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Requiem for the Deathless

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Resurrection. 

That was what set Double-0s apart from all other MI6 agents, their ability to be sent on increasingly ridiculous missions and always, always return. Almost any MI6 agent could have the success rate they had, but not anything close to the survival rate. Any time they worked with other agents, it was a constant chatter on the comms. Should have killed him, they’d say. Look at that, the Double-0s do it again.

And the thing was, when they died, it was almost always unexpected. Unpredictable complications, the autopsies from Medical read. Cause of death? On the record, complications of a life of injury. Off the record, damned if they know.

And so far off the record that it is the best-kept secret in an organization built on secrets, it was a pot of ink.

Enchanted ink, to be exact, the creator lost to history and the formula impossible to replicate. Ink that, when mixed with blood, creates the Deathless. People marked with it have their death carried by another until such time as the ink fades, immortal until the death of their partner. The Deathless feels every bit of their partner’s pain, the better to protect their own life, and in return their partner is drawn to them when the Deathless is hurt, to nurture their protector back into top shape. It is an elegant system, at least on paper.

Every Double-0 bears the tattoo, their most trusted confidante carrying its match, carrying their agent’s life alongside their own. 

Except, of course, for 007.

 

***

 

“It’s time to choose, Bond.”

M sets two vials between them on her desk, folding her hands in front of her. A silver knife sits between the vials, point towards Bond. The archaic setup is a stark contrast to M’s ultra-modern office decor, engraved silver and heavy glass instead of sleek chrome and metal. 

“This is a waste of time.”

“You accepted the promotion. There’s no backing out now.”

Bond looks impassively at the vials in front of him. “Impossible, ma’am.”

“One person to whom you trust your life.”

“Impossible,” he reiterates, a little firmer, “ma’am.”

Her steely glare meets his blank one, and he looks away first. Agents are forces of nature, tornadoes that sweep in and are gone, wildfires that destroy everything that comes close to them. M is not. M is the pillar of stability, the indestructible heart of MI6 and she never, ever budges.

Bond takes the knife, slicing a neat line along his thumb, and drips blood into both vials. “Pick someone. I never want to know.”

M collects the vials, stoppering them and putting them away in a padded briefcase. “As you wish. And Bond?”

Bond, already halfway to the door, stops and turns on his heel. “M.”

“Don’t you dare bleed on my floors.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

 

***

 

001’s specialty is gathering information.

And not just any intel mission, but the ones that require an extremely delicate touch. When 001 is deployed, it means nobody will ever know she’s there. It means whispers in the dark, idle flirtation in the bar, and ledgers that are copied, not stolen. She is a subtle weapon, all glances over her shoulder and tight dresses and a swaying walk because nobody suspects a slightly-drunk girl with cleavage just the wrong side of tasteful. 

Her little sister, a rather quiet government official with a forgettable face and very non-opinionated politics, bears the tiny typewriter tattoo on her shoulder that keeps 001 alive even, even though she rarely needs it. Her missions don’t go wrong, not like the others, and her work comes to fruition in diplomacy long after she’s gone. 

Her favorite weapon? A push-up bra and unexpectedly strong sangria.

 

***

 

The kidnapping of Ms. Vesper Lynd is when it all goes to hell.

The reports from the support agents that Bond has walked straight into the trap to rescue Ms. Lynd don’t come as a surprise to M. He played hard and fast with his life before promotion, which was actually one of the things that earned it for him. In her Mission Room, nobody questions it when she takes a moment to stalk around the room, and if her gaze lingers on one of Boothroyd’s best and brightest while he works over two screens, nobody notices. 

The dark-haired boy- and she knows he’s older than he looks, but they’re all children to her these days- hasn’t flinched the entire time they’ve been in the Mission Room. As she watches, he taps two fingers against his mug and one of the other members of Q-Branch standing in the back of the room scurries up to fill it again. 

She exchanges a look with 003, the most senior of the Double-0s and supervising agent on the first mission for a new Double-0, and he shrugs. They’re still in the same place they were in choosing to promote Bond in the first place. He could be the disaster of her time as M, or he could be her greatest success story. 

And only time will tell. 

“Bond is on the move again,” the boy says, sending his tracking program on to the main screen where Boothroyd sits and handles the support agents in lieu of Bond staying in communication. 

“You told me Bond ripped out his tracker,” M demands of Boothroyd.

“He did,” the boy agrees. “The one he knew about, at least.”

Everyone in the room stares at him. He takes another sip of his tea, and then turns back to his computer and resumes typing as if nothing had happened.

Through the entire debacle, M never sees him flinch and never sees him lose his composure, even when Bond tries to rescue Ms. Lynd and stays underwater for too long trying to rescue her. 

Not even when everyone else files out of the room and he’s alone with her does he betray a moment of weakness to his own mother.

She arrests the motion to touch his shoulder approvingly, the same way she always had during his childhood when he showed her the increasingly sophisticated gadgets he’d built with Boothroyd’s tutelage on the days she brought him to work with her. There can be no accusations of favoritism, no matter that she pushes him harder than anyone else.

She can’t be Katherine Olivia Mawdsley here, which means that Geoffrey- named after Boothroyd, who shared parental duties with her despite having no blood with the boy- is just another tool to be used for the greater good.

She leaves without another word.

 

***

 

003’s specialty is infiltration.

He’s most often undercover, getting inside an organization for however long it takes to complete his mission. It’s a job for a patient man, one who can think on the fly and keep dozens of ‘what I did last weekend’ stories straight to keep a cohesive cover. The devil’s in the details, and he’s famous for fabricating an entire mission report for a covert mission that never happened and convincing everyone involved that it was legitimate for five years.

His tattoo is a line drawing of a dinosaur drawn by his young son to keep Daddy safe when he was first promoted to Double-0 status, its pair given to his partner, M’s then-secretary Katherine Mawdsley. 

His favorite weapon is a pen with a slow-acting poison that absorbs through skin so he can make a clean exit and have an alibi. 

 

***

 

When Bond goes off the grid chasing after Quantum, Boothroyd brings his godson in to work by his side at the command workstation in Q-Branch. Geoffrey will succeed him as Q, he’s already decided that, and he would even without the implicit faith in Geoffrey’s abilities from having taught him everything he knows. 

Best to start teaching him not only how to design and build prototypes and the logic behind coding- he would teach him more than that, but Geoffrey has long since surpassed his skill with a computer- but also how to lead and most importantly, how to delegate. 

Geoffrey brushes his hand over the back of his left shoulder, where Boothroyd knows his tattoo lies- my shoulder will be fine, M, you of all people should know that I don’t wear anything that short-sleeved and I am not only your superior officer, Geoffrey, I’m your bloody mother and you will listen to what I have to say- and catches himself before he frowns. Bond in more trouble, then. Again. 

Boothroyd hates that they’ve done this to Geoffrey, and he made his disapproval clear from the beginning to the tune of a massive argument with M. It isn’t right, he argued, to push this on Geoffrey and make him bear that burden because you insist on arming sociopaths for Queen and Country

I believe you’re the one arming them,  she sniped back, and you don’t get a say. He’s an adult now, in case you’ve forgotten, and he said he’ll do it.

I’ve done an equal share in raising him, Olive, he’d shouted back at her, he’s my son too. I do get a say in this.

Only on paper, she snarled, and when was the last time we did things by the book on paper? She stormed out after that and if there’s one thing that’s kept their odd method of child-rearing safe all these years it’s a healthy respect for each others’ space. 

Well, that and making their flat the safest place in the British Isles because it is home to the head of MI6, the Quartermaster, occasionally one of the Double-0s, and Geoffrey, who has the potential to surpass all of them. 

“I’ll keep my headset on, Q,” Geoffrey tells him, stretching before he picks up his mug. “Evan is on tea duty today and he always makes it ridiculously weak, so I’m going to make my own.”

“Bring me a sandwich?”

Geoffrey stops at the doorway, glancing over his shoulder. “Ham, cheese, and mustard no mayo, right?”

“Add the mayo. M is in a meeting, so she never has to know, right?”

Geoffrey grins. “Like either of us can keep secrets from her.”

Boothroyd shoos him away, glad to see Geoffrey not troubled over Bond’s distress, and is thankful- not for the first time, and certainly not for the last- that 003’s frequent absences meant that M needed help to run MI6 and raise a son who, just by the virtue of his parentage, is the most valuable bargaining chip against MI6. The fact that Boothroyd thinks of him as a son and he now holds on of the Double-0s’ lives next to his own? 

Geoffrey’s going to need every bit of skill he’s learned from them all, because his entire life has been classified from his birth onwards. 

 

***

 

006 does explosives. 

He’s sent in when something just needs to be destroyed. Locked doors and bombs in the meeting? Check. Computer server rooms and chemical laboratories? Check. If it’s possible to blow it up, he’s blown it up, and probably then some. He’s made a career out of taking buildings designed not to explode and making them explode. 

It takes quite a bit of technical skill, but everyone in MI6 tends to forget that with his fondness for maniacal cackling and bad puns about bombs. 

His tattoo is an anatomically correct diagram of a heart, wired up to explode, and he blatantly refuses to explain why. His life is carried by one of the Q-Branch techs, his childhood best friend who personally designs almost all the explosives 006 is equipped with. 

He doesn’t have a favorite explosive, but lives by the general rule that the bigger the boom, the better the job.

 

***

 

“Take the bloody shot,” M snaps, and both 003 and Boothroyd take half a step closer to Geoffrey.

“Agent down,” Moneypenny reports, and Geoffrey gives his fathers a level look before raising his mug to summon today’s tea minion, as he puts it. 

They all know Bond’s still alive because Geoffrey’s still alive and breaking the connection would kill them both. It’s an impossibility. 

 

***

 

009 is a sniper. 

She does assassinations of two types: impossible shots nobody else could manage or shots that need to be clearly traced to an organization other than MI6. She’s a master of fluidity, adapting to her surroundings and to the requirements of her particular mission with ease. She’s sometimes the ghost who is never seen, sometimes spends a week shamming as some other known sniper before taking the shot in their signature style and vanishing. 

Her cousin, who works in MI6’s Human Resources department which is a lot more literal of a job title than most HR departments, bears her tattoo of a rifle twined in ivy. Her favorite weapon is a knife in her boot because for some reason, nobody expects a sniper to be ready for hand-to-hand.

 

***

 

It was quiet.

M isn’t used to quiet. At work, there’s always some disaster needing attention, some of them terrorists and some bored Double-0s. At home, there was always someone up. 

Richard, whenever he was home from a mission, clattering around the kitchen in the middle of the night because he’s been on the other side of the world and his internal clock is off, cooking some of the delicacies from wherever he’s just been. More often than not, her Geoffrey would be in there with him, tasting spices brought from abroad and asking about the stories behind all of the dishes. 

Today, he is busy maintaining order at their compromised headquarters, supervising the move of classified materials to the backup location in the dead of night. The Double-0s aren’t officially in charge, but meander around to inspire the idea that somebody is watching at all times and nobody dares cross the Double-0s. Not ever, and especially not tonight. 

Geoffrey was, thankfully, testing new designs in the labs, which are built to withstand anything. He was there when the building collapsed, but safe. Officially, he’s on temporary trauma leave for the night, since everyone knows he has an enormous task ahead of him. 

And Boothroyd, faithful Boothroyd. The moment Richard was promoted, they knew it was the end of their chances to raise Geoffrey normally. A child is too much of a weakness for a Double-0, so they had to make it so nobody on the outside would question Geoffrey’s parentage.

Boothroyd married her for that, helped raise her son, loved him as his own. He was always here or in Q-Branch, teaching Geoffrey all about weapons and such in the Branch and the mechanical aspects of breaking things down and rebuilding them better on the toasters and hair dryers and other appliances at home. 

He is in a casket, now. M was dragged in to meetings and Richard to defense, so it was Geoffrey who had to go identify the body of his Quartermaster and surrogate father. 

His will, both his private one and his recommendations for his successor in Q-Branch, will be read tomorrow. M knows without looking exactly what they both say. For Q-Branch, he will nominate Geoffrey to follow in the footsteps of all of his parental figures and give up his identity for Queen and Country. For his personal affairs, well, Boothroyd wasn’t the type to leave everything to her. It’ll all go to Geoffrey as well. 

“Mum.”

Her head snaps up and she glances at the cup in her hand- it’s empty and she doesn’t remember finishing it, nor the other half of the bottle she opened this evening, and that really isn’t like her. She’s M because she values control, not losing her head over losses. Geoffrey slides onto the couch next to her, tucking his feet under him and leaning against her side like he did as a child.

He looks like a lost child, more than she usually harps on him for the floppy hair and awful cardigans. Both his fathers overruled her on burning them when he was out of town at a conference. He holds a dog-eared book in both hands, clutching it to his chest, one of Boothroyd’s awful poetry collection that he insisted on housing in the living room. 

“He left this open, on his desk. Lord Alfred Tennyson, one of his favorites that I’ve seen him read a thousand times. I thought you might like to see it,” Geoffrey turns away, but doesn’t mumble because she detests mumbling, “before I lose the page. One last evening poem, the way he was always reading them to us.”

“Ulysses,” she reads off the top of the page.

“That which we are, we are. One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and fate. But strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Geoffrey lays the book flat on the coffee table. “It’s what he told me any time I faltered.”

M touches the book, watching Geoffrey return to his room to hide and bury himself in endless coding or whatever else it is that they would work on from home, and then slaps it shut and pours another drink.

 

***

 

002 and 004 are fraternal twins, the siren and the playboy, with matching roses tattooed on them. Their oldest friends and their other siblings, a total of seven people, all have matching tattoos to hide the truth of who carries their mark. 

They are master blackmailers, able to play the right characters and to always have evidence to use against their targets, often supporting future missions with the bargaining chips needed to make valuable contacts. 

002’s favorite weapon is red lipstick, and not the corrosive kind Q-Branch gives her but the actual attention-grabbing shade of fire engine red that keeps eyes drawn to her lips, not her words. 

004’s favorite is a good bottle of aftershave and a tailored suit.

 

***

 

“Where the hell have you been?”

Bond clinks the ice in his glass, staring out the window. M is delightfully annoyed, of course. He knew she would be, and that’s why he broke in here instead of reporting in to MI6. Funny, how much easier it was to uncover the location of M’s flat than her real name. 

“Enjoying death.”

Another figure, tall and slim, steps in and levels a gun at Bond’s head. Not a bodyguard, because M rarely has them after the Quantum mess and because any decent bodyguard would have taken the shot no questions asked at finding a stranger inside M’s flat. 

“Why didn’t you call?” M is strident, still irritated, but she doesn’t make any offensive moves and the man behind her breathes shallowly, his aim unshakable and clearly comfortable enough with a weapon to hold it for quite a long time. 

Levity, then.

“You didn’t get the postcard?” M is unamused, so he switches tack. “You should try it sometime. Get away from it all. It really lends perspective.”

“Ran out of drink where you were, did they?” she snaps, and he’ll never bloody understand M because there’s no reason that should have made her angrier. On the bright side, the man with the gun’s hand quivers, just a tiny shake, but it means he’s more susceptible than M should this come to blows.

“What was it you said? ‘Take the bloody shot’.”

“I made a judgment call.”

“You should have trusted me to finish the job.”

The man with the gun lowers it and spins away, all in a single motion, stalking into one of what must be M’s guest bedrooms and locking the door with a click. 

“Leave, Bond,” she commands, a deeper sadness in her voice than he’s ever heard from the cold mistress of MI6. “Before you truly see me upset and I have you imprisoned for insolence.”

“You could have me executed. You’re the only one who knows who holds my life,” he taunts because clearly this is a day of making Very Bad Calls. 

“That isn’t an option.”

Her, then. Good to know. Nobody else that M would protect against the possibility of an angry renegade agent. 

Good to know.

 

***

 

005 does interrogations. 

She’s a tiny woman, able to inspire sympathy in some and a fearless sort of bravado in others, but her true skill is with leaving no marks when on British soil and with making sure nothing can be traced back to them. Nobody keeps information from her, and nobody lies. Not for long, at least. 

Her tattoo is a death’s head moth, and its mate is on her husband, an official in MI5. 

She prefers a scalpel for its ability to be a delicate touch or searing pain based on the skill of the user. And she is very, very skilled. 

 

***

 

“Tea minion!” 

The call travels through Q-Branch like wildfire the moment Q taps his mug. He’s running surveillance for Bond’s mission- and planning revenge for M keeping him locked up while Bond did physio only to send him abruptly to the National Gallery to kit the agent out. He can’t do anything at work, but this requires drastic measures. He’s thinking replacing all of the tea in the flat with decaf and then locking himself in Q-Branch for the fallout. 003’s out on mission again, so he won’t feel bad about making him face M’s wrath, too. 

His tattoo aches and he knows Bond’s taken more damage than he’s letting on, but that’s why he sent Moneypenny. That and some perverse hope that Bond will actually listen to him because, were it not for Q, Moneypenny would have killed him with that shot. Shame she’s doubted herself because of it, not only because she hit and agent but because she thought she scored a kill shot and didn’t.

“Target dead,” Bond reports coolly. “I have a lead on his employer to follow up tomorrow.”

“Status, 007.”

“I told you.”

“Answer your Quartermaster,” Q snaps into the microphone because the Double-0s aren’t known for respect, but each and every one of them gave Boothroyd more respect than that. At least they’d back up their sass with his title in recognition that he is their superior. “Status.”

“Minor bruises, that’s all.”

“I very highly doubt it. Support will be minimal so we don’t tip our bomber off. I’ll be handing your comms off to R for the evening shift, so please avoid any trouble. Quartermaster, over and out.” Q takes his headset off, but not in time to miss Bond’s reply.

“I live to please.”

“Like hell you do,” Q mutters, accepting his tea from a minion and going to do his work. 

 

***

 

Silva escapes and it’s all Q’s fault. 

He was just trying to impress M, to fill Boothroyd’s shoes and, if he’s honest with himself, to prove himself to Bond. He’s carried the man’s life for years, now, interacting with him in the most cursory of senses under Boothroyd’s tutelage, and yet Bond acts like he’s an upstart child playing in the big leagues.

He hasn’t yet learned that Q isn’t afraid of the Double-0s. 

Still, he takes a moment while Bond’s racing headlong through a service tunnel to find his personal phone. He never does this, so M will listen to him.

Mum, he texts, Emmy’s rat escaped in the house and I think it’s gotten outside. Help?

He doesn’t get a reply, but he doesn’t really expect one. Their personal phones are the only lines completely separate from MI6, supposed to be used for grocery lists and things like that, but rarely is. 

003 shadows him the entire time he lays the false trail for Silva, and when Bond takes them in to radio silence, 003 sits in the chair at the side of Q’s desk and they talk. 

They talk about missions and where 003 hides his personal cookbook, the one handwritten with the history of his career at MI6 displayed in his recipe choices and the language they’re written in. Q shares the inside scoop on the relative strengths of various Tea Minions, and 003 offers his insights on maintaining a life and MI6 at the same time. 

“Geoffrey,” 003 says, closing his eyes and rubbing his side. 

“Not going well?” he asks, because he doesn’t know what to say. 003 used his name. His real name, the one he cast aside. They don’t do things like that, not here.

“No,” 003 says, even and quiet, and Q dips his head in acknowledgement. 

The conversation gets more personal after that. They don’t mention it, but it’s the shift from 003 and his Quartermaster to Richard and his son Geoffrey. Dad reminds him of his basics, of the way they raised him to live and of specifics like his strengths and weaknesses in self-defense. He doesn’t talk much, letting Dad tell him everything, and he watches his father fade slowly. 

“We love you, Geoffrey,” he says. “I’ve done a lot of questionable things, but my greatest regret is that we never told you that enough, that we never let you be a child over teaching you to protect yourself in our world. And I know you and Katherine never saw eye-to-eye, but she loves you too. She’d never let anything or anyone come before her job, but she’d burn the world for you.”

“I know,” he says, “I’ve always known.”

“Then we must have done something right.”

Q’s headset crackles to life and he snatches at his computer in time to hear the words he’s most been dreading.

“Agent down. I repeat, M is down.”

When he looks back, his father’s last smile is fading with the light in his eyes.

 

***

 

008 does counter-intelligence.

His entire career is centered around clever misdirections, staged information leaks, and far more flirting with the agents who work for others than should happen outside of a spy movie. It’s a demanding job, with them trying to trap him in a lie while he tries to sell what he knows is a lie. 

His life is held by his little sister, who works in a shop and, according to him, wears too much eyeliner. She lives a positively normal life apart from telling people that her brother is some sort of military, she forgets which because who has time for military branches where the fall collection features teal?

His favorite weapon is a slick smile and a raised eyebrow to give him a little time to think. 

Or a piece of wire that hides in his watch. Might be that, too.

 

***

 

Q is going through the motions and absolutely nobody knows what to do about it. Mallory, their new M, says to give him time though is entirely too cryptic about why, with a search of his records and Q’s turning up absolutely nothing of note. Moneypenny drags him out to drinks with a different group each time, trying to get him to socialize and ‘make him stop looking like a kicked puppy’. Q-Branch makes a lot of tea. Seriously, a lot of tea. Catering submitted a complaint about the sharp increase in Q-Branch’s tea requisition rate and Facilities had to bring him a designated side desk for tea because none of the techs will even enter his office to retrieve files without depositing a fresh cup of tea at his elbow. 

It doesn’t help that only M knows why he’s been hit harder by the losses in what’s officially termed as The Skyfall Incident, and only that because M ordered it out of him. Q’s files are heavily edited, a conglomerate of half-truths and careful omissions to hide things better left unknown. 

He starts taking an even longer route home than usual, and he was very careful even as a toddler not to let anyone find out where he lives. Most toddlers have tags with their names and addresses, in case they wander off. He had a tag with a false name and an address to a house generally used as a dormitory for agents who are in the country too rarely to have permanent addresses. Joseph Murphy, the name on his tag, is the alert code for a resource that needs immediate protection by all available agents even now. 

He would sleep in his office, like he has hundreds of times when MI6 was in a security lockdown and he would spend the lockdown tinkering and sleeping in Boothroyd’s office until the crisis was resolved, if it weren’t for 007 lurking around every corner these days. He fills spaces like he expects to be allowed there in a time when everyone else treads lightly, standing at Q’s shoulder while he works and ordering meals from Catering according to his own tastes and coaxing him out of the building when all the rest of Q-Branch has left. 

Clearly, M’s tired of Moneypenny’s attempts and set Bond on him, which means the agent is going to try and find absolutely everything out about him, including where he calls home. He spends a few days taking roundabout ways to his backup apartment, waiting for the agent to show, before he settles down enough to return home.

He spends his days working and his nights sorting things in to piles for the MI6 disposal team to deal with, donating what can be donated and destroying the rest. After a month, he’s managed to work his way through all of Boothroyd, M, and 003’s belongings, and the flat slowly begins to feel like his own. The bookshelves, once sorted by whose belongings were one them, are a mix of his favorites from all their collections and a display of the various knickknacks they picked up through their long careers. He’s always had the master bedroom, since Mum decided he needed a little space to have as his own since MI6 invaded every bit of the rest of his life, and Boothroyd’s room becomes his server room because it had the most outlets. 

He’s adjusting, and he’ll recover from this, too. It just takes time, and the two months since have started to dull the initial rawness of their loss. 

He’s working on a comparison of paint types with respect to colors available, stain-resistance, and time required for proper application when someone knocks at his door. Q activates the security cameras from three different angles and is completely unsurprised to see Bond in a neat suit staring straight into the camera perched on top of his door instead of the peephole in the door. He clicks the lock, letting Bond in. May as well answer the questions here, in private, because if Bond followed him here he’ll know enough to ask and to make Q’s life immensely difficult.

“You’re the one who pulled a gun on me,” Bond opens with.

“You invaded my home. You ought to be glad that I didn’t shoot you on the spot.”

“I have a habit of surviving the impossible.”

“Still would have hurt.” Q returns to his typing, letting the agent prowl around and explore. He’s secured the place, but the extra eyes won’t hurt. Mum taught him that he could never be too careful with his own safety. 

“I did wonder why she had such a big place. Place this size is a nightmare to secure.”

“Ingredients are in the kitchen. If you can make something good, I’ll permit you to raid Mum’s collection. I’m allergic to shellfish, but Dad liked them so if you find any please throw them out.” 

“I feel like we’re not having the same conversation.”

“In the meantime, I’d like a glass of wine. Red, please. The door on the left side of the pantry, code is 43633739.”

Bond is halfway to the kitchen before he really realizes what he’s doing. Q smiles behind his laptop screen. He took pains to learn Mum’s Don’t-You-Dare-Argue voice and it is one of his greatest tools with recalcitrant agents. She had them all trained that when she used that voice, they jumped. 

Bond is a quiet cook, moving with careful competence so at odds with how Q learned to cook. Cooking is a passion, and he learned technical skill in between Dad singing off-key in Italian, dancing around the kitchen with spatial awareness of Dad and his flying knives until they cooked in a symphony of synchronicity. It was making estimates of quantities on the fly because some of Dad’s recipes were in weights and some were in volumes and plenty were just lists of ingredients and cooking directions with no measures at all. 

Q’s a fairly precise person. In his line of work, he has to be. Weaponry has to be designed to incredible detail, especially things on a minuscule scale, and an error costs the wrong person their life. Cooking is almost a rush, in that way, since he allows himself to be completely inconsistent even on the same recipe and if it goes poorly, well, he’s eating cereal for dinner. Worst that ever happened is he gave Boothroyd a nasty case of food poisoning and he vomited over a prototype. 

Bond doesn’t make a fancy dish the types of which he’s seen the agent prepare a hundred times to seduce various marks or once when he posed as a chef to get close to an international terrorist. He makes a simple meat-and-potatoes dish, expertly seasoned and beautifully cooked but not fancy cuisine in any sense of the world, sitting down next to Q and eating quietly. 

“How does nobody know about you?”

“Plenty of people know about me. I’m the Quartermaster of MI6, not exactly a secret.” 

“I mean who you are. People whisper about M having a son who used to play in MI6, but they assumed he was dead when he wasn’t at the funeral.”

“I know. I started that rumor.”

Bond clears the dishes and washes them, leaving them air-drying for Q to put away later, watching Q work on his paint analysis. He wants to repaint the flat, to make it his own and not his childhood home. This was Mum’s sanctuary, and all the decor reflects her mindset. Neutral and elegant, with simple statement pieces. 

He’s looking for a little different. He wants vivid colors on the walls but to keep the white built-ins, he wants enough shelving for the clutter of his life without making it messy. MI6 is so incredibly structured, and this is to be his sanctuary now. 

“The red would be overwhelming in here,” Bond offers, “but if you did one wall and put something neutral behind the shelves, it could work.”

“Is that you offering to paint, 007?”

Bond glances up from Q’s screen and stretches, getting up to his feet. “For my Quartermaster? Maybe I am. Until later, Q.”

Q stares at the door long after he’s gone, wondering what the hell just possessed him to get a Double-0 agent who followed him home to cook him dinner and paint his flat. Mum would either be incredibly proud or utterly disgusted.

 

***

 

The next time, Bond shows up with groceries and a demand to be allowed to raid Mum’s- well, she called it her wine pantry, but it has a lot more than just wine. When Q is finally ready to paint, he arrives with 006 in tow, and both he and Trevelyan manage to cover each other in almost as much paint as they put on the walls. 

MI6 replaces his lost family, the techs stop scurrying around are let him encourage them to their greatest creative potential, and occasionally Bond even returns his equipment without it being in scorched shards. 

Q runs missions and continues to not flinch when Bond is shot or stabbed or too close to an explosion because he knows he can’t die. He hides any visible injuries, making sure Bond can’t see any telltale paper cuts or burns from testing or the aches from long days in front of his computer. 

Drinks with Moneypenny and whoever she can drag into it becomes less of a forced thing and more of a regular occurrence. He’s careful never to get too drunk because Moneypenny would call Bond or Trevelyan to tote him home and secure the place and he can’t risk them seeing the tattoo. 

Six months after The Skyfall Incident, Bond takes him out on a date. 

He doesn’t really ask so much as he drags Q out on a Saturday to one of the most expensive restaurants in London, turning on the charm, and expects Q to either follow his lead with the flirtation or to turn it to business. Bond doesn’t manage to mask his surprise when Q flirts back, awkwardly at first because he doesn’t do that and then more smoothly because this is Bond, he knows everything about the man and he’s the only reason Bond is still alive. 

It’s a month of dates between missions before he lets Bond kiss him at the door, then steps back and shuts it. He slumps against the other side of the door, pushing his hair out of his eyes and touching his lips.

No wonder so many marks fall into bed with Bond. The man can kiss.

 

***

 

The new 003’s specialty is still infiltration. That’s how MI6 runs, each number to a specialty, and so the space that was vacated is filled by a young agent with a lot of potential.

He’s quiet, the type of agent who goes unnoticed by everyone except Management, which is why he was completely surprised when they came with the nomination. He does quick in-and-out infiltrations, the type where he’s the new guy on the block who is a little incompetent and a lot nervous. People all around the world are willing to talk to someone who’s a little bit incompetent, tell them things that they really shouldn’t. 

His tattoo is the constellation Gemini, for his wife’s birthday, and she bears its mate. She’s an elementary school teacher, the utter stereotype with bright flouncy dresses and kitschy earrings, the opposite of her rather bland secret agent of a husband. 

His favorite weapon is a clumsy stumble and an embarrassed smile on command.

 

***

 

They get into a routine. Bond goes on a mission, he doesn’t die because Q thinks fast and because he can’t, and after he debriefs he comes to Q, cooks them a private dinner, and kisses him senseless before doing the dishes, watching late-night TV, and leaving. 

After a long mission in which Bond is killed dozens of times and Q breaks a keyboard in anger when he completely loses track of him- he has his mother’s temper, despite Boothroyd’s best efforts- Q opens his bedroom door when Bond goes to leave.

Bond takes the hint.

Q takes the initiative. He made a decision and he strips quickly, Bond’s eyes taking in every inch of his flesh greedily and definitely not missing the swift intake of breath. 

“Nervous?”

Q doesn’t reply because he is, just not the way Bond thinks. He takes three steps to the edge of his bed, then turns his back to Bond and sits cross-legged on the edge. 

Bond is quick to see, slightly slower to comprehend, and even slower to quite believe. He splays his palm over the tattoo on Q’s shoulder, holding the distance for a few moments before tugging him against his chest. 

“You.”

“I knew you’d find your way here someday.”

 

***

 

007’s specialty is shock and awe.

He’s sent in when normal methods just won’t do, when they need to make a statement, whether it will be traceable back to MI6 or not. Explosions, assassinations, high-stakes poker- he does them all. He’s the not-so-secret secret agent, the one who is instantly memorable and equally unstoppable, the reason why secret terrorist organizations whisper about MI6 and Bond, James Bond. He’s MI6’s personal statement.

He bears a compass rose tattooed on his wrist, north pointing to his trigger finger, a design unique in that it was chosen by the M of his appointment. It pairs with the one on Geoffrey Mawdsley’s back, his lover and his Quartermaster, and one of the most powerful men in Britain. 

His favorite weapon is a Walther coded to his palm print and an earpiece back to his Quartermaster.

 

***

 

“Q-Branch, this is 007 reporting in from Chechnya.”

“007, this is your Quartermaster speaking. I’ve got a package drop for you at 0300 in the local train station, third locker from the western entrance. This is of utmost secrecy, so none of you usual theatrics quite yet. Do try not to get shot, you can’t manage a bulletproof vest under this suit and I’d so hate to see it stained.”

“Understood, Q. How about dinner?”

“Stay on the grid and I’ll let you take me out to sushi. If you’re late, I’ll take Moneypenny.”

“Is that a challenge, Quartermaster?”

“Of course not. I have the utmost faith that you will always find your way home.”

“Indeed I do. Seems that I’ve got a party to crash, then. 007, over and out.”

“Do your worst, 007.”