Work Header

Plank Position

Work Text:

“Q.” Q blinks, effectively bringing M back into focus. The man looks concerned, which is quite ironic given that he is the cause of Q’s current mental breakdown. “Q, did you hear what I said?”

He blinks again. Of course he heard what M said; despite M’s passive-aggressive notes on his performance review (“orders can be better taken” was an especially masterful use of passive voice, while the use of bold, italics, underline, and all-caps suggested just a touch of aggression), he is capable of listening to orders. Comprehending this particular order, however, is a far different story, and the reason for the last five minutes of stunned silence.

Still, it is apparent that M actually expects a response to this absurdity, so he pushes his glasses up and straightens his back. The hope is that it makes him look like a professional, but that might be a lost cause, given that he had ended up sleeping on his office sofa the last three days, and had barely had time to run a brush through the tangle that used to be his hair before Tanner had ushered him to this impromptu meeting.

“With all due respect,” he starts, and revels in the twitch in M’s eye because that phrase is rarely followed by anything good when it comes to MI6, “if you wanted me to resign, surely there are easier ways of doing so.”

“No one is trying to make you resign,” M replies, although there is something about the man’s tone that makes Q think otherwise. “This is not a punishment. This is about satisfying MI6’s mandatory physical fitness requirements. Which, as suggested by its name, is mandatory.”

“But why?” He tries not to make the question sound like a wail. He fails – miserably. “I have been working at MI6 for nearly four years without a problem. Why now?”

“I would not describe your tenure as being problem-free.” M taps his fingers on the large desk between them. “There is the small matter of your being kidnapped on a weekly basis.”

“That is a gross exaggeration,” he snaps. It has been two weeks (rounding up) since his last kidnapping, thank you very much.

“Furthermore,” M continues, ignoring his protests completely, “if you insist on going into the field to assist the double-o agents, then you need to be able to take care of yourself.”

“Are you referring to the SPECTRE incident?” Incident is a nice, innocent word to describe the last time (if one ignored six or seven or twenty-eight more recent incidents) he had utterly failed to follow orders, and perhaps came close to committing treason. “Need I remind you that I was able to escape two men on my own.”

M looks decidedly unimpressed by his tales of success. “By ducking into a fire escape. If they had any more brains, things would not have gone so well for you.”

Q feels rather indignant at this implicit disparagement of his skills, even though he privately agrees that those two particular henchmen were, to use a cliché, dumb as goddamn rocks. Still, an acknowledgment of that would not help his cause, so he returns to the matter at hand. “You still have yet to explain why now.”

“It is a less a matter of present timing, and more a question of why you have not already satisfied the physical fitness requirements,” M replies. “Every MI6 employee is supposed to satisfy the fitness requirements prior to starting at the agency, so I was surprised to discover that you weren’t tested when you started.”

That was probably because MI6 had been in the middle of a crisis of epic proportions when he had been plucked from his extremely well-paying private sector job and dragged to Olivia Mansfield, who told him in no uncertain terms that he was to fix whatever Raoul Silva had done to their systems. The crises had just kept on piling on after that, giving him no chance to breathe, let alone examine the legality of his current employment situation. He honestly could not even remember if he signed any official paperwork committing his skills to MI6, or if he had ever got around to quitting his last job. For all he knew, his maybe-former employer was still paying him, which would possibly explain the massive amount of money in his bank account because he doubted public servants got paid that well.

“Well, you could keep being surprised,” he suggests hopefully. “And I can focus on doing my job.” Or his maybe job. He really should look into that someday.

M glares at him. “This is not a negotiation. As the head of MI6 and your direct superior, I am ordering you to get in compliance with the physical fitness requirements.”

Q tilts his head, unsure of why being the head of anything is supposed to mean something. After all, he is (supposedly) the head of Q-branch, but that doesn’t stop his minions from being disrespectful sods who spend far too much time gossiping about his lack of a love life. He’d even heard rumors that they had started a betting pool on whom he would end up with and when (the leading contender was “dead alone in his office, his face eaten by six cats,” which was both highly insulting and increasingly likely). He’d threatened to fire them, but apparently threatening to fire people on a daily basis loses its effectiveness when one fails to act on it. Not to mention that they all know that he Hates People, so much so that the prospect of having to hire even an intern causes him to break out in hives. That is why they continue to act like the above-mentioned disrespectful sods, which they will sorely regret when he finally manages to replace them all with silent automatons who may or may not end up taking over the world one day.

Which was fine. Probably better for the environment, really. Plus his robot overlord probably would not give a damn for whether he met physical fitness requirements, which would be an added bonus.

Unfortunately, the robot apocalypse is still a ways away, forcing Q to face the flesh and blood face of M. “And if I fail to get in compliance?”

He prepares for an ineffectual threat of firing, since honestly MI6 needs him far more than he needs it, and is caught completely off-guard when M says, “Then you will spend the rest of your career traveling to overseas conferences on bettering administrative skills.”

Q’s jaw drops at the threat of all the worst things in the world – flying, paperwork, and other people. “You wouldn’t.”

M has the nerve to smile. “Wouldn’t I?”

Q vaguely remembers hearing about how M had resolved the SPECTRE situation by effectively blackmailing every government official who had any bearing on the decision of what to do with MI6 following that lovely… incident. Q also vaguely remembers helping M gather said blackmail material, which might have been a tad illegal (in his defense, he had been a tad drunk at the time, having finally ripped the cork out of that expensive bottle of champagne 007 had left him. With his teeth). Finally, Q vaguely remembers that M is a right bastard who will do anything to get his way, which is why he is so effective at his job.

He is not going to win this.

Q slumps back in his chair, helpless to prevent this from happening. “How long do I have?”

M is gracious in his triumph. “Oh, I don’t think we need to set anything as trivial as a deadline,” he says, making a show of shuffling paperwork. “I think it would be better to assign you a personal trainer to make sure you are progressing in your goals.”

“A personal trainer?” he parrots dumbly.

“Indeed,” M nods, before pressing on the intercom. “Ms. Moneypenny, you can send him in now.”

Before Q can fully process what is happening, the door opens, and none other than James Bond comes striding in. The agent’s eyebrows shoot up when he sees Q sitting there, before he turns to M. “Sir?” There is a hint of curiosity in that smooth voice, no doubt wondering why Q is there and which one of them is in trouble (or at least, more trouble).

“007,” M greets. “The quartermaster and I were just discussing your newest assignment.”

Q feels a scream burbling up in his throat, but M shoots him one curt look and the scream ends up a strangled garble. Apparently the sadistic bastard wants the pleasure of dropping the terrible news on Bond himself.

“Oh?” Bond’s eyes glint in anticipation, clearly not having expected this turn of events. M had made it clear when Bond had unexpectedly returned from his eight-month retirement sans Dr. Swann that he would not be returning to the field until he had earned his place back. It had been a month since, and clearly the agent is itching to get back into the field, which was no doubt the reason Dr. Swann had walked away from him.

“Yes,” M says, and Q has to admire the man’s technique, building up Bond’s expectations before delivering the fatal blow. “You’ll be helping our quartermaster meet the mandatory physical fitness requirements.”

Dead silence, before it is abruptly broken by the sound of Bond’s laughter. Q would be insulted if he wasn’t feeling so mortified, and perhaps it is the sight of him trying to become one with M’s ridiculously uncomfortable chair that finally catches the agent’s attention as the laughter slowly fades into a horrified silence.

“You must be joking,” Bond finally says.

“When have you ever known me to joke, 007?” M replies with a tight smile. Q knows it is just a farce; clearly the man has been hiding a sadistic side all this time. “The quartermaster has neglected his physical training, and you have neglected this agency. It seems the optimal solution to pair the two of you together.”

For once, both Q and Bond are in perfect agreement because this is so obviously not the optimal solution to anything except, perhaps, an efficient way of razing the entire building to the ground. Which is not to suggest that they don’t get along – in fact they do – but nothing ever seems to go the way it’s supposed to when the two of them are involved. Q likes to think that he is not naturally destructive, but Bond seems to bring out his worst impulses (and not to mention, attracts the worst attention), resulting in devastation on a far grander scale than would be possible if it was just one of them. And frankly, M should know that because he’s the one who is usually complaining the most when something happens.

Q does not know why M thinks things will go differently this time around, but he does know this – M has made up his mind, for whatever bizarre and inexplicable reason, and the sooner they accept their miserable fate, the sooner they can be done with this. Bond has clearly come to the same conclusion as well because although he’s shaking his head in clear disbelief, he says reluctantly, “Just the standard requirements? Nothing else?”

Q nearly hisses at Bond about not giving the sadist-in-chief any ideas, but M nods magnanimously. “Of course. I’m not an unreasonable man.”

There will have to be a significant difference of opinion there, but for once, both Q and Bond are smart enough to keep their thoughts to themselves. Instead, Bond turns to Q and says, “Tomorrow, 7:30 a.m. at the gym. Don’t be late, and wear something… appropriate.” And with no more than that and a bold grin, Bond saunters out, leaving Q to gape uselessly at his back.

Q arrives at the gym at 7:30 a.m., hating everyone and everything in the universe. Most people seemed to assume that Q was a morning person, given his propensity for staying awake for 72 hours at a time, running on nothing but tea and sheer willpower, but the truth was that he was the exact opposite. Q loathed getting out of bed at what his mum had termed “a decent hour” – otherwise known as any time before 11:58 a.m. – and he’d typically been given leeway for his odd waking hours given how late he usually stayed. But despite his resentment at having to interact with the travesty known as morning, Q had forced himself to comply with Bond’s orders, if only because he did not want to risk what would happen if he didn’t.

As soon as he steps into the gym, all of his resentment goes flying away, as he stares at the sight before him. Q briefly considers taking up religion because he needs a higher deity to thank (and curse), as Bond is presently doing pushups without a shirt on. Sweat runs down a perfectly sculpted body, and it is not the only thing running down as the blood rushes from Q’s brain to rather less useful parts of his body. Honestly, he should geld himself now and get it over with, before he humiliates himself in worse ways.

It’s no secret that Q has lusted after Bond since the first time he laid eyes on him, although he had done a fairly good job of hiding it during their first meeting. In his defense, most everyone at MI6 reacted in the same way; there was just something about the man that sent everyone’s loins singing. Most people got over it (sort of), once they got to know the agent better, but Q had irrationally decided to go the opposite way, falling harder for 007 with each bantered word and irritating quirk, the flaws of the man somehow making him more attractive rather than less. Q had always suspected that insanity ran in his family, and this was the clearest evidence thus far.

He is still staring when Bond finishes, too engrossed in the sight to realize that the man is stopping until Bond stands and looks at him. Bond is breathing a bit hard, but there is that cocky smile on his face, the one that always makes Q want to kiss or slap him silly. He’d even be open to both at the same time.

“You made it,” Bond says, as if Q had a choice in the matter. Which he didn’t. Before Q had managed to escape M’s office, M had pleasantly promised that if Q did not show up for the morning training sessions, his access to his own office would be automatically suspended. Granted, the threat was a weak one, as Q could easily hack into his own damn systems and restore access (and perhaps lock M out in the process), but the thought of having to do such a tedious thing on a daily basis was enough to make him give in.

The prospect of seeing Bond shirtless was also enough to ensure that he would be coming in the next morning.

He just manages to hold in his moan of disappointment when Bond picks up a shirt and slides it on, but covers for it by looking away at the ridiculous amount of equipment in the room. He cannot even fathom what half of these torture devices are for, and he looks back at Bond, who seems amused by his disorientation. “So which of these are we going to start with?”

“None,” Bond replies. “We’re going to start with something easy.”

Easy. He finds himself nodding eagerly. Easy is good.

Bond sits down on the ground, next to a mat that has already been laid down for him. “Do you know how to do a plank?”

“No, but why do I get the feeling that I’m going to be wanting to walk off of one soon?”

Bond’s lips quirk into a predatory smile that does nothing to assuage his concerns. “I don’t know about that, but why don’t we check on your form?”

Bond pats the mat, and Q – being a genius and all – gets the message, sitting himself down on the mat. Bond gives him a look, as if he was expecting something else, and Q says a touch defensively, “Look, I really don’t know what a plank is.”

“You’re joking,” Bond says, but unlike when he had said it in M’s office, he sounds more bemused than anything.

Q scowls at him, and Bond somehow manages to both sigh and laugh, a sound that is too attractive to be fair. “Fine. Let me give you a demonstration then.”

And without any fanfare, Bond gets on the ground, stomach down and feet together. He then places his hands beneath his shoulders and with practiced ease, lifts his body up, hands firmly set and weight supported by his extraordinarily muscular arms.

Then he holds it. And holds it. And holds it, his breathing nice and even and his body perfectly still as Q stares at the sight before him, transfixed by its majesty. But all too soon, it ends as Bond pulls himself back up into a sitting position, looking at Q.

“It’s not so bad,” the agent says, apparently misinterpreting his dazed expression as fear rather than longing. “It is excellent for building up core strength.”

“Mm,” he replies noncommittally. He supposes it does not look completely terrible.

Bond gives him a quick lookover. “You might want to start with something easier though. Rather than getting on your hands, stay on your elbows.”

He nods, laying himself down with none of the grace Bond had just displayed. He takes in a breath and then quickly pulls himself up, the force of the motion nearly setting him off-balance before he manages to wobble his way onto his elbows.

And for a moment, it’s fine. Then the moment passes, and his abdomen starts to feel tense as his entire body starts to shake, and it’s quickly becoming a struggle to maintain a position that should not be this damn hard to maintain.

“Damn,” Bond says unhelpfully. “You really don’t work out at all, do you?”

Q did not know he had his eyes closed tightly until he cracks one open to glare at the agent. “Must you rub it in?”

“Your position is all wrong,” Bond informs him, and before he knows what is happening, he is practically yelping as hands rest on his hips. “Your hips are too low, and-” the hands move up to his back, “-you shouldn’t be so arched or you’ll hurt yourself. Not to mention….”

And then the hands are sliding down his back and towards his arse, and this time he does topple over in a hasty attempt to escape Bond’s wandering hands.

That should not be so high in the air,” Bond finishes, far more amused than he should be as Q sucks in deep breaths.

“Why would anyone do that to themselves?” he finally manages to demand.

“Like I said, it’s one of the best exercises for building up your abdomen muscles,” Bond replies. “Which you apparently lack. No wonder M is so concerned.”

“M is a sadistic, overbearing bastard.”

Bond ignores that bold proclamation, although Q knows the agent agrees. After all, he had heard Bond call M that to his face just last week. “We’ll keep working on that. Why don’t we just try some core exercises for now?”

Q nods desperately. Anything has to be better than that torturous position… and not to mention, having Bond’s hands all over him.

Two minutes in, he thinks, This is not so bad.

Four minutes in, he thinks, We have to be close to being finished, right?

Four and a half minutes in, he thinks, Fuck, I’m going to die.

Eve finds him slumped bonelessly on his desk, moaning in pain.

“Kitten,” she says, and Q thinks that is a cruel nickname indeed, seeing how kittens are veritable paragons of strength compared to the quivering lump of insensible goo that he currently is, “you’re quite pathetic, aren’t you?”

Q turns to glare at his so-called friend, a feat made rather less impressive by the fact that it takes him three minutes and seventeen false starts to manage even that. “Your sympathy is duly noted, and very much unappreciated.”

“You’re in the wrong business if you’re looking for sympathy,” Eve replies cheerfully, and pokes his arm. “So your training session with Bond went well, I take it?”

“I was tortured.”

Eve laughs, and Q makes an unbreakable vow that he will put a frog in her bed. An especially slimy, warty one. “Stop sulking. I watched the footage and that was barely a workout. Bond went easy on you.”

He’s not sulking; he is suffering, which he tries to point out. “It hurts. Why is M trying to kill me?”

She raises an elegant eyebrow, “If you really have to ask that after one session, you must be out of shape.”

He has no idea why everyone suddenly finds it necessary to point out this very obvious fact to him. Before he can ask though, his office door opens with a bang, and a familiarly evil voice says, “You can’t be in too much pain if you’re still speaking that much.”

Q wishes he had the strength to flip Bond off, but instead has to settle for angry mutterings that only makes Eve laugh herself silly, despite (or perhaps because of) their incoherence. Bond is equally unimpressed, chuckling at his misery as he crosses the office in a few lazy strides to toss something on his desk.

He recoils as the smell of the full English breakfast hits him in the face with the subtle force of a bomb blast. Not that he would have much experience with that; unlike a certain arse of an agent who happened to be standing in his office, Q did not make a habit of throwing himself into explosives. Certainly, there was that one time in Barcelona, but that was one time, and Tanner really needs to stop bringing that up on his evaluations.

Another thing he has little experience with is breakfast. The thought of eating when he is in such pain makes his insides churn, with the exception of his stomach which is growling softly. “But I have tea.”

“You can’t just live on tea,” Bond says by way of unnecessary exposition. “No wonder you’re as skinny as a twig. But you have to actually eat to regain your strength.”

Given how weak he feels, he does not think “regaining his strength” is a state of being he will ever attain. “But it’s breakfast.” Q continues staring, as if that would make the massive amount of food disappear. “I don’t eat breakfast.”

“I noticed,” Bond replies. “But you’re going to now.”

He turns his gaze towards Bond, who just crosses his arms and stays put. Apparently the man does not intend to leave until he ingests some portion of the dead animals before him. Q debates whether or not that is a bad thing, since having Bond to look at for the rest of the day is… appealing. Wrong, but appealing, especially since the agent is still wearing that thin white shirt which shows off his muscles quite impressively.

But then, he does still have work to do, the thought of which is intimidating enough considering the aches and pains he is currently suffering. If Bond was to stay, he would never get anything done, except possibly speeding up his involuntary departure from the premises, his personal effects stacked in a single cardboard box.

(A bit of an exaggeration, really – given that he practically lives at MI6, he has so many possessions that it would take a small moving van to transport them all.)

“Fine,” he says, taking a plastic fork and jamming it into the egg. It’s runny, just the way he likes it when he actually deigns to eat eggs, and he wonders if this is just a coincidence or if Bond has been stalking him. The thought sends a bit of a thrill down his spine, which is probably not the appropriate reaction to having a deadly assassin watching one’s every move, but Q was not hired for his common sense. Quite the opposite, actually.

He takes a bite, manages not to vomit it up, and takes another. Now that he’s started eating, his hunger seems to have multiplied vociferously, and it’s a wonder that he doesn’t swallow a piece of bacon whole. Still, he must have some standards, and as he delicately breaks the strip in half, he eyes Bond. “Are you planning on standing there and watching all day?”

“The view is rather enjoyable,” Bond replies, and Q knows he must be taunting him. He is hardly at his best right now, with his hair still wet from his quick shower and limbs clumsy from exhaustion, but the smile on the agent’s face is not mocking. Instead, it is almost… fond, and clearly Q is suffering from some exercise-induced hallucination because that… that is not right.

He’s not the only one to come to this realization as Eve abruptly stands, reaching over to take hold of Bond’s arm and ushering him towards the door with no little force. “Come along now. M will have my head if we keep the Quartermaster from his work too much longer.”

“So glad you’re looking out for my health, Moneypenny,” Q mutters around a mouthful of buttered toast, manners be damned.

“Anytime,” she tells him sweetly, before stopping to look at him just as the door is closing. “And Q? You know the second day always hurts more than the first, right?”

“That’s impossible,” he replies to the closed door. There is no way he can possibly hurt more than he does now.

Eve is a liar, he thinks to himself as he lies on his bedroom floor, unable to move after having ingloriously tumbled out of his bed rather than standing up and walking. “Hurts more” is a gross, gross understatement.

Little improves after that. Q is late to the gym, due to the rather incredible amount of time it takes him to crawl to the bathroom to freshen up. Bond responds by making him run laps, which nearly ends with him sprawled on the ground all over again. He then spends the rest of the day curled up under his desk, emerging only to swipe the tea off his desk.

And then, reluctantly, he also grabs the breakfast that Bond leaves for him, which he consumes while designing portable jetpacks that, with a little bit of luck, will make running obsolete in the near future.

By the time Saturday arrives, Q is barely able to walk straight. This puts him in a rather foul mood, which is compounded by his underlings engaging in lewd hypotheses on the reason for his fatigue. Now that he thinks about it, he is not sure how any of them managed to satisfy the mandatory physical fitness requirements, seeing how all of them seem to be too busy living in the virtual world rather than the physical realm, and he makes a mental note to raise that with M very soon. In the meantime, he settles for locking the lot of them in the break room for four hours, only relenting when Tanner forces him let them out (some nonsense about false imprisonment being a criminal offense). It does not stop their speculating, but they at least manage to speculate a bit more quietly.

The one benefit to this hell week is that Q has been sleeping beautifully, slumber taking over completely as soon as his head hits his pillow. He sleeps like the dead until his alarm wakes him up, but seeing how it is Saturday, no alarms will be ruining his morning.

Just the doorbell, apparently.

He ignores the ringing, grabbing his pillow and pulling it over his head, followed by six blankets and a cat. For the oddest reason, this does nothing to stop the ringing. Seven minutes later, Q has come to the conclusion that the only thing that will stop the ringing is lethal force, and finally he lurches himself out of his bed, stumbling towards the front door with little grace but great homicidal intent.

He flings open the door, and comes face to face with Bond, who looks much too perky for 7:30 a.m. He’s holding two paper cups in his hands, and before Q can push the agent over the railing, one of the cups is thrust in his direction.

“Drink up. We’re going on a run.”

“It’s Saturday,” he sputters. “Why are you here?”

“M gave me an assignment,” Bond smirks, “which I’m taking very seriously.”

Q slumps against the doorframe both in defeat and because his legs cannot support his weight much longer. Of course the sociopath chooses now to start obeying M’s decrees; apparently the opportunity to torture the quartermaster was the incentive M had been missing all these years. “You are not going to give up, are you?”

“Nope,” Bond chuckles, seemingly amused that Q would even ask.

He sighs, and swipes the proffered cup before taking a large swig because there is no way he can deal with this situation without tea. Then his eyes widen and he spits out the vile concoction, staring up at Bond who has just managed to stay out of the blast radius. “What is this?!”

“A spinach smoothie,” Bond replies, drinking from his own cup. “And you should really be more careful about drinking things without checking. What happens if it was poisoned?”

“If?” Q is still gagging on the remains of spinach that he is certain are permanently lodged in his throat, doing their very best to avenge their tragic demise by taking him down with them. “I’m pretty sure you did just poison me!”

“Don’t be so dramatic,” Bond says in a tone that reminds him an awful lot of Eve. The man shoves him back into his flat. “Go and get dressed. We need to get going if we want to beat the crowds.”

“What crowds?” he demands. “It’s freezing out there. Who in their right minds would want to be going anywhere right now?”

Bond gives him a look that is a touch exasperated. Good – it’s about time Bond got a taste of his own medicine. “I made us brunch reservations for 9:30, so if you want to have time to get back here from our run and shower before we eat, I suggest you get changed now.”

Q rather thinks that if he has to suffer an early morning jog, then everyone else can suffer through his body odor. Something about Bond’s expression, however, makes him think that this argument will not work well, so he sighs and goes to get dressed.

The run is not… completely horrific. Certainly, it hurts like hell, Q thinks he is going to die six or seventeen times, and it’s so cold that he is sure ice is forming in his hair, but there’s something oddly invigorating about the cold air. It soothes his burning lungs, energizing him when he should be exhausted, and it wakes him up far more effectively than any cup of tea.

Not that he would ever admit that to Bond. The man’s ego is puffed enough as is; he does not need any encouragement.

They end up at a hill that provides a lovely view of the river, although he’s breathing so hard that he isn’t quite able to appreciate it. And now that they’ve stopped, he can feel the cold nipping at him again, causing him to shiver. He tries to control it as quickly as he can, but Bond does happen to be a double-o agent, with unfortunately keen powers of observation. A little bit of shivering is not going to go unnoticed, and the agent asks, “You cold?”

“What do you think?” Q replies, automatically resorting to bitter sarcasm because that is what he does.

Bond is not offended though. “It’s because you don’t have an ounce of body fat. Or muscle,” Bond adds almost as an afterthought, which stings a bit more than he had thought possible, given the daily humiliations he has been enduring. But rather than have the decency of allowing Q to express his deep irritation, Bond wraps his arms around him, broad chest pressing against his back. “Better?”

No, he wants to say. It is probably what he should say, along with a firm push away and lecture about workplace harassment policies still applying outside of the workplace. But Bond’s arms and chest are so damn warm that he lacks the strength to say anything, instead allowing himself to sink into the heat, even if his cheeks are currently a fiery red.

Q has no idea how long they stand like that, looking over the people that they have both sworn to protect with their lives and then some. Bond does not say anything, but Q can feel the agent’s every breath tickling his neck, a steadying presence like the agent’s so often is. It is odd to think of Bond that way, given that he is the living embodiment of a force of nature, but either Q is ridiculously attracted to danger (very possible) or he has simply come to appreciate Bond for who he is (even more so). Bond does what needs to be done, no matter what, in order to get the job done. That is why he is so good at what he does, even when he is causing them all grief with his destructive tendencies.

That is why it was so shocking when he left with Dr. Swann, and not at all shocking when he came back. Because James Bond always comes back, no matter what took him away to begin with.

“I still hate you,” Q pronounces as he inhales his omelette. It is admittedly delicious, although he is not sure that it is worth suffering through the morning run (even when factoring in that quiet moment on the hill). It doesn’t help that he had wanted the pancakes instead, but Bond would not let him, calling it empty carbs. Q had maturely responded by calling Bond a sadistic bastard, and things had rather devolved from there.

“I know,” Bond replies patronizingly, digging into a salmon benedict with all the grace of a rampaging rhino. Q should record the moment for posterity, and maybe send it to all of Bond’s future conquests. Merely as a courtesy, of course, and not an act of sabotage.

The fact that he would want to sabotage Bond’s future liaisons is something he does not want to consider too deeply, even though he knows exactly the reason for it. To cover for it, he proclaims, “And you’re paying for all of this,” before ordering a spinach smoothie. Not that he has any intention of drinking that devil juice; he just likes the sour expression on the agent’s face because the drink is ridiculously expensive for something so singularly disgusting. “And don’t even think about making a claim with accounting. I’ll empty your bank accounts if you do.”

At least both of them will be suffering during this ordeal. Let it never be said that Q lacks a streak of sadism of his very own.

Bond deposits him back at his flat, and Q promptly buries himself under his blankets, ignoring the complaints of his cats who want to be petted. He spends the rest of the day in a rather comatose state, interrupted only by the persistent meows of his cats who would like to be fed before they resort to gnawing off his face for sustenance, thank you very much.

He is so exhausted that it never occurs to him that he had spent an entire morning with James Bond outside of the office, engaging in activities that would be considered… date-like by most standards.

Of course not.

On Monday, Q does not know how it is possible to hurt more after a day of doing nothing except staying curled up in bed, but apparently the human body is a miraculous thing that will continue to invent new and terrible ways to torture him.

His body is not the only one. Q probably should have dedicated some of his massive intellect to considering that maybe, just maybe, he should refrain from antagonizing a man who is in charge of his training regiment, and he finds himself regretting all of his life mistakes quite dearly when Bond makes him do what must be an hour’s worth of push-ups (in actuality, it was not even three minutes).

It does start to get better, eventually. It has to, or Q would have thrown himself at M’s feet and begged for mercy, promising to give up his personal projects, his cats, his first-born child, and his soul in exchange for waiving the physical fitness requirements. He’s able to do more repetitions, jog half a mile without slowing to a walk, and is no longer so out of breath all the time. He also no longer hurts quite as much – well, he hurts, but it is an almost satisfying ache, like he can actually feel himself improving. The one thing he hasn’t quite managed is the bloody plank, his every attempt accompanied by a great deal of… touching. Lots and lots of touching.

(At a certain point, he wonders if perhaps his body is refusing to get in the right position because it too is trying to torture him, the feel of Bond’s hands on his thinly clad torso, back, and occasionally arse driving him to distraction the rest of the day.)

Still, improvement is improvement, and even Eve is impressed with his progress, giving him an encouraging pat on the head the next time she finds him prostrated in front of his office floor. Unfortunately, Bond chooses to celebrate his accomplishment not with an encouraging word, but by upping the ante with fresh new hells.

“Are you ready for some stairs?”

Q blinks at him. “Stairs?” Last he checked, MI6’s stairs are actually quite well-maintained, due mainly to the agency’s counsel screaming about needing proper emergency exits in case the building collapses. Again.

His questioning tone is apparently quite hilarious, and Bond smirks. “You’ll see.”

Six flights of stairs later, Q is clinging to the railing, not so much breathing as wheezing for air. Any delusional thought of improvement has flown out the window like a suicidal potted plant, and his legs feel like jelly, worse than any previous day had ever felt.

“I hate you,” he manages to snarl between heaving gasps. “I hate you so much.”

To be fair, he has hated Bond for quite some time now, but his hatred reaches nuclear levels as Bond simply smirks and jogs past him, having barely broken into a sweat. Yet even as he is cursing the man and all of his ancestors and then some, he cannot help but notice the fierce pride in those bright blue eyes.

“So what are you going to do when you actually achieve the physical fitness requirements?”

Q raises an eyebrow at Bond, who is setting down the mat. He has no idea what the point of something so flimsy is, but he keeps that thought to himself in favor of the question that has been posed to him. “Why? Are you so eager to get rid of me already?”

Bond moves off to the side so that Q can sit himself down. “More the other way around. I’m sure you’ll be eager to have your mornings back, right?”

He frowns at the agent, not sure where this conversation is supposed to be going. To the extent Bond is suggesting that he wants this to end, he supposes the agent has a point. It is not as if he had wanted any of this for himself, having to be essentially blackmailed into it by M, but in the time since he has started to get… used to it. It has reached the point that he actually feels a bit fidgety on his rest days, like he should be doing something instead of just lying in bed. But, as he looks over Bond and his crooked smile, it is also more than that.

As often as he complains about Bond to anyone who will listen to him (and quite a few who would prefer not to), he does not actually hate the man. It would be easier if he did because then he could use some of his technological genius to force the man to take mercy on him every once a while. But there is that obviously masochistic part of him that enjoys their time together because even though it hurts like merry hell, at least Bond is there next to him the whole time through.

Bond is next to him right now, so close that the man can probably hear all of his thoughts, especially with them ringing through his head so loudly. In a desperate bid to put some distance between them, as minimal as it might be, he gets down on his back, knees up, staring at the ceiling.

“I do not even know what the physical fitness requirements are,” he mumbles, desperate for a way out of this conversation and the uncomfortable truths he would rather not face in this lifetime or the next. “I doubt I am anywhere close to achieving them.”

He starts to do some crunches, without Bond even telling him to do so, because at least then he can write off his rapid heart rate to a workout rather than a sad, pathetic crush.

Bond is quiet, although he can feel the agent’s eyes on him. Finally, Bond says, “The requirements are actually pretty minimal. I wouldn’t be surprised if you already satisfied them.”

“Well, that means you will be able to move onto your next assignment then, just like you wanted.” He tries to sound neutral, but only manages bitter. He closes his eyes, quietly cursing himself and hoping that Bond would not notice, but he must. Still, it is not as if he is being facetious. M had not said so explicitly, but neither had he been subtle in hinting that only after Bond finished whipping the quartermaster into shape would he be permitted back into the field. This entire thing was really just a means to an end, that end being Bond gallivanting around the world shooting people and blowing things up.

“We should celebrate when you finish,” Bond says abruptly. “I was thinking I could take you out to dinner.”

“Who says I want dinner with you?” he replies through gritted teeth. Besides everyone and their mothers.

And then Q’s entire world seems to stop because Bond is leaning in close, a smile on his face. “What if I want dinner with you?”

Q freezes, mid-crunch.

“007,” he says stiffly. “Please don’t joke about such things.”

The smile never leaves the agent’s face, and yet it never seems mocking, even if logically speaking, what Bond is saying should be a mockery of all his feelings. But there is a sincerity that he cannot quite let himself believe when Bond affirms, “I’m not joking.”

“Of course you are. You always are.” He pulls himself up into a sitting position and waves… well, flails a hand, to be more accurate, the nervous energy practically shooting off of him. “You are always flirting and never taking things-” me “-seriously. Why should this be any different?”

Bond leans back, the smile fading. “On the contrary, I take you very seriously.” And for once, Bond’s expression matches his words.

“Then why did you leave?” he blurts out, before he can stop himself.

Bond is silent for a long time, and Q worries that he has ruined things between them. But at the same time, he does not regret asking because he has to know. It is the question he has asked himself so many times before, why Bond would leave when MI6 was his life, the thing that kept him going each day. Yet when the agent had walked away, he had seemed to do so with little effort, never looking back at the people he was walking away from.

“I was tired,” Bond says quietly. “After everything that happened, I was just tired. I needed some time away… some vacation would be good for you too,” he adds, trying gamely to change the subject. It is a poor attempt though, and Q is not about to fall for it, so Bond sighs, running his hand through short-cropped hair.

“But I came back,” he continues, looking straight into Q’s eyes. Never wavering, never faltering, just the straight, honest true that Q knows he is not entitled to, but is being offered all the same. “I came back because I missed this. All of this.” And before Q can ask the question he has been so afraid to think about, Bond adds softly, “And you. I missed you too.”

He swallows hard, wanting to draw back but not able to break eye contact. “Don’t say things you don’t mean. It is unnecessarily cruel.”

“Why would I lie about that?” Bond takes one of his hands, which is shaking badly. “I mean what I said, Q. I want to take you to dinner, and I don’t think I’ve been subtle about my interest.”

And he’s right. Even considering Bond’s motivation to get this done as quickly as possible, there are things that Bond has done that goes far beyond what is necessary, whether it is their Saturday brunches or the daily breakfasts, the way those broad hands linger on his skin or when Bond looks at him with a satisfaction that goes beyond a job well-done. If Q was not so busy being in pain, he would have noticed what those things meant, their significance so obvious that even one as emotionally inept as himself would notice.

Well. It is impossible not to notice now.

“You could have asked me sooner,” he says, his heart still pounding. “I would have said yes.”

Bond leans close again, so close that he cannot see Bond’s expression. “And how about now?”

“Well, seeing how you have already taken me out for brunch the last three Saturdays, dinner would be a logical next step,” Q says, and he swears he can feel Bond’s smile against his cheek.

After dinner, Q finds himself in plank form over the agent, whose normally bright blue eyes are dark with desire at the sight. “So,” he asks lightly, “how’s my form now?”

“Absolutely perfect,” James replies, before drawing him down for an absolutely perfect kiss.