"Jesus bloody Christ," Bond mutters, honking his horn and just about resisting the urge to press the button underneath which would launch the missiles. He reaches for the dash instead because he hates speaking aloud when no one else is listening.
He spends enough time ignoring what his thoughts have to say. "Q."
There's a moment of silence, then a scramble of static, then a voice frustratingly calm in his ear. "Bond."
The car in front of him moves forward about an inch, then rolls back three. Bond manfully resists the urge to scream, matching Q's detached tone. "Are you near a computer."
"Is that a stupid question?"
The urge to scream is rising. "Any news on the weather?"
He can hear a few clicks across the line. "It's not good news."
If Bond squints, he can just about see a few square inches of white on the pavements. "Just tell me."
A few more clicks. "Snow," Q says. "Air temperature of one degree centigrade. They've closed several roads. The trains aren't running."
Bond grits his teeth and turns the heating in the car up a little. "How much snow, Q?"
A moment's pause, Bond can imagine Q shaking his head. "Almost half an inch. I can't get out the house." A pause. "Be careful."
Half an inch. Bond cuts the comms just before slamming his hands into the steering wheel. "Fuck."
Bond eventually abandons his car as close to the pavement as he can get without venturing into the areas where the snow hasn't yet been driven over. As he gets out he can see crowds of people huddled together, layering jumpers and scarves while pulling out phones from their pockets. Vague snippets of one-sided conversation drift towards him on the breeze alone with the occasional snowflake.
"-trains are all down, the roads are blocked."
"-best if I just stay at home—"
"We're going to have to close the—"
"- snowpocalypse. It's anarchy out here, absolute anarchy."
Bond hits the call on his earpiece again. "Are you still at home?"
"The step has frozen over," Q says. "A girl in my building slipped and twisted her ankle."
Bond nods, pushing his way through the crowd of pedestrians to get to the nearest bridge. "Are you in your pyjamas? Should I be worried?"
He can practically hear Q's grin at this stage. That's probably a sign that he's been back in England too long, but he doesn't quite care at the moment. "I have an extra blanket and slippers," Q says. "Criminals of the world beware."
Bond reaches the bridge and leans over. There's a road below but the traffic's at a stand-still there, windscreen wipers working overtime to get the occasional flake out of the driver's vision. "I'm on foot, about two miles out. I need you to find me a route into work."
There's a long silence. "It's going to be hazardous," Q says after a moment. "How's the grip on your shoes."
Bond leans on the railing to lift one foot up. It used to be great, but now—"A little worn, but if I go slow it should do the trick."
"Okay." Q taps a few more keys loudly. "Across the bridge there's an alley on the left. Halfway down there's a fire escape—are you wearing gloves?"
"Get to the fire escape and climb it. Call me again when you're on the roof."
There are about eight people in the office. Bond almost trips over a stack of wellingtons piled up by the door, although he's pretty sure the three guys from Q branch with bedhead and rumpled shirts never got around to leaving last night.
Eve has left the reception desk to sit downstairs with everyone else. She's wearing red leather gloves and one of those furry hats with ears that doubles as a scarf. She still somehow looks like she could show up to the queen's cocktail party and be seated as a guest of honour. "Bond," she says, sounding surprised. "You made it in. How were the roads?"
Bond tugs off his gloves with his teeth and starts rearranging socks on the radiator to make space. "Closed, blocked or covered in slush. I had to do most of the route on foot. Q isn't coming in."
"No, he called. Did you hear someone bruised their ankle outside his house?" she shakes her head. "It's chaos. The whole country's at a standstill. Have you stocked up on food? They're saying it could last two, maybe even three days."
"Bond!" M leans out of his office, running one hand through hair that's been greying much faster since he inherited the initial. "Didn't you get my message? I texted everyone half an hour ago to say don't come in if it's too dangerous."
Bond turns to look at him. "Last time I was in an active war zone you told me that it would be fine to break my cover because it wasn't that dangerous."
"There are three quarters of an inch of snow out there, Bond. Even the buses have stopped running."
"I was shot four times on that mission. You need to pick a definition of 'dangerous' and stick to it."
M waves this off with one hand. "Tanner, get him a cup of tea. Bond, since you're in anyway I have a few things for you to look over but keep an eye on the roads and make sure you leave before it gets so blocked up you can't get home."
"If anyone touches my box of cup-a-soups," Q says into Bond's ear. "There will be hell to pay and I don't just mean from the booby-traps on the box."
Bond reaches up to tug his earpiece out—not that that ever stops Q if he wants something—and turns to Eve. "Apparently Q has soup hidden somewhere."
She nods, pulling a gun from her thigh-holster which might have been considered overkill, except that Bond can see the charred section of the kitchen where Q's tea bags used to sit. "On it."
"Q calling MI6. Come in MI6."
Everyone jolts a little when Q's voice booms from the ceiling above them. The ten of them are all sitting in Mallory's office, passing around three mugs with all the cup-a-soup powder they could salvage from the explosion mixed somewhat randomly in with hot water. Bond takes a sip from Q's scrabble mug and tastes chicken, tomatoes and a hint of pumpkin.
There's a small fire in a bowl in the centre of the circle. Occasionally it goes dim and they have to grab another of Q's exploding pencils from a pile and toss it in. They really do burn for an impressively long time. Bond almost feels sorry for the man with the nuclear submarine who he forced to swallow one once.
"Was that Q?" Eve asks, when the silence has stretched on long enough for everyone to start thinking 'no one else has spoken, did I imagine that—'
"Yes," boom's Q's voice, somewhat more irritably. "I had to hack into the PA system from the old building that used to be here and magnify the volume ten-fold because the speakers had been bricked in by concrete and it wouldn't have happened if any of you had answered your phones."
Everyone turns their head to look out the window of M's office to where all the various coats and bags have just been abandoned to drip over the desks.
"I also hacked the cameras," Q says. "You owe me fifteen teabags, twelve sachets of soup and you'd better disinfect that cup. I don't know where any of you have been."
There is a moment's pause during which everyone looks pointedly at the nearest camera.
"I don't know where two of you have been," Q amends. "And there are at least five there who've slept with someone else since me."
The three guys from Q-branch shrug agreeably. M is very pink. "I don't think I should be hearing this," he says.
"Any time," Q says. "You and Bond should call me."
Bond blinks then looks over at Eve and mouths 'What?' because the laws of the universe have so far been very clear that people should not be sleeping with skinny teenagers when they're refusing to so much as touch James Bond.
Eve shrugs and mouths 'talented tongue' because she lives to torment him.
"Anyway," Q says. "Mallory. I need you to call in your important Goverment goons to do me a favour. The SAS or the army. Someone important who might still be working."
Mallory still looks broken from the knowledge that Q has quite possibly slept with every employee at MI6 and Bond is wondering what exactly Q can do with his tongue that makes him the best fuck in the building and starting to think maybe he shouldn't be imagining it so graphically.
Tanner is apparently rolling his eyes at both of them. "What do you need them for? Have you captured a terrorist somewhere?"
"What?" Q says. "Oh—no. I've run out of biscuits and the pilot light on my boiler's gone out."
Eve frowns. "Is the step still icy?"
"Very much so."
There's a long silence during which M looks at Bond who looks at Eve who looks at Tanner who looks at the guys from Q branch who are busy discussing what would happen if they tried to sharpen an exploding pencil.
"I'll put my best agent on the case," says M.
Bond turns to meet his eyes. "There must be at least an inch of snow by now."
"Well then. You'd best leave quickly."
Bond steals M's wellingtons because they're the only ones in his size, Tanner's waterproof coat because it has a tag with all kinds of impressive claims of sturdiness and Eve's furry-leopard scarf-hat because it's actually impressively warm and has pockets in the end of the scarf for his hands.
There are fewer people on the streets now, and those that are out are clutching shopping bags full of bread and milk in both hands. Bond ducks into a Tesco Extra only to find someone has already ransacked the biscuit aisle. There's a Cadburys selection box and, right at the back of the shelves, a pack of Tesco Value custard creams.
Bond tugs a smattering of change out of his pocket and counts it. Forty seven pence. He puts the Cadburys back.
"Terrible weather we're having," says the woman on the checkout.
Bond nods. "The buses aren't running."
Behind him in a Canadian accent a guy says, "Call this snow? Back home we'd be at work in six feet of the stuff."
Bond shares a knowing look with the lady on the till as she places his receipt on top of his purchase.
Some people just don't understand.
He passes his Aston Martin on the street, surrounded by other cars half-parked or just straight out abandoned in the street. There's a thin layer of snow across the bonnet, windscreen and almost covering the roof.
Someone has written '#SNOW' in the snow on the back window.
Bond nods in agreement, and moves on, carefully sidestepping a man in a fluorescent yellow jacket shovelling small amounts of snow off the pavement and into the road.
Q's apartment is down a small side street. Here no one has so much as tried to leave, the white sheet across the road is pristine and the closest thing to footprints is a few careful steps down from some of the doors, before the owner beat a hasty retreat back inside. The snow is deep enough to crunch beneath his borrowed boots, and he tugs Eve's scarf a little tighter around his ears.
Q's front step looks almost as snow covered as the pavement, but when Bond brushes it with his toe, the top layer of powder melts away to reveal the ice underneath.
He steps carefully over it, into the shaded alcove beside the door, and presses the button for Q's flat—cunningly labelled 'Quentin Quiller'.
"Bond," Q's voice comes out faintly crackly down the intercom. "You made it."
"It's quite nippy out," Bond says. The wind is still catching the tip of his nose a little. "Any chance of a cup of tea?"
"I've got the kettle on," Q says and the door buzzes as the lock disengages to let him push his way in.
The mat is a little damp, and Bond leaves M's boots next to it with a small collection of others—decorated in polka dots or small flowers. Q's apartment is on the second floor and he comes to the door wrapped in a blanket, his feet hidden under slippers with monkey faces on.
Bond would make a comment, but he has at least six gizmos from Q branch in his pockets and he's not sure how many of them explode. "I have biscuits," he says instead, lifting the packet.
Q takes it. "Value custard creams?" he says, dryly. "You shouldn't have." He turns to walk inside and Bond follows so close that when Q stops abruptly Bond walks into the back of him.
Q is staring at a device on the wall. After a moment, he reaches up to tap it. "Bond."
Bond cranes his head to see the device on the wall where a tiny screen proclaims: outside temperature: -1oC.
Even though he's inside now, and Q's flat is boiling in spite of the allegedly broken boiler, he shivers. "Do you have any more blankets?"
"That is not how you code," Q says. "That is not how you code, that is not how you code."
"You're not even looking," Bond points out because Q has been hacking the Met Office ("There might be some new disaster they're not telling us about.") on his laptop for the last half hour, ever since Bond determined that the only thing broken about the boiler was the light ("I called my landlady and she said she couldn't get anyone to come out in this weather. It's an outrage.").
"I can feel them getting hacking wrong." He takes a sip of tea from his mug and grabs a custard cream from the rapidly dwindling packet.
"Do you have other food in the house?" Bond asks, snatching three before they all disappear.
Q shrugs. "Maybe. I don't know."
Bond rolls his eyes. "I'm going to check the kitchen," he says. "Before the snow gets so bad that all the shops close." He tries to get up but the blanket is caught under Q. When he tugs, Q makes a distressed noise and cups a hand protectively around his tea.
"No," Q says. "Not happening." He types another long stream of gibberish onto his screen. "Maybe there's a Dominoes still open."
Bond sighs and drops back onto the couch. On screen, some curly haired actor is talking about the future of social networking. Closer to home, Q is curled up on the couch like he's planning to never leave, the monkeys on his slippers tickling Bond's hand where it's resting on the cushions.
"Just let me finish the pizza order," Q says.
Bond blinks. "What?"
"You're looking at me like we're about to have sex," Q explains, because he's always eight steps ahead of everyone else. Even when they hadn't noticed yet that they were going up the stairs. "And I want to make sure there's pizza when we're done—the security code on your debit card is 667, right?"
"I don't normally—"
"Yes we all know about you and every girl in Europe, Bond. But I have cameras everywhere in MI6 and you spent far too long thinking about my tongue to not be interested."
Bond should probably object to something here, but Q is already closing his laptop and leaning down carefully to put both it and his tea on the ground. "I thought you didn't know where I'd been."
Q smiles the kind of smile Bond usually sees on supervillains just before they divulge their evil plans. "Bond," he says. "I know exactly where you've been."
The snow just about sticks around overnight, but the roads are clear by the following afternoon.
The Aston Martin that is parked at the side of the road two miles from the centre of London doesn't move for a week.