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He's skinny. Bond jokes that he's one skipped meal away from being emaciated. He almost hides it under those layers, the jumpers and the raincoats, but in the end all Bond has to do is touch his wrist and feel the bones there and he knows—he could break them in half if he wanted. He could break Q in half. When he thinks about this, he goes half-hard in his trousers like an adolescent, rather than a middle-aged man. He thinks about getting Q underneath him, or maybe on top of him, and his mouth dries up like day old bread. 

He wants, and Bond is seldom denied.

It happens like this: after a quick debrief with M, they're walking the hallway together and Bond watches Q's neck. It's pale, unmarked, like a slice of marble. Bond wants him. The mission was hell and he's practically shaking now with fatigue; all he can think about is marking up Q's neck.

"I'd like to take you home," he says, and it's not a question.

Q looks over at him without blinking, without faltering in his steps. Other than the slight dilation of his pupils, he barely reacts.

"I'm sorry," he says, after a five second deliberation. "I don't make a habit of shagging people in the workplace. Personal policy, you see."

Bond puts a hand on his arm and Q stops walking, but he doesn't look in Bond's eyes, just beyond, focusing elsewhere. Bond puts his other hand on the wall so he can lean closer into Q's personal space, lips bent to his ear.

"Surely you can break your policy just once."

Q breathes in and it's shaky, Bond can feel his breath hit his jaw in warm puffs. This close, he can smell everything Q—the scent of bergamot orange from his tea, the soap from his shower. Bond steps closer.

"I believe this is a bad idea," Q says.

"I make a living off bad ideas."

Bond brushes his lips against Q's ear and then pulls away. Q's eyes are like black disks, and he's won.

---

He doesn't intend for it to be anything more than one night. Romance is a dangerous thing, especially in his line of work, and Bond's learned his lesson many times. But sex is another story, and in the dim light of the halls at MI6, Q says, "I hope you have a car."

Bond takes him home and fucks him. He gets Q out of his clothes and finds he's all skin and rib bones, angular shoulders and veins running like wires all over. It's Q who takes the initiative; crawls onto the bed and waits propped up on his elbows, cock hard and legs dropped open in an invitation that is blatant. Bond slides over him and kisses him hard enough that Q falls flat onto the bed, breathing his approval into the kiss. He pulls away just to watch the inhale and exhale of Q's chest, the outline of ribs like piano keys.

"I don't need to ask if you've done this before, do I," Q says.

"Cheeky." Bond's lips tug up into a smile. "That's what I should be asking you, boy."

He doesn't break him, but he thinks about it. He pushes into him a bit too hard, and Q's eyes flutter with pain but he says nothing, maybe he enjoys it. Bond covers his body with his own until they are almost one, skin and bones and muscle moving together.

Q stays the night but Bond leaves in the morning before he wakes up.

And that's it.

---

That's not it.

---

"Dubai," M says, and Bond shakes his head.

"Not my preferred holiday spot."

"Don't get fresh."

M drops a file into his lap with the words Burj Al Arab printed across it. Inside, there are photographs of three men he's going to kill. He doesn't suspect M is going to tell him why he's killing them, only that he must.

"Drop down to Q before you leave and he'll give you supplies. We need them dead and gone without any trouble."

There's a woman in some of the photographs, she's wearing a sarong and has her arm draped around one of the men. M points to her when he notices Bond looking.

"She might be useful in getting close."

"Right." Bond shuts the file. "Why are they staying at the world's most expensive hotel? Seems a bit too flashy for terrorists, doesn't it."

"Because they aren't terrorists, but they are funding them," M says. "It's time we cut them off at the source."

Bond tucks the file into his jacket and goes down to Q branch.

It's been a week since he left Q in his bed, and the boy hasn't changed around him. Bond calls him a boy but he knows he's a man, twenty-five in three months and pushing genius level intelligence. Q is as professional as Bond needs him to be, and he can ignore the way Q stares at his lips and hands now.

Q hands him an envelope and a metal briefcase.

"Your flight voucher," he says.

Bond stares at the briefcase.

"Dare I ask what's in here?"

"Scaling tools," Q says. "The Burj Al Arab is the fourth tallest hotel in the world."

It all feels very Mission Impossible, and Bond says as much.

"Don't be ridiculous." Q takes the briefcase back to open it. "This is for making your way up the elevator shafts undetected. Anyone who would try to scale the outside of a hotel would be a twat, no matter how tall."

He's so serious in his critique that Bond finds himself agreeing. The tools inside are simple in their innovation and reek of Q's handy work. Bond thinks of him working on these, nights spent perfecting them knowing they'll go to him. It makes him smile. Q shuts the briefcase again and slides it across the table to Bond. They lock eyes, and under the lab bulbs, Q's pupils almost seem white. Bond thinks of his piano key ribs and bergamot mouth. Then he leaves.

Death grabs for him in Dubai and barely misses him.

Money speaks, and some men are more loyal than others. He shoots his last target down when a maniac bodyguard with a bowie knife stabs him in the leg, dangerously close to the femoral artery. He almost bleeds out in an alleyway, trouser leg run red with his own warm blood. He's saved by one of the dead men's girlfriend, Jasmyn. Bond knows her from the file. She has questions. Don't they all.

He makes love to her, but the frame of her body doesn't feel quite right, and Bond thinks about Q in a jumper with his fingers hitting laptop keys and his lips on a mug but refuses to think more on it.

In the end, she tries to kill him ("loyalties, Mr. Bond"), so he puts a bullet in her head.

So he returns to MI6 with a limp and a cane. So Eve, as always, is sympathetic.

"At least it wasn't me, this time," she says.

"I think I prefer your bad touch to this." Bond leans on his cane. M really splurged for him—this one has a blade hidden in it. "Any news for me?"

"None," Eve says. "You're on leave from fieldwork, you know this."

Bond hobbles toward her, trying to pull more sympathy. He hates being on leave, he really hates it. That gives room for boredom, which gives room for thinking, and an idle mind is never good for a field agent.

"There's not anything I can do?"

Eve purses her lips to stop her smile. Then she grabs a package from her desk and holds it out for Bond, saying, "Be a love and deliver this to Q for me, hm? I'm sure he'll love the cane, old man."

"I am injured," Bond says, already grabbing the package.

"You need the exercise."

Q has two hands inside of a computer when Bond finds him, spaghetti strands of wires tangled up to his sleeves. He's concentrating, brows furrowed and lips pursed. It makes Bond want him all over again, and not just in the way he had him before. He wants to take off Q's glasses and get his fingers caught in his hair. He wants to take him out for a good meal and then press his hands into that skinny little waist of his all over again. He wants.

"What on earth are you doing," Bond says.

When Q looks up, his expression is almost sheepish, like he's been caught. What it really is, what Bond knows it is from experience, is a sudden let down of his guard upon seeing him.

"I'm building a computer, obviously," he says, and adjusts his glasses. "Why do you have a cane?"

"Take a guess."

Bond shifts his weight and walks forward. He still hasn't gotten the hang of walking on it yet, so his movements are slow. Q watches his limp with a frown, slides his hands out from inside the computer.

"Stab wound," Q says eventually, eyes drifting away from Bond's leg.

His jaw twitches and Bond watches, nods an affirmative. He forgets about the package in his hand until Q asks what he's doing there.

"Do I need a reason to visit an old friend?" Bond says.

"Who's old?" Q leans against the desk and smoothes his hands along the fabric of his jumper. It's that hideous brown one from the Skyfall mission, Bond remembers. He's had dreams about burning it. "What do you want, 007?"

"A package from our dear Moneypenny."

Bond drops it next to Q, who opens it immediately. It must have something to do with the computer he's building, because he starts fiddling around with it again.

"She made you walk all the way down here?" Q asks with his back turned. "Seems a bit cruel, given you're injured."

"I didn't mind," Bond says.

He says it with enough affection that Q pauses, but only for a moment. His body moves again, and even through the jumper, Bond can see his shoulder blades. He still wants to break him, but he wants to do so much more.

"So how about dinner, then?"

It's been well over a month now that they slept together and left it as it was. Maybe Q expected that, maybe not, but he hasn't said anything about it either. Bond is shooting in the dark. Luckily, he usually has good aim.

Q turns around, and then says, "I'm not a shop."

Bond forgets about his bad leg for a moment and steps forward, cane dragging behind him. It fucking hurts and he ignores it. Q is looking past him again, focusing elsewhere, so Bond reaches out and grabs his wrist. The pulse quickens underneath, like a jack rabbit. Q finally looks at him.

"I meant with you," Bond says, and puts a little pressure into his grip.

Q's mouth opens and shuts, almost mechanical. Bond can feel him thinking, wondering. He pulls slightly to get his wrist out of Bond's grip, but doesn't move away otherwise. He glances around quickly, as if to check for others who may be listening, and then his mouth opens again but nothing comes out, he literally doesn't know what to say.

"It's only dinner," Bond says, filling with quiet air.

Only, Q mouths. His stance is defensive and suspicious. Bond doesn't blame him. Q wants to ask, Bond can tell, but he won't here.

"I've had a near death experience," Bond says. "I think I at least deserve some company for dinner."  

Q finally speaks: "Every day is a near death experience for you." Though his tone is almost unreadable, his lips are turned upward. "I hardly think that calls for celebration."

He sidesteps away from Bond because something starts beeping on the laptop behind him. His fingers fly to the keyboard, typing furiously. Bond follows, though all this moving is absolute hell on his leg.

"I'm not asking for anything else," he says.

Q stops typing, hands still. Then he hits ENTER sharply and turns around, all in one movement.

"I can probably spare an hour after my shift to eat something."

Bond flashes a smile and Q turns away immediately, fingers back to typing, back to work. He lets himself watch a moment, admire, and then he brushes Q's forearm with his hand, a farewell gesture that is too fleeting and brief to be taken as anything suggestive.

"I'll pick you up," he says. "Do something about that jumper."

Q flicks him off.

---

"This is a bit over the top, don't you think?"

Bond sheds his suit jacket and rolls up the cuffs of his dress shirt before grabbing his menu. They're at a very, very nice restaurant and Q looks hilariously uncomfortable, though he's at least ditched the jumper. A dish here goes for at least thirty quid a head, but Bond can afford it. There are certain perks to being a double-oh, and as far as he's concerned, nothing is over the top. As a field agent, you live fast and you live extravagantly, because you could die just as quickly.

"Not at all," he says. "And you could use a good meal or two. Now, do you prefer red or white wine?"

"Neither," Q says. "I don't drink."

James looks up from his menu because that's the most startling thing he's heard all day. Q shifts in his seat, lips pursed.

"Surely you're old enough," James says, sly.

"Don't be deliberately daft," Q snaps. "Of course I am. I just choose not to."

Bond isn't sure he understands that last bit, never having known a good reason to choose not to have a drink.

"Enlighten me: why?"

"I just…" Q trails off and shakes his head, exasperated, as if he doesn't want to say. "Alcohol breaks down very slowly in my liver, and my body type makes it difficult to consume moderate amounts without feeling the effects."

Bond leans back in his chair. "You're telling me that you're a lightweight."

"There are several terms for it."

By this time, Q has his nose back in his menu and Bond finds him twice as fascinating. He had no idea Q wasn't a drinker. But then again, he doesn't know a whole lot about him, when he really thinks on it. He hadn't had interest to know at all until this moment. What Q does outside of work is a mystery, and Bond wants to solve it.

Q orders a beef dish, which surprises Bond because he could have sworn Q was a vegetarian. He says as much.

"Why? Because I'm thin?" Q cuts his brisket into neat sections. "I like meat as much as the next man."

"Do you," Bond says.

Q's fingers tighten on his cutlery. "Can you not go five minutes without making a lewd remark?"

"I made no such remark."

"Your tone implied, it's practically the same thing," Q says.

Bond cuts into his own meal, washing it down with glass after glass of wine and not feeling drunk in the slightest. He watches Q eat, and gets another surprise—apparently Q can scarf down a hearty meal with no problem at all. He even gets a bit of sauce smeared on the left corner of his lips. When Bond points it out, he uses his tongue to lick them clean. Bond offers dessert and he doesn't refuse.

"You are full of surprises." Bond watches him spoon up pudding. "I imagined you ate like a bird, what with how skinny you are."

"Actually," Q says, "it's not uncommon for birds to eat more than their own weight in a single day."

Bond's brows fly up. "Noted."

Q does end up having half a glass of wine after dessert, a cabernet sauvignon and the only wine Bond can really appreciate. He pays for the meal before Q can even try to object to it, and they head out into the rainy London night.

"Did you sleep with her," Q says, later in the car.

It only takes Bond a moment to realize who he's talking about.

"Yes."

"Is it always that easy?"

Q's gaze is out the window, to the clouds and wet streets.

"Sometimes," Bond says. "Other times it's not."

He knows the way to Q's flat without having to be told. The rain beats steady on the windscreen, and the rest of the ride is quiet, a wait. Q has his hands folded in his lap as if he needs to keep them there. Bond feels cruel even though he's done nothing. Maybe that's exactly why. He pulls up to Q's flat and puts the car in park, but makes no move to get out. Only dinner, that's what he said, and he's keeping his word. But Q stares at him like he's gone absolutely mad.

"You're really not going to try and come upstairs?" he asks.

Bond swallows, because he wants to try, he really does. "Would you like me to?"

"I don't know, actually."

Q has a hand on the door but still hasn't opened it. The sleeve of his coat has risen up and there are his wrists again, slender and white. I'd break you, Bond thinks, and isn't that how it started. Eventually, Q opens his door.

"Goodnight, 007," he says, and shuts it.

---

Two weeks later, Bond is back in the field. His leg is essentially healed, though the scar tissue still bulges something ugly. Q is tracking him through Prague, his smooth voice in his ear, and occasionally M jumps in to scream at him. The situation is delicate—there's a bomb somewhere in the building. The president and prime minister have already been evacuated, but damage to the surrounding areas could number casualties in the hundreds. Also his partner is dead.

"Parker is dead...how much time have I got?"

"Nine minutes, forty-two seconds and counting down," Q says.

Bond can hear M in the background now, "Dead? Are you sure?"

"Quite, given his brains are all over the wall. Don't worry, so are his killer's." Bond kicks open a service door at Q's instruction. "Tell me I'm headed in the right direction."

"Sensors indicate the bomb is two hundred meters to your left, just below the elevators. I would suggest hurrying."

"Thank you, Q."

Q guides him down a stairwell, and then into a crawl space. In any situation they've ever been in together, Q has always sounded calm, instructing Bond as if he's helping put together furniture, not get out of life or death situations. And Bond knows it isn't because Q doesn't understand or doesn't care—it's because he does. At least Q knows what to do when he's got a life in his hands. Out of the crawl space, which turned out to be vent shaft, Bond is under the elevators, and the bomb is there just like Q said it would be.

And so is someone else. He's got the bomb in his hands and when he sees Bond, he starts running in the opposite direction.

"Shit."

"What's going on?" Q asks.

"Bloody hell, Bond," M screams. "What are you doing?"

Bond doesn't answer, just takes off running. He could shoot at the man, but if he hits the bomb then the whole thing is fucked. He needs to run him down on foot and hope to hell he catches him.

"Bond," Q says. "Why are you running?"

"The bomb is on the move." Bond jumps to the ladder in the elevator shaft, climbing upward to follow. "I'm chasing a target who has the bomb. I repeat: someone has the bomb."

M hisses some expletives into his ear but Q says nothing. Bond's lungs are being pumped full of air, expanding and stinging with exertion. Whoever he's chasing, the bastard runs fast. He's probably got less than seven minutes, now. Up on the first floor, he gets a clean shot of the enemy's head so he goes for it. It's a risk, but it works. The man goes down, and so does the bomb, which is thankfully high-tech enough not to blow from being jostled. Bond scoops the bomb up into his arms. Five minutes.

"I've got it," he says. "Tell me what to do."

"Give us a minute," Q says.

Bond would laugh if he didn't have less than five minutes to stop an explosion.

"This bomb is about to blow."

"Well that would certainly be a shame. Listen carefully, please: you need to open the chamber on your left, do you see it?"

He grunts the affirmative, and Q gives him step-by-step instructions to diffuse the bomb, starting with rearranging four different wires to offset the tamper evident failsafe. Bond's palms feel sweaty; he's still got three minutes, but it could be all he's got. In the end, it comes down to two wires that both look identical. Q is silent for a full twenty-eight seconds.

"There should only be one wire," he says.

Bond's stomach drops. "So this means it could be either one."

"Precisely." Q inhales sharply over the line. "Bond you need to get out of there immediately."

He could, he should, but that's just not in his nature. He's going to complete this mission one way or another.

"No, I can do it."

Q, for the first time, sounds panicked.

"You have no way to know—"

"I need you to trust me," Bond says. "Just trust me."

There's silence. Seconds tick by, precious seconds, but Bond waits.

"Okay," Q says.

Bond cuts the left wire.

---

He picks Q up an hour after his plane lands and doesn't bother checking in with M. The bastard can wait until tomorrow. Q slides into the seat and sinks against the leather.

"I'll be reprimanded for this," he says. "I'm not supposed to leave for another two hours."

Bond speeds away. "They'll hardly notice you're gone."

"Of course they will. I'm a valuable asset to MI6," Q says.

"Yes, you do have valuable assets." He turns to give Q a smile, just in time to see the boy roll his eyes. "How do you feel about dinner?"

Q looks up like he's thinking, rubbing at the skin where the collar of his shirt meets his neck.

"We should order in," he says finally.

---

Q looks simultaneously older and younger when Bond takes his glasses off. There's slight red indentations on either side of his nose where they sat, and Q's hair seems more in danger now of sliding into his eyes. Bond pulls him on top, settling his hands over Q's hips and thumbing the bones there. Q's cheeks are flushed red.

"I want to watch you ride my cock," Bond says.

"I should have known your age would give way to laziness," Q says, but rolls his hips anyway.

Bond tightens his grip. "Don't make me gag you."

"I do hope that wasn't a threat." Q lifts his hips, already stretched from Bond's fingers and his own, and then takes Bond into him slowly, inch by inch. It's like he's getting used to the feel of him all over again. His eyes flutter closed, mouth dropping open. "Shit," he says. "Oh, shit."

Bond runs his hands up and down Q's chest as he rides him, watching how his skin moves over his ribs and Christ, is he skinny. Q fucks himself with an ease that makes Bond think he's had a lot of practice. The hot prick of jealousy in his chest is something he has to ignore. He reaches around to grab Q's ass in both hands and squeeze, push himself deeper into him. Q twitches in his lap, pleased with the angle. He looks small, and Bond doesn't know why it turns him on so damn much, but it does.

"Christ," he says. "I could break you in half."

Q huffs a laugh, breathless.

"When you say things like that—I still don't trust you."

"Good," Bond says. "Don't. I'm no good for it."

---

In the dark, later, he says, "I'm leaving for Tokyo in a day."

Q is silent, asleep, but Bond knows he's not.

---

When he sees Q next, the boy has fallen apart.

"I know you just got back," Eve says when she phones him, "but I think you should come in right now."

Bond goes in and finds Q with his head in his hands, slumped in a chair and looking small and young. He doesn't need anyone to tell him what's happened. He bends to one knee so they're eye level, and ignoring the pull of scar tissue from his leg. 

"Q," he says, with a voice that is nothing but soft understanding. "I'm going to take you home now."

There is no answer, not that he needs one. Q's hands slide from his face and he lets Bond pull him upright by his forearms. M is next to them, his face all horizontal lines and clean shaven cheeks. He frowns at Bond's words.

"We haven't even—"

"Sod off," Bond says.

The inside of Q's flat is exactly like Bond imagined it would be—neatly lived in. The interior is dark cherry wood floors and slightly yellowed walls. There are books everywhere, literally everywhere; Bond finds one in Q's cupboard, but they all appear to belong there, somehow. Under the television set, there are four different gaming consoles, one of which looks like it may have been built from scratch. Bond doesn't exclude this option.

Q behaves like a doll and it's disarming. Limp and quiet, he lets Bond guide him into the kitchen and sit him at the table; he falls into the seat with a thump and nothing else, eyes distant and lifeless. Bond finds Q's tea and starts making him a cup.

"I have vodka," Q says, speaking for the first time. "I use it for cooking."

Bond doesn't need to be told anything else. He pours some into a mug and sets it in front of Q, who drinks too fast and chokes. Bond sits across from him at the table, hands in his lap. Q looks at him with dark and sour eyes.

"This really isn't necessary," he says.

"Little of what I do is necessary," Bond says.

In fact, it frightens him slightly that he wants to do this. It frightens him that when Eve called and said Q, his stomach flew right up to his throat. He knows what it's like to lose an agent, he remembers. And Q is young and has the misfortune of experiencing all these things for the first time and not knowing how to deal with them. Maybe remembering this is what makes Bond stare at him fondly from across the table. Maybe it's the knowledge that of all the people Q responded to, it was him. Either way, Q scowls when he sees the way Bond is looking at him.

"If you think I want to be coddled—" Q pauses and rubs at the corner of his eye with an index finger. "I knew this would happen…I am…I knew—"

"It's all right," Bond says.

"It's not all right!" Q brings a hand to his mouth as if his own voice surprised him. "It's not all right," he says again, quieter. "I was responsible for his life."

He isn't aware of the specifics, just that an agent has been killed. From what Bond has gathered, the death was slow, and Q was still monitoring him when it happened. So Q listened to death, so it broke him. Bond hasn't felt that kind of humanity in himself for a very long time, and he likes feeling it in Q. He won't pretend it isn't selfish.

Q's hands are shaking when he brings the mug to his mouth again and swallows. Bond knows exactly where his mind is; replaying that moment over and over again, thinking of what he could have done differently. He knows exactly what Q is going through and he says nothing, because nothing he could say will make Q feel any better, not at this moment. Q finishes the vodka on his third swallow and pushes the mug back towards Bond, so Bond gets up to pour him more.

"He asphyxiated on his own blood, I think. That's what it sounded like, anyway."

Bond hands Q the mug back and says, "You need to stop thinking."

"He begged me to save him." Q shakes his head, eyes remarkably still dry. "I couldn't."

"You can't, not always."

He's standing next to Q now, looking down at him, waiting for Q to look up.

"I imagine it won't always hurt this bad."

"You get used to it," Bond says, and Q laughs.

"Remarkable," he says. "Humans are cruel."

Yes we are, Bond thinks.

Q finally looks up at him. "I want you to fuck me," he says.

It's a bad idea and they both know it. Bond also knows that he should turn Q down, especially in this frame of mind. He should put him to bed and let him sleep his grief off. Q is only asking because he wants to be distracted, he wants to forget, and Bond should know that, he does know that. But the minute Q spoke he already knew that he would say yes. In fact he'd been waiting for it. Bond takes him by the hand and Q stumbles behind him, feet tangled up in each other already, drunk on his grief and the vodka.  

Yes we are, he thinks.

---

Q puts red marks all down his back with his blunt, chewed up nails and Bond loves it. He fucks him to make him forget because that's exactly what Q needs. He fucks the breath from him, watching Q's jaw slacken further and further, until the words he's saying become just sounds. Bond grabs his wrist and licks the skin there.

"You don't have to do this," Q says through it all. "You don't have to."

"I want to," Bond says. He kisses him so he stops talking.

Even after Q comes, tight and hot around him, Bond keeps fucking him, holding his thighs in both hands so he can drive his hips downwards, until it looks like Q has literally passed out from overstimulation. Then Bond pulls out without coming, just rolls and pulls Q into his chest so they're spooning. He wraps his arm around Q and he's so thin it should be disgusting. It's not.

Their breathing comes back, eventually, evens out so much that Bond is sure Q is asleep. But then he lets out one sob, one terrible, lonely sob that sounds like it hurts and shakes the whole bed. Then he's quiet.

---

Afterwards, Q avoids him. Possibly. Bond isn't sure, but he definitely doesn't go out of his way to talk to him. Q has thrown himself back into his work, which is probably for the best, and Bond is being thrown all over the globe. They remain professional.

"The truth is MI6 would fall apart without me," he tells Eve, and she slaps his arm.

"Your ego is going to be the death of you," she says.

In truth, he's the only one qualified enough and stupid enough to take half the missions M gives him. Including this one. He's leaving in two days for Italy and will be back in three if he has any luck at all left. Bond still carries the cane because it's really fucking nice, and swings it around carelessly on his way down to see Q. He's waiting for him when Bond gets there, leaning against the table with a small case tucked under his arm and watching the swing of Bond's cane with some amusement.

"You're here for your gun," he says.

"Among other things."

"There are no other things." Q shoves the case into his chest. "Moneypenny has your flight information. I'll be tracking you."

Bond opens the case to admire the gun inside. The excitement of a new gun is one thing Bond has never gotten over. The shine and smell of them are almost as good as sex. He shuts the case and tucks it to his side. Q is watching him openly. It's been almost a week now, and he seems much better. M said he refused time off, which Bond thinks was for the best. Q is like him in that he functions better being busy. Before, he just seemed so tired. Now he's awake. He even looks at Bond like he'll actually consider tolerating him.

"You're all right?" Bond asks anyway.

Q nods. "Now, yes. Thank you."

Bond rests his hand on Q's waist before he can turn away. If he doesn't say it now, he'll never say it.

"When I said I wanted to before, I meant it."

He can feel Q's body tighten, then relax, and knows his jaw will twitch before it even does. Q, for his part, looks surprised. And angry.

"Are you always this contrary?" Q's voice drops to a lower tone. "It was a one night deal and I knew that. I was prepared for that."

It was. It really was. Bond is pleased to know that Q was never that naïve, young yes, but not naïve. He's almost angry at Q, when he thinks on it more, because they were both prepared for it; Bond just didn't realize he wouldn't want that. He genuinely likes Q and everything about him, including the hideous brown jumper and fantastically dry sarcasm. Bond likes that he's thin as a rail but eats like he's overweight. He likes that Q is still human enough to cry over the death of a man he never met and can't hold his alcohol. It's bordering on disgusting romance.

And what's more is Q wants him. Whether in some passing fancy or true infatuation, he lets Bond take him apart and doesn't expect an apology after. It should say something that he doesn't—Bond has a reputation for women that everyone is familiar with, and maybe Q just accepts that or maybe he chooses not to think on it. He's the perfect example of someone not to get involved with, if his track record is anything to go by, and yet here they are. It was all safe and familiar until it wasn't.

Bond remembers very clearly the first time he saw Q, a defiant mop of hair nearly half his age and clothes that looked like they were drowning him. He had that smirk on his face like he was just daring Bond to try, and try Bond did, though it took him a while. Q was always in the back of his mind and he didn't even realize it.

"Well it was supposed to be," Bond says. "But then you cocked it all up."

Slowly, carefully, Q studies his face, from the top of his hairline to the rounding of his chin. It's as if he can read something there, and he must be satisfied with what he reads, because he smiles, and it's as defiant as the day Bond first saw it.

"I would apologize but I find I'm rather not sorry."

Bond squeezes his hip and wants desperately to step closer and press his mouth to Q's neck, but he suspects the boy might deck him. Instead, he lets his hand drop and steps back, watching that neck and everything else attached to it.

"Provided I'm back in one piece, we should get dinner."

"Perhaps," Q says, and Bond honestly can't tell if that means yes or no.

---

He dreams of Q's slender frame in Rome, of wires wrapped around his neck to strangle him. He dreams he cracks Q in half and the boy puts himself back together again.

He comes back and London and there is dinner, and then there is him eating Q out on his bed, greedy and uncaring. Bond likes the sound of things being ripped from Q's throat, the litany of "oh god, oh god" and "please". He holds him down until he feels his body tighten with orgasm, like a bow, pulled taut and released.

"I think you gained a pound," he says, much later, when they have the excuse of being too tangled in the sheets together to get out of bed.

Q pokes at his stomach. "Would you stop sleeping with me if I got fat?"

"Yes," Bond says.

"Don't worry, by the time that happens you'll probably be too old to get it up."

Bond pokes at his ribs.

"Tosser," he says.

For the first time, he is there when Q wakes up. Bond feels him startle in his arms a minute, as if waking up entwined with someone is rare. Then Q relaxes and twists around to face Bond, hair a bloody mess. Bond runs his fingers through it, amused, and Q lets him.

"Your hair is a mess," he says, and Q just sighs.

Bond decides he likes Q in the morning. He's less sarcastic, almost dream-like while he wakes up. His eyes are still half-lidded like he could fall back to sleep at any moment. Bond kisses him so he doesn't, and Q kisses back with lazy enthusiasm, practically yawning into his mouth. It's satisfying enough that Bond decides to excuse the morning breath. This is a moment of peace that they both know they won't get often. They close their eyes again, ignoring anything and everything else.

"I'm famished," Q says eventually, stirring. "We need toast. And tea."

"You and your tea." Bond cracks open one eye. "What we need is a proper English breakfast."

"So make one."

They kiss again because obviously neither one of them is going to do that. Bond cradles Q's skull and kisses him tenderly because he's not sure he ever has before. Not much of what he does can be considered tender, but he has moments. He pulls back and sees Q still has his eyes open. He's waiting. He really is a clever boy.

"You should know I can't make promises," Bond says. "I could try, but I'd break them."

The look he gets back contains a certain amount of disbelief, every feature saying I know. Q straddles him, leaning close so that Bond has nowhere to look but at him.

"What makes you think I want a promise, 007?"

Bond just stares because that hadn't actually occurred to him. Q kisses his clavicle and then shifts off the bed to get breakfast. Bond watches him go, naked and stretching as he walks. He shuts his eyes and listens to Q in the kitchen and imagines the bones of his wrists. He might break, they might both break.

Then again, they might not.