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Mail Order Alec

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A spam box. He came back to Q branch having a spam box that was full because it was receiving spam. You’d think that they had learned from the last time he was forced on vacation, but MI6 was incapable of learning from its own mistakes if not outright allergic to that. And on top of the issue with the long term memory of whoever got the reigns of MI6, it also seemed that those pesky psychiatrists where the real ones in charge so when they deemed him unfit to work due to the fact that he had been emotionally compromised, he was packed cats and all and sent away.

 

“Why wasn’t I notified?” He asked and the poor minion closes to him just lowered his head and started to shuffle his feet like a small child did when they were questioned by their parents for doing something bad. “Did you all suddenly go deaf?” They all shook their heads, some even flinching because Q never shouted. Not when 004 spilled coffee over his keyboard by accident, not when he caught his favourite minion besides R necking a normal field agent in a certain car he was repairing, and not when 007… Well, never mind 007. “Then why must I ask again for the reason why I wasn’t notified about such a worrisome thing?”

 

“We were instructed not to disturb you unless there was something life threatening,” R started, her voice steady even though she was not looking him in the eye, “and simple spam isn’t considered—”

 

“MI6 doesn’t get simply spam,” he snapped, the sea of silent boffins parted before him as he made his way to his office. “Have you tried to unsubscribe from whatever site is sending us these things?”

 

R hesitated following Q in his office but it was clear that he was talking to her and no one else and she really couldn’t ignore her superior even if he was really close to spitting fire. “I am afraid that we weren’t able to track he website down and we checked everyone’s history since the day you left until the day after we started to get the spam in hopes of finding out what exactly happened, but we had no luck,” she said quickly, helping Q make space on his cluttered and dusty desk – he had left clear instructions that no one was to go in here until he returned unless he told them to, not even the cleaning lady.

 

“Did anyone study the spam’s code? Was there any spyware embedded in it?”

 

“We didn’t dare to open anything,” R said slowly, shivering at the glare she got. “We didn’t want to compromise MI6’s servers.”

 

Q bristled, taking the words as a verbal slap and remind of his screw up with Silva four years ago. “We have a separate server that’s not connected to anything precisely for situations in which we’re dealing with dubious things and these spam mails are exactly that.” He grabbed his laptop and ripped it from its newly connected network, stomping towards the secure computer. “I trust that you had enough of a brain to forward me the spam?”

 

R nodded, looking hurt. The Quartermaster had never offended anyone and was careful with his words to them. To be asked if she had enough of a brain was just… She frowned, shaking her head. Q was just worried for the agency and didn’t mean what he had said. “They all have the same title and they all have the same address, although we can’t confirm if they were all sent from the same server or from the same IP address.”

 

Of course they didn’t. “Did you start the tracking programs?” He asked, sitting down on the chair that was pushed under him just in the nick of time which his way of telling his minions indirectly that he still trusted them even though he was currently cross with them.

 

“Yes,” R said shortly, the screens behind her lighting up to show the world map. “I also started the Trojan detectors,” she added, proud when Q sketched a smile in her direction. “I will make sure that no one disturbs you unless the world is a step away from collapsing in on itself.”

 

Q sketched a smile and his minions resumed their tasks, keeping their murmurs to a bare minimum as their overlord was busy with trying to figure out why and how they were getting spam. Every time he clicked his tongue, the world behind him stopped, resuming only when he sighed and started typing again. His tea never went cold and his darlings made sure he never ran out of it, some even placing a few pastries near his hand when it was unanimously agreed that he had gone for far too long without food

 

In his opinion, they worried too much because his nose had been stuck in that code for just five hours until he deemed it completely harmless – and that was even more baffling and alarming than if this was an amusing attempt by their enemies to hack them. “I will not punish anyone who might have accidentally subscribed to this,” he said suddenly, slowly getting up from his chair and turning to face his minions. “They don’t have to step up and admit right now, but I would like it they either came into my office or send me a text by the end of the day.”

 

Of course, while he waited, he started to systematically go through all of his minions’ browser history. He had expected to have to recover that for quite a few, but they had been respectful enough not to delete anything even if it outed them as either watching TV series or playing annoying Facebook games. But that was all he found and no one came forward because there was no one to do that and Q’s worry grew in size.

 

The e-mails weren’t doing anything illegal to bypass their servers’ security and since no one on their side ‘invited them in’, someone knew of the backdoors left open for undercover agents and that  could mean that someone was in grave danger. “R, I’ll need files of all our agents that are in the Mariana Trench.”

 

It was time for him to actually read the e-mails and see if there was a coded message in them and then wrack his brains to figure out who the unlucky agent was – or lucky agent? If his hunch was right and they were still around to send out messages, they could be considered lucky, right?

 

The first message was:

 

Hey big boy,

Can we talk again?

Ecstatic does not even begin to describe how I was to see you in chat last night.

One such as yourself is not easily found

Let’s try to rekindle what we had between us, yes?

Don’t keep me waiting.

Pleasure is but an e-mail away.

E-mail me soon!

 

At a first glance, whoever was sending this wasn’t code savvy as the e-mail clearly spelled out ‘HELP’ if you read every other line from the first one and ‘CODE’ for every other line from the second one, but reviewing the e-mail address – which was grkizxkbkregt@date.ru – made it clear that they actually knew what they were doing – that or Q was seeing code where there wasn’t any.

 

The next fourteen e-mails where the same and starting for the sixteenth one, the message changed:

 

Greetings big boy,

Everything fine with you?

Time passes slow when I am not talking to you.

Maybe you want to meet face to face?

E-mail me and we can do that.

Our meeting can be anywhere.

Under the stars or at a restaurant.

Tell me when and where and I’ll be there.

 

It was signed with the same e-mail address so he risked it and assumed that it was sent by the same person – grkizxkbkregt@date.ru. “R, from those files, do be so kind and remove all the ones that don’t have agents that are either working in Russia or work with organizations that have ties to Russia.” Surprisingly enough, the file count went down substantially and he was left with only 3 double oh agents and 26 normal agents.

 

The following twenty mails were all the same and the 37th one added another piece to the puzzle:

 

Just checking in on you, big boy.

A pity we haven’t talked yet.

My ears miss the sound of your voice.

Everything misses your touch.

Stupid, I know, but true.

How about we try to meet?

Excitement fills me just thinking of that.

Like my heart is jumping out of my chest.

Please answer back fast.

 

Q’s heart skipped a beat and was tempted just for a moment to put everything on hold so he could create a decoding program that was capable of running all codes and cyphers at the same time. But if he did that, the agent who had been sending these e-mails for the past two months might end up dead.

 

“How many ‘James’ do we have working for us and how many active field agents that might, or might not be double oh agents are good enough friends with them to ask for their help in such tight situations?” He asked as he glared at the repeating e-mails and R opened and closed her mouth a few times before shrugging. “Heaven forbid we have an easy mission just once in our lives; the world would end if we did.” He sighed and took his glasses off, rubbing his eyes.

 

He would have liked to have a little more to go by or at least know what the jumbled letters from the e-mail address but given that this was an obvious emergency, he had to act right away. They had waited long enough – he didn’t blame them; nine eyes scared the hell out of everyone and now the Americans were sure that their microwaves were spying on them – and he would be damned if he will allow himself to lose another agent.

 

“Q, you can’t be serious,” R gasped behind him, trying to grab his hands. “You know we have field agents for this.”

 

“True, but I don’t know which agent this is or which organization is behind this so I really can’t risk anyone,” Q argued, grabbing his laptop and continuing to type as he power-walked around his treacherous minions.

 

“We can’t risk the Quartermaster,” R hissed at him, taking out her phone. “I am calling Miss Moneypenny.”

 

Q snorted. “Good luck with that; I blocked her phone from getting yours and anyone else’s calls, so do act your age and let me handle this the best way I know.” Namely e-mail the obvious clickbait and ask if they could chat in private and see if it was worth it to meet face to face.

 

There wasn’t any real surprise that the answer he got back came from a different e-mail, but he hadn’t expected to click on the link he was offered and not be taken to a porn site or a video chat room, but to a video of a man talking in a thick Russian accent about the blessings of a spouse from his motherland.

 

The speech was bearable at best, laugh out loud funny at its worst, but Q couldn’t really focus on the bullshit the man was spewing because he was dressed in the cheapest, fake-expensive suit he had ever seen. That thing was mesmerizingly bad and if he out of all people thought that, than the suit was probably nausea inducing and he could totally use it as a weapon against unruly agents who weren’t careful with their equipment.

 

“The private server filled up with Trojan’s,” R muttered, eyebrows knitted in a mix between confusion and amusement. “Pretty sure that’s not one of our agents.”

 

Q hummed in agreement. “He’s also not in our databases, so he’s probably nothing but a small fry.” Which was annoying as hell and more criminals should learn to be thankful for the gift of anonymity and bask in the power that came with it. “Anything important coming up in the mission roster?”

 

“I am tempted to say yes,” R muttered, eyes narrowed. She remembered way back when Q was nothing by a minion himself, following the rules with a biblical determination. And then he crossed paths with Bond and while she knew it was impossible for the Quartermaster to never interact with a certain double oh agent, but she just really wished that 007 wouldn’t have rubbed off on their Q in such a horrible and dangerous way. “We can always borrow an agent from MI5 if you are this worried about our own agents already being known by this mysterious organization.”

 

“It would take too much time.” He hit the ‘enter’ button and then sat back in his chair and grinned at her, clasping his hands over his chest. “Plus, it’s too late. I already confirmed that Mister Freddie Lyon’s presence at the meet and greet dinner in Russia next week.”

 

R dropped her tablet, eyes wide. “In—? Q, you are not a field agent! You can’t just go field missions by yourself!”

 

“A Quartermaster takes care of all his agents,” he said calmly, digging around his drawers and cabinets for any useful equipment. “And if that means that I sometimes have to get down and dirty—”

 

“You are not 007,” she interrupted him, grabbing the prototype sniper rifle before Q could take it off its stand. “I lie when I say that it was okay for him to go rogue, but he could hold his own weight and although you worried for him, we all knew that he was going to come up on top because of his Quartermaster,” she continued, guiding Q back to his chair. “Darling, I think you need to go talk with someone in Medical again and see if you could get another vacation; it’s clear that you are still hurting.”

 

Q frowned and looked like he was getting ready to argue, but chose to nod in agreement. R might have been petite and she might have had a very sweet smile and warm personality, but if she felt that something was wrong and you did the huge mistake of trying to argue otherwise despite know that she was right, you were in for a huge headache and a monster of a woman.

 

And truth be told, he had returned earlier from his vacation. He had managed to nag M into greenlighting his return with his daily calls and snarky e-mails in which he informed the man of the twenty different ways some missions could have been handled, but the man had said that if someone so much as hinted that he still needed time off and he didn’t do that right away, he would be forcefully retired on an island with crappy Wi-Fi and on which the humidity was so high that his computers would be full of water within the hour.

 

“The e-mail—”

 

“We’ll find the perfect Freddie Lyon, don’t worry,” R said reassuringly, taking the rest of his equipment from him. “In fact, I’ll ask MI5 to e-mail you a list of agents that are available for this mission and you pick the right one.”

 

Q forced himself to smile, mind already made up. “I’ll send you a postcard,” he muttered, managing to shove a few random devices in his pockets when R wasn’t looking.

 

***

 

This was one of the more embarrassing failed missions in his life, and that was counting the one time he forgot what he had agreed upon with his partner when it came to explosives so he was outright shocked at the bloody things when they literally blew up in his face. But at least then he didn’t end up pretending to be so desperate about getting out of a country because of his sexual orientation that he would marry someone who was willing to cough up a lung just so he wouldn’t get shot, beheaded, chopped up, or whatever they wanted to do to him after they were done torturing him.

 

“Alexei, what did I say about scowling?” Their supposed benefactor asked and patted his face hard enough to be considered a slap. Not that he felt it; the man was a thin, worthless fly and he was the well-built wall that was struggling not to smack him back. “I want you to smile and to try looking like people could have a pleasant conversation with you! I have a really good feeling about this buy—I mean, about this suitor and I really don’t want you to send him running towards the hill.”

 

Alec had the same feeling, especially since the message he got back assured him that his ass would be saved. “I tried to be poetic,” he said slowly, slipping in his muscly-but-not-the-brightest-lightbulb routine. “You should have let me send them a picture of me naked.” He flexed his muscles and posed. “They’d stop caring if I accidentally frowned at them if they could actually see how I look under these horrible monkey suits.” Cheap horrible suits, might he add. He’d seen and felt better tracksuits on henchmen than what he was given to wear and he couldn’t wait to get home and just roll over James’ suits.  

 

The man snorted, not really know how close he was to getting at least a black eye. “We’re a budding matrimonial agency, not some kind of sleazy house in a red house district that uses porn to whore out their workers.”

 

That was what made things even more embarrassing for him as an agent: he was squatting in a semi-legal operation that had nothing to do with his original mission. Worse still, he was halfway finished with the mission when the target walked in on him pocketing the USB that would land him extra points with whatever mummified stick in the mud that was his new Quartermaster, which forced him to go out the window.

 

He couldn’t contact his backup that was in another city since this organization had the police in his pocket among many other important agencies that were supposed to work for civilians and keep them safe, so he was forced to take shelter in the sleazy part of town.

In a brothel, to be more exact.

 

The pimp there didn’t ask any questions – well, other than if he could swallow without puking over his customers or just how used he was with either taking it up the ass or shoving it in the ass – because despite Russia’s strong anti-gay feelings, gay people still existed and he was sure to make a lot of money off of his ass. Dealing with the cops was also quite easy as a substantial bribe made them blind to the type of establishment they were in and uncaring to who worked there.

 

Thankfully, before he found himself in the situation of having to start breaking some limbs/necks, an opportunity arouse in the form of his current predicament. The owner - who was the brother of the pimp, if his snooping was correct - offered a few the chance to go legal and also get rich, provided their would-be spouses supplied him with a hefty sum for the first two years on top of the original finder’s fee.

 

The man had been initially happy to get an openly gay man that was willing to risk a lot by sharing his secret and – again, if his snooping was any good – he had paid his brother a hefty sum to get his virgin ass in on the deal as some foreigners were in the market for a husband no matter the sex and he had been sure that the scars would make him more attractive, but he soon regretted it.

 

None of the people who had answered his e-mails were from MI6 or knew the keyword to signal that they were undercover agents, so he did not spare them a second thought. He wasn’t outright dismissive of him or obvious in his attempts to get rid of them, but he was just rude and dumb enough to get everyone to turn him down – and when he was dealing with superficial suitors who still rubbed against him or continued to feel his muscles, he casually mentioned his made-up potency problem.

 

But now he was going to be on his best behaviour and make sure to sweep whoever MI6 sent after him off their feet as, for his part, without even know how they looked, who they were, what their name was, and even taking into consideration that by some sick joke of the universe, MI6 got the most infuriating agent from the KGB that loved to rub all the missions he finished in everyone’s faces – and he knew from personal experience that not a single one of them were actually completed – he was already smitten with them.

 

“I won’t scowl,” he promised and gave the man his most obvious and painful fake smile.

 

The man rolled his eyes and let out an overly long and dramatic sigh, also pinching the bridge of his nose to drive his point that he was being tormented by stupidity and ineptitude home. “I think it would be for the best if you go for the silent, brooding—” he flinched when he saw the other’s interpretation of that. “Just go with the flow and try not to scare this one away,” he said pleadingly. “He paid what I asked to be invited here without even trying to negotiate.”

 

A first in MI6 history. Bloody pencil pushers were always cheapskates when it came to bailing out their own agents.

 

It took about half an hour until the would-be brides/grooms were allowed to introduce themselves to their suitors, but it felt like a century for him. His heart jumped in his throat every time he saw someone walk towards him – even the women, despite the fact that the matchmaker using a male pronoun – jaw almost hitting the ground when he realized that the stick with the loose suit and bird’s nest for hair was supposed to be his partner.

 

“I’m your backup, agent,” the man muttered in a posh voice, fake smile in place, hand held out to him. “Play along or get stuck here for God knows how long.” His glare was harder than what his matchmaker was giving him and although the last time he had seen M glare at him had been five years ago, he was pretty sure that what he was getting now could rival that.

 

So he took the man’s hand and placed a kiss on his knuckles before linking their arms together. “How much has MI6 fallen if they have send pre-schoolers in the field?”

 

“They didn’t exactly send me,” the man admitted, squeezing the other’s hand to keep him from exploding, “Agent, you will hold back from commenting as until M discovers what I’ve done, I am your Quartermaster.”

 

“What?” He screeched without wanting, causing everyone in the room to stop what they were doing and turn to look at him, the bloody matchmaker scowling at him – not that he could find it in himself to care about that.

 

He could easily see the boffin before him working as a, well boffin, but a lower tire one. One that was called by the MI6 employees that didn’t really have anything to do with spying when their computers didn’t work, not the boffin. He was supposed to be old, wrinkled, smell like mothballs, and have eyesight so horrible that he needed binoculars to see one foot in front of himself and while the last thing did seem to apply as the glasses lenses seemed to be rather thick, the rest of the list remained unchecked.    

 

Laughing nervously, the last boffin that was supposed to be in the field ducking his head and hiding a bit behind him. “A bit unchiseled with his reactions to my admittance of wanting him to hide from my family for a bit when we get back home—”

 

“He can learn,” the matchmaker interrupted, quickly making his way towards them and placing his hands on their shoulders, squeezing them. “You and Alexei make a wonderful couple, you know, so you really shouldn’t let his really small and harmless shortcomings get between you.”

 

The man could try his best not to sound so desperate to get rid of him, although the Quartermaster’s quick assurance that he found that endearing also showed just how distressed he was, so no money was going to be saved on this deal. On that note…

 

“How do you plan on paying for me? For that matter, if you’re officially not supposed to be here, how did you pay to get here?” He asked when they were left alone to continue to get to know each other.

 

The younger man frowned, holding the glass of champagne to his lips. “The apartment was too big anyway and a complete bastard that didn’t deserve a single thing I did for him made sure that it was impossible for me to pay my mortgage with the last stunt he pulled,” he grumbled and ‘Alexei’ felt even more enraged because while he did want to get back to his normal life, he didn’t want his saviour to live in a cardboard box if both of them got out of this country in one piece. “By the way, which agent are you? I really want to know the name of the agent that was the final nail in the coffin of my career as a spy.”

 

“Alec Trevelyan,” he whispered after he made sure that no one could hear him, looking incredulously at him. Not that the previous Quartermaster didn’t go an extra mile for his agents but he never did something as stupid as going in the field so blind that he didn’t even know who he was bringing back home. “Do you want me to start listing why you here without so little information is beyond a horrible idea?”

 

“Only if you want to end up either as a housewife or a sex toy,” the quartermaster snapped at him, sighing and shaking his head at the grin Alec was giving him. “You know perfectly well what I mean, agent.”

 

Aware that they were closely being watched, Alec moved closer to him, letting go of his arm in favour of wrapping it around his middle. “Do, I, quartermaster?” He whispered, his hot breath washing over the man’s pale neck, getting him to close his eyes and shiver.

 

“If this glass of champagne had any ice in it or if it weren’t room temperature—”

 

“The host is much too cheap for that. I would also avoid the shrimp,” he interrupted, grabbing the plate for the boffin’s hands.

 

“—it would have long disappeared down your pants,” the man finished with a sigh and a stomach grumble, eyeing the chicken. “Is that safe? The turbulences on that paper plane we were all flew in on made eating impossible.”

 

Alec took that as a cue to hold a small piece to the other’s lips, eyes connecting with the matchmaker’s. “Safe, but lacks any actual taste. Buy me right now and I promise that I’ll cook for you until the day you retire. Or die because you do not know what self-preservation is.” Another scowl sent his way, but he considered these ones to be endearing and not grating on one’s nerves.

 

Still, if he wanted the matchmaker to remain clueless about what was really going on and if he wanted the Quartermaster to still be alive when he lost his job, he would have to part with the scowl. “Tell me, if M was so dead set about getting an unknown agent out of such a situation, why didn’t you ask Bond to do it? The e-mails were addressed to him and even though I’ve been away for a long time, but I doubt he turned into a rule nut.”

 

The tired look gave way to one of sadness and the tense shoulders sagged forward which made him look completely defeated. “Bond retired right after the whole Spectre thing and I don’t…” He trailed off, frowning. “I don’t know what other agents I could have trusted as much as I did…” He tried again, this time letting out a frustrated sigh. “Look, you’re stuck with your future ex-quartermaster getting you of here and you will like it.”

 

Alec was surprised to hear that James had retired and even more surprised to see the quartermaster affected so much about one agent’s departure. He suspected that there was something more there – and that it was one-sided – but he reigned in his agent instincts of nosing around until he knew everything out of respect for the young man that put himself and his career in danger.

 

“You know, I can help you steal your money back if you really did have to give your apartment up to save my very fine ass,” he joked, shivering at how mischievous the other suddenly looked.

 

“Mister Trevelyan, do you really think that I won’t enact my revenge on these people for making me fly out or on the ones who forced one of my operatives into hiding here?”

 

***

 

Despite his attempts at getting Alec out of there on the very same day they met, the whole process still lasted three days. The man said that he had to get their blood tests done – Q just shoved money in his pockets to get him to forget it since he didn’t want his or his agent’s blood on any file, also signing something that stated he wouldn’t sue him or his so-called matchmaking agency should he get infected with anything – and then there were the endless contracts that needed to be signed and the fact that Alec needed a fake passport which cost an arm and a leg to make.

 

“I could have done a better one in five minutes and for free,” he grumbled at the first dinner the two were allowed to have together and after he made sure that the table wasn’t bugged with the help of one of the few gadgets he had managed to swipe. “Let me make it clear that we’re walking home even if it will take us months to get there.”

 

Alec chuckled, covering Q’s thin and soft hands with his. “Plane tickets back to our home country are included in the final price for me, so you already bought them.” He squeezed Q’s hand when he tried to pull away. “We have eyes on us; let’s pretend like we really will get married tomorrow.”

 

Q rolled his eyes and pulled his hand free, signalling the waiter over to their table. “I am buying you, Alec; no one expects to see honest love between us.” Plus, he thought he saw the waiter giving them a very odd look at Russia wasn’t the best place to be openly gay. He really didn’t want for this mission to end with them stoned to death or lying beaten up in the back of an alley, waiting for death.

 

“It the case of a man who did not try to bargain even when my seller insisted on it, they kind of do,” Alec reminded him, brushing their hands together just as the waiter came to take their order. “Zhukovsky made sure to use some of the money you paid for me to get everyone in here to turn a blind eye to the little shows of affection between us.”

 

Hesitating just for a moment and fighting back a flinch, Q grabbed Alec’s hand, making the agent grin like a wolf. “I understand why we have to do this, but I just hope that no one was forced into something they didn’t want to do,” he muttered, frowning.

 

It disgusted Q to the core and he couldn’t wait to wipe the digital and metaphorical ground with the ringleaders. Alec explained that he had watched the interactions of his group and future spouses like a hawk and not a single strand of hair had been touched on their heads while they were still being courted, but who knew what happened to them after they got married.

 

No, he wasn’t going to leave it at that. He’ll check and each and every person that passed through their hands and make sure that they were okay. Heck, with how much free time he was going to have after everything was over, he could probably build each and every one of them a house and act as their babysitter – well, to those who ended up in London, although he supposed he could easily fake the proper paperwork to bring everyone there, help them make a life of their own and—

 

“Your food is getting cold,” Alec muttered, tapping his forehead to get his attention. “It’s surprisingly entertaining to watch you plot something, but this dinner is coming out of your fee for me so it wouldn’t be fair if you don’t get to enjoy it while it is eatable.”

If he went by the smell, that moment had long since passed. “I do not mean to offend, but I don’t think that this type of food is my cup of tea and if we have to fly back, I don’t want to have more trouble with my stomach than I normally do.”

 

Alec arched his eyebrow. “I admit that this isn’t the best borscht I had and the cabbage for the Golubtsy could have been steamed a bit more but overall, the food is decent.”

 

Q narrowed his eyes as he looked at the food. He considered himself to be somewhat of a picky eater which was strange when you took into consideration the fact that he ate vending machine sandwiches, decently priced Chinese takeout – and finding the right restaurant that also delivered at ungodly hours took him ages – and ramen. Plus, he lost all trust in anything that had cabbage after they served some to an MI6 management gathering and he ended up being sick for two days.

 

“Why don’t we look over the menu together again and find something that at least sounds appealing?” Alec offered, pulling his chair closer to Q. “Here we go; Beef Stroganoff. You can’t go wrong with that in normal European restaurants, so it has to be heavenly in an actual Russian one. And if you get sick,” he quickly intervened when he saw that his companion was frowning and starting to turn his head away from the menu, “I promise to be a good husband and hold your hair back while you puke and nurse you back to health.”

 

“The toilets are awfully small on the plane,” Q tried to joke, his stomach already doing flips at the thought of that especially since on his way here, they hit a turbulence patch just when he was on the toilet. “No, that won’t matter; I’ll walk to London. If M asks about me, you have no idea who I am, I was never here, and you got out on your own.”

 

Alec took that cue to flex his muscles – the so-called matchmaker three tables away from them facepalmed at that. “I’ll make room, don’t worry. It will be very easy if there’s a second bathroom right next to it as I’ve broken those pathetic walls—”

 

Q quickly shoved a spoon full borscht in Alec’s mouth to get him to stop talking as the last thing someone who is afraid of flying is the fact that the walls weren’t that resistant. “Why don’t we talk how you managed to get yourself in this?”

 

They talked for quite a long time, not only about how this mission went tits up but also about all the other ones, Q admitting that the files on him were his second favourite another agent’s but refusing to tell him his name. However, although Alec acted dumb he was far from that and he quickly figured out just who that agent was by mentioning other agents he worked with and realizing that Q made the sad face only when James was being mentioned.

 

He wasn’t shocked that he had a gay or bisexual quartermaster or that poor man had fell for his friend, but he was surprised that such a man did. If you looked at Q, you’d instantly assume he was into blond girls with huge personalities because such was the stereotype for boffins. It was only after your first conversation with the man when he was in a good mood that you would imagine him with a kind, caring, and smart person and while James could be all that, something clearly didn’t connect between them romantically.

 

“It pains me to interrupt two people in love,” the matchmaker said in a voice that clearly meant the opposite, “but you do have a big day tomorrow and we wouldn’t want either one of you to look bad on it.”

 

Although reluctant and slightly afraid that he would be killed the second he turned a corner since he had paid in full for Alec, Q nodded and got up. “They do say that it is bad luck to see your betrothed one night before the—”

 

“American nonsense,” Alec interrupted him, grabbing his hand. “As the vykup nevesty has been fulfilled, we are in the middle of our traditional Russian wedding.”

 

“Alexei, a traditional Russian wedding doesn’t have two grooms,” the matchmaker hissed at him before turning towards Q and laughing nervously. “Again, I do have to apologize for Alexei’s brash yet harmless and easily corrective behaviour as well as underline the fact we do not do refunds.”

 

Since it was beyond obvious what Alec was trying to do, Q wasted no time in linking their arms together. “Mister Zhukovsky, given that I am paying the full price for this man despite his many outbursts so I expect to at least have control over the wedding ceremony.”

 

Laughing nervously and beginning to sweat, the matchmaker tried his best to get out the predicament, but Q proved that he wasn’t as big of a pushover as he had initially led him to believe. Did he not already pay in full for Alec? Wasn’t he allowed and entitled to spend at least a night with his future husband in private now that the transaction was completed? Was he running some kind of a scamp and planned on running away together with Alec? Because he had enough money not to care if people found out he had to buy his spouse and he could – and would – spend everything to track them down and drag them to court3

 

With one final glare, Zhukovsky had no other choice but to allow them to go to Q’s hotel together, Alec walking out of the restaurant with a small skip in his step. “I haven’t seen London in a very long time,” Alec said as he threw his arm around Q’s shoulders and pulled him closer, also hailing a cab. “I am very happy that James talked me out of getting that dog since I think my plants are long dead.”

 

“James Bond?” Q asked because it was hard to believe that that man was capable of making sense. “James ‘I’m going to run with a small bottle of nitro-glycerine in my hands while people shoot at me’ Bond?” He asked again because it was possible by some freak coincidence for Alec to know and be friends with two people with the same name.

 

“In his defence, I was living in his apartment at that time,” Alec explained as he held the door open for Q. “What about you? Do you have any animals that won’t mind the additional of an adorable puppy that I’ll drop at your apartment when I go on missions?”

 

Q snorted. “The only dog I’ll let you drop off in my apartment is a stuffed one because I won’t subject my darling cats to your brute of a hound.” He allowed himself to be crowded by Alec more than he should, enjoying the other’s warmth. Russia was a very beautiful place, but it was extremely cold and he didn’t pack correctly – though, in his defence, Eve was starting to ask more questions about where he was going than about how to take care of his cats.

 

“I can drop myself off at your apartment?” Alec whispered, the sudden hot hair that brushed over his ear startling Q hard enough to make him hit the top of his head against the roof of the car. “See? I’m sneaky enough to be one of your cars and if you scratch me in the right—”

 

“You want us to end up dead in a ditch, don’t you?” Q deadpanned, shoving his hand in Alec’s face and pushing away.

 

“Not the right way to scratch—”

 

“So help me, I will push you out of the car if you finish that sentence,” he interrupted the pest once again, getting a chuckle out of him as well as some of his personal space back. It made sense why he and James were friends and he could easily imagine the two swapping lame pickup lines in their downtime – the fact that he fell for James was still embarrassing but in his defence, he fell for him in spite of those horrible lines, not because of them.

 

“You look sad again,” Alec said quietly, squeezing his shoulder. “Is there anything I can do to help you with that? Because I do owe you quite a lot.”

Q smiled sadly. “Just pretend you haven’t noticed anything and move on.”

 

Alec was kind and smart enough to do just that, casually shifting their conversation towards his two cats and making small talk. Not really surprising Q, Alec stated that he wasn’t particularly fond of cats, finding them too clingy, mischievous, and in constant need of attention. It was so tempting to point out that since their arms were currently linked not of his choice and since he always found a way to get Q to look at him, he himself was nothing but a large cat that could talk, but he felt much too tired to open that can of worms and he didn’t want to make the other feel as if he was on the couch of a psychiatrist.

 

The cabbie received a substantial tip so his glare lessened to the point that he managed to sketch something that resembled a smile. It twisted the man’s sunken in face so much so that he resembled a skeleton and Q wondered if his skin would start to sizzle if it ever came into contact with holy water.

 

The fact that he continued to think about that while being an autopilot all the way to his room, ranting Alec in two, was a testimony to how tired he was and the only thing that snapped him out of his thoughts was a loud announcement that the right side was his.

 

“I am not sleeping on the sofa,” he grumbled and grabbed Alec’s foot, trying to drag him out of the bed, regretting not doing more in the gym – or anything, for that matter. 009 had tried to be his personal trainer, but quickly realised that the only reason he was there was because of 007.

 

“The bed is big enough for the both of us,” Alec sing-sang, easily pulling Q in the bed with him and turning his back to him. “I don’t know why you boffins think us agents are crazed sex machines, but I swear we are not programed to sleep with whoever we happen to share a bed.”

 

“I am more concerned with the kicking part,” Q lied through his teeth and suddenly found that the gravity in the bed was much too strong for him to even attempt to get up and go to change his clothes.

 

“James’ a kicker when he’s relaxed,” Alec muttered, throwing his side of covers over Q and cocooning him before pushing their backs together. “Did he often do that to you?” He carefully probed.

 

Now normally, Q would have dismissed the question and told Alec to mind his own business, throwing in a few lines about how a Quartermaster should be respected not toyed with, but he felt much too relaxed and tired for that. “We shared a bed three times, a cot five times, and a blanket seven times,” he sleepily muttered, a huge smile spreading on his lips. Eleven of those times happened during really cold weather and despite sporting a few bruises on his shin the following morning and acting grumpy and snappy, he was well-rested and warm.

 

Alec chuckled, his hot breath washing over the back of Q’s neck, the younger man becoming aware that now there was both an arm and a leg thrown over him - and frankly, he did not care at all to whom they belong to; he was finally feeling his body actually relaxing. “Taking all of that into consideration, you could say that it’s a good thing that James is hot-headed, couldn’t you?” The agent gently muttered and Q hummed in agreement. “He and I are a lot alike, you know. So, by your current logic, if it’s a good thing for him, then it’s a good thing for me.”

 

The ridiculousness of that statement gave Q enough strength to suddenly turn around and if the grunt and the muttered Russian curse that followed that move were any indication, he managed to inflict some form of punishment for the game Alec was playing. It was one that all double oh agents who had royally screwed on their mission played, one in which they tried to trick him into indirectly giving them his belated blessing for whatever they did so they could then use his own words against him or M to not get chewed on.

 

“You’re not as fluffy as you look,” was the last grumbled thing he head from Alec before sleep fully claim him.

 

When morning came, he was the first out of bed while Alec begged to be allowed to sleep five more minutes and tried to disappear under the blankets. But he refused to be made by his groom to be late on the day of his actual wedding and, after shoving a few ice cubes down Alec’s pants and throwing a few more at his head for good measure, they were off to the British embassy where matchmaker Zhukovsky eagerly awaited them.

 

He worried for a moment that someone from MI6 would be waiting for him there – such as the chameleon-like Miss Moneypenny who, despite being M’s personal assistant, still acted as the deadly agent she had been before her bullet found its way in Bond’s chest by an unfortunate and eternally regretted accident – but Lady Luck was still on his side and they were greeted by the real ambassador and his actual staff.

 

The staff in question was formed out of five old men who looked like they had long passed their retirement age and Q suspected that the only person who got any work done was the beautiful blonde assistant who managed to have everyone’s eyes on her even though she was dressed in the most boring business suit he had ever seen, including Alec’s which made Q feel jealous.

 

Granted, the two of them weren’t in love or even interested in each other and the marriage was one of convenience, but Q would have liked it if Alec would have taken into consideration the fact that his Quartermaster was going to be a divorced one because of him and have eyes only for him during the ceremony. At least Alec was decent enough to smile softly at him as they exchanged rings, even running the back of his hand down his face, but the second that was done with, his attention shifted back to the woman.

 

“You may kiss your spouse,” the ambassador declared loudly, startling Q out of his regret.

 

“Excuse me, what?” He managed to stutter before Alec grabbed his shoulders and pushed their lips together. He couldn’t believe that this tradition had slipped his mind! And damn it, when did Alec sneak his tongue in his mouth and were all double oh agents this good at kissing or just the ones who were close friends with the king of honey trap missions?

 

Still, the urge to slap the man was great and he barely held back when the kiss finally ended and he was released, glaring daggers at him even as Alec declared to the amused occupants of the room that he had found out the previous night that his new husband was bashful and easily embarrassed.

 

“If I am still the Quartermaster when we get back, you’ll get nothing but water pistols and paperclips,” Q hissed as they made their way out, Alec not really understanding how serious he was since he was laughing.

 

They immediately left for the airport – as that was the original agreement – and Q just knew it was going to be a long and tiring flight. Alec was in what passed for panic when a double oh was involved because the woman at the embassy looked familiar and constantly looked over his shoulder, tipping the cab driver out of Q’s wallet to get him to make sudden turns and go down narrow, empty streets just to be sure that no one was following them.

 

The fifth time he did that, Q rested his head against the chair before him and let out a loud groan. “We came out of a hotel with luggage, Alec, and there’s only one airport in this city,” he said slowly, hoping that the agent would connect the dots.

 

“But it has two bus stops and a train station,” Alec argued.

 

“The plane tickets were prepaid,” Q continued, sure that this time he had given the winning blow.

 

Alec clicked his tongue, narrowing his eyes. “That isn’t known to anyone else but you, me, and Zhukovsky, so they would have to follow us to know how we’re leaving and where to ambush us.” In Alec’s defence, this paranoia was perfectly normal for his type of job and it also helped keep him and whoever else was helping him on his missions, alive. “Unless that dirty matchmaker got a nice bribe and they know where we’re going and that’s why no one is following us because they’re waiting for us at the airport to ambush us.”

 

But it was annoying and unneeded in this situation. “I did background checks on everyone, you know.”

 

“Double agents are still a thing,” Alec muttered and Q sighed, sliding down in his seat as much as his seat belt allowed him.

 

Alec’s paranoia ceased the second the plane took off, but that triggered Q’s. He clutched the armrests as subtly and hard as he could, eyes glued to the chair in front of him, humming in agreement every time he thought Alec asked him a question. This fear of his was very private and only five people in the entirety of MI6 knew of it as he felt that it would diminish the agents’ respect for him and it had been hard enough to win it to begin with.

 

The plane shook once and he bit his lower lip to hold back both a whimper and a gasp, pushing himself in his seat as much as he could and closing his eyes. He was not in a flying coffin that could easily be struck by lightning or that could get lost and smash up against a mountain if their navigation devices broke.

 

Ladies and gentlemen, we are about to go through some turbulences, so please set your seats in an upright position, put away the trays, and buckle up your seatbelts,” the speakers above them crackled and this time, Q couldn’t stop the whimper that left his lips.

 

“I’m forever in your debt for getting me out,” Alec whispered in his ear, placing his hand over his and squeezing it lightly to get Q to focus on him. “Do you do this often?” Q let out a noncommittal noise and Alec used his other hand to cup his chin and turn his head towards him. “My Quartermaster, you should know that even though I speak many languages, gibberish is not my forte so let’s pretend that we’re in a nice, noisy little coffee shop and we’re having a conversation, okay?”

 

Frowning, Q tried to picture that coffee place. “I don’t like this place at all,” he whispered just as the plane started to shake violently, causing him to screech and hiccup. “It feels like they’re tearing it down, so we really should—”

 

“We’re at a movie,” Alec corrected himself, squeezing Q’s hand harder. “A really boring one and it’s just the two of us so we can talk and the speakers are so loud that the ground is shaking underneath us every time someone drops something as frivolous as a pin.”

 

Okay, so now there were six people in MI6 that knew of his secret, but Alec wasn’t mocking him or questioning his abilities as a Quartermaster so he could live with that. “I don’t know how I married you if this is the kind of movies you regularly took me too.”

 

Chuckling, Alec started to gently rub Q’s knuckles with his thumb. “Well, it’s because we talked a lot during these movies and you found me simply irresistible.”

 

Q snorted, but did not pull away when Alec threw his arm around his shoulders and cradled him at his chest. “I find that hard to believe, Alec. Surely you struggled to get me to say yes.”

 

“Oh, yes, I did.” He started to play with Q’s hair, entwining his fingers in it and playing with the tips. “I played pranks on you constantly to make sure you only had eyes for me because I’m emotionally immature and also showered you in gifts because I don’t know how to apologize otherwise and it always got to me when you looked down.”

 

Somewhere between how Alec became his supreme hero because he climbed the tallest tree in London to save his beloved and untrusty mewling hairballs and how they were voted the power couple of the spy world by a non-existent magazine, Q started to believe that he could fall for the man which scared him something terrible and made him hate Eve for being right with the whole soul wounds starting to heal which would leave to him being open towards an actual relationship with someone who might return his feelings this time.

 

Not that he was falling for Alec. He was just getting to know the man and they weren’t in a Disney movie, so all he felt for him was the beginning of a friendship and gratitude for helping to calm him down during the flight.

 

But the can of worms had been reopened and Q wasn’t too happy about that.

 

***

 

There were two constant things in his life: him making decisions that he – thankfully – lived to regret, and the coldness of his empty and dusty London apartment until he was reunited with the man he considered to be more than a brother and more than a friend. He wished that he could also put his job in the same pot, but since he did not have the same connection with the new M as he did with Olivia, that was out of the question.

 

Then there was the fact that he wasn’t sure he wanted to go back to being a double oh agent as the reason his and Madeleine relationship didn’t work out wasn’t because he missed his dangerous globetrotting or because he had gotten bored of not having someone trying to shoot him every three days, but because she felt that he wasn’t in the same emotional place in their relationship as she was – or in their relationship, for that matter.

 

He was there physically, yes, and he was kind, attentive, and gentle towards her, but she felt that his mind and heart weren’t really there. She explained that when he kissed her, it was as if he was kissing an idea of something. When he looked at her, she thought that he was seeing through her and it was clear that his eyes always searching for someone else.

 

The worst part was that she was right, although since she was a psychiatrist that wasn’t a surprise. She tried to help him figure out and the first name that crossed his mind was Alec, explaining how their relationship worked and how they always ended up being there for each other, but Madeleine pointed out that he hesitated and even frowned right before telling him of his friend.

 

“That could be me simply being shocked at the realisation,” he defended himself, running his hand down his tie and checking to make sure that he hadn’t accidentally spilled any coffee on it.

 

“That’s a lie and you know it,” Madeleine said softly, softly squeezing his other hand. “You breaking eye contact with me and focusing on an inanimate object…” She trailed off and allow James a bit of time to force himself to look directly in her eyes and place his hands on the table just to prove her wrong. “Do you know why? Or do you want to talk about it until you at least get an idea?” 

 

He scoffed at her and before his anger and denial could send him running out of the little restaurant like the devil himself was after him, she changed the subject. But the topic she picked wasn’t any less shocking to James than the one before and the only reason why James was still sitting down was that he was too shocked to make a single move.

 

She proposed that his hesitation stemmed from the fact that he had made acquaintance with a certain young Quartermaster whom, despite antagonizing every now and then by doing the exact opposite of what he was told to do and picking on his age, he considered to be a genius.

 

“That’s because he is,” James finally managed to say when he was sure that he had enough control over his brain not to stutter, mutter, or otherwise sound too offended. “And the only reason why I do what I do is because he needs to learn how to live a little and stop locking himself away in the laboratory.”

 

The way Madeleine grinned at him reminded him of the cat that ate the canary. Didn’t he care just a bit too much about how the young man spent his life? And yes, he did see him as a friend and it is only natural for friends to worry for each other, but did he often found himself bothered by who their friends were spending their time with if it was well known that their company was the good kind? Did he do the same to the old Quartermaster? Did he hesitate in asking that man for help with the missions that were guaranteed to make him step in the field as he did with this Q?

 

That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and James excused himself, not even bothering to tell her goodbye.

 

Wishing to prove to both her and his doubting mind that she had been wrong in her analysis, he welcomed to his bed a flight attendant, a random man from one of the bars he frequented, and a doctor and his nurse slash lover from one of the many charity events he got invited to, making sure that he didn’t pay too much attention to whether or not they resembled those two which were most definitely not on his mind.

 

But in the moments when the night gave into day, when the only heat in the bed was his own, his thoughts turned treacherous. Clearly, he thought to himself, this could be cured by a little visit to MI6. He’d see how everyone was doing, give Q the car back – whose trunk he had stuffed with horrible but expensive cardigans, boxes of tea from all over Europe, and the most expensive laptop that could be used for something else other than gaming just to show his appreciation for his help – check and see how Alec was doing with his mission, get his thoughts back on the right, non-interested track, and if M could offer him a distraction from the nothingness in his life he would be left with after proving Madeleine wrong.

 

“So the errant son returns,” said M, looking up from his computer, eyes narrowed, and lips so thin that he looked like he didn’t have any. “Mister Bond, being a double oh agent isn’t like a hobby that you can drop for a few months and then pick it up again.” He sounded completely detached when he said that, the usual warm note that was present in Olivia’s voice when she was scolding him after he had pulled one of his usual stunts missing.

 

“I am aware of that,” James said as he arranged himself in the chair he hadn’t been offered.

 

“Now can I just let you back in MI6 after being MIA for eleven months,” M continued, brushing his time. “You will have to go through Medical so they can remove the dormant nanomachines in you and it will be painful because you insisted on skipping town before Q could give you the easy procedure. You will also have to have a long talk with our psychiatrists to ensure that you—”

 

“I don’t necessarily want to come back as a double oh agent,” James interrupted him.

 

That caught the man off guard and it pleased James to see the man looking confused, even if it was just for a moment. “Be that as it may, you still need to go through some tests.”

James frowned. “What if I’m here for a visit and nothing more?”

 

“Full search,” M said shortly, corner of his lips twitching upwards. “They’ll even make sure that there’s nothing wrong with your colon.”

 

Everything was overkill, of course. If he really wasn’t to be trusted, the head of MI6 wouldn’t have met with him, nor would he have allowed him to walk so deep within the agency, so it was clear that the man was expecting him to apologize. But since the last time he checked, hell hadn’t frozen over, that wasn’t going to happen.

 

“Then how about I just sneak in and visit whoever I want to?” James challenged, grinning.

 

M was all too happy to take that challenge and even proposed a bet – because he was a mature man in charge of a very important agency. He gave James eight hours to slip in whichever MI6 building he wanted and either get in his or the Quartermaster’s office without being detected by their security – cameras and other agents included. If he managed to do that, he could come back and be whatever he wanted to be as long as he didn’t request any managerial position or anything that had to do with people’s health, with just a short visit to a psychiatrist to greenlight him.

 

However, if he lost, he was going to get a full medical just to be allowed in as just a simple visitor and if he wanted more, he would have to go through all the tests, exams, and probing needed without giving anyone lip. “In fact, you’ll do all of that with a smile on your face and you won’t hit on a single person that’s been assigned to this,” he added in a serious voice.

 

James summarized that they had new employees in the medical wing and he filed that information for later. “Although I doubt that this is professional, I cannot find it in myself to turn this bet down.” He extended his hand towards M.

 

The man arched his eyebrow as he accepted the hand. “I think of it as a test for a former agent trying to prove something, so it is professional.”

 

An easy challenge, James foolishly thought to himself as he merrily set on his way. He decided to go for Q’s building – for, if the world was just, the people who financed MI6 gave the old building to the boffin who took care of the cybernetic threat by himself – as he had broken into that place multiple times without being detected and he was sure that this time would be a breeze even if the almighty Quartermaster had upgraded security.

 

Except, it wasn’t. He was caught within the first five minutes and M informed him with great pleasure while he was being marched to Medical that, in the past, the only reason he got in so easily was because had Q allowed him to. Not that he blamed him for not catching on to that as the Quartermaster made it so that only the extremely important and hard to bypass security ‘gates’ deactivated when his biometrics were read and leaving the other ones on just to entertain his most favourite agent – the younger man never stated that, but it wasn’t needed.

 

Q would have probably allowed him to sneak in this time as well, only he was currently being punished of sorts for ignoring more or less direct orders and he wasn’t the one manning the security for either one of the buildings and thus, James was caught. “Well, that and the fact that I knew for sure you’d attempt to go in here first, so I focused the vast majority of our security on it,” M added in a superior voice tone, head tilted back just enough to look like he was asking to be punched in the face.

 

The testing he was promised lasted about two hours and James did his best not to be sarcastic or sardonic in his answers. Due to that, the last set of questions addressed to him by psychiatrist number five were left unanswered because he really couldn’t explain why he was putting himself through all of this if he considered them a waste of time and if he wasn’t doing this just to prove a point.

 

Did he, on some unconscious level want to come back and prove that he was still the best agent they had? Did he think that the new M somehow look down on the old M for being so permissive with  him and wanted to show him that the woman didn’t have any other choice but to put up with his antics? Or was there something even deeper than that?

 

Well, with those questions pushed way in the back of his head, James made his way to the Quartermaster’s office with a deep scowl on his face, making everyone who did the inconceivable thing of so much as look in his direction with interest or curiosity flinch in fear.

 

“Oh great; you’re back,” a female voice echoed down the hallway and it took James a few moments to attach the proper title to the face.

 

“Baby R,” he grunted and sent his best glare at her.

 

Which did not seem to affect her in the least, bloody cold-hearted woman that she was – she should be shooting for the M position with those nerves of steel of hers, not Q. “Former double oh seven,” she shot back without missing a single beat. “I was hoping that they’d keep you there at least until Q went home. What is it that you want this time? A new car? A new gun? You locked yourself out of your phone and you need him to remind you how to use your thumb?”  

 

“I am here to return a car,” he said honestly, trying to walk around the woman. “Personally return a car as it was personally delivered to me,” he corrected himself when R continued to block his path.

 

“Q’s not in his office at the moment and all of us would appreciate it if you just dropped off the keys with me and made yourself scarce before he ends up getting forced in another downtime because of you,” she hissed, the intent—no, the need to inflict pain on him clear in her eyes.

 

But James was more concerned with her words than with her temporary ambition. “M knows that I am here and I am returning rather than taking…” He trailed off when he saw just how much R’s eyes had narrowed and he was sure that he would have heard her growling if the place was a little more quiet. “At least he got a vacation out of helping me take down Spectre and not a permanent suspension alongside the mark of traitor.”

 

“Keys, Bond,” R insisted, holding her hand out.

 

“The Quartermaster giveth, the Quartermaster taketh away.”

 

Like children, they glared at each other for a minute which ended in R looking away, muttering a cuss under her breath as she did so. “Are you sure that you’re here to simply return the stolen car?” James nodded. “You didn’t bump into any secret organizations bent on taking over the world or anything like that and you’re in desperate need of a boffin to take them down?”

 

James snorted and crossed his arms over his chest. “Don’t tell me that the only way you guys can find those kinds of things is if I accidentally stumble on them,” he teased, causing the woman to grunt and push passed him, tapping her tablet.

 

“He’s still up on the fifth floor, working,” she murmured, sighing and punching the bridge of her nose. “I was hoping that he had moved on to the recreation room to sleep after the all-nighter he had with 009.”

 

That irked Bond. “You know that you can’t trust Q with going home by—”

 

“We have someone up with him,” the woman growled, clearly not happy about what James was implying.

 

“You minions can’t get him to do something he doesn’t want to do,” James pointed out, following her towards the elevator.

 

He felt proud that it was up to him to nag the Quartermaster into going him and this, he realized now, was one of the little side missions he just loved doing. The way the man tried to keep himself from yawning because it would prove his point about how tired he was as well as ruin his cold glare made Q pucker his lips in such a way that James had wondered – while sober, mind you – if they tasted as sour as their owner looked or as sweet as his voice sounded when he was done ranting at him and genuinely welcomed him home.

 

“I was hoping that his husband could.”

 

***

 

He couldn’t quite accuse Alec for being the reason of his newest headache as it had been festering in the back of his eyes since before 009’s mission went completely tits up, but he could pretend that he was – especially since admitting that he was as tired as everyone said he was would result in Alec throwing him over his shoulder and ignoring all the insults and demands thrown at him as he dragged him home.

 

The first time he did that, he got a standing ovation from his treacherous minions and a few foolish field agents whistled suggestively at them. Once they got home, he spent about fifteen minutes trying to wrestle the laptop out of Q’s arms before he could enact his revenge and the only reason he managed to win was because he let out a high pitched screech when Q’s cats sunk their fangs and claws in his legs.

 

“I see a bright light,” Alec was wheezing out once Q managed to get his two darlings to let go of the overly dramatic agent. “And I feel cold!” He continued and grabbed Q’s hand to keep him next to him, fake coughing.

 

Q glared until he felt the other’s hold on him relax a bit and he thought that he could use that moment to free himself, ending up on the floor with Alec as his pillow. “The next time they attack you, I will let them tear you to shreds,” Q promised, his eyelids becoming heavier with each passing moment, Alec’s heartbeat acting as a strangely soothing lullaby.

 

Hs cats did attack Alec they again and for the first two months, the trio where in an all-out war. Turing – his eldest and lord and ruler of the house – liked to go for Alec’s face and while the agent was busy trying not to lose his eyes or get new scars, Pascal either tripped him or mewled as loudly as he could to get Q’s attention and then both cats acted wounded while Alec showed the world just how many cusses the Russians had.

 

They did eventually become sort of friends thanks to the fancy food R told him to buy, but every now and then Alec would still get a scratch on his legs and the cats also suddenly find themselves on the cold ground, accidentally getting kicked off the bed, sofa, chair, or wherever Alec was currently resting when he decided that he needed more space.

 

Some of these little encounters ended with Alec being marched to Medical in an attempt on Q’s behalf to teach the man how to act his own age, but as most of them ended with Q putting band aids on him, he ever did.

 

“Can we go now?” Alec asked for the nth time, resting his head against his shoulder and poking his sides because the thing Q was currently doing did not have an immediate effect on any field agents or the state of the building. “How about now?” He asked again when he decided that Q had ignored him for far too long – and it hurt because the younger man didn’t even roll his eyes at him or so much as huff in exasperation.

 

“Alec!” Q yelped and tried to adopt the almighty ‘turtle in its shell’ defensive position, saved from falling to the ground by the cause of his distress wrapping his arms around him and easily holding him up. “Despite our current position, this is not me agreeing to going home,” Q grumbled, but moved so that his feet were touching the ground and his head was resting against the man’s shoulder.

 

“Of course you’re not,” Alec whispered, starting to slowly swaying from side to side.

 

“And you can’t rock me  to sleep like you would a babe,” Q continued to argue while trying to fight back a yawn.

 

Alec was a bloody cheater because Q had told him in confidence and while he was plastered that, despite his age, he immediately fell asleep if he was swayed – which was really annoying when he went on vacation because, for some reason, all the locations that R booked for him had inviting rockers or hammocks that knocked him out even before he was done reading the first sentence.

 

“I really need to finish this project,” Q insisted in a whisper, not even noticing that his feet were no longer touching the ground.

 

“Of course you do, husband mine,” Alec continued to whisper in his ear, gun drawn and pointed at whoever had walked in a few moments ago. “Now, how about you slide on my back and let me take you home?”

 

He turned to glare at the intruder when Q was done figuring out how to hold on to Alec’s neck without strangling him and the agent was taken aback by the curious blue eyes that greeted him. James opened his mouth to speak, but Alec signalled him to remain quiet as he cautiously edged out of the room.

 

As they passed him, Q scrunched up his nose and pushed it closer to Alec’s neck – which caused the other to shiver a bit and grin as he made mental notes to tell Q that when he was asleep, he didn’t seem to mind his aftershave as much as he claimed he did only when his personal space was invaded in an attempt to keep him healthy and alive – grumbling something about unruly agents who shouldn’t sneak out with their Quartermaster’s unfinished hard labour.

 

James’ curiosity was replaced just for a fraction of a moment with hurt before he schooled his features back into his default ‘uncaring mode’ and he started to silently follow his former Quartermaster and his territorial friend to the underground parking lot. It was reassuring to know that Alec had formed such a strong bond with Q especially since James had feared that the younger man would have a nay impossible time getting the agent to so much as collaborate with him.

 

However, marrying his Quartermaster in what had to be a really short time of getting to know him was going too far and while he expected Alec to rush headfirst into really serious things without thinking twice – or even once, because this was Alec that he was thinking about – but he had expected more of Q. Or rather, he expected Q to end up with one of the sensible woman boffins under his rule.

 

“We’ll talk tomorrow, after he wakes up,” Alec whispered as he rolled down the window, arranging the mirror so he could partially see what Q was doing in the backseat as well as the traffic. “I’m glad you’re in one piece and that you’ve returned,” he added as an afterthought, driving away a bit too fast not to tip off his friend that his words weren’t 100% real.

 

And they weren’t. Well, they were but not quite and this confused and angered him. He was happy to see that James face to face, to know that he was sane as he would ever be, and that he didn’t have any physical scars – there was something in his eyes that told him his old soul wounds were being picked at and he feared that those scabs will soon give way to blood – but he just wished this meeting would have happened in a place where there was no Q.

 

That made him mad. Mad at himself for thinking the way he did and mad at James because he felt like he was betraying his oldest friend and the person he fully trusted with everything by wishing the meeting happened in another place and mad at whoever he had thought the owner of his heart was for doing a horrible job as its keeper and for disappointing and hurting his friend.

 

He was mad at Q for he had kind of, sort of, fallen for the young boffin and he was happy that Q constantly forgot to annul their marriage. He actually went out of his way to distract him from thinking about that on his rare days off and when his little minions dragged him out drinking, Alec tagged along to work his hardest to keep the green eyes on him as well as his attention and focus.

 

Not that he would do anything bad to whomever Q showed interest in, but so far, the younger man did not seem too keen on pursuing a relationship with anyone beyond that of friendship.

With that in mind, Q did not seem bothered by how protective Alec was acting, looking more than happy and pleased whenever the agent played the ‘husband’ card whenever he was faced with someone who did not really get the point, wrapping himself around the agent’s arm and pushing his face in his neck, not quite hamming up with the nicknames but not holding back either.

 

He’d run his slender fingers through his hair and peck his scarred face, sending a glare if insults were muttered under the drunken breaths of his former suitors and if he felt that the words stung hard enough, he would enact his swift revenge with the help of if phone the second he was out of their visual range, patting and squeezing Alec’s leg while he assured him that he saw nothing wrong with him and that, despite what was said, he could easily point out at least seven people within their vicinity that were interested in him.

 

Maybe it was those brief but tender moments combined with all the other times in which Q showed him compassion by sharing his food, his apartment, his bed – not in the way Alec dreamt of every now and then, but it was enough for him to simply sleep on top of the covers while Q pushed himself against him and acted as his living anchor to safety – his free time that gave Alec hope that their marriage charade would eventually turn into the real deal.

 

He did take into consideration that maybe Q was just being friendly, but from his observations, that wasn’t the case. Q was close to a few of his minions and R, Eve, and Tanner were the work holy trinity of his most inner circle but he did not allow a single one to rub against his boy as Alec did or to use his shoulder as a pillow when they decided that an explanation was far too boring for them.

 

It was also clear that he was the only one who got to enjoy for lunch homemade sandwiches and a few other dishes that Q could cook without burning down his apartment and everyone was jealous of that. Eve had even revealed that he was the only agent to not only be kicked out of the apartment, but to be received with open arms.

 

“But I suppose that I should find the fact that two married people aren’t living together constantly, not that one spouse allows the other to spend some nights in their apartment,” she said carefully, eyes narrowed in suspicion. “Could you tell me how you two got married so fast again?”

 

She knew perfectly well how that happened, the little minx. She liked to take a jab at him every now and then because she also knew that Alec had enough of a brain to not complain about that instead of being grateful that she played along their flimsy story about how they bumped into each other as Alec was making his way back to MI6 after a successful mission and just decided to do that instead of blowing the whistle on how Q outright ignored a direct order and put himself in danger.

 

Funnily enough, she was the only one who knew of their charade as everyone else found that normal for someone who loved and cherished his personal space to the point that he threatened the double oh agents that the next one who deems it okay for them to use him as a dumbbell or towel without his approval, he would electrocute them - Alec found this later from 005 who, as the newest addition to the deadly team, was tricked by the others into giving his Quartermaster a surprise hug and ended up spasming for a few moments on the ground.

 

But even so, Alec was afraid that he would be all but outright forgotten if James popped back in Q’s line of sight, looking as miserable as he did, and asking for help. Not that he wanted James to drop off the face of the earth or anything like that; he just wanted… What exactly did he want?

 

He frowned even more and then smashed his head against the book he was supposedly reading.

 

“This is why I don’t let you touch any of my gaming consoles,” Q muttered sleepily from his side, causing Alec to flinch. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I’m pissed off that the pirate king dumped the tavern wench for the bratty duchess,” Alec lied through his teeth, ending up with a pillow thrown over his face.

 

“I have no such books,” Q hissed between clenched teeth, hitting Alec over the face a few more times. “What’s really bothering you? It can’t be because my cats love sleeping on your favourite black suit.”

 

“But you see, if you combine that with the pirate king—” he tried again and this time, he got a gentle kick in his shins.

 

Although he had met the agent eight months ago, Q was aware that this was the first time he saw him genuinely upset. His lips were thin, his eyes narrowed and cold, and his back was tense, the fist he had made seemingly without his knowledge shaking ever so much. It really wasn’t smart or healthy to poke a silently seething deadly agent, but he was also of the opinion that anger could be talked away and he trusted Alec enough not to violently snap at him.

 

He also knew just how stubborn Alec could be and since he didn’t want the man to come up with an entire sappy novel instead of being truthful, he decided to be a little bastard himself and try to tug at the man’s heartstrings with a very longshot. “Married for not even a year and you’re already lying to me,” he murmured dejectedly, turning with his back to Alec. “I know it’s not real, but it was fun pretending…” he trailed off and let out a long sigh, carefully edging away from the other.

 

Alec was quick to throw his leg over Q’s middle, chuckling. “If you’re thinking about quitting to become an actor, don’t.” He then started to tickle him, playful punishment for what he had tried.

 

Q laughed and struggled until he ran out of breath and tears were rolling down his cheeks, Alec finally giving him a break when he decided that his face was much too read to still be considered a healthy colour and he sat back on Q’s legs, looking at him seriously.

 

“James is back,” he admitted in a whisper and watched as confusion settled in on Q’s face alongside worry. “He’s perfectly fine,” he added quickly when he saw Q starting to worry his lower lip. “I’m sure that the only thing that got bruised this time around is just his ego.”

 

Letting out a cursed sight of relief – for James had eloped in the past with at least three assassins who never allowed him in a good condition – Q threw his arm over his eyes, wishing to go back to sleep. “The extent of my helping you two with whatever he stumbled on will be a blind eye to whatever you plan on doing and an emergency extraction off the records.”

 

Heartbreak was what a fool that never learned got and that was what he deserved for allowing a charade with a man who would always be loyal to his brother from another mother to continue beyond a mission. The pain also increased as history repeated itself and he was now convinced that he was some sort of a closeted masochist for doing everything in his power to do this over and over again without learning anything.

 

Not that he was learning anything now.

 

He tried to roll away and, no matter how childish it was, throw his covers over his head and force himself to sleep a bit, but Alec was making that impossible. “Since you two probably expect me to do more than I said that I am willing to do to  help you out, I need as much rest as I can get so if you’d be kind enough to let yourself—”

 

The misunderstanding was interrupted with a small and innocent peck, Alec needing to reign himself in before he could give into his huger and get reacquainted with Q’s sweet and intoxicating taste. “I’m glad that my lips can stop your thinking. I will abuse this new found power.”

 

Q frowned, his nostrils flaring as he shoved his hand in Alec’s face. “If you think that’s going to work again, than you have another thing coming.”

 

Alec grinned and Q fumed some more. “I don’t consider you a ‘thing’, Q, but I would more than love it if you would permit me to have you…” He trailed off and became serious once again, moving to the foot of Q’s bed. “James means more to me than a brother, but you already knew that.” Q nodded even though Alec couldn’t see him. “Just like you also know that we shared everything—”

 

“Are you proposing a threesome to your Quartermaster?” Even as those words left his lips, Q felt a shiver travel down his spine and he cussed his treacherous body. Even his voice came out as a hoarse whisper instead of an insulted hiss and his eyes fluttered as his mind was more interested on focusing on that torrid thought instead of reality.

 

The same lustful image popped in Alec’s mind and it had a similar effect on him, his pants becoming one size smaller. “That kind of sharing was done only if all involved parties were on the same page feeling wise and in this case, I am ashamed to admit that I do not know how James feels. But I know how I feel.”

 

While you needed two assassinations under your belt to receive your double oh designation, you actually needed to exceed in a field before you were even considered for the promotion and each double oh agent was an expert at something. 001 could easily snipe someone from 2 miles away, 002 was that one person who won when he came with a knife at a gun fight, 003 was nicknamed ‘Taipan’ for a really good reason, 4 and 5 were new, Bond was a natural Casanova, 8 and 9 were also new, and  he was the king of explosions. But they all had areas in which they were absolutely rubbish and his was the romance part.

 

Normally, Alec considered that to be a good thing as he was always amused by James having to keep his accidental conquests away with a stick, but now it was different. His horrible choice of words that made little sense made him feel nauseous, he wanted to hit his head against a wall, and he expected Q to burst out laughing any second now as well as kick him out – was this what a teenager felt? Because if it were, why the hell did he and James had to stop not one, but two crazy psychos who wanted to reverse their aging and be forever like that.

 

“Am I to understand that I can keep on forgetting to annul our marriage?” Q asked in a whisper, his head rested against Alec’s back, arms sneaking around his middle.

 

For someone with as much muscle mass as Alec, the man was surprisingly nimble enough to suddenly twist in Q’s tight embrace so he could face him, the huge grin he wore surely hurting his face. “If you didn't have such a sweet, horrible memory, how else would I be able to refer to you as husband mine?”