Title: Office Holiday Parties
Fandom: James Bond / Skyfall
Word Count: ~2k
Warnings: Humor, holiday parties, office politics, gadgets, some below the belt molestation
Summary: Wherein Q misuses agency security systems and 007 comes bearing gifts.
It's December 14th and Q's only concession to the season is the overwrought Thomas Kincaid scene on his mug. It's a particularly hideous one, too— a cabin done in all soft pastel colors, cotton-candy smoke puffing out of the chimney, a trio of deer gazing out at the world with vapid incuriousness. In his defense, it was the last clean mug in Q department's perfunctory employee kitchen and as much as Q hates kitsch he'd dislike being without tea more.
Upstairs, M16 is hosting its annual generic winter holiday party and Q has two of his six monitors looped into the video feed, chin on his hand as he watches the public faces of the agency make nice with ambassadors, minor celebrities, British officials from other branches of bureaucracy and most importantly, their donors in parliament. The Pearl Cornioley ballroom is art deco of the worst kind, all oak and black marble and brass fixtures, dim and smoky like a Parisian cabaret. Eve is ravishing in something sheer and searing red, circulating with a plastic-perfect smile and a wineglass that never loses an inch of liquid. M is holding court in a corner near the buffet table, which makes the operation Q's running a fair bit riskier than either he or his agent were anticipating.
"No, not those, get more of the lobster puffs," Q instructs, and on the screen Reilly switches midcourse from something green and obviously spinach-based (fool) to pick clumsily at the delicate pastries. "For God's sake, use the tongs."
"I would if I could find them," she mutters, eyes darting left and right. Amateur. Amatrice. "Damn, these plates are tiny."
Q watches in despair as both puffs and tableware continue to elude the junior Q agent, and when Reilly manages to bob her indeed quite small plate and send several of the delicacies already balanced there rolling across the floor, it's just too painful. Q switches feeds to a camera on the other side of the room and leans back in his chair, brooding.
Of course, if he'd allowed Eve to force him into attending he'd be able to get his own food, but then he'd also be expected to chichat and wear a suit and 'do something about his hair', the thought of which was completely untenable. And Eve hadn't pressed as hard as she might have, nor had she extended her invitation anyone else from his department. Apparently the 00s, sleek predators that they are, make a better impression on the money-lending masses than the motley collection of the brilliant and insane that is Q branch.
Not that these people are even remotely aware they're in a tiger pit, and with foreign nationals in the room, they mustn't know. A quick scan of the room and he finds 005 looking murderously bored, 002 skulking around the edges of the room like a beast in a cage, and there's a red-faced buffoon with his hand low on 0013's back, chortling and waving a full glass of sherry like a parade marshal's baton. The agent's more showing teeth than smiling, her fingers twitching up towards the wushu she has hidden in the long loose fall of her hair, and Q switches headset frequencies with a tap.
"You may want to rescue Chancellor Whatsit from Bri," he advises, and Eve's expression of polite amusement at whatever her posh conversation partner has just said never wavers as her eyes track across the ballroom.
"Bloody buggering hell," she says, under a tinkling laugh she hides behind her hand.
"Thought you ought to know," Q says, and switches back.
"—sir, of course not, delighted, yes of course," and damn it, he's left Reilly alone too long and M has a fatherly arm around her shoulders, is plucking the overfull plate out of her hands and pressing a glass to them instead, steering her away from the table to introduce her to the delegation from Tokyo.
"You complete incompetent," Q sighs, right before M plucks what should be a practically invisible wire off Reilly's collar and tucks it in his pocket with pat and a murine sneer. Bastard.
Q tosses his headset aside and slumps back in his chair, staring sulkily at the abandoned plate of tidbits. There would be leftovers, of course, there were always leftovers, but they would be cold and gummy and hardly worth waiting the hours it would take for the party to wind down. Damn M anyway.
And double-damn 007, because the man has the unbelievably gall to step sideways into being like a fucking jinn and lift the entire serving tray of lobster puffs up and off the table, in a move so smooth and innocuous Q almost doesn't catch it in all the bustling motion. By the time he fully realizes what he just saw, Bond is halfway across the room, slicing through the crowds like a shark through bloodied water, closing in on the elevators. Somehow along the way he's also managed to liberate two champagne flutes and an unopened bottle of something with a dusty taupe label. Q plays hopscotch with the video feed and catches Bond just as he slips between the closing doors of a secured elevator, and by the time Q's hacked into the security camera there— six seconds at most—Bond has already vanished.
The entire tray. Well, he hopes whatever girl Bond is bringing that rich man's picnic to chokes on it, the greedy lardarse.
Q's distracted from his pique by a flutter of red on one of his monitors, and picks his headset up in time to hear Eve say, all sweetness and poisoned honey, "—and if you'll come with me, I'm sure we'll be able to find your wife—"
Q listens to the bloodless evisceration she visits on the poor unwitting chancellor with a connoisseur's appreciation as he scans the rest of the monitors, three devoted to ongoing missions that are currently in the hurry-up-and-wait phase, two on the ballroom, and one that flashes white and goes to the outside corridor (empty) as the first proximity alarm into Q branch is tripped.
As quickly as he notices it the second is also set off, and Q palms the pistol attached to the underside of his desk before turning to face the glass doors that lead into the rest of the complex. He and Reilly are the only Q agents left in the building, he checked three times before resorting to using her as his envoy, so either someone's bored enough with life to try to break into R&D on a Friday night or—
Bond rounds the corner and Q blinks, then shoves the pistol away and stands.
Bond comes up to the glass and stops, waits. Q just looks at him, hands in his pockets and one eyebrow raised, and Bond gives him a bland look of expectancy, knocking on the glass with the butt of the bottle.
Q takes in his pin-neat tuxedo, the fog of condensation on the chilled champagne, the almost full tray of those delectable lobster puffs held front and center, and says, "I cannot believe I just called myself a greedy lardarse because of you, you tosser."
On the other side of the soundproof glass, Bond tilts his head inquiringly.
"Ugh." Q moves to access the palm-print lock, and the doors slide back with a silken hiss.
"Love the barrettes," Bond says, stepping inside.
Q's hand flies to his fringe, and damn it all. "I wasn't exactly expecting visitors," he says waspishly as Bond walks past him to his workstation, setting the puffs and slender glasses on the bare surface. Q doesn't believe in paper. "And you knew I was down here—how?"
"You are aware Ann Reilly is allergic to shellfish?" the man replies, settling his handkerchief over the cork and twisting expertly. A loud pop and the foaming mess somehow all ends up in the flutes, no drips or damp spots as Bond passes one to him. Q wonders if that's a part of 00 training or if Bond really is just that bloody suave.
"I am now," he mutters, and sips. "This is foul."
"It's very expensive."
"As you like," Bond says, and pops a pastry in his mouth. He makes a surprised little "Mm," sound and goes back for a second, propping a hip on Q's desk.
"Bad form to polish off the bribe before your target's had a bite," Q says, tugging the platter away from him.
"Is that what you're assuming this is?" Bond says, sounding amused. He reaches for a third and Q smacks his hand.
"Why else would you bring me food? It can't be for the conversation."
"You're pleasant enough company," and dear Lord Q cannot even tell if he's lying. Bond's eyes are direct and clear all the way to the bottom as he holds Q's gaze, a small smile playing around his mouth.
Q swallows the delicious warm butteriness of his lobster puff and says, "Rubbish."
Bond's smile turns sardonic. "If it would set your mind at ease, I could say I'm interested in the situation in Cambodia." He nods towards Q's monitors.
"It would, thank you, and that information's need-to-know." With a flick, all his monitors go dark. "And you don't need to know."
Bond looks on the verge of laughter, his toothy great white's grin transforming his face from stone to mere flesh. "Then perhaps I should leave, and take my canapés with me."
Q pulls them protectively closer and Bond does laugh now, a warm chuckle into his champagne flute as he downs a full third of the glass in one go. Too used to hard liquor, this man.
"London parties are an unfortunate necessity of this job," he says, setting the glass down. "I saw Q'ute talking to herself and fumbling about, and knew there must be a cross little Q-bird chirping in her ear. I threw her to M and took the opportunity to bring you dinner, and, incidentally, make good my escape."
Q eyes him. "It's appalling that you call her that. And 'cross little Q-bird', really?"
Bond grins, unrepentant. "No ulterior motives, I promise," he says, leaning back on his hands. It pulls the tuxedo tight in interesting places, outlines the broadness of his shoulders and the lethal weight of muscle on his frame, and Q shouldn't give him the satisfaction of looking. But he is. Looking, that is.
"I've been working on a watch that deflects bullets," Q allows, and smirks when Bond's eyes darken speculatively.
"I love it when you talk dirty to me," the agent says, voice dipping into a purr.
Q grabs the serving platter as Bond gathers the champagne accoutrements ("Dear God, this mug is awful." "I'm aware, just drop it off in the kitchen. Or better yet, bin it.") and they spend the rest of the night at the firing range. They discover the exact point at which the usefulness of the watch as a defecting device is outweighed by its propensity, as it is essentially an electrically-charged magnet, to attach itself to anything remotely metallic (namely, the gun itself, Bond's knife in its wrist sheath, Bond's other knife in its thigh sheath, and Q's zipper. Q considers creating a pair of watches, magnets turned up to eleven, to act as a pair of handcuffs so he can pay that damnable man back for all the unnecessary stroking and kneading and rubbing that went into getting the watch unstuck from that last item).
And it's still the best office holiday party Q has ever been to.
1. Thomas Kincaid - an American painter whose super-sappy paintings are on par with Precious Moments for Things that Make My Eyes Bleed
2. Pearl Cornioley - a British spy during WWII.
3. Ann Reilly/Q'ute - from the 007 novels by John Gardner.