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Waiting Game

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Q waits.

He waits 12 days before he realises it wasn’t a hoax, or a diversion, or whatever else he figured Bond had up his sleeve.

At 24 days Q finishes the Walther he programmed to Bond's palm, and puts it away safely for when Bond returns.

At 40 days Q begins to wonder, with a curl in his stomach that feels a lot like dread, whether Bond will return at all.

* * *

At 60 days post-Bond, and really who’s counting, Q is summoned to M’s office with a request for urgency. When he arrives, breathing rather heavily, M is pacing behind his desk. He stops when he sees Q and directs him to take a seat, doing the same himself.

Q peers around the room before he does so, expecting to see a familiar shape gazing pensively out of the window, or lounging in a chair looking both dignified and relaxed. They were two of Bond’s favoured positions.

M fixes him with a look from the other side of the desk and clasps his hands together.

“He isn’t here,” he says.

Q nods. “I know, I would have known already if he was.”

To be fair, he did know that, but what else was he meant to think when given the request to be ‘urgent’? Certainly not a cup of tea and a chat about union concerns.

“It’s time to think about his replacement,” M says.

Q feels as though the bottom has dropped out of his stomach. “You don’t mean-- you don’t think he’s coming back?”

“It’s been two months, there isn’t any reason to think he is.”

Not quite, Q wants to say. It won’t be two months until tomorrow.

“Of course he is,” he says instead.

M raises his eyebrows. “And what makes you say that?”

“Well he’s Bond, isn’t he? Of course he’ll come back, he isn’t set out for the quiet life,” he can hear the slightest touch of hysteria in his voice and he tamps down on it. “Give him a week or two and he’ll be back the same as ever, spoiling for a fight and begging for his next assignment.”

M gives him a humourless smile. “Bond doesn’t beg.”

“He might after two months of seclusion.”

M regards him seriously.

“Two weeks,” he says. “Two weeks and if he’s not back we find a replacement.”

Q agrees and takes his dismissal, sending a silent plea to Bond, wherever he is in the world, to make it back within two weeks.

* * *

After another 10 days, Bond still hasn’t returned. M sends Q a passive aggressive email updating him about possible recruits. It’s probably neither passive nor aggressive, but Q takes it as such.

It’s not as if he misses bond. It’s just that Q misses the excitement that seemed to surround Bond and, as Bond’s Quartermaster, made Q's life something more.

And he’s comfortable with Bond. Not so much in person, (Bond cuts an intimidating figure and he still makes Q a little nervous as much as he pretends he doesn't), but they’ve fallen into somewhat of a routine. Q likes to think he’s begun to know Bond’s ins and outs. He’s not foolish enough to think he knows Bond personally, but he knows the way he works.

Having to start all over with a complete stranger at this point would be a waste of Q’s time, and he doesn’t have that much time to begin with.

It’s not like he misses Bond.

 

Day 71

He mistakes a bit of junk mail for a postcard and his heart leaps out of his chest before he flips it over and discovers it’s an advertisement for pizza.

He orders a Supreme with extra pepperoni.

 

Day 72

He could track Bond, if he wanted. He still has the tracker in his blood. He wouldn’t have to pry, just pinpoint Bond’s location like he’s done so many times before.

His hands hover over his keyboard for an inordinate amount of time before he firmly closes all programs and continues work on weaponry instead.

 

Day 73

He’s a little worried, but he’s sure it’s unwarranted. If there’s one thing he’s certain of, it’s that Bond isn’t ready for retirement.

He makes his fifth cup of tea for the day and tries to focus on anything that isn’t 007 related.

 

Day 74

He doesn’t know why he expects Bond to show up on the last day of the deadline, but he’s so sure that he will.

He supposes it’s because Bond always had a flair for the dramatics, and that’s putting it kindly. It would be so like him to stroll into headquarters at 5pm with a hand in one pocket and say something ridiculous like “am I late? Dreadful traffic.”

So, that’s why when all the staff in Q Branch have left, Q continues to work.

He doesn’t know how Bond would have heard about the deadline signalling the end of his job, but Q expects him to know somehow. Bond seems to know everything, after all.

He waits in the quiet lab until the sun has well and truly set, until he finishes his latest project and places it carefully in a case, until his eyelids begin to droop and his computer screen becomes a blur.

And then he puts on his jacket, packs up his things and leaves.

* * *

The days pass more quickly after that, and Q is decidedly not counting them anymore, but there are 8 new crosses on the calendar in his home office.

Interviews and various tests have begun for the potential recruits, Q knows because he got a memo about it. But he continues to ignore the emails from M asking him to meet the top recruits and give his professional opinion, seeing as he’ll be their Quartermaster.

He knows he won’t have much say anyway. MI6 will choose the best candidate for the job, no matter how Q feels about it, and he doesn’t much care. All he can hope is that they’ll be competent enough to work his new weaponry innovations without Q having to give them a detailed walk-through. Bond never required it.

He finds himself sitting on his couch in his pyjamas on a Saturday, eating cereal and watching cartoons. His cat is curled up against his side, and she digs her claws into his thigh as she stretches.

“Ow,” he says around a spoonful of cheerios. His cat blinks up at him innocently. “I’ve had a bad week, Duchess,” he says sternly. “A little more gentle, please.”

She doesn’t move, and he sighs and drops his spoon to run a hand through her soft, white fur.

“I don’t know if he’s coming back,” he tells her, “and I was so sure he would. Why would he leave, Duchess? And with a girl he’s just met? I don’t understand it.”

Wide, unblinking eyes stare up at him.

“Stop looking at me like that, I’m not that pitiful. It’s not like I miss him.” Either he’s going crazy or his cat looks disbelieving. He’d say it’s the former seeing as he’s having a conversation with his cat. “Okay, I might…miss him, a little, but that doesn’t matter now does it? He’s gone off and retired and left the battle against evil to someone else.”

Left me, he wants to add, but he’s not going to say that out loud. He’s shared enough with his cat for today. He looks pointedly away from her stare and finishes his cereal.

* * *

“They’re down to the last two recruits,” Moneypenny says, “but M clearly favours one. He should be initiated sometime in the next few days.”

“Mhm,” Q hums, though he doesn’t look up from his computer screen.

Moneypenny doesn’t move from where she’s standing on the other side of his desk. He sighs and tries to make an effort.

“And what’s he like?”

She purses her lips thoughtfully. “He’s…tenacious. He’s certainly very capable.”

“I’d hope he would be. It’d be a travesty if the newest double-O was dead before the year was out. Such a waste of time and resources.”

“Ah yes,” Moneypenny says knowingly, “you’re all about time and resources aren’t you?”

“And what exactly are you trying to say?”

She pauses, and watches him for a moment.

“I don’t think he’s coming back, Q.”

“I know that,” Q snaps, and then immediately feels sorry for it. “I know that,” he says, more gently. “But, you can’t honestly think he’ll be gone forever, he’s Bond for God’s sake.” He leans forward over his desk and tries not to look like he’s pleading with her. “I’m not saying he has to come back, I’m saying that he will anyway.”

“And if he doesn’t?” Moneypenny says.

Q leans back in his chair and adjusts his glasses.

“Then we welcome the new double-O with open arms,” Q says. “Perhaps he’ll be a breath of fresh air.”

Moneypenny doesn’t quite look as though she believes it, but she nods once, anyway, and says, “maybe he will.”

* * *

Just as Moneypenny said, the newest double-O agent is initiated two days later.

M brings him down to Q Branch so he can meet Q, and wanders off to look around the lab.

The new double-O smiles at Q and holds out a hand for him to shake.

“Oliver Hyde,” he says, “it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

He’s younger than Bond, but still older than Q. Q read his file this morning. Moneypenny was right, he’s certainly capable.

Q shakes his hand. “Q,” he says.

Hyde steps back to survey the lab.

“It’s quite a place you’ve got here,” he says. He gestures towards one of the guns lying in a case, and Q nods. Hyde takes the gun out and rests it in his palm, feeling the weight of it.

It’s the gun Q had set aside for Bond, but, he supposes Bond won’t be needing it anymore.

Hyde holds it securely and tilts it from side to side.

“Very nice,” he says, and he carefully places it back in the case. “M tells me you’re one of the best.”

“Well, that's a matter of perspective, but I take my job very seriously.” In other words, yes he’s the bomb.

Hyde puts his hands in his pockets and smiles at him again. He seems to do that a lot. He comes across as genuinely good-natured, and Q kind of wishes he didn’t, but he’s starting to like the guy already.

“I think you’re being modest,” he says. “I’ve heard very good things. I’m lucky to have you as my Quartermaster.”

Yes, Q accepts with resignation that he's definitely coming to like him.

“Thank you,” he says. “I’ll do my best.”

On his way out of the lab, Hyde stops and turns back to look at him.

“Oh, and I promise I’ll try to return most of this equipment in good condition.”

Q gives him a smile that turns into more of a grimace as soon as Hyde is out of the room.

* * *

He leaves early, that day. He picks up takeaway on the way home, and when he gets back to his flat his cat rubs up against his legs until he feeds her.

He puts some leftovers into the microwave and then watches a bit of TV while he eats. He tries not to think about work, but he does.

Hyde won’t get an assignment for at least a couple of months, not until everything has been sorted, and MI6 are positive he can make it in the field. According to Moneypenny, Hyde is content with being patient.

Q doesn’t want to compare them, Hyde and Bond, but he can’t help it.

Bond was never much for patience, nor was he for outright compliments. He didn’t need to be, though. His steadfast and implicit faith in Q’s abilities was compliment enough.

True, he had doubted him at first, because of his age, his lack of experience in the field, whatever it was. But once Q had proven himself, Bond hadn’t questioned him any further. Bond trusted him, and Q knows he didn’t trust very many people.

Q falls asleep some time around midnight, still on the couch, still in his work clothes, and still thinking about Bond.

 

He wakes up some time later, and at first he’s not sure why he woke up. He presses his watch and it lights up. 2:12am. He rubs his eyes and sits up, pushing himself off the couch to go to bed.

“Good evening.”

He’s almost at the hallway and the voice startles him enough that he jumps and spins around.

Bond stands just inside the window, and the moonlight shadows his face but Q would be able to recognise him from silhouette alone. He looks just the same as ever, polished suit, eyes bright enough that they shine through the darkness, hand resting casually in his pocket.

“What are you doing here?” Q says. His heart is racing madly and he presses a hand to his chest.

“Well, I rather despise being out of the loop,” Bond walks forward and settles comfortably on the couch, unbuttoning his suit jacket, “so I thought you may be able to fill me in on anything I’ve missed.”

Q stares at him, a little dumbfounded. “At 2am?”

“I do apologise for that, I did think you’d be awake.”

“Why would I-- I have work tomorrow. And, anyway...in my flat?”

Bond shrugs as if the answer is obvious. “This is where you’d be.”

“You didn’t think about knocking?”

“Old habits,” he says.

Q leans against the closest wall and pinches the bridge of his nose. He can’t believe he’s having this conversation. With Bond. Who is in his flat. Who is in his flat.

He looks back up at Bond who hasn’t changed his position, looking for all the world at home with his arm stretched along the back of Q’s couch.

“You’re late,” Q says. “They’ve already found your replacement.”

Bond raises his eyebrows and Q is pleased to see he looks genuinely surprised.

“Already?”

Q gives a jerky nod. “He’s very accomplished, M likes him very much. He told me he’d return my equipment in good condition.”

“Is that so?” Bond’s mouth curves into a half-smile.

It flares a spark deep within Q’s chest. How can Bond dare to leave, out of the blue, leaving the Double-O Branch in disarray, and then show up just as suddenly, in Q’s flat, no less, expecting to take up his place just as he had before?

“Yes, well, believe it or not the world goes on without you here,” Q says, and his voice is bitter, but steady. “People need saving, villains need to be killed; the world’s balance needs to be restored. You know, the job you left behind in order to take an early retirement.”

Bond regards him curiously, and Q refuses to break his stare. “Are you angry with me Q?”

“No,” he lies, “but I’m irritated at your irresponsibility.”

“Isn’t that the same thing?”

Q glares at him. “No.”

“Okay,” Bond says simply, and he relaxes back on the couch. “Can you tell me what else has happened then?”

Q crosses his arms. “There isn’t much to update. Like I said, they brought in your replacement.”

“Do you like him?” Bond asks.

“I told you he’s accomplished—“

“Yes, but do you like him?”

“Do I--?”

“Yes.”

“Uh,” Q says, a little bemused, “Yes. He seems to be genuine. He’ll make a good agent.”

“I see,” Bond says, and then he says nothing further, just sits on the couch and watches Q.

Q is struck once again by the oddity of the situation.

“And,” he begins, “what about you?”

Bond raises his eyebrows in response.

“You’re back.”

“You didn’t expect me to be?” Bond says, and he has an excellent poker face, but Q swears he can see a hint of resignation.

“I wouldn’t expect you to leave for good until the moment is right.”

Bond gives him another of his half-smiles, but he doesn’t respond.

Q hesitates for another moment and then he says, “You can stay if you want,” and retreats to his bedroom.

When he wakes up in the morning, there isn’t a trace of Bond left.

* * *

He’s in half a mind to believe the late night encounter was entirely in his imagination. But when he arrives at work with a double-shot espresso, Moneypenny greets him at the entry.

“Bond checked in this morning.”

Q tries to look surprised.

“Did he now?”

She nods as she walks along beside him, her heels clicking against the tiled floor.

“He’s up in M’s office now. I’d love to be a fly on the wall for that conversation."

“But what’s going to happen now?” Q says, “they’ve just brought in Hyde, they can’t get rid of him.”

“Apparently Bond already knew about Hyde. I’d wager he’s trying to vie for his position.”

Q frowns, “M likes Hyde though.”

“M likes Bond, and Bond always gets his way.”

Moneypenny is right, as usual. Bond does get his way. M comes to speak with Q soon after the meeting.

“I’m sorry to knock you around like this Q, but you’ll be staying as Bond’s Quartermaster.”

“Right,” Q says, “not a problem.”

He forgets to ask about Hyde, though it turns out he’s been moved to a different division. Q supposes Bond can be very persuasive.

* * *

To Bond’s absolute dismay, he has to undergo evaluation before he’s allowed back into the field. Q sadly doesn’t get to watch, but Bond passes with flying colours, and he’s approved within the day.

A week later, Bond pays a visit to Q Branch before he leaves for Greece.

“Coded to your palm,” Q says, handing him the PPK.

Bond holds it so it faces down, and waits until the green light appears. “It certainly came in handy last time,” he says.

“Yes, before it was stolen by a Komodo dragon.”

“I’d assume he’s making good use of it,” Bond says.

Q gives him a look and continues through the lab. He takes an elegant-looking ballpoint pen off the shelf.

“Stock standard explosive device. Just click to activate.”

“I thought you didn’t go for exploding pens anymore,” Bond says, taking it from him to inspect.

Q had vehemently fought against it purely so he wouldn’t have to endure that comment, but he isn’t going to tell Bond that.

“We change with the times,” he says.

Bond pockets the pen carefully, and then holds up the gun case. “I’ll try to bring it back in one piece.”

“No you won’t,” Q says.

“No I won’t.”

Bond’s lips twitch and amusement is written clear across his face. He turns to leave and Q calls out to him before he does.

“Be safe out there, in the field.” He doesn’t know when ‘good luck’ became ‘be safe’.

Bond looks at him for a moment, and then he nods, and he’s gone.

* * *

Bond’s mission runs smoothly over the next few days, which means there are fourteen bodies to clean up after and a great deal of damage spanning over an entire country.

For Q, it means he’s back to late nights and a high stress level, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

His phone wakes him at 3am one night with the ringtone he has set for Bond (for reasons such as this, obviously), and he moves from a deep sleep to total alertness in a matter of seconds.

“007,” he says urgently, already getting out of bed and moving to his office, “what is it?”

“I’ve infiltrated headquarters,” Bond says, sounding as calm as ever, although Q can hear gunfire and screeching tires in the background. “But I’m having a bit of trouble shaking them off.”

“I’d imagine,” Q says, settling down in the chair in front of his computer. He puts his phone on speaker and tracks Bond, who appears to be speeding through the streets of Greece. “Next left,” he says, and the dot on the map flies around the corner. “Should I ask whose car it is you’ve hijacked?”

“I wouldn’t be able to tell you,” Bond replies.

“Why am I not surprised,” Q murmurs. “Next right, then sudden left.”

Bond takes the turns and there’s a lull in gunfire.

“Did I wake you?”

“Of course you did. Why would I be awake at this hour?”

“There are reasons,” Bond says.

Q flushes, and then berates himself for it. He isn’t a child.

“Take the next right, into the alleyway.”

The gunfire starts up again and Q directs him for the next 10 minutes, purposely choosing a complex route and relying on Bond to do the rest. Once Bond is speeding down the highway in the clear, he finally relaxes, and the adrenaline thrumming through his body begins to slow. He takes his phone off speaker and presses it back against his ear.

“Thanks Q,” Bond says.

“You’re welcome 007, try not to get yourself killed.”

Q expects him to disconnect the call, but he doesn’t.

“I suppose I should apologise for my continuing to wake you.”

“It’s part of the job,” Q says, after a moment. “And it isn’t so much of a bother, I am rather youthful, as you’re aware.”

“That you are,” Bond agrees, “though not for lack of talent.”

“Have they done something to you, in Greece?” Q says incredulously. “Are you under threat right now? And this is you trying to tell me?”

Q can hear the smile in Bond’s voice when he speaks. “Or perhaps I’m not so cold-hearted after all.”

“I never thought you were,” Q says.

It’s quiet, for a while, and Q can hear Bond’s steady breathing and the sound of the car, smooth against the road. Bond would only choose the best, even while under fire.

Q is about to say goodbye when Bond speaks, and his voice rumbles through the quiet.

“You should get some sleep,” he says. “Things should be tied up here in a couple of days.”

“Yes,” Q lets out a breath. “Make it home in one piece.”

“I’ll do my best,” Bond says.

He watches as the dot on the map stops and starts again, and then stops at a hotel. Only then does he go back to bed.

* * *

Bond returns, and then he leaves again. And although Q is glad for the pickup in activity, his body isn’t.

Moneypenny greets him as he walks into work five days after 007 left for Japan.

“You look terrible.”

“Not one for sugar-coating are you,” he rasps. “And it sounds worse than it is.”

“I’m not so sure,” she says, and he doesn’t disagree. He feels miserable. “You can take the day off, you know. I’m sure Q Branch can handle one day without you.”

“Are you kidding?” Q says. “None of them know how to handle 007.”

“Ah, and here we have the Bond expert.”

“I never claimed to be an expert,” Q says pointedly.

“Of course, you’re just very skilled at handling him.”

“I know what you’re doing.” He glares at her but it probably looks quite pitiful given how red his nose is. “And it isn’t very entertaining.”

“Isn’t it?” she says. “I’m rather enjoying myself.”

He’s struck by a coughing fit and she pats him on the back and leaves before he has time to respond. So much for good friends.

Bond calls him midway through the day.

“Q,” he greets, “I need these coordinates traced”.

“Send them through,” he says, although it comes out as more of a croak.

“Are you ill?” Bond says.

“Yes 007, it’s something that happens to those of us who aren’t infallible.”

“Are you at work?”

“I am.”

“You shouldn’t be.”

“Bond,” Q says, “when was the last time you worked without an injury?”

“That’s different.”

“How?”

“I’m infallible.”

Q stares blankly at his computer screen. Bond is insufferable.

He sighs and tracks the coordinates.

“Yokohama,” he says. “The InterContinental Hotel.”

“Thanks,” Bond says, “and go home, Q.”

“Your advice will be taken on board, Bond. Goodbye.”

He disconnects the call and doesn’t go home, but he leaves early.

* * *

Unfortunately Q wakes up the following morning feeling even worse. He attempts to drag himself out of bed and get dressed, but his efforts are futile. He ends up calling in sick, and for the day after that.

He spends the two days at home working as much as he can from his office, but Bond’s assignment has been completed, so it’s not like he’s desperately needed.

He’s settled on his couch, huddled in his blanket and about to eat a balanced meal of instant noodles when he’s interrupted by a knock at the door.

He drags himself upright and shuffles over to the door, drawing his blanket tighter around his shoulders.

When he opens it Bond is standing on the other side. He looks impeccable, as he always does, dressed in a dark blue suit with a crisp white shirt. Q feels the breath knocked out of him. Finding Bond attractive isn’t anything new, but honestly does the man have to flaunt it like he does? It’s unnecessary.

Q stares at him vacantly.

“I knocked,” Bond says.

Q stares at him a moment longer, and then he steps to the side, letting him in.

Bond looks around the flat, and Q realises he’s only seen it in the dark. He spots the cup of noodles sitting on the coffee table.

“Don’t tell me you’re going to eat that.”

“I am,” Q says, “and I’m going to enjoy it.”

Bond gives him a look that is decidedly unimpressed, and then he picks up the noodles and walks back into Q’s kitchen, throwing the whole cup into the bin.

“I was going to eat that,” Q sighs. He’d be more upset if he weren’t so exhausted. He watches Bond begin to pull things out of his fridge and then he shakes his head a little and sits back down on the couch to watch TV.

It isn’t long before the smell of something cooking makes Q’s stomach grumble. When Q gets halfway through a TV show he isn’t even really watching, Bond sits next to him on the couch and hands him a bowl of delicious-smelling soup and a spoon.

“Much better than that rubbish you were going to eat.”

Q takes a hesitant spoonful and hums around it. It’s good.

“A spy and a chef,” Q says. “Who knew.” He takes another spoonful. It really is good. “Thanks,” he adds softly.

Bond smiles a little in response, and then leans back, placing his arm along the back of the couch, mirroring the position he took when he first turned up at Q’s flat. It makes Q want to ask why he’s here. Why he really came here the night he came back. But he doesn’t.

They don’t talk while Q eats; they just sit and watch TV. The silence is comfortable.

When Q finishes he places his bowl on the table and then leans back on the couch. His head rests against Bond’s arm, and he considers moving, but he’s tired.

He can feel Bond’s warmth beside him, and he can’t remember ever being so close to him. He’s sure they haven’t touched since they first met and shook hands. It feels like a lifetime ago.

He must fall asleep at some point, because then Bond is nudging him awake, and when he opens his eyes the TV is on a different program.

Bond coaxes him up and guides him to his bedroom with a hand on the small of his back. He lies down in bed and Bond pulls his quilt on top of him.

“You can stay,” Q says drowsily, and he falls asleep before he hears Bond’s response.

When he wakes the next morning and stumbles to the living room, his blanket is folded neatly on the couch. There is a glass of water sitting on the kitchen bench, still cool to the touch, with a couple of pills and a note left beside it reading ‘drink this’.

He dutifully does as he's told, and then he drops heavily into a seat, trying not to think about the horrible mess he's only now come to terms with.

* * *

007 gets a couple of weeks off and then he’s posted out. He comes to see Q down in the lab before he leaves and Q supplies him with the essentials.

“I don’t suppose you brought back your PPK?” he asks.

“I’m afraid the last I saw of it was when it was falling from the top of a 40-storey building.”

“Naturally,” Q rolls his eyes. “I'm surprised you managed to bring yourself back this time.”

Bond pauses, regarding him carefully, mouth turned up into a crooked smile, “For you,” he says.

And it leaves Q rather speechless.

He thinks about it throughout Bond’s mission. He thinks about it when he lies down to go to sleep, and whenever there’s a lull in action during the day. He knows he’s overthinking it, but he can’t help himself.

He’s still lying awake in bed when his Bond ringtone buzzes from beside him. He sits up and takes the call.

“007.”

“Q,” Bond says, and Q can hear the chatter of people around him. “I’ve put a tracking device on one of Karlos’ men.”

Q moves to his computer and pulls up the tracker.

“I see him. He’s moving south towards Pedroso.”

He listens to the sound of Bond getting into a car and taking off. He pulls up Bond’s tracker as well.

“Are you getting the signal?”

“I’ve got it,” Bond says.

Q follows Bond’s progress on his screen quietly for a while.

“How are things in London?” Bond asks, when he’s on a highway and a safe distance behind the mark.

“Cold. Wet.”

“You could use a holiday,” Bond says. “Somewhere warm.”

Q exhales wearily, and closes his eyes for a second.

“What did you mean when you said ‘for you’?” he asks, softly.

Bond is silent on the other end, and Q immediately regrets asking the question. Bond follows the mark off the highway, and Q listens to the gears shift under his touch.

“This isn’t the time for that conversation,” he says.

“Of course not,” Q says, “forget about it.”

The mark turns into a side street and comes to a stop, and Q watches and listens as Bond brakes and pulls over as well.

“I’m not saying it isn’t a conversation to have, just not now,” he says, and his voice sounds as gentle as he’s ever heard it. “Thank you for your help, Q. I’ll talk to you when I get back.”

“Get home safe,” Q says.

“I will,” Bond says, and he disconnects.

Q watches Bond’s tracker for another hour until he knows that he’s safe, and then he goes back to bed and falls asleep instantly. It’s the best nights’ sleep he’s had in days.

* * *

Bond’s assignment isn’t over for a week and a half, and there’s a bit of a scuffle at the end. Q stress levels are through the roof for five hours while Bond single-handedly takes down an entire sectarian gang one by one. He doesn’t resume breathing normally until Bond has boarded a plane and is on his way home.

He goes home absolutely exhausted but still buzzing on adrenaline, and he has a well-deserved glass of Chardonnay Pinot Noir to wind down. Hours later, Q is still awake, and when he hears a knock at the door he knows who to expect.

“Evening,” Bond says. He looks rough. He’d obviously tried to clean up before he boarded the plane, but there’s various cuts and bruises on the skin that Q can see, and he’s heavily favouring his right side.

“I didn’t think you’d come straight here,” Q says, letting him through.

“Of course,” Bond replies, and he moves towards the windows. Q just watches him, the shape of him, the way he moves; gingerly but still graceful.

“I should congratulate you on a job well done.”

Bond nods, though he still faces away. “And you.”

Q waits for him to speak further, and he does, after a moment.

“It wasn’t for me; retirement. But I’m getting older, slower.”

“I watched you take down an entire gang today. You weren’t that slow.”

Q watches Bond smile in his reflection in the window.

“It’s all a matter of perspective.”

“Whose perspective? Yours?” Q steps closer towards him, “Is that why you left? You think you’re too old for this now?”

“I’m old enough,” he says. He finally turns around to look at Q. “I thought it might be best.”

“Best for who exactly,” Q says heatedly.

Bond’s eyes scan over Q’s face carefully. “You’re still angry, about me leaving.”

Q directs his gaze over Bond’s shoulder so he doesn’t have to look him in the eye.

“Why?” Bond asks.

Q considers not telling him. Or lying. Telling him the line he continually used about time and resources. But he doesn’t want to lie to Bond.

“Because I waited for you,” he says, and he crosses his arms protectively over his chest. “I waited for you to come back, while you made off with that girl and played happy families. And I’m not saying you didn’t deserve that, because you do. After all you’ve done and everything you’ve sacrificed, of course you deserve that. But not… now, not like that.”

He finally looks at Bond and he’s closer than he was. His face is sombre now, and he looks at Q intently.

“I’m sorry,” he says.

Q shrugs and smiles at him dejectedly. “What for?”

“Sorry for being irritating, sorry for never returning your equipment, sorry for leaving without telling you I’d return.” He pauses. “Is there anything else I’ve yet to apologise for?”

Sorry for being an irresponsible, danger-seeking, womanising old sod and making me fall in love with you.

He sighs, slowly, releasing the tension from his body. He’s in love with Bond. It isn’t as surprising as it should be.

“I can’t think of anything further.”

“Then it’s your turn,” Bond says.

“My turn?” Q says, more than a little confused. “What could I have possibly done that would require apologising?”

“You stand there,” Bond’s lips quirk, and he takes another step closer, “tantalising. Expecting me only to look and not to touch.”

Q quivers where he stands.

“You promised me a certain conversation,” he says, voice strained.

“This is that conversation,” Bond says, and then he closes the distance between them, and he kisses him, bringing his hands up to cup Q's jaw. His hands are impossibly warm and so are his lips, and Q arches into the kiss. He places his own hands on Bond’s chest, and then over his shoulders, feeling the strength there.

He gets lost in the kiss, in Bond. All he knows is Bond’s hands on his face and in his hair, Bond’s tongue in his mouth, Bond’s warmth, radiating through Q’s skin and making him flushed.

He’s pressed up against Bond from his chest to his hips, so he feels it when he leans into Bond further and Bond winces. It brings him back to earth with a start.

“I forgot,” he says, concerned, “you’re hurt.”

“I’m fine,” Bond says, and he leans back in to kiss him.

Q indulges him for a moment, he's only human after all, but then he pulls back again. He keeps his arms wrapped around Bond’s shoulders.

“I won’t be responsible for any further damage of MI6’s most valuable agent.”

“Then we don’t have to tell anyone,” Bond says, and he goes to kiss him again. This time Q doesn’t let him.

“Bond,” he says sternly.

“Q,” Bond replies, “I’ve been wanting this for months. If you think a bit of soreness is going to stop me….”

He goes for Q’s throat, kissing and sucking at his skin, and Q can’t help but let out a whimper.

“I really think,” Q starts, and then Bond does something maddening with his teeth and tongue, and it turns into a moan.

Bond hands wander down his back and he presses their hips more firmly together. Q can feel Bond hard against him, and he loses any intention of further protest.

Bond kisses up his jaw and then bites gently at his earlobe, and Q gasps and presses insistent fingers into Bond’s biceps.

“Bedroom,” he says, and Bond grunts in agreement.

They make it to the bedroom in triple the amount of time it should have taken, and by the time they make it Bond’s jacket and shirt are on the floor and Q is in nothing but his pants. Bond pushes Q gently so he falls back on the bed, and his eyes rove over Q’s body hungrily. Q feels his skin heat further under Bond’s gaze.

“There are so many things I want to do to you,” Bond says, and his voice is husky. “I’m going to make you feel so good.”

“Are you?” Q challenges, “Or are you just going to stand around talking about it?”

He doesn’t even get to finish his sentence before Bond is crowding over him and cutting him off with his mouth.

Bond makes good on his promise.

* * *

Bond gets a few weeks off this time, which means he’s waiting in Q’s flat when he gets home more days than not. Bond demonstrates more of his cooking skills, and they finish the Pinot Noir (and a couple more), but they never stray far from Q’s bed.

Bond comes to see him in the lab before he leaves on his next assignment.

“Q,” he says, lips turned up in half a smile, “what do you have for me?’

Q hands over his travel effects, a radio transmitter and a gun.

“It isn’t coded,” he tells him, “I’ve been busy and you have a habit of losing those anyway.”

“I do try,” Bond says.

“No you don’t.”

Bond laughs. “No I don’t.”

Q smiles at him fondly. “Be safe,” he says. “Come home in one piece.”

Bond smiles in return, and his eyes are warm.

“For you,” he says.

* * *

Q waits every assignment for Bond to come back.

He always does.