'Cause if it's love you want
Then you won't mind
A little tenderness
That sometimes is so hard to find
Lay it down/Make it all alright
Lay it down/I'll hold you so tight
Lay it down/Before the morning light
It's gonna be alright
Oh, lay it down
Come and lay it down tonight
-Lay it Down
Lyrics by Aerosmith
Bond did not know how long he sat there with his head in his hands, looking far too pathetic for a Double-Oh, but he righted himself when the sound of footsteps came from beyond the door: the other agents returning to continue their physical training. Immediately, he stood and, hoping that his expression appeared neutral enough, went back to his exercises before someone could see him in such a state. But pretending that Moneypenny had never spoken a word to him was too difficult; Bond could not concentrate on his routine despite his best efforts. He eventually threw in the towel and retired to the locker room, where he took a scalding shower and tried not to think about all of the things he had been pointedly not thinking about. There were the facts: the entire arrangement between them was a mutual understanding; they had agreed that the thing between them was supposed to be physical and nothing more. And Bond had intended it to be that way in the beginning, when they had fallen into bed together not-quite-on-accident-but-not-quite-on-purpose, starving for one another like they had never tasted any other sort of release. That night had been a long time coming. Everyone knew it would happen eventually, even Bond and Q. Maybe they had known from the moment they first met in the National Gallery, or perhaps it had been after, when Bond had woken in Medical after the events at Skyfall, to find Q sitting vigil by his bedside. But regardless of when it had happened, it had happened, and neither of them could have foreseen the current problem: that they were getting too attached instead of drifting apart, like lovers of convenience usually did.
He liked what they had; it was good and easy. Q did not pressure him into doing anything he did not want to do and asked nothing of him (except the usual not-to-die or lose equipment or be a prat, etc). There were no expectations of a normal relationship, no pressures, no obligations, and that was what they both wanted, they had been clear on that. But it became comfortable, routine in a way that was not boring and instead rather welcome, and Bond suddenly found himself wanting more. And it was not just that he wanted to receive more, he wanted to give more. When exactly their fling had evolved from nothing into something, Bond could not say. All he knew was that Q's acerbic wit, his blinding intelligence, the softness to him that only happened late at night when all his responsibilities were stripped away, were the things that were just as good, if not better, than the physical relationship they maintained. Of course the sex was good, but for once it was not just about that-not just a means to an end-not anymore.
Bond saw it happening, but did not want to end it, not when it was the one good thing in his life, and so he attempted to tread carefully instead. He had been hurt before-lost too many people too quickly and too often-so he had tried not to care too much, tried not to fall in love when Q made it so so easy. Maybe it happened to Q, too, which was why he agreed to put up barriers and tried to follow rules and laid down all sorts of stipulations between them. But they were never ones to follow the rules, that much was certain. They had too much fun breaking them. In hindsight, they should have known better.
Now, months later, Bond could only think about how for the first time in a long, long time, he felt happy: happy in a way that he had not felt since those fleeting, sunshine-filled days with Vesper. He had forgotten what it felt like, how good it could be to have someone there, and he was not keen on giving that away. Besides, the thought of giving Q up to someone else-allowing someone else's hands to touch him, lips to kiss him, body to possess him-irked Bond at such a deep level that he felt indescribable jealousy towards a person who did not even exist.
After finally coming to solid conclusions about his emotional state, whiling away the hours until Q's six-hour shift ended ranked similarly to torture. Bond locked himself in one of the offices reserved specifically for field agents to complete their paperwork so that he could pace the grey carpet in privacy. On one hand, he wanted nothing more than to go to Q and confess everything, but on the other, the thought of confronting the issue between them was rather terrifying. What did Q want out of all of this? Sometimes it seemed he wanted more than their arrangement; he had never complained about having to share a wardrobe, a shower, a bed, the entire flat. In fact, Q had opened up his home to Bond in increments: an empty drawer, then two, then three, and then the pointed reorganisation of his shampoo in the shower to accommodate Bond's, the space made in the medicine cabinet for his few personal items, the incorporation of some of Bond's linens to the wash, then all of them, until they were neatly folded alongside Q's in the closet. Q never said a word about the incremental shift from a purely sexual relationship to a more domestic one, when they began sharing breakfasts in the mornings and the take-away dinners at night and that sometimes there were the evenings when they were just too tired to do anything but lie next to one another in bed and breathe the same air and feel the warmth of another body until they fell asleep. And then there was the way Q all but begged him not to get hurt, going so far as to admit that he worried about Bond constantly, worried more than a Quartermaster would worry about an agent. Maybe that meant something, but maybe it didn't. They were both terrible at talking about feelings, that much was for certain. Just like Bond, Q kept his emotions close to his chest. In their business, it was practically a requirement. And even though Q had opened his life to Bond, he only shared a bit of his heart. There were snatches of it here and there, but nothing definitive; it was hard to get a read on what he was feeling most of the time.
But if anyone could find out, it was Bond.
Squaring his shoulders, Bond left his self-imposed confinement and made for Q's office, only to find it empty. Judging from the steaming cup of tea near the keyboard and the fact that the monitors were not in hibernation, Q had just popped out a moment before. He took a seat in the abandoned desk chair and propped his feet on the desk, knowing that it would drive Q mad when he saw. He was just about to begin a game of Solitaire when Q came in, tapping away at a tablet.
"Feet off," he said, not even looking up from his work as he entered and closed the door behind him. Bond obediently did as he was told, but did not rise from Q's chair. His lover came round the desk and stopped, glancing up from the screen to regard him. "You're in my spot."
"Yes," Bond said, turning the chair and his body completely towards Q. "It's late. Time to go home."
Q looked at him strangely, as if holding something else back in his expression. It came across subtly-like the line between his brows that meant he was thinking too much or the slight hitch to his lip with he was worried-but Bond noticed, not because he was a Double-Oh, but because he just knew Q too well. And it was then that he realised he had uttered the word home instead of the flat and little things like that made all the difference; after all, Q made it his business to pick up on the small details.
"Past your six hours. Sarah'll have a fit if she finds you still here," Bond continued, rushing to distract Q from his mistake. But Q had heard, and instead of looking angry or serious, he seemed a little pleased, if the small uptick at the corner of his mouth was anything to go by. Oh, well, wasn't that interesting?
"Hmm, well you don't have to tell her," Q said, placing his tablet onto the desk. He typed out something on it and Bond heard the lock engage on the door. The windows polarised a moment later, blocking the view of those in the bullpen below. "In fact, I don't think you will."
"Really? And why is that?" Bond asked, leaning back in his chair as Q leant forward. His eyes were dark, lips red and sensual. Bond felt his pulse jump in response to the sight.
"Well, I never properly thanked you for taking care of me..." Q said, as his long fingers trailed down over the front of Bond's shirt. His suggestive smirk told Bond all he needed to know about where Q wanted to go with this. Under normal circumstances, he would be all for allowing Q to push him down and have that pretty mouth suck him off, especially because doing that sort of thing at work, in Q's office, had fueled his fantasies for many, many months now. But there were still so many uncertain things between them and Q had only just come back to work after being ill. His cough remained persistent and Q often took at least a half dose of the cough medicine at night in order to sleep. On top of that, Bond knew that he had a few more days using the prescription inhaler, after which he would have to go back to Medical for them to determine if they were going to take him off of it or up the dosage. And although Q looked much, much better than before, Bond could not (with a clear conscious) allow the encounter to go further.
"You don't have to thank me, Q," Bond replied, stopping Q before he could unbutton his shirt all the way. He took Q's hands in his and held onto them. Q's confused look prompted Bond to continue. "Really. I wanted to."
"And, really, I want to thank you," Q said, leaning forward to kiss him. Bond moved his head back and Q stopped, his look of confusion intensifying.
"You're still recovering," Bond said.
"Oh, c'mon. It's not like you're going to catch it," Q laughed, straddling Bond's hips. The chair squeaked a bit under their combined weight and Bond's mind momentarily blanked at the possibilities of what they could accomplish in this position. Q's thighs caged his, hard and hot through his trousers and Bond had to mentally run through naval codes in order to not act on his physical desire.
"That's not what I'm worried about," Bond replied, not releasing Q's hands from his grip.
"Hmmm… what are you worried about?" Q asked nonchalantly, as he leant forward to press light, teasing kisses along Bond's jaw. The fluttering sensation of Q's hot lips against his skin sent a spike of intense want through Bond. It was not because he had gone so long without, but rather due to the fact that he had spent all day with Eve's words repeating in his head-telling him he was going to lose Q, lose all of this-only to have Q greet him with such passion. Where he had expected Q to treat him with some aloofness, he felt a bit caught-off-guard by the welcoming familiarity of the other man's body against his and the small smile at Bond's choice of the word home all while his eyes were dark with lust and desire, body pressed close enough to bruise. Even though Bond did not know what to call this thing between them, he could not bear to pull away now and question it. Not when it seemed that Q felt something similar. The lines were still unclear as to where they stood, but for now…
"Nothing," Bond sighed, resisting the urge to slide his hands up under Q's dress shirt. His fingers itched to caress his lover's skin, but he held back. "And as much as I would like to continue this, I think it would be best to do it when you're better."
"I am better," Q growled against his neck, and, Christ, if that was not the most wondrous sound Q could produce.
"You're still on the inhaler," Bond pointed out.
"So?" Q asked, and nipped at Bond's throat; Bond dug his fingers hard into Q's hips, relishing in his delighted shudder at the treatment.
"So, you're not better," Bond replied, and Q leant back to regard him with a half-pouting sort of glare.
"I really am questioning your judgement. This would be the second time you've opted to not shag me in my office," Q said, his frown deepening as a serious edge fell hard in his voice: "I'll tell you one last time to not patronise me again."
"I'm not," Bond said, grasping at Q's upper arms. He pulled Q down and kissed him hard, chasing the heat of his mouth and tongue with his own, hands skidding up along Q's narrow back to his hair, where Bond's fingers tugged and twisted at the dark strands. Q melted into it, kissing as if desperate, as if drowning, and Bond loved that about him more than anything. No one who looked at Q would ever guess he could kiss like he did and if Bond had his way, no one else would.
After a few moments, Bond regretfully had to pull back, knowing Q would need the break. And right he was: Q wheezed for breath as if he could not get enough air. Although that would normally be a compliment in addition to Q's debauched look-hair standing up at all angles from where Bond had clenched at it and his cheeks coloured red-Bond knew Q's lung infection was to blame.
"See," he said, resting his palm against Q's neck, where his pulse beat erratically. "You're still not better."
Q considered him for a moment as he tried to catch his breath, then leant forward to rest his forehead against Bond's shoulder with a soft groan of defeat.
"This bloody cold…" he mumbled thickly.
"You'll be back to normal soon," Bond said, moving his hands up and down along his spine. Q relaxed under his touch as his breathing returned to normal. Bond felt the rise and fall of Q's chest against his own, the warmth of each exhale upon his neck. Although their position had been intended activity of a more sexual sort, another kind of intimacy remained its absence.
"Promise that you'll let me thank you?" Q asked, once his breaths became less strained. His long, cool fingers slid into Bond's hair, trailing through the short strands idly. Bond closed his eyes at the tender affection, feeling content enough to stay that way for the rest of the night.
"You don't have to," he said. Q stopped the motion with his fingers, drawing back until they were almost nose to nose.
"But you're missing the point, I...I want to," Q replied, stressing the word want with an earnest sort of look that Bond was unsure how to read. Visibly, Q fumbled for something else to say. "I've never, I mean, no one…" He stopped, looking frustrated as he turned his head and coughed weakly into the crook of his elbow. "Bollocks, never mind...just say you'll let me make it up to you, yeah?" he asked hoarsely .
Bond looked at him for a long moment, processing what he had said, what he had almost said, and decided that was as good as he would get now. They were not ready, not yet, not tonight, and that was what prompted Bond to continue with:
"Only when you have your voice back and don't sound like an old man, then we can revisit your request."
Q punched him in the arm.
"You're the old man, old man," he retorted.
"You still have spots," Bond said, poking him in the ribs. Q jerked away from his finger, but did not make to change their position in the chair. In fact, Q leant over Bond, pushing the seatback dangerously horizontal.
"You can say goodbye to the opportunity to ever shag me on my own desk if you keep this up," Q replied, an ultimatum punctuated by a hard scrape of teeth against Bond's jugular. His traitorous cock twitched in definite interest, but Bond was too much a gentleman to act on it.
"You're going to be the death of me," Bond groaned, and Q laughed, a tickle of warm breath against his neck.
"Funny, I say the same thing about you all the time," Q answered, with something like fondness. He tilted his head slightly to kiss Bond, slowly, softly, with no trace of their previous urgency. It was so beautiful how Q could do that with his mouth: go from bruising to gentle, from desperate to withholding, from passionate to playful, in the span of only a few seconds. Bond had never encountered someone that kissed like Q before, who could read him well enough to know just how he wanted to be kissed. Over his lifetime, Bond had kissed many people, whether out of personal interest or for national security, and he could always tell what end goal his partner anticipated (mostly sex, sometimes sex and then an attempted shooting/stabbing/poisoning afterward, or sometimes no sex at all and straight to the attempted shooting/stabbing/poisoning, which was always a disappointment) just from the press of lips against lips. Bond could only count on one hand the few people in his life he had kissed who had no specific motive, who just wanted to kiss him because that was what you were supposed to do with someone you liked. Q was one of those few; one who could say hello and goodbye just as easily as he could convey you make me happy and thank you and I'm sorry and I want you without uttering a single word. It was so rare and so wonderful and it never ceased to amaze Bond every time, which is why when Q made to pull away, Bond followed, not intending to let it end just yet.
Q made a questioning sound against his mouth when Bond did not release him immediately, but he did not make to move back again. Taking that as invitation to continue, Bond kept up kissing the other man and curled his fingers into Q's dark hair gently as he did so, knowing how much he loved the attention. Q's body melted against his, warm and pliant and beautiful in a way that Bond adored. But eventually, Bond had to allow them to separate. Q panted a bit, flushed, bright-eyed, red-lipped, and gorgeous. He smiled lazily at Bond, almost in the same manner he did after a particularly satisfying orgasm, and something about it made Bond feel almost drunk, buzzed with the realisation that he had pleased this beautiful man so thoroughly.
"What?" Q asked, after a moment, upon noticing Bond's undivided attention.
"You're perfect," Bond said. Q's ears pinked with embarrassment at the compliment as he made quick work of removing himself entirely from Bond's lap.
"You're getting senile," Q replied, a beat too late to match his usual spitfire wit. He straightened his glasses, then his cardigan, still apparently flustered by Bond's words. It made him grin to know that he could do that to Q, that he could find new ways to make the other man lose his controlled composure and be more like the man he saw in the quiet moments of their life away from MI6.
"Maybe," Bond said, not rising from the chair as he rolled forward to trap Q between him and his desk. With nowhere for him to escape, Bond moved his arms around Q's middle and looked up at him. "Dinner?"
Bond did not know how much longer it could go on.
He and Q kept dancing around it, letting the unspoken thing between them linger for the next few weeks. The problem was that they both knew it was there, but neither of them wanted to do anything about it. Because of that, nothing outright changed: Bond still lived at Q's flat when he was in London, still got dressed down by his lover when he lost equipment or did something foolish (though in Bond's defense, Lagos had needed a facelift, and what better way to bring some new blood into the city than by burning all the old eyesores of buildings along a major thoroughfare?), and the two of them still made love like it was going out of style. They pointedly did not talk about the things they should have and it might have just been Bond, but he thought that every time he came across Moneypenny, she gave him a pointed evil eye.
The last vestiges of Q's bronchitis cleared in early December and he resumed his previous work schedule, logging more hours on Double-Oh missions than ever with the beginning of the busy month. Terrorists were always extremely active in December (for some reason Bond still did not understand, even after all his years in the programme), which had ruined many planned holidays for countless MI6 employees over the years. The Double-Ohs were no different, sometimes getting only a day or two reprieve between missions before having to be shipped out again. It gave he and Q very little time together, let alone to talk about their relationship.
Q resumed as Bond's handler after the Lagos Incident (because R, despite her competency, was not Q, and even though Bond would deny it, he might have lit things on fire just to spite her), passing 006 onto R and 004 onto another high-ranking tech in the department. With Q back on board with him on every mission, normalcy returned almost entirely. They were still professional-sometimes bordering unprofessional, but that was expected of them-and Bond felt much steadier, centred, clear-headed, with Q on the other end of the comms. So it was just as it always had been, but sometimes, right before he left on an assignment, Bond caught Q looking at him with something in his expression he could not quite name; something that resembled sadness or defeat or both. Because of that, Bond made sure to curtail his recklessness the best he could and refrained from blowing up things that ought not be blown up. He even managed to bring some equipment back with him from time to time. That, in combination with Bond not coming home on a regular basis with seventeen new holes in his body, made Q much more affectionate towards him overall.
It was the week before Christmas and Bond had just returned to MI6 after a particularly hard mission in Jordan. After his debrief with Mallory, Eve shoved a note into his hand with the expression that reminded him of an angry cat. When in the lift, Bond set down his luggage to open the folded page, which read, in Moneypenny's neat script:
He hasn't left since you did.
Take him to dinner.
Below her words was a name and address of a Chinese restaurant a short distance from their flat.
Bond pressed the note closed along the crease and put it into his pocket, exiting the lift on the appropriate floor with a new determination. If Q had been at Six since Bond left, then that meant it had been over three days since he had gone home. He shook his head as he walked into Q-Branch, scaring minions out of his path as he made his way to Q's office. There, he found his lover behind his monitors, surrounded by heaps of papers and plans and bits of computer parts and God knew what else. Q did not look up when Bond entered or even when he dropped his bag and came round to his side of the desk, too focused on typing something out frenetically on his keyboard. Just looking at him, Bond knew Q had not left recently; he had a bit of scruff on his chin and jaw and was down to the spare shirt and trousers he kept in the office for emergencies. When he leant forward, Bond picked up the familiar scent of the generic shampoo kept in the locker rooms instead of Q's usual brand.
He rested his hands on Q's shoulders to get his attention, then began massaging at them out of habit. Q's typing slowed noticeably and then stopped entirely.
"James," Q sighed, finally greeting him.
"Q," Bond said, pressing with his thumbs just where he knew Q needed it most.
"You're back early," he said, letting his head fall forward so that Bond could work at his neck. Bond obliged and Q made a pleased sound at the attention.
"Am I?" he asked.
"You're supposed to be back on Wednesday," Q replied.
"It is Wednesday," Bond answered, squeezing gently at the junction of Q's neck and shoulder. He glanced over at the couch shoved in the corner of the office, noting slightly skewed cushions and neglected blanket draped over the back. Beside the sofa, Bond spied an abandoned MI6 coffee mug from one of the break rooms, two empty takeaway containers, and a half-empty glass of water. "Christ, you really haven't left, have you?" Bond did not wait for Q to answer, immediately making for where the other man kept his coat and satchel. "Alright, it's time to go," he said, taking up the aforementioned items.
"Wait now," Q said, blinking at Bond as if he just woke from a nap; he looked disheveled and disoriented enough. But then Q's expression sharpened, his previous languidness falling away to protocol. "Have you even been debriefed yet?"
"I had debrief with Mallory at 1800," Bond replied. Q regarded him with something resembling suspicion. "Well, look it up if you don't believe me." Not breaking eye contact with him, Q moved his mouse and then typed something out quickly with his right hand. His gaze flicked to the computer for a second and then back to Bond. "Satisfied?"
"You haven't been debriefed with me," Q said.
"Is that what we're calling it? Debriefing?" Bond asked, grinning as he sauntered closer to Q's desk. "Should I lock the door?"
To his credit, Q did not look impressed or amused.
"Your weapon, 007," Q said professionally, procuring a tray from under a bundle of R&D plans.
"About that," Bond began, stopping himself at the look Q gave him. Obviously he was not in the mood to joke. The agent unholstered his gun, cleared the round in the chamber, and dropped the clip, placing all pieces onto the tray for Q's inspection.
"It's in one piece," Q said aloud, as if he could not believe it.
"You sound surprised," Bond replied.
"This is the third time you've brought it back. It's definitely a record," Q replied, glancing up at him. "What about my radio and earwig?" Bond produced the items as asked, both in rough, but somewhat presentable condition. Q poked and prodded at them with various tools before leaning back in his chair. "I am impressed," he said, looking Bond up and down with something a little-less-than-professional in his gaze. "Not only did you save me the work, and the taxpayers money, but you also came back with all your blood in your body. A commendable feat." The praise was almost enough to make Bond blush, if he were capable of such a thing. It felt good to know that he could please Q. Speaking of which...
"So does that mean I've earned a special debriefing?" Bond asked. Q threw the nearest biro at him, which Bond dodged easily.
"Maybe I'll make you something nice," Q said thoughtfully.
"An exploding pen?"
"You never quit with that, do you?"
After some more teasing and a bit of coaxing, Bond somehow lured Q away from his computer, into his coat, and out of his office. His presence made the minions nervous, which sped up the evening transfer protocol immensely. Q had barely signed off on the last line before Bond began ushering him toward the door. Eyes followed from the bullpen-most likely at Bond's close and perhaps-a-bit-too-familiar proximity around their Quartermaster-but no one said a word or made to stop them, not even Q. Outside, Bond flagged down a cab and the two of them tucked inside the warm vehicle for the commute. As the car pulled into traffic, Bond moved his arm round Q's shoulders, brushing some cold condensation from the fabric of his anorak. Q leant into him, typing out something rapidly on his mobile as he did so.
"You've clocked out," Bond said.
"My day is never over," Q replied, not glancing up from the screen. Bond covered it with his hand, shifting Q's attention from the device to him. His eyes were tired, testament to the long hours he had undoubtedly spent sitting in front of his monitors, making sure everything went as smoothly as possible for Bond out in the field. It had gotten rough at times and Bond had a few bruises in creative places to prove it, but overall it had gone well. And Q's diligence was to thank for that. Always to thank for that. Gently, Bond moved Q's glasses to rest at the top of his head and pressed a tender kiss to the spot just between his brows. The small line of tension there faded as Q breathed out a small sigh. He then tilted his head slightly, allowing Bond to brush his lips over Q's lids.
"You are quite the distraction…" Q murmured.
"You like it," Bond replied, softly enough that it did not even disturb Q's lashes.
"I do," he said, and when he opened his eyes, they were dark, dark green. Bond took that opportunity to kiss him properly, not giving a damn what the driver might think of them. He did not linger long, but when he pulled back, Q followed, his mobile forgotten entirely. "I think I like that even more," Q told him, and kissed him again.
"I think I like this the best," Bond said, sliding his fingers over the bit of stubble on Q's jaw.
"Really?" Q asked, pressing against him. "Because I think this is the best." And then he did something with his tongue against Bond's that made his breath stutter to a halt in his chest.
"I think you're right," Bond said, once Q released him. Q laughed, and the exhaustion seemed to lift from him momentarily, making him look unbelievably young and beautiful. If it was possible to fall in love again, Bond would have, right then and there. "Definitely right," Bond added unnecessarily, and leant forward to resume kissing him.
(Bond tipped extra once they arrived at their destination, thinking it only fair after the two of them snogged like schoolkids in the back seat.)
At the kerb, they gathered their things from the taxi and dashed through the icy precipitation towards the main door of the apartments.
"You're not going to believe it, but they've fixed the lifts," Q said, once they were inside.
"Who did you blackmail?" Bond asked.
"Do you really think so little of me?" Q replied, trying a bit too hard to look and sound innocent as he called the lift.
"You might have fooled me if not for that face," Bond said, and Q smirked with his kiss-reddened lips.
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"I think you know exactly what I'm talking about."
Q simply smiled, but did not divulge any other information as they stepped into the lift and took it up to their floor. They made it just past the front door, where they flipped on one light and then dropped their bags and coats right there in the foyer. Bond pressed Q up against the back of the couch and the other man made a sweet sound against his mouth. When they parted, Q tipped his head back, revealing the pale expanse of throat that Bond had been dreaming about marking for days. He got to work on that immediately, fingers already pulling at the knot of Q's tie.
"I'd hate to ask…" Q began, breathy as Bond divested Q of his tie and unbuttoned the collar of his shirt.
"Hmm..?" was the only reply Bond could manage, with his lips so otherwise pleasantly engaged.
"Would you mind if we put this on hold for, ah-about an hour?" Q inquired, gasping beautifully when Bond finished sucking a small mark at the hollow of his throat. The query made both his mouth and hands stop immediately, and Bond pulled back enough to see Q looking up at him sheepishly. The exhaustion had returned; a shadow of it lingered behind his eyes and Bond felt nothing but guilty for his actions.
"Sorry, of course," Bond said, straightening Q's clothes the best he could manage, focusing on that task so that he did not continue to mentally berate himself. He should have realised that Q did not have the same amount of down time as he had; while Bond had been lounging at the hotel spa waiting for the verbal go-ahead, Q had been moving satellites and CCTV across the capital to make sure that Bond was going in as prepared as he could be. That kind of work did not do itself. Bond knew for a fact that Q meticulously triple-checked everything before sending agents into a situation, because he was the Quartermaster and ultimately responsible for the outcome of every mission, every life. Q took on that responsibility knowingly and bore it for all to see at work. But the load was heavy, sometimes too heavy, and it was only when they were alone that Q let Bond see that. He kissed him softly. "Go have a lie down."
"Just a quick power nap," Q told him, sliding his arms up over Bond's shoulders to embrace him; Bond returned the gesture, settling his hands at the small of Q's back. "Then I'm all yours."
"All mine?" Bond asked, looking down at Q, who smiled.
"Indeed. Debriefing, I think you called it," Q said, his smile turning into something a bit more seductive.
"Oh, yes. And I intend for it to be thorough."
"Wouldn't expect anything less from my Quartermaster."
Q grinned and kissed him.
"Wake me in an hour?" he asked, and Bond agreed with a nod, reluctantly releasing Q, who disappeared into the bedroom. Once he heard the door close, Bond tried his damnedest to relax-to have a sit down on the couch for a bit after running through the back streets of Amman from seriously angry (and creative) terrorists-but he was unable to hold still, buzzing with nervous energy beneath his skin. He decided to use it as an outlet and began moving about the living room, taking up their discarded things in the foyer to put them in their proper places. Then Bond proceeded to straighten everything in the flat within an inch of its life. When he was through, he went in search of something to clean, but with Q not having been home for the past three days or so, there was nothing much to consume his time. Restless and agitated for no other reason than his own uncertainty, Bond eventually broke down and went into the bathroom to shower, mostly so that he did not have to stare at the clock. He aggressively scrubbed at his hair and skin, wondering if tonight would be the night the two of them finally came to terms with things. They had to; they could not wait any longer. They had too many excuses-too tired, too busy, too injured-and would continue to use them unless one of them took a stand.
And Bond was determined.
They would talk about it. They would discuss things tonight; no more dancing around the issue, hoping it would resolve itself. He would lay it down, lay everything down, and deal with the consequences when they came. Bond did not have much to give, not really, not after everything he had seen and done and lost, but whatever he did have, he would give to Q, if he would take it. And Bond hoped he would take it, because the thought of Q turning him away-the thought of never returning to the small bit of a life they had carved out together-hurt him in ways a gunshot wound never could.
He dried off, wrapped the towel around his waist, and took up his clothes as he made for the bedroom. Quietly, Bond entered and deposited his laundry in the appropriate basket. Then he joined Q on the bed, who lay atop the duvet on his side, his back to Bond. His breaths were soft and even, body warm when Bond settled behind him. It seemed almost cruel to wake him, especially after the past few hectic days, and Bond was just considering abandoning his plans to let Q rest when the other man shifted beneath his arm with a sleepy sigh.
"'time is it?" Q asked. Bond glanced at the clock on the bedside.
"Quarter 'til nine," Bond answered, nuzzling Q's mess of curls. He had missed this while away: the lazy, comfortable familiarity of lying next to someone he trusted implicitly, someone he loved endlessly. Bond swallowed back the words, kissing along the shell of Q's ear instead. "You can go back to sleep if you'd like."
"Mmm...not if you keep doing that…" Q purred, stretching like a cat against him. Then he yawned and turned over, tucking himself against Bond's bare chest and neck. Bond resisted the urge to move away from the somewhat scratchy fabric of Q's cardigan, enjoying their closeness more than his discomfort. He amused himself by playing with Q's hair, thinking about how nice it would be if he surprised Q with a cashmere jumper for Christmas, because that would certainly feel nice against his skin... Q's even breaths lulled him into a warm, contented state, and he only emerged from it when Q moved just a bit under his chin and said quite clearly: "Don't let me fall back asleep."
"Alright..." Bond replied, and moved his hand beneath Q's shirt and cardigan, where he proceeded to trail his fingers up and then down Q's back slowly. "Are you hungry?"
"Hmm…" Q hummed, either in thought or in response to Bond's touch, he was unsure. Then after a moment he answered with: "I could eat."
"Chinese?" Bond asked.
"Whatever you want," Q murmured against his neck, voice still thick with sleep. Bond had heard that tone out of him many times before, most often in the mornings when Q was still fighting for his last few minutes of rest. Those were the mornings Q ended up leaving late for work, usually because Bond did not have the heart to rouse him when he was so tired. (Or because he was so very selfish and wanted nothing more than for he and Q to spend the day lazing in bed together.) But tonight was different. Q had said not to let him go back to sleep, so Bond was not going to let him; his mission suddenly back on track, Bond sprung into action.
"C'mon, get up," Bond said, sitting up to lean over Q so that he could turn on the light. Q immediately groaned and tried to hide beneath his pillow from the offending illumination. Bond picked it up and tossed it at the end of the bed, leaving Q to grope blindly about for it, his eyes barely open. It reminded Bond of a newborn kitten, and he could not help but laugh at the mental image.
"You're so cruel," Q grumbled, scowling at him in a way that was endearing rather than intimidating. Bond kissed the frown from his lips, not caring about the somewhat bitter taste of sleep and dark tea he encountered there.
"Go take a shower," Bond said and Q, in a surprising display of obedience, did as he asked. As the shower ran, Bond dressed. He considered his suits, knowing that Q liked the navy one the best, but then decided on something more casual: dark jeans and a fitted long-sleeved shirt. He removed one of his personal weapons-a gift from old Boothroyd, a Beretta 950-from his bedside table and strapped it to his ankle. Old habits died hard, after all, and Bond had been shot at enough on home soil to know it was better to always arm himself than to be surprised.
"I may be almost blind, but even I can tell that you have far too many clothes on."
He turned as he was threading his belt through the loops of his jeans and saw Q standing in the doorway: clean shaven and casually leaning on the frame in nothing but a towel. Even though Bond knew he could only see shapes and colours without his glasses, Q's gaze still came across appreciative when it lingered on his arse.
"We're going to have dinner," Bond said.
"I thought we were getting Chinese," Q replied, entering the room, clearly on path to his side of the bed. Bond watched his movements, letting his eyes roam over Q's bare body. The love bite Bond had left earlier stood out vibrantly: a reddish-purple blemish on his otherwise creamy skin. It made Bond want to leave more behind: a testament that Q was his and no one else's. The thought of marking up his neck, chest, stomach, the insides of his wrists and thighs, anywhere he could possibly reach, made Bond's mouth go dry. If the night went well, perhaps he would see those fantasies through.
He cleared his throat, hoping it would also clear his thoughts.
"We are," he said, rummaging through Q's drawer for the green shirt Bond particularly liked on him.
"We don't need to put clothes on for that," Q said pragmatically.
"We're going to have a real dinner," Bond told him, searching for a pair of trousers for Q to wear that were not part of his boring MI6 wardrobe.
"Eating Chinese takeaway on the couch while naked is a real dinner," Q replied, in the same sort of tone. Bond heard him flop onto the bed behind him with a soft huff. "We could even put the food on real plates and eat with cutlery and everything."
"We're going to get dressed, go out, and sit at a table like normal people and have dinner," Bond said, with no room for argument. He found a pair of jeans-probably the only pair Q owned-tucked into the bottom drawer in the far back. They appeared to be about a decade old, and had the holes and tears to prove it. Surprisingly, the state of them did not aggravate Bond-who liked things neat and orderly-and he thought he most definitely would like to see Q dressed in them, if only to rip them off later.
"Oh, no, you want to go out? I have to put trousers on?" Q groused. Bond tossed the jeans over his shoulder in answer, and Q made an indignant sound when the article of clothing hit him in the face. "James-"
"Get dressed," Bond said affectionately, dropping the shirt and a pair of pants onto the mattress next to Q.
"That has to be a first," Q said, after he had freed himself from the offending garment over his head. His glasses were slightly askew and he smiled cheekily at Bond. "You know, you telling me to put more clothes on."
"They'll be coming off later," Bond promised and Q wet his lips with his tongue in a way that was nothing short of pornographic.
"I'm looking forward to it," Q said, looking up at him through his lashes and fringe, like the little minx no one knew he was, except for Bond (who really did intend on keeping it that way).
"Clothes," Bond told him, and left the bedroom before he could sabotage his own plan by acting on the impulse of his traitorous cock. Q laughed-such a pretty, pretty sound-at his retreating back and began getting dressed. Bond put on his shoes and then paced the living room while he waited, feeling nervous in a way that he had not experienced since a young age. Even before a mission, he never felt this level of anxiety. Was it the right thing to do? Were they both ready? Would these feelings even last? Was it worth it? Bond began second-guessing himself, something that he rarely-if ever-did. But then he stopped, calmed himself in the same manner he did before jumping out of an airplane or dismantling a dirty bomb, and then once his breaths were even and his heart had stopped pounding so hard, Bond asked himself the one question he needed to ask:
Are you happy?
Being able to answer yes never felt so freeing, like Bond had been locked inside of a dark room for so long and finally been exposed to sunlight. In a way, he had been. Ever since Vesper and the vengeance that followed after her death, Bond had been in a place he could not escape, not even with the aid of beautiful men and women and all the drugs and alcohol he could find. And then it had gotten worse, spurred on by the rage at being shot down, abandoned, left for dead by MI6. Then there was the blinding anger at seeing his childhood home go up in flames, the despair of holding M as she took her last breath in his arms, the utter bleakness after all of it as Bond's usefulness faded with age. But then there was Q, who believed in him and bullied him and challenged him, made him feel needed and useful, not just a tool, but a human being. Q made him feel like a person, like someone worth caring about, and if that was not sunshine after a long, cold winter, Bond did not know what else could even hope to compare.
"Oh, God, where did you even find these? I haven't seen these jeans since uni..."
Q's voice brought him out of his thoughts and into the present. Bond stopped in mid-pace to regard him, taking in the sight of Q in a fitted green thermal and the curiously alluring pair of ratty jeans. The way they hugged his thighs and clung to his calves was enough to make anyone stare, Bond enough so that he completely forgave Q's choice of frumpy brown cardigan.
"I could ravish you in those," Bond said honestly, and Q went pink from neck to the tips of his ears, but he overall looked pleased.
"You sure you want to go out?" Q asked, toying with one of the small holes near his right front pocket. Bond watched him intently, knowing exactly what Q was doing. This was the game they had been playing for weeks now: the second it seemed like the opportune moment came to discuss what they knew they needed to talk about, they immediately defaulted to innuendo and fell into bed together. It was much, much easier to fall into the simplicity of that than to confront the complex nature of the uncertain thing between them. And no matter how tantalising Q appeared in such attire, Bond resolved to not fall for it.
"Yes, we're going," Bond said, and went to the door to prove it, taking both their coats from their respective hooks.
"Okay, where are we going?" Q asked, going to him without having to be told. He even allowed Bond to help him into his coat without a fuss, as if he were playing along with a joke Bond was not aware of having told.
"For Chinese," Bond replied, shrugging into his own jacket. He double checked for his wallet and keys in the inside pocket as Q took up his satchel and slung it over his shoulder.
"Very informative," Q said, as Bond armed the flat and the two of them locked up.
"It's a restaurant," Bond elaborated.
"Well that's much better than it being a bank or a school," Q replied dryly as they got into the lift. Bond pressed him against the wall and kissed him until he stopped frowning. "C'mon. Tell me."
"It's a surprise."
"I don't like surprises."
"Because surprises usually involve bomb threats or blown up embassies or possibility of chemical warfare," Q replied. "And I'll have you know that all of these surprises are usually your fault, which just makes more paperwork for me."
"No paperwork, I promise."
"You always say that."
"I mean it this time," Bond said, and kissed him again before he could argue.
They took a cab again in order to stay dry from the light drizzle. It was only a ten minute commute from their flat. When Q saw the restaurant-a hole in the wall place that Bond would have absolutely overlooked-he glanced over at Bond with something akin to surprise, then understanding.
"Should I give Eve the credit for this one?" Q asked, as they exited the taxi.
"No, not all of it," Bond said, holding open the door for him. Q just smiled and went ahead inside. They took the table in the far corner, cramped between the wall and the kitchen exit with a full view of the street outside. The table shook and the chairs were uncomfortable but the food was as authentic as Bond had ever tasted outside of mainland China. And it might have been sentimentality, but Bond thought Q never looked more beautiful than he did laughing over a plate of potstickers.
Surprisingly, the evening went well. They had never truly been on a date-having rushed to the mattress so quickly that they completely bypassed the entire getting-to-know-one-another phase-so Bond was unsure as to how the two of them would handle such a normal, social situation. But Bond did not lack for conversation with Q, who was knowledgeable in subjects beyond computers and mechanical engineering. Bond knew this from the books in Q's flat and the saved television programmes on his DVR, but very rarely did they have the opportunity to pursue such topics that strayed from their profession. It seemed like it had been a long time since Bond had talked about something just for the sake of it, instead of as a means to acquire information of some sort to be used at a later date. And it seemed like an even longer time that someone had been interested in what he had to say, not to use it against him, but just genuinely intrigued. It surprised him that Q was legitimately interested in Bond's extensive knowledge of naval history and did not seem at all uncomfortable with his lack of understanding on the subject. They spent a good portion of their meal discussing the topic, with Q asking questions to fill in gaps for what he called his "limited technical knowledge of ships". Bond was more than happy to answer these inquiries, even going so far as to doodle small drawings onto serviettes to help illustrate his more complicated responses.
"Well, you're no J.M.W. Turner, but with a bit of practise…" Q said, squinting at the scratchy art on the paper.
"J.M…?" Bond asked.
"J.M.W. Turner," Q supplied the rest for him. "You know, 'the painter of light'?"
"You like art?" Bond inquired, raising an eyebrow.
"You make me sound so uncultured," Q said, stealing a crab rangoon from Bond's plate with no pretense of apology.
"You like art?" Bond said again, just to keep on, and Q rolled his eyes.
"Did you forget where we met?" Q asked. Bond's lips quirked a bit at the corners, thinking back to that day, so long ago, when he had been sitting in front of the ugly painting of the HMS Temeraire at the National Gallery waiting to meet his new Quartermaster. And then a too pale, too thin, too young man sat down next to him and said-
"'What do you see?'," Bond murmured. Something minute changed in Q's expression, but it was so subtle that Bond could not quite figure out what it was. He slid his hand across the table, touched the tips of his fingers against Q's, who let him, even though it bordered on stupidly romantic. "The Fighting Temeraire. How could I forget? That was a bloody big ship."
Q smiled, and whatever had fallen heavy in his expression before, disappeared. They had a rather engaging discussion about impressionist painters, a topic which Bond would not consider Q's area of interest or expertise, but then again, Q never failed to surprise him. Even more surprising, Q allowed Bond to tease him in Mandarin over dessert and did not try to stab him with a fork when he began laying on the most ridiculous pick-up lines he had learned during a long undercover mission with very lonely, very creative mercenaries in Changzhou. By the time their dinner had concluded, the cold drizzle outside had ceased, and instead of hailing a cab, Bond suggested that they walk back to the flat.
"Exercise is good for you," Bond said, when Q began to protest.
"Says the man whose main cardio workout is running away from armed terrorists," Q replied, munching thoughtfully on his fortune cookie as they walked down the pavement. "Besides, I get plenty of exercise." Bond must have given him a doubtful half-glance, because Q regarded him with a sly smirk and said: "In fact, I intend to work out tonight."
"Really?" Bond asked, reading that grin easily. "And how do you intend to do that?"
"Not sure," Q answered nonchalantly. "Let me consult my fortune." He unfolded the strip of paper that had been in his cookie and read aloud: "'You shall have an excellent shagging tonight.'" Q gave him a serious look. "It seems the fortune cookie has spoken. I now expect an excellent shagging."
"I'm sure I can arrange something," Bond said, as he put his arm around Q's waist. Not even breaking stride, Bond kissed him quickly, but with promise. Q clung to the back of his jacket and made a frustrated sound, but kept up with him, and Bond only felt him hesitate slightly when they started in the opposite direction of their flat.
"Wait, why are we going this way?" Q asked, catching on to the deviance immediately.
"What way?" Bond asked.
"This way. It's the long way back," Q said, as Bond ushered him across the street.
"Fancied a walk in the park," Bond replied, nodding in the direction of the entrance up ahead.
"It's freezing," Q protested, but did not stop, merely shifted closer to Bond for warmth.
"Where's your sense of adventure, Q?"
"Left it in my other trousers."
Bond barked out a laugh.
"It'll be fun," he said, leading a compliant Q down along the main path.
"I can think of a much better definition of fun," Q replied, looking up at him with the same smirk from before: the one that Bond had seen many times, which told him exactly what Q meant by fun. Bond would have acted on that at any other time-turned them right around and gone back to the flat to shag the other man senseless like he so desperately wanted-but he had come this far with another purpose in mind and he was determined to see it through.
"Let me rephrase it, then," Bond began, pulling Q closer to him with a confidence he did not truly feel. "It'll be romantic."
"Romantic?" Q repeated, giving Bond a raised eyebrow. He seemed a bit confused at the prospect, most likely because Bond did not do romantic (outside of missions that required it, anyway), just as Q did not. They had their agreement in place to avoid many things, romance included. They were both simple men with simple needs and desires: shelter, food, sex, and sometimes not even in that order. They did not require anything flashy or showy to satisfy them, nor did they need overly-obvious displays of affection and adoration that some couples employed. It was not to say that romance was dead, but that romance was just not their cuppa. Then over time, Bond realised that there actually was a sort of romance about them; something existed in the little gestures, the honest ones, and those made all the difference, all the romance. It was like when Bond knew exactly when Q needed a hot cup of tea or when Q would rub his feet after a particularly hard mission, even though Bond never had to ask. So perhaps they did not adhere to the normal standard of what most of society deemed romantic, but they could be, in their own way. And Bond thought that something simple and quiet, a stroll through the park together, just them and no one else-no demands from work, no impending assignment hanging over their heads, just them-might be a good way to start things.
"Romantic," Bond said again. Q visibly swallowed and looked only slightly uncomfortable, but he did not pull away, which had to mean something.
"Alright," he said, the simple word sounding forced, with something like anxiety in the undercurrent. Bond pulled him closer, indulged in a moment to brush his cheek against Q's hair, before continuing onward. Despite the late hour, there were plenty of people about: both couples and a few families. Everyone had most likely come to view the holiday fairy lights woven in the bare branches of the park trees. Overhead, they winked and glittered beautifully in strands of gold, white, blue, and red. Their illumination painted a soft blend colours on Q's skin, and Bond watched in fascination as the pallette shifted depending upon which trees they passed.
"What?" Q asked.
"What?" Bond asked.
"You're doing that thing again," Q said.
"What thing?" Bond inquired.
"When you...look at me. Like that," Q replied.
"Why should I not like looking at you?" Bond asked, and Q's cheeks turned pink, but it had nothing to do with the lights above them.
"It's unnerving," Q said, looking away, obviously embarrassed.
"Why?" Bond asked.
"Why are we here?" Q asked, diverting the question. He had stopped walking and Bond had too, but when, he could not say. They stood in the middle of the path, but moved off to the side to let other people pass.
"For a walk," Bond said, and even to his own ears, it sounded an outright lie.
"James," he said, in the way he sometimes said James, don't you bother coming back without my equipment, like he already knew what he was going on and did not want to deal with any more bullshit. Bond took his hand and led him through the trees to an alternate path, where there were less people walking about to overhear them.
It was time. Everything had been leading up to this. And now Bond stood before two very different futures and he could only hope-only pray to a God he didn't believe in-that the conversation would go the way he wanted. The alternative was unthinkable.
"I wanted to ask you something," Bond said, standing to face him.
"Alright," Q said, and Bond saw tension take hold of him, as if Q were steeling himself before battle, for the conversation that they both knew had been coming.
"Maybe several somethings," Bond amended. "And I want to be honest."
"Oh, don't let MI6 hear that out of you," Q told him, obviously trying for banter, trying to give Bond one last chance to turn back and pretend that this entire thing did not happen. But Bond was determined as he stepped forward and brushed his thumb along Q's cheek, down to trace his jaw. Q's expression softened slightly and became more content, in a way that had nothing to do with the gentle light and everything to do with the way Bond touched him like he knew Q wanted to be touched. But then Q came back to himself, straightened up as if putting on armour, and looked at Bond expectantly.
"I want to move in with you," Bond said. The words tumbled out easily, not truly the ones he had intended to say, but a good start, nonetheless. Q regarded him without any shift in his expression.
"You want to what?" he asked.
"I want to move in with you," Bond said again clearly, surely, with confidence that he did feel.
"Oh, alright," Q replied, in a tone that made it sound as if they were discussing the weather.
Bond had not been expecting him to answer so casually.
"Yes? Unless you wanted me to say no?"
"No, but, you're sure?"
"We basically live together anyway. It's a practical choice."
"I'm not asking out of practicality," Bond said seriously.
"Then how are you asking?" Q asked.
Bond sighed, gathered up whatever strength he had, and continued.
"For someone so smart, you're stupidly dense," he said, and Q frowned.
"You're the one not being clear."
"I said I wanted to move in with you."
"Yes, and I said that you could."
"But you didn't ask why."
"Why, then?" Q asked, but there was no challenge in his voice. If Bond did not know better, he would say that Q looked afraid, vulnerable almost. They were both in uncharted territory and Q was all but begging him with his eyes to stop.
"Because… I want to be with you," Bond said, and held his breath.
Q seemed confused at the revelation.
"You are with me."
"No, I mean with you, with you."
"I don't understand," Q said, brow furrowed as if Bond had given him a particularly difficult algorithm that he could not yet figure out.
"Christ, I'm in love with you, you idiot," Bond said, his voice coming out so loud that it carried.
But Q did not say anything. He just stared and stared for a long time.
"What?" he finally managed, voice small and quiet.
"I'm in love with you," Bond said, surprised at how easily the words came, those words he thought he would never say to someone again. Before him, Q looked windswept, his expression betraying how stunned he felt at the confession.
"With me?" Q clarified.
"Yes, with you," Bond confirmed, stepping closer to Q, taking his hands. They were cold and trembling. Bond wrapped his fingers around Q's to try to warm him, but his lover did not seem to notice. He still seemed dazed, but not in a happy way, more of a blindsided and unsure manner.
"But…" he began, sounding uncertain.
"But what?" Bond asked. Q took in a breath and looked up at him.
"Sod the agreement, Q."
Q turned his head and pulled his hands from Bond's, but did not move away completely
"We can't," he said.
"Why not?" Bond asked.
Q seemed conflicted. Bond stepped closer, but did not make to reach for him.
"We said nothing complicated. Love's kind of a complicated thing," Q said, and the way he said love made it sound like it physically pained him.
"I know. I've tried, I really have, but I can't just box it up and forget about it," Bond said, feeling a touch desperate. He wanted nothing more than to reach out and touch Q, but, as if sensing it, the other man took a step away from him. Then he turned around, showed Bond his back, and said clearly:
Bond felt everything stop-breath, blood, heart, everything-and diverted his reaching hand to grip at the handrail on the low wall beside them. In that moment, it was the only thing keeping him upright on his own two feet.
"No?" Bond repeated, winded as if he had just been punched and beaten and tortured in the span of less than twenty seconds.
"No, I can't," Q said.
It sounded like Q was trying not to cry, like that night in the dark when he had just whispered good night instead of saying what he had wanted to say.
"Why not?" Bond asked.
"Because it's not fair."
"What's not fair?"
"Loving you back."
Bond felt something in him soar at the words-Q loved him, really loved him?-while the rest of him struggled with something that drove him harshly down to earth. If Q loved him, why did he sound so sad, so defeated?
"You love me," Bond said, and Q huffed out a laugh.
"Of course I do, you idiot," he replied, and rubbed at his eyes.
But he still did not turn around.
"Why didn't you say anything?" Bond asked.
"We agreed," Q said simply.
Bond laid his hand on Q's shoulder and gently turned him around. His cheeks were flushed from the cold and Bond experienced a knee-jerk response of pure concern about his newly-found health declining. But even more worrisome were his eyes: red-rimmed and wet. Bond slid his hand along Q's shoulder, letting his palm rest against the side of his neck. Q leant into his touch and Bond took that as his opportunity to close that space between them, until Q was a trembling line of warmth pressed against him. Then he moved forward and kissed him. It felt wrong and sad when Q kissed back, like Q was trying to tell him I love you and goodbye at once.
"No," Bond said, pulling back just enough to say that word, his lips brushing over Q's. "Don't you dare."
"I'm sorry," Q murmured.
"No," Bond said again, not caring if he sounded desperate. Not caring if he was all but crushing Q against him because he could not let him go.
"I can't," he said. They were close enough that Bond could see his wet lashes.
"I just can't, James. Let me go."
"Please...let me go…"
No," Bond said, and held him tighter. "I've let go of everyone I ever cared for. I'm not going to do it again. I won't, Q. Don't you understand?" Q looked at him, horribly, honestly sad and broken, Bond kissed him, and then again, and again because Q had to understand how much Bond could not bear to lose him. "You're too important… I can't, I'll…" Bond stopped, looked Q right in the eyes. "Please."
He had been poisoned and tortured and left for dead more times than he cared to count, but not once had he asked for reprieve or forgiveness. It was not until now that someone had finally made James Bond beg.
And he begged.
"Please," he said again, and kissed him. Q's inhaled breath sounded like a sob.
Q pushed away from him and turned away to grip hard at the railing with both hands, leaving Bond indescribably cold in the absence of his warmth.
"Why?" Bond asked, and he tried not to sound angry-because he was hurt, so terribly hurt, not angry, not really-but he was not sure if he managed it or not.
"I told you why," Q said.
"You said you loved me."
"I do love you."
"Then what, Q? What do you want?"
"I want to not be in love with you."
Bond his chest tighten, like he had run too far for too long without a rest.
"Why? Am I that horrible?" he asked, and tried to grin his usual cocky grin, but could not quite accomplish it.
"No, you're wonderful. Stupidly, perfectly wonderful, even when you're being an arse. You make me so bloody happy, I can't even put it into words... I couldn't ask for more."
"Christ, James, are you that-"
Q stopped short, falling into an icy silence. His hands clenched at the railing so tightly that his knuckles looked like they might tear through the flesh. There was something there that Bond did not understand. Q was so hard to read, but he had said that he loved him and that was enough for Bond to take a step forward.
"Q," he said, but before he could reach out, Q whipped around to face him
"No, you don't get to do this, James!" Q shouted, and Bond flinched. Q did not raise his voice, not like that, and it was as if everyone else knew that too, because passerby cast pointed looks in their direction. At the attention, Q quickly turned his face away from their stares and said to Bond, much more quietly: "You don't get to."
"Don't get to do what?" Bond asked.
"Don't, just, don't even-" Q's hands clenched into fists at his sides, but he wasn't angry, just like Bond wasn't angry, but hurt, scared, and Bond did not know what to do. Without thinking, Bond grasped him by the upper arms so that Q could not get away and would have to face him directly, but his lover averted his gaze and looked everywhere but at him.
"How am I supposed to know when you won't tell me?"
Without a word, Q wrenched away from him and began walking with quick, purposeful strides. Away, he was walking away, out of Bond's life completely, as if they had never happened. Bond felt his heart climb into his throat and he followed.
"Q, talk to me."
"No, we have to end this. It's over, James, it's-"
"Why? Why does it have to be over?" Bond asked, grasping at the sleeve of Q's anorak to keep him from escaping. The other man stopped and ran a hand through his hair, a gesture Bond knew all too well from seeing Q aggravated and exhausted one too many times at work.
"You don't get it...you really don't…"
"I don't. So tell me."
Q did not turn around, the straight line of his back forming a wall, a barrier between them. It was like it had been before, all those months ago: Q in his fortress that he had built to protect himself, closed off from everyone else, from the world, so that everyone would see him as someone strong and capable instead of young, so young, and breakable. Bond ached in a familiar way-in a way he hadn't ached since Venice-to think that everything would end between them and Q would hide himself away again.
"It's so easy for you, isn't it?" Q asked: cool, professional, with his clipped consonants and vowels that he reserved solely for dressing down agents who ruined his creations and Double-Ohs who disobeyed his orders. It was just another wall between them, something cold to distance them. Bond moved his hand down the sleeve of Q's jacket, letting his fingers press gently against Q's bare wrist.
"What is?" Bond asked softly.
"Saying all this... you never think about the consequences of your actions, do you?"
"Is this about work?"
"Of course this is about work!" Q snapped.
"We can keep it secret if you're worried. Or we can talk to Mallory about it and make it official. I don't care, Q, I just want you-"
Q jerked his arm away and turned to face him, and Bond could see all his armour, all his walls breaking down, crumbling, falling apart, revealing so much pain that it was almost blinding.
"You think this is about what people are going to think?"
"What else would it be about?"
"Christ, James. Do I have to spell it out?"
"Yes! I wish you would!"
Q pushed him hard, his palms flat against Bond's chest as he forced them apart. It didn't hurt, but Bond still felt some surprise at Q's desperation; he never spoke above an indoor voice, never ever resorted to physical violence. Bond had known that from the beginning, when they sat together at the National Gallery and Q had said softly that sometimes a trigger has to be pulled. But that was the Q in his fortress, who had his genius and logic and emotional detachment. Before him now was the Q who had fallen, who stood exposed and terrified and in love. The Q barely holding back tears as he all but shouted:
"I'm going to have to bury you, you inconsiderate prat!"
Bond stopped reaching for Q, stopped thinking, stopped breathing. The sound of the evening traffic and the laughter of passerby seemed loud in the wake of their silence. Q panted, raspy and hard, as if it hurt.
"Out of everyone in the entire world...out of seven billion people, I had to fall in love with you. James Bond: the man who might not live to see tomorrow," Q said, smiling a self-deprecating little smile. "And how do you think it feels to be your Quartermaster? That I'm responsible every time you get hurt? That everytime I send you out there, I know you might not come back?"
"I'll always come back," Bond replied, even knowing that the words were empty. The life of a Double-Oh was a dangerous one. He could not make a promise like that and he knew it. So did Q.
"Don't make promises you can't keep."
Q said it so harshly that Bond almost recoiled away from him.
"Loving you is terrifying," Q continued, his voice quiet, the edge gone. He sounded almost as calm as he did over the comms when Bond was on a particularly difficult mission. "Even more so because I know I'll undoubtedly kill you."
"I will. One time is all it takes. One time I'm too slow or I tell you right when I should have said left or I'm absolutely blind and can't do anything!"
There were tears on Q's face, but he did not seem to notice them. Bond stared, mesmerised, unable to look away at the despairing humanity in Q's expression. And all of it, for him.
"And then I'll listen to you die," he said. "I'll listen even if you tell me not to." He turned away again, but did not make to leave. He just stood there beneath the twinkling fairy lights. His next words came out in a visible white cloud as he sighed them out on a harsh breath. "I'll bury you, if there's anything to bury. And then I'll have to go home alone and sort through your things alone and go to bed alone and be so goddamn haunted by you-" Q stopped and brought his hands to his face, skewing his glasses in the process, mumbling into his hands so softly that Bond almost missed the whispered: "I love you so bloody much that it will kill me if you die."
If that was not a confession of true love, Bond did not know what was.
"You're already mourning me. I'm not even dead yet," Bond said, trying for a joke, for anything, that might make Q stop crying. He hated it, every damn second of it, but Q would not let him near when he tried, and Bond could only watch as he rubbed at his face roughly to dry the wetness there. "Q, you can't…" Bond stopped and waved some people by who were staring as if they wanted to come over to see if everything was all right. Not wanting to make a scene, Bond kept his voice quiet as he circled around Q to face him: "You can't think like that. It'll eat you alive."
"But I have to think like that. I have to think of the consequences," Q replied, lifting his gaze from the pavement to fix on Bond. "Every time I send you out on assignment, the probability of your death increases. It's getting worse out there, James, and the worst of the worst places are where they send you. I know that the chances of you retiring are slim-to-none, and I won't ask you to give it up because I know you can't... so what else is left but coming to the certain fact that you'll die in the field?" Q's expression softened into something like defeat and his shoulders sagged, as if this heavy burden had become too much to bear. "'Double Ohs don't have particularly long lifespans'."
Hearing those words recited back to him made everything all so clear to Bond, who had been stumbling around in the dark for weeks now. He had not understood the sadness that flickered in and out of Q's expression, the lingering touches after he received his equipment, as if the other man did not want him to go, but could not say it aloud. All of that because one night he had said those words so easily- so casually, carelessly-not realising how hurtful they were to Q. Q, who loved and worried constantly about him and wanted nothing more than to not be in love with him because it would kill him if Bond died. Bond doubted that anyone had ever cared for him so much.
And it was selfish, so very selfish of him, but Bond could absolutely not give that up, not when he finally knew what it felt like to be loved so much, so deeply, so painfully.
"So that's it? That's it then? You've got it all figured out?" Bond asked, doing his best to keep the accusation from his tone as he leant in closer. "You're just going to walk away because of something that might happen?
"Will happen," Q said stiffly. "I'm not being pessimistic, James, I'm being realistic."
"Do you have so little faith in me?" Bond asked.
"It's not that," Q replied softly. "It's not you. I don't have faith in me."
"I do," Bond said.
Q did not say anything, just looked at the ground between their feet as if ashamed.
"You're the best handler I've ever had. The best Quartermaster," Bond continued, with open honesty. "I trust you with my life."
"And yet, I can't promise to prolong it," Q said bitterly.
"I don't expect you to," Bond replied. "I can only hope that you'll promise to give me a fulfilling life for as long as I have one. That's all I can ask for."
"And then what? At the end, I'll still be responsible. I'll still be alone. I'll still feel guilty. It'll still hurt," Q grit out, hands clenching into fists at his sides. "We've let this go on too long...it's gone too far. We've got to stop." He shook his head. "The outcomes are unfavourable, for both of us. It's-"
"So you think, all this time, I haven't also thought of the consequences of loving you?" Bond interrupted, not backing down, not now, not when there was something to fight for; someone. It had been a long time since Vesper, but sometimes Bond could still taste the bitterness of the water, see her red dress and dark hair, feel the cold flesh of her unmoving lips. Because of that, he swore he would never love again, because losing was inevitable and it hurt and it was not worth it.
Until it was.
Bond was willing to put his fears aside because he just wanted to be happy again, even if it was just for a moment. Even if he died, or if Q died, or if they both died, he wanted to know that his life was not meaningless: that there was something, someone, that made it all worth it.
"No, listen. You could be kidnapped, tortured, killed just because of what you are to me. You could be blown up in an attack on MI6 like Boothroyd and the rest of them. Shit, you could die in a freak R & D accident or get hit by a car crossing the street or get electrocuted using the toaster oven."
"It's not the same," Q said. "The probability of my death is so much less than yours-
"But it can still happen. I could lose you just as easily as you could lose me."
"It's not the same," Q repeated, as he shook his head and made to turn away again. But Bond went to him, pressed him up against the railing, keeping him from escaping. Another couple passed by, staring at them curiously. He listened to their footsteps as they passed. He could smell snow in the air. Q's face was dark in the half-light of his shadow.
"Before you write me off entirely, answer one question for me," Bond said. "Let's say we end this tonight. We stop. We still work together and pretend that nothing happened… pretend that we don't have any feelings for one another…" It hurt Bond to say it, but he winced his way through the words. And it had the desired effect: Q's attention was all his. "Let's say we do all of that and then six months from now, I'm dead." The silence between them lay thick, nearly palpable. "Would it be any easier?"
"Would it be any easier?"
Q stared at Bond's jacket with intense concentration.
"No," he said finally, quietly, as if admitting it aloud would change the fate of the entire universe.
"Then, please," Bond said, taking Q's face in his hands so that he could look the other man in the eyes. He brushed his thumbs over Q's cold cheeks, along the dried tracks of his previously-shed tears. "Please don't end this before it's even started."
Q lifted his hands and gripped loosely at Bond's wrists. His fingers were cold against his skin, trembling against Bond's pulse.
"I'm afraid," he admitted. Q did not look disgusted at his own admission of weakness, instead staring at Bond wide-eyed and frightened in a way that Bond had never seen. "I've never been this afraid before."
"I am, too," Bond said, pressing his forehead against Q's.
"But you're a Double-Oh."
"Well then you'd best not tell or else I'll be laughed out of the programme."
Bond's lip quirked and so did Q's, and suddenly they were two idiots standing at the middle of a bridge at some odd hour of the evening on a Wednesday, grinning like fools. Then Q visibly sobered and Bond leant in to kiss him before doubt could overtake his thoughts.
"Stop worrying," Bond said.
"I can't," Q said. "I'll always worry. I just keep thinking about-"
"Stop thinking," Bond hushed him.
"How?" Q asked. He sounded lost, looked so young and vulnerable that Bond wanted nothing more than to hold onto him and protect him from every bad thing in the world. But that was impossible, so Bond did the next best thing he could think of and said:
"I love you."
Q looked at him, eyes so very green.
"Say it again."
Bond did and threaded his fingers into Q's hair.
And he did, then kissed him until he felt the tension recede from Q's body.
"Let's go home," Q murmured. Bond's heart lifted higher at the word home, because it meant something now, something much more than it did before. It was that place that he and Q shared-where there were boxes of tea in the cabinet and their shoes by the door and the bed that Bond missed so much while away, because it smelled like them, like home-and they would continue to share for as long as they could. Bond turned them back around toward the park entrance, where he hailed a taxi. As they were climbing inside, Q turned to him and asked:
"So do you really think so little of me that I'd die by electrocuting myself using the toaster oven?"
Bond felt a knot in his chest loosen and he laughed and nudged Q inside before kissing him silly.
Logically, it was a poor choice.
Q knew this, knew the statistics pointed towards a less-than-favourable outcome for the both of them, and yet, his heart ruled over his head in the wake of Bond's words, the way he breathed out I love you again and again over his skin, his lips. And Q forgot about how much he knew it would hurt because this was living and Bond was worth that risk. He always had been, ever since the moment they met, because Q had been done in by his blue eyes and handsome, rugged face and the way he said Q with something like respect. That was why Q allowed himself to remain emotionally compromised and let Bond press him up against the wall of the lift to kiss him until he could not feel his toes.
When the doors opened to their floor, Bond did not let them break apart, and Q found himself stumbling after him down the hallway. They somehow managed to provide accurate authentication to let them into the darkened flat despite being locked together at every conceivable point. Q had at least half the presence of mind to alarm the system as he dropped his bag and they both shed their shoes and coats with unrivaled enthusiasm. He pulled Bond with him in the direction of the bedroom, but they were too uncoordinated in the dark and so preoccupied with kissing, that they tumbled into the end table nearest the sofa. The force knocked over the lamp, which fell onto the cushions and then rolled over the edge onto the floor; Q heard the sound of the shade crumpling with the impact.
Bond stopped only long enough to say "Oops" before reclaiming Q's lips again and instead of being offended on behalf of his abused furniture, he laughed against Bond's mouth.
They finally made it to the bedroom, where Q nudged Bond back onto the mattress and then moved over him. He decided then to change the pace of things, wanting it to go a bit slower, to take in everything that had just happened and process what that meant for him, for them, for the future. Bond must have understood, because his mouth became a little less insistent, his hands a tad more gentle in their grip on his hips, and Q loved him very much for knowing without a single word spoken between them. After some time-seconds, minutes, hours?-Q drew back, his lips kiss-swollen and warm. He regarded Bond beneath him, his eyes so very blue, even in the dark. They watched him in that way that sometimes made Q feel uncomfortable, but not now, because Q finally understood why Bond looked at him like that, and it made him feel so impossibly loved that he felt like laughing or crying or both. But Q did neither and instead, removed his glasses. He set them on the bedside table and then leant back over Bond, pulling the man's shirt up over his head. Once free of his arms, Q dropped it over the side of the bed and moved in to kiss Bond again.
They went about it unhurriedly, sharply in contrast to how things usually went. Most of the time they were still thrumming with adrenalin after an assignment or heady with relief after too much time apart. The sex was always about establishing the physical presence of one another: that they were both still alive and lived to see another day. This was something else: something quiet and intimate that had nothing to do with work and everything to do with the fact that, despite all odds, they were in love with one another.
Q had had few relationships in the past. They were messy, dysfunctional, not at all worth the effort at times. That was why Q always had engaged with one foot planted firmly on the ground. He could never let himself go entirely. That would have been too dangerous; there was too much risk in loving without limits. But then Bond had barged into his life and taken over everything, until Q could not breathe without thinking about him or being reminded of him in some way. It was as if he had been hollow without knowing it and everything about Bond had come in and filled all those empty spaces so perfectly that Q felt full of him. Complete. Bond drove him mad, yes, and sometimes Q wanted to scream and yell and throw things at him (and sometimes he did), but there was no one who had ever reached him that deeply before; no one had ever made him care enough to get angry or sad or happy because of something they did or did not do. And Bond did that to him all the time, without realising it, like remembering how he took his tea or knowing just how to kiss him when he had a too-long day.
There was nothing but unadulterated trust in the way Bond looked at him, held him, slept beside him. And then Bond had said he loved him and Q could barely breathe, because he finally understood. Love was all about trusting another person to the fullest extent. And giving that away meant that love could be fulfilling and wonderful, aggravating and painful. Loving Bond might leave a hole in his heart, a hole so big that it might kill him one day, but there were some wounds that were worth it.
And Bond was worth it.
Q knew it was now turn to share, to give, to trust, as Bond had done for him. It was time to finally lift both feet off the ground and fall.
"Q?" Bond said, and touched his cheek. Q could not be sure when he had stopped kissing Bond in favour of simply looking at him. They were close enough that Q could make out some distinguishing features: Bond's full lips and handsome jaw and those eyes. This man was his, even if it was just for right now, and Q loved him more than anything else in the world. He whispered it then-the name he had been born with, the name from so very, very long ago-softly, quietly into the dark, just at the space where Bond's shoulder and neck joined, where he always felt safe and loved. The moment Q said it, he knew it could not be undone, but knew that it would be all right.
Q shifted as Bond sat up from his reclined position, settling back onto the other man's lap. Then both of Bond's broad hands were cupping his jaw, the wide sweep his thumbs moving over Q's cheeks. Q did not feel nervous in the hold, even as Bond regarded him silently. Then Bond kissed him gently, like everything they were doing and about to do was suddenly different because of that small, insignificant piece of information. Only Q knew it was not insignificant to Bond, who loved his own name, his own identity, so much that he could not imagine wanting to be someone else. But Q was different. He had spent his entire life trying to forget who he was and where he came from. That name was not who Q was, not now, because 'Q' was everything he had always wanted to be and had finally become.
But still, there was something freeing about giving that up, that part of himself to Bond, to James. James, who slowly removed Q's cardigan and thermal, then gently manoeuvred him down to lie back against the duvet, where he murmured that name against his lips, his neck, his chest, down over the ridges of his ribs and down the slope of his stomach. Q might have hated the name, but he did love the way James said it, almost as much as the tender way the man laid hands on him.
"I like Q better," Q said, when James moved back up to kiss him again.
"I like them both," James replied, nipping playfully at Q's bottom lip. Q slid his arms up over James' shoulders, then let his hands drop to caress down his spine. He tipped his head back as James mouthed his way along his jaw to his throat, groaning as his lover applied teeth and tongue to his skin. Even though he knew it would leave marks, Q did not push him away. Let all of his department stare and wonder, Q did not care, not when it felt so good. He canted his hips, seeking contact, but the other man did not give it to him. James seemed more than content to travel down his body slowly, leaving love bruises in his wake from Q's throat all the way down to the curve of his hip. By the time he had reached that area, Q was so hard that it hurt.
"James," he breathed, as his lover made slow work removing his belt and jeans. He tipped his head back as James mouthed his way down along his inner thigh, his lips hot and teasing and soft. And then he nipped and bit and sucked at the tender flesh until Q was all but keening for it, for more of his touch, for more of anything as long as he did not stop. "James," he said again, the name punctuated by an almost broken gasp when James hooked his fingers at the waistband of his pants and pulled them down.
"Christ do you know what your voice does to me?" James growled, and Q gripped at his shoulders, digging his nails in hard when he pointedly did not touch him where he wanted to be touched. "Easy now," James said, moving up Q's body to kiss his protests away. Their hips touched and Q whined into James' mouth. He was desperate in a way that he had not felt before: desperate to be as close to James as physically possible. He wanted to connect with him in the most intimate way, needed it to calm the song of fire in his blood that James had set alight with three simple words I love you. Q scraped his fingers down his back and then round his waist, where he began frantically unbuckling his lover's belt.
"Easy," James said again and his hands stopped Q's from pulling at his flies.
"Want you," Q gasped against his flesh.
"We've got all the time in the world," James replied.
"But I want you now," Q said, not caring in the slightest if he sounded spoilt.
"So demanding," he said fondly, and then sucked Q's tongue into his mouth before he could reply.
It felt like eternity before James was naked and divest of the gun on his ankle. Even longer than eternity before James finally touched him, began working him open with the gentleness and skill of someone who knew Q's body intimately. He held Q in his arms throughout, as if he, too, felt that desire, that need, to be as impossibly close as two people could be. And then James filled him and made love to him like never before. Or perhaps it was just like all the times before, but now they were free from all the constraints, all the self-imposed rules and barriers. And while they were not free from the fear of uncertainty-of the future, of what the outcome of all of this would be-it was enough right now, to just be, and they took what they could get.
Q was not a romantic, but those thoughts and James' arms around him and the quiet, ragged, honest I love you, God, I fucking love you in his ear as they moved together was as close to romance as Q thought possible.
After, they managed a hasty cleanup on the top sheet and then lay boneless, satiated atop one another beneath the crumpled duvet. Q rested his cheek against James' chest and tried to count the beats of his heart-perhaps similarly to how young children would count sheep in order to fall asleep-but he could not manage it, unsure if what he heard was James' heartbeat or his own. Either way, it was wonderful, because both of them were there and warm and breathing and alive. It meant everything when those simple facts were not guaranteed from day-to-day. That made Q think about what James had said in the park, with an expression so open and raw that it made him think of a wound, a wound that only bled and wouldn't clot:
Would it be any easier?
The way James looked at him was something that Q would never forget. It was that little push he had needed to let go of his inhibitions, his fears, his uncertainties, and it had made all the difference. It had been the difference between Q going home alone and James coming back with him.
"I would regret it."
Q blamed the afterglow: the feeling of a warm, perfect body against him and the knowledge that the reciprocal thing between them meant something more. The sentimental thoughts had loosened his tongue, and Q wanted to take it back, but James beat him before he could even open his mouth
Q paused to consider his words because this was not his area, not by a long shot, but James had waded into unknown waters for him, and Q thought that the least he could do would be to do the same.
"...losing those last six months," Q replied, and closed his eyes. "Even more than losing you on a mission."
James' fingers strayed into his hair, began threading through it idly.
"You know why."
"I do, I just want to hear you say it."
Q bit his collarbone affectionately.
"Tell me," he said, and Q could hear the grin in his voice.
"I think you mean irresistible."
"Perhaps I meant incorrigible?"
James chuckled and kissed the top of his head. Q immediately gave in, because he loved when he did that.
"Tell me," he said again, resuming the action with his fingers. It lulled Q back into his prior contented state.
"Because you'd be mine until the very end," Q replied, a blush threatening his cheeks, but he continued anyway. If James-I-Don't-Do-Feelings-Bond could do it, he could too: all this emotion business. "I'd rather have you while I can than not at all."
"Why, Q, you never told me you were a romantic," James said, but with the deepest fondness Q had ever heard from him.
"Because I'm not. And if you insinuate such a thing to anyone, I will end you," Q promised.
"I love you, too," James said cheekily, laughing as Q attempted to smother him with a pillow. It was only after, when they settled down to sleep, that Q realised he had never said it back to James. He tried to say it in the dark I love you but the words would not come, even long after James' breaths had evened and the room fell dark and silent with the passing of midnight. It did not mean that he loved James any less. He had given James his heart and his name and his trust, so certainly that had to be enough.
Three little words were nothing in comparison.
That was what Q told himself as he did not sleep.
Q must have eventually nodded off, because he woke sometime in the grey morning hours to the familiar ping of his mobile alert. It sounded far away, but Q would know it anywhere, having trained himself to identify it in wake or sleep in case MI6 rang. The moment he sat up, Bond's arm pulled tighter across his waist.
"Ignore it," Bond mumbled into his pillow.
"Can't," Q said, putting on his glasses. Through the gap in their curtains, he saw light snow falling beyond the window. His bedside clock read 7:27. Q leant over and pressed a kiss to Bond's mussed up hair. "Let me up." Bond secured his grip and turned his head toward Q with a sleepy squint.
"No," he said
"I'll be right back," Q promised.
"Stay," he said, and Q kissed the bridge of his nose.
"I'll be right back," he said again, and Bond reluctantly released him. Q slid out of bed and hurriedly made a grab for Bond's dressing gown to keep the morning chill at bay. His mobile vibrated more insistently from the living room, causing Q to abandon his search for socks to make a dash from the bedroom. He found the device in the front pocket of his bag, which he had dropped carelessly in the foyer the previous night. The number on the screen said Withheld, but Q had a feeling he knew exactly who it was.
"This is Q."
"Good morning, sunshine."
"I do hope that this is not a social call," Q said dryly, and Moneypenny laughed, light as a bell on the other end.
"Of course not," she replied, in a way that indicated, yes, it was indeed a social call.
"Couldn't you call at a later hour?" Q asked, a touch irritated that Moneypenny would contact him so early, especially after what would be his first time home in three days in order to rest.
"The sun is already up, sweetheart."
"It's London. There is no sun."
"Someone's a bit crabby. Did I interrupt something?" she asked, sounding sly.
"Yes, my well-deserved rest. In case you've forgotten, Eve, I hadn't slept more than a few hours in the past few days."
"Ah, and here you had me thinking that maybe Bond kept you up past your bedtime."
Q refused to acknowledge the severe blush that crept up the back of his neck.
"Is there a purpose to this call or may I ring off and go back to bed?" he asked primly.
"How was last night?" she inquired. Well-intentioned, surely, but nosy as ever. Q let out an aggravated breath, running his hand over his face tiredly. Either he talked now or Eve would keep calling and if he did not answer, she would come over herself to meddle. Or send a team of highly specialised agents to extract him so that she could question him at Six. Might as well get it over with, he supposed.
"Fine," he conceded.
"You left with Bond."
"Did he take you to dinner?" she asked.
"Don't waste my time asking questions to which you already know the answer," Q replied. He knew that she was behind it, because Eve was the only one who knew about that restaurant and how much Q enjoyed it. Bond never would have chosen such a place on his own.
"Touche. How did it go?"
"Did anything happen?"
"We had dinner."
She sounded disappointed.
"That's all," Q affirmed, moving into the kitchen.
Silence from Eve's end as he began preparing a kettle.
"You're a terrible liar," she finally said.
"Am I?" he asked dryly, placing the kettle on the hob.
"Yes. You talked, didn't you?"
"Of course we talked. It would have been awkward if we didn't."
"Oh my god if you were in front of me, I would be shaking you!"
"I suppose it's a good thing I'm not in front of you."
"You're infuriating sometimes," Eve grumbled.
"I take it that means you find me endearing?" Q replied, as he pulled down two mugs from the cabinet.
"Tell me. Did you talk? You know, actually talk?"
"Yes, we did," Q sighed, digging around in the cabinet in search of the coffee grounds.
"And?" Eve asked, sounding terribly like a fifteen-year old girl with a swooning crush on a member of a boy band.
"And that is specifically our business and not yours," Q replied easily.
"Did he tell you he loved you?" she asked.
"Did you tell him you loved him?"
"Please tell me you recorded it!"
"Or that the CCTV picked it up somewhere?"
"It's too early for this," Q said, mostly to himself, as he put the appropriate amount of coffee grounds into the filter.
"You're going to have to tell me everything," Eve told him.
"I meant it when I said it was our business," Q said firmly. He was not going to change his mind on that, at least not quite yet. The territory was still too new and Q was not sure how to navigate this new relationship, let alone explain it someone else.
"C'mon, Q," Moneypenny chided.
"I'm not discussing this any further," Q said, this time with clear finality.
"Such a spoilsport," she replied, and he could almost see her pouting, like a grown five year-old.
"Oh, but I am glad that you called. Please send word to Mallory that I'll not be in today-"
"-but in the event of an emergency, anyone can reach me on my mobile. Though please make note that no one is to bother me for anything less than imminent world destruction."
"Imminent world destruction," Eve repeated, like she was actually taking notes and grinning her way through it. "I can only hazard a guess as to what you'll be up to today."
"I intend to be thoroughly shagged and then spend the rest of my day watching Netflix," Q said seriously.
"See you tomorrow, then?" she replied cheerfully.
"Perhaps," Q said, glancing toward the bedroom. Staying in for a few days sounded much more appealing. And he could use a holiday.
"Naughty boy," Eve said, as if reading his mind.
"Please don't ever say those words to me again," he responded dryly, and she laughed as she bid her farewell.
Q rang off with her and dropped his mobile onto the counter carelessly, having no desire to do anything even remotely related to work. He went quietly into the bathroom to use the toilet, brush his teeth, and wash up a bit, paying special attention to the parts of him that remained slightly sticky from the night before. Then Q returned to the kitchen, poured a cup of tea for himself and a morning coffee for Bond, and carried both steaming mugs into the bedroom. Bond still lay in bed, right down the middle of the mattress with his arm draped possessively over Q's pillow. It was always a rare, pleasant sight to see Bond in such a relaxed state. Usually, Bond rose before Q, but it was only recently that he began to remain in bed with Q until he woke. Before, Q would wake alone, only to find that Bond had either already left or that he had stayed, but gotten completely dressed as if prepared to leave. Q supposed that years in the Navy had gotten Bond used to the idea of waking early and then his time in the field had taught him to never let his guard down, never be caught in such a vulnerable state: naked and only half-awake. It provided Bond with control, in a way, over himself and the situation, to always be ready and prepared. The fact that he had not gotten up after Q had risen proved that the other man trusted him implicitly. The fact that it appeared he had gone back to sleep meant even more. Was that Bond's sort of love?
Smiling, Q set his glasses and the cups on Bond's night table, shrugged out of the oversized housecoat, and crawled, naked, back into bed on Bond's side. Once beneath the blankets, Q moved closer to Bond, twining their legs together as he pressed against Bond's bare back for warmth.
"You're cold," Bond said, as Q brushed the tip of his nose along the ridge of his shoulder blade.
"It's freezing in here," Q replied, sliding an arm round Bond's waist to draw them closer. He yawned, resting his forehead at the base of Bond's spine.
"It's snowing," Bond said, sounding sleepy.
"Mhmm…" Q replied, snuggling up further beneath the blanket as he burrowed in closely to Bond. He closed his eyes, completely content in the quiet of the flat, with Bond solid and present and permanent beside him. At that moment, he could have easily fallen back asleep, but he had made coffee and tea for them and both would get cold. "I made coffee."
"Mmm," was Bond's response, but he made no effort to move. Q did not either, tea be damned. They lay there for some time in the quiet morning, listening to the soft sound of traffic outside their window. Q counted Bond's breaths, the gentle ticking of his Breitling, and Q thought that perhaps, if he strained his ears, he might be able to hear the sound of snow falling on the roof. It was so peaceful that Q wanted to remain inside the moment perpetually, frozen in a moment of time with nothing but their bodies and breath and heartbeats.
"Was that Eve?" Bond asked.
"Yes," Q answered.
"What'd she want?" Bond inquired, his speech still a bit slow as he came into wakefulness.
"The usual," Q replied carelessly, yawning.
"She doesn't give up, does she?"
"No. I've noticed that seems to be a common personality trait for field agents."
Bond threaded their fingers together and then brought their joined hands to his mouth, where he kissed Q's knuckles with sleep-warm lips. His bit of morning stubble tickled at Q's skin.
"You say that like it's a bad thing," Bond replied.
"Well it's not always a good thing," Q replied and Bond chuckled as he turned over onto his back. Q adjusted to the new position, finding a comfortable place beside him that did not require resting his weight on Bond's shoulder, atop his old gunshot wound. Out of all of the scars, Q knew that one still hurt from time to time, most likely from the physical and chemical makeup of the bullet Patrice used on Bond back in Istanbul. Q frowned as he tenderly traced his fingertips over the puckered bit of skin, thinking that if the assassin had not fallen to his death in Shanghai, Q might have arranged for another unpleasant accident to befall him. The thought should have repulsed him-Q was not a violent person, despite the majority of his job description-but it did not. Q had no qualms hurting someone, destroying someone, who tried to take this man away from him.
"What are you thinking about?" Bond asked.
Q traced his fingers outward to idly smooth patterns on Bond's chest. So close to him, Q could see gooseflesh rise up on his skin, even without the aid of his glasses.
"You're thinking so hard I can almost hear it."
"Q," he said, hand in Q's hair, petting at the strands in a way that made Q smile unconsciously.
"Coffee's getting cold," Q murmured, kissing at Bond's pectoral. His lover said nothing in reply, simply turned over onto his side before enveloping Q in his arms. Automatically, Q tucked himself against him, breathing in Bond's scent that had gone musky with sweat and sex from the previous night. Q's cock lay trapped between their bodies, soft, but slowly gaining some interest at their proximity.
"If you think that much about coffee, I worry about you," Bond said, breath stirring Q's hair.
"I wasn't thinking about coffee," Q admitted.
Bond pet him some more and Q hummed happily.
"You're not going to change your mind."
Q did not have to ask what about. It was perfectly clear. And it was also his last chance to back away, to insist that last night everything-all the pretty words and promises-had gone to his head. He could say that he had made a mistake and that he wanted to just go back to what they had. He could say that he did not want to be involved with all this relationship business. He could provide justification for this decision: love was too complicated, too illogical, too messy, and Bond would inevitably die and leave Q alone. He could defend that the decision would protect both of them: there would be no way for Bond to bleed if he did not have a heart, a weakness; there would be no way for Q to have a broken heart if he did not give it away. So now was the time he could change his mind-protect himself from loving and losing and suffering because of the man next to him-but he only had this moment. This was his only chance.
And there was no choice in it.
Q breathed out the word, the word that would set everything in stone, that would solidify the foundation of whatever it was they had already started building. He said it, even knowing what the outcome would inevitably be, and it all suddenly made sense: all those stupid decisions and promises people made when they were in love. But that was what love was. It did not make sense, it did not quantify, but there was something sort of beautiful about it: the unknown, the unpredictable. Even if there existed the possibility of tears and suffering and loneliness, there also existed the reality of mornings like this, where he felt whole and content and so very, very loved. And if Q could wake up like this everyday, even if it was only for a short while, he knew it was worth it.
"No?" Bond repeated.
"You're stuck with me, I'm afraid," Q said, and Bond huffed out a laugh that stirred his hair. The reaction was miniscule, but Q felt it: the way Bond's body relaxed at the confirmation.
"Good, because I wouldn't let you," Bond said.
"My own stubborn Double-Oh," Q mused.
"My dear Quartermaster," Bond replied, and tilted Q's chin to kiss him. He tasted slightly bitter from sleep, but Q did not mind, and rolled over on top of Bond to find a better angle. Warm palms moved down his sides, raising the fine hairs on Q's extremities. God, how Q loved it: loved the way Bond touched him like he was something worthy of worship, like he was the most gorgeous, precious thing Bond had ever possessed. Q pressed his hips down against Bond's as he released his lips in favour of kissing his way along that hard, strong jaw. You're going to hurt me, Q thought, as he licked and then bit at Bond's pulse, relishing in the way that he shuddered. But I think that's okay. Because I get to love you, at least for a little while, and that's better than not at all.
"What are you thinking about now?" Bond asked.
"Is it not obvious?" Q asked, sliding his hardening prick against Bond's. His lover grunted beneath him, but did not make to increase the friction between them.
"I'm thinking about how much I want to do this," Q said, and laved at Bond's nipple. "And this." He bit gently at the dusky peak, and Bond's hips jerked at the sensation. "And this…" Q moved down Bond's body: licking, kissing, marking him, as Bond had done to him the previous night. It felt good to take his time, though Q knew firsthand that it was the most pleasant sort of torture and that Bond would be wanting it desperately by the time he reached below the navel. So it was surprising that when Q took him in hand, Bond still maintained possession of his mental faculties enough to ask:
"But what are you really thinking about?"
Q looked up at him, too far away to see his face without his glasses. Not releasing him, Q readjusted his position so that he was closer, close enough to see the thin but piercing ring of blue around Bond's blown pupils. It was always so satisfying to know he could bring Bond such pleasure; something very selfish in him never wanted anyone else to have the opportunity to do the same again. Mine he thought, and kissed him until it seemed there was no more oxygen left in the room.
When they parted, they were gasping, and it was intoxicating.
"I'm thinking about what I would do for you," Q answered, stroking him slowly with an open hand, base to tip. Despite what they were doing, Q's words had nothing to do with sex, and Bond knew it, he could tell, by the gentle hitch to his breath.
"What would you do for me?" Bond asked, and his voice came out low and rough in a way that sent want through Q's entire body.
"I would topple regimes for you," Q said, keeping up the steady motion with his hand. "Overturn governments," he continued, twisting his wrist, and Bond's lashes fluttered slightly, but he did not close his eyes, his gaze riveted on Q, unblinking. "I would lie and cheat and steal," he murmured against Bond's mouth, moving his hand to match his partner's ragged breaths, "and start wars across every continent." Bond was already close-whether from the early morning stimulus or Q's words-and Q could feel it, just as he could the near-bruising pressure of Bond's fingers digging into his hips. His words were honest and true and perhaps not I love you but as close as they came. He held Bond's gaze and said, "I would kill a man with my bare hands for you" and squeezed just so. Bond came with a startled gasp, as if he had not expected to finish so suddenly and so strongly. His spend filled the space between them, slick and hot against Q's cock and stomach, reminding him of the ache in his own belly. But this had all been for Bond, who panted and trembled in the aftershock of his orgasm, in the wake of the I love you that had punctuated every word Q had said.
"Q…" Bond breathed.
"Hmm?" was Q's reply, as he licked at his wet fingers. Bond watched him through half-lidded eyes. Though he was post-coital, there still lingered an intensity there that brought Q's attention back to his own arousal, which lay hard and flat between them.
"You would," Bond said, not asked, and it was very easy to kiss him because of it.
"I would," Q said, promised.
"You're terrifying," Bond replied.
"Says the man with the license to kill," Q retorted and Bond grinned at him.
"Says the man who can do more damage in his pyjamas before his first cup of Earl Grey than I could do a year in the field."
"You like it."
Bond kissed him.
"I love it."
It was strange how very little changed.
Q did not know what he had expected, but he had always presumed that falling in love with someone changed everything: the way a person worked, acted, breathed. But Q did not see any drastic differences. He still performed exceptionally at work (and that was no longer up for debate, as it seemed allowing R to take over the branch for the few weeks during his recovery had endeared him to his subordinates, who most likely suffered greatly under her rule and saw him as a much less sinister leader) and still acted professionally (or as professionally as he could with Bond on the other end of the comms, making all kinds of inappropriate jokes that were definitely not suitable for the work environment, but so long as he wasn't blowing up Paris, Q figured he could let it slide) and still breathed constant worry and concern over Bond when he was away (a close shave with a knife, far, far too close to James' chest had made Q's heart practically seize with fear, and if he reverently kissed the line of scar tissue every night since the stitches came out, well, no one had to know) so nothing had really changed.
Christmas came and went, unmentioned, uncelebrated (Q even managed to diplomatically worm his way out of attending the MI6 holiday party, much to Eve's verbal disappointment, which persisted for days after the gathering via SMS and email messages), and uneventful. Bond spent the majority of it in a hotel room on the other side of the world, waiting for Q's go ahead to move in on the target. They celebrated in their own way, when Bond returned the night before New Year's Eve with three bruised ribs and a late Christmas present for Q (a new electric kettle for his office, which Q had been meaning to purchase on his own, but had never found the time to do so) tucked under his arm. The two of them went home and immediately fell asleep for the first time in days and did not wake up until 2013. Q did not mind it, did not feel as if he had missed out, because it was enough to have Bond back home, back in their bed, back safely.
When the returned to the office, Bond was immediately put on leave after clocking too many hours on missions without having any mandatory downtime in between. He spent the first day of it officially moving into Q's flat while he was at work. When Q arrived home, he saw only three new things that signified this major change: Bond's liquor cabinet had been shoved in the corner nearest the window in the sitting room, a few cardboard boxes of books and records sat stacked next to the already-overflowing shelves, and an ugly old bulldog painted with the Union Jack now perched on the mantle.
Q didn't ask about the bulldog-he had a feeling he knew whose it was, by the way Bond sometimes glanced at it when he thought Q would not notice-and instead occupied himself by helping Bond unpack his collection of paperbacks and vinyl.
"You would have a vinyl collection," Q said, flipping through the well-kept albums with polite interest. Bond had so little in the way of material possessions; looking through them was almost like insight to another part of the man that Q was only just beginning to know.
"I'm surprised you even know what these are," Bond replied.
"Don't talk like that. You make it sound like you're a cradle robber," Q answered. Bond laughed and spent the rest of the night alphabetising his collection and setting up the record player while Q made space for his things on one of the shelves. Once Bond had fitted the needle correctly, he selected an album and put it on. Q did not know much about music, but he found the smooth jazz appealing in a way. Maybe it was the music and the sight of James Bond barefoot and in his sweatpants and smiling that made Q agree to dance with him.
(But only maybe.)
January slipped by, then February-Q warning Bond away from Valentine's Day because so help him-and soon it was March. By the end of the month, there was a lull in almost everything. MI6 was quiet; missions were scarce because the terrorists and every other group on the radar had seemingly gone to ground. Even the hackers were inactive, which made Q-Branch boring and almost as still as a tomb. On top of that, the skies had been grey for weeks and it would not stop sleeting in London. That was the final push to make Q take a well-deserved week-long holiday just so he did not have to go out in it, which was fine with him, because he and Bond could spend all day in their pyjamas.
(Or out of them, depending on the circumstances.)
One evening, Q lay down in bed beside Bond, who sat propped against the headboard, immersed in a book. Usually Q would join him in reading, or some on-the-side-for-fun hacking on his personal laptop, but that night, he did not. He had the indescribable need to just be present and listen to the rain against the window and watch Bond in the soft light from the bedside lamp. He slid beneath the duvet and lay there facing Bond, watching as he turned the pages slowly, absorbed in whatever novel he had picked up at the half-price store down the street. The room smelled of ink and old paper and rain, beneath it the scent of them on the sheets: their shampoo and soap and aftershave and the just-barely-there hint of sweat and sex from that morning. It was their room, something they had made together, comprised of all their things and their words-all the loving and kind and angry and bitter words-and it was truly a home in every sense.
"Q," Bond said, as he began idly moving his fingers through Q's hair.
"You're doing it again."
Bond stopped the motion with his hand for just a moment to put a bookmark in between two pages. Then he set the paperback down on his bedside cabinet and continued on as he had been before; Q immediately curled closer to him.
"You know, when you start thinking so loud I can almost hear it," he said.
"What am I thinking about then?" Q asked, and Bond chuckled.
"I said almost hear it."
Q smiled against Bond's side, feeling his eyes grow heavy the longer his lover petted him. He loved it, the moments like this, when it felt like only the two of them existed in the entire world. It was nothing but them in their bed, in their room, in their flat, listening to the rain and breathing in the same air. And it was perfect.
"I love you," Q said, honestly and unafraid. He did not have to fight for the words or struggle internally over their consequences. He just knew that he loved Bond, he always had, but never had the courage to say it aloud. It seemed foolish to be so hesitant to speak them, especially when Q had to face the straight line of Bond's back, walking out the door and into danger time after time. He could leave and not come back, never knowing, or at least, never hearing Q say it, not even once. "I love you," Q said again, just to say it twice, to know that he could, and that it still meant just as much as the first time.
Bond smile, turned his chin up, and kissed him.
Please let me know what you think / if you find any errors. I have proofed this a thousand and one times and still am unhappy, so I appreciate any and all feedback~!
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