Chapter One: Bad hair day

Q is tinkering with his laptop when a pair of familiar shoes suddenly appears in his line of sight. Bond is forever doing that. Popping up at the least convenient moment and badgering him with questions. It is becoming quite the irritating habit. It is puzzling too, since the agent obviously has no actual interest in the important work being done in the lab. Resigned, Q waits for Bond to announce his presence.

'Your hair is looking particularly fetching today,' Bond booms. His is a commanding voice. It carries. Someone in their vicinity – Tanner, by the sound of it - sniggers, but Q refuses to dignify the remark with any sort of emotion except bland indifference.

'My hair looks the same as it always does. What do you want?'

It just so happens that today his hair is a tad more unruly than usual, which has got him bend a smidgen out of shape, but he'll be damned if he'll sit there quietly while Bond makes glib comments about it. Q recognises sarcasm when he hears it, thank you very much.

'Alright, your hair looks funny. As it always does.'

People seem to enjoy pointing the state of Q's hair out to him. As if he doesn't have a mirror at home. As if he doesn't try to keep it under control. It is simply unmanageable. The sooner everyone accepts that, the better.

'My hair is not amusing. Monty Python's Flying Circus is amusing. Your attempts at flirting are amusing. My hair, on the other hand, is not,' Q asserts.

'I think we can both agree that amusing is perhaps not the right word to describe my seduction technique.'

Q can practically feel Bond's delight. The man is a bloody nuisance with a smirk and Q is not going to indulge him. In fact, he is determined to pay the agent absolutely no mind. This conversation is over. He is busy.

'Personally, I find your seduction technique laughable. It amounts to little more than being arrogant enough to believe that anyone you look at is willing to sleep with you,' Q counters. His hands fly over the keyboard while he silently curses himself. He keeps a wonderful, icy silence reserved for these vexing occasions but employing it seems more difficult than anticipated. Bond possesses a talent for getting on his nerves.

'It works.'

Snorting rudely, Q continues to type. Furiously. Looking up is out of the question.

'That speaks volumes about the type of people you consort with,' he retorts, sharper than intended. The secret agent leans closer. What in heaven's name is Bond doing?

'You're sounding a bit snippy there, Q. Does my flirting truly upset you that much?' Bond inquires, innocently. Most likely he's also batting those eyelashes of his. The spy knows how to utilize his assets.

'What I'm experiencing is a feeling of intense annoyance, Bond. And as per usual, your mere presence has provoked it.'

To indicate that the conversation is definitely over now, Q allows his fingers to hit the keys with more force than is strictly necessary. Bond, maddeningly, chooses not to take the hint.

'I want to remind you that this argument started with a compliment.'

'A backhanded, petty, sarcastic, hurtful, boorish, unpleasant…' Q grumbles, running out of adjectives before being able to finish his thought.

'On the contrary. Heartfelt,' Bond protests. Q can't figure out whether this is another callous joke at his expense. As a rule, Bond is not prone to cruelty. He is certainly not above mild mockery, however. So, which is it? When Q can't solve the conundrum, frustration causes him to lash out.

'Oh, do shut up, James,' he snaps. First name. Now I've done it, Q thinks. Failure to adhere to standard forms of formality and politeness in a single sentence is inexcusable.

'Sir, you're making a scene,' a timid female voice informs them. It's the new intern, Erin. She is beautiful. Slender and symmetrical. Q expects Bond to be charming, but when the quartermaster finally tears his gaze away from the computer code, Bond is not being charming. The agent is not even looking at the woman.

Bond is brute force poured into a neat package. A weapon. A weapon, however, that tends to colour outside the lines, simply for pleasure. A weapon that is sometimes so bloody sloppy that Q can hardly believe it. Always needlessly losing or destroying valuable equipment. Always getting tangled emotionally when tangling isn't supposed to occur. A highly vulnerable weapon, thus, which should reasonably make him less effective. But, frustratingly often, these quaint emotional attachments don't impair Bond's performance. No, they improve it. It is unprecedented and most peculiar.

Q might not overly like the spy, but he can't help admire him.

His eyes are rather nice too.

'You seem tense,' Bond says. Q sighs and refocuses his attention on a problem he can actually solve. Not people. Never people. Least of all Bond.

'Must be the sex you're not having,' Bond adds.

Staring rigidly at the all-important screen, Q hunches as his shoulders stiffen. He is aware of doing it, but is nonetheless powerless to put a stop to his body's movement.

'You presume too much, 007.'

It is the best Q can come up with at such short notice. Undoubtedly, he will have a full arsenal of comebacks at his disposal this time tomorrow. Something something twilight years. Something something little blue pills. He tries not to let it bother him that his mind is so sluggish when it comes to Bond's taunts. Q's most excellent material typically comes to him while he's brushing his teeth the next morning. It's useless at that point, of course, yet still gratifying.

'Am I wrong?'

Q doesn't react. No, no, there's no need for that. I will not engage, he warns himself. This has already gotten dreadfully out of hand. How could Bond possibly know what a lack of intimacy over a long period of time does to a man?

'It does wonders for one's mood. Sex.'

There's a suggestion so blatant in those words that Q feels he has no choice but to address the matter. Unblinking, he meets James' eyes. They contain a challenge that does not go undetected. Around them, white coats bustle and computers beep. Certain phrases flit through Q's mind. Inappropriate behaviour. Unprofessional conduct. They should give him pause, but don't. Oh dear. Challenge accepted.

'Would you care to test that theory?'