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Strontium Chloride Red and Other Colours

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Sometimes, when Q-Branch was quiet and nearly empty, and he wasn’t actually sure there was a world outside the basement offices anymore, Grayson (then known as R) would take off his glasses, rub his eyes until everything glowed, and send a text as he walked to the explosions lab in the very back of his division.

I’ve forgotten colours again. — GH

No matter what time of day or night, he would always a receive a reply. Insomnia was one of the many traits he and his brothers shared, after all.

Cupric sulfate-green. — SH

Predictable. Potassium chloride-violet. — MH

Grayson sighed as he scooped handfuls of chemicals onto fireproof plates and lit them on fire with his blowtorch. The coloured flames danced and he waved his hand through them.

Strontium chloride-red. Bored. — GH

Blow something up. — SH

Preferably not something in England. — MH

Any suggestions? — GH

NSY’s forensics lab. They’ve hired a new idiot, Anderson. Make him go away. — SH

Warehouse-cum-lab in North Korea. Coordinates being sent securely. — MH

Also, it’s nearly sunrise. MI6 has a nice view from the roof. Much better than lab colours. — SH

Change your jumper before Q comes in; you don’t want him to know you’ve been there all night. — MH

After another handful of minutes staring at the chemically-coloured fire display, Grayson extinguished the flames, put away the lab equipment, and headed back to his corner of Q-Branch to pull off his dark green cardigan and replace it with a blue one.

Cupric chloride blue jumper. Doesn’t match my socks. — GH

You need an index. — SH

Grayson chuckled. He grabbed his mug to refill and his laptop for North Korea and headed up the stairs to the lift, passing Q on his way. “Good morning, sir.”

“Early riser, are we R? Good man.” The elderly genius head of Q-Branch smiled and knocked his fist to Grayson’s shoulder.

“Yes sir. Just heading up to have a cup of tea and watch the sunrise. I’ll be back down momentarily.”

“Good, good.” Q nodded his white-haired head, grinning enthusiastically. “Up for some work on the bubblegum stick armory? I had the most splendid idea while eating an apple in the tub last night!”

“Absolutely. I just have a small task to wrap up while I’m upstairs. Meet you in your office at half eight?”

“Splendid, splendid.” Q nodded as he headed towards the labs with the smile of a man who had a theory to test and something fun to build. Grayson wondered if he could ever have that sort of enthusiasm. Or learn to fake it well enough.

The autumn sunrise was indeed spectacular, reflecting its flamelike brilliance on the icy surface of the Thames. Grayson pulled up Terminal and was soon neck-deep in the so-called secure networks of North Korea’s military. It was a simple matter of faulty wiring and precision overloads to ignite the first spark, and it didn’t take long for the initially weak sparks to reach the unstable half-built experimental weapons in the shoddy lab. Soon the building was exploding, taking everything in a six-mile radius with it.

The sun finally broke through the winter clouds to climb above the horizon.

Nicely done, brother. Eat something. — MH

I still say Anderson would have been a worthier target. — SH

Then, separately from the group texting they’d been doing earlier, came Sherlock’s more earnest concern. Alright? — SH

Grayson gathered up his things to head downstairs.

Sodium carbonate-peachy. — GH

 

~~~

 

“Left. No, you idiot, your other left!”

“Thank you, R. I shall take it under advisement,” 005 hissed back.

Grayson took another sip of his tea, ignoring the cheese sandwhich someone set at his elbow. He watched the red square on the map bob and weave through Prague, chasing after yet another terrorist. He wondered what it would be like to be able to control the agent — to tinker around with his biology, adding just the right kind of tech that would make him nothing more than an avatar. Schematics for muscle control and neuro-manipulation ran through his mind as he watched 005’s frantic chase. Grayson ran the costs of such efforts through his mind, deciding that even the absurdly-loyal double-oh agents might object to such “upgrades”. And anyway, the agents were easy enough (and comparatively cheap enough) to replace should they falter and die as a result of not not bloody listening.

005 swore, jumped off a roof, and landed on the target with a sickening bone crunch that made Grayson sigh. “Well, I guess that means I can have the interrogators stand down.”

“Shut up, kid.”

Eat something, brother. — MH

Grayson pushed the sandwich, plate and all, into the bin. “Your helicopter is waiting, 005. See you soon.” He cut his receiver off, trusting the lower techs to monitor the frequency in case something happened. He looked back to his screen to see if any of the other double-ohs were doing anything interesting. 004 and 008 were in the gym. 007 was playing an absurdly tense poker game in Montenegro. 009 was drinking himself into a coma in Singapore, dissatisfied with his progress in hunting down a hacker there.

“Well, looks like we have it all in hand, R.” Q announced cheerfully, patting Grayson on the back. “Go home. We’ll try work on the handprint-encoded PPK again tomorrow.”

“Yes, sir.”

Grayson hated this part. Hunger pulled at him, a sharpness tethering his body to reality, but it wasn’t enough for fuzzy edges of his insomnia-tainted vision to retreat completely. He stuffed a few days worth of jumpers, his laptop, and an earpiece into his backpack. “See you in the morning.”

“It is morning, R. See you Wednesday. Eat, sleep for at least twelve hours, and for god’s sake take a bath.”

Grayson didn’t do any of those things. He went to Sherlock’s flat on Montague Street and ignored the obvious signs of cocaine use while he took apart his brother’s MacBook Pro in order to upgrade it and remove Mycroft’s surveillance. Sherlock ignored him in favor of his latest gruesome experiment involving potassium sulfate, stagnant bog water, and a handful of bloody fingernails.

Mycroft came by later, bearing quiche, wine, and a melancholy expression. They sat around Sherlock’s chemically pockmarked table and pretended to eat by shoving bits of egg, ham, spinach, and crust around in ever-creative patterns on their plates.

“How is MI6?” Mycroft asked, starting on his third glass of merlot.

“Not nearly as interesting as you promised. The agents are like willful sex-addicted avatars in a not-very-exciting version of an XBox spy game.”

Sherlock arranged his ham into a happy face.  “At least you get to blow things up with regularity.”

Mycroft glared at Sherlock, then allowed a smile of pride to warm his features as he looked at Grayson.  “I hear you’re making waves in your weaponized technology breakthroughs.”

Grayson shrugged.  “I don’t have enough leeway to do anything really interesting yet.”

“Don’t worry, I’m sure something will come up to spark your imagination.” Mycroft tutted.

Sherlock laughed unpleasantly.

That night, Grayson walked home (though it felt more like floating) through some of the more dangerous parts of London, just waiting for something interesting to happen.

It didn’t.

 

~~~

 

It took years, a big bloody explosion, and a certain blue-eyed agent to get thing moving for him. He took the title of Q reluctantly, fielding “Are you alright?”texts from his brothers in order to focus on the mess Silva had made of his division. Apparently, even dead, Sherlock was keeping an eye on him. Mycroft had actually sent Anthea to check on him, bringing tea, a new iPhone, and a calcium chloride-brown cardigan that he quickly decided was his new favorite.

Perhaps it was his new title and the possibilities it brought; perhaps it was the adrenaline; perhaps it was the unusual spark of emotion (anger, frustration, disappointment) Silva ignited in him at hacking his network; but when 007 nearly got squashed by that train, he actually felt something when Bond escaped. Relief, maybe?

How odd.

Then M died, Mallory took his place, and Grayson (now Q) was too busy rebuilding Q-Branch to think about it much until a few weeks later when, during his now daily ritual of watching the sunrise, he found Bond sitting alone on the rooftop. Q hadn’t changed jumpers yet, so Bond raised his eyebrows at him. “What was the cause of your all nighter?”

Q sat next to Bond, drawing his knees up and placing his chin on them, settling in just the right spot where the agent acted as a perfectly adequate shield against the cold wind coming off the Thames. “005 is going out again tomorrow — well, today — and I had to finish up the weapons modifications he asked for.”

Bond looked down at him. “005? I didn’t think he was nice enough to you to warrant any such extra attention.”

“As opposed to what? Your kindness?” Q snorted and took a sip of his rapidly cooling tea.

“I’m more handsome.” Bond’s piercing blue eyes, sparkling with amusement, met his.  Q took a moment to admire the boyish grin, the ruffled blonde hair, the strong hands.

“True,” he said, “but you don’t return your gun to me in one piece often enough to request modifications. You’re lucky to get new standard issue ones at all.”

“And if I asked nicely, in preparation for an eventual replacement?” Bond shifted a bit to better block the wind. Q wondered if it was on purpose or merely his subconscious’ reaction to someone smaller being nearby.

“No. I’m not putting expensive and time-consuming modifications on a weapon you’re just going to lose anyway. Impress me by keeping the same one for any length of time and we’ll talk.”

“So, what I’m getting from you is that if I want to upgrade to a laser sight and perhaps an explosive built into the grip, I’ll have to be handsome, nice, responsible, and impressive enough? That’s an awfully tall order there, Q.”

“I don’t know. I seem to manage without much trouble.”

Bond laughed and let his hand brush Q’s shoulder on his way back downstairs.  Q tried not to dwell on it.

 

~~~

 

It was 22:16 on a Monday and the screen was getting a little too fuzzy around the edges for even for Q to deal with. 007 was busy seducing his next target in Egypt, and Q decided this was probably as good a time as any to cut his transmitter. He didn’t bother to inform the agent of this; he just nodded to one of his minions to indicate the change-off and made his way to medical, dragging his knuckles along the wall on his way there to help keep himself focused. He collapsed into a chair under Doc’s glare and closed his eyes, waiting.

It took about an hour on the IV to rehydrate him and get his nutrient and caloric levels up, and he kept his eyes closed the whole time in order to avoid the disapproving glares he could feel directed at him. About twenty minutes in, he got a text from the new M.

Everything all right? — M

Apparently this weekend’s revelries took more to recover from than I thought. — Q

Well, 007 did bring him an expensive bottle of tequila back from his Mexico mission on Friday, as an apology for losing yet another gun. He made a mental note to dump a fair portion of it down the sink when he got home next in order to corroborate his story.

Please be more careful with government property. — M

Q smirked at the screen. Yeah right.

When he was forced to go home an hour later, feeling a little too flushed from the liquid nutrition he’d received, he decided he’d actually really rather drink the tequila than pour it down the sink.

He made up for the rare indulgence by eating nothing but a handful of peanuts and drinking nothing but water and Earl Gray over the next two days.

 

~~~

 

Sometimes, Q would catch 007 looking at him. He couldn’t parse the expressions and so tended to ignore them, but the agent had been back from Egypt for three days now and seemed to be spending it watching his Quartermaster.

That evening, long past when he had thought everyone else had gone home, Q was back in the lab playing with copper (green) and lithium (red) flames. Sherlock and Mycroft were apparently too busy to respond to texts beyond terse acknowledgments, so he was passing the time arranging the plates into stars, lightning bolts, crescent moons, etc., snapping pictures of them with his camera phone and sending them to his brothers anyway.

He was in the middle of building a rather impressively large christmas tree when he heard the lab door whoosh open. It took him only a moment to figure out, based on tread, who it was.

“007.”

“Q. Lovely pyrotechnics.”

Q gave Bond a lopsided grin but didn’t stop his configurations.

“I heard you enjoyed my tequila a little too much over the weekend.”

“Is there such a thing as too much enjoyment of tequila?”

“A skinny lad like you, I imagine there is, and at a much smaller dose than for some.” Bond stood close enough that their elbows brushed.

“Did you need something, Agent?”

“Christmas is coming up.” Bond looked uncharacteristically hesitant as spoke, eyes trained on the flames.

Q smirked as he set fire to some iron filings at the top of the tree configuration. The yellow sparks made for a lovely star. He stepped back, snapped a photo, and sent it off. “True. Only three or four days left, right?”

If Mycroft insists on Christmas dinner together in Prague this year thanks to this, I will come back just to set all your chemicals aflame. At the same time. — SH

Q snorted. Unlikely. The Home Office is having troubles right now from what I’ve been told. He’ll be lucky to get out of London. — GH

Besides, Q-Branch is under my control now. It will be a lot harder to break into than even my room at home was. — GH

“Are you doing anything special?” Bond looked curiously at his phone, but Q knew he couldn’t see the texts from where he stood.

Oh, what’s another scar or two in the name of testing military intelligence lab security for weaknesses. Besides, I’d arrange the colours with an eye to aesthetics. — SH

“No, no plans.”

Did you just offer to make it pretty? You must be bored. Only you could be bored on a mission to bring down a massive criminal empire. — GH

Massive does not mean especially challenging. — SH

Q chuckled and added a few curls of magnesium ribbon to random spots on the tree. He could feel Bond’s curious gaze as he carefully unfurled the metal coil, snipped off fragments, and took his little blow torch to them. The white sparks made for lovely ornaments.

Sadly, there will be no family dinner this year for obvious reasons. Glad to see you’re feeling festive anyway. — MH

“If this is any representation of how your family celebrates Christmas, I think I understand.” Bond smiled, then pulled Q’s hand away from where he was running it idly through the flames.  Q watched, fascinated, as Bond rubbed little circles with his thumb over his fingertips. 

“Oh, 007, you have no idea. Believe it or not, I’m probably the mildest of the bunch.  What about you? Plans?” Q reluctantly pulled his hand away to answer Mycroft, but stopped at the affectionate expression on Bond’s face.  Curiously, Q’s stomach fluttered.

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to ask you about. If you don’t have any plans, I have a fabulous scotch and a small plastic tree with built-in fairy lights at home.  Care to come to mine for Christmas dinner?”

Q blinked in surprise. “Oh.” He tried to think of a reason why he shouldn’t, or couldn’t. He was already having trouble continuing to think of Bond as just another avatar, but he hadn’t yet decided if that was a negative or positive development. On one hand, it was nice to have someone to snark with who wasn’t afraid of him or cowed by his intelligence. But on the other hand, Bond was a double-oh and therefore all but disposable. He could be setting himself up for something deeply unpleasant indeed.

“Sure. What shall I bring?” he found himself saying anyway.

Sadly? You know he’s over the moon with a reason to not have to move his chubby arse too far from the Diogenes. — SH

“Just your own pleasant company. And perhaps an exploding pen or two, if you feel so moved.”

Q chuckled even as he thought about the logistics behind the former Q’s spy toys. “No flaming chemicals?”

“I suppose it would lend a certain ambience to the proceedings. I wonder, though. Would chestnuts be contaminated by your particular brand of festive?”

“Copper-green would be fine, but best to avoid lithium-red I think. Perhaps a nice strontium chloride-red instead.”

Bond stepped a little closer and brushed his knuckles along Q’s forearm. “I leave the details entirely in your capable hands.”

Q managed not to gape in surprise, but was unable to formulate an intelligent response before Bond was gone.

He looked down at his phone. He thought about his brothers and their histories with romantic attachments, but decided to risk it anyway.

Just what does one bring a double-oh for Christmas dinner at his flat, do you think? — GH

Something that explodes in his favorite colour. — MH

Lube, condoms, and scotch. Leave the handcuffs, he probably has his own. — SH

Q felt heat rising in his face that had nothing to do with his burning Christmas tree.

 

~~~

 

As it turned out, deciding on a gift wasn’t going to be the worst of Q’s problems, after all. On Christmas Eve, he was gathering all the chemicals he needed for the decidedly more elaborate display he had planned for Bond when the comms in the lab started ringing an alarm.

A quick mental scan left him with no reason for it as he dashed back up to his workstation. None of the double-ohs were presently engaged in particularly deadly missions, and Bond himself was still in London. He popped in an earpiece to catch the tail end of a sentence that made his fingers clench around his Scrabble mug.

“...blood on the end table, his gun is on the floor, and no sign of Bond.”

Q took a deep breath. “Quartermaster here. Take me through it.”

Soon, half his office screens were covered with the most likely suspects who had both the resources and motivation to go after Bond. From Quantum to arms dealers to drug runners to burned CEOs, there was no shortage of people who had reason to see 007 dead. (Q even texted Sherlock to see if Moriarty’s web would have any reason to go after the agent. Sherlock replied with an affirmative, but also the reassurance that they wouldn’t target Bond specifically, and they certainly wouldn’t do it on MI6’s home territory.) The list was easily made shorter by focusing on those who had the skill to kidnap him, a reason to do it while he was in London, and a reason to keep him alive at all rather than just kill him on the spot.

The other half of the screens were busy displaying CCTV and other surveillance footage from around Bond’s flat. A facial recognition program was scanning for Bond, known terrorists, counterintelligence agents, and anyone else who would raise a red flag.

In the middle of his programs and his minions all working frantically, Q was quietly trying to keep his focus while dealing with an entirely new sensation — fear derived from emotional attachment.

From what he’d learned in observing behavior in others, Q understood that emotional attachment happened in defined stages. It seemed to go something like this:

  1. Introductions
  2. Acknowledgment of Attraction and Possibility
  3. Explorations of Compatibility
  4. Joint Forays into Social Conventions (Parties, Clubs, Restaurants, etc.)
  5. Genuine Emotional Attachment
  6. Maintenance of Said Attachment

Of course, there were a multitude of factors to take into account in such calculations, including the type of attachment (romantic versus friendly, for instance) and the stability of it (secure versus insecure, etc.), but Q was fairly confident in his general model.

And, so far as he was aware, he and Bond hadn’t progressed beyond Stage 3. Why should he feel concerned, given that his day to day life wouldn’t change much at all should Bond disappear permanently?

Q ran a hand through his hair, closing his eyes. Wait, was this concern? How was it concern? He forced himself to imagine a world without Bond, without snarky running commentaries and occasional but still electrifying brushes of physical contact. His stomach clenched.

How the hell had that happened?! Granted, his brain worked a lot faster than most people’s, but he hadn’t processed any of the relevant data regarding a more permanent attachment to Bond yet.

He turned to see one of his assistants checking her e-mail. “Dammit Anna, there is no time for that! Have you run the ATMs yet?”

Well, it seemed like the perfidious organ had been running those calculations in the background (without his conscious permission) anyway.

An alert chimed somewhere to his left. He set his mug down carefully and walked over, examining the feed and the correlating files his recognition program pulled up.

“Fuck.”

 

~~~

 

What do you know about drug lord Pavel Bleiwas? — GH

Not a man to trifle with. Old-fashioned, though. You’ve got about 6 days. — MH

I can’t get to Russia within that time frame. Good luck. — SH

 

~~~

 

As it turned out, Russia was a very, very big place. Big enough, even, to allow mostly incompetent drug traffickers to remain relatively anonymous. And though Russian networks were pretty shoddy outside of the major cities, their patchwork nature frustrated Q endlessly as he found himself again and again picking up digital traces of Bleiwas’ cronies only to be dropped into a no-man’s land of digital silence. He could get 005 and 008 close to where they would access their e-mail accounts or use cell phones, only to have them run into literal mountains.

Christmas came and went, and Q refused to light any fires. He would wait until Bond was extracted. Then he’d give him a real show.

 

~~~

 

Q hadn’t slept much in the past four days. Less than eight hours in total, actually. And he was eating more regularly than normal just so he wouldn’t have to leave Q-Branch to get an IV from medical.

Curiously, he wasn’t feeling detached at all. And, as if that wasn’t strange enough, he could hardly understand what he was feeling. His clock was running out. He missed Christmas dinner, and that was crushing. But now he was coming up on New Year’s. His very last chance to legitimately celebrate a holiday with Bond any time soon. And he wanted it. God, he wanted it. Not a pretense of a holiday, not a make-up dinner, but an actual honest-to-god revelry. With alcohol and a gift exchange and maybe even some of what Sherlock had suggested.

He directed the double-ohs to an abandoned apartment complex in the Komi Republic in northwest Russia. He listened to 005 complain about the cold and give yet another tedious definition of “wild goose chase.” (Urban Dictionary: “A word used by adults to children when the adults have no clue where they are.”) Q waited for the inevitable slander against his adulthood while also deciding that if the insufferable idiot had enough cell reception to pull up Urban Dictionary, this was a very good sign indeed. The network ping was only hours old.

“This is a very old fashioned crew,” he muttered as he watched them make their way through the whitewashed rubble. “Watch out for tripwires and mines.”

005 snorted. “Have you even seen a tripwire in real life, kid?”

Q spotted fresh bootprints in the snow and authorized the backup team to follow 005 in.

A moment later, half the building vanished in a puff of snow, smoke, and brickdust as 005 tripped an explosion. Q shook his head. Curiously, he still thought of 005 as a disposable avatar. He wondered what it was about Bond that inspired him to think elsewise.

“Explosion triggered in building 5. Be careful with the retrieval team when pulling Bond out, please. I think we’ve lost enough government property today.” Q felt proud of how his voice didn’t tremor or betray his anxiety whatsoever.

“007 located. Immediate medical not needed — keep back. We’ll meet them at the chopper.”

Q felt a stinging in his hands and looked down to see them clenched hard enough that his fingernails were leaving red half-moon marks in his palms.

“Status?”

There was a hiss and the sounds of a transceiver changing hands.

“Q?” Blue eyes and gentle fingers brushing his hand swam in his vision.

Q sank into his chair, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes mercilessly. “James?”

“I hope you didn’t have dinner without me.”

 

~~~

 

Bond secured relatively undamaged. Traditional holiday meal take-away suggestions? — GH

Daniel Bismark. (020) 7648 5555. Don’t skip the pudding. — MH

Chicken and avocado sandwiches from Speedy’s, copious amounts of alcohol and sex. — SH

 

~~~

 

New Years Eve found Q standing in the kitchen doorway of his slightly messy but very comfortable flat watching James do battle with a sodium chloride-yellow paper crown and a Christmas goose he’d been assured was very traditional and sure to be a hit. The most attention Bond have given it so far, however, was to laugh at the still-attached head and manipulate the bill open and shut while imitating quacking noises.

Q was pretty sure it was ducks that quacked and geese that honked, but it was all fine because what it really meant was that, neither of them having any previous “traditional” celebrations to fall back on, they could do what they wished and make up their own celebration however they saw fit.

A chemical Christmas tree burned away on the coffee table, as promised, and Q had even remembered to pick up chestnuts and an open-flame roaster. Though he doubted his little display actually had enough heat to do the job properly, he thought it was the thought that counted. (He had the oven preheating anyway, just in case.)

“So, I know wine is traditional, and I did say something about scotch, but since we’re celebrating anyway...” James pulled up the cotton grocery bag he’d brought with him and proceeded to set out a bottle each of 42 Below vodka, Gordon’s gin, Kina Lillet. A lemon, two martini glasses, and a cocktail strainer followed. “You don’t seem the type to have the proper tools on hand, so I came prepared.”

Q pushed himself away from the door, set the plates and forks down, and smirked at the heavily bruised agent. “I didn’t realize I was that transparent. Indeed, I can honestly say I’ve never had one of these in my life.”

James’s eyebrow rose and his mouth twitched. “Really?”

Q shrugged as he sat next to James at the bar counter that served as his dining table. He handed over the knife to carve the meat with and served roast potatoes, stuffing, and gravy as James worked. “Addiction runs very deeply in my family. As the youngest, I’ve seen it’s effects on my brothers and found it more prudent to lean towards deprivation rather than indulgence.”

James finished serving, wrapped his strong hand around Q’s thin wrist, and brushed his lips over the pulse point. “I can see that.”

Q couldn’t help the breathy sigh that escaped him as James pushed up the sleeve of his cardigan, barely pressing dry lips to pale skin as he worked his way up to Q’s elbow. “Some addictions are worth having, you know.”

Q thought about this as James gently removed his tie and unbuttoned his favorite calcium chloride-brown cardigan and the top buttons of his shirt in order to expose more skin. Having an addiction to James Bond may not be so bad, he thought as a gentle but insistent mouth made its way up his sternum and throat, teeth grazing at just the right pressure.  When James’ tongue reached the shell of his ear, unused to such close contact as he was Q may have overreacted a bit by practically throwing himself into Bond’s lap.

“Sorry,” Q whispered as the chair rocked and the dishes rattled, though he didn’t know how repentant he seemed as he refused to let go or slide back even a centimeter.

James’ low chuckle reverberated where his mouth was still pressed to Q’s ear. “That’s what deprivation will get you.” One hand gently pushed up Q’s spine and neck into his brown curls while the other wrapped around his waist. “I suppose I should say something about learning to enjoy things in moderation, but I’m afraid that would be completely disingenuous.”

Q felt his glasses go askew as James’ mouth nipped and sucked at his ear, but he couldn’t do much more than hold on as the sensations crashed over his defenses. The sense of being so completely tethered to this moment was something he was completely inexperienced with. He’d had his fair share of sexual encounters in uni, but without this emotional component they’d done very little to lessen his sense of detachment.

James’ hand slid from it’s resting place over his stomach and dipped to graze his hipbone.

Oh god. Now he was beginning to understand what all the fuss was about.

Q felt like he should be doing something, not just passively pressing himself against James’ body. He turned his head to steal his first real kiss from Bond.

Q’s glasses clattered to the floor with the movement, but it was very difficult for him to care. He wasn’t even able to make a mental note not step on them later as he was crushed under James’ mouth, gentle transforming into hot, dirty, and needy. Q tried to keep up, tried to meet bite for bite and tongue thrust to thrust, but he simply wasn’t able. Bond’s hands fisted in his hair and gripped his hip tightly, and Q was grateful for the pressure as he let James overwhelm him completely.

When the kiss broke moments later, Q pressed his forehead to James’, gasping for breath and unable to let go of his death grip on Bond’s shoulders. James, the bastard, laughed. “Well, perhaps this addiction of yours might turn out to be a bit self-destructive after all. Perhaps deeper breaths might help stop you from asphyxiating on the spot.”

“Shut up.” With his hands where they were, he could feel the flutter of James’ accelerated heartbeat under his fingertips. He didn’t want to let go only to find the emptiness returned. He suddenly, for the first time, truly understood what rich meals, alcohol, and power did for Mycroft and cocaine, the Work, and John (before this current mess with Moriarty’s network) did for Sherlock. If they felt anything like he did right now, he wondered how they’d ever had the strength to let go — even for brief moments at a time. He suddenly felt crushingly sad for Sherlock in particular. It was quickly followed by the terror of what it would mean to him if something happened to Bond, or his relationship with Bond.

His rational brain kicked in even as panic allowed him to let go of James and sit back in his seat. He took a deep breath, then another, and smiled calmly at James, who had sensed a shift and was watching Q closely.

“Everything alright?” James asked.

“Fine. I think I’ll have that martini now.” He bent to pick up his glasses from the floor. Whatever this was, he’d keep his mouth shut and let it play out. There was no sense in pushing or questioning when obviously the rules of logic refused to be applicable. He straightened his clothes but didn’t rebutton. This time his smile was crooked and genuine, and returned by James. “And it’s Grayson. Grayson Holmes.”

James’ grin was brilliant as he poured their drinks. “Now, Grayson, let’s find out if a Christmas goose is everything it’s cracked up to be.”

 

~~~

 

How was dinner? — MH

Well, was I right? Did he have his own handcuffs? — SH

Quit setting my phone off. Busy. — GH

Don’t tell me you’re at the lab. I shall be very cross with Bond if you are. Anthea may appear. — MH

If you’re not distracted enough to ignore your phone, he’s not doing it right. Try a blindfold. — SH

This is my work mobile, as you well know. I can’t turn it off. Aren’t you busy taking over the world or destroying it or something? GO AWAY. — GH

And he’s very distracting. — GH

Good night. — MH

Blindfolds are fun anyway. Good night. — SH

:) — GH