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He thinks it's desire, plain and simple, when they're flirting yet again during his debrief somewhere in the dark hours of almost-morning. He chuckles at some point at Q's subtle flirtation and drops a particularly filthy suggestion he wouldn't even think of flinging at the prim and prominent Quartermaster if he wasn't still agitated after the mission and had slept sometime in the past forty hours and the Branch wasn't devoid of people other than Q and a couple of minions in the break room. He doesn't expect Q's eyes to turn at him blown wide, tongue wetting the pink lips before they part again; he doesn't expect the suddenly husky voice to drift to him and send a shiver down his spine like nothing has in a long time. They've been working together for some four months now, and Moneypenny will surely crow her victory the next day, long after Q cleans the footage of them and asks to keep this strictly outside work.

He thinks it's a partnership, stemming out of their interests and work, when Q's restrained, but genuine chuckle can be heard in the Branch with R standing right there and grinning. It's not his concern -- he can see Q's palm print on his wrist, feel the tiny maroon half-moons on his hip, remember Q's gasps, and that is enough.

He thinks it's desire, against his better judgement, when he really can't be arsed how many traffic restrictions he's breaking because he can't get them to his flat (it's closer) quickly enough; Q sprawled in the passenger seat with a bulge in his pants similar to Bond's own, and he's itching to rub over it and hear Q gasp, and-- and-- ('Breathe, James.') He breathes, takes in lungfuls of air, keeps his hands firmly on the steering wheel until his knuckles turn white, as per Q's order not to touch, knowing that his obedience will be rewarded. It's been nine months since his childhood home went up in flames, but when he sees the word "chapel", he thinks safeword first, and Skyfall second.

He thinks it's friendship, strong and understanding, when he finds R sleeping on Q's couch under a navy blanket while Q types softly, and holds up a finger to his lips when James enters to keep quiet. She's been working for thirty hours, Q explains in a whisper that has to be read from his lips rather than heard, and in two more they'll both be needed to get 004 through a particular facility in-- Bond doesn't get to learn where, because R stirs and Q's head whips to check, then the frown on his face softens when she doesn't wake. It cannot be the first time R occupies the space Bond's long thought only Q's and his.

He still thinks it's desire, violently shaken not stirred with post-mission drop, when he wordlessly asks, nudges the Quartermaster against the door and their hips roll against each other and Q bites the crook of James' neck. He should stop, ask, clear things up before this gets out of control -- but he cannot bring himself to, not with Q's fingers in his hair and Q's palm pressing at the back of his neck to kneel and Q's whisper above him and Q in his mouth and Q under his hands and Q everywhere, chasing nightmares and memories away. He's already spiralling down on a collision course, with no intent of pulling to a halt.

He doesn't want to think what it is when Q sits in a small café next to R, eyes alight as if she was the only thing in the world and her animated explanation was that of the secret of the universe. They don't see him, taking a walk to the SIS, but he sees their intertwined hands and Q's kiss on her knuckles, sees R whispering in his ear and Q breaking out into the warmest smile as she hugs him close before giving him a chaste kiss. He doesn't know how long it's been, because he kept the blindfold on his eyes since the very beginning, like a good racing horse. He runs through the months in his head, through hundreds of interactions he has vague memories of, and everything clicks. He's never wanted to pay much attention to R.

He turns back to where he came from, goes past his building, far into a different part of the city, and proceeds to get drunk in a way he hasn't in months.

He makes himself think it's desire, now smouldering with the taboo of it, when four days later he's licking and sucking Q's cock like a man who hasn't drunk in ages, and the sounds the younger man is making are the only thing worth drinking in. He cannot deny that he craves Q, the rush he gets from being with that man, possibly more than the adrenaline of the missions and more than death, and maybe that is his way of staking his claim, weak and twisted as it is. He's addicted and always out for the next impact of Q's implements, and Q's next order, waiting for the low moans and musky sweat and bitter come he gets to lick up from Q's belly; and perhaps the best of all, the throaty "good, James" and the hand scratching the back of his head that follow. It's incongruous, Q's utter lack of guilt about their passion, and tenderness Bond doesn't want to notice they have with R. Himself, he doesn't have the guilt to spare about lying to her. He should stop, ask, but he can't, because it would mean he couldn't get another selfish hit of the drug Q has become.

He's learned in the past that dependent like that, he's out of control, even if jealousy isn't something he can allow himself to feel. And he certainly doesn't drop the comms out of spite in the CCTV-barren suburb -- it was just too dangerous to get caught with the earpiece.

He doesn't know what it is when Q is yelling at him in front of the Branch, voice nothing like the one he orders Bond with in the bedroom; making people turn away from the door, making the minions themselves silent and tense and all but one pretending to be buried in their work. The Quartermaster is known for his meticulous control of his affects, calculating and assessing the situation with his emotions barely, if ever, visible in the picture. Now, he's furious to a degree that might only rival the time a couple of his subordinates were listed as redundant based on their age and not skills. (Q-Branch is Q's in every meaning of the word, by now, and the young genius is equal parts protective of and strict with his staff. Their loyalty has rung strong since just a few weeks after the upheaval of Silva, and perhaps that indirect display of Q's skill and strength alone made Bond a little weak in his knees, metaphorically speaking.)

"You don't ever have the permission to turn your bloody comms off, Bond! Hear me? Never fucking do that! I don't have to man it, you can have anyone from the Branch your royal arse wants on them, but no, instead you just turn them off without a word! You drop the comms without necessity and leave us, leave me in the dark one more time, and you're not going out in the field again! I don't give a fuck what you'll promise Mallory in order to go, you will be grounded indefinitely if you pull that shit off one more time! Do I make myself clear?"

Bond takes a deep breath, back straight despite the sprained ankle and stitches along his right flank and weariness in every muscle, and his pride dwindling with every word resounding in the room. He had promised Q he wouldn't do that to him, and he had disobeyed. He should ask...

"Crystal, Quartermaster."

Q's mouth tightens, the muscle along his jaw twitches as he grits his teeth, as if he wanted to reprimand Bond again, just as loud, for not answering with his usual snark.

"Out of my sight," he finally snaps. Throughout his limping departure, Bond can see Q watch him in the Branch's glass door, with the slight flush of anger and imperious eyes as he remains on his pedestal.

He doesn't want to know what it is with R coming up to the Quartermaster, taking hold of his hand, and him squeezing back.