James is not really a considerate person. He believes he used to be long ago, when he had a home and parents to look up to. Yet, when he lost it all, when he locked himself up to deal with grief and anger, he stopped being the boy he was supposed to be and turned into something else.
"I lost the gun," he confesses.
Q doesn't even blink.
"I've noticed." He types on that computer of his, drinking occasionally from his cup of tea. "Is there any way I can make you understand that the equipment is in fact difficult to manufacture?"
"I already know that, Q," he answers matter-of-factly, "but if I were to bring eveything back, you'd be out of a job, and I couldn't stand the guilt."
Q adjusts his glasses. His movements are all pretense. James is almost sure Q behaves like a pedantic old man just to hide the fact that he is young and inexperienced.
"You aren't nearly as amusing as you think you are, 007."
"Why are you smiling, then?"
He likes death, really.
Isn't that fucked up?
Moneypenny smirks and passes him a folder with Top Secret printed on it. James grabs it and fights the urge to grimace when his shoulder screams in pain.
"That's your report," she informs him, "You need to sign it before giving it to M."
"Isn't that your job, Miss Moneypenny?" He opens the folder and reads about a large sum of money, dead terrorists, and one of his many deceased lovers. "Unless you've become redundant. I know M hates redundancies."
Eve smacks him.
"I am the least redundant agent in the MI6, Bond. Don't you ever forget that." She looks lovely today, with a green dress and killer stilettos. James feels the urge to take her to bed. "M wants to ask you some questions about that statement. That's why you are giving him the bloody document."
James does not roll his eyes, but it's a close call.
"Very well, then, Miss Moneypenny," he starts, "I'll meet M immediately."
Her eyebrows shoot up.
James puts the folder under his arm.
"Of course," he smiles, before adding, "just after I visit Q Branch. I really need to discuss that poor excuse of a knife they gave me for this mission."
Moneypenny does roll her eyes.
Then Vesper happened, and he had to learn everything from scrap. He was furious at himself for falling for it. Love is unprofessional. Love is a disease. Love almost had him killed.
Now, he only allows himself patriotism and anger.
Q looks at the microchip and his eyes turn brighter.
James nods, his left hip touching Q's desk. He feels jetlagged and irritable. He wants to get his debriefing done with, scream at M, flirt with Moneypenny, and go home to sleep off the exhaustion and shootings in Russia.
"Are you even allowed to give me this?"
Q is busy inspecting the microchip and making notes on his computer. James is not really sure if he has the level of clearence to give his Quartermaster a piece of enemy equipment without informing his superiors, but he shrugs.
"Of course I am," he lies.
"I have to run diagnostics on this," Q mutters, more to himself than to James.
"You do that," he answers, even though he thinks Q isn't listening anymore, "Then tell me everything about it once I'm back."
James says it's the pressure, the adrenaline. He says he enjoys it, he laughs and claims to take pleasure from wherever he's able to find it.
The truth is he can't and won't love anyone anymore. So he fucks whoever is willing, and pretends to care for him or her until the sun rises. Until he goes back to being the heartless assassin he is.
It's a simple replacement for what he will never have.
It's one more lie on his list.
Q is reading some documents, but he looks up at James when he enters his office. There's still steam rising from Q's cup. James would bet it's Earl Grey.
"Present?" he asks.
Q points to the box under his left arm.
"Like the microchip," he adds, "which you didn't have the authorization to give me, by the way. You should improve that lying skill of yours."
James tries to look offended.
"I lie pretty well, thank you."
Q gives him this look that says please, don't, before he steals the box from under James' arm. He opens it fast, like a child unwraping his Christmas presents.
"We could have been suspended," he whispers, "or fired. Thank God M likes me best."
James stands very close to him to actually be comfortable, but Q doesn't seem to mind at all.
"That really hurt my feelings," he argues without real intent, "All that part about M liking you best."
Q takes the sub-marine spy robot from the box and smirks.
"Don't worry, 007," he smiles without taking his eyes off the robot, "you're still my personal favourite."
James doesn't know what to make of that.
"Before you go," M calls from behind his desk. He seems tired and James bets it's Moneypenny who is making him look put together, "Q Branch would really appreciate if you returned the equipment in..."
"One piece," James finished, "I know. But somebody has to keep that genius child from boredom, don't you think? Who knows what he would do without adult supervision."
M stares at him, before deciding it's not worth it.
"Bond, you better catch that thief and secure the flash drive before I fly there and shoot you myself."
Thug Number One's head makes an ugly crack when it hits the sink. James lets the body slide to the bathroom floor while gasping like a drowning man.
"Thank you for your vote of confidence, M," he ironizes, "yet, if you wanted to shoot me, you should send Miss Moneypenny." He makes out a for fuck's sake grunted in the background and smiles. "Hello, love, I didn't know you were there."
There is more shouting and James puts another magazine in his gun.
"The man with the flash drive just left the building," Tanner informs him.
"Of course he did."
James steps on Belgian streets with blood flooding from his hairline.
"007," says a firm voice in his ear, "please do as I say this time and take the first street to your right."
James obeys immediately, limping a little bit while he avoids pedestrians. His suit is ruined and some tourists stop to stare at him.
"Q, I missed the sound of your voice."
"I find it useless to talk to people who choose to ignore my instructions," he answers, his voice a monotone, "specially if said instructions might save that person's life." There's a pause. "Turn left and keep running until you reach the square."
"You sound like a petulant child."
"I learned from the best."
He reaches the square and there he sees him: Thug Number Two running like a madman. The pursuit lasts five more minutes that feel like eternity, until James corners the thief in a narrow alley. The guy turns, gun aimed at him.
There are two shots.
Thug Number Two crumbles with a small hole between his eyebrows. James smiles, tastes blood, and looks at himself.
"007," the voice is a little desperate, "007, are you...?"
"I'm hit," he grunts. A bloody bullet to the stomach, what a bitch. He hears some more screaming coming from his earpiece. The world begins to fade to black, but the last thing he understands is "007, stay with me. Come on."
He's very good at resurrecting.
His phone rings then.
"She was cute."
James takes a sip from his tea.
"Good morning, Q. Don't you know that stalking is illegal?"
Q sighs with exasperation.
"You are late, 007. I'm just making sure you are not in fact dead."
James glances at his watch. Late by two hours and a half. He smiles.
"Tell M I'll be there in fourty-five minutes."
He can picture Q taking an steadying sip from his tea.
"No, you won't."
He hangs up and James supresses a laugh. No, he won't.
She could also kick his arse.
They don't make a big deal out of it. It works for them, and they feel quite comfortable around each other.
"M knows," it's the first thing Q says when James puts his earpiece on, "I hope it was worth it."
He is doing a Windsor knot, staring at his face in the mirror (the only face he hates to see every morning, the face he doesn't recognize anymore), so he de doesn't pay attention to his own words when he answers:
"That depends on whether you are better in bed than her."
There is a tense pause in which Q doesn't even breathe. James picks it up, but doesn't really think about it.
It's an occupational hazard.
Q doesn't turn around from where he is sitting near the edge of the flat roof. The London dusk is beautiful from here, and James hates missing a view.
"Not me," he answers. He has a bottle of scotch in one hand and a bag of potato chips in the other, "That's M's job."
Q nods, a cup of cooling tea between his hands. James sits beside him and they share comfortable silence for a couple of minutes.
"You'll get over it," James murmurs because he can't help himself.
Q glances at the alcohol.
"Yes, I can see how much you are over it."
It's getting colder and in a couple of weeks, winter will hit London full-force.
"Fancy a drink?"
Q looks at him and then looks at his cup. He takes off his glasses and rubs his eyes.
James pours some scotch into the cup and sees it mix with the leftover tea. Q doesn't even hesitate when he takes a sip, and James could swear it tastes awful, but to Q's credit, he doesn't flinch.
"Could you make me a favour?" his Quartermaster says, "Don't you dare die on me like Holden did. It would reflect badly on my CV."
James takes a swig from the bottle, thankful for the burning alcohol travelling down his throat. He feels alive, and it hurts.
"You know I always come back."
Q shakes his head in a private joke. Then he finishes his drink, licking his lips. James studies him. He is very good at reading other people, but Q is kind of a mistery to him.
"Just don't die."
"Tell Q it's very touching when he worries about me," he comments to Moneypenny once, when he is able to escape his mark's radar to make a phone call, "His survival kit is impressive."
"He is kind of cranky lately, you know. I guess he misses someone to have a pedantic argument with."
James smiles despite himself, wishes Moneypenny farewell, and hangs up before M is able to pick up the phone and yell at him.
He gets home and almost drink himself into a coma.
When he sets foot on the MI6 Headquarters, half the personnel gives him a knowing look. Moneypenny has to supress a smirk everytime she sees him, but James acts nonchalantly. He is looking forward to be debriefed by M though, just to see the man uncomfortable with the whole situation.
However, it's late (or way too early) and M has already gone home. James ends up in the labs looking for Tanner, but he finds Q instead.
He's in his office, a bottle of tequila and a shot glass resting on the desk.
"This is unexpected."
Q looks up from his Rubik's cube. He is wearing that silly jumper that makes James think of a Math teacher.
"Unexpected indeed," he deadpans, "I am here, in my office, during working hours. A surprise."
James arches a brow.
"The tequila, mate."
Q makes a face.
"Do not call me mate. I have no patience for your condescension today." He goes back to his cube and completes it in three movements.
"Are you even old enough to own that bottle?" James asks because he never follows the rules.
The answer he gets is Q pouring himself a shot and downing it as if it were water.
"I'm old enough for a lot of things, you know."
James closes the door and sits on a spare chair.
"Is that an invitation?" he asks because he is running high on adrenaline and post-coital confidence. Q doesn't answer, his poker face is perfect behind his glasses. This child is ridiculous. James gives up and shakes his hand, as if to scare the subject away. "Whatever," he grunts, "aren't you on the clock?"
Q stands up and starts putting all his stuff into a backpack.
"Just finished," he whispers, "you can pour yourself one, if you like."
He points to the bottle. James never refuses an invitation. The tequila burns his throat and warms his chest, leaving a pleasant feeling behind. Q is locking the drawers under his desk, while shutting down his computer.
"I brought you this," James says suddenly. He takes a small box and leaves it on top of the table.
"Is it another robot or perhaps an illegal microchip?"
James rubs his eyes.
"No, it isn't. Would you please open it?" he orders. Q blinks and then obeys, opening the little box. The rich scent of Thai tea fills the room, and Q's eyes seem a little bigger. "I bought it when I was there. Forgot to give it to you."
James downs another tequila shot when it becomes obvious that Q is at a loss for words. The silence is oddly tense.
"I can't give you much," Q starts quietly, his eyes focused on the tea box, "I just can't, really. I wish I could give more, but I can't. I'm not made that way."
James has no idea what he's on about.
"I have no idea what you're on about."
Q adjusts his glasses and closes the box, putting it away inside his backpack.
"You expect certain things from people," he starts, looking at James with intent, "and I cannot give you those things."
"You are not making any sense," James says, and then adds, "Are we talking about those toys of yours? Because those things save my life on a daily basis. And I know you can't just give them away."
"First, they are not toys. They are equipment," he corrects, "which you never give back, so you don't really have the right to ask for extra." He rounds the desk and stops in front of James. "And second, we are not talking about equipment."
James stands up and they are so close their chests are almost touching.
Q sighs, as if James were the thickest person alive. He probably is, though. He has always been.
There is no real warning and James is surprised by how fast Q can move. In the blink of an eye, there are warm lips pressed against his in the chastest kiss James has ever shared with anyone. Q's right hand is on his left shoulder, using it as support. His eyes are closed and his glasses might be hurting his face.
James is petrified. He doesn't know how to react because this is Q, not an enemy, or a one night stand. This is his Quartermaster, the person who makes sure he doesn't get kill everytime he goes out on the field.
"Thank you for the tea," Q whispers after breaking the kiss, "Not my favourite, but you never look the gift horse in the mouth."
He takes a step back, grabs his backpack and heads to the door.
"007," he calls, and James looks at him automatically, "next time, turn you earpiece off. We have no interest in hearing your disgusting displays of mediocre sexual intercourse, no matter what Miss Moneypenny might say." He crosses the threshold and adds over his shoulder, "And please, turn off the lights when you leave."
Tanner notices, though. James doesn't know how, but one day he approaches him in the lift and asks him, "What is wrong with you?"
"Are you talking to me?"
Tanner's look is just insulting.
"Considering you are the only one in the lift with me, I'll dare say yes, I'm talking to you," he sighs, "You've been acting... Let's say differently. Any particular reason?"
James adjusts his cuffs.
"I'm on my period," he jokes, "A terribly uncomfortable situation. Nothing you can do about it, but I appreciate your concern."
Tanner isn't laughing, and James can see when he decides to give up.
"Fine, don't tell me," he yields, "but please, fix it. We need you focused."
"I am always..."
"Stop flirting with everybody, Bond," M says nonchalantly, "It reflects badly on me."
Moneypenny laughs despite herself. James doesn't even flinch.
"You're getting better at this job, M," he answers.
M adjusts his tie and looks at him, unimpressed.
"Lonely people with issues get on my nerves," he says.
James doesn't have an answer to that.
"Now is not the time, 007. Later."
Well, at least Q is not playing naïve. James believes that's a good start.
He drives like a madman on a secondary road, while trying not to get shot. Stopping bullets with your body is not a pleasant thing for anyone. The Jeep he has stolen bounces up and down due to the lack of pavement, and the bullets fly past him like rain.
"Let's hope there is a later," he grunts.
"There will be. I am the best at what I do," Q answers calmly, "and so are you."
James feels oddly reassured.
He has actually been flirting with his Quartermaster. He brought him Thai tea, for Heaven's sake. An honest-to-God present which he bought in Thailand just because he could.
James closes his eyes and runs a hand through his hair.
Bloody hell, M is going to murder him.
There's a gutted computer on top of the desk and several boxes on the floor. Q is taking apart what seems like a hard disk drive.
"Do I even want to know?" James asks before he can help himself.
Q doesn't look up.
"Good afternoon, 007," he greets, "and no, you don't want to." He brings the disk to a magnifying lens with light, looking for something James cannot even begin to imagine. "Please, come in," Q adds.
The door closes and James knows he has a billion excuses to prevent him from actually addressing the issue at hand. However, this needs to be dealt with. Right now.
"You know," he starts, "this is my fault."
Q grabs a pair of tweezers and picks up a minuscule piece from the disk.
"Is it, now?"
"I led you on," he anwers and it sounds as ridiculous as it is.
Q looks up at that, but he doesn't say a thing. He sighs and very carefully, he puts the tweezers down into a plastic Petri dish.
"Do you always have to take the blame for everything?" he asks, "Is it something you find pleasant?"
James hides his hands inside his pockets.
"Only when it's true."
"That is ridiculous, 007," he sighs, "I am responsible for my own acts." His face is devoid of emotion when he continues, but then again James has always been incapable of reading him, "I know this situation makes you uncomfortable. You should know I won't act on it. Take it as a mistake, if you like."
James tries not to grit his teeth.
"Q, I brought you tea," he explains, "not enemy equipment."
There is a pause.
"I am confused," Q confesses, "what does that have to do with anything?"
This time James does roll his eyes.
"Because it was unprofessional," he grunts, "I bought you a bloody present just because I wanted to."
The look on Q's face is odd, and James would laugh if this situation wasn't so familiar. He is about to break his own rules, those that keep him alive, and sane, and distant.
"I am sorry," Q starts, his voice a whisper, "I am not as suave as you are, nor do I posses your people skills, so I would really appreciate if you told me what is going on right now."
James is very close to losing it.
"You are the genius, you figure it out."
Q arches an eyebrow.
"Oh, I have figured it out. I just want to hear you say it."
If he wasn't so valuable, James would strangle him right this instant. Instead, he walks behind the desk and grabs Q by the back of his neck.
"You are insufferable," he complains before kissing him.
It's quite ridiculous at first. James is torn between hating himself, and enjoying Q's lips. The hating part is winning because he's just acting on instinct, he is not really sure if he is attracted to Q. But then, the little shit bites his bottom lip and James is suddenly running on automatic.
Apparently, Q is a really good kisser. And he likes tongue. James has never been this turned on in his life.
However, when his thumbs press on narrow hipbones, Q breaks the kiss.
"I believe that's enough," he says, "I have work to do."
"Really," he deadpans.
Q takes a step back, his lips a beautiful shade of red.
"Just because you are keen on sabotaging my promising career, does not mean I will let you do it."
James really needs to adjust the front of his trousers, but he decides to smirk instead.
"You are all hot and cold," he complains half-heartedly.
Q stops trying to fix his crumpled clothes and looks at him.
"Did you just quote Katy Perry at me?"
It's just like with Moneypenny, he tells himself.
Except kissing Q is ten times more satisfying.
"Bloody hell," James blurts, "Is he able to avoid bullets?"
The car chase will leave half of Tokyo destroyed, and James is pretty sure that at this rate the collateral damage will be obscene. He turns the wheel sharply to the left and almost runs over a group of schoolgirls.
"I'm blowing up the car," Q says on his earpiece. He sounds irritated.
"No, you're not blowing up the car."
"You are just upset because he stole your car and is running away in it," Q comments, "That car can be remote detonated from here. I have the button right in front of me."
James wants to detonate Q Branch.
"Q, blow it up," says M's voice.
"I can catch this guy," James complains, "I can. Nobody is blowing up my fucking car."
"Too late for that," Q singsongs, "Don't worry, I'll make it up to you."
Twenty feet ahead, the Aston Martin explodes like fireworks.
It drives James insane.
"You should stop stalking me," he greets when he opens the door.
Q walks past him, invading his flat with a pizza box.
"Quit complaining, and bring napkins and something to drink."
James sighs and goes look for two cans of Foster's. When he comes back, Q is sitting on his sofa, going through every channel on TV. James takes a look at the pizza and the disgusting amount of cheese in it.
"You could have taken me to a fancy restaurant, at least," he mutters.
Q settles for Alien on Film4.
"I blew up your car, not your foot," he says, going of a slice of pure cheese, "Fancy restaurants are for blown feet. For your car you only get pizza."
James sits next to him.
He takes pride in getting what he wants, what he needs.
He also hates himself for it.
James arches a brow.
"I guess you're not the jelaous type, then," he smirks. It's silly because they are not in a relationship. They just kiss occasionally.
Q gives him some hand grenades.
"Not when it comes to sex, no," he mutters.
James doesn't really understand what that means.
"If you die on me," Q grunts in his ear, "there will be no fancy restaurant."
"You are such a romantic," he grits out.
"Bloody hell, you--the green syringe," Q answers.
James can barely see anymore. He just hopes he picks up the right one.
"Tell Moneypenny she owes me a beer," he mutters, trying to prepare the syringe with shaking fingers.
There's a suffling sound on the other side of his comms.
"You better come back to claim it, if you want it so bad," Eve tells him herself. Her voice is trembling and it cracks at the end.
James smiles, his breathing almost nonexistent. He takes the syringe to his neck, closing his eyes and hoping for the best.
"No," Q stops him, "It's an intracardiac injection," he explains, "In the heart, 007."
James opens his shirt with numb fingers and sighs an of course before stabbing himself in the heart.
Once he's alone, James goes to the bedroom and wanks to the thought of Q's lips. He comes in the silent darkness of his flat.
He reaches one conclusion that day: he loves destroying who he is.
"M might shoot you in the face."
James doesn't ask.
"However, I think he allows your relationship with Q," she reflects.
"What?" James asks, playing the naïve part he is not really good at.
Moneypenny doesn't seem to notice.
"You two act like a married couple," she explains and rolls her eyes.
He is wrong.
Q stops typing and stares at him.
James closes the door to his office and leans on it.
"Shag," he repeats, "you, me, naked. Lots of filthy things."
Q looks paler than ever. He opens his mouth, but nothing comes out. So he takes a steadying sip from his tea. James knows that's his tell, and he feels safer that way. He doesn't trust people who haven't got a tell anymore.
"Do you remember when I told you that you should sleep with other people?" Q begins.
"Yes, I do. But what..."
"Well," Q interrupts, "you should. Specially considering how much you need sex."
James takes a step towards the desk.
"Tell me if I've got this wrong, Q," he grits out, "but we've been flirting, and dining, and kissing."
"Yes, we have."
James sits on the chair across from Q.
"Am I missing something?"
Q has a sad smile on his face.
"A lot of things, actually," he complains, "but in this particular case, well. You and I are never having sex."
It's not the first time James hears that line. Yet, it's the first time he is actually surprised. Or hurt.
Q rubs his eyes behind his glasses, and sighs.
"No, you don't."
"Enlighten me then."
Q wets his lips and James holds his breath.
"I refuse to participate in sexual activity," Q blurts out, "because I do not experience any kind of sexual attraction."
The room is silent for a moment, but James can swear there's something ringing in his ears.
Q is slightly pink.
"I am what you call asexual," he confesses.
James may need a moment. He stares at Q, at his wrinkled clothes, his stupid jumper, his mismatched tie, at the way his hand closes around his Scrabble mug, at his silly hipster glasses. He takes Q in, his boyish looks and his annoying intelligence.
"Well, fuck," he finishes eloquently.
"Tell me about it," he complains, "Try to explain that one to the woman who gave you life."
"So," James begins because he is still accepting the facts, "So, you can kiss, but you won't shag."
Q gives him his famous please, don't look.
"Your language is so dull sometimes," he grunts, "I can kiss you, I can touch you, I can even be naked next to you, but I won't feel sexual attraction towards you. Or anyone, for that matter."
James stands up slowly.
"I think I might need a minute."
Q nods, and goes back to typing. James tries not to run for the door, but he feels as if he has been poisoned again.
"Oh, and 007," Q calls behind him, "make us both a favour and don't think you owe me anything."
Maybe he comes between pale thighs, or red lips, or skinny hips, and then wants to smash every mirror in his flat.
Nobody will ever know.
"Whatever happened to you," Tanner says in the earpiece, "fix it and stop moping."
James shoots a sniper.
"I do not mope."
Apparently, Tanner has a sense of humour because the bastard laughs.
"You could've fooled me."
"What's wrong with you?" he asks.
She has a dozen of documents in her hands.
"Q has decided he doesn't want to do paperwork," she groans, "He has been impossible for the past two weeks. Would you please go talk to him?"
James goes back to his report.
"I will try," he lies.
James makes sure the guard is knocked out before plugging the flash drive in the USB port.
"I'm not sure," he answers, "refresh my memory."
"I am here to watch out for you," he explains calmly, "I have your back, you bloody arsehole."
James downloads the virus into the computer and readies his gun.
"You say the sweetest things."
"Whatever it is, fix it."
"You would have advice for this situation," he says, "and I would as sure as hell not want to hear it."
He leaves the flowers. He just picked them at random.
"I bought him tea, he bought me pizza, we kissed," he muses, "You would have loved it."
It's starting to rain.
"I won't go through another Vesper," he whispers. Suddenly, the dark sky turns bright and the thunder explodes, angry and screaming. James snorts, "Even after dead, you still are one scary woman."
"007," Q says finally, "is there anything I can do for you?"
James sits on the desk, a smirk on his face.
"You know, apparently I have been in a relationship with a genius lab rat for the past seven months."
Q throws the cube over his shoulder and it collides with computer parts.
"Please, tell me more," he asks, looking James in the eye.
"Well, we pulled on our metaphorical pigtails, we had dates in my flat, we kissed, we even established that we've got each other's backs."
"Look, I am not a constant person," he starts, "I am not even considerate. I might fuck it up any minute. I manipulate people for a living and I might try to use that skill on you someday."
Q stands up and walks around the desk.
"Bond, I know who you are, and I know what to expect. I can handle you, and all that trail of dead lovers you keep leaving behind because you're an irresponsible twat," he jokes, "I wouldn't have bought you pizza otherwise."
James grabs Q by his tie.
"I suppose I can deal with this... bloody platonic, intimate, weird thing we've got going on," he admits.
"And I suppose I can lend you a literal hand with that," he points to James' groin, "occasionally."
James kisses him roughly after that, grabbing Q by the hair when his Quartermaster responds to the kiss just as hard.
"Oh, bloody hell!"
They stop abruptly and look at the door. Tanner is there, his face a little green.
"Of all the personnel in the MI6, it had to be me," he moans.
In the blink of an eye, he's gone, leaving them in amused silence. Q's the first to break. He snorts.
"He's telling M."
James waves his hand around.
"He'll punish me with a mission in Somalia."
Q puts his hands in his pockets.
"I could go after Tanner and throw him my biro," he suggests.
"You biro. What good would that do?"
Q's mouth is pulled into a devilish smirk.
"It's an exploding biro," he whispers.
James Bond blinks.
"You told me you didn't make those anymore."
007's Quartermaster arches an eyebrow.