Q's fairly certain he started falling in love the second he read his job description. His thing with James Bond didn't start until a few weeks after that, and by then, Q was hopelessly lost and never, ever wanted to go back.
And really, isn't that what true love is all about?
"Another radio," 007 says, turning the earpiece around in his hand. Q isn't sure if he's holding back a grimace or a smile. "At least I get one that does more than transmit this time."
"It can communicate with headquarters from anywhere," Q says, not even glancing over at the other man. "And I do mean anywhere. You're holding the prototype, so shock me for once and actually bring it back."
"For once?" Bond asks, amused. "Then I must have imagined that you yelped when you finally noticed I was in the room. Which you've done repeatedly."
"Startled and shocked are different things entirely," Q replies, and pulls out the replacement personalized pistol. M has at least agreed to always pay for these. After 007's mission report and the fact it saved his life almost immediately, they're considered standard issue for 00 agents. The guns are expensive, but agents cost even more. "You know this one by now. There's also a magazine which contains six uranium bullets, no less, no more." When he sees Bond's eyebrows shoot up, he says, "Yes, actual uranium. They'll rip through anything you can think of and even a non-fatal shot will still kill your target, after a while. For god's sake, keep them in the magazine or you'll die of radiation poisoning."
"You're giving me a gadget," Bond says, smug.
"I'm giving you specialized bullets, for a mission officially acknowledged as exceptionally dangerous," Q corrects. "I'm still not making you anything ridiculous like an invisible car."
Bond still looks terribly pleased. "Maybe next time," he says, and leaves to go fight for Queen and country.
Doctor Scootins comes in an hour later screaming about how his prototype uranium bullets are missing and there'll be hell to pay if nobody fesses up.
Q takes a sip of tea and makes sure he looks thoroughly engrossed in his coding.
The thing is, Q never really expected to deal with agents, particularly the 00 section. When the committee hired him to be Quartermaster, they'd been picking a cyber attack dog who could also manage the rest of the information-gathering assets of MI6. They'd been planning to phase out the 00 section entirely, trying to decide if they even needed agents. The committee had wanted to create an MI6 where everything could be done remotely and dirty hands were to be had by convenient international assets who could then be ignored until they needed a trigger pulled again.
The Silva incident made it exceptionally clear that that wouldn't be happening.
Q had been Q for about three weeks when everything went to hell, still dealing with being the new manager for a staff of 300 people who were almost as smart as he was and all infinitely more experienced in dealing with the whole espionage thing. He'd made it through mostly successfully for three reasons: he's exceptionally clever, he has faking confidence down to an art, and, as he hates to admit, 007 was there to do most (if not all) of the heavy lifting.
Really, it was cleverness and a lifetime of playing Metal Gear Solid that made him seem at least mildly competent for the audience that had been standing at the back of the room for almost the entire incident. Q is fully aware that 007 has all the experience and intelligence to listen when it's important and ignore or improvise when necessary.
He learned more about what a Quartermaster needs to be from a single day with 007 than he has in the past three months since Silva's rampage. He also got to see the best of the best in action, and save his newborn position at the same time.
And he loves being Quartermaster, so maybe he shows a little bit of favoritism.
Prototypes need testing either way.
He's been Q for five months when James Bond returns with an honest-to-God functioning gun.
Q stares at it while it sits innocent and beautiful on his workstation.
"I hadn't realized you thought this little of me," Bond comments.
"It's a Christmas miracle," Q says, and pokes the (admittedly charred) gun. "Did you bring a unicorn home too?"
Bond actually laughs. "It was either the unicorn or the gun. I thought you'd prefer this."
Q smiles at him, and then stops, snapping and pointing at him as he remembers. "Right. Christmas. I have something for you."
Bond frowns. "Why?"
"Because it was an excuse," Q admits, and leads him down a few floors to the level reserved for storage. There's a corner devoted to archival databases and Q's bigger, guiltier projects. There's a few battle bots and an unmentionable number of (failed) prototype lightsabers, but they're currently hidden in one of the storage containers. Everyone has their hobbies, after all.
Besides, what else is he meant to do while stuck monitoring things all alone at 4AM? Playing World of Warcraft isn't exactly appropriate when you work for MI6.
007 follows him over to what looks like a large beige lump. He doesn't flip the tarp off dramatically or anything. Q just reaches out and drags the bland cloth off carefully, and wishes he'd thought to stand on the other side to see exactly what Bond's reaction is to his refurbished Aston Martin.
"Couldn't help myself, after I saw my predecessor's notes on the car. I was particularly fond of the ejection seat," Q comments, watching Bond immediately open the driver's door and sit himself down. "I took the liberty of adding some more modern features. They're hidden in the glove compartment." He hesitates. "It also might be a bit faster."
"How much faster?" Bond breathes out, and Q is suddenly very grateful that he's still at the back of his car and they can't see each other.
"I haven't tested it, but I'd estimate it could reach 350 KPH," Q answers. "I also improved the weaponry. The only real changes are CCTV interference and-"
James Bond laughs a loud, genuine, thrilled laugh, and says, "Q, I could kiss you."
"Merry Christmas to you too," Q says dryly, and leaves before anything regrettable happens.
Q has developed a crush on James Bond, but so has every other person who meets the insufferable bastard, so Q doesn't feel the slightest bit guilty or conflicted about it. Being desirable is just what 007 does. He's trained for it and wields sexual attraction like a weapon as dangerous as any gun.
Q regularly listens to the man hit on anything with two legs, often hears him kiss people, and on a few memorable occasions has listened to him have sex.
Really, avoiding thinking about what he's listening to does amazing things for his productivity. If his department notices he ends up doing about 500% more work than usual (which is already twice the work of everyone else), they're smart enough to keep their mouths shut.
Having a crush on 007 seems to be a phase everyone in MI6 goes through. It's just Q's turn. He'll get over it, just like everyone else, and it will be nothing but sunshine and coding and occasional bouts of guiltily enjoying espionage mayhem.
He'll get over it the minute Bond stops looking pleased when Q walks into the same room. Or just generally stops smiling at him. Or stops looking at him, period.
He'll get over it.
Bond is waiting on his word to pop out of an empty room and into a hallway which his target is scheduled to walk down alone and completely unguarded at some point in the next hour. He'd been sneaking through the building, in and out of offices and files and hard drives, for probably three hours by now. Q is making idle conversation with him while he focuses intently on the CCTV inside the building and surrounding area. This needs to be as precise of a hit as possible, and his mind is miles from what his mouth is saying as he glances between video feeds.
"How's the room?"
"Cramped, but safe," Bond says, and sounds like the idea disgusts him. And yet, somehow he's not actually complaining.
"You wouldn't be willing to monologue about being in a box for me, would you?" Q asks on his fourth sweep of faces in the fancy party held in the building's lobby.
There's a long pause on the other end of the line, during which Q can't think anything other than shit shit SHIT. "I think I misheard you there."
Q breaks his own rules and takes his attention away from the mission, for easier headdesking. "Never mind."
Q loves his job so very much that he's already forgotten his real name about six months in, and doesn't regret it in the least. He regularly stays at work until 3AM and is back in at 8 and is bizarrely content for every sleep deprived second of it. Sometimes he takes a day off to sleep, but that’s only after he realizes it's sunrise and his minions are starting to look scared.
Just about everyone thinks he's a crazy fanatic, and that's fine, because he is.
Bond gets it, though. Q isn't even sure what he does when he's not in the field, but if anyone is in as late as he is, it's 007. Sometimes, he moves into Q's spaces at midnight and they work quietly and obsessively near each other.
He gets why there's only been a few Quartermasters who have made it to retirement. It's not just the whole prominent position in a high-risk community thing. It's more about the addictive parts that make you want to do your job until the day you die, because when you love something this much, you're practically guaranteed to get what you ask for.
007 is the only person in the office that Q thinks understands that feeling, where death seems like it'd be infinitely better than retirement. Certainly, there's other things he'd like to have in his life (like James Bond, and it is just a phase), but risking his job for one of them is something he will never do. Ever. And everyone involved is better for it.
It's 4AM on January 1st when James Bond comes striding through Q Branch and hangs a garment bag on Q's office door. Naturally, Bond is impeccably dressed, while Q looks like he's only wearing office clothes because everything else was in the wash. He's mostly dressed like this because it's 4AM on New Year's and nobody in their right mind would be at work.
Which, he realizes, explains 007's presence.
"Merry Christmas, give or take a few days," Bond says, gesturing to the garment bag.
Q stares at it, half in horror, have so shocked he can't do anything else. "What on earth is that?"
"A public service," Bond says, and after a moment where he realizes wild horses couldn't drag Q out of his chair at this point, he unzips the bag. There's probably four suits inside, each of which he doesn't doubt are worth more than the entire (non-electrical) contents of his flat. "This way, you have a chance of actually being taken seriously in a committee meeting."
"Is someone blackmailing you?" Q asks.
"I wasn't sure, to be honest," Bond says. "I figured it was safer to buy you suits than wonder why you gave me my old but improved car."
"Because it was fun," Q answers.
Bond stares at him for a moment, and then gestures back at the suits. Q realizes that James Bond's idea of having fun is shooting people, seducing people, and wearing expensive suits. And since it's frowned upon to offer someone an assassination or sex for Christmas, this is the best he can do.
"Ah," he says.
"Glad we had this chat," Bond says, and leaves.
Q finally looks at the suits when he heads home at 5AM, and actually tries one on at 5:30. It fits perfectly, and he has no idea what to think of that, so he puts it back in the bag and in the closet and sleeps til 2PM.
He wears one of them to work the next time he has a committee meeting, like Bond suggested, and apparently word gets around fairly quickly because within twenty minutes Bond is in his office and swapping Q's tie out with one of the emergency stock he has in a drawer. Bond also gives him a blatant look-over.
"Right," Q says, hoping his awkward nervousness will be chalked up to the fact his work on 004's botched mission is being questioned, and leaves.
They actually listen to him.
Bond gets a completely superfluous tranquilizer dart-shooting watch for the next mission, and he really needs to stop smiling at Q like that.
007 gets plenty of shiny explosive accessories now, because it makes him smile and Q is hopeless, but there are always two core items: a gun, and a radio. The gun is so Bond can work on his own. The radio is so Bond has Q with him.
Q has noticed that, more often than not, Bond has the radio on. They just talk, sometimes, when things are slow. It all runs so smoothly, with Q providing all the information Bond doesn't have time to seek out.
He gets a gun, and a radio.
Bond loses the gun more often than not, but after a while, he never once loses his radio.
Q tries very, very hard to not read into that.
"This is just getting ridiculous," M says when he finds Q trying to put motorized circular saw blades into a briefcase. He can do it, it's just difficult to fit along with the small rocket launcher and its associated ammunition. Weight is also an issue, but he was planning to figure that one out after Bond got to see it.
"I'm not misusing funds," Q defends. "And I'm twelve hours over designated working hours for the week, so it's not a misuse of time either. This is nothing but-"
"Just ask him out," M snaps. "All this gadget and clothing flirting is driving the entirety of MI6 mad, not to mention when someone has to go through recordings of you two. This has been going on for almost a year. Show some pity and spare us another year of this."
Q is fully aware he's clutching the briefcase to his chest like a scared eight year old schoolgirl. The fact the saws are still hanging out from the side and whirring around makes him feel a smidge better about it.
Most people are scared of James Bond. Q is far more scared of M. Even James Bond is scared of M. Anyone sane is scared of M.
"There's quite a few reasons why that would be a horrible idea," Q says.
"He'll say yes," M states.
"And then what?" Q asks sharply. "We live happily ever after? There'd be sex, certainly, but what else would change? Would we be able to do our jobs? Would we suddenly be a threat to each other? A security risk for MI6?"
M looks like he's been slapped, and all that aggravation and superiority has seeped out of him like Q has stabbed a hole in his side and all of that righteous fire leaked right out of his body. "You've put a lot of thought into this," M says.
Q nods, and puts the briefcase back down on the work bench. "We're both married to our work, and I've never been one for infidelity," he says, and turns back to the ridiculous briefcase. "Your concern is appreciated."
He knows there's a memo that M sends out the next morning which more or less comes down to 'it wouldn't work, leave them alone.' He knows this mostly because 007 walks into his office with it in hand. Q is surprised Bond takes the time to black out the glass and lock the door behind him, but the minute he slaps the printout on Q's paper-strewn desk, he knows this is going to be horrid.
"Q," he begins, and then has to stop, gritting his teeth so hard that Q worries about the self-destruct tooth in the back of his mouth. He starts again. "Q, you are very intelligent, and that makes you a complete moron whose head I want to smash into walls sometimes. Now more than most. Much, much more than most."
"Please don't," Q says, still frozen with his scrabble mug halfway to his mouth.
"You want to complicate something that is, in this case, very simple," Bond says instead of smashing his head into a wall.
"It would never work," Q says. Talking is suddenly very difficult. "I'm me, and I love being me, and you're James Bond and you love being you as much as I love being me, and trying to be something more would ruin us both."
Bond doesn't say anything. After what seems like years of silence, he takes a deep breath and says, "It was my destiny to be here, in the box."
Q stares at him. "What."
"When I put on the box, I get this feeling of inner peace that I can't put into words," 007 says, in the same exact tone he uses for life-threatening mission developments. "I feel safe, like this is where I was meant to be. Like I've found the key to true happiness."
Q's fairly certain the sound of his mug shattering against the floor is audible throughout all twelve floors of the building.
"You should come inside the box," James says. "Then you'd understand."
And suddenly, Q does understand. Just because other people think they're ridiculous and need to come out of the box occasionally doesn't mean they really do. They can both be in the box, and be happy, and who cares what anyone else says? They don't understand the box. But somehow, James Bond does. They can share the box. Together.
He's not quite sure what happens next other than that his broken mug is now surrounded by papers and a particularly unlucky laptop that got knocked off his desk when they practically lunged for each other. He does know that James has a hand in his hair and is keeping Q's mouth under his as if he's going to run off at any moment, which seems completely ridiculous since Q himself has his arms wrapped around Bond and his fingers digging into the muscles of his back and has absolutely no intention of letting go, ever.
They don't get too long to kiss, though, since someone is foolish enough to knock on Q's office door. Oh, they certainly put the few moments they do get to good use - by the time someone knocks, Q is sure his hair will be stuck in greedy Bond-sized clumps for the next week, and James will be explaining a desperate bite mark on his neck for just as long. It's also the first time he can remember seeing Bond look disheveled, including when he's in the middle of firefights in Morocco.
"Now that we've sorted that out, I believe we both have work to do," James says, and leaves, looking more smug and insufferable than Q has ever seen him. And that is quite the achievement.
He makes Bond's car even more ludicrous than it was, adds volatile options to every gadget Bond gets, and finally just automatically makes his radios tune in to Q instead of headquarters. In return, James smiles every single time he spots Q in the room, brings Q tea at 2 in the morning without him even asking, and curls around him like an overbearing cat when they actually do manage to go home and sleep. Which isn’t often, because their jobs are everything they could ever want (aside from thoroughly enjoyable, trustworthy, reliable companionship and some regularly fantastic sex, and they’ve got both of those pretty well taken care of).
People new to MI6 often find the relationship between Q and 007 strange. Not the functional part - they still work just as well together as they ever did, 007 still behaves as he did before when on assignment, and Q still has a bad habit of doing five times the amount of work as usual when he's sitting and monitoring 007's mission. It's not even the appeal they have for each other, since everyone has a crush on James Bond at some point or other (and everyone usually ends up having a crush on Q at some point as well). No, the thing that confuses people is how it works.
Q is usually confused by this question. If one of the most dangerous men in the world is willing to hunt down Metal Gear Solid quotes after a single slip of Q's sleep-deprived tongue half a year earlier and then recites them from memory at the exact moment Q needs to hear them, how could it not?
Besides, they're both married to their work, but they have the same work, so it's really more of a threesome. In the end, their relationship is so easy because they both want nothing but their job, and each other.
The prototype explosives are just a bonus.