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I Will Not Lose Hope (Until You Let Me)

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-O-

It’s not the first time, and it certainly won’t be the last, Q knows that. But still, having to listen to, and sometimes watch Bond having sex with women on missions kills him every time. Sure, it’s for information only. Bond isn’t cheating on him. It’s Q that Bond comes home to after each mission.

Q knows this, but it still destroys him, listening to Bond seduce someone else, listening to them fuck, listening to the woman declare her love only for Bond to leave or for her to end as collateral.

He’s never been the jealous type and he knew what he was getting into when he and Bond started their relationship, but sometimes he can’t help but wonder when it will be his turn to become the ‘Bond girl’, as some of the staff of MI6 have dubbed Bond’s countless conquests. Sometimes he is sure that Bond will come home and tell him that he doesn’t want him any more. After all, Q is the only man he’s been with.

Sometimes Q forgets that James Bond isn’t gay. Before him, there had been only women and other than him, Bond has never shown any interest in another man, not on missions, not outside of work, never. It had only ever been women before Q and even now, besides Q, it was still the same. Bond didn’t flirt with men to get information and he didn’t show any interest in men other than Q.

As the missions pass, Q wonders when it’s his turn to be left in the aftermath of James Bond. Yet he sits and listens to the agent as he jets around the world, leaving death and destruction in his wake. Some of the destruction is caused by Q, but it’s not the same. Destruction from behind a keyboard isn’t the same as from behind the barrel of a gun, or from the controls to a bomb. He doesn’t have to look a target in the eyes and kill them; doesn’t have to see their light die as the life leaves their body. Some of them targets, some of them merely in the wrong place at the wrong time, but either way, they had to die.

Q has seen the toll this takes on Bond. Knowing that he is responsible for the deaths of so many innocents in order to wipe out his target. After a mission, Bond doesn’t speak, merely comes home and crashes. When he wakes, then Q can tell just how bad it had been.

Most times Bond wakes Q up with feather light kisses along his back and neck, and then Q knows that it had been fine, manageable. But other times, Q wakes to Bond holding him tightly, those strong arms pulling Q’s small frame into his chest as though without it the Quartermaster would disappear. Those are the times Q knew it had gone badly, when Bond had feared for his life. But Q thinks that the worst is when he’s woken by Bond’s weight on top of him as the other man presses his mouth against Q’s in a searing kiss. The sex is rough and almost animalistic, as though Bond is trying to work through the pain. It’s a side of Bond that almost scares Q, though he knows that he can say no and Bond will stop immediately, moving off of Q as though he’d been electrocuted. Q has refused before, when tears ran down Bond’s face and the quartermaster wasn’t convinced that Bond was himself enough to consent to his own actions. Those were the times that Q knew were the worst, when Bond would collapse into his arms, tears running down his cheeks and pointedly refusing to talk about it, despite knowing that Q would see the reports only hours later. Q often wondered whether it was shame that brought out this kind of reaction in Bond, shame at the innocents who had lost their lives, shame at the atrocities that had been committed by his own hand.

Q didn’t care what he’d had to do, just silently held him, knowing that in the morning he would fix them breakfast, replace the whiskey bottle in Bond’s hands with orange juice before sitting the blond man in front of the television where they would watch the most recent episodes of Downton Abbey.

That was the closeness that Q lived for, those mornings where neither of them spoke, just sat together, each other’s company enough to put to rest the ache inside of Bond. It was during one of those mornings that Q had realised he was hopelessly in love with James Bond and that, for a reason unbeknownst to Q, James Bond had chosen him too.

It had been Bond who had said those three words first, initially by accident. Eve had pressed him about their relationship and for once, the unflappable 007 had been riled and in his flustered state, had blurted it out, surprising everyone, Q included. He had known that some of his affections were returned, but he had never even considered that Bond might love him too.

James Bond, notorious womaniser, had chosen monogamy over his usual one-night stands, and with a man nonetheless.

But yet, he still slept with women on most of his missions and Q often found it difficult to control not only the hurt and jealousy, but also the embarrassment. He knew that there were those at MI6 who joked that Bond still slept around because of Q lacking. After all, how could the scrawny quartermaster possibly hold the attention of someone like Bond?

And sometimes, doubt crept in despite Q’s best efforts.

-O-

After a particularly intense mission, where Q had been on the comms for over 48 hours straight, the quartermaster found himself alone in his flat, reaching for Bond’s ever-present bottle of whiskey.

He was exhausted.

Just go to bed, Q told himself, even as he poured the first glass, he didn’t mean it. He only said it for the good of the mission and you know it.

But listening to Bond, his James, tell the woman that he loved her, had been too much for him. That, combined with the discussion he had overheard on his way home, where two members of Q branch had been debating their relationship, had sent Q spiralling into fresh doubts.

‘Of course he told her he loves her. This thing with Q is just a faze, it always is with 007. Bond doesn’t care about him, I mean, have you seen Q? If I were gay, he’d be the last person I would go for. And you saw that woman; she was gorgeous, all tanned legs and platinum blond hair. Bond’s just getting his kicks where he can.’

‘It’s Q I feel sorry for, he’s so besotted. It’s a little sad actually. I mean, how could he even think that someone like Bond would be interested in him? Bond isn’t even gay! Q has probably just mistaken friendship for a relationship. He probably hasn’t even had sex.’

Q had walked away, heading for the elevator, not wanting to hear any more of their conversation.

He had never been an insecure person before, had always been content with who he was, but after hearing those words come from Bond himself, the conversation he had been a silent witness to had struck a chord.

One glass of whiskey turned into six, and Q, who had never had a particularly high tolerance for alcohol, found himself drunk dialling Bond, knowing full well that there was only one way that the conversation would end.

“Bond.” Came the familiar voice at the other end of the line.

“Bond.” Q mimics.

“Q? Are you drunk?” Bond asks, and Q can hear the familiar sounds of the London traffic behind him.

“What does it matter to you? And why are you back in London? I thought you might have stayed in Monaco longer, with Lissa.”

Q knows that he sounds bitter, but in his current state, he can’t bring himself to truly care. The only emotions registering right now are hurt and self-loathing.

“What? Why on earth would I do that?” Bond asks, shock clear in his voice.

“Of course you wouldn’t, you don’t do relationships right? Just whatever comes along.”

Bond sighs over the phone. “You are drunk. What’s gotten into you, Q? I’ve never heard you talk like this before. I’ll be home in fifteen minutes, but I’m not discussing this with you when you’re like this. Drink a glass of water and go to bed. We can talk in the morning. We’re both exhausted and you’re clearly hurt. Neither of us is thinking clearly right now, okay? I’ll see you in the morning. I love you.”

Q closes his eyes at the stab of pain those three words cause him, imagining Bond saying them over the comms to a different person, far away.

“I’m not even sure what those words mean anymore James,” he says, hanging up and tossing his phone onto the dresser as he collapsed into bed, fatigue claiming him before Bond can even get back to the apartment.

-O-

The first thing Q is aware of when he regains consciousness is that he doesn’t feel as bad as he deserves to.

From experience, whiskey hangovers are the worst and after his over-the-phone outburst, Q knows that he deserves to feel awful.

The second thing that Q is aware of is a lack of Bond beside him in the bed and when he rolls over, there is no sign of the agent’s clothes or travel bag.

With a deep sigh, Q forces himself out of bed and into the bathroom to pee in an attempt to avoid the obvious emptiness of the flat just a little longer, however, as he emerges from the bathroom, a waft of coffee hits him and he frowns.

Bond is shirtless, clad in only sweats and clutching a steaming mug of coffee when Q finally catches sight of him.

“I made you tea,” Bond tells him, voice gruff and slightly unsure as he watches Q standing awkwardly in the doorway.

Q flinches slightly, but doesn’t move, embarrassed although still annoyed.

He sees Bond take a deep breath, pointedly ignoring the way Q shuffles from foot to foot under the scrutiny of the agent’s gaze. Without speaking, Q walks over to the kitchen and pulls the mug off of the counter before moving to perch on the end of the sofa, feeling like a complete shit. Bond’s eyes follow him, but he doesn’t speak, just waits, as though waiting for Q to freak out and start yelling. Q looks into his tea, trying to avoid the piercing gaze of his partner.

If he looks into those blue eyes, Q knows he’ll be sunk.

They were the first things that had really drawn him to James Bond. Those blue eyes, so depthless that Q had imagined he could just drown in them. Sure Bond was in peak physical condition, sure he wasn’t the complete misogynist arsehole that most of MI6 thought he was. He was kind, caring and below the recklessness and unabashedly seductive nature, he was fiercely loyal. Sometimes he could even be clingy, especially when Q was trying to work. Bond was a master of distraction, even when the distraction wasn’t sexual. The Bond that no one else knew loved to watch Downton Abbey and terrible sci-fi movies with endless coffee and chinese takeaway curled up on the couch bare-chested in the loose grey sweats he was currently wearing.

He was an excellent cook. That had surprised Q, who had always figured him for a takeout kind of guy, but Bond’s manicotti was incredible, even if he would never tell Q what was in the tomato sauce. The memory of coming home after a stressful day and finding James Bond baking pasta still had him in creases of laughter. James’ outraged face as he asked Q what he thought he ate all the time, voice incredulous as Q had leaned on the side of the counter, holding his side.

Over the past two years, Q’s favourite hobby had become unearthing Bond’s domestic side. Although both men were predictably neat, Bond’s suit jackets could always be found slung over the back of a chair, yet the agent never failed to look unruffled. No matter what the time of day or night, no matter where he’d come from. Hell, the man could make bloodstains look suave. The only time Q had ever seen him lose control was during sex, when his hair was dishevelled and his pupils blown wide with arousal. He was an obnoxiously chipper morning person when Q was most definitely not. Before his first cup of Earl Grey, Q didn’t speak. As much as his statement about doing more damage on his laptop in a morning than Bond could do in a year in the field had been true, it most definitely would not be before his first cup of Earl Grey.

Bond would come and stand behind him as he made his morning tea, the larger man pushing his chest up against Q’s back and wrapping his arms around the skinnier man’s waist, pressing light kisses into Q’s neck.

That was the Bond Q had fallen in love with, with all his quirks and carelessness. Q got to see a part of him that no one else did.

Q loved him, and that was why Bond’s words had killed him so much.

Sleeping with marks to get information was an unpleasant necessity. But declarations of love were not, not even if they were fake.

Q was hurt; the words stung, made him feel as though he were another mark Bond had seduced even though he knew it wasn’t true.

“You told her you loved her.”

Q knew that his voice was low and pathetic, even to his own ears and Bond sighs beside him, shifting on the couch to move closer until his fingers find Q’s wrist, thumb stroking over the back of his hand gently.

“Q, I’m so sorry. I-” Bond shakes his head. “-she had to think that it was more than a one night stand or I knew she wouldn’t give me access to the safe. I needed that drive Q, that was the whole point of the mission.”

Placing his mug on the floor, Q pulls his hand out of Bond’s grasp, rounding on him.

“I know that. Hell, don’t you think I know that? But don’t you ever wonder what it’s like listening to you sleep with random women on every mission that you go on? Every time, Bond.”

Q rakes a hand through his unruly hair as he took in Bond’s surprised face.

“Fuck, Q, hey, hey, please look at me,” Bond pleads, gently taking hold of Q’s chin and turning his head to look at him, waiting until Q raises his eyes from the floor before continuing. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry that this is what our lives are. I’m so sorry that you have to listen to that. I really am. But you knew what us being together meant. This isn’t like you at all. You know what you are to me. Those women, they mean nothing to me and they never will. It’s only you that I want, it’s you that I want to come home to after every mission and that will never change.”

“But it’s hard to think like that sometimes, especially when everyone at MI6 is wondering what you’re doing with me in the first place. I caught two of my staff discussing us, basically calling me a lovesick puppy,” Q snaps, voice rising.

Opening his mouth to reply, Bond draws a breath, but whatever speech he is about to give is quickly cut short.

“Am I not enough for you? Is that what it is? You’re not getting something here that you find with those women? I’d rather you just told me Bond. If there’s something you want that I can’t give you, I’d rather you told me. I don’t want to be that joke of a person, pining after you; this isn’t a romance movie with some impossible unrequited love that’s never going to work out but no one ever talks about it despite it being obvious to everyone around them. If you’re not happy James, I want you to tell me now, because I can’t be that person. I don’t want to be this person. I’ve never doubted myself, ever, and I don’t want to start now.”

The hurt and fear that flashes across Bond’s face causes Q to stop, the blond man rubbing a hand across his face wearily. “Fuck, Q. God, no.”

He reaches out, hands sliding up Q’s neck to encompass his face, forcing the smaller man to look at him.

“Please, never think that. I want you and the thought of you leaving hurts me more than you could ever know. I sleep with women on missions for information and only that. They’re all marks, they mean nothing. I couldn’t even tell you some of their names and I know how awful that sounds. They’re just part of the mission, a means to get home more quickly. But it’s you I come home to, you and no one else.” Bond tells him passionately, rubbing his thumbs across the hard lines of Q’s cheekbones. “This isn’t like you at all and I wish you’d come to me before.”

As Q examined Bond’s face, his resolve crumbles, seeing the unguarded adoration written clearly alongside the lines of hurt that Q himself had caused.

Q felt his shoulder’s slump. “But..”

“No buts, no ifs, no maybes. You; the only definite in my life. You are my partner, my reason for coming home. You’re the one who keeps me alive throughout everything and the thought that I’ve hurt you hurts me too. You shouldn’t care what the rest of MI6 think, the people who matter know the truth, or I thought they did anyway.” Bond’s blue eyes shine with an intensity that Q would have never thought human.

And the worst thing is, Q does know this. He’s known it all along, but instead of ignoring that niggly little voice inside his head that taunted him and telling it to shut the hell up, he gave in to it. Allowing himself to believe spiteful rumours. Allowing himself to wallow in needless self-pity.

“I’m sorry. I do know that, god I do,” he says, wrapping his arms around Bond’s muscular frame and feeling the agent’s arms pull him closer.

“I love you. I will tell you every hour of every day if I have to.” Bond says resolutely, his mouth finding Q’s in a bruising kiss that spoke everything their words will never manage.

Q doesn’t deserve this, doesn’t deserve him, he thinks, but somehow he has him. Every part of him.

“I love you too,” Q replies, hands roaming over Bond’s face, memorising every detail of it as he has so many times before, every line, every hidden scar or marred piece of skin. The shaving scar he has under his chin from where he nicked himself as a teenager, the rough skin of a burn scar behind his ear, so tiny that you would never even notice it visually, but Q feels it.

It’s only when his hands wander down to Bond’s chest that the agent makes an uncomfortable noise and shifts.

“Sorry, I think I might have cracked a rib,” he says by way of explanation, shrugging one shoulder in that irritating way that he always did to try and avoid a lecture. “The bruising hasn’t come out yet.”

Q nods, too relieved to find the energy to be annoyed over the injury, readjusting their positions so as not to put undue pressure on Bond’s ribs, knowing that if the other man was mentioning it, then the injury was more than uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry that you had to sleep on the couch.”

“It’s definitely not the worst place I’ve ever had to crash, wasn’t the place I wanted to be though,” Bond winks, a seductive edge appearing in his voice, though they both know that this isn’t going any further physically at the moment.

“I’ll make it up to you later,” Q promises, pressing a feather light kiss to Bond’s mouth as the agent lies back, pulling Q down with him, tucking the smaller man under his arm with Q’s head resting atop of his shoulder.

Immediately Q brings up his right hand to trace soft patterns across Bond’s stomach, smiling slightly as goosebumps rise on the other man’s tanned skin.

“I’m sorry I doubted you- us.

Bond shakes his head, pressing his nose into Q’s hair and tightening his arms around his quartermaster.

“I just will never understand why you love me.” Q mumbled against James’ chest.

“You don’t have to understand it, just believe it, because I’m not going anywhere.” Bond tells him firmly, Q feeling the words through the rumbling of his partner’s chest, rather than hearing them. “I’m here to stay.”

“I love you,” he sighs, fingers intertwining with Bond’s.

“I love you too- always,” Bond replies, kissing Q’s forehead and pulling their locked hands to his chest. “That I can promise you.”

And Q does believe him, wholeheartedly.

Their future will never be certain and the women will come and go fleetingly. Q knows that he will never be able to stem the rumours, but they’re something he will have to deal with for as long as Bond is an agent.

But it’s worth it, he decides, Bond is worth it.

The man lying beside him, trusting and pliant under Q’s slim fingers, is worth every bit of malicious gossip.

And Q adores him. Well, most of the time.

So he presses his lips against James’ collarbone, smiling when Bond leans down to capture his lips once again, because this- this is his. And he knows that no ‘Bond girl’ is ever going to take that away from him.