffant style – not a single wisp of hair was out of place. She looked as if she simultaneously stepped out of the '60s and the front cover of a GQ Women magazine. Her light blue eyes were trained on the report she held in one perfectly manicured hand, but Q knew her well enough to note that she was keeping a careful eye on the American on her right side.

On Q's left, OO7 had pushed away the splash of photographs the American had so carelessly tossed upon the table and stoically stared at the side of the American agent's turned head – eyes glinting in the harsh lighting and laser-focused on the man's temple.

Q didn't particularly like the foreign agent either; he was a little too loud and too brash and stared a little too intently at OO4 when he thought she wasn't looking (hint: she was always looking, even when she wasn't.) However, the man wasn't egregious enough to warrant Bond's level glare on his person.

"Look," Smith placed greasy fingertips atop the black-and-white photographs strewn in the space between he and Bond, "as I was saying, Jimmy, this mission is going to be a cakewalk. Alright?"

The seasoned agent of her Majesty's Secret Service wordlessly reached out one suit-clad arm and quietly rapped a scar-snarled knuckle against the wood tabletop between him and the American liaison.

Smith didn't bat an eye, too busy gesticulating with his arms toward the photographs and reports as the words “easy-peasy” slipped from his pale lips. Q, however, blinked owlishly as Bond repeated the motion, his own fingertips having returned to the keyboard of his laptop but now hovering uncertainly as he took in the scene.

OO4, too, had reacted mutely. A minute shift of the single-type paper in her hand, a subtle lowering as she glanced across the space between herself and her fellow agent, was all she seemed to deem the moment worthy of. Her red-painted lips curved upward at the edges; Bond's stiff-upper-lip twitched in reply.

The agent, unworried or undaunted that his fellow participates did not seem as inclined to join him in his apparent one-sided conversation, pressed on in a voice that carried a little too far. As the seconds ticked by, Q found that the furrow of his brow lessened as he watched Bond repeat the motion just as the word “unfuckupable” had the misfortune of gracing their ears.

Ah, Q mused as OO4 flicked her eyes in his direction. Her relaxed expression didn't change, but her eyes held peculiar mirth, and Q was becoming old hat at reading OO's.

Do you understand?

Q felt a pleasurably entertained smile pulling at his mouth.

I believe I do.

Q believed himself well-versed in the world, perhaps not in what the Americans would deem in "street smarts." Still, he was undoubtedly uncannily bookish, and it went without saying that he was very technology inclined. Nonetheless, Bond's peculiar gesture brought forth a theory in which Q recalled where people once knocked on wood to chase away evil spirits, thus disallowing them from listening in when one boasted about perceived good luck (and thereby preventing a reversal of fortune.) Some believed that knocking on tree trunks roused spirits and called upon them for protection.

Q fondly recalled a children's game named “Tiggy Touchwood,” a type of tag in which players were immune from being caught whenever they touched a piece of wood such as a door or a tree. He wished he could say that the OO's were far from the echoes of shrieking laughter and muddied knees, but they did tend to have a knack for behaving like children in some sense.

Bond had an uncanny ability to avoid Medical like a child ducking out on an exam, OO4 typically suckled on sweets and once hissed (hissed!) at OO6 for attempting to snatch one from her purported stash, and OO6 liked to set things ablaze just for literal laughs.

It also appeared that Bond touched wood when someone, currently Agent Smith, kept making ill-advised comments on the apparent ease of their upcoming mission.

Q pulled his long fingers away from his beloved laptop, cradled his cooling mug to his argyle sweater, and grinned serenely at the confirmation of this new quirk as Bond once again rapped a solitary knuckle against the tabletop like an uninspired pianist plucked at an ivory key.

The boffin brought his mug to his lips, sipped on the savory and potently floral flavor of his Earl Grey, and barely managed to reign in a huff of spluttering laughter as Bond's blue eyes slid askance in his direction with a distinct twinkle. The agent seemed incredibly serious about touching wood, but he didn't mind realizing the absurdity of the entire situation.

“Alright, Q?”

The English drawl cut through the sharp consonants of Smith like a warm blanket warding off a stinging chill. Q met the OO's softened yet spirited eyes with a genial roll of his own.

“Utterly vexed, OO7.”

Bond perked a single, dark-blond brow as he murmured, “Oh?”

Q rapidly blinked, sipped at his cooled mug of tea, and bobbed his head along to the cadence of the unvoiced thoughts within the maze of his mind.

“Quite.”

An unironically superstitious OO.

How utterly vexing indeed.

What other little quirks were hiding behind that banal smile?