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[personal profile] gwyllion
Title: Blackbird
Author: gwylliondream
Pairing: James Bond/Q
Rating: R
Words: 54,694
Warnings: Identity theft, cyber-crime, terrorism, brief non-consensual touching.
A/N: Blackbird was written for NaNoWriMo 2015. Please see chapter 1 for additional notes.
Disclaimer: I did not create these characters. No disrespect intended. No profit desired, only muses.
Comments: Comments are welcome anytime, thanks so much for reading.

Bond ripped open a package of thinly sliced chicken breasts and left them on the counter while he cleaned up their plates from lunch. Edgy and energized from the conversation with Moneypenny, Bond needed to do something to expend the built up energy that coursed through him. He was frustrated with Q’s silence.

In a lower cupboard, he found a bag of white bread flour, left over from a previous baking experiment. He removed his cufflinks and rolled up his sleeves before dumping a few handfuls of flour into a bowl. The rustling of food packages brought Copernicus and Galileo to the kitchen. Galileo leapt onto the counter while Bond dredged the raw chicken breasts through the flour.

“You don’t belong up here, kitty,” Bond said to the cat.

Galileo ignored him.

When Bond was finished with the chicken breasts, he returned them to the refrigerator to keep them away from Galileo’s curious paws.

Bond took a package of mushrooms from the refrigerator. He set them in the sink and ran cold water over them. The cats were far less curious about the mushrooms than they were the chicken. Copernicus wandered into the living room and Bond could only hope that he found a warm place on Q’s lap. Perhaps the cat could help Q through his most recent emotional crisis.

Bond had enough trouble with re-entry after his missions. He didn’t need a non-communicative Quartermaster thrown into the mix. He knew very well that if he gave Q time to think on his own for a while, he would come around. People in crisis generally did. Bond knew he simply needed to be patient—something that was easier said, than done.

When the mushrooms were rinsed, Bond took a pot and a frying pan from a cabinet. He held the pot under the water and filled it halfway. He set both pans on the stovetop, splashing olive oil into them.

He drained the mushrooms and spread them out on a paper towel to dry. Next, he wiped his hands on a tea towel and peeked into the living room to see if Copernicus had found his mark. Unfortunately, the chairs that Q had re-arranged earlier in the day blocked Bond’s view of Q’s lap. Q still sat on the sofa, glasses off, head down.

Bond knew that Q couldn’t remain silent forever. He sliced up the mushrooms. Q would have to talk about this Trevor character eventually, since it seemed he might hold the key to discovering why Q had been removed from his position at MI6.

Bond wasn’t going to push him. Q wasn’t an enemy of the government who needed to be interrogated. As difficult as it was for Bond to resist using strong-arm tactics against Q to get him to talk, Bond kept his cool, taking his frustration out on a Vidalia onion instead.

When the onion was diced, Bond added a pat of butter to the oil in the frying pan and set the pasta water to boil. It was hard to not be angry with Q for shutting off, no matter that Bond knew he needed to respect Q’s temporary silence if he wanted Q to talk about his relationship with the professor. He surreptitiously made his way to the bathroom to take a leak, making sure he looked in on Q as he passed the living room. He was a goddamn secret agent and this was his flat. He was determined not to let Q’s silence get the better of him.

When he passed Q on his way back to the kitchen, he was a bit relieved to see that Copernicus was perched on his lap and Q’s hand rested on the orange cat’s back.

Bond turned on the gas beneath the frying pan. While the butter melted, he pulled a bottle of Pinot Grigio from the refrigerator and found the corkscrew to open it. He took a swig from the bottle and let the cool wine wash down his throat. It wasn’t whisky, but it would have to do for now. He replaced the cork and added the sliced mushrooms and onions to the sizzling pan.

Bond sautéed the vegetables, stirring and flipping them in the butter and oil. Their aroma filled his flat, reminding Bond of a recent mission to Italy and the sumptuous foods that were served in the country’s capital.

For a moment, he thought he sensed Q’s presence behind him. He didn’t turn around, in case he was wrong. He moved the vegetables around in the pan and felt relieved when Q spoke from only a few feet away.

“I’m sorry for behaving like a child,” Q said.

Bond looked over his shoulder to see Q standing in the kitchen, his head down.

“I’m sorry the news was so upsetting to you,” Bond said, shaking the pan to coat the vegetables in oil and butter.

“Thanks,” Q said. He stepped forward so Bond could feel the warmth of his chest against Bond’s back. Q looked over Bond’s shoulder. “What are you making? Can I help?”

“Don’t change the subject,” Bond said. The words came out sharper than he intended. He mitigated their effect by telling Q how he could help, “You can get the package of linguini out of the refrigerator, and look in the door for the bottle of capers.”

Q obediently did as he was asked.

Bond reached into the overhead cabinet and brought down a pair of wine glasses. Q looked like he needed a drink. He set the glasses on the counter and uncorked the bottle.

“Wine?” Bond asked.

“I don’t drink often, but if there were ever a time to start, it would be now,” Q said. He pulled out a barstool and sat at the island.

Bond filled their glasses and set Q’s in front of him.

“Cheers,” Bond said, raising his glass and touching Q’s glass with it.

“Cheers,” Q said. He sipped from the glass while Bond turned his attention back to dinner.

Bond absentmindedly moved the onions and mushrooms around in the pan, hoping that Q had come to the kitchen to talk.

Q sipped from his wine glass. “I don’t know Ahmadali Tabatabati,” he said, finally.

“Trevor Morgan may have changed his name, but he was still the same person you knew from uni,” Bond said.

“He was my advisor, like I told you,” Q said.

“And you were very close,” Bond added unnecessarily. It was obvious, by how distraught Q seemed when he heard the news. Bond ground some salt into the pasta water.

“What are we having?” Q asked.

“Chicken Piccata.”

“It smells delicious.”

“It will be,” Bond said. “Tell me about the Professor Trevor Morgan you knew, your advisor.”

Bond sliced a pair of lemons in half. He was tempted to make a comment about the knife and the lemon, but that moment had passed with Q. They were now on to darker and deeper conversations that Bond couldn’t bullshit his way through with clever puns.

“Trevor... his name was Trevor. You’ll think I’m a geek,” Q said.

Bond stopped in mid-motion and looked at Q.

“Sweetheart, there’s little you could do to make me not think of you as a geek,” Bond said. “But I respect your knowledge and cherish your trust in me, anyway. Do continue.”

“It’s a long frustrating story,” Q said, sipping his wine.

Bond broke an egg into a shallow bowl and set it in front of Q. He handed him a fork and said, “Perhaps you could take your frustration out on this.”

Bond grabbed another bowl and filled it with breadcrumbs from a pre-packaged cylinder.

Q beat the egg until it became frothy. He didn’t speak while he did it. Bond realized too late that assigning him such an activity had granted him permission to be silent.

“That’s good enough,” Bond said, taking the bowl away from Q. He put it on the counter next to the breadcrumbs and took the chicken from the refrigerator.

“Professor Morgan was my favourite instructor while I was an undergrad,” Q said. “He was brilliant.”

Bond moved the sautéed mushrooms and onions onto a plate and put the plate into the oven, turning it on to warm. “We all have our favourites,” Bond said, remembering fondly his experiences at Eton before he was caught shagging a young teaching intern. Pity his libido at an early age led to his expulsion from the school. He’d have passed every course with flying colours if he could have put his mind to it.

“He was the Dean of the Computer Science department at MIT,” Q said. “He was British, his family was originally from Brixton.”

“The pair of you had a lot in common then, no doubt,” Bond said. He dipped each floured chicken breast into the egg mixture and finally into the bread crumbs before adding them to the frying pan.

“That smells wonderful,” Q said. “Do you need any more help?”

“All set here, thanks,” Bond said, adding the pasta to the boiling water.

Q finished his glass of wine and set the empty glass on the island countertop.

Bond was quick to refill it.

“Professor Morgan… Trevor… was a great help to me when my parents died,” Q said.

Bond listen eagerly. Now they were getting somewhere. The pieces of what happened to Q began to click into place. Q was a geeky uni student, under tremendous pressure to perform. He must have had so many expectations thrust upon him. Then, his parents died in the paramotor accident. He must have been barely out of his teens when it happened. No matter how Q dismissed the incident, telling Bond that he could handle it as an adult, Q wasn’t fooling anyone. The loss of his parents affected Q as profoundly as Bond parents’ deaths had affected him, maybe more so.

Bond wondered what Q’s childhood home was like. Was it as glorious as Skyfall had been in its heyday? Had there been fires laid in every hearth to chase away winter’s chill? He hoped that Q’s parents had provided a loving home before it was all dashed away, just as the climbing accident that claimed Andrew and Monique’s lives did for Bond.

Steam rose from the pot when the pasta water reached a boil. Bond turned the burner down and turned each piece of chicken to its other side.

“It was a difficult time for me,” Q said. “Perhaps more difficult than I let on before.”

Bond stirred the pasta and returned to meet Q at the island.

“You can trust me,” Bond said, raising his wine glass. “You know that, right?”

Q nodded. “I need to trust you,” Q said. “Especially now that we know who’s responsible for the hacking.”

“I couldn’t agree more. So, you’re sure this was no mistake?” Bond asked.

Q let out a shaky sigh. “It was no mistake. Trevor’s hacking of my email was intentional,” Q said.

“If we’re going to figure this out, you need to talk to me,” Bond said. “Tell me what you’re thinking about why this Trevor fellow would want to do such a thing to you.”

Q sipped his wine. “He can be very dangerous, I think,” Q said.

Bond grabbed two plates from the cupboard and set one before Q and one for himself. Perhaps if he stopped prodding Q for information, Q would be more forthcoming about what he meant by dangerous. He opened the oven door and forked the chicken onto the warm plate with the mushrooms and onions. He added another dollop of butter to the frying pan. Taking one lemon half in each hand, he squeezed the fruit until the juice sizzled in the pan. When he was finished, he did the same to his second lemon. The aroma of citrus filled the kitchen and wafted through the flat. It reminded Bond of his trip to the Middle East, where the scent of oranges and lemons burst from the gardens as frequently as did the sound of gunfire and sorrow.

“He went to Dubai and did some consulting work after my senior year of university,” Q said.

Bond listened to what Q said, hoping he would tell him more. He added a splash of wine to the liquid in the pan and turned up the heat.

“He travelled a lot in that region—Syria, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia. He once sent me a postcard from Petra,” Q said. “I was a grad student then, working on my master’s.”

“Did he travel back to the United States often?” Bond asked.

Q shifted uncomfortably on his barstool. “He came back and told me that he had converted to Islam,” Q said.

Bond raised an eyebrow. He drained the pasta into a colander in the sink and divided it between their two plates.

“There is Islam, and there is Islam,” Bond said. “Do you think he was radicalized? It’s a bit unusual for a university professor, but it could happen.”

“He was the smartest man I ever knew,” Q said shaking his head slowly.

Bond took the chicken and the sautéed vegetables from the oven and arranged them atop the pasta on each of their plates. With a pair of scissors he snipped some fresh parsley to scatter on top of the chicken.

“You amaze me with your cooking skills,” Q said. “This looks beautiful, like a meal worthy of eating in an elegant dining room.”

“Maybe I’ll get a bigger flat someday,” Bond said. “You can help me decorate it.”

“You can keep this flat,” Q said, picking up his fork. And then he whispered as if he were telling Bond a secret, “You can get away with it, if you use cloth napkins and put a pair of matching placemats under the plates.”

“A pair?” Bond asked. “I hope that means you like my cooking enough to join me more often.”

“I’d like that,” Q said.

Bond thought Q smiled. Returning his attention to the pan on the stove, he added the capers to the liquid and ground in a bit of salt and pepper. After a few stirs of his spoon, he brought the pan to the island and drizzled the sauce onto the chicken.

“This is truly incredible,” Q said. “No one at MI6 would believe it.”

“You mustn’t speak of it to anyone,” Bond said, lowering his voice. He left the pan in the sink and pulled out a barstool to sit across from Q at the island.

“I’d be grateful to have the opportunity to keep it a secret from them,” Q said.

Bond heard the pain in Q’s voice. For a moment, he forgot his frustration with Q’s evasiveness about Trevor. He reached his hand across the island and clasped Q’s wrist. “You’ll have the opportunity,” Bond said. “I promise.” He hoped to convey to Q how much he cared about him. Q needed to believe that Bond was on his side and would help him in any way that he could.

Q looked at their hands where they were joined, but he didn’t pull away.

Bond took a deep breath and let his thumb brush across the skin of Q’s slender wrist. He marvelled at the capable hands that had saved Bond’s life more times than he could count. With Q’s voice in his ear, and his fingers on the keyboard, tracking his location so he could guide him to safety or lead an extraction team to him, Bond never doubted Q’s dedication to MI6 or its agents, especially himself.

Q turned his hand so his palm faced upward.

Bond went with the movement and pressed his palm against Q’s. He could feel the pulse beating through his skin. If he were bolder, he would have tugged Q toward him across the island. He would have slid his fingers through Q’s hair and brought their lips together. He would have touched his forehead to Q’s and whispered to him that everything would be all right. They would find the answers together and Q would be safe from anyone who would do him harm.

But Bond didn’t know how to deal with his feelings for Q. They were nothing like the feelings he had for the women he seduced on missions for MI6. The sultry-voiced women always expected him to perform, to act a certain way, and to satisfy their needs in exchange for information that would assist MI6 in making the world a safer place. There was no room for Bond’s needs in these conquests. He was simply a cog in the wheel.

With Q, Bond went from wanting to shag him senseless one moment and wanting to soothe his aching heart the next. Bond slid his hand away, afraid to take what he wanted, afraid to give what he had, worried that such closeness would come back to destroy what little of his heart remained when things went pear-shaped between them. With Bond’s luck, he would learn that Q was a plant, Trevor’s ally all along, and a mastermind of an international terrorist organisation.

That was how it went with Bond. Nothing ever turned out the way he wanted. Life had taught him that he could accept nothing at face value. He would be a fool to do so. Anytime he took a chance, he resigned himself to waiting for the second shoe to drop, the next hail of bullets to fly, the next trust to be broken. He had no reason to believe that anything would be different with Q. Sometimes a spark of hope flared, but all too quickly, the flame would be extinguished by the memories of his past.

They ate in a silence that was punctuated only by Q’s appreciative moans about Bond’s cooking.

When their plates were empty, Q offered to take care of the dishes. They worked as a team, clearing their places and depositing the dishes in the sink. When they finished, Bond wiped down the countertop where they had eaten, one step closer to civilized dining compared to last night’s pizza on the sofa. He brought the cloth to the sink and watched Q rinse the dishes before loading them into the dishwasher, adding some soap to the pans so they could soak for a while before being scrubbed clean. If only Bond’s past could be cleaned so easily, rinsed under a rush of water by Q’s loving hands.

“I need to tell you more about Trevor, if you’re serious about helping me get my job back,” Q said, as if it had taken him a great deal of time to come to this conclusion. “You are serious, aren’t you?”

A rush of affection surged through Bond. He couldn’t deny it further. He stepped behind Q and clasped his shoulders. Q relaxed and leant into his touch.

“Of course I’m serious about helping you,” Bond whispered. How could Q believe anything else?

Bond wrapped his arms around Q and pressed a kiss to the little triangle of hair that dipped low on Q’s nape. Q inhaled.

They stood there for a moment, with Bond just breathing Q in, unsure of what his next move or Q’s next gesture might be. When Bond was sure that Q wasn’t going to wriggle out of his grasp, he left a trail of tiny kisses along the column of Q’s neck.

Q said, “When we were on the sofa earlier, and I showed you the profiling I did while you were gone today….”

“I dozed off,” Bond said. He was sorry for making Q think he wasn’t paying attention. It was just that he was so tired and Q was so comfy so sit beside and to hold in his arms. He hoped that Q wasn’t angry that he took advantage of his warm body and cosy familiarity. If only Moneypenny’s call hadn’t ruined the afternoon for them.

“Do you think we could do that again?” Q asked.

It seemed strange that Q felt he needed to ask permission to show him the profiling he had worked on while Bond visited MI6 and ran errands. He could show him whatever he liked. Bond almost said it aloud before he realized that Q didn’t mean half as much about showing him the profiling, as he did about how they had lain in each other’s arms on the sofa. Bond couldn’t imagine turning down such an opportunity, no matter how inappropriate.

Bond smiled. “If you’d like,” he said. Heat flared through Bond’s core. He wanted to use this invitation to get closer to Q, although his affection for Q seemed to transcend the need for a sexual release.

Oddly enough, this change in his interests didn’t bother Bond in the least. He didn’t need to shag Q to fulfil his need to comfort him. But he wouldn’t turn down such an opportunity either. He was still concerned about Q’s dilemma with MI6 and how Q’s favourite professor got involved in Q’s email.

When the dishes were done, Bond followed Q into the living room, bringing their wine glasses with him. It felt awkward, but Bond swallowed down his nerves and tried to act natural. He sat in the corner of the sofa, as he had earlier with Q. He undid the second button of his white dress shirt, making himself comfortable in his own home.

“Come on, then,” Bond said when Q hesitated in front of the sofa. He reached for Q’s hand and linked their fingers together.

Q closed his eyes and looked at the floor. “You have to admit, it’s a bit odd,” Q said.

“What?” Bond asked. “That you’re welcome to cuddle with me on the sofa?”

Q blushed. “I always thought of you as some kind of sex-crazed Casanova,” Q said. “Your reputation precedes you at MI6.”

Bond had always thought his skill as a lover was something to be lauded. But now, the way Q described it, his reputation felt like something to be embarrassed about. He didn’t want Q to think that his only goal for the evening was to get Q into his bed.

“Casanova… hmmm? There’s no one by that name here tonight,” Bond said. He patted the sofa cushion next to him and beckoned Q to sit. “Only James.”

“James,” Q said. Q bit his bottom lip, but apparently the nervous action gave him the fortitude to move forward. He sat on the sofa beside Bond.

Bond’s arm instinctively went around Q. What tension Q held in his shoulders flowed from him and disappeared into the comfort of the sofa and the warmth of Bond’s embrace.

Bond wanted desperately to kiss Q again. Instead, he speared his fingers through Q’s hair and massaged Q’s scalp with his fingertips. Q soon relaxed into the touch and laid his head on Bond’s shoulder.

“I think I like this, James,” Q said, turning so he faced Bond.

“I know I like it,” Bond said, not wanting to push. He let one hand slide down Q’s arm, holding him in place while the fingers of his other hand continued to trace soothing patterns in Q’s hair.

“I have some things that I need to tell you about Ahmadali Tabatabati,” Q said.

“Your professor?” Bond asked, not a real question, but a confirmation that they were on the same page.

Q took a deep breath. “Mmmm….” Q hummed, nodding his head.

“Go ahead,” Bond said. “I’ll try to be a good listener.” He sensed from Q’s preamble that the news wouldn’t be good.

Q turned his face away from Bond’s, but Bond didn’t stop the movements of his fingers in Q’s hair, his arm around Q, supporting him with gentle pressure that hopefully kept Q feeling safe and secure.

Bond didn’t dare let his mind race to speculate what Q wanted to tell him. He let Q meet him on his own terms and not the terms that were set by Bond’s interrogation mode.

Q remained quiet for what seemed like a very long time.

“He wasn’t only my professor,” Q said.

Being a secret agent, Bond had already guessed that.

“I was in my second year at MIT,” Q said.

“The year your parents died,” Bond said, remembering, helping Q along as he shared his sad tale.

“I was young,” Q said. “You might even say I was naïve.”

“You were,” Bond said. It wasn’t difficult for him to envision Q, only twenty years old, a brilliant student in one of the most highly-regarded universities in the world.

“I was under a lot of stress from my classes, my grief over my parents, everything escalated,” Q said, his voice a whisper. “I needed help… and Professor Morgan was there.”

“He helped you through a difficult time,” Bond said. There was no harm in that. Bond hoped that Morgan served as a father figure to young Q, but it was probably too much to hope that the relationship ended there.

“I was so stupid,” Q said, looking at Bond.

“I doubt that,” Bond said. “Naïve maybe, but never stupid.”

Q relaxed and let his head fall to Bond’s shoulder again. Bond loved the warm weight of Q in his arms. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to protect him. He forced himself to refrain from making comments about Q’s story that might make him stop sharing what he clearly needed to get out in the open.

“One day I went to his office for a meeting after class,” Q said with a sigh. “I didn’t know he had designs on me then. I don’t know what I thought… like I said—I was young.”

“He should have known what he was doing was wrong,” Bond said. It was easy to imagine Q as a young undergrad. Brilliant and geeky, with the shaky confidence of a young colt.

“He wasn’t that much older than me,” Q said with a snort.

“Maybe not illegal then, but definitely unethical,” Bond said.

“I know,” Q said. “I’m not trying to shirk my own responsibility for what happened.”

“No, of course not,” Bond said in what he hoped was a soothing manner. “That’s not your style.”

“You believe that,” Q said with a nod of confidence. “I’ve always tried to have some modicum of integrity.”

“Always, Q,” Bond said. “You should know that I hold you in the highest esteem because of the way I stood by you today with Mallory and Moneypenny and Tanner. I’d never doubt your integrity.”

And because the moment seemed to allow it, Bond leaned forward and pressed a quick kiss to Q’s forehead.

Q gave a little smile, telling Bond that his affection was not unwanted.

“I wasn’t even sure if I liked boys back then,” Q said. His fingers found the rolled-up cuff of Bond’s sleeve. He massaged the fabric back and forth between the pinch of his thumb and his forefinger. “I thought it was just a weird phase I was going through.”

“Had you dated girls in uni?” Bond asked.

“Yes,” Q said, the colour rising on his cheeks. “It was difficult being far away from home for the first time, and I didn’t want to disappoint my parents by telling them I was gay.”

“You don’t think they already knew?” Bond asked. He didn’t see how they couldn’t have known if they lived with Q and raised him to adulthood. Besides, having a son like Q could hardly be a disappointment, even if he was gay.

Q shook his head rapidly. “I did a pretty good job of keeping it hidden,” Q said. “I think they believed that was a dedicated student without any time to get mixed up with drugs and sex and other collegiate enticements.”

Bond kissed Q again. He felt sorry that Q’s parents never got to know Q as himself. He felt bad for Q, who forced himself to date girls in order to keep his homosexuality hidden from the people who should have supported him the most.

“So what happened in Professor Morgan’s office?” Bond asked. He remembered his days at Eton, when sleeping with a teacher was considered the ultimate badge of honour. He thought differently when it came to Trevor taking advantage of Q.

“Well, let’s just say that none of the girls I dated had ever touched me like that before,” Q said, remembering. He buried his face in Bond’s chest.

Bond ignored the double-standard. He wanted to kill Morgan for what he took from Q. It sounded as if he waited to strike when Q was most vulnerable. Young, innocent Q, trying to do well in school, the pressure of classes, his parents’ death. It wasn’t much different from how Bond would treat a mark. Morgan had undoubtedly overstepped his bounds by using his professorial title and MIT prestige to take advantage of Q. And now the professor had converted to Islam and hacked Q’s email. “I’ll kill the bastard for you,” Bond said.

“Thank you,” Q whispered, looking up at Bond. “I don’t know if that’s necessary right now.”

“But it might be?” Bond asked hopefully.

“When Trevor came back from one of his trips, he wanted me to go back to Saudi Arabia to live with him,” Q said. “He had taught himself Arabic. He changed his name. He wanted me to convert to Islam like he had done in the previous year.”

“That’s a lot to ask of anyone, no matter what their relationship,” Bond said.

“True, but like I said, we were very close,” Q said. He stopped playing with the fabric of Bond’s cuff.

“You were in love with him?” Bond asked.

Q sighed. “I was young,” he said. “It was the first time I felt that way about someone. I didn’t know what else I was supposed to do.”

“What did you do?” Bond asked.

“Trevor had started a consulting business in Riyadh and he wanted me to partner with him—a cyber-security operation. I was working on my PhD dissertation by then, and he wanted to use my skills and research to help the connections he had made,” Q said, he twined his fingers together and fidgeted with them. “In hindsight, I should have known it involved terrorism. But even it hadn’t involve terrorism, it still seemed like there wasn’t much in the arrangement for me.”

Copernicus strolled into the room and leapt onto the sofa. He settled on Q’s lap.

“You respected him, but you thought that he was trying to take advantage of you?” Bond asked, reaching over to rub his palm over the friendly cat’s head.

“I broke it off with him,” Q said. “He didn’t take it well.”

Bond let his hand find Q’s fidgety fingers. He linked their fingers together, hoping to show that he supported Q, no matter what mistakes he made when he was a young and impressionable uni student. At least Q had the sense to end the relationship with this jerk when he had the chance.

“Did he stalk you?” Bond asked.

“Worse,” Q said, his eyes flickering with the memory. “He stole all my research and used it himself for his cyber-security scheme, a front for terrorism, Al-Qaeda, and worse.”

“I’m so sorry, Q,” Bond said, tightening his hold on Q to make him feel less fragile, less alone. “So he hacked you?”

Q snorted. “That’s the worst part,” he said. “He didn’t need to hack me. We lived together. We were lovers. We hadn’t even considered not sharing our passwords with each other.”

Bond shook his head. He felt so bad for Q. No wonder he never trusted anyone. No wonder he was so good at deflecting Bond’s advances when he’d try to pick him up with a cheesy line back at MI6. Bond must have always kept Q on edge. He was glad that they might be past that now.

“I was gutted,” Q said. “I had to start my research over again. I had to choose a different topic for my PhD dissertation. When I think of the years I had wasted… it was my life’s work at the time.”

“It must have devastated you,” Bond said.

“He turned my research into a successful business,” Q said. “And he still tried to lure me into working for him after I told him we were finished.”

“He kept in contact with you?” Bond asked.

“I had to get a restraining order,” Q said, cringing.

“I’m so sorry you had to go through that,” Bond said. He caressed Q’s wrist with the pad of his thumb.

Q shook his head and sighed. “Me too,” he said.

“But you did the right thing,” Bond said. “You do know that, don’t you?”

Q nodded. “That’s why I ignored his emails to me.”

“Did he email you recently?” Bond asked.

“About six months ago, when the SPECTRE crisis was happening,” Q said. “He pleaded with me to work with him again.”

“And did you reply to this email?” Bond asked.

“No,” Q said. “I just deleted and blocked him. I was honestly surprised that he contacted me again. I thought I had left all of that in the past.”

“You did,” Bond said, taking Q’s hand and pressing a kiss to the back of his knuckles. “You’re very brave to have thwarted his attempts to get you to do something when your heart wasn’t in it.”

“I still feel like a victim because he had made me believe I was in love with him,” Q said.

“You were hurt,” Bond said. “You may have lost some of yourself to him, but you recognised when he expected more from you than you could give, and you ended it. That’s not characteristic of a victim.”

“I won’t be a victim again,” Q said, looking at their hands where they met.

“No, you’re a bit older and much wiser now,” Bond said.

“Vulnerability doesn’t require youth, Bond,” Q said.

Bond shook his head. “You’re right,” he said.

“I’m still wary around jerks like him,” Q said.

Bond didn’t know what to say. Odds were good that, in similar circumstances, Bond would have treated Q in the same way that Trevor had. Bond had treated people that way for the entire time that he worked as a double-oh agent. He barely registered the fact that he hurt people along the way when he used them in his quest to get information that would be useful to MI6. Yet, when he recognized Trevor treating Q the same way Bond treated so many women, he became infuriated on Q’s behalf.

Q deserved so much better than what Trevor offered him. It made Bond sick.

“So what should we do now?” Bond asked.

“The information from Moneypenny… she’s sure it was him?” Q asked.

“Yes, and she’s relying on me to take care of you,” Bond said, “so the first thing we must do is keep you safe.”

“I feel quite safe here,” Q said. He moulded himself into Bond’s embrace as if to prove that he accepted Bond’s comfort for all it was worth.

“Good,” Bond said, appreciating Q’s hard-won trust in him. He wrapped Q more securely in his arms. “Now, why would Trevor hack your email and send messages to terror organizations?” he asked.

“To hurt me, by discrediting me—he was like that,” Q said. “Narcissistic. He always wanted to control me. I had lost my parents. I had no friends. I looked up to him and relied on him for not only academic help, but for my main source of interpersonal communication.”

“Spoken like a nerd,” Bond said, kissing the top of Q’s head. “You break things down into scientific terms when the emotional side of things get to be too much for you to express.”

“Either that, or I just stop talking. That way, I feel like I keep control over such things,” Q said. “I’m sorry that it’s such a problem. I learned the hard way what it is to fall in love—to believe what someone tells you, when they’re only lying to you for their own purposes.”

“You’re wise to be wary,” Bond said. “I don’t blame you for protecting yourself.” After learning about Morgan, Bond committed himself to not pressure Q for more than he was ready to give. The fact that he wanted to drag Q into the bedroom and ravish him from the top of his head to the wiggly toes that he hid beneath his colourful socks hardly mattered now.

“So what’s next?” Q asked.

“I need to talk to Tanner tomorrow,” Bond said. “I want to see if he found any information from his contacts in the Secretary of State’s office.”

“At least we know who’s responsible for the emails and my job loss now,” Q said.

“But, why?” Bond asked. “He must want something, and I’m not going to let him get to you.”

“My hero,” Q said with a laugh.

“You’re much different than the damsels in distress that I’m used to rescuing,” Bond said.

“I’m no damsel, for one thing,” Q said. After a beat, Q leaned forward and kissed Bond.

No, Q was indeed no damsel. Bond closed his eyes and enjoyed the feeling of Q’s lips, warm and silky against his own. It was enough to seal their emotional connection without turning sexual. Bond fought with himself about the wisdom of pulling away.

“After I speak to Tanner,” Bond said, when his lips were no longer occupied, “I’m going to take a ride around the warehouse zone at Canary Wharf where that mobile pinged. I’ll ask around and try to find out who wants your house watched.”

“You think they’re connected?” Q asked. “The people watching my house, Trevor and his emails, my credit card, my Oyster card…. are they all being tampered with by the same person?”

“I’m fairly sure of it,” Bond said.

“I’m worried,” Q said. “I thought I put all this behind me.”

“It will be all right,” Bond said. “I’m going to take care of it. I won’t let him hurt you.”

“I’m afraid it’s too late for that,” Q said with a yawn.

Bond was sorry to see that one man had the capability to cause such upheaval in Q’s life.

“Tired?” Bond asked.

“Mmmm,” Q murmured. “And the wine… it makes me feel fuzzy.”

“Come on,” Bond said, nudging Q so he sat up straight. Bond’s feet found the floor. He stood and stretched, his shirt coming mostly untucked from his trousers.

Q yawned and gently lifted Copernicus from his lap. He set the cat down on the opposite side of the sofa, but the cat was unwilling to stay where Q left him. He leapt to the floor and wandered off to find his food dish.

Bond reached for Q’s hand and hauled him to his feet.

“Bring your comfort blanket,” Bond said.

Q looked toward the arm of the sofa where his duvet lay. He grabbed it and pulled it off the sofa without bothering to ask where he was bringing it.


Bond agreed to meet Tanner for brunch in Sloane Square.

He left Q enjoying his tea in the living room. Bond had encouraged Q to commandeer his flatscreen so he’d have more visual real estate for his investigation. A tangle of wiring lay on the floor in front of the fireplace. Q sat with needle-nosed pliers in hand as he configured the telly to serve as a second visual monitor to his laptop.

“Tell Tanner that I said hello,” Q said, twisting the wiring around a connection. “And make sure he knows how much I appreciate his help.”

“I will,” Bond said as he prepared to head out the door.

Q had already spoken directly to Moneypenny this morning through an old mobile Bond had found in his bottomless junk drawer. Q had made the mobile operational again and, although it wasn’t by any means a state-of-the-art device, it was functional enough so Q could communicate anonymously with the world outside Bond’s flat.

Moneypenny had relayed to Q the information she hacked from the PM’s office. While Bond was with Tanner, Q could sort through Ahmadali Tabatabati’s communications that flowed through Q’s compromised MIT email account. He might be able to build a case to refute the emails that raised suspicion in the Secretary of State’s office. With a great deal of luck, he’d be able to clear his name and get his job back as Quartermaster. Bond was glad Q could rely on his friends’ help more than he could the presence of sheer luck.

“I feel terrible that they’re working a Saturday on my behalf,” Q said, looking up from the construction project he had going on Bond’s living room floor.

Q hadn’t showered yet and his hair stood up in the odd angles of bedhead that made him look even more adorable.

“You’d do the same for them,” Bond said, straightening his tie.

“I would,” Q agreed. He worked on twisting the wires together, his tongue sticking out between his ripe pink lips while he concentrated.

The night before, he and Bond had made a quick stop in the bathroom for teeth-brushing, before continuing on to Bond’s bedroom, Q dragging his duvet behind him. Bond wanted nothing more than to show Q that he was worthy of his trust. He’d never presume that Q wanted him sexually, although Q had proven that if he had a type, it was for an older more experienced lover.

Bond wondered what Psych would say about that.

Bond’s intentions had gone entirely unspoken. He hoped it was obvious to Q that he would be more comfortable in Bond’s king-sized bed than he would be on the lumpy old sofa. He wanted Q to have a restful sleep. He wanted Q to feel like he was at home. Although Bond’s home wasn’t nearly the showplace that Q had made his house at Putney Heath, it was more comfortable for Q being there.

Bond knew he was kidding himself when he toyed with the idea that Q might want an old dog like him, despite Q’s willingness to exchange a few kisses and lingering touches. Bond was as undeserving of a relationship with Q as Trevor had been.

But now that Q had told his story, Bond had something else to prove. Just because he was an agent with a reputation didn’t mean he couldn’t control himself around Q. It didn’t mean that he couldn’t offer comfort to Q when he was worried and scared. The night didn’t need to end in sex. Q meant more to him than a quick shag between friends.

In the bedroom, Bond had stripped off his shirt and stepped out of his trousers. It felt good to be nearly naked with Q, but he didn’t want to take what wasn’t freely given.

One of the cats had leapt on the bed in the dimness.

Bond turned away from Q, opting to slide under the covers, rather than watch Q remove his jumper and jeans. Like Bond, Q kept his t-shirt and boxers on.

Bond found it amusing that the pyjamas Q spoke of at the first meeting were purely metaphoric.

“Is this all right?” Bond asked when Q settled under the covers, his own duvet spread over both of them.

“More comfortable than I expected,” Q said, taking his glasses off and leaving them on the bedside cabinet.

If they touched in the night, it was purely accidental.

Bond arrived at Colbert’s, a pricy French bistro that Tanner had selected as their meeting place. The Saturday brunch crowd had filled most of the tables, but Tanner had secured a comfortable corner for them to discuss Q.

The waiter brought coffee as soon as Bond took his place across from Tanner.

“How is he doing?” Tanner asked.

“He’ll be all right,” Bond said. He didn’t want to divulge too much about Q’s past relationship with Trevor, but Tanner had to know the basic facts if he was going to help clear Q’s name. “He has a good idea of who is responsible for this.”

“Moneypenny told me that she traced Q’s questionable email conversations to an Ahmadali Tabatabati,” Tanner said, pointing to his tablet on the table. “I’ve done some digging on him, but do you have any idea who he is to Q?”

“A university professor, London born, worked at MIT in the States,” Bond said, reluctantly adding, “he and Q were lovers.”

Tanner nearly spit out his café crème. “Our Q? With a MIT professor? How old is the guy?”

“Old enough to know better,” Bond said, taking a sip of his coffee. “Q broke it off, but not before Tabatabati left Q heartbroken and stole his research—which he turned into a successful business.”

“Arsehole,” Tanner said. “I suppose that explains why Q doesn’t date and why he’s devoted to his cats.”

“And why he’s so tough on security,” Bond said.

The waiter came to take their order. Bond had barely looked at the menu, so he took Tanner’s cue and ordered the omelette fromage with caramelised grapefruit on the side.

After the waiter left, Tanner continued, pointing to the information stored on his tablet, “This Tabatabati, he’s got quite a reputation in the Middle East. Arms trafficking, money laundering, cyber-crime. It looks like he’s the head of a major terrorism cell. He must be as much of a genius as Q to have avoided capture already. The CIA has been after him for years.”

“Do they know where he is now?” Bond asked.

“According to intelligence, he purchased a warehouse in East London six months ago,” Tanner said. “It could be for manufacturing, storage, just about anything.”

“That’s where the mobile call went from the thug who was watching Q’s house,” Bond said.

“It doesn’t seem like a coincidence,” Tanner said.

“What about our surveillance? Is anyone from MI5 watching Q’s house like Mallory suspected?” Bond asked.

“Not as far as any of my contacts knew,” Tanner said. “It seems unlikely that MI5 would be keeping tabs one of ours. They know we’re capable enough.”

“I think we can assume that the thugs watching Q’s house were working for Tabatabati,” Bond said.

“I don’t understand the connection with MI6,” Tanner said. “What could Tabatabati gain my ruining Q’s reputation?”

“And his credit,” Bond said.

“Do you think he’s trying to retaliate for something Q did?” Tanner asked.

“Your breakfast,” the waiter brought their dishes and set the plates before the men. “Can I get you anything else?”

“More coffee,” Bond said. “Please.”

“None for me,” Tanner said, holding his hand over his cup.

The waiter refreshed Bond’s cup and left their table.

Tanner sprinkled salt and pepper onto his omelette.

“Assuming MI5 isn’t watching Q,” Bond said, “that lets us point to Tabatabati as our only suspect.”

“What if this isn’t about retaliation? What if he’s trying to get Q to work for him?” Bond asked.

“If that’s his goal, his actions make no sense,” Tanner said.

“Think about it. He contacted Q six months ago, but Q deleted his messages and blocked him,” Bond said, tucking into his omelette.

“If he wants Q to work with him badly enough….” Tanner began.

“He’s trying to get him to communicate with him,” Bond said.

“By shutting off his relationship with MI6, hoping that Q will contact him and get him to stop,” Tanner said. “And that’s the other thing—no one seems to know exactly why the mandate to eliminate Q came down from the Secretary’s office. It seems like they’ve gone trigger happy. Since the bombings in Paris and Brussels, they’re terminating employment for anyone who so much as mentions a connection with ISIS.”

“Without any justification?” Bond asked.

“By order of the PM. Hammond’s up in arms over it,” Tanner said.

“He’d probably like to get his hands on Tabatabati,” Bond said. “If Q’s old professor is not quite as talented as Q, it wouldn’t surprise me if he needs Q’s brain for some part of his business plan.”

“And by isolating him, he hopes that Q will contact him because he has nowhere else to turn,” Tanner said.

Bond reached for his mobile and texted Q. “He’s got an old mobile of mine,” Bond said, “I’m just making sure he’s all right.”

Tanner nodded.

Bond sighed with relief when the text came in from Q.

OK - finding good data on my new monitor ;-)

“He’s fine,” Bond said, pocketing the mobile.

“What are we going to do next?” Tanner asked.

“I’m taking a ride over to Canary Wharf,” Bond said. “Someone is bound to know something about Tabatabati if that’s his new stomping grounds.”

“Do you want me to come along?” Tanner asked.

“Not necessary,” Bond said, remembering that he needed to pick up his laundry on the way. “Thanks for the information. Mallory can’t be too happy if you’re spending time on this project.”

“On the contrary,” Tanner said. “He’s really missing Q in Q-branch. The minions are having a hard time dealing with R. They blew up a laptop yesterday and accidentally started a fire at the gun range. I think Mallory would like to see Q back as much as the rest of us.”

“We’re one step closer, thanks to you,” Bond said.

“And Moneypenny,” Tanner said, although there was no need to remind Bond of the sacrifices Moneypenny was willing to make for Q and Bond both.

“Of course,” Bond said.

“There’s no need to say anything to Q about it,” Tanner said, “but it didn’t surprise me to learn that Mallory has put Moneypenny in charge of an internal investigation regarding what happened to Q.”

“You think he suspects that someone in MI6 helped Tabatabati?” Bond asked.

“Mallory is so angry about losing his Quartermaster, he’s leaving nothing to chance,” Tanner said.

They finished their breakfast and Bond and Tanner parted. Before they settled their bill, Bond ordered a bag of Armagnac Truffles to bring home to Q.


Bond swung by the dry cleaners and picked up the laundry he had left. A neatly-wrapped parcel of clean clothing sat on the passenger’s seat of the Aston Martin while Bond’s freshly-pressed suits dangled from a hook that Q had installed specifically for that purpose when he first modified the car. Q’s vehicle enhancements could be practical, as well as deadly.

Bond passed The Mall and stayed north of the river, admiring the city and the London Eye that rotated through the afternoon drizzle. Traffic was heavy for a Saturday, but it was the construction that slowed his journey the most. Stuck behind a line of cars near the Tower, he felt his mobile vibrate. He dispensed with texting Q back, and rang him instead.

“Hello,” Q said. “I didn’t mean to bother you if you were still with Tanner, but I have an address that I want you to check out when you’re at Canary Wharf.”

“I’ve left Tanner already and picked up the laundry,” Bond said. “What did you find?”

“It might be nothing, really,” Q said. “It looks like a warehouse of some sort, possibly under construction or renovation from the look of it on the CCTV.”

“Tanner told me one of his contacts discovered that Tabatabati recently purchased a warehouse. Sounds like it’s worth checking into?” Bond asked, defying traffic laws to pass a line of cars that drove too slow for his liking.

“It would seem,” Q said. “The address is 8 Heron Quay. You’ll take the A1206 onto Canary Wharf. Turn left onto Heron Quay. There’s a pair of buildings with a connecting causeway between them. Estate agent records show that Tabatabati bought them six months ago.”

“He’s been right under our noses the whole time,” Bond said.

“I appreciate the sentiment,” Q said, “but it’s my nose he’s been under. This has nothing to do with you or MI6. It’s me that he’s after.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Q,” Bond said. “You’re as much a part of MI6 as I am. When this Tabatabati fellow targeted you, he targeted all of us.”

Q exhaled in exasperation.

Bond was sorry that Q felt so alone, but what more could Bond do to convince Q that they were in this together and he supported him in being free of Tabatabati for once and for all?

“I’m on the A1206 now,” Bond said. “Stay put and I’ll call you back if I find anything.”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Q said.

Bond ended the call. “You’d better not be,” he said with a smile as he shifted into high gear and wove his way through traffic.

After twenty minutes of fighting the traffic through various congestion zones, Bond arrived at Heron Quay. The gentrified dockyards were rife with demolition and construction projects, but since it was the weekend, there were very few workers about.

The buildings at 8 Heron Quay looked just as Q had described. A pair of geometrically similar buildings four stories high faced each other. Their roofs sloped away at a steep angle. The profile of the twin structures looked like a church that someone had cropped the middle from, taking out its steeple. The top floor of each side of the building had a wall of glass where it faced its twin, but the remaining floors were windowless. The pair of buildings were connected by a lower central passageway which sought to make the building’s footprint one cohesive unit. The construction seemed to be nearly complete judging by the bright blue exterior and the orange trim that accentuated the odd shape of the building’s profile. A metal lattice of scaffolding crept up the far side, stopping short before reaching the lower edge of the roofline at the top of the third storey.

Bond parked the Aston Martin in a No Parking Zone and donned his black sunglasses. The shades always gave Bond an air of confidence, although they were entirely unnecessary in the damp and misty city where the sun rarely made an appearance. He thought about grabbing the umbrella, but the rain had tapered to a mist, so he decided he could do without it.

Bond stepped out of the car. His polished black leather shoes crunched the sand and grit of the construction site.

The wind brought a chill off the water. This was the place where the Thames grew deep and wide to form the Docklands that led to London’s early success as a city for trade and industry. The area had grown into a financial district now, although many warehouses remained and had been converted into office space for businesses, not all of them legal.

Bond approached the half-dozen men who wore hardhats at 8 Heron Quay.

“I’m here to see your foreman,” Bond said, stopping when the men noticed his arrival.

“He’s not on the site today,” one of the men said. He wore an orange safety vest with the name Caswell embroidered onto it in black thread.

“Some lucky bastards get the weekend off,” another man grumbled.

“Well, since he can’t help me, do you know if Mr. Tabatabati is around today?” Bond asked. There was no harm in fishing for information, no matter the pool of unsuspecting collaborators. Besides, the name Tabatabati rolled off his tongue and thinking of how Trevor treated Q made Bond want to kick some arse.

“He was here this morning, but he took off an hour or so ago,” Caswell said.

“Speaking of taking off, it’s time for us to go,” one of the workers said.

“You’re right,” Caswell said. “There’s nothing more we can do today anyway. Finish up what you’re working on and we’re out of here.”

“Thank you for your help,” Bond said. “Do you mind if I take a look around?”

“No one’s supposed to be in here off-hours,” Caswell said, scratching his bearded chin. “But we’re leaving in a few, so who’s to know?”

“Thanks,” Bond said.

“Let’s get out of here,” Caswell said. He and the men began to pick up the equipment they were using. They heaved their tools into the back of a dump truck and prepared to leave.

Bond walked to where the scaffolding rose skyward. The whole area around 8 Heron Quay seemed strangely deserted for a business. He followed the perimeter of the building where a concrete pathway led to the connecting passage to the building’s twin. There, he found a glass doorway where the freshly-painted trim felt tacky beneath his fingertips. He peered inside. The building looked vacant. No desk or chair or telephone system could be seen in what was presumably the reception area. Perhaps Tabatabati intended for it to be a storage facility alone, Bond mused.

Bond thought about calling Q to let him know what he found, but he was disappointed by the dearth of information he had found so far. He decided to explore further before he shared the lack of news with Q.

He walked through the muddy jobsite, following the exterior of the passageway that led to the second half of the building. Peering through the glass of its matching door afforded Bond no new information. Both halves of the building appeared to be vacant, although he couldn’t see far beyond the entrance inside.

Circling the building, Bond found a garage door that had been painted bright yellow. He looked up and down the exterior of the building, but found no entryway that had been haphazardly left open by one of the workers.

A train whistle blew and the light rail rolled past, making its way to the Heron Quays rail station. The grind of steel as the train braked made Bond shudder. It wasn’t often that he remembered the time Silva blew a hole in the tube so a wayward train could chase Bond nearly to his death. The post-trauma stress Bond suffered from his long years of double-oh service crept up on him at the most inopportune times. He dismissed it without incident this time, listening as the train rolled out of earshot.

Bond made his way back toward the car, stopping at the scaffolding before he reached the No Parking Zone. He looked up and down the construction lot and then turned his attention back to the building. If he could reach the top floor, he might be able to see inside the wall of windows. Maybe that would give him an idea of what Tabatabati was planning.

He pocketed his sunglasses and undid the button of his jacket. Reaching up, he grabbed the head-high rung of the scaffolding. In one swift movement, he swung himself upward. Hand over hand, he climbed from one level to the next, hoping the security guards who patrolled the Docklands wouldn’t order him down with their raised weapons.

The cold slick steel bit at Bond’s fingertips as he fought to hold on. The higher he climbed, the colder the steel became. The mist had coated each of Bond’s handholds. For each foot he gained in elevation, he slipped backwards a few inches. He gritted his teeth and put the thoughts of his cold aching fingers out of his mind.

He needed to find out what was inside the buildings. This expenditure of energy was for Q, the Quartermaster who had done so much for him during his tenure at MI6. No matter what Bond had asked of Q, he willingly obliged, risking his own job more times than Bond could count. The least Bond could do was to get a glimpse of what was inside this building.

Finally, Bond reached the top of the scaffolding where a wooden platform had been affixed. He rolled onto his back to catch his breath. His chest heaved with the exertion. He tucked his hands into his armpits, hoping to restore some of the warmth to his fingers. As far as he could tell, he hadn’t been seen scaling the building.

When he recovered, Bond scoped out the condition of the steeply sloping roof. All would have been for naught if he slipped and fell to the pavement below. To his surprise, the roof was comprised of some kind of composite tile instead of the slippery wet metal that he anticipated. He crept like a cat along the roofline, ascending to the apex. The wind came up from the Thames and sent Bond’s tie flapping.

When he could go no further, Bond lay flat on his stomach and peered over the edge. What he wouldn’t have given for a periscope at that moment. The inside of the building gave the appearance of a warehouse from this angle. Although no lights had been turned on inside the building, there was enough light from the grey sky to see that the building was essentially a cavernous hollow shell. It hadn’t even been wired yet, if the miles of cables and conduit that hung from the ceiling indicated the building’s level of completion. From the rooftop to the floor below was a distance of fifty feet or more. The glass windows at the top level let in some light, but not nearly enough for Bond’s liking.

Satisfied that there was no more to see, Bond crept along the roof until his feet found the scaffolding platform again. He paused and observed the Docklands from this vantage point. The sky roiled in a dozen shades of grey. Anticipating the cold steel handholds, Bond warmed his hands in the pockets of his trousers. There were no construction crew members in sight.

Bond made the agonizing journey down the scaffolding to the solid ground. He was grateful that the descent was faster than the climb because of the slick steel and the force of gravity. When his feet finally hit the ground, he brushed himself off and buttoned his jacket.

There was nothing to see here. But Tabatabati would be back sometime, and Bond needed to plan how he would confront him.

As the Aston Martin roared to life, Bond realised that he had worked up an appetite climbing the scaffolding. It was late afternoon by the time he drove out of the Docklands of Canary Wharf. Usually, Bond would have stopped at one of his favourite haunts for a bite to eat, but he didn’t need the bag of truffles on the console to remind him that he had someone waiting at home for him.

He thought about calling Q to tell him about the warehouse, but he decided against it since nothing significant had been found. He’d be home in a half-hour, and Q was bound to be hungry too. As the traffic came to a stop ahead of him, Bond conducted a mental review of the food he had brought home the day before.

Perhaps he’d prepare a flank steak, broiled and sliced thin, served with fresh asparagus. Or maybe grilled salmon with a sweet pea-studded risotto. Bond could always ask Q what he would like to eat, although he wondered what kind of answer he would get. From the looks of him, with his skinny arms and bony knees, Q subsisted on Earl Grey alone.

Bond liked cooking for others, although he seldom got the opportunity. He rarely brought a conquest back to his flat and almost never spent the time to prepare a meal after he gained the information his job required of him. Cooking for Q was especially rewarding, since he seemed appreciative of Bond’s culinary skills, as if he expected nothing more than a cheese toastie.

The traffic rolled along slowly, past the Thames and its many bridges as Bond made his way home. It had become more of a home in just a few days with Q there.

Bond grinned and wondered what it would be like to make Q one of his signature martinis. Q became quite talkative and forthcoming from the wine they drank the previous evening. A mere mouthful of whisky made him fuzzy the night before that. Q wasn’t kidding when he told Bond that he got drunk easily.

Bond took advantage of an opening in the line of traffic. He darted through and passed three vehicles in the process.

He wondered if he could convince Q to drink a martini. It might help him put his cares aside for a little while, at least. Bond decided that Q would be silly and uninhibited. Maybe he’d try flirting with Bond—maybe he’d want to do more than steal kisses from him as they lay curled together on the sofa.

Bond sped ahead, running a red light before squeezing into the lane of moving cars.

Bond could name a hundred things he wanted to do to Q, if given the opportunity. But it would be quite wrong to take advantage of Q while he was a bit drunk. Bond was certain that he would stop before things went too far. He valued his friendship with Q too much to take advantage of his inebriation.

The line of cars in front of Bond suddenly came to a complete stop.

Bond tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he waited for the traffic to move again. He mused at his own honesty. Normally, he’d be keen to fuck anything that moved. But this was Q. His Q. He had always suspected that Q was gay, but now that Q had confirmed it, Bond needed to keep his emotions in check. He didn’t want to ruin whatever friendship that had been formed during Q’s ordeal. It would be best if he could get Q to sleep safely every night, and with his virtue intact… well, mostly intact.

The traffic began moving again. Bond was nearly home.

It was time to put aside all thoughts of Q tracing a finger along Bond’s lips and begging him to “ fuck me like one of those infamous Bond girls that you’ve fucked on your missions.”

Bond shivered as he turned onto Kensington Park Road.

It was time to stop dreaming of Q’s adorable grin while he spewed filthy words about what he wanted to do to Bond. Without the glasses, Q was strikingly handsome. Hazy green eyes, flecked with gold in the morning light, a button nose, and broody eyebrows, and of course his gorgeous mouth. His lips made Bond think all kinds of things that would make it impossible to get out of the Aston Martin without sporting an embarrassing erection.

Bond pulled out his remote to open the garage, but his eyes caught the shattered plastic that littered the pavement outside his garage door.

He left the Aston Martin running and stepped out of the car to investigate.

The mobile Q had resurrected from Bond’s junk drawer lay smashed to pieces on the concrete.

Bond ran inside the flat.

Q was gone.

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