Chapter 1: Side: Q
Q was the first of his family to get a higher education. His folks were simple people – both spiritually and financially – so he’d gotten a more than modest start. The school he went to in his big brother’s hand-me-downs too big uniform was in the bad part of London and was so underfunded that they patched the big hole in their roof with the children’s arts and craft project – well, not really, but the work was so shabby that they might as well have done that.
Q didn’t care about how his school looked like or how shady everything around it was, simply happy that he could finally learn more than reading and doing basic math. Much to his disappointment, the first two years of his academic life ended up being incredibly boring and he spent them doing his work faster than it took his teacher to finish reading a Sun article so he was allowed to skip a few grades to make things changeling for him and before anyone knew it he found himself in a very posh College that lords and ladies and lieges attended at age 17 on a special grand and with a promise to keep his beyond humble background a secret.
“Not that our esteemed students would stoop so low as to mock someone for their, shall we call it, modest background,” the very old, very posh sounding Headmaster had assured Q and his parents, his assistant eagerly nodding in agreement.
That being said, he still received a pamphlet that was as thick as a book to help him blend in easier among his filthy rich peers that were more than happy to boast about what number in line they were for the throne and while his uniforms were brand new and supplied by the school – two sets for summer, two sets for winter and a set for a Mass on Sunday because they were still stuck in the 19th century despite the advanced science program they had – his everyday clothing was taken care of with a donation from a Lord of an unspecified land that wished to help out of the goodness of his heart and not because his boy did something bad.
Again, Q did not care. He didn’t mind being a charity case if it kept all the snobs off his back, especially since he ended up sharing a room with the most annoyingly stuck-up young lord of a land that Q never bothered to remember who was more than happy to throw his father’s title and his father’s money around to get whatever he wanted – except a room all to himself – and who genuinely scoffed when ‘the common folk’ were mentioned.
Knowing how to look for the good things in life, Q decided that rooming with the Lord of the Snobs Franz Oberhauser was a very good thing. Q was a hard worker but every now and then he needed an extra kick in the butt not to collapse and that little bit of extra fuel he needed was the knowledge that someone like Franz could easily end up in such a powerful position that people like Q would have no hopes for a better future whatsoever. Franz also helped him develop a posh accent extremely fast which tricked most of the other students into believing that his social class wasn’t below that of a nouveau riche and it did make his life there easier though not by a lot.
Some students just knew that was not from the same cloth and Q assumed that they came from really old money and they had a special kind of radar encoded in their DNA. Most of them had been raised proper enough not to be rude to him but they still scoffed whenever Q was praised by the teachers and every time they saw he was on top of his class and then there was James bloody Bond.
If Q was the youngest student in the college, then James Bond was the oldest one and he was only two years ahead of Q. No one knew anything for sure other than the fact that James had been forced by circumstances to freeze his first year once and that went on a one-year sabbatical during his second year, but there were a lot of rumours going on.
Some said that given James Bond’s being higher on the royal inheritance, he was called away for proper, royal grooming every time the Queen – may she reign eternal – fell ill and her family acted up so much that she disowned them. Others claimed that James Bond kept marrying European royalty and then he was caught with his pants down and forced to divorce, sign an act of nondisclosure, and return to his studies in quiet shame. And then there was Q’s favourite gossip and namely that James Bond was, in reality, the latest byproduct of a family of spies which meant that every time he was called away it was because the world needed saving.
It was Q’s favourite because was an impossibility as well as a testament to people’s imagination.
You knew when James Bond was in the same room as you. It was impossible to miss that even if you tried your best to pretend that he wasn’t there. He was loud, he made the uniform look good, every girl that existed around him swooned when he passed, he couldn’t help but break everything that he wasn’t supposed to touch, he stole cars that were technically his but not quite, he always snuck into places where a normal student wasn’t allowed for reasons only known to him, and… And then it suddenly dawned on Q that if he wanted, James could be a spy.
Q realized that James not only acted as a distraction so his friends could pull off pranks on their rivals or the more snobbish teachers that favoured the students with a bigger estate and title and that he was really good at not only zeroing in on the person he was interested in from across the room but also on sneaking up on them.
The first time he had done that to Q, James had made a beeline for him to warn him away from the university, telling him how boring everything was and how pompous and stuck-up most of the students were. When Q told him that he was already going there and he told him how old he was, James patted his back, told him to keep working on his posh accent and then disappeared before Q could tell him where to stuff his supposed good advice.
The next time he met James, he was struggling with quite a lot of books and trying to keep to the shadows at his mother’s request – she was afraid that the other students would pick on Q because of his age and his brain.
“I don’t remember ever owning this many books in my first year,” James said as he took a few books away from Q and frowning at how battered they were. “Then again, I admit that I was never interested in them enough to take them out of their original wrapping. Where to, stranger?”
Later that day, one of James’ friends dropped by ‘his most unfortunate lodgings’ – as James called his room the second he crossed paths with Franz – with a bag full of new books, a wink, and a promise to keep his secret as long as he didn’t do anything stupid like try to pay James back for everything.
Ah, James did it again. He had distracted Q once again from his task at hand and that made him annoying in Q’s book.
Granted, James was a different kind of annoying than Franz. Ignoring that unlike his stuffy roommate, James always got under Q’s skin and stayed on his mind for a few good hours until he was distracted by the many classes he took. It wasn’t necessarily bad since James never went so far with his teasing that it was considered bullying and he did get annoyed whenever he caught one of his team members – because of course James Bond was the football team’s darling captain – trying to strong-arm Q into doing their bloody work, but he was still a distraction and Q could not afford that.
His worries were quickly put to rest though as somewhere around the middle of Q’s first year, only a few days after being informed by James that he still had way too many spots to be as worried as he was about college and that he needed to relax a little because it was impossible to fail his classes or lose his special grant, James once again dropped off the face of the earth and rumours instantly began to spread again.
Now people were saying that James had managed to knock up one of the faculty members, or that he’d betrayed his country for some hot Russian spy even though the Kingdom wasn’t at war with Russia right now. Others were sure that he’d stolen one too many cars and the headmaster had finally had enough and sent him packing or that his family had run out of money so he was now working as a busboy and he couldn’t bear to look anyone in the eye.
Franz was to blame for that last one and while everyone busied themselves on finding out why one rich boy hated another rich boy, Q continued to focus on his studies and when he was supposed to start his second year, he was allowed to skip directly to his third one. He was also allowed to start tutoring in exchange for actual money and because it was impossible to graduate without finishing the fourth year, Q allowed himself to enjoy student life by staying out with his friends –very low-class nobles – for more than thirty minutes and taking the drama course which wasn’t useful for him.
Two weeks into the new school year, theatre proved to be quite a challenge and Q loved it for that. He had been flying through his other courses and he adored what he was doing but every now and then, he got bored. But with theatre… Learning the lines was easier than codding, reading what other people said what the author of the play meant was a breeze as was remembering that, but properly emoting and understanding on an emotional level what they meant escaped Q completely.
“Mister Boothroyd, Siri has more emotion when she acts like a GPS than you and you’re supposed to be Romeo bemoaning the loss of his Juliet,” his professor said with a hint of desperation in his voice.
He was being overdramatic in Q’s opinion, but he supposed that was to be expected given what the man taught. “I think I can make myself cry if someone lends me a pin?” His professor let out a strangled cry as he clutched his chest. “Okay, okay, I think I can do that without a pin if I simply think of the worst coding job I saw in my entire life.”
The professor let out a long, suffering sigh and motioned for Q to sit down. “I appreciate the fact that you are doing your very best, Mister Boothroyd. I would love to see you…” He trailed off and frowned at the door, crossing his arms over his chest. “Should I applaud you as well, Mister Bond,” gasps echoed in the room and everybody turned their heads towards the door so fast that it was a surprise no one broke their necks, “for finally deciding to show up while reminding you that you are on very thin ice?”
“I’ll take the—”
“Don’t be cheeky by answering a rhetorical question, Mister Bond!” The professor snapped, starting to pinch the bridge of his nose and very obviously count down from ten to calm himself. “Now kindly take a seat and please do your best not to act as a distraction for the remainder of this class.”
That was an impossible request since try as he might, James had no way of getting the people around him to stop asking him all sorts of questions save for him moving to the professor’s desk in the front of his class – and if the very strained smile Q was seeing was any indication, he was very tempted to do so or at least to walk right out of the room.
Being fully aware of that and more than a little bit insulted by the lack of respect of the vast majority of his students, the professor decided that it wasn’t too early in the year to start talking about the final project that would represent 70% of the final grade. “I have decided to do Macbeth this year,” the professor continued to softly say - not quite a whisper, mind you, but not his regular tone either - an evil glint in his eyes. “Even the smallest role will guarantee an automatic pass given how hard the play is and this time, I will call out the name of the character and the first who raises their hand gets the part. If we have more people raising their hands for the same part at the same, then they will participate in an audition for that particular role.”
The few people who were paying attention reached a silent agreement and there was no need for an audition. It seemed everyone was also in agreement when it came to not volunteering to play Lady Macbeth, the five remaining girls and four guys all deciding that staring out the window without moving a single muscle was better0
Q raised his hand only after a second’s hesitation and the professor looked surprised. “As Lady Macbeth, you will need to do a lot of emoting, Mister Boothroyd, so are you sure? I’m pretty sure you’ll pass even if you don’t get a role.”
“I have to prove that I’m not an evolved version of Siri, now don’t I?” Q joked. “Plus, I haven’t met a challenge that I couldn’t win yet,” he continued smugly, although his heart was beating pretty fast.
His professor chuckled, scribbling in his notebook. “Right then we have our Lady Macbeth so all we need now is the star of the show Macbeth him—”
“That’ll be me since he’s my wife!” James shouted, catching everyone by surprise. “That is if my lady-lord would have me,” he added, turning towards Q and bowing, his hand over his heart.
“He’s not the one who’s supposed to approve this.” The professor’s mutterings were ignored as James easily made his way to were Q was sitting and got down on one knee, extending his hand. “I would also suggest you read the play before offering to play the main role if you’re going to show so much affection to your Lady Macbeth.”
“He has a point,” Q said lowly, eyes darting around the room, quickly counting how many people were giving him death-glares before focusing back on the still smiling James, feeling himself getting lost in his blue eyes. “But, if you insist…” He trailed off and put his hand in James’. “Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't,” Q recited, not missing the way the professor cringed – just how much like a robot did he sound?
James also didn’t miss the way the professor reacted either and it seemed like he was hell-bent on playing the role of a protective husband who was ready to duel if his ‘wife’s’ honour was besmirched. “Fiend, you dare insult my Lady-lord wife to my face?” Though the line was made up, the conviction and insult behind the words combined with the mannerisms made it Shakespearian and Q made a mental note to ask James to tutor him.
“Mister Bond,” the professor bellowed, “you will stay after class and copy the entire play by hand!”
If James ever had free time again, of course.
Chapter 2: Side: James
James had been told his entire life not to judge a book by its cover and yet, he always did that. But what could you expect out of a teenager? They only listened to their elders at the end of movies and sitcoms so when he first saw Q, he decided to take pity on his soul and mental health and warn him away.
“The fee for this place is too high for what it has to offer,” he said as he fell into pace by the young man’s side, making a note of the fact that he was already wearing the university’s bland uniform. It was a size too big for him, so he must have had his elder brother enrolled already and his parents probably forced him to wear it to get the full university experience – they only succeeded in signalling him out to all the elitist sharks that swam around. “Most of the students are rubbish too, caring more about their titles and bank accounts than anything else.”
Though he’d been obviously startled when James started talking to him, the young man was quick to relax and by the time James was done warning him, he looked amused. “I’m afraid that I’m already a student,” he said in the thickest, most fake posh accent possible and the last ounce of doubt James had about his humble background quickly disappeared.
Still, there was one more mystery that needed to be solved. “That can’t be right because you still have spots,” James accused, eyes narrowed. “How old are you, kid?”
Now that got him angry, his face looking like he had sucked on a very sour lemon. “Some people look younger than they are, just like some people look older.” His lips quivered like he was fighting back a smile while he gave James a once-over. “There really isn’t an agent limit in this place, is it? Are those liver spots I see on you?”
A surge of electricity passed through James and he realized that he was actually enjoying himself. “At least I look old enough to cross the street by myself.” He spotted a security guard seemingly making his way towards them and his smile dropped. “But seriously, how old are you? This place has bigger fines for trespassers than their yearly tuition and the admittance committee frowns upon possible students who get lost during their first visit here.”
“I already told you that I’m a student here,” he all but growled, posh accent disappearing completely. He pulled his student ID from his jacket’s inner pocket. “It says so right there, see? Emeric Q Boothroyd, enrolled at the start of this year, and I’m only a week away from being 18.”
James subtly glanced at his own ID for a moment. “Right then, carry on,” he said, patting Q’s head. “Do work on that posh accent of yours though and make sure to keep it when you get angry. Remember that students here can be vicious to people that don’t come from money.”
Now thinking that Q wouldn’t last the year but finding him interesting and gutsy, James made sure to strike up a conversation with him every time he had the chance as well as helping him without being asked – caring his books, giving him the books he never used, giving him a list of teachers that didn’t really care if you showed up to their classes as long as you got a good grade during the exams and, when he found out who he was rooming with, heavily hinting that Franz would never have a peaceful day if he was mean to Q.
It went without saying that he felt extremely embarrassed when, due to sticking his nose where it wasn’t his business once again while on spring break, he was forced to freeze his year once again so he could help save the world – every now and then, the planets aligned in such a way that a school rumour was actually true and it always happened to be the most ridiculous one – while Q returned to school without a second thought.
All of his friends had also returned to school, his father continued telling him while also shooting the henchmen that had been moments away from gunning down James before his father showed out of nowhere to save his life and save the day. And once the coast was clear and his father had made sure that James only had a few scratches here and there, the usual lecture began.
“How many times have I told you not to do this?” His father asked and then shushed James even before he thought about answering. “Why do you insist on putting yourself in harm’s way instead of letting the adults handle it? I highly doubt that you classes are so boring that you really prefer dying over them.”
“Dramatism of that magnitude is more of a ‘Franz’ thing than a ‘me’ thing,” James said loud enough for his father to hear and knowing that his lecture was over the second he saw him sketch a smile. “My thing is not letting bad guys get away.”
His father let out a shaky sigh, suddenly looking old and tired. “My employer’s thing is the same as yours but the difference between the two of you is an entire agency filled with properly trained people and access to more money and special equipment created for the soul purpose of taking down bad guys.” He placed his hand on James’ good shoulder and gave it a light squeeze.
“He’s rather rubbish at his job if you ask me,” James said meeting his father’s eyes with a smirk on his lips. His mother had been the only one who could make him behave with a simple disapproving look while his father had always struggled to get him in line with words, pleases, and final warnings that never amounted to anything for whatever reason. Still, this time the look in his father’s eyes was different and James felt bad and fully aware of how many times he had almost died simply because a long time ago he had decided that he’d do a better job as a spy. “I’ll stop actively looking for trouble and try not to slip into a coma when my teachers start talking.”
“You know, you wouldn’t find school so boring if you just bothered to finish a single year right on your first—”
“Well, if your boss did his bloody job—”
“Dear boy, I will remind you that I am still your father and that I will not let your age stop me from washing your mouth off with soap if you don’t watch your language,” his father warned, easily grabbing James’ right ear and tugged on it. “Now, an old friend of mine is not far behind us.” He tugged on James’ ear again, pulling him closer. “You are to go with my friend back to Skyfall and do your best not to aggravate your stepmother.”
“Well, I’m not your divorce lawyer but I’m your firstborn—”
“You are in incredibly big trouble already, James,” his father said softly, James’ ear very much still in his grasp – James was honestly surprised he still had that ear. “Grounded until you turn 30, no access to any cars while in school, and minimal pocket money. Do you want to go for sharing a room with your stepbrother while that little genius acquaintance of yours gets transferred to another university?”
He was following his father’s threat up until he mentioned Q, moment in which he felt utterly confused. “Surely you wouldn’t ruin another man’s future just to teach me a lesson?”
“The university I’d have him transferred to would be equal to this one. The punishment would come out of you not seeing him ever again because you’re grounded. Look, bottom line is you’re going home with my friend and not get into trouble ever again, understand?”
James nodded, but he still gave his ride home the slip because of course he wasn’t going to abandon his father in the face of – possibly – certain death. That resulted in him being grounded for the rest of his life and it cost him his place on the university’s football team because he ended up with a bullet in his leg and another one in his right arm – then again, James would have felt like a cheater playing against younger students, so he wasn’t too bothered by that.
What bothered him was that his father had signed him up for the theatre course, promising him that if he switched the class or failed it, he would be sent to a monastery in the Swiss Alps for an entire year after which he would return to attempt to complete his third year once again and this time, James got the feeling that his father meant it.
James knew better than to insist at this point so he just silently waited for the inevitable to come, hoping against all hope that his father suddenly had a change of heart and decided to punish him by making him scrub all the manor’s floors using his own toothbrush. But the call never came and James found himself staring at the giant oak doors, palms sweaty, and just coming to the realization that he was terrified of a bunch of teenagers and what they’d think if he fumbled.
Dealing with assassins was easy because there was really only one thing you could expect of them, but dealing with the snakes that slithered between these old walls when he was old enough to work for the University and when he was no longer the star athlete went far beyond his imagination.
His original friends had long since graduated and they’d already set up a meeting with him in two weeks to tease him about still being in school. The people he had wrapped around his little finger while playing football were bound to abandon him now that he could no longer play – although he never trusted them or cared about them, so no major loss there – his new sort-of friends would be too busy trying to graduate to want to deal with him and the only younger student he took an interest in was still a year below him.
It dawned on him how unhealthy it was to feel so alone and unsafe in a school when he had no such thoughts while on the tracks of horrible people who murdered without a second thought and just as he was about to turn around and run back to his room to drop out, he heard the professor’s voice.
“Mister Boothroyd, Siri has more emotion when she acts like a GPS than you and you’re supposed to be Romeo bemoaning the loss of his Juliet.”
Knowing only on Boothroyd, James quickly checked his schedule on the phone in the off chance that he had misread his schedule but no, it said clear as daylight that James Bond, 3rd year student, had theatre class at this very hour and because the professor clearly knew who Q was, that meant that the genius skipped yet another year, putting him in the same one as James.
With that – perhaps rushed – conclusion, James found his fears chased away and he used a little too much force opening the door, much to his professor annoyance. “Should I applaud you as well, Mister Bond, for finally deciding to show up while reminding you that you are on very thin ice?”
Every eye in the room was trained on him and James mentally groaned as he shifted to his usual relaxed and carefree persona. “I’ll take the—”
“Don’t be cheeky by answering a rhetorical question, Mister Bond!” Clearly his reputation preceded him and his professor had been clued in on the handful James could be by his colleagues. “Now kindly take a seat and please do your best not to act as a distraction for the remainder of this class.”
His eyes remained on Q as he sat down somewhere in the back, happy for whatever reason that the uniform seemed to finally fit him and that he looked less like a waif then the first time he saw him. Their eyes met for a moment and just as he got ready to flash Q a smile and wink at him, the girl on the row in front of him blocked his view and started asking all sort of questions between expressions of how sad and sorry she was that she wouldn’t see him on the football field anymore, the people around him quickly mirroring her, effectively making him do exactly what the professor asked him not to do.
He didn’t answer any of their questions since he was making an actual effort to pay attention to the miffed professor, perking up when he heard his offer. He was sure his father had a really old edition of Macbeth in his private library and he knew who wrote it but since he had never bothered to read beyond the first few sentences as he found the whole rhyming thing annoying, he decided to pass on the easy grade.
Then Q offered to be Lady Macbeth, joking at his own inability to act so James decided that rhyming wasn’t that bad and that he would be a complete idiot if he didn’t do something that made his life ten times easier. “That’ll be me since he’s my wife! That is, if my Lady-lord would have me,” he added when he saw the doubtful look he was getting from Q, even bowing like he’d seen the ‘prince charming’ type characters do in old romantic movies.
His antics amused everyone but the professor. “He’s really not the one who’s supposed to approve this.” His grumbling turned from insulted to exasperation when James outright ignored him and made his way to Q so he could prove that he was going to be the most loving, attentive and respectful Macbeth that a Lady Macbeth ever saw. “I would also suggest you read the play before offering to play the main role if you’re going to show so much affection to your Lady Macbeth.”
“He has a point. But, if you insist…” Because Q always tended to act cold towards him, James had assumed that his skin would be cold. But it wasn’t. His hand, though no the softest he’d held, was warm and James found himself thinking that he wouldn’t mind if he got it to hold it forever. “Your hand, your tongue: look like the innocent flower, but be the serpent under't.”
It was instantly obvious for James that Q had taken a huge gamble signing up for this class, but he still thought the professor’s flinch uncalled for. And because Q had accepted his hand and the role of his beloved wife, he could not let such an insult fly. “Fiend, you dare insult my Lady-lord wife to my face?”
“Mister Bond,” the professor bellowed, “you will stay after class and copy the entire play by hand!”
Chapter 3: Side: Them
Although the headmaster would be the first to shout on top of his lungs that he did not condone any betting done on anything by either faculty members or students, his own name had been scribbled down next to dates and sums in a few secret notebooks throughout the years. He favoured sport bets and chose his own institute only when his personal fortune teller – not finding it strange at all that he didn’t always win when he did that but then again Mercury was to blame for all his physical losses and his psychic assured him that he always won karma points – but if the odds were right, he was willing to try his luck on other things.
He made a point out of never participating in bets on which students would get together or on when they were going to break up because that was gossip and he was above that. That was before catching sight of two very interesting names on his personal assistant’s notebook and the temptation was just too big for him to resist.
James Bond, their eternal student and the reason why they always had enough funds to renovate random wings every year had become quite attached to their local genius with the humble beginning and after making sure that everyone involved had the right age for things not to be creepy, money started to be exchanged.
Thing is that James was known to be a bit of a player. He never went ‘steady’ with anyone but he had been caught making out with countess beautiful but pretty vapid people that followed him around like he was some kind of god under the bleachers, in the university’s hedge labyrinth, in the parking lot, in the car that he was not allowed to drive, and pretty much in every dark corner that existed in the university, so it was very strange to see him walking around like a puppy dog – a very violent puppy dog – after someone whose nose was stuck in a book for most of the day and who struggled walking around when the wind was extra strong.
For the first few weeks, everyone thought that James was just joking around, using Q to show just how good of a boyfriend he could be if anyone actually landed him. It was a very low thing and his father was going to hear about that if Q got so sad that his grades would start to slip which would then damage the university’s average grade in the country, but when James started to turn down actual dates because his ‘lord-wife’ needed help with the play and actually dragged the ones who had been dumb enough to mock Q for playing a woman’s role, people replaced those initial worries with suspicions.
Then James stopped calling Q his ‘lord-wife’ and stopped fighting people simply because Q asked him to so everything became clear and cute and their names were added to the secret betting pool.
James tried his hardest to keep a straight face, but it was impossible when Q was lost in a bright green winter coat thick enough that his arms couldn’t properly hang down and when all that he could see of his face was the tip of his nose – that was somehow redder than the knitted scarf he had wrapped around his neck – and the tips of his wild hair sticking out from under a knobby unevenly knitted hat of an unfortunate shade of old mustard.
“If you say anything about my clothes, I will make you eat everything my mom ever knitted for me and trust me when balls of yarn are cheaper than actual clothes, 90% of what you own is knitted,” Q warned.
“Well, at least you’ll be easy to spot if you ever get lost on a mountain during a snowstorm.”
Q promptly shoved his scarf in James’ mouth, also dumping his heavy coat on him and leaning on him to take off his boots. “This is why we’re getting a divorce as soon as the play is done.”
James made a disapproving noise, though it was lost under the winter coat. He heard a lot of people say that behind their back, whispering about how each of them was using the other to get something: James good grades to everything by having Q do all of his work – Q helped him with it, but never did it for him because then James would never learn anything, not that he’d ever expected Q to do his work – and Q only hung around James because he needed someone to teach him how to act like a human being while on stage.
That last part was especially stupid since it wasn’t as if Q could suck the talent out of James, but he couldn’t blame anyone for what they thought of him since he never went out of his way to be truly caring to anyone that wasn’t his friends and for whom he had an itch – he always made it clear to them that it was an itch and nothing more, so was it really his fault that they hoped for more? He also had manipulated people here and there in the past to make things easier in general, but all those people were horrible and he never pretended to be friends with them or to be interested in them.
Still, when it came to Q, things were different. He didn’t know why they were different, but he was glad they were.
“I still have two months to change your mind,” James said as he sat on the sofa next to Q, pulling their scripts from under it. “Now, are you sure Lady Macbeth dies? I didn’t read anything about my character having a nervous breakdown and killing himself over the loss of his Lady.”
This time he got hit over the head with a book so thin that James would sooner call it a leaflet. ‘Macbeth for idiots’.
James scoffed and threw it on the table, next to the other five. “Yeah, I’m still not reading that. But you’re welcome to read it to me like a bedtime story.” He yawned and stretched, fully intending on using Q’s legs as a pillow.
Q moved at the last second, as was the tradition. “There’s a curfew and because Franz found a way to be even a bigger ass than he used to be because I’m your friend, if I get back to the room so much as a minute after that time, he’ll make sure I’m expelled. It sucks that I can’t get another roommate.”
Well, that was simply unacceptable.
Being a headmaster’s assistant was supposed to be extremely boring and that was just fine with her. She was too old to crave anything more than a nice cup of tea and some bit of gossip throughout her workday which she would then share with her dear husband while he busied himself with their little garden.
She had earned these moments of boring plainness after all the madness she went through as a high ranking agent for the MI6, but then Bond had to breed and enrol the annoying fruit of his loins in her little corner of heavenly retirement, bringing fresh chaos and the way she died with him.
In fact, after hearing young Bond’s latest request, she was sure that this was the day she was going to have a fatal aneurysm and die. “Absolutely not!” She snapped, digging around her desk for her blood pressure pills.
James did his best to look worried – or maybe he really was; you could never be too sure about what you got when a Bond was involved. “His current lodgings are making your prodigy miserable. Do you want him to get so depressed that his grades will drop to the point where he can no longer receive the grand and drop out which would cause his parents to sue you for ruining his future?”
If there was ever a perfect student that signed up for theatre, then she challenged them to go up against James in a dramatic scene and hope to win. “One: he didn’t express any displeasure with his roommate and when Boothroyd dislikes something, he makes it more than clear and two: his grand does not cover the costs of apartments.”
“Are you discriminating based on social status?”
Christ, she hoped that the headmaster was making toast in his office again. “We’re not communists, Mister Bond. Now if you are done trying to spread your manifesto, please leave my office and do hurry along to your first class; I believe you’re expected to play opposite of Mister Boothroyd and you wouldn’t want him to let him down and depress him so much that he asks to change courses, now would you?”
James’ face promised that it wasn’t over even though he’d lost the round, but she was going to thoroughly enjoy this very short moment of victory.
“Your new roommate sucks at hiding his crush on me,” said James in lieu of a proper greeting, dumping his books on Q’s desk before flopping on his bed and grabbing Q’s hand to pull him closer. “But fear not for I shall forever remain your faithful and loving Macbeth!”
They were a day away from the actual show and while everyone knew their lines – and Q sounded a thousand times less wooden – James still insisted on ad-libbing whenever Lady Macbeth’s suicide was mentioned, going off on a tangent about how he didn’t care about anything anymore now that the light of his eyes was no longer there to share his power with him or about how he would continue to fight even though he was now sure the three weird sisters had lied to him.
His words carried emotion even though they weren’t said in the typical Shakespearean way and a few of the stagehands sniffled, but it still wasn’t Macbeth and the professor always looked like he regretted everything that led him there – he actually had tears in his eyes during the night’s dress rehearsal, but it was because James refused to act his damned part properly, not because the clumsy made up lines actually got to him.
“Is that not how the play goes?” James asked, playing the role of an innocent.
“You know how—”
“Lord and Lady Macbeth live a long, happy life together despite all the blood they have on their hands.” He tugged Q closer still, resting his head against his leg. “Tell me a bedtime story if I’m wrong.”
There was the very hard to resist the temptation to run his hand through James’ hair, but Q held his ground and focused on the fact that James was being a very annoying best. “I’m very disturbed by the fact that I think you find that to be romantic,” Q murmured, pushing James to lie down with his knee before sitting down at his desk. “So for the good of the world, your future love life, and for our play, I’ll tell you the story, but you can’t sleep here.”
James chuckled and rolled on his stomach, tucking his hands under his chin. “No need to worry about that, Q, since I wasn’t the one who fell asleep for a moment in the cafeteria because I took too long blinking. Are you sure you don’t want to switch places with me? I have been told multiple times that I have the right voice for sweet whispers in the night.”
He easily remembered how flabbergasted he had been the first time James was his lewd self, but now it was like water off a duck’s back and it was easy to ignore him. “I’m quite comfortable where I am right now and don’t worry about me falling asleep.”
But he did. His eyelids grew heavy on the fifth page and by the seventh one, he no longer saw a problem with him and James switching places, snuggling deeper under the covers, book long forgotten.
The play ended up being the most successful one in forever and after gods were thanked that James did not go off-script – though the people who sat in the first two rows of the far left of the stage swore that they caught a glimpse of Q glaring towards the centre of the stage where Macbeth was being informed that his wife had committed suicide while strangling a plastic watermelon.
A lot of teachers and students were more interested in what was going to happen after the play, a few closest to the stage actually gasping when James reappeared after the curtain fell with a large bouquet of roses in his arms. Quite a few started to clap and cheer when Q accepted the flowers without hesitating and allowed James to wrap his arm around his middle, but the professor’s attention instantly moved to the parents.
In what new generation liked to consider ancient times, a certain kind of parents liked to blame their children’s non-straight tendencies on the lack of a female or male presence in school. Now that almost every school was co-ed, teachers were usually blamed for the way the children swung and since he was the theatre teacher, he needed to know if the parents were people you could have a normal conversation with or if he needed to get campus security involved and accidentally let slip on social media that two kids now needed new housing because they came from Neanderthals.
Unfortunately, the distance between him and the parents was too big and the lightning too bad to make anything out so all he could do was maintain his pleasant smile as they started to make their way towards him.
Meanwhile, backstage, the seniors that were majoring in law were jokingly asking Q is he wanted them to represent him in his future divorce or if he had signed any prenups that might make while James and Q walked around like they were connected at the hip.
Finally, when all the makeup was gone and they were dressed in their regular clothes, James gave in to his curiosity. “So, now that I’ve lost the throne and revealed myself as a power-hungry bastard that cared more about what witches said than my partner’s mental health, are you going to divorce me?”
Q hummed as he moved closer to James. “To be fair, I kind of nudged you down that path so maybe you should be the one asking for a divorce?”
When James chuckled, his warm breath washed over Q’s face, making the swarm of butterflies that had taken residence in his stomach a long time ago become hyperactive. “But I’m quite happy with you as my adorable puppet master.” He brushed his lips against Q’s cheek and gave him a quick, tight hug when Q rested his head against his shoulder. “As you sharks can clearly see, we’re happy without a divorce, so get lost,” he told the law students without looking away from the grinning Q. “Would my beloved husband like to go out to dinner to celebrate our success? I found this great little Chinese place that I know you’ll just love.” He ran the back of his hand down Q’s cheek and slowly started to lean in for their first kiss.
If only parents weren’t wired to cockblock.