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we're all in the mood for a melody (and you've got us feeling alright)

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Q is having difficulty remembering how it feels to be completely, fully rested.

He hasn't managed to catch more than two or three consecutive hours of sleep since moving into his new flat because of the Noise, deliberate-capital-N-noise—more specifically, the sex noises coming from his neighbour's bedroom, which is adjacent to Q's own and consists of varying groans, grunts, and the distinct sound of a bed squeaking and hitting the wall at two in the morning like some infuriating, nymphomaniac-esque version of The Raven.

It's not a nightly thing, but it's damn close, and the wall between them is thin enough that Q can tell his neighbour rarely brings the same person home twice. Eventually, he tries sleeping on his couch in the living room because it's that much farther away from the disturbance, but he's a light sleeper and it still manages to drive him up the wall.

He considers changing the building's wireless network name to 'I CAN HEAR YOU HAVING SEX IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT AND IT'S SEVERELY DISRUPTING MY SLEEP CYCLE, YOU MASSIVE PRICK', but that's 62 characters longer than the maximum amount allowed, so he just takes to passive-aggressively vacuuming his flat at seven in the morning.

Not that doing so makes any difference whatsoever. The bastard is either the deepest sleeper Q has ever encountered, or isn't even at home in the mornings.

He doesn't know which, because he's never actually seen his neighbour, not once since moving in, and prefers avoiding conflict to such an extent that he doesn't do the reasonable thing and knock on the man's door or file a noise complaint with the landlord.

The lack of sleep is annoying all on its own, but has the added effect of making his shit job even worse. Working in tech support is bad; having to deal with people who don't know the difference between a computer and a monitor on three hours of sleep is absolute hell.

And he hates his job. He really does. There's only so many times a person can ask, "Have you tried turning it off and on again" before they lose their fucking mind, and for the past two weeks Q has been imagining elaborate ways to violently murder Bernie in Human Resources who can never remember his password (it's 0000, for god's sake).

His boss is stubborn and unreasonable and Q's pretty sure that despite attempting to be polite and friendly and courteous, the man still hates him. He's been working there over a year, and he hates it, he honestly does, and maybe he's not exactly sure what he wants to be doing with his life, but this? This isn't it.

He sort of hates his life.

---

He meets James Bond on a Tuesday night.

Eve, who loves her job at the law firm where she works, gets a promotion, and Q makes a heroic effort to not be envious of that. Because she's known him for several years, Eve tells him cheerfully over the phone to stop being a jealous prat and asks him if he wants to come meet her and a few of her colleagues to celebrate at the hotel bar that's recently opened back up after being renovated.

"It's got a nice atmosphere," she says.

"The bartender's attractive," she says.

"He's probably your type," she says.

"I'm not asking you to come, I'm telling you to come, so put on your coat and get over here," she says, when he tries to give a half-arsed excuse.

Because Eve can, on occasion, be terrifying, he puts on his coat and gets over there.

And Eve is right: the atmosphere is nice. It's not too spacious, the lighting isn't too dim, there's a baby grand piano toward the back of the room, and the bartender—

The bartender is a prat.

"His name is James Bond and he makes the best margarita I've ever had," Eve tells him when he sits down at the bar, after he's congratulated her on her promotion. Martha and David Price, a married couple who work with Eve and whom he's met once or twice before, give him a wave in greeting. He likes them well enough, but they tend to talk primarily about work, and law has never been a particularly interesting topic to him—corporate law even less so.

"He's also flirted with every man and woman who's come in so far," David adds, with an expression that suggests he's not entirely sure what to think of that. Q can't help but laugh when Martha grins at him.

"How was work?" she asks.

Like repeatedly shoving ice picks into his eyes for eight hours. She's asking to be polite, to be friendly, but it's a sore subject, and his smile fades.

He's spared from having to answer when the bartender, Bond, makes his way over, handing a glass of whiskey to the man sitting a couple of seats down from Q before regarding the group with an easy, confident smile. And he's definitely, irritatingly, distractingly Q's type; he stares a bit at the man's exposed forearms and the way his shirt clings to his torso like it's a size too small, which should look ridiculous but it doesn't, not at all, and—

"Who's this, then?" Bond prompts, and Q tears his gaze away from muscled forearms to bright blue, amused eyes.

"This is Q," Eve says for him when it takes longer than a couple of seconds to respond. Bond's eyebrows flick up the way most everyone's do when he's introduced, and he's ready to answer the inevitable questions—yes, just the letter, a childhood nickname that stuck, I know it's odd, short for none of your business—but then Bond nods and holds a hand out over the bar, flashes him disarming sort of smile.

"Pleasure to meet you, Q," he says, and that's...different, isn't it. "James Bond, at your service. What can I get you to drink?"

Q blinks.

And frowns suspiciously.

And shakes Bond's hand. His grip is strong without being uncomfortable, and Q can feel the roughness of Bond's palm as he withdraws his hand. "Whatever she's having," he replies after a moment, gesturing to Eve's margarita glass, still half-filled with a pale, yellow-green liquid.

He doesn't drink often, but it's a decent margarita, and he tells Bond as much when he's taken a sip, Bond watching expectantly. "Just give me a shout if you need anything else," he says, and he gives Q another smile and a wink before making his way to the other end of the bar where a group of young women are giggling annoyingly.

Q is trying to decide whether to be irritated and unimpressed by the blatant flirting or to be reluctantly charmed by it when Eve digs an elbow into his side. "What?"

"Stop staring at him," Eve says, and smiles sweetly when he opens his mouth to protest. "And how was work?"

"Shut up," he answers mildly, but shifts in his seat to properly join the conversation—or, rather, listen to it with rapidly diminishing interest. Discussion quickly turns to law, and once the legalese starts going over his head, he tunes most of it out. Martha's evidently in the middle of preparing for closing arguments on some malpractice case, and David's trying to bring in a new client, and Q is bored out of his mind in under an hour.

The only remotely interesting thing that occurs is that after mentioning how he likes to work with electronics in his spare time, David lights up and starts working his digital watch off his wrist. "I've been wearing it mostly out of habit," he explains as he passes it over, "but it hasn't been working properly for a few days now."

“We didn’t call Q out here to make him work,” Martha scolds him, but being thrown electronics to fix is infinitely better than being told about routine computer troubles the moment he says anything to anyone about working in tech support, so Q takes the watch with a smile.

“I honestly don’t mind,” he says, and fishes a small, compact tool kit from his trouser pocket, heedless of the way Eve rolls her eyes good-naturedly—he maintains that it's a reasonable thing to keep on one's person, even if he's only used it thus far to repair his eye glasses once or twice.

The watch only takes a couple of minutes to get working again, but it's something to do, and when Q gives it back, his hands are itching for something else to tinker with.

He'd taken classes in electrical engineering while he was in school, but then he'd been interested in everything from computer programming to musical theory and never actually settled on a specific degree program. Experience with computers had earned him the tech support job (which he imagines he could have landed even with a fourth of his skills, if his co-workers are anything to go by), but most careers in electronic design and development require a degree.

The conversation drifts back to subpoenas and mandates and legislation within a few minutes, and Eve argues with Martha and David for the better part of an hour about the sort of paperwork needed to close a deal between two businesses.

Q tells himself that the only reason he spends a fair portion of the evening watching Bond is because legalese makes his mind numb. Bond comes by frequently with more drinks for David, Martha, and Eve, while Q spends a while nursing his original margarita and then sticks to water.

"The hotel's been open a couple of months, but we just got the bar going a few weeks back," Bond tells him later that night, leaning against the bar. It's late, and most of the people who were there earlier had left, and Q is going to hate himself for staying out so late when morning rolls around. Bond's leaning against the bar and Q had stopped worrying about whether or not ignoring Eve and her colleagues was rude some time ago. "Things are going fairly well so far; I've already established some regulars. And I'm hoping to see more of you." He gives Q a once-over that's so blatant it ought to be comical. After watching Bond flirt his way through the evening with a majority of his customers, it's mostly irritating.

"Unlikely," Q says, voice clipped, and he gets a vindictive sort of pleasure at the way Bond's smile fades somewhat.

"Fair enough," Bond allows, and before Q can say anything else, Eve nudges him again. David and Martha are standing, shrugging into their coats, and after they've paid off their tab, Eve and Q walk them to the door.

"You ought to come out with us more often," Martha tells Q as she leans up on her toes to kiss his cheek.

He smiles. "Might need to take a few law courses so I can keep up with the conversation," he says, and David laughs, thanks him again for fixing his watch.

Then it's just him and Eve sitting at the end of the bar, Eve nursing a gin and tonic and letting him complain about work. She confesses having some anxiety about the new responsibilities she's taking on, and they argue over which Die Hard movie was the best (the fourth, because Justin Long was perfect and Internet-based terrorist organisations are the best terrorist organisations, Eve, stop laughing).

Eve runs off to the restroom sometime later just before they're about to leave, the bar nearly empty, and Q spends a minute toying absently with his empty water glass before glancing over to the piano at the back of the room. It looks like it's been there a while, likely from before the hotel was renovated. Q gets up from his seat and wanders over to it.

The bench creaks a bit when he sits down on it, and some of the keys are chipped, but when he presses the middle C with his index finger it's perfectly in tune.

It's been a while since he's played. He’d practised religiously as a kid and had gone on to take music theory and composition and such classes while he was in university, but it isn’t as though he can fit a piano in his flat, and it's difficult to keep up that sort of hobby without access to a piano, and—

And so it's been a while since Q has played, but muscle memory takes over after he's gone through a couple of awkward-sounding scales with his foot on the soft pedal. He improvises jazz, thinking in movement and phrases, and within a few moments he's not worrying about how tired he's going to be at work tomorrow or how Bernie is probably going to ask what his password is again.

There's just music.

About thirty seconds later, when a voice rumbles low in his ear, "You're very good," Q manages not to yelp in surprise, but only just. The chord he was transitioning into fractures when his thumb depresses the E flat instead of the E, and the dissonance makes him wince until he amends it.

"Technically," the voice continues, sounding distinctly amused, "policy states that patrons aren't supposed to use the piano." Q stills his hands immediately, the chord hanging in the air for a couple of seconds before he lifts his foot from the damper pedal. He glances back, and it's Bond leaning over behind him and fighting a smile. Of course. "That's mostly to keep drunkards from hammering out Chopsticks and to reserve the piano for our hired player. We don't currently have a professional player here, and you aren't drunk, so by all means, feel free to continue."

After a moment's hesitation, Q picks up where he left off. "Are you looking for one?" he finds himself asking, as Bond moves around to lean against the piano and look at him straight on. "A professional player, that is?" It's harder when he's being watched, and he's vaguely aware that he has changed keys entirely.

"Are you interested?"

No, of course not, except— "Potentially," Q says, shrugging.

Bond smiles and taps the piano with his index finger. "You have a multitude of pieces in your repertoire, I assume?"

"Of course." Hell, he'd played everything from Beethoven to Irish drinking songs during university. A bit of time to really brush up and he'd be just fine.

A small voice in the back of Q's mind is shouting that he has a job already, thank you very much, but that voice is being mostly drowned out by minor chords and Bond's easy smile.

Someone sitting at the bar calls for a refill at the same time Eve finally remerges from the restroom, and Bond pushes himself away from the piano. "Think it over," he says, and his hand brushes against Q's lower back as he passes by, the touch too firm to be anything but deliberate. "Let me know what nights you'd be able to come in. I'll put you in touch with the owner."

---

This is how Q starts playing at the bar three nights a week.

When he meets Gareth Mallory, the hotel owner, the man takes one look at him and says, "As long as you know more than five pieces of music and don't wear a rumpled cardigan like that to work, you can start Thursday."

By the third week, he's had so many requests to play ‘Piano Man’ that he takes it upon himself to instill a cut off of five performances per night for the sake of his own sanity. By the end of the first month, he knows who the regulars are and has to turn down more drink offers than he can count.

His IT job still makes him want to set the building on fire, and his neighbour is still too loud, but Q looks forward to his evenings playing at the bar. He even looks forward to seeing Bond, who's always asking Q to play jazz when he isn't busy shamelessly flirting with him, and the regulars, and the newcomers, and—everyone who stays put long enough to listen, really.

Q arrives an hour after the bar opens, leaves an hour before Bond closes up, and plays Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, more out of principle than anything else. Despite IT work being hell, it's a steady job with good pay, and he's worked there for over a year. Full time at the hotel would cover his rent and other bills with room to spare, but he tells himself there's something comfortable in routine—even if that routine is reminding Bernie in Accounting that his password is "0000" for the tenth week in a row. So there's that.

Well. That, and the fact that if he starts spending more than three nights a week with James Bond, he thinks he might go and do something stupid like actually begin fancying him instead of just sort of tentatively considering the notion.

---

It doesn't make any sense. It really doesn't.

Sure, Q's always been attracted to older men. And, okay, Bond is charming and suave and has a good sense of humour. But he's also over-confident and entitled, and sort of an arsehole—which, okay, yes, so is Q, but it's the principle of the thing. So it doesn't matter that Bond offers interesting, engaging conversation, and it doesn't matter that he makes sure to refill Q's glasses of water on a regular basis while he's playing even when it's a busy night and there really isn't time to be doing that, and it doesn't matter that Q thinks about him all the fucking time, and—

Alright, maybe it makes perfect sense. Maybe it's completely, utterly understandable. That doesn't mean Q has to like it. It's not as if anything is ever going to come of it, anyway, because Bond flirts with everyone, so the fact that he does things for Q doesn't actually mean anything at all.

That doesn't stop Q from making thinly-veiled excuses to spend more time with him. He can admit it's a little ridiculous, but it's enjoyable.

Usually.

"No, no, you've gone and turned 'Heart and Soul' into a waltz."

Bond scowls, and before Q can tell him not to, he bangs down on the keys irritably. "I give up. It's a waste of time."

Q winces at the noisy, dissonant sound and resists the urge to massage his temples. "Yes, that's an incredibly mature way to express your feelings on the matter, thank you."

Tuesday nights are generally the slowest, and more often than not, the place is nearly if not completely empty in the hour or so before Q's shift is over. He doesn't really know exactly how it started—Bond expressing some interest in the pieces Q had been playing, maybe—but for the past few weeks, Q has been teaching him how to play.

Q started him with simple songs after going through the scales—'The Entertainer,' 'Heart and Soul'—but he's yet to make any real headway. He can't seem to keep in time, and while he can play the left hand and the right hand parts of 'Heart and Soul' separately, the piece falls apart when he tries to bring them together.

"How about," Q suggests, before Bond tries to actively destroy the piano, "I play the left hand while you play the right hand, so you can hear how it's supposed to sound when it comes together."

Bond presses down a few keys thoughtfully, then shifts to the right side of the piano bench. Q sits down next to him, their legs pressed together so they can both fit on the bench, and Q counts off before playing the two-measure intro.

When Bond comes in, it's a bit clumsy, but after a moment they're perfectly in sync. He glances over at Bond, whose right knee is bouncing to keep the time, and whose lips are moving. The lyrics are printed between the treble and bass clef, and Bond's not actually singing them so much as mouthing them, and when they get to the end of the song, he’s smiling.

"Are you ready to try it on your own, then?" Q asks, a touch reluctant at the notion of moving away, though proud of the progress if he's honest with himself.

Bond's expression turns incredulous. "Are you kidding? You're the only reason I managed to get through it at all. Don't go anywhere."

Q really doesn't think he could if he wanted to.

---

On the whole, Q has found that Bond stays more or less composed in the face of everything from having to work by himself on particularly busy Saturday nights when every seat in the bar is taken to violent, drunk patrons (watching Bond approach a man twice his size and physically haul him out of the bar had proceeded to ignite in Q a previously dormant strength kink that left him unable to play properly for the rest of the evening).

So when Q hears the sound of Bond's annoyed swearing over the Chopin he's playing, he cuts the piece off early and makes his way behind the bar.

Bond is fiddling with the cash register while Bill Tanner, one of the regulars, watches with faint amusement. Q likes Tanner because he doesn't get incredibly drunk and ask him to play boy band songs or anything by Elton John, and enjoys talking about computer software while Q's on his breaks.

Bond, for his part, looks so utterly fed up that Q has to take pity on him. "What's the matter?"

"The damn thing isn't letting me keep track of anyone's tabs," Bond snaps, though his expression softens into something more resigned when he glances over his shoulder at Q. "I'll just have to do it by hand until Mallory can get off his arse and come take a look at it."

Q regards the machine thoughtfully. It doesn't exactly look like a formidable opponent. "Mind if I try?" he asks.

Bond's eyebrows flick up, but he nods and steps away, giving Q space to appraise the register. "By all means."

It's a newer model, from what he can tell, and the touch screen is riddled with Bond's fingerprints. When he tries to access Tanner's bar tab, the register gives a loud, angry-sounding beep, and Q wrinkles his nose. "No, hush," he scolds absently, backing out of the window. Behind him, he hears Bond shift, and Tanner lets out a snort of laughter.

After about a minute of trying to get the machine to behave, Q sighs and pulls his tool kit from his pocket, selects the screwdriver from it, and gets to work.

Thirty seconds later, he re-logs into the system, taps the touch screen a few times, and pulls up Tanner's bar tab. "Finicky thing," he says mildly, wiping his prints from the screen with the sleeve of his shirt. "Ought to be fine, now."

When he turns around, they're both staring at him. After a beat, Bond smiles and claps his hand over Q's shoulder. "And here I thought you were only good for 'Piano Man' renditions," Bond says. "Thank you." The smile is genuine and thankful, with none of the over-exaggerated flirting Q is used to and, ridiculously, he feels his cheeks heat somewhat.

"It wasn't particularly difficult."

"Saves me from having to take down prices by hand." Bond steps closer, doesn't wait for Q to move out of the small space where the register is, just leans into him with his shoulder and reaches over to enter Tanner's last order. "Remind me to grab you next time it acts up," he adds, turning to go tend to a group of customers at the other end of the bar.

The tone is casual enough, but Bond's breath ghosts over Q's ear as he pulls away, and if Q wasn't blushing before, he sure as hell is now, and, fuck, since when did casual encounters with Bond cause fucking heart palpitations? Surely he'd managed to overcome these sorts of pathetic reactions as a teenager. Why is this happening to him? Why is this happening with James fucking Bond, as opposed to someone who isn't a cocky, overly-flirtatious bastard?

"This is ridiculous," Q mutters, slipping his tool kit back into his pocket. When he looks back up, Tanner is grinning knowingly at him, and if Q had hackles, they'd be raised. "Do not," he snaps, "not a word, I mean it."

Tanner just holds his hands up in surrender, grinning all the while as Q stalks back to the piano and considers the benefits of being an emotionless cyborg.

Hormones are incredibly unfair.

---

"You look like shit," Bond says lightly when he comes into work one Tuesday. It's been one of those days where things start to go wrong before even getting out of bed: He'd dropped his phone trying to turn the alarm off, knocked his glasses off his bedside table trying to pick them up, gave himself a fucking Charlie horse while stretching, and was then promptly called into work an hour early to help set up not only a new software, but an entire new operating system on all the computers (fumbling his phone again after he'd hung up and nearly cracking the screen).

The new operating system, which he'd told his boss weeks ago would probably be a piece of shit, had in fact turned out to be a piece of shit. Instead of his boss apologising for being a stubborn arse, he decided to keep the new system, and Q spent his afternoon fielding calls from employees who had, unsurprisingly, turned out to be helpless in the face of anything remotely different than what they're used to. Starting an hour early, working through lunch, and essentially doing the work of three people all day didn’t get him so much as a ‘thank you’ from his boss, and he's pretty sure he's never been so agitated in his entire life.

"Hardly," he snaps, blowing past the bar on his way to the piano. "You obviously just can't comprehend what a tremendously fantastic mood I am in," and then he's banging out Rachmaninoff, or something vaguely inspired by him, and under normal circumstances the loud, dissonant chords would make him wince, but he doesn't care because all he can think about is how much he hates his fucking job

"Q," Bond says, coming up behind him, and he reaches around to still Q's fingers on the keys. "Do you want to maybe take a break?" His tone is still light, but when Q turns around, the lines about his eyes are spelling out faint concern.

The irritation fades almost immediately. "I just got here," Q protests helplessly, but lets Bond take him by the arm and lead him over to the bar to sit.

"Tell me about it," Bond instructs, filling a glass with ice and water and sliding it across the bar to Q, who takes it and drags his finger through the developing condensation. When he glances up, Bond is looking at him expectantly, with an air of someone who’s done this sort of thing before. Q can't help but wonder how many life stories he's heard.

There's no one else at the bar yet, and Bond's attention is undivided, but Q isn't really one for blatant complaining to anyone that isn't Eve.

Still, two minutes later he’s slumped over the bar with his head in his hands, losing track of what he's saying. "And I just— This isn't what I wanted to be doing with my life. It's not torture or anything, except— Honestly, it really, really feels like it is sometimes, and my boss is making everyone use this new operating system that is such a piece of shit, I told him it was the moment he suggested using it but he didn't listen to me because he never listens to me because he doesn't like me, which is unfair because I've worked there for over a year and I've never been anything but polite to the bastard, and Bernie had to ask me what his fucking password is again today--"

"Q," Bond says cautiously.

"It's four zeros. It's always been four zeros because that's the default I always set it to when someone forgets their password because it's easy to remember and then people can change it to whatever they want, except Bernie never changes it because he never remembers the default, and I'm going to sneak into his house in the middle of the night and tattoo it on his bloody forehead if he has to ask me one more time--"

"Q," Bond tries again, forceful this time, and Q lifts his head. Bond is watching at him now with what looks like a mixture of worry and slight amusement, and Q feels his cheeks heat. "This may be an outlandish suggestion, but you could always quit, you know."

"Not if I want to be able to pay my rent," Q replies tiredly, reaching up underneath the frames of his glasses to rub at his eyes.

Bond arches an eyebrow at him. "Unless you're an excellent liar and secretly hate working here, you can pick up more shifts. Every night, if you want. There's no one else who plays, and it wouldn't take much convincing to get Mallory on board."

Q stares at him, suddenly feeling a bit like he's been clubbed over the head. For some reason, the way Bond says it is so reasonable.

"I could quit," he says quietly, and he's trying to figure out why the hell that had ever seemed like a bad idea. "I could play here full-time— Oh, Christ, I really could, couldn't I?"

"Quite," Bond says agreeably, laughter in his tone. "Is this really the first time you've considered it?"

"I could kiss you right now," Q tells him seriously, hopping down from the barstool. "I'll play jazz all night. You're a genius."

"Evidently," Bond answers, giving him an odd look, but he doesn’t pay attention because it's like the heaviest weight in the world has been lifted from his shoulders. He can quit, of course he can quit, and it's obviously, stupidly clear now that the only reason he's felt trapped is because he'd put the bars in place himself, staying for the routine of it. He could break out into song right now. There are fucking musical numbers about this kind of relief.

And Bond's looking at him like he's psychotic, probably from the unprecedented way he's smiling like a lunatic, but Q honestly can't find it in himself to care.

---

Walking into his boss's office Wednesday afternoon and tossing his resignation notice directly onto the bastard's desk is possibly the most freeing thing Q's ever done in his life. He very nearly skips out of the building, and when he phones Eve after he gets back to his flat later he's practically giddy.

"You've just quit your shitty job of over a year," Eve says, her faux announcer's voice making him laugh. Christ, he should have done this ages ago. "What are you going to do next?"

"Not go to Disney Land, that's for damn sure," he replies cheerfully. "I thought I'd go tell Bond, actually. I think he'd be happy to hear the news."

There's a long pause at the other end of the line before Eve responds. "Oh, you like him, don't you? You really, properly fancy him," she says, because she's horrible, and she sounds absolutely delighted at the opportunity to tease him.

"Hardly," he scoffs, but judging by her tone of voice, she's just getting started. Fantastic.

"You can't go longer than five minutes during a conversation without bringing him up," she points out. "It's sickening. Do you want to shag him?" A beat's pause. "Have you two shagged?"

"What— No!" He's glad she can't see the way his cheeks have nearly lit fire.

"But you want to," she says triumphantly. "You want to bang—"

"If you even consider finishing that sentence with 'like the fist of an angry god,' I will hang up on you."

She has to be grinning. Sadistically. There is no way she isn't grinning sadistically right now. "I was thinking more along the lines of 'like a screen door in a hurricane,' actually."

Q cuts off her laughter with a savage stab at the 'end call' button and wishes he had someone slightly less horribly cruel to go to about boy troubles.

Then he gives himself a solid smack in the face for referring to the issue—which isn't an issue, alright, it isn’t—as a 'boy trouble' and goes to get his coat.

He drops by Mallory's office on his way to the bar and sets up his new schedule without any difficulty: Monday through Saturday, evening shifts, and Mallory seems content enough to have him on board full time. Bond looks surprised when Q bursts in—he doesn't start full time until next week and isn't scheduled until tomorrow, though he brought a couple of new music books along to store in the piano bench for some reasonable excuse to be there other than 'guess what I did,' which is a bit...pathetic, really.

That doesn't stop him from making a beeline for the corner barstool he generally occupies after he puts away the books, and waits impatiently for Bond to finish taking a woman’s order. It's a bit on the late side, and there are only a handful of people sitting at the bar, a few others at the tables.

"I quit," Q says excitedly, the moment Bond walks over, and Bond raises his eyebrows. "Not— I don't mean here, obviously, I meant at my other job, the one I was telling you about, and you said—"

"I remember," Bond interrupts, chuckling. "Good for you. Does this mean you'll now be coming in every night?" He looks honestly pleased at the notion, and Q absolutely does not grin like an idiot.

"If you can tolerate being around me that often."

Bond just holds up a bottle of gin and smiles like he's got a secret. "You ought to celebrate."

Q opens his mouth to say that, no, he really oughtn't, but he's in a good mood and Bond's in a good mood and he doesn't really want to go home just yet. "Alright."

What's the worst that could happen, anyway?

---

"I don't drink," Q says, "very often." He waves the glass he's holding in some sort of vague gesture, which upsets the liquid inside enough to slosh out a bit onto his fingers.

Bond blinks, just once, as Q sucks whiskey off his thumb. "I can't say I'm surprised to hear that."

It's just that— The thing is, Q can technically be classified as a lightweight, which is especially unfortunate because his stepfather's side of the family is very Irish, so he tends to get a great deal of teasing during family get-togethers. For the most part, he tries to stay away from alcohol, and he doesn't usually have any problems doing that, except.

Except one gin and tonic turns into another and a White Russian and then a margarita that looks like it's probably radioactive for how bright green it is, and he thinks maybe he's staring at Bond's mouth.

In fact, Q is almost positive that he's staring at Bond's mouth, because he has been looking at it for about six full seconds now, and he's fairly certain that can be defined as 'staring'. When he does look back up to Bond's eyes, he's met with a dubious expression as Bond works to fix one of the customers a drink.

"I was just thinking, you look like you give great fellatio," Q explains, because it isn't like he was staring to be weird or anything, only then Bond fumbles the glass he's holding and nearly spills brandy down his front. "No, I meant— That was a compliment," Q hastens to add. "You have a very nice mouth." And Bond does. His lips look soft. It's winter, and Q's lips always get just a bit chapped in the winter, but Bond lips would be very soft against his own.

Rather, they seem like they would be. Hypothetically speaking. Q hasn't had the opportunity to find out and know for sure. Which is unfortunate.

He thinks he might be staring again.

"It might be time to cut you off," Bond says, and when Q glances up, he's looking at Q's half empty margarita glass like he's about to take it. "I didn't realise you had the alcohol tolerance of a kitten."

"Don't be ridiculous," Q says, and adds, with as much deliberation as he can muster, "I'm Irish."

Bond raises an eyebrow.

"By marriage," Q admits, but he snatches his glass away out of reach regardless, because Bond is acting like he's completely drunk, which is absurd. He's capable of getting far more inebriated than this.

"I'm cutting you off after this."

"I can still say my A-B-C's backward."

"I wouldn't be surprised to find that you're also able to recite Hamlet. That isn't the point." If that isn't the point, Q isn't entirely sure what is. Bond is being very firm and no-nonsense, which is annoying because that’s usually a job Q gives to himself.

He can't, for the record, recite any Hamlet.

Bond leans across the bar to take a customer's empty glass, and Q finds himself looking at his mouth again, because there's certainly something important about it, but hell if Q can remember what that is. He finishes off the remainder of the margarita, which, despite looking like hazardous waste, is actually quite good.

"I know you said you'd take the tube home, but it may be better if I call you a cab," Bond says.

"Blowjobs!" Q remembers triumphantly. It comes out a bit louder than he'd intended, if the sudden attention of half the patrons sitting at the bar is anything to go by, but Q's focusing on Bond, who, annoyingly, is staring at him like he’s grown a second head. The man can't seem to take a compliment. Maybe he isn't into that sort of thing? "No? No. Absolutely not, then. No mouths near any genitalia whatsoever," he says decisively.

Unfortunately, Bond doesn't appear to be mollified, though he does look like he's now fighting a smile. "Is this your Q-esque attempt at flirting, or are you genuinely complimenting my apparently fellatio-skilled mouth?"

Q frowns, thinking it over. "Both," he decides, because flirting seems like a good idea. Drunk Q, he's found, is far better at flirting than Sober Q. And Bond is attractive. And he has a nice mouth. And. Oh. "We should shag. Right now."

"We're in a public bar," Bond replies, which— Yes. Good point.

"You should take me back to my flat and we should shag there," Q corrects, and Bond laughs, which doesn't make any sense because Q is trying to be seductive right now and laughing is not the appropriate response.

"I'm still on the clock, and you're sloshed. How about you suggest it again when you're sober?"

Q shakes his head hard enough for his glasses to slide down his nose. "No, no. Nope. Sober me won't do it because Sober me worries about being unprofessional and being rejected. Drunk me has to do it. I like Drunk me, because Drunk me doesn't care about being rejected. Drunk me," he adds, leaning in conspiratorially, "is invincible."

Bond blinks at him. "You think I would reject you?"

"Exactly," Q responds cheerfully, because Bond gets it! That's great. Clear communication is great.

"Why do you think I'd reject you?" Bond asks, and Q points a finger at him.

"Because I’m me and you’re—you’re you and even if you make eyes at me, you make eyes at everyone,” Q sighs. He’s not sure if he’s actually making sense anymore. “And. You're rejecting me right now. You said, 'How about you suggest it again when you're sober.' Which is rejecting. Which is fine." And it is, oddly enough. He's disappointed, certainly, but Drunk Q tends to have an impenetrable layer of confidence around him that makes it difficult to be truly bothered by much of anything.

Bond seems to be keeping up well enough despite the unintelligent jabbering. Being a bartender probably requires fluency in drunken babble. "That isn't rejecting," he protests. "It’s... I think sober you will appreciate me wanting to wait until you're able to make a clear decision."

"I want your cock in me," Q says, which he thinks is a pretty clear decision—one that sounds really, really appealing right now.

Bond stares like he's expecting to find an instruction manual if he looks hard enough. How to Care for Your Pianist. Troubleshooting: When faced with drunk, awkward attempts at flirtation, press Up-Up-Down-Down-Left-Right-Left-Right-B-A-Start. "A clear decision in which your mind is not quite so alcohol-addled," he finally amends, raising an eyebrow.

"I want your cock in me even when I'm not drunk," Q tries. And that's true. Bond is attractive and suave and flirts constantly and Q is only human. Q is also fairly certain he's been doing a good job of staying more or less articulate for the duration of their drinking, so Bond is clearly overreacting. "D'you just— You really don't want to, is that it?" he asks, tipping his head to the side and regarding Bond with what he honestly hopes isn't a sulk but very well may be one.

"I never said I didn't want to—"

"So you do want to!"

"Yes," Bond says in exasperation, like the answer is obvious, like he's wanted to for some time now, and, oh. That's news. He leans across the bar and lowers his voice. "Yes, Christ, of course I do, but right now you're completely—"

"I'm a bloody grown-up and I'm capable of making decisions even when I've been drinking," Q says, straightening up and giving Bond his best 'I am an adult' face. "And my grown-up decision is that I want you to fuck me so hard I feel it for days after.” The injustice is unbelievable. Bond doesn't seem to have a problem flirting with anyone who sits still long enough to listen, and here Q is doing everything but stripping naked and dancing on the bar and they still aren't fucking.

"I think dancing naked on the bar would cost you your job," Bond says dryly, at which point Q comes to the conclusion that he may have, in fact, said that last part aloud. "I'm taking you home so you can sleep this off."

Q frowns and glances around. The place is empty, though he’s fairly sure it hadn't been a few minutes ago.

"People started leaving when you began talking loudly about blow jobs," Bond tells him, gathering up empty glasses and wiping down the bar.

Oops. "Oh. Sorry."

"You'll be properly embarrassed by tomorrow, I'm sure," he says, but he's fighting a laugh. "Put on your coat."

"Don't take me to my place. I won't get any sleep anyway," Q laments. "My neighbour's constantly shagging people and it's loud as hell." That coaxes a surprised laugh from Bond, and he nods emphatically, because a not-at-Q's-expense laugh is a good laugh. "No, really, I hate him. He's either a sex addict or a tart, with all the people he brings home. The inconsiderate arsehole probably has every STD in the book."

Bond raises an eyebrow at him. "I'll bring you to mine, then," he says, and frowns when Q perks up. "Where you'll kip on the couch so Sober Q doesn't try to eviscerate me in the morning."

Q wilts somewhat, aware that he's definitely sulking now and knowing there's fuck-all he can do about it. Bond gives him a sympathetic smile and walks around the bar, keys in hand. "I wouldn't," he protests, "honestly, I want to—" He cuts himself off and wrinkles his nose when Bond reaches over and grabs his chin, holds him still, looks at him so long he starts to squirm.

"Put on your coat, Q," Bond finally instructs, “before I run out of self-control. You’re drunk as a lord." It sounds more like a self-reminder than an observation, and he seems honestly torn between bundling Q into his coat and actively tearing at the rest of his clothing.

Much to Q's frustration, he ends up doing the former; Bond has the bar locked up and a cab hailed before Q can protest much more. Still, his brain highly encourages the idea of kissing down Bond's neck, getting a hand in his trousers, sucking him off in the backseat of the cab. When he attempts to do all three, Bond’s body warm against his hands and lips, he's rewarded with startled groan.

Then Bond's hands are on him, strong and unyielding, and Q has a moment to think, yes, finally, before he's being manhandled to the other end of the seat and strapped in forcefully. "Do you have any idea how difficult you're making this for me?" Bond demands. His tone, low and aroused, rises on the lilt of a strained laugh. "I’ve wanted—for months I’ve wanted to hold you down and take you apart, you stupid thing." He's licking at his lips again and again, like he doesn't realise he's doing it. Q wants to bite them.

Cab seatbelts must be far more secure than he remembers, because he can't seem to get the damn thing unhooked. He gives up with an agitated sound and slouches in his seat. "You have a bizarre way of showing it," he mutters, knowing how petulant he sounds and how foolish he must look and he knows, he knows he's being unreasonable but he can't help it.

It's like there's zero filter between his brain and his words, between his brain and his actions, a train wreck he's actively encouraging.

He manages to stay quiet the remainder of the trip, and when the cab slows to a stop, he glances out the window and raises his eyebrows, bemused. "I thought you said you were taking me to your place." He doesn't even recall telling Bond his address.

"I did. This is my building," Bond says, looking tired, but more composed than he was earlier as he reaches over and lets Q out of the seatbelt. Q blinks down at the latch—surely it wasn't that simple?—before he looks out the window again.

He's drunk, he'll admit that, but he can tell what his own building looks like. "This is definitely my building. I live in flat B." He climbs out of the cab a few moments before Bond does and steps onto the pavement, wobbly, though he stays on his feet. "If you're trying to trick me, you're doing a terrible job of it."

When he looks over his shoulder, Bond is frowning at him. Q feels distinctly like he's missing something important. He looks back at his building.

At Bond again.

Back at the building, and then the pieces click sluggishly, mortifyingly into place. He feels like he’s been doused in ice water for how quickly his drunken blur disappears. "Oh." This is his building. "Oh, shit." It's also Bond's building. Which explains why his neighbour seems to keep strange hours—because he works at night. And why Q never sees him—because Bond gets to work before Q and leaves after him. And he was just talking about his promiscuous arsehole of a neighbour—which explains why Bond is looking at him like that, fucking hell. "Oh, god, you're— I didn't mean— I'm really—"

"Q," Bond says, and for all that he looks insulted, he's got his hands up like he's trying to placate an unpredictable animal. Q steps back towards the cab, more than a little horrified with himself, because if he hadn’t cocked everything up already, he definitely has now. He wants to fix it, but he doesn't know how, has no idea what to even say, and he can't do this, he can't.

So he doesn't.

"I'm sorry, I just," and he gestures in a way that probably doesn't even make sense, but his chest his is tight and he just needs to get away before he throws up or passes out. Before Bond can say anything else, Q's ducking back into the cab, and it's pulling away, and he leaves Bond standing there on the pavement.

---

"I'm going to quit," Q says thickly. His face is pressed into one of the enormous, fluffy pillows on Eve's bed, and he's still in yesterday's clothes. "I'm going to call Mallory and tell him I'm quitting."

When he lifts his head from the pillow, Eve is looking at him askance through her vanity mirror. "And then you'll be unemployed," she points out, and Q lets out a groan, because she's right. For all that it was fucking awful, he should never have quit the IT job.

"There's no way in hell I can go back there."

"I think maybe you're overreacting," Eve replies gently, leaning towards the mirror and swiping eye shadow under an eyebrow.

"I told him— Eve, I told him he had cock-sucking lips and then inadvertently called him an inconsiderate slag who has every STD in the book," Q says. "I got absolutely pissed and I don't even get the benefit of forgetting what I said."

"Maybe if you talk to him—"

"Cock-sucking lips," Q repeats mournfully, and he's speaking into the pillow again. "I'm not going back home."

"You're free to hang about here a while longer if you like," Eve says, fondly amused, "but I won't be here to listen to you sob."

Q pulls a face. "Where're you going?" he demands, lifting his head again and looking at her suspiciously. Eve, who he only now comprehends has been putting on fancy clothes and makeup for the past thirty minutes, walks over to the bed, her heels clicking on the floor.

"Not to add insult to injury, but I've got a date tonight," she says with a smile, and leans down to press a kiss to the top of Q's head.

He scowls. "Traitor."

"Don't quit your job," she says firmly, instead of insulting him back. "Go play tonight and face him like a grown-up. It won't be as bad as you imagine it will. And don't be here when I get back," she adds cheerfully, "because I don't want to be faced with you moping on my bed when I bring my date back here."

She ducks out of the bedroom, laughing, about half a second before the pillow Q throws at her hits the doorframe.

---

Eve was right. Returning to the bar isn't as bad as he'd imagined it would be.

It's far worse.

For one thing, he's been hung over all day and his head has been threatening to explode for the past two hours. He catches sight of Bond chatting with one of the regulars as he walks in and almost immediately wants to turn and run back out.

Bond looks like he didn't sleep at all last night, looks a bit like he's falling apart and Q's stomach does anxious little flip-flops. It's only a minute difference from the way he normally looks—the customers probably don't even notice. Q thinks he wouldn't have noticed either, a few months ago, but he's spent so much time with Bond that he can tell the difference between true and fake happiness by the lines around his eyes, the way he holds himself, the way he takes a breath. Fuck.

Q forces himself to walk straight to the piano, tells himself he doesn't feel Bond's eyes on him, goes through the books he has stored in the piano bench and plays completely mindlessly.

It's not fun. It's not a release, it's not relaxing; the music isn't anything it normally is for him and the only good thing about the piano being at the back of the room is that no one is looking at him, so he doesn't have to bother hiding how miserable he is.

Several times during the night, Bond glances over at him, and each time he drops his gaze to stare fixedly down at his own hands because he's a coward and he's an idiot.

He knows he should just talk to Bond, properly apologise for being an utter prat, for the things he said—for trying to suck him off in the backseat of a cab, for fuck's sake—but he can't. He can't imagine Bond would even want to speak to him, can't trust himself not to somehow make things even worse if they did talk.

"I hate my life.”

"I can tell," a voice says, and Q looks up sharply, relaxing a beat later when he sees it's Tanner, and then tenses all over again because it's Tanner, who’s about on par with Eve in terms of not-boy-troubles.

"Do you need something?" he asks, attempting to look like he's not wishing for the floor to open up and swallow him, but fairly certain he hasn't quite made the mark.

Tanner sets down a glass of water for him and smiles, leaning against the piano. "No, but it looks like you do. You and Bond have a marital dispute?"

"Hilarious." Q scowls down at his hands, makes a transition into a key he knows grates on Tanner's nerves. "Everyone's a comedian lately. Perfect."

Annoyingly, Tanner just laughs. "Alright, I don't need to know what happened. But Bond's been making sad eyes at you all night and cocked up my last order because of you. So I'd appreciate it if you would kiss and make nice before I'm forced to find someplace else to drink."

"I highly doubt he has been making sad eyes," Q says, but he casts a curious look toward the bar in spite of himself. Bond is shaking up a margarita and laughing sort of vapidly at something a customer said, and is in no way making sad eyes of any sort.

"Just talk to him," Tanner tells him, raising an eyebrow. Q wonders if he's been talking to Eve. "The tension is putting everyone off. You two aren't exactly paragons of subtlety, as much as you may think you are."

Q, sputtering, doesn't even get the chance to properly reply before Tanner is wandering back in the direction of the bar. Still, he doesn't touch the glass of water out of spite. "Prat."

The thing to do now is to go to the bar once he's finished his shift and talk to Bond. Just lay the proverbial cards on the table and accept the fact that Bond's likely going to say he'd rather not speak to Q ever again. Get the whole mess over with, and then...get on his knees and beg for his tech support job back. Fuck everything.

Because he's entirely gutless, what he does instead when his shift ends is wait for Bond to duck down under the bar to put a set of glasses away, and then—sprints for the door.

It's not his finest moment.

Eve, evidently, agrees. "I'm not speaking to you until you bloody talk to him," she says when he calls her later. "You're acting like he's going to try to murder you the moment you walk up to him."

That's not the sympathy he'd been looking for. To be expected, really, but he frowns all the same. "He might. You've seen his hands," he says. "They're enormous. Absolutely capable of strangling me. They are strangling hands, Eve."

"They're margarita-making hands. What are you so afraid of?"

"Neck-breaking hands."

"Q."

"I could die."

"Grow up," she says dispassionately, and the line clicks into silence. He scowls at his mobile, feeling a bit betrayed, and sighs.

Frankly, what scares him is that he doesn't know what he'll do if Bond isn't irrevocably angry at him. There's a difference between pining and actually acting on feelings. And while maybe Drunk Q isn't eloquent, he knows how to get the gist of it out far better than Sober, Terrified Q ever could.

---

It's two in the morning, and Q can't sleep.

It's two in the morning, and Q's been lying in bed in his pyjamas staring at the ceiling for over an hour, and it doesn't matter that there isn't any noise—he can't sleep, and it's Bond's fault for becoming this all-consuming distraction in his life.

Except it's not Bond's fault at all, not really, because Q wouldn't be staring at his ceiling unable to sleep if he weren't such an idiot, like he's a teenager again avoiding the boy he fancies, and he could just fucking cry he's so fed up with himself, with this whole stupid situation he's got himself into.

He knows that if he needed to talk—really, properly talk, not just complain—that Eve would answer despite the hour, but he doesn't phone her. He plays Angry Birds for a half hour, laying on his back in bed with his phone held up above him, and gains a deep-seated hatred for tiny green pig creatures.

When a door swings shut on the other side of the wall, Q fumbles his phone in surprise, swears, and nearly drops the damn thing onto his face. Bond's bed squeaks, just once, and then there's silence again.

Q lies still and quiet on his bed for a long minute, the light from his phone casting shadows about the room. The silence persists, and Q sighs, sitting up and then kneeling on the bed, shifting to face the wall.

He knocks on the wall before he loses his nerve.

Seconds drag on, and Q's about to give up and try to sleep again when there's an answering knock, muted but deliberate. Q rests his forehead against the wall with a sigh of relief.

Then he frowns, because he actually hadn't thought about what to do if he got to this point. "Um." He really needs to work on his foresight. Closing his eyes, he clears his throat, speaks a bit louder. "Listen, I know it's late, but can we talk?"

Bond's response takes a moment, and when he does reply, it's muffled and a bit bemused. "Through the wall?"

"Through the— No, of course not." Q's face goes hot. Christ, why didn't he just go knock on his door like a normal human being? "I meant, you know, face-to-face, if that'd be alright with—"

"Why don't you come over," Bond says. The amused warmth in his voice is comforting, for all that it's a bit nerve-wracking, and Q nods before remembering to reply.

"Yes, alright, I'll," and he looks down at himself in his rumpled pyjamas, sighs, "I'll be there in just a minute."

---

Bond is shirtless when the door opens, and Q decides that choosing to stay in his pyjamas wasn't a horribly bad idea, except for the way that Bond's shirtlessness accents his sculpted chest and Q's pyjamas accent his...well, lack of sculpted anything.

And Q had practised half a dozen things to say to Bond, but his brain seems to have short-circuited in the face of Bond's bare chest, because he blurts, "I'm sorry I called you a promiscuous arsehole and tried to blow you in the backseat of the cab."

Bond deserves quite a lot of credit, or else he's just used to this sort of thing by now, because he just sighs and holds the door open and ushers Q inside.

Q, because he's an idiot, continues to talk despite listening to the words coming out of his own mouth with growing horror. He wonders if this sort of thing is going to become habit. "I don't actually care how many people you sleep with. Except—alright, honestly, you do get a bit loud sometimes, but it's not like I've ever confronted you about it, and there's also the part where I'm insanely jealous of those people and sort of want you to myself, which is a stupid thing to say when I’ve been acting like a complete pillock—"

"Well," Bond starts, but Q can't actually get himself to shut the hell up.

"—so I understand if you really don’t want anything to do with me, because I sort of hate myself right now, lately, in general. I should have been a little less drunk off my arse before deciding to, you know." He pauses and laughs helplessly. "Not that being sober is doing me much good right now, obviously, I'm rubbish at this sort of thing, what I'm trying to say is that you're a fucking distraction and I think about you. Uh. A lot. Which— Shit, that sounds creepier than I intended it to." Frustrated, he reaches up and tugs at his hair. "I just mean that I think I'm a little bit in love with you, and thought that you. Uh. Deserved to know." His hands, which had been gesturing wildly, fall limply to his sides.

Bond raises his eyebrows, but the corner of his mouth is twitching. "Are you done?"

Q nods, sheepish, aware that his cheeks have gone rather warm.

"My turn to talk?"

He nods again.

"Did you know I'm actually fully capable of playing 'Heart and Soul' on my own?"

Q blinks. It sounds like such a non sequitur that he can't help but think that his slapdash babbling is catching. "I'm sorry?"

"I don't have your skill," Bond says, "but I did take piano lessons when I was young. I can play 'Heart and Soul' without any assistance."

That's ridiculous. That's impossible, because Bond had been absolutely awful when Q was trying to teach him, he'd been terrible and had needed Q to sit with him, guide his hands, play along with him, so if he's capable of playing the damn song—

"Well, for god's sake," he says lamely, and Bond's laughing now, the bastard.

"And I need to tell you something else."

"Is that right?" Q's trying his hardest to look stern, but then Bond flashes him a brilliant smile and the frown slips.

"You overthink everything too much," Bond informs him, and he can't even open his mouth completely to voice his agreement because Bond is hauling him in by the collar of his pyjama top and kissing him, lips warm and insistent and every bit as soft as he’d imagined. When Bond pulls away a long moment later but all too soon, Q’s brain is making an ambitious attempt at remembering how to do things other than just staring with glazed eyes and making embarrassing little needy sounds. Bond grins at him. "You also talk too bloody much. I've been wanting to shut you up like that for ages. And I've been constantly resisting the urge to kiss the scowls off your face— Yes, like that one."

Q, whose brain finally reboots and who is not scowling, fuck you very much, shoves at Bond in a way that quite deliberately doesn't actually push them apart. "You aren't angry, then?"

"Bit insulted at the insinuation that I have 'every STD in the book'," Bond tells him cheerfully, ignoring the way Q flushes all over again, "because I’m clean, but I’m not angry. I like sex. I have a lot of it. Not particularly ashamed of it."

"It's bloody loud—" Q starts, unable to help himself, but Bond kisses him quiet, which is both irritating and nice.

"Still talking," he says mildly. "And I was trying to make an effort not to be too forward with you. Bringing home bar patrons—it’s a bit different, there isn’t so much,” and he pauses, casting about for the right word to use. “There isn’t much commitment involved. You seemed like you weren’t completely sure how to handle excessive advances. I didn’t want to drive you away or make things awkward for you. Or me, frankly. And so I kept my options open in terms of sex because, again, I tend to have a lot of it. I would have made it a point to keep it down if I'd known it was a problem." He gives Q a pointed look.

"Yes, well— I don't really—"

"Like direct conflict," Bond supplies, smirking. "I've figured that much out, oddly enough."

"As someone who's spent the past month and a half pretending to be rubbish at piano to spend more time with me, it's a bit hypocritical of you to judge, don't you think?" Q asks, embarrassed and trying to be annoyed.

"You enjoyed teaching me," Bond replies simply, as though that excuses it, and Q frowns at him.

"You're making it very difficult to be displeased with you."

"I'm sure I can make it even harder," Bond says, and, oh, it's a shitty line and a shitty innuendo rolled into one. Huzzah.

"You're a prick, do you know that?" Bond opens his mouth immediately to respond, and Q presses a hand over his mouth. "No. No double entendres, no insinuations, no locker-room humour, no— No licking me," he half-shrieks, pulling his hand away. "That's disgusting and you're about nine years old right now."

"I'm at least ten years older than you, you brat," Bond protests, but he's laughing, bright-eyed and mischievous as he crowds Q against the wall, leans down to murmur in his ear, "and I bet I can change your mind about this suddenly-imposed No Licking rule."

And he does.

---

"You've broken it on purpose this time. I don't know what the hell you did, but there's no way it wasn't deliberate."

"What makes you say that?"

"It's the third time something's gone wrong with the cash register this week."

"And?"

"It's Tuesday."

Bond gives Q Innocent Expression #3, which would make a lesser man give in on the spot. Q just exhales loudly through his nose and elbows past him to take a look at the touch screen of the register, which is displaying a Blue Screen Error. He's not entirely sure how Bond managed to get it to do that, seeing as though the register doesn't run on Windows. It's taking a lot of effort not to do something childish and stupid like pitch a fit and start kicking things.

Two and a half months of regular shagging and sporadic, ‘proper’ dates on Bond's insistence ("Sometimes the old-fashioned way of going about things isn't half bad. Maybe I like the idea of wining and dining you—and despite how lovely it was, the time you got shit-faced and told me how much you admired my cock-sucking lips doesn't quite count") has done nothing but made Bond that much more troublesome. Q is tempted to design and build an entirely new register that can withstand even Bond's attempts at destruction, but he has a new security system to finish programming by the end of the week. A friend of Tanner's had contacted him a few weeks ago on Tanner’s recommendation, and since then he's had a steady flow of programming and engineering commissions.

It's fun, interesting, rewarding work he can do in the afternoons before his shifts at the bar, and the pay has been good enough that he was able to surprise Bond with a new, non-squeaky bed the other day. ("If you don't let me get rid of this bed, I will single-handedly get every electronic thing you encounter to turn against you.")

The cash register beeps angrily. Q can empathise. "This isn't going to be a two-minute fix," he says irritably, glancing back over his shoulder. At least Bond waited until the last customer walked out to sabotage the damn thing—though this new development has utterly ruined Q's plans to get back to the flat and try to sleep early. Between the new work he's been doing and Bond's frankly insatiable sexual appetite—not that he's complaining, alright, it's just a fact—he hasn't caught more than a few hours of sleep at a time since last Wednesday.

Bond smiles and raises his eyebrows. "I suppose that means you'll just have to stay here and keep me company while I finish closing," he says, casual, and Q rolls his eyes.

"You're not fucking me bent over the piano again," he says shortly. Bond opens his mouth and Q cuts him off, because no. "Or the bar. Or any of the tables. Or—or anywhere in here, because this is the place where we work, I told you the piano thing was a bloody one-time deal, you nymphomaniac." 

"A one-time deal that you loved." Bond closes the distance between them and wraps his arms around Q's middle from behind, noses at the crook of his neck.

"Irrelevant."

"Very relevant, I think." Bond is smiling into his neck, Q can feel it, and he squirms out of his grip, unimpressed.

"I don't know why Mallory deigns to keep you around, with you actively destroying the equipment he pays for," he says, ducking down to reboot the register system and frowning a moment later. "Stop staring at my arse," he adds without turning around, because Bond is predictable on a few matters.

"Stop showing it off, then." Still, Bond picks up a rag and starts wiping down the bar. "Mallory knows you'll fix what I break. And he’s unlikely to find a better bartender."

Q can't really argue with that—for all that he's destructive and provoking, there's a method to Bond's madness. The bar has started to get even more business in the past few weeks, and Bond knows how to deal with a crowd of tipsy people.

It's quiet for a while, Q working on getting the register to cooperate and Bond picking up empty glasses, until Q speaks up. "Eve wants to have us over for dinner on Sunday." When he looks over, Bond is pulling a face, and he raises an eyebrow. "Is that a problem?"

"Last time she was here, she threatened to castrate me if I 'screwed you over'."

Q smiles to himself. "She enjoys giving ultimatums."

"She didn't seem like she was joking."

"My last boyfriend mysteriously went missing after breaking up with me. You should continue to spoil me if you want to protect your balls."

"Ha, ha." Bond tosses the rag he was using onto the bar and comes up again to rub the back the back of Q's neck with his fingers. "As long as I'm not in any real danger of losing my precious bits, you can tell her we'd be happy to come over on Sunday."

Q grins and turns around to kiss him. "Of course. I'm too fond of your precious bits to allow anything to happen to them." He pauses, then adds generously, "and the rest of you, too, of course."

"Oh, good. I was afraid you were only in this for my cock."

"Not at all. Your brain is so sexy," Q deadpans. "Analyse me. Analyse me hard."

Bond bursts into laughter, the genuine, unrestrained laugh customers don't ever hear because he's focused on being charming. Q prefers this one, a touch too loud and showing off the lines around Bond's eyes. "Can I 'analyse' you over the piano?"

Q pretends to think it over. He’s given up on a lot of things lately, like expecting to find a shirt he's looking for in his own wardrobe instead of somewhere in Bond's flat, and hoping Bond will stop calling him 'Piano Man' when he wants to be particularly exasperating, and keeping track of the number of health code violations they've committed in this building.

"I'll give you three minutes to convince me it's a good idea," he allows.

Bond manages it in thirty seconds.

Q sort of loves his life.