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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.



“Q?” Bond called as he searched the rooms of his flat.

This couldn’t be. Everything appeared to be unchanged from when Bond left in the morning. The furniture was in the exact same position where Q had moved it when he rearranged things the previous day.

Bond searched the bedroom, in the wardrobe, under the bed. He cringed when he looked inside the trunk he had promised Q for his clothes, but fortunately, Q wasn’t inside.

“Q,” he moaned, scrubbing his hands through his hair.

In the ruckus, Galileo scampered under the bed. Copernicus mewed and pleaded to be petted.

“What went on here?” Bond asked the cat.

But Copernicus had no answer.

With his weapon drawn, Bond stood on his balcony, overlooking Stanley Crescent. If Q were kidnapped, the kidnappers would long be gone by now. He was certain that Tabatabati was responsible for this, but there was no telling how many enemy operatives might see Q’s skills and intelligence as weapons that they could use for their own purposes.

Bond took his mobile from his pocket and dialled Q’s number. It couldn’t hurt to hope.

“Please,” Bond whispered, but the call went to voicemail.

He shoved his mobile back into his pocket and surveyed the living room.

“What were you doing here?” Bond asked, turning on the telly that was attached to Q’s laptop by a HDMI cable.

Bond’s eyes scanned the images of data that ran across the screen. There were images of the warehouse he had visited earlier, with aerial shots of the Docklands. Bond scrolled through the images that Q had pulled up on the screen. There didn’t seem to be any new information. Bond glared at the photograph of Ahmadali Tabatabati as if he could provide some answers.

Bond winced when he thought about Q trying to fight off an attacker. He’d be easily defeated in a physical fight. Yet here Bond had left him, unarmed and unguarded while someone had made it obvious that they were out to get Q.

“Why, Q?” Bond asked. “Give me a clue. Why did you shut off the telly and leave your laptop connected to it?”

Bond groaned in frustration when he finally understood that Q hadn’t been kidnapped from inside the flat. Everything was in place, exactly as Bond had left it. No signs of a break-in or a struggle.

Bond should never have been so careless in leaving Q alone. He knew how upset Q was about the ordeal with Tabatabati and MI6. Perhaps Q left to settle matters on his own, but someone got to him as soon as he set foot outside.

Bond rang Tanner, in hopes that he could help.

“Bond?” Tanner said. “What news do you have? Are you at the warehouse?”

“I went to the warehouse, but when I got back to my flat, Q was gone,” Bond said.

“Gone?” Tanner asked, taking some time to process the urgency in Bond’s voice. “What happened? Did he leave any indication about where he was headed?”

“He left a broken mobile and a Google search for the warehouse. It had to be Tabatabati, or his men,” Bond said as he pushed his old mail around on the countertop, checking for a note or a clue that Q had left behind. “I never should have left him here alone.”

“What’s done is done,” Tanner said. “What are you going to do next?”

Bond went to the stairs.

“I’m heading back to the warehouse now,” Bond said. “It may be a guess, but I’m willing to bet that they’ve taken Q there.”

“You think it’s Tabatabati,” Tanner said.

“He’s our best lead at the moment,” Bond said.

“What can I do?” Tanner asked.

“I don’t suppose MI6 would be willing to help, since they cut Q from his Quartermaster position,” Bond said.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Tanner said. “Let me hang up, and I’ll put a call in to Mallory.”

Bond descended the stairs two at a time. He jumped into the Aston Martin and pulled out of the garage, the fresh laundry and truffles mocking him from the passenger’s seat. Q’s smashed mobile crunched under the wheels as Bond sped toward Westbourne Grove.

When Bond reached the A40, he plugged his mobile into the port and said, “Call Moneypenny.”

“James,” Moneypenny answered before the ring. Bond was fairly sure that Tanner had already pulled her into the conversation in the time it took Bond to get from his driveway to the main road. She rarely called him by his first name, except in times of extreme emotion.

“I’m sorry your boffin bestie is missing,” Bond said.

“Tanner just told me. I know you’ll bring him back,” Moneypenny said.

“In the meantime, you can help Tanner,” Bond said.

“I put him through to Mallory a moment ago. Just because you didn’t invite me to your little boys’ club brunch, doesn’t mean that I’ve been left out of the loop entirely,” Moneypenny said.

Bond was grateful that Tanner had caught Moneypenny up on their conversation. Q couldn’t have too many allies if he wanted his job back, but it certainly helped to have skilled agents on his side in the event of enemy fire.

“What do you need?” Moneypenny asked.

“When you see Mallory,” Bond said. “Let him know what you found out about Ahmadali Tabatabati. You know that’s who hacked Q’s accounts. I think he’s trying to flush Q out so he’ll go to him for help.”

“What kind of help could Q possibly hope to get from him?”

“I’m not exactly sure yet,” Bond said.

If Tabatabati had cut off Q’s accounts, in hopes that Q would seek him out to get his identity reinstated, he’d want to be paid off. Perhaps the payment he had in mind was for Q to provide technical skills to Tabatabati’s terror network. Bond hoped it was as simple as that. He wasn’t ready to face his concern that Tabatabati may want Q for reasons that were more romantic than hacking some data. He’d be damned if this arsehole thought he was going to woo Q into getting back together with him.

“Mallory has us working on an internal investigation this weekend. I don’t know how available he’s going to be,” Moneypenny said. “I wouldn’t expect him to go all out to rescue Q since he’s been discredited.”

“Maybe not,” Bond said. This was accurate, but disappointing.

“But if it involves catching one of the biggest arms traffickers to the Middle East, I’m sure I can get him to reconsider,” Moneypenny said.

“That’s my girl,” Bond said.

Their call ended when Bond crossed Edgeware Road to the A501. He hoped he’d have better luck with the traffic here than he did on the city road earlier.

He drove as fast as the traffic would allow. Bond gripped the steering wheel tightly, feeling a connection to Q there in the moulded leather that Q had touched.

The rain spit down when Bond turned onto Great Eastern Street toward Whitechapel. He sat in traffic again on the A13, getting closer to the Docklands. He turned the heater on to warm his hands when he thought about climbing the wet scaffolding again.

Although he tried to remain cool and collected, Bond pounded the steering wheel with an angry fist when the traffic ground to a halt.

He promised himself that if he got Q out of this mess, he would take him away to someplace warm. Perhaps the Maldives or Bora Bora. He would slather Q’s back with sunscreen and watch him wade in the surf, his skinny legs sticking out of his board shorts, the kind that young men like Q wore nowadays.

It was a calming thought.

When the traffic began to move again, Bond lost himself in the hypothetical holiday with Q. He doubted Q ever went anyplace warm when he had time off. He was afraid of flying because of what happened to his parents. Poor boy. At least he was smart enough to avoid such stress.

However, there was that trip to Austria last year when Q showed up at the ski resort looking for Bond.

What would make Q board a plane when he had such an aversion to flying?

It could only have been Bond.

There was nothing Q wouldn’t do for him.

And Bond wanted to be sure that Q wouldn’t regret it.

The warehouse district came into view as Bond merged with traffic toward the Rotherhithe Tunnel. He cursed at the drivers. Where were all these people going on a Saturday night? Bond slumped low in the driver’s seat when he realised the reason. They were out to have a good time. Unlike Bond, these people had lives to lead that didn’t involve espionage or a license to kill.

Bond pulled up to 8 Heron Quay. From inside, bright lights illuminated the top floor of the warehouse. Although he had only left this spot a little more than an hour ago, the sky had grown darker since and the wind whipped off the Thames. There were no cars parked in the No Parking Zone where he had left the Aston Martin earlier, but fresh tracks led across the construction site. The wheels of more than one vehicle left deep grooves in the sand and mud.

Bond drew his gun, ready to fire. He ran to the building, keeping his profile as low as possible. He pressed his back against the damp blue walls of the warehouse. Skirting the building, Bond stayed as quiet as he could, his shoes leaving traces of his presence in the rain-soaked dust of the concrete walkway.

He thought about Q. He wondered if Q was hurt or scared. He wondered if he had even been brought here alive.

Bond scoffed at his own thoughts. Of course Q was alive. He’d be worthless to Tabatabati if he were dead.

Bond reached the central connecting causeway where he had peered into a reception area earlier in the day. The side of the building with the scaffolding was quiet, but Bond heard some activity coming from the second half of the building, the one where no scaffolding allowed him access.

The lights shined from the top story of the building, casting long shadows along the wet ground.

Taking care to not be seen, Bond made his way to the rear of the building, facing the Thames. The stench of diesel fuel and industrial river traffic assaulted his nostrils. Here, on the embankment, a pair of vehicles sat. Bond pressed his hand to their bonnets and felt that they were still warm. His anger grew when he realised the vehicles could have passed him earlier, with Q inside, as Bond had left the warehouse for home. Although there was nothing he could have done to change what happened, he still felt a pang of guilt that Q could be injured somewhere and he was unable to stop it.

Bond silently listened for activity in the warehouse. The clanging bell of a ferry pierced the air. The ship motored downstream, disturbing the rain-splotched river. Bond never heard the footsteps that approached him from behind, stepping in time with the ferry bell’s clanging ring. By the time Bond felt the pistol strike the back of his head, it was too late.

~

Bond dreamed.

The heat from the roaring fire warmed his face, his hands, his feet. He took a sip of mulled cider and let the sweet tang of the liquid roll down his throat, warming him from the inside out.

He stretched his legs out in front of him on the plush rug. Fingers touched his shoulder and he turned his head to see Q. His smile lit up the room more than any flame in the hearth, more than the bright sun as it broke through the clouds over the vale. Reaching up with one hand, he took Q’s fingers and brought them to his lips.

Q let Bond take his hand. His hair fell into his pretty green eyes. He looked as young as ever. He hadn’t aged a day since they first met in the National Gallery. He looked intelligent, as always, and his glasses somehow made him seem smarter—as if there was ever any doubt that he was a nerd. He pinched the bow of his glasses and pulled them more securely onto his nose, a habit that Bond knew he performed every waking hour of his day.

“Q?” Bond asked.

“Double-oh Seven,” Q said.

Q laid a hand on Bond’s shoulder and lowered himself to the rug, sidling up to Bond, warm and cosy.

The fire crackled. Q wrapped an arm around Bond’s shoulders and drew him nearer. Bond exhaled slowly feeling the warm weight of Q at his side.

Bond rested his head on Q’s chest. His jumper was soft to the touch, green and grey like the one he wore when he first came to Bond’s flat all those years ago. Bond could feel Q’s heartbeat, steady and solid beneath his clothes.

Bond rubbed his forehead against Q’s cheek, like a giant cat, while they sat together enjoying the fire.

Q blinked his eyes closed.

Bond pursed his lips and inched forward to press a kiss to the corner of Q’s mouth.

That got Q’s attention. He turned his gaze to Bond.

“You need to wake up, Bond,” Q said.

Bond nuzzled Q’s neck. He let his lips skim over Q’s jawline. His eyelashes left butterfly kisses on Q’s pale skin, the colour high on his cheeks from the heat of the fire.

Q’s hands were cold, as if he just came in from outside. Bond remembered the chill of the metal scaffolding that painfully froze his own fingers. Bond wanted so badly to warm Q’s fingers for him, so he didn’t have to be cold.

Outside, the snow fell in fat flakes against the windows. The winds howled across the munros, making Bond glad for the heat of the fire.

He shifted his position and pulled Q into his lap. Q went along with the movement and laughed at him, his eyes dancing in the firelight.

Q found Bond’s glass of cider and brought it to his lips, sipping it leisurely. Bond watched Q’s Adam’s apple as he drank. He stroked at it with a finger until Q stopped sipping his drink, and offered it to Bond instead.

Bond didn’t want the sweet liquid. He had a craving for a different taste entirely. He put the glass aside and bracketed Q’s face in his hands, bringing their lips together. This is what it felt like to be home.

Bond’s eyes flickered open and he could swear that he saw his childhood home. The stone walls and the ornate light fixtures warded off the darkness of the highland nights.

Bond looked around and took in his surroundings. He hoped that Kincade would be there soon to stoke their fire. Maybe he would take them target shooting in the morning. Q would surprise Kincade, even more than Bond had when he returned to Skyfall. Bond would warn Kincade to pay no mind to Q’s scrawny arms or the fact that he weighed less than most of the ewes that grazed the hillside. Q was a good shot. Better than most of the double-ohs, since he tested every weapon at the MI6 shooting range before he ever considered letting them leave MI6 with an agent. Q was stronger than he looked.

If you weren’t a good shot, Q could teach you a thing or two.

“Q?” Bond asked. “You’ll show Kincade how it’s done, won’t you?”

Bond’s eyes fluttered open.

“Bond?” Q said again. “You need to wake up now.”

Q brushed his thumb across Bond’s cheek, waking him from his dream.

“Q?” Bond asked. He scanned Q’s face. One eye was swollen nearly shut and there was an ugly bruise on the side of his forehead. Blood seeped from the corner of his mouth.

“Q, what have they done to you?” Bond asked, his feet scrambling for purchase on the concrete floor. He didn’t get very far, his ankles held back by a pair of shackles that chained him to the wall. He lifted his hand to Q’s head, but hesitated touching what must be a painful injury.

“I may be a good shot, but if we get out of this one,” Q said, “perhaps you should consider teaching me some of your hand-to-hand combat techniques.”

As soon as he remembered the blow he suffered from the butt of his captor’s gun, Bond’s head ached. “Don’t be ridiculous, Q,” he said. “You’re a lover, not a fighter.”

Q smiled, although Bond could see the pain behind his eyes.

“Let me look at you,” Bond said.

“I’m so sorry,” Q said, as if all of this was his fault.

“No, no,” Bond said, trying to soothe him, but he stopped talking when he noticed Q was no longer wearing the grey and green jumper that he wore in Bond’s dream. No, the colours were the same, but he wore a jacket, not a warm and fuzzy jumper. Beneath the mottled grey and green camouflage, explosives were held in place by strips of duct-tape that wrapped around Q’s torso and stuck to the tender skin of his chest.

“Q,” Bond said, his voice steady.

“Bond?” Q asked.

“That’s the ugliest jumper I’ve seen you wear yet.”

Q shook his head, whispering, “I’m so sorry for all of this.”

“What happened?” Bond asked.

“I shouldn’t have left,” Q said, pushing his glasses up onto his nose. “I don’t know why I thought it would be safe to leave the flat. It was only supposed to be for a minute.”

Bond wanted to scold him, but he had the presence of mind to know that it would make no difference. Besides, it was obvious that Q felt bad enough about his error in judgement anyway. “It’s too late to be sorry,” Bond said, shaking his head. “What happened?”

Q licked at the blood on his lips. “I called Emily to let her know what was going on,” Q said. “I was concerned about my savings. The credit card was one thing, my savings are quite another. If Trevor cleaned out my bank account, I’d have nothing to live on. I’d have to start all over after losing everything. I was frantic. It was like the time when Trevor stole my work, all over again. I thought if I could get to the bank and arrange a transfer to Emily, everything would be all right. I’m sorry, I was so stupid and selfish. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

“Q,” Bond said. He caught Q’s fingertips with his own. With both hands, he tugged Q closer, warming Q’s hand between his, “You needed to look out for yourself.”

“I wish I had left you a note, but I was only leaving for a minute to go to the NatWest on the corner,” Q said. “They grabbed me as soon as I left the flat.”

“Where are we?” Bond asked, noticing his surroundings for the first time.

They sat on the floor of a warehouse. The concrete floor was uncomfortable and cold beneath Bond’s arse. Overhead lighting poured down on them, illuminating the walls in an industrial glare. Cables fell from the ceiling. Each length was coated in a rubberized white sheath.

The warehouse smelled of fresh paint and solder smoke.

“I think we’re at the warehouse, remember? Heron Quay,” Q said.

“Of course,” Bond said.

“I didn’t think I’d see you again,” Q said. “Until they threw you in here with me and chained you to the wall, I kept wishing that I thought to leave you a note on the kitchen counter, telling you I was popping out for a minute.”

“I still would have thought to look here for you first,” Bond said, stroking Q’s wrist with his thumb. “I rushed in to save the damsel, but I was caught.”

“Not funny,” Q said, trying not to smile.

Bond wanted to hug Q, but he worried about the hardware attached to Q’s torso.

“Is this something that we can deactivate?” Bond asked, waving a hand over Q’s chest.

“Maybe, if we had the right tools,” Q said sadly, looking at the mass of wired explosives.

Bond wished he had the screwdriver that he had left on Saleem’s desk, days ago. There was nothing that made him appreciate the gadgets that Q-branch developed for him more than not having one when he needed it most.

“He’s here….” Q said. Then he lowered his voice to a whisper, “Trevor.”

“Q,” Bond said, reaching for Q’s face. “Did he hurt you?”

Bond watched Q’s eyes slide closed.

Bond knew well the way that some sadistic animals treated their captives, especially if the captives were naïve boys like Q. He shuddered to think of what else Q may have suffered in the hour that he had been in the warehouse.

“Q.…” Bond whispered. “Did he… abuse you in any way?” He hoped that Q would know what he meant, without making him say the words.

“No,” Q said, shaking his head, understanding what Bond implied. “Not that. He only threatened me.”

“May I hold you?” Bond asked. Bond had never needed to ask permission before. In the past, Q usually fell into Bond’s embrace without the need for consent. But Bond thought it was best to ask Q in case he had lied about the trauma he suffered at Tabatabati’s hands.

“Please,” Q said, “but you might want to be careful. There’s no telling when I’ll explode.”

Bond carefully slid one hand through Q’s thick hair and held him close with the other. The bruise on his forehead looked angry and sensitive.

“He roughed me up a bit,” Q said. “There’s a reason I’m not a field agent.” Q’s eyes told Bond that he knew how upset Bond would be at the evidence of mistreatment.

“I’ll kill him,” Bond said.

But the instant his anger cooled, Bond realised that he had no gun and no way to improvise a weapon while he was chained to a wall.

Q rested his head on Bond’s chest while Bond embraced him. “I have every confidence that you’ll save the world if necessary,” Q said.

Bond petted Q’s hair. He hoped that Tanner and Moneypenny could rally Mallory to investigate the warehouse. Surely Tanner would be trying to reach Bond, but Bond’s mobile was undoubtedly in the hands of the enemy now.

“I’ve told Tanner and Moneypenny that you went missing,” Bond said.

“You don’t expect them to send in reinforcements from MI6, do you?” Q asked. “They probably believe whatever lies Trevor put in the emails. I can’t blame them. He was very convincing, I’m sure.”

“They won’t,” Bond lied, not at all confident that they wouldn’t. “They’ll believe you now. Tanner told me there’s conflict about Hammond’s office ordering MI6 to get rid of you. Mallory will try to use that to your advantage. I know he will.”

“We’ve got a bigger problem than identity theft,” Q said. “I think Trevor wants me to help him hack into MI6 to scramble their intelligence on arms trafficking. I can’t do it. I won’t. ISIS counts on Trevor for funding. He wants me to be a part of it and he won’t take no for an answer.”

Bond cupped Q’s chin in his palm. “You’ll do what you need to,” he said. “You’ll do what you must to stay alive.”

“You know I can’t do that,” Q said. “He’ll torture me. You know we have to follow the protocol. I only regret that I don’t have a cyanide capsule to use.”

Bond was grateful that he didn’t have his weapon. The protocol to kill the Quartermaster if he was irrevocably compromised by the enemy weighed on Bond’s mind. Apparently Q had been thinking about Bond’s obligation to kill him if necessary.

Q turned away from Bond and leant so his back rested on Bond’s chest. Bond wrapped his arms around Q, pressing a kiss to his hair. Q shuddered and stroked Bond’s hands with his own.

The warehouse was eerily quiet. Bond could hear Q’s heart beating from beneath the duct tape.

Q took Bond’s hands and squeezed them gently. He lifted them from where they rested. Bond allowed Q to move his hands, bending his elbows to accommodate Q’s wishes.

Q tipped his head back. The pale expanse of Q’s neck beckoned Bond to kiss, to tease, to bite. But instead of having passion on his mind, Q brought Bond’s hands to his throat.

“You’d make it quick for me,” Q said, stroking Bond’s fingers. “Wouldn’t you, Bond?”

Bond was horrified by the request. Q was right. He was an asset to the enemy. There was but one course of action for a double-oh agent to take. Bond needed to kill Q, with his bare hands if necessary. Q’s devotion to MI6 was unquestionable, maybe even more unwavering than Bond’s. Q was willing to go to his death, and he trusted Bond to do a proper job of it.

“Not yet,” Bond said, rejecting the proposal and dragging his hands from Q’s grasp. “I’m still not done losing your equipment and making fun of your spots.”

Not ever, Bond thought to himself. He slid his fingers under Q’s chin and turned him so they were facing each other. He brought their lips together and drowned himself in Q. With gentle touches of concern and murmured words of reassurance, Bond kissed Q, careful to avoid triggering the explosives that were attached to Q’s chest. Bond knew he must do something to get them out of their situation, but for now, it was only Q’s lips with the whispered promise of things to come.

Bond panted to catch his breath when a loud boom echoed through the warehouse. His head ached, but he didn’t relax his hold on Q, despite being startled. If anything, he clung to Q more tightly as the whirring of gears hummed from the far wall. He anticipated what Tabatabati had in mind for Q and he planned how he would deal with him.

From the white tiled wall, a door slid open horizontally as a lift deposited its riders on the floor with Bond and Q. A trio of men stepped onto the concrete. Bond recognised Tabatabati from the photograph Q had shared with him. He wore a black suit with a grey dress shirt beneath, the top button undone. His two henchmen each carried a pistol trained on their prisoners, ready to fire if Bond tried anything to evade or escape.

Tabatabati crossed the floor, but stood out of reach. He clapped his hands slowly, the smacking sound bouncing off the stark walls.

Clap. Clap. Clap.

Bond breathed into Q’s hair. There was nothing he wouldn’t do to keep Q safe from his stalker and saboteur. He’d make an attempt to get one of the pistols from a guard as soon as he had the opportunity. For now, Bond could only observe and wait for his chance.

“How very touching,” Tabatabati said, his accent as posh as Q’s, despite the time he spent away from the country of his birth.

Bond looked Tabatabati over. He hadn’t changed much in the half-dozen years that had passed since the photograph had been taken with Q, although his dark hair was streaked with grey and the lines that framed his blue eyes were deeper with age.

“I see you’ve already met Matthew,” Tabatabati said.

Bond didn’t let his focus waver from Tabatabati. He didn’t know who Tabatabati was taking about. He knew no Matthew.

“He’s a very clever boy, isn’t he?” Tabatabati asked. “The top of his class at MIT. What a shame that he used what I taught him to get ahead and graduate with honours. But when the time came to repay his debt, he forgot who he was, where he came from. He thought he was better than me. Didn’t you, Matthew?”

It took a second for Bond to register that Tabatabati meant Q.

Matthew.

It made sense to Bond now. Q… his sister, Emily… Em…. Q’s given name was Matthew. It hurt Bond’s heart to know that Q’s cover had been blown. The revelation echoed off the warehouse walls, the years of secrecy and confidentiality relegated to something as meaningless as dust motes.

“Matthew,” Tabatabati said. “It’s so good to see you again. I hope your friend doesn’t mind if I borrow you for a while.”

Tabatabati strode to where Bond and Q sat on the floor.

“Come along,” Tabatabati said, nudging Q’s shoulder. “We don’t have all day.”

The guards threatened with their weapons but stood out of Bond’s reach. Bond had no choice but to release his grasp on Q when Tabatabati dragged him to his feet. Bond’s head pounded from the blow he had sustained earlier. He hoped that Tabatabati wouldn’t hurt Q. As long as he wanted something from Q, Tabatabati would keep him alive. The explosives were merely a scare tactic.

“I have a job for you to do,” Tabatabati said.

“I only work for MI6, Trevor,” Q said, emphasizing the name.

Q’s reflexes were sharp, but not as sharp as Bond’s. Bond flinched when Tabatabati slapped Q across the face. Bond scrambled across the floor toward Q. His fingernails dug into the concrete, but he was stopped by the chain that wound around his ankles and tethered him to the wall.

Bond realised that attempting to help Q physically was futile. “That’s hardly the way to convince him to work for you,” he said, trying a more intellectual route.

Q, with his glasses askew, glared at Bond.

Bond shrugged. He had to say something to intervene on Q’s behalf. Reminding Tabatabati of Q’s value was the first idea that came to mind.

The guards shoved Q toward the wall opposite the lift. Q didn’t weigh more than ten stone. He couldn’t handle much rough treatment. He glanced at Bond as he was led away.

“That may be true in the world of MI6,” Tabatabati said when the men stopped at the far end of the room. “But you must know by now that Matthew likes it a little rough.”

Bond winced when Tabatabati reached a hand around Q and fondled his cock through his trousers.

Q groaned involuntarily. His head lolled backwards and, as if recognising this mistake, he clamped his mouth shut.

Bond bit back a growl of fury. He couldn’t bear to watch Tabatabati assaulting Q. He closed his eyes, hoping that Q would go along with whatever Tabatabati had in mind as long as it kept him alive. They could deal with the aftermath of whatever trauma Q experienced later, when Bond wasn’t chained to a wall.

“Who would have thought an MI6 agent was so sentimental?” Tabatabati said, leering at Bond.

Bond was accustomed to using his body for MI6. It came with the territory of being a double-oh agent. Although Q had many talents, Bond doubted he would use his sexuality to appease his tormentor without suffering some long-term repercussions.

Tabatabati took a remote control unit from his pocket. For one horrible moment, Bond thought it was the detonator for the hardware strapped to Q.

“If you want to blow someone from MI6 up, take me,” Bond said. “Q doesn’t work for MI6 anymore, but I do.”

Tabatabati turned the remote control over with his fingers.

Q set his jaw and closed his eyes.

The henchmen looked from Q to Tabatabati.

“That would be all too delicious,” Tabatabati said. “To have you sacrifice yourself for Matthew’s life. How very sweet. But I think it’s better to keep Matthew alive. He suits my needs quite well.”

Tabatabati wrapped his arms around Q and bit at his earlobe.

Q cringed, but he couldn’t squirm away with the weapons trained on him.

“I think I’ll keep Matthew for myself,” Tabatabati said, nodding at Bond. “And what better way to convince him to work for me than to threaten his lover?”

With a signal from Tabatabati, one of the guards pointed his pistol at Bond.

Bond didn’t know what Tabatabati was talking about. He and Q weren’t lovers, not yet, at least. Tabatabati was a jealous fool.

“If you die, Matthew will get over it,” Tabatabati said, releasing Q from his grip. “After all, what is grief? It will pass in due time. A week… a month… a year…. Matthew should know how long it takes to get over the end of a relationship, shouldn’t he?”

Q swallowed, but made no move to answer.

“You tell me,” Bond said. “You’re the one he dropped.”

“You’ve had him long enough at Mi6,” Tabatabati snapped. “It’s time he repaid me.”

Tabatabati pushed a series of buttons on the remote control and a monitor screen dropped down from the ceiling.

“You always knew the best way to set up fail-safes,” Tabatabati cooed at Q. He stepped back from the wall and a gap opened in the floor. “And now I demand your assistance with a little pet project of mine.”

A table bearing a computer system rose from the subterranean confines below the concrete. Bond strained to listen for sirens or some indication that help was on the way, but he only heard the rotating gears as the workstation moved into place.

Q shifted nervously from one foot to the other while Tabatabati grabbed one of the hanging electrical cables and plugged it into the machine. It was clear that Tabatabati expected Q to use his skills for his plan.

Bond knew that Tabatabati held all the cards. He went to a lot of effort to change Q’s passwords. He got Q fired by hacking his email. He cancelled Q’s mortgage, his Oyster card, his credit. Bond needed no reminder that if Q failed to produce the work, Tabatabati only had to push a button to blow Q to smithereens.

Bond’s only hope to save Q was to disarm one of the guards. He planned to wait until a weapon was within reach, but all planning came to an end when gunfire erupted from the lift.

The shots drew Tabatabati’s attention. He released his hold on Q and looked to the guards as the lift doors opened.

From his vantage point, Bond couldn’t see who was inside.

As the guards moved forward to investigate, a shot whizzed through the air from above and struck one guard in the head. He dropped his pistol and stumbled backwards.

Bond looked toward the ceiling to see where the shot came from. He was relieved to see Eve perched in one of the upper windows. She focused on the second guard through the sight of a sniper rifle.

Everything happened in a split second. The remaining guard turned his attention to Eve, but she ducked out of view.

Q dove for the dropped pistol before the dead guard hit the floor. Tabatabati was faster. He grappled with Q, the pair of them rolling on the concrete while Bond and the guard watched. The guard seemed unsure whether to train his weapon on Q or Bond or the lift shaft from which a hail of gunfire exploded.

Bond wished that Q’s fight would edge closer to him so he could help. He got onto his hands and knees, stretching the chains that bound him to the wall until the metal dug into his ankles. Q, Tabatabati, and the pistol were still too far away.

Eve appeared in the window again. Bond trusted her to rescue them. Still, he hoped that she wouldn’t take a shot at Tabatabati as he and Q wrestled over the weapon. There was no knowing when the explosives taped to Q’s chest would detonate. Bond remembered how things turned out the last time Eve had fired her gun as an agent fought an enemy of the Crown. He had a ragged scar and a handful of shrapnel to remind him of it.

The beating Q had suffered earlier didn’t seem to slow him down, but Bond had never known him to be a fighter in the physical sense. Q lunged for the pistol. Tabatabati clawed a handful of Q’s hair and dragged him across the concrete. When Q levelled with Tabatabati, he grabbed Tabatabati’s head and rammed him into the desk, sending the electronics clattering to the floor.

Bond couldn’t help but feel some pride that Q was holding his own against Tabatabati. He only wished that he could help him reach the dropped pistol.

Keeping his weapon trained on the fighting between Tabatabati and Q, the guard sidled up to the lift. When he peered inside, a hard kick knocked him off his feet. Bond watched as he flailed backwards.

When the assailant in the lift came into view, Bond was never so relieved to see that Tanner had come along for the ride. Bond again found Eve on the upper level, but she couldn’t get a clean shot at Tabatabati.

In the moments that Bond had taken his eyes off Q, Tabatabati had outmanoeuvred him. He escaped Q’s grasp, scrambled forward, and grabbed the dropped pistol.

With his strength flagging, Q dove for Tabatabati but landed hard on his knees a few feet away from him.

Everything went silent in Bond’s world. He feared for Q’s life. Halfway between Bond and Q, Tabatabati hauled himself to his feet.

With empty eyes, Q watched Tabatabati aim the pistol at Bond.

By the lift, Tanner dodged a spray of bullets from the guard’s weapon. He rushed to take cover inside.

Bond saw Tabatabati’s finger touch the trigger.

Eve found her mark. She shot the second guard. His weapon fell to the floor outside the lift.

Tanner kicked at the dropped weapon. The pistol skated across the floor toward Q.

A moment later, Tabatabati fell dead, a victim of Q’s beautifully aimed headshot.

The smell of gunfire hung in the expanse of the warehouse as bullets echoed off the freshly painted walls.

Q slumped forward onto his knees.

The warehouse was silent.

Tanner held his weapon in an outstretched hand, cautiously surveying the site for signs of life. Above the carnage, Eve grabbed hold of a wide cable that descended from the ceiling. She tested its strength and deciding it would hold her, she wrapped her legs around the sheath and lowered herself to the floor.

Bond needed to go to Q. He freed Tabatabati’s pistol from his dead grip. Sitting on the floor, he put a bullet through the chain that held him to the wall. He rushed to Q’s side, draggling the jangling chain behind him.

“Q,” Bond said, wrapping Q in his arms. The rush of adrenaline coursed through Bond. He suspected Q would be in shock. “You’ll be all right. Just breathe.”

Eve jogged over and ruffled Q’s hair. “Nice shot, darling,” she said affectionately.

“My arm,” Q said, freeing himself from Bond’s embrace. “It stings.”

Bond examined Q’s arm. Blood seeped out through a ragged tear in the arm of his jumper.

“He’s been shot,” Bond said. He carefully rolled the sleeve up Q’s arm, not wanting to disturb the explosives. He inspected the wound. Q was lucky. The bullet had skimmed his left bicep, tearing the flesh as it went. Bond was relieved that there wasn’t a bullet lodged in Q’s arm, but this was too close for his liking.

“I’ll call for the bomb squad and a clean-up crew,” Eve said, taking her mobile from her pocket.

Tanner holstered his gun. “We’ve got to get Q to medical,” he said.

“We might need to patch you up here,” Bond said. Q’s face had gone as white as the walls of the warehouse when he realised he had been shot. Bond did his best to keep him calm and minimise the effects of shock. “You’re going to be fine. I’m going to try to stop the flow of blood. You’ll probably need a few stitches though.”

“Thanks,” Q said, his voice not at all confident.

Bond held his palm across the wound. He could feel Q’s heart pounding.

“I had to take the shot,” Q said. “He was going to kill you.”

Bond pressed a kiss to Q’s forehead. He didn’t care who was watching. “If you must know, I’ve always trusted your aim,” he said.

“I’m with Tanner and Bond,” Eve said into her mobile. “Quartermaster down.”

Q took a deep breath. “I’m not technically the Quartermaster anymore,” he said, tossing his head toward Eve.

Bond continued to apply pressure to the wound. “No, you’re my rescuer,” he said.

Q laughed. “You make a strange damsel,” he said, laying his good hand on Bond’s chest.

Bond smiled, and from that moment, he knew everything was going to be all right.

Eve pocketed her mobile and knelt at Q’s side. “The quickest way to get these disengaged will be for you to get back to MI6,” she said.

“Do you think you can stand?” Bond asked.

“I think so,” Q said.

Bond used his left hand to help Q to his feet. His right hand held firm pressure against the gunshot wound.

Tanner pulled up next to them. “I’m going to make sure the coast is clear,” he said, hand on his pistol.

“Mallory says Tanner and I should wait here for the crew, if Bond wants to take you in,” Eve said, squeezing Q’s shoulder.

Q opened his mouth to protest, but Bond stopped him.

“You need to go to medical, but first you need to have this taken care of,” Bond said, waving a hand over Q’s chest. “It will be faster if I drive.”

“If you think they’ll accept me at MI6, I’ll go along with you,” Q said.

“Of course you will,” Bond said. Then, he lowered his voice and whispered in Q’s ear, “Besides, I have truffles.”

~

Bond woke with the warmth of Q’s hand in his, their fingers entwined in silent comfort. Aside from his eyes fluttering open, Bond didn’t move, careful not to disturb Q’s sleep.

Someone had thoughtfully dimmed the lights while they slept.

Bond’s back ached from the uncomfortable chair. He shifted slightly, craning his neck to check the Omega. It was already past noon. He gazed at Q, asleep in the standard MI6 medical unit bed. Aside from the swelling around his eye and a bruise on his forehead, he looked peaceful. Bond suspected he was able to sleep well for the first time in days, now that Tabatabati was dead.

Dawn had already broken over London by the time Bond delivered Q to the bomb squad. He had watched through the observation window while Q traded technobabble barbs with the heavily armoured technicians. A tense half-hour later, Q had been freed from the explosives, although Bond suspected it would take quite a bit of scrubbing to wash the tape residue from his skin.

They stood next to each other in the observation room when the explosives were detonated. Q wordlessly reached for Bond’s hand as they watched the shrapnel fly through the room like Guy Fawkes Day fireworks.

Q had refused to allow Bond to take him to medical in a wheelchair. He had his pride, even if the blood had soaked through makeshift bandage that they had improvised in the warehouse. Without concern for his bespoke tailoring, Bond stripped off his jacket and slipped Q’s bare right arm through one sleeve. He wrapped the jacket loosely around Q’s injured arm without even registering the allure of the smooth muscles of Q’s back or the flat planes of his chest. They quickly passed through the lobby on their way from the detonation room to the medical branch.

Bond was a bit surprised when Eve met them at the lift. “Did everything go according to plan at the warehouse?” he asked.

“Tanner is still there,” Eve said nodding her head. “It’s going well though. Q, we need to talk.”

But it was already too late.

Across the lobby, Bond watched while armed guards escorted R through the sliding doors and into the waiting van. Handcuffs prevented her from wiping her tear-stained face.

“What’s this?” Q asked, his eyes turning to Eve.

“When we were caught up in the gunfight at the warehouse, I wasn’t going to distract you with the details of the internal investigation that Mallory was conducting,” Eve said.

Bond watched the wave of disappointment wash over Q’s face.

“What did R have to do with it?” Bond asked.

“It was my hacking on Q’s behalf that uncovered it,” Eve said. “I’m so sorry, Q.”

“R had collaborated with Tabatabati?” Bond asked, although he was sure he knew the answer to the question.

Q’s shoulders slumped. “That can’t be,” he said.

“I hate to be the one to break this to you,” Eve said, clasping Q’s good arm. “She helped him hack your email account. She knew your Oyster card number, the bank where you got your mortgage, what credit cards you carry….”

“She must have been feeding Tabatabati information for months,” Bond said. He carefully wrapped an arm around Q’s shoulders, trying to offer some comfort.

“I’m afraid so,” Eve said. “That’s how Tabatabati knew what accounts to disable. R fed false tips to the PM’s office to make them suspect Q was up to something. When they found the emails that Tabatabati sent from Q’s account, they had reason to fire him.”

“Without your job and with no cashflow and no place to live, Tabatabati hoped you would turn to him,” Bond said.

“He would have known you weren’t dating anyone who might have helped you. He didn’t count on Bond taking you in and looking after you,” Eve said with a wink.

Q shook his head. “I can’t believe it. I trusted her implicitly. Why would she have done this?”

Eve crossed her arms. “I’m sorry. From what we’ve learned so far, they threatened her family,” she said.

Q groaned.

“Her family meant everything to her. You know how manipulative Tabatabati could be,” Eve said.

“Poor R,” Q said solemnly.

Eve lowered her head in agreement.

“What will become of her?” Bond asked as he rubbed circles across Q’s back.

“I’d imagine the PM’s office will allow some sort of plea bargain. She may have other information that will be useful to MI6,” Eve said.

“She won’t be working for intelligence again,” Q said.

“She’ll be lucky to avoid serving time in prison,” Bond added.

“I’m sure we’ll hear more about it when Mallory has a debriefing,” Eve said. “In the meantime, he’s got the PM’s office squaring away the issues with your accounts.”

“They’ve called in the big guns,” Q said. “I wonder if this means I might get my job back?”

“You have more pressing concerns right now,” Eve said. “You need to get to medical to have that arm looked at properly.” She pressed the button for the lift and sent Bond and Q on their way.

In the medical branch, Bond had insisted on staying with Q while he was sedated so his gunshot wound could be cleaned, stitched, and dressed. A gunshot wound was nothing new for Bond, but this was a first for Q. He was never destined to be a field agent.

“You won’t feel a thing, Quartermaster,” Sandhya said as she swabbed Q’s arm with alcohol and prepared to inject the anaesthetic.

“It hurts less if you don’t watch her work,” Bond said, gently pushing Q’s fringe out of his eyes. The bruise on his forehead had turned dark purple, but Bond was grateful that the MI6 medical team found no signs of concussion. His eye would heal. He’d have a shiner for a while. The swelling was kept in check with an intermittent ice pack.

“Bond, I’m, perfectly capable of tolerating—ow!”

“Sorry, Sir,” Sandhya said from behind her surgical mask.

“Did you hear that, Bond?” Q asked with a raised eyebrow. “Sir... at least someone is keen to show me some respect around here.”

Bond clasped Q’s good hand. “That’s a positive sign,” he said. “If you behave for Sandhya, perhaps you’ll be bossing your minions around soon enough.”

“I do hope so,” Q said wistfully.

When the procedure was over and Q’s arm neatly stitched, Bond loosened his tie and relaxed in the bedside chair. Both he and Q dozed off in the antiseptic scent of the room, exhausted from the ordeal at the warehouse.

Now Bond needed to stretch desperately. He leaned closer and gently laid Q’s hand on the blanket beside him without disturbing his sleep. Bond’s back cracked as he made himself more comfortable. He wished he could crawl under the covers. He’d wrap Q in his arms and sleep the day away. Perhaps he could just rest his head on the pillow. There was plenty of room for two.

Bond eyed the doorway. He then quietly slid his chair forward and rested his cheek on the cool pillow. The lights of Q’s monitor flickered merrily, assuring Bond that all was well with Q’s health. Bond was certain that he and Q would both be called for the debriefing with Mallory. While Bond hoped that Q would be reinstated at MI6, if Q were named Quartermaster again, Bond would miss the nights they had spent together and the friendship that had grown out of this crisis.

Q must have sensed that Bond was watching him. His good eye blinked open and his gaze fell on Bond.

Deciding Q looked no worse than when they arrived in medical, Bond gave him a crooked grin.

“Hey,” Bond said after a silence passed. He lifted his hand to touch Q’s cheek.

“Hey, Double-oh Seven,” Q said, grimacing when he moved his left arm so he could clasp Bond’s hand.

“You’ll be sore until the stitches come out,” Bond said, lacing his fingers with Q’s. “It’s best to keep still.”

Q hummed in agreement.

“Sandhya left a sling for you—” Bond said before he was stopped by Q’s lips.

Bond closed his eyes and kissed back gently, experimentally, mindful of the split lip and the bruising on Q’s face. Whatever this thing was, that they had going, it made Bond feel comforted, peaceful, and at ease. A bomb could go off in the next room and Bond couldn’t be arsed to care about it as long as he had Q beside him. He was glad that Q felt the same.

Q looked up and down Bond’s face. “Have you seen my spectacles?”

“They’re here somewhere,” Bond said, letting go of Q’s hand and finding his glasses on the table where he had tucked them out of the way lest they got more mangled.

Bond held them out to Q who took them in his right hand and expertly settled them on the bridge of his nose.

“Thanks,” Q said, blinking. He looked around the room and inquired, “I don’t suppose they’ll keep me here very long, considering I’m persona non grata?”

Bond settled his head on the pillow again. He found Q’s hand and clasped it in his own. “I’m guessing they’ll want you to pay a visit to Psych… in light of the circumstances around Tabatabati’s death.”

Q squeezed Bond’s hand.

“Despite what they may think, I’m perfectly alright,” Q said with an indignant huff. “I simply did what had to be done.”

“Thank you,” Bond said, taking Q’s hand and pressing a kiss to his knuckles. He admired Q’s fingers, gentle and tender when inspecting Bond’s wounds after a mission, but strong and capable when it mattered. He let his eyes fall closed and whispered, “Thank you for saving me.”

“Nonsense,” Q muttered. He stroked Bond’s hand languidly. “I wouldn’t have saved you if you weren’t there to save me first.”

Bond looked up from Q’s hand. “Damsel,” he said.

“Rusted ball and chain,” Q retorted.

“Pretentious hipster.”

“Obsolete warship.”

A knock on the door interrupted their repartee.

“Should we call it even, then?” Bond asked, sitting back in his chair without letting go of Q’s hand.

“Ah, I see the patient is awake,” Sandhya said. She swiftly made a note on her tablet. “Feeling up to having visitors?”

“That depends on who it is,” Q said.

“Chief of Staff Tanner would like to see you,” Sandhya said.

Bond glanced at Q and smiled.

“Send him right in,” Q said.

Sandhya went to the door and motioned for Tanner to join them.

Tanner walked through the door, his boots shuffling across the gleaming floor of the medical unit. In one hand, he carried a garment bag.

“You look well-rested,” Tanner said, taking in the scene.

“I am,” Q said. “I’m sorry you couldn’t have gotten much sleep last night.”

“No matter,” Tanner said. “I’m just glad to see that you’re on the mend.”

“Thanks so much for helping me—for helping us last night,” Q said, gripping Bond’s hand tighter.

“It was my pleasure,” Tanner said. “It’s not often that I get to do field work, but it’s getting to be a regular thing for me. Last year it was Mallory who got shot, and now you—let’s not let it happen again, shall we?”

“I’ll try not to,” Q said.

“What’s this?” Bond asked, motioning to the garment bag.

“I think that’s mine,” Q said.

Like Bond, Q had a change of clothes tucked away in his office for when he spent an unexpected night on comms or for when he stayed past midnight wrapped deep in a coding mystery. He could pass out for a couple hours at his desk, take a quick shower in the MI6 gym, and return to Q-branch wearing clean clothing.

“I grabbed this from your office. Mallory has sent me to fetch you both and bring you back to Q-branch,” Tanner said. “I don’t imagine you’ll want an audience with the Secretary Hammond while you’re still in your pyjamas.”

“What?” Q asked.

“There’s a meeting with Hammond in Q-branch. He took Mallory to lunch and he expects you to be there when he returns,” Tanner said. He turned to Sandhya and added, “That’s if he’s up to it.”

“You’ll be sore,” Sandhya said, “but you should be able to resume most of your normal activities. The sling will make you more comfortable while you heal.”

Bond stepped outside with Tanner while Q got dressed. Sandhya remained on hand, in case Q ran into trouble pulling on his socks or tying his shoes.

Tanner confided in Bond that he hoped the PM’s office wanted to make some sort of apology for the blunder their office made in handling Q’s dismissal. Bond agreed that the fact that he and Mallory were off to lunch could only mean good news.

Before long, Q emerged from the room. A blue sling held his left arm immobile. Bond stepped in and fussed with his tie, making sure it laid flat beneath the hideous cardigan Q had paired with it. They made eye contact as Bond let his fingers linger on the fabric.

The three men rode the lift down into the subterranean quarters of Q-branch. It almost seemed like old times.

“It’s good to see you, Sir,” Bradley said as he held the door open for Q and his friends. “Can I get you a cuppa?”

“That would be lovely,” Q said. “And it’s good to see you again, Bradley.”

As soon as Q stepped inside Q-branch, a crowd of minions gathered around him. Bond hoped it was a good sign that Q was so respected and admired. MI6 would be at a loss without the talents that Q had to offer.

Only a few minutes passed before Mallory and Secretary of State Hammond returned from their working lunch. The minions gave the men a wide berth, letting their superiors take centre stage at the front of the room. Everyone wanted to hear what Mallory and Hammond would say about their beloved former boss.

Bond found a spot to lean against on the back wall with Tanner. Across the room, Eve left her place beside Mallory and made her way toward her friends.

Hammond went to Q and shook his hand. They spoke for a few moments. Bond couldn’t hear what he was saying over the chattering minions, but Q nodded and looked pleased.

Taking a cue from Hammond, Mallory stepped in and raised his hands to get the attention of the minions. Things quieted down quickly as he directed.

Hammond spoke, “First of all, I would like you to join me in welcoming back your Quartermaster.”

“So it’s true,” Tanner whispered to Bond. “Q’s getting his job back.”

Eve patted Tanner on the back. “Nice work, Chief of Staff,” she said.

Tanner pulled Eve in for a brief hug.

“And secondly,” Hammond said. “I’d like to offer my apology on behalf of the Secretary of State’s office and the government of Her Majesty, the Queen. It is my honour to reinstate you as the Quartermaster of MI6. May you serve us well for many years to come.”

A smattering of applause echoed off the brick walls of the underground bunker. Bradley took the opportunity to carefully hand Q a steaming cup of tea in his favourite mug.

“Thanks very much, everyone,” Q said. “This really comes as a surprise to me, if you can imagine the events of the past few days. It will be good to be back at work.” His cheeks had turned crimson from all of the attention. Bond found it absolutely endearing.

“Maybe the State Department will leave MI6 alone now that they understand how valuable Q is to us,” Tanner said.

“That’s doubtful,” Eve said with a laugh.

Mallory shook Q’s hand before making his way across the room to where Eve, Tanner, and Bond stood. “Listen,” he said, “because Q’s cover is blown, he’ll need a guard.”

Eve raised her eyebrows.

“We can assign him a private security detail—at least for a few months, until the loose ends of Tabatabati’s arms trafficking operatives are brought to justice, right?” Tanner asked.

“Right,” Mallory said. “I’d assign Bond to it if I didn’t think they’d end up killing each other.”

Eve took Bond by the arm. “I’m sure the two of them can manage to get along,” she said.

“If it’s absolutely necessary,” Bond agreed.

“Of course we’ll put you back on missions if you start driving Q crazy,” Mallory said.

Just then, Q escaped the doting minions and sidled up to his friends.

“Ah, Q,” Mallory said when he got the Quartermaster’s attention. “Until further notice, Bond will be guarding you with his life.”

“My own private double-oh?” Q asked with a grin.

“Yes, but not to worry,” Mallory said. “You’ll be back on duty in two weeks, so you’ll be able to escape him for at least part of the day when you’re at work.”

“Two weeks?” Q asked.

“Mandatory time off for field action,” Mallory reminded him. “You’ll be back in your workshop before long, Quartermaster. Do try to keep Bond out of trouble until then.”

Bond grinned as Mallory walked away. “He knows we’re up to no good,” he whispered in Q’s ear.

“Follow me,” Q said with a glint of mischief in his eye. “I want to grab some things from my office if I’m to be away for two more weeks.”

Bond followed Q as he was ordered. He prevented Q from being jostled too much as they made their way through the crowd.

Q let out a sigh of relief when he closed the door to his office. Almost nothing had changed since Bond had last been here on the day he stole Q’s laptop.

In a fit of dramatics, Q threw himself over his desk and kissed the top of it. “I never thought I’d see my desk again,” he said. “Thanks to you, this horrible nightmare is behind me.”

Bond walked behind Q’s desk and lowered himself to Q’s body, carefully fitting his chest against Q’s back.

“That’s an alluring position for a Quartermaster,” Bond breathed into Q’s ear. “You wouldn’t want to give your favourite agent any ideas about what might be possible in the privacy of your office.”

Q hummed softly while Bond pressed kisses to the nape of his neck.

“I lied before,” Q said suddenly.

“Hmmm?” Bond asked.

“When I said I didn’t have a favourite agent,” Q said.

He turned in Bond’s arms and let his arse rest on the desk.

Bond leaned into the space between Q’s legs and wrapped his arms around him.

“Oh?” Bond said.

Q took hold of Bond’s tie, wrinkling it hopelessly in his grasp.

“You’ve always been my favourite,” Q said, pulling Bond toward him for a kiss.

As Bond carefully kissed Q’s mouth, he wondered what on earth this ethereal man saw in him that he found appealing. He was a tired old dog, a rusty warship, but Q found the light in him. Q made Bond’s light burn brighter. Maybe that’s what it took for Bond to reconcile his future with the past that he had discarded so thoroughly. Bond craved someone who understood—someone like Q, who knew what was at stake when evil people like Tabatabati tried to take over the world. Someone like Q, who felt the recoil of a pistol in his hand and didn’t make apologies for it. Someone like Q, who knew what it took to meet the demands of Queen and country. With that understanding, Bond knew they could tackle whatever came their way, together.

~

Within moments of arriving at Q’s house, Bond had Q pressed against the wall, his face buried in his neck. Copernicus and Galileo mewled from inside their carriers while Bond made Q gasp with heated kisses, his hands sliding over Q’s arse.

Q worked his way out of Bond’s embrace and knelt on the tiled floor. He unlatched the door of each carrier so the cats could roam freely, reacquainting themselves with the home they had temporarily left behind.

With the cats tended to, Bond caught Q’s hand and tugged him to his feet again. Q seemed all too happy to stand toe to toe with him. With one arm trapped in the sling, Q used the clever fingers of his right hand to work on each button of Bond’s shirt. A fresh bandage marked the finger he had cut in Bond’s kitchen on his first day there. It rendered Q’s left hand useless for the crucial matter of undressing a lover, but Bond didn’t mind. His heart hammered as, one by one, the buttons slipped through their holes.

Q laughed when, finally, Bond batted Q’s hand away and impatiently pulled his shirt over his head without help from Q.

Bond let Q lead him upstairs to the bedroom, but not before grabbing the bottle of champagne he had stashed next to Q’s things which they had picked up from Bond’s flat.

In Q’s bedroom, Bond kicked off his shoes and popped the cork. “Cheers, Quartermaster,” he said taking a swig of bubbles directly from the bottle before offering it to Q.

Q accepted the bottle and drank deeply. “I’m not sure if it’s safe to mix this with my meds, but I don’t suppose it could do too much harm,” he said, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“I’ll be here to watch over you, just in case,” Bond assured him.

Q set the bottle on the bedside table and pulled Bond onto the bed.

Bond smiled lazily as he surrendered to Q’s need for attention. He kept his hands determinedly gentle on Q’s injuries. He felt for the shape of him beneath the spare clothes Q had donned in medical and removed them piece by piece. Careful fingers and lips explored the skin as it became accessible. He hushed Q’s champagne-induced giggles, arguing that he really wasn’t the best lover in the world, despite what Q may have heard from the gossip in Q-branch. And he was sure that he wasn’t quite the ladykiller that he was reputed to be, unless Q had a penchant for stockings and heels that he wasn’t forthcoming about.

Bond pressed a kiss to Q’s sternum and slid down the covers, careful to not put too much weight on him. In the afternoon light, he glanced upward to see Q, all lusciously long and lean spread out naked before him, a feast for all his senses. It was hard to believe that Q had the capacity to cause a nuclear holocaust with only his fingertips, but Bond knew he could, and would, if it were deemed necessary.

Bond reached for Q’s hand. He skimmed a thumb across the pulse on the inside of Q’s wrist. “You won’t think I’m a terrible person for obsessing about how beautiful you are?” he asked.

Q drew his leg around Bond and caressed his arse with a slim bare foot. “And I thought you were only attracted to my intelligence,” Q said, giving Bond’s arse a pinch with his toes.

Bond reached back and grabbed Q’s foot with a firm hand. “I’ve treated people abominably, when I’ve been attracted to them,” Bond admitted guiltily. He felt Q’s heart racing as his lips brushed against his thighs. “I was a monster.”

“You’re not a monster, James,” Q said, squeezing his hand.

Bond believed him. And for the first time, he felt that the space inside him that had been hollow for so long had been filled.

Q filled the emptiness, in a spot that Bond had carved out for him alone.

Bond crawled up the bed, caging Q’s body beneath him. He pushed Q’s glasses atop his head so he could watch his green eyes as he rutted against him. He remembered the times when he ached to fuck Q, for no better reason but to prove to himself that he could. After all that had transpired, he was unexpectedly dazed by the knowledge that his desire for Q meant so much more than a quick shag with a seduced colleague.

Bond reached between them to take both their cocks in his hand. Q’s eyes were full of mischief, the fingers of his good hand digging into Bond’s hip as they kissed. Bond’s hand stroked exquisitely until they were both boneless and breathlessly sated.

Some time later, Q spoke. “Getting my photographs was a nice touch.” He stretched his good arm out and rested a hand on his bedside cabinet in a way that roused Bond’s suspicion. “If you had gone for my collection of sex toys instead, it would have been much more embarrassing.”

“Oh?” Bond said, sliding across Q’s body to reach for the drawer.

Q stopped him before he got very far. “Sorry, it’s not what it sounds like,” Q said, a blush spreading over his face.

“What did it sound like?” Bond asked, falling back to the pillow and wrapping an arm around Q’s waist.

“It’s not like I’ve had very many people back,” Q said, his fingers scratching through the short hair on Bond’s head.

“Hmmm…” Bond said, nuzzling Q’s neck. “Anyone would be lucky to get an invitation.”

“Will you stay the night?” Q asked.

“If you’ll have me,” Bond said.

Q embraced him. “Stay,” he said, as if he didn’t need to give it a second thought.

Bond’s heart filled at the sound of the word. It felt like home.

~

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