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It was December 20th and Bond was leaving on a mission. This was not unusual and neither was the less than three weeks between non-emergency assignments, even though it supposedly went against MI6 standard operating protocol. The mission was slated to be routine two-week surveillance – actual routine not routinely devolving into explosions and shootouts. The simplicity of the mission was the unusual part. It was, in all honesty, quite beneath the qualifications of a double-oh but he had taken advantage of his seniority (as much as he hated the word) and applied the usual bribes in the usual places to get the assignment. Bond despised being in London for Christmas and every year, he found a way to be somewhere else. No matter what.

Quite frankly, this was one of the easier years to pull off. There was an assignment that needed doing and all he had had to do was ensure that he was the agent sent to do it. Other years had required disappearing altogether and while it was entertaining and effective, that particular stunt had always worked M into a fit and she would assign him to all the shit missions for months. He had no doubts that Mallory would probably respond in a similar manner. One year he had been forced to let a pathetic excuse for a dictator think that his plan for world domination would actually succeed in order to extend a mission past Christmas. At least the man had been a halfway decent card player to compensate for the tedium of his monologuing. However, it seemed this year he wouldn’t be forced to utilize such extreme measures. The thought put a small smile on his face that vanished the moment he reached Q Branch.

Which was odd since walking into Q Branch often inexplicably made him smile.

On the other hand, the place usually didn’t look as if someone had ordered every single item in some horrendous Christmas catalogue in triplicate and covered every single surface of Q Branch with the decorations. There were four completely decorated Christmas trees that he could see from where he was standing and the idea that there could be more hidden in places that he couldn’t see was legitimately frightening. Bond was certain that there was more silvery tinsel wrapped around the columns, chair legs, and shelving than there was in all of the rest of London. The minions were all wearing red foam noses and (what he presumed were meant to be) reindeer antler headbands. Bond didn’t know if there was any significance or reasoning behind which minions wore red lab coats and which wore green; however, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to know. Sometimes the minions were a bit disturbing, even to him. There was every manner of Christmas décor except one. As far as he could tell, there was not even a single sprig of mistletoe. And that was a complete and terrible shame since that was the one bit of Christmas he actually enjoyed. For such a… festive workplace, it seemed to be quite the oversight. Perhaps Q was hoarding it all to himself. That exceedingly pleasant thought gave him the internal fortitude to traverse the labyrinth of holly and plastic Father Christmas statues.

Bond wasn’t sure why part of his mind had expected Q’s workshop to be a lone island of sanity but it was quickly apparent just how wrong that part had been. At least the décor in here was tasteful and more personalized; he had to give Q that. The tree in the corner wasn’t oversized nor was it overburdened with tacky ornaments, even if said ornaments appeared to be repurposed computer parts. Although it looked like the star topping the tree had been constructed entirely out of duct tape. A wreath made out of all sorts of wires hung above a monitor set to an image of a burning yule log. As for his quartermaster, he was thankfully not dressed like the rest of his disciples. From the back, his sweater appeared to be decent, albeit a bit too red and green for his tastes. Bond held out little hope for the front of the garment since MI6 and ugly Christmas sweaters went together like fish and chips. Tanner, in particular, was notorious for tracking down the most abhorrent monstrosities to ever be committed to fabric and wool and emailing images of them to him under the guise of urgent mission details if Bond managed to avoid seeing them in person. Since he feared for his vision when Q turned around, he took a moment to appreciate the sight of that perfect backside that the slightly tighter fitting than normal trousers presented him. It was quite the spectacular view but duty, both fortunately and unfortunately, called so he cleared his throat to get Q’s attention and felt an unexpected splinter of pride pass through him when he didn’t jump in surprise or act startled in the slightest. It seemed a career in espionage suited the man well.

“You’re late, 007.”

And it was only his own long espionage career that allowed him to keep the expression on his face neutral. Bond had expected the put-upon look (he was well aware of his tardiness) and the lifted eyebrow of sarcasm but the rest of the image in front of him forced the air from his lungs. Q’s sweater was so far from being of the ugly Christmas variety, it wasn’t even close. The geometric pattern he had seen from behind continued on the front and the usual red and green holiday color combination that he disliked was far, far more appealing when the red contrasted so nicely with Q’s pale skin and the green did what it did to his eyes. Bond was absolutely certain that Q’s mutable eyes had never looked so purely green before; he never would have forgotten if they had. It was a sight that not even his glasses could obscure. The ensemble was completed by the neckline of the sweater. Since winter had started, Q had favored those thrice-damned turtlenecks but this time, his gloriously enticing neck and throat were exposed, much to his own bit of merriment. Bond was quite (and sometimes painfully) familiar with the fact that he found his quartermaster absurdly alluring. He had recognized the sliver of want that had manifested at their first meeting in the National Gallery, even through the shadows he’d been surrounded by at the time. That knowledge had colored every interaction they’d had since then – at least from his perspective.

“Maybe your clock is running fast, Quartermaster.”

He looked personally offended at the suggestion that any gadget or computer within his domain was possibly inaccurate. Riling the man up had quickly become one of his favorite parts of his job, particularly once Bond discovered that Q wasn’t intimidated by him in the slightest and was more than capable of giving as good as he got. Witty, sarcastic, and competent? It was a lethal combination.

“Perhaps Father Time has robbed you of your sense of punctuality as well as your boyish good looks. You were supposed to be here to be issued your equipment an hour ago.”

And two hours ago, 004 had insulted his latest marksmanship scores while they’d been arguing over who got the last cup of coffee from the only remaining coffeemaker in the agents’ lounge. They had broken too many for Accounting to justify buying any more replacements this year. The insult had turned into a trip to the firing range and 004’s utter humiliation. Why the man insisted on using a Beretta, he had no idea. Also, this wasn’t the first time that Q had insinuated that he was no longer attractive. Bond knew he was still relatively decent looking – regularly used that fact to his advantage while on assignment – but he was also all too well aware of the accumulated lines and scars that marred his skin. Of the hollow ache deep in his bones that he was certain Q could see in his eyes on occasion. He wasn’t sure what to make of the remarks but getting to the bottom of that particular mystery wasn’t his objective right now. Getting out of London was.

“You have my deepest apologies if I’ve kept you up past your bedtime.” Bond truly enjoyed the irritated grimace that Q’s face made at that one. “I’ll take my equipment and happily get out of Father Christmas’ workshop.”

Confusion darkened those eyes into a color as new to him as the brilliant green brought out by the sweater he was wearing. Bond didn’t have a chance to examine it further as Q turned to retrieve a familiar black case and an equally familiar white envelope. His credentials, his gun, and his radio. Case in hand, Q took a step closer to him but made no move to actually hand his equipment over.

“I’m sorry you’ll be out-of-town for the holiday. It’s odd that you were assigned such a low-priority mission.”

Is that what the reluctance was about? Q felt bad for him? That was unnecessary. A bit touching but unnecessary. Reaching out a bit with his hand, Bond gave Q his best innocuous smile.

“I requested the assignment so it isn’t that odd. Thank you for your concern, though.”

He had hoped that would be enough to get Q to hand over the case but it seemed that he had misjudged. If anything, Bond thought it looked like his grip had tightened on it. The idea to yank it away crossed his mind but it wasn’t one he actually wanted to follow through on. Q was the voice in his ear. Someone he trusted with his life every time he went into the field. Trading banter and sarcasm with him was one thing; purposefully disrespecting that relationship was quite another. He refused to analyze any deeper why the thought of hurting Q’s feelings bothered him. This was not the time or the place.

“Don’t you want to be home for Christmas?”

If anyone else had asked the question, Bond knew he would have ignored it and stalked away – mission and equipment be damned. But this was Q, who looked as if he actually cared about the answer and had asked in a low tone of voice, preventing any of the scurrying minions from overhearing. This was Q, who knew him well enough to know that he would never actually get the truthful answer to his quiet question but thought enough of him to ask at all.

“No.”

Bond wasn’t sure what sort of expression he expected to form on Q’s face – pity or confusion or disappointment – but whatever his expectation had been, it was definitely not what he received. His eyes softened not in unwanted pity but in obvious compassion. It had been so bloody long since anyone had looked at him like that that Bond found himself halfway frozen in hesitation. What was he supposed to do with that? The tightness in his chest only got worse when Q shifted the case and envelope into one hand, took a step further into his personal space than almost anyone else in MI6 dared, and laid his now-empty hand on his upper arm. There was understanding in his eyes, even though Bond was certain that Q had no idea as to why he always wanted to be elsewhere for Christmas. There was understanding and concern and care… and he couldn’t breathe. His instincts were warring with themselves – they screamed at him to go far away; they pleaded with him to get even closer.

“I’m sorry.”

There was an almost painful undercurrent of gentleness in Q’s voice. The blank mask, molded by years of use, was slipping away… Q’s tender eyes were pulling it away… and he had to act. He needed to preserve it. Now. Breaking eye contact, even momentarily, revealed weakness but it was a necessary tactic. Unfortunately the only other thing his eyes would focus on was Q’s rather personalized holiday decorations. Perhaps a shift in the tone of their stilted conversation would allow him to breathe and regain his balance instead of resorting to outright escape.

“Based on the state of Q Branch, I’m assuming you are one of those that celebrate.”

Bond knew that he had sounded harsh and condescending – he had done it on purpose – so why was Q still touching him? A corner of his mouth had turned up in an unimpressed little smirk and there was an added layer of ‘who do you think you’re fooling’ in his gaze.

“I am. If you think Q Branch is decorated, you should see my flat.”

There were a multitude of innuendo-laden remarks waiting to be said at that but Bond couldn’t get a single one to roll off his tongue. He was honestly a bit disappointed in himself and from the way Q’s shoulders drooped, it was apparent that he was as well. If all of these feelings were making it difficult for him to hold up his end of the conversational bargain, then it was most certainly time for him to go.

“My equipment?”

Q’s hand finally released its tentative almost-grip on his arm as he pulled it back while he held out the case and the envelope with his other hand. Bond still felt the weight of each of his fingers faintly pressed into his arm and it was an oddly pleasant, if phantom, sensation. Reaching out, he plucked the envelope out of his hand and tucked it into his inner suit pocket. There was no reason to check the contents now; Q was always thorough with his work. That done, he tried to take the case from Q but it seemed that he was still reluctant to let it go.

“I hope you have a Happy Christmas, Bond.”

As soon as he finished the sentence, Q relinquished his hold on the equipment case and took an almost too large step back. It was a simple and ordinary enough sentiment for Bond to parrot back at him but once again, the words refused to form. With a small nod that he hoped, for a reason he couldn’t identify, Q wasn’t too disheartened by, he walked away.

He definitely needed to get out of London. Now.

--

It was December 23rd and the mission was even more mind-numbingly boring than Bond had feared it would be. The arms dealer had barely left his hotel in Johannesburg, selfishly preferring to stay in and enjoy the company of his two female friends rather than do something that might keep Bond a bit entertained. He had known that the assignment would be awful but for whatever reason, he always seemed to forget until he was actually doing it just how dull low-level surveillance was. In cases like this, any agent was usually only on site for unexpected (and highly unlikely) emergency purposes. That was why such assignments were typically the purview of very green agents who needed the seasoning or slightly more senior agents who needed to be brought down a peg. They were not intended for very senior double-ohs who wanted avoid London at Christmas. Although to be honest (and he was bored enough to be honest with himself), it wasn’t so much London that he was avoiding but a very sterile and very empty flat. That fact was probably symbolic of a great many things but he hadn’t consumed enough alcohol today to be that honest with himself.

Another disadvantage of being on such an inconsequential mission was his assigned handler. A mission like this wasn’t important enough to bother his quartermaster with so when he put on his earpiece and contacted MI6 with an update, it wasn’t Q’s voice that Bond heard in his ear but one of his nameless minions instead.

He didn’t like it.

Bond found that he couldn’t quite articulate why the change bothered him so much; he just knew that it did. It was supposed to be Q and anyone else simply felt like a mistake, like an ill-tailored suit. Q had been there for the missions that went right and hadn’t abandoned him on the ones that went wrong. He was a constant and steady presence, full of sarcasm and confidence. In the grand scheme of life, they hadn’t known each other that long but Bond knew – curiously and unbelievably - that he trusted Q. It wouldn’t be difficult (a simple matter of applying the right pressure in the right places) to contact MI6 and demand to speak with his quartermaster. There was a part of him that wanted to rather badly, if only to hear whatever rant Q would throw at him for interrupting his far more important work. That part got slightly larger as the sounds and noises he could hear through the wall told him that the arms dealer and his ladies had finally rested enough to start on Round Three. Listening to Q’s voice was considerably more appealing than listening to their racket, even if he was lecturing him. On the other hand, he hoped Q, with his endearingly decorated office and supposedly even more decorated flat, had far more entertaining things to do so close to a holiday he said he enjoyed than keep a broken old agent company.

Looking down at the tumbler half full of amber liquid in his hand, Bond decided that he either needed to stop drinking right this second or he needed to start taking the consumption of liquor far more seriously.

The sound of his phone ringing made the decision for him. No one else but MI6 would be calling him, after all. Maybe something interesting had happened that required his attention. Nothing too globally threatening – the entire planet didn’t deserve to have a shitty Christmas – but some isolated despot with atrocious facial hair and even worse aim wouldn’t be too amiss. It would be like his own little Christmas gift from the maniacs of the world. Picking up his phone, caller ID confirmed his suspicions. The long string of numbers (too long to be an actual phone number) was definitely MI6.

“Hello.”

There were certain wooden, idiotic code phrases he was supposed to use to verify that he wasn’t answering his phone under duress but Bond rarely bothered with them. It was a habit that hadn’t back fired yet, anyway.

“007.”

“Moneypenny. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

A seductive criminal mastermind with an elaborate and needing-to-be-exploded lair might be a decent enough holiday diversion. Some flirting and some C4 could help him forget at least some of his Christmas-induced melancholy.

“Bond, there is something I thought you should know.”

All vestiges of humor and amusement fled his body as quick as a lightning bolt streaked through the sky. The tone of Moneypenny’s voice was all wrong and it made all of his instincts come alive. His posture straightened, his muscles tensed. His mind inventoried each entry and exit point from his hotel room and it was even so slightly eased by the placating weight of his holstered Walther against his body. This wasn’t a ‘we have a more important mission for you’ phone call. Something had happened.

“Go ahead.”

There was a pause, just long enough to put a hundred unnamable thoughts in his head. Bond had rarely seen Moneypenny hesitate and he’d been the recipient of one of the few other times he could remember. She would have made a bloody good field agent but it was for the best. This wasn’t the sort of life a person wished for a friend.

“There was an accident in Q Branch.” The words made him stagger and his free hand reached blindly for the edge of the nearby desk for something to hold on to. He gripped it even tighter when Moneypenny continued. “Q was injured.”

Injured. Injured didn’t mean dead. Injured didn’t mean gone.

Moneypenny would not have called for a sprained ankle and a bruise.

“How badly?”

Bond didn’t care that his voice had shaken instead of being stoic agent flat or that he hadn’t bothered to ask about the state of the workshop or any of the minions. Anything but Q was insignificant.

“I won’t go into details.” That was just plain cruel. “This line isn’t that secure.” Yes, it was. Q said it was. “But he’d not in danger of dying.” There could be undetected internal bleeding. “He’s going to be in Medical for several days, though.”

Images of Q laying in one of those unnecessarily uncomfortable beds in Medical sharply assaulted his mind. They intensified when his eyes slipped closed and snippets remained when Bond quickly forced his eyes open again. That face marred by bruises and stitches. Skin pierced by the needed for an IV. A pair of glasses, broken and bent. White sterile bandages and shining green eyes dulled by painkillers. The only non-ugly Christmas sweater he’d ever seen stained with red, red blood.

And he was two continents away.

Unacceptable. He needed to be there. He needed to be with Q. He… wanted… to see with his own eyes that Q still drew breath.

“Get me back to MI6. Now.”

As he spoke, Bond started to gather up his belongings and stuff them into his suitcase. His suit could always be pressed but time was of the essence. Some baby agent could easily be sent out to finish this mission. It was no longer his concern.

“Bond…”

“Now, Moneypenny. Make it happen.”

“Tomorrow is Christmas Eve. Making travel arrangements is going to be impossible.”

Christmas. The word made him think of how decorated Q Branch had been. He wondered if a great deal of the decorations had been damaged in the accident Moneypenny had refused to elaborate on. The thought of Q’s duct tape Christmas star or his obviously self-made ornaments being broken made the stone that had formed in the pit of his stomach feel even heavier. Q actually liked Christmas and he was, in all likelihood, going to spent it drugged, unconscious, and alone in Medical. Bond knew he could fix one part of that and that was exactly what he intended to do.

“Find a way. I don’t care how.”

He could hear Moneypenny’s exasperated sigh through the phone as he moved into the bathroom to pick up his shaving kit and toothbrush. Running over a list of what he kept in his mobility bag, Bond was relatively certain that this was the last of his things that needed to be collected.

“Get to OR Tambo Airport. I’ll figure something out and contact you with details.” That he could do. He had an objective and the beginnings of a plan to carry it out. “And Bond? He’s going to be okay. Try to remember that.”

It was good advice but he doubted it was going to stick. He hung up the phone without acknowledging her words. Moneypenny would understand; she had known, somehow, that Q’s condition… mattered to him. He’d puzzle out that why and how of that later. There wasn’t time for such analysis now. He had things to do.

I hope you have a Happy Christmas, Bond.

--

It was December 24th and the mission parameters had changed. Bond was sitting in the back of a cramped aeroplane, flying somewhere over the European continent and he was praying to a God he no longer believed in for a dose of desperately needed patience. He had more or less told Moneypenny to get him to MI6 by any means necessary. However, he had been unaware that such means would include a placement in economy class and his frame not quite fitting into an inhumanely small (and uncomfortable) seat. It was entirely possible that neither his back nor his knees would ever forgive him for contorting them in such a manner. And then there was the children. Bloody hell, the children. It felt as if every child in Europe under the age of 12 was sitting in his direct vicinity. It certainly sounded like it. Tuning out so many high pitched excited voices was a difficult task, even for him. How the large gentleman and the elderly lady he was sandwiched between were managing to sleep (and snore) through it all, he had no idea. It seemed like a skill worth learning, though.

That reminded him of the “how to interact with modern technologies” lectures Q would sometimes creatively force the double-ohs and other field agents to sit through. While the subject matter was certainly not his forte, Bond could definitely appreciate anything that helped him acquire fewer stab wounds and bullet holes. He also easily appreciated the genuine and luminous smile that his enthusiasm for all of it put on Q’s face. On more than one occasion, he had done some pertinent research beforehand so he was able to ask a semi-intelligent question just so he could catch a glimpse of the proud and pleased look in Q’s eyes as he answered it. Or the little upturn of the corners of his mouth that seemed so wonderfully private and meant only for them.

Q was injured.

The echo of Moneypenny’s words made the recycled air taste even more oppressively stale than usual. She had refused to give him any further details as to the nature or cause of his injuries, repeatedly citing security concerns as her excuse. Logically, Bond knew it made sense to a degree. Both Q Branch and his quartermaster were valuable targets to any of their myriad of enemies and revealing the extent of damage to both over a cell phone was likely unwise. Although, in his opinion, if Q said a particular method of communication was secure, it was secure. It was just that he wanted to know what to expect when he walked into Medical. Moneypenny said she was preparing a brief for him and would have it ready by the time he arrived in London but he highly doubted he would be able to focus long enough to read it when he was that close to MI6 and to Q.

The problem with such a monotonous and insipid flight and having nothing more to occupy his time than staring at the seat in front of him was that he could not empty his thoughts. His mind kept coming back to Q. Every random thing reminded Bond of his quartermaster. His injured, wounded, and in Medical for several days quartermaster. Q hadn’t even been in the field, for fuck’s sake. He had been in his bunker of a workshop. He should have been safe.

There was a physical attraction there; he was incapable of denying that. Bond acknowledged that he… enjoyed, for lack of a better word… Q’s presence in his life. Bantering with him was one of his favorite activities. On the more professional side of things, Q was extremely good at what he did and both the man and the agent had always found competence extremely irresistible. But even he wasn’t ruled by lust enough to risk damaging his relationship with that trusted voice in his ear by attempting to see if it was a mutual spark to be indulged. It was simple enough to leave it at that as long as he was disciplined enough to avoid thinking about those eyes and that smile. Quite frankly, it was Q’s voice that tripped up his thoughts the most. That voice had saved his life and shielded him from harm, even from half a world away. It mocked his tastes in cocktails and bed partners and gently reminded to try and get some sleep. Hearing it was like…

Fuck.

Bond had promised himself… he had vowed… that he would never get tangled up like that again. Not after Vesper. But from the moment Moneypenny had told him Q had been hurt, it had felt as if he was bleeding from some wound he couldn’t see and he knew that feeling would be there until Q was healthy and whole again. Until he heard that voice in his ear again. This was more than friendship; it was deeper than that and Bond had been certain he was done with such things. He was too broken for those kinds of feelings. Q most definitely had no use for them or for him. He deserved someone equally brilliant and vibrant. There was no universal law that said he had to do anything about these feelings, however. Bond would return to MI6 and get the visual proof with his own eyes that his mind would not rest without. Proof that Q was still among the living. And when life and Q Branch returned to as normal as they ever got, he would take these feelings and this warmth and lock them away. No one, even Q and especially himself, would ever need to know that they were there, tucked away in what remained of his heart.

This was assuredly the last time he ever flew in economy class, though. Between the dangerously loud children and the complete lack of stimulating anything, the atmosphere allowed his thoughts to wander far too much.

Another reason to avoid such a flight presented itself as an unexpected extra weight suddenly pressed against his right side. It seemed the man had listed in his sleep and was now attempting to use him as a makeshift pillow. Joyful.

“You should just shove him off, young man. Especially before he gets drool on that nice suit of yours.”

And apparently, the elderly woman on his other side had woken up at some point and he had failed to notice in his fit of melancholy. Thoughts of Q and feelings were terrible for his situational awareness, it seemed. He was anything but a young man and he knew he didn’t look like one either. Perhaps from her perspective he still was and the thought made him chuckle softly. Bond took her advice, though, and with a quick application of weight and pressure, the man was leaning (and drooling) in the opposite direction. With a polite nod at the older woman, he went back to trying to bore a hole through the seat in front of him. Maybe Q could be convinced to make a pair of glasses with a laser attached for him.

“Where are you headed?”

Evidently, the woman felt like making conversation. She appeared to be a harmless, stereotypical elderly grandmother. There were probably a pair of knitting needles in the large bag she had stuffed under the seat in front of her. Knitting needles were a fantastic improvised weapon; he’d learned that one time in Brussels. As harmless as she looked, he knew all too well that appearances could be deceiving. His quartermaster looked like a harmless boffin but in the right arena, he was far deadlier than any double-oh.

Dammit.

“London. Yourself?”

She gave him a matronly smile that would have been both out of place and oddly fitting on the late M’s face.

“London, as well, and then on to Cardiff.”

That likely explained the hint of a Welsh undertone to her voice. And as try as he might to get his mind to focus on puzzling out the origins of the woman by her accent alone, it was a futile endeavor. All it did was remind him of the voice that should always be in his ear. The wounded and bloodied and hurt man who had become…

The woman had said something while he was wool-gathering and was looking at him expectantly for an answer. Unfortunately, not even his highly trained mind could recall what she had asked.

“I beg your pardon, ma’am. I missed your question.”

She gave him a benevolent smile before she repeated herself. “I asked why you were going to London.”

Bond knew the socially polite, rote answer – business – since he had given it often enough but the truth sat on the tip of his tongue, begging to be spoken aloud. Q’s voice, drying reminding him that not everything needed to explode. Q’s hand, gently resting on his arm before he left for Johannesburg. Q’s eyes, amazingly looking at him with such understanding and compassion. He steadfastly refused to even contemplate the image of Q injured and lying in Medical. The actual answer to the woman’s question was still waiting to be said. It was not only that but it was also the answer to a question his mind kept trying to avoid. Of what exactly he felt when he heard Q’s voice. Of what his quartermaster meant to him.

He could say it once, though. Just once to feel what it sounded like it being said. There didn’t have to be anything more to it than that.

“Home. I’m going home for Christmas.”

--

It was December 25th and the mission was nearing completion. To be more precise, it was twenty minutes after midnight on Christmas Day and Bond was standing outside Medical, trying to find the fucking courage to walk through the fucking door. Moneypenny had had the consideration to pick him up at Heathrow and drive him directly to MI6, verbally briefing him as to what had happened to Q (and Q Branch) as they went. A prototype grenade had been accidentally detonated and one of the safety mechanisms in the testing chamber had failed. Moneypenny had related that only Q’s quick thinking had kept the incident from being any worse and any lives from being lost. In Bond’s opinion, it was already bad enough. Small sections of Q Branch were considered to be possibly structurally unstable and a decent-sized fire had burned through large portions of the lab, searing workstations and Christmas decorations alike. When his quartermaster rigged something to explode, he certainly got the job done, in that regard.

His quartermaster…

According to Moneypenny’s brief, Q had been supervising in the testing chamber when the grenade exploded and he’d been caught in the blastwave. If the ‘choose your own explosion’ grenade had been primed with anything other than its minimal charge, it was likely that Q and several other minions would have died. Bond refused to think on that point any further. ‘Q’ and ‘died’ were two things that didn’t belong in the same sentence. Ever. Although he was glad that Moneypenny had waited until they were parked at MI6 to reveal that particular bit of information. She had given him the rundown on Q’s medical status as soon as they had pulled away from Heathrow, though, and he was equally glad for her wisdom there. Bond hadn’t known if he was going to be able to take another breath if didn’t know what had happened to Q.

There wasn’t a single thing on the list Moneypenny had recited to him that didn’t concern Bond. Concussions were always a tricky business and he knew the effects were likely to drive Q slightly mad. The two cracked ribs were going to extremely irritating as they healed and he hoped Q would be more patient with the process than he ever was. A smattering of first and second degree burns weren’t too serious but Bond made a mental note to bring Q some of the burn relief cream he favored. It was better than the shit Medical was undoubtedly going to prescribe. However, it was the puncture wound in Q’s thigh that stood out the most. The deep gash had been caused by flying debris; although, according to the preliminary report, there was no damage to the femur. The injury was still going to require physical therapy but nowhere near as extensive as it could have. According to Moneypenny, the major concern was the excessive bleeding that the injury had caused. It seemed that Q was borderline anemic, something caused by genetics and exacerbated by poor dietary habits. That was most certainly changing once Q was back on his feet. Bond had every intention of improving said eating patterns. Setting up a delivery schedule from MI6-approved restaurants couldn’t be that hard.

At this moment, however, Bond needed to actually enter Medical. Plans for Q’s recovery could wait until after he had actually seen the man. And he needed to see him. With a deep breath, he opened the door and went inside. Ignoring anyone or anything else, he moved briskly down the corridor to the room where he knew Q was. It was the first patient room in the Medical wing; he had escaped from it enough times before. And since Q was the only patient remaining overnight (as per Moneypenny), it was highly likely that was the room he was in. To him, once he was this close, walking into the room wasn’t a decision he had to even think about. Being that close made getting even closer almost into a compulsion.

Despite knowing what to expect… having received Moneypenny’s report… the sight of Q in a hospital bed was jarring. The edges of his vision started to blur and suddenly his mouth felt as dry as a desert. It was the passivity that struck him the most. In his mind, Q was full of life and vigor; seeing him so pale and still was unsettling. Moneypenny had warned him that the doctors had lightly sedated Q and that was quite obvious. There was a part of him that was tempted to stay right where he was… arms crossed in the corner… and not go any closer. Even from this vantage point, Bond could see that Q was definitely alive and wasn’t that he wanted to know? Wasn’t that all he said he needed?

It wasn’t enough, though. It just wasn’t. The compulsion was too strong.

The view up close was both better and worse in equal measure. He could see the bruising and the stitches and the bandaging that much more easily now. The neat row of stitches across the left side of his forehead was partially covered by dark brown hair and Bond found himself reaching out to brush it back without even thinking about it. His fingers stopped when they sensed but didn’t quite yet feel Q’s hair. That was a gesture he hadn’t (and probably wouldn’t ever) earned. Instead, he rested his hand on the bedside railing. It was a much more appropriate and far safer place for it. But the urge to touch him was a great deal stronger than he had predicted it would be. Over and over again on the aeroplane, Bond had reminded himself that he was only going to back to MI6 to be sure Q was all right and that was it but it seemed that his mind had forgotten all about that.

Bloody hell, he wanted to hold Q’s hand with his own. It would be juvenile if the ache didn’t pierce so deeply… if the ache wasn’t entwined so sensuously with desire. His heartrate was actually accelerating but his breathing was slow and steady. Bond knew, even without taking a closer look, that he was matching Q, inhale for exhale. Only his quartermaster could keep him calm and centered even while unconscious. In spite of the situation, he couldn’t stop the smile that was trying to grow on his face. He felt lighter just being here with Q, even if meant being at MI6 during Christmas and that was even by his own design.

Thinking of Christmas and MI6 reminded him of what Q Branch had looked like before he left and what it likely looked like now. That thought lifted his gaze away to look around at a room he knew far better than he would prefer. Q was stuck in this white-walled tomb for Christmas, even if he stayed sedated for the entirety of the holiday. And if he regained consciousness?

If you think Q Branch is decorated, you should see my flat.

He couldn’t let Q spend Christmas in here like this. And since Q couldn’t go home to his decorated and probably cozy flat, Bond decided to bring Christmas to him. He had gone off the grid enough times that he was confident that he could handle his own mission for once. Decorations would have to be acquired – getting past building security and salvaging décor from Q Branch was his first objective. He hoped that Q’s own decorations were savable. They would be perfect. The next step would be to then get said decorations back to Medical. The doctors and nurses likely had regulations about what was and what was not allowed in a patient’s room but since he had already met his quota of following medical advice for the year, Bond had every intention of ignoring them. Unless it would harm Q’s recovery. Then, he would listen. The final mission objective would be to get Q’s room decorated. It couldn’t be that hard to string lights and hang a wreath.

Satisfied with his mission planning, Bond looked back down at the still sleeping Q. He no idea how long Medical was intending to keep him sedated but he assumed it would be long enough to complete his objectives. Just in case, he moved the slightly bent pair of glasses on the counter to a tray within reach of the bed. His quartermaster was as blind as a bat – the thickness of the lenses had given away that piece of intelligence during their first meeting. Being unable to see would frustrate him and Bond didn’t want him doing something idiotic like trying to get up while he was gone. Although with that idea, even his own mind thought he was being a hypocrite. Q was a vital and necessary component of MI6 but as for himself… he wasn’t the first 007 and he doubted that he would be the last.

“I’ll be right back. I have something I need to do.”

Oddly enough, Bond didn’t feel awkward about talking to an unconscious man. Or at least he didn’t until he turned, left Q’s room, and walked directly into the head nurse. He had no idea if she had heard him or not but he brushed past her, having no inclination to discuss the exact nature of his quartermaster’s injuries or his own presence in his room. Moneypenny had briefed him and told him that Q was going to be okay. He had seen the man with his own eyes. There were no further gruesome details required; his years of experience in the field filled in this blanks more easily than he would like anyway.

“Agent Bond?”

Apparently she was not to be deterred. He turned, raising an expectant eyebrow.

“Yes?”

“Was there any information you needed about the quartermaster’s condition?”

That was odd. He wasn’t sure that he actually had any right to know any of the specifics, now that he thought about it. Not that that would have necessarily stopped him, however. Come to think of it, Moneypenny hadn’t even lectured him about Q’s privacy or anything like that.

“And what right do I have to that data? Should I inform M that you are being so carefree with Q’s medical information?”

To his nominal surprise, the nurse didn’t look chagrined or nervous. She merely appeared confused.

“Since you’re listed as his emergency contact and next-of-kin, you’re allowed full access in order to make decisions about the direction of his care.”

What?

Bond knew he heard and understood the words but he wasn’t quite sure that he comprehended them. His own next-of-kin entry was blank and had been for years, long before she had ordered Moneypenny to take the bloody shot. But Q apparently had a named next-of-kin. Him. It was information that his mind had no idea how to process. Didn’t Q have anyone else? Any family? The late M had told him that orphans made the best agents; had she felt the same way about quartermasters? What other reason would Q have had for calling him his next-of-kin?

“Are you positive about that?”

Once again, the nurse just looked confused but she quickly started leafing through pages from the folder she was carrying before holding one out for his inspection. And there it was, almost exactly halfway down the piece of paper.

Next-of-Kin: James Bond, 007, MI6.

“Completely sure, sir. If Ms. Moneypenny hadn’t contacted you, we would have done so.”

There wasn’t really a response he could give to that so he simply made sure that they knew how to contact him if Q’s condition worsened and told the nurse he would be back later. He realized as he walked away that he probably should have let her know about his intentions for Q’s room but didn’t dwell on the lapse for too long. His mind was focused on the task at hand and trying to ignore the voice in the back of his head (that sounded quite like his quartermaster) that kept repeating that simple but unreal fact over and over.

Q had him listed as his next-of-kin.

--

It was still December 25th and Bond had assigned this mission to himself. Procuring decorations from Q Branch had been remarkably simple. The security team guarding the entrance had let him by with a simple “if you break your neck in there, we’re telling M it was your own fault.” M would have assumed he was to blame at any rate so it had been a moot point. Q Branch had looked far better than he had expected it to; although, Bond supposed the clean-up process had already been underway for over a day at that point. Q’s office was a mess but he was also well aware that his quartermaster had his own unique organization patterns. It was likely that the clean-up crew and the minions were avoiding the area altogether.

There had been less damage to Q’s Christmas décor than he’d been worried there might be. Using a file box he had found, Bond had gathered the wreath and the ornaments as well as Q’s laptop from where he’d caught sight of it under the workbench. To his eyes, it appeared undamaged so he had put it in the box to take to Q’s room. It was obviously personalized (there was probably a story behind each sticker) and very much not MI6 issue. Bond figured Q might like to have it nearby when he was feeling better. Getting both the box and the small artificial tree back up to Medical had been a challenge of balance and patience. His ego was quite glad that it was so early and the halls of MI6 were so empty because he was certain he had looked ridiculous at more than one point in his little escapade. Perhaps Q could be convinced at a later date to erase any digital evidence that existed. He was equally glad that Q’s tree was barely a meter and a half tall; anything larger might have been too unwieldy. It wasn’t until he had gotten back to Q’s room and started surveying the layout and his supplies that he realized he had a problem. In the box with all the decorations he had picked up from Q Branch, Q’s duct tape Christmas star tree topper was not there and he didn’t remember seeing it among the clutter or the debris either. Q’s tree had to have a tree topper. It had to, even if it wasn’t its original one.

Which is why Bond was presently at the storage warehouse where MI6 had placed his personal effects after the last time he’d been declared dead. He had never bothered to pull any of it out of storage for his current flat. Most of the time, he was hardly ever there in first place so what was the point? Now, however, there was something in particular that he was looking for and it was starting to feel like he would never find it. Whoever had packed these boxes had no sense of order or actual common sense. There didn’t seem to be any sort of reasoning behind what was grouped together in each box. In the last one, some of his old naval awards were wrapped up next to an extremely generic set of dishes.

A vibration in his pocket let him know that he had received a text message. Which could either be a good thing or a bad thing.

Moneypenny: Starting to wake up on his own. Estimate is an hour and a half.

And now Bond needed to get back to MI6 in his borrowed car empty handed. Unless that was what he thought it was under that stack of outdated delivery menus. With extra care, he lifted up the dented box, once white but now faded yellow with time. The initials scrawled in one corner verified that this was exactly what he was looking for.

Q would like it, that much he knew for certain. It had been a long time since he’d even opened the box, let alone displayed its contents, but he wanted to share it with Q. There was every chance that his quartermaster, wounded and recovering, wouldn’t even notice that it wasn’t his duct tape star at the top of the tree but Bond would know it was there and that was enough. When Q was released from Medical, the tree topper would vanish from the tree and be returned to its box and this storage facility.

--

It was Christmas Day and the mission was going surprisingly well. Bond wanted Q to able to see decorations no matter which direction he looked so the wire wreath was hanging on the wall to the left of the bed. The nurse had been oddly accommodating when it came to helping him track down things to hang stuff with, albeit under the proviso that he not tell anyone she let him have a hammer. Apparently, according to his file, he was supposed to be banned from using tools without supervision. That was probably Q’s doing – he might have touched one too many prototypes without proper permission. He had also learned that trying to hammer nails into a wall quietly was a rather difficult task. Q had started to shift about in his sleep with every bang of the hammer.

After that, he moved on to the tree he had set up on the other side of the room. The first thing he’d done was place his tree topper at the top. While he liked the idea of using it to decorate Q’s tree, Bond wasn’t quite sure if he wanted to Q to see him putting it there. And since it seemed he was starting to regain consciousness, he had felt starting with the tree topper was likely the most prudent course of action. After plugging in the prestrung multicolored lights (and checking with the nurse about what could be unplugged to make room), he had gotten to work on the ornaments. They were a bit strange. Bond knew that they were repurposed electronics bits and parts; it was just difficult to figure out how some of them were supposed to hang on the tree. The processors with ornament hooks soldered to them were his favorites because they were easy to figure out and looked nice with the lights reflecting off of them. Early on in the endeavor, he had taken off his wrinkled, flight-worn suit jacket and tie. Maybe Q, drugged up on painkillers, would even appreciate his rolled-up sleeves and slightly unbuttoned shirt. It was Christmas, after all, and even agents with an expiration date who never celebrated it were allowed to honestly wish for something. He blamed that thought for his glaring lack of situational awareness.

“Bond?”

The raspy but achingly familiar voice made his heart beat stutter. He had both expected and not expected Q to wake up sooner rather than later. After taking a deep breath to settle his heart and his thoughts, Bond turned around to face his quartermaster’s heavy but happily open eyes.
“Q. Welcome back to the land of the living.”

Light. He needed to keep things light. The moment their eyes met and his identity became confirmed for Q, he felt that tide of emotion… of affection and warmth… rise up inside of him again. That wasn’t the whole point of all of this, though. But it was so very hard to ignore when that smile spread across Q’s tired and paler-than-normal face. That seemingly private and soft smile that Bond always found himself returning, without fail.

“Isn’t that usually my line?”

Bond quickly realized that business-as-usual bantering with Q was going to be almost impossible when he was squinting at him like that and every syllable made him wince like talking was extremely painful. Which it was – he knew that from too much experience. Walking closer, Bond picked up Q’s glasses from the tray he’d put them on earlier and bent down slightly to place them back on his quartermaster where they belonged. Q started to lift his hands to try and help but a quick glare cut short that foolishness. As gently as he could, he got the glasses situated on Q’s face, all the while resisting the sharp and needy urge to allow his fingertips to brush more skin that was justifiable. A wider smile was acceptable, though, particularly when the one on Q’s face grew to match. That taken care of, Bond turned and walked over to the sink to get a cup of water. He had no idea if it was allowed yet but he knew, once again from too much experience, that it should help Q’s throat. And honestly, that was his current priority.

Before he could think too long or too deeply about what exactly he was doing, Bond returned to Q’s bedside, bent down, and cupping his head with one hand and holding the cup in the other, he lifted the water to Q’s lips so he could slowly sip at it. For several minutes he stood there, helping Q drink but at the same time he was trying not to enjoy the sensation of hair ghosting against his hand or the sight of Q’s lips up so close. The stitches, the bruising, and the fact that Q was in fucking Medical helped but not as much as they really probably should.

Q was still here. Q wasn’t gone.

The cup of water finally empty, he pulled it away from Q’s lips. He looked so bloody grateful that it was a bit painful to see. That wasn’t right. Q deserved better than that.

“Thank you.”

Completely unable to trust his words, Bond backed away with a short nod and refilled the cup with water. He wanted to stay; he didn’t want Q to be alone in Medical on Christmas, at the very least. However, his own thoughts and emotions were dangerously unpredictable. His earlier vow to lock away his feelings in regards to his quartermaster came back to haunt him. Bond realized, with a rapidly growing dread, that he didn’t know if he even could. He almost certainly couldn’t do it and remain in such close proximity to the ever-alluring Q. Distance was going to be necessary. Cold and painful and necessary. A lack of the familiar feeling of being watched made him look back over his shoulder.

Q had fallen back asleep.

Bond stood right where he was, perfectly still, and watched the blanket rise and fall as Q breathed in and out. It seemed there had been little point in putting his glasses on but it wasn’t an action he could bring himself to regret. The longer he stood there, the more concrete the plan forming in his head became. The nurse could be recruited to sit with Q until Moneypenny was capable of relieving her. Moneypenny would do it out of friendship and he had his usual array of bribes at his disposal in order to convince the nurse. A taxi ride back to his lifeless flat and multiple bottles of random liquor would help him forget this flight of fancy. Medical would likely no longer need him in the role of Q’s emergency contact… his next-of-kin… now that the man himself was slowly reawakening but they also knew how to reach him if they did need his input. There was a multitude of evidence that he had been the one to decorate Q’s room but it was a point that never really needed to be addressed. Bond would stay away from MI6 until after the New Year; Health and Safety had been on him about accruing too many vacation days again anyway. M would assign him a mission, Q would assign him equipment, and 007 would be in the field. Everything would be back to normal and without the melancholy and optimism that Christmas brought with it, everything would be fine.

It was a plan his heart hated but one it sadly understood.

He put the refilled cup on the tray so Q would be able to reach it when he woke up again and he placed Q’s laptop where he would be able to see it from his bed. After adjusting his shirt and his sleeves, Bond adroitly retied his tie with only slightly shaking fingers. His jacket was too wrinkled for him to even be able to justify putting it back on so he slung it haphazardly over his shoulder. He had one foot out the door before he turned back for a last look against his better instincts. The tree was only half-covered in ornaments and Q was sleeping with his glasses on, a habit Bond knew he disliked. He had said that it often gave him a headache when he woke up and that he had tried repeatedly to break himself of it. Bond half snorted and shook his head. He was horrible for his quartermaster even when he was trying to be good.

His quartermaster.

The quartermaster.

--

It was January 8th and Bond was leaving on a mission. M had given him his orders and Moneypenny had icily glared at him when he walked by. All that remained was to retrieve his credentials and equipment from Q Branch. He wasn’t looking forward to that, if he was being honest with himself. Bribes, threats, and blackmail had kept him abreast of Q’s medical status without him ever stepping foot in MI6 or being in the quartermaster’s presence. By this point, Q had been released from Medical and was maneuvering about with the occasional aid of a cane that he was needing less and less frequently. It seemed things were well on the way to being back to normal.

Even though he knew it was entirely one-sided and self-directed, Bond was apprehensive about going down to Q Branch. It was extremely likely that Q knew about at least some of his activities around and on Christmas. His intention was to act like nothing had ever happened and hopefully it would become one of those events in life that became more fuzzy and blurry as more time passed. All he had to do was get past this first meeting. It would be easier to breathe once he got past this first meeting.

His steps were heavy as he entered Q Branch. It looked better than the last time he was in there and thankfully, there was no longer a Christmas advert all over the place. Bond saw parts where the walls had been repaired and there was a lingering new paint smell in the air but that was it. As he slowly approached Q’s desk, he noticed one other change. Placed on the left hand side of the desk, almost in a place of honor, was a small figurine that had never been there before. He recognized it though, even if he didn’t quite understand why it was there out in the open.

His mother’s flowery angel tree topper. The one that he had placed on the top of Q’s tree. He’d gotten back to his flat before he realized that he’d left it behind but he hadn’t tried to track it down yet.

Q’s back was turned when he finally approached the desk and it took more discipline than it should to keep his expression even and neutral. This was merely standard equipment issuance between a double-oh and the quartermaster. It didn’t matter that it was…nice to see Q standing and working again, as he should be.

“You’re late, 007.”

He remembered his response from the last time they had done this – maybe your clock is running fast, Quartermaster – but trading witty remarks with Q was no longer on his Q Branch agenda. It couldn’t be. He needed distance to freeze these feelings out of his heart and their familiar and warming banter was the antithesis of that.

“My equipment?”

At this words, Q turned around and Bond held fast to that discipline to keep any reaction from showing up on his face as their eyes met. There was so much anger in Q’s eyes; it knocked him back a step. It was the last thing he had expected to be confronted with, even though he’d done his best to have no expectations at all. It seemed pushing the quartermaster away and sabotaging the connection he felt would take less time than he assumed it would. Bond knew it was for the best and resolutely did his best to ignore the ache in the remnants of his heart.

“Is that it? Is that all you have to say to me?”

No, it wasn’t. There were so many things that Bond wanted to say. Questions he wanted to ask – how are you feeling was at the top of the list – but there was nothing that he should ask or say. He just needed to get through this first meeting.

“Yes.”

The anger didn’t lessen in Q’s eyes; in fact it seemed as if his response had made it worse and holding his hand out for the black case with his gun and his radio definitely didn’t help matters. Bond just needed to get out of here before he did something stupid (or stupider, as it were). The frustration and ire that was leaking out of every bit of Q’s body made his chest tighten and his head start to pound. Seeing Q this angry at him was terrible and there was a part of him that just wanted to fix it. The longer he stood here, the louder that part was going to get. He knew that.

“Quartermaster, may I please receive my equipment and my credentials?”

“No.”

Bond certainly hadn’t expected that response. He didn’t know what to say next.

“Excuse me?”

Q took a deep breath, sighed, and shook his head. It was obvious that he was upset but Bond couldn’t figure out why. Couldn’t he see that he just wanted to avoid any non-professional conversation and get on with his mission? They both had work to do.

“You are many things, Bond, but I never thought a coward was one of them.”

The sentence stopped his heart. Q knew everything.

Perhaps not everything – it was impossible for him to know anything about the exact depth of his feelings after all. But there was no doubt that the quartermaster knew more than he would like. He needed to escape Q Branch but this mission actually called for equipment that he unfortunately needed to acquire from the quartermaster himself. Bond had gone into battle without an escape plan like an idiot. At least it wasn’t completely out-of-character.

“That’s your opinion. My equipment?”

A sound quite like a growl seemed like it was ripped from Q’s throat. That was an… interesting noise. He had certainly never heard the quartermaster make that sort of sound before and both did and did not want to see what it took for Q to make that guttural growl again.

“Dammit, James!”

His mind had barely registered the outburst and the use of his given name when Q surged forward with a burst of energy and a slight limp. There was a gleam in his eyes that looked suspiciously like lustful determination and he didn’t know what to do with that observation. Q kept moving, ignoring his personal space boundaries again and then there was a hand gripping his lapel, fingers carding through the short hair on the back of his head, and soft lips pressed against his own.

Q was kissing him.

Actually, honestly kissing him.

The pressure against his lips lessened and Bond realized that Q was going to pull back before he got the opportunity to kiss him back. As his eyes slipped closed, he leaned into the kiss, deepening it with as much care and passion he dared to reveal. His arms came around Q’s shoulders and lower back of their volition and he did his best to keep his hold light and gentle in deference to Q’s still healing wounds. That proved difficult when the man in his arms moaned into their kiss as Bond’s hand pressed into the small of his back. Q felt bloody good in his arms; holding him… kissing him had the dangerous potential to become addictive. He couldn’t claim ignorance about at least some of Q’s motivations that was for certain. There was too much need and want in the way their lips were moving together for it to be his alone. The hint of possession in the way Q was clutching at him was intoxicating.

When they ended the kiss for the need for oxygen, neither of them really moved back all that far. Bond was oddly pleased when Q seemed to have no objections to resting their foreheads against one another. He really was even more handsome up close and that was entirely unfair.

“You came back to MI6 at Christmas for me.”

Q’s voice was soft yet filled with something that Bond could only call wonder.

“Moneypenny told me you’d been injured.” As if the word ‘injured’ had irritated the wound, he felt Q’s balance on his bad leg start to give away and he put a bit more strength into his grasp on him in order to help Q stay upright. Reluctantly, he pulled his head back slightly to get a better look at his quartermaster. “Do you need to sit down?”

Q’s response to that was to scoff at him and roll his eyes and that probably shouldn’t be as provocative as it was.

“Don’t change the subject. You tried to put up Christmas decorations in my room in Medical when you don’t even celebrate it.”

“I didn’t try… I just didn’t finish.”

“Why not?”

Bond had no idea how to actually answer that. The truth was a good place to start but the truth was painful and difficult. Embarrassingly slowly for a double-oh, he was suddenly aware of his surroundings and the fact that by the sound of it, not a single minion was speaking, working, or even moving. They were on display, it seemed. The truth, then.

“Because leaving was easier than staying.”

Telling the truth was definitely the right course of action to choose because it earned him a second, albeit brief, kiss. Q actually wanted to kiss him. He had no idea why or what he’d done to gain that sort of affection but squandering it seemed far too foolhardy, even for him. If Q wanted to waste his time with an old man like him, Bond doubted he had the strength to deny him for as long as the whim lasted.

“You’re my next-of-kin. That was a rather large and…” Q gave his head a rueful shake. “…slightly mortifying hint about how I feel about you.”

“It’s probably more mortifying that I didn’t see it for what it was.”

Because he could… he actually could… Bond leaned back in and kissed Q first this time. He kept the caress of their lips light and teasing as he reveled in the fact it was welcomed and allowed. Since it appeared that Q had regained his footing, Bond risked shifting his hold and let one of his hands explore his quartermaster’s hair. It was as soft as he had kept imagining it would be. They lingered in the kiss as minutes passed that neither of them counted nor cared about. It took the echoing clank of a dropped tool from the depth of the still quiet Q Branch to break their embrace.

As he looked into Q’s eyes, a warmth and a joy wrapped around him from head-to-toe and it was such a lost yet never quite forgotten feeling that he had to close his eyes for a moment against the strength of it. When he opened them, Bond saw nothing but understanding in those green eyes and fondness in those smiling lips.

“As much as I would like to continue this, you do have a mission, 007.”

“I know.”

Grudgingly, Bond released his hold on his quartermaster and tried to take a step back only to be stopped as Q’s fingers slid around from the back of his head and paused on the side of his head near where his earpiece usually rested.

“I’ll be right here.”

The voice in his ear. The voice he trusted and relied on. Q’s words triggered a reaction that was the sort of sensation that should have signified his world being tossed dangerously off its axis but it only made feel more stable somehow. Something had happened. Something good. Bond lifted his hand and placed it over his heart.

“And here.”

Q broke eye contact as a blush appeared and took them a few more moments to get back to the business of agent and quartermaster after that. Eventually, Bond left Q Branch with his equipment in hand and an extra bounce in his step. The unmistakable sounds of bets being won and pounds being exchanged filled Q Branch as soon as he left.

--

It was January 17th and there was no mission. And for that, Bond was quite glad. If Q Branch had been Father Christmas’ workshop, then he was currently lying in his bedroom. Although he doubted there was mistletoe hanging above the bed like Q had here. His flat, while as tastefully decorated as his private space at MI6 had been, was drowning in Christmas decorations. Even the mug Q had wiggled his out of bed to retrieve had had Father Christmas’ face on it. It had been filled with good and strong coffee, though, so he hadn’t minded Q’s momentary absence that much. For someone who hadn’t celebrated the day in years, it was admittedly slightly overwhelming, particularly when it had been over three weeks since the holiday had actually occurred. With that thought, the question he had been pondering since Q had brought him over yesterday and he’d seen his mother’s angel on top of the tree in the living room finally came out.

“Q, why are your Christmas decorations still up?”

The man curled against his side snuggled a little bit closer and pressed a kiss against his cheek. The affection and the intimacy of the move caught him off-guard. There had been a sensual assortment of kisses ever since he’d returned from his mission unscathed but with only his radio late yesterday morning but it was the ones like this – the ones meant to simply show tenderness – that kept taking him by surprise.

“Because I wanted to share them with you.”

The sentiment he spoke next was anything but trite. Not to him.

“Happy Christmas Q.”

 

-fin-