Chapter 1: Forget Me Not (#31 - Flowers)
There wasn’t much to be said about Q’s favourite flower. He knew it wasn’t proper for a man to have a favourite flower - well, according to the typical ‘man’, it wasn’t proper. But he figured he had every right to like a flower. He was human. He didn’t care.
He liked the colour variations, and the little seed pods, and the smallness of the flowers. He liked how they smelled, and what they meant.
He didn’t tell anyone about it, though. Q wasn’t a private man by any stretch of the imagination, but he did have a few secrets that he liked to hold close to his heart, and his flower was one of them.
Rough days at his work would send him off to the market, where he’d track down the flower dealer and pick up a large bouquet of the little blue flowers, and he’d take them home. He’d water them, and nurture them until they faded and died. Before that happened, he’d take a pair of scissors and cut a stem off, then pull out his nature book and press the cutting between the pages and return the book to the shelf only to ignore it until the next bouquet turned up on his kitchen table or coffee table.
One day, though, he came home to a bouquet already sitting in a glass vase on his coffee table. He stared at it for a while, confused, then shook his head and went about his usual routine when he was able to come home. A very long, hot shower; a bag of popcorn popped in the microwave; Netflix queued up and playing the newest in a long line of mindless action adventure movies; and him falling asleep before the credits, curled up on the couch under his oldest and best comforter, a glass of scotch at his elbow and the bottle on the floor.
Three weeks later, he pulled the book out and set the clipping on a new page, then shut the cover and slipped the book back home. The rest of the flowers went into the bin.
A week after that, a massive explosion in Fangchengang in the Guangxi province of China brought his world to a halt when none of the three Double Oh agents on assignment answered Michaela’s increasingly desperate attempts to get their attentions. Q’s eyes scanned satellite photos and readings, trying to see if it were the nuclear charges that had gone off, or if it were just Alec’s proclivity at exploding things. He wasn’t quite getting radiation signatures on either the British Vortex or America’s Misty satellite (people though Misty was dead and gone, and Q laughed at that. He also hoped the CIA never got wind that MI6 actually found it and was using it), but -
“007 reporting. We need to get out of here. 006’s taken shrapnel, and 0010 is out cold, head injury.”
Oh, thank God. Q pressed the comm in his ear. “007, what was the explosion, nuclear or conventional?”
Harsh breathing was his only answer, then a gunshot. Single. Fuck. Q’s hands tightened, and he held his breath.
“Conventional, Q. I am in possession of the package. I repeat, we need immediate extraction.” James was falling back to his radio discipline that he’d learned in the Navy, which meant the situation was going south, very quickly.
“We have some on the way. Hold tight. I’m getting you a way out -”
“I can’t move without the others. Just find us.”
The com went dead.
Q went to work.
A week later, Q visited Medical, where all three agents were in beds and very unhappy about it. 0010 is sleeping, and Q left a bouquet of flowers on his bedside table.
006 is chatting up Heather, and Q leaves the flowers on the floor outside of the room, blushing at the ‘chatting’ noises coming from the room.
He reached 007’s room and peeked in. James Bond is sitting up, nose buried in a novel. He had an I.V. attached to him, but other than a few bandages, he seemed fine. Which was good. Q turned away, the flowers clutched in his hand.
“Are those for me?”
Q froze. “Uh, yes. Um. They are. But if you -”
“I think there’s a vase for them in the bottom drawer of the bedside table.” James didn’t sound condescending or snarky, just tired. Q walked over, found the vase, and stuck the bouquet in it. He nodded at the agent, then turned to go.
Q looked at the floor and counted tiles. “I...like them.”
“They are pretty. They smell good, too.” The bedding rustled. “I’ve always liked them. They’re so tiny, and pale, but so beautiful and plentiful, like they are making up for being small. You know, the German lore says that when God was naming the plants of the world, this little one spoke up and said ‘Forget me not, O Lord!’”
Q smiled. “And the Lord said, ‘And thus, you shall be named.’” He turned around again. “I didn’t know you knew the legend behind them.”
“I spent time there.” James raised one hand and pressed fingertips to the flowers. “Do you like the ones I left you?”
Q jerked. “You?”
“Yeah. I was snooping in your bookcase, and came across the nature book. The predominant flower cutting is a forget-me-not, so I put two and two together.” James turned his head and looked out the window. “I have one, too. Orchids. Fragile, finicky little fuckers, but absolutely beautiful and stunning. The peacock of the flower world.”
Q’s smile returned to his face, larger than before. “I suppose.”
“You remind me of the forget-me-not, Q. Understated, resilient, and you made your own name in this world. And you will never. Ever. Be forgotten.” James stared hard at the window. “Thank you for finding us.”
Q sucked in a breath. His chest tightened painfully, and he swallowed. “You are welcome.”
Chapter 2: An Uninvited Guest (#23 - Cat)
Q slipped the door shut behind him, dropping his messenger bag to the floor with a pleased sigh, glad to have the weight off his shoulder again. Carting three netbooks and enough tech to choke a horse really took it out of a bloke. He slipped his personal mobile out of his pocket and unlocked it. The damned thing was glitchy as hell, always resetting itself and throwing out random false security alarms, as it did a few hours ago. Nonetheless, he felt compelled to take a cursory glance around his studio flat, just to reassure himself that nothing was amiss. His eyes scanned the room in front of him, categorising everything that could possibly be wrong.
Television and gaming systems off and where he left them this morning...check.
No murderous ninjas or Ukrainians in his kitchenette...check.
Cup of tea on his coffee table, still full and where he’d left it...check.
Rascal purring and sitting on the couch...check.
James Bond, sitting on the couch next to Rascal and thumbing through a well-loved boot sale copy of ‘Good Omens’...check. All is well in the Quartermaster’s domain.
Q turned to hang his suit coat up on the peg, then froze.
James Bond. James bloody Bond was in his flat. That is not a check, that is an anomaly, and one that needs to be dealt with. He turned back around. “One of these things is not like the other.”
“Hello to you too, Quartermaster.” Bond tipped his head in greeting and went back to reading.
“What in the name of all things holy are you doing here, 007?” He’d meant that to come out as admonishing, but only managed exhausted. He toyed with the idea of pushing James off the couch and curling up for a few days, but gave up on the principle that it would require actual effort and a fair amount of leverage. Bond was a heavy man, by the looks of him. Q finished hanging his coat, then toed his shoes off and kicked them in the general direction of the corner where the rest of his shoes lived. “Don’t you have governments to topple? Women to wine and dine? Thugs to wrap into pretzels and return to sender?”
James snorted, more amused than derisive. “I’ve gotten myself some downtime, and nothing to do with it.” He shrugged, and paused in his reading to scratch the kitten next to him behind the ears. Rascal’s purr kicked into high gear. James smiled down at Rascal, then held up the book in his other hand so Q could see it, waggling it a bit. “This is a good book.”
Q padded, barefoot and ecstatic about it, to the kitchenette and searched for his tea, ignoring the bottle of Scotch sitting on his counter, apparently a peace offering of some sort because he didn’t buy good Scotch. Ever. “Terry Pratchett is a very good author.” He cocked his head at the new tin of Earl Grey in his cupboard. Multiple peace offerings? Did Bond burn the Vatican to the ground? Q snorted and grabbed it. “I didn’t peg you as someone who’d read that sort of thing.”
James hummed. “Normally, no. But there’s nothing on your shelves besides this sort of thing and comics.”
“Graphic novels and manga, James.”
“And comic books. I’m not a complete moron.” James waggled the book again before sticking his nose back into it. “I know the differences. But this book? It’s funny. I like it. Can’t quite stop reading it.” Q could hear the page being turned. “Dog isn’t going to make a very good Hellhound, is he?”
“Spoilers, sweetie.” Q took down two mugs and refused to blush. Yes, he realised he’d just called James bleeding Bond ‘sweetie’. No, he wasn’t drugged or concussed, though the agent might be, come to think of it. Q chose to pretend the verbal slip - he’d been quoting River Song - never happened. “How do you take your tea?”
“I don’t. And to my knowledge, it’s “Spoilers. Goodbye, sweetie.”.”
Q stared at James. “You...no.”
James grinned. “Ten’s probably my favorite. Tennant does the Doctor right.”
Q blinked. “Right. I liked Nine. Coffee, then?”
“Coffee’s fine. Rascal likes my fingers.”
“Don’t let him chew on them too much, or he’ll show you his vampiric tendencies.”
The couch squeaked as James settled further into it, and Q noticed he’d been on the edge of it, waiting to...what? Waiting for the inevitable rejection, maybe? Waiting to get kicked out, ready to move fast to get out of the way of an irate executive with things to throw? Q pressed the coffee maker on and plugged in the electric kettle. “Sugar?”
“I’ll take it however, it’s fine.”
Rascal appeared on the counter, his fluffy striped face already checking out the extra mug on the counter. Q stroked the kitten’s fur, and Rascal patted at his hand and the tea bags. “So, you were bored and decided that breaking into my flat would take care of that?” He finally looked up, and found that yes, James Bond looked splendid in jeans and a soft jumper. He also looked splendid with a soft smile on his face. The expression seemed to take years off of him, making him look his actual age, just shy of forty, if Q remembered correctly - oh, wait. James’ personnel file opened in Q’s mind, a date highlighted in bright red, and he reached up into the cupboard again for two tumblers.
“Well,” James started, and he almost looked apologetic, even with the smile. “I...yeah.” He nodded. “Yeah, thought it would take the edge off the boredom.” He laughed and threw his arms up on the back of the couch, slouching further. “And did it ever. How did you manage to make everything look so bloody innocuous? That electric shock hurt.” The laughing tone in his voice made Q smile.
“I don’t want the whole world knowing that someone other than a just-out-of-Uni web designer lives here, James. But if they do find out, I want to be able to do something about it. Thus, the innocuous design.” He poured the coffee and steeped his tea, and brought the four cups and the bottle of Scotch out to the couch, setting everything down before plopping down next to James and digging the television remote out from between their hips. James looked at him curiously, and Q smirked at him. “Buzzcocks is on.” He flicked the television on, and leaned forward to pour three fingers of Scotch for both of them. He handed James one glass, and took the other.
“Happy birthday, James Bond.”
The startled laugh that burst out of James was worth it. They knocked back the booze and settled in to watch Buzzcocks. Rascal materialised out of nowhere to settle between them, and life was good for a while.
Chapter 3: A Little Sympathy (#16: Questioning)
James looked in on the suspected cyberterrorist locked in the interrogation room through the one-way glass partition. The kid didn’t look much older than twenty, and was just as scruffy as he’d imagined him to be.
Morris and Page had gone out to snag the creator of the Melting Pot virus, the one that still had Q up a wall in frustration and irritation, and found the boy huddled in a basement in Suffolk, surrounded by the detritus of the stereotypical hacker: sugary drinks, pizza boxes, crisps bags, and a rather frightening amount of what Medical had identified as cocaine and caffeine pills. James scowled and watched the boy twitch and scratch and suck on his bottom lip for the twentieth time that hour with worry. If he was an addict, he’d need a fix soon, or he’d be useless to them. He ran through different strategies in his head. He was an old hand at interrogations; give him ten minutes with that boy, and he’d have him talking. If he even needed that long.
The door to the observation room cracked open on quiet hinges, and Q pushed his way in, arms overloaded with entirely too much papers. Bond leaned forward as the Quartermaster stumbled past and snatched a few sheets off the top of his pile. “Carefully, now, Q. You’re going to break out in hives from the paperwork.”
Q growled something unintelligible and undoubtedly R-rated at him and took a long drink from his travel mug. James smirked, not pushing too far. As bad as his luck has been so far this week, Q could have one mean swing. “Are you done cleaning up after the child?”
“What?” Q jerked his head towards the glass. “Done cleaning up after that?” He pursed his lips and shook his head. “I’ve only just figured out what the bloody hell he even did.” He plucked the papers back out of James’ hands and shook them for emphasis. “The algorithms are just out of this world. It’s brilliant work, and I want to know how the hell he did it by himself; or he didn't do it by himself, who he's working with. Or for.”
James straightened. “Are you telling me that he isn’t alone in this?”
Q turned and stared at the boy, his eyes twin mirrors of lethal curiosity. “That’s what I’m about to find out. Let me in there.”
James started. “Wait. No.” He held up his hands. “No way. You are not going in there, Q, you don’t have the first clue about interrogation -”
“James, that’s me.” The words were cold, coming from Q.
“What do you mean?”
Q jabbed a stiff finger at the boy, slumped and twitching in the chair. He turned his steel glare onto James. “That’s me. Right there. In that chair, that is me. A younger version. The version M found, starving and tweaking and half out of my stupidly brilliant brain and needing something to do.” Q’s tongue came out and flickered against his lower lip, and the fingers around the papers twitched and tapped. “Let me in there.”
James didn’t want to. Q was obviously too close to the subject, too emotional about it. He wouldn’t be able to make the decisions necessary in a successful interrogation, and he could make the subject freeze up or retaliate if his emotions got the better of him, which was much too easy in his state. Letting him into the room wouldn’t just be a bad idea; it would go against every damned rule in the book. But he found his feet moving on their own accord, his arms reaching out and unlocking the inner door, the one that led to the holding cell. “Good luck in there.”
Q merely nodded, and James shut the door behind him. He didn’t follow Q in, and for a good reason.
Q had a past. He had a dark past that he kept mostly to himself. James had never asked him to tell him anything about it. He only accepted what Q would say willingly and without prompting, and not expect anything else. Whatever Q had to say to the boy was going to be very private, and James felt he’d be a hinderance if he tried to stay. Instead, he kept the intercom switch off and watched carefully as Q sat down opposite the boy and set the stack of papers next to his elbow. He folded his hands in front of him after pushing the second travel mug of was most likely the high-test coffee that Q so adored to their prisoner. They sat, Q facing the boy and the boy twitching all over the place, nearly vibrating out of the chair and sucking down the coffee as fast as his body would allow. Then Q pulled out a pack of cigarettes and a lighter, handing the boy both as he pulled out a pack of his own and lit up. They smoked.
After two, Q started to talk. Every once in a while, the boy would twitch or flinch or blink harshly through the smoke, letting James know that whatever Q was saying was hitting the right spots. And then the boy nodded, slowly at first but picking up speed until he was a strung-out bobblehead. Q handed him a biro and a stack of blank paper, and the boy started to write.
James checked his watch. Sure, it took Q half an hour, but there was progress. There was obviously something to be said about compassion and recognising yourself in others, apparently.
Chapter 4: Couches are Good Places for Snuggles (#22 - Mother Nature)
“It’s raining again.”
Q looked out of the kitchen window, past the rivulets of water on the windowpane and the flashes of lightning in the darkened skies above. “It is, isn’t it?” He smiled softly. “I like storms, sometimes.” He turned away and stared intently at James. “Do you?”
James Bond patted the couch cushion next to him. “Come sit down.”
Q accepted the offer.
It’s a silence one shares with a friend during a rainstorm, when both parties sit side by side and listens to the drumming of the raindrops on the roof. No television, no music, no talking. Just existing in each other’s space and breathing in the same air. The rain is soothing to both men. There are no souls to bare, no daring escapes to be recounted, no reports to be written. It was just the distant thunder that kept them company tonight.
Both men are men of action. Different types of action, but action nonetheless. Car chases, complicated servers, screaming people, frenzied typing just ahead of a hacker, alarms blaring in the red glow of emergency lighting deep in the catacombs of a city that was not truly theirs in a country that would deny their very existence. And yet, they fight for the bitch in their own way. Listening for the enemy, watching for a clue, feeling for a trigger, tasting the smoke in the air, smelling the perfume of a beautiful femme fatale; all were keys to staying alive and successful in one’s mission, and these men did it so well.
But sometimes, they wanted - needed - to slow down. Take the easy road. They didn’t want a fast fuck in a back alley, the scent of come and blood and sweat permeating the very walls around them, though they’ve done that once or twice. No, they didn’t want that tonight. Tonight was a night for sitting on a comfortable sofa, idle weapons on either side of them, and enjoying the silence while it lasted.
Q turned the dimmer on the overhead lights down to candlelight, and a flash of lightning brightened the sitting room. He allowed himself to shiver slightly at the crack of thunder, and James dropped his arm from the back of the couch to rest along Q’s shoulders, pulling him close to his chest.
Q rested his head on James’ shoulder. “Smooth, Mr. Bond. Very smooth.”
James snorted and smirked. “I’m thinking nothing of the sort, Quartermaster. You are cold. I’m providing warmth.”
Q nodded, conceding the jovial point. “I am, a bit. The heating’s dodgy this time of year, at any rate.
James hummed, and Q could hear it rumble through his chest where his ear rested against his pectoral. Hell, he could feel it. “Mine’s got on-demand heating, cooling, and hot water.”
“You live in a hotel, James, and an expensive one at that. It’s expected.” Q smiled. “Shut up and listen to the rain.”
James snorted again and quieted.
The storm moved along its path, the thunder growing ever more distant. Q didn’t move from his warm spot against James’ side.
This time, it was James who broke the silence. “What’s your name, anyway? Your real name.”
“Well, that’s an odd topic jump.” Q swallowed. “Why do you want to know?”
James shrugged. “I just do.”
Q didn’t say anything, his mind too fraught with possibilities. Was James looking for a relationship? Was he just being friendly? They’ve fucked, yes, but...well, of course he’d want to know my name! We’ve had sex! I could just lie, but then he’d find out eventually and then we’d have the whole trust issue thing between us, and we can’t have that, not when I’m usually running his missions personally. God, I’m an idiot. But why now? Why right. Now? Once again, he found himself with the fifty - fifty odds of relationship/friends. Relationship meant time spent at dinners and the cinema, at lakefronts and ski resorts. Dance halls. Clubs. Drinks. Time that Q wasn’t sure he wanted to invest yet, and time that he was certain - knowing Bond’s workload over the next couple of months, barring any new and exciting ones popping up out of nowhere - James didn’t have for him. Time neither one of them had to invest in building a relationship. And frankly, after Alex, he was downright off boyfriends. But friends...that had a different ring to it.
Q jerked when the arm around his shoulders moved, and he found himself staring into James’ stunningly blue eyes, only inches from his own. He accepted the gentle kiss, accepted the hand against his hip, and accepted what James was suddenly trying to tell him - that it was alright.
“Hmmm…” He hummed against James’ lips, and shifted on the couch, settling deeper into the embrace. “David.”
“Oh? Finally decided I was safe to tell?” James had a real smile on his face, and Q wanted to lick it off. So he did.
“Oh, fuck off of it. Shut up and listen to the rain.”
As they kissed lazily, the rain continued to fall.
Chapter 5: Switchovers (#41 - Teamwork)
“Argh, what the fuck!”
James halted in a innate sense of self-preservation just inside of the door leading to the inner sanctum of Q Branch, where all the magic of weapons and technology happened.
That magic seemed to be turning into an utter nightmare at the moment.
People were running everywhere; clutching papers, tablets, laptops, and one person carrying what looked like a really old...what the hell is that thing, anyway? James cocked his head in confusion and watched the harried chaos washing around him. In the middle of it all stood Q with a mobile cradled against his shoulder, pressed against one ear and a finger pressed against the earwig in the other ear. There was yet another phone in his other hand.
“That’s what I’m saying. Go through to the next stop, then get off there. The target is on the move, and fast. You’ll need to go faster.” He pulled the mobile away from his ear, muttering a ‘wait one’ at it, and turned his attention to his personal ultra-slim laptop, which displayed a GPS map. “It’s your own bloody fault for trying to catch the Tube to...I don’t care that they are called ‘subways’ where you are, Twenty-four! Just catch the bastard before we have a nuclear incident!” He held the regular phone he’d been previously ignoring to his ear. “Yes, sir. I have the codes right next to me. When do you want them? Ah, good. I’ll have Mary bring them to you post-haste. Yes. Thank you.” He poked the phone with his thumb and tossed it onto his table, then walked over to another table to pick up a landline. While he did this, he put the other mobile to his ear. “Thanks, Margaret. What were you saying - oh. Yes, well, I don’t know if that project is on hold. Thomas didn’t say anything other than the oversight committee - hold on. Twenty-Four, what the bloody hell was that?” He jogged to his laptop again and did something that brought the map to the main widescreen monitor on the wall. “What happened? Good Lord, I’ll find you an exit, hold on. Can you get to Fifth Avenue? Oh, you have a car...a cab. Cab is good. Cab is very...Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit buggering hell, not Fifth, there’s construction and the biggest damned jamb I’ve ever seen outside of the A4 with a lorry tipped on it. What the hell is traffic in New York, anyway? Um…damn it, he’s heading to Central Park! Get to Park Avenue, then go on to East One Zed Six Street. That should be the Museum Mile. You should be able to beat him there and set up. I think he’d headed to Metropolitan Museum of Art. It would make sense, wouldn’t it? Eliminate the competition, right?” He waved a stout woman down and shoved a stack of papers at her, mouthing ‘codes, get them to M ASAP’ at her, before turning his attention to the map again. “Yes. Just get there first, I don’t care what you have to do, short of killing civilians with the way you drive - did you just damn near hit a lorry carrying vodka? Six would murder you!” He walked back over and picked up the landline again, dialing a number from memory. He tapped his foot with impatience. “Thomas! You are sitting at your bloody desk, right next to your phone, why can’t you pick the damned thing up? Right. Anyway, is the Adelaine project on hold, or defunded? Margaret needs to know so she can...yes, perfect, thank you.” He tossed the handset onto the cradle and lifted the mobile again. “It’s only on hold, Margaret, dear. Yes. Thank you.” He nodded, and put that phone in his pocket. “I’m back with you, Twenty-four. Yeah, things are a little mental right now.”
James stared in awe at the sheer mental competence it took to do everything Q just did. “This is bedlam,” he whispered. No, this was chaos. People were still running around like madmen.
“Yeah, hardware switchovers are always hard on the techs. Makes them go crazy, and then I’m left doing all the work. Tedious. Now, where are you...no, nevermind, I have you.” He waved his hand at the screen. “I’d love to have the thing that Tony Stark has, the whole 3D manipulative display. I’d have so much fun...yes. Just like that. For porn. My god, sometimes you agents are children.”
James smiled and imagined what Q would do if confronted with porn. He made a mental note to get Eve and Alec in on it. Teamwork. He could call it a ‘team-building exercise’ and even get paid to fluster the young Quartermaster. A plan formed in his mind, even as Q turned and smirked (god, Q was always smirking at him. What was with that?) at him.
“I repeat. Children.” Q turned back around. “What was that?”
James left him to his own devices, forgetting what he’d even come for in the first place.
Chapter 6: Hitting the Bag (#74 - Are You Challenging Me?)
James sat himself down on a bench in the darker corner of the new gymnasium and watched the class in session with narrow amusement. One of the retired field agents was leading the self-defence course, and it was shaping up to be an entertaining show.
He rolled his right shoulder, working a kink out of it, and waited for the technicians to be finished learning blocks and breaks and stomps. He glanced down at the intelligence packet in his hands and tried to focus on it, but found he couldn’t. The sounds of nervousness and awkwardness always gathered his attention like a predator picking out weakness in prey. He could tell by the instructor's intonation - yeah, that’s Humphreys - that he was getting frustrated with this crowd. In a way, James couldn’t blame him. None of them wanted to be stuck training a bunch of wet-behind-the-ears newbies. But if it meant their lives being saved, even for a little while longer until help could arrive…
He stood up and walked over, just as Jonathan called an exasperated and early end of session. He dropped his duffle and papers, crossing his arms over his chest. Humphreys turned, startled by the sudden noise, but the line of his shoulders relaxed as he recognised one of his own. “Hey, James. How goes things?”
James grunted. "They go, Jon. Same old shit, different time zone." The interns and techs shuffled over to their things and started muttering and squabbling immediately. James smirked. “Like wrangling a bunch of toddlers, isn’t it?”
“Oh, they are slippery, I’ll give you that.” Jon sighed, obviously trying to downplay his frustration. “It’s going to take more than a couple sessions with a punching bag to get them strong enough, I would think.”
“M gave you the weakest group so that you wouldn’t get upstaged by the mechanics.” James’ smirk turned into a sardonic grin, and Jon grinned right back and snorted, slapping James on the shoulder.
“Prick. He gave me the youngest group because of my skills with children, seeing as I have some sprogs of my own."
"Anything that helps you sleep at night."
"I've got a living shit machine, James old boy. I don't sleep at night." Jon chuckled away some of the stress. "Anyway, not all of those tossers are useless.” He jerked his chin at a gaggle of sweaty students off to one side, talking near a hanging bag. James narrowed his eyes. They proved to be the three main intelligence jockeys, heads of their departments within the newly reinstated and refurbished TSS. Top of their game, despite their youth. Erika, Matthew, and Q - still unnamed, even after months of working with the best agents in the field. James still hasn't managed to learn more than his favourite brand of tea.
"Oh, they aren't?" James watched them carefully. They were all still in their workout clothes; yoga pants and sweats, tees and tanks, and all three were wrapping their hands with…”Tape?” James turned and looked at Jonathan. “Are they really going to go a few rounds with the bag?”
Jon shrugged, a little lift of his shoulders that conveyed worlds to James. “Looks that way. They had been much more attentive than the rest, and not as squirmy about fighting. If you ask me, I think we have a few secret fighters on our hands.”
"Secret fighters, huh?"
Jon nodded. "Probably don't want to let on that they are, lest they be targeted."
That one observation caught James' attention quicker than anything because that's training. Blend in with everyone else. Make your opponent underestimate you. Make sure he or she doesn't see it coming. Instead of letting his insight be known, he arranges a suitable look of annoyance on his face. "Secret fighters, sure. Ones that could get themselves hurt or into trouble if they weren’t trained right or think they know it all." He let the admonishing tone roll off his tongue and pulled off his hoodie and pulled on his track shoes. “I'm already dressed to do a little warming up. I’ll keep an eye on them. You go get a drink or a shooting lane before you strangle someone.”
Jon laughed and clapped James on the shoulder again. “Alright. Be seeing you.”
James lifted his head in acknowledgement, then straightened and faced off with the bag in front of him. Ten minutes in, and the techheads were still talking in soft tones as James struck his target over and over again. He allowed himself a tight grin. Looks as if they really don't want people to know their little secret Fight Club. He’d planned on getting a good thirty minutes of hard sweating in, then hit the showers before going off for a small intel gathering mission, nothing much. Babysitting - and gathering intelligence on the elusive creatures in Q Branch - wouldn't muck up that schedule too badly. The three faffing off by the bag wouldn't be here much longer. They had to be exhausted already from the earlier training if they were as eager to participate as Humphreys made it sound, which could be why they weren't -
A sharp shout echoed off the heavy walls of the gymnasium, and James jerked out of his reverie. What the hell? He turned in time to see Matthew land, light on his feet, after doing something. The bag swung drunkenly on its chain.
“Classy, Matt. Very classy.” Q smirked. “So you are a black belt and can do fancy kicks.” He crossed his arms and sighed. “Still not impressed.”
Erika laughed, high and lilting and just as unimpressed. Her bright yellow top clashed excitingly with her mauve tresses as she shook her head. “I could do better than that, Matt.”
“Aw, c’mon, I’m out of practice, guys!” Matt seemed to be taking the ribbing with good spirit, though there was a thread of challenge in his tone. He flicked damp blond hair out of his eyes. “Alright, smartarse.” He threw a look at Q. “If you think you could do better, have at it.” And there it was.
As James looked on, arms still up in a block, Q stepped forward, rolling his eyes. “I don’t do the aerials, Matt. My style’s a bit more ground-oriented.” He rolled his head on his long neck, loosening up. James stared, morbid curiosity and underlying worry warring with each other. If he was drawn to and partially awed of Q’s suddenly lithe beauty as well, that wasn't his fault. Blame the tight underarmour tee that, now that James was really paying attention, seemed to show a much different build than he'd assumed was under that awful cardigan. “Besides, it was Erika who’d said that. I never said anything about doing a kick better. I just happen to know I can kick your arse up Vauxhall Cross and back again.”
“Oh. Really?” Matt grinned, and so did James. Right then, the boffins are no better than agents when it comes to challenges and oneupmanship. This is going to happen. Should have had Jon stick around for this. He relaxed his stance and turned to see better.
Q looked down at the ground and breathed. In the split second before he moved, James could see the coil of power inside the little Quartermaster. Then, sudden as a summer storm: a blur of motion, a surprised squawk and scuffle, and it was over. Matt was on the ground, trapped in a headlock. James froze. He hadn’t even seen the takedown, it was that fast. Not possible. There is no way in hell that just happened.
Q was laughing as Matt struggled beneath him. “Didn’t see that coming, did you?”
“Oh, you fuckin’ ruddy prig. Offame!” Matt cackled breathlessly and slapped at Q’s bare arm. As Q shifted off the ground, James spotted the bottom of a very familiar looking tattoo under the black tee stretched against the taut muscles in his right arm. Oh. Interesting.
"Your attempts at startling me are wasted, Bond." Q turned in the shower and came face to face with the insufferable man. He sighed deeply, avoiding the more obvious parts of the agent's body.
"You didn't answer my question."
Bond smiled, and Q would have spent the few moments he faced off with 007 acting deeply put-upon, but as such he made the mistake of looking into those sparkling blue eyes and instead spent those moments trying not to grin foolishly. "That would be wise. Lying is useless, since your history is drawn into your skin, permanent as a scar."
Q wondered just how deep the ruddy red waters of Bond's mind really ran, or if all of his dialogue came from a poetry book. His files did say the man was schooled and a bit posh, despite his early years in Scotland. Q sighed again. “Yes. Spent four years in the service.”
“Any action?” The questions, harmless in anyone else's hands, were knives in Bond's capable grasp.
Shit. Q dropped his head against the tile wall, letting the hot water roll over his sore neck and back. The impromptu sparring session - the little snatch-and-grab had quickly turned into a full-on spar with moderate contact - with Matt pulled something important, and there was a bruise on his kidney he'd be feeling for a week. “Iraq. Just a little, mind. I was a computer specialist, didn't do much in the field unless something broke down. I've found myself in a few scrapes along the way.”
“You know how to fight, though.”
“I did just say scrapes, right? And the boys weren't happy with my basic training, so I got the down and dirty training in the golden dust.” And he wouldn't trade those years and tours and mates for anything. "Best time of my life, getting sat on by one of the Engineers." And of course that could be taken a few different directions, if the look on Bond's face was anything to go by. Double shit.
A rough hand connected with his shoulder and rubbed at the sore muscle, nearly sending Q melting into the wall with pleasure. “Tomorrow morning. Oh-six-thirty. Be here, in the gym.” The hand was gone, and Q was left wondering exactly what James Bond wanted with him.
Perhaps the down and dirty training wasn't quite over. He always did like Commandos.
Chapter 7: Idle Talk (#48 - Childhood)
Warnings: mention of parent death, drug use, traumatic past
The photograph on Q’s desk confused James, and the expression it caused on the older man’s face made Q laugh, albeit a tad tiredly. He’d been awake for what seemed like days now, and he still wasn’t finished with his project. “Why do you look so surprised?”
“Didn’t think you were the type for sentiment.” James picked the frame up and leaned back in the guest chair, making the worn wood creak under the pressure. He turned it end over end in his large hands, more of a fidget than curiosity. James Bond was bored, and he was bothering Q for attention. He decided to engage the agent, lest the man find something to fidget with that was infinitely more dangerous - like the pen grenade mere centimeters away.
“Remember Maudy’s funeral?” They spoke of her like a old friend now and avoided the open chasms in their existences she would be filling had she survived that cold night at Skyfall Lodge. It was for the best. "When I mentioned why I don't do funerals?"
James nodded once.
Q gestured at the photo. “They are my parents. Well, I’m with them, of course, but that’s who they are. Sebastian and Caroline.” Q's lips tightened. His fingertips tapped the keyboard in front of him, finishing the code on the screen while he let go of more secrets. “I don’t remember most of it. I was much too young, and everything else was erased willingly when I was older. Funny what certain combinations of recreational drugs will do to your memory.”
“You didn’t want to remember them.”
It was nothing more than words, but it ran Q through, swift as a sword. He sucked in a breath around the rock in his chest. “I...no. Not precisely. I didn’t want to remember what I had.” He took another breath. “What I had lost, I suppose.” He closed his eyes, fingers touching the keys by memory. “Spending a good chunk of your life lost in the system will do that to you.” He opened his eyes again and stared at the computer screen.
James hummed deep in his chest and ran a thumb over the teak frame, along where Q knew his mother stood in the photo, smiling gaily and holding his tiny, tiny hand in hers. He can’t remember what her touch felt like. That hurt more than it had a right to, and it angered Q. “She’s pretty.”
Q did his best to smile. “She was, wasn’t she?” He needed to add something to that. “And a very accomplished physicist.”
“So that’s where the smarts come from.” James cocked his head. “But you have your father’s eyes.”
Why did it hurt so fucking bad to talk about this? Q swallowed and nodded tightly. “Yes. I...um. Suppose.” He couldn’t stop James, though. He couldn’t stop the man from wondering, and now here they were, an agent poking his nose around in memories that Q suddenly wished he hadn't deleted, wished with a fierce longing that twisted his gut into knots.
James was talking again, his face schooled into blankness. “I was eleven. I’m sure you’ve seen my file, and it’s public knowledge that my parents died.”
“Andrew and Monique,” Q intoned, quiet. The words 'I’m sorry' tried to slip out, but he clamped down on them. That’s not what James wanted. Hell, Q wasn’t sure what the man wanted. Bored agents were dangerous in a whole new way, it seemed.
James looked at him and nodded. “Yes. Whatever I still have left from then is packed away in storage or gone forever. Probably the latter, the way I seem to keep -”
“Dying?” Q’s lip quirked up in a sickly ghost of a smile. He wanted this conversation over. Post-haste.
James nodded again. “You know -”
“As informative as this conversation is, Bond, I would rather not be having it.” The bit of steel in his tone made James pause. For a moment, he wanted to take it back, to touch James’ hand and tell him that 'yes, it’s fine, let’s talk about our dead parents and bond and be buddies and go to the gun range together and get spectacularly drunk afterwards and make really bad decisions that earn us trips to Medical for itches and stitches…'
The tension in James’s shoulders leaked away and he huffed out a breath. “Oh thank the Lord. I didn’t think I’d ever get out of that awkwardness.”
Q leaned away from his computer and chuckled, letting his own tension leave. “Christ, that was horrible. Let's not try that again.”
James shrugged. “Thought you might have wanted to talk about it.”
“That’s probably the biggest nope on earth, short of watching Miley Cyrus twerk. Nearly destroyed my clever little brain cells trying to forget, remember?” Q shook his head again and groaned. “No more heart to hearts about our broken formative years, promise?”
“Consider it done.” James cocked his head. “Hold up. Twerk?”
“Oh, you really don’t want to know. You really, honestly don’t.” Q waved a hand dismissively and went back to his project. The silence stretched for a moment, and he finally gave in. “You must be fatally bored. Get over here, you overgrown twelve-year old. I’ll show you the video, and root around for some eye-bleach for afters, alright?”
Chapter 8: Unhappy Brain (#30 - Under the Rain)
Another dreary, rain-soaked day. Another cold, overcast night. The air was heavy with the promise of even more rain.
“If you could call it rain, even. More like a miserable drizzle.” Q slouched on the bench seat in the all-night diner he’d managed to find in some far-removed corner of the East End. He supposed it was a ‘hip’ thing, staying up all night for days on end and spending those delirious hours munching on ‘soul food’ while lamenting your lack of vision, or complaining that no one ‘gets you’, or forgetting to feed your starving dog or cat or bat while scrounging for a fiver so you can get another packet of clove cigarettes or something pathetically hip like that. “At least this place has wi-fi.” He picked at his chicken sandwich with nothing on it and frowned. “I hate rain. Why do I even live in London? I hate rain.” The soft sounds of his favourite anime album played through the headphones built into his knitted hat, and he closed his eyes and slumped further.
“You know, that’s going to do horrid things to your back one day.”
Q rocked his head back to stare at Marla, his server tonight and every night he found himself in this very booth, unable to sleep not because under-eye bags were ‘part of your aesthetic’ but because the world was in danger of collapsing in on itself. “I know. Do you want my opinion on the matter?”
“Sure.” She tipped the carafe and filled his mug with hot coffee.
“I really don’t give a shit.” He provided a smirk in her direction.
She returned it tiredly. “I didn’t assume you did, darling.” She walked away, leaving him to his coffee and his frustration. He took a quick glance around to make sure that it was only him, Leonard the wino, and Mickey in the corner who was barely even poured into his seat in the little diner. Neither one of them were paying any attention to him.
“Marla, love, I need someone to talk to, and these drunks aren’t giving me the time of day.”
That got a hiccough out of Leonard. Nothing from the peanut gallery. Marla refilled their coffees and sat down across from Q. “What would you like to talk about, dear?”
Q looked out the window, out into the depressing drips of water chasing themselves down the pane of glass. “Sometimes, I wonder if I’m cut out for my work, or if it’s going to kill me one day.” He shrugged. “Ulcer, mental illness, depression, a rage-fueled massacre…” He sighed and slid the sandwich around on the mottled white plate. “I could do it.”
Marla shifted in her seat and regarded Q steadily. “I don’t think you would.”
“Probably not. But it’s the thought that counts.” He smiled and rocked his head along with ‘See You Space Cowboy’. “I haven’t actually slept in two weeks. I can’t feel my eyelids. In fact, I’ve lost track of the left side of my brain. There was a thing that happened, and it caused other things to happen, and now I can’t sleep because I keep thinking I could have stopped it, could have spotted the problem and halted it before it caused something bad.” He closed his eyes. “No one is blaming me. In fact, I don’t think anyone even thought about me at all. I used to be a senior IT tech. Now I’m head of a department, one that I was forced to join because the other director quit a week before something even more horrid than this thing happened.” It was so easy just to allude to things, instead of trying to make entire stories up. He didn’t want to try to explain why working at a low-level tech job would cause him to have horrid nightmares every bloody fucking night. “And my first showing was shit, but they still wanted me in there.” He flipped the top bun off his sandwich and scraped at the chicken breading with his spoon, just for something to do. “I don’t think I’m the right man for the job, honestly. Not the head of a department. But people like me. I don’t even bother trying to be liked, though it seems to happen with or without my assistance or even knowledge. All they know about me is that I’m brilliant, mental, and really really good with computers.” He sighed and pushed the plate away.
Marla shifted in the booth and smiled at him. “Darling, you need a vacation.”
Q chuckled darkly and turned to look out the window once more. “Don’t I know it.”
“He’s just exhausted.” His booth creaked, and suddenly James was there, smelling like wet wool and gunpowder. “A vacation away from this damp rot would do him good, I think.”
Marla’s smile turned up a few notches. “Coffee, love?”
“That would be fine. Black, no sugar. If you’ve got some Scotch hiding in the kitchen, that would be nice, too.”
“I’ll see what Sam’s got.” Marla winked and disappeared quickly. Q sighed, his head feeling very heavy all of a sudden. It found its way to James’ wet shoulder and he closed his eyes.
“I am tired.”
“I know you are. How does Maui sound?”
Q scrunched his eyelids. “Touristy. Too flash. Something abandoned and warm, with sunshine and not raining.” He could feel James relaxing beneath him, a miniscule loosening of muscles and skin, a shifting of a gun hand and a guard being lowered only a slight bit. But it was still there, even if only Q could tell. Leonard had fallen asleep on his stool, and Mickey shoveled toast into his mouth. Marla was convincing Sam to give up his stash of booze for James’ coffee. Q let his head loll on James’ shoulder.
“I’ll see what I can do about that island.” James patted him on the arm and pulled him closer to him. “For now, rest.”
Q hummed up at him and obeyed. It may not be the deep sleep he needed, but in the warm comfort of James’ dangerous embrace that somehow felt safer than anything in the world… it was enough.
Chapter 9: BORED (#53 - Deep in Thought
Another trip down to Q Branch, this time for a new gun. Brand new. Something prototype-ish. Something that could possibly blow up in his face and could kill him. Bond didn’t care, as long as he wasn’t bored anymore. God, he was so fucking bored he could shoot himself. In the foot. Repeatedly. Just for giggles.
Two weeks without an assignment, and James was climbing the walls, stabbing the walls, shooting the walls...walls were his enemy right now. There was a huge fucking brick wall in his face at the moment, the one that was prohibiting him from going on missions. That thing was the damned cast on his damned leg, a souvenir of crashing a plane into the side of a cliff. Well. He didn’t exactly crash it, per say. He’d abandoned the plane before it hit the rocks, but he’d landed awkwardly and...well...now he’s got this awful thing on and he... he wanted to crack it open and leave. To hell with sitting around with his thumb up his arse, waiting for paint to dry. He needed to do something. Anything would do. He could do basic, bare-bones programming; he could clean all the weapons in the Armoury; he could change the oil on every car in the fleet. Lightbulbs, he could change lightbulbs...but no, Eve would kill him if she caught him on a ladder with a cast. Or, at the very least break his other leg so he’d be stuck in a wheelchair. God, he hated wheelchairs, worse than crutches. Much worse.
He maneuvered to one side so that he could open the doors leading to the main floor. Why they put doors underground, he didn’t have the foggiest. Q’d said something about it, something about...blast radius? No, that wasn’t it, he’d been talking about the prototype testing for the new explosive he’d created after five days of no sleep and a wee bit too much coffee. Privacy? The doors were glass…
James paused, half inside, the door resting between his shoulder blades. Oh. Bulletproof glass. Intruders. Protection.
James shook his head, adamantly refusing to let his mind go back down that dark road again. Nope. Not at all. He shoved the rest of the way through the door, cursing in Mandarin when his crutch got caught. He jerked it out, losing the little rubber bit at the end, and he growled at it.
Then he noticed the silence.
He turned around, and no one was there.
Usually, they let me get within a few feet of them before they take off running. Bond craned his head, looking out over the desks and work tables. Nope. No one in the area. There weren’t any signs of a quick egress, either. His brows furrow. And just like that, the overhead lights flicked off, obviously on some sort of sensor or timer. Bond sighed in frustration and defeat.
“Damn it,” he muttered. “I need something to do .”
As he turned to stump out of the bullpen, the glow from the very far corner of the labyrinth caught his eye. He paused, wondering…
His feet were moving again before he knew what he was going to do. The lights didn’t turn back on, which meant they were on a timer. Finally. Danielle was threatening to put them on a timer because the Q Branch as a whole had a tendency to ignore their bodily needs. Like food. Sleep. Sex. Hell, everyone needs sex. It’s part of the world. James shook his head in disgust at his mental process. No, not everyone needs sex. Look at 0010. He’s asexual. Doesn’t need sex. God, sometimes I’m just one word away from being the chauvinistic prick that everyone assumes I am… He stopped thinking as he rounded the corner and found something so damned adorable that he couldn’t deal with it.
The Quartermaster was sound asleep at the desk. It wasn’t his desk; he had his own office. No, it was one of his minion’s desks. James took one moment to assess the situation. Q was surrounded by the guts of a couple of computer towers, multi coloured wires and bits and bangles spread across the desk. A biro was jammed haphazardly into the hair behind the ear he wasn’t resting against his cardigan. The glow was coming from his laptop screen and the tablet next to his elbow, illuminating his sleep-softened features. His glasses sat at a strange angle on his nose, shoved out of whack in sleep. As James watched, Q snuffled quietly and rubbed his face, pushing his glasses fully off his face to clatter onto the keyboard in front of him. James froze, expecting the man to wake up at the noise, but Q only shifted his head a bit and then settled once more, sighing and muttering something about black books and the name ‘Ted’.
James smiled and left his crutches leaning up against the partition wall. He limped over to the large file cabinet that served as the branch’s emergency supply closet. Emergency supply, to the hackers and information specialists, meant good tea, soft blankets and pillows for when they would have to pull all-nighters - and for Q and R and a couple of other senior techs, all-weekers - and books. He gathered a heavy quilt and a U-shaped pillow, then limped back over to where Q slept on. James gently lifted the Quartermaster’s head and pushed the pillow beneath it, then draped the blanket over his shoulders. Q hummed and murmured, but didn’t wake. The smile didn’t leave James’ face; it only grew in wattage as he settled in the other chair and pulled some components to himself and worked by the light of the laptop to piece together the dead computers.
Chapter 10: Hanging With an Old Friend (#66 - Traps)
Cities fascinated James, every time. He couldn’t explain what it was about them that he loved so much about London, nor would he bother trying to tell you why New York City caught his eye every time he went by. Los Angeles toyed with him, Tokyo made him damn near purr with excitement, and New Orleans made him want to lounge around with a chicory coffee and watch the crowds at seven a.m. on a lazy Sunday morning. Well, when they weren’t getting battered by hurricanes. His mood was different depending on the city and his reason for being there.
He was in Cairo, now, and was not happy about it.
“Felix, tell me again why you can’t just meet up with the woman and get her statement?” James pulled at his jacket and adjusted his sunglasses on his face. Felix Leiter smiled at him from behind huge aviator sunglasses, and James grinned right back.
“Because, James. This has everything to do with the British Embassy.”
James’ brow hitched up a notch, and Felix rolled his eyes.
“Alright, it possibly has everything to do with the embassy.”
James blinked slowly.
Felix threw up his hands. “Alright, there’s a rumor, alright? Nothing more, but I have a gut feeling -”
“Ah, there we have it. Felix’s famous ‘gut instincts’ coming into the picture.” James smirked.
“And you know that they are usually right on the money.”
People swirled around them, moving fast, mobiles plastered to ears and tired eyes blinking in the hot Egyptian sunlight. Both men kept a watchful eye on the passerby, waiting for something to happen.
“I hope you know we are heavily invested in this.” Felix shoved the rest of the his koshari into his mouth and wiped his lips with a kerchief.
“As your type usually is.” James hummed and pulled out his mobile, checking the message alert. “Alright. My associates have just pinpointed the…” He paused as a group of schoolgirls ran past, giggling and hopping around with puddings in their hands. “Person of interest - shit.”
Felix’s smile stayed put, but his eyes darkened and hardened, the lines around them deepening. “Problem with your service?”
James let his eyes rove over the crowd, looking for the man he’d seen a moment before. “Unreliable. I swear, this data plan is a trap for consumers. Can’t even use it out of the country half the time.” The words came smooth as silk. They both have danced this number before, too many times to recall. Felix definitely didn’t need an inflection on the word ‘trap’ to know what was going on.
“So let’s get somewhere that you have more bars, ‘mate’.” Felix rolled his cuffs slightly, just enough to uncover the tang of a hidden knife. “Standing out in the open isn’t helping. Maybe an eatery or shop around here has WiFi or something.”
James caught sight of the man...and he had friends. He counted eight altogether, and he grunted. “I don’t think that will help. Might not have enough battery life yet. It’s been eight hours since I charged it last.” He started to walk towards the square, where there were less people. He didn’t like collateral damage. His hand was still in his pocket, manipulating the keys of his phone by memory, alerting whomever was running this op that he was engaging the enemy.
“Eight hours?” Felix fell into step, and the slight furrow of his brow told James that he’d spotted the men as well. “That’s too long for that model of cell phone, isn’t it?”
“I’ve left it off for ten before.” James grunted. He saw two more men, standing near the fountain. Felix cursed, quiet but heartily.
“Well, we could always use my cell.”
“Do you have it with you?” James wouldn’t have put it past the CIA agent to bring extra men to the party. If there was anyone to spare from Station E, he would have. Egypt was a hotbed right now, despite the changeover. Things were happening, and they were happening fast. He didn’t even flinch as the earbud in his left ear activated.
“What can I do for you, 007?” It was Q. James smirked.
“I’m having some issues with my mobile. I’ve left it off the charger for ten hours, and now I can’t get a signal, and the data plan is shit.” The Quartermaster would know that exchange meant that he and Felix were en route to engage ten assailants, the drop was a bust, and that they haven’t come up with any information on the U.S. Ambassador to Egypt. “Think you could lend a hand?”
“Getting your coordinates now, 007. Wait one.”
A shout rang out from behind them, and Felix growled. “Trouble in Paradise, old friend.”
“And so it goes.” James rolled his shoulder, minutely adjusting the shoulder rig of his Sig.
A trap, set up by who knows who. He was in a much better mood now.
Chapter 11: Hello, My Name Is (#1 - Introduction)
The first time James Bond laid eyes on the new Quartermaster, the man was waxing poetic about a Turner painting in the National Museum. Scrawny, scrappy, and enveloped in a much too large parka; the image was that of a whippet whose owner dressed in little jackets to go outside in the wintertime so it wouldn’t get cold, a fragile body in a dangerous environment. Then the man pulled out a gun and instructions, using words like government and agent and MI6 and the most important one: 007. James had accepted it as his due, and filed away the little things he’d noticed about the new Quartermaster; how his pianist fingers had tiny little scars from sharp plastics and metals, rough patches from holding specialised tools and computer parts, and burns from soldering irons and live wires; how thin his pale wrists were and how taunt the muscles of the little bit of forearm James could see under the large sleeves of the coat were from years of manipulating the keys of a keyboard and years of working on weapons; the bright glint in the young man’s eyes when he bragged about being able to bring down governments in his pyjamas - yet to be seen, of course - and when he showed the biometric imprint scanner in the butt of the gun he handed James; how his green eyes were both alive and tired, dark shadows in the skin around them and hidden behind plastic framed lenses; and how his hair was obviously impossible to tame but not weighted down with product of any kind. What did all of this seemingly unconnected data show James?
This new Quartermaster loved his country and would do anything to serve her. He wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. He was stronger than his slight form presented, and he wasn’t vain or shallow. He had one hell of a rebellious streak.
Despite his misgivings, James Bond found himself starting to like this little upstart already.
The first time Q laid eyes on the old Double O, the man had fired back something tired and bored-sounding when he’d forgone the prescribed tradecraft and spoken from the heart. Weathered, hard-bound, and so rough looking; much like one of those ancient battle-axes, edges worn too blunt to cut sharp but still able to do extensive damages simply from connecting on the end of a brutal swing. But one look into the man’s eyes told a much different story. The fires of loyalty and duty and life still clung to his soul, and Q knew that he could mould this old agent into one of the new brand of super-spy. At least, he hoped he could. Agent 007 had many things on his record, but adjusting to sudden change, especially when that change was catastrophic enough, wasn’t one of them. He couldn’t blame the man; he himself had been thrust into the position of Head Quartermaster quite sudden-like, with no acclimation period to adjust. He’d have to go with the flow and hope he didn’t make the wrong impression. As he traded wit and banter with 007, he catalogued the little nuances that floated and flowed around the man like a coat of armour; his battle-scarred hands twitching slightly against his thighs, stroking the material of his Savile Row trousers, blunt fingertips tapping out a melody playing behind his tired eyes; the paleness of one too many sleepless nights aided and hindered equally by that old evil alcohol; the scruff of his days-old beard, grey and blond in balance on his roughened cheeks; heavy musculature that could be seen clearly through the obvious cut of his bespoke suit; the worn, studious lack of expression on his craggy face; and the tired slouch that did nothing to mask the careful watchfulness and readiness hardwired into his very being. All of this information washed over Q in a torrent, and gave him what he needed to know.
This old agent had the wisdom of experience needed to survive the oncoming storm. He was battered and worn, but not yet completely broken. He was strong enough yet to do what he needed to do for his country, his love. He craved the one thing he couldn’t have, though Q wasn’t sure what that was just yet.
Despite his earlier misgivings about the man, Q couldn’t help but open a little spot in his brain for this new specimen.
Chapter 12: Take One, Leave One or Two (#47 - Creation)
James rounded the corner, Walther out and in a two-handed Weaver grip. Nothing in the corners, nothing to his right or left, and nothing in front of him. He didn’t need to check behind him because there was no one left alive who wanted him dead or disabled, only frightened office workers and staffers - civilians. No danger from them. He scanned the room, finding more of the same cowering behind their desks and chairs, whimpers of ‘please don’t hurt me’ and ‘spare me, I have a family’ filling the air. He didn’t have time to coddle them, though - the man he’d been chasing through the busy building popped up from behind the furthest desk, a woman held tight against his body. James reacted quickly. The muzzle of his gun zeroed in on the assassin, but he hesitated to pull the trigger. Human shield. “I need a distraction. Quick.”
“Working on it, 007.” The voice in his ear wasn’t Q, but a newer person whom Q’d pulled in to assist with the missions. Handlers, just like the Double Os had had in the past. James didn’t trust this one just yet. He wasn’t as fast as Q, nor as clever. If it had been Q on this mission, he’d already have a distraction ready and implemented, and this woman wouldn’t be in danger.
Ivica Horvat pulled the poor woman - very pregnant, James noted distantly - out into the open and laughed, his voice harsh in the sudden quiet. “I suggest you drop your weapon, Mr. Bond, or this bitch’s life is forfeit. Could you handle that? Do you want her blood and the blood of her unborn child on your hands?”
James narrowed his eyes and muttered, “Where is that fucking distraction, Todd?”, even as he spoke directly to Horvat. “It wouldn’t be the first time.” He had to sound aloof, keep the Croat on his toes and not allow Horvat to think that he had the advantage. The Walther didn’t move, didn’t waver or slip. The front sight stayed locked on target: Horvat’s heart, which was directly behind the woman’s soft shoulder. The bullet would travel straight through her and into him. I don’t have the specialised Glaser rounds that Q’d cooked up last month, so it wouldn’t be a lost cause. But the sudden trauma and blood loss would shock the baby and could kill them both along with Horvat. Shit. The Walther still didn’t move.
“I’m not seeing any openings, 007.” Todd responded, his high voice grating on James’ nerves. Are you fucking kidding me? James didn’t let the anger he felt show on his face, though he wanted to pull the ear piece out and throw it in Horvat’s direction as his fucking distraction.
To her credit, the woman didn’t make a sound. She stood as well as she could, with how heavy with child she was, and held her head high despite her utter terror. So fucking brave. Women are something else.
“Put down the gun, Mr. Bond.” Horvat gave the woman a shake, and she finally let out a pained squeak as her opposite shoulder was wrenched in Horvat’s meaty grip.
Fire flowed through James’ veins, igniting a powder keg of rage in his gut. Fucking wanker. He hashed together a plan in his head, something he hoped to high hell would work. With a touch of regret and disgust, he lowered the muzzle of his gun, then bent at the knees to lay it gently on the industrial carpeting, his other hand held out away from his body. “Alright. Let her go.” He kicked the gun, sending it skittering underneath a desk. “It’s gone.”
Horvat’s lips curled into a grotesque grin, half of his teeth missing. James grimaced. God, I hope this works. “Good. On your knees, Mr. Bond.”
Alright. This is what I wanted. Going like clockwork. He knelt down carefully, leaving himself enough room to maneuver. In his ear, Todd tittered and whinged, and James could actually hear the connection click as another person - probably M - tapped into the feed.
Horvat held tight to the pregnant woman as he moved forward, his own blackmarket Glock leveled at James’ head.
Suddenly, in his ear - “Jesus, Todd, what the hell are you doing? 007! Tell me when.” Oh, thank fuck. The Quartermaster. He knows what I’m doing. Good. The clatter of keys filled the earpiece and filled James with calm.
As quietly as he could, James subvocalised, “You know when.”
When Horvat was within reach, the lights flickered off. In the split second opening where confusion takes hold of the mind, James struck. His right leg, still sore from the fall he took a day ago, arched out from its angled bend, sweeping Horvat’s legs out from under him. The woman in his arms screamed as she was dragged down with him, and James couldn’t do much more than push her roughly out of the way as he pounced onto Horvat and quickly broke the man’s neck. It was over in less time than it took the emergency generators of the building to hum to life and return light to the room.
James pushed to his knees and moved to the woman, who was sitting up and staring at the horrid angle of Horvat’s neck. James didn’t touch her, even though she couldn’t have seen what had transpired. He couldn’t take the risk of her freaking out on him. “Look away. Don’t look at him. Are you alright?”
She looked at him, and pawed at her dress. “My water broke.”
James looked down, and sure enough, there was fluid on the fabric, on her leggings, on the floor. He took a breath. “Alright.” He flicked his eyes back to her face. “What’s your name, love?”
“Okay, Bridgette. I’m going to call an ambulance -” He winced in sympathy as she obviously had a contraction. Her face went blank, and her eyes betrayed the pain. “ - and then we are going to stay here until they get here, alright?” He pulled out his mobile and hit the 999 button. Bless being in England for once. He talked to the dispatcher and held Bridgette’s hand as she breathed through the contractions. “Love? The lady on the phone wants to know how long you’ve had the contractions.” He had no experience with this sort of thing. None. The earpiece sat silent in his ear, but he knew Q was there. Probably that dunce Todd too.
“A couple hours, now.” Bridgette hummed. “I came to work because I had a few things to finish before going to the hospital.”
“Alright.” He relayed that, then agreed to stay on the phone until the ambulance showed. MI6’s people would be there ahead of them, and would relay them around the worst of the damage James had wrought through the complex.
Chapter 13: Knee Deep in It (#25 - Trouble Lurking)
James narrowed his eyes as the reports started rolling in.
Nuclear incident in Iran.
Thirty-five innocent people dead. Hundreds more injured and sickened.
Fingers pointing in all directions.
The U.N. and NATO having an absolute shit fit.
The U.S. smack dab in the middle of peace talks, caught in the backlash.
He swallowed thickly, his scowl turning darker still as he watched the people around him work to find something - anything - to assist in finding whom might have started this hailstorm.
“Jesus, the Middle East is going ballistic over this.” Alec flipped page after page of blackout text. “And nothing’s coming out of the Embassies.”
“They are keeping their cards close to their chests,” James agreed. He rolled his shoulders and snitched a sheet of paper from Alec’s pile. “We know nothing so far.”
Q breezed past. “I wouldn’t say that.” He plopped down into his chair and leaned back as far as it would allow, turning to his computer. He set down his tall coffee. “I have information that can be very useful.”
“Iran’s had their fingers in the nuclear pie for far too long.” Alec matched James’ scowl and pushed the stack of paper away from him. “I’d lay odds this was their doing. They’ve had some sort of truly grand fuck up, and they are going to shift the blame elsewhere so that they can get humanitarian aid.” Alec growled. “Money that will never reach the people who need it the most.”
“I have signatures that say otherwise, Trevelyan.” Q picked up his coffee and took a long, scalding drink, scrunching up his face in pain and pleasure. “Take a look at this.” He pushed his personal tablet over, and James grabbed it before Alec could. All he could see were squiggles and coloured lines on the screen.
“What does that mean?”
Q squinted at his monitor, clicking things at speed. “The green line is the radiation signature from a theoretical Iranian weapon, based on the material they have at their disposal. The red line is known Chinese weapons, the blue is Russian. Grey is U.S. The three most likely culprits.” He sighed softly. “The black line is from the most recent incident in Iran.”
James looked at it again, and Alec leaned in to peer over his shoulder. The black line seemed to intersect with the Russian and U.S. line at multiple points over the graph. “So it was the Russians? Or the U.S.? What would they possibly gain from this?” James rubbed one hand over his face, trying to rid himself of the headache threatening to form behind his eyes. “More confusion.”
Q shook his head as he worked. “No, no, that just means that the weaponry came from those countries, not that they used them personally. The data was confused because there were two detonations.”
James’ head snapped up, and Alec hissed. “That wasn’t stated in the reports.”
“Doesn’t have to be. I know there was, because that is what the hard data shows.” Q grunted as he found something important, earmarked it for further perusal, then moved on. “And once we find out who is missing a nuke or two, we can find out who took it, or who sold it to them.” He turned in his chair and regarded both 00s with a look that could cut diamond. “And when we do that, there is nowhere on this forsaken earth they can hide. I will find them.” Then the moment was gone, and Q turned back to his work, flicking a hand over his shoulder as he did. “I suggest you learn how to read that very quickly, agents. You will be going to wherever these arses are hiding as soon as I find them.”
James nodded, his scowl lightening a smidgen. “Yes, sir.”
It wasn’t until 0534 the next morning that Q was able to find any trace of the stolen nuclear devices. Luckily, they’d been suitcase devices, with a yield not exceeding half a kilo-tonne each, but it was still destructive. Horribly so. He closed his eyes and blind-texted Bond with the information. He knew he was sending one of the best of the 00s into the hornet’s nest, but if anyone could survive against Red Star, it was James Bond. As an afterthought, he sent another text to Alec and Susan, sending them to Corsica as well. He blinked and tried to get his eyes to focus on the screen in front of him, but they weren’t having anything to do with it. He pulled his eye drops out of the topmost right-hand drawer, scowling as the cold liquid burned as he dripped it into his poor overworked eyes.
A ceramic cup clunked down next to him, and he turned his head slowly to see Eve leaning against his desk. “Hello. Can I do something for you?”
“You can, Quartermaster. First, you can drink your tea that I just got for you. Then you can go take twenty in the lounge while I continue this search.”
“You don’t know -” Q was really only going to give a token argument since he was damned exhausted, but Eve held up her hand.
“I do know, Q, because I’ve done this sort of thing before. Who do you have going? M would like to know so that he can appease the council members.”
“006, 007, and 0017.” Q gulped down the last dregs of his long cold coffee and then snatched the hot tea and gulped down the searing liquid. The pain woke him up quickly. “I’ve found traces of radiation in Corsica that matched the signatures in Iran. They are faint, but still there. Now I need to find out if our boys are still there -” He squeaked in protest as Eve pushed his chair out of the way and knelt down, skirt and all, and started typing. He took that as his cue to find that lounge. “Don’t download pornography onto the server, please.”
“Blame Alec for that.”
“I already know it wasn’t him.” He glanced down at his phone as it vibrated in his hand. Three confirmations of orders. He nodded. He wouldn’t have to outfit them because they would be stopping by one of the Stations in the area to get their kit.
The wolves were on the hunt.
Q wandered out of Q Branch and down the halls. He could try to rest, or he could whoop someone’s arse in Mortal Kombat. He settled for both once he got his eyes on the empty sofa in the break room.
Chapter 14: Even the Ground Wants You Dead (#58 - Kick in the head)
“Well, that didn’t sound like fun.”
Q’s voice in his ear was a small comfort. Bond rubbed his shoulder and grunted. “Really wasn’t on this end.” He shoved the now dead man out of his path and continued up the slope. The forest wasn’t doing him any favors at the moment. It’d just stopped raining, and the heavy humidity in the air pushed down on him. Slick red mud sucked at his combat boots, threatening to pull him off-balance and into the gully below. “Should have taken the bloody helicopter.”
“Yes, and get shot out of the sky by a surface to air missile. Good plan.” A slight chuckle let Bond know that Q wasn’t actually irritated with him. The knowledge was a godsend. Ever since they’d started seeing each other, he’d gotten used to Q’s sharp wit and lack of brain-to-mouth filter. “I’ve got you on sat-map, 007. You don’t have much further to go. Keep heading southeast, on the bearing you are already on.”
“What if that bearing - oof!” He fell, chest-first, into the wet forest floor, his head bouncing off a small moss covered log hard. Almost immediately, he started sliding backwards. With a barely controlled scramble, he grabbed the first sapling he could wrap both hands around and pulled himself back up - or, rather, stopped himself from going over the edge. “Uh, fuck.” He turned his head and spat leaf litter out of his mouth. “Utterly disgusting. What if that bearing fucking tries to kill me?”
“Let me check the topography of the region, 007. Wait one.”
“‘Let me check the topography of the region, 007’.” Bond mimed back in his patented ‘I’m doing my best to imitate an annoying Branch pup’ voice. “I can check it for you, Q. It’s damned near straight up into the sky, wet, messy, and crawling with the enemy -” He rolled quickly to avoid getting a boot to the face, and swung his legs around to knock the newest flunky off his feet. The assailant flailed and scrambled on the wet ground. Bond knew he had the advantage, and he took it. He gripped the sapling again and pushed against it as he kicked out hard, catching the man in the temple with his boot. The startled yelp made Bond smile, and he kicked again ruthlessly, sending the insensate man down the five or so feet to the lip of the gully. With one last shout, the man fell over. “Whom definitely know I’m here now.”
“Monitoring radio communications, you have five kilometers to your objective. If it helps, all other trajectories are pointless.”
“Anything containing a bunch of rocks I could climb? Mud makes better lubricant than stepping stone.”
“Ugh. I’d hardly use mud to lubricate something.”
In his struggle up the hill, Bond almost missed it. He had to pause and shake his head. “That, Quartermaster, was a horrid innuendo.”
“What about it was an innuendo - you have two coming up on your right, 20 yards and closing. Nothing behind or to your left, clear sailing to your front. You are disgusting, by the way.”
“Acknowledged.” Bond pulled out his gun and sighted in on the camou-covered men in ghillie suits. Two light pulls on the trigger, two more dead men in the woods. “Really wish I would have sprung for a silencer on this.”
“Hadn’t planned on a blitz.”
“Well, we can’t have you predicting all the outcomes. It would make you a prophet, and then people would want you to start reading Tarot cards or something like that - shit!” He ducked, went to ground, as a man in the distance opened up on him with a rifle. “Damn this day.” His fatigues were ruined, to be sure. He poked his head up and nearly had it shot off for his trouble. Bits of bark and forest litter blew into his face, and he rolled off to his right. “Right, where’d this bastard come from?”
“Not sure. Wait one.” Q’s voice had taken an urgent tone, one that Bond didn’t like.
“Great.” He pushed to his feet and slip-slid-scrambled to an ancient oak that had well enough bulk to hide him while he came up with a new plan, since this one was turning out to be more hassle than it was worth.
“Alright.” Q sounded triumphant. “I have a new route for you. It includes a side trip to a weapons cache that they didn’t shield from scanners about 300 yards to your left.”
“You are my fairy godmother.”
“Or just the voice in your head, one of the two. Either one makes you sound insane.”
“And it was an innuendo.”
“Wasn’t at all. You just have a raunchy mind, agent.”
Bond smirked, and shot the rifleman as he snuck around the trunk of the tree. “Doesn’t change what I want to do to you when I get done with this fucking place.”
“Does it include mud?”
“It could get dirty, yes.”
“Shut up and get to the objective, 007. And Quartermaster, head on the operation, if you don’t mind.” M’s voice carried over the connection, and Bond could hear the wince in Q’s voice as he apologised. Bond only laughed and continued on the new course with a murmured ‘yessir’.
Chapter 15: Badges Earned (#49 - Stripes)
He noticed them first when James took his clothes off to take a shower at MI-6, and tried not to think about how they would feel under his tongue because James Bond slept with women and Q was not a woman and he really shouldn’t be having these sort of thoughts about a 00 and he was just going to duck into a stall and take his shower there, yes? Good, perfect.
It was after the second time they’d found themselves in each others’ arms, panting and cursing and shaking out their mutual overtired and adrenaline-fueled energy, that he really took notice. Once again, there was a shower involved, though this time it was Q’s, all decked out in cracked white plastics and resembling a Uni student’s. Which, come to think of it, the comparison would be correct, considering that Q has had this cupboard of a flat since Uni. He liked it, though, the efficiency and small space. Besides, he was barely there as it was. What was the point of getting a posh new house if he wasn’t even there to enjoy it?
He sat on the toilet seat and played Candy Crush on his new toy, naked and still thrumming with contentment. It’s ridiculous, he thought, how James fucking me with his clothes still on is such a bloody turn-on for me. He huffed a small laugh to himself as he remembered how the soft fabric of Bond’s trousers felt against his naked thighs. His body was too sated to muster much of a response to the memories, but his nerves still lit up. He didn’t bother to watch James undress - he’d seen it before, the clinical shedding of 007 and the reawakening of James Bond. He didn’t have to watch to be able to visualise the scene playing out in his bathroom. Bond’s suit jacket slipped to the floor, followed by the silk button-down. Cufflinks clinked on the vinyl tiling as the bathroom filled with hot steam, turning muggy in a matter of moments. Trousers and pants went next, pooling around strong ankles and wriggly toes. Q looked up from his tablet as James stepped into the spray and caught a glimpse of his well-defined back. He was a naturally observant creature to begin with, so he categorised the slopes and planes and bunches of muscles. He saw the dip of James’ back, the little curve leading to a very fit bum; he noticed the little dimples on either side of James’ spine and above his coccyx, tiny spots that were amazingly sensitive to touch and made James shiver every time Q touched them with fingers or tongue.
He also noticed the scars. And unlike the first time he’d seen them, they pissed him off straight away.
He turned off his tablet and walked out of the room before he did something rash and uncalled for, like dragging the exhausted agent out of the shower to freeze on the tile floor as David traced each and every one of the lines on his back with his fingers to erase them from his mind. In the bedroom beyond, Q flopped face-down on his incredibly comfy, overstuffed bed and spent the next half hour reassuring himself that yes, James did know what he was doing and yes, he did know what England was asking him to do and that he was willing to lay his life and limb on the line to ensure Her safety and continue tenure on this plane of existence and that his anger was irrational and unfounded. He told himself all of this like it would help.
It didn’t help.
When James emerged from the bathroom a while later, mountain fresh and scrubbed rosy-skinned and so relaxed now that he was smiling in the soft way of his that normally would calm Q right down, Q had worked himself into quite a snit, stabbing at schematics on his tablet as he searched for something to help James avoid getting so…
“Something the matter?” James sat next to the furiously tapping man and rested a warm hand between his shoulders. He began to rub, softly, trying to get Q’s attention.
Q hissed unhappily at him.
“Alright…” James let the word drag out. “So there is. Obviously.” He adjusted the towel around his lean hips, the usual half-erection he gained from the hot water and his relaxation barely visible through the fluffy cotton. “Care to let me know what it is?”
“And that doesn’t count, because it makes no sense to me.”
Q huffed and tossed the tablet to the floor in a fit, the Toughskin he was beta testing protecting it from the toss. “Nothing. Ignore it. Ignore me.” He pushed himself to the opposite side of the bed and rested against the headboard, a careful distance from James. There was no point in taking out his stupid anger and irritation on James, so he removed himself completely.
He only realised his error when he looked to his left and saw the wide expanse of James’ back, unhindered by the fog in the bathroom. “Damn it.”
James’ back was a roadmap of scarring. Most were old and faded, nothing more that a hint of pale tissue streaking across healthy tan skin, marks condemned to the mist of memory and time past, no longer worth mention. But there were newer ones, angry red ones and stark white ones and pale pink ones. These were the ones that Q despised the most, the ones that had come during his continuing tenure as Quartermaster. He could tell anyone who’d listen - and had high enough security clearance - where each one came from, could tell them right down to the minute and location and what the mark came from. He was observant like that. Always had been. And now, as he sat there against the eiderdown pillows in their soft cotton covers, he cursed his memory and his observant nature, because he was remembering each and every one of them. The culmination of which was the most recent ones, the red ones that stood out in stark contrast and tore at Q’s mind like wildfire because he’d been there, in James’ ear, listening in on the mission and subsequent capture, and he hadn’t been fast enough to keep James from feeling the bite of the sadistic bastard...
“Earth to Q. Wake up.”
Q cursed and jerked himself out of his dark thoughts. “I told you to ignore me!” He winced at his sharp tone. James didn’t move from his position on the edge of the bed, but he did freeze. Q could tell, because James could - and would - turn into a stone and wait for hours for his target, his prey, or for danger to pass so he could escape. He had the patience of a million-year old rock. So when he went still, he went still. Q could barely tell if the man still breathed sometimes, and would place his hand on James’ shoulder or chest or back in calmer times and wait for the steady movement of his heart or the slight traction of his chest muscles as he took in a breath. This time, though, he stayed on his side of the bed and tried to think of a way to fix this monumental fuck-up. “Sorry. Sorry. I. I just…”
James took a deep breath and let it out, and the whipcord tension in his body dissipated. “You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong. Not if you don’t want to. But just tell me what you are thinking.”
Q picked at the bed linens, trying to find words to articulate his irrational anger and fear. “I don’t. Um.” He growled in frustration. “I just don’t want you to get hurt anymore. Not like that.” And yes, James just tricked him into telling him what was wrong. He knew it. He slapped the duvet. “Scars aren’t all that sexy.”
James turned and looked at Q with a very soft expression. “Badges.”
“Ones you get at a high cost.” Q spat, remembering the psychological state James was in when he’d returned from Calcutta. His captors were very skilled with a whip, apparently. His breath hissed out between bared teeth. “I want to protect you from that.”
Suddenly, James was next to him, warm skin pressed up against him, towel gone and his lips resting on the skin just under Q’s ear as he said, “You can’t protect me from everything.” Q stiffened in his grasp, wanting to pull away from the truth being pressed into his skin, but James didn’t let go. Instead, he continued. “But I will accept any and all prototype weapons and radios you have at your disposal to assist me in my quest to always come back home, injured or not.”
And for a little while, that was just enough.
Chapter 16: Tumblr Happened (#73 - I Can't)
James and Alec were at it again. Q rolled his eyes and blanked out the impromptu wrestling match on the floor of his workspace, focusing on his little pet project. He couldn’t quite get the trigger assembly to sit right on the frame, though. He might have to - “Must you do this here, of all places, gentlemen?” He snatched his computer off of the desk just in time to have James slam heavily into the side of it with a painful sounding yelp. A couple feet away, Alec lay on his back, rubbing his stomach.
James held out a shaky arm. Not in pain. Laughing, Q noted. “He started it!”
“YOU!” Alec barked at the ceiling. “You were the one that told me about you and Charise. You know I like her!”
“It’s your fault. You stole Margaret out from under my nose last night at the pub!”
“You were boring her with all your talk about your ruddy Aston!”
“Was fucking too, you wanker!”
James growled playfully and pounced on Alec, sending the two of them rolling into yet another desk. Q whinged up at the lights. “Oh, you two are children! I have an gecko who is more mature than you, and he licks his bloody eyeball!”
Alec was on top of James, holding him down with his knees in his shoulders. “I’d lick my eyeball, but my tongue isn’t long enough for that. Oof!” He went arse-over-teakettle in a classic throw, and James pushed to his feet.
“Ok, that’s enough of that.” He dusted off his suit, then went down under a tackle from behind.
Q slapped his forehead and plopped down in a rolly chair, giving up on the project and opening his Tumblr. “I’m ignoring you all.”
He typed in his password of the week and...oh GOD.
His fingers froze on the keys as he stared. “Holy…” He licked his lips and stared some more. A yelp sounded from the boys on the floor, but he found he no longer cared, because there was a .gif set. On his dash. That...only got better as he scrolled. He swallowed. “Oh.” Then he had to stop altogether because those eyes. Boring into his soul...and into other parts of him. One part, in particular, was getting a very rude awakening. Well. He said ‘rude’. But it wasn’t, not really. Because Richard. Armitage. In EYELINER. Humina.
“Oh. That’ll do nicely,” Q murmured, and licked his lips again. “God, yes, Richard. That would.”
“What are you talking about?”
Q yelped and tried to close the lid of his laptop, but James’ hand was in the way and oh FUCK. “Nothing, nothing at all. Go away, you brute!”
Alec was at his other shoulder, chuckling with a slightly bloody lip. “Oh, let us see, then, love.”
“Don’t call me ‘love’, you imbecilic penguin!” Q tried to wrest control of his laptop from Alec, but the man took it from him easily...then froze.
“Oh, wow.” Alec looked up at James. “And now I know what Q likes in a man.”
James’ eyes went wide. “What? Let me see!”
“It’s not porn, you idiots!” Q didn’t like how his voice went up into the high ranges, but he had to protect his honour! “Not. Porn!”
James looked at the screen, and blinked. “I don’t know. That. That looks like porn to me.” He stared hard at it. “Holy crap. Is that legal? Who is that?”
Q sputtered a little more, flapping his hands. “It’s…ugh, it’s Guy of Gisborn, if you must know. ‘Robin Hood’? Do you even watch telly?”
Alec scratched his head. “Probably not that, but I think I should.”
“That’s that… Armitage chap. He’s in other things, isn’t he?” James tilted the laptop. “I recognise him from something.”
Q blushed. Here’s the part where they find out just how much of a geek he was. “Thorin.”
Alec looked at him, and James grinned. “Thorin Oakenshield. King Under the Mountain.”
“You...know who he is?” Q squeaked.
James shrugged, and Alec shifted his confused gaze from Q to him. “I read. I loved ‘The Hobbit’. I wasn’t aware that...oh wait. That’s a movie now, isn’t it?”
“Yes? How can you be that far behind?” Q shook his head.
“You were gone for two months. They’ve been filming for years !” Q stood up and snatched his laptop back. “All three movies are out, if you care to know.”
James looked at Alec, who was still staring. “Movie night, berk.”
“Wha?” Alec blinked at him. “Movie night? I don’t even know what you people...oh!” He snapped his fingers. “I know where I’ve seen him now!” He pulled a tablet off a nearby table and poked at it. “Hold on, can’t remember the show…” He dragged the word out as his fingers flicked over the screen. Q clutched his computer protectively against his chest, away from James. “Oh, here it is. ‘Strike Back’.” He handed the tablet to James, ignoring the whimpering of the tech behind him whom actually was using the tablet at the time for something rather important. Q couldn’t help but chuckle at the poor bloke.
“Oh.” James scrolled down. “And we are watching this, too. Looks interesting.”
“It is.” Q piped up. “Too bad they killed him off so that Richard could film ‘The Hobbit’.”
Alec looked up, irritated all of a sudden. “You dick!”
“What?” Q debating using his computer as a shield.
“You’re kidding!” Alec shook his head. “When did they do that?”
“How much did you see?”
Alec grabbed the tablet back from James and tossed it to the poor tech. “The end of the first season.”
Q waved his hand. “Don’t. I repeat, do NOT watch the first episode of the second season. If you liked Porter, do NOT watch it. You will die.” Q honestly still pissed off about it, but he got Thorin out of the deal, so he couldn’t be too sad about it. But then he had to stop and think about what he was talking about with two hardened killers who were just play-wrestling on the floor of Q Branch…
“Oh, my God, I’m dreaming. I’m actually dreaming this, aren’t I?”
An alarm started to blare in the background, and Q closed his eyes on the laughter from Alec and James…
And woke up in a pool of drool on his desk. He stared helplessly at the brushed steel in front of his face for a moment, trying to wake up and remember the bizarro dream he just had at the same time.
“Hey, Q. Rise and shine, darling! Time for goodies!”
“Oh, shut up, Alec.”
Q sat up in his chair, wincing at the creaking in his lower back. “How can I help you?”
James Bond and Alec Trevelyan stood just behind him, dressed to impress. Apparently, they were trying to impress two completely different groups of individuals, since James was in a stunning Tom Ford number and Alec had opted for a much more casual full-body black suit - “Oh, wow, where are you going, Alec?”
“Places unknown. Meeting up with a detachment of SBS outside of Portugal.” Alec rolled his shoulders. “It’s going to be amazing. I can’t contain my excitement. And James is going to Ghana.”
Q blinked at them. “Oh wow, I think I already knew this.” He turned back to his desk to pull up the mission packets… and right there on his screen was Tumblr.
And the .gif set he’d dreamed of. Richard Armitage in all of his Guy glory. “Oh, fuck.” He hoped that those words sounded more worried than lustful.
“What’s wrong...oh.” James leaned in.
Alec snorted. “Wow. Now we know what Q likes in a man.”
Q dropped his head to his keyboard. “Just don’t start wrestling on my floor, please.”
Alec cocked his head in confusion, and James rolled his eyes. “Why on earth would we do that?”
Q waved his hand tiredly at them. “Nevermind.” Then he paused. “Neither one of you know anyone by the name of Thorin, do you?”
Alec cocked his head in the other direction.
James grunted. “King Under the Mountain. I’ve read ‘The Hobbit’ a few times. Loved it.”
“Oh god .” Q groaned. “I’d hoped it was a dream…”
Chapter 17: Competence (#9 - Drive)
Quick little note here - this fill was actually the inspiration for a longer story of mine: 'Volante'. So if any elements seem similar, that is why. Thank you for your patience and time :)
Q leaned back and groaned in triumph. “I win. Ten points to Gryffindor. The car is done. ” He wiped his hands off on his denims and adjusted his glasses. James tried really hard not to telegraph his sudden arousal at the image Q created; dirty, shirtless greasemonkey. Pale skin and deceptive coltishness belying power and knowledge and competence. God. Competence. No wonder James was so bloody attracted to the creature in front of him. He always had a thing for people who knew what they were doing, whether it was with guns, cars, sport, tactics...hell, he even fancied Maudy and Bill Tanner, for the brilliance that they brought to the political side of their black little world. He was warming up to Mallory, the new M, but it would take time. Time and trust, not things that Bond gave out lightly.
Q turned his head and grinned up at James. “Want to take her out for a test drive?”
James grinned. “God, yes.”
Out on the open road, the Vanquish was a beast of a car. As Q talked about suspension and footpounds of pressure and torque and horsepower and ratios and fuel consumption and aerodynamics, James kept his eyes focused on the road, and his mind firmly in safe territory. He refused to let Q’s words and voice sink into his hindmind, the one where all the want and need resided. He refused to acknowledge the stirring of his prick. He refused to think about how Q would look, naked and stretched over the miles-long bonnet of this fucking fantastic vehicle, arms raised tantalizingly above his head and that snarky smirk crooking his lips to the left as he licked his lips and rolled his pert little arse on the midnight blue paintjob, wanton and waiting impatiently for James to cover him and take him …God damn it! James grimaced, his knuckles creaking on the steering wheel.
“God, Q, shut up for a moment.”
Beside him, on the left, Q jerked to a stop, a guilty and sad look flashing across his face. “...sorry. I...I tend to talk a bit, and I don’t...well…”
James huffed out a breath. He can not be having these thoughts about his Quartermaster. He can’t. It’s untenable. Inappropriate. Not on. But they were happening anyway. God, this was going to be a trainwreck. “It’s fine. Just. Let’s talk about something else.” He could barely picked up Q’s mutter of ‘I thought you liked cars…’ and a sudden pang of regret rang through his mind. He turned onto an abandoned road and shifted into fourth gear. “You said that this thing could go from naught to 140 faster than a Veyron, right?”
Q perked up a bit. “Yes? In theory.”
James revved the engine. “Let’s test that theory.” He pressed the pedal to the floor and the Vanquish leapt forward with a spray of gravel and a delighted yelp from Q.
James pulled into a sheep path and parked. He turned the car off and turned to Q, who was completely relaxed into the racing seats and texting the results of the test drive to his computer. James watched him for a bit. He watched his hands, his fingers pecking at keys, his pink tongue pressing against his bottom lip in concentration, his green eyes narrowed as he noted something disturbing - James thought it might be a note about the gearbox, but it could be the suspension or something as innocuous as the damned wipers randomly turning on when James had signaled for a right-hand turn.
“I didn’t mean…”
Q looked up, but he was staring out the windscreen instead of looking at James.
James tried again. “When you were…” He pressed his lips together. “Fuck it.” He leaned to the side, laying one hand on Q’s thigh - slowly, slowly now, James, let him escape if he wants - and paused just a moment before bringing Q’s head around with his other hand. “I’m sorry.” And he threw caution to the wind and kissed Q. It wasn’t much, just a soft press of lips, a tiny lick of his tongue before he could tell it that no, he wasn’t seducing the Quartermaster, he was just kissing the poor man. Why? He didn’t know. Apology? Explanation?
By the startled deer in headlights look on Q’s face as James pulled away, it was a piss poor explanation if he’d ever seen one. James winced.
“What...what?” Q blinked rapidly.
James swallowed. “Competence.”
“I’m...not following…?” Poor Q was so confused, and James tried to rectify it.
“I have. I get...well, you’ve seen my records.”
“Still confused.” Q squirmed in his seat. “Do you like me?”
It was James’ turn to blink. “You are smart. Confident. Competent. And that is sexy to me. Yes, I think I like you.”
“Oh. Well, then.” Q leaned forward, and now he was the one kissing James, and oh, this was pleasant. Brilliant, even. Because Q knew things about guns and technology and cars and people and now James was discovering that he knew quite a bit about kissing, too.
Competence was a major “fuck me” button for James, and Q...pushed it every time he opened his mouth. And as he relaxed into the kiss, he had another idea, one that he believed he’d be able to pull off right here in this car. He leaned back, and Q hummed as their lips parted.
“Want to see how strong these seats are?”
It was worth it to see Q’s pupils blow out. “God, yes.”