The new Q was a young man with a mop of hair on top of his head, a bony figure and ridiculously big glasses on his nose which were constantly slipping down and having to be pushed up again.
James had mistaken him for a minion first, because in the time of shiny and explosive guns, exploding pens and invisible cars using gunpowder as fuel, people as young as this boy were at the bottom of the food chain.
They could make coffee, sit in front of a computer and feel special or important, but in the end they always ended up being the most trivial and unimportant part of the animal kingdom of Q-branch.
It wasn't James' term but the old Q's, and in memory of the old man James decided to keep on using it silently and without ever mentioning it
Perhaps he could have figured out by the way this boy was dressed, because while he kept up the old Q's tradition of giving his minions jumpers or shirts, he had the tie.
It was, as far as James was concerned and had been informed, the sign of their leader, and hence the obvious trait of the Quartermaster and not a minion. Now and then R, whenever the Quartermaster wasn't in his branch, but that had happened close to never.
James sometimes had returned from a mission to find the old man sleeping on his desk in a position which left him with an aching back or neck. Most of the time both.
This boy also wore a name tag with a capital Q written on it, but one might excuse James for not immediately spotting it on his hip because he had been distracted.
He had to admit this boy was rather handsome, if one was attracted to the innocent and young type with a baby-face, fluffy hair and a habit of dressing in cardigans which made him appear older. He had interesting eyes and delicate features, and was almost as tall as James.
A bit too much bones and not enough fat, which made James wonder about how much stress one could put him through without breaking him. He could, James thought as he watched the young man shift from one foot to the other, break him in half easily with one simple snap.
Not that he planned on doing that, but he could and that thought was enough for James to keep a more than appropriate distance. He didn't want to end up breaking any of the man's bones, unimportant as he might have been.
They had been standing in front of each other for five minutes at least, minutes in which James had stared at the man and the man at him with an eyebrow raised, standing there in complete silence.
This room in general, the hardly used office of the Quartermaster in the heart of Q-branch, was silent. No music like the classical music the old Q had played, no computers humming or clocks ticking, no alerts, not a single sound.
James could hear his blood rush through his veins in his ears and hear his heart beat.
It was too loud, and he cleared his throat after a while.
Only when the young man turned around, took a cup and drank from it did James realise that this was Q - because no one else drank from a Scrabble mug but the Quartermasters - and he suddenly felt old.
He was used to an elder, grey-haired Q with tiny glasses on his nose, running around in a lab coat and smelling of gunpowder. This Q was bloody young, had messy dark brown hair and oversized glasses, wore a cardigan and could hardly be older than twenty.
James let out some air through his nostrils, inhaling sharply before he decided to break the silence. It was becoming unnerving.
"You must be joking."
There was silence, and Q frowned at him. He contracted his eyebrows, mouth closed and lips a thin line, eyes sharp as they roamed over Bond, something James was used to but never under such conditions.
As Q lifted his hands, James was faintly sure that there was confusion written across his features, because what was he doing?
There wasn't a gadget in the Quartermaster's hands like James was expecting, no pen, paper, gun, radio or files for his next mission. All he saw were empty, pale hands with thin wrists, and long spidery fingers made for work on a computer or laptop.
Those hands were empty. And James had no idea what Q wanted to do with them as he balled them into fists except for the index fingers whose tips were pressed together, and he had absolutely no idea why Q was drawing a square in the air.
A square. No words of explanation, nothing, no instruction or 'Look here, I can draw a square into the air, watch me!' one might expect from a child and not one of MI6's branch heads. Only a square.
Q repeated the motion, eyebrows contracted in frustration, and as James only raised his own eyebrows the Quartermaster sighed.
He drew a square in the air once again, and James turned to check the door and then the window.
During his time in the Navy he had to learn tactical sign language. Verbal communication during a battle was impossible, and over the distance of two ships next to each other it was easier to sign.
It wasn't much. Counting, some words, commands. But he was sure that Q couldn't mean that, because there was not a single window in the room, the door was fine and he had done the movement wrong. He had started at the top with his fingers pressed together and had signed with both, while the sign for door and window were signed with one finger.
Soldiers didn't have two hands available, most of the time, with a gun or rifle in their primary hand.
James lifted his hands to the side, holding them up with contracted eyebrows - I don't understand.
Q's left hand was put next to his ear and he shook his head, then made a gesture in front of his lips, shaking his head again.
Bond blinked a few times, stunned – probably for the first time in his life - because he had expected many things, but not a deaf Quartermaster.
Millions of questions rushed through his mind, millions of things he wanted to ask.
How it was possible for a Quartermaster to be deaf, how he was supposed to help agents through missions and guide them and how the hell he had been accepted here? The only disabled agent James had met was a lady from medical, and she was in a wheelchair.
There once had been a minion in Q-branch who couldn't move his head but that hadn't been a disability and more of a slight disadvantage.
James tried to gather together the little information he had about sign language, tried to remember signs besides rifle, shotgun, rally point, hostage, enemy and sniper.
This was an entirely new experience for James, but he was an agent and he could deactivate bombs, it should be possible for him to get through a short introduction with his Quartermaster.
James pointed at himself, then formed a fist with his right hand, holding it up only to lower and lift it again twice, then flexed his pinkie, middle and index finger, the sign for seven.
Q shook his head, held the index finger of his left hand up and moved it as if he was drawing a line in the air
No, James had no idea what that meant, and he felt a sting of frustration in his belly, hot, ugly and boiling, making him grit his teeth and lick his lip for a moment. He considered getting a pen and paper instead of just making a fool out of himself, but he had his pride.
The younger man gave a sigh, then rolled his shoulders and held both of his hands up.
He counted to seven with his fingers, one, two, three, four, five, then used his second hand for six and seven, and then he stopped and raised an eyebrow. He lowered his right hand again, and formed his fingers into a pistol, now smirking.
James blinked once or twice, did the same as Q and as the young man nodded, James repeated his motions again - 0, 0, 7.
There was a bit of surprise in Q's eyes as he saw how James was looking at his hands in concentration, not making eye contact with the other. He nodded, a smile lifting the corners of his lips as if he had already known that.
He probably had, James thought, but it was always polite to introduce himself, and since he apparently couldn't say his usual 'Bond, James Bond' it was the least he could do.
Q held his hands up to sign, and James wondered what now.
Showing James the palm of his right hand, Q drew an invisible line from the tip of his middle finger down to the middle of his palm, drawing a curve to his thumb. He mouthed something James couldn't understand, but kept on signing anyway.
Left index finger pointing at the right thumb and as Q mouthed something, James understood it was a. Three fingers of his left hand pressed against the palm of his right, middle finger and index of his right pressed together with his index pointing at them. Pinkie hooked over the other pinkie, s.
He repeated it, and stunned to silence James repeated it after him, hand motions clumsy and almost like a stutter while Q's were fluid and almost beautifully elegant, with practised ease.
Q was signing his name.
It was much more complicated than the easy way of just saying it, and fingerspelling always was more of a challenge than giving a person a nickname to sign. James had been called 'ice' before, because of his eyes, or 'handsome' by a superior with a sense of humour
James tried to repeat it without Q but practically stumbled over his fingers, and as he looked up he could see Q laugh noiselessly.
It made his eyes sparkle and glasses slip down, but he looked younger than before, and James had to return the smile, though he first faked a pout.
B was the fingertips of Q's hands being pressed together in a way children used to indicate fake glasses, and as James repeated the motion he looked up to see Q mouth the letter.
O was the index of Q's left hand pointing at the ring finger of Q's right.
N was almost like M and James was confused for a moment before he realised that it wasn't the latter. Two fingers pressed together against the palm of his right hand.
D was an easy sign and James repeated it, forming a half-circle with his index and thumb pressed against his right index finger.
Q nodded, repeated it again, and gave a smile as James did it right.
Had he felt stupid before, he now was curious. He had never imagined signing to be this complicated, especially since he had been able to make the tactical signs perfectly back in his Navy time.
Q pointed at himself, then did something close to a salute with two fingers before he signed a Q.
James gave his charming smile, not knowing if it was genuine or not - it was hard to tell when you don't smile, and James usually didn't - and made a wave. Q waved back, a faint blush around his nose.
Q gave him the instructions for the mission without any signing, but with yellow sticky notes put on the envelope, box and radio.
It was amusing. It also showed James that Q had a neat yet curved handwriting, and he decided to keep the notes to make fun of Q later. Maybe one day he would be able to put them all on a wall in Q-branch just because he could.
As James was about to turn around and leave, Q tapped him on the shoulder.
James' first instinct was to turn around, take the new gun and aim for his head, but he didn't and just raised an eyebrow at the younger man, who raised both in return.
Q let go of him again, took a step backwards and lifted his hand thumbs-up, before tapping his own nose with his index finger, moving the hand down again.
Even James understood that.
He lifted his hand, index finger and thumb pressed together, the other's stretched away in an I understand and then turned around, heading outside to the car waiting to take him to the airport.
The voice in his ear later, as he tried to get his mission done, was a minion James had never heard before, young and naive, shocked and crying as James shot someone straight through the head.
There was a sting of something inside James and he wondered why. Was it the disappointment of not being able to flirt with Q or was it something else? He had been aware of the other changes in the Six's structures, but a Quartermaster not monitoring his agents was a thought James found strangely bothering.
"Q wants me to tell you to stop staring at the wall and move, if you don't want other agents to have to go out and search for your body parts," the minion in his ear said, and James blinked.
So Q was watching?
He turned to the camera, gave a wink and signed Q, and he liked to believe that he had made Q smile.
James turned around again, focused on the mission.
He could flirt with Q later.