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Fourteen

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MI6 is a crypt when Bond arrives at half-past ten on a chilly Thursday evening.

The security officer on duty is sleepy-eyed and squinting in the dark at a tatty novel. Bond doesn’t remember his name. John? Jim? Something like that. John/Jim glances up and offers a general greeting that Bond returns. He’s been trained; John/Jim doesn’t ask about Bond’s day or how he’s doing because he’s not supposed to know. Despite this, Bond sees him glance up at the bleeding gash over his eyebrow, at the way Bond is holding his right arm stiffly against his front. It’s not a wondering look--the man knows who is employer is, after all--but more of a concerned one. Still, he’s trained. He doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even ask to see Bond’s identification. They’ve met like this before, the two of them, and Bond’s grateful for his lack of suspicion.

“Have a nice night,” John/Jim says, as Bond passes through the deactivated metal detectors.

Once inside, Six feels more like a tomb than ever. The lights are all on emergencies-only, casting the corridors in an eerie half-glow. The administrative staff has all gone. Their offices are as dark as the hallways. Bond knows he’s just missed the cleaners as well, if the smell of disinfectant and carpet cleaner is any indication.

Bond walks through the serpentine maze of closed doors and shaded windows without breaking stride, taking the lift to the lowest basement. If he’s smart about this, he can get in, drop his broken equipment off with some terrified member of the night crew, and then get out before someone thinks to give him paperwork. Bond is honestly looking forward to going back to his flat and nursing a bottle of Hennessy until the pain in his arm goes away.

When the lift doors open, Bond sees that Q Branch is also half-lit from above, but it’s darker than usual. The night shift is nonexistent, their screens black, computers quiet. The only light Bond sees is from the corner office. The door is propped open, spilling some yellow light onto the floor outside. If Bond strains his ears, he can hear the rapid click, click, click of typing.

He considers turning around and going home, as his Quartermaster is the last one he wants to meet right now. But just as Bond makes to retreat, one of the overhead cameras turns toward him. Its little motor whirs as the lens zooms in on his face. Bond grins at it, knowing there’s nothing for it now that he’s been caught.

So he goes toward the light and pushes open the door a bit more, then leans against the frame as casually as he can manage with a (most-likely) sprained shoulder. His Quartermaster is at his desk, his mustard yellow cardigan rumpled from what appears to have been a long work day. He does not look up to regard him immediately, so Bond waits. Two can play this game.

“You aren’t going to Medical,” Q says, not asks, once he’s finished.

He is looking at Bond now, disappointment in every severe line of his face and body. He’s too tired and drawn for someone his age, Bond thinks, like he thinks every time he sees his Quartermaster nowadays. It’s been nearly a year since Skyfall, since Q had shouldered the blame for Bond’s actions and been under scrutiny by the PM, by Mallory, everyone. Bond can’t bear to see that disappointment furthered by the loss of his gun and the broken watch on his wrist, so he puts on his best smile and asks:

“Dinner?”

Q turns away from him to open his bottom left desk drawer.

“Go sit on the sofa,” Q tells him, and Bond goes.

The sofa is strewn with papers and plans, so Bond shoves them to one side carelessly and then sits down. He avoids the spot right in the middle, where the center part of the frame juts up uncomfortably. He learnt his lesson after Morocco when he’d kipped on it at Q’s insistence. It had taken two weeks for his back to stop hurting.

“Your sofa’s shite,” Bond says.

“Deal with it,” Q answers as he pushes his chair over, nearly knocking down a pile of precariously stacked folders near the filing cabinets.

Bond grumbles under his breath, but doesn’t rise to it.

“I thought you were on days,” Bond says, as Q picks up the first aid kit from his seat and then sits down.

“I took the night shift today,” Q replies, flipping open the latch on the med kit. “Shirt off, please.”

“So forward. I like that in a man,” Bond says.

“You like anything with a pulse,” Q answers dryly, but his hands are gentle when he helps Bond out of his right sleeve.

“Speaking of which, it’s dead in here tonight. Where is everyone?” Bond asks.

“Gave them the night off,” Q replies, his voice distracted as his hands moved over the bruises on Bond’s skin. His fingers are light and cool; they make the fine hairs rise up on his arms. “Anything besides the shoulder I should know about?”

“Why?”

“Because internal bleeding is a concern.”

“No, why did you give them the night off?”

Q blinks.

“It’s Valentine’s Day.”

Bond raises his eyebrows. Both of them.

“They were all moping,” Q explains with a frown, as he digs through the kit, “it was unbearable.”

“Why aren’t you out?” Bond asks.

Q gives him a look that borders on condescending.

“I take it you don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day,” Bond says, as Q unwinds a roll of gauze.

“Silly thing to celebrate the martyrdom of a Saint with flowers and sweets, don’t you think?” Q answers.

“What about drinks?” Bond asks, as Q begins to wrap up his shoulder. He grins again when he adds: “Dinner?”

“You should really get this looked at by a professional,” is all Q says.

“You should really have had dinner by now,” Bond says.

“I’m a big boy. I can take care of myself,” Q answers, as he ties off the gauze.

They are very close in that moment, closer than they have ever been before in all the times that Q has played nurse for him at all ungodly hours of the morning. It’s professionally inappropriate, Bond realises, when he finds himself staring at Q’s lips.

“But I want to,” Bond says, before he can stop himself.

“Hm?” Q asks, as he gently begins prodding at the cut on Bond’s forehead with antiseptic.

“I want to take you to dinner,” Bond explains, “to say thank you for all of this.”

Q pastes a plaster to his forehead.

“I am not having sex with you, Bond.”

“Well could you at least kiss it to make it all better?” Bond asks.

Q rolls his eyes and gathers up the rubbish from the used medical supplies.

“Take some panadol,” Q advises him, as he bins the papers and cotton swabs. Then he opens the drawer of his desk and puts the medical kit away. He returns with a blister pack of painkillers and a glossy paper.

It’s a menu.

“I want the General Tso’s tofu and an order of crab rangoon,” Q says, placing the pills and menu in Bond’s hand. “You’ve got to call soon because they close at midnight. Tim will buzz them in without a fuss if you promise him an order of egg rolls.”

“Tim,” Bond repeats.

“The night guard,” Q explains.

“Ah,” Bond says, and wonders if he’ll be able to remember that next time.

“Bond.”

Bond looks up, just as Q leans forward to kiss him very gently on the bandage covering his eyebrow. Then he smiles, just so, and Bond knows in that moment that he is in very, very deep trouble.

“Make that two orders of crab rangoon. I’m starving.”