They're in the shooting range when James gets the call.
"Must I remind you, 007, that I have no need of a gun." Q drawls.
Alec laughs from the next station over.
"He's got a point there, James. Our Quartermaster-"
Said man cuts him off.
"As you two however, cannot Charm bullets, I suggest you actually fire your weapons, rather than chit-chat all day." There's a pause from the two Double-0's. Bond takes the opportunity to shoot Q a spectacularly filthy look. Ah yes. The Empath smugly eyes the flare of reluctant lust in his lover's aura.
"Yes, sir." Alec says.
Q adjusts his earphones to the sound of firing guns. He eyes the rather decimated targets.
"Verdict?" He asks.
"My sights a little off." Bond admits. Q tugs the weapon out his hand, sighting it down the range and correcting the issue. Flicking the safety off and taking a final shot, James nods. "Perfect."
"She's a beauty, Quartermaster, but what's wrong with our other weapons?" Alec asks, leaning against the flimsy partitions like they can actually hold his weight. Instead of answering, Q grins wide enough that he sees Bond tense. With a bit of a hop, he's in the range itself, facing the two wary double-0's. Neither are agitated enough for it to be a problem, Q senses.
"Gentleman, if one of you would shoot me please?"
Alec and James blink in shock.
"Have you gone mad?" 006 demands.
Bond restrains himself to a simple,
Fighting a frightening smile, Q says nonchalantly.
"Sometime today would be nice."
For a moment, he thinks neither of the men are going to move, that they'll be stuck at an impasse all day, but then he catches James' eye. Something must be obvious, because the blond man relaxes, and aims his weapon steadily at Q.
Alec is still staring in a mix of horror and anticipation.
Bond pulls the trigger, just once, and the bullet does it's job. It spirals towards Q, a headshot, he notes, and James is nearly vibrating with tension. Time slows, and so does the bullet.
The overwhelming projection of relief he catches from Bond is both gratifying and distracting, but not enough so that Q doesn't grab the bullet before it hits the ground, a mere six inches in front of him. Alec is still radiating shock, even as Q can see he's pulled his expression into something nearing normality. You can't fool an Empath.
Q smirks, and tosses the bullet to James.
"What was that?" Alec says, flashing with something like excitement and longing. "And where can I get one?"
Placing a hand on the barrier between the range and the agents, Q swings himself over the other side, brushing pointedly against James as he goes. The burning want he gets in response only widens his smirk.
Reaching into his pocket, Q takes a step back and places the innocuously small device on the table, where both Bond and Alec can crowd around.
"After a few more tests," Q drawls, speaking with the tone of someone who has done his job, and done his job well, "They're going to be standard issue. Better than bullet proof vests, no?"
"We get it, Q. You're the best in the world at what you do, etcetera, etcetera. Now what is it?" James growls.
Q would be put out at the terseness, except he can feel James's pride when he compliments Q, and he thinks that the other man knows he can too.
"I haven't decided on a name quite yet," Q says loftily, "But for now it goes by SHD-029. Essentially, it creates something of a forcefield around a certain area."
Alec snorts, incredulous. "I'm sorry?"
"It may sound ridiculous, 006, but it's perfectly real. By harnessing the denomination of a Shield and intermingling it with that of a Physical Negative, Q-Branch has managed to create something that works much like a forcefield would." Q smiles. "Think of it like the net that can be cast to negate denominations. It's the same principle, just on a smaller and more physical scale."
While Alec still struggles to comprehend a device that can propel bullets, Q is pleased to sense that James has turned calculating, scanning the tool carefully. Despite the fact that he's likely enabled his boyfriend to create even more chaos, Q can't look away from the unholy light in the back of Bond's eyes. Bloody Double-0's, making destruction attractive.
"What does it stop and how much force can it withstand?" 007 asks.
"It stops projectiles mostly, as that's what I've tuned it to. It can create a field that absolutely nothing can pass through, like a brick wall, but that becomes a hindrance if an agent is trying to keep under the radar. The way it's set now, it would stop a bullet, a thrown knife, arrows, and explosives."
James eyes and aura darken with interest. Alec remains a mostly silent and thoughtful presence.
"We threw a grenade at it."
Bond's eyes widen in something like protective fury, and Alec chokes on his other side.
"With you holding it?" 006 demands. Even Alec is feeling protective, which is rather nice, Q thinks. Or it would be, if the two Double-0's would cease being idiots.
"Of course not," Q says slowly, as if explaining something to a small child. "Not without working out the kinks first."
Somewhat placated, James continues his interrogation, emotions flicking through embarrassment at his outburst, and exasperation at Q's general existence, he assumes.
"How did you test it then?"
Q grins again.
"We put an egg on a golf tee, and the device right next to it. We threw a few grenades and everything we could think of at it, and by the end, the egg hadn't even shifted."
Alec lets out a low whistle. "Q-Branch gets crazier every year."
Q is about to retort, something about Alec perhaps not being the best judge of character sanity-wise, when James' phone begins to trill.
He and Alec fall reflexively silent as James grabs it, pressing to his ear with clear irritation. He does hate being interrupted.
"Bond." James snaps into the receiver.
Q transitions immediately to concern, however, as his Empathy picks up the change in James' emotions, from surprise to fear to anger.
He can feel himself go pale, and when James puts down the phone with a sharp, "I understand", Q braces himself for bad news.
What he isn't expecting is for James to turn to him, placing a hand on Q's upper arm and another resting on his bare neck. The other man is consciously projecting calm feelings, but Q can clearly feel the rushing emotions underneath it, and the action does nothing except increase his worry. Good god, how bad can this be?
"Q," James says gently, Alec at his back, radiating worry and annoyance at being left out of the loop. "Q, 004 escaped isolation today and has gone missing."
Q blinks once, twice, feels James' concern ratchet up a notch.
To be fair, once Q gets over the immediate shock he decides everyone is making a big deal out of nothing.
Alec and James had hustled him to M's office, like if they weren't on his shoulders, guarding him with their bodies, 004 might drop out of the ceiling and proceed to do terrible things to Q's person. In the heat of things, it's reassuring, but by the time his two Double-0 guard dogs have shuffled him into the seat across from M, Alec heading for the window and checking the area for snipers, Q has begun to feel ridiculous.
"Honestly, 006. He's on the other side of the world, not even a Double-0 can bend space and time. Sit down and stop being stupid." Q doesn't even bother scolding Bond, partially because he knows it would be pointless, but mostly because James is rubbing little circles into the back of his neck, working out knots in his muscles that he didn't even know were there.
It's only the fact that M is staring at Q like he's insane that stops him from letting out a pornographic moan. Bloody fuck does Bond have talented hands.
"Quartermaster, what in the hell is going on?" M demands. As if in answer to his question, the Head of MI6's phone rings. Q watches the older man cycle through alarm and righteous anger before he slams the phone back into its cradle. M's eyes dart above Q, presumably to glare at Bond. "007, once this had been dealt with, you and I will be having a conversation about why the people in my agency contact you before they do me, especially regarding such pertinent information."
"It's Q, M." Alec says, as if that's all the explanation needed. Striding over to slump in the only other seat in the room, Q looks at the Double-0 beside him, coiled nearly as tight as Bond despite his apparent relaxation.
Of course, because the people of this agency live to spite him, M seems to take Alec's reasoning at face value and moves on.
"We need a plan to keep Q safe, I want around the clock guards on him. There are a few Double-0's on their way back from missions and I'll ground them for protection until we have King apprehended."
Bond and Alec are nodding along with M, all three oozing determination, and Q stares. They can't be serious?
"Q can stay at my flat," James says immediately, hand coming to rest protectively on Q's shoulder. "He's practically living there anyway."
Aside from a grimace, M doesn't comment on that, though Q can feel his amusement.
"Good. Alec will be staying with you for the time being."
It turns out they're serious. These three men have lost their mind, because no way in hell is Alec moving in with them. Don't get Q wrong, he's Bond's best friend, and has taken to Q like a duck to water, but Alec is also a self-proclaimed asshole and a time-bomb, and most importantly, if he comes to live with them, Q won't get any sex, possibly for weeks.
"You can't be serious!" Q sputters. Already, he can feel his libido die a slow painful death.
"I intend to keep you safe, Quartermaster. King has already gotten to you once, and I refuse to let it happen again." M smiles, as if it softens the blow. "I can't afford to lose the best coder and engineer in the world and the strongest Empath ever documented."
"He's one man!" Q protests. It's useless, he can literally feel how set in their ways the people around him are. Not a thing he can say will change that.
"He wants to kill you, Q." James says, quiet and concerned.
"I'm not some helpless child who can't defend themselves, James. I could knock all three of you out without even looking at you. Don't you dare coddle me." He turns his ire on M and Alec. "I'm a grown man, perfectly capable of making my own decisions. I don't need a contingent to protect me, I can protect myself just fine."
M rolls his eyes. He actually rolls his eyes, and if it wasn't for the restraining hand on his shoulder, Q is unsettled and riled enough that he might have actually punched the smug bastard.
"This isn't a slight on your self-sufficiency, Quartermaster. This is a solution to a situation that you may be able to handle yourself, but you don't have to. You've saved the lives of likely half of this agency, now let us save yours."
"It's my job, M." Q says.
"And this is ours." Alec finishes.
Q sighs, and nudges his glasses out of the way so he can knuckle his eyes.
"I'm not going to win, am I?"
"Of course not." James murmurs into his ear. There's not a hint of apology in the agent's aura, and Q sighs again. Defeated.
"Fine. But let's try to keep this between us, yeah? I don't want to send Danielle into a panic, God knows she'd turn into a mother hen."
M nods his assent.
"Of course, Quartermaster. It won't leave this room, except for the other Double-0's who'll take care of your security while in the offices."
"Thank you, M."
By mid-afternoon, there's likely not a person in Britain who doesn't know that 004 broke out of prison in New Zealand and was coming for the Quartermaster.
Q would like to find the person who broke the news and punch them solidly in the face.
As of three days later, Q has nearly ironed out all the kinks in his plan to abscond to Canada, and become one with the forest and snow.
First, he's going to murder everyone in MI6 and dance on their corpses. Second, he's going to rob a bank, despite the fact that he already has enough money to retire. He's always wanted to rob a bank, and if he's going to commit murder, might as well make it a crime spree worth noting. Finally, Q is going to trek into the Canadian wilderness after crossing the ocean by boat, and live out the rest of his days as a homicidal hermit.
This. This is what government work has driven him to.
"It needs more lasers." Q hears faintly from his office.
"Don't be ridiculous, Ben, it has flames. Have you ever been burned? That is true pain."
"Nah, I still think we should be going with electrocution."
Perhaps Q should just forgo any plan at all, and just throw himself out the window.
"Lunch!" Danielle tells 005, waving a take out bag at the agent currently standing guard outside Q's office.
"Let's see it then." The agent says. Outside his door, every inch of Q's lunch is inspected and tested for poisoning. He's going to scream.
Once Danielle is cleared, she skips in, plopping a carton of Chinese on Q's desk, along with a fresh mug of tea.
"How's the work going, Q?" Danielle asks him cheerfully.
Q smacks his head onto the desk, not even caring that he jostles several important projects on the surface. "Fuck off. All of you. You must realize how ridiculous you're being, correct?"
Danielle pats the top of his head, and ignores absolutely everything he's said.
"The team has almost finished that device they've rigged to 004's DNA, you know. It'll probably be a one time use thing, because once it's seen in action it'll likely be banned by anyone with morals, but as long as we lure King in, he'll pay for ever laying a hand on you."
Q bangs his head on his desk again, harder this time. "You've lost it and I hate you all."
"Careful, Q. We can't have you hurt!" Danielle says, pulling him into a proper sitting position. The Chinese is open in front of him, and she points a fork at him imperiously. "I don't have to force feed you, do I?"
Q grabs the fork and glares at her. She takes the hint and leaves, but not without stealing an egg roll first.
Ten minutes later, he hears the cheer taken up around the branch and wonders how much prison time his subordinates are looking at for whatever they've concocted.
That evening, nearing five, he feels the two Double-0's stationed in the branch tense up. Q is almost disappointed when they relax almost instantly and he recognizes the approaching aura as Eve.
Out of everyone, she's been the most sane. Q wouldn't dare insinuate that she's not causing hell in her own way, but at least she's been keeping it toned down when she's around him.
By the time she's cleared the honor guard, Q is almost looking forward to her visit. He needs to vent.
Of course, the first thing she does when Eve walks in the door is toss Q a bag of chocolate. Normally, this would be a great thing, but Q doesn't even twitch to catch it. He doesn't have to, as approximately six inches away from his head it stops suddenly and hits the ground.
Eve winces, and feels apologetic.
"Sorry, Q. I completely forgot."
And Q, Q just snaps.
"I," he says very quietly, "am so done with this idiotic situation."
Eve winces again and closes the door giving them some semblance of privacy. She bends down and scoops up the chocolates, handing one to Q as a peace offering.
"Eve," Q says, very calmly. He doesn't feel calm. "Do you know what Q-Branch is working on right now?"
Wisely, Eve hesitates.
"No?" She hedges.
"They," Q says, level as can be, "are working on a device coded specifically to Charles King's DNA that, when it senses him, will shoot flames along with lasers, and drop a boulder on his head. They're installing it above my office door." Q reaches out for her hand, trying to make her understand. "There's a code, Eve. They've run drills to get everyone out of singeing distance as quickly as possible."
"That," Eve blinks, "seems extreme?" Of course, she doesn't actually think so. Instead, Eve is filled with a vicious satisfaction and pride.
"They taste-test my food, Eve. The guards I understand, but a torture device and testing everything I eat for poison?"
"King is smart, Q. We don't know how he'll try to get to you, so we have to be prepared."
He stares at her sadly. "You're supposed to be the sane one."
"Isn't that Tanner?" She tries a smile.
"No, not really. Seeing, of course, as Tanner has nearly started a war with New Zealand and at least killed ten people with paperwork and his disappointment."
"What about M then?"
"M," Q says delicately, "has mobilized an execution squad. They're just waiting for orders."
Eve shifts. "I can almost see why you're fed up."
But the concession doesn't matter, because Q is on a roll at this point.
"James has taken to holding me as close at night as he does his pistol, which would be fine, except for the fact that I haven't slept in three nights because of the uncomfortable lump that is a Walter PPK under my pillow. I haven't had sex in just as long a time, because Alec-bloody-Trevelyan has moved in. He broke my microwave. My sentient microwave who I loved like a child is dead because of that man!
"001 has officially destroyed Germany because she's pissed she's not here to protect me. But worst of all, worst of all, is that my own invention, which I raised from nothing but metal scraps and an idea, has been turned against me to the point where I can't even catch a bag of candy!"
Silence reigns for a while, and Q thinks for one blissful second that he's finally gotten through to someone. Someone gets it and now they'll end this madness once and for all.
Eve leans forward and ruffles his hair, like a puppy.
"Don't worry, Q, once we catch him everything will go back to normal."
The sound Q makes is a mix between a groan and a scream, and he goes back to giving himself a concussion on his desk.
They get the call the next day. James is in Q's office, massaging the kinks out of Q's shoulder's and valiantly resisting the Empath's attempts to sway him to a quickie in a closet somewhere.
"I won't compromise your safety like that, Q." James is saying. Q never thought he'd see the day when he couldn't convince James Bond to have sex with him, but he's had an awful week.
James answers his phone the same way he did with the call that started this whole mess, irritation threading through him.
"Bond." He snaps. Q watches with desperate hope. James' emotions cycle through confusion and overwhelming relief, leaving Q vibrating in his seat.
Finally, finally, James hangs up the phone and turns to Q.
"004 is dead." He says. There has never been a more beautiful sentence.
Q doesn't think he's ever been this happy, this relieved and he must make a sound because James snorts.
"How?" Q asks, barely holding in his glee.
The question, for some reason, makes James frown in either shame or jealously.
"Someone from Accounting recognized him from the posters that Moneypenny covered the halls with. Apparently the man just stopped, grabbed a security guard's weapon, and shot him between the eyes. King didn't even get three feet into the lobby."
"I," Q declares, "am going to buy that man a mansion. Or a car. Or a mansion and a car. Hell, I'll marry him if that's what he wants, and you can be my mistress."
James, Q notes, looks and feels vaguely constipated at the idea of being a mistress. No matter.
"That'd be hard," Bond says, "seeing as he's been sedated. Apparently after he killed 004, he started ranting about saving everyone from the madness and how New Zealand didn't deserve this."
"Yes, first kill does it to everyone."
Q stands and claps his hands.
"Now, I have to disable the death ray that my branch thinks I don't know about, but after that I'm free. I don't suppose you'll let me blow you in a closet?"
James presses the length of his body against Q's nibbling at his ear. "As you wish, Quartermaster."
Q flushes, and projects to James a bit of the lust he's been suppressing. James growls.
"We're trying that again later, Q."
Q turns and breathes his assent into James' mouth.