Ragged breathing was everything he could hear.
"007?" he asked, fingers stilling against the keyboard, the worn plastic warm against his skin.
Around him, Q-Branch had fallen silent five minutes before, when the storm of gunshots over the coms had caught them by surprise.
And now radio silence, only laboured breaths.
"007! Answer me!"
He wasn't panicking. Q didn't panic. Ever.
But his heart was racing against his ribs, and his hands were trembling, and the minions were watching him closely, hovering nearby, the heaviness of the situation not lost to them.
The voice in his hear was stretched and panting, filled with pain and weariness. The breathing was more erratic, now.
Green eyes were stuck to one of the monitors, currently displaying the agent's vitals.
Everything was wrong.
"Bond, what's the situation? The ETA of your retrieval team is five minut- "
"There's no time."
The curt answer caught Q by surprise, and he fought to regain some resemblance of professional calm.
His lips were trembling.
"Of course there's time. In five minutes you'll be in a plane, and then we can talk about anything you like. Now I need to kno- "
"There's no time, Q. I have been shot."
The words rang in his hear, sounding like the Queen's English and at the same time being gibberish.
"What are you saying? It's not the time for jokes, 007, you're on a mission- "
"Bullet to the thigh, caught the femoral artery. Other injuries. I'm sorry, but I don't have five minutes."
His hands were outright shaking now.
Fumbling with the keyboard, Q sent a quick message to the retrieval team with the order to hurry the fuck up.
"Everything will be alright, Bond" he said in the microphone, trembling lips giving his voice a lisp.
A pained laugh was his answer.
"No, it will not. Don't worry Quartermaster, the information we were seeking is retrieved, pen drive in the right breast pocket."
"You'll be handing it to me soon enough, Bond" he said, his hands flying on the keyboard, checking the retrieval team's progress, the area around the house 007 was in. He was doing everything he could, sitting in a remote and safe location like he always did, while he ordered agents around and sent them to die…
The order in his hear was delivered sternly, the raspy edge of the sound not undermining the command. Q stilled.
"I can feel you berating your self from here."
"I'm trying to save your life, 007."
"But you can't…"
Of course he couldn't, he was useless, he couldn't do anything behind a screen and his best agent – James, James, James – was dying and...
"… and it's not your fault."
The voice was more faint, and the inevitability of what was happening, more than the words, made him froze.
"I survived in situations where it was impossible not to die, so I guess this is the last stop. I was living on borrowed time, after all."
Q's chest felt tight, and he couldn't breathe, he felt like suffocating and dying and…
A cough rattled in his hear, and the voice was back, so faint and weak and dying.
"Just… tell me about what happened today at HQ, will you? I'm sure everyone's going ballistic without my marvellous presence."
Q trembled, closed his eyes, exhaled. Tried to regain a modicum of his usual composure.
He started talking about Eve's broken heel, and 002's prank on 009 with the flour and the utter mess those two caused in the locker room…
He talked and talked and talked, his eyes still closed and heavy, feeling liquid rise behind them, accumulate on the edges of his eyelids and making his voice crack.
He feared what he would see when he opened his eyes, when the events to talk about would inevitably end and the silence would settle around him.
He ended with Tanner's revenge on M for denying him holidays – the episode was hilarious and he was sure Bond would love it…
He opened his eyes.
When had he started crying? His cheeks were warm and so wet that he tried to touch them with his fingertips. They came back drenched in tears.
The vitals on the screen had flat lined.
The com in his ear was silent.
The minions around him were avoiding his gaze, like he would snap and scream and…
His favourite mug impacted with the concrete wall, sending tea and deadly shards of ceramic flying all around the lab.