This is what Q tells Bond at the funeral:
"You loved her."
Bond looks at him, and holds the black umbrella higher over both of them. "I grew attached, yes." He shrugs, and he's impenetrable behind his sunglasses but Q has memorised every shade of blue his eyes could become.
Q turns to watch the casket being lowered, slow as the earlier procession. It had lovely craftsmanship, really top quality mahogany - M would have hated it. And the ceremony, perhaps it had one too many poetry readings, but Q thought it was a somber, quite beautiful affair.
"I've forgotten what that's like."
Bond shakes out the umbrella and removes the sunglasses when it's over; if his eyes are a little red-rimmed, Q doesn't mention it.
"I'm still a better liar than you." His mouth quirks up as they walk away together. "Funny how that turned out."
"Yes, funny. If you're into that sort of thing."
Bond grins, completely. It was a Sunday.
They find the time to talk, really talk, at three in the morning, after Bond returns post-mission, sporting blood on his face like it was the norm. Which it was, for him. Q wishes he could say he wasn't startled by it every time, but. Well.
"Clean yourself up," he says, refocusing his attention on his screens. "There's a tissue box in the top draw. And don't just..."
He sighs when he sees that Bond had snapped his fingers, right as rain again.
"Please. You know I don't prefer subtlety."
"You never have." He hasn't once stopped typing, and Bond takes advantage of the distraction to steal his glasses, just lifts them right over his head. "And you're still a nuisance."
Bond hums, squinting at the computer over Q's shoulder and wearing his glasses. "Do I have to ask?"
"I suppose I'll tell you," Q says, resigned. "When I'm done with my work."
"At the rooftop, then. To see the sunrise. It's at six thirty today."
"You sentimental fool."
Bond takes it as a compliment. "They call me an old dog, these days. Maybe they're right."
That summons a laugh out of Q, but Bond's gone when he turns around.
It's more out of curiosity, the first time, than any actual desire. Q's vessel around then was a woman, can't be later than the fourteenth century. If anything, it makes the whole affair a little less complicated.
"Hm," Bond says when they're done. Q stretches out beside him, glad to be free of the corset for a short while.
"I think I'll be doing it again."
Q snorts. Bond glances over, as if he's about to give a lecture on bad manners. Q does a surreptitious belly scratch, just for that. "Not with me, I hope."
"Well, no, of course not." Bond looks puzzled, even guilty, because he's not used to doing things wrong. Q preens and pulls him closer by the scruff of his neck.
"Suppose one more time won't hurt," Q says, kissing Bond. It's a lie, but it wouldn't be the first.
Q had been listening in during Bond's stint in captivity on Silva's island. Bond had dropped his comm in Eve's wine two nights prior, but Q didn't need it anyway. Not officially.
"Everyone needs a hobby."
Silva's smile bleeds through the silk in his voice, almost like snake venom. Almost. "So what's yours?"
"Resurrection." Bond knows he can hear it.
"You asshole," he says, because Bond can hear him, too.
It's Q's second female vessel, but Bond sticks to what he's familiar with.
"You're taller than me," Bond observes; Q kicks him with a heel.
"Is that a problem?"
"No." Bond topples Q's wiry frame to the bed - that's one constant, at least - and, damn the lot of him, he's gotten good at it.
"Have you been practicing?" Q's eyes are squeezed shut. Bond's tongue is impossibly hot, searing like the Pit.
Q's never been the type to get homesick, but it's comforting as it is arousing.
"A little," Bond murmurs, already buried in folds of skin. "Your hair's red down here too." He seems appreciative.
"That's how genetics work, idiot." He makes Q's toes curl. "Read some of those books I gave you. They've finally caught up."
"When I'm not occupied." Bond thinks to clarify. "With men and women, I meant."
Q's made a monster, and it's been a splendid job.
"If you get one of these, I can do it to you," Q says, smirking as Bond still looks scandalised at the sounds and shudders that occurred. How he can manage that with his beard glistening from streaks of come, Q will never know.
"But you're too attached to your flaming swords, aren't you?"
They're in front of a painting, one of Turner's. Q never cared much for the man - too whiny, and he never got up to anything really fun. Van Gogh had more imagination.
And Turner's body of work was too shiny, anyway. Had far too much light in them. There's a reason why Q's fond of his current basement job.
"Q," Bond says, fighting a smile. Q lets his own spread on his face like a forest fire, wide enough for the both of them.
It's neither of their real names, but they shake on it. They've been playing pretend for a long time.
A year passes too quickly. Bond isn't going a hundred feet of the cemetery, so he goes in the opposite direction to Q's flat. He goes through three bottles of scotch by himself before it has any effect, and before it happens he goes through Q's record collection and turns some of them into classic rock albums. Temporarily, but it's still irritating.
"You're acting like that human." The one that bested Q, or so it seemed. Blond as pollution and serpentine.
"His real name was Tiago," Bond says, speech only the slightest bit slurred.
"I know. The alias didn't suit him." Q listens as another song starts up, mentally tells himself to get up and change it after this one. "He had no talent for it. True evil, I mean. He was just so starved for affection that it drove him mad.
"It was a bloody waste."
Bond goes quiet, so that all Q has for company for a good five minutes is Steven Tyler's grating voice. He finally urges himself to stand when Bond speaks.
"I've looked at the worst of them in the eye," Bond says, sounding plaintive, like he's choosing his words carefully. Q wishes he'd stop. "None of them are evil, just... zealous. Lost. It never occurs to them that they might be wrong."
Q can't keep the bitterness out when he replies, "we were lost too, once."
Bond snaps his fingers and the bottles of scotch are refilled, the record playing its regularly scheduled Beethoven again, but the cloud in his eyes hasn't lifted.
"I'll show myself out." That's all, because they're past apologies at this point. Bond leaves and Q watches him go. If he were a better person he would've seen him to the door, maybe even offered to walk with him to pay respects on M's grave, but.
"You should say sorry to Miss Moneypenny," Q says, a little out of nowhere, but it's been bothering him.
"Pick up lines don't count."
Bond raises an eyebrow at him, the barest twitch of muscle. "What for?"
"She felt terrible, and it wasn't her fault. Even if she hadn't missed." Q glares through his glasses. The unblinkingly harsh gaze is effective on his employees and though Bond has always been immune, it's the thought that counts.
"You've been reading my file."
"I have a lot of spare time."
"Wouldn't if you just took a nap." Bond's grin is lazy, like the rest of him. Q would have never forgiven himself if he had slept through any of the plagues like Bond had. He always did have a terrible work ethic, while Q took all his duties seriously.
Or, most of them. "You're derailing. Take her to dinner this evening and explain. I can still smell her regret from five floors up."
Bond just seems amused by it all. "My, Q, you've grown attached."
"Have not," Q scoffs, but his heart's not in it. It couldn't be helped; she was an Eve. The two of them have a history.
"This one's young," Bond says, his breath ever-warm. Q has figured it out since the last time, that Bond is whatever anyone needs him to be. Servitude at its finest.
"He is, isn't he?" Q closes his eyes, and doesn't open them when he asks, "do you like it?"
Bond takes a while to respond, so Q's forced to look at him; what he sees is a hunger that's pure unholy, in every sense of the word. It's unnerving, like a reflection with eyes that go in a different direction.
"Yes, I do," Bond answers after he's pounced, and for the first time it isn't about the exploration. They last for hours, all teeth and fists, and ankles reaching for the ceiling in mock praise.
"We're no better than animals," Q says when they're done, panting as he presses a fingertip to a bruise on his arm. It's a quick, easy way to relive it, and he foresees himself repeating the gesture in days to come.
Bond takes the outstretched arm and lets his lips graze the ring of purple and yellow blood clots. He's painted with similar ones up and down his throat.
"Sometimes we're allowed to be simple." Bond's voice is smooth as butter, practiced over millennia of holding things back, but it makes hairs stand along Q's new body. And then one long kiss, riding the ridges of his spine, stopping at the hollow there. Q wants humanity to hurry up with the cryogenics, because he needs to freeze this moment, the chaste perfection of it, for something to revisit when they come to the End.
He says nothing when Bond whispers, "like animals," because Bond's incorruptible to the core, always has been, even if he sometimes needs reminding.
"I was promised a sunrise," Q says, six twenty sharp. He passes the cup of coffee over to Bond, and he gets a lit cigarette in return.
"I finished my program. " He takes a sip from his mug, coffee brewed the same way as Bond's. It's one of the very few things they have in common.
"Well?" The corner of Bond's lips are quirked up again. He's still wearing Q's glasses.
"I don't pester you about the line of work you chose."
"Mine doesn't need explanation."
Q exhales, shoulders losing their tension. Bond fought on the frontlines, with quick kills and noble causes, while Q achieved his ends through underhanded means. It's nothing to be ashamed of, it's the way he's made; still he hides his embarrassment in a stream of smoke.
"I got bored with small-scale temptation."
Bond doesn't laugh, but he might as well have, his eyes a summer day blue. "Go on."
"I had to think bigger. No one else has kicked the habit of owning one soul at a time. I've been persuading to get them to do it my way, and no such luck." Q takes alternating sips and drags, fingers jittery. "Discovered this Thing. It's called the internet - for those of us not in the know - and they made it, all by themselves. Their greatest invention yet and there was no assistance from either side. Communication and information storage changed forever, and completely ripe for the picking. Learned how to navigate it within the hour, helped myself into creating practice viruses. 'Course it ruined hard drives, a few lives - but. There's no thrill in passing them along discreetly. They're certain to get through, and the only crime of affected parties would be neglecting to put up a stronger firewall."
He's babbling now, and he's not sure Bond even understands the jargon but he's smiling. Just a tiny one, and Q's mean little heart leaps in pride. "Then there was this idea to offer them anything they wanted. I toyed with mass emails and pop up ads, promising large sums of money, a free vacation, a house without a mortgage. They put up virtually no resistance. All the seven sins - and more - were exercised. Of course they got smarter eventually, kept me busy for a while. Around then I realised that I was still thinking too small, and this... this was the next logical step."
"The MI6." Bond shakes his head, like he can't believe the utter gall of it. "The British government."
"No, right under the British government. I can infect and interfere with every computer, antenna, and satellite of my choosing, all from the best network in the country." He stubs out his cigarette and sets his mug down on the ledge so he can take his glasses off Bond's face, making a show of wiping the lenses.
"I was wondering about those," Bond says.
"And you only brought it up now?" Q sets them atop his nose, looking forward. "I thought they fit the character."
"They do," Bond muses. There's a pause as Bond weighs his words again, but Q's ready for it. There's light on the horizon now. "I could tell Mallory."
"But you won't, because you'd be breaking the rules."
"I break them all the time."
Q doesn't smile, because it feels entirely like he's being tempted to do so and that's his job. "Not our rules."
"I'll find a way to stop you."
"You can try."
(They said those same words once, many lifetimes ago in a Garden no one else could enter; if they both noticed, neither of them mentioned it.)
All their lives start on a Sunday.
"I'll take you to lunch," Bond tells Q as makes a stop by his desk. "You pick the place, and I'll pay."
Q opens his mouth, though Bond hurriedly interrupts with an afterthought. "But no sushi."
"Ah." Q wrinkles his nose and fumes, though he hides it well; it's too early for in the morning for rivalries. He settles for an impasse. "We can sample the Ritz."