“I am not a field agent,” Q says.
“You’ve said it four times,” Bond replies, eyes staying on the target. “Repeating it won’t change the fact that you’re here.” He fires, and the target drops to the ground, dead.
“Lovely,” Q says. “Top marks. Now, if you could possibly see to the hole in my damned leg?”
“You paper-pushers are always so demanding,” Bond says as he turns to inspect the wound.
“Call me that again, and I will put blanks in your gun,” Q threatens.
Bond glances up from where he’s applying pressure to Q’s wound, and spares him a small smile.
They get back to the hotel, a decadent affair that includes an on-call doctor. “And whatever will we tell him?” Q asks when Bond dials down to the desk.
“Nothing. That’s what he’s paid for.” Bond watches Q sit at the small table by the window and nods when he manages to prop his leg up on the table itself.
“Lobby desk, how may I assist you?”
“Need the doctor in room 1908,” Bond says and hangs up after the woman on the other end promises she’ll send him directly. “Well?” he asks, walking over to sit across from Q.
“You should wash your hands,” Q says. “They’re grotesque.”
Bond looks at his hands. They’re covered in blood, Q’s blood. “Field work is messy business.”
“So is R&D, but it does not generally lead to my getting shot.”
Bond stands and walks to the kitchenette, running warm water before he squirts liquid soap into his hands and lathers it. He watches Q from under his lashes as he washes up.
“Stop staring at me,” Q says.
“Good instincts, for R&D,” Bond replies.
“Your eyes are like a damned laser. I can feel them burning a hole in my neck, and I’m already holding together one hole too many.”
“You get cranky when you’re shot.”
“Imagine,” Q mutters.
Bond wants to cross the room, cup his hands over Q’s injury, look him in the eyes, and say something reassuring. But he’s fairly certain Q will throw an elbow and call him an idiot.
There’s a knock on the door, and Bond pulls his gun from his waistband as he walks silently to the door. Q says nothing, and Bond hears him quiet his breathing to nearly nothing. Bond looks out the peephole. “Doctor,” he mutters, and he hears Q let out a whoosh of air. Bond lets the doctor in and watches him take in the scene. Bond, still in his tuxedo shirt and trousers. Q, similarly attired but with Bond’s tuxedo jacket strapped against his thigh with Bond’s braces.
The doctor greets them both and pulls the other chair at the table around so he can place Q’s leg in his lap and unwrap the dressing. “I’ll need a few towels,” he says. “So we don’t stain the carpet. Management gets quite upset. Good to see you, 007.”
“And you,” Bond replies as he walks into the bathroom to retrieve the towels. When he comes back out, Q is watching the doctor with narrowed eyes. Bond can practically see him flipping through the file of retired MI-6 agents in his head.
“Barnard,” Q says. “Paris Station, 1964 to 1983. You were head of medical when you took retirement.”
“You’re a quick one,” he says. “And you would be?”
Barnard looks at Bond. Bond grimaces as he says, “Yes, really.”
“As if my knees don’t make me feel ancient enough,” Barnard mutters.
“Fascinating,” Q replies. “It seems to have escaped your notice that I still have a gunshot wound.”
“No mouth from you,” Barnard says. “You shouldn’t even be in the field.”
“Believe me, I know,” Q responds. He gives Bond a sharp look as Bond crouches to layer the towels under Barnard’s workspace. “But it seems 007 has a distinct issue bringing my very nice toys back in the same number of pieces they were signed out to him, and I thought perhaps watching him destroy them in the field would give me some idea how to curb his gleeful destruction of my carefully made property.”
“Some problems are universal when dealing with a double-o,” Barnard says, and it makes Q crack the first grin he’s worn in hours.
Bond sits on the bed and says nothing as Barnard concentrates on his work and Q watches his every move like Barnard is taking apart one of his inventions. He is, in a way, Bond realizes, but he knows better than to say it aloud. Q would harass him into next week if he shared.
“All right,” Barnard says when he finishes cleaning the wound. “Now comes the fun part.”
“Stitches?” Q asks.
“Yes. I’ve got a local, but it’ll only take the edge off. Best find something to bite down on.”
Q looks at Bond. Bond is already up and moving to the drink cart, pouring two fingers of scotch into a tumbler and bringing it back to Q. Q downs it without a word then holds out his hand. When Bond stares at it, Q rolls his eyes.
“I am aware you think there’s some sort of pride in stoicism, but I am about to have a needle and thread repeatedly yanking at my skin and would appreciate if you would sit down, stay quiet, and let me squeeze your hand until I break your damned fingers.”
Barnard huffs a laugh but doesn’t say anything as he angles the syringe of local and depresses the plunger. Bond sits and lets Q wrap his fingers around his hand.
“Be a few minutes before that kicks in,” Barnard says. He pulls a needle in a sterile package and a length of surgical thread in similar packaging from his bag. “I’m going to thread this in the bathroom. Light’s better there, and I can still stitch as well as any tailor, but I’m getting a case of the squints when it comes to threading the damned things.”
“How reassuring,” Q says under his breath as Barnard walks into the bathroom and flicks on the light.
“Respect your elders,” Bond replies.
“You do not want me to run with that,” Q says. He winces as he shifts his leg a tiny bit. “More scotch?” he asks.
“After the anesthesia kicks in.”
Q drops his head back and makes a noise in the back of his throat when Bond reaches up with his free hand and presses two fingers to his neck to check his pulse. “Just a milk run,” he mutters. “I should have known there’s no such thing with you.”
“You really should have,” Bond agrees, and he slides his fingers down Q’s neck, hooks them into the collar of his shirt for a moment, and lets go.
“Ass,” Q mutters. “Can’t even get me back to headquarters in one piece.”
Bond laughs without meaning to. Q makes a sound that could be a chuckle. “Technically, you’ll be in the same number of pieces once Barnard sews you up.”
“I won’t function the same.”
“You’ll adjust,” Bond replies. “Be back to your old self before you know it.” He squeezes Q’s hand without thinking about it, and Q squeezes back, lolling his head to the side so he can look at Bond straight on.
“I’m not actually angry at you,” he says. “Well, I am, but the scotch is starting to mix with the shock, so I’m willing to forgive you for right now.”
“You’re too kind.”
“Lucky for you,” Q says.
Barnard comes out of the bathroom, resettles himself and Q’s leg and says, “Ready, lad?”
“Why not?” Q says.
Barnard chuckles as he lines up the skin. “Good man.”
When Q squeezes Bond’s fingers, Bond doesn’t flinch. He rubs his thumb over Q’s knuckles without pause until Barnard knots the last stitch and cuts off the thread.
“I’ll leave a note with the concierge to order a broad-spectrum antibiotic from the pharmacy and charge it to the room,” Barnard says as he covers the stitches in gauze and tapes it down. “Go easy on the leg, use a cane if you must get around. Let it heal itself.”
“Yes, sir,” Q says. “Thank you.”
“Always happy to assist,” Barnard says. He stands and lets Bond see him to the door. “Fluids,” he says to Bond in an undertone. “One more belt of scotch for the trauma if he’d like it, and then switch to things with actual nutritional content.”
“I’ll call down for some orange juice in the morning.”
“Get a good breakfast in him; keep him from trying to walk on the thing, and I’m sure he’ll patch up fine.”
“Thank you,” Bond says.
“They’re getting younger and prettier every year,” Barnard replies, and he and Bond share a grin before they shake hands.
Bond throws the deadbolt and sets the chain after Barnard sees himself out. When he turns around, Q is slumped in his chair, his leg still propped on the other chair, and head lolling forward. His fingers are opening and closing over nothing.
“Tired,” Q says when Bond places a hand on his neck and tilts his chin up with his thumb.
“Let’s get you to bed,” Bond replies.
Q tries to lever himself up, but he only makes it halfway before his hand slips.
“Easy,” Bond mutters, catching Q under the arms and getting him to the bed. He gets him prone, props up his leg on a couple extra pillows, and pulls his knife from under the bed to cut his trousers off of him completely.
“Not tonight dear,” Q says, his smile just barely quirking his mouth. “I’ve got a gunshot wound.”
“Always the same old excuses with you,” Bond replies. He maneuvers the ruined trousers from around Q’s legs and decides to leave the shirt rather than jostle Q all over again. He stashes the knife back under the mattress, and strips down to his underwear. “Barnard says you’re good for one more hit of scotch.”
“No,” Q says. “Just want to sleep.” He fumbles off his glasses and manages to get them on the bedside table nearest him without dropping them.
“All right,” Bond pulls an extra blanket from the closet and drapes it over Q, leaving half of it free for himself. He double-checks the lock and shuts off the lights. By the time he slides into bed, Q’s already asleep, face turned towards Bond so he can see the angles of his face in the shadows. Bond reaches for the room phone as he settles himself carefully and puts in a very precise order with the concierge before he drapes an arm around Q’s middle and goes to sleep himself.
Bond orders a full English with extra orange juice for breakfast. He asks to be transferred to the concierge’s desk, is informed both his antibiotics and special order are in, and asks for them to be sent up immediately.
Q has slept flat on his back all night, hair tousled from moving his head around, one arm flung in the spot where Bond had been, the other hanging off the edge of the bed. Bond leans over him and presses a kiss to his forehead, then dips lower and presses a kiss to his collarbone.
“You’re lucky I don’t wake up swinging,” Q says, voice a gravelly mess of sleep and pain exhaustion.
“You’re not a field agent,” Bond replies. “I figured I was safe.”
Q doesn’t answer. He sits up with the slow, careful movement of a man who probably dreamed of his injury in great detail. “My leg hurts like a bastard.”
“Here.” Bond holds out a glass of water and four white tablets. “Just over the counter, but we’ll head for home after breakfast, and I’m sure the doctor on call at headquarters will give you something stronger.”
“He’d better,” Q mutters darkly as he tosses back the pills and drinks the water in a series of long gulps.
There’s a knock on the door, and Bond goes to answer it. It’s a bellhop, sent by the concierge. He has the antibiotics and a long, thin object wrapped in brown paper. Bond takes both, tips the bellhop, and closes the door. When he turns around, Q has managed to get his legs over the edge of the bed and get his glasses on. He’s sitting very still and trying to catch his breath.
“Here,” Bond says, holding out the paper-wrapped package.
Q raises his eyebrows in question, and when Bond doesn’t say anything, he takes the package and opens it. It’s a cane. The body is black threaded with silver, the curved handle is perfectly smooth silver, an inset of black wood in the shape of the letter Q on the front of it.
“You are ridiculous,” Q says, but he fits the cane into his hand and stands, shifting his weight and grimacing until he finds the proper weight distribution.
Once Q’s settled, Bond slides a hand around his waist, presses his fingers to Q’s spine, and kisses him on the shoulder, smiling when Q leans into him for a moment. “Better?” Bond asks.
“It doesn’t make the hole in my leg go away,” Q says with a smile in his voice. “But I suppose it’s a start.”
Bond doesn’t say he’ll take it. He just tucks his hand under Q’s free arm and helps him get settled at the table, smiling when Q places the cane across his lap and asks when breakfast will arrive.