A Bond of Matrimony
“No,” Q said flatly. And then, just to make sure he was getting his point across, he added, “No, no, absolutely not. No.”
Q had been blessed with a good morning up until that point. His cats hadn’t woken him at some ungodly hour, the tube had been marginally less crowded than usual, and when he’d arrived in Q-Branch, his favourite Scrabble mug was already on his desk and filled with freshly made earl grey. He’d thanked R so profusely for it that she’d actually blushed.
He’d then worked solidly on fitting a small missile launcher into the back of a Bentley for a couple of hours and was just about to run preliminary tests when Tanner came for him. Less than five minutes after that, Q walked into M’s office to find M, Bond, and Moneypenny gathered around a small table in the corner of the room. Looking back on it now, it was at that point Q probably should have run screaming.
“No,” Q said again.
“I wasn’t really asking,” M said. “I was telling.”
“There has to be someone else who can do it,” Q insisted. “Double-oh-four is good with computers.”
“You’re better,” M said. “You’re the best and that’s what we’ll need for this.”
“Thank you,” Q said, in spite of himself and because at the end of the day he was far too British to not accept the compliment.
“Besides, double-oh-four’s in Prague at the moment,” Moneypenny said. “And we need someone now.”
“Wait, now?” Q looked wide-eyed over at M, who nodded.
“You’re booked in at the Four Seasons tonight. The intel you need to retrieve is located in offices along Upper Bank Street.”
“You mean I don’t get time to prepare?” Q said.
“What’s to prepare for?” Bond spoke up, a hint of a smirk gracing his lips.
“Oh, let’s see,” Q said, his voice dripping with sarcasm as he turned to look at Bond. “Leaving aside the difficult data retrieval I’m supposed to carry out, there’s that tiny point of having to pretend I’m married to you!”
“Come now, darling. It won’t be that hard,” Bond said.
“Oh my god,” Q moaned, barely refraining from putting his head into his hands.
Ever since the SPECTRE shitstorm, Bond’s departure into the sunset, and his subsequent return six months later, sans Madeleine (conveniently when the majority of the paperwork had already been done), James Bond had been the bane of Q’s existence. They’d properly had it out a week after Bond’s return: Q had yelled himself hoarse and Bond had apologised for leaving without so much as a thank you. And after that they’d settled into a routine of sorts. Bond and Q had always enjoyed each other’s company and that never really changed. When not on assignment, Bond would spend anywhere from a minute to several hours in Q-Branch distracting Q from whatever he was meant to be doing and occasionally providing advice on any other missions Q was running point on. And in return, Q would smile at him and work on impressive covert weapons for the double-oh agent.
Q never really questioned Bond’s continued presence in Q-Branch, but there were times when the company would frustrate him, because there was only so much of Bond that he could stand. Bond annoyed him, confused him and sometimes it took all of Q’s willpower not to just shoot him in his smug face with a prototype weapon. It was either that or kiss the crap out of him and Q still didn’t know which would be worse.
“Oh please!” Moneypenny said and Q turned to look at her, hoping for an escape. “You two bicker like an old married couple already.”
So much for an escape. Q turned to M, his eyes pleading. “But I’m not a field agent... Sir. And you do realise that last time I was out in the field I was almost shot, and almost kidnapped and tortured for information.”
“Key word is almost,” M said.
“Nearly kidnapped and tortured for information?” Bond said incredulously. “At most, you were mildly inconvenienced in a ski-lift.”
Q shot him a truly filthy look. “It could have been a lot worse though,” he said and something in Bond’s eyes flickered.
“But it wasn’t,” M interrupted, with such finality that Q knew he wasn’t getting out of this. A small silence followed this and M cleared his throat. “Here’s your files, additional information, hotels, backup identities, the usual.”
“Thank you,” Bond said, taking his file with much more elegance than Q did.
“I’d tell you to report to Q-Branch, but considering…” M said.
“I’m sure I can find a few things on short notice that would be suitable,” Q said absently as he flicked through the information.
“Good,” M said, approvingly. “Moneypenny and R will be your eyes and ears back at headquarters. You’re to get in, retrieve the data and get out. Shouldn’t take more than a day.” He regarded Bond. “I want regular updates too. None of this going radio silent. You’re not on your own anymore, is that understood.”
“Also, this is your basic info retrieval and intelligence gathering mission, double-oh-seven. I don’t want any funny business, your stint in Mexico for example.”
Bond had the grace to look sheepish. “Noted.”
“What’s the set up at these offices?” Q asked, still looking through the file he’d been given.
“Series of computers on a mezzanine level which was never in the original blueprints,” Moneypenny said.
“You can’t hack in to them from here?” Bond asked.
“No,” Q and Moneypenny said together.
Q flicked the documents in his hand. “For this, I’d need a physical connection.”
“Who owns the offices?” Bond asked.
“No one at the moment,” M said. “It used to be home to one of the top law firms in London but now it’s gone on the market and supposed to be empty for refurbishment. However, we’ve been getting reports of people inside the building.”
“Organised crime? Or something else?”
“That’s why we have you,” M said with a forced smile. “Suss out what you can about the building and get as much information as possible off those computers.”
Bond nodded. “Consider it done.” He turned to Q. “I’ll just pack our things and meet you at the car shall I, my dear Q?”
“Why do we have to be married again?” Q said, ignoring Bond.
“Because it’s a nice hotel we’ve set you up in,” Moneypenny said. “And a couple on a trip to the city is a lot less suspicious than a man and his bodyguard or business colleagues, especially on a weekend. Besides, if you’re out all night, people will just assume you’re at the theatre and not infiltrating an old law office in Canary Wharf.”
“You’ve clearly thought that through,” said Q.
“It’s my job,” Moneypenny replied with a smile.
Q gave a long, suffering sigh. He knew it made sense. Hell, he’d even suggested it to Bond before; as a joke of course. But the sudden reality of it seemed much less appealing. He was sure it would be much harder to conceal a crush on someone when you’re living in the same hotel room with them. And being fake married to said someone only added a whole new level of difficultly.
“What about my cats?”
“I still have the spare key to your place from last time,” Moneypenny said. “They’ll be taken care of.”
“Okay,” Q said finally, before turning to Bond. “But I’m not letting you pack anything of mine.”
~ *XX* ~
Q and Bond left M’s office and together, by unspoken agreement, headed down to Q-Branch. The silence between them was mostly companionable, but Q was still feeling disgruntled and more than a little worried about the task ahead.
“Shall we take the Aston? Or the Jag?” Bond said. “Unless the missile launcher is fitted to that Bentley already?”
Q frowned. “I’m not sure any of those really fit our new identities.”
“What? Being happily married and owning an Aston Martin are mutually exclusive?” Bond asked.
“Well no,” Q admitted. “When you put it like that, I suppose…”
“I know what you’re really thinking,” Bond said. “And if it helps, there’s probably not much chance of me driving it into the Thames.”
“I know you mean that seriously, but I really don’t believe you,” Q said.
Bond hummed and Q risked a glance in his direction. The older man appeared impassive as usual with his face set in a determined sort of way. But Q sensed Bond’s own resentment at the assignment they’d been handed.
“M’s still not letting you out of the country then.”
“It would appear not.”
“I’m sorry,” Q said genuinely apologetic.
“Not your fault.”
“Must be nice to spend more time in London though,” Q said. “I know you love it here.”
Bond’s lips twitched into a smile and it was a while before he replied, as though he were thinking about the city. “I do,” he said.
“Being grounded has its advantages.”
“Yes,” Bond said softly and they shared a brief smile.
It didn’t take long to reach Q-Branch. The large room still had that dark, dank feeling to it but it didn’t bother Q so much anymore. If anything, it was growing on him. He’d made it his own in the recent months and while parts of the room looked disorganised, Q knew there was a method to it. Several of the employees of Q-Branch (or Q’s Underlings as some people at MI6 fondly referred to them), glanced up as they approached but spared them no further scrutiny; seeing Bond and Q together was nothing new.
R was waiting at Q’s desk, a tray of equipment beside her. “I took the liberty of putting together a few things for you,” she said. “I hope you don’t mind. Tanner spoke to me earlier in regards to your mission.”
“Thank you,” Bond said.
“How come I never get a thank you when I give you equipment,” Q said.
“You always threaten to hack my bank account if I don’t bring back your equipment.” Bond said. “And it’s hard to thank people who are making threats against you.”
R gave a snort and hastily turned it into a cough as Q narrowed his eyes at her. Bond grinned.
“I haven’t packed your laptop yet, sir,” R added to Q, quickly. “I knew you’d want to pack it yourself.”
“Thank you,” said Q and for a few minutes he busied himself with packing it away in his bag along with a selection of cords, flash drives, and discs.
“For double-oh-seven,” R continued, “your usual Walther PPK. Coded to your palm print.”
Q watched as Bond took the weapon. He could practically see the agent relax at the familiar weight of it in his hand. The sight reassured him ever so slightly.
“Two ear pieces,” R continued, offering one to each of them. “Keep them in whenever you’re outside the hotel.”
Q nodded, knowing this drill off by heart.
“And lastly, we have these,” R said, holding out a small velvet box. Bond took it and eased it open. Inside were two simple gold rings.
“Oh no,” murmured Q.
“With this ring…” Bond said, seemingly unable to help himself and R rewarded him with another snigger, the traitor.
“They’re embedded with trackers,” R said.
“And emergency signal,” Q added. “I made them months ago.”
Bond slid one ring onto his finger and eyed Q suspiciously when it fitted perfectly. Q happily avoided his steely eyes and took the other ring, twirling it in his fingers before slipping it on.
“Perfect,” R said.
“That all then?” Bond said.
“Yes,” R said. “Just, please try to return your equipment-”
“-in one piece,” Bond finished. Q smiled; he trained his underlings well.
“Exactly,” R said.
“And we’ll be taking the Aston Martin,” Q said.
“Good choice,” Bond said.
“Don’t make me regret it,” Q said dryly.
“Best of luck then,” R said. “I’ll expect a report when you check into your hotel, followed by any necessary updates.”
“Thank you, R,” Q said, tempering his voice so that the words carried with them a concealed threat. A ‘don’t-you-dare-destroy-my-department-while-I’m-gone’. R seemed to understand this, because she bobbed her head seriously and returned to work immediately.
“Read then, dearest?” Bond said to Q.
“Yes, my love,” Q said and then rolled his eyes at the farce his life had become. “Oh and you’d better take this.” He reached over his desk and picked up a watch from underneath some papers.
“Another watch?” Bond said.
“Seemed to work rather well last time.”
“Certainly not complaining,” Bond said, taking the watch and strapping it to his wrist with well-practiced ease. “Alarm still very loud?”
Q smiled. “Of course.”
~ *XX* ~
Four hours later, Q stepped into the cool lobby of the Four Seasons Canary Wharf hotel. The drive across the city had been less stressful than he’d been expecting. It turned out that Bond was a very competent driver when not being chased; refraining from weaving through the traffic and safely sticking to the enforced speed limits. The Aston Martin DB9 (the DB10 having only just been recovered from the Tiber and thus not mission ready yet) was now being parked below them, where it would stay until later tomorrow evening.
Bond stepped up beside the younger man and placed a hand gently on his lower back. Q flinched. Leaning down, Bond whispered into Q’s ear, his breath ghosting across one cheek.
“Relax,” he said. “You look too tense.”
Q closed his eyes for a moment and took a deep, steadying breath. It had been too long since he’d engaged in public displays of affection, of any kind. In truth, it had been too long since there’d been anyone in his life who necessitated public displays of affection. And now here he was with James Bond, of all people. How Q wished he’d had longer than five hours to prepare for this. “I’m trying.”
“I know,” Bond said earnestly. “How about you let me do the talking.”
Q muttered his thanks and then stared up and smiled at Bond. He hoped that to anyone looking, it appeared to be a private, loving sort of smile. But he wasn’t sure he pulled it off.
The receptionist welcomed them warmly and Bond chatted to her with ease as she checked them in, discussing theatre shows and how nice the city was this time of the year.
“It’s actually our anniversary in a few months,” Bond said, leaning into Q. “I’m hoping we can make it back in.”
“That sounds wonderful,” the receptionist beamed at them both. “I can give you a list of top restaurants if you wish.”
“I might hold you too that,” Bond replied. “Later though, I’d like to keep some things a surprise from this one.” He gave Q a little squeeze and Q managed another smile, relaxing into Bond’s touch.
“Of course,” and the receptionist actually gave Bond a conspiratorial wink.
Small talk done, door keys were handed over and they were shown to the elevators with the promise that their luggage would already be in their room. Moments later it seemed, Q closed the door to the very swish hotel room behind him and let out a sigh. Bond removed his hand from where it had been resting on Q’s lower back.
Q looked around the room which was to be home for the next two days (if everything went according to plan). In all fairness, it was beautiful. A spacious kitchen opened out into a living area complete with large dining table, two sofas and a flat screen television. Q stepped towards the large windows which overlooked the river. Under other circumstances, he would have taken the time to admire the view, but he turned away from the glass and glanced about the rest of the room. An opened side door revealed a large bathroom and a…
“King bed,” Bond said with a trademark smirk that had been known to melt the pants off women.
“I’ll take the sofa,” Q said immediately.
“There’s no need for that,” Bond replied. “It is a very large bed. And we are meant to be married, after all.”
“Not when we’re alone in our room, we’re not.”
“Are you sure?” Bond said, moving his bag neatly beside the sofa. “We should probably keep up the illusion just in case.”
Q regarded him witheringly. “Your supposed powers of seduction really have gone downhill in recent times, if that’s the best you can do.”
“You wound me,” Bond said.
Smiling to himself, Q set up his laptop on the dining table and did a quick scan of the immediate area for any bugs. He signalled to Bond when the result came back clear and the agent nodded. They settled into a comfortable silence after that. Bond immediately went about unpacking his things and raiding the minibar. Q, meanwhile, went over building plans for following evening and tried not to sneak too many covert glances at Bond who had stripped off his suit jacket to reveal a form-fitting white shirt.
Yes, Q really did wish he’d had more time to prepare for this.
~ *XX* ~
The video call from Moneypenny came in later that night. Q clicked it open and her face filled his laptop screen. He felt, rather than saw, Bond appear over his shoulder to watch.
“Hello boys,” Moneypenny said. “Enjoying yourselves?”
“Yes,” Q said, surprising even himself with the answer. It was intriguing seeing how things ran from this side. Usually he was behind a desk in Q-Branch; monitoring agents while simultaneously working on new prototype weapons or running encryptions. This was a whole new experience, and the part of him that thrived on learning new things was enjoying the outing immensely. “Well… as long as I’m not forced to share a bed with Bond,” he quickly added, just to maintain at least a pretence of disgruntlement.
Moneypenny smirked knowingly.
“I wouldn’t force you,” Bond said in a voice which seemed to suggest Q would join Bond in the bed willingly. And Q put a stop to that thought right away. They were undercover for work, he reminded himself. Besides, no matter what Q’s feelings, Bond went for shapely women, typically a good ten years younger than him. There was no conceivable way he would ever be interested in a bespectacled man with messy hair, who was prone to occasional outbreaks of spots and still had to show ID when ordering alcohol.
“Incorrigible,” Q muttered.
“You love it.”
Moneypenny cleared her throat. “If we could leave aside the banter for one moment, I’d like a sit. rep.”
“Covers intact, room clear of bugs, will proceed as planned tomorrow evening,” Bond rattled off.
“No sign of anything suspicious?”
“Good,” Moneypenny said. “Report in tomorrow. R will be on standby to guide you through the operation.”
Bond and Q nodded in sync.
“Anyway, how’s the room?” Moneypenny said, her voice taking on a tone of childish delight now the formalities were over. “Nice?”
“Very,” Q said.
“Only the one bed, was that right?” Moneypenny asked slyly.
“Yes,” said Bond and Q could practically feel him grinning.
“Interesting,” Moneypenny said artfully.
“You’re enjoying this far too much,” Q said.
“Guilty,” Moneypenny said without shame. “So who gets the bed and who gets the sofa? Or will you be sharing?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” Bond teased.
“Goodnight Eve,” Q said and with that, he cut off the video feed.
“She’s going to be cross with you,” Bond said.
“Taking delight in others misfortune is bad for the soul,” Q said, turning to face the agent. “I’m saving her from herself.”
“Just an expression,” Q said.
“Is the notion of sharing a bed with me really that repulsive?” Bond asked. “You might find you enjoy it.”
“Well it’s not going to come to that,” Q said sharply. Because he couldn’t say what he really felt; because he knew Bond was just teasing him; and because telling James Bond that he rather fancied the notion of sharing a bed with him was out of the question. It would be unprofessional. And Bond would be so smug about it too, the bastard. “It’s… I’m taking the sofa.”
Q must have started turning uncomfortably red, because Bond suddenly looked shamefaced. “I was only joking, Q,” he said. “I didn’t mean… You can have the bed if you like. To yourself. I’m used to sleeping wherever I can, so I’m happy to take the sofa.”
“Oh,” Q said, stunned. “That’s actually very kind of you.”
“You’ll need a good night’s rest before tomorrow,” Bond said.
“You’re welcome, Q.” There was a pause before Bond added, seriously. “I need to ask, what are you okay with?”
“Sorry?” Q looked up at him with a frown.
“We’re meant to be married,” Bond said. “But you seemed very tense earlier when my hand was on your back. I wanted to ask, is it okay if I still touch you? Where did you want me to draw the line?”
The unexpected chivalry surprised Q and for a moment he didn’t know what to say. “Whatever you’re okay with is fine,” he said eventually and then his breath caught in his throat because Bond practically had sex with nearly everyone he was on mission with.
“No,” Q clarified. “I’m okay with touching. Just nothing below the hips. And I won’t be sleeping with you, regardless of how many times you joke about it. Everything else is fine, I…” he paused, unsure how to continue.
“I’m not accustomed to this. Not like you.”
“Never expected you to be,” Bond replied. “But people will notice if you keep flinching at my touch.”
“I’ll be fine now I know what to expect,” Q said. “I…”
“What? Bond repeated.
“I really didn’t expect to be having this conversation with you though.”
Bond shrugged. “Consent is important.”
“Are you okay with me, uhm, touching you?”
Bond’s eyes were sombre as they regarded Q. “I am more than fine with anything you wish,” he said. And Q really should have been expecting that answer, even if he didn’t expect the genuine tone Bond spoke in.
“That’s good to… to know,” Q stammered, adjusting his glasses quite unnecessarily. “Good.”
“Good,” Bond echoed. “I’ll let you get to bed then. Goodnight Q.”
Q closed his laptop and padded softly to the bedroom, risking a final glance at Bond before closing the door. The double-oh agent had turned away, running a hand through his short hair.
I am more than fine with anything you wish.
Q shuddered pleasantly as the words echoed inside his head and he mentally reprimanded himself. He bloody knew this pretending-to-be-married lark would be difficult.
The following day was spent faux-relaxing at the hotel and by the evening Q was of the opinion that James Bond would make a near perfect boyfriend if he put his mind to it.
They took breakfast together in the elaborate dining room and Bond’s eyes barely left Q’s face, as they talked about this topic and that, like Q was the centre of his universe. He seemed genuinely interested in everything Q had to say, letting the younger man ramble, only stopping him to ask intelligent questions. And when Bond reached out to take Q’s hand across the table, Q let him, allowing the calloused fingers to caress slow circles across his knuckles. It was easy to see how so many women fell for him; charm exuded from him in a way very few people could manage. Q had always known this, of course. But to have it directed at him, was something completely different. Frequently, he had to remind himself that this was all fake. And, it was almost cruel that he got to see this version of Bond when he knew it would all be over in a day.
They’d gone for a drive-by of the offices on Upper Bank Street in preparation and then ended up in the hotel bar lounge in the afternoon. Bond ordered his usual martini, while Q stuck with sparkling water (Bond refused to order tea for him, because this is a bar, Q. Not a tea shop).
“Some husband you are,” Q said, falling into a couch next to Bond. “Not letting me order the drink I want.”
Bond shuffled closer to Q, pressing their sides together. The quartermaster arched his back languidly and leaned into it, more comfortable with Bond’s presence now than ever. “I’ll make it up to you later.”
“I hope by that you mean not destroying my equipment later tonight,” Q replied.
Bond made a stifled choking sound and Q suddenly realised what he’d just said. “That sounded very dirty.”
“Oh you know what I mean,” Q said, blushingly.
Bond gazed at him, so fondly it made Q’s heart ache. “Yes love, I know what you mean.”
Q looked away and then turned back to Bond almost immediately, a small smile fixed upon his face. Barely moving his lips, he said. “Man in the green shirt, your one o’clock. He’s not stopped staring at us since we arrived.”
“I know,” Bond said, taking a sip of his martini.
“Villain? Or homophobic dick?” Q asked.
“One and the same?” Bond murmured.
“What did you want to do?” Q asked. “Door’s behind us if we need to make an escape.”
Bond glanced about briefly before returning his gaze to Q. “I don’t think it will come to that.” Gently he lifted the glass of water out of Q’s hand and placed it on the table in front of them. “Kiss me,” he said.
“Just kiss me,” Bond repeated. “If he looks away, we’ll know he’s just an arsehole with prehistoric views on sexuality.”
Q nodded slowly. “If he’s a professional and reconnoitring us, he’ll keep staring.”
Bond smiled. “It’s why I’m an agent. Kiss me?”
Q was sure this was probably going to cause him long-term psychological damage, but he was only human and nodded anyway. And then, before he could think about it, Bond was leaning in and Q was closing his eyes. Bond’s lips were soft and hesitant as they pressed against his, but Q’s mouth was parting automatically and Bond’s tongue was darting in, making him gasp. It didn’t feel like a fake kiss should. It felt real, and so satisfying, because he was kissing James Fucking Bond. And Bond was swallowing up his breaths, nipping gently at Q’s lips and Q didn’t want it to end. Yet he knew it had to, because this was all for show, all just a lie, a play, part of their job. It was that thought that made him pull away, flushing pink with embarrassment.
For a brief moment, their eyes met: blue fixing upon green-grey. Bond looked a mix of startled and confused over swollen lips. Then, he leaned forward ever so slightly and for one hopelessly optimistic moment, Q thought he was coming in for another kiss. But then Bond’s face fell back into its usual suave confidence. “Good work, darling. Very convincing.”
Something inside Q broke at his words and their lack of emotion. “You too,” he said.
“It worked in any case,” Bond said, leaning back into the couch. “Our friend has stopped staring.”
Q looked over. The man in the green shirt had indeed turned away and was reading a magazine, looking faintly red in the face. “Right,” he said distractedly. He could still taste Bond on his lips; that sharp alcohol masking a natural sweetness.
Bond took another sip of his drink, seemingly unaware of the havoc he had caused on Q’s emotions. The quartermaster reached for his own drink with trembling fingers and tried to calm his pounding heart. He made his way through the rest of their conversation on auto-pilot and sighed with relief when Bond finally suggested they return to their room with a brief muttering of, “come on, we have work to do.”
Psychological damage indeed.
~ *XX* ~
When they stepped out of the elevator that evening, Bond took Q’s hand in his own and gave it a small, reassuring squeeze.
“You look nice,” Bond said as they walked towards the lobby. Q shot him a cynical glance. “I mean it. It’s a nice change from the endless cardigans.”
“I think that was a compliment,” Q said. He looked down at the navy suit that was one of the few pieces of smart clothing he owned. It was tailored and fit him well, but it was several years old now and absolutely nothing compared to the thousand-pound masterpiece that Bond was currently wearing.
“Well, that’s… quite,” Q said uncertainly. “Thank you, Bond.” Bond was smiling at him now and Q tried not to read too much into it. He hadn’t been granted time to contemplate the kiss, and instead simply thrust it to the back of his mind and focussed on the task ahead. But the way Bond smiled at him, brought it all back.
“You’re welcome,” Bond said. “And you should call me James.”
“James,” Q said delicately, the word feeling odd upon his tongue.
They’d just stepped out into the lobby, so instead of replying Bond simply brought Q’s hand up and kissed it. Q raised an eyebrow in question but made no other objection.
“Enjoy your evening, sirs,” the receptionist said as they passed on their way to the door.
“Mamma Mia for the third time,” Bond said with a smile.
“It’s my favourite,” Q added.
“Sounds lovely,” she said.
“I cannot believe I just said that,” Q whispered to Bond as the hotel doors closed behind them.
“You’re doing a good job of not blowing our cover,” Bond said.
“Well, I’ve learnt a few things watching you on all your missions,” Q said.
“Really?” Bond purred. “Do tell of these things you’ve learnt.”
“Stop it,” Q said, but without malice.
~ *XX* ~
Bond drove the DB9 around and out onto Limehouse Link Road and began heading into the city before backtracking to Canary Wharf. Q watched out the window as the city lights flashed past, a feeling of anxiety slowly pooling in his stomach. It was illogical, he knew. Q had witnessed dozens of basic intelligence gathering assignments and every one of them had gone without hitch. He knew, rationally, that it would be no different just because he was in the field, and not back at MI6. But as much as he was trying not to think about it, his mind seemed very persistent in bringing up images of all the ways the mission could go wrong.
He’d just reached scenario number four (wherein the computers all exploded the moment Q started hacking), when Bond eased the Aston to a stop and turned to him. The change in Bond’s expression was instantaneous; hardening into something serious.
“You’re to obey my every command,” Bond said. “You’re not in Q-Branch any more. This is different and you’re my responsibility. That means no running off on your own, no staying behind, no taking unnecessary risks. If I tell you to leave, you leave, understood?”
Q nodded in surprise. “You’re the double-oh,” he said.
“Comms on then.”
They stepped out of the car and began walking along the street as R spoke to them through matching earpieces. “This is R. Are you receiving me alright?”
“Loud and clear,” Bond said and Q repeated the same sentence.
“Good,” R said. “So before we start, Moneypenny wants to know about that kiss in the hotel lounge. Because she seems to think it was far too good for two people who are supposedly acting.”
“I’m very good at acting,” Bond said. “And Q is surprisingly good at kissing.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere,” Q retorted, and then added to R, “Isn’t there other things Moneypenny should be focussed on.” He didn’t need this reminder right now.
There were muffled voices and huff of laughter on the other end of the line. “She says this takes priority.”
“Does she know what the word priority means?” Bond asked.
A rude noise echoed in their ears. “She’d also like it if you sat closer to the security cameras in the hotel next time.”
“Oh, how awfully remiss of us,” Q said, tartly. “To sit so far from cameras. What were we thinking, James?”
“Clearly we weren’t,” Bond replied.
There was more muffled talking on the other line, followed by more giggling. Q knew he was going to have to make sure every copy of that security footage was destroyed.
Thankfully, when R spoke again her voice was civil. “Building’s up here on your right.”
A large ‘FOR LEASE’ sign hung in the window next to the door. “I’d have thought this sort of prime location would be bought up quickly,” Q said.
Bond hummed in response. “Are we right to enter yet?”
“All security is down and I’ve unlocked the front entrance remotely for you.”
They murmured their thanks and Q noted how reassuring it was to know that someone was watching over them, making sure they were safe. He briefly wondered if his voice had a similar soothing effect when he was in Q-Branch.
Inside the building was eerily quiet as though the whole office was blanketed in a thick layer of dust rather than being unusually clean. Bond lead the way up the marble stairs; moving confidently, gun in hand, glancing this way and that for any sign of a threat. They made it to the mezzanine level when R spoke to them again.
“Third door on your right. There’s a keypad for entry, but I’ve overridden it. It should be open.”
Bond opened and then quickly closed the door behind them. “We’re in,” he said to R and then turning to Q added, “get to work.”
Q glanced around at the jumbled set-up of computers and hard drives and tutted at the lack of organisation. “Well if we didn’t know they were criminals before, we certainly do now,” he said. “This is a mess.”
“Less talking, more hacking,” Bond said. “I’ve got you covered.”
Feeling quite safe under Bond’s protection, Q opened his laptop and connected it directly to the nearest computer. He’d seen enough of Bond in action to know that the double-oh agent would be true to his word on that. A second later, his long fingers were flying across the keyboard. He worked in silence, taking in everything that flashed up on his laptop screen and making copies of anything interesting. Bond was standing motionless behind him, taking deep steadying breaths and Q knew he was listening for the slightest hint that something was amiss.
A sudden, unexpected wailing of an alarm broke Q’s concentration. “Shit.”
“What the hell is that?” Bond said, urgently.
“Bugger it,” R said. “It’s the building alarm.”
“I thought they’d been deactivated.”
“Shit,” Q said again. “I think that was me. They know someone’s using their computers.”
“I don’t know,” Q growled, his voice tight with frustration. “They shouldn’t be able to…”
“Never mind that now,” R said. “You’re about to have company.”
“How many?” Bond asked.
“Three. Just entered the building and heading upwards to your level.”
“They got here fast.”
“How long have we got?” Q said, typing even quicker.
Q spared a glance at Bond before returning to his laptop. He could near noises now, the thud of heavy boots on marble floor.
“Come on, Q,” said Bond.
“There’re ten metres from the door,” R said. “And armed. And… stand by double-oh-seven, Q…”
“What?” Bond demanded.
“Another car has pulled up, seven more entering the building now. They’ll hear any gunfire and head your way too.”
“Wonderful,” Bond said, flicking the safety off his Walther. “Tell me you’re nearly done there, Q.”
“Give me a minute,” Q said, a hint of panic in his voice now.
“We’re not going to get a minute,” Bond said just as the door banged open.
Q barely had time to let out a cry before the gun shots rang out. Five shots in total, and Q thought for one wild moment that he was going to get injured. But Bond was the one shooting and with three dull crashes the attackers fell to the floor.
“Keep going Q,” Bond said, closing the door and pushing a nearby filing cabinet up against it. “I can give us a few more minutes. R, how far off are the others?”
“Heat signatures show they’re heading up the staircase now. You’ve got a couple of minutes.”
“Done!” Q said, hurriedly packing his laptop away. “Let’s get out of here.” He turned to look at Bond, but his gaze fell instead upon the three bloodied bodies at the agent’s feet.
Following Q’s eyes, Bond glanced around at the bodies. “Not quite the romantic evening we had planned, I know,” he said.
“You astonish me,” Q said. “Thinking of romance at a time like this.”
“Well usually there’s an attractive blonde I have to rescue at this point. It’s force of habit to think of romance.”
“I’m not blonde, but I’m going to need rescuing in a minute if you don’t shut up and devise a plan to get out of here,” Q said, in clipped tones.
“Hate to interrupt this lovers tiff, but I’ve just set off the sprinkler system in the corridor outside,” R said. “And I’m about to cut the power to the lower level. So now’s your chance if you want to make a run for it.”
Q and Bond shared a look, before moving the filing cabinet away from the door.
“Stay with me,” Bond ordered before easing the door open and pausing for any reaction.
“As if I’d leave,” Q muttered.
“They’re still a floor below you,” R said. “Go left now and follow the hall. There will be an emergency staircase at the end. Head down to the ground floor and wait until I give you the all clear.”
Bond was already exiting the room. He paused in the corridor and ushered Q ahead of him down towards the staircase. Breathing hard, Q flung open the fire door and rushed down the stairs in an ungainly manner, laptop bag bouncing at his side.
“I’m not fit enough for this,” Q panted as they reached the ground level.
“Quiet,” Bond hushed. “R? Are we clear?”
The momentary break gave Q time to catch his breath. More than anything he wished he knew what was going on. He missed having a birds-eye view of the scene, knowing what was going on at any given time, tapped into CCTV footage, able to control anything with electricity with just a few strokes of his keyboard. R was damn good at her job and it wasn’t her fault, but she couldn’t compare to that.
“I can’t send you out the front doors,” R said. “Another car has pulled up. Could be unrelated, but I’m not risking it.”
“How do we get out?”
“If you remember the ground floor layout, there’s a side exit that will lead you to a back alley.”
“I remember,” Q and Bond said together.
“Good, it’ll be on your right when you open the door.”
“Are we clear to go?” Bond asked again.
“Wait,” R said. “Okay, in three, two, one. Now!”
Bond opened the door and stepped out first. The ground floor was unnervingly dark, but empty; the only light came from the LED-blue headlights of a car waiting outside. They hurried along until they reached the side exit. The door was locked. Bond swore, reaching out a tugging on the heavy-duty padlock.
“How are your lock-picking skills, double-oh-seven?” Q asked.
“Good enough,” Bond said and then added, “get behind me.”
That was the only warning Bond gave before he shot twice at the lock. The door burst open and a second later Q was being pushed out into the crisp London air and he and Bond were running across the back alley towards the car.
~ *XX* ~
“Quick, get in,” Bond said running around to the driver’s side of the Aston Martin and throwing open the door. Their comms were still on, but R remained silent and Q knew it was to prevent distraction while Bond was driving.
“I’m in, I’m in,” Q said. “Just go!”
Bond planted his foot to the floor and the car shot forward. Seamlessly, he changed through the gears as he accelerated down the near-empty street. “Are they following?”
“Can’t tell,” Q said. “How many did you kill?”
“Just the three in that mess of a computer room,” Bond said. “Are you sure there’s no sign of someone following?”
“I don’t know,” Q said, swivelling around. “Usually I’m in front of a computer monitoring these things. Oh hang on…” In the distance a dark low-slung sports car with blue LED headlights pulled out from behind a building and began following them at speed. “Yes, being followed. Can we lose them?”
Bond turned to the younger man and gave a wide grin. “Of course we can. Hold on.”
“Oh dear,” Q said. “I’m about to experience just how you wreck all the cars I give you, aren’t I?”
“Yes,” Bond replied, unapologetic.
“I don’t suppose you could try and keep it in one piece? Or on dry land?” Bond turned the wheel sharply and the tyres squealed as they rounded a corner. “Please?”
“You know I always try.”
“We all know that’s bullshit,” Q muttered. His words were drowned out by the sound of gunfire. Bullets ricocheted off the car and Q flinched automatically.
“It’s all bulletproof,” Bond said.
“I know,” Q said. “I practically built it myself.”
Bond spun the wheel and turned onto the A13, heading back across the city. The road was still busy with traffic, but Bond accelerated faster still and the gunfire stopped as they pulled ahead, weaving around the other road users. He turned into Jubilee Street a moment later and then pulled up in a parking lot, switching the lights off as he did. It didn’t escape Q’s notice that Bond was tactically attempting to avoid the confrontation and he suspected it was because of him.
“Wait five minutes and then head back out onto the road,” Q said, slipping into the role he usually held back at Q-Branch.
“We were several cars ahead of them,” Bond said. “I don’t think-”
A car turned into the near-empty parking lot and another rush of bullets slammed into the side of the Aston.
Bond moved lightening quick and the Aston roared out the car park, the dark car right on their tail.
“These still work?” Bond asked, flipping open a control panel. The other car rammed into the back of them and Bond grunted.
“Of course,” Q said, breathlessly. “I wouldn’t have issued it to us otherwise”
“Hang on then,” Bond said and he flicked a switch labelled ‘FIRE’. Flames shot out the back of the Aston, engulfing the other car in fire.
“Ooh,” Q said, delightedly. He turned in his seat to look out the small rear window. “This is much more fun than testing in the lab. I think I’ll organise more real life tests in the future.”
The dark car rammed into them again, apparently undeterred by the fire, and Bond struggled to keep the Aston steering straight. “I don’t think this is the time, Q,” he said through gritted teeth.
Bond regained control and hit the accelerator again leaving their pursuers behind, immersed in flames. For ten long minutes, Bond wove through the backstreets of Whitechapel, back tracking and turning down alleyways not meant for car traffic.
“You know, next time I’m giving you a Vauxhall Astra,” Q said conversationally. Bond jerked on the wheel and sent them sliding around a corner and roaring down another alleyway. “At the rate you destroy cars, it will be cheaper. Not to mention less conspicuous and easier to drive around the city.”
“You’ve got to be joking,” Bond said in outrage.
“I never joke, husband dear.”
The car scraped up against the side of the narrow alley and they both winced. Q made a disapproving noise as though this proved his point.
“I’ll divorce you,” Bond threatened. “And then I’ll find a better quartermaster.”
“If you do, please give me their details. I’d love to send them a few bottles of scotch and a note saying ‘good luck’.”
“Remind me again why we married?”
The Aston shot out of the alleyway and onto a main street. There was no sign of the darker car that had followed them from Canary Wharf.
“No idea. Wasn’t it an arranged marriage?” Q said wryly and Bond chuckled.
The banter calmed them both. It was familiar and grounded them in a way nothing else could. Still smiling, Bond tapped his comm.
“Double-oh-seven here,” he said.
“This is R,” the cool voice said. “Status report.”
“Intel safely collected,” Bond said. “En route to backup hotel. No sign of threats for past thirteen minutes. No injuries apart from severe bullet damage and scratches to one Aston Martin DB9.”
Q and R both tutted.
“Are you sure we’ve lost them?” Q asked.
“Positive,” Bond said. “R?”
“Looks all clear from my end. Well done, Bond. Check in at your backup hotel and stay put until we’ve rounded up your friends in the black sports car. It’s possible they weren’t alone either, so keep an eye out. Then you can come back to headquarters.”
“Sounds good to me,” Bond said.
“Report when you’ve checked in.”
“R signing off.”
There was a click and the comms went silent. Q let out a sigh of relief; it was over. Several minutes of peaceful driving later and Bond brought the DB9 to a stop outside Threadneedles Hotel. Due to the late hour, there was no valet awaiting them.
“Come on,” Bond said, opening the door. “Let’s just get inside.”
Clutching his laptop bag tightly as he exited, Q said, “They’re not going to be concerned about the state of our car are they?”
“If anyone asks, we were caught in a severe hail storm.”
“You’ve used that excuse before, haven’t you?”
“Couple of times,” Bond admitted, smiling. Q beamed back and nudged his shoulder companionably.
They were nearly at the hotel entrance, already thinking about relaxing for a few hours when everything seemed to go wrong. A smartly-dressed man came out to greet them just as a cab pulled up behind the Aston Martin. And then a gun shot rang out along the street and several things happened in quick succession.
The valet who had just opened his mouth to speak, suddenly toppled backwards onto the pavement, blood blossoming from a hole in his chest. The cab door opened and Bond and Q were under fire. Bond reacted instinctively, drawing his weapon and ducking backwards into the shelter of the doorway, pulling Q with him. He was already pressing his comm on.
“R, we’re under attack here.”
“I’m on it. A backup team will be dispatched to your location.”
“Bit late for that,” Bond said. He ducked out from behind the doorway and fired off a couple more rounds.
“How did they find us here?”
“No clue,” replied Bond. Two men had left the cab and were now using the vehicle as a shield as they took shots at Bond and Q. A third man exited from the back of the cab and aimed a shotgun at them.
“Bond, look out!” Q shouted. Everything seemed to slow around him. He felt Bond turn, but the young quartermaster was already moving.
Q didn’t know why he’d done it; his body seemed to move independently before he could think about his actions and the consequences. He stepped in front of Bond and a bullet hit him in the stomach.
He was falling. Pain erupted down his side and he clutched at the wound with hands that tingled with numbness. The world darkened. He was vaguely aware of Bond shouting. Someone was still firing a gun. It seemed to go on for years until there was nothing but deathly silence.
“Q!” Bond’s voice seemed a mile away, but R’s sounded clear in his head.
“Bond, Q, report!”
“Q’s been shot,” Bond said. “Get an ambulance here now. Tell them to hurry the fuck up.”
“It’s on its way,” R said.
Q felt hands reach up inside his shirt and press against the wound in his abdomen. He cried out in pain. He’d been shot. The words finally seemed to sink in and the full realisation hit him. He’d been shot. Q’s mind was working fast, running through the facts. How far away was help? What did he know about bullet wounds to the gut? What were the chances of survival?
And then the anger came up from nowhere. He’d been shot. What if help didn’t come in time? He was going to die. This was it. And this was all he was ever going to get. This was it. The goddamn inevitability of time. It couldn’t be happening and yet it was, without a doubt. Q wanted to rage and scream at the world, at MI6, at Bond. He didn’t want to die. Not now. Not like this.
“It’s going to be okay.” Bond’s voice was louder now and hard; tight, like he was trying to hold back some unbidden emotion.
“Hurts,” Q managed.
“I know it does,” Bond said. “Dammit, what did I say about taking risks. Just… shit… just keep your eyes on my face, Q. Just keep looking at me. Listen to my voice; concentrate on it.”
He could barely make out the words, but Q nodded anyway. Bond sounded so concerned that he wanted to reassure him. “I’m okay… Just… My laptop… give it to R,” Q gasped. “All the data is there. She’ll know what to do with it.”
“You’ll be able to work on it yourself. An ambulance is on its way.”
“You should save your breath.”
“No… Bon- James. I… I’m sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” Bond said.
Q’s breaths were coming out in short pants now. He felt wrong, like parts of his body were shutting down. And he knew they probably were. There was so much he still wanted to say, but he couldn’t get his throat to work. He wanted to tell Bond not to blame himself, to not retract deep within himself and shut the world out like he was wont to do. He wanted Bond to be okay with this if this was to be the last moments of their time together.
It was incredible how sentimental one got so close to death, Q realised. He looked up into the face above his and tried to smile. Bond really was beautiful. Q wished he’d taken the risk sooner and just kissed the man when he’d had the chance. For real and not as part of an undercover mission. He’d ached for the man now beside him, hoped for so long and he had nothing to show for it. And then, all of a sudden, Q didn’t care that R and Moneypenny as well as half of MI6 were probably listening in on the comms and watching through some CCTV.
“I love y-”
“Don’t,” Bond cut him off. His usually surly voice betraying too much feeling. “Just don’t… it’s okay, Q.”
Q nodded, his heart pumping oddly fast. He let out an involuntary whimper. “Don’t leave me.”
“I’m not going anywhere,” Bond said. He gave a weak smile. “You’re my husband remember.”
“There’s no one I’d rather be married to,” Q said.
“I’m so sorry, Q.”
“Don’t… Just… just hold me James. I’m cold.”
Because if this was how he was going to leave the world, then Q was determined to be okay with it. Bond’s eyes were shining as he stared down at him and there were definitely worse sights in the world.
“I’ve got you. Just stay with me.”
Q couldn’t keep his eyes open anymore. He breathed a sigh and let the darkness take him away.
~ *XX* ~
Everything happened quickly after that. The sound of sirens cut through all other noise and Bond was unceremoniously pushed aside by paramedics. Q was whisked away before he could do anything and then Tanner was there; a hand placed gently on his shoulder in solidarity and Bond couldn’t remember ever feeling so helpless.
Just hold me.
Q’s words chased one another around Bond’s mind.
I love you.
Q loved him. Truly loved him. And it shattered Bond because he hadn’t realised it. He’d been so blind, all this time. He thought back through all the hours they’d worked together; their banter so often bordering on flirting. Yes, he’d often thought about more. Because he wasn’t blind to the fact that Q was attractive, in his own waif-like way. Sometimes he’d wished to kiss Q properly until he became completely undone with pleasure in his arms. But it had always stayed within his realm of fantasy. Q was far too professional to allow such a relationship and Bond… Well, Bond didn’t have the greatest track record with relationships. It was never something he’d considered to be possible. But now none of that mattered anymore; it was all too bloody late.
Tanner took Bond back to MI6 and straight to M’s office. At the sight of Mallory, Bond felt his face contort in anger.
“If he doesn’t make it, his blood is on your hands.”
“You’re angry,” M said. It was a stupidly obvious statement that only served to increase Bond’s rage.
“Of course I’m fucking angry!” Bond roared. “You sent him out into the field without training and we were ambushed out there.”
“That was unprecedented.”
Bond wanted to hit the other man, but forced himself to speak calmly. Violence wasn’t the answer right now. “How did they find us at Threadneedles?”
“I have people looking into it,” M said. “R seems to think there was a tracker put on the Aston.”
“She’ll known more when we get the car back here,” Tanner said. “For now she’s working on Q’s laptop, finding out what we can about these people.”
“You better hope that information we got was worth it,” Bond growled.
“It will be.”
“Worth Q’s life?” Bond said, and a heavy silence followed his words.
M didn’t have an answer, but Tanner spoke up. “Q’s in emergency surgery now. It will be a while before we hear anything. Perhaps you should go-”
“If you’re about to suggest I go home,” Bond said, voice tight.
“No,” Tanner said quickly.
“Good,” Bond said. He glared at M. “If there’s nothing else, sir, I’d like to be dismissed.”
M gave a small, apologetic nod and Bond walked away without further word. He couldn’t bear to face the man any longer.
Bond wandered the corridors of MI6 and time seemed to pass in slow dollops as he waited for news. It was one of the longest nights he had ever experienced and not knowing what was happening was eating him up inside. He ached to do something. Anything. He could think of nothing else. Q was possibly dying in an emergency room. And despite what he’d said to M, Bond knew it would be his fault if Q died. Q had been his responsibility; under his protection and he failed.
Eventually Bond found himself in the shooting range and several dozen rounds later, he was feeling marginally less tense. The shooting range at MI6 comforted him in an odd way. He felt in control here. More so than anywhere else in the building right now. Face set in grim determination, Bond shoved clip after clip into his gun and kept firing.
The target at the end of the range was a pulverised mess when Moneypenny found him. Bond’s heart stopped the moment she entered.
“He’s going to be okay,” Moneypenny said.
And Bond could have cried with relief.
~ *XX* ~
Q awoke to Eve Moneypenny’s voice telling him that if he ever scared her like that again, she would kill him. The world was out of focus when he opened his eyes and he groped for his glasses until they were pressed into his hand. With a murmur of thanks, Q put them on, blinking owlishly as his vision cleared.
“Well I have no intention of doing this again,” Q managed to say weakly. His side hurt something fierce.
“Good,” Moneypenny said, looking down at Q with a wavering smile. “You frightened all of us for a while there.”
“How long have I been out for?” Q said, groaning as he struggled to sit up.
“Couple of days,” Moneypenny said. “You were shot. Through and through, but the bullet grazed a few organs. There was a lot of bleeding.”
Well that explained the pain. “I think I remember…” Q said, his voice trailing off into a moan of discomfort as he pushed himself back into the pillows.
“You shouldn’t try and move for a while.”
Q nodded. “I was shot,” he whispered after a moment.
“You’ll have a nice scar to show for it,” Moneypenny said. “Just like a field agent.”
And because Q was tired and probably on pain medication, his mind turned to Bond at her words.
“How is… uh, how is everyone?”
“Bond is fine,” Moneypenny said, seeing right through him. “He’ll be glad to know you’re awake.”
“He visited you earlier,” Moneypenny said carefully. “He wanted to thank you, I think.”
“Sorry you missed him.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Q said, untruthfully. “I’m fine now and I’ll be back at work soon. Bond can thank me then, if he wants.”
“Of course he will want to.”
“Maybe…” he trailed off, feeling himself start to flush as memories flooded his mind.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t be coy,” Q tutted. “I know you know. Everyone knows, don’t they? You were all listening when I said… When I… oh God.”
“You thought you were going to die,” Moneypenny said gently.
“I told him I loved him,” Q said. “I’m such a… spectacular idiot. Couldn’t they have just let me die? That would have been much nicer. Less embarrassing for all concerned.”
“Tanner didn’t want to replace you,” Moneypenny said. “Too much effort apparently.”
“Lazy sod,” Q muttered.
Moneypenny smiled. “Nice to see you haven’t lost your sense of humour.”
“What a relief,” Q said bitterly.
“Well, in good news, we caught the guys who shot you,” Moneypenny said, apparently feeling like it was time for a subject change. Q was thankful for it. “They’re being taken care of.” Her voice hardened and Q gave a grimace. Attacks on members of the British Secret Service were never taken lightly.
“What did we find?” Q asked, thankful for the opportunity to slip back into work. It distracted him from the pain, both emotional and physical.
“Organised crime unit,” Moneypenny said. “They were collecting intel on a number of government organisations, including us. They were able to set up in the abandoned building because they had links within the real estate company. M will give you a full debrief when you’ve recovered.”
“R’s found detailed plans of weapons and maps of tube stations.”
Q didn’t need to ask what that meant. He simply nodded, pleased that they’d been hindered in their planned attacks. “Another day, another enemy thwarted.”
“There’s still more data to go through. R has been waiting for you.”
“Kind of her,” Q said.
“And the other good news is, I don’t think M has any plans to send you back out into the field,” Moneypenny said.
“And I only had to get shot to convince him,” Q said.
“He’d rather you didn’t do so again,” Moneypenny said.
“I’m inclined to agree with him,” Q said. He glanced around the small medical room. “So how long do I have to be here for?”
“At least another week,” Moneypenny said. “And then you’ll be given time off.”
“I don’t need time off,” Q said. “I can still use a computer and I can still think. There’s no need.”
“You were shot,” Moneypenny said. “And you’re probably in shock still, even if you don’t know it. If I have to put a guard on this room twenty-four seven to make sure you don’t escape, I will.”
Q considered this. “Fine,” he said. “But I need you to bring me a few things first.”
“If one of those things if your laptop, I refuse,” Moneypenny said.
“I promise not to use it for work related means,” Q said. He suspected Moneypenny knew he was lying but he gave her his biggest, pleading, I’ve-just-been-shot-be-nice-to-me look and she gave in.
~ *XX* ~
Bond stood outside Q’s room in medical, watching through the glass doors in a manner that was definitely not creepy. Q was sitting up in the bed, completely enthralled in a book. The scene it painted was so homely and peaceful and Bond could easily imagine Q laying in his bed at home, reading for hours on end, losing track of time.
The relief he’d felt at knowing Q would be alright was greater than anything Bond could have imagined. And now, his hand itched to open the door and share that relief with the young man. But he couldn’t. Because he knew wouldn’t be able to stop himself. Bond was greedy and full of want and it wouldn’t be fair.
Q loved him.
Q would take another bullet for him. Q would do anything for Bond. The whole of MI6 knew it. And Bond wasn’t going to let that happen again. He’d had days to think about it and he’d come to his decision.
Q needed to stay safe. And if rejecting Q meant keeping him safe, Bond would do it in a heartbeat. He’d lost too many people already; people he loved and cared about. The images of the dead flickered through his mind at the thought. He was not going to add Q to that slideshow.
Caring gets you killed. Caring gets others killed. The phrases had been drilled into him over and over.
Q was so young and he deserved a long and happy life. Bond couldn’t give him that. It was that simple.
He turned sharply and walked away down the corridor. And if Q looked up and missed him, well Bond didn’t see it either.
~ *XX* ~
Every time someone new entered Q-Branch, Q would look up with a start. And then he would mentally kick himself, flush with renewed embarrassment, and return to work feeling frustrated.
He had been officially back at work for three days and not once had James Bond stopped by. All the equipment from their operation had already been returned (the sight of the velvet ring box had made Q’s heart clench) and he’d been busy working through the recovered information. It was probably for the best, not having Bond distracting him.
He’d seen the double-oh agent, of course; there’d been debriefings to go to and the dreaded psych eval. Q thought Bond had looked at him once while they’d been meeting with M, but looking back it had probably just been a trick of the light. It had clearly been too much to hope that Bond would want to thank him for taking the bullet, after hearing Q’s romantic declaration.
Q hadn’t spoken a word to James Bond since he was dying in the man’s arms; nearly three weeks ago. And it was slowly driving him insane. He was pining and he knew it. It was sad and pathetic, because it was now clear that Bond had zero interest in him. God, Q was such an idiot for thinking that their banter and flirting had actually meant something; that every smile had meant something; that their breathless kiss in the hotel lounge had meant something… He’d fallen into the same honeytrap shit that Bond pulled on every other job. He thought he was different, that they had something special. But he was so obviously wrong. And he should have known better.
It also didn’t help that everyone seemed to be treating him as though he were made of glass; shooting him looks of pity when they thought he wasn’t looking. The rumours had flown around MI6 so quickly it was impossible to avoid them. It was as if all employees had received a memo, reminding them to be nice to Q because he just confessed his love for James Bond and it looks like Bond has rejected him. Also he was shot. So be gentle.
Q was never going to live this down. They really should have let him die.
“Are you alright?” A voice said, sounding far away. “Sir? Q?”
“Mmm?” Q blinked and R came into focus, her brown eyes filled with concern.
“Are you alright?” she repeated.
“Oh yes,” Q said, feeling hollow and broken and trying not to let it show. He pushed his glasses back up his nose and returned to his computer. “I’m fine.”
~ *XX* ~
Eve Moneypenny was absolutely, definitely going to kill James Bond.
Her heels clicked dangerously on the polished MI6 floor as she stalked towards the double-oh agent’s rarely-used office. She threw the door open without knocking and found Bond reclining in his chair, staring blandly at the computer screen. Every fibre of his being screamed bored. And maybe once upon a time, Moneypenny would have been sympathetic but she knew Bond probably deserved desk duty. Bond looked over at her as she entered the room and raised an eyebrow, sitting forward slightly.
“Where the bloody hell do you get off?” she demanded.
“Good to see you too, Eve.”
“Don’t ‘Eve’ me,” she said.
“Is it odd that I’ve missed this?” Bond said, musing to himself.
“Missed what? Me being annoyed at you?”
“Well strap yourself in then,” Moneypenny replied, dryly.
Bond smirked. “What can I do for you, Moneypenny?”
“You,” she actually pointed a finger at him. “Can walk your arse down to Q-Branch and talk to Q.”
Bond’s face fell. “Ah.”
“Talk to him.”
“I forgot you were listening in while Q died in my arms that night,” Bond said, apparently deciding that playing oblivious wasn’t the best course of action.
“All of MI6 were listening in,” Moneypenny said.
“I sometimes hate this workplace,” Bond muttered.
“Point is, Q’s been back at work for five days now and you haven’t even bothered to say hello,” Moneypenny said, her voice rising only slightly. “No matter what happened, you owe him that, Bond. He took a bullet for you.”
“I’ve been very busy with paperwork.”
“Bullshit,” Moneypenny said flatly. “You’ve found time to visit me and ask M for new missions. You’ve even found time to catch up with Tanner, voluntarily I might add.”
“I spoke with Tanner for maybe two minutes. I would hardly call that ‘catching up’.”
“You’re avoiding the subject,” Moneypenny pointed out, sharply. “Go and see Q.”
“He has better things to do,” Bond said. “I wouldn’t want to disturb him. You know how he hates that.”
“Please, we all know he would make an exception for you.”
“I really don’t think so. Not anymore.”
Moneypenny frowned slightly. “You need to fix this between you. M isn’t going to accept the fact that his quartermaster and double-oh-seven won’t work together. For whatever reason.”
“I don’t care what M accepts at the moment,” Bond said harshly.
“Then fix it for me, because I for one am getting tired of seeing Q so depressed.”
Bond shifted guilty at that, and ran a hand through his short hair. “I don’t know how to fix it,” he admitted quietly.
Moneypenny’s face softened slightly. “Talk to him, thank him for everything. Just…” She bit her lip. “Maybe just put him out of his misery and just tell him you’re not interested.”
“Well, that would be a lie.” He said it almost casually and Moneypenny was thrown.
“What?” Moneypenny said. “Then why the hell haven’t you done anything about it? He told you he loves you and it turns out it’s a mutual feeling and… good God when did I start working in a kindergarten?”
“I couldn’t do that to him,” Bond said, his voice carefully free of emotion.
“I don’t get it.”
“I can’t do anything about it. It wouldn’t be fair to him. And you know the life of a field agent,” Bond said. “I have limited time left as it is. I… I couldn’t do that to him. I’d die and he’d hear my last words over the comms and be able to do nothing. Or worse still, I’ll put him at risk. Being shot once is enough and I’m damned if I let that happen again. Q deserves someone who won’t put him in danger. He deserves better than that.”
“Q doesn’t want ‘better’,” Moneypenny replied. “He wants you.”
“Can’t imagine why,” Bond said, looking away.
“Oh, pull your head out of your self-loathing arse, James Bond,” Moneypenny said with such force that Bond looked up at her, startled. “I refuse to stand by and watch you both act like idiots. If I have to get M to order you both together, then I will. Don’t you dare think for a second that I couldn’t. Yes, our lives are often at risk and perhaps on average shorter than that of the general population. But Q chose this life, just as you did. He knows the risks. And if that’s your excuse for not acting, then you are more pathetic than I imagined.”
“Finished?” Bond asked, but he looked thoroughly chastened.
Moneypenny glared at him. “Just talk to him,” she repeated, her hand already on the office door handle. “I’d hate to have to shoot you again.”
Bond watched her leave, thinking hard under a rare expression of uncertainty.
~ *XX* ~
Everything Bond had been planning to say left his head the moment he walked into Q-Branch and Q looked up at him with shocked, shining eyes. It was past midnight and the department was empty apart from Q himself. There were no current ops and there was no real need for anyone to be on duty. It was so painfully typical of Q to still be working that Bond’s heart fluttered fondly.
“Q,” Bond replied evenly.
The silence was palpable. Bond’s mind was slowly refilling with everything Moneypenny had told him and everything he’d confessed but for some reason he couldn’t string those feelings into actual sentences. So instead of belting out some half-arsed speech, like he had intended, Bond did what he did best. He marched straight over to his quartermaster, took his face gently in his hands and pressed their lips together.
Q stood stock-still in the embrace; too shocked or horrified, Bond didn’t know. And when he pulled back, Q just stared at Bond. The silence dragged agonisingly on, long enough for Bond to start doubting himself. He was just beginning to think that apologising and then running away to Australia was a good idea when Q spoke.
“What was that for?”
“That was an apology for not being there and not saying ‘I love you too’ the moment you woke up after you’d been shot,” Bond said truthfully.
“Oh,” Q said, his breathless voice a mix of pleasure and surprise. “Oh, well, I think we can do better than that, don’t you?”
And Q pulled Bond down by the lapels of his jacket and proceeded to kiss him as though it was all he ever wanted to do. Bond responded enthusiastically, pushing them back against the desk and licking into Q’s mouth, eliciting a moan. He brought a hand up to curl in Q’s hair, desperately pulling him in. It was better than their first kiss back in the hotel lounge; better by miles. Because this was real and something they’d both clearly wanted for so long. They crushed against each other, mouths moving hungrily with no hesitation.
“Bloody Christ Q,” Bond muttered against pale skin.
“I missed you.”
Bond groaned at the words. “Missed you too.”
“But I’m rather angry still, you know,” Q said, not sounding it at all. “You left me waiting for weeks.”
“I’ll make it up to you,” Bond said, pulling away to regard Q seriously.
“I’m counting on it,” Q replied. “I… I didn’t think you’d want to see me again. I thought…”
“Moneypenny may have talked some sense in to me.”
“I didn’t think that could be done.”
“I’m sorry,” Bond said after a moment, letting emotion seep into his voice. “I never meant for anything to happen to you.”
“Not your fault,” Q said. “I’m fine now.”
Bond stared into Q’s face, feeling amazed and so eternally thankful to all the decisions that had led him to this moment. “You took a bullet for me.”
“I did,” Q agreed.
“And you’re not going to let me forget it, are you?” Bond said, with dawning comprehension.
“Absolutely not,” Q said.
Bond was startled into a laugh. “Don’t you ever do that again. Ever.”
“I don’t plan to,” Q said seriously.
“Good,” Bond said and he kissed Q fiercely again; possessively like he’d never let go. He would have liked to continue kissing Q until the man was a trembling mess under his ministrations, but he forced himself to pull back.
“Mmm?” said Q.
“I have something for you,” Bond said and he pulled out the watch Q had given him before the mission.
“I was wondering where that got to.”
“Completely unused and, most notably, still in one piece.”
“Well done,” Q said with only the smallest hint of sarcasm.
“Also, I didn’t drive the Aston into the Thames.”
“It’s riddled with bullets,” Q said. “One of which was a tracker.”
“But it’s still dry and in one piece,” Bond pointed out, inwardly smiling at how easily they slipped back into playful verbal sparring.
“Are you expecting some kind of reward?”
“Don’t push your luck,” Q said and Bond actually pouted.
“What about next time?”
“If you’re good,” Q said.
“And what if I’m bad?” Bond said, his voice dropping to something much more suggestive.
“Less likely to get a reward, I should imagine,” Q said.
“We both know that’s a lie,” Bond said, placing his hands on Q’s narrow hips and bringing him close. Q winced at the contact and Bond stepped back at once. “Still sore?”
“I will be for a while,” Q said.
“I know the feeling,” Bond said. “You need rest. And sleep.”
“Two things you never do when you are injured,” Q pointed out. “In fact, you actively avoid any medical treatment even when you’re bleeding out.”
“Good point, well made,” said Bond. “At least let me drive you home.”
“If this is your way of getting into bed with me, I think I’m okay with it,” Q said, looking at Bond through dark eyelashes.
Bond winked. “Good.”
Q started to pack away his things, moving gingerly until Bond took over, lifting the quartermaster’s trusty laptop bag over his own shoulder. He realised Q really must be truly exhausted if it took so little convincing to get him away from his work. Or, a tiny voice in Bond’s mind said, or maybe it’s because he really does love you. The thought made Bond feel stupidly happy.
“Well at least if M changes his mind and I’m forced into a mission with you, I’ll be prepared,” Q said, as they walked out of Q-Branch.
“Next time?” Bond questioned and he grinned. “Are you saying you’re keen to get married again?”
“I didn’t mean that!” Q spluttered.
“To have and to hold-” Bond began solemnly, and Q groaned.
“For better, for worse-”
“In sickness and in heath-”
“Bond, I mean it.”
“For richer, for-”
The rest of Bond’s words were cut off as Q stopped walking and pulled him in for another long, deep kiss.