Bond would catch Q watching him, just sometimes. Out of the corner of his eyes, his expression deftly wrought into something quiet and concerned, and more tender than Bond knew anybody was capable of expressing, far less his Quartermaster.
It didn’t make sense.
The Brussels mission – as everybody referred to it, in hushed tones and exchanged glances – had left him with retrograde amnesia, spanning approximately two and half years.
He had little idea of what was missing from that period, but there was grief in there somewhere, and love. Most likely, he had fallen for somebody hard, and lost them. It didn’t matter; he had no interest in chasing old memories. Bond had made his life on forgetting the people he had once been. He revelled in having no ties, no associations.
He began noticing almost immediately; Bond went home, glanced around the half-familiar flat. He spent the next few hours wondering why he resolutely angled himself to the right hand side of the bed, the sink, the cabinets, the sofa, when there was nobody else there.
There were shadows, indents, of another person. Too many mugs in the kitchen, an odd variety of teas. Bond rarely ever drank tea. Yet – if he’d been with somebody, there was no reason for them to have left. Lost then, somehow. Perhaps dead. Perhaps recent, too recent for him to have moved things, or recalibrated his flat for living alone.
Bond found himself leaving the flat as it was. It didn’t look right otherwise.
Over the next few days, Bond was re-introduced to people who had known him for years. Tanner was the only person who remained consistent; Bond was made to grieve again for his M, the woman who had made him the agent he was. He met the new Quartermaster, absurd child, and the new M.
Q was a beautiful young man, with eyes like eternity and an abrasive, electric intelligence. Bond felt a tug of absurd, uncharacteristic attraction – and something less tangible. Q was, perhaps, an anomaly to him. Elusive and vague, and watched him so carefully, like he was important. His ego enjoyed that, certainly.
He shot the young man a slightly mocking smile. Q snapped to attention, smirking back in a way that asked ‘and?’.
Bond left Q-branch feeling oddly elated.
“Why don’t you tell him?” R asked quietly, as Q returned his attention to his work, melancholia cloaking him, a sad aura, not overwhelming, just upsetting to witness.
Q looked up, didn’t smile. “Vesper Lynd was the woman to break through his shell,” he explained quietly, carefully. “Bond has regressed to a stage in his life where his relationships are superficial, at best. He is also approximately ten months from the stage where he would even contemplate his sexuality. I do not even blip his radar, at this stage of his life. One day, I will, maybe. But not yet.”
R squeezed his shoulder in a gesture of pointless comfort, and Q faked a smile as best he could.
He missed James with every breath. He couldn’t go through Bond’s sexuality crisis again, however; it had been one of the hardest few months of Q’s life as it was. Repeating it – while Bond wasn’t even beginning to consider it – would be impossible.
Q had, by necessity, stopped living at their flat. When it became apparent that Bond had severe amnesia, Q intervened, pulled the strings to get a flat of his own, taking his things from his and Bond’s flat and installing himself on his own, for the first time in over a year. He told everybody to leave Bond alone, to not make any comments as to their relationship, leave Bond to recover his memory on his own terms.
Amnesia is almost never recovered through information on a lost life. Despite media saying otherwise, tearfully recounting memories or proffering data almost never has any effect on retrieving lost memory.
Memories re-establish themselves by increments, spontaneous, or never return at all. Telling somebody facts about a life that isn’t theirs can be more damaging, more frightening, than leaving them alone to forget. Q could not throw Bond’s tentative grasp of stability into a tailspin, it was too selfish.
Instead he slept to breathless murmurs of Bond’s name, wishing for him, and hoping beyond everything that Bond would remember again, one day. One day soon.
“Be safe, 007,” he said, tone formal and polite, a touch of cheekiness; familiar and novel, playful. Bond smirked, winked, took his equipment, walked away.
Q didn’t call after him, didn’t watch him leave. Some things were just too painful.
Bond was having some difficulties with his throwback into life; two and a half years was a long time, enough to shape somebody, change them almost beyond recognition, and Bond had an uncomfortable feeling that had happened to him.
Remembering was harder when he honestly didn’t want to remember. If something had shifted his focus to such a degree, it must have been momentous, painful even. Amnesia could leave a person stranded in emotional limbo; learned movements, muscle memory, instinct, warring with the conscious mind.
He didn’t understand his own behaviour, and that was frightening.
Q-branch held a bizarrely intense draw, for reasons he couldn’t fathom. He found himself defaulting to the branch each morning; his body, his brain, was used to taking the same path each time he entered the building. There was no explicable reason for it; he had no need to be in Q-branch every day.
And then, of course, there was Q.
Bond’s body made organic movements; contact was initiated without conscious intention, fingers brushing Q’s arm in an oddly intimate gesture. It wasn’t quite sexual, but implied a basic, underlying care that seemed alien.
The first time it happened, Q’s body stiffened slightly, rippling with shock, looking up with Bond with breathless, heartbreaking hope. It was visible for only the faintest, most confusing of moments, before shutting off again the moment Q saw his expression.
Bond wished he could understand what he had done to inspire this kind of response.
Ultimately, he really could only surmise that Q had a crush on him. How very irritating. Not the most professional thing in the world, but manageable regardless. He intentionally tried to temper his behaviour around the young man; it would just be cruel to torment him, accidental or otherwise.
Q could see his Bond, for the most fleeting of seconds, every once in a while. He hated how he began living for those seconds. Bond managed to magically materialise at the most inconvenient moments, with a spark in his eyes that was wholly Q’s.
“What have I forgotten?” Bond asked, that spark almost visible; Q watched him, trying to find the James he knew.
He smiled slightly. “Nothing that you won’t work out on your own, if it’s really important,” Q said carefully, before returning every fraction of his attention to the computer in front of him. Bond stood there stupidly, eyes narrowing faintly, and kept wondering.
As the days wore on, Q became notably sadder. He seemed to be deflating gradually, quiet, reticent. Whenever Bond entered Q-branch, his smiles died in situ. It was acutely, unexpectedly painful for Bond to see.
“Are you alright?”
“Yes, 007. Is there something you needed?” he asked shortly, expression tightening.
Bond glanced over Q’s bowstring body, bent, tense, inches from snapping. “Q,” Bond asked gently, noting the very slight flinch at the tone of his voice, far softer than usual. “Q, please. Tell me.”
Q closed his eyes for a single second.
He twisted around to face Bond, stood. Bond had not a single moment to respond before Q was kissing him, and he – in absolute shock – found himself kissing back. They moved familiarly, orientating themselves around one another as though they had done so infinite times before. Q smelt right, the taste of tea and mint and chocolates he kept hidden in his desk drawer and thought Bond didn’t know about, and Bond didn’t know, but he did anyway.
Bond broke away abruptly, leaving Q breathless. Q’s expression was frozen, broken. “I’m sorry,” he said quietly. “I didn’t mean to…”
“I’m not gay,” Bond told Q sharply, looking like a rug had been pulled out from under his feet, shock and something akin to terror playing over his face.
Q smiled very, very slightly. “Yes, James. I know,” he murmured, as Bond stormed out of the office, as Q had always expected him to.
Q-branch could see Q fading. It was not a tremendously obvious thing; he still smiled, he turned out superb work, made his usual sarcastic comments, was a perfect replica of the person everybody was used to. He was, however, nothing more than a replica. An actor playing his part, hollow.
Bond never came down to Q-branch any more. They had all grown so used to him that they felt oddly bereft; before Brussels, Bond would come down, even occasionally bringing sweet things from his international missions. Ostensibly gifts for Q, but in practise, Q-branch ended up eating most of them.
It was easy to see that Q missed Bond horribly. Bond refused to believe that there had ever been anything between them. Q could have organised infinite amounts of ‘proof’, but to be quite honest, he was too scared of what would happen if he did. Bond could accuse him of manipulation, could completely panic, could ultimately end up hurting Q very badly as he struggled to deal with the influx of new thoughts, new emotions.
So Q continued to wait, and to hope – and with every day that passed, with no sign of Bond, another fragment of hope died.
Bond, meanwhile, was trying to suppress his thoughts about sex, about sexuality, by fucking every female with a pulse that he came across. Missions or not, he spent evenings demonstrating his uncanny ability to lure anything into bed with him.
(Q watched the screens expressionlessly, somehow unable to turn it off, despite the agony throbbing in his chest)
It felt wrong, somehow. He found himself thinking of slimmer, flatter hips, a lower voice, a more precise intonation to the voices that called his name. He imagined phosphorescent eyes, daring him, playing him, pushing him to new and absurd extremes.
He wasn’t gay. He wasn’t bisexual. He was James Bond, a womaniser and a bachelor. He didn’t have relationships, he didn’t have emotional ties to other people, all of whom would only let him down.
There is one night with a woman with dark hair and thin eyes and dark makeup and red lips, and Bond feels his lips call out for Vesper, and it isn’t name of the woman beneath him. Instead, Vesper sends a stab of literal agony through his chest, and he can see somebody drowning, and he cannot reach them.
Bond knew from that moment that more had changed than he had ever imagined. His initial assessment had been correct; he had loved, lost, grieved. Only it wasn’t paralytic. Anger had faded, and at the very edges of his memory lingered a voice, the voice he half-expected.
Only it couldn’t be. To accept that it was true would mean realigning everything Bond knows about himself. The few facts he has collated over the years to define him would need altering, amending, and he can’t, not at this stage.
Yes James, I know, Q had said. He had known Bond would not accept it. Q, a kid with a crush, had wormed his way into Bond’s brain and stayed there, making him ache with half-remembrances that could not be.
“Try not to die this time, 007,” Q told him flatly, as though nothing had happened between them, as though Q hadn’t kissed him, and Bond hadn’t spent almost every moment since thinking about it. As though Q’s heart wasn’t breaking, and Bond’s head wasn’t killing him with cyclical thoughts.
Bond watched Q, and knew him well enough to see through him. “I’m sorry,” he said softly, on instinct. He was sorry for everything. For hurting him, for caring enough to realise he was hurting him, for wanting him, for missing him, for denying all of the above, for not being able to want him, for not remembering. For not wanting to remember.
“It’s okay,” Q murmured in a painfully broken voice, lying, shoulders collapsed, body compressed, a crumpled sheet of paper. “Not your fault.”
Bond nodded with uncomfortable reluctance, took his equipment, walked away despite himself.
Q should not have kissed him. He shouldn’t have forced Bond’s hand, should not have been surprised at the reaction. He asked too much, and Bond had been unable to handle it.
It didn’t mean that Q didn’t desperately want to just show Bond, play out footage of them together, tell Bond facts only Q could know, force him to face the fact that it happened. He could deal with Bond leaving him; Q had always believed that Bond would move on some day, leave him behind. He couldn’t deal with Bond denying that anything had happened in the first place.
It wasn’t Bond’s fault. Memories define people, and Bond had none. He was not the person Q fell in love with, and yet he was, and Q couldn’t bear seeing so many shadows of the Bond he loved, and yet knowing Bond wasn’t his.
Q looked up at the knock on the door; he felt a rush of sheer elation on seeing Bond, tempered by the nudging, hateful reminder that Bond still didn’t remember.
For months, Q would have looked up, smiled. Bond would stand in the doorway with the irritating smirk that Q couldn’t quite bring himself to hate, and shut the door behind him. They would close themselves in Q’s office for a while, and just be.
“Tell me,” Bond asked, in a closed, harsh voice. Q watched him with tense quiet, wondering if this was the moment that Bond would snap. “I don’t understand, and I don’t want to read it off a file. I want you to tell me.”
Q blinked, indicated the chair opposite. “Shut the door,” he said quietly, and informed Q-branch that he was not to be disturbed for the foreseeable future. He looked up to fix on Bond, leaning back in his chair as casually as he could manage. “Okay. What do you want to know?”
“What was the nature of our relationship, before Brussels?”
Q watched Bond carefully. “We were living together, having been in a committed romantic relationship for nearly nineteen months,” Q told him gently, watching Bond’s expression fix, not even blinking. “I made arrangements when I discovered your memory loss. I anticipated that this would not be easy for you.”
“What were your feelings toward me?”
Oh, what a cruel question. He couldn’t be asked to answer that, he just couldn’t. He shut his eyes for a moment, locking his expression away from Bond’s ridiculously intense staring. “I loved you,” he said brokenly, revelling in the comforting blackness behind his eyelids.
Bond didn’t speak, didn’t move. “And my feeling towards you?”
Q laughed hollowly. “If your words and actions were to be believed, you loved me too,” he murmured, his mind splintering apart, voice barely keeping supported. Only Bond could do this to him, could so efficiently pull him to pieces with a few words, with an unerring gaze.
His eyes were still closed when Bond’s hand moved with uncharacteristic tenderness to his wrist, Bond’s hand warm against him. He trembled very slightly, other hand shifting his glasses to pinch the bridge of his nose, hard.
“Q, I don’t know what to say.”
Q managed another soft, bubbling laugh. “There’s nothing you can say. A lot changed for you, in the time you lost, and I was part of it. When we first… you didn’t want to consider your sexuality, anything, you were angry and frightened, and took it out on me, and I don’t… James, I miss you.”
Bond didn’t know what to do. His Quartermaster was falling to pieces in front of him, and it was in his power to fix, but he didn’t know how. “I’m sorry,” he said instead, as the young man pulled away from his contact, tightening to a knot for a moment, giving himself the moment to cry.
Q’s heart was literally tearing as warm arms closed around him. “I don’t want to do this, James,” he cried against Bond’s chest, Bond very still, swallowing uncomfortably, hurting with and for Q without knowing why, wanting to make it better, cursing the years of loss that made him uncertain as to whether Q was even telling the truth. “I miss you so much, so much…”
Q pulled away too-quickly, wrenching out of Bond’s arms. Bond didn’t see Q’s face, screwed and tearstained; Q wiped his eyes, fixed an expression in place, all of it happening in seconds before he returned his sharp gaze to Bond.
“Your amnesia is not your fault, nor is it something that can be helped. If your memory returns, we can work out what to do from there. If it doesn’t, then I do not want you to feel compelled to do anything. I will entirely understand whatever you elect to do.”
“More importantly, we must remain professional,” Q told him firmly, the pink rim to his eyes the only indicator that anything had happened. “I am alright, Bond, and will remain as such. For now, would you kindly give me a moment to myself?”
Bond stood there helplessly. Q’s expression was too controlled, so controlled it was dangerous. Bond did as asked, and left Q alone. He didn’t quite see Q fall apart again, safely on his own, as he had to be.
Bond had a series of missions in quick succession, keeping him as far away from Q-branch as was physically possible. Bond didn’t end up seeing Q at all; his equipment was delivered via R, the voice in his ear refusing to be deflected from the mission at hand, signing off as early as possible to leave Bond on his own.
He couldn’t understand why Q’s voice was a comfort. He couldn’t understand what had changed, to make him want Q, to get him into a nineteen-month relationship with somebody. Bond hadn’t been a relationship that long since his late teens; it all seemed too implausible.
Eventually, he conceded defeat, looked at his file. Most interesting were the Psych reports, detailing the gradual changes in his outlook, his psyche, over the space of the missing years. Loss, anger, vengefulness – the name Vesper cropped up, and he finally understood that aspect – before evolving into calm, introspection, the psych teams stunned at the change. He was on record as the most erratic agent in MI6 history, but had a stable factor, somebody he could depend on, keeping him tied to some form of reality.
That person, apparently, was Q.
Bond tried to find Q’s files, and failed catastrophically; they were locked down to a terrifying degree. CCTV could be traced, with some effort, finding flashes of Bond and Q together. Just closeness, a type of familiarity that was half-recognisable.
The man on the CCTV images from barely a few months ago was not him. That man looked the same, had the same basic traits, but could not be him. He had sworn a lifetime ago that he would never be that kind of person. He watched his hand covers Q’s, their fingers lacing together with casual intimacy, confused.
The expression in Q’s eyes was the same as Bond kept seeing, when Q thought Bond wasn’t watching. Bond stopped for a moment, tried to imagine himself being with Q; Bond couldn’t help but be shocked by how easy it was.
He wished he had any idea who in the hell Q was.
Q’s stomach was actively convulsing.
Bond had asked him to dinner. Q had blinked, confirmed that Bond still had no memory, asked why. Bond didn’t offer much of an answer, told him a restaurant – one the pair had been to several times previously – and a time.
Q dressed in various items he knew Bond liked, combing fingers through his hair anxiously. He glanced at the clock, breathing hard as he composed himself. This was not his James. He could not forget that. His James was lost. This was somebody new, somebody a heartbeat away but not quite the same.
He couldn’t help smiling as he saw that Bond had booked their favourite table, for whatever reason. Probably subconscious habit. Bond waited, dressed impeccably as always, expression betraying nothing when he saw Q.
“What’s this in aid of?” Q asked simply, settling himself opposite Bond.
Bond didn’t reply for a moment, ordering drinks, Q absent-mindedly correcting Bond’s drink order to shaken, not stirred given that Bond seemed to have forgotten that little quirk. “You’ll like it,” Q told Bond, his melancholy smile causing a knife twist between ribs.
They stayed in silence for a moment. “You know more about me than I do,” Bond noted, shattering the quiet.
“Quite possibly. Bond, why am I here?” Q asked again, throat closing slightly. Bond had no right to do this, had no right to play with him like this.
Bond’s expression didn’t change. “I don’t know who you are, or why you meant anything to me,” he managed, his voice unfairly cold, Q’s eyes faintly clouded, almost unnoticeable. “You do mean something, however, and I was obviously important to you…”
A sharp stab. “And?”
“If you’re willing, I’d like to spend more time with you,” Bond asked carefully. “I have no desire to hurt you…”
“You don’t have the slightest idea who I am,” Q pointed out flatly, honestly. “I’m your Quartermaster, your colleague. You have no reason to…”
“I know you hate seafood and rap music, play the piano, keep a stash of comic books at the back of the wardrobe. I know things about you that colleagues would not. I don’t know why, but I know you. I dislike seeing you in pain, and I seek you out,” Bond told him simply. “I have no idea why. I trust you implicitly, and I don’t trust anybody. I don’t remember, Q, but it would seem that I need to.”
Q watched him steadily, trying to read Bond, the ultimate enigma. “I can’t make you remember,” he said quietly. “If you never get your memory back?”
Bond’s expression softened, reaching out to Q. “You say I fell in love with you once. I could do so again.”
Q’s expression crumbled a little, re-established again in a second or two. Bond could hear what Q would say, could hear Q’s words, the fragile devastation: what if you don’t?
The green of Q’s eyes had turned oddly dark, heavy. “I can’t ask for any more,” Q murmured quietly, breathing as steadily as he could. As Bond watched, the green lightened again, turning sharp and light and playful once again. “Okay,” he said with a smile. “Alright. So. James Bond. My name’s Q.”
Bond raised an eyebrow. “Is it?”
Q’s laugh was beautiful, cascading, familiar and welcome. “No, but we’re not talking about that just yet; we’ve only just met.”
They half-dated, meeting for drinks, for dinner, anything romantic staying well away from the proceedings.
Q kept the pain of it locked somewhere out the way, and kept himself happy at just being close to Bond again. Bond found himself consistently unnerved at how well Q knew him, and gradually tried to accustom himself to possibly being gay.
“You said to me, once, that you weren’t sure what your sexuality was,” Q told him at one stage, forehead lined with subtle concern. “You just loved me. Just… in spite of, or regardless of, or… you wanted to be with me, and that was enough, then.”
Bond didn’t know what to make of it. He simultaneously wanted to remember, and was utterly terrified of doing so. He wasn’t sure he liked the stories of the person he’d become. He couldn’t imagine it was good for his job, being attached to his Quartermaster, being attached to anyone.
Miss Moneypenny grinned when she saw Bond come out of Q’s office. “James,” she said delightedly. “Are you two…?”
“I still have no memory,” Bond told the woman he barely knew, who seemed to be quite a close friend to him by the way she behaved. “Q and I are just friends.”
Q’s breathing hesitated, and he barely spoke when Moneypenny walked into the office. She tried to coax anything out of him, stopping abruptly when he quietly told her, atonal: “It would have been our two-year anniversary today.”
Bond found himself loving being around Q. The young man had a delicious sense of humour, simply blinding intelligence, and a way of seeing the world that was so uniquely his. Bond kept wanting to ask more, to understand more of who this boy was, somebody with impossible mercy and compassion, and the ability to order murders, bombings, with casual nonchalance.
Q made no sense, and Bond was beginning to understand how he could have fallen in love. Bond had always liked puzzles.
Bond invited Q back to his flat. Q smiled his gorgeous, subtle smile and agreed. When they got there, Q moved like he had been there a dozen times before; he went to make tea, opening drawers with the familiarity of somebody long-since accustomed to where everything was.
“We lived here,” Bond realised quietly, feeling himself turn slightly pale; Q moved back from the array of teas as though scalded.
“I thought you’d realised,” Q replied, with a sliver of anxiety. “Yes. I moved out when I realised the extent of your amnesia, it would have panicked you to have me there, so I moved myself out.”
“You moved out for me?” Bond repeated, utterly disbelieving. Q shrugged slightly, a twitch of muscle.
Bond was abruptly kissing him with unbelievable force, crushing Q’s slim body against the worktop. Q didn’t say anything, just trickled his body through Bond’s, attaching himself inextricably, kissing him back with the desperation of a drowning man.
The shift to the bedroom felt natural, Bond pushing Q onto the bed, the younger man grinning as Bond’s body loomed over him, Q’s hands mouth targeting every spot that could take Bond apart with merciless precision.
Bond chuckled in a low tone. Naturally, Q could do that; he had been with Bond for over a year and a half. He would know everything. Bond moaned as Q worked at him, returning the favour with practised moves of his own.
Q’s eyes shone very slightly, the green suddenly glinting unnaturally brightly, as Bond’s hands explored his body with confident motions. “My James,” Q whispered, whimpering as Bond sucked a mark into his neck, livid and angry and his.
“Q,” Bond growled, nipping Q’s ear, Q squirming delectably in his arms. Bond continued to explore, arm wrapped around the younger man’s waist, the other hand cupped around the back of his neck, refusing to let him go. “God, Q. You know me too well, you have an unfair advantage…”
Q paused, shifting back to look over Bond’s expression. Bond watched the green glint extinguish in a fractional second, suddenly black. “You still don’t remember,” he realised, in faint horror.
Bond shifted backwards quickly, leaving Q on the bed, clothes rucked everywhere, hair sticking up at odd angles. Q ran hands over his face, through his hair. He had believed, perhaps stupidly, certainly naively, that Bond’s memory had come back, had sparked somewhere before they were kissing.
“I don’t want to do anything yet,” Q said, swallowing hard, a slightly bitter laugh trickling out. “God, I said… I said this last time too. I don’t want to be another conquest to you, I don’t…” his voice faded back a little. “I can’t believe we’re doing this again.”
The silence was absolute.
“Would you let me stay anyway?” Bond asked softly. Q could have laughed; it was exactly what Bond had asked last time. He nodded, at a loss for anything else to do. It was déjà vu on a wholly new level.
An hour or so later found the pair sharing a bed, Q wearing his favourite cotton pyjama bottoms, Bond in underwear. Bond’s arm slid under Q’s body, reminding him he was still there, skin on skin.
Q lay back staring blankly the ceiling, hand over his mouth, deliberately keeping the rise and fall of his chest very minutely controlled. Tears trickled down either side of his face, unbidden.
Q cried in absolute silence while somebody who wasn’t quite Bond fell asleep next to him.
“I can’t do this,” Q said simply, quiet sadness, not looking at Bond.
Bond’s world was ending, and it made no sense. “Q…”
“I’m sorry,” Q interrupted, before Bond could argue, before Bond could inevitably change his mind. “Not right now. I can’t keep… this is too hard, James. I know it’s not your fault, and I know it isn’t… but you can’t ask this of me. I’ve done this before with you, all of this, and I can’t do it again. I thought I could.”
This was never supposed to have happened.
“… so if you press the wrong button, there is a decent statistical probability of your dying,” Q said brightly. 007 nodded, placing the device carefully into his interior jacket pocket, turning his attention to the new gun Q had created. “Another personal statement, which I’d appreciate not having to fish out of the digestive system of a komodo dragon.”
“You weren’t doing the fishing,” Bond noted; he had read the mission notes, was slightly ashamed a self he didn’t remember for being quite so careless.
Q didn’t laugh, eyebrow raising, a thin, wicked smile in the corner of his mouth. “That’s not really the point. Your plane ticket is here,” he said, tugging out the ticket in question. “I also have something of a treat for you, as long as you promise not to trash it.”
Bond watched, as Q tugged out a car key. “When you land, go to car park B, level two, on your left when you walk in. You’ll find it. I had it shipped over for you with my full spec. Once again – I will be exceptionally unhappy if you destroy it.”
“Understood,” Bond smirked, pocketing the plane ticket and key. “Thank you, Q.”
“My pleasure,” Q said with disconcerting, heavy quiet. Bond felt his body straining to stay, even as he walked out of the office, leaving Q behind.
It was during Bond’s mission that he finally remembered everything that had happened with Vesper.
There was no particular reason, no stimulus. He suddenly felt a stab of unbelievable anger, pain, and had to stop what he was doing while his mind processed it. Her body, her eyes, the betrayal, the constant desire for revenge, to fight back, to lash out. Not just a fractured image but the whole event, replaying, agonising.
He knew her death was long passed. He had taken his revenge, he had dealt with all of it. He didn’t quite remember the details around that just yet, but he remembered a burning building, and a woman who was almost a child, his M’s voice in his ear, and a swelling opera peppered with gunshots.
He retrieved seven months of his life in a heartbeat.
He was close, so close, to having Q back. If he could, somehow, he would finally be able to make some sense of everything. For now it still lingered too far away, out of his grasp; realistically, he had been forced to accept that it could be weeks, months, before he had everything. It was still plausible that he would never remember.
It was a start, however, and that had to be important.
Living without Bond was easy enough; Q could survive on his own, he worked, he found ways to distract himself from the mundane tedium of each passing day.
Bond had made everything more interesting, more exciting. He had made Q feel secure, safe – yet also allowed him to flirt with danger in the most glorious of ways. Q’s blood pressure would never recover from the too-short time he’d spent with Bond.
To be quite frank, he would die tomorrow if it meant keeping Bond for the intervening hours.
Q watched Bond carefully, closely. Together or not, Q would never lose that compulsive need to take care of him, make sure Bond was safe. He did have an unbelievable reckless streak.
He went to get tea, a chamomile; Earl Grey was a breakfast drink, and was nearly three in the morning. Q-branch was deserted barring two others still on their computers, juniors who kept matters ticking over, five more on call in side-rooms. Q-branch never slept.
Q returned, tea in hand, to find a postcard on his desk. A reproduction of a Turner painting, breathtakingly familiar. His heart caught in his throat, fingers tracing the smooth front; he glanced around, seeing nobody. What do you see? was written over the back, in a familiarly confident hand.
He dropped the postcard on the desk as though it had scalded him.
Bond took a step out of the darkness behind Q’s door. “Q?” he asked, almost tentatively, very nearly frightened. Q stared at him blankly for a long moment, mapping Bond’s expression before allowing himself a reaction.
That single look was enough to confirm everything.
Q almost collapsed, propping himself up on the desk as Bond darted around to catch him, strong arms supporting him in a tight embrace, a hand around the back of Q’s head, Q’s face nestling in Bond’s shoulder, vibrating against him.
Bond’s voice was low, breath hot against Q’s skin as he bundled the younger man as close as he could manage. “I’m sorry Q, I’m so sorry…”
“James,” Q breathed, clutching Bond with white-knuckled fingers, refusing to let him go.