Q was curled up on the sofa in front of the wood stove when James got back, quite late, that evening. His laptop was out, but his fingers were still on the keys as he looked over at James.
“Good moonlight skiing?” he asked, a little too innocently.
James’ eyes narrowed as he tugged off his gloves and hung up his coat and hat. “It was worth a shot to see if Harlberg would show up. I take it, from your increasingly smug expression, that you had better luck after seeing him in the supermarket? The neglected boyfriend thing worked?”
Q grinned. “He asked me over to show him how to make lasagna properly.”
James felt his eyebrows rise and then he burst out laughing. “You’re a terror in the field, love, I’m glad you’re not an agent. We’d never survive being shown up all the time. Let me get a drink and then I want to hear all about your day.”
Q smirked. “You’d do better with a paracetamol and an ice pack, old man.”
“Old man...” James strode over towards the sofa and Q scrambled off it, laughing and keeping it between them.
James bared his teeth and vaulted the thing, snatching Q around the waist as he tried to flee. They tumbled to the soft rug and James pinned Q’s hands over his head, pressing his weight along the rest of him. “Sex before gloating?”
Q arched up against him. “Yes,” he agreed on a gasp.
“So tell me what you’ve discovered,” James murmured, rubbing a soothing hand over the small of Q’s back.
Q snorted against the bed linens and turned over to face him. “I’ve discovered we were given bad intel.”
James frowned. “What do you mean?”
“He doesn’t know a thing, James. He’s the wrong target.”
“Mmm. Not that I’m doubting you...”
“...but how do you know?”
“When he asked me over to make lasagna together this afternoon, we had a long talk. Well, I listened, sweetly and with wide, interested, eyes, and he talked.”
James’ eyebrows rose, threatening to tangle in his hairline. “...sweetly...”
I know you’ve at least attended a seminar in this, James, because I gave it. It’s called social engineering these days - people want to talk, they want to show off what they know, or they want sympathy and understanding for what they endure.”
“It’s not a new concept.”
“No, but it’s been refined and codified by the hacker community. There’s an art to it, James, that doesn’t rely on a gun or hand-to-hand combat.”
“All right, all right.” James was secretly delighted when Q triggered his competency kink, but he tried to put on a doubtful face. “So this has been a wasted trip?”
Q gave him a soft smile and James marveled at the relaxation and ease in his face and body. “Hardly wasted. The next step up in the organization is Marten’s boss. He’s the one we desperately need access to.”
“Marten told me he actually borrows this chalet from his boss just for these couple of weeks. Then his employer shows up and is in residence through spring and into summer.”
James grinned widely. “So if we just hang about...”
Q stretched and wriggled enticingly. “I’ve already requested an extension of our mission and it’s been approved.”
With a low laugh, James pulled him over to straddle his hips. “You are incredible, Q. Do you think it would be out of character for our cover identities to get married while we’re here?”
“Yes.” Then Q beamed. “But let’s do it anyway.”