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Gunpowder Grey, Flashes of White

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Q was a creature of habit. He had always been, even when he was a child and Mycroft was spending his days studying and Sherlock was terrorizing the staff. Wake up, put on socks that will dampen the sound of his feet on the wood floors. Read or tinker for a few hours before tentatively venturing downstairs, bracing himself for the cacophony of colours and sounds that he knew would assault him.

It had been Sherlock who had first told him that the way he saw the world was different. Sherlock was different too, with his habit of seeing things that no one else could and his intense interest in chemistry. Q, then Quentin, used to creep into Sherlock’s room late at night, skirting the creaky floorboards that shoot colours like fireworks in front of his eyes, and crawl into bed beside him, drifting off to the sounds of Sherlock’s voice, grey-blue rings behind his eyelids.

It was Sherlock who first told Quentin that most people didn’t see Vivaldi as a never ending string of pale blue lines, the Prime Minister’s voice on the telly as a thick paint stroke of forest green, the sound of the traffic when they ventured into London as gunshot blasts of grey and red and orange.

Quentin chose his classes in university more based off of how easily he could ignore the flashes and spirals of colour that accompanied the professors’ monologues than on the material. He spent most of his time locked in his single room (he scared his roommate off after a week of snapping whenever he spoke and installing viruses on every piece of electronic equipment that he owned). He fell into a pool of ones and zeros, relishing the challenge and the flashes of white at the edge of his vision that accompanied the sound of his fingers on the keys.

By his third year of uni, Quentin had lost himself in the cerebral high of hacking, rebuilding himself out of ones and zeros and silence, emerging from his room (which had grown to hold more electronics than clothing and food over time) only when sleep or class demanded it. When in class, he would slip in a small pair of earplugs, reading the professor’s lips and enjoying a break from the fireworks of colour that would never ceased to appear as his classmates whispered and fidgeted around him. It was a sensory deprivation that he had never experienced before, and Quentin marvelled at it.

Then came the night, drunk off the high of success and the blue-green voice of his lover (a colour that matched the man’s eyes, for Quentin had come to the point where those were the two factors that mattered most when he decided the monotony of university would be improved by a seduction), where Quentin, a ripple of blue-green-white dancing around him, hacked the servers of MI6 as a dare.

That is where the story of Quentin, a story that had been teetering on the edge of oblivion with every government server he hacked, came to an end. A boy who is barely a man shivering in a cell that held no colours for him to focus on, not ever when he spoke aloud to himself.

Quentin died in that cell, and it was R who emerged as the new protégé of the current Q. Geoffrey has grey eyes that matched the heather grey of his voice, and Quentin liked him at once.

His life as R is not much different than his life as Quentin. He is still a creature of habit, leaving work in the middle of the night or not at all, needing a cup of Earl Grey before work and another whenever whatever he is working on becomes a problem. He still wears socks to avoid the noises and colours that come pouring out of his floorboards in his cramped little flat, and he still prefers the company of computers to that of people.

Nothing changes.

Not until an explosion destroys MI6 headquarters and Q finds himself promoted, his mentor as dead as the new darkness that surrounds M whenever she speaks.

Though Quentin, rebuilt again as Q out of ones and zeros and grief, has never met the infamous 007 before, he has heard of him. Everyone in MI6 has, with the way the agent blows holes in regimes and trains alike, dying again and again but never staying dead. He has become something of a legend down in Q-Branch, the way all the agents do at one point or another, and Q has listened to more rumours about the man with blue eyes that you could drown in and hands that were lethal even without weapons than he would like to admit.

What they don’t say, what none of the rumours see fit to mention, is Bond’s voice. It is low and rich, a colour that Q cannot yet define. It seems to change colour mid-air, varying its shade too quickly for Q to do more than reply to Bond’s snarky banter with some of his own and try to catch his breath.

If he knows anything, it’s that he wants to hear that voice again and again, until he can define it and lay it to rest along with the others.

It is a challenge Q is willing to take on, and the faint smile on Bond’s lips when he asks him to “bring all the equipment back in one piece,” his gaze lingering longer than is perhaps appropriate, gives Q the faintest sense that it will most definitely be worth his while.