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apples are fucking healthy

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Eve likes apples.

Of course. It makes Q want to kiss her, even more than he already does. But he doesn't yet; he's nothing if but patient. He bides his time.

That doesn't mean he won't watch, though.

She has a wonderful way of biting into them, a glint in her eyes that isn't just the reflection of Q-branch's fluorescent lights. Like she knows exactly what she's doing, knows the contrast of her lips against something so plump and red. The crunch every time her teeth sink in reminds Q of snapped necks, which isn't entirely appropriate but something she's completely capable of.

He too knows that he isn't special in her attentions, but he's never gotten the hang of jealousy. The Overlord - bless his unholy name - has enough of it to go around.

"He likes you," Eve tells him, swallowing without losing her smile.

There's really no question of who she's referring to. "Of course he does," he says, because they're that transparent, always had difficulty pretending to dislike each other even when they were supposed to. 

The next thing he says is not entirely a lie. "I do have a pulse."

They share a laugh over that, which is a little mean and a lot hypocritical - he's leagues more promiscuous, certainly, but he does practice discretion. Bond's just eternally terrible at subtlety.

"You know what I mean." Eve rolls her eyes, nudging his knee with her leg as she perches on the edge of his desk. When her skirt rides up her thigh Q stares, unabashed, before snapping his eyes up. To his defence she lets him, smirking around her next bite.

"He likes you too," Q proffers. He'd been listening in Macau too, and had wanted to flick Bond between the eyes for what he'd heard. Eve had admirably held her own, dancing out of Bond's reach even when their faces were inches apart. "Who wouldn't?"

"You leave the one-liners to the Double O's," Eve says, ruffling his hair as she slides off the desk, landing smoothly on her stilettos. "Flattery isn't your strong suit."

He's far too fond of her to even contemplate batting her hand away. "But it worked on you."

She winks, holding her clipboard to her chest. "I never said it didn't."

"I'll see you later, Miss Moneypenny." He's grinning, he can't help it, though he's careful to maintain professionalism by not saying her name out loud. At least not in the office. He's quite certain she'll break his wrist for it.

She waves at him dismissively, swivels her hips as she walks away. A vixen, that one; the deadliest kind.

 


 

The first time he meets Bond, it goes like this:

He's on his second name, something as slithery as his current nature. He doesn't do much aside from hiding among the lesser beasts, though he has no delusions that the Big Man is unaware of his presence. It must be part of the Plan, though Down Below undoubtedly has its own agenda. Neither of the parties involved briefed him about what's supposed to happen, just that he was to show up and wait for instructions. 

Either way, he likes the inevitability of it, so he bides his time by making the little woodland creatures fight over the best nesting hole in the area, or engaging the larger animals in roaring contests among themselves. The maned cats seem to be winning that one.

He was in the middle of convincing female spiders of how scrumptious their partners looked after mating - his pet project - when he sees a flame from the corner of his eye. Beckoned by curiosity and the reminder of home, he goes to investigate, leaving the spider with the red mark to ponder her next meal. 

What he finds is a clearing populated by rodents and their young, and a member of the Host standing guard among them, looking righteous and strong and utterly lost, as if someone had placed him there and he hasn't moved since. The flame Q saw came from the sword he was gripping with both palms, the tip of it planted firmly in the fresh earth. 

"You do know you're in the middle of a habitat?" Q calls out, partly because he's not above good deeds despite what he is, but mostly because he wasn't above annoying newcomers either.

Said playmate doesn't respond or even redirect his gaze. Bit of a tosser then. Still, Q persists.

"You're quite rude, aren't you? Isn't that against management policy?" He's proud of that one, but it doesn't get him an acknowledgement. He's miffed now.

"Careful, they might start getting hungry." He prays they do, out of habit, and crawls back to the spiders.

He doesn't stay away for long. It takes two more sunrises before the critters start getting on his nerves with their incessant questions, so when he longs for peace and quiet he knows exactly where to go.

The killjoy hasn't stirred from his spot, which was expected.

"Getting tired?" Q shouts this at him, along with similar things, which soon awakens some of the rodent young. They scamper across the bugger's feet, which earns Q a grimace, but nothing more.

Well, finally. Q allows himself a victory and leaves the rest of the wearing down for another day. His Sloth needed some work anyhow.

Which turned out to be tomorrow, and the tomorrow after that, and then the one after that. He becomes quite good at it. The grimace his reluctant playmate wore seemed to widen with each passing visit, and it becomes the high point of Q's day.

It might seem pathetic to most of his kind, but Q's always enjoyed the little things.

 


 

Bond never disappoints when it comes to entertainment. Every time he comes in, oddly put together for someone who just spent three days running around and blowing stuff up in Morocco, he walks past R&D, heads to the floor where Mallory's office is located, but lingers for indeterminate periods of time at Eve's desk. He drops the innuendo five meetings in, at her unspoken insistence.

That's my girl, Q thinks in a rare instance of possessiveness, then berates himself for it only because he knows better. No one owned Eve; she and her predecessors took what they wanted without regard for consequence, and got away with it more often than not.

Behind every great man, as they say.

Nowadays Bond's attempts at conversation with her are somewhat decent, though he had previously been stuck at lame variations of How are you?, professional and sometimes slipping into personal, and never anything less than respectful. Eve even rewards him with a pat on the hand one time.

Of course Q's supposed to be focusing on work instead of eavesdropping - though doing both simultaneously requires no effort at all - and Bond tells him so, biting punishingly into Q's hip.

"You try too hard," Q says, eyes closed to savour it. Bond licks the spot much too quickly afterwards, as if in apology. He didn't even draw blood.

"You're cheating somehow, aren't you?" There's no spite to it - an honest question spoken into the skin of his inner thigh. Q chuckles, decides to answer honestly too.

"We simply get along."

"There's more to it than that."

"There's really not."

Bond deigns to reply, though more like because his mouth was full with Q. Q pets his hair and lazily hooks a leg over his shoulder to draw him in, sighing when he finally acquiesces. Bond's mood never impairs his abilities, for which Q is grateful.

He swallows when he's done, they both do; there have been fouler substances in the world, particularly in the 14th century (and Holy Water still lingers in this century, to Q's chagrin). He lays flat on his back beside Q and stretches a languid arm across Q's stomach, resting it there. Q allows it for the time being.

"She's not a puzzle," he says, because he knows Bond's still thinking it. "You do her an injustice by trying to solve her."

"Hmm." 

"You're jealous."

"No." Bond frowns, withdrawing his arm. "Impossible." 

"But of whom?"

"Stop."

Q grins teasingly, pulling at the arm again, having grown accustomed to the weight. "Oh lighten up, of course you're not. That would mean my wiles are actually working."

"I'd say they've worked to some extent," Bond says, looking between the two of them. The matter's been dropped for the meantime.

"You old devil." Q lets go of his arm, sitting up to straddle him instead. Might as well get another climax out of the encounter. "We both know you made the first move."

 


 

On his next visit, Q grows bored with the taunts and attempts some pleasant conversation. 

"So what's your name?" He coils his form around some branches, as if to signify that he won't be leaving until he's satisfied. "I'm..." His next words come out in a hiss.

"Stop," his new friend - he counts now, right? they've officially spoken - says, in a sudden development. He seems displeased by it as much as Q's delighted.

"Stop what?"

"Speaking to me," says the other, his friend - he has a friend! "I can't speak to you."

"Why not?"

"It's not my function."

"We're just talking." Q lets a reassuring smile creep into his voice, swallowing down his own giddiness. "Nothing wrong with talking, right?"

"It's not my function."

"What is your function?"

"I..." The Other falters, only for a second, before solemnity settles upon his features again. "I don't know. But I will."

Q's struck with a rare bout of sympathy. "Oh. Me too." 

But then he realises the Other has no intention of saying anything more, so naturally, it's up to him again.  "What's your name?"

"My name?"

"You can tell me that, at least?"

"I... suppose so." There's less hesitation with every reply, which is good - or bad, but it's all a matter of taste really. "My name is..."

The Other's sword flares up at what he utters next, a flame so blinding that the creatures at his feet fall silent and even Q has to look away. It's silent again for a while, the deadly kind that can cut through mountains, but not Q's silvertongue.

"I had a name like that, once." He may sound wistful, but he's not. It's what he tells himself.

"Did you lose it?" The Other asks, in a tone that reeks of gentleness. It's patronising, makes his skin crawl.

"Don't play coy. Doesn't suit you lot," he snaps, perhaps meaner than he intended, but he's not quite done. "You know what happened."

"Anyway," he adds, because he kind of brought down the mood, "I didn't like it. It was too much of a mouthful."

The Other gives him an odd look, but he doesn't grimace anymore when Q comes around.

 


 

He's almost there with Eve, he can feel it. She may not know it, but they've been playing this game a thousand times before any other game had even been invented. Presently she's watching him guide Bond through some nefarious lair (what's new), and she's fiddling with the hair at his nape - a better man won't give in and lean into it but, well, he's not. 

He's on a line with Bond as well, and can practically hear him brooding over the gunfire.

"Have you planted the bomb?" 

"Of course I've planted the bloody bomb," Bond says, a bullet missing his forehead by half an inch. It's not rational, but it makes Q wince. "Now how do I get out of here?"

"There's an exit fifty feet to your left," Eve cuts in, her voice calm but her pulse racing beside Q's ear. Bond huffs, and there's a slight scuffle, then the sound of breaking glass.

Q sighs, long-suffering. "Or you can just jump out the window."

The building explodes less than a minute later, and they - well, Eve - wait with bated breath until, "Target down."

Eve smiles like she wasn't worried at all. "Job well done, 007."

"That's my line," Q says in a mock-complaint, which earns a him smile too (and a subsequent scowl from Bond).

"Well, the show's over and I have papers to file. Bring him home." And with that Eve's gone, but not without pecking him high on the cheekbone. Bond's in a mood about it later on, when he's back and they're dallying in Q's flat.

"You ought to be more careful of that body," Q tells him, tracing scars on his chest that are really just for show. "I'm quite fond of it."

"Why won't you tell me?" Bond asks, catching him by the wrist.

"Tell you what?"

"Q." 

"I've no idea what you mean."

"About her." 

Q frees his hand, putting his arms behind his head instead. "She isn't a prize to be..."

"Won. You've said." Bond sets his jaw, as he has always done when he's frustrated. "I want to know her." 

"You and your women." Q tugs him down, aligns their lips and kisses him filthy, running his tongue over Bond's teeth until Bond reciprocates and pins him to the bed. 

"Fine. I'll tell you, but you have to say my name."

"Q." 

"Not that. You know the one." Q resists the urge to laugh when Bond narrows his eyes, actually considering the curse.

"My, Mr. Bond. You've really fallen for her - metaphorically this time." 

Bond grabs him by the throat for that, and whispers the name into his ear. They shudder in tandem as it makes the air ignite and the bed catch fire, and the spend a good portion of the evening rutting in a burning room, the heat licking their skin but not enough to scald. Bond, ever the bastard, tames the flame and guides it in a dance along Q's spine, like a little ballerina with coals for shoes.

"The secret," Q says afterwards, then pauses, short of breath for the first time since the Renaissance. 

"The secret is... the tempting." He grins lazily. "That's the secret."

"That's your job."

"No. Yes. What I'm trying to say is," Q groans, his head still swimming in post-coital bliss. "Wait."

He snaps his fingers to clear his mind, with Bond doing the same. He misses it for precisely three seconds, but he much prefers the ability to speak in complete sentences.

"Ah, there. You see, she's a temptation herself. And you can't tempt a temptress."

"That doesn't help me."

"It wasn't meant to. You're not supposed to do anything."

"Anything?"

"Not a thing." Q kisses the bewildered expression off Bond's face, though he's been keen to improve it over the years that only Q can really see it. "If she wants you, she'll come and get you."

Bond lays back, already lethargic, and lets him take the kiss downwards. Q is such a terrible influence. "And does she want me?"

"That's enough secrets for today, Mr. Bond."

 


 

For a time, this is the only exchange they have about the sword:

"That's fancy," Q says, mesmerised with the spit and crackle of the fire surrounding it, embers glowing orange as they hit the ground.

"Thank you," the Other says, and that's it, then Q proceeds to tell him what the primates were getting up to.

A fortnight later, Q's picking his teeth with the tip of his tail and the Other is standing guard as usual, the two of them sharing a companionable quiet, when Q notices something strange.

"Is that flame turning blue?" 

The Other's eyebrows break their stony silence, raising ever so slightly on his brow as he glances down. 

"My function is nearing." He seems resigned, almost, and Q doesn't know why. He's eager to break the monotony himself.

"Shall I throw you a party?" he says, sounding just a little envious. Or, a lot envious, actually, but he didn't need to be. That very day he finally gets word from Down Below. 

It isn't much, though. Just orders to find a tree in the middle of the Garden.

"A tree? What tree?"

"The Tree."

"If you haven't realised where we are..."

"You're clever. You'll know the one." 

The messenger sniggered, turned to smoke, and Q was alone again. Still, glad to be given purpose, he follows the directions he was given to the letter, and sure enough he finds the middle. 

And the Tree. The messenger was right. He couldn't have mistaken it for anything else. He climbs up, wraps himself around the branches, and waits for what's in store for him and the Other.

He suddenly has a sinking feeling that their fates are entwined, but not in a way he'd like.

 


 

"Meet me later. Nine o'clock," Eve says, and it isn't a question. Q tries not to lick his lips; nothing would be more pedestrian.

"As you wish, Miss Moneypenny." He doesn't ask for details, certain she'll let him know somehow, and soon enough he gets a message on his mobile. There's an attachment, which reveals itself to be a map - with directions to her flat. 

He knows that she knows that there had been no need for it; he could have simply opened her file to see her address, or found some other way to track her, but this, this was something better. A gift, and he takes it with gratitude. As long as he didn't glance too often at his watch, the time would fly. 

And fly it did. Calmly, methodically, he locks his laptop inside his desk, puts his mug in the sink, and slides into his anorak, one arm at a time. By the time he leaves the building he still has twenty minutes to spare, which was a pain in the arse as far as he was concerned. He could just snap his fingers and be at her doorstep, but he'd seem far too eager, and taking a cab might actually postpone his arrival and ruin his chances. Eve is the paragon of diplomacy but she can unleash a mighty temper she felt like.

Q decides to walk there, and lights up a cigarette. Mortals are complicated, and often they're bad ideas.

This time he doesn't hold back from licking his lips as the nicotine coats his tongue - bad ideas tasted best, after all. The trip to Eve's lasts three sticks, the last of which he crushes under his shoe. Eve buzzes him inside before he can even ring the bell.

She - doesn't taste like apples, of course not. That would be predictable, and she's anything but.

"Smoking kills," she says, wrinkling her nose at their initial contact, but she kisses him against the wall, letting his hand snake up her blouse as she pushes his coat off his shoulders. He rests his palm atop her ribcage, content to let his fingertips brush against her brassiere.

"So do desk jobs, occasionally."

Eve silences him with a finger to his lips. "No verbal sparring. I'm not Bond." 

Q smirks. "Noted," he says, his wicked tongue darting out to lick in between the valleys of her fingers, filthy and oddly prophetic. 

"That's better," she says, and almost releases something close to a moan when he takes the whole finger in his mouth. It's the stuff of undying hymns, of scores that transcended time; Handel would have sacrificed a hundred lambs to hear it, plagiarise it in a piece maybe, and pass it off a his own. Because of this revelation Q takes it upon himself to coax those noises from her throughout the night, one climax at a time.

It takes Eve a full day to get her voice back, enough time to prompt inquiries at work. Q feigns ignorance, for the most part, though now he isn't shy to call her by her first name.

 


 

He's getting lonely, again. Several days pass by with his friend rooted in his usual spot, far away from the middle, and even the beasts seem to steer clear of the Tree. It's beautiful, certainly, and he understands how that can be terrifying to lesser creatures, but still. It's a Tree, nothing more. He'd explain this to them, if only they'd come closer.

Fortunately, just when he thought that he might have to invent voices in his head to talk to, a new kind of Being approached the Tree. She wasn't quite like him or the Other, or the messenger and that lot - but she wasn't animal either. She was lit up the same way like those from Up Above, and reeked of an innocence Q would feel guilty about tarnishing.

Well, he'll try his best at not doing that.

"Hello," he says, as pleasantly as he could as to not scare her away. "Are you looking for something?"

"Oh, this is it, isn't it?" she asks in return, which puzzles Q. He's about to inquire further about what it was that had her so interested, but the eyes she was making at the Tree told the story. "It's this Tree."

"Well, yes. It's a tree." What on earth is so special about this Tree? Q wants to strangle a little critter in frustration, particularly when the new Being draws nearer, biting her lip and gazing at the Tree with the sick lovechild of fear and awe.

"He's told us so much about it... but I never imagined this..." She sighs, practically swoons. Q still can't fathom it.

"Who told you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Who told you about the Tree?" Q's irritation is very difficult to mask, once it's managed to claw its way out.

She only returns his gaze with sheer confusion on hers. "Why, who else is there?"

There's me, Q thinks. And the Other. And... oh.

"You... you've spoken to Him? Him directly?"

She stares at him like he isn't making any sense. The sentiment is reciprocated, he wants to say, but it might hurt her feelings.

"Is there any other way? It's only when He wishes to, though. And mostly to give us rules." 

The distaste in her voice when she says rules makes Q perk up. "What rules?"

She shrugs, still looking at the Tree like she longed to touch it. "Name these, or take care of that. More like guidelines, really."

Q senses an opening. "And what did He tell you about the Tree?"

"He told us where to find it." She twirls a strand of her hair around a finger. "And then He told us not to touch it, much less eat from it."

"That..." Isn't entirely what Q was expecting. "Seems strange."

"Isn't it?"

"Did He say why?"

"No, only that we should refrain."

"Well that's just absurd."

She turns quiet, which only makes Q pry. "You think it's absurd too, don't you?"

"Don't tell," she says in hushed tones. The truth seems to lift a burden off her shoulders, because she says her next words with more conviction. "A little bit, yes."

"Why don't you try?" Q beckons to the Tree. "Touch it, see what happens."

"I can't!"

"Why not?"

"What if an ill befalls me?" She glances around, as if someone was listening. "If He finds out?"

"I promise no ills." If Q could grin, he would have. "I'm touching it now, aren't I?"

She seems suddenly struck with a revelation. "Oh, that's true." This time she reaches out, hesitates only for a moment, then lays her hand upon the bark.

Nothing happens, except for some fluttering in Q's digestive area.

"That wasn't so terrible, was it?"

"No, not at all."

But still she lingers, something else weighing on her mind. "I... I wonder, about the taste."

Q looks at the fruit. He must admit that it's quite enticing, and the colour of it - the colour of it is matched only by the new Being's mouth. They can't be anything but made for each other, could they?

He plucks the one closest to him; its surface reflects the sun, and her mouth waters when he hands it to her, an offering.

"One bite," he says, in a voice that's rediscovering kindness. "Just one small bite."

She dwells on it, but something about him must have changed - something that made her trust him. She smiles, more radiant than anything he's ever known.

"Okay," she says, cupping the fruit in both hands. It holds her full attention, even so far as to forget he was even there.

"One bite won't hurt."

 


 

Bond isn't speaking to him. 

Granted, they haven't had many chances to talk with Bond being sent off on three different assignments over the last month and a half, but it wasn't as if they really needed to be in the same room to do that. Quartermaster and his agent or not.

Q doesn't mind yet. He likes his space too. Though naturally it's when he's starting to get used to the idea that Bond storms in and invades it again. 

"You're gloating." Bond says it flatly, and the only reason he doesn't have his arms crossed over his chest might be in relation to preserving the unwrinkled lines of his suit.

"I'm not, really." Q doesn't tear his eyes away from his screens, typing faster than his brain can even think. Bond doesn't reply, opting to lurk nearby and brood. Q's used to his tantrums, but it seems to be distracting his underlings. 

"Fine. We'll speak, later."

"Now."

Q huffs, but he does remove himself from his space, pulling someone in to take charge. "Where?"

Bond produces a lighter, which can only mean the rooftop. They head on together, taking the elevator; it feels a bit like being held hostage. Bond doesn't even bother with the pretence of smoking, honing in on Q.

"I was there too."

"Oh, I'm well aware." Q can't help the sneer his face contorts into. "You were quite greedy about the place, weren't you? Two can play at that game."

Bond flinches. It's subtle, but it's there, in the slight tremor of his little finger, the downward pull of his lip. "That's not why I did it."

Q lets him suffer for a little while before answering, because he was never really all that cruel. "I know that too." He doesn't intend for it to come out so affectionate, so he adds, "bastard."

They don't often go this far back when they talk about the past. They're all too eager to return to the present.

"You lied to me, though," Bond says, so Q turns to him again. He resists the initial reply of That's what I do, Bond.

"Not recently." 

"'You can't tempt a temptress,' remember?" Q can tell that Bond's going to carry this grudge over into the next century. The notion brings him a much-deserved shot of joy, and he expresses it generously through his bared teeth.

"I said you can't. I never said anything about me."

 


 

That one bite did hurt, in fact. Q's only been wrong once prior to the occasion, and he's not proud of it.

It really was frightening, though, to have the Big Man admonishing him, with all that blessed rage and power concentrated on him alone. It reminds him of the Days Before, though he genuinely did feel sorry for the new Beings. He learns that they're called Woman and Man, and that they've just been exiled from their home.

Apparently he's to go with them too, to think about his transgressions, or look within himself to fish out what little regret he has, etcetera. He spaced out at the end of the speech, though he does know for certain that there isn't any regret to be found. Worse crimes have been committed by Beings far more infallible; surely this can't be the sin that sets everything off. 

The Big Man was getting touchy. In an act of wanton vengefulness, He strips Woman and Man of their light, leaving them naked and ashamed. Q doesn't listen to their punishments either; his conscience might be unable to bear the load.

"Where will you go?" he asks Woman, who has a strange fury in her tearful eyes. Beside her Man seems lost, knowing even less of what just happened than either of them. 

She walks on ahead, and doesn't look back at Q - she won't lay eyes on him again for a long, long time - but her spine stands tall, and there's purpose in her gait. Man follows after her, and she slows down slightly to let him catch up.

Perhaps the Garden couldn't have contained her, anyway.

As he traces their footsteps he slinks right past the Other, who has positioned himself right at the Garden's very edge, the flaming sword held upright now, as if to ensure that the three of them could never enter again.

You can't stop me, if I wanted to. It goes unsaid.

The response, also unspoken, is just as stubborn. I can try.

"You've found your function, I suppose," he says, surprised to realised that he isn't the least bit resentful. It was in the Plan, and they've both played their parts. "Everyone needs a hobby."

The Other doesn't speak, but his flame burns to a more benevolent orange, only for an instant, before flaring up to near white again. It dawns on Q later on that it was the Other's way of saying See you around.

It wasn't a goodbye, that much his crooked little heart knows.

 


 

Q doesn't see it happen, but it's clear in his ears, even as he unravels code in front of his whole department.

Eve catches Bond in the corridor, the snap of her heels matching Bond's footfalls, beat for beat. Bond isn't used to it - to Eve pursuing him.

"I heard you were feeling left out," Eve says, sly as ever, her top button undone.

Bond doesn't rise to the bait. Not yet. "And where could you have heard that from."

"I'm a lady, and I have my secrets. You know the drill."

"From experience."

They arrive outside Mallory's office, where Eve sits herself at her desk as if that's all she had been meaning to do. 

"Bond," she says, when he's about to head in. It makes him stop in his tracks, it's just the effect she has.

"Miss Moneypenny."

"If you'd like to join in." She makes a show of casually flipping her table calendar, tapping at a date with a pencil. "That can be arranged."

Bond takes a swig from the flask he keeps in his inner pocket, and they all pretend it's for the sake of the meeting he's about to have, not the one they're planning.