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Q isn’t surprised to see the sharply dressed man walk into the shop. It feels as if almost every person who comes into The Dandy Lion is a middle aged businessman who forgot his mother’s birthday or something.

Q has never considered himself a romantic kind of person, but it’s a bit depressing when every other bouquet is for someone’s secretary. When he’d inherited the flower shop from his mother, he’d been loathe at the idea of spending his days dealing with lovesick, dewy-eyed couples. Now that he knows the reality, he’s not sure which he would have preferred.

Which isn’t to say that he doesn’t get his fair share of annoying teens with hearts in their eyes, or soon-to-be fiances, or even old married couples (his favorites), but more often than not they’re followed by yet another suit, or even worse, a request for funeral and sympathy flowers.

There’s a man called Tanner who comes in every Friday to pick up a sunflower for his wife, and he at least gives Q hope for humanity.

Most of the suits are strangely secretive, and they would clam up when Q used to try and make small talk over their jobs. Now, Q avoids talking about his clients’ work, and instead asks inane questions about the secretaries/mothers/wives/husbands whose birthdays/anniversaries/christmas presents the suits have forgotten.

It has not escaped Q’s notice that The Dandy Lion is situated along the Thames, about four blocks down from the SIS Building at Vauxhall Cross. It doesn’t take a genius to gather that at least 80% of the suits are probably spies of some sort.

Honestly, he’d think spies would be able to lie about their work more easily.

The point is, he’s not surprised in the slightest when a man wearing a suit walks in, although a glance away from his laptop is enough to notice that this newcomer is significantly more attractive than most of his ilk: short-cropped blonde hair, rugged features, broad hands, nice build…

Not that it’s relevant. Q’s just an observant person.

He keeps typing, scanning the lines of code. When Q had taken over the shop in the last eight weeks of his mother’s treatment (when he’d been sure it would only be a few more months until she’d be back on her feet), he’d known that he’d lose his mind just snipping and wrapping and watering flowers day in and day out, so he’s taken to freelance consulting for cyber security. He gets sucked back into his work quickly, so entranced that he just about leaps out of his skin when he hears someone clear their throat pointedly.

Right.

More Attractive Suit.

He’d forgotten he was there.

“Do you make it a general rule to ignore your customers, or am I just special?” The man asks, and gosh, Q’s never seen eyes that blue before. Like a Great Forget-Me-Not, and Q has never before appreciated how aptly named those little flowers are.

The man gives him a knowing smile, and Q realizes he’s been staring a hair too long.

“Oh - well - Most people just pick what they think is prettiest. It doesn’t require a lot of input from me.”

The man walks up to Q, leaning against the counter between them. “Well then, what can I do to get your input?”

“You only need ask,” Q replies, already reaching under the counter to grab the photobook his mother had made of arrangements for bouquets and wreaths. He gives the man an assessing look. “Though I doubt this is your first time in a flower shop.”

His little jab is met with a chuckle. “It’s not even my first time in this flower shop. Where’s the lovely Miss Sylvia?”

Q pauses, his hand hovering over the cover of the book. It’s been eight months, and it’s just as hard as ever to tell people, to even talk about her. “She died.”

The man’s face falls, and he offers his condolences with what seems to be genuine regret. “I’m sorry to hear that. I was quite fond of your mother.”

Q glances up at the man, narrowing his eyes suspiciously. “I never said - ”

“It wasn’t a huge leap,” The man says with a shrug.

Q offers his hand, because this man knew his mother and he’s not completely inept when it comes to socializing. “I’m Q.”

The man raises a brow, but doesn’t comment on the nickname. “Bond. James Bond.”

Q laughs. “That’s how my mum used to introduce herself. ‘Trench. Sylvia Trench.’”

Bond has a good poker face, but Q could swear he looks almost sheepish. “Ah. I may have stolen that from her. It… leaves an impression.”

They both smile at the memory, before Q clears his throat and looks back at the book of photos. “So. What exactly are you looking for, Mr. Bond?”

“There’s a woman I work with,” Bond starts, and Q just barely catches the long-suffering sigh he wants to let out. Of course. Fucking secretaries.

“Let me guess: you forgot her birthday?”

Bond laughs. “I wish. No, I actually destroyed her computer.”

Q looks up at this, bemused. “What?”

“There’s nothing left of it except a burnt lump of plastic.”

“What, did you set it on fire or something?”

There is a pregnant pause.

“You set it on fire ? How? Why? How?”

“Look, the how isn’t important,” Bond says, looking guilty. Something tells Q that this isn’t the first incredulous reaction he’s gotten. “I just need to give Eve a bouquet of the nicest red roses you have.”

Q rolls his eyes. “No.”

It’s Bond’s turn to be incredulous. “ No?

“No. Red roses are for lovers, not coworkers. Besides, you're not declaring your love, you’re apologizing,” Q pauses, humming thoughtfully. “I’ve never made a ‘sorry for committing arson’ bouquet. Just a mo’.”

He runs to the back room to where there are dozens of flowers freshly cut, ignoring the insulted noise Bond makes at being called an arsonist. It only takes a few moments for him to find what he’s looking for, and he comes back with a grin, showing Bond the bouquet he’s made.

“Here you go: apology; repentance; and forgiveness,” Q says, pointing to the purple hyacinth, rue anemone, and star-of-Bethlehem respectively. “That should do it.”

Bond stares.

“Er… unless you don’t like the colors or something?”

“Your mother never did this for me,” Bond finally says, looking at the flowers curiously.

“Well, did you ever ask her to?” Q asks, deciding that yes, these will do just fine, and he wraps them up and goes to tie them with a purple ribbon to match the hyacinth.

“Well, I certainly never told her about the various office supplies I’ve destroyed.”

Q pauses mid cut, the scissors hovering over the ribbon. “Just how many things have you set on fire at work?”

“Actually, the fire is a first.”

Q has a sudden vision of Bond whacking at a computer monitor with a hammer. It’s amusing, but also a little horrifying.

“Will you be needing a tag today?” Q asks, slipping into his usual customer service dialogue.

“No, thanks. I plan on delivering them in person and taking credit for your hard work on that flower language nonsense.”

Q lets out a snort at that, rattling off the price.

Bond turns back to him as he’s about to leave, hand resting on the half open door. “Well, Q, I’m sure I’ll be seeing you very soon.”

And with a wink, he’s gone.

Q does not fail to notice that it’s in the direction of Vauxhall. It might be a coincidence. Although, considering that Tanner has mentioned a friend called Eve from work, and considering that Q is almost definitely sure that Tanner is a spy, he feels pretty confident in his assumption that Bond, James Bond is MI6.

If the next day he sets a large vase of Great Forget-Me-Nots as the counter display next to him as he types, well then, that’s just a coincidence.

Really.


*****

 

 

Q is tinkering with the sign outside the shop when Bond returns a week later.

The sign, which is almost as old as Q himself, has been in desperate need of a tune up, namely because passing teenagers enjoy jumping up and slapping it, making it swing unsteadily.

That illustration of a lion in a top hat has been hit in the face more times than even Q , and that’s saying something.

Q’s changing out the hinges and replacing the chain links that attach the sign to the overhanging iron bar when Bond nearly kills him.

“You know, that dandy lion of yours is looking worse for wear,” Bond says, and Q startles badly, flailing ungracefully as he whips around from where he’s perched on the ladder. He almost manages to catch himself - almost.

He falls off the ladder and right into Bond’s arms like some kind of damsel, his glasses askew and his heart pounding.

Bond, who has truly incredible reflexes, is looking at Q with a mix of concern and amusement. If Q weren’t so distracted by how much more blue his eyes were up close, he’d be annoyed that Bond found his near-death experience entertaining.

Well, near-serious-injury experience, at least.

“Steady on, Q,” Bond says, keeping a firm grip on Q’s waist as he helps him find his feet. Bond, Q has discovered, has a remarkably firm chest, with extraordinarily well-defined pecs. Q feels his face flush, no doubt turning bright red, and he steps out of Bond’s strong arms, clearing his throat uncomfortably and adjusting his glasses.

“Sorry, what were you saying?” he asks, hoping Bond will pick up his cue and move on from this nightmare of an embarrassing situation.

Bond quirks a brow, but thankfully follows his lead. “I was just saying that your lion up there is looking a bit worse for wear.”

Q turns, glancing up at the old sign. The Dandy Lion’s mascot, painted so lovingly on the sign (and then in white paint on the front window) was indeed looking a bit sorry, all faded and worn.

“I suppose you’re right. You can hardly even see his monocle.”

“Nothing says ‘dandy’ quite like a monocle,” Bond responds thoughtfully, and Q smiles.

“Just so.” He picks up the screwdriver he’d dropped and his ladder and heads inside, the other man following at his heels.

“So what can I do for you, Mr. Bond? Another mishap with some office supplies?”

“Actually, it’s an anniversary of sorts,” Bond says, and - oh. Q’s completely misread the relationship between Bond and his Eve.

“Of what?”

“The day Eve almost killed me,” Bond says with a smirk. It deepens when Q’s eyes widen.

“You’re joking.”

“Nope. I nearly drowned,” Bond replies, clearly enjoying Q’s confusion.

Q doesn’t ask the man to elaborate, because this all but confirms his ‘James Bond Is Probably A Spy’ theory, and he doesn’t want Bond to murder him or something if he gets too nosy. Or take him to a dungeon.

Does MI6 have dungeons?

“And… you want to give her a bouquet?”

Bond nods, his eyes twinkling with mirth. “Something that says: ‘you’re a menace and I’ll lord this over your head forever.’”

“I genuinely can’t tell if this is some sort of inside joke between the two of you or if she actually did try to murder you,” Q replies, bemused. He is, however, already thinking of what flowers he has in the backroom.

“It’s a bit of both, really.”

Q laughs, telling Bond to wait at the counter while he goes and looks through his collection. He comes back five minutes later holding a small bouquet of rhododendrons and birdsfoot trefoil. “The purple one’s ‘danger’ or  ‘beware,’ and giving someone the yellow one basically says ‘I will have my revenge.’”

Bond laughs out loud, deep and rich and full. “Brilliant. Make it as obnoxiously big as you can.”

The bouquet Bond ends up leaving with is a monstrous thing, so large that he ends up buying a vase as well, because it’s doubtful that Eve would have one big enough to accommodate it. When Q tells him that there’s no way she’ll get anything done with it on her desk, Bond tells him that “that’s the whole point, my dear Q.”

When all's said and done, Q still has no idea what to make of James Bond, and he still has no idea if Eve is the man’s girlfriend.

He tries to ignore the large part of him that hopes she isn’t.

If she is, well.

It wouldn’t be the first time Q’s had a thing for a straight guy.

 

 

*****

 

 

Things follow in much the same pattern across several months: Bond comes in, having slighted his maybe girlfriend slash coworker Eve and in need of flowers, and Q amuses the man with his little flower messages.

Sometimes Bond will be gone for weeks at a time, and then return with a limp or stitches on his brow or his arm in a sling. Car accident, Bond says; I was spelunking, Bond says; Would you believe I was smuggling the Moroccan Prince out of the country? Bond says.

Q does believe a Bond would smuggle a monarch, because the man is definitely a spy , but he thinks it’s best for everyone involved if he just plays dumb.

The amount of flirting varies from visit to visit.

Things don’t change much between him and Bond, the two sticking to their roles of friendly shop owner and flirty customer, until one day in early December.

There’s to be a memorial service for the MI6 employees and agents who lost their lives during the terror attack this day last year, when someone turned on the gas and blew up part of the Vauxhall building, and then released the names of those secret agents.

Q doesn’t know where it’s being held, but apparently it’s close enough that hordes of people in black come in droves to pick up white roses and red poppies.

He’s lucky he prepared for this and ordered extra flowers ahead of time, or he’d have been out by nine o’clock.

He gives Tanner a discount, because when the man comes in at seven he looks a right mess, and he really is Q’s favorite customer.

Bond comes in at closing, when the sun has set and almost all of Q’s specially ordered flowers are gone. He’s very obviously been to the memorial service, his bespoke suit and wool overcoat completely black. Q wonders, absently, if Bond is an important person in MI6, if that’s why his clothes and his watches and his shoes are always so very fine.

It becomes clear very quickly that Bond is drunk. He’s not nearly so ungraceful as to stumble about, but his sharp eyes are dulled slightly, and his blonde and silver stubble is longer and more unkempt than Q’s ever seen it.

Plus, he smells like a distillery.

Bond doesn’t speak, walking around and inspecting the daisies and red lilies that have gone untouched on this day of remembrance. Q simply watches him, waiting.

“How did your mother die?” Bond asks, finally, and it’s nowhere close to what Q had been expecting him to say.

It might perhaps be a rude question, but Bond looks so tired, and his eyes are filled with a hollow sort of grief that Q is all too familiar with.

“Cancer,” is all he says in response, because that’s more than enough for Bond to understand all that came before her death.

Bond nods, looking away and reaching up to twirl a daisy between his fingers. “I suppose that’s something we have in common. Dead mothers.”

Q inhales sharply at this. Bond’s never really told him anything about himself, or at least anything that matters. He’s not sure if it’s the liquor or the grief that’s prompting Bond to share this little piece of his past, but he imagines that the man will regret it in the morning.

Q walks over, carefully taking the flower from Bond and giving him an assessing look. “Bond, are - are you going to be alright?”

Bond shoots him a smirk, and oh, Q hates it. It’s a shadow of his usual smile, the warmth and amusement and cleverness all gone and replaced with something bitter and hollow. “I’m always alright, Q.”

He goes to leave then, but Q stops him. He grabs the last red poppy from off the shelf, slipping the flower into the man’s lapel.

“Give your mother my love when you go to visit her,” he says, giving Bond a soft, sad smile.

Bond smiles, and it’s still a pain-filled, fragile thing, but it’s more genuine, Q thinks. He reaches up and holds Q’s hand where it’s still resting against his lapel. They stand there for a time, in an almost-embrace, until Bond tilts his head, thoughtful.

“I wonder if you have something that…”

“Of course,” Q says, and this time he brings Bond to the back with him, pleased at the way the dark cloud over the man seems to lift briefly at the sight of the room, overflowing with flowers in buckets on every surface and hanging baskets scattered above their heads. It’s a wondrous sight, even Q can admit, and he sees it every day.

Q doesn’t even realize he’s holding Bond’s hand until he has to let go, and he hopes the other man is too drunk and distracted to notice the way his cheeks redden. He walks over and picks up a handful of pink carnations, grabbing some twine from the counter next to them and tying them together (he’d run out of ribbon and wrapping paper about two hours before Bond had shown up).

“‘I will never forget you.’ That’s what those flowers mean. It’s what I bring to my mum, when I…” He trails off. Bond has taken the flowers, looking at them like they’re something precious. When he looks back up at Q, his expression doesn’t change in the slightest. Q doesn’t know what to make of that.

Q stares at the closed door long after Bond leaves, his chest tight and his heart heavy.

 

 

*****

 

 

Bond comes in two weeks later, clean shaven and sober. He wanders around the store for a while, fiddling with the petals of the displays and working very hard not to look in Q’s direction.

There’s a tension in the line of his shoulders that wasn’t there before, as if he doesn’t quite know where he stands with Q anymore. It only cements what Q had already suspected: Bond hadn’t meant to share so much with him while he was drunk.

Q’s not offended; they’ve known each other what, four months? He’s not sure their budding acquaintance-slash-friendship has yet earned him the right to Bond’s tragic backstory.

It seems as if Bond has no idea where to go from here, as if he doesn’t know how to push past what he no doubt sees as a moment of weakness.

So Q pushes them past it himself, because he’s got few enough friends as it is, and he’ll be damned if he loses this new one over a drunken, grief-driven confession. “So what did you do this time?”

Bond startles, jumping away from the flowers as if he’s been caught with his fingers in the cookie jar. “What? Nothing. What?”

Q settles his hands on his hips, leveling the other man with an unimpressed look. “You must have done something, what with the way you were fingering those hyacinths.”

Bond’s eye twitches, like he’s trying not to laugh. “Don’t say it like that,” he says with a grimace. “You make it sound like I’m some sort of flower pervert.”

It would be funnier if Q hadn’t once received in the mail some polaroids of a winking naked woman with the short stem of one of his roses literally inserted into her bits. Q had let out a squeak and nearly dropped the photos when he’d opened them. When the woman came in the next week to buy some more roses, he’d politely told her that he was gay, thanks, and please don’t send him any more unwanted nudes. She comes in every few weeks and buys about twenty flowers each time, and Q tries very hard not to think about what she’s going to do with them.

Bond looks extremely intrigued by his lengthy pause, but Q is not to be deterred from his mission against the other man’s Q-related awkwardness.

“Word choice aside, you must have done something . No one comes into a flower shop on a Tuesday morning for no reason.”

Bond’s eyes shift guiltily. “Do you have a flower that would say ‘I’m the scum of the earth and I don’t deserve you’?”

Q only feels a little bad when he laughs in Bond’s face. “I’ll see what I can do.”

Bond follows him into the backroom, because apparently that’s what they’re doing now. “Where do all these even come from? Surely you don’t get them delivered.”

“Deliveries on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays,” Q responds absently, handing the other man an overflowing vase of marigolds as he searches for the honeysuckle. “But a lot of it comes from the little makeshift greenhouse in the basement,” he pauses for a moment, thinking over what he has growing. “Speaking of…”

He takes the marigolds from Bond, exchanging them for the elusive honeysuckle. “Be right back.” He kneels down to lift up the hinged door and wander down the stairs into the basement. “I’d invite you down, but it’s practically a sauna in here, and you’re wearing a three-piece suit.”

By the time he finds the pot of crowfoot, he’s sweating a little, and he has to take off the jumper he’s been wearing. The first thing Bond does is chuckle at the sight of him, face shiny, glasses foggy, and shirt rumpled.

“Your grandpa sweaters do a good job of hiding it, but you really are a skinny little thing, aren’t you?”

Q swats him on the arm, grabbing the honeysuckle with his free hand and turning to the small counter space that isn’t covered in flora.

“You’re lucky,” he begins to say as he cuts stems and twists the wrapping paper just so. “When I go down before my morning shower I’m usually in my pants.”

“I don’t know, I think I’d quite like to see the man behind the curtain. Or jumper, I suppose.”

Q grabs a purple lilac from his right and throws it at Bond’s head.

For someone with a maybe possible girlfriend, the man flirts an awful lot.

He turns to Bond, pointing out the flowers in the bouquet he’s made. “Here we go: ingratitude, inconsistency, selfishness, and then, of course, atonement.”

“Is that a daffodil? How does a daffodil say ‘selfish’?”

“Don’t you know it’s scientific name? Narcissus.”

Bond snorts, taking the bouquet. Q’s oddly pleased with how delicately he’s handling the flowers. “You know me too well, Q.”

The thing is, Q doesn’t , and he can’t quite figure out why it bothers him so much.

 

 

*****

 

 

They don’t talk about that night, but it’s clear something has shifted: Bond is much more at ease around Q now. He hadn’t even realized how on edge the man had constantly been until that alertness was gone. Bond is still as secretive as any hypothetical spy would be, but he shares more and more of himself with Q, in little ways.

Bond, he learns, is from Scotland. He discovers this when he asks on a whim what his favorite flower is, and the man tells him it’s purple heather, of all things. The perplexed look on his face is enough for Bond to elaborate: he spent his childhood in the Highlands, and the heather would grow on the surrounding hills and mountains. It reminds him of home, he says.

Bond, he learns, was in the Royal Navy, and the mental image of Commander Bond in a sailor’s dress uniform is enough to make Q’s brain short circuit for a moment. He has “You Can Leave Your Hat On” stuck in his head  (accompanied by some truly filthy images of Bond in a hat from said uniform) all day after Bond leaves. It’s awful.

Bond, he learns when he brings Bluebell and Buttercup down one morning to snuggle at his counter, is “more of a dog person, really.” Q tries not to hold this against him. Besides, he manages well enough when Bluebell, who is essentially a tiny ball of white fluff, tries to climb him like a jungle gym. Bond, despite his claimed aversion to cats, leaves with white fur all over his expensive suit and a smile on his face.

He buys one bouquet for his Eve every week, not including the occasions when he’s out of the country on “business.” Just “business,” no other attempt at a cover story.

Honestly, MI6 needs to up their game when it comes to subtlety. Either that, or Bond doesn’t particularly care about keeping up pretenses.

Lately, though, Bond has taken to leaving Q with one flower from each bouquet.

“I need something that says ‘new beginnings’,” Bond says one day, and the look he gives Q is strange, like he’s trying so very hard to convey how earnest and genuine he feels about this particular message.

When Q hands him the plumerias, wrapped up neatly in a matching ribbon, Bond plucks one out of the bunch and hands it back to him, smiling softly.

“You do realize that I have at least a dozen more on the shelf right there,” Q says, but he takes the flower anyway, his cheeks red and a fond grin on his face.

“That’s hardly the point, Q,” is all Bond says in response, and then he’s out the door.

The plumeria stays in a small vase on his bedside table until the following week, when Bond asks for something that says ‘I admire you’, and he gives him one of the purple orchids from his bouquet with a wink.

The pattern continues from there:

Bond plucks a lily of the valley from Eve’s bouquet one week, handing it over to Q with a small smile. Q comments that he doubts Eve’s particularly sweet, if she really did try to murder him that one time.

The next week Eve loses a pink diosma to Q, though the other ten or so in the bundle will no doubt be enough to convey how charming Bond finds her.

The week after that Bond wants to tell Eve how very beautiful she is, and so in turn Q is given a single amaryllis from the bunch. Because this is now the fourth time Bond has given him a flower, Q warns him that these odd little gestures will not get him a discount on all these purchases. Bond just gives him a strangely fond smile in response.

It is two months into this strange pattern that Bond has to leave on an extended “business trip,” no doubt to sneak around some shady Russian operation or sniff out a mole in MI6 (Q’s been reading Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy . He’s near the end, and it’s making him a bit worried for Bond’s safety).

“Something that says, ‘I’ll think of you’. When I’m gone, that is. ‘I’ll think of you until I return,’” Bond has that same earnest look on his face, like he’s trying to tell Q something, but Q doesn’t have the energy to think about that, already mentally sifting through what he has in stock.

As usual, Bond gives him one of the blossoms, this time an aster.

Q never really knows what to say when Bond does this, even though it’s the ninth time it’s happened. “Well,” he starts awkwardly, “I hope your Eve will appreciate this particular bouquet. I’m sure she’ll miss your weekly flowers if you’re gone for too long.”

He hopes his unspoken plea to Come back soon doesn’t go unnoted.

Bond says his usual goodbyes and starts to leave, but he pauses after a few steps, turning back to Q. He gestures to the aster, still in Q’s hand.

“I will, you know.”

“Will what?”

Bond gives Q an indulgent smile, his eyes warm. “Think of you.”

 

 

*****

 

 

The first two weeks of Bond’s “business trip” are decidedly uneventful. The only mildly interesting thing that happens is that Scotland Yard contacts him to consult on some cyber security upgrades. Apparently they’d been hacked, and data from several high priority cases had been tampered with. It takes all of two days for Q to install the improved programs and firewalls, and he’s left dealing with boring office workers and horny teenagers at the shop, only now there’s no visits from Bond to look forward to.

It’s the third week after Bond leaves that things start to get a bit tricky.

On Tuesday two extremely burly men come into the shop and simply ask for his name, before looking around the shop suspiciously and walking out. It’s unsettling, but Q doesn’t think much of it, distracted by the weird naked flower lady coming in for her white roses that evening.

On Wednesday just before closing the men return, this time accompanied by a third who is most certainly their boss. The new addition, an older man with a confident stride and a ragged scar across his left cheek, walks toward Q in a way that is surely meant to seem casual (a spectacular failure) as his brawny companions wait on either side of the front door.

“It’s Q, isn’t it?” the man asks with a thick South London accent. He doesn’t wait for an answer. “I’m an associate of Bobby Caldwell’s. You know him?”

Q nods, and he can feel the blood draining from his face. The Caldwells are one of the biggest and most notorious crime families in London. Q’s heard the name; everyone who grew up in London has.

“Good. That makes my job a bit easier, wouldn’t you agree?”

Another nod.

“Mr. Caldwell finds himself a tad frustrated with your work with the Yard. You see, we weren’t quite finished with our little job and there’s still some… sensitive information that just shouldn’t be in the hands of the coppers.”

At this, Q finally speaks, his smart mouth once again trying to get him into trouble. “You can’t seriously think the police don’t have physical copies of this information?”

The man smirks. “You can’t seriously think we don’t have ways to get those files?”

Right. Corruption and bullets, no doubt, are just two such methods, Q thinks. “I’m sorry, what is it that you want?”

“Simple: undo it.”

“I - what?”

“Either take down the firewalls, or hack them yourself.” The man, who until now has been forcing a casual tone in his voice, levels Q with a steely look. Q levels one right back at him.

“No.”

The man sighs, shaking his head. “I see how it is.” He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a wad of cash, thumbing through some bills. “How much?”

“I don’t want your money. I won’t do it.” Q’s proud of how little his voice shakes as his eyes dart between the two walls of muscle at the door.

“Come on, kid. This is us asking nicely. I don’t think you want the alternative.” The man’s voice takes on a menacing tone, and Q instinctively takes a step back.

“I said no.” In a show of bravery he doesn’t quite feel, Q walks to the door and holds it open, glaring at the three men. “Now if you don’t mind, gentlemen. I have business to attend to.”

The man laughs, rather meanly, and gestures for his goons to leave. He stops momentarily as he passes through the doorway, giving Q a parting piece of advice.

“You’re making a mistake, flower boy.”

“I think I’ll be the judge of that,” Q responds, and slams the door in his face.

On Wednesday, four men who are clearly hired muscle come back and stand in front of the entrance, scaring off customers with their giant biceps and prison tattoos. Q comes out with his taser crackling after the third hour of this nonsense, and they leave quickly enough after a demonstration of the modifications he’s made to it.

On Thursday night a brick is thrown through the front of the store, shattering not only the window itself but several vases and display cases. Q is just grateful that there was no fire involved, and that his cats were upstairs in his apartment.

On Friday Q closes the shop, spending the whole of the afternoon and much of the evening sweeping up broken glass, calling contractors, and trying to hang a tarp over the gaping hole that has become his window.

Friday night is when it goes to shit.

The four men come back, except this time Q only has a broom in his hand, and his taser is sitting behind the counter a good three meters behind him.

The first punch has him stumbling back against one of the previously unharmed displays, knocking over a vase of peonies. He’s already bleeding, he realizes, reaching a hand up to his face and feeling the cut along his right cheekbone. Fucking rings. At least the guy’s not wearing brass knuckles or something.

The three who aren’t actively trying to hurt him have taken to trashing the shop, pulling shelving units from the walls and tearing down the decorations Q’s mother had put up when he’d been a little boy. He feels a particular twinge of sadness as, along with a framed crayon drawing of a tulip Q made when he was seven, his mother’s favorite painting is broken over one of the goon’s knees.

Q is curled on the floor after taking a few hits to the face and some kicks to the stomach when the door flies open.

His glasses are broken, the lenses cracked, but he’s spent enough time surreptitiously ogling Bond to recognize the other man, blurry or not.

The three vandals are on the floor clutching their various injuries in what feels like seconds, and then the man beating Q is hurtling to the ground, Bond’s fist hitting his face with a sickening crunch.

Q’s head is pounding, and his abdomen is in agony, but he doesn’t miss what Bond says as he kneels over the man.

“Nice ring,” Bond comments as he breaks Q’s attacker’s finger, his other forearm pressed against the man’s throat. “I’ve seen one of those before. The man wearing it died ten minutes later. You’d be following him, but I need you to send a little message for me. You tell Bobby Caldwell that James Bond says hello. You tell him that the next person who lays a hand on Q is digging Bobby Caldwell’s own grave.”

Bond breaks another finger for good measure, and then drags him to the door, throwing him out onto the pavement. He doesn’t even look at the other three as they make a hasty exit, instead rushing over to Q’s side.

“Are you alright? Do you need me to take you to a hospital? Q?” he asks, his hand cradling Q’s head carefully.

“I didn’t know you were that kind of spy,” is all Q manages to get out before his vision goes black.

 

 

*****

 

 

Q has to stay overnight at A&E, mostly to watch for a concussion, the doctor says. He doesn’t actually remember getting there, but the nurse tells him how very worried his boyfriend was before he had to leave, how sweet it was, and isn’t he a looker?

It doesn’t take much of a leap to figure out who brought him to hospital after that, although Bond is only his boyfriend in his most embarrassingly domestic daydreams.

Q’s a bit disappointed that Bond didn’t stick around until he woke up, but he supposes that spies are busy people, after all. He should be grateful Bond showed up when he did, and leave it at that.

He almost doesn’t want to leave when seven p.m. rolls around, if only because leaving would mean going home, and going home would mean dealing with the colossal shitshow the Dandy Lion has become. He’ll have to pay for new windows, and then for someone to paint the window display back on, and then he’ll probably have to plaster and repaint the walls where those brutes had torn down the shelves, and oh, god, the sheer volume of broken glass that must be all over the floors...

He gets off the tube and starts walking toward the shop, only to stop dead in his tracks when he catches sight of the building.

The window’s been fixed.

The window’s been fixed, and Q sure as hell hasn’t paid for it.

He unlocks the door hesitantly, sucking in a surprised gasp as he flips on the lights,. While he’s been at the hospital someone has cleared up the shop. No, not just cleared it; fixed it. All the work that Q had been dreading has been done for him, and the shop looks just as it had before, if not better (some of those shelves and tables were quite old, after all, and the new paintjob, a pale pink, is enchanting). He glances back at the display window, and - yes, someone’s painted their little dandy lion back on the storefront, in a near perfect recreation to the one that had been shattered.

The only thing missing is that painting his mother so adored, the one that had been lovingly hung behind the counter when Q had been a boy. The wall looks...wrong, without it.

It takes a moment before Q notices the flowers laying innocently on the counter, wrapped in twine. There’s no vase, not even a note, but Q gets the message loud and clear. A bouquet of white heather: I’ll always protect you.

Q picks them up, smiling softly as he holds them to his chest.

He’s never told Bond what these ones mean.

 

 

*****

 

 

Q doesn’t see Bond for another week.

Well, nine days, if he’s being precise. Not that he’s counting, or anything.

Q doesn’t even have time to prepare himself before talking to him: one minute he’s in the back room, looking for a particular packet of seeds for an order, and the next he’s banging his head on a low hanging shelf as Bond starts to talk from behind him.

“So what kind of spy did you think I was?”

He whips around, eyes wide. Bond’s smiling, which Q thinks bodes well for his chances of not being sent to a hypothetical dungeon. “Well, I didn’t think you were a pencil pusher or anything like that, but I didn’t realize you were the kind of spy that frightened mobsters.

Bond walks back out to the front, not waiting to see if Q will follow. “They’re not the only ones who’re afraid of me,” he replies, probably thinking he sounds cool and mysterious.

He does.

Q stops dead in his tracks. “So you are a spy?”

“I thought you already knew that,” Bond says, turning to him with a smirk.

“Well - yes, but I didn’t expect you to say it.

“Agent James Bond, codename double-oh seven, at your service.” He holds out a hand for Q to shake. There are still little bruises along his knuckles.

Q takes it, playing along with Bond’s little re-introduction. “Pleased to meet you, Agent Bond.”

“I do hope I can trust you with my little secret.”

Q snorts as he lets go of his hand. “Yours and every other MI6 desk jockey. You lot really need to work on your cover stories.”

Bond’s brows raise at that. “Is that so?”

“Yeah. A vague ‘I work in sales’ doesn’t really cut it.” Q pauses. “Say, do you know Bill Tanner? Is he MI6 too? I always thought he was.”

Bond starts laughing at that, harder than Q’s ever heard from him.

“Tanner,” Bond manages to say once he calms down, “Is going to have a fit when he finds out he’s been clocked by a florist .”

“I knew it!” Q crows. He ignores the slight against his profession in favor of smug satisfaction. “Is he a double-oh something?”

“Does he really seem the type? He’s chief of staff...which I should probably not have told you,” Bond muses to himself, looking thoughtful.

“Please. Who am going to tell? The daffodils?”

They stand there for a time, just smiling at each other. God, but Bond’s eyes are blue.

Q clears his throat awkwardly, looking away and reaching for his little bouquet scrapbook. “Have you come for some more flowers for your Eve, then?”.

“I came to see how you were.” Bond walks around the counter to stand next to Q. “That was quite a scare you gave me.”

Bond had been scared? For him?

“Oh?”

“I would have come sooner, but apparently it’s frowned upon to threaten a major London crime boss without MI6 approval,” Bond says, reaching up to take off Q’s glasses and get a better look at the bruises along his cheekbone. He can’t be enjoying the view; they’ve begun to turn an ugly green and yellow as they heal.

“I haven’t thanked you properly, yet.” Q is pleased that he doesn’t sound as breathless as he feels, with Bond so close and running his hand carefully across his cheek. “For saving me, I mean.”

Bond carefully replaces Q’s glasses, smiling softly. “I did what anyone would have done.”

Q disagrees, doesn’t think just anyone would have done what Bond did for him. The most anyone else would have done was call the police. But he presses on. “And what about the shop? Would anyone have done that?”

Bond doesn’t respond to that, instead turning to get a good look around. “Do you like it? Tanner helped pick out the colors and whatnot. I’m rubbish at that sort of thing.”

“It’s wonderful, Bond,” Q replies, although wonderful hardly begins to cover it. What Bond has done for the shop, for him; it’s the kindest thing he’s ever been given. “I don’t know if I’ll be able to pay you back all at once, but - ”

“Q, please. I don’t want your money.”

“But - ”

“Oh! I almost forgot,” Bond says, walking back around the counter and picking up a large parcel. He gestures for Q to open it.

Q pulls back the brown wrapping paper, his eyes widening as he sees what Bond’s brought him.

“Is this…”

“Pink Sweet Peas, by Georgia O’Keefe. Not the original, of course, but at least the frame’s nice.”

Q cannot find the words to respond. He just stands there, like an idiot, gaping at the painting on his counter and trying very hard not to start crying.

“I’m sorry, have I overstepped?” Bond looks almost nervous. “You said it was your mother’s favorite. I thought you might want it back on your walls.”

Q had mentioned it was her favorite once , months ago, in passing. “Bond, how can I ever - ”

Bond shushes him, picking up one of the daffodils from the counter and tucking it behind Q’s ear. “I’m just glad you’re alright.”

Q’s blushing, he knows he is, but he can’t help it; one silly gesture and he’s twittering like a schoolboy with his first crush.

Q’s cheeks are still red when Bond heads over to MI6 twenty minutes later.

 

 

*****

 

 

Bond comes to the shop more often after that. He’s there two, three times a week, and he stays for hours at a time. Apparently being a killer super-spy allows for a flexible schedule.

He starts bringing Q little trinkets, too. He always comes in with a cup of tea for Q and a coffee for himself from the cafe three blocks down. When he comes back from a mission - he’s given up on calling them “business trips” now that Q knows - he’ll bring a gift; namely, a souvenir mug. So far he’s given Q five, the best of which by far is the one from Australia made to look like a shark’s head.

Every time Q takes a sip of his Earl Grey it looks like the shark is about to bite off his nose. He adores it.

The bouquets for Eve get more and more romantic, as well: a bouquet of heliotropes to show his devotion; a cluster of gardenias, because Eve is the picture of loveliness; then daisies for gentle innocence; then edelweiss for a daring, brave person… Q’s a little bitter, because he’s a sucker, apparently, but he still smiles and blushes when Bond hands over a flower from each bouquet before he leaves.

Then one day Bond says, “Have you got anything that says ‘I think I love you?’” and Q feels like he’s been punched in the gut.

Which is stupid, really, since he’s known all along that Eve is important to Bond, that he never really had a chance when Bond buys flowers every week for someone else.

When Bond tries to give him one of the purple lilacs from Eve’s bouquet, Q shakes his head, placing it carefully back into the arrangement.

“This isn’t the kind of flower you want to give me,” he says with a small smile.

Bond rolls his eyes, somehow looking both fond and exasperated, and walks out without saying another word.

He comes back the next day looking determined.

“Q, what do you have that says ‘I love you’?”

Q sighs. “As opposed to ‘I think I love you’?” He thinks for a moment. “Well, a red tulip is literally a declaration of love, so that would work. Is there anything else you want to tell Eve, or just that you love her?”

Bond laughs, lets out an aggravated sigh, then leaves without buying anything.

It’s very unusual for Bond to come to the shop three days in a row, but come he does.

“I love you, and I’m fairly certain I always will,” he says earnestly, not even bothering to say hello.

Q hums thoughtfully. “I think I have some bellflowers in the back, if that’s what you’re looking for,” he says, and Bond literally groans, walking away without another word. He’s in the shop for less than a minute.

What on earth was that all about?

 

*****


Q doesn’t see Bond again for another two weeks.

This isn’t unusual, although normally Bond tells him when he’s going to leave.

What is unusual is that when Bond comes back, he’s bringing flowers to the shop. There must be at least twenty flowers in his arms.

“You know, you’re supposed to leave with flowers, not the other way around.”

“Shut up,” Bond says, and oh, there’s that determined look again. Those two weeks didn’t do much to put him at ease, then. Bond shifts until all the flowers are cradled in one arm, then picks them up one by one with his other hand and practically throws them onto the counter in front of Q.

“I love you,” Bond starts, holding the red chrysanthemum up before tossing it onto the tabletop. “I love you”, he repeats, doing the same with an orchid. He goes through each flower like this, telling Q what they mean (though of course he already knows).

“I ardently love you, my love is undying, I love you unconditionally, love me, I am consumed by love...” Bond gets frustrated toward the end and just drops the rest down in a pile. “Look, they’re all about love, right? Christ, I never knew how many ways there were to say ‘I love you.’”

Q stares, completely bemused. “Do you...want me to make an arrangement from them?”

Bond gapes at him. It would be almost comical if Q weren’t so confused. “Are you fucking kidding me, Q?”

“So that’s a no?”

Bond picks up the nearest flower, a primrose, and chucks it at Q’s head. “Tell me Q, do you have a flower that says ‘I love you, you idiot boy, stop being so thick’?”

Oh.

Oh .

He goes to respond, but Bond, apparently, is on a roll. “Do you have any idea how many bloody flowers I’ve given away at work? I gave some to my boss, last week, Q. My boss . I’m running out of people.”

“I didn’t - I thought Eve - ”

“I needed an excuse to come back, didn’t I? Can’t show up at a bloody flower shop with no reason to buy flowers.”

Q walks around the counter toward Bond, resting his hands against the older man’s chest and fiddling with the lapels of his suit nervously. There’s a hopeful smile spreading across his face, and a tremor in his voice. “So all this time, it’s been for me? I just want to make sure, because - ”

“Oh for fuck’s sake - ” Bond says, and then his hands are cupping Q’s face and he’s pressing their lips together. Q surges up against him, his arms snaking around Bond’s neck as Bond’s move to wrap around his waist. There is nothing, nothing , other than the slow slide of Bond’s lips against his, Bond’s tongue tracing his lower lip, Bond’s hands rucking up his shirt and sliding along the skin underneath.

Q pulls back, breathing heavily. “That - that was…”

Bond grins, ducking back to kiss Q again, biting his lower lip teasingly. “I’ve always wanted to put our two lips together.”

Q stares at Bond. Then he starts giggling. “Oh my god, that was horrifying,” he says, once he’s calmed down enough to speak, wiping the tears of laughter out of his eyes. “Is that the kind of thing you say to lonely housewives on your missions? Has it ever worked?”

“I worked hard on that flower pun,” Bond pouts.

“You don’t need cheesy pick up lines,” Q says with a smile, kissing Bond’s cheek. “You’ve already got me.”

“I don’t know,” Bond says with a smirk, “I think a pick up ’s exactly what you need.”

Bond grabs his thighs and lifts Q up until he has to wrap his legs around the other man for balance. Bond then sets him on the counter, sliding between Q’s open knees.

“I changed my mind. I can’t be with you. The puns are too much,” Q groans.

He’s smiling though, even as he leans forward for another kiss, and he knows he’s not fooling Bond for one second.