A/N: When I chose to make this a multi-chapter story,I chose to change the title of this fic in order for the title to represent the whole story and not just the first chapter. I hope it doesn't cause too much confusion.
Pairing: 00Q, a.k.a. Craig!Bond/Whishaw!Q
Warnings: Light slash, UST, canon-levels of violence. Highly unlikely description of a case for the MI6, probably. Not that the Bond stories are generally famous for their realism.
Disclaimer: I don't know what belongs to the estate of Ian Fleming and what belongs to the Broccoli's, but nothing belongs to me.
SPOILERS FOR SKYFALL.
"Skyfall is where we start
A thousand miles and poles apart"
- Adele, Skyfall
Passing the Test
"Q". It's a strange soubriquet, but he has got used to it quicker than even he had thought he would. Coming from a world of anonymous geniuses, who've sometimes never even seen their best friends in real life, he is used to nicknames, codenames, handles and aliases meaning more than the bunch of letters on his birth certificate. At this point, he's not sure he would turn around if someone shouted that name after him on the street.
He is Q now. It's his job, and his job has become his life. Not only does it take up most of his present time, it also stretches out over all his future – once you're in the secret service you're there for life, one way or another. While the Quartermaster might not see much of the field, he is an integral part of MI6, and considering their line of business, he's likely to be there longer than his colleagues in the field.
Sometimes he wishes he could tell his father. The old man would be ecstatic – he has always loved a good spy-novel. Q would like to introduce his father to 007. That man could have stepped out of one of his father's favourite novels: the very personification of old school MI6.
There are, of course, several agents whose missions fall on Q's table; nice, quiet men and women in crisp black suits who come to him and pick up their gear, walk off and do their job, and then come back to him with the gear before – or sometimes after – they go to be debriefed. People who follow the rules and the guidelines. Bond is nothing like these people.
Opinions go apart on whether Bond is a prodigy or a relic, the best or the worst of MI6, but everyone agrees that he has a knack for getting the job done, and for getting a lot of things destroyed in the process – especially q-branch gear. Q has looked at his predecessors' logs; he knows that Bond has always had this habit of making the Quartermasters tear their hair out, be they old men or young ones. He is glad that they don't hand out things like exploding chewing gums and heavily armed vehicles right and left anymore. He doesn't want to have agent 007 wielding that kind of equipment anywhere near him, thank you very much.
Right now, however, Q is quite relieved that his father believes that Q lives a slow, quiet life working with IT-support for a smallish estate agency in Vauxhall. He thanks whoever is watching – well, apart from the people back at the headquarters who might be watching through CCTV footage – that he will never have to tell his father about this night.
Q explained during his job interview – when asked what his weaknesses were – that he's afraid of flying, and the powers that be promised him that his job description didn't include travel. Apparently, they lied to him. Not much of a lie, he has to admit; after all, they haven't sent him further than Reading. People commute between Reading and London.
It is the middle of night, but it is Saturday, so the streets are not empty. Girls in way too short skirts and way too high heels who manage to make even Q feel old are walking up and down the streets, heading in giggling gaggles from one party to another. He's not up there with them, though. He's working his particular brand of magic on an old stationary computer in a damp basement, trying to extract information of national importance. Oh, the joy of trying to explain to M, without sounding condescending, that no, Q can't just hack into any hard drive in the world remotely if it's not at least connected to a server. This one wasn't. So here he is, on his first field operation.
Since the moment they told him he would be going out on the field, Q's nerves have been all over the place. He had basic field training, when he was hired. Effort was put in make sure that, should it ever be necessary, Q is mentally stable enough not to scream his head off and blow his cover, fit enough to run away, and able to fire the weapons he now helps develop with reasonable proficiency. They taught him the bare necessities, nothing more. They always intended to just shove him behind a desk. The training had mostly been to give him a fighting chance should the wrong kind of person ever find out that he wasn't in fact working for an estate agency. He has never really put any of his basic training to use. Not before tonight.
It is a sensitive case, in a lot of ways. MI6 rarely work on British soil – it usually falls under some other agency's jurisdiction, if not several, and MI5 do get so prissy about this sort of thing. In this case, though, MI6 has just spent months trying to bring down an international illegal weapons cartel, and have located one of their customers in Reading, of all backwater places. They need the information these customers – some kind of MC-club turned drug-dealers – can give them. Usually, they would cooperate with the local police on this sort of thing, get them to make a raid and deliver the computer to MI6, but the police have nothing on these people yet, and could find no legal grounds to go in, or to arrest any of the known members. So it has to be done in a less official fashion.
As could be expected, though, these people weren't the types to leave their property lying around unguarded for long. Ergo, they needed to be sure not only that they would find all that possibly could be found, but also that they found it as quickly and discreetly as possible and then get the hell out. So yes, send in the resident computer genius, why don't you? And then send 007 to watch over him. Because that will be fine, Q thinks to himself as he cracks yet another ridiculously simple security code. That will be just brilliant, won't it? Because things don't have a tendency of blowing up when Bond's around. Not at all.
Q gave Bond his gun for the mission this morning, at the same time as he chose one for himself.
"Do you know how to use that?" Bond asked, one raised eyebrow on an otherwise expressionless face.
"I do test them before I hand them to you, 007,"Q replied.
"I've never seen you on the firing range."
"That's because I go there in the mornings when most people do, while you always come to work either five hours before or five hours after everyone else. If indeed you come in at all."
A tiny hint of a smirk appeared on Bond's lips.
"Stop it," Q snapped. "I saw the footage of that house you reduced to rubble up in Scotland. You might have grown up in the middle of nowhere, but you're certainly no less posh than I am."
Bond didn't reply to that, and Q realised too late that he had crossed a line.
No one mentions Skyfall to James Bond, for so many reasons.
On the car ride over, Q contemplated his own obituary. Not in panic, but rather with some kind of morbid fascination when he realised that it was entirely possible that he'd die tonight.
After the Skyfall incident, Q had a long line of meetings with M, discussing all the ways they could and should secure the old headquarters at Vauxhall before they returned there: the surveillance, the alarms, the lock-down systems, and the digital security. Q had practically been given free hands, and in his mid-twenties he had constructed his Magnum Opus. This was what came to him when he sat in the car: that if he dies tonight, this will be his legacy.
When they stepped out of the car and it drove away, Q realised he didn't even know the name of the agent behind the wheel, who was to be their back-up and would be listening in along with the people back home. For this night, he knew, she was called Carroll. Maybe someone was trying to be funny and her real name was Alice? Anyway, she was Bond's age. Seeing them next to each other really brought it home to Q that Bond was middle-aged. He didn't think he'd ever seen Bond with a woman his own age – and gratia de CCTV, he has seen James Bond with a lot of women, both the ones he had professional motives for seducing and the ones he just seemed to pick up as he went along.
Getting into the building was a joint effort. Q took them past the electronic security systems, Bond took them past the guards – a couple of ruffians who made Q wonder just what kind of organisation they were breaking in to. They looked like your average beefed up National Front-members.
Now they're dead (or at least unconscious, Q didn't bother to check as he walked after Bond over the bodies), lying in the still spreading pools of their own blood in the same building as the basement room where Q is presently standing, fingers on the keyboard and eyes on the screen, hacking his way in, downloading anything that looks remotely important. He wants to go into the documents, see if he's got what they're looking for, but there's no time. Intelligence says these guys change their guards twice every night. That is how they were located in the first place – the pattern was too conspicuous.
Q is about to pull out the USB-stick when a door slams somewhere nearby. Swift and soundless, Bond runs to the door, looks outside, and then looks back at Q. Q wipes the last of his traces and follows. A second later they're out in a hallway and Bond is looking in the direction the sound came from.
"Stay here," he wheezes to Q and goes off.
"Bond!" someone at Vauxhall shouts into their ears.
Q guesses that Bond isn't supposed to leave him alone, but he's not about to question the agent's judgement at a time like this. Still, he tucks the USB-stick away safely and pulls out his gun instead. When he hears the sound of fighting and guns going off from the direction Bond went off in, he aims the gun at that doorway and repeats over and over to himself: "If it's not Bond, I'll shoot; if it's not Bond, I'll shoot; if it's not Bond, I'll shoot."
Time passes in a strange fashion. It feels as if glaciers are melting into the sea while he stands there; it feels like a single slow-motion beat of a hummingbird's wing.
A figure appears in the doorway. It isn't Bond. Q fires. The figures slumps and falls to the floor with a sickening thud. A second figure appears, still not Bond, and Q fires a second time, but maybe he has begun to shake or maybe the man ducked when he saw his dead friend on the floor, because this time Q misses. For a second, the man in the doorway stares at Q, and Q stares at him. Then Q realises he is in the other man's line of fire and throws himself into the doorway he and Bond left moments ago. Bullets fly past him, and then another weapon is fired further away. He hears the sound of someone running away, followed by Bond's voice echoing down the hallway.
He walks out into the hallway, with his guard still up, holding the gun. Bond is walking up to him.
"Are you hurt?"
"No," Q says, and hopes it's true. If he was in shock, he wouldn't know, would he? He doesn't feel like he's in shock, though; he feels disturbingly alright.
"One of them got away," Bond says. "Did he see you?"
Bond curses under his breath, grabs Q's arm and pulls him away.
Q allows himself to be unceremoniously dragged towards the nearest exit. He checks his pocket once for the USB-stick. It's still there. They walk past the man Q shot, and Q sees the empty eyes staring at the ceiling and the blood that is still seeping out from the man's body. It's so red. It seems redder than the blood of all the people he's watched Bond and his Double O colleagues kill.
"Don't look," Bond says and tugs at his arm, and Q feels like he's being rescued and patronized at the same time.
In another moment they are out on the street. Fresh air hits Q's face, and it's almost as if he had forgotten that the sky and the open air existed.
They manage to round two corners and step onto a main street before Q has to stop, lean over and be sick. His head spins. He feels a hand on his shoulder, and marvels at the gentle gesture from Bond. At the same time he can tell that Bond is not focused on him; Bond is talking to Vauxhall, briefing them on the situation.
When Q has to hunch down because his head is still spinning and he's afraid he'll fall over, Bond hunches down next to him.
"Did he get a good look at you?" he asks.
"The man who got away."
"I think so."
"We've been compromised," Bond says, clearly addressing Vauxhall now.
"Take care of it," says the voice in their ears. "Discreetly, Bond. Don't endanger this operation, and don't endanger the Quartermaster."
"Hypocrites," Q mutters, and sees Bond smile.
"If he had time to see you, you should have had time to shoot him," he says to Q.
Bond doesn't have time to reply before a female voice interrupts them.
"Is he alright?"
It's not Carroll. Q feels like cursing. He carefully raises his head to see one of those groups of party-dressed girls approach them.
"He'll be fine," Bond says, turning on the charm like a switch. "Just had a bit too much to drink."
"Aw, poor thing."
A brunette simmers into Q's view.
"You want some water, love? I've got a bottle in my bag."
That would actually be nice, Q thinks.
One of the other girls starts questioning why the brunette is carrying around whole bottles of water, but she ignores it and gives Q a bottle that says Diet Coke but has clearly been washed many times since it contained anything of the sort. Q gratefully accepts it.
"You're welcome. I'm Sarah. This is Anne, Lucy and Becky."
The girls say hello to them. Q might be dazed, but he clearly notices at least two of them checking 007 out, and not for the first time he wonders what it is that makes women look at James Bond like that, and why they never look that way at Q. Bond is old enough to be their father, for god's sake.
"Nice to meet you. I'm James," Bond says, leaving out the family name for once, "and this is Quentin."
Oh, is it really, Q thinks. How droll.
"He's a bit of a lightweight," Bond adds. "He's not really used to drinking." He turns and looks Q in the eye. His tone doesn't change, but there's a serious and almost compassionate look in his eyes as he says: "Don't worry, Q. Your tolerance level will get better with time."
"I was fine with my tolerance level the way it was, actually."
The girls laugh. Bond doesn't.
"You know what you need, love?" one of the girls says. "You need to get back on your feet. Walk it off, yeah, get a restorer? You two should come with us, we were just moving on to this new place round the corner, everyone's talkin' 'bout it."
Q is about to politely decline when he sees Bond look behind them, suddenly on alert. Then Bond's arm grabs him around the waist and hauls him up as if he was a ragdoll.
"Sounds interesting," Bond says. "Let's have a look."
The girls giggle. Q feels his pulse race as he wonders what Bond saw.
"What about the people we ran in to back there?" he asks, not able to make up a story of any detail on the spot – he should be, usually he would be, but for some reason nothing comes to him. At least he's standing up and his head has stopped spinning.
"They're probably right behind us," Bond says, and makes it sound like that's a good thing. "Let Carroll worry about that, and we'll worry about getting you a dry place to sit down somewhere."
"Oh, were you out with a gang?" the girl Q thinks was Becky says.
"Not really, we just ran into a couple of people we knew. And then we ran away from them."
Bond smiles and the girls laugh again.
"Lead the way then," Bond says.
Sarah grabs Q's arm in a highly proprietary way, and Q doesn't know what to do except pretend like nothing. Bond smiles at him, that barely-noticeable, lopsided grin of his, and Q positively wants to strangle the man.
The place is small and loud. It has a bar, a dance floor that's barely big enough to swing a cat on but still crowded enough that it's impossible to see across it, and a row of mismatched sofas along one wall where the girls plant Q and Bond. Becky and Anne – Q is fairly sure he's figured out who's who now – pull Bond down into one sofa and sit down on each side of him; Sarah pulls Q into the sofa opposite and Lucy joins them. It strikes Q that this is definitely the weirdest turn he's seen an operation take, and that's saying something.
He pretends to send a text, sending the material he gathered earlier to Q-branch, and then he listens to his team analyse it while he pretends to listen to Sarah. What Bond does he's not sure, he can't hear a thing other than the report from Q-branch and the blaring music, but each time he looks Bond's way, the other man is doing a brilliant impression of someone who's not sure how they ended up where they are but think they might be enjoying themselves. Q's fairly sure Bond is actually just waiting to hear from Carroll, who's been silent since the short "got it" that she uttered before she went after the missing guard.
Sarah asks Q something he can't answer because he hasn't been listening to what she's saying, and he gets out of it by excusing himself and going to the men's room. Behind that door the volume decreases considerably, much to his relief. It also means he can now hear the feed from Bond's earpiece clearly. Bond is being interrogated by the girls, and clearly Q's absence means that the conversation has turned to him.
"He's sweet, your friend," says a voice; Anne maybe. "Where'd you meet him?"
"Work," Bond answers.
"Really?" the girl asks. She sounds doubtful. "You don't look like you'd be working at the same place as him, 's all."
"Well, he's my boss," Bond says with a smile in his voice, and the girls laugh hysterically. If they only knew.
As Q washes his hands, he hears Becky ask:
"No, come on, really. Are you, like, his sugar daddy or something?" the girl Becky says, and Q nearly laughs out loud right there in front of the stainless-steel-sink. At the Vauxhall-end of the line, someone actually does, unprofessionally enough, and then abruptly goes quiet again.
"No," Bond replies, and Q wonders if that is mirth he hears in 007's voice.
"You've been checking him out all night, though," Becky insists, as Q opens the door and goes back out into the club. "You haven't taken your eyes off of him."
That is probably true, Q thinks, considering the previous events of the evening.
"I'm just trying to see if he's feeling better," he hears Bond say.
"Right," the girl replies, her doubt obvious in her voice. "Look, we're not prejudists or anything, if you guys are doing the nasty, we're not gonna call his parents and tell on you."
Q freezes then, not because of what he is hearing, but because of what he is seeing. Only yards away, the guy who got away from them is scouring the room. Q turns away before he is spotted. In an instant he feels lightheaded again. He focuses on not changing his pace, not doing anything to attract attention or give himself away. "He's here," he whispers, but it seems the sound doesn't reach the microphone well enough over the music, because no one responds. Vauxhall is silent, and Bond, still at the other end of the room, doesn't even turn to look at him, so he can't have heard either. Q's heart isn't racing – he's better trained than to resort to panic – but he can feel his heartbeats against his ribs. He's almost at the sofas now. He can't let the girls notice that anything is wrong, they could blow their cover in a second. But he has to tell Bond.
Although, if the girls think that he and Bond are, well, together...
Acting skills – Q's not sure he has them. But he's always considered himself to have a good poker face, and that's at least along the same lines, isn't it?
Instead of going back to his previous seat, Q walks straight up to the sofa where Bond sits. The three occupants look up at him: Bond with curiosity, the girls with the expression of having been caught red handed.
"Do you mind?" Q mimes to Anna – if Anna's the blonde – over the music, and she shakes her head and scrambles over to where Q sat before, never taking her eyes off him. Neither does Bond, who raises an eyebrow questioningly. The girls go quiet all of a sudden. Q sits down closer than strictly necessary, thigh against thigh and half turned towards Bond. He puts one hand on Bond's shoulder and leans in to whisper in his ear, which conveniently also means he's speaking into Bond's earpiece:
"He's here. Behind me. Black leather jacket, sunglasses, shaved head, flat nose."
"Roger that," he hears a voice from HQ reply in his ear. Then Bond's mouth is next to Q's ear, and his warm breath ghosts over Q's skin when he replies:
"Did he see you?"
"I don't think so. What'll you do?"
Because it is Bond that will have to act. Q feels more urgently than ever how very useless he is when he's away from his keyboards and monitors. True, someone else is there right now, handling that end, but it isn't him – they can't do half of what he could do. The only weapon Q has here – apart from the gun he hadn't thought he would use which still hides under his cardigan – is a smartphone, and even if it's "smart" enough to make your regular iPhone look like an Amiga computer, it has precious little to interact with in this locale. Especially against an armed thug. How very Neolithic fieldwork seems from this end – all brawn, and fire, and pulse ringing in one's ears.
"No firearms among the civilians, 007," headquarters but in. "Get yourself and the Quartermaster out of there quietly."
Q sees Bond's eyes flicker to look for the man, and instinctively turns to see for himself as well – back in Vauxhall he would have been monitoring the situation on three different screens, now he's flying blind. He is stopped by Bond's hand that immediately comes up to cup the side of his face and turn it back towards the agent, shielding him from the thug's view.
"We'll hide you until I can see what he does," 007 whispers. "Play along."
That final order doesn't even have time to register in Q's brain before there is a mouth on his. A second of pure shock passes before a squeak and a giggle from the opposite sofa shakes Q out of it and he realises what is happening and why, and brings an arm up to Bond's shoulders to complete the illusion. Not that it isn't convincing already – Bond is obviously a method actor. It has been a year since Q had a girlfriend, six months since he last got laid and about as long since he last had someone else's tongue in his mouth. His mind is kept crystal clear by the knowledge that somewhere on the dance floor behind him is a man who likely wants to put a bullet through his head, but meanwhile his body is responding in ways that he'd rather it didn't. He feels Bond's hand travel downwards between them, not towards Q's hip but to his own. The agent is getting ready to draw his gun if it becomes necessary, at the same time as he's licking at the inside of Q's mouth.
Adrenaline pumps through Q's body. There is a man lying dead on the floor of a building only a few blocks away because of Q. There is a man next to him who is trained to kill and has at least a dozen years of service on him whose tongue is doing wicked things to Q's, and there is a man somewhere nearby ready to kill them both any second. Q hasn't felt this alive since he hacked into MI5's records. (MI6 complimented him greatly on that during that job interview.)
Bond, in complete control of the kiss even though Q has been doing his best to "play along", breaks it off by pulling away and glancing over Q's shoulder. Once again Q wants to turn, to see what 007 sees, but this time he stops himself before he as much as flinches.
"I'm going to get a drink," Bond says with a smile and a tone Q recognises from every single one of Bond's missions (007 always manages to find a woman that it is somehow necessary to charm, and usually his reasoning can't be proven unsound either). Q wonders if the people listening back in Vauxhall recognise that tone too, and if they realise what just happened.
"Just a pint, please," Q replies, remembering that he is supposed to have had a bit too much already. On his way past him, Bond puts a hand on Q's thigh. It's a show for the people around them, but it also manages to let Bond know exactly how Q's body is responding to all of this. The older man cocks an eyebrow at him, and if he were a bit worse at keeping his cool, Q would curse, or look away in embarrassment. Instead he smiles and meets Bond's eyes. Two can play this game.
"Maybe your tolerance levels are rising already," Bond says and disappears into the crowd – not to buy drinks, Q is perfectly aware, but to take care of the guy with the flat nose.
"No need to look so desolate, love, he's gone to the bar, not the north pole," Becky says beside him, looking as smug as the cat who ate the canary now that she thinks her theory has been proven right. "You're not gonna die from being apart for five minutes."
I certainly hope so, Q thinks.
He hears the fight through the earpiece. He hardly knows what to do with himself, sitting here in a sofa, smiling at his new and highly temporary circle of friends, while listening to someone's skull being bashed in.
It feels like eons have passed before he hears Bond's voice.
"We're heading out. Q, pretend you got a text or something and meet us outside."
Q does just that, reaching for his phone and scrolling a bit before he announces that it's "James" and he has to go. He leaves the girls surprised and confused.
When he gets outside, the car is there. Carroll pulls down the window a few inches and tells him to get into the back seat. When he follows her order he sees Bond, holding a gun to the neck of the flat-nosed bloke, who is now sitting in the passenger seat and is even more flat-nosed than he was before. With his free hand, Bond hands Q what looks like a gin and tonic. It looks like it's fresh from the bar, not a drop spilled.
"I thought you might need more than a pint," Bond says.
Q accepts it without a word and gulps it down quicker than he ought to.
The following day turns out to be a series of frustrations. Q doesn't sleep well, so right there the day is doomed before it has begun. The adrenaline overload from the night before turns into a raging need for cups and cups of strong tea. A long and uncomfortable debriefing is the first thing on his schedule, and when it's over he heads straight for the nearest kettle to soothe his frayed nerves. When he finally walks into Q-branch the room doesn't exactly go quiet, but no one says good morning to him, which is unusual. Then Jenkinson – who is a few years older than him and somehow feels that this gives her the right to occasionally disregard that he's her boss, even though the majority of the Q-branch staff are older than both of them – says:
"Successful fieldwork yesterday, sir?"
"Let's find out, shall we?" he replies, not wanting to dwell. But Jenkinson, true to her nature, doesn't let go:
"We heard you did really well. Improvisation, playing along and all that."
Cook who sits opposite Jenkinson blushes vividly, and Q is glad it's not him turning red. So much for office morale, he thinks.
"Not everyone has as bad of a poker face as you, Jenkinson," he counters and takes a comforting sip of his tea. "Do a complete check on all security scripts for in-house emails, and give me a three page report. I want it by lunch."
She stares at him.
"But ... that's entirely unnecessary, we've just ..."
"Yes, it is," Q interrupts, and keeps walking towards his office. Behind him he can hear Cook snigger and Jenkinson curse under her breath. He smiles down into the teacup, but he can't help wondering if all of Q-branch knows that he spent last night being abducted by a bunch of chatty tweens and getting snogged by 007.
The information they have retrieved turns out to be good, but not as extensive as they had hoped for – certainly not nearly enough to bring the whole league down. Q hears from Miss Moneypenny that MI5 have been calling to ask what the hell MI6 were doing in central Reading. Apparently M is none too happy.
When evening rolls around, Q sits in his office and watches through the glass wall as his team packs up and goes home, one by one. He is still trying to wrap his head around the fact that he killed a man yesterday, and no one, not even the MI6 counsellor he was forced to talk to before lunch, seems to think it's a very big deal. For a moment he wonders if this is a part of his life now.
Then he shakes himself. Of course it is a part of his life – he works for MI6. He has to watch agents shoot down their targets on what is at least a weekly basis, and yes, he has to be able to do the same if the situation should call for it. He can't get cold feet after his first little fieldtrip. He's the Quartermaster of the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service. He hopes to keep the position for many years to come.
When Q-branch is completely empty, he heads out into the lab and picks up the gun he used the night before. It has been cleaned and unloaded. He picks out the right ammunition from their extensive collection and heads down to the firing range in the basement. Because this is what you do when you get a scare: you get back in the saddle. And besides, he thinks, he can always imagine that the target board is Jenkinson's freckled face. Or possibly those self-entitled people at MI5.
The firing range is nearly empty. Q only hears the sound of one lonely gun as he walks past empty booths. Q prefers booth nine. It's not an OCD-thing, he tells himself. It's just one of those small quirks all humans have: preferring one thing over its absolutely equal substitute out of nostalgia. Incidentally, Q shot his first and only bull's eye from booth nine.
007 is in booth seven. Q wonders if that's some sort of 'idée fix' on the agent's part.
Bond must have noticed that someone entered the basement room, because when Q's about to pass Bond has taken off his earmuffs and turns around to greet him.
It strikes Q that this is one actual advantage Q has over 007: he knows James Bond's name, but Bond doesn't know his.
"You did a good job, yesterday," Bond says, and his face is so blank that Q knows he's not just teasing him.
He keeps a calm tone, but he can't deny the little boy in him is jumping up and down in joy – he's being complimented on his field work by the most legendary of Her Majesty's secret agents. If only he could tell his father that – and leave out any other details.
"I thought you only went down here in the mornings?" Bond says as Q is about to move on.
Q doesn't know what to say that will explain his change in habit that will not at the same time sound as if he's admitting to some kind of weakness, or trauma, or embarrassing overreaction, so he says nothing. The next second, Bond has reached out and grabbed Q.
He pulls Q in front of him and hands him the gun. It's not the palm print-controlled Walther, it's an old-fashioned Beretta, slightly larger than the guns Q is used to. Bond's hands are resting lightly on Q's shoulders.
"Show me what you've got," Bond says.
Q feels the urge to protest and run away, but pushes it away. Instead he picks up a pair of earmuffs with studied calm, puts them on, aims, and fires four rounds at the target. Bond pushes the button to bring it forward for inspection, and Q removes the earmuffs again. There are only four bullet holes on the board. When did Bond change his own target board for an empty one?
"Not too bad," Bond says, and it isn't. No bull's eyes, but each of the four shots would have been enough to disarm an opponent. "Your shots stray to the left though," he adds and sends the target board back. Then he takes a step closer, and Q instinctively straightens up even more than he already has. Bond's arms come around to rest against Q's own, gently changing his aim. "Here."
Bond is practically whispering into Q's ear, and it gives Q shivers. He can feel Bond's body pressed against his own from his shoulders down to his thighs, and it's doing cruel things to both his body and his mind. His head is flooded with the memory of Bond's tongue in his mouth, Bond's hand on his thigh, and visions of what could happen is this close proximity, of hands trailing down his body, fingers against his bare skin... For a basement room, it's suddenly very warm.
Q takes a deep breath and clears his head of the smut that seems to have taken up living quarters there, and fires. One, two, three, four new shots. One of Bond's arms disappears to press the button, but the other still rests on top of Q's. Bond's breath still rushes past his neck, just below his ear, tickling.
"Better," Bond says, and Q remembers to look at the target board. Four lethal wounds this time – and one bull's eye. Bond's hands slip back to Q's shoulders, but he doesn't step back.
"You could have been a field agent, Q," Bond whispers in his ear. "You have nerves of steel – who'd have thought?"
Then he steps back, and Q's body shivers at the sudden rush of cold air replacing that warm body. He wonders if this was all a test. The sudden presence of a blank target board, the exaggerated physical proximity – was Bond trying to see if Q's performance yesterday was just a fluke? Or was Q being paranoid now?
The silhouette on the target board is man-shaped. With all the focus it had taken to disregard the feeling of Bond's body pressed against his own, Q had barely noticed.
His head is beginning to spin again, just when he thought he wasn't affected.
He can't prevent the word from escaping. It sounds shaky, and angry, and pathetic.
There goes the good impression.
Bond puts a hand on his shoulder again. Q doesn't dare turn around to look.
"You did fine, Q," Bond says, and there's no flirtation in his voice now. "You'll be fine."
Q doesn't know why it's so easy to believe the words when 007 says them. But it is.
A/N: So, I feel like there'll be a sniper waiting to shoot me down for writing this. I mean, I've been watching James Bond movies with my father and brother since I was a little kid and hid behind the sofa to sneak a peek. Years before I had any knowledge of fanfiction or slash, I had watched every single movie in order. I never, ever imagined that I would do something as seemingly insane as writing 007-slash. I mean, really.
And then I saw Skyfall.
Damn you, slash goggles. You never come off, do you?
I'm aware I'm not exactly adding anything new to the fandom with this, but hey, it got stuck in my head and I wanted to write it. It was also a bit of an experiment in form, as it is my first attempt at writing in present tense in English. (A lot trickier than it looks!) I keep second-guessing myself. But it was interesting.