The next morning, Q's alarm buzzes at 3 dark thirty.

"Bloody hell," he murmurs, turning off the alarm while rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He's never been a morning person, a consequence which he blames on all those late nights spent typing away at his laptop.

He blindly reaches for his glasses on the nightstand—he is hopeless without them—and places them on his nose, too tired to care if they are slightly askew. He pushes the hair back from his forehead next and opens his laptop—his first duty of every morning—when it suddenly hits him that today is the start of his training.

He's never wanted to sink back into the covers so badly.

He checks his email (nothing that can't wait until later), runs a few lines of code, briefly checks the video feed from the hidden camera he has set up outside his flat (despite the drastic increase in his paycheck, he still lives in a sketchy area), all before finally deciding to climb out of bed and into the shower. He strips in front of the mirror in the bathroom, waiting for the water to warm, and can't help but study his appearance when he's naked. He isn't surprised Bond reacted the way he did yesterday; he knows what he is, how he looks, and what he's capable of. His abdomen is flat and hard—though devoid of any real definition—and his hips bony and protruding. He's hardly the epitome a well-fit twenty-something. Not that that's ever really bothered him. Until now.

He abandons his appearance in the mirror and steps in the shower, letting the hot water wash away his doubts. He decides he sort of wants to prove Bond wrong. He wants to show him he's more than just some skinny little kid who sits behind a desk all day, keys flying across the keyboard. That's never really impressed anybody, he figures. He remembers his foster mother wanted him to be an athlete. "You should join sports, dear," she'd try and encourage, mostly because she wanted to get him out of his room, and also because she wanted to get him away from the artificial glow of any electronic devices.

Maybe it's not too late?

So in the shower he does a few minimal stretches. Tugs his arms behind his back, touches his ankles (it's as far as he can dip without bending his knees), and stands on his tiptoes till his calves ache, trying to flex little known muscles he hasn't really used in a while. By the time he turns off the hot stream of water, he feels almost relaxed.

That is until he rereads Bond's "menu" and realizes his meal for breakfast alone is more than he eats in two days.

"I don't even have half of these things," he mutters to himself, pulling open his fridge to find a half-used carton of eggs and a little bit of milk, cheese, and bagels.

He sighs and pulls them out.

At 4:57, he is at MI6 headquarters, where it is dark, empty, and quiet; not surprising, considering the ungodly hour of the morning. When he goes to his desk, he finds a note there from who he assumes is Bond.

Gym, is all it reads, as if he couldn't have been bothered to write more. Additionally, Q notices the coffee mug on his desk is slightly askew, as well as a file of papers he had neatly arranged in a manila folder.

James Bond, did you really think you could rummage through my things without leaving any trace of your perusal?

He decides not to question it and instead makes his way towards the gym. It's on one of the lower flowers, he soon discovers, and when he pushes open one of the two, heavy metal doors to enter, his eyes sweep the room to find Bond nowhere in sight.

Bloody hell, does he expect me to do this alone?

The room is all floor-to-ceiling glass mirrors and smooth, polished back floors. It's sterile and cold, almost like a hospital, he thinks, except darker, something strangely intimate and almost sensual about the dim lighting, polished wood, all-black equipment, and the over-sized mirrors. The ceiling is high and spacious; there are no windows, and it is so silent he can hear his heart thrumming in his chest like the beat of tribal drums.

He knows immediately he doesn't belong. There are rows upon rows of treadmills, stationary bicycles, heavy weightlifting centers, and very, very scary looking machines and contraptions he can't even begin to guess what part of the body they're used for. He tilts his head a bit and squints behind his glasses when he's pretty sure he's just spotted a medieval torture device—and that's when Bond strides in from a door in the back corner, opposite of where Q entered. He's wearing gray sweats and his t-shirt is soaked with sweat, forming a dark 'T' down the front of his chest.

He's already started?

"How long have you been here?" Q asks, suddenly feeling self-conscious of his pale legs and thin, undefined arms.

"Who said I left?"

Q raises his brows but otherwise lets him walk past without any further questions. Why 007 would want to spend the entire night in this hellhole is beyond him.

"Did you have breakfast?"

"I did."

Q is succinct.

He doesn't really feel like talking today. He feels like the less talking, the better. And the sooner they can get this over with.

"Alright." Bond gestures with his head for Q to follow him, and then stops once they are standing behind one of the many treadmills lined in a neat row. This is where Bond gives him a onceover that makes Q purse his mouth and meet his stare head-on. Bond seems to reconsider something. "Right. We're going to start with something simple. It'll get your blood pumping and your muscles loose. After thirty minutes you'll stretch." Then he pats the machine as if it were a horse and says (with a very sardonic smile), "Hop on."

Q clears his throat and gingerly steps onto the machine, as if it is a horse and it's going to gallop away from him if he isn't careful. Bond adjusts the settings so that it's set at 5.0 (a comfortable jogging speed) and Q gets to work.

Well, this isn't so terrible, he thinks.

He watches in the mirror as Bond steps onto the treadmill next to him and sets a slightly faster pace. Then they're both jogging.

Q is not ashamed for noticing the way Bond's muscles flex so easily when he runs. There is the rhythmic swing of his arms at his sides, his biceps flexing at every swing, all accompanied by his calm, measured breathing. This is a piece of cake for him.

It just reminds Q that 007 is everything he is not.

Bond looks up to catch Q staring at him in the mirror, so Q quickly averts his gaze and focuses on the stats that are flashing on the screen in front of him. He's burned seven calories so far. He decides to focus on that and watches the numbers climb as he jogs. Maybe he'll burn enough calories that his body will wither away into nothing and he'll turn to dust right there….

For a while it's silent, save for the sound of the machines and the steady slap of sneakers against the rubber strip.

At fifteen minutes in, Q is breathing pretty hard now, and his lungs are starting to ache and his abdomen feels tight and there are sweat stains on his shirt. He groans a bit in his throat, desperate to keep up the pace. Fifteen minutes left. You're halfway there.

He's going to try to focus on something else, let his thoughts drift to lines of computer codes and failsafe security systems and possibly the way he's going to feel when he sinks into bed later that night and not move for an entire month.

He was going to think about those things, until Bond interrupts his thought process completely.

"Hanging in there?"

This time when Q looks up at the mirror, it's to find Bond staring at him. He turns his head sideways and 007 does the same.

"If that's what you want to call it," he says, wishing he didn't sound so breathless.

"You're doing good," Bond tells him.

Q doesn't reply.

After thirty minutes is up, (the slowest half hour of Q's life—he swears someone tampered with the clock to make it tick a fraction slower), he presses the emergency stop button as the rubber mat slows beneath him. Never has he been so relieved. When it comes to a complete stop, he puts his hands on his knees and tries to find his breath.

But before he can, there is a heavy hand on his shoulder from behind, urging him to stand back up.

"Don't lean over like that. The air won't circulate."

Q does as he's told, too exhausted to disagree. His hair is sweaty and damp and sticks to his forehead in all sorts of ridiculous directions, and he pushes it aside with the back of his hand. Bond hands him a plastic water bottle.


He does. Finishes the whole thing in one gulp, and Bond pauses mid sip to watch Q tilt his head back and chug the entire thing.

007 chuckles as he caps his water bottle. "You're going to regret doing that."

Q wipes his mouth on his wrist when he's done. "Probably."

He's still breathless when Bond gestures for him to join him by some intimidating-looking weights. He guides him through a few basic stretches to loosen his muscles, and Q has to admit they do feel sort of good. Bond knows what he's doing, done this a million times before, and Q knows he's in good hands, even if the man is egotistical and infuriating and probably couldn't tell the different between an ATA cable and an IDE cable. Honestly, 007's lack of computer knowledge sort of appalls him, as does the fact that it's seemingly impossible for Bond to bring back any of Q's very expensive gadgets all in one piece.

Still… he has to give Bond some credit. He sort of expected the agent to just stand there as he instructed Q what to do; he hadn't expected Bond to do everything with him.

Q lifts his head and pauses mid pushup to watch Bond lower and raise his arms in quick succession across from him. It makes Q want to work that much harder.

At noon, Bond instructs Q to get some lunch and return in an hour. Q, grateful for a break, finds himself slumped at the table in the room above the training center—in the dark—as he attempts to ignore the screaming ache of his muscles. He doesn't feel like eating. He doesn't feel like doing anything for the next six months, actually.

He knows, however, that he should get something in his system otherwise he won't have any energy, so he forces down a power bar that leaves a weird, bitter taste in his mouth of artificial chocolate and sour peanut butter.

When his time's up, he returns to the gym and waits for fifteen minutes for Bond to show up, sitting on the treadmill patiently, and wondering what the agent could possibly be doing. He taps his fingers against his thigh, waiting, waiting, waiting, before deciding to get up and look for Bond.

There's a door in the far corner of the room, so he decides to start there. When he opens it, he finds a sterile room with counters and cabinets and an examination table with the seat covered in crinkly, white paper. The room is empty.

He tries the adjoining door next, which leads into a corridor that branches off into a his and hers locker room of sorts. He branches into the left one, upon where there are rows of stainless steel sinks, showers, and a long bench in the center separating the two.

He finds Bond seated there on the bench, facing away from the sink so he doesn't have to see himself in the mirror. He holds the neck of a bottle of whiskey in one hand.

Q's sneakers squeak against the black tiles, alerting Bond of his presence. Bond only half turns to acknowledge him.

"Having a drink?" Q asks.

It's a moment before Bond speaks.

"What was he bloody thinking," the agent mutters, looking down, "passing on my assignments so I can train you?"

Q considers his rhetorical question. "Perhaps they thought you needed to recover. After Skyfall and… M."

Bond turns his head sharply to look at him. He looks angry. "Well I'm fine. You heard it from me first. I'm fine."

Q presses his lips together, silent. It doesn't matter how many times Bond repeats the phrase, Q knows he is not 'fine,' and his tone indicates as much.

And then, suddenly, an almost foreign feeling of sorrow creeps over Q, and he realizes he feels sorry for Bond. He knows all about the agent's close relationship with M—when you have the key to England's biggest military secrets, there are certain files and certain people you are wont to research—and consequently he feels as if he knows Bond better than he knows himself. He's read all the files, seen the pictures, studied all of his psychological analyses.

And he has gathered this much:

Bond is an orphan. A seducer. And a killer.

But most of all he is lonely—and probably in desperate need of some kind of parental figure. Maybe someone he could come "home" to on the holidays. Someone he could care for and love in a way that isn't needy or sexual. Or maybe just someone he could simply call "mum" from time to time.

For Bond, M was that woman—and now she is gone.

Q is so lost in his thoughts that he doesn't notice when Bond gets up from the bench. As he walks past, he presses a towel into Q's chest.

"You really need a shower," he mutters.

And then he is gone.

Author's Notes: Hello again! First off, wow, thank you guys so much for all the kind words—and especially for following my story—41 of you!? Thank you! I would love to hear from you guys though—please leave some feedback if you feel so inclined. I don't bite, I promise!