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no gods are present, no wings no halos

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The mission is a farce. No one even has to cock it up, it goes pear-shaped on its own. Almost as if planned.

-

Q is frantically tracking Bond, his signal skips everywhere, like a heartbeat in space, and he’s in a car for shit’s sake, he shouldn’t be hard to find, and Bond says, “They’re following me.”

“So bloody lose them.”

“I fucking will once you’ve—“

Then there’s a crash, a sickening slide-shriek of metal, like two cars hitting head-on, and Q jerks, knocks his mug over.

“007. Bond.”

No answer.

Bond is gone.

Fuck!” Q yells, hands slamming down on the keyboard. Tea spreads along the table, soaking into his jumper sleeves.

-

He's been in chains for four days now. His left eye is swollen shut, his jaw clicks, he can't breathe through his nose. He wakes and swallows blood. His shoulders burn like slow matches under his skin. His legs are fucking useless.

-

(He’s been in Q branch for six days now. He can’t leave. He won’t. Someone moved a cot into the room, under the monitors. Moneypenny maybe, she comes down to hover and talk at Q. But he doesn’t know what she’s saying; he’s lost all sense of language. Communication is purely a visual thing, a visceral thing, it’s moving, living, lines and code and symbols he interprets.

He needs latitude, longitude. It’s become his mantra.

Latitude, longitude. Latitude, longitude.

He isn’t good at losing things.)

-

He's been in chains for two weeks now, maybe three, he's losing count because he passes out so much and his captors wake him, make him stay awake, put headphones on him and play screaming into his head for hours. Screaming, crying, begging, pain pain pain so high and hard the voices are inhuman.

The General comes to see him, cracks a hand across his face, says, “You are the infamous Bond. You don't seem to be causing much trouble at present, so you can remain our guest for a little while longer.”

Bond tries to talk, but his tongue and jaw move opposite each other and the General laughs.

“No need to thank us, Mr. Bond, no need. We do it out of the warm kindness of our hearts.”

Then there's an arcing current riding up his spine into his skull, not enough to kill him, not enough to let him lose consciousness.

The General laughs and laughs and laughs.

-

(Three weeks and Q’s hands shake. His fingers move even when he’s stopped, when Moneypenny comes to his side and says, Q, here, eat this. If you don’t eat, you’re worthless to him.

She only comes through like a faint signal, still louder than Bond’s, and it’s annoying, it’s bloody irritating, but he can do this, he will do this. So he stops. He eats. He eats with one hand on the new keyboard, eyes following the scrolling on the screens.

He isn’t good at losing things.)

-

A month, and he doesn't have a capsule to use, they pulled that tooth with pliers.

-

(One month and one week and he listens to the last broadcast, Bond driving fast, saying, ‘They’re following me.’

‘So bloody lose them.’

‘I fucking will once you’ve—‘

Once Q has done his job and found Bond. He didn’t do his job the first time, he’s sure as bloody fucking hell going to do it now.

He listens to the crash over and over. He listens for bone and organ failure. He listens for Bond. The loop of the crash is disturbing his team.

Fantastic. That’s what failure sounds like, especially in his head.)

-

Two, and he isn't dead, despite everyone's best efforts. Including his own.

-

(Two and a half, and his hands don’t shake anymore. He can’t remember the date of when he last slept. He has Bond’s file open, his face staring out at Q from one screen. Those eyes. His body feels cold. He wakes once with the thick sluggish metal of a nosebleed running down the back of his throat.)

-

Three, and he's memorized the screaming, even his own. He starts to mimic it.

-

(Almost four, and M sends down a message: 007 is gone, close all files and cease all current activities. They’ve taken away most of Q’s personnel. They’ve reassigned other missions, other agents. He’s left alone at his desk, feverish, eyes feeling too wide and big, his fingers cramping and curled from typing. Sometimes he open his eyes and realizes he’s just passed out from exhaustion, his body giving up. He’s dizzy. Moneypenny stopped talking to him a month ago, most likely because he locked out all unnecessary staff.

He doesn’t feel a thing.)

-

Four, and the compound shakes, dirt tumbling from the ceiling. Gunfire. Another explosion and the door bursts inward.

He doesn't even flinch.

“Holy shit on a motherfuckin' shingle, is he alive. Is he fuckin' breathin'?” The barrel of a gun is talking to him. A black ops team points guns at him and he swings on his chains by his wrists.

“James Bond? Agent Bond of MI6?”

His saliva tastes like his blood now, he spits and someone says, “We've found him.” A light shines in his eyes or the world has finally gone up in flames.

He laughs and laughs and laughs.

-

They abandoned Bond. Q refused. Following orders like Bond does is somewhat unfathomable to Q; following an order to forget Bond ever existed is tantamount to denying his own existence: it is absolutely not possible.

But he’s found Bond. He’ll get him back. Now he has to wait.

-

MI6 forgets that Bond is their best ammunition. MI6 forgets that Q is their best gun.

Aim and fire.

They forget. Q does not.

-

He gets Bond returned in a fluid one piece; the Americans are helplessly addicted to rescue ops and when Q threatens to return the CIA to the Dark Ages (the joke is that America wasn't even on a map then, in more ways than one), they become politely happy to help.

The Americans rescue Bond. Q orchestrates the entire thing, he follows the team step by step, plays their comm line over the speakers in his lab, so he can hear every word, every C4 detonation and pulled trigger and when he hears the name ‘James Bond,’ his knees buckle. Four months of work, most of it done singlehandedly behind dirty spectacles.

183,152 minutes of unfiltered nightmare.

-

Bond comes back in the middle of the night, like a spectre. Q prowls the corridors. Furious, his step is clipped, stride tight.

The agent is put in medical, the best place to take care of him no questions asked, but Q’s lost faith (he isn’t good at losing things). He doesn't allow MI6 anywhere close. He blocks all mention of Bond, exorcises all communication, carries his laptop with him and hacks his own system to lock them in medical.

Moneypenny appears, upset, her mouth distraught as she says something, but Q can’t hear her through the glass. She presses a piece of paper to the door.

No debriefing. Just want to see him.

He lets her in; she stares at Bond without crying and she leaves without speaking to Q. M doesn’t set foot in the area. Which is for the best. Q knows how to reroute the security systems; he can put them on full alert.

-

The medical staff put Q on an IV and he sits in the corner of Bond’s recovery room, waiting until they wheel Bond in, back from surgery.

He needed fucking surgery. Four months of hell, being the devil’s plaything, and when Q thinks about it (‘so bloody lose them,’ ‘I fucking will once you’ve—‘), an alarm sounds and he can’t recognize his hands and he’s given a sedative.

Bond sleeps through it all.

-

While he’s sedated, they yank Q off active duty and tell him to go home, sleep it off, as if he was at work drunk.

Q hails a cab, crawling in the back seat; he feels like a mad man and the cabbie drops him off at his flat and drives away without taking his money.

-

"We're not even friends," Bond slurs, though his accent is still intact and his one visible eye is still startling blue.

"I'm your quartermaster," Q says because that's all he can think of to say.

-

Now he has the time to be truly angry. The idea is to hide the fury and the anger, hide it deep where they can't see it, can't x-ray it.

What was done to Bond isn’t new, it’s happened before all over the agency, but this was painted and glossed different. What was done to Bond was unnatural.

But revenge, revenge is natural. No, not revenge.

Punishment.

He watches Bond heal, watches Bond watch him, confusion blank on the bloodied face. Bond never asks him why, never says anything, just breathes slow behind the pain, behind the stitches and bandages and deep mottled bruises.

Moneypenny says, “We thought we’d lost you, James. We almost lost Q, too.”

“Two birds with one stone,” Bond asks and Q makes a noise from his perch in the corner, laptop lighting him, he can only see around his little circle of technology, Moneypenny and Bond are shadows because Eve ignores visiting hours (as if medical truly had those).

“No, no. No one was trying to—“

“Obviously not trying,” Bond says, shifting restless under the sheets. “Doesn’t matter. They failed.”

Q closes his laptop a little to let his eyes adjust and he catches the mourning on Moneypenny, her shoulders curling inward.

Bond, ever the diplomat, plows forward. “So what did M get for leaving me with my gracious host. Agents, intelligence, a nice pudding recipe.”

“Silence,” Q supplies and Eve turns to see him better, her mouth open. “Any and all information suppressed about that stillborn of a mission. Such a cock-up, more than a few countries would have been screaming about injustice and boundaries, etc. etc. the usual hue and cry.”

Blue eyes find him (those eyes, his picture staring at Q for a month and a half, the sounds of metal and glass colliding) and Bond nods, his jaw tight.

And Q thinks he knows what’s in that gaze, what Bond is saying, the tension suffocating as if a smoke bomb’s gone off and Moneypenny crosses her arms, knuckles white.

“I’m so sorry, James.”

“I believe Q needs an apology as well.” Bond’s voice is falling stones, plummeting weights that hit Eve hard. She nods at him, says to Q, “I’m sorry, lovely boy, I tried to help you.”

She leaves, sad, and Q doesn’t like to see her sad, but.

Everything’s changed. Now Q has the time to be truly angry.

-

He works. He takes small missions, usually hacking and decoding jobs, anything quick and dirty, anything that can be done mobile because if he’s not in his lab creating new tech with a vengeful flavor in his mouth, he’s in Bond’s room at medical, walking through files with Bond for something to do, getting opinions on gone-to-ground enemy operatives, anything and everything to keep Bond apprised of life.

They don’t watch the news; Q streams it though, just for information collection. The staff gives the room a wide berth, as if Q had posted wolves outside the door; they know Bond by reputation, they know Q by demonstration, the two of them are interesting enough to everyone in a higher paygrade that there is surveillance round the clock.

Q works. Bond becomes less bruised. Q disconnects the smoke alarms and Bond lights a cigarette, tapping the ash, and Q takes it from him without looking up from his laptop, holding the smoke until it flows like heavy water when he exhales, it’s a bad habit and he can’t help it, and Bond smiles at him as he takes the cigarette back.

Bond does the crossword puzzle. He henpecks a report for Q about the car crash and the aftermath and the General who laughed and laughed and laughed. He details the screams in the headphones (he notes an alternative to torture: he tried to hear Q talking in his head, he tried and failed).

Q takes his glasses off after reading and almost breaks them.

Two months go by and Q wakes once with the thick sluggish metal of a nosebleed running down the back of his throat. Bond wakes once choking.

The days are slow and stainless steel sterile.

Q works. Bond watches until Q has to hide his hands, they shake under Bond’s gaze.

-

M looks at him and says, “We’d thought you’d gone mad. Just slipped right ‘round the bend.” He leans against his desk, all dark paneling and the expensive lines of his suit, hands in his pockets, fingers jangling coins. “Is it because you lost Bond or is it because you think those fucking bastards outsmarted you somehow.”

Q considers that as he walks back to medical. It’s both, he would appreciate being outsmarted from someone he respected, someone who could command his respect, but these were only-slightly organized wankers with a lucky streak.

And he isn’t good at losing things.

He thinks Bond isn’t either; the agent watches him as if he’s living in a world of ghosts and Q is just another one. Bond is still a dark shape in his white bed; he looks at Q and says, “I’m not some child abandoned at a bloody car park.” He has Silva’s file on his lap, the paper file, so Q pulls up the file on his laptop, follows along with him.

They sit in silence for a while, Bond staring at pictures of Silva’s skeleton server bank, then Q says, “M thought I’d gone mad.”

Bond grunts from his bed, it might be laughter. “You look the same. Have you been mad this whole time.”

“Perhaps,” Q replies and it might be true.

-

Bond wakes one night struggling, not screaming, he’s not screaming and that’s the part that makes Q start stripping wires away, he yanks at the blankets, at the sheets, at the wires and tubes, Bond’s eyes open and staring at something in the dark of his mind, all Q can do is release him.

“Bond,” he says, “you’re safe, you’re safe. James. James, stop.”

He takes a punch to the mouth, another to the stomach, then Bond has him on the cold floor in a submission hold, arm ready to snap with a flick of his wrist, fingers digging in on his throat closing fast, and there’s an alarm whining down the hallway.

“Q,” Bond whispers. “Buggering fuck.”

“James, you’re awake now, just go slow—“

The alarm is spinning and Bond lets him go, says, “Let’s go.”

They escape, Q shutting down what he can: alarms, cameras, door locks. They make it to a lift; Bond dresses in the nondescript sweats provided by the rehabilitation doctors. He’s pale and shaking and Q gives him a small shove against the wall of the lift.

“Steady. Steady.”

Bond grabs Q’s shoulder, then he is Bond again, spine straight, dressed and in control; when the lift dings, they walk out into the hallway, agent and quartermaster, as if nothing in the past half year has happened.

-

London is two-in-the-morning black. They walk for a while, Bond giving in to a slight limp once across the bridge from MI6, as if he has to put the river between them.

They find a cold bench and sit. Q stares at the skyline. Bond rubs at his bandages. He says, “Silva. M said she got agents back for letting them keep him.”

Q closes his eyes (what was done to Bond was unnatural) and listens to them both breathe.

“Those who spit at history are doomed to repeat it,” he says.

“Colorful,” Bond says.

-

Dawn breaks and Q steers Bond to a café near his flat. They must be incongruous, the slight dark-haired man in tweed and jumper and the stocky, solidly-built man in sweats and trainers with the ice dagger gaze; Bond is still bulky with bandages, his nose slightly less crooked, his bruises stark like birthmarks.

Q catches his own reflection, sees the reddening streak from his mouth to his jaw.

“At least you can throw a punch,” he says, low, palm on the dull pain of his stomach, before ordering Earl Grey and a black coffee and Bond hmms, puts his weight against the glass display counter, points to a pastry.

“At least you can take a punch,” Bond replies.

Laughing, Q thinks he really has gone mad, the tea hot when he sips it (he burns his tongue because tea hasn’t been hot in months). The tissue paper crinkles as Bond eats and it smells good to Q, but he isn’t quite up for pastry, his eating is still erratic.

“Did you almost…” Bond stops, lips sideways. He makes a complicated gesture, then drops his hand, sips his coffee.

He never finishes the thought.

-

Q has his Oyster card, but also has enough money for a cab (he doesn’t want to be tracked), so they stop at his flat to get a coat for Bond: “you’ll catch your death,” Q says and Bond retorts, “I already did,” and Q murmurs, “Touché,” and Bond wraps fingers around his wrist, so Q stills.

Then the British Museum is open; they go and walk up the steps, watching the tourists with their cameras as they read the exhibition banners falling from the sides of the building like gold water. A girl laughs as her boyfriend picks her up for a picture, the camera flash bright as a bomb and Bond says, “For Queen and country.”

He’s still holding Q’s wrist, doesn’t let go as Q buys tickets for an exhibit, they might be chained together now and Q doesn’t remember a time when they weren’t. That was months and lives ago.

They walk through the carved stones of Egypt.

Q is considering a statue of Sekhmet when Bond says, “MI6 is doomed to repeat history.”

“Silva did have a point. It is very easy nowadays. All you need is the right tool for the job.”

“Are you saying Silva was right? In the middle of the British Museum.”

“In front of Sekhmet and all the god-royalty of Egypt.”

“Silva was right.” Across the display case, Bond’s expression closes.

Q waves a hand. “No, no, not at all. Silva had potential, but his mind couldn't take it. You see, he had the idea, but not the sanity to carry it through properly.”

“Properly.”

“He had the intellect, but not the application. He was too muddled with a displaced mother fixation and intense persecution and revenge fantasies. ”

“Who isn't in this social climate.” The kings and gods keep their dead gaze on Q and Bond; they were mercurial and vengeful in their day, so Q tilts his head to stare back.

“He was too far gone for anything else: he had malice aforethought and half a skull.”

“He had gusto,” Bond says, over-says, pursing his lips.

That amuses Q and Bond catches it, the old light is back in his eyes. “And a small island. Who does that nowadays,” Q mock pontificates. “The mad eccentric with live information flow at his fingertips.”

We're on an island, Q.”

“Well-spotted, 007.”

“And you're a mad eccentric with live information flow at your fingertips.”

“Don't be nasty.”

Bond smirks. “Please do.”

“Welcome back, James.”

Ramses II is haughty, head and shoulders above them, and Bond says, “We can do it, but why.”

“The right tools for the job. Do you know why there is an agent and a quartermaster.”

“I do all the heavy lifting, you do all the behind-the-curtain finessing. I get the information, you decode how it works, etc. etc. All in the service of duty.”

“Gold star. Two parts of a gun, the firing pin and the powder. We are the perfect weapon.”

Bond grins, still slightly crooked, but Q thinks it’s beautiful, the man is beautiful and he tugs at his coat sleeves, puts his hands in his pockets to hide his tell.

“I still need a reason,” says Bond.

“Four months, five days, ten hours, thirty-six minutes,” Q replies. “We do it because we can. That's what they did with you.”

At the entrance to the Elgin Marbles, Bond slips an arm around Q, and they walk in step like that tourist couple there, the two women with their arms linked, discussing the bare breasts and genitals and horses of the Greeks.

“We aren’t even friends,” Bond says against Q’s jaw, over the red left by his knuckles hours earlier.

“No,” Q says, “I’m your—“

Bond kisses him as the ancient Greeks battle around them.

-

Bond sleeps, every curve of his body exhausted, eyes red-rimmed, and Q types. He thinks.

At Bond’s flat (Q hadn’t let it be sold, he put it in his own name until he got Bond back, the paperless future is bright and beautiful), he kissed Bond, they didn’t make it far, falling together against a wall, Q taking the brunt of the impact, they kissed like the last six months were the last six hundred years, and they didn’t make it far because Bond is still healing.

He’d looked at Q and said, ‘If it were you. Would they get you back.’

Q’s a living compendium of state secrets, redacted names and dates, cyber mousetraps and weapon schematics, locations and innovations and passcodes. The look on his face must’ve been unholy awful because Bond rested a hand near his head, the other smoothing over his cheekbone.

‘Of course, you’re the ghost in the machine,’ he murmured and Q stared him straight in the eye.

‘You are not just the blunt instrument.’

‘You threatened me, then, in the National Gallery,’ Bond said, fingers mussing Q’s hair and he stops Q’s reply, continuing, ‘you are the future.’

‘No,’ Q said, shaking his head, he gripped Bond’s coat so he wouldn’t leave, ‘we are the future.’

‘Those who spit at history.’

He kissed Bond to stop him talking, it was black and fatalistic, they have much to be optimistic about in their little skeptical souls.

He doesn’t watch the news, he lets it stream for information collection. The news broadcasts are innocuous, the random bursts of global chaos are nothing. Q thinks it'll get worse (they can make it so much more worse).

-

Q breezes through the branch that shares his initial as if nothing's happened. He's had Bond declared fit, though not yet ready for active duty; M is relieved Q is “back and possibly in top form”; they've fully given him his tech and lab back. They've given him nothing he couldn't take, didn't already take for himself.

He quietly starts to lighten the armory’s payload, nothing of consequence, just enough to keep two men armed for a foreseeable future. He changes requisitions, creates trails and loops and breadcrumbs. He’s either one half of Hansel and Gretel or he’s part of the witch, he can’t decide.

Bond sleeps and recovers and says, “Did you get my gun.”

“Yes, and a few friends for it,” Q says, “along with some party favors. Pleased?”

“Very.”

Around MI6, Bond begins to show himself, flirting with Moneypenny (who looks relieved and laughs; when she sees Q, she merely looks sad again), jawing with M about the time he missed and how he owes the agency a debt since he nearly cost them Q.

“I nearly cost them you as a resource, Q,” he says in Q’s bed, smoking, and Q sits up, his anger as bright as the fire-tip of the cigarette.

“And history will wonder why I nearly cost them their lives,” Q says and Bond laughs under his breath.

“You look like a wrathful angel.”

“James, you old romantic. Good, I wasn’t certain I’d be intimidating enough.”

-

It will take time (they've gone through four months of razorblade hell, so time is nothing). It will take patience (Q knows patience at the edge of a keyboard, Bond in the side alley with a silencer). It will take endurance and stamina (Q is on round three, Bond on round two because Q was alone for round one, hand moving tight and fast on himself as Bond watched from across the room, fully dressed, sitting with his knees spread wide, voice low and broken, ‘I knew I should’ve shot you when I first met you, shot you or taken you there on the floor of the Gallery’).

They both know how it will work. There’s no reason for henchmen or mysterious symbols or vague ominous over-boss names. There’s no higher goal or moral code or revenge story to monologue about. It’s there in every single one of Bond’s scars, every time Q wakes to a nosebleed, because something went very wrong over half a year ago, something went catastrophic and no one else noticed.

It’s punishment. It’s the righting of a wrong, a very deep wrong, so strong two people can taste it.

Everything will continue, the world will spin, and they will slowly change the poles, move the axes, and true magnetic north will point to them.

It's all about control. Take control. Bond stands behind him at the mirror, a palm pressed over Q's belly, says, “I think you could cut someone in half with your eyes, Q.”

“Is it better to be feared or respected, James.”

Bond smiles.

“I think you could cut someone in half with that look, 007.”

“What if they respected you so much they feared you.”

He tips Q's head to the side and Q watches their reflections, how their bodies shift in space, their muscles move in concert with tendons, bones, a series of specific movements, blood and oxygen and electricity in their control, chain-reactions.

They are in control. Bond shoves Q against the sink, knocking his legs apart, hand pushing up into his hair, and Q closes his eyes. Absolute perfect control.

-

“Suppose there isn’t a way, an electronic way, your tech won’t work—“ Bond starts and Q pushes his glasses up his nose.

“You're a Cold War echo with a purpose, 007. You'd rather smash things than use them, so I think we're safe enough.”

“Can you even fight.”

They’re practically glaring, in a spectacular stand-off in a too-bright hallway in the depths of Q branch.

“I am your quartermaster – I did have to take some training."

Without a word, Bond heads towards the sparring area. Q breathes between his teeth; he did have training, a while ago, and he fought like someone hopeless, reckless, ‘you fight like you shouldn’t be afraid,’ one of the sergeants said, ‘which is whole other apples from being afraid, you aren’t precise, but you’re right fucking tenacious.’ They beat genuine dark bruises into each other, and though Bond wins, it isn’t clean and Q does not submit, blood on his teeth, his mouth wide in a bitter grin.

“Bloody hell, Q, stop, stop. Enough.” He reaches out and Q flinches back three steps, but Bond snatches his arm, dragging him close, and he smears the blood with his thumb, then licks it clean.

Bond goes back on active duty. Q goes back to his desk. They have missions. Acquire this data. Remove this annoying crime boss with his fingers in too many pies. Someone has gotten their hands on a dirty bomb; neutralize the entire situation.

They are successful, with a bitter flavor, like a dirty martini. Bond brings Q back presents, his toys and the data, only Q gets copies and muddies the virtual waters of MI6. Bond removes the troublesome crime boss and leaves open a power vacuum, only to close it by forcing the next possible candidate to take a bullet to the head or work with him (Q is electronically persuasive, the underworld was right: candid photographs of loved ones and videos of illicit activities are supreme blackmail material, whether it be emotional, financial, or merely a bid for power; otherwise, threaten their bank accounts or myriad psychoses, they can take a percentage of both). The dirty bomb’s blueprints are sent ahead to Q because he really does love innovation.

Each little mission with a sidestep, a bit of a cruel twist, like any good fairy tale.

They take a piece of the pie for themselves (he put in his thumb, and pulled out a plum, and said, ‘What a good boy am I!’). Nothing difficult. All in a day’s work for those on Her Majesty’s Secret Service.

It accumulates over time. Months upon months of playing the good schoolboys, the fake halos over their heads, eyes turned upward in irreverent laughter instead of supplication, and Q fucks Bond in the armory whenever he returns, ‘thank you for returning the Walther, 007,’ they smell of gunpowder and kinetic energy, the formula for explosions, ‘always a pleasure, Q.’

(In the field, Bond still seduces like clockwork, falling into beds thousands of miles away. Q pushes fingers against a bite he didn't leave and Bond frowns, says, “I think of you.”

“Is that why you hold them down.” He rubs at the mark with his fingers, scratches his thumbnail against the indentions of teeth. “Is that why you let that woman tie you to the bed. Facedown.” He tuts. “Very dangerous.”

Bond shrugs, warm skin to warm skin. “It's nothing new.”

Q wants to say, What, thinking of me when you fuck someone else, but instead he says, “The danger?” He doesn’t wait for a reply, kisses Bond hard and Bond says something in to his mouth that sounds like both.)

-

“In literature, the villains always have a weakness,” Q says, unbuttoning his damp shirt.

“Are you calling us villains.”

Bond's body is hidden in shadow, Q can only see his hands, his ankles.

“No,” Q decides. “We're morally ambiguous.”

“Do we have a weakness.”

The rain outside is torrential and Q crawls over Bond, straddling him, thighs tight. He finds the eye-knot of a starburst scar under Bond's collarbone and imagines the bullet that made it. Lightning strikes nearby.

“You tell me, James,” he says against Bond's mouth and Bond shifts them, opens his legs and settles Q in the bone-valley of his hips.

“Not enough gadgets.”

“Q branch can help with that. Anything for the good of their agents.”

-

The idea is to hide the fury and the anger, hide it deep where they can't see it, can't x-ray it. It's all about control. Take control. MI6 have given Q and Bond nothing they couldn't take, didn't already take for themselves.

It’s not a matter of choosing their own missions, as Silva put it. They can raise and lower entire civilizations.

It’s a matter of doing what they fucking want.

Start with Q's lab. Move on to MI6. Move on to the British government. Watch the Queen wave on the telly. Move on to foreign affairs, the EU. Sightsee. Move on to a different continent. Volatile governments only need toppling and a better foundation. Move on to slightly more settled ground. Move on to the larger world stage. Move on to a different hemisphere. Watch the telly. Move on to world powers. Move on to the superpowers.

Information is all they need.

01001111 01110010 01100010 01110101 01110011 0100000 01101110 01101111 01101110 0100000 01110011 01110101 01100110 01100110 01101001 01100011 01101001 01110100

(“Orbus non sufficit,” Bond says around a cigarette.

Q laughs. “Greedy motto. Fitting since you seem to have stolen it.”

“The world is not enough,” Bond agrees, hand sliding down between Q’s legs and he pets Q when he arches up, so Q bites him.)

-

He sends Moneypenny an email and instructions if she wants them: money and deed to a quiet, isolated bit of land in the country. He claims it’s a wild extravagance of penance on his part.

-

It’s possible MI6 is comfortable eating scones and drinking tea and ordering Bond to kill people. Q is comfortable eating scones and drinking tea and helping Bond to kill people. He tracks Bond on maps, stares at lines of code, and stays in Q branch in the almost dark to write the thread that will start the chain reaction, like the bend of his wrist or the spike of the scar along Bond’s spine or how Bond says, “Breathe, Q, breathe, breathe” as they fuck slow and deep.

It’s possible MI6 is cozy and forgetful and they’ve forgotten the events of the last few years.

Bond is their best ammunition and Q is their best gun.

Aim and fire.

-

That morning, Q makes tea and toast and quotes out loud, “This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends.”

Sliding his gun into the holster, Bond kisses his temple, then his mouth around a bite of toast, and he tastes like coffee.

“Not with a bang but a whimper.”

The thread is waiting to be pulled. They take separate cabs and Q’s cabbie talks about his new granddaughter, “as bee-ootiful as she could get, given her da got his looks from me, poor little mite.” Q licks butter off his lips and slips the cabbie an extra fiver.

“Congratulations,” he says with a smile.

He should’ve walked this morning, but it looks like rain.

He’s reached his ominous quoting limit for the day, except his brain ignores that, the pretentious, preening side of him that thinks, Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds. He smiles humorlessly at his reflection in a window, waves that away as overkill, much too ambitious, much too high-and-mighty.

Instead, Q mutters to himself in the lift, “Now we are all sons of bitches.”

Bond is sitting on the edge of a desk, as if awaiting an explanation of orders.

-

Aim and fire.

Bond takes a sip from Q’s mug. Q types a command.

Somewhere in the building, a countdown begins.