EPILOGUE, TWO POINTS OF VIEW
Q's Point of View:
In Q's ideal world, nobody would have known. Well, Eve might have had a notion, perhaps Tanner, but no one else. They would have kept things secret and simple, not revealing their situation to the rest of MI6, or even acquaintances in the "real world". Beyond work, outside of MI6, they would have lived rather simply (apart from the luxuries—fine wine, good food, tailored suits—that Bond was not likely to do without), sometimes at Bond's, sometimes at Q's, sharing quiet evenings, reading the newspaper, watching television, before becoming completely undone in bed. Or, if they were particularly exhausted, simply going to sleep in the warmth of each other's personal space.
Naturally, things didn't work out quite that way.
At first it seemed as though almost everybody knew. From his own jubilant staff in Q Branch ("Maybe it'll relax him," Manuelli said doubtfully. "Maybe he'll stop being so bloody intense,") to M's inner sanctum (Mallory seemed a touch embarrassed about the whole thing) the secret seemed to be secret no longer. Bond took this in stride, as he took most things, and Q maintained his outward air of authoritative cool, even as his inner self quaked with nerves. For a week, it appeared to him as though everybody at MI6 was leveling a curious, assessing stare in his direction as they passed him in the hallways; narrowing their eyes with prurient curiosity.
Bond assured him that this was not the case at all, and that nobody was paying the slightest attention to either of them.
And the fact of the matter was that only a handful of people were really aware of their connection—M, Moneypenny, Tanner, and the boffins in the computer lab. Q's pragmatic, common-sense outlook eventually reasserted itself…even though he did feel faintly self-conscious when Mallory gave him one of those sideways looks, or if Manuelli, as ferociously vigilant about his well-being as ever, muttered tsk tsk tsk in his direction if he yawned over his morning Earl Grey. Naturally, he had no desire to trumpet his personal life to the world at large. Q knew that to most people, having 007 as a paramour would be considered a very large feather in the cap, and some—Hanson, for example—would not have hesitated to exploit it or make certain that their colleagues heard about it. But both he and Bond were very private people, secretive in the extreme when it came to their lives outside of MI6, and not given to gloating or bragging over anything to do with sex. Even in his most flagrantly promiscuous days, in the earlier years of his work for the secret service, Bond had never been one to kiss and tell.
As for the, um, relationship between the two of them…Q liked to think of it as a work in progress. As neither of them was an open book—they were more like two tightly shut volumes, in fact—it was taking a while, but they were gradually learning to read each other, to decipher each other's body language, nuances of facial expression, the meanings behind a raised eyebrow or eye rolling accompanied by an almost inaudible snort. Q had grown quite accustomed to 007's cool-eyed, inscrutable demeanor, his unexplained, sometimes chilly silences, the way he occasionally withdrew into himself with a kind of bleakness that made him unapproachable, the sardonic expression he often displayed upon his return from a mission abroad. Then, too, he supposed that Bond had no objection to his own mildly arrogant snark, periodic tetchiness, and the way he could divorce himself from the human sphere when absorbed in the continually changing universe of cyberspace.
Since starting work at MI6, and before this thing with Bond, Q had spent most of his limited time off on his own, reading up on the latest tech innovations in the quiet serenity of his flat, catching up on missed hours of sleep, and only once in a while—quite rarely, in fact—meeting with friends for a dinner, or drinks, or the cinema. Now, on his sporadic days off, he could expect to be greeted by the sight of James Bond mixing a drink at his sideboard, or reading the newspaper at the kitchen table, or doing sit-up reps on his sitting room carpet. The strong lines of Bond's profile and short fair hair, outlined by sunlight from the kitchen window as he stood at the sink, rinsing wine glasses or coffee cups (domesticity was not 007's strong point, but he committed to doing half of the washing-up), gave Q a feeling of warmth combined with lightheaded pleasure that he would never admit to anyone…certainly not to the source of these particular feelings. They spent some of their free evenings at Bond's flat, as well; this bi-partite arrangement seemed to be working nicely, and as of yet neither had broached the subject of someday, possibly, sharing a single living space.
Not long after they settled into this routine, Bond was sent off to America to look into the case of a missing MI6 operative. The operative had been working with an ex-CIA agent gone rogue, by the name of Lavender Belle ("That can't be her real name," Q muttered through Bond's earpiece), and, after making certain Miss Belle had not double-crossed them, Bond joined forces with her to locate his vanished colleague. The operative turned out to have been kidnapped; he was rescued without any damage to himself or 007, and Bond returned to London, relieved to only have found it necessary to spend one night in Lavender's arms in order to guarantee her assistance in the matter and cement their working relationship.
"Cement your relationship?" Q said with a kind of wry humour, via the earpiece, the following day. "That's certainly one way of putting it."
Upon his return, Bond encountered disapproving looks from the Q Branch boffins, in spite of their boss's matter-of-fact acceptance of 007's MO, and watched with an eagle eye as he returned undamaged tech to the Quartermaster. It was only after witnessing their boss's unruffled demeanor, and seeing him smile at something 007 murmured under his breath, that they ceased scowling in Bond's general direction.
"Your minions are an irreverent bunch," Bond said musingly, his voice a little raspy with fatigue, as he and Q sat down that evening to a simple meal and a bottle of very good wine. "But for all that, they patently worship the ground you walk on. I don't know that they particularly approve of me."
"They probably think I've gone wonky, upstairs," Q replied, tapping his forehead with the tip of his forefinger. "And they don't actually disapprove of you at all, in my opinion. They just can't understand why we, um, er. And they don't worship me, as you put it."
"Miss Manuelli and Mr Michaels would kill and die to keep you safe. The newest ones seem rather awestruck, and frightened of you."
"That's bollocks," said Q, shrugging and setting down his wineglass.
"You can be intimidating, Quartermaster. When you lecture them, for example."
"I'm not going to bite them, after all. Do I seem intimidating when I'm lecturing you?"
"Nooo," drawled Bond, and Q could see the beginnings of an ironic grin quivering at the corners of his mouth. "But then, the last time you lectured me about anything—my disregard of retrieval protocols, I believe it was—you had no clothes on and I didn't find you intimidating in the least." He paused for a moment and then said ruminatively, "Even though you do sometimes bite."
Q bit his own lower lip, eyes darkening.
"Perhaps it's your Medusa-like hair," Bond said, and Q frowned to prevent himself from laughing.
"There are moments when I'd really like to punch you," he murmured, balling one slender hand into a fist.
Bond tilted his head a little, exposing his jaw. "Punch away," he said calmly with just a glimmer of amusement.
Q heaved a mighty sigh of faked annoyance. "I have no intention of risking life and limb in hand-to-hand combat with a Double O agent, thanks."
Bond made no reply, but his infuriatingly suggestive, crooked grin became even more pronounced. Q deliberately ignored it, but later that evening, after finishing their light supper and sitting quietly by the fire with a little brandy, he disappeared into the bedroom with a backward look at Bond, his lips curving in an impish smile that was both inviting and faintly ironic. And when Bond followed and slid into the bed beside him, Q, his thin, bare body gleaming in the dim light of the single lamp, seduced him with the kind of careful, dedicated precision he devoted to the most fine-tuned of his weapons and surveillance devices: taking him to the edge and over it with a fantastically soft, hot mouth and a strong yet sensitive touch.
"Good?" he whispered a little while after, his own breathing still rapid as his heartbeat began to slow to its usual rhythm. He lay sprawled across Bond's handsomely sculpted torso, feeling his chest rise and fall with his even, steady breath.
Bond wrinkled his brow judiciously. "Better than good," he mumbled, sliding one hand into the silky mess of Q's hair. "Although…"
Q raised his head and squinted at Bond through his fringe. "Although?"
"If you'd allow me a moment to recover, I think a little instruction would not go amiss."
"Oh, is that so?" growled Q, rather defiantly, but not long after, when Bond rolled them over, so that Q was beneath him, one hand cupping his face while the other reached for his cock, he made no objection whatsoever.
Bond was slow and thorough, holding Q down (something Q liked, although he hated to admit it) and taking his time, mouthing lightly along his jaw, throat, chest, teasing his cock with fingers and then lips, and finally shifting until they were face to face. Q felt weightless under him; he ran his hands over the wonderful play of muscle and sinew that rippled beneath the smooth skin of Bond's back, turned his face against his neck, and moaned aloud as Bond pushed into him.
"You'd think we'd be used to, well, you know, by now," Q said resignedly, when they both awoke sometime after midnight, tangled in the bedclothes with Q tucked into the curve of Bond's arm.
"Not complaining, are you?" Bond mumbled wryly, opening one eye. "No, I've not gotten used to it, as you put it, and from the look of things, neither have you."
"Arrogant, conceited prick," Q snorted, but he was smiling.
"Superior, supercilious little shit," Bond replied with equanimity, yawning peacefully. "Shall we get up for a bit…I'm—"
"I know, I know," Q interrupted, untangling himself from the bedclothes. "You're starving." He sat up and rubbed his eyes with his fists. "I don't really want to go out, so I'll…I'll…"
As the last thing he wanted to do at the moment was get dressed and venture out of doors, Q went rummaging, without much hope, through the cupboards and shelves of his kitchen. He knew that 007 liked a good meal, properly served, and that, just now, he was probably fantasizing along the lines of pheasant or quail, with crisp roasted vegetables, served on a large, heavy white plate with a perfectly pressed linen napkin. A glass of fine white wine to go with it. To be followed by a small crème brulee, or a perfect pear, baked with just a little vanilla sugar, cinnamon, and a curl of lemon peel. Which was too bloody bad, because Q's kitchen contained nothing at all like that and was rather bare due to his recent preoccupation with 002's latest mission. After a few minutes, Bond strolled in and began examining the contents of the refrigerator as Q poked at the remains of a loaf of crusty brown bread to see if it was still edible.
They made do with toast topped with thin slices of country paté—Bond discovered a crock of the latter at the back of the fridge and was told that it had been a gift from some member of Q's formidable family. This was accompanied by coffee of staggering strength, as dark as treacle; Bond looked somewhat askance at his cup but drank it anyway. The modest meal was enough to satisfy them and they were, by this time, far too energy-depleted to consider making anything more complicated.
Q blinked his eyes and realized that Bond had set a second slice of pate-covered toast in front of him.
"Eat, before you disappear altogether."
"I consume an adequate quantity of calories and carbs, thanks. And I can't help being this shape, it's just the way I am. I'm sorry if you find it unacceptable."
"I find it quite beyond acceptable, as you very well know," replied Bond in his driest voice.
They sat quietly for several minutes, contentedly devouring their toast, and then Q turned his head with lowered eyes and a degree of hesitation that he knew Bond rarely saw in him.
"Eve told me something in confidence. She said M was seriously thinking of retiring you from field work, giving you a desk job, or having you train the young recruits."
"He's that worried about me?"
"He's not worried about you, James. He's worried about me. He's afraid that if you die in the field, I'll fall apart. That I wouldn't be any good for MI6, and they'd have to find somebody to replace me."
"He doesn't know you very well, does he? I'm convinced you'd carry on, no matter what happened to me."
Q looked at him a little dubiously, but seemed unwilling to discuss the possibility. "Well, he changed his mind and said there isn't any way they can retire you from active duty."
"Ah. Why is that?"
"Because you're the best. The best Double O agent they've got, the best they've ever had. You're pathologically overconfident and uncannily good at staying alive. Nobody else even comes close to your success rate in the field."
Q surveyed Bond carefully after delivering this second-hand accolade, privately pleased with the fact that 007, the ice-cold espionage professional and killer, with his lightning-fast reflexes and steely hands, was resting his elbows casually on Q's kitchen table, his lithe, hard body and keen features relaxed, blue eyes gentle. As Q watched, the look in those eyes changed from a somber gaze to one of amusement.
"Is that what the top brass are saying, really?" Bond murmured skeptically. "You'd never know it, from M's consistent displeasure with me."
"He isn't displeased, he thinks you take too many risks, that's all."
"He'd be utterly displeased if I didn't take risks," Bond retorted as he consigned another slice of bread to the toaster. "Now." He reached out and brushed Q's wayward hair back from his forehead. "Would you kindly pour me some more of that high-octane coffee? It might give me the strength needed to break the record for men over forty and make it three times in one night, don't you think?"
Bond's Point of View:
"It was bloody awful," Bond said flatly as Mallory scrutinized him from the other side of his desk. It was late morning; he had flown in from Venice and come straight from the airport to MI6; consequently he was feeling the need for a drink, a shower, and a shag, not necessarily in that order. But the chances were virtually nil that Mallory would offer him a drink. And he could hardly make his way down to Q Branch, tear the Quartermaster away from his minions and the computer lab, and have him against the wall of a utility closet or shower stall.
"Bloody awful? Most would disagree, 007," M responded, looking mildly surprised. "Your mission was concluded in record time, without even a hint of collateral damage to the surroundings."
"That may be, sir," Bond murmured, examining his cuffs. "But the contents of thirty bottles of 2004 Dom Perignon went into the canal."
M rolled his eyes discreetly, but declined to smile. "My compliments," he said finally, eyeing Bond almost curiously. "On a job well completed."
Bond knew why Mallory was studying him without bothering to try and hide it, and knew as well that MI6 had hesitated to send him on this latest mission. He had not spent time in Venice since that sad affair of Vesper Lynde, Le Chiffre, and the British Treasury funds. For the past several days, however, the only sentiments that had stirred in him, as he gazed at the murky water of intersecting canals beneath the facades of grand old Renaissance buildings, were a gentle melancholy, a kind of faded regret, and pity for the tragedy of Vesper's personal and professional life. His own life had taken so many twists and turns since that unhappy event, and now…
"It was touch and go, there at the Palazzo Grimani," M said suddenly, almost as an afterthought. "Our, er, Q Branch staff was not happy with the way you ignored their instructions."
"I made a judgment call," Bond replied. "Q Branch is quite accustomed to that, I should think."
Mallory grimaced. "Yes," he said finally, rising from his chair to indicate that the meeting was at an end. "You do manage to cheat death with remarkable regularity."
Bond made no reply as he, too, got to his feet. Earlier that morning, upon his arrival at MI6 but before reporting to Mallory, he had paid a visit to the legal branch of MI6, to confer with the staff there and to amend his will. Now, according to this signed and witnessed document, in the event of his demise approximately one-third of his liquid assets was to be divided amongst various charities, with a few small bequests to a handful of individuals. The beneficiary of the remaining two-thirds, plus his material goods and real estate, was one Marcus Benedict Holmes, otherwise known—to MI6 at least—as the Head of Q Branch.
He didn't tell Q what he had done. He didn't think Q would approve. But he had wanted to do it. Q…that is, Ben, was the closest thing he had to family, and although he collected a respectable salary, it would do him no harm to have an additional financial cushion to rely on in the event of 007's death.
Although Q had never said anything about it, Bond was aware that the near-miss with Albert Doinel had shaken him. Not long after Bond's self-release from hospital, Q had begun stocking both of their flats with ingeniously concealed or disguised weaponry; the nightstands on either side of Q's bed were now equipped with hidden drawers, each with a firearm; there were guns hidden in tins of coffee beans and boxes of Weetabix, a canister filled with sleeping gas stood on the kitchen counter next to the salt and pepper shakers, and a well-constructed sheath on the underside of his dining table held a perfectly balanced throwing knife. Bond found this unexpected protectiveness on the part of his Quartermaster oddly endearing, but, like Q, kept his feelings on the matter to himself.
He had caught a glimpse of Q after leaving the legal branch, moments before reporting to M. Q had been—where else—in the computer lab, conveying instructions simultaneously to 002 and an extraction team. The retrieval appeared to be going well, because, as Bond watched, unobtrusively stationed where Q couldn't see him, the Quartermaster's brow smoothed out and his thin shoulders relaxed, although his lips were still pressed together in a narrow line and he tugged absently at rebellious tendrils of his hair. Bond had watched for a few moments longer, enjoying the changes of expression that chased one another across those boyish, mobile features. Q brushed a lock of hair out of his eyes with the inside of his wrist, and Bond had felt a sudden heat, part affection and part lust, steal through his own body. He suppressed it.
"Code 13," Q said tautly into his comm link, eyes intent and focused on one of the wall screens. Fascinating. Bond was still fascinated by him, and it vaguely occurred to him that he would continue to be, for as long as they lasted. Which he now privately suspected could be until the day his target was faster with a gun than he was, or until—unlikely but not impossible—old age or illness finally did him in. It was difficult for him to wrap his mind round the concept of some sort of permanence—and he suspected it was difficult for Q to do the same—but he couldn't remember ever having found satisfaction for both his senses and his brain to the degree that he was experiencing this with his MI6 Quartermaster.
None of his colleagues, Bond thought wryly as he exited M's office, could have any idea of the sorts of things he and the Quartermaster got up to, after hours. They saw the sharp, crisp-voiced, young man, lanky and bespectacled, attending to his duties with an eagle eye, fingers flying over the keyboard of his laptop, eyes darting from screen to screen on the walls of the computer lab. That nobody but himself knew the beautiful, ardent, silken-mouthed changeling who waited for him in bed at night afforded him a private, rather selfish satisfaction. The very few people who did know about them were probably astonished that the legendary 007 had developed an actual attachment to a brilliant, bookish co-worker who, for all of his waifish delicacy, was undeniably male. However, they asked no questions (save for Moneypenny's innuendos). Ever since M's acerbic lecture, 008—who probably did not know anything—had withdrawn to a respectful distance. And if any of the brainy young techies in Q Branch lusted after the pink lips and foal-like limbs of their boss, they were smart enough to keep it to themselves.
As Bond had disregarded Q's explicit escape route instructions towards the end of his Venice mission, he knew he would have to face the music for what had been, for him, a typical act of insubordination. On the way to Q's flat, he reflected wryly that this could conceivably take them to a whole new level of angry sex followed by make-up sex.
He found Q in the kitchen, dealing with the dishes from his morning meal, left unwashed that morning when he had had to rush off to MI6, at an early summons from Mallory's office.
"Before you castigate me for carelessness," Bond said abruptly, not giving Q a chance to speak first, "I'll have you know I don't take shortcuts unless I know precisely where I'm going to end up." (This was a blatant lie, but Bond thought it might be justifiable.) His tone of voice was cold, mostly because he found himself unnerved by the intensity of his reaction to the sight of his Quartermaster, clad in a whisper-thin white tee shirt that was damp with suds, and a pair of ancient jeans that fitted his long, narrow legs like a second skin. "The situation was entirely under control."
"Oh really?" said Q with quiet savagery, setting bowls and glasses in the sink with great care, as if he was afraid that his anger might cause him to break them inadvertently. "And since when do the words 'second door to the left' sound like 'take the stairs to the right'?"
"I knew there was a speedboat in the canal, just at the bottom of the steps," Bond replied in his own defense, knowing Q was not going to accept the explanation. "Don't look so fierce, little leopard. All's well that ends well."
Q turned to face him, his back to the sink, eyes narrowed into icy green slits, the sudden flush along his cheekbones heightened by emotion; he looked as tense as a feral animal poised to spring, and almost disturbingly desirable. He opened his mouth—no doubt to deliver some blistering comment—but Bond placed both hands on the counter, on either side of Q but not touching him, and said in a low voice, "It's alright, I promise. I had the best of motivations to stay out of danger."
Q rolled his eyes and scowled, drawing his black brows together with a sensual flaring of his nostrils, but Bond could see that some of the tension had already left his body. Then he looked down the length of his charming, slightly tip-tilted nose and muttered, with his usual pristine elocution, "Sometimes I think you enjoy driving me and my staff to the edge of insanity." He reached blindly for what appeared to be a new bottle of dishwashing soap and a bolt of something that sizzled flew across the room and struck the opposite wall with the sound a mosquito might make, if it were the size of a Great Dane.
"Oh fuck!" Q said in a despairing voice, wrestling with the bottle, and Bond raised both eyebrows.
"Some sort of taser, is it," he said finally, watching Q, now flushed with irritation, stow the offending object beneath the sink. "Not the sort of thing you usually bring home from HQ, Quartermaster."
"Obviously it's a taser…of sorts," Q retorted rather faintly, the hectic pink finally fading from his cheeks. "Housed in a perfectly ordinary-looking soap bottle. Brought it home last week…but, as you can see, it looks too much like the real thing…and I forgot." For a moment he looked so mortified, embarrassed, and young that Bond stifled a smile.
"I hope I'm not going to find weapons crammed into the pockets of my dinner jackets." The better part of Bond's clothing was still in his own flat, but he had brought several items to Q's, where they now hung in their expensive glory in Q's wardrobe, along with cardigans, Q's limited quantity of formal wear, white shirts, and his anorak. "You haven't hidden any explosives there, have you?"
"Wouldn't want to damage your Savile Row suits," Q replied stiffly, although his expression had softened. "Of course I haven't. But there is a nice, updated Lee-Enfield behind the cold weather gear."
Bond suppressed another smile. "Your concern for my safety is touching," he said after a moment. "Shall we put dinner on hold until later?" He reached out slowly and placed the tips of his fingers on one of the places where he knew Q liked to be touched, the silky, sensitive skin in the bend of his elbow, and left them there.
"Cease and desist, 007," Q said, but he said it with the tiniest hint of a gamin grin. Their eyes met and Q swallowed hard; a moment later he turned and walked in silence to the bedroom, with Bond, also wordless, following behind. There, in the semi-darkness, Bond undressed Q with an almost brutal haste before removing his own clothing, dropping it unceremoniously to the floor.
It wasn't angry sex after all. In bed Q could be as fierce as the leopard Bond compared him to, but on a few occasions, like this one, he was astonishingly pliant, raising his chin meekly to allow Bond to nibble at his throat, running those sensitive hands over Bond's back and the hard curve of his buttocks, arching that thin, thin dancer's body like a bow, opening his legs at Bond's hoarse command, allowing himself to be taken.
"I've been thinking," Bond said later, fingers still clenched in Q's mop of hair, "that we might go on a bit of a holiday after my next assignment."
Q raised his head from Bond's chest and stared at him, rubbing at the faint imprint his glasses had left on the bridge of his nose. "Holiday? You must be joking. I don't think…Mallory wouldn't like…"
"If it were only me, I wouldn't even put in for one. I'd just disappear for a few weeks. But Mallory's so by-the-book that he might not tolerate it…his predecessor would have understood."
"Mallory's not as by-the-book as all that. He let me and Tanner bend the rules, that time you and, um, the other M made a run for Scotland, and he never reported it to the Minister. In fact, he was all for it."
Bond dismissed Mallory with a shrug. "We needn't do it openly, in fact it's probably best that we don't. It wouldn't be any trouble to travel separately, to whatever place we decide on, and meet there. Someplace warm," he continued inexorably. "With beaches."
"Bloody hell, you must be joking. And I don't think I can afford—"
"Coconut palms. Good food and excellent drink." There was no immediate response from Q, so Bond went on casually, looking at him from the corner of his eye. "Bungalows on the water, dining under the stars. Four-star restaurants and beautiful, wealthy women in haute couture bikinis."
"Not thinking of going into the gigolo business as a sideline, are you?" Q said, rolling his eyes.
After pretending to give this a moment's thought, Bond shook his head and sighed. "It's all I can do to keep up with you, for pity's sake. What makes you think this grand old warship, to quote a certain Quartermaster, has that degree of stamina?"
Q gave him one of those unfathomable looks, but a moment later his mouth was warm and soft against Bond's, and his eyelids were drooping with drowsy pleasure.
"I haven't been at MI6 long enough to merit a lengthy vacation."
"Mallory knows, or should know, that a man in your position, with your kind of job, can burn out easily…it's the constant pressure. I think he believes in allowing his staff to decompress on occasion."
"I'm not going to burn out," Q mumbled indignantly, yawning, but Bond could see that the seed he had planted in his young Quartermaster's mind was going to take root and grow. As for himself, the very idea of a holiday, however brief, with Q—with Ben—was giving rise to entertaining images, of all sorts, in his imagination.
"Just think it over," he said quietly. "There's plenty of time."
"I, um…" Q said unhelpfully, and yawned again. Bond rolled to the edge of the bed and stood up, halfway to comatose with a delicious fatigue, but also in need of some sustenance. Their sexual marathons tended to produce this ravenous condition in both of them.
In Q's kitchen they managed to assemble a tottering pile of buttered toast and two cups of coffee, the combination that had become their usual post-coital snack.
"Whatever shortcomings you may have," Q announced over a mouthful of toast, "you make an excellent cup of coffee." There were delicate bistre shadows beneath his eyes and his mouth was slightly swollen, but to Bond, a man not given to poetic sentimentality, he had never looked more dryad-like with his rumpled hair, long, slim neck, and bony shoulders.
"Very excellent," Q was saying as he replenished his coffee mug.
"Ah," Bond replied philosophically, draining his. "No doubt that's why you tolerate my presence in your domicile."
"No," snapped Q, and said nothing more. Bond waited for the space of several heartbeats before Q went on, in a voice that mingled sarcasm and affection, "and I suppose you roped me into this, um, arrangement so as to have first access to our latest tech."
"No, not really. I had other reasons."
"For example?" Q muttered as he pushed his fringe out of his eyes.
"Well," Bond said slowly, as though giving the matter some serious consideration, "it was the only way I could think to get you out of those dreadful cardigans."
My deepest thanks to everybody who read this fic and left comments, which were greatly appreciated. Thank you for slogging through the long chapters; I'm afraid I get horribly wordy.
More comments are VERY welcome!
I confess I didn't know what to do about Q's name. If the Bond franchise ever decides to give him one, I can always insert it into the text. I don't really think that Ben Whishaw's Q is meant to be Major Geoffrey Boothroyd, who was never young (and was always quite a bit older than Bond) in the earlier films. Skyfall's Q appears to represent a new era, hence Bond's muttered "Brave new world" in the National Gallery scene. But of course I could be completely mistaken.
I tried to keep Bond and Q as in-character as I could, which was a challenge, especially in young Q's case—as we didn't find out all that much about him, in Skyfall.
I have to thank two readers who alerted me to something I wrote about Tolkien elf ears in the postscript to Chapter 5. Evidently Tolkien's elves ARE meant to have pointed ears, as they do in the films. This isn't mentioned in The Lord of the Rings books (which I've read many times), but apparently Tolkien did indicate this in other, later writings. So I'm grateful for the info.