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How to Bond with your Cat (Q)

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Everyone came into their Gifts between the ages of eighteen and their early twenties - late-bloomers in their mid-twenties.  Q had always expected to be one of those, since his family had a history of belatedly coming into their Gifts - out of five children (Q being the youngest, sixth child), it looked like Q wouldn’t have to worry about coming into his Gift until he was at least twenty-five, which was still a whole seven years in the future.  There were still other children in the Boothroyd’s young clan who would no doubt get their Gifts before Q did.  

That was the logical train of thought, anyway.  

The lights were too bright.  Q had a sense that it was nighttime and that darkness should have been curling in around him, but it was all brightness and noise instead - flashes of red and yellow and off-white, searing into his eyes along with everything else.  The noises around him were the sounds of traffic, but he couldn’t remember how he’d gotten here, or where to go, or even where here was.  The last thing he remembered was leaving the pub and waving a good-night to his mates and walking back towards the dorm-buildings, a walk that he’d made a hundred times before despite his young age.  Sometimes, Q recalled feeling a bit threatened on his walk home - being under ten-stone and build like a bean-pole didn’t leave him very confident in his abilities to get out of a scrape if one chanced upon him - but this time he recalled nothing out of the ordinary at all, until suddenly his brain was on and bombarding him with a million things that made no sense.

Everything was huge.  It was as if the world had suddenly exploded in size - or else Q had shrunk.  That thought was dashed from his head as a car shot past him, splashing him with mud even as it came close enough to nearly run him over.  Another coming the other way, on Q’s left side now, hemming him in and making all of his muscles lock up.  Terrified and confused, he swung his head around, viewing tires taller than he was and streetlights glaring down at him with inhuman brightness like mad eyes.

Inhuman brightness.  Intuition struck like an electrical spark, sharp and nasty.  Q suddenly twisted his head a bit further, feeling ungainly and misshapen somehow, and nearly had a heart-attack on the spot as he saw patches of white-on-black fur - now splattered with muddy water.  Fear and shock coiled through him even as understanding wove its way into his thoughts as well, mimicking the uncertain, shaky curling of a black, feline tail against his lean flanks.  

A shape-changer.  He’d come into his Gift, and his Gift was shape-changing.  Into a cat.  

It should have been an exciting, joyous occasion, but stuck in the middle of traffic and with no idea how to turn his Gift off now that it had turned on, Q mewled pathetically and tried to get his legs under him and dash to safety.  The problem was, his cat-eyes were quite a bit different from his human ones, turning the night into a mass of brightness and ruined night-vision, and his brain honestly had no idea how to work four feline legs.  Another car swerved past - right over him this time - and Q’s shock came out of him as a hiss.  Already crouched on the tarmac, he flattened himself lower to the ground as the vehicle raced over him, growling like a beast.  Somehow, it passed without hitting him, but all that told Q was that any move in either direction risked tires crushing his suddenly tiny body.  Petrified, he cried out, frustrated when his feline voice barely reached above the hum of traffic.  He was insignificant - small - a nothing.  His Gift had come upon him suddenly, and he didn’t know what to do about it, or if he’d even survive long enough to tell anyone.  

The very thought of being hit by a car while in a totally different skin chilled him to his core, and the fear paralyzed him completely.  No one would ever find him, because there was no special magic that turned a shape-changer back into a human when they died - and no matter how hard he rattled his brain around, he couldn’t even begin to imagine how to change back.  Another car rushed by, right over him again with the underbelly of the car threatening to scrape the fur of his back, and this time all Q could think to do was tuck his head down between his paws - one black, one white at the toes, the contact of his whiskers sizzling through his brain with a foreign wave of sensation - and curl himself lower and tighter.  ‘Let it end,’ he pleaded, even though he didn’t have a human voice for anyone to hear, or a body large enough for anyone to see amidst the kaleidoscope of car-lights in the night.  He wanted nothing more than to wake up and realize that this was all a nightmare.  

There were a light whine of brakes being tested, and the parade of cars literally zooming right over Q’s furred back stopped abruptly.  He could still sense the other lanes moving nearby, and he dared lift his head a little.  Everything was at once too bright and too dark, still, but it only took a squinted blink to realize that there were headlights behind him - but they were stationary.  Confused and still terrified out of his mind, he twisted his head the barest increment, as if too much motion would somehow throw him into the path of a rolling tire.  

A white car - an Aston Martin - was halted a few meters behind Q, hazard-lights blinking as it came to an unorthodox bit of parking in the center of the street.  All Q could think was that he was relieved beyond measure that at least one lane of cars had stopped, but he still didn’t know how to walk in this damn cat’s body, and there were enough cars still moving along at a brisk clip on either side to keep him hemmed in.  He didn’t dare move.  The car’s doors opened and shut with a slam that made Q’s ears twitch reflexively, and he heard a horn honk with painful intensity from behind the Aston Martin.  Whoever had come out of the Aston Martin shouted back in a voice that was unexpectedly familiar, “Fuck off!  There’s something in the road!”  The voice that replied was less intelligible, but Q was busy staring at the athletic, blond-haired figure striding towards him, the headlights casting him in a harsh lighting that made Q’s new eyes hurt horribly.  Still, he stared until he was sure that this was, indeed, one of his classmates, James Bond.  

Q had met Bond on enough occasions to know his face and voice, and to know a bit more from reputation.  James was older than Q and a few years ahead of him at Uni, on the verge of graduating if he could keep out of trouble long enough; his track-record for sleeping around was swiftly approaching the level of legendary.  The main overlap in their lives was the fact that Q fixed computer problems in his spare time, and James had been referred to him on multiple occasions.  Q’s opinion of the other young man was that James Bond was charming, friendly, lethally good-looking, and capable of killing computers with a touch.  Q didn’t know what his Gift was, but figured it had something to do with either his most positive traits or his animosity towards technology.  

“What the devil are you doing in the middle of the street, you scrawny little thing?” Q heard James mutter under his breath even as he loomed over Q.  Offended despite himself at the description, Q swiveled his head and blinked up at him more directly, and in that moment Bond froze in his tracks, pale-blue eyes widening.  “Q?”

The boffin felt his new tail straighten out in shock, and he would have responded if he had the faintest idea how, or the slightest bit of motor-control with which to perform said action.  By now, however, the coldness of the damp road combined with the muddy water splashed all over him had left Q chilled to the marrow of his fragile little bones, and when he opened his mouth, nothing but a terribly thin little meow came out.  The shock and elation at - somehow - being recognize faded away to exhausted, petrified helplessness again as he looked around him and shivered.  He felt the soggy fur along his spine try to lift.  

“-Move your sodding car!” came another shout, louder this time, from behind Bond’s Aston Martin - traffic was piling up.  That seemed to decide it, and with nothing more than a glance back and a singularly dismissive, tch noise past his teeth, James was kneeling down and scooping his hands around Q’s middle.  Q hardly knew how his new body worked, but he was able to squirm quite effectively as surprise took over him.  

“Hold still, you bloody furball!” Bond grunted at him, ultimately able to hold Q with nothing more than one hand under his middle as he turned to presumably gesture at the drivers behind them, although that proved a poor choice when combined with Q’s uncoordinated flailing.  Fortunately, Q wasn’t very high up when he was accidentally dropped - barely his own height up in the air - but felt the urge to run the second his paws hit the street.  Cars were blaring their horns everywhere, it seemed, and the angry voices tore at his sensitive ears until Q felt like they would be bleeding.  Before he could give running a try, however, that same callused hand came down, this time taking up a handful of Q’s scruff without ceremony.  The way Q’s skin moved and stretched felt obscenely odd, and he felt a lot like a piece of luggage as he was lifted off the ground once more.  “There you go - easy,” James’s voice cut through the chaotic noises of the road even as the blond-haired man carefully deposited Q into the cradle of his other arm, this time providing something for Q’s new paws to land on.  Q started shivering profusely at that point, as if the sudden prospect of getting out of this hellish experience just might break him where the terror hadn’t.  “Don’t bite me if you’re not really Q and actually just some feral cat with bad decision-making skills,” he heard James request, the grip on Q’s nape loosening without letting go entirely.  It was disconcerting to realize that the other man’s hand was probably big enough to encapsulate Q’s entire furry neck at this point, although James hadn’t hurt him so far, even when he’d accidentally lost his hold on him a second ago.  Starting to walk away from the little patch of ground Q had been occupying until now, James added ruefully, “If I’m right and you are Q, I’d still prefer if you kept your little kitten teeth to yourself.  And claws.”

Q hadn’t the faintest idea how to do much damage with either of those, but was willing to follow any orders from James so long as it got him off the street and away from the cars.  Cradled on top of Bond’s left arm and with the older man’s right hand still ready to tighten on Q’s scruff if necessary, Q was starting to finally feel safe if not entirely sane.  He was still trying to wrap his head around the fact that his Gift had awakened so early, and that he would now be able to turn back and forth between a cat at will.  At the moment, he was stuck in his new form, so it was logical to lower his expectations and hopes for the immediate future: he just wanted to be away from moving cars, and presumably someplace quieter, darker, and warmer than where he was now.  

James barked something particularly foul at the honking vehicle behind him, and Q had the vaguest sense that he was being pointed to when Bond’s right hand lifted away from him - with any luck, a cat provided a legitimate excuse to block traffic like this.  Q only flailed again when James slipped unexpectedly into the driver’s seat with him, and then made to put Q down on the next seat over.  ‘I’m filthy!’ Q tried to holler at him, and ended up making making little ‘mmrrrrr-ing’,` growling noises instead.  The leather seats of Bond’s car, with the interior lighting on, were immaculate, and suddenly Q’s overwrought brain couldn’t stand the thought of spreading dirty water and paw-prints everywhere.  James was saving him and Q in return was going to make a mess of everything…  It was an entirely nonsensical thing to get upset over, but Q’s entire world had gone a little sideways, so his brain was latching onto things at random.

Shockingly, James merely chuckled - a response that Q suspected would have been out of his hearing range if he’d been human, but as a cat he heard as a low rumble of sound and felt as a heavy vibration wherever they touched.  “All right, Q, all right,” he murmured as he let Q, in a surprising turn of events, sit on his lap for a second.  Embarrassment flooded through the boffin, but before he could properly think it all over - What exactly did one do when finding himself on the lap of a handsome bloke, but when both said blokes were presently different species? - James had wrestled off the leather jacket he was wearing.  Said jacket was tossed into the passenger seat, and Q promptly followed, although he was moved in a far gentler manner that involved no actual tossing.  After learning the hard way that Q would squirm if he wasn’t held properly and securely, James gripped Q’s scrawny, black-and-white body carefully.  Q stilled in response.  When he was once again bereft of strong, warm hands wrapped around him, he found that he was still encased in heat, because Bond’s jacket was body-warm and now providing quite an adequate nest for a small, sodden cat.  “Better?” James asked, even as the interior lights flicked off again and James put the car into drive.  The horns behind him grudgingly ceased, and Q closed his eyes and sighed in relief to now be part of the flow of traffic.  He was still shaking very hard.  

Q wanted to ask how in the world Bond had recognized him as a cat when even Q hadn’t realized that he could turn into one until now - he also wanted to know how James had thought to dirty his jacket instead of the seats of his car - but suddenly all that mattered was that the car was dark and quiet, and he was warmer.  And not in danger any longer.  Some indescribable feline noise slipped out of him without his consent, but Q felt that it adequately summed up how pathetically wiped out he was by all this.  

“You all right there, Q?”

It took a moment for Q to lift his head and open his eyes, although his ears seemed willing to swivel automatically.  Good.  He already had to learn how to use a tail and an entirely new body - at least something worked on reflex alone.  Although James was lit only by the faint lights on his dash, Q found that he could see him quite clearly - night-vision, no doubt.  It was really rather lovely when Q’s eyes weren’t being bombarded by blinding headlights.  Q nodded slowly, twitching a little at the zing of sensation from his sensitive whiskers brushing cloth.  James’s head turned a little more Q’s way as if he noticed.  

“The fact that you’re nodding and responding to questions leads me to believe that I’m right about you being Q,” the man mused, a slight upward tick at the corner of his mouth betraying humor, even if his voice was still quite serious, “But just to be sure, you are Q, right?  The snarky boffin who happens to be the only one who can ever fix my laptop?”

Q felt an unexpected flush of warmth at the praise, and perhaps that was what gave him the determination to gather his fine motor skills enough to nod again.  

“I didn’t know that you were a shape-shifter.”

There was no way for Q to tell him, ‘Neither did I,’ but Q thought that the weak disgruntled noise he made was decently explanatory.  He burrowed a bit deeper into Bond’s jacket, filling his nose with the smell of cologne, masculine skin, and a smoky smell that lead Q to believe that James spent time at a firing range somewhere.  

James dropped the conversation, no doubt realizing its futility when one of the conversationalists didn’t have human vocal cords with which to answer.  The quietness was a blessing, and while Q was still far too shell-shocked - and wet and cold, for that matter, despite Bond’s jacket - to completely relax, he felt himself retreating from the edge of panic where he’d been before.  He was sort of in a thoughtless fugue when Bond pulled the car over and parked, and the interior lights came on again, making Q hiss and narrow his eyes.  “Steady on there, Q,” James murmured, eyes sympathetic and a stunning shade of blue to Q’s new eyes.  Q was vaguely aware that this ability to see color wasn’t typical of your average cat (he’d read somewhere that they were nearly color-blind), but he wasn’t exactly an average cat.  If anything, he was seeing colors more vividly now, although they also seemed subtly off.  

James continued, hands telegraphing their movements as they reached for Q very slowly, “I just want to check that you’re not injured.  I should have done that earlier, but I was more worried about getting you off the road.”

Brain still slow and foggy in the aftermath of that much adrenalin, Q slowly digested the logic of this, also feeling a flutter of gratitude towards James.  He hadn’t thought they were really friends - merely acquaintances - but if this was how much care Bond showed towards acquaintances, Q thought the man’s friends must be exceedingly lucky.  Honestly, Q hadn’t thought to check if he was hurt, and wondered if he’d be able to tell, when he could barely understand most of the signals coming to him from his new body.  

“Can I pet you a little?” James was thoughtful enough to ask, pale brows beetling a little and the twist of his mouth showing that this wasn’t exactly something he had practice with, despite his apparent calm.  Since Q didn’t either, he just nodded in impulsive acquiescence, then held his breath as large, tanned hands moved the rest of the way towards him and eventually touched mucky fur.  James was a young man to have so many calluses on his palms and fingertips, but he was also surprisingly gentle, which made Q fear less for his new, delicate body.  Q felt like he could be smashed like a bundle of match-sticks, but James was treating him like living glass, so it was okay.  While one warm palmed gave a hesitant, exploratory stroke down Q’s arched back, the other prodded at the smooth planes of Q’s head.  It was a bit embarrassing, but to some extent… it also felt wonderful.  With the world gone suddenly insane, it was nice to have tangible, tactile proof that someone was caring for him right now.  The only unpleasant part was whenever one of his whiskers brushed anything, but after just once or twice, James somehow seemed to notice and avoid the sensitive little hairs.  Q closed his eyes and settled for doing nothing but lying still and accepting that this was his reality right now: stuck in a cat’s body, rescued from an impromptu stalemate in the center of the road, with hands roving over him and hopefully doing something to settle his mussed fur...

“Can you stand?”

The question startled Q and his eyes snapped open, but after recovering his equilibrium enough to process the question, he nodded once more and centered his paws beneath him.  What happened instead of a smooth transition from crouched to standing, however, was a particularly embarrassing sort of staggering, in which Q’s legs rebelled and his tail pinwheeled for balance.  ‘I have four legs instead of just two - I should be twice as graceful as before, not half!’ Q railed inside his head even as he peeled back his lips from kitten teeth and spat in frustration.  Fortunately, Bond caught him before he was in danger of falling right off the seat.

“That answers that question then…” Bond muttered, one eyebrow arching - a bit judgmentally, Q thought with a glare of his own.  Still, Q wasn’t going to argue with the hands that were presently easing him back down into his nest, although he was grateful that blushes weren’t visible on cats.  He did jump and squirm a bit as each of his legs was gently taken in hand, until he realized that James was actually feeling for breaks in the elegant, slender bones.  

“Okay,” James sighed, eventually sitting back, and after a glance at Q’s still-slitted eyes, turning the car’s interior lights back off again.  Q let out a little huff of relief at the return to darkness, even as his eyes adjusted flawlessly and painted out everything in beautiful detail.  He also settled his legs back under him as best he could, resigned to the fact that they didn’t work, and a bit shy and flustered after having hands all over them.  “From what I can tell, you’re scrawny as hell, but I knew that already.”  Q made a grumbling noise, and made it louder when he saw Bond smirk.  The man put the car in drive and pulled out into traffic again, still amused.  “But you’re also not hurt in any way that I can find, which I suppose is good news.”  The smirk transformed into a thoughtful look, and James glanced away from the road briefly as if to catch Q’s expression.  “Am I right in guessing that this is the first time you’ve changed?  It’s the only way all of this makes sense to me, to be honest,” he said with surprising candidness.  

Glad to have a yes-or-no question to answer, Q nodded his head enthusiastically, meowing again with enough volume to surprise even himself.  He quickly retreated back into the cloth-lined leather, shivering and embarrassed.  Bond just chuckled again, “I was pretty sure you hadn’t come into your Gift yet, and I know you’re smart enough not to wander out into traffic on a whim.”

How do you know that I hadn’t found my Gift yet?’ Q asked mutely and with sudden suspicion, feeling his ears fold back while his eyes narrowed.  James wasn’t looking at him, however, eyes instead on the road to wherever they were going.  

However Bond had come to the conclusion that Q was un-Gifted before now, he hadn’t managed to deduce where Q lived, and said so as he parked once more and this time turned off the car, “I’m going to take you to my dorm, if that’s all right.  I can’t think of what else to do at this time of night, with you as a cat.”  James dragged a hand down over his face, the first sign yet that he might be slightly overwhelmed by this.  Q meowed in what he hoped as an encouraging, grateful fashion, showing that this wasn’t a bad idea - or, at least, that he himself couldn’t think of a better one.  For a brief moment, he wondered if he should be trusting his fellow classmate this much by letting James literally take him home without anyone knowing - not that Q’s roommate would notice - and without really knowing all that much about the young man called James Bond besides idle conversation and rampant rumors.  Honestly, though… Q was too exhausted to care.  Tonight had been and still was a nightmare, but that nightmare had gotten slightly more bearable since Bond’s arrival, and if the blond-haired, blue-eyed man had had any interest in breaking Q into tiny pieces, he’d have done so by now.  So when James reached over to him, he merely sighed out of his pink nose and didn’t bother to move.  

“Tired?”  James actually sounded worried, and on a face made for self-assuredness and confidence, it was an almost adorable sight.  The answer was ‘yes’ to the degree that Q suddenly felt like it was too much trouble to even nod, so he just blinked slowly, even as a capable hand slipped under his ribcage again.  Q found enough energy to be surprised when he was once again deposited on Bond’s lap beneath the shadow of the steering wheel, but the other man was merely shrugging back into his coat again, apparently not caring that it was damp and smelled like road-muck and soggy cat.  Bond began explaining even as he settled the material expertly across his broad shoulders, “My building doesn’t actually allow pets, and they won’t believe that I’m taking in a shape-shifter if you can’t actually shift.”  While Q’s eyes widened a bit at the trouble he foresaw on the horizon, James looked only mildly miffed, and zipped his jacket up halfway before looking down at Q and snapping on a cocky grin.  “Luckily for you, breaking rules has never exactly been a problem for me.  Think you can stand being hidden in a coat for just a tic?”

Q had only met James a handful of times, and was already developing something of an obsession with the man’s pectorals, so no, he didn’t think he’d mind being tucked up against the man’s torso - at least, that was what the purely reflexive side of him said.  Logic was sort of screaming and trying to die a terrible death of mortification and embarrassment.  That left the cat on Bond’s lap blinking up at him with huge eyes and no other reaction whatsoever, which apparently was taken as some twisted kind of consent.  

In the name of honesty, Q would admit that he flailed.  He meowed, too, but still ended up being tucked into Bond’s jacket.  For a moment, just his head was sticking out, but then James put a fingertip in the middle of Q’s forehead and pushed down while simultaneously pulling the zip of his coat up.  Whiskers zinging as they were pressed against from all sides, Q loosed a very disgruntled noise before darkness and warmth encompassed him.  

If someone had told Q that he’d one day be zipped up in James Bond’s coat, he’d have told them to ask their dealer for better drugs, because that was a hallucination of the highest order.  Q hadn’t even gotten this far in his dreams.

James didn’t seem to have any discernible problem with it, if the sound of the car-door opening and the swift upward motion of his getting out were any indication.  He was, in fact, humming softly to himself - a bit tunelessly, but also with the lazy ease of someone who’d had nothing weird happen to them whatsoever.  Q figured out how to work his claws just enough to snag them in James’s shirt, but the man must have had at least one arm folded across his midsection, because Q didn’t slip out the bottom.  A bit panicked, Q panted and clung as much as he clumsily could, even as he felt the wonderful warmth James radiated sinking into his fur like a soporific.  

It was embarrassing, but somehow Q actually fell asleep between the car and the dorm-room.  He didn’t recall if anyone had stopped them, or talked to James, or perhaps noticed that there was an odd bulge in Bond’s jacket.  All he was aware of was a chill breath of fresh air intruding on his new nest, as well as light, which made him squeeze his eyes shut and hiss half-heartedly.  “Hey!” Bond said to him in a chastising tone even as he pulled his hand away.  The blond man was soon reaching into his coat again, however, proving that he was either very brave or had a high opinion of Q’s innate good nature.  Or he was stupid.  “You can be cranky all you want, just don’t bite me.  I’m going to feed you, if that helps.”

That did help a bit, actually, convincing Q’s brain to wake up a bit, and his manners likewise to rally.  He lifted his head and tried to push himself up enough to look around him, but ultimately had to wait until Bond got a hand under him and started lifting.  Q felt a lot like a cripple or invalid of some kind, but it wasn’t too bad so long as James continued to take pity on him.  Some of that pity probably shifted to annoyance at the realization that most of Q’s pearly little claws were caught in 007’s white tee.  “Shit,” Bond summed up the situation, and somehow managed to keep one hand curled under Q’s chest while his other wrestled with snagged claws for the next full minute.  After the struggle ended, Q was deposited on a simple, twin-mattress bed, and took a moment to get his bearings while James moved to hang up his jacket and toe off his shoes.

The dorm-room was simple, like many of its kind, although at least it looked like it had it’s own bathroom and kitchenette - a step up from Q’s place, which lacked the latter and forced its occupants eating habits to suffer.  Across from Bond’s bed, where Q was situated now, was another one, blankets all in rumpled disarray while James’s were at least thrown into a vague semblance of order.  Off to one side was a door that sat ajar, showing a sink and presumably the bathroom.  To the other side of the entrance was a small corner with a stash of various kitchen appliances.  

Forget being stashed in James’s jacket - Q had never expected to be in the man’s room, on his bed, no less.  

“I’ve got canned soup and Chinese takeaway,” Bond reported from the mini-fridge, one hand still braced on the counter next to a can of chicken-noodle soup.  “I know that shape-shifters in animal form can eat whatever they can in human form, but you look kind of like a train-wreck, so I’m leaning towards the soup.”

The mixture of frank assessment and nonjudgmental tone seemed to be something Bond excelled at, and even if Q had been more alert and awake, he didn’t think he’d have been able to get properly mad at the other student.  Emitting a sleepy mrrrrowl nonetheless, Q felt his eyes drifting closed, and jerked awake just before his muzzle dipped forward onto the blankets.  He blinked and jolted awake again to find blue eyes laughing at him, making Bond’s handsome face look even younger and more stunning.  He didn’t tease anymore, though, but instead set about microwaving soup - which would have been a culinary travesty, except Q had been living off university fare himself, and would probably eat anything at this point.  It seemed to take for-bloody-ever before James came back to him, bearing a bowl in hand.  Q craned his head to watch the steaming bowl, smelling all sorts of wonderful things wafting off it, and eventually found out that he could turn his head nearly one-hundred-and-eighty degrees by the time James sat cross-legged on the bed behind him.  Q tried to get up and turn, but his legs shook, and it was remarkably like that one time his roommate had gotten him drunk down at the pubs.  

“You really aren’t good at this,” James observed unhelpfully, but at least he put the bowl down carefully on the bed next to him and reached over.  Q moodily stayed silent as he was yet again picked up, and maybe something of his frustration and humiliation showed in the flattening of his ears, because James said more softly, “Don’t worry, Q, it’ll get easier.  It took Alec hours just to stand up, and then he had to learn how to fly on top of all that.”

Knowing that Bond had knowledge of shape-shifters helped a little bit, although Q was too drained and exhausted - and, for that matter, still damp and cold - to perk up much.  He realized that he was rather non-responsive by the time he was deposited in the alcove of James’s crossed legs, Q’s own forepaws and head draping over Bond’s socked ankles.  “Q,” Bond said, sounding worried again.  Q turned his head without lifting it, managing to angle one eye and an ear up at the frowning face hovering over him.  

Q was exhausted.  He was starving, too, and a lot of other negative things, but he was running out of reserves of energy to deal with it all.  

A muscle flicked briefly in James’s strong jaw, but then a fingertip moved in and lightly stroked down Q’s foreleg.  This was the one that was white at the toes (or off-white because of mud), and Q shivered even as the gentle pressure of Bond’s finger magically got the claws to poke out.  Q blinked, thinking dimly that James was already better at this cat-thing that he was.  “Don’t make me spoon-feed you, Q,” the blond-haired young man tried to threaten, “I will, you know.  Your ego may never recover.”

Q huffed and shivered again, but craned his neck to look at the bowl of soup, which smelled heavenly.  But warmth and sleep sounded better, so instead of trying to get up, Q wriggled to press his small body closer to Bond’s legs, which were radiating heat.  If Q had had a bit more knowledge on the subject, he would have known that transforming - especially for the first time - took energy, and drained a body massively.  

Bond sighed.  “Fuck it.”  The bowl was moved closer, and without preamble, James moved the spoon around in it, ultimately fishing out a piece of moistened chicken.  Q’s ears were good enough to hear the other man murmur, “My ego may never recover from this,” even as James plucked the chicken up now between his fingers, and moved it closer until it was almost touching Q’s nose.  “Come on, boffin.”  The same fingertip that had nudged Q’s paw now petted down his head and neck, settling between Q’s bony shoulder-blades and scratching lightly.  It felt surprisingly delightful, and Q made a strange, vibrating noise before leaning forward the law few millimeters and gingerly catching the meat between his teeth.  Lacking proper, chewing molars was a bit of an impediment, but his carnassials sheared through the soft chicken like the finest scissors, and Q was hungry enough to more or less inhale whatever he could get down.  “That’s better,” Bond praised, and maybe it was that, or maybe it was the repeated finger-petting between his shoulders that had Q making that odd thrumming noise again.  

He fell asleep to James Bond feeding him chicken and bits of dripping noodles, and eventually purring full-throatedly at the caresses that slowly knocked bits of drying mud out of his fur.  

~^~

“No, Alec, I did not bring a cat home.”

Q blinked muzzily, eyes barely opening, seeing nothing for a moment but his own hand - no, paw, still a paw - in front of his whiskered face.  It took a second longer to realize that it was Bond’s quiet, low voice that had woken him, and that he was currently stretched out on the man’s stomach.  Q would have died of embarrassment right there, except that this was the warmest, most comfortable place he could ever remember being in his life, and it was heavenly.  He breathed in, yawned out, and closed his eyes again without giving his brain time to properly panic over the situation.  

There was a croaking noise across the room, more avian than human.  James answered as if it had been English.  “Fine.  Yes.  It’s a cat.  Happy?”  A hand idly stroked down Q's back before retreating, the catch of calluses familiar.  

Despite his body’s interest in going back into a happy feline sleep again - he felt stiff and at the same time supple, aching from the strain of yesterday but melting against the body-heat beneath him as he lay stretched out on his side - Q found himself rousing again.  Who was James talking to?  Someone on the phone?  How did that someone on the phone know that there was a cat - Q - in the dormitories?  

Then there was another croak from across the room, this time a bit more like a chirruping cackle.  

“If you turn me in for bringing in a cat,” James responded in a rather sincere growl, “I’ll turn you in for stealing the landlady’s car-keys just so you could have sex in her car.”

This time, the response was a caw, and it took all of Q’s self-control to freeze in place instead of suddenly thrash into full wakefulness.  He remembered even as he instinctively feigned sleep, as he’d learned to do with his siblings on late weekend mornings, ‘Didn’t James say something about his roommate having to learn to fly?”

From the vicinity of the other bed came a caw, and Bond answered as easily as could be, “No, you can’t name him.  Weren’t you the one just now reminding me how we can’t keep a pet in here?”

Everything finally came together with a snap, and Q twisted and scrambled with his ungainly new cat-legs to try and properly… do something other than lie around.  At the same time, James suddenly realized that he was awake, too, and started swearing colorfully.  A hand came near Q and he bit it, surprised at his own accuracy as much as James was, who cursed more sharply even as the man sat up.  Q, by dint of being largely uncoordinated and not well-balanced, ended up sliding down Bond’s midriff to land in a heap of fur and blankets between Bond’s hip and the wall, where he promptly became tangled up.  

“I swear, Alec, I’m going to kill you one of these days,” James griped, sounding as much jaded as sincerely irked.  

Now it was a human voice that answered, not quite as low as Bond’s but still a pleasant base, “I’m not even sure what I did.  You were the one talking loud enough to wake your new pet stray.”

“Yes, but you weren’t talking,” Bond stressed.  Q could feel hands fishing for him through the blankets that had fallen on him, and it became a race to see if he could get out of the cloth first.  “And this isn’t a normal cat.  This is the dark-haired bloke who’s been fixing my laptop whenever you get hold of it.”

The other student - Alec - let out a burst of surprised laughter, sounding entirely too pleased.  “Are you serious?  Fuck, you are serious.  I thought you told me that you were going to resist temptation with that boffin?”

While Q’s brain momentarily stuttered over that last sentence, capable hands finally dove through the blankets and caught him.  One wrapped around his middle and met up with his claws (which scratched swiftly but not deeply), but the other caught his nape and seized hold.  Once again the sensation of being picked up by the scruff felt indescribably strange - it was as if part of him wanted to be really peeved by the idea, but part of him could well imagine the safe feeling of kittens being held in the mouths of protective mother cats.  And thus Q was hefted out of his current hiding place, and all escape options removed.  

Alec turned out to be a handsome fellow, albeit in a more roguish sense than his roommate, James.  Right now, Alec was sitting on his bed across the room with a broad smirk on his face, swirling a spare black feather between his fingers - probably his.  That in and of itself wasn’t troubling in the slightest, but the fact that James had been talking to Alec while one of them didn’t have human vocal cords…

“Q!  Q, stop it,” Bond demanded as Q flailed his paws about, seeing that he’d drawn a few red lines on Bond’s skin but unable to make anymore.  Part of Q didn’t want to; he’d never been the violent type, and even now was a bit sickened by the blood he’d drawn in tiny beads.  James’s face was serious and frustrated as he drew Q up to eye-level while also keeping him carefully out of reach of his scowling face, “I couldn’t tell you that what my Gift was because I’m not allowed to!  I’m an un-Marked Telepath.”

No kidding,’ Q wanted to retort, and pulled back his whiskers to hiss instead.  He probably looked more adorable than intimidating, if Alec’s badly-hidden chortle was any indicator, but Q still met James’s eyes and glared even while he started shaking.  Gifts were a fact of life, but there were some that were dangerous enough to demand government regulation - at the top of that list was the Gift of getting into people’s thoughts without permission, so all Telepaths were required, by law, to submit their name to a public registry and also have a letter ‘T’ tattooed on the backs of their right hands.  The social stigma against such marks was nothing compared to the retribution of the justice system if someone was found to be a Telepath and hiding it.  

Q had seen a lot of James’s hands over the past hours, and there wasn’t a tattoo in sight.  

The reason for this law was that Telepaths were dangerous.  There was virtually no way to keep one out of a person’s head, especially if you didn’t know they were there.  Suddenly, Bond’s ability to recognize Q and guess what he wanted made a lot more sense, even as it caused a painful sliver of vulnerability to sink into Q’s chest.  He didn’t notice when his show of ferocity gave way to sincere shaking, but the exasperated look on James’s face fell away at nearly the same time to an expression of guilt instead.  Alec was now conspicuously quiet even as Q was lowered.  Standing was something that Q could do now, even if his legs still felt shaky and strange as his paws alighted on James’s lap.  Q arched his back a little, sensing the need to look bigger than he was, even though the fight had gone out of him.  

Huge, green-hazel eyes looked up to find unexpectedly soft and regretful blue ones looking down at him while James’s hands let go of him in a show of unexpected trust.  “Look, Q, I didn’t deceive you on purpose,” James sighed, running one hand back through his hair and making it all stand on end in golden spikes, “And before that genius brain of yours gets going, I wasn’t reading your mind every second since I met you either.  I’m not…”  He cut himself off, glaring at the nearest wall and growling unhappily.

Alec, surprisingly, took up the narrative, “James isn’t actually very good.  Unless you're thinking it very loudly, he won’t pick it up.”  When Q glanced over to Alec with surprise and suspicion, the other young man met his gaze squarely - not only backing up his truthfulness but doing a good job of avoiding the stroppy little glare that James was sending him.  Apparently, this was a bit of a sore spot.  “Still,” Alec shrugged, grinning in a flash of white teeth and flopping back on his bed indolently, “He’s good enough to have conversations with people he knows well enough - which is pretty much just me.  And his new boss.  You should just tell him everything, Jamesy.”

“I meant it when I said I couldn’t tell you,” James finally relented with a resigned sigh, not meeting Q’s eyes when the shape-shifter turned his whiskered head Bond’s way again, “I actually am registered with the government - but then the government decided to employ me, so I never had to get the tattoo.”  James idly flashed the back of his right hand at Q, which was tanned and marked only by a few scars on his knuckles, attesting a rambunctious childhood at the very least.  “My files are heavily redacted, and if anyone asks, I’m supposed to tell them that my Gift simply includes slightly increased senses.  It’s a plausible response when I occasionally know things I shouldn’t, but not quite as illegal as the truth.”

Q was starting to settle down a little bit now, although it had less to do with Bond’s assurance that he was a pathetic Telepath, and more to do with the earnestness in the other young man’s blue eyes.  Still, he narrowed his own feline gaze and mentally posed the question, ‘Explain how you knew who I was then.

“Because-” James started to answer as reflexively as if the question had been spoken aloud, and then actually looked shocked, then irked.  “Damn.”

Q huff a small cat-laugh that might have been smug.  ‘So you’re better than you think then,’ was his reply, becoming more accustomed to this idea of speaking via thoughts - at least on his end.  

The look on Bond’s face, however, spoke otherwise: his brows had drawn together as if he were suddenly trying to read Latin.  It took Alec to break the new silence.  

“What is it, James?  You can’t just start swearing at cats and not tell your best friend why, you know.”

“I think that I actually can read his mind, at least intermittently,” James admitted while looking honest-to-god embarrassed.  Since Q had heard that James had been caught having sex in numerous places (some shockingly public), it was quite unexpected to see his ears reddening now, as he also lifted a hand to scrub it over his face.  

Alec had his arms folded behind his head, as idle as a cat himself and looking good doing it, but he did raise one curious brow.  “Might be because he’s a cat.  You can barely read my thoughts at all when I’m not a raven - how’s it been when he’s a cat before?”

“This is the first time he’s been a cat,” Bond informed his roommate bluntly, while Q winced a little and gave in to the urge to crouch down and make himself smaller.  Despite his apparently sporadic telepathic skills, James twitched as if he felt the humiliation rolling around in Q’s head, and then there was a hand lightly touching Q’s neck and sliding down his shoulders.  James once again found that spot behind his shoulder-blades that felt so nice, and it was comforting to be scratched there lightly.  

Finally looking more interested, Alec gave up his idle sprawl to sit up again, leaning forward over his knees and looking at Q as if he hadn’t really seen him before.  “Well, fuck.  Sorry, mate.  How’d you end up coming home with James?”

Since the question was directed at Q, but Q could hardly answer, James ended up explaining what he knew - which was no more than Q knew.  James had no idea how the boffin had ended up in the middle of traffic, and hadn’t even known that it was anything but a random stray when he’d stopped his car to move the ball of black-and-white fur off the road.  He’d recognized the general ‘feel’ of Q’s mind quickly, however, and subsequent yes-or-no questions had made up for the gaps in what Bond learned telepathically.  All in all, it sounded like James was more of a glorified Empath than a dangerous, un-Marked Telepath - with the occasional exception, apparently.  Q released a sigh of breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding when James went ahead and admitted that he’d never read much from Q’s mind until the boffin was suddenly a foot fall and in possession of a fur coat and tail.  

“And here you said you were going to have a quiet evening in,” Alec replied when the story ended.  Bond flipped him off.  Alec grinned back as if it were a compliment.  Watching this strange exchange, Q reflected that this was nothing like the relationship he had with his elusive roommate, and was really quite oddly companionable.  Q was trying to decide just what he thought about all of this - and about how easily his own presence had been accepted - when a phone alarm started going off, and James stretched back to grab hold of it on the bedside table.  Even through his shirt, his muscles stretched wonderfully.

“Shit.  Class,” the blond-haired man said succinctly, making Q look to the windows for the first time.  They had closed, plane white drapes over them, and Q was still getting used to his odd new vision - but apparently the ambient light in the room was early daylight.  Bond’s phone (the source of the alarm) confirmed it when the man brought it within Q’s reach to turn the noise off, and the boffin managed to get a paw up and drag it close enough to see.  7:00 AM, the icon in the screens scratched corner read.  Torn between dismay over the time and disgruntlement over the state of James’s mobile, Q released a quiet and unhappy mew.  

James glanced at him, blue eyes going from questioning to understanding in a swift sort of way that Q was already associating with successful telepathic moments.  “You have class today?”

Classes.  Plural.  And while part of Q was very sure he could skip them and not fall behind, he was well aware that he was taking courses far above what most eighteen-year-olds did - and he was paranoid about missing out on something.  He’d never skipped class, and the thought of suddenly being able to go now because he was a cat had some of the previous night’s helpless panic setting in again.  He didn’t realize that he was making distressed noises until James had put down his phone to scoop Q up in both hands and stand.  “I’m going to take Q by the main office on my way to class.  I’ll come up with some sort of lie about how I know that this is him, and see if I can get them to give me his class roster - or at least see if they’ll tell his professors that he’s not in a condition to take notes today,” James said to his roommate with an air of decision about him even as he settled Q easily in the crook of one arm.  

“I’ll go, too,” Alec decided brightly, earning him a confused look from Q and a suspicious - but already rather resigned - look from James.  “Unlike you two sorry sods, I don’t have any classes on Friday that I can’t gladly skip.  Plus, I’m curious to see how you explain to M that you’ve gone and told someone that you’re a semi-illegal Telepath.”

“Maybe I don’t plan on telling her,” James replied in a voice that would have been amusingly petulant if it didn’t have such a xyresic edge to it that said he really meant it.  Q felt an effervescent flush of something like surprise and pride as he realized that he was becoming a secret of James’s - or, at least, Bond had decided that Q knowing his secret was okay.  Q barely realized that he’s made a brief, starting-stopping purring noise until it had start-stopped a second time like an insecure car-engine.  James smirked and laughed a little at the face Q made as he realized that he had little or no control of this process, and then finally turned around and deposited Q back on the pillows of his bed.  “I’ve got to shower - you alright with Alec here, Q?  Don’t worry, he’s rude, but harmless.”

“I’m not harmless,” Alec complained, but at whatever look James aimed his way, the other man changed his tune with a roll of his eyes, “But for you, Q, I’m more a kitten than you are.”

When James looked back, blue eyes questioning and earnest, Q nodded and hesitantly tried forming a longer response in my head, ‘Thank you.  For all of this.  I’ll pay you back somehow… whenever I have opposable thumbs again.’

The expression of the man leaning over him almost immediately smoothed out into an unexpectedly soft smile, and James simply touched fingertips to Q’s shoulder as if the cat were merely a smallish human friend.  “Don’t even worry about it, Q,” he replied in a low rumble before striding in the direction of the shower, already stripping his shirt off over his head, giving Q a nice look at a strong, muscular back.  He suddenly realized that there was someone else here to catch him staring, but by the time he turned back… Alec’s human self had been replaced by a glossy, black-feathered bird.  Said bird made a raucous noise that sounded suspiciously like laughter, and then flapped twice to glide the distance between the beds.  Q flinched and laid his ears back warily as the raven landed, feet lifting in high steps to get over wrinkled blankets.  The raven looked at him first out of one eye, then the other, and then made another croaking raven-noise before hop-skipping up alongside the pillow to pull at Q’s tail.  

By the time James came back out of the shower - dressed in new jeans and now in the process of pulling on a white hoodie over a grey tee, the latter item riding up as he wriggled into the second layer - Alec had progressed from tail-pulling to preening.  Q was taking it like a fuzzy saint, although his hazel eyes gave James something of a beseeching look as a bird nearly bigger than he was worked its tapered beak through his fur.  Bond was laughing before he even had the hoodie over his head to see anything.  “Alec, if he ever catches you when he’s bigger, you’re going to regret this,” the blue-eyed man warning with too much humor in his voice to make the second-hand threat sound at all convincing.  Alec immediately turned his black head towards James and cawed loudly, offended.  

James quirked an eyebrow to indicate that he was listening to something beneath the noise, before glancing at Q and trying valiantly to contain a broader smirk.  “Alec says you’ll have to get a lot bigger before you can make threats, kitten.”

At first, Q started to bare his little teeth in a hiss, but then gave it up as a lost cause.  Besides, he was already less dirty than he’d been last night, thanks to Alec now - and the tail-pulling had apparently been a very brief sort of foreplay to friendship.  Alec had also fluttered up onto a shelf and had returned with a cookie, which he had insisted on sharing even while Q had been more worried about whether it was stale or not.  

Apparently the weather had gotten decidedly nippy overnight, because next James pulled on his leather jacket, creating a contrast of white and black that made his skin seem tanner and his hair a more brilliant gold even as he zipped it up.  Simple university-style garb had never looked so good, in Q’s opinion.  “Why, thank you, Q,” James murmured in a low and husky voice that was just unfair - but not as unfair as the fact that he’d heard that thought.  

With Q staring with round eyes like someone caught out and Alec in a fit of corvine laughter, James grabbed his shoes and then a set of keys off Alec’s bedside table.  “You’re providing the ride today,” James informed his presently-avian roommate sternly, and when he got no argument besides a chuffing noise, strode right over to pluck Q up off the pillow.  

“I was going to ask if you’d eaten, but the crumbs in your whiskers…”  James’s sentence was left hanging as he fought a smirk and used one hand to awkwardly brush at Q’s muzzle, the boffin valiantly trying to squirm away the whole time while also clinging to James’s wrist.  James had a few healing cuts on his hands and at least one cut taped over, but it apparently hadn’t made him particularly wary of Q’s claws, because he didn’t give Q’s waving paws a second thought.  ‘This is very unbecoming,’ Q growled at him, mentally and in his disgruntled cat voice.  

James just smirked and didn’t look away from his task.

I know you heard me.’

More of James playing the fool.  Grand. Just grand.  Q huffed and this time put up only a token fight as he was once again placed inside Bond’s coat, aware that he was presently something of an illegal item until he could get properly registered as someone having a shape-shifting Gift.  As before, the inside of Bond’s jacket was warm and smelled of skin and cologne - but now also of soap and clean things, which only made it better.  Q was pretty sure that his happy thoughts had to be spiraling embarrassingly up to the Telepath carrying him, but James never did anything to indicate that he’d deciphered them, which meant one of two things: either he was having another ‘off’ moment, and literally wasn’t picking anything up… or he didn’t mind.  The thought of the second option made a flush of warmth skid across Q’s skin right under his fur, making it twitch.  He almost choked on another purr.

A bit of walking later, James pulled the zip down on his jacket, but when Q tried to clumsily climb out, he was only allowed to pop his head free before he felt James’s hand over the top of his ears.  “You can’t come out quite yet, Q.  We’re taking Alec’s bike - not my car.  More parking options.”  When Q swiveled his head sharply to stare up at James, he got a good look at the strong underside of his jaw and throat, which somehow hinted at a roguish smile as James continued, “Also more fun.”

And with that, he swung over onto the seat, pulled on a helmet as black as his jacket, and had the engine roaring.  

Q, with little choice in the matter, ducked his head down until he barely had his eyes and a few whiskers peeking up past James’s leather jacket, and hung on.  

There was nothing quite like riding with James Bond, with his roommate keeping pace on the wing like a dark, insane, errant shadow.  Q could almost hear the wild cawing over the steady growl of the engine.  James zipped through traffic, either not caring about physics and traffic laws, or somehow above them.  After a few of these sharp turns and slipping between vehicles with no space left to spare, Q should have been just about ready to puke, but excitement had him by the throat, and he couldn’t turn his eyes away from the world zipping past them.  He came to realize that this was probably the safest place he could be, given the circumstances, and eventually the fear gave way to the adrenalin rush - and a warmer pulse of something that came from being safely huddled up against James’s torso where he could watch everything speed by.  

They were on campus almost too quickly.  Q mrrrowed as the engine noise cut off, and as James unbuckled the helmet before also reaching in to slide Q out of his present hiding place.  

Alec was fluttering to an ungainly landing on the handlebars, and the feathers at his throat puffed out in a low croak.  Dark eyes twinkled.  

“Alec wants to say how happy he is that you stayed a cat that whole time, the wanker,” James translated in a tone that could only be described as fond annoyance.  “I have the feeling I’m going to be translating for the both of you all day.”

In response, Alec flapped his wings and nodded very sagely.  Q was a bit more apologetic and sympathetic, but before he could properly twist around in Bond’s hands to think up some sort of response, James merely stroked his head.  It was a surprisingly light, almost shy touch, and Q held still at the glide of callused fingertips over the sleek contours of his brow.  

Of course, James then had to ruin the mood by grabbing Q’s scruff again and lifting him up into the air.  Q let out one of his most truly impressive hisses yet before he was deposited in - of all places - Bond’s hood where it stuck out of the back of his jacket.  “Fuck, Q, you sound like some sort of viper,” Bond exclaimed as he glanced back, letting go of Q very slowly either because he was afraid of being bitten again or (more likely, because the man had deficient self-preservation instincts) to make sure Q was secure in his new perch.  “You’re really quite feisty for a little thing,” was his next comment, which mollified Q a bit.  The boffin-turned-cat sniffed like that should have been obvious from the start, and wriggled around to get comfortable.  The hood supported him nicely, and was deep enough that he could duck his head down and be invisible, he suspected.  A flutter of darkness and feathers announced Alec, who landed on Bond’s left shoulder and peered down at the hood with a look that almost resembled concern.  

“You all right there, Q?” Bond obliged to translate the look.  

Deciding that, surprisingly, he really was - in fact, he felt rather giddy being included in Bond’s daily life in such a way - Q nodded.  He just caught what might have been a fond smirk from James before the human turned his head forward again, and began walking with his two animal companions.  

And so the day proceeded.  Alec only flew occasionally, making it clear that Bond’s shoulder provided good transportation and minding Q provided good entertainment.  James translated the fact that Alec was thinking of himself as a babysitter; then he translated that Alec was upset with his word-choice.  Q flicked an ear and thought something witty in reply that made James say nothing at all, but the low chuckle that emanated from him said that he’d at least caught the gist of it appreciatively.  Alec cawed, buffing his wings about and crowding up against James’s ear either to force him to answer or just to be annoying.  All the human member of their company did was lean his head away and say, “It was nothing, Alec.”  

The main office seemed surprised to see them, and even a bit wary - making Q wonder just what trouble Bond and his corvine friend got up to on a regular basis.  The looks of caution became surprise, however, as Q’s head popped up over James’s shoulder, and thus the storytelling began.

Bond was a devastatingly good liar, and terrifyingly charming.  It was less than ten minutes later before there were promises being made to email Q’s professors, and James was walking away with a smile on his face, a spring in his step, and a print-out of Q’s class schedule in his hands.  Q (proud of himself for getting his paws to work) snagged his claws in Bond’s clothing enough to draw himself up and peer over his unoccupied shoulder, reading.  He’d had to answer a few basic yes-or-no questions to prove his identity as a cat, but it was still unsettling how quickly James had gotten his schedule.  

“Impressed, Q?” Bond mumbled cheekily out of the corner of his mouth, having had to keep his talking quiet, lest other students and faculty notice that he was holding conversations with two animals.  

Deciding to test his coordination, Q reached forward to bat at the lobe of Bond’s ear.  Instead, what he ended up doing more resembled a gentle pat of a paw on the side of the man’s neck, claws sheathed.  Oh well, it had been a good effort.  And if James’s Telepathy was working right now, he knew that Q really was rather impressed anyway.  

Never in a million years would Q had imagined that day: traveling around in a young man’s hood, watched over by an impish raven, and totally distracted from the fears and uncertainties of the night before.  His body was slowly becoming more ‘his,’ like two images coming into alignment, but there was no rush to figure it all out because James was the one doing all the walking.  Likewise, the terror over being unable to transform back into a human had dissipated, because James and Alec had shown absolutely no signs of tiring of his cat-self.  Sometimes, Bond reached back to pet him while asking how he was doing; sometimes, Alec clacked his beak at him before very, very carefully taking hold of one of Q’s toes, like a gentle squeezing of someone’s hand.  

Eventually, they skivved off and ended up in the library, in one of the back nooks that Q had always liked but hadn’t known that anyone else was aware of.  Q was removed from his hood, and experimentally tried to walk a bit on the floor while Alec fluttered around him, still happily avian but now pleased to play with someone his own size.  James flopped onto the little room’s one overstuffed couch, head and shoulders up against one arm and legs trailing off over the other as he dozed.  His night, after all, had been spent largely awake with a newly-feline Q.  Bond woke up, of course, when Q finally made a successful leap up onto his stomach.  He’d been trying to escape Alec (whose level of playfulness was far beyond Q’s), and immediately arched his back and fluffed up with embarrassment as he realized where he'd ended up, but all James did was give him one muzzy-eyed look - then a glance at Alec - and then grumble in a sleep-roughened voice, “You two can’t play nice for half a second, can you?”  One of his hands trailed off the couch, and flexed as it felt the brush of Alec's glossy feathers, giving a half-hearted flick at the bird.  

Q was already thinking that it had been more like ten minutes, but by then James was closing his eyes again and drifting off.  Not wanting to disturb the man - and also not keen on joining Alec again, who was strutting about on the floor with an eager look - Q tentatively settled down where he was, right on James’s stomach.  He felt embarrassment keenly, but still glared when the raven made that chuffing, amused noise.  Clearly, James didn’t mind him here, so he could stay if he wanted to.  

So there.  

Q fell asleep that way.  

~^~

About fifteen minutes later, Q would jerk a little in his sleep only to surprise the shit out of both himself and James by turning abruptly back into a human.  The fallout would be clumsy, embarrassing, and apparently extremely funny - at least if Alec was to be believed.  Then they’d get kicked out of the library for noisiness, Q blushing so hard that everyone immediately saw him and thought that, without a doubt, he’d been caught shagging the infamous James Bond (and maybe Alec Trevelyan, too), which would make Q blush harder.  James would blush, too, but when they exited the library, James’s hand will brush against that spot between Q’s shoulder-blades that he’d learned so well.  

“So… theoretically, if I were to say that my laptop was broken, would you mind coming back to my place to fix it?” James would ask, looking elsewhere but somehow fixing all of his attention on the dark-haired boffin next to him.  Perhaps some of that attention would be Telepathic; perhaps it would be simply mundane focus, as James's senses lost the acuity they'd had for Q's feline mind.

Q would look from James to Alec - the latter having wandered off, as if giving them room - and then glance over the top of his spectacles at James.  “Would this theoretically include a conversation about everything that happened since you found me on the road?”

“Not if you don’t want it to.  But I could probably order in real, fresh food instead of just feeding you microwaved canned soup.”

Q would laugh despite himself, tension he hadn’t known was there leaving his frame.  At the sound, James would glance over, a smile hiding in his bright pale eyes that held so many secrets - or maybe just one big secret, but one that he’d let Q in on without even a hint of regret.  That had to mean something.

“I think that sounds like fun.”