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I Don't Take Your Pleasure For Granted

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All of Q’s agents have been known to keep him up at night.

He worries about 009, for example, because of the man’s complete lack of personality and his tendency to charge into to every mission like a disgruntled bull, no matter how delicate the task. He chews his nails over 003 because she’s made overconfidence a habit, as her three bullet wounds in the past year suggest. He’s even lost sleep over 006, despite her tendency to curse at him over the link, to threaten his job, his general person, his Tom Baker figurines whenever things don’t go exactly as planned.

But there’s something about 007 that makes the safety of his person a particular thorn in Q’s craw.

Bond’s an old man, that’s part of it. Got a good ten years on the rest of the corps. There’s more gray in his beard these days than blond.

And yet he’s faster with a quip than anyone; always ready to mix it up over the comm, even when things look hairy. Maybe especially then.

He may not be as spry as 002 or as good a shot as 008, but their Bond’s a crafty bastard, wily in a way that belies his wrinkles. Sure, he still looks the part—her Majesty’s fist wrapped in Tom Ford—but he’s also more than his sartorial splendor, more even than his many (many) years in the field. He’s a puzzle, a well-tailored acrostic whose clues have a stubborn habit of shifting.

It makes no sense for Q to worry after him, about him, because if nothing else, 007 can take care of himself.

But Q does it anyway, up to the day when it strikes him that worry might not be the word for it, what keeps him awake about Bond.

The man’s in Jakarta, on a mission that’s straightforward enough—a simple gathering of intel—or would be for anyone other than Bond. By the time he bothers to loop Q in, the thing’s two steps from a shit show. There’s a crocodile, for Christ’s sake, a handful of would-be bombers, and a local who’s eager to toss 007 to both.

“Let that be a lesson to you,” Q says, pitching back from his keyboard and working the worst of the knots from his neck. “Beware of lagoons and beautiful boys who want to chat you up on their banks.”

This is Bond’s cue to snap back with some lip, but he’s too busy mauling someone to respond. And, from the sound of it, getting mauled.

It’s always unfortunate, listening to an agent bleed in the field, but if not for Q’s timely intervention, intercession, said agent would be water-bound tartar at present. The man will be lucky to come out of it with only a black eye and an inconvenient erection.

There’s a burst of sound through the link, a crash of flesh and metal, and up on the monitor, the little dot that is Bond shoots into motion, moving away from the water at a clip too quick to be bipedal.

Q leans back. Reaches for his tea. “Stolen a car, have you?”

"Motorcycle,” Bond grits. “What’s left of one, anyway. Not too many miles left in her.”

“Another three and you’ll be at the airport. There’s a 0200 flight to Delhi I can get you on, provided you’re not arrested before then.”

Bond laughs. “You’ve no faith in me, have you,” he says, his voice rising over the wheeze of the bike, of too many cars on the street. “Q. Truly, I’m hurt.”

“I told you not to meet with your contact alone, didn’t I? So any injury you suffered falls square on your shoulders.”

“Hmmm. Let’s discuss this later, shall we? I’ve got a—"

There’s a hiss of wind that Q doesn’t like. The sound of shattering glass.

“Damn,” Bond snarls. “Goddamn it.” There’s a screech of tires, a barrage of shouting, and the link cuts out.

“Wonderful,” Q says to himself, watching the dot that is Bond turn in circles on the monitor. “You’ve switched it off again, haven’t you? Idiot.”

S’s head pops up to Q’s right, hovering over top of his screen. “Sir,” he says in his soft Gambian lilt. ”Shouldn’t we help him?”

“We have,” Q says. “The rest, I’m afraid, is up to him.”

“Ah,” S says, in a tone that fairly screams: You are inexplicable, sir.

Q calls up the flight information again and sets to work adding Bond to the manifest. “We can only carry them so far, S. It’s up to them to do the rest.”

Q worries about his agents, it’s true. But there’s a time and a place for that feeling, and in the moment, in the thick, is not it. This is something his directs have yet to learn. But, Q is certain, they will. They’ll have to.

A clatter of static over the link, over the speakers, and Bond’s voice tumbles out. “May I trouble you for some directions, Q?”

“You may,” Q says, setting his glasses to rights and smiling, just to himself. Just so. “Get a move on, will you? I’ve got you.”

“Please,” Bond breathes, “for the love of all that is holy, please tell me there’s a fresh kit for me at the airport. I smell like a fucking sewer.”

“Of course. It’s in the droplocker in Terminal A, along with your passport and a mobile. I’ve sent your boarding pass straight through. But I’m afraid you won’t have time for a shower.”

“Ha,” Bond says, revving the ancient engine. “Watch me.”

He gets a shower and makes the flight, only just. As is his wont.

“Get some sleep,” Q tells him as the jet taxis. “And don’t leave the damn airport in Delhi this time. I won’t have you missing your connection again.”

“I was craving samosas. Real ones, not that airport slop.”

“Well, crave something else. Cheap coffee and crisps. Something that doesn’t require me to send out a search party.”

Bond chuckles, autumn sunshine, the one he saves for mission accomplished, for heading home and dry. “Yes, sir. I promise.” A deep breath. A sigh, and for the first time all night Q can hear it, how fucking tired Bond must be. “Q?”

“Yes?”

“I should’ve taken your counsel more seriously this evening, instead of simply following my pride. I’ll do my best to remember that, next time.”

“What?”

“I’m trying to say thank you. For your assistance. I do appreciate it. I hope you know that.”

It takes Q a moment, because there are many things his agents say to him, at him, in the course of his duties and theirs. Thank you, as a rule, is not one. And coming from Bond, it’s—

It’s—

“I, um—“

Bond hums, a sleepy little noise that makes him sound almost human. “The customary response, I believe, is ‘You’re welcome.’”

Q’s face feels wooly, which is odd, and his knees run hot, like he’s been standing too long in bad shoes. “Yes. Of course it is. Which is what I was going to say, had you not so rudely interrupted. So yes. You’re quite welcome.”

“Good to know you can take a compliment. And with such grace, too.”

“Don’t be a prat, Bond.”

A brush of breath, and Q can see it, Bond tucked into the seat, his hair wet, his temple pitched against the window. Eyes closed, the hint of a smile. “Good night, Q.”

“Yes,” Q says, faint, to the sound of a link that’s gone silent. “Good night.”

Bond’s voice chases him home, somehow, those two words caught in his ear as he tends to the cats, crawls into bed, closes his eyes. It takes a long time for him to find sleep. And when he does—

Thank you, the man says in Q’s dreams, a disembodied sound that surrounds him, catches him warm and sweet and utterly unawares. That smile pressed into his throat, two fists in his hair. Heat at his hip, in his hand. Q. Thank you.

He wakes up in a rut, rocking his hips into the sheets and coming before he can open his eyes.

“Oh, god,” he says in the shower, his forehead kissing tile, his cock twitching hopefully under the spray. “This is not happening. No. I refuse to allow it.”

________________

 

It’s been ages since Q fell victim to a crush like this, one of the overwhelming, all-consuming, inappropriate-thoughts-in-public variety. Once upon a time, there was Roy in sixth form who was kind to him in chemistry; later, his blustering Philosophy tutor at uni; and then his shooting instructor, a man of elegant hands and a knack for quoting Tom Stoppard. Beautiful creatures, all, well worthy of swoon, and yet each taught Q the same lesson: his crushes have a nasty habit of fading in the face of the real thing.

Take Roy, that ginger prince. Flattered by Q’s affections, he’d returned them in kind: adolescent verses on napkins, furtive groping in those tiny, narrow beds, kisses that made Q see stars. And yet, the boy was bloody terrible at chemistry, always confusing acid and base, and Q’s marks reflected it, the dangers of following his heart, of devoting his time to study sessions that always devolved into snogging. Good for the body, was Roy, less so for the mind.

Or his Philosophy tutor, he of dark hair and blue eyes, of a voice ever forte. At the end of the term, after months of unresolved lusting, Q had finally gained the courage to ask the man to the pub, and it had taken all of one drink for his crush to crumble like peanut shells at his feet. In the dim light of the booth, the tutor was still beautiful, true, but the behavior that seemed so dynamic in the classroom was far, far less charming up close. He was rude to the waitstaff, to his fellow patrons, and he wouldn’t let Q get a word in edgewise, either, kept cutting him off at the quick. He was, to Q’s great disappointment, a dick.

And, oh, the worst fall of all: his shooting instructor, Adam. His hands, dusted with gunpowder, holding Q’s hips flat to the bed. His mouth, god, Q still got off to thoughts of his mouth; tricky and luscious, it was, breathing Arcadia as they fucked.

“‘The ordinary-sized stuff which is our lives,’” he would sigh, “‘the things people write poetry about — clouds — daffodils — waterfalls,’ look at me, darling, come on, that’s it, yes, fuck, ‘what happens in a cup of coffee when the cream goes in — these things,’ oh god, touch yourself, touch yourself, please. Oh. Oh, fuck. Like that. You’re so—oh, I”—a deep breath, a firm thrust, and then in a rush—“‘these things are full of mystery, as mysterious to us as the heavens were to the Greeks.’” The last word swallowed by pleasure, lapped up by Q’s tongue.

Adam brought Q tea when he was ill, made him dinner for no reason, lost cheerfully to him at Scrabble. He adored the cats. He read Borges in Spanish. He voted Labour. He was, in short, perfect, but. But.

He was boring.

He offered no challenge, brandished no steel for Q to sharpen himself against. With Q, Adam was content, full stop, and there came a time when Q looked into his eyes and thought: this will never change. And that was untenable.

For Q, then, even the first blush of a crush is bittersweet for it holds within it the promise of inevitable disappointment. Crushes, thus, are a thing to be avoided.

So his sudden fixation on 007, he tells himself sternly, cannot, must not, be that.

He does not have a crush on James Bond.

Never mind that he spends most of 008’s foray into the Crimea thinking about 007’s arms. About how they’d look, bare and tense on either side of Q’s head, shaking with every thrust. Or that his weekly meeting with Tanner is blurred by thoughts of Bond’s mouth, of the stretch of his hands in Q’s hair, of the warm, soft sounds he’d make as Q kissed him.

Never mind about any of that.

“It’s not what it looks like,” he tells Orlando. “It’s just a phase. A passing mental fancy.”

Orlando drops the catnip mouse in his lap, unpersuaded.

“Honestly,” Q whispers later to Jacques, who’s drooling all over the pillow, into Q’s ear. “It’ll burn itself out in no time. You watch.”

Three days of this nonsense, four, and then five. Five days of burnt toast and forgotten tea. Five days of being haunted by the thought of Bond’s beard between his thighs, scratching, knowing. Five days of getting off at the wrong Tube stop and forgetting to buy milk and grinning like a looney at work.

The last of these he’s not even aware of until S stops him outside the commissary. “Sir,” he says, eyebrows knotted, “I’m sorry, sir, but are you all right?”

“Of course!” Q says, and by god, he sounds downright chipper. Who is that speaking? Is that him? “I’m quite well, S. Yes. Thank you!”

He flees to his tiny office and stares at his face in the monitor, at the ghost of him he can make out among the dozen open windows on his screen. The ghost, to his horror, is smiling, beaming like a lovestruck clown.

“What the hell,” he says to the clown, but the bastard keeps right on beaming.

So it’s terrible, his crush; an embarrassment from stem to stern. But he finds he can manage it, after five days, and from the right angle, it almost seems funny, Q having a thing for an agent. For the granddaddy of them all, for god’s sake. Talk about theatre of the absurd.

And then Bond shows up and the delicate balance in Q’s head proves to be all for naught.

It’s Friday morning, and R is running the briefing, leading the team through the action of the overnights: 002 breaking his arm, 006’s successful infiltration of Pyonyang, the angry phone calls they’re getting from Langley about 009, yet again.

Q hovers near the back of the pack, facing the right direction, nodding as needed, but not technically listening. He’s lost in thoughts of Bond’s chest, of the scars that he’d see there, that Bond would let him touch, of the way Bond would shiver as he kissed each one in turn, and—

Sir,” R says, startled, loud enough to snap Q from his reverie. “Pardon me. I didn’t see you there. Sir.”

The whole crowd turns around, like meerkats on a swivel, staring—at Q?—and, oh. No.

At Bond, who’s right there, by his elbow.

Of fucking course he is.

Q tilts his head. Gets a glimpse of a suit cut like a razor blade. Blue eyes and that interminable smirk. Christ.

“Good morning,” Bond says in his ear.

Q does not shudder. He doesn’t.

Around him, the room has shifted, as it’s wont to do whenever one of the agents finds their way in. Encounters in the briefing room are one thing, something staged in a liminal space, but this, the floor, the tangle of wires and whispers that keep Q Branch alight, is not a place where many agents deign to tread. Having one of those strange, sleek creatures in their midst is always a bit of a shock.

But today, for Bond, the response is particularly acute: a lion strolling amiably through a flock of starlings.

"Can we help you with something, sir?" R asks, polite. The one with the best manners, always.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Bond says, lifting his voice over the crowd. “Just need to speak to your boss here for a moment. Forgive me.”

Oh, hell, Q thinks. Not blushing. Not. Oh god. Surely it won’t show on his face.      

He does his best to rally. Raises his eyebrows at R and waves his mug around for good measure. “Carry on. Won’t be a moment.”

R, to her credit, picks right up with her thought, draws her colleagues’ attention to her like well-heeled dogs, and at last the room lets out its breath.

“I like her,” Bond says, sotto voce.

He’s standing close enough that Q can smell his cologne: star anise and cigars. An odd thing to notice, perhaps. But then maybe the man shouldn't bathe in it.

Maybe Q shouldn’t be drinking it in quite so deep.

“You should,” Q says. “She stage-managed your escape from that prison in Dakar last month.”

Bond whistles. “Really? I owe her some flowers.”

“She doesn’t care for them.”

“A fruit basket, then.”

“She’s allergic to strawberries.”

Bond snorts—an odd reaction to someone else’s frailties, surely—and catches Q’s sleeve, tugs him like a toy to the nearest worktable. And for some reason, strange, Q allows himself be led.

"I came,” Bond says, “to return this.” He presses a small case into a nest of motherboards.

Q reaches for it. Turns open its top. There’s a pistol inside; an earwig, a pair of cufflinks wired to scramble any network they touch.

"All in one piece," Q says, tiny marvel. "Well, 007. This is a rarity. Akin to a cosmic event.”

"Hence me handing it to you directly. I didn't think you'd believe it otherwise."

"No," Q says, fingers tracing over the case, the leather somehow still smooth and unblemished. "Probably not."

Around them, the briefing has broken, and Q can hear the low buzz of his people settling in, cool calm and efficient. It makes standing with Bond seem less odd, seeing other people move around them, catching the clicks of a dozen keyboards in sync, the hum of R’s voice as she picks up the link and takes over the comm.

Especially when Bond is looking at him, still; Q can feel it, like a sunburn, and yet he turns into it, towards it. “Was there something else?”

It comes out sharper than he’d meant it, a bit more of a jab, but Bond parries the words with a grin, one that creeps away from his mouth and settles square in his eyes. An azure sunrise.

He dips his head and leans closer, and only now can Q see the faded bruise on his cheek, the healing cuts on his chin. “Yes,” he says. “How about dinner?”

A blink. And then two. “I’m sorry. What?”

“I’d like to buy you dinner. A proper one. Something that doesn’t come out of packets.”

Q is all at once red, red red, the head of a match that’s been struck. “Oh. That.”

The lion blinks back. Distinctly, frustratingly, amused.

“Yes,” Bond says. “That.”

The words sneak out before Q can stop them. “But why?”

“Why what?”

“Why do you, um, want to buy me dinner?”

Bond lifts an eyebrow. “I’d have thought that was evident.”

“I can assure you that it isn’t.”

“Really. Well. Perhaps that’s reason enough, then.” A thread of a smile, the lion showing his teeth. “Come with me so you can find out.”

Q says—something, he’s quite sure, but no sound seems to accompany it.

“Tonight all right?” Bond says. “Or would you prefer tomorrow?”

“Uh. Tonight, I think. Yes. Circumstances permitting, of course. Barring an international crisis.”

Bond’s mouth turns up again. “Barring that, of course. Right. I’ll be back down for you at seven.”

And before Q can utter a word, 007 meets his eye and winks. Winks, the cheeky bastard, and then he’s pivoting, gliding away, silk in a room full of stone.

R’s hand on his shoulder. Her green apple gaze. “Sir. You look a bit pale. I hope Commander Bond wasn’t angry that I didn’t stop the briefing when he walked in.”

Q laughs, the weird discordant one that comes out like a squawk. “Angry? Oh god no. Not angry, R. The man’s simply lost his damn mind.”

He skitters away, hears R grumble: “Well. He’s not the only one.”

 

________________

 

By seven, Q’s nearly resigned himself to it, an evening spent having Bond dissuade him from his crush. In a way, it’s almost a relief, really: what better way to get the damn thing over and done with than to stare into the man’s face for an hour or two.

Perhaps he’ll be rude to the waiter. Or drink too much. That seems likely. Or spend the whole evening bragging about some old exploit or other that Q doesn’t give a goddamn about, yes, going into great dull detail until Q is practically sobbing with boredom. Or perhaps he'll act like a brute straightaway, push Q against a car and kiss him, hold Q’s wrists against the metal, slick with rain, and lick at Q’s mouth until he—

“Q. Are you in there?”

Q’s head snaps up and Bond’s there, leaning against the doorframe, topcoat draped over his arm.

“Am I—? Yes, I’m quite—you startled me. That’s all.”

“I can see that.” A sketch of a smile. “Are you ready, then? Or do you need a moment to collect your thoughts?”

“No,” Q says, rather loudly, reaching for his anorak. “My thoughts are well bundled, thank you. Shall we go?”

“Yes,” Bond says. “Let’s.”

They take Bond’s car, a smoky Mercedes that Q’s never seen.

He pokes at the center console as Bond eases them out of the garage. “This isn’t one of ours, is it?”

“Hardly.”

Q finally gets the console open to find mints, a flashlight, and a couple of non-exploding pens. No deadly weapons. No condoms. “It’s a bit monastic, Bond.”

“Tsk tsk. We can’t all have rocket launchers in our boot.”

“No,” Q says. “I guess not.”

Bond chuckles, nudges the Mercedes round a bend. “You’re telling me that if I gave your car the once-over, I’d find lasers in the headlights or garrote wire in the steering wheel?”

“I sincerely hope not. The thing’s a mess enough as it is.”

The light turns and they sit for a moment, draped in scarlet. “I’ve a hard time imagining you allowing anything to be a mess, Q. You have such an orderly mind.”

It might have been a jab, once, a bit of snark, but it comes out kind. Almost—a compliment.

“Well,” Q says. “Yes. I do. Thank you.”

A smile turned sideways in the dark. “You’re very welcome.”

The restaurant is nice—not so posh that Q feels out of place in his cardigan and corduroys, but not full of drunk laddish types, either. Bond orders scotch on the rocks, Q an old fashioned, and the menu-examining silence feels companionable, not awkward.

Damn it.

“What are you thinking of having?” Bond says.

You, Q thinks. No, he doesn’t. “Hmm. The tomato gratin, maybe?”

Bond makes an approving noise. “Good choice. Their gratins are very fine.”

“You come here a lot, then?”

“Mmmm. Often enough. Used to live in the neighborhood, actually. Until M sold my flat, that is.”

Drinks appear, settle onto cream cocktail napkins. “Until she thought you were dead, you mean.”

Bond grins around the curve of his glass. “Well, yes. If you want to get technical about it.”

Q can’t help but smile back. “Maybe I do.”

“Tell me something,” Bond says, dinner ordered and waiter politely dispatched.

“What?”

“Something about you. Anything. So long as it’s true.”

The scotch has brought the color out in Bond’s cheeks. It makes his eyes even bluer, even brighter. Fuck, he’s gorgeous. “Um,” Q says, not staring. Not. “I, um—oh! My favorite book. It’s Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury.”

Bond tilts his head, thoughtful. “I know it. Never read it, though.”

“You should! It’s very good. Depressing, a lot of it. But there’s hope in the end. As in any good story.”

“Hmmm. I don’t know about that.”

Q tips back the last of his drink. “About what?”

“Hope as a necessary quality in a ‘good’ story. There’s a place for bleakness, too. Or at least for ambiguity.”

This is not happening, Q thinks, fumbling for his water glass. Bond is not expressing an intelligent opinion about literature. He can’t be.

“Take my favorite book,” Bond says. “High-Rise. J.G. Ballard.”

And he likes science fiction, too. Fucking terrific.

“I’ve read it,” Q says.

“Ah, right, so you know: it’s got a bleak as fuck ending that you know is coming from page one. From the first line, practically. There’s no hope, no chance of escape, no happy ending over the horizon.”

“No,” Q says, “you’re wrong. Read it again. It is a happy ending, as far as Laing is concerned, anyway. I mean, yes, your other two main characters are dead—”

“And gruesomely so.”

“True, but Laing is the happiest he’s ever been. That’s what he thinks. No matter how squalid or nauseating we as readers might find his final state, it’s one that pleases him. And that’s all that matters, isn’t it?” Q looks up and Bond is staring at him, full bore. “What?”

“Nothing,” Bond says after a moment, almost shy. “It’s been a long time since I talked to somebody like this, that’s all. It’s nice.” Then he smiles, breaks the pleasant tension with his teeth. “Even with you being bloody wrong in your interpretation. Seriously, Q. Did we read the same damn book?”

The argument carries them through the salad and most of the main course. Q has command of the novel’s structure, its themes, but Bond can pull lines, whole passages even, from his memory and toss them into the conversation. Q is utterly charmed. It’s annoying as hell.

“All of this,” he says over coffee, watching Bond dip into the cream, “and I haven’t asked you why High-Rise is your favorite. Some people might worry about you for that, you know. All that social disorder, murder and mayhem and such.”

Bond laughs. “Some people, eh? But not you?”

“No,” Q says. “I’ve seen you at your worst. Or heard it, anyway. I don’t think your taste in reading material is any cause for concern.”

The sentiment surprises him, even as he says it. But, strangely, it feels quite sincere.

For he has, hasn’t he, seen the worst that the job brings out in Bond—that it demands. The cruelty. The casual deployment of violence. The way he treats people as Q might treat office supplies: handy, temporary, and ultimately disposable.

And many, many times, Q’s encouraged them, those behaviors, because they’re the reasons that Bond comes home alive.

If anything, it’s the best of Bond that Q doesn’t know.

Oh.

Across the table, Bond’s eyes soften, and he curls his fingers around his coffee cup, like he’s trying quite hard not to touch.

“That,” he says, “is very reassuring to hear.”

It’s cold outside, after, the air hard with the promise of snow.

“So,” Bond says, turning the key. “I’ll take you back to the garage, shall I?”

“All right,” Q says. “Thanks.”

He feels strange as they drive, there’s no denying that. Seated, belted, and yet restless, as if he’s grown too big for his skin.

He looks down at his lap, at Bond’s gloved hand resting on the gearshift, his fingers curved around it, just so.

A stoplight, the hum of the engine. Bond’s face, quartered by shadow.

“Q,” he says. “Are you all right?”

“No,” Q says. “I’m not.”

He leans over the console and catches Bond’s coat, ducks his head and tucks their mouths together. Bond makes a sound, warm and delicious, and cups Q’s neck with his glove. Draws Q closer.

“You picked a rather awkward time to do that,” Bond murmurs. “I’d love to know why.”

Q slides his hand under Bond’s muffler, seeking out skin. “Because I wanted to.”

The driver behind them leans on his horn, a shriek that startles them both. Bond nips at Q’s chin and nudges him away. Gives the other driver a rude salute.

“Bond,” Q says as they zip through the intersection, “fuck the garage. Take me home.”

A shot of self-assured blue. A grin that Q would rather like to devour. “Yes,” Bond says. “Yes, sir.”

 

________________

 

Once inside, though, Q feels more uncertain. Snogging the man at a stoplight, that’s one thing. Being alone with him in one’s own flat, quite another.

But then, they’re not alone, are they?

“Hello there,” Bond says, offering Jacques his fingers. “Nice to meet you.” He slides into a crouch, elegant and effortless, and strokes the cat’s head. “You’re a sweet beast, aren’t you?”

“That’s Jacques,” Q says, shrugging out of his coat, “and regardless of what he tells you, he doesn’t need any treats.”

Bond chuckles. “Doesn't he? Ah, well.” He gives the cat’s back a pat. “You do look fairly well fed there, my friend.”

There’s a furry turn at Q’s ankles, a whisper of black. “And this is Orlando. He’s a bit shy.”

Bond tips his face up and smiles. “That’s all right. So am I, sometimes.”

Q’s cheeks feel like hot toddies. “Um. Can I get you something? Water, or tea? I think I have brandy somewhere.”

The lion winds to his feet—a bit slower, Q notes, than on the way down. “Q.”

“Bond.”

Two hands on Q’s shoulders, blue sky in his eyes. “I’d much prefer it if you called me James. Given the circumstances.”

“Given the circumstances,” Q says, “I’d much prefer if you took off your coat.”

“Certainly. Is that all?”

“And your suit jacket.”

“Very well. I rather like where this is going.”

Q runs his fingers over James’ tie, and under, counting the buttons. “And where is that, do you think?”

“To the sofa, at the very least.” A wicked grin. “Though I’d much prefer your bed.”

“I’m sure you would.”

James snags the back of Q’s sweater. Pulls him flush. “Well, dear, I am terribly old. I don’t want to get stiff.”

“Don’t you? I’d very much like you to.”

A rumble, a kiss like strong coffee. “And why is that?”

“Oh, James,” Q says, winding his arms around the man’s neck, wanton. “Let me show you.”

Between kisses and cats, it takes them awhile to get down the hall. Q’s cardigan doesn’t make it. Neither does James’ tie.

He makes a gorgeous noise when Q pulls it off, too, and gets especially grabby.

“You,” Q manages, shoving Bond into the bedroom, “are not helping.”

“Aren’t I?” James hums against Q’s throat. “I think I’m doing quite well.”

He pushes Q into the door, knocks it shut, and Q can’t think, exactly, with James’ hands in his hair and his tongue doing lovely dirty things to Q’s mouth.

“Would you just—!” he gets out, eventually. “Bed, please. That’s the entire point of being in here, isn’t it? Come on.”

James laughs, lets himself be edged back. He falls heady into Q’s bed, where he makes a startling picture: shirt untucked and half open, face hot and trousers pleasantly tented.

Q can’t help it. He stares.

“Q,” James says, gentle. Demanding. “Come here.”

“Oh,” Q says with a shiver. “Yes.”

He sets his glasses on the nightstand and straddles James’ hips, presses him into the sheets with kiss after deep, eager kiss.

“Like this?” James says, drawing Q’s body down, driving his own up, steady waves at low tide. “Does that feel good?”

Q rolls his eyes, rolls his cock again over Bond’s thigh. “I’m fairly certain that’s apparent. You know damn well that it does.”

James kisses his throat, low and lush. “Darling, I don’t take your pleasure for granted.”

Q wants to say something clever, something wicked and sharp, but James’ affection, his attention, has utterly disarmed him, bless the man, so all Q can manage is:

“Oh my god. Why are we still wearing clothes?”

Then they’re not, thank fuck, oh, at last, and James is stretched out beside him, touching him, his breath catching every time that Q gasps.

“God,” James says, hot breeze on Q’s cheek, “you are so lovely.”

You are, Q thinks, closing his hand over Bond’s shoulder, stroking the mottled scars, the once and again broken skin.

When he comes, it’s James that shudders, whispers: “Fuck. Yes, darling. Just like that.”

“Oh,” Q says after a moment, a millennia, he’s not sure. “I’ve made a mess of you, haven’t I.”

The lion leans back and preens, his cock twitching between them. “Damn right you did. With a bit of assistance.”

“Well,” Q says, “in that case, I see no reason to stop now, do you?”

“Absolutely n—” The word’s snapped off by a snarl. “Oh, fuck. Fuck.”

Q pets at his hair, tugs gently, or not, at the gray. Chases Bond’s cock with a felonious touch. “Hardly. I don’t think you’d last long enough to do that properly right now.”

A groan of frustration, of pleasure. A very loud glare. “I’ll make it up to you,” James says through his teeth. “Oh, I will. Believe me. You’ll see. And I’ll make you—” He makes a sound like strangled thunder and his head falls back, helpless, his hips drawn to Q’s fist. “Don’t, please don’t stop, darling, I’m going to—”

Q may or may not gloat. Of course he fucking does. “What?” he says, moving faster. “What is it? Are you going to come? Are you going to come on me, James?”

“Oh my god,” James says, terribly loud, and does precisely that.

“My, my,” he says, later, fingers lost in Q’s curls, “what a mouth you have on you.”

Q nuzzles Bond’s shoulder. “Funny, I didn’t hear you complaining.”

Laughter that Q can feel more than hear. A kiss that tastes like a smile. “And why oh why would I want to do that?”

“I don’t know,” Q says. “Now shut up and kiss me again.”

James catches Q’s jaw, runs his thumb over Q’s mouth. And in. “Yes,” he murmurs. “Sir. Whatever you say, sir.”

The sun’s barely stirring when Q wakes up, slides out of the sheets and heads for the kettle.

He feeds the cats and stands at the kitchen window, exhausted and so stupidly, beautifully pleased that he jumps when James touches him.

“Hmmm,” James mumbles, winding around Q like a great sleepy cat. “Hello.”

“Good morning.”

“‘S early. Why’re you up so?”

“Work. I’m due in at 7.”

James tugs him in tighter. “Oh dear,” he says into Q’s hair. “You’re needed for duty. And here I kept you up all night, didn’t I?”

Q tips his head back and kisses the rough of Bond’s cheek. “Believe me. It’s not the first time.”

 

________________

 

“I borrowed one of your books,” Q says, ten days later, leaning on the platform and staring up at the monitor. “I hope that’s all right.”

“Depends,” Bond says from Santiago. “Which one was it?”

Lincoln’s Dreams. Connie Willis.”

“Ah, that’s the—Just a moment.” The sound of a punch, of breath cut off quick. “That’s right. Have a nice lie down. There you go.”

“Turn left at the next hallway,” Q says.

“Yes, thank you,” Bond huffs. “I do remember what you told me two minutes ago.”

“I didn’t want to assume.”

A snort. “Of course not.”

There’s quiet for a few minutes, just the steady beat of Bond’s breathing as he prowls down one corridor and the next.

“You’ll like that one,” Bond says.

“Which? Oh, the Willis?”

“Mmmm. Perhaps more than Blackout. It’s a historical, of course it is, it’s Willis, but in a different way. You’ll see.” A click. “That’s done it, I think. Try it from your end.”

Q brings the decrypt up on the monitor and taps in a series of passcodes, each more complex than the next.

“Take your time, Q. Please do. I’m perfectly well just idling here in plain view.”

“You’re not in plain view,” Q says, absently, watching the code scroll at a promising speed. “You’re in a bloody windowless room on the 39th floor. Ah!” On the monitor, there’s a bloom of sound, and numbers start racing by in glorious binary. “It’s working! Very good, Bond. You’ve done it.”

“Try not to sound so surprised.”

“Now you should leave.”

“Cheers. I’d sussed that.”

“No, I mean, you really should leave. As in right now.” Q squints at the security feed. “There’s a contingent of angry looking gentlemen on their way up the stairs.”

Fuck.”

“Get home in one piece, old man, and we’ll see.”

There’s silence on the floor, a sort of general gasp, and oh, shit, Bond’s feed’s on the speaker, isn’t it? Ah. Right. So everyone heard.

Q looks up and there are open mouths among the lowercases, all struck dumb at their screens. R’s face is the color of catsup. S looks absolutely delighted. Someone behind him is laughing.

On the other end, far away, James is laughing, too, wheezing as he scurries down a fire escape or some other damn thing. “I hate to tell you this, Q, but sometimes, subterfuge isn’t your forte.”

What the fuck, Q thinks. He’s already shown his hand, hasn’t he? “Yes, well,” he says. “That’s why I have you.”

James hums, and it sounds the same over the comm as it does when they’re curled together in bed, his mouth pressed against Q’s ear, his skin flush under Q’s palm. “So you do, darling. So you do.”