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Yours, J

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Q sipped his tea, pleased that his new assistant had finally learned his tastes. "Good job on the sugar this time," he said, taking another long swig.

"Glad to help," said a wry voice far too close to Q's ear.

It took all of Q's concentration not to spit his tea all over his workstation, but he managed to swallow the mouthful with barely a tremor. "Nice to see you putting Her Majesty's training to good use, Bond." He managed his usual flippant tone, but Q had a feeling that the infuriating man wasn't fooled. "Perhaps you can teach my assistant the trick of it."

"But then what use would you have for me?" asked Bond, crowding into Q's personal space.

Q could think of several things, all of them quite against regulations regarding sexual harassment and fraternisation. "I don't know, can you cook?"

"I can cook breakfast," flirted Bond shamelessly, "but only if I'm properly motivated."

"Useless, then," said Q, sipping his tea again while he gathered his wits, poking at his laptop with his free hand for something to do. Bond's mission brief showed up at the top of his email queue, and he scanned the relevant details. "I suppose I'll have to send you to Uruguay after all. Let's have a quick trip to the armoury, shall we?"

"You say the sweetest things," said Bond with that sly, flirty grin that had won his way into so many places he wasn't allowed. He put a hand in the small of Q's back and gestured. "After you, Q."

Q tried not to enjoy the touch. "Quite, 007," he replied tartly. He stepped away from his desk, tea in hand, and led Bond to the secure room where all his best toys were kept. Bond kept his hand on Q's back the whole way, a gentle pressure that warmed him through his cardigan.

"Will the tea earn me anything good?" asked Bond, watching as Q went straight to the drawers where he kept the biometric weapons for each Double-O. Bond lounged against the chrome table like it was placed there expressly to show him off in his sharp grey suit with its ice-blue tie just the colour of his eyes.

"No exploding pens in stock, I'm afraid," said Q. He brought down the case with Bond's latest Walther PPK in it, then held out his hand imperiously. "Palm."

Bond stepped forward and laid his hand in Q's, the back warm against Q's cool fingers. Q checked the whorls and valleys of it against his own memory. "No new scars," said Bond. He flipped his hand over to caress Q's palm before pulling away.

Q ignored the tease as he had all the others. "Good, then I won't have to waste my time re-encoding this," Q said, handing Bond the gun, just to be sure.

Bond took it with a calm, competent grace. He handled the gun like it was an extension of himself, holding it out and stepping close enough that Q could both see the three green dots and smell Bond's cologne, all musk and spice, expensively masculine. "Perfect," said Bond, breath whispering over Q's ear, and then he stepped back to holster his weapon.

Q took a moment to let his mind run through all the alternate meanings of 'holster his weapon' while he went to another wall of cubbies to extract a radio and tablet computer for the agent, so that the urge to giggle and flirt was quelled by the time he turned back. "You remember what this is for," he said, stepping over to press the radio into the foam of Bond's lockbox where it belonged. "Do you need any further training on the tablet? It's also biometric."

"Where do I put my palm?" asked Bond, stepping back into Q's space, suit perfectly in place and no sign of the gun in the lines of it.

"On the surface of the tablet," said Q, proud of this latest innovation. "You can use it to scan other low-resolution items as well, once you've unlocked it.

Bond got a look of glee like a child being given a new toy, and he laid his palm down, almost covering the entire surface of the small device. There was a quick flash of light and the screen cleared into the familiar OS that Q had designed and Bond had taken to with surprising facility, unlike some other agents. Q checked his pockets for something that would make a good scan, then chuckled when Bond's hand appeared in his field of view holding the sort of pen that only certain men would think to own. It was heavy in Q's fingers, and he set it on the tablet with a click, then selected the icon that would scan the object and launch the application to save and send the image.

"A fountain pen, Bond? I knew you were old, but isn't this a bit antiquated, even for you?" said Q, ignoring how luxurious it had felt in his hand, weighty and solid.

Bond picked up the pen with a smirk, tucking it away in his jacket. The tablet beeped, informing Q it had been identified as one of Boothroyd's, designed to write elegant letters or inject a paralytic. "Sometimes I enjoy my old-fashioned things, Q."

Q tapped the icon to put the tablet back to sleep, then handed it off to Bond. "Do try to bring some of the items back in working order," said Q, feeling he'd lost a step in there somewhere. Bond looked smug and secretive, despite the fact that he'd just proven once again that he'd appropriated items over the course of his tenure that he really had been meant to turn back in. "And next time you tell me your gun was eaten by a Komodo dragon, I'll remember your habit of collecting tech that suits your fancy."

If anything, Bond's grin widened, and he leaned close to pluck the gun case off the table. "I'll keep that in mind, Q," he said, turning to leave.

"Do," said Q, sharper than intended.

Bond's answering chuckle only served to unnerve Q further.

Q was bemused when, a week and a half later, he got a thick, cream-coloured envelope in his work mail. It was addressed in elegant, efficient cursive to Quentin Quimby, the absurd code-name used by agents to send items to Q-branch for further analysis. There was no return address front or back, just a blob of wax stamped with what looked to Q like the back end of a 9mm bullet, and a smudged postmark from Uruguay.

He slit it open carefully using the letter opener Tanner had given him as a Secret Santa gift, a tiny model of Orcrist. Anyone who knew Q ought to have figured out that he'd have vastly preferred Glamdring, but he wasn't about to say anything. Still, it wasn't as if they weren't all bloody intelligence agents, now, was it? He'd taken his revenge by replacing the blade with one of his own, modelled after the original design but with razor-sharp edges and a point that would go right through fabric, flesh, or whatever else needed stabbing. He was waiting for the first person to pick it up and toy with it, and had already pictured several agents sent to medical for disobeying their Quartermaster's orders to leave his desk bloody well alone.

Q sighed; he was avoiding the issue now. He knew it wouldn't be trapped since letters delivered this way were always sent through a security check before making their way to his inbox. He slipped on a pair of gloves anyway and slid out the thick stationery that he could only assume would feel as delightful under his fingers as the envelope had. Nothing else was inside, just a single sheet of paper, and he unfolded it to find more of that unusually neat handwriting.


Sometimes the old-fashioned ways really are the best, and no, the ink isn't poisoned, though perhaps don't lick it to be sure.

Have I ever told you how boring I find this sort of thing? I'd much rather be bringing you tea than flirting with yet another neglected trophy wife. The things we do for a good cause.

I've been enjoying the toy you sent me, I'd no idea you cared enough to try to keep me from getting bored enough to shoot something. It's too bad I can't actually play matches on the internet, but the computer's enough to keep me entertained. I've decided that I need to find a way to use 'quixotic' on a triple word before I leave, if only to see if I can't beat your high score.

Tell your assistant that the secret is to put in slightly more sugar than you think one human could possibly stand, and then do it again. And do try to remember to sleep, it wouldn't do to have you unavailable should I damage or lose my toys.


Q stared. And read it again, mind trying to find some sort of code hiding in the words, some cipher of distress or information. He wondered if they'd think him mad if he analysed the letter for differences in ink, in pen stroke, for all the things they looked for when deciphering a coded message, and then decided that he didn't care and slapped the thing face-down on his scanner with slightly more force than necessary before closing the lid and starting up his programs.

Three hours later, it was Tanner's hand that stopped him from stabbing Orcrist through the entire stack of undone paperwork on Q's desk in his frustration.

"Is there a problem, Q?" asked Tanner calmly. He took the letter opener from Q's hand with a delicacy that showed he, at least, hadn't missed the blade substitution, and carefully put it back in its decorative stand.

"Bloody 007," said Q, gesturing to his monitor where the letter had been scanned, dis- and re-assembled, and still proved to have no secrets. "What good is a code with no key?"

Tanner leaned in and then chuckled. "Did you really put Scrabble on his tablet with your high score already in it?"

"What? Yes, what's that got to..." Q's brain stuttered to a halt.

"Well, it seems to me like 007 was bored, grateful, and wrote you a letter. Not sure what the bit about poison and licking is about, though," said Tanner, sounding amused.

"His pen, it's one of Boothroyd's, paralytic injector," said Q, mouth running off before his brain could catch up and stop it. "He mentioned it when I was equipping him."

"So you admired his pen," said Tanner leadingly.

"Not so much admired, no," said Q. "You really think he wrote me a bloody letter just to prove he could?"

Tanner looked very amused. "If that's what you want to believe, but at this point I'd say you can be assured it's not a code, anyway."

Q harrumphed. "I do have email, you know."

"I'm absolutely certain that wasn't the point," said Tanner, poking through the stack of files and pulling one out. "Could you finish this one today? M's after it."

"Yes, all right, fine. Colin!" said Q. "More tea!"

"Yes, sir," said Q's assistant, pausing to stare at the screen where Q had the paragraph about his tea preferences separated from the rest, and then scampering off to the tea room.

The tea Colin handed him was absolutely perfect, and Q hated Bond for it a little.

The next letter was hand-delivered to Q-branch by Miss Moneypenny, and accompanied by a package.

"It looks like you've got an admirer," she said, leaning on his desk and looking annoyingly smug and smartly put-together.

"How, exactly, do you come to that conclusion?" asked Q tartly, and before she answered he yelled, "Colin!"

"Almost ready, sir!" called Colin out of the break room. Once he'd finally figured out how to make it, he'd developed a nearly psychic ability to bring Q a fresh cup of tea whenever it was required. He was still hopeless at filing, but Q felt he'd got the most important aspect of his job down.

Moneypenny smirked. "You've got that one wrapped around your finger, that makes, what, every single one of your minions with a crush on you?"

Q smirked, because this admiration, at least, he was completely comfortable with. "They love me for my brains," he said, reaching for Orcrist.

"Who wouldn't?" agreed Moneypenny, a bit too readily.

"If you're not going to tell me what's in it, then you needn't linger," said Q irritably, setting Bond's letter aside in favour of the package, the handwriting on it nearly as familiar as his own by now. He sliced open the tape, aware that Moneypenny had probably seen the x-rays and knew perfectly well what was in it, and opened the flaps to find tissue paper wrapped around something. He dug in and lifted it out, fingers already reporting that it was squishy and wonderfully soft.

It turned out to be a brown knit cardigan in some of the softest wool he'd ever touched, light as a feather and exquisitely constructed. The colour was almost an exact match for the one he'd worn during the Silva debacle, but that one was nothing compared to this one. "Oh," he said softly, resisting the urge to rub his cheek against it like a cat.

"That's nicer than I expected," said Moneypenny, running one finger over the cuff. "He must really like you."

"Well, I did put Scrabble on his tablet," said Q distractedly, petting the fine fabric. "Uruguay is known for its wool exports, I suppose it's a souvenir of sorts."

"Whatever you need to tell yourself, dear," said Moneypenny, moving aside for Colin to carefully place a fresh cup of tea out of range of the expensive wool.

"Ta," said Q distractedly, torn between continuing to pet the sweater and getting his tea. Finally he made himself put it back and grabbed the cup, resolutely setting the box on the far corner of his desk. "I'm not giving him an exploding pen no matter how many letters he sends."

"Should I be asking if that's a pen in your pocket, then?" asked Moneypenny, sidling away with a smirk on her face.

Damn her, anyway. Q took another long sip of his tea and then sighed and slit open the letter, putting Orcrist away before reading it.


I hope you enjoy the little souvenir I found for you. It looks like work is heating up finally, so this can keep you warm while I'm not there. Do let me know if I got your size right.

The wifi here is terrible, I suspect you'd go mad in a matter of hours. I'm only three points away from your high score. I haven't yet managed to work 'quixotic' into the game, I did manage 'quotidian' last time.

For some reason, I've been interesting in expanding my knowledge of the letter Q lately. Did you know that qi is the most commonly played word in Scrabble tournaments?


Yours. He'd said that in the first letter, too. What did that even mean? Q let out a sound of frustration and whipped out his phone, sending off a text to Bond.

You are aware that
I don't have any of
the assets you're
accustomed to in
your conquests?

The reply came in a few seconds later, and Q huffed.


Q turned to his workstation and pulled up Bond's mission, which appeared to have moved from recon to infiltration, if he was interpreting things correctly. He had a moment where he almost hoped his text had given Bond the sort of heart attack he deserved, but even Bond's letter-writing foolishness wasn't enough for Q to wish failure on him or the mission.

"You'll want to go left there," Q said tartly, having tuned into Bond's comm and pulled up the schematics from Tanner's workstation. "Unless you're looking for the guard station."

Bond chuckled softly, and for once the sound wasn't accompanied by warm breath in Q's ear. "Noted," he said, backing up a step and then moving down the correct corridor. "It's a bit of a maze in here."

"Tanner has a terrible spatial sense," said Q, perfectly aware that the man would hear him and deciding he deserved it for letting Moneypenny come down here with Bond's gift. "I'll guide you from here, I assume you're hoping for the server room?"

"I am, I have your darling little tablet all ready to go," said Bond. "Too bad I don't have an exploding pen for afterward."

"I can take care of that, if you get me into their servers," said Q grimly, calling up likely casualties in another window, more schematics, and Bond's exit strategy. "Right, then right again."

There was the sound of a scuffle, the muted thump of a silenced gunshot, and an irritatingly long pause before Bond's voice came back over the line. "One less guard to worry about. Is there a storage closet along here?"

"Second on the left," said Q. "Check his gun, you might need the ammunition to get out. Don't throw away your Walther, even if it's empty."

"Yes, dear," said James, voice irritatingly steady over the sounds of a body being moved. "A little bird tells me you got a box today."

"Miss Moneypenny delivered it to me herself," said Q, feeling terribly annoyed. "Your other right now, Bond, do try to keep up."

"Did it fit?" asked Bond, back on the move.

"I haven't checked, I'm rather busy keeping you out of trouble," said Q. "Z is the only letter in the alphabet used less than Q, you know."

"I do enjoy making use of a good Q," said Bond.

"Oh, do stop flirting and get on with it," broke in M's voice irritably. "There are rules, you know."

"Thank you, sir," said Q, not sure if he really meant it, fingers flying over the keyboard. "Are there some stairs down on your right?"

"Yes," said Bond. "Awfully good place for an ambush though."

"Try not to get shot this close to success, 007," said Q absently. "They should lead directly to the server room."

"As you wish," said Bond, and Q started, then blinked. Surely James bloody Bond wasn't making a Princess Bride reference. Especially not one so ludicrous as. No.

Just no.

"Don't make me call you 'farm boy,'" said Q, just to see what Bond would say.

There was a pause, and two more muted gunshots. "Is this some unexplored kink of yours I should know about?"

Q relaxed. "Never mind," he said. "Are you in?"

"I'm in," assured Bond. There was another silence, and then Jane's workstation lit up. Learning from his mistakes, Q had set it up on a separate incoming line that was isolated from the rest of their internal network to prevent back-hacking.

"And now I'm in. Give us a minute," said Q, moving over to that computer once Jane stepped aside to give him room. His fingers flew over the keyboard, downloading the relevant data, setting up several hidden high-demand processes, and then disabling the fans and heat alarms. He found his way into the HVAC system, which was conveniently controlled through the very same servers, and set the room to stop cooling and start heating. The download finished just as Q was tweaking the alarm system a little further to help reduce civilian casualties from the upper offices. "There we are, unplug and get out of there."

"You always know just what to say to excite me," said Bond in his most flirty tone, and the connection vanished, leaving only the data behind.

Q stepped away, gesturing for Jane to take over processing it, and went back to his own workstation. "All right, back upstairs you go, and not back the way you came, either."

"Oh, good, I wouldn't want this to be easy or anything," said Bond. Q didn't have a visual on him, but could imagine the eye-roll.

"Nonsense, there's a much better exit, it's closer and it'll set off the fire alarm, which will confuse people into leaving before the servers melt and possibly cause an actual fire." Q double checked his navigation. "Right, then left, then out the fire door."

There were a few more gunshots, but nothing that indicated Bond was injured or even particularly winded, so Q let his mind wander back to the letters. "Now down the alley to your left, and put your gun away."

"I see the plaza," said Bond, while Q watched the building's alarms light up and then immediately go on the fritz.

In his mind's eye, Q could see Bond put his gun away, straighten his suit and cuffs, and then step out into the plaza like any visiting tourist. "I believe you're no longer in need of me, but please do try to bring your equipment home intact."

"Oh, Q, I always need you," said Bond, voice like honey over the comm line.

"Still no exploding pen," said Q, then he cut off his microphone. Q listened with half an ear while Tanner talked to Bond, but he didn't even need to be guided to an extraction team this time, just sent back to his hotel to collect his things and check out, disappointing any number of other men's girlfriends he'd not yet chatted up.

Once Tanner had closed the comm entirely, Q sighed and took off his cardigan and tried on the new one. The wool was plush and pettable against his fingers, but somehow it didn't look fluffy or feminine once he got it on. It buttoned with a single wooden toggle, and the sleeves were long enough to cover his narrow wrists and gently nudge at the backs of his hands, but not so long as to interfere with his typing. The colour fit right in with his usual palette, and the fabric was warm enough to ward off the chill of Q-branch, which was kept quite cool for the sake of the machines.

It was, in a word, perfect.

Q took another sip of his now-cooling tea and sighed. Apparently, he was being wooed by James Bond.

Now he just had to figure out what he was going to do about it.

The next day, Q resolved to act as if Bond was merely a grateful colleague, giving a gift he would want to see appreciated. Q wore the sinfully soft cardigan with a pair of chequered trousers that he was absolutely certain Bond loathed. He had Colin prepare the usual equipment reports ahead of time, though for once he didn't automatically assume the items would be listed as lost or destroyed.

It was almost anticlimactic when Bond swanned in near the end of the day, wearing a smug grin and a sharp suit. "You're well-suited to fine things, Q," said Bond, setting a cup of tea down next to Q's empty one. It was a new mug, the same Scrabble type but with a Z on it instead.

"If this is a comment on my rarity, rest assured I'm already aware of my unique value," said Q. He tried the tea, which was a cut or three above the quality usually provided by MI6. "From your travels?"

"From my home." Bond smirked. "Uruguay is not noted for its tea exports, after all."

"Thank you for the cardigan, it's very well-made," said Q, setting down the mug. "I assume you have some equipment for me?"

Bond's smirk turned to a grin. "You're very welcome, it looks good on you. And I do." He unholstered the weapon, cleared the chamber, and ejected the magazine, setting them on the waiting tray next to Q. His hands were swift, practiced, and completely comfortable handling the gun, and it sent a frisson of something down Q's spine that he refused to acknowledge. It was followed by the radio and the tablet, which was scorched at one corner.

"How on earth did you manage this?" asked Q, picking up the computer.

"Fired my gun too close on the way out," said Bond. "It still works, the damage is only cosmetic." He stepped even further into Q's personal space to lay a hand on the device, which unlocked for him obediently to display a just-finished game of Scrabble with the garish declaration, "A New High Score!"

Q's lips pursed. "I see you found time to finish your quest." He looked closer at the board and he couldn't help but grin. "You even used 'quixotic.'"

"So," said Bond, breath close over Q's ear, "what do I win?"

"Colin has your paperwork done, all you have to do is note the damage to the tablet and sign," said Q, looking amused. "I know how you hate doing equipment paperwork."

"Here, sir," said Colin, handing Bond a small sheaf of papers with post-it flags where he needed to note and sign each one. Ammunition was only loosely tracked unless it was something special, so Bond didn't have to account for his ordinary 9mm rounds. Q picked up the bullet he'd ejected from the chamber and ran his finger over the end of the casing, thinking of the way Bond had used them to improvise a seal on his letters.

"Where'd you get the wax?" asked Q, watching Bond write on the reports with his pilfered fountain pen, the handwriting messier and more cramped than the careful cursive in his letters.

"Same place I got the stationery," said Bond, not bothering to look up as he signed his way through the stack.

Q would be annoyed, except he'd already identified the stationery and its source as part of his attempts to crack Bond's nonexistent code. "Perhaps next time you can get an actual seal, then."

Bond snorted, signing the last page with a little extra flourish before handing the whole stack back to a wide-eyed Colin. He moved back into Q's space, leaning attractively against Q's desk, and said, "Are you inviting me to continue my correspondence, Q?"

"Whatever keeps you out of trouble in the field, 007," said Q, silently cursing himself for encouraging this foolishness. He sipped his tea to keep from saying anything else stupid, only to be distracted by the toe-curlingly good quality. "Feel free to bring more tea, as well."

Bond grinned, arrogant with the success of his ploy. He looked like he was about to say something else when Q's computer lit up with incoming comms from 004. Q's hands were already pulling up the relevant data when Bond stepped back to let him work, watching from a few paces behind Q the way he had during the Silva debacle.

Q put Bond out of his mind and guided 004 through her task, recovering a stolen computer and making sure none of the data had been compromised, while introducing a few nasty surprises into their network. It took hours to get everything done and get her back out again without anyone the wiser, a dummy laptop left in place of the real one and Q's code too subtle to alert any but the very best security systems. He'd learned a lot from Silva, not the least of which was a little humility, and he'd put the best of it to work for MI6.

"You're a good handler," said 007 quietly in Q's ear, just after 004 signed off.

Q nearly jumped out of his skin. "Christ, I thought you'd gone," he said with a weak laugh.

Bond just looked amused. "Are you done for the evening?"

Q's eyes narrowed. "I meant what I said in my text, Bond."

Bond's eyebrow went up. "What makes you think I want anything but to get my Quartermaster a good meal and safely home?"

"You do innocent very poorly," said Q tartly, turning to start closing down his work, making sure he knew where he was on each individual project. "I'm perfectly capable of feeding myself."

"Sugar and caffeine are not food groups," said Bond, just a little chidingly. "Come on." He gently steered Q away from his workstation, which had just gone black with shutdown.

"They are the top two necessary for sustaining my life," Q shot back, but he didn't resist. To be honest, he was curious, and at this point there was so much gossip about Bond's interest in Q that he might as well get something out of it.

Even if it only lasted the night.

Much to Q's surprise, Bond took him to a little hole-in-the-wall Thai place, where the agent ordered for them both in Thai and got his cheek pinched by the ageing waitress.

"I do hope there's meat in whatever you got for us," said Q. "Meat is the third required food group."

"After sugar and caffeine, you mean?" said Bond. He'd taken off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, and his tie had vanished at some point on the drive there while Q had been loudly contemplating the possible ways he could modify the vehicle, if they did that sort of thing anymore. It had served as a way to avoid the issue of whether this was a date, and Q's possibly foolish decision to see if Bond's legendary prowess would be up to snuff when his partner was a man, and one who didn't want to kill him. Well, this week.

"Obviously," said Q, and then, "Oh, bless you," to the waitress when a large Thai iced tea was set in front of him.

She said something back in Thai and patted his hair before going through an elaborate setup to start two servings of fragrant coffee dripping slowly through the rich grounds and into cups already half-full of condensed milk.

"As long as you promise you'll sleep, I won't keep you from your vices," said Bond, sounding amused.

"I suppose I should say the same, then," said Q, the sharpness softened by the richness of real Thai iced tea, the sort that had condensed milk at the bottom and strong, brewed tea on top, and had to be mixed up in order to be properly enjoyed. "This is heavenly."

"It's good to know you're not just into Earl Grey," said Bond wryly, watching the coffee making its unhurried way into being. Bond looked handsomely dangerous, his physique more obvious out of the suit jacket, strong arms on display as he lounged back in his chair like an old lion, scarred but more than ready to take down any young cub foolish enough to try him.

Q took another long, luxurious sip again before he answered. "I'm into a lot of things, Mr. Bond."

He chuckled and leaned back. "We're having dinner, call me James."

Q shot him a look of amusement. "You're going to continue to use my nickname, because you haven't got clearance for my real first name," he said, taking another long sip of the tea. "Even if you are giving me sugar and caffeine."

"And meat," said Bond, lips twitching. He shifted slightly in his seat, and for a moment Q thought he was going to do something vulgar, but he was only making way for the waitress and a plate with three kinds of satay and several dishes of sauce.

"And meat," said Q, thanking the woman in absent Thai, which made Bond's eyebrows go up. "I do have some manners," said Q with as much offence as he could muster. "I haven't made time to properly learn Thai yet, I was too busy writing you all a tablet OS that even d- er, Daniel can't screw up." He felt like an idiot for almost mentioning 002 in the middle of this little restaurant, despite Bond's apparent comfort.

Bond laughed anyway. "He always was unable to appreciate good tech." He picked up one of the sticks full of grilled prawns and teased a single one off with his mobile mouth, making nearly obscene noises of appreciation as he chewed.

Q went for the beef, and took the time to carefully remove it from the stick with his fork and cut it into bite-sized chunks, pointedly not watching Bond continue to tongue his prawns. Q couldn't manage not to moan when he took his first bite, however; the beef was marinated in a delicious spicy lemongrass sauce and melted on his tongue. "Oh, my god."

Bond's answering grin was insufferably smug, so Q ignored it in favour of eating more.

Bond continued to eat, too, though he was careful not to have the last of anything, and he left more of the beef for Q than anything else. Q wasn't sure what to make of that, so he put the last stick of prawns on Bond's plate. Q liked them least, anyway. Bond chuckled and went back to orally coaxing them off the stick one by one, making Q regret his moment of charity. And then he told himself to stop that, because it only made sense for Bond to use the meal to seduce him, as he'd already made up his mind to be seducible.

As soon as Q took the last of the beef, the waitress was there to take away the empty tray, though she transferred the sticky bowl of dipping sauce to Q's plate with a grin. Q had his mouth full, which absolved him from having to thank her. Bond took that opportunity to check their coffees and finish preparing them, sliding the first thickly sweet cup over to Q once he'd mixed it to the perfect consistency. Q ate another bite of liberally-sauced beef to avoid that thank-you as well.

Bond's expression said he heard it anyway. "Try the coffee, it's incredible here," said Bond, still stirring condensed milk into his own cup.

Q swallowed and nodded, picking up the cup and checking with long fingers curled around the ceramic to see that it was cool enough to drink. He took a long sip and just barely contained another moan as the sugar and caffeine hit his bloodstream together, the coffee creamy and thick and absolutely perfect. "It's," Q began, intending to say something noncommittal, but he couldn't manage to keep the bliss off his face. "It's bloody perfect."

"Excellent," said Bond, taking a sip of his own with obvious pleasure. Q couldn't help but wonder if that was how he looked in bed, that half-lidded expression of sensual enjoyment.

Well, Q would find out soon enough, he supposed.

The waitress came back with a busboy who cleared their plates while she ladled out bowls of fragrant coconut lemongrass soup. Q fell to without delay this time, making delighted noises at the mix of cream and spice and everything delicious, and the old woman seemed delighted at his enthusiasm, rather than offended by his lack of social graces. Bond looked amused as he thanked her and tucked into his own bowl.

The rest of the meal went like that, delicious food punctuated by snarky, pointless conversation mostly about Q's food preferences. Bond had gone all out and ordered several courses for them including dessert, which was fresh, cold mango and sticky-sweet rice cooked in coconut milk. If some of the dishes were heavy on the vegetables, Q wasn't going to complain after he'd already eaten at least three servings of the satay.

Bond paid, and Q allowed it without comment. Q found himself escorted back to Bond's car with the man's jacket and debonair persona restored, looking casually handsome without his tie rather than crisply professional. It made Q want to lick his throat, and see if he tasted as good as the Thai food had.

"I'm afraid you'll have to give me your address," said Bond, "Moneypenny wouldn't let me peek at your file."

Q laughed, clicking the seatbelt and settling back. "I'll direct you, it'll be just like old times," said Q, "only tonight you have to listen or we'll never get me to bed."

"To sleep," said Bond, amused. "You promised."

"I suppose I did," said Q, a sly little grin on his face. "To sleep, eventually."

Bond laughed and pulled out into traffic, and they fell into their usual comfortable banter, Q directing Bond not toward a target or exit, but to his own flat. He was glad he kept things neat, mostly owing to his cleaning service, though he had a feeling Bond had ignored a lot more than dirty socks for a good shag. At least, Q hoped he'd be a good shag; he'd always been invited back for more after his previous successful dates, whether or not he'd taken the man up on it.

"And you're here," said Q. "I've got a spot down in the parking garage, but I'll have to get out and open the gate by hand."

"It's fine," said Bond. "I can just drop you off here."

Q turned and stared at him, blinking owlishly for a moment. "You don't want to park on the street in this neighbourhood, James."

"That's why I'll be parking it in my own building," said Bond, looking very amused indeed. "Go to bed, Q. I'll see you soon."

Q let out a huff of pure annoyance and took off his seatbelt, feeling somehow offended that he'd been taken on the best date he'd had in months by James bloody Bond of all people, and he was now going to be left without so much as a goodnight kiss. "Yes, fine. Well, thank you for dinner," he said awkwardly, and he knew he sounded petulant but at that exact moment he didn't care.

If he slammed the door a little harder than necessary, well, he felt that Bond had it coming. Bond even waited politely to make sure Q got inside the building safely before pulling away, leaving Q to stomp up the stairs to his flat and try not to scream in frustration.

It just bloody figured that he was the only person on the entire fucking planet that James Bond didn't want to seduce.

Q showed up to work the next morning perfectly composed, wearing his favourite cardigan and carefully giving no sign that Bond had done anything to or with him, dinner or otherwise. Bond's gift had been packed away in the very back of his wardrobe, though he'd taken the trouble to box it up with cedar and lavender to keep it safe, should he decide he could forgive himself for his stupidity enough to wear it again. He'd known Bond preferred women, and he'd been stupid enough to misinterpret his kindness anyway.

It was Q's own fault he'd let himself get all worked up over nothing.

"Tea," said Q, sweeping past Colin to his workstation. He powered everything up and started rifling through his physical inbox, surprised to find a small package almost hidden among the interoffice memos and top secret case files.

It was small and flat and covered in brown paper, barely big enough to hold the now-familiar creamy envelope he found when he removed the wrapping. Beneath it there were a few bars of chocolate with handwritten wrappers, the scent of which made Q want to sit for a moment and just inhale them.

Instead, he stuck them in his "Do not eat on pain of having to do paperwork for Double-O agents stuck in Medical" drawer, and opened the letter.


I don't know what order you'll get these in, international post being what it is, so I won't spoil any other surprises, but I hope you've liked anything else you got.

I've been working on getting more X and Z words into my game, but I'm not sure it's helping my score any. I hate it when I hit an impasse with these sort of things. It usually means it's time to take a break, but you haven't left me with much else to do.

At least the tablet's still intact and in working order. Better than the last one you gave me.

Perhaps I'll do some more shopping, the market has a number of intriguing items. It's not as if I'm short on cash these days, given the sale of most of my worldly goods and all.


Q blinked. Bored. Bond had bought him a series of gifts, if he was interpreting the letter correctly, out of boredom.

Q laughed silently at himself, then sighed and filed the letter away with the other two. He was clearly king of the idiots after all. That mystery solved once and for all, he turned his attention back to his other work, sorting the piles by urgency and giving Colin a big stack of paperwork in trade for a cup of tea. "Let's see if we can't make a stab at inbox zero today, shall we?" said Q.

"Yes, sir," said Colin, and just like that, Q's day was back to normal.

004 brought her equipment back, along with the laptop for them to isolate and analyse, and that started a flurry of activity that served to disguise Bond's entrance a few hours later. Q put his hand out for the file he'd laid to one side of his desk, and nearly put his fingers in a bowl of ravioli that had appeared there in its stead. "Colin, I didn't..." He trailed off and turned around slowly to find James bloody Bond standing quietly with a smirk on his face. "I don't have time for a lunch break, 007."

"I'll make tea if you eat it," said Bond, sounding amused. He walked right into Q's personal space to grab his mug, then pointed to the plate. "There's meat inside."

"There's veg in there, too, I bet," said Q wryly, but it did smell awfully good, so he sighed and gave in and pulled the food toward himself. "Why am I your pet project now, Bond?"

Bond just smirked that exasperating smirk and sauntered off to the tea room.

Q briefly considered pushing the pasta off on one of the drooling minions, but he decided he was going to enjoy Bond's attention as long as the fine gifts lasted. The ravioli proved to have beef, spinach, and garlic inside, and the marinara sauce was rich enough to make him feel slightly weak-kneed. The way to his heart was definitely through his stomach, though it was just his luck that Bond probably wanted into his budget instead. He ate another bite and sighed happily, then took a nice big sip of the tea Bond put at his other hand. "Still not getting an exploding pen," he said, grinning.

"Laser cufflinks, perhaps?" said Bond, leaning against the desk. "Did you try the chocolate yet?"

"I'm saving it for home, where I won't have to share," said Q, then he stuffed his face with another whole ravioli. They were a little bigger than bite sized, but he'd always had a wide mouth excellent for taking in more than some men thought he should, and he had no qualms today about showing Bond today what he'd refused last night. He may have made a fool of himself, but he wouldn't let that stop him from getting back a little of his own.

Something dark went through Bond's gaze, though it didn't seem like a reaction to the eating. "You don't like to share, I take it?"

Q chuckled. "Not chocolate, anyway."

One of the female techs spoke up, Diane, he thought. "He never shares chocolate, except when M got him an entire sheet cake. It took up a whole table, and he still seriously considered not sharing."

"Sadly, it was more than I could reasonably eat before it went bad, so I had to let the vultures have some," said Q with a sigh. "It was really good, though, and excellent for Q-branch's morale."

Bond laughed. "I bet it was Tanner's idea, he's the type to feed the geeks."

Q turned and raised an eyebrow at him in his best copy of Spockian disdain. "Like you're doing, 007?" he said, pointedly eating another ravioli.

"I have better motives," said Bond, and on that mysterious note, he left.

Q swallowed, harrumphed, and rolled his eyes. "At least he brings good food, not like when my cat used to leave me dead mice."

That made several minions laugh, and poor Colin had to be slapped on the back from inhaling his tea. Q looked smug and finished off the meal, getting Colin to wash the dishes and leave them in his outbox for Bond.

He took the chocolate home with him that night, and it tasted better than it smelled. Q wondered, as he lounged on the couch savouring a bite of it, how long he could hold Bond's interest. It might be worth making an exploding pen if it got him more of this chocolate.

The morning tested Q's resolve, as he had to endure knowing looks from Moneypenny and even bloody Tanner during a budget meeting, which made it all so much worse. By the end of it, he was about ready to suggest the Double-O section get nothing but tin cans and string for their new comms, just to see Tanner's face.

Instead, because M and the other department heads were there, Q presented his proposal for a new system that combined the short-range earwigs with a wireless pocket transmitter that was both more secure and long-range. "Of course," he said, flipping to the next page, "this won't prevent the field agents from destroying or losing their equipment, but having the components separated might end up saving us a bit in the long run."

"You mean because they'll 'misplace' the cheap earwigs instead of the expensive transmitters when they don't want us listening in?" said Moneypenny, sounding amused.

"One can only hope," said Q. "Honestly, even the transmitters won't be too expensive, if we don't obsess over miniaturising them."

There was more, because there was always bloody more, and it was nearly two o'clock before he finally got to his desk and his beloved computers. "Tea, and no human contact for as long as physically possible," growled Q, stalking past Colin and his other techs and not quite slamming his tablet down on the surface of the desk.

They all jumped and began typing even more busily, while Colin scrambled toward the tea room. Q pulled up a code project he'd been working on and buried himself in it, trusting his body's reflexes to get the caffeine into his system and his minions' sense of self-preservation to keep him undisturbed.

Unfortunately, that wasn't meant to be. Not ten lines into his coding, priority alerts popped up that three different Double-O agents were going out on missions and urgently needed equipment they'd failed to return intact on previous missions. "Shit shit shit," said Q, fingers stuttering to a halt. "Where are we on the redos for 002, 003, and 009?"

"Tablets are done, guns are still in parts," said Divya, pulling up the inventories on her own screen. "I'm afraid you're the fastest at assembling the palmprint coded hardware."

"Yes, fine," said Q, taking a moment to comment and save his work. "I'll be down in the armoury, text me when the flights are booked so I know what order they need to be completed in."

"Your, er, tea, sir," said Colin, offering Q the cup. "Should I keep you supplied? I can swap out cups if you don't mind the, er, Z."

"Yes, that's perfect," said Q. He took a sip of his tea and then sighed. "If I promise a treat tomorrow, will someone run down to that coffee shop with the French macarons and buy me about ten stone of them?"

"How can I resist such an offer?" said Bond, choosing the most annoying possible moment to stroll in. He tossed a small tin at Colin, whose eyes went very wide to see that it was loose tea. "Anything else I can do to help?"

"Unless you're better at assembling weapons than destroying them, no," said Q, and then begrudgingly, "Thank you. Colin knows what I like."

"Does he now?" said Bond, just dangerously enough to make Colin nearly fumble the tea tin.

"Stop terrorising my staff, or I'll withhold your privileges, macarons or not," replied Q. "Colin, send directions and my usual order to Bond's mobile, please."

"Yessir," said Colin, scrambling over to his computer.

Q figured it was as good as he was going to get, and he turned on his heel and headed down to the armoury, trying to ignore the faintly stuttered, "I don't know how to brew loose tea, s-sir," from Colin.

Bond would either teach him, or he'd stick with his usual Twinings and it would all be fine. Q wouldn't have to shoot anyone.


"If you don't have tea or macarons for me, turn around and leave right now," said Q, hands working steadily to get the next piece soldered in before he moved on to the third gun in the row. He'd managed to set up an assembly line of sorts, so he'd work on the other two guns while the solder cooled and then come back around, never a wasted second in his quest to finish up before the agents had to leave.

"I have both, and I taught your minion how to deal with proper tea," said Bond. "Where shall I put them?"

"I suppose a caffeine IV is out of the question," said Q with a sigh, but he set the soldering iron back on its stand and turned to take his cup, eyeing the large pink box distrustfully. "Did Colin not give you my usual order?"

"I tripled it," Bond replied blandly, opening the box to reveal neat rows of French macarons, a full dozen each of six colourful flavours. "I figured any extra can go to the ravenous hordes, who I may have also bribed with cupcakes."

"You're going to spoil the entirety of Q-branch," said Q, plucking the upper leftmost treat out of the box and taking a bite. He made a very happy little noise, taking the time to chew and swallow before he sipped the equally delicious tea. "You've missed your calling as someone's cabana boy, 007," teased Q, finishing the macaron in two more bites and feeling his shoulders starting to loosen as the small pleasures did their work. He made space to set down the box and cup where he'd be able to get to them between soldering sessions. "Now go away, I have to concentrate."

Q bent back down and took a breath, getting ready to add the next tiny component. A warm hand closed around the back of his neck for a single, brief moment, and Bond's voice was full of humour as he said, "You're welcome."

"Yes, yes, thank you," said Q, only half listening for the door to close as he picked up the soldering iron and got back to work.

As tempted as Q was to take the following day off, he dragged himself in on time, amused to see that Colin had beaten him there and was just putting out a cup of tea and a small plate of macarons on his desk when he shuffled in like a zombie. "I thought those got eaten," said Q, very pleased.

"Mr. Bond, er, he brought by another box, sir," said Colin, eyes huge. "He's very scary, sir."

"That's his job," said Q, inhaling the fragrant steam from the tea before taking a long sip. "Oh, I do love this tea."

The rest of Q-branch was trickling in, with a few envious glances at the treats on Q's desk. Divya came over and gave Colin a teasing bump with her shoulder. "Did you hold some back for our fearless leader?" She sounded approving.

"No, ma'am," said Colin, but he was grinning now, relaxing as long as there was no sign of Bond. Q made a mental note to ask Bond to avoid giving Colin any more of his personal attention. "A little bird brought another box just for Q."

"A little bird, or a big, scary Double-O?" she asked, grinning now.

"He's only scary if you let him intimidate you," said Q, picking up a macaron. "He'd never hurt one of my techs."

"Well," said Bond, sneaking in on those damnable cat feet of his, "Not without good cause, anyway."

"I'm going to put a bell on you," said Q, glaring sleepily. He took another long sip of the tea and then sighed. "Do you need something, 007?" he asked, almost civilly.

"I thought I'd deliver this in person, since it made it through quarantine," said Bond, setting another paper-wrapped parcel on Q's desk. "Last one, though, I didn't have time for more than three."

"Four," said Q absently, his mind on choosing which to have for his second macaron. Colin had given him a full set of six, and Q always tried to vary the order in which he ate them, so the flavours would combine in surprising ways.

A grin split Bond's face that made him look younger, and reminded Q why this man's charm was considered nearly as lethal as his gun. "Right, four," he agreed.

"I need more caffeine for," Q waved his hand at Bond, taking in his perfectly shined shoes, tailored suit, and two-day stubble, "this."

"Right here, sir," said Colin, taking Q's cup once it was emptied and trading it for his backup mug.

"I see why you keep him around," said Bond, smirking. "M made me redo those forms."

Colin cringed.

"He's learning," said Q. "Does this mean I have to give you a different reward?"

Bond's smile sharpened just a little, turning predatory. "I'll let you think about that once you're more awake," he said, and sauntered off, looking smug.

Q resisted the urge to bang his head against his desk, and had another macaron instead. "I have no idea what that man wants," said Q. "He can't possibly be doing all this for an exploding pen, can he?"

Colin looked confused. "Aren't you, I mean, he took you to dinner..."

"And dropped me off at my flat, sending me to bed like an errant child," said Q, taking another sip of tea and sighing. "Not even a kiss goodnight."

"Oh," said Divya, looking genuinely disappointed.

"It's vexing," said Q. "But it's not the task at hand. We've got work to do, people!" He said the latter loud enough to get everyone's attention back on task, though he was aware that there was likely some sort of betting pool starting somewhere, possibly with graphs involved. Q smiled tiredly, logging into his own workstation. He could always count on Q-branch to run the numbers for him.

It wasn't until a few hours later that Q surfaced from his work enough to remember Bond's package. He judiciously employed Orcrist to get the box open, finding a letter and two unlabelled jars of brown goo. Remembering the thoughtfulness that went into the first two gifts, Q set the jars aside and opened the letter, using his letter opener rather than cracking the bullet-sealed wax.


Have you ever had dulce de leche? It's very sweet and thick, like a caramel made from milk. This batch was made by a woman who looked like she was older than time itself, selling them out of a stall in the plaza. I had a sample, and you may hate me a little for only sending you two jars.

Do tell me how you like it, I might get to come back to this part of the world someday if nothing explodes.

I still haven't beaten your high score, but I'm getting there. Two bloody points is all I need. It's more distracting than the bored arm candy, anyway.


Q had heard of dulce de leche, but never tried it. He had something of a weakness for international sweets, from the French macarons to Indian gulab jamun or Italian cannoli. He had no idea how Bond had figured out his weakness, since he only indulged in the macarons at work, and those rarely enough.

Q set the precious jars in his special food drawer, and considered adding an extra threat to the note he kept on top of his stash. Then he thought about what Bond might do to any minion who dared steal his gift, and decided to leave it be.

Instead, he got out a sheet of paper and a biro, and scrawled a quick note.


For exotic sweets from far lands, you might even get an exploding pen.

Quite Sincerely,

Q slid the page into one of the interoffice memo envelopes and addressed it to Bond, putting it in his outbox. He had no idea if Bond would object to being called by his code number, or be offended that Q hadn't declared himself 'yours,' but he figured it was a start.

Q had put actual pen to paper for Bond. It was his move, now.

As it turned out, Bond's move was to get sent out on a mission the next day.

Q had cleaned Bond's gun and radio already, so he took a few minutes to etch a design into the scorched back of his tablet, making the blackened metal look like a deliberate backdrop. He resisted the urge to draw something only a fourteen-year-old girl would want, and instead indulged himself in writing out Bond's name in Gallifreyan. The simple geometry of circles and dots looked good in silver against the black smudge of gunfire, and it amused Q that Bond would likely have no idea what it meant.

Bond had raised an eyebrow but refrained from comment on the new decoration, taking his toys and tickets and heading off to Tokyo.

"Do try to bring all of Her Majesty's assets back in one piece," said Q with a little smirk at Bond's retreating back.

Bond didn't bother to reply, but then, he never did.

Q would deny checking out one of those assets as Bond left, but he wasn't even fooling himself.

Q had gone through two out of the three bars of chocolate and half a jar of dulce de leche before it was time to talk Bond through his midnight-Tokyo-time operation, providing accurate directions and a calm voice in the agent's ear.

"I'll be with you the whole way, provided you don't destroy your comm," said Q dryly. "How's the tablet?"

"I can't believe you beat my high score that fast," said Bond, sounding amused. "Also, my middle name is not 'fucking.'"

"Could have fooled me," said Q, cheeks blushing bright red. The design had looked too plain with just the two short words inside the main circle, and he'd been too busy to look up Bond's actual middle name. "So what is it, then, 'danger'?"

Bond chuckled quietly, which brought Q's attention back to the screen and Bond's dot moving through his simulated blueprints.

"Ah, yes, time to be quiet," said Q. "Your target is definitely in the building, but so are at least four guards."

Bond grunted an acknowledgement, and then Bond's end of the line was silent except for the sound of his breathing. Q, on the other hand, kept up a quiet stream of intel as data came in from the various electronics in the building, which he was busily hacking his way into for Bond's benefit. "I think the break room's to your left, and someone's in it," said Q. "They've got one of those wired smart kettles that checks in with the internet for no apparent reason; if I had more time I'd reprogram it to never make the water hot enough."

There were some sudden, violent sounds on Bond's end of the line, and then he said, wryly, "Remind me never to get on your bad side, Q."

"You can win me back with exotic Japanese sweets," said Q at once, not in the least bit above being bribed. "You'll be the first Double-O to figure out my weakness. The other agents will hail you as a god among men."

Bond snorted a laugh, and then his breathing picked up and there were more of those sharp, violent sounds. "Two guards down," he said softly.

"Good," said Q. "I think the target is on the floor with you, there's some activity in one of the rooms. Let me see if I can get into their webcam."

"I hear it," whispered Bond. "Sounds like someone's watching telly."

"Be careful, 007," said Q, fingers still working, though he knew any further data was superfluous at this point. Bond would go in and do what was needful. "You can't bring me sweets if you're dead."

There was a soft huff like suppressed laughter, and then a quick inhale and more noises, gunshots this time rather than the close, personal violence of earlier. Q became aware he was holding his breath and forced himself to let it out slowly, and then take a sip of tea. Seconds of silence ticked by before Bond's voice came back over the comms.

"Target terminated. Shall I steal his laptop for you?" asked Bond.

Q chuckled. "Laptop, phone, might as well bring me a gift basket of enemy tech," he said. "I trust you're not bleeding?"

There was a pause and a rustling sound, and then Bond said, "I'm not bleeding much."

Q huffed. "I thought I told you not to damage any of Her Majesty's assets, 007."

Bond laughed aloud this time, full-chested enough that Q could tell he hadn't been shot anywhere vital. "It's just a scratch," protested Bond.

"It had better be," said Q darkly. "Ah, 002 needs me. Can I hand you off?"

"You're not actually his personal tech support," said Bond, amused. "Go on, just make sure it's someone who can get me out of the building."

Q handed off the end of Bond's operation to Divya, who wanted more practice guiding the agents in the field anyway, and let himself get embroiled in what did, in fact, amount to giving tech support to 002.

Q was never giving that man anything more complicated than a handgun again.

Two days later, Q showed up to work only to find a gigantic gift basket on his desk, with one of the familiar cream-coloured envelopes stuck prominently to the front. It appeared to contain two laptops, several guns, quite a number of phones, and a large assortment of Japanese sweets under the bright blue cellophane.

"Oh, Christ," said Q with a laugh. "He really does want that exploding pen."

Q slipped on a pair of gloves and started unpacking. Sweets went into the drawer of doom until it was nearly overflowing, enemy tech got checked in with Rayan's assistance and Colin's tea support, and packing material filled his rubbish bin, until only the letter was left. Q put the sweets right back in the basket, which was just big enough to help him get everything home intact. "No one touches the sweets, or I'll tell Bond you're the reason he still hasn't got any new toys."

"Are you sure that's what he's after?" asked Divya, shamelessly putting up the data they'd been correlating. "We calculated that sex is still a higher probability, even after he played coy."

"Is he even bi?" asked Q, contemplating the graphs and spreadsheets on the big screen.

"His file suggests that he is at least a 2 on the Kinsey scale," said Colin, bringing Q another cup of tea. "You're a 7."

"And you're a 0 or 1," said Q, amused. "Not that the scale isn't rather flawed, anyway."

They got into a discussion about spectrums of sexual and gender preference, with someone starting a multi-axis graph to plot out everyone in Q-branch on one of the other screens. No one even remembered they had the data up on Bond until a very amused agent came up behind Q and tapped the front of the still-unopened envelope and said, "I didn't poison this letter, either."

"We got distracted," said Q, with as much dignity as he could muster. He wasn't stupid enough to think Bond didn't know what the information on the big screens meant. "At least now you know who you aren't going to get anywhere with in Q-branch."

Bond laughed, blue eyes crinkling and amused, but his gaze was on his own data and not the graph from Q-branch. "Is there a betting pool?" he asked, voice all low and wicked. "I suppose it would be cheating if I participated."

"They're pretending I don't know about it," said Q, "and yes, it would be cheating." Q picked up his letter opener and contemplated using it to end his own embarrassment, but instead he sliced open the envelope and pulled out Bond's letter.

"I'll leave you to that, then," said Bond, amused. "But I'll be back later, you haven't had a decent meal since the ravioli, I bet."

Q didn't dignify that with a response, especially since Bond was right.

He waited until Bond was gone before announcing to the room at large, "No one is to accept a bet from Bond, and if he does try to place one, you'd bloody well better tell me about it."

There was a chorus of agreement, and the screens were turned back to proper work use before someone else could come in and comment on, well, any of it. Q took another fortifying sip of his tea, and finally opened Bond's fifth letter.


I don't think I'll have time to beat your high score again. I'm sure you just did that to, how did you put it? Vex me. You can be quite vexing.

The Japanese are very big on sweets, you might have given me more to go on this time. Perhaps I'll bring you something with Hello Kitty on it. At least I know you liked the chocolate, not that Japan is known for that particular vice. You'll have to wait until I'm sent to Belgium or South America again.

Don't forget to take care of yourself without me there to feed you.


Q huffed. "I can feed myself just fine," he said to no one in particular. He was rather put out when at least three people sniggered. "I can lend any one of you to phone support, you know, they're always in need of extra bodies."

The noise quieted, but Q knew it was only a temporary measure at best. He called up Bond's data file on his own computer again, looking at the changes that were being made while he watched, contemplating what he knew of James Bond.

Then he got out pen and paper, and wrote another note.


Don't think I haven't noticed that your personal equipment is still missing. There's more than one reason the tech department might assign a swear word for your middle name.

I'll be leaving at 5pm today, unless I'm needed on an operation. Don't be late.

Quite Sincerely,

He stuck it in the interoffice mail before he could change his mind, then made Colin empty his out box while he filed Bond's newest letter with the others.

Only when that was all done did Q allow himself to choose one of the gift boxes of sweets out of the basket to open. Sugar made everything better.

At half three, 009's operation went spectacularly pear-shaped, and as a result Q barely noticed when Bond showed up at 4:45 to check in his gun and not collect Q for dinner. Instead, Q's fingers flew over his keyboard and his attention flicked from screen to screen to screen, voice steady even as he panicked that this, this would be the time he couldn't get his agent out, this would be the time he had to listen as someone screamed and bled and died.

Q-branch worked like a well-designed circuit at times like this, all of them tempered by the Silva debacle, forged into a unit that was determined never to fail itself or its operatives again. Information and tea were both handed to Q whenever he needed them, someone was ready to take over whenever he needed to take a break and stop talking before he screamed, and not a single person mentioned leaving as the time ticked on toward midnight. So far, 009 had evaded capture, lost her tablet in a sewer, lost her gun when her arm was broken, and only held onto her comm by sheer bloodymindedness.

At some point, food appeared in front of him, and when Q looked up to find all his minions similarly provisioned, he ate it. He vaguely registered that it was better than the usual they ordered in, but otherwise his entire attention was on finding a way that the medical evac and 009 could rendezvous without getting all of them spectacularly killed.

Midnight was a distant memory by the time Q found himself eating a second meal in quick, large bites, trying to get it all down in the breathless space between finding an escape route and watching the points on his map converge and finally, finally move away together.

"I'm sending you the biggest basket of whatever it is you love that I can find, Q," said 009, voice finally started to soften from the hard, pained edge it had held all night.

"He likes sweets, especially foreign ones," said Bond, from where he was standing behind Q and to one side, where Q realised he'd been standing nearly the whole time.

"Is that you, 007?" she said with a giddy laugh. "Of course you'd be the one to figure it out, you always knew how to get anyone to bend to your charms."

"I have not done any bending for 007, charming or otherwise," said Q tartly. 009 laughed again, and Q felt that was worth the affront to his dignity, especially after Bond had had the ill-grace to refuse his admittedly oblique offer of just that. "I'll forgive you for losing my gun if you get me something good."

"I'll have to see what they can get me at the embassy," she said, voice starting to sound tired. "We're almost there, I promise to sign off before they set my arm."

Q shuddered. "Please do," he said. "I still have plans to sleep tonight."

"I'll take you at your word for that," murmured Bond, right in his ear and too low to be picked up by the microphone.

Q huffed but didn't dignify that with a response, other than eating the last bite of what he realised was the same ravioli as the other day. He tried not to think about the implications of a Double-O catering for Q-branch, and couldn't help but wonder how the odds on Bond's intentions had been skewed by this latest kindness.

"We're in," said 009, voice weary and triumphant all at once. "I'll give you whatever intel I did get tomorrow, once the meds wear off."

"I'll take you at your word for that," said Q, just to see Bond purse his lips in that amused-but-irritated look of his. "This is Q, signing off."

"009, safe and sound and signing off," she said, and cut the comms.

Q-branch cheered, and Q felt the adrenaline draining away so fast he swayed on his feet. "Good job, everyone. Close up and go home, only essential personnel need to show up before noon at the earliest."

"I'll get you home," said Bond, hand on the small of Q's back, steadying him.

Q turned and had a manic urge to kiss Bond on the cheek, just to see what he'd do. Instead he smiled tiredly and nodded. "Take better care of me than you do your equipment, please," he said, not nearly as sharply as he'd intended. He turned back to his computer and carefully saved and shut down all his work, hands moving without conscious intervention of his brain. "Thank you for the food," he added as he binned the empty container, adding it to the collection of cellophane, colourful paper shreds, and other detritus from the gift basket.

Q got his messenger bag packed and in place, but couldn't seem to quite figure out what to do about the basket of sweets, which was proving far more unwieldy that he expected. Bond got both Q's arms wrapped around it, and then steered him out to Bond's car, stowing everything in the trunk and tucking Q into the passenger seat.

"Am I going to have to tuck you into bed, too?" asked Bond, sounding wry and amused.

Q huffed, but there was no heat behind it. "You refused last time," he pointed out. "I still don't have my garage door opener."

Bond shut the door and came around to the driver's side while Q fumbled with the seatbelt. "I'm not taking you to mine," said Bond.

"Don't you live in a hotel?" said Q, as if this was explanation enough. He blinked at the sky as they emerged from the car park into the rainy London night, Bond's Aston Martin purring as he deftly manoeuvred through the sparse late-night traffic.

"Definitely tucking you in," said Bond. "Will you be able to open the gate for the car?"

"Of course, I'm tired, not dead," said Q, leaning his forehead against the coolness of the window. The bucket seat was warm and comfortable beneath him, the car cradling his body in fine leather and the scent of Bond's cologne, and for a moment Q didn't even care what Bond was up to with his gifts and letters and uncharacteristic kindness. Right up until he did care, and he sat up and looked over at Bond's profile in the dark, tiredness overcoming his usual British reticence. "Why are you doing all this?"

"I'm going to assume you don't mean the part about protecting a valuable asset of MI6 when he's too tired to find his own doorstep, let alone navigate the Tube," said Bond, which was possibly the most words Q had heard him string together at once in their entire acquaintance.

"You know what I mean, Bond. You're not kind; you're clever and charming and seductive, but you don't take people on dates or, or feed the entirety of Q-branch. Twice!" Q fell back into the seat again, letting himself be comforted by the unfamiliar luxury.

Bond sighed. "Kindness rarely gets me what I need on a mission," he said quietly. "At some point since my resurrection, I decided that I needed something in my life that I couldn't get out in the field."

"And that's me?" said Q, disbelieving.

"You helped me," said Bond. "At first, I just wanted to hold onto that connection."

"I'd be your friend without the gifts," said Q, feeling almost drunk with fatigue now. "I like the sweets, though, those are still required if you want nicer tech."

Bond chuckled, and his hand pressed warmly against Q's knee for a moment before going back to the stick shift. "We can start with that, if you like. I don't have a lot of friends left."

"Especially ones you haven't slept with, don't think I didn't read all your files," said Q, leaning against the window. "I still can't believe you let yourself be caught on CCTV with another Double-O."

"That was his idea," said Bond with a chuckle. "M wouldn't believe that either of us was capable of seducing a male target."

"Why didn't you seduce me after Thai food?" asked Q, figuring he might as well stick with bluntness while it was doing him so much good, even if he would die of embarrassment tomorrow. "I would've let you."

"I know," said Bond with a little smirk. "You wanted me to get it out of my system." He pulled up to Q's car gate, stopping the exact distance required to keep the gate from bumping his precious car when it opened. "I don't want you out of my system."

Q blinked at him, then said, "Oh." It took him a moment more to remember that he was supposed to be doing something, and he unbuckled the seatbelt and fished out his keys. "I'll walk you to my spot," he said, before getting out, feeling the rain chase away some of the fatigue. He went in through the little pedestrian side-gate and put in his code to open the main car gate, then led Bond over to his assigned spot, which frustrated his neighbours by mostly standing empty.

Bond got out and gave Q his messenger bag, electing to carry the gift basket himself this time while Q shambled his way to the stairwell and got them inside, once he remembered which key worked on what lock. Bond escorted him all the way into his flat, delivering the sweets to his kitchen counter. "No cat?" asked Bond, looking around.

"My hours are too irregular, so I didn't get another after Argyle passed away," said Q. "I've thought about training a kitten to sit on my shoulder while I worked, but I don't think M would go for it."

"He might give you anything you wanted, after today," said Bond, helping Q to get his messenger bag with its valuable tech tucked safely in a chair. "How can I help?"

"What?" said Q, brows furrowing. "Why do I need your help to have a... Oh." Q chuckled. "I'm fine, really, I promise I can undress myself and everything." Now that they were out of Q-branch, it seemed easier to give in to the impulse this time, and Q kissed Bond's cheek. "You've been a very good friend today, James, I'll try to do the same."

Bond cupped Q's cheek with his hand and kissed his forehead softly. "I'd like that," he said quietly, and Q found himself savouring the scent of Bond's cologne all over again. "Do you want a ride in tomorrow?"

Q chuckled. "No one will believe you didn't shag me if you do that," he said, walking Bond to the door. "You can give me a rain check on dinner, though, if you want."

"Do you own any clothing appropriate for a nice night out?" asked Bond.

Q chuckled. "I'll still look like your rumpled boytoy, but I own a suit or two, yes."

"Then dinner tomorrow, and I'll bring you back here to change beforehand," said Bond. "Now, go to bed."

"Alone," Q teased. "Not even a cat to keep me warm."

"You'll live," said Bond, but he looked amused, and lighter, somehow, as though it was easier now that there was one thing in his life that wasn't subterfuge and hidden agendas. "And so will 009."

Q felt some last coil of tension inside him unwind, and he slumped against the doorframe. "Yeah, she will," he said with a tired smile. "Now go away, I need rest."

Bond laughed and pulled the door closed, shooting Q a wink just before he vanished and the latch clicked. Q chuckled as he locked up the rest of the way and armed his security system, and then he toed off his shoes and shuffled off to bed.

Friends. He could do that.

Other than fancy tech, Q realised, he had no idea what Bond liked that he could provide. He was feeling a bit in the agent's debt at this point, between the gifts and the meals, and he spent longer than he wanted to admit staring into space during his half-shift at Q-branch the next day, trying to figure out what he could do for Bond. He'd been prepared to be seducible, and had even warmed somewhat to the idea of building useful things disguised as other things, but actual friendship was... odd. Unexpected, certainly.

Q sighed. He was a bloody intelligence agent, even if he wasn't the sort who flew to exotic places and seduced the companions of dangerous men, and that meant he had to have some way to get a handle on what Bond liked that he didn't already have in abundance.

Q already had his screens dark and his bag slung over his shoulder when Bond showed up, and was talking to Colin about tomorrow's inevitable paperwork disaster.

"Ready?" said Bond, warm hand finding its way to the small of Q's back.

Q turned and smiled, setting at least one person's fingers to keyboard to update Bond's spreadsheets. Q had elected not to edify them about last night's conversation. "Ready."

Bond led him out, touching him the whole way, and Q waited until they were in the elevator to lean close and say, "I'm not sure this is a thing that friends do."

Bond laughed. "I said starting there, I didn't say ending," he replied, looking very pleased with himself.

"Ah, so the sex pool will win, after all," said Q, just as the elevator doors opened to admit Tanner.

"I don't even want to know," said Tanner. "What I don't know, I can't be called in to explain to HR."

"You probably don't," said Q, unrepentant. He noticed Bond's hand stayed right where it was, as well.

"Well, good job with 009 yesterday, anyway," said Tanner. "M wanted to send something down to Q-branch, but we decided to wait until tomorrow and send cupcakes at lunchtime."

"And by M you mean you," said Bond, sounding very amused. "I doubt he's much for cupcakes."

"Q-branch, on the other hand, adores cupcakes," said Q. "Chocolate, please, with a variety of icing colours, so they can argue about who has to eat the pink ones."

"I was going to get Scrabble-themed toppers," said Tanner, looking very amused. "Moneypenny suggested it, so they can argue instead about who has to take the Z."

"Nonsense, I will get the Q, Z and X," said Q. "And possibly the J."

Bond laughed, and Tanner blinked, then laughed with them. "Q doesn't like to share sugar," said Bond.

"I'll send extras, then," said Tanner, amused and relieved.

"That would be much appreciated," said Q, amused. "I promise not to spoil the surprise."

The elevator opened in the car park, and they all got out, Tanner making a beeline for his serviceable sedan while Bond led Q over to the Aston Martin. "I remembered my gate opener," said Q, pulling the little box out of his satchel before letting Bond stow the bag in the trunk.

"Convenient," said Bond, taking it from him. "Do I have to give it back?"

Q laughed. "Yes, because sometimes I take the car service to vary my routine." He climbed into the car, settling back against the leather and deciding that he could let himself get used to this. He couldn't help but notice that the seat controls hadn't been moved from when he'd fiddled that first night to get them just right on the way to Thai food, but he had no idea what that actually meant.

Once they were on the way, Q plucked up his courage and asked, "What do you like, besides alcohol, food, sharp suits, and dangerous women? It's completely unfair that you know my weakness and I've no idea how to return the favour."

"I suppose friends don't ask for exploding pens," said Bond, but he looked very pleased indeed to have been asked. "I'm afraid most of my other interests won't help, I swim, I climb, I like to play cards."

"A difficult man to buy for," said Q, amused. "Perhaps I'll install Angry Birds on your tablet, I've almost got the port done for it."

"I still can't believe you ported Scrabble to your own OS," said Bond, giving Q's knee a squeeze. "You probably did it just for the challenge, didn't you?"

"We can't all have resurrection as a hobby," said Q. "Maybe I'll learn to knit and keep you in warm socks and ugly hats."

"I'd never wean you off your cardigans then," said Bond. "I read a lot, but it's mostly nonfiction, I'm afraid."

"What sort?" asked Q. He was rather enjoying the freedom to watch Bond while Bond had to keep his eyes on something else, for once, turnabout for all the time Bond had spent in Q-branch watching him work.

"A lot of history, languages, some science and technology, though not a lot. I get a few weapons and martial arts magazines through MI6 that I never keep up on, and 004 steals," he said. "Military history, some field medicine."

"That sounds like more work," said Q, but he understood, he really did. "I have to make an effort to have hobbies outside of work, otherwise my whole world narrows to computers and code, languages human and machine."

"It has come to my attention recently that I could use more interests that aren't my work, if I intend to actually survive being a Double-O," said Bond, his voice quieter, expression pensive.

Q knew the rate of retirement for Double-Os just as well as anyone at MI6. They led luxuriously dangerous lives, were paid handsomely for the risks they took, and nearly all of them died in the saddle with no one to pick up the pieces of what little life they bothered to have between missions. Q laid his hand over Bond's on the stick shift, feeling Bond's skin so very warm and alive under his own. "It's easier to be a phoenix when you've got something besides ashes," said Q softly, thinking of how he'd feel if he came back from some ordeal only to find his life sold off and put in storage, with no one to care for his passing.

"I should have known you'd understand," said Bond, turning into Q's driveway, the gate already rising.

"I told you," said Q, "I have to make an effort, so that there's something left when enough people have been better or cleverer or just younger than me, and it's time to give Q-branch to someone else."

Bond looked over, face tired and wry and still bloody handsome. "I don't suppose you give lessons?" he asked, making it a quip, guarded despite their new, strange openness.

"I could be persuaded," said Q. He gave Bond's hand a squeeze and undid his seatbelt. "There must be something you enjoy, in amongst all your luxurious cover stories?"

"I like the clothes and the cars, the food and drink," said Bond. "And the gambling, but that's not something you want to make a lifestyle of. None of it is, really." He undid his own seatbelt, but Q was reluctant to get out and break this fragile intimacy.

"What about symphony, opera, theatre?" asked Q. "Maybe we can start you on a reading list, see if you can learn to enjoy fiction, or take up some scholarly pursuit so you have a use for all the facts stored in your head."

"I won't leave MI6, even if I stop-" Bond closed his mouth and shook his head. "I can't become some civilian consultant, that's too much change, even for me."

Q leaned in and kissed his cheek softly. "Of course not, your first and truest love is Queen and Country," said Q. Then he added rather tartly, "It's just that the second one is adrenaline."

Bond laughed, and if it was a little bitter, Q couldn't blame him. "I suppose I can still get my excitement somehow, even if I'm no longer abusing my body in the name of England."

"Come on, let's get me dressed, or you'll never feed me and I'll waste away," said Q. He felt like they'd established something, an intent for Q and Bond to work together to keep him from committing suicide by espionage, if nothing else.

"Which would be a great loss for both England and me," teased Bond. He gave Q's hand a squeeze, and they got out, retrieved Q's bag, and headed inside. Q let Bond nose around his flat while he changed, unconcerned now for being judged on his books, movies, and collectibles. He didn't have a gaming console, but he thought Bond might enjoy some of the more adrenaline-fueled shooting or racing games, so he put it on his mental shopping list. He did have a huge telly for watching movies, and he was already making vague plans to sit Bond down for a whole weekend of Lord of the Rings extended editions.

When he emerged, Bond was sitting in Q's favourite spot, a little reading nook he'd built by one window that was basically bookshelves and cushions, with a hidden power strip for charging devices. He was holding the book Q had been reading last and looking faintly baffled.

"We'll start you out with something lighter," said Q with a laugh. "That one's not very good, anyway. I might not finish it."

"Won't it bother you, not knowing how it all ends?" asked Bond curiously, putting it down and getting up to prowl around Q. Bond, of course, was perfectly outfitted in a sharp suit, dark grey with blue pinstripes, a pale blue shirt like the shadows in a snowbank, and all the appropriate accessories. Q was wearing his black suit, which tended to look slightly less rumpled, and a simple white shirt and black tie. It made him seem dull and unimaginative next to Bond's perfectly-fitted fashion, but they both knew clothes weren't really his area.

"Not really, and I can always google it," said Q. "If the book can't keep my attention long enough to finish it, then it means I don't really care how it ends."

"I'm going to take you to my tailor," said Bond, not really changing the subject. "This almost works, but it needs to be fitted better."

Q chuckled. "I'm not actually your boytoy," he protested, but it was halfhearted at best. "You can take me, but I'm paying. Perhaps I'll get a proper bespoke suit or two and make all of MI6 worry for my virtue."

"Is it only Q-branch now?" asked Bond, amused. He stopped his prowling and spent a moment straightening Q's tie and collar.

"They're under no delusion about my preferences, purity, or particular interest in you," said Q. "A few of them are envious, but they know I'm capable of taking care of myself."

"Particular interest, hm?" Bond's mouth was quirked up in that smug smirk that never failed to make Q want to kiss him.

"It figures that's the part you'd pay attention to," said Q. "Come on, you promised me posh food, and I'm certain there's reservations involved that we oughtn't be late for."

Bond laughed, but Q had a feeling he would hear about this again when he least wanted to deal with it.

The restaurant was just as elegant as Q had imagined, but no one seemed to notice his less-than-perfect tailoring as they were led to their table, which was by a window with a gorgeous view of London at night. Q took a moment to appreciate it, stars captured from the sky and laid out in new constellations far more familiar, and the very dim echo above the glow of light pollution.

"Is it not considered in good taste to look down one's nose at other people's boy toys?" asked Q, after they were left alone with menus and a wine list.

Bond laughed. "It's different than it used to be, people don't always dress up to go out for an evening. Nowadays, you never know what apparent boy toy will be the tech genius you were hoping to hire, whose price just tripled."

That surprised a laugh out of Q. "That actually makes sense," he said, opening his menu. "Order me something interesting to drink, but keep in mind I've got work tomorrow."

"When don't you work?" teased Bond, though they both knew that long, strange hours were a part of the job they both loved. "Do you have the weekend off?"

"I should, no one's out right now, but you know how these things go," said Q. "If you're around, you can come watch telly with me, I've got some movies I want to try out on you."

"Already finding me new hobbies?" asked Bond, looking surprised and almost touched, at least until he smirked. "Or are these a different sort of film?"

"The former," said Q tartly. "Just for that, you're buying me caviar. I've never had it."

"Anything you like," said Bond, looking cheeky. "Only the best for my boy toy."

Q looked pained as the waiter came up just in time to hear Bond say that. "He's just being an arse, don't mind him," said Q, which made the waiter laugh.

"Regardless," said the waiter, "my name is Jackson, and I'll be your waiter tonight." He rattled off a couple of delicious-sounding specials, and then asked for their drinks orders.

Bond ordered the caviar along with a champagne that was expensive enough that it obviously made Jackson reevaluate whether or not to take Q at his word that he wasn't Bond's boy toy. "Very good, sir," said Jackson. "I'll return with your drinks to take your orders."

"Great, now he definitely thinks I'm your expensive tart," said Q, rolling his eyes. "Just for that, I'm going to delete everything remotely fun from off your tablet."

Bond laughed. "You told me to order you a drink and caviar," he pointed out. "It's not my fault this time."

"It's totally your fault," said Q. "You only make more than me because of the bonuses, you know," he added. "I could afford to eat here. Even the caviar."

"Which has arrived," said Bond, as Jackson set it down on the table between them, a perfect display of blini and creme fraiche surrounding the ice-packed caviar.

Jackson kept a straight face as he opened the champagne and poured it, offering Q the first flute with a wink.

"Thank you," said Q, taking a small sip. The wine was dry and crisp, bubbles tickling his palate, and he found he rather liked it. "It's good," he assured Jackson, setting the glass down.

"I'm glad you think so," said Bond, taking a sip of his own. "Very good, thank you."

"Are you ready to order your meals?" asked Jackson, who clearly found them very entertaining.

"I'll have the scallops," said Q, choosing one of the specials that had sounded amazing. He handed over his menu.

"I'll have the porterhouse, medium rare," said Bond. "French onion soup, and perhaps you'd like lobster bisque?"

"Ooh, yes, I really would," said Q, grinning. "Thank you," he said to the waiter, who looked amused as he took Bond's menu.

"Lobster bisque and the scallop special, and French onion soup with the porterhouse," said Jackson, getting nods of agreement. "Perhaps you'd like to share the haricots verts?"

"Yes, Bond could use some veg to go with his meat," said Q dryly.

Bond chuckled. "That sounds excellent, thank you."

Jackson took himself away, leaving Q with fish eggs and no real idea of what he was meant to do with them.

"Like this," said Bond, spooning a little of the cream onto a blini, and then using a different spoon that appeared to be made of mother-of-pearl to put some of the black fish eggs on top. Q thought for one heart-stopping moment that Bond was going to feed him, but he just passed the morsel over to Q. "Taste."

Q nibbled, the faintly pungent buckwheat in the blini giving way to rich cream, and then finally the subtle, salty caviar. They burst on his tongue and between his teeth with a fishy, delightful flavour. "Mmm, better than I expected," said Q, taking another, bigger bite. It was a lot like tobiko on sushi, while being completely different at the same time.

Bond grinned, making up a blini of his own. "Good, you deserve to be treated." He ate his in one big bite, shamelessly enjoying it, which made Q smile. Bond had always thrown himself fully into any pleasure he could find, and it was good to see that was still true. That was something he could work with, trying to not only give Bond something to look forward to on his time off, but in reminding himself why he bothered. Queen and Country were all well and good, but a man still needed a life outside of espionage.

They shared the caviar equitably, and Q found that Bond was a good conversationalist despite his purported lack of hobbies. He was able to speak intelligently on a number of topics that Q was interested in, even if he did give Q wry looks when Q brought up something a little too geeky for a cultured man like Bond. The food was all excellent, and they lingered over coffee and sweets, talking about nothing in particular, just enjoying the company.

It was a lot like a date, except that Q knew by now that Bond was determined to keep being a gentleman and a friend, which meant he was still not getting laid.


Q was unsurprised when their weekend plans were superseded by a mission to Paris. Things had been simmering there for weeks with a group they'd been watching, and it was time to take action before anything came of it. Q gave Bond his gun, radio, and tablet with the port of Angry Birds he'd stayed up most of the night to finish. It was worth every hour of lost sleep when Bond did the tutorial right there in the armoury, a huge grin on his face as he shot birds at pigs.

"Thank you," was all he said, but Q heard what he meant.

Q got Bond's next letter the next morning with a small FedEx package of French pastries from a very famous patisserie in Paris, and he sent Colin to make the good tea while he sat down to read.


I think I might get through all the levels of that new game on this trip if I let myself. It's quite addictive, and the precision thinking required is right up my alley.

I'm still poking away at your other high score, but I can't even beat my own. I have no idea how you managed so fast, I suppose I shall have to accept that in some ways you're smarter than me. Which is how I'd prefer it, come to think of it, given everything.

I hope you enjoy your treat, and that it's fresh enough to justify the shipping fee for same-day service from Paris to London.


Q smiled softly, and uploaded the next set of levels to the cloud, then texted James.

You may have more
levels if you can
figure out how to
find & add them.

It wasn't a handwritten letter and French pastries, but it would have to do for now.

Colin brought his tea and Q indulged himself in the pastries, which were very fresh indeed. He ate the entire box and only shared one with Colin, who had managed to get a whole mission's worth of paperwork correct without having to redo any of it. Q felt it was good to reward competence, even if it did garner jealous looks from the rest of the staff. They were mollified when the promised cupcakes showed up at lunch, anyway. Q was so full of pastries he only took the four that Colin brought him -- Q, Z, X and J, as promised -- and let the rest of them fight over the remainder. True to his word, Tanner had sent down several dozen -- more than an alphabet, though not a full set of 100 Scrabble tiles -- so even the starving hordes at Q-branch got their fill.

Q emailed Tanner a photo of his crew crowded around the table eating, and then texted a picture of his own four cupcakes to Bond.

It seems Colin
anticipated my need
for all the high-
value letters.

Bond sent back a screen shot of Angry Birds with the new levels loaded and waiting, and Q knew just what he meant.

Q was glad of the sugar a few hours later when a call came in just as he was finishing his last cupcake. Unlike 009's gruelling extraction, 005 only needed Q to hack into a security system for him so he could disable the guards and get the intel he needed, but it was exciting enough to keep Q's adrenaline pumping until the end of the day. He made it home before he crashed, then ordered pizza and spent the evening populating Bond's little corner of the cloud with a wide assortment of the books he himself had read and enjoyed in his lifetime.

He didn't even bother with a breadcrumb-trail text this time, though he did write out a note, take a photo, and upload the file to the same folder with the title 00-look-here-first.jpg.


I hope your trip is going better than our friend's the other day. The cupcakes were delicious, T's got excellent taste in baked goods. Not as good as yours, though, and I only shared one croissant with C. He's finally gaining paperwork competence, I felt it should be rewarded.

These are for when you get tired of shooting birds at pigs, though I do have more levels I can port over if you never do. There's a number of variants involving holidays and space and things which we can integrate into your app. I designed it to be more modular than the original.

I'm having pizza tonight, and even though it's good, I feel rather guilty. You're going to ruin me for junk food, and then where will I be? There's no good takeaway around my flat, not like you find.

I'm going to hold you responsible if you refine my palate overmuch.

Quite Sincerely,

Q curled up in bed feeling very satisfied with his day's work, and rather wishing he had a cat after all. It seemed like the kind of evening he'd have liked to have someone there, even a pet, to share the warm glow of his mood with.

He was just drifting off to sleep when his mobile chimed. It was another photo from Bond, this time of a bit of hotel stationery with just the words, "Thank you for the books."

Q fell asleep with a smile, wondering if Bond enjoyed petting.

It took 3 weeks and a knife wound for Bond to come back this time. During those weeks there were letters both real and virtual, and a few more gifts before the mission required Bond's full attention. Q bought a console and a variety of well-reviewed games, and stocked his flat with shelf-stable food that could be turned into something more sophisticated than pot noodle.

"So," said Q, as Bond came strolling into Q-branch with nearly the same fluid cockiness as usual, "did my equipment fare any better than your, um, where was it you got stabbed again?"

"Merely a flesh wound," said Bond, grinning unrepentantly. "I have it all but the radio, actually, I've grown quite fond of the tablet and I was hoping you could get all the blood out."

Q sighed and put out a tray, on which Bond deposited his somewhat battered gun and slightly blood-soaked tablet. "I'll see what I can do, it backs itself up to the cloud, anyway, so you won't lose your Angry Birds scores."

"How come he gets Angry Birds?" said 003, sidling up to the group. He and some of the other Double-O agents had taken to dropping by Q-branch to see how things were going for reasons Q had yet to ascertain.

"007 sent me overnight pastries from Paris," said Q, completely unperturbed. "And dulce de leche from Uruguay."

"And that big basket of Japanese stuff," said Divya with a sigh. "Which you didn't share at all, I might add."

"He also brought macarons when Q had to do those three guns back-to-back," said Colin, setting a fresh cup of tea next to Q. "And there were those coconut things you got last week."

Bond leaned against Q's desk and looked smug.

"009 brought you those sweets from her last mission, too," said Rayan, coming over to join the little group.

"That's why she has Angry Birds to keep her amused while she recovers," said Q. "She's learning to do it left-handed, says it's good ambidexterity training."

003 huffed, but he was grinning. "Fancy sweets, hm? I'll keep that in mind, I happen to know a few places." He shot Bond a grateful look and made himself scarce, winking at Divya just before he left.

Q turned and began to disassemble Bond's gun, the tablet gently shoved to one side. "This wont't take much repair to be field-ready, how long do I have before Medical gets tired of you bitching about your stitches?"

Bond laughed and ignored the question. "You're becoming quite popular among my colleagues, do I have competition?"

"That depends on what you're competing for," said Q dryly. "And if you bring treats tomorrow when you come by for movies."

Bond's face lit up, and Q heard several betting-pool-related conversations start up around the room. "I can hear you, you know," said Bond loudly. "I am a secret agent." He grinned at Q and let his voice drop to its normal volume. "Shall I pick you up at the usual time, then?"

"That's perfect, we can get takeaway at one of your wonderful places, or I can make risotto or something," said Q. "I'm going to introduce you to comic book superhero movies, we'll save Lord of the Rings for after you've finished reading."

"I was interrupted by terrorists," said Bond. "It's not my fault."

"Go home and get some rest, Bond," Q replied. "I'll see if I can salvage your tablet and gun. Colin will have your paperwork tomorrow, he's finally getting the hang of it."

"I haven't had a redo all week, sir," chirped Colin, now happily over at his own desk and out of arm's reach.

"I'll see you tomorrow, then," Bond said, then he reached into his pocket and produced one last little gift, a bag of caramels from another famous Parisian patisserie.

"This will go a long way toward forgiveness for damaging your gun," said Q, taking the little bag and tucking it away in his drawer.

Bond chuckled. "Let me know what you want for dinner tomorrow, and I probably know a place that will let me do takeaway," he said, standing up and heading out.

"I'll text you if I think of something," said Q, watching him go.

The minions waited until Bond was out of sight to burst into conversation, putting the stats on his intentions up on the big screen and arguing about what to change. Q let them, instead picking up the tablet and stroking his fingers over the surface, and the blood dried in the grooves where the glass met the metal. With any luck it was merely out of battery and hadn't been shorted out, though it looked like there was blood in the charging port as well. Q set it back down and pulled up Bond's Medical file to see that he'd been grazed across his ribs, a long cut that was actually not that deep, though it had bled all over the place and required several stitches.

Q relaxed and closed the file. "I'll be in the smaller maintenance room," he said, picking up the tray with tablet and gun on it. He could refurbish the gun there as well as the armoury, as long as it didn't need parts. And since it wasn't an actual clean room, he said, "Colin, bring my tea?"

"Yes, sir," said Colin, grabbing not only his tea but a packet of biscuits out of his sweets drawer before following after.

"Now that you're getting the hang of paperwork, you're becoming quite irreplaceable," said Q with a grin, juggling the tray a bit to get through the work room's security. It was full of half-finished projects and poorly-inventoried parts, and therefore a target not so much for espionage as theft.

"That's my aim, sir," said Colin with a grin. He set Q's treats down on the side table they all used for ill-advised snacks while working, and gave Q a cheeky salute before heading out with a parting shot of, "I'll make sure Agent Bond knows where you are if he comes looking, sir."

Q snorted and rolled his eyes, but his tea was perfect, so he fortified himself with the whole packet of biscuits before carefully cleaning the tablet of Bond's blood and plugging it in. He sighed with relief when it flashed its charging sequence. Q left it to charge while he worked on the gun, meticulously cleaning every component and making sure the electronics were in good shape. He made a few repairs and adjustments, and had it reassembled and ready to go by the time the tablet was ready.

Q ran the computer through its diagnostic programs, and laughed at himself for how relieved he was that it came through safe and sound. He texted Colin that both items were to be considered returned in working condition, if not good repair, so he could finish up the paperwork for Bond. Then he texted Bond to make time later to test his gun so they were both certain that Q's adjustments were effective, and took both pieces of equipment back to the armoury for storage. By the time he got back to his desk, Colin had another cup of tea ready and waiting, and Q was in a remarkably good mood.

Not even doing tech support for 002 could spoil it, though it took three of the creamy soft caramels from Bond to keep his temper on the comm line.

Q headed home with a spring in his step and spent the evening making sure everything was clean, anything embarrassing was tucked away where he could tetch at Bond for being nosy when he found it anyway, and his kitchen was stocked with enough snacks, tea, and coffee for a weekend full of movies and gaming.

Bond's gun tested out better than ever, and so they were both in a celebratory mood when work ended the next night. Q had announced to the world at large that he was taking the weekend off and ought not be bothered except for emergencies, and then snuck Bond's tablet out in his messenger bag as a surprise.

"All right, what are we eating?" asked Q, joining Bond in the elevator. He was still insisting that his car was far superior to the tube, and Q couldn't actually disagree, so they were heading over to Q's together and getting food on the way.

"You'll see," replied Bond, looking smug and mysterious.

Q rolled his eyes. "Bloody secret agents," he said, but even to his own ears it sounded awfully fond.

The elevator dinged and let them out into the parking garage, where 002 was just getting in, looking grumpy and exhausted, not to mention slightly singed around the edges.

"Finally learn to drive, Q?" asked 002, his tone not quite mocking.

Bond bristled, but Q laid a hand on his arm. "I've got more skills than you'll ever know about, and you've got to report in. If I find out you were mean to Colin, I'm giving you a pop gun next time you go out."

"Colin's all right," said 002, the tiredness taking over. "He helps with the paperwork."

"He's even learned to do it right," agreed Bond. "Come on, Q, we'll be late for dinner."

"You can't be late for takeaway, Bond," teased Q, but he let Bond escort him to the Aston Martin while 002 looked baffled and shook his head.

Q buckled in and waited for 002 to be gone before he slumped a little in the seat. "It's not that I don't like him," he said.

"But you don't like him," said Bond with a chuckle. "You don't have to like us all, as long as you support us all. And as long as you like me best." He put the car in gear and pulled out, the stop at security brief thanks to their combined rank, and then they were on their way toward food.

Q's stomach growled.

"You skipped lunch again," said Bond, sounding disapproving.

"I, not... exactly," Q prevaricated. "There were sweets."

"There's always sweets with you," said Bond dryly. "You have to take better care of yourself."

"I will when you do," said Q. "I'm not the one who bled all over the equipment."

"Touché," said Bond with a wry look. "But most of the dangers of my job are unavoidable. I'm going to bribe that assistant of yours, Colin."

Q started to protest, then thought about it for a moment. "Actually, that would probably work. I should just set him up with a weekly stipend, get him to feed us both."

Bond laughed, and Q made a face at him. "I'll be sure to give him the lowdown on the really good restaurants," Bond said.

"Oh, well, then, laugh all you want," said Q, mollified. "You know all the best places."

"It's a gift," said Bond. They pulled up in front of one of the unassuming little businesses that Q was coming to associate with Bond, and headed inside to the smell of some far-away land that Q couldn't quite place. Q hung back while Bond was greeted by the tiny woman at the counter, who presented Bond with a huge box of takeaway containers.

"You feed him up proper!" Q heard directed at Bond, though she was gesturing toward his own lanky frame, and he flushed a bit and came forward to help with the box.

"I'm sure this will be perfect," said Q, and her eyebrow went up at the posh tones of his accent. "I'm just naturally thin."

"And he skips meals," said Bond, looking amused. "But I'm working on getting some meat on his bones."

Q nearly choked at the innuendo Bond put into that statement, shooting him a glare. "Come on, you."

She laughed, though, clearly delighted, and made shooing motions. "Go on, can't you see he's starving?" she said.

Q made puppy eyes and Bond relented, though he did take the box away on their way out.

"We'll have you home soon where you can eat a proper meal before we see what sweets she included," said Bond, when Q tried to protest. The box went into the trunk and Q allowed himself to be buckled in, though he pouted the whole way.

"But I'm hungry now," said Q, keeping up the plaintive pout since it seemed to be working.

"No one eats in my car," replied Bond, unflappable as ever. He got them smoothly back into traffic and on the way to Q's flat, while Q tried to think of things other than the delightful smells wafting up from the trunk.

Fortunately for his sanity, they weren't as far away as Q originally thought. Bond took some arcane back way and soon enough they were parked in Q's spot and getting ready to head upstairs, Q with his messenger bag and Bond with the food.

"That had better be some really good food," Q groused, but his heart wasn't in it. It didn't take them long to get everything unpacked, and soon enough Q was sitting at his own kitchen table, having an amazing Japanese feast.

Instead of sushi, apparently the restaurant served homestyle Japanese food, so there were whole grilled fish, bowls of miso soup -- Bond had insisted on using real dishes for all of it -- seaweed salad, grilled eggplant, steamed rice, fried pot stickers, lotus root, pickled vegetables, steamed vegetables, noodles with a rich sauce on the side, steamed pumpkin, and grilled chicken skewers. Bond had stashed several boxes in the fridge and freezer for after, and Q hadn't objected on the assumption they were filled with sweets.

"I have no idea how you expect me to eat all of this," he said, gesturing at the food with his chopsticks.

Bond smirked. "Not good with chopsticks?"

Q rolled his eyes. "Not actually a bottomless pit," he countered, and dug into the food. Everything was exquisitely prepared and the meal was surprisingly light for such a huge variety of dishes. Q found himself wanting more of several things even after they were gone, and between them they managed to pack away basically all of it.

"I knew you could do it," teased Bond, sitting back and sipping the green tea he'd made to go with their meal. Q had been dubious at first, but found the beverage went well with the rest, light and grassy in flavour and nothing like proper tea at all, and yet good all the same.

"I'm glad you had confidence in my ability to eat the whole thing," said Q, making an innuendo of it out of habit.

Bond, fortunately, laughed rather than taking offence. "That's what she said," he replied, getting up and starting to clear the dishes. Q sighed and stirred himself after one last bite of pickled vegetable, getting the dishes rinsed and the detritus bagged up to take out to the bins later so the fish bones wouldn't stink up his flat. It was pleasantly domestic, few words needed for them to work in harmony toward the goal of keeping Q's flat neat. Bond wiped down the table and counters while Q started up the dishwasher, and then they headed out to the parlour with a fresh pot of proper tea to start a film.

"All right, let's see if you like Iron Man or not," said Q. The film was already cued up in his system, so he poured their tea and started it playing.

Bond sat close, one arm along the back of the couch like a teenage boy afraid to go for the cuddle. Q licked his lips as the opening credits began, then decided to hell with it and snuggled up to Bond's side, sighing at the warmth of his body seeping into Q's cold frame. Bond's arm went around Q like nothing strange had happened, and they settled in to actually watch the film.

Bond kept his remarks under his breath at first, until Q started chiming in with rejoinders, and then they were bantering like it was an op and Q was on comms, with snarky comments from Q about the tech, Bond about the fighting, and both of them about Stark's personality deficiencies. In the end, though, Bond liked it enough to want to watch another, especially once Q explained that there were already 10 interrelated superhero movies set in this universe, plus two television series.

"It's going to be awfully late when this finishes," said Q hesitantly. "The, um, the couch folds out, I've got fresh linens for it."

"I may have packed an overnight bag just in case," said Bond, looking far more smug than he ought. "You did seem to have plans for the whole weekend."

Q huffed a laugh. "It figures you'd anticipate me. All right, then, we'll spend the weekend on takeaway and the Marvel Universe."

"Better than some of the other options," said Bond, his smile more brittle than Q had expected.

Q grinned. "It's definitely better than getting stabbed," he said pointedly, giving Bond the easy out.

"I was only stabbed a little," said Bond, smile softening again.

"Go on, get your things," said Q, shooing him out the door with Q's keys in hand, along with the rubbish from dinner for the bins. Q went into the kitchen to explore the mysterious extra boxes from the restaurant, finding there was mochi ice cream and several other mysterious homemade Japanese sweets. Q divided up the ice cream into two bowls and made up another pot of tea to go with them, as well as popping some microwave popcorn to throw at Bond in case he was too annoying during the film.

Bond returned in the middle of all the food preparation and invaded Q's personal space. "The security in your garage is a little terrible," he said.

"I know," said Q. "But the security in the rest of the building's not bad, and my flat has its own systems you don't really see because I turn them off."

Bond chuckled and snagged the big bowl of popcorn, leaving Q to bring the tray of tea and ice cream. "I should have known you'd take good care if you had anything sensitive here."

"I really don't, anyway, I keep the sensitive data on the servers at Six, and I don't bring anything more complicated than a tablet home," he said, following Bond into the living room.

"Smart boy," said Bond, settling on the couch with the popcorn bowl square in his lap.

Q rolled his eyes. "I am a grown man, you know," he said, settling in and handing Bond one of the bowls of ice-cream-filled mochi lumps. "How does one eat these, anyway?"

Bond smirked and popped a whole one in his mouth, chewing and making a very pleased noise.

Q chuckled. "That figures," he said, following suit. The ice cream was a delicious, exotic flavour that was slightly floral with hints of the same green tea they'd had with dinner, and obviously homemade. The mochi around it was soft as marshmallows with just a hint of its own sweetness, and dusted with rice flour that somehow helped it melt in the mouth. "Mm, wow, okay, you are choosing all the takeaway this weekend."

Bond looked terribly pleased with himself. "I know," he said, fumbling with the remote a little and getting the movie started.

By the time they finished The Incredible Hulk, Q was yawning despite all the tea and sarcasm.

"Time for good little Quartermasters to be in bed, I see," teased Bond. "Give me the rest of the tour and I'll tuck you in."

Q let out an indignant snort, but let Bond help him up anyway. They delivered the dirty dishes to the kitchen, and then Q showed him the rest of the flat, from the little laundry nook to the slightly larger bathroom, and finally his bedroom. It wasn't a big flat, but it was his, which was enough for Q. "And that's it, home sweet home."

"Small but cluttered," said Bond teasingly. "It's perfect for you."

"It's perfect for one," said Q with a shrug. "It's also paid off, which is why my estate agent wants me to sell it and buy the penthouse instead."

Bond laughed. "Well, you'll find the right man for you someday, and then he'll make you move out of your little hobbit hole one way or another."

Q harrumphed. "I'll have you know that Bag End was quite the respectable dwelling in Hobbiton," he began, but he couldn't keep a straight face and cracked up laughing.

Bond laughed with him, and it made Q's breath catch to realise that he'd enjoyed the joke, understood the joke, and cared enough about the books Q had been giving him to read to remember them. "I'll turn you into a proper nerd yet."

"Why not, I've been everything else," said Bond easily, smiling his most charming smile.

"Even dead," said Q dryly. "Come on, zombie man, let's get your bed made up so I can collapse."

Bond's smile turned to a wry grin. "I think I preferred phoenix, rising up from the ashes and all that."

"Well, you did burn the house down," Q shot right back, gathering the spare linens out of the cupboard and leading Bond back out to the living room. They made short work of converting the sofa and making up the bed.

"I've got something to help you sleep," said Q, going over to his messenger bag by the door.

Bond sidled up behind him and said in his ear, "Is it you?"

Q rolled his eyes and turned. "I thought you were waiting," he said, waving the tablet. "Now be good or I won't let you have this."

"You fixed it!" said Bond delightedly, snatching it and scampering over to the sofa bed bed. He plopped down and used his palm to boot up the tablet, and then petted and cooed at it like a pet just back from the vet. "I was so worried it was dead."

"Just the battery," said Q, turning off the brighter lights and making sure there was enough to be going on with. "I've already put in my wifi password, so now you're all set. Eat anything you like in the kitchen, watch tv, whatever."

"Perfect nerd heaven," said Bond. "Now all it needs is a cat or two."

"I've been considering it, but I'm not sure I'm home enough. I'd have to invent some sort of special feeder, and maybe a device to give them extra stimulation when I wasn't around to play with them," said Q. "I'm going to use the bathroom first, if that's okay?"

"Sure, I'll get changed in here," said Bond, shooting him a wink. "And make sure nothing's wrong with this."

"At least you don't sleep naked." Q winked right back.

"Not in the sofa bed, anyway," retorted Bond.

Q decided to make a tactical retreat.

The next morning, Q walked into his kitchen to find Bond staring at his coffee maker with a look of vexation on his handsome face. "Having issues?" said Q, getting down mugs and things after checking to see he'd already put the kettle on to boil.

"This is non-standard equipment," said Bond, looking very grumpy indeed.

Q gave him a sleepy kiss on his cheek. "What sort of coffee do you want? I'll show you."

Bond grumped. "Will it make cappuccino?"

"Yep," said Q. "Here, look." He turned on the little display with the discreetly hidden button, which lit up a formerly featureless black touch panel. "It grinds the beans, there's a little airtight storage hopper, you can see it's still about half full," he said pointing to the icons. "Choosing espresso shots here will set the grind, and then you'll have to add milk once it pops out the cup for it," said Q. He poked a few more of the icons, and then went to the fridge while the grinder whirred and the steam pressure built. After a minute another panel popped open with a clear cup inside, the appropriate measurement line lit up with an LED, and Q filled it while Bond watched.

"Where on earth did you get this thing?" said Bond, shaking his head.

Q closed up the panel and went back to the fridge. "I designed it. I've got several patents; a lot of the mechanisms are licensed for cheaper units. This model is hand-built by a couple of techs down in Brighton, and there's an 18-month waiting list last I heard." He knew he sounded smug, but he didn't care. Some things deserved a little smugness.

Bond chuckled. "It figures you'd have a hobby that keeps you in caffeine," he said, watching as Q fit one of his mugs in the little hollow to one side. "I'll reserve judgement until I've actually had some bloody coffee."

"It'll be easy tomorrow, now that you know how," said Q easily, pulling out bread for toast and making up his own cup of tea. He'd have coffee later, perhaps just before introducing Bond to Mario Kart.

Bond perked up as liquid began to trickle into the cup, first espresso, then the hot milk, and finally a good dose of foam sliding in on top. That had been the hardest mechanism to reproduce, but Q had felt it was totally worth it, and not just for the size of the licensing cheques he got for it.

"Is that it?" asked Bond, eyeing the cup dubiously.

"That's it, and it has a sensor so it would stop the flow the moment you lifted the cup, anyway. The only real danger is getting hot foam on your hand, once that mechanism starts up it's sort of inevitable," said Q.

Bond took a sip, and his eyebrows went up as he swallowed. "Yeah, all right, that's worth patenting," he said, taking another, bigger one.

Q grinned. "Toast?" he asked. "I want to take you out to brunch, but I still want toast."

Bond nodded, his full attention on his drink now. Q let out a pleased little smile and started the bread toasting, getting out butter and jam and then making up his cup of tea. Soon enough they were both seated at the table with their snacks.

"Have you showered yet?" asked Q between bites of toast.

Bond shook his head. "Caffeine first," he said, eyeing his nearly empty cup hopefully.

The machine started up its cleaning cycle, whirring and burbling, which made Q chuckle. "There's good coffee at the restaurant," he said, taking another sip of his tea. "Think of it as motivation to be quick getting ready."

"I'm not some girl," said Bond, giving Q a dry look. "I'll not be long, just shower and a shave."

"Not going to grow out your scruff for the weekend off?" said Q, amused. Bond hadn't let himself be seen with more than a whiff of stubble since M's death, but it seemed safe enough to tease about.

Bond gave him a flirty smile. "I prefer to stay kissably smooth."

Q felt his cheeks heating as he realised what he'd done, kissing Bond's cheek earlier in his half-asleep state. "Where?" he shot back, trying to hide his discomfiture.

Bond's smile widened. "Perhaps someday you'll find out." He finished off his coffee with a flourish, and then took his cup and plate to the sink and vanished into the flat, presumably to have his shower.

Q finished up his own breakfast and spent the time putting away the clean dishes from last night and putting the dirty ones into the dishwasher for later. He went into the hall, only to be confronted with Bond in a towel and nothing else, looking damp and pink and freshly-shaven.

"Missing something?" asked Q.

"Just left my clothes out here," said Bond cheerfully, unflappable as ever. "Bathroom's all yours, ta."

"I'll be quick," promised Q, getting his own clothes from his bedroom before shutting himself up in the steamy room for a shower and shave of his own. He resisted the urge to relieve some tension; Bond would somehow know and tease him about it. He emerged from the bathroom feeling a bit damp around the edges but otherwise intact.

Bond was dressed impeccably in form-fitting jeans and a cashmere sweater, looking effortlessly posh, the tosser. "Will we go anywhere but breakfast?" asked Bond, putting the last of the cushions back on the sofa bed.

"Not unless there's something you need to pick up," said Q. "I planned for movies, games, and takeaway, not outings."

"Good, it's looking like rain any minute now," said Bond, nodding to the gloomy sky. "Walking or driving?"

"Probably driving, they've got a small car park most people don't know about," said Q. He slipped his pyjamas into the hamper and came over to get his shoes on and find his parka, which had the bonus of making Bond cringe.

Bond got into his own shoes and wool pea coat, and they headed out, Q pausing to arm his alarm system more obviously than he usually bothered. Bond looked amused, which meant he'd probably doubted its existence but wouldn't admit it, and they headed down to get Bond's car.

Breakfast was a subdued affair despite the copious refills of coffee and tea, the two of them ploughing through a full English apiece. Fat drops of rain had fallen on them in increasing amounts as they slipped into the restaurant, and it was pouring outside when they finished. Q found himself wishing for the millionth time that he could teleport, but at least he'd manage another ride in Bond's car.

"Will your upholstery survive?" asked Q, cheque paid and nothing to do but make a break for it.

Bond chuckled. "It'll manage, and you'll make it up to me with more Robert Downey, Jr."

Q huffed. "Is that your type, the incorrigible arsehole?" He put up his hood and tried to steel himself for the chilly dash.

"Genius," Bond corrected, and then he made a break for it, robbing Q of his chance for a timely rejoinder.

Q was too busy running after Bond to roll his eyes, but he did it inwardly, if only to satisfy himself. He ducked into the car half-soaked and sighed. "I really am sorry about the car."

"It's had worse," said Bond, giving his head a shake that sprayed droplets everywhere. "I'll wipe the seats when we get back to yours."

Q buckled in and Bond made the short drive home, the two of them chattering about nothing, warming themselves with laughter. Bond stayed behind to towel down the seats, still in possession of Q's spare keys, while Q went up to make them a pot of tea and start some more popcorn.

"Car'll be fine," said Bond, coming in looking damp and chilled. He lifted up the wet towel and asked, "Can I put this in your laundry?"

"Of course, yeah, I'll go change once this finishes," he said, gesturing at the popcorn in the microwave. The pops were slowing down, fortunately.

Bond grinned. "I'll change in the bathroom, just for you," he teased, going off to do just that.

Popcorn popped, Q made up a tray and left it on the coffee table. He headed back into his bedroom to get some fresh clothes, wanting something warm and comfortable for their day of slack. He pulled out his favourite hand-knit socks, a pair of old jeans that were almost too worn even for Bond's company, and a faded t-shirt from a band he'd liked as a teenager. After a moment of hesitation, Q pulled down the box with the sweater Bond had given him and pulled it on, sighing at the soft warmth of it.

"It suits you," said Bond when Q emerged, tea already poured and the movie cued up. Q settled onto the sofa with him and accepted his perfectly-sweet cuppa like they'd been friends forever, which warmed Q in an entirely different and somewhat unexpected manner.

They made it through two more movies before a lunch break was necessary. Out of deference to the weather, Q made bacon sandwiches, Bond managed a quick veggie salad, and Q's machine made coffee for both of them.

"I'm starting to wonder when disaster is going to strike," said Q, only half joking. They'd decided to sit at the kitchen table, to avoid getting butter on any more things in the living room, and Q had traded the lovely sweater for his Mrs. Lovett's Meat Pies apron.

"You're going to curse us," said Bond mildly, his concentration on his food. "Though I might like a break from all the superheroes for a while."

Q chuckled. "Sure, I was thinking we might introduce you to some video games while we're at it. Ever heard of Mario Kart?"

Bond gave Q the sort of look that a renowned art historian might give, having been asked if he'd ever heard of Furbies. "Never had a mark that young."

Q gave him a look right back, this one of studied innocence. "Well, it's on version 8, how was I to know you didn't have a huge Nintendo addiction in the nineties? I didn't want to assume."

Bond nodded to concede the point. "I've probably heard of it, but I don't know what it is, no."

"Well, basically you're in a go-kart, and racing around a track," said Q, seeing Bond perk up with interest. "Except it's more like cartoon physics than reality, and you can get power-ups and throw obstacles at the other players, or have them thrown at you. And the characters are all from Super Mario Bros. games."

"Wait, like from the eighties?" asked Bond. "With the little plumber and the turtles and the princess is always in another bloody castle?"

Q laughed delightedly. "Yes, exactly. So you can be Mario or Luigi or Princess Peach, and you throw shells and banana peels and things at each other, and it's stupidly fun. We'll want another coffee to get in just the right mindset, I think." He saluted Bond with his cup and drank off a good third of his cappuccino.

"Well, I won't say no to that. What sort of beans are these, anyway?" asked Bond. Q got down the bag and they talked about coffee and tea until the food was gone and they each had a second double cappuccino to take with them. Q switched his system over to his brand new Wii U, and then they spent a good fifteen minutes playing around with their Mii characters -- and making sure nothing would upload location data or pictures without their consent -- before they actually started playing. Q named his little avatar QuiteQuickly, while Bond actually got the system to accept OhOhOhOhOhOhOh, much to both of their amusement.

"M would kill us if he ever saw these," said Q, given that they were fair representations of the both of them. They'd finished off their drinks while they were messing about with Miis, so they had both hands free for the controls.

"Worried about breaching security with your toys?" said Bond teasingly. "I'm not too worried they'll find us and firebomb the place."

"I suppose not," said Q. He brought up the menu and got into position. "Ready?"

"Ready," said Bond.

Q started the game, and it was chaos from the moment they peeled out of the starting gate. They both had trouble controlling their little go-karts; Q hit a banana peel, Bond got hit by a shell, and they careened all over the track while the rest of the characters passed them by. They lost that level badly, but by the time they were done they'd figured out the controls, so the next time wasn't nearly so bad. They played for over an hour until they were laughing like loons and collapsed against each other on the sofa.

"So, fun game?" asked Q teasingly.

Bond laughed and gave him a shove with his shoulder. "Yes, and now I want some water, or a beer if you've got one."

"Nope," said Q, getting up. "Water only, sorry." He'd deliberately not stocked any alcohol, wanting Bond to enjoy things or not on their own merits, rather than coloured by drink. Q took a moment to put the laundry in his tiny dryer before he got them both glasses of ice water and put their mugs in the dishwasher. He also snagged a bag of crisps to share, and then headed back in to find Bond back to mucking about with the mini-games on the cloud.

"Some of these look really stupid," said Bond, sounding oddly delighted.

"Some of them are designed for 9-year-olds, so I'd expect you to say that," replied Q, sitting just as Bond selected some sort of pink thing that Q was pretty sure was actually costing him money to download. "Drink your water, Princess."

Bond took a drink, but then went back to fiddling with what turned out to be a rather interesting puzzle game, despite the childish graphics.

They poked at that and shared the crisps, and then Q brought out a shooting game, which Bond said was too much like work. After that they were both ready to sit back and watch another Marvel movie, this one about Captain America. By the time they'd watched the Avengers preview after the credits they were both starving, and Bond had convinced Q to let himself be surprised about dinner again.

Q puttered around the flat getting things ready for later, pulling down the good drinking chocolate and checking they'd laid in enough milk to make it, and then texting Bond to get more considering his fondness for milky coffee drinks. Bond's reappearance was preceded by the most heavenly smells, and when he came in he had food on actual plates with snap-on plastic covers in a fancy thermal holder with some sort of monogrammed logo on the outside.

"That is not normal takeaway," said Q, accepting the bag of milk and ice cream and putting everything away while Bond laid out their feast.

"They do high-end catering," said Bond, looking terribly smug. The plates contained a beautiful array of nouvelle cuisine. Each one held two artful servings of a few bites apiece, small plates making up a whole meal much like last night's dinner. Bond had moved their chairs around so they could sit together and each try the same thing, and was pouring wine when Q turned back.

"That's... very high end," said Q, trying not to be dubious about it. "It's almost too pretty to eat."

"It tastes better than it looks, too. Come on," said Bond. He sat down and patted the chair next to him. "Let me spoil you."

"Well, all right," said Q, finding his resistance melting away. "It smells amazing." He sat next to Bond and accepted a wine glass.

"To friendship, and whatever else we find," said Bond, clinking their glasses together.

"To home," said Q, taking a sip.

Bond grinned and took a sip of his own, then handed Q a fork and showed him the easiest way to eat the first dish. Q couldn't have said what was in any of it, but it was delicious, perfect in texture and balance of flavours, and the wine went exquisitely with all of it. There was even a plate of warm sweets for the end, everything rich and satisfying in just one or two bites.

"So?" said Bond sitting back and sipping the last of his wine.

"For that, I might even make you an exploding pen," said Q, grinning impishly. "It was amazing, James, thank you." On impulse, Q leaned in and kissed Bond's cheek, though as he leaned back he wondered if it was as much wine as wishing.

Bond looked very pleased with himself, and just a little pink around the edges. "You've been really good to me, and I wanted to do something to spoil you right back."

"You succeeded," said Q, nearly purring. "All other food will be a disappointment after this. I'm ruined."

Bond laughed. "You'll get your taste back for terrible pizza soon enough, I'm sure. That's not an everyday sort of meal, after all."

Q sighed regretfully. "I suppose not," he said. He finished off his wine and wiped his mouth on the cloth napkin that had come with the rest. "Do we dare wash the plates?"

"Blaise said not to, they know how to handle them in the kitchen. We just have to load them back in the carrying case," said Bond. He leaned in and kissed the tip of Q's nose. "You're all pink from the wine."

Q made a face at that. "I hardly ever drink for a reason, you know." He settled back in his chair. "Just for that, you can clean up the feast."

"Mm, it was a feast, wasn't it?" purred Bond, not at all deterred.

Q found himself completely unable to remember why he hadn't shagged Bond yet, and it infuriated him. "Why are we the sort of friends who don't fuck, again?" he asked, flushing a little to hear himself being so crude.

Bond laughed and it was low and sensual. "Because you thought I needed more friends," he said.

"That's not quite how I remember it," said Q, brows furrowed as he tried to figure out how he actually did remember it. "Well, anyway, someone would be upset with someone over it tomorrow, I expect, and I don't want to spoil our weekend."

Bond's flirty smirk melted and softened into a very fond smile. "You're right, I don't, either," he said. He leaned in and kissed Q's forehead very sweetly. "I promise, no more flirting."

Q chuckled. "Let's watch something different," he said. "I never did explain Princess Bride to you, did I?"

"Is there a reason you would have?" asked Bond. It was his turn to look confused, which pleased Q to no end.

"It'll keep you from telling my techs, 'as you wish,' and making them think you're flirting," said Q. He stood, and though there was a slight wobble, it wasn't too bad. "You got me drunk, so you get to clean up while I," Q waved his hand in the general direction of the living room, "do things. Out there."

Bond laughed again, looking very pleased. "All right, I'll make us some nice after-dinner coffee, that will help."

"Smart. I want a latte instead, though, you can figure it out," said Q. He wobbled off to the loo and came back to find his sweater draped over the sofa where he didn't remember leaving it, and took the opportunity to cuddle up in it with the blanket from Bond's bedding over his lap as well.

Bond laughed when he came out with their two mugs. "I didn't mean to let you get cold," he said, coming over to join Q under the blanket.

"It's fine now," said Q, cuddling up shamelessly and cradling the warm coffee in his fingers. "It just hits me sometimes. Shall we start?" He brandished the remote.

"Go on," said Bond, kissing Q's hair.

Q started the movie, and it was clear that whatever Bond had been expecting, it wasn't this. Thankfully for their continued friendship, Bond enjoyed the absurdity of it all, getting into the jokes and the plot just as much as the grandson did. After the credits rolled, Bond kissed Q's hair again and said, "I promise not to make you call me, 'farm boy.'"

"Of course not, you're clearly the princess in this relationship," said Q. "I'm the under-appreciated farm boy providing you with everything you need."

Bond laughed, genuinely delighted. "I suppose that's true, though I'm generally self-rescuing."

"Also, I'm pretty sure you've been with several women whose names were even more ridiculous than 'Humperdink,'" added Q with a little smirk. He leaned against Bond, feeling warm and sleepy and entirely disinclined to move.

Bond snorted with indignation. "I have no idea what you mean," he protested.

"Sure you don't," said Q. "I've read the files, it's no use."

Bond smirked. "As you wish, kitten."

"I am not a kitten!" said Q, sitting up and fixing him with a glare. "Just for that I should confiscate your tablet again."

"Cruel," said Bond. "But now you've got enough energy to get yourself to bed, so we can have our last day tomorrow with you properly well-rested."

"It's early yet," Q protested halfheartedly.

Bond kissed his forehead and stood, offering Q his hand. "It's early, but this way we'll have all day tomorrow. I have a surprise in mind for lunch."

"Ah, now I see your evil plan," said Q with a smile, but he didn't object further. "Do you need help with the sofa?"

"No, go on, I'll use the bathroom once you're all tucked in," said Bond, shooing him down the hall.

"You're managing me," said Q. He kissed Bond's cheek and then licked the tip of his nose. "But you've fed me well, so I'll allow it."

Q ignored Bond's smug look as he made his way to his bedroom, where he changed into proper pyjamas before brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. He gave in and turned on his night-light this time, which projected astronomically accurate stars all over his room, and then curled up under the blankets. He fell asleep still trying to convince himself that it wouldn't be nicer with Bond in there with him.

Sunday morning Q woke to the amazing smells of fresh coffee and cooking bacon, and he added slippers and cardigan to his pyjamas and followed his nose into the kitchen to find Bond making a proper breakfast.

"Did you go buy food?" asked Q, plopping into a chair. "I thought we ate all the bacon."

"I did, and your tea's almost ready," said Bond, nodding to the pot under its ratty cosy. "Good timing."

"You know, for someone who's not trying to seduce me, you're putting in an awful lot of effort," said Q, and immediately regretted it.

Bond turned and winked at him. "At no point have I said I wasn't trying to seduce you. I just said I wanted to start out being your friend."

"Does this mean I'm not going to have my heart broken next time a woman named Ivana Hump crosses your path?" teased Q.

Bond rolled his eyes. "You know that's for the job."

Q stood up and went over to hug Bond from behind, inhaling the scent of him mingled with their cooking breakfast. "I know, that's why it won't break my heart," he said softly, and then he went to explore the teapot and its promised caffeine.

Bond's glance after him was speculative but not, Q was pleased to note, wary or dubious. "It's good you understand that."

"I've always understood that, your files are thorough and often include video or audio surveillance," teased Q, making up his tea with all the sugar he could want and a splash of milk for extra decadence. "That's why I thought you wouldn't be interested, you've had very few male targets."

"There's not a lot of gay men in that line of work who'd go for someone like me," said Bond with a shrug. "You'd have much better luck with most of them, especially when you're dressed like a teenager."

"Ugh," said Q, making a face. "No, thanks, I'll stick to computers and sex I'd actually want to have."

Bond's face got that smug look back that sometimes made Q want to kiss him, and sometimes kick him. "And is that your 'particular interest' in me?"

Q laughed. "I have more than one particular interest in you, including kicking your arse at Mario Kart," he prevaricated, tone flirty and teasing. "What are we having besides bacon, anyway?"

"Eggs, croissant, fruit salad, and fresh juice," said Bond. "Plus the requisite caffeine, of course."

"Very healthy," said Q, sitting back down more carefully now that he had his precious tea and then burying his face in the cup.

"You need more nutrition in your life," said Bond, unperturbed. "Eggs over easy, right?"

"Yes, ta," said Q.

Bond removed the now-done bacon onto some paper towels and drained off the fat into the same cup as yesterday's, and then started in on the eggs. They went quiet as Bond finished up, just enjoying the morning together, and soon enough there was a plate in front of Q piled with food, followed by a chilled dish of fruit salad, and a glass of fresh orange juice.

"Finish that, I'll make you another cup before I sit," said Bond, who had already started the machine burbling for a second cappuccino for himself.

Q downed the last few swallows and handed his mug over, picking up one of the flaky croissants and making a very pleased noise. "Pain au chocolat!" He bit into it with a great deal of enthusiasm and mmmed. "You didn't tell me you got me chocolate."

"I know the way to your heart," said Bond smugly, giving Q his cup and sitting down to his own substantial breakfast. Bond's plate had two regular croissant and one chocolate, where Q had two chocolate and one plain. "And no, I won't tell you where I got them, I need some secrets."

Q didn't even bother to protest; Bond would bribe him with them when it was needful, or tell Colin to do it. Besides, his mouth was full of glorious, flaky, buttery pastry with just the right amount of darkly sweet chocolate.

After that they mostly talked about the food, Q dipping the plain croissant into his egg yolks just to be childish and Bond ignoring it in favour of consuming a truly appalling amount of bacon. They ate every crumb and loaded up the dishwasher, and it took all of Q's willpower not to shove Bond against the counter and kiss him. Patience might be a virtue, but Q was feeling more and more inclined toward sin the longer Bond was in his flat.

"So, showers, movie, or Mario Kart?" said Q, closing the dishwasher with a click. It was basically full enough to run, but he wanted to wait until they'd showered so it wasn't competing with them for hot water.

Bond leaned against the counter, looking confident and flirtatious as his eyes raked up and down Q's body, from his unfortunate bedhead to his fluffy hedgehog slippers. "Are we showering alone?"

"Argh!" Q rolled his eyes and stomped off. "I have not had enough tea for this shit." He grabbed clean towels and threw himself into a long, hot shower with a long, hot wank in the middle of it, and emerged pink and clean and feeling considerably less frustrated. "Your turn."

Bond paused next to Q, who was wearing nothing but a towel and a slightly sheepish expression. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't flirt unless I'm ready to follow through."

Q snorted. "You'd follow through," he said, kissing Bond's cheek affectionately. "You just might not respect either of us in the morning yet."

Bond laughed with him, and the rest of the tension dissipated. "As always, Quartermaster, your assessment is accurate." He slipped into the bathroom and closed the door while Q was still trying to parse the compliment.

Q shrugged and took himself to his room to change back into his slouchy jeans and a t-shirt from some long-forgotten tech conference, plus his wonderful cardigan and, defiantly, fuzzy slippers. He shuffled back out to find himself graced with the sight of Bond's naked arse as he stepped into clean pants. "Thank you for sharing," said Q, leaning against the wall and watching openly.

Bond chuckled, but sadly didn't do anything so entertaining as fall over. "Like what you see?" he said, pulling them up before he turned around to show off the rest of him, minus the parts now covered.

"You know you're gorgeous," said Q. "Stop fishing. Cappuccino, tea, or something else?"

Bond chuckled wryly, looking pleased as he slipped into his own, much nicer-fitting, pair of jeans. "I'd say a mimosa, but I don't want to get you drunk again, so tea would be lovely, and some more juice?"

"Tea and juice, and I'll see if I have something other than popcorn to nibble on," said Q. He was pretty sure Bond had sacrificed all of their munching veg to the salad he'd made at lunch yesterday, but Q had a few other tricks in his kitchen.

He emerged to find Bond poking at the WiiU again, and they settled in to waste away a good hour trying out minigames and eating crisps.

"All right, I think I'm ready for another of those superhero movies," said Bond, standing and stretching. "Set it up?"

"Yeah," said Q fondly, watching Bond wander back to the bathroom. He cued up the next one in the list and then went to make another pot of tea and pull down the Battenberg cake he'd laid in.

Bond was settling back in when Q emerged with the tray, and he cut slices of cake while Q made his own trip to the loo. They snuggled up and watched The Avengers with an easy familiarity, with Q explaining about the changed actor for Bruce Banner, and the two of them making fun of the plot, though they both agreed that Loki was much more interesting of a villain here than in the last one with him in.

"All right," said Bond, watching the group eating shawarma after the end credits, "it's definitely time for lunch."

"Another of your takeaways, right? And out for dinner?" said Q, stretching luxuriously. "Do I have to change for any of it?"

"Yes, yes, and probably not," said Bond. "Those jeans don't flatter your arse the way they should, but I don't mind being the only one who knows that." He got up and started gathering his things, wallet and Q's keys and his own keys and phone, and then got shoes and socks. "All right, I'll be half an hour maybe."

"I can manage myself alone for that long," said Q, amused. "Bring back sugar."

"For your tea?" asked Bond, eyebrow going up.

Q laughed. "No, no, I've plenty of that. For pudding."

"That goes without saying," said Bond. He kissed Q's hair and ruffled it further, then grabbed his coat and headed on out.

Q took the opportunity to do another load of laundry and generally pick up, inventorying their remaining food and deciding it would do for today and breakfast in the morning, since Bond had provided them with extra bacon, eggs, and milk.

Lunch turned out to be exquisite curries and Tandoori, with a variety of naan breads, side dishes, and a plethora of Indian sweets. Q loved it all and rewarded Bond with the third Iron Man movie and Q's secret formula for a bitter chocolate mocha, high in real cocoa and low in sugar, with just the right amount of frothed milk. The afternoon got them through three movies total, and more coffee than was probably wise, so that Q was practically vibrating with excitement by the time they were dressed and ready to go out for dinner.

"No hints?" asked Q on the way down to the car.

"For the fifth time, no," said Bond, but he was far more amused than exasperated. "You're so much worse on coffee."

Q kissed his cheek. "You encouraged me." He skipped over to Bond's car and slid into the passenger seat, buckling up with a grin. "You like it."

"I'm not going to dignify that with a response," said Bond dryly, buckling up himself. He put the car into gear and took them out into the London evening. The rain had finally let up, and the city had a washed-clean look that softened the edges and made it all seem lovelier. Bond drove them out of Q's usual haunts and into a neighbourhood Q didn't recognise. Bond entrusted his car to a valet and led Q into a dimly-lit restaurant with simple, elegant decor that didn't so much scream posh as state it quietly but firmly at every possible turn.

"I really don't feel that jeans were the right choice here," said Q crossly, once they were comfortably seated.

Bond chuckled. "Look at the people, we're not the only ones," he said, nodding to a couple a few tables over in equally casual dress. "Fifty years ago people dressed up to come here, but these days they care about their presentation, not ours."

"If you say so," said Q dubiously.

A waiter came up, smartly dressed in black trousers, a white shirt with rolled-up sleeves, black waistcoat and tie, and a long white apron. "Mr. Bond, it's good to see you again."

"Tomas, how's the writing going?" asked Bond, looking genuinely interested.

Tomas blushed, which Q found both adorable and jealousy-provoking, much to his own irritation. "I finished the first draft, I'm letting it sit before I try to start editing, and then I'll work on queries once the second draft is done," he said. "You'll get your signed copy someday."

"That's good to hear," said Bond. "This is my friend Quentin, he's a programmer. He's been catching me up on some of what you kids today like, so I'm taking him out as thanks."

"Nice to meet you," said Q, shaking Tomas' hand and smiling with as much sincerity as he could muster. "I've been providing the trashy entertainment for the masses while James feeds us."

"Well, I'll make sure chef knows you're trying to impress someone," said Tomas. "Do you want to order something specific, or let her surprise you?"

"Oh, might as well continue the tradition with surprises," said Q, before Bond could answer.

Bond laughed. "Smart man," he said, handing Tomas his menu. "If she's not too busy, otherwise we'll be happy to order off the menu like normal mortals."

"She'll make you pay, but she likes it when you come in," said Tomas. "And doing it up for two will help."

"Not too much to drink, though, please," said Q, handing off his own menu. "I'm a lightweight."

"He wobbles after a big glass of wine," said Bond with a wink. "It's adorable."

"Bite me," said Q.

"Later," teased Bond.

Tomas laughed and gave Q a wink, turning to present them with a very nice arse before heading into the kitchen.

"Have you?" asked Q, eyebrow raised.

Bond cleared his throat. "Will you.."

"Be completely unsurprised if you have?" said Q with a wry little grin. "I would, if I was into that sort, he's pretty edible."

Bond relaxed. "I don't have conquests everywhere, but this place is too good not to bring you just because I've had a fling with the waiter."

"I'll find out soon enough," said Q, spreading his napkin over his lap as though the jeans would be in any way harmed by a spill. It gave him something to do with his hands, anyway.

"You'll like it," said Bond. "I've been paying attention."

Q chuckled and tried to relax. "I suppose you have," he said, reaching out one foot to tease it along Bond's. "I never got the hang of high society, though."

Bond snorted and rolled his eyes. "This is hardly-"

"Bond, there's at least two A-list celebrities in here," said Q, fingers tapping against the table. "And I'm pretty sure at least one crime boss."

"Ah, well, there is that," said Bond with a shrug. "They had room for us, though, and they like me and they'll like you."

"Well, at least no one will ask for my autograph," said Q teasingly. "Oh, thank you." Tomas was there with another waiter, pouring them lemon-scented water and bringing a pair of small apéritif cocktails, and a plate of tiny amuse-bouche.

"Chef is pleased you brought someone new, and wants to know if there's anything she should avoid," said Tomas with a grin.

Q shook his head. "I like pretty much everything, as long as it's good," he said.

"He doesn't like anything too fishy, he likes fish but not really strong things like anchovy," said Bond. At Q's expression, he added, "You made me eat most of the sardine paste croquettes."

"Oh, yeah, those were too fishy, you're right," said Q, nose wrinkling.

Tomas just smiled wider. "How long have you two been dating, anyway?" he asked, looking back and forth between them.

"Oh, we-" started Q.

"A few weeks, but we've been friends longer," interrupted Bond. "He's playing hard to get."

"Well, tonight should help," said Tomas, heading back toward the kitchen; his compatriot had already moved on, refilling water glasses as he went.

"Is this a date, then?" asked Q, eyebrow arched.

Bond chuckled. "Next time, I'll ask you on a proper date," said Bond, stroking his hand over Q's. "This weekend is too good just as it is."

"Yeah," said Q, feeling quite warm and melted inside. "It is, isn't it?"

Bond picked up his drink, and waited for Q to follow before clinking their glasses together. "To friendship."

"To the future," said Q. He sipped the drink curiously, finding it surprisingly bitter but delightfully complex. "Oh, this is interesting."

"Campari and vermouth," said Bond. "She likes to shock the palate to start off, get you interested."

"Well, let's hope none of these are too shocking," said Q, picking up one of the little paired bites and popping it in his mouth. Bond took the other and mmed, face full of open sensual pleasure as he ate. Q suspected he was wearing a similar expression; the morsel was delicious and equally surprising. Bleu cheese and pear were wrapped in a nutty little pastry, and flavours exploded on his tongue with tart, creamy, sweet, and savoury in turns.

"I take it from your face you approve?" said Bond, looking utterly smug.

Q took a sip of water and sighed. "Yeah, I approve. I admit it, you are just better at food."

"That's all right, you're better at every other domestic skill than I am," said Bond. "My place looks like it's out of a catalog, yours is a home."

"I still want to see it sometime," said Q. "Just for variety."

Bond nodded. "One of these days," he conceded. "I might have to, I dunno, buy a rug first or something."

"Berk," said Q fondly. He took another sip of the apéritif, and then went for the next amuse-bouche, this one a big ceramic spoon with a mouthful of attractively-garnished something in it. Whatever it was, it was delicious and savoury with a hint of faraway spices and a grounding of good English beef tea in the sauce. "Mmm, but you're my berk."

Bond laughed. "I suppose I am, either way," he said fondly, and then picked up and ate his own spoonful.

Q cleared his palate with another sip of the bright, lemony water, and then he drank the last of the bitter drink, finding it sweeter at the bottom. "You definitely are," said Q waiting for Bond to finish his before he used his fork to spear the last little bite, a stack of thin slices of something with herbs and sauce between the layers. It proved to be a mix of barely-brined cucumber and some sort of delightful sashimi, which was light and flavourful without being at all fishy. "We are coming here every time you survive a mission from now on, I declare it our new tradition. We can trade off paying."

Bond grinned. "I'll see if I can wrangle tables that often, I might have to put out for Tomas again."

Q gave a thoughtful look over to Tomas, and then to Bond. "Might be worth sharing you for this."

Bond snorted and rolled his eyes. "I'm not yours to share yet," he protested, but he couldn't stop grinning as he said it.

Q smiled back with his own measure of smugness. "Yet," he reiterated, taking another sip of water and letting out a happy sigh. He was still pretty hungry, but if all the food was this good, it would be worth the wait. His head was a little light from the drink, but it had been too small to have much of an effect even on him, which was proving unexpectedly delightful. "You'll let me catch you one of these days."

"Just as soon as you stop running," said Bond.

Tomas and the other waiter returned, one taking away the old plates while Tomas served them adorable miniature pumpkins full of soup. "She says to eat the pumpkin once the soup's gone and try not to make a mess," said Tomas, eyes twinkling. He turned to Q and added, "Bond's not the only one who I'd be happy to help with reservations," and then glided off before Q could manage a retort.

"Oh, I like him," said Q, watching his lovely arse as he retreated to the kitchen. "I can see why you gave him a go."

"I don't think I'm inclined to share, however," said Bond, looking surprisingly jealous. "Not when I've gone to such lengths to butter you up."

Q found he didn't mind being the person to get Bond's hackles up like that, though it might get old in other circumstances. "Well, hopefully you'll make your move before Tomas' services are required," he said primly.

"Eat your soup," said Bond dryly, gesturing to Q's plate.

Q laughed and chalked it up to a win, then tried his soup. He couldn't place all the flavours but there was definite a bright crispness that suggested apple, as well as a mix of winter spices. Despite being mostly pureed it wasn't creamy, and had been left just chunky enough to give it some texture on his palate. "Definitely coming back," said Q, stroking Bond's foot with his own again. "What do you think?"

Bond sighed happily as he ate his first bite. "Delicious," he said. "She's got a way with fresh ingredients."

"And has she also had her way with you?" asked Q, just a little archly. It was one thing to have a flirty waiter, but another to think that perhaps Bond had worked his way through half the staff before getting bored and moving on to Q-branch.

"No, no, I'm not her type," said Bond dismissively. "Just Tomas, and that was, well. He's hard to resist."

"I trust you'll be resisting harder in the future," said Q dryly, covering up his own unexpected jealousy with another bite of soup.

Bond, of course, picked up on it and looked pleased as punch. "I do believe I shall," he said. He glanced around and added, "You know work is..."

"Work is work, Bo- James. We both do what's needed, though mine involves a lot more repairing and yours a lot more breaking," said Q. They kept eating the soup between their banter, tossing quips back and forth and then scooping out the pumpkin's flesh once it was empty of soup.

Q hadn't had this much fun on a date in years.

There was a succession of small plates, a salad and a glass of crisp white wine to go with it, another plate of savouries followed by a palate-clearing ice, a fish course that had none of the fishiness Q hated, a fowl course where they each got half of a tiny squab, another strange palate cleanser of three-sip cocktails, and finally a trio of desserts, each more amazing than the last, along with a final digestif. Bond paid the bill without looking, though Q peeked when he wrote in the tip and felt every pound had been well-deserved.

"I feel like I'm glowing," said Q, as Bond led him out to the curb where the valet was just bringing his car around. "That was better than a lot of sex I've had."

"You need to have better sex," said Bond. The valet traded keys for tip and they got buckled in while Q contemplated his response.

"I think that's your job now, too," Q said, a little tentatively.

Bond's answering grin was blinding. "It will be," he said, reaching out to squeeze Q's hand.

"But not tonight," said Q with a chuckle. "I'm so full I could barely shuffle to the car."

Bond laughed and pulled out, heading toward Q's flat. "Not tonight, we're still working on the friends thing."

"I suppose we are... One last movie, then? No popcorn, though, I couldn't eat another bite." Q relaxed back into the welcoming contours of the bucket seat, letting Bond get them where they were going.

"Definitely, and I've got clothes for tomorrow, if I'm allowed to crash another night," agreed Bond, eyes on the road despite the huge grin still lingering on his face.

Q grinned back. "Yeah, you can drive us to work and then we'll confuse them all when we insist we haven't had sex."

They laughed together, warm and easy, and then fell into an equally comfortable silence. Bond parked like he'd been parking there for years and let Q lean on him in the elevator, then pushed him toward the bedroom when they got in. "It's pyjamas time, I'll make tea."

"Deal," said Q. He kissed the tip of Bond's nose, aware that he was in fact a little tipsy from the succession of drinks, and then made his way to the bedroom to put on his pyjamas and the cardigan that was starting to smell like Bond as much as Q from how much they'd been snuggled up while he was wearing it.

When he emerged, Bond had changed and was in the kitchen, so Q poked around through his movies to see if there was anything else he could show them for a break from the superhero films. "What sort of movie, farm boy?" called Q, scrolling through the names without really reading them.

"I can't really say, 'as you wish,' to that," replied Bond. "It doesn't fit."

Q giggled. "Something animated, maybe? Or I suppose we could do the first Lord of the Rings movie, you finished the first book, didn't you?"

"No, I want to do those in a weekend marathon sometime," said Bond. "You promised!"

Q found himself grinning just as widely as Bond had earlier. "I suppose I did. All right, something animated. Ooh, I know." He pulled up the list of Studio Ghibli films and poked through them, finally settling on Spirited Away. "Do you speak Japanese well enough to watch this with subtitles, or should I use the English dub?"

Bond set down the tea tray and got himself cuddled up next to Q before answering. "I've been speaking Japanese since you were in nappies," he said, taking the remote and starting the film. "I don't even need the subtitles."

"Well, I do," said Q, stealing it back to turn that track on. "I speak a little, but not well enough to watch a whole film without help."

"Well, I'm sure you speak more computer languages than I ever will," said Bond magnanimously.

Q hit him with a pillow.

The start of the film saved them from a full-out wrestling match, and Q busied himself with the tea while Bond settled in to watch. "This animation's beautiful, this isn't the usual style, is it?"

"No, Miyazaki-san has his own style, you can see the similarities, but he's in a class all his own," agreed Q, handing Bond his tea and then snuggling up with his own. "His films are beautiful, we'll have to watch them all eventually."

"Hopefully," said Bond, kissing Q's hair, "we'll have time."

They arrived at MI6 together in Bond's car, and met up with 002 again in the car park. "You're getting awfully friendly with our Quartermaster, Bond," he said, eyes narrowing.

"That happens when one has friends," said Q tartly. "Perhaps you should try it sometime."

002 winced. "That wasn't what I..."

"If you weren't such an arse about it every time we saw you, I wouldn't have to defend myself against your sleazy implications," said Q, completely unrepentant despite his comments clearly having hit home. "Even if James and I were to be doing anything like what you're implying, I can guarantee you it wouldn't be the way you're thinking. James is not a whore, nor am I interested in someone prostituting himself for tech."

002 had gone absolutely pale, and Q had a feeling their little confrontation had gained some extra audience.

"Do we have a problem here?" asked M's familiar voice.

"No, sir," said Q and 002 in unison.

Bond smirked. "Q's doing just fine defending my honour," he said.

"And just why are you arriving with him this morning?" asked M, looking from one to the other.

"We're friends," said Q again. "Bond offered to spare me the Tube since he's in town."

"A little bird tells me he's also been feeding up you and your starveling staff, an admirable goal," said M, though the suspicion didn't leave his eyes. "I trust if anything changes, you'll file the proper forms with HR."

Q blushed scarlet. "When have I ever avoided paperwork?" he said flippantly.

Bond coughed, the bastard.

"Speaking of which," said M, "I've got a few After Action Reports I'd like to go over with you. Can your department spare you a bit longer?"

"I'll send Bond down with my regrets," said Q dryly.

Bond pulled out his keys. "I'll get pastries, they always like me better when I bring food. And yes, I'll bring you a box, too." His voice held his usual cheeky charm right until the end, when a warmth crept in that made Q wince inwardly. 002 had already retreated, but M was sure to have heard it.

"Do," said Q. He turned to their boss and tried not to look quite so much like he was dreading whatever was to come. "Shall we?"

"I'll have Moneypenny bring in a pot of tea," said M, gesturing him into the elevator. "I can see we have plenty to talk about."

Q heard Bond's engine start up as the doors closed, and he vowed revenge.

Three hours, two pots of inadequate tea, and a stern lecture about the fickle hearts of field agents later, Q stormed into his branch on a wave of irritation that made his minions cringe. "Where is that vexaitious bastard?"

"He, uh, M called him upstairs just now," said Colin. "I'll just, um, tea. You need tea, and there's a whole box of pastries for you."

"There had bloody well better be," muttered Q. He started up his morning routine, late and broken now that he'd spent all his work momentum and good mood on M. After making sure that there was nothing that couldn't wait, he spent a few minutes making sure that 007 would think twice before getting him in trouble again.

By the time he'd finished his first cup of tea and half the pastries he was feeling better, vengeance in motion and work email wrangled to more manageable proportions. When Bond showed up with lunch, Q didn't even bother to protest. "I take it you got a lecture, too?"

"And a mission," said Bond, his unrepentant grin banishing any lingering guilt Q might have had over his morning's work. "I'll be needing the usual, after we eat."

He'd brought enough for the two of them and Colin, who he motioned over. "S-sir? Did you want, um, coffee?"

"We could both use tea, and I'd like you to join us for lunch," said Bond. "I have a request to make and secrets to impart."

Q laughed. "I suppose you did promise," he said, opening the containers to see what Bond had magicked up for them this time. Bond was a master at judging Q's tastes, and the smell of Moroccan food made Q's mouth water. There was couscous, a tagine heavy on the lamb, some sort of chicken and vegetable dish, and a meat-filled bestilla, plus a big container of bread.

"Oh, wow," said Colin, returning with a tray bearing three cups of tea, plates, silverware, and a big handful of napkins. "Are you sure you want me to share?"

"We're sure," said Q warmly, and they rearranged his desk to make room for the three of them. "Bond has a task for you."

"I want you to make sure Q gets lunch every day," said Bond. "I'm going to give you my list of places that will do takeaway that Q likes, and Q's going to set up a fund of some sort to feed the both of you."

"Oh! That's brilliant, sir," said Colin, lighting up. "Q never wants to stop for food, but he always eats what you bring."

Q chuckled. "We'll work out some sort of petty cash system," he said, accepting the plate that Bond handed him with servings of everything. "I'll pay for both of us, since you're doing the legwork and I make more."

Bond chuckled. "He lets me pay because danger bonuses do add up once you've been killed once or twice." He was filling a second plate, and nodded to Colin to serve himself. "Perhaps I'll slip you something for those days he needs extra treats."

Colin looked flustered. "You don't have to feed me, I do quite well now that I'm in Q-branch."

"Nonsense," said Q. "If you're going to go traipsing hither and yon after things I'll eat, it's the least I can do." Q took a bite of the lamb and made an embarrassing sound of pure pleasure as it melted in his mouth, tender and subtle and amazing.

"And if he wouldn't, I would," said Bond, before Colin could object again. "You're quite popular among the Double-Ohs now that you've learned your paperwork, you know."

Colin ducked his head and blushed rather pink. "I, um, thank you." He dug into his own food, starting with the meat-filled pastry and making his own rather obscene noise. "Oh, wow."

"I'll put this place on the list, though it's a bit far," said Bond. "They have sweets."

"Where?" said Q, craning his neck.

Everyone in the branch laughed, and Q harrumphed, though he couldn't hold back a grin.

"Eat your lunch and I'll show you what else I brought," said Bond with a nudge. "I think you'll like it."

Q humphed, but it was all for show. Everything was delicious, and he welcomed the chance to ease back into work, not to mention letting Colin feel appreciated for everything he'd done.

"Have you had any more problems with 002?" asked Bond, once they'd all eaten a good portion of their meal.

Ears perked up all over Q-branch, and Q rolled his eyes. "No, he's staying away since I gave him that flaying in the car park," he said. "I trust he'll rethink his stance on our friendship."

"Still just a friendship?" said Divya, coming over to steal a bit of bread.

"Still a friendship," corrected Bond, which made Q smile fondly until he schooled his expression.

Q sniffed at her. "You shouldn't label any relationship 'just' to the people in it."

Divya laughed. "You liiiiike him," she said instead, drawing the word out in singsong like a child.

Q sniffed again and ate his food, not deigning to give an answer, though his eyes were twinkling with mischief.

"Of course he likes me," said Bond. "I bring him sweets, and I taught his assistant how to make tea properly."

"Bond has all the gold stars," said Q serenely, just loud enough to be heard by the two Double-Ohs that were lurking what they thought was out of sight. "You, 002, have negative gold stars, while 003 has a few."

"Wait, wait, is there a chart?" said 003, coming around with a grin. "I want to see the chart."

True to form, the minions had a chart, which Q hadn't even known about. A few keystrokes and there was a list of all 9 Double-Ohs, with gold stars beside their names. Most of them had between zero and three, where Bond had over a dozen, and 002 had half a dozen skulls on the other side of his name, putting him deeply in the negative. "Hm, did you put in this morning's idiocy?" asked Q. "002 got me lectured by M."

"We gave him two skulls," said Divya with a rather vicious grin. "Three more and he'll be getting squirt guns and sellotape on his missions."

Q nodded. "Good job, then, keep it up," he said, and then he triumphantly stuffed the last of his food into his mouth, random chunks of meat wrapped up in rather more bread than he probably ought to have eaten in one bite.

Bond laughed. "Yes, all right, sweets," he said. "You're incorrigible." Another of the minions came up with a bag, from which Bond removed two more clear plastic takeaway boxes, each filled with some sort of honey-soaked delicacy. "Briouats," he said, hefting the box of triangles, "and chebakia." He hefted the other box, which seemed to be deep-fried bits of dough covered in honey and sesame seeds. "I am assured they are both properly Moroccan and were made by someone old enough to be my grandmother, let alone yours."

"Give him another star," said Divya with a grin. "I don't suppose you brought enough to share?"

"Of course I did," said Bond, gesturing to where several more minions were pulling out the bags he'd sneakily stashed with them. "Q likes me better when I treat his staff well."

"I just bet he does," said 003 with a leer. "Or he will, once he realises how good you are at handling his staff."

Bond leered back. "Q understands the importance of my skillset."

"And has not yet made use of all of it, nor am I guaranteed to," said Q tartly. "More tea?"

Colin started to set down his lunch and go, but Bond waved him off and gathered their cups. "Splash of milk, right?" he asked Colin, who nodded, eyes wide.

"So, is this all right with you?" asked Q more quietly, once Bond was safely out of earshot. "It'll take time out of your work day."

"Of course it's all right," said Colin, eyes rolling and more on an even keel now that Bond was out of sight. "Maintaining you is one of my responsibilities, M put it in my job description."

Q huffed a laugh. "Arse," he said. "All right, well, I'll set up a cash reserve for you and if you need to run over, just ask me for more. Or hit Bond up."

"You," said Colin. "You're differently scary than a Double-Oh."

"Us?" said 003 with a mock pout that looked ridiculous on his ruggedly handsome face. "We're teddy bears."

"Teddy bears with licenses to kill," said Q. "But they know I would rain down vengeance in the most annoying of ways if they were to mess with my assistant."

"You supply the tea," said 002, for once showing some native intelligence. "The supplier of tea is sacred."

"So," said 003, "how does one get new gold stars?"

"Feeding him," said several people at once, including Bond, who had returned bearing three refilled cups of the good tea.

Q looked smug, opening his boxes of sweets and magnanimously allowing Colin and Bond to have some, though only after he'd made a small pile of honeyed treats for himself. "I know there's a whole theory of my culinary preferences going around the department now," he said, picking up a crispy curl of chebakia. "You're Double-Ohs. Figure it out for yourselves."

003 laughed. "All right, I will."

Q ignored this in favour of trying the sweet, which proved to be flavoured mostly of sesame and orange flower, and absolutely delicious. "Are you here for a reason?" he asked.

"We're being sent out and need kit," said 002, looking rather envious about the sweets everyone was eating. "M sent us down to make sure you were actually willing to issue me weapons."

Q ate another chebakia and considered this. "I will, though if he's sent you on another tech mission I am going to destroy his credit rating."

"That would be me," said 003, with a little wave. "He said you might need an extra day, so I decided to make sure you didn't murder this one." He poked 002 in the side.

Q decided to try a briouat, which proved to be phyllo dough filled with cinnamon, marzipan, and almonds, and drenched in more orange flower honey. He sighed with pleasure and then nodded. "All right, once I've had my treat I'll look at everyone's mission briefings and put together proper kits."

Bond perked up, and Q laughed. "No exploding pens," said Q, eating the other half of his briouat. "Mm, not even for these."

"Next time, perhaps," said Bond with a grin, eating a sweet of his own.

Colin had evidently decided to practice discretion, and was eating slowly and quietly. Q was amused to see that he made an effort to have his mouth occupied with either food or tea at every possible moment so he couldn't be called upon to give an opinion on anything but lunch.

"Exploding pens are so last millennium," Q shot back with a smirk. "Go on, off with you. Be glad that you haven't destroyed anything this time, and I don't have to pull another all-nighter building your guns."

"Thanks, Q," said 002, looking sheepish now that he'd watched Bond and Q interact somewhere other than the car park. "Sorry I was an arse earlier."

"Apology accepted, now go away," said Q, sipping his tea before choosing another chebakia. They really were addictive little things.

"Your wish is our command," said 003, and they left talking about what kind of food offerings would please their Quartermaster as though he was an angry god that needed to be appeased.

Q smirked after them. "All right, you can take off one skull for the apology, but only one," Q announced. "He has to earn the rest back."

It took a moment, as everyone else was also stuffing themselves on honey-coated treats, but the chart came back up and one skull vanished, leaving 002 with 5 of them to work off. "Also, feel free to circulate misleading rumours that benefit yourselves, it'll be good for them to have to do some actual spy work for once."

That was met with general approval, and the mood in Q-branch was quite convivial by the time Q had had his fill of sweets. Bond produced wipes for all of them, and Colin took the tray of goodies away, returning with fresh cups of tea while Q pulled up the data on all three missions with clean, lemon-scented fingers. Bond faded into the background while Q started giving orders, letting his minions gather up the various parts and assemble the trays for Q to inspect.

Q produced Bond's tablet from his own things as though it had never left the building, and busied himself updating it and adding a few extra surprises while they did that, and by the time Bond needed to leave to pack and make his flight, everyone's things were done except for 003, who wouldn't leave until tomorrow.

"Make sure you eat dinner?" asked Bond, tucking his various toys into his clothing.

Q smiled fondly. "I will, make sure you don't get killed."

"I will, or is that won't?" said Bond with a laugh. "I have to come back alive, or I won't get to see the next movie."

"Very true," said Q. He'd slipped a handwritten note in with Bond's flight and identity paperwork, and was trying not to be nervous about its reception, since he'd gone and used the word 'date' as it related to his next outing with Bond.

"I'll write," said Bond with a wink, and then he was off and Q felt a bit bereft.

Divya walked over with a bit of a swagger and a huge grin. "So, still friends, but maybe more soon?"

Q laughed. "Yes, all right, still friends but maybe more soon," he admitted. "I've known for a while what was up, though, so if there's a pool about the timing then I have won it by default."

There was no protest at that, though a few items did change hands that were clearly involved in the betting pool, and Bond's intentions chart was brought up and amended. Q saw that a long-term relationship based on friendship had actually been on the chart, but considered an outlier, and Colin was going to win quite a tidy sum for having bet on it.

"When did you figure it out?" Q asked Colin.

Colin grinned. "The day he snuck me directions about your tea," he said. "He could've held that for leverage, but instead he used it to help us both."

Q laughed wryly. "Clever boy."

Colin looked very pleased with himself. "I know."

Q-branch and the various missions ran as smoothly as could be expected, and as the week passed Q nearly forgot about the little prank he'd pulled on Bond. That was, until he found a piece of paper slapped down over his keyboard, causing several typos in the code he'd been working on.

"That is not actually my middle name, you know," said Bond, pointing to where it said, "Pay to the Order Of: James Fucking Bond."

Q smirked. "You could have fooled me," he said innocently. "I'm sure HR will be happy to correct it and re-issue your cheque. I'm sure I have your real middle name around here somewhere. What was it again?"

"Don't you dare," said Bond dangerously. "You don't want to start this war."

"You're the one who got me a two-hour lecture from M about the unreliability of certain sorts of men," said Q blandly. "You deserve it."

Bond stopped, and then laughed, much to Q's relief. "All right, yeah, I might at that. But this is it, right?"

"That's it," said Q, giving him an amused look. "Until next time."

Bond grabbed the cheque and replaced it with a bag of homemade-looking sweets, each individually wrapped in a twist of waxed paper that obscured whatever was inside. "Perhaps I'll frame it."

Q laughed, despite the extra line of gibberish that had been added to his poor code. "If you do that, HR will never re-release the payment to you," he said, "not that you care."

"I care a little," said Bond, turning to leave. "How can I spoil my Quartermaster properly without my bonus cheques?"

"I'm certain you'll figure something out," called Q after his retreating figure. When he turned back, Divya had pulled up the chart with the agents' gold stars, and Colin was already on his way over with a fresh cup of tea.

"Does this earn him another?" she asked, fingers hovering over the mouse.

"I don't know," said Q, opening the bag and pulling out one of the mystery sweets with a wicked grin. "Let me try them first."

Near the end of their shift that Friday night, Colin produced a cream-coloured envelope with just one letter on the front in familiar handwriting -- Q. "He told me to give it to you only if it looked like you could get off work on time."

"So he's given in and started to involve the lot of you, then?" said Q, glancing around the room.

Divya grinned. "Mostly just Colin, but yes," she said. "He has bribed us all with lunch twice this week."

"Plus those danishes the other morning," said Rayan. "Those were amazing."

Q snorted. "So you approve of me dating a licensed killer because he feeds you?"

The murmurs of general approval through the department were somehow comforting. If Bond had won over the department even after the amount of tech he'd destroyed, then that said something for him. Though, given the levels of charm he used for his work, Q wasn't sure just what it said.

Q opened the envelope and pulled out the card inside, which had a golden silhouette of a stag embossed on the front.


There's a suit in your locker in the gym, please change. I'll be at Q-branch to retrieve you at 5:30 on the dot, we don't want to be late for our reservations.

Your place or mine for afters?


Q couldn't help but smile, and he set the card aside. "Right, well, consider me on emergency only all weekend," he announced to the room. "I'll text if I require Monday to recover."

Laughter, jokes, and teasing bounced around the room while Q shut down his systems and he and Colin made sure there was no paperwork that couldn't wait. Q took one more moment to be sure everything was battened down for the weekend and headed down to the gym. His locker smelled suspiciously fresh and masculine, and sure enough there was a tiny bottle of cologne at the top and everything but the suit in question had been absconded with. Q inhaled again and smiled, conceding at least mentally that Bond knew what he liked and had chosen well.

Q double-checked that there was a full kit there for him and then stripped completely, slipping into the form-fitting boxer-briefs first and then giving himself a very light spray of the cologne to one wrist, rubbing them together and then over his throat and chest while trying not to feel like too much of an idiot. Next came the shirt, which fit as if tailored for him, neither binding nor bagging. Trousers after, a very fine wool in a dark blue with hints of green in its depths that Q suspected would look very good on him. There were proper braces rather than a belt, though Bond had thankfully forgone the waistcoat, and Q spent a moment fiddling with everything until it all hung properly on his lanky frame.

The jacket matched the trousers, but the tie was a rich gold silk that seemed to have green in its depths like a cat's eyes. Socks, shiny new shoes, and even a pocket square were provided to complete the look, and Q laughed to see a small overnight bag at the very back of the locker, empty but for a bag in which he could place his shoes. Q packed up and headed back upstairs, bracing himself for whatever reaction his minions might have.

Not a single one of them had left, of course; their normally dowdy Quartermaster done up by the most fashionable of the Double-Oh division was not to be missed.

Q was prepared for teasing, silence, catcalls, or whistles. He hadn't braced himself for applause.

"Oh, do shut it," said Q tetchily, stopping when he spotted a small stack of gift boxes on his desk. "He's here, then?"

"I'm here," said Bond in his ear, one arm going around Q's waist to keep him from starting too obviously. "I was right, the cologne suits you. I'll get you a proper bottle for Christmas."

"I should think you've about covered Christmas and birthdays for a decade with this," said Q, gesturing to his new kit.

"Oh, no," said Bond with a smirk. "This was for me." He led Q over to the desk. "These are for you."

Q gave Bond a suspicious look and opened the top box, finding a pair of elegant opal cufflinks, the stones flashing blue, gold, and green against their silver setting. "I see," said Q, holding out his arm. "I had a hard enough time with the button ones, you're doing these."

"Gladly," said Bond, his look saying volumes about how happy he would be to undo them later. His fingers were sensual but not overly lingering as he removed the simple paired buttons that had no doubt come with the shirt and replaced them with his gifts. "Shall I do this, too?" asked Bond, gesturing to the second box.

Q opened it to find a matching tie pin. "Obviously, if you want it to be correctly placed." He was pleased that none of the items were ostentatious; although the gems and settings were beautiful, they were subtly designed and modest in size. Bond dithered over the tie pin long enough Q worried they were going to have their first kiss right there in front of Q-branch. His heart pounded and he licked his lips, but Bond only stepped back again with a grin.

"Last one?" asked Q, putting his fingers on the final box.

Bond nodded, and Q opened it carefully. Instead of a watch as Q had half suspected, it contained a single chocolate nestled in a paper cup, obviously handmade by some very high-end chocolatier. "To whet your appetite," said Bond, picking it up and offering it to Q's mouth.

Q felt his cheeks heating, but he opened his mouth and ate the bite-sized morsel. The chocolate coating was rich and dark with just enough creaminess to it to bring out the subtle flavours of very fine chocolate, and the smudge of powder on one corner held an intriguing perfume of smoke and vanilla. He bit into it and found the filling was a praline with more of that lush smokey flavour, time with cinnamon adding depth to the sugary hazelnuts. He may have possibly made a noise best saved for the bedroom as he slowly savoured the morsel, feeling completely bereft when he finally had to swallow it.

Bond was grinning triumphantly. "Good?" he asked, though it was obvious he'd already figured out the answer.

"Two stars at least," said Q, "but these aren't for your MI6 chart." He winked over at Divya and then hooked his arm through Bond's, leaving his desk strewn with boxes in favour of getting Bond somewhere he could kiss him thoroughly. "Shall we?"

"Let's," said Bond with a smirk, picking up Q's bag and leading the way with another smattering of applause from the minions chasing them to the elevator.

As soon as the doors closed, Q pushed Bond against the elevator wall and kissed him. Bond's mouth tasted smokey, too, but it was the depth of whisky rather than the sweetness of the chocolate, and the flavours mingled wonderfully. Q stopped caring about taste once Bond took control of the kiss, strong hands pulling their bodies together while Bond's tongue danced with his, their lips sliding together in an erotic tease.

The kiss broke, leaving them both breathless. "Had a drink for courage, did we?" asked Q, turning to push the button for the car park.

"I found myself unaccountably nervous about everything," said Bond, pulling Q in for another, softer kiss. "I'm not used to having so much to lose."

"Nonsense, half the women you seduce are trying to kill you," said Q.

Bond kissed him again. "But losing you would make the rest of living miserable." He whispered the words like a confession against Q's mouth, and Q breathed them in.

"You won't lose me, James," he whispered back. "I'm already your friend."

The door opened on another kiss, and they laughed away the moment as they stumbled out and straightened themselves before getting into Bond's car and heading out. Q made a nuisance of himself, toying with Bond's fingers on the stick shift, spreading his thighs, squirming in his seat, and generally doing everything he could to keep Bond's mind firmly on the fact that they were on a date at the end of which Q expected sex.

"You're not making it easy to concentrate on driving to the restaurant," purred Bond. "These reservations weren't easy to get, you know."

"Best not be late, then," teased Q. "I want to linger over all of my treats tonight."

Bond laughed. "And here I was worried you wouldn't want to fall right into bed."

"I've found the lack of sex the most vexing part of our relationship so far, barring the guns you throw away as though they're an empty sweet wrapper," said Q. "It's not that I don't value the rest of it, but you're not only handsome but quite literally a world-famous lover."

Bond's laugh grew louder. "I suppose that's true, and here I've been playing the maiden."

"More the tease, I'd say," said Q with a chuckle of his own. "But honestly, I didn't mind. Don't mind. I just, you know, this is a date and I'd like something besides teasing now, please?"

Bond tangled his fingers with Q's briefly, squeezing his hand. "Of course, love."

Q squeezed back, then let himself relax, laying his hand over Bond's on the stick shift and not bothering to tease further. "I'm actually really glad we did the other bits first, you know. It wouldn't have occurred to me to try, if we hadn't."

Bond nodded, face serious. "You're worth the effort. And the wait."

"As are you, James," replied Q, squeezing his hand. They fell into a warm, comfortable silence for the rest of the ride, pulling up in front of Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester.

Q looked from Bond to the approaching valet and said, "We're getting extra dessert, right?"

Bond laughed and kissed him. "Anything you like, love," he promised, getting out and arranging for his car to be cared for by the valet. Q got out and straightened the suit, hoping he hadn't crumpled it too much in the car. Bond came around and straightened his tie, claiming another kiss before leading him inside, his hand warm on the small of Q's back.

"Mr. Bond, prompt as always," said the maitre d', leading them to a table off to the right of the entryway, near the edge of the room. They were seated side by side at an oval table set with exquisite tableware, beautifully cut crystal and china clearly a cut above what everyone else was eating from.

"The menu is arranged, but my companion has expressed interest in tasting the entire range of your dessert menu, if you could take care of it?" said Bond.

The maitre d' smiled warmly. "Of course, Mr. Bond, it shall be done." He stepped away and a glittering curtain descended, beautiful fiber optics that shielded them from the rest of the restaurant.

"Oh, wow," said Q, a huge grin on his face. "You really did, wow."

"You're worth every favour I had to call in," said Bond, giving Q a very warm kiss. "I see so much luxury for work I sometimes forget to appreciate the opportunities afforded by my position."

"Me, too, but... Wow." Q kissed him soundly. "This beats my weekend idea all to hell."

"Hush, your weekend was perfect," said Bond. "It was nice being practically normal for a few days."

They were interrupted when the curtains parted and a trio of waiters arrived, bearing their first course, a bottle of wine, and a pitcher of water, respectively. There were more beautiful plates, these with food on them, and everything was exquisite from start to finish. They talked mostly about the food, feeding each other choice bites and kissing enough to make even Q feel spoiled by the affection. Each course showcased a different facet of the amazing earthy flavour of black truffle, from the delicate lobster to the exquisitely tender chicken, delightful potatoes and hand-dived sea scallops.

At the end, there was one of every dessert and a whole array of little bite-sized sweets to share between them, and Bond paid the exorbitant bill with a very generous tip and not a single concern for the final figure. "Now that I've stuffed you full of rich French food and delightful desserts, let me take you to my flat and get that lovely suit off you."

Q laughed and kissed him again, a little drunk on the wine but mostly on the company, and the amazing experience of eating in a glittering cocoon of glass and light. "I can't believe you did this, it's like a fairy tale," said Q, letting Bond coax him standing as the curtain rose around them, revealing them to the room, and the room to them. "Or a chick flick."

Bond laughed. "Well, I won't do this for every date, but I wanted to do something special for this one," he said, guiding Q to the door deftly, ignoring and avoiding all the curious eyes. "I'm owed no more favours here, at any rate, so it'll have to be a different spectacular idea next time I'm due to impress you."

Bond's car was already pulled up when they got outside, and he tipped the valet after tucking Q into the passenger seat, then came around to buckle himself in.

"So," asked Q as they drove toward Bond's flat, "how did you get us in there, anyway?"

"That would be telling," said Bond with a chuckle. "Someone owed me a favour, and now they don't."

"I suppose that's fair," said Q. He sighed and shifted. "It's not too far, is it?"

"Not too far," Bond assured him, but the car sped up subtly, as though Q's impatience had finally reached Bond as well. "You don't mind going to mine?"

"It'll be a good change of pace," said Q. "Besides, I haven't changed my sheets in ages."

"I washed an extra set for us," said Bond, looking smug.

"You're making the bed after you wear me out, then," replied Q. "You might as well, you've done all the rest of the work so far."

"You like the suit," said Bond, trying to sound confident and mostly succeeding. "And the opals."

"I love all of it, James, and I'm very much looking forward to a big finish or two."

"Only two?" said James teasingly. "I thought I was the older man here."

Q snorted. "That really depends on how inspired I am, doesn't it?" he shot back.

They took the next corner rather faster than was usually advisable. "I'll show you inspired," said Bond, his voice almost a growl. "I'll inspire you until you've not got another drop in you."

A sudden rush of desire made Q's body tighten, but Bond pulled into the car park at a very posh, new set of flats, which gave Q a moment to gather himself before he responded. "Will you, now?" he said, unbuckling his seatbelt once the car was off.

Bond gave a little growl. "Don't make me have you here," he said, freeing himself from his seatbelt so he could lean across and kiss Q thoroughly. "I want to savour you, you little tease."

"I'm not the one who sent mystery letters," protested Q. "And you're the one who didn't take advantage after that first dinner out."

Bond grinned and kissed his nose. "I suppose I am," he said, and then he turned and got out. Q flopped back in his seat, but he didn't have long to compose himself before Bond was at the door, opening it and helping Q out. "Come upstairs?"

Q smiled and kissed the slightly hesitant look out of Bond's eyes. "I thought you'd never ask," he said, hooking his arm through Bond's. They necked in the elevator like teenagers and were let out on the top floor.

"There's not much furniture," said Bond, breaking away to unlock one of only two doors in the small hallway, "but the view is amazing."

Inside, the flat was spacious and modern, with a wide leather couch facing the floor-to-ceiling windows that made up one wall of the living room. They shed shoes and jackets into a discreet closet by the door, and then Bond pressed Q against the wall for a hungry kiss. The flat was sparsely decorated, a bit of liquor and a few glasses at the built-in bar, a familiar ugly china dog on the mantel, but mostly open space and the glittering London skyline laid out below them.

"It's a great view, but I'd rather see you naked," said Q shamelessly.

Bond let out a little growl and kissed him again, then tugged him back to a bedroom just as huge and bare as the living room had been. There was a big, modern bed in the middle with one table beside it, and the open closet door gave a glimpse of a row of bespoke suits and perfectly-shined shoes. On the bedside table, Bond had laid out lube, condoms, wipes, and even a bottle of water, which made Q want to kiss him even more. "Have you brought anyone here before?" he asked curiously.

Bond shook his head. "Hotels, if I bother with that sort of thing in London. Or their place, but mostly the kind of, well. Hotels. Nice ones."

Q kissed him again. "Thank you for bringing me into your home, James." He longed to see the place filled with all the personality Bond kept hidden behind his smooth, cultivated charm, but that would be for later. "I'm glad we're here for tonight."

Bond smiled back, looking almost shy. "I'm glad, too," he said, and then he grinned. "I'll be even happier once you're naked, though."

"Like you haven't seen it before," said Q, though he knew it wasn't the same. He longed to see Bond nude here, for him, wanting him, and could only imagine Bond had the same sharp desire. Q stepped back and started with the tie pin and cufflinks, winking at Bond as he looked around for somewhere to set them.

"In here," said Bond, pushing the closet door fully open and leading Q into the luxurious walk-in. One entire side of the room was basically empty, and Bond showed him how to put everything away so it would stay safe and unwrinkled for the morning.

Q let Bond take over, undressing him bit by bit and the two of them getting the new suit put away, shoes in one of the empty spots, everything neatly on the waiting hangers. There was even a spot for the jewellery, velvet niches made for a man's decorations to nestle.

Once Q was down to his pants, he stopped Bond's hands. "Your turn next," he explained, hands going to the neat tie.

Bond nodded, and they went through the ritual all over again, putting everything away on Bond's side of the closet just as they'd put Q's in the empty side. It was a ritual that Q appreciated, cooling their ardour and making them concentrate more on the intimacy they were sharing, the closeness of their bodies and the quiet murmur of voices, Bond's low and rough, Q's soft and posh.

When Bond, too, was down to his pants -- which were a match to Q's brand-new ones -- Q took him by the hand and led him back out to the bedroom. "These, I think, can stand a night on the floor," he teased.

Bond chuckled. "I even have a clean pair for you in the morning," he promised. He pulled Q into his arms and kissed him, long and sweet and slow, and whispered against his mouth. "My very own Quartermaster."

"I think you've got some equipment I need to check in," said Q, rubbing his erection against Bond's. They were almost of a height so everything was right there, hip to thigh to chest, and that tempting, pouting mouth that Q just had to kiss again and again.

"Are you going to make sure everything's in perfect working order?" replied Bond, voice rough with a mix of laughter and desire.

Q pushed him back toward the bed with a grin. "Oh, yes, I believe I shall have to give it a very thorough inspection. I know how poorly you treat your weapons."

Bond snorted and hopped up onto the bed, skinning out of his pants as he did. He leaned back on his hands and spread his knees, looking smug and far too self-assured. "My weapon is at your disposal, Quartermaster."

Q smirked and knelt gracefully, putting him at eye level with Bond's thick cock. It was even more impressive up close, and Q stroked his fingers over the silk of Bond's inner thighs while he tried to remember if he'd ever taken anything that sizeable. Well, he'd just have to trust that Bond knew what to do with it when the time came. He leaned in and nuzzled at the base, kissing the heavy balls in their furry sac. "Mm, nice and clean, anyway."

"I know how you hate when I bring you dirty equipment," said Bond, reaching down to run a hand through Q's messy hair, tangling in the thick strands. "Once you've had your inspection, perhaps I can demonstrate the proper use of it."

"You'd better," said Q, kissing along his thighs between words. "I know you're an expert at wielding all sorts of weapons."

"I assure you," said Bond, "this is the only weapon I wish to use on you."

Q had kissed his way up to the tender spot where hip and thigh and groin all met, and he sucked a mark there, a small but unmistakeable claim. "I trust you, 007," he murmured, then took one of the tempting bollocks into his mouth, rolling it carefully on his tongue.

Bond groaned, hand tightening in his hair for just a moment, and his cock bumped into Q's nose. Q had to hold back a giggle, concentrating instead on the body part he was inspecting, sucking the delicate skin and then letting it go with a wet sound before moving on to the other one. He lavished attention on the entire sac, even licking down behind Bond's balls for a bit, wanting to draw things out as much as possible.

"Well, your ammunition seems in order," said Q teasingly, looking up at Bond as he pressed a last kiss right below the base of Bond's cock.

"You," growled Bond, "are so much trouble."

"You love it," said Q. He proved it by kissing his way up Bond's shaft, gentle and slow, and pressing a final one to the wet tip before smirking up at him again. "You love my mouth."

Bond laughed. "I have impeccable taste."

Q snickered and then turned his attention back to the task at hand, slipping his tongue under the foreskin, toying with the crown, teasing and pleasuring all of the most nerve-rich parts of Bond's cock. Eventually he gave in to Bond's half-voiced pleas and started sucking him properly, one hand around the base and the other fondling his heavy balls. Q gave his full attention to Bond's pleasure now, showing off a little after the long foreplay.

Bond didn't disappoint, his moans becoming proper cries and his cock growing thicker and harder in Q's grasp. Q could feel the pulse of come going through Bond's cock before it hit his tongue, thick and salty. He swallowed it with a little murmur of satisfaction, feeling very satisfied to have brought Bond off first despite the agent's reputation for sexual prowess.

"I can see you're quite pleased with yourself," said Bond hoarsely. He'd fallen back to his elbows and was staring down his own chest to where Q was lapping the last bits of come from his cock.

"Wouldn't you be?" said Q, unrepentant. "Besides, now you get your chance to impress me." He stood up and let his pants fall to the floor, showing Bond all of him.

Bond sat up and pulled him close, whispering against his mouth. "My Q," he said, licking at Q's chin and mouth. "Your lips are so red from sucking my cock, it's beautiful."

Q didn't deny it; he knew his mouth was one of his best features, but it still made him squirm inside to hear that mix of filth and admiration coming from a man like Bond. Someone that wanted him, rather than mocked him. "Not impressed yet," he replied instead, and closed the gap to claim another kiss.

Bond laughed roughly and then lifted him up and laid him on the bed as though he weighed nothing at all, hands gentle despite the manhandling. Q ended up splayed out against the pillows, a feast just waiting to be devoured. "It wouldn't do to leave you feeling inadequately serviced," teased Bond.

Q let himself be pliant for Bond, let himself be open, vulnerable, and wanton. It was a strange feeling, to have a first time where he knew his lover so well already, and knew he could trust Bond with all of him. "You'll take good care of me," said Q. He spread his long legs just a little wider and ran his hands up thighs to hips to chest and finally crossed his wrists loosely over his head in surrender.

Bond growled and dipped his head, not to take another kiss, but to follow the path of Q's hands, up inside his thighs, over his hips and stomach, licking and kissing and even biting lightly as he went. Q moaned and giggled and squirmed under the teasing but he didn't bother to protest after his own extended tease. Bond held his body up over Q's so the only place they touched was his wicked mouth, which slid its way up his chest to lavish attention on each of Q's red, peaked nipples. Bond had to hold his own hips high to keep Q from rubbing up against him, so Q knew he was deliberately ignoring Q's cock, which felt like it had been hard since approximately the last ice age.

"Bond, please," Q moaned, but he stuck to his tacit offer and kept his hands where they were. "Kiss me at least."

"I have been kissing you," said Bond, pressing one to each tender nipple, and then a line of them all up his sternum. "You'll have to be more specific."

"Bastard," Q swore halfheartedly. "My mouth, if you please," he added sweetly, biting his lower lip just so and giving Bond a shy, coquettish look.

Bond growled and surged upward, pouncing on Q's mouth and kissing him breathless while Q writhed under him, trying to get some contact for his poor neglected cock.

"I'm going to make you beg to come, you little tart," said Bond, his voice all rough with wanting. "Keep your hands where they are like a good boy, hm?"

"Can I be both a good boy and a tart?" inquired Q, though the little hitch in his voice ruined his attempt at nonchalance.

"For me, you can," said Bond. One more lingering kiss, and then Bond backed away and planted himself between Q's thighs. He smirked up at Q before burying his face in Q's arse, his hands coming up to spread Q open even wider, his tongue sliding over Q's tender opening. Bond gave him a very thorough rimming, licking and teasing outside before working his tongue inside, using lips and teeth to good effect until Q was indeed begging for more, nearly incoherent with need.

"That's more like it," said Bond smugly. His mouth planted wet, messy kisses along Q's thighs while his eyes found the supplies. He grabbed the lube and a condom with a quick, graceful motion that might have been a prelude to violence in other circumstances. In this case, it ended with Bond sitting between Q's spread thighs, looking over his body like a king surveying his domain while Q tried to gather the ruined sprawl of his thoughts into something coherent.

Bond got his cock covered and slicked, and then slid two slippery fingers into Q's open, empty entrance, finding him relaxed and wanting after the extensive oral preparation. Q let out an embarrassing little mewl and rutted up against his fingers, wanting more, wanting Bond finally inside him. "Hush, kitten, I'm working on it," said Bond, fingers thrusting deep.

Q huffed at the nickname, but he didn't try to dredge up a protest since he was already getting what he wanted. "Patience isn't my, oh, my strong suit," said Q, doing a little arch and wriggle designed to get Bond's motor revving even higher. "Want you in me."

"Soon," said Bond, his wicked mouth moving back to Q's nipples.

"No, no idea, how, ohgod, tongue, not tired, ohfuck." Q babbled without any real filter between his brain and his mouth, but the feel of Bond laughing against his chest delighted Q beyond the physical pleasure of it.

"You're worth being a little tongue-tied," said Bond, finally moving up to Q's mouth. He hesitated, but Q closed the gap between their mouths, kissing him thoroughly. "Ready?"

"So fucking ready," said Q, aiming for exasperation but mostly sounding needy.

Bond kissed him again and pulled his fingers out, then slid his cock in with a smooth roll of his hips that made Q's breath catch in his throat. "Mine, all mine," whispered Bond against his lips, and then they were kissing again while Bond thrust into him over and over.

At some point Q's arms went around Bond's back, and at another point he found his legs pushed up to his chest and his whole body folded in half while Bond drove into him, those strong hands keeping him still so that Bond controlled every bit of their motion. Not that Q had cause to complain, toes curled with pleasure and voice gone rough from it. In the end, Bond gathered Q back into his arms, urging him to wrap himself around Bond while they moved in sensuous tandem.

The sweetness was what broke Q open, sent him over the edge in a white rush of pleasure that left him wrung out and satisfied, sensitive and responsive. Bond's gaze was locked on his face when Q blinked his eyes back into focus, and the look on his face was so terribly tender that Q had to kiss it away. It didn't take long after that for Bond to find his own orgasm, thrusts growing erratic until one last, deep one, his forehead against Q's as his cock pulsed inside Q's body.

"You're so amazing," said Q softly, kissing Bond's forehead and cheeks and mouth once he'd relaxed. "That was worth every bit of teasing I'm going to have to endure next week."

Bond laughed, broken and rough, and kissed Q again. "Good to know my skills are useful to you," he teased back, rubbing their noses together affectionately. "Shower or just a warm flannel?"

"I'd like to be lazy, if you please," said Q. "You can show me your shower in the morning."

"Lazy it is," said Bond. Another long kiss and they got separated and cleaned up, Bond letting Q lie abed and be spoiled. Finally the two of them curled together in the dark, cuddled up under the covers where it was warm and cosy.

Q's body was heavy with satiation and exhaustion, but his mind was starting to race, wondering if he'd really get to keep this, to have this with James bloody Bond, and if Bond even really wanted that, and also who would win next time they played Mario Kart, if there would be a next time, and.

"I can hear you thinking from here," said Bond, his voice fond and just a bit hoarse.

Q stroked his fingers over Bond's throat. "I did that," he said softly. "Will I get to do it again, make you all hoarse from having me?"

Bond growled and tilted his chin up for a very hard kiss. "Every day I'm in London, kitten."

Q huffed at the nickname, but it might be only fair since he'd not actually given Bond permission to use his real name yet. "Well, all right, then," he said, and kissed Bond until the rest of the little voices quieted, leaving their nagging questions for later.

Q tucked his face back against Bond's chest and yawned. "Not a kitten," he said sleepily.

Bond's chuckle rumbled through his ribcage. "Such a kitten," said Bond, stroking his hair soothingly. "My kitten."

Q harrumphed, but just this once he let it go, and let sleep finally claim him.

Q woke to the unfamiliar feeling of a hand rubbing his belly while kisses were pressed along his shoulders and neck, a strong body curled against his back. He yawned and rubbed his eyes, then turned to get a sleep-musty kiss. "Morning," he said, torn between shyness and delight.

Bond smiled at him like he was the most precious thing in the world, and then kissed his forehead. "Good morning, kitten."

Q laughed, curling back up and hugging Bond's arm to him. "Arsehole," he said fondly.

"Well, you could tell me your name," said Bond. "You've already found out and changed mine."

"I could, but I don't like to use it much," said Q honestly. "Everyone left in my life knows me from Six these days, and I'm proud of being Q."

Bond nuzzled his ear and then nibbled it. "Then you'll be my kitten," he said decisively.

Q huffed, but didn't bother to protest again. He didn't really mind being Bond's kitten, though there was one thing. "Never, ever at work," Q warned him. "I will have my revenge if you do."

Bond laughed. "Yeah, all right, never at work, my Quartermaster." He kissed Q's neck again, and then sighed. "Will you require tea before your morning sex, kitten?"

Q pretended to think about this for a moment before rolling onto his back and pulling Bond on top of him. "I think I can make an exception just this once."

They shared another laugh, and another kiss, letting their desire build slowly as sleep receded. Eventually Bond slid down Q's body to give him a rather spectacular orgasm, and then Q returned the favour, taking his time and enjoying the feel of Bond's sizeable cock filling his mouth. Once they were both momentarily sated, there was a brief war between waking and sleep, but Bond volunteered to go start the kettle and that was that.

"Should I be wearing clothing?" called Q, once he'd visited the bathroom and done something about the appalling state of his mouth.

"I'd prefer you didn't," said James, coming back into the bedroom. He kissed Q's cheek and swatted his bare arse, then took over the bathroom.

Q yelped at the swat, but Bond was too fast for him to retaliate so instead he made his way to the kitchen to see to his tea. Bond had laid out a few breakfast provisions as well, a tall pitcher of juice, bread for toast, and butter and jam. Q figured out Bond's toaster and made them a pot of tea when the kettle clicked off. He was just buttering the first slice when Bond returned.

"Can I have you for breakfast every day?" asked Bond, cuddling up for a kiss, and then sliding behind Q so as not to interfere. "Make me some, too?"

"Perhaps, and yes," said Q with a soft smile. "Are you really this minimalist, or are you just too lazy to unpack your storage unit?"

Bond chuckled. "The latter, I'm afraid," he said. He stole the first slice once it was liberally smeared with jam, paying for his theft with another kiss. "Ta."

"So if I invaded and got kittens to be underfoot, and spread my things all over your spare, modern flat, you wouldn't object?" said Q, trying to sound casual. It was a huge step to propose, but their lives were fraught with real danger and Q didn't feel inclined to be cautious with this.

Bond blinked, then turned him around and kissed him soundly, toast momentarily forgotten. "Yes. No. Move in, get kittens, be mine," said Bond, his voice hoarse. "You will be the best reason to come home."

"You're not just saying that so you can have Mario Kart, right?" said Q, surprised into flippancy by Bond's earnest reaction.

Bond cradled him close, kissing his mouth softly over and over, shaking his head between kisses. "This is so much better than Mario Kart, love."

Three months later, Q was curled on the couch with Pascal and Walther asleep in his lap and nearly out himself. He'd been sent home after a gruelling 36-hour shift helping Bond complete his mission, and he was trying to stay awake long enough to greet his lover when he got home.

He must have dozed off, though, because between one blink and the next there were familiar lips on his, the smell of gunpowder and cologne in his nose, and Bond's hand ruffling his hair. "Have you gotten any rest?" asked Bond, kissing his forehead.

"No more than you," said Q crankily. "You need a shower and I need you to fuck me."

Bond laughed. "You're correct, of course," he said, stealing another kiss.

"That's why you love me," said Q carelessly. "I'm always correct."

Bond kissed him again, and there was something quite earnest in it this time. "I do, you know. Love you. I have for ages."

Q smiled, soft and sleepy, all his grumpiness banished by Bond's strange romantic streak. "Of course I know, and you must know I love you as well," he replied, giving Bond another lingering kiss. A yawn interrupted the next one, and he pushed at Bond gently. "Now, off you fuck, you clean up and I'll make sure the kittens are distracted long enough for the sex."

"You spoil us all," said Bond fondly. He stole one more kiss despite Q's shoving, and then took his slightly singled self off toward the bathroom.

Q roused himself and the kittens and padded into the kitchen, pulling down one of the small cans of their very favourite food flavour and spreading it out into their puzzle-bowls so it would take them more than two minutes to get them licked clean. He let them climb his pyjama trousers, though he objected when they tried to hook their sharp little claws into the bare skin above, instead putting them and the dishes down onto the kitchen floor.

Walther was a smokey grey that wasn't quite black, and Pascal was covered in stuttering orange stripes that always reminded Q of binary code, off on, off off on, on on off. Bond had helped pick them out, surprising Q all over again with his insistence on getting two that already liked each other, and that wanted to be held, petted, and coddled.

Q shook his head to clear the wool and went to the bedroom, stripping off and laying himself out on the bed. He grabbed the lube and positioned himself so Bond could almost but not quite see what he was doing from the bathroom doorway and began to open himself with one slender, slick finger. He usually enjoyed leaving this task to Bond's very talented fingers or tongue but today he just wanted Bond inside him. The mission had been full of close calls and near misses, any one of which would have meant loss of both data and agent, and Q needed the feel of his lover back with him, as whole and hale as he ever was.

The shower shut off and Q found himself staring through the doorway, watching as Bond emerged and started towelling himself off, his strong body scarred but whole enough for Q.

"Starting without me, I see," said Bond, reaching down to give his half-hard cock a few strokes, until it was fully erect. "I'll be right with you, kitten."

"You'd better," said Q, shifting his hips so he was full-on flashing his lover as his fingers moved in and out of himself. "This is where you belong."

Bond stalked through the doorway with all the grace of a big cat after its prey, letting the towel drop to the bedroom floor. "Yes, it is," he agreed, pushing Q back onto the bed and moving his hand away, pressing them both into the pillows over Q's head. "I always belong inside you, love."

Q melted, his face going all soft to finally hear what Bond meant all the times he'd called him that. "Yes, my love," he replied, just for the joy of saying it.

Bond growled, hands busy with condom and lube, a possessive desire flaring in his gaze that sent a shiver of need through Q. "Just you wait," he said, fingers sure where Q would be fumbling. He climbed between Q's legs and thrust inside in one smooth motion, making Q cry out at the delicious feel of being filled, claimed, and loved.

There were more murmured words, half-gasped sentences, and needy cries, but nothing had more meaning that that one that passed between them over and over now that they'd finally let it out. Q clung to his James, his agent, his honey trap of a lover, whose seduction had always been both the least and surest part of him to Q. They moved together smoothly, Bond shifting his angle again and again to tease Q to greater heights, his hands too busy holding Q close to do any more.

Q used that freedom to stroke Bond's hair and face, tease his nipples and feel the movement of his abs with each thrust, to run his fingers over every part of Bond he could reach just to reassure himself that Bond was really there. That he wasn't still dreaming of hearing such sweet things from a lover too far away to say them. Finally it was too much and he just clung, riding Bond's thrusts, riding out the white-out pleasure of his own orgasm. Bond found his own release soon after, thrusting until Q felt full to the brim and delightfully oversensitive.

"I really, really love you," said Q, cooperating as Bond used his damp towel to clean them both off before tossing it back into the bathroom.

Bond tucked them into bed together, lights off and Q gathered into a warm, familiar embrace. "I love you so much, my kitten," he said, holding Q tightly for a moment before loosening to a cuddle.

Q sighed happily, exhaustion already crashing in, dragging him down toward sleep. "Good," he said, the word half-lost in a yawn. Tiny meows came their way, growing louder as the kittens climbed their way up into the bed to settle in purring lumps on top of their humans.

Bond chuckled, the sound a low rumble against Q's ear. "Sleep. Tomorrow's another day to save the world."


We're almost out of milk, so I went to get that and a few other things to make the weekend better. I already fed the kittens, don't listen to them when they try to tell you otherwise.

Wait for me in bed, and I'll make sure you're amply rewarded for your patience. I already told M we'd be in late today.

I love you.