Warnings: This story contains dark themes including violence, imprisonment, rape, sexual abuse, torture, and spoilers for Skyfall, of course.

Disclaimer: I don't own the Bond franchise and this story is for recreational purposes only.

Chapter 1:

James Bond looks older and more weary than Q last remembered. There was a stoop in his shoulders that wasn't there before as he sat on the bench and stared blankly at The Fighting Temeraire.

But the sight of him, oh James, sent a quiver up Q's spine as he sauntered his way past the museum visitors and fought for a cool, professional demeanor as he sat down next to the MI6 agent. Bond didn't turn to look at him, or even make a sound, but Q felt him freeze as the bench shifted under the new weight. He said nothing. He stared straight ahead.

"It always makes me feel a little melancholy," Q said conversationally, as if his heart wasn't pounding in his chest like a drum. "Grand old war ship, being ignominiously hauled away for scrap. The inevitability of time, don't you think?"

The inevitability of time had slackened the skin under Bond's eyes and put grooves along the sides of his mouth. But the eyes themselves were still the same intense blue, just as Q remembered.

He still said nothing. Slowly, achingly, Q reached across the seat and touched Bond's hand. "What do you see?" he whispered.

Bond didn't answer. He wasn't staring now, but glaring at the painting. His body was tense. "Why are you here?" he asked tightly.

"I'm your new Quartermaster," Q replied.

He glanced sideways when he heard Bond scoff. "You must be joking," said Bond.

"Why, because I'm not wearing a lab coat?"

"Because you've still got spots."

"My complexion is hardly relevant."

"Your competence is."

The tone of the conversation stung. Q pulled his hand back and returned it to his jacket pocket. The touch of Bond's skin still lingered. He stared at the cold colors of the painting as hard as Bond was staring.

"Age is no guarantee of efficiency," he said softly.

"And youth is no guarantee of innovation."

"I'll hazard I can do more damage on my laptop sitting in my pajamas before my first cup of Earl Grey than you can do in a year in the field." As you well know, James. As you well know.

"Oh, so why do you need me?"

The question stopped Q short and he had to take a breath before answering. You know why I need you. I've needed you before I even met you. "Every now and then, a trigger has to be pulled."

Bond finally turned to look at him. His expression and his smile were both unreadable. "Or not pulled. It's hard to know which in your pajamas." He held out a hand to shake. "Q."

"007," Q breathed. The handshake was professional and brief. Q wanted to hold Bond's hand to his face, to feel that familiar callused palm cup his cheek and marvel, as he used to, that even so small a gesture could warm him from head to toe.

Instead, he handed over the papers and the slim black case, explaining its contents with proficient brevity.

"Gun and a radio. Not exactly Christmas, is it?"

"Were you expecting an exploding pen? We don't really go in for that anymore."

That got him a slight but genuine smile. The honest crinkles in the corners of Bond's eyes were like cracks in a façade, hinting at something warmer beneath. Q felt his cheeks growing red and he looked down. Bond's smiles, his real smiles and not the champagne-kissed movie poster smiles, were like brandy. They heated the blood and left you feeling warm and loved.

"Why did you never return my calls?" Q ventured.

No response.

When he looked back up, the façade was whole again. Those blue eyes were staring at the painting again, as inscrutable as ever.

With nothing left to say, Q sighed and stood. "Good luck out there in the field. And please return the equipment in one piece."

Q didn't know what he was expecting their first meeting in years to be like, but he was bitterly disappointed as he walked away, past the uncaring portraits and the unfeeling statues and out into windy London.

X

"How could you do it?" Bond demanded, as soon as he entered M's office. The glass door swung shut with a thunk and rustled the papers on her desk. He was angry. An angry James Bond was like a storm, and M could almost smell lightning as he strode up to her and planted his hands on the edge of her desk. But she was unperturbed as she looked up from her computer.

"There are many things," she said calmly, "that I have done and not done. You'll have to be more specific."

"Why him?" Bond growled. "Why now?" He pushed off the desk and took three strides to the left, turned, and then three strides back, like a caged lion.

M looked down. She swallowed imperceptibly and returned her fingers to the keyboard. "Ah," she said. "You've met with the new Quartermaster."

"Why him?"

"He's qualified," she said crisply. "The brightest we have. You know that. His brains, his expertise, his skill is why we had you extract him in the first place."

"He has no experience."

"On the contrary, he's had eight years of experience leading up to this."

Bond paused in his pacing, an expensive shoe squeaking on her tiles. "Eight years," he repeated.

She exhaled softly through her nose and stood. "Yes, eight years," she said. Her words were heavy with meaning and he didn't meet her gaze. "It's been eight years, Bond, since you left him. Rather cruelly, I remember."

His nostrils flared at that and he whipped around like a wolf that had been bitten by a trap. "I left him so he could have a normal life," he nearly snarled at her. "And you… you recruited him for an organization he had no business being in at his age."

She stepped out from behind her desk, a bewildered expression starting to form on her face. "You were younger when youfirst started," she said. "And he was the one who sought us out. This is the life he chose for himself."

Her shoes clicked as she came to stand in front of him, undaunted by his height. "What's this really about, Bond? You've bedded and left a dozen of them and never looked back, appalling as that may be. So what is this? Is there something you're not telling me?"

"He was supposed to be kept away from all this," said Bond. "He was supposed to be happy with that poster boy operative…"

"Agent Pierce," M supplied. She paused. "He died."

Bond blinked. "I see." He looked away.

"007," M said. "Is this… whatever this is… going to be a problem?"

There was a tense silence between them. "Bond," M said sharply, and he met her gaze again. "Will you have a problem working with him?"

"No ma'am," he said finally. "Excuse me for the intrusion." He turned to leave her office.

"Bond," she said again, pinning him at the threshold with her voice. She didn't continue until he had turned reluctantly around and she made sure he was listening. "I don't know what happened between the two of you in that hellhole you pulled him out of. I don't want to know. But I think you and I had better have a talk about it later. I've read the mission files, but I want to hear the whole story from you. If there's anything that could endanger this mission because either you or he are emotionally compromised… I want you to tell me. Understood?"

"Yes, ma'am."

X

The chill in the air and the chill in his heart had Q feeling like it was the dead of winter, though it was barely a week into October. It was times like these that he craved chips, piping hot and tangy with a good coating of vinegar and salt. He stopped by the local fish and chip shop on the way back to his flat that night and bought a paper bag stuffed with them.

He was dragging his feet on his way home, and the only thing on his mind was whether he wanted tea or cold pop to go with his chips, when an arm reach out of the darkness and pulled him into a shadowy alleyway.

He was too surprised to scream, but not too surprised to defend himself. The hot paper bag fell from his hand as he counter-twisted out of the man's grip and reached for the hidden sidearm strapped to the small of his back. To his shock, the man countered his counter and Q found himself with both wrists caught and his body flush up against the stranger's torso.

"Didn't I teach you that move?" said the man, with amusement in his voice.

"James!" gasped Q. Feeling the strength of Bond's chest beneath his jacket and smelling his cologne and the warmth of his skin was too much for Q's self-control. As soon as Bond released his wrists he grabbed the taller man's lapels and kissed him.

He couldn't stop smiling against Bond's lips. After eight years, James Bond's kisses were still melting and sweet. The scratch of stubble against his own smooth chin was exhilarating and made him weak at the knees. Q could feel his sadness melting away like ice, the last eight years sloughing away like crusted snow until he felt like he was a 19-year-old boy again in the arms of the man he adored.

Bond was breathing hard when they broke apart and Q buried his cold face into the expensive shirt, rubbing his cheek against the silk-covered muscles of Bond's chest.

"I tried so hard to contact you over the years," Q whispered. "Why didn't you ever answer?"

Bond said nothing, but gently nudged Q's spectacles back in place. They had been knocked askew during the kiss.

"I knew you were there that day," said Q, his ear filled with Bond's heartbeat. "At the cemetery, when I was visiting my parents. I couldn't see you, but I could feel you. You were always there, weren't you, just out of sight? Every October, when I go to visit them."

Bond shook his head. "No," he said into the darkness. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Slowly, Q drew back. He searched Bond's face for the signs of a lie and was met with a stony expression.

"I never looked back once I left," said Bond. "I'm not sorry for it, because you knew the kind of man I was and you shouldn't have expected anything else."

The sleepy, happy look had gone from Q's face. He pulled himself out of Bond's arms, even though it felt like going back into the winter cold. "Is that what you came to tell me?" he said softly.

"I came to tell you that it's not too late to turn back. I came to tell… to ask you to drop this mission."

"I'm fully qualified and you know it," Q said shortly. His voice was cold now. "I'm not that scared, broken little kid anymore, Bond. If you're going to work with me, you'll have to accept that."

To his surprise, Bond gave him a sad smile and touched his cheek. "You were never broken," said Bond.

Q couldn't help but sigh and lean into the warm, callused palm. "I still love you, James," said Q. But Bond was pulling away now and already turning to go.

"Then your love and trust are misplaced, as always," he said. "I don't love you."

But Bond stopped and turned halfway back before he melted completely into the shadows. "You shouldn't have gotten mixed up in this mission. It's too dangerous. This isn't some common crook we're dealing with, but someone who works from the shadows, enjoys playing sick, dangerous games, and has no compunction about killing innocent people. You think you're invulnerable but you're not. That makes you even more vulnerable."

"I'm not scared," Q called out. His voice echoed back to him, puny-sounding against the cold concrete.

"You shouldn't gotten mixed up in MI6," said Bond. He paused, looking down at the laces of his shoe. "And… you shouldn't have gotten mixed up with me."

He left Q in the alleyway with a warning and the lingering scent of cologne. Q sniffed and kicked at the discarded packet of chips, which was now soggy and cold.

"Thanks for the chips, 007," he muttered to himself.

X

The beady eyes of M's porcelain bulldog stared accusingly at Bond. It matched M's piercing gaze from across the desk.

Between them lay the folder that contained the mission files for Operation: Black Eye. It had been closed eight years ago, and the cream paper folder looked too pristine to contain something as sordid as what Bond witnessed during that mission. The new Q was also in that file, mentioned extensively and dispassionately in black and white, often in conjunction with Bond's own name.

If not for the bottle of imported bourbon on the desk, the whole situation would have seemed like an interrogation. It was late and most of the staff had gone home. Most of the lights had been turned off in their subterranean headquarters. M's face was sharp in silhouette as she regarded him with silent impatience.

Bond took a drink first and swilled it around in his mouth, savored the heat of it on his gums and tongue before swallowing.

"Worst therapy session I've ever been to, but at least the drinks are free," Bond quipped.

"007, if you think I'm here for my own pleasure…"

Bond set the glass down with a thump. His face was tense as he whispered the beginning of the story, "His name was John Reilly."

X

My first Skyfall fanfic! Please review and let me know how it is, and if the premise is good.