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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.”

Chapter Text

It’s darker than dark and sleeting something terrible when Bond arrives back in London. He’s bruised and tired and been in the air for over twenty hours, so he’s looking forward to sleeping at least that equivalent once he’s touched down. But the moment he’s disembarked and is out at the kerb to hail a taxi, Bond finds himself giving an address to the driver that is not his.

It always seems to happen, that split-second decision that takes him in the opposite direction of his own flat. Always in the same direction. To the same person. Again and again. Bond wonders at himself sometimes, because he’s got a burner phone with the numbers of married men and women with whom he has had continued affairs over the years. But he never calls them.

Not anymore.

Forty-five minutes later, the driver drops him off at the corner of a nondescript street in a nondescript neighbourhood. The sleet is coming down even worse now and Bond has no umbrella, so in the dash to the front door of the building from the taxi, he gets soaked. Bond’s still shaking the water out of his jacket when he enters the lift and presses the number for the topmost floor.

He checks his watch. It’s coming on eleven. Certainly it’s inappropriate, the hour inconvenient, but Bond knows he won’t be turned away.

Q’s predictable like that.

Bond knows that Q will look like he’s being put-upon, will sigh that ever-suffering sigh of his and wave Bond inside. Then they’ll fuck like it’s going out of style, until all that pent-up aggression and adrenaline fades. And when Q’s asleep--or pretending to sleep--Bond will sneak out and they won’t speak of it again.

They never do.

It’s been going on for about a year, an on and off affair. They’re not dating, they never will, not in their profession. Bond thought it might be troublesome, but surprisingly, it was Q who requested the no-strings-attached arrangement. Bond didn’t ask if he had other lovers and didn’t want to--still doesn’t want to--know. All he asked for was that Q be there when he needed--wanted--him, and Q always is.

It’s steady, this thing between them. Reliable. Bond’s come to depend on it more than he wants to admit. He knows that Q understands him, that he doesn’t expect anything of him. And Bond knows that he doesn’t have to lie to Q. There are no secrets between them.

So that’s why Bond’s here instead of with another lover, or at his own flat sleeping off the aches and pains of a mission for which he might have definitely been too old. He’s here because he knows Q will not turn him away.

Q never will.

When he arrives at the top floor, Bond walks to the end of the hall to the last door, where he knows there is a retinal scan in the peep hole and a biometric reader in the doorknob. Bond discovered a long time ago that he’s not in the system as an authenticated guest and that the doorknob can give a nasty shock if he tries picking it. He should feel some sort of betrayal that Q does not give him unlimited access, but Bond knows Q too well by now to feel offended. They are both in the secret service; it’s in their nature to be cautious of everyone, lovers included.

So he knocks and then waits, straining his ears for the tell-tale scuffle of Q’s slippered feet on the other side.

When Q opens the door, Bond knows he’s just woken him up. He’s not wearing his glasses.The hair on the side of his head is sticking up spectacularly.

Bond wants to say something, something witty or rude or teasing, but nothing comes out. And Q sighs that predictable, long-suffering sigh as he opens the door wider for Bond to enter.

“I woke you,” Bond says, as he tugs off his wet jacket and hangs it on the hook behind the door.

Q rubs at his eyes, then blinks at him.

“You’re dripping on my floor,” Q replies, looking down at the puddle beneath Bond’s feet.

And Bond doesn’t know why, but he has to kiss Q. He has to, because the moment is so wrong for it when he’s drenched and shaking and so tired but Q is there with his endearing, annoyed-but-not-annoyed expression, his agitation softened so beautifully by sleep.

So Bond kisses him.

It’s not one of those kisses that stops time. It’s not earth-shattering; there are no fireworks. It’s not at all like when they come together after too long apart and they’re desperate with relief and adrenaline and anger and there’s nothing but tongue and teeth and skin between them. This time, it’s quiet. It’s something something warm and soft and fragile between them, something new and slightly terrifying.

When it’s over, Q looks at him with an expression that Bond’s never seen before. Then he turns away and says:

“I’ll get you a towel.”

Bond toes out of his soaked shoes and follows, leaving wet footprints in his wake. He meets Q in the dark hallway just outside of the bedroom. The linen cupboard door is open.

“Here,” Q says, pushing a towel into Bond’s hands.

“Thanks,” Bond replies.

He’s uncertain now where they stand, and he feels nervous in a way that he is unaccustomed. But then Q touches his arm and leads him into the bedroom. It’s there that he kisses Bond in that same quiet, soft, undemanding way that Bond had kissed him.

“Let’s get you out of these clothes,” Q says, when he pulls away.

It’s too dark to see his face properly, so Bond relies on touch; on the way that Q’s hands are steady and gentle when they remove his bracers and belt, unbutton his shirt and his trousers before dropping the sodden garments carelessly onto the floor. His fingers are warm when they tug the hem of Bond’s vest over his head, when he slides Bond’s pants down along his hips. Bond’s socks are the last to go, and Q takes just as much care with them as he did everything else.

If that doesn’t speak volumes, Bond isn’t sure what would.

“Sit,” Q says, and Bond obediently does, sitting naked on the edge of the mattress.

“You’re always ordering me about,” Bond says.

“It’s because deep down, you truly enjoy it,” Q answers, as he leans over to turn on the bedside light.

The room is cast in light and warmth. Bond sees then that the bed is unmade on Q’s side, the blankets and sheets pushed back. The other side, where he usually sleeps, is untouched. Bond wonders if Q leaves that space open, waiting for him.

“I really didn’t mean to wake you,” Bond says, as he touches the disrupted duvet.

“Shh,” Q tells him, as he takes the towel and begins rubbing at Bond’s damp body in quick, vigorous drying motions.

It’s only when Bond is dry down to his ankles that Q stands up again, then drapes the towel over Bonds head to begin rubbing at his hair.

“What would you do without me?” Q murmurs as he works.

Bond doesn’t know. He honestly doesn’t. So he reaches out and pulls Q close, until the other man has no choice but to straddle him to continue working. Bond rests his forehead against Q’s chest, listens as Q’s quiet humming doesn’t pause at the new position. Q’s like that. Adaptable. Accommodating.

And Bond loves him for it.

“Are you sure you don’t want to shower?” Q asks him after a minute. “You’re cold.”

“Warm me up then,” Bond says.

Q tugs the towel off of Bond’s head and tosses it onto the floor. Bond can see him now, golden in the light of the bedside lamp. It catches his lower lip when he grins and pushes Bond back onto the mattress.

“With pleasure,” Q answers.

And it’s only later, when Q is sprawled over his chest, that Bond catches the date on Q’s watch.

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Bond says.

“Mm,” is Q’s noncommittal response.

Bond presses closer to Q, holding him tightly, earnestly.

“What?” Q asks, when Bond doesn’t say anything else. He’s tucked right under Bond’s chin, his words slurred with sleepiness, and Bond just doesn’t have the heart to keep him up.

“Nothing,” Bond says, and kisses his soft, sweet-smelling hair. “Good night.”

He reaches out and turns off the bedside light. The room falls dark and quiet around them, the only sound their breaths and the splattering of sleet against the window.

“James,” Q says, curling his fingers around Bond’s wrist.

“Hm?”


Q’s finger taps at Bond’s pulse point. It’s Morse. Outdated, but still useful. Bond’s surprised that Q knows it. But as the letters form words on the inside of his wrist, Bond wonders if Q learnt it just for him.

Love you.

Bond turns his hand and takes Q’s in his, brings it to his mouth, and kisses his knuckles in the same pattern of short and long motions.

I love you, too.

Chapter Text

Everyone is staring at him.

Bond is used to it at Six. He’s a legend, after all; it comes with the territory. People know him, or at least know of him, and their gazes are often times a blend of fear and desire. And Bond’s dressed to break both bones and hearts in his bespoke navy suit (in fact, he’s done both, in this very same outfit), but his true intentions are obvious in what he carries with him.

Roses.

It’s cliche, Bond knows, but he had walked by the florist’s on his way in to work and they’d been in the window. It must have been the last bouquet in London on Valentine’s Day; Bond hadn’t even thought twice about the purchase. But now that the flowers are in his hand and he’s being stared at, he’s having second thoughts.

He hadn’t thought about the gossip.

Immediately, Bond diverts and takes the lift to the top floor, where he knows just who can give him the advice he needs.

“You shouldn’t have,” Eve says, when he enters her office and she sees the flowers.

Not as if she doesn’t have enough on her desk. There’s all sorts: roses and carnations and lilies and dozens upon dozens of wildflowers. And, of course, there’s chocolates. Heaps and heaps of shiny little red and gold boxes of sweets. Bond is surprised the desk hasn’t collapsed under all the weight.

“It seems I’m late,” Bond says.

“As always,” Eve replies, then laughs. “Accounting is trying to buy my good favour now that audits are upon us.”

“So they decided to break their budget with flowers,” Bond says.

“Oh, these aren’t all from them. You know, I have many admirers. Even the Royal Mail gent brought me something,” Eve says, dancing her fingers over the petals of some lovely roses.

“And Mallory?” Bond inquires.

“Knows the way to a woman’s heart,” Eve answers, as she withdraws a bottle of very expensive wine from her desk drawer.

“So I take it that these will only get in your way, then?” Bond asks, holding up his own flowers.

Eve regards him with a raised eyebrow.

“You mean those aren’t for our lovely Quartermaster?”

“Why would they be?”

Bond does well not to let anything show in his expression.  No one at Six knows about him and Q. They’d done well to keep it a secret over the past year. Q had insisted on privacy and discretion, especially since their relationship could be construed as misconduct considering the fact that Q was technically Bond’s superior. So they continued on as they had with their verbal sparring, their flirtatious banter over the comms, and Bond never touched Q at work and Q never glanced at him twice before he walked out the door. They were professional until the moment they stepped off government property, when they returned to their shared flat where they pointedly would not take their hands off one another.

“Anyone with eyes can see you fancy him,” Eve says, but then she frowns and continues: “Though he might not like the flowers. He came up earlier and made such a sad commentary about mine. Said how sad it was to watch them die. So broody.”

Bond’s frowning before he can help it. He should have known that Q wouldn’t like the flowers. He doesn’t like public gestures of affection, let alone tokens of it. It had taken over three years of knowing Q before the other man had finally put out some of the souvenirs that Bond had brought back from his travels. Even then, he hid them in his office behind his monitor where no one could see them except him.

“Are you ashamed?” Bond had asked one night, indicating the knick-knacks hidden by paperwork and gadgetry.

“Of course not,” Q answered briskly, not even looking up from his work.

“Then why--”

“Because,” Q said, before Bond could finish.

The light from his desk lamp made it difficult to see his eyes behind his lenses.

“Because they’re mine. You gave them to me and they’re mine to look at. It’s between you and me and no one else.”

Bond placed both his hands on Q’s desk and leant forward. Q was fiddling with one of the trinkets Bond had brought back: a tiny snow globe with the Taj Mahal inside.

“That’s very selfish of you, Quartermaster.”

“I’m very selfish when it comes to the things that are most important to me.”

It was rare to hear Q speak that way. He wasn’t romantic, Bond knew that first hand. Q preferred his logic and intellect to that sort of business. But he cared more deeply than he let on. It was in the way that he would make coffee for Bond in the mornings and leave warm towels on the sink while he was in the shower. It was in the way that Q would undress him after a long mission and kiss the insides of his wrists after he removed Bond’s cuff links. Q loved him, he just had a very different way of showing it.

“Is that your way of saying you love me, Q?”

Q reverently adjusts the Taj Mahal back in its particular place, then yanks on Bond’s tie playfully.

“Get out of here. I’ve got work to do.”

“I love you, too.”

“It’s a good thing that these are for you, then,” Bond says, and holds out the flowers to her.

“I don’t have any room,” Eve says, as she leans back in her chair.

Her eyes are glittering, like she knows. Like she’s known all along. And Bond gets a sinking feeling in his stomach, that one that he sometimes gets in the field when he knows he’s been outsmarted.

“Right,” Bond says, and brings the flowers back to the crook of his arm. “I’ll be going then.”

“Good luck,” she says, her grin cat-like and mischievous.

I’m going to need it Bond thinks, as he takes the lift back down, this time bypassing the ground floor in lieu of the basement.

When he arrives, Q-Branch is humming with activity and chatter, more so than usual. It doesn’t seem to be work-related, as Bond does not sense the razor-edged intensity that pervades the room during a crisis. Instead, he notes that most of the techs are laughing with one another, drinking out of red and pink cups, sharing sweets out of red and pink boxes. They barely notice him when he comes in, and Bond thinks that he might just get by without being seen, but then he runs into R.

“Oh and what are these?” she asks of the flowers, then looks suspicious. “What did you do?”

“Did I have to do something?” Bond inquires, playing wounded.

“There had better be a fully functional Walther inside that bouquet, or else you’ll be stuck with paperwork til the end of the month,” R says, as she walks away.

The techs nearest him pointedly go back to their conversations after she leaves, but Bond knows that the gossip will be round the building before close. There’s nothing for it now, so Bond goes into Q’s office like he’s going into war.

Only to find that Q is not there.

Disappointed, Bond takes a seat in Q’s chair. He has half the mind to put his feet up to get comfortable, but the last thing he wants is Q to be aggravated with him when he first walks in. Despite this, Q is aggravated when he first walks in. Bond can tell because Q has his I’ve got a headache look pinching his mouth that only comes out after stressful missions and redundant Head of Department meetings.

“Panadol?” Bond asks.

“Please,” Q groans as he drops his files and tablet onto the corner of his desk.

Bond opens the top desk drawer and removes a blister pack from Q’s stash, then stands up and brings it to him. Q takes it dry, then rubs at the back of his neck with a wince. It takes all of Bond’s willpower not to offer his own hands, but they are at work and he knows how Q feels about it.

“They should pay me more,” Q grumbles.

“Or get you a secretary,” Bond offers.

“Now that’s an idea. I wonder if I could bribe Moneypenny...” Q muses, as he reaches for his tablet.

It’s then that Bond sees his eyes land upon the bouquet that Bond had left on his desk.

“What are those?” Q asks.

“Flowers,” Bond answers.

“Is someone sick?”

“No.”

“Is it Moneypenny’s birthday? She had a lot of flowers on her desk this morning.”

Bond feels a creeping embarrassment. He ought to have known that it hadn’t been a good idea. He picks up the flowers and smooths the crinkled paper as he asks:

“Do you know what today is?”

Q blinks, then frowns.

“Wednesday?”

“Valentine’s Day.”

Q looks at Bond’s face, then the flowers.

“They’re for you,” Bond says.

“Oh,” is all Q manages.

Bond holds out the flowers awkwardly. Q just as awkwardly takes them, then holds them out from his body as if unsure what to do with them. For some reason, it makes Bond feel guilty and stupid.

“I’ll take them out,” Bond says, reaching for the bouquet.

“No!” Q blurts out, pulling back before Bond can take them. Then Q goes red. The reddest red Bond has ever seen him outside of the bedroom. Q’s blushing, honest-to-God blushing, over something as trivial as flowers. Bond feels a rush of affection towards him and it doubles when Q continues: “No. I’m sorry. They’re lovely, I’ve just…”

Q turns away, hiding behind the paper and petals.

“I’ve just never gotten flowers before.”

“What?”

Bond can’t imagine it. Certainly one of his lovers in the past had been thoughtful enough? Certainly one of them had treated Q the way he ought to be treated? Or had they all thought, like Bond, that he wouldn’t have liked them?

“You mean no one--”

“I mean I’ve got nothing to put them in,” Q says, his voice a little louder.

Then all in a hurry he’s turning over files and papers and plans on his desk. He’s muttering as he does this:

“Maybe a mug? I think I’ve got another one around here someplace…”

“Q.”

“Hm?”

Bond reaches out a hand and places it on Q’s, stilling his frantic movements.

“You’ve never gotten flowers before?”

Q hides his face behind the bouquet, but Bond can see that his ears are redder than the roses.

“I’m bad at taking care of things,” Q explains.

“You don’t have to take care of anything. They won’t last more than a few days,” Bond says.

“Only a few days? How superfluous,” Q says.

“Do they make you happy?” Bond asks.

If possible, Q hides even further into the bouquet.

“I’m allergic,” he says.

“Liar,” Bond laughs.

Q peeks up at him over the tops of the flowers.

“Okay, that last one was a lie.”

“You can like them, you know,” Bond says.

Q sighs, then rubs his cheek over the plump rose buds. Bond watches the way that his lashes flutter at the silken touch and God he’s beautiful.

“I’m not good at this,” Q explains quietly. “I’m not romantic.”

“I know,” Bond says, “but I keep you around all the same.”

Q hides his smile, but Bond can see it in his eyes.

“So what do I do with them besides look at them?” Q asks.

“You just look at them,” Bond explains, as he starts rifling through some of the things on Q’s desk.

He finds the discarded cup that had Q had been searching for earlier. There are dried tea stains at the bottom, but it looks good enough for the intended purpose. Bond then rolls up a few non-important documents and places them in the mug. When Bond takes the flowers, he places them inside the makeshift funnel so that they sit upright in the too-small container.

“We’ll need to get you a vase,” Bond says when he’s through.

“No, it’s charming somehow. I think the budget report gives it character,” Q replies.

They both laugh. It’s so easy with Q. It always has been.

“Thank you,” Q says, as he rubs one of the petals between his thumb and forefinger.

“You’re welcome,” Bond answers.

“I don’t have anything for you,” Q adds, looking guilty.

“I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Bond says, and winks.

Q rolls his eyes, then goes back to his flowers.

“Did everyone see you walk in with these?” he asks.

“Yup.”

“Ah,” Q says, but it’s not as disappointed as Bond thought it might be. “You know people will talk.”

Bond can’t help himself. He places his hands at Q’s hips and draws him closer, until Q is pressed against his front. It’s definitely violating their agreement to keep things private, but Bond is desperate to hold him, to kiss the warm patch of skin at the back of Q’s neck. And Q doesn’t pull away or chastise him. Instead, Q relaxes as if they are at home alone, in no fear of being discovered by their fifty-plus co-workers on the other side of the door.

“Well you know, good gossip is always rooted in some matter of truth,” Bond says, dragging his lips over Q’s skin, up into his hair.

“Oh? And what does that mean?” Q asks, turning round in Bond’s hold so that they are face-to-face.

Bond grins.

“Let’s really give them something to talk about.”

Q takes off his glasses and folds them neatly next to the impromptu vase of flowers. Then he twirls his finger around Bond’s tie and pulls him close.

“You are a bad, bad man,” Q says against Bond’s mouth.

“I’ve never claimed to be anything else,” Bond replies.

“Good. I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

Chapter Text

It’s a cool, clear night in Mykonos. The storm from the past few days had dissipated earlier that afternoon, leaving a refreshing, crisp evening it its wake. All of the windows are lit up and bright, busy with the bustle of activity of a hundred other lives in the building across from his. They’re all cheerful and laughing and drinking. There’s music Bond can just barely hear from his vantage point.

It’s Valentine’s Day.

And Bond’s here to kill a man.

“Status,” Q says in his ear.

“It’s Valentine’s day,” Bond replies.

He’s hiding out in a building that is in the middle of renovations. It smells like paint and plaster and fiberglass. His knees are numb from holding his position so long and there’s a tension headache starting up just behind his eye from peering through the scope in the dark. And it’s Valentine’s Day and he’s not at home.

“Focus, Bond,” Q tells him. “Where is the target?”

Bond peers through the scope. He sees the target with his wife. They are on the balcony overlooking one of the hotel pools. He’s tucking her hair behind her ear and saying things to her that are making her smile and laugh.

“Southwest balcony,” Bond says morosely.

He watches as the target removes a black box from his coat pocket. When he opens it, there are diamonds inside. Lots of diamonds. Diamonds purchased with the money he’d accumulated selling weapons and state secrets to terrorists.

“Make it clean. No witnesses,” Q says.

“He’s with his wife,” Bond answers, as he watches her delight as he places the diamonds around her neck.

“Wait til she’s gone inside.”

“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Bond says again.

“Stop it, Bond.”

“I mean, they’ll be attached at the hip.”

“She’ll have to go sometime. Patience,” Q says calmly, the voice of reason. “We don’t want any witnesses to give away your location. It’s too risky where you’re at. Not enough escape routes. Honestly, we should have waited until tomorrow when they were on the walking tour. The location would have been better for getting away unseen.”

“I should have gotten this done with a week ago,” Bond reminds him.

“No matter how much you think I can do everything, I can’t control the weather,” Q answers.

Bond sighs and re-adjusts the stock against his shoulder. It’s his bad one. It’s aching as much as his knee. It makes him wish that he was home, lounging on the sofa beneath a blanket with Q sprawled on top of him. There’s something irresistible about Q when he’s like that: warm and soft at the cusp of sleep.

“I should be home,” Bond says regretfully.

There’s the click of the recording device switching off.

“James, please. Not right now.”

Q’s voice is very quiet, as if he is trying to prevent his staff from overhearing. A while back, it’d gotten out that they were seeing one another, living together. Mallory had been in fits for months, threatening to revoke both of their titles if they did not separate. But Q had been adamant in not giving in and so Bond had behaved as best as he knew how. Eventually things from Mallory and HR had quieted, but only on the continued assurance that their performance did not suffer and that they were always at the height of professionalism.

And this was not professional, Bond knew. He hated himself for it, but he couldn’t stop himself.

“Then when?”

“It’s not important.”

“It is,” Bond says, then tries for humour. “I had plans to woo you, you know.”

“The wooing’s already been done,” Q says, in that assuring way he used when Bond had nightmares that woke him at strange hours, sweating and trembling. “You’ve got me. I’ll be here when you come home. The day is irrelevant.”

“But I like the wooing,” Bond says, even though he knows he’s being impertinent at this point.

“James Bond,” Q says, “please.”

Bond is about to bait him, because he likes it sometimes when Q gets riled up over the comms. It shows him how much Q truly cares when he gets snippy. But there’s something in the hitched half-breath that comes through that tells Bond it’s something else.

“Focus.”

“Q…”

“Focus or I’m going to relinquish you to R.”

“What, why?” Bond asks.

“Because of what’s happening right now. Have you even been watching the target?” Q asks.

Bond looks through the scope. His target is gone. He and his wife had returned inside sometime during the conversation and now Bond cannot see them.

“Of course I have,” Bond replies, sweeping the scope slowly along the windows of the building.

“You haven’t been,” Q says, and sighs. “This is what everyone was worried about. What I  was worried about. You’re distracted.”

“I’m not,” Bond argues, even though Q is right. He’s lost the target. He’s never lost the target before.

It was pure carelessness.

“You are,” Q says, in his strictest Quartermaster voice. “I don’t want you getting sloppy on my account. That’s unacceptable. Do you understand, 007?”

“Understood,” Bond says stiffly.

But the recording device doesn’t switch back on, even after a few minutes of silence, when Bond can only hear his own breathing as he searches for his target among the open windows of the hotel.

“James,” Q murmurs, in the way that he sometimes does when they are in their bed late at night, when the rest of the world has long since fallen asleep.

It’s soft, vulnerable. Bond can almost see him, tucked into the little alcove between Q-Branch and the lifts where his staff cannot see him, pressing the microphone hard against his cheek.

“I just want you to be safe,” Q says. “I don’t want to be the reason you don’t come home. I can’t be.”

He’s uncertain, but Bond thinks Q sounds close to crying. In all the years Bond’s known Q, he’s never seen him cry. Never heard him. Not even after they lost five field agents last year. But here he is now, on Valentine’s Day, sounding as close to tears as Bond had ever heard. And there is a heaviness in his chest knowing he caused it.

“Q…”

“Please just don’t be an arse and listen to me,” Q says, his voice stronger now, much more authoritative.

“I promise,” Bond says, and means it.

He catches sight of the target in his cross-hairs. He’s alone in the bedroom, removing his cuff links, his tie, his bracers. Bond presses hard into the viewfinder of the scope and sees steam coming from the bathroom. His wife must be inside. They have minutes, if that, to pull off this assassination.

“Target in sight,” Bond tells him.

The recording device switches back on.

“You know what to do, 007,” Q says, “and if you complete your objective in time, I can arrange for you to be on the 2100 flight back to London this evening.”

Bond lines up the target in his sight.

He doesn’t need to be told twice.

It is Valentine's Day, after all.

Chapter Text

“If there’s one thing I love about you, it’s that there’s never a dull moment when we’re together.”

Bond looks over at Q, who smiles at him. His dark hair is all in disarray and his eyes are bright behind his glasses. He’s gorgeous, Bond thinks, but can’t look long. He has to duck down as another bullet whizzes overhead.

They are crouched behind their overturned table in the ruins of their Valentine’s Day dinner. The evening had started well, at least. They had 7pm reservations and the best seats in the house and Q looked absolutely delectable in his bespoke suit. Bond had insisted for months that Q be fitted by his personal tailor, and Q had relented, finally, as a Christmas peace-offering. It had been hard to keep his hands off the other man, who begged to be ravished with his neat, crisp lines of wool and silk. But Bond desired him even more so when Q did not ward off the attention, looking over the rims of his lenses at Bond with dark, sultry eyes. Q knew how good he looked and what it did to Bond and was very happy to use that against him. Bond couldn’t help but lean close to him after the wine arrived--after Q had licked the dark red Malbec from his lower lip with a pink, teasing tongue--to tell Q, in great detail, just what he was going to do to him that night when they retired to their hotel room.

So it had been going well. Spectacularly well, in fact. And they had just received their entrees when the gunfire started, forcing Bond to use their table as cover. The hundred-quid bottle of wine lay upended on its side by their feet, its contents wasted.

“Shame about the wine, though,” Q says, as he expertly reloads his own weapon and then hands the gun back to Bond.

“I’ll make it up to you,” Bond tells him, tossing his empty gun to the ground between them before using Q’s gun to fire off two rounds in the direction of the attackers.

The second one hits home. Bond hears one of them slump to the floor, followed by the outraged shouts of his comrades.

“I’m sure you will,” Q says, picking up the discarded Walther between them. He reaches for the strap around his ankle holding ammunition and adds, “this is my last clip, so make it count.”

Just then, the top part of their table explodes, raining sharp wooden shards down upon them.

Bond takes the opportunity in the confusion to drag Q away from the table to the safety of a marble column.

“I’ll admit, this is not how I thought tonight would go,” Bond tells him, as he crouches down to peek round the other side of the pillar.

There are two remaining men with their weapons, squinting through the dust in search of him. Bond doesn’t recognise them, but he knows that they must be looking for him on behalf of someone Bond pissed off recently.

“And how did you think tonight would go?”

“Dinner, candlelight, a little romance. Definitely didn't want to involve international terrorism to the evening.”

A chunk of marble is chipped away by a bullet. Bond hurriedly returns to his place behind the pillar, where Q presses hard against his side to avoid being hit from the other direction.

“Well, your intentions were good,” Q says, and laughs.

He’s covered in dust and debris, his new suit most likely ruined, but he’s still smiling, albeit somewhat strained. There’s love there, honest-to-God love despite the situation, and Bond adores him for it.

“I am sorry,” Bond says.

“None of that now,” Q reminds him. “We are being shot at. Apologies can wait. Backup is on it’s way.”

“You called Six?”

“We’re being shot at.”

“I can handle it.”

“Then handle it before they arrive. I estimate another five minutes or so.”

Bond does it in three.

“There, was it that hard?” Q asks, once it’s over.

The restaurant is in shambles. All of the guests are hunkered down beneath their tables or huddled in corners, sobbing, traumatised. Bond holsters both of their weapons and holds out his hand to Q to help him stand. There’s a cut on the back of Q’s hand that’s bleeding sluggishly.

“You’re hurt,” Bond says.

“I’m fine,” Q answers, brushing the dirt and glass from his suit.

Bond reaches for his injured hand and quickly wraps it in his handkerchief, tying it off tightly to encourage a clot.

“We should get this looked at,” Bond says.

Outside, he sees the flashing lights of emergency responders and personnel. They’ll be entering the building momentarily, once they ascertain that the threat is over.

“We should take the back door out of here,” Q answers, sliding his arms round Bond’s shoulders.

They’re pressed together, dirty and panting, slightly sweaty from the ordeal, and Q’s eyes are dark, dark green.

“What are you saying?” Bond asks, as he moves his hands beneath Q’s jacket, up under his rumpled shirt to touch his heated skin.

Q shivers, and just like that, he’s hard against Bond’s thigh.

“I need you to take all my clothes off. Preferably right now, but it’s probably for the best that we do that in private,” Q says, rocking his hips against Bond’s as he kisses him.

It’s hungry, passionate, and Bond knows that it’s the result of pure adrenaline. Almost dying does that to people. Bond’s experienced it with Q before, after a mission, but usually hours after, sometimes days, and always heady with relief instead of this raw, animalistic desperation.

And it’s absolutely thrilling.

From there, Bond can’t say how they made it to the hotel room. All he remembers is bursting into the room with Q’s arms and legs around him, kissing him once, twice, before depositing his lover on the bed, where Bond undresses him. Then it’s Q looking up at him with his wild hair and bruised mouth, so fuckable that Bond nearly rips his jacket in frustration as he pulls it off himself.

“There’ll be paperwork tomorrow,” Bond says, his voice rough and wrecked, even to his own ears.

“Sod the paperwork. It’s Valentine’s Day,” Q says beckoning Bond with his eyes and his lips and his body, spreading his legs wide and inviting. “Now come here and do your worst.”

Bond slides off his tie and drops it over the edge of the mattress.

“It would be my pleasure.”

Chapter Text

When he wakes, it’s to the smell of hospital.

It’s familiar now, the sterile antibiotic cleaner and latex dust overpowering the scents of blood and urine, illness and death. Bond knows it too intimately, has known it perhaps too well in the past few years. The older he gets, the more times he seems to end up here, and not always with the bullet holes and stab wounds of his youth. Sometimes it’s something as laughable as a pulled muscle, an infected laceration, the things that wouldn’t have slowed him down years ago.

But Bond’s slow now. He’s sluggish with pain killers and sleepy from the sickly sweet smell of Medical-brand laundry detergent. There’s no pain, though. The most he can feel is that the tips of his fingers and toes are cold and that a piece of tape is pulling his skin taut on the back of his left hand. Other than that, there’s blissful numbness, nothingness.

It’s concerning, Bond thinks, because if they put him on the good drugs, there ought to be a very bad reason for it. So he tries to bring up a memory, the last thing he can remember, to prepare himself for the worst. He doesn’t get much. Noise, fire, blood. It’s all hazy, distorted imagery warped by pain and fear. Fear is new. In all his years of service, Bond’s never been afraid. He’s always been prepared to die for Queen and Country, because that was all he had in the world.

Until Q.

Q.

He forces himself through the drugs and exhaustion, fighting every part of him that begs for rest and reprieve, because he has to open his eyes. He has to. He has to because he knows that for every second he doesn’t, Q will be counting them. Worrying. Waiting. And Bond is so tired of making Q worry and wait.

That’s all he seems to do nowadays.

As he struggles to consciousness, one of the machines beeps out of rhythm with the rest of them. Almost immediately, there is rustle beside him, the scrape of a chair against lino, and then there’s a warm hand round his and Q’s voice, his beautiful, beautiful voice:

“James?”

Bond manages to open one eye. Just one, but it’s enough. Q is there beside him, looking like he hasn’t slept in days with his wildly tousled hair and the dark circles beneath his eyes and the beginning of a beard he’s neglected to shave. His eyes are rimmed red from lack of sleep, from crying. Bond knows he’s been crying. Even with only one eye open and the dimmed, distorted light, Bond can see the tear stains on his cheeks.

And Bond’s never seen him look more beautiful.

“James, talk to me,” Q says, and there’s desperation to it that Bond’s never heard before.

No. That’s not right. Bond has heard it before. It’s the same desperation Bond recalls in between the noise and fire and blood. 007. 007, report. Bond. Bond, talk to me. I’m blind here. I repeat, I’m blind. I can’t get a visual on you. Bond, report. Bond! Answer me. Goddammit, James, answer me!

Q touches his cheek; his fingers are warm, trembling.

“Please,” Q whispers, and leans close to him, so close that his mouth touches Bond’s lips when he says: “James.”

Bond understands it then. He understands in its entirety why he felt such fear, why he remembers it most clearly of everything that had happened. It is because of this. Bond had been afraid he would never kiss Q again.

The relief is nothing but euphoric.

He tries to say something, anything, but his mouth is parched, his tongue like sand and all Bond can manage is something that vaguely resembles Q.

Q’s breath hitches, a little tremble of air against Bond’s lips.

“Thank God... oh, thank God, thank God, thank God, James…” Q says, kissing Bond every other word.

It takes a great deal of effort, but Bond manages:

“You don’t...believe in God…”

And Q laughs a high, relieved sound.

“Safe to say that if there is a God, He doesn’t want you anywhere near those pearly gates.”

“Good. I’m...not done yet...”

Bond’s voice gives out on the last word. Q straightens up and turns to the bedside, out of Bond’s range of sight. Bond hears him pour a glass of water from a pitcher and his dry mouth hurts at the sound of ice cubes clinking in the container. Then Q is back and his hands are gentle on Bond’s jaw and neck as he helps him drink. It feels good, impossibly good, and Q immediately presents him with another full glass once Bond’s finished the first.

“How long have I been out?” Bond asks, once he can speak again.

“Ten days,” Q says. It comes out like he’s choking, and Bond feels a rush of self-hate for having caused it. “Station T...retrieved you. They wouldn’t authorise you for air travel until your condition stabilised. That was about a week ago.”

Bond tries to comprehend it, but for some reason, it’s not making sense. Ten days? That’s impossible. There’s no way it could have been ten days. How could he have lost so much time and forgotten it?

“What day is it?” he asks.

“Sunday,” Q says, bringing Bond’s hand to his face, pressing his cheek against his palm, “the fourteenth.”

Bond frowns. He’s trying hard to remember the mission details. The folders, the plane tickets. What had the date been?

“February?” Bond asks, after a moment.

Q nods. His eyes are damp. Bond’s not stupid enough to ask why.

“Valentine’s Day,” Q tells him, and turns his cheek to look at the bedside table. “I brought you flowers.”

Bond manages to turn his head. He still can’t open his right eye, but his left is working just fine. There are roses on the bedside. Red ones. Dozens of them. The sight of them pulls something tight in his chest.

“You remembered,” Bond says.

“Of course I did,” Q whispers, like it hurts.

Maybe it does, after everything Bond’s put him through.

“I’m sorry,” Bond says.

“Don’t,” Q says harshly, “not right now.”

Q gently puts his hand back onto the bed and looks away. Bond can see him trying to regain his composure.

“So what’s the damage?” Bond asks. He still can’t feel much except the sluggishness in his head, the numb nothingness in his extremities.

“You’ll be okay,” Q tells him.

Bond’s heard that voice before. It’s the one that Q uses when someone’s just asked something impossible of him and he’s got to say he’ll do it despite the futility of the situation. It sets Bond on edge immediately.

“Tell me.”

“Everything’s still where it ought to be,” Q assures him, “it’s just going to take a while for you to get back to normal.”

Bond swallows.

“What happened?”

“You should sleep a little more,” Q says, and begins adjusting the blankets. He’s stalling and Bond thinks he knows why.

“Q, please.”

“Don’t make me, James. Not right now. I can’t…”

“Tell me.”

Q stops with the blankets, but he still won’t look at Bond.

“There was an explosion. Apparently that had been the backup plan if things went south...and they used it when they thought you were getting too close. 24 people died. 167 more were injured. Over 300 people are still missing. We never found Nirav or the hard drive, but they’re still going through the debris now...we believe that he escaped. All the surrounding cameras were destroyed in the explosion, so he made a clean disappearance. We’re still digging through train station and airport footage now in hopes of finding him,” Q explains, in the rehearsed, detached way he does when he debriefs after a mission. “The two agents who accompanied you are still unaccounted for.”

Q’s voice trembles, but he doesn’t stop.

“Station T’s Medevac got you out. They had you in...in the ICU for three days,” Q continues, and the tremble is the worst Bond’s ever heard. “Those were the worst three days of my life, James. They wouldn’t even let me see you.”

“You went to Station T?” Bond asks, unable to comprehend it.

“Of course I did,” Q says hotly, still facing away from Bond, but not turned enough that he can’t see Q viciously wiping away his tears.

Bond wishes then that he could touch Q, hold him, but his limbs are too heavy. He can’t even move his fingers. And all he can think to say is:

“But you hate flying.”

“Do you really think that would keep me from going to you if you needed me?”

There’s no heat in his voice, only that awful, hurt tremor when he continues:

“Dammit, James. I am so angry with you. So fucking angry. I told you. I told you to just listen to me and you wouldn’t and, Christ, you could have died. You almost--”

And then Q’s sobbing. Not crying, sobbing. Big, ugly, gasping things that shake his entire frame, and Bond’s helpless to do anything to comfort him. It’s only when Q turns to him, buries himself into the hollow of Bond’s neck and shoulder, that Bond can touch him. He’s too weak to do anything but hold onto Q’s elbow, to squeeze it gently, reassuringly, but it doesn’t have any affect. Q’s weeping is awful and raw and it’s all Bond’s fault.

“You idiot, you nearly left me,” Q says, when his sobbing dies down. His glasses are digging hard into Bond’s throat, slick with tears. “How could you?”

“I’m sorry,” Bond says weakly, pressing his nose into Q’s hair. He smells like cigarettes. Bond knows Q doesn’t smoke until things get hopelessly bad, a testament to just how close to death Bond had been this time. “I’m sorry.”

“I should have made you retire three years ago,” Q says, as if he hadn’t heard Bond. His voice is thick with self-deprecation, but he’s stopped crying. There’s a somberness to his tone when he adds: “It’s my fault I keep letting you go.”

Q’s arm moves around him.

“Don’t make me ask. I said I wouldn’t, but… I can’t do it again. I really don’t think I can almost lose you like this again. I just can’t…”

“Q…”

“Please,” Q says in his ear. “Please, please stop. Don’t make me bury you, James. Don’t do that to me. Promise me.”

Bond wants to resist, but he can’t, not when Q asks him like that, with his voice still full of tears and desperation and anguish. He can’t because Q’s been waiting and worrying all this time, with his red-rimmed eyes and hair that smells like smoke. He can’t because he owes Q so much. He owes Q kisses and flowers and dinner and tens upon ten-thousand apologies for all the times he’s fucked up and made Q wait and cry.

He owes it to Q to grow old with him, like he promised.

And if that means an end to this life as Double-Oh Seven, well, Bond can think of no better exchange.

Bond manages to move his hand, slide it slowly up Q’s arm until it rests at the back of his neck, keeping his lover pressed hard against his pulse. They have so much to look forward to, now.

“I promise.”

Chapter Text

Bond swears that time is crawling.

He’s been tortured in more countries than he can count, beaten and left alone in hot, cramped cells for days without food or water, spent weeks shivering naked and starving in a Siberian concrete bunker, but even those awful hours are nothing compared to this. But he’s not halfway around the world in some God-forsaken hellhole. He’s sitting in his own living room, at the set dining room table, and there are roses in the center and lit candles on either end, but the seat across from him is empty. Q still isn’t home yet.

And it’s Valentine’s Day.

But Bond’s certainly not glancing anxiously at the clock every few seconds, just as he is not straining his ears to listen for the sound of footsteps on the stair outside. He is not tapping his leg or straightening the table linen for the twentieth time. That would imply that he’s anxious and Bond’s definitely not. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself as he adjusts the flowers on the table, then the champagne glasses and silverware and salt and pepper shakers. After he can straighten no more, he checks the champagne he has on ice, only to find that half of it has melted down to water. It begins the vicious cycle over again, forcing Bond’s eyes to drift up to the clock again. He frowns. It’s nearing nine and Q still isn’t home.

He reaches for his cane and pushes himself up from his seat, then takes the champagne out of the bucket and brings it to the kitchen, where he places it in the door of the fridge to keep it chilled. Dinner sits on the hob, most likely ruined after having sat out since its preparation at 6:30. Still, Bond doesn’t have the heart to bin it. It’s Q’s favourite, prepared in abundance for their romantic night in.

The romantic night in that they had been planning for weeks... that Q must have forgotten.

“Mrow?”

Bond looks down at the sound of a plaintive meow, the tug of claws at his trouser leg.

“What?” Bond asks the creature.

Gold eyes stare up at him, triangular ears moving back and forth rapidly, almost as if the cat is also listening for Q’s familiar tread beyond the door.

“He’s late. I’ll have to feed you again,” Bond says aloud, as he reaches for the container of cat food they keep on top of the fridge.

The cat nearly trips him in his excitement to have food put in his bowl and Bond grumbles as he shakily bends at the hips to pour a small amount of kibble into the dish. Bond barely gets his hand out of the way before the cat starts eating rapidly. It’s strange having the sound of another living thing in the house, especially after how many months Bond had been getting on with silence. Now he has the sound of nails on the hardwood and occasional meowing and constant purring to keep him company.

But maybe that is the point.

It was Q’s idea to adopt it. He hadn’t even asked Bond. It had been a few months ago, after Bond had finally finished his last round of physical therapy. Breaking his back hadn’t been the best idea he’d ever had, and trying to return to some semblance of normal range and motion was a daily struggle. The doctors said he would have to rely on a cane for balance, but that with continued exercise, he would eventually get strong enough that he wouldn’t need it. Bond knew he would never return to field duty, but he had hoped that he would at least be in better condition at the end of things. The news had been a low blow, adding to Bond’s near eight-month slump of depression. And that was when Q had come home with a cat that had only three legs and said they were keeping it.

“Why?” Bond had asked.

“No one wanted him. They were going to destroy him,” Q explained, as the cat purred and purred in his arms. “Just because he’s only got three legs doesn’t make him any different from other cats. I think we should name him Ahab, like Captain Ahab, from Moby Dick. What do you think?”

Bond leant back on the sofa, observing the white and brown fluff Q held so adoringly.

“Is this about me?”

“Not everything is about you, James.”

“You adopted a handicapped cat,” Bond pointed out. “Can it even walk?”

“He’s not handicapped. He gets around just fine on his own. He’ll have an excellent quality of life and live a very long time, so long as he’s taken care of,” Q answered, sitting down on the couch next to Bond.

The cat looked at him curiously with its big, gold eyes. It reached out a little paw at him imploringly, the little pads of its feet plump and pink.

“I think he likes you,” Q said, handing the cat over to him before Bond could protest. It’s not like he could have gotten up and walked away, not with his back and leg the way they were, so Bond had to suffer taking the animal. It immediately began kneading him, purring more earnestly when Bond couldn’t help but scratch him behind the ears.

“He’s yours, not mine. I’m not taking care of him,” Bond told Q. “And he’s not sleeping in the bed with us. That’s a cat-free zone.”

“Of course, dear,” Q said, and kissed him on the cheek, “whatever you say.”

Ahab tugs at his trousers again, insistently, even though he’s finished eating. Despite the agreement Bond had with Q, he spends more time taking care of the cat since he’s home most often. And he’d already cleaned the box and fed him, so Bond doesn’t know what else he wants.

“Come here,” Bond says, tapping at his thigh.

It still hurts to bend, so he’d taught the cat to stretch up along his leg when he wanted picked up. Ahab reaches his little paws up further, allowing Bond to get a good grip on him under his arms. The moment he’s settled in the crook of Bond’s elbow, he’s purring and shedding all over the crisp black suit Bond had purposefully donned for the occasion.

He hasn’t worn a suit since the day he received orders for his official resignation.

Frowning more at the memory than the hair, Bond abandons his cane and limps out of the kitchen, settling down in his chair at the dining room table. Unable to help himself, he looks at the clock again. Half past nine and Q still isn’t back. Bond sighs and scratches at Ahab’s ears.

“I think we’re alone again,” Bond tells him.

It’s not the first time Q’s forgotten to come home at a normal hour, but Bond had hoped with it being Valentine’s Day, that tonight would be different.

However, it seems that this night is just like all the others. Ever since Bond’s been able to walk on his own, Q’s spends more time at Six than he does at home. Bond knows he’s probably making up for those long few months Q’d spent at home with him, but it’s going on six months and his shifts have only been stretching longer and longer. They rarely see one another anymore, especially since Bond cannot pop over to Six as often as he would like with his current mobility issues. That leaves him to wait in the flat for Q to return, only to have him stumble in at some ungodly hour of the morning, strip out of his clothes, and fall into bed, already sound asleep before Bond can get a word in. Bond’s not said anything about it, even though he’s worried.

Even though he’s lonely.

It’s been hard adjusting to civilian life, even more so with Q always at work. It’s a reminder to Bond that Q is still important and necessary, while Bond is not good for much else but lounging about. He hates feeling useless more than anything, and that feeling has become more and more burdensome as the months have gone on. Mallory assured him that once he was back to form again (and cleared through Medical) that they would have him back in some capacity, but until that time, Bond is stuck in limbo: not quite better but not quite worse. All he has is the empty flat, a three-legged cat, and a lover who is rarely home.

Ahab purrs louder, as if knowing Bond’s thoughts are taking a miserable turn.

Bond sets him down on the floor and fishes his laser pointer out of his pocket, idly moving it about so that Ahab can play. He is surprisingly agile for having one less limb, but he does manage to flop about more adorably than his four-legged counterparts. Still, even Ahab’s antics aren’t enough to cheer Bond up tonight.

He replaces the device, then removes his mobile from the same pocket. There are no missed calls or messages. He knows that he shouldn’t be upset--that Q’s probably gotten pulled onto a project or mission or something--but it’s Valentine’s Day and Q had promised he would be home. Bond had been looking forward to it, to reconnecting with Q after what seemed like months of drifting apart. Between Bond’s pain and Q’s absence, they rarely were intimate, and Bond missed the closeness they shared even more than the sex they hadn’t had in far too long.

He sighs through his nose and puts the phone on the table and stares at it.

Bond is torn between being angry and being hurt. Being angry means that he bins the flowers and the ruined dinner and then calls and leaves a hurtful voicemail on Q’s personal mobile. Being hurt means doing nothing but having too many drinks and going to bed alone and trying to forgive, again.

But there’s also a bit of worry, too. There always will be. Q is one of the most powerful men in Britain, which means that bad men will always want to do him harm. And that’s why, Bond goes with a third option, and calls TSS.

It rings twice before a pleasant female voice answers:

“This is R.”

He’s glad it’s R. He likes her. They get along well, or as well as two people can get along when they rarely meet in person. They’ve spent many a day conspiring over the phone, trying to figure out methods to get Q to leave the lab at a relatively human hour. It’s endeared her to Bond in a way that their brief meetings in person had never accomplished.

“R, it’s Bond. Is Q there?” Bond asks.

“What? No, he left...about three hours ago?” R replies distractedly.

“Three hours ago,” Bond repeats, a sinking feeling in his stomach.

R’s typing stops.

“He said you had an evening planned,” R answers, and all of her attention is on him when she asks: “Is...did he not come home?”

“No, I’ve been waiting...you’re sure he left three hours ago?”

“Well, about 0600. Maybe four hours ago now,” she says.

Bond grips the edge of the table.

“R, please tell me he took a car home.”

“I’m looking it up right now.”

There’s a pause, a heartbeat of silence, and then:

“No. There’s no request. He must have hopped the Tube,” R says, and then her voice is muted, as if she is holding her hand over the microphone. Bond can barely make out her words, but he knows. She’s raised the alarm.

Their Quartermaster has been taken.

“I’m coming in,” Bond says.

“No, you stay there. We’ll update you as we receive intel,” R replies.

“I’m coming in,” Bond says again, standing up from his seat.

His back and leg protest and Bond has to lean against the table to keep from falling. He’s just trying to remember where he left his cane at the same time he is recalling the code for the gun case under the bed when R says:

“Bond, listen to me. We’re going to find him, but I need you to stay where you are.”

“R, he’s my--” Bond stops, because he can’t finish his sentence. He never can when it comes to the two of them. They’re too old to be boyfriends and partner lacks a certain intimacy, whereas lover sounds like it’s nothing more than physical. It’s complicated. They’re complicated. And even at their worst--even when Bond was on the verge of saying hurtful things--they’re something wonderful. Something more wonderful than Bond could have ever believed possible. Now Bond is afraid that something--that someone--might be taken away.

And nothing will stop Bond from going to find him.

“I know. And I’m sorry, but--”

He rings off before R can finish, then drops his mobile onto the table. It rattles the dishes and glasses, scaring Ahab into fleeing for the safety of the underside of the couch. But Bond is beyond caring for more than one thing. He forgoes the cane, hurrying with an uneven, lurching stride to the bedroom, where he retrieves his personal weapon from the passcode locked drawer beneath the mattress.

Once the gun is in his hand, Bond makes for the door, ignoring the pain he feels already creeping up in his body from all the exertion. Everything else is secondary to Q, to finding him, to bringing him home.

He’s just made it to the foyer when the front door opens.

And Q is there.

He’s soaked to the bone and looks awful, like he’s just been dragged behind a truck. His lip and nose are bleeding and his glasses are missing, but what Bond notices immediately is that his crisp, white button-down is soaked through with blood.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” Q says faintly, as he steps inside.

He’s limping and Bond immediately goes to him, dropping the gun to catch Q’s arm just before his leg gives out. Something falls to the ground, but Bond is too focused on Q’s pale complexion to give it much notice.

“Jesus Christ, Q, what happened?” Bond asks, as he lowers Q to the floor.

His back protests the motion, but it’s not like most days when the pain is overwhelming. For the first time in a long while, he’s running on adrenaline, and Bond barely feels a thing. All that matters is Q. His Q, who had apparently put up one hell of a fight, if his broken nose and bloody fingernails were anything to go by.

“I didn’t even see them coming,” Q answers vaguely. “You’d’ve been so mad... t’was obvious now that I think about it...So crowded. I should have been paying attention…”

He’s cold and damp from the rain and shivering as Bond unbuttons his shirt. But the skin beneath is smooth and unblemished aside from a few bruises and scrapes.

“Q, tell me. Is this your blood?” Bond asks, sliding his hands under Q’s back in search of a wound he might have missed.

Q grins tiredly.

“You’d be so proud,” Q continues, his tone lilting. “They had me halfway to Southend and I took them all out with my penknife. Flipped the van and everything. It was very Double-Oh of me.”

“I wonder who you got that from,” Bond laughs and kisses his forehead.

It’s then that Bond sees what has fallen by the door, and something catches in his throat, because Q has just killed people with his bare hands and flipped a van and had somehow--

“I remembered,” Q says.

It’s the remains of a bouquet. What once had been a dozen or so roses is now only three. The petals are slightly crushed, but still beautiful on their drooping, splintered stems. Bond swallows back the hard thing in his throat, because Q doesn’t do romance, or so he says.

Bond’s never seen anything more romantic in his life.

“Let’s get you up,” Bond says, helping Q sit upright. When he winces with the motion, Bond asks: “Do you want me to call Medical?”

“No,” Q answers, weakly shaking his head, “I think I’ve had enough trauma…”

“Anything broken?” Bond asks.

"I'm okay," Q says.

It takes a concerted effort on both of their parts to stand, for Bond to get them both into the bathroom, where he draws Q a hot bath and then, after he's dry, tends to his wounds. Ahab watches suspiciously from the doorway, uncertain, it seems, by Q’s abrupt and unusual appearance.

“You look amazing,” Q says, touching the sleeve of Bond’s rumpled suit.

It’s the navy one, the one Bond knows Q loves. It’s slightly ill-fitting after he had lost so much weight and muscle over the past year, but Q seems to appreciate it all the same.

“I’m sorry I didn’t get to enjoy you in it,” Q continues, his voice lilting again with exhaustion. “I was really looking forward to tonight.”

“It doesn’t matter. It’s just a day. I’m just happy you’re not--” Bond can’t say dead, because that’s too much to bear thinking about, and settles on: “--that you’re here.”

Q’s eyelashes flutter closed as Bond dabs antiseptic on his knuckles, then wraps his hands in gauze.

“I really was...looking forward to those scallops,” Q mumbles. “You make the best scallops.”

“I’ll make you scallops tomorrow. And the day after. And the day after that.”

“I’ll get fat.”

“More of you to love.”

Q opens his eyes just a quarter of the way.

“Did I scare you?” he asks.

“Yes,” Bond breathes.

Q touches Bond’s hand gently.

“I’m sorry.”

Bond raises up on his knees and kisses him. He’d never truly known what it’s like to be the one waiting at home, constantly worried, lonely, afraid. He can’t even imagine what it was like for Q all those years, hearing Bond get shot at and stabbed and beaten and tortured. But Bond’s had a taste of it now. It’s bitter and awful and wrong and makes him want nothing more than to hide Q away from the rest of the world and all it’s painful, ugly things. He will never let someone take Q away from him.

Never.

“I’m never letting you out of my sight again,” Bond tells him.

Q hum softly and smiles against his lips.

“I love you, too.”

Chapter Text

The alarm goes off at precisely 0600, waking Bond immediately from sleep. Despite his relatively quiet two years of retirement, Bond still jerks into consciousness at the slightest noise, even the now-familiar sounds of cars on their street and the shrill beep of morning alarms. He supposes it’s something that’s never going to go away, and so, six out of seven days, Bond wakes when the alarm goes off at 0600, even if he’s not required at MI6 until the 1100 training courses begin.

“Ugh…”

The bundle of blankets against him shifts and groans at the offensive noise, not at all enthusiastic about the early morning wake-up call. A pale hand is all Bond sees of Q; it extends out beneath the duvet and slams down on the snooze button with more aggression than Bond thinks possible at such an hour.

Unlike Bond, Q does not wake easily, probably also a habit developed after years of falling asleep and staying asleep wherever and whenever he can get in a few minutes’ worth, among ringing phones and shouting and fire alarms. Even Ahab cannot rouse him, as he tries to every morning with his plaintive calls for food and the sharp, repetitive kneading of his little claws into their ankles and thighs. Bond knows by now that it’s useless to deposit him on the floor, as Ahab will just jump right back up and carry on where he left off.

So Bond lets Q sleep until the alarm goes off for a second time.

“Noooo…” Q whines, as his hand comes out to fumble with the device again.

He’s almost visible now, tufts of hair sticking up from the top of his cocoon. Bond noses at it affectionately, smiling into the curls as Q makes a more agreeable sound at his attention.

“Good morning,” Bond murmurs.

“Who says?” Q grumbles.

“You’re so charming when you wake up,” Bond tells him.

Q just grunts and burrows back under his blankets, but Bond follows him, slipping into the burrito of material so that he can snuggle closer. The only response he gets is a happy sigh when their bare skin touches, Bond’s chest to Q’s back. If Bond’s honest, it’s the best part of his day. He loves when Q is like this--in that place between wake and sleep--when his body is soft and relaxed and so trusting in Bond’s arms.

It doesn’t happen often enough.

It’s been a tough year for both of them, with Bond’s slow recovery and Q’s ever-increasing workload. They never seemed to get enough time together, no matter how they tried to carve out a few moments for themselves. It was only when Bond gained better mobility that things seemed to get better. He started working at Six again, first just in classroom instruction, but now in tactical training for beginners. It’s a challenge, but one that Bond enjoys. Feeling useful again truly helped Bond and being on site, close to Q, continues to help. They are actually able to see each other for more than a few minutes a day, lessening that gap that had grown between them. It almost feels like it used to, only now they spend more time exchanging smiles and soft words instead of barbs and insults.

Still, Bond wants to spend more days like this: wrapped in the warmth and comfort of their own bed with no pressing issues to attend to, only each other. It’d be nice, Bond thinks, to take a long holiday somewhere, just the two of them.

“What time izzit?” Q asks, after a few moments of quiet breathing and Ahab’s idle-engine purr at their feet.

Bond glances at the clock. It’s twenty after six. Q will have to get up soon if he’s going to make the train before the rush; or Bond can let him sleep and call a car. Adoringly, Bond kisses the back of Q’s neck. He smells like heat and sleep, slightly musky from their lovemaking the night before. Bond burrows into that spot and breathes it in deeply. On second thought, maybe Bond will selfishly keep Q here for the rest of the day.

“Doesn’t matter,” Bond tells him, pushing the blanket down to Q’s waist so that he can see the love marks he’d left last night. They’re dark, a pretty smattering of purple along Q’s shoulder, the curve of his hip. “Stay in bed.”

“I’ve got to go to work,” Q says.

“No you don’t,” Bond says, and begins kissing his way down Q’s neck to his shoulder blade. It sends gooseflesh across Q’s skin; Bond can see the fine hairs on his skin raise up with the light brush of his lips.

“Don’t I?” Q asks.

“You work too hard,” Bond tells him, moving his hand lower.

“You’re a bad influence,” Q replies, catching Bond’s hand before it can wander beneath his pants.

Bond frowns.

“I am not.”

Q turns over and snuggles against him. His nose is cold when he presses it into the hollow of Bond’s throat.

“If I could stay home, I would. Administrative meeting today. Can’t miss it,” Q explains.

“What if you’re sick?” Bond asks, sliding his palm along the ridge of Q’s spine.

“I think I’ve used that one before.”

“What if you said you broke your leg?”

“It would be difficult to explain why I didn’t have a broken leg on Thursday.”

“We could set it in plaster and you can pretend you broke your leg.”

Q laughs as he pulls away, then kisses Bond, morning breath and all.

“I’m sorry. I’ve got to go in,” he says, and turns over to get out of bed.

Bond pulls him back.

“Stay for another minute.”

Q indulges him, whether that is because he truly wants to make Bond happy or he is desperately clinging to his last few minutes of sleep, Bond is uncertain. But then the secondary alarm goes off on his mobile and Q sighs.

“Okay, I’ve really got to get up,” Q says.

Bond tightens his arms round Q’s waist.

“I dunno. I’m still scheming about this broken leg idea.”

“Let me know how that goes. Now let me get up. I’ve got to shower.”

As he makes to wriggle away, Bond slides his hand beneath the waistband of Q’s track bottoms.

“Can I join?” he asks, dragging his fingers along Q’s hip with clear intent

“Oh, no, you’re not starting anything this morning but the kettle,” Q chastises him, as he slips out of Bond’s hold and gets out of bed.

“But it’s Valentine’s Day,” Bond says.

Q tosses a pillow at him in reply. Bond manages to catch it before it hits him directly in the face. Ahab, afraid of more potential flying objects, jumps off the bed and scampers into the living room.

“Cruel,” Bond says to Q’s retreating back.

“You enjoy it,” Q tells him offhandedly.

“Yes, but only when you wear that one outfit with the--”

Q spins around in the doorway of the bathroom.

“It was one time,” Q reminds him, his cheeks and ears bright red. “That’s it. The one time.”

“I thought it suited you,” Bond says, smirking.

Q opens his mouth and then closes it.

“I’m...taking a shower,” he says, and hurries into the bathroom, shutting the door firmly behind him.

Bond laughs to himself as he gets up and shrugs into his dressing gown. He wonders what Q had done with the outfit in question, if he had shoved it into the back of their wardrobe somewhere, or boxed it up and hidden it someplace else. In all honesty, it hadn’t been the outfit so much as the boots.

And the riding crop.

Just the thought has Bond adjusting himself in his pants as he pads into the kitchen. Ahab is right at his side the moment he turns the light on, so Bond feeds him before the cat can trip him. He listens as the shower turns on then off as he makes coffee and puts on the kettle. It’s only when he hears Q open the bathroom door to let the steam out that Bond ventures back into the bedroom carrying two mugs.

He finds Q still in the bathroom, in nothing but a towel that rests low on his narrow hips. He’s peering into the mirror, where he had wiped some of the condensation from the glass so that he could see to shave. Bond can see that he’s already finished (though he’s missed a bit of cream at the hinge of his jaw on the right side), but now he’s leaning close to the mirror, looking at his hair with a frown. It’s sticking up at all angles from a quick towel dry, but Bond can tell that its wildness is not the cause of Q’s dissatisfaction.

It’s the grey hairs.

Bond had noticed them over the course of the past year. It started with one or two strands at the temples, then shot through beneath the curls that habitually fell over his ears. Q hadn’t paid it any mind at first, until Bond had mentioned liking the bit of silver in his hair. If anything, Bond’s comment had made Q more self-conscious, encouraging even more grey to come in over the past six months. Bond knows that Q’s sensitive about it, insisting that thirty-nine is far too young to already be going grey, but Bond loves it. There’s just something undeniably attractive about Q with that bit of mature hair; Bond just wishes that Q could see it too.

Not wanting to interrupt, Bond watches him unobtrusively from the doorway with their respective drinks. He’s unable to help smiling at the frustrated pouts Q makes as he combs through his still-damp curls. But he doesn’t go unnoticed for long. Q spots him in the mirror and, if possible, his pouting grows worse.

“Why is it that you get to be a silver fox and I look like a tired grade school teacher?” Q grouses, as he tugs at his hair.

“Don’t pull. More will just grow in its place.”

“If I was vain, I’d dye it.”

“I like it.”

“You’re just saying that. Meanwhile, you’re ageing like a fine wine.”

Bond comes closer and sets their mugs down on the edge of the sink, then slides his arms round Q’s waist.

“Mmm but I really like it,” Bond says, nuzzling at the silver patch at Q’s left temple.

Q sighs through his nose, looking at Bond in the mirror.

“Well, I’m glad one of us does. Fitting, though, since you’re the one who did this to me,” Q says.

“I did not,” Bond says, and tries to look offended.

“You did so. You must have taken ten years off my life with that fiasco in Turkey,” Q replies.

Bond contemplates Q in the mirror.

“Well, at least I don’t look like I’ve robbed the cradle anymore,” he says.

Q pinches at his hand.

“Arse.”

Laughing, Bond wipes the bit of shaving cream from Q’s jaw and then kisses that spot. He smells like a combination of his shampoo and minty aftershave. It’s the scent Bond’s come to associate with home, with their sheets and pillows and bed. Bond nuzzles at that place below Q’s ear, mouthing softly at his pulse point. He feels it quicken under his lips. It’s thrilling to know that after all these years, after everything they’ve endured, Q still reacts this way to his touch.

“You know,” Bond says, in between opened mouth kisses to Q’s neck, “we deserve a holiday.”

“Oh?” Q answers.

“Well, it is Valentine’s day,” Bond begins, and Q rolls his eyes.

“This again?” he asks.

“Is it too much for me to want us to have a nice Valentine’s Day, just once?” Bond asks, as he draws back.

“We have had nice Valentine’s Days…” Q begins.

“We’ve been shot at--”

“Ah yes, that was exciting, wasn’t it?”

“I’ve broken my back--”

“A little less exciting.”

“Last year, you were kidnapped--”

“You’re killing the mood, James.”

“I’m just saying,” Bond presses, “we should get away from it all. Let’s go somewhere. What about Paris?”

“Paris? On Valentine’s Day? You must be mad.”

“You let me worry about that.”

“James,” Q says, turning around in his arms, “this is sweet. It really is. But we can’t.”

“Why not?”

“Well, for one, no lodgings or transportation--”

“I’ve got connections.”

“Secondly, no approval from Six--”

“Sod them.”

“Thirdly, I’m not sure you’re allowed to go to Paris ever again.”

“What? Why?”

Q leans his hip against the sink counter.

“Because the city government is still salty over the escapades you pulled in 2013,” Q says.

“It was just a little fire.”

“James.”

“A little series of fires?”

Q raises an eyebrow.

“Oh, fine. I burnt half of Rue Du Faubourg Saint-Honore to the ground. Sue me if it needed a face lift.”

Q kisses him.

“We’ll never have Paris, dear,” he says with a playful smile, “but we can have a nice Valentine’s Day. I’m sure I can hack us reservations somewhere. How does The Savoy sound?”

“No, let’s just stay in,” Bond says, sliding his hands up Q’s sides. “Let’s start with breakfast.”

“I’ve got to go to work…” Q replies, but his skin trembles beneath Bond’s hands as his resolve weakens.

“Stay,” Bond implores him, as he manoeuvres Q onto the bathroom sink, then kisses him. Q makes a needy sound into his mouth when Bond tugs a bit at his hair.

“I can go in a little late,” Q says, when they part.

“Or not at all?” Bond suggests, twining his fingers in the silver and black curls.

He slips between Q’s thighs and kisses at his Adam’s apple, trekking down along the column of his throat to that delicious shelf of clavicle. Bond intends to mark it with his teeth, so long as Q doesn’t stop him. And when Q’s legs wrap around his hips, Bond knows that there will be no such request.

“I’ll telecommute,” Q says, gasping as Bond sucks a bruise at his shoulder.

“They can survive one day without you,” Bond murmurs, straightening up to capture Q’s lips again. He knows Q’s given in when he responds to the kiss hungrily, all thoughts of work gone from his mind.

“If London falls,” Q threatens when they part.

He leaves the rest unsaid, but Bond loves his tone and the implication that it carries.

“I hope it does,” Bond says, as moves his hands up Q’s thighs and beneath his towel. “I’d like to have you punish me for it.”

Q’s pupils blow wide at his words. He’s interested. Very interested, if the hardness beneath the towel is any sort of indication. And Bond knew he would be. Q’s always loved telling him what to do, just as much as Bond’s always loved disobeying him.

“I can think of a number of other things to punish you for that don’t involve responsibility for the collapse of the British government,” Q says.

“Oh, and what would those things be?” Bond asks.

“You’ll find out,” Q says, trailing his fingers down Bond’s chest, “if you’re good.”

“And if I’m bad?”

Q’s grin is all teeth.

“You’ll see.”

Chapter Text

Bond swears he’s never known this kind of hell.

He can handle almost anything, from broken bones to burns, days without food or sleep. But this. This is something much worse. Mostly because he hadn’t done anything to warrant it; it’s pure suffering just for pure suffering’s sake.

Because James Bond has the flu.

And it’s Valentine’s Day.

It’d been going round Six for weeks now. Bond had been careful when touching door knobs and faucets, staying far from anyone who had even the slightest sniffle. Q-Branch had been holding out well in their isolated subterranean level, but then someone contagious from management had come down and the illness had spread like wildfire. Poor Q had caught it earlier that week and had been sent home with strict orders to rest before it got worse.

And despite Q’s best efforts to quarantine himself, Bond had caught it yesterday. Now they are both miserably stuck in bed, surrounded by wads of used tissues and empty blister packets of panadol and the smell of thick, syrupy medicines. The only one that seems to be enjoying himself is the cat, who rarely has them both home for such long periods of time. Ahab happily plays with their plastic medicine packets and used tissues, batting them around on the floor when Bond’s gotten annoyed with him jumping about on the bed. Bond should try to keep him under control, but he’s honestly too tired to keep Ahab’s little claws from ripping up the tissues and spreading them all throughout the flat.

They’ll have to deal with that when they’re able to stand up without feeling faint.

Truly, it wouldn’t be terrible to lounge about in bed all day with Q if they had been feeling better. But Bond is freezing and can’t breathe out of his nose and his tongue is so dry he swears that it’s going to crack and bleed. Beside him, Q is not much better. Unlike Bond, who can’t keep warm, Q keeps complaining of the heat. He’s bare from the waist up, his skin damp with sweat and cheeks flushed with fever. Bond knows that he doesn’t look much better, clothed in two jumpers and wrapped in three blankets beneath the duvet.

“I hate this,” Bond says thickly, his own words sounding nasal and distorted in his own head.

“Join the club,” Q tells him, before coughing violently into the crook of his elbow. When he’s through, his cheeks are red and he’s panting, trying to regain breath. “I wish I could sleep.”

“Me too,” Bond says, reaching for another tissue.

The box is empty.

“Fuck me,” Bond grumbles, sniffling weakly.

“Not now, dear. I think I’m dying,” Q says, and coughs again so hard that it shakes the bed.

It’s alarming how much worse it’s sounding; it only takes that to have Bond’s worry trump his own misery.

“Shit,” Bond mumbles, touching Q’s forehead once he’s finished. With his own fever, he can’t tell if Q is hotter than he should be, but just looking at him tells Bond that he most likely isn’t well off. “You should get checked out.”

“You sound like shite, too,” Q replies hoarsely, and begins coughing again.

Bond pets at his sweat-damp hair, trying to soothe him. After a minute or two, Q settles down, wheezing pathetically. It takes a while, but Q manages to speak.

“Have you ever wanted to puke but been too tired?” he asks.

“Yes,” Bond answers, and keeps petting him. “Do you need the bin?”

“No...I really think I’m too tired…” Q mumbles into the sheets.

Bond turns and picks up the bin on his side of the bed. He’d put it there the previous day when he’d felt nauseous after a poor attempt at lunch, which he hadn’t even been able to finish. Though he hadn’t gotten sick, Bond always preferred to err on the side of caution, especially when he knew he wouldn’t have the strength to get the mop and bucket out of the hall closet to clean up any accident that might occur.

“Just in case,” Bond says, as he leans over Q and deposits the receptacle on his side.

Q just groans and curls up.

They lay like that for a while, quiet and still. Ahab joins them sometime later, kneading at Bond for what seems like forever before he finally settles down against his hip. Bond must have nodded off, for when he wakes, he is disoriented and sluggish with sleep. Next to him, Q is coughing again something awful. The moment he stops, he leans over the edge of the bed and begins vomiting weakly into the bin. Bond rubs at his back until he stops heaving, then pulls the blanket around him when he feels Q start shivering.

“I think I threw up everything ever,” Q says, spitting into the bin. “I don’t even know...when I ate lettuce last. I wonder if I should be worried…”

Bond rubs at his arms gently, but nothing seems to help Q’s shaking.

“Do you feel better now?” Bond asks.

“Sort of,” Q says, slumping down against his pillow. After a minute, Q groans and mumbles: “Ugh, I smell awful. How can you even be this close to me?”

“I can’t breathe through my nose,” Bond reminds him.

Q huffs out a wet sound that might have been a laugh.

“You’re lucky,” Q says. “I really need a shower…”

“Sleep first,” Bond tells him.

“There’s sick in my hair,” Q whinges.

“Shhh…” Bond says, pulling Q to his chest. His back is hot and damp. “We’ll take a bath later.”

They settle down again, groaning occasionally when Ahab walks between them, trying to find a more comfortable spot to sleep. If Bond breathes through his mouth and doesn’t think about how much he wants a glass of water, he feels slightly better now that he’s finally warm. Q’s like a furnace against him but his radiating heat, although worrisome, is beneficial to Bond’s chill.

Bond nods off again, waking sometime later to the sound of rain and thunder outside the window. He’s drooled a bit in his sleep or his nose had run; either way, something dampened the pillow considerably under his cheek. He knows he ought to be disgusted, but he just can’t manage it at that moment. All Bond can do is lift his head out of the gunk and try to find a better spot to rest. He settles his forehead against Q’s shoulder. His skin is still iron-hot against Bond’s brow.

Despite this, their proximity is soothing somehow. Bond doesn’t feel his misery so acutely with Q securely under his arm and Ahab’s gentle weight at his feet. He doesn’t know why, but he’s inexplicably happy in that moment for someone who feels as if he’s been hit by a train.

“It’s raining,” Q says sleepily, shifting closer to Bond beneath the blankets.

“Mm,” Bond answers, sliding his hand into Q’s.

Q’s warm fingers clasp his, guiding Bond’s palm to rest at his chest, right over his heart. Bond can’t feel his heartbeat, but he can feel every breath that Q takes, the inhale and exhale of oxygen as it sustains his life, and it’s beautifully intimate.

“I love you,” Bond says against the wing of Q’s feverish shoulder.

“You’re delirious,” Q says.

“Maybe,” Bond agrees, “but I do love you.”

“Even covered in sick?” Q mumbles.

“Even covered in sick.”

“You’re gross…. But I suppose I’ll keep you.”

Bond laughs and tries not to cover Q in snot in the process.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Q.”

Q turns over with a groan, pushes his hot forehead into the crook of Bond’s neck, and kisses his clavicle with his dry, chapped lips.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, James.”

Chapter Text

Bond hates himself.

It’s half past eight on Valentine’s Day and Bond is at a dive round the corner from the flat, drinking himself stupid because he absolutely hates himself for being such a bloody idiot.

“Another?” asks the bartender.

Bond miserably tilts his glass in the man’s direction. The bartender’s been attentive all night, not only to Bond, but to all the other miserable sods he’s bumping elbows with tonight. All of them have fucked up in some way with a partner, but Bond’s the worst of the lot. He should have known better. Ten years and he ought to have known better, but alas.

He and Q are having a row.

Well, they’d had a row, and probably the worst they’ve ever had. It had started the previous night--an entirely new manner of shouting and throwing things with an intensity they’d never accomplished before--and had bled over to the morning. Bond had woken to find Q already up and dressed, drinking his tea in the kitchen with his shoes already on. The moment he saw Bond come into the room, Q pointedly dumped his tea and went to the front door. Without a word, he pulled on his coat, took up his satchel and umbrella, and left.

It might have been better if he’d slammed the door; the quiet way he’d departed left more of an echo than any loud sound or shout ever could.

Bond regrets it, of course, but there’s also a foolish part of him that believes he was justified in saying what he’d said. Logically, he knows he could have gone about it a better way--addressed the situation with more tact--but emotions had gotten the better of him, and Bond had foolishly jumped without looking.

And he’d accused Q of something unforgivable.

“You think I’m sleeping around?” Q asked.

His voice was quiet, controlled, but Bond knew rage when he saw it, heard it. It was there beneath the calm, even words, brimming beneath each syllable.

“Where do you go?” Bond asked, and swallowed. “Where do you go almost every night? You’re not here.”

“I’m at work, James.”

“You’re not at work, I’ve checked.”

Q narrowed his eyes.

“You’ve been spying on me,” he said, not asked.

“I’m a spy, that’s what I do,” Bond replied.

“You were a spy, James. And, might I remind you, you’re supposed to be spying on enemies against the crown, not me,” Q said.

“Then where do you go?” Bond asked.

“Is it any of your business?” Q snapped.

“What’s in 856A, Q?”

“You’ve followed me, then?”

“Yes, to a flat. You go in, you stay a few hours, you leave.”

Bond was hurt and trying not to show it, but he couldn’t help it. It was Q. His Q.He couldn’t bear the thought of him being with someone else, having someone else’s hands on him.

“You think I’m having an affair,” Q said.

“I didn’t say anything,” Bond replied.

“You’re insinuating that I’m having an affair,” Q said, and made a face like he didn’t know what to think of Bond. “Christ, James. Do you know me at all?”

“I thought I did,” Bond said, and immediately wished he could take the words back.

Q looked like he’d been slapped.

“You don’t trust me,” he said, “after everything we’ve been through.”

“I want to.”

“Then trust me, James. I’m not having an affair,” Q said firmly. “There’s no one else. There never will be. There’s only you. It’s only ever beenyou.”

Q’s voice broke, forcing him to pause a moment before continuing:

“No one could ever take your place. And if you think that, then you’re a bloody fool.”

Q had gone to bed after that, kicking about in the bathroom and bedroom for an hour or so to keep Bond at bay. He’d waited until after the noises had stopped and Q had fallen asleep before joining him. Even in sleep, Q’s anger left a rift between them, drawn a line right down the middle of their bed, prohibiting Bond from crossing. Bond stayed on his side of the bed and stared at Q’s back, trying to chase away the bitter taste in his mouth as he wondered who else had been laying beside him.

“Another?” the bartender asks, crashing through his self-pity.

Bond shakes his head and turns his glass upside down. He can’t drink anymore or else he’ll be too pissed to stand. It’s been a long while since he’s overindulged like this, and it’s already gone to his head. If Q is home, he’ll be even angrier at seeing Bond like this: sloppy, weaving drunk. So Bond pays his tab and tips generously, then goes out into the cold evening to walk it off.

His inner demons are battling, fighting for Q, fighting against. Bond’s got to stop, but he can’t until he knows the truth. Q had said he hadn’t cheated, was that enough? Would that ever be enough?

Bond staggers a bit as he walks and walks and walks, only feeling the bite of the cold when he begins to sober. He considers calling someone to talk to, but his list runs too short, too soon. Whenever he wants to talk, it’s always to Q, because Q always knows when to listen and when to speak. There’s been no other anchor, no other stronghold in the past ten years like Q.

There is no one who can even begin to compare.

The realisation is more sobering than the cold. There’s no possible way that Q could have cheated, not when he kisses Bond the way he does in the mornings and makes love to him at night, still so passionately, as if ten years have not passed at all. Not when Q knows exactly how to handle his periods of near-insatiable boredom, knows how much Bond loves to lie in his lap and have his hair petted when they watch telly, knows just how to massage Bond when his old pains flare up in his back and shoulder. Q is always there, with his perfect cups of coffee and meaningful collar-tie adjustments at work and the right words exactly when Bond needs to hear them.

It makes him wonder if he’s been too selfish all these years, if he’d made Q feel under-appreciated, and that makes Bond all the more determined to go home, take Q in his arms, and prove him endlessly adored.

But he’s just a block from their flat when there’s a vibration in his coat pocket, the little trill of an SMS message.

All it is an address.

Bond’s mouth goes dry when he recognises it as the address. It’s the place Q’s been disappearing to for months now in secret, but now he’s calling Bond out to meet him.

Stiffly, Bond hails a cab and spends the entire ride trying to think of anything but what he will face when he arrives.

Once the taxi comes to a halt, Bond knows immediately which place it is. 856A looks like all the others on the street: a brick two-storey situated over a run-down garage with a rusted door. Maybe one of the things that irks Bond so much about it is that it’s so unappealing, so dirty. He doesn’t want to imagine Q coming here to meet someone in this dark alleyway of a neighbourhood, but Bond’s seen it with his own eyes. He’s driven by a dozen times before, trying to stare into the lit windows to see if Q was there; trying not to see him if he was. Tonight, the windows upstairs are dark, but the light by the garage door is blazing.

Bond pays the cabbie and gets out. It’s cold, so Bond pulls his coat tighter around him and walks, with purpose, towards the door. He’s not even a meter away when the garage door cranks and opens slowly. It’s a weak, motorised thing that makes a sort of wheezing noise as it rolls up the rusted panels.

Q ducks out from under it to meet Bond in the drive. He’s in a tatty jumper and dirty jeans that Bond has never seen before. There’s dirt on his cheek; Bond wants nothing more than to wipe it away, but he refrains. He’s not sure where they stand after last night, what all of this means.

“Q…” Bond begins.

“Shh,” Q tells him, and takes his hand.

He leads Bond into the garage, pressing the button to close the door once they’re inside. It’s poorly lit and smells of grease and oil and gasoline. Bond can see that there are trays of tools and heaps of equipment in the small space. It’s barely big enough for them and whatever is beneath the tarp behind Q.

“I wanted it to be a surprise,” Q begins, as he pulls a cord to turn on the overhead light. It turns the room a grungy yellow. “But last night sort of ruined my plans.”

Q releases his hand and gestures towards the tarp.

“Go on,” he tells Bond.

Bond hesitates momentarily, but then does as he’s told. He grasps onto the edge of the tarp and pulls it back slowly, revealing--

“Oh, Q,” Bond breathes.

Bond can’t help but stare and gape. It’s a 1964 Aston Martin DB5, identical to the model Bond had blown up at Skyfall over ten years ago. Everything is impeccable to the original--from the paint job to the rims--and Bond can’t breathe for how perfect it is.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Q says.

“How…?” is all Bond can get out, as he touches the smooth chrome, slides his fingers over the beautiful paint job.

“Time. Money,” Q says. “I’ve been working on this for almost three years now. Trying to track down all the parts proved difficult. I even had to have a few things imported, but I wanted it to be as authentic as possible, with a few upgrades here and there, of course.”

Q smiles and it prompts Bond to poke his head inside. The dash is original, but updated, with a lot more buttons and knobs than the original. Bond wonders if the ejector seat made it into Q’s schematics.

“But it kept getting pushed aside for work, other projects...I’ve been renting this place for a while, even if it’s been mostly just for storage… Anyway, I wanted to make an effort to finish this year…”

Bond stares.

“For Valentine’s Day. It’s been almost a decade, you know. Us, I mean,” Q says, and looks away. He looks nervous, uncertain, as if the gift and its meaning too overwhelmingly romantic.

“It’s,” Bond swallows, guiltily looking at the beautiful piece of machinery before him, “more than I deserve.You’re more than I deserve.”

All while he’d been suspecting of Q of infidelity, Q had been working tirelessly on this unbelievable gift.

Bond is such a fool.

“James,” Q says, sliding his arms round Bond’s waist as he presses his forehead to the place between Bond’s shoulderblades. The position is comfortable, familiar. Q holds him like this often, mostly in the mornings when Bond is making coffee and Q is waiting for the kettle to boil. It immediately eases some of the tension out of Bond, because the press of their bodies is warm and loving and forgiving. “I’m sorry. It’s partially my fault too. I didn’t...I shouldn’t have shouted back at you last night… I didn’t realise I was spending so much time out here. I should have known you’d get suspicious. I just...it hurt that you’d think I’d...with someone else...I got angry.”

“I’m sorry,” Bond says, because he can’t say it enough, “that I accused you.”

“I was being kind of shady, wasn’t I?” Q asks, pressing his cheek against Bond’s shoulder.

“The shadiest,” Bond agrees, and Q laughs.

Bond feels it in his skin and muscles and bones and knows that everything will be alright, because Q only laughs like that for him.

“But I was an arse,” Bond says, putting his hands over Q’s.

“A huge arse,” Q agrees, with that laughing, sing-song tone he uses when he’s teasing.

And Bond loves him so much for it.

“I was afraid,” Bond admits.

Q moves from behind him, sliding his hands from Bond’s stomach to his shoulders. His fingers clasp loosely around Bond’s neck as they press closer.

“Afraid of what?” Q asks, all traces of humour gone.

“That I’m, how did you put it? A grand old warship?” Bond answers, with some bitterness.

My grand old warship,” Q corrects him.

“But much less grand the older I get,” Bond says, hoping Q will understand.

“James,” Q says, and touches his cheek. Bond can tell that he understands without the words having to be spoken, and it’s a relief when Q smiles reassuringly. “There are some things that get better with age, and you’re one of them.”

Bond breathes out a sigh of relief, but it’s guilt-ridden. He shouldn’t have to be constantly reassured. He should know it in the way that Q looks at him like he’s the only person in the world. Q loves him endlessly. Bond never should have doubted that.

“Stop,” Q tells him, as if sensing his thoughts. He then kisses Bond’s lips softly. “Promise me that you’ll never think me capable of being with someone else. I told you before, it’s only ever been you. And it will only ever be you. You’ve got no competition.”

Bond runs his fingers through Q’s hair as he kisses him back.

“Good. And if anyone even looks at you--”

“No one has the bollocks to look at me for fear of ending up at the bottom of the Thames. I might as well have Property of James Bond tattooed on me somewhere.”

“Well, that can be arranged. I know a guy--”

Q pinches Bond’s nipple through his shirt.

“Ow!”

“I am not getting a tattoo.”

“But it would look really good right here,” Bond says, sliding his fingers beneath the hem of Q’s jeans.

Q kisses him to shut him up.

“So now that we’re all squared away,” Q says, sliding his fingers through Bond’s short hair, “what do you think about the car?”

“I love it,” Bond says, as he kisses down Q’s jaw to his neck.

“Do you think it screams mid-life crisis or just hints at it?” Q asks, his breath hitching slightly as Bond rucks up his jumper.

“I hope it shouts it loud enough for the Queen to hear,” Bond says, pinching at one of Q’s nipples, relishing in the way Q’s hips jerk involuntarily at the stimulation.

“It’s ready for a test drive,” Q informs him, as if Bond is not deftly undoing his flies. He’s got the perfect Quartermaster voice. Someone could be sucking him off and he’d barely sound affected. The thought is definitely appealing. “Would you like the honour of breaking her in?”

There’s something in the way Q says the words that makes him irresistible. Bond crowds Q up against the hood and spreads his thighs.

“I have a different idea of breaking her in,” Bond says.

“Heaven help me, you’ve got a one track mind.”

“You love it.”

With no protest forthcoming, Bond squeezes Q through his jeans, eliciting a sinful sound from his lover.

“You know, the car is for driving, not shagging,” Q pants, as Bond strips him out of his jumper and tosses the garment carelessly over the roof of the car.

“Why not both?” Bond asks, pressing lightly on Q’s chest until he’s splayed out against the silver hood. And Christ does Q look gorgeous beneath him, green eyes playful, his mouth red from kissing.

“Because the back seat isn’t big enough.”

Bond licks a stripe from Q’s navel to clavicle, then kisses him fully, if only to force Q to tip his head back so that Bond can admire his gunmetal grey hair against the matching paint job.

“Who said anything about the back seat?” Bond inquires, moving his way back down along Q’s body, pausing only to suck a little bruise at the shelf of Q’s hip.

“You’re going to be the death of me,” Q groans, as Bond peels him out of his pants with a grin.

“Oh, no. I plan to keep you around for a very long time.”

Q’s fingers curl in his hair.

“Is that a promise?” he asks.

“It’s a promise,” Bond answers.

Q grins.

“Then put your money where your mouth is.”

Bond grins, too.

Oh yes, it’s a very happy Valentine’s Day indeed.

Chapter Text

“You’ve truly outdone yourself, Mr. Bond.”

“You think so?” Bond asks, pressing a flute of champagne into Q’s hand.

They are leaning against the railing on the top deck of a private yacht, sailing smoothly along the Seine in the lights of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. And it’s Valentine’s Day. The date only serves to make the evening even more dreadfully romantic; that, in combination with the view, the quiet music from their balcony speakers, and the extravagant bed awaiting them inside their suite, covered in rose petals.

Never let it be said that Bond did anything by halves.

“I know so. I’m not going to even ask how you managed this. I’m just going to enjoy it,” Q replies, tipping his glass against Bond’s before taking a drink.

“As I intended,” Bond says, pulling Q close.

Bond had been planning this for ages, and seeing Q so happy and relaxed, he knows that it was all worth it. Logistics had taken the most time, what with convincing Mallory that taking their Quartermaster out of the country for a few days was safe and, no, they did not need a tactical team to provide security for their romantic getaway. It was supposed to be a break from work, not a reminder of it, and so Bond had spent weeks doing everything he could to ensure their privacy--everything from bribes to childish pranks. In the end, Mallory had given in, probably just to have Bond out of his drastically-thinning hair (and to find out what happened to his missing car tyres).

Afterwards, the rest was a cakewalk: securing the nicest vessel Paris had to offer, the most expensive champagne, and the top chefs money could buy. Q deserved nothing less than the best, after all, so Bond had made sure that everything would be as luxurious and over-indulgent as possible. And it was working, Bond could tell, by the healthy flush in Q’s cheeks from good food and drink, the relaxed warmth of him pressing against Bond’s side.

“I just can’t believe we’re here,” Q says.

Not even twelve hours ago, they had been in London, waking to what would be just another normal day. Or so Bond had led Q to believe, so he would be surprised in the morning.


“Paris?”

Bond opened his eyes at the question, no longer having to feign sleep to keep from giving away the surprise.

Q was sitting up in bed beside him, holding an envelope in his hands. He had already found the train tickets that Bond had placed discreetly beneath his pillow the night prior.

“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Bond said, sliding his hand along Q’s side.

“Oh, James...we can’t...”

“Why not?”

Q wasn’t looking at him, but rather at the tickets, with the sort of longing in his expression that told Bond he desperately wanted to go. But the Quartermaster in him took over, and with it, the overwhelming responsibility of England’s security, and the security of her interests.

“I’ve got work…” Q said weakly.

“Already been taken care of,” Bond told him, pushing aside the fabric of Q’s nightshirt until it exposed his bare shoulder.

“What? How?” Q asked.

“Already arranged it with Mallory. And R said she’d take care of things in branch for a few days.” Bond explained, rubbing his stubbled chin against Q’s soft skin.

“What if something happens?”

“Unless it’s imminent nuclear war, I think R can handle herself until you get back.”

“I don’t know…”

“Don’t sound so doubtful. You trained her. She’s second best compared to you, of course, but when you’re gone, that makes her the best they’ve got,” Bond said, sliding his fingers along the back of Q’s neck and into his silvery hair, “and you need the holiday. You’re almost completely grey, you know.”

“What are you trying to say, James?” Q asked, raising an eyebrow at him. It was softened with the early hour, with the hold Bond had on his hair that he knew Q loved, and Bond couldn’t help but grin.

“Well, if you get any greyer, I’m not going to be able to keep my hands off you,” Bond said, “you know, more than usual.”

Q slapped his knee with the train tickets.

“James, focus.”

“Oh, I am,” Bond said, kissing the back of Q’s neck.

“No, I mean really. We can’t just gallivant off whenever we want. I mean...what about Ahab?”

The cat in question lifted his head from his place at their feet and yawned widely.

“Eve said she’d watch him for a few days,” Bond said.

“Her boyfriend’s allergic to cats.”

“That sounds like his problem, doesn’t it?”

James.

“Eve’s a smart woman. She’ll make it work. She owes me.”

“Does she? What for?” Q asked curiously.

“I’d tell you, but then I’d have to kill you. Eve swore me to secrecy,” Bond said.

Q made a disbelieving face; Bond kissed the turn of his mouth to chase his frown away.

“Do you really not want to go?” Bond asked.

“No, of course not, it’s just…”

“Just what?”

He saw Q breaking. Bond could tell he wanted it, he wanted the romantic surprise vacation more than anything, but he was grasping at straws.

“The Parisian authorities--”

“Have probably forgotten about me by now. It’s been years, you know.”

“It’s hard to forget you,” Q said.

“True, but,” Bond bows his head and goes back to dropping kisses Q’s on shoulder, “it’s all been arranged.”

“Do I want to know?”

“No, probably not.”

Q let out a huff of laughter as he smoothed his thumb over their departure time. They only had two hours before the train left.

“So what do you think?” Bond asked.

Q turned his head and nudged Bond’s nose with his.

“I think you spoil me too much.”

Bond grinned.

“Never.”

After that, it hadn’t been difficult to convince Q to pack a quick bag (though convincing him that they would have time for a proper thank you later took a bit more will-power on Bond’s end) and get ready for the trip. While Q had been in the shower, Bond slipped a few other essentials inside--Q’s nicest suit and shoes, the waistcoat that Bond found particularly fetching on him--knowing that they would be imperative to the mood that evening. He’d also placed a very important item with his own belongings, not daring to forget it.

They arrived in Paris early that afternoon. Bond was delighted that the weather was clear and crisp, not the drizzling grey they’d left behind. Q seemed not care either way for the weather or the sights, and had been adoringly adamant to go to the hotel, overeager to get Bond out of his clothes as quickly as possible. But to keep their evening cruise a surprise, Bond forced himself to make Q wait, saw that their bags were attended to by the yacht’s discreet valet, and then took Q to a late lunch in a restaurant with a beautiful view of the city. After, Bond whisked Q to the Musee d’Orsay, adequately distracting him with art and sculpture for the next few hours.

It was only when it grew dark that Bond ushered Q away from the Van Goghs and Manets to a taxi that brought them to one of the many dockyards on the Seine. The look on Q’s face when he saw the boat had been worth every euro, especially the way he had gasped No and Bond had laughed and kissed him and said yes.

And now they are here, sated after a delicious dinner and several rounds of bubbly champagne. There’s only one thing that can make it better.

“What are you doing?” Q asks, laughing as Bond begins moving the both of them from side to side slowly.

“Dancing,” Bond says, setting his glass, then Q’s down on the nearby bar so that he can free both of their hands.

“You are ridiculously romantic,” Q tells him, but does not pull away.

“Is that such a bad thing?” Bond asks, leading Q into a simple waltz.

“Oh no, I am not complaining,” Q says, “I’m just worried that you’re going to throw out a hip.”

“Cheeky,” Bond says.

He alters their rhythm as he steps back, spinning Q gently, before pulling him close.

“Smooth,” Q says, his cheeks flushed.

“I’ve still got it,” Bond answers.

Q laughs as they fall back into their steps.

“That you do,” he says.

They dance as they do everything in life, their movements seamlessly in sync. They always have been this way, from the moment they met, as if two halves of the same whole.

After a time, they wind down. Their waltz turns into something a bit more intimate, their bodies pressed close against the evening chill. But it seems neither of them has any desire to stop and retire indoors, enjoying their romantic dance bathed in the lights of Paris. Q has his head resting on Bond’s shoulders, letting him lead, and he’s warm and humming softly to himself happily in the circle of Bond’s arms, and it’s just so perfect that Bond knows there could be no other life for him but this.

“Q,” Bond says.

“Hmm?”

“Are you happy?”

“I’m always happy with you,” Q answers, “when you’re not getting into trouble.”

“I don’t get into trouble,” Bond replies, unable to resist the bait. “I’m retired now.”

“Mmhmm. Do you think I don’t know where those misplaced tactical crossbows went? Or who fired all the newly-developed incendiary ammunition I had locked up in the armoury?”

“Maybe you ought to keep a better eye on your valuables, Quartermaster.”

“Maybe I ought to keep you out of my department, James Bond.”

“But you love when I visit.”

Q lifts his head from Bond’s shoulder and kisses his jaw.

“Of course I do. Just make sure I don’t catch you lifting anything important on the CCTV next time,” Q says.

“Yes, dear,” Bond answers and Q laughs.

“C’mon. Let’s go inside. It’s cold out here, and I have just the idea to get warmed up,” Q says, stopping their dance to take Bond’s hand in his, tugging him gently toward the sliding door that leads to their suite.

“Don’t you want to enjoy the view?” Bond asks.

Q smirks at him with the playfulness of a much younger man.

“Don’t you want to tear my clothes off?” he counters.

“I’d like to do something much more than that,” Bond says, but with no innuendo.

Before Q can say anything, Bond shakily gets down onto one knee. He’s a little too old to be doing this now with his old injuries and encroaching arthritis, but it’s worth it if only to see the look on Q’s face when he pulls out the small, black box from his coat pocket. It’s the one that Bond’s been hiding for months now, waiting for the perfect moment, their perfect moment. And what better time when they are together, bantering and laughing about missing crossbows and spent ammunition?

What better time when they are the best of themselves because of the other?

“I know you don’t do romance,” Bond begins, feeling his smile widen as Q covers his mouth with both hands at his words, his pose, “but I was hoping you could make an exception, since we’re in Paris.”

Q laughs, and his eyes are wet like he’s trying not to cry.

“I honestly never thought I’d grow old,” Bond continues, dragging his free hand through his short grey hair. “I always thought I’d die long before retirement, that no one would even care. But you did. You always did, from the moment we met. And you showed me that I had worth and meaning, even when I didn’t believe it myself. It takes a lot to bring someone back from the dead, but you did. And you never gave up on me, even when I was a right arse.”

Bond pauses here and tries to look contrite.

“But a komodo dragon really did eat that gun, you know.”

Oh my god, James, do you think I care right now?” Q asks, his shoulders shaking with silent laughter.

“Right, the romance,” Bond says, smoothing his thumb atop the velvet box. “I never thought I’d be lucky enough to live a long life, let alone find someone to live that life with me. But then I met you. This too-smart, self-possessed young thing, who was not only way over his head, but who also had spots--”

“I did not--you really know how to kill the mood, don’t you?” Q asks, but he’s still smiling, and Bond knows he’s merely teasing.

Despite what I first thought of you, you proved me wrong. Over and over again. And I’ve loved you for it all these years. And I’d like to keep loving you for it for many more. So--”

Bond opens the box, revealing a simple, platinum ring. He knows he’s chosen the right style--that perfect balance between beauty and simplicity that Q so favours--because Q glows at the sight of it.

And then Bond says Q’s name--his real name--and asks:

“Would you do me the honour? Of putting up with me for the rest of our lives?”

Q laughs as he nods his head, and Bond takes that opportunity to slide the band onto his left ring finger. It fits perfectly, as Bond knew it would.

And then Q’s before him, his arms wrapped round Bond’s neck.

“It’s so cliche. Valentine’s Day,” Q says against Bond’s shoulder.

“You said yes,” Bond reminds him.

“I couldn’t say no,” Q murmurs, kissing him just below his ear, “I could never say no. I told you once: it was always you. And now, it always will be.”

“You really are a romantic,” Bond says.

“Oh hush, I’m not,” Q laughs, pulling Bond close to him as he leans back onto balcony floor.

“I think you are,” Bond says.

“Maybe a bit,” Q admits. “We are in Paris.”

He’s splayed out beneath Bond, beautiful and smiling with his flushed cheeks and silver hair and Bond thinks of the inevitability of this, of them, and kisses Q tenderly.

“Your secret is safe with me,” Bond says.

“Which means MI6 will know within the week.”

“If they don’t already.”

They both smile knowingly.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, love.”

Q laughs and slides his fingers into Bond’s hair, the warmth of his wedding band a promise against Bond’s skin.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, James.”

Chapter Text

There were consequences to getting older.

Bond knew that as much as he knew that the sun rose in the east and set in the west and that nothing was certain other than death and taxes. But he’d never thought he'd experience ageing and wasn’t at all prepared for the Getting Older business at all. Long past were the days of takeaway and no sleep and too much alcohol. That was for the young, after all, and James Bond could not longer consider himself of such youth.

He now took pleasure in the time it took to make a balanced, healthy meal (and with ingredients that wouldn’t upset his no-longer-made-of-steel intestinal tract), and rarely, if ever, indulged in alcohol outside of special occasions. He took vitamins and slept the appropriate number of hours a night and routinely went to the gym to exercise or swim. Despite his care, Bond’s stomach became softer, his hair turned a little greyer, and his eyesight started to go a bit blurry. It wasn’t until Bond started getting headaches that Q had finally convinced him to see an optometrist.

I think they’re sexy, Q had said, when Bond had come home one day in November, self-conscious in his first pair of glasses. But all of his misgivings dissipated when Q kissed him with an enthusiasm that Bond was thankful he could still match.

(At least his age hadn’t caught up to him in that regard.)

In others, however, Bond found himself not so lucky.

It had been mid-January when he’d gone to Medical about his back. It hurt on and on over the years from the injury that had retired him, but often times sorted itself out after a few days of rest and heat strips. But he’d been hurting for over a month, blaming the weather and his desk chair on the discomfort, and had refused anything more than a Panadol for the pain. It was only after the Christmas holiday--of which Bond had spent the majority of on the sofa in absolute agony--when Q threatened divorce if he didn’t go see a doctor straight away. So Bond did, and it was only after the blissful shot of cortisone to his lower spine that the nurse mentioned it in passing: You know, you’re over the age of fifty now. It’s time that you had a yearly exam.

At first, Bond didn’t know what she’d meant, but then she handed him a pamphlet about colorectal cancer and the importance of screening exams and Bond had done very well not going red from absolute mortification. He pointedly did not commit to anything, stashing the booklet into his briefcase where he knew he would forget about it.

Of course, Q found it.

And, of course, they fought about it.

They were on very different sides of the fence about it. Bond felt fine and was happier than he’d ever imagined and he absolutely did not want to know if he had cancer. Q, on the other hand, had a desperation to him--that always I need to know everything tone to his voice--that told Bond he was afraid. It made sense. Bond took obstacles as they came because it was a challenge; Q wanted to know all of the obstacles before he came to them because it made them easier to avoid. They were two very different people on the matter, and not about to give ground. But then Q looked him right in the eyes and said I thought you promised we’d grow old together and Bond didn’t have the heart to reply We did because they hadn’t.

Not yet.

So Bond made the appointment and saw the doctor, discussed all the humiliating preparation that went along with it, and went home with a bag of medication and a procedure date for the second week in February.

It ended up not as terrible as Bond had thought. The preparation was the worst, but Q had taken it in good humour and had procured a startling number of magazines for Bond to read while he was sequestered in the water closet the day prior to the procedure. To Bond’s embarrassment, Q had even joined him for a little while--perched on the sink, laptop and all--and played funny cat videos until Bond chased him out with half-hearted threats about what he would do when Q was in the same position in a few years’ time.

Q had laughed at that, seemingly unconcerned. It was only when they were lying next to each other that night, when Q’s arms tightened round him in the dark, that Bond knew he was worried. I’ll be alright, Bond wanted to say, but couldn’t. If he couldn’t guarantee it, then it was a lie, and he promised himself he would never lie to Q.

The only comfort he could offer was the arm round his waist, and Q eventually fell asleep, pressed firmly against him, as if afraid to be physically parted from him even in dreams.

Q’s anxiousness persisted the next day. Bond could feel it, heavy and thick in the air between them as they drove to the discrete MI6-affiliated clinic in the crawl of the morning commute. It worsened when they arrived, as Bond changed into a thin white gown and had an IV administered. But it reached new levels of intensity when the nurse turned to Bond and began asking questions about living wills and power of attorney. He saw Q out of the corner of his eye, clutching at Bond’s folded clothes so tightly that he thought his pale knuckles might split and bleed.

But before Bond could say anything to calm him, they were wheeling him away to the procedure room. He closed his eyes against the lights passing overhead, trying to will away that last glimpse of Q from his mind. He tried thinking of Q when he was laughing or smiling or when it was five in the morning and he was sleeping and so beautiful. But all Bond saw was Q standing there with his clothes, looking small and afraid, and it made Bond think about how they’d talked of a wedding--a real one; nothing fancy, just a nice day and champagne and maybe dancing, surrounded by their few good friends--but never gotten round to it. And as they administered the twilight sedation and the world fell away, Bond wondered if they’d ever get that chance.

And then, he woke up.


At first, Bond was confused. He couldn’t remember what had happened or where he was, but then he registered the hand in his, the familiar weight and feel of it. It took a moment for Bond to turn his head, his body still not entirely under his own control, but when he did, Q’s relief was nearly palpable. Groggily, Bond tried to understand why Q’s expression made him so happy, but then Q smiled, and in the sweet starlight of drugs, Q’s incandescence eclipsed all other thoughts.

After that, Bond recalled only bits and pieces of the day: Q helping him into his clothes, a car ride, a cold gust of wind, the warmth and comfort of hands upon him in their bed.

When he came to, Bond had no idea how long he’d slept. It was still daylight, but just barely; outside, there came the sound of rain on the side of the building. A warm weight rested against his front, and when Bond looked down, he saw Ahab curled against his stomach. Behind him, he heard the gentle turn of a page, a soft sigh, and when Bond turned over, he found Q sitting beside him in bed, pretending to read a book. The Hunt for Red October, the book Bond had left on his bedside table as he read it on and off for the past few weeks. Knowing Q’s taste, he would probably hate it.

Q immediately set it aside when he saw Bond looking at him, and smiled as he pet at Bond’s hair.

“Hey you,” Q said.

“Hey, beautiful,” Bond replied and Q laughed.

“Oh, I’m beautiful?”

“The most beautiful.”

“Those are some good drugs they gave you. I should have asked for some for the road.”

Bond huffed a laugh and glanced at the book, blinking sleepily at it as he tried to arrange his words into proper order.

“You hate Clancy,” Bond said.

“He’s awful,” Q agreed.

“Why are you reading it?”

“No reason.”

Q wasn’t looking him in the eye. Bond felt his mouth go dry.

“What happened?” Bond asked.

Q sighed and slid down to lay down next to him. It was a long time before he spoke, and when he did, Q looked at Bond’s shoulder and said:

“You’re going to be fine.”

Bond focused on his own mouth, on the syllables he wanted to make without slurring.

“What happened,” he asked again, and Q rubbed at his arm.

“I’ll tell you later,” Q said quietly.

“Tell me now,” Bond said.

“Later,” Q said again, and curled up next to him, as if to sleep.

But he didn’t sleep, and neither did Bond. It wasn’t until the last vestiges of sunlight darkened on the wall that Q continued:

“They found something.”

Everything suddenly seemed extraordinarily quiet, except for Q’s words. They seemed harsh and loud as he explained.

“They’re taking precautions. They took biopsies. Sent them to the lab. We’ll know in a few days,” Q explained.

“What do they think?”

“They didn’t say.”

A quiet fell over them, dark and deep with the unspoken word. Bond closed his eyes and breathed and said:

“I won’t.”

“Won’t what?” Q asked, but the way his voice broke on the two syllables, Bond knew that he knew exactly what he meant.

“If it is,” Bond said without saying, “I won’t. Chemotherapy. Radiation. I won’t.”

Q didn’t say anything for the longest time. When Bond opened his eyes and looked down at Q, he saw that Q had closed his, that he was crying silent tears.

“Q…”

“If that’s what you want,” Q said, and didn’t look at Bond, “okay.”

After that, they don’t speak of it, but Bond feels that something has shifted between them. There’s a quiet desperation in every touch, every glance, as they wait for the phone to ring. And Bond hates it. He’s never had any agency when it came to life and death--that was all dependent on the circumstances of missions, of equipment, of people--and it’s never bothered him before now. But Bond can think of no greater disservice to his life than having his own body betray him. An aggressive overgrowth of cells in the wrong place is like being dealt a bad hand at cards, only he doesn’t have an ace up his sleeve or the right number of chips to win back his losses.

But what Bond hates most of all is how it’s affecting Q.

He knows the man. He can already see what it’s doing, how Q is compartmentalizing and putting all of his emotions away into tiny, locked boxes on high shelves so he can’t feel anything. Bond can tell he’s preparing himself for the worst outcome, that he’s preparing himself to stay by Bond’s side through it even if it kills him, too.

And it’s the saddest thing because it’s Valentine’s Day.

When they wake in the morning, Bond can almost see the heaviness upon him, feel it in the way that Q kisses him like it might be their last Valentine’s Day together.

“Stop,” Bond tells him, when Q’s lips fall away.

“I’m sorry,” Q says, and looks ashamed.

Bond pulls him close, kisses at the line that’s been between Q’s brows for days now, and says:

“Can we not? Until we know?” Bond asks gently.

“I’m trying,” Q replies, breathing out the words like he’s breaking.

Maybe he is.

“I just keep thinking,” Q begins.

“Don’t,” Bond hushes him, and pets at his hair.

It’s the most that Q’s said in days, but Bond can’t bear to hear his voice like this, small and fragile as glass. Q clutches at his shoulder, his bony fingers digging hard into Bond’s clavicle. Bond feels the skin-warm metal of Q’s wedding band against his chest, against his heart, and he swears the organ misses a beat when he thinks about dying, about making Q a widower after everything they’d been through.

“I’m sorry,” Q says again. “I-I should be, for you, I should be... And instead, I’m making this about me and I. I hate myself, but I’m trying. I am, I am, but I’m...you’re all I have and--”

“Shh,” Bond tells him, resting a hand at the back of Q’s neck to calm him. His skin is hot and Bond can feel Q’s chest working hard for air against his own. Bond tries to soothe him, holding him just shy of too-tight, knowing that it makes Q feel safe and adored. “You’ve got nothing to be sorry for. You’re scared. I am, too. But we’ve got to take it one step at a time. Let’s not...get ahead of ourselves.”

Despite Bond trying for comfort, all he can see is the way Q had stood there the day of his procedure: looking lost and scared with his pale hands clenching at Bond’s clothes, as if the most important thing in the world had been wrenched away from him. It makes Bond feel sick with fear at the thought of leaving him.

“I know. But I’m awful. I’m. I’m selfish,” Q confesses, into the hollow of Bond’s neck. “I told you that a long time ago. I’m selfish when it comes to the things most important to me. And when it comes to you, I’m the most selfish of all. You’re mine and I can’t...I can’t let you go, James. I can’t.”

Q’s voice gives out, and this time, it’s Bond that’s breaking.

“I’m here,” Bond says, because that’s all he can say. It’s not a lie. He’s not making a promise with empty words. At this moment, he is here, and that is as much comfort as he can offer.

00Q00Q00Q

The drive to Six is quiet.

They aren’t often chatty in the morning, but sometimes they’ll talk about work or traffic or listen to something on the radio and maybe laugh at it if it’s particularly ridiculous. Other times, if Q has something particularly pressing on his mind, Bond knows it’s best to keep quiet and let him think. The ride to work is the only safe and quiet space that Q has, so if he needs it, Bond lets Q stare out the window or at the screen of his mobile without interrupting. But the past few days, Q’s been focused on Bond’s hand on the gearshift, and he doesn’t have to be a secret agent anymore to know that Q is looking at the band on Bond’s left ring finger.

But Bond doesn’t say anything and Q doesn’t either, not for the duration of the ride or after they park and are in the lift together. When the doors open at the lowest basement level, Q doesn’t kiss him goodbye, just brushes his fingers over the back of Bond’s hand, the sleek metal of his ring, and then he’s gone.

Bond pointedly tries not to think about it for the rest of the day. He teaches his classes and oversees a training exercise in the gym, but it’s all going through the motions. If he’s honest, he’s still in bed in the flat, watching as Q sits up and wipes his tears away, then forces his expression into something stoic and untouchable again as he asks Bond what he wants for breakfast.

When it’s time for lunch, Bond has no appetite. It makes him think of their aborted attempt at breakfast that morning, the way they’d both pushed their eggs on their plates and looked everywhere but at each other. But Bond knows he needs something if he wants to make it until the end of the day, so he goes and gets a coffee from the lounge. He decides that instead of trying to find Q--forcing another painful, agonising silence between them--he’ll take the break alone and do some of the grading he’s put off.

Bond’s walking down the hallway toward his office--coffee in one hand and his students’ papers under his other arm--when he nearly collides with someone at the bend.

It’s Dr. Miller, who has been at MI6 longer than Bond can remember and seen every wound Bond’s ever declared to Medical. Without him, Bond would still be missing half his right ear from a mission gone south in Zambia.

He’s also the doctor whose call Bond has been waiting on for days now.

Bond feels something cramp in his stomach at Miller’s frown. Miller’s not the most friendly-looking person to begin with, so Bond can’t read his expression.

“Bond, I’m glad I found you,” Miller says, and Bond tastes bile in the back of his throat at his kind tone.

“Oh?” Bond asks, forcing nonchalance. It’s all he can do to keep his tone level when his heart is racing and his palms have begun to sweat, but he manages.

“I received your test results this morning,” Miller begins, but Bond is only half listening, because just past the doctor’s shoulder, he sees Q stepping out of the lift with R.

Bond hopes against all hoping that Q walks by without noticing them. But Q immediately sees him standing there, sees Dr. Miller’s back in his white coat, and Bond knows that he thinks the worst. He’s not far enough away to not see the way Q touches his thumb to his wedding ring, nervously rubbing at it as he turns to follow R in the opposite direction. His footsteps are hasty as he turns the corner, almost as if he had wanted to run but it wasn’t appropriate. And that’s how Bond feels now, with the weight of Miller’s gaze on him and the words unspoken between them.

“--and after review, I’m happy to say, there’s nothing to worry about,” Miller finishes.

“What?” Bond asks numbly, thinking he hadn’t heard correctly.

“I said there’s nothing to worry about. Everything came back just fine.”

“What about...the biopsies?” Bond asks.

“Thankfully nothing abnormal. You have clean bill of health.”

Bond breathes for what feels like the first time in almost a week, and he’s smiling before he can stop himself.

“That’s. That’s great. I’m, thank you,” Bond says, shaking Miller’s hand.

TMiller looks shocked. Rightfully so, Bond thinks as they part, after how bad of a patient he’s been in the past. He’d never even thanked the doctor for the ear reconstruction. Bond makes a mental note to send a card or something at a later date.

But now he’s focused on getting to Q. Nothing else matters.

When he steps into Q-Branch, no one even glances his way. There used to be a time when Bond could make every head in the room turn--whether in fear or admiration--but the techs have all become used to his presence and don’t even look up anymore. It’s all for the best, Bond thinks, as he winds his way through the workstations towards the front of the room. The last thing he needs or wants is an audience.

He makes his way toward the front of the department, and Bond’s not even halfway to Q when their eyes meet. Q’s jaw tenses as he turns away and walks from his workstation toward the corner office that’s been a second home to the both of them over the years. Bond follows and closes the door behind him for privacy. Q doesn’t face him. It’s just his back, and Bond knows it’s because sometimes, when Q gets angry or upset, he can’t look at Bond lest he start shouting and crying. Bond knows it’s the latter this time, but there’s some relief in knowing that he’ll not make Q cry.

So Bond goes to him and puts his arms round Q’s tense shoulders and says:

“I’m okay.”

“Are you?” Q asks, and his voice trembles.

“I am. Everything’s normal. I’m fine,” Bond says, and kisses his hair. “I’m fine.”

Q’s legs shake and Bond feels him crumble, but he’s there to support him. He eases Q down to the floor beside the desk and holds him as he shakes and sobs and laughs. It’s different from the time Bond had woken up in the hospital and Q had wept openly in front of him for the first time. This is relief; happiness, pure and simple. And when Q gets a hold of himself, he turns and kisses Bond fiercely, fingers clutching at him so hard that Bond knows there will be bruises tomorrow.

“It’s okay,” Bond tells him, in between frantic kisses.

But Q’s like a man possessed, kissing Bond like he’s taking in air, like it’s necessary to sustain his life. His lips are salty with tears and when they are not pressed to Bond’s, he murmuring I love you, I love you again and again. Even though it’s impossible, Bond swears his heart swells with even more love for Q; Q, whose bruising fingers and fiery kisses and impossible number of tears prove to Bond how deeply and ardently he is adored.

He takes his husband’s face in his palms and stills Q’s feverish desperation momentarily, brushing his errant tears away with his thumbs as he kisses him very softly on the lips and says:

“It’s all going to be okay.”

Chapter Text

“Where are we going?” Q asks.

It’s a beautiful day and they’re in the Aston, driving south beyond the busy hubbub of traffic and pedestrians and trains. The buildings have already given way to some in-between of suburbia and countryside and there are fewer motorists the farther they travel.

“It’s a surprise,” Bond says.

“But where are we going?” Q presses, for the umpteenth time since they’d left London.

“If I told you, it would defeat the point of a surprise,” Bond replies.

He sees Q frown in his peripheral.

“I hate surprises,” Q answers.

“No you don’t,” Bond replies teasingly. “I seem to remember someone liking Paris.”

He knows he has Q when his husband says nothing immediately.

“Fine,” Q concedes after a moment, and looks out the window, “I hate most surprises.”

“I think you’ll like this surprise,” Bond says, and hopes he’s right.

“Mmhmm,” is Q’s noncommittal answer.

Q doesn’t say anything else and takes out his mobile to occupy himself. Bond watches from the corner of his eye as Q moves his thumbs slowly over the surface of the device. Not even a year ago, Q would have been going at top speed on the tiny screen, sending emails and memos and authorisations almost as fast as he received them. But it’s been a long year. Every time Bond turned on the news, there was one incident after another. Terrorism, war, seemingly perpetual violence. No time for a wedding even if they wanted one. And on top of it, Mallory had retired and put someone new in his place--someone who didn’t know their own hand from their arse--so MI6 had been barely holding her head above water for the past eight months. Q’s budget had been cut with the new regime, and with it, his ability to protect his agents. They’d gone to too many funerals last year, buried too many empty caskets in the name of Her Majesty, and Bond knows that Q hasn’t slept well since. Now Q’s got a tremble in his left hand that won’t quit and is more tired than Bond’s ever seen him.

And Bond hopes to Gods he doesn’t believe in that this surprise may be the answer to it all.

“We’re here,” Bond announces.

They’re on a street tucked away from the main road, parked next to a slouched stone wall connected to an iron gate. There is nothing else but forest and field surrounding them. When Bond gets out of the car, he sees that the nearest house is a mere pinprick in the distance.

“Where is here?” Q asks, not getting out of the car.

Bond can see him through the window looking at the frozen, ivy-covered wall with suspicion. He laughs and opens Q’s door for him.

“Why don’t you get out and see?”

Q grumbles something and takes Bond’s hand, stretching up out of the passenger seat like a ruffled cat. Bond straightens the front of Q’s coat and tugs his muffler more firmly over his throat to keep him warm. Sun and blue skies or not, it’s still bloody cold out. Q allows the attention, but more like he’s indulging Bond than anything.

“You still haven’t answered where we are.”

“No, not yet,” Bond agrees, taking Q’s hand in his.

His skin is cold and he’s trembling. Bond prays it’s the cold and not pain, not what he’d read about on the Internet on the long, solitary nights when Q had been at work instead of sleeping.

“You should be wearing gloves,” Bond says, as he leads Q past the iron gate and onto the grounds.

“I didn’t expect to be in the wilderness today,” Q answers. “How far are we from civilisation?

“It’s only an hour to London,” Bond replies.

Q makes a face at that and surveys his surroundings.

It’s an ordinary house from the outside: a two-storey done up in pale stones, surrounded by trees and shrubs that might have been pretty in summer, but are now nothing but brown, scraggy things. The walk is done in similar stone to the house, cutting through a front lawn in desperate need of warmer temperatures. In short, there is nothing spectacular about it except for its acreage and relative privacy within such a short distance to London.

But where Bond had been charmed by the place, Q seems slightly off-put, looking out at the yard like he’s never seen one before.

“What’s wrong?” Bond asks.

“It’s quiet,” Q answers.

Bond pauses and listens. There’s nothing, not even wind or birds. It’s certainly nothing like London, with its endless noise and clamour.

“It is,” Bond agrees.

“I don’t think I like it,” Q says, and looks back at the gate, the surrounding walls. Bond can tell that he’s nervous, having lived in the city for so long. The absence of sound would be disconcerting for anyone.

“Come inside,” Bond says gently, one hand still in Q’s, the other moving to take a key from his pocket.

“Is this our weekend getaway?”

There’s something in Q’s tone that Bond hasn't heard in a long time, and he smiles in relief. 

“For what?” Bond plays along.

“For Valentine’s Day,” Q says.

“You remembered,” Bond replies, honestly surprised. The way Q’s been worked into the ground these past few months--barely registering Christmas, forgetting New Year’s entirely--Bond hadn’t expected Q to remember.

“Of course I did,” Q says.

That has Bond smiling, but Q’s not looking at him. Instead, he’s frowning at the barren little porch like it personally offends him, but Bond has a feeling he’s thinking about more important things than the stonework.

Inside, the foyer is warm and welcoming with its neutral colour palette and dark wood floors; the wainscoting is tasteful and unobtrusive, and there is a handsome staircase leading to the second storey. Q doesn’t even bother to remove his coat; he immediately begins exploring, not waiting for Bond, who stands back and allows him to move freely.

The lower level hosts a spacious living and dining room, a small bath, and an updated kitchen. The floor plan is open, allowing movement and light through the space. Glass makes up the back portion of the house, the living room looking out at the large expanse of grey-brown yard enclosed by the property wall. Bond frowns at the yard, thinking it could have better presentation if the weather hadn’t been so shite these past few weeks.

But Q doesn’t seem perturbed about the yard; Bond already hears him making his way to the second storey, where two made-up bedrooms and a study await. Bond stands in the kitchen, leaning back against the center island to give Q space to survey the place. He listens as Q’s footsteps move from the master to the bathroom, then to the next bedroom. They stop in the study, and don’t move for a long while. Bond knows Q is staring at the built-in bookcases, overflowing with volumes with gilded spines, and the handsome desk and leather chair.

It’s a while before Q makes his way down the stairs, but he doesn’t come into the kitchen. Instead, Bond hears him in the foyer, opening the door to the basement to take the little stairway down below. And Bond holds his breath.

This is it.

“James.”

He’s seen it then: the drafting table, the high-tech tools, the sleek bins of raw materials, the setups for multiple computers and server racks. Everything a Quartermaster could want, but never actually had the time to play with--never had time to honestly create--because of the demands of the job.

Everything Q wanted but never asked for: a true workshop of his own that wasn't a dingy garage in a bad part of town.

James Bond.”

Bond’s heard that tone before and knows he’s in for it. In fact, Q’s not even up the stairs and he’s already started.

What did you do?

Q appears in the kitchen, looking angry as he approaches Bond. It’s the way he walks into budget meetings, defensive and prepared to fight until his last breath, and Bond knows immediately that playing dumb will not help him here.

So he fishes the keys from his pocket, reaches for Q’s hand, and places them in his palm.

And Q stares at them like he doesn’t know what they are.

“I,” Bond begins, and then hesitates, because, where does he start?

He’d seen the place on accident last April, browsing ads on the Internet. He’d been looking for a small, permanent place for Q to have a workshop, somewhere that Bond knew would be safer and more secure than the garage he’d been using for so many years. The property had been listed in the wrong thread, but it had caught Bond’s attention: a small, private little house with enough space for the two of them and a workshop or three. He’d looked at the photographs and had seen potential, even if he knew it would never be in the cards for him or Q. It was too far from London and inconceivable that Q would ever make that commute. But he couldn’t stop thinking about it, and on a day that he didn’t have class or drill, Bond had driven out to see it. Q had been otherwise occupied, hadn’t known the wiser, and Bond had honestly been doing it out of curiosity more than anything else.

But then he’d seen it and thought it was perfect.

He loved London, yes, but the older he became, the more Bond wanted something different, something slower, more relaxed. He wanted peace and quiet and something to call his own. He thought he might want a garden or a garage; some place he could work with his own two hands and create something. He did some maintenance on the Aston from time to time and managed to grow a few things in the window box of their flat, but he wanted more than that. He wanted privacy and space and freedom. He wanted a home.

It had scared him to realise it. After hating Skyfall in his youth, he had vowed to never settle down permanently again. But the past years had been a beautiful glimpse into a life that he never thought he’d live. And now, he wanted that small, unremarkable house. He wanted to make it remarkable: for Q, for the two of them, together.

Bond fumbles with an explanation, trying to put the feeling and desire and need into words, but it’s not his most eloquent moment.

“You bought a house,” Q hisses, when he’s through.

Bond’s shocked at his tone, and can’t find the right words. It’s the first time in a long time he’s seen Q so angry. Or maybe it just feels that way, having only seen Q exhausted and unsmiling for so long.

“Do you...not like it?” Bond asks helplessly.

“James, you can’t just go out and buy a house without telling me. We’re married for Christ’s sake!”

“I wanted it to be a surprise…”

“Flowers are a surprise. Dinner is a surprise. Romantic vacations to Paris are a surprise. A house where you intend to live for the rest of your life with your partner, who wasn’t included in the decision--not a good surprise!”

Bond feels his shoulders sag.

“You’re right,” Bond sighs sadly, looking at the floor. He’d picked the wood himself, knowing Q would like its character. “I wasn’t thinking. I just...thought you’d like it.”

“Of course I bloody do,” Q snaps, like Bond’s offended him, “it’s perfect.”

Bond blinks, because he couldn’t have heard that correctly.

“What?”

“Fucking perfect,” Q says angrily. “Everything. This bloody house has everything I could ever want.”

Bond feels a surge of warm pride in his chest. He had chosen everything with insane attention to detail, spoken to architects and interior designers about their particular preferences so it would be exactly what they both wanted, down to the fixtures and drawer pulls. And he’d done it. Q loves it. Bond can tell by the way Q is trying to remain stern and not to look pleased.

“But?” Bond prompts.

“You didn’t ask me,” Q reminds him, with some heat.

But?” Bond tries again.

Q’s shoulders droop as his defensiveness leaves him.

“It’s just…” Q looks around helplessly, and then Bond sees it.

Q’s afraid, honest-to-God-afraid. He, like Bond, knows what a house is, what it means.

“It’s a house,” Q says.

“We’re married. We can have nice things,” Bond says.

Q laughs weakly.

“I mean, it’s permanent,” Q elaborates.

“I’d hope so,” Bond replies.

Q looks down at the keys in his hand with a pensive expression, rolling them idly in his palm; the metal clinks against the ring on his left finger. Then Q sighs and looks past Bond, out at the yard.

“It’s far from London,” Q says.

“I know,” Bond says, treading carefully. “I figure we can keep the flat. Use it during the week. Maybe make this our weekend house until…”

Bond doesn’t say retire because he knows that’s a long way off. Whereas Bond can leave at any time, Q is still important. There is so much still expected of him, especially with the recent staff changes. He knows there’s no way Q can leave and that, even if he could, he might not want to.

“Or we can let it,” Bond suggests, when the silence goes on a bit too long.

Although he doesn’t want to allow renters into this space, he’s willing to do it if it makes Q happy. But a frown twists Q’s lips, indicating that Bond’s suggestion has the opposite effect.

“No,” is all Q says.

“Okay,” Bond can't help but smile, “we won’t.”

Q sets the keys down on the table and contemplates them for a moment. Then he reaches for his satchel at his hip and pulls back the flap.

“I was going to give this to you tonight,” Q says, as he removes some papers from his bag, “but I guess...now’s a good time.”

Q slides an envelope across the island counter. It’s official-looking and Bond is apprehensive.

“What’s this?” Bond asks, swallowing thickly.

“Open it,” Q tells him.

Bond hesitates, and when he glances up at Q, he sees him smiling, just a bit.

“They’re not divorce papers, James,” Q says, as if reading Bond’s thoughts. “Honestly, it won’t bite.”

So Bond opens it.

It’s a single sheet of paper on MI6 letterhead. Bond skims, then pauses halfway through and rereads more carefully.

...with great difficulty that I resign the title and duties of Quartermaster of MI6…

“You didn’t.”

“I did.”

Bond drops the letter on the table

“You quit MI6,” Bond says.

“I’ll still freelance for them,” Q says quickly, “but yes. I quit.”

“Why?” Bond asks.

He feels shell-shocked. This is the last news he ever expected to hear from Q.

“Because,” Q replies, walking into the living room, where he sits on the leather sofa facing the nondescript yard, “I’m not as young as I used to be.”

“Thirteen years and you’re already bowing out?” Bond asks, moving to sit beside him.

“Fourteen, and you made it seem like much longer, you know.”

“I retired years ago.”

“And it hasn’t been the same since.”

Q sighs and leans his head back against the cushions.

“I’ve been...I don’t know. Slower, I guess. Tired,” Q says, and closes his eyes. “My eyesight’s gotten worse...my hands, well. You know. Everything. I’m not what I used to be and I’m not scared to admit that. But I am afraid of making a mistake and getting someone killed. I’d rather go out like this than have something go wrong because of stubbornness.”

Then, Q laughs and turns his head to look at Bond with the first real smile he’s seen in ages.

“Besides, I don’t want to die of stress. I’d prefer to live a long life and die somewhere quietly with you.”

Bond scoots closer and presses his forehead against Q’s.

“I think that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said,” Bond says, and Q flushes.

“Hush.”

Bond grins.

“So you really like it?”

“I love it,” Q answers, and pulls away with a stern expression, “but don’t make a big decision like this without me again, okay? We’re supposed to be a team, remember?”

“But, surprise?” Bond tries.

Q’s seriousness dissolves when he laughs and Bond pulls him onto his lap to kiss him. It feels like ages since they’ve been so carefree, so intimate, and Bond wonders if it’s because of the house and what it means for them, for the future.

“But promise me,” Q says, all kiss reddened lips and silver flyaways and those fine lines at the corners of his eyes.

“I promise,” Bond answers, and says Q’s real name because he can.

In return, Q smiles, bright and beautiful, and kisses it from his lips.

Chapter Text

It always seems to rain on Valentine’s Day.

Bond knows England’s notoriously poor weather shouldn’t disappoint him, but today it does. Rain pounds on the panes, the sill, the roof. What had once been a soothing sound is now painful, because Bond is assaulted with the memory of waking here, listening to the London rain with his arms round Q, the blankets soft and warm with their body heat. He loved those mornings and the way the grey light would have Q turning under Bond’s arm, snuggling into him for a few more moments of rest.

Now the light is there, but the bed is gone. The furniture and pictures and books are too. There’s nothing more than scuffs and lines in the floor as testament to the past fourteen years of their life.

Something hot and hard settles in Bond’s throat, and he leaves before he can become even more melancholy. But the empty living room and kitchen provide no relief. And the dark and chill of the day make what he’s about to do even harder than he’d imagined.

Saying goodbye is always the hardest thing to do.

He’s staring at the window--the one in the living room overlooking the street, where Q liked to sit and read, where Ahab often napped in the perfect patch of afternoon light, where Bond had grown roses in the window boxes after they were married--and thinking of their happy life and isn’t entirely sure why it makes him feel so sad.

Arms slide around Bond from behind.

“You okay?” Q asks, his cheek against Bond’s shoulder.

“Yeah,” Bond says, unable to take his eyes from the window, “I’m fine.”

“What’s wrong?” Q asks, and Bond can’t help but smile. Q’s known him too long to accept fine as an acceptable answer.

“Nothing,” Bond says.

“Really, what is it?”

“Honestly, it’s nothing.”

Q brushes his lips against the back of Bond’s neck.

“It’s a bit melancholy, isn’t it?” Q asks, and just like that, Bond feels that hard thing crawl into his throat again.

“Yeah, it is.”

Because today, of all days, is the day they are giving up their flat in London.

It’s a bittersweet feeling that Bond isn’t familiar with, because he’s never felt any sort of affection for places he’s lived. Those places had always been houses, not homes, and never left a hollow feeling of loss in his chest.

That doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love their new home. He loves how, over the past year, they’ve made it their own with the greenhouse and the solar paneled roof and the rain collection system Q designed to better irrigate the garden. He loves the way the light falls in through their bedroom window in the morning and the way the sky looks at night from their dinner table. But Bond especially loves the way that Q’s come back to life in that house: drafting sustainable architectural designs by day and learning to dance and cook and garden with Bond at night. They’ve got tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse and hundreds of prototype weapons in need of testing and far, far too many cats that they hadn’t the hearts to turn away and it’s nothing short of perfect.

But this is the tiny little flat where he and Q had grown together for almost fourteen years. It was where they had laughed and fought and loved and it was as much a part of them as their own skin and Bond feels like he can’t leave.

“We don’t have to sell it, you know,” Q says. “We can keep the place a little longer.”

“No, no, it’s,” Bond stops, swallows, “it’s already done.”

“Well a few ones and zeroes and that could change..”

“Q…”

“I am retired and use my powers for mostly good and not evil, but I’m not adverse to making a few changes if it would make you happy.”

“It’s okay,” Bond says, placing his hands over Q’s. “Really, it is.”

Q sighs and presses against him.

“I will miss this place,” Q admits, “but I think it’s good to let it go.”

“Why’s that?”

“Because then it can become someone else’s place. You know, where they can be happy. Like we were.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Bond turns in Q’s arms and presses him gently against the kitchen counter.

“You know, we should have a proper goodbye…”

“Oh?” Q asks, laughing as Bond tips him back with kisses to his neck. “And how’s that?

“Revisiting our favourite places?” Bond suggests, as he moves his hands under Q’s cardigan.

“Mmhmm and by revisiting do you mean shagging?”

“You said it, I didn’t.”

“You’re incorrigible,” Q manages, between kisses, “I’ve already given the keys to the property manager.”

“What? We can’t have five more minutes?”

“Five more minutes? Do you think we’re twenty again?”

Bond tugs affectionately at Q’s grey hair in lieu of reply. Q pinches at Bond’s soft stomach in retaliation. And then they’re both giggling like teenagers; it’s only the sound of the door opening and the click of the property manager’s heels that has them sober up.

After one last walk of the place they sign the last few papers and then take the lift down to the main floor. It’s when Q puts up his umbrella and they’re out on the rainy street, hand in hand, that Bond realises it’s really over.

Q just squeezes his hand in that comforting, assuring way, and Bond is overwhelmed with love for him.

Fourteen years.

It’s been fourteen years since the Valentine’s Day Q had placed a kiss on Bond’s forehead and then smiled at him just so. Fourteen years since they started with their awkward, hesitant flirting: the secretive glances, the earnest touching between missions. Bond never thought they’d last. He honestly never thought he’d stay. But then six months turned to a year and then that year to two and now all of a sudden it’s been fourteen years and Bond just can’t believe it.

It’s been fourteen wonderful years.

And it’s just the beginning.

“What are you smiling about?” Q asks, as they shake off their coats and the umbrella in the entryway of the National Gallery.

“Nothing,” Bond says.

“Tell me,” Q laughs, after they’ve acquired their tickets and passed the guard eyeing them suspiciously from the security booth.

“Guess.”

So Q proceeds to guess as they make their way through the gallery, each one becoming more and more outlandish the longer Bond lets it go on.

“Oh, come on, just tell me.”

Bond slides his arm into Q’s as they walk into room 34, where Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire still hangs on the wall in front of the place they first met. He never would have guessed all those years ago that the man who sat next to him on that bench and spoke of the inevitability of time would be the person with whom he would spend the rest of his life.

And now here they are, and with so much more to look forward to.

“I’m happy,” Bond says.

Q smiles as if he’d known all along.

“Me too.”