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Vita Mortis

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“What, no exploding pen?” The mix of petulance and amusement was annoyingly obvious in Bond’s voice, “and what about the car, Q?”

“What about the car?” Q echoed, down to the petulant tone. He was not looking directly at Bond, instead his attention on a fat black-and-white cat lying on his desk, all four of its paws tucked firmly under its heavy body.

“It got blown up, remember?” No, not remember. There lay treacherous paths. Better to focus on whatever the hell the Quartermaster was working on. Which looked like…a cat. Bond’s eyebrows crept up on their own volition.

“Hmmm,” Q was noncommittal. “Yes. Again. Can’t you ever keep an eye on government property?”

“Not my fault if the government lets those who destroy its property escape.” He glared at the cat, which yawned, and then proceeded to glare right back at Bond with slitted light blue eyes. “And what is that?”

“Who,” Q corrected. “This is Mr Turing.” He petted the cat, and tried to pry a paw out. The cat seemed to press itself further into the desk.

“Mr Turing.” Bond carefully pronounced each and every syllable. “A cat that is called Mr Turing, and that’s on your desk in Q branch in the very depths of MI6. Have you lost your mind already?”

Q looked at him properly, and frowned. “Mr Turing is helping me with a new development.”

“Of course he is,” Bond commented drily, “and what is that? Radius of average hair shedding? Velocity and ratio of cat shit?”

Q gave him a filthy look. “Concealing movement, if you must know. Plus a better mechanism for quick-release blades.”

“On a cat?” Bond’s eyebrows were back in their raised position.

“Paws,” Q said absently. “Claws, rather,” as though he was making perfect sense.

“I’m not sure if it has escaped your notice, but humans don’t have convenient places on their hands to retract anything.” Bond wiggled the fingers of his right hand in front of Q’s nose.

Q made a noise of disgust. “That’s the point.”

“Of course, how could I have been so stupid. You’re going to build secret finger-pouches.” The smirk that accompanied Bond’s words belied the pretence of ‘stupid’.

Q didn’t grace that with a reaction. “What are you doing here anyway?”

 “I’m here because you are meant to outfit me for Mali. Remember?” This time it was safe to remember. “My next mission. I’m a double-oh agent. I get sent on missions, and none of them involve petting a cat.” He said the last word with so much disgust, it was a miracle Mr Turing didn’t explode from the malevolence.

Q grunted. “Oh, that. What disaster are you going to make worse this time?” He stepped away from Mr Turing to head out of his office and into the lab proper.

“Do you ever listen to the news?” Bond called after him, then glared at the cat, which was glaring daggers into Q’s retreating back, as if the abandonment had been a personal insult.

“By the time it’s on the news, it’s old,” Q tossed back over his shoulder, stopping at a spare few inches of bench space.

“Smartarse.” Bond shot back.

“Do you want your stuff or not?” Q leaned on the bench. “All the same to me, or rather, if they stay here, I know they won’t be broken, exploded, lost, or melted.”

Bond’s facial expression morphed from amused smirk to something Q had never seen before - and hoped never to see again: a sycophantic wide-eyed smile, that would have rivalled Puss in Boots’, if not for the ice blue instead of dark.

“Please, Q?” The honeyed rumble of Bond’s voice was just as fake as his facial expression. “Please be so kind and give me some of your toys?” He finished off his little performance by clapping his palms, like a seal begging for another fish.

Q simply stared at him in something like true horror, before blinking away disbelief. “Idiot,” he huffed. “Come and get them anyway,” pulling a case out from a drawer and opening it.

“I’d say we are even. One smartarse for one idiot.” Bond flashed a brief grin, before stepping towards the case that had a customised Walther nestled in its foam interior. “Palm printed?” he asked as he took out the weapon.

“Naturally,” Q sounded insulted.

“Apologies.” Bond really didn’t sound apologetic at all. “Do I get anything special in addition to gun and comms?” He did sound hopeful this time, perhaps even genuinely so.

Q brought up a second, smaller case, pen shaped.  “It doesn’t explode, by the way,” he pointed out heartlessly.

“You wound me.” Bond opened the case, and a mere second after taking out the pen he had pressed the right buttons to release the manifold miniature tools. Q had to give it to him, the agent had an unerring knack to operate his gadgets.

“Lock picking tool?” Bond sounded somewhat impressed.

“Including an electronic code breaker.” Q confirmed.

“You might still have spots, but you’re not bad at your job.” Bond smirked at Q as he pocketed the tiny radio as well. Knowing damn well how any remark about his age riled the Quartermaster. But he couldn’t help it, banter with Q had rapidly become his favourite pastime.

Q made as though to splutter, but then looked down at his feet. “This is why Mr Turing is here.” Sure enough, the cat was lying at his feet, paws still tucked away tidily, but neither man had noticed him move from Q’s desk.

Bond raised only one eyebrow this time, and very deliberately so. “To help with the spots?”

Q glared. “To help with the moving undetected,” he replied haughtily. “Now don’t you have some information to retrieve or hostages to rescue?”

Bond ignored the second half of Q’s reply. “Is Mister Turing your cat?”

“Yes,” Q said, almost defiantly. “Only way the Cats Home would let me get one.”

“Funny, that. I would have thought they’d love to lend you a cat for experimentation at MI6.” Straightening his cuffs, Bond cast a last glare at the fat feline. “Might be interesting to analyse the splatter pattern of an exploding cat.”

The cat was faster than Q, and Bond felt the swift movement around his ankles, scratches felt through his socks and scraping on his fine leather shoes.

The cat returned to its position on the floor, just out of reach, before Bond could react.

Q started laughing.

“You little bastard,” Bond snarled, “I’m going to…”

He didn’t finished the sentence, because Q interrupted, still laughing. “No, you won’t. Mr Turing is my cat and you’re not going to touch him.”

Lesser mortals would have withered at Bond’s murderous look. “Just make sure your cat isn’t going to touch me.”

“He didn’t until you insulted him,” Q said breezily, then picked up the cat. Unexpectedly, it complied.

“Now you’re telling me your cat understands human language?” Bond snatched an antistatic cleaning cloth from Q’s desk, ignoring the muttered complaints. “That’s far-fetched even for you.” He proceeded to polish his scratched shoes, then dropped the cloth in a bin after Q frowned at him when he’d tried to fling it back onto the desk.

“He understands more than a lot of humans,” Q retorted, giving Mr Turing a scratch on the head. The beast rubbed itself against Q’s shoulder. 

Bond slipped the Walther into the shoulder holster, the radio into the breast pocket, and clipped the pen into the inside pocket. That done, he clapped his flat palms together and pulled his facial expression back into the sycophantic one. “Thank you for my toys.” Before Q could shoot him off, Bond grabbed a foamy stress ball from a nearby desk. He threw it into the air and bumped it once with his nose while making seal noises, before striding out of the office to the stunned looks of the technicians.

Q was still staring with disbelief at his retreating back, Mr Turing in his arms, long after 007 had vanished from sight.