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We Live in a World of Deceit.

Chapter Text

May 2014

“Where do we go now, Hannibal?” Abigail turned her head to him with a flick of her dark hair. She took a bite of the filet mignon Hannibal and Will had made for dinner. “We can’t stay here. They’re going to find us.”

Where to go, that was an insidious question. They couldn’t stay in America; the slaughter in Hannibal’s house in Baltimore was self-explanatory. There was no one among the FBI who wouldn’t infer the perpetrator from merely laying a sight on Alana Bloom’s broken figure in the ambulance outside and the bloody disarray inside.

Jack Crawford was dead, and Alana will undoubtedly be soon after. Their path to escape and freedom was clear. The world was at their feet. But they had to be clever if they wanted to rule it and not let it rule their lives.

Hannibal sliced off a piece of the meat. Gazing into Abigail’s eyes, he put it in his mouth elegantly. “For now, we are safe,” he said once he swallowed the bite. “But don’t worry, Abigail. Will and I have engineered a plan.”

They both looked at Will. He ate a piece of grilled beetroot. “We can stay here for a while. Then, we’ve opted for the safest choice we have at the moment. We are going to England.”

“All documents and plane tickets are arranged,” Hannibal continued. “We have created aliases for all of us, too. My name is Robert Myles. Will is my husband, Graham, and you are our adopted daughter, Anna, a college student.”

“We can easily blend in. No one will notice us. And if need be, we are always prepared to do what is necessary.”

Silence. Abigail was the first to speak. “So we really are a family now… dads.” A short smile formed on her face. The memory of pushing a woman out of the window and witnessing Hannibal and Will ruthlessly kill a man in the kitchen hours ago did not stain her mind and conscience.

Hannibal nodded, returning the minute smile. “We are.”

 


 

Hannibal was in the shower, so this was probably the only opportunity for an unsupervised phone call Will could get tonight. He picked up his mobile from the nightstand. Among the contacts, he found a number saved under a single letter; only he knew its meaning. He pressed dial.

It rang for a while on the other side of the line, until a male voice said, “Gareth Mallory speaking.”

“Good evening, sir. This is special agent Myles,” Will replied in an English accent. “Making my final report.”

“Good evening. Go on.” Will could hear the shuffling of papers.

Except, Will was not the man’s name at all. The alias he had come up with was not as much of an alias but his real name, of which Hannibal did not and could not know. William Graham was the alias, a code name created by MI6 to protect their agent’s identity.

He cleared his throat. “As you already know, Frederick Chilton, AKA the Chesapeake Ripper, has been convicted of multiple murder and killed. The FBI seem to handle everything and no longer pose a threat to our operatives; therefore, my mission is over, and my service here is no longer required. I have sent Q the files, so in case I have no further orders, I am returning home by the end of the week.”

He always excelled at keeping certain parts of the truth to himself.

“Of course, agent Myles. You have done your job splendidly.” M paused. There were several clicks of the mouse. “In fact, I wanted to call you and abort the mission myself. You are dismissed and expected to debrief as soon as you are back on home soil.”

“Thank you, sir.” There was one more matter to discuss. A drop of cold sweat ran down his neck even thinking of saying it aloud. “Er, there is one more thing: I am bringing two people with me, a… husband and a daughter.”

He would swear M’s eyebrows rose to the middle of his brow. “Well, congratulations, agent Myles. That shouldn’t be a problem. Only I’d—”

Bare feet trod toward the bedroom. Hannibal has finished showering.

“All paperwork will be duly filled. If you’d excuse me now, sir, I have to go. Goodbye.” He rang off.

“Who was that, Will?” Hannibal asked. He has changed into pyjama bottoms and a loose V-neck T-shirt for the night. A towel was wrapped around his neck, and drops of water from his hair dripped on it just as they did when they were leaving the house in the rain.

“I know somebody in London. I can get us an apartment,” he answered and locked his mobile, “and a job.”

None of that was a lie.

Hannibal laid out the towel on a radiator neatly. He came closer. He smelled of sandalwood. “I didn’t know you could mimic British accent so well.”

“I’m practising,” Will said, again in his natural accent. If there was a seed of doubt in Hannibal’s mind, he definitely killed it when he stood up and pressed his lips against his in their second kiss.

Chapter Text

May 2016

Q’s mind was overloaded.

The voice inside his head screamed at him in frustration and exhaustion; it screamed ALERT round and round. There was nothing he could do to shut it up. And then there were the voices outside his head, which did nothing to alleviate his ordeal.

In one ear were James and an unpleasant amount of shooting and heavy breathing. In the other was Eve. His friend blabbered about their upcoming wedding as though it was her own; as though she did not have her job to do.

The event was, in fact, in the centre of the whole MI6’s interest: an agent-quartermaster wedding was something that happens once in a lifetime. The eternal enquiry and strange sideway glances were becoming annoying, from his minions’ side in particular. Q and James this, Q and James that.

Q’s head was like a computer that was about to break down at any moment if data continued to be loaded into it and extracted from it by force.

“Q, I’m kind of at an impasse here,” reminded the former. Q heard more gunshots, then a curse. His fingers were becoming sore from the endless typing. His eyes were glued to the satellite feed on the monitor and the plans of the building James was inside in on another one.

The cogwheels in his brain spun so fast—they did not fall apart only by a great mercy of the universe. And they had to spin faster, lest he want the wedding to turn into a funeral.

He anxiously tapped his foot on the stool’s leg, eyes blinking every two seconds. He had to come up with a way out for James very quickly. But there were heavily armed men everywhere, and he could not make any bigger intervention without hurting James as well.

Stress was eating him from within.

The therapy and anxiolytics were supposed to be helping. They were—but every time he conducted a Double-Oh mission such as this one, things became worse—especially when James was on the other side of the comms. Every second reminded Q of Second V-Day and his victims. He still saw it before his eyes sometimes, the headlines and reports and CCTV images on his computer screen.

Eve continued in her report, of which Q has heard maybe ten words. “…I’ve squeezed us between two couples on 25th in the end. It cost me nearly a half of my salary, but it was worth it.”

The date they had settled on was 25th June, six months precisely after Second V-Day. It was symbolical: they will not let the massacre destroy their lives for eternity. Instead, they will devote the date to an event far more special and significant and happy, a wedding. That was James’ idea, and Dr Myles approved of it strongly as a great therapeutic move. The only obstacle in the plan was the venue. James had wished for something grandiose, while Q had wanted something simple. The best compromise was Southwark Cathedral—except they were unavailable on the day—for MI6, anyway. Or so they said two days ago.

“I thought Southwark Cathedral was no go after that one time with 0012,” Q said. However, his mind was constantly with James, who barked at him nervously, “If your clever arse doesn’t magically come up with a secret passage in a few seconds, I swear I’m going to die.”

To him, that sounded as James pointing out his failure and incompetence despite knowing that he was exaggerating. 007 would not—could not—die on this mission. Yet, the screaming in his head grew louder, to the edge of unbearable.

There were three more gunshots, none of which came from James’ pistol. Q doubted the bastard still had it. His fingers were still frantically typing away.

Eve said, “Like I said, I’ve managed to settle it. I am clever, you know, darling,” wearing a smug smile. Q barely registered any sounds besides the gunfire. His mind refused to focus on anything else.

“You’re wonderful, Eve, but now tell him something!” James was choking. Someone was strangling him.

“He’s trying!” she defended Q. Her raised voice brought brightness back into the dark world of his mind. There might be a solution to the fix James was in, Q observed at last, but it was a highly hazardous one.

“You’re not going to die, 007. Turn right and go to the bathroom. There is a ventilation shaft that connects to the kitchen.” He could not fathom how he was able to speak coherently when his thoughts were such a mess. “Do you still have the lighter grenade?”

“I... think so.” James got rid of the assailant with a few kicks and punches. He broke into a run, as the dot on the screen suggested. Thank gods he has not lost his tracker this time.

The decision was quick. “You know what to do. Blow the place up.”

This was supposed to be a simple extraction. Why did even the seemingly easy, quick missions always had to end up with explosions, missing equipment, and shattered minds? Q mentally lambasted all Double-Ohs agents for being so bloody reckless again, his fiancé in particular.

Eve shifted closer to Q to take a look at the situation personally. Six men at least chased after 007, and they all had full magazines. “This isn’t going to end well,” she noted.

Q shook his head. “No.”

“Thank you for having absolute faith in me!”

“Shut up, 007, or you’re really going to get yourself killed!” Eve laid an arm around Q’s shoulders. The tone of her voice changed into a reassuring one. “Don’t worry, Q. Bond’s going to make it out and come back to you. He always does.”

He had no means of defence but one Kingsman grenade, and a task to set free and safely bring home the Foreign Secretary’s daughter, who had been kidnapped during her holiday in Greece a week ago, and whose location was still unknown as the current one was a setup. (R was working on it.) It was a month before their wedding—which Eve, his cousin Danny, and he with James on the comms were in the middle of planning of.

The future did not look very bright.

By the sound of it, the skirmish continued. James’ dot stopped right in front of the door to the bathroom. Q heard no more from him for the next minutes, as long as he did not count opening and slamming the door closed and unmounting the grille covering the entrance to the ventilation shaft.

He absently bit at his nails when he did not have to type. It brought some level of comfort, up until the point he bit too deep, and coppery taste flooded his mouth. He regretted having done it then, just as always. It was an incorrigible habit.

Then, at last, James asked, “Which way to the kitchen, Q?” when he came to a junction of three corridors. His deep voice was like a balm to his uneasy mind.

Q checked the plans. “Left, and then right. It’s the first vent.”

“Copy that.” James crawled forward through the narrow and dusty space.

Eve scribbled something down in her notebook with a pen stolen from Q’s desk. She put a strand of her curly hair behind her ear. “Since you currently aren’t so busy,” she began, “I called to the confectionery yesterday, and they said we can go for cake tasting next Tuesday. The feast is arranged as well; our lovely Dr Myles is going to provide the food.”

Dr Robert Myles was not only Q’s therapist but also an excellent cook. His dishes were beyond divine on one’s tongue, the impeccably balanced combination of perfectly matching ingredients, exotic tastes and spices, and aesthetic presence. In another universe, he would have owned a five-star restaurant in Paris.

“We have an appointment on Monday. We can talk about it.”

“Tell him to make something vegetarian for me, please,” Eve told him.

“Of course.” He would mention it anyway.

“Eve, what would we do without you...” The crawling was coming to an end. The kitchen was close. James breathed heavily and grunted once in a while.

“You’d have a boring, civil marriage,” Eve answered James’ rhetorical question. The woman had a clever answer to everything. “Or none at all.” She patted Q’s shoulder with a smile. “I’m going to go call Kingsman tailor’s now.”

She retreated to the blue sofa and pulled out her mobile. She knew the number. Kingsman may have been a spy organisation camouflaged as a tailor shop, but they were tailors notwithstanding. Q and James were going to have the best suits they could get for their wedding.

The moment she was gone, James remarked, “I think she’s taking it a bit too seriously.”

“Let her have it, James. And now be careful; the vent goes trough the ceiling.” Still tapping, Q sipped at his rediscovered earl grey. He grimaced upon finding out it has gone cold.

With three punches, James knocked out the grille. The piece of metal hit the floor with a loud bang. The hitmen would be deaf not to have heard it. James crept forward a little bit, and then slowly let himself down the hole, legs first. He jumped.

“They know you’re in there. Lock the door, turn the gas on, escape through the window, and throw the grenade in,” Q commanded. Nonetheless, he was not fond of the idea of another avoidable explosion on 007’s account and the possibility of getting injured in the aftermath of the blast. He hoped the pretended confidence in his expression had masked the actual nervousness and fear.

James did what he was told. Probably. There was not a camera in the kitchen. But Q could hear the creaky sounds of a window being opened and subsequent feet hitting the stony path underneath it.

“They are approaching. Do it.”

The lighter clicked. The gas ignited at once, and a huge, deafening burst filled the microphone. The house tumbled down—and then, silence.

“007?” Q asked. No response. “007, do you read me? 007! James!”

Chapter Text

May 2014

The plane touched down at Heathrow when evening handed the throne over to night. It was good to be home after so many years of living in exile.

The knot in Will’s insides loosened in relief the moment the wheels slid down the runway and rolled toward the gate. Freedom was such a blissful feeling; he forgot what it felt like, the only instant of clarity being the night he and Hannibal set themselves free from the slavery of Jack Crawford and the Bureau.

Hannibal has been sitting in the aisle. He stood up with grace and extracted Will and Abigail’s hand luggage from the cases above the seats. Before too many people flooded toward the exit, he quickly stepped forward, and escaped the oppressing cage of the aeroplane. Will and Abigail were hot on his heels.

The weather outside was surprisingly pleasant, the night warm, and moonlight finding its way through the thin veil of clouds. The technical smell of diesel oil was the only thing to mar the magical atmosphere of May London.

But taking a breath of fresh air surpassed every petty nuisance at the moment.

“We’ve made it,” Abigail said as they walked away, clutching their bags and small suitcases. She looked at both men with a genuine smile. Wind blew her hair into her face.

But reality was quite different. “Not yet, Abigail. We have to pass the passport control.” Hannibal pulled his passport out. There was a golden coat of arms with a crown atop it, two horses at each side of it, and the inscription ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ on the burgundy cover.

“I hope we can trust your friend,” said Will bitterly. He had experience with false credentials and aliases during his active days in MI6—one wrong number or watermark, and everything was lost.

That was why he had switched the one Hannibal had given him for his old one. Fortune was on his side, for it will have expired next year. Hannibal was, for the sake of Will’s safety, not aware of it.

“I wouldn’t speak of Paolo as a friend; he is merely a useful acquaintance. But he is a credible man.”

“Given that he makes fake IDs for a living,” Will whispered. They walked into the terminal through a sliding door. He remembered exactly where to go but pretended he merely followed the crowd blindly.

Oddly enough, Hannibal was quiet as though he had nothing to add to the conversation. He probably thought it was not worth philosophising about; not right now. He surely had a book full of opinions on people of such nature, people who deal with them, and people who question them.

The queue at UK & EU arrivals was long and moved on annoyingly slowly, despite the hour. The family were stuck in the serpentine line for eight minutes before their turn came.

“Good evening. Your passport, please,” said the middle-aged, balding, bespectacled man sitting at counter 3 to Will, who echoed, “Good evening,” and handed it over. His heart beat faster, but not because he feared there would be something wrong with it, but because he feared there would be something wrong with Hannibal and Abigail’s passports.

The man scanned it. He typed shortly. When he was done inputting information, he glanced at his computer and at Will. Then he nodded. “Thank you, Mr Myles.”

“Goodbye.” Before he proceeded to baggage claim, Will caught a glimpse of Hannibal at counter 5 talking to an Indian woman.

He waited for him and Abigail behind the partition walls. Fortune, apparently, continued to wish them well. Both met him not 30 seconds later.

“I said Paolo was a credible man, did I not?” said his ‘husband’, tilting his head slightly. It was his way of saying ‘I told you so’.

The sudden use of past tense made him wonder. “Did you eat him after he handed you the goods?” He was uncertain if it was a joke or not. He couldn’t stop himself asking until it was too late. 

“I wouldn’t be foolish enough to allow the only person who knew who we are and where we are going to breathe,” replied Hannibal sotto voce. Will was more uncertain now. He quivered. “I fed his lungs to Jack the day before the reckoning, and his heart to Alana.”

Will knew who Hannibal Lecter was. He knew what they were together. There was a predator lurking within him, just beneath the skin, and when he was released, his wrath had no measure. It was infinite. He was a creature who thought of himself as the omnipotent God but in reality was the vessel of the Devil. He abounded with dark humour and perilousness in his eyes. He has awoken the desire to crave what he craves, the hunger, in Will, too. Will was willing to overlook the macabre reality of ‘eating the rude’. He was, because he could not overlook the feelings that blossomed in his stomach and made his heart race when his hand brushed against his. He was drawing him close like hunter lured prey, but also like prey lured the hunter. Magnetising. Yet—hearing those dreadful words resonate on his tongue reminded Will of mortality, of morality, of an operative’s natural instinct to denounce him. He was terrified.

Abigail, she was as good as his own daughter. He has transformed her, taught her of equivocality of right and wrong and the exquisite beauty of it, remade her to his image. She has embraced the darkness and became a hunter just as he, just as Garrett Jacob Hobbs, her biological father whom Will had killed saving her life. (It was not his first kill. It was what would make him a Double-Oh under different circumstances. None of what came after was real. Only the illness was.) She was smart and manipulative as he. She knew the value of life and the world. It was a world of deceit. She accepted it. She could adapt. Knew her way around. She was tough and unshaken.

Will had to be too. “He’d been right to fulfil his purpose. Once as a servant, and once as a service.”

“No one will certainly miss the pig.”

“And those, who would, can always find somebody else who can give them a new identity for a hundred bucks.”

They arrived at the conveyor belts bearing luggage. Will and Abigail carried small suitcases only—but Hannibal had to take a half of his wardrobe and library with him. His dark brown designer suitcase was probably the biggest one currently rotating on any of the belts. It stood out.

With some level of difficulty, he took it, and together they headed out of the arrival lounge. Their driver was surely waiting for them at the car park.

It was exactly as they had supposed. A chauffeur, clad in a dark suit, stood by one of the cars, holding a white sign with the name Myles on it just like in the films. He waved at them with the sign when he noticed their arrival.

“Good evening, Miss, Sirs,” he greeted them politely and with an obligatory smile. There was a trace of French in his accent. He walked to open the boot, not in the least surprised at the size of Hannibal’s suitcase.

“Good evening, Ian. Take us home, please,” said Will, reverting to his natural accent. He suppressed a yawn as he waited for the biggest piece of luggage to be loaded into the car.

The three of them had talked the next day after Baltimore’s merciless carnage. Will had explained that he had contacts in London, within the MI6, due to mutual, long-term cooperation with the FBI; that he had helped them with a case once; that they owed him; that as a government agent he could work for them when he’s in London; that they can provide them with a decent place to live. He had fed them lies alike Hannibal had done for the past year. He was a spy; he was used to covering the truth in order to reach his goals and intentions.

However, he had not told them that ‘home’ was his old house in Kensington, years abandoned but fully furnished and habitable immediately after a proper cleaning.

“Of course, sir.” The last suitcase was squeezed into the boot, and Ian closed it. First, he opened the back door for Abigail and Hannibal and then the front door for Will before he sat down behind the wheel and reversed the car into a turn.

The ride to central London was not that long, but it was awkwardly quiet. Ian has turned on the radio, but apart from a few unsuccessful attempts at small talk from his side, no one barely said a word. Hannibal, however talkative he might normally be, was slightly disconcerted by the presence of a stranger and Will’s bewilderingly calm demeanour.

Ian came to a halt in front of a large three-storey building, surrounded by identical houses on both sides. Its façade was white, with a blue-painted door and large windows, under which red and pink muscats bloomed wildly. The lights on the first floor were shining; somebody was at home.

“This is it, you’re home,” Ian said unnecessarily. He unfastened his belt and ran to open the doors for the passengers, careful to mind potential passing cars. When the trio was out of the car, with his help they unloaded the luggage from the boot. The driver got back in and waved at them. That was a definite good-bye.

Standing on the pavement, surrounded by suitcases, Abigail put her arms round Will and Hannibal’s waists in an embrace. She laid her head on Will’s shoulder and breathed in the foreign scents of London. “We’re home.”

Chapter Text

May 2016 

“I’m here, Q. I’m here,” James wheezed. Q relaxed and stopped tapping his foot on the stool. His fiancé was alive.

“Are you hurt?” he asked. But that blast was too large for a person to come out of it uninjured, he could imagine. That would be very unlikely.

There was a long pause before James answered. “Except for a few cuts and bruises, no. I wouldn’t say the same about the Greeks, though.” His voice was raspy. He got up from the ground, and the debris lying all around him shifted, raising clouds of yellow dust. He coughed.

Q couldn’t begin to weigh the worry that still bubbled in his stomach despite the fact there was no danger present any longer. A building had nearly buried James alive, after all. Bloody again.

He looked at the satellite images if the place again. James was very lucky the whole block hadn’t tumbled down. “That’s good news. Can you walk?”

“Self-evidently.” James coughed again.

“Leave the perimeter before the police arrive,  James; there were enough unpleasantries with this mission as it is. A shower and a nap would do you good,” Q said. He put it as an order. Adrenaline combined with the fear still circulated in his veins and drove him.

“Yes, sir!” James said mockingly. The Smart Blood dot moved towards James’ car parked two streets away. “The only shame is that you won’t be lying in that bed next to me, Q. Naked.”

Q smirked. “Think of me, will you?” He accessed the nearest traffic camera. He hated being blind.

“The imagination can’t do the real thing any justice.” Q felt exactly the same about James. Always has. Yet it flustered him when the agent said those words on comms.

Q was slowly losing his poise. But it also slowly made him forget the crippling fear. “I can hack your telly if you say please,” he said. There was a grain of playful suggestiveness in his voice.

“Pretty please,” replied James. Q could see the face he was pulling in front of him. Wide blue eyes, roguish wrinkles around them, lips pressed together in the thinnest of pouts, head bowed minutely to one side. Well, Q could get used to hearing that more often.

“Say that again once you’re actually settled in that bed.”

“Tease, Q. You know how awful you are.” He frowned, but there still was a smile behind it.

Q did not cease to tease, though. “I do, James.”

“Can’t wait for the wedding day?”

“There will be none if you continue to behave like this.”

“Spoilsport. You’re not any better.”

“It was you who started.”

Eve cleared her throat loudly enough for James to hear it. Q didn’t notice she has returned. “Gentlemen. Need I remind you these conversations are being recorded.” She frowned, but the smile in her eyes was hard to hide. “I’ve arranged an appointment with our tailors for next Thursday at 2 AM.”

“Thank you. And I hope M will have a good time listening to the recordings.”

“God, you two are destined for each other,” she said flatly. When she came to Q’s desk, she leant against it.

“We certainly are.” James blew a loud kiss. “But the truth is, he needs distractions to help him with anxiety. Having a good time with it is just the icing, right, darling?”

He hauled himself a cab and got in. The last thing Q heard from him for a good while was the address of his hotel.

“Um, anyway, R seems to be close to having Miss Paison’s location soon,” Q said. The next words he whispered, “Then you can have it all.” He smirked, playing with the thought.

He turned the microphone off. A sigh escaped his mouth. He was in desperate need of more tea. James didn’t require his Quartermaster in the next few minutes anyway, so he might as well get off his sore arse and stretch his legs during the walk to his small kitchen.

(Well, he called it a kitchen, but it was really a mini fridge and one cupboard stocked with tea, biscuits, crisps, and some utensils. On it stood an electric cooker with two hotplates and a kettle permanently sat on one. That was all he needed to live.)

Eve joined him. “He will be fine,” she said again. Q knew he’ll be fine, he always is, but that didn’t stop his heart from worrying. She noticed.

He rubbed his eyeballs. “I know. Thank you for helping me, Eve.” He opened the cupboard and took two mugs, and Eve handed him a bottle of milk from the fridge. He continued talking. “Sometimes, I have flashbacks from last Christmas, and I’m so terrified, you know? This overwhelming feeling that we might come and face the end any day, any second, floods my bloodstream and clings to me like the odour of death. I can’t fight it. I can’t relax. The fear is caustic, and I always lose. Then he says something sweet and unexpected and saves me. I know the fear is also unfounded, but I can’t help it. I know he will be fine, because I need him to be, and yet I can’t stop thinking about it and swim in a vicious cycle.”

He poured water into the kettle and put it on. He busied his hands with measuring the tea and sugar. He didn’t usually go around and tell people about his issues, not even his best friend.

“Come here,” said best friend said and waved her hands languidly in the air. “I can’t say anything to fix this, and I definitely can’t soothe your heart, but I can tell you what you need right now is a hug and a cuppa shared with your mate. R can handle Q-Branch. James is going to save the girl and come home to you.”

“The funny thing is that I may have believed you.” He looked her in the eye. Care glistened in the brown orbs. Slowly, he allowed her to embrace him and hold him tight.

“What do you say, Q, shall we retire to the sofa and hit a binge-watch of your favourite comfort show?” she asked when she withdrew.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine?” Q raised a hoping eyebrow.

“Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” she smiled. She leant against the fridge (it must have been the terrific heels she bravely wore to work every day), and they waited for the water to boil. Eve didn’t drink her tea with milk, whereas Q poured half of the bottle in it. He drained the cup while it was burning hot and made himself another.

Clutching their warm mugs, they walked to the sofa. R’s sofa was on the way, so they stopped by to ask if there were any updates yet. Alas, her answer was negative, but Christina did agree to take charge of the mission.

“Thank you, R. Call me if anything urgent happens.”

“Will do, sir,” the brunette nodded and released them. The comfort of the blue sofa was calling and prompting them to give in to it.

Q thought of James. Has he arrived at his hotel already? It was a four-star one, in which the sheets were made of golden satin and bathrooms shone with snobbish cleanliness. Oh, he wanted to dive under hot water and enjoy a bubble bath in one of those, and then laze in the satin with him.

Then the water turned to blood and the bubbles to poison. He fucking couldn’t forget. Relax.

“Q,” he heard his name. Eve was concerned. He realised he has stopped walking and stared into the void. “What’s the matter, Q?”

“Nothing,” he lied and resumed his journey. The tea almost spilt out of the mug. A word did not pass between them until Q played the seventh episode of season three and Eve asked if she could take her shoes off and put her feet on his lap because she was goddamn tired from all the running about.

She leant on the armrest and put a pillow under her head. “Of course, Eve. Would you like me to give you a massage?” He took a pillow as well and made himself comfortable. She wiggled her crimson-painted fingers happily and cooed, “Please, darling.” 

He took her right foot in his hands and began rubbing on her heel while Jake and Amy argued about mattresses on the laptop. Watching the sitcom helped only a little, because he remembered James’ hotel bed and the conversation and the mission again because of them, but it helped nevertheless. She’d had a great idea. 

That was just Eve. The master of great ideas.

“So, Q, have you decided on your guest list yet?” she pried. There was a smile in the corner of her mouth, because the mattress fight went on and on, and that reminded her of James and Q with their equipment.

“You’re the organiser here, so naturally I thought you would come up with a seating plan and all and let me sign it,” he smirked.

“You would just exclude yourself and James from making important decisions about your own wedding, Q? My, my.” She shook her head. “Now the other foot.”

He did as he was told; she melted under his touch. He wasn’t only good with computers. “Well, if you put it like that...” His friend and also bridesmaid (the absence of a bride noted) nudged him in the side and raised both eyebrows. “We thought we’d invite a few people from Six, the Kingsmen, my family. You know, the usual suspects.”

“Nothing too big, then?” He cocked his head in agreement. “Never mind it’s probably the best, most significant day in your life and a once-in-a-lifetime party.”

“If I hadn’t succumbed to his charms and snogged him on the doorstep two and a half years ago, there would be no wedding to plan at all,” he replied with a cheeky grin forming on his face, “so I’d say second best at the most.”

“That good, is he?” Her nose wrinkled. That could only bode mischief. She reached for her tea and took a gulp.

“Be so kind and shut up if you want your feet to receive equal care.”

“You should work on your threats a bit, Quartermaster. That’s in no way going to intimidate me.” She wriggled her feet, signalling him to stop. He did, and folded his arms behind his head.

“If you think that was the best I have to offer, you haven’t really learnt at all, have you?” He glanced at her. The mere look could send a Double-Oh running––and it did, mind you.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine was forgotten altogether. The Sergeant was currently shouting something at the squad, but neither of them paid it any attention, just as they didn’t pay any attention to the reality of a mission going on in Greece.

Mission: accomplished.

And then R burst in the office, almost tearing the door out of its hinges. “Sir, I’ve got intel on Miss Paison. She is currently in Selinia, Salamina, held by a group of fully armed terrorists. 007 is already on his way.”

Q sat up and paused the programme. He minimised the window and opened another one at once. A map with Bond’s position, the young woman’s profile, and an audio connection with said agent’s earpiece popped up. Ignorant of Eve’s protests, he turned it on.

“Come in, 007.”

“I have everything under control, Q. You should rest,” he replied, and his dot stopped moving. The static noise of an engine vanished. Q heard a clap of a door being closed and then steps. He has arrived at the Port of Peiraias, and now he was going to steal a motorboat to get to the island because of course that was the easiest way.

Or so 007 never stopped believing, despite the countless boat chases he partook in.

“Nonsense; I’m perfectly fine,” he protested. The subsequent sip of tea was angry.

Eve sat up as well and made room for R. Their eyes were glued to the screen. Q’s fingers were working on zooming the map in and retrieving as many information as possible mechanically; visual contact with the keyboard was unnecessary for them.

He typed. Hacked a CCTV camera. There was suspicious movement in the area. Someone was trying to hide in the shadows and escape their sight. It might be a coincidence, but he dared not hope.

As it happened to be, everything proved to be harder to perform and much more complicated than originally thought every single bloody time when it came to his fiancé, and this mission was no exception.

“007, there are three men following you on five o’clock. They might be armed. Be careful.” He couldn’t see them clearly. The lack of HD cameras frustrated him.

Bond broke into a run for the pier. Two smaller boats floated contentedly on the sea in a relatively short distance from him. He already got his eyes on the left one. Before he jumped in, he looked behind his shoulder. As suspected, those men were chasing after him.

Why did terrorists have to be so fucking smart all the time? They had counted on MI6 eventually getting the victim’s location and known the fastest route from Athens to Salamina was via boat,  so they have been hanging about the port for God knows how long, waiting for the scenario to actually play out. That was happening now, and they were ready.

If there ever is a stupid criminal or a high-profile mission goes smoothly, Six is going to throw a party.

Bond started up the engine and headed towards the island. The men were hot on his heels, already jumping into the other boat.

Chapter Text

May 2014

“Welcome back, agent Myles,” said M when Will entered his office.

Will took off his jacket and looked around. Everything was still the same, even though the office has moved from the old HQ to the new, underground one. There was an identically high pile of paperwork next to the computer, and a withering plant next to a globe-shaped paperweight on the other side of the desk. M even had the same mug with coffee stains on pristine white porcelain with the logo of SIS.

What he did not expect was the immediate, overwhelming feeling of missing this place. MI6 was like the childhood home he forgot how much he loved after having moved out to college. Three years later he’s returned, and unwelcome emotions hit him in the face, hard.

He shook hands with M and replied, “It’s good to be back, sir. Spending so many years in America, it gets tiring. You start lusting after the simple things, like Hobnobs or good beer.”

M gestured at the empty chair in front of his table. “Please, take a seat; I’m afraid you’ll have to suffer the last but necessary ordeal from my side. Would you like a cup of coffee, and maybe some Hobnobs?”

“Tea, please, that would be lovely.” Will sat down. M followed suit, said something about tea and biscuits into the intercom, and then reached for the pile. He took at least five folders from the top. Will sighed. “Let’s get it over with, then.”

M handed him the first file, and a Parker pen. “Firstly, I’m going to need you to make a statement about secrecy and all that, you know how it goes with undercover missions.”

“Right.” He started reading the annoyingly small text, justified on both sides and full of official shite. No, he hasn’t revealed his identity to anyone or compromised his position as an operative during his (enter a number) three-year-long mission. He’s not altogether too stupid. “Will Graham was such a boring fellow, he barely got any attention,” he said, not entirely truthfully, as he signed the line at the bottom. He did so twice more on the copies.

“I’ve heard there was an issue with, uh, encephalitis, and that you’ve been in prison for murder some time? Convicted on false accusations?” M asked.

Will was wondering when was he going to bring that up. He handed him the file. “Yes, I suppose they must have told you about that. I got ill, and the Ripper took advantage of my condition and tried to frame me for his murders. I had no control over my mind then, but I can assure you I am fully recovered now, sir.” That was the truth, for a change, only bereft of a few important details. “The true killer has been caught and put to justice, as you know. My husband helped with that, actually. He’s a psychologist.”

“About your husband—and I recall you’ve mentioned a daughter as well—that will require some changes in your personal file, and another statement on professional detachment when it comes to a, let’s say, compromising situation. I’m certain you understand.” Another folder landed in Will’s hands. M raised an eyebrow. “How much do they know?”

“They know I work here if that’s what you’re asking, but nothing about my undercover time in the FBI. You know I would never betray our Queen and Country.”

Lies came so easily when you were a trained spy. Sometimes, and very much to his luck, people who worked in the world espionage forgot to realise that.

“I have no doubt about that, agent Myles,” M offered him something of a smile.

Will flew over the ridiculous document and signed it, three times as ever. Bureaucracy. He handed it over. “What information do you need from me? Do you need passports too, or something like that?”

“No, that’s not necessary. Just names and such basics,” M answered, the form ready in his hand. “Fill it all here. In block letters, please.”

“To be honest, I’ve never expected to get married, let alone during a mission,” Will smiled to himself and sat back in the chair. He rested the clipboard on his knees, mind and hand prepared to write down the carefully detailed identities they had made up together. This was all so hilariously easy.

Instead of ‘non-applicable’, he wrote the name Robert Myles under ‘spouse’. Sex: male. Date of birth: 22 October 1968. Place of birth: Copenhagen. Nationality: Danish. Citizenship: Danish and British. Occupation:

“What should I put under ‘occupation’ when he’s a psychologist-slash-therapist but currently unemployed, as we’ve been back in London for merely two days?”

“Say it’s not applicable,” answered M absently. He was focusing on whatever bad news popped up in his mailbox, brow furrowed. “You can add it later.”

“Alright then,” said Will, and continued with Abigail, AKA Anna Myles, female, born on 15 March 1997 in London, nationality English, citizenship British, a student.

No one here knew how long exactly they were in the US, why were they there, how did Will and Hannibal (or Graham and Robert for the ears of everybody else) meet. In MI6, they couldn’t know Anna was not Robert’s biological daughter, they couldn’t know that Danish accent was a tiny bit different from Robert’s on certain vowels, and they couldn’t know he was a year or two off his actual age, much to his benefit.

There was a knock on the door, and a woman entered with a tray with two steaming mugs of black tea, some milk an sugar, and a neat plate of biscuits. Will’s favourites.

“Here you go, gentlemen,” she said when she laid the tray on M’s desk. She was beautiful, dark skin, wild hair, elegant dress. Will knew Eve the moment he saw her, and this woman was nothing her old self. “Welcome back, Graham,” she greeted him with a grin.

“Hey, Eve!” he exclaimed and stood up to hug her. His old field partner. “How’ve you been? You look different. Great, mind you.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek.

“You haven’t heard?” she asked when she pulled away.

“About what?”

He hadn’t been allowed to communicate with Six except for his monthly reports to Q, which were mailed from a laptop he’d been very careful to hide from the world; mainly from Hannibal. He didn’t know anything.

“I haven’t been in the field ever since I accidentally shot 007 in the shoulder on the old M’s order. He keeps giving me hell for it, that bastard.”

Not only M’s office didn’t change, then.

“That doesn’t sound very much like you, Eve. You loved being in the field.”

“Maybe. But being Mallory’s personal assistant has its perks,” she looked at her boss. He was mixing an unhealthy amount of sugar in his tea. “I love it too, even if there’s too bloody much paperwork.”

Will laughed. “Tell me about it.”

“We should get drinks sometimes, you know, catch up a bit. I hear you’re married now, you tiger,” the grin was back. He missed Eve too. “I want to know all the details.”

“Yeah, we could do that,” he mentally went through Hannibal’s shopping schedule; sneaking out like this would be difficult to master, but saying he did not yearn for at least a speck of his old, normal life (before FBI, Hannibal, the abattoir they’d made of the kitchen, before he fell for the Devil) would be a blatant lie. “Tomorrow night? We can work out the details later.”

“Already looking forward to that,” Eve chirped. “Anyway, I’ll leave you to your forms now. Graham, sir,” she nodded at both men and left the office on her dangerously high heels.

Will pretended not to notice M’s gaze following her the whole time.

“Eve shot Bond in the shoulder? I wish I’d been there to see that,” he remarked and sat back down. If he counted correctly, there were two more statements to sign, and then he could go home.

Home. To Hannibal, and Abigail, their twisted little family.

M ate a biscuit. “That was under Mansfield’s direction, I haven’t been here at that time either. But personally, I think 007 and his attitude had it coming, fighting a man on the roof of a train in motion.”

Will’s eyebrows rose to the sky. “Bloody hell,” he said, and took two biscuits from the plate. They tasted like forbidden fruit and unfulfilled promises. “Did he survive?”

“Bond is still on active duty, despite my many propositions he should retire,” answered M, clearly aggravated by the infamous Double-Oh’s continuous existence. He sipped his tea and cleared his throat. “That reminds me, according to protocol, you will need to pass your psychological and physical evaluation again to be cleared for field operations. I’ve already made all necessary arrangements, you only need to stop by Medical anytime tomorrow.”

Will nodded. “Will do, sir.” There was no avoiding that either way, so he might as well come prepared.

“I have an unpleasant but requisite question now, agent Myles. Have you killed anyone during your mission?”

Will sat in his chair silently for a few seconds. Then, “Yes, I have. It was to save a life.”

“You’ve left that part out in your reports,” M accused him. Very much rightfully.

He swallowed. “Sir, I’m not a Double-Oh, and therefore haven’t a licence to kill. Taking a life isn’t something I’d claim credit for. Besides, he was a serial killer who cut his wife and daughter’s throat, and he’d probably kill me and my husband too if I hadn’t taken action. It was self-defence.”

He’d been full of remorse for killing Garrett Jacob Hobbs. Murdering Jack in Hannibal’s kitchen, he felt like a god on earth, powerful and infinite, connected to the man in the bloody shirt next to him in every way possible. It was who they were.

“Necessary measures, I understand.” M wrote something down onto one of the files he meant for Will to sign. “Though I also understand you intentionally withheld information from your superiors. I had some suspicions, agent Myles, and I am disappointed to learn they were true.”

He couldn’t know… could he?

“That was hardly substantial, sir. You wanted to know about the Chesapeake Ripper, not how deep I had to go to get to him.”

“I know you’re right, agent, but I like it no better. Next time be more thorough with your reports, because the government are looking for every small detail that could undermine our competence and necessity in the modern world. They’ve already cut our budget to a minimum. If they found out unlicensed agents go and kill people, albeit serial killers, without expressed permission, it might not end well for us.”

And if they found out said unlicensed agent lives with another serial killer, and a cannibal besides, in one flat and one bed, that would be the true scandal, Will thought darkly.

At least M had no idea what was truly going on after all.

“I apologise, sir, but it was a year ago, and the FBI might as well thanked me for it.”

M paused. “Well, no matter the circumstances, it was also your second kill, agent Myles. You know what that means in our line of work,” he offered. He interlaced his fingers and rested his chin on those thin hands of his.

Will shook his head. “No offence, but I don’t want to be a Double-Oh, sir. I wasn’t cut out for that.”

More lies.

“Ah, there are no available positions at present,” M replied, “but I will ask you again in a few years. Perhaps you might be a good choice to replace Bond when he finally decides he’s had enough. If he doesn’t get himself killed first, that is.”

“You may try, but the answer will still be no. I have a family now. I don’t want to leave them behind when I get shot fighting a man on the roof of a train. Now, if you’d pass me those two folders so I could sign whatever’s inside them and go home, I’d be grateful, sir.”

“Of course,” said M and gave Will the requested.

A superficial scan of what he was signing, six quick signatures, and he was done for the day. “I’ll come by tomorrow,” he said when he got up. “Good afternoon for now, sir.” They shook hands, Will grabbed his jacket from the hook next to the door, and strode out of the large office, right past Eve’s desk.

He stopped. “Give me a piece of paper and a pen,” he said.

“Did he give you shit about Hobbs?” she asked him when he started scribbling digits on an orange post-it. Will stiffened.

“How do you know about that?” he barked.

“I’ve looked into your undercover identity a bit. Will Graham. He’d sound like a boring bloke if it weren’t for the part where he killed a man with seven bullets to the chest and then went to prison for the criminally insane.”

“Please, don’t remind me of that,” he growled and gave her the post-it back. “Here’s my new number. Call me where and when we should meet.” That he said with more enthusiasm. “See you, Eves.”

She saluted before he turned to leave. “See you, G.”

Will found his way out through the labyrinthine underground corridors of the new headquarters only with the help of a map on his mobile. When he left for America, the old building still stood, and M was a woman who reminded him of his grandmother but who could never hear him say that. When he came back, London was a stranger.

Any other day, he’d go by car. He used to be an excellent driver, but Will Graham was a poor one even on the right side of the road. That man was better with boats; Hannibal would see it as immensely suspicious if he knew him driving on the left side, through the busy centre of London: a city he’s never been to before. That was not an option.

He headed for the nearest Tube station. He’d reloaded his Oyster with pounds this morning as if he’d forecast these exact circumstances. He will see a lot of underground corridors yet, he reckoned, be it at work or on his way there.

A sense of calm and security enveloped him the moment his train departed and melodically rocked its way along the rails. He was clutching a yellow pole, staring at the scheme of the complicated Circle route, trying to recall how the stations went–it was eerily ordinary, the last three years erased from existence.

He would easily get used to this life again.

But he couldn’t.

Will Graham has become a part of Graham Myles too intrusive to ignore, and Hannibal Lecter has become the other half of Will Graham. Whether he liked it or not, they were entwined. He killed so they could be together, and he would do it again in the blink of an eye.

There was a very vexing thought: perhaps the life of a Double-Oh wouldn’t be so bad. Accepting that position, he could, and would, kill people for a living. Legally. It would be something Hannibal has always needed but could never have. His husband might as well kill him for that, but then he’d see it through Will’s eyes…

Husband. Killing.

Vexing thoughts indeed.

Will was terrified but ecstatic at the same time. His heart was on fire.

The train arrived at High Street Kensington sooner than he’d expected. Joining a crowd undoubtedly heading for the Natural History Museum, he got off and went up the escalator. Having emerged from the tunnels, he breathed in the not-so-fresh late-afternoon air and trod toward the white house with the blue door and geraniums on windowsills.

The key slid into the lock, and not a moment later, he was entering his flat. He was greeted by the smell of roasting meat and wine gravy. He closed the door and his eyes both and inhaled the wonderful scents of the family bliss he never knew.

“Hannibal, I’m home,” he called, rather unnecessarily. He’d know. Then he took his jacket and shoes off and followed the smell into the kitchen.

Hannibal and Abigail were standing side by side at the counter. Will drank in the sight of his husband’s back in a tight-fitted shirt and an apron tied right above his buttocks, stirring gravy in one of Will’s old pots. He’s rolled his sleeves up.

Abigail was smiling at something he’d said, washing bowls he’s used for vegetables. They looked every bit a father and a daughter making Sunday roast; peaceful and happy. Will was the only one, apart from the two of them, who could see the illusion in that.

He approached them with a subtle smile on his lips and kissed Hannibal on the cheek, Abigail on the top of her head. “What’s for dinner?” he asked. He didn’t forget to revert to an American accent. (He’d always play a part, before them or MI6.)

“Roast chicken,” answered Abigail, “with some fancy gravy and herbs.”

Hannibal, strangely enough, did not comment on her degradation of the meal’s undoubtedly florid name. He inquired about work.

“I’ve talked to M, the head of MI6,” Will told him. “I had to sign a few forms, and tomorrow I have to undergo some evaluations to be cleared for field work. The procedures aren’t much different from those at the Bureau.”

“They are certainly quicker.”

“Well, you know how it goes with British people. They don’t dawdle over it.”

Abigail washed the last piece of cutlery. She asked, a little uncertainly, “Will, do you think you’ll pass those evals? You didn’t pass them at FBI.”

“I am a new man now, Abigail. I have the Devil on my side.”

Chapter Text

May 2016

“What did he do this time?”

His brother opened the door before Q closed the gap between his knuckles and the wood and knocked. Of course he would.

Q took a breath. “How do you—”

Sherlock invited him in by moving aside and slamming the door shut. Everything rattled. “Know you haven’t decided to pay me a nice brotherly visit and catch up on all we’ve missed over the years of deliberate absence in each other’s lives? Oh please,” he plopped down on the sofa unceremoniously, “you know that’s not what we do. I also noticed the dark bags under your eyes suggesting you haven’t slept properly in four—no, five—days, distinct tobacco stains on your fingers and very strong cigarette odour clinging to your clothes, which haven’t been washed in a while, meaning you’ve spent the previous five night at work, and the excessive smoking is a clear sign of anxiety. Also, there is the ketchup stain on your sleeve. You only eat fast food when your spy boyfriend doesn’t feed you. He’s been away for six days now, on a mission, and he’s been in a lot of trouble, which is why you wouldn’t go home. Normally you’d go to your therapist, but he’s currently on leave with his husband, so you have no one else but your estranged but very perceptive brother. What did he do this time, Andrew?”

He hated Sherlock for this. And he also admired him. Always have.

Q got over the initial shock of being so thoroughly and accurately analysed and sat down into an armchair. But he still had to ask, “How did you even know about my therapist?”

“Mycroft told me; he keeps tabs on you. Now, will you spit out why you came here or not?”

Q scoffed. “James got bloody shot a month before our wedding!” Sherlock hummed indifferently. “My idiot of a fiancé thought it was a good idea to hijack a motorboat and scutter off to save the Foreign Secretary’s kidnapped daughter while three hitmen were after him, machine guns in hands. He killed one of them, but then he got shot and didn’t even make it to his destination. We had to send in an extraction team,” Q checked his watch, a present from James, “he should be on his way back to Six by now.” He paused and took a deep breath. “He’s giving me nightmares, Sherlock.”

Sherlock said nothing, only pierced his body with his sharp blue eyes.

“How do you do it, Sherlock? How does John do it?” Sherlock arched a quizzical eyebrow. How rare. “How do you not worry?”

“Well, first of all, my wife isn’t an international spy with an alcohol addiction and a problem with rash behaviour that makes embassies go boom.”

Just like that, Q laughed. It was an oxymoron.

“No, I suppose you’re right.” Sherlock smiled too. Smiled, not laughed. “I see you’ve done your research. But anyway, in your line of work. How do you keep yourself grounded? And please don’t say you don’t worry because you have no emotions. I’ve always seen right through you, Sherlock.”

The smile, somehow, stayed on; Sherlock’s didn’t. Not until the bathroom door creaked open and Irene shuffled into the living room. Right then, a hint of it came back.

Note, she was naked but for a pair of knickers. Naked and very pregnant. Thirty-fifth week. Or so. Q wasn’t an expert, just observant. Her hair was shorter, he noticed that, too.

His cheeks might have turned a shade darker.

“Two of the sexy Holmes brothers in the same room, this morning just got very exciting,” she said, and turned to Sherlock. “Have you seen my dressing gown? The red silken one.”

He answered, unperplexed, “It’s in the kitchen, somewhere.”

She stepped in front of him and gently ran her hand across his jawline. Her nails were perfectly manicured. “Someone’s been naughty.”

“Yes, you, Irene, yesterday night when you decided you want a snack before you went to bed.” Now his eyes were smiling too.

“Don’t spoil it for me, will you, Sherlock,” she cooed and walked toward the kitchen. On her way she stopped and asked, “Breakfast?”

“I’ve already eaten, but Andrew here could use a good meal. MI6 aren’t feeding him enough.”

“Oh no, you don’t have to,” Q protested. “I’m not hungry.” He didn’t want to intrude.

With the gown draped over her, Irene came back. “Yes, I do, or your fiancé will actually cut himself when he tries to give you a good reunion shag.” There was a playful spark in her voice. “But don’t expect a Full English, darling.”

And she was gone again.

Her words made Q anxious again if he forgot for a minute or three. He started fiddling with the ring James gave him on Christmas Day.

He still acknowledged the uselessness of his worries. Rationally, there was no reason to be afraid for James, even if the mission did actually go tits up and he actually got hurt, Q did not forget that. Eve’s words. But his heart sunk somewhere in his feet and the red alerts in his brain got louder. He couldn’t control that.

Sherlock spoke up after a while. He startled Q, albeit his words were quiet. “I don’t worry.” It was exactly what Q’d expected him to say. The rest wasn’t. “Because if I did, I couldn’t do what I do. I erase all the worry and concern and fear, because I know I can. Everything everyone does, everything I do, has a good reason for why it has to be done, so even if it’s dangerous, as some cases tend to be, I know they can pull through because they’re strong people and know what they’re doing. I imagine your James Bond is no different than that, so create a drawer in your mind palace and lock the anxiety away.” He said it all in one breath. Right then, Sherlock seemed more human than he ever was to Q. “He’s a survivor. There’s no need to worry, because he can survive anything, like being shot on top of a train and falling into a lake, which is a situation very improbable to survive.”

Q actually chuckled. It was close to forced. “You’re the one to talk.”

“For the millionth time, I faked the fall, and that is something entirely different.”

“He also faked being dead for a year. Not so different.” Q stared at the wallpaper behind the sofa. “You know, Mary once said I chose him for a reason.”

(He deduced that too, last Christmas. Before SPECTRE dropped the proverbial bomb.)

“And what is that?”

As if Sherlock didn’t know. “I’m your brother.”

Irene came back, carrying a tray with some toast, jam, and grapes. “Half of that’s mine,” she said as she laid it on the coffee table.

Q’s stomach rumbled at the sight of fresh food. It smelt like home. “Thank you, it’s very nice of you,” he smiled, and took a slice of toast. He spread strawberry jam over it.

To think he despised his sister-in-law when they first met.

“Please, that’s nothing. Try satisfying his tastes,” she glanced at Sherlock, “but at least he’s never bored when he has me, is he?”

“I am less bored, there’s a difference,” he offered.

Irene said, “Move.” He did. With a certain level of difficulty, she lowered herself next to him, holding a plate with buttered toast and apricot jam. “How’s your fiancé, anyway? I’ve heard he got shot.”

Q crushed the grape he was about to eat.

He quickly composed himself, and with a sarcastic wrap over the pain, he said, “He does that sometimes.  I’m sure his pride hurts more than the actual shot.”

“Oh, I don’t doubt.”

Like Sherlock said, lock your worry away in an empty drawer. According to him, it worked, so he might as well. Even if it really doesn’t; he’s tried before.

He finished the toast off, took some more of the grapes, and passed the rest to Irene. She offered some to Sherlock, but he’s never been keen on fruits or vegetables, or food in general unless someone forced him to swallow a bite or two. Some things never change.

“Anyway, what are you still doing here, don’t you have someone to give a welcome blowjob to when he wakes from surgery?”

Pain, pain, pain nabbed at his sunken heart.

“Oh, he won’t be getting any for being an utter idiot.”

“Unjustifiable,” Sherlock huffed.

Q laid a plate on the table. “Precisely.” He allowed himself to utter a micro-sigh. “But not being there would make things worse.”

I’m not you, Sherlock. I’m not even if I try.

He looked at the crumbs on the pristine porcelain. Then he lifted his gaze and got up. He straightened the Union Flag pillow he’d been sitting on. He had to go, or he’d fall apart.

“Go on then, get out of here!” That was Sherlock.

“Thank you. For the breakfast. And,” he said, “you know.” He went closer to the pair of them. In Sherlock’s ear, he whispered, “Not being the horrible brother I remember after all.”

It earned him a rare smile. He gave Irene a quick kiss on the cheek. He actually, virtually, started to like her a little. Scheming sex goddess aside, she, for some reason unbeknownst to him, made Sherlock happy, exhilarated, and she had that vicious spark on her tongue that reminded him of James.

To the erasure of coincidence.

“I’m sure we’ll see each other again,” he said, “sooner or later you’re bound to cause an uproar of one kind or another that will be of interest to MI6.”

“I’m sure of it,” Sherlock said.

Irene added, “Wouldn’t be Sherlock if he didn’t.”

Q let himself out. Upon closing the door, he took a deep breath and yet again reminded himself to lock the drawer labelled ‘worry’ twice.

He tried, he really tried to keep it that way on his way back to HQ, but the rocking of the tube and constant murmur of overenthusiastic voices did little to help calm his orbiting mind.

That was just the way it was. If that was any consolation.

It was time for his meds, as the alarm on his watch reminded him. As soon as he got out of the Underground, he took a pill and washed it down with water. London pulsed round him, loud, always loud. Something was always happening, somewhere, and he tried not to think what was happening at Medical.

To say he tried didn’t mean he succeeded, no. He wasn’t Sherlock.

He walked until he was under the ground again, and then he almost ran. He strode through the corridors he knew by heart by now, cared not if people laid questioning looks at him, as they always did. (Everyone knew everything anyway.) He burst through the door to Medical and nearly toppled Dr Baines.

He murmured a quick apology. “Can I see 007?” he asked then.

“The bastard’s fine,” the doctor with the stern look said, “or that’s what he’ll say to you, anyway. Do go on.” He pointed at the left wing of the pathetic underground hospital. “He’s over there, room number three.”

“Thank you.” Q went and found room number three with an ache dully throbbing in his chest.

James lay in a bed, shoulder wrapped in layers of gauze, chest bruised and battered; bare. He was connected to an IV, and a clip on his finger measured his pulse, which beeped regularly through the machine. His eyes were open, and upon seeing Q, he smiled.

Despite the tragedy, he was fucking beautiful.

“James,” Q breathed. He stepped closer. “I was—you had me worried sick.”

“Oh, please,” James said in a voice hoarse and sleepy from the anaesthesia, “I thought you knew better than to worry about an old dog like me by now, Quartermaster.”

Q put his bag on an empty chair next to the bed. “You know, Moneypenny virtually had to kick me out of here. She told me to go talk to my brother. Or someone.” He gently ran his hand on James’ cheek and caressed his hair. He leant down to kiss him. “Said I was going bananas. I couldn’t sleep all night.”

“Did you?” James asked. He was smiling when Q pressed another kiss to his lips.

That smile could do wonders to his screaming brain. He felt better instantaneously, now when he was actually by his side.

“Go see my brother?”

James hummed in agreement.

“Yes. I met Irene, too.” Q carefully lowered himself on the bed, next to James’ unwounded side. He placed a hand over his, and James entwined his fingers with Q’s.

“Did it help?”

“Perhaps.” There was a pause. “You should rest.”

“I’m in a hospital bed, Q. There isn’t much more I can do to rest beside lying in a grave.”

Q’s heart skipped a beat. He blinked. “Don’t say that.”

James’ smile, unbelievably, widened. “Too early?” Q glowered at him. James said, “You should rest, Andrew. Stop fretting over the scratch on my shoulder and go home. Think about the cats.”

When Q made no move to get up and go, he gave him a sharp look that could kill a man and said, with all seriousness, “That’s an order.”

“Technically, I am still your superior,” Q replied with a hint of a smirk.

“Should I call in the nurse and tell her to escort you out of here? Say you’ve been sexually harassing me?”

The hand that wasn’t squeezing James’ found his thigh under the scratchy blanket. Q bit his lip. “Should I?”

“As tempting as it is,” James swallowed when Q’s hand stopped dangerously close from his crotch, “it’s a bad idea. Go home. I’ll survive a few more hours without you.”

Q wasn’t so sure he would survive a few more hours without James.

Nevertheless, he got up and with one last long, open-mouthed, filthy kiss that made him shiver, he departed.

His heart and mind felt a little calmer, and a little closer to home. Something warm bloomed in his chest; it was love and relief that James was finally home and didn’t botch the mission entirely too much, and it tasted like cloves and cinnamon in hot pear juice.