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Mysterious as a Cat

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Q’s face did something complicated when he opened the front door of his flat and saw Bond waiting on the sofa, but ultimately he settled on a rueful smile and a shake of his head. “I should have known,” he said. “Some cats always come home.” 

Actually, Q definitely should have been alerted to Bond’s presence by some device or another. Bond had never been here before, and it was a good thing he was here now, because there appeared to be some security issues. He would have to see to those...sometime. Not now. He had finished his mission; they could spare a little while to relax. 

Next to him, Fish, Q’s gray tabby, uncurled from his nap-circle and jumped down to greet Q with a butt of his head against Q’s calf. A moment later, a loud thump announced Chips’s leap off the bed. (Both cats had their names embroidered proudly on their bright orange collars.) 

Chips trotted in from the bedroom, mroawing his tortoiseshell head off, acting like he was hungry even though Bond had filled the food dish. Bond had psst-psst-pssted him several times, but Chips had ignored him. Chips ignored Fish, too. A one-person cat, apparently.  

Q rattled Chips’s bowl and added a spoonful of wet food. It turned out that he probably fed his cat better than himself, because after that he heated up a frozen package of “dumplings” in the microwave. Bond sat on the sofa to watch the new Star Trek with him while Q devoured his dinner with all the verve of someone who hadn’t eaten in days. 

Ugh. Weren’t millenials supposed to be all about fresh granola and avocados? 

---

“Did you order groceries?” Q asked the next evening, which was a ridiculous question, because there was actual produce on his counters, so of course Bond had. Technology was handy these days; he hadn’t even had to interact with anyone, just pick the package up from the doorstep after it was delivered. 

Bond continued dangling a headphone cord in front of Fish, who obligingly danced after the twitching line until Bond let him pounce on it and kill it dead. 

Chips chirped a greeting at Q, passing by Fish and Bond without so much as a glance. Chips was kind of a dick, Bond decided.  

“I don’t like avocados,” Q told him. 

“I do,” Bond said. He didn’t feel very hungry, but he'd eat one later. 

---

“Is that a fucking houseplant?” Q asked. 

Chips was gnawing on the spider plant contentedly, but in a spectacular show of cat-assery, he hadn’t spared a glance for his benefactor.  

“Chips is a tough nut to crack for someone named after a soggy fried potato,” Bond said. "But I'll get to him eventually."

Q facepalmed, turned around, and took a few deep breaths, his shoulders shaking. “Right,” he said, his voice choked with...suppressed laughter? Pleasure lightened a weight in Bond’s chest that he hadn’t realized was there. He made Q happy.  

“At least Fish loves me,” Bond said, because Fish was curled up in his lap and purring with the steadiness of a machine gun rocking through its clip. 

Q did laugh at that, low in his throat. “Yes,” he said. “Fish definitely loves you.” 

---

After a while, Bond moved from the living room sofa to Q’s bed, theoretically because it was more comfortable, but mostly because it was closer to Q, who refused to have sex with him but was happy to spoon. 

Bond had had plenty of sex on missions. Quality spooning, not so much. It would all be fine except Chips kept trying to burrow into Bond’s pillow like Bond wasn’t even there, and Q finally had to bring a third, identical pillow home after work one day to keep the peace.   

“He’s just special,” Q said with a funny little smile on his face. Was he talking to Bond about Chips, or the opposite? Or both? 

---

“Sure you don’t want to report in?” Q asked him once, his eyes on his tablet, which was perched across Chips’s side because Chips was flopped immoveably in his lap.  

Bond blinked lazily up at him, enjoying the glow of the lamplight across Q’s vibrant face. “If I did, I’d be there,” he said. Fish nipped his jaw for having the temerity to talk while he was sprawled across Bond’s throat. 

“Fair enough,” Q said, and he didn’t ask again.  

---

Bond kept ordering groceries, though for some reason the avocados always turned before he could get to them. He cooked, too, and napped in the sunshine next to Fish, and read books with Fish hiding between his legs and trying to chew on the pages. He comforted Q when he came home with dark circles under his eyes or his shoulders tight with stress, and he celebrated with him when another agent made it home, when a mission success saved lives. Bond liked it here, with Fish and Chips and Q, and he didn’t want to leave. Not yet. 

He was waiting for something, waiting while Q’s hair grew white streaks and Chips’s muzzle grayed, waiting without any particular sense of urgency. He had time, his senses told him. 

He got a good clue what it was he was waiting for when Q and Chips left for the vet one day, Chips unable to move on his own, and Q returned with red-rimmed eyes and a cat crate that swung too lightly in his hand. 

Q put the crate down and shut the front door behind him, and then they heard the telltale, impossible thump of Chips leaping off the bed and onto the floor. Chips had died, but he had come home just the same. He trotted into the room and greeted Q just as he always had, and after that, he turned to Bond and brushed his jowls against Bond’s ankle for the first time, chirping inquisitively. 

Q was looking at Chips just as he had looked at Bond on that first day, regret and pleasure warring before selfish relief won the day.

“Ah,” Bond said as a few key details clicked together to form a picture he finally couldn’t ignore. He was dead. “I suppose Fish died before I did,” he said.  

Q turned to him, licking his lips. “Yes,” he said, and, “You can go if you need to. I’m not trapping you.” 

Bond snorted. “Don’t be stupid,” he said. “Fish would never forgive me. And I’ve been waiting for Chips to notice me for years; I can wait even longer for you to croak so I can escort you to the afterlife.” 

Q smiled. “I thought you hated escort missions.” 

“It’s not a mission,” Bond said, shaking his head. He knelt down and took Q’s hands in his, looking up into his eyes. “It’s where I belong. Where you go, I go, and where you live, I live.” 

Q swallowed. His hands, always so steady, trembled in Bond’s. “You’re not seriously proposing to me ten years after you fucking died, you prick.” 

“It’s a brave new world; I’ll get the rings delivered,” Bond said, and Q pulled him up and into his arms, burying his wet face in Bond’s neck. 

Perhaps the moral thing to do would be to convince Q to surround himself with the living instead of the dead. But if Q was selfish enough to want to keep him, then Bond was selfish enough to want to stay. Wherever they went next, they would go together.