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Facing The Music

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‘Did you ever think of me?’ Q asks, when he’s busy with the kettle and teabags and fending off the cats, in an attempt to make it less obvious just how much he needs to know the answer.

James’ face is expressionless, but he lifts his hand to rub the scar on his temple. ‘I tried not to,’ he says.

The journey back across town to Q’s flat, walking down Villier’s Street to Embankment alongside all the other commuters, not touching each other again after that brief moment on the gallery steps, scarcely even talking: Q is aware that he is employing a coping strategy, trying to make sense of it what can barely be understood by acting as if it’s all perfectly normal. As if it’s every other day that a man believed to be dead for the best part of a decade walks back into his life with scant apology and even less by way of explanation.

As they passed through the exit barriers, Q turned to James to say, ‘I’m sure you must know where I live now. You can go on ahead and break in if you want. Put the kettle on while you’re waiting.’

James just smiled and shook his head, and they walked the few streets to Q's flat together.

There’s a small rubber ball sitting in a bowl on the kitchen counter. Q picks it up and throws it against the fridge door with a quick flick of his wrist. It bounces off the fridge and into the hallway, sending the three cats galloping after.

‘Are you not going to ask me the same thing?’ he says, trying to keep his tone light. 'If I thought of you too?'

‘No need,’ says James. ‘I know you did.’

Q sucks in a breath through his teeth. ‘Haven’t changed a bit, have you? Arrogant bastard.’

‘Am I wrong, then?’

Q mashes the teabags against the side of the mugs, one after the other, and says nothing.

‘Look. Q. You asked me if I thought of you. I said I tried not to. Didn’t say whether I was successful.’ James pulls out a stool from beneath the counter and accepts the mug that Q offers him. ‘I think your cat remembers me, you know. The little stripy one.’

Q leans back against the cooker, facing him. ‘Grace? Of course she bloody doesn’t. She recognises that I’m not going to feed her until later, and that you’re in possession of a pair of opposable thumbs and might possibly be persuaded to wield a can-opener. That’s all. But you always were a sucker for a pretty face, weren’t you?’

James crosses his legs at the ankle and looks Q up and down.

The blatant intent of his gaze is - Q must concede - thrillingly familiar, but he pretends to sigh all the same. ‘And here was I,’ he says, ‘thinking that you fell for my genius-level intelligence...’

‘Not just your face, though,’ says James. ‘You do have a deliciously pert little bum -’

‘My pithy sense of humour…’ continues Q, ignoring him.

‘ - A lovely cock -’

‘My indomitable - some would say unique - sense of fashion...’ says Q, raising his voice.

‘- The sweetest, tightest arsehole it’s ever been my great pleasure to fuck -’

‘James!’ shouts Q, exasperated. ‘For god’s sake man, just shut up.’

James chuckles to himself.

‘You know,’ says Q, trying to hide his blush by drinking two-handed from his mug, ‘I never got to ask you whether you found out my real name when you went digging up the dirt on me.’

‘Are you casting doubts on my competence?’ James shrugs. ‘Daniel.’

Danny,’ corrects Q, automatically. The name fits like an outgrown coat: familiar and uncomfortable all at once. It’s been a long time since he answered to it, or lived the life of the person it once belonged to. MI6 were insistent that all traces of his former life be erased when he was first recruited, so he has another identity by which he is known to the utility companies and his bank, and the few friends he has outside work. This is also the name he has revealed to his occasional lovers and one-night stands: although, to James, he has only ever been Q. ‘But I’d rather you didn’t call me that.’

‘I could pick a new name for you, if you like.’ James grins. ‘Quentin. Quincy. Quadrangle. Qwerty -’

‘Sod off,’ says Q, but he can’t help smiling, no matter how hard he tries. Beneath all the hurt and confusion and anger that James’ return has stirred up, long-forgotten feelings are beginning to re-emerge, like plants kept in a cupboard for too long and then taken out into the light: fragile and struggling but reaching out for warmth.

‘Are you coming back?’ he asks.

‘I am back,’ says James. He puts down his mug on the counter and makes a show of patting his arms and legs, as if to verify his existence. ‘Aren’t I?’

‘Don’t be a dick,’ says Q. ‘I mean, to the service. To MI6.’ He takes a sip of tea. ‘You know, I’m beginning to realise that for all the things I do know - everything I thought I knew - there’s a whole lot more that I haven’t been told. That I never even guessed at.’ He pauses. ‘And not just me, either.’

James rubs the back of his neck and does not reply.

‘Isn’t that right?’ Q watches Grace pad back into the kitchen and wind herself around the legs of James’ stool, purring. You don’t remember him, he tells her, silently. And even if you think you do, let me tell you we don’t quite know if we’re going to let him come back here again. So stop putting on such a show.

‘What did you think had happened?’ asks James, abruptly.

Q gapes at him. ‘I thought you had decided to call time on whatever it was going on between us and then you went and got yourself bloody killed. What else could I have possibly thought?’

‘God.’ James groans and scrubs both hands over his face. ‘Q. You weren’t kept in the dark because of - because we were -’ James trails off, looks away. ‘Nobody knows about that.’

‘In other words, I’m still your dirty little secret.’

James looks at him then. His gaze is direct, startlingly blue and clear. ‘So who exactly did you tell? After I was gone?’

Q stares back. ‘Not all secrets are kept because they’re shameful, James. Some are kept because they're’ - he feels his mouth working for a moment before he is able to form the word - ‘precious.’ He takes a deep breath. ‘Only I’ve never known which of the two categories I fell into.’

Without a word, James reaches out his hand. Q hesitates for a moment, lets his fingertips brush James’ palm. ‘Don’t think the cats don’t know everything, though.’

‘Naturally,’ says James. He lets his hand drop.

Disconcerted, Q turns to the cooker. He puts down his mug on one of the rings and pretends to fiddle with the timer. ‘Well,’ he says, after a while, turning back to James again. ‘This looks set to be a most interesting debrief. Assuming that your Quartermaster might finally be allowed to find out what the hell you’ve been up to these last seven years. I shall certainly be watching a few people’s expressions extremely closely. I only hope medical are given advance warning, there’s bound to be an outbreak of fainting when you first pitch up at Vauxhall.’

James gives him a sly look. ‘I was surprised you didn’t faint, to be honest.’

‘Really? I was surprised I didn’t punch you in the fucking face,’ Q says, with every ounce of sweetness he can muster.

James looks gratifyingly surprised by this. ‘I suppose you might say that I deserved it.’

‘Mm.’ Q picks up his mug again and swills the dregs of tea around. ‘So has M set a date for the resurrection yet? Should I clear my diary?’

James gives a short, evasive laugh, and shifts on his seat. ‘I wouldn’t rush to rearrange your schedule just yet, no.’

Q frowns at him. ‘What is it? What the hell have you done now?’

‘I’m supposed to be in a safe house. I absconded. I’m going to get into terrible trouble.’

Q claps a hand across his eyes and groans.

James takes hold of Q’s wrist and pulls his hand away. ‘Q. Hear me out. It was in Slough.’

Chapter Text

‘For Christ’s sake, James,’ says Q, ‘I couldn’t care less whether your safe house is in bloody Siberia, I’m calling a cab and I’m taking you straight back there. Now.’

James merely smirks at him. ‘I can’t believe that I never told you.’

‘Told me what?’

‘How much I enjoy you telling me off.’ James stretches out his legs and spreads his fingers over his crotch. ‘As a matter of fact, I’ve always found it intensely arousing.’

‘James.’ Q puts down his mug and takes a step towards him. In that moment, he’s not exactly clear as to what he hopes to achieve - it’s inconceivable that he could even budge James from his seat, let alone wrestle him out of the front door - but whatever plans he may have had are foiled by James grabbing him around the waist and hauling him onto his lap.

Q -’ James breathes, and that’s all it takes: it’s as if Q’s body is no longer under his own control. He finds himself clutching at James’ head in a frantic effort to bring their mouths together just as quickly as possible, even as one of James’ hands is tangling in his hair and the other is grabbing his hip.

He cannot think that there is anything he has ever wanted more.

The kiss is messy, ferocious. The clash of James’ teeth against his own sends a jolt up Q’s spine and straight to his balls: he can feel his cock hardening with dizzying speed. The hand that had first grabbed his hip is now fumbling at his belt, and he moves to help. Together Q and James scramble to unzip Q’s flies, and James shoves his hand unceremoniously into Q’s pants. Q makes a startled, desperate noise and jerks up into the touch.

‘Please -’

James aims little kisses at Q’s forehead, his cheeks, his chin. ‘Shall we take this to bed?’

‘Yes,’ pants Q, ‘god, yes - and then you’re going. Back to Slough. Is that clear?’

‘Crystal.’ James gives Q’s cock a parting squeeze and lets Q slide off his lap. Q holds his trousers up with one hand and offers the other hand to James. He leads him out of the kitchen and along the hallway. Grace bounds ahead of them but Q holds her back from entering the bedroom with his foot. ‘Run along now,’ he says.

Q cannot help his smile at the sight of James in his bedroom, the way he scans the space for potential hazards and exit routes, utterly incongruous against the backdrop of bland Scandinavian department-store furnishings (Q has never quite got a handle on interior design: a hangover from his boarding-school days, he supposes, when the opportunities for customising one’s environment were limited at best and a disciplinary matter at worst).

Seemingly satisfied, James pulls Q into his arms and shoves him down onto the bed. Q wraps his legs around James’ hips and they’re rutting against each other, panting, frantic, scrabbling at buttons, James’ hard-on pressed into Q’s thigh. Q hears the seams of his shirt creak as James tugs it off his shoulders, and doesn’t even think to complain. All he cares about is getting James’ own shirt off as quickly as possible, so he can run his palms over the broad expanse of chest and shoulders, the tiny nipples he pinches between his knuckles, making James curse and buck against him.

For a while the only sound is that of their breathing, loud in the quiet, each of them mapping out with eyes and hands how the other has changed - or not - until James pokes Q’s belly, making him yelp. ‘You’ve let yourself go, haven’t you? Good job I’m back to help you work some of that flab off.’

Q laughs. He is as skinny as ever: what with running and the endless stresses of Q-branch, his waist size hasn’t altered an inch. He lets his fingers play over James’ abdomen, dip below the line of his belt. James is thinner than he was before, the dense upholstery of his pre-disappearance musculature turned into something leaner and less bulky: Q suspects that he hasn’t seen the inside of a gym or a Michelin-starred restaurant for some time. In addition, there’s an unfamiliar, ugly red seam under his right ribcage: a stab wound, Q surmises, executed without finesse - the work of a street brawler rather than a trained killer - and then stitched too tightly.

‘Messy job,’ says Q, stroking the scar gently.

‘Yep,’ says James. ‘Don’t, love.’ He tugs Q’s hand away and kisses his fingertips.

‘And the other guy?’

‘Last seen wearing his guts like a necklace.’

‘Good man.’

‘Thank you, Quartermaster.’ James slides his hand into Q’s open flies and strokes his cock.

‘God, James. Just get your mouth on me.’ Q rolls aside, kicks off his shoes. He yanks down his trousers then hooks his thumbs into the waistband of his pants but James says, ‘No. Keep them on. Come here.’

James sits up and pulls Q off the bed to stand between his parted legs. He leans forward to press his face against Q’s crotch, inhales. His hands stroke up and down the back of Q’s thighs, urging him closer.

‘Red?’ he says. ‘You little hussy.’

Q sighs as James mouths at the shape of his cock through the fabric. ‘Obviously I knew that you were planning on coming back from the dead today and then dragging straight me into bed, so I put on something suitably festive.’

‘How very delicious.’ James presses his lips to Q’s cockhead, his breath hot and humid. Q feels his dick twitch and he knows he is leaking his excitement into the red cotton. James pulls down Q’s waistband by just an inch or so, trapping the head of his cock above the elastic.

James glances up at Q, an unspoken question in his eyes, the heel of his hand ground hard into his own crotch.

‘It’s fine,’ whispers Q. He can feel his cheeks burning. ‘Taste it. Go on.’

James leans in to lick delicately at Q’s cockhead. Q can barely watch. He has to close his eyes when James starts to probe his slit with the very tip of his tongue: the tiny hot tease is almost more than he can bear.

‘Oh, god - no, stop,’ Q laughs, breathless, trying to push him away. ‘Don’t make me come just yet.’

‘Greedy thing.’ James tightens his grip on Q’s thighs and leans backwards, pulling Q on top of him. He flips them over and moves down Q’s body, kissing and biting soft-mouthed as he goes, pushing his knees apart. ‘Whoever would have thought this prim-and-proper boy was such a pushy fuck?’

Q laughs. ‘Prim? Me?’

James lifts his head to grin at him. ‘Now then, 007,’ he says, in a surprisingly passable imitation of Q’s arch public-school tones. ‘Do try to bring the equipment back in one piece this time, won’t you?’ He licks a long, slow line along Q’s inner thigh. Q’s fingers tighten in the duvet. ‘My dearest Quartermaster,’ James continues, in his ordinary voice. ‘Let me show you just how much care I can take of your...equipment.’

‘There’s a first time for everything, I guess,’ says Q, drily, but he cannot help his gasp as James pulls aside his pants and ducks his head to lap at his balls. ‘Oh -’

James licks and kisses at Q’s balls, his other hand working to release his own cock from his trousers. When Q starts to whine he kneels up, his hands gripping either side of Q’s narrow waist. He leans forward, nosing his way along Q’s throat. His cock sticks out hard between his legs. ‘Christ, I want to fuck you,’ he says, thickly. ‘Can I fuck you?’

‘Yes. No. Wait.’ Q takes hold of James’ wrists, resists being rolled over onto his belly. ‘Let me. Please.’

James pulls back, looking momentarily confused: then his expression changes. Q can read his arousal in the way his pupils dilate, black against blue, the soft intake of breath when he realises what Q is asking for.

‘Yeah,’ he says, ‘all right - I mean - come on then. Do it. Fuck me.’

Chapter Text

Q says to James, ‘You know - I’m clean - if you want to -’

At this, James grimaces, looks awkward. ‘Best not,’ he says. ‘Just to be on the safe side.’

‘Doesn’t matter.’ Q can’t pretend that he doesn’t want to know what James got up to when they were apart, but whatever - whoever - that might be now belongs in the past. There’s no point in dwelling on it, Q tells himself. He sits up and rummages through the drawer of his bedside cabinet, looking for condoms and lube. James strokes his back as he does so.

As a rule, Q much prefers to bottom: sex is the one area of his life where he allows himself to relinquish his obsessive need for order and control and - rather more prosaically - he just likes it better that way. He loves feeling the stretch and burn of a deep, hard fuck, the way the memory lingers in his body for days afterwards. He knows, too, that James’ own preference is to top. Moreover, Q suspects that the reasons for this are not solely to do with fondness for one type of physical sensation over another: he’s tangled with enough ostensibly straight men over the years to appreciate that some guys just can’t get over the notion that their masculinity is somehow threatened by taking a cock up the arse. Their loss, he thinks, wryly.

Yet James’ willingness for them to reverse their assumed roles - today of all days - hints at a something of a new-found acceptance, an unanticipated generosity that Q knows he will need to explore further, given time. Whatever happens next between them, Q is determined that it will not be a simple retread of everything that came before: the prospect of a Deep and Meaningful Conversation looms heavy on the horizon.

But not now, Q thinks.

Certainly not now.

Not after seven fucking years.

Q has James lying on his belly, a pillow pulled under his hips. He slides a couple of sachets of lube and a condom under the pillow, before pushing James’ thighs apart to kneel between them. For a long moment, Q allows himself do nothing more than look, his gaze travelling from the muscular swell of James’ arse and along the curve of his spine, to where the tanned, freckled skin stretched across his upper back is scrawled over with scars. James lies peaceably, his head resting on the crook of his arm: even so, Q can read the tension in his body. He leans forward, digs his thumbs under James’ shoulderblades. James groans.

‘You’re in knots.’ Q digs his thumbs deeper. ‘What’s the matter? I’m not going to hurt you.’ He ducks his head to kiss James’ nape, tries to keep his tone light. ‘Not much, anyway.’

James laughs: it’s a bitter, rueful kind of laugh, Q thinks. ‘Not you, Q. You never could.’

‘No,’ Q says softly and only a little sadly. ‘No.’

Q mouths his way down James’ spine, hands flat against the warm, solid planes of James’ back. He grasps the delightful taut mounds of James’ buttocks, squeezing until he hears James’ breath catch. And then - because it suddenly occurs to him that right now he can do this, and because he simply cannot resist - he spreads James’ arse with his palms and licks a broad, wet stripe all the way from his balls to his tailbone.

He expects appreciation, a moan or else some lewd words of encouragement: instead, he is startled when James curses and jerks away from him, half-turning to look back over his shoulder. ‘Q. Jesus.’ His expression is tight with concern. ‘What the fuck do you think you’re doing?’

‘You don’t like it?’ asks Q. Anxiety seizes him. Maybe he was wrong to assume that this was something James would enjoy, just because he had done it to Q in the past  - and Q, of course, adores being rimmed. Maybe, after all this time, they are simply not as sexually compatible as he remembers, the way they both, somehow, seemed to know what the other needed, and wanted - despite all the skirmishes and misunderstandings. Maybe -

‘No. I don’t like it.’ For a moment, Q feels his anxiety edging towards panic, then James laughs, his frown softening. ‘I bloody love it, you idiot. But I thought we were going to play safe?’

‘We are.’ Q feels his cheeks grow hot under James’ amused gaze. ‘I’m not fucking you bare - or sucking your cock, come to that - but this - it’ll be all right.’

‘Hmm.’ James turns over again, buries his face in his folded arms. Q can hear the smile in his voice. ‘As you wish, Quartermaster. I’m sure you’ve conducted all the appropriate risk assessments.’

‘Shall I carry on?’

‘I rather think you should.’

So Q does. At first, he simply laps all the way along James’ crack as he did before, using just the flat of his tongue. Nice and slow, without paying James’ arsehole any special attention. Then, without warning, he squirms his tongue lasciviously against the closed ring of muscle. Beneath him, he feels James shudder, hears his breathing quicken: other than that, James makes no sound.

Q grins to himself, points his tongue and jabs it into the tight pucker, determined to elicit a more vocal reaction. This time, he is rewarded with a choked-off moan.

That’s better, he thinks. He does it again, and again, mouths deeply at James’ arsehole as if he were kissing him on the lips. When James starts rutting against the pillow, Q slaps his hip lightly. ‘Up.’

With James on his knees, Q can fondle his bollocks, pull his stiff cock back between his parted thighs to stroke it. Now and again, he gives his own cock a squeeze, although he’s careful not to bring himself too close to the edge: unthinkable that he should come before James, and anywhere other than balls-deep inside him. Instead, he concentrates on James’ pleasure, alternating his teasing, flickering tongue with the gentlest of touches, just one wet fingertip rubbing and circling and pressing against James’ hole. Before long, James is spreading his knees wider, arching into the touch in a manner so unthinkingly shameless it makes Q’s cock ache.

‘More?’ says Q.

‘More,’ agrees James.

Q presses harder, and his finger slips inside, up to the first knuckle: they both gasp. Very slowly, Q withdraws his finger and presses it back in again, deeper this time. With only spit to ease the way, there’s a certain amount of drag rather than an easy slide. Q knows only too well how this feels: for himself, he loves the delicious burn of it, but he has no idea how long it has been since James has done this. Careful, he thinks. He leans in and licks sloppily all around James’ hole and the base of his own finger, making everything as wet as possible.

He hears James take a shaky breath.

Q works his finger in and out, faster now: James throws back his head and groans. He eases out his finger - watching how James’ hole clutches in vain around it - only to replace it with his thumb. He can’t get as deep, but he can exert a different kind of pressure, and he can nudge his knuckles up against the root of James’ cock, rubbing him inside and out at the same time.

‘Q,’ says James. He sounds almost drunk. ‘Fucking hell, that feels good.’

Q says, ‘I know.’ He slides his thumb almost all the way out, presses the pad of it to James’ rim, massaging, stretching. ‘You thinking of my cock in here?’

Yes,’ hisses James.

Q withdraws his thumb, presses two fingertips against James’ hole. James is impatient for it now, rocking back against him, breathing hard. Q holds his hand still, lets James bear down on him until his fingers slip inside.

‘Fuck, James, that’s lovely.’ Q curls his fingers, pushes in deeper: James groans in reply. The sound seems to go straight to Q’s dick. Overcome with desire for the man writhing and gasping under his touch, Q presses his face into James’ crack, plunging his fingers in and out, licking and sucking and kissing until -

‘God, Q, stop.’ James suddenly scrambles away, laughing and breathless, one hand at his crotch. Q cannot help himself sounding a little yowl of disappointment: James shakes his head. ‘No, really. I’m going to blow in about thirty seconds if you don’t.’

James walks back across the bed on his knees and pulls Q into a kiss, chasing the taste of himself in Q’s mouth in a way that makes Q’s head spin. Q tries to reach between his legs but James bats his hand aside and takes hold of Q’s cock instead. They both watch as Q cants his hips forward, slowly fucking himself into James’ grip. The head of his cock is swollen with arousal, slick with precome. James makes an appreciative noise and tightens his fingers around the shaft.

‘Christ, you’re hard. Want me to ride it?’

 

Chapter Text

‘Go easy on me though, won’t you?’ James says, as he sits astride Q’s outstretched legs. ‘I’m an old man now.’

‘Oh, hush,’ says Q. He reaches out to run his hands up and down the hard swell of James’ quadriceps, admires the jut of his erection. ‘You’re looking pretty magnificent from here.’

‘Is that so?’ James takes hold of Q’s cock and starts pulling him off slowly, hand-over-hand: Q hisses and flings an arm up over his face. ‘First time we met, you’d pretty much consigned me to the the scrapheap. As I recall.’

‘I didn’t mean - oh, shit.’ Q squeezes his eyes shut tight as James employs a particularly wicked twist to his cockhead at the end of every stroke. ‘Whatever. Let’s just say that - ah! - since then - I’ve developed something of an an appreciation for antiques -’ He tries to thrust up, but he is pinned beneath James’ weight. ‘Please.’

Q hears James chuckle to himself, and the stroking ceases. A moment later, he feels a condom being unrolled down over his prick. The chill of lube applied over the latex makes him shiver, but it’s good: he’s far too close already. Q opens his eyes in time to see James rise to his knees and reach behind himself, the muscles in his belly and arms tense and jumping, and he realises that he is fingering his own arsehole.

Q takes hold of the base of his cock. ‘Please,’ he says again. He’s not even sure how he’s the one who has ended up begging, only that James’ teasing is driving him to distraction.

James moves forward, places his hands on Q’s shoulders. He leans in to kiss him, his tongue hot and insistent. He eases himself down onto Q’s lap, rocking his hips so that the length of Q’s cock slides along the slippery cleft of his backside.

‘You going to put that dick inside me now, sweetheart?’ He shifts again, and Q feels his cockhead catch, making them both gasp.

James,’ breathes Q. He pushes upwards, just as James bears down to meet him - and the sudden pressure around the tip of his prick is so sweet and tight and so warm he’s reeling off pi to the nth decimal place to stop himself from coming straight away. James laughs, and Q realises that he must have spoken out loud.

Then - devastatingly - James rises to his knees and pulls away again.

What the fuck? James - you absolute shit -’ Q pounds the bed with his free hand, bereft. ‘Get yourself back on my cock this instant -’

‘Now, now.’ James’ tone is reprimanding, but Q can feel him smiling as little kisses are peppered over his cheeks and lips. ‘The language, honestly.’

Q wails.

‘All right,’ says James, as much to himself as to Q, ‘all right’ - and Q knows by the set of his jaw that he is not the only one who is affected by this: James wants it as badly as he does. It’s a compelling thought, and one that Q holds as James - with torturous slowness - fucks himself down onto the full length of Q’s prick, one hand braced on the bed, the other working his own hard-on. Q can feel himself sweating, although he has barely moved: it’s the sheer effort of holding himself in check against the sensations that are threatening to overwhelm him. At this rate, he thinks that he is likely to last all of about three minutes, although it’s certainly an improvement on his original estimate of less than thirty seconds.

‘Just like the old days, isn’t it?’ says James as at last he settles himself on Q’s lap, sounding only slightly breathless. He gives Q a sly grin as he toys with the head of his cock, playing his fingers over the slit. ‘You give the orders, I do all the work.’

‘Bollocks,’ scoffs Q. Not exactly his pithiest comeback, but he still feels that he is doing pretty well, under the circumstances. He thrusts his hips up as hard as he can, hard enough to make James swear and clutch at his dick. ‘I think - I think you should get on your hands and knees for me now, 007.’

They disentangle themselves carefully. James kneels at the edge of the bed, knees apart, Q stood behind him. James drops down onto his elbows with a sigh, rolling his shoulders as he gets himself comfortable.

‘Do your worst,’ he says.

Q takes hold of his cock and lines himself up, goes in deep and hard on the first stroke. Beneath him, James chokes out something unintelligible.

‘Shit,’ says Q, freezing for a moment before starting to withdraw again, ‘Sorry -’

‘No, no, you’re good.’ James reaches behind himself to grab hold of Q’s thigh, urging him back inside. ‘Go on, give me a proper pounding, I can take it -’

God.’ Q is too far gone now to do anything but take James at his word. He fucks into James as hard as he can, hitching up onto his tiptoes with every stroke, his fingers curled tight around James’ hipbones. He glances down to the place where they are joined - and that’s what tips him over the edge, the sight of himself plunging deep into the welcoming hot grasp of James’ body, over and over again.

‘Oh, fuck. James. I’m coming.’ Q pulls out and tugs off the condom. With one hand he spreads James’ arse, and with the other he aims his cock at James’ hole, working shaking fingers over his cockhead as he starts to come. ‘Fuck. Fuck.’

Q. My gorgeous, filthy boy -’ James breathes as Q’s spunk lashes thick and white against his arsehole, the back of his balls.

‘Feel this?’ Q scoops up the mess dripping down James’ crack and works it into James’ hole, fucking him with three fingers. ‘Feel my come inside you? You going to come for me too now?’

‘Yes. Yes.’ James is panting. ‘Get your hand around my dick -’

Q reaches his free hand beneath James’ belly to take hold of his cock, pumps him once, twice. James tenses and groans and Q feels his cock jerk hard as he spends himself. He carries on working him until James makes a protesting noise and pulls away from his grasp.

‘Well.’ Q leans forward, presses a kiss to James’ sweat-sheened back. ‘That was…’

‘Yeah. It was.’ After a few moments, James shifts aside and stretches out on the bed with a groan. The duvet is streaked with his come.

Q stumbles across the room, feeling somewhat unsteady on his feet, and retrieves a damp towel from the laundry basket. He wipes himself down before chucking the towel at James, who turns onto his side to dab half-heartedly at the duvet and then at his own backside before casting the towel aside. Q tuts. In a sudden, swift movement, James rolls over, snatches the towel from the floor and makes as if to throw it at Q, who merely puts his hands on his hips and glares at him. James snorts - it occurs to Q rather too late that his hard-won air of authority might be somewhat compromised by his nudity - and throws the towel at the laundry basket instead.

‘Care to remind me why I was mad enough to let you back in my flat? You’re not even house-trained.’ Q clambers back onto the bed, lies down next to James.

‘Shush.’ James pulls him into his arms, massages the back of Q’s skull with his fingertips. Q grumbles at this transparent attempt to placate him, even as he inclines his head into the touch. James kisses his forehead. ‘Stop bloody grousing.’

‘Make me a cup of tea and I’ll think about it.’ Q runs his toes along James’ shin.

James harrumphs, but does not answer right away. He lies staring into space, apparently lost in thought. After a while, he says, ‘You know, we should really do this more often.’

‘I concur,’ says Q. ‘More than once every seven years, at least.’

James raises an eyebrow at him. ‘I thinking more along the lines of every night.’

Q laughs. ‘On Fridays, perhaps.’

‘So that’s Friday nights taken care of. Whatever will we do for the rest of the week?’

Q kisses his nose, grins. ‘Me?’

Chapter Text

‘So, Quartermaster.’ James kisses Q’s shoulder, pulls him closer. Q allows himself a moment to revel in the thrilling domesticity of it all: the two of them cosied up beneath the duvet, James smelling not of smoke and blood but of coffee and Q’s own shower gel, Grace stretched out purring at their feet and the other two cats sleeping on the chair. ‘My sources tell me that you’re going to call a cab and take me back to Slough.’

‘Really?’ Q turns his head, eyes half-closed and vision blurry without his glasses, to feel James’ lips brush against his own. ‘Your sources are unreliable, 007.’

‘I thought as much.’ James’ hand shifts from Q’s hip to slide across his belly. ‘Because I can’t imagine that you -’ (he kisses him, more definitively this time) ‘- could ever be so -’ (he kisses him again, his hand moving lower) ‘- irredeemably, hopelessly cruel as to -’

‘Don’t push it.’ Q turns away, yawns, settles his head on the pillow. ‘You’re still in a tremendous amount of trouble. As I will be too, I suspect. I just decided that you’re marginally less likely to get up to mischief here tonight than anywhere else. That’s all.’

James grins against the back of Q’s neck. ‘Debatable.’ He cups Q’s balls, runs his fingers along the soft length of his cock.

Q sighs. ‘Bloody hell. Do you ever think about anything else?’

'I’m in bed, naked, with a very beautiful boy. Who also happens to be naked. What else do you expect me to be thinking about?’

Q feels a little glow of embarrassment and pride at being called beautiful - and he suspects that James will still be referring to him as a boy even when he’s drawing his pension, so he decides not to argue that particular point - despite the fact he knows that such platitudes come to James as easy as breathing. His cock, however, is decidedly less cynical: he can feel himself hardening again.

James draws back Q’s foreskin with his thumb. ‘Fuck,’ says Q, faintly.

‘Shall we save that for tomorrow, darling? I have something else in mind right now.’

‘You do?’ Q can feel James’ own erection stiffening as he grinds his hips up against Q's backside: safe to assume, he thinks, that James has not completely discounted the idea of sex in favour of sleep. And, to be fair, he's coming round to the idea himself, what with the way James is fondling the exposed head of his cock. ‘Now there’s a surprise.’

James laughs, and with a parting kiss to Q's nape he withdraws his hand and rolls aside. A soft thump as Grace leaps off the end of the bed, disturbed by the movement, then Q hears James rummaging in the drawer of the bedside cabinet. He can tell from the way the bed shudders and the tiny wet noises that James is applying lube to his cock. Curious and aroused, he moves to turn over, wanting to watch, but James is snugging in close behind him again.

'No, no. Don't move.’ James reaches around to palm Q's cock up against his belly with long, slow strokes. His fingers are warm and slick with lube. Q sighs and pushes himself forward when James removes his hand - he's more than half-hard now - but James pulls him back. 'Stay still for a moment.’

'What are you doing?’ Q can feel the blunt head of James’ cock prodding at his crack, hot and slippery. 'Hey. I'm not having you rubbing yourself off against my arsehole without a condom -’

‘Q -’ James shifts down in the bed, angles his hips. 'Shut up and open your legs a bit.’

The penny drops. 'Oh,’ says Q. He lifts his knee just enough to let James slide his cock into the narrow space below his balls, then clamps his thighs together. 'Like that?’

'Yes,’ breathes James, 'yes. Like that.’

Q can't remember the last time he did this: it's is an act he associates with being a very young teenager, with boarding school, a time when the prospect of actual anal sex seemed frightening and messy and painful. 'How very Greek,’ he says, amused.

'Indulge me.’ James is mouthing and biting at Q's shoulders and the back of his neck. He starts to rock his hips, slowly but forcefully. 'That nice?’ he asks.

Q puts his hand to where the head of James’ cock protrudes between his legs: every stroke bumps up against the sensitive underside of his balls. 'Yes,’ he admits. With James, this feels intimate and sensual, not at all like a poor substitute for fucking.

James growls his approval and drives himself harder between Q’s thighs. He takes hold of Q’s cock again, tugging and stroking in time with his thrusts, whispering into Q’s ear:

'Just a few months and I'll be taking you bare - filling your mouth and your hole with my come every night - waking you up early and buggering your tight little arse all over again - Christ, I won't let you off your back for months -’

‘James.’ Q laughs. He's half-excited, half-scandalised by James' litany of filth, although the very thought of having James coming inside him again makes him hot with want, has him pushing his hips back for more. ‘Just to point out I'll probably need to get up to feed the cats at some point - and go to work -’

‘All right - if that’s what you want -’ James suddenly stops and hauls Q onto his back, making him yelp. He drags Q’s arms above his head, pinning him by the wrists, the muscles in his arms flexing with the effort of bracing himself over Q’s body, and shoves his dick back between Q's thighs. 'Sending you into Q-branch dripping wet with me -’

He kisses Q savagely, and Q responds in kind.

Breaking for air, Q gasps as James' abdomen rubs against his hard cock. James groans and thrusts harder, the rhythm of his hips growing shaky and erratic, then surges up onto his knees with his cock angled over Q’s concave belly.

‘Q,’ he pants. ‘Fuck, Q, you’re making me come.’ His cock jerks and twitches, both of them moaning at the sight of the thick stripes of spunk spilling hot and wet across Q’s skin, all the way up to his chest. But Q hardly has a moment to think before James is kissing him again, kissing and nipping his way down Q’s body, lapping at his own come.

‘Let me,’ James says against Q’s navel, between kisses, ‘let me -’

He pushes Q's thighs apart and licks and kisses the tip of his cock. He plays his tongue over the head, around the ridge, sucks him in deep. With his hands pinned by his sides, Q writhes and bucks, delirious with pleasure, and comes hard into the sweet warmth of James’ mouth.

Chapter Text

Q snaps off his bedside lamp and lies down. He places one hand beneath his head upon the pillow and the other flat on James’ chest, feeling the steady beating of his heart. James takes hold of Q’s wrist and kisses his fingertips gently, one-by-one.

Q hopes that they will sleep now, at last. He’s exhausted, physically and mentally: eight hours ago he was contemplating a future that bore little resemblance to the one he is beginning to imagine now. The thought of sleeping with James - in the literal sense - is an extremely pleasant one, even if he cannot quite dismiss the vague worry that he might find himself alone again when he wakes up. At least he knows he can count on finding solace in sleep: dreams hold few terrors for him anymore.

He has only closed his eyes for a few moments before he senses the back-of-the-neck prickling that tells him he is being watched. He opens his eyes again. In the dim light filtering through the curtains, he can see that James is looking at him thoughtfully. He still has hold of Q’s wrist.

Q frowns, turns his hand to try and free himself from James’ grasp. ‘What is it?’

James tightens his fingers. ‘Did you love him?’ he asks.

Q feels his heart quicken. ‘Who?’ he says, but he’s playing for time: he’s pretty sure he knows to whom James must be referring.

‘Alex.’

Q wills his voice to remain steady. ‘That’s a stupid question.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you already know the answer. Surely.’

‘Then why would I be asking?’

Q fidgets before forcing himself to reply. ‘You tell me,’ he says. He feels panicky, wrong-footed. Whilst a Deep And Meaningful Conversation might be long overdue - a prospect that he will admit he has little enthusiasm for, concerning as it does the type of Feelings that neither of them seem to be particularly comfortable articulating to the other - he has not considered the possibility that James might be the one to initiate it. He supposes he was hoping for an extension of - well, of this ersatz honeymoon period, or whatever-the-fuck-it-is state they have been enjoying for the last few hours. After all that has happened, this doesn’t seem a lot to ask.

‘Let go of me,’ he says.

‘Right,’ says James. His tone is flat, his face devoid of expression. He releases his grip on Q’s wrist.

In the silence that follows, Q reflects - not for the first time - upon the loneliness of being on supposedly intimate terms with someone capable of withholding every vestige of emotion.

James says, ‘And since then?’

‘You what? - oh.’ Q glares at him. Attack, he thinks, might be the best means of defence under these circumstances. ‘You mean you want to know about the relationships I had when I believed you to be bloody well dead, is that it?’

‘You tell me.’ James’ lip curls. ‘But only if you want to, of course.’

‘Will you ever stop needling me about it if I don’t?’ James does not reply, so Q rolls his eyes and plunges right in. ‘Maksym. Professor of Electrical Engineering, met him at a conference. Thick as mince, though. Kept asking me to show him how to calculate - oh, what does it matter?’ Q gnaws at a knuckle. ‘We were together for three years. Was I in love with him? Did I love him?’ Q wonders why he has never asked himself this question before. ‘I would have liked to, I think. He loved me to pieces, the bloody idiot. But no.’

James offers no comment.

Q continues, ‘Then there was David. Q-branch analyst -’

James murmurs, ‘Really, Q? Another office romance?’

‘Hardly comparable,’ snaps Q. ‘He wasn’t chronically ashamed of the fact that he enjoyed screwing me, for a start.’

At this, James’ jaw tenses: Q can feel anger radiating from him. ‘So how do you suggest we might break the news to the world?’ he says, slowly. ‘Take out an advertisement in The Times?’

Q hisses back, ‘Oh, do fuck off. You know damned well what I mean. You could at least be honest with yourself, even if you can’t seem to manage it with anybody else.’

There is a lengthy, icy quiet, until at last James says, in a tone dripping with forced levity, ‘Well, you needn’t worry about things being awkward in Q-branch next time I’m in. I’ll be on my best behaviour. No chasing you around your workbench. No white heritage roses left on your desk. No eyeing up your arse, as lovely as it is. I promise.’

‘James.’ Q sighs. ‘Don’t be tedious. David doesn’t even work for us anymore. And no,’ he adds, before James can say anything, ‘I didn’t sack him. He left to work in the City before we even split up. Earns three times as much as me now, the smug bastard.’

‘Clever boy, then,’ says James.

‘Yes,’ says Q. ‘Very. We fought constantly. Just about made it to eighteen months without killing each other. Plus, he’s allergic to cats, so it was never going to work out.’ He runs his hand through his hair. ‘Oh. And just for the sake of completeness - when I was single - I went out and hooked up whenever I felt the need. Scratching an itch, so to speak. All safe, sane and consensual, blah blah, etcetera. Don’t you dare ask me for numbers, I certainly wasn’t keeping score.’ He blinks hard, remembering his valiant attempts to Move On, when all the while James was doing - well, whatever he was doing. He’s not sure what good it will do him to know. James has already indicated that he had relationships when he was away - Q could scarcely expect otherwise - but the thought of him actually being in love, with somebody else -

- most likely a woman, he has always preferred women after all -

- another man, he has never conceded that he is anything other than straight but actions speak louder than words -

- a green-eyed, dark-haired boy still pining in Odessa, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps -

- Q backs away from the thought. As far as he knows, the only person who has ever made any lasting impression upon James is Vesper. He’d be stupid to compare himself to her. And look how that turned out, he thinks. Really, James’ aversion to commitment seems perfectly logical. Although that doesn’t make it any easier: Q can hardly acknowledge, let alone voice out loud, that he has never accepted - only ever endured - James’ other liaisons. And if mission-dictated fucking is one thing, then the constant, compulsive tomcatting is quite another.

Q rubs his forehead. ‘So there you have it,’  he says. ‘Questions?’

James says, ‘Shouldn't it be my turn now?’

‘007,’ says Q, with as much chilly dignity as he can manage, for all that he is lying in bed naked and cannot see more than a foot in front of his nose without his glasses, ‘I was your Quartermaster, in case you have forgotten. I am intimately acquainted with the way you operate. I suppose I should be grateful that I have never had to listen to you fucking another man but I am - regrettably - rather more familiar with the way you sound when you fuck women than I would like. I can live without the details, trust me.’

‘All the same,’ says James, ‘There are things you should know -’

‘For pity’s sake! Are you finding this - cathartic, or something?’ Q splutters. His chest hurts.  ‘Because I can assure you that I am not.’

‘Q -’ James grabs his shoulder.

‘Go on, then. If you must.’ Feeling defeated, Q rolls onto his side, away from James, and puts his hand over his eyes. ‘The executive summary will suffice. Because - if you really want to know…’ He tails off. ‘I can’t bear to hear any more than that, James. Not right now.’

Q.’ James reaches over and begins to rub hesitant, conciliatory circles against Q’s back. The gesture is so awkward, so utterly out of character - and from that he can deduce it is indeed meant with all sincerity - Q is not sure whether he wants to laugh, or cry, or simply leap out of bed and run away.

In the end, he does none of these things: he just lies there with hand over his eyes, and lets James rub his back.

When James speaks again, his voice is low and urgent. ‘I spent seven years living another man’s life, Q. I did what I had to do. For the mission. None of it was real, do you understand? None of it.’ He stops. ‘Except -’

‘Except what?’ Q hears himself ask.

Chapter Text

James says, ‘There’s a child.’

‘Oh,’ says Q. ‘I see’ - although he does not, at first, as this is far from being the answer he expected: he wonders whether he has somehow misunderstood. He turns back to James and asks, tentatively, ‘Your child? I mean - you’re quite sure -’

‘Positive. She’s four years old now. And the Bond genes are strong, let me tell you.’ James laughs. It’s a short, bitter bark of a laugh, like nothing Q has ever heard from him before: an expression of astonishment at the world and its vagaries from somebody who had not believed himself to still have the capacity for surprise.

‘I see,’ says Q, again.

Q is not averse to children, in theory, although he has little practical experience in this area: he regards them as being essentially capricious and unruly - not dissimilar to cats, in fact. Until this moment, he would have surmised that James’ experience of children was even more limited than his own (whilst James’ attitude to safe sex might best be described as kamikaze, a significant number of his conquests seem to meet an untimely end). After all, the child of an agent is vulnerable, and an agent with a child more vulnerable still.

A child, thinks Q. He feels disconcerted and intrigued and - he is perturbed to note - strangely wistful. Whilst Q is rarely exposed to the same levels of risk as a 00-agent, he is nonetheless mindful of the fact that one day he might be shot, or blown up, or disposed of in any one of a number of sadistically inventive ways (poisoned umbrella tips and polonium-sugared tea are mere Boy Scout japes in comparison to some of the things Q has seen and heard): his flat has several discreet panic buttons. If this should happen, he would exit the planet without leaving a trace. He has few friends - mainly through work, where he spends the overwhelming majority of his time - and no close family to speak of.

Just like James, in fact.

Sometimes Q thinks that it is this shared understanding that caused them to gravitate towards each other, more so even than the undeniable physical attraction and (occasionally grudging) mutual respect for their respective expertise: without MI6, both of them would be adrift, unmoored. But this state exists no longer: now, whatever fate might befall him - and Q has long suspected that he has far less regard for his own life than might be considered healthy - a part of James will still be out there, somewhere in the world.

He wonders what her name is.

‘So do you think you will…’ Q finds himself wanting to know how James might be planning to tackle his new role and its attendant responsibilities - he’s aware that small children require extensive maintenance, feeding and schooling and all the rest of it - but something in James’ expression halts him. A chill understanding dawns: James’ mission has either been completed or terminated, forcing him to return undercover. Wherever he was for the last seven years, whoever he was pretending to be - there will be no going back. ‘No,’ says Q. ‘No. Of course not. Now I’m just being stupid.’

‘That makes two of us, then,’ says James. The total lack of emotion in his voice unsettles Q far more than rage or pain ever could.

Q prides himself on keeping a calm head in a crisis, but he is dismayed to realise that right now he has absolutely no idea what to do or say. Q-branch has a multitude of manuals that detail the optimum response to all manner of situations: indeed, Q wrote most of them himself. RTFM, he’s fond of saying, whenever the minions come running to him with their absurd problems, just RTFM - but there is no manual for this. To reach out for James now would be to run the risk of being pushed away: by applying the most basic principles of risk management to the situation, Q can see that this is not a risk he is either willing or able to take.

(Likelihood: High)

(Outcome: Catastrophic)

Well, Q thinks, well.

‘You know,’ says James, in that same deadly tone, ‘you still haven’t answered my question.’

‘What question?’ Q finds himself bewildered by the unexpected twists and turns the conversation keeps taking. I’m no good at this, he thinks.

‘Did you love him?’

‘Alex? You’re still asking me if I loved Alex?’ Q is incredulous. The sudden swell of anger comes almost as a relief. ‘Of course I did, you great dolt. I always will.’

James says nothing.

‘Fucking hell,’ says Q, tightly. He rubs at his eyes. James has no right to do this to him, after all this time, after everything: chipping away at his hard-won carapace of composure, leaving him raw and exposed. Q’s resentment boils up and over, and he finds himself nearly shouting, ‘What the fuck is all this anyway? What exactly do you want to know? I've never given you the third degree about - about Vesper, have I? I know what happened. I know how it feels to lose someone. We really don’t need to chew over this anymore.’

James gives him a cool, unreadable look. ‘Have you ever loved a woman, Q?’

‘No.’ Q feels his anger evaporate: there is little point in fighting somebody who is only ever going to win. He rolls over and buries his face in the pillow. ‘I have not. I’m not quite sure how this has managed to escape your notice, James, but I’m gay. I’ve known I was gay since I was eleven years old.’

‘Do you love me?’ asks James.

Q has imagined this moment, or permutations thereof, a thousand times over the years - albeit with increasing sadness and diminishing frequency when he finally began to believe that James was never coming back. Occasionally he has let himself dream of reciprocity. Most of the time he has told himself to not be so fucking stupid.

Q sits up, turns to look at James.

He realises then that James is asking because he does not already know the answer.

‘Yes,’ Q says - and only that, because none of the qualifiers he might think to add (yes: hopelessly, yes: although I tried not to, yes: for all the good it seems to have done either of us) seem to matter anymore.

Sometimes, Q has imagined that James would respond to such a declaration by saying I love you too, but more often than not he has pictured himself met with rebuttal, rebuff, denial. In the event, James sighs and looks away. He screws up his eyes and drags a hand through his hair, until Q starts to wonder whether he will even acknowledge what has just been said, whether he will simply act as if it never happened.

At last he says, ‘I don’t know if I could love another man.’

This is the way Q has always expected it might end, right from the start, so to hear these words comes as no real surprise. This moment, too, he has imagined: turned the situation around and around in his mind, examined his responses from every angle, poked around in the depths of his feelings with the detachment of a surgeon, trying to gauge just how much it was going to hurt.

And yet -

Q feels none of the pain he had anticipated and feared.

Something tells him that James’ words are not intended to signal rejection, but rather the starting point for a negotiation. Before them both lies an unfamiliar territory, as frightening as it is enticing. As ever, James is depending upon Q to guide him, but this time even Q cannot see further than a few steps ahead: they will have to navigate this terrain together.

‘Have you ever tried?’ says Q.

James shakes his head, minutely.

Q takes a deep breath, dares himself to ask. ‘Will you?’

‘I will,’ says James.

Chapter Text

Q opens his eyes.

After a brief, heart-lurching moment of didIdreamitnoitreallyhappened bleariness he realises that he is looking at two very appealing objects, recognisable even without the aid of his glasses due to their close proximity to his face: namely, a steaming mug of tea and James’ - currently flaccid - cock.

‘Gosh,’ says Q, brightly. He hauls himself up into a sitting position and rubs his eyes. ‘Cock and a cuppa. I don’t even know which one to go for first. Would it be terribly greedy of me to take both?’

‘Just drink your fucking tea,’ James growls, handing Q the mug, but he doesn’t move from the side of the bed. So Q transfers his mug to his left hand and takes hold of James’ cock in his right and drinks his tea as instructed, while James touches his hair. By the time Q has - mostly - finished his tea, matters have progressed in a most pleasing fashion.

‘Give me that.’ James lifts the mug from Q’s hands and sets it down on the bedside table. ‘Budge up,’ he says.

Q grumbles but he shuffles over and pulls back the duvet, just enough to reveal his own cock, half-hard. James winces as he sits down and swings his legs onto the bed.

Q raises an eyebrow at him.

‘What?’ James wrestles a pillow from Q and punches it into submission before tucking it behind his shoulders. ‘Don’t look at me like that. I’m in pain here. And it’s all your fault.’

‘You weren’t complaining last night, as I recall.’ Q smirks to himself. ‘James. I’ve heard less whinging from you when you’ve been shot, for god’s sake.’

James pulls a face. ‘Well, I suppose you’re rather more accustomed to buggery than I am.’

‘Are you calling me a slut?’ Q yawns and stretches ostentatiously. ‘I’ll have you know I’ve had no callers at the tradesman’s entrance for’ - he makes a quick calculation - ‘seven weeks and two days now.’

‘Seven weeks? Surprised you can even find your arsehole for all the cobwebs.’

‘I was rather hoping that was something you could help me with.’

‘Oh,’ says James, ‘I think I could fit you into my busy schedule.’ He pushes Q down onto the bed and kisses him. Q writhes happily. ‘Friday, am,’ murmurs James, between kisses. ‘Escapology. Friday, pm. Cultural enrichment. Friday, evening. Physical exercise. Saturday, am -’

Q hooks a leg over James’ hip. ‘Screw the Quartermaster senseless?’

‘I was just getting to that.’

Their cocks are bumping and rubbing together in the most delightful way. With every passing moment, Q can feel himself getting harder: he wants more and more to be fucked. He writhes a bit more, hoping to indicate without words that James should get a hand around his cock, but then James stops kissing him and starts mouthing distractedly at a point somewhere behind his ear.

‘You’re thinking, James.’ Q wriggles free of his embrace. ‘I can hear the cogs whirring from here. Please desist and leave that to the expert.’

James merely grins at him in reply, which makes Q instantly suspicious. ‘What is it now?’

‘Oh…’ James trails a finger along Q’s bony sternum. ‘Only that - we’ve just spent our third night together -’

‘Steady,’ says Q. ‘That’ll be our third night together in seven years. This might become a habit if we’re not careful -’

‘- and I still haven’t seen you in your pyjamas.’

‘My pyjamas?’ says Q, baffled.

‘Apparently you can wreak no end of havoc in your jim-jams.’

Q blinks at him.

‘Isn’t that what you told me? The very first time we met? In the gallery?’ James seems to be waiting for a response: when none is forthcoming - for once, Q does not know what to say - he laughs. ‘You don’t even remember, do you?’

‘Er...’ says Q. He remembers the meet at the National Gallery, certainly: he remembers the thrill of seeing James for the very first time, the delicious paradox of breaking out in a sweat under that arctic blue gaze. He remembers wearing his favourite parka and hoping that his hair was behaving and trying to act nonchalant. As for likening James to the Temeraire, the grand old warship being hauled away for scrap - he can’t imagine that James will ever let him forget that part of their exchange.

But almost a decade later Q doesn’t remember everything he said - or what James said either, come to that. He’s surprised at James’ detailed recall of his smart-arse, provocative bullshittery: perhaps he should not be. And perhaps he shouldn’t put it all down to James’ training. It’s an oddly touching thought, even if things are still a little too new, a little too raw for sentimentality. A retreat to their habitual banter feels like safer ground.

‘Well I’m certainly not going to put them on now,’ huffs Q. ‘You’ll only be taking them off me again in about thirty seconds’ time.’

That,’ says James, easing down Q’s body and pushing his legs apart to rub his stubbly cheek along Q’s inner thigh, ‘was kind of the point.’

‘Whatever.’ Q tries for unimpressed, but he shudders and clutches at James’ hair as James begins to kiss him just at the tender spot where his leg meets his body. ‘Let’s - oh! - save the dressing-up games for when you’re getting bored of me and the Viagra isn’t working.’

James snorts, nibbles at him until Q yelps and tugs at his ears. ‘Like I’d need Viagra to get it up for you, little minx.’ He thinks for a moment, grins. ‘Although - I’d like to see how smart you are when I’ve had my dick in you for six hours straight.’

‘Promises, promises,’ breathes Q. He puts his hands behind his head and arches his back, blatantly offering himself. ‘You know what I think? I think you really, really want to put your dick in me right now.’

‘Yes,’ says James. ‘Yes. I do.’

And he starts kissing Q very carefully, his belly and his thighs and his balls. It’s gentle and measured and it feels very, very nice. But there’s something off, something wrong. Q can’t quite work out what it is, only that he feels discomforted and he’s not sure why. He tries to go with it, ride it out, hoping that he will reach a point where desire takes over: it doesn’t happen, not even when James starts kissing and licking the length of his cock. Until at last, hardly able to quell his desire to scramble away, he blurts out, ‘No. No. Stop.’

James - to his credit - stops right away, although he looks bemused and not a little irritated. ‘What’s the matter?’

‘You’re being weird.’

‘No I’m not.’

‘Yes you are.’

‘All right, so I’m being weird. That’s fine. Marvellous. Thank you.’

‘Pack it in, will you? God.’ Q rubs his forehead. ‘I just can’t deal with you acting’ - he struggles to articulate his feelings - ‘all reverent.’

James sighs and rests his cheek against the shallow dip of Q’s belly. ‘I know I’ve fucked up,’ he says, almost too softly for Q to hear. ‘Only I don’t know how to put it right.’

‘Christ. James. It’s already right. Well - I mean -’ Q frowns. James glances up at him, looking anxious and expectant, unguarded. ‘It’s not wrong. This. Now. You can’t hurt me any more than you have already.’ For all that his tone is light, there is weight behind his words, but noting James’ stricken expression in response, he adds quickly, ‘That wasn’t meant as a challenge, by the way.’

James gives him a tiny smile.

Q prods his shoulder and says, ‘I just think I preferred it when you wrecked my kit, insulted me, spanked my arse and then fucked me silly.’

‘Right,’ says James, ‘I think I can manage that -’ Before Q can so much as protest, let alone put up a fight, he grabs him around the waist and pulls him up off the bed before turning him to lie face-down over his knees.

‘Hm,’ Q says. He is looking down at the carpet and James is running warm, heavy hands over his bare arse and laughing at him, the bastard. ‘We seem to have skipped a couple of stages.’

Chapter Text

James spends a good few minutes running his hands over Q’s back and arse and thighs, so when the first blow falls - squarely on his left buttock - it makes Q jerk and curse in surprise.

‘Shit!’ he yelps. ‘You could have warned me -’

‘Mm. Maybe.’ James spanks Q again, just as hard, but on the right this time. ‘Or maybe not.’

‘Bloody hell, you beast -’ Q flails.

‘You love it,’ says James, calmly - and really, there’s no answer to that, because of course Q fucking loves it. He can’t even remember the last time he was spanked, it’s not something he’d let just anyone do to him, and certainly nobody has ever spanked him like James is spanking him now, hard enough to make his breath catch. The pain is exquisite, barely the right side of too much - until the next slap drives a sob from Q’s throat.

James stills his hand for a moment, rubs Q’s stinging backside. ‘You wanted this, sweetheart,’ he says. ‘Don’t cry.’

‘I’m not,’ Q says through his teeth, even though tears are springing hot at the corners of his eyes. ‘So, fuck you.’

‘Now, now,’ James admonishes him. He trails his fingers along Q’s crack before smacking him again, even harder than before. Left, right, left, the sensitive spot where Q’s thigh meets his arse. ‘You’ve already had your turn.’

‘Please,’ whispers Q. He blinks hard and a single tear slides down his nose. He lets it fall, unwilling to give James the satisfaction of seeing him try to brush it away.

‘Please what?’ James sounds supremely, maddeningly unconcerned. He touches a fingertip to Q’s hole, and Q shudders.

‘Please, I -’ Q feels a brief thrill of shame at how ridiculous he must look right now. Christ, if the Q-branch minions ever got to hear about this - their waspish Quartermaster laid out bare-arsed and begging over 007’s knees - leaving aside the small matter of said agent’s return from the dead, just for the moment - well, he’d be toast, his authority shot to fucking pieces. But his shame is rapidly superseded by a far stronger thrill of anticipation. He can feel James’ cock smearing precome against his hip: he’s going to be fucked, very soon.

‘Please,’ says Q. ‘Please, please put your cock in me.’

‘Get up,’ says James, suddenly business-like, and he hauls Q to his feet.

Q’s head reels with the abrupt change in position: James steadies him by grabbing his waist. He’s still hard, ridiculously so, but James ignores his hard-on as he pushes him down onto the bed, on his back, and crawls up over his body.

‘You want this, do you?’ James looms over Q with his knees bracketing Q’s armpits. His balls hang full and heavy beneath his erect cock. Q reaches out to stroke him, rolling James’ foreskin back and forth over his ruddy, glistening cockhead until James hisses and pushes his hand away. ‘Well I want to fuck that filthy mouth of yours.’

He drags a pillow under Q’s head, so that Q does not have to strain his neck, and Q is briefly touched by his thoughtfulness. The brusqueness is an act, Q knows, albeit one based in truth: the knowledge that he’s screwing with someone who could kill him within seconds, in myriad agonising ways - it feels good. Right now, Q’s brain is so lust-addled he’d probably suck James bare without too much encouragement - safety be damned - but James leans over and yanks open the drawer of the bedside table.

‘Here.’ He tosses a couple of condoms and a bottle of lube onto the bed.

Q picks up a condom, splits it open and rolls it down James’ cock. He takes hold of the base of the shaft and rubs the head against his lips, lapping and teasing around the rim.

James watches him avidly. ‘Christ, you little slut.’ He takes hold of Q’s head and pumps his hips hard, forcing his cock down Q’s throat. Q hollows his cheeks, sucks voraciously. ‘Fuck, the mouth on you.’ He eases off for a moment when Q starts to wheeze, before plunging back in again. Q clutches at James’ arse and lets him take what he wants, lets him fuck his face until his vision starts to blacken around the edges. His grip on James' arse slackens.

‘That’s enough.’ James pulls away, tugging off the condom, and moves to kneel at Q’s feet. He grabs Q’s ankles and pulls his legs up and apart. ‘You should get some lube in that hole before I fuck it.’

‘Oh,’ breathes Q. ‘Oh, fuck.’ It’s not the first time he’s touched himself for James, but it’s the first time he’s done it with James holding him like this, bent almost double, staring down at him as if at any minute he could eat Q alive. It’s all Q can do to maintain eye-contact as he slicks up his shaking fingers and reaches between his legs.

‘Like this?’ he says.

‘Slowly,’ says James.

James' blue gaze is inscrutable as Q eases first one and then two fingers inside himself, working his arsehole open. His cock is as full as Q has ever seen it, sticking up flush against his belly. When Q is panting and leaking precome, James rolls him onto his side and lies down behind him. There’s a brief pause where Q can tell from the movement at his back that he’s putting on another condom and lubing up his cock.

Then James hooks a hand under his knee and lifts Q’s leg, splaying him open. He sets the head of his cock to Q’s arsehole and slowly, forcefully pushes his way inside. Q feels sweat prickling in his armpits: even with the fingering and the lube, the drag of James’ cock still burns, but the pressure is inexorable and he makes himself bear down, surrender to it.

‘Oh,’ breathes James. ‘That’s fucking lovely.’

James can’t get very deep in this position, but every stroke hits Q in a place that makes him shake and with every stroke James pulls out right to the tip before pressing back inside. It makes Q feels as if his hole is being breached over and over again. He takes hold of his cock, tugging and squeezing at the head, not quite knowing whether he wants to speed himself along or hold himself back, only that he wants more. Every shove of James’ hips makes precome well up at his slit. ‘Oh - oh - James  -’

‘One day,’ pants James, ‘we’ll do this in front of a mirror, so you can see just how well you take it -’

‘We can do that now.’ Q manages to gasp out a laugh, nods in the direction of the closet. ‘Give me my glasses.’

Even though it's his own bright idea, Q can’t hold back a whine as James withdraws. Still, it’s the work of a moment for him to get up off the bed, open the closet door to angle the mirror within just so, hand Q his glasses and slide back inside him.

Bloody hell.

It’s not like Q hasn’t watched himself being fucked before - and in this very mirror - but the sight of the two of them together is enough to erase the memory of all his previous encounters: how his pale, unmarked slenderness contrasts with James’ tanned and gnarled muscularity.

James, his gaze fixed upon their reflections, lifts Q’s leg higher so that Q can see quite clearly how his arsehole swallows up James’ shaft, the way his own stiff cock sways with the rhythm of their fucking.

‘See how full you are? You feel so sweet on my dick, Q. So tight. So hot inside.’ James slides his hand along Q’s thigh, fingers edging into the slick cleft of his arse. ‘You should touch yourself here.’

Oh.’ Q reaches back to run a fingertip around the stretched rim of his hole. His fingers bump against James’, against the thick root of James’ cock. James is barely moving in him now, just teasing, tiny little nudges, his body pressed warm to Q’s back.

James murmurs in his ear, ‘Am I hitting your spot, Q? Just here, like this?’

Q can feel himself getting close: in the mirror, he can see how his balls have drawn up tight. ‘Oh Christ, yes.’

‘Mm.’ James changes the angle of his hips: Q swears loudly and takes hold of his cock. ‘Are you going to come?’

‘I -’ There’s a moment where Q feels himself teetering on a delicious precipice of sensation and then he’s falling. He’s clenching down hard, thick gouts of white spunk spurting over his fingers, crying out. ‘Yes. Yes.’

‘God, Q, I can feel you coming around my cock -’ James pulls out, turns Q onto his belly and drags his legs apart. He sinks back inside him in one swift movement, balls slapping against Q’s arse. He fucks Q deep and hard through the last of his orgasm, through the aftershocks. Q would be embarrassed at the noises he is making if he still had the capacity to give a shit.

Fuck - go on, take it -’ James’ body tenses and he groans and Q can feel his cock jerking inside him, knows that he is spilling himself into the condom. He stays inside Q - moving more gently now - until his cock starts to soften and at last he withdraws.

Q closes his eyes, just for a moment. The bed creaks as James moves around - getting rid of the condom, Q presumes - before settling down beside Q and taking him into his arms. Q sighs and rubs his cheek against James’ chest, knocking his glasses down his nose.

‘Hello,’ says James.

‘Hi,’ says Q, blearily. He straightens his glasses.

‘Darling.’ James kisses his forehead. ‘How was it for you?’

Q takes stock of the situation. Everything hurts: his throat, his arsehole, his inner thighs. His backside is still throbbing where James spanked him. He’s been face-fucked until he almost choked and told to finger himself open before being taken up the arse. Now he’s lying in a damp patch of his own semen. He feels used: positively debauched, in fact.

Q has to turn his face away to hide his smile.

‘Not bad,’ he says.


Chapter Text

The shower cubicle is small, but there’s room enough for James to push Q up against the tile and kiss him lazily, running his hands up and down Q’s body. Q contemplates putting up a fight, just for fun, but giving in has its own appeal and so he lets James have his way for a while. James squeezes his arse, circles his thumbs over the twin blades of Q’s hipbones, licks along his neck.

‘Do you think we’ll get bored of each other?’ asks Q.

‘No,’ says James. Given that he’s now progressed to tormenting Q’s nipples in a way that belies the fact they fucked extravagantly less than an hour ago, this sounds reasonable.

‘Are you still going to fuck other people?’ asks Q.

‘Probably,’ says James. He bends his head to worry Q’s left nipple with his teeth. ‘When duty calls.’

Oh - you know I didn’t mean for work purposes.’ Q can feel his cock beginning to rise. James is getting hard again too, bullying a knee between Q’s thighs, pressing close.

‘Would it bother you if I did?’

Q thought he knew the answer to this question, but he asks himself again - would it? Whatever James finds in women, Q can’t give it to him. And whatever he finds in the type of men he usually fucks - Q knows he is nothing like them, either. It probably doesn’t matter, he realises. Unless -

‘I’ll kill you if you leave me,’ he says. ‘I mean it. Wherever you go, I’ll track you down. You won’t be able to hide from me again.’

It’s not the answer to James’ question, but it’s an answer that makes perfect sense to the both of them all the same. James slams up against him, kisses him savagely. Q kisses him back with equal ferocity. He worms a hand between their bodies and starts tugging at James’ cock, working him back to full hardness. James thrusts himself into Q’s hand, panting. Water rains down around them.

‘I think we should fuck,’ James murmurs in his ear. He pumps his hips. ‘I want to put my cock inside you again. Want to feel you come. I’ll eat you out first, if you want. I know you love that.’

Q laughs, rubs his open palm over James’ cockhead, making him shudder. ‘How am I ever going to get any work done with you around? You’ve been back for less than twenty-four hours and already my productivity has declined by 84%.’

‘Oh, I don’t know about that. And you certainly have a positive effect on my productivity.’ James pulls Q’s hand to his balls.

‘Dirty old man.’ Q tuts and slips free of James’ embrace. Skipping out of the shower, he turns the dial from hot to cold. James’ bellow of outrage reverberates in his ears as he snatches a towel from the rail and flees back to the bedroom.

Still laughing, Q dries himself off and chucks the towel in the laundry basket. The clothes he wore yesterday are on the floor, all hopelessly crumpled: he throws them on top of the towel. James has slung his own suit over the back of the chair. Q considers hanging it up for him - his default mode is neat freak, after all - then changes his mind. Start as you mean to go on, he thinks.

In the mirror on the inside of the closet door, Q studies his own reflection: puffy-eyed from lack of sleep, reddened nipples, fingertip bruises over his hipbones. His cock heavy, still half-hard. He smiles and starts rummaging through the rails.

A few minutes later, James stalks through the doorway, a towel slung low around his hips. He frowns at the sight of Q in shirt and trousers, buttoning up his cuffs. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Taking you back to Slough, as soon as I'm dressed,’ says Q. He looks at James for a long moment: his broad chest and narrow waist, his tanned skin etched with scars, the way his erection pushes out the front of the towel. ‘Much as it pains me to tell you this, you should really put some clothes on.’

James does not reply. Instead, he lets the towel fall to the floor, walks over to kneel in front of Q. He leans forward and nuzzles Q’s crotch through the fabric of his trousers, kisses him there, hot and open-mouthed. Q feels his breath catch at the sight of James naked on his knees before him, cock standing proud, glancing up at him almost worshipfully. There’s still so much they haven’t done, he thinks, so much they haven’t tried: he has no doubt that James will continue to surprise him.

James cannot conceal his smirk. ‘Still think I should put some clothes on?’

Q rubs his fingers through James’ still-damp hair. ‘I think you’re going to give yourself terrible bursitis grovelling around on the floor like that, but it’s your funeral.’

‘Wouldn’t be the first.’

Behind James’ smile lies the barest hint of contrition. Q has a brief, uneasy flashback to reading at the memorial service: stripes of sunlight barring the sheet of paper he held, watching his own hands shake. The cinnamon scent of white lilies. Q hates lilies - vulgar, waxy things smudging their pollen everywhere, and poisonous to cats - but it was hardly his place to suggest roses instead. Q supposes he could press for more of an apology for all the unnecessary pain James put him through: most people would. But not even the most fulsome of apologies could give him back the time he spent in mourning, and now he thinks that he would not wish this time away. So all he says is, ‘No, but I’ll make sure it’s the last if you don’t start blowing me soon.’

James is unbuttoning Q’s trousers. ‘I think you get off on ordering me around.’ He slips his hand between Q’s flies and fondles him through his pants, tracing the stiffening length of him, the fullness of his balls.

Q sighs, tilts his hips forward. ‘I might, if you ever did what you were told, just for once.’

‘So tell me.’ James squeezes him. He plays his fingers over Q’s cockhead, working a damp patch of precome through the cotton. His other hand strays between his legs and he starts to touch himself.

James.’ Q takes a breath, and whispers, ‘suck my cock.’

Chapter Text

Q is beginning to think that he might want to come just like this - watching his cock slide in and out of the tight circle formed by James’ pursed lips as James works his own hard-on - when James pulls away and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand.

‘Turn around,’ he says, a little hoarsely. There is a certain suggestiveness in his tone and in his eyes, and Q lets himself be manoeuvred so that he is braced over the edge of the bed, his foreams flat against the mattress, with James kneeling behind him.

‘Off,’ says James, and he tugs down Q’s trousers and pants to his knees, helps him step out of them.

It’s scarcely the most dignified position he’s ever adopted - and the fact that he’s still wearing his shirt and tie strikes him as positively indecent - but Q is shivering with anticipation as James slides his hands up his thighs, kisses first one arse cheek and then the other: he knows - or he hopes he knows - what’s coming next.

‘Jesus, Q.’ James cups Q’s backside in his palms, squeezes him and then spreads him wide. ‘I could play with you all day.’ His thumbs nudge into Q’s crack, teasing, circling.

Q drops his head, panting, and lets his shoulders sink lower, pushing his arse up. His shirt ruckles up around his chest. His cock, hanging full and untouched between his legs, throbs in time with his heart.

‘Oh, you dirty boy,’ murmurs James. ‘You want it, don’t you? My tongue in your hole.’

Q squirms in response, begging wordlessly: James chuckles and licks along the curve of Q’s left buttock by way of reply.

Q groans. ‘James. Don’t tease.’

‘Why not? It’s fun.’ James nibbles at the crease between Q’s right buttock and his thigh: he's close and yet maddeningly far from where Q wants him to be.

‘No. It really isn’t.’

‘Oh, I beg to differ.’ James moves in closer, kisses and noses at the seam of Q’s balls. Q almost sobs with frustration. ‘See?’

At this, Q cannot help but laugh. ‘Sadistic old goat.’

‘Mm.’ James flicks the tip of his tongue against Q’s taint. Q whines. ‘And I suppose you’ll be wanting this sadistic old goat to lick your arsehole, won't you?’ Before Q can even summon the wit to think of a suitably cutting reply, James presses his lips to Q’s crack: kissing and sucking and licking in a way that is so abandoned, so filthy, Q feels precome ooze from his slit.

‘James -’ he gasps out. ‘Oh - fuck -’

‘Yeah? You like that?’ James darts his tongue against the tensing, twitching muscle, probing Q mercilessly until Q feels himself begin to spread open.

‘Oh god,’ he whines, as James’ tongue squirms inside him.

‘Your little cunt loosens up so nicely, Q.’ James laps wetly at his hole, kisses him there. ‘Give me that lube.’

Q scrambles to grab the bottle and pass it back to James. Behind him, the snick of a cap and the faint whisper of James rubbing his slicked thumb and fingers together. Q braces himself, but he’s not prepared for James sinking a finger all the way into him without preamble: he flinches and cries out.

‘Christ, you clench down hard,’ James says, admiringly. He withdraws his finger, teases Q’s rim for a moment, sinks it back inside. ‘Do that again.’ Q tenses his muscles and James works his finger in and out against the resistance. ‘Ready for more?’

Q thinks he might cry: he feels desperate. Desperate for more of James’ tongue, his fingers, his cock: anything. ‘Yes,’ he manages to say.

James fucks him with two fingers, corkscrewing them in and out. He drags them over Q’s prostate, again and again, pressing and stroking until Q has abandoned all hope of maintaining as much as a shred of self-respect and is simply rutting back against James’ hand.

‘Sweet,’ says James. He reaches for Q’s cock with his other hand, pulls it back between his legs. Q shudders. ‘This gets you wet, doesn’t it? You’re dripping all over the bed.’ James ducks his head to suckle at the tip of Q’s dick: Q moans. ‘You taste so good, Q. I was tempted to let you blow your load in my mouth again. Then I thought I might just eat you out and finger you until you came. But now I think I want to feel that tight hole squeezing my dick.’ He pulls out his fingers, slaps Q’s arse and stands up. ‘Get on your back and spread your legs.’

‘Pushy bugger.’ Q pretends to grumble at being ordered about but he does as he is told and lies on the bed, planting his feet wide apart on the duvet. He lets his hand drift down to his crotch, toys with his stiff cock. There is a brief pause while James prepares himself at the bedside: he looks close to coming already, balls tight and the head of his cock flushed dark and glistening, and Q sees how he breathes in through his nose as he rolls the condom down swiftly, drizzles lube along his length without touching himself further.

Q’s heart skips.

James climbs onto the bed, unbuttons Q’s shirt and pushes it off his shoulders. He runs his hands over Q’s chest, plucking at his nipples, making Q yelp and arch up. He grabs hold of Q’s tie with one hand and leans in to kiss him, winding the tie tight around his hand until Q feels a pleasant buzzing in his ears from the lack of of air.

‘One day,’ murmurs James, as he breaks the kiss, ‘I’d like to see just how dangerously you’re willing to play, Quartermaster.’

‘I look forward to it,’ Q whispers back. ‘Maybe I’ll surprise you.’

‘I don’t doubt it for a second.’ James kneels between Q’s parted legs, grabs Q’s thighs and pulls him close. He lets go of one of Q’s legs just for a moment, to take hold of his cock and angle it to Q’s arsehole, and starts to push his way inside with little shoves of his hips that have Q swearing and gnawing at his knuckles.

‘Oh - oh, James - fuck -’

Q is still sore from last night and James’ cock feels impossibly large, but he wants this, he wants to feel the burn as he is taken yet again. He can tell that James is holding himself back, by the set of his jaw and the tenseness of his abs, and somehow this consideration is more of a turn-on than if James had just given into temptation and ploughed straight into him.

James goes slow at first, circling his hips rather than thrusting, letting Q relax into it. Then he draws himself almost all the way out and slides back in again, gradually picking up pace. Q lets his legs drop open wider, a blatant invitation for James to do as he will.

James takes the hint and begins to fuck him in earnest. ‘Never thought - that I’d have you like this -’ he chokes out. Sweat gleams across his chest.

‘Liar,’ gasps Q. He clutches at James’ thighs. ‘You knew I wanted you - right from the start - knew you could have me from the moment we met in the gallery -’

‘No,’ says James. ‘Not like this.’ He lunges forward to kiss him, dragging Q’s legs up over his shoulders so that Q is almost folded in half. Q cries out at the change of position, at the way James’ cock is suddenly so much deeper inside him. James is fucking him mercilessly hard now, hips pistoning. Every thrust sends a jolt of mingled pleasure and pain along Q’s spine. He wants to move, to writhe up into the fucking or to writhe away, but he’s held fast beneath James’ weight. All he can do is lie there and take it, over and over again.

‘Let me see you -’ James suddenly pulls out and lifts himself off Q’s body, rises up onto his knees again. He takes hold of Q’s ankles and pulls his legs up and apart. Q feels pinned, exposed, James’ heated gaze taking in his hard and leaking cock, his taut balls and twitching hole. ‘Christ, you want it bad, don’t you? Look at you all spread open for me -’ James plunges his cock back inside Q’s arse. ‘You like that, Q? Tell me how it feels.’

Good - so good -’ In fact, it’s better than good, now that Q can move a little, he can rock himself up into the fucking and get a hand around his cock.

James groans at the sight of Q masturbating as he ploughs into him. ‘Fuck yes - touch yourself, rub that prick for me, go on -’

‘Oh. Oh. You’re making me come.’ Q is shaking all over, gasping and gasping as thick white come spews over his hand and his belly.

‘That’s it - come hard on me, Q -’ James thrusts up into him, panting. The bedsprings shriek. ‘Milk my dick -’ Q knows from the fierce, staccato jerking of his hips that he is coming. ‘Fuck.’

James,’ Q almost sobs. ‘Please.’ He’s done now, hopelessly over-stimulated, the continued pounding against his prostate still making his cock twitch even though he feels as if his balls have already been wrung dry.

‘Shh.’ James continues to move, more slowly and gently now, but after a couple of minutes his softening prick slips free of Q’s body. Q sighs at the loss of the connection between them. James sits back on his heels and peels off the condom. Then, with a groan, he lowers himself back onto Q. He’s very heavy, but Q doesn’t really mind, even though they’re both sticky with sweat and Q’s own come, smeared between their bellies.

Q rubs a heel down the back of James’ thigh. ‘Thanks,’ he says, quietly.

‘Anytime,’ says James. He rests his head on Q’s chest. ‘And I do mean anytime - as in whenever you want - as often as humanly possible, in fact -’

‘Can you listen to me, please? Just for once?’ Q blinks up at the ceiling, swallows. He’s aware that James has raised his head to look at him. ‘James - what you said - last night -’

James presses his lips to Q’s chest, over his heart. ‘I wouldn’t blame you for a second if you didn’t believe me,’ he says. ‘You’ve already given me more second chances than I deserve. But I really will try, you know.’

‘Yes.’ Q touches his cheek. ‘I know.’

 

*

 

The Quartermaster, his agent and his three cats are sprawled in a sleepy, companionable heap upon the bed. Q has finally deigned to put on his pyjamas (‘Just for a bit. Then we’re getting dressed, and you’re leaving. No, stop grinning at me like that, I mean it this time’). James is wearing a borrowed pair of old tracksuit bottoms that are patently a little too small for him, on Q’s insistence (‘I wouldn’t lounge around this flat naked for too long if I were you. The beasts are not fussy about where they put their claws’). The cats have been fed, and Q has cooked bacon and eggs for James and himself. James insists on adding a slug of vodka to his tea, which he claims would be perfectly acceptable behaviour in Odessa: Q’s observation that they are currently in Tooting Bec cuts little ice.

The five of them are the very picture of a lazy Saturday lie-in.

At least until the doorbell rings.

‘Go. Away.’ Q groans and drags a pillow over his head.

James pats his bum reassuringly. ‘Ignore it, sweetheart.’

‘I’m planning to, don’t you worry.’

For a moment, silence. Then the doorbell rings again. It rings for a long time, shrill and insistent, as if somebody is holding their finger on the button.

Q throws the pillow aside. ‘Oh, for fuck’s sake,’ he says. ‘Do you think I should answer that?’

‘Definitely not,’ says James. He starts fiddling with the drawstring of Q’s pyjama bottoms.

James,’ says Q. He pushes his hand away and sits up, frowning. ‘You don’t suppose -’ He swallows as realisation strikes him. ‘Have you seen my phone?’

‘We-ell,’ says James, slowly, ‘it was beeping and flashing all night, and it kept waking me up, so I wrapped it in a towel and put it in the freezer -’

‘You did what?’ Q almost screeches. He leaps off the bed and flings on his dressing gown. The cats scatter in alarm. ‘Oh, fuck. Fuck! It’s M. It’s MI6. They’ve tracked you down - they know you’re in here - with me -’

‘Q -’

The doorbell rings again, and keeps on ringing.

‘Shit. Fuck. Shit.’ Q paces up and down, runs his hands through his hair. ‘They’ll smash the bloody door down if I don’t let them in -’

Q -’

What?’ Q stops pacing.

James gets up, gathers Q into his arms, kisses him. He tastes of tea, and vodka.

‘Put the kettle on.’

Chapter Text

Fourteen years later

Nastasiya is eighteen years old and until this day she has never left Ukraine. As the plane trundles along the runway at Heathrow, heading for the ramp, she exhales a pent-up breath she had not even realised she was holding.

The queue at Immigration snakes back forever, but that’s okay. She waits, and waits. The man on the desk examines her student visa and wishes her good luck with her studies. She wonders if she should show him the photograph, but thinks better of it. In the luggage hall she picks up her tiny suitcase from the carousel and wheels it into the Ladies. She cleans her teeth and puts on some eyeliner: copper-brown, to bring out the blue of her eyes.

Your father’s eyes, her mother always said, when she’d had too much to drink. Not mine. That’s why you want it all, and why nothing you have will ever be enough.

‘Bollocks,’ Nastasiya tells the mirror. The English vulgarity is pleasing in her mouth, onomatopoeically fat and round. She puckers up, runs the wand of a lipgloss around the O of her lips. Right now, Nastasiya has exactly what she wants. A passport. A scholarship to a London university, to study international politics and security. A savings account her mother does not know about. All her little ducks in a row.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Nastasiya is on a mission. Not just to ace her studies: that’s a given. Because she still doesn’t have everything she wants, and there is something she wants more than any of this, more than anything else, in fact.

She wants to find her father.

Her mother maintains that her father must surely be dead by now: he was reckless, she said, drawn to trouble like a dung-beetle is drawn to fresh shit. Nastasiya won’t - has never - let herself believe it. She’s going to start looking right here, in London. And if she can’t find him in London, then she’ll try New York. Moscow. Sydney. Beijing. She’ll search the whole world if she has to.

Nastasiya’s father went by the name of Yakiv. Over the years, Nastasiya has wondered if he might not be known by other names in other places, but this was the name that became her talisman, after he disappeared. Lying in bed at night - on her birthday, or on Christmas Eve, or still smarting from some petty hurt at school - she would whisper his name over and over again, an incantation for him to come back and put things right.

He never did.

It’s this that makes her think that Yakiv can no longer be in Odessa, or even in Ukraine. Because she knew he loved her, and must surely love her still. Her memories are snapshot-clear: being buttoned into her winter coat, the scratch of his chin against her cheek, sun-warmed apples dropped into her palm. He would surely have come back to her if he could, so this leaves her with only one option. Like Mohammed and the mountain, she will have to go to him, wherever he might be. She’s not quite sure what she’ll do when they are finally reunited, whether she’ll slap him, or kiss him. Probably both.

Two years after Yakiv fell out of their lives, her mother married a man who owned a garage and drove a battered white van. True, Sergey drank too much, but he still came home every night: he never went missing for days on end, sending her mother frantic with worry. Whilst he had his fair share of unsavoury friends, they never sat huddled in secret conference in the kitchen, the radio turned up loud and Nastasiya and her mother banished to the living room. And Sergey most emphatically never staggered in through the door one evening to collapse bruised and bleeding upon the sofa, hissing at Nastasiya’s mother to go fetch a fucking towel and not to breathe a fucking word, while Nastasiya, unnoticed, watched from behind the door. Sergey could hardly fail to seem dull in comparison to Yakiv but he was, at least, an obsessive member of a rifle club, and as soon as Nastasiya and her younger half-brother were old enough to be responsible around guns, he taught them how to shoot. Boryska lost interest after a while - he much preferred football, and, more recently, hanging around on street corners with his mates, sniffing glue - but Nastasiya turned out to be an unprecedentedly excellent shot.

Bang!

Bang!

Bang!

Her last week at home, and every night a knock at the door: girls and boys from the neighbourhood bearing gifts. Things they thought she might need, or miss. Trinkets for her to remember them by, lacquered jewellery boxes and a tryzub pendant on a silver chain. White rabbit candies. Yesterday evening she had opened the door to find Andriy all dressed up in his best suit and tie, holding an enormous bunch of sunflowers. Nastasiya knew he thought that they had something going on between them. Don’t forget me, will you, he said. His hangdog expression made her want to laugh, and his suit was cheap-looking, cut too mean about the shoulders, but she took the sunflowers anyway. She imagines her mother moving silently around the apartment, washing pans and folding up towels, the sunflowers browning in a vase on the kitchen table. For the last time, she thinks of Andriy, sweating over the engine of a broken-down car in Sergey’s garage, his fingers black with grease.

Already, Odessa might be a million miles away.

Nastasiya was twelve years old when she began to discover that a body can be as useful a tool as a brain. One day, she was a little girl with long dark plaits and her nose in a book: the next, men were circling around her like street dogs scenting meat, following her home from school, rubbing their crotches against her backside on the tram. Even Sergey started looking at her with that hunger in his eyes. He never touched her, but she took to locking her bedroom door at night, just in case.

Now, Nastasiya fucks for fun and profit. She fucks for secrets. She fucks because she can, because her cunt’s her own and nobody is going to tell her what to do with it. She thinks she prefers to fuck men, but only just.

She thinks that she is still learning.

All those hours spent studying English are now paying off, even if the first person she asks for directions turns out to be a fellow Slav, a guy at the airport information bureau who answers her questions in heavily Polish-accented Ukrainian and asks if he can show her the sights, later. She declines. But the tube is easy, no more difficult than the Kiev metro. When she steps out blinking onto the street - warm September sunshine, plane trees still blustery with leaves - there’s an actual English pub right opposite, complete with a hand-painted wooden sign depicting white blossoms twined around a pistol: The Rose & Gun.

Oh, she thinks, oh yes.

She marches in and orders a pint of bitter at the bar. When the barman hands over her change she shows him her phone, a picture on the screen.

‘Do you know this man?’ she asks.

‘Never seen him in my life, love,’ says the barman. He looks up at Nastasiya, then back down at the picture again. It’s not difficult to make the connection. Nastasiya has her mother’s dark hair but the chill blue stare of the man in the photograph is hers, exactly.

Nastasiya drops her phone into her handbag, takes her pint and goes to sit in a corner by the window. The pub is almost empty - it’s early afternoon - but there’s a tableful of men in suits who look as if they came out for a swift lunchtime half but are unlikely to make it back into work anytime soon. Nastasiya is aware that they have spotted her - she can almost feel their glances slithering across her body - so it comes as no surprise when one of them lurches over to where she is sitting.

‘Can I get you a drink?’ he asks.

Nastasiya looks him up and down. He’s middle-aged, paunchy and balding, with an oily pate and a sheen of sweat across his upper lip. A wedding ring gleams on his left hand. Wordlessly, Nastasiya lifts her pint glass and takes a sip of her bitter, watching him over the rim.

Sweaty Guy lets out a nervous bray of a laugh. ‘I mean - I can see you have a drink already - but I could -’

‘Even if you were the last man on earth,’ says Nastasiya, loudly, clearly, ‘I’d still rather sew my pussy shut than let you fuck it.’

Sweaty Guy gapes at her, dumbfounded: she can almost hear his dick shrivelling. Behind him, his mates begin to hoot and whistle. Nastasiya prepares herself for a further round of attack, then a thought strikes her - shit, here’s a chance! A slim one, but a chance nonetheless. She scrambles in her handbag for her phone, pulls up the picture of her father and shoves the phone into Sweaty Guy’s face.

‘Do you know this man?’ she asks him.

‘Er - I -’ Sweaty Guy stutters, raises his hands and starts to back away. ‘I -’

‘DO. YOU. KNOW. THIS. MAN?’ she barks, half-rising from her chair with the phone still held aloft, but Sweaty Guy is already slinking back to his table. His mates laugh at him and cuff him around the head. There’s a few moments of whispering and sniggering - cut short by a warning from the barman (sweet of him, Nastasiya thinks, even if she is more than capable of dealing with such nuisances by herself, thankyouverymuch) - then they all turn their backs on her.

Nobody else bothers Nastasiya for the time it takes her to finish her first pint, order and drink another and eat three packets of salt-and-vinegar crisps. She stares out of the window for a while, watching a nose-to-tail procession of buses inching down the street and people rushing past, then takes out her phone again. The university have sent her stacks of information already: she hasn’t had a chance to read it all yet. There’s a induction week timetable, an interactive magazine about the various student societies - Nastasiya really hopes they have a rifle club - and a programme of lectures for the first semester, promising some very special guests.

Nastasiya plans to go to every single lecture, every single tutorial and workshop - obviously - but she scans the summaries and potted biographies all the same. Her eyes alight upon one of the headshots, a picture of a bespectacled man smiling closed-mouthed at the camera. Professor Holt, she reads, renowned international expert in cyber-security. Nastasiya mentally takes a comb to the Professor’s unruly, grey-streaked hair, swaps his terrible tie for something more elegant. There, she thinks. He’s kind of cute, still boyish-looking even though he must be in his late forties at least. She reads on. When not at home in London with his fourteen Bengal cats, Professor Holt likes to spend time with his husband on their remote Highlands estate.

A bona fide English eccentric, thinks Nastasiya. How wonderful!

*

Nastasiya is eighteen years old.

She is on a mission.

She fears nothing, and nobody.