Chapter Eight – Epilogue

Bond entered the flat silently, hoping the occupant was sleeping. Not because he should be resting, but because Bond wanted the pleasure of waking him. He hadn't decided if it was going to be a pleasurable experience for the sleeper, considering the stunt he had pulled. Sure, he had saved the day, but it could have gone very differently, and then it wouldn't have been just Bond in a very small, very secret cell for life.

Unfortunately, what he found in the drawing room was not a sleeping Q, but a grumpy one. Through a hole in the wall to the kitchen, a big round woman with red cheeks, big black curly hair, and a salmon coloured dress was puttering about. When she called out, she had a tiny trace of an Eastern European accent.

'Do you want strawberry or apricot?'

'Neither, Mother, I am not hungry, for the tenth time.' The woman failed to answer, disappearing as she stuck her head into the fridge. It was only then that Q noticed him. The patient blinked several times. He was wearing blue striped pyjamas of all things, a big brown jumper and a duvet over his feet. His hair was even more wild than usual. It couldn't compare to the room, however.

Q's flat looked like it belonged to an English professor – and had suffered a small explosion - as if all Q's organisational skills went into the digital world. Bookshelves lined every available wall. A big red sofa, low coffee table and fireplace were the only other pieces in the room. Books and papers were everywhere, and Q's personal laptop sat on the table, the only evidence of Q's technological dependence.

Bond imagined one of the doors led to a room utterly devoid of anything except computers. Clearly, Q liked to compartmentalise.

'What are you doing here?' Q asked. His mother heard his voice and hurried out of the kitchen. She looked Bond up and down with piercing eyes, then smiled.

'Hello,' she greeted. Bond nodded to her, glancing at Q, who managed to muster up some manners.

'Mother, this is B- James. A colleague.'

'A colleague?' she repeated as she held out her hand, palm down. Bond took it gently, giving it a phantom kiss as she giggling slightly. 'You don't look the type to sit at a desk all day twiddling with knobs.'

'No, I'm afraid I don't have the skill,' Bond smirked.

'A people person, I can tell,' she winked, actually winked at him. Q was looking redder by the second. She glided over to him, bending over his shoulder from behind the sofa and gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek, causing Q to flinch.

'I'll leave you with your friend, Chickpea. I need to get some ingredients.' She picked up a large handbag from beside the sofa and went to leave, placing a hand on Bond's arm as she passed him.

'You'll take care of him while I'm gone, won't you.'

'Of course,' Bond reassured her, trying not to smirk so much. 'Mrs...'

'Oh! It's been MISS for many years again now!' she giggled, blowing a kiss to her son before hurrying out. Bond watched her leave so he wouldn't look at Q and start laughing. Eventually, he had to turn back and face him. He looked like a grumpy old cat in a home-made jumper.

There was a long moment of silence, which Bond broke.

'Chickpea?' he asked.

'Forget you ever heard that,' Q muttered. 'What are you doing here? I thought you'd be at Headquarters until they sorted it all out.'

'They have sorted it,' Bond explained. He debated whether to try and sit, but next to Q the sofa was smallish and filled with more books and papers. He settled for standing across from Q and leaning against the fireplace.

'Did you at least bring me something?'

'Sorry, forgot. How are you?'

'I'm fine,' Q grumbled. 'I'm having the stitches out tomorrow, but Mum acts like I've got the flu.'

'Mothers will do that, or so I've heard.'

'Well, you've got to love them, I suppose,' Q mused. He was getting in a better mood now, and smiled up at Bond. 'So, it's all sorted?'

'The inquiry is done. I'm cleared for duty again,' Bond summed up. 'Charles is soon to be a citizen of Australia, though why he picked it is a mystery. They've yet to find a replacement M, however.'

'Not many candidates?'

'M was the only one when the old M died,' Bond shrugged one shoulder. 'No one's come up since then. Pearce suggested me of all people,' he snorted. 'Seeing as I'm the senior double O.'

'God, can you imagine!' Q scoffed. 'You behind a desk. You'd commit suicide before the first week was out.' Bond smiled thinly in agreement. He stepped round the coffee table and sat down on it, his knees on the outside of Q's, so they were very close.

'I would go mental,' he nodded with a sigh. 'I'd have to find some other means of venting my... energy.' Q narrowed his eyes, leaning forward, but not close enough to touch.

'Don't joke, James,' he warned. Bond leaned forward, their faces an inch apart, lips close enough to feel the heat of each other. Shame about the stitches, Bond thought. He'd have to be patient a little while longer. He tilted his head, just for a taste-

'Stop,' Q pulled back. He searched Bond's eyes for something.

'Hey,' Bond frowned. 'I'm sorry. I won't joke.'

'You'd be my boss if you did something that stupid,' Q reminded him.

'Yes, there is that. We'd have to sigh contracts. If anything in our relationship interfered with our performance we could be immediately terminated. There'd be no more flirting at work, which would mean we'd have to schedule more time after work to get it all done.'

'Did you get hit on the head while I was out?'

Bond reached out and grabbed a fistful of that stupid jumper, pulling Q into a kiss. He groaned without restraint, and Q took hold of his head, angling the kiss for deeper penetration. The invalid had to be on the edge of the sofa now. He was moving, then he was in Bond's lap, legs wrapped tight around him.

'Your stitches,' Bond whispered, taking care not to squeeze too hard.

'Dammit,' Q grunted. He fixed Bond with a look. 'You better come back tomorrow.'

'How about Sunday?' His hands were cupping Q's arse. He squeezed.

'Bring something.'

'What?'

'You figure it out.' Q untangled himself gingerly and sat down on the sofa again, covering himself and his situation with the duvet. Bond got up and went into the kitchen, finding the half-finished toast with jam. He made it and brought it out to Q.

'If you call me Chickpea you're a dead man,' Q said through a mouthful. Bond smiled as he left the flat.

XXX

The meeting with Harry Pearce and the Home and Foreign Secretaries had gone on for longer than even Bond had anticipated. They were actually serious about the offer. Mental, the lot of them, Bond grumbled as he left Headquarters. Ignoring the fact that he wasn't exactly a respected figure within the service, he had absolutely no skills at bureaucracy or politics – at least not the boring kind. The Foreign Secretary seemed absolutely tickled at the idea of a non-politician in the role, either because he thought it meant there'd be a breath of fresh air in the department, or that he could more easily control Bond. The latter was far more likely.

Bond drove his standard issue BMW through London. He still hadn't had the heart to attempt to replace the Aston.

Q's flat was central enough, though the building needed renovation. He got out and felt a twinge in his back. He hadn't been training while the inquiry was going on, and he felt the loss. Maybe he should just cut his losses and take the damn job. He could do it until he went insane with boredom at least. Then go out the old fashioned way, with his own Walther. He knew that sounded far too morose for him, and berated himself for being silly.

He rang the doorbell this time and was buzzed in. The door to the flat was open by the time he reached it. Q was on the sofa, watching something on his laptop. He looked much better now, fully clothed in his usual attire with his hair at least patted down.

He looked ridiculously edible, Bond decided. He wasn't wearing a tie, and the open buttons revealed a line of flesh Bond knew he would suck on in a moment.

'You're late,' Q stated, looking him up and down. Bond spared a thought to his attire, a light grey suit, as he preferred, with a simple light blue tie and white shirt. No vest this time, as it would only be a hindrance. He walked over to the fireplace, sticking one hand in his pocket. 'What did you bring? Not chocolates I hope.'

'Far better,' Bond pulled out the USB stick and threw it. Q caught it and inspected it, eyeing Bond shrewdly. 'Everything from the inquiry. I thought you'd want to know.'

He could tell how pleased Q was by the way he pursed his lips slightly and half-shrugged, placing the stick on the laptop as he closed it.

'Acceptable,' he said.

'Next time I'll bring flowers instead,' Bond teased. 'How are you?' He had to ask, so as to know with what force to handle him.

'Perfectly fine,' Q assured him. 'I went to the gym this morning. Nothing too strenuous.' Bond had a hard time imagining the lithe figure at the gym. Something must have shown on his face, for Q narrowed his eyes. Bond smirked and turned around, going to the first door on the left of the fireplace. Inside he lucked out and found a small bedroom with a very comfortable bed, one empty bedside table and a giant poster of a man above the bed Bond wasn't certain he recognised. It was a reprint of an old black-and-white photograph. He looked like one of Q's forebears, in the intellectual sense.

Bond pulled the duvet off, leaving it on the floor, then unbuttoned his jacket and flung it on top.

'How did the meeting go today?' Q asked from behind. Bond turned. Q had removed his cardigan, the skin Bond had claimed even more visible. Bond tugged at his tie as he pulled Q in and went straight for that neck. Q tilted his head to allow access.

Q's hands came to help with the tie, so Bond slid his arms around Q, careful not to press too hard. Q sighed as Bond worked his way up to get a proper kiss.

By the time they broke apart Bond's tie was gone and his shirt was all the way open. He shrugged it off and then pulled off his undershirt, feeling Q's hands roam before it was all the way over his head. He let it slip from his hands, just watching Q for a moment as he explored Bond's chest. It wasn't a very nice chest, when you got right down to it. It had scars and dents from countless jobs. Q's fine hands glided over it with reverence.

'How did it go?' he asked again, though Bond had to shake his mind to remember the question.

'Fine,' he said. He unbuttoned Q's shirt.

'What did they say about M?'

'Nothing new, nothing interesting,' Bond murmured as he pulled it off, perhaps a little roughly. He took Q in his arms, forcing his head up for a kiss. He lifted the smaller man and turned, lowering Q to the bed. He sucked on Q's mouth, getting into every corner, then he got up so he could pull off Q's trousers and pants in one go, getting the socks on the way down.

'They didn't offer it to you officially?' Q asked as he was stripped. Bond studied the naked body as he undid his belt, pushing it all off as fast as he could. He got on the bed, getting between Q's legs as he lowered himself, catching Q's mouth again as he slid their bodies together. Q moaned low, his legs cradling Bond. His skin was so soft, Bond would never tire of him. A thought occurred to him and he looked down to find the scar. It was still fresh, and would remain with Q for the rest of his life. It marred an otherwise perfect canvas.

'I don't mind it,' Q said, causing Bond to turn back. 'Looks more like an appendectomy scar than anything.' It did, sort of. Q fiddled with one of Bond's scars, one just beneath his collarbone on his left. An old knife wound – he barely remembered where he got it. Maybe they should turn off the lights before Q wanted to study every scar – that would take all night.

'Did they offer it?' Q repeated. Bond shook his head to clear it, too caught up in their physical situation. He leaned down and kissed along Q's jaw to his ear, sucking on the lobe. Q sighed, holding Bond tight to him, scraping his nails along his back, lifting goosebumps. Bond slid against him again. 'I am familiar with your techniques, Bond,' Q groaned.

'I'll have to be unpredictable then,' Bond whispered. He slid one hand between them and pressed two fingers into Q's perineum, massaging him. Q arched his neck as pleasure washed over him.

'Stop,' Q gasped. Bond stilled. Q took a moment to compose himself then fixed Bond with a look. 'Just tell me.'

'Yes, they did,' Bond said. 'No, I haven't given them an answer.'

'But you're considering.' Bond sighed, closing his eyes briefly. When he opened them Q was waiting. He didn't look like he wanted Bond to decide one way or another. He simply wished to know either way. So, Bond decided.

'Yes, I'm taking it,' he said. Q's expression did not fill with joy or horror. He simply nodded, touched Bond's face and urged him down for a kiss.

'Now,' he said after. 'You can keep going.'